Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters in True Blood or the Southern Vampire Mysteries. So neither copyright infringement nor offense is meant. I simply want to make the characters do what I wanted them to do for a while. I am especially “unownerly” when it comes to this story. You will recognize a lot of the dialogue throughout as being quoted from Season 5 of True Blood, though I’ve tried to use Eric’s thoughts to make this story “different” from its source. That said, I claim no ownership to the quoted material and have placed it in bold so that it is set apart from my own words.
Torture—I had experienced many types of it during my long life.
When vampires thought about torturing other vampires, they tended to think of the mundane: silver. It was pathetic really—boring.
Certainly, being silvered hurt like a mother fucker, but the body healed from silver once it was taken away. Plus, the mind could be stronger than any physical pain; in fact, it could be disconnected from that pain. Godric had taught me that. One needed only the right distraction to concentrate upon in order to replace the agony.
A much more effective brand of torture was psychological. The threat of this kind of torture was why vampires cared about so few things. To fear loss would mean that there was something there to lose in the first place.
That is why very few vampires connected themselves closely enough with another to be truly moved by him or her. Even most makers held back a little from their progenies. I know that I had with Pam. To be sure—I loved her in my own way, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t hold back a little. Godric had taught me that too—the hard way.
Until a year and a half ago, I would have said that my maker was what I feared losing the most.
One time in Istanbul—right around the turn of the fourteenth century—both Godric and I had been captured by a rogue vampire named Seth, a thug looking for more power than he deserved. Seth, who was both clever and cruel, decided that the best method to use in order to find out the information he wanted would be to have Godric and me see each other be tortured.
Indeed, it had almost worked—almost. After I had seen Godric’s hand be cut off, I had considered telling Seth the location of his enemy, the one who was then employing Godric and myself. For approximately 5.7 seconds—an eternity to a vampire—I had been tempted to squeal.
Godric had seen my wavering look too, and he had never looked at me quite the same way after that—never trusted me quite as much as he had before. That had been the true torture in my estimation. Of course the rogue vampire had never realized that.
No. Conventional torture was too “formal” to be truly painful. Too scripted.
It was the unscripted that could truly hurt, for it could not be prepared for. Three images came to my mind when I thought of the words “torture.” One was of my maker ordering me off of a Dallas rooftop. Another was of Sookie Stackhouse’s back as she’d left me.
The third was the thought of someone hurting Sookie to get to me.
I assessed my connection with my bonded and found her emotions to be a mixture of fear and anxiety, but there was no pain in her. And I knew from her resolution–which dwelt right next to her other emotions–that she was not in imminent danger.
Maybe not being able to go to Sookie was the greatest torture I would ever feel. No—that wasn’t quite right. Not being able to get to her when she was being harmed—that would be my greatest torture. It had hurt me a great deal not to go to her the night before when I’d felt her distress.
To feel her physical pain? Yes—that would be torture.
I just prayed to the gods and goddesses or Lilith or whoever else might be listening that no one would ever find out that little piece of knowledge.
I already feared that Russell suspected how much I cared for Sookie, and that alone was enough to make my dead heart tighten.
After assessing my bonded woman—okay, not mine—I turned my attention to the five other individuals in the back of the vehicle I assumed was taking me to face certain physical torture.
I kept my sigh to myself as I looked at Nora. Yes—she could be used against me, but I knew that I would not break at the thought of her pain, not like I would with Sookie. I felt like an asshole for admitting that—even to myself—but I also knew it was the truth. If I hadn’t broken for Godric, then I would not break for Nora.
Would she break for me? Maybe. But I hoped not.
I smiled ruefully. Suddenly “Ike Applebaum” was looking pretty fucking good. “Pity,” I said out loud to no one in particular. The seven other pairs of eyes in the back of the transport zeroed in on me in a flash.
I rolled my own eyes as Bill gave me a questioning look.
“What exactly would an Ike Applebaum do?” I asked anyone who was listening. “Accountant?”
“Undertaker?” Bill smirked.
“Perhaps,” I ventured with a smirk of my own. “Taxidermist?”
“Hmm,” Bill sounded. “Dentist?”
“I have pulled a few fangs in my time,” I observed with a wink at storm trooper #1. “Perhaps the name was a hint that I ought to be working at IKEA.”
Getting the joke, Bill chuckled. “Manager—I’m sure.”
Nora was looking at both Bill and me as if we were adolescents.
“Shut the fuck up,” came the voice of storm trooper #2.
I rolled my eyes again. I was already slightly pissed that storm trooper #1 had a gun trained on my chest. The little red light marking its target lay over my heart—dead over it. It was annoying and fucking insulting—to tell the truth! After all, if I wanted to, I could dodge a single shooter, even at this range.
It was the twenty in the bus that was following us that I figured I would have the trouble with. I inhaled deeply. Between our vehicle, the bus, and one other SUV that was leading our little convoy, I smelled thirty-two Authority soldiers—mostly vampires, though there were a couple of Weres in the mix, too.
Was I dumb enough to let myself fall for a fairy-human hybrid who didn’t want me? Yeah.
Was I dumb enough to go up against thirty-two soldiers—none of whom would lose any sleep if I was no more? No. A vampire had the draw the “stupid line” somewhere. I might be in a clusterfuck now, but—at least—I was still alive inside of that clusterfuck, and that was something to build from.
I took a look at Bill. Since I’d met the Southern “gentleman,” I’d had a range of emotions about him—most of which were negative. Lately, however, Bill had managed to pull himself mostly out of the “douche” column and land himself into the “almost trusted associate” column. I just hoped that Bill would stay there and not prove himself a douche once again by succumbing to the torture we were about to face.
Unfortunately, the jury was still out on Bill, but—if I had to bet—I would bet on him not being a douche.
Bill had matured much over the years—not that his psychotic maker had helped with that at all.
However, Bill had withstood Lorena and come out alive at the other end. And he’d retained some sanity and honor to boot, and for that, I had to respect him—at least to a certain extent. After our first meeting at Pam’s brothel near the turn of the previous century, I had been tempted to end the young vampire’s life.
Hell—knowing Lorena even casually, I figured it would have been a mercy to any child of hers to grant him or her the true death.
But, even then, I’d admired the young vampire’s loyalty and strength. And there had been something in Bill’s eyes that had betrayed his misery. Perhaps, I had let Bill live out of the hope that he could find the strength to kill his maker. After all, that would have done the vampire community a huge favor.
But that was not to be.
I couldn’t help but to feel a pang of guilt as I thought about how I’d invited Lorena to “the rodeo”—so to speak—in Dallas. And Bill’s deranged maker had caused Sookie pain before my beloved managed to kill her. I’d not intended for Sookie to be harmed—at least, not beyond being disentangled from Compton—but it had happened anyway.
I knew firsthand that intention and consequence didn’t always match up.
After all, I’d not intended to fall in love with a fairy-human hybrid either, but here I was.
I closed my eyes. Said fairy-human was still the same—still alive, though clearly still hurting.
I shook my head to try to clear it.
It had been eighty years after that night at Pam’s establishment that I had next heard anything about Bill Compton. I’d been in the court of Sophie-Anne Leclerq, attending one of her useless, insipid functions. I almost groaned, remembering how the queen had been into Scrabble at the time. My ex-queen had been amused when Bill had asked to be in her court, mostly because of a longtime feud she’d had with Lorena, which had started over the King of Idaho, or had it been Iowa? I hadn’t given a fuck then, and I still didn’t give a fuck.
Sophie-Anne had gone on and on about how Bill had been able to manipulate Lorena so that he could gain his freedom. He’d managed to convince her that the only way they could truly be together as “soul mates” was if she freed him. The fact that she’d had to keep him in a silver coffin for the last two years that they were together—just so that he wouldn’t meet the sun, despite her maker’s command that he not—was a testament to both Bill’s desire and commitment to get away from her. Yes—I thought—Bill could withstand the torture of the Authority. He’d been through worse.
I looked at Nora once more. Fear and desperation flashed into her eyes as she looked at the back door of the transport as if she wanted to make a suicidal attempt to escape. Her fear—I understood. But I wondered for a moment where the desperation was coming from. When she looked back my way, her expression was—for lack of a better word—troubled. Was she concerned that she might fold under torture in order to protect me? With my eyes, I begged her not to, but I realized that I was no longer sure about her, and that uncertainty surprised me.
The transport pulled up in front of a warehouse that looked abandoned. From the smell of the twelve Weres and vampires patrolling the building, I knew better.
After being unceremoniously removed from the vehicle, I took in the area before being led inside. Nope—there would be no fucking escape from here. I sighed. Instead of escape, I would have to use all the guile I’d learned during my thousand years of life to even stand a chance of getting out of this place alive.
I knew of Salome—both from myth and a bit from my sister.
Even as Nora assured the vampiress that she would never betray the Authority and that Bill and I could be valuable if we were kept alive, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Salo-fucking-me!” I thought to myself, even as I put a fucking clamp on my expression. This was just fucking great! If Salome were there, that would mean that the Guardian himself was there too. Yep—our chances of being dealt the true death had just risen about tenfold.
After turning away from Nora, Salome, who was rumored to have seduced over 10,000 humans and vampires, turned her attention onto Bill and myself. After looking at her more closely, I figured that the number of her “victims” was probably an underestimation—a gross one.
“Mr. Northman,” Salome addressed me, “you’re taller than I had expected.”
I kept my tone light, “I get that a lot.”
“Indeed,” I thought to myself, even as I wondered how long it would take for the vampiress in front of me to try to seduce me. I figured that her seduction would come on the heels of my torture—if I were still alive after that. The only question was: Would I take her up on it? I didn’t want to—for a variety of reasons. But I might have to—for more pressing reasons.
Such as staying the fuck alive!
I tapped into my bond with Sookie.
Nora was denying her betrayal again when I felt an especially powerful jolt of fear from Sookie. I flinched just as Nora was slapped by Salome; Bill gave me a look that told me to calm the fuck down.
With difficulty, I managed to school my features again. I assessed Sookie more fully. Despite that jolt, I knew that she was not in grave danger or in physical pain. It was clear that both Salome and Bill thought that my reaction was from Nora being slapped, and I realized that I would be able to use that misperception—when the time was right.
However, I’d have to be careful not to overplay my hand. I gave Bill a little nod to let him know that I was in control of my emotions.
Salome led us to an elevator and used her bloody thumbprint to clear security before leading us into a room she called “reception.” Actually, as I looked around the room, it seemed more like a cross between a set-piece from Men in Black and a cheesy office building from the 1960’s.
I looked at the walls and noticed several portraits of the current Guardian, one of which looked to have been painted by a Flemish master—no make that an Italian master, given the light used in the piece. I’d wager on Caravaggio, probably around 1609 or so—right around the time that he was painting Salome with the Head of John the Baptist. Yep—that would definitely fit. “Well,” I thought to myself, “at least the pair—Salome and Roman—had verve.”
From “reception,” we were taken down to an impressive row of silver-lined cells. I couldn’t help but to notice that the guards were roughest on Nora—likely a display designed to get another rise out of me.
“They must make these purposely uncomfortable,” I remarked, talking to no one in particular. Still, I lay down and let my mind move to Sookie so that I could feel her fully.
With difficulty, I stopped myself from getting an erection. If my Sookie—okay, not mine—was planning, then that meant that she was looking hot as hell in that moment. Her bottom lip was probably being bitten. Her eyebrows were probably brought together just so. Her eyes were probably alit with whatever idea her clever mind was churning around. Yes. I had to work very hard to not get hard at the thought of Sookie in “planning mode.”
More importantly, her emotions meant that Sookie was safe; in fact, her fear was almost completely gone now. I couldn’t help but to be bolstered a bit.
“So—any ideas?” I asked from my reclined position.
“Shhh,” Nora sounded.
I wanted to roll my eyes. Of course, I knew “they” were fucking listening!
An eerie voice stopped me from teasing my sister.
“A little different on this side of the bars—isn’t it, Nora?” the voice asked.
“A friend of yours?” I asked.
“Nigel Beckford,” the little man introduced himself.
Right after Nora had informed us that Beckford had a propensity for eating babies, a voice over an intercom welcomed us. I tuned out the almost sing-songy voice as I checked in on Sookie. She was still okay.
Bill was insisting on Nora’s innocence, saying that she was his prisoner. I knew that no one would buy that lie, but at least it gave us all a story to stick to.
Instead I answered with the truth, “No idea.”
Again Bill was trying to be gallant, as he asked for Nora and my release. I had to hand it to the Civil War veteran. He did have balls. Bill insisted that Nora and I were following his “royal” orders.
Of course, the voice knew that Bill was lying. And, of course, that meant that “Phase One” of the torture was about to begin.
I sighed as baby-eater Nigel yelled out, “Uh—you just fucked us!”
Well—I thought with some satisfaction—at least one person in the cells would deserve being tortured that night.
Nora was already scrambling to protect her body. “The U.V.’s!” she cried anticipating the pain.
I knew that the pain was coming too. And when it did come, it reminded me of the pain I’d felt as I’d burned alongside Russell Edgington in the sun.
Yes—torture did always hurt.
I sank to my knees and, by instinct, I drew my coat over my face to try to protect my exposed skin. But even as I did that, an image of Sookie came into my mind; she was dragging me into Fangtasia―dragging me to safety.
Gods, I loved her.
The U.V. light was shut off for a moment, but not long enough to allow for any healing. No—I knew that the temporary reprieve was designed just so that we would anticipate the next burst of U.V. light. The second one lasted longer and, therefore, “hurt” more.
But I didn’t feel the pain. Instead I took myself into the sun voluntarily and remembered myself swimming in the little lake near Sookie’s home.
Yes—torture could be a bitch, but because I would always now associate the sun with the moment I’d seen Sookie’s hair glistening in its light even as I’d felt its heat warming the water, the sun would never be able to harm me again.
A/N: So-again-a lot is being added b/c I wanted to give a context for the torture that follows this. I also wanted to show that Eric’s seeing a crack or two in the Nora foundation. I loved Salome’s “introduction” in the show, but I hate that they eventually made her and Nora into fanatics. I would have loved to have seen a different directions, but I’m working w/ what we got.