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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chapter 75 ~ House of Cards

Eric's temporary office in Shreveport found him sitting tall at his desk strategizing with Haldar and Pam. Until the new official compound he’d ordered was built, these digs would have to do. He’d thought about using Fangtasia until the new place was completed, but it was simply too small and too open for his needs. He was in the middle of discussing possible new recruits for his army when a sharp wave of pain, anger, and betrayal barreled across his bond with Sookie.

Alarmed, he held up his hand imperiously and the room went silent. Ignoring their concerned faces, he immediately pulled his phone from his pocket and called Sookie’s cell. When she answered, he demanded, “Sookie, what is wrong? What has happened? Is Sargon at the barrier now?”

There was a moment of silence that rolled out as if hours. He listened raptly. He could hear her breathing, his mind trying to analyze its cadence for a possible hint to the crisis. He was going to speak again when he heard Sookie’s icy reply, “Come. Home. Now.”

The coldness of her tone cut him to the core. Her voice held no emotion, no inflection of her love for him. It was stone, lifeless. He felt raw fear as his voice took on an edge of begging he winced inwardly at hearing. “Sookie, min √§lskade, what is wrong? Are you hurt? Is Sargon there? Is he threatening you?”

Another moment of silence passed between them, their bond calcifying as Sookie’s rage reached unimaginable heights while her pain beat at him, a form of articulation, detached, a staccato. He felt himself frightened, confused, unable to keep a steady tenor to his words. “Sookie, I do not understand!  What is wrong?”

“Come. Home. Now.”

Click.

The line went dead. Eric looked at the phone he gripped in his hands, willing it to somehow explain. He gritted his teeth anxiously, then looked to his friends and announced, “Something is very wrong. We must return immediately.”

He said nothing more as he vamped out of the building and took to the sky. His mind fought for reason as he felt his thoughts falling to the emotion of vivid imaginings. He didn’t know what was wrong, but he was filling in the blanks with nightmarish scenarios. Her voice! He had never heard it so cold, so empty. Anxiety beat a steady tattoo. He thought of her warmth and tenderness, saw her dancing eyes, heard her laugh, a slight smile as he pictured the curve of her belly, within, his child she was carrying. Was she safe? His anxiety stairstepped linearly. And the bond ... their bond ... such horrid emotions. He felt absolutely nothing from her physically, but her emotions were raging at him through the bond.

Behind him, Haldar shared a worried look with Pam before sweeping her into his arms and taking off after his friend. As Pam was unable to fly Haldar had no choice but to carry her, and for once Pam did not object to his touching her. She was just as concerned by what taken place. Haldar couldn’t even begin to keep pace with Eric as his Viking brother hurled himself through the sky at an impossible speed.

Within moments, Eric reached the compound. The magic of the barrier brushed against his skin as he dropped lithely from the sky and dashed up the front porch to barge into the house. He found Sookie sitting silently in the living room by herself. Looking around wildly he saw no one and nothing out of place but he overlooked the elephant in the room—her steely countenance, the ramrod back, the hands tightly gripped in her lap.

His body was poised for an assault and his gaze continued to scan their surroundings, searching for whomever or whatever had his mate summoning him home in such a way, as he demanded, “Sookie, min √§lskade, what has happened?”

Sookie looked at him with eyes that were equal parts heartbroken and furious. She didn’t rise from the couch as she ordered, “Do not call me that. Don’t. You. Ever! Call me that again.”

His stomach dropped out from under him. He had never seen Sookie like this. Ever. She was staring at him in a way he didn’t know how to interpret. Her body was nearly as still as a vampire’s, her deep breathing belying the rage he felt inside her, and her eyes—her eyes were filled with so much anger and betrayal it made his stomach roil. Moving forward to take her hands, he began, “Sookie, what has—“

“Don’t you fucking touch me!”

Jerking back at the viciousness of her tone and the sheer fury in her features, Eric begged, “Sookie, what has happened?!”

Looking at her mate, she wondered if she really even knew him after all. Her voice was rigid, “I know about Bill.”

