A/N This chapter touches on the subject of rape. It is not described in any way shape or form, I refuse to do that, but it is mentioned. I’ve placed a warning in the chapter, just before that section starts in case some of you feel you do not wish to read that part. The warning is in bold, and if you continue to scroll until you see the words *CONTENT END* (little stars included) then from there it is safe to carry on reading. I felt like you all deserved a warning.
Lots of POV swapping in this chapter, sorry guys! Means there aren’t lyrics at the start of every POV, as I struggled to find songs that could relate to each POV. I’m trying to write this story from two different locations also, at supposedly the same moment! Also, some Ari POV scattered in this, because casper22 asked nicely 😉
I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
Cos I don’t care too much for money, and money can’t buy me love
I’ll give you all I got to give if you say you’ll love me too
I may not have a lot to give but what I got I’ll give to you
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love
~ Can’t Buy Me Love, The Beatles
My mother was taken from me. Taken. I should have stolen the crown from Felipe the moment we moved to Nevada, but instead I had gone along with simply being a Sheriff, figuring we would be safe enough. Being king would have painted a huge target on my back, by being Sheriff I was still given power, but not enough for other vampires to be jealous of me and come after me. Now though, if I had been king, none of this would be happening. Ata would be back with us, locked away with my father for the day, and Sookie would be with my brother. Both of them would be safe.
Fighting the pull of the sun had been a lot easier than I had expected it to be, but by the time we were done plotting and planning I was tired. It had been a while since I’d felt tired. As a vampire we never felt tired, our stamina when the moon was in the sky was impressive and we were, for all intents and purposes, unbeatable. It was the events of the past week or so that had made me tired. It was one thing after another. It was long overdue though. My brothers, mother, and I had gone for the past 500 years without a serious issue cropping up.
Returning to the room I shared with my dear Pamela I left the others to their rest. I had a feeling my brother would not be resting just yet though. At least, even in these grim times, they could still enjoy one another. Shutting the door behind me I removed my clothing, placing it in the laundry hamper. It only took me a few short strides to cross the room; slipping under the silk sheets behind Pam. Wrapping an arm around her I pulled her lithe frame close. She was dead for the day, had been since the moment the sun had peaked into the sky. Her young age meant that she was unable to fight the pull like I could. It was strange how taken I was with her. She was fierce and loyal, beautiful and honest. She had this tender side to her that I felt privileged to see. I had a feeling my Pamela was very cautious with whom she allowed in.
Moulding around her, I wrapped my larger frame around her in a protective gesture. Though I couldn’t fight back if we were attacked in the day at least a potential attacker had to get through me first. I had told what little staff remained to keep an eye out for Flo, and to not let her anywhere near the penthouse even if she begged them. The local Were pack had agreed to give us more of their members to guard the hotel even though their numbers were dwindling. Our residency had dropped off sharply once the information of all the dead bodies in the lobby had reached news crews, and though it was doing next to no damage to the fortune mother, my brothers, and I had amassed over the years, it didn’t feel right to have an almost empty hotel. I had given the image of Ata and Sookie together to the news crews, glamouring them into playing an appeal for them religiously throughout the day and night. If there were any witnesses, anyone who had seen them when they had been taken, I was praying for them to come forward. I’d even put up a sizeable reward for anyone willing to come forward with reliable information. Of course I knew where my mother and Sookie were now though, but any help we could receive on any level was worth rewarding.
Deciding that I had thought long enough for the evening, and for the reasonable chunk of the day that I had fought the sun for, I buried my nose in the soft tendrils of Pamela’s blonde hair. Even in her day rest she was beautiful. It made me smile to think that my family was joined with hers so tightly that even 2000 years couldn’t get in the way. Over the years I had kept companions, never humans though as they were prone to jealousy when Ata was around, but there were always other vampires out there looking for a late night rendezvous. In stereotypical vampire fashion I hadn’t been with them for extended periods of time, and there were some who were delightful while others were cold and cruel. My Pamela was a combination of the two; a total bitch when it called for it, or an utter sweetheart when she knew she was safe. Closing my eyes I sighed softly, nuzzling her shoulder blade before I dropped a kiss to the cool skin there, letting the sun finally pull me under.
The feel of Pamela’s soft lips on the underside of my chin roused me from my day rest. If she was awake then evening had already fallen and I must have overslept. Though it was usually impossible for a vampire to oversleep, as our bodies were tuned to the rise and fall of the sun, when we were forced to stay up for the day we required a few more hours of sleep.
Tightening my hold on my Pamela I exhaled, alerting her to the fact I was awake. In an un-characteristic move she nuzzled into my chest, resting one of her slender hands upon my bare torso. “Did Sookie come home?” She asked quietly, her eyes still closed and void of her usual make-up. Though my Pamela was beautiful with make-up I much preferred her without. My brother had picked her well. She was loyal and beautiful.
“She did. She spent time with Eric before she joined us in the living room. We’ve come up with a plan to get both my mother and Sookie out of Felipe’s mansion, and to end this forever.” I stroked her blonde hair, running my fingers through it to remove the few tangles that had occurred as she had rested for the day.
“Good. How is my Maker and Grand-sire?” Pamela tilted her head back; her eyelids sliding back so I could see her blue eyes looking up at me.
I sighed quietly, continuing to pet her while I formed my response. “Eric is well. He’s better now that he has seen Sookie, but he’s worried for her. Godric, he’s a mess without my mother but he is refusing to show it. He seems to forget that we share a connection.” I chuckled quietly, shaking my head a little against the pillow.
“He’s too proud to show any weakness.” Pamela muttered, tutting quietly.
“Aren’t most men?” I asked rhetorically, pressing a kiss to her forehead. Morning breath wasn’t something us vampires were susceptible to. Untangling myself from her I moved the covers back, stepping out of bed before I headed to the wardrobe.
“Are we planning on getting them this evening?” Pamela asked as she joined me in our walk-in wardrobe, plucking some fresh designer underwear from a basket. Hiding her female attributes underneath the fabric, I had to stop myself from pouting. Pulling on my own underwear, I grabbed a pair of sweatpants and a white t-shirt, putting them both on.
“No, this evening we’re going to gather the other Sheriff’s and see who’ll stand with us. Ata is good friends with Edgar, King of California, so I’m going to call him also and see if he can provide us any more vampires from his state. I’m also going to call upon Queen Lovisa, of Sweden, and King Amasis, of Egypt, and see if they’ll back us. Though their armies would take far too long to reach us it would be useful to have their backing. They’re well respected in Europe and would fight alongside Ata should we seriously need them. They would also back her claim to the throne when we succeed in killing Felipe.” I explained to my beloved as she dressed, hiding her petite frame under her expensive clothes.
“Will the other Sheriff’s stand with us?” She asked, turning to look at me as I gave my hair a quick ruffle. Moving to her jewellery box I plucked the gold Trinity Cartier Crash necklace from it. I’d done a spot of shopping for her over the past few days, knowing how much she loved all things sparkly and expensive. I had never been wonderful with words, so I figured some gifts would convey the feelings I struggled to say. My Pamela had understood me perfectly, and had made it a habit now to wear something I had bought her every day. I could see myself completing our bond when all of this was over. Clasping the necklace around her neck, it fell to her navel. The piece had set me back a fair amount, but it was beautiful, flawless. It consisted of golden bands locked together. Pink for love, yellow for fidelity and white for friendship.
