Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters in True Blood or the Southern Vampire Mysteries. So neither copyright infringement nor offense is meant. I simply want to make the characters do what I wanted them to do for a while. I am especially “unownerly” when it comes to this story. You will recognize a lot of the dialogue throughout as being quoted from Season 5 of True Blood, though I’ve tried to use Eric’s thoughts to make this story “different” from its source. That said, I claim no ownership to the quoted material and have placed it in bold so that it is set apart from my own words.
[Context: This scene occurs during Episode 4 of Season 5. Sookie has just told Alcide that she killed Debbie, and Alcide has angrily driven away. Lafayette (partly possessed by the “demon” he somehow “absorbed” from Jesus) finds Sookie in tears and confronts her, calling her the “angel of death.” Meanwhile, Eric and Bill have been “released” by Roman and the Authority to go find Russell—though they both have I-Stakes poised over their hearts. This scene picks up as Eric and Bill are about to be dropped off near Shreveport.]
From the moment Herveaux had told me that Russell had been broken out of his concrete prison, a significant part of my mind had been working to answer a simple question: Who?
Who had freed Russell? He had been buried under too much cement to burrow out of his tomb himself. Not even a hundred years of slow movements would have gotten him free—despite his age and power.
Moreover, he’d still not healed from his exposure to the sun.
AND he’d been wrapped in silver chains and forced to stay awake the day before he’d been buried.
AND I’d taken his fang.
He’d gone into his prison very weakened and silver-bound—with way too much damage to heal without blood, which he’d not had.
In his tomb, the concrete would have done more and more damage as it set. Hell—even after being in the stuff for ten minutes, my own strength had been taxed as the concrete set to work trying to suck all the liquid from my body through my fucking pores!
I shook my head. No—there was no way that Russell had gotten out without help.
I considered the most obvious scenario first.
Did Russell have children that I didn’t know about? I had to admit that it was possible—though not probable.
I had checked and then rechecked Russell’s lineage after the cement was laid in place, and there were no children that I hadn’t accounted for.
Unlike most vampires, Russell had been a boaster in many things. He’d boasted about his wealth. He’d boasted about his collections. And he’d boasted about his children.
According to Godric, who had heard stories told of Russell for longer than I had been undead, the three-thousand-year-old had always made the same kind of child—over and over again. He made consorts—companions like Talbot. Moreover, it was common knowledge that he kept only one child at a time, killing the others in Darwinian fashion when he lost interest in them.
Indeed—until Talbot—their fates had always been the same. According to the King of Portugal—who had owed me a debt, which he settled by giving me information—some of the older monarchs in Europe, including himself, even made bets about how long Russell’s latest child would last. And Russell’s practice was not kept from his children either; in fact, in his arrogance, Russell made clear to each new child that he was in a fight for his very life. In that way—at least—Russell had been fair and honest. Each child thinking that he would be the one to finally keep his master’s interest, none of them had ever challenged the ancient vampire.
Of course, they wouldn’t have been able to even if they had wanted to. Russell was no simpleton; he’d always used a maker’s command to ensure that his children couldn’t do anything that could harm him. Not surprisingly, that mandate was one-sided. Russell seemed to have no problem “harming” one of his children when a new human lover intrigued him more than his latest child. The ancient vampire’s practice was frowned upon by the Authority; however, it had been tolerated because of his age.
It seemed clear that Talbot had been the wisest among all of Russell’s consorts/children. He had embraced the lavish lifestyle that Russell had offered him. However, his greatest gift turned out to be his craftiness in dealing with the humans that might have been good candidates for Russell’s next child. He had encouraged Russell’s access to any and all human lovers and blood donors the elder vampire desired, even procuring those with the best quality blood and experimenting with their diets to make their “flavors” better. But—most importantly—he’d never shown jealousy when Russell took a new lover. Talbot’s smartest move had been in keeping the “buffet” ever-changing and “fresh” so that Russell would never get too attached to any particular human.
