It couldn’t be.
I couldn’t trust my eyes. I couldn’t trust the vision before me was real.
Could she really be standing there?
My lover. My bonded. Bathed in a golden brilliance, as though the sun all but told the moon to fuck off, and shone down through the night sky out of her very pores.
Only for her would it do such a thing.
Perhaps, only for me would I dare to believe it to be true.
But I’d learned I couldn’t trust my own mind to not retreat to my blond demon in its desperation to escape whatever tortures my body was being subjected to. This could very well be one of those times. Her ethereal glow only substantiated that thought. She looked the same and yet different. She’d spoken impossible words in a language I knew and yet could not understand. Pulled the impossible out of her ass, the same as she’d often done several times before, and yet now it too was different.
Was it my own internal desperation – the one I’d tried to convince myself no longer existed – wanting to hear her claim me in a way no other could deny?
Or was it real?
I could be imagining it all. I could very well still be strung up in Freyda’s dungeon. Silver shackled to my wrists while they bled my body. Drained my sanity with every drop of blood extracted from my lifeless form, and teasingly – fruitlessly – replacing it with the stale synthetic blood that would do no more good than wetting my lips. Freyda had already proven her own desperation to keep her kingdom by forcing me into upholding my maker’s deal. She’d already shown she was a miserable cunt by trying to coerce me into behaving as though her one hundred and fifty years as a vampire made her my better simply by wearing the crown I would one day use to cut Freyda cookies out of her torso.
Had I pushed her too far and now I was paying my penance? Would I awaken from my stupor to find myself in the company of Were guards and wearing the stench of an infected whore queen instead of the Fae royalty and Bill-stained tux my mind was trying to convince me were real?
I had no way to know. Nothing to gauge my own sanity. No sliver of rational thought left.
No reason to believe Sookie would come for me at all, much less declare herself a Brigant and use a supernatural birthright in order to claim me for her own.
Not when all she’d ever done was declare herself to only be human.
None of it made sense, but then rarely did anything make sense when my mind was no longer my own to control. And yet still, I attempted to force some sort of logic into the fairytale equation, starting with the royal fairy himself.
Niall had closed the portals. Even if he’d been idiotic enough to let his insane grandson back into this world, Niall would never enter it for long himself. Not now. Nor would he leave his realm undefended by taking his royal guard with him.
To a vampire ball.
But I’d been witness to enough bizarre behavior by the Fae that I couldn’t completely dismiss it altogether. Just like my lover, they were both irrational and enchanting. Crazy and captivating.
The fact I could be imagining it all made me realize perhaps we were more alike than I had ever cared to admit.
The evening I had only moments earlier thought to be real played on fast forward through my mind. Checking my sanity against the insanity before me. Felipe telling me Sookie had kicked out the shifter. Bill showing up and me giving him his true death. They were fantasies I’d humored myself with many times before, but were they reality? It would be no surprise to learn the illusory demise of Sookie’s relationship and her first lover would make their way into my capricious mind.
And then there were my children. Feeling my tie to them flare with concern and rancorous anger told me nothing. If my body was physically feeling pain and my mind had already shutdown to block it out, I wouldn’t be able to keep them from feeling it in our bond. The physical manifestation of them before my very eyes could be yet another trick I was playing on myself. Sensing their worry and bitter resentment so much more strongly, not due to their actual proximity but because perhaps they too suspected I was nearing my end.
And it was that thought that had my eyes traveling back to take in the light at the end of my very dark tunnel.
Real or imagined, my mind’s eye didn’t care. Seeing Sookie standing before me had unimaginable healing powers. Always blocked from my vision when my mind retreated to her in the past, finally seeing her again was both a gift and a curse.
If I awoke in the dungeon and found it was all a dream, I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to play the game. Ocella had done far worse to me physically, but my psyche was a proven pussy when it came to my blond tormentor. I hadn’t factored into my plans how it would affect me, but that same thing could’ve been uttered on the very night she’d walked into my bar, wearing her naïveté like she’d worn a white dress, and been just as true.
I never could have planned for just how much Sookie would affect me.
She’d given me her love, once. She’d shown me how to love in return. It was a gift I hadn’t realized I wanted. An emotion I never knew I was capable of feeling much less returning after a thousand years. I may have tried to force her into seeing her supernatural side, but so too did she force me into feeling more human than even when I was one.
