A/N: The crickets chorus outside my window as I pen this tiny note to you.
I hope it finds you happy and anxious for our next chapter.
We’re still in Scotland 1603, just so’s you know.
As per usual, thanks for reading! Enjoy!
Secret Nerd Princess
PS. A good deal of thanks to Treewitch who helped me with a bit of research and inspired a certain part of this chapter. She’ll know which part!
PPS. Another tidbit: Foreshadowing thanks to realjena (FF) who has agreed to Beta my stories starting with the next chapter! Everybody give her an early round of applause. She’s fantastic and her stories make me happy on the inside. (seriously: go check out her stuff! She’s awesome and fantastic and lovely! Her stories make me warm and fuzzy!)
By Any Other Name
I woke in the filth of the cell, unaware of the time and out of sorts. Waking in the stench, my body floated in confusion until the events of the day before slammed back into focus. My dreams had been disjointed and terrifying as I ran to escape flames and condemnation. It was worse than being called ‘Crazy Sookie’ by the people of Bon Temps, obviously, but it wasn’t anything I’d ever expected to have to endure. We didn’t burn people alive in America in 21st century. We weren’t too far removed from that kind of violence, being from the South I knew the atrocities that humanity was capable of, but my life had been sheltered from that kind of viciousness.
I sat up, feeling the grime coating my hair, and tried to run my fingers through the tangles. I wanted to rub at my eyes, but one look at the black grime underneath my nails and the streaks of dirt across my hands made me hold back, and I lifted the long sleeve of my dress trying to find a clean spot to use instead. I noticed Eric’s ring was smudged with filth and I took it off, wiping it on the edge of the sleeve, tying it into the ribbon that held my chemise closed, and tucking it inside. I didn’t want to lose it. Without the sun shining down through even a small barred window, I had no idea how long I’d slept or how long I had to wait until they took me to the pyre. I needed to relieve my aching bladder and I really didn’t want to use the ceramic pot the color of storm clouds in the corner of my cell, but I didn’t have a choice. Squatting, I tried not to think about how disgusting my situation was since it wouldn’t do me any good and it wouldn’t change anything. I needed to think. What did I know?
One. It was not yet nighttime since I would have already been marched toward my death. Two. If it was daytime that meant that my guards were human. Side note: Why did King James have vampire guards? Did he know that he had vampire guards? Did he know about vampires? Three. Men are men no matter what century they are in and there was a possibility I could use my feminine wiles to gain my freedom. Four. Was I willing to use them for my escape and how far was I willing to go? Short answer, yes, I was willing, but I had no idea how far I would go. This was a pretty extreme situation in my eyes, but I’d only slept with two guys before now and wasn’t sure if my morals would take a backseat even in the face of death. Five. Burning to death was not an option, but I couldn’t fight if I couldn’t breathe, so action number one: get the corset off. This proved to be much harder than I imagined. How in the world did women deal with this clothing? Beautiful it might be, but I’d trade this dress for a pair of my sweats in a heartbeat. I would never again romanticize the middle ages. They might have knights and chivalry, but chamber pots and corsets outweighed any of my previously misguided notions of fairytales.
My fingers dug at the strings haphazardly until I realized I would have to be much more organized to get this steel trap off of me. Wait a minute. I could use whatever torture device the corset was made of if I could free the stays from the fabric. It wouldn’t be any different than removing the underwire from a bra once the metal started poking out. Okay. I loosened and pulled and loosened and pulled for what seemed like hours before I finally freed my rib cage. I took a huge breath once I could. I almost collapsed in relief, but I had no idea how much time I had. I didn’t want to sleep with one of the guards to gain my freedom, which I doubted would work anyway since they’d probably just take what I offered and throw me back down in the dungeon. Coiling the strings around my hand, I shoved the laces down in between my breasts. They might come in handy. Then I went to work on the corset. I found one of the stays and started wiggling it, using the end to make a hole in the fabric. It was harder than I thought, the stupid thing was really well made, but I wasn’t going to give up. I kept wiggling as I searched the cell for something sharp enough to help make a hole. It kept my mind busy so that I didn’t have to work as hard to keep my shields up and blocking the other prisoner’s thoughts even if I couldn’t block their voices. I seriously did not want to have to fight off their insanity as well as keep my own.
Every so often a guard would come down and walk up and down the long hall, making sure everyone was still alive and where they were supposed to be. Every time I heard the scraping of the iron door, I shoved the corset under the mattress and busied myself with praying. The guard scoffed at me, wondering what business a witch had talking to the almighty, but they were only words, and they didn’t matter at this point. I did ask him what time it was trying to gauge how long I had before I could set my meager plan into motion.
