A/N: This is an advisory that this chapter contains subject matter that may upset you. You're strongly advised to brace yourselves. This was hard to write, so we can imagine it will be hard for many of you to read, but this is a pivotal part of the story. The scene below is such a major part of Sookie and Eric’s character development that it can’t be ignored or shortened. So please try to understand the reason for the following chapter, and keep an open mind.
Finally, let us remind you that we warned you that Eric was going to hurt Sookie considerably before things got better. Keep that in mind, and please, PLEASE, keep in mind Eric is a thousand year old vampire, that has lived in a world of violence, death, enslavement, and injustice for that entire millennium. Changing his views of the world, changing his views on what is right and wrong is not going to be easy. It is going to take several traumatic events before he finally gets his head on right. PLEASE keep in mind he is changing, but that change will come realistically slow. Real change doesn’t come overnight, or easily.
Eric was gone for maybe fifteen minutes. It did not take him long to track a deer, snap its neck, and return to the house. Before he’d headed into the woods to hunt the deer, he’d told one of Sookie’s new werepanther guards to gather the supplies it would take to store the meat appropriately in the freezer he’d bought for Sookie. By the time he’d finished skinning the animal with a knife one of the weres had provided him, gutted it, and gotten the carcass ready so that the rest of the meat could be harvested, the Were he’d sent to town returned with meat packing supplies.
Eric quickly instructed the guards to strip the carcass and carve the meat into appropriate cuts so that it could be packed into Sookie’s new freezer. As they set about following his orders, he headed into the house. In his bloody hand was the raw liver of the buck he’d taken down. At the top of Ludwig’s list of approved foods for Sookie was raw liver. Ludwig’s notes on the list indicated that his mate would receive the most nutrients from it.
Carrying the meat into the house, he found Sookie working on her laptop. Glancing over her shoulder as he came up behind her where she sat on the couch, he saw her researching green, natural living online. She was apparently looking at how to make her own butter and cheese since she could no longer buy it from the store. Beside her, she had a pen and paper with a small list of things she was going to need. He was immensely pleased that his Sookie was so determined to do whatever necessary to provide for his son. While he knew little about human food, he knew it was difficult for them to change their diets in any way. He’d obtained this knowledge from all the health food and diet commercials he’d seen on TV.
Sookie had heard Eric come in the front door, but she did not look up from her computer to greet him. She’d meant everything she’d said to him earlier, and she was not going to give an inch. She couldn’t. She had to make a stand for herself and her baby. Beyond that, she had to make a stand for the world. If it really was time to truly integrate humans and supernatural beings, if it really was time for the entire power structure of the world to be reordered, she had to make a stand for humanity itself. If she allowed her own mate and king to treat her like chattel, what chance did other people have? No. She wouldn’t back down this time. No matter how much she wanted to throw herself in Eric’s arms and find strength and comfort in his embrace, she couldn’t do it. She had to stand strong.
Scribbling down a couple of notes, she remarked, “I’m going to have to call Bobby tonight and add to the list of things he needs to pick up tomorrow. Does the all-natural store in Shreveport sell only fruits and vegetables or do they sell other natural products?”
Still holding the liver, Eric replied, “I do not know, but it does not matter. Make a list of the things you need and relay it to Bobby. You have his number in your cell. Whatever you need, he will procure. Do not concern yourself with how. Just make sure the list is detailed if the items are specific.”
When she said no more, Eric moved to stand in front of the coffee table to gain her attention. “I have brought you food. You will eat this.”
Looking up from the computer, Sookie blanched to see the bloody organ gripped in Eric’s proffered hand. Being a country girl, and having hunted with her brother and friends many a time, Sookie knew exactly what it was he was offering her. “I’m not eating that! I hate liver!”
Not having expected such a negative reaction from her, Eric replied, suddenly tense, “Ludwig’s list indicated that this was the most nutritious food you could consume. She also told you eating your meat raw would be best as my and our son’s blood has changed you. You will consume this.”
Shaking her head, Sookie argued, “Oh no, I won’t! I know her list said it was good for me, but there were plenty of other things on that list, too. I’ll eat some of those. I’ll eat a venison steak, but I’m not eating that liver.”
His eyes narrowed. Now she was just being ridiculous. They had already agreed to do everything they needed to do in order to care for their child as best they could. His Sookie needed to eat the proper foods to ensure this. “You will eat it. It is good for you, and it is good for my son.” Holding his hand out farther in front of her, he added, “It is not much. It should not take you long to consume it.”
He frowned. “Sookie, I am not asking. It is an order. You will eat this liver to properly care for my son inside you. Ludwig said you are not getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy while you carry my child. I will correct this now.”
What the fuck had he just said to her? Like hell! Sookie decided it was time to draw yet another line in the sand between her and her Viking. It was time to set boundaries with him. She’d been living with his rules long enough. It was time to set down a few of her own. Sitting back on the couch, she crossed her arms over her chest, and hissed, “Make me!”
Eric’s eyes widened. His shoulders squared, his face filling with stark challenge. “What did you just say?”
“Losing your hearing with your old age, Viking? I said, ‘make me’.”
Eric could feel his anger racheting up. The beast in him was strong and raging. Their previous altercation the night before, the distance he found himself at with her, all of it was pushing him towards the precipice. His hand tightened around the liver as he said, “Sookie, if you feel the need to rebel that is fine, but you will not do so when it comes to caring for my son. Stop acting childish and do as you are told. Eat this liver.”
He kept his gaze level, his face was predatory. “No?! What do you mean no?”
“Just what I said, NO! I’m not eating it and you can’t make me.”
She shouldn’t be saying such things. The need to dominate and control was quickly overtaking him. “Sookie, do not push me like this. Not over your and my son’s health. Eat this. Now.”
She could see that he was serious. Deadly serious, but then again, so was she. It was time to find out what happened when she really and truly refused to obey. “No.”
Swiftly moving to stand beside her where she sat on the couch, Eric leaned down to her level, his arctic eyes meeting her midnight orbs, and hissed, “I will force your compliance if I must, Sookie. Do not cause another problem between us when there is no need. You are letting your emotions get the best of you, and it is clouding your judgment.”
Refusing to lean back as she wanted to, not wanting him to know he was unnerving her, Sookie insisted, “Eric, eating a venison steak will be perfectly fine. I don’t have to eat that liver, and I’m not going to. You are the one being unreasonable. I read the list too, and it said that liver is good for me, but that I don’t have to eat it if I can’t stomach it. Not many people can stomach liver, especially raw, and I’m one of them. I’m changing my entire diet to make sure I’m taking care of this baby, which is OUR baby, by the way. I’m giving up all my favorite foods to stick to a very strict regimen. I don’t have to eat that liver so I’m not going to.”
“It is good for you,” He insisted stridently.
“And so are other things on the list. You got me a deer. I’ll eat a steak from that. You can give the liver to Thor if you’re so determined someone eat it.”
Eric wanted to force her obedience. The need to bend her to his will was heavily pressing on him, and his beast was growling in possessive fury. Last night had been hard on him. He hadn’t noticed how much he had come to depend on Sookie’s gentle, soothing presence at his side. He had not noticed how much he had come to enjoy and take solace in not only her intoxicating scent, and addicting touch, but her beautiful laughs and smiles. He never noticed how much he had come to take enjoyment and comfort in her sharing her thoughts with him, sharing her day with him, teasing him, playing with him. By the Gods, he was lying to himself. It wasn’t enjoyment. He had long since passed the point of taking simply enjoyment from Sookie. She was a need for him now. As he needed blood to survive, so he needed Sookie Stackhouse at his side to maintain his sanity. His nerves were frayed from the space she was forcing between them, and because of that, his beast was demanding he force her obedience now.
