Eric put Hunter to bed with a story and a kiss goodnight as always and then went into his office. Waiting for him there was a message from the A.P.’s ‘secretary’—her version of Bobby Burnham. Eric had begun contacting her when it became clear that his own fucking grandsire couldn’t find the time to respond to his fucking emails. Up to this point, however, even the secretary had made no reply. Eric quickly opened the email, hoping that at long last he would be assured that he would get his Sookie back at some point in the future.
He read the message several times, getting angrier with each read: The Ancient Pythoness is currently considering your dilemma, but the audience you requested is—at this time—quite impossible. She will contact you when she is ready.
Eric stood up, taking his laptop with him. He walked briskly but quietly to the back door and then out of it. He quickly signaled for Bubba to go inside and then took to the air.
He flew straight up for several minutes and then took great satisfaction in sending the offending piece of computer equipment straight into a swamp after crushing it with his hands. Eric had never felt the urge to kill something or someone so much in his long life as he did in that moment. He wanted to kill, but he had no one to direct his anger toward, except his own goddamned grandsire, and she was nowhere to be fucking found!
He flew back down to his yard and sank to his knees near the peach trees. He looked up at their blossoms, so lovely and sweet. Sookie would have loved them, but she would probably never get to fucking see them!
He clenched his fists to his sides and felt his body shaking. He closed his eyes, trying to think of someone he could kill. Remy Savoy? No―Hunter would one day ask about his birth father, and Eric didn’t want to have to tell him that he’d killed him. Lillith would have been an excellent option if she had only resurfaced. Russell was still safely caked in concrete.
Eric kept thinking; he would have loved to have gotten his hands on Claudette in that moment, but―goddamn it—she was in the fucking fairy realm too! Eric looked around, hoping for a visit from the spectral form of Godric; he wondered if he could rip the head off of a fucking ghost.
His fists tightened even more. He wanted—no needed—to destroy something. He wished that the A.P. were there in that moment―with her vague words and her even vaguer motives. He would have ripped her fucking head off to get the answers he needed.
Eric felt his short fingernails biting into his own palms as his rage flowed and then pooled inside of him, rising higher and higher.
“Fan,” he yelled out into the night as he brought both his fists to the earth. He looked at the twin dents he’d made in the ground. Those dents were clear evidence of his physical power, but in reality, Eric felt powerless. He looked down at those dents for several more minutes as his fury grew to even greater proportions―the feeling of powerlessness growing right along with it.
With more useless strikes, Eric pounded into the ground repeatedly. He struck out against the fairies who had taken away his Sookie. He struck out against Russell who had taken away his human family. He struck out against Bill whose death had not calmed his rage. He stuck out against Godric whose sporadic presence in his life had him doubting his own sanity at times. He struck out against the A.P. whose response to his ‘dilemma’ was goddamned unacceptable.
He hit and he hit and he hit the ground, forming an ever-expanding crater in front of him―even as his mind exploded with his rage. He hit into dirt, and rocks, and the decaying roots of long-dead trees. He hit until his hands were bloody and chunks of his own flesh slipped into the hole he was making. He hit trying to fill the hole in his own heart. He hit because Sookie should never have left him. She should have just let him die so that he would not have had to live even a moment without her by his side.
He hit the ground for each month, each week, each day, each hour, each minute, and each second he had been without his beloved one.
He hit because he was angry with Sookie, so fucking angry that she’d made him promise that he’d wait for her and not meet the sun. He hit because he was angry that she had made him promise to take care of Hunter so that he would have to live on―despite the fact that she had left him with a gaping crater in his heart and in his life that could be filled by nothing―not even his beautiful son.
He hit because he was angry at Hunter for making him care about yet another human, another being who would one day be ripped from him―whether it be by fairies or vampires cleverer than Bill or by the ravages of time and his natural death.
