If you will read no matter what, just skip this warning.
Okay, if you are reading, I just want to warn you that this chapter may contain a few disturbing moments. Again, I didn’t write an alternative because nothing becomes graphic, but I wanted to inform you that Russell is still stabbing Eric in this chapter. However, most of what you will read is taking place in Eric’s own mind as he tries to overcome the fear that has gripped him. So I’m thinking that you will need a Kleenex more than anything else. By the way, I don’t foresee many more content warnings in this story (maybe no more), so thanks for sticking with me through the darkest times.
Chapter 171: Found, Part 1
Eric could feel himself beginning to break underneath the avalanche of his fear. The rational part of his brain could feel himself beginning to crack and knew that he had to find a way to stop it. The torturer’s goal was to break the tortured. And once broken, that was it. There was no coming back from it.
But Eric felt alone in the dark as Russell stabbed him once more.
Russell triumphed as Eric thrashed against his restraints uselessly. The Viking had begun crying out from the pain of each new stab wound, and the unflappable stare of the previous night had been replaced by a close-eyed look of pure anguish. Eric’s tears were a lovely bonus in Russell’s opinion. The ancient vampire kept up his stabs, being very careful and deliberate about where he placed the blows.
Eric had seen Godric break down an enemy many times. Eric had caused his enemies to break many times. Eric knew all the signs. He’d seen the fear rise on the faces of those he’d broken. He’d felt the cracks in their resolve build and then burst. He’d witnessed the desolation—or the madness—that always came after his enemies broke.
But Eric’s mind no longer felt strong enough to do what was needed to protect itself, and the Viking felt lost inside his own body. He was either unwilling or unable—he wasn’t sure which—to reach out to the fairy bond and the Sookie he knew was in there. He could feel that Sookie trying to find him―to pull him into the bond with her. However, he couldn’t move.
He was too afraid.
If he did go to her, the “real” Sookie might come to him even sooner, and that would mean she would fall into Russell’s clutches. And in those clutches, she would be forced to stay for eternity. Eric felt himself crumbling. He didn’t deserve to find peace—not even a little bit of comfort—inside the fairy bond right now. He was the reason why his wife’s existence was going to be miserable from then on.
It was his fault that Russell was alive. It was his fault that Russell was obsessed with his bonded one. It was his fault that Russell had even tasted her. It was all his fault.
Eric felt the darkness closing in on him like a shroud. He deserved to be snuffed out after all he had done to bring his wife pain.
The best that Eric could hope for was that Sookie would suffer from bonding sickness after he was dead and that it would lead to her own demise. It would be extremely painful for her, but it would be better than lifetime after lifetime with Russell. But what if Sookie’s healing magic prevented her from dying from the bonding sickness? What if Russell’s blood was able to counteract their bonds? What if he truly did lose his wife forever?
And what of his children? What if Russell found out about Hunter? And how could Pam survive? Even though he expected her to defeat Lillith, Russell would eventually find a way to kill her unless she never left the protection spell again. Would Niall come and get Hunter after Eric had met his true death? Would his son be hurt once more by his mother’s thoughts? Would Mab find a way to get to Hunter?
Eric was crushed by the weight of his questions—each one representing a way that he had failed to protect the people he loved the most.
This was his end; Eric felt in his soul that this moment was his end. Even if his body survived, it would be but a shell for his broken mind after this moment.
All other moments in his life had led him here. Watching helplessly as his human father died in his arms had led him here. The thousand years of being unable to enact his father’s demand for revenge had led him here. Powerlessly, watching Godric prepare to meet the sun had led him here. All the days spent without Sookie had led him here. All the mornings when he’d not felt the bond and imagined her being tortured or dying had led him here. His weaknesses―so clear compared to the overwhelming power of Russell Edgington―had led him here.
Eric knew that he could simply choose to succumb—to give in. And after that, he would no longer have to feel the terror, the guilt, and the agony that was tearing into his heart even as Russell continued to tear into his body. In that blissful moment of giving up, he would be gone forever. And oblivion—sweet oblivion—would be his reward.
