It was an hour after the fairies had left, and Eric was still struggling in vain to remove the silver net by throwing it off of himself. However, the thin chains of the net had only sunk further into his body every time he’d tried pushing against it.
The vampire stopped moving completely and tried to refocus and plan. However, part of him wanted to sink into the porch and die. Sookie―his Sookie―was gone.
The vampire bond, which had been so fueled by their love for one another, was empty―dormant. His bonded’s emotions no longer twined with his—no longer enlivened him—and he ached from the hollowness left behind. Feeling his beloved one had become the most wonderful thing in Eric’s world, and their bond had made him relish life. Without it, his first impulse was to seek his own death, just to stop the immense pain of his loss.
Three things kept him from sinking into his despair and just meeting the sun when it rose―which would be in ten minutes and fourteen seconds.
The first was the faith that Sookie had been fostering inside of him—without his even knowing it. She’d vowed that she would come back to him, and he would stay alive until she did. Even if it was a hundred thousand years and the world had gone to ruin, he’d find a way to wait for her. Or he would go to his wife himself. If she became forever trapped in the fairy realm because of the fucking light fruit—as he feared was happening even at that moment—he would find a way to fucking colonize that realm and make her the damned queen of it!
The second was the boy inside. Hunter tried―right after the fairies had left―to come outside to aid Eric when the vampire had called him, but the fairy magic kept the boy inside. Eric had promised Sookie that he would care for the child, and he intended to keep every promise he had ever made to his beloved. Eric had spoken to the boy through the door, trying to soothe the child, but Eric could still smell the young one’s tears, which had not stopped falling. Eric’s nose also told him that the child had urinated in his pants in his fear. Hunter was currently curled up right next to the door whimpering quietly. The vampire could hear him shaking.
Eric felt a strong need to get to the boy in order to provide him with some kind of comfort as Sookie would wish. However, as he once again tried to get out from under the silver net, it merely continued to eat into his exposed flesh.
The third reason for Eric’s staying sane in the face of his bonded one going away from him again was the fairy bond itself. It continued to buzz with Sookie’s life force, despite the fact that she was so far away; he couldn’t feel her emotions, but he could feel that she was living. While the vampire bond was aching in loss, the fairy bond was thumping with life as always―with Sookie’s life and his life and their lives mixed together.
Eric steadied himself. Sookie may not have been close to him physically, but she still lived in him, and nothing that anyone or anything in the fucking universe did could stop that from being true.
He’d called Pam through their maker-child bond as soon as he’d understood that the odds were against them escaping from the fairies, and his child had immediately responded, but she was not close enough to get to him before the sun rose. His cell phone had been knocked from his clothing earlier. It sat uselessly on the porch about five feet away from him.
About thirty minutes before, several Weres had driven up to the house. It was obvious that they couldn’t see him, nor could they approach the house. Claudette’s spell surrounding the house and covering up the fairies’ actions was apparently still in place. Eric had felt the magic the night before, encompassing the house like a shroud. It was why he’d not attempted to escape by flight with Sookie, her cousin, and the child the night before. After he’d sensed the magic, his instincts told him that he would be unable to breach her spell.
After ascertaining that they couldn’t come inside the barrier of the magic, one of the Weres had sent a text, and immediately Eric had felt a surge of frustration and fear from Pam.
Hunter’s little voice had spoken to him through the door after that. The little boy had confirmed that the people outside wanted to rescue them but couldn’t. Eric had tried once again to reassure the boy, but Hunter had soon gone back to his sobbing. Eric couldn’t blame him, given the boy’s own losses.
The Weres were now stationed around the house, and every few minutes they would try to approach from different directions, but they still couldn’t get through the barrier of Claudette’s magic.
The sun began to rise, and though Eric felt no immediate threat, he also knew that Sookie was no longer by his side to protect him from the sun when the magic of her blood did wear off. He just hoped that it would protect him long enough for Claudette’s magic to dissipate so that the Weres could get to him before he burned.
Eric waited powerlessly as he continued to monitor the child.
A few minutes later, Eric heard Hunter’s little voice. “The sun’s up, but you’re still there. I still hear a blank spot where you are.”
“Yes,” Eric returned through the door. “Your Aunt Sookie’s magic helps me to be safe for a while in the sun, but,” he paused, “that will not last for long, Hunter.”
He heard a little sob from Hunter. “Please—don’t leave me too. Please, Eric.”
Maybe it was hearing his name from the boy’s lips for the first time. Maybe it was the pleading in Hunter’s voice—the intense desperation in it—that made Eric want to do something and not simply wait―simply hope that the Weres could get to them before he burned in the sun.
