I stood in the yard watching the sky as Eric flew away from me. Even though I knew I’d see him again in a few short days, it didn’t change the fact that I felt emptier without him here. There was an odd mixture of elation and sadness that buffeted around my insides. Though I didn’t consider myself a very good Christian, I offered up a prayer that Eric would stay safe until we could help him regain his freedom. I wondered if God minded me praying for a vampire’s safety. I was lost in thought when I heard a cool, smooth, southern gentleman’s voice behind me.
“Sookie.” Bill walked the last few steps and joined me. I wasn’t really in the mood for company just now, and it was obvious that he had been waiting in my woods for the moment I was alone, but the girl my grandmother had raised tried to play polite.
“Bill. Did you finish up your urgent business?” I asked snarkily. Pam must be rubbing off on me and I realized polite obviously wasn’t going to work for me right now. I didn’t like his treatment of Karin any more than Pam had.
“I think you know better than that Sookie. There was no business I had to attend to, only that I had no wish to see you and Eric together. I will help free him because I do not condone slavery in any form, but I do not have to like him. You belong with me and we both know it,” he said earnestly, without a hint of sarcasm.
I whirled to face him. “I know no such thing Bill Compton. You have betrayed me far too many times for me to ever consider that even remotely possible. Now I forgave you for all of it: for Lorena, for the fact that you came to Bon Temps to collect me for Sophie Anne. I even forgave your rape of me in the trunk in the car.” I still had a hard time saying it, but it was the truth and I forced it out. He opened his mouth to defend himself, but I held my hand up and continued not even allowing him to get a word in edgewise. “I finally came to grips with it and am trying to move past all of it. But I forgave you, mostly because you almost died protecting me when I was taken by those psychotic fairies, but that in no way means I have any intention of ever falling for you again. What I cannot forgive is your treatment of Karin.”
“Karin?” He asked surprised. “She is a mere dalliance Sookie. You are the only one who holds my heart. You even kissed me after Eric divorced you publically. You know that he will never love you, not like I do, and I will never betray you again.” He moved towards me attempting to wrap his arms around me.
I threw up a little in my mouth and took a step back. “Yes, and that kiss was a mistake, one that I will not repeat. I was feeling hurt and deceived by everything that had gone on, but that does not change the fact that it was wrong. And how could you think that I would become involved with you after your callous behavior in regards to my friend, because Karin is my friend Bill. As I thought you were. Evidently, I was wrong. Certainly isn’t the first time, but as far as you and I are concerned, it will be the last. Now, you can be on Team Rescue the Viking, because it’s the right thing to do, or you can go crawl into the hole you’ve dug yourself.”
He smiled sadly at me. “I am your friend Sookie, but you are right and I will apologize to Karin. My behavior was not that of a gentleman. I will also help free Eric, but know this Sookie: he will break your heart again. Maybe Freyda won’t be the reason, but there will be a reason, and I will be there to help you pick up the pieces despite your words to me tonight. I am a very patient man.”
I stared at him, mouth hanging open, unable to formulate a single coherent thought other than, “I think it’s time for you to leave.”
The group from inside must have heard the conversation because they formed a semi-circle behind me.
“Sookie, please. I am on your side, can you not see that? I am trying to help you,” Bill implored me.
“Look I’ll fully admit that I’m a bit overly emotional right now, what with Eric just leaving and all, but I’m done with this conversation.”
He started to plead his case again, but Mr. C stopped him. “I think the lady made it clear that you need to leave now Mr. Compton. We will see you tomorrow evening at Fangtasia.”
He closed his eyes and nodded slightly, finally taking his leave. We stood there, the five of us, in silence until he disappeared from my property.
Pam was the first one to speak. “Sookie, I really think you need to rescind his invitation as soon as possible. We will insure that there is no reason for him to show up at your house again before we leave for Oklahoma, but I think you need to be very careful around him. He seems to have developed an unhealthy attachment to you.”
I winced at her words and sighed. “Yeah, I’m getting that feeling. Thankfully Mr. C and Diantha will be staying with me for the next few days. Hopefully he’ll back off when Eric returns. He fears him too much to cross him.”
“Maybe Eric will send him somewhere far away when he’s back in charge of Area Five. Somewhere with a lot of sunshine,” Pam chuckled diabolically. “I could do it myself, but we really do need all the help we can get, and besides I have a feeling Eric would be upset if I took that pleasure away from him. We should head back inside now though. We still have a few things to discuss and it’s getting late. I need my beauty rest.”
She, Diantha, and Mr. C started heading towards the house, but Karin stopped me asking me to wait just a moment.
