Summary: PROMO piece for Seph’s Writing Challenge. Sookie is surprised to find her own grave in the Bon Temps cemetery. Will her new maker be able to make her feel better? The action picks up at the end of Season 6. (Spoilers—seasons 1-6 of TB)
A/N: Most of the action of this story occurs on the night of July 1/early morning of July 2, which (in this story) is five days/nights after the “six month” jump at the end of True Blood, Season 6. July 1/July 2 will be referred to as the “present” in the story. The whole story is told from Eric’s POV, and his flashbacks will appear in italics.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, lines of dialogue, titles, etc., are the property of their respective owners. Only the original plot is the creation of the author; however, even that is derived from characters belonging to others. No profit has been made from this work. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of the source material. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in this story are based on The Southern Vampire Mystery series and True Blood. Thus, Charlaine Harris and HBO are responsible for the people and places that I play with in my story.
Beta: Kleannhouse and her eagle eyes! Once again, she came through for me and speedily completed this beta-work so that I could give Seph something more polished. Thanks, Kleannhouse!
Nominations: I’m proud to say that this story was nominated for two You Want Blood Awards! Thank you!
Inspiration: This story was written to promote Seph’s Writing Challenge, based on one of the wonderful banners she created. To find out about the contest, visit here: sephwritchallenge.wordpress.com. I am so proud that Seph let me write this promo piece! Her banner inspired me to write my own version of Season 7’s beginning—before the “real” version comes along to screw things up! I hope you enjoy it.
Here’s the banner that inspired me!
Present Time: July 1, 11:00 p.m.
“Why—do you think—did they put this here?” Sookie asked me, her voice quivering.
“Humans are odd sometimes,” I said, even as I used all of my senses to check the area, making sure that no threats were nearby.
“But they know I’m alive—or undead,” she rasped out.
“As I said, humans are strange.”
“But even when I was gone for a whole year, they didn’t do this,” she said.
I let Sookie take some time as she looked at the marker that bore her name and the dates of her human life. We’d come to the cemetery so that she could visit her grandmother’s grave. She’d been surprised to find that her own was next to it.
I wasn’t—not really. I smelled the scents of the shifter and Sookie’s friend, Arlene. They were both small-minded and downright prejudiced when it came to vampires. I also smelled Sookie’s somewhat dimwitted brother—likely roped into following along with the others—despite the fact that he, too, was flirting with becoming a vampire, thanks to his obviously dangerous liaison with Violet.
But I didn’t care about any of them. I cared only for the feelings of my newest child.
I, too, remembered what it was like to be faced with the notion that my “human” life would continue along without me. It had been a humbling notion.
Once again, I checked the area with my senses. Finding no danger, I took a seat on an especially ornate grave marker and let my mind wander a little as Sookie continued to come to terms with the fact that her life—at least as she knew it—was over.
I had known that the transition would be difficult for her—even as I’d been “making” her. But I’d not been able to stop myself from pouring my blood into her body.
After all, I loved her.
Six months and five days before, I had been in Sweden. I, too, had been coming to terms with a new stage of life. My maker? Gone. My sister? Gone. The target of a thousand-year-old promise of revenge? Gone. Sookie? Well—she had chosen to not hurt me by lumping me together with a vampire who had lied to her, manipulated her, arranged for her to be beaten, and almost drained her. For all I’d known—as I’d sunbathed on that snowy mountaintop while enjoying a good book—Sookie was allowing Bill to do all of those things again.
But—then again—had I been much better? Had I lied to Sookie? Yes—both by omission and directly. Had I manipulated her? Yes—but only to get her to take my blood, not with my blood after it was in her. I’d not had her beaten, but I’d sent her into the lions’ den where Gabe had hurt her.
Had I almost drained her? No—but Russell and I had taken a lot of her blood without her permission.
So, perhaps, I had deserved my sequestering from Sookie’s life.
Six months and five days before, Sookie’s emotions—which had been with me from the time of our bonding in the cubby—had certainly told me that something had been happening to her as I’d enjoyed the sun.
Call me a cold bastard, but—at the time—I’d decided that Sookie’s business was no longer mine. And—after what had happened to Nora because of me—I just hadn’t had it in me to conjure up the ability to care for anyone or anything.
Not my children.
Looking back, I realized that I’d been in what psychologists might call a “downward spiral” following Godric’s death. Of course, my maker’s distance from me for many years before that hadn’t helped either.
I suppose that—in loving Godric—I’d broken the cardinal rule my maker had tried to ingrain into me: Do not get swept away by emotions. Vampires were to master their emotions, he’d said. I could have devotion for him and a “kind” of love based on fealty. But I was not to let any “mere” feeling rule me.
To varying levels of success, I have always tried to obey my maker—to be aloof, to “feel” the easier emotions rather than the difficult ones.
The only time I’d allowed my emotions free-reign had been when I’d not known to try to stop them—those memory-less days spent with Sookie during the witch’s curse. I didn’t know if I was better or worse off for those days.
But I did know that—if I could do it all again—I would still barge into Marnie’s coven meeting so that I would be cursed. I’d needed a vacation from the pain I’d still felt over Godric’s suicide, the confusion over his “haunting” of me, and the year Sookie had been missing from my life.
It had been a long fucking year!
Plus, I would have never “given myself” to Sookie as I did if my memories hadn’t been taken from me.
And that experience had been freeing; the after-effects had been the opposite.
But I regretted nothing!
I still loved Sookie. I always would—especially now that she was my child and my beloved.
In turn, Sookie had loved—and still loved—the “me” without my memories. But—in her defense—she’d been scared shitless to love the “real” me, frightened by the thought that I might reject her. Because of our bond, I’d always been able to feel that fear. I had hoped that it might go away—in time.
She might have tried to convince herself that leaving both Bill and me was altruistic on her part. But I knew better—even then. It had been an act of self-preservation on her part. And I had understood it, despite my anger over it.
I would have thrown my lot in with Sookie’s and would have stayed by her side many months before—had she asked. But she’d been too frightened to ask. And I’d been too hurt to demand.
We’d both been fools.
“In another life,” I’d said more than half a year before when Nora had pointed out that I loved Sookie.
Well—one thing was for certain as I looked at my newest child—that other life was now before us.
Six Months & Five Days Earlier
My sunbathing came to an abrupt and emphatic end when my skin began to burn. Fucking Warlow!
How many years had that “faepire” managed to live? Only to be killed while I was enjoying the fucking sun properly for the first time in a millennium!
What an asshole!
Speaking of holes—I thought about digging a hole into the snow to protect myself.
However, I didn’t. I was content to just let myself go—like Godric had. I was tired—too tired to fight. And I could think of nothing to fight for.
But Pam—my beautiful, headstrong, obstinate, pig-headed, and fucking amazing child—wouldn’t let me go.
I suddenly felt her pain from nearby, and—just as suddenly—I had a reason to fight. I used all my remaining strength to go to her. She was trying to bury herself in the snow, but was succumbing to her pain. I was numb to my own pain by then. So I helped her dig the hole and then made the choice to join her in it.
“Where were you—for the last six months?” Sookie asked, looking up from the grave-marker she’d been studying. “Tara didn’t know where Pam was either.”
I looked at where my third child was kneeling. She’d moved over to her grandmother’s grave, which was right next to the empty one that carried Sookie’s name on a meaningless stone.
I couldn’t help but to marvel at my child. Sookie was a beautiful vampire—her skin now ivory where it had once been honey-tan. Her hair was luminous in the starlight, and her eyes were rich with the many colors of the earth itself.
I would never let Pam or Willa know this, but I’d recognized instinctively that Sookie would be the child who was most of my heart—the one who might help me to feel whole at long last. Willa had been part of a tactic—though I now hoped that I’d eventually prove to be a good maker to her. And I also hoped that she would come to feel true affection for me beyond the maker-child bond. Pam, like Sookie, had been unexpectedly made. Pam had—true to character—forced the issue when she’d slit her wrists and turned to me, her eyes pleading that I make her like me.
Sookie had not pleaded that I make her into a vampire. But I’d not been able to resist making her more mine than she’d already been.
“Sweden mostly,” I responded in answer to her question, even as I went to sit on the ground where she was now kneeling. It didn’t escape either of our notices that I’d plopped myself into a reclining position right over where her body would have been—if she were really dead, that is.
“When Warlow died,” I continued, “the efficacy of his blood to keep vampires safe from the sun also died.”
She sneered at the mention of Warlow’s name, but didn’t say anything else about him. I figured that she’d eventually tell me why she felt such loathing for him and for herself when his name was mentioned, but I was willing to wait until she was ready.
“Were you in danger?” she asked me.
I smirked. “You could say that. It was high noon there, and I was sunbathing. At the top of a mountain. In the nude.”
She flinched as feelings of worry for me rose within her. Almost as if she needed to convince herself of my safety, she touched my arm and then breathed a sigh of relief unrelated to respiration.
Finally after several moments, her emotions settled.
“I wouldn’t have taken you for a sunbather,” she said with a wry smile.
