It was really late. I was tired, cranky and didn’t feel like arguing with Gran so I made up a story about the bar having an emergency and took off in a hurry. Of course, she’s not stupid, she knows I haven’t been to work in a while. She chose not to say anything and just asked me to be careful. Sometimes I wonder if she’s the one that could read minds.
I considered changing before leaving because I was wearing a pair of jeans and a simple shirt that came down off my shoulder a bit. Not exactly fight ready attire but then again, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. No one said there would be a fight or give me any indication there would be. I chuckled to myself for a brief second. Who am I kidding? I’m not a fighter per se and for me to plan this much ahead before going somewhere is a bit much. I’m stalling myself from leaving.
After a few mental kicks and of course, after digging into the deepest reserve of my courage, I drove my car away. Looking in my rear view mirror, all the lights in the house were off so I assume Gran went to bed after our discussion.
I drove faster than I knew I should have been but it didn’t stop me from breaking even more laws. I’m pretty sure I rolled through most of the stop signs I came across and let’s just say red lights on a Sunday night are kind of useless anyways around Bon Temps. Call me suicidal or something but I felt like I needed to be there pronto. I made it to Salon Rouge shortly before midnight and after parking close to the door, I left my car unlocked. The idea was that if I needed to get into it fast, I could.
I wasn’t sure which door to use but decided on the back one. It was open so I let myself in and walked quickly to Eric’s office. The faster I got there, the less chance there was I would actually talk myself out of it. I knocked on the door but there was no answer. I waited a few minutes before walking around the bar calling his and Pam’s name. The place was empty, everything had been cleaned and put away except a few flyers and posters of a band that I assumed were going to be put up at the entrance like they usually did when a band was visiting the bar. It wasn’t common but about once a month, they opened their doors to a different crowd. This time seemed to be for Blackthorn. I had never heard of them but I assumed it was some kind of rock music.
I waited a few minutes, unsure of what to do, I stood in front of the basement door debating going down there on my own. As I mentally convinced myself that was the dumbest thing I could possibly do, I turned around, defeated. I walked by the office and as I passed the door, I heard my name.
“What the heck?” I said, not understanding why Eric didn’t answer sooner.
I pushed the door open as Eric was closing the large doors from the wardrobe that stood in the corner of his office. As if he had read my mind, he pointed at it.
“There’s a back door that not many know of. It goes to the basement,” he explained. I nodded, now understanding what had taken him so long to answer me.
“How did you know I was here then?” My voice was level and I was grateful I could control it that much. Inside, my emotions were a riotous mess.
“My blood; I can track you.” His eyes were intense but his voice was even.
“Oh,” I gasped, of course he can. I sighed heavily and just stood in the door frame as if I had one foot already out the door. I was nervous and a bit scared and I was pretty sure Eric could sense it.
“Please, have a seat” he said pointing to the chairs in front of his desk. I guess we were going to have a business meeting or something. Somehow that reassured me, I let out a breath and I relaxed a little bit.
“Sookie” he said, as if he was looking for the right words. He didn’t say anything else within a couple minutes so I decided to get the ball rolling.
“Look Eric, Pam explained to me a bit of what is going on. If you want me to speak at your trial, I will. You were only protecting your employee, surely that’s a defense.” I didn’t see how a court could not take that into account. I mean, why bother to call it a court if it didn’t offer a fair defense.
I’m not sure what I saw in his eyes in that split second, but it seemed positive. Yet, he nodded negatively, smirking at me.
“Thank you for the sentiment; I do appreciate it Sookie. Unfortunately, I do not think it would help my cause at all.” He was now fully smiling at me which made no sense at all.
“Why not?” I argued, a bit frustrated since I didn’t see why else he would want me here to explain this supernatural world I wanted no part in.
“Vampires believe themselves to be superior to humans. Killing another vampire for a human is not acceptable, no matter the circumstances. You would liken it to killing a human to save a dog. Longshadow was loyal to me,” he said. I guess seeing how fucking pissed I looked, he added, “I don’t share their views. I am just trying to explain how my world works.” I was so mad at his words; I couldn’t even express it without screaming so I deflected.
