Kibwe looked between Eric, Sookie, and Bill as he assessed them. Something told him the girl knew more than they were letting on, and for whatever reason the two vampires were protecting her. He had been given the orders that any human who posed a threat to their cause was to be dealt with, but as he looked at the young blonde, he realized that might not be possible. Eric and Bill, he knew by just their stance and mannerisms, would protect her if he made a move to eliminate her. As he eyed the thousand-year-old vampire, he realized even if he did manage to kill the girl first, he wouldn’t survive it. And he wasn’t ready to give his life for the cause.
Lowering his weapon, Kibwe prepared to give the order to glamour her and for them to move out when something stopped him. If Eric and Bill cared about her as much as he suspected, they might be able to use her.
“We will take her with us,” he said.
“Is that necessary?” Bill asked. “We can glamour her into forgetting. She is no part of this.”
“She is here,” Kibwe replied. “She is a part of it.”
“But surely…” Bill started.
“But nothing,” Kibwe cut him off as he grabbed Sookie by the arm.
“Hey! Get your hands off me!” Sookie shouted as she was dragged out of the hospital.
Eric gritted his teeth as he stood by helplessly and watched Sookie get dragged out of sight. Anger built within him, and his hands clenched in fists as he turned to face Bill. He bit back everything he wanted to say, knowing it wasn’t safe, but he swore on Godric’s memory if anything happened to Sookie – because Bill didn’t want to give her a choice – he would tear the younger vampire apart.
Eric moved in silence as he exited the hospital, his lips quirking slightly as he felt how pissed off Sookie was. He held in a chuckle as he thought how sorry the Authority was going to be once they met her. They had no idea who or what they were dealing with. He listened half-heartedly as Bill praised Lilith like a good little follower. Eric refused to give any false worship; the only woman he would willingly worship was in the back of the van they were about to be thrown in, and given the look on her face, he doubted she would consent to that any time soon.
Climbing into the van, Eric took a seat opposite her, barely restraining himself from rolling his eyes as Bill sat down beside her. He didn’t miss the small flinch Sookie gave as Bill’s leg brushed up against hers.
“I can’t thank you enough for dragging me into this,” Sookie said once the van was moving. “Just this morning I was thinking, ‘wow, it’s been two whole days since I was last in danger. I wonder what I can do to fix that.’ Turns out I just needed you.” She added casting a withering look at Bill
“Sookie, you can’t think for one second we wanted this,” Bill said. “I don’t like seeing you in danger.”
“Then you should probably stop putting me in it,” Sookie retorted. “Even without all them…” she waved her hand indicating the guards who had turned up and thrown her in the back of the van, “you still placed me in danger by asking for my help finding Russell. Especially considering what he did to me last time.”
“It wasn’t my intention to put you in danger. I didn’t want to…” Bill began.
“Really Bill,” Eric interrupted. “Are you really going to sit there and lie to her?”
“No, do not lie to her,” Eric growled. “It was your idea to use her to find Russell.”
“We wouldn’t have had to if you would’ve killed him in the first place,” Bill replied snarkily.
Sookie rolled her eyes as she listened to the two of them growling at each other. “Oh for God sake! Why don’t you two just whip them out and see whose is bigger,” she said, exasperated. “Just get it over with and then maybe we can get back to more important things. Like how we’re gonna get out of this in one piece.”
“Sookie, I’m…” Bill started.
“No, okay, don’t,” Sookie interrupted. “I don’t wanna hear you’re sorry or how it wasn’t your fault, or any other excuses you can think up. I still have a rotten headache and I’m not in the mood for the bull. So unless you wanna tell me what exactly is going on and why, just shut up.”
Bill opened his mouth to reply, but one look at Sookie told him she was being deadly serious, and he closed it without saying a word.
Eric’s chuckling drew Sookie’s attention, and she turned to face him. She ran her eyes over him, taking in his appearance. He looked different somehow she thought, but she couldn’t put her finger on how.
“Have you seen Pam?” Sookie asked, surprising Eric. That was the last thing he expected her to ask.
“I have,” Eric answered truthfully. “She is fine.”
“Good,” Sookie replied softly. “She was worried about you.”
“You were worried about Pam,” Eric said.
“Not really,” Sookie admitted with a shrug. “We had a little run in last night, but I know she was worried about you.”
“What was your run in about?” Eric asked concerned. He knew Pam didn’t like Sookie for reasons he didn’t know, and even though he had made up with his child, he wouldn’t allow her to harm Sookie in anyway.
“It’s not important,” Sookie replied. “And…er…Pam got the worst of it.”
Raising an eyebrow, Eric stared at Sookie. She may not deem it important, but he most certainly did. If what he believed she was saying was true, than Sookie had used her light on Pam, and knowing Sookie like he believed he did, he knew she had been provoked into doing it. If they survived what they were about to face, Eric would be having a word with his child. He already made it clear he wouldn’t tolerate her harming Sookie in anyway. He may have released Pam, but he wouldn’t let her get away with disobeying his orders. Eric wanted to ask Sookie what happened between her and Pam, but he realized now was not the time. She was relatively safe, so it was clear Pam hadn’t harmed her. Putting it to the back of his mind, Eric decided he would deal with it once they got out of the trouble they were in.
The rest of the journey passed in silence, the three of them all lost in their own thoughts. It was a short time later when the van stopped and the doors were opened.
“Out,” a voiced ordered.
One by one Eric, Sookie, and Bill climbed out of the van. Eric and Bill placed Sookie between them as followed the guards into the compound.
“No welcoming committee this time,” Eric remarked as they exited the elevator.
The three of them were escorted into the Authority meeting room, where the members of the Authority were converged. Flutes of blood were being passed about as they celebrated Russell’s capture.
“Congratulations, boys,” Dieter said as he raised his glass.
“Hail the conquering heroes,” Salome said as she strolled towards them. She ran her eyes over Sookie,” Who is this?”
“We found her at the hospital with these two,” Kibwe answered. “They claim she was there with a werewolf, but I believed it was potentially prudent to bring her in.”
“What of the werewolf?” Dieter asked, eyeing Sookie carefully.
“He was glamoured into leaving,” Kibwe replied. “He won’t remember what happened.”
“You didn’t think to glamour the girl as well?” Dieter asked.
“I considered it,” Kibwe said, choosing his words carefully. “But my instincts told me to bring her in instead.”