Pamela turned around once her necklace was secure and I offered her my hand. She took it instantly and I started to lead her out of the room and towards the living room, where I could feel the rest of the nest waiting for us. “Corentine Fiacre the Sheriff of Area 32, Aurel Gavril the Sheriff of Area 33, Bryn Marc the Sheriff of Area 34, and Colton Emory the Sheriff of Area 35, have always been loyal to Ata. I think she is one of the only reasons they have stayed in this state for so long. Las Vegas is the only city within the state that is prosperous. The other Areas are simply dirt and a few podunk towns. We have nothing to worry about.” I told her simply, pushing my reassurance through our bond before we entered the living room, greeted with the sight of our family.
“Ari, please could you call Amelia?” Eric was up on his feet within seconds of Pamela and I entering the room. Frowning at his request, I fished my phone out of my pocket.
“Why am I calling her?” I questioned as I hit her number on the speed-dial. Ata liked to have a witch on call at all times.
“Please, just ask her to come here.” My brother looked somewhat stressed, a rare sight I was sure. Pamela, sensing his stress, became worried also. It took a lot of reassurance through our bond to calm her. The dial tone came through the phone but there was no answer. I hung up and tried again. The ringing went on for about 10 seconds before the call was answered, however I was cut short by the voice on the other end.
“The witch is a little tied up at the moment. I do hope you don’t need her urgently. Heaven forbid that anything should happen to you and your precious nest.” The 3000 year-old thorn in our side sneered down the phone before he hung up.
Pamela looked up at me, her blue eyes wide. “Fuck.”
My sentiments exactly.
I won’t tell you how to live your life so please stay far away from mine
Always watching out for which and whethers, always running out of time
Drip drap, peeling back the skin of summer
Autumns, everything aligns
Inside out and I’m without, my heart is always running out of time
Always running out of time
I have to know, if you’ll float away with me
The faster I go, the further away it seems you get
Are we floating nowhere yet.
~ Always Running Out of Time, Motion City Soundtrack
I’d spent my day sleeping, able to keep the vision of Sookie there all day. No one bothered to come down and check on us, so there was no need for me to leave the safety of the blanket and risk exposing the fake Sookie. I could feel my bond with Godric, as I refused to close it during the day, and I could tell the exact moment he went to rest as our bond dampened down considerably. I could feel the steady hum of his life force and I had a feeling Sookie was on her way back to me. I could feel her getting closer by the second. My bond with her felt stronger, like she had been healed. Eric, my new son, would have no doubt given her his blood in order to heal her of the few marks that littered her body from Russell’s attack.
“Kouzen, mwen prèske nan fennèt la. Tanpri souple, vin kolekte sa m ‘genyen pou ou.” (Cousin, I’m almost at the window. Please come and collect what I have for you.) Sookie’s mental voice flickered into my mind, and it took me a moment to remember that she was in her animal form, and speaking to me through it.
Moving to the window, I made sure that the blanket was firmly over the fake image of Sookie. Up on my tiptoes I looked through the bars, spotting an eagle approaching quickly. My vision, enhanced by my bonded’s blood, picked up on the vial in the eagles clutches. Thrusting my hand through the bars I held it upward, the vial dropping from the eagle’s claws and into my hand. In one fluid movement I slipped the vial up my sleeve, hiding it from sight should there be hidden cameras. “Who’s a pretty bird?” I cooed, covering my tracks in case we were being listened in on also.
Sookie changed into the small fly she had been when she had first left, crawling through the bars, sticking to the wall. I continued to coo through the bars, pretending to be talking to a bird. Sighing heavily, as if upset that I wasn’t getting a response, I padded back to the blanket on the floor, watching my footing. Slipping back under the blanket I was face to face with the fake image of Sookie, with the small fly of the real Sookie sat on my outstretched palm under the blanket.
“Chanje tounen” (Switch back) I mentally responded. The moment I felt Sookie starting to change I faked a coughing fight, rising up off the floor into a sitting position and moving the blanket violently so it would detract from Sookie as she redressed under the blanket.
Finally we were back down on the cold floor, wrapped up in the blanket, facing one another. “Take Godric’s blood. He was adamant on it.” Sookie mentally informed me. I wanted to ask how her trip was first, get all the information I could, but it seemed my bonded and my cousin were more concerned with my health rather than our survival at the present moment. Burrowing under the blanket I nuzzled my head to Sookie’s chest, making it look like I was merely seeking comfort from her. The blanket hid my face and I swiftly removed the vial of blood from my sleeve. Quietly popping the cap I dipped my pinky in, coating it before I raised it to my lips. My bonded’s blood tasted a little different outside of his body, but it would still work its magic. Rather than waste time dipping my pinky in and sucking it clean I raised the vial to my lips, downing the contents in one as if it were some kind of tequila shot I’d buy at a bar. Capping the vial I pushed it back up my sleeve to deposit out of the window later. I could feel my bonded’s blood running through my veins, repairing any and all damage, while also giving me strength. As it was daytime I couldn’t feel Godric’s relief that I had taken his blood but I imagined he would be happier knowing I was that little bit stronger.
One glance to the window informed me that sunset was only half an hour away. Sookie had been gone for a long time, and the vampires in our nest would be rising soon. “I take it you managed to get there and back unharmed?” I questioned my cousin as I popped my head back up from under the blanket. Sookie nodded, making it appear like she was nuzzling against me should we still have eyes trained on us.
“Yes. Eric and I figured out why our charms weren’t working originally. They were meant to keep us safe and yet they seemed to epically fail at that. We think that maybe the magic protects us against unplanned attacks only, which might be why the werewolves were able to take us. If an attack were planned then we would have time to come up with a counterattack, but if it weren’t planned then we would have no time, so the charms buy us some time. It doesn’t really protect us, just gives us the opportunity to protect ourselves.” Sookie explained to me. I mulled over her words for a moment, running every scenario through my mind. We’d been hurt quite a few times while wearing our protection charms, and yet they had been times when an attack had not been anticipated. It made sense that the charms didn’t save us from planned attacks, but why on earth had Amelia made them that way? An attack was an attack regardless. That was something I would have to mentally ask Ari about. Maybe he’d be able to ring Amelia and find out for us.
I was distracted from my thoughts by the sound of footsteps heading our way. I could detect three vampire minds and another mind I knew very well. Looking at Sookie I took her hands in mine, giving them a reassuring squeeze before I sat up. Sookie followed my actions, moving to sit beside me rather than behind me. She was becoming braver by the day. The sun had finally set and the moonlight that spilt in through the small window threw shadows around the room. I could make out whom our guests were though without even bothering to explore their mental patterns. Russell, Felipe, Bill, and a glamoured Amelia.
“Amelia?” Sookie spluttered beside me but I silenced her with a quick squeeze of her hand. Any surprise, shock, or other emotion that we showed to the vampires could be used against us.
“Ah so you have met Miss Carmichael then, Miss Stackhouse.” Russell looked positively ecstatic with that piece of information. I groaned internally. At least he no longer had fangs though. As if he were a telepath, though I knew for certain he wasn’t, Russell turned to Amelia.
“Miss Carmichael has told us all about those little charms you two wear, along with the others of your insufferable nest. She was also kind enough to inform us about the wards all over your dear penthouse apartment too, Miss Caesar.” Felipe addressed me, ignoring Sookie. I thought that rude, and the fact he still refused to use my married name.
“Mrs. Caesar-Nervii.” I corrected him for the umpteenth time. It was nitpicking somewhat but I wasn’t going to let the bastard think he’d won if I accepted my maiden name as my form of address.
Felipe’s jaw tightened as I corrected him while Russell laughed quietly under his breath. At least he could see the amusement in my annoyance. “She has quite the spirit, Felipe. Let her be.” He chided his Childe.
