[An hour earlier]
Sookie was surprised when she didn’t appear right next to Eric’s side after jumping into the fairy pool. Instead, she found herself in a large, cluttered room in a warehouse. She smelled mildew and rot in the air, and there was dust everywhere. Broken wooden boxes littered one corner of the room, and some kind of old machinery and a bunch of rickety-looking wooden desks—some of which were partially covered with tarps—were strewn messily throughout the room. A myriad of cobwebs completed the room’s deserted look.
However, even though she wasn’t in the same room as Eric, she felt him immediately as the vampire bond between them ignited. She doubled over as the first thing she felt was his intense pain, but that was replaced almost immediately by his love—his concern for her.
God—she loved that man! She felt her own love automatically being sent through the vampire bond, and to that she added confidence and thankfulness. The web of emotions that flowed between them contrasted sharply with the dankness of the room.
She quickly stretched out with her telepathy so that she could see what lay between her and her mate. She was pleased when she found that she could extend her gift in many directions and take in a lot of information at the same time.
She discerned that she was in a large building of several stories. She sensed two Were brains above her, and from their thoughts, she realized that they were on the roof; their job was to monitor the traffic around the abandoned warehouse.
She could sense one Were brain on the floor below her—though he seemed to be on the other side of the building from her. His duty was to patrol both the floor that he was on and the floor that she was on. Since he was likely her most immediate threat, she spent an extra few seconds in his head. She pulled out that he was an ex-marine who had specialized in reconnaissance. He was enjoying his current duty station much better than patrolling outside because he only needed to walk the floors every couple of hours. During the rest of his shift, he was able—even encouraged by Russell—to read the medical journals that interested him so much. Sookie sensed pride coming from the Were; it seemed that he’d found an interesting blood study in one of the journals just the other day, and when he’d told Russell Edgington about it, the vampire had secretly rewarded him with a whole vial of V—in addition to the small allotment that he gave to all of his Weres. That vial was now tucked carefully into the Were’s pocket. And—better yet—Russell had given him even more medical journals to look through, his choice of duty stations, and the promise of additional V with every useful article he found. Sookie could tell that this Were—whose name was Henry—was not a crazed V-addict like Debbie Pelt. On the contrary, he was thankful for the effect that the drug had on the chronic pain he suffered because of an injury he’d sustained while in active duty. He planned to stockpile his extra blood, rather than go on a bender, and was happy that the vampire master was showing interest in him.
Part of Sookie’s mind was already assessing the floor below Henry. There were about thirty Weres on that floor, which was the ground floor of the building. Most of them were clustered together in a large room, and their thought patterns indicated that they were sleeping. However, there were five active brains, three stationed at the exits of the warehouse, one next to the basement entrance, and the fifth currently high as a kite and concentrating—with difficulty—on finding a decent radio station. Then, there were more Weres outside the building—probably about twenty. Some were stationary, and others seemed to be patrolling the area. There were also two vampires outside, though she didn’t recognize their “voids.”
Finally, in the basement of the building, there were two vampires that she recognized as her beloved and her enemy. Sookie closed her eyes as she contemplated how she was supposed to take on an army of 50 Weres—many of whom were likely amped up on V—and three vampires, one of whom was 3,000 years old!
She took a deep breath and calmed herself. One thing that she was not going to do was to panic or to run downstairs with no plan. Even with all her gifts, she would likely be swarmed by the sheer number of Weres before she could reach Eric and Russell. And then there were the vampires to contend with too.
Plus, she figured that if Russell had planned well enough to encase the room Eric was in with iron, then he had arranged for other “surprises” for her too.
She focused her telepathy on Henry again and smiled a little. Her gift was indeed much stronger than before—just as Niall indicated all of her gifts would be after the ritual had been completed. Whereas Were minds used to be snarly and difficult to read, she was now able to delve under the eddy of colors and emotions that had always covered their thoughts. And now she could hear them as clearly as she could humans. Though he’d taken a little V for his pain before his shift, Henry was definitely not incapacitated. He was taking some notes on a passage he was reading about a possible cure for Hepatitis-D. Suddenly, however, his thoughts turned to something else—a captivating scent that he’d just picked up from the floor above.