“Have you got anything from Russell?” Eric asked, suddenly trying to steer the focus off Sookie. “Have we learned who released him from the ground to begin with?”
“Salome has been interrogating Russell, but…”” Kibwe started.
“He’s been a little tight lipped,” Salome finished. “We shall know soon.”
“My boys, my boys,” Roman called out as he entered the room. “There are my boys. From now on out you’ll be officially known as the guys who took down Russell Edgington. How does that sound?” He paused in front of Sookie. “Who are you? Why is she here?”
“That’s what I wanna know,” Sookie mumbled.
“You’re human,” Roman remarked.
“Last time I checked. And you’re a vampire,” Sookie snorted, stating the obvious.
“You brought a human into our headquarters,” Roman said, his voice rising slightly. “Why is she here?”
“She was at the hospital with the rest of them,” Kibwe answered.
“What were you doing at the hospital?” Roman asked, turning his gaze back to Sookie.
“I was on a date with a werewolf,” Sookie deadpanned.
“You just happened to be at the hospital in which Russell Edgington was hiding,” Roman said, suspicion coloring his tone. “With a werewolf. We know Russell uses werewolves to do his bidding; was the werewolf you were with one of his? Were you helping Russell?”
“Are you kidding?” Sookie asked incredulously. “Russell’s a fucking nut job. I’d sooner put a stake through his heart than help him.”
“You would kill a vampire?” Roman asked.
“If my life was in danger and it was the only way to save it, yes. In a heartbeat,” Sookie answered truthfully.
“You will admit in a roomful of vampires you would kill one of our kind,” Roman said.
Sookie let her eyes travel over the room, and she took in each vampire before turning her attention back to Roman. “If I say no you’ll call me a liar, and if I say yes, you’ll call me a fool…and probably kill me. So can I plead the fifth?”
Roman chuckled as he heard her answer; he found himself quite intrigued by the young blonde-haired woman. He was curious as to what her role in all this was. He could smell both Eric and Bill’s blood in her – an enhanced sense of smell being one of his vampire gifts – so he didn’t believe for a second that she simply been at the hospital. No, he was sure they had taken her there, but why? What help or assistance could this small human woman have been?
“Have you ever killed a vampire?” Roman asked suddenly as he took a step towards her.
“You ever killed a human?” Sookie countered, meeting his eyes unflinchingly.
“I have,” Roman answered as he took a step back. “It was a long time ago.”
“Wow, I wasn’t expecting you to answer that. I mean I figured you had being a vampire and all, but…”
“Sookie,” Bill chided, interrupting her and unable to believe she was talking to Roman in such a way.
“Bill,” Sookie replied, mockingly.
“Sookie,” Roman repeated, his eyes darting between them. “You’re Sookie Stackhouse.”
“You know me?” Sookie asked. She let out a breath as she shook her head. “Of course you do,” she continued not giving him a chance to reply. “Everyone fucking knows who I am, or so it seems. So how do you know who I am?”
“Nan Flanagan,” Roman replied. “She spoke very highly of you.”
“I doubt that,” Sookie snorted. “She doesn’t speak highly of anyone but herself.”
“I like her,” Dieter said, chuckling.
“Thanks…I think,” Sookie replied unsurely.
“You didn’t like Nan?” Roman asked.
“Not really,” Sookie answered truthfully. “She thought that ‘cause she was on TV she could do whatever she wanted.” A frown marred her features as she recalled how Nan had spoken to Godric.
“Yes, Nan’s ego did get the better of her,” Roman admitted. “Still, she spoke highly of you, and I can’t help but wonder why.”
“You got me,” Sookie replied, nonplussed. “Maybe she had a thing for blondes.”
“Maybe,” Roman agreed. “But you still haven’t answered my question Miss Stackhouse. Have you ever killed a vampire?”
“I’m still pleading the fifth.”
“That just makes me believe you have,” Roman said.
“Guardian, she had no choice,” Bill interjected before Sookie had a chance to reply. “She had been attacked and was acting in self defense.”
“Is that so,” Roman replied with a smirk.
“Really Bill,” Sookie said, letting out a sigh of exasperation. “If this is your idea of help, please stop. You’re gonna get me killed.”
“Do you know the name of the vampire you killed?” Roman asked, amused at how she was talking to the younger vampire.
“Unfortunately,” Sookie admitted.
“Guardian, the vampire Sookie killed was…”
“Seriously Bill, shut up,” Sookie interrupted, giving him a look of disbelief. “Every time you open your mouth, I end up in more trouble, so just stop.”
“What was the vampire’s name?” Roman asked, not even bothering to hide his amusement. He could hear Rosalyn tittering behind him, and he knew she was finding it just as amusing.
“Lorena Krasiki,” Sookie answered.
“Lorena,” Roman repeated, “given her…” he fixed Bill with a knowing look, “beliefs, is not a great loss. In fact, I would go as far as to say you did the Authority a favor. However, Lorena was an old vampire, just over four hundred years old; I can’t help but wonder how you managed it. How did you kill her?”
“With a stake,” Sookie replied.
“Sookie, now is not the time to be flippant,” Bill scolded.
Suppressing the urge to roll her eyes,” I got lucky,” she answered. “I’m not fooling myself into believing it was anything else. Lorena attacked me; she was trying to drain me, but I managed to get a stake between us and use it.”
“Really?” Roman questioned.
“Then I will say luck was on your side,” Roman said.
“Let’s hope it still is,” Sookie whispered.
“I find it hard to believe a human girl managed to kill Lorena,” Salome said as she approached them. “Especially given how vicious Lorena was.”
“You think she’s lying?” Kibwe said.
“Why the hell would I lie about that?” Sookie asked.
“Perhaps you’re trying to protect someone,” Salome suggested.
“By taking the blame for killing a vampire, in a roomful of vampires, and after being kidnapped by said vampires,” Sookie said incredulously, making it sound like the stupidest idea ever.
“What is your relationship with them?” Salome asked, flicking a finger between Eric and Bill.
“They’re my exes,” Sookie answered, casting her eyes between the two.
“You dated both of them,” Salome said, her lips curling into a knowing smile.
“Well, not at the same time. I am a lady,” Sookie replied, running her eyes over Salome judgingly.
“I can certainly understand your attraction to them. They’re impressive,” Salome said as she ran her eyes over Eric and Bill in a leering, familiar manner. “And very talented.”
