“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage.”—Friedrich Nietzsche
“And there were so many other moments that made me question Bill. But—every time—I stopped questioning after only a little while.”
“His blood,” Eric said.
Sookie shrugged. “That’s part of it. But it was also me. I wanted love so badly that I tricked myself into feeling it, just as much as Bill tricked me. And—if I still feel love for him at all—it’s only because it’s hard to let go of the,” she paused, “hope it gave me.”
“I have never found love that brought hope with it,” Eric observed quietly.
Sookie sighed. “As it turns out, I haven’t either.”
Sookie and Eric were silent for a few moments. They looked at the fire, and both became aware that their hands were still firmly together—their fingers interlaced, the pressure comfortable and comforting. Neither of them pulled away.
“Could I have resisted it? The dream?” Sookie finally asked, her voice barely audible. “Could I have prevented it?”
“There was no preventing it, but I believe that you did resist it,” Eric said confidently—almost proudly.
“What makes you say that?” she asked.
“Did you kill me as soon as you saw me in your dream?” he asked with a waggle of his eyebrows.
Sookie shook her head. “No. As I already told you, the dream was set at Fangtasia, but—at first—no one was there but me. I actually kind of—um—wished that you were there with me since the empty club was so creepy.”
“That is quite the admission coming from your lips,” Eric smirked. “Will you tell me what else happened?”
Sookie shivered a little, but then nodded in agreement. “Well. Like I said, the club was deserted and eerie. I walked toward your throne, but you weren’t there. Then you spoke from behind me. I turned around, and you were sitting on a second throne, a mirror image of the first. And then—when I turned back around—Bill was sitting on your throne. At that point, I was about halfway between y’all.”
“Bill sat in my throne?” Eric asked with mock indignation.
“Ha. Ha,” Sookie responded, smiling a little and thankful that Eric had lightened the mood. She squeezed his hand.
“What then?” Eric asked as he caressed the valley between Sookie’s thumb and forefinger with his own thumb. The motion comforted her.
“I started to feel more afraid, and then silver chains appeared around Bill.” She trembled. “Bill begged me to come for him and said Russell would kill him otherwise. He blamed you for everything and told me that you lied about the file and the queen sending him.”
“And you believed him?”
“I was just so scared that Bill was gonna die, and in the dream, I felt like my heart would be ripped in two if he did die. So—yes—I believed him. Or, at least, I came to believe him as the dream went on.”
“But you questioned him—at first?” Eric pushed.
Sookie nodded. “Yeah. I asked about the file and the queen when he said I couldn’t trust you.”
“So,” the Viking said almost triumphantly, “you did resist.”
“Maybe,” she relented. “I felt like I couldn’t move or get to Bill, and he told me that you were holding me back—keeping me from moving.”
Eric contemplated. “That must have been my blood trying to hinder the dream.”
“It was trying to protect me, Eric. You must have sent it to protect me.”
“Perhaps,” Eric said, looking suddenly a little uncomfortable. “Since you were driving from Vicksburg to here, I would have been concerned for both of our safeties when I fell into my day-sleep yesterday morning, which is why I unintentionally imprinted the dream.” He paused for a moment. “What happened when you realized you couldn’t move toward Bill.”
Sookie scrunched her eyebrows together as she recalled the details of the dream. “I kept asking you to let me lose, but you wouldn’t. But then I finally figured out that I could move toward you.”
“Ah—so you discovered that I’d left you a piece of chalk and you used it to draw a stake with my name on it,” Eric said with amusement.
“I can’t believe you think that’s funny,” Sookie scoffed. “But—yeah—that’s pretty much what happened. In the dream, Bill convinced me that I had to kill you in order to get to him. And then suddenly there was a stake. So I went over to you, and I tried to kill you.”
“Tried?” Eric asked, his curiosity rising.
“Yeah. At first I couldn’t do it. You caught my wrist and stopped me.”
