Chapter 13: (Half) True Confessions
One downside to being a verbal smart ass: the wrong comment at the wrong time can attract the wrong attention. As soon as I spoke, Tara’s weapon hand pivoted towards me and she snarled, “Let’s see if you think it’s that funny if I fire a wooden bullet at you, you –”
I didn’t get to hear her insult of choice before Pam slammed into her from behind, breaking the arm holding the gun with a quick snap the sent the weapon skittering away, and then tumbling both of them over the balcony railing to the ballroom below. Tara screamed in agony as her injured arm took the brunt of the landing, with Pam’s weight from behind her more than doubling the force of the impact. Pam used the momentum of the collision to roll onto her own back, one arm around Tara’s throat in a chokehold and the other restraining the human’s uninjured arm. “I’m sorry, did that hurt?” my progeny asked sweetly. “Because I only intended to disarm you.”
Trust my Pam to figure out a way to get around my command as her maker for her not to hurt Tara in retribution.
Two of the Authority guards moved in to take custody of Tara while a third went to secure Tara’s deadly weapon from where it had landed on the upper balcony.
On seeing what his cousin had done, Lafayette began to shout tearfully, not at the guards who surrounded her or at Pam, but at Tara. “What the fuck you do that for, hookah? Why? Why you have to be so fucking stupid, bitch? What’m I gonna tell your mama now, huh? Huh?” I could feel that he was grief-stricken and genuinely angry with his cousin, who refused to meet his eyes.
Jesus grabbed his partner and held him back, trying to calm him, as the guards whisked Tara away. The moment she was out of the room, Jesus had taken Lafayette into his arms as the black man sobbed and swore. “What they gonna do with her?” Lafayette finally asked, looking in my direction, his voice raw with dread.
I was impressed that while he was clearly upset, he was not foolishly venting his anger at those who remained in the room. He was playing it smart – unlike his cousin.
Given what he had done for us – for me – tonight, I felt I owed him the little bit of consolation I could give him.
“In a sense, your cousin staked the right vampire, Lafayette,” I said frankly. “With a vampire of Nan Flanagan’s prominence, the Authority will have to handle her death – and her killer – with some finesse. Tara has bought herself some time in that way. Unless they want to create a PR disaster, the Authority is going to have to put on a show of some kind of justice process.”
And a show it might be, but it would keep Tara alive, at least for a while.
“That fucking stupid bitch,” Lafayette muttered to himself, closing his eyes and shaking his head.
Bill had quit struggling against his captors, who nonetheless retained their hold on Louisiana’s sovereign, while the final guard, a vampire who looked like a bulldog, was clearly debating on whether or not to follow through on Nan’s apparent intent to have Sookie arrested. He looked at me questioningly and I suddenly realized that with my king in Authority custody and Nan no more, I was, for all intents and purposes, the highest-ranking vampire in the room.
I hated political hierarchy, but I was not above using it to my advantage. And as much as Bill annoyed me, his influence as monarch of Louisiana could be useful in protecting Sookie if the power of his rank was promptly restored. He may be my enemy, but I trusted him to keep Sookie from the malignant clutches of the Authority.
“Since Miss Flanagan intended to question the king about the shooting of Sheriff Blackburn and the real culprit has been discovered, I see no reason to keep him in custody,” I said indifferently to the guards. “Of course, if you feel you need the permission of the Authority to act on that recommendation – well, you’re the ones who have to fill out the paperwork.” I shrugged. When one couldn’t issue orders and expect them to obeyed, the next best strategy was to make “helpful” suggestions that lead in your desired direction.
The guards holding Bill looked at one another and then to the bulldog, who nodded at them. They released my king, who straightened his disheveled clothing and murmured his thanks. Apparently, the Authority troops hadn’t quite mentally accepted his return to full royal status, however, as they still addressed the next question to me.
“And the blonde that Miss Flanagan wanted to be held for questioning?” Bulldog asked, looking at Sookie, taking her in from ponytail to tennis shoes.
