Beta: Kleannhouse and her eagle eyes! Any remaining errors—I claim, since I likely tweaked the final draft after she combed through it.
Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters herein. They were dreamed up and developed by Charlaine Harris, but I like to make them do what I want nonetheless.
Summary: “Scrooged” is a one-shot set in the “Gift Horse” world. It is the second in what I hope will become a series of one-shots. Will Eric get to kill Bill? Or is Bill right to believe that his allies, Freyda and Felipe, will rescue him? And how will a phone call from Sookie change everything for both Eric and Bill?
Haven’t read “Gift Horse?” Go to it by clicking here.
“I wear the chain I forged in life…I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”—from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Bill Compton looked at the clock on the wall for the twentieth time since his seemingly never-ending meeting with Thalia had begun. It was one of the idiotic “Fangtasia” clocks that were sold with the bar’s logo. Bill sneered, but he couldn’t stop himself from looking at it. After all, he had somewhere else he wanted to be.
“You know,” the ancient vampiress smirked, “by now, you should have developed the ability to tell the time without needing to count on human contraptions. That one’s two minutes slow, by the way.”
“I know,” Bill said sullenly.
Thalia’s smirk grew. “I just wanted you to know so that you could get to ground on time—if you were counting on a clock to tell you when to go.”
Bill glared at the petite warrior. He resented the hell out of the fact that Pam had made Thalia her lieutenant, especially after he had hinted that he would have taken the job. It would have enabled him to keep a much closer eye on Northman’s younger child—just as he’d had an affair with Karin to keep watch over her. Thankfully, Northman’s eldest was no longer in the area that often. She’d been a good lay, but a prolonged affair with her would have interfered with his ultimate plans for Sookie.
Bill glanced back at the clock and consciously held in a sigh when he thought about the woman who would soon be his again. For the hundredth time since he’d left Bon Temps three hours before, he assessed her emotions through the blood tie they shared. And—as they’d been all evening—those emotions were seemingly all over the place. At least, she seemed more comfortable than she’d been before.
He finally let his sigh escape as he thought about the recent disquiet in his own body. As Sookie had moved into her final months of pregnancy, her physical discomfort had managed to make its way through their tie to a certain extent, and he’d found himself readjusting his body in his chair many times that night—in an attempt to find a comfortable position. And that kind of thing shouldn’t have been necessary for vampires.
And—of course—the smirking vampire behind the desk had noticed and had probably sat him in the rickety metal chair on purpose!
Bill was anxious for Sookie’s pregnancy to be over with—for so many reasons. But what she called her “pregnancy hormones” was the main one. During her first trimester, Sookie had been extremely emotional. The death of the shifter had caused much of her grief; however, her slingshotting reactions to things had been even worse. One moment she would seem fine—even elated about her pregnancy—and the very next, she’d be weeping, filled with a sorrow that almost brought Bill to his knees at times. When he’d learned that even television commercials seemed able to affect her mood, he’d almost regretted giving her more of his blood.
Thankfully, Sookie’s second trimester had been better as her body had settled into her pregnancy and her mind had accepted the death of her “roommate.”
Bill sneered as he thought of Merlotte, who had managed to insinuate himself into Sookie’s affections not once, but twice during the past seven years. And two children had resulted from her dalliances with him.
Bill couldn’t help but to be ambivalent when it came to Merlotte’s offspring. At least to a certain extent, Bill had supported the idea of Sookie having her first child. Though afraid that she’d pass along her telepathy, part of Sookie had always wanted to be a mother, and fatherhood had been a rewarding element of Bill’s life. He’d reasoned that Sookie would be more likely to come back to him one day—if she had experienced the part of womanhood that he could no longer give her.
No—he didn’t begrudge Sookie her daughter, despite the fact that Samantha was a shifter. At least, she’d not been a telepath! Why Sookie had felt the need to play Russian roulette a second time, however, was beyond him. If she hadn’t, he wouldn’t be in the mess he was in now—having to betray his beloved against his will.
Yes. It was safe to say that he didn’t appreciate her new child, and that wasn’t just because of Sookie’s ricocheting hormones. No—the son she now carried represented Sookie’s choice to further tie herself to a life with the shifter. And—in Bill’s mind—the boy was superfluous. Sookie had already borne one child, and Bill would have to wait until that daughter was eighteen before she would go off on her own—since children “became adults” so much later now than they had in his day. And the boy would have divided Sookie’s attention even more—and taken away more of her time from him.
No, Bill thought, it was best that Sookie’s son was kept under Felipe’s supervision in Arkansas. The child would be well cared for—pampered even. And his existence would keep the king’s interest away from Sookie.
Plus, there was the practicality of the situation. Bill had a difficult enough time protecting one telepath, and trying to look after two would have been almost impossible! No—it was better all-around that Sookie’s son wasn’t in the picture. Certainly, his supposed death would cause her pain, but Bill was now in a better position to help Sookie through her anguish.
Moreover, Bill intended to one day tell Sookie about her son being alive. In fact, after she had raised her daughter and satisfied her humanly impulse, he was determined to become her maker. She would still be young and beautiful, her fairy genes and his blood ensuring that. And, after she became his for all eternity, he would “discover” evidence indicating that her son still lived and had been kidnapped by Freyda. Sookie would be so grateful to him for that knowledge that she would forgive him for anything, even if he’d been forced to turn her against her will.
He knew that Felipe wouldn’t tell Sookie of his involvement in the plot to kidnap the child either. In fact, he and his monarch already had an agreement in place concerning their long-term goals. As soon as Samantha turned eighteen, Bill was going to turn Sookie and make her his vampire child, in addition to his wife if she wasn’t already. Then he would help Felipe eliminate Freyda—and hopefully that bastard Northman too! After that, they would miraculously “find” Sookie’s son. He and Felipe would both seem to be the rescuers of the child!
Not wanting to share Sookie’s telepathic child with Freyda, Felipe had even promised to give Bill Arkansas in exchange for making sure that Sookie realized how “grateful” she should be to Felipe once she was reunited with her son. Sookie would, of course, be too young of a vampire to be trusted with raising a child—even her own son—through the final years of his childhood, so she would be easily convinced to place him in the care of one of the vampires who had saved him. And—if she was reticent about giving him to Felipe—Bill would simply have to issue a maker’s command.
She would forgive him eventually. She always did.
“Why do you look so smug all of a sudden?” Thalia asked him.
Bill glared at her and chastised himself for allowing her to see his emotions.
“I don’t know what you mean,” he lied, even as he schooled his expression.
Thalia smirked. “Oh—my mistake—perhaps you were just constipated. Tell me, Bill, did you die with a huge stick up your ass, or do you just shove a new one there every night when you rise?”
Bill scoffed. “I don’t even know why I am needed here. For the last two and a half hours, I’ve merely sat—watching you read. Pam has never required that I stay as she reviews the new entries. Do you fear you might need help with the big words?” he sneered.
Thalia cackled, a sound that was so inhuman that it caused Bill to immediately regret egging on the much older vampire.
“No, Bill. I just enjoy your company more than Pam does,” Thalia said mockingly.
“This is a waste of time!” Bill said, rising to his feet.
“Sit!” Thalia ordered in a tone that brooked no argument. Her green eyes seemed to brighten and flame. And Bill’s ass was back in the chair before her monosyllabic word had finished echoing in the room.
“But you don’t need me to be here,” Bill said, his lips turning down into a pout.
