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.
As the door to the room I’d spent the day in opened, I let out a sigh. I let out another when I saw Bill. We were escorted down the hall to the elevator.
Why was it that being back at Authority headquarters made me think of being in the middle of a fucking soap opera?
Oh yeah! I remembered. The fucking melodrama!
The intrigue of who’s sleeping with whom—a fundamental soap opera motif.
Conspiracies afoot—another Soap staple.
Hell—Bad-Suit even looked like one of Pam’s favorite soap opera actresses!
I’d never much cared for Soaps, though Pam loved them. In fact, I thought that she was going to go on a killing spree when her favorites—All My Children and As the World Turns—were cancelled.
There was, however, an exception to my own dislike of them. I’d quite enjoyed Dark Shadows when Pam had given me the box-set for Christmas a few years before. She’d meant it as a joke, but I’d gotten a kick out of the vampire in the series, Barnabas.
As the elevator doors opened and Bill and I stepped into the reception area, I glanced at Roman’s portrait. Clearly, it hadn’t been dusted that day.
Perhaps, the soap opera I’d found myself in the middle of was called Search for Fealty.
“No welcoming party?” I observed. “That can’t be good.”
“At least it’s not a firing squad,” Bill intoned, proving that he was still somewhat tolerable.
He and I were led into the room where we’d faced Roman and the Chancellors before. Only this time—in addition to the conference table setup at one end of the room, there was a lounge of sorts in another corner.
It looked like a set out of a—you guessed it!—soap opera.
As Bill and I entered, we were met with words of congratulations from Dieter, Kibwe, Salome, Molly, and Bad-Suit, whose name I still hadn’t caught.
Congratulations for what?
Being the star of a calendar for Fangtasia?
Being a bit player on As the Authority Turns?
Interesting. Perhaps Salome was the reason for Bill’s newfound “faith.”
“Roman is very impressed,” the beautiful vampiress continued, touching my arm in a much less affectionate way than she’d touched Bill. I can’t say that I was disappointed. I had played the role of her lover once and had survived without a silver-tipped icepick being thrust into my back. I didn’t want to take my chances again.
“Please,” she said, gesturing toward the couches.
Before we could sit, however, Molly intercepted us. She was—more than any of the others—a sight for sore eyes.
“And we don’t need these anymore,” she commented pleasantly.
Thank the gods. At least I no longer had to star in As the iStake Pokes.
Was it just me—or was everyone a little too happy to see us?
Molly smiled up at me. “‘Kay, stand still. Don’t wanna accidentally activate this thing. Wouldn’t that be ironic?”
Bad-Suit laughed heartily. “I still can’t believe you snagged that little psychopath alive. You boys have certainly won me over.” She winked at us. Frankly, I had preferred her glares.
It was safe to say that I wasn’t taken in by the warm welcome that Bill and I were receiving. If we really were the “conquering heroes,” then why hadn’t we been officially released when we’d arrived at Authority headquarters the night before? Why bring us back to the Authority at all? Moreover, there was still a mystery to solve: who had dug Russell out of the concrete?
“Have we learned who released Russell from the ground to begin with?” I asked.
“Salome has been interrogating Russell, but . . . ,” Kibwe began.
Salome interrupted the “general. “Well, he’s been a little tight-lipped. We should know soon. But for a moment—at least—let’s celebrate!”
Methinks the lady doth deflect too much.
Interesting. Was she seeing him as her next leading man?
“Would it be possible for me to speak with Chancellor Gainesborough?” I asked her.
Bad-Suit and Dieter shared a look of disapproval.
“Chancellor Gainesborough has revealed her true Sanguinist leanings while you were gone,” Salome said, her voice full of regret.
“Anyway,” Salome said, dismissing my request by not directly responding to it, “I should go back to interrogating Mr. Edgington, who I’m hoping will provide us with a wealth of useful intelligence.”
I guess that moment of celebration was over. I studied the beautiful vampiress before me.
I doubted very seriously that Salome actually wanted Russell to sing like a canary, especially since she would likely be a main character in his song. Still—it was important that Salome didn’t know that I suspected her of being Russell’s liberator.
“Be careful,” I told her, placing a mask of concern on my face. “He’s the strongest vampire I’ve ever met.”
“Oh, he’s been silvered intravenously. He’s quite impaired,” she assured. “Trust me.”
I had to stop myself from laughing out loud at those words. Trust? Her? Fuck no! I trusted only myself and one other right then. As if thinking of Sookie compelled me to check on her, I felt our bond “searching” her out.
“Congratulations again,” Salome smiled. “And thank you both for what you’ve done. We will not forget.”
Why did that sound like a threat to me?
“It was our duty,” Bill said as Salome went to leave.
