“Sookie? Sookie! Wake up…”
I recognized his voice – in my dream that wasn’t quite a dream – but I couldn’t answer him. Not with my mouth so full of…
What was that?
Syrupy and sweet, though not like sugar.
But whatever it was I could feel it rushing through my veins, giving me a not-quite-sugar-not-quite-caffeine-like high that I’d been missing out on in my time in captivity. It was like coffee and Coke (maybe of the canned variety, maybe of the powdered) had been run through a chilled blender and tipped into my lips because my body had been puddled up until then, but now it was practically vibrating.
With life and with something else.
Something completely inappropriate for me to be feeling, here and now of all times.
My eyes shot open to see two big Caribbean blue balls of concern staring back at me. That and his wrist, which I was sucking on like I was Jane Bodehouse latched onto her bottle of Bud hearing last call.
“Blood?” I murmured, with my bloodied lips still pressed against his skin, and thereby answering my own question.
“You are weak. You obviously haven’t been eating very well and…whatever it was you did to that fairy fuck drained you of your remaining energy. My blood will give you strength.”
He was right. I hadn’t eaten anything since I’d been there, although not due to a lack of food. I just didn’t trust what was on offer.
Grown in downtown Chernobyl, perhaps?
But a part of me was grossed out. However that part of me obviously resided north of my lips because I was still lapping away. Now that I had started drinking in earnest, I didn’t think I would be able to stop and hoped he would know when I’d had enough. It was like my survival instincts had kicked in again, making my lips refuse to let go of my new lifeline, because the fact was I did feel stronger.
Amongst other things.
Other inappropriate things.
“It is my blood.”
Yeah. I thought we just covered that.
But maybe Eric was a mind reader too because he added, “It will heighten your reflexes. Make you faster. Stronger.” His eyes may have even smoldered – mine were still a tad too crossed to be sure – when he added, “Hornier.”
Instead of my premature death coming by way of vampires or even crazy fairy people, my death would be of the le petite mort variety.
And then of embarrassment, I was sure.
“Enough,” he warned and pulled his wrist away. “The piece of shit fairy you killed had an equally shitty sister, Neave. You must go before she comes searching for him. I don’t know if she will be able to sense his death, but you must flee. Run and hide before anyone comes looking for him.”
“And go where?” I nearly sobbed. Gone were my lustful feelings, with much more appropriate ones having taken their place.
I didn’t think of the danger we were in. I didn’t think of how my hands had turned into wonky light sabers, powered only by instinct and pure rage, that had somehow managed to smite a fairy. I didn’t think of anything except the horror of having to face the unknown without him. It seemed I was still riding the Crazy Train because the thought of leaving without the vampire I barely knew, but who had somehow become mine – in my own crazy mind at least – was painfully scary.
I felt safe with him.
It was a feeling I wasn’t ready or willing to let go of.
“Anywhere,” he answered, while standing and pulling me to my feet. “To the left of the cell door, the tunnel leads to their arena. My battle was the last to be fought tonight, so it should be empty. Look for an exit and then run as far and as fast as you can. Stay off of any traveled paths and stick to the outlying areas. Remain hidden until I can come for you. They are moving me to their Hunting Grounds in a week’s time. If I cannot escape then, I will do whatever is necessary to win their asinine games and then I will come for you. Now that you have had my blood I will be able to sense you. I will find you.”
That was all of the fight I could muster up. The only word I could say. I was equally horrified and heartened hearing he would be able to sense me with his blood.
Worried for his own wellbeing on one hand, knowing I would surely perish before him and he would feel what I felt when that moment came. But at the same time my earlier thoughts of him finding a way out of that hellhole made my spirits rise now having a sliver of hope for myself. If he actually succeeded – if I held out long enough for him to find me – then maybe I could get out of there too.
Maybe I would get to see home again.
Who knew…hope could be a scary thing too.
“But nothing, Sookie,” he growled. I knew not at me, but at the situation we now faced.
Because of me and my Star Wars hands.
“You have to be gone before the others arrive. If you’re still here when they…”
That was as far as he got when we both turned at the slight sound of air being displaced.