“Fuck,” Sookie thought to herself.
Almost immediately after Henry had picked up on her scent, she felt a warning from Eric through their bond. Sookie quickly thought about what Niall had been trying to teach her about covering her scent. “Okay―here goes nothing,” Sookie said quietly to herself as she focused on her fairy bond with Eric and drew upon their combined strength. She felt Eric’s encouragement—though weak—through the vampire bond. And that—to her—made all the difference; in that moment, she knew she could accomplish whatever she needed to in order to get her vampire out of this hellhole safely. There were no other options—no other choices.
He was hers, and she would fucking get him!
Sookie went to work. She imagined that her scent was like a bottle, and all she needed to do was to put a cork in that bottle. She listened into Henry’s mind and heard him speaking to Russell on the phone. He was being instructed to conduct a thorough search of the third floor. So that meant that Russell had likely picked up on her scent too. Sookie steeled her resolve, trusting that she’d be able to do what was needed to cover up her scent before she was found.
At that moment, she felt a surge of power from Eric and almost wept at the fact that he was choosing to strengthen her in that moment. She marshaled her power, visualized placing all the remnants of her scent into the bottle, and then stopped it up tightly. She listened in to Henry’s brain again and was immediately relieved. He could no longer smell her at all.
“Yes!” she said triumphantly to herself.
For good measure, she mentally took the bottle that held her scent and put it into one of the rooms of her mind, closing and locking the door behind her. She felt pride radiating to her from her husband. And she knew that Eric could no longer smell her, though he would certainly still be able to sense her near. She also figured that Russell had lost her scent.
Sookie looked around and decided that she needed to find a hiding place. There was a solid-looking desk, which was almost completely covered by a tarp, in the corner of the room. Thankful that the floor was not dusty enough for her to make footprints in it, she hurried over to the desk and carefully pulled up the tarp so that she would not disturb the layer of dust on it. After checking for live spiders, she crawled underneath the desk, making sure that the tarp covered her hiding place completely.
As she heard Henry’s brain coming closer—he seemed to be climbing the stairs to her floor—she assessed whether he posed an immediate threat. He didn’t. He was on the other side of the building. He heard nothing, and now he smelled nothing. He figured whoever had been responsible for the scent was now gone, but he was going to do as Russell bid and check the top floor with a fine-toothed comb anyway. Sookie kept an eye on Henry’s mind, even as she turned the rest of her attention to her husband. She’d been in the human realm for about five minutes, but this was her first opportunity to really try to assess him.
She closed her eyes tightly and focused on seeing him from the inside out. Their bonds—both of them—were strong, but the rest of Eric was rattled and weak. He was low on blood, and the magic that usually propelled his life forward was sluggishly trying to hold his body together. She saw that he was systematically borrowing little bits of energy from the fairy bond in order to shore up the worst of his wounds from Russell—just like a man in the desert might try to ration his little-remaining water into small helpings.
She knew that she needed to do something to immediately bolster her husband’s strength, but she wasn’t sure if her healing magic could reach him from this distance. And to complicate matters further, even if her healing did get to Eric, she didn’t want Russell to know about it, so she would have to be careful about how much she sent.
She decided that she would try to send Eric a good-sized boost in the beginning so that he could stabilize himself, and then she would send him a small, but steady stream after that.
Based on her experience using the centripetal force created by the vampire bond before, she figured that the best way to get Eric the healing power he needed was to use the vampire bond as the conduit, so she sent her healing light into it directly—just as she had before. However, this time, the vampire bond was fully lit up by the emotions passing between her and Eric. The colors of the bond were alive and radiant, and the power of her magic built quickly and almost immediately flooded into the fairy bond.
