Every Picture Tells A Story Super Challenge

Prompt: #2

Fandom: Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Mysteries

Title: Heart's Desire

Characters: Eric

Pen Name: tradermare

Beta: BonTempsCutie

Disclaimer: These characters are the creation of Charlaine Harris. No copyright infringement intended.

Summary: When Sookie uses the gift from her grandmother, Eric is forced into the only option available to insure everyone's safety. Takes place after Deadlocked and may contain spoilers for all books in the series.

Rating: T

There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it.
-George Bernard Shaw

Eric inhaled deeply, his fangs twitching from the unmistakable scent of rage and revenge hanging thick in the air. Alcide's pack reeked of it, and it was only a matter of time before blood would spill. He looked around at the rest of the pack, noting positions and numbers just in case things turned ugly. He wasn't sure why Alcide had invited him to this meeting, but a good fight might take his mind off plotting Felipe's painful death as well as his other troubles.

Felipe had kept him busy with Area Five business and those ridiculous marriage negotiations for weeks, always watching his movements and requiring permission for everything. He could barely get a minute alone with Pam, much less risk calling attention to Sookie by making demands or even worse, asking permission to see her. He would show no weakness in front of that usurping bastard. Having no freedom chafed him, which was exactly why de Castro kept him on such a short leash.

Eric had expected these restrictions once word got around regarding Victor's disappearance. Felipe naturally and rightfully suspected his involvement, although de Castro didn't seem too distraught over losing his proxy in Louisiana. It might be an elaborate scheme on Felipe de Casto's part to get a clear path to Sookie. Was Felipe smart enough to set Eric up to kill Victor and encourage Appius to make this ridiculous agreement with Oklahoma? He knew Felipe wanted Sookie, or his "Meees Stekhuss", as he called her. That had been clear since the night she had saved them both from Sigebert in the parking lot behind Merlotte's.

Although the king had no evidence of what had taken place in Fangtasia, he could easily punish them all for whatever he liked. He was the king for a reason—the takeover had demonstrated his ruthless nature to everyone in the territory. Sookie's all too human notions that he could just walk away from this marriage situation compounded everything. Nothing changed the fact that Eric owed fealty to his king and obedience to his maker's commands. Victor's death didn't erase any of that. Felipe could kill him for disobedience if he didn't comply. Outright disobedience meant certain death.

He used the time under Felipe's thumb to his advantage, watching and learning more about the games the two monarchs played with each other. Patience—and a lot of strategy might just save them all. That, or a supernatural miracle. Either way, the odds were not in his favor, but since when did that stop him?

Sookie arrived at Alcide's, and thoughts of de Castro left his head. She was the ray of sunshine in his dark gray existence. Eric reached out to her, feeling the thrill he always felt when she was near. Last time they were together, they hadn't parted on good terms. When she placed her small, warm hand in his, Eric relaxed a little. He had to explain, make her understand not only what was happening, but also what he planned to do about it. Giving her up was not an option, although they might have to renegotiate their relationship, at least temporarily.

The pack started to get restless. His talk with Sookie would have to wait until the Weres finished their business. His hand tightened around hers when Mustapha appeared with a sword.

Alcide began the ceremonies, flexing his power and muscle as pack leader. He made a show of calling for challenges to his authority once the judgments concluded. The air swelled with another wave of violence. Eric looked around at the rest of the pack, wondering if anyone would take Alcide up on the offer to fight. Wolves were so...emotional. He kept his eye on Alcide's enforcer, the Were-bitch responsible for his latest set of problems. If trouble came it would be from her, he thought as he listened to her clear his name with the Shreveport police. He couldn't hide his disgust from Sookie when Alcide let the rogues go without punishment. Vampire justice would have been swift and final for such crimes. No wonder the wolves were always in turmoil; they had no discipline.

At least his day-man Mustapha exhibited some backbone, challenging the Were-bitch to a fight. With the main event about to begin, Sookie looked up at him, her nostrils flaring, the scent of anger and something more pouring from her. Something he had detected on her before, back when they had planned Victor's elimination. Lust. Not carnal lust, but lust for blood and vengeance. She wanted the Were-bitch to pay. He shook his head. Sookie was no different from him after all. Would she ever accept that her place in the supernatural world was not created by her relationship with him, but by her own heritage?

Then Sookie screamed and all hell broke loose. Maybe if he hadn't been preoccupied, he would have seen it coming. Instead of killing Mustapha, the Were-bitch raised her sword and sliced into Sam. Blood sprayed everywhere. The wound looked mortal.

