Author’s Note: I do apologize for leaving the last at a bit of a cliffhanger. Thank you for reading and hope you are not too surprised by the outcome.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
“Rusty, I think you’d better come out here.” Bartlett forced himself to smile at the humans clustered around his mate. The ceremony presenting the new vampire officers with shields had been gratifying. While the new officers had been marched apart from their human counterparts, it still felt like progress. Russell bowed briefly to the knot of officials and their wives, excusing himself. He could feel his mate’s worry. As time passed, their bond had become tighter. While there were some who would have chafed at the feeling of living in another’s back pocket, it was welcome between them.
“What’s happened?” Russell slowed as they walked into the lobby. People were gathered around the monitors that had earlier been used to show the ceremony to those who couldn’t fit in the hall. Now the monitors were streaming live footage of fire trucks and police vehicles.
“They think it was some kind of terrorist attack,” Bartlett squeezed Russell’s arm, “It was in Rhodes.”
“Again?” and Russell couldn’t stop the sick feeling that came over him. “How many of ours were there?”
“I don’t know, but Bill…” Bartlett and Russell exchanged a look. Bill Compton was a good friend. He had lived in their home in Jackson, watching over things when they traveled and being a charming houseguest when they were in residence. Both Kings had become fond of him. “I tried texting him, Rusty, but there’s no answer.” Bartlett touched his finger to his eye and licked the blood he retrieved.
“You don’t know anything yet, Bart. Have you tried Louisiana…” and then Russell stopped. He pulled out his own phone and fingers flew over the keyboard. “Northman!” he replied to Bartlett’s unasked question. “He was supposed to be there tonight, too.” As soon as he hit send, Russell took Bartlett’s arm and walked them both back into the hall. He steered them toward a quiet corner before saying, “Bartie, call the Illinois palace, the private line. James would have been at the movie, but someone will be answering the emergency line. I’m calling Thalia.”
Not so long ago Bartlett Crowe had been the Amun Clan Chief and he still had the private numbers on speed dial. Within minutes, Bartlett confirmed that the news wasn’t good. James, the King of Illinois, had been confirmed dead as were many of his courtiers. Bill Compton had last been seen standing with a group of those courtiers, including the one named Matthias. “Bill mentioned him to us,” Bartlett was speaking with William, the Illinois King’s Second. While the King had not anticipated problems, he had still taken the precaution of leaving his Second behind. “Bill told us this Matthias was part of some group…”
“Vampires First,” William’s voice was harsh. “I told our King he needed to take steps to discourage them, but James couldn’t see it. He saw nothing wrong with vampires taking pride in themselves. He believed in their cause. Now, I fear it has cost us all.”
“You think they were behind this?” Bartlett asked, “Why? Why would they?”
“They believe humans are prey, not equals and absolutely not some romantic object. Matthias and his friends were angry about the film and they weren’t shy about telling anyone who would listen. They felt it betrayed vampires; made them look weak. They talked about stopping the movie or making some sort of demonstration to show the world the real face of vampires.” Bartlett heard William make a sound, “It doesn’t matter now. They were there, almost all of the trouble makers.”
Bartlett thought about it. Perhaps the Vampire First people had planned something, but if they did it had gone wrong. Still, it seemed odd that someone as careful as James would have surrounded himself with anyone unstable enough to use bombs. William continued to speak, “My worst fear is that someone will have overheard them, someone not a vampire. I have people on the scene, but the destruction is wide. We may never know for sure who among us was lost. They are using hoses and the dust is being washed away. What I have been told is that many of the humans were killed or injured. If they find out this was because of vampires, I fear there will be no place for us to hide. They will come for us now that we are weakened.”
“Are you prepared to step in as interim King?” Bartlett cut the Second off. It was a blunt question, but he needed to get William moving in the right direction.
“Yes.” There was no hesitation, but Bartlett could still hear the Second’s surprise.
“Good. I am going to send some of the new vampire police. We are not far away so it will only take a few hours for them to arrive. They will need a place to go to ground when the sun rises and I hope I can count on you. Get in touch with the local authorities and let them know the special vampire task force is joining the investigation in a support role. Make sure you use those words, ‘support role.’ It’s important to them.” When William acknowledged the instructions, Bartlett continued, “I know this is unorthodox, but I would ask you to offer your blood to heal the humans. Explain the consequences and demonstrate how it works on surface wounds. If we save some of them it may help to blunt any future anger. Don’t make the offer publically. Try talking with an ambulance crew or approach a receptive doctor in their medical tent. We can’t have everyone trying to drain us for a miracle cure.”
“The blood is sacred!” William hissed.