She felt an instantaneous thrust of appreciation and love coming back to her from Eric. She’d been right! The vampire bond was working to amplify and then transmit her healing magic into Eric even though she wasn’t in the same room with him or watching him through the fairy pool.
She felt like doing a happy dance, and her joy filled the bond.
Sookie grinned like a fool. Niall had been wrong. It wasn’t that she needed to suppress her emotions in order to use her magic to its full extent. In fact, it was the opposite. She needed to feel those emotions fully. But Niall had almost been right. Everything was determined by which emotions she allowed herself to embrace. Fear and/or anger would lead to her loss of control; she recognized that this had been what had seemingly drained her power before.
But love and comfort and affection—the emotions which had been flowing between Eric and her inside the vampire bond—only empowered her magic. Those kept her centered and safe.
Through their bonds, she could now feel that he was healing—bit by bit, cell by cell, slowly but steadily.
In Sookie’s mind, she imagined a long, slow stream of magic—like a water hose turned on just a bit—seeping into the vampire bond and continuously soaking into the fairy bond. She put the control of this hose into a room in her mind and then shut that door just as she’d done when she’d covered her scent. She needed to trust that her powers would not ebb, and she needed to be able to multitask—as Eric liked to call it.
Quickly, she double-checked to make sure that her mate was still receiving her healing magic. He was. She sighed with relief. Her impulse was still to heal him completely and immediately. But she held herself back, especially when she felt a burst of pride from Eric. She could tell that he was comforted both in body and spirit, and she intuited that he agreed that they shouldn’t alert Russell to their connection, which his healing too quickly would certainly do.
She turned her mind back to Henry, who was getting closer to the room she was in.
She listened to him carefully in order to make sure that he’d not heard or smelled her again. He was thinking only of doing a good job so that Russell would continue to recognize him—maybe even let him go to school to get the medical degree he’d always dreamed of. Henry was originally from Barstow, California, and moved back there after he’d been honorably discharged from the Marines. He’d just lost his job as a lab tech because of cut-backs when a Were from Jackson, Mississippi, drifted into town. It wasn’t long before the Jackson Were made his purpose known. He was recruiting. He showered the small Barstow pack with promises of a better life, good jobs, and V, and it wasn’t long before they were tattooing themselves with a mark that the Jackson Were said would forever connect them to the most powerful vampire in the country.
The idea of failing Russell was not an option for Henry, who saw the vampire as his new commanding officer. Sookie recognized that Henry really wasn’t afraid of his death; he was, however, afraid of living his life drifting from one unfulfilling job to the next, all the while suffering from the same chronic pain which had forced his discharge from the Core, which he’d loved being a part of.
Thus, the Were was conducting a very thorough search; Sookie analyzed his thoughts about his searching patterns carefully. He was moving slowly, but he was also following a careful search grid in his mind. Sookie realized that if she stayed as she was, then she would be found—not because of her scent but because he would not overlook her hiding place.
That meant, she had to figure out a different way of evading the Were within the next five minutes, and she was pretty sure that her new gifts didn’t include invisibility.
She sighed and tried to set her mind to calmly solve her problem—even as that part of herself that still wanted to just run off half-cocked and get her man was nagging in the back of her mind.
“Down Sookie,” she chastised herself silently. She closed her eyes and centered herself. She needed to make sure she wasn’t discovered, and then she needed a plan. Eric was counting on her.
Eric had felt his mate’s arrival like a bolt out of the blue, but, luckily, his body had been too worn down to make a movement. However, every one of his senses except his sight could tell she was back in the human realm as soon as she got there.
His skin—at least the undamaged part—tingled, as if reaching out to touch her of its own accord. With his extra sensitive ears, he heard the beating of her heart―accelerated a bit from adrenaline, but steady. He was too far away to hear the air flowing into and out of her lungs, but it didn’t matter. The beat alone strengthened him.