The sound of another fairy dropping down into my shit stew.
Eric moved in front of me before my eyes could register his movement and I held completely still, holding my breath and trying to be as small as a dust mote, when I finally heard a voice.
A pissed off one, given her low and deadly hiss of, “Where. Is. She?”
He bowed up even more in front of me. His shoulders – already broad – seemed to stretch for miles now and it was only then that I noticed his wounds were gone. The blood still covered his skin, but it was skin now when cuts and gashes had littered his body before.
Weird. But good.
He seemed to be bracing for something. Either expecting her to lunge or not expecting her question. I didn’t dare peek out from behind him, so when the silence only continued to grow and she remained where she was, he finally asked, “Who?”
“That abomination!” she roared. “My brother came to me on his way to the Summerlands and told me what she did. How she killed him in your defense. And once I find her I will bring her back here. I will slowly fillet the skin from your body, while I force her to watch. And when there is nothing left of you but scraps, I will cut out your heart and feast on it in front of her eyes and then I will do it all over again to her.”
Speaking of hearts, mine was still hammering in my chest. Something I was sure she would hear. And while I managed to hold still – and Eric was certainly a huge non-sparkly brick wall of vampire to hide behind – I still couldn’t believe she hadn’t seen me yet.
I may have dropped a few pounds, but I didn’t think I was that small.
‘Tiny’ would’ve never come close to making the Top Ten list of descriptors for me.
Another drop of shit into my stew rang out and I could’ve sworn my heart had finally obeyed my silent command to shut the hell up upon hearing the newest voice whose owner I couldn’t see.
But I could see his light swirling in my head.
And in my lightheadedness, bad jokes began swirling around in my head, all starting with, ‘Two fairies, a vampire, and an abomination walk into a bar…’
“You will do no such thing.”
Finish my bad joke?
Her finish her not-so-veiled threat?
I couldn’t be sure which one he was rejecting, but his tone – while amused – held a command to it. One that I suspected he expected to be obeyed without question.
And my suspicions proved true when the female snarled, “But she killed Lochlan! A hybrid killed a full Fae over a vampire! I am owed a blood debt and I intend on collecting!”
Eric somehow managed to tense up even more. I would’ve thought it impossible considering he was as ramrod straight as a steel support beam. I had no way of knowing why. I couldn’t read his mind or see through him to know what he was seeing, so I could only rely on what my ears were telling me.
And the soft gasping coming from a few feet in front of us told me I wasn’t the only one holding my breath.
When the gasping turned into a painfully high pitched squeak, I knew by the sound of next voice it wasn’t the male who was struggling for air when it was him who said, “You would do well to not push me, Neave.”
Another long stretch of silence.
Followed up by a long and loud drawn in breath of air.
What I knew was her light had been dimming in my mind, but now it was pulsing. Growing brighter with every breath of air she drew into her lungs, while his had remained steady the entire time and eventually I heard her whisper out in a hoarse voice, “But why?”
“Because,” he replied, sounding satisfied by his answer that answered nothing.
Eric – completely quiet since the newest arrival – twitched in front of me and his hands clenched before becoming completely still again. The same thing had happened when the Lochlan fairy had come in and I wondered what was happening to him when a moment later I heard footsteps entering the cell.
I might not have been able to hear his thoughts, but I found myself even more afraid of the unknown. It brought back my own nightmarish memories from when I was a child. How I used to hide. Shrink away in any dark corner where I thought I couldn’t be seen. Where I couldn’t be found.
Then, by my Uncle Bartlett.
Now, by a monster who could potentially be much worse.
But it hadn’t worked then, so I didn’t expect it to work now. I was standing in broad daylight underneath the skylight on top of Lochlan’s smote spot, red handed.
It didn’t matter. The jig would be up as soon as he rounded my vampire hidey hole. Just like when I was a little girl, holding my breath in the hopes of hiding from a human monster, seconds felt like hours when I finally saw the cause for my certain death.
Or rather, the who.
The fairy man who had openly chuckled when I was first brought before him upon my arrival in the until-then-unbeknownst Eighth Circle of Hell. The leader of the psychopathic fairies I had – rightfully it seems – assumed at the time, had poked and prodded me like I was a prize winning cow.
