Close to Dead

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Chapter 27: Elton John said it best

I know my head banged hard against the floor because it actually bounced several times, and I immediately felt nauseated and I swear I saw stars. Victor’s hand was squeezing my neck so hard that I knew I was going to die. I couldn’t tell if Larkin was safe, I couldn’t tell if anyone was going to help me, I could only hear the swirl of noise and madness that was going on around me. I could only feel terrible pain, and the last thing I felt was a sensation like I was under water, and then everything went pitch black.

The next thing I knew, my head was on Pam’s leg. She was stroking my head. I looked up at her, surprised by her tenderness, but then I realized my head was bleeding and she was stroking blood from my head to suck it from her fingers. Okay, it was gross, but still a bit sweet of her.

I moaned and tried to sit up, but she said firmly, “Don’t move yet.” Then to emphasize her request, she pushed me back down.

Okay, I thought. I didn’t feel like moving anyway. Besides, out of the corner of my eye I could see vampires standing around me, some staring down at me, some with their backs to me. It was a bit disconcerting. “Pam?”

“Yes, my sweet little friend?” she asked, her hand swiping my head again.

“Ah, why is everyone standing around me? Are they all waiting their turn?”

She laughed, and somehow with that laugh I felt better. “No, you silly goose.” (Silly goose?) They’re keeping the terrible sight of de Castro’s torn body from your view. He was literally torn limb from limb, and it is a bit gruesome.”

“Who killed de Castro?” I asked.

“Iain,” she said with a smile.

“What happened to Victor?” The last thing I remembered, Victor was squeezing the life out of me with one hand while his other hand held Larkin tightly to his throat, so why wasn’t he dead?

“Oh, he’s dead, too. Eric killed him. His body is shriveling away as we speak. The King of New York thought that you might not want to see such a sight when you came to, so he told everyone to stand around you.”

“Oh,” I said, as if that made sense. How nice of the King of New York. I squirmed to sit up. I ached all over. Finally, she let me sit beside her. “What happened?”

The King of Ohio looked over his shoulder from his place in front of me and said, “Well, Victor Madden is dead. When you revealed his conspiracy with Eric, he grabbed you and Larkin. Then de Castro went after Madden at the same moment. The result was that Larkin, the strange human-fae-vampire thing, is dead. Madden killed him immediately. Eric killed Madden because he was going to kill you, and Iain killed de Castro, in a dazzling display of power, which I didn’t know one of his kind possessed. It was awesome.”

“Awesome,” I repeated, fairly sure I had never said that word before in my life. I placed my back against the wall and clutched at my sore neck. Most of the vampires turned away from me. “Did anyone bite me?” I asked.

Pam smiled and said, “Oh no, it didn’t get that far. Victor merely squeezed your neck until you passed out and hit your head on the floor.” I craned my neck, painfully, to see if I could see Eric, but I couldn’t. She could tell what I was doing and she said, “Eric is fine. He won’t be in trouble for this. He was protecting his property.”

So I was his property, huh?

“Pam, will you help me up to my room?” I asked.

“I don’t know if you can leave yet,” she said, truly concerned. She stood up and said, “Let me ask Eric. Stay here.”

Where did she think I was going? I stayed on the floor, back against the wall, large conference table in two pieces in front of me (I just noticed it) chairs turned over all around me, and to the side, the remains of two dead vampires, (can anyone say, ‘gooey mess’?) and a dead ‘half-breed’, (it still looked mostly like Larkin, dammit). The sight of that beautiful creature, dead only ten feet from me, would now haunt me in my dreams forever.

Quinn walked up to me, knelt down and replied, “I’ll take you to your room, Sookie.”

“No, need, Tiger.” I looked up and it was Eric. I wanted to rush to his arms. I wanted to slap his face. In other words, I felt utterly torn. He bent down, scooped me in his arms, and naturally, I placed my face in the crook of his neck, my arms around him tight. We started toward the doors; he looked over his shoulder, “I’ll return after I see that Sookie is safely in her room. Iain, you come with us.”

I just noticed Larkin’s brother. He looked lost and forlorn. I had no clue if Larkin and he had been close. The relationships between fairies, and even part human/part fae creatures like Larkin and Iain, confused me at the best of times. Still, his brother just died. He was now all alone. On that level, I could relate. He had also killed someone. Unfortunately, I could relate to that, too.

We took the stairs, which I found oddly comforting, don’t ask me why. Again, Iain kept up pace with Eric, even though he was walking at that fast ‘vampire’ speed that he sometimes used. Once we were outside our room, he looked at Iain and ordered, “Stay put until I come back out.”

