“She’d be dying for her own actions,” he said forcefully. “But,” his voice softened, “knowing how you hate the thought of even someone like Debbie Pelt being slain on your behalf—I will offer you a compromise.”
“Compromise? What compromise?”
“Guards,” Eric said somewhat cautiously, already bracing for the telepath’s objections. “If you accept them, I will let Debbie live unless—until—she takes action against you.”
“That sounds like an ultimatum,” Sookie returned somewhat angrily, “not a compromise. Anyway, I don’t need guards!”
Eric was shocked—though grateful—that she hadn’t pulled away her hand from his own, but he still had to reign in his frustration at her outright denial.
Even though he’d expected it.
“You do need them,” he returned emphatically. “Even beyond the Debbie Pelt situation, you need guards. You will always need them now.”
“How do you figure?” she asked with a scowl.
Without thinking, he took his left hand off of the airplane’s controls and ran his fingers through his hair.
“What are you doing?! Fly the dang plane!” Sookie screeched, even as she pulled her hand from his.
He sighed at the loss, but then chuckled, thankful for the momentary tension breaker. “The plane’s been on automatic pilot since three minutes after our takeoff. I’ve just kept my hand on the controls to make you feel better. I will put it back on if you need,” he added.
She huffed. “I think you know me too well sometimes.”
“I think I don’t know you well enough,” he said with sincerity rather than the kind of suggestiveness that she was more used to from him. He also replaced his left hand onto the controls and retook her hand with his right.
Refusing to get sidetracked, she ignored his earnest tone and the way his hand in hers once more made her feel. “Well—I know you know me well enough to know that I don’t want guards.”
“Humor me for a minute as I try to convince you that—though you might not want them—you need them,” he requested.
Because his voice lacked even a hint of the patronizing tone that Bill’s generally held when he wanted to “explain” something to her and because she’d almost died earlier that night (so it was clear that Eric did have a point) and because she’d determined to be less stubborn, Sookie nodded her head, indicating that she would—at least—hear out the vampire.
“Thank you,” he said, pleased that she’d given in to his request without too much of a fight. “Let me begin by pointing out that you have worked for me before and that I should be the one to ensure your safety. Your gift was made known in Dallas. And—given Bill’s relationship with the queen—I am certain that she knows of that gift as well.”
“Are you implyin’ that other vampires might try to—um—kidnap me or something?” she asked.
“I’m saying that—if you have renounced Bill’s claim that you are his—then you are currently free game.”
“I’m not Bill’s,” Sookie stated firmly.
Eric smiled a little. “Glad to hear it. But being unattached to a Supernatural being makes you much more vulnerable. Tell me—how difficult would it really be to control your telepathy—to control you?”
“I wouldn’t do anything against my morals,” she insisted.
“Even if someone were threatening Jason?” he asked gently.
“What wouldn’t you do for your brother is the real question—or those friends you’ve told me about—even the ‘fair-weather’ one?” he aptly observed.
Sookie went to reply, but Eric beat her to the punch. “If you agree to be guarded, I would hire guards for Jason too if necessary. And your friends also—should the occasion warrant their protection.”
“But the expense . . . ,” Sookie began.
“It is nothing I would notice,” he paused, “monetarily. But I will notice when it comes to peace of mind. Feeling your terror earlier . . . .” He was silent for a moment. “Sookie, I can no longer deny that I care for you—not that I did a thorough job of hiding it before,” he admitted somewhat reluctantly. “Call it selfishness on my part if it makes you feel better—but I never again want to awaken the way I did tonight.”
She took in a deep breath. “Did Bill wake up at sunset—or after?” she asked, trying to work through a question that had been swirling in her mind—and unable to process Eric’s declared feelings any more than she could her own internal mishmash of emotions in that moment.
“Based on how I found you, I’d speculate that he woke up right at sunset,” Eric relayed.
“Then how did you get to me so fast?” Sookie asked him in barely a whisper.