It had been clear to me―after only a few minutes of being in the couple’s presence―that Russell was happy to indulge and spoil Talbot, while Talbot was happy to flatter and adore his maker.
What the elder vampire would not tolerate was anyone questioning his “divine” right to do and to take whatever the hell he wanted. Despite Russell’s apparent affection for Talbot, the younger vampire had obviously begun to “forget” that he shouldn’t push his maker too far. I had seen Talbot question Russell concerning his decisions regarding both Sookie and Sophie-Anne, and I had little doubt that the three-thousand-year-old vampire would have likely begun to “window shop” for a new child in the next decade or so if Talbot had continued in the same vein.
After my research, I had been almost certain that no other child existed, but I had also been wise enough to be wary. I knew that it had been a possibility that Russell had made a new child between the time of Talbot’s death and his burial in the concrete. That’s why I had rigged surveillance cameras so that I could watch Russell’s burial place. That surveillance feed was going to be the first thing that I checked when I got back to Fangtasia.
It turned out that I had been wise to install the equipment.
Two nights after Russell had been buried—two nights after Sookie had disappeared—a newly-turned vampire, not even a week old, came to the construction site and triggered the alarm system I had set up. While questioning the youngling―who was feral, completely untrained, and covered in dirt and dried blood—I confirmed that he was indeed Russell’s child. I found out that, in his insanity, Russell had ordered the young one, who looked very much like Talbot, to answer only to that name as well. I disposed of the pitiful vampire, who was being driven mad by Russell’s persistent summoning.
Of course, after that episode, I had continued to surveil the construction site, and I’d done even more research on Russell’s line by traveling to his home.
I couldn’t help but to smile a little as I thought about my time ransacking Russell’s mansion. I managed to get there before the Authority thought to send someone—which once again spoke volumes about their shortsightedness. Only a few Weres remained on the property, and they were easily dispatched.
My time in Mississippi had reminded me of my days as a Viking raider. I had never raped women as some historians insinuated “all” Vikings did. I’d never had to; plus, my mother would have come back from the dead to kill me if I had behaved that way!
However, I had pillaged with the best of them, and there was nothing that I’d enjoyed more than to sack the village of one of my enemies. Of course, instead of taken the “booty” home via longboat, I’d used a semi. I smirked. Yes—I’d taken great, great pleasure in selling Russell’s artifacts to museums and private collectors. In fact, I had piles of money concealed behind a cement wall in Fangtasia’s basement to prove it.
I’d also gone through all the papers in Russell’s office. I found no evidence of additional progeny turned by the fallen king. Then I’d unearthed a secret subterranean room—a reliquary of sorts—where Russell had kept even more souvenirs of his long life. There, I found lovingly written biographies for each of the children he had made and then killed, going back more than 2,800 years—some even written on papyrus. There had been thirty-seven of them in all, including one started on Talbot. After bringing the volumes to Fangtasia and carefully reading them, I realized that all of Russell’s consorts had simply been a part of the ancient vampire’s collection.
However, despite the evidence suggesting he had no other progeny, I―better than anyone―knew of Russell’s ability to hide a truth about himself. I’d concealed my association with the tattooed Werewolves for a millennium.
And so had he.
Thus, he could have concealed the existence of other children. To combat this possibility, I had kept my surveillance equipment in place and well-maintained. And I had told no one about it—except for Herveaux, who made sure the devices weren’t affected by the construction. I housed my monitoring equipment in a safe room under Fangtasia that even Pam didn’t have access to, though I could access the feed with my phone.
Each night for a year, I’d reviewed the feed from Russell’s gravesite—until my amnesia, that is. And—as it was—I’d not been to Fangtasia since the night Bill had summoned me to check out Marnie’s coven. That was also when I had lost the phone that contained the software I needed to monitor the parking structure.
Thus, I’d not reviewed the footage for almost two weeks!