“Boy Scout,” I muttered, ribbing my ‘partner’ in crime.
“Delinquent,” he responded with a smirk.
Molly laughed at us as she finished divesting Bill of his iStake.
Was Bill and my “bromance” back on? No. Especially not given his comments earlier that night. My monarch was proving to be too wishy-washy to fully trust; however, like it or not, he was still my “best buddy” in the building I was currently in—in the fucked up situation I was in—given the fact that my sister was a confessed Sanguinista.
Just before Salome could exit the “set,” Roman entered dramatically, which caused her to linger. Instead of looking like he was ready for a board meeting, the Guardian looked like he was ready to play a round of golf in his vibrant blue Polo shirt.
Complete with a Nike swish.
Talk about product placement.
I wanted to roll my eyes, but somehow I refrained and tried to prepare myself for what was to come. Had we been forgiven of our trespasses? Would we be free to go?
Somehow I doubted it.
Roman was carrying an old bottle, probably full of one of the trendy “aged designer bloods” that some vampires now traded in. They’d had the foresight and long-term vision to store “unique” blood for years in order to create “vintages” that the elite paid a hundred thousand—or more—a bottle to get.
I’d had a hankering to indulge once—but the flavor had been stale to my taste buds.
I shook my head slightly. Vampires like Talbot tried to improve blood by tampering with humans’ diets. Others tried to make it “better” by aging it. I’d even heard of someone trying to make it into Jell-O!
However, to me, blood was best “from the tap”—so to speak. And no blood would ever compare with my bonded’s—especially not what was in the dusty jug in Roman’s hands.
Roman put his hands on my arms in a version of a warriors’ embrace that I figured was a hold-over from his human days—though I knew that he’d never been a warrior. He’d been more of a politician—even then. Godric had once speculated that Roman had been a confederate of Brutus and Cassius—who’d orchestrated the assassination of Julius Caesar.
I could see Roman stabbing someone in the back.
Glancing at Salome, I could see someone stabbing him in his back as well.
Bad-Suit interrupted my thoughts. “Roman? That looks like a very special bottle of blood.”
“Why, yes, it is, Rosalyn,” Roman responded. “Eighteenth-century Austrian hemophiliac—not that I know too much about these fancy, antique bloods. All I know is that it cost a fucking fuck-load of money.”
Aha! Bad-Suit did have a name: Rosalyn.
Bill and I shared a look, and though he seemed more impressed by the display than I was, I could tell that he was fighting against giving into it.
Bad-Suit Rosalyn laughed in anticipation of the fine vintage she hoped Roman was about to share. Even though she’d changed her mind about Bill and me, I hadn’t changed my mind about her; she was still annoying.
“Sit. Sit!” Roman said—more like ordered. As Bill and I obeyed, I looked at the smiling Chancellors around me, wondering if one could ever know friend from foe in this building.
Roman took a drink for the bottle he’d brought in.
“Interesting,” he said, swishing the liquid in his mouth a little.
I smirked. ‘Interesting’ was code for “I should like this because it’s expensive; however, it’s shit!”
Bill carefully put the bottle onto the coffee table. He hadn’t drunk either.
“You two have delivered,” Roman started but then paused dramatically, “a psychopath terrorist. Probably the greatest individual threat to vampire, human relations. And, because of that, you have saved many, many lives—human as well as vampire. So on behalf of them both, I thank you.”
Finally, the Guardian sat down. He and the other Chancellors—at least those remaining—toasted us. Yes—I had already noted that “the kid” was gone. No great loss in my book, considering the fact that he didn’t seem to like Bill and me that much—but, still, an interesting development.
And—of course—any good soap opera needed a surprising death or two. I just hoped that I wouldn’t turn out to be another of them.
I couldn’t help but to wonder if Nora had identified “the kid” as a confederate. Regardless, I knew that he couldn’t have been the person in Doug’s memories.
“Oh, no, no. no. You did exactly what I wanted. Now I know you’re with me,” Roman stated. “You do believe in coexistence with humans.”
And there it was: confirmation that Roman wanted Bill and me to be on his side, though the true purpose of our desired allegiance still eluded me.
The Guardian was returning my look—studying me in turn—wanting me to agree with his statement about humans. As a matter of fact, I did—but mostly because it was practical. However, too much ‘agreement’ from me would have been seen as suspicious by Roman, so I gave a calculated and measured response: “There are certain humans I’ve felt protective towards in the past.”
Yeah—like my part-human bonded, who was still fast asleep. Thank the gods.
“Yeah, but you do believe that the Sanguinista vision of morality endorses slavery, torture—the rape of those who delivered us into the life before death. Right?” Roman asked me pointedly.
Gods—I hated religious rhetoric!
