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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chapter 14 ~ Kata Lessons

Pulling up to Sookie's house, Eric growled at the sight of Tara's car parked in the drive.

'Damn … I forgot that other girl was here. Sookie will want to keep things strictly business around the girl and it will be harder to get her to agree to a mutual blood exchange. However … if we are not in the house during the blood exchange perhaps she will be more compliant. Besides, I want to see what her reaction to the backyard is. She must be curious as to where all the flowers came from. I'm surprised she hasn't asked before now.'

Beside him, Sookie stifled a yawn. She was running herself ragged with this new schedule and she wanted to get inside and get some sleep. She had her meeting with Ken tomorrow and she wanted to be well rested. Turning to face Eric, she asked, "Are you coming inside?"

He shook his head. "Your friend is inside and I don't wish to have her intruding. We shall go into the backyard and I shall exchange blood with you there."

"Why? If you don't want to bother Tara, we could just do it here. Wouldn't that be easier?"

"Perhaps, but I wish to go to the backyard." With that Eric got out of the car and headed around the side of the house knowing Sookie would follow.
 

Sookie let out a sigh before grabbing her purse, opening the car door, and following along after him. When she rounded the side of the house and saw the soft, white flowers blanketing the ground and spreading across the back acre of her family's lot she smiled at him and asked, "Is this why you wanted me to come back here? Is this another of my gifts?"

Cocking his head at her, he stood in the center of the circle they had formed the night of their bonding, the only part of the ground now flower-free. Eric asked, "You did not notice these flowers before now?"

Shaking her head Sookie replied, "No. Why? How long have they been here?"

"Since Sunday. This is … curious."

Feeling a bit sheepish as she thought that Eric had arranged this gift for her and she hadn't even known about it, she gave him an apologetic smile. The flowers were simple and lovely. Their fragrance was heavy-scented in the night air. "I'm sorry I didn't notice your gift before now. I haven't come into the backyard since then. I've been really busy lately. Thank you, though … the flowers are really pretty." She looked across the yard, the flowers exploding everywhere. "Hey … what's up with the circle? Why did you landscape everywhere but that spot?"

'She has no idea … she understands none of the significance of what is going on. This is most unusual. I have no other option, I will have to contact outside sources. For now I know there is a witch in New Orleans called Octavia … she is said to cast bones and read the cards as well as have some true skill in witchcraft. She is rumored to be a natural witch and looks down on those that practice the craft for personal gain. She is well thought of. I shall send for her and see if she can shed light on this situation. If she can't, I will be left with no other alternative than to seek out guidance from HER.'

As Eric stood there regarding her, Sookie stepped closer to him and looked down at the flowers. A sudden thought occurred to her. "Hey … how did you plant them all without disturbing any of the ground? They're all over the place and so close together and yet I see no dirt or misplaced grass. How did you do that? And are you going to tell me why you did my entire backyard but that one spot you're standing in right now?"

Focusing on the golden haired beauty before him now sporting the Mark of the Fae, Eric shrugged noncommittally. "There is more than one way to plant flowers. Perhaps I know of a few you do not. As for the circle? Consider this exact spot … significant enough to stand alone."

"There you go again talking in code! Will you ever just answer me plainly?"

Eric hesitated. "When you begin to see things for yourself I shall answer as plainly as I can. Until then, I will endeavor to keep Magic's secrets."

"Magic's secrets? See what for myself? What are you talking about?"

"That is a discussion for another time. Now we share blood." Holding his hand out, Eric offered her his most charming smile. "Come … I hunger."

A shiver running up her spine, Sookie swallowed the sudden lump in her throat and took his hand. The moment their skin met and she joined him in the circle she felt all the hair on her neck and arms stand up. A rush of energy filled her and she asked breathlessly, "W—what's happening?"

Feeling the same energy surrounding them and infusing his body, Eric pulled her closer and leaned down to nuzzle her hair. He did not want her frightened or pulling away tonight. He wanted to exchange blood to see what happened.

"You are finally succumbing to my charm … my magnetic personality is wooing you." His words were intended to lighten the mood and bring her focus back solely on him and they worked.

