DECEMBER 25, 3:00 a.m. (the Philippines, about 25 kilometers southeast of Manilla)
Bill had performed the chore of checking in with Datu, the tedious king of the Philippines—while the glamoured cab driver waited for him—and now he was on his way to meet up with Appius Livius Ocella and his child, Alexei.
At least, Bill had been able to feed and fuck before he had left Datu’s court, but he still shook his head at how long the check-in had taken. It wasn’t as if there were a lot of “rules” for vampires that needed to be followed in the Philippines! Indeed, the king had very few restrictions for those who were willing to pay for any clean-up required. All Datu asked was that one of his minions be called—if a human was “killed through bite” or witnesses had “seen especially harsh acts.” At that point, one of Datu’s “assessors” would perform “the necessary services.” And, of course, there was a hefty “service fee” attached to those services, the specific price depending on the amount of damage that had to be cleaned up and the number of human officials Datu had to pay for a cover-up.
Apparently, bribery worked even better than glamour did at insolating vampire actions in Datu’s kingdom.
Ultimately, it seemed like just about anything went in Datu’s kingdom—as long as the fall-out included the “greasing” of the appropriate hands. No—it should not have taken Datu long at all to explain the way things operated in the Philippines; however, the king enjoyed the sound of his own voice and was prone to long monologues of boastfulness and long explanations of the services the islands offered for those with “exotic and expensive tastes.”
Of course, it was only vampires of substantial wealth, like Appius, who could afford what Datu called, “deluxe vacation packages.”
The Southerner licked his lips in longing as he wondered what exactly Appius’s “vacation” entailed. On that single thing, Datu had remained mostly vague, though he’d smiled like the Cheshire Cat as he’d spoken of Appius’s “singular requests.” Bill couldn’t help but to hope that the elder vampire might “share” a bit of his “holiday.”
“It is, after all, Christmas,” Bill smirked to himself.
Of course, it would be gift enough to simply meet Eric Northman’s maker; Bill felt more and more certain by the minute that Appius would be the harbinger of Eric’s downfall, or—at the very least least—the key to the Viking’s expulsion from Sookie’s life.
Sadly, despite the exciting prospects involved in meeting Appius, Bill was still slightly irritated and anxious. His irritation stemmed from having to pay Datu a steep price to gain the information regarding Appius’s whereabouts. Bill’s apprehension came from the fact that Datu had made it seem as if Appius’s stay in the Philippines would a substantial one; indeed, Datu had suggested that convincing Appius to leave the island nation before February would be quite unlikely!
And such a setback to his schedule would make Bill’s plans much more complicated.
He frowned as he thought about how Hallow would likely react to the news of a delay. Of course, Bill, too, was impatient to remove Sookie from Eric. However, he knew that a vampire like Appius would likely have a very different concept of time—as well as what constituted a need for “immediate action.”
Still—convincing Hallow to be patient might be difficult, and Bill needed Hallow to continue to be his ally. He was counting on her magic to—at least in part—help him to untangle Sookie from the emotional web of Eric Northman’s manipulations of her feelings.
Bill recalled—with a twinge of distaste—the two nights he’d needed to spend with Hallow as she’d prepared and then conducted the spell to find Appius. Oh—it wasn’t as if Hallow was hideous. Indeed—for a Were—she was actually an attractive woman—when her face wasn’t screwed up in performing a spell. However, she just wasn’t to Bill’s taste, and she paled in comparison to Sookie Stackhouse—beginning with the paleness of the witch in comparison to the tanned telepath.
The two were opposites in other ways, too. While Sookie was a blonde, Hallow was a brunette. Sookie’s eyes were blue crystals; Hallow’s were obsidian orbs. Sookie had curves and flesh to hold onto during sex; Hallow was slender—almost too slender. Like other Weres, her body was a wall of muscles. And—of course—like other Weres, she smelled and tasted like an animal.
Sookie smelled and tasted sweet.
However, romancing the witch had been a necessary evil for Bill. There was consolation, however. One area in which Hallow compared favorably with Sookie was in the sexual arena. The witch was quite skilled. She was also less breakable than Sookie, so Bill had been able to be rougher than he’d allowed himself to be with his beloved.
Oh—he’d pushed Sookie as much as he could. He relished, for example, his memory of coming out of the dirt and ravaging Sookie over his grave when she’d thought him dead. In truth, that “dirty sex” had been a fantasy he’d had for himself and Sookie from their very first walk together. And he’d found a way to make it happen too! In truth, on the morning he’d left the Monroe nest, he could have easily made it home to rest in the time it took for him to bury himself in the dirt. Instead, the vampire had decided to attempt to use a combination of dreams and his blood to “call” Sookie to him so that he could surprise her in the dirt and mud.