“Bill, will you please remove our guests from their cell? I have a feeling Miss Stackhouse and Mrs. Caesar-Nervii are uncomfortable.” Russell turned to the Southern vampire, who’d done nothing but leer at Sookie ever since he had entered the basement. With his vampire speed Bill had Sookie out first, iron handcuffs slapped onto her wrists. She flinched with the pain, but didn’t let out any cry. I poured all of my pride towards her.
He came back for me next, slapping a pair of iron cuffs on my own wrists. “Now, what was it you said was protecting Miss Caesar again, Amelia?” Felipe glanced to the glamoured witch before his eyes moved back to mine.
“Mrs. Caesar-Nervii.” I gritted out in response, not giving him the satisfaction. It was petty and childish, but I was not going to let this man make me forget my husband.
Felipe ignored me, his focus on Amelia who answered him like a robot. “Her promise ring.” The brunette witch’s voice echoed around the basement. Felipe stalked towards, his lips curled upwards in a nasty smirk.
“Looks like I get to rid you of your promise ring then. I think I’ll be taking your engagement one to.” Felipe grasped at my left hand. Russell had moved to hold onto me, pinning me in place. I couldn’t even raise a leg to kick Felipe away, though I did try it. Struggling against the iron handcuffs, and the vice-like grip of the vampire behind me, I tried to squirm away. Finally Felipe had enough, and with a sharp smack across my cheek he stole his moment and divested me of my promise ring and engagement ring. I could feel the protective magic leaving my body, and I cried out at the loss of those two bands of metal. In this disgusting basement they were all I tangibly had of my husband. I wasn’t even aware of the tears rolling down my cheeks, or my vampiric snarls aimed at the monster opposite me. “I’ll keep these safe here. You’ll never get close enough to grab them this way.” Felipe produced a length of cord from his pocket, slipping my rings on before he tied a knot in the cord, slipping his head through the hole to create a necklace. My beautiful Harry Winston was sat on a piece of pathetic cord around Felipe’s neck! It wasn’t supposed to be there! It was meant to be on my finger! Without my rings I felt a little lost. It was curious how much value I had placed on two bands of metal.
Russell and Felipe swapped places, Felipe’s clammy hands holding onto my bare arms as he held me in place. I refused to whimper at the loss of my rings, at the unfairness of the situation Sookie and I were in. Now was not the time to sulk. We had to strategise and plan. Bill stepped forward, swapping places with Russell so that the 3000 year-old psychopath was holding Sookie in place. It was like they were doing some sort of bad ballet, and I’d witnessed plenty of those in my time.
“What is Sookie wearing that is protecting her?” Bill demanded of Amelia. Of course under glamour she was unable to have free will, and was therefore forced to answer, much to the dismay of my cousin and I.
“The pearls on her wrist.” Amelia’s robotic answer caused Bill to grin, and he made quick work of removing the bracelet from my cousin. She was crestfallen, lost without the magical protection and comfort of her grandmother. Bill followed Felipe’s example, threading it onto a piece of cord, which he tied around his neck.
“Please Bill, don’t do this. Those were Gran’s; they mean a lot to me. You know she liked you, and you even liked her. Please.” Sookie tried to get through to him, but it was like talking to a brick wall. Bill was crazy, and Russell and Felipe were only feeding his craziness. He no longer cared for Sookie’s feelings, only caring for what he wanted out of this little arrangement. The sooner Sookie tuned in to that the better. There was no point trying to negotiate with an idiot.
Bill turned to look at her, the corners of his lips pulled back in an unattractive leer. “I never liked the old hag, she was always in the way of my plans.” He responded coldly. I could feel Sookie’s shock, her unease at his words.
“No outward emotions!” I chastised her. Maybe it was hypocritical, given my little outburst when my rings had been taken from me, but Sookie was more likely to crack before I did. She was the weakest link, and if the three vampires found a sore spot they would exploit it, and could bring the entire nest down with it.
Felipe and Russell moved Sookie and I, taking us around Amelia. I’d been tempted to try and undo her glamour but the damage was already done, she’d already divulged our protection to our enemies. Maybe not willingly, but the information was now known. We were moved to the other side of the basement where there seemed to be two metal tables. As if sensing one another’s thoughts, even though we weren’t sharing anything telepathically, Sookie and I looked to one another with wide eyes. Using their vampire speed to their advantages Felipe and Russell soon had Sookie and I flat on our backs on a table each, spread like starfish. Before we could kick and protest our ankles and wrists were locked in place with iron cuffs. I clamped down on my bonds the moment the iron made contact with my skin, sensing Sookie doing the same, as we both screamed out at the pain.
Rising up, back on the street, did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I’m back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive, so many times it happens too fast
You change your passion for glory, don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive
It’s the eye of the tiger; it’s the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger
~ Eye of the Tiger, Survivor
The time I had spent with my Sookie in the early hours of this morning and well into the day had been very much needed. She hadn’t been gone from my side for very long but I’d missed her, craved her, worried about her. Russell and his little band of followers could do all sorts to her and I was powerless to stop it. I was thankful that she had Ata there for support. Both our bond and mental connection could alleviate some of our pain, but until Sookie was back at my side I would be an internal mess. She’s my bonded, my future wife, and without her I feel like this massive chunk of me is missing. Hm maybe it’s time I relocate my balls, and my man card, while I’m at it.
I’d finally given in to the pull of the sun after saying goodbye to Sookie. It had been painful to watch her fly away, but the ease at which she mastered her new shape shifting ability gave me some hope that she could at least hold her own for a while. She was yet to develop her full set of fae powers so I was relying on Ata for those. I slept a little longer than usual due to my extended time awake in the day. Fighting the pull had been easy; it had been the bleeds that had been the problem. Those of us who stayed awake downed weak fae blood leftover from the night Sookie’s mind was opened up in order to try and starve off the bleeds. It worked surprisingly well. I was aware of how unattractive I would have been with blood dripping from my nose and ears. Sookie had witnessed me in all sorts of states before – covered in blood, after a messy feeding, burnt to a crisp in the sun. She took care of me every time though, my little spitfire.
As I entered the living room I noticed all were present apart from Ari and Pam. Taking a seat on one of the sofas I noticed Oscar giving me a timid smile. Though Sookie had returned to Felipe’s I was feeling better about the information we had managed to gather, and the healthy dose of my blood now running through her veins. There was no need for the young vampire to be nervous, I was perfectly content and I let him know that. Hunter ambled into the room next, Jason following behind. My teacup human made a beeline for me and the moment he was within reach I scooped him up and placed him on my lap. Taking a cue from the movies I’d watched over the years I lightly bounced my leg, bouncing Hunter playfully. The giggle-snort that erupted from him made me grin. Yep, need to find that man card soon.
Pam and Ari swanned in a moment later, hand in hand. “I thought you guys would be fu-“ I clamped my hands over Hunter’s ears, growling at the Stackhouse male. Hunter didn’t need to hear such obscene words from him. Jason, realising his mistake, had the decency to look embarrassed.
“Making love.” Isabel corrected as I removed my hands from Hunter’s ears. “Jason thought they would be making love.” She addressed Hunter, still holding on Khai’s hand. She’d been doing that a lot lately.
Hunter shook his head, a boyish grin on his features. “You can’t ‘make’ love Miss Isabel, you fall in it.” He tried to correct her.
“I’ll remind you of that when you’re 21 and bringing your first girlfriend home to meet your momma and I.” I gave Hunter’s sides a light tickle, more laughter pouring from his lips.
“You’re gonna be around for that long?” His large eyes turned to me, our small tie filled with his curiosity.