Gripping the liver in his hand, he asked, “Sookie, is this really a path you wish to take with me? You know damn good and well that I can make you obey me. Why are you making a battle out of so little a thing as food? Do we not have enough obstacles and issues to face between us?”
How dare he! Putting her hands on his broad chest, Sookie shoved him back, ignoring the knowledge he only moved because he chose to, and jumped to her feet. “You’ve got some nerve, buddy! You’re making it sound like our personal problems are my fault! I’m the one who’s been putting up with your shit since day one! YOU’RE the reason we’re at odds right now, not me! You’re the one that broke faith with me this time! You’re the one that reacted foolishly to a situation and caused this problem between us! Stop trying to pawn the blame off on me! Man up and take responsibility for your own actions, Eric! And don’t you dare try to bully me over this!”
Stepping closer to him, crowding his space with her head tilted all the way back to meet his glare, she continued, “You’re in enough trouble with me as it is, Viking. Why YOU are trying to cause another problem between us is beyond me. I get you think you’re taking care of me right now, but you’re not. If I try to eat that, I’ll get seriously sick. It doesn’t matter if my body can eat raw meat now, it matters that my mind isn’t ready for it. I have to start small and work my way up to it. Ludwig said to try and eat my meat as rare as possible, so I’m going to do that as best I can, but I can’t just eat raw, bloody meat right off the bat. Now get it through that thick, Viking, know-it-all head of yours that I’m NOT eating that damn liver!”
The desire and need to force her to bend to his will was so great the power in him threatened his control. Eric stared down at Sookie with cold, hard eyes that flickered like lighting as his power raged inside him. They were mere inches apart and despite her much smaller stature that gave her such a height disadvantage, Eric did not doubt for a second that she meant to hold her ground in this fight. She would not back down. He could feel the determination in her, and knew the only way to get her to eat the liver would be to hold her down and force it down her throat. Two months ago, he would not have even batted an eye at such an action. He would have forced her to obey and that would have been the end of it. Now? Now he stood frozen with indecision. For the first time ever.
The events of the past few days had pushed him to the breaking point, and his wish to let the darkness inside him out was great, but he did not want Sookie to be the recipient of his anger. He did not want the beast in him to force her to submit to his will, force her to obey. As furious as he was with her refusal to understand the position he was in, he did not want to hurt her in such way. ‘Besides, she is right,’ he reasoned with himself. ‘If her mind is not ready to accept she must eat raw meat now, she will get sick, and that will negate the purpose of eating the liver in the first place.’
An interminable time passed before he could rally calm. Making his decision, Eric nodded his head and announced, “Very well. If you are unable to eat it, then you may have the venison steak for now. I do, however, expect you to begin trying to eat your meat as rare as possible. I expect you to be eating completely raw meat within a month. I understand your mind is unaccustomed to this, but you will have to get past it. Raw meat is best for you and my son, and you must learn to consume it.”
Sookie thought about arguing the point. She didn’t like him ordering her on what she could and couldn’t eat. She was an intelligent woman, and SHE was the one that was carrying their baby, so she could damn well make those decisions on her own! In the end, she decided he had conceded the point to her, and she had to accept her victory with grace. She doubted anyone had gotten this much out of Eric Northman in a long time. “Whatever, so where is the rest of the meat?”
“Your guards are stripping the carcass and dividing the meat into appropriate cuts. They should be bringing it in shortly. Eat as much of the meat as you can … as rare as you can.” Deciding it was time to move to conversation to more neutral ground, Eric continued, “The Pythoness, Niall, and whatever added security they are providing will be here early this evening.”
“What’s going to happen when they get here?”
“I ordered the Council to have Sophie-Anne and her retinue meet us at Fangtasia later tonight. After I inspect the increased security the Pythoness and Niall are providing I will leave you here, secured behind the barrier with your guards, and will go to Fangtasia with the seer and prince to handle Sophie-Anne. She will be dethroned and I shall set down my new regime. I will have those vampires in attendance swear fealty to me and begin delegating tasks to audit Sophie-Anne’s empire and establish my new precedents. Once that is done, I’ll be returning here.”
Before Sookie could ask anything more, Alcide knocked on the door before stepping inside. His arms were loaded with wrapped meat packets, and there were several other Weres behind him carrying loads of their own. “Meat is cut up and packed. We’ll put it in the freezer,” Alcide announced while the other Weres moved from behind him to head into the kitchen.
Turning her attention away from Eric, Sookie smiled, “Thank you guys so much. Alcide, tell everyone I appreciate it. Just put it all in the freezer, but please leave one steak out. I’m going to eat one in a moment.”
As the Weres shuffled into the kitchen to see the order carried out, Sookie looked back at Eric. “What is going to happen at Fangtasia? Are you just going to make some announcement or something? Will there be fighting?” Despite her ire at Eric, she was still very worried about his well-being. She had learned firsthand that Sophie-Anne was capable of just about everything, and she was concerned that Eric might end up getting hurt.
Eric, knowing exactly what was running through his bonded’s mind, could barely contain his grin. He disliked the discord between them at this time, and reminders like this, reminders of how much she cared for him despite the animosity between them, gave him hope that he could resolve this matter between them quickly.
Taking her wrist, he moved them to the couch. As they sat side-by-side, he focused his gaze on her small hands and traced her palm lines as he answered, “I very much doubt there will be any fighting. With the seer there acting as the voice of the Council, Sophie-Anne would have to be suicidal to attempt to maintain control of the state through physical retaliation. She might be insane, but she would not so easily throw her life away. She will be angry, and it will be tense, but she and her people will go when ordered. As Jason will go with her, I will make sure they are appropriately monitored so that we can retrieve your brother when necessary, and to make sure Sophie-Anne doesn’t cause us any more trouble. I will also give orders for all the sheriffs to come before me for audit, and within the next few days I will have made all the personnel changes necessary to begin building my kingdom. What we have to worry about with Sophie-Anne, is the revenge she will attempt to carry out later.”
Sookie felt her worry ease. She knew that Eric was capable of handling himself, and she was probably worrying over nothing, but she couldn’t help it. The thought of him being in danger made her heart alternately thunder in her chest or skip a beat leaving her pained. Forcing herself to remove her hands from his hold, despite the comfort she received from his touch, Sookie continued, “That’s good.”
Annoyed that Sookie had ended the physical contact between them, Eric pressed, “My älskade, how can I make things right between us if you are constantly denying me?”
“Eric, you aren’t trying to fix things between us, you’re trying to brush the problems under the rug so we can continue on as before. I know I’m partially to blame for you thinking you can do this since I haven’t done a very good job of being firm with you before, but I can’t let things slide anymore. I’ve told you why things aren’t right between us, I’ve told you what needs to happen to fix them, and you are ignoring me. I don’t know what else to do or say. I’m not going to argue with you, so I guess all that’s left for me to do is wait for you to decide whether or not you really and truly want what is between us to work out.”