“Interesting,” Eric commented. “And unexpected. My blood must have worked better than I thought.” He looked prideful.
“What?” he asked when he caught her rolling her eyes. “I am glad that my blood was tenacious. And you should be too,” he pouted a little. “It was trying to protect you, after all.”
She smiled a little and spoke sincerely, squeezing his hand once more. “I am thankful, Eric. Really, I am.”
“How did you finally kill me?” he asked, squeezing back a little, but obviously being careful not to apply too much pressure.
“I asked you to let me kill you,” she said, blushing a little.
He laughed heartily. “You asked me?”
“Yeah. And you said that your blood could not deny me. And then suddenly I was able to stake you; after that, you disappeared.”
“Erased,” he said with a raised eyebrow and a smirk.
She nodded. “The weird thing is that you had been denying me things up to that point. I kept on asking you to let me go so that I could get to Bill, but you didn’t let me.”
Eric’s grin could have rivaled the Cheshire Cat’s.
“What?” she asked.
“You must have been resisting him yourself then; otherwise, had you truly desired it, I would have disappeared when you first asked. Obviously, you were helping my blood.”
She looked skeptical. “Maybe.”
“There is no maybe about it,” the Viking said confidently. “The length of your resistance to him in the dream tells me that you fought him harder than most people could have. The fact that I didn’t just disappear or immediately obey you in the dream tells me the same thing. Moreover, you did nothing to contact Bill or someone else to help you get to him, as your fear should have driven you to do.”
“No. I just got into the car—with you in it—and sped toward Fangtasia with a head wound, skinned knees, soiled pants, and a stake ready to kill you when you woke up,” she said sarcastically.
“Indeed,” Eric returned nonchalantly, though his eyes sparkled playfully. “You are right. It could have been much worse.”
She shook her head and chuckled at him. “You’re an ass—you know that?”
“Actually, I am the King Ass, according to Pam.”
“Truly,” Eric said sincerely, as his eyes continued to dance. “Pam even believes that I inspired the role of Bottom in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Sookie snorted a little as she continued to laugh.
“Actually, that’s not a bad bray,” Eric intoned, his expression still seemingly serious. “With more practice, you might well make a fine ass too.”
Sookie laughed for a few moments more before her expression became serious again. “So—we are sure that Bill couldn’t have found out where we are from my dream?”
“We are sure,” Eric said confidently. “Remember—to send a woven dream, a vampire must be about to die for the day. Plus, even the greatest weavers in vampire history have not experienced the dreams with their victims. Bill may be good at glamour and a powerful dream weaver—well beyond what his age would suggest—but he will not be able to find us through that dream.”
“Okay,” Sookie said, obviously reassured.
Eric squeezed her hand a little.
“Is Bill better at glamouring than you?” she asked with a slightly mischievous glint in her eye.
“Hmm. I do not think he could be,” Eric commented. “He is certainly better than I was at his age, but my skill has increased over time. That skill—I have practiced a lot.”
Sookie giggled a little.
But,” Eric shrugged, “he could be.” He looked at Sookie with scrutiny as his eyebrow arched playfully. “You tell me.”
“How would I know?” she asked.
“You are, I believe, the only human to ever resist my glamour. I assume you resisted his as well?”
“Then you are in a unique situation, little one. You can say which of our glamouring was more difficult to resist.”
“Did you give it your best shot?” she asked sassily.
He smirked. “I did.”
“Does distance matter? Bill was nearer when he tried to do it.”
“No,” Eric responded. “I had established eye contact with you, so distance shouldn’t have mattered.”
“What was your glamour tryin’ to get me to do?”
“Leave Bill and come with me to my office so that I could fuck you,” he answered immodestly.
Her skin flushed red, and she jerked her hand away from his, though she immediately missed the comfort his touch had been giving her.
“You are a—uh—cad!” she yelled.
He grinned. “I have not heard myself called that name in a while.”
“Whose glamour was stronger?” Eric asked puckishly.
“You don’t need your ego stoked.”