Laughing up at him, she put a hand between them to give her a bit of distance. "Keep telling yourself that, Big Guy."
 

Eric arched a brow at her. "Big Guy?"

"Yep … if you're going to call me ridiculous names, I'm going to come up with a few for you."
 

He couldn't help the grin. "I prefer your earlier title for me."

"Huh? What title?"

Leaning close so they were mere inches apart, he whispered, "Viking Sex God. It fits, if I do say so myself."

Shaking her head and laughing as she pushed him away farther, Sookie replied, "You're never going to let me live that down, are you?"

"No." He reached to place a hand behind her neck to pull her close. "It is time for you to feed me."

Her hand on his chest said otherwise. "Hold up there, buddy … I need to talk to you about something first."

"Buddy? You will select another term of endearment for me. This one is unacceptable."

"We'll discuss that later, for right now I want to talk about Bill."

Stiffening, Eric took a step back and stated with clear distaste, "Bill? What of him?" Of course he was fairly sure what Sookie wished to talk about; he knew sooner or later this conversation would take place, he was just glad he'd put it off as long as he had.

Taking a steadying breath, Sookie ignored the electric charge sizzling up her spine, and the need to stop talking and move closer to Eric. "I … well, I need some proof that not only are you looking for him, but you had nothing to do with his disappearance. I can't just go along with all of this without some evidence you're holding up your end of the deal. Things have been … well, they've been better with you, I'll admit, but I remember what you did in Dallas and I'm not going to let you fool me into a false sense of security. Before I keep going on with my end of our deal, I want proof from you you're looking for him."

Arching a brow, he asked, "And evidence I'm not involved in his abduction, of course?"

"Yeah … that too." When he continued to stare at her she released a nervous sigh. "Look Eric, you've been really great the last couple of days … and you are doing nice things for me, but ... well, like I said, I can't let you fool me into thinking you're this great guy helping me out of the kindness of your heart. You tricked me in Dallas and you could be tricking me now. I'd be a fool not to question you."

'Oh Sookie … my Valkyrie, I am tricking you … just not about the things you think I am. You worry I am involved in Bill's disappearance or am not abiding by our agreement and looking for him. Neither are true. My trickery lies in making you believe you will be allowed to return to your Bill once I have retrieved him. I have fooled you into believing you are still a free woman, that I do not own everything you are now … this is where my deceit lies. You poor, poor dear, you have no idea the true lengths I have gone to trick and deceive you.'

Nodding in agreement, he admitted, "Your fears are understandable, and I can provide proof on both matters. I give you my word that I was not involved in your Bill's disappearance, and I have not been dragging my feet in finding him."

Sookie blew out a long breath she'd been holding. "I was hoping you wouldn't be capable of something like this."

Laughing softly, Eric shook his head, and added, "Oh I assure you, Sookie, that if I thought it was the only way to have you I would be very capable of getting rid of Bill to further my own gain. However, I can honestly say I had nothing to do with his disappearance. It had merely come at a good time and proven beneficial to me."

"I could have done without knowing that, Eric … so what proof do you have?"

"I have already located Bill and contacted Lorena about his release. She hung up on me. I am giving her a few days to cool off before contacting her again."

Sookie's mouth dropped open in shock at the unexpected news. "What? When? Why didn't you tell me? Where is he?"

"Portugal. That is where Lorena was turned. She has returned to her Maker's side with her own child. Her maker, Adrian, still lives there and has apparently offered to help her … convince Bill his place is at Lorena's side. When did I find them? My trackers have been only a step behind her from nearly the start. When she left the restaurant she drove straight to the airport and booked a flight with Anubis Air. Bill no doubt spent the trip in silver chains, but she was photographed at the airport beside his coffin numerous times. They had a stopover in Richmond to refuel and then flew nonstop to Portugal. As soon as I heard she was headed there, I knew she was meeting with Adrian, but I kept my trackers on her and they confirmed she arrived at Adrian's villa with a coffin that undoubtedly contained Bill. I have arranged for surveillance of the area and she will not be able to leave with him without me knowing."
 

