I locked myself in another bedroom unable to hold back the tears any longer. I felt broken in a way that I’d never imagined was even possible. It was as if I’d literally been torn in two. My body shook uncontrollably with the sobs that racked through me. How I had pictured my present and future changed in the blink of an eye with my past seeming like nothing more than a pipe dream. I’d thought I had finally found my one true love, he’d even said those three little words I had longed to hear, but I’d been wrong. He wasn’t real. None of it was.
I had no idea of how much time had gone by while I cried all alone in the room and the fact that Eric hadn’t come to try and console me only reiterated the fact that he didn’t remember me. My Eric couldn’t stand the sight of my tears and would do anything to try and make me feel better, but he was gone; replaced by someone I didn’t know at all and the fact that he looked identical to my Eric only pushed the knife deeper into my heart.
I couldn’t stand being there for another moment knowing he was so close and yet a lifetime away. I had to get out of there. I hadn’t noticed Rasul when I’d run crying from Eric’s room and into this one and I didn’t know if he’d let me leave on my own, but I wasn’t going to hang around to find out. I had to escape.
I went to the window and slid it open before silently slipping outside. The sun was starting to set and my feet started running in no particular direction with my only thought to get as far away from Eric Northman as I possibly could. It was probably all for nothing since he didn’t want me any longer anyway and I doubted he would have tried to stop me if he knew I’d left, but those thoughts only propelled my body to go faster. He may not want me anymore, but I sure as hell didn’t want to have it thrown in my face.
It seemed like I’d been running for hours with my lungs burning in my chest and when my legs started to feel like jelly I finally slowed down and took in my surroundings. The sun had completely set by then, but even in the darkness I could see that I’d ended up travelling along the same path we’d taken earlier this morning. I was just a block away from the warehouse; the place where my whole world had changed.
I walked to where we’d left the car and was thankful that when I’d changed clothes the night before I’d had the forethought to put my keys back into my pocket. A small sob left my throat when I sat in the driver’s seat and had to move it forward since Eric had moved it back to give his long legs the room they needed when he’d driven us there the night before. I still couldn’t wrap my mind around how much had changed in such a short amount of time and it took a while before I finally put the key in the ignition and set off for home.
I’d kept the radio off while I drove needing the peace and quiet to go over everything in my mind. The Eric I knew was gone, replaced with a carbon copy minus the love he’d felt for me, but that didn’t excuse how he’d treated me when he woke up. Pam told him everything I’d done for him, granted her version of events had been short and to the point, but he didn’t really seem grateful at all for any of the hardships and sacrifices I’d made for him. Even if he was a trained killer and didn’t bat an eyelash at dangerous situations, that didn’t give him leave to treat me like I was inconsequential; like I didn’t mean anything more to him than being a tiny footnote in the story of his life. We’d spent months together. Even if he didn’t know that we’d fallen in love wouldn’t he have to assume that we were at least friends?
Is that how he treated his friends?
The more I thought about it the angrier I got and I decided that if that one small glimpse I’d gotten of his personality tonight was the real Eric Northman then maybe I’d be better off without him no matter how much my heart hurt at just the thought.
I must have driven on autopilot because the next thing I knew I was parked in back of the farmhouse. The full head of steam that I’d worked up on the drive home almost fell apart when I walked inside and saw the half decorated Christmas tree in the living room. We’d stood right there barely 24 hours earlier and admitted our love for one another. We’d made love on the floor, claiming each other as our own, and now I stood in the exact same spot with only my memories as a testament that once upon a time Sookie Stackhouse had found love.
Never again, I told myself. Like Scarlett O’Hara would never again go hungry, I would never again give my heart away if it could hurt this badly when things went wrong. I say when, not if, things went wrong because I couldn’t think of a single thing in my life that had ever gone right.
I worked my earlier fury back up to full force before my pity party could take over and I stomped my way to the front door, flinging it open hard enough that the door knob left a dent in the drywall, and pulled the Christmas tree out of the house. I could hear some of the glass ornaments breaking against the hardwood floor, and I would more than likely regret my actions later since they were ones my Gran had collected over her many years, but in that moment I wanted nothing in the house that would remind me of Eric Northman.