“You’re not telling me nothing I don’t already know,” Sookie replied, hiding the hurt as the possible implication of Salome’s words hit her. She felt her heart break a little at the realization that both Eric and Bill had probably had sex with Salome. She knew it was slightly hypocritical of her to feel like she did, given what had happened between her and Alcide. But at least she had the excuse of being drunk. She doubted either Eric or Bill could claim the same.
Roman flicked his eyes between Sookie and Salome, his lips curling into a small smile as he saw the sneer on Salome’s face. His immortal vixen was used to having men’s attention solely on her, and he realized she felt threatened by Sookie’s presence there. He found it amusing that, out of the two, Sookie was the one hiding her feelings better. Salome had two thousand years to master her expression and yet the human girl was the one who had locked down her emotions and kept her face a blank mask. Roman found himself more and more intrigued by Sookie. He couldn’t remember the last time someone stood before the Authority and showed not only no fear, but actually talked back to them and refused to back down when questioned. She actually admitted to killing a vampire and made no excuses and offered no apology.
“Tonight is a night of celebration,” he announced, cutting into the tension. “Russell Edgington has been captured and brought in. Tonight he will meet the true and final death. We will deal with any other problems later. Miss Stackhouse, will you join us?”
I don’t think I’ve really got a choice, Sookie thought.
“Why not,” she agreed, “I’ve never been to an execution before.”
“You should feel honored. You’re the first human to ever to be in front of the Authority,” Roman said as he crossed the room and sat down.
“Don’t I feel special,” Sookie mumbled.
Placing his hand on the small of her back, Eric gently guided Sookie over to the sofa in the center of the room.
“Sit, sit,” Roman instructed and watched as the three of them sat down. “Today is a great day in vampire history. We will eliminate a serious threat to not only humans, but vampires as well. The death of Russell Edgington will signal a new beginning for us all.”
Sookie watched in disbelief as Roman stood up and circled the room, stopping at the head of them all and offered a prayer to someone named Lilith. She turned her gaze to Eric as she saw the rest of them follow him in offering praise. She raised an eyebrow as she silently asked him if they were serious.
Eric hid a smile as he saw the look on Sookie’s face. He knew how she felt, as he was feeling the exact same thing. The whole praise Lilith thing was bullshit in his opinion, nothing but an idea to cling to. He wanted to ask about Nora, if he could see her, but with Sookie there he didn’t think it safe. He wouldn’t leave her alone in the room with the Authority with only Bill to protect her. Bill had proven time and time again that he wasn’t able to protect her, and given how Bill seemed to buying into the Lilith bullshit, Eric wasn’t sure he could be trusted either. So he said nothing and just waited.
“Bring Russell to me,” Roman ordered suddenly.
“Now?” Salome questioned. “Shouldn’t we question him further first?”
“Why would we believe anything he has to tell us? And oh, by the way, he’s bat-shit crazy,” Roman said.
“Of course,” Salome replied with a nod.
“Has he been silvered?” Roman asked.
“An hour ago,” Salome answered.
“Good. Give him another dose and slap an iStake on him. I don’t want to get dirty,” Roman said with a chuckle.
“Right away,” Salome said, before turning on her heels and walking away.
Sookie frowned as she watched Salome disappear out of the room.
“Sookie?” Bill questioned, seeing where her eyes were.
“What?” Sookie replied distractedly, “Oh, sorry,” she ducked her head, “I was miles away. It’s just…” she waved her hand at the doors Salome had just walked through.
“Salome,” Bill supplied.
“Right, Salome. It’s just,” she turned around and stared at Eric, “she has a very familiar walk.”
“She…” Eric began but was cut off by the doors opening again and Russell being dragged through. “Well, that was quick.”
They all watched as Russell was forced to his knees in the middle of the room, his hands tied behind his back.
Russell flicked his eyes over the room, them widening in surprise as they landed on Sookie. “Ah, Miss Stackhouse, always a pleasure. What brings you to this little gathering tonight?”
“Fuck if I know,” Sookie told him truthfully.
“Do not speak to the prisoner,” Roman ordered as he turned his back on them all. Holding out his hands, he began to offer praise. “In the name of the father and our mother…”
“In the name of my ass…” Russell interrupted.
“God and Lilith,” Roman continued.
“You think you are any better than the Sanguinistas. You use Lilith to justify your bloodlust for power just like they do to justify their bloodlust for humans. You’re both fucking hypocrites. I am the only honest one here. I want to gorge human blood not because some fucking bible tells me too, but because I like it; it’s fun. It makes my dick hard.”
“You done?” Roman asked as he patted Russell on the head.
“You were a pompous, self-righteous prick during the fucking Renaissance and you still are one today. This is all about your ego,” Russell spat.
“This is about order instead of chaos; this is about mercy instead of sadism… It is about balance; this is about peace,” Roman said as he walked around Russell.
Pointing the remote for the iStake at Russell’s back, he pressed the button. Shock spread across his features as nothing happened, his eyes searching out Molly for answers. Before anyone had a chance to react, Russell leapt to his feet and flew at Roman, his hands going around his throat as he shoved him back against the table.
“Peace is for pussies,” Russell taunted.
Sookie’s eyes widened in shock as she saw Russell produce a stake out of nowhere. “No!” she cried. Acting without thought, she lifted her hands and sent a burst of light at the ancient vampire.
All eyes snapped to Sookie as Russell went flying backwards. Paying them no attention, Sookie sprinted forward and grabbed the stake as Eric went after Russell.
“Eric!” Sookie shouted as she picked up the stake and threw it to him.
Catching it in his hand, Eric brought the wood stake down hard over Russell’s heart. “Goodbye old friend,” he said, watching with grim satisfaction as Russell exploded.
“Eric,” Sookie whimpered catching his attention. Crossing the room, he pulled her into his arms, holding her to his side as he growled at the other vampires in the room, daring them to even try and take her from him.
“What the hell just happened?” Roman shouted as he righted himself.
“Sookie just saved your life,” Eric said, anger filling his tone as he slowly put everything together in his mind.
Roman stared at Sookie who was clinging to Eric; he pressed a hand to his chest, over his heart. He knew if it wouldn’t have been for her he would have met the truth death at the hands of Russell Edgington. Opening his hand, he saw the remote for the iStake.
“Would someone like to explain why this didn’t work?” he asked as he crushed the remote.
