After their goodnight, Eric lingered about ten feet from Sookie’s porch. He watched as she turned off her Christmas tree lights. He listened to her climb the stairs and go into her bedroom. Only when she began brushing her teeth did he turn from the house and head toward the old shed where he expected to find tree-chopping equipment.
Not that he needed an axe—especially not given the mood that had been coming over him since the night before.
A rage that he’d suppressed for almost twenty-four hours.
A desire to kill.
To torture the one who had caused Sookie’s pain.
From past experience, Eric knew that this kind of rage would overtake his other emotions—and soon—if he did not allow it to vent. So he was planning to do just that—to allow his anger to burst like a wildfire; however, for the moment, he was still holding it at bay.
He did not want to damage anything that Sookie cared about, after all. That would defeat his purpose for suppressing his rage in the first place—for bottling it up into a corner of his mind and his body as he answered his overarching need to comfort the telepath.
To protect her heart as he protected her body.
The Viking glanced back towards the old farmhouse; he had a not-so-fleeting thought that he was glad that Sookie and he did not have a bond at that moment, for—surely—she would be overwhelmed by the ire that he was now allowing to build within him.
An ire he would soon unleash, though certainly not in the way he most desired to.
In the shed, he found an axe—a well-used, but well-kept one. It was one that would do much damage in the right hands—his hands.
Again, Eric glanced at Sookie’s home—at the light still on in her bedroom. What would she think of him now—now that his rage was swelling—now that he was imagining all the destruction he could cause with a single axe?
Would she fear him if she could feel him? He wondered.
He wondered, too, if it would not be better to stop the romantic aspect of his and Sookie’s relationship; as it was, they seemed destined to become a couple—likely for a very long time. Eric shook his head to shake off the thought of ending their love story before it could mature.
“There is no stopping destiny,” he said to himself firmly. And—with each passing moment of his existence—he felt more and more convinced that Sookie Stackhouse was an important part of his.
“The most important part,” he said softly.
And—if that were true—Eric had to believe that, by the time they bonded (for he did believe that they would eventually bond), Sookie would understand and accept all parts of him, including the ugliest sides. They were parts he’d promised himself that he would not hide from her, though he doubted she’d ever wish to witness how he could break a being with his bare hands. Or with a weapon like the one in his hands. Yes—he was determined that Sookie would fully understand what he was capable of doing—before they bonded. Somewhere in his core, he knew that she would understand that the beast in him came out only when justified.
And he felt like he would be very justified in breaking Bill Compton right about then. Eric glanced down at the axe—feeling its weight and balance in his supple, experienced hands. He closed his eyes, imagining all the parts he could hew from Bill’s torso before the younger vampire begged to meet the sun.
Having been allowed some freedom, Eric’s rage began to throb within him—like a beast clawing to come forth—but Eric found the control to hold the beast back as he looked toward Sookie’s home once again. He saw her shadow pass through her bedroom, and then—in the next moment—she was at the window, looking toward him as if her mostly human eyes allowed her to see him in the darkness. Of course, they did not. However, her un-human telepathic ability told her exactly where he was, and she gazed as if right through him—as if she could see into him. There was a soft smile on her lips. Eric knew that—one night soon—Sookie’s ability to accept that he sometimes appointed himself to be judge, jury, and executioner (all at the same time) would be tested, and the Viking was not naïve enough to believe that a full understanding would be easy for Sookie. But she would accept it. He could not allow himself to think of any other possibility.
“Accept me!” he growled aloud, his control wavering.
Sookie raised her hand briefly to her lips and pressed her fingers against them before pressing those fingers against the glass and turning away.
And—for a moment—Eric’s rage abated.
When she disappeared from his sight, he looked around the shed. There were so many tools there, so many potential weapons that—before Thalia was on the job—could have been used by anyone who wanted to harm Sookie. A shovel. A pitchfork. A sledgehammer. Several other hammers. Nails. Screws. Wrenches. Plyers. Screwdrivers. He growled. Only a rusty padlock had prevented their use against her. The vampire had often marveled at the fact that humans were so careless with what could amount to a small arsenal in the wrong hands. As he looked at the small, pitiful lock that had protected Sookie from that arsenal her whole life, he felt his body shaking as his anger moved to overtake him again.
As he considered all the ways that she could have been harmed.
All the ways that she still could be.
“No! She will not be taken from me!” he snarled, his grip almost cracking the handle of the axe.
