This chapter contains non-explicit talk about rape and incest. So, not exactly something one would run away from, but I’m all for disclaimers when the subject matter turns sexually violent. It won’t go into detail, not even close, but I’m sensitive to triggers and I wanted to make sure nobody started reading this chapter without the disclaimer.
Dr. Ludwig helped me immensely by taking my brother to her clinic, knowing I would pay whatever she asked so that my brother would be back to healthy. It would be impossible for me to keep an eye on him, and Eric, and Pam all at the same time. I would have opted for a hospital for Jason, but there would be too many questions and too much time lost trying to explain or altering the minds involved. Time was a precious commodity.
Borrowing Jason’s truck while getting Clancy on the phone, I drove Eric and Pam back home to Shreveport as fast as I could, not listening to Eric’s weak protests. What scared me the most was his inability to stop my actions, as I knew he would. He tried his best, but he was too weak to issue a maker’s command. His injuries refused to heal completely; he refused my blood time and time again; and he kept trying to give Pam whatever bit of blood was left inside him.
When we got to the house, Clancy was waiting with three donors in tow. He even helped me get Eric and Pam inside the house and into the downstairs bedroom.
“Will they be missed?” I asked Clancy of the donors he had brought. They didn’t seem like the cream of the crop, but they were all male, bigger than average, and heavily glamoured. A quick sweep of one’s mind told me he’d be missed, but not by somebody who would call the cops.
“No. I made sure of it,” Clancy answered matter-of-factly. Just as hastily I reached for his memories and thoughts related to just us: he’d gotten in contact with Ocella already, which I’d been counting on, but otherwise would make sure that I had whatever I needed to get Eric back on the mend. He wasn’t even doing it for Eric; he was doing it for me.
While I sipped from my donor, enough to sustain me one more night, I watched as Eric and Pam drained the other two men. Then, as Clancy disposed of the corpses – always a thankless task if there ever was one – I offered what was left of my still-breathing donor to Pam, because I knew Eric would have turned him down.
“When my maker gets here,” he started in a raspy voice, “he will want to feed me.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said rolling my eyes. Instead of helping the one that was worse off, Ocella would want to help his precious child. Then Eric would help Pam. Such was the way of the vampire.
Eric managed to sit up in bed, which startled me. Then he did it: “You will not kill my maker.”
“Fuck a zombie,” Pam said weakly from her side of the bed.
Eric continued, “Neither will you, Pam. I couldn’t take that grief.”
I did not mean to narrow my eyes at him and act like a teenager who’d just been told she can’t go out. Now that he had bound me to his will, how was I supposed to get rid of Ocella? What if my powers didn’t work on him? Nevertheless, I cleared my expression and tried to sound reasonable. “Of course I won’t,” I said, knowing there were other ways to circumvent my maker’s order. I would find a way. Ocella was meant to die, I knew that. Eric knew that. He just didn’t want any of his children to be the ones to put him through such misery. Okey-dokey.
Ocella cut it close and arrived at nearly six in the morning along with Alexei. When I opened the door, as nervous as I was and knowing fully well who he was, I still pretended to meet him for the very first time.
“You must be Sookie,” he said at the door, opening his arms wide and asking for a hug from me. Since I wasn’t supposed to know who he was, I blinked feigning ignorance. He put his arms down and leaned forward as if talking to a child. “I am Appius Livius Ocella, Eric’s maker.”
My forced smile almost made my eye twitch. “Of course! Come in, please.”
Pretending to fawn over him and Alexei was tough, but I had the end in sight: make Eric better so he could make Pam better. Ocella continued with the niceties and I responded in kind, all the while rummaging through his mind and Alexei’s.
Ocella thought that if he helped Eric get healthy again, then I would be so grateful that I could come work for him as some kind of soothsayer – his word, not mine. I wish I could have told him that had I been a true oracle, I would have foreseen all this and avoided it. He seemed to think that I’d known of his future plans for Eric, which was why I’d sunk my claws into his child and grabbed him before he could marry him off to Oklahoma. Since he saw me as just another cash cow – again, his words – he didn’t feel animosity towards me and admired that I’d been able to keep Eric to myself.
Alexei’s thoughts, on the other hand, were not that easy to comprehend. He seemed frustrated, like a caged animal. I got the impression that he loved and hated Ocella in equal measure. His mind was fractured, so that half of him wanted to be loved and cherished by his maker, touched the same way as Ocella was touching Eric at that moment, caressing his hair and holding his hand; the other half of him wanted to tear into his maker’s throat while raping him. The scene was so gruesome that I put up my mental shields quickly and gasped. My tiny show of fear didn’t register with anyone but Alexei; his cherubic smile seemed to say that he knew I had peeked into his mind. It was sickening.