Glad to see her wit and fiery nature slowly reemerging, I chuckled. “Why? You enjoyed the activity. I smelled the sun on your skin—as well as Banana Boat Deep Tanning Oil—almost every time I saw you.”
She shook her head. “How do you know which suntan oil I used?”
“I found a bottle in your home—after I’d bought it—when I was clearing away the debris left behind by the Maenad.”
I felt a surge of regret from her.
“I never properly thanked you for what you did: buying my house, restoring it, giving it back to me.”
I knew she wasn’t yet ready to thank me for turning her into a vampire, but I also knew that would come too. Sookie was already reconciling herself to the notion, even celebrating certain aspects of vampirism, such as her enhanced eyesight and her more easily-maneuverable mental shields.
After she’d fed for the first time and her hunger had be sated, she’d quickly realized that she could read vampires—just like she could read everyone else. However, she’d just as quickly recognized that she now had complete control over her telepathy—control she’d never had before. She could turn thoughts on and off like light switches. She could filter through the thoughts of many at the same time without experiencing debilitating headaches. Alternatively, she could concentrate on just one being’s thoughts and learn a lot more than she’d been capable of before.
Her enhanced shielding ability had almost made up for the fact that she had lost her beloved sun. Sookie and I had experimented during her first morning as a vampire—just to make sure. I had drunk her blood and then had walked for a moment into the sun, even after Sookie had died for the day. Her blood hadn’t protected me at all. And I’d been forced to retreat inside. She had been saddened when she’d woken up that night, but she’d been even more concerned that I’d been harmed.
I’d already healed, but would be forever sorry that she would never get to enjoy the sun again.
But I would teach her how to love the moon and stars all the same.
“Why did you buy it—the house?” she asked, following up on her previous comments.
“I didn’t want to think of another having it, and—as I told you last year—I never gave up hope that you would come back.”
She shook her head. “I don’t understand that. Why would you care if I came back? We weren’t close then.”
I stretched out a little more and placed my hands behind my head as a pillow of sorts. “Really? Were we not?” I smirked. “As I remember it—I was well on my way to winning you before your year-long sabbatical into fairyland.”
She chuckled. “Really? That’s not quite how I remember it.”
I shrugged. “I think that you will see the truth if you analyze the relevant data.”
“Okay,” she said somewhat jokingly, “I’ll bite. Tell me the relevant data.”
I sat up so that I could better look into her eyes. “You were attracted to me from the first moment you saw me, Sookie Stackhouse. Bill may have tainted your first impressions of me, but you had been questioning him and, therefore, your perceptions of me for a while. You were pissed at me for what I’d done to Lafayette. However, you had also come to understand more about my world—and why I had to do that. You had intuited that I could be fair when you negotiated how I would punish the humans whom your telepathy exposed as wrongdoers. You were bitter about how I’d manipulated you into becoming my little silver bullet sucker, but you couldn’t ignore the fact that I’d saved your life before doing that. You had also begun to question why Bill was so adamant that I could ‘manipulate’ you with my blood when he’d not even bothered to tell you about all of the effects that his own blood could have. In fact, you were beginning to realize that you’d been using a double standard to judge Bill’s actions against mine.”
“How do you know that?” she asked.
“You turned down Bill’s proposal at first. And it was clear that you trusted me—even though you knew I despised Bill. You trusted me to be on your side—to help you in your quest to find Bill after his ‘vampnapping.’ And I did help you—though, unfortunately, my help ultimately did you more harm than good when you fell into Russell’s hands in Jackson.”
“But in Russell’s mansion you told me that you didn’t care about me,” she reminded. Through our bond, I could feel her hurt as she recalled my words.
“I didn’t care about anything at that point—except how to stay alive long enough to avenge my family,” I said unapologetically. “But you still trusted me enough to come to Fangtasia to ask me why you shouldn’t trust Bill. And don’t forget about our kiss,” I said with a leer. “I know I haven’t.”
I felt and smelled her arousal before her mood shifted to irritation.
“Yeah and you betrayed my trust by shackling me in your basement and then fang-raping me with Russell,” she reminded.
I shrugged. “You would have survived the blood loss—even if Billy boy hadn’t fed you more of his blood. You know—you should have spent your time analyzing the effects that his multiple infusions of blood had on your feelings, rather than questioning how I could influence you with just a couple of drops of my blood.”
She sighed and looked down. “I know that—now. I think I knew it then too. I just didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to question him because I was afraid that if he didn’t love me and I didn’t love him, then I’d have nothing left.”
I gently lifted her chin with my hand. Her skin was now cooler, but still warmer than mine—probably because of her Fae heritage.
“Sometimes I forget that you are still so young,” I said comfortingly, “and you were even more naïve about the supernatural world at that time. Compton took advantage of every single one of your fears and insecurities—especially as they related to your own supernatural gift.”
She sighed. “And, by contrast, you were so anxious to employ me to use it.”
“Yes. I thought that you should use it more for your own profit,” I said.
“At the time, it didn’t seem right to do that,” she returned. “But I didn’t mind using it to help you find Godric.”
We shared a moment of silence as we both recalled that horrible morning on the Dallas rooftop.
“You’re right. Back then, my feelings had been softening toward you,” Sookie admitted. “But I don’t know what would have happened if I’d not gone to Faerie.” She shook her head. “I still can’t believe I was so willing to check out like that. I just went along with Claudine and the other fairies without asking a single question about where they were taking me.”
“You wanted to escape your pain from Bill’s betrayal.” I paused for a moment. “In a lot of ways, what you did is similar to what I was doing when I left the country after the Vamp-Camp debacle.”
Sookie sighed. I knew it would be a while before she broke such human habits. Hell—knowing her stubbornness—she might never break them.
“So what happened when Warlow’s blood wore off?” she asked, continuing our earlier topic. I smiled slightly. She was already beginning to think like a vampire. We often had several topics of conversation going at once and would transition from one to another without the need for segue.
“I began to burn,” I said matter-of-factly. “Pam had come to confront me about leaving, and she was also caught out in the open. We dug a hole and survived. However, we were in bad shape. It took several nights before either of us was strong enough to dig out of that hole, and—even when we did—it wasn’t as if there were a lot of ready donors in the isolated spot I’d chosen for my sunbathing.”
I felt Sookie’s concern for me, but went on. “However, eventually we found a group of hikers.”
“You killed them?” she asked.
“Yes—Pam and I were too injured to care about their lives,” I said unapologetically. “But after we were stable, we recommenced feeding without killing.”
“And you won’t let me kill—right?” she asked.
“Oh—if it is ever a question of your dying otherwise—I will let you drain as many humans as it takes; in fact, I’ll order you to do it if necessary!” I said sternly. “But—if there is no need—then there will be no reason for that to happen.”
She sighed. “How long did it take for you to heal—from your burns?” she clarified.
From our maker-child bond, she would have already come to understand that I was still trying to deal with my deeper emotional wounds. Though I held my emotions back from Willa and Pam to a certain extent, I’d found that I couldn’t do the same with Sookie—and I didn’t want to either. Perhaps that was because we’d shared a blood bond before I’d turned her.
Ironically, if there was any blocking at all between us, it came from Sookie. She’d found that she could create shields to keep out my emotions, just as she could keep out my thoughts. However, she tended not to use them.
I picked up my earlier thought. “Pam had been partly protected by her clothing, but it still took her almost a month to regain her full strength. It took me about three months, given the fact that certain ‘appendages’ had burned off and needed time to regrow.”
She shivered a little, and I could feel her sadness in the bond. “And the rest of the time? Why didn’t you two come back home?”
“Louisiana no longer felt like home,” I said softly. “I traveled to my farm in Öland. Pam stayed with me—I imagine to stage her own version of a ‘suicide watch.'”
“You were going to meet the sun?” she asked with a mixture of surprise and sorrow.
“I thought about it,” I responded honestly. “I probably would have done it—had Pam not been there nagging me to stop being a pansy-ass little bitch all the time.” I chuckled a little. “And, eventually, meeting the sun no longer felt like the best option.”
“I’m glad Pam was there then,” she said with utter sincerity as a red tear fell from her eye. It was her first blood tear, and she caught it deftly onto her finger. She examined it for a moment and then offered it to me. We both closed our eyes in pleasure as I took her finger into my mouth.
“Thank you,” I said softly.
She smiled at me.
I kissed her palm. “Eventually, I had healed enough emotionally to thank Pam for being such a pain in my ass. To be frank—the whole situation made me angry at Godric.”
“Why?” she asked.
Again I didn’t hold back in my answer to her. It felt freeing to “share” with her.
“Clearly Godric had been depressed too,” I said, “brought down by the weight of a long life. But—like all things—life comes in phases. I wish he would have allowed me to do for him what Pam did for me—obstinately protect him from himself!”
She smiled a little. “Me too. I liked him very much.”
“I’m just glad that I’d ‘released’ Pam. She’d been able to reject my commands in a way that I’d not been able to do with Godric in Dallas.”
“Will you release me?” Sookie asked.