But most of all, Eric hit the earth because he was angry at himself and his millennia of failures. While his parents were being slaughtered, where was his sword? Leaning up against a wall while his dick had been inside of a girl whose name he couldn’t even remember. He should have been by his family’s side that night, behaving like the young prince his father desperately wanted him to be. While Godric had been suffering away in Dallas to the point of becoming suicidal, where had he been? Sitting on his god-forsaken throne at Fangtasia―night after night―sorrowful about his maker closing down their bond, but not getting off of his ass to go and confront Godric about it. No wonder his maker hadn’t agreed to stay with him and had chosen the sun instead! While the queen had become cavalier enough to poach in his area using Bill Compton, where had he been? Likely fucking a random fangbanger and ignoring the warning signs that Bill’s purpose in his area was not to mainstream.
Eric shook his head at his own ineptitudes, even as he continued to pound the earth as if it were his own body. He’d failed his human family. He’d failed Godric. And he’d failed Sookie most of all. He prided himself in always being prepared for every contingency, but he’d failed Sookie so many damned times. His biggest failure was not foreseeing that the fairies may have been watching Hadley and Hunter. Why had he not determined their weaknesses sooner? Why had he not been strong enough to protect her? The ground gave way to each of his strikes, but Eric found no answers to his questions in the earth, nor did he find a salve for his powerlessness. He found only more reasons to be angry with himself—only more reasons to punch his fists into the ground.
For hours, he hit, striking out against God’s very creation. And then he kept hitting for no other reason than to keep feeling the pain that he felt he deserved to feel―the pain that he needed to feel instead of the hollowness of being without his bonded one. He hit until the blood―now streaming from his eyes―met the blood from his battered hands.
And when he could hit no more, he stopped and buried his face into those same gory hands.
Meanwhile, inside the house, Pam was also in intense pain, so much so that red tears were now flowing freely down her cheeks, despite the fact that the others could see her. She had tried to completely shut down her bond with Eric, but doing so had been impossible. The feelings steamrolling from him were too potent to shut out. However, using the gift she’d inherited from Godric, she was able to dampen the bond to a great extent—to survive the onslaught of emotions from her maker―but she was still suffering. Jessica held Pam to her in a tight embrace.
“We have to do something to stop him,” Jessica said, looking pleadingly at the people who had clustered in the living room. Right after the pounding had begun, Miranda and Jarod had come inside the main house and ordered Jason, who had been spending time with Jessica that evening, to rescind Eric’s invitation for the time being. They had heard the sound of the vampire ripping into the ground from the guesthouse, and though they did not think he would hurt Hunter―even in his rampage―they knew that Eric would never forgive himself if he accidentally harmed anyone in the household.
Jesus and Lafayette, who had been hanging out with Jessica and Jason and had just left the house for the night, had rushed back inside when they heard the pounding coming from the back yard. They’d quickly said a spell that would keep the noise from Hunter’s room. The kitten, always quite brave in the face of anything, had retreated under the table, where he sat looking warily at the back door.
“He’s gonna kill her,” Jessica said as she looked down at her adoptive maker. “Someone has to stop him.” She got up as if ready to go to the door herself.
“No,” Pam said, grabbing her child’s arm. “He’d rip you apart right now without even knowing he was doing it.”
“Then call Thalia,” Jessica insisted, now crying as well. “He has to stop before he hurts you.”
Pam shook her head, “He’d rip her in two right now as well. Don’t worry, doll,” she managed, “he is not gonna damage me permanently. I’m keeping him out for the most part.” She closed her eyes. “I am more worried that he is going to rip himself apart out there.”
Jessica sat down again and embraced her maker. The others in the room looked at each other pensively and helplessly as the noise from the back continued, louder than a jackhammer ripping into pavement.
About three hours after it had started, the noise from the back yard suddenly stopped. Everyone in the room looked to Pam. She looked up at them wearily, but with a little smirk on her face that reassured every one of them, “Too bad Compton wasn’t still here for that.” She chuckled weakly, but no one else was able to join her as they all looked at her in concern.