“I don’t want to be part of it, any of it,” I said.
“I understand, but I don’t think you have a choice in the matter anymore. Vampires already know of your existence and of your telepathy now. My Queen knows about you and I have been made aware that hunters are involved as well. I am afraid you have no choice but to be a part of it. I can protect you.”
I frowned and tried to assess the situation. He was right when he said many of his people knew about me and now about my secret. I wasn’t sure what a hunter was but it sure sounded like a group of people I didn’t want to associate myself with either. I still worked here at Salon Rouge and Pam was right when she said since I’ve been here, I’d not been in danger or mistreated, until I ventured into that basement.
Eric stayed silent as he observed me contemplating my options or lack thereof. I looked at him a handful of times while I was mentally assessing my ability to trust him and every time, I found him staring at me. It didn’t make me uncomfortable or scared. The longer our silence remained, the better I felt and no matter how much I would like to explain it, I couldn’t. Tara had been right, what he was did not change anything about my previous feelings. He’d lied to me but who was I to talk? I lied to everyone I love every day because of my secret. He was no different. But then again, I didn’t treat others as assets and I certainly did not kill people. I could feel my hands forming fists the more I thought about being treated as an object. It truly pissed me off and if I was honest, I was disappointed that this was how he saw me. Actually, I was sad about it. I cared about Eric and I was attracted to him but suddenly it was as if someone had popped my balloon. Now, I was realizing that maybe I had been wrong all along. Maybe, all this time, it was a pissing contest between him and Bill to secure me as their private and personal asset. I was swept away by a swift feeling of nausea.
I looked back up in his direction but he was no longer in his chair. Instead, he was walking at human speed around the desk approaching me carefully. I could swear he knew how I felt at that very second but I did not dare move as he made his way to me. He stood behind my chair. There were a few seconds where I had no idea what he was going to do and I couldn’t find it in me to turn around and face him.
I felt a light touch, the coldness of his fingers registered first. Gently, they were placed on my shoulders, as if testing the waters, and then his thumbs moved softly back and forth. I closed my eyes, sighing automatically, as if this simple relaxing gesture was enough to take my stress away. He placed one of each of his hands on each one of my shoulders and gently squeezed the muscles below his thumbs, taking all tension away. I felt it leave like a flow stress just running off of me.
I took a deep breath and waited until I had the right words before speaking.
“I am not an object Eric,” I replied, having chosen my words carefully. “I am not just an asset you can procure and then protect.” I sounded angry, I was, “I can’t be owned.” Something in my voice gave me away. I couldn’t be angry at him.
“I know.” He replied and squeezed me so weakly it almost felt like sadness.
I wanted to ask more questions but what was I to say. I was so lost. I didn’t know what to believe or what was real. Was it the blood that he had given to me that made me trust him like this? Accepting his touch, was it a by-product of the blood or was it what I actually wanted?
I heard movement behind me but he left his hands on my shoulders. I felt his head close to mine. He was just inches away from my neck. A normal human being who was with a vampire they didn’t really know, in a closed room of a deserted building, would actually probably scream here but who said I was normal?
I didn’t want to be scared but I couldn’t help the fear in my stomach, my basic instincts kicking in as a predator was approaching me from behind.
Yet, I didn’t move when he placed his lips on my neck. I moaned and let my head fall to rest on his. This was the first time I’d had lips on neck that didn’t make me cringe. It was simply blissful contact with another person, something I’ve never had before.
“I can’t help but want to protect you Sookie Stackhouse,” he whispered in my ear, as goose bumps and a shiver made their way across my entire body.
I heard someone barge in the room, which was enough to let my fear take over my movement and break me out of the trance I was in. I immediately pulled away and got up from my chair to face both Eric and now Pam. She walked in loudly as if she’d known what was happening. The Queen did say they had excellent hearing.
Had she saved me from him feeding on me or…? These thoughts died in my head seeing the look on Pam’s face. She looked proud and content with herself.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she said loudly with a smirk, “but I just wanted to let you know they are now in Shreveport. They said the trial will be set later this week. No idea when exactly.”