And it would be so fucking easy. It might even be best—best for Sookie, best for Hunter, best for Pam, best for himself. If he broke, Russell might feel less impetus to break those he held dear. Part of Russell’s incentive would be gone.
He was ready to let go, but something stopped him.
Out of the desolation and the dark of Eric’s pain and fear and doubts, he saw—no, felt more than saw—a light beckoning to him. It was dim, but it cut through the gloom of Russell’s words and intentions. And it began to warm through the frost of Eric’s worst fears.
Part of Eric wanted to ignore the light, but he could not. Into the center of his thoughts, came the promise he had made to Sookie as Claudette had prepared to take her to Faerie. How could he have forgotten it?
He’d promised that he would wait for her forever if necessary. And if he allowed himself to break—if he allowed his faith in his wife and their bonds to disappear into the darkness—he would also be breaking a part of her too. And that―he refused to do.
The light flickered, but didn’t go out, and then it grew brighter as he turned toward it. Eric knew that beautiful beacon was his beloved calling to him from their bond—fucking ordering him to come to her—to hang on. He couldn’t help but to smirk. It was just like his Sookie to give him orders at a moment like this.
And suddenly hopelessness turned to hope as he neared the light.
He knew in that moment that Russell would never be able to follow through with his worst threat; he would never be able to separate him from his beloved one. He might capture Sookie. He might even find a way to take her fairy powers from her—though Eric seriously fucking doubted it. He might take her blood. He might force a blood tie with her. He might take her life and make her vampire. But Russell would not kill their bonds. Nothing could.
Russell might take everything he could see from Sookie, but Eric knew that Russell could not take her light. It was not his to take. Sookie had literally placed part of her light inside of Eric; he was looking at it right then! And even if he met the true death, Eric knew that he would cherish and protect that light within his soul or whatever was left of him. He would keep it burning if she could not―just as she would always keep his own light burning inside of herself. And he would protect her gift to him for all time if necessary. He would keep his promise; he would wait for her. Even if Russell made good on his threat to keep Sookie from him physically forever, Eric would wait. Even if she never came, he would wait.
Eric knew then that he was not going break—no matter what Russell said or did. Actually, he realized couldn’t break. He might die, but he’d not break. There was a protected part of himself inside of his bonded right now that Russell would never know how to find because he had no conception that it could exist. Oh—Eric was certain that Russell had loved Talbot, but that love had not been exclusive and transcendent, and Russell would never have entrusted the greatest part of himself into the one that he loved.
Eric had. Sookie had.
He moved closer to the light. It was Sookie, and he knew that his bonded one carried him inside of her as well. The dream Eric that she talked about was him. It was his magic. It was his blood. It was the best part of himself given as a gift in love, and Russell couldn’t break him inside of his beloved.
Vampires often talked of how one of them could live on in another. Many could feel the blood of other vampires as distinct presences in their own systems, even when the other vampires had died. Eric could feel Godric’s blood in him. He could feel Pam’s. Godric had carried Eric as well, and Pam carried him still. It was a way of living on even after the true death―Eric had always thought―but the concept was even more profound when it came to his bonded one and himself.
He was alive inside of Sookie. She was alive in him. That flicker of light wasn’t going anywhere. Even the darkest storms would only serve to nurture it. In his mind’s eye, Eric entered the fairy bond, and for a moment all he could see was that light. It brightened and surged until it was more radiant than the sun.
He almost chuckled aloud; he would have if he’d had the physical strength for it. As that little flicker turned into a blaze that lit up all the darkest corners of his own mind and burned through all of his fears like paper, he had a thought of Sookie chiding him for ever thinking that either of them could truly be broken. She would tell him that they couldn’t break. Maybe Eric alone could break. Maybe Sookie alone could break, but they—no—that was impossible.
Eric stilled his broken body. He could feel his numerous wounds, but struggling against them wouldn’t help. Allowing himself to feel their pain wouldn’t help. What would help was remembering that Sookie—his wife, his bonded, his warrior—was with him. What would help was keeping faith in her. His spitfire would stare Russell down until he was the one who crumbled; she would never fucking break! He wouldn’t let her. His wife would defeat Russell when Eric couldn’t—just as he would always defeat the foes that she could not vanquish. Or they would defeat them all together. Yes—that was the fucking point! Together.
