Close to Dead

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Chapter 22: Whoopee:

Everything was mass confusion when we first landed. When we arrived at the airport, we were led to a private hanger where Quinn said members of the king’s entourage were waiting for us, but when we got there, we found there were also members of Ohio’s and New York’s daytime people there. Then, we found out that the National Vampire Assembly members were arriving right after us, UNEXPECTED, mind you, and when de Castro’s people heard about the bigwigs landing, we were told we had to wait for them to be checked in and taken care of first. We had to take a backseat. I wasn’t too happy about that.

I was tired, and all I wanted to do was to get to our hotel, and to find Eric. I stood in the terminal, by all of our vampire’s caskets, hopped up on a big trunk, to take a load off, and I leaned over to Iain and said, “Who are the important vampires being loaded up to go to the hotel before our vamps?”

“I would say they are a surprise,” he answered cryptically.

Quinn walked up behind us and agreed, “That’s an understatement. I just talked to the king’s people, and they had no clue that the members of the National Vampire Assembly would be arriving today. It’s a surprise visit.”

“Who are the National Vampire Assembly, and why are they so important?” I asked.

Iain replied, “The NVA is a new organization, made up of delegates from some of the kings and queens, and they have been appointed by the US government to make up laws, if you will, for all vampires, and their territories. Mind you, the US government has no clue how much power the vampire kings and queens really hold, but they know they represent each state, and they put a public face on the undead, as it is.”

“Um, okay,” I inhaled, still feeling left out of the loop. “Why are they here?”

Iain smiled. “The Kings of Ohio and New York are delegates, as well as being witnesses in Eric’s supposed crime of treason. Another delegate, the Queen of Pennsylvania, who is married to Ohio, was also a witness, I understand.”

Now I knew what that meeting at Fangtasia was really about, the night I went there and found Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and all their little people there. “Wait,” I said abruptly, jumping down from the trunk I was sitting. I turned to face Quinn. “I thought Eric already had his trial. I thought he was already sentenced and everything.”

“I thought so, too,” Quinn shrugged, just as confused as me. “I wouldn’t have been sent to collect you if he hadn’t been. When I left, he was still being held in a cell, but he was to begin his sentencing.”

And I assumed he had already been sentenced, when I could no longer ‘feel’ him, for lack of a better word.

A good looking man who was one of New York’s daytime people walked up to us and offered, “When the NVA found out about the trial, they declared it unlawful, and that Eric didn’t have proper representation, so he’s being granted another trial. They’re also going to have a hearing to declare if Victor’s take over of Louisiana and Arkansas was unlawful in the beginning, although that’s a little fact he’s probably not privy to yet. He’ll be very surprised in an hour or so when he wakes up, I’d say.”

“You mean he might be found guilty of, what, a hostile takeover?” I asked, encouraged.

The man nodded. “Yes. It’s the reason Eric Northman contacted the NVA in the beginning, to file a petition for such a reason. Of course, then that creature, the half-vampire, half-fairy/man Larkin went to the king and claimed that Eric’s meeting with Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York was a precursor to him wanting to secede from the king’s rule.”

“I thought that, too,” I remarked. Now I felt slightly bad, although the real reason still wasn’t too far off the mark.

Iain leaned toward me and murmured, “Don’t feel guilty, Sookie. Eric wasn’t thinking about the goodwill of his state and his subjects. He was still primarily thinking of himself, and in the end, he still had subversion in mind. He just went about it differently.”

I felt hopeful for the first time in a long time. Maybe Eric would finally go free. Maybe Iain wouldn’t have to turn himself over to the king, and maybe I wouldn’t have to barter for my freedom either. Could it really be that easy? Probably not.

We finally made our way to our hotel. It was a vampire hotel, owned by de Castro, and apparently, he lived on the top floor. I was shown to a small room on the sixth floor, but it was clean, it had a bed and a shower, and I was by myself for a moment … in other words, it was pure bliss.

I was unpacking my clothes when a wave of pain, mixed with anger, hit me. It wasn’t my own, of that I was certain. I fell to the floor, held my head, and began to wail. I actually screamed. I don’t know what the people in the next room thought was happening. They either thought someone was being killed in my room, or having incredible sex, because I screamed loud and long. I heard someone knocking on my door, banging really, and calling my name, but I couldn’t get up from the floor, let alone answer the door.

When Bill finally had security let him in my room, I was huddled in a ball, on the floor, crying, and I still had a nightgown in my hand, from where I was unpacking my suitcase.

“Sweetheart?” Bill asked, in a rush. He picked me up from the floor and placed me on the bed. The security man, also a vampire, asked Bill if he needed help. Bill told the man to leave.

Bill went to the bathroom, got me a glass of water, and then helped me to take a drink. “What happened, Sookie? I was in the next room, and I had just woken up when I heard you scream.”

