Hunter woke up on the bathroom floor. He stretched into his blanket and sat up. The peas had fallen off his shoulder as he’d slept, but that was okay. His shoulder wasn’t hurting that bad now.
Aunt Sookie’s husband, the vampire named Eric, was asleep on the floor next to him.
Hunter looked at the vampire closely. Eric looked dead, or at least what Hunter thought dead would look like up close. On a few occasions, Hunter had gotten glimpses of dead people from the minds of others, but he didn’t like seeing those thoughts because they always came attached to lots of sadness or anger that hurt his head. And they made him scared. For some reason, sitting next to the vampire didn’t scare him though; in fact, it seemed to have the opposite effect.
The little boy tucked his feet up against his body and contemplated his new guardian for a few moments. The vampire had been nice to him—despite the fact that his mommy had told him all vampires were bad. Plus, Aunt Sookie had thought really nice things about Eric. But most of all, Eric had talked kindly to him when he was scared, and Eric hadn’t left him alone either. Hunter nodded his little head in decision. He liked the vampire.
After a few minutes of thinking, Hunter realized that he was hungry, and he needed to potty. He got up and took care of the second of these items quickly. As he flushed the toilet, he looked at the vampire, who didn’t move at all because of the loud noise. Hunter glanced at the digital wall clock and noticed it was after 2 o’clock. That was the time that he and Mommy usually woke up so that she could teach him school. But he didn’t want to go get the book they’d been reading together. He didn’t want to leave the vampire’s side at all. Hunter had seen Eric fighting and could tell that he was strong; Eric also got out of the trap the bad people had put him under. Hunter had been so scared to be all alone when Eric was outside, but then Eric was suddenly there, and he’d felt less frightened.
He listened with his mind and didn’t hear any of the bad people like the ones that had taken his mommy and Aunt Sookie. He looked again at the vampire. Hunter knew that the sun would go down after 5:00 because that was when school stopped and he and his mommy ate lunch. As his stomach growled, he wondered if Eric would know about lunch.
Hunter sat on the floor quietly for a minute, thinking about whether he should go get a snack from the kitchen. After a few minutes, he decided not to. He would wait for Eric to wake up before he left the room. That way, he’d be safe.
Hunter tilted his head and continued to contemplate the vampire. Aunt Sookie said that she was married to him, and Hunter knew what “married” meant. From when he lived with his daddy, he knew some children whose mommies and daddies were married. He knew it meant that the mommy and the daddy lived together. He thought about the night before when he’d seen Aunt Sookie and Eric holding hands. Hunter figured that meant that Eric and Aunt Sookie loved each other.
Hunter yawned and again checked his brain for the bad people. He wondered if the vampire in front of him was his uncle since he was married to Aunt Sookie. He figured that Eric had to be his uncle since Aunt Sookie was his aunt. But he decided to ask Eric when he woke up so that he could be sure. Hunter yawned again, lay down on the pallet of towels, and tucked himself into his train blanket. He snuggled into Uncle Eric and fell back to sleep.
Eric awoke, and his immediate response was to seek out Sookie through their bond―the vampire bond. He ached all over again when he didn’t feel her emotions and love for him. He next looked for the fairy bond. It was there and buzzing; he sighed. She was still alive.
His next move was to take in his surroundings. It was five minutes until dark. His body, thanks in no small part―he knew―to the effects of Sookie’s healing blood that still swirled within him and the fairy bond, was eighty seven percent healed. And there were no fairies outside that he could sense. The child, Hunter, was breathing evenly next to him, sleeping cozily in his blanket. He was using Eric’s arm as a pillow.
As soon as the sun was down, Eric moved to get up, and Hunter stirred and sat up too, mirroring the actions of the vampire almost like the kitten did back home.
Hunter looked up at Eric expectantly.
Eric spoke to Hunter gently. “We are going to leave this place now Hunter, but I no longer have the key for the car that I came in.”
“Me and mommy don’t have a car anymore,” Hunter said. “It broke when we drove here.”