“I fully intend to be around forever.” I promised him, making a silent promise to myself. I wouldn’t let Felipe, Russell, or any of his cronies stake me.
“Well you have to turn me then when I get older, so I don’t die before you. That’s not the way it’s meant to be.” Hunter declared in a singsong voice. The thought of turning him didn’t appeal to me. Oh I wanted him to stick around, of course, but he was still a child, and it was hard for me to picture him as an adult wanting to be turned at the present moment. Not to mention the fact that he was sky fae, and the sky fae couldn’t be turned. I would have 2500 years with him though, if his fae blood was enough given that it had been diluted down the line and he was more than likely only 1/10 fae. That was long enough to travel the world and help him find his mate so he could stay with us forever.
Pam and Ari had taken their seats during this time and rather than responding to Hunter’s comment I simply ruffled his bangs, turning my attention to my Childe and her lover. “I’m going to call Corentine Fiacre, Aurel Gavril, Bryn Marc, and Colton Emory in a moment. They’re the other Sheriff’s of Nevada and I’m sure they’ll be with us on this. They each have a soft spot for Ata, though of course they won’t admit that out loud.” Ari informed me, his gaze flickering to our father as he spoke of mother before his eyes settled back on mine. “I’ll call them here, with as many vampires from their areas as possible, and in around an hour we’ll hold a meeting in the Colosseum in order to discuss tactics, the plan we have, and to bring the others into it. I have a feeling that we’ll need the numbers.” Ari spared glances to the other vampires present, shooting Oscar a warm smile. The youngest vampire of the nest was clearly uncomfortable with all of this fighting. I couldn’t blame him; he was from a modern time, where warfare involved guns and little to no physical contact with the enemy. My brothers and I were from a time where fighting often involved our hands, was a far more common occurrence, and on occasion called for the use of broadswords and other blades.
A dozen phone calls and an hour later the Colosseum was packed. It had been busy on the night of the VRA party, but it was almost at the same capacity now. Everyone seemed to dislike Felipe, and was more than happy to commit treason if it meant overthrowing him. I had a feeling that most of them were fond of my mother also, but were too proud to say so. I had left Hunter in Jason’s care, after glamouring him into it, throwing in the command to not do anything stupid, or leave the penthouse. I felt a twinge of regret over the fact I was glamouring my Sookie’s brother. He was a few crayons short of a colouring box however, as my Southern belle would say, and it was needed during this critical time. I told him to remain in the penthouse with Hunter, and to move into the panic room immediately should Hunter hear a void approaching that sounds unfamiliar. Though I wanted to trust the other Sheriff’s and the vampires in their areas, my trust had to be earned.
Ari had placed our nest up on the dais, overlooking the whole room. Chairs had been removed to make space for the vampires in attendance and due to our undead nature we would all be able to stay on our feet the whole night without needing to sit. Sometimes being a vampire was useful. The crowd of vampires chatted amongst themselves before Ari cleared his throat, taking a step forward to address the crowd. Unlike the VRA party where a microphone had to be used so that everyone could hear, Ari spoke at his usual level, everyone’s hearing picking him up effortlessly. “As I’m sure you are aware by now, Ata has gone missing. The Monarch of this state, Felipe de Castro, and his cronies, has taken her. Along with Ata is her cousin, the bonded companion of my brother.” Ari turned to me for a moment and I gave him a nod, encouraging him to carry on whilst also simultaneously letting the audience know I was indeed Sookie’s bonded. Looking back to the gathered crowd of vampires, some of who were looking to one another with confusion, he addressed them again. “I have called you here this evening to ask for your assistance in the retrieval of my Mistress and her cousin, and to help my brothers and I defeat Felipe.” His mention of wanting to overthrow the current king caused the room to break out into startled conversation. It was to be expected. Treason wasn’t something to take lightly when the penalty was the true death. “Those of you who do not wish to assist us should leave now, but if you do then know that should you inform the king of our plan we will hunt you down and ensure justice is served in a slow and painful manner.” Ari informed everyone present, letting him or her know that their tattle tailing wouldn’t go unpunished. Around 100 vampires left immediately and it was obvious from the way they all dressed, and carried themselves, that they were relatively new to their undead status. I couldn’t blame them for wanting to leave – they were more likely to be killed first. Their age was no match for Felipe or any of his cronies. I wasn’t angered by their choice to leave; they were simply saving their own skins. I wasn’t one to shy away from a fight, but I knew when to pick my battles and when to leave them.
Once the 100 vampires left the room the double doors were sealed off again, locking everyone inside. There would be no information leaks, and no one would be leaving until everyone understood the plan. There was no room for error, everything had to be timed perfectly when we decided to strike, or else a lot of us would be meeting the sharp end of stakes.
Ari took a step back, allowing Godric to step forward. As the oldest in the nest he was naturally in charge, and most of the plan had been his idea anyway. Before he had found me he had spent 1000 years travelling the world, observing armies and their attacks, watching them strategise, listening to them go over their plans hundreds of times. Sometimes he had fought alongside them, should they have been fighting for something he had believed in, other times he would wait until the fighting was over and pick off the ones nearing death, getting his fulfilment of nourishment while offering them a quick death. During this swap of places on the dais, Pam and Isabel had brought out a large whiteboard, offering the pen to Godric so he could write down key information. Though vampires were known for their perfect memory it always helped to write things down. Pam stepped back to Ari’s side and I noted how he took her hand. Khai took Isabel’s also as she moved back to him.
“There are three main vampires that need taking out. One of them goes by the name of William Compton. Those of you who have had contact with the old Queen of Louisiana’s court over the past few years will know of him as her procurer. The second vampire is Russell Edgington, the former king of Mississippi, and then of course there is Felipe de Castro.” Godric scribbled their names on the whiteboard quickly, underlining each one.
“I thought Edgington was dead. Nan Flannigan told us so.” One voice called out from the throng of vampires.
“He wasn’t dead, just buried. Unfortunately he broke free and has sought out his bloodline. It seems both de Castro and Compton are of his bloodline. I wouldn’t believe everything that Nan Flannigan tells you, she is a politician after all.” My Maker took a swipe at the AVL’s lapdog, and earned himself a few chuckles in the process.
“Our sources have informed us that there are twelve Were guards that patrol the building during the day. Two are positioned at the front gate, two at the back gate, and the other eight are inside the house. Their shift ends the moment it’s sunset and a vampire crew take over. Given the ages of de Castro and Edgington they have no need for a plethora of vampire guards. They have five guards at night, one at the front gate, one at the back gate, and three in the house. The Were guards will be left alone, given that I don’t think any of us enjoy the prospect of frying in the sun, so our main concern is the five night vampires.” Godric wrote the number five on the whiteboard, and circled it.
It took us two hours to get a plan in place, not much if you consider the length of our immortal lives, but it felt like a long time. Our plan was great though. It wasn’t foolproof, and I had a number of contingency plans in my mind that I would share with the nest upon our return to the penthouse, but our numbers far outweighed the number of vampires on Felipe’s side. Numbers don’t always win wars, but they sure help.
The plan of attack we finally settled on involved the use of the local Were pack Ata was a friend of to scope out the location in the day and ensure that the number of Were’s roaming around was accurate. Though I trusted Sookie and Ata to get the figures right, it didn’t hurt to have someone double-check. The last thing we needed was to be defeated before we even entered the mansion. It also helped us ensure that the night information was accurate. Check, check, and then check again as my human mother would have said. Pam came up with idea of our nest splitting into two teams, deeming that we would cover more ground that way. It was Khai’s decision to try and even out the ages in the teams, to ensure that both teams were equally weighted and able to take down any who managed to get near us. We decided that Team 1 would consist of Godric, Khai, Egor, Agmund and myself. Team 2 would consist of Ari, Riei, Oeri, Isabel and Pam. The majority of those in the nest voted that Bubba and Oscar were to stay in the penthouse with Jason and Hunter, locked in the panic room so that they could defend them should anyone manage to break in.
