Several hours later, Eric reentered his workshop with a TruBlood in his hand. He took a leisurely drink as he noticed Bill licking his lips hungrily.
“Have a nice day, Bill?” Eric asked.
“Fuck you, Eric,” Bill returned nastily.
“Tsk, tsk, Bill,” Eric answered in a patronizing tone. “Be nice. Pam really wants to take your tongue again, and if you aren’t nice, I’m going to let her have it, which would be such a shame because I really want to ask you some questions. Or maybe, I could just let her have your balls; then we could both win!”
Bill winced and then looked up at Eric with hatred in his eyes, “What do you want to know?”
“A whole hell of a lot, Bill,” Eric said matter-of-factly as he walked to the corner of the room and picked up a cold TruBlood. “But first, I think you need to heal a bit.”
“Why? You are just going to torture me or let that bitch progeny of yours torture me,” Bill growled.
Eric chuckled as he popped the lid off of the TruBlood, walked over to Bill, and raised it to the fallen monarch’s lips. “Pam is quite the bitch, isn’t she?” He winked down at Bill. “I would hurt you for calling her that, but it’s the one label that she’s always enjoyed the most.”
Bill turned his head as if to avoid the blood.
Eric sighed. “You can take this and be in less pain, or you can refuse, Bill. Believe me—the thought of you being in more pain does not make me upset.”
Bill turned his head, glared at Eric with hate, and then drank.
“Excellent. Now for my questions,” Eric said after Bill had finished the blood.
Bill remained silent.
Eric sat down next to the work table. “I want to know how you got to the fairy realm with Claudine,” Eric asked calmly.
“Why would I tell you a goddamn thing?” Bill asked venomously.
“You don’t have to,” Eric said.
The two vampires stared at each other for several minutes. Despite his seemingly calm demeanor, Eric’s emotions were in a twisted mass. Part of him wanted to kill Bill slowly—very, very slowly—extending the Civil War veteran’s pain as much as his thousand years had trained him to be capable of doing. But then, there was Sookie’s voice in his head, in his heart, and in the fairy bond. He closed his eyes and sighed. Sookie’s voice—as always—seemed to win in him. He smiled a bit at that certain knowledge.
When he finally spoke to Bill, his voice did not betray his emotions. “You have two choices, Bill, and―for me―there are benefits to either one. You, however, would benefit from only one of them.” Eric paused. “Would you like to hear them?”
“Fine,” Bill said sullenly.
“Your first choice is to answer my questions. If you do this, I swear that you will receive no further torture. When I am done speaking to you, your true death will come swiftly.”
“And the other?” Bill asked with trepidation.
“I will take my time, Bill. I have lived a thousand years and have learned many,” he paused, “effective techniques for inflicting pain. If you choose not to speak, you will feel them all, and trust me when I say that you will die as neither man nor vampire―but as a shell. I will carve you, Bill. I will carve you until there is very little left.” Eric’s voice was menacing and made Bill’s already cold blood turn to ice. “I will give you two minutes to decide.” The Viking turned his back on Bill and walked out of the workshop.
Eric blazed into the house and checked on his son, who was sleeping soundly and already in his and Sookie’s bed. Eric had indulged the child that night, letting him go to sleep there. Truth be told, Eric did not want to think of Hunter having another nightmare. He brushed the hair from the boy’s forehead lovingly and watched with a smile as his son snuggled further into his stuffed toy.
As the second minute ended, Eric returned to the workshop. He said nothing as he returned to sit next to Bill.
He looked at the Civil War veteran.
Another minute passed as Bill returned Eric’s stare. What he saw in the Viking’s eyes determined his choice.
Bill spoke quietly, “I will answer your questions.”
Eric nodded, though some disappointment was clear in his eyes. “How did you get to the fairy realm?”
Bill shook his head even as the silver chains burned more deeply into his neck because of that action. “I do not know. I tried to find out after Sookie disappeared the first time―tried to recreate it―but I could not.”
Eric nodded, “Tell me everything you can about your time there. Omit nothing.”
Bill answered quickly, and Eric could tell he spoke the truth. “It happened during my day rest. I was dead to the world, and then suddenly I awoke to water dripping on me, like it was leaking through the door of my resting place.”