He smelled her high above him; in fact, she was exactly sixty-three feet and eight inches above him and precisely nine feet to the northwest of him. She smelled of honey, wheat, and the sun as always, but most importantly, she smelled of their bond—the mixing of their blood together. It was the most glorious smell in the world to him. He wanted to lick his lips—his taste buds already anticipating the flavor of her mouth touching his—but he refrained.
He also felt the glorious ignition of their vampire bond. Despite his weakness, his love and comfort flowed to her through the bond like water to a drain, but instead of depleting his energy, he felt a torrent of love flooding back into him.
He blinked as Sookie’s love covered him like a blanket. And when he opened his eyes again, he saw Russell with his own nose up in the air. Eric froze. She would not be in the range of most vampires—even most older ones—but Russell was not most vampires, and he was ancient. Eric had no idea what the ancient vampire’s range of scent was, but in that moment, he knew that it was more than sixty-three feet. Plus, Eric smelled many Weres in the building, one of them only a floor below Sookie.
He sent Sookie a warning as best he could, but kept his face calm and his eyes on Russell, just as they had been before.
Russell pulled the silver dagger out of Eric’s torso, where he’d “been resting it” and inhaled the fresh blood on the blade. He grinned. “I smell fairy and you up there; what a wonderful combination! Of course, fairy and me will be even better,” he winked.
Russell looked once more toward the ceiling, inhaled deeply, and then took out his phone. From fifty one feet above him, but much further away due to his position on the other side of the building, Eric’s keen ears picked up a phone ringing where a male Werewolf was stationed. Eric was able to listen to both sides of the conversation from Russell’s phone.
Russell spoke, “I believe there is someone very special in the building—on the floor above you. Gather some trustworthy people—we wouldn’t want our guest hurt, after all—and then get up there. Find her, and bring her to me. Tell her that if she doesn’t come quietly, I will kill her Viking.”
Russell hung up the phone and looked at Eric with glee, “Now the fun can really start.” He rubbed his hands together. “You are not old enough to have my range, but your little fairy smells delectable! You will have to trust me when I say that she is like a breath of fresh air in this old place.”
Eric decided to play along. He weakly shook his head even as he sent a burst of his waning strength to his bonded.
“Don’t fret,” Russell said, his eyes still trained to the ceiling. “I would go and greet her myself, but this room has been especially constructed with her in mind―you know. Its walls are of iron, and there are other surprises awaiting her as well.” Russell looked down and winked at Eric. “We certainly wouldn’t want her to be able to shoot me with her little light―would we?”
Eric let out a groan for effect. Truth be told, it felt good to let it out. After all, he did hurt almost every-fucking-where.
In the next moment, Eric could no longer smell Sookie, though he could still feel her near and hear the beating of her heart. He hoped that Russell’s ears were not as keen as his own. He’d met others—especially older vampires—whose range of scent was similar to his own. But he’d never met another who had hearing as adept. Of course, Eric had always hidden the fact that one of his gifts was highly-acute senses. But older vampires tended to boast about those things―even making contests to test their senses against others in times past.
Russell once again lifted his nose and inhaled deeply. He looked confused for a moment and then smiled sinisterly before coming closer to Eric again. “It seems your little fairy may have decided that your miserable hide was not valuable enough for her time.” He chuckled and looked down at Eric’s battered body. “Not that I could blame her at this point. You are a mess!”
Eric shook his head as if he were morose, even as he sent pride through the vampire bond.
“Ah,” Russell said, “do not fret! I’m sure she’ll be back; perhaps she’ll even bring your little band of misfits with her. That would save me the trouble of having to go get them! And if she doesn’t come―well—just think of all the quality time we’ll get to spend together!” He picked up his phone and called the Were again.
Eric heard the Were confirm that he no longer smelled anyone upstairs.
Russell ordered, “Have others cover all the stairwells leading down as well as the roof entrance. Look everywhere on the third floor to make sure that she’s no longer there. Some fairies are able to hide their scents, though my source tells me that she is likely not capable of that.”