“Three hours past midday. Now hush yourself before your evil catches on the wind.”
Harumph. Well that was unnecessary, though I didn’t think there was a law against being rude to the prisoners. It took a good deal longer to loosen the stay from the corset and I felt momentarily guilty as a tiny hole appeared at the bottom of the corset below the piece I was trying to free. I hated to destroy something that didn’t belong to me, but I didn’t think the Doctor would mind, all things considered. I was thankful that the end of the stay was square and sharp or I might never have freed it from the cloth. Finally, what seemed like a lifetime later, I pulled the bone loose. I was disappointed to see it wasn’t wood, which, you know, would be super handy when dealing with vampires, but it was flexible, sturdy, and sharp. I briefly considered trying to pick the lock of the cell with it, but discarded that idea quickly since I didn’t think it would do any good, and might snap the nine inch length of bone. That would be bad. I set to work trying to get a couple more of the bones so that I had options. Or at least one for each hand.
I had only succeeded in freeing one more by the time the guards came to collect me. I had slipped them up and into the overly long sleeves of my dress, keeping them in place where the fabric tightened just above my elbow, when I heard the creak of the door opening. I would have to keep my arms as straight as possible so that my hidden weapons wouldn’t attract notice. They unlocked my cell and thankfully didn’t place me in shackles since I had no doubt there’d be no way to escape from them or use my painfully gotten weapons. I was actually shocked at this, but figured that it was probably because I was a woman, and therefore, not a danger. Ha! Well I’d show them. Hopefully anyway. The vampire guards from the night before wrapped their fingers around my upper arms marching me back up the stairs and into the brighter light of the castle. I blinked while my eyes adjusted before I was lead through the hallways and out into the night.
A huge crowd had gathered for my witch’s walk of shame. We were greeted by a mob in the courtyard and they followed us through the cobblestone streets chanting and carrying torches. I wanted to wait until we were out in the open to try and get free because I reckoned I had less of a chance of escaping through the winding hallways of the castle, where there was destined to be tons of people, than of finding my way through the unknown streets of Edinburgh. When the street narrowed and the crowd was forced to fall behind us, I saw my chance. I waited until we were getting close to a side street and, using the element of surprise, wrested my arms free. Crossing my hands I grabbed a stay in each of them and took off running. Unfortunately, I did not get very far. I whirled as I felt them vamp to my side and shove me down on the ground. I used the stay to stab at the taller scraggly brown haired vampire’s neck and closed my eyes against the expected arterial spray of blood. Nothing happened, or, more to the point, the stay pricked him and bent uselessly. He ripped it out of my hand and tossed it aside. Crap. I still had one left, but I was beginning to doubt that it would do me any good.
The vampire pressed his body into mine and I could feel his hard-on against my pelvic bone. I wanted to puke. I needed to remember to breathe, but his foul breath assaulted my face.
“I like ’em feisty little girl, fight some more…please.” He bent down, licked my neck, and the roiling in my stomach got worse.
If I had had anything to eat in the last day I would have certainly thrown up on him, which might have been a blessing. I clutched at the remaining stay, moving my fist closer to the end of it, hoping to make it stronger by making it shorter. I needed to focus on soft tissue, something that would hurt enough to give me some time, but wasn’t too hard that the bone would just bend again. I saw my chance and took it, whipping my arm around and shoving the bone upward and into the vampire’s left eyeball. It slid in easily and when I went to pull the bone out, his eye came with it. I let go immediately, wiping the juice and blood that came with it against the skirt of my dress, and it hung suspended from his socket. When he released his hold on me to try and pull out the bone, I rolled out from under him, seizing the laces that were stashed away between my breasts. I wrapped the cord around his neck and pulled tightly trying to choke him or decapitate him, it didn’t really matter which. I felt his windpipe crack under the pressure, and I jumped up to run away. The other vampire, who reminded me hysterically of David Bowie, caught up with me easily and I thrashed about in his arms as he dragged me back to his compatriot who was clutching at his dangling eye and screaming, blood dripping down between his splayed fingers. Two more vampires scampered to us out of nowhere, one to drag the injured vamp away and the other to wrap his dirty meaty paws around my arm and waist.