“Water?” Eric asked tilting his head in curiosity.
“Yes,” Bill answered. “I opened the door, but I was not in my own home anymore; I was in the fairy realm. I emerged in the middle of some kind of pool, it seemed. I felt the sun on my skin, but I did not burn. It felt,” Bill paused and closed his eyes at the memory, “wonderful.”
“Go on,” Eric said.
“I walked out into the sun. There was a pool of water around me—as I said—and it seemed as if I were in the graveyard―near Adele Stackhouse’s grave. But it also seemed like an expansive and beautiful meadow at the same time. It is difficult to explain.”
Eric considered for a moment. “You were perhaps pulled in through the portal that used to exist near Gran’s grave. The imprint of that portal likely remained throughout your experience.”
Eric was once again saddened by the fact that the fairy portal in the cemetery had been destroyed as Sookie had returned home the first time. However, he felt like he’d gotten another piece of the fairy puzzle. A portal of some kind seemed to be required to draw another into the fairy realm; he quickly filed that knowledge away. He looked back at Bill. “Continue.”
Bill went on, “Then Claudine was there. She’d thought I’d killed Sookie, and she ran from me at first, but I was able to catch her using my speed.” Bill closed his eyes. “She smelled like sunshine, and she also smelled of irises just like,” he stopped mid-sentence.
“Like what?” Eric asked.
“Like my human wife—my Caroline,” Bill answered softly.
Eric was silent for a moment. “Is this how Sookie smelled to you as well?” he finally asked.
Bill shook his head. “No.”
“What does she smell like to you, Bill?” Eric asked, a twinge of desperation in his voice.
Bill smirked a little. “You are afraid to lose her to another vampire, aren’t you?”
Eric’s eyes narrowed, but he was honest with his enemy. “Yes. I am worried that others will smell her and desire her.”
“Why not just ask Pam or Jessica then?” Bill asked.
Eric responded. “I have. Sookie smells good to them—very good—but not overwhelmingly so. I want to know if her scent changes for a vampire who has had her blood.”
“You have had her blood,” Bill pointed out.
“Yes,” Eric said leaning forward a bit. “But her scent has always remained the same for me.”
Bill was silent for a moment and then answered honestly. “The first night I saw Sookie, she did smell better than most other humans to me. She was pure and somehow different than the others in Merlotte’s. Maybe ‘fresher’ is the right word.” He tried to shrug, though the chains prevented him from moving much. “The queen had told me that Sookie might have fairy blood; however, I didn’t pick up anything too extraordinary.” He paused. “After she took my blood and then I tasted hers, however, her scent intensified. She began to smell like sunshine to me after that.”
“Sunshine in a pretty blond bottle,” Eric muttered almost to himself.
“Yes, exactly that,” Bill agreed.
Eric closed his eyes. He spoke in a soft voice. “Thank you for this information, Bill. It helps me to understand that to protect Sookie, no one must ever taste her blood.”
Bill looked at Eric with curiosity. “So her scent did not change to you after you tasted her?”
Eric opened his eyes and shook his head. “From that first moment in Fangtasia, she has always smelled to me like the things that I loved the most from my human days.”
Bill—in turn—closed his eyes and a smile ghosted his lips. “That was my Caroline too. She smelled of irises and fresh-made bread. Even as vampire, I have never smelled something that made me feel as she did.”
“Not even Claudine?” Eric asked.
Bill opened his eyes, and Eric could tell that he was contemplating his answer. “When I smelled Claudine, it was similar to Caroline. It was the irises. But there was something different about Claudine too—almost like I was driven mad by her scent. It was not the best, but it was the most intoxicating thing I have ever smelled.”
Eric chuckled. “She was rather intoxicating.”
Bill looked up at Eric in confusion. “You spoke to Claudine as well?”
Eric sat back in his chair and sighed. “No, but I did smell her right before I drained her.”
Bill’s eyes got bigger. “You drained her?”
Eric nodded. “While I had amnesia, she came to try to convince Sookie to go back to the fairy realm, and her scent was,” Eric paused, “almost hypnotic.”