The roles of the pupil and the professor were interchangeable. Sookie and I were one and the same regardless of who sat at the bigger desk.
But a small part within me tried to spare myself the additional pain. Tried to force reason into the unreasonable circumstance I’d found myself in. Attempted to replace longing with logic by telling me Sookie would never slough off so easily the knowledge I had been the one to finally end her first lover. The woman I knew would rage and rail over the injustices of my world. Scorn me once more for who and what I was. Blood wasn’t a suitable price to pay for a transgression in her eyes. Especially for an offense committed against her.
No, the Sookie Stackhouse I knew would never stand for such a thing so passively.
My first instinct had been to lie at her silent question. To hide the truth and shelter her from the beast who always dwelled inside of me. Always lurked in the dark shadows of my mind and my chest and my very soul. I barely acknowledged his existence, only slackening his tether in front of her eyes when it was her life in danger. Only showed her that part of me when she could not hold it against me.
But no more.
There was nowhere to hide. Not for the beast, my lover, or I. There was nothing I could do. His chains were no longer my own to control, but perhaps it was for the best. Even if it only happened within the confines of this strange dream where wishes and nightmares collided, it was a start. Closure, perhaps. Righting a wrong I had committed against her. Against us, for it was my attempts to keep that part of me hidden that was one of many dominoes that felled our relationship. Lies by omission were still lies just the same no matter the intention behind them. The road to hell was paved with the best of them and my own had undoubtedly led me straight there.
I had warned her once – what felt like a lifetime ago. I may not tell her everything, but what I told her would always be the truth. And so now would be no different, even if it was just her eyes that asked the question.
Her very image should tell me this was a dream. Not the appearance of her in the room – my very own special nightmare within a nightmare – but her appearance. Sookie’s skin always held a golden hue. Be it due to her own vanity or her oft denied Sky Fae DNA, she’d never hidden her torrid love affair with the fiery orb in the sky. And while still sun kissed, now my lover positively glowed. It was nothing like the luminescence of my own kind – like the fog surrounding dry ice left out in balmy temperatures – but an otherworldly glow that evoked warmth. A pulsing aura of a golden white light surrounded her frame like a lover’s embrace and I was sure if I dared to reach out – if I dared to touch what was no longer mind – my skin would burn just the same as if I was meeting the sun.
Perhaps I was?
Maybe that was my true reality and this was the way my mind chose to spare me that knowledge. Bringing forth the only Valkyrie I would accept, when it was apparent Odin’s shieldmaidens had already shunned me more than a thousand years earlier once my maker had stolen my last breath.
Did I care?
I couldn’t decide.
Perhaps it was for the best either way. If I truly was meeting my true death, I could do so with the one I loved in front of me. If all of this were real – if she truly stood before me now – it would be but a Band-Aid placed on a sucking chest wound. It would merely be putting off the inevitable and our roles once again interchanging for she would be the one to eventually die. It would be cruel to be given 50 more years with her only so I could be separated from her in a way much more final than any harsh words or desperately penned royal decree could bring about.
I would be unable to withstand it twice.
My words spoken to her on the night following our public divorce – that I had considered turning her against her wishes – were true. I had indeed considered it. Many times. By ordering Pam to turn her, Sookie would’ve never felt the need to part from me as makers and children often do. And while my words were spoken in hurt and anger, my actions should’ve been just as loud to her ears. As selfish as I was, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t betray her wishes or my own promises to her. My inability to lie to her – even after the fact – would sentence me to my very own purgatory now that my Valkyrie too had forsaken me. There would be no atonement for my sins – either against her or myself. Either way – either choice – someone had to lose, so I made the choice where the only loser would be me.
But thoughts of her death – brought on by sunrise, heart disease or a Mack truck – brought me no closer to figuring out which world I was dwelling in and only drove me crazier. Real or imagined, I had no way to know. So I clawed my way through the chasm dividing psychosis and sanity to what I knew to be true.
I wasn’t the only one prone to speaking out in anger. Fiery too was my lover’s temper, but no matter how long she allowed the star’s rays to caress her skin as my fingers once had, shooting sunlight from the palms of her hands was unlikely. And yet I could smell the smoke left behind by her scolding finger flick.
Watching her do it made the possibility of something other than sunlight to shoot from somewhere lower on my body very likely.