I just hoped that the person who had freed Russell was sloppy enough to let himself or herself be captured on film.
There was an inevitable truth to be faced. If Russell had no unaccounted-for children, then only four beings knew where the ancient vampire had been encased: Bill, Pam, Alcide, and myself.
I had not told a fucking soul about Russell being alive and encased in cement. And—for the “undeath” of me—I couldn’t imagine any of the other three saying a word about it to anyone either. But, if the surveillance equipment yielded no leads, I intended to confirm that before I moved on to consider other possibilities—like some kind of fucking locator magic spell I’d never heard of.
Tabling that thought for a while, I closed my eyes and let myself sink into my bond with Sookie. I sighed. I had begun to see the bond’s presence inside of me as a comfort. Yet—at the same time—it was a torment, for I could do nothing to comfort Sookie. She had been in a state of turmoil all night, and in that moment, it felt as if she were shattering because of guilt and shame. I couldn’t help but to wonder what had happened to cause her such profound distress.
I gasped aloud as the vehicle came to a sudden stop at a stop sign. However, my gasp was not caused by the jarring of the vehicle, but because of a particularly strong jolt of emotion that had hit my bonded one as if it were a sledgehammer. I felt as if I’d been hit by something too—a wave of desolation that would have made me stagger if I’d been on my feet. Luckily, the sway of the braking vehicle helped to cover my reaction to Sookie’s feelings.
Still, Bill gave me an inquisitive look. “Everything okay?”
I was currently not in the mood to foster my new “bromance,” especially not when I was trying to deal with Sookie’s emotions.
I scoffed in order to cover my pain, “Nothing that driving lessons for Tweedle Dumbass up there wouldn’t solve.”
Bill snickered. “I have ridden with you as the driver, Eric. You have no room to criticize driving that is,” he paused, “somewhat hurried.”
I managed an authentic-sounding chuckle, even as I steadied myself against another blast of desolation from Sookie. I used my thousand years of hiding myself from others to conceal my emotions from Bill, even as I closed my eyes and turned my body a bit so that my perhaps-monarch wouldn’t be able to see my face—just in case it became impossible for me to cover my reactions to Sookie’s swirling and dense emotions.
I opened my eyes and looked at the palm of my hand—the same palm that Sookie had fed from about a week before. There was no scar there, no physical evidence that she had taken my blood. But I stared anyway.
She had offered to feed me—to heal me—after I’d been kept under silver all day due to the threat from Marnie/Antonia. I would never forget the taste of her blood that day, and now that I had my memories back, that taste was made all the more striking and meaningful.
I’d tasted Sookie’s blood four times now. The first time—when I’d taken it with Russell—should have been the best time for me.
Everything I had learned during my vampire life told me that it should have been, but it wasn’t.
Human blood was always laced with the emotions the “donors” were feeling; that was why vampires enjoyed feeding from humans during sex. But—even better—was the taste of them when they were afraid. Though I had not killed a human for food in a long time—centuries before the great reveal—I had to admit that I’d often “played” with my food. Perhaps that made me no better than a Sanguinista, but—then again—I didn’t damage the humans permanently, nor did I keep them under my thrall. However, I would rev up their emotions—either through seduction or a nice chase—and then feed from them. I would never mix the two; in other words, I would never fuck those from whom I’d elicited fear. That would have been rape to me. And—after I was done with my meals—I would always use glamour to cover my tracks and to give the humans a nice memory.
Ever since I was a fledgling vampire, I had preferred blood from those who held fear for me—fear of the monster in the dark. Fear put a certain “tang” into the blood.
But when I drank from Sookie the first time, her fear cut through me like a stake to my heart, and that “tang” was sour. Oh—it wasn’t that Sookie’s blood wasn’t divine; as cliché as it might sound, her blood really was like sunshine to my dark life. It was the best taste I had ever experienced up to that point—the last meal of a dying man—but, ironically, I’d not enjoyed drinking from her.