“Older vampires can wake up before sunset. Also, the storm obscured the sun, enabling me to awaken even earlier. And . . . ,” he stopped midsentence.
“The blood tie. Feeling your strong emotions . . . . You were frightened.”
“Yes, I was,” she concurred. “But you haven’t answered how you got to me so quickly.”
“I flew,” he said somewhat abruptly.
“You can fly that fast?” she asked.
“I left Russell’s mansion before the sun was officially down; the storm protected me,” he explained quickly—as if it were nothing.
“Eric!” she gasped. “One break in the storm, and you would . . . .” She couldn’t finish her thought.
“A thousand years!” she cried. “You’re a thousand years old!”
“More than,” Eric said with a confused look, not understanding what his age had to do with anything.
The next thing he knew, she’d let go of his hand again and was swatting and punching at his arm—with more strength than he would have thought her capable—even with his blood.
“You really are a warrior,” he grinned.
“And you’re a fool! Why did you risk yourself like that?”
“You care,” he observed somewhat incredulously. “About my safety?”
“You’re not the only one surprised, but—yes—I do care! Very much,” she added in almost a whisper after swatting his arm again. “I don’t like the idea of you risking your thousand-plus-year-old hide for me!”
“Well—then,” Eric returned, his frustration barely covering up the fear that had caused it, “you’ll understand that, if you’d had a full-time guard—one who was devoted solely to your protection—Debbie Pelt would have never gotten close to you. You would have never been in that trunk, Sookie! And I wouldn’t have had to leave Russell’s mansion while it was still daytime!”
“You didn’t have to do that!” she yelled out angrily. “I never asked you to care!”
He turned and exchanged a heated glare with her for a moment. “I never asked you to care either!”
“But I do!” Sookie huffed.
“Well, so do I!”
“Then we’re even!” she frowned.
“We are!” he agreed with a slight chuckle, breaking the tension.
She shook her head and regripped his hand before bringing it to her lips for a gentle kiss. He watched her with a mixture of surprise and awe in his eyes, her own showing a deep appreciation for his actions.
“With you, I find that I have to care,” he confessed before he could stop himself. “I cannot help myself. Sookie, you need protection. And I want to be the one to protect you,” he emphasized.
She exhaled deeply. “Your point is taken; I’d want to protect you too.”
“You would?” he asked, again clearly surprised.
She rolled her eyes. “That’s what we were just yelling at each other about.”
She laughed. “You really are more clueless about the whole relationship thing than I am—aren’t you?”
He shrugged. “I honestly don’t know. All I know is that I need you to stay safe.”
“But Alcide was guarding me,” she pointed out, “and the Debbie thing still happened.”
“Alcide, for all his strength, is not a professional guard,” Eric frowned as he quickly raked his left hand through his hair again before putting it back on the controls. “I should have done better for you, but I did not foresee your being staked at Club Dead,” he added apologetically. “Alcide is not a stranger to the Were club, so I used him to get you inside. I thought I would be enough if he proved incapable of protecting you in Jackson; clearly, I was wrong,” he added contritely, even as he looked away from her.
“You were enough!” Sookie insisted. “I’d be dead if it weren’t for you.”
“I never should have let you come to Mississippi,” he responded regretfully, his eyes still pointed toward the front windows of the plane. “But the queen,” he paused, “seemed desperate to get Bill back—desperate to the point that she threatened me and mine. I am sorry.”
“What’s your queen like?” Sookie asked.
Eric shrugged. “Usually quite reasonable and shrewd. She leaves me alone for the most part, but—lately—there has been a somewhat desperate tinge to her behavior.” He shook his head.
“For the last decade or so,” Eric elaborated, “she’s been spending more and more money upon useless excess so that she looks stronger to other vampire monarchs. But conspicuous consumption has rarely worked in history.”
“When a monarch spends lavishly in order to try to seem more powerful. Sophie-Anne used to care much less about how she was viewed by others—as long as she knew she was strong. In fact, she enjoyed punishing anyone who underestimated her.”