I felt Sookie’s panic and sent her a wave of calm. Beside her, Jesus and Lafayette also tensed as they realized that Tara might not be the only one taken away tonight. I could feel through our bond that Pam was rather enjoying the possibility that Sookie might be seized by the Authority. I shot her a chastising look and she stifled her anticipation. Marginally.
“Well, that’s somewhat more complicated, as I am not sure I understand why Miss Flanagan would have wished to speak further with Miss Stackhouse,” I said, frowning with feigned bewilderment.
The fact that the Authority guards had not been present when Sookie had used her light powers was a huge point in our favor. So long as her allies were willing to lie for her, the only other witnesses to Sookie’s use of her fairy magic were either dead or having the memories glamoured out of them even as we spoke. The only person who could have been counted on to betray us was now a pile of messy red entrails on the floor. Good-fucking-bye, Nan.
I glanced around to assess who might be listening and then leaned in closely as if to take the guard into my confidence, keeping my voice low. “If it is concerning Miss Stackhouse’s ability to read human minds, that is a known quantity here in Louisiana. However, that we have such an asset is not something we like to advertiseoutside our area. Not even to Miss Flanagan.” I raised an eyebrow meaningfully. “Did she say why she wanted the girl questioned?” I probed.
If Nan had already reported Sookie’s suspected status as a fairy, we were screwed, but if I could persuade the guards that Nan’s interest was in something as benign as Sookie’s being an unreported telepath, we might have a chance.
For once, I was grateful for the culture of secrecy and manipulation that characterized vampire politics. It was common knowledge that most kingdoms, if they had people with “unusual” talents in their service, were careful to keep those advantages quiet – even from the Authority, when possible. If we could act is if Louisiana had simply been less than forthcoming about having a telepath in its midst, we might throw the Authority off the scent of the more important knowledge of Sookie’s fairy blood.
“Well…no, Miss Flanagan was not specific about what piqued her interest,” the guard replied. “Although the word ‘telepath’ did come up,” he added begrudgingly.
“If the Authority wants our official acknowledgement that Miss Stackhouse is a telepath in the service of Louisiana’s crown, we can supply that,” Bill volunteered smoothly. “And I will take full responsibility for the failure to disclose that information. She is only able to read human minds, no others.”
“Knowing the Authority, they are probably aware of Miss Stackhouse’s particular talent already,” I admitted, giving the guards a rueful smirk. “But I don’t think it is necessary for our asset to be inconvenienced with a personal interview concerning something so minor. Especially since she was particularly helpful in tonight’s situation.” I looked significantly at Bill, hoping he would follow my lead.
He did, addressing the guards. “Of course, you were not present during the earlier skirmish, but Miss Stackhouse was instrumental in arranging the presence of the two witches who assisted us in defeating the necromancers. We have much for which to be grateful to her. I would hate to reward her kindness towards us with unnecessary delays in her safe return home.”
“Yeah, it if wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have been able to come here and break that spell over the vampires,” Lafayette interjected, his voice still thick after his tears. I could feel his determination to save who he could if he couldn’t save his cousin. “She’s the one who told us what was going on and asked us to help. Y’all owes her big-time or you’d be cleaning up a whole fuckload of human and vampire bodies tonight.” The medium looked down pointedly at Nan Flanagan’s remains.
The guards looked from speaker to speaker, and then at Sookie, who was standing quietly to one side, eyes wide, her expression artless. I could feel her anxiety and just kept sending calmness to her, as if lending her my own ability to maintain a poker face. “I just wanted to stop the witches from hurting any of my vampire friends, like Mr. Compton and Mr. Northman,” Sookie finally said in a soft voice. “And I’m real sorry about what happened to Miss Flanagan.”