The second time I’d tasted her blood—not half an hour later—the experience had been infinitely better. Paradoxically, her blood had “tasted” worse in some ways. Bill had obviously just given her his blood to help her replenish after Russell and my feeding, and that affected the flavor of Sookie’s blood.
Russell had taken more from Sookie than I had hoped he would, but I knew that she would live. Bill’s donation had been ultimately unnecessary and probably self-serving. After all, she had been ready to accept Bill back into her life that very night, most likely due to having been fed Bill’s blood earlier that day.
However, I had stopped Sookie from doing that by showing up at her doorstep and telling her the truth about Bill’s service to the queen. I’d had a variety of reasons for informing Sookie of Bill’s duplicity, many of them selfish. I wanted Sookie for myself; thus, I was happy to see a wedge driven between her and the Civil War veteran. Plus, Bill had pissed me off when he’d tried to trap me in the same cement prison as Russell. And a little revenge never hurt; I’d greatly enjoyed watching Bill get pulled out of Sookie’s home. In fact, I’d had to work hard to stifle my laughter when Bill landed on his ass after trying to influence Sookie with shitty platitudes, while trying to cover up his even shittier actions. Yes. Bromance or not, I was still amused when I recalled the stricken look on Bill’s face that night.
But I was not amused when I remembered the hurt that had dwelt upon Sookie’s face. That was the look that stayed with me for a year as I waited for her to come back.
I had other motives—more honorable ones—for telling Sookie the truth about Bill as well. She’d saved my life twice that day. I’d owed her, and I was being sincere when I said that she had the right to know about Bill’s lies. Hell—I’d been ready to tell her in my office after that earth-shattering kiss we’d shared, but Pam had interrupted me.
However—strangely enough—the second time I’d taken Sookie’s blood had been better, despite the fact that it had tasted like Bill. Her blood had been laced with her determination, which was not an emotion that was known for improving the taste of human blood. However, it had tasted extremely sweet to me. Sookie’s determination had been focused on saving my life. She’d cared about me—against all logic or odds. She’d been concerned for me and didn’t want me to die.
The third time I’d tasted her blood had been beyond the scope of words. Even now, when I considered all the languages that I knew and all the experiences that I’d had, there were no words or analogies for the way her blood had tasted and made me feel that evening in the cubby.
At the time, I could remember very little to compare her taste to. I had tasted only TrueBlood and a full-blooded fairy—extremes to be sure. The TrueBlood might as well not even have had a taste. I imagined that humans would compare it to eating cardboard. The fairy had been another story altogether. Her blood had been exquisite, and her fear as I’d drunk from her had made it even better. I wouldn’t have been able to imagine a better taste—until I drank from Sookie.
Sookie’s blood was every hope and every dream that I’d ever had—that I’d ever suppressed—during my long life, and none of that had anything to do with the way she tasted. Even memory-less, I’d perceived the profundity of the moment when I’d taken her blood.
I’d not planned to pierce my own palm and to give Sookie my blood. Even the amnesiac me intuited that the blood was not to be given away without good reason. But once I had tasted Sookie, all reasons for not offering her my blood in exchange for hers were ripped out of me. My mind had felt sharp in that moment—certain.
Her blood had not been tinged with fear or with passion—or with any other flavor that vampires coveted, for that matter. It had been laced with an emotion that I hadn’t quite been able to identify then. But now I knew with certainty what it had been: love. And what’s more, I had been able to taste the traces of my own blood in her—traces that had been holding on inside of her since Dallas. Those traces gave me a taste of who I had been—someone whom I still couldn’t remember, but whom I could “feel” to a certain extent nonetheless. Those traces had been enough to tell me all I needed to know in that moment: I loved Sookie—both before and after I was cursed.