He’d had no idea that the Monroe nest would be set on fire by rednecks that day, but that happenstance had benefitted him—greatly. Sookie had been so upset that she had barely given a second thought to why he’d buried himself in the graveyard and how she’d happened to stumble “over” him, given the fact that the grave he’d dug had not been on the straightest path between Sookie’s home and his own.
Yes—the Monroe vampires’ true deaths had merely heightened Bill’s fantasy as it became reality. Those deaths had ignited Sookie’s desperation to find him—desperation that Bill himself helped to stoke through the tie. When she had found him, she’d told him about the vampires’ deaths, and he’d pretended to “lose it”—as humans were so fond of saying. His “losing it” led Sookie to attempt to distract him through sex; at least, she’d thought that was her idea. Bill had been fueling her lust for him by then, “toying” with their blood tie, which had been recently amplified because of the second dosage of his life force he’d given to her before the Longshadow incident.
The vampire smiled. He looked forward to having a completed bond with Sookie; then he’d truly get to play with her emotions regarding him—though he was certain that she, too, would come to enjoy their games.
In the meantime, the interlude with Hallow (and other interludes he was sure would be necessary before he had Sookie back where she belonged) would just whet his thirst for the telepath.
“We here,” the cab driver said in broken English.
Bill leaned forward and handed the man a hundred-dollar bill before catching the driver’s eyes to glamour him to forget where he had been or whom he had been transporting.
The vampire quickly exited the car with his one duffle bag. Over the years, he’d learned to travel light when he was going into a situation with variables, and Appius Livius Ocella was a variable.
Would he aid Bill in making sure Eric suffered? Or would he try to hinder Bill?
Everything Bill had learned about Appius suggested that the former would be true.
However, there was only one way to find out for sure.
A FEW MINUTES EARLIER
“Tomorrow night? Right, Papa?” Alexei entreated, speaking the endearment he only employed when he was sure that he was about to get exactly what his heart desired.
The elder vampire chuckled indulgently. “Yes, child. Tomorrow night, we will travel by boat to our own personal playground.”
Alexei licked his lips in anticipation. “I cannot wait! And I can do anything? Right?”
“For thirty-nine nights!” his maker grinned.
The younger vampire frowned. “But how will we make it so the humans cannot escape when we must sleep?”
“You are forgetting the witch’s spell already?” Appius reminded.
“Ah, yes!” the boy giggled. “I am so excited that I did forget, Papa!”
Appius patted his youngest’s head affectionately, even as he heard an automobile in the distance; he tensed slightly as soon as he heard the vehicle turn onto the road that led to his and Alexei’s bungalow. The elder vampire inhaled deeply, immediately sensing that a vampire had entered the vicinity, but not one old enough to concern him. Moments later, Alexei’s fangs clicked downward as he looked at the door of their dwelling.
“Shhh, my child,” Appius soothed. “Whoever is visiting is no threat to us. And—if he tries to be—tell me what I will do.”
“Kill him! Make him suffer!” Alexei declared with anticipatory glee. “May I help?”
Appius chuckled. “Only if the vampire visiting us is a threat. Likely, he is simply an envoy of King Datu.”
Alexei frowned. Clearly, the child had been hoping for battle—an appetizer to what was to come beginning the next night. Thus, a part of Appius also hoped that the visitor coming toward their rented abode was indeed a threat—if only so that he could indulge his child.
There was a knock at the door, even as Appius looked at his youngest child. “Good behavior, child—unless I say otherwise. Understand?”
Alexei pouted, but nodded in acquiescence, nonetheless.
“Good boy,” he said, patting Alexei’s head as he stood and went to the door. The sight that met his eyes when he opened it was in no way threatening. Indeed, he felt certain that he was looking at the least-threatening vampire who’d ever made it past his one-hundred and fortieth year—if his nose had accurately pegged the visiting vampire’s age. Which it always did.
The nondescript vampire had brown hair with sideburns that belonged to both a particular time and a particular region of the world—the Southern United States. He wore khaki pants that had been carefully pressed and starched. An unremarkable, though not inexpensive, rust-colored Polo shirt was tucked into those pants. The outfit was accessorized by a brown belt, brown watch, and brown loafers—all of which looked to be from the same line of clothing.
“Are you Appius Livius Ocella?” the vampire inquired, his Southern U.S. accent confirming Appius’s suspicions about the sideburns. He sneered. Hair was something that vampires did have control over. And—although vampire bodies were dead—hair kept growing, albeit somewhat slowly, though it could not grow beyond the length at the time of turning. Fingernails were similar. In effect, if cut, hair or nails would “grow” to heal—just as all other vampire parts would “heal.” However, the magic within vampire bodies deprioritized those processes; thus, a haircut could last for a week—maybe even two. And, most certainly, a vampire could shave his face and have it last the night! The hair of humans, of course, grew slower—as all human processes were slower due to the beings’ inferiority.
As Appius took another look at the vampire in front of him, he felt certain that the man would have been better off left as a human.