“I…I…don’t know Guardian,” Molly answered contritely.
“Maybe you should ask Salome,” Eric said as he tightened his hold on Sookie. “After all, she was the one who freed Russell.”
“He is lying,” Salome replied with an uncomfortable laugh. “Why would I free Russell?”
“That is a excellent question,” Roman agreed. “Why would she free Russell? Do you have any proof that she was the one who released him?”
“Yes,” Eric replied, fixing his gaze on Salome. He didn’t miss the look of panic that briefly swept across her face at his words.
“Why didn’t you speak of this before?” Dieter asked as he stepped forward.
“I wasn’t sure,” Eric explained carefully. “It wasn’t until the iStake failed and Russell miraculously healed from being silvered twice did I realize.”
“And what is your proof?” Roman asked.
Salome’s laughter filled the room. “A human? Your proof is a human?” she chortled. “But then, she’s not exactly human is she. No human can shoot light out of their hands like she did. So what is she?”
Lifting her head away from Eric’s side, Sookie stared at Salome. “A telepath,” she answered. “I’m a telepath.”
“That is still not proof that I released Russell,” Salome replied.
“You were dressed head to toe in black; you had your hair concealed under a hat. You dug him up with your bare hands and then ordered Doug to carry him out to your van. It was kinda like the one we were brought here in tonight… Do you want me to continue?”
“She does provide a compelling case,” Dieter remarked.
“That does not prove anything,” Salome argued. “For all we know she was the one who released Russell and she is simply trying to pass the blame.”
“Lady, in case you missed it, I was just the one who saved you all from Russell,” Sookie replied.
“While you were the one who was in charge of interrogating him and learned nothing,” Eric added, “not to mention fitting him with a iStake that didn’t work.”
“This is preposterous,” Salome said. “You can’t honestly believe…” she trailed off as she saw Sookie staring at her intently. “Stop reading my mind,” she screamed as she flew at Sookie.
Eric pushed Sookie behind him as he saw Salome lunge at her. Crouching down, he curled his fingers and bared his fangs, preparing to defend Sookie. Dieter moved quickly between them, intercepting Salome before she had the chance to reach Sookie; with Rosalyn’s help he forced Salome to her knees.
“That is enough,” Roman shouted as he stared at Salome with reproach. “You try to attack a human in front of us all.”
“Forgive me Guardian,” Salome replied, lowering her head slightly. “She provoked me.”
“Where have I heard that before,” Sookie snorted as she moved to stand beside Eric.
“How did she provoke you?” Roman questioned. “By speaking the truth.”
“It’s not the truth she speaks,” Salome argued, “but lies.”
“Why would she lie about this?” Roman asked. “What reason would she have?”
“Jealousy,” Salome answered as she lifted her head. “She admitted she had a relationship with both Bill and Eric. She is jealous that they both laid with me and is making up these terrible lies to hurt me. She is jealous of their attraction to me. She is jealous they prefer me to her…”
“Don’t flatter yourself sweetheart,” Eric interrupted. “You were nothing more than another form of torture I had to endure, just like the silver.”
“You silvered him,” Sookie growled as she glared at Salome with hatred.
Roman’s chuckling drew their attention, “Get her out of here,” he said flicking a finger at Salome. “We will interrogate her later…”
“Roman,” Salome pleaded as she was pulled to her feet. “Surely you don’t believe her. I have always been faithful to you and our cause.”
“You have only ever been faithful to yourself,” Roman replied, his voice tinged with pain as he struggled to hide the hurt he was feeling. “Get her out of my sight.”
They all watched as the Authority guards dragged a struggling Salome out of the room, her pleas of innocence falling on deaf ears.
“You’re full of surprises Miss Stackhouse,” Roman remarked. “And it seems I owe you my life.”
Sookie shrugged. “No one else seem to be doing anything,” she said.
“Yes. I find myself curious as to what it was you actually did,” Roman replied. “I have never encountered anything like that before.” He ran his eyes over the other Authority members and asked. “Have any of you?”
“I have not,” Dieter said, eyeing Sookie curiously.
“No,” Rosalyn said.
“No,” Kibwe replied.
“What are you Miss Stackhouse?” Roman asked as he took a step forward, not missing the way Eric tensed up as he approached her.
“Tired of being asked that question,” Sookie replied as she shuffled closer to Eric.
Seeing her frightened stance, Roman took a step back. “You have nothing to be afraid of here Miss Stackhouse,” he assured her.
“Might believe that more if I hadn’t already been manhandled, kidnapped, and almost attacked,” Sookie replied.
“I give you my word; no harm will come to you while you are here,” Roman said.
No, it’ll come once I leave… if you let me leave that is.
“Maybe you would be more comfortable if there were fewer people in the room. We can speak privately if you like,” Roman offered.
“No offense, but I don’t know or trust you,” Sookie replied. “So being in a room alone with you is not top of my list of things to do.”
“Sookie,” Bill said as he stepped forward. “The Guardian is the head of the Authority and the Mainstreaming Movement. He won’t hurt you. I assure you.”
“And I’m supposed to believe you?” Sookie scoffed.
“I wouldn’t lie to you,” Bill replied hurt.
Sookie just stared at Bill an incredulous look on her face. Next he’ll be telling me he’d never hurt me.
“Would you prefer to have someone you trust in the room as well?” Roman suggested.
“I would be happy to accompany you, Sookie,” Bill offered.
“Eric,” Sookie said at the same time.
“Sookie!” Bill exclaimed. “You can’t trust him.”
“I want Eric with me,” Sookie said, ignoring Bill completely. “If Eric will…”
“No one could stop me,” Eric replied. His words clear to everyone; no one was going to take him from Sookie’s side.
“Good,” Roman said as he brushed imaginary dirt off his shirt. “Everyone but Northman out while I talk to Miss Stackhouse.”
“Sookie…” Bill started, intending to argue her choice.
“Cheese and rice, Bill, will you stop already?” Sookie said, cutting him off before he could begin. “I want Eric with me. I trust him.”
“Then you’re a fool,” Bill sneered.
“Fine, I’m a fool,” Sookie replied as she rolled her eyes. “Now get out; you aren’t invited or wanted.”
“You heard Miss Stackhouse, Bill,” Roman interjected. “Out.”
Having no choice but to obey the Guardian, Bill glared at Sookie and Eric before storming out.