I could feel that min blóðfrig felt some genuine remorse that Nan Flanagan had met her true death. I had to stifle a temptation to smirk; I was reasonably sure she was the only person in our little huddle of the living and undead who felt badly for the late AVL representative. Nan might have been feared or even respected in some quarters, but she was not well-liked thanks to her questionable interpersonal skills. I wonder what Nan would have thought to know that the person she had wanted arrested was probably the only person who felt sorry for her death.
After a moment’s consideration, Bulldog nodded in approval. “Fine. Miss Stackhouse need not be detained.” I saw Pam purse her lips in disappointment. “But, your majesty, you and any of the vampires affected by the witch’s spell will need to be debriefed before we allow you to return home.” He looked at the witches and Sookie. “And I would suggest that all of your kingdom’s assets be glamoured before they are released.” I saw the two male witches twinge at being classified as among Louisiana’s assets but they wisely said nothing.
“Naturally. The Sheriff, Miss de Beaufort and I will take care of that and remain here until you wish to speak to us,” Bill said, smiling agreeably as the troops finally moved away to see to other cleanup activities.
“Your asset?” Sookie said when the guards were at a sufficient distance away, shooting me a dark look that reflected quite accurately her irritation over being referred to as if she was little more than property.
“Our very much valued asset that we want to keep right here in Area 5,” I said pointedly. I pushed a sense of warning towards her that now was not the time to quibble about unfortunate turns of phrase, softening my caution with a warm rush of my love for her. For the moment, she was safe and I would have said or done anything to make that happen, even if she was offended in the process.
“We should take care of the glamouring so that Lafayette and Jesus can get on their way,” Bill said. While they still can; both Bill and I were well aware of the capricious nature of the Authority. The sooner the witches were gone, the better.
Shit. There was one thing I needed to know before the witches’ memories were wiped out. “Before we glamour them, one question,” I said, turning to Lafayette. “How was it that my Maker spoke through you?”
I could feel Lafayette’s trepidation. “Honestly, I don’t fuckin’ know,” he answered. “Jesus’s Uncle Tio was there and trying to fight Antonia’s magic, and then suddenly, I saw this sorta little guy, real young, dark hair, all kinds of tattoos on his neck and his arms.” Lafayette gestured with his fingers as if to indicate the patterns against his own skin. “And I know he was trying to tell me something to do with you, but there was so much goin’ on with Tio and Antonia that I couldn’t really pay attention to him. And then suddenly that motherfucker – ‘scuse me, your vampire friend – he was inside me and Tio was outside me, and he was talkin’ to you.” Lafayette shook his head. “I didn’t even know he was a vampire until he started commandin’ your ass.”
“You mean to tell me that was Godric’s ghost talkin’ through you?” Sookie asked in astonishment. Lafayette threw his hands up in response.
“Since when do vampires become ghosts when they die?” Pam asked skeptically.
“I’ve never heard of it,” Bill said. I raised an eyebrow, as I suspected there was a lot that a vampire as relatively young as Bill Compton had not “heard of” yet.
But at a thousand years, I had to admit I’d never heard of a vampire ghost, either. And yet, I knew my Maker’s call when I felt it.
“It was Godric,” I said unequivocally. “When he spoke, his blood in me responded.”
I felt a pang as I realized that even from beyond the veil of the True Death, Godric had tried to save me from what would have been disaster. As the deep love I had for my Maker surged inside me, leaving in its wake a renewed grief for his loss, Sookie spontaneously touched my arm in comfort. I could still feel the fear and anxiety I had detected in her earlier, but I could also sense a powerful need for min blóðfrig to console me despite her wariness.
The consolation turned out to be more concrete than expected: as her fingers gently squeezed me through the fabric of my shirt, I felt the bond between us flare with a flow of energy that calmed and soothed both of us, easing both my grief and her fears.
Slightly startled by the distinct impact her touch was having, I had turned towards her only to notice that an Authority guard was staring at Sookie’s hand lingering on me. He frowned as if weighing whether it was a suspicious circumstance or not.
Shit. For a moment, I had been so lost in the solace of the bond that I had forgotten we were supposed to be merely sheriff and asset.