“Yes, and making sure that your vampires survive is now your sacred duty. Make your choice and do what is needed.” When William didn’t protest further, Bartlett said, “You have my number. I would ask one favor. If you hear anything about Bill Compton or Eric Northman, please call me right away.”
Russell was waiting when Bartlett turned back toward him. “Any news?” he asked. When Bartlett shook his head, Russell said, “Thalia is heading to Louisiana. She made it all the way to Ohio. She thinks she may be making progress.” As they stood there, phones in hand, the enormity of it hit them.
“Oh Rusty!” Bart sighed. “What could have happened? Why would someone do this?” but neither of them had answers.
“Why don’t you ask him?” Indira smiled her shy smile, the one that let Karin know she wanted to be a friend.
“Why doesn’t he just tell me?” Karin shrugged in return, and then she frowned. Indira didn’t need to say it out loud. ‘Because no one ‘tells’ you anything,’ Karin finished mentally.
Karin was on her way to Little Rock, Arkansas. She told anyone who asked that it was time for her to check in with the territory but in reality, she was checking in on Thomas. Karin had been moving around the kingdom for months, but since being named Eric’s War Chief, she had pretty well based herself in New Orleans. She was doing what was required of her, but that was only half the truth. She was also avoiding Thomas.
When they were last together Thomas pointed out how well they were getting along, which was true. He laughed at her jokes and she found him amusing, too. Sexually they were compatible. She was unreasonably happy when she rose and found him near her. He made her smile and frankly, that was the problem.
Being with Thomas felt too permanent. When she was with him she would feel her chest get tight and she would find herself worrying that staying would make her less. He would do something wonderful. They would have a moment when she felt deliriously happy. It was fine… until later. Later her panic would crowd her and the voice in her head would scream, ‘Run! Run before it’s too late!’
On their last night together, Thomas had asked her about bonding. They were standing on the balcony that looked out over his woods. The night birds were calling and the moon shone on them. “Would you consider it?” he asked, lifting her hand.
“You’re the only one I would consider bonding with,” she’d replied. It wasn’t really an answer, but he seemed to read it as an agreement. He tilted her face toward him and kissed her. She waited until their next rising to tell him she was leaving.
Now they texted. He never asked when she would return and she never offered the information. They seemed to have found a balance.
But then Sookie told Karin about Nabila. When Karin was alone she texted Thomas. He confirmed that the Carolinas Queen was now a guest in Little Rock. ‘Fine,’ Karin thought, ‘as long as she’s not a guest at the house up north.’ That didn’t last long.
Within days, Karin received reports of the two of them together. Nabila was making herself useful. She understood money and was helping with business deals. Karin found herself unable to stop asking specific questions of her contacts in the Area. There were several of her correspondents in Arkansas who were all too happy to provide her details. Karin received reports including places and times. She was given details of when they were seen talking or walking together. A photo was sent. It showed the two dark heads close together. Thomas was smiling. It pierced Karin like a stake.
Karin hadn’t been able to stop growling over it, picking at her anger like some sore spot. She almost deleted the photo a dozen times, only to pull it up and growl some more. On the next night’s rising, she pushed the button to call Thomas. Karin knew the female who answered her lover’s phone had to be Nabila. Karin listened to the woman asking if she was there, but instead of speaking, Karin terminated the call, packed her bags, and started the journey north.
Now, as Karin sat in Fangtasia, she had a sad suspicion her days of freedom were over. Indira was using her kind words to lecture her friend. She told Karin that rushing north to ‘catch’ Thomas and Nabila was unworthy. “Why don’t you just call him back and tell him how you feel? Apologize! Allow him to explain.”
Karin sighed. She was going to tell Indira she was right when she felt it, the ripping sensation inside of her. “Eric!” She must have said it loudly because things around them became quiet and many heads turned. Karin couldn’t explain it. It wasn’t that the bond with her Maker was suppressed or even cut off. This was something else, something worse.
“Come with me!” Indira hissed. Her friend almost lifted her bodily from the booth, whisking her down the hall toward the office. Karin had known Indira was strong, but she hadn’t appreciated how strong until now. When they were behind closed doors Indira turned to her, “What happened to you?”
“The bond,” Karin was gasping. “It’s… not gone… but he’s hurt. Eric’s hurt.”
Indira grabbed her phone and started texting. Karin scrambled for her phone as well, but her fingers were shaking and she dropped it. When she managed to pick it up she texted her Maker and then she waited, staring at the screen as though willing him to answer her.
“Karin,” Indira’s voice cut through her thoughts. The Sheriff sounded grave and she was looking at the television screen mounted in the corner. “I think something terrible has happened.” Indira hit the remote to turn up the volume. The image on the screen was a reporter who was saying, “Again, there has been an explosion at the movie premiere of A Viking’s Bond in the City of Rhodes. While there are few details, the damage appears to be extensive and there are reports of fatalities. We will continue to interrupt our regular programming to bring you updates as this story unfolds.”