“I really don’t know,” I answered, because I really didn’t. One moment, I was feeling better than I had in days, feeling hopeful and dare I think, happy, that I might be able to see Eric, and then the worst feeling I had ever felt in my life crashed down on me, and I crumbled. I was shaking all over. I wasn’t even aware of it, until Bill mentioned it.

“You’re shaking all over. Something must have happened.” He started to rock me in his arms. At times, I missed moments like this with Bill. There was a time when he was gentle and kind to me, of course, a part of me would always question his motives from that time.

I pushed away from him, maintaining, “I’m fine now.”

“Do you feel up to coming downstairs? Felipe has invited all of the delegates, as well as us, to a small reception,” Bill said.

“Why?” I argued, incredulous. “This isn’t a party, Bill. We aren’t here to celebrate, or to put on airs. We’re here to get Eric and then hightail it out of town! No, I’m not up to a stupid reception.”

“I don’t think you have an option, Sweetheart,” Bill prodded. “I could tell them that you’ll unwell. Would you like that?”

“Yes, tell them she’s indisposed,” a man said from the doorway.

My heart stopped for a moment. I sat up, looked around Bill’s shoulder, and saw Eric in my doorway. I was about to jump from the bed and rush into his arms, in what would be a perfect ‘Hallmark’ moment, a scene right out of a ‘Lifetime’ movie, except that I felt a roll of anger wash over me, and again, it wasn’t my anger, and it wasn’t Bill’s, so that only left Eric.

He was leaning against the doorjamb, arms crossed, he looked terribly pale, waned, and he had dark circles under his eyes. Besides that, he looked as handsome as ever. He had on dark jeans and a dark t-shirt, but not a smile. No, Mr. Northman was definitely not happy to see me, and I had no idea why.

Bill stood from the bed first, he looked at Eric with caution, and then he looked back at me. I guess I was still shaking. He placed a hand on my shoulder. He looked back at Eric and inquired, “How did you get released?”

“I’m a guest here, not a prisoner, didn’t you know? Well, that’s the official story that de Castro is telling the delegation at this little, last minute meet and greet, and it’s what they told me about a half an hour ago when they took me out of my silver lined prison cell, told me to take a shower and to feed.”

“Are you free, then?” I asked.

“Why are you here?” he asked me, instead of answering my question.

“I came to get you out,” I dryly swallowed, though right now it seemed like a moot point.

He raised his hands in the air and jeered, “Hallelujah, I’m saved, Sookie Stackhouse came to free me, and look, I’m free.”

“Don’t pick on her,” Bill shot back. “You have no idea what she’s been through since you’ve been gone.”

“You have no idea what I’ve been through, Compton, and I did it all to keep her safe and sound,” he turned to me, “AND IN LOUISIANA!”

“Listen here, Eric,” I said, finally finding my own anger. I stood from the bed and scrambled over toward him. “Quinn was ordered to bring me in, and Larkin had given me an ultimatum that was up anyway, so I had no choice in the matter; besides, I thought I might find a way to get you out of here!”

“HOW?” he asked. He leaned back against the wall again, arms crossed, with a lazy swagger attitude in which he had a thousand years to execute.

“I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “Bill and Pam brought along your little secret daytime blood bank, Iain, to barter for you, and if that didn’t work, I was going to give myself to the king in exchange for your freedom.”

He laughed. At me. That really raised my hackles. I rushed up to him and pushed him as hard as I could, and he didn’t even move a muscle. He grabbed my wrist, and I felt his anger tenfold. “All that would have happened was that the king would have had all three of us in his grasp then. Do you never trust me? I knew the NVA was coming here. I knew I wouldn’t be here long!”

“Well you could share things once in a while, Eric!” I protested. “When I couldn’t feel you any longer, I thought they killed you, or something, and then I was told you were sentenced to ten years in a silver-lined coffin, and I about went crazy. So sorry I cared, Mr. Northman!”

“Leave us, Compton,” Eric demanded, his piercing blue eyes never leaving mine, even as he barked out his order to Bill.

“Sookie, will you be alright?” He walked behind me and looked at Eric and said cautiously, “She collapsed but moments ago.”

“Yes, well, something always seems to happen to her. She wouldn’t be Sookie if drama didn’t follow her. She seems fine now,” he snapped back to Bill.

“You heartless bastard. You don’t deserve someone like her,” Bill seethed.

Eric let go of my wrist and parried easily, “And there’s the rub. I may not deserve her, but she’s mine all the same. Leave, Bill, if you know what’s good for you. Make arrangements for you, Pam and Iain to fly back to Louisiana as soon as you can.”

Bill merely glared at Eric for another minute or two and then he started to walk out of the room. Eric stopped him by saying, “And be sure to book passage for Sookie. She certainly won’t be staying either.” Bill gave a rueful nod and slammed the door shut.

I felt anger swell up inside of me and suddenly it burst, and I pulled back my hand and I punched him in the face as hard as I could.