“If that is your wish,” I said. “But I do not want to,” I added with a sigh of my own. “I want to keep you, Sookie. I’ve always wanted you, and my instincts tell me that I always will, but I won’t hold onto you against your will.”
“Would you end me if I asked? If I decided that I didn’t want to live on as a vampire?”
“Yes,” I said quietly. “If I thought it was truly your desire to die—and not just a stage of your transition into this new life you now face. It would pain me greatly to end you, but I would do it.”
“Why?” she asked.
“You know why,” I returned, brushing her second tear from her cheek and bringing it to my lips.
She nodded in understanding. I knew that she could feel my love for her in a way that words couldn’t convey.
“I don’t want you to release me—not now.” She looked up at me with wide eyes. “I need you.”
“I’m glad you’ve finally recognized that,” I smirked.
She rolled her eyes. “So—what happened after you stopped thinking about ending yourself?” she asked, returning us to our earlier topic.
I chuckled. “Pam calls it my emo-stage.”
Sookie giggled. “I hope Pam eventually decides not to hate me. She’s actually pretty fun to be around—when she’s not trying to shoot me with a rocket launcher. Not that I blame her,” she added. “You were going to let Bill shoot you!”
I smirked. “Yes—with a gun. Full of bullets, which were neither silver nor wood.” His eyebrow arched.
“That was staged?” she asked incredulously.
I chuckled. “Well—it would have hurt, but it might have proven the distraction we needed to get the upper hand on the witch. Plus,” I leered, “I knew of a bullet sucker who was in the vicinity.”
She giggled even as she hit my chest. I was just glad that she was no longer near tears. They were tasty as hell, but I didn’t like them anymore than I’d enjoyed her human ones.
I grinned. “Oh—I’m sure that you and Pam will eventually establish a détente. You have a long time to work on it—after all.”
She nodded. “So? What happened after your emo-stage?”
“Well—for better or for worse—I had loose ends to tie up here.”
“But you weren’t planning to stay,” she commented. “You said as much five nights ago.”
“I wasn’t planning on it,” I answered, looking at her significantly. “I used to love this little corner of the world. For a long time, Sophie-Anne let me maintain almost complete autonomy. No one messed with me, and I kept to myself for the most part. Sophie-Anne’s greed ended that little utopia, however.
“But I had been on ‘vacation’ from my responsibilities for long enough. As I said the other night, I had businesses to try to salvage and sell—as well as Willa to look after.”
“With Tara’s help, she’s done a pretty good job of looking after herself,” Sookie commented, “from what I’ve seen.”
“I’ve been a shitty maker to her—worse that even Compton was to Jessica,” I admitted.
“Maybe,” she said. “But I think that Willa sort of understands. I like her. She’s sweet.”
I scoffed—not at Sookie’s remarks, but at my own shortcomings as Willa’s maker.
“I turned Willa for the worst reason—to strike a blow at her father, to force him to stop his crusade against vampires, to induce him to see a vampire in the same way he saw humans. Sadly, my plan backfired. And he punished Nora for my lack of foresight.”
“You blame yourself for that?”
I nodded. “Much of the blame belongs on my shoulders—yes.”
“You loved her? Nora?”
“Yes. Very much. She was of Godric’s blood. But I also loved her for herself.”
“Were you in love with her?”
“Jealous?” I asked with interest, even as I detected some of that emotion through our bonds—both of them. It was like “feeling” her in an echo chamber. I couldn’t help but to smile at that thought. She’d always been two beings: human Sookie and fairy Sookie. And now those two different facets of her were reflected in our two bonds. Fairy Sookie was most definitely in charge of the maker-child bond, while human Sookie seemed to oversee the bond we’d forged months before.
I loved them both. And—even if it took me a thousand years—I was determined to make sure that Sookie learned to love both facets of herself a little more too. Knowing Sookie—and “feeling” her—I had realized that intense self-doubt, even self-loathing, was the root-cause of many of her self-destructive decisions.
“Yes,” she chuckled responding to my remark. “I am jealous, though I have absolutely no right to be since I’m the one who didn’t give us a chance.” She looked at me with regret. “I was afraid.”
“I never wanted to care about anyone that much again.”
“I know,” I repeated.
“I’m a horrible person. I used you—when you had amnesia. I just wanted help getting over Bill,” she confessed.
“I know, but you’re not horrible, Sookie.”
“I never expected to fall in love with you during those days.”
I smirked. “As I said, you were well on your way to loving me before that.”
She smiled a little. “I was—maybe—on my way to being in lust with you.”
“Semantics, lover. Just semantics.”
She shook her head and looked back at her grandmother’s grave. I could tell that she was getting lost in her memories again, so after I—once again—used my senses to make sure the area was safe, I drifted back into mine.
Five nights earlier (8:30 p.m.)
“Well fuck a zombie!” Pam exclaimed as she kicked one of the zombie-vamp corpses, which were now littering what was left of Fangtasia. The club hadn’t been open for six months. Most of the items left inside were destroyed, and—where once tacky vampire posters hung—there was now anti-vampire graffiti. It was difficult to decide which décor was better.
“You could—you know,” I grinned. “You could fuck as many zombies as you wanted.” Pam had been saying that ridiculous phrase for decades. Since there were actual “zombies” now, it finally had some meaning.
My child rolled her eyes at me, and then we both went back to double checking that the six zombie-vamps we’d killed were, indeed, finally dead. We’d learned quickly that they were pesky little bloodsuckers to eliminate. And—ironically—they didn’t disintegrate immediately upon dying; their bodies held together in their decrepit “zombie-looking” state for several hours—unless they were put into the sunlight where they would, thankfully, turn to ash right away.
As with most types of “chemical warfare,” Hepatitis V had quickly backfired on its creators. Certainly, many vampires died—just as Nora had—when they drank the tainted TrueBlood. It took a while to get all of the infected product off the street; however, it wasn’t long before other factories began to produce untainted synthetic blood. Not long after that, the TrueBlood Corporation went out of business completely. Now a blood product called TypeA was the most popular in the United States. I thought that the name was idiotic, given the fact that TypeA came in all blood flavors, and it seemed ridiculous to ask for a type-A TypeA, but no one had consulted me about the name.
All told, about two hundred vampires died from the Hep-V—in four states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and Kansas. The crisis had “seemed” to be solved once the tainted TrueBlood was gone. Sixty others had been killed in VampCamp because of Burrell’s experimentation. The death tally had been high for vampires, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.
The real “horror” began to surface about two months after the tainted TrueBlood scare had died down. It turned out that Burrell had done much more than just “poison” TrueBlood with Hep-V. He’d also tainted some human products—just as he’d tainted the TrueBlood. Products like those trendy bottled “herbal” teas had been spiked with the Hep-V virus, which would bind itself to human blood cells.
Early experiments had shown that humans were not harmed by Hep-V, though—once they ingested it—they did become carriers of it and could pass it along to vampires. And they could also pass the virus to other humans—through sex and blood transfusions, similar to how other types of Hepatitis could be transmitted.
The creators of the plan to infect more vampires via humans had not foreseen the possibility that the Hep-V would mutate within its human hosts.
A vampire who drank from an infected human didn’t die as Nora had died. No—his or her fate was even worse. An infected vampire literally began to lose his or her ability to reason—becoming more and more addled with each night. After about a week, infected vampires “lost” themselves to madness and became like the creatures who were now dead before me.
Both human and vampire authorities had been slow to act, and neither group had yet to act intelligently.
Human authorities had focused their attention on the wrong population of vampires: the uninfected ones. In a few states, laws had been passed to place the uninfected vampires into internment camps; this was seen as “humane.”
Of course, human authorities should have been focusing on doing away with the zombie-vamp “mobs” that were becoming more and more common. And they also should have sought out vampire aid, instead of imprisoning what could have been their best allies.
A mob of infected vamps would sweep through a human population. And when an infected vampire killed, he or she would always try to turn the human. It was a compulsion of the madness. Luckily, the mindless zombie-vamps were not often successful in their attempts to make new vampires. However, some already-infected “baby” vamps would rise with their makers, and the mob would grow a little each night.
It was a fucking mess!
Vampire authorities like Bill were too busy trying to convince the humans to let them “handle things” to actually handle them! Thankfully, the “hordes” hadn’t overwhelmed the human population yet, so phrases like “isolated outbreaks” and “infected herd spotted in remote area” were more common than “entire city overrun,” but I knew that the world was at a tipping point, and something decisive would need to be done—and soon.
Forgive me for being skeptical that vampires like Bill could adequately deal with the issue. The evidence, after all, was all around me—in the form of dead zombie-vamps.
When I returned to Shreveport earlier that night—it was to find a mob of infected vampires roaming around Fangtasia. The poor creatures looked more like extras from The Walking Dead than anything else. Of course, the “zombies” still had their vampire abilities, though—luckily—it seemed as if their speed had been compromised by the Hep-V mutation. As with all vampires, they could be staked or beheaded. They were also vulnerable to silver and the sun, and—if the newspapers in Europe were to be believed—eventually the mindless zombie-vamps would kill themselves because they would “forget” to seek shelter from the sun once their madness had reached a certain point.