And it were those feelings of lust – the kind only she had ever been able to evoke within me – that caused my initial hesitation when Freyda shrieked her order to attack.
But it was finally an order I was more than willing to obey.
Lunging towards her with my sword drawn, I missed my mark as did my lover’s scorching rage. Rationally – as though I had any rationale left – I knew it must be a dream. A manifestation in my mind of what could very well be my dying wish. To have my lover with me – fighting for me – in a way that I knew to be impossible. But I no longer cared.
It was yet another gift, even if it was only from me to myself.
Seeing her move through the room with vampires coming at her from all sides made me itch to move closer to her. To protect her. To hold her close and shield her from everything. But I saw there was no need now that my imagination had gifted her with the ability to protect herself. And since my imagination had also gifted me with a sword in my hand and my queen in close proximity, I would not be denied my bloody retribution.
Her death would come by my hand and if I awoke to find her before me, I would find a way to have it again.
Having Freyda enter my unconscious mind was something new – like the physical appearance of my lover – and I would not be denied my vengeance. I could no longer pretend that Sookie wouldn’t always be there, lurking in the depths of my thoughts, no matter how deeply I buried the memories. The witch’s curse had proven that. But there, at least, she was safe and sound. Shackled beside me for all of eternity, I now knew. And knowing it was likely I was the one who was shackled in reality had me moving towards the witch responsible for the curse of my last year.
My mind acknowledged her cowardly cunt ways, seeing her hiding behind her largest guards, so my path set out towards her. Her couture gown now torn and stained. Her carefully coifed hair now in disarray. Her overly made up face now contorted to show her true identity.
A frightened little bitch who had no hope in besting a Bon Temps barmaid.
Her eyes were only for my lover. Trained on her like she now knew she’d risen for her last night. But my selfishness hadn’t completely dissipated because it was a gift I didn’t want to bestow on Sookie. I wanted it for myself, so I continued to slay my way there. Freyda would get her curtain call by my hands and when the light faded out in her eyes, I wanted it to be me she was looking at. I wanted her to crawl before me and beg for mercy – of which I had none to give her. She’d dug her own grave. Her masquerade of a monarchy was over and I would do everything in my power to make a mess of her party to match the mess she’d made of my sanity.
The battle was exhilarating. Even if it only existed in my mind, I’d needed it. The brutality. The bloodlust. The release of a yearlong rage. It had been emasculating to live under her thumb, no matter how hard I’d tugged on my chains – both literal and figurative. They had existed nonetheless.
If I could’ve spared a hand, I would’ve cupped my balls and said, “Welcome back boys.”
And speaking of balls, my imagined lover had big ones in the form of fiery orbs that shot from her hands, bringing down her attackers in a Fae carnival game of Whack-A-Vamp. It was yet another clue I was imagining it all. Sookie would never gleefully take lives. She’d felled her own share of attackers in her short lifetime, but it had been out of necessity and she’d always done it with a fair amount of guilt. Now she didn’t even look as though it was an unavoidable circumstance.
She looked exultant.
She was always in my peripheral. My eyes unable to not keep track of her movements, no matter who I was facing, so my undead heart skipped a beat when she suddenly disappeared from my sight. I panicked inside thinking my dream was coming to an end. I cursed my addled brain for taking her away from me and yet leaving behind every other extraneous character I cared nothing for, with the exception of my children. My eyes sought them out, sure they would be the next to vanish from the confines of my mind, but in doing so my make believe opponent got the upper hand. About to deliver his hallucinatory blow, he was instead blown into oblivion.
Perhaps I was as well. Sure I had blown my own mind in the process because Sookie suddenly appeared out of thin air. Covered from head to toe in blood and soot, my smudged lover stalked forward, her eyes trained on Freyda with my eyes trained on her. I wouldn’t lose sight of her again – not even to my own muddled mind – but now that my focus was on nothing but her, feeling elated at her return, my feet drew me to her without any conscious thought.
But remembering how big her balls were, and seeing her fire off a few to remind the rest, I made sure to stay out of their trajectory before coming to stand before her. I’d knocked into her in my haste, but now when she was literally within arm’s reach, I was afraid to touch her. Everything about her looked both real and unreal. Both old and new. I was afraid if I reached out – intentionally trying to lay hands on what my heart desired the most – I would fell the first domino in what would lead to me realizing this was indeed a dream. That she would disappear again.