Eric looked down at the wood of the porch. It was red cedar, a very practical wood for outdoor structures because it held up nicely against the sun and the rain. However, it also splintered easily―very easily. An idea came to him, but it was risky. One errant splinter would mean his true death, but waiting for the sun to burn him would be worse. Even then, he could feel the first pangs of warning from his body, telling him to get inside and away from the bright morning sun. The healing nature of Sookie’s blood had been attempting to counteract the damage done by the silver; thus, he knew that it would not be able to protect him against the sun much longer.
Claudette had mentioned that her spell would last at least a couple hours after the sunrise, and Eric was becoming more and more concerned that he’d be a pile of ash well before then.
Eric steeled himself against the risks involved with his plan. He spoke to Hunter again through the door. “Hunter, I’m going to try something that will help me to get out from under the silver net, but I will not lie—it is dangerous for me.”
“Okay,” came Hunter’s timid response.
“If something happens to me, Hunter, then you are to wait for the men outside to come and get you. Tell them that you need to be taken to Pam. Can you remember that?”
“Okay,” the boy said again, this time with a sob attached to the word.
“Good. And Hunter, Pam is my vampire child. She will make sure that you are taken care of, so don’t worry—okay?” Even as Eric spoke, he hoped for the veracity of his own words, given how Pam had responded to human children in the past.
“Okay,” came Hunter’s response for a third time.
“Okay,” Eric said, trying to sound confident. “You’re going to hear some noise out here, Hunter, but don’t be afraid.”
“Please don’t leave me, Eric,” came Hunter’s little voice.
Eric closed his eyes, his dead heart reaching out to the boy. “I will do all that I can to stay with you, Hunter. All that I can,” he promised.
“Promise?” Hunter asked, almost too quietly for even Eric’s ears to hear through the door.
“I promise. Now, get ready for that loud noise I told you about.”
Eric worked hard against the silver net to position his body so that he could sit on his knees. He curved his back to take most of the surface area of the netting and then raised his hands and pulled them into fists. He examined the wood a final time and chose the place on the plank beneath him that would work best for his purposes. Unfortunately, he knew that his chest would be exposed when he struck. He closed his eyes for a few moments, hoping that the wood had been well treated so that it would splinter in one large piece rather than send hundreds of tiny shards everywhere—potentially right into his chest. With the force that he would need to make on the plank―if even a single piece did fly into his chest, the impact would likely puncture his undead heart and send him to his true death.
Eric opened his eyes, zeroed in on his target, and pounded his fists into the porch. The plank shattered into two splintered, jagged pieces, but no stray shards made their way into his chest. Quickly he moved his body so that the net was captured on one of the jagged pieces. He mustered all of his strength and began to pull himself in the opposite direction. As he’d hoped, the net began to slide over his body slowly—painstakingly slowly. Every time it hit his bare flesh, there was a new sizzle, but Eric kept moving. He moved to live. He moved for Sookie. He moved for the boy.
His energy was almost gone, and the silver net was only a fourth of the way off of his body. The sun was affecting him more and more. He closed his eyes again and did the only thing he could think to do. He mustered his magic and stroked the fairy bond Sookie had made within him, hoping against hope that the piece of herself that lived inside of him could give him the last bit of strength he needed to complete his task and get inside before he burned.
He thought about all that he had to live for―all that he wanted to live for. He thought about the gentle sway of his wife’s hips as she’d gotten on the plane before him earlier. He thought about her grip upon his knee as she’d been afraid during their take-off. He thought about the water rolling down her breast as they’d taken a shower together earlier that evening. He thought of the list of furnishings that she’d written out for him to make. He thought about her wanting to take his name—to make them even more one. He thought of the freckle behind Sookie’s neck, the one that always captivated him when she moved her hair to the side or wore it in one of her pony tails. She was no longer by his side, but he needed her more than ever―needed her to help him get out of the mess he was in. He couldn’t help but smile. His Sookie would call this a clusterfuck.
The fairy bond seemed to warm in him—no, it seemed to warm him. And the more he concentrated on his love for Sookie and their bond, the less the silver seemed to weaken him. He waited for a few minutes, trying to ignore the sun and attempting to pool his strength, as he concentrated on his wife. He once again heard the child whimpering inside, and suddenly Eric was reminded of himself as a young human—a young man who had just lost his own family at the hands of Russell. The boy had been brave earlier, trying to fight against the fairy’s hold and to protect his mother. Hunter had not cried until after the fairies had gone. And then the boy had tried to get outside to help Eric even though the doorknob had burned his hand a little. Hunter had stayed by the door—as close as he could be to Eric. And Eric realized that he had been comforted that the boy had stayed near.
Eric once again heard Sookie’s voice in his memory, asking him to take care of Hunter. He once again saw her brown eyes as she had cried out for him to wait for her. “Wait.” He couldn’t help but to smile a bit. She’d said the word—the one that she had known was his favorite as if it were a code that sent her whole heart to him.