Just remembering the humiliation of it all made my hands tingle, with me wanting to make him moo.
For his life.
But I said nothing. I did nothing. If he was going to get me now there was nothing either one of us could do to stop him. I had no way of knowing if my hands still had the force of the Jedi’s in them. I didn’t know if it was a onetime thing. I didn’t know if Eric would be able to stop him from turning me into a Sookie smote spot, so I kept my eyes on the fairy and braced myself for the worst.
So far, ‘the worst’ was waiting for it to happen.
My eyes hadn’t left him at all, so I was able to see when his eyes appeared to be searching the room and then look over at me.
And then passed me.
I was one giant frayed nerve ending by then and I nearly spat out my venomous rebuke for playing even more games, but something inside of me – as tiny and as quiet as I had been trying to remain – told me to keep it in.
Eric’s body – seemingly immovable but moving at the same time – turned in tandem with the fairy’s. His feet acted as though he were on an invisible turntable, drawing his body around in a complete circle of the room, like they were tethered to the man who seemed to hold our fate in his hands. But as he strode around Eric’s body, causing him to finally face me, I saw those Caribbean blue eyes go wide when they landed on me.
And then he looked passed me too.
Fear. Confusion. Relief.
They all flitted across his eyes before they returned to a neutral indifference, while the fairy completed his circle of the cell in our Eighth Circle of Hell and came to a stop at the door once more.
To put it lightly.
“Your hybrid meal,” he began, still sounding amused. “Where did she go?”
“Hybrid?” Eric asked, sounding as confused as I felt.
Not about what a hybrid was – synonym for an abomination, I already knew – but confused as to why he was acting like he couldn’t see me.
It made my middle fingers itch to wave hello at him.
“The girl,” he explained. “She is one-eighth Fae. Your injuries are healed, so I know you fed from her. Surely you tasted the difference.”
There was a difference?
O-Neg was pretty common back where I was from.
“Not really,” Eric replied, sounding completely uninterested.
It made me wonder how I knew he was lying.
“I was feeding from her when your fairy guard arrived,” he smoothly explained, like his pants weren’t in danger of bursting into flames from his outright lie. His body was the only thing I could see, so it was impossible for me to miss when it seemed to slowly thaw out, enough for him to make a shrug of indifference when he added, “He took her from me and they both were teleported from the room. I had assumed he passed her along to another vampire.”
“LIES!” the female bellowed, only to be stifled once more.
Because her light was dimming in my mind again, I was pretty sure it wasn’t by choice. And hearing the fairy leader’s next words, I knew my assumptions were correct.
“I will not warn you again, child.”
The tension was becoming unbearable, for me anyways. Jumping from mental and physical exhaustion – complete and utter hopelessness – to feeling like I could jump tall buildings in a single bound, now filled with hope we might actually find a way back home, my body was ready to commit mutiny against my silent command to remain still. I wanted to run, screaming like a banshee from the room, out into the unknown with my barely-known vampire in tow and find us a way out of there.
I wanted to go home.
So I locked down my muscles with every ounce of willpower I had. For whatever reason, they didn’t seem to be able to see me so long as I remained still. Immobile. But I didn’t know if any movement on my part would give away my location. Mark me in attendance when they already seemed to have marked me absent.
The scenario itself demanded I call out crazy. Any doctor in their right mind would have given me a note, declaring me to be out of mine.
“Interesting,” the fairy man repeated.
Undoubtedly, I silently agreed.
“Neave,” he called out and ordered, “You will return to the palace. Summon the Royal Guard and initiate a search for the girl.” Hearing her hiss in response, he added more forcefully, “She. Will. Not. Be. Harmed. I have plans for her.”
A second later another dollop of shit sounded out in the air and her light disappeared from my mind, so I knew there was only one fairy remaining before us. The clink of the metal bars, were followed by the sound of the lock engaging, just as he said, “Northman. I look forward to seeing you in a week’s time. Perhaps by then you will have the chance to finish your meal. Unless of course, one of the others gets to her first.”