“Felipe has ordered an update of the database,” Thalia said coldly. “And my sheriff has ordered me to make sure that all is in order with the new entries. So you will keep your saggy ass planted firmly in that chair until I am finished.” She smiled. “If you need help doing that, I’m sure I could find some silver chains around here somewhere.”
Bill cringed. “That won’t be necessary.”
“It would be no bother,” Thalia said as her fangs clicked into place.
“That won’t be necessary,” Bill repeated, a little more timidly than before.
Thalia grinned, a sight so terrifying the Bill would have lost bladder control if he were able.
“You’d do best to remember where you fit in the food chain around here,” she said darkly.
Bill scowled as Thalia went back to reading—very slowly—the files he’d collected since Felipe had last requested an update to the database. For the millionth time, he wished that he didn’t need to go through Thalia and Pam in any of his dealings with Felipe. After all, the king valued him much more than he did the Sheriff of Area Five and her lieutenant. However, he needed to keep his cover intact. So he was forced to play along with Pam and Thalia’s annoying, though meaningless, games. After all, he knew that he’d be the ultimate winner.
Unwittingly, he glanced at the clock again.
“And just where is it that you think you need to be?” Thalia asked, her smirk back in full force.
“It’s none of your business,” Bill said, his jaw tightening.
“I’m making it my business,” Thalia said. “Remember—I can keep you here all night if I want.”
Bill spoke through tightened lips. “It is Christmas Eve. I had intended to visit Sookie.”
“Ah—the little telepath,” Thalia grinned. “It is quite late for humans—is it not?”
“She is still awake,” Bill said.
Thalia smiled. “Right—you would know, wouldn’t you? Tell me, Bill, what is it like to be tied to a pregnant female? If I recall, pregnancy was not always a pleasant experience.”
“You had children?” Bill asked the older vampire in disbelief.
Thalia glared at him. “I’ve done more in my years of life and un-death than you could fathom, boy!” She sneered.
He pressed his back against the metal of his chair.
“And why would you believe that Sookie Stackhouse would wish to see you—anyway?” She chuckled. “Of course, when one is that pregnant, it is difficult to get away—even if one might want to.”
“Sookie loves me,” Bill said confidently. “She always wants to see me.”
Thalia laughed again. “I’d be surprised if even your bitch of a maker, Lorena, loved you.”
“Don’t speak of my maker,” Bill said threateningly.
“Sookie killed her—correct?” Thalia observed, ignoring his animosity.
“Yes. And that proves her love for me!” Bill insisted.
“I suppose that you are arrogant enough to think that the fact that you raped her the very next evening didn’t interfere with that love,” she said acerbically.
“How do you know about Mississippi?” he asked, his anger clearly rising.
“I know many things,” she grinned.
“It wasn’t rape,” he said quietly. “I wasn’t in my right mind!”
“No rapist ever is, Bill,” Thalia said, her tone turning cold—deadly. “Trust me—I’ve known a few.”
“I was starved for blood! I’d been tortured!”
“And you were tied to Sookie even then—were you not?” Thalia asked. “Tell me—did it make things more exciting for you because you could feel her terror? Her helplessness? Her disgust?”
“I didn’t know what I was doing!” Bill said, continuing to insist upon his innocence.
“Tell yourself anything you please, Bill,” Thalia said emotionlessly. “Meanwhile, let me tell you a story.”
“Yes—the story of my life.”
Bill looked confused. “Why would I want to hear that?”
“Perhaps it will help you to learn a lesson,” Thalia said evenly.
“I don’t have time for this,” he said, his frustration with the conversation clear.
“Yes—yes you do,” she grinned as she looked melodramatically at the clock. “There are hours before dawn.”
“Then I don’t want to know,” he said, his tone somewhat petulant.
She ignored him. “My story started almost 1,100 years ago. Did you know that I was that old? Older than even Eric?”
He shook his head sullenly.
“The alleyway where I was forced to live after my husband died did not require an invitation, and my maker decided to have me and my two children for his dinner one night. I decided that I wasn’t going to let that happen, so I stuck a sword through his gut when he was feeding from my youngest. I thought I’d killed him; I was wrong.” Her face clouded with rage and contempt. “Adelphius liked my spunk, came back the next night once he’d healed, drained me, and turned me. When I rose, I felt very little except for hunger and pain—as other infant vampires feel. My maker compounded my pain by giving me my first command: to drain my own children. You see—he had left them alive for me to kill. A lesson in his cruelty and my powerlessness.”
Thalia sat forward. “After I realized what I’d done—as I stood over the corpses of my beloved babes—my maker told me that it was a vampire’s urge to copulate with his children. He raped me for the first time amidst the gory remains of my children. Indeed, he raped me many, many times over the years until he was staked. Do you want to know how many of those times I consented to?”
“None!” Thalia said, answering her own question. “My maker used to like to starve me until I was so thirsty for blood that I would kill many humans. Do you want to know how many times I raped one of my prey—even when starving? None!” she answered without pausing. “Do you know how many times I’ve used force or glamour to get someone into my bed? None!” She scoffed. “Starvation may have caused you to take Sookie’s blood, but don’t delude yourself. It didn’t force you to rip off the clothing of your prey and put your dick into her.” She sat back. “And it certainly wouldn’t have stopped you from recognizing the pleas and the pain of someone with whom you had a blood tie.”
Bill growled a little and his fangs clicked down.
Thalia rolled her eyes. “What’s wrong, Bill? Does the truth hurt?”
“Things are,” he paused, “different for men than they are for women.”
Thalia was in front of him in the next moment with his throat held firmly in her dangerous grasp. “Really? Really!” She put her free hand on his crotch and started stroking his cock. “Tell me—do you want to fuck me, Bill?”
“No!” he cried out as loudly as he could, given the condition of his windpipe at the moment.
“No?” she grinned fangily. “But you are getting hard, Bill. Tell me—are you a David Carradine fan?”
“What are you talking about?” Bill managed.
“Do you enjoy autoerotic asphyxiation?”
“Then why is your dick hard and throbbing?” she sneered as she released his throat a little so he could more easily respond.
“You are violating me,” he rasped out.
“Yes,” she responded. “And—if I chose to do so—I could rip your JC Penney Khakis apart and straddle your pitiful cock. And then you know what I could do?”
“Rape me,” he hissed.
“Yes,” Thalia confirmed. “But do you know why I’m not going to do that, Bill?”
“No,” he croaked out as her grip tightened again.
“Several reasons,” she said, even as she released him. She’d retaken her seat before he could even register that she’d moved. “Would you like to hear them?” she asked.
“No,” he responded, trying to fix his clothing, regain his composure, and will his erection away.
“That was a rhetorical question, Bill,” she grinned. “First, I wouldn’t want to have your pathetic dick in my body. Second, Pam would stake me if I left her office reeking of your spunk. And—third and most important,” she paused and looked at him coldly. “Are you listening carefully, Bill?”
“I am no rapist!” she said with lethalness in her tone.
He couldn’t help but to tremble as her eyes shone even greener than before. In that moment, those eyes looked like two emeralds—so beautiful, yet jagged and dangerous.
“Do you know who else has never raped another?” Thalia asked.
Bill glared at her.
“I’ll give you a hint,” she said facetiously. “It’s a man.”
Bill turn his head away.
“No guesses? Well I’ll just have to tell you then: Eric Northman. Did you ever meet his maker, Appius?”
Bill tensed, but nodded.
“Appius and my maker, Adelphius, were great buddies. Did you know that?”
Bill shook his head again.
“They exchanged tricks of the trade—so to speak. But, like me, Eric never let his hunger push him into raping anyone—not even when his maker commanded him to.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Look at me!” Thalia yelled out an order.