“He was there,” Karin choked. She checked her phone again, fighting her rising sense of doom.
“Do you think he’s…?” and Indira stopped talking.
“I don’t know,” and Karin realized that aside from her Maker, the one person she wanted to see was Thomas. ‘Hell of a time to figure that out!’ her small voice mocked her. Karin texted Maxwell Lee instead. Within seconds her phone rang. It was Max.
“Have you heard from him?” Max asked.
“No,” Karin told him, “But I felt him. Something has happened. I know it.”
“I called Thalia,” Max answered. “What else should I do?” and Karin realized this was her job now. She was Eric’s War Chief. Her Maker had trusted her to do what was needed in times like these and that realization allowed Karin’s thoughts to shift. She sank into the work that needed to be done in this moment.
In a steady voice, Karin told Max, “Start reaching out to the Sheriffs. Tell them to be vigilant, double the guards. Don’t say anything about Eric. I’ll reach out to Pam and some of the other monarchs for news. Call me immediately if you hear anything. I’ll do the same.”
Karin texted Pam next. She didn’t know what she would say to her sister, but she was sure Pam had felt it, too. When Pam acknowledged she would come to Shreveport, Karin thought she probably should have called instead, but she wasn’t sure she could trust her own voice. It didn’t explain why in the next second she was dialing the phone instead of allowing her fingers to do the job.
“Hello,” Thomas answered and just hearing his voice made her shiver. There were so many things she wanted to say to him, but she couldn’t. ‘Now is not the time,’ she told herself, recognizing it for the excuse it was.
“There’s been an explosion in Rhodes,” she said instead. “The King was supposed to be there. I need you to secure your borders.”
“Of course, Chief,” he replied and Karin realized his voice sounded different now.
When he didn’t hang up she said, “Thomas?”
“Yes, Karin?” and he waited.
“I miss you.” It shouldn’t have been so hard to say the words, and yet she couldn’t bring her voice to say them in more than a whisper.
“Call me when you mean it,” he told her and the connection disconnected.
The brownstone was filled with the best and the brightest of New York. Old money, new money, they mingled together. There were up and coming artists from the Village, a wealthy financier, a woman who had been a movie star in her youth who now ran a successful publishing house. Each person glittered with vitality. There were many from the fashion industry as well and Pam found herself crowded with requests to serve as either muse or mentor. From his place near the fire, Misha watched her with pride. Earlier she had stood with him at the top of the staircase, greeting each of their guests. She was wearing the ice blue column of a dress. Her hair was upswept and around her neck she wore the collar he had given her. It was an exact replica of the necklace worn in the painting they both admired. Misha had consulted on each step of its construction, including his personal selection of each gemstone. He had seen the admiration on each guest’s face as he proudly introduced her, “And this is the Mistress of this house and my most particular friend, Pamela Ravenscroft.”
Misha recalled her slight start when his second, Carlo, had bowed to her, murmuring, “My Lady.” Carlo was the first of his subjects to be formally presented but he hadn’t been the last. Each of his vassals repeated the gesture, bowing, hand over heart. When the King overheard a human asking about it, he heard Andrew explain that among vampires, bowing was the equivalent of hand shaking; the lower the bow, the greater the sign of respect. The King heard one older woman say, “Well that’s quite a bit of respect going on then.” It was perfect.
Pam was laughing at something that had been said, her manners perfectly reflecting the company around her. Misha appreciated the skill it took, the poise to appear so at ease and yet, somehow, above it too. “Madonna,” he told himself.
“Ah Querida!” Felipe said from beside him. Misha hadn’t noticed the King’s approach and it rankled. With a small gesture, De Castro continued, “I was tempted to offer for her myself when she was my subject. You have to hand it to the Viking. He has a rare eye for quality.”
“Pam is unique,” Misha replied. The reminder that the Nevada King had ruled Pam or that he would choose this time to remind Misha that Pam was another’s creation seemed deliberate.
“Yes, she is that rare combination of beauty and intelligence,” Felipe continued. “She has mastered that balance that allows her to lead a business discussion without appearing mannish or weak. Yes, she is a perfect choice as consort although…” and Felipe’s eyes were pitying, ”it is a tragedy that she can never be a Queen. Not while her Maker remains among us.”
