Last time: 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.
Eric nodded, but it was a few moments before he spoke, and when he did so, it was with an air of hesitancy. “Yes. I am loyal to Appius. But there are some lines that—if crossed by my maker—would make me reevaluate that loyalty. I believe Appius recognizes this fact—at least, on some level. Since he released me, he has done nothing that would cause me to question my allegiance to him.”
“But I thought you were worried enough about your maker’s motives to free Karin,” Sookie observed.
Eric nodded. “Yes. And—even after these many years—I still believe I was right to do so, for—at that time—Appius was unstable. I cannot say what would have happened if Karin had been forced to come when I called,” he said tensely. “But I can say this: when she did not come, Appius believed her to be finally dead. And his rage and jealousy were eased.”
Sookie gasped. “He was pleased you’d lost your child?!”
Eric hesitated again, but then nodded in confirmation. “Yes. He’d failed with his own child, so he was glad that I had ultimately failed too. But I did not fail,” he said with a raised eyebrow and a slight smirk. “I succeeded in misleading my maker—an ancient. And that is no small task.”
“No—but it’s still sad you felt the need for the subterfuge,” she commented, breaking out another Word-of-the-Day.
He squeezed her hand lightly in silent agreement.
“Can’t your maker feel your children—through your bond with him?” Sookie asked after a few moments of contemplation.
Eric shook his head. “Makers can sense when a child makes a child, but that is the extent of it—unless they are very close in proximity to that progeny. Even then, a maker would have no ability to command his or her child’s child.”
“And Appius never suspected you were deceiving him about Karin?” Sookie asked.
“I told him half-truths, and he was quick to believe them, for he felt my own very real grief in being separated from Karin—from Isolde.”
“So—as long as Appius lives, you won’t be able to openly claim her as a child?” Sookie asked astutely and a little sadly.
“That is accurate. In addition, because of her profession, total anonymity is essential to her safety.”
“Yet you’re telling me about her,” the telepath marveled.
“I must give you my trust if I am to earn yours,” the vampire answered sincerely.
“Keep my trust,” Sookie corrected quietly. “You’ve already earned it.”
“Thank you,” Eric smiled softly.
“Does your maker know about Pam?” she asked after a moment.
Eric nodded in affirmation. “Yes. When she gained control over her urges, I offered to release Pam in the same way as I once did Karin, but she declined. She is not one to prefer seclusion. Plus, she chooses to be by my side often—as I enjoy her company as well.”
“What about Appius? Would he hurt her to get to you?” Sookie asked pensively.
Eric gave her a sideways smirk. “He’d hate your saying his name. He thinks one must earn that right.”
“Don’t be. He’s a pompous prick,” Eric chuckled, though no smile made its way to his eyes. “But to answer your question about Pam, she has met Appius—while we were still in Europe. My maker was in good spirits at the time, and she has a personality that amuses him—which I hypothesized even before they interacted. She has the talent to pretend indifference—even on the rare occasions when she does give a fuck about something. And since my maker’s favorite kind of harm is of the mental variety, Pam is not someone he’d see sport in breaking.”
“Karin is?” Sookie asked.
“Yes. Appius would see her as a challenge—like he saw me,” Eric responded quietly. “That is why I took extreme precautions to make sure she could not be connected to me. If Appius found out about her now, she and I would both be in grave danger from him.”
Sookie squeezed his hand in support. “Another reason why Bill’s database could be so damaging.”
Eric nodded. “While Karin’s true identity is well enough concealed that Bill would not have access to that knowledge, a lot of sensitive information can be had—for the right price or with a little torture.”
“I don’t know how Bill is getting his information,” Eric continued, “but information such as vampires’ abilities, ages, and aliases could lead to consequences for many. Imagine if Bill named my business, my addresses, and my associates,” he said significantly. “Several of my properties are almost impossible to trace to me, but Bill is allowed access to much knowledge as Area 5 Investigator. Though I doubt Bill is savvy enough to discover what I endeavor to keep well-hidden, consider a younger vampire who has the finances to afford only one resting place. If the location of that place were to be known by an enemy, the consequences could be great. Worse—imagine if a rogue, like Godfrey, were to get a copy of the database and give it to the Fellowship.”
Sookie gasped. “Then why would Bill even create something like that? Why would the queen want it?”
Eric considered for a moment. “Money and power. Vampires would buy a database and keep buying any updates in order to know what was on it about them—so that they could take steps to safeguard against vulnerabilities. They would also want to know about their enemies and associates—to keep the playing field even. Of course, I would speculate that Bill’s work has multiple layers—with only some of them intended for public consumption. The queen herself would have the most knowledge, and because the project has originated from her, she will also control the knowledge that is released about herself.”