Bill’s head snapped back to face her.
“You could not fathom the punishment endured by the Norseman for refusing Appius Livius Ocella’s orders, boy!”
Bill shivered at both her harsh tone and her words.
“Tell me—did your maker ever command you to take someone against his or her will?” she asked shrewdly.
Bill’s eyes flickered as if remembering the past.
“Yes. I figured so. Lorena was a sadistic bitch—after all. And—by the looks of it—you complied with her orders.”
Bill looked at her guiltily.
“Do not fret,” she said almost kindly. “Few vampires could resist a maker’s command, let alone endure the punishment for such a resistance.” She sighed. “Did you know that Eric was much younger than you are now when we first met? He was less than a decade old.”
When Thalia looked at him, obviously expecting a response, Bill shook his head.
“He was very young,” she said sadly, “and very brave—foolishly so.”
She was quiet for a few minutes, and Bill found his eyes moving back to the Fangtasia clock.
“Allow me to put forward a little theory,” Thalia said, sitting forward. “I’m betting that, in that trunk, you were able to smell more of Eric’s blood in Sookie—just as I did after her return from Mississippi. I’m betting that smelling that blood enraged you. And I’m betting that you raped her in order to reclaim your dominance over her.”
“No! That’s not what happened!” Bill yelled.
“What’s the matter, Bill?” Thalia asked, trying to sound innocent. “You sound awfully defensive.”
Bill took and unneeded breath. “Mississippi was a mistake,” he said, through almost closed lips. “And Sookie has forgiven me.”
“Because she had your blood in her. And because she bought your deception that you had no control.” She shook her head. “And because she’s spent most of her life in denial about a whole hell of a lot of things!”
“You don’t know anything about me—or her!” Bill said irately.
“I know more than you think,” Thalia said.
“What do you mean?” Bill asked.
Instead of answering his question, Thalia looked back at the computer screen in front of her.
“What do you mean?” Bill foolishly echoed.
Suddenly Thalia was on her feet again, and Bill was in her deadly grasp. “I know that—for way too fucking long—a better vampire than me has staid his hand because of the love he has for the woman whose spirit you want to steal! And I know that the staying of my own hand is done now—come what may!”
Seconds later, Bill felt himself being suspended in the air. And the next thing he knew, he was in the basement of the club, a space that had become even more ominous since Pam had taken over Fangtasia from Eric.
“What is the meaning of this?” he demanded as she clipped his wrists and then ankles into shackles made from silver. Luckily for him, the silver was surrounded by leather so that it didn’t directly scald his skin. But Bill knew immediately that they were strong enough to hold him.
“I would think that my meaning was clear,” Thalia said as she turned a lever that raised up his feet so that his body looked as if it were sitting in midair. After he was off the ground, the petite vampiress turned the lever again, and the shackles on his wrists lowered a little, making him the perfect height for her ‘attentions.’
“But—then again—you always were a little dim,” she smirked. “So let me make it clear. I mean to torture you, Bill Compton.”
“But,” he stammered insistently, “you can’t do that! I’m a valuable subject of the king! If you harm me, Felipe will end you! The database makes him a lot of money!”
She chuckled. “What? You think I don’t know more about the vampires in your little database than you do?” She laughed even louder. “If I wanted to, I could sell what I know and put your little project out of business. After all, most of your information is about inconsequential baby vamps—even younger than yourself. You forget—I’ve spent the last few hours looking over your so-called work,” she jeered. “What is it that amusing commercial used to say? Oh yes—’it’s so easy that even a caveman could do it.'” She cackled. “And—believe me—I’ve known a few Neanderthals in my day. Known them,” she smirked, “and killed them.”
“The king!” Bill yelled again. “I am an invaluable asset to him!”
“Yes—and to Queen Freyda too,” Thalia deadpanned as she yanked Bill’s shirt off of his body. The rest of his clothes soon followed.
“What,” he stammered, “are you—uh—talking about?”
Thalia rolled her eyes. “Let me tell you a story about friendship, Bill.”
“Friendship?” he asked with obvious confusion.
“Yes. The kind of friendship that fosters over a thousand years of loyalty.”
“Northman,” he snarled.
“Yes—the Norseman has proven worthy of my friendship. Did I not tell you how my maker met his end, Bill?”
“Let me guess,” Bill said with bitterness in his voice. “Eric.”
Thalia nodded as she opened a cabinet and picked up a white box. “Do you want to know that best thing?”
“What?” Bill asked as his eyes darted to the little white box.
“I didn’t even have to ask him,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked him. In fact, if I would have known anything about Eric’s plan, I would have been compelled to tell my maker.”
She pulled on some dainty-looking white gloves before opening the box.
“Do you shave, Bill?” she asked.
“Huh?” he asked.
“I have noticed that you have varying lengths of sideburns. And male facial hair—unlike our other hair—grows quickly. So—again—I ask, do you shave?”
“Yes,” he said, “every night. I died with a full beard.”
She smiled, showing her fangs. “All my life, I have been fascinated by the evolution of razors,” she said ominously, pulling a thin silver blade from the box. Bill could see that there were dozens of blades in the box, and the sight caused his fear to soar.
“Even in my time, men scraped blades across their faces,” Thalia informed—her eyes glazed-over as if searching the past. “Men are so vulnerable when they allow someone to shave them.” She examined the little blade in her hand. “They place so much trust onto the one wielding the blade.”
“Don’t do this,” Bill said, now fighting against his binds. “I am under the protection of two monarchs. If you harm me, you will be signing your own death warrant.”
Thalia laughed. “The combined ages of those monarchs is less than my own age. And that’s with your age added to the mix!”
She approached him and looked at his legs. “You—and your precious monarchs—are mere children to me.” She tilted her head. “Do you want to know a universal truth, Bill?”
He shook his head, but she ignored him.
“When born, children have very fine hair,” she said as she dragged the blade along his upper leg.
Bill cried out as the silver scraped into his flesh. “Stop!” he yelled. “I will make it worth your while if you do.”
Thalia backed off for a moment. “And what could you offer me?”
“Felipe and Freyda would give you money.”
Thalia laughed. “Paper or gold—it is all the same. It is just fleeting symbolism.” Her voice grew cold. “It has no real value, Bill, though silver currency has some merit.”
“They could offer you position. Or favor!” he tried.
“Kings and queens come and go,” Thalia said. “But one thing is constant in my own life.”
“What?” Bill asked, desperate to keep her talking.
“I have never served a one of them,” she said.
“You served Sophie-Anne. You serve Pam!” Bill insisted.
Thalia shook her head. “No. I remain in Area Five because I owe Eric the North Man a debt I could never repay. I stay to be at the ready to be in his service. I stay because I respect him.” She paused. “If he were to be a king, I would serve him. But I have found only one other who has even tempted my undying allegiance—not in over a thousand years.”
She stepped forward and dragged the silver razor blade along his other leg before lodging it into his left inner thigh and getting another out of the box.
“No! Stop!” Bill demanded, his voice already sounding pained and exhausted.
“No. I won’t stop,” Thalia responded sardonically as she scraped more hair from his legs; she then lodged the second blade into his other thigh.
“Do you know what Sookie Stackhouse is doing tonight?” she asked after giving him a minute or two to whimper in peace.
“What?” Bill hissed.
“She is receiving a visit from my friend.”
“Northman?” Bill grated out.
“Yes,” Thalia confirmed. “He is offering her a way out of the hell you have abetted in setting up for her.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, trying to sound blameless.