Eric didn’t have time to reply as Alcide and the other Weres took that moment to interrupt them, saying the meat was in the freezer with one on the counter for Sookie to cook, before heading back out. Eric decided he’d let Sookie eat her steak while he took a look at the work Alcide and his men were supposed to accomplish today. He expected a good portion of the land he’d bought up to be cleared.
Standing, he helped Sookie to her feet as well and said tautly, “Go eat. We have much to do tonight, and little time to do it in. Be assured, however, my Sookie, that we are not done discussing this. You are not fully understanding my position and why it is that certain behaviors or acts of dominance are necessary from me in order to protect us. I will better explain our position to you, and then I’m sure you will let this matter go so that we can move past it.”
Sookie could only gape after Eric as he strode from the house. When Thor pawed at her leg, she looked down at her puppy and whispered, “That man’s head is harder than stone! ‘I’m not fully understanding’? The nerve of that Viking! What Eric needs is a big ol’ kick in his backside!” Thor gave a little yip, as if agreeing with Sookie’s assessment, and followed after his mistress as she made her way into the kitchen.
Outside, Eric met with Alcide and the other Weres he had assigned so many tasks to for the day. Clasping his hands behind his back, Eric demanded, “Report.”
Clearing his throat, Alcide stated, “We got all the surrounding acreage lots that you purchased cleared. The fencing arrived this afternoon and we’ll begin digging the lines for the electrical wires tomorrow morning, and hopefully be setting up the support beams for the fence by tomorrow evening.”
Scanning the surrounding area, Eric asked, “Why have you not cleared the forest around Sookie’s home?”
That was when Quinn stepped forward. “I told them not to.”
There was a significant pause as all eyes turned to the weretiger. Eric could feel anger building in his chest that his orders had been defied. “Is there a reason you did this, or are you looking to incur my wrath?”
“I did it because I thought it was best. When I learned from Han and Ivan that more security personnel was going to be delivered by the seer and Niall tonight I figured we might need the woods. Knowing some of the resources both have access to, we might need the seclusion of the trees for them to hide in or take shelter in. I thought we should extend the security fence further than what you originally decided. Instead of thirty meters out from the barrier, we should extend it to 75 meters out in every direction. This will encompass the woods around Sookie’s home and leave plenty of coverage for her guards,” Quinn explained.
Eric mulled the cat’s words over for a moment and realized the brilliance of the move. It was true that the Pythoness would most likely be bringing several supernatural creatures to guard Sookie during the day, and it was very probable that those creatures would stand out to humans. It would be wise to have coverage for them so that any approaching enemies wouldn’t see them until it was too late. Dense forest would also provide coverage for traps he could lay in the woods to further protect the perimeter around Sookie’s home.
‘Yes, it is a good idea. Perhaps the cat will not be so burdensome after all. It appears he has finally accepted that Sookie is mine and will never be his.’ Nodding his head, Eric replied, “Excellent. See it done tomorrow. Now show me the new perimeter. I wish to check its vantage points and weak spots for myself.”
For the next hour Eric traveled around the new perimeter that Quinn had marked off, and as much as he was loathe to admit it, the weretiger had done well. When he was done with his inspection, and had delivered a few more orders he began making his way back to the house. It was time for him and Sookie to exchange blood, and he was more than eager for it. He wanted to use the exchange to help break down her anger towards him, and hopefully entice her into a quickie before Niall and the seer arrived. Approaching the house he was pleased to see Han and Ivan standing sentinel at the front door, and returned the nods of both men before making his way inside. He located Sookie in the kitchen easily.
Thor was finishing up the remnants of his liver and kibble dinner and wagging his tail furiously. Eric leaned against the kitchen doorway, watching her rinse her dishes, and admired her form. Her body was luscious, and while Sookie rarely adorned herself in finery, she always looked beautiful to him. Even now as she stood at the sink in nothing more than shorts, a tank top, and sneakers, she would always be the most beautiful woman in the world to him.
Watching her finish up her dishes and set them on the rack to dry, he announced, “We must share blood now. Your great grandfather and the seer will be here soon and there will be no time for us to after that.”
Drying her hands, Sookie turned from the sink at Eric’s words. Oddly, while he’d never made a sound coming into the house, she’d known he was there. It was like she felt his approach in her chest. She had begun to notice a funny feeling inside whenever Eric was close, like a wave of warmth. At first she’d always brushed it off, but over the last few days she’d finally started to realize that it was the bond signaling her that he was near.
Holding his gaze, Sookie argued, “I’ll take your blood now, and you can have mine when you get back from Fangtasia. We’re not exchanging mutually.”
A growl building in his chest, Eric hissed, “Oh yes we are.”
“No, we’re not. We’re not mutually exchanging again until we fix this between us. I told you, Eric, I’m not backing down again. I’m not going to be a pushover anymore. I can’t. There is too much on the line.”
Eric thought about arguing with her, but decided it would only do more harm than good. Trying to push her into exchanging mutually would only drive the wedge between them deeper. Instead he would simply wait until she was hyped up on his blood to make his move. He was sure that once she was feeding from him, she would find it impossible to fight her own desire for him as well as his advances. With this in mind, he replied, “Very well. Come here, little one, and I shall give you my blood.”
“I’m serious, Eric. No mutual exchange.”
“My hearing is perfectly sound, Sookie. Now come here.”
Sookie approached Eric cautiously. He had given in far too easily, and she was wary of him. She knew he was capable of quite a bit when he decided he wanted something, and he obviously wanted her badly. She steeled her resolve and swore to herself that she would not let this situation get out of hand. “You had better behave, Viking. You’re in dangerous waters with me as it is.”
“Luckily for me, I’m a very adept swimmer,” he grinned.
Eric’s attempt at humor did nothing to improve Sookie’s mood as she moved closer to him. When she was within reaching distance Eric immediately shot his hand out to take hold of her arm, and pull her up against his chest. He leaned down to nuzzle her neck as he whispered, “I want things to be as they were, Sookie. I want you not to have that wariness in your eyes when you look at me. I want you to turn to me for comfort again. I want you to laugh with me. I want you to need me again, my älskade.”
Sookie felt tears fill her eyes at the tenor of his words. He had flooded the bond with his emotions as he spoke and she knew he meant every word he said. Her desire to throw herself in his arms and let him make the world go away for her had never been so strong, but she reminded herself of all she had to lose if she backed down again. Gathering her strength as he brushed his lips against her pulse in a ghost of a caress, she murmured, “I do need you, Eric. I need you so much it hurts, but I can’t back down. I can’t let things carry on as they were before. The world is changing around us so fast we can barely keep up. WE are changing so fast. It’s more than just us now. It’s about our baby, and he has to have a stable home with two stable parents that love, trust, and respect each other, because as soon as he steps foot outside of the house he’ll face nothing but adversity. Here, with us, things should be peaceful. Things should be right. He deserves that. We deserve that. I deserve that.”
Eric lifted his head from her neck to meet Sookie’s gaze. “You expect everything between us to be perfect? For us to never fight or disagree?”
Hands settling on his chest as Eric’s hands fell to her hips to draw her closer against him, Sookie shook her head and replied, “Of course not! No one and nothing is perfect. Fighting is a natural part of every relationship. It’s actually healthy. No two people think exactly alike and disagreements are bound to pop up. Fighting and making up is what being in a relationship is all about. It’s about finding that middle ground. What I’m saying is that we both have the right to have our opinions heard. We both have the right to make our own decisions. We are equals, Eric, and we should stand together. I’m trying to make a stand with you, Viking, but you keep trying to force me to my knees, and I refuse to live like that.”