It was a fucking fiasco!
And King Bill’s solution? Well—he’d worked with the shifter, who was now the mayor of Bon Temps, to pair up uninfected humans with vampires: a donor program.
Way to think small-mindedly, asshole!
The “pairing program” idea, in and of itself, wasn’t a bad one—if it had been part of an overall solution.
But Bill had always been short-sighted. And he’d been too busy recouping his own “image” after the “Billith” situation. Moreover—as a king—he should have been trying to deal with the problem more globally, instead of just dealing with it in one small town.
But—then again—the asshole was fixated on one person: Sookie. And I imagine that the “pairing program” had one true goal in Bill’s mind—to give him access to Sookie.
I loved Sookie too—loved her “better” than Bill. But I knew that Sookie wouldn’t be safe until the problem was solved completely. No one would.
“Why in the fuck do you wanna go to Podunk again?” Pam asked, breaking me from my reverie.
“Every being that has my blood—except for you—is in the town of Bon Temps, Pam,” I pointed out.
She sighed. “I just got off of a nine hour flight. And I’m already grimy from these,” she said as she kicked another corpse, which was now slowly turning into sludge.
“You were dead to the world through most of the flight,” I reminded.
She glared at me and looked around. “I’m not in the mood for anymore drama; I’m pissed off that Fangtasia has been utterly decimated.”
“It was always to be a short-term investment,” I said evenly.
She rolled her eyes. “And I think I broke a nail when I had to kill that big zombie-vamp. I mean—really! Zombie-vamps!”
“Yes,” I smirked, “the neighborhood really has gone to shit without us around.”
“And now you want us to go to Podunk!” she pouted.
“I figured that you would want to get reacquainted with your progeny,” I smirked.
“You just want to see if the magical fairy pussy will reopen its pearly gates to you,” she snarked.
I shook my head a little. “We have talked about all of this, Pamela. Sookie . . . .”
Pam interrupted, “Sookie is a cunt! Why can’t you just see that? Why can’t you just let her go?”
“I love her,” I said simply. “She is one of the reasons I decided to live on.”
“You, of course, are the main reason,” I smiled at her sincerely. “Had you not been there, I would not be here. But you have your own life to lead now.”
Pam sighed dramatically. “I can’t even count the number of times that she’s almost gotten you killed. She’s yanked your chain a lot more than she’s yanked your cock. And sometimes she’s so goddamned stubborn and dim that she would refuse to see her face if you handed her a fucking mirror! Not to mention that she worships King Billy as if he’s a fucking saint!”
“What?” she demanded.
“Up until that last one, I thought you were describing yourself,” I intoned.
She scoffed. “Ass! Maybe you do deserve her.”
I shrugged. “Sookie is not that bad,” I said, as I absentmindedly kicked the sludgy corpse of one of the zombie-vamps I’d killed. They’d fought with complete abandon, though they were not at all tactical in how they’d battled. Thus, they had been easy enough to take out—though we’d had only stakes when we arrived at Fangtasia. Of course, Pam and I hadn’t been able to kill them with our fangs. A bite to one of them would infect the biting vampire. Thankfully, a bite from one of them didn’t have the same effect. It seemed that the magic in our blood would expel any toxin from them if we were healing ourselves. However, if we ingested the blood “voluntarily,” that was another story.
Pam rolled her eyes again. “I’ve not fucked little Miss Fairy, so I know of no redeeming qualities firsthand.”
I shook my head fondly. It was difficult for me to get too upset with Pam—considering what she’d done for me the last six months.
“Sookie is flawed,” I allowed, “but who is not?” I looked directly at my child. “I want her. I always have. And I likely always will. And I’m going to see if I can get her back before I leave here.”
Pam sighed again. “She was part of the reason you ended up on that mountain—ready to let the sun kill you.”
“No she wasn’t, Pamela,” I corrected. “And you know it. If anything, she was one of the reasons why I didn’t meet the sun. Nora dying—and my guilt over that—was responsible for my weariness. And, of course, there was Godric,” I added. “In the end, I could do nothing to stop either of their deaths.” I looked at Pam and smiled sadly. “I was not able to do for my maker or my sister what you did for me.”
A small sincere smile tugged at Pam’s lips before being replaced by her usual smirk. “Well—then you should listen to me about Sookie Stackhouse! She’s bad for you; she’ll only endanger you.”
I chuckled. “Yes—it is likely she will. She certainly is a trouble magnet. However, Sookie would have helped me to want to move beyond Nora’s and Godric’s deaths—had she been by my side.”
“But she wasn’t!” Pam pointed out. “You should think about that.”
“It was not her responsibility to keep me whole—just as it wasn’t yours.”
“I couldn’t just let you disappear,” Pam said, her voice trailing off and her eyes flashing the fear she felt at the thought of losing me.
“And I am glad you didn’t,” I said fondly.
Having never enjoyed experiencing her more “unsettling” emotions, Pam shook her head in disgust and changed the subject back to something more comfortable for her—snark. “I still don’t understand the specialness of Sookie Snatch-house.”
I smirked. “She’s challenged me at every turn. And you know I like a challenge.”
Pam sneered. “A challenge is one thing; she’s a fucking albatross!”
“To challenge oneself is to continue living,” I said in a low tone. Pam knew—better than anyone—how difficult it had been for me to find reasons enough to go on during my darkest days.
“When she hurts you again, don’t expect me to pull you back from the brink.”
I bent down and kissed my progeny’s forehead. “You will never have to do that again, Pamela. Not that way.”
She looked up at me. “You promise?”
“I do,” I returned. And I was being honest too. I’d been a mess six months before—so battered by circumstances and time that I had understood why Godric had wanted to die. I’d even envied him a little. But I didn’t die—thanks to Pam and, then, to thoughts of my vampire children and Sookie. As the fog of my grief had begun to clear, I realized that there were still some things worth fighting for in this life. I also realized that I didn’t want to die in a cloud of smoke and fire. I didn’t want to leave the world just as separated from my “true self” as the damned zombie-vamps were.
I was made to go down fighting—if I ever found anyone badass enough to take me down. And fight I would! As I looked at my child, I recognized that I would not succumb to the darkness of loss and apathy again. Moreover, I would not allow myself to die while Pam lived; otherwise, she would have to face the hell of losing a maker. No—even if I had nothing else to fight for—I would make sure that my child never had to experience what I had with Godric.
Willa and I didn’t have an emotional connection, so her reaction to my death would be more-less indifference. However, Pam would feel about my true-death just as I had felt about Godric’s. And I couldn’t—wouldn’t—do that to her.
Pam’s relief at my promise to her was clear.
“So—shall we go?” I asked.
Her expression turned into a pout again. “I suppose so.”
I smirked. “We’d better go armed since we might see the trouble magnet.”
She sighed a longsuffering sigh and then marched over to the bar to open a secret panel and reveal one of our hidden caches of weapons. I selected a sword, which I strapped to my back, as well as a machine gun specially fitted for wooden bullets. I picked up all of the extra clips for the weapon. Pam selected a similar gun as well as a few other handguns. We both picked up little satchels full of stakes.
We looked like warriors, and warriors we were.
I was broken from my memory by the sound of Sookie’s low voice; she seemed to be talking to her grandmother’s grave now. Though I didn’t understand Sookie’s impulse to visit a corpse, I knew it was therapeutic for my child to speak to her grandmother in this way.
I rose and kissed my child on the forehead. “I will be checking the area,” I said.
She nodded. “Thanks.”
I brushed her beautiful hair behind her ears and then went to stand further off to give her more of an illusion privacy.
But I didn’t go far.
Five Nights Earlier, 9:45 p.m.
When Pam and I got to Bon Temps, I was very glad we’d come armed. Bill—in his questionable “wisdom”—had organized a “pairing party” so that vampires could match up with Hep-V negative humans. The vampires would get blood, and—in turn—would protect the humans. The party was like some fucked up version of the dating game!
Knowing Bill, he had used the event as an excuse to seek out Sookie for his own partner. His transparency was just as astounding as his ineptitude.
All hell was about to break loose as Pam and I landed in the parking lot of what used to be Merlotte’s—and now was apparently called Bellefleur’s. A “horde” of about thirty zombie-vamps was approaching the bar from multiple sides.
Pam gave me a look that screamed, “I told you so,” and then swung her gun up into firing position. I smiled at her, even as we started shooting into the mob of zombie-vamps who’d been approaching the “pairing party.”
Pam went one way around the building, and I went the other. I quickly killed the zombie-vamps I found. Ignoring the shouting humans, I moved with practiced ease.
It was not my first time at the rodeo—so to speak. And dealing with targets out in the open was not much of a challenge—especially since I was introducing them to my “little friend”: Mr. Uzi. Oh—the infected vampires were “enthusiastic” as they came at me mindlessly. But I was much faster.
Of course, I’d taught Pam all about weapons over the years, and we’d always made it a point to learn about the newest ones together—a little maker-child bonding time. Thus, Pam was an excellent markswoman. I could hear from the pattern of her shots that she was being even more “economical” and deadly with each bullet than I was.
