THIRTY MINUTES EARLIER
Bill Compton had dealt out torture—especially in his younger days. He’d also experienced his fair share of torture. After all, he’d been Lorena’s child.
His maker had enjoyed both mental and physical torture, and anytime that Bill had tried to defy her, he’d received a large dosage of one or both types from her.
Some of it—he’d learned to like.
Pulled nipple clamps, for example, always aroused him. Lorena had made his mental torment worse by exploiting these reactions of his body.
However, there was absolutely no pleasure in Bill’s current situation. And he couldn’t help but to wonder what the fuck he’d done so very wrong.
Russell still wasn’t telling him. No. The king was too busy dealing out pain. And a vampire named Appius was helping.
Both vampires were ancient. And both had learned techniques that Bill wouldn’t have been able to imagine.
Before they were used on him.
Still—no matter how “good” the techniques were, Bill was glad to know that there was one universal truth of torture. Once the torturer went too far, a body sort of shut itself down—instead of feeling more pain.
Its nerves simply gave up for a while and decided that they were too tired to continue firing out pain. Of course, especially for a vampire, this phenomenon was the harbinger that immense damage had been done—the kind of damage that would take weeks or months to heal, even if he or she were given a lot of fresh blood. Indeed, the healing might even be as painful as the torture in some ways.
But Bill always welcomed it when his body shut down as it had now done—and not just because the pain went away. It was in moments like this one that he could take a moment to truly enjoy the artistry of his torturer’s work. Lorena had always set up mirrors so that he could see what she’d done to him. And—as sick as it was—Bill liked seeing it. He liked the feeling of being completely at the mercy of another—even as his body was no longer capable of feeling.
He liked seeing himself survive such things.
And—though Bill felt “wrong” for appreciating a part of the experience of being tortured—he believed that there was a kind of inexplicable beauty in the blood and gore that his body could be made to create.
Plus, a certain odd clarity of mind—self-awareness even—accompanied torture as if it were a friend. The magic that wouldn’t let him age or get sick or die in a “human” way had stalled for the moment. It was no longer able to even attempt to heal him; it was no longer able to keep him alive. What was keeping him alive was his torturers—their choice not to put wood into his heart, their choice not to take his head from his body.
Their choice not to push his body too far.
He truly was just along for the ride—a mind in a shell. He listened to that shell’s masters above him.
“Russell,” Appius said almost sternly, “he is no longer reacting.”
As if watching a film, Bill saw Russell take off another of his fingers and toss it to the floor. He saw one finger left, his ring finger. He tried to move his head to see his other hand, for he’d lost track of his losses on that side, but he couldn’t call upon his neck muscles to make the slight movement.
Russell hadn’t said two words to Bill since the younger vampire had come to him after killing Hallow. And it had been about an hour since Bill had tried asking his master what he’d done wrong.
Bill went over the events of the night again.
He’d woken up and arranged to see Hallow. She’d already been in the room when he’d gotten there—wearing Sookie’s face.
Enraged at Hallow’s betrayal and at Eric’s tainting of his beloved, Bill had taken out his emotions on the body of the witch, fucking her roughly. And—then—he’d drained her, after breaking her jaw so that she couldn’t chant out one of her spells.
Following that, he’d quickly showered, removing the blood that had spilled onto his body because of his violent treatment of Hallow.
After redressing, Bill had immediately gone to his master.
Talbot had been clamoring that it had been time to “begin” to prepare Sophie-Anne, but Bill had put him off and had asked to speak with Russell privately. Russell had, of course, granted the audience.
Bill had told him about his visit from Sookie. He’d told him about Eric being in the area. He’d told him about Hallow’s duplicity and her illicit involvement with the Viking. He’d explained how he’d killed Hallow before she could do any great harm to Russell’s plans to take out the Authority. He’d justified why he’d had to wait to tell his master. He’d explained Roman’s involvement with Eric. He’d proudly proclaimed that the Ancient Pythoness herself was using him as a messenger and that she was the one who had told Sookie that Bill needed to wait a night and then kill Hallow before going to Russell. Knowing that she could tell the future, Bill had complied. Bill had explained that the Ancient Pythoness had even secured a room for him, and that was where Hallow’s body could be found. He’d also told his master that his clothing from the night before was also in the room and that it smelled of Sookie.