The Weres growled and snapped at the smell of blood. Eric's hands tightened into fists as he watched his wife run to the shifter's side, so eager to help, and so unlike how she treated him of late. His mind flooded with disbelief as she pulled out the cluviel dor. She wouldn't—would she? Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, yet he was powerless to stop any of it. She was going to use her fairy love charm to save the shifter. He called her name, once, twice, but he knew it was useless. She would never forgive him if he stopped her from saving the shifter. She pressed the cluviel dor to Sam's chest, and her desperate pleading filled the air.

The fairy bauble glowed with light and he could have sworn he heard Niall laughing as the mortal wound reversed. Never trust a fairy, isn't that what he always said? He didn't think it applied to Sookie. He could always trust her. Couldn't he? There would be no getting out of his maker's contract now. Sookie had used the love token on someone else. Not for him. Never for him. He felt like his chest might explode.

He'd have to marry Freyda now. He couldn't protect Sookie from anyone if he met final death for disobedience. Didn't she know that? Anger rose in him. He couldn't stay there another second. He doubted she'd miss him anyway.

He should have seen the writing on the wall months ago when she severed their blood bond without telling him her intentions. She didn't want to be bound to him, didn't want to share her feelings with him. What she didn't realize was that the bond did a hell of a lot more than that. It protected her in a way that nothing else could in his world. Eric shook his head and headed away from the Long Tooth pack. His remaining connection to her would be severed next, when he would be forced into divorce by commitments he didn't make and didn't want. Did Sookie even want him? She said she loved him but—. He moved away silently and no one noticed when he left, not even his wife.

He roared into the cold night sky as he flew back alone to Shreveport, trying to get the anger out of his system. It would be his only indulgence in self-pity. How could she do it? Did she love the shifter? The lights of the city reminded him to calm down. He'd need his wits about him from here on out. It was easier if he didn't think of Sookie. Even after everything that they had been through together, she was still so naive regarding her vulnerability. If only he could stop loving her, caring about her. Her rescue of the shifter didn't change how he felt about her though. He would never leave her unprotected.

Looks like it would be Plan B then. He would go along with whatever Felipe and Freyda wanted to buy some time and protection for Sookie. Pam needed protection too, along with everyone else he cared about. Felipe would kill them all if Eric didn't comply. He felt relieved actually, at least in a very small way. There would be no more tests of his character or required proof of his love from Sookie. He was much more equipped to handle the games that were about to start with Felipe and Freyda. It was easier focusing on strategy, instead of the emotions that roiled up inside him.

The neon lights of Fangtasia became his landing zone, a welcoming beacon as he approached. He flew a slow circle around the bar before dropping into the parking lot, still half full with patrons. He looked around at the business he had created from nothing. Area Five thrived under his leadership. He liked it here and had dreams of staying with Sookie by his side. He had a hard working crew and a profitable business. Small comfort came from knowing Pam would take his place. She loved Fangtasia as much as he did, and she would make an excellent Sheriff. That would be one of his conditions, among others. He pushed open the front door and took a good look around.

Pam sat in his booth, a pile of bar receipts on the table in front of her. Her eyes locked on him the minute he pushed open the door. Eric knew that expression. He had seen it many times over the last few weeks—part questioning, part hopeful, and totally pissed off at him. He felt her eyes boring into him as he walked around the bar, checking in with his vampires. It might be the last time he would see some of them. He looked back at Pam and gave her "the cut-it-out" look. She was stressing him out. Her face softened for about thirty seconds, before she wore that disapproving smirk again. He had trained her well. She was one of the most tenacious vampires he knew, and she had what it took to be Sheriff. She'd keep Area Five in good standing until he could return.

"Good evening, Pam. Everything all right?" He tried to be nonchalant, mostly to annoy her. He walked past her toward his office, not waiting for an answer. She jumped out of the booth after him.

"Everything is fine here Eric. What happened with Sookie?"

"Call de Castro's people. Tell them I am ready to finalize the arrangements."

"What about Soo—"

Eric put up his hand. "Leave it be, Pam. And you are not to speak with Sookie until after I leave Louisiana. I will compel you if necessary."

"What? What if she calls here?"

"She won't."

They were both too proud and talking would not change anything. Sookie would just have to blame him. Let her think that he didn't love her enough. He knew what Compton had been whispering in her ear. That he was just looking for the best deal from Freyda. Money. Property. Prestige. He should have sent Compton to his final death ages ago.

He hand stilled on the door to his office. The room would be full of Sookie. Eric's hand fell away from the doorknob. No, he couldn't go in there. Pam was right behind him. He hadn't seen her this emotional since Miriam died. He had enough of her silent recriminations. He turned and gave her his best glare.

Pam's eyes opened wide and she took a step back. "I'll go call de Castro."