Eric looked up at the sun now rising higher into the sky. He was depleted and hurting; the magic from Sookie’s blood was dwindling. However, the magic of her love, coming to him straight through the fairy bond, was not.
Eric was resolved. A thousand years of life would not be ended by a fucking fairy and definitely not while he had un-kept promises to his wife. He thrust his body forward once more, and the net held on to the upraised wood. The silver continued to tear and burn the skin that it touched, but Eric kept pushing forward―until finally he was free. He staggered to his feet. He could sense that the sun would soon start to burn his skin just as the silver had been doing moments before. He quickly grabbed his phone.
He felt the fairy magic still at the door and began to stagger around the dwelling. He could have attempted to go out to the Weres, but the fairy bond seemed to kick against him as if warning him away from Claudette’s spell around the property, and Eric had learned well that he should always listen to his wife—no matter how she tried to speak to him. Moreover, he didn’t want to leave Hunter. Instinctually, he felt the need to get to the boy’s side as soon as he could.
He knew that the doors on the other side of the duplex would open, but since he’d not been invited into that residence, he could not enter from that side. However, he had just enough strength to fly up to the small window that led to a small attic space above Hadley’s side of the building. He quickly broke the window and, though it was a tight fit, he was able to squeeze his body inside. Once away from the sun’s direct rays, Eric’s skin stopped reddening, and he made his way to the boy sluggishly. He needed sleep―needed it badly so that he could heal―but he pushed himself for Hunter’s sake.
Hunter was still cradled next to the door, crying at the loss of his mother and because of the ordeal he’d been through. Eric came into the room and Hunter looked up with equal parts fear and hope.
“Eric?” Hunter said. “You didn’t burn in the sun? You didn’t leave me.”
“No,” Eric said. “But I must find a safe place to sleep now.”
Hunter rose and bravely wiped the tears from his eyes. He grasped Eric’s hand, despite the fact that the flesh there was still burned from the silver, and led Eric to a small, windowless bathroom in the hall. The little boy said, “Mommy always said this would be a good place for a vampire.”
Eric quickly wetted a rag and washed the blood off of his face and hands so that the boy would not be frightened by his appearance. He slumped down on the floor tiredly. His body was trying to begin to heal from the silver wounds, but it was also fighting the damage of the sun. He looked at Hunter and spoke. “I believe us to be safe here for the day.”
Eric noticed that the boy’s hands were a little scraped up and slightly burned, but there was neither bleeding nor blistering, which he was grateful for, given the boy’s tenacity in trying to get the front door open―despite the fairy spell. He looked at the little boy’s shirt, which was torn and dirty from when he’d been ripped from his mother’s arms and tossed to the porch by one of the fairies. “Were you hurt when you fell, Hunter?”
Hunter touched his right shoulder gingerly. “A little,” he said quietly.
“Will you let me see the wound?”
Hunter nodded and walked toward the sitting Eric. Carefully, so as neither to hurt nor to frighten the boy, Eric removed Hunter’s shirt. A nasty-looking bruise had formed on the side of his shoulder where he’d struck the hard porch floor.
“It is not broken, but it will hurt for a while, Hunter,” Eric said as he ascertained the severity of the wound.
“Mommy put peas on my knee when I fell on it,” Hunter said in a little voice.
“Peas?” Eric asked.
“Yep, frozen ones,” the little boy confirmed.
Eric nodded in understanding. “Do you know if you have more peas in the kitchen?”
Hunter nodded and gave him a little smile. “I like them, and Mommy gave me a little stool so I can reach them now and help her cook.”
“Good,” Eric said. “I want you to go get a bag of peas and your blanket from your bed―the one with the trains on it. And bring fresh pajamas and undergarments for yourself as well. Can you carry all those items in one trip?”
Hunter nodded but looked reluctant to leave. Eric spoke again, “I will be right here. If I sense anyone else is in the house, I will come to you.”
Hunter took a deep breath.
Eric looked at him with as much confidence as he could muster, “Now, go and hurry back.”
While Eric heard Hunter quickly collecting the items, he ran the child a bath. When the boy returned, Eric said in a calm, though tired voice. “I am aware that you have soiled your clothing, Hunter. Your Aunt Sookie would want for me to make sure you are comfortable enough to sleep, so you should bathe. Are you able to do this yourself? It might hurt your shoulder a little.”
“Good,” Eric said. “I will turn around and watch the door in order to give you some privacy and to make sure that you remain safe. You will bathe and change into your new clothing.”
Before Eric could turn, Hunter began to cry again. He said in a soft voice, “I’m sorry that I peed in my pants, Eric. Mommy’s head gets sad and mad when I do that; I didn’t mean to—I swear.”
Eric noticed that Hunter’s “R’s” came out more like “W’s” when he said “Eric.”