“But wouldn’t other vampires resent her for developing and selling such a thing?” Sookie asked.
Eric thought for a moment. “Queen Sophie-Anne has almost certainly contemplated the risks versus the rewards of the venture. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first version of the database contained only limited data of the more powerful vampires: just their names and publicly-known information. For example, my name and my ownership of Fangtasia would be in it, but likely very little else. That way, the queen could gauge the reaction and/or offer new information in increments—titillating little nuggets of intrigue unless one feared that she knew more information about him or her. Such vampires would reach out to Sophie-Anne.”
“And she’d maybe charge them for keeping any knowledge out of updates for the database,” Sookie posited.
“Astute observation,” Eric smiled. “And there’s no ‘maybe’ about it. Vampires would pay a lot to ensure their secrecy. Make no mistake of it.”
“So the queen could basically blackmail a whole lot of vampires with the information they don’t want in the database! Information she might not even have!” Sookie exclaimed.
“Wouldn’t Bill be a target then?” Sookie asked with concern—before she could stop herself from doing so.
Stop herself from caring.
Angrily, Sookie brushed an unwelcome tear from her eye. “I hate that I still care,” she sighed, frustrated. “Even after tonight. After Lorena. After everything! How pathetic is that?!” She shook her head in self-critique.
“You have a good heart—one ready to forgive, one reluctant to judge,” Eric said softly. “That is not a pathetic quality, Sookie. It is an extraordinary one.”
“But I shouldn’t care,” she insisted.
He shrugged. “If you cared to the point that you were blind to all the pain Bill has caused you, I would caution you. I would be concerned for you. Are you hiding from those truths?”
“No,” Sookie said softly. “I can’t—not after all the promises I made to God—and to myself—in that trunk.”
He squeezed her hand softly. “Then there is no need for you to beat yourself up. You care about someone who was important in your life. That is not a pathetic thing, Sookie. It is an unavoidable one—a natural one, even. Even now, I care about Appius—though he has harmed my life in many ways and could potentially harm it again. I cannot stop myself. He has been important in my life, so I care about him,” the vampire stated matter-of-factly.
“Thanks,” Sookie said, after exhaling a deep breath—and some of her self-censure with it.
“No problem,” Eric responded after another supportive squeeze to her hand. In truth, he understood well her mixed feelings about the vampire who had attacked her earlier (even if he didn’t like the fact that she still had positive feelings about the plantation prick).
After a few moments, he answered her earlier question. “Likely, Compton would be a target—if his role in the project were to be made public. Though most believe him to be innocuous, my spy in New Orleans has told me that Bill was hired by the queen for,” he paused and glanced at Sookie, “his procurement skills, which would make him good at gathering information. Perhaps, Sophie-Anne would keep his part in the project a secret to protect her asset, or she might see Bill as expendable after he’s done his initial set-up. Chances are, her decision will be based on the quality of the work and whether or not she needs a scapegoat.”
“He’ll be blamed if the backlash for the database is more than she thinks it will be,” she observed.
“Likely. And—if that comes to pass—she will make a big production out of his punishment and the destruction of the rest of his project in order to protect herself,” he explained.
Sookie shook her head. “The vampire world is sure twisty.”
“That it is,” Eric agreed. “The other supernatural groups are also ‘twisty.’ And you are now known by many of them. Plus . . . ,” he paused.
“What?” she asked after a moment.
“I believe you belong to one of those other groups.”
She scoffed. “Sorry to disappoint, but I’m just a plain, ol’ human.”
“Are you?” Eric asked with a chuckle. “Really? A plain, ol’ human with telepathy? A plain, ol’ human that captures the interest of supernatural men and women alike?”
Sookie shook her head. “No—I don’t!”
“Riiiiiight,” Eric said in an exaggerated way. “Tell me that your shifter boss isn’t romantically interested in you. Tell me that Herveaux doesn’t want you. Sookie, I have seen vampires be drawn to you in three states now!”
“No, they haven’t been!” she insisted.
“You might not have noticed it, but I have,” Eric returned. “Hell—I’m evidence of the argument! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy your company very much, but—from the first moment I saw you—I was drawn to you. Yes—you are lovely, but there is an extra allure to you. Extra,” he emphasized. “Even my talking to you so openly is an oddity. I enjoy it, to be sure. But there is more—a kind of trustworthiness that emanates from you.”
“Trustworthiness isn’t uncommon for humans though,” Sookie argued.