Eric held her gaze for several moments, weighing her words and gauging the sincerity of her gaze. Finally, he announced, “As I said, we have to discuss this more. You are not understanding me and the position we are in. Once I have explained everything to you in more detail, you will see I have only done what I needed to do.”
“Talk all you want, Viking, but I’m not budging on this.”
Refusing to argue with her further, Eric focused on the task at hand. Moving his hands from her hips to trail softly up her abdomen and slip under her shirt, to tease her soft skin, Eric purred, “We shall see. For now? Now it is time for me to feed you.”
Sookie felt her body shudder at the seductive tone of his voice. Her eyes never left his as he used his telekinesis to pull the knife from his back pocket, flick it open, and slash his neck. Sookie’s eyes watched the bright red liquid gush forth from Eric’s neck before she leaned forward and latched on.
Eric let out a harsh groan as soon as Sookie’s mouth sealed against his skin. His arms tightened around her as he lifted her up against his body to press her close, and there was no stopping the growl that reverberated from his chest when she hiked her legs and wrapped them around his waist while she fed from him. Supporting her against him with one arm banded around her waist, he moved his other hand to cup the back of Sookie’s head. “My älskade,” he rumbled with intense satisfaction as he felt the desire build inside his bonded’s body.
Sookie could feel the heat pooling low in her belly. She could feel her heart thudding against her chest, and her mind was fast closing down in a haze of lust. As angry and hurt as she was, there was no denying that Eric affected her in ways nothing else did. The sight of him had her throbbing in need, but the taste and feel of him? They drove her absolutely insane. With every pull of her mouth against his flesh, with every mouthful of his millennium old blood, she found her determination to keep her distance from him tested.
When Sookie finally pulled back from his neck to lick the last few drops of his blood from his skin while the wound closed, Eric wasted no time. Fisting his hand in her hair, he pulled her lips to his. His tongue slipped between her lips to wage war with her own. He was determined she wouldn’t even have a second to think, a second of time in which she could decide to pull away. ‘I can’t let her think to deny me. I need her to calm the raging storm inside me. I need her to calm my beast. I need my Sookie,’ he thought desperately.
These words would never pass his lips. He would never let anyone know how much he depended on Sookie’s presence in his life. She had become his one true weakness. Her presence gave him strength he never could have imagined, but her silence, any distance she put between them, robbed him of all thoughts other than to reclaim her. His world had literally shrunk. He had gone from caring only for himself and the select few he attached himself to (his Maker and Pam), his station as sheriff, and his overall undead existence, to revolving only around Sookie Stackhouse. Without her there was nothing for him, and he would lay waste to the entire world if he had to in order to keep her. He would sacrifice anyone and anything. If he had to sacrifice Pam, all supernaturals, and every living creature (living and undead alike) to keep her with him, to have her for himself, then he would. He wouldn’t even blink at such a decision.
Sookie found herself lost to the feelings Eric’s embrace invoked in her. Molten fire was pouring through her veins and her body was electrified with energy. She could feel the bond come alive as her and Eric’s powers reached for each other and entwined. Her mind was whirling and she couldn’t help but whimper in his hold as his lips moved seductively, and determinedly against hers. Tearing her mouth from his, she threw her head back and moaned, “Oh God, Eric!”
“My lover, yield to me. Let me make you forget all that is wrong in our world. Let me make your pain go away with my touch. Let me make you feel loved, little one.”
As Eric’s mouth moved against the throbbing pulse in her neck, Sookie was fast losing the ability to remember all the reasons she shouldn’t be doing this. The determination she’d built up last night and today began to melt away with every caress of Eric’s lips against her skin. “Eric, please … oh please!”
He had her. He could scent the moist womanly heat of her rising to his senses. Smirking victoriously against her neck, Eric whispered, “I knew you would yield to me. This is what you need from me. My touch makes your world right again, and your presence makes mine whole. The rest is inconsequential.”
It was like he’d dumped a bucket of cold water on her. His words pulsed between them with intent. Sookie took a shallow breath unable to draw a deeper one as she went rigid in Eric’s hold as he continued to kiss her neck. She hissed, “Let me go! You son of a bitch!” She began to struggle wildly in his arms.
Eric felt Sookie’s rage extinguish any desire she had been feeling moments before and cursed himself for speaking at all. He should have kept his mouth shut until he was inside her. As his bonded struggled madly in his hold, Eric tried to repair the damage he’d done and soothed, “Sookie, do not do this. Do not fight me. You need the solace of my touch. Let me care for you.”
Shoving against his chest with everything she had, gaining only the few inches he allowed her, Sookie growled, “You arrogant A-hole! You can’t just fuck me until everything is ok! It doesn’t work that way! Now let me go!”
He decided there would be no reasoning with her as long as she felt trapped, so he set her on her feet. He watched as she all but sprang away from him to stand on the opposite end of the kitchen. “Sookie, whatever problems we have should not interfere with our bond.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Sookie demanded, lips tight with resolution, as she crossed her arms over her chest and glared hard at Eric.
“It means that you do not have the right to continue to deny me my rights as your bonded.”
‘Is he saying what I think he’s saying?’ Sookie wondered with mounting fury. Arms moving as she clenched her fists at her sides, she pressed, “Spell that statement out for me. Tell me exactly what you mean by that.”
“I mean that as bondeds our mating is sacred, and not to be denied. You do not have the right to deny my touch. Your body belongs to me as mine belongs to you. As bondeds, we have the right to touch each other at will. You are denying my touch, and you do not have that right.”
Her jaw dropped, her stomach rolled dangerously. “Are you honestly standing here telling me that I don’t have the right to say no?”
“Yes, now come to me,” Eric replied as he held his hand out to Sookie. He wasn’t sure he could control himself much longer. His body literally ached and cried out for her. He needed Sookie’s arms wrapped around him as he buried himself inside her. He needed her to stroke her hands against his cool skin and offer him her warmth. He needed to hear her voice whispering in his ear as she comforted him and assured him with her very presence. He needed her to give him the strength necessary to protect her. He needed her!
Sookie had only one thing to say in response to that. “Go fuck yourself,” she snarled before shoving past him and stomping out of the kitchen. She was done talking to him. She was done trying to get through that thick skull of his! How dare he tell her she didn’t have the right to deny him her body! She was not a sex slave! ‘That son of a bitch! I can’t believe he actually thinks I don’t have the right to say no to him!’
Eric was one step behind her. He could feel the rage rolling off of her in waves and battering against him through the bond as she stormed up the stairs towards their bedroom. He caught the door before she could slam it closed and said, “I will not be denied, Sookie. You are my woman, and I will not go another night without you. If you cannot get past your anger, that is fine, but you will not leave my bed. Our bed. Your place is with me, Sookie. I say again, come to me.”
Whirling around, Sookie faced Eric. Her fists were clenched tight, and her eyes were hard as stone as she hissed, “You can go to hell, Eric! I am not your sex toy! I am not just going to lie down and spread my legs for you any time you want some!”
Shaking his head, his own anger building, Eric growled darkly, “Do not speak of our intimacies that way! What we have together goes beyond the flesh. The connection we share when we join, the feel of our bond when we are one, cannot be leveled to simple base carnality. Our mating is not some simple act of pleasure. It is a joining of everything I am, and everything you are. I will not be denied it, and you need me every bit as much as I need you. I feel your desire for me. Your need to take solace in my arms.”