“Bill wasn’t so argumentative earlier,” Roman remarked as he took a seat.
“Then you’ve clearly never met the real Bill,” Sookie snorted. “All he ever seems to do with me is argue.”
“Please sit down,” Roman said, seeing Sookie hovering around. “I promise you Miss Stackhouse, no harm will come to you while you are here.” Roman didn’t miss Sookie looking to Eric for assurance before she sat down. “I think it’s obvious you’re more than just a telepath. So I’ll ask again, what are you Miss Stackhouse?”
“A waitress,” Sookie replied, holding her head high and refusing to show any more fear than she already had.
“You’re more than just that,” Roman said. Turning his attention to Eric, he asked, “What is she?”
“Mine,” Eric replied firmly.
“Yes,” Roman said as he nodded his head. “I can smell your blood in her. I can also scent Bill’s blood in her as well. Do you share her?”
“No,” Sookie answered before Eric had the chance disgust tingeing her tone. “I’m a lady.”
“I meant no offense, Miss Stackhouse,” Roman apologized. “It’s not uncommon for vampires to share a pet.”
“Pet,” Sookie spat indignantly. “I’m no one’s pet.”
“Again, I meant no offense,” Roman said. “It’s an old phrase and practice among our kind. Not one I approve of, but they’re certain vampires who will take humans as pets and use them for regular sex and blood.”
“And that’s what you think I am?” Sookie asked. “That’s what you think Eric is doing with me?”
“It did cross my mind,” Roman admitted. “However, no pet would ever speak to a vampire like you do. How did you come to be involved with vampires?”
Sookie looked to Eric for guidance, unsure what she should say. How was she supposed to explain how she got involved with vampires without telling him what she was?
Roman flicked his eyes between Eric and Sookie, barely able to hide his fascination as he watched them practically have a silent conversation. He wondered briefly if Eric was a telepath too, as they seemed to know what the other was thinking.
“From the looks of things, I’m guessing it’s quite the tale to tell,” Roman said, breaking into their silent conversation.
Eric stared at Roman debating whether or not they could trust him, or rather, if they could use him. He didn’t trust him; the list of people he trusted was short and getting shorter every day as he was no longer sure about his vampire sister, Nora. He had begun to doubt her and all she said; he intended to find out just what she had done before they left, if they were allowed to leave. One thing he knew for sure though: he wasn’t leaving without Sookie.
Realizing they had to offer Roman some kind of explanation, “Sookie’s involvement was not accidental,” Eric began choosing his words carefully as he tried to answer Roman’s questions without giving away Sookie’s secret.
“You sought out vampires?” Roman asked, disappointment coloring his tone as he addressed Sookie. The idea that she could be just another fangbanger didn’t sit well with him. He hadn’t known her for even an hour, and yet he already believed her to be above them.
“No,” Sookie snorted. “A vampire sought me out. I was perfectly content, if not a little bored when a certain vampire walked into my life and charmed me with pretty lies…and bone breaking pain.”
“The vampire charmed you with bone breaking pain?” Roman said confusion clear in his voice.
“Not quite,” Sookie replied her lips curling into a small smile. “He charmed me with the blood he gave me to abate the bone breaking pain.”
“Blood…” Roman repeated, her words slowly beginning to make sense to him. Like all vampires, he knew the effect vampire blood had on humans, and if she had been given blood to heal a broken bone then her affection would have been easily manipulated. “He gave you blood to heal a broken broke?”
“More like several,” Sookie clarified. “And probably some internal injuries, given that I was coughing up blood as well.”
“You were that badly hurt?” Roman asked.
“I was about three painful breaths away from death when the upstanding vampire decided I’d been beaten enough and stepped in,” Sookie answered, her voice taking on a hard tone as she explained just how badly hurt she had been. She could feel her anger building and part of her wished Bill was in the room at that moment so she could finally let him have it. She had let it go for too long, going as far as to apologize to him for reasons she wasn’t even sure about.
What the hell did I have to apologize for?
“The vampire watched you be beaten?” Roman questioned aghast. He could think of no reason for a vampire to stand back and watch as a human is beaten only to step in and give them before they died.
“How else was he gonna get his blood into me?” Sookie replied like it was obvious. “I’d already turn down his offer the night before when I saved him from drainers. The same drainers, I might add, that beat me half to death.”
“His blood,” Roman repeated as the pieces slowly clicked together. “Compton,” he added as he flicked his eyes between Eric and Sookie. It was clear to him she wasn’t talking about the Viking. He could tell she trusted Eric; he was the first person she called to when she felt scared; she had clung to him when everyone was staring at her. He was the one she wanted with her while she had dismissed Bill. “Compton is the vampire you’re referring to. Why would he do this? He has been a supporter of the Mainstreaming Movement for years.”
“He was also the royal procurer for the former Queen of Louisiana,” Eric supplied helpfully. “He is power hungry and vindictive…”
“He’ll attach his wagon to anyone who is in power,” Sookie deduced simplifying everything.
“Compton was placed in Sophie-Anne’s court to act as a spy for the Authority,” Roman said, surprising them both by trusting them with the news. “He was supposed to report any of Sophie-Anne’s illegal activities.”
“Let me guess, he never mentioned anything about the Queen procuring humans against their will,” Sookie snorted.
“He would be the one procuring them for her,” Eric said as he unconsciously reached for Sookie’s hand, “it is hardly a surprise he never said anything.”
“True,” Roman agreed. “However, if he had, Sophie-Anne would have been removed from her position, and he would have been given a pardon. Is that how you met Compton?” he asked, turning his gaze to Sookie. “Was he sent to procure you because you were a telepath?”
“It was,” Sookie admitted, nodding her head slightly. “The Queen found out about me from my cousin, and I guess she wanted me for herself.”
“Fucking Sophie-Anne,” Roman cursed. “That woman should have never been made Queen.”
“And Bill should have never been… made King, I mean,” Sookie said, barely hiding the contempt in her voice. “The way I see it, he was just as bad as her. She may have wanted them, the humans, but he got them for her.”
“Compton was the pet project of Nan’s, if you will,” Roman replied. “She was the one who recruited him and recommended him for the position of King of Louisiana.”
“Nan,” Sookie whispered a frown marring her features. “This would be the same Nan who spoke highly of me? Son of a bitch,” she cursed as she shook her head.