I didn’t expect it to hurt as bad as it did. I was sure I broke a finger or two, and maybe the whole hand. It was busted open and bled freely. Eric closed his eyes as the smell of my blood filled the room. I cradled my injured hand in the other hand, sat on the bed, and cursed a blue blaze, but I would not cry. I had shed enough tears for Eric.

Eric sat down beside me. “That was rather stupid, wasn’t it?”

I looked up at him with a look that told him if he valued the life that had just been given back to him, he had better not say another word.

“This isn’t exactly the happy reunion I thought we would have,” I said at last.

“Did you imagine we would run to each other’s arms, kiss, and all would be well?” he asked. His right hand was rubbing my back. It felt like heaven just to have him sit next to me again, to smell his scent, to feel his presence, but to have him touch me was almost akin to pain.

“I thought I would go to the king, demand your release, be the hero, and rescue you, if you must know,” I said self consciously, still holding my throbbing hand. “Then we would have kissed, and whatever.” I looked up at his face and said bitterly, “Didn’t it hurt, even a little?”

“I felt terrible pain being away from you,” he said, earnestly.

While that broke my heart, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. He knew it too, because he gave me a lopsided smile. “No, it didn’t hurt at all. Next time, grab a shovel or a chair or something. That might at least make me notice.”

He took my hand in both of his gently, and he examined it, one finger at a time. “Nothing’s broken, lover. Bill said you had some sort of an attack before I arrived to your room. Why was that, do you know?”

“No, I don’t,” I grumbled. “Maybe it was when they released you. Tell me, did they tell you immediately that I was here?”

“Yes, one of the Were guards came to my cell, threw these clothes at me, threw a female human in the room, told me to feed, then to shower and change, because I was being set free while the members of the NVA reexamined the charges against me. Then he said that members of my state were here: Pam, Bill, some half human/fae creature, and a beautiful blonde woman with big tits. I only assumed it was you.” I looked up in his face, and he was no longer smiling.

“What was your reaction to that statement?”

“Anger, happiness, confusion, and then more anger,” he repeated. “I really don’t want you here, Sookie.”

“Too bad,” I replied.

Before I knew it, he bit into his wrist and put it by my mouth. I understood. It was for my hand, but I wasn’t sure I could do that with him, not right now, not if he was still angry with me, and not if we didn’t have time to, ah, make love as well. As if reading my thoughts he said, “Go on, just to heal your hand. We’ll have time to talk and do other things, tonight.”

I took his wrist in my good hand, and placed his wound under my mouth. I took a big suck, and then feelings I had been trying to avoid since he left washed upon me and with each suck of blood I took, another wave crashed on me, and soon I was crying. I let his arm drop to my lap, and covered my face with my hands.

“I guess you missed me.” He stood up.

“What an utterly stupid comment,” I winced. “I did realize something important while you were gone.”

“What, that sex with me is something you simply can’t live without?” he asked, with a smirk.

“NO,” I almost shouted, but then I said, “Well, yes, but what I really realized was that I love you despite the bond. I think that surprised me a bit.”

“Color me surprised as well,” he said, and that statement coming from him made me laugh. We both laughed for a moment, the awkwardness and the anger gone. He turned all serious again, though, when took my chin in his hand and said, “Sookie, don’t let anyone here know you have a bond with me, in which you can feel me and my emotions. You must obey me on this one. I know how hard it is for you to ever do anything anyone asks of you, but this one I must insist.”

I nodded. “I understand that one, Eric. I do.” He pulled me up toward him and cupped my face in both hands. His mouth lingered above mine for moments … moments that seemed suspended in time. He smiled before he let his lips press down on mine. My arms went around his waist, and his arms went around my arms, encompassing my entire body. He moved his mouth slowly, almost painful slow, over mine. He tilted his head to the left, and then he lifted his face enough to look me in the eye.

“I have to go down to the reception. It will be a very stressful, tense filled situation, Beloved,” he said, his mouth moving along my face, my cheek, as he spoke. He sucked on the pulse point of my neck, his right hand pressing on my bottom, his left hand winding in my hair. “I wish you did not have to come, but I’m afraid de Castro insists.”

“I want to come,” I countered, pushing away from him slightly. “But does that mean that we’ll have some time together tonight?”

He laughed a low rumbling sound deep in his chest. “By all means. They are bringing my meager belongings up to the room. I hope you don’t mind sharing with me?”

“To that, I have one word to say,” I answered, with a smile. “Whoopee!”

“Your vast use of the English language boggles my mind, Lover,” he said. “Shall we go?” He opened the door to my room, grasped my hand, the one that only fifteen minutes ago was bleeding and bruised, and he raised it to his mouth, placing a kiss upon it. “Look, all healed. I’m good for something.”

I held his arm with my other hand, too, and said with a knowing smile, “Yes, you’re good for something, Eric. You’re definitely good for something.” I felt happiness, instead of anger, and just like before, I knew it wasn’t my own. It was coming from him. It seems I was good for something, too.

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