As the four re-entered the house, Eric was once again standing beside Sookie’s bed. He couldn’t stop himself from taking a deep, unneeded breath. He marveled at the fact that he was comforted by Sookie’s scent and presence alone. Quickly, he zoomed into the bathroom and prepared a warm, wet rag so that he could bathe her forehead and face. He couldn’t stand seeing her hair matted like that and knew that Sookie would feel better if she woke up a bit fresher. He glanced at himself in the mirror and saw the red stains in his own hair, left by the blood from his earlier bleeding. He couldn’t help but wish that he could settle both himself and Sookie into a warm bath together, but he knew that he’d have to be patient. Luckily, patience was something he’d perfected long ago.
As he walked back into Sookie’s room, he noticed that Jesus was checking her vitals and the drip of the IV.
Jesus looked up and spoke to Eric in a comforting voice, like he might to a husband next to his wife’s bedside. “She is still doing well. She’ll probably sleep through the night.”
Eric walked over to the bed and sat down gently so as not to stir Sookie. He began to lightly clean Sookie’s skin with the warm rag, marveling at her beauty.
Jesus took in the tenderness on Eric’s face and decided to leave the vampire alone to his task. Before he could leave the room, however, Eric’s voice, low and calm, stopped him.
“I appreciate what you were willing to do for Sookie and her brother today. As you know, the cost of magic can be high―even for the one performing the spell―if there is a mistake.”
Jesus nodded solemnly, “Yes.”
Eric continued, “I believe that Bill will continue to try to see her and will work to get her to take his blood, but I don’t think he will try to force her, at least not yet. He has, however, used manipulation in the past.”
Jesus nodded again, saying, “Yeah, she told us about the Rattrays earlier.”
It was Eric’s turn to nod. “I would have her choose me on her own.” Eric couldn’t believe that he was admitting this to the young demon, but he was generally a good judge of character and felt that Jesus would be a valuable and loyal friend to Sookie and maybe even an asset to himself.
Eric continued cleaning Sookie’s brow, even as he continued his admissions, “I do not know what she will do. Since I have known Sookie, she has been pursued by many, but she is yet to recognize her own worth. I was one of those pursuers and offered her my protection before I lost my memories, but I went about it in the wrong way. Thus, she didn’t understand that I would have protected her without―what do you call them?―oh yes, without strings attached.”
Jesus spoke softly in return, “I don’t know Sookie well yet, but I don’t think she’d agree to ‘strings’.”
“No,” Eric let out a chuckle, “she denied me quite adamantly. She hates―I have come to find out―any kind of manipulation.”
“So you think Bill was using his blood to manipulate her?”
Eric nodded. “It is a testament to her strength of character that she understood innately that there was something wrong and sought out an end to the tie. Generally, the human host to a vampire’s blood―especially given the amount that Compton had given her―is easily influenced by the vampire, but Sookie is different. She always has been.” He looked down at the sleeping woman with a look Jesus could only interpret one way; Eric was proud of her.
Jesus couldn’t help himself from venturing, “Did you manipulate her?”
Eric looked over at Jesus. Again, he registered that he was really starting to like Sookie’s choice in friends; like her, they had courage. “I tried once,” Eric admitted with a chuckle. “But as always, nothing with Sookie has ever happened as I thought it would.” His tone grew serious, “I believe, however, that she feels I have tried to manipulate her at every turn. I also believe that some of that thinking has been caused by the influence of Compton.” Eric’s voice grew low. “Now, for the first time, Sookie will be able to see me without his voice in her head and his blood in her body. Perhaps, that alone is reason enough to hope.”
Eric brightened a bit, “Sookie is also not a fan of what she calls highhandedness, and I’m afraid that I am guilty of this at times. I will have to work hard to avoid being this way―at least not so much―if I am to earn her trust and affection fully. Meanwhile, I will try to make sure she is safe in a way that not even she could object to. And I will continue to vie for her against the likes of Compton and the Were Alcide Herveaux and maybe even her shifter boss too―that is, if she will allow me to do so now.”