Eric’s entire body went stiff, he took a step back as his mouth fell open in shock. His mind blanked for only a moment before kicking into overdrive to try and find a way to handle this situation. ‘How? How could she have found out? Who could have told her? Only Haldar, Pam, and I knew of my plans for Bill!’

As silence descended between them Sookie gazed coldly at the man she was seriously beginning to wonder if she could spend the rest of her life with. Her own emotions were a whirlwind inside her, pulling and pushing her in all directions. Part of her wanted to rant and rave at him, scream at him for destroying what was left of her trust in him. The other part wanted to break down and cry because he had completely and utterly destroyed something precious between them.

‘How could he do this? How could he do it behind my back? How could he lie to me about it? Is everything about him, about us, a lie?’

Her heart hurt as much as it raged. His face wore his surprise but there was more. She let another moment go by before she answered his unspoken question. “Jessica called me. She had a Maker/child vision and saw what you did to Bill.”

Eric wanted to stake the meddlesome bitch, but kept his anger carefully contained while silently berating himself for not considering Jessica before. Truthfully with everything that had been going on, the loud and obnoxious baby vampire had simply slipped his mind. Focusing on Sookie before him he remained silent as he thought on how to approach her and what to do in order to fix this.  He knew he was on dangerous ground, and the slightest misstep and he might well and truly lose his lover for all time. He needed to be careful, he needed to be convincing with the right mix of emotion. “Sookie, please let me explain.  I—“

“Don’t!”

She didn’t want to hear any more of his carefully worded responses, any more of his pretty little lies that swayed her heart again and again. Eric was very good at saying what he needed to say to get what he wanted, but as her Gran had always told her, actions spoke louder than words. And Eric’s actions had proven to her yet again that she couldn’t trust him. He’d proven to her in the worst possible way that her wants and needs, her morals and beliefs, would never truly matter to him.

‘All Eric cares about is what he wants, what he feels is right. He lied about Bill because he knew I wouldn’t have wanted him to kill him. He murdered Bill behind my back because he knew I would be hurt and angry over it. He knew killing Bill like that would hurt me, and yet he did it anyway.’

Holding tight to her anger, her voice thick with the emotions warring within her, Sookie hissed, “I don’t want to hear your excuses. Just tell me the truth. Did you kill him?”

“Sookie, I—“

“Yes or no?!”

She needed to hear it from his own lips. She needed him to tell her the truthfor once. Deep down she knew he’d done it. She knew as soon as Jessica had told her that the girl was telling the truth, but before she did what she had no other choice but to do, she needed to hear it from Eric’s own mouth.

Eric didn’t want to respond. He didn’t want to speak the damning words that might cost him everything and so instead he remained silent. In the end, it was enough.

When he refused to answer her it was all the truth she needed, and her broken heart hammered as she whispered, “So it’s true.” She wrung her hands in her lap and exhaled slowly. “You did it. You tortured and murdered him.”

Her words were more a statement than a question, and Eric could do nothing more than remain silent as he waited to see what Sookie would do. He didn’t know how he could fix this, what he could do or say to make this right, and so he waited for her to give him some clue on how he should proceed. Behind him he heard Haldar land with Pam as both rushed into the house to stand at his back.

“What is happening?” Pam’s eyes scanned the area for a threat as well. Neither she nor Haldar had seen anything amiss when they had landed, and while Sookie’s guards all looked upset, no one had seemed to be preparing to fight, but that did not mean there was not danger.

“Where is the threat?” Haldar moved to stand at his brother’s shoulder as he readied himself for battle, but there was nothing to fight. The air was eerily calm, and Sookie and Eric had eyes for no one but each other. Both ignored them as Sookie looked long and hard at her mate. She hated him for doing this to them. She hated him for finishing off what was left of her trust for him. She hated him for making her well and truly question whether or not the love between them was true. Because what was love without trust and respect?

Unable to look at Eric a moment longer Sookie finally stood from the couch, and announced, “You need to pack your things.”

Eric couldn’t choke back the gasp, but he held himself together as he denied, “No. I’m not leaving. You and I are going to talk about this. We’re going to get through this.”

Sookie finally let the tears fill her eyes as she announced, “I can’t even look at you right now, Eric. I—I don’t know you. I don’t think I’ve ever known you.”