Thalia mercilessly dragged the next sharp blade though the hair under his scrota before lodging it into one of them.
“Confess your sins, Bill,” Thalia instructed. “It would be good for your soul.”
“I have no sins to confess,” he lied.
She grinned. “If you confess them, you might go to a better maker than the one I would have you go to.”
“Lorena,” he cringed.
“Yes. Or—perhaps—you might still find your way to the Christian God.” She paused. “If you confess. I believe he is big on forgiveness. Either way, whether by my hand or by my friend’s, you will be meeting a maker tonight.”
“No,” Bill gasped.
“Yes,” Thalia guaranteed as she picked up another razor. She ran this one along his arm before burying it into the nerve center around his neck.
She smiled as Bill cried out in a satisfactory manner.
“Felipe and Freyda will end you,” he whimpered.
Thalia sighed. “An end comes for us all. But I believe that it will take a stronger foe than either of your monarchs to do the deed. Now—confess, Bill. Make things easier for yourself.”
“What do you want from me?” he asked, almost with desperation.
She smiled and went over to push down the buttons of an old cassette recorder. “I want your biggest secrets, Bill Compton. I want your deepest regrets.”
He shook his head. She responded by pulling out another blade and scraping it along his chin before bringing it to rest in his cheekbone.
“Sookie!” Bill cried.
“What about her?” Thalia asked.
“I’ve,” he paused, “manipulated her.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Thalia deadpanned.
“Her son!” he yelled out.
“What of him?”
“I am helping Felipe and Freyda take him. He’s a telepath.”
“And—uh—I’ve spied on Sookie for years—getting information about her for Freyda and Felipe.”
“To prevent Northman from getting back into her life,” he fumed.
“A pipedream,” Thalia said. “Eric the North Man loves Sookie Stackhouse. Destiny may take its time, but it is still destiny.”
“He doesn’t deserve her!” Bill hissed.
In response, Thalia dragged a razor blade across Bill’s stomach and lodged it into one of his pudgy four pack.
“Why do you believe my friend doesn’t deserve her?” she asked.
“He just wants to use her—for her telepathy!”
“Really?” Talia snickered. “Like when?”
“With Longshadow. And in Dallas,” Bill said.
“Those were paid arrangements that you agreed to. Was she not yours when she did those jobs? Did you not get paid for them?”
“He just wants her blood!” Bill said frantically, grasping at straws.
“And what vampire wouldn’t?” Thalia asked. “She smells lovely. But I have never attempted to take Sookie’s blood against her will. Has Eric?” She shook her head. “No. In fact, you are the one who took her blood when she didn’t want it taken—in the trunk,” she finished in a steely whisper.
“Eric forced Sookie to take his blood—in Dallas!” Bill raged, even as Thalia picked up another blade. She put it to good use on a particularly unsightly patch of hair on Bill’s back before sticking it into his spine.
“No,” Thalia corrected. “Eric has felt guilt for what you are accusing him of doing, but he did not use force.”
“How would you know?” Bill asked with a groan.
“I was there,” she informed.
“What?” Bill asked with surprise.
“Eric seldom travels without back-up, and you certainly wouldn’t have been counted on for that,” she informed. “So I saw everything. You are right about one thing, however: Eric did ask Sookie to suck the bullet from his flesh before his skin healed around it, which—as you may know is extremely painful.”
Thalia got a mischievous look in her green eyes. “Here—let me demonstrate.” She went back to the cabinet and pulled out a small gun. “This is a 1966 Colt Detective Special. It is the kind of gun used on Hawaii Five-0—the original program, not the remake. Did you enjoy that show, Bill?”
Bill’s eyes focused on the gun; he didn’t answer her question.
“You see,” Thalia went on, not waiting for an answer, “I like revolvers. They are dramatic.” She opened the cylinder of the weapon and spun it. “I sometimes enjoy playing Russian roulette with my victims.” She laughed with glee, a sound that made Bill balk. “These guns are also good for firing a multitude of bullet types.” She pulled a box of bullets out of the cabinet, and lifted one up for Bill’s examination.
“Silver,” he murmured with fear.
“Yes. Did Eric tell you that the bullet he took when covering Sookie’s body was silver? As you know, those burn like a mother fucker and weaken us until they are removed.” She loaded a bullet into one of the chambers. “Normally—when I’m playing—I spin the cylinder and let fate decide. However, I’m not playing this evening,” she said ominously as she moved the cylinder so that the lone bullet was lined up with the barrel.
“Do you know where Eric was shot that night?”
“The shoulder,” Bill whimpered, as his body shook against his will.
“Yes,” Thalia agreed. “But I can’t quite recall which shoulder. Do you know?”
Bill shook his head.
“No matter,” the vampiress said. She moved slowly away until she was more than twenty feet from Bill. “Now—another thing that I love about this particular kind of weapon, especially when used with this particular kind of bullet,” she added, “is that the wounds are hardly ever through-and-through. The bullets tend to get lodged in.”
She fired, and immediately Bill recoiled in pain.
Thalia zipped back up to him and smiled. “Excellent!” she proclaimed as she confirmed that the bullet was indeed lodged into his shoulder. “Now—the rest of my story will have more meaning for you.”
“You bitch!” Bill yelled.
“No, Bill,” Thalia said shaking her head. “You’re my bitch tonight.”
She put the gun and the other bullets back into the cabinet and then came back over to him.
“Now—where was I in my little tale? Oh, yes! I was at the part where Eric protected the woman whom you had claimed as ‘yours’ with his own body.”
“Sookie was mine!” Bill yelled out, even as red tears began to drip from his eyes.
“Yes. You had publicly claimed her by then. You had given her your blood, and she had had yours—correct?”
Bill nodded. “Yes—she was mine, and she will be again!” he insisted.
Thalia rolled her eyes at his last remark.
“If that was the case—then why was it Eric who had to protect her in Stan’s nest?” she asked.
“I was across the room,” Bill defended.
Thalia nodded. “And after the shooting was over? You could have removed the bullet from Eric. In fact, as soon as Sookie saw the wound in her rescuer, she called for you.”
Bill looked confused. “I didn’t hear her.”
“Oh—yes—you were chasing the attackers at the time. You came back into the house nice and pink—if I remember correctly.”
“Why didn’t you remove the bullet from your master?” Bill asked derisively. “You were his back-up—correct?”
Thalia nodded. “Sadly, I had been near the window when the gunfire started, and I received a couple of bullets in me that day as well.” She winked. “So—you see—I know exactly the kind of agony you are now experiencing. And—trust me. Eric was in good hands.”
“Sookie!” Bill growled.
“Ahhhh—there’s that feral, Neanderthal anger that I’ve seen bubbling under the surface so many times. Is that the kind of jealousy you felt in the trunk of the car too?” She grabbed another razor blade and used it to shave his ankle before lodging it into the underside of his foot.
He cried out in agony as the silver touched his sensitive nerve endings.
“Anyway—as I was saying,” Thalia went on, “Eric did ask Sookie to suck the bullet out of his shoulder and explained to her the pain that would be caused if his flesh grew over it, as yours is doing now. Sookie’s initial reaction was to hesitate, so Eric offered that if she were squeamish, she should find a knife and cut the bullet from him. However, she decided to suck.” Thalia giggled at her own pun. “Anyway—I was cutting a bullet out of my flesh with a shard of glass at the time, and—by the look on his face—I can state with certainty that Eric’s experience was much more pleasurable than mine.”