“Yes,” Bill agreed. “That is how I felt.”
“Well,” Eric shrugged, “she was full fairy.”
There was a moment of silence between the two. “So what happened after you caught Claudine in the fairy realm?” Eric asked, returning to his original line of questioning.
Bill looked a little embarrassed. “Because of her scent, I went to bite her, but she shot me with her light and I was flung back. Claudine approached me and accused me of killing Sookie, but I assured her that I had not and that I loved Sookie.”
Bill continued, “Claudine said that I did not love Sookie―that I merely wanted to steal her light from her.” Bill stopped for a few moments and reflected as he looked up at Eric. Despite the relative congeniality of their conversation thus far, he knew that he was soon going to die at the hands of the Viking. Part of him was glad that it would soon be the end of his long life at long last. He sighed and confessed quietly, “Maybe Claudine was right that I wanted to take Sookie’s light. I no longer know.”
Eric got up and walked around the table. A large part of him wanted to kill Bill right then because of his confession, but he controlled his rage. He thought about the days before he had acknowledged his own love for Sookie. If he was being honest with himself, part of him had wanted to gorge himself on Sookie’s “light” as well. He felt his gratefulness wash away his anger in that moment; with Sookie, he’d managed to stifle the vampire in himself. Bill had not been so lucky.
He went to get another TruBlood from the corner of the room and popped off the top. He walked back over to Bill and offered it to him.
This time the monarch drank the blood without question.
After Bill was done, Eric began pacing the room a bit. After several minutes, he spoke, “I fell in love with Sookie because something in her reached in and took hold of the most fundamental part of me.” Eric paused for a few moments. “Otherwise, I might have been as you are.” He looked at his fallen monarch. “You see―I hunger for her blood and for her light too. But I hunger to protect them―to nourish them―even more. I love Sookie more than I love her blood.”
Perhaps being honest with himself for the first time in years, Bill nodded and then lowered his eyes, knowing that he could not say the same.
“What else can you tell me about your time in the fairy realm?” Eric prompted.
Bill sighed, “I convinced Claudine that I wanted to know what Sookie was in order to protect her―that Sookie needed to know in order to protect herself―and then Claudine confirmed everything Sophie-Anne and I had already suspected about Sookie being a fairy.” His voice became quiet. “And then―just like that―I was gone from that world. And with it, I was gone from the sun.”
Eric nodded. “Claudine was surprised to see you there?”
“Yes,” Bill answered.
“She did not call you there as I’d thought then,” Eric mused somewhat disappointingly.
Bill spoke unprompted, “I think it was the amount of Sookie’s blood that I had or the amount that I’d just given her that may have caused my going there. Maybe both. It was the strongest our tie ever was―strong enough even to make her forgive me for the incident in the van―at least for a while.”
Eric closed his eyes; remembering what Bill had done and what he’d almost done to Sookie in the van made him want to torture the man on his table, but he’d given his word not to. Instead Eric sat back down and scrutinized Bill.
The Viking spoke after a few moments of silence, “It was only a few nights later that Sookie came to Fangtasia, looking for me and trying to find out why she had such doubts about you.” Eric closed his eyes and smiled fondly as he remembered his wife that night—her swinging ponytail, her grey T-shirt, her little denim shorts, and especially her feverish response to his kiss. “She’s amazing, you know? She fought off your tie enough to find her way to me that night.”
“And what of your tie?” Bill asked bitterly. “Wasn’t she just coming to you because of it?”
Eric smiled ruefully and shook his head. “My tie was a complete backfire,” he chuckled. “You see, even in Dallas I loved her, and when she took my blood and I tried to control her with it, I was the one who was lost to her. I was the one who was tied.”
Bill looked up at Eric with shocked eyes, “That type of tie is a myth.”
Eric smiled wider, “I would have said so too three years ago, but then Sookie has always been the ultimate myth buster in my existence. Like I said—she’s fucking amazing.”
“So you could never?” Bill began.