His light popped out of my head once he was done reciting next week’s house special and Eric waited for what felt like a full minute before he finally spun around on the spot where he stood. His eyes looked at me – then passed me – and his hands slowly rose in front of his body, reaching out like a blind man forced to feel their way forward.
Or like a human box of Domino’s pizza, forced to make their way to the recipient’s address during a blackout.
In thirty minutes or less or else it’s free.
“Sookie?” he whispered out. “I know you are there. I can feel you there.” His expression changed into one of awe when he asked in wonder, “How?”
My fear had ratcheted down a notch with the fairies’ disappearance – a miniscule notch, mind you – but now that it was just me and him, I felt the overwhelming need to be held. To be reassured everything would be okay.
To feel safe.
Even if our safety was just an illusion, I wanted his pants to burst into flames and lie to me.
I couldn’t be sure if it was those feelings that allowed my disappearing act to go up in invisible smoke because instead of his pants, it was Eric’s eyes that lit up, locking onto mine and letting me know he could now see me before my name even fell from his lips once more. Nor could I stop my arms from throwing themselves around his body and clutching him to my own, hoping the contact alone would allow me to pull his vampire wool over my eyes so I could let myself believe nothing bad was going to happen to us.
We would survive – one way or the other – together.
His vampire wool must have been pretty thick because I didn’t see how it came to pass when I discovered we were lying on our sides, facing one another on top of his cot. Eric had my back up against the wall, with his body shielding me from view, and his whiskers tickled my cheeks when he burrowed his lips towards my ear and whisper repeated, “How? How did you disappear from view?”
My shoulders managed to shrug slightly in his tight embrace and I whispered my answer into his collarbone, saying, “I don’t know. I didn’t know I was invisible until you couldn’t see me either. I thought he was playing another game.”
“Have you always had this power?” he asked almost absentmindedly, like he was trying to solve a puzzle. “Like your ability to read thoughts and shoot deadly light with your hands?”
I shook my head in the negative and softly replied, “I never put on a light show before either.” Saying it out loud – admitting to being even more abnormal – made me want to crawl inside of him if it were possible. In his arms, I felt like nothing could get to me.
Not even my new set of peculiarities.
It marked yet another station on my nonstop route from sane to insane on the Crazy Train.
But even his cool temperature didn’t deter me from cozying up to him, foraging for solace in the arms of a mythical monster.
It would seem I found myself in the world Where the Wild Things Are.
“Sookie?” he called out softly. Pulling away slightly only made my body automatically try to close the distance between us, but when he pulled my chin up I had no choice but to look at him as he asked, “Do you know your fairy lineage?”
“No,” I replied truthfully. “I didn’t even know such things existed and when they told me what I was – an abomination, apparently – I still didn’t believe them. All they told me was that I was the last ray in the sky, but the words didn’t sound so sweet when they said it.”
“The sky?” he asked, with his eyes going wide. “You are sure? They called you the last ray in the sky?”
It wasn’t something I was likely to forget. Not when it was forever carved onto my mental ticket for my express ride on the Crazy Train.
His body was back to being a ramrod straight steel support beam. Something I didn’t find very supportive at the moment, so I asked, “What’s wrong? Does that mean something to you?”
He ignored my question and asked one of his own with, “Think back to when Neave first arrived here earlier. What were you thinking? What were you feeling?”
“I was feeling terrified,” I answered incredulously.
Because seriously, duh.
“I know,” he soothed, changing course and pulling me close again. “I could feel your fear, but you must think, Sookie. What was going through your mind at the time?”
I wasn’t about to go into my childhood trauma. This whole experience was traumatic enough, so all I would admit to was, “I wanted to hide. To disappear.”
Another long period of silence stretched between us until I couldn’t take it any longer and asked a question I never thought I would ever have the need to.
“What are you thinking?”
His lips gently pressed against my forehead before he shifted back to look at me, but his ominous expression didn’t match his Walt Disney script when he said, “I think you are a fairy princess.”
Hearing his fairly preposterous fairy princess pondering, I could only assume the jarring sensation in my gut must have meant the Crazy Train had just slammed on the brakes to pick up its newest passenger.
My vampire bunkmate, Eric.