“Sookie,” Eric begged as he moved forward, trying to get close to her, and heartbroken when she pulled back. He warred with himself, wanting to move towards her again, but knowing it would be unwise to push her. He stopped and allowed the distance between them as he insisted, “That is not true! I am your mate!  We are one! You know me better than anyone!”

“Eric, what’s going on?” Pam demanded. The scene unfolding before her was frightening. Especially with Eric and Sookie both ignoring them as they stared off against one another.

Looking deep into her mate’s eyes, Sookie began, “Eric, we will definitely talk about this, but not now. I meant it when I said I can’t even look at you. What you’ve done—there is no going back, and I honestly don’t see how we are going to move forward. All I know is that you can’t stay here anymore. Not now. Maybe not ever. You are not welcome in my home. I’ve already ordered the guards to prepare the underground lair for you in the guesthouse. Han and Ivan will be moving in here, as will the others from the guesthouse.”

“Sookie, I’m not—“

The tight hold she had on her emotions began to crack as the full weight of what was happening began to hit her. She couldn’t breathe through the tight fist in her throat. She felt like she’d been punched in her chest. Even her skin was suddenly far too tight for her body. Unable to listen to another word out of his lying mouth, Sookie shouted, “Get out! Get the fuck out!”

She was fast losing it. Her heart was shattering in her chest. So much pain, anger, loss, and betrayal was battling inside of her that she didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t that she was heartbroken over Bill’s death, though she had never wished him any harm despite what he had done to her. It was the fact that Eric had tortured and murdered him behind her back. That he had lied to her about it, manipulated her to think he’d banished him. He'd played her, yet again. She couldn’t stand that once again Eric had made himself her adversary. Someone she had to guard herself against. Possibly for good. Tears began falling from her eyes as she sobbed, “Just get out! I want you out! Now!”

Spinning around, Sookie made to run from the living room. She barely made it a step before Eric’s hand closed over her forearm as he tried to pull her into his embrace. He just needed to hold her. He needed to be connected to her so he could keep her by him as he explained why he had to kill Bill. Once he explained everything to her, once he made her aware of why he couldn’t let Bill live, and that he had only hid his actions from her to protect her tender heart she would understand. She had to.

He didn’t get the chance.

Without thinking, acting on pure instinct, Sookie brought her hand up and slapped it against Eric’s chest. Her hand lit up and her power flowed freely as they responded to the emotions raging inside her. There was a bright flash and Eric was sent hurling through the air to crash against the wall before sinking down to the floor. Everyone was stunned. Eric, while in no way harmed from the assault, could only stare at Sookie in growing shock while she gazed back at him with disappointment and a mournful expression. Her eyes held no warmth or love for him. Only pain and betrayal. Beside them, helpless to intercede, Pam and Haldar stood perfectly still, watching the drama unfold as both began to fear whatever had happened to cause Sookie to act like this.

As Sookie’s power slowly receded, the light folding back into her, she looked at Eric and warned in a chilling voice, “Don’t you fucking touch me. Just don’t. I want you out of my house. Now.”

She said nothing else as she turned and headed upstairs to her bedroom with Thor trotting after her.  She didn’t look back once. As she moved away from him Eric slowly rose from the floor and stared after his mate in abject horror. The weight of what had just taken place, the sheer magnitude of the consequences of his actions began to barrel down on him, as he whispered, “Sookie, please…”

His voice held all the love he refused to admit to, the need he felt for the small woman that had so easily become his whole world, and the fear he felt that what had just gone wrong between them could not be fixed. If Sookie heard him she gave no indication and continued to walk away from him without looking back until she disappeared upstairs.

The three vampires heard the sound of her door shutting softly but resolutely. Pam moved quickly to her maker’s side as she asked, “What the fuck, Eric? What just happened?”

Eric could only stare after his mate in mounting horror as he whispered, “She’s shutting the bond down. It’s cold. She’s—she’s leaving me.”

Turning his gaze to his child, and looking like a lost little boy, he said softly, “She knows, Pam, she knows and now she hates me.”