I smiled a little and sent her my pride through our bond.
Both Pam and I had needed to reload once before we met back up almost where we’d started. All the zombie-vamps were dead. And—surprise, surprise—as far as I could tell, Bill had done nothing to help stop the “crisis,” other than to move his body to stand in front of where Sookie was standing.
He was trying to look very “heroic”—as usual. He was succeeding in looking very constipated—as usual.
I couldn’t help but to wonder why he wasn’t holding a weapon—and why the humans now streaming out of the bar weren’t either. I sighed internally. Humans seemed to “love” and defend their guns when they thought that someone from the government was threatening to “take them away.” But—when it all came down to brass tax—they didn’t seem to use them practically.
As I approached where the inept king stood, I rolled my eyes. Bill was growling a little. Sookie had moved out from behind him, and the Werewolf, Alcide Herveaux, was next to her.
I inhaled to catch Sookie’s scent. She was obviously “with” the Were now, and I felt a flash of jealousy before expelling it. In the end, the Were was not an issue. Sookie was the one who would decide whether she wanted me or not, and—this time—I wouldn’t let her take the easy way out by avoiding making a choice.
And—if she did choose me—I had no room to begrudge her previous attachments. I’d had plenty of sex partners of my own—including the stewardess on the Anubis flight I’d been on earlier that night.
No—I was not jealous of Sookie and the Were. But—if she were ever truly mine—I knew I would no longer partake of sex with others. And I knew that the same would be true for her too. When we were together during the witch’s curse, I’d been certain that no other person could satisfy me as Sookie had, and I was even more certain of that now.
Truly—who else would I enter a shower with and then be transported into a wonderland? I’m sure that she’d never had such an experience with another.
“What are you doing here?” Bill demanded.
“You’re welcome,” Pam intoned, even as Willa and Tara vamped to our location. Willa looked at me with both hurt and devotion, while Tara regarded her maker with bitterness.
“Where the fuck have you two assholes been?” Tara demanded harshly.
“None of your fuckin’ business,” Pam returned in the same tone. It looked like there wasn’t going to be a “happy” reunion for those two, but I had no doubt that they’d be fucking before dawn nonetheless.
“Willa,” I acknowledged, inclining my head a little. Without hesitation, she ran to me and put herself into my arms, hugging me tightly.
“I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you again,” she whispered.
I patted her back. I had a lot to make up for with Willa Burrell. And I was prepared to offer her the guidance I should have offered her at the beginning of the new life I’d given her.
“You are well?” I asked her.
She looked up at me and nodded. “Yeah. Mostly.”
Tara scoffed. “She’s fine, dead-beat daddy—because I took care of her! You two fuckers abandoned us!”
I bent down and kissed Willa’s forehead. “She is right, child. You have many reasons to hate me.”
Generously, Willa said nothing about those reasons. “Are you staying?” she asked.
“For a while,” I responded, glancing toward where Sookie was watching our exchange.
Ever since we’d bonded in the cubby, I could feel her emotions quite clearly. Neither six months nor thousands of miles had changed that.
Sookie had been curious about my answer to Willa too, though she was obviously trying to keep her countenance neutral.
“Well you two can both go back to where you’ve been—or to hell for all I care!” Tara said bitterly before vamping away.
“Kids these days,” Pam intoned, looking down at her nails.
“I should go check on her,” Willa said, looking anxiously in her de facto maker’s direction.
I looked at Pam. “Go with her. And make sure they have the means to protect themselves—should another zombie horde come through.”
Pam sighed but then nodded. “Lead the way, Snow White,” she said to Willa before they both vamped off.
“Why are you here?” both Compton and Herveaux demanded at the same time when I turned back to Sookie.
I smirked. “I had no idea you two would be practicing your harmony while I was gone. Perhaps we can get the shifter involved and form a barbershop quarter. I have been told that I sing a lovely tenor.”
Sookie choked out a laugh. She always did “get” me.
I looked at her. “Are you well?”
She nodded. “Yes. You?” she asked, her eyes indicating that she was thinking about everything that I might still be mourning. Yes—she “got” me.
It was just that she didn’t quite know what to do with me.
I was determined to give her some ideas—if she’d let me.
“Better now,” I responded sincerely, eliciting a feral growl from the Were and a hiss from the vampire king. I rolled my eyes at both. Of course, they’d read my remark as innuendo.
Sookie’s eyes told me that she’d read it the right way—as me communicating that I was slowly coming to terms with all of the shit that had gone down in my life during the previous two years. Perhaps Sookie understood because so much had changed for her too during that time.
“You’re not needed here,” Bill said gruffly.
I looked at a pile of zombie-vamps which begged to differ.
“Clearly,” I intoned. “Tell me, Bill, where are your guards? And why in the name of all that is unholy would you organize an event—at night—that transformed the humans you claim to care about into a handy buffet?”
Just then, the shifter arrived—looking very small-town mayor-ish in his cheap brown suit and cowboy boots.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” he asked me.
“Ah—the fourth member of our quartet is here! Tell me—have you done the world a favor and finally followed Bob Barker’s directive to be neutered? We really do need a castrato.”
Merlotte looked at me with confusion. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
A pregnant woman sidled up next to him and looked about ready to lose her meal as she took in the zombie-vamp mess.
“Pity,” I said in an offhanded way as I deduced that the pregnant woman was carrying the shifter’s child. “Every barbershop quartet needs a soprano, and if we cut off Bill’s dick, it would only grow back. Perhaps a nightly trim?”
Even as Bill managed to look even more constipated, Sookie let out another laugh, though I could feel that she was a little ashamed of herself for doing it.
“Sorry, your majesty and your mayor-ship,” I said to Bill and Sam, “for the mess Pam and I made.” I gestured toward the bodies. “I suggest leaving them out here for the sun to take. Purge the earth of them—so to speak,” I said with a wink.
Shifter, vampire, and Were eyes all glared at me.
“To answer your question,” I said as I looked at each of them in turn, “I am back in the area to tie up loose ends.”
“You have no reason to be in my kingdom,” Bill said. “You abandoned your sheriff duties and you have been replaced.”
“Good,” I returned flippantly, “I didn’t like my boss anyway.”
Again, Sookie let out a giggle, this one sounding more like a snort.
“You cannot stay in my kingdom without my permission and without informing me of your intentions,” Bill grunted.
I glared at Bill. “I am here to arrange for the sales of my remaining businesses in the area. I am here to offer my guidance to my progeny, Willa.” I moved my gaze to lock with Sookie’s. “And I am here to see if I can change your mind about what you want out of your life.”
“Sookie is with me, fanger!” Alcide stormed. Bill’s fangs clicked into place, and Merlotte simply looked on in distaste.
I ignored them all and gauged Sookie’s reaction.
She felt longing and the sadness of regret. She felt love. Neither her expression nor her words bespoke of those emotions, however.
“It’s been a long time, and a lot has changed, Eric,” she said evenly.
I nodded. “Yes. There are now zombie-vamps wandering around the countryside,” I smirked.
She chuckled. “More than just that.”
“You cannot blame my inquiry,” I said, still ignoring the various growlers and hissers in the peanut gallery. I had never hidden my desires for Sookie Stackhouse, and I wasn’t about to start.
“And what exactly did you want me to change my mind about?” she asked. Just a hint of her fire was present in her eyes. I was glad to see it. She had looked slightly “sedated” before that—as if she’d settled into a life that she didn’t really want, but was determined to stay in.
“Everything,” I said with a little smile.
“Everything?” she asked softly, obviously remembering that I’d asked her for precisely that less than a year before.
Everything was precisely what I still wanted from her. And I needed to tell her that, just as she needed to hear it. After that, the ball would be in her court.
I took a step toward her.
“Yes—I still want you, Sookie Stackhouse. Both of you!” I said loudly, so that the others couldn’t miss it. I didn’t care who else heard me as long as Sookie did.
“No!” Alcide and Bill yelled, once again in concert. I was surprised that Sam didn’t join into the chorus this time—though the woman next to him would have likely been pissed out if he had.
I went on, still looking directly at Sookie. “And I was hoping that you would want me—both of me.”
She gasped a little as she realized that I was talking about the “me” who’d had amnesia as well as the “me” she’d known before. I’d come to terms with the fact that I could be both at once—without being weak.
“Eric—that ship has sailed,” she said evenly. “I am with Alcide now.”
I closed my eyes for a second. “Guilt, resignation, boredom, regret,” I said when I reopened them. Those were the feelings I got from our bond when she mentioned the Were’s name—when she thought about him.
“What are you talking about?” Alcide demanded even as Sookie held her breath.
“The way that I would feel if Sookie decided not to rethink her decision,” I said honestly.
She looked slightly baffled and then relieved that I’d not “outed” her true feelings to the Were. From the looks of things, Bill didn’t understand the context of my words either. Obviously, six months had been long enough for his blood to wear out of her—at least enough so that her emotions weren’t clear to him. But Sookie and I had a bond—and that would never go away.