“No,” Eric answered Bill’s unfinished question. “I could never control her. I was able to be a catalyst to one dream, but that dream only resulted in my being ‘freaked out’―as the humans would say—even as she made me fall in love with her a little bit more. After that, I never tried again.” Eric chuckled and then closed his eyes. “Fucking amazing!”
“You love her?” Bill stated more than asked, though the disbelief was clear in his voice.
“With every piece of myself,” Eric answered simply, reopening his blue orbs and looking straight at Bill.
“So your bond is real and not a lie on your part?” Bill asked, with something akin to envy in his eyes.
Eric nodded. “Very real.”
“And the boy?” Bill asked.
Eric answered honestly. “Before Sookie was taken to the fairy realm, she asked that I watch over him.”
“And you have not tasted him?” Bill asked, his tone full of both curiosity and incredulity.
Eric growled warningly, “He is as my son, Bill.”
Bill shook his head and spoke sincerely, “You have always said that I am not much of a vampire, Eric. But I now know the truth. It is you who are not much of one. To have that near you and not taste it? To have Sookie near you and not want to control her? Those are not the actions of a vampire.”
Eric stood up and turned his back on Bill. “Perhaps not, Bill,” Eric answered honestly. “But I am enough of a vampire to put an end to you this night.”
“I know.” Bill chuckled ruefully. “I really should have killed you when I had the chance.”
Eric turned and looked at Bill with curiosity. “Why didn’t you, Bill? I admit that I have wondered this ever since I regained my memory. I was on my knees before you. I was not going to fight you.”
The side of Bill’s mouth went up into a smirk. “Do you want the truth?”
“There were many reasons. First, I thought that my benevolence would impress Sookie,” Bill said. “And I knew that if I killed you, she would hate me.” He paused. “I still felt her emotions through our tie―though, after she returned from the fairy realm, it was no longer strong enough for me to influence her as I had before―and I knew that if I took your life, all of the remaining affection I felt from her would have been gone. Trust me,” Bill shook his head, “I wanted you dead and was ready to take my chances that I would eventually get back into her good graces once you were gone, but then,” he stopped.
“Then?” Eric asked as his eyebrow rose.
“Then you said what you said. You told me that night that Sookie had helped you to learn how to love.” Bill sighed and closed his eyes. “That was my own greatest desire. I wished only to feel that way again. And with Sookie, I felt something close to that—something close to human.” Bill opened his eyes and they seemed to be pleading with Eric. “For whatever reason, I could not kill you in that moment, so I had to let you go free.”
Eric nodded. “I understand. I have wished to kill you many times, but I have stayed my hand because of my love for Sookie.”
“But you will not stay it this time?” Bill asked, although his tone contained little hope.
Eric shook his head. “No. I will not let you live because of what you intended for my son, Bill. You will not live because you would have taken his light, just as you wanted to snuff out Sookie’s. I will not allow either of those things to happen—not ever.”
“I just wanted to feel human again,” Bill stammered in a whisper. “When Lorena turned me, she took everything from me. I tried to hold on to my humanity at first. I briefly got away from Lorena and went back to Caroline—to my family—but my wife thought me an abomination, a demon. I was left with nothing, and for a long time, I felt nothing. But with Sookie, I felt something again. It would have been the same with Hunter.”
A low growl emanated from Eric’s chest, and he turned away from Bill so that he didn’t break his word and begin ripping him apart.
After a few minutes of silence had fallen between them, Bill asked, “Will you answer my questions?”
Once again calm, Eric turned back around and nodded.
“Lillith,” Bill whispered. “Did she get out?”
Eric nodded. “Yes―she was the only one. But she did escape.”
Bill smiled. “She was always the cleverer of us two.” He looked back at Eric. “How?”
“She used some kind of magic to mask her scent from me.”
Bill smiled a bit wider.
“Do you have any other questions, Bill?” Eric asked.
The Civil War veteran thought for a moment. “No.”
“Very well,” Eric said in a soft voice. “I have only one more for you, Bill.”
“What is it?”