Both “me’s” had pulled away from Sookie’s delicious blood before “we’d” needed to—before “we’d” drunk even half of what Sookie could safely give. But “we’d” had more important things to do. “We” had ripped into the same palm I was looking at now. “We” had offered “ourselves” to her.
“We will be one,” “we’d” said to her.
I fisted my hand and remembered the first moment I saw Sookie Stackhouse. No—not when she had walked into Fangtasia, not when I had been hiding behind my thousand-year-old mask. I had been lost to myself in a different way when I “first” saw her for the second time. I’d told Bill that I’d been “born” the night Sookie had found me. That statement was still true—in so many ways.
I had felt alone and lost on that country road in the middle of the night. I’d felt abandoned, unable to remember a fucking thing. And then Sookie had suddenly come out of the night.
I had chased her. She’d been frightened at first. Yet I had not drunk from her, despite all of my instincts telling me to drain her—except my most important instinct. I had somehow known that Sookie’s fear was not something I wanted to taste.
I knew a lot about witches and their curses. Their spells were often aimed at preying upon their victims’ deepest fears. Indeed, my memories being stripped by Marnie/Antonia’s curse had touched my own deep-seated personal fear: losing control, losing myself.
But—ironically and amazingly—in losing myself, I had found exactly who I wished I could be.
I had been alone on the road—lost and abandoned. Sookie had put aside her fear and had taken me in. After that, every time she’d left me in the cubby to go do “human stuff,” I’d felt the tingling of my fear returning. I didn’t like being alone, and my amnesic self didn’t know how to hide or deal with that fact.
In truth, I had combatted that feeling for years, ever since my human family died and then again when Godric allowed me to go my own way. I had embraced a solitary existence after that—at least in part to prove to myself that I could overcome my fear. I’d always been one to defy my fears.
I’d not even made a child until Pam came into my life, despite the fact that Godric had given me his blessing to do so when I was a couple of centuries old. Moreover, making Pam was unplanned, though ultimately not unwelcome. Pam had sliced into her arms, giving me a convenient excuse to take a companion, and that had taken the edge off of my loneliness.
I closed my eyes and opened my fist before closing it again. The vision I’d had—the “nightmare”—of Godric and me feeding off of Sookie as she’d slept had shaken me. Fear did not belong in her blood, but in that vision, it had been there. After I’d “awoken,” I’d gone to her, aching not to be alone and wanting to make sure that she was okay. She had let me stay in her bed; she’d comforted me. She’d held my hand—the same one I’d later offered her in the cubby.
“We will be one,” I’d said to her right before we’d bonded. Those words had meant so much to me. They’d meant that I would never be alone again.
“We will be one.” The words had also been for her. In the cubby that day, I had learned of her losses. I had learned of the isolation that her telepathy had forced her to endure.
“We will be one,” was a promise that I would never leave her alone.
But I had. For reasons both in and out of my control—I had.
After my fourth tasting of her blood—when she’d healed both Bill and me—she’d left me. And I’d let her go. I should have stopped her—called her out on her bullshit.
And now, as her emotions flooded me, she felt so alone—as if she had nothing to hold onto and no one to love her through whatever storm had just picked her up into its grasp. I’d never felt such agony from her before, even when I’d felt her pain from being shot. I’d been under Marnie’s thrall at the time, but I’d still felt that agony. And I’d been powerless to go to her then too.
However, what I was feeling from her now was worse than her physical pain when she’d been shot. The only word that came close to describing what was coming through our bond was abandonment.
My greatest fear.
And her greatest fear.
“We will be one,” played over and over in my mind like a drum beat.
I closed my hand into a fist again.
Abandonment. I’d felt it the moment Godric had died the true death. But I’d had Pam, whom I could have asked to be my crutch. Hell—Sookie would have likely even tried to comfort me if I’d sought her out. But, like a “good” vampire, I’d suppressed my feeling of desolation over losing my maker. I’d turned my back on it as if I could outrun a tidal wave.