Knowing for certain that Felipe meant his remarks to sting still didn’t moderate Misha’s reaction. His face might not have shown it, but his burst of anger was swift. He saw Pam’s reaction as their blood tie relayed it to her. She stopped her conversation in mid-sentence and flashed a quick look in his direction. Her face reflected her concern and just as Misha realized his mistake in forgetting that she would feel his reaction, he also realized Felipe had seen their interplay and recognized it for what it was. It fueled Misha’s feeling that somehow things were slipping out of control and he was finding himself being led to a dangerous place.
Misha forced a smile onto his face and savagely suppressed the anger he felt roiling within him. He pulled his world weary smile over his face and tilted his goblet Pam’s way. He pushed her a sense of general satisfaction and watched her glance quickly at Felipe before nodding in acceptance. She gave him her soft smile and Misha heard her charming apology to those standing with her as she returned to her previous conversation.
Once he was satisfied the moment was smoothed over, Misha turned bodily toward Felipe so his back was to his Zolotse. “She is my Queen in every way that matters to me,” he hissed softly.
“Sharing blood is an important step,” Felipe purred, “I congratulate you both,” and then he chuckled. “I can just see Stan Davis’ face. He will work himself into a jealous frenzy thinking you’ve fallen under the Viking’s influence!”
Misha hissed again. It wasn’t loud. There were too many people to make a clear threat display, but Felipe could not have mistaken it. “I didn’t mean to insult you!” Felipe placed his hand over his heart and sketched a small bow, “but surely you see how this will be perceived. I believe her to be independent from her Maker’s command, but others don’t know her as we do.”
“And by saying this you seek to warn me?” Misha purred. Anyone who had worked for the New York King would have recognized it for the threat it was. It was the voice Misha used just before he killed someone.
“We are business partners,” Felipe changed his tone. The Narayana Chief dropped his friendly courtier persona and returned the hiss. The swift shift in the Nevada King’s attitude caused Misha to pause, as it was meant to do. “I have serious money invested with Miss Ravenscroft which I hope to recoup with profit. I’ve invested money with the Viking, too, through his energy company. If you intend to keep her, dealing with Eric Northman is inevitable. You are too much of a chess player not to have considered that.”
Misha opened his mouth to cut De Castro down to size when there was a sharp sound from across the room. Pam had gone rigid. Her mouth was open and as he watched, she made another keening sound. Pam seemed to fold into herself, suddenly boneless and slipping to the floor. The New York King moved faster than he thought possible and with a single motion, had her in his arms and up the stairs. When he laid her on their bed, she curled into herself, blood tears tracking down her cheeks. “Zolotse? Pamela?” She looked as if she was in shock. After a moment, she turned to look at him, her eyes glassy. “What is it? What has happened?”
“Eric,” her voice was weak. “I need to find my phone.” She was rubbing her stomach and her eyes closed as if she was in pain. When he handed the phone to her, she turned away from him. Her fingers were moving and she was swiping at her face, leaving streaks of red across her perfect cheeks. Misha stood beside the bed, uncertain what to do. He thought she would turn back to him. Perhaps she would wish him to hold her. She was different from others, but she was still a woman. When she continued to lay still, facing away from him and staring at her phone, Misha couldn’t remain silent. “Pam?” he asked, “Zolotse?”
“Go away,” she told him. Her voice sounded small and broken and it struck him, the injustice of it. His Pamela wore his clothes and the necklace he had made for her. He was prepared to give her everything and he knew she was happy to accept it, but the moment something happened to the mighty Eric Northman, it didn’t matter what they were to each other. What had that weasel, De Castro, called it? The ‘Viking’s influence,’ and Misha found it difficult to suppress a growl. Rather than allow his slipping control to cause her more difficulty, Misha walked out and then down the stairs. There were guests that needed to be sent home now and that was less confusing than the puzzle the woman upstairs presented.
Pam was still reeling from the shock of it, that sudden feeling that she was in a life raft in the middle of the ocean and there was no land in sight. It was more than mere physical discomfort, it was as though someone had pulled the strings that held her together, body and soul, and cut them across with a knife. Pam knew with dreadful certainty that something terrible had happened to Eric. She remembered falling and she remembered being in someone’s arms. She was on a bed and it was all she could do to gather her scattered thoughts. “I need my phone,” she remembered saying. It was Misha who handed it to her. Pam texted Eric and waited, but there was no response. Next she texted Sookie. She waited. She texted again. Finally, she texted Karin and this time she received a message.
Karin: ‘Me too.’
Pam: ‘Do you know where they are?’
Karin: ‘No. You should come home to Shreveport.’
Pam: ‘Yes. I will come. Text if you hear.’
It was a plan. It gave Pam the strength to stand up and move toward the closet. She felt stiff and disjointed. She and Karin might not know where Eric and Sookie were or what happened, but she knew she needed to be with family and that was Karin, and not New York. She picked up her suitcase from its place near the door. She hit the number on her phone that called Anubis Airlines. “I need an emergency flight from JFK to Shreveport,” she told the person on the line. “The fastest you have.”