Eric knew from experience that he would need to allow dominion to his rage very soon—and for a while. A part of him had always feared what might happen if he did not let such excesses loose. After all, there were stories of his own human great-great grandfather going berserker when their village had been raided and his wife had been slain. It had been said that his great-great grandfather had not recognized friend from foe in the hours after he’d found his wife’s broken and defiled body.
Even several generations later, there had been whisperings in Eric’s village, and Eric had known from a young age that—despite the respect his father had earned as a chieftain—some feared that the berserker tendency ran within the blood. Feeling as he felt now, Eric did not doubt that he had the potential to behave just as his great-great-grandfather had—if anyone killed Sookie.
He rumbled—a low and menacing vibration that shook the walls of the weak building—at even the thought of someone killing his beloved. His vision tinged with red as he looked once more to Sookie’s home just as the light was extinguished in her room.
With that light gone and not being able to stifle his rage any longer, Eric allowed his beast full dominion. Barely resisting the urge to tear the little shed to pieces, he sped through the woods around Sookie’s home and went straight to a grove of trees on Bill Compton’s property.
Despite the “red,” the Viking could sense all beings in the woods offer him a very wide birth.
She was wise to do so, for in that moment, the Viking resembled his usual self very little.
The elements of Eric that were all animal—whether leftovers from his human blood or created by vampirism itself—roared to life as the Viking threw the axe toward a tree, lodging the blade deep inside and splitting the not-so-small arbor in two. However, he did not retrieve the tool. The axe would be waiting for him. Instead, he approached his first actual target—a tree that Bill Compton had once told him that he’d planted himself—when he was a human.
However, no one was there to count the tree’s 164 rings as the enraged vampire ripped the thick oak out of the ground as if it were no more than sapling. With its roots came soil, rock, and even a few other smaller trees as if tributes to help assuage the Viking’s rage. However, he was not satisfied. The rest of the grove of a dozen trees lasted no more than five minutes. Yet Eric’s ire was still not alleviated, so he found another grove. And then another.
The red within him cleared briefly—just long enough to let in the thought that Sookie might like a variety of woods, given the fact that they all burned a little differently, so he “cut” down several large cedars, elms, and maples.
None of them with the axe.
A younger vampire might have feared the shrapnel of destruction—a flying branch, a propelled twig, or even a wayward splinter—anything that might have found its way into the heart of a vampire. However, Eric moved too fast to be in danger—not to mention the fact that his decimation was as surgical as it was savage.
Half an hour after he’d begun, the red had finally dimmed in Eric’s vision, and he retrieved the axe in order to begin changing that which he’d ripped from the earth into firewood that would warm Sookie’s home.
The animal in him was pleased with the thought of giving his mate a means for warmth.
Eric fantasized that the limbs of the trees were Bill’s limbs, and he swore to himself that he would loosen the berserker within him if Bill Compton ever dared to hurt Sookie again.
By the time all the pulled-out trees had been turned into firewood, Eric had calmed down. At last, he used the almost-spent axe to finish chopping down the tree that had been its “holder.”
He dropped the tool and sat on the stump of the only tree that he’d actually chopped down the “old-fashioned way.”
Only then did Thalia venture out of the shadows.
“Sookie will need a new axe,” the vampiress said cautiously.
The Viking ignored her comment. “Tell me Bill resisted leaving the area. Tell me you had to punish him,” he said without looking at her, his voice edged with the violence still lingering within.
“Sadly, he did not resist enough—though I did,” she paused, “gift him with a total of 23 kicks to get him from Sookie’s property to his home. And then he received a ‘Thalia Special’ so that I wouldn’t have to deal with his shit on the way out of the area.”
Finally, Eric looked up at Sookie’s lead guard and smirked at her. “You’re going to have to teach me how to give one of your ‘specials’ correctly. I always seem to press too hard and dislodge the spine.”
“Well—that can be fun too,” the vampiress smiled sinisterly. She looked around at all the turned-up earth and discarded roots. “I have not seen you like this since that drainer tried to take Pam several decades ago,” she said quietly.
“I am rarely like this,” Eric stated.
“I know. Still—all this is,” Thalia paused, looking around, “impressive—even more so because you had the ability to hold yourself back until an opportune time. That skill has always eluded me—which is why I try not to care about anything too deeply,” she shared, offering a rare insight into her inner self.
Eric did not feel the need to confirm the depth of his care for Sookie, nor did he feel the need to try to deny it.
“I cannot,” Thalia paused, “protect her from emotional pain. But I swear to you the I will protect her from the physical variety,” she finished fervently.
“She is growing on you too,” Eric said knowingly. “It is inevitable, given her spirit.”