“My darling,” crooned Ocella beside Eric. He was naked, but covered by a duvet, since I’d been cleaning both him and Pam. “What are your injuries?” Ocella pulled down the duvet to examine Eric’s body. It took everything I had not to smack his hand away.
A type of fear crept into me from Eric’s side of our bond. It wasn’t fear, exactly. If I had to give it a name, I would have called it “the urge to run but lack of ability.” It was the same thing I used to feel whenever I saw my “funny uncle” when I was a little girl. I wanted to run and hide but knew it was wrong because I was supposed to love that man. However, Eric wasn’t a little girl, so this type of fear was at odds with his person. Moreover, neither of Eric’s children felt towards him like he felt towards his maker.
I watched and listened to their quiet exchange. Ocella couldn’t have cared less about Pam while she lay on the bed beside Eric. I remained beside her and she actually made the effort to open her eyes when she felt the bed move as I sat down. She gave me a quick look that I couldn’t understand, so I read her mind. She was thinking the same thing I was: that even though we had both been forbidden from killing Ocella, the less amount of time he was here, the better. Then she imagined Alexei killing his own maker, at which point I made a tiny motion with my head.
Alexei was too far gone. He was capable of killing Ocella, but I could sense that it would be difficult for me to make him do so, or anything else for that matter. At that very moment, he was starting to get impatient and fidgeting, which is actually a very unusual thing for a century-old vampire to do. Bracing myself, I dipped into his mind again without turning from my spot next to Pam.
What I saw made my skin crawl. He was fidgety because he was horny and was craving Eric especially because he was weak. Knowing how violent he could get when denied, I tried to force his thoughts into a more subdued subject, like wanting to go to sleep since it was almost dawn. It was amazingly difficult, but I managed to make him feel sleepy after a few minutes of trying. Just as I’d thought, his mind was so broken that my suggestions kept falling through the cracks, so to speak, until finally it took.
Alexei settled himself on the floor, hugging his knees to make himself as small as possible, then fell asleep. Ocella didn’t see anything wrong with this anomalous behavior, and soon took his second son to one of the spare coffins in another part of the basement.
Pam and I both sighed with relief, but Eric’s uneasiness wouldn’t leave him. I crawled into bed between them, both of them important to me, so much that to lose either one would be catastrophic.
My own mind had been so busy trying to keep them alive one more night that I didn’t even realize how weak I was myself. I’d given my brother blood to heal him, and maybe for a vampire as old as Eric it would have been just fine, but I was not yet a year old. I’d barely taken more blood in to replenish, having been too busy attending to everything, then saving my donor for Pam to have. Sleep came easy, but unlike that of my bedmates, it was restless, as only mine could be.
At nightfall, before it was completely dark, I awoke wrapped around Eric, who had at some point put his arms around me – probably to keep me from tossing and turning anymore. But the first face that greeted me was none other than Ocella’s. He was sitting next to Eric’s side of the bed, on a slipper chair that we usually kept in a far corner.
He smiled beatifically. “Romantic love,” he declared. “What makes you think it can last a hundred years?”
My eyebrows took a dive. Eric’s and my marriage certificate, just like the certificates of many vampire couples, had an expiration date of one hundred years. Was Ocella guessing, or did he really know? How was I supposed to answer his question, exactly? Oh, right! He thought I could see into the future. Time to put that assumption to rest, then.
“I don’t know that,” I said.
Ocella narrowed his eyes. “The correct answer should have been that you and Eric are so compatible, that you will continue to love and respect the other even after the romance is gone.” Then he smiled wider. “Marriage is a business deal, girl! Before you make a deal, you better do your research, right? Do you know anything about the man you call ‘husband’?”
“I know all I need to know.”
“Do you? You are so strong,” he said in a mocking voice, alluding to my character, not my physique. “How do you know that Eric won’t abandon you?”
“That is not who he is.”
Ocella snickered, a sound that would probably become a young girl, but not him, no matter how handsome he was. “Margarita was so beautiful,” he commented. “Lovable. Yet she is thousands of miles away from Eric and has been for centuries.”
I shook my head. I knew the story – I thought I knew the story. Meg had left Eric, not the other way around. She told me so herself. Didn’t she?
He continued, “The only reason Pamela is here is because Eric needed someone trustworthy beside him when the world learned of our existence. She almost looks like you.” Ocella cocked his head, regarding Pam with curiosity.