“It is fine, Hunter.” He tilted his head to the side. “Do you know who Superman is?”
“Yes,” Hunter’s face brightened. “I like Superman and Spiderman.”
“Good,” Eric said. “Do you know how Superman is able to fly.”
“I can fly like that too, Hunter. Some vampires are able to fly, and I am one of them. I’m going to fly us to my airplane, and then I’m going to take us home.”
“A real life airplane?” Hunter asked excitedly. The boy focused on the parts of Eric’s words he understood best. Hunter wasn’t sure how Eric could be like Superman if he didn’t have a cape, but he figured that Eric was strong like Superman. And Hunter had always wanted to ride in an airplane. However, the little boy wasn’t sure what Eric meant about ‘home.’ He figured Eric knew.
“Yes,” Eric responded, “a real airplane.” He couldn’t help his small smile at the boy’s wide eyes and excited. “Is your shoulder okay?” Eric asked.
Hunter bit his lip as if considering something and then nodded. “It just hurts a little.”
Eric reached into his pocket for his cell phone and dialed Pam.
“Eric!” the vampiress said. “What’s going on? I made it as far as west as Amarillo, Texas before the sun went down. What do you need me to do? You stopped calling to me through the bond.” She was speaking very quickly. “And goddammit, Eric, why do you feel so strange. It feels like you are injured, but not injured. It feels like you are torn in fucking two! And Miranda said that you ordered to Weres to stay outside. What the fuck is happening?”
Eric spoke in a low voice, “Sookie and her cousin Hadley have been taken to the fairy realm. The boy Hunter is with me, and I am going to take him to the airplane now.”
“Sookie―taken?” Pam asked. “But how?”
“Pam,” Eric said sternly, trying to hold himself together. He still felt incapable of speaking about Sookie’s being gone to anyone at that moment, “is Jessica with you?”
“Yes,” she answered. “I couldn’t very well leave her alone.”
“That is fine,” Eric said. “Here is what I need. Conway was killed; the Weres will know where his body has been placed. I need you to come here as soon as possible and take care of things. Make Conway’s death look like an accident—a hit and run. And make sure that is what the police here think too.”
Eric sighed, “Then come to the residence of Sookie’s cousin. There is a black sedan about a block away. Conway had the keys. I want you to get those keys from his body, and make sure the car is returned to the rental agency here without questions.” He paused. “Pam, my next order is very important to me. There are things in Sookie’s purse that I want to have, so I need you to retrieve it from the car. There will also be a bag that she packed,” he paused, “for us.” His voice cracked and halted momentary on the word, ‘us.’ After a few moments, he continued, “I need those things, Pamela―is that understood?”
“Yes,” Pam said, not knowing what else to say.
“I also need to you clean out this residence. Bring all of Hunter’s belongings to the Bon Temps farmhouse. And place the other items into storage so that they can be returned to Hadley later.”
Eric felt Hunter’s little hand touching his large one tentatively, seeking comfort at the thought that his mother was not with him. Erich could see the boy’s sadness and fear illuminated clearly on his face.
Eric allowed the boy to take his hand and squeezed his back very lightly, making sure that he didn’t damage the child.
He continued speaking, “Glamour the restaurant owner where Hadley worked into believing that she has moved someplace far away to live with her family―say somewhere in California. In fact, arrange for a P.O. Box somewhere in the state using Hadley’s alias for the owner to send her last check to.”
Eric knew that California was a very messy state in terms of vampire politics, and his kind didn’t enjoy dealing with the king and queen of the state due to their in-fighting. Also, the state’s human population was so large that it would be more difficult to trace Hadley there, so when the trail to her once again ran cold, Bill’s P.I. would be left with nothing.
“Oh, and Pam,” he added. “Make sure that you leave no traces behind. There were fairies here, and I want their scents—as well as all vampire and Were scents—removed. If possible, Hadley’s should be left, but I want Hunter’s and Sookie’s scents removed as well. Contact Octavia in New Orleans to get the information of a local coven that can take care of that.”