“The night we faced Marnie in the graveyard, it was Sookie’s idea that we help you. In my state of amnesia, I wanted to run away with her. I wanted for us to leave together, to live together in happy bliss forever, but―because she is the warrior she is―Sookie insisted that we help you―that we not run.” Eric paused and then continued in a low voice. “I have thought about that night many, many times, Bill. At first, my thoughts centered upon what I did wrong and how I left Sookie’s side to quench my own thirst for battle. I have often thought that if I could just go back in time to that moment, things would be different now, and Sookie might still be with me.”
Eric considered his words for a moment and then continued, “I was foolish and listened first to my vampire instinct to kill my enemies. I should have listened to the better part of myself―the part that would have stayed by the side of my bonded one―but I was weak.”
“Do you have a point?” Bill asked, his tone now a bit sarcastic.
“Yes, I have a fucking point,” Eric said with controlled rage and a warning look that told Bill to shut the fuck up. “As I said, I have thought about that night a lot, Bill. I have catalogued everyone who was there: witches, vampires, humans, and Weres.” Eric closed his eyes. “There were twelve witches there that night, including Marnie. I smelled that eight of them had silver. Two carried stakes. Marnie had no weapon other than her magic. One human―Sookie’s friend Tara―carried a gun with wooden bullets. There were seven vampires there, including you and me. Sookie was there. And there were eight humans there―your guards. They carried guns with regular lead bullets that night so that they could damage the witches.”
Eric paused. “I also smelled two Weres―near the end of the fight―Alcide Herveaux and Debbie Pelt.”
Eric walked to the foot of the table. “I have thought of this many times―over and over. And with Sookie gone, I have had much time to devote to my thoughts. So my question is this, Bill. How did Sookie get shot? It was not with a wooden bullet, I presume―so not by a stray shot from her friend Tara’s gun. So I am left with your men―only your men―who would have had the weapons that could have caused her wound.” Eric turned a deadly stare onto Bill. “Did you arrange for her to be shot, Bill?”
Bill looked up at Eric with fear in his eyes, and Eric had all the answer he needed.
“So―you did,” Eric stated with certainty.
“Yes,” Bill confessed. “But just so that I could once again give her my blood―so that I could make her see the error of being with you and so that she would come back to me of her own accord. I did not intend for her to die.”
Eric closed his eyes, again barely controlling his rage. “How the fuck would that be ‘of her own accord,’ Bill?”
The king didn’t respond.
“She rejected your blood—correct?” Eric said more than asked a few moments later.
“At first,” Bill nodded.
Eric opened his eyes, “It was the vampire bond we had begun that made her do that.” Eric smiled a little and then shook his head. “No, I am wrong. It was the fairy bond—her bond―that sought to hinder anything that would keep us apart.” He chuckled; he couldn’t help himself. “My beautiful, stubborn fairy.”
“Fairy bond?” Bill asked.
Eric’s attention turned from his musings about his wife to Bill. The Viking nodded. “Yes—fairies too can form bonds. In fact, they are more powerful that vampire bonds in that fairies need only one blood exchange to solidify an ever-lasting bond, and those bonds are,” he paused and chuckled again, “very tenacious, it seems.”
“She formed a bond with you and not me?” Bill asked a bit dumbfounded. “But she loved me.”
Eric shook his head. Truth be told, he felt almost sorry for Bill because of the delusion that still seemed to grip him. “Yes,” he said simply, “she formed her bond with me. We formed our bonds with each other.”
Eric sighed. “The fairy bond is like the vampire bond. It requires that there be true and sincere love on both sides before it is formed. It requires choice from both participants.”
Bill looked up at Eric with questions in his eyes, “Sookie formed this fairy bond with you before she was shot?”
Eric nodded. “And it worked to protect itself from that which was threatening it—your blood.”
Bill looked down. Eric could see some shame in the younger vampire’s eyes.
“She could have died,” Eric intoned softly.
“I did not know,” Bill said contritely. “I did not mean for her to face real danger. She was shot in the stomach where the wound would not kill her.”
Eric growled. “But it gave her pain,” he said now seething.
“Yes,” Bill relented.
Eric walked over to his tools of torture that Pam had brought two nights before and ran his fingers over the satchel which contained them. “I would have very much liked to have tortured you with these, Bill,” Eric said in an almost inaudible voice. “But a promise is—unfortunately—a promise.”