"Text me the time and place of the meeting, then lock up when you are done."

He walked past the office door and out to the parking lot through the rear entrance. There were things he needed to do before he left Louisiana for good.

Eric sat in his office watching his guests, while his guests watched him. In typical vampire form, Felipe and Freyda sat motionless, although he could see subtle signs of their barely contained excitement over finally completing this deal. It was in direct contrast to his lack of enthusiasm for the proceedings. He hid his distaste with a reserved but friendly smile for his wife-to-be and his soon-to-be former King. Eric listened closely as Felipe read the contracts he brought with him, line by line. Who knew what that bastard might try to slip in there?

Felipe paused for a moment and then continued. "Shall we discuss the divorce, Eric. According to the terms of the agreement—"

"I will tell you the terms, if you want me to sign this document. I will honor my maker's contract, but Sookie is mine as my human property. As such, any requests for her services must come through me. I agree to discontinue carnal relations with her and to comport myself as a consort should, but I will not publicly divorce her. That is the only way I will sign these papers."

de Castro sat up in his chair, his voice cold as ice. "We all know she is more than human, and who are you, Eric Northman, to dictate these proceedings? You have no right—"

Freyda reached out and touched Felipe's arm. "I agree to Eric's conditions."

"Eric's conditions? I think not—" Freyda squeezed his arm now, forcing Felipe to face her. Several minutes later, she nodded her head, and Felipe returned to reading the document. She wanted this agreement.

Eric had done his best to make provisions for Sookie's protection. They could not expect him to walk away without that, and he had to make certain that it was more than protection in name only. He also required a condition stipulating that should any harm come to Sookie once he left Louisiana, the contract would be null and void, and he would have the right to sanction both Freyda and Felipe for their breach of contract. Provided he lived to see that day himself.

In return, he agreed to marry Freyda and become her consort. Her glee at discussing the marriage arrangements made him want to run out of the room screaming. If he had married Sookie with this much pomp and circumstance, would she have so callously thrown him away? He reminded himself it didn't matter anymore. He would never publicly acknowledge the dissolution of his marriage to Sookie. Non-negotiable. A private dissolution not requiring her presence was the most he would agree to. His could not dissolve what was in his heart; that non-beating organ knew his one true wife.

He negotiated protection or at least freedom from persecution from Felipe for his vampires in Area Five. They granted his request that Pam be made Sheriff upon his resignation, which would occur once he signed the papers. Pam would be his watchdog, making certain that Felipe and Freyda kept their bargain where Sookie was concerned. She could take care of herself when it came to fighting.

When Felipe read the last lines of the contract, he reached inside his coat for a pen and placed it on top of the legal papers.

"We are all in agreement with the terms, then?"

Freyda and Felipe exchanged a glance. Eric tried to figure out what that was all about. The lack of vampire legal counsel disturbed him. Whatever happened after he signed these papers, it would be their word against his word. Were they already plotting to harm Sookie, or use her in some way? Maybe imprison her for her own "protection and safety"? If he were in their shoes, he would. It was the smart thing to do. To keep a step ahead of them, he would feign his acquiescence until he could gather his supporters. Pretending to be a faithful consort would be worth the price of her protection, even if it meant Sookie would hate him for it.

Eric brushed Felipe's pen from the stack of papers as if it was a piece of lint on the page and pulled his own from his pocket. He made a show of looking through the papers one more time, hoping to annoy Felipe. After signing all three copies, he smiled, showed a bit of tantalizing fang to Freyda and held out the pen and papers to her.

Freyda took the pen from Eric, her fingers lingering on his. He controlled the urge to flinch. She was wasting no time. His only reaction was to continue to smile while Felipe de Castro watched every move. Eric needed to convince both of them that he had finally agreed to this for his own selfish reasons. Once Freyda signed the papers and passed them to Felipe for the last signature, Eric took her hand.

"I should like to complete the wedding ceremony as soon as possible. I'm eager to wash the dust of Shreveport from me," he said.

Freyda smiled. "I'll have my staff begin arrangements immediately. You will not regret this, Eric."

He bowed his head in deference to her, hating every minute of this charade.

Felipe picked up his pen and signed the three copies of the agreement. When he finished, he put his pen back in his pocket and handed Eric and Freyda their signed copies. It was official.

"You have done the right thing, Northman." Felipe de Castro looked around and frowned. "Will you not offer your benefactors some refreshment? We must celebrate your coming to your senses."

He lifted Freyda's hand and placed a kiss on it. "Forgive me, my queen." The words sounded foreign on his lips, having not said them since Sophie Anne had been his queen. Eric picked up the phone and dialed the bar, not in the mood for celebrating. He wanted them out of his bar, but he reminded himself of the new role he now played, that of a gracious consort.

