“Now, you're sure you know what you are supposed to do?”
Nodding, Jessica assured, “Yes. I remember your instructions clearly.”
“Repeat them back to me.”
“I'm to approach Lafayette while he is on his date with Claude tonight. I am to tell him that I need to speak to Sookie about Bill because I can't find him.” She cocked her head slightly as she grimaced, “but I really don't get why I can't just tell him that Bill is dead. That will definitely have Sookie calling me to ask about it.”
Shaking his head, Sargon explained, “No. My magic shows if Lafayette hears from you that Bill is dead he will go to Eric about it instead of Sookie. We need you to speak to her before Eric can stop you.”
“Okay. So I approach Lafayette and tell him to ask Sookie to call me about Bill, and when she calls I tell her the truth. That he is dead.”
“And what else?”
“I tell her I had another child/Maker vision like before and that I saw Eric kill Bill.”
Sargon smiled toothily, “Indeed. I am hoping Sookie summons you to her compound, but there is the chance she will simply speak to you on the phone. It doesn't really matter; just make sure she finds out that Eric killed Bill.”
“What about the video? Shouldn't I take that as proof?”
Knowing she meant the surveillance video he had of the event, Sargon denied, “No. If you give her the video it will come off as too choreographed, and she might doubt your sincerity. I want her to confront Eric and hear the truth from him.”
“Then what was the point of you getting the video in the first place?”
“I will make sure Sookie gets it at a later time. I need to overwhelm her at a certain point in order for my plans to succeed.”
“Okay, and what happens if the guards you say Lafayette has won't let me near him?”
“I doubt they will interfere. Lafayette will recognize you and as he will display no fear at your presence they shouldn't stop you from approaching him. Just do not allow Lafayette to return to the house to speak to Sookie. He needs to call her then and there. There can be no opportunity for Eric to thwart our plans. The faster you can get into contact with Sookie the better.”
Jessica nodded, “Okay, I got it.”
“Good. I will teleport you just outside of Louisiana. From there you will have to run. I cannot risk teleporting you any closer. I am still unsure of Sookie's security team. They are very good, and I don't know just how far their capabilities extend.”
“Okay. I'm ready.”
Back at the compound, Sookie was waving to Lafayette as he and Claude headed out. Despite the fact those two had been having more sex than a 24-hour whorehouse in Vegas, this was their first official date, and she was so excited for them. Once they were gone she headed into the living room where Eric and the others were waiting for her. They had a security meeting tonight.
Taking a seat by Eric, Sookie asked, “Does anyone want something to drink or eat? I have some tea and orange juice in the kitchen, and there are some cookies that Lafayette made. And we have some donor blood in the fridge.”
When everyone said they were fine, Eric asked of his hackers, “So what have you found?”
Samuel, the lead hacker, began, “We have narrowed down the possibility to five locations. One in China, one in Canada, one in South Africa, one in Columbia, and one in North Dakota. From our surveillance, massive amounts of power are being channeled to each of these locations. They are very hot, and while we have been unable to hack the signals originating from these locations, we are getting close. Still, we have satellite surveillance of each of these locations and something is definitely up.”
Boris chimed in, “I don't think any one of these is the location.”
Eric's eyes snapped to the young man bonded to Ivan, and demanded, “Explain.”
“Think about it,” Boris began, “a man like Sargon has been around too long, and is too cunning, to have a base of operations.”
Understanding dawning, Eric nodded appreciably, concluding, “You believe they are all his base of operations.”
Briana exclaimed, “Of course! A transcontinental pentagon, of sorts! That way if one base is attacked the other four can still operate.”
“It's brilliant, and since each one is underground we really have no true idea of how big they are. We can only tell through thermal imaging and radiation scans that heavy activity are in the areas,” Sarah added.
Eric was not liking what he was hearing, and he reached to take hold of Sookie's hand while still looking at his hacking team. He demanded, “And how do we go about finding out more about these bases?”
“Sending in operatives would be unwise at this point,” Samuel advised. “We run the risk of tipping our hand if we do that. At this point I say we test the fences.”
“Test the fences? What does that mean?” Sookie didn't like what she was hearing either, but at least they had somewhere to start. She was trying to look at the bright side.
“We know that Sargon is embedded into government agencies the world over. He's running them from behind the scenes, so we should try infiltrating these agencies and see how he responds. See if he creates a trail we can follow. We need to see how quickly he can mobilize the ants, so to speak.”