“Sookie?” Eric said softly as he tilted her head up so he could see her eyes. He didn’t care about Roman watching them, he could feel her hurt and wanted to know what had caused it and how he could make it stop.
Tears prickled at her eyes as Sookie stared at Eric, “Nan spoke highly of me,” she said, her tone low like she was speaking for his ears only. “She knew all about me. How?”
“You met her in Dallas…” Eric started before trailing off as he remembered the meeting in Dallas. Nan had been a complete bitch to everyone there, Sookie included, as she threw her weight around. Eric recalled every second of that meeting and finally understood what Sookie was saying. At no time in that meeting had any of them revealed who and what Sookie was; no one had mentioned her being a telepath.
In fact, up until Bill staked her, Nan had seemed to be in the dark about Sookie. It was only when the Authority had threatened her that she revealed she knew what Sookie was. She had actually referred to Sookie as a fairy.
Eric flicked his eyes over to the pool of Russell’s remains, as he continued to put it all together. Russell, in all his three thousand years, hadn’t realized Sookie was a fairy until after Eric had told him. But Nan, who was even younger than Eric, had put it all together just by seeing Sookie use her light. “Fucking Compton,” Eric growled as he pulled Sookie onto his lap, uncaring of what Roman thought. “I will fucking kill him.”
“He betrayed me again,” Sookie whimpered against Eric’s chest. “Hasn’t he hurt me enough already.”
Roman watched the two of them carefully; he was genuinely shocked by Eric’s behavior. He honestly believed the Viking vampire cared about no one but himself, but as he watched Eric comfort a distraught Sookie he realized he was wrong. There was love in Eric; there was no doubt about that.
“I don’t understand,” Roman said softly, hating to break the spell the two of them were under. “What has Compton done?”
“He has betrayed Sookie again,” Eric growled, refusing to let Sookie go. “Nan knew of Sookie because he told her.”
“That she is more than just a telepath,” Roman remarked, causing them both to snap their heads up and glare at him. He held his hands up in a sign of surrender as he continued carefully. “I’m not stupid, and I know Miss Stackhouse is more than just a telepath, more than just a human. Like the rest, I saw the light that shot out of her hands. I suspect you have reasons for not telling me, and if I understand correctly, some of those reasons stem from Miss Stackhouse being betrayed repeatedly by Mr. Compton. I can’t fault you for wishing to protect yourself, Miss Stackhouse, nor the Sheriff for trying to protect you; but if I’m going to be able to help you I need to know everything. I need to know why I’m protecting you and from whom.”
Eric and Sookie stared at each other, their eyes conveying all they wanted to say as they tried to decide whether they could trust the Guardian or not. Eric was both hesitant and hopeful. The only person he had ever truly trusted was Godric, and he was gone, lost to him forever. Nora, he was beginning to realize, wasn’t someone he could trust, and he sure as hell wouldn’t trust her around Sookie. His vampire sister was jealous and resentful of Pam and the relationship they had. He hated to think what Nora would think of Sookie. Eric feared Nora would try and harm his little fairy in some way, which was something he would never allow; Nora would die before she ever harmed a hair on Sookie’s head, he swore.
Having the Guardian in their corner would certainly be a huge help. Nora had been his contact the Authority, but the more he thought about it, the more Eric realized she hadn’t actually done anything to actually help him. He had been left to deal with Russell the first time and again to capture him. By her own admittance she was a member of the Sanguinista Movement, something she had hidden from even him. Her ideals were very different from his. The Guardian could prove to be a good ally, if they could trust him, and Eric wasn’t sure if they could. Eric always said the only vampire a vampire can trust, is one he makes himself, but he wasn’t sure if that was even true anymore. But what he really came down to was not if they could trust Roman, but if they had the choice. They were both locked down in the Authorities compound, and they weren’t getting out any time soon, at least not without a hell of a lot of bloodshed, though Eric was prepared to do just that if necessary. If he had to he would fight his way out of the building with Sookie by his side.
Nodding her head slightly, Sookie silently gave Eric permission to do what he thought was right. She did what she realized she should have done days ago and put her faith and trust in Eric. She placed her life in his hands and let him take the reins.
“I owe Miss Stackhouse my life,” Roman said as he tried to put them both at ease.
“So does Bill, but that doesn’t stop him betraying me constantly,” Sookie replied bitingly.
“I can offer you protection,” Roman countered, “not only from me, but from the Authority as well.”
“No offense, but that doesn’t exactly reassure me,” Sookie said as she absently played with Eric’s fingers. “You’ve got snakes in your house. One of them dug Russell up, and I don’t think she was working alone.”
“Salome was working with someone else? Did you see who?” Roman asked as he leaned forward, her words troubling him greatly.
“No,” Sookie answered as she shook her head. “She was the only one there when he was dug up.”
“You did not see who was helping her earlier when she was before you?” Roman asked.
“No,” Sookie whispered, a flush spreading over her cheek as she caught Eric’s eyes, her lips curling into a small smile. “I…er…”
“Sookie can’t read vampires,” Eric finished for her, revealing their earlier duplicity. “We are blank to her.”
“Then why did you…” Roman trailed off as he realized why they had allowed Salome to believe Sookie could and was reading her mind. In believing that Sookie had the ability to read her mind, Salome had panicked and tried to attack Sookie to silence her. She had revealed her guilt by trying to conceal it. “So you never saw Salome digging Russell up?”
“Oh no, I saw that,” Sookie replied. “I mean I never actually saw her face,” she shrugged as she went on to explain all she had seen, making sure to mention the pendant she saw the woman wearing. “And then when she was walking out to collect Russell, I recognized the way she walked.”
“She has a familiar walk,” Roman said, repeating Sookie’s earlier words with a chuckle. “I’m impressed Miss Stackhouse; you managed to unnerve a two thousand year old vampire by just staring at her.”
“It’s a gift,” Sookie replied flippantly.
“That it is,” Roman agreed seriously. “I can understand why vampires covet you so much,” he added, making Sookie stiffen on Eric’s lap. “You would be a big asset to any vampire monarch or to the Authority. Fortunately for you I am a staunch supporter of the Mainstreaming Movement having created it myself, and I don’t believe in keeping humans against their will. Even if you’re not completely human. At the same time, I fear too many vampires already know of you, and many don’t hold the same beliefs as I do. Some wouldn’t care if it was against your will or not.”