I almost called bullshit. Never mind that we were both blonde and blue-eyed, Pam and I were very different: she was shorter, her features softer. But our physical similarities weren’t at issue here. Pam was a fighter and I was a… okay. I was a fighter too, for the most part.
“Eric’s love is fickle, I’m afraid.” Ocella’s smile vanished and he looked decidedly sad. His mind, however, pointed towards jealousy and envy. For a few moments I had questioned the things I’d felt, my relationship with Eric, and even Eric’s relationship with others. Instead, this was Ocella’s way of planting seeds of insecurity within me. He’d nearly succeeded.
“He is mine,” I said with finality.
“I’m glad you think so, but he was mine first. What makes you think you will keep him?”
Damn it! I didn’t even have the satisfaction of watching him flake away as he asked me that question. And what the hell was supposed to be my answer?!
“Ek ann thér, minn kona,” Eric whispered and my eyes fell on him immediately. He was still so weak, but had woken up when he heard our exchange. He caressed my hair with a shaky finger. “Jafnan.”
“His words are a pretty good indication,” I said without taking my eyes off Eric’s. He smiled and closed his eyes. Having me beside him was the only thing that kept him calm and centered. He had every intention of sending me out to feed, and the thought of not having me beside him when Ocella was there made him cringe internally.
Ocella was petty and jealous, conniving and sleazy. Egocentric and selfish. He would stoop to anything to get what he wanted. I should have known after Eric told me his history.
This was a hell of a family reunion.
“Feed Pam, then go and feed yourself,” Eric said with whatever he had left of energy.
I hesitated to leave his side, but Eric gave me a physical push, though mentally he kept apologizing.
Pam sipped from my wrist, barely awake and slowly regaining some strength. Simply put: her body had to expel the silver from her blood, and there was no way to do that other than by taking in more blood. The blood of her maker and my blood was best for healing. Now that Ocella was here, Eric trusted me to give Pam my blood. He was also relieved that I was healthy and strong enough, and that I also knew enough about procuring, so that my giving blood to heal another wouldn’t harm me.
I caressed Pam’s hair, my best friend whom I’d grown to love so much. Even if my relationship with Eric ever soured, I knew Pam would be mine forever – not in the romantic sense. I would be hers too: friends and sisters forever. She opened her eyes. I’d seldom seen her so weak. It went against nature. She let go of my wrist and thought, very strong and at me, to please go feed before she took more.
Without any other choice, I did as I was told. Besides, I was the only one who could actually go out and feed. It wasn’t like when a human is sick and friends and family gather to offer help. We were on our own unless we called for help. We could call on Clancy, but he was a busy person and had already helped more than enough. We didn’t want to owe him any more than we already did. I didn’t have to be told this to understand it.
For a moment, I thought of venturing to Merlotte’s. I was driving my brother’s truck back to Bon Temps, since I wanted to put gas in it and pick up Eric’s car from where we’d left it the night before. Then it would be so easy to slip into Merlotte’s and see who I could find. I dismissed the thought several times while I drove, and then a neon sign, visible from the road, called to me like it was meant to.
After several expletives I drove past that new bar and continued on to Bon Temps. Unfortunately, I would have to stop by that bar at some point, maybe on my way back to Shreveport.
Dr. Ludwig would not tell me the whereabouts of her clinic, so I had no way of visiting Jason. She said she’d call if anything bad happened, and I had to assume that Jason was on the mend since I hadn’t heard from her. Therefore, I left his truck in front of his house with a note to have him call me when he got back home, and hoped for the best.
Then I walked. My strength was flagging, so a run through the woods back to the Corvette was probably a bad idea. The road was visible from the path I took, but I was well hidden inside the woods traveling west.
There’s really nothing more depressing or lonely than walking alone in the woods in the middle of the night. My thoughts ran rampant with worries, what-ifs, and images, all meant to torture me in some way. Alexei could lose it at any moment inside my house, and I wasn’t there to stop him from hurting Eric and Pam. Ocella could wait until Eric was slightly stronger, then force him to yield to his sexual advances just so he could say Eric cheated on me. Pam could weaken further and die this very night.
Even though all those things were horrible, indeed, one thought kept popping to the forefront of my mind: spending the rest of my very long lifetime alone. That was something I hadn’t considered would be part of a vampire life, yet Pam had warned me in a way. She had said Eric had been lonely when he made her. Eric had systematically surrounded himself with people, opting to become a sheriff so that he was always in charge of something and could choose who to keep around. He didn’t want to continue running around Europe without aim. He wanted to come back home to the people and places he knew best. Since he was my maker, my husband, and the oldest vampire within my circle, he was the one whose life I should have studied in order to learn what would be in store for me as a vampire.
