Eric felt Sookie dying—slipping away. She felt—well—he didn’t really know how to describe it. She felt far away—very far away—even though she was close.
He landed on the hospital roof and easily broke the lock to get inside. His blood in her and his nose led him straight to her.
When he entered the hospital room, he saw a sight that almost made his blood freeze in his veins. Sookie Stackhouse—whose warm, sun-kissed skin had always captivated him—looked paler than any vampire he’d ever seen. She was hooked up to monitors, and IV’s were pumping saline and medicine into her body. There was a tube down her throat doing her breathing for her; Eric heard the false apparatus sending oxygen into her lungs at even intervals.
“Ah—fuck no!” came a voice from his side.
Eric turned to see Sookie’s friend, Tara Thornton, shaking her head.
“You get the fuck away from her! All you vamps just stay the fuck away! You’re fucking poison! Parasites! It’s all y’alls fuckin’ faults that she’s like this!”
Eric ignored Tara and turned his attention to Alcide Herveaux and Lafayette Reynolds, who were sitting next to the window in the good-sized hospital room. At least they both seemed relatively calm—as opposed to Miss Thornton.
“What happened?” Eric asked, looking straight at Alcide. “You were supposed to look after her!”
The large Were cringed a bit in fear, but when he stood up, his posture conveyed the fact that he was ready to fight if needed.
“I helped Sookie and Tara escape from Edgington’s estate this morning,” he defended. “We got Compton out too. But he attacked Sookie, who was with him in the back of my truck. He practically drained her dry before we got to her.” He motioned between himself and Tara.
“You let Sookie stay with an almost-drained vampire in the back of your truck—alone!” Eric seethed with barely controlled rage.
“It was daytime!” he defended. “And she insisted.”
Eric scoffed and looked down at Sookie. Immediately, his expression softened a little. “Of course, she insisted.” His fingers itched to reach out and smooth down her hair, but he refrained.
Lafayette spoke next. “Sook’s gonna die ’cause she ain’t got no blood type.” His voice betrayed his shock. “She’s lost too much blood, and we’s losing her ’cause they ain’t got no blood that her body’d take.”
Eric nodded. “She is slipping away. I can feel it.” He sighed and looked at Jason Stackhouse, who was sitting silently in the corner of the room. “You are her brother, Stackhouse,” Eric said evenly. “I can give her my blood and save her, or she will die. But I will not give her my blood without permission.” He sighed and looked back down at her. “Not again.”
“Ah—hell no!” Tara said. “Blood suckers are the reason Sookie is here to start with!”
Eric nodded at the woman. “Yes. But I am currently the blood sucker who is willing to open up his own wrist and save her life. If you wish to wait, however, I expect Compton will soon arrive. Perhaps you would prefer that her attacker give Sookie his blood—that is, if she makes it that long.”
Tara and Alcide stiffened noticeably.
“That mother fucker ain’t gettin’ anywhere near Sookie!” Tara yelled.
Eric smirked at her. She was fierce, and Eric found himself liking her to a certain extent. “Then—it is me or nothing.” He looked at Jason. “Decide—for I will not force this. I already misled your sister into taking my blood once, and I have since,” Eric paused and continued at a quieter volume, “wondered if I ought not to have done so.”
“It’ll tie her to him,” Alcide informed, looking at Eric accusingly.
“Yes,” Eric confirmed, “but I am already tied to her through my blood. That is why I am here. That is why Bill will come. I am surprised he has not already,” Eric confessed, looking at each of the people gathered in the room by turns before settling his gaze back onto Sookie. Aside from the wires and tubes, she looked like Sleeping Beauty out of the fairy tale, but the Viking wouldn’t fool himself into thinking that he was the prince in the story—even if he was there to save her life. He’d not wanted to be a prince—or a goddamned king—in his human days. And he’d certainly never qualified for that label as a vampire.
“We left Bill in the sun to burn!” Tara said.
Eric nodded, though he kept his gaze fixed on the woman who lay dying before them. “Then I hope he did burn—for Sookie’s sake. Meanwhile, however,” he said, looking back at Tara, “that does not help Sookie now.”