Sookie wrapped her arms around herself. "Wow, so ... uh—you said you contacted her?"

Clasping his arms behind his back, Eric nodded. "Yes, I called her and let her know I was unhappy with her actions, and was set on having Bill returned. She reminded me he was her child and she could do as she wished with him. Then she hung up on me."

"And you haven't called her back since?"

"No. It is better to let her stew for a bit. She knows now that I know she is responsible, and she knows I know where she is. She will no doubt know that I have eyes on her, but my people are good and she won't discover them. Lorena is much younger than me, as is her Maker, and neither have as much political clout. I will give her time to let her imagination run wild and then I shall contact her Maker to let him know that I consider Bill important and will endeavor to do what I must to see him returned. While Adrian is fond of Lorena he will hesitant to cross me, and will most likely send her on her way if she refuses to release Bill. I will contact her again then and see if she is more amenable to negotiating. If she is not I will make it known I consider her an enemy, and few will allow her asylum within their areas. I have far more power and influence in the world than she does."

Looking up at him in wonder, she asked, "That many people know you? You're that powerful?"

Smirking, Eric nodded his head. "Indeed. Before settling down here in Shreveport, I travelled endlessly. When I was with Godric, and when I was on my own, I went from continent to continent, country to country, and was known as an enforcer. My breed of vampire is highly regarded. We sought out areas of great conflict to prove our worth as warriors. I have defeated human armies singlehandedly, I have taken down true monsters that you couldn't even conceive for nothing more than the thrill of battle. Many vampire monarchies sought out my skill and forged alliances with me in return for my assistance when they faced troubling times. Due to this I have many allies … and I have collected many owed favors. Lorena will find no safe haven from me."

Sookie shook her head in awe. "Once a Viking always a Viking huh?"

"Indeed."

"Why didn't you tell me this? Didn't you think I'd want to know where Bill was? That you have found him?"

He shrugged. "What good does this information do you? I was not going to inform you until you demanded intel or until I have some actual progress to report."

"Finding him is progress!"

Eric smiled indulgently. "No Sookie, it is not. You think that just because I've found him he's only weeks away from returning."

"Isn't he? You just said that Lorena won't be accepted anywhere. That no one will let her stay in their kingdom or area."

"Indeed. However, that doesn't mean she can't just stay on the move endlessly. She could hold Bill against his will for months or even years before I can get her to see reason. This is not a matter that will be resolved quickly."

Taking a step back, Sookie gasped, "What? But I thought you said all those people owe you! Why don't you just get them to hold her and release Bill so he can come back?"

He shook his head. "It would violate our laws. I've told you that a Maker's right to their children is absolute, and none are allowed to interfere. I'm coming dangerously close to the line as it is. None of my allies would detain her and set Bill free, nor would I ask them to. It goes against everything we are. They will all be willing to aid me in making things hard for her, but none of us are allowed to lay hands on her. If the solution were that simple I would already be in Portugal retrieving Bill. No Sookie, this is a game of politics and thus it will be won the political way, long and arduously. You forget, Sookie, that as vampires, a few weeks, months or even years are nothing to us. You must be patient."

She ran her hands through her hair nervously. "What if she decides to just keep moving? What are you going to do then?"

"I have a number of hackers on my payroll and will wipe her bank accounts out. Of course, no one will be able to prove I did such a thing. I will leave her penniless. She will not find it as easy to run from me then."

"And if that doesn't work?"

Eric's smile was dark. "Then I will have to get more … creative."

She shuddered. "Something tells me I don't want to know what you mean by that."

"Indeed."

"So how do I know you're telling me the truth? How do I know Bill is actually in Portugal? I don't want to doubt you Eric … I really don't, but I can't forget you're out to win here. You said so yourself."

His smile was snaky. "I am not offended by your doubt … indeed, it pleases me. It means you are learning to play the game. I can prove Lorena has Bill in Portugal. As I said, I've had surveillance of her at her Maker's villa. She has taken him outside many times and those I have watching the area have video and photos of these events."

"Well, why haven't you shown them to me? Eric, that is definitely something I'd want to see!"

"No, it is not."