Finally—triumphantly—Bill had given Russell the address that Sookie had given to him—the location where Russell would be able to find the Viking vulnerable since Hallow could no longer meet him there.
Russell had looked down at the piece of paper with the information and then had crumpled it in his hands.
And then the ancient vampire had hit Bill in the head, cracking his skull. Bill had been knocked out, and when he awoke, Russell and Appius began their “work” on him. No questions were asked of him. In fact, the only interruption had come from Debbie Pelt and Nan Flanagan—though Bill had no idea how the vampiress had become involved.
Nan had confirmed that the witch was, indeed, dead.
Debbie had told Russell that she could find no clothing with the scent of Sookie Stackhouse on it.
No one listened to Bill’s pleas that that was impossible—that he’d placed them in the dresser himself.
Finally, Nan had handed Russell a DVD and had told him that Bill had filmed everything.
Bill had denied being the one who had set up a video, for he truly hadn’t; he had tried to explain that it must have been Hallow herself who had done it. But his words didn’t matter.
A computer was brought in and the video played.
“Sookie Stackhouse?” Russell had questioned as the video began.
“No,” Nan had corrected. She’d fast-forwarded through the sex and the murder and then had shown her maker that Hallow was the one in the bed. Debbie had handed Russell a vial of liquid, explaining that it smelled of magic.
Bill had spoken up again, confessing that Hallow used the potion to look like Sookie. He also confessed that he’d been fucking Hallow for months, but he insisted that the Sookie he saw the night before was real.
Again, no one had paid any mind to his words, and the pain had begun anew after Nan and Debbie had left. Bill could certainly say that the duo that was now looking down at him were experts in the art of torture. The pain that would have taken other people days to accomplish upon their victims was wrought upon Bill’s body in less than an hour.
Bill wasn’t surprised. They had a party to attend, after all.
“Do you want me to finish him off?” Appius asked, looking down at Bill.
Just then, there was a knock on the door.
“Oh, William,” the handsome brunette said somewhat sadly—as he looked down at the husk on the torture table. “You had such promise, and you offered many amusements. Oh well! C’est la vie!” he added with a shrug before looking at his lover. “Sophie-Anne is ready and your costume is prepared. I’ve taken care of the Weres that William was to see to this evening.”
“Thank you, darling,” Russell smiled, looking as if he were about to give his consort a kiss.
“Don’t you dare,” Talbot winked. “I’m already going to have to clean the blood off of my shoes! I don’t need blood on my outfit!”
“Finish here soon,” Talbot ordered. “We need to leave in about half an hour.”
“Plenty of time,” Russell assured, sneaking a kiss on Talbot’s cheek.
The younger vampire left the room in a huff, mumbling about having to change his costume because it now had a spot of “Bill blood” on it.
Russell looked down at Bill and spoke the first words he’d said to him in a long while. “Do not worry. As you know, he brought at least five costumes to choose from—since he couldn’t make up his mind earlier.”
Appius chuckled. “Your Talbot and my Alexei have that in common. Too bad this one didn’t have more secrets for us to learn; Alexei needs practice extracting information.”
From Bill’s position, he could see Alexei in the corner of the room, licking his lips. The sick little bastard had “helped” earlier, but then had been instructed to study the masters.
“No,” Russell sighed. “No secrets left.”
Bill’s eyes must have managed to convey the confusion he felt in that moment.
Russell bent down over Bill. “You. Were. Played.”
“Whom do you think did it?” Appius asked Russell, even as Bill tried to process what Russell had told him.
“Oh—I’ve no doubt that it was Northman, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hallow was involved. The Viking is known to be seductive, after all, and the witch was not trustworthy. Her being out of the picture is a blessing in disguise, though I will miss her power tonight. Oh well. Talbot was right. C’est la vie!” Russell shrugged. “Her power was a luxury, not a need. Looks like Northman was done with her and wanted her out of the equation, too.”
Bill tried to speak.
“What’s that?” Russell asked, bending down.
“The address?” Bill managed to creak out.