I had taken the next two weeks off from work leading up to Christmas to do some last minute shopping, excited that I had Eric in my life to share my favorite holiday with, but since there wouldn’t be a Christmas at the Stackhouse residence this year I left it sitting in a sad pile of pine needles and broken glass on the front porch before marching into the bedroom with a box of trash bags in my hand. I filled bag after bag of Eric’s things going through the dresser drawers and closet, dragging each bag to the front door and tossing them one by one out into the yard as I filled them. It felt good to do at the time, but in the back of my mind I knew that Eric wouldn’t come looking for his things so I would be the one having to later drag them down to the end of the driveway for the trash collectors to haul away.
I went through my task as quickly as I could, not wanting to really see any of the things I threw into the bags, knowing that each article of clothing could bring with it another memory of a life that no longer existed. Once his clothes were all bagged I moved onto his shoes that were all neatly lined up at the bottom of the closet.
Eric’s OCD shined the brightest with how he kept his things. Each side of the closet was a complete opposite of the other. His side was perfect with each hanger evenly spaced the width of his fingertip apart from the next (I know, I watched him do it one day) with everything neat and orderly. My side had my clothes shoved in wherever they would fit and my shoes were piled on top of one another at the bottom. More often than not they would knock over the metal softball bats from my high school days that were leaning up in the corner that I’d never gotten around to storing in the attic.
I almost smiled thinking of how I would purposely kick one or two of his shoes out of place just so I could hear him quietly sigh before fixing them back into perfectly spaced pairs, but I bit it back. Maybe at some point down the road I could look back on our time together and smile at the mostly fond memories I would have of him, but that was a complete impossibility right now.
I kicked his shoes all into one big pile on the floor and took a moment to internally rejoice at the jumbled mess I’d created with his things (I could practically picture him twitching) before throwing them, one by one, into the trash bag. I was having a much needed ‘I am woman; hear me roar’ moment until I picked up one of his favorite black boots. He always drove me batshit whenever he wore them because he rarely tied them shut, but it wasn’t the boot itself that ended my zeal. It was what I found rolling around in the bottom of the boot that made me want to die for the second time that day.
I reached inside holding my breath and with trembling hands I pulled out a small velvet jewelry box with a shiny red bow on top. It was undoubtedly my Christmas present from Eric. I shuddered remembering what I had gotten for him and knew it would be a long time before I would be able to look at it again. I slumped down onto the closet floor from my knees to my butt just staring at the tiny box knowing I wouldn’t have the strength to toss it into the bag without first opening it up to see what was inside.
I lost all track of time once more as I sat there staring at the box in the palm of my hand while the last seven months ran through my mind. I thought of the way his eyes crinkled in the corners when he laughed; how he listened to any and every little thing I had to say as if it was the most interesting thing he’d ever heard; how his mere presence could soothe me like nothing else; his ability to make my heart start racing with nothing more than a raised eyebrow; how his kisses could go from lovingly sweet to feral and everything in between so that no two were ever really the same; how the love I felt for him literally warmed me from the inside out. Everything with Eric had been so perfect and now…now it was over.
Did I really need to see what was in the box? Did it matter anymore now that he no longer remembered me? Us?
The answer to all three questions was no, but I opened it anyway.
The tears flowed silently down my cheeks as I looked down at the beautiful solitaire engagement ring nestled inside and more than anything I wished I could wake up from this horrible nightmare to see that it had all been a dream; to know that Eric still loved me. The light from the bedroom caught the ring in a way that I was able to see there was an inscription on the inside of the band.
Almost from the very beginning, in the quiet times before we would drift off to sleep, I would sometimes hear Eric whisper something into the darkness while he held me, but it was always in a foreign language that I didn’t understand. I eventually got him to tell me what he’d be saying for all of those months. It was a phrase he used to describe who I had been to him before today; I was his past, his present, and his future.
My One and Only.
I curled up on the closet floor with the box still clutched in my hand and cried myself to sleep hoping against hope that my wish would come true and when I woke up again that this nightmare would end.
I heard the sound of glass crunching on the floor and opened my eyes feeling out of sorts before realizing I was still lying on the closet floor. Even though the silence had returned, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and my instincts told me to hide. I wanted to pull the closet door shut, but the trash bag half full of shoes was in the way and it would make too much noise if I attempted to move it. Moving as quietly as I could I silently cursed myself remembering that I’d never locked the front door after throwing Eric’s clothes into the yard, but this was Bon Temps. Nothing ever happens here.
Since Eric’s side of the closet was practically empty I slipped behind the longest dresses I had hanging in the far corner of the closet and grabbed my lucky bat as I waited for something to tell me that I was either crazy and hearing things or that there really was someone in my house. I hoped for the former, but given my recent streak of shitastic luck I was sure it was the latter.
