Close to Dead

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Chapter 12: Honey Do

Two full weeks went by before I sought out Eric. A week would have been enough time away from him, time enough for him to think about things, to learn to appreciate me, to consider his words about needing time apart, but I needed that extra week away from him for me, not for him.

I needed time to consider a few things, too. Things like, yes, I cared for Eric more than I wanted to and more than I would ever admit. I cared for him more than I showed him. I did make things difficult for him, but by golly, he made things doubly difficult for me, and always had. He never considered my thoughts, feelings, wishes or desires when he went around making decisions that concerned my life and future. That was part of our ‘relationship’ (for lack of a better word) that really bothered me the most, hence the extra week of thinking.

Two weeks later, I knew it was time to confront that stubborn old vampire, because I wasn’t a coward, no one could ever say that I was, and because I needed to move on with my life, either with him or without him. I had been knocked down enough in the last two years, and somehow I always managed to stand back up, but even I recognized that a few of those times, I only stood back up because he had given me a hand or a boost. I don’t know where my fortitude came from, perhaps from my grandmother, perhaps from my roots (imagine Scarlet O’Hara, dirt in hand, vowing that the South would rise again), or perhaps it was just plain old me, but I wasn’t ready to give up on Eric, plain and simple.

Who was he to tell me that we needed time apart? His high handedness was ending. Maybe he wanted to give up. Maybe he just wanted to give up on me. Maybe after over a thousand years on this Earth, a week or two apart, even a month or a year, meant very little to him or close to nothin’ at all. Stupid former Viking. He had ignored me for longer periods than this before, but I’m a human, and a week or two can feel like a lifetime when all you have to live is one short lifetime.

After two weeks, I knew it was time to give this vampire an ultimatum: Take me as I am, or leave me alone forever. Stop dangling carrots in front of my face without promises of something more and most important, no more lies and no more using me for his own gain. I think it’s about time I started using him for a change or at the very least, that we use each other equally.

That was my intent when I got dressed this evening in a pretty, royal blue dress, topped with a lacy, cream colored sweater, black high heeled shoes, with my hair long and curly, and my makeup just right. I wanted him to appreciate me, and to remember what he was missing, but mostly, I wanted to look pretty for him. Have I ever said, “Damn blood bond?” Oh, yes, I thought I had.

I got in my car and as I approached Shreveport I was starting to feel some of my courage waning. I was starting to have some regret. I was starting to think that perhaps another week apart would do us both a world of good. Maybe he didn’t want to see me yet. He might not even be at the bar tonight, except that I knew he was.

I parked in the parking lot across the street from Fangtasia and watched as the red neon light flashed bright as a beacon in the warm Louisiana night and I felt unsure of myself. I knew he was in there, just as surely as I knew that I had on black, lacy panties, but I also knew that he was conducting business tonight, and he might not be happy to see me. I felt that clearly, because just as surely as I knew he was inside, I knew that he knew I was outside, and he wasn’t too pleased about it.

He was probably still having me watched, so he might have known I was coming before I even left tonight, but I felt him inside, I felt his sway over me, and I felt that he wanted me to leave, but he also wanted me to stay. It seemed he was having trouble making up his mind about me, too.

Yes, this whole little blood bond thing was getting old, but stronger everyday. By this time we had shared blood so many times that I’d lost count. Eric once said that he hadn’t given his blood to anyone since he had changed Pam, aside from me. He told me that vampires rarely gave their own blood to humans, even though they took the human’s blood freely. When a vampire did give a human their blood, it was to control them, make them obedient: think Renfield and Dracula. I wasn’t anyone’s Renfield, and I would never be obedient, so I bet Eric regretted giving me his blood.

Although, he wanted our bond to go both ways, and I think the fact that he had done this, and had shared this information with me, was significant, probably more so than I would ever know.

I know his intentions in the beginning were for selfish reasons, to have access to me and my gift, oh—and to get me in the sack, but now there were different reasons behind it.

Pam once said that Eric would live on through me and I’ve never quite understood what she meant by that, seeing that he would probably live forever, but I remember her saying it quite clearly. Shaken out of my reverie, I suddenly heard her calling my name and my eyes darted up to find that she was tapping on the window of my car.

Time to pay the piper. I looked in the rearview mirror once more, checked my makeup and fluffed up my hair, and then I opened my door. I was still vain enough to want to look good for my man, but not just for Eric, but for myself, too.

“Hello, Pam,” I smiled. She leaned over and kissed my cheek. Pam was the most demonstrative vampire I’ve ever known, I mean, besides the ones I’ve know Biblically speaking.

“I was wondering if you were going to sit in your car all evening, little friend,” she said, although coming from her, the term little friend didn’t sound condescending, as much as it sounded affectionate. “My master is very busy with associates from the north tonight, but he told me to have you either come in the bar, or go home, but that he wasn’t having any bonded of his sitting in the car all night like a scared little rabbit.”

That Pam.