“Guardian…” Eric started, not liking where it was going. There was no way in hell he was letting the Authority claim Sookie for their own. She was his. “You have traitors in your own house. Sookie wouldn’t…”
“I have no intention of keeping Miss Stackhouse,” Roman said, holding up his hand as he cut Eric off. “I’m merely pointing out that many in our world know of her, and she wouldn’t be safe on her own.”
If you’re not someone’s, you won’t be… Pam’s words repeated over in her head and Sookie fought the urge to groan.
“So what do you suggest?” Eric asked as he tightened his grip on Sookie, preparing to get her out of there at the first sign of trouble.
“Well, that depends,” Roman replied cryptically. “From what you have said and his actions her tonight, I think it’s obvious the King of Louisiana has an unhealthy interest in Miss Stackhouse. I can’t say I liked the way he spoke to her, but I’m loathe to interfere in private relationship matters. Unless you can give me a reason to in my official capacity as Guardian to interfere.”
Taking a deep breath, Sookie burrowed deeper into Eric’s arms, calling on his strength to boost her. Opening her mouth, she let the words spill out, holding nothing back as she told Roman everything he wanted to know; she bared her soul, telling him all about her relationship with Bill. She skirted around the fairy parts, as she laid it all on the table. By time she was finished, she was exhausted but felt strangely liberated. She finally put into words all the thoughts she had been having, all the doubts and suspicion.
Roman listened with rapt attention, scarcely believing Sookie had survived all she had. He marvelled at her strength, her ability to pull herself to her feet and carry on. The more he listened the more enraptured he became by her. He felt a deep-seated desire to protect the young woman before him, and he slowly formed a way to make it possible.
“I find it curious that every time you have been badly hurt wherein that you need vampire blood to survive, Bill has been the only vampire present to give you the blood,” Roman remarked. “It’s also suspicious that each time was always at a time when you were beginning to question your relationship or were arguing. Or, in the last case, were already broken up, and you had moved on completely.”
“You saying he was manipulating me with the blood?” Sookie asked, her voice hitching slightly as she spoke.
“I think it’s a possibility,” Roman replied softly, not wishing to hurt her anymore. “You said you were happy before he gave you his blood after you were shot, and just a day later you were questioning your feelings again. It’s possible he was influencing you.”
“I’m gonna kill him,” Sookie swore as she rested her head on Eric’s shoulder. “Why can’t he just leave me alone?”
“I might not be able to make him leave you alone, but I could make it harder for him to get to you,” Roman said with a smirk. It had been a long time since he really got mixed up with the scheming of politics, and he found he missed it. He had spent decades masterminding the Mainstreaming Movement, and he had forgotten how much fun regular vampire politics could be.
“I’m not staying here,” Sookie countered, her tone firm. She didn’t care what any of them said, she was leaving with Eric.
“Nor would I want you to,” Roman replied, surprising both Eric and Sookie. “Life here, among the Authority, is not the right kind of life for you; I can see that. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t want to call on you from time to time. Having a telepath working for me would be a huge asset…” Seeing both Eric and Sookie move to speak, Roman held up his hand. “I’m proposing a business arrangement, a contract if you will. I will hire Miss Stackhouse in an official capacity. She will be paid for her mind reading services and have the right to refuse jobs within reason. I will offer her my personal and professional protection.”
“You really think any of that will stop, Bill?” Sookie said, skepticism clear in her voice. “I get you’re the boss around here or something, but Bill’s never listened to anyone. Plus, he’s King; I mean doesn’t that give him some power or something?”
“He was King,” Roman said as he leaned back in his chair. “I’m unsatisfied with how he’s represented himself and Louisiana, so I’m stripping him off his position. Now he’s just another vampire residing in Louisiana without any political power. Louisiana, however, does need a strong monarch, one who will protect her and restore her to her former glory,” his eyes sparkled as he stared at Eric. “Maybe even one with royal blood.”
“No,” Eric growled as he realized what Roman was suggesting. “You can’t be serious.”
“Eric?” Sookie whispered, confused.
“It would protect her more,” Roman baited. “The King would only have to answer to me. No one would dare touch her.”
“Son of a bitch,” Eric swore under his breath. He accepted the truth of what Roman was saying; Sookie would be more protected with him as King and Roman as Guardian. Eric never wanted to be King; he was happy with his little slice of Louisiana, but if Bill’s assent to power had shown him anything was that there were plenty of unworthy vampires out there craving power they wasn’t equipped to handle. Bill had been completely out of his depths and had let his power go to his head. In the beginning he had used his new position to make Eric’s life as miserable as possible. Eric loathed to think what kind of monarch they would get if he didn’t take the position and what it would mean to Sookie.
“Fine,” he agreed reluctantly. “I will accept the position.”
“Eric, you don’t have to do this,” Sookie said softly, realizing what was going on.
“It will keep you safe,” Eric replied truthfully.
“I know, but I don’t want you to do something you don’t want to do,” Sookie countered, ignoring Roman completely as she turned in Eric’s lap until she was straddling him so she could look into his eyes. “I messed up, Eric; I know that. I think I knew at the time, but I was just so confused. You’ve already done so much for me. You don’t have to do this.”
“You foolish woman,” Eric said without any real heat. “Haven’t you realized it yet?” he added as he lifted his hands and cupped her face gently, his thumbs stroking over her cheeks. “I would do anything for you. Not because I have to, but because I want to.” Bringing her face to his, he kissed her softly before resting his forehead against hers. “Because I love you,” he whispered.
“I love you too,” Sookie replied as a tear trickled down her cheek. “And I’m so, so sorry. I should have chosen you that night at Bill’s.”
“It doesn’t matter now,” Eric said sincerely, as he rubbed his cheek against hers. He knew they had a lot to talk about; he had to tell her about Nora, because he knew if he didn’t Bill would, but in front of the Guardian wasn’t the place.
Letting them have their time, Roman smiled at the picture they made. If someone would have told him a day ago that Eric Northman was capable of love, he would have laughed in their face. But after meeting Sookie and seeing the way Eric acted around her, he had no doubt Eric Northman was head over heels in love with the small blonde.
“You give your protection to Sookie, and I will agree to take on the position of King of Louisiana,” Eric said as he settled Sookie sideways in his lap again.
“Deal,” Roman replied without thought.