Sookie forced herself to take a deep breath and swallowed a raw ball of anger. As she’d said to Eric before, it was time for her to grow up. She couldn’t afford to indulge in childish tantrums. So as much as she wanted to start throwing things at him again, she couldn’t. Instead she offered, “You’re right, I do want you. I want you to hold me and make my fear go away. I want to hold you and feel you inside me. I want that glorious feeling when we come together, but I won’t allow myself to give into those wants. Not now. Not until you apologize. Until you realize and accept the fact we’re equals, you don’t deserve to come inside me. You don’t deserve my touch right now, and while it hurts me to deny you because I want you so much, I’m not giving in. We will not be lovers again until you realize we are equals, apologize for what you did, and swear to never do it again.”
Eric could feel her determination through the bond. He could feel her building up her resistance to him even now. He knew she would not give in … not without persuasion. Stepping closer so they were only inches apart, he opened the bond to send her his lust. She would succumb to him!
Stroking his fingers along her cheek as she let out a needy moan at the feel of his lust washing over her, he purred, “Are you certain of that, my Sookie? Are you certain you can withstand my desire as well as your own?”
She could feel it! She could feel Eric’s want and need for her sweeping through her body as he opened the bond between them to send her his own emotions. “Eric,” she pleaded softly. “Eric, please don’t do this! Don’t manipulate me like this!”
Obviously she needed more persuasion. Cupping her face in both hands, thumbs smoothing her cheeks, he pushed his lust to her in greater waves and pressed, “Why do you deny yourself, little one? Why do you deny the bliss we find in each other? Why do you deny yourself the comfort you take in my embrace? If you must be angry with me, my Sookie, be angry, but keep our differences out of the bedroom. This should be our sanctuary. Do not make it a battlefield.”
Even as she trembled before him, fighting with everything she was to keep from throwing herself in his arms, she was inwardly pulling against the bond. She was fighting! She was fighting with everything she had as Eric’s desire tore through her, clashing with her own, to further ignite the fire in her blood, the fire that always raged for him. It was hard enough for her to control her need for Eric without him adding the fuel of his own need. “Eric! Stop it!”
“No. You will yield to me,” Eric murmured as he leaned close to nuzzle her cheek. “If you must fight me, so be it, but not here. Not in moments like this. These are the moments when we should come together and be one. These are moments when we should take comfort and strength from each other.” Eric couldn’t stop even if he wanted to. His need to feel Sookie under him, his need to feel her breath against his skin as they moved together as one, his need to hear her cry out for him, was tearing him apart from the inside. His mind was spinning out of control and all he could see, think of, or focus on, was his Sookie.
Feeling her resolve wavering as her own need built, Eric slipped his hands around her waist to pull her against his chest. She was literally shaking in his hold, desperately trying to fight this consuming, dark vortex of desire. He would not allow her to win. He couldn’t. He needed her so badly in this moment he felt certain he would go insane if he couldn’t lose himself inside her. He needed her to make him forget that he could very well lose her. He needed her to be his world for just a moment so that he could calm the raging in his mind.
Kissing that secret spot behind her ear that always made her writhe with pleasure, he insisted, “Remember, Sookie, remember how it feels to be under me. Remember how it feels to have my hands on your body. Remember how it feels for us to become one. Remember how much you need me.”
His fangs ran out and he dragged them down her neck to nip at her shoulder as he purred, “Yield to me, Sookie.”
Sookie’s mind was a whirling boil of black chaos. There was no foothold as she fell and slid, head first, plummeting into thorny darkness, hands grasping for purchase against walls wet with detritus. Reality was twisting and constricting as desire tore through her, tainted and corrupt. This was familiar. This was virulent, wrenching, corrosive and irreconcilable. This was not like all the other times she and Eric had used the bond to experience each other’s emotions. Before when they had shared pleasure through the bond, it had been like their minds and souls became one and they experienced each other’s feelings entirely. That is not what was happening now.
She could feel him forcing her to feel how he wanted her to feel, and combined with the stress and pain of the last few days, it broke her control. With a liquid snap, she unhinged and suddenly she was disassociated, independent of her body, thrown back to a different time, long ago, a little girl again.
She was no longer standing in her bedroom with Eric stroking her body. No. She was an 8 year old little girl again, sitting in her uncle Bartlett’s lap and being forced to see his fantasies in his head as he stroked his foul hands along her thighs. She was that little girl that had been given no choice, and had felt the disgusting and filthy arousal her uncle had experienced when touching her prepubescent body. She was that little girl that had been forced to feel desire at the touch of her pedophile uncle because she couldn’t control her powers back then, and now? Now she couldn’t control the bond, and was being forced to become aroused by Eric.
The effect was immediate. She panicked. Her heart began hammering as she gasped for breath. Fear so great she bent to clutch her chest. She was nauseous, dizzy, trembling. Terror exploded inside her and she screamed, “NO! STOP IT! NO! DON’T TOUCH ME! STOP!”
Over and over she screamed as tears poured down her cheeks while she was compelled to relive the horrors of her youth. She did not see Eric pull away from her in shock. She did not feel her body fall to the floor and curl into a fetal hug as she begged, “Please don’t! Please don’t! Don’t touch me!” She quickly degenerated into a hysterical mess as she lost herself in her worst memory of her uncle Bartlett. The memory where he had nearly robbed her of her virginity but had instead settled for forcing her to lie next to him on the bed while he moved his penis between her tightly clenched thighs to get off. She felt all those emotions she’d learned to tamp down as an adult. The horror, despair, and pain were rising along with shame, the constant, gnawing, helpless shame.
Before her, Eric looked on at Sookie in total bewilderment as she huddled on the floor in a ball. Her cries tore through the air and he heard Han and Ivan rush into the house. They stood behind him and demanded to know what had happened, but he spared them no attention. He felt every one of Sookie’s emotions. His skin was literally crawling and he felt so filthy he was sure he’d never feel clean again. He could feel Sookie’s desperation as though it was his own. He could feel how alone and afraid she felt. In this moment she felt so dirty and hideous, she was so filled with pain, her soul was literally hurting. And he felt all of it. As he’d been trying to force her to become aroused by sending her his lust, so did he now feel all she was experiencing.
The response was immediate. Eric was so affected by the emotions tearing through him from the bond he turned to the side and, for the first time in his undead life, he threw up. His body rocked and heaved as he spewed blood all over the floor again and again. Pain wracked his body as he tried to fight off the crushing weight of the vile emotions that ripped through him. He fell to his knees, still heaving. He heard Han and Ivan move into the room. Han went straight to Sookie’s side to check on her where she was still sobbing and begging not to be touched while Ivan crouched down beside Eric and poked his shoulder as he demanded, “Viking? What is wrong?”
Bright red tears fell down Eric’s cheeks as Sookie’s pain lanced his undead heart, and he forced his gaze to her. Seeing her on the floor near him, so broken and alone forced him into action. Despite the pain in his body, despite the revulsion and concussive force filling his mind he crawled towards her as he hissed at Han and Ivan, “GET OUT!”
Han tried to argue, “Sookie needs us to—“
“I said OUT!” Eric roared as he pulled Sookie into his arms. She was beyond reasoning now. Whatever it was that had hold of her mind had taken her completely from the here and now. He didn’t know what was wrong, but he knew he had to fix it. NOW.