Her tone was light as if mischievous. It was quite a big contrast as opposed to the one I had heard earlier when she had spoken about his trial.
“Don’t look so worried breather. He will be fine.” She said to me with a wink.
“But you said he could die.” That was the reason I rushed here after dropping Gran off. I thought he might die if I didn’t help him. I couldn’t let him die for me. My anger instantly started to ignite again.
“Yes he could. But he is also Eric Northman, and you don’t fuck with him.” She turned around and closed the door behind her.
I looked in the couch’s direction where I found Eric sitting with one leg across the other. He looked smug and it was annoying the shit out of me. I couldn’t help but think, they both had planned this, knowing somehow, I would come here without a thought.
“Aren’t we full of ourselves?” I said sarcastically before crossing my arms in front of me. “I know you want me to trust you, but you need to understand that it is not an easy thing to do. Sure, you’ve given me zero reason to fear for my safety when it comes to being in your presence or hers,” I nodded my head in the direction that Pam had left in, “but I still feel as if you guys just keep lying to me. Bill was the biggest asshole ever. He tried to force himself on me. He forced his blood on me and I felt used. Naturally, vampires are like our predator so surely you can understand I can’t just close my eyes and blindly follow you. Besides, you kept referring to me as an asset to your queen. Why would I believe you when you say that is not what I am to you?”
He had his stone cold look again and I couldn’t read any emotions on his lips, eyes or nose. No wrinkles, no twitch, nothing, not even his chest moving. He didn’t speak right away. Maybe he was looking for the right words, maybe he didn’t even give a shit and was just messing with me?
“You were there Sookie, she claimed you.” His voice was cold and calm.
“Yeah, and I didn’t see you arguing over it,” I replied, remembering the events of that night. Sure, I was a bit out of it because of the blood loss and the pain, but I remember her claiming me and I don’t remember him saying anything about it. Do they not say silence is acceptance?
He appeared annoyed for a brief second.
“I am not in the business of arguing with the Queen when there are witnesses. I have since spoken to her. The only thing saving you from having to go to her and stay with her is the fact that I have claimed you first and she has to respect it. Besides, I am much older than her.”
“Oh, well then, I feel so much better now that you’ve clarified I’m your property and not hers.” I cut him off and he growled at me.
“Sookie, you may not agree with our world but you don’t have a choice about being involved in it. She will get to you and keep you as a pet whether you like it or not and no one, not the police, FBI or CIA can do anything about it.” As he spoke to me I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. They were a mix of anger and sadness. I wanted to leave and close my eyes and never look back. I didn’t want any part of this, not of any of it.
“I don’t understand how this is even possible,” I said to him, but I wasn’t looking at him. Instead I actually closed my eyes, my head being the only comfortable place I knew right now. What in the hell had happened to my life?
“Vampires have been around for a long time. The only way we have remained hidden for so long is because we have the power of glamouring humans.” No matter how upset I was, I couldn’t help but find his voice soothing.
I nodded my head in acknowledgement. “Yes, I think Bill has been doing it to my Gran.” That thought made me feel nauseous again and I had to reopen my eyes.
“Most likely.” His head nodded in agreement with my reasoning.
“What is it exactly? All I know is that I cannot be. Is that the weird sickness I feel when you all focus on me?” I noticed it only around those I now knew to be vampires.
“You can feel it?” I nodded and he continued.
“It is the power of suggestion. We can make a human do or say anything. We just need to stare into their eyes and suggest it. We can also alter and even erase memories.”
Of course, that made sense, anytime Gran had a blank, it must have been a memory that was erased, leaving behind only a shadow of itself. I had seen it in so many minds and always wondered what it meant. “Well that explains the blanks I guess.”
“How so,” he said to me, intrigued. He seemed much more relaxed, no longer angry with me.
“Well, I guess it leaves a trace in people’s minds, when you, you know, erase a memory. It gets all foggy when I read the mind of someone that had been glamoured.” I hadn’t ever been able to talk to anyone about this before.