She disconnected the line, and then returning to the closet grabbed more clothing. Misha walked back into the room. He looked worried, but Pam couldn’t think about it, not now. “I’ll need a ride to the airport,” she told him. She struggled to keep her voice steady. She was feeling the calm that descended on her before battle asserting itself, but she wasn’t there yet. Misha said nothing, but he wasn’t moving either. Pam had a hard time meeting his eyes and for some reason she thought of Thomas. ‘I’m not like Karin!’ she told herself, but she suspected she was.
Now he did step forward, “Pamela,” and he reached out to take her hand. She didn’t pull away, and he must have taken that for encouragement. “Please, Zolotse, tell me what has happened.”
Had he just hugged her, she would have accepted it, but he was asking things of her, so Pam pulled her hand away, “There’s nothing to tell.” Less than twenty-four hours ago she had agreed to be this vampire’s companion, but, in this moment, he felt like another impediment standing between where she was and where she needed to be. If she was being truthful, it might have been the shock that caused her to pull away, but she found she couldn’t trust him enough to say the words that were repeating in her brain, ‘I think Eric Northman is gone.’ Pam closed her suitcase, lifted it, and started toward the door. Misha stepped in front of her, blocking her way and without pausing, Pam dropped fang and hissed her hands curved into fists. She realized in that moment that if Misha didn’t move, if he tried to restrain her, she would attack him and fight him to the death. She could see it in his eyes, how much she had just hurt him.
“It will be as you wish,” he told her and she felt a cold fury from him. He stepped aside but he made no move to help her. Pam picked up her suitcase and continued walking down the stairs. Andrew was waiting at the bottom of the staircase for her and she asked him to call her a car. The houseman glanced up the stairs and Pam followed his gaze to see Misha watching them. The King looked sad, but it didn’t match the feeling Pam sensed through their tie. Misha nodded once and Pam heard Andrew move behind her. The houseman picked up the house phone and spoke quietly, asking the driver to bring the car around so that Mistress Pamela could be on her way.
As Andrew spoke, Pam glanced back to the top of the stairs, but the New York King was gone.
Misha walked back into the bed chamber that had been ‘theirs’ for so short a time. He wouldn’t watch her leave, running to the tug on the leash he could now see all too clearly. He headed back downstairs only after he heard the front door close. There were still guests collecting wraps and lingering, waiting to speak with him. Carlo was waiting, too, and mounted the stairs to meet him halfway. His second leaned in to whisper, “There’s been another bombing in Rhodes. It’s on all the news stations. The movie premiere? Compton’s thing? It happened there.”
“Was Compton involved?” Misha had a bad feeling about this.
“Probably. There will be footage. I’ll get it streamed to your office.”
Misha nodded, “Find out what you can. I will join you in a minute,” and Misha turned his attention to making apologies as he helped Andrew show his guests to the door.
“How is she?” Felipe asked when Misha approached him. “Losing your Maker can be painful. Although, I have to say, I am impressed. I couldn’t have maneuvered this better myself.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Misha kept his face neutral. “What makes you think the Northman is gone?”
“Oh, I know he was at the movie premiere,” Felipe stroked his mustache. “The Viking with the real life Viking? Angie has been reading me press releases for days. To think we were just talking about ways to rid your new mate of the inconvenience of a Maker, and here we are!”
“I believe you are mistaken,” Misha said carefully, “I had nothing to do with this.”
“Of course,” Felipe purred. “How could you? You were thousands of miles away. Genius!” and taking his cape from Andrew’s arm, he lowered his voice, “She’s strong. She’ll recover, and she’ll be free. That’s what’s important.” With a quick bow, Felipe de Castro turned and collecting Angie, walked down the stairs and into the night.
“Do you really think he had anything to do with Rhodes?” Angie asked once they were in the car.
“What does it matter?” Felipe shrugged. “We have found his weakness and now it’s time to exploit it.”
“It is difficult to examine the facts and see this as other than cruel,” Mr. Cataliades was keeping his voice neutral, but no one was fooled. The attorney was furious.
Niall lifted his eyebrow, “I appreciate your opinion, demon, and it has been noted, but I warn you that any further protest from you will have consequences.”
“You are sure the Viking wasn’t killed?” Dermot interrupted. Of all of them, he feared his father the least. “If he doesn’t survive this whole exercise was for nothing!”
“You can feel her!” Niall snapped. “She is in pain but she continues. If her vampire was finally dead you would feel her leaving us. You don’t. My vision is true.”