With our own nest sorted, we’d turned our attention to the other vampires in the room. They had been discussing plans amongst themselves. We sat and listened to all of their ideas, picking the best from each ones and constructing them all together to give us one huge plan. We informed them of our teams and it was decided that Team 1 were to take the front of the building, while Team 2 were to take the back.
Both teams would take out the vampire at their designated entrance, handing over the bodies to Corentine and a few of the vampires from his area, who would dispose of the goo somewhere on Felipe’s property so he could be blamed for their demises at a later date. Corentine even suggested dousing the goo in bleach to try and overpower the stench of death, which could linger for days even after someone had been killed. All vampires present agreed that was a good idea.
Our nest were unable to inform the others of our ability to mentally converse with Ata and Sookie in order to locate the other three vampire guards in the establishment, however we were able to divulge their ability at creating illusions. Colton was very interested in the fae abilities, and I could almost see the wheels turning in his mind as to how this could work to our advantage. It was a wonder that none of these other vampires had tried to claim Ata for their own. It was obvious she was something more than human, especially with the position she held. Maybe they had tried and she’d simply rebuffed them because they weren’t my Maker? One could only hope.
Riei suggested that, though our kind was supposed to be immune to our emotions, we try to use emotion against the vampires inside Felipe’s home. It was common knowledge amongst the Sheriff’s of Nevada that Ata could read vampire minds, but they were unaware of Sookie’s ability to do so, and I intended to keep it that way. Ata was strong enough to hold her own should any of the other Sheriff’s, or other vampires entirely for that matter, try to take her for her powers, but Sookie wasn’t quite there yet. I wasn’t willing to gamble with her safety. Oeri put in his two cents, suggesting that Ata cast illusions of the vampires deceased loved ones to distract them, leading them to designated areas of the mansion with the illusions. All vampires present agreed that Aurel and Bryn would take on the other three vampires, along with a few of the vampires from their areas. Everyone in the room was itching for a fight, wanting a piece of the action. It seemed that Felipe had only just been holding onto his crown. I had no doubts that the Nevada vampires would happily carve the crown from Felipe’s head and happy place it on Ata’s.
Colton offered himself and his area vampires as guards, patrolling the parameter and stopping any other supernaturals from getting into the mansion. The last thing we needed was an influx of Were’s or other supernatural creatures while we were trying to take down the oldest vampire in the New World. It was agreed that Aurel, Bryn and Corentine, along with all the vampires from their areas, would storm the mansion to cause enough chaos to give a distraction. Godric, Ari, Khai and I would be free to slip into the basement and rescue Sookie and Ata, offering them our blood to heal before we removed them from the mansion. They were to be placed in Colton’s care, and he would take them to a safe house just out of the city, before returning to the mansion to continue the fight.
With the plan in place, and just before the vampire’s present left to retire for the remainder of the evening, Godric stepped forward to address the crowd. “I wish to thank you for coming to our assistance. We understand that you are all laying your lives on the line to remove Felipe and bring Ata and Sookie back here, for that my Children and I are in your debt. I have one more request of you though; none are to end de Castro. I wish to be the one to bring him to the true death for the damage he has caused to my bonded. I also ask that none of you end Compton, that is something Sookie or Eric must do.” I was surprised with the second half of his request. Sookie would never end Compton; she had too much compassion in her. Though I wished to end him also I wouldn’t be able to do it if it hurt her. Yes I hated the boy, yes he was a thorn in my side from the very first moment I met him, but he was my bonded’s first love, the first person she had unfortunately given herself to. He would always, once again unfortunately, hold a piece of her. “I also ask that no one ends Edgington. He took my Childe’s family from him when he was merely human. I think revenge is 1000 years overdue.” My Maker informed the crowd. I cringed at them all knowing about Russell’s slaughter of my family, but if it meant I would have the satisfaction of driving a stake through his heart then I would take it. “Though of course, we would not deny you all the pleasure of watching as they meet the true death.” Godric’s lips quirked upwards into a smirk as he surveyed the room, the other vampires present wearing matching expressions. We were cruel creatures; if it wasn’t us doing the killing, then we did enjoy watching.
After saying goodbye to our guests we stood in the Colosseum for a moment, sorting through everything that had happened in the last few hours. Ari disappeared for a while as his phone rang in his pocket, and just as we were rolling up the blueprints of Felipe’s mansion he returned. “I’ve just spoken to King Edgar of California, Queen Lovisa of Sweden, and King Amasis of Egypt. They’ve all agreed to back us. Edgar has offered us more vampires as he is closer, but I think we have it covered. I wasn’t expecting so many people to stay.” Ari frowned for a moment, looking over the now empty room. It seemed my brother underestimated just how much the vampires of Nevada liked Ata, and him by extension. “Lovisa and Amasis have offered to travel over when one of us takes the crown and offer assistance in bringing the state to heel should we need it. I have a feeling we won’t, but there support is much appreciated anyway. Should all of this fall through they have both offered all of us protection in their countries.”
Egor chuckled from his spot beside me when our brother fell silent. “How is our dear Lovisa?” He questioned, quirking an eyebrow. Agmund rolled his eyes at his brothers’ antics, giving him a light shove.
“Asking about you, dear brother.” Ari teased. A lavish smile swept across Egor’s lips, which his tongue darted out to lick, at the mention of the vampire Queen of my homeland.
“Egor and I spent some time in her company a few years back, when mother let us return to our homeland. Lets just say that the two of them got along very well.” Agmund filled me in quietly, as if that would stop the incredible hearing of all vampires present from listening in.
“What can I say, I’m a sucker for a beautiful woman, but then what man isn’t?” Egor shrugged his broad shoulders, casting his gaze around our nest. Isabel and Pam were the only females stood with us, and the pair of them exchanged their own eye roll at typical macho behaviour. Our group erupted into laughter, the two women shaking their heads at us.
“At least we have a backup plan should everything go to shit.” Riei tried to be optimistic once our laughter died down, but I could tell he was just as worried as the rest of us. Feeling suddenly much more somber, we all silently turned to the door in order to return to the penthouse, the blueprints and other documents for our rescue mission distributed between Oeri, Khai and I.
So stand in the rain, stand your ground
Stand up when it’s all crashing down
You stand through the pain, you won’t drown
And one day, what’s lost can be found
You stand in the rain, she won’t make a sound
Alone in this fight with herself and the fears whispering if she stands she’ll fall down
She wants to be found
The only way out is through everything she’s running from wants to give up and lie down.
~ Stand in the Rain, Superchick
We were left alone soon after we had been cuffed to the table. I wasn’t entirely thrilled with this new situation. The iron was hurting like a motherfucker, cutting into my skin, but Ata’s wrists and ankles were worse off due to her increased fae heritage. “I swear to Isis that the moment I am off of this table I will be shoving stakes through all of their hearts and dancing in the goo that is left behind.” I heard Ata growl from beside me. The tables were somewhat close together, and we had a small amount of movement in our ankles and wrists. We were chained, locked in place, but not completely immobile. I found it ironic how well it resembled my ‘relationship’ with Bill. He’d tricked me, metaphorically tied me down, and yet I still managed to get enough room to move and leave him behind. Now he’d caught up with me though. Yay me.