Eric raised his hand slowly to the boy’s uninjured left shoulder. “Do not be ashamed, little one. You were very brave earlier, and now we must be even braver until we are reunited with our women. I am neither angry nor saddened by your actions tonight.”
Hunter sniffled and then nodded as Eric patted his shoulder a bit awkwardly. “Now, bathe quickly, Hunter.”
Eric turned around and listened as the child bathed. He smelled soap. He monitored the child’s heartbeat as he cleaned himself. He listened as the child began to hum slightly, a tune he’d most likely heard from his mother.
Meanwhile, Eric texted Miranda, giving her only a brief set of orders. The Weres outside were not to come in, even though the magic spell would most likely lift soon. Instead, they were to stand guard around the house through the day. They were to remove Conway’s body, which had not yet been discovered, so that the human authorities didn’t find the P.I.’s corpse. They were also to have TruBlood and a human meal waiting at sunset. Eric couldn’t bring himself to type that Sookie was gone. He could hardly bring himself to think it, and he needed to stay strong for the boy.
A few minutes later, Eric heard the child pull the drain.
“The towel with the dragon on it is yours, correct?” Eric asked.
“Yeah,” Hunter answered.
“Good,” Eric said. “Dry yourself completely and dress.”
“Okay,” Hunter said.
A few minutes later, Hunter asked, “Can you help me with my shirt, Eric? It hurts a little.”
Eric turned around and took in the boy. He was dressed in pajama bottoms and had a T-shirt in his hands; both garments had dinosaurs on them. Eric nodded his head and carefully put the shirt over Hunter’s head. He gave the child a little smile, “You have done well.”
Hunter smiled a little in return.
Eric looked at Hunter seriously. “Do you know that vampires are supposed to sleep in the day?”
“I am very tired and injured,” Eric said. “I will soon be sleeping, but we will be safe here―I think. The people outside will be guarding us through the day, and they’ll bring us some food tonight. Can you wait until then to eat?”
“Good,” Eric said. “I must stay in here, but you may go to your bedroom if you prefer.”
Hunter shook his head. “Can I stay here?”
Eric nodded. “Here is your blanket. Wrap yourself up.” Eric quickly put several dry towels onto the floor and made a little pallet for Hunter. “The floor is hard, but the towels and your blanket will offer you some comfort.”
“Can I sleep too?” Hunter asked. “I’m real tired.”
“Yes,” Eric said, “but if you hear anyone come into the house or sense trouble with your telepathy, you must try to wake me. Do you understand?”
“Tel-e-pa-thy?” Hunter asked, struggling over the word.
Eric explained, “Your telepathy is what you hear people’s thoughts with Hunter.”
Hunter nodded as Eric lay down on the floor a few feet away from the pallet he’d made for the boy.
The boy asked, “Do you wanna share my blanket?”
Eric managed a slight smile. “No thank you, Hunter. I need no warming device to sleep.” He smiled a bit wider. “However, your Aunt Sookie always made sure that I had those kinds of things.”
“Did she go with Mommy?” Hunter asked in a quiet voice.
“Yes,” Eric said, his voice heavy.
“Will I see Mommy again?” Hunter asked, his voice so quiet that the vampire hardly heard it.
“If your mother is anything like Sookie, she will find her way back, Hunter,” Eric tried to assure the boy, even as he tried to assure himself.
Hunter wrapped himself up in the blanket and then scooted the pallet over a bit so that he could lie down right next to Eric. The little boy placed his head briefly on the vampire’s arm. His wide eyes looked into Eric’s. “I’m glad that I can’t hear you,” he said as he turned around and faced away from Eric.
Eric took the bag of frozen peas from the counter. “I’m going to put the peas on your shoulder; that will help your bruise to feel better and not swell, okay Hunter?”
Eric saw the child nod. Eric carefully placed the bag over the boy’s T-shirt on top of the wound. Then he wrapped a hand-towel around it to keep it in place. “If it gets too cold you can remove it, okay Hunter?”
The boy nodded again and settled into the blanket.
Within a few minutes, Hunter had fallen asleep. Once the boy was in his slumber, Eric relaxed a little. He took one last inhalation of the area. There were no fairies. The Weres had found and removed Conway’s body.
Eric listened to Hunter’s even breathing. The boy was safe, and it was daylight. Eric could do nothing more in that moment―either to keep his word to Sookie or to try to recover her. He felt that his body desperately needed to sleep. Eric put his large hand onto Hunter’s back lightly, a gesture that he hoped would reassure the boy even if he woke up while Eric was still in his day sleep. Truth be told, the contact also made Eric feel a little better. The boy was a tenuous connection to his beloved.
A tear slipped down Eric’s cheek as he thought about Sookie. He sent all the love that he could into the fairy bond, but unlike with the vampire bond, there was no answering emotion.
Eric shook himself out of despair and then fell into his sleep.