“Was there no other way?” Tamsin was staring at her feet. Finn took a step closer to her and laid his large hand on her shoulder. She covered his hand with her own and her sorrow was like another person in the room.
“You carry on as if there was some great loss!” Niall let his annoyance show. “Sookie has benefited from the training we have provided. She has proven herself a credit to her race. Her quick reactions saved her vampire. All is as it should be.” When those around him didn’t react positively, the Prince added, “And now everything moves forward as it should.”
“You’re a hard man,” Finn didn’t meet the Prince’s eye either.
“No harder than the times require,” Niall sniffed. He turned to Dermot, “You will accompany me. I don’t wish to linger there. She has too many creatures patrolling around her house now. We will complete our errand and leave. I am not totally without feeling. I will give her time to grieve.”
“You had better hope she never finds out what you did,” Dermot told his Father.
“And who will tell her?” Niall smiled. “You? You are all equally implicated in this. You could have warned her, but you didn’t.” Niall’s calm face turned into a snarl, “If she should find out, I won’t be alone in facing her wrath. Perhaps it will help to think of it this way. Now they will be able to fulfill the terms of the contract and the Viking will have earned our protection.”
Niall looked carefully at each those assembled in Finn’s living room, waiting as one by one they nodded and Niall knew he’d won.
They were on the floor in the middle of Amy Ludwig’s hospital. Sookie knew the blood flowing from her wrist was slowing but she kept her arm clamped against the place she knew led to this throat. “Help! Help me, please!” she yelled. She couldn’t tell if she was making any sound at all. There was a slight change of pressure in her ears and she remembered how she’d been mostly deaf following the Rhodes hotel bombing. This time she’d been much closer to the explosion. She smoothed her hand over what was left of Eric’s chest. There was a hole that was oozing blood and a small tendril of smoke lifted from it. ‘Silver!’ she thought.
Leaning her head over, Sookie started to suck at the wound. She couldn’t tell if it was doing any good, but then there was something in her mouth. She gagged and lifting her fingers, pulled out a small charm. It was some kind of dog and Sookie felt overwhelmed by the impossibility of this. Her Lover, her husband, her friend was lying underneath her, his life blood seeping from him. She didn’t know what happened, not exactly, but what did it matter? Eric was dying. She could feel him slipping from her.
“No!” she shouted. She pushed her love at him. She pushed her need and her lust. She screamed in her head that he couldn’t leave her. “I love you!” her mouth shouted, but all she heard was the hum of the white noise in her head.
A rough hand grabbed her shoulder and pulled her up, and Sookie could feel her teeth manifesting and she was sure she was hissing. Two hands grabbed her face and forced her to look up and she saw it was Dr. Ludwig. The doctor seemed to be yelling at her. “It’s Eric!” Sookie said the words and hoped Amy understood. Amy moved her hands to Sookie’s shoulders, and looking her in the eye, she nodded. Amy glanced over her shoulder and Sookie followed where she was looking. The telepath could see many people coming. She recognized a nurse from other visits here and she felt something brush her leg. She jerked, turning to see another person kneeling beside her, inserting a needle in a vein that was all too visible in Eric’s arm. Amy shook Sookie’s shoulder to get her attention, motioning that Sookie should lift her arm from Eric’s mouth. Sookie shook her head, but Amy pointed to another round wound on the Viking’s torso that was still bleeding. She pointed at Sookie, and then pointed at the wound and Sookie understood that the Doctor was telling her to get the silver. Sookie knew the silver would keep Eric’s wounds from healing; it would just continue to burn and poison until it finished killing him. Nodding, Sookie removed her arm and then leaned over to place her mouth on the next wound. The person next to her took hold of her arm and put some kind of tape on it, holding the edges of the wound Sookie had made with the glass together. Sookie couldn’t pay attention. She was too busy doing what she could.
Sookie looked to her right and saw Amy take a scalpel in her hand. The Doctor was looking up and down her husband’s torso, assessing the damage. Sookie knew how he looked. He looked like bloody, torn meat. It was almost impossible to see the vampire she loved. The people around her were cutting away Eric’s remaining scraps of clothing. Sookie knew Eric was missing part of one hand. She was afraid to look at his other arm; afraid that the hand she had seen turn to dust in Rhodes was his. He had a large hole where the muscle of his chest had been ripped away. He was missing all the muscle on the front of one thigh leaving the bone exposed. She couldn’t look when they cut his pants from him but she knew he had lost some part of his genitalia.
Sookie captured more silver in her mouth and lifted her head. Amy was near her, digging at another part of him with her knife. Sookie glanced up, thinking, ‘I hope you can’t feel this,’ and the sob caught in her throat all over again when she saw the bloody blank where his face had been.