Thalia ignored the sound. “So—you see? Eric offered Sookie a choice regarding how to remove the bullet from him. And—as you have said—she was ‘yours’ and had had your blood.”
Bill looked at the petite vampiress with anger. “Yet another reason why Eric shouldn’t have manipulated her like that!”
“You should pay attention, boy!” Thalia seethed. “I’ve just explained how he didn’t manipulate her. Also, since you had claimed her and given her your blood more than once, Eric assumed—and was right to assume—that you had explained to Sookie the implications of taking a vampire’s blood. If you didn’t teach her those implications, then the fault was yours—not Eric’s. But you had your own reasons for keeping Sookie in the dark, didn’t you, Billy?”
Bill practically foamed at the mouth in anger even as more tears fell from his eyes. “You know as well as I do that vampires are not required to explain our ways to our pets!”
Thalia smiled, went over to her recorder, and pushed stop. She rewound the tape, listened to Bill’s last comment, laughed heartily, and then loaded a fresh tape into the machine. She pushed record and then got another razor blade.
“You are right about one thing, Bill,” she chuckled as she dragged the blade over his right nipple and lodged it into his chest, “we owe pets nothing.”
He screamed in agony.
“However, I’m pretty certain,” Thalia added, “that Sookie Stackhouse was under the impression that she was more than a pet to you.”
“Northman is the one who thinks of her as a pet,” Bill replied, his voice now giving away his pain.
Thalia rolled her eyes, got another blade, and repeated her action with his left nipple and pectoral muscle.
“If you thought of Sookie as your mate—your beloved—then you would have told her about the effects of your blood.”
“I did,” he insisted.
“You told her of ties? You told her of bonds? You told her of the,” she paused, “problematic nature of taking blood from one vampire when she belonged to another?” She shook her head. “Sookie had no way of knowing those things—did she, Billy? Nope. On the contrary, your actions had screamed that her taking blood from other vampires was allowed.”
“What do you mean?” Bill asked hatefully.
“When Sookie was attacked by the Maenad, didn’t you take her to Eric? Didn’t her own blood get removed by four different vampire—including yourself? Or did Pam get that fact wrong?”
“No—that’s right,” Bill stammered as Thalia showed him another blade.
“Right. So Sookie likely thought that the reverse was okay too—that she could take other vampires’ blood to heal. However, she didn’t act for herself when she helped Eric. She acted to heal him.”
“So that’s why you got so angry?” Thalia asked with a smirk.
“She should not have helped him—taken blood from him—of all vampires!” Bill hissed.
Thalia shrugged. “His blood was enough to get her thinking about your suspicious actions. It was enough to counteract the influence of your blood. So—in the end—it was good for her.” She shook her head sadly. “Though—because of your jealousy and extreme possessiveness—you punished her again. Didn’t you? When you knew she’d taken his blood yet again—in Mississippi?”
“Sookie was mine!” Bill yelled out. “Eric had no right!”
“You were the one to place Sookie’s care in Eric’s hands when you went off to Lorena. Or is Pam wrong about those details too?” she smirked.
“I couldn’t avoid my maker’s call!” he insisted.
“Of course not,” Thalia said. “I know that better than anyone.” She sighed. “In this, I have empathy for you, Bill. Your maker was a sadist and a rapist too—though perhaps not to the degree that mine was. After all, Lorena eventually let you seek out your own life. I was in hell with mine for hundreds of years, and I’m certain that he would have never freed me—except, perhaps, by offering me the true death. But I did learn a thing or two from Adelphius.”
She got another razor blade out of the box and scraped Bill’s lower scalp before lodging it into his ear.
He cried out and wept.
“Of course, my sympathies end when I think of your very first act after your maker was ended. You became just like Lorena, didn’t you—taking what you wanted in blood and sex from someone unwilling?” She scoffed. “Sookie Stackhouse deserved better from you. She’d saved your life.”
“She’d taken that bastard’s blood!” Bill coughed out.
“So you did know that it was her—in that trunk?” Thalia asked, holding up another blade. “Remember—confession will be good for your soul,” she paused, “if you still have one.”
“Yes,” Bill confessed with a hiss, “I knew. But I couldn’t help myself. I was starved.”
“Back to this?” Thalia asked sarcastically. “And why did you rape her, Bill?” the older vampire asked as she dragged a blade down the backside of his knee.
“She deserved it!” he yelled out in pain and anger. “She should not have defiled herself by drinking from him again!”
“So you felt the need to reinstate your claim?”
“Yes! Sookie is mine! She always should have been mine!”
Thalia’s look became triumphant as she recognized that her prey had broken.
“You have been spying on Sookie Stackhouse for Freyda, queen of Oklahoma—have you not?”
“Yes,” Bill admitted, his mind no longer resisting.
“And Felipe, King of Nevada, Louisiana, and Arkansas?”
“Has Freyda done anything to harm Miss Stackhouse?”
Thalia took another silver blade and lodged it firmly into his gut. “I’m going to need verbal replies, Billy,” she ordered.
“Yes—Freyda has hurt Sookie,” he stammered. “She tried to kill her!”
“How?” Thalia asked, though she already knew the answer.
“A car accident.”
“The one in which her shifter was killed?”
“Yes. But I didn’t know about it. I saved Sookie’s life!”
“Did you place the tracking and surveillance equipment into Mr. Merlotte’s vehicle?”
“Yes,” Bill admitted. “But I didn’t know it would be used to cause violence.”
“Are you glad Merlotte died?”
“Because it made your path to Sookie’s affections easier?”
“Yes,” he admitted, his mental and physical agony becoming more profound by the second.
“Whose idea was it that Sookie’s child be taken from her if it was a telepath?”
“I did it in order to keep her and her daughter safe,” Bill defended weakly.
“So it was your idea?”
Thalia answered by lodging a blade deep into his cockhead.
“Yes!” he screamed in misery. “It was my idea! With the child gone, it would solve so many problems!”
“Felipe would no longer be trying to find a way to get his hands on Sookie.”
“But his contract with Eric made Sookie untouchable to him.”
“He has been looking for ways around the agreement he made with Northman. He would have found one.”
“I see,” Thalia said. “So having Sookie’s unborn child would have satisfied the king?”
“Did you glamour the hospital staff and Sookie’s doctor?”
“What did you glamour them to do?”
“After Sookie has her son, they will make her believe that her child is dead.”
“Tsk, tsk,” Thalia chided. “That is quite cruel—is it not?”
“No!” he insisted. “Sookie will be able to grieve and move on with her life!”
“With you by her side?” Thalia asked sardonically.
“Yes! She loves me! I will take care of her.”
“What other problems would be solved if the child were gone, Bill?”
“Sookie’s focus wouldn’t be on another. She already has one child,” he said bitterly.
“So you didn’t want her attention to be divided?”
“No, I didn’t,” he admitted with a whimper.
“And you didn’t want her to have to invest more of her lifespan into raising her children?”
“Why not?” she asked.
“I am going to turn her—once her eldest child comes of age.”
“Against her will?” Thalia asked, with controlled rage.
“If need be,” Bill said, jutting out his jaw. “She will forgive me.”
Thalia sighed. “No—I do not believe that that is something which can be forgiven. One can accept being turned against his or her will. One can even learn to embrace being a vampire, but one can never truly forgive it.”
Thalia got a faraway look in her eyes. “I offered the turning to a human I cared for once. I told him what I was and what he could be.” She closed her eyes. “He declined the offer. Yet he stayed with me for the rest of his life. He gave me love and blood and fellowship. And—looking back—I know that he made the right choice for himself. Some, like Pamela, are born to become vampires. Others, like Eric, allow time to shape them into their new existence, but that shaping—as I believe you know—is painful.”