“You admired that about her,” Sookie observed sagely.
“Yes,” Eric agreed. “It’s one of the reasons why I decided to serve her. But somewhere along the way, she became more ambitious, and—to attract allies—she has spent beyond her means.”
“I can’t imagine what that means for a vampire,” Sookie frowned. Even Bill had money enough to be planning for major renovations on his ancestral home. And Eric had just shrugged off the expense of employing guards for her and those she cared about. She couldn’t even begin to comprehend the kind of money a vampire queen might have—or how much she might spend!
“Bill has been working on a project for Sophie-Anne,” Eric disclosed, “a project that I believe the queen is quite concerned about.”
Sookie took a deep breath. Bill had hidden his computer equipment in her house before he left Bon Temps. She could either keep that knowledge to herself and get the equipment back to Bill, or she could tell Eric about it.
Hadn’t it been Bill who’d told her to tell Eric about the computer project if he wasn’t back in Bon Temps in eight weeks? Wasn’t it Bill who told her to seek out Eric for protection—even though he disliked the elder vampire?
If not for her and Eric, Lorena would have kept Bill her prisoner for a lot longer than eight weeks. Or Bill would have told Lorena exactly where to find the computer equipment; perhaps, he already had. After all, how else could the Were that had come to Bon Temps for her be explained?
“The project is Bill’s computer thing,” she told Eric, having made her decision to be forthcoming with the vampire who’d saved her life twice in as many nights.
Immediately, it felt like the right choice to the telepath.
“Computer thing?” Eric asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. Bill told me he was working on something secret for the queen. Before he left town, he hid it in my house. He put it in the cubby he built for himself over there. I’m pretty sure he figures that I’m mostly clueless about what he was working on, but I’ve seen databases before.”
“A database,” Eric frowned.
Sookie elaborated, “One with vampire information. I was over at his house when he was working on it one night and saw one of the entries.”
“You are sure it was information about a vampire?” Eric asked, his voice clipped.
“Yes. The entry I saw had a picture, a date of birth in the 1750s, and other information related to vampires.”
“Like?” Eric asked.
Sookie closed her eyes to better remember. “Blanks for things like maker and children. And—uh—places of residence. Names used. Special talents. Skills. Things like that.”
“A database of vampire information. Fuck!” Eric growled, seemingly slumping back into his pilot’s chair as if he were tired.
“Is that bad?” Sookie asked.
“Vampires are very private beings,” Eric answered. “Knowledge makes us strong. Conversely, others knowing too much about us could give them an advantage over us. For instance, there is information, such as the identity of my child, that I would not want to be known by anyone I don’t inherently trust.”
“But doesn’t everyone know that Pam’s your child?” Sookie asked with confusion.
“Pam and I do not hide our familial relationship, but we don’t flaunt it either. Many of the humans in our employ do not know. Indeed, most vampires who do know have already sworn fealty to me or are a part of Queen Sophie-Anne’s court. Karin, however, is another story. Very few know that the famous ‘Karin the Slaughterer’ is my child.”
“Slaughterer?” Sookie gulped.
Eric nodded and looked proud. “Karin was born to be a warrior—both as human and vampire. Her vampire gifts relate to stealth, and her senses are well beyond what they should be for her age. She works as an assassin for several carefully-chosen monarchs around the world.”
“A-assassin?” Sookie stuttered timidly.
“Enforcer might be a more apt title. In the supernatural world, we have had to be careful not to expose ourselves to humans. For the last several years, Weres and other two-natured creatures have been crafting plans to ‘come out’ as vampires did, but could you imagine what would happen if a Were were arrested and kept in jail when there was a full moon? And—even now—rogue vampires must be eliminated—as the vampire-human relationship is still tenuous. Of course, it is the rogues who can be most dangerous. Karin has earned her nickname because she has never failed to eliminate a target, not because she kills gratuitously. Most vampires assume that she is thousands of years old because of her deadliness and stealth. Indeed, very few know what she looks like or even her scent since she has learned spells to partially conceal it. She is like a phantom, and she go by aliases in her everyday life. My status as her maker is known by only myself and Pam, and Pam has been commanded to say nothing about her. Even my own maker doesn’t know she still exists.”