The time I’d spent immersed in books, doing research to make a cluviel dor, was proof that keeping to myself was something I enjoyed – but for how long? So far, between the drive from Shreveport to my brother’s and the walk in the woods, I’d spent only an hour of forced loneliness, and I felt like I would soon lose my mind. Without books or an endeavor to keep my mind occupied, my thoughts went topsy-turvy.
I kept my mind open, just for something to do, and sure enough: a shifter brain entered into my telepathic sphere, so to speak. The brain was awfully familiar, even in its shifted form, but I continued walking and hoping that I wouldn’t be joined in this second hike through the woods in as many nights.
No such luck.
“Hi, Sam,” I said to the collie that decided to walk beside me. “It’s not a full moon, so you can go ahead and turn back to human if you want to talk.” Figured it might keep me from going nuts.
The sound of bone and sinew shifting back to human form was just as sickening now as it ever was, then I was joined again by Sam. Naked Sam. “I heard what happened last night.”
God forbid he asked “are you okay?” or “is your brother okay?” or “what happened to Dawson?” I couldn’t help my sigh. It was my only answer to his observation. His brain was full of regret, lust, unrequited love, sadness, and a wish to do right by me. He’d been at Jason’s trying to find out exactly what had happened, and had seen me drop off the truck. At the time I wasn’t monitoring my surroundings. He noticed this and followed me. His whole intent was to keep me safe. It actually made me long for the days when I was just “Crazy Sookie,” when everything was simple and vampires could only be seen on TV. I longed for that world just for a moment.
Then my brain, starved of blood as it was, caught onto Sam’s scent, which wasn’t altogether bad.
“I’m sorry,” he said, still walking beside me.
My fangs made an unscheduled appearance. Sam’s warmth beside me was nearly too much. My body didn’t respond when I told it to run away fast. My bloodlust was winning out.
I tried to explain it to Sam, to warn him. “I wasn’t injured… but…” This was rough. My mouth filled with saliva in anticipation of feeding. “I gave blood.”
Sam got in front of me. This would not go well for him. “Feed from me, Sookie.” He was dead serious. His whole intent was to apologize for being an asshole and driving me away; for being in love with me and never telling me; he wanted to be what I needed in whatever form that would take.
It’s supremely hard to explain why I couldn’t turn him down even though I wanted to. There is nothing similar in human terms. My brain, became atrophied with hunger and my physical instincts won over any reason. To apologize would be like a shark apologizing for ripping off someone’s leg. Rational thinking left me and I struck without remorse, doubt, or worry.
After a few gulps of the strange-tasting blood, my mind returned to me. Shifter blood is different than human blood, of that much I was aware, but it’s also stronger. It gave me the strength I needed to get a hold of my instincts, tamp them down, keep them in check.
I stopped drinking Sam’s blood as soon as I realized what I was doing. As quick as I could, I sealed the wounds on his neck and let him go. I must have drank from him for minutes! The look of bliss on his face, the very clear show of his lust, and the stain on my clothes was more than I could bear at that moment. When he realized I had stopped feeding, longing filled his mind, a sad and remorseful thing that transfered to me through his thoughts.
The flood of emotion was too great. Between the pity party I’d been having before he’d joined me in the woods, my own pining for simple days gone by, and all of Sam’s sorrow at having lost me, who he deemed to be “the one that got away,” I became overwhelmed.
“I’m sorry,” I murmured and ran, now having the strength I needed to leave.
The Corvette, that excellent machine that could travel so very fast, hurled me at amazing speed on my way back home. I even got chased by a cop who quickly forgot why there was any need to stop me.
At my house, I went to the upstairs bedroom, the one that had been mine alone before we went to Europe. All the minds inside the house were downstairs in the basement, so no one saw me come in, and in my distress I opted to shield my mind from others’. I needed a shower and new clothes before going back out and trying one more time to procure a meal. Besides, the bar I’d seen from the highway had “bad news” written all over it and I needed to check it out.
With my head full of so many things, I was startled by Eric’s cool hand on my shoulder as I took a shower. I rinsed my mouth quickly, wanting to mask the scent of shifter blood as much as possible. But then he turned me to face him, his own face confused. He still looked weak, but I spared a thought that he was, at least, up and about and that was a good thing.
“Did you feed?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, trying to sound as normal as possible.
Eric expression turned dark. “Why did you not come downstairs?”
I shrugged and whispered, “Alexei is downstairs.”
My answer seemed to settle him some, but not completely. He kept caressing my wet hair, searching my face, his pupils dilated so much that the blue in his eyes was almost swallowed by all the black. “Who did you feed on?”