“Yes. I knew as soon as you started speaking earlier that you had been manipulated. Either that—or you’d finally gone off the deep end—with your visions of Sookeh,” Russell chuckled, imitating Bill’s accent. “And, by the way, I would know it if Roman were in collusion with Northman.” He paused. “I am sorry about all this,” he said, gesturing toward Bill’s broken body. “Sincerely I am. But I had to let out a little anger after reading that address that you so proudly presented me with.”
“Why?” Bill squeaked.
“The number of the address 919—that was the year my Weres killed the Viking’s family. The street—Bardaga Road. ‘Bardaga’ is Swedish for battle. Northman used you to send me a message. He was acknowledging that I’d won a battle, but that he intends to win the war.” Russell snarled. “He’s also made clear that he can manipulate my own people—or turn them to his side.”
“What of the talk of the Ancient Pythoness?” Appius asked. “Could she know your plans?”
Russell considered for a moment. “I do not think so.”
“But the talismans of the witch—those must now be questioned,” Appius reminded.
“Everything and everyone must now be questioned!” Russell yelled out in rage—even as he yanked off the last finger on the hand Bill could see.
Still, there was no pain felt by the younger vampire—not yet, at least.
“Do not lose yourself to your anger, my friend,” Appius reasoned.
“I won’t. That’s why I have young William here,” Russell said, calming down.
“So you want to keep him alive?” Appius asked.
“For now,” Russell mused. “William, after all, did not mean to betray me. I might even keep being merciful to him,” he added ironically, as he looked at the mangled mess on the table. “You are still too tied to your fairy, Miss Stackhouse. And Eric was able to use the witch to make you believe that she still lived.”
“She did. She does,” Bill croaked out. “I smelled her. She is alive,” he said, using all of this remaining strength to try to convince his master.
Russell shook his head and looked down at Bill as if the younger vampire were trying to argue for the existence of Santa Claus. “Hallow managed to take on Sookie’s face. Do you not think that she could have found a way to mimic her scent as well?”
Bill gasped as realization struck. Sookie’s scent—it had been slightly different. Slightly muted. But it had still been “her.” He’d accounted for the change because of the presence of Northman’s blood in her. But what if Russell was right? What if Hallow had lied to him? What if Hallow had been able to take on Sookie’s scent?
A red tear slipped from his eye and the numbness began to leave Bill’s body. It was replaced by an uncomfortable tingling sensation that Bill knew would soon become pain again. But his true pain was in realizing that Sookie was, indeed, dead. It was in realizing that the hope he’d been given the night before was only an illusion.
He was glad he’d gotten a chance to kill Hallow, though he couldn’t understand why last night’s “Sookie” had told him to kill tonight’s “Hallow” if they were one in the same.
But—he figured Russell must be right. Hell—for all he knew Northman and Hallow were just toying with him and planned to kill him all along.
More tears fell.
“You see,” Russell remarked. “He realizes his folly now.”
The king called in his Alpha. “Dane, take Mr. Compton to the bathtub in his room. I’ll deal with him more tomorrow evening.
“Should he be wrapped in Silver?” Appius asked.
Russell looked at Bill almost lovingly and stroked the blood off of his cheek before putting it into his mouth. “No. He will not be able to heal without mass quantities of blood, and he can hardly move. No need to hurt him unnecessarily by placing him in silver.”
More tears fell from Bill’s eyes.
However, these were tears of gratefulness for his merciful master.
A/N: Oh, Bill, this is what you get for trying to think for yourself. So yeah—hopefully you all aren’t too upset that I had Russell and Appius torture Bill as opposed to Eric. But the Viking is busy. You might remember those horrible dream that Bill sent to Sookie in Uninvited—what I called the “woven” dream. It was as I was conceptualizing that scene that I decided that it would be poetic justice for Russell to be the one that saw to Bill’s “breaking.” After all, Bill trusted Russell and thought that he was important to him. But Russell was really only manipulating Bill for his use. I decided it served Bill right to be hurt by someone that he thought “loved” him.
Anyway, that’s what I was thinking.
As always, thanks to Sephrenia for her artwork. And thanks to Kleannhouse for her eagle eyes.