He walked inside the room with me still in his arms. He closed the door with his foot and crossed the room in two strides. He had yet to say one single word to me. He placed me gently on the bed, frowned when he saw the wound on my forehead, frowned more when he saw the injury on my neck, kissed the abrasion lightly, then as he stood back up he said, “I’ll be back up shortly lover. Don’t let a soul into this room. I’ll tell you everything. I know you have many questions, and you feel I betrayed you. Just know this, I love you.” He reached out tentatively and touched my neck. It hurt terribly. It felt like I had a sore throat, on the outside.

“Shall I heal you first?” he asked, but it seemed he was asking himself. He was about to bite into his own wrist when I stopped him. I placed my hands around his wrist and shook my head no. He smiled, a sad sort of smile, and said, “Later then, loved one. I’ll send Pam up to guard your door.”

“Does my door need guarded?” I sat up suddenly, a bit afraid.

He tried to smile again, but even on him, it came out weak. He shrugged, “I killed Victor Madden for you. De Castro was killed as well. This is their territory, their hotel, their state, even if Madden was betraying de Castro. You might be in danger. I’m sure the Vampire Association will make a quick ruling on this, as there were so many witnesses.”

“What exactly happened?”

“In due time, Sookie. I’ll be back. I’m sending Iain in here, for his protection as well. Please, let him grieve in peace, and don’t badger him with questions. I know how you can be.” This time his smile was sincere. He cupped my cheek, kissed the top of my head and turned around quickly to leave.

Iain walked in the door as Eric exited. He gave me a weary look. I said, “I’m sorry about Larkin.”

He nodded. He pointed to the edge of the bed and said, “May I?”

I nodded back and said, “Sure. Will you tell me what happened?”

He nodded again as he sat down on the edge of my bed. I took his hand, and he began. “You had just revealed that Madden was Larkin’s sire. You also revealed that he and Eric had conspired together, against de Castro, to bring freedom to Louisiana. I think that Madden hoped that Eric would take over Louisiana, and then the NVA would find that de Castro was guilty of a hostile takeover of your state last year, as well as falsely imprisoning Eric, and that once they found him guilty, Madden would be named his successor,” Iain revealed.

“Did Larkin know all of this? Was he a party to this, or was he merely a cog in their machine?” I asked.

Iain huffed, “If I know anything of my brother, it was a bit of both. He was being used, but he was letting them use him. Was he really brokering my freedom from Eric? Yes, he was. Did he hope to build up his blood business with a few of the richer, northern kings and queens? I believe so. Was he made to do all of this by his sire, Victor? I believe that’s a yes, but he wasn’t unhappy to do so.”

“Then why all the questions tonight?” I asked, sitting up on the bed. “He was trying to prove that Eric was planning to break from de Castro all along. If he knew about it from the start, and was being used to help Eric and Victor, why was he trying so hard to prove it? It seemed even Victor was trying to prove Eric’s guilt.”

Iain stared at me for several long minutes then said, “Victor’s questions to you were mundane and pointless. He wasn’t trying to prove Eric’s guilt. He was merely playing a part for the sake of looking innocent himself, in front of his king. He knew Eric would be found innocent, would go free, and that de Castro would then be up for a trial. The Kings of New York and Ohio, and the Queen of Pennsylvania were in on it, too.”

He sighed. “What they didn’t count on was Larkin feeling deceived. He felt utterly betrayed by Eric and by Madden, and I’m afraid my presence here is why he felt betrayed. Yes, he worked hard tonight, under great threat to himself, to prove Eric guilty. If he had been able to prove him guilty, then I’m sure he would have worked just as hard to find Madden guilty of something. Then perhaps he would have gone free himself, he would have garnered my freedom, and he would have secured you for himself.”

I didn’t know the correct response to that explanation. “I’m sorry your brother was killed.” It sounded sort of hollow and stupid, but what else was I supposed to say? “I’m also sorry you were forced to kill for your brother. I’ve killed before, too. It eats away at your heart and soul, no matter how justified. I’m sorry that happened to you as well.”

The handsome man smiled and said, “I’ve killed before, Sookie. Don’t forget, as if you could … fairies, even those of us who are only part fae, can be evil and ruthless at times. Don’t give me your pity. I don’t deserve it. I’m not sorry that Madden is dead. I’m not sorry I killed de Castro. I’m not even that sad that Larkin is dead.” He stood from my bed and added, “I would have been very upset if you had died. No matter what hardships you’ve faced, no matter what evils, no matter what monsters, inside, in your heart, in your soul, you’re still a good person. Remember that.”