Tipping my head sideways, I glanced to my cousin, her eyes screwed shut, her head having lolled in my direction. “I’ll sharpen the stake for you, Ata.” I murmured softly, knowing she had heard me when the corners of her lips curled upwards in a vicious smirk, something I hadn’t witnessed before. I could see now that my naivety had gotten me into so much trouble over the years. I’d always wanted to see the good in people, believe there was no bad, but there was always something bad about everyone. Bill was overly possessive to the point of obsession, Eric had a short temper when things weren’t going his way, and Ata had a vindictive streak quite a few kilometres wide. Me? I was impulsive. I’d gone out to rescue Bill from the Rattrays when I hardly knew him, I’d sassed Eric the moment I had met him, not understanding his role in the vampire hierarchy, I’d gone searching for the fangbanger killer myself and had nearly died in the process, then I’d decided it would be a jolly good idea to wander on into the Fellowship church and take on Steve Newlin, all before returning home to fight off a maenad. Don’t even get me started on the whole Russell fiasco and my impromptu trip to Faery.
Truth was, I was terrible at sitting down and making a rational decision. Usually I just went with my gut feeling. 9 out of 10 times I was right, but since vampires became a common element of my life I’d found going with my gut to be the worst idea ever. I guess it was why Eric and I worked. He was the strategist, and I was the passion and drive. Whatever he wanted was what I wanted…most of the time.
The sound of the basement door opening pulled me out of my epiphany and I tilted my head back so I was looking up at the damp ceiling. You would think, given how beautiful Felipe’s home was upstairs, that he would at least show his basement a bit of love, even if the people who usually frequented it were utterly unloved. The mind buzzing towards me belonged unfortunately to the one person I didn’t want to deal with right now. Bill’s petty behaviour and his obsession with me were starting to frustrate me. I could deal with him being a little more flirtatious, I could even deal with him making up lame excuses to see me – those could all be rebuffed and I could tell him that I wasn’t interested. Kidnapping me and pinning me down on a cold metal table with iron handcuffs was not an ideal way for him to endear himself to me. Yeah, there was no redemption for that.
Bill sauntered over to the table, that nasty little smile on his lips as came to stop beside me. Bringing one cold hand up he placed it against my left cheek, stroking my cheekbone. Though I wanted nothing more than to flinch away from him I refused to do so. He would think he had the upper hand that way. As it was he could probably already feel the disgust rolling off of me in waves. I didn’t want his hands on me anymore, not knowing what I know now.
Bill has caused more grief for me than good. Yes he was my first love, yes a part of me will always care for him and I cannot change that, but he betrayed me, wronged me, and took my innocence over false pretences I was lucky that he took me to Fangtasia though, that he introduced me to my Eric. I guess that I could thank him for that, at least.
“My dear, sweet Sookie.” I was forced to turn my head, looking at him with a blank expression. Years of hearing people’s thoughts had given me a killer poker face. In comparison my emotions were somewhat unstable, and I could almost see Bill working through them one by one. He seemed to like what he found though; my disgust, my fear, my hatred. “This will all be over if you simply go willingly. Do not fight me. You know that you want this.” I felt the pressure on my mind and threw my shields up to further block it. He was aware he couldn’t glamour me, obviously, but he was putting on a show. He was proving to me that he had all the power now. I was the one in chains on a table, and he was the one free to roam around and do as he pleased. There was no denying that he was stronger than me at the present moment, but without the chains I would have no qualms BBQing his Southern ass with my microwave fingers.
Ata had been silent through our exchange, but the steady flow of strength through our bond was all I needed. Unable to fight him back, I simply settled my gaze on him, putting the weight of my emotions behind it. I would not let this man bring me down to his level, use me for his sick little games. I wasn’t his personal soda fountain anymore, and I would damn well never be again. His mind was a tangled mess, full of negative thoughts and anger – such anger. My steely gaze seemed to flip a switch in him though, and he decided I needed to know my place.
Unfortunately my current predicament meant that although mentally I was strong, physically I was not. I had no time to react before Bill was on top of me, ceasing any and all movement with his body weight. He tore at my clothes until I was left in nothing but the bra I had been wearing when I had initially been taken. I couldn’t even remember how many days ago that was. I was losing track of time. Without so much as a second thought Bill’s pants were gone and he was violating me.
It was like a lid had suddenly been taken off of a boiling pan as my memories came flooding back to me. Uncle Bartlett, back when I was a child, his thoughts, the way he had touched me on occasion, his long-term intent with me. Bill’s mind was so similar and I couldn’t choke back my sob. Tears were stinging my eyes and I could already feel them rolling down my cheeks. This was too similar, and the pain from Bartlett’s treatment still too fresh. Gran had believed me but I had never spoken to anyone about it before, especially not in detail, until I had sat down in the penthouse alone with Ata. I thought I’d buried all of my shame, my guilt, and my pain. Jason had blamed me for Bartlett leaving so suddenly, he had no idea why he’d left but he’d hated me for it for months. He’d been so close to our Uncle. They went fishing every weekend down at the little creek behind the Compton estate. Bartlett taught Jason how to swim and ride a bike, all things momma and daddy should have been doing, but couldn’t because water fae had killed them before they’d even been given the chance. I tried to block out Bill, I tried to block out Bartlett, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t push the feelings away, the memories that were so vivid it felt like I was reliving them.
“Still reeks of Northman. Must remove smell. Make her mine. Claim. Fuck. Bite. Drink. Break her into submission. Obedient. Good.” Bill’s thoughts were hard to control. My shields were gone, destroyed by my hysteria. My tears were uncontrollable now and I squeezed my eyes shut, willing them away, willing Bill away. I wanted it all to end. I wanted to be curled up in bed with my Eric, talking about stupid little things like our favourite flowers or our favourite movies. I felt no pleasure as Bill continued his dirty deed. I no longer felt any of the compassion I may have had for him, even the smallest amount. There was no going back from this.
Bartlett had never gone this far with me; he’d never done anything explicit. I was more hurt by his thoughts than his actions. I didn’t want him to touch me then, and I didn’t want Bill touching me now. I wanted Eric’s essence to be the only thing inside of me, I wanted his bulky, muscular, and well-formed frame to be the only thing above me, his golden locks falling into my face from his lack of hair gel. I wanted out of this hellhole.
With my eyes closed I missed Bill’s mouth opening, but the terrifying snick I heard made me tense beneath him, my eyes flying open of their own accord in time to see him lunge for my neck. I heard Ata’s screams in the background, her pleas for him to stop. She was sobbing to, and I could feel her struggling to help me through our bond. She knew of Bartlett, she knew why Bill’s actions were pulling such a reaction from me. This was why Niall had told us to exchange, to reveal our dark secrets to one another. How else was she supposed to help me right now if she didn’t understand already? I was a disorientated mess, and as soon as Bill took his first huge pull on my fresh wounds I couldn’t stop myself from screaming out, nor was I able to stop my bond with Eric ripping open.
So I woke up and there’s the moon
Seems to have risen just a little soon
But who’s calling out my name anyway?