“Yes master,” Pam said quietly, almost seeming to stifle a sob. Eric ignored the sound and hung up.
When Eric began to lead Hunter from the bathroom, the boy looked up at the vampire sheepishly. “I gotta go potty,” he said.
Eric looked a bit confused and then followed Hunter’s eyes to the toilet. “Oh,” Eric said, “you need to take care of your human needs. Fine. I will wait outside the door.” Hunter gripped Eric’s hand a bit tighter.
“Do not be fearful, little one,” Eric said, bending down a bit. “I will wait right outside and monitor you from the hall. I can also sense it if others come near.”
“The bad guys?” Hunter asked.
“Yes, the bad guys,” Eric confirmed. He bent down a bit further until he was squatting before Hunter, “And you can help me with that too, Hunter. You are able to hear everyone’s thoughts, right?”
“All except you,” Hunter nodded.
“Good,” Eric said. “You must tell me if you hear any bad guys, okay?”
The boy nodded again and reluctantly dropped Eric’s hand.
Eric stood just outside the bathroom door, scanning the area with all of his senses. He was ready to get out of there, but at the same time, this place was the last place he’d seen his Sookie. Her scent still lingered in the rooms of the small home. He was also concerned. He did not want to frighten the boy, but Eric did have need of Hunter’s gift right then. The last two fairies that had attacked, one of whom had initially carried the silver blade, had had some kind of a magic which had covered their scents from him. He was, therefore, counting on the fact that Hunter could “hear” them with his gift if they returned. Eric heard the toilet flush and then the faucet turn on. A minute later, Hunter stepped out of the bathroom. Eric reached out to retrieve the blanket and bent down again to speak to Hunter.
“We will wrap you in this as we fly,” he told Hunter, as the boy once again grabbed Eric’s hand. Eric led them toward the front entry way. Through his sense of smell, Eric knew that the magic that had sealed the doors had worn off; he also no longer smelled the spell that had been erected around the house. Eric saw that the smallest bag packed from the evening before had the same train characters as Hunter’s little blanket, so he bent down to picked it up. He placed the strap over his shoulder and then looked down at Hunter. “Can you hear anyone outside?”
“Just the people from before—the ones you called Weres?” Hunter looked up at Eric with wide eyes. “They sound different than other people in my head, Eric.”
Eric nodded. “They are different, Hunter.”
Eric made sure that Hunter was behind him and then opened the door. One of the Weres was waiting and gave him a little bow. “We were told to bring these things.” He held out a bag for Eric.
The vampire nodded back. “Keep guarding the perimeter. My progeny, Pam, will be here in a few hours. Until then, make sure this place is undisturbed. The Were nodded again as Eric closed the door.
Quickly, he reached into the bag and pulled out a four-pack of TruBlood. There was also some greasy-smelling human food in a little bag. Eric handed it to Hunter. “Eat some of this now―if you wish―but most will have to wait until we are on the plane.”
Hunter nodded and quickly reaching into the bag, grabbing a handful of fries. Meanwhile, Eric opened a blood and drank it quickly before following it with a second and then a third. Eric put the last bottle and Hunter’s unfinished food into the little bag and then slung it back over his shoulder.
“Are you ready to fly now, Hunter?” Eric asked.
The boy nodded a bit nervously.
Eric easily picked up Hunter and rested the boy against his shoulder, pulling the blanket around him snuggly. “Do not be afraid,” he said to the child. “I will not drop you.”
Hunter gripped Eric’s arms as the vampire walked out onto the front porch. The silver net was where he’d left it, but he knew Pam would be along soon to take care of it and everything else there. He took one last look at the space in the yard where he’d last seen Sookie. He recalled the light and passion in her brown eyes as she’d told him that she loved him―as she had ordered him to wait for her. The image of her face in that moment was etched into his mind like a lifeline. Eric forced himself to turn from that spot in the yard and then took off into the night sky as the little human clung to him like a lifeline.