“Sookie will be my child!” Bill raved. “She will forgive me.”
“The well of Sookie’s forgiveness for you has finally run dry,” Eric said menacingly, as he entered the basement, walking slowly down the stairs.
“Hello, my friend,” Thalia said. “You have been missed.”
Eric walked over to the petite vampiress and stroked her cheek. “I have missed you as well, my friend.”
“Northman,” Bill said, spitting out the blood that had collected in his mouth.
“Hello Billy boy,” he greeted with a smirk.
“What the fuck are you doing here? When Freyda learns that you broke the contract . . . ,” he began.
“And just who is going to tell her?” Eric smirked. “You look a little tied up right now to use your phone, and the human you are bound to in Las Vegas is currently out of commission too—thanks to a little glamouring from my spy in Felipe’s court.”
“Not that she could feel him in Las Vegas anyway,” Thalia observed quietly.
“It is always better to be safe than sorry,” Eric smiled.
“True,” Thalia relented.
“Speaking of which . . . ,” Eric began.
“Yes,” Thalia said, rolling her eyes. “I’m not an infant—you know. I ran a sweep for bugs both before and after Compton arrived—since he looked downright infested.”
“And Pam installed the new blocking device you suggested,” she added.
Eric nodded with satisfaction.
“Free me, or suffer the consequences!” Bill yelled feebly.
“Were you successful in your quest?” Thalia asked, ignoring Bill’s pathetic rants.
“Yes,” Eric smiled. “And it is a good thing too. What if she would have chosen Bill’s protection?”
Thalia scoffed. “Sookie Stackhouse is stubborn and naïve. She is easily influenced, especially when emotionally weary. She is also ignorant of many things—mostly because the men in her life have not always told her all that she should have known,” she directed to Eric accusingly.
Eric nodded. “Yes,” he acknowledged somewhat wearily. “Perhaps, I could have used your razor treatment—long ago. But I have finally learned.”
Thalia nodded approvingly. “So, met by the truth—the whole truth—Sookie made the correct choice, as I knew she would.”
“I wish I’d had your confidence in her,” Eric sighed.
Thalia patted his arm. “Confidence in her was not your problem,” she said in a gentle tone—a tone that few had heard in her more than thousand years.
He nodded, silently conceding that Sookie’s ambivalence, his maker’s reappearance and death, and his “servitude” with Freyda had—indeed—shaken his confidence. In himself.
“But all will be as it should be now,” she said. “And, in case you need more ammunition, I have taken the liberty to tape my session with Bill. He was quite forthcoming in discussing his puppeteers’ sins, as well as his own.”
“And I imagine you offered him absolution?” Eric asked with a smirk.
Thalia smiled. “Yes—of a sort.”
“What if Sookie had chosen to stay here. Killing Bill wouldn’t have been wise in that case,” Eric observed sagely.
Thalia shrugged. “I made the executive decision that he had to die tonight—no matter what.” She looked over at her victim as Eric lifted an eyebrow.
“What?” Thalia hedged. “He was very annoying earlier this evening.”
“And you just couldn’t help yourself?” Eric grinned.
“No. I couldn’t,” Thalia said with steel in her tone. “I can put up with the fangbangers because they provide me with food. But putting up with him was asking too much!”
Eric chuckled. “I know what you mean.”
Thalia smiled wickedly. “And I warmed him up for you.”
Eric sighed. “I’m afraid I cannot enjoy him. I promised Sookie I would kill him swiftly, though I am glad,” he paused, “that Mr. Compton received a bit of your tender care before I arrived.”
“If you listened to the tape, you would not be so agreeable to letting him die quickly,” she said.
“Probably not,” Eric responded. “And that is why I plan to wait until after he is dead to listen to it.”
Thalia sighed with disappointment. “If Sookie listened to it, she might be keen to lift her request that you kill him fast.” She licked her lips hopefully.
“Perhaps,” Eric mused. “But—more likely—in this case, keeping her somewhat in the dark will be better than letting her hear all.”
Thalia considered his words for a moment. “No. She should hear it. But you are right. Now is not the best time. Let her tend to her child. Let her settle into her new life. But—when she inevitably begins to feel guilt for condoning Bill’s death—she will need to hear the tape.”
“No!” Bill yelled, picking back up on the conversation after being lost to his pain for a few minutes.
Eric ignored his ex-rival’s outburst and nodded. “You are right. Tell me—will you be joining Sookie and me in Sweden?”
“Sweden?” Bill asked. “I will not allow you to take Sookie from me! Felipe will help me stop you!”
Eric and Thalia both rolled their eyes, but ignored Bill for the most part.
“I believe I will,” Thalia said. “Olaf has asked me personally,” she smiled.
“Your vampire brother can be quite convincing,” Eric observed with a smirk.
“He is also my favorite person,” Thalia said honestly.
“That cuts me to the quick,” Eric joked. “I thought I was your favorite.”
She smirked. “You are my second favorite.”
He chuckled. “I suppose I will have to be satisfied with that.”
“I will make Olaf wait, however,” Thalia said with a smile.
“You will stay in Area 5 until Pam leaves?” Eric asked.
Thalia nodded as Eric bent down to kiss her forehead. “You have my gratitude.”
“I will forever be in your debt, Viking,” she said. “But I will accept your gratitude.”
Eric smiled and then turned his attention to Bill.
“I won’t let you take Sookie from me,” Bill said. “If you don’t let me go, Felipe will kill you!”
Eric shook his head. “Not even an hour ago, Sookie gave me leave to kill you.”
“Perhaps I misinterpreted her words. Thalia?” he called over his shoulder.
“Yes?” she responded.
“You can be impartial—correct?”
“Yes—very,” she intoned.
“Good,” Eric said with mock seriousness. “In that case, I will share with you part of Sookie and my conversation. You tell me if it sounds like she’s giving me permission to kill Compton.”
Thalia clapped her hands together. “Pam will be so envious. I’m ready!”
“Well,” Eric said, contemplatively, “we’ll start with the fact that I offered to find another way to deal with Compton—so that we wouldn’t have to kill him, despite the fact that he would be able to track Sookie and her son once he is born.”
“Did you tell her that one of Felipe’s humans has been bonded with Bill?” Thalia asked.
“Yes. But Sookie turned me down when I offered to have my person in Felipe’s court kill the human.”
“Well—Sookie was always conscientious about the safety of other humans,” Thalia recalled.
“Indeed,” Eric said, turning back to Bill. “Anyway, I offered to keep you moving so that Felipe’s human couldn’t find you, but Sookie refused.” He paused. “Let me try to report her words exactly.” He cleared his throat dramatically. “She said, and I quote: ‘Eric, I’ve finally learned that a leopard can’t change his spots.'”
“Try to make your voice a little higher,” Thalia suggested helpfully.
Eric chuckled and did as she suggested, raising his voice an octave higher. “‘Eric, I’ve finally learned that a leopard can’t change his spots. Or—in Bill’s case—he won’t change his spots! Bill has been digging his final grave for years.'”
He looked at Thalia. “Better?”
“Comically so,” she said with clear amusement.
He grinned at her, but when he turned his gaze back to Bill, it was deadly once again. “When I agreed with her, Sookie said that it was time that I put you into that grave.”
“You lie!” Bill yelled.
“Sounds like clear permission to me,” Thalia said gleefully.