She stepped around so that she was looking directly at me. “I just wanted to say thank you Sookie.”
“For what Karin?” I asked confused.
“For your defense of me. What you did was unnecessary, as I would have taken care of it myself, but I find that I am grateful none the less. I know I have not been overly kind to you, but I’ve never had a human do something like that for me,” she said and I could tell she was being sincere.
“Hey, no worries. I probably wouldn’t have been very kind to me either if I had been in your position, but I like to think that we’ve progressed beyond that. I meant it when I said that you were my friend. I don’t take kindly to people who mess with my friends.” I gave her lopsided smile.
“Yes…friends,” she slowly agreed as if she were trying out the phrase for the first time.
“Come on, we should probably get inside. Who knows what Pam will do if we keep her waiting too long.” I began to walk to the house and when she didn’t follow I turned back to her.
“I think I’ll stay out here for a while longer. Though I don’t think he’ll be coming back tonight, I’d prefer not to take the chance. You have a light-tight place I can stay right?”
I was taken aback as she had never stayed with me before, but I answered quickly. “Of course. I’ll make sure it’s ready for you.”
“Thank you again Sookie,” she said simply and turned to walk into the woods.
I stood there for a bit longer in contemplation. I was glad that she and I had taken a step forward tonight. I really did consider her my friend, though not as close as Pam and I, but with all the time we had been spending together it wasn’t really a surprise. I shook myself of the shock of the conversation and headed into the house to rejoin the others.
I couldn’t look back as I flew away from her. I felt restored, but needed to focus on the task ahead. Sookie had given me the address of where Bernie had been staying outside Dallas, having spoken to her after finding out that Barry had been taken, and hopefully I would find Harrison there. If they weren’t I would have to track them, which shouldn’t be too hard once I caught her scent from the house, but I was working on a time schedule. So I let the love I felt fuel my mission and flew at top speed.
It didn’t take long for me to arrive and I was relieved to see that it appeared that everyone was gathered in the house. It was an older ranch style with peeling brown paint and scrubby bushes planted outside. There was a single tree in the front yard that was filled with annoying black birds that gave the place a sinister vibe. It was in a mostly abandoned area and I doubted any humans would be wandering anywhere near the place if they didn’t have to. It would definitely work in my favor that I wouldn’t have to worry about being spotted by some well-intentioned neighbor since there wasn’t much in the way of cover. I was hoping that the fact that they weren’t expecting me tonight meant that as long as I didn’t draw attention to myself I would be safe.
I hunkered down in the shadow between the house and the bushes and counted four heartbeats. If Harrison was being truthful, and he could get them on our side, it wouldn’t be a huge addition to my allies, but it would certainly help. I settled myself in and focused on the conversation.
“And why the fuck should I trust Eric Northman? I’ve heard the stories associated with him. Don’t forget that my son knows him and isn’t overly fond of him.” I assumed that the woman’s voice I heard must be Bernie’s as she seemed to be speaking of Sam. I wasn’t surprised by anything she was saying. I wasn’t overly fond of Merlotte myself.
“You should trust him because y’all don’t stand a chance against Freyda by yourselves. None of us do. The only way for this to work is for us to work together,” Harrison was explaining.
Bernie responded, “So you think that we should just allow you to take us into the heart of darkness and lock us in a cell with the understanding that you’re just gonna let us out. With what…the promise? Of a vampire? You expect us to believe that?”
“I’m not giving you my word as a vampire. I’m giving you my word as a Texan.” Harrison said simply. I’d give it to him, it was an interesting move and I had to agree that she’d probably trust a Texan sooner than a vampire.
Another voice chimed in, gruff and accented, “And what do you have to gain from this? If you’re…what did you call it…the Queen’s number two, it seems like you have an awful lot to lose if this goes wrong. So what’s in it for you?”
“Firstly, realize that if this goes wrong we will all be dead, which you will be anyway if you attempt anything on your own, trust me on that. Secondly, if we succeed, I will gain my freedom and vengeance against the person who killed the woman I loved.” So far everything that I was hearing synced with what he had told me earlier this evening. It didn’t mean that he wasn’t still playing me, but it did lend him a bit more credence. Then again he could simply be using the same story.
“Jeff, I don’t think we have much of a choice really. Freyda wants us collected and Harrison is here to do that. The only question is whether we decide to work with him or not,” a younger woman was saying.
“Betty Lou, do you honestly think that we couldn’t take him? There are four of us and only one of him,” Jeff replied. “And why do you believe him? Just because he says he’s from Texas? Lord have mercy, are you really so naïve?”