Jason looked up at Eric. “Will she really die if you don’t help her?”
Eric sighed and nodded. “I believe so. She is weakening more and more by the moment, and she feels very,” he paused, “far away from here—from me.”
“He could be lying!” Tara accused.
Eric nodded again. “Yes, I could be. But I am not. In fact, it is probably my blood in her that is holding her here even now. I feel that it is,” Eric paused, “working very hard to keep her with us.”
“Your blood couldn’t do that,” Alcide said.
Eric shrugged. “Who knows what all the blood can do? I am just telling you what I feel.”
“Well—then why isn’t your blood healing her?” Tara asked.
“She took only drops from me,” Eric said. “And that was several weeks ago.”
Jason stood up from his chair, seeming to have come to a decision. “Do it,” he said quietly.
Eric nodded and reached for the tube feeding saline into Sookie’s body. He yanked it out of the machine and quickly stuck it into his arm—even as Tara and Alcide protested. Lafayette held back his cousin, and Eric couldn’t help but to wink at the man. Lafayette shivered a little and pulled himself and Tara back a few steps.
Eric’s estimation of Jason Stackhouse went up exponentially when he told the Were and Tara to shut the fuck up when they continued to protest. Meanwhile, Eric turned his attention back to Sookie as his blood reached her veins. He felt every drop going into her body, each one rejoicing at being there.
For him, that was another new experience. And he couldn’t help but to wonder what her blood would feel like in him.
He flexed his arm and sent more blood into her—one pint and then a second—even as the fingers of his opposite hand ghosted against hers. It was those fingers of hers that he felt moving first. In turn, their movement moved him to smile—the first sincere smile to pass his lips in a very long time.
Her eyes fluttered open.
His smile sneaked up even more as her brown eyes locked into his blues. For a moment, they took in only each other. Their eyes were soft, and her fingers took his hand.
He heard himself speaking even though he’d not intended to say a word yet. “I lied to you at Russell’s mansion, Sookie Stackhouse.”
Sookie blinked as if to acknowledge his words—and the apology behind them. They both knew the moment he was referring to—the moment when he’d claimed not to care for her.
He took the tube out of his arm and then hers before pricking his finger with his fang and rubbing a little blood onto the spot where the IV had been. She still had another one in her other arm, but since it was feeding her pain medicine, he left it in.
“I will remove this now,” he said, gesturing toward the tube in her throat.
“You should—I believe—blow out as I pull. Agreed?” Eric asked, as the others in the room looked on in stunned silence at the gentle demeanor of the Viking vampire.
Sookie nodded again, this time nervously.
He moved one of his hands gently to her forehead even as the other gripped the breathing tube. “Ready?” he asked, as he stroked her hair.
She nodded a third time and then blew out as he removed the tube. As the tube was expelled, she sputtered and coughed. She choked out a little thanks and motioned towards the pitcher next to the hospital bed. Eric quickly picked it up, only to find it empty. He zipped into the bathroom to refill it.
When he returned, Sookie Stackhouse, who now held more of his blood than any other being ever had—with the exception of Godric when he’d drained Eric and Pam when Eric had made her—was now sitting propped up on a pile of pillows. She was surrounded by four bodies, three human and one Were.
In that moment, something made Eric feel like an intruder—an intruder in her blood, an intruder in her life, an intruder in a room full of people who were capable of showing Sookie that they cared for her.
Only Alcide noticed that he’d reentered the room, but the Were did nothing except take Sookie’s hand and glare at him.
Eric set the pitcher down and quietly left the hospital room even as he used his blood in Sookie to monitor her progress. His blood was moving around her body, looking for what needed to be healed. There were bruises and torn skin on Sookie’s wrist and neck where a vampire had bitten and torn into her flesh. But mainly there was the loss of her own blood, so his blood was “filling in the blanks” as Eric completed his assessment of her condition.
He sneered as he “saw” Bill’s blood inside of Sookie. It seemed to be flowing through her as vampire blood normally flowed through a human—slowly, as if charting its target. His own blood had always been more active in Sookie than he’d imagined a vampire’s blood could be, based on what his maker and others had told him.