I stepped away from her casually, breaking the contact, instantly experiencing Sookie’s confused and surprisingly indignant emotional reaction. “We should get the humans on the road,” I said briskly. “Jesus and Lafayette, when we have completed the glamour, can you take Sookie home with you to Bon Temps?” I asked.
Bill looked surprised, but approving, as the witches agreed that they would escort Sookie home safely.
I also felt Sookie’s surprise at my request –and her sudden rush of relief, which stung a bit. She wanted to be away from me? I stifled a flush of anger, not against Sookie, but against the goddamn Authority and their goddamn debriefing. Sookie and I needed to talk so I could understand what the hell was upsetting her, but we weren’t going to be able to say what we needed to until we were away from all of this political bullshit.
“I’ll glamour Sookie,” I growled, unable to hide my frustration. “Your majesty, perhaps you can see to Lafayette while Pam takes care of Jesus.”
Bill looked unhappy that he was not the one who going to “glamour” my unglamourable Sookie, but he pulled Lafayette to one side and began to speak in a low, melodious voice.
I could feel the tension and sorrow that had been percolating in the medium dull to a minor sense of concern as Bill spun the tale of how Lafayette had attended the Tolerance Rally and been witness to an unfortunate and unprovoked attack on vampires by Marnie’s coven. Tara, Bill insisted, was still in New Orleans with her new girlfriend and hadn’t been seen in Bon Temps in several months.
Nearby, Pam was implanting a similar story in Jesus’s head, although as she did so, I felt a tingle of uncertainty from my progeny. I didn’t pursue it, as I had my own “glamouring” to do.
I placed my hand lightly on the curve of Sookie’s cheek and looked into her eyes. The moment my fingertips brushed her face, the energy of the bond blazed again. I had to close my eyes for a second to adjust; the expansiveness of our connection was almost dizzying as my skin touched hers directly.
Yet, as overwhelming as the new sensation was, still I wanted more. I wanted to run my hands along every inch of Sookie’s skin, to take her home and make love to her while fully myself for the first time. Even more, I wanted to root out the cause of the fear and anxiety that kept rearing up between us, to banish it completely and have the bond feel the way I had dreamed it would.
On the other hand, I welcomed the chance to get Sookie the hell out of this clusterfuck before any of the Authority minions changed their minds about who could stay and who could go.
Aware of the prying eyes and ears around us, I steeled myself against betraying my personal attachment to Sookie and composed my features into a business-like mask.
“Miss Stackhouse,” I said, dropping my voice low. I was pleased to feel that even if we were merely play-acting for the benefit of others, Sookie had experienced a frisson of desire when I spoke. I proceeded to dictate what had come to be the official narrative of the night for the benefit of any Authority guards who might be listening in. As I spoke, I subtly stroked the pad of my thumb against her cheek and sent her deep waves of my love, all while carefully controlling my expression to be one of polite disinterest.
Sookie’s eyes never left mine and, in fact, grew slightly unfocused in a way that would have looked like regular glamouring to the ignorant observer, but which I realized was her submitting to the seductive lure of our bond. Even the tiny bit of physical contact between us had opened the connection into a deep, wide flow of peacefulness. It took a massive exertion of will to keep my concentration on the illusion of insignificance I was creating when all I wanted to do was find somewhere quiet and private so that we could explore this tantalizing new magic between us together.
“Eric!” Bill said my name sharply, breaking my focus, and I realized that for the past several seconds, I had gone silent, lost in the connection with Sookie. “If she’s ready, Lafayette and Jesus are ready to go.” Beyond him, I could see the suspicious guard looking our way again. Staring. Damn, I had been taking too long to “glamour” her.
While it was pleasurable, slipping into a distracted state as I just had was going to be dangerous as fuck if it happened in a challenging situation again. Maybe the sensations were something we would grow accustomed to as we spent time together. I dropped my hand abruptly from Sookie’s cheek and she blinked dazedly at me.