“You have seen it in your Gran’s mind?” His voice was concerned and it made my heart flutter, much to my dismay.
“Yes, but not just her, Lexi and Kim too.” I said but immediately stopped when I saw his reaction. He looked beyond pissed off.
“Glamouring employees is strictly forbidden.” His voice was low and icy and flat.
“Yeah…ok, is it only you allowed to do it? I know about you and Lexi.” I said to him in an angry tone.
“I am not sure what you are referring to?” he asked, completely ignoring the obvious suggestion I made by saying “you and Lexi”. So I made it clearer for him.
“You and her, I know about it and I know you have erased her memory on several occasion. One minute she saw you in your office and the next, she thinks she hasn’t seen you that day.” I said angry
He seemed pensive and didn’t reply anything right away. “Perhaps, it was another vampire? What reason would I have to be with her only to take her memories of it away? I am not that kind of person Sookie.” He growl very low and I knew I had offended him.
Maybe he was right; maybe it had been someone else. I had see Longshadow glamour her once and then it came to me, he had tried it on me too. When I had seen him and Lexi take money and change the black book. It occurred to me that they were stealing from Salon Rouge.
“They were stealing from you!” I exclaimed and Eric smiled.
“And you witnessed it,” he said, satisfied. “I need you Sookie.”
“How so?” Had he not just told me that my testimony wouldn’t help his case at all?
“Pam and I knew Lexi was stealing from us but every time I glamoured her,” he paused as I snorted; hypocrite; “it was blanked out, as if another vampire had erased her memory of it.”
“Is this why you didn’t fire Lexi when I told you about it?” I asked him. I recalled Pam and Eric asking me to not say anything and pretend I had seen nothing.
“Yes, we knew she had been glamoured, we needed to find by whom. Although I must say, I didn’t expect Longshadow to be this stupid. We didn’t find out about his scheme until much later, by which time he had made the wrong decision to end you. You know the rest of the story. The good news is that he was deceiving me, you have witnessed it and can testify. It is grounds for my actions.” He added when he saw a question mark drawn on my forehead as if it was supposed to make me feel better.
“Oh, well then, I’m glad you guys actually have some kind of justice system where it is okay to kill someone because they stole from you.” My voice was as sarcastic as it could be but he didn’t reply. I was fidgeting in my skin, still standing while he was sitting on the couch. He must have noticed because he got up to stand in front of me.
“Sookie, I am sorry that you are caught in the middle of all of this. Please, understand that it was never my intention to put you in harm’s way,” he said, as he reached for my hands and caressed them softly with his thumbs. “I really wish you could go back to your regular life and forget about all of it but without the possibility of glamouring you; I cannot give you the ignorance you seek.”
I sighed heavily and for the first time, I saw the honesty in his eyes as bright as day light. I believed him; he had not sought me out for my telepathy and what was happening was out of his control. These events were no fault of his. Nothing in his actions had suggested otherwise and truly, I owed him my life. I had placed myself in harms way by barging down there and I had no one else to blame but myself.
“The truth is Sookie, even though you wish you would have not known about our world, I think sooner rather than later it would have found you. Telepathy is not part of the human world.” His voice was gentle and soft.
“Then what am I?” I asked frowning. Since finding out about vampires, it had never occurred to me that I might have been part of his world. He had mentioned other species during our first discussion; did he think I was one of those?
“I am not sure,” he replied, not breaking our touch.
I stared into his eyes, unable to say or ask anything else. I let go of his hands and reached for his torso wrapping my arms around it. I placed my head on his chest and closed my eyes. He didn’t hug me back right away. As if stunned by my behaviour, he stood still for a few minutes before bringing his hands to my back.
“I don’t think I thanked you for saving my life,” I mumbled against his chest as he brought his right hand into my hair. His other arm held me closer to him.
I’m not sure how long we stayed this way but I sure wasn’t going to be the one to move first.
A/N: Thank you Nicolle for your work! I think Sookie’s voice stayed coherent (sometimes change of beta reader causes a shift and a discontinuity) and the story is moving along nicely!