Again, I intuited that a measured response was the way to go with the Guardian. “Well, I was never very religious, but as long as the affairs of humans do not personally impact me—uh—I do remain a,” I paused and smiled, “pacifist.”
As soon as Roman leaned forward and laughed, I knew that I’d chosen the right tack in my responses.
“Too cool for school!” Whoever was coming up with Roman’s dialogue in this soap opera really needed to be shot!
Still, Roman’s comment made me think for a moment. What did I believe in other than myself? The quiet life. The avoidance of political machinations. Love.
Roman was right about one thing though. I didn’t want to admit to any of the things I believed in—especially not to him.
Meanwhile, Bill was smirking in my direction—giving me a look that clearly indicated that he doubted if I cared about anything beyond myself.
How little he really knew me. And how well he should have, given the fact that he’d seen me with Sookie.
“Excuse me,” a somewhat impatient-sounding Salome said, “I should continue interrogating our prisoner.”
“Don’t bother,” Roman said casually—flippantly. “We’re going to execute him.”
Now that statement made me sit up and notice. And someone else “noticed” too.
“But . . . ,” the beautiful vampiress started.
“We’re at war. Just because we have caught one very visible enemy does not mean that the war is over,” Roman said passionately.
Even as Roman delivered his over-dramatic speech, I kept my eyes focused on Salome.
What was that look on her face? Deference? Disagreement? Defiance? Distaste?
Roman obviously wasn’t looking at her. He stood up. “I must admit I do find it ironic that we proponents of coexistence,” he said as he put a ‘paternal’ hand on my shoulder and then Bill’s, “find it so very difficult to coexist with our enemies. But the reason for that is simple. They are evil,” he pronounced summarily, “cloaking themselves in Lilith to justify their sadism, their greed, their lust. Lilith herself was not evil.”
As he pontificated, I was still looking at Salome with my peripheral vision. There was definitely trouble in paradise—trouble that Roman was missing.
Instead of looking for that trouble—despite being “at war”—he quoted the Book of Lilith. I’d read the book once. It would have been excellent bedtime reading—had I needed any help sleeping.
As Bad-Suit Rosalyn put down the hand that had been lifted in “praise” of the scripture, Salome questioned her lover. “But, Guardian, he knows so much. And I agree, execution is warranted . . . .”
I would have asked him a different question: How the fuck was that quotation relevant to the current situation?
Once again, Roman interrupted Salome. “Why would we believe anything that he has to tell us? And, oh, by the way, he is bat-shit crazy.”
Yes. Russell was fucking crazy, but he was no liar. Moreover, he was a boaster. Hell—I would have loved to have questioned him! I figured it would take five minutes to know all Russell knew. He wasn’t exactly “quiet.”
On the contrary, Russell was too fucking old to care about torture or confession. And he loved the sound of his own voice enough to proclaim his deeds loudly.
My thoughts were interrupted by the “laugh track” as Dieter and Bad-Suit Rosalyn reacted to Roman’s comments.
“Yes, Guardian,” Salome said in agreement, though her eyes told another story—one that Roman seemed too arrogant to read.
“In fact, I want to execute him tonight. As soon as possible!” Roman proclaimed, much to the delight of Bad-Suit and Dieter. I had noticed that Kibwe’s reaction was more subdued.
Interesting. Perhaps the general was wise enough to recognize that the winds of change were astir.
“I want to hit the links before sunrise,” the Guardian commented. “Has he been silvered?” he asked his consort.
“Less than an hour ago,” Salome responded.
“Mm hmm,” he reacted.
“Shall I give him another dose and bring him to you?” Salome asked.
“Excellent! And slap an iStake on him. I don’t want to get dirty,” the Guardian said.
Salome nodded and then finally was able to leave the room.
I looked at the Guardian and wondered for a moment whether I could get away with asking him if I could leave too. But that question was stopped in my throat by another.
“Why?” he asked.
Why? There were so many reasons. Because I wanted to know if it was she who’d betrayed me. Because I knew that Godric would want me to try to reason with her—if she truly had become a Sanguinista.
“She—she’s my sister,” I responded to him, giving him the most obvious answer to his question—and the one that he likely already knew.
“Oh my!” Rosalyn said in a tone that made it seem as if she was the one watching the soap opera now.
All Godric’s Children. Or maybe Two Lives to Live.
I hated being part of the fucking show!
Did I want to see my enemy die? Yes. And—in that moment—I said a prayer to any God or gods who might be listening. I prayed that the execution would happen just as Roman wanted.
Quick, clean, easy.
I sighed. I was tired of ceremony. Tired of the song and dance. Tired of my existence being in limbo. Tired of providing Bad-Suit with amusement by being a character in The Old and the Agitated!
Or, in Bill’s case, The Young and the Clueless.
There were, after all, links to hit.