Suddenly, Bill went still for a moment and then began to struggle against his shackles again.
“What’s wrong, Billy?” Eric asked.
“Sookie!” he shouted. “She moving away from her home—from me. Your bitch of a child has kidnapped her—hasn’t she?”
Eric chuckled. “Perhaps I should give Pam a T-shirt for Christmas with that phrase on it: ‘bitch of a child.'”
“I believe she’s already had several made for herself,” Thalia deadpanned.
“Pity,” Eric said, just as his phone rang. He reached into his pocket and, noticing that the call was from Pam’s number, he quickly answered.
“Is there a problem?” Eric asked, his tone tinged with worry. “You were not to call me unless there was a problem.”
“Um,” said Sookie’s voice on the line. “Sorry. I asked Pam if I could call you.”
“Sookie,” Eric breathed and turned his back to Bill even though it would still be easy for the younger vampire to hear the conversation. “Are you okay? Is there a problem with the baby? With Sammy?”
“No,” she said. “We’re fine. I just wanted to thank you.”
“For what?” he asked.
There was a pause. “There’s too much to list right now. But the reason why I called was to thank you for the stuffed bunny—the one you got for the baby.”
Eric smiled. “You’re welcome.”
“And I wanted to tell you that he misses you.”
“Yes. The baby.”
Eric’s face scrunched up with confusion.
“But how . . . ?” he started but then stopped when he couldn’t find words to complete his question.
“I told you how I can sense him—how sometimes it seems like he’s trying to sense me too. Right?”
“Yes,” Eric confirmed.
“Well—when you left, it felt like he was looking for something—someone. For you. I thought it might have just been me at first—the fact that I was already missing you. But he’s done it over and over since you left. And I wanted you to know that he,” she paused, “likes you—already. Maybe it was because—when you were with me—I was feeling truly happy for the first time since he was made. Or maybe it was your voice or your hand cradled over him.”
Eric was silent.
“Eric?” Sookie asked timidly. “I’m sorry if it was wrong to call you and to tell you. I know what you said about maybe not being able to be a father. And I’m never gonna take Sam away from the kids, but . . . .” She stopped for a moment. “But the baby is gonna feel how the baby feels. And I think that he senses that he can trust you. I think that he’s decided that he likes when you’re near. I like it too,” she rambled. “I guess I just wanted to make sure that you knew that—really knew it.”
Still, Eric was silent.
“Eric? Are you there?” she asked.
“I am here,” he said in a whisper.
“Did I say too much?” she asked worriedly.
“No,” he responded quickly. “You said exactly enough.”
“He’s never had a reaction like that with anyone else,” Sookie said with a smile in her voice. “Not even with me. I think he’s anxious to meet you.” She giggled. “Pam is quite worried that he’s gonna make an appearance in her van.”
Eric chuckled. “Are you and Sammy comfortable?”
“Yes,” she responded. “Sammy’s wrapped up in her quilt in the backseat. She’s got her bunny and is babysitting her brother’s bunny too. She’s already fast asleep.”
Eric smiled. “And you? Are you comfortable?”
She chortled. “Pam put me on a layer of plastic.”
“What?” he asked angrily.
“Don’t worry. One of my quilts is over it. And I’m wrapped in my afghan—our afghan. So I’m as comfortable as I can get.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Have you done it?” she asked, her voice now grave.
“I’m about to,” he replied just as gravely. “Any second thoughts?”
“No,” she responded immediately. “Is he there? Now?”
Eric turned around and saw that Thalia had placed a ball-gag into Bill’s mouth so that he couldn’t interrupt his conversation with Sookie. Bill was trying to bite through the apparatus, but he’d only accomplished chewing into the silver interior, which was now burning his lips off. His faint cries, thankfully, were too low for Sookie to hear. The Viking nodded gratefully in Thalia’s direction.
“Yes,” Eric answered. “He is here.”
“And you’re safe?”
“Yes. Thalia is here. She is watching my back.”
“Will you thank her for me?” Sookie asked.
“Yes,” Eric said, though there was no need since Thalia had clearly heard Sookie’s words of gratitude.
“Will you let me say something to him?” Sookie asked.
“Sookie—I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Eric cautioned.
“I just wanna talk. Can you make sure that he can’t talk back?” she asked nervously. “I don’t wanna have to listen to any of his nonsense—not ever again.”
“I think I can arrange for him not to speak,” Eric said with a smirk in Thalia’s direction.
“Good. Then please. There is something I need to say to him.”
Eric sighed. “Okay. Ready?”
Covering the receiver, Eric held up the phone so that Bill could better hear.
“Bill?” came Sookie’s voice loud and clear. “I want you to know that I did truly love you once upon a time.”
Eric tensed as Bill listened closely—enthralled by Sookie’s words.
Sookie continued. “And I was allowing myself to trust you again. I’d even thought that giving you another chance was the right thing to do. But my love and my trust were never good enough for you—were they? You betrayed me time and again—in the worst ways imaginable. And you made me feel like I was less—somehow not worthy for anyone better than you.” She sighed. “But your days of manipulating me are at an end Bill Compton. And—after tonight—I’m gonna do everything I can to only think about you when I need to remind myself how much better off I am without you.”
There was another pause. “I know that what I’m gonna say next will be hurtful to you, and Gran would disapprove, but if she knew what you were plannin’ to do to my son, I think she’d reconsider.” She took a deep breath. “I love Eric. I love him with a depth of feeling that used to scare me—because I was afraid that he’d hurt me like you did, and I knew I couldn’t survive that. You see—I survived your betrayal because you were my first love. And I’m not sayin’ that first loves aren’t important. They are. But when I loved you, I was a scared girl aching for anyone to love—for anyone to love me. And you seemed to do that. Seemed being the operative term!”
Sookie took another deep breath. “But I loved—I love—Eric as a woman. I resisted that love for so long out of fear, but now I’ve given myself over to it fully. And I’m gonna do my very best to make up for the pain I’ve caused him.” She paused. “Okay—here’s the real hurtful part. I want you to know that Eric’s ten times the vampire—the man—that you are. No—he’s a hundred times better. A thousand! Hell! Pam?” she asked.
Eric could hear Pam’s amused tone. “Yes, my favorite breather?”
“What’s the biggest number you know of?” Sookie asked.
Pam’s gleeful laughter reverberated through the phone and the basement. “I believe that the largest officially named number is centillion, though I prefer the ‘googolplex,’ which is larger, though it’s not officially recognized by many mathematicians. But vampires like it—for obvious reasons.”
“What reasons?” Sookie asked.
“It’s a number closer to immortality,” Pam answered matter-of-factly.
“Oh! Makes sense. Thanks,” Sookie said. “Alright, Bill, Eric is a googolplex times better of a person than you are. Plus one.”
Neither Eric nor Thalia could stifle their chuckles, though—thankfully—Sookie couldn’t hear them.
“So,” Sookie sighed. “I want you to know that I know what you were gonna do to my baby. I know that you’ve been working for Freyda and Felipe to spy on me. I know that you told them my child is a telepath. And I know that you would have done anything to make me yours again. But—know this: I. Am. Eric’s. And not in the possessive kind of vampire way—either. I’m his because I choose to be—because I want to be. I’m his because—without a drop of his blood in me—I love him. I respect him and I trust him. He’s protected me—even from myself and even when I didn’t know he was doin’ it. Oh—and he’s the best lover I’ve ever had!”
Thalia laughed out loud at the horror-stricken look on Bill’s face.