"What? Of course I'd want to see …." Realization slammed into her painfully as Sookie's hand flew to her mouth and tears filled her eyes.

Nodding to show her thoughts were correct, Eric continued, "Lorena's methods of bringing Bill to heel are not … pleasant. I thought to spare you this and that is why I have not shown you the footage. My plans to ease your worry were to get Lorena to agree to a scheduled phone conversation that I could have with Bill and allow him to talk to you."

"Why would she do that? She hates me and does not want Bill anywhere near me."

"This is true, but Lorena is just that cruel. She would find humor in allowing Bill to talk to you, to hear your voice, and then cutting off contact with him. She will take delight in building hope in him and then destroying it. She will find only pleasure in seeing the pain your voice causes Bill. For him to be able to speak to you? Hear your voice? And yet be so far away from you? It will be a powerful tool for her to break him. I have no doubt she will allow the conversation."


"Why would you plan a conversation as my proof instead of using what you have if you know it is only something Lorena will use to hurt Bill more?"

He shrugged. "The current evidence I have would hurt you … not him. The phone conversation would ease your mind, and yes, more than likely cause Bill to suffer. However, I care nothing for his misery. It is your heart I seek to protect. He is merely a means to an end for me."

She shook her head in frustration and helplessness. "I hate this! I hate how vampires scheme and plot! I hate how vampires use emotion against each other! I hate how vampires take joy in pain! It's not right!"

When she burst into tears Eric looked decidedly uncomfortable. He much preferred the fire of her anger. He found her sadness, and more importantly, the evidence of her heart's pain through her tears moved something inside of him. She had cried in front of him before, but the more time he spent around her the more he found her happiness was actually important to him and not just a tool for him to use to bind her to him. Seeing her so miserable now did not sit well with him … especially when it was caused by her love for another man. There was a pain in his chest and he didn't like it. "I do not enjoy seeing you cry. You will stop it at once."

Shocked at his words, Sookie looked up at him dumbfounded. "W—what?"

Watching silent tears course down her cheeks, Eric stepped forward to catch one on his thumb. He brought the moisture to his tongue for a taste. "Do you know vampires can drink tears as well as human blood?" When she remained silent, he continued, "The taste is exquisite. Many vampires in olden days, and some even now, would hurt their prey so they would cry. Then they could feed on the blood and the tears. It is a heady combination."

"D—did you?"

"Many times. As you rightly said, vampires enjoy pain and misery and tears are the essence of that. I have dined on many tears during my time on this earth." Leaning down to lick her cheek, he whispered, "Yours taste of sunshine, of spring mornings, and a hint of your very essence … and yet ...."

Her breath catching, Sookie pursued, "And yet?"

"I do not enjoy them." Pulling back to glance down at her tear-streaked face, he brushed the wetness from her cheeks with his knuckles as he said, "I should. I should be mean to you and do my best to make your heart hurt so that you cry and shed tears for me. I should bask in your heartache and drink your tears of sorrow like a fine wine. With the way they taste they should be Ambrosia to me. The scent of them is delicious … but I do not like them. I find nothing appealing in your tears despite them being more appetizing than any I have ever come across. Yet again you prove the exception to the rule, and I find no pleasure in your tears. You will not cry anymore. I do not like it."

Sookie mulled what he said in silence. "I don't know whether to think that is the most horrifying thing I've ever heard or the sweetest."

"Take it however you like, as long as you never cry again."

She sighed in exasperation. "Eric, you can't just order someone not to cry and expect them to obey! It doesn't work that way."

"We shall see." Eric was broody. While he very much wanted to share blood with her, for some reason the prospect of doing so now did not appeal to him. He found the idea of it distasteful. He glanced around them and still felt the magic of the area, but it was subdued. 'No. It isn't right. Not tonight. Not now.' He didn't know why he was so hesitant to take her blood at the moment. She still smelled every bit as delicious as she normally did and the beast inside him was still hungering for her, but something deeper inside him was telling him it would be wrong to push Sookie into honoring the other part of their agreement right now … something just felt wrong about it at the moment. Holding her gaze, he announced, "We will not exchange blood tonight."


"What?! Are you serious?"