Pam opened my hotel door and said, “Knock, knock, your personal body guard is here.”

Iain sat down on the floor. Pam walked into the room and sat beside me on the bed. I turned to my side, my hands under my cheek, and since I didn’t have another thing to say, I closed my eyes. I needed Eric. Wasn’t that the story of my life?

Sometime close to dawn, I woke up. I wasn’t aware of falling asleep. Eric was telling Pam and Iain to go to their room.

“Eric? Is everything okay now?” I asked, sitting up in the bed. “Did the NVA rule in your favor?”

“We have to stay here for another day, but yes, everything will be fine. The Assembly has already ruled that Louisiana was unlawfully taken over by de Castro. I’ve been named temporary king. We have some paperwork to follow up tomorrow night. I don’t know what they plan to do with Nevada, and I don’t care.” He kicked off his shoes and took off his shirt which, for the first time, I noticed was covered in blood.

I brought my feet to the floor as I sat on the side of the bed. “I was actually asking if you were finally free to come home, but I guess it’s six of one and half dozen of another. You answered my question in a way. Will you have to stand trial for what happened to Victor? Will Iain have to stand trial for de Castro?”

“No,” he answered sharply. Was he upset with me? He walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. I stood from the bed and leaned against the opened bathroom doorway. I watched as he peeled off his clothes and stepped into the shower.

“Are you upset with me?” I asked.

“No, are you upset with me?” he asked, but still with a slightly angry manner.

“I should be,” I said.

“As I suspected.” He pulled the shower curtain so that I couldn’t see him. “Sookie, it’s almost daytime, I’m tired, and I’m not fighting with you. I know you have questions about everything, because you always do. I know you feel slightly betrayed because you think I used you, because I really did plan all of this, and you should feel used.” He looked out of the shower and said, “Our bond makes your feelings crystal clear, my dear, but frankly, I’m not in the mood to argue, alright? Tomorrow, you can ask all the questions you want.”

He closed the curtain and his voice sounded slightly muffled behind the curtain as he said, “You can hit me, slap me, call me foul names, tell me I used you, betrayed you, lied to you, whatever, and I’ll listen. I’ll try hard to explain to you my mindset and the reasons for everything, even though you won’t see reason, but I’ll not say a word on it tonight.”

“Did I say I wanted to talk tonight?” I asked in a cheeky tone. If I had used that tone with my grandmother, I would have felt the sting of her hand on my cheek. Good thing this was Eric I was being sassy to, and not her.

I changed into my nightgown, went to the bathroom as he was still showering, brushed my teeth as he towel dried his body, and then I crawled into bed. He pulled the covers down next to me and when I felt the dip in the mattress, from his weight, I turned toward him.

He surprised me when he stated, “Tell me what I can do to make it all up to you, Sookie.”

Gee, I thought we weren’t going to talk about it. I hunched my shoulders, turned so that my back was to him again, and said not a word. He placed a hand on my shoulder and asked, “If you could have one thing, Sookie, just one wish, and I could grant it, what would it be? Would it be that I never lie again, because I guarantee that I probably will? Will it be that I’m forever faithful, because that one I can promise. I’ll love you forever, and there will never be anyone for me but you. What is it?”

“I want to get married, have children, and have a normal life, but no one can give me that. Not you, not anyone. I’ll never be normal. That’s not your fault, but it’s also not within your power to give it to me,” I answered. I regretted saying it, and I was surprised that I said it, because I hadn’t intended to say it. I didn’t even know that was my fondest wish, not really.

His hand went up and down my arm and with a small laugh he said, “Are you certain that being married with children is normal, Sookie? Are you certain that’s what you really want the most out of life? Is it the be-all, end-all of your existence? Are you sure it’s what you really want?”

“I think I’m sure that it is, but apparently you’re sure that it’s not,” I countered. I turned back to look at him. “What we have just may not be enough for either of us.”

“It’s enough for me, just not for you,” he concluded. “You’re so obtuse.”

“You’re so arrogant,” I said with a small laugh. I turned to my back and his hand went from my arm to my stomach.

“It’s my best quality, you know,” he said back. “I will never be able to let you go, you know. Be it pride, or old-fashioned love, I won’t give you up. That’s something you have to consider. If I thought you’d be happier without me and with someone else, someone who would marry you and give you children, I’m not such a selfish bastard that I wouldn’t want that for you, but I don’t think there’s anyone out there better for you than me.”

“Vain much?” I joked. The problem was that I knew it was the truth. If he left me, my heart would break. He would probably survive, and I probably wouldn’t, and I hated that fact. That was damn unfair.