Pam touched Jessica’s cheek tenderly. “It is over for now. The anger has been replaced by,” she paused, “uncertainty—emptiness. But I think the rage has passed.”
Jesus stood up and went to the kitchen. He had two bloods in his hands as he returned to the living room a couple of minutes later. He handed one to Pam and then looked at Lafayette.
Jesus took a deep breath, “He’s going to need blood too.”
Lafayette shook his head and got to his feet. “Oh hell no, you don’t, Jesus Velasquez! You ain’t leavin’ this motha fuckin’ house long as there’s any chance that he’s just waitin’ for somethin’ else to rip into other than the earth!”
Jesus smiled at his beloved and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “I’ll be fine, Laf,” he said comfortingly. “And,” Jesus smiled a little, “if he does try something, Mr. Cataliades has taught me how to tap into my demon power now, so I can defend myself,” Jesus chuckled a bit, “at least as long as it would take me to run into the house.”
“This ain’t nothin’ to play with. It ain’t worth it,” Lafayette said, the fear clear in his tone. “Let’s just wait a little while longer―let him simmer down some more.”
Jesus shook his head, “You know as well as I do that Eric is worth it to me, Laf, and so is Hunter.” The brujo stood up straight and shook his head, “I don’t think Eric will hurt me, and I feel really strongly that someone needs to throw him a lifeline right now, and I feel even more strongly that I’m the one that needs to do it.”
“Why not Pam?” Lafayette asked pleadingly.
“Because Pam is beat up right now too,” Jesus said, looking at the vampiress, who was sunk into the couch and clearly exhausted. “Anyway, this is something I want to do; you need to trust me on this Laf.”
Lafayette shook his head, “If you’s gets yourself hurt, I’m gonna fuckin’ kick you’s ass.”
Jesus smiled. “I need the car keys,” he requested as he held out his hand. Lafayette looked up in confusion but handed him the keys. “Don’t worry,” Jesus said, trying to make his beloved laugh, “I’m not gonna run him down with your baby.”
Lafayette looked at him seriously, “If it is a choice between you and the vette, roll on over that motha fucka as much as you needs to.”
Jesus gave his beloved one more smile and another quick kiss before walking out the front door and quickly going to the car. He got what he was looking for from the glove compartment and went to the back yard, where he knew he would find Eric.
Jesus took in the destruction with a gasp. Eric had pounded what looked to be a hole in the ground of about ten feet by ten feet that went at least five feet down. The vampire was sitting off to the side of it―his hands mangled, bloody, and broken―but he didn’t seem to be registering any pain. His eyes were empty as he watched Jesus approach. And his cheeks were stained with blood.
Jesus slowly drew near and then sat about five feet from where Eric was, putting his feet into the crater as if it were meant to be a chair fashioned from the earth. He reached out with the TruBlood. Eric reached out as well and―unable to grip the bottle with his fingers—held it between his two temporarily useless hands. He lowered his mouth to the bottle and tipped it upward, drinking as if automatically―as if he were a child taking medicine.
Jesus remained silent for several minutes as Eric drank and then awkwardly put the bottle down on the ground. The vampire then put his hands in his lap and slumped over, looking like the weight of his almost-thousand years had been placed onto his shoulders all at the same time. That weight seemed to be crushing him.
“Are you in much pain yet?” Jesus asked.
Eric looked up at the brujo and then back down at his hands. “They are healing,” Eric said simply.
“That is not what I meant,” Jesus said. “I’m asking about your vampire bond with Sookie.”
Eric looked at Jesus with a bit of surprise.
Jesus shrugged. “I may not know everything about vampire bonds yet, but I can infer a lot from what I do know.” He sighed. “Vampires are incredibly secretive about the effects ties and bonds can have on them, but I have learned how to read between the lines when looking at texts about Supernaturals in the last five months. And I know that you must be in some pain by now.”