I knew I was right when I heard the floorboard squeak in the hallway right outside the bedroom door. As old as the house was, there was no way for anyone to travel silently anywhere inside of it unless you were Spiderman and I was almost certain it wasn’t Peter Parker creeping around my house.
I couldn’t have been asleep for very long because it was still dark outside, but the light in the bedroom had been left on when I curled up and fell asleep so I could easily see the man walking into the room from my hiding spot. It was the same one that had been standing with Bill and I almost audibly gasped, but was able to hold it back just in time. If only I could silence my heart as well because I was pretty sure he was going to hear it pounding inside of my chest. I certainly did.
Why would he be here? What could he want from me? I had no idea who he was, but since he’d been with Bill it didn’t bode well for me.
I didn’t so much as blink as he slowly picked through my things in the room and I remembered everything Eric had told me about how to center yourself when your system floods with adrenaline and the fight or flight instincts kicked in. I would pick ‘flight’ if given the opportunity, but I prepared myself for ‘fight’. Knowing I had to focus so I wouldn’t be able to give into temptation and panic, which would give him the advantage, I concentrated on every minute detail I could pick up from where I was hidden and noted the outline of a gun on his left hip underneath his jacket that I hadn’t noticed earlier. His build was slender, but the width of his shoulders and the way he moved told me that he was strong, definitely stronger than me.
I would be completely fucked if he was able to get a hand on me so I gripped my bat tighter hoping I’d have room to swing it with enough force to do some damage if I needed to.
My bedroom looked like a cyclone had gone through it with things tossed everywhere from my weak attempt at erasing Eric from my life and I hoped he would assume there was no one home given the ransacked appearance my room portrayed. I didn’t hear any other noises coming from inside of the house and hopefully he was alone because it would be hard enough trying to elude just him.
As he slowly made his way towards the closet I crouched down further and willed myself to blend in with the wall I was pressed against, hoping that he wouldn’t move anything that would give my hiding spot away. I saw him look at Eric’s side of the closet with his brows furrowed and then to my side still looking perplexed, but once he got his visual fill he moved on to the attached bathroom and for the first time that day things were looking up for me.
He eventually left the room altogether and once I heard him hit the top of the stairs I took a chance and crept out of the closet, bat in hand. My footsteps were quick but silent since I knew where the squeaky floorboards were and I chanced a peek up the stairs as I passed, but saw no one. When the front door was in sight I thought I was home free until I slipped on a fallen ornament and fell to the floor with my face landing in the broken glass. The bat flew from my hand when I tried to catch myself and bounced along the floor before rolling away. A herd of elephants charging through the room would have been quieter and sure enough Mr. Bad Guy came flying down the stairs.
It felt like I’d twisted my knee in the fall, but the adrenaline helped dull the pain as I scrambled across the floor, cutting my arms on the broken glass, trying to reach the bat. I felt his hand wrap around my ankle pulling me back towards him as he said, “Ah, ah, ah Miss Stackhouse. We’ll have none of that.”
“Let me go!” I yelled trying to kick at him, but he’d grabbed my good leg and the kicks coming from my injured one were hurting me more than him.
He had the audacity to smile like the Cheshire cat asking, “Now why would I do that?” before grabbing my injured leg and twisting it until I screamed out in pain. He released his grasp and picked up my bat, twirling it in his hand like it was a baton and asked, “Where is Eric Northman?”
I wiped what I thought were just tears from my face not realizing I was bleeding until I saw the blood on my hands and I pushed myself up off the floor, placing the majority of my weight on my good leg, while ignoring his question and asking my own.
“Who are you?”
I leaned against the wall behind me thinking of the irony I kept finding myself in lately. Hadn’t Eric just asked me that same question? I decided I didn’t like irony at all. It wasn’t my friend.
Again, he smiled with a look of incredulity saying, “You don’t know who I am? Whoever kept you uninformed certainly wasn’t doing you any favors.”
That’s classified, I heard Pam’s voice saying in my head. I was officially fed up with them ALL and didn’t hide my sarcasm when I said, “And that still doesn’t answer my question. Who. Are. You?”
His amused expression just pissed me off more, but I didn’t give in to the temptation to do my ‘Goodfellas’ impression of ‘I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? ‘ since I didn’t think it would help matters.
“I’m Victor Madden.”