As Russell finished the call, he turned back to Eric. “Oh well—perhaps she will return before sunrise. Maybe,” he said, clapping his hands together, “she is planning to make a daring daytime rescue. How exciting! Of course, she doesn’t know what kind of trap has been laid for her if she does. Ah youth—” Russell smiled, “it so believes in its own invincibility. Does it not?”
Eric was listening to Russell with only a part of himself. The rest was in awe of his mate. She’d managed to hide her scent, though he was certain that she was still in the building. Her heartbeat was now twenty feet further to the northwest than it had been before, but it was still there. And now—like a fire marking the shoreline—she was speaking to him through the bond, speaking with love and magic. He felt her light—the light that had healed him of the witch’s curse, the light that had protected him from the sun, the light that had cradled what was left of his heart even as Godric had met his end. That light now erupted into the fairy bond, and—as if she’d given it strict instructions—it had immediately removed the pain of his physical injuries.
In that moment, Eric realized that his amazing, beautiful―astonishing―wife could likely heal him completely in minutes, but she was so fucking wonderful and clever that she didn’t. If Russell saw him suddenly healed, then he would learn something about the specialness of their connection, and that was the last thing they needed. He was so fucking proud of Sookie’s restraint that he almost grinned and gave the whole thing away to Russell.
Eric discerned that Sookie’s healing magic was now flowing into him through their fairy bond like a slow molten wave. And like lava, the healing magic that Sookie was sending him warmed in the narrow confines of the bond and doubled in efficiency. It seemed to seep into the vampire bond, and, once it was there, Eric immediately felt his own magic latch on to it and knew that he would be able to control it so that he could “heal strategically.”
Gods—his wife was fucking amazing.
Eric had given up on any attempt to heal his physical wounds about two hours before and had simply been maintaining his life, but now, things had changed. He sent gratefulness to his wife through the vampire bond and then assessed his condition as Russell droned on about the idiosyncrasies of spouses.
There was a deep wound on his chest that was bleeding profusely, but it would be noticeable if it healed too quickly. The better move would be to send a little of Sookie’s healing to several wounds—just enough to slow the blood loss. Her light—like a living creature all its own—entwined itself to the magic still animating his body and allowed itself to be used just as he needed it to be. Once again he thought about how fucking amazing his wife was.
Eric set his face to a mask, a carefully studied expression that he had practiced for over a thousand years. Keeping one ear trained on Russell’s rant and the other trained on the Were who was looking for his wife, he sent his inner self into the fairy bond. There, he sighed in relief as he felt his wife’s healing light begin to work on his wounds, stitching them up from the inside, but not healing them completely—not yet. He looked at the Sookie in the bond as she smiled at him and reached out her hand to take his. He felt the flow of his wife’s magic continue to enter the fairy bond—like a steady ray of sunlight, mousing through a canopy of trees.
He didn’t risk speaking to her in the bond, however, since he was positive that his words would be heard by Russell too. Also, he was pretty certain that the “real” Sookie was not the one he was looking at now, so he didn’t think that she would hear him.
Meanwhile, Eric heard the Were moving closer and closer to his wife. He sent another warning through the bond.
A/N: Just to clarify, the events of this chapter take place BEFORE the events of the last chapter. It’s kind of like a “Meanwhile” to show us what’s been happening with Eric and Sookie during the time that she’s been in the human realm, and the next chapter or two will take us up to the time when she arrives at the farmhouse. Sorry if that was confusing at first. Also, expect for the next chapter or two to give us the events from both Eric and Sookie’s perspectives—as I did in this chapter. Some of the goings-on will inevitably overlap because of the bonds between Eric and Sookie, but I am working very hard to make sure that each perspective is adding and moving us forward, not just repeating.
On a personal note, I hope that you are enjoying this “grown-up” Sookie who is actually thinking before acting as much as I’m enjoying writing her!