"Very. The idea of taking your blood and making you take mine is suddenly disturbing. I do not know why … only that it does. You will go inside and go to bed and I shall speak with you tomorrow." With that he unceremoniously turned and walked back to the front of her house and his car. He was uncomfortable with what had happened tonight. So many things out of the norm had occurred and he did not like it. Now he found something new had awakened inside him and he didn't realize what it was. He needed time to think. Alone. Away from Sookie.

Sookie watched his retreat and thought, 'What the hell?' Shaking her head in wonder as she heard his car start up and drive off, she headed inside her house. It was late and she was in desperate need of sleep. She would think about Eric's strange behavior tomorrow.


...
...
...

She stretched, not wanting to leave the comfort of her cozy bed as morning crept into the room, its warm breath blowing across her eyelids to remind her of the early meeting with Ken. Reluctantly she rose, showered, dressed quickly and managed to eat an apple as she went through her mail before hearing a knock at her door. Her coffee was going to have to wait. Running to open it she put a smile on her face and opened the door to find a middle aged rather handsome Asian man on the other side. 

"Hello … you must be Mr. Nagasaki?"

Bowing respectfully, he replied, "Call me Ken, please, Miss Stackhouse."

"Well, then you have to call me Sookie."

Nodding, Ken stepped inside when she opened the door. "Mr. Northman tells me you have no prior experience in self defense, or any combat for that matter. Is this correct?"

Closing the door behind him, Sookie admitted, "Yes. I … well I guess I never thought about it … I'm not very fond of violence."

Smiling at this, Ken said, "Well then Aikido should suit you very well. I was instructed to teach you Kendo also, but as you are a complete novice, it will take me a few months of building up your body's stamina and flexibility, not to mention give you a base of movement, before we will begin your sword training."

"That's great. I'm a little hesitant about learning how to use a sword to begin with. I don't like fighting."

"Kendo, in fact, all martial arts, are not exactly about fighting. They are about inner strength and self control. Aikido and Kendo will both teach you to center yourself so you are more aware of your surroundings and so you can make the world work for you so that you live in harmony with it. Kendo and Aikido are about respecting your opponent and upholding honor."

Shocked at the emotion in his voice, Sookie replied, "That actually sounds beautiful! I … I never thought about it that way."
 

Ken's grin was soft. "Too many Jackie Chan movies?"
 

Sookie laughed, "Something like that. So where do we start?"

"I have quite a bit of equipment with me. First and foremost, I need to know what area you have that we can set it up at and use for your training. I will expect you to find some time every day to complete a series of stretching exercises and perform a basic kata that I will show you today. The prescribed area needs to be handy and of some size to allow you free movement."

"What's kata?"

"Kata is a choreographed pattern of movements that can be practiced alone or in pairs. It will train your body to remember certain sets of defensive maneuvers so that you have memory muscle of them. They are the core foundations of what we will be working on. As you progress, I shall include a more advanced kata regime for you to practice daily."

"Wow! Uh ..." she looked away, visualizing her land and an area that would be suitable. "Well, I have a back storage room that I can set up in, but right now it's full of boxes. Other than that, we'll have to set up outside."

"Please show me this room."
 

Sookie lead him to the back of the house. There was a guest room that, in recent years, had become a storage room. She opened the door and stepped back so Ken could look inside. Stepping into the room, she moved aside to let Ken look around. The room was really full. There was an old wrought iron bed against the far wall with boxes stacked upon it. In fact boxes covered most of the room. However, the floor was of good quality wood and the windows on two walls promised plenty of natural sunlight. It was larger than average size, but most old farmhouses had large rooms. Turning to face Sookie, he said, "This room is perfect for a personal dojo. However, you will have to get everything out of it. We can work outside today, but next time I expect to find this room devoid of all objects so that we can set up the mats."

She nodded. "I'll have my roommate and my brother help me clear everything out. My Gran and I have been meaning to clean this room out for years, so this gives me a good excuse to do so."

"Very well. I shall not unload all of the equipment today as you have nowhere for me to put it. Instead, today I shall work with you outside and I will show you the stretching exercises and Kata I want you to memorize. During our next session I expect you to perform them from memory."