Eric nodded, “A good idea. We should also plan a few outright attacks to see how he responds in such situations. Part of fighting a war is being able to anticipate your enemies moves, and I have no idea how he will approach a situation. Up to this point we've been on the offensive the entire time. We need to put him on the offensive to get a glimpse of how his mind works.”
Haldar offered, “The attacks can't be random, though. Sargon will need to believe we're going after specific information pertaining to him, or resources of his. He needs to believe the attacks are related specifically to him, and not just some random terrorist attacks on these governments. If it doesn't have to do with Sookie or our war with him he probably won't respond.”
“So how do we do that? How are we supposed to force his hand without revealing our own? We want him to know we're attacking him so he responds, but at the same time we don't want him to know it is a setup for him to reveal his moves or get him to reveal more about these bases.” Pam was glad they were finally starting to take the offensive in this war. Much like her Maker she did not enjoy being the hunted. She much preferred being the hunter.
When everyone remained silent, Sookie suggested, “How about a simple search on me?”
All eyes pivoted to the small blond human who sat comfortably with her feet raised on a mossy table. She explained, “We know he's using these agencies, and he knows we know he's using these agencies, so doesn't it stand to reason that if we infiltrate them and hack into their systems to see exactly what all information they have on me he'll know it's us trying to find out what he knows? Wouldn't that have him responding and letting us get a clue as to how he operates? By doing a search on me it will look like we're simply trying to find out what all he knows about me, and it won't reveal to him that we have narrowed down where his bases are. Or that we're trying to figure out how he operates.”
Eric grinned and added, “And it will make him think we're further behind on our research of him and his abilities than we really are. A fine idea. My lover, you are shaping up to be a brilliant strategist!”
“With a great rack too,” Haldar chimed in.
“Haldar! I've told you to stop looking at my mate's breasts!”
Haldar's gaze lingered on Sookie's chest as he quipped, “But Eric! They are getting so big! How can I not look at them?”
Running her tongue along the tip of her fangs, Pam purred, “So true. She's practically bursting out of her bras!”
Sookie glared at the two misfits before saying to Eric, “I told you I needed to go bra shopping!”
Eric, who had persuaded Sookie she wasn't in need of new bras just yet because he thoroughly enjoyed the way she was filling hers, finally conceded, “Perhaps so. Now the two of you get your damned eyes off my mate's breasts!”
Haldar and Pam shared a grin before focusing back on Eric as Haldar asked, “So where do we start?”
“I think it would be best if we hit the Pentagon,” Samuel suggested. “It is the most concentrated area of information. Getting in shouldn't be too difficult given we can teleport in, and we have hacked the Pentagon many times before so we can thwart their systems fairly easily, but my guess is the information we'll need to go after will be on a closed circuit system, and only accessible from certain computers. Meaning, getting to those computers might be a bit more difficult. More than likely we'll need to do an initial scouting mission to gather the information we need to plan the actual infiltration and attack.”
“And what do you need to make that happen?” Eric wanted to set this all in motion as quickly as possible. He needed Intel on Sargon, and he needed it now. He was done hiding behind this barrier. He wanted to hunt the motherfucker down and rip him to pieces!
For the next hour the hackers outlined a rough plan on how to infiltrate the Pentagon in order to gather the information they'd need to plan an actual attack. Overall Eric was pleased with the progress they'd made, and, as everyone dispersed to see to their duties, Eric led Sookie upstairs so he could feed her and she could take another nap.
Guiding her into her bedroom, Eric took a seat on the bed and pulled Sookie into his lap before biting into his wrist and offering it to his mate. When she took hold of it with her small hands and latched on with her hot mouth he stifled a groan and buried his face in her hair. Ever since their talk where he admitted she belonged at his side and promised to never make her kneel again Sookie had allowed him much closer, but she still refused to let him move back into the bedroom, and she was still barring him from her bed. He ached for her. While these moments soothed his beast's unrelenting need and desire for her somewhat, he still missed her in a way he didn't know was possible. It was as if his arm was gone. Scratch that—it was like his whole left side was missing. He simply did not feel complete, and he was still racking his brain to figure out a way to bridge the gap between them and bring her back into his embrace.
As Sookie continued to feed from him he nuzzled her neck and purred, “I miss you, min älskade, I miss you so fucking much.”