Pam walked me to the door, past all the fang bangers and tourists waiting to get in, and as we walked inside, she remarked, “I haven’t seen you for a while, my little human friend. Where have you been?”

“It has been a while,” I agreed, “And I’ve been busy healing.” I was always truthful with vampires. It was the only way to be.

“I still wish Eric had let me bring that Dr. Phil to you. You might have healed faster,” she observed, taking my hand, and weaving me through the bar.

“I’ve still not completely healed, and I don’t need Dr. Phil, but thanks,” I allowed.

She looked down at me and held my gaze. “No, you just need Eric, right?”

Boy, Dr. Phil had nothing on Pam the vampire. She always said what was on her mind. “Listen,” I began, “I know Eric isn’t expecting me, and that he’s busy. I can sense it. Should I come back another time?”

“True, he isn’t expecting you, but when has that stopped you in the past?” she questioned in a question that was not a question. Again, only too truthful.

“Is he real busy?” I swallowed dryly.

“Yes, he has important people with him tonight, and they are having an important meeting, but he’s happy that you are here. Go sit down at his table, and have a drink.” She embraced me once more, and she even patted my back, which was such a human thing to do. I felt genuine warmth coming from this cold, dead vampire, and even kindness, and though we didn’t share a bond, I still felt connected to her, perhaps because we had both had Eric’s blood.

It didn’t matter. I hugged her back, because everyone needs a hug every now and again, especially me, and maybe even her.

I sat at the table and looked all around. It was the usual crowd. A waitress brought me a rum and coke, though I hadn’t asked for it, and I would have preferred a gin and coke. I started to tell her as much, but she prompted, “From the gentleman over there.”

I looked up, and a vampire with dark hair and eyes was raising a glass of Trueblood toward me. I nodded my head, but pushed the drink away and said, “Please take this back, tell him thank you, but that I’m waiting for Eric, and then bring me a gin and coke.”

She took the drink, huffed away in a tizzy, wondering why so many vampires would be interested in, as she thought, ‘trailer trash like me.’ I wanted to tell her that I lived in a regular house that wasn’t on wheels, thank you very much, but to mention that would be belittling people who did live in trailers, and frankly, I’ve seen some really nice trailers over the years, so I didn’t say a damn word.

She brought me my drink and walked away quickly. I scanned the bar again, and even opened my mind to read some thoughts. I hadn’t been out in public for six weeks or better, and I hadn’t honed my gift for almost as long. I heard the regular things … ’I hope I find a vampire to bite me tonight,’ ’I hope my wife doesn’t find out I came here without her,’ ’What is my husband doing here without me?’ I looked up at that one. That fella was in a lot of trouble.

I nursed my drink slowly, reading a few more brains, even if it wasn’t a nice to do so, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. The hand was cold. If it was that vampire from earlier, the one that sent me the drink, I might have to throw this drink in his face.

I looked up and saw Bill Compton. He smiled slowly down at me. I stood up, smiled, and threw my arms around his neck. “Oh, Bill, I haven’t seen you for so long!”

“I know, Sweetheart. How are you?” he asked warmly.

He motioned that I should sit back down. He sat beside me in the booth, instead of across from me. “I’m fine, just fine,” I said with my usual, public, plastic smile.

“Sweetheart, I know you haven’t been fine, but I’m happy that you’re out and about,” he smiled knowingly.

“Are you all better?” I asked him.

“Mostly, I get stronger every day. Dr. Ludwig has me on a special high iron blood diet now, to build my strength back. I’m afraid some of the effects of the silver are permanent, but it was all worth it.” He touched my cheek with one finger. He drew it down my face slowly. Sometimes, I missed Bill Compton so much that it hurt. I missed the Bill from the first part of our relationship, but then I had to remind myself that, that Bill wasn’t the real Bill, at least, that Bill had sought me out for less than honorable means.

I didn’t want to think about that right now. “Are you here with someone, Bill?”

“I was with Eric. He’s having an important meeting tonight, and I gave a short presentation to his guests. I was about to run along, when I saw you out here. I was surprised to see you,” he admitted. Did Bill’s surprise mean that the blood bond we once shared was gone, to the point where he could no longer ‘feel’ me? Had Eric’s blood bond usurped his?

It didn’t matter. Bill was a part of my past, and Eric was my future. I leaned over and kissed Bill on the cheek.

“What was that for?” he asked, his hand coming to rest on his face.

“Just because.” It was all I could say. I wanted a fresh start with Bill, too. We could never go back to the way we were, but we could start anew, with friendship. I needed all the friends I could get.

“I need to go, sweetheart,” he said softly. He stood, and kissed the top of my head. It was so utterly sweet, that I couldn’t help but smile again. He started to walk away, but he looked back once. I held up my hand, and smiled.

I watched him until he left the bar. Then I looked over just as the vampire from earlier, the one that had bought me the drink, sat down there in the booth right across from me. There went my ‘Bill high’. My heart sunk and I gritted tersely, “Listen, no offense, but I’m waiting for Eric.”