“I can understand your trepidation Jeff, Bernie.” He paused. “This is the newspaper article that was written after my Eloise’s disappearance. She was from a wealthy family and they knew I had been courting her. They didn’t approve, mostly because they saw me as unworthy of their daughter. If you read the article you will see that I am the one they suspected of her disappearance. I have kept it for the past hundred years as a reminder of what the Queen is capable of.”
He had not divulged this information to me and I wondered briefly why. Maybe he had assumed that I already believed him and so there was no reason to offer further proof. Maybe it was simply that once he told me of Sookie’s attack that I had been focused solely on her safety. Either way, I wanted to see the article and decided it was time to reveal myself. Besides, there were only a few hours of darkness left and I didn’t relish spending the night in the dirt if I didn’t have to. It was time to get this show on the road. I rose and knocked at the door. I could hear the intakes of breath and the scrambling of those inside.
Someone loaded a shotgun and Jeff called out, “Who’s there?”
“Eric Northman.” I heard the sliding of a chain to the side and an older man with a grizzled face pushed the shotgun through the slight opening.
“We weren’t expecting you.” The gruff voice that came out identified him as Jeff.
“No you weren’t, but considering that I am an integral part of this plan, I think it would be beneficial to all of us if you invited me inside.”
Jeff glanced back at the rest of the group and must have acquired their ascent. The door opened wide enough to admit me. I looked around the dingy room at the group gathered there. The inside was as dilapidated as the outside. “Come in Mr. Northman, but know that this gun is loaded with silver and I won’t hesitate to fill you full of bullets if I feel that you are being in the least bit threatening.”
I entered and raised an eyebrow at him. “As you are being quite blunt I will return the favor and inform you that the chances of you shooting me before I ripped the gun from your hands and tied it in a bow around your neck are slim to none.” He blanched and I continued on, “Hello Harrison. As I seem to find myself surrounded by soon-to-be allies I find that introductions might be nice.”
“Nobody has agreed to that yet Mr. Northman,” Jeff growled in an attempt to intimidate me.
I laughed at him. “Then am I to take it that you prefer death?” When there was no reply I stated, “I have deduced that you are Jeff. Harrison, if you would do the honors?”
“Of course.” He pointed at a small, lean, brunette woman with a swimmer’s body. “That there is Betty Lou. Bernie is next to her with the reddish gold hair.” I could see the family resemblance to Sam and didn’t expect her to smile at me, though Betty Lou did even if it was a tentative smile at best. “You have obviously already identified Jeff, but the last of this group, sitting over in the corner is Samuel.” I nodded to the large man with dark hair cut into a military style. I guessed that he was the one in charge of this group.
“Thank you. Now if I may ask to see the article that you spoke of?” He passed it to me and I took care not to damage the frail paper. I read it quickly, noted that it was exactly as he described, and handed it back to him.
“Believe me now Northman?” Harrison replied without attitude, but as if my distrust was not an unexpected development.
“The jury’s still out, but I’m leaning towards it. Just so you know that I will enjoy killing you if you betray me or any of the people here.” I turned to look at Bernie. “I have been working with Barry on the inside to help ensure his freedom. I have promised that he will be well compensated if we succeed in this. He is a friend of Sookie and she was the one who informed me of where I could find you this evening. Does that ease your mind a bit? I know you do not trust me, but I am sure that you do trust her.”
“Well she’s not really on my good side right now, but you are right vampire, I do trust her.”
“Good. Then we are all agreed in this plan?” They glanced around at each other unsure of whether this was really a good idea or not.
Samuel finally spoke. “Well, as I see it, we don’t have much choice and the chances that we will survive are greater if we stick with the vamps here.” When none of the others spoke against him, he looked back at me. “Then we are agreed, but as you put it so succinctly to your comrade there, if you betray us I will enjoy killing you.”
I liked him. “Fair enough. So shall we get down to business? There isn’t much left of the night and I still need to find shelter for the day.” I laid out the details of what they should expect and that Harrison would be the one to release them from the cells below. Once freed they would join the fight, but they would also need to be able to see to Barry’s safety as I would be otherwise occupied. Despite the rough beginning I found that they were smart and paid close attention.
The rest of the evening went smoothly and I took my leave of them to find the vampire hotel they had given me directions to. I still needed to figure out how much I should tell Harrison, but it had been a long night, and my mind was filled with the memory of Sookie’s warm body and soft lips against mine. I was still thinking of her when the sun rose and I fell into my daytime rest with an easy smile across my face. If I could have dreamed it would have been of her.