Sookie didn't respond as she continued to draw on Eric's blood from his wrist. Eric wasn't the only one suffering from the separation; she missed Eric just as much. She missed the safety she felt in his arms. She missed the feel of him pulling her into the curve of his body so he could wrap himself around her. She missed the way he'd entwine their fingers atop her stomach and then whisper sweet, or naughty, words into her ear. She missed how he'd lay his head on her stomach and ask her to tell him what she was thinking. She missed everything about him, but she knew she couldn't back down. He had to change, and she was the only one that could make him do it.
When she had taken enough Sookie pulled back and watched his wrist heal before she leaned down to lick the last few drops from his skin. She looked up at him through a fan of dark lashes. “I miss you too, but you know why we can't be together right now.”
“I really don't. I've told you that you do not belong at my feet and given you my word to never make you kneel again.”
“And I appreciate that, but it's not enough.”
Releasing a sigh, he argued, “Sookie, I am a thousand years old. I have lived through things, seen things, learned things, done things that you simply could not imagine. We can never be equals, but that does not mean I do not respect you. Do I not listen to your advice? You are brilliant and I utilize your brilliance often. You've seen this yourself. Does this not show how much I value you?”
“Value is not respect.”
“I do respect you!”
“Not enough, or in the right way. However you want to see it.”
Reaching up to stroke her Viking's furrowed brow, she explained, “If our roles were reversed, if I was the thousand year old vampire and you were the telepathic barmaid would you accept me making all your decisions? Would you accept me thinking you were beneath me in any way?”
“That is unfair. You are speaking of a situation that cannot happen.”
“Just because it is hypothetical doesn't make it any less relevant.”
“You are being unreasonable.”
“And you are being so obstinate I'd find it cute if it wasn't keeping us apart.”
Staring deeply into his bonded's eyes, Eric let his own gaze shine with his torment as he softly begged, “Please, please come back to me. I need you.”
Sookie's heart broke a little. Seeing the pain and need in her beloved Viking's gaze was nearly her undoing, and truthfully if she weren't pregnant, if she weren't preparing to fight a war with Sargon himself, she would have relented. She loved him that much, needed him that much, desired him that much. Her connection to Eric was so strong, so integral to who she was that it hurt her to keep her distance, but the fact remained she was pregnant, and she was preparing for war. She had no choice but to stand her ground.
Leaning forward to press a soft and fleeting kiss to his lips, she let her forehead rest against his, their lips brushing against one another as she refused, “I can't, honey, I can't come back to you until you're ready. I'm going to be a mother, and I am your queen. I can't back down.”
He could see she would not be swayed, at least tonight. His voice was rough with his desire, “May I at least hold you until you fall asleep?”
Sookie remembered the lovely feeling of falling asleep in his arms, “Yes. I miss that. Yes.”
“I would have you there every second of the day if you would let me.”
A sudden thought struck her. Before getting up to change out of her clothes so she could sleep, Sookie said, “I'd like to see Jason soon.”
He was quick to respond, “I do not think that is a good idea. You know what happened last time you saw him.”
Leading Sookie into the building he was keeping Jason and Sophie-Anne imprisoned in, Eric cautioned, “Remember, Sookie, that this is not your brother. Until we get him separated from Sophie-Anne, he is every bit the monster she is.”
“I know Eric, I just need to see for myself that he is okay.”
After leading her through several darkened hallways Eric came to a door guarded by two werelions given to him by Caesar. They both bowed their heads before one of them moved to the security panel and entered the code to have the door swing open. Once inside with the door secured behind them, Eric turned the light on so Sookie could see.
Sookie's stomach dropped as she saw her brother bound with padded silver cuffs and chains to the wall. In the cell next to his Sophie-Anne was similarly bound with the only difference being that her chains were not padded so the silver was burning into her flesh.
“Oh Jason,” Sookie cried as she broke away from Eric and moved to grab the bars of his cell as she whimpered, “Look at what she's done to you.”
At the sound of her voice, Jason went wild and began thrashing against his chains, hissing, snarling and spitting at Sookie, for all intents and purposes seeming like a rabid animal, but he said nothing.
“Jason! Please stop! Please!”
When Jason merely continued to jerk and thrash against his chains, doing everything he could to get at his sister, Sookie turned tear filled eyes to her mate, and whimpered, “He's really not in there anymore, is he?”
Eric moved to pull her away from her brother's cell, hating her distress as he soothed, “That is not your brother, Sookie, you have to tell yourself that. If there is a way to save him I will find it, but for now you must separate your love for your brother from that thing. It is not him.”