Eric felt healed even though Russell hadn’t stopped his stabbing—though most of the wounds were only grazing Eric at this point. The most important thing was that the Viking had found the light that he needed in order to escape from the darkness. How could he not?
As the dazzling light inside the fairy bond softened, he saw his mate standing in the middle of it, her hands placed firmly on her hips.
“It’s about fucking time you listened to me and came to me,” Sookie scolded. “I thought I was gonna have to kick your ass and stake you myself!”
Unable to speak, Eric gasped in surprised.
“Now, get your cute ass over her,” Sookie said as she reached for him and gave him a smile.
It wasn’t the encouraging and loving smile of the Sookie in the fairy bond either—though he loved that smile too. No. This Sookie was “real,” and she was giving him “his” smile: the one that held love and lust, the one that held peace and play, the one that held comfort and security.
“How?” Eric stammered as he took her hand. He realized in that moment that it was somewhat difficult for him to speak, even within the bond and wondered if he was also speaking out loud. Just in case, he resolved to be careful about what he said.
“I don’t know, and I don’t really care,” she shrugged. “But I don’t think I can stay here for long.”
Suddenly, touching her hand wasn’t enough, and Eric pulled her into an embrace. “Be careful—Russell,” he said with a warning tone as he buried his face into her hair.
“I know who has you,” Sookie said, “but I’m coming anyway.”
“Don’t let him hurt you,” Eric drew her even closer.
“Eric,” she began, looking up at him, “I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come for you, but I needed to heal.”
“Heal?” he asked with concern in his beautiful eyes.
She didn’t answer him directly. Instead, she reassured him, “I’m okay now, and I’ll come as soon as I can. We’re going to be okay—both of us.”
He pulled her closer. For some reason, she’d needed to heal, and he’d not been there for her. He resolved that he would always be there to heal her in the future—always.
“Before I leave, you have to promise me that you won’t go back into the dark, Eric,” Sookie entreated. “You were slipping away from me.” Her voice was thick with emotion. “Please, Eric, I can’t lose you.”
He smiled into her golden and shining hair. “I swear it.” How could he ever be in the dark again now that he’d seen her like this—now that he finally realized that their bonds would never—could never—be broken?
“I have to go,” she whispered, “but the bond me will still be here with you.”
“I’ll never be alone again, will I?” Eric asked reverently.
“Never,” she vowed. Eric watched as the image of Sookie seemed to shimmer a little. She was still before him and still smiling, but he knew that his “real” wife had gone back to herself—even as he knew that she had literally been inside of him for those precious moments. Again, she had kept him alive and whole—had kept him from the darkness of his own fears.
“Never,” he repeated.
He opened his eyes and looked into Russell’s.
A few minutes earlier, Russell had been celebrating the apparent breaking of the once-great Viking vampire in front of him.
Russell heard Eric speak a question. “How?”
The elder vampire stopped his now-lazy knife thrusts. Eric had given up the fight against his chains several minutes earlier, something that Russell hoped signaled the Viking’s slip into madness. He posited that Eric would no longer be able to control the words that spewed forth from his shattered mind. He sat down and listened anxiously—expecting to hear more evidence of the Viking’s deterioration.
Three more words slipped from Eric’s lips—although they were raspy because of his many wounds. “Be careful—Russell.”
Russell laughed cruelly. “Why would I need to be careful, you fool? It is you who are at my mercy.”
“Don’t let him hurt you,” were Eric’s next words.
Russell smiled. Eric truly was delusional if he thought he would be able to protect himself with his feeble little pep talk.
A few moments later, Russell heard a question from Eric. “Heal?”
Russell chuckled. “Yes, Eric. I will make sure you heal a bit tonight so that we can do this all over again tomorrow,” he said gleefully. “I—for one—cannot wait!”
“I swear it,” Eric muttered.