Han and Ivan shared a look, and seemed to decide that for now they would leave Sookie’s wellbeing to Northman. If her cries got worse, they would interfere. They heard Sookie’s Were guards entering the house and left the bedroom, closing the door behind them, to intercept the Weres. With the state Northman was in, things could turn bloody if the Viking saw the Weres as a threat to Sookie’s condition.
When they were gone, Eric spoke softly to Sookie, who was still crying, sobbing, begging not to be touched. “Sookie, Sookie, hear me, listen to me … Sookie? Sookie, please come back to me.”
Sookie couldn’t hear anything Eric was saying to her. She was far too caught up in her living nightmare. She could feel uncle Bartett’s hands! They were moving over her body as he whispered to her, telling her to be quiet. She could smell his stale breath as he panted behind her while his penis moved between her thighs. She could feel his hands slipping under her Strawberry Shortcake t-shirt to touch her flat chest.
“It’s ok, sweet girl. Uncle Bartlett just wants to make you feel good. Doesn’t that feel good? Yeah, you like it when Uncle Bartlett rubs against you, don’t you? Good girl.”
“NO! STOP IT!” Sookie sobbed. She was trapped in a never ending loop of her worst moments with her Uncle Bartlett and she couldn’t stop them.
Eric didn’t know what to do. He didn’t understand why she was reacting this way. He was no longer forcing his lust upon her, and he didn’t understand why she wasn’t calming down. “Sookie! What is wrong? Why won’t you listen to me?”
“Touch my special place, Sookie. See how hard it is. Your little hand feels so good against my special place. You’re such a good girl to make your Uncle Bartlett feel good.”
“Please don’t make me! Please!”
Eric’s eyes began to glow as his power rushed forth. His beast was howling in fury that his mate was being harmed so. Not knowing what to do, Eric clasped Sookie to his chest, burying his hand in her hair to press her face into his neck as he begged, “Please Sookie, please tell me how to stop this pain inside you. Please!”
He didn’t care that he was crying into her hair and begging her. He didn’t care that the guards downstairs probably heard him. All he cared about was saving his bonded from whatever was hurting her so much. He wished desperately that he could take her pain from her, make it his own. He needed to end her pain. He couldn’t stand to see her like this!
The moment their chests met, the second their marks aligned, a vibration ripped through their bodies and they began to glow, and suddenly Eric was no longer in his own mind. He was in Sookie’s … and what he saw shredded the very last bit of control that he had.
A man he didn’t know with grey hair was lying on his side on a bed with a much younger version of his Sookie tucked against him. She was bare from the waist down, as was the man, and she was crying softly, begging the man, who she called Uncle Bartlett, not to touch her. As she begged and pleaded the older man pumped his hips to move his cock back and forth between the child Sookie’s legs. Never breaching her, but still taking pleasure from her body that no grown man had the right to get from a child.
She was alone, and she was afraid. She felt ashamed that this man she called Uncle Bartlett was making her feel good. Not because she enjoyed his touch, but because she felt Bartlett’s arousal and desire as her own because of her ability, and Eric’s undead heart shattered as the severity of what he’d just done to Sookie hit him before the image shifted.
Now Sookie was sitting in her uncle’s lap, trying to go over her homework, while her uncle smoothed his hands up her legs to dip inside her shorts and touch parts of her body he had no right to. Eric could take no more. He snarled in fury and roared, “STOP! DO NOT TOUCH HER!”
In the real world, Eric’s and Sookie’s bodies exploded in light as their minds fused. Their markings glowed feverishly and began to hum with power as Eric pulled Sookie into the solace of his mind. Tearing her out of the nightmare her mind had created, he pulled her into his own where he used all his concentration to clear a space in his thoughts where Sookie could rest and recover from the trauma of her memories. Through all the swirling, murderous and primal darkness, he and his beast fought to create a refuge, a small space inside the raw animalistic fury that was his mind that they could shelter Sookie inside.
Sookie’s mind merged fully with Eric’s, but she remained the little girl she was; the little girl that had been so beaten down by life that she had grown up to be a woman that couldn’t truly see her own worth. Eric realized that in order to even begin to heal the rift between him and Sookie, to heal the hurt so embedded inside her that caused her feelings of inferiority, he would first have to heal this small child.
As the nightmare Sookie had been in faded away to be replaced with a calm ocean beneath a moonlit sky, Eric used his mind to fabricate a dragon ship for them to rest in. Cradling a sobbing child Sookie in his arms, he took a seat near the bow and soothed, “Shh …. Shh, little one. You are safe. You are with me, and you are safe.”
The child Sookie, so innocent and in pain, recognized Eric. She was young again, fighting a child’s nightmares, but her soul was intact, and she knew who and what Eric was. She was simply trapped in her child self, unable to return to her adult mind until the past she had worked so hard to bury was finally and truly put to rest.
Eyes filling with tears, child Sookie whispered, “I didn’t want to, but he made me. I don’t like uncle Bartlett’s special games.”
A growl filling his chest, Eric smoothed Sookie’s hair back as he said, “You never have to play games like that again.”
“You wanted to play them with me. Uncle Bartlett used to make me feel good when he did bad things to me, and you wanted to play with me like that too.” Her voice was distant, pain glistened in her eyes.
Eric’s already bruised and broken heart shattered. He felt grief, guilt, fury, and utter self loathing at himself that he had made Sookie relive these experiences. He hated himself more than he ever had for doing something that even remotely resembled what her uncle had done to her, and he swore to himself that if she’d forgive him this transgression against her, he would never again try to force her to desire him.
“Oh Sookie, I … I didn’t … forgive me, by the gods! please forgive me, little one. I didn’t know! I didn’t mean … if I had ….”
As his words trailed off, child Sookie held Eric’s gaze. She looked up into his blue eyes, lined in red as his bloody tears dripped down his cheeks. She could feel his horror, his remorse, and his determination she never hurt like this again. It comforted her, and for the first time she voiced her deepest fears. Here, surrounded by everything that Eric was as his mind sheltered her own, she found the strength to finally admit how hurt she was, to admit how damaged she was.
“I’m dirty.” Her voice was coldly matter-of-fact.
“No!” Eric’s voice was hard with his conviction. He tightened his hold around the small girl that had been so alone and neglected. The child that had been kicked by the world again and again until she became the woman he had claimed. “You are not dirty.”
“I am,” child Sookie argued. “I’m dirty and I’m broken. That’s why bad things happen to me.”
As horrible as this moment was, Eric found he was somewhat glad it was happening. It was obvious the hurt his Sookie had suffered before meeting him was greater and more extensive than he could ever have imagined. She was wounded to her core, and until he healed this hurt inside her, she would never fully accept herself as the wondrous woman she was.
Nuzzling the small girl’s head, Eric soothed, “You are not dirty, and you are not broken. You were simply unfortunate enough to be born in a time and place that does not accept or respect magic or the unexplainable. The faults you think you have belong solely to those that failed you. You, my Sookie, are perfection.”
Shaking her head as her tears continued to slip down her cheeks, child Sookie insisted, “I am broken! No one wants to be my friend! Everyone makes fun of me, and the people that are nice to me hurt me or use me. I’m not right! I’m a bad girl.”