Great… no sense in lying. He’d know. “Sam followed me from my brother’s house,” I answered in a small voice and felt a rush of jealousy pouring into me.
Eric reined in all that had thrown his controlled emotions into chaos. “You were very thirsty,” he said, trying to sound understanding, but failing miserably. As always, something like jealousy could not be easily contained. “Did he touch you?”
He lifted my arms above my head and pinned me against the wall with his whole body. No matter how weak he was, he was still very strong. “Did you touch him?” he asked, his mouth just a hair’s breadth away from mine.
“Was he thinking about you?” He held my hands above me using only one of his, while his other ran the length of my body, stroking my skin roughly, trying to incite in me the same level of desire he was feeling.
Without knowing exactly how to answer or how much information to give him, I had to peek into his mind to find out what kind of answer he was actually seeking. There was something dark there, something that didn’t belong. He was almost wishing that I had cheated on him, however briefly, with Sam. He wanted the pain of that knowledge, and that was definitely not something that got Eric going. Ever. He wasn’t into pain of any kind.
My only recourse was to search. He had yet to again prohibit me from reading his mind or controlling him in any way. So I stopped his advances and searched his mind for an explanation, fearing the worst but needing to know.
He had fed from Ocella, which explained why he was stronger. Of course, Ocella had gotten aroused during the exchange, and so had Alexei; it was exactly what I’d read in that child’s mind the night before. Pam was too weak to intervene in what happened next, and her tears were branded into Eric’s memory, even though he had commanded her to close her eyes.
I returned it all to Eric, to let him make the decision. My own tears betrayed my intrusion into his mind. He wasn’t mad at me, though. When he realized what I’d done, he broke. Whatever darkness had invaded his mind and heart had left him and all that was left was a scared young man whose weak body failed him.
He held me tight and cried, sobbed, shook with humiliation and pain. We sat together in the bathtub, his whole being seeking mine for comfort. I held him without judgment, without pulling away, and with only love in my heart. If something could break us, ever, it would be this: the wedge that Ocella had tried to drive between us by allowing Eric’s body to be used without consent.
There was no sense in adding my guilt onto Eric’s shame. I kept thinking that I shouldn’t have left, but I’d been ordered away so that I could feed and procure. Asking Eric why he’d made me leave was not only a stupid question, it would also be cruel.
When his body was once again still, except for the hand that kept making a circuit over my thigh, I ventured to ask him, “Do you want me to help you forget?”
“You will still remember.”
“What would you want if it had happened to me?” I asked point blank. He had to force himself to make a decision: let it continue eating away at his soul, or forget that one moment. Moreover, he needed to take that moment back. I had never quite recovered from the abuse I’d endured as a child, and I wasn’t sure how to help Eric in a healthy way, other than to make him forget. But if he chose to linger there, then he couldn’t let this affect the rest of his life or it would become the nail in his figurative coffin. “You saved me, do you remember my story?”
Eric looked up confused, but couldn’t keep his eyes on mine for any significant length of time. He sat back against the tub, the water still hitting us and drowning our conversation. “I almost took my pain out on you,” he said, a tear rolling down his cheek then getting washed down the drain.
Almost doesn’t count in my book, so I ignored his statement. Gathering my courage, I continued, “Bill raped me and you saved me. You still loved me deeply.”
I closed my eyes and attempted something that I had never done before: give Eric my memories of something that, since I’d turned back time, had never happened: the dark trunk of that car inside a lonely underground parking lot; the realization that Bill was waking up and that there was no way to escape him; trying in vain to make him drink the True Blood; the pain, the searing agony of feeling my insides being torn along with my neck as Bill fucked and fed from me. Finally, Eric’s face as he pulled back the trunk and freed us. Freed me.
The sharp intake of breath told me I’d been successful in transmitting the memory to Eric. He hissed as I would have done. The mental exercise took more out of me than I thought it would, so I wasn’t able to show him more.
“The way you took care of me that night,” I explained, “was the reason I took you home when I found you wandering by the side of the road with your memories gone. Trust me to understand this, dýrr bóndi.” My hand on his cheek made him turn his gaze to mine. The trust was there. I had asked for it and I got it. My heart overflowed.
His blue gaze returned and he made up his mind. “Make Pam forget,” he nodded. Then I felt something lift from me, like a burden that I no longer had to carry. Before I could wonder why I felt that way, he narrowed his eyes and a storm of malice… no! Vengeance flowed through our bond. “You have my permission to kill my maker.”
Ek ann thér, minn kona = I love you, my wife
Jafnan = Always
Dýrr bóndi = Dear husband