Thalia tried to shrug off Eric’s words as if they were baseless. “Bubba was so unnerved by your rage that he took it upon himself to clear away the area next to Sookie’s home where wood has clearly been kept in the past. He’d like to know if you’d like help stacking it there, but he is afraid to approach you. Hell—I was afraid to approach for a while.”
Eric looked around at the copious amount of wood and nodded. “I will take some in to Sookie’s home and then depart.” He pointed to a stack of dry-looking wood. “The tree that,” he paused, smirking, “donated that wood was already dead when I uprooted it, so the logs will be ready to burn. Have Bubba enlist the Weres if he wants help stacking the rest, and instruct him that any other dry wood is to be placed on the top of the pile so that it can be used first. Finally, make sure Bubba knows that no sound should be made to disturb Sookie’s sleep. Otherwise, instruct the Weres to do the chore after she rises.”
Thalia nodded. “I’m sure the Weres will not come close while you are still here. They are currently lingering at the perimeter—on the opposite side of Sookie’s property. Likely, the tales of your prowess will be gossip among the Long Tooth pack by tomorrow.”
Eric nodded in acknowledgment.
“I have not sensed her yet,” Thalia said, looking around. “Do you know if she has been near this place; I would hate to think I am losing my edge.
The Viking immediately knew the vampiress was speaking of Karin. He smirked at Thalia. “How should I know? She eludes me too, and that is exactly why she is here,” Eric said. Of course, he had felt through what still remained of his bond with Karin that she had come within a couple of miles of Sookie’s home earlier in the evening; however, Thalia still didn’t know that Karin was his child, so he gave nothing away. Nor would he unless Karin made the choice to “out” herself.
“If the Slaughterer does have to end you, it will be odd not having to avenge you,” Thalia commented almost casually.
“I didn’t know you cared,” Eric deadpanned.
Thalia frowned as if displeased that she might, indeed, care. “I believe I like the idea of vengeance much more than I like you,” she said dispassionately, clearly comforted by that realization.
“Regardless,” the Viking followed-up with a chuckle, “there are provisions for you to continue your current employment through Sookie’s lifetime. If I am no longer in the picture, Sookie could be even more vulnerable than she is now—though I hope that, with each job she completes effectively—she will gain an ally.” Eric looked at Thalia piercingly. “If I am ended—no matter who does it—I am trusting you and Pam to know how to use those allies in a way that will ensure Sookie’s safety and freedom.”
The vampiress nodded with understanding but said nothing as Eric gathered up more than enough logs for the next evening. Walking slowly, he took them to Sookie’s home and then paused after quietly entering, enjoying the gentle and steady breathing sounds that indicated she was sleeping peacefully.
He placed most of the wood in a holder next to the fireplace, but went ahead and stacked a few pieces with some kindling and newspaper so that a fire could be lit quickly. He then lingered in Sookie’s living room for a moment, looking around the space with the eyes of a man hoping to fit into that space in a permanent way. Though he did not need to breathe, he felt himself matching each of the sleeping woman’s breaths, producing the same calm cadence. It was only in that moment that the beast within him—the rage—was truly eased.
For the time being.
The Viking knew—down to his very bone and marrow—that it was not a coincidence that Sookie Stackhouse’s mere presence could affect him in such profound ways—even when he was not in the same room as she was.
He took a moment to thank fate and destiny and his gods and her God before quietly returning the key to the old shed to its place. He’d ensure that she had a more secure storage area for her tools as soon as he knew he could get away with the “gift.”
After listening to her breathing for another few minutes and then smiling to himself when that breathing turned into a soft snore, he left the home that his head, his heart, and his gut told him he belonged to.
A/N: First of all, apologies for the tardiness at getting this chapter to you. I’m about a week and a half behind when I wanted to. If you follow my announcements on my blog, you know that I’ve been dealing with post-vacation catch-ups at work. Plus, my fibromyalgia has been “flaring”—as I call it when my body and I seem to be on different sides. Anyway, I’m hoping to also get you a second chapter this weekend too. Just give me a bit.
I hope that you enjoyed this chapter. I must say that it’s been one of my favorites to write so far. I just imagined that Eric would be bottling up a lot of his frustration over Bill and Sookie’s encounter. Plus, he REALLY wants to kill Bill, and he’s holding back a lot to not do that. I began to think that he needed an outlet for his aggression. Imagining him combining the practical gift of getting wood for Sookie with the destructiveness he could do to Bill’s property just “felt right” as I was writing. I hope you liked it too.
Best (and hopefully “see” you again later today),