Close enough to see the glisten of sweat on her skin and then being forced to face the reality she was still – and would forever be – out of my grasp.
But perhaps that too was for the best. She would never accept me as I was. I could never be what she wanted me to be. I was tired of letting her down – of being letdown. While flawed, I still believed her to be pure. Good. She would live her life and when her time on earth had passed, she would go on to her Christian heaven. No matter what deities I believed or didn’t believe in, I learned a long time ago that would not be my fate. Ocella had shown me that.
No matter my intentions, good or bad, I was hell bound.
I couldn’t hide that from her, but if I managed to make it out of Oklahoma alive and sane, it would only be due to her. For her. I would do all I could to make sure she had that life to live, whether I was welcome to be a part of it or not. Her eyes staring back at me now said she did want me to be a part of it and it was all that was needed to finally give me my answer.
None of this was real.
I never believed in fate and instead held the belief our destiny was made by our own choices. But perhaps I was wrong. Looking back at her now – a shining memory of who I remembered her to be – I knew she was irrevocably woven into my soul. It was something I never would’ve willingly chosen.
And I needed to let her go.
Her eyes had always shone so brightly. Her spirit and personality matched them to a tee. The light from within her soul had always been there – even before I’d imagined her to be a literal night light in my dark thoughts – but I wanted to save it. Savor it. It was perhaps the real reason why I never turned her against her wishes.
I didn’t want her to be without it no more than I wanted to be without her.
The darkness of my fate had already been set. The darkness inside of me was already ingrained, even if my inner demon no longer remained hidden inside. There would be no escape for me. I loved her too much to doom her to the same.
All of my thoughts flitted through my mind in a matter of seconds. Staring down at my inner demon while she stared back up at me. Waiting for her to disappear now that I had finally settled on letting her go and hoping I would somehow set myself free by doing so.
But my mind was nearly as cruel as my queen because instead of allowing me to watch her gracefully fade from view, Sookie was suddenly in my face. Her breaths fanned across my face and her scent – a more sweetened version of the one I remembered – engulfed me.
As did her lips.
The warmth of her body quickly thawed my own. Only the sound of my sword falling to the ground reminded me I’d been holding it all along. My arms snaked around her body while her tongue slithered across my own and I dove into it, knowing it wouldn’t last.
It couldn’t last.
It wasn’t real.
It was the only reason I kept my back to our enemies. They weren’t really there. Neither was I. So when she pulled back to pant in breaths she wouldn’t need in my imaginary world, her next words all but tore my heart apart like it was an accusatory antebellum ass named Bill.
“I love you, Eric.”
I’d already established my mind was just as cruel as my queen and maker combined, and proved it by pleading in a hoarse whisper only for her ears, all but begging her to pull the impossible from her ass once more.
“Show me, Sookie. Show me it’s real. Show me you are real.”
I had no idea of what I was asking. How she could prove to me my mind wasn’t playing the cruelest of all tricks on me. She stared back at me like she didn’t know how either, until a wicked gleam in her eye appeared seconds before her lips were back on mine.
Her teeth bit into my tongue while her own slashed against my descended fangs. Her blood exploded on my palate and my senses, while the two flavors entwined with one another like long lost lovers. They danced the tango across my taste buds and seeped down into my veins, forming the beginning of another blood bond.
There was an old Chinese proverb called The Red Thread of Destiny. Legend had it their gods tied red cords around the ankles of those who were destined to be lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The red thread may tangle or stretch, but it would never break.
I knew it now to be true. Our bond may have been broken by magic, suspicion, and doubt, but our tie to one another at our very core had never truly severed. My soul had been bound to hers long before we’d ever shared the first drop and had continued to linger long after it had been dissolved. But now that I could feel her again, it felt like being reborn. If I could’ve torn my lips from hers I was sure I would be panting in air I didn’t need.
She did still love me. Her blood told me so.
I knew now that it was just as real as her body in my arms.
And I was given a painful reminder of that fact when I felt the steel blade slice into the skin at my back. Falling from my lover’s embrace and down onto the floor at her feet, my eyes closed against my wishes, so all I heard was Sookie yelling out my name right as I felt her fury, matched only by the sudden wave of blistering heat that exploded around us.