“How is that possible?” Sookie asked.
“I made Karin when Appius was in the Far East—about five years after he released me.” Eric sighed as if the weight of the world had just been placed upon his shoulders at the verbalization of his maker’s name. “In truth, a part of me missed him.”
“You did? Even though it seems like he was cruel to you?” Sookie asked softly—her tone weighed with care and a willingness to understand.
“It is almost impossible to explain my ambivalence toward my maker.”
“That means mixed feelings—right?” Sookie asked, recalling a recent Word-of-the-Day calendar entry.
Eric nodded. “Yes. I both love and hate Appius. He taught me a great many things about being a successful vampire, but his concept of a ‘successful vampire’ is not the same as mine.”
“What is his?” she asked with trepidation.
“For a vampire to lose all traces of humanity.”
“You haven’t lost those,” Sookie remarked, even as she apprehended that truth herself. For all of Bill’s attempts to paint Eric as completely devoid of humanity—the creature next to her was the most “human” vampire she’d ever encountered.
“My human parents taught me many things that I saw no logic in abandoning,” Eric said matter-of-factly. “As vampire, I have tried to see value where it exists—no matter what species it exists within.” He smirked. “Do not get me wrong; I believe that vampires are superior—as a whole—to other creatures.”
Sookie rolled her eyes and playfully pinched his palm.
He chuckled before his expression darkened again. “Appius, too, can see value in others, but—when he does—his inclination is to exploit the asset until it is no longer beneficial to him.” He sighed deeply. “I was one of his playthings for many years. As long as I had value and amused him, he taught me. I absorbed the lessons that suited me. And I grew able to withstand—even enjoy—the physical requirements he made of my body.”
Sookie cringed. “How?” she couldn’t stop herself from asking.
Eric closed his eyes for a moment. “I do not know. Homosexual couplings weren’t uncommon among my people. Especially on long journeys, some men provided one another with physical release, and they did not face the kind of stigma that many homosexual or bisexual individuals face in the modern world. However, I was not attracted to other men, so my right hand was my best friend during long journeys.”
Sookie looked down at the hand she was holding—Eric’s right hand—and blushed beet red.
The vampire chuckled, but made no comment.
The telepath’s blush faded quickly as Eric continued. “Appius was not concerned with my sexual preferences—only his own. Although he did not force himself upon me in a conventional sense, he did command me to comply to his advances.” Eric once again raked his left hand through his hair. “In some ways, that might have been worse, for my will was taken away, and my body complied to his touch. However, my mind was ever-aware of my own powerlessness—ever-aware that my choice had been taken away. Eventually, the act of sex with him created no physical pain—only pleasure. Appius no longer had to command my compliance after a time, for I knew that resistance was a waste of time and energy. You have heard of Stockholm Syndrome?”
“Yes,” Sookie responded, her throat tight from both her disgust at Appius’s actions and her sorrow that Eric had been forced to endure them.
“Mine began well before 1973—when the phenomenon was formally named,” he said ruefully. “Appius and I traveled through the area where Stockholm was eventually founded when I was about half a century old. It was there—ironically enough—that my forced compliance turned into a desire to please my maker.”
“Eric,” Sookie whispered, wishing she knew words that might comfort him.
The vampire squeezed her hand as if to comfort them both. “It took longer than that for me develop real affection for my maker, but I do have it now. Understandably, I resented those positive feelings for centuries—though I have come to accept them now. However, I doubt I will ever like having them,” he emphasized.
“I cannot imagine,” Sookie said softly.