Bill smiled, though he looked a little uncomfortable as Roman turned his gaze to him.
“And you?” he asked.
“Oh, I love a good execution,” Bill returned. Apparently, he was getting into the spirit of the theatrics.
Guiding Vamps. The Edge of the Stake.
Roman seemed pleased by Bill’s response—much more pleased than he was with me in that moment.
He sat back and took another swig of his fancy blood before handing it to a gleeful Rosalyn, who licked her lips before taking a sip.
“Delicious,” she remarked.
I rolled my eyes. I’d already pegged her as an expert at ass kissing—when the person owning that ass could benefit her. Of course—who knew?—her bad taste in clothing might have extended to her taste in blood.
She passed the bottle to Dieter, who took a sip and made a sound as if he were considering his opinion. “Better than the blood of that 19th Century nun.”
Roman wasn’t really watching the reactions of his Chancellors to their treat. He was still looking at Bill and me.
“How so?” Bill asked.
“The ‘civilized, human-ish’ vampire politician,” Roman said motioning toward Bill. “And the ‘practiced, polished salesman,'” he said, motioning toward me. “Nan—bitch that she was—called you the yin and the yang.”
Roman laughed. “Her monikers depended on her mood!”
“So what do you want with us?” Bill asked.
“Your service,” Roman responded. “I recently got a new Nan—at least in terms of public appearances. However, I need more than just Steve Newlin’s spinning.”
“Steve Newlin is the new face of the American Vampire League?” I asked, the distaste clear in my tone.
“Yes,” Roman responded. “Who better than a ‘reformed vampire hater’ who has seen the light and is now embracing being a vampire?”
“So—if you have him . . . ,” Bill started.
“Why do I need you?” Roman finished his thought.
“Yes,” Bill responded.
“I want to diversify!” Roman answered with a flourish. “I want vampires to have more than one public face—just in case someone’s hand gets caught in the cookie jar. Lilith knows that Nan was almost caught drinking from donors many times!” he said with frustration. “No—I need you two to appear to be the full spectrum of vampire nature.”
“So I will be the ‘bad boy’ who unapologetically feeds from humans,” I observed.
“Willing donors!” Roman corrected. “You will talk about it in terms of a service industry and play up the,” he paused, “eroticism of being bitten. Hell! With that face, you were born to be a star! And a star you will be!”
“A star,” I stated flatly.
“Yes. I think that a reality television show would be best for you,” Roman said as if he’d considered many options and landed on that one. “It’s already in development and will be set at Fangtasia. Of course, you’ll have to keep any true violence and actual biting off the airwaves, but I’m sure you can adapt,” he added.
“And if I don’t care for the idea?” I asked.
“Well—then you can join Russell in tonight’s execution,” he said, suddenly deadly serious. “After all, someone needs to pay for Nan’s death. You can do so either by your cooperation or with your life.”
“In that case, I find myself literally dying to be the star of a reality show,” I intoned, eliciting a loud laugh from Bad-Suit Rosalyn.
“And I can’t wait to watch!” she enthused.
“As the Vampire Turns,” I offered.
She chortled. “Oh—that’s catchy!”
“And me?” Bill asked Roman somewhat tentatively. “What role do you have in mind?”
“You will be the model of mainstreaming! You will make appearances on night-time talk shows and the like. Those little ribbon cutting ceremonies you did in your Podunk town will be carried out on a national scale!” Roman pronounced.
“And how long will we be required to serve, Guardian?” I asked.
Roman looked pissed off at the gall of my question, but then smiled a little. “Until I’ve decided that you’ve atoned enough.”
“We will happily serve your Guardianship in any capacity you require,” Bill said, giving me a sharp look that told me not to rock the boat.
“Excellent!” Roman said, clapping his hands together. He looked at me. “Now that we have that business dealt with, you are free to go visit your,” he paused, “sister. But don’t linger. There’s an execution to attend!”
“Hell yeah!” Bad-Suit Rosalyn chortled, even as I stood up and nodded toward Roman.
“Thank you, Guardian,” I said.
“You remember the way to the cells—right?” Dieter asked with a smirk.
Roman chuckled. “See, Northman, you were born to entertain!” he called out as I “exited stage right.”
Goddamned soap operas!
A/N: I gotta say thanks to both Sephrenia and Kleannhouse for providing some of the suggestions for soap opera names used in this chapter! This was another fun chapter to write. I thought that this scene was quite melodramatic on the show, so I went with that idea. Also, I wanted to create a more defined reason why Bill and Eric were there. It didn’t make sense to me that they weren’t either killed, punished, or let go. So I let Roman tell them what he wanted from them. By the way, the Brainmates wrote a story about Eric being the center of a reality show. It’s called Counting Stars and is a favorite of mine!
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter.