The telepath felt her heart beating rapidly, which was no surprise—considering that she was about to confront the vampire who’d almost raped and killed her less than a week earlier.
That was the Bill she was beginning to understand was the “real” one.
However, despite knowing that, she felt her nerves keenly, for she was also facing her first love, her first boyfriend, and her first sexual partner. And—for the first time in her life—she was “breaking up” with someone.
Yes—a case of nerves and a heaping helping of anxiety were completely natural, given her situation. But one thing she didn’t feel when she heard Bill knocking on her door was fear.
And she knew why that was.
It was because Eric was nearby.
It was because she could feel Eric’s void.
And that feeling outweighed all of her anxiety.
Despite her long work shifts since Tuesday night, Sookie had been able to spend quite a bit of time contemplating why she felt that she could—and should—trust Eric Northman. In fact, she’d made a list of the reasons. To be fair, she’d also listed the ways he’d been untrustworthy; there weren’t many, and all of them had been worms introduced by the King Worm himself—the one at the door. In the end, Sookie’s head, heart, and gut were all on the same page about Eric Northman.
And that was a good f-in page!
Even if the Viking was horrible at Uno. She smiled briefly as she walked to the door.
Bill, on the other hand, was a page that needed to be ripped out of the book of her life.
And torn up.
Taking a deep breath, Sookie opened the door to the vampire she intended to close the door upon that night.
For a moment, she considered not inviting him in and just speaking with him while the magical barrier that kept him outside of her home was in place. However, Eric had made a fair point. Bill would be much less likely to speak the truth if he felt that others could hear him.
“Come in, Bill,” she said stiffly, even as she regarded the down-trodden, guilty expression in his eyes.
She couldn’t help but to wonder how much of that look was real—how much of him was real.
“Sookie, I am so sorry, darling! You must believe that I never intended to harm you,” he began, even before he’d stepped inside.
“I didn’t ask you here for an apology,” she said flatly, turning away from him to walk into the living room. “And I won’t waste my time watching you grovel for forgiveness, Bill. So don’t bother. Furthermore, I will rescind your invitation if groveling is your purpose in coming here. I asked you to come because I need to ask you some questions, and I need you to tell me the truth. I think that you owe me answers—especially after what happened in the trunk.”
Bill frowned as he took the seat she pointed toward. “Questions?”
“Yes, Bill. I have several. And—after you’ve answered them—I’m prepared to tell you where we go from here.”
“Yes, darling. I agree that we should speak about our future—together. And how we can overcome what has passed between us,” Bill proclaimed hopefully.
Sookie barely kept herself from gagging, even as she tasted bile.
“Questions and answers first,” she said determinedly.
“Sookie, I am happy to answer any questions you have,” he said as if he were an innocent—an open book. “But why must Eric and his goons be so close by?”
Sookie forced a chuckle. “Bubba is hardly a goon. And they are close because I want them to be—because I feel safer with them nearby.”
Bill had the audacity to look wounded. “Sookie, surely you don’t believe that I am a danger to you! If I’d not been starved and tortured, I would have never done what I did in the trunk. I could not help myself.”
Sookie shook her head. “Remember, Bill. I don’t want to hear that kind of kowtowin’. It won’t move us forward.” She took a deep breath. “The truth is that the last time I was in your presence, you ripped a pretty big chunk from my neck. The truth is that I want Eric close because I don’t want to be afraid when I speak with you. If you can’t accept that, you can just leave now, Bill. But—just so you know—when we planned this little meeting, I asked Eric to stay far enough away that he couldn’t hear us. And he promised to keep the others back too—just as long as nothing drastic happens with my emotions.”
Yes—she misled Bill about Eric’s not being able to hear them, but—for once—she felt zero guilt about telling a half-truth. And anyway, her words to Bill were “technically” true, certainly true enough to ensure that he didn’t feel a lie in whatever blood tie they still had.
“Sookie, I hate that you believe you need to be afraid of me,” Bill said, looking like a beaten-down dog, even as his tone seemed designed to manipulate her—to elicit guilt from her.
A week before, he might have succeeded in making her question her own feelings.
“I’m sorry that I feel afraid of you, too,” she returned honestly. “But—right now—it is what it is.”
“And what is it? What are we?” he asked.
“We are going to focus on the questions I have,” she said firmly, refusing to get sidetracked by Bill’s manipulations.
Bill frowned, but then quickly smiled with acceptance. Sookie was beginning to wonder if all of the looks that passed across his face were a part of an act.
“Ask away, darling,” he smiled in a welcoming way.
With difficulty, she ignored her desire to tell him that his endearments for her were decidedly unwelcome. Instead, she gestured toward the cool TrueBlood and then asked her first question. “What exactly is your job for Queen Sophie-Anne?”
Bill looked slightly taken aback for a half a second. “Sookie, it’s best if you don’t know about vampire matters,” he responded in a somewhat patronizing tone. “I suspect that Eric has been planting these questions concerning me into your mind. But having knowledge about the vampire world is dangerous for you, Sookie. And I—for one—won’t endanger you that way.”
“Answer or leave,” Sookie responded resolutely, folding her arms over her chest. Purposely, she’d worn shapeless clothing that was the opposite of revealing. Still, she couldn’t help but to feel a little exposed as Bill looked at her in a penetrating way—as if he were trying to topple her will.
Determined, she held his gaze.
He was the one to break the silence. “What I am doing for the queen is a secret, Sookie—one that could put you in grave danger,” he whispered, not knowing that she already knew all about the work he was doing, and just wanting confirmation—for both Eric and herself.
They were inclined to trust the queen, but any substantiation—even if it came from Bill—would be welcome.
Indeed, Sookie was a little surprised that Bill hadn’t already asked to get his computer equipment and database from the hidey hole he’d made. She figured that Eric and Thalia were the reasons why he’d not asked her about it since Bill had been back from Jackson. And she was certainly expecting him to mention it or simply try to take it before the night was over.
“Dangerous or not, I want to know what are you doing for her. Keep in mind that I want the whole truth, Bill,” she warned.
“What has Eric said?” he asked defensively. “He’s lying.”
Sookie shook her head. “Last warning, Bill. Start answering or go.”
“The computer I left here when I went to Washington . . . ,” he began.
“Mississippi,” she corrected. “When you went to Lorena.”
“I did go to Washington—at first. And you must understand that a child must obey the commands of his maker, Sookie! See, you do not understand the vampire world, and it’s best if you never do!” he added speaking to her as if she were a child.
“It’s a database of vampires,” she said flatly, answering her own question.
“How? How do you know? Why do you think that?” Bill stammered out his questions. “You couldn’t have set up that equipment or broken through my code!”
She shook her head in disgust. “I knew it was a database before you left.” “Remember? I saw one of your entries when you weren’t paying attention to my presence?”
“Sookie, I . . . .”
“Am I right? Is it a directory for vampires?”
Bill nodded. “Yes. And some other Supes. Sophie-Anne believes she can market it. It really is quite a good source of information,” he added, puffing up with a little pride. “It was an honor that she asked me to design it.”
“And you are the one who collected all the data?” Sookie asked.
“Yes. Well mostly.”
“Okay—so why would the queen send you to the boondocks to work on a project like that? Wouldn’t it be better if you were somewhere with a lot of vampires—so that you could get more information?”
Bill looked away for a moment, a guilty flicker in his eyes. “Many vampires offer at least some information over the phone, and I pay others to supply me with what they know. I do plan to venture to more populated areas in the future.”
“What’s stopped you?”
“I wanted to be here—with you,” Bill claimed.
“And why did you come to Bon Temps to start with?” she asked.
“I’ve told you. My descendent passed away, and I wanted to inhabit my old home,” he answered with sincerity. “To connect with my humanity!”
“And Hadley? Did she tell you about me before you came?”
If a vampire could have become paler, Bill Compton would have lost all color in that moment.
“Who’s Hadley?” he lied.
“My cousin. The queen’s lover and child,” Sookie responded, her gaze narrowing.
“Eric ought never to have . . . .”
“What’s a procurer?” Sookie interrupted him.
If a vampire could have defecated, Bill’s britches would have been ruined.
“Sookie, I . . . . Eric is . . . . He had no right! You’re mine!”
“You mean you were sent here—to Bon Temps—to procure me for the queen—right? From my seat, it seems like I was only to be yours until you handed me off to her. Or until your maker decided to call you to her. Funny—you left your work behind quickly enough to go to her, yet you couldn’t drop it long enough to give me fifteen minutes of your undivided time by the end of our relationship.”
“Sookie, you must know I love you! That I was trying to ensure your safety. Trying to keep you from the queen!”
“Do you also want to ensure my wellbeing?” she asked, her voice now steady and void of the bitterness it had held only moments before.
“Of course!” Bill responded quickly, even as he frowned a bit in confusion at the sudden change in her tone.
“Then why didn’t you give me the money from Dallas, Bill?” she asked.
Bill looked as if he’d been slapped.
“I—uh—Sookie, you must . . . .” His voice trailed off as he flailed for an answer.
“It doesn’t matter,” the telepath said with exasperation.
“Sookie, please,” Bill returned. “Let me explain.”
Sookie chuckled, but the sound she produced actually filled the room with her resentment. “Now that you’ve had time to come up with an explanation, I don’t want to hear it. And do you know why?”
Bill shook his head. In denial? In confusion? To continue stalling so that he could hone his excuse? Sookie didn’t know.
“Whatever your reasoning,” she began, “you deprived me of money I had earned. Money I’d bled for. But—worse than that—you robbed me of peace of mind when you knew how much I was struggling financially.”
“I am sorry,” Bill responded, looking down. “But I didn’t want you to feel as if you owed Eric.”
She scoffed in response. “He owed me, Bill! And he paid me! His only mistake was doin’ that through you!”
“I would have given you the money,” he insisted. “I was already planning to pay your property taxes.”
She shook her head as she scoffed again. “Then who would I have owed, Bill?” she accused. “You either wanted me to feel obliged to you or dependent upon you. And you hoped to turn me completely against Eric in the process!”
“Eric is someone you should stay away from!” he insisted.
She shook her head and took several breaths to compose herself.
“Eric has a theory, and I believe it,” Sookie said.
“Eric wants you for himself!” Bill said angrily.
“Yes, he does. The question is—do you really want me, Bill?”
“Yes!” he averred quickly.
“When did that start?” she asked, keeping her tone void of emotion. “When did you start wanting me for yourself—and not just for some job?”
“Sookie, I . . . . I love you!”
“You see—I started with Eric’s theory, but I’ve filled in some other blanks for myself,” Sookie returned. “For example, it seems logical to believe that Hadley—because of her closeness to the queen—talked about her family a bit. It’s no wonder that she might have shared stories about her weird mind-reading cousin.”
“Sookie . . . .”
When it was clear that Bill was neither going to confirm nor deny what Sookie had said, she trudged on. “Eric told me about how your job in the queen’s court was as a procurer. I bet Hadley smells sweet—like me? I’m bettin’ you were the one who,” she paused, “introduced her to the queen—weren’t you?”
“Eric! That bastard!”
“Not Eric. I filled in that particular blank myself,” Sookie informed. “But Eric did have to tell me what a procurer was—how a procurer collects things—people, in this case.”
“Eric is to blame for all of this. He ought never to have . . . .”
“Told me the truth?” Sookie asked with irritation. “Yes, Bill, I can see how the truth wouldn’t benefit you in your procurement of a telepathic pet for the queen.”
“I wouldn’t have allowed that!” Bill proclaimed. “I was doing everything I could to ensure that you retained your independence and could remain—with me. I would have protected you from bonding with the queen or one of her children. We would have been together and happy!”
“But that wasn’t always the plan or your intention—right?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Bill admitted reluctantly, shaking his head. “How did you find all of this out?” he whispered. “I was so careful to not mention Hadley.”
Sookie shook her head as her anger grew. “Don’t focus on how you got found out, Bill. What was your initial intention with me? I need to hear you say it.”
“To assess your talent,” Bill said defeatedly.
“If you were as your cousin said, I was to do whatever necessary to make sure you were accepting of the idea of moving to New Orleans.”
“You were supposed to seduce me?”
“Hadley talked about how you loved Southern manners—loved Gone with the Wind. Queen Sophie-Anne felt that I would appeal to you. You see—none of us wanted you hurt, Sookie! It was all intended to be like a blind date of sorts. And everything would have worked out as it should have if Eric hadn’t interfered,” he growled.
Sookie ignored Bill’s ineffective dig at Eric, and continued her probe. “Was old Jessie Compton killed in order to make way for you?” she asked, looking at Bill closely as she did.
“He was terminally ill,” Bill hedged, looking guiltier than before.
“Mercy killing?” She frowned. “Euthanasia must be a novel concept to you.”
“No,” Bill admitted. “During the war, I,” he paused, “helped a friend—after a battle—so that he would no longer be in pain. I knew of others who did the same—for those whose wounds left them no chance. It’s what I would have wanted for myself.”
For the first time that night, Sookie felt a twinge compassion for the vampire in front of her. Under everything, she did believe that Bill had once been a decent man; maybe he even still tried to be “good.” But she couldn’t let herself go down that thought-path—not ever again.
Of course, Bill immediately proved how “not good” he was by trying to manipulate the little bit of compassion he felt from their blood tie. “I helped Jessie to die with dignity. I would have simply moved in with him—glamouring him if needed—if he had wanted to live. It was,” he paused, “difficult to harm the last person who carried my name, Sookie.”
She frowned, unwilling to fall for his attempt to elicit more pity from her.
“Bill, had you already glamoured the Rattrays to attack you—and then me—before you met me? Or did the idea come to you after you saw them at Merlotte’s?”
The abruptness of Sookie’s new line of questioning caught Bill well off his guard, and guilt flashed across his face. “Eric,” the vampire growled. Needless to say, his single-word response did nothing to alleviate that guilt.
It was Sookie’s turn to growl. “I swear to God, Bill; if you try to blame Eric for one more thing that you did, I’ll rescind your invitation and tell Eric I don’t care anymore if he kills you!” she yelled with venom.
“Sookie!” Bill responded with surprise.
“Answer the question about the Rattrays, or get the ‘f’ out!” the telepath commanded.
Bill broke eye contact with her and looked down. “I was ordered to insert myself into your life, Sookie. After observing you for a few days, I believed that a blood tie was the best way,” he added with a startling mixture of guilt and defiance in his tone.
For her part, Sookie’s body shook for a moment. In anger. In resignation. In acceptance that her entire first relationship was built upon a foundation of lies and violence.
A foundation that made her a victim.
Well—she fucking refused to be a victim anymore!
“Why did you undermine the queen?” she asked, once she’d taken a moment to compose herself.
“I didn’t,” Bill responded with a frown. “Yes—I was delaying taking you to her, trying to ensure your safety—but, eventually, I hoped to introduce you to the idea of working for her,” he confessed.
“You did undermine her. You passed me on to Eric—not the queen—when Lorena ordered you to go to her. I want to know why,” Sookie insisted.
Bill was silent for a moment. “I did not want you to have to face the queen without me,” he almost whispered.
“Why Eric?” she followed up.
“His interest in you ensured that he’d protect you—even from Sophie-Anne taking you before I could . . . .” His voice trailed off.
“Before you could present me to her yourself?” Sookie finished.
Bill nodded. “Yes, but you must believe me when I tell you that I wanted only your happiness. I love you, Sookie. By the time I knew that, so much had already happened, and I was receiving pressure from the queen. I hoped that—once I had the database ready to sell—you would feel ready to move with me to New Orleans. We could have been happy there. We still could be,” he said, looking her in the eye for the first time in several minutes.
She shook her head, once again feeling a swell of bile in her throat. “No, Bill!”
“Don’t you see?” Bill entreated, almost as if he were trying to glamour her. “I was trying to make the best out of a horrible situation! But I needed time.”
“Time?” Sookie asked.
“I needed to complete the first version of the database so that I could avoid going back to being Sophie-Anne’s procurer. I was also waiting until Hadley was turned so that you couldn’t read her thoughts and find out that your telepathy was already known about before we met. I really was working toward a comfortable life for us; I still am. Imagine it, darling! A life where I could keep you relatively independent—while at the same time placating the queen’s desire for your services!”
“So you used Eric,” Sookie said, shaking her head and knowing that the Viking could hear them. “You didn’t want to be cut out of the life you’d imagined for us in the queen’s court, so you gave me to Eric in hopes that Lorena would want you only temporarily. That’s why you left the database with me too—isn’t it? You didn’t want Sophie-Anne to find it once she knew you were missing. It didn’t have anything to do with Lorena lookin’ for it—did it?” she asked, her pitch rising.
“Sookie, I knew you’d be relatively safe with Eric. And—eventually—if Lorena didn’t let me go, you would pass along my work to Eric, who—in turn—would pass it along to the queen. I am,” he paused, “loyal to her. And to you. And—for all of Eric’s faults—I knew he wouldn’t force you against your will.”
“Unlike you!” Sookie spit out.
“Sookie—darling—you must forgive me for what I did in that trunk. I was not myself!” Bill begged.
“I rescind your invitation, Bill!” Sookie said firmly, sitting back in her chair to ensure that Bill couldn’t reach out and grab her before magic drew him out the door.
“Sookie! Please! Don’t!” Bill wailed, though he couldn’t fight the force compelling him to leave.
At a safe distance, Sookie followed.
“Bill, I needed to see you tonight to confirm what I already knew. I needed to see you so that I could tell you that we’re through—that I think it’s better if we don’t try to be friends or have any kind of relationship at all! I don’t know you, Bill. And you don’t know me. I don’t love you anymore either, Bill.”
“Sookie, I love you! And I know you love me! Remember, I’ve had your blood, and you’ve had mine. I felt your love!” the younger vampire wailed, unable to fight the magic separating them.
“I’m pretty fuckin’ positive you can’t feel any love from me now!” Sookie screamed. “My love for you was for a fiction, Bill! And it’s partly my own damned fault for imagining you were like one of the heroes in romance novels. Maybe you are! You’re as much of a fiction as they are!”
“I love you!” he yelled again.
“Frankly, I don’t give a fuck!” she said with a strength she’d not known she possessed.
“Sookie, please! Don’t do this to us!” Bill wailed, even as Eric ventured forward from the tree line.
The telepath had known that her protector was near all the time, of course. But seeing him made her feel all the better.
“The only thing I ever did to hurt us is to open my eyes and use my brain,” she said in a soft voice. “We didn’t make a good us, Bill. In fact, you and I were never really an us at all. We were a lie.”
“I love you, Sookeh! That’s not a lie!” Bill insisted, his accent thickening with his emotion.
The telepath sighed. “I meant it when I said that I don’t care how you feel. I don’t want anything to do with you, Bill.”
A red tear fell down Bill’s cheek as Eric approached the porch.
“I bet you’re enjoying this!” Bill accused the Viking.
“No,” Eric said, looking only at Sookie, “I am not.” In truth, the Viking was a little surprised at himself that he was not enjoying the spectacle before him. Of course, he was all for the younger vampire being out of Sookie’s life for good, but he did not enjoy the stress that Sookie was experiencing.
“Eric,” Sookie said, seeing the look on the older vampire’s handsome face. It was a look of commiseration rather than celebration—a look that compelled the telepath to hold her breath for a moment before her body began to shake again due to the emotion of the night—of the year—catching up with her. “Eric,” she repeated.
Instinctively knowing what she needed, the Viking zipped into the old farmhouse and engulfed Sookie in a comforting embrace.
Bill’s growl was unheeded as she began weeping.
“Let me in, Sookie!” Bill cried out. “Let me comfort you!”
Eric turned a steely look toward the younger, clueless vampire. “Leave Area 5 before dawn, Bill. If I see your face here after that, I will kill you!”
“You cannot . . . ,” Bill began.
“Oh—I will,” Eric warned.
“You’ll lose her if you harm me!” Bill returned with spite.
“No. No, he won’t,” Sookie responded, lifting her head from the Viking’s chest. Her eyes were puffed and bleary with tears as she looked at her former love—her former “lie.”
“I want you to leave, Bill. I don’t want to see you again—not ever. Eric’s giving you safe passage tonight, and tonight only. Use it and go,” she entreated before—once again—burying her face into the Viking’s chest.
Though her crying was silent, Sookie’s tears were free-flowing. And Eric knew exactly what she needed from him—himself. He also knew that there would be nothing he could do to stop her tears for a while. With all she’d gone through, it had been only a matter of time until she broke down.
That she was doing it with him—on him—made Eric feel something he’d not expected: honored.
“Go,” the Viking said to Bill in an even tone. “Don’t hurt her anymore.”
Bill looked at the two in front of him and knew that there was little he could do to improve his standing with Sookie at that moment. “I need my database work,” he said instead, having decided to cut his losses and leave Bon Temps—for the time being. He could play the Hallow angle from elsewhere anyway.
“It’s not here anymore,” Eric conveyed. “It is in my possession, and the queen and I have already negotiated about what to do with it.”
Bill growled. “No! That is my project! My property!”
“You have no property here,” Sookie whimpered from her safety net.
“Eric, I . . . .” Bill started.
“Thalia!” the Viking yelled out.
Not a second later, the petite warrior appeared from behind Bill and was gripping him in a hold so tight that the crunching of bones was heard.
“Escort him home. Give him one hour to collect his things. And then escort him out of my area!” Eric ordered.
Thalia hesitated. “My charge,” she said, nodding toward Sookie.
Eric spared the vampiress a little smile, pleased that she thought of Sookie’s security even before Eric’s orders or the delight he knew that she’d be taking in manhandling Bill until they reached the border of Area 5.
“I have her,” the Viking assured, before using his foot to close the door.
Once they were completely alone, Sookie’s shaking increased to the point that her teeth began to chatter.
She managed to look up at the vampire who was now needing to hold her up in order to keep her from falling. “I don’t know why I’m doing this,” she said, obviously referring to her uncontrolled tears, which were still streaming. “I’m glad it’s over with him. Why am I . . . ?” She looked down at her shaking hands helplessly.
The Viking couldn’t help but to notice the empty look in her normally lively eyes, the limpness in her normally strong countenance.
He lifted her into his arms and carried her toward her bedroom.
“Perhaps you simply need to fall apart a little,” he said softly as he lay her in her bed.
She nodded weakly. “Yeah?” she replied—half-statement, half-question.
“I could call Pam to confirm—to see what Dear Abby says on the matter?” he suggested, trying to elicit a smile from her.
He frowned when it was clear that she lacked the energy for even that.
“I’m sorry,” she said instead, as he covered her quaking body with a thick quilt. “You of all people shouldn’t have to be the one mopping up all my Bill shit,” she said, even as large tears continued to stream down her lovely face.
He shrugged. “I’m honored that you feel you can do this with me,” he said earnestly, brushing a piece of hair from her wet face.
Sookie reached out to take his hand, though it clearly took a great deal of effort for her to lift her arm even that much.
Unasked, Eric got into bed with her and drew her into an embrace. There was nothing romantic about it. There was no sexual charge in the air as there usually was between the two creatures.
There was only a sense of need.
She needed his comfort.
And he needed to comfort her.
And they both got what they needed—as they lay together silently in the dark.
A/N: I’ve rarely been so nervous to release a chapter as I am this one. A lot of you have been looking forward to this confrontation for 26 chapters, and—though it was always meant to be one of the main events in this story—it’s not even the main one in my mind. To me, this is a story about Sookie moving on from Bill and from the “small world”—the “normal world.” This is a “Sookie evolves” story, and getting rid of Bill is just a part of that. So—yeah—I’ve been really worried that this would disappoint you. And I worry—also—that you are disappointed in my Sookie for falling apart a little. After the attempted draining and rape, I purposely didn’t have her fall apart, as she was trying to deal with everything rationally. And—I think—she did a good job. But—when you build up a confrontation and then actually experience it—I think it’s normal for the body and the mind to fall apart a little. And Sookie was due for a “fall apart” moment. She’s not crying because she regrets ending things with Bill; I want to make that clear. I think she’s crying because she is—just now—letting herself feel all the pain from Bill as well as the pain of lost innocence. I’d cry too if I were her. And—when I fall apart—I think that being held is so much better than being alone—as long as the holder is someone I trust. When picturing this moment in the story, I always pictured it ending this way—with Sookie in Eric’s arms, but not having sex to get over everything. I don’t know if that would be healthy for her or “right” for him. Anyway, I’m rambling. But I really do hope you liked this chapter and aren’t disappointed that it let you down. This story has more to come, after all!
Please comment if you have the time and the inclination. It’s still a very busy time at work. In two weeks, things will calm down a bit. Meanwhile, I’m happy that Kleannhouse helped me “bank” chapters so that I wouldn’t have to skip any weeks completely.
Thanks for reading!