"You're certainly demanding. You expect me to memorize all that in one day?"
 

Ken nodded, "Mr. Northman assured me you were above average intelligence and coming from him that is saying a lot. As such I do not expect to have to hold your hand through every little thing. Mr. Northman told me he will expect to see considerable progress within a month's time when he will demand a demonstration. I will not fail in meeting his standards."

Sookie considered the situation and Ken's demands on her. "Are you one of his servants as well? Are you like Bobby and obsessed with pleasing your Master?"

The instructor's eyes narrowed. "I am no servant and Mr. Northman is not my Master. My family owes him a blood debt and he has called me in to pay it. I will not violate my family's honor by failing to deliver on the debt owed."

"Wait … I thought he was paying you to teach me?"

"He is paying my expenses, yes, as I have no home or true job here. However…."

"Wait! If you don't have a home here, where do you live?"

Ken regarded her coolly before replying, "My family lives in Japan."

"Oh … well, you speak English very well."

"I learned it out of necessity. Schools in Japan require all students to learn a foreign language and be able to speak it fluidly. I chose English. Americans are a strange people to hold their children to such low standards despite their country being one of the world's leading nations. I believe your current political and economic upheaval is a result of such folly."
 

"Well, if you live in Japan what are you doing here?"

"I told you, Mr. Northman called in the blood debt. I am here to repay it for my family's honor."

"What's a blood debt?"
 

He considered how to answer her. "If you pass Mr. Northman's inspection in a month, I shall tell you."

Shaking her head, Sookie pressed, "So he flew you all the way here from Japan just to teach me? You just dropped your entire life to come here?"

"Yes. A blood debt is a serious matter. While it is somewhat vexing to leave my life behind to move here for the next few years, it is well worth fulfilling the debt."

"A few years! You're putting your life on hold for years?!"


Ken's face was devoid of expression. "Do you think you will master Aikido and Kendo in a few weeks? Not likely."

Sookie shook her head. This was terrible! "I can't let you do this. If Eric wants me to learn self defense he could have hired someone local. I'm sorry about all of this. I'll call him and tell him to send you home. This isn't right."

Stepping forward, Ken's brows knotted in concern, "You will not. To do so would violate my family's honor. There is no recovering from such a disgrace. The debt has been called in, and it will be paid. If you worry that what I have left behind is detrimental to me, do not. I left behind only my family and job. My family I am in contact with and the job will be there when I get back. My job was as an Aikido and Kendo instructor at my family's dojo. It will be there when I return."
 

Incredulous, she doggedly pursued, "But you left your whole life behind, you don't have a wife or girlfriend back home? I didn't take you away from someone?"

Sookie's questions were invasive to a man raised in a country that cherished its privacy. "No. I had no personal attachments of the kind back in Japan." Ken was visibly uncomfortable with the conversation. However, Mr. Northman had made it clear he was to cater to this girl in all ways as part of the debt, and thus he would do so.

"Well, that makes me feel better. I wouldn't be able to agree to this if you had left a special someone behind. So, uh … you're only here in this country to teach me?"

When he nodded, she continued, "So what do you do when you aren't working with me? I mean, I only have time to meet with you a few times a week. That leaves an awful lot of free time on your hands."

"Mr. Northman owns a dojo in Shreveport. I have been taken on as a guest instructor for the duration of my stay here. I am not bored, if that is what you are meaning."

Smiling at this, Sookie said, "Oh, well that's good. I guess we should get started. If it's okay, we can use the backyard today and I'll have the room ready to set up the next time you are here."

Ken nodded and Sookie followed after him so they could retrieve the mats from his car. She led the way around the back of the house and Ken abruptly stopped in his tracks as he approached the circle in the middle of the flowers. "There is power here. Energy fills the air. What has happened here?"

She looked over her shoulder at him as she began to spread out the mats tucked under her arm. "What are you talking about?"

Pointing to the circle, Ken noted, "The power radiates from there. Do you not feel it?"