Jesus grinned a bit, happy that his suspicion that Sam was a shifter had not been off base. Jesus’s lips fell out of the smile, however, when he saw the look of fear in the eyes of the ancient vampire before him.
Almost too softly for Jesus to hear, Eric said, “I fear that, in the end, she will choose another. Several nights ago, I told her I loved her, and she told me that she loved Compton. At first, when my memories returned to me and when we were finally alone to talk, she wouldn’t even look at me. I knew, then, that she felt the loss of the Eric she had fallen in love with during my amnesia; she could not quite believe that he and I share the same feelings for her.”
Eric continued, “So I told her that I had given myself to her completely, and through the bond, I had felt that she had given herself to me as well. But then she said that she loved another also, and through the bond, I was able to feel her love for Bill. It was,” Eric paused for a moment, “difficult to have to feel this.”
He looked at Jesus. He saw that the young demon was observing him with the compassion of his profession.
Eric continued, “I am telling you these things because I want you to have the knowledge you need to research one more aspect of fairy magic for me.” Eric’s words flowed from him low and evenly, not betraying his emotions. “I have lived long enough to hear legends of wars between vampires and fairies. I have heard of powerful fairies that could use their magic to basically disintegrate their enemies.”
Jesus’s eyes grew wide, and he spoke up in a loud whisper, “Sookie wouldn’t want to be able to do that.”
Eric liked Jesus even more in that moment as he seemed willing to stand up to even Eric for his friend. Eric chuckled, “It’s okay, Jesus, this is not the magic I want you to explore or the power I want Sookie to learn. If she simply gets a handle on how to stun more effectively, she will give herself ample time to get away from danger, even from vampires if needed. No, I’m telling you this because I have never heard of fairy magic doing what Sookie’s magic did to me the other day. I was being controlled by Antonia, and I couldn’t stop myself from attempting to kill Compton. I could recognize that Sookie was there trying to prevent me from doing this, but I couldn’t fight against the necromancer’s hold. It was so strong that I even threw Sookie away from me at one point, and I could have harmed her.” Eric looked down at Sookie remorsefully and paused for a moment, thankful that he’d caused her no lasting physical injury from that action.
He continued, “I saw Sookie use her power on an enemy once, and he was clearly hurt by her. I, on the other hand, was healed. The blast did cause me to stop attacking Bill, but I was not thrown away from him, nor was I rendered powerless, not even for a few moments. Her magic, for lack of a better word, restored me and seemed to absorb into my body; it even energized me to some extent.” He paused, again wondering how much he should say. However, if his theory was correct, then Jesus needed to know one more thing to do his research properly. “In fact, I think her magic somehow fed our bond with each other.”
Jesus’s eyes got a bit wider.
“Today, when I woke up, I felt the magic of your spell roving through my body. It seemed to be looking for something, and as soon as I thought of Sookie, the magic of your spell shifted toward our bond. The bond shouldn’t have held as it did, but it seemed to be buffered somehow by a white light, unlike anything I have ever heard about or experienced, and I was able to literally order my own blood to keep hold of her using that light. Again, this is not a vampire ability, and this light did not originate from me.”
“Is that also how you were able to get into her dream? Did this light help you then as well?” Jesus asked perceptively.
“Yes,” Eric said. “That is also unprecedented. Perhaps, it was the combination of her fairy magic and my vampire magic that allowed me to go to her dream and that held the bond together for so long. Or perhaps, it was her magic alone. Even when I accepted the severing and let go, I felt a brief resistance that was not coming from me before I felt the vampire bond disappear. Again, none of these things have been heard of among my kind. I would like for you to see if you can find out anything about the different kinds of magic Sookie may be able to wield. Also, I would like for you to see if you can find out if a fairy and a vampire have ever been bonded before.
“How can I do all this?” Jesus asked. “I cannot imagine that I will learn much you don’t already know from Marnie’s books.”
Eric nodded, “Maybe not, but I will have Pam begin to collect other books for you to work through as well, including some from my late maker and some from a demon I know.”
Jesus perked up at this, anxious to hear anything about other demons.