Russell sat back further into his chair and propped his feet up on the table, next to Eric’s still body. Eric’s incoherence pleased him greatly.
Eric’s next words put an even larger smile onto Russell’s face.
“I’ll never be alone again, will I?” Eric asked.
In that moment, Russell realized that Eric likely thought he was actually speaking to Sookie. Russell celebrated. His enemy had been driven fully into the world of the unreal now, and the cruel vampire couldn’t wait for the “real” Sookie to see her beloved in this state. It would be easy to get her to do exactly as he wished if she were desolate due to Eric’s brokenness.
One more word escaped Eric’s lips: “Never.”
And with that word, the Viking’s eyes opened.
However, the look in them was not of a broken man. It was the look of a man who had discovered something.
Russell observed Eric with shock. The body before him was full of wounds, each seeping thousand-year-old blood. To those physical injuries, Russell had added the kind of mental lacerations that should have driven Eric over the edge into despair.
Russell assessed his own actions. All of his knife strikes had been quite surgical as he’d torn through nerves and muscles and into pressure points that would ensure Eric felt the most pain possible without actually being in danger of the true death.
After all—Russell wanted Eric alive when Sookie came. As he’d been telling himself over and over again for the last several nights, “A dead Eric was not good bait.” And tonight, he’d actually listened to himself and hadn’t pushed the physical punishment too far—as he’d done the previous two nights. There was only so much that even the Viking could take before his body broke.
Russell shook his head. No, he couldn’t cause much more physical pain to Eric beyond what the vampire had already endured, for if he placed too many more wounds on his body, Eric would have no more blood left to begin healing himself. And he would die despite Russell’s intentions.
That is why Russell had decided to concentrate on doling out the kind of pain which would destroy Eric’s mental state. And he’d thought that he’d succeeded. Russell did have other things he could use to cause Eric mental anguish; however, he wanted to save those for a while longer. Mystified by Eric’s fortitude, Russell sighed out his own frustration.
The steely and now confident blue eyes of the Viking warrior stared at him. No. They were staring right through him as if they had focused on a different target. And Eric looked almost—happy.
In that moment, Russell knew that he was closer to his breaking point than Eric was.
“How?” the elder vampire asked with both curiosity and exasperation. “How are you still in there?” In vexation, he stabbed Eric a few more times, but was able to stop himself before taking things too far.
Russell turned away from Eric’s discomforting gaze and walked over to the sink in order to wash off the knife and to calm himself. Next—still avoiding Eric’s unsettling expression—he retrieved the sword and put it back into the corner of the room.
Finally, he returned to Eric with two TruBloods in his hands.
Wordlessly and still without looking at Eric directly, Russell opened one of the bottles and fed the synthetic blood to Eric.
As the Viking drank, the elder vampire spoke as if trying to convince himself of the truth in his words. “When I drink from your fairy in front of you, you will break. When you finally get it through your thick skull that I’m going to cause her more pain than you have ever felt, you will break.”
Eric’s gaze became even more steady and sure with every drink he took, and although the TruBlood wasn’t going to be enough to heal him of all of his wounds—not by a long shot—it would help him get started. He activated the magic inside of him and inside of the fairy bond to begin healing the worst of them. And he felt Sookie. He knew that she was watching him through the pool; he could see her. He kept his eyes locked on her.
After a second bottle of blood, Russell stopped feeding Eric and sat down in the chair to plan his next course of torture for the Viking. “Yes—you will eventually break,” Russell said with resolution after a few moments of contemplation.
Eric couldn’t have responded to Russell if he’d wanted to. The last wound Russell had given him out of spite had been to his throat and had injured his windpipe, which he’d not been able to heal yet.
However, Eric wasn’t really listening to his enemy anyway. He was listening to Sookie. He shook his head in response to her.
A/N: Hello! Thanks again for all of the responses and comments. I know that you are very anxious for Eric to get off of Russell’s table and for Sookie to come and kick Russell’s ass. Rest assured: what you saw from her in this chapter—as she saved him from the darkness of fear—was just the tip of the iceberg.