As Sookie forced herself to calm down, turning to locate the next piece of silver, she noticed there were multiple bags of blood hanging around them now. Dr. Ludwig stood up and tapped Sookie’s shoulder. She gestured that the telepath should back up and when Sookie staggered, the tiny doctor almost bodily lifted her. The team rolled Eric onto a sheet and then lifted him onto a gurney. When they started to move him down the hall Sookie raced with them, holding the swell of her belly, not thinking, not wanting to think.
They wheeled him into a small room, pulling curtains and shutting doors. Sookie leaned over him, wiping away blood, looking for the cuts that still dripped. She knew there was a frenzy of activity around her but she couldn’t acknowledge it. The world was this; Eric and bleeding and silver. She would bat people out of her way, pushing and shoving to get to the next wound. Her mouth was bloody and her hair was crusted in gore. Every once in a while she would have to push on her belly, willing the pain that was there to end. She was sure she groaned, but she couldn’t hear it. It was not important. All that was important was in front of her, under her hands, under her mouth, and she could feel him, faint, so very faint.
Across the bed, Amy looked at Sookie. She couldn’t imagine what had happened, but this had all the earmarks of a bomb blast. When the telepath had appeared out of nowhere with the vampire under her, Amy was certain that he was already dead, but then she’d seen the blood flow. Amy still didn’t think much of his chances. They had to get him stabilized by daybreak. If he started to heal when day death took him, he might make it. If he was still losing ground, it was more likely Eric Northman would slip into his day death and never recover. Amy had seen it before, the moment when true death overtook a vampire and he returned to the dust from which he came. She glanced now at the telepath. She wondered if Sookie could feel him, if she could tell how strong he was.
“Get me a pad of paper,” she told one of the nurses. When the nurse returned, Amy stopped long enough to write, ‘Can you feel him? Is he aware?’ She poked Sookie until the telepath raised her head. For the first time Amy really looked at the telepath. She looked vacant and for one minute, Amy wondered if the North Man wasn’t the only victim, but in the next she dismissed it. The Viking was bleeding and the telepath was doing what she could to stop it.
Sookie looked at the message and she closed her eyes. When she opened them she nodded, but Amy could tell it wasn’t good. The Doctor nodded and placed her hand on Sookie’s arm.
Picking up her scalpel, Amy turned to the nearest attendant and said, “Find Jane.”
Almost thirty minutes elapsed between the time Sookie and Eric appeared at the hospital and Jane arrived. The vampire took a look at the body on the stretcher and her nostrils flared. Amy felt they were getting ahead of the larger pieces of silver and some of the deeper wounds had started to seal. The doctor appreciated how the sight of this much carnage would make it difficult for Jane to process what she was seeing. It almost explained why the former Sheriff instead chose to rush around the bed and grab Sookie’s arm, “What are you doing? This isn’t good for you! You’ll hurt the baby!” The face Sookie turned on Jane was something Amy Ludwig knew she would see in her nightmares for the rest of her life. Thinking about it afterward, Amy figured Jane was lucky she didn’t lose her hand.
“Leave her!” Doctor Ludwig hissed at the vampire. “I need her where she is and it won’t make any difference now. What’s done is done. We need his progeny. We are giving him blood, but blood from his bloodline will heal him faster. Karin is closest. Get her here! He needs every advantage if he’s going to make it through to nightfall.
Amy could see that Sookie’s attack had made an impression, but Jane recovered and nodding, she grabbed her phone and texted. “She’s coming,” she acknowledged a minute later. Glancing around again, she said, “How did they get here? This happened in Rhodes, didn’t it?”
“Rhodes?” Amy asked. She paused in what she was doing. Was it possible? If that was true, somehow Sookie had managed to bring them both hundreds of miles in an instant. Amy shook her head. She’d think about it later. She glanced at the clock, “Four, maybe five hours for Karin to drive here from New Orleans,” she shook her head. “I don’t know if she’ll make it in time.” Doctor Ludwig looked at Sookie. She wondered if she should ask the telepath to go get Karin the Slaughterer, using whatever trick Sookie had used to bring Eric here but then she dismissed it. It was unlikely the telepath would leave the Viking. Amy sighed. It was possible that Sookie couldn’t leave him. The Doctor knew all too well what would happen if Eric Northman turned to dust. It wouldn’t happen for Sookie right away, but it wouldn’t take long either. From what Amy had been told Sookie’s end would be painful.
Jane was texting again. She lifted her head and said, “Karin’s not in New Orleans! She’s here in Shreveport! She was on her way to Arkansas and staying with Indira. She’s on her way!” Amy almost sagged with relief. It was the first piece of good luck they’d had since the Viking appeared.