Burying herself into his chest, Sookie cried, “I know, but I can't help it! He's my brother!”
Eric once again cursed himself for not protecting the boy. While Sophie-Anne was primarily at fault for this, Eric knew he had still failed. He'd promised Sookie to protect her from the former queen's mechanisms and he had failed to do so. His mate's pain ate at him. It was his responsibility to assure her health and happiness, and he had failed … but he would never fail again.
Glaring at Sophie-Anne over Sookie's head, the fucking whore bound to silence with the same magic Jason was under, Eric soothed, “Take comfort in the fact that the true Jason would never behave this way. Your brother may not have been the brightest human, but he was not a monster, and while I did not know him well I knew him well enough to know he loved you very much. Jason would not want you here, Sookie. He would not want you to see this creature that wears his face and causes you pain but is not him.”
“I know,” Sookie mumbled into Eric's chest as she held tightly to him and continued, “but I feel like I need to be here. I feel like I need to see him. When we get him back if he remembers any part of this I want him to remember that I didn't abandon him. That I was here for him through it all.”
Eric was just as determined that Jason not remember any of it. He doubted Jason Stackhouse had the mental strength to carry the memories of what he'd done under Sophie-Anne's influence without his mind shattering. If they did indeed find some way to bring him back from what had been done to him the best thing for him would be to forget everything that happened once he was turned. If he remembered? Eric was certain the boy would either go insane or would commit suicide from the guilt. Neither would make his mate happy.
Pulling back from Eric, Sookie moved back to her brother's cell and gripped the bars as she promised, “Jason, if you're still in there anywhere know I won't give up on you. Eric and I are going to do everything possible to bring you back. We won't ever give up on you.”
Again, Jason's only response was to go wild and thrash against his chains as he spit and snarled at Sookie, his fangs bared as he made it perfectly clear given the chance he would rip her to pieces.
Eric moved to take hold of her hand feeling her heartbreak and pulled gently as he urged, “Come, Sookie, it is time to go. You should not stay longer.”
With one final tearful look at her brother, she let him lead her from the makeshift prison he'd constructed to hold her brother and Sophie-Anne. As they left Sookie glared once more at Sophie-Anne before facing forward. She didn't want to give the woman the satisfaction of seeing her hurt.
Sinking deeper into Eric's embrace and banishing the memory of the last time she'd seen her brother as best she could, Sookie whispered, “I remember, but I still need to see him. Even if it is only for a few moments. When we get Jason back, if he remembers any of it, I need him to remember I never abandoned him.”
He knew she would not give this up and he relented, “Fine. I shall carve out some time over the next week to take you.”
“If you want to thank me blow me.”
Sookie simply smiled and moved to stand from the bed and held her hand out as she said, “Not happening, you sex fiend. Now give me your shirt. I'll sleep in it.”
Eric didn't say anything as he quickly pulled his black silk shirt from his body and handed it to her. He then visibly pouted as Sookie made her way into the bathroom to change instead of doing so in front of him. He was hoping he'd at least get to see her beautiful body even if he couldn't touch it.
When Sookie returned wearing only his over-large silk shirt that draped off one of her shoulders and hung past her knees she accepted his offered hand and let him pull her down onto the bed. Releasing a tired and content sigh as Eric pulled her into his arms to curl himself around her, Sookie mumbled, “I wish this was all over already.”
“It will be soon enough, and then you will birth to Egil and I will promptly put another of my babies in your belly.”
Sookie laughed, “You wish, perv. We definitely won't try to get pregnant right away. I want to be able to enjoy being a mom with Peanut, get the hang of it before we start planning on another baby.”
“But Sookie,” Eric pouted, “we both have so much fun making babies! And it's not really like we can control it. If you get pregnant, you get pregnant.”
Realizing Eric obviously hadn't thought through on their future when it came to sex as she had, Sookie broke the news, “Eric, you do realize we're going to have to use condoms a lot of the time from now on, right?”
Eric froze. “What?”
Rolling over in his arms to look into his increasingly worried face, Sookie explained, “You heard Ludwig. Drugs don't work properly on me so birth control is out. That means you're going to have to wear condoms in order to keep from knocking me up every year.”
“Absolutely not! I am not going to have one of those things on my cock! When I am inside of you there will be no barriers.” The mere notion of wearing one of those latex contraptions, of not feeling Sookie's tight wet heat surround him was simply unthinkable.
“Eric, unless there is some form of magical contraceptive I can take we won't have a choice.”