Noticing Jesus’s excitement, Eric assured, “I will try to arrange a meeting between you and Mr. Cataliades as well; like you, he is part demon. He is actually my attorney for supernatural affairs, but he lives in New Orleans.”
Jesus nodded. The two left the room at the same time and rejoined the others. Eric spoke, again with all the authority of his one thousand years. “Pam, I will be staying here as long as I can and will go to ground at my closest safe house.” Pam nodded, knowing where Eric meant. “You will need to go to Fangtasia and make sure everything is okay. Keep a sharp eye out for Nan, and do try to avoid her rather than confronting her about her cheap fashion sense,” he teased. “Also, monitor Bill.”
Eric looked at the three other men in the room warily, noticing Jason was yawning loudly. “For now, I actually agree with Bill that Sookie would be safer here, and by tomorrow, I will have guards in place to look out for her. Hopefully, she will not be bothered by them; however, I do intend to alert her to their presence.” He paused, “And there is one last thing that needs to be done.”
Jesus spoke up, anticipating Eric’s request, “You want to glamour us so that we cannot tell Sookie or even think about what happened tonight, don’t you?”
Eric nodded. “With Sookie’s telepathy, it would be impossible for you to keep your thoughts about tonight from her, and as I said before, the fact that her and my bond was so strong might influence her, and I want her choices to be completely her own. If she directly asks me about the bond and the effects of your spell on me, I will tell her the truth, but I want―I need―for her to be the one to initiate that discussion.
She needs to think through her choices now in the way that she had intended, without the influence of anyone else’s blood or bonds or thoughts. I have also told you that I think Bill will try to manipulate her into taking his blood again, and my opinion of him shouldn’t influence her choices either. Perhaps Bill will prove himself to be better than I think he is. Perhaps she will even find him to be the better choice for her once she considers all her options. Either way, your knowledge of what happened here tonight shouldn’t influence her. You may tell her that Bill and I both came by to make sure she was well if you wish, but beyond that, I’d like her to have her clean slate―at least until she decides to muddy it.”
The three men each agreed to be glamoured. They would remember everything, but wouldn’t be able to think or talk about the night in specifics, especially where Eric’s presence was concerned. Eric hated keeping secrets from Sookie, but he felt this was the only way to give her what she’d wanted. As Eric saw it, the glamour simply fixed a problem he’d inadvertently created.
He was surprised to realize that if she would have trusted him enough to tell him that she was planning to sever their bond before it happened, he wouldn’t have tried to stop her. He also would never have tried to fight against the magical spell if he had known what it was for. Sookie had almost died again―and again inadvertently because of him. He would always be grateful for Lafayette and Jesus’s determination. Most witches would have stopped the spell and left Sookie to her death.
After Pam departed, Jason also left, insisting that he felt fine and wanted to get home to his own bed. Shortly thereafter, Lafayette and Jesus settled into their room. Eric could still feel Lafayette’s emotions to a small extent and was pleased to know that Lafayette no longer feared him. In fact, he seemed comfortable that Eric was still in his home, and okay with the fact that he planned to sit with Sookie until near dawn.
Eric knew that if he flew at top speed, he could reach his nearest safe house in just under ten minutes. Accounting for daylight savings, which had begun that night, he would plan to leave at 6:18 a.m., exactly 15 minutes before the sun would rise.
Eric pulled a chair next to Sookie’s bed and sent off a flurry of texts to Pam so that Sookie’s protection could be arranged. He then sent some instructions to Bobby. When he was done, he simply watched over his beloved quietly, monitoring her vital signs more carefully than any machine could.
He didn’t even notice when he began to softly sing an ancient lullaby to her. The rhythms of the song matched the sound of her heartbeat closely, and this was the soothing sound that Eric concentrated on for the rest of the night. He couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before he would hear it again like this.
At precisely 6:17 a.m., he rose from his seat and gave his beloved a last look. “Space and time, min kära. This is what you need, and I will do my best to make sure you have it.” With those words, he left the house, making sure that the door was locked soundly behind him. He also did a quick sweep of the woods surrounding the house, double checking that Compton and his minions had not returned. Satisfied, he zoomed into the remnants of the night.