I remembered his name from the phone conversation Eric and I had listened into between Bill and Pam, but you’d think he’d said he was Elvis Presley given the look on his face that said I should know who he was by his name alone. As far as I knew, he didn’t know about our eavesdropping so I played the dumb blond and said, “I don’t know who you are. Why are you here?”
My eyes stayed on him, but I scanned the rest of the room with my peripheral vision looking for anything I could use as a weapon. Seeming to like being the center of attention, Madden began slowly pacing back and forth by the front door as he took on the appearance of a professor giving a lecture and began to speak.
“I suppose I can tell you since you won’t be around for much longer. I assume you’ve heard of Felipe de Castro?” He looked at me for confirmation and when I nodded my head while contemplating the ‘you won’t be around for much longer’ statement he continued, “I am his Lieutenant, his second in command if you will. You see, Felipe isn’t the upstanding businessman he portrays to the outside world; his true interests are much darker in nature. His casinos and other business ventures are a mere pittance of his income with his true wealth lying with his South American endeavors where we operate our very own military base training anyone and everyone in the art of war that can afford our fees; Al Qaeda, Taliban, North Korea. We don’t care what their political beliefs are; we only care that their check clears the bank.”
When he paused I couldn’t help myself and asked, “But what does that have to do with me or Eric?”
He shook his head, almost with pity in his eyes, asking, “Do you really know nothing about the people you’ve aligned yourself with?”
The answer was obviously ‘No’ so as I stood there with the trails of blood drying on my face and my knee throbbing in sync with my heartbeat, I listened as my potential murderer gave me the answers no one else had.
“There is a group called the Lex Talionis Alliance. They’re made up of men and women from all over the world who are trained black op assassins and commanded by a select group of individuals who have the authority to secretly act on behalf of their country’s interests when politics get in the way of them openly retaliating against those who don’t conform to conventional warfare. Bill Compton was one of those select individuals near the top of the food chain within that organization and fortunately for us his fealty had a price that we were willing to meet. He fed us information keeping us one step ahead of the LTA and it was his plan to kill their best operative and frame him for the murders of the operatives we later killed creating a complete clusterfuck at the heart of their organization. When the Director of the LTA would eventually be held accountable and fired for the systematic execution of their operatives, Bill Compton would step into her place and we would be untouchable.”
He paused once more, but I wanted to keep him talking. During his diatribe I’d spotted my only shot at getting out of there alive, but I needed to get a little closer to it and him or else I was done for.
“What does that have to do with me?”
My stomach lurched when his eyes lit up like the madman he was, but I forced my feet forward towards where my weapons of choice sat putting me even closer to the man I desperately wanted to escape from.
“Don’t you see? I was the one lying in wait when Northman showed up to kill de Castro. Thanks to Compton’s tipoff, I planted the rumor of his big 50th birthday celebration and I was there watching when he crept inside to kill Felipe. I waited for it hoping he would take care of the task for me, but for whatever reason he let him live. You see, with Felipe out of the way everything would be mine, but before I could take care of him myself Felipe woke up. He’d had no idea of the plot to assassinate him, but since I was holding my weapon I had to act as though I was defending him so I went up on deck and put a bullet in Northman’s back before he could slip away. If Felipe wasn’t such a coward, demanding to head back to shore, I would have searched out his body and made sure the job was done. And since both you and Northman are the only witnesses to my meeting with Compton neither one of you can be allowed to live. I am here Miss Stackhouse because as long as I have you I will get him. I saw the way he looked at you when Siegbert pushed you into the room. Hell, he even leapt in front of a bullet meant for you so I have no doubt that he will come for you again.”
Little did he know that the Eric that saved my life was dead and gone, replaced by someone that didn’t view me as anything more than an insignificant caregiver he had no allegiance to; we would be waiting for a long time.
I waited until he was looking directly at me and snapped my head towards the front window as if I saw something outside causing him to do the same and while his head was turned I lunged forward grabbing the can of spray adhesive sitting on the hallway table that I’d been using to repair some of the older Christmas decorations and the lighter we used for the fireplace. I lit the flame and pressed the spray nozzle turning them into a makeshift flamethrower and aimed the resulting fire at Madden. He screamed dropping the bat from his hands as his body went up in flames and I ran as fast as my injured leg would allow out the front door.
I automatically ran towards the tree line thinking only of the safety the bunker Eric had built would afford me and when I heard Madden’s voice clearly yelling, “YOU BITCH!,” and the sound of a gunshot in the distance behind me I knew I needed to move a lot faster.