For better or worse, what we had done in the cubby was something that could not be undone. Having had just one exchange, our connection would fade a little over time, but I knew that I would always sense her emotions to a certain extent.
“You have no right to feel anything about Sookie,” Bill said—as if he were one to talk. His continued desire to possess Sookie was clear. He was just too chicken-shit to be direct about it. I could tell that Sookie’s emotions for him were just as conflicted as before.
“Ambivalence, wariness, doubt, a fight against love,” I said as I recounted the things Sookie felt as she looked at Bill.
“What the fuck?” Sam asked from the sidelines—where I figured he would always remain. He was better as a supporting character in Sookie’s story anyway.
“Those are the things I imagine Sookie feels for me right about now,” I lied, barely keeping myself from winking at her.
From the expression on her face, she understood well that I was referring to her feelings for Bill.
And about me? Well—Sookie was actually feeling curiosity, longing, a little lust, and—most definitely—love.
It was a good start.
“May I visit you at your home tomorrow?” I asked Sookie.
“Our home!” Alcide said loudly. “I live there now!”
I nodded in acknowledgment, but kept my eyes on Sookie. “There are things I wish to say to you in private.”
“She doesn’t need to hear anything you have to say, vampire!” Alcide yelled.
“Alcide,” Sookie cried out, showing that fire I loved so much, “I can talk for myself!”
The wolf looked at her almost accusingly. And as Sookie looked up at him, I could feel her guilt and resignation returning as her fire left her. It was then that I realized one of the main reasons why Sookie was with him: she felt guilty that she’d killed the Werebitch whom Alcide had been with before. She was “making up” for that by giving herself to him.
It seemed just like something she’d do—something she’d do to herself. And it was unacceptable.
Her guilt and self-punishment clear in her eyes, Sookie looked back at me. “Eric—while I’m grateful that you came here tonight and protected us all—I don’t think it’d be appropriate for us to talk alone like you’re suggesting.” She took a deep breath. “I’m with Alcide now, and we’re building a life together.”
I gave her a sad smile. Her emotions told me that she felt trapped. Likely she’d thought that she was taking the “safe” route with the Were. But—no matter what “lessons” had been taught to her as she’d been raised—Sookie was not built to play it safe. She was like me in that way. And it was just a matter of time before she couldn’t pretend not to be.
I knew I could be patient; I knew she’d be worth it in the end.
And—even if Pam would ridicule me for “pining” for Sookie—I didn’t give a fuck. I wanted her. And I would wait—unless I became certain that she truly didn’t want me.
However, her emotions were not telling me that—not at all.
Still—I answered her words and not her feelings.
“In that case, I will not presume to speak with you,” I said evenly. “However, I still request admittance into your home tomorrow. There are things that I left behind in my resting place there. I should like to retrieve them.”
“But I’ve cleaned the cubby,” she said quickly. “I didn’t see anything of yours down there.”
“We should have just filled the whole damned thing up with cement like I wanted,” Alcide muttered.
As I felt Sookie’s sorrow at that idea, I ignored the Were. “There are things in a hidden safe—Godric’s tunic and a few other items I would like to have.”
“Oh—you found Godric’s shirt,” Sookie said with relief. “I’d meant to give it to you after we got back from Dallas, but never had the chance.”
“I found it as I organized the repairs for your home,” I said.
She smiled a little even as Alcide glared at me. “I looked everywhere for it—after everything had settled down. I’d feared that it had been lost.”
“No—it was in a trunk in the attic,” I said gently.
Bill spoke impatiently. “You’ve gotten your answer, Eric. Sookie doesn’t want to speak with you! I will let you carry out your business in my territory for a period of one week. After that, you will be unwelcome here!”
“Seems like he’s the only one prepared to deal with the walking dead,” muttered Sam’s pregnant paramour.
Deciding I liked her—despite her taste in men—I smiled at her. I could already see that she was too good for the mongrel, who growled next to her as if my smile were a threat. Perhaps it was—to him.
“That’s not what I said,” Sookie stated, looking at Bill with frustration. She looked at me again. “You’re welcome to come by tomorrow night and get your things. I should be home after midnight.”
Alcide growled a little. “Sookie . . . ,” he started to protest.
“Eric fixed Gran’s home!” she said passionately. “And, tonight, he saved our lives!”
“I would have protected you,” Bill said sullenly.
“Sookie.” Alcide said her name with disappointment in his tone.
She took his hand as if to reassure him and then took a deep breath. She looked back at me. “You know that I’m not agreeing to talk about us,” she said, emphasizing the word, ‘us.’
I nodded in acknowledgment.
“And there’s no way in hell I’m gonna let you be alone with her,” Alcide added. “You’ll get your things and leave!” he ordered.
I shook my head a little. The Were was basically saying that he didn’t trust the woman next to him.
“I will not disturb your obviously happy home,” I intoned before giving Sookie a wink and flying away.
“What happened?” I asked my newest child as I went back to her side after she’d finished her whispered conversation with her grandmother’s grave.
“What? When?” she asked, confused.
“Before I got there—four nights ago,” I clarified.
She looked down at the dirt in front of her. “Your presence stirred things up the night before that.”
I smirked. “It always does.”
She sighed. “Please—don’t be an ass, Eric.”
“Then tell me what happened. I know only what I found when I got to your home,” I said with a little growl. I would never forget how weak Sookie had looked. I would never forget my own fear that I was too late.
She sighed again—this time more loudly.
“Everything seemed normal when Alcide and I got home from the ‘pairing party.'” She closed her eyes for a millisecond. “We even had sex.”
“He aimed to reestablish his claim on you,” I commented.
“Yes.” she said, closing her eyes again—this time for longer. “Dealing with Bill was bad enough, but seeing you made him feel even more insecure. He thought that he’d lost Debbie to vampires—due to her addiction to V. And he was worried that I’d be tempted by you—just as he always worried that I’d go back to Bill.”
“Did you love him?” I asked being purposely ambiguous about the him that I was referring to.
She opened her eyes. “Yes. Despite everything, a part of me did love Bill.” Her eyes grew a little cold. “I know that’s partly because of his blood and partly because I couldn’t hear him and partly because—once upon a time—he made me feel like I could have something resembling a ‘normal’ relationship. But I realized months ago that what he and I had was mostly an illusion.”
“You said did love,” I pointed out. “Past tense?”
She nodded. “The last of the illusion was stripped away when he murdered Alcide.”
“What of the Were? Did you love him?”
She shook her head. “I tried to, but no. Alcide was good for me in some ways, however. I thought we would be good together. He was a friend.” She paused. “And that was safer—for me. I didn’t have to ‘feel’ so much.”
“And you felt like you owed him—for killing his bitch?”
She nodded. “I wanted to make him happy.”
“So?” I pushed. “What happened four nights ago?”
“I came home from my shift at Bellefleur’s to find Bill and Alcide arguing,” she said quietly. “Alcide had invited him inside; I don’t know why. Probably some Supe-macho shit; he probably wanted Bill to smell us or something.” She shook her head sadly. “Stupid idiot,” she whispered.
She was trembling, so I sat next to her and took her hand into mine.
“They were arguing about the fact that Bill wanted to make you his suck buddy—I presume?”
She nodded in confirmation. “Since I tested negative for Hep-V, Bill wanted me to be his donor. In exchange, he said that he was prepared to provide me with safety. Apparently,” she said with frustration, “Bill had decided to approach Alcide while I wasn’t there—in order to help him ‘see reason.'”
“And Herveaux took issue with that,” I surmised.
She nodded. “And things escalated once I got there.” She shook her head in frustration.
“Because you tried to express what you wanted,” I intuited.
“Yes. But neither of them seemed to be too interested in that part.”
“What did you want?” I asked.
She shook her head sadly. “Truthfully? I just wanted them to stop fighting over me. I wanted everyone to stop fighting,” she added wearily. “And—as for what I wanted—personally? I think that I forgot to take that into account—or to even think about it—a long time ago.”
“When was the last time?” I asked.
She looked up at me and smiled a little sadly. “With you. I wanted what we had when it was just us—when we were in our bubble.”
“When I had no memories?” I asked.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“But you knew I would get my memories back,” I said. “You figured all along that the whole me wouldn’t want you.”
She shrugged. “I just figured that you’d decide that—since I’d finally yielded to you—I was no longer worth the effort.”
“Even after I told you that I loved you?”
She spoke cynically, “Honestly, I’m not even sure that ‘love’ is real. Jason says he loves Violet, but she treats him like a sex toy. Sam says that he loves Nicole, but he fiddles with his wedding ring more than anyone I’ve ever seen. Bill said that he loved me, but he arranged for me to be beaten and then he spent months lying to me. Just the other night, he claimed he loved me—right after he killed Alcide.” She shook her head. “In my life, I’ve heard about so many affairs and disappointments from people’s heads. And even Alcide, the man who said that he wanted to marry me, thought such hurtful things about me sometimes that it’s difficult to believe in real love anymore.”
“What did he think?” I asked.
She closed her eyes again. “He couldn’t help some of his thoughts, and I know he felt guilty when he thought them—that most of him didn’t mean to feel that way. I knew it wasn’t fair to judge him for thinking thoughts he couldn’t help—so I didn’t.”