Looking at the circle, Sookie mused, "The air does feel differently there. I'm not sure why, but a few days ago Eric and I were star gazing out here and the next day apparently he had all these flowers planted around that spot. Since then it's felt kind of strange."

Scanning the ground Ken could easily tell that no flowers had been planted and asked, "These flowers were not here before a few days ago?"

"Nope. They weren't here Sunday. He must have had them planted that Monday morning while I was at work."

Cocking his head, Ken pressed, "What happened Sunday night?"

Glancing at him as she finished spreading out the mats, Sookie shrugged, "I'm not sure. Like I said, we were star gazing and then when Eric fed on me he took too much and I blacked out. If you want to know anything more you'd have to ask him. He was the one who was conscious."

Ken wouldn't be asking Mr. Northman anything, but he knew there was more to the story. However, it was apparent the girl didn't know it. When Sookie stood after spreading her mats and backed up into the circle, he felt the air around him come alive.

'Whatever this girl is, she is powerful. Magic is drawn to her, I think it may be a part of her. Perhaps working with her will not be as bad as I thought. I must watch closely. Something great is at work here.' Moving forward, he spread out his own mats beside hers to make a large square and told her, "Let's get started."

Over the next hour and a half, Ken drilled the basic stretching and kata he wanted Sookie to learn into her. He made her practice them over and over until she could do them from beginning to end without fault all on her own. By the time he finally called a halt to their first session she was drenched in sweat, but glowing from the activity. He told her she had preformed adequately. As they were gathering up the maps, he instructed her to do the stretching once a day, and to practice the kata three times in succession. She promised she would and helped him load the mats in the back of the Toyota 4-Runner Eric had provided him with. When he was gone, she took a shower and got dressed to head for work.

On Friday, Sookie awoke with massive cramps and knew she'd better make it to the bathroom quick to prevent a mess. She always got cramps a few hours before she started her period. Crawling out of bed, her body sore in places she didn't know she had, she made her way into her newly remodeled bathroom and smiled at the sight. When she had first seen the bathroom Eric had given her she'd nearly fainted in happiness. She'd purposely not looked at it the entire time it was being worked on and asked Bobby to have the workmen close the door when they were finished so that she wouldn't be tempted to peek as the grout and tile set. She wanted the first time she saw it to be the first time she used it. And oh, had she used it! The first night she made use of her new bathroom she'd spent a good hour and a half soaking in her new tub and luxuriating in the gift Eric had bestowed on her.

The entire bathroom was in soft pink and white. The floor, countertops and tile in the shower were all a rare pink and white marble. The sink was one of those new age crystal bowls with the faucet that sprouted from the wall. She had a large mirror with illuminating lights around it. The cupboards beneath the counter were white with pretty flowers and vines carved into the wood. The tub was a large whirlpool with jets and she noticed it was much larger than her older one. She'd immediately made note that it seemed to be the perfect size to fit her and Eric and shook her head at his presumption. The shower was next to the tub and was also more expansive. As it was situated in the corner of the room, two sides were solid marble tile, and the other two were floor to ceiling glass. The shower had a keypad on the door so she could turn it on from the outside and put it on whatever setting she wanted. There were nozzles up and down both tiled sides that could be adjusted to hit her body perfectly, and in the ceiling was an advanced nozzle head with several different settings including waterfall, rain, and mist. Needless to say, she loved her new bathroom … and she knew Tara was head over heels about it, too.

Wishing she had time for a long bath, but knowing she didn't have time as she needed to get to Merlotte's and get the books done since she was also scheduled to work at Fangtasia tonight, she hopped into the shower. She had promised Ken to do her stretches and kata but figured she'd do them when she got home from Merlotte's and before she took her shower to get ready to go to Fangtasia. After washing up she toweled off, put in a tampon, wrapped a towel around herself and padded into her room to get dressed. As she stood up quickly after tying her shoes, she felt a wave of dizziness hit her and she had to sit down for a moment. She sat on the side of her bed to clear her head before standing more slowly. When nothing happened she figured the lightheadedness had been a fluke.