Eric winced as he realized how accurate most of that statement had been. Few people did wish to be Sookie’s friend simply for who she was. Most only willingly integrated themselves into her life to take advantage of her, and he thought he might be sick again as he realized he was among the ranks of those that had taken advantage of Sookie initially. As loathe as he was to admit it, he had first taken such an interest in her because he wanted to fuck her and exploit her telepathy. It had not taken him long to realize he wanted her by his side for eternity because of who she was at core, but there was no disputing the fact he had wronged Sookie. Just as everyone else had. His bonded was so accustomed to being used and exploited that she literally believed unless she could be useful to others with her gifts, she didn’t deserve their notice. She had so little self esteem because of the pain and suffering she’d endured that she thought she deserved to be judged by everyone. He was furious at the world and himself for causing her gentle soul such grief.
Burying his head in her hair, Eric begged, “Please Sookie, please don’t think this way. We’ve all wronged you so much. We’ve all hurt you, and the thought that I might not be able to help you fix it terrifies me. You are not broken, you are not wrong, and you are most certainly not dirty. We are the ones that have failed you, Sookie. We are the ones that have taken advantage of you.”
Child Sookie thought on Eric’s words before she asked, “If I’m not bad or dirty, why don’t people like me? Why does everyone want to hurt me?”
“Because they are jealous of you. We are all jealous of your greatness, and I swear, my Sookie, that I will never let anyone hurt you like that again. No one has the right to make you feel dirty. Not even me.”
Child Sookie, still connected to Eric in every way as he held her inside his mind to shelter her from her own, felt his sincerity. Felt the complete and total conviction he had that she never suffer like this again … and something warm trickled into her subconscious, something soft and healing. The pain, shame, and self loathing she’d felt for herself all these years, the pain and guilt she felt but denied, melted away and she shifted in her Viking’s hold. Her small body grew and where she had been her former child self she once more returned to the woman she had become.
Sookie listened to the calm sea around her as the night sky shone down on them. She felt the gentle rocking of the boat, the languorous lapping of the water against the hull, and the comforting embrace of Eric around her. Laying her head against his chest she asked, “Do you promise?”
“I swear it.”
She believed him. Looking around them, Sookie asked, “Where are we?”
“In me.” He had no other explanation to give. He himself couldn’t understand how they were in the situation they were in.
“Can we stay here a little while longer? I’m not ready to go back to everything else.”
Nuzzling the top of her head, Eric promised, “We will stay as long as you need.” When she said nothing, Eric offered, “Sookie, if I had known what your uncle did to you I would never have—“
“Don’t!” Sookie begged. Pressing tighter into him so that he would hold her tighter, she continued, “We’ll talk more later. Right now, just hold me. Hold me and make me forget for a little while.”
“As you wish, my älskade.”
Together they sat in silence. The night was a tranquil blanket around them as they both recovered from the ordeal they’d just gone through. Neither moved or spoke, and time seemed to stand still as the ship rocked gently in time with the sea. In the house, Han and Ivan were having a time of it to keep Sookie’s Were guards and friends from going to her. Her terror-filled cries and pleas had been plainly heard by all, even the humans, and everyone was desperate to check on her.
“Get the fuck out of my way!” Tara screamed as she tried to shove past Han and Ivan to get to Sookie. While she and her best friend still had a lot to work through, there was no way in hell she would ignore Sookie’s horrific cries for help. “Sookie needs us!”
“The Northman is caring for her,” Han replied flatly.
Lafayette, freshly glamoured and without true fear of Eric now, hissed, “She was screaming for someone not to touch her, and since he’s the only one here that would, she must need help from him! Get the hell out of our way so we can save her!”
“Going upstairs would be disastrous. Sookie is hurting and the Northman would react badly to your intrusion. She has stopped screaming so obviously her bonded is tending to her. Return to the guest house and wait for Sookie to summon you.” Han turned his gaze to Sookie’s Were guards, straining against the need to shift, reacting to the air so heavy with tension, and ordered, “Return to your posts. The seer and Niall will be here soon.”
Refusing to back down, Tara argued, “Wait just a damn minute! We’re Sookie’s friends and we’re not going to ignore her when she’s screaming for help! So unless you’re going to kill us, get the fuck out of our way!”
“You heard her! Move it!” Lafayette added, as he balled his fists, preparing to fight.
Sam, who had thus far been the voice of reason, trying to bridge the gap between his human friends and the supernatural world they now found themselves in, couldn’t back down either. “We need to see for ourselves that Sookie is ok. She was screaming something fierce, and we can’t just leave without checking on her.”
Han looked at Ivan and when the larger vampire nodded his head, showing he knew what needed to be done, they stepped forward together and caught the gazes of Sookie’s human friends. Han took hold of Tara’s mind, and Ivan took hold of Lafayette’s, and together they glamoured the humans into going back to the guesthouse. When they were gone, Han looked at Sam and asked, “Do you require encouragement to go as well?”
Sam swallowed thickly. “No, but know that I’m going to make sure Sookie knows you glamoured her friends into obeying you. I don’t think she’s going to like that.”
“She might be upset, but it is the best option at present. Either we ensure Sookie and her king are not disturbed, thus saving all your lives from Northman’s protective instincts, or we face Sookie’s ire for our interference. We have chosen to face Sookie’s possible upset … now go.”
Sam looked between Han and Ivan for a moment before releasing a tired sigh and leaving the house. When he was gone, Quinn stepped forward and snarled, “What the fuck is going on?! What the hell is happening to Sookie?”
Han gave a barely perceptible shrug. “We are not sure. All we know is that both the Northman and Sookie are being affected by it. Let them figure it out and help one another, and if they wish to tell us more, they shall. Now, as I said before, return to your posts outside and await the arrival of the king and queen’s guests.”
Quinn looked as though he was going to argue, but Alcide stopped him by placing a hand on his arm and urging his friend to see reason. “Let’s go, Quinn. She’s not screaming anymore, and they’re right. If we just bust in there right now, the Viking would probably tear us apart. You know how he gets when Sookie is hurting. If we haven’t heard anything from them before the Pythoness and the others get here, then you can try and go up there. For now, we have to let them be.”
The weretiger stood frozen as his body literally shook with the need to charge upstairs and check on the girl that had come to mean so much to him, but the logical part of his mind realized that Alcide was right. Northman did react badly when Sookie was upset and hurting, and with how she had been screaming bloody murder a little while ago he could bet that the Viking was not at his most reasonable at the moment. He knew he had to leave and wait for Sookie to tell them what had happened, but he honestly didn’t know if he could. His instincts roared at him to check on Sookie, and it was hard to ignore them.
Alcide, sensing the internal struggle of his friend, whispered, “If you go up there you might die. Think of Frannie.”
Those words shook Quinn out of his thoughts immediately. Knowing more was on the line than his desire to protect Sookie, the weretiger finally backed down. “Yeah, alright man. We’ll go for now, but if Sookie isn’t down here by the time the Pythoness and Niall get here we’re going up there.”
“Agreed,” Alcide said as the two Weres headed out of the house.
When they were gone, Han and Ivan turned to look at each other and spoke in tones so soft that only they could hear each other’s words. Han’s eyes were hard as stone as he murmured brutally, “If Northman harms her like this again I’m stepping in. High King or not, no one has the right to cause Sookie that kind of pain.”
“I’ll stand with you,” Ivan growled. He, too, was upset that the Viking had hurt Sookie however he had. They didn’t know what had happened between the two, but it was obvious it had been epic.