"Pam, bring us a bottle of Royalty Blended and glasses."

Felipe leaned back in his chair, smiling smugly at Eric. Then he took Freyda's hand and touched his lips lightly to it in grand style. "I look forward to your wedding. It will be the event of the season, I'm certain. Have you decided on who would officiate?"

"I thought it was traditional for Quinn to perform the ceremony or at least make the arrangements for it. Do you have any objections, Eric?"

"No, my queen. No objections. I only want what you want." He gave her a sparkling smile and hoped it hid his feelings about the tiger.

"Excellent. Quinn it is. How long will it take to resolve your affairs here in Shreveport, Northman?"

"I will need two nights."

Freyda brightened and spoke quickly. "Splendid. Everything will be made ready for your arrival in two night's time."

"I look forward to learning more about my new state." Eric flashed another fake smile while he dreamed of twisting Felipe de Castro's head from his body.

At that moment, Pam knocked on the office door and entered carrying a tray holding three glasses along with a bottle of the most expensive blood available.

She stopped in front of Eric. "Shall I pour?"

He tried to give Pam what he thought might be a reassuring smile, but it didn't seem to work. "You may leave, Pam. I'll take care of our guests." He uncapped the bottle and started to pour the blood into the glasses.

Felipe spoke up then. "Wait. I see no reason to delay this announcement. Pamela, you are the new Sheriff of Area Five. There will be a formal recognition ceremony in the coming weeks, but the appointment is effective immediately. I am certain you will keep Area Five as profitable as your maker." He watched for her reaction. She was completely still and silent. Felipe went on. "Your first directive is to command William Compton to provide protection to Meees Stekhuss. Should Meees Stekhuss come to any harm, you will both answer to me directly. Is that understood?"

"Yes, my king," Pam said.

Eric stared back at his soon-to-be-former king. The tips of Felipe's fangs showed just under his arrogant smile. Not only was he putting on quite a show for Freyda, he had just let Pam know how she would die. Score one for Felipe.

Pam did a little curtsy, a move that looked more like the equivalent of "fuck you" rather than a show of respect. He would miss her. His life would be much too serious without Pam and Sookie to keep him amused. He stifled the urge to rip out the King of Nevada's throat.

Eric resisted looking at Pam, not wanting to give anything away in front of his guests. He held out a glass to Felipe, who refused it with a flick of his hand.

"Come, Freyda. Let's share a limousine to the airport and you can tell me of your wedding plans. I am eager to return home, as I am sure are you." He turned to Eric. "No need to follow us out, Northman, I'm sure you have much to do before you leave for Oklahoma."

Eric rose from his desk and escorted them out of the club anyway, and when Freyda presented herself for a kiss, he made sure Felipe watched. He gave Freyda a kiss she would be sure to remember. By the time Felipe grunted to get their attention, Eric had his wife-to-be swaying on her feet, much to Felipe's dismay. With another grunt of disapproval, the King of Nevada hurried the Queen of Oklahoma into the limousine.

When Eric returned to the office, Pam just about jumped on him.

"What have you done, Eric? You aren't going to marry that bitch, are you?"

He put his arm around her shoulder and guided her into a chair. Then he poured two glasses of Royalty Blended. That prick de Castro never had any intention of staying for a drink. He just wanted to yank his chain. Eric shook his head.

Sighing, he swirled the blood in his glass. "Yes, Pam, I'm going to marry her. I have no choice." He turned his head to look at her and smirked. "But I do have a plan, and you need to do exactly as I say. I'm not in the best situation right now, but I've been in worse. I need to buy some time."

Pam started to smile and then stopped. "Do we get to kill anyone with this plan, like creepy Felipe or pushy Freyda?"

Eric flashed Pam his trademark smile, his fangs out and tingling at the thought of killing. "I think it's safe to say heads are going to roll, Pam. Bowling, anyone?"

Then they finished that bottle of Royalty Blending, going over his plan. It wasn't perfect. He hoped the flaws weren't fatal. It was close to dawn before they returned to Eric's house.

Two Nights Later

It wasn't the best night to fly, with the moon so huge and bright he could easily be spotted, but he flew up from Shreveport anyway. He was adept enough to keep out of sight. He loved to fly, savoring the clean, cool night air and the freedom beneath the stars. Knowing it would be his last visit to Bon Temps, he felt a bit like a condemned man having his last taste of freedom. It was only right he say goodbye before he donned the shackles of Oklahoma.