“Ah—so it was mine,” Eric grinned. “That is good to know. Speaking of stoking,” he said suggestively as he leaned in toward her. Right as she put up her hands to keep him at bay, he got up, chuckling as he did. He moved to stoke the fire as he gave her a playful look over his shoulder.
Sookie rolled her eyes once more, even as she tried to control the rise in her libido that his closeness had triggered. Bill had definitely been right about that being a side-effect of a tie.
The two were quiet for a few minutes after Eric rejoined her on the couch.
“Did Bill try to influence my dreams again when I was sleeping on the way here earlier tonight? He would have been awake by then. And even if he couldn’t track me because you’d blocked him, he could have felt that I was sleeping—right?”
The Viking sighed. “Yes. While we were in the car, his blood inside of you did try to compel you to dream. And he was trying to track you too.”
“But you stopped him?”
“I was able to stop him from invading your dreams—yes. But his blood continued to attempt to connect to him until we were inside the property line here. Then that stopped.”
“But he kept tryin’ to get into my dreams?”
Eric nodded and looked back toward the fire. “Yes. In fact, after we got here, his blood tried even harder to infiltrate your dreams,” he said quietly.
“So you worked even harder to stop him?” Sookie asked.
“You needed a restful sleep,” Eric responded, once more looking a little uncomfortable. “I am not sure whether I was able to prevent him from being in your dreams again, but at least I knew that my efforts would prevent your dreams from becoming too disturbing. Plus, your heart rate never rose above a normal rate, so I figured I was keeping him out; otherwise, I would have awoken you—as I promised.”
“Thank you. He wasn’t there,” Sookie offered. “He wasn’t in my dream.”
“Good,” Eric said.
“You were there, Eric,” she said quietly.
“What was I doing?” he asked with curiosity.
“You were watching over me—just watching over me as I slept.”
Sookie and Eric had been quiet for a while. Octavia would be arriving in about two hours, and the two had been content to watch the fire in silence until Sookie got up to fix herself a small meal. Eric had looked pleased when she returned with it.
“Do you mind?” she asked, lifting up her plate a little.
“My eating in front of you. It always bothered Bill.”
“It does not bother me,” Eric assured.
“I don’t think he liked the smell,” she said a little nervously.
“Or he was envious,” Eric posited. “Many young vampires miss eating human food.”
“Smell and taste are closely related,” Eric mused. “I enjoy smelling many foods, though some things I could live without—such as the sandwich you had in the car.”
He shrugged. “It is of little concern—though I did throw it from the window after you fell asleep.”
She giggled and dug in to her meal.
After Sookie finished eating, Eric rose to go get the bag of things he’d gotten from the drug store.
“What’s this?” she asked, as he handed her the bag.
“Another choice,” he chuckled.
From the bag she pulled out a few paperbacks and two boxes of hair dye. She looked at Eric in question.
“I saw a mystery novel on your coffee table the night I killed the Were in your home, and there are no books in the house. Octavia’s apprentice will be caring for you when you are ill and can pick up others for you; however, these will get you started—if you feel up to reading, that is.”
She nodded. “And these?”
“Your choice,” he said with a grin. “Red or brown. I need to take a few pictures of you for your new identification pictures before Octavia begins the spell, and your blond hair is easily recognizable.” He paused and spoke in a lower tone. “It is like spun gold.”
Her eyebrows scrunched together a little at his compliment, but she didn’t comment on it. With a resigned sigh, she picked up one of the boxes and read the directions. She stood up. “I’ll see you in about forty minutes—it seems.”
He nodded and trailed her with his eyes as she left the room.
Eric didn’t much care for the idea of her hair color not being natural; however, it was safer to change it. After they left Slidell, she would have to be visible during the day at times. And her blond locks were too distinctive—too noticeable.