But—when it came to Sookie—Eric had found that nothing ever seemed to work the way it usually would have.
In general, a vampire had the ability to maintain quite a bit of control over his or her blood in a human’s body. That was how vampires who created ties could track humans. They simply “looked for” their own blood. That was also how vampires could influence humans’ feelings. They used their blood to “nudge” hormones, endorphins, adrenaline, etc.
A vampire could also control the healing influence of his blood—at least to a certain extent. And, though Eric hadn’t practiced the skill much—since he’d not often given humans his blood—he found that his blood instinctively knew what Sookie needed most.
After completing his assessment of the damage to her body, Eric “sent” his blood to her bone marrow and “told it” to produce more red blood cells to make Sookie stronger. He closed his eyes as he walked to the nurses’ station. Noticing that Sookie’s blood was still not flowing as fast as it should have been, he activated the magic in his blood to give it a boost.
Then he sent other drops of his blood to spur on white blood cells to quickly heal Sookie’s wrist and neck bites. Of course, his blood would have done this anyway—automatically—but Eric found that he was able to quicken things.
Eric had been able to do something similar with Lafayette’s infected gunshot wound; however, he found that he had much more control over Sookie’s healing—just as he could control his blood when he needed to heal.
He listened in to Sookie’s body again. Her heart rate was now stronger—a little below her normal level, but definitely not dangerously low as it had been. Her body temperature was also a little low, but that was fine—good news in fact. It meant that she had no infections. And her circulation was now better. Still—she could use more of his blood; she would heal on her own now, but it would take days for her to feel “normal,” and she would be weak until then. He wondered if she would take more.
He wondered if he should even offer.
He had already saved her life, and he should have been making his exit. Every moment counted if he wanted to escape Russell Edgington, and the hours before dawn were becoming fewer and fewer. Eric knew that Russell would likely call Talbot exactly thirty minutes before dawn in order to see if Eric had made it to mansion. And when he didn’t show up, Russell would still have plenty of time to set his dogs on Eric’s trail.
The Viking sighed.
Yes. He should have been fleeing instead of checking on his blood inside of Sookie, yet he was not.
Eric got to the nurses’ station and immediately caught the eye of a young brunette who was working on a chart. The glamoured nurse was extremely “helpful” in showing him Sookie’s chart, which he took from her and quickly “adjusted.” The nurse was also extremely helpful in showing him the computer record of Sookie’s visit. Thanks to a constant willingness to adapt to technology, Eric didn’t need much help from there. He couldn’t erase the patient record fully because of a failsafe in the system, but he had no problem changing a few things. Soon—he had Sookie’s name out of the system. To anyone asking, a Jane Lockart had come in that day. She’d been bitten by a dog. He accounted for the problem they had typing her blood by labeling it as a “lab error.” However, Jane Lockart had quickly recovered, thanks to a donation of blood from her brother, and had been discharged as of twenty minutes before.
Eric finished scanning Sookie’s chart and discovered that the brunette woman in front of him had been working a double shift. He then asked the glamoured nurse to page the doctor and the other nurse listed in Sookie’s chart. After Eric had glamoured them, he zipped to the lab and glamoured the tech. He then took all samples of Sookie’s blood and destroyed them, pissed off that the hospital staff had taken even a drop of her blood to study, given the fact that she’d almost died from blood loss!
He fucking hated hospitals! He always had.
Satisfied that all traces of Sookie were now gone, Eric went back up to her room.
She was still surrounded by her friends, and he still felt like an intruder there, but he also felt compelled to speak to her—to offer her more blood at the very least—and then he needed to get the hell out of there.
He spoke from the doorway. “Sookie, I need to talk with you privately for a few minutes.” He stepped into the room as her eyes, which had been soft before, greeted him with the kind of suspicion that was her more usual look for him. For some reason, that expression hurt him more than it ever had before, and keeping his countenance steady with her was even more difficult than it had been with Russell.