“Guess I am King,” Eric announced. He wasn’t fooling himself into believing Roman’s offer to make him King was purely to keep Sookie safe. He believed that Roman wanted to keep her safe, but he was also aware that he was protecting himself. Having a thousand year old vampire as an ally would be a huge benefit to him, as would having a telepath he could call on. Roman had strengthened his position as Guardian by appointing Eric King.
“Congratulations,” Sookie said softly.
“Say the word and I will make you my Queen,” Eric said, staring into her eyes, showing her he was being truthful.
“Maybe later,” Sookie replied with a soft smile. “First, I think you’ve got to tell Pam, and I don’t think she’ll be too happy if you made me your Queen. She doesn’t like me too much.”
“She will get over it,” Eric said dismissively. He loved his child, but he was done pandering to her. She either accepted Sookie or she didn’t; that was the only choice she had because he would be damned if he was giving Sookie up. Pam would just have to learn to deal with Sookie’s place in his life. Eric grinned as a thought popped into his mind. “I can’t wait to see Bill’s face when he finds out not only has he been stripped of his position, but that I am his replacement.”
“Oh, I wish I had a camera,” Sookie said, her tinkling laughter filling the room.
“There is no time like the present,” Roman said, cutting into their conversation. He was perversely looking forward to Bill’s reaction himself. Standing up, Roman crossed the room and picked up a phone none of them had noticed before. He called for his guards to inform Bill and the Authority members that they were wanted in the room before returning to his seat and sitting down again.
It was barely a few minutes later when the Authority members and Bill entered the room. Neither Eric nor Roman missed the look of anger on Bill’s face when he saw Sookie, who had retaken her seat beside Eric, clutching Eric’s hand in her own.
Signalling for them all to sit, Roman stood up and slowly started to circle them all. “Miss Stackhouse had quite the tale to tell,” he said as he stopped at the top of the room making them all turn to face him. “Some of it even grieved me to hear…”
“Guardian?” Dieters questioned, his eyes flicking from Roman to Sookie and then back again.
“She has been abused, manipulated, and lied to by vampires for a long time now,” Roman continued. “And yet she still stands beside us. She sought to defend me while everyone else stood idly by. I think it’s safe to say we can consider her a friend to vampires, right?”
“Yes,” Dieter agreed with a nod of his head.
“A friend,” Rosalyn said.
“I think it’s also safe to say that I owe her my life,” Roman said; “If it wouldn’t have been for her quick actions, Russell would have undoubtedly staked me here tonight. I owe her a debt, a debt that keeps growing with the troubling news she gave me just moments ago…”
“What troubling news?” Dieter questioned.
“Through her talents, Miss Stackhouse has disclosed that Salome wasn’t the only Authority member who was responsible for Russell being free. She had an ally who was aiding her in her plans.”
Squeezing Eric’s hand tightly, Sookie cast her eyes over the vampires in the room. She took comfort in the feeling of Eric’s thumb brushing over the back of her hand as she met the gaze of each of the Authority’s members. She smirked as she felt tell tale brush of glamour against her mind as she met Kibwe eyes. “It’s a nice try,” she drawled, “but it doesn’t work on me. Kinda suspicious though, that you’re the only one here trying to glamour me. It would almost make me think you’re trying to hide something, but then again why would you? After all, you’re the one who brought Russell in and delivered him straight to Salome…”
Jumping up from his seat, Kibwe sped towards Sookie, his fangs snapping down as he prepared to tear her throat out. A small sound of surprise escaped his lips as he felt something sharp pierce his chest, looking down, he was surprised to see the Guardian’s stake sticking into his chest. Blood trickled from his lips before his body collapsed from within.
“Ooh, that is disgusting,” Sookie shuddered as she watched. “Y’all die so bloody.”
“I think it’s safe to say Kibwe was the one working with Salome,” Roman remarked with a smile.
“Did he have to say disclosed,” Sookie grumbled in a whisper to Eric; “I only guessed.”
“But this way he revealed himself, Miss Stackhouse,” Roman said having overheard her.
“I hate vampire hearing,” Sookie grumbled, making them all laugh.
“Now with that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, onto business,” Roman announced. “I was being truthful earlier when I said I owe Miss Stackhouse my life; I owe her a debt. One I intend to pay. I have spend the few decades masterminding the Mainstreaming Movement; I believe that humans and vampires can co-exist, and after meeting Miss Stackhouse I’m more sure of that than ever.
“As Guardian of the Authority I am offering Miss Sookie Stackhouse my personal and professional protection. An act against her will be considered an act against me and the Authority. She has agreed to work for the Authority from time to time, when the need calls for it. She will be rewarded handsomely and has the right to refuse jobs within reason. One of the stipulations for this was that Miss Stackhouse be placed under the royal protection of the King of Louisiana.”
Neither Eric or Roman missed the smug look that spread across Bill’s face as he heard the last bit of news. He was convinced he finally had what he wanted: Sookie back in his life. He was confident that with a little bit of persuasion he could have her back in his bed as well. He had missed her sweet blood and couldn’t wait to get his fill again.
“I’m sorry,” Roman continued as he let out a small chuckle. “I said that last part wrong. Miss Stackhouse will be under the royal protection of the new King of Louisiana, Eric Northman…”
“What?” Bill cried, unable to stop himself. This cannot be happening, he thought. Roman cannot have made Eric King. I’m the King.
“William T. Compton,” Roman said, his voice rising slightly as he addressed the younger vampire. “As Guardian of the one true Authority I hereby strip you of the title of King of Louisiana due to the mismanagement of the office and the woeful treatment of the people who reside in it. During your one year reign as King, you have done nothing to advance the state and have caused more than one problem.”
“You can’t do this,” Bill spluttered.
“I’m the Authority,” Roman told him grinning madly. “I can do whatever the fuck I want.”
“But…” Bill said, trying to find an argument.
“Silence,” Roman ordered. “Eric Northman,” he continued as he moved closer to him. “Do you accept the position of King of Louisiana?”
“I do,” Eric said firmly.
“Do you swear to follow the rule of the Authority?”
“Do you swear to protect, Miss Sookie Stackhouse?”
“I do,” Eric said as he squeezed Sookie’s hand gently.
“Then, as the Guardian of the Authority I now appoint you King of Louisiana. Long rule the King.”
“Long rule the King,” Dieter and Rosalyn chorused.
“Long rule the King,” Sookie said softly as she smiled at him.
“And his Queen,” Eric whispered into Sookie’s ear making her blush.