He reached onto the coffee table and picked up one of the books without looking at the title. His vampire speed made him a very fast reader, but he paced himself, hoping to occupy his time for the forty minutes Sookie would be gone. He had the book finished within ten minutes of her return and hoped that the formulaic plot was more satisfying to her. He wondered if Sookie would enjoy some of the books he had been most drawn to over the years and composed a short list for Octavia to bring to them. Even if Sookie didn’t care to read them, they would give him something to do when he was trying to relax his mind.
In truth, Eric’s mind had not relaxed much during the last several days—weeks even. Finally, however, things had slowed down enough for the Viking to assess his situation and begin the foundations of a plan that would lead to the defeat of his three-thousand-year-old enemy.
Eric thought about the pieces he had moving onto the chess board already.
Even at that very moment, Pam was getting further and further away, which meant that she had been successful in her escape. He figured that she was near St. Joseph, Missouri, which was the second stop along her route to Wyoming. He had no doubt that his child would find sanctuary with Thalia and Bubba. He’d send a quick text to the vampire queen of Wyoming—requesting her aid—as Sookie had eaten. Thalia was antisocial, and Eric had no doubt that his progeny would be miserable in Wyoming—with no one around to enjoy her snarkiness—but he also knew that she would be safe there, for no one knew of his connection to Thalia.
Eric figured that Russell—by now—would have connected the dots he needed to realize that the young Viking boy he’d once left alive had become his new enemy. And—even if the ancient monarch had not yet made the necessary connections—Eric’s not showing up in Jackson would have signaled one of two things: that Eric either ran or was killed. Russell would—no doubt—be trying to locate Pam by now, and her absence would point to the fact that it had been the former.
All the vampires of Area 5 would be questioned about Eric’s and Pam’s whereabouts, but none would be able to give any relevant information except for Chow, who knew of one of Eric’s “safer” safe houses in the Shreveport area. There, Russell would find deeds to some of Eric’s least favorite properties and businesses, all of which had been purchased by glamoured humans and none of which Eric really cared about.
Unfortunately, Chow also knew the combination to Fangtasia’s safe; thus, Russell would soon become aware of Eric’s fascination with the woman currently shutting off the faucet in the bathroom upstairs.
Eric sighed, hoping that the king would conclude that he was obsessed with Sookie Stackhouse in the same way that Bill Compton was.
The information about the safe house and the safe, however, would likely save Chow’s life and give Russell some things to investigate for a while. By far, Franklin Mott was Russell’s best asset for finding out information. In all honesty, Eric hoped that the crazed vampire would be so busy pursuing Tara Thornton that he didn’t have time to try to follow Eric’s tracks. Ideally, Tara would kill Mott and eliminate that threat altogether.
Eric still had no clear idea of how to take down Russell, but now he had some time. And—if there was one thing that Godric had finally instilled within him—it was patience. Unlike before—when he and Godric had been posing as SS officers—Eric would not act rashly. He would carefully line up as many pieces as possible before acting decisively.
Something within him—call it instinct or a gut feeling—told him that Sookie would be one of the key pieces once the time for his revenge came. However, he wouldn’t know more about her capabilities until Brigant contacted him, and that might take a while, given the disparities between time in the Fae realm versus time in the human realm. He once again contemplated whether or not to tell Sookie that she was part fairy, but once more he decided that it would be best to wait—at least until she’d recovered from the severing spell.
And—while she recovered—he would begin planning in earnest.
Yes—he’d ceded his area out of necessity and he’d sent his child away from him, but those things had left him with fewer immediate worries. And now he had to worry about only himself and Sookie, and he was confident that Sookie would prove to be an excellent partner once she shed her self-doubts. He hoped that the severing spell would help her take a step in that direction.
Regardless, her presence gave him a bonus that he’d not expected: a sense of connectedness. Pam presence, too, always gave him a similar feeling to this, but having Sookie with him was preferable in many ways. She could operate during the day. She had her gift of telepathy to help protect them. And she would one day—Eric hoped—learn how to better use her other Fae gift or gifts.