“Knows what, Eric?” Moving to stand beside Pam, Haldar could only look at the vampire he considered a brother with worry in his gaze. He didn’t know what had happened, but it had to have been horrific to have Sookie banishing Eric from her home. She hadn’t even done that when he’d forced her to kneel.

“She knows I killed Bill,” Eric admitted in a soft voice.

Pam jerked in shock before muttering, “Fuck.”

Haldar, still not truly comprehending the situation or the magnitude of what had just transpired, scoffed, “She’ll get over it. After what that fuck did to her she can’t be too broken up over it.”

Ignoring Haldar’s words, Eric faced his child and pleaded, “What do I do, Pam? How do I fix this? She wasn’t supposed to find out! I can’t lose her over this!”

Truthfully Pam didn’t know what her Maker could do to fix what had just gone horribly wrong between him and his mate. She didn’t understand Sookie. The woman baffled her. No matter how much someone wronged her Sookie never wanted anyone hurt, and it was why she’d tried so hard to convince Eric not to kill Bill behind her back. She’d known that sooner or later Sookie would find out, and that it would lead to a clusterfuck. Just as it had.

Still, she wanted to help her Maker who looked well and truly terrified, and soothed, “She’s going to need some time, Eric. You can’t speak to her now. Give her some time to process everything and explain to her why you had to kill him.”

Still wearing his shock and looking lost and afraid, Eric whispered, “She’s shut the bond down, Pam. I can’t feel anything other than the fact she is alive. I can’t feel her! I need to feel her!”

Haldar had never seen his friend like this before. Had he not been witnessing it with his own eyes he wouldn’t have thought it was possible for the great Eric Northman to be so thoroughly shaken and afraid. ‘He really does love her,’ he thought to himself while silently observing. He didn’t know how to help his friend either, and thought it best to let Pam handle Eric.

Pam approached her Maker slowly, as though he were a wounded animal, and in fact he truly was, and suggested, “Eric, I know you don’t want to hear this, but you need to respect Sookie’s wishes for now. She needs time. Time and space.”

Grasping what she was saying, Eric hissed, “You want me to leave? You want me to leave her? No way in hell!”

“Eric, if you stay, if you try to force Sookie to work through this before she is ready it won’t go well. You’ve pushed her past her limit. I know you are afraid, and I know how much you need to fix this, but you can’t bully Sookie right now. If you do it could very well cost you her for good.”

He could hear her words, see the rightness of them, but he couldn’t accept it. The thought of moving out of Sookie’s house, what it symbolized for them and their relationship, terrified him. He felt like she was slipping through his fingers, disappearing before his very eyes, and he couldn’t bear it.

Not giving a damn and how weak and needy he sounded before his two closest friends, Eric whispered, “I can’t leave her, Pam. She’s my whole fucking world.”

Slowly moving closer, careful not to make Eric feel threatened, Pam gently took hold of his arm and coaxed, “Then prove it, Eric, prove to her she’s your world. Do what is best for her right now.”

“I am what is best for her!”

“I know, Eric, I know,” Pam soothed, “but Sookie needs time to see that for herself. Right now she needs time and space to process everything. With everything else going on she’s on overload. As badly as you are hurting, she is hurting worse. You have to let her work through this with you her way. If you try to force her in any way it will make things worse.”

When Eric continued to stare down at her, his body taut with his raging emotions, Pam whispered, “Please listen to me, Eric. I know I haven’t been the biggest fan of your relationship with Sookie, but I love you and I want what is best for you. That is Sookie. You need her, so I’m begging you to give her space. Let her wrap her head around all of this and get to the point where she can talk to you about it. Right now she needs to calm down. You both do.”

Eric was silent a moment before his shoulders sagged as he finally accepted that he couldn’t force this situation. He looked completely and utterly defeated as he whispered softly, “See to my things.”

With that he vamped out of the house to take to the sky. He needed to fly. He needed to fly and let the wind take away the bloody tears he could no longer hold back.

When he was gone Haldar looked at Pam who was staring off after her maker worriedly and asked, “How bad is this?”

Finally looking at Haldar, Pam replied, “I don’t know if he can fix this.”