I’d been a fool.
Abandonment. For some reason, Sookie felt like she had no one to turn to. No—that wasn’t quite right. She felt like she didn’t deserve having anyone to turn to.
I opened and closed my fist a few more times as if it were the beating of a heart. I had been ready to abandon Sookie too because she’d hurt me so much—because she’d rejected me.
I felt my own shame, and I vowed that I would never abandon her—never. Hell itself could try to take me away from her, but I would not leave her alone to face the world. Even if she didn’t want me to be there, I would make damned sure that she knew I was near. I would happily endure the pain of her rejecting me ten thousand more times, but I never wanted to feel her despair like this again.
I wanted her to know that—come what may—she wasn’t alone.
“We will be one,” echoed again in my mind. “Please hang on until I am with you again,” I said silently, even though I knew that she wouldn’t be able to hear or feel my words.
I closed my hand back into a fist as the vehicle came to a sudden stop. I was resolved. I would get to Sookie as soon as I could do so safely. Meanwhile, I had to focus on living through the fucking night, protecting her from Russell Edgington, and making sure the Authority didn’t learn about her existence.
No small list.
I steadied my emotions and set the feelings I was still getting from Sookie to the side of my mind; however, I refused to shut off the bond that we shared. It had been open since Herveaux had told me about Russell, and open it would stay until I met my final death. I would not leave her alone, even though she currently had no idea I was with her.
By the time one of Bill and my escorts got out to unlock and then open the back of the vehicle, I was completely composed.
Bill got out first, and then I moved my lanky body out of the cramped space.
From what I could tell based on my bonds, I was fifteen miles from Pam and about forty miles from Sookie.
“Don’t fuck it up, gentleman,” our escort said before dropping a set of keys down onto the ground, getting back into the vehicle, and quickly driving away.
Asshole. He could have tossed the keys to one of us.
I looked at Bill to see if he would take the lead. I calculated that it would be best if I did defer to him, at least for the time being. As much as I might “like” Bill in a way, he was now officially one-fourth of my suspect pool. If I let Bill think he was still the “king” and in the lead, then the younger vampire would be easier to observe.
Bill picked up the keys.
I looked down at my iStake. “Well, apart from these,” I intoned, “your escape ploy worked brilliantly.” I’d used the word, “your,” deliberately, dropping a piece of bait—and flattery—for the younger vampire.
I sighed. Bill did still have some “douchery” about him. And I was reminded just how young my ex-king was. And that made Bill pliable. Thus, I was not quite ready to fully trust Bill Compton.
I looked around to assess our surroundings.
“We don’t have many suspects for who might’ve broken Russell out,” Bill said even as he cast something of a suspicious glance in my direction.
Yes—there were still moments when I really did want to kick Bill’s ass. Of course, I couldn’t blame Bill for his suspicions. After all, turnabout was fair play, and I sure as hell suspected the vampire in front of me of leaking the information about Russell’s whereabouts—even if it had been an inadvertent slip-up. I’d be an idiot not to, after all.
“Only four of us knew where Russell was,” I said. Douchebag or not, Bill deserved to be on the same page as I was. Plus, I wanted to gauge my companion’s reaction to the confirmation that only four knew of Russell’s location. I studied Bill’s eyes as the younger vampire went over who those four were. The Civil War veteran betrayed nothing suspicious.
“I’ll drive,” Bill said in the ‘I’m the king’ tone he’d developed over the past year.
And that left two suspects. I aimed to eliminate Pam as one first.
However, to be absolutely certain, I would have to hurt my progeny in the worst way I knew how. I would have to make her feel the same way I’d felt during my lowest moments, the same way that Sookie felt even now: abandoned.
A/N: Again, I wanted to give the bond a life of its own in this story. I absolutely hated how it was never dealt with in the show. Next up is one of my favorite parts of the season! Eric and Pam’s interactions. So poignant and such wonderful acting!