“Indeed,” Eric agreed. “My day-person, Bobby, is someone I consider trustworthy, though I still use glamour to ensure that. However, I’ve never been tempted to tell him my life story—even though he has worked for me for a decade. With you, I feel a pull to speak with you.”
“That could just be because of how you,” she paused, “feel about me. Heck! If Supes were so inclined to be open and honest with me, then why did Sam hide his true nature from me?” she challenged.
Eric chuckled. “You have me there. But I bet he was tempted; I’d even wager that hints were dropped—that he showed himself to you in his shifted state—even if he didn’t show himself to you while shifting.”
“Yeah—well—I had no idea that was him,” Sookie returned.
“Perhaps, not. But you should know that it’s almost unheard of for a two-natured creature to go anywhere near a human in his or her shifted form.”
Sookie frowned, thinking about the dog Sam transformed into. She recalled talking about “Dean” to Arlene about a year before; however, the redhead hadn’t known about the stray. Indeed, most of the times Sookie had seen the dog—every time she could currently think of, at least—she’d been alone.
“You have a point about Sam,” Sookie sighed. “Maybe his willingness to show me his other nature—even if he didn’t tell me about it—is something I should give him credit for.”
Eric nodded. “I’m not on his side, Sookie, and I definitely don’t want competition for your affections, but—from what I know about your gift—you can read shifter and Were thoughts to a certain extent. The fact that Sam kept you employed and close says something about his regard for you.”
“You think he wanted me to read his secret from his mind?” Sookie asked incredulously. “And—if he did—isn’t that sort of,” she paused, “the lazy way out?”
Eric chuckled. “I’m not saying it’s not! Indeed, your finding out from his head would have been convenient for him in some ways.”
“How so?” Sookie asked with a confused frown.
“You must understand that there are strict punishments for telling humans about the supernatural world,” Eric said.
“Telling—not thinking,” Sookie whispered. “But I actively try to keep out of my friends’ heads. Sam knows I do that, too!”
“That practice is probably wise,” Eric chuckled again. “But it does not negate the fact that you possess qualities that draw Supernaturals to you—both in positive and negative ways.”
They were quiet for a few moments.
“How long?” she asked.
“Hmmm?” he sounded.
“How long would I need guards?”
He shrugged. “To be honest—for your whole life, but we could begin with a year. If nothing happens during that time, then we can talk again. Maybe you are right. Maybe you will not be threatened. However, if even a roving Maenad can identify you as being the key to getting my attention, I have my doubts,” he added.
“How did she know I’d be a—uh—good messenger?” Sookie asked with a cringe as she remembered the exact nature of that message. And the pain it had entailed.
Eric sighed. “The god she serves, Dionysus, has given her the power to determine how to best influence people—even vampires.”
Sookie frowned. “Am I a weakness to you?” she asked. “Was I! Even then?”
“Yes,” he responded matter-of-factly. “In some ways. Indeed, if you were listed as being important to me in Bill’s database, that would be very bad for us both, and I wouldn’t be asking for permission to give you guards. But you’re also a tremendous asset to me. Thus, even on the surface, the pros of my association with you outweigh the cons.”
“On the surface?” Sookie asked for clarification.
“Dig a little deeper and you will find that I am intrigued by you. Hell! ‘Enamored’ is a good word too!”
“Eric, I—uh—don’t think I’m—um—ready for . . . ,” she stammered.
“I know,” he cut her off. “And I won’t push. I just want you to accept the damned guards at this point! As long as you are safe, I’ll have time to worm my way into your affections,” he added with a smirk.
“Confident much?” she asked with a cut of her eyes.
“Yes, but the word I would use is sure,” he returned sincerely—maybe too earnestly for her.
“Aren’t those basically the same thing?” she laughed awkwardly.
“Not at all,” he smiled. “If I were merely confident, that would be about me only. But to be ‘sure’ is to be more.”
“I am sure that—once you give me a chance—you will not be able to get enough of me. Just as I’m sure I’d never be able to get enough of you.”
She’d made the unfortunate mistake of taking a drink out of the water bottle Alcide had packed before Eric spoke, and her laughter propelled the liquid out of her mouth.
“See—you truly do need a guard,” he grinned, “if only to save you from choking!”
A/N: Hello everyone! Sorry that I’m a week behind. Work caught up with me big time last week, but things are settling down again-at least for a while, so I should be able to go back to my 1 per week schedule.
Just to let you know, this story will end at Chapter 19, but a sequel should begin right after.
I hope you continue to enjoy this conversation on the plane. This story was always meant to demonstrate the changes that would have occurred if Sookie were not raped in the trunk. So a lot of the “action” in the story is really “internal action.” The sequel-call The Boot-will contain more action.