“But why? Sookie didn’t love Bill anymore, and he deserved to die. Why would Sookie banish Eric for killing him?”

“Because Sookie forgives everyone. Even those who are unworthy of her forgiveness," she shook her head, frowning. Haldar made to speak again and she hurried, "To her, Eric killing Bill behind her back like this, especially after the way he made her kneel, is going to shatter her trust in him, and to Sookie there is no love without trust.”

“They’re mates,” Haldar replied, as though that explained everything. In his mind there was no alternative to Eric and Sookie being together. Sookie would have to forgive him.

Pam had no reply and instead headed towards the underground chamber as she said, “We need to get his stuff moved. Everything needs to be done by the time he gets back.”

Haldar said nothing more as he followed after Pam, hoping that things were not as dire as she made them out to be.

Upstairs Sookie finally allowed her emotions to get the best of her. She clutched Thor to her chest and cried into his fur. She cried for the loss of trust she’d had for Eric, she cried for the uncertainty of their future, and she cried at the thought that her future with Eric might always be filled with lies, deception, and manipulation. She could feel Eric reaching for her through the bond, but she kept her barrier of anger and coldness around her tightly. She didn’t want him manipulating her through the bond as he’d done so many times before.

In the sky, Eric let his own bloody tears fall as he pushed his pain, need, regret, and longing for his mate towards her through the bond, but it was for naught. All he felt was coldness from her side of the bond. He could feel nothing else. It terrified him. He’d become so used to always feeling Sookie inside him. He didn’t know how he was going to survive without feeling the thrum of her heart through the bond, feeling her delight and wonder every time she saw her guards doing something magical or mystical, feeling her amusement when Thor bit his own foot for scratching his ear.

‘This can’t be happening,’ he thought to himself, ‘she can’t leave me. I fucked up. I know that, but she can’t really leave me. We are one. We can’t survive without one another. Our Destiny is to have many children and save the universe. She can’t walk away from it.’

He was seized with terror he barely understood. ‘But what if she stays only for the children? What if she stays with me but stops loving me? What if she only tolerates my presence for the sake of the children? What if—what if she only allows my touch to get pregnant and the rest of the time avoids me?’

To Eric, the thought was worse than death. To be a part of Sookie’s life but not have her love? To have her look at him with the same cool detachment as he’d seen her bestow upon Bill? To watch her share her love and smiles with their children and friends and only look at him with wariness? He would not be able to stand it.

‘What the fuck do I do now?’

Far away Sargon stood from his stooped position where he was gazing into his scrying bowl and laughed deeply. ’It’s all falling into place,’ he said triumphantly to himself before waving his hand to vanish the vision from his scrying bowl.

“So what happens now?”

Jessica stood with her arms folded looking hopeful. She’d been teleported to Sargon’s home after she’d accomplished her little mission of notifying Sookie. She hoped she was now in good favor with the powerful vampire.  “Next I make sure Sookie finds out about Eric’s little indiscretion at Fangtasia with Richelle. That will be the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, and ensure that they remain at odds long enough for me to put the final stages of my plan in place. Once I am ready to perform the ceremony to severe the tie between them I will attack in force. I must be ready when the stars are aligned. If the ceremony is not performed perfectly, Sookie will die along with Northman.”

“And how are you going to make sure Sookie finds out about Richelle?”

Sargon grinned, “You, Jessica, are going to tell her. In a few days you will contact Sookie again, asking to meet with her to discuss your predicament.”

“What predicament?”

“You are a newborn vampire with no Maker to care for you. Northman had all of Bill’s assets and financial accounts seized when he took over the state. For all intents and purposes, you are without a way to survive. You will contact Sookie and ask her to have Eric provide for you financially to start a new life, and while speaking with her you will let slip that you fed off a fangbanger from Fangtasia that saw Eric take Richelle back to his office. Sookie will know what that means and will question him.”

Rolling her eyes, Jessica scoffed, “He’ll just lie to her.”

Shaking his head, Sargon replied, “The bond between them has grown too great. Eric will not be able to lie to her now.”

Grinning, Sargon concluded, “Everything is going according to plan. It won’t be long now before Sookie is mine.”