Another twenty minutes passed; minutes spent washing away blood only to discover more seeping holes, minutes spent draining more and more bags of fresh blood into the hulk on the bed. At one point the Viking gave a fine shiver, and Amy thought, ‘That’s it. He’s gone!’ but it was a false alarm.
Karin rushed into the room, her face grave. She took one look and then bit her wrist, almost ripping her own flesh off before placing the freely flowing wound over the place that was Eric’s mouth. The improvement was immediate. Small wounds on the Viking started to heal. Amy could watch the deeper wounds pulling together. She nodded to her orderlies and more blood was brought. Sookie swayed on her feet and Jane stepped forward to catch her. Amy could see that Jane was terrified of the telepath now, but she stepped forward anyway.
“Water,” Sookie croaked. A nurse ran from the room. Another pulled forward a chair and Jane lowered Sookie into it. The telepath struggled, but Jane got in front of her and holding up one finger, seemed to convince Sookie to wait. The nurse returned at a run, handed Sookie the bottle of water and then walked back to the bed to resume sponging the blood from the vampire. There was another nurse helping Dr. Ludwig extract the nuggets and slivers now. The pile was growing and all Amy could think was ‘How close were you?’ When they seemed to run out of seeping holes on his front, they tipped the Viking up on his side. His back was almost fully intact. Whatever had happened, Eric Northman had faced it head on.
“Sookie?” Jane’s voice sounded uncertain. Amy glanced over. She could see an ugly bruise forming on the side of Sookie’s face. The Doctor figured the telepath must have hit something pretty hard.
“Get her an ice pack!” Amy yelled at Jane. A nurse told the vampire where to find them and Jane left, disappearing down the hall. Amy kept an eye on the telepath, but it seemed Sookie had lost her steam. She sat in the chair, her eyes patiently watching her vampire. Amy had started stitching now, drawing flesh together where she could. Those places where limbs were missing or flesh gone would have to regrow. Amy knew that with this catalogue of damage and even with his progeny’s blood, it would take a long time before Eric Northman fully recovered.
Reaching across his body, Amy grabbed Karin’s wrist, “Enough! I can’t have you killing yourself for him. If you seriously injure yourself I can’t use you as his primary blood source, not to mention the pain of you weakening yourself could kill him. Think! You are linked.” When Karin lifted her wrist, licking it to heal, Amy said, “See if you can get ahold of Pam. It would be better if you were all here together.”
“I’ve already asked. Pam is coming,” Karin replied
From across the room, Sookie seemed to wake up. She stood up and staggering toward the bed cried out, “I’m here!” Her voice was unnaturally loud and sharp.
Karin hissed, but Amy grabbed her arm and shook her head, “She can’t hear you!” and then the Doctor walked around the bed and placed her arm around Sookie. With Eric as good as he could be for the moment, the Doctor turned her attention to the telepath.
Sookie was covered in blood. She had one hand gripping the headboard and the other was laid on an undamaged part of the Viking. Amy grabbed a wet towel from one of the nurses and began soaking and then wiping away the gore that coated Sookie’s face and chest. With the blood coming off, the Doctor could see the extent of the bruising. It wasn’t much right now, but it would be colorful and painful within twenty-four hours. With a frown, she reached down to place a hand on Sookie’s abdomen, but the telepath pushed her away. Amy looked in Sookie’s eyes then and what she saw told the story. “Do you want to sleep with him?” she asked, and then she remembered that Sookie couldn’t hear her. The Doctor grabbed the pad of paper and wrote the question down.
Sookie nodded, and Amy told one of the nurses to get a hospital gown.
“We should check the baby,” Jane insisted, but Amy shook her head.
“Leave it. There will be time for that later.” Doctor Ludwig walked with Sookie into the small bathroom that served for that area of the hospital and she helped her step under the shower. When the worst of it was washed from her, Amy took a towel and dried Sookie the way she would have dried off a child. The Doctor walked around her, helping her into the gown, and she held the soft robe so that Sookie could dip her arms into it. With her arm around her, Dr. Ludwig walked Sookie back into the room where her husband lay.
“Lift her onto the bed,” Amy told Karin. The telepath made a sound like a wounded animal, but then she turned, settling herself on her side and laid her hand on the bandage that covered her husband’s chest, Amy gestured for the blanket to be pulled over both of them and raised the safety rail.
“Keep changing out the blood bags until sunrise,” she told her staff, and then glancing at Karin and Jane she said, “Come with me.”
They walked down the hall to the small room that served as a lounge for the staff. Amy took the remote and turned on the television. There was a reporter standing near fire trucks. The tagline along the bottom of the screen read, “Tragedy in Rhodes – Suspected Terrorist Bombing.”
“How did she do it?” Dr. Ludwig asked, but no one had an answer.