Refusing to accept this logic, Eric argued, “We will let nature take its course. If you get pregnant, you get pregnant. That is the end of it.”
Knowing her Viking needed some time to come to terms with the inevitable, Sookie decided to let the matter drop for the time being. Rolling back over as she released a yawn, Sookie muttered, “We'll see.”
As she drifted to sleep, he thought to himself, 'I don't care if I have to destroy every condom manufacturing company in the world, there is no fucking way I'll wear one of those things!”
Later that night Jessica spotted Lafayette out on the dance floor with an extremely attractive male. She made her way quickly to their side and tapped Lafayette on the shoulder. “Lafayette! I'm so glad to see you!”
Turning around to see Jessica behind him, Lafayette greeted, “Jessica! Where have you been, honey?”
“I've been searching, actually. I'm trying to find Bill. He's never left me alone for this long. I was hoping to speak to Sookie and ask if she knows where he is, but I can't seem to get a hold of her.”
Lafayette's features turned concerned as he said, “Has no one told you?”
“Told me what?”
“Eric banned Bill from Louisiana for that shit he pulled with Sookie.”
She schooled her face carefully. Playing dumb, Jessica asked, “How could Eric ban Bill? I thought only the queen could do that?”
Believing that Jessica was out of the loop on all that had been going on, Lafayette explained, “Eric is the new King of Louisiana, honey, and well with as much as he hated Bill he banished him the same night he took the throne.”
Claude, bored with it all, pulled on Lafayette's arm and said, “Let the girl keep looking for her Maker. I'm ready to head back to the compound. All this grinding has me wanting a shot at that tight ass of yours, Laf.”
Winking at his date, Lafayette replied, “Mmm, sugar, you know just what to say to get me in the mood.”
Grinning broadly, Claude moved to cup Lafayette's ass as he pulled him flush against his own hard body, and said, “You're always in the mood. Let's get out of here.”
Jessica, not wanting to miss her chance, begged, “Lafayette, could I use your cell and call Sookie? I'm really worried about Bill now. I know she's mad at him, but I don't know what else to do. Maybe she could at least give me a general direction to look in.”
Fishing his cell out of his pocket Lafayette handed it to her, and said, “Okay.” Paying her no more attention he wrapped his arms around Claude and the two began making out on the dance floor.
Jessica did her best not to let her glee show as she took the cell and vamped out of the club to the parking lot so there would be no background noise keeping Sookie from hearing her. Scrolling through Lafayette's contact list she found the listing for Sookie's cell. Sargon had told her now that Sookie had her own security team they probably all had cells again, so she crossed her fingers and clicked on the contact.
As the phone began to ring she shifted her weight restlessly from one leg to the other, begging silently to herself, 'Please get through. Please get through.'
Back at the compound Sookie woke from her nap to her cell ringing on her nightstand. Cracking open her eyes she saw it light up with Lafayette's name and she groaned, “Probably calling me to tell me more about his sexcapades with Claude.”
Ready to remind Lafayette that while she was happy he'd found someone so obviously perfect for him that didn't mean she wanted a blow by blow of their antics, Sookie answered the phone, “Lafayette, if you're going to tell me another recap of your latest sexual encounter with my cousin I'm hanging up.”
“It's not Lafayette, Sookie, it's Jessica.”
Fully awake now Sookie sat up and asked, “Jessica, how did you get Lafayette's phone?”
“He loaned it to me. I asked him if I could call you about Bill.”
Sookie suddenly felt a wave of guilt that she hadn't thought about Bill's child at all since he'd been banished. Her voice was soft with concern, “Oh honey, I'm sorry. I assumed he'd call you when he got banished. Bill isn't here anymore.”
Bloody tears filling her eyes, Jessica whimpered, “I know, and he's not banished, Sook.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Do you remember when Lorena took Bill and I got a vision of him in that car in the ditch?”
“Yeah, it was how we tracked him to Jackson.”
Beginning to cry harder now, Jessica explained, “Well I had another one right before I felt my connection to Bill be severed.”
Sookie's blood ran cold. She might still not know too much about vampires and the connection between Maker and child, but she knew enough to know the connection was only severed when one or the other died.
“Jessica, what are you saying?”
“Sookie, I had a vision of Bill just before our link disappeared, and in it Eric had Bill chained to a wall. He was torturing him and then he killed him by ripping his heart out.”
When Sookie remained silent, Jessica put the final nail in the coffin and finished, “Eric killed Bill, Sookie.”