I’m disorientated; I’m trying not to be jaded
When it’s all so complicated ’cause I’m a little disorientated
Walking in a different space, looking back just incase
Out of patience out of balance out of time
Out of breath out of focus these shapes in my mind
Love is forever, hate was in the never
Out of patience out of balance out of time
Out of breath out of focus these shapes in my mind
~ Disorientated, Delta Goodrem
I took a few steps towards the door before I felt my bond with Sookie close down. I frowned, stopping mid-stride Godric had copied my actions, his own frown deep-set as he turned to look at me. “Maybe they’re having a conversation and do not wish for us to be a part of it?” Godric questioned, but I could tell he was grasping at straws. Something wasn’t right. I wasn’t about to push my luck though, not now that we had plans in place and a team behind us. Sookie was a big girl, and Ata was by her side. If they were planning, or conversing with Russell and his minions, and they felt the need to close the bond down for it then I could understand. I loved Sookie dearly but sometimes I also wished to just close our connection for a while, just so that for once I felt my own emotions and no one else’s. Vampires were solitary creatures by nature.
It was as we were about to step into the elevator back up to the penthouse, which had now been deemed usable again by the feds, when my bond with Sookie tore open. I had no time to steel myself against her emotions. They hit me like a brick wall and I could do nothing but crumble to the ground, falling onto all fours, the papers from earlier scattering around me. Godric seemed uneasy on his feet, as if he could feel Ata once more. I couldn’t feel her under Sookie’s pain, and though it was cruel of me to think it Sookie was far more important right now. Her pain, her misery, her guilt, her self-loathing and her anger were all attacking me from each side. I was not one to cry in front of others, but the blood red tracks down my cheeks were unstoppable. I could feel how much pain she was in and I wanted to take it from her, but there was too much of it. She was drowning in it, and I was drowning right along with her. Our mental connection had all but closed down too. All I could feel was a hum in the back of my mind. I couldn’t even get a mental message in to try and soothe her.
Ari and Khai were at my side in a flash, Riei and Oeri tending to Godric. I could tell they were struggling with Ata’s emotions, but whatever was happening to her was not as bad as what was happening to Sookie. Egor and Agmund were on alert, taking up defensive stances in front of Godric and I. “Get them in the elevator, now.” I heard Ari barking out orders as my brothers hauled me up from the floor. Sookie’s emotions were too strong, much too strong for a mostly human woman. Something had happened to her, something was happening to her.
“I need. Sookie.” I rasped out, trying to fight my brothers off. Pam had even joined in, trying to keep me in place. I needed to go to Sookie, to rescue her from whatever was happening to her. I needed to comfort her, reassure her. Reassure myself. What had caused such emotions? Her self-loathing and her pain were the two most dominant emotions I could feel, and it tore me in two for her to be experiencing them at such a magnitude. My Sookie should only feel loved, cherished and adored. She had been through too much heartache.
Trying to fight my brothers off was no easy task, especially considering the fact I was weak and outnumbered, and much younger. Egor and Agmund scooped up all the papers that had fallen to the floor and bundled into the elevator with us. It started upwards but the moment the doors closed I broke free, scrabbling against the metal. I had to get to her. Never had I felt this desperate to get to someone before. Even when Pam had been injured in her early years I hadn’t felt such compulsion to go to her when she was in pain. Yes she was a proud woman, and I loved her, as I did my Sookie, but Pam was able to take care of herself. She knew the game and she played it well. Sookie was still inexperienced in our world. I’d tried to ease her into it but I was worried to scare her away. I needed her at my side.
The doors opened to reveal the penthouse and I scrambled out, a new burst of energy coming from nowhere. No, no, this isn’t where I want to be. Wrong place. Wrong place. I mentally chanted, turning to get back into the elevator and flee to Sookie. My plan was short lived though as I felt Riei take me down seconds later, and the cool point of a needle slip under my skin in the crook of my right arm seconds later. The world slipped away into nothingness.
The moment Eric was out all of us hit the ground, panting. We weren’t physically tired, but emotionally we were. We were all bound together, some of us more tightly than others. Pam was still holding my hand, shaking as the aftershocks of her Maker’s emotions tumbled through her. I pulled her to my side, burying her in my large frame, enveloping her in my arms. Petting her hair, she started to relax against me.
“What the hell was that?” Egor gasped, the documents he had gathered up from the lobby floor now scattered on the penthouse floor.
“I couldn’t get a good read. Sookie seemed, disorientated, and full of panic.” Godric wheezed, his head falling back to rest against the wall he was slumped near.
“Her emotions, their bond, rubbing off on one another.” Oeri took a deep breath to calm him, and I could feel him starting to pull his emotions back under control. My other brothers, my father, Pam and Isabel were all doing the same.
“When will he wake?” Pam questioned quietly as we all started to slowly rise to our feet. Pam’s hand never left mine. Khai and Egor moved Eric to the sofa, placing a pillow under his head. Vampires could sleep on the concrete ground and in the dirt and still not be uncomfortable, but it was a thoughtful gesture.
“I gave him a weak sedative. I’ve used it before to tackle unruly newborns in the area. Of course for their new bodies the weak dose feels like a lot. He should come around in about an hour, maybe half an hour.” Oeri explained as he threw the used needle into the trashcan while nodding his thanks to Riei, who had been the one to take Eric down. He’d been the steadiest of us all at that moment in time.
Throwing the plans onto the coffee table I heard the sound of footsteps coming from upstairs. Jason and Hunter would be joining us in only a few seconds, and I had no doubt that Oscar and Bubba would join the party in a short while also. I moved to the kitchen, pulling out bags of donor blood. I had a feeling we would need it.
I got pocket, got a pocket full of sunshine, I’ve got a love and I know that it’s all mine
oh, oh, oh
Wish that you could, but you ain’t gonna own me, do anything you can to control me
There’s a place that I go that nobody knows, where the rivers flow, and I call it home
And there’s no more lies and the darkness is light, and nobody cries, there’s only butterflies
The sun is on my side, take me for a ride
I smile up to the sky
I know I’ll be alright
~ Pocketful of Sunshine, Natasha Bedingfield
I was lost in my feelings, drowning in them as they overpowered me. I tried to close my bond with Eric, I truly did, but I couldn’t muster the strength to do so. My eyes were still closed as I willed Bill away, but he wasn’t going. A small hand grasped at two of my fingers, but I couldn’t bring myself to scream out. The hand was warm, a pulse under the surface of the skin. Ata.
The moment my cousin’s warm hand grabbed my wrist I felt like I was being pulled through a wormhole. Screwing my eyes even more tightly together I fought back my nauseous feeling. The moment the sucking feeling stopped my mind cleared immediately, and instead of the darkness I was surrounded by light, by sunshine. I could feel cobblestone beneath my feet and the warmth of the sun on my skin. “He can’t hurt you here.” I turned my head in the direction of the noise, my eyes finding Ata’s. “Your body is still in the basement of Felipe’s, but our minds are here.” She further explained, lifting a hand to brush it across my cheek. “I couldn’t take a moment more of your pain. You do not deserve it.” I sank into Ata’s hand, and her words. I felt better here. I knew the moment my mind returned to the basement I would be a mess, and that it would indeed take me some time to recover from the ordeal, but for now I was safe, basking in the sunshine.
“Where are we?” I asked, turning around on the spot to take in my surroundings.
“Rome, back in the days when my family were alive. I would have taken us to modern day Rome, but it lacks a certain charm in comparison.” My cousin offered me her hand, and I had no problem taking it. She had taken me to Ancient Egypt in a meditative state, and now we were in Ancient Rome. Maybe she would take me to the Viking era to? Sparing a glance to the clothes Ata and I were wearing I was pleased to see we were both dressed in little denim shorts. Ata’s top was loose fitting and pink, mine was of the same style but white, covered in little pink flowers. Our clothes were certainly not fit for the era, but they made the incredible heat bearable.