Eric gave the brujo a little nod. “Yes—but the physical discomfort is nothing compared to the loss. It is still more ache than pain.”
Jesus sighed in relief. “How long will it take?”
“Before I am debilitated?” Eric asked in a low voice.
“I do not know,” Eric said. “As an old vampire, I can take much pain. I have estimated that it will be one hundred and twenty years before the pain takes hold to the point that I will be more-less incapacitated.”
“And until then?” Jesus asked.
“Until then, the pain will increase a little at a time as the bond sickness becomes more pronounced.”
Eric sighed. “Given the time lapse, it will take her much longer to feel any pain, and I am hoping that the inherent healing magic within her will stave off any effects.”
Jesus nodded again. “You will tell me if there is anything that I can do to help?”
Eric looked at the brujo. “There is nothing. The pain comes from the vampire bond stretching more and more, seeking to reconnect with its mate. It will not stop,” Eric paused. “I do not want it to.”
“I know you don’t,” Jesus said in a whisper. There was a minute of silence between them. “Will you die from it?” Jesus could not help the catch in his voice.
Eric looked at Jesus earnestly. “You are only one-eighth demon; however, you will likely live long—more than a century, I should think.” He gave Jesus a half-smile. “If Sookie does not return to me by then, there would be a race between us to our final deaths.”
“Perhaps they will have Supernatural nursing homes by then,” Jesus smiled.
“Perhaps I should order Pam to run a franchise of them,” Eric quipped, though the smile on his lips didn’t enliven his eyes.
Silence settled between the two for several minutes.
“I’m going to ask Lafayette to marry me,” Jesus said finally.
Eric looked at the brujo but said nothing.
Jesus was looking into the hole Eric had made. “We can’t have a wedding in Louisiana, and our marriage won’t even be recognized here, but I don’t want to wait any longer.” Jesus chuckled, “Lafayette has dreams about a very elaborate wedding; he already has a vision of himself walking down the aisle of the biggest Bon Temps church wearing a purple tuxedo with a leopard print bow tie.” Jesus shook his head and cringed a bit. “God only knows what he wants to dress me in, but I would wear it gladly if I could give him his dream. However, it doesn’t look like this state is gonna let us marry any time soon, so I’m going to drag him up North to do it. It will be a chore convincing him to elope though.”
Eric spoke up in a barely audible voice. “You will manage it. Tell him that he can still wear his tux.”
Jesus glanced up at Eric and smiled slightly before looking back down into the hole. He noticed that Eric’s eyes still seemed devoid of life. Jesus took a deep breath, “It will be another race, you know―seeing whether vampire marriage or gay marriage is approved first in this state. It would be nice if they could be approved at the same time, and then Lafayette and Sookie could have a big double wedding. Laf told me once that he and Sookie used to daydream about doing that.”
“I didn’t know that,” Eric said.
Jesus replied, “Laf told me that when they were about fourteen or fifteen, he and Sookie would often talk about getting married and having big, fancy weddings. They even bought a couple of wedding magazines. Sookie wanted a dress like Princess Diana’s―like something from a fairy tale―and at the time, Laf wanted to wear a white tuxedo with long tails and a top hat. I think he even wanted to carry a cane, if you can believe it.”
“With Lafayette,” Eric smirked a bit, “I can believe it.”
“Yeah—I guess so,” Jesus agreed with a chuckle. “Laf said that he and Sook used to talk about all this without Tara there. Apparently, Tara couldn’t really understand why they were imagining their weddings because neither of them really thought they would ever get married. By that time, Laf had come out, and, of course, he knew about Sookie’s telepathy. She had tried to spend time with boys she liked and had even had her first kiss by then, but all of her experiences with boys had been awful because she couldn’t shut out their thoughts. So it was around this time, according to Laf, that she gave up on the idea of ever getting married. She told Laf that even holding one of their hands made her head hurt.”
Jesus looked down at Eric’s still-bleeding hands. “Maybe, that’s why she always wants to take hold of yours.”