“I think you come closer than most to understanding the repercussions of a loss of control,” Eric responded, his voice laced with compassion for her own past experiences.
There was a minute or two of silence between the two survivors before the vampire began speaking again. “Eventually, I learned all that I was going to learn from Appius, and he began to thirst for a new project to fill his time, so he released me.”
“Has he ever re-called you to him?” Sookie asked.
Eric nodded. “Only once—when he was in a difficult situation, and my connections were needed to get him out of it. In addition, he has sought me out a few times over the centuries; one such time was about sixty years after I made Karin.”
“You never told me how it is possible that Appius doesn’t know about her being alive—uh still undead,” Sookie reminded. “You don’t have to tell me, but I am curious.”
“I do not mind telling you,” Eric said with a slight smile in her direction. “I engineered a situation that made Appius believe that my first child was finally dead, and I have never done anything to correct his misperception of the situation.”
“What did you do?” Sookie asked, engrossed in his story.
“Karin’s human name was Isolde,” Eric responded. “In fact, that is the name I still think of first when I recall the nights we traveled together. I anticipated that Appius would want to meet her, and I had heard that my maker’s latest child had failed to rise. A mutual acquaintance also told me that Appius had been on a rampage of sorts after that, and I worried for Isolde. Because of this, I released Isolde so that she could go out on her own—something she wanted to do anyway—and instructed her to change her name permanently, but only after she left my side; I also cautioned her against giving me any specifics about her plans. I did not even know her new name for a century or so.”
“You told your maker the name ‘Isolde’—didn’t you? You told him that ‘Isolde’ was gone forever,” Sookie guessed.
“Yes,” Eric confirmed for the perceptive telepath. “I was even able to truthfully tell him that Isolde was ‘no more.'”
“Clever, but couldn’t he have just ordered you to call her?”
“He did,” Eric shared. “But by then it was too late.”
“Wait. Don’t children have to answer their makers’ calls?”
“Yes. But I had already freed Isolde from my command.”
Eric nodded. “The complete abdication of a maker’s right to control a child is rarely made and requires magic to—quite literally—change the maker-child bond. Often, a maker will more informally release a child to go off on his or her own, but makers retain the ability to re-call a progeny to their side and issue commands. However, in truth, very few vampires of sufficient age to be on their own require commands to support their makers; similarly, most makers kill or cut ties completely with any progenies they cannot trust. Such children are liabilities to a maker’s safety and secrecy.”
“What about you? Are you loyal to your maker?” Sookie asked, unable to stop herself.
A/N: Hi all! I’m barely in under the time frame again! Whew! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Many of you were happy to see the open, honest communication to you, though some pointed out that both Eric and Sookie are OOC in this tale. That’s true to a certain extent, but-in my mind-it’a all because of the trunk. Sookie vowed to make changes if she lived, and she’s already trying her hardest-though there are growing pains (she’s yet to accept the guards, after all). Meanwhile, Eric’s transformation was just as profound. It’s impossible for him to deny his feelings now; as soon as he flew away from Russell’s while the sun was out (despite the storm providing cover), he literally couldn’t stay the same Eric from the story. I was so intrigued in doing this piece because I really want to explore the trunk event as a lightning rod moment for Eric and Sookie. It was in the books, but in a VERY different way. It really set back Eric and Sookie’s progression toward each other. However, in this story, that event act like a fuse.
I hope this helps to explain some of my reasoning. I’ll catch y’all next week!
Thanks to Kleannhouse and Seph!
Seph is doing character banners for the newbies or changes in cast for this story. I’d like to introduce you to my Karin, played by Margot Robbie. She fits the very limited description from the books pretty well, and Eric is supposed to have a “type.” I have seen other authors use Robbie as inspiration for their Sookie, but my Sookie is always Anna Paquin. Also, don’t worry! Karin is not a romantic threat to our favorite pair. 😉
By the way, the “cast” button will take you to the whole cast for this story–similar to how I do with other stories.