“What did he think, Sookie?” I repeated more firmly. “What did he think that hurt you?”
She shrugged as if trying to shrug off her pain. “He thought about how I was tainted—only a step or two up from being a fangbanger. He wanted to fuck away my desire to be with a vampire ever again,” she said, almost too quietly for even me to hear. “He didn’t think I knew it, but he smelled me carefully every time I got home from work. He was always so certain that I was going to cheat on him.” She looked up at me sadly. “I’ve never cheated on anyone, and I can count the number of men I’ve been with on one hand.” She shook her head. “I was open with Alcide when he asked about who I’d had sex with before him.” She looked down. “He tried not to, but part of him thought that I was a whore.”
“Lovely,” I intoned, though I knew she could feel my anger in the bond.
“That wasn’t the worst of it,” she whispered. “In bed, I never quite measured up to Debbie. I wasn’t quite,” she paused, “animalistic enough.” She shrugged. “I tried. I read books about sex—the Kama Sutra, The Joy of Sex, others. I tried to be more adventurous for him. But then he just thought that I was doing stuff I’d learned from a vampire. Part of him just wanted me to lie there, and another part of him was bored to tears when I did.” She shook her head. “I wasn’t sure what to do after a while.”
“There was never anything wrong with how you made love, Sookie,” I said.
She laughed ruefully, though her emotions were anything but jovial. “That’s what you say.”
“Yes—and I have a thousand years of experience,” I returned.
“And you were sleeping with me with none of those years in your head,” she said sharply. “Did you know that I slept with Warlow?” she asked suddenly.
“I suspected,” I returned.
“Even after I found out that he’d killed my parents?” she asked as if challenging me not to judge her. I could feel her guilt and self-loathing acutely.
“I did not know that part,” I answered evenly.
“When I was a kid, my daddy tried to kill me because he didn’t want Warlow to turn me into a vampire one day. So Warlow killed my mom and him.”
Her fangs clicked down. She was magnificent, but her feelings did not reflect that truth.
“Now I’m the thing my daddy wanted to prevent me from being. And he would hate me.”
“Fuck him,” I said.
Again she laughed mirthlessly. “He tried to kill me even from the ‘beyond,'” she said using air quotes around the last word.
“Explain,” I said.
“I asked Lafayette to try to talk to my parents—so that I could find out the truth about Warlow. My daddy possessed him and tried to kill me—again. Warlow stopped him,” she sighed, “again.
I felt her pain and her confusion.
“So you fucked Warlow,” I said evenly.
She nodded as disgust rolled off of her—both for her action and for herself in general.
“I did. I knew I’d be able to ‘hear’ him if I did.”
“And what did he think?” I asked.
“That I would need some ‘training’ before I could truly please him.” She sighed. “It was a rude awakening to be judged as barely tolerable. But he was glad to have found me nonetheless. He was tired of being alone, and—for a few hours—I wondered if he could help me to not feel so alone.” She shook her head. I could feel her self-indictment. “So I forgot about the way he’d killed all the fairies in that club. I forgot about the fact that—just like Bill—he’d tried to base a relationship with me on lies.” She closed her eyes. “I made myself forget.”
Indulging in a human habit of my own, I drew in a long, deep breath. I had fucked in order to “forget” before. I’d fucked Yvetta for hours hoping to forget Godric meeting the sun. I’d fucked Nora in order to deal with the specter of Lilith killing the ghost of our maker—which had been fucked up beyond all recognition. Yes—I’d tried to fuck pain away, but it never worked for long. However, I knew firsthand that sometimes “forgetting” was the best thing that could happen.
I squeezed Sookie’s hand and told her just that: “Sometimes—forgetting is best. Sometimes forgetting is right.”
She opened her eyes. She knew that I was talking about the days I’d had amnesia now.
I tried to send her my affection through our bonds, but she didn’t let me. She’d raised her shields to keep my thoughts and my influence from touching her. I could still feel everything from her, but—when she constructed her shields so thoroughly—she could neither feel me nor hear me.
“Are you afraid that—if you had sex with me again—you would hear me?” I asked her.
She nodded. “My shields are so much better now, but I am afraid. Maybe that’s why I’d never wanted to be a vampire. I didn’t want to hear vampires’ thoughts about me too.”
“Sookie,” I said gently, taking her other hand into mine as well, “listen.”
She shook her head in fear. “Please, Eric—no. Please—don’t make me. I don’t want to hear.”
“Why are you so afraid?”
“Everyone thinks things they can’t control,” she said desperately.
“Then control the way you listen, Sookie,” I said soothingly. “Control that—and you will truly master you gift.”
She was terrified. And I could not stand to see her so frightened. I had to help her—help my child, help my beloved, help my Sookie.
“Sookie—as your maker I command you,” I ordered.
Compelled to follow my will, she squeezed my hands, and I felt all of her mental shields drop.
I closed my eyes and sent her every memory I had of her—from the moment she walked into Fangtasia to the moment we were in. I sent her every thought I’d ever had regarding her—be it about possession or devotion. I sent her every impulse—be it about lust or love. And I sent the thoughts quickly—as only a vampire could do. I wanted to overwhelm her.
She needed it.
“Everything, Sookie,” I whispered. “Everything.”
When I was done “transmitting,” I opened my eyes to find her crying in earnest.
“You want me,” she gasped. “You really do.”
I scoffed. “And—to think—you didn’t believe me.”
She looked at me with wide eyes as I pulled a handkerchief out of my pocket and began to clean her face. I was tired of tasting her tears.
“I was afraid that you wouldn’t—not after the mess I’d made of everything,” she whispered.
I shook my head. “In time, I hope you will come to understand your potential,” I winked, “right before you surpass it—that is.”
She smiled a little and gripped my hands tighter.
“I will teach you to fear nothing in this world,” I told her sincerely. “But—first—you must learn that you have nothing to fear from my thoughts. I have been frustrated with you. And parts of me have even hated you at times. But I have never wanted you to be different from who you are. And those who do no longer matter.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly.
I nodded and we sat in silence for another moment.
“Now, tell me what happened when Bill and Alcide fought,” I said. Part of me needed to know what had happened in the last minutes before I’d found her almost dead—so that I could prevent any such thing from happening again and so that I could help her to heal.
Sookie nodded. “As I said, when I got home from work, Bill and Alcide were arguing. I tried to step in, but then they both asked me about you.”
“What did they want to know?”
“Alcide wanted to know if I was going to speak with you alone—or at all. Bill wanted to know if I would be pairing up with you.”
“Both wanted to possess you,” I commented.
“And how is that different from what you want?” she asked sincerely.
“One can desire something—greatly—without having the need to possess it,” I said.
She smiled a little. “I know,” she whispered. “At least, I know that now.”
“What did you tell Bill and Alcide—about me?”
“A lie. I told them that I was content not to see you again while you were in the area.”
“But that didn’t satisfy them,” I said, already knowing the answer.
She shook her head. “No—when I told them that, they just seemed to become more aggressive toward each other. The next thing I knew, Alcide had changed into his wolf form, and he and Bill were fighting. I rescinded Bill’s invitation, but . . . .” She stopped for a moment.
“But Herveaux pursued.”
She nodded. “Yeah. He did. Damned macho fool,” she added sadly—and almost fondly. “I followed them outside.”
I sighed. “And you tried to stop them.”
She nodded. “I should have tried my ‘light’ first, but I didn’t want to hurt either of them, so I put myself between them. Alcide accidentally clawed me, and then I was thrown into the porch railing by one of them; I don’t know who though. I was groggy when I got up, so when I did try to use my ‘light,’ it was weak.”
“Do you still have it?” I asked curiously. We’d tested for her telepathy and we’d tested if she could keep her sun, but we’d yet to test for that.
She tilted her head in curiosity and broke contact with one of my hands before calling up a ball of light and decimating a nearby headstone with it. My heightened eyesight picked up on the fact that it had been Compton’s gravestone.
“Well—that answers many things,” I said with a slight smirk as I looked at the remains of the headstone.
Sookie shook her head a little, marveling at her increased power. “Well—sadly, ‘my light’ wasn’t as strong when I tried to stop Alcide and Bill. They kept going at each other, and—after a little while—it was obvious that Bill was going to win.” She shook her head sadly. “I couldn’t stop him,” she said, her voice cracking.
“What happened?” I asked, taking her other hand again. It was still warm, and it sent a spark of energy through my body, but it didn’t hurt.
“Bill hurt Alcide badly; I think he broke his back because Alcide stopped moving—stopped fighting. But I could tell that Alcide was still alive.” She shivered. “I begged for Bill to stop, but he didn’t. He looked right at me, and then he snapped Alcide’s neck.” She sighed. “Bill’s look was so possessive—so crazed. And I realized—only then—that I was seeing the real Bill.” She shook her head as her sorrow and anger battled. “But it was too late. I ran to Alcide’s broken body, and that’s when Bill came for me.”