Eric nodded. “Maybe. Or maybe it is I who take hers into mine.”
The two sat in silence for a few more minutes.
Jesus spoke up, “And the thought of gay people being able to get married at all was so foreign at that time. So Laf and Sook spent afternoon after afternoon imagining their dream weddings. Laf said it was so that they would work it out of their systems.”
“Sookie would require me to wear an outfit of her choice as well,” Eric said after a few more moments of silence, “but I would do it.”
“She would marry you even if you didn’t.” Jesus chuckled, “With Laf, I’m not so sure.”
Even more minutes passed before Jesus spoke again, “It didn’t help, did it?”
Eric looked up at him in question, “What?”
“Killing Bill and those vampires and those humans that came to take Hunter and kill all of us. It didn’t make you feel better—did it?” Jesus spoke this as more of a statement rather than a question.
“No,” Eric said, shaking his head. “Nothing has―except Hunter, but I cannot continue taking all my strength from him.”
Jesus sighed, “He takes his from you as well, Eric. He goes through the day doing okay for the most part, busy with his school and with the little chores Lafayette and Miranda have for him. He plays outside with Jason, or Lafayette, or Miranda, or Jarod, or me, or one of his child friends. And he runs around with Odin. He plays games and with toys in his room. He is like any kid, except that every once in a while, you can tell that his grief for his mother catches up with him, and he goes into automatic mode―just like you do every night as soon as he goes to sleep.” Jesus paused, “But it is different when you are there. You make him feel better; you make him feel whole. He lights up. He needs you.”
“I need him too,” Eric said softly. “And I need to,” his voice trailed off before he completed his sentence.
There was more silence before Eric finally spoke again, “And I need to believe that I can get her back. I feel like I’m holding on by the tiniest of threads. If it wasn’t for the fairy bond and for Hunter, I would meet the sun when it rises in 83 minutes.”
“I know,” Jesus said quietly. “It’s good that you have those things because I would not want to lose another friend.”
Eric looked up at Jesus quickly and then back down to his hands.
After a few more minutes, Eric spoke, “I don’t know what to do now. And that is a first for my thousand years.”
“Do what you have been doing,” Jesus said. “Keep being a good father to that little boy.” He paused, “And as for the rest, just do whatever seems right to do, but don’t give up on yourself or on Sookie. And just try not to get so lost in anger. I honestly don’t think being mad at the world will help you or her.”
Jesus took a deep breath. “And, especially, don’t forget that she once put aside all her thoughts about love and getting married because her ability made it seem impossible. She could have become cold because of that, but she didn’t. She could have lost all the love in her heart because of the cruel things that she continuously heard people think about each other and about her. She could have used her ability to hurt others as she’d been hurt―to cause others pain as she’d received it. But she didn’t. Instead, she gave her whole heart to someone that most people would have thought heartless. Instead, she bonded and pledged herself with you even though she couldn’t hear you.
Jesus took another deep breath, “She did all this because she believes in you―because she has faith in you and in your love together. It’s why I love Lafayette so much too, you know. Those two kids sat up in Sookie’s room and planned their weddings even though they didn’t think they’d ever really happen, Eric, and although it may have seemed like they were giving up on their dreams, neither one ever really did. If those are not the kind of people worth fighting for forever, I don’t know who are.”
With that, Jesus stood and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small box. “She ordered this the day before you two left for Santa Fe and had it delivered to me because she wanted to surprise you with it. She measured your finger size with a piece of string.” He chuckled, “She was so excited about it.”
Eric looked at the box like it was the key to a lost treasure.
Jesus continued, “I was going to hold onto it until she got back, but I think you should have it now, Eric. It will remind you that although something may look empty inside, it can always be filled.” Jesus put the box next to Eric and began to walk inside. He turned around to find Eric staring down at the small box.
“I think you have the start of a good swimming pool here, and Hunter really wants to learn how to swim,” Jesus said before finishing the trek inside.