Indeed, even though a three-thousand-year-old vampire was likely hunting him even them—and bent on his torture and ultimate destruction—Eric found that he felt better than he had at the beginning of the previous night. At least his progeny was not being tortured. At least he no longer had to act like a good little lapdog to Russell. At least he no longer had to listen to the incessant prattling of Sophie-Anne. At least Sookie was not at death’s door.
All in all, it had been a successful thirty hours—despite the horror of Sookie’s dream. However, even that had offered a silver lining, for it had shown Sookie the truth about Bill Compton in a way that no words could ever reveal.
Sookie cleared her throat in the entryway to the living room. Eric turned toward her and saw that she had an uncertain look on her face; she was also shifting on her feet a little.
“Well?” she asked.
Eric had already risen by the time she’d spoken; he walked slowly toward the living room’s entrance until he was directly in front of her. Her hair was now chocolate brown, even darker than her eyes. And she was lovely.
“You look less innocent,” he observed.
She rolled her eyes. “Is that supposed to be a compliment?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
“Then you need to work on your compliments,” she deadpanned.
“You look just as beautiful as you always have.”
Her breath caught and she blushed. “That works.”
He looked at her questioningly before running his fingers through her hair. It was still slightly damp, though she’d obviously blow dried it a little. Despite the dying agents, it was softer than he’d dared to imagine, and it still smelled slightly of the sun that she loved.
His eyes did not leave hers, despite the fact that she licked her lips.
“You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” he said, hardly recognizing his own voice.
She leaned up a little, her own eyes moving to his lips. “I want to kiss you, Eric.”
“I feel that very clearly, Sookie,” the vampire said, his voice laced with his own desire to do the same.
“Why do I want to kiss you?” she asked in almost a whimper.
“My blood in you has linked to some of your blood.”
“Did you make that happen? Are you messin’ with my hormones and stuff?” she asked, though her tone held no accusation. Her eyes were still on his mouth.
His lips quirked into a small, though sincere, smile. “No and no. The blood sometimes has a mind of its own, and it is reacting to my own attraction for you. I would apologize if I were sorry. But I am not.”
“I have a feeling that you never apologize to anyone,” she said, inching closer to him.
“Sookie,” he asked gruffly, “why do you want to kiss me?”
“I’m not sure,” she said, leaning toward him even more.
With that, Eric zipped across the room, causing her newly brown hair to blow in his wake. She was momentarily stunned and speechless.
“Thanks,” she finally said as her face reddened even more.
“Do not mention it,” he said, though his eyes were still glowing with passion.
“I really wish I could be sure that what I want right now is really what I want,” she said.
“As do I,” he panted, feeling his own blood boil even more because of the signs of her arousal: her uneven breaths, her amped up scent, her pebbling nipples. It was all he could do to stay still.
Her breath hitched as the sexual tension between them grew—his blood feeding her hormones and her own desires exciting his blood even more.
It took a knock at the door to break the spell.
Thanks so much for all the comments for the last one! Most of you seem to be glad about Sookie and Eric finally having a series of real and open conversations. (Oh—if they’d only done that in the books!) Sookie is getting a lot out of these talks, but don’t underestimate the value of them for Eric either. When was the last time he could truly be open to anyone? Godric? Pam? Yes and yes. But let me ask you this: when was the last time he could be open to someone he didn’t have to maintain authority over (Pam) or someone that didn’t have ultimate authority over him (Godric)? Sookie gives him something he’s not had—maybe ever! I gotta give a shout-out to Nicolle1977 whose review reminded me that “Eric is always seeking connection whether he realizes it or not.”
I really had to think hard about whether to use the idiom “stroke one’s ego” or the idiom “stoke one’s ego.” Where I’m from, I heard “stoke one’s ego” more. Plus, it works better with Eric’s dorky joke of “stoking” the fire. Here’s a link if you’d like to read about the origins of the two idioms.
And a new Sookie banner for our brunette version (thanks Sephrenia)!