Upstairs, nearly an hour passed with Eric holding Sookie in his arms, both their bodies glowing as the Viking kept Sookie’s conscious self sheltered within his own, forcing a bright spot in all the darkness that was his mind. Neither moved or spoke either in the dream world that Eric had created for his bonded to help her heal, or in the real world where his much larger form was practically curled around hers where she sat in his lap.
Only when Sookie felt ready to rejoin the real world did she whisper to Eric where they still sat on the dragon ship his mind had created, “Do you know how to get out of here?”
“I don’t even know how I brought us here. I suspect when you are ready to go we shall simply be back where we’re supposed to be.”
“Well I’m ready to go back. We can’t hide from the world forever.”
Just like that they were back in their bodies. Sookie pulled back from the tight hold Eric had on her to keep her pressed to his chest and looked into his eyes that still cried his crimson tears. “You can’t ever do that to me again, Eric. You just can’t. Don’t force me to feel your desire if I don’t want to.”
“I swear it, Sookie. I swear I will never hurt you like that again.” Eric’s voice was hoarse. Guilt was an entirely new emotion to him, and he wasn’t sure how to handle it. All he knew for sure was that he would rather stake himself then hurt his bonded like this again.
He waited for Sookie to say more, but when she simply continued to hold his gaze with her own haunted one, he asked softly, “Why did you not tell me of this?”
Shifting her gaze from Eric’s to focus on her new fish tank, Sookie whispered, “I don’t like talking about it. I … I just push it to the back of my mind and ignore it. It’s not important.”
“It is important. You have to deal with these memories, Sookie. Putting them in a box and locking them away will do you no good.”
“I don’t want to, Eric. I like to pretend it never happened. Just let it go.”
“No.” Taking her chin, Eric forced her gaze to his and continued, “You allow these memories to overshadow your present and endanger your future. You judge yourself by them, and find yourself inferior. These memories, the pain you experienced because of your gift when you were too young to control it, they are at the root of your feelings of inadequacy. Combined with the poor parenting your mother and father gave you, this is why you fail to see how great you are. I will stop this now.”
Sookie gave off a humorless laugh. Despite the dreamlike experience she had shared with Eric where he had assured her she wasn’t dirty or broken, she just couldn’t let go of her self doubt so easily. “I don’t need you to hold my hand through this, Eric. I came to terms with the fact I was molested as a child a while ago. It’s over, he never actually raped me, so let’s just forget about it. I’m sorry you found out about it at all.”
“I’m not. I knew there was more to your insecurities than you were telling me, but I never expected this.”
“What? Not quite so happy with your prize now that you know what’s happened to me? Don’t want me anymore now that you know I’m a victim of sexual abuse?”
Eric flashed his fangs at Sookie as he took her face in his hands and damn near snarled, “Don’t you ever speak about yourself like that again! You will listen to me, Sookie. You will hear these words, understand and accept them. If you never accept anything else I say, you will accept this.”
Holding her head securely in his hands, refusing to let her look away despite the tears building in her eyes, Eric continued. “What happened to you was wrong and horrible, but that does NOT make you wrong and horrible. You are pure, and sweet, and perfect. You are the embodiment of everything that is right in the world. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You have nothing to feel inadequate about. You should feel pride in yourself. Most children are irreparably damaged by such occurrences. They lead drug filled and meaningless lives to escape their memories. You? You have embraced the good in life. You are not a victim, you are a survivor, and you humble me with the strength of your spirit and heart.”
Tears continued to slip down Sookie’s cheeks as she held Eric’s gaze for long moments. They were both crying freely, and she could feel Eric’s need to comfort her through the bond. She could feel the waves of comfort, support, and strength he was sending her, but most importantly, she could feel how much he meant every single word from his lips. He did not judge her for what had happened. He did not think less of her for it. He thought her stronger, better, more beautiful for the fact she had survived what she survived.
Burying herself into his chest she whimpered, “Why can’t I just get over it? Why won’t it go away? I hate how he hurt me and the fact I can’t just let it go.”
Wrapping his arms around her to hold her tightly again, Eric soothed, “Sookie, you cannot get over it because you have allowed yourself to believe his actions somehow define you. You think because he hurt you that you are somehow lesser for it. You feel guilt for feeling pleasure while that vile excuse for a man hurt you, but what you refuse to understand is that YOU didn’t feel anything. You couldn’t control your powers, you couldn’t stop yourself from feeling what he felt, and you have no reason to feel shame or self-loathing because of it. You were feeling pain, and he was feeling pleasure. Your power, the power you couldn’t control at that time, simply made you feel them at the same time. His wrongdoings are not yours. You must come to understand and accept this.”
Tucking her face into his neck, Sookie said, “Why can't people just leave me alone? Why don't they stop hurting me?”
“Because people are attracted to greatness. The world is wrong, Sookie, you are not. And now that you are mine, I will make it right for you. No longer will you endure the scorn and judgment of others. I will raise you above them all, and they will worship you as a goddess … which is what you deserve.”
Now Sookie did actually laugh. Pulling back, she wiped the tears from her eyes before leaning up to kiss Eric’s own bloody tear tracks. “You sure fuck up a lot, Eric, but you do right by me a whole lot more.”
“Perhaps not enough,” Eric replied softly. “Sookie … I would never have used the bond in such a way if I had known. I never thought ... For this I ask your forgiveness. I do not like you telling me no, and despise the fact you refuse to share pleasure with me, but I swear I will never again take the choice from you. I will never force you to feel my lust if it is not met equally by your own willing desire.”
Fresh tears sprang to Sookie’s eyes as she sighed, “Thank you, Eric. You don’t know what that means to me.”
“Do not thank me, Sookie. In this moment I am wrong, and do not deserve such words from you. I may be your master, and I may have rights to you, but no one has the right to hurt you like that. Not even me. The fact I made you feel the way your uncle made you feel shames me in ways I never could have imagined. I will make amends.”
Sookie couldn’t think of what to say to that, so instead settled for reminding Eric that they had guests coming. “Eric, I think we need to get up and take a shower. You have blood all over your face and chest, and I’m sure I have it in my hair. Let’s get cleaned up before the seer and Niall arrive.”
When Sookie stood from his lap, Eric moved quickly to take hold of her wrist and draw her attention back to him. Smoothing his thumb over the delicate point of her pulse, he vowed, “I will make amends for the hurt I caused you tonight, my Sookie. I swear it.”
Shaking her head and moving to brush the quickly drying blood tears from his cheeks, Sookie said, “Eric, you have made amends to me for tonight. Whatever it was you did, wherever it was you took us, the things you said … what just happened is over and done with. It’s everything else you need to work on, Viking.”
Still feeling that he had not wronged Sookie the other night by making her kneel, Eric neither affirmed or denied her statement. He decided he would make amends for the hurt he had caused her tonight, and would simply let her believe that he was making amends for their previous altercation. Moving to kiss her forehead, he said, “Take your shower, and I’ll use the guest bathroom for mine.”
Arching a brow, Sookie asked, “You aren’t going to try and worm your way into mine?”
Moving to the bedroom door, never turning around to face her, Eric replied, “No. I do not deserve to shower with you tonight. I … I am truly sorry for using our bond against you, Sookie. I do not deserve your forgiveness for wronging you in such a way, but I hope for it.”
He was gone before she could reply. Sookie stared after him before a soft smile lit her face as she thought, ‘Well at least he’s headed in the right direction.’