“Hell no!” Tara said harshly. “There ain’t no way in hell that we’re gonna leave you alone with a fucking vamp!”
“That’s right, Sook,” Alcide said, still gripping her hand. Eric could tell that she was squeezing his hand back.
The vampire felt his controlled expression slipping again and had to harness his emotions even more tightly. Was Sookie frightened of him? Had she already moved on to another man—to Alcide? Would she never see that Eric wouldn’t harm her—couldn’t—no matter how much it might have been in his own best interests to do so?
The clear mistrust that was in Sookie’s eyes caused Eric to step back as if he’d been pushed—or silvered.
He looked right into those accusing brown eyes and swallowed the pride he’d held onto so tightly for all of his life. He hated her in that moment, yet he still could not leave her. He steeled himself and spoke steadily—evenly. “I must leave soon, Sookie. I would like for you to have more of my blood before I go. Even if you will not hear what I wish to say to you, you should take the blood. You are still weak.”
“I fucking told you so!” Tara yelled. “I told you that he’d try to get even more of his blood into you so that he could manipulate you!”
“The more blood he’s got in you, the more control he’ll have,” Alcide seconded.
“Is that true, Eric?” Sookie’s soft voice cracked a little more with each word of her short question to him.
“Son of a bitch,” Eric muttered, looking at the pitcher still full of water on the table—right where he’d left it. “Can’t you people see a fucking thing? Or do a fucking thing? I’ve been gone for ten fucking minutes!”
Quickly, Eric zipped to the table where he’d left the water. He ignored the shuffling and angry muttering of the others as he poured Sookie a cup and shoved Alcide and Tara out of his way. He held the straw to her lips.
Eric’s actions had occurred so rapidly and Sookie was still so groggy that she registered him moving from the door to her side in only a moment.
The quickness of it all startled her, and she shrank back a bit. That’s when she saw it—just a flicker in his eyes. She’d hurt him when she’d recoiled from him.
She’d not been expecting that—not from him.
“Sorry,” she stammered in a throaty voice as she saw the water in his hand. “You just startled me. You moved quick. I’m sorry.”
It didn’t matter by then, however. Eric had already recovered, and his steely look was back. “You need water,” he said evenly. “The tube will have made your throat raw, and I forgot to . . . .” His voice trailed off as he cursed himself for not tending to that wound with his blood sooner. In truth, Eric had been “looking” so hard for the problems that had brought her into the hospital, that he’d not thought about the problems that would have been caused by Sookie’s treatment. Immediately, he ordered a bit of his blood to her throat to sooth it.
She drank obediently as the vampire held the straw to her mouth. Her fingers eventually came up to take the cup, and for a moment, their fingers touched. Eric had felt her touch before a few times, but never like this—never with his blood working so hard inside of her. For a split second, he closed his eyes to the sensation and then let go of the water cup and took a step back.
“Thanks,” Sookie said when she was done with her drink. “What did you forget?” she asked, her voice already stronger.
“I forgot to tell your friends that I had brought the water,” he lied.
Sookie’s eyebrows furrowed as if she were trying to work out a mystery, and Eric couldn’t help but to wonder if his blood in her was “denying” his words—”confessing” to her that he was lying. He’d never heard of that happening unless there was a bond, which required three exchanges, but—again—with Sookie, he wouldn’t be surprised if yet another rule were broken.
To escape her appraising gaze, Eric quickly glanced around the room. Everyone there was watching him as if he were about to tear out Sookie’s throat. He wondered if she thought the same, but he made himself look back at her anyway.
“I need to speak to you alone—just for a few minutes,” he tried again.
“Okay,” she said her eyes going back and forth between mistrust and thankfulness. “Go ahead—but this is my family; what you say to me can be said to them.”
A/N: Yes—I know that Sookie’s stubbornness at the end of this chapter will likely irk many of you; however, consider what she’s been through. And—remember that her last interaction with Eric didn’t exactly go well. She’s still processing the fact that she was almost killed. Just give her a few minutes before you hate on her too much. At least, she won’t have more of Bill’s blood influencing her.