“You let that vampire sit with you, and he even kissed you,” he pointed out. “I only wanted to buy you a drink, sweetness.” He had an eastern accent, like maybe we was originally from New York or Boston. I wasn’t good at placing accents. To me, everyone sounded northern, if they didn’t talk with a drawl.

“Please, go away,” I icily retorted.

“Maybe I don’t want to,” he persisted with a dark smile. “What’s a little human like you going to do about it?” He reached over and took my hand in an iron grip. I couldn’t pull it away.

Did the idiot not hear me mention Eric’s name? Maybe he didn’t know who Eric was. “Let go of my hand,” I ordered.

He did. He crooned, “I bet your blood is delicious. I bet your hot little body is, too. I’m going to know both of them before the night is through.”

I stood up, made a disgusted sound, and headed toward the restroom, thinking that was one of the most blatant, disgusting pick-up lines I had ever heard, and since I was a telepath, I have probably ‘heard’ them all before.

When I was done with business, I walked out of the woman’s bathroom door, down the long corridor that would lead me back in the bar, when I felt an arm snake around my waist. That east coast vampire had me around the waist, his hand on my mouth. He led me to the men’s restroom, and he pulled me right into a stall with him.

I was so afraid. Everything that happened, everything … not just the shit with the fairies, but everything over the last two years, the stuff with Rene, the stuff with the Newlins, the stuff with Debbie Pelt, Bill raping me in that Lincoln, the Witch War, The Were pack master fight—everything—crashed around me and I immediately began to fight.

I clawed at the vampire, I kicked, I tried to scream, though his hand was still on my mouth, and I even bit his hand, though I was careful not to draw blood.

He turned me quickly, called me a bad word that started with a ‘C’, and then raised his hand to strike me. That was as far as he got. Someone grabbed his arm from the top of the stall next to us. I didn’t even see who it was, but I knew it wasn’t Eric, because I would have felt him. I collapsed on the dirty tile floor, next to the commode, even as whoever grabbed the vampire’s hand pulled him up over the wall of that stall and into the other.

I heard a struggle, I heard a stifled scream, and I heard moaning. I closed my eyes to block it out, but also because this bathroom was dirty and disgusting. I would have to tell Eric that it needed cleaned.

I only opened my eyes when I felt a cool hand on my forehead. I looked up and I knew it was Eric. He looked concerned and angry. If he was angry with me, he could just shove it, because I didn’t provoke this person! I started to tell him so, but he pulled me to stand, crushed me into his chest, and said, “Shhh, it’s all right, lover. Don’t cry. It’s over. Once again, I wasn’t there for you, was I?”

He was soothing tears that I didn’t even know I was shedding. “This bathroom is disgusting, Eric. It needs cleaned.”

He looked down at me, smiled, and teased, “I’ll get right on that. Do you have anything else you want me to do while we’re at it?”

“When I was young, my grandmother told me that when a woman asked her man to do chores for her, it was called a ‘honey do’ list, sort of like honey-dew, but spelled, different.” I didn’t know why I was rambling about stupid things, but at least he was still smiling at me.

Finally, I asked, “Is the vampire dead?”

“No,” he answered, although he didn’t seem pleased. “Larkin Talkington hurt him very badly though, which I do not regret, even if the vampire was here with the men with whom I was conducting business.”

“Larkin?” My eyes narrowed in speculation. I had just noticed that we were alone in the bathroom. “Larkin overpowered a vampire?”

“Yes, and, as I said, I’m grateful that he only incapacitated him, at least until I have finished my business with his King, and then, with his King’s permission, I will seek retribution myself, for what he tried to do to you,” Eric announced. He soothed down my hair and assured, “You still look lovely, by the way. Your appearance here this evening was unexpected, but is most joyous, dear one. I want you to wait for me in my office, and then I will take you out to the bar, to meet my new business associates.”

He took my hand and led me out of the men’s room. There were several vampires guarding the doorway to the bathrooms. We stepped around them, Eric gave them a nod, and they moved aside to admit the patrons of the bars once more. He led me to his office, and said quietly, “I am happy to see you.”

“I’m happy to see you, too.”

“We have much to discuss, but for now, let me handle this business with the cretin who insulted you, and then I’ll be back to get you.” He leaned down, and kissed me the way only a thousand year old vampire could kiss, and then he strode steadily out of his office.

I turned around, and noticed for the first time that I wasn’t alone in the room. Eric must have known Larkin was in here when he brought me here, because he was lounging on the couch, his arm draped over his eyes, his chest heaving, as if he had just run a mile.

“Larkin?” I asked, hesitantly. “For what it’s worth, thank you for helping me.”

He removed his arm slowly from his eyes, lifted his head at me as he said, “It’s what family is for, Sookie.” Then he smiled, and heaven help me, he showed fang when he smiled.

What the hell?

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