Ata started to lead me through the streets. The homes on either side of the street were tall, shadowing the street in places. They were all made of stone; similar in colour to the stones I was walking on. The windows were mostly small, all facing the street, and iron bars were over them for security. The bottom floor of the all of homes were stores – selling fruit, pottery, and everything else Roman people could ever want. There were no people though, just like there had been no people in Ancient Egypt. Ata’s pace was slow, letting me visually explore her world. “We used to call these buildings insulae. The cheapest and darkest rooms are lower down in the building, with the lightest and the most desirable being at the top. Our tradesmen used to sometimes live in the apartment above their stores, renting out the ones above them to others.” Ata explained. It sounded very similar to how things worked these days. It wasn’t uncommon for shopkeepers to live in the apartment above their stores. They could keep an eye on them that way. I had no doubt that Eric sometimes rested in the basement of Fangtasia.
“Sometimes an entire family – grandparents, parents, and children – would all be crowded into one room. Running water was something that few people living in the insulae had access to. We had aqueducts though, and my people used to get their water from them. Fires were pretty common because people were cooking in crowded homes. Toilets were a no go, the residents had to use public latrines.” Ata continued to explain as we navigated our way through the cobbled streets. Ancient Rome truly was beautiful, and I could see why Ata loved it so much, why she had brought me here.
“It sounds so different to how we live today.” I mused allowed, my gaze finally settling back on my cousin. A wistful smile was painted on her lips and she nodded once.
“I don’t take any of my luxuries for granted, I’ve seen how bad it can be for others.” Ata shrugged her shoulders. Gran had always raised me to never take anything for granted, that everything could end within seconds. She and I had taken every day as it came and worked hard for our money, not spending frivolously.
We turned a corner and Ata stopped, causing me to slam into the back of her. I groaned as Ata stumbled forward a step. “Sorry. It gets me every time.” My cousin apologised not looking at me the whole time. Frowning, I turned to look at what she was seeing. I was speechless.
The real Colosseum stood before me. There was no damage done to it, time had not battered it. It was perfect. The stonework was incredible and the arches that were used to enter the building captivated me. Though high school had been difficult for me I had paid attention as much as possible. We’d been taught about the Romans for a few weeks, and I could distinctly remember that there were four floors to the Colosseum, and that there were eighty arches on the first three floors, divided by pillars with a half column. I could recall that the four arches on the axes of the building were the main entrances, and the one before us was decorated with a little porch and a statue. The writing above it read ‘Porta Triumphalis.’ The other 76 arches were numbered for easier access to the seats for those watching the battle inside.
“Come, Sookie.” Ata’s face lit up with a grin as she took me through the main entrance before us. “This is the entrance the gladiators would come through before they reached the battle.” Ata explained as we walked through the tunnel, emerging into the large circular space that many men had died in. It was fitting, given our situation that we walked through the Porta Triumphalis entrance. After all, we were readying ourselves for battle against Russell, Felipe, and Bill.
I could see the other entrance from our position, and I squinted in the direction, trying to make out the figures in the sunshine. One was taller than the other, built a little more too. “That’s the Porta Libitinaria entrance, named after Libitina, the Roman goddess of death, funerals and corpses.” Ata explained as soon as the two people at the other end of the Colosseum came into focus. I would recognise that blond hair, and broad shoulders, anywhere.
Letting go of Ata’s hand I sprinted to the other end of the Colosseum, throwing myself into Eric’s outstretched arms. Locking me in his grip he swung me around happily, laughing with me. Slowly he placed me back down, dropping an adoring kiss to my lips. Neither Eric nor Godric were burning in the sunshine, and as my cousin approached I realised what she had done. She had pulled our bonded’s into our meditative state, even from such a vast distance, so that I had some way of being with Eric. Ata knew that was where I wanted to be more than anything, away from Bill and his vile acts, safe with my Viking. “The sunshine isn’t hurting you.” I commented, reaching up to brush a stray strand of Eric’s golden hair from his face. He captured my hand with his own, bringing it to his lips to kiss the back of it.
“That’s because you’re protecting me, min kära.” Eric rasped, pulling me into his chest, embracing me.
“We have an hour, that’s roughly five minutes back in the real world.” Ata explained, having moved to stand beside Godric. I couldn’t move my eyes off of Eric in the sunshine, the way the light reflected from his pale skin, how it illuminated his bright blue eyes. I could almost see him as he had been during his human years; God knows he was so full of life now compared to when I had first met him.
Eric pulled back from our embrace, offering me his hand. “Shall we explore, min älskling?”
All too soon our hour in the meditative state was over, and I clung to Eric with such force that he was forced to try and pry me away. I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t want to have to face the dark, damp basement, and I didn’t want to face Bill. “All of this will be over soon my Sookie, and then we will go away for a while.” Eric tried to soothe me, but his words were doing nothing for me. Eric could usually reassure me, but I was aware of how much Bill’s actions would affect me. It was one thing to have someone think of doing such things to you, another to have to listen to them as they actually conducted the act. “Jag älskar dig” Eric murmured against my lips as he gave me one last kiss.
Pulling back, I took in his appearance, bathed in the sunlight, glowing and happy. “Jag älskar dig också” I murmured in response.
The sucking feeling returned once again, but it wasn’t quite so bad this time. The moment I opened my eyes I wanted to whimper at the unfairness of it all. I could have been in the sunshine for longer, frolicking with my mental version of Eric, but I felt Bill finish. My ordeal was over for now. I couldn’t stop the sobs from racking my body though, and Bill looked very smug with himself as he readjusted his pants, doing up his belt. “My scent is in her now and she has finally given up on Northman. Now I have to spin this to her somehow, make it seem like I wasn’t in control of myself. I could say that Russell commanded me, or Felipe. That would work. Too stupid to know the rules of blood lines.” I could hear him mentally rambling. His words only spurred on my sobs though, but this time I wasn’t crying because of him, because of the desolation and pain I felt at what he had just done to me. I felt a renewed sense of hope, the pure need to survive this and come out on top. I wanted to see Eric in the sunshine again, in all of his glory. I wanted to explore the world with him, go back to his homeland and see the sunlight dancing in his eyes while we strolled through the ancient wonders of the world. My mental hour with him had reminded me of my conversations with Ata. When I survived this, I would be forming a third bond with Eric. I would give him the sunshine.
So lost in my thoughts, I didn’t even hear Bill leaving the basement. Bill could do whatever he wanted with me, but he would never get to frolic in the sunshine, he would burn in it, blister and disintegrate. Eric deserved the sunshine, and I would damn well make sure to survive long enough to give it to him.
Tipping my head to look at Ata, I could see the slight bags under her eyes from where the meditative state had pulled upon her energy. I couldn’t give it back to her, I couldn’t heal her because of iron around our limbs, but I offered her a smile instead. The difference this time was that my smile reached my eyes. Ata had given me a renewed sense of hope, reminded me what I was fighting for, and she had helped alleviate my pain for a while. “Thank you.” I murmured towards her.
“Anytime, my sweet cousin. Anytime.” She whispered in response, giving my hand a gentle squeeze. Two sets of footsteps graced our eardrums and we both turned to look towards the basement steps. One set of footsteps had stopped at the top, and Russell was on his way down. He came into focus, standing to the side of our metal tables. A smile was painted on his chapped lips.
“Good evening ladies, I trust you rested well in the day?” He didn’t even give us a second to respond before he carried on talking. “I have a few errands to run this evening so I’m going to leave you in the capable hands of my other Childe.” His smile turned malicious, and the owner of the second set of footsteps came into view, having followed behind Russell moments later.
I could feel Ata’s panic skyrocket, and her hand in mine suddenly became damp with sweat. Her mouth hung open for a second, before she squeaked out in disbelief. “No, no! Not you…!”