“Go home with your friends,” I said firmly. “Don’t stay up.” I raised my eyebrows at her and she nodded numbly. I suspect the debriefings would take hours; I’d rather have her try to get some rest, especially since I suspected she’d been up most of the night before and the day as well.
After the past few days, it very strange to part without at least a kiss or caress, but instead, min blóðfrig simply turned and left as if there were nothing between us.
As she left with Jesus and Lafayette, I could feel the bond tugging at me and it was hard not to watch her as she walked away, but I deliberately looked in another direction as if she was of no importance to me now that I had wiped her memories. Apparently, my king had no such reluctance, as I saw his eyes follow her behind me until my senses told me she had left the room.
“Who was glamouring who there?” Pam said at my shoulder. She apparently had noticed the prolonged gaze between Sookie and me.
“It was mutual,” I said, glancing at her. “How did the witches capture you?”
My progeny sighed. “I was working on paperwork in the office after feeding to heal from the lovely day spent in silver when someone knocked on the door. It was the male witch with the beard and that fucking sorceress. I still don’t know who let them come in our own fucking front door, but when I find out, I’m going to rip off his fucking head. You’d think the crunchy granola outfits would have set off some warning bells to whoever was checking IDs. Not exactly the usual fangbanger gear.”
“There will be no head ripping,” King Bill said flatly, overhearing Pam’s comments. “The Authority has been very clear about human casualties. No need to compound things.”
“I suspect it is one of our vampire staff. Is it okay to slaughter him or her then, your majesty?” Pam asked with false obsequiousness.
Bill didn’t dignify her snarkiness with an answer but continued to watch the actions of the Authority guards. One of them gestured for him to come join them across the room. Apparently our debriefings were about to begin.
As Pam and I waited our turn for interrogation, we stood together against a wall. I could feel that my progeny wanted to ask me something but was reluctant to do so. The curiosity hung between us, rising to a peak every now and again only to be smothered and then eventually creep upwards again. Rinse, repeat. After a few minutes of our silently watching Bill talk to Authority guards, gesturing at different areas of the ballroom as he related the story of his evening, I finally sighed. “What? Your anticipation has to be more irritating than the question, whatever it is.”
“What the fuck were you and Sookie doing before the witches moved in and snatched you? Or is fuck the operative word?” Pam looked bemused. “Because for someone who should have been recuperating from being silvered like the rest of us, you felt like you were having an awfully good time.”
I paused, considering how much to explain. What Sookie and I had done in forming our bond seemed still very intimate and private, and yet…I needed to explain to Pam what it meant for me. I expected my life was about to change because of my new relationship with Sookie, and I felt I owed my child honesty about that after the century we had been together.
“Sookie and I exchanged blood,” I began.
“The fuck you did not,” Pam exclaimed. “Voluntarily? She willingly let you drink from her.” Pam less asked than stated her words, as if Sookie choosing to let me feed on her was the most far-fetched possibility she could imagine.
“During sex?” Pam smirked. “I would have thought that pussified version of you was a virgin who didn’t bite during sex.”
I was annoyed at her characterization of the more innocent me – even if there was some truth to it. In my thousand years, I had never been tempted to become One with another being until Sookie, so yes, I was like a virgin in what we had done. And no, I hadn’t bitten her during sex yet, although I expected that would change now that we were together.
“Actually, no, not during sex.” I said stiffly. “Although there was plenty of sex afterwards.”
Pam stared at me. “So you just exchanged blood and then fucked? What was the point? The best part is the fucking while drinking.” She was confused.
I licked my lips. “We bonded,”I said very softly in Swedish. “Blóðfesta.”
I felt Pam’s shock. And then she laughed. “That is not funny,” she said, shaking her head. “You shouldn’t be such a prick to me when I’ve just got you back.”
I looked steadily at her.