She closed her eyes and went on. “He yanked me away from Alcide. He was crying bloody tears and telling me that he was sorry he had to defend himself. He kept saying that he loved me—again and again and again. And then he was biting me. And I was getting weaker and weaker. I knew he was going to turn me. And I didn’t want that. I knew I had to hang on; I knew you would come to me.”
Her eyes popped open. “Bill was more of a monster than Rene or Maryann or Russell or Steve Newlin or Marnie or Antonia or Lillith or Warlow. He was the monster who did unspeakable things because he said he loved me.” She paused. “Thank you for killing him for me. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for making sure that he didn’t make me his child.”
She smiled. “Thank you for loving me enough to give me another chance.”
Four Nights Before
When I woke up, I checked my maker-child bonds with Willa and Pam and my blood bond with Sookie. Pam was fine—actually better than fine. She had ended up “reconciling” with Tara the night before. Oh—they still “hated” each other, but they’d spent the hours before dawn fucking like rabbits. And—from Pam’s emotions—it seemed as if they’d picked right back up upon rising.
Willa was okay too. I’d learned the night before—after I’d left Sookie to her other “suitors”—that Willa had set her eyes upon a local boy named JB, whom had agreed to be her “exchange buddy.” Because Willa had wanted me to, I’d met JB. Actually, he seemed somewhat dim, but he was clearly enamored with Willa, and she deserved someone who would “worship” her properly. I was pleased that she was content with the arrangement.
She’d woken up happy that night. And she’d stayed that way.
And Sookie? Well—when I woke up, she was somewhat nervous, but controlled. And that was her usual state these days—always a little nervous, as if she were trying to “conceal” her true feelings.
But always controlled too.
At 10:00 p.m., I met with my attorney and signed a few documents. After I was done, I no longer owned the structure which had housed Fangtasia. A few of my other real estate investments were also quickly sold off—at something of a loss. But I didn’t care. I just wanted to be done with my ties in King Bill’s territory—except for the ties of my blood.
I next had a bite to eat; from Sweden, I had brought a few cases of a European bottled blood, called Sangre, just to be sure that I wasn’t being poisoned by fanatics. Then I started toward Bon Temps. I drove one of my corvettes—a car I figured I’d be selling soon enough.
I was twenty minutes from Sookie’s home when I felt her agitation. I sped up.
A few minutes later, I felt her fear. I sped up again.
A minute after that, I felt her growing weaker. I sped up again.
A few moments later, I felt her intense pain—both physical and emotional. Before I could register a thought, I’d abandoned my car.
I almost flew my body apart to get to her.
I found Sookie in her yard next to a rose bush I’d planted with my own hands. Bill was quickly gulping down all of the sweet ambrosia from her body. Herveaux was dead, his head practically torn off.
Sookie was barely conscious, but her eyes held pure terror.
It took me less than a second to decide my course of action.
I killed Bill—much too quickly. But my speed came from necessity. However, I knew that the snap of his head as it came off of his shoulders would always be one of my favorite sounds.
“Pop” went the fuckin’ weasel!
By then, it was too late for me to heal Sookie with my blood. It was either turn her or let her go.
And I couldn’t—wouldn’t—let her go until she ordered me to do so with her own lips.
Until she fucking meant it!
I would suffer the pain of ending her vampire life myself if she asked. I would risk the possibility that she would hate me for turning her.
But let her go? Without a fight?
Not. Fucking. Possible.
So I turned her myself—after taking the little bit of blood that remained in her.
And then I called Pam and asked her to arrange some bagged blood and donors for us for the next night. To her credit, Pam hadn’t questioned me or complained when I’d told her that I’d turned Sookie.
If anything, my eldest had seemed relieved.
Then I went to the cubby with my newest child—the woman who held my heart.
And, in the dark of our shared “grave,” I felt our second bond flutter into being—right next to our first bond.
Three Nights Before
I was awake well before Sookie was. And I waited. There was always a danger that a child wouldn’t rise “right.” Don’t even get me started on what happened to poor Elvis!
And Sookie was a fairy hybrid, so I had no idea what the “rules” would be like for her. Would she be able to keep her precious daylight? I hoped so.
Would she keep her “light” power and her telepathy?
About those—I found that I cared less.
I just wanted her to be well.
To my relief and sheer wonder, Sookie awoke as a beautiful nymph of the night—the most beautiful creature my thousand-year-old eyes had ever seen.
And, to my surprise, she did not lament her new state of being. I felt only acceptance and gratefulness from her when she realized that I had been the one to turn her—not Bill.
She greedily took the bagged blood Pam had brought us. Then I taught her how to feed from a donor, and she did that with perfect control and politeness—even offering the donor some tea.
Only my Sookie.
Then she asked me how I’d killed Bill. I told her the story in all of its gory—and glorious—detail; Pam enjoyed hearing details about that as well.
And then Sookie began mourning the Were.
I was not offended, and—for once—Pam didn’t say a snarky word. Tara was there too, and—though she stayed somewhat aloof—I knew that she and Sookie would soon be as before, sisters again.
Later, Sookie wanted to see her brother and the shifter. Her brother—with clear wariness—accepted her. The shifter was another story.
I didn’t give a fuck about either of them, but I did what I could to comfort Sookie nonetheless.
“Is Alcide dead because of me?” Sookie asked. “Is Bill?”
“Yes,” I said. “Most assuredly.”
“That’s not exactly comforting,” she sighed as she rose to her feet.
I rose with her. “I wasn’t trying to comfort you.”
She shook her head a little. “Does it make me a bad person to say that I’m glad Bill’s gone?”
“No,” I chuckled.
“I’m sorry about Alcide though.”
“If he compared you unfavorably to Debbie Pelt, he deserved to be ended,” I said.
She rolled her eyes. “I should have just broken up with him. He was a good man; he didn’t deserve to die.”
“And he should have just let you go so that he could chase another mangy bitch,” I returned.
She looked at me with her brown, open eyes. “It’s gonna take me a while before I’m ready to be what you want me to be.”
I shook my head and took her hand; I made sure that my mind was open to her and that her shields were down. “You have been what I wanted from the moment I saw you, Sookie Stackhouse. It’s just what you want from me that varies.”
“That’s not exactly fair—to you,” she observed.
“All is fair in love,” I said as I pulled her close.
“And war?” she asked somewhat sassily.
“I can’t believe you’re the king now,” she chuckled.
I grinned. “Me neither.”
In truth, the “new” Authority had begged me to become king of the coastal states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, which Compton had been overseeing. And I couldn’t blame their reasoning. I was a warrior, not a politician. And they needed a warrior. I had no doubt that I could help to control and then stop the spread of the zombie-vampires.
If nothing else, I could sic my own growing horde of badass, estrogen-driven vampires on them.
Pam + Tara + Willa + Sookie?
Yeah—I was nervous when they were all in one place too.
But I was also incredibly proud of my bloodline. Talk about a reason to live!
During the past four nights, I’d already called in favors from powerful European allies, who were coming to help me to destroy any other infected mobs that popped up in my kingdom. And I’d already issued an ultimatum to the human governors in my states: Do things my way or I’d leave with all the other uninfected vampires.
They’d quickly acquiesced to my request for their cooperation.
To her credit, Sookie had stood by my side since she’d arisen. Unasked, she’d been using her gift of telepathy to test the truthfulness of the various vampires and humans I’d been meeting with.
And all she’d requested after her first night as a vampire was an hour to say a temporary goodbye to her gran and her home before we met up with the others in the inner circle I’d quickly put together. I planned to take us “hunting” in order to cleanse my states of plagued vampires. Then I would station Weres and vampires to watch our borders. Finally, a new testing system for Hep-V, which worked as quickly as a blood sugar tester in order to determine whether a human was infected, would be provided to all vampires in my states in order to curb the progress of the Hep-V virus until an antidote for carriers could be developed.
And—as for that? I’d already commissioned Ludwig to start developing an antidote. The little doctor seemed confident that something could be found soon and was pissed off that no one had bothered soliciting her “expertise” before. Of course, she could have just offered, but that wasn’t exactly her way.
The doctor thought that Fae blood might be the key to the cure, and it turned out that Sookie’s fairy great-grandfather, Niall, was willing to help as well. Ludwig and Niall already seemed quite “cozy.”
As disconcerting as that thought was, I couldn’t help but to be amused by the pair.
Indeed, I knew that things would eventually go back to a state of normalcy. That’s the way the world worked. There had always been plagues and wars and famines. The strong and the lucky survived. The weak and the unlucky died.
I was alive. My three amazing children were alive and would thrive.
Sookie smiled up at me. “Can I do one more thing here?” she asked playfully.
Smiling in return, I nodded.
She turned to the headstone with her name on it and called upon her light power. In the next instant the block of rock was blown into gravel.
“That felt good,” she chuckled.
I pulled her into my body and took off with her into the night sky.
“This feels better,” I said.
I felt her nodding in agreement against my chest.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this promo piece!
I hope that many of you will take the time to write a story for one of Seph’s beautiful banners! I-for one-cannot wait to read them!
I hope to read your story too!!!!