Grabbing a bottle of water and an apple off the table, she darted out the door. Her day again passed as normal with her never having much time to stop for anything. She was trying to get everything done as quickly as possible so she could head home a little earlier to practice her stretching and kata. She wasn't going to see Ken until Sunday, Tara and Jason had promised to help her clean the room out tomorrow morning, but she wanted to impress him when he showed up for their next session. Unfortunately, Arlene got a call from her babysitter saying she had to leave early so the other waitress had to go home to take care of her kids, and thus Sookie was going to have to stay later to help cover the dinner rush. She hoped she could get out of there before 7 and give herself time to shower and change before Pam came to pick her up at 8. It was a little after 6 as she was picking up a tray of beers to deliver to her brother, Hoyt, and the new construction worker that had replaced Rene when she felt herself getting dizzy seconds before passing out.

Everyone heard the sound of glass breaking as Sookie dropped the tray and looked up just in time to see her pitch forward, crack her head on the side of the bar and fall onto the floor on top of the broken mugs of beer.

"Sookie!"

"Sook!"

"Oh my God!"

Jason was up and out of the booth he'd been sitting at and he crowded around his sister along with Tara, Eggs, Holly, Chris, and Lafayette who had hopped over the serving counter.

Lifting her head gently, Jason cursed at the gash on Sookie's forehead and shouted, "Call 911!" She was bleeding profusely, as head wounds tend to do, and her breathing was shallow. "Sook? Sookie can you hear me?" No response. He checked her pulse and it was a bit erratic, but it was there. Looking down, he noticed bits of glass imbedded in her arms and lifted her gently into his arms.

Crowding close Tara asked, "Is she alright?"

"Don't know. She's not waking up."

Lafayette, who had run behind the bar to dial 911, said, "Lay her down in a booth until the ambulance gets here. You shouldn't be moving her so much." Standing up and looking around he announced, "Everybody finish up whatever's in front of you and pay your tab. Soon as the ambulance gets here, we're closing."

No one argued as it was obvious that pretty much all of Merlotte's staff would be following the ambulance. 15 minutes later Sookie, still unconscious, was loaded into the ambulance and taken to the hospital. Jason rode with her while Tara, Eggs, and Lafayette closed up before following after. No one took notice of the sun setting, and Tara didn't think to call Fangtasia to tell them what had happened. All were focused on their friend.

At 8pm on the dot, Pam pulled up to Sookie's house and saw all the lights off and her car gone. Thinking the girl had lost track of the time and was still stuck at that wretched bar she worked at, Pam headed into town. However, as she pulled into Merlotte's parking lot she noticed it was dark and quite obviously closed. Seeing Sookie's car there she thought maybe the girl was inside working alone while the bar was closed. Getting out of the car, she approached the building and when she came to stand by the door she quite easily detected the scent of Sookie's blood, but knew she wasn't inside. Taking out her phone she dialed Eric's number. When he answered, she said, "Eric we have a problem."

At Fangtasia, Eric sat on his throne and listened as Pam filled him in on the situation. He knew Sookie was alive as their connection was still strong and humming vibrantly in his chest. Opening the bond fully to see if he could get a handle on what Sookie was feeling, he knew at once she was not conscious ... wherever she was. Focusing back on Pam, he ordered, "Return to the bar. I shall use the bond to find her."

Standing from his throne he stopped only to tell Chow he was leaving and that Pam would be back shortly. Quickly, he headed out of the front of the bar, ignoring Jessica and the fangbangers awaiting entrance, and took to the sky. He could feel Sookie easily and flew in the direction he sensed her presence. 20 minutes later, he landed in front of the Monroe hospital a few miles away from Bon Temps and growled in anger. He did not know why his Sookie was here, but if someone had hurt her they would pay. Striding through the automatic doors, he sought out his bonded.

2 comments:

  1. I command you not to cry. ROFL He is an idiot sometimes. Ken is an interesting character. Lala is such a good guy. I LOVE him

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  2. good and bad points for Eric.... he can be such a guy....lol... no crying, yeah right, we cry all the time for important reason, get over it... Lala is a good sport about telling everyone they were closing and all.... Ken knows something is up and he is deteremined to find it out.... hmmmm looking forward to turing the page my best Kristie

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