Eric knew he really couldn't trust Felipe or Freyda when it came to Sookie. How long would it be before DeCastro decided he needed a telepath at court? Even Freyda might turn on him and force Sookie to her court. They'd use her, torture her, and make him watch, all while he was powerless to do anything about it. That's why it was imperative he put his own plans into place. Eric just needed a little more time to secure his position before they turned on him, and turn on him they would. It was the way of the vampire. He wasn't deluding himself about that. Right now he just needed to fulfill his end of the bargain, and deter them from breaking theirs until he was ready.

Eric stopped at the shifter's place first. It was a typical night, one he had seen many times while waiting for Sookie to finish work. Her car was parked out back as usual, and the restaurant was full of patrons. It would be a busy night for the cooks, servers, and bartenders, too busy for anyone to notice a lone vampire hovering in the trees. He watched for her through the large, front windows. Remembering it would be his last glimpse of her, his mental control faltered, and he thought about life without her. The loneliness. Long nights with nothing to look forward to. Maybe they could run away together, hide from Freyda and Felipe, find sanctuary somewhere. Would she go with him? Leave Bon Temps forever? He shook his head and brought his emotions under control. Too late for running, and he wouldn't ask that of her. He knew what the answer would be.

He saw the swing of her blonde ponytail first, before she flashed that brilliant smile at her customers, writing their order on her little pad. His wife. His only wife, pledged with their sacred ceremonial knife. He would never utter any words that said otherwise. Freyda would probably make him pay for that someday. But he would never love another. Even though he couldn't tell her that, he knew the truth of it in his heart, and it would become his own private refuge as he played consort to the Queen of Oklahoma.

Eric stayed longer than he should have, and yet not long enough. He fought the urge to stay until closing, tempted to talk to her one last time. That conversation would only bring more grief to an already difficult situation. He dared not risk a confrontation with Sookie. There were spies watching him. Most of all, he didn't want to leave things ugly with Sookie. They had enough of that already.

Even though his heart beat no longer, his chest tightened as he watched her through the window. Would she miss him when he was gone, or move right along to the shifter? She barely acknowledged their marriage without a qualifying statement. No, leaving like this was best. One last, long look to memorize the sweep of her silky hair, the curve of her generous breasts, her sweet little hands that had touched his body with love and lust. He closed his eyes and remembered how his big hands fit around her smooth round hips and ass as she stretched out naked on top of him. The pain in his chest sharpened. He looked longingly at the long line of her neck. He wouldn't let himself think about what it felt like to press his fangs into her skin, to drink deeply from her while he was inside her. No, he'd save that memory for a cold night in Oklahoma.

He forced himself away from Merlottes and back into the sky.

Eric came upon Sookie's house on Hummingbird Lane the way he always did, with a slow turn around Compton's property and then through the woods behind Sookie's house. The moon was so bright, it almost seemed like...daylight. He circled around the forest to glen and back, enjoying the brightness of the sky in the quiet night. He would miss this when he left Louisiana. Such moments of solitude would be few and far between as part of the queen's court.

He found his tree, the one he had always used when he wanted to watch what was going on at Sookie's house. From this vantage point, he could see the path from Compton's property and keep watch over the house and driveway. He smiled when he noticed that the gravel looked as good as the day he had it installed. He had made her happy then.

Pam would be calling Amelia soon after he left for Oklahoma to have the property warded again, and to encourage Sookie to rescind any invitations. Between Pam, Bubba and Compton, he hoped that would be enough protection, at least for a while. Eric looked around for the last time. He had sat on this very branch so many times over the years. He dug into his pocket, his lips curling into a little smile.

A while later, he let himself into the house. Her scent was everywhere, rich and fragrant, drawing him in, scrambling his thoughts, eating at his resolve to finish this. Too many memories. It would be dangerous to stay here long. He paused in the living room, the fireplace reminding him of the curse that brought them together. Eric could still smell his blood on the rug and feel Sookie's arms around him as she tended him. How they had talked back then. He retreated down the hall.

It was worse in the bedroom. Her scent was strongest there, and it mixed with traces of his scent in the bed, on the blanket, between the sheets, and on the pillow where she rested her head at night. He inhaled deeply. He never wanted to forget their scent. He sat down on the bed facing the bathroom. He looked inside quickly, but couldn't make himself go in there. The memories in that room might just kill him.

He took one more look around the bedroom, memorizing its every detail, filling his nose again with their scent. He sat there a while before he removed the letter from his pocket. He fluffed her pillow and placed the envelope there, where she would be sure to see it when she got home from work.

He stopped himself from imagining her reading it.

It was done.

One last trip through the kitchen and he was gone.

Thanks for reading! *hugs* tm