He reached over to me and brushed a piece of hair away from my face, his hand resting on the bruise that I knew was on my neck. He had a deep frown between his brows. He pulled me over to him, and turned me to my side to face him. He buried his face against my neck and I swear he tried to breathe in the scent of me. It was as if he was trying to memorize my smell, my essence. His lips brushed the discolored skin of my neck, and moved over to my cheek, brushed against my mouth, and then he moved his hand slowly down my body.

He wasn’t gentle. He didn’t use as much care as usual. He seemed perplexed. The frown was still present on his face. His brows were still knitted together. I reached up and touched the area between his eyes. “What’s wrong? Are you angry? If anyone should be angry, it should be me,” I decided.

“You don’t think I should be angry that I failed to protect you?” he asked. His hand reached down blindly, as if he was in a fog, for my hip, and he moved to his side, and placed my leg over his. His mouth went down my face, cascading in a line of sweet but fierce kisses, over my neck, collarbone and chest. He ripped my gown down the front, which I thought was unnecessary. I pressed on his chest … not pushing him away, but not understanding his urgency.

“Forgive me, my lover,” he sighed. He pushed me from my side to my back, and suddenly I felt as desperate as he felt. His mouth moved down to my nipple, and, when he placed it in his mouth, he pierced it with his fangs and sucked hard and I arched my back and whimpered.

He pulled away, letting the nipple leave his mouth. He licked back and forth across my strained peak before his mouth moved to my stomach and over my navel. His hands cupped my backside and he hissed before he placed his tongue along the plane of my pelvic bone. He swiped a long lick across my lower abdomen and then, spreading my legs with his elbows, he moved his shoulder under my right leg, bending my knee slightly, and his tongue stabbed at me until I cried.

The pleasure I felt was as intense as the pain I felt earlier. I knew I would never share this type of passion with another living or dead being. Embarrassed, I started a gentle moaning, almost a howl of grief, and when he shifted position from my clit to my cleft, using both his fingers and his tongue. I thought I was going to die from pleasure. Pleasure born of pain. Pleasure born of need. Pleasure born of desire. I started my ascent, and with each lash of his tongue, I moved my hips and continued to cry and moan. I bunched the sheets in my hands, deep in both fists, as shudders and shivers vibrated throughout my body.

He wedged his hip between my thighs, positioned the head of his shaft against my opening and said, “Look at me, Sookie.” Was he serious? I thought I might be temporarily blind, but I managed to open my eyes as he began slowly to enter me an inch at a time. He pushed lightly at first, but when he was finally buried to the hilt, he said, “No apologies for anything, ever, lover. Everything I do is for a reason. You’ll come to realize that. I love you, but I won’t apologize.”

Did I ask him to apologize?

He kissed my mouth hard and I thought I was going to come again, immediately. He gripped my waist, and then brought his hands up and placed his elbows beside my head. He placed one hand in my hair, and touched my cheek with the other one.

Then, in perhaps the tenderest act of lovemaking he had ever shown me, he rocked back and forth gently, his head tucked between my neck and shoulder, one hand resting on one breast. I laced his other hand with mine as he bit down on my neck.

He arched up, pushing harder and harder, his eyes closed. All I kept thinking (not that it was easy to think), but I kept thinking that no matter what, I didn’t want to cry, but yet all I wanted to do at that moment was to cry. Sobs began to escape my mouth, tears fell from my eyes, and the whole time he was silent.

He lifted himself slightly from me, released our hands, plunged in one last time, as hard and long as he could. That was when our eyes locked in what seemed to be a movie moment. I think he knew that he had hurt me with his lies, and with his act of love, he was saying he was sorry in the best way he knew how. It was enough, for now.

It ended with him rolling off me, biting his wrist, and placing it near my mouth. I took it gently and sucked. It was no longer morbid to suck his blood. It was intimate. It was his life force, and he was giving it to me. Nevertheless, why did I have a feeling that what should have been the ultimate pleasure was going to lead to the ultimate pain. Why did this act of love feel as if it was his final act of retribution?

He rolled to his back, holding me when I finished. I only stayed there for a minute, and then I rolled to my side and tried to face away from him, because I felt so confused. Even though I should have known how he was feeling, I was in the dark because my own emotions were all over the place. He placed his hand on my arm and forced me to face him. He brought me to his chest, his voice muted and gentle, “Fine, I’ll say it, but just this once. I’m sorry.”

Elton John said it best. Sorry seems to be the hardest word, and I wondered if it was enough.

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