I was all about rescuing myself, but I could really use some help right now. Where was Eric, the Doctor, or heck, even Mac, though he didn’t know me so I didn’t hold out hope of him doing anything? It occurred to me that even Eric didn’t know me that well in this lifetime despite our apparently timeless connection. The Bowie look-alike grabbed my other arm, much more tightly this time, and they both hauled me like a sack of potatoes toward the town square where I could see a huge pile of wood with a small platform in the center. A huge trunk shot up from the back of the platform and I began to truly panic. I had really thought up until this point that I wouldn’t even have to go this far. I had worried about getting lost in a foreign city in a time period not my own. I hadn’t considered the idea of flames licking up my incredibly flammable dress and charring my skin. Oh lord, I really did not want to smell my flesh burning.
I fought harder against my captors and dug my heels into the cracks of the stones trying to stop my forward motion, but they were vampires and there was absolutely nothing I could do against their strength. My eyes scanned the still growing crowd searching for one of the three faces I knew. I saw only strangers. The sadness I felt was overwhelming, but I wasn’t dead yet, so I’d hold onto what little hope I could muster. My captors walked me up onto the pyre and some of the wood rolled down the pile as we made our way up. I stumbled and fervently wished that my hands had been free to pluck a piece of wood from the pile so that I could at least take one of the vampires with me. If I was gonna die, I didn’t want to die alone. I knew I was screaming for Eric, but my wretched cries were strangled from fear and the tears that were running down my cheeks. As they lashed me to the pole, I forced myself to stop. I would die with dignity. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of knowing that I was afraid. No. I would hold my head high.
King James strolled into the middle of the gathering as if he hadn’t a care in the world. As if he wasn’t about to flipping burn me alive. I gave him the Stackhouse glare as one of his lackeys stepped into the center with a scroll of paper declaring my guilt as a witch to the assembled throng. They didn’t give me a chance to declare my innocence or say any last words and the horde chanted for my death. Good Lord I missed democracy. Three more guards came forward bearing torches, which they bent to the pile. It caught rather quickly, I noticed reluctantly. Every time we had tried to build a bonfire it took forever, but I guess when you used fire every day you got rather good at setting them. I wiggled and struggled against the ropes hoping against hope that they would loosen, but alas it was not to be.
Terror surged through every vein in my body and my life began to flash before my eyes. I knew it was only taking seconds, but it felt like a lifetime as I caught the images of my grandmother and brother at every Christmas morning. Birthdays, prom, graduation. The Merlotte’s crew as we closed up for the night, joking as we cleaned up after the drunks. I even saw Bill sitting in the booth as I remembered him from the first time we met. Every moment that I spent with Eric, from our first encounter in Fangtasia where I was inexplicably drawn to him; the night I found him running lost on the side of the road; braiding his beautiful blonde hair as he sat between my legs. The heat of the fire built beneath me and I could feel it just waiting to engulf my body. I whispered Eric’s name, praying to see his face for real, even if it was just him in the distance watching as I burned. I wouldn’t have blamed him, he was already on the King’s shit list apparently, but I still desperately wanted to see him one last time.
I closed my eyes and let my consciousness drift off into my memories. They would comfort me when the pain started. The most I could hope for would be that I passed out soon after the burning started. I brought up an image of Eric sitting between my legs at Merlotte’s as we planned for the witch war and how safe we felt together. I regretted now not telling him the truth of what had gone on between us. He deserved that much and now it was too late. I was too selfish, afraid of what would happen if he knew. I had given myself the excuse that he would never believe, but I realized now I had been afraid of admitting what I felt for fear that he would want more, not less than what we already had. His love for me had been unexpected. Truthfully I’d never even admitted how much that even his friendship and protection had meant to me. I had always brushed it off because he wasn’t what I pictured for the love of my life. I was supposed to marry, settle down, and raise a brood of children in the same house that I had grown up in, but that was so small-minded of me. I never dreamt of the future because I feared what the future could bring. I didn’t want change. It’s probably why I had fought against my telepathy. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be normal and so I’d never given Eric a chance.
The heat was getting to be too much for me and I opened my eyes. The roar of the flames stifled my hearing, but when I looked I saw that there was a commotion breaking out in the multitude. All I could see was a glint of a sword here, a hole opening up where there was none an instant before. Then, through a break in the inferno, I saw a sight that took my breath away. There, fighting against the King’s vampires, were a group of red and green kilt-clad vampires. Evidently I was right. The MacGregor clan was vampires. I didn’t know if they all were, I couldn’t tell from my vantage point, but a good portion of the swords moving too quickly for the eye gave away the fact that at least some of them were. I searched for a flash of long blonde hair or a whooshing brown trench coat, but the flames re-covered the break I was looking through.