“Sorry,” Sookie said over the line, “that last thing was petty. True—but petty. Anyway, I wanted to say this to you because Pam thought I might need closure, but I think she just wanted to be amused.”
Pam was heard chuckling in the background.
“So—anyway—goodbye Bill. If bein’ happy that you’re never gonna be able to hurt me or my family again means that I’m gonna go to hell, then I guess I’ll see you there.” There was a pause. “Okay, Eric, I’m done.”
Eric got back on the phone.
“Are you okay, lover?” he asked quietly, taking a step away from Bill and turning around again.
“Yes. Actually—Pam was right. That was cathartic.”
“Word of the day?” he asked.
“You know it!” she laughed.
He smiled. “I’ll see you in two nights’ time, Sookie Stackhouse.”
“You’d better,” she sighed. “And Eric?”
“I love you.”
“I love you,” he returned.
“We love you,” she said after a moment.
He sighed. “I look forward to meeting your son.”
“Matthew,” Sookie said. “I’m going to call him Matthew.”
“Matthew,” Eric repeated. “It’s a good name.”
He could hear her sigh contentedly. “I think he knows I’m talking to you,” she informed.
“How?” he asked.
“He’s not ‘looking’ for you right now.”
Eric smiled. “Tell Sammy and Matthew that I will see them soon.”
“Try to rest,” he said.
“Bye, Eric,” she responded.
He sighed again as he disconnected the call.
He turned to see Thalia smirking and Bill looking like he’d been tortured for a millennium instead of for an hour.
“So?” Thalia grinned. “Congratulations! It seems you are to be a father again.”
Eric immediately shifted nervously on his feet.
Thalia chuckled. “Do not worry. It will come back to you.”
Eric relaxed his shoulders and laughed with her for a moment. “This feeling is,” he paused, “unexpected.”
She scoffed. “You’d think that you’d expect the unexpected with things involving Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Perhaps I’ll learn one day,” he chuckled. His face grew solemn as he looked back at Bill. Sookie’s words had done far worse to hurt him than any torture he could have devised. And—at the same time—those words had pleased Eric greatly. Sookie had clearly accepted the truth about Bill—finally. But—more importantly—Eric knew that she was accepting him with her whole being. His soul celebrated that knowledge.
“It is time,” Eric said to Bill as he pulled a jagged stake out of his jacket pocket. He would have loved to have had his sword with him—to take Bill’s head—however, it was in Oklahoma. He would have looked too suspicious if he’d left Freyda’s palace with it in hand, but he reconciled himself with the knowledge that he’d soon be using it—on his soon-to-be ex-wife.
He gripped the stake and moved so that he was standing in front of Bill. The younger vampire’s eyes widened, though he was clearly having difficulty focusing due to all the silver that was lodged in his body.
“You were never worthy of her,” Eric whispered before slamming the stake into Bill’s heart. He didn’t even bother to move away to avoid the stream of blood that immediately erupted from Bill Compton’s quickly decaying carcass. No. He celebrated that blood.
Plus, Eric Northman was nothing if not practical. He had a secret safe house, just south of the Oklahoma border, where he could shower. Until then, however, he would celebrate tasting the blood of one of his enemies. And he would look forward to the blood of the next.
Thalia sighed. “I envy you.”
“Why? Because I got to be the one who killed him?”
She shook her head. “No—because you have something you are willing to kill for.”
Eric went over to his oldest friend and took her arm in a gesture of fellowship. “Perhaps—if you ever allowed Olaf to worm his way into your dead heart—you would as well.”
Thalia laughed morbidly and sang:
“The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle in your snout,
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes”
He chuckled. “You’re disgusting!”
“I’m talented,” she corrected.
“I still don’t believe that you came up with that song.”
“Believe what you want, Viking,” she sassed with a twinkle in her eyes.
“I still say you should give Olaf a chance.”
She shrugged. “Perhaps—if he tried harder.”
Eric chuckled. “Yes—almost nine hundred years of trying is not enough for you.”
Thalia grinned, though—for the first time that night—it made her face look beautiful and not just frightening. “He is persistent. I’ll give him that.”
Eric laughed again as he thought about the odd relationship between the vampire siblings. Like Thalia, Olaf had suffered abuse from their maker, though Adelphius had—perhaps—been even more cruel to Thalia. Adelphius and Appius, both seemingly cut from the same cloth of cruelty, had traveled together periodically during the many years of their lives, so Eric had known Thalia and Olaf for almost all of his thousand years. Of course, for a long time, there had been nothing that he could do to help his friends; however, once Appius freed him to seek his own life, Eric had hunted down Adelphius, determined to kill the being who was so much like his own maker that Eric’s blood boiled with hate for him. Staking Adelphius had been extremely satisfying to Eric, for—not only had it set Thalia and Olaf free—but it had also been the closest thing that he would ever get to enjoying the sensation of killing Appius.
“Are you revisiting old memories too?” Thalia asked knowingly.
“Perhaps it is time that both of us concentrated on making new memories for ourselves,” she mused.
“Yes,” she agreed. “Only good.”
“I will see you soon, my friend,” he said.
She nodded. “I look forward to it.” She looked back at Bill as Eric took the cassette out of the recorder.
“The one next to the machine was also used.” She chuckled. “I could find only sixty-minute tapes and didn’t want to risk missing anything.”
He shook his head. “Cassettes are a rare commodity nowadays.”
“But a classic. Easy to destroy if need be. Electronic recordings leave too many trails.”
Eric nodded, knowing full well that it was Freyda’s recordings of Sookie that had led him to where he now stood—on the brink of freeing himself from Appius for good and reclaiming a love he’d thought that was lost forever.
He spared Bill’s remains one more glance before nodding to Thalia and walking up the stairs of his old bar. He took a moment to smile at his throne, which he’d once thought was ridiculous, though Pam had been right about its adding to his mystique among the fangbangers. But—then again—his youngest child was always good at business.
He looked at the clock on the wall and smiled. Its red lettering, reading “Fangtasia,” was tacky beyond belief, but Pam had been right about that too. They’d sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of cheap products with that logo.
He touched his phone, which he’d put back into his pocket before getting Bill’s stake. “Matthew,” he said aloud into the empty bar. He wondered if Sookie knew that the name was Hebrew in origin and that it meant “gift from God.”
The clock on the wall confirmed what his own infallible internal clock was telling him. It was now well past midnight.
It was Christmas day.
He’d gone to Sookie’s that night with the purpose of giving her the gift of a future with her son—and himself, if she chose.
However, she’d managed to give him something as well—a gift more amazing than he had any right to receive.
She’d managed to give him a family. He chuckled as he left the bar and took to the sky. Thalia was right. He shouldn’t have been surprised about anything that Sookie did, but he couldn’t help but to wish that she’d continue surprising him—for a very long time to come.
The End of “Scrooged”
A/N: Well—many of you asked for more of the “Gift Horse” story! So I’ve delivered, thanks—in no small part—to the willingness of Kleannhouse to beta (since she added invaluably to the first story) and the tenacity of Sephrenia (who has hit me upside the head countless times since the first story came out). She calls it “inspiration.” I call it abuse.
Regardless, I hope that you have enjoyed the second one-shot in what I hope will become a series of one-shots, written with your “wish-lists” in mind. I hope that this first follow-up didn’t disappoint.
P.S.: The name of this piece comes from the movie Scrooged, which I love! If you’ve never watched it, I can report that it is my second favorite Bill Murray flic—right after Groundhog Day.
The next follow-up in the Gift Horse Series is called “Black Christmas.” Click the picture to access it! Enjoy!