Her spirits quickly sank when she realized there was no humor in my face. “Holy fucking Mother of God, you’re not joking.” She was aghast. “Eric, why on earth would you do that? Why would you bond with her? Holy fuck, how did you bond with her? She fucking hates you, the stupid twat. How was it even possible for you to create a blóðfesta with her?”
“We love each other. You know that the bonding magic wouldn’t have been possible without that.” I said resolutely.
“You mean she loved who you were when you were fangless,” Pam said flatly. “Eric, are you out of your mind? Now that you are back to yourself, that Eric is gone.” She studied my face anxiously. “Isn’t he?”
I was quiet as I thought about how to explain. “Pam, the me that was with Sookie…that was still a part of me.” I looked at her. “A part that has been missing for longer than I’ve been a vampire. Even before that, I think. Maybe since my human family was murdered. But still, a part of me.” Pam’s blue eyes were watching me, unblinking. “A part of me I want to keep.”
When she spoke, her voice was strained. “So what? You’re going to mainstream now? Drink only bottled shit and never kill another human? Even if they deserve it?” I could feel her sense of betrayal.
“I don’t know,” I said tightly. “I just know that I want to do things differently now.”
“All because of that fairy cunt.” Pam’s voice was cold.
“No,” I said sharply. “No, not just because of Sookie.” I finally broke our locked gaze. “For me. Maybe for Godric.” I glanced back at her again. “Pam, ever since Godric met the sun, I’ve been trying to understand why he did it.” I shook my head. “When I didn’t have my memories, when I heard the things I had done in the past…I didn’t like what I heard. I didn’t want to be that vampire. I think Godric may have felt the same way before he ended his life. For the first time, I understood why he felt that way.” I felt the sudden pang of Pam’s fear. “Not that I’m going to follow in his footsteps in meeting the sun,” I said insistently. “I have things to live for. But I do want to live differently now.”
“And how do you know it isn’t the bond with Sookie that is making you feel that way?” Pam asked. “Doesn’t all that ‘you will be One’ shit change who you are?”
I shrugged. “Maybe it does. Although I felt this way before Sookie and I bonded. I just think that being bonded with Sookie is going to make it easier for me to do what I – what I –” I emphasized the word. “—wanted to do anyhow.”
Pam was silent for a few moments, digesting what she had heard. At least the shock seemed to have worn off, although I could feel her sadness and disappointment.
“So, you gonna go play house with Sookie in Bon Temps now? Become a rural vampire? Maybe be neighborly with our king?” Her tone was acerbic.
“Fuck if I know,” I answered. “I haven’t talked to Sookie yet about what happens next. There hasn’t been time.”
Pam turned towards me. “You haven’t talked to Sookie yet?” She raised an eyebrow. I felt a tingle of hopefulness through our connection. “Well, then maybe I’m concerned over nothing, because I’ll believe your little fairy princess means business with this bond when I see it.” She folded her arms in front of her. “If she tells you she’s changed her mind now that you have your memories back, what are you going to do?”
“She won’t,” I answered decisively. “I felt her feelings and she felt mine. There is no reason for her to change her mind. The bond makes everything … clear… between us.”
Pam shook her head with frustration. “A thousand years old and you still have things to learn about women.” She glanced sideways at me. “If she breaks your heart, I hope you get over this noble vampire bullshit so I can kill her.” She held up a hand. “Don’t command me; I’m only joking.” I raised an eyebrow at her. “Sort of,” she conceded.
“Pam, you don’t have to like her. But I will expect you to treat her with respect.” I watched as the Authority guards began to move in our direction. “Respect for my blood that flows in her veins.”
Pam shrugged. “You are One,” she drawled. “I know.” She gave me one last level look. “We won’t have any problems so long as your fairy shows as much respect for your blood as I do.”
I didn’t have a chance to reply, as the Authority guards arrived. “Sheriff Northman, Miss de Beaufort. We’re ready to speak with you now.”
“Good,” my progeny said. “I want to get out of this outfit soon. I reek of Febreze,” she sniffed.