“You may call me Ocella,” he said with a tone of warning. “Are you here to bring the final arrangements from King Datu—for my excursion with my child?”
“No,” the vampire said, bowing slightly. “My name is Bill Compton, and I am from Louisiana—recently of Area 5.”
That unexpected information caught Appius’s interests. “Ah—my other vampire child is Sheriff of Area 5. Has he tasked you to bring me tidings? Or extra tributes?” he smirked. Indeed, Eric had made it a point to deposit a monthly sum into a Swiss account that totaled twenty percent of his income. The sum had been enough to help Appius keep up a very lavish lifestyle. Worrying over investments seemed quite pointless to Appius himself. Eric, however, had proven to be an excellent maker of money and had a sixth sense for investing in what would become profitable enterprises.
Many vampires—especially of the old traditions—demanded tributes from their offspring. Appius knew that Eric’s punctuality and exactness with supplying his tribute—down to the fraction of a Euro (Appius’s preferred currency these days)—was partly because he knew it would keep Appius away from his neck of the woods. The elder vampire liked the idea that Eric was anxious about being tardy with his tribute; that apprehension meant that he was forever on Eric’s mind—forever a specter in it.
As Appius felt a good maker should be.
He smiled to himself. His own maker may have demanded his two-hundred-year limit in the company of his children. And her command may have made it uncomfortable for him to be around Eric even for short periods of time since his unofficial release of him, but Appius did enjoy knowing that his eldest remaining child was pensive that he might return at any given time.
And, of course, Eric had no idea that Appius could not simply call him back to his side full-time and perpetually. Indeed, the elder vampire would forever be amused that Eric worried that his maker could completely upend his existence.
“Perhaps, he sent you as a tribute or sorts?” Appius purred suggestively, looking Bill over again. He was attractive enough. It was possible, though remotely, that Bill Compton had been sent for Appius’s pleasure—as a kind of whipping boy. It would have been against Eric’s nature to send such a creature, but—if he disliked a vampire enough (or found one who was fond enough of deviant behavior)—Eric just might send him to Appius.
“I am not a tribute,” the younger vampire said with an annoying sense of affront that almost earned him a backhand. “I am here to share with you news of your child, Eric Northman. I am certain that—once you have heard me out—you may wish to travel immediately to Area 5, Louisiana.”
“No!” Alexei hissed. He looked at Appius. “Father, tell him we will not go! Tell him we have plans here!”
“There, there,” Appius soothed. “There is nothing this vampire could say to us that would get in the way of our plans. Even if Eric has gotten himself into the kind of trouble that will kill him without my immediate help, we will not postpone our fun, little Lexi. I promise.”
Alexei’s face twisted immediately to joy. “Thank you, Father! Just do not let this vampire say mean things about us leaving.”
“He will not do that again, will he?” Appius asked, turning a harsh look toward Bill.
“No,” Bill said with some discomfort in his voice. He looked at Alexei, who seemed poised to fly off the handle—violently—at any given moment. “I do not suggest that your plans be broken—as they are clearly vital. However, I would ask that you consider traveling to Louisiana after your,” he paused, “vacation here is over.”
Appius took a seat, steepled his fingers, and leaned back, regarding Bill Compton closely. “Eric is at his day rest right now, so I am unable to feel him—beyond that he still exists. But I will say that I have felt some rather,” he paused, “unsettling emotions from him over the past few months. Sit, Bill. Perhaps, you can tell me why my elder child has been so,” he paused again, “worryingly pleased.”
A/N: Hi all! Whenever I write Appius, I always have such “icky” feelings. For me, he’s one of the “worst” characters I can imagine. I loved the SVM books up to a point; I really did. I think that the first moment I paused in my love was when CH had Eric try to justify Appius and his actions to a certain extent. In this story, I’m really trying to work out that problem that I had. The question I asked myself was simple: How can I make Appius evil incarnate if Eric still “admires” him in ways. For me, (in this story) the answer came down to the idea that—at some point during Eric’s early vampire years—Appius must have commanded Eric to not harm him or cause him harm. With this in mind, I have been able to grapple with Eric’s ambivalence toward Appius, while developing Appius’s evil side. I see Appius as the worst kind of manipulator—the kind that only makes an effort to manipulate in order to amuse himself. And now Bill is in Appius’s crosshairs. Do you have any pity for the Antebellum ass? I’m afraid I don’t. I think that Bill was always trying to manipulate Sookie, and one of the directions I wanted this piece to go in was to have Appius do the same to Bill—only worse. Anyway, next time, Bill and Appius will continue their conversation—and it can’t be good for Eric (and Sookie).
Unfortunately, however, it will be two weeks before I can post again. I’m happy to say that I’ll be visiting family over the Thanksgiving holiday! However, I won’t be able to post next week because of that visiting. With that said, have a wonderful Thanksgiving if you celebrate. If not, have a wonderful two weeks! This story will return on Dec. 2.