The surrounding crowd finally gathered some semblance of sanity and fled away from the scene, fearful of being cut down. Suddenly I felt a wild wind whip around me and Eric landed, wood scattering with his added weight. He ripped the ropes away from my body, wrapped his bare arms around me, and flew us to safety. The cool night air rushing over my skin was a relief. I nearly fell unconscious, but I would not allow it. I was made of sterner stuff than that. I would not faint during my rescue. When we were well away from the fire Eric set us down a glade surrounded by trees and whirled me around so that I was facing him. His eyes searched my body for injury as he always did and that in itself was reassuring because it meant he wasn’t shoving me behind him to fight off the medieval hordes bent on our destruction.
I gave him a small smile, trying to assure him that although I was coated in dirt, soot, blood, and eye goo, I was alright. My dress was ragged at the edges from the fire that had been about to engulf me, but given what had almost happened, I was lucky to be alive. Eric had saved me yet again. It really hit me then how close I had come to dying. Jason, Tara, Sam: none of them would have ever known what happened. Eric would have lost his ever-loving mind. Poor Pam would have had her hands full trying to pull him back from the edge. Even if he couldn’t remember our time together, he had always helped me when I needed it and protected me no matter what, which meant he cared for me, at least a little I had to finally admit. He probably would have blamed himself for my disappearance.
“Princess? Are you unharmed? Adeline?” His hands sought my face, turning my eyes to meet his. I refocused on the Eric standing in front of me.
“Yes, yes, I’m sorry Eric, I’m fine,” my brittle smile relieving the visible tension he carried with him. Then I came fully to my senses. “What were you doing? You could have died!”
He just arched his beautiful eyebrow and ignored my outburst. “Please forgive me Princess, I could not come for you sooner. The King kept the dungeons surrounded. I tried to get to you before they took you to the pyre, but the streets were congested and I was unable…”
“Shhhh. Eric, it’s okay. I promise.” I stood on my tippy toes and kissed him softly, smiling at his cool lips against mine.
He studied my face, scrutinizing every nuance of expression that flickered across it. “There is something in your smile. Somehow you remind me of home, which is impossible since the home I knew is lost and gone forever.”
I wrapped my arms around his bare waist, pressing my cheek to the swath of kilt wrapped over his shoulder and draping his pale chest, reveling in his closeness. “Thank you Eric, for saving me. You didn’t have to.”
He pulled back and held me at arm’s length, the corded muscles of his forearms rippling in the moonlight. “You risked your life to defend the MacGregor, I could not let you die. Besides, there is something about you. Something I cannot put my finger on.”
I shivered and resisted the urge to rip the cloth from his body and have my way with him. Instead I just said, “Perhaps we are star-crossed lovers, married in our first lifetime and trying to find our way back to each other.” I could have sworn a flicker of recognition rushed over his features, but it appeared and was gone before he could grasp it.
He gathered me against his body and we stayed holding each other underneath a thousand stars. “Do you happen to know of a new writer by the name of William Shakespeare?” He asked without releasing his hold on me.
“I do, he is a favorite of mine.”
He quoted and my heart swooned. “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight, for I never saw true beauty till this night,” Eric whispered against my hair.
“Romeo and Juliet,” I sighed. I turned my chin up to face him. “Such a sad tale. Hopefully our story will have a much happier ending.”
Our lips met in unspoken mutual agreement. They parted together and our tongues danced. I would never get my fill of kissing him, not ever, I was sure of it now. Roaming hands met passion and surpassed it, feeling edges and curves, soft supple skin against thick defined muscle. My fingers raked against his naked back and I wish nothing more than to fall into him, losing time and all hope of return. I was whisked away into the stars and over the treetops that overhung our hiding space. My body was not my own and he could have taken his fill of me and left me panting and sated. Instead our souls re-inhabited the flesh that contained them.
Finally breaking the kiss he said sadly, “Come Adeline. We must rejoin the others. The Doctor and Mac await us.”
“Where are we going?” I asked simply leaning my forehead against his chest.
“I have a house outside of town, we shall go there tonight and I will care for you. You can clean up, eat, and rest for the evening. Then tomorrow we will discuss our future plans. Perhaps you and I will run away to London, where I will take you to the Globe to see Shakespeare’s latest play. Would you like that?”
I looked at him and sighed, I didn’t have the energy to tell him I couldn’t stay. “It would be a dream come true.” He pressed his lips once more to mine before we took to the sky.