“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”—Rene Descartes
Eric woke up about half an hour before sunrise. The car was parked, but he still felt some residual heat from the engine, so he estimated that they’d been parked for less than an hour. Sookie wasn’t far from him, and his first impulse was to go to her.
However, Eric quelled his instinct and refrained. The garages at his safe houses were not always light tight, nor were the main rooms.
He closed his eyes and assessed his surroundings as he always did upon waking. About twenty human scents were distinguishable in the area, but nothing seemed suspicious, and no one had come too close to the safe house for a while. He smelled the slight odor of Were, but it was faint—likely more than a week old—and the scent was not from a full-blooded Were. Still, he would track it later to make sure there was no threat.
His assessment of the smells around him done, Eric settled his nose onto the smell that most captivated him: Sookie. He’d had a difficult time falling into his day-rest that morning and had even suffered from the bleeds because he’d been unable to sleep. That had never happened to him before. He’d had to force himself to stay awake throughout the day before, but he’d never had trouble dying for the day when he wanted to.
And, as far as he knew, no vampire had ever had insomnia.
Until that morning.
Only Sookie’s coming to the car had eased the tension that had been building up in his body.
He’d thought about speaking to her on the Bluetooth once she was there, but when she’d started speaking—talking to him as if he were awake in the casual and confessional way they’d become accustomed to—he’d listened in silence and had taken solace in her voice. His only action had been to raise the palm of his hand to the top of his container, imagining her hand in his.
Like her, he had been happy to feel their connection—with her not knowing that he was feeling it.
Sookie had confessed many things to the “sleeping” him. She’d confessed her desire to touch him and had spoken of her intentions to touch him when he slept. He had almost laughed aloud when she’d qualified that she wouldn’t touch him in a “dirty” way. He’d imagined her blush as she’d said that.
She’d next spoken of how she had hoped that the love she’d felt for him was real, but then she’d acknowledged that it wasn’t—and never would be. Eric wondered if she was correct in her supposition that they would fall more and more in love with each other every day—even as they continued to recognize that those feelings were constructed by the Fae bond. Certainly, she was trapped just as much as he was—trapped inside of a “fairy tale,” as it were.
In the end, he’d felt her resolution in her blood, and he’d heard it in her voice too. She’d resolved to follow her Gran’s teachings and live in the present. And she’d said that she was grateful he’d not disappeared—presumably once he’d learned about the Fae bond. She’d confessed that she would let herself feel her love for him when he was dead for the day. Finally, she’d said that he deserved her love because she found him beautiful—both inside and outside—and she’d endeavored to make her love for him as real as possible.
Eric had felt a mixture of sadness and contentment coming from Sookie as she’d spoken. He knew that the contentment was because of their proximity to each other, for he had felt it acutely as well. But then her feelings had turned to guilt as she’d spoke of being responsible for her own parents being killed. Resolution had overcome her guilt, however, as she had settled into her sleep. And it was only when he’d heard her even breaths that he had been able to sleep as well.
Eric couldn’t help but to compare the many ways that Sookie and he were alike. Both of them blamed themselves for their parents’ deaths—even though they were both rational enough to know that they couldn’t have done anything to stop those deaths. However, he and Sookie were, first and foremost, creatures of the heart—instead of the head—even if he’d always tried to deny that fact as a vampire. Some of her impetuous actions had reminded him of his own human days—when he’d been prone to run into battle without thinking things through fully. Yes—in his younger days—he’d survived on luck, audacity, and sheer willpower. The same could be said for Sookie Stackhouse.
They were alike in another way too. Neither of them had any reason at all to trust in love. However, as Eric had listened to Sookie speaking in the car, he’d come to understand something very important: he could trust in a bond. And hadn’t all of his own “loves”—as both human and vampire—been fueled by bonds? He’d loved his parents because of familial bonds. He’d not chosen them, but he’d loved them nonetheless. Then he’d loved Godric for a thousand years; he’d certainly not felt this emotion for him when he’d appeared at his funeral pyre in the dark. But the bond between maker and child had supplied devotion and love, which Eric had felt as soon as he’d awoken to his vampire life. And those emotions had only grown from there. Pam certainly hadn’t loved Eric when he’d sucked the lifeblood out of her, but she’d awoken loving him, and he’d loved her back because of their bond.
In all his days, he’d never questioned whether his love for Godric or Pam was real because it had been formed through vampire magic. He recognized that he questioned the love from the Fae bond because it had been wrought from Fae magic. He closed his eyes tighter, recognizing his own hypocrisy. However, even as he did, he still felt the need to resist the effects of the Fae bond—at least until he fully understood it.
He couldn’t help but to wonder if that resistance would be ultimately futile.
Eric tried to go into downtime to await the last ten minutes before sundown, but he felt pensive and knew it was because he was farther away from Sookie than he was comfortable with. He shook his head and ran through his list of things to do. He needed to watch the video feed from Brady. After that, he would need to discuss with Sookie how she had done in avoiding the cameras at the places where she’d stopped. Next, they would need to make a list of any items they needed. Eric had learned long ago that the best way to get what he needed and to avoid detection was to glamour a human to do the getting for him. He intended to do just that in order to secure more gasoline and any other needed items.
After that, he was determined to go on with one of the things Sookie and he had planned: working on her telepathy. The Slidell house had been quite far from their nearest neighbors, as well as at the end of a cul-de-sac, so she’d been able to relax as she’d healed, but she would need to build up her gift. He also needed to tell her about the planned visit from Claudine in one week’s time, as well as to go over the next day’s route with her. Finally, he wanted to speak to Sookie about forming a vampire bond. Octavia’s words from the night before gave him hope that a vampire bond might help to shift the power away from the Fae bond a bit.
Eric had just finished making his plans for the night when he felt the sun go fully down. He exited the car without making a sound and made his way quickly into the house until he was in the same room as Sookie—his bonded. Had he needed to breath, he would have exhaled in relief at being close to her again.
She had sat up straight as if she’d heard him—though he knew that was impossible, despite the fact that she’d recently had his blood.
“Eric,” she said in barely a whisper, the relief clear in her tone.
“Good evening,” he returned. “Were there any problems as you traveled today?”
She turned around from her place on the couch and shook her head. “No, the trip was fine.”
“You hungry?” she asked. “I mean—I was gonna fix my dinner, and I could warm you a TrueBlood?”
“That would be nice,” he responded. “I will just do a quick scout of the area while you prepare things.”
She nodded and got up, moving toward the kitchen. She grabbed a Tupperware container of leftovers she’d brought from Slidell and quickly warmed up her meal. Next she warmed a TrueBlood. She set her own plate at the breakfast bar and then took Eric’s blood out of the microwave before putting the lid back on it and shaking it so that the heat would be evenly distributed. However, she wasn’t sure where to set down the bottle, for she didn’t know if he’d want to eat with her.
He stepped into the kitchen from the garage and helped her with her dilemma.
“I will eat with you if you find that acceptable,” he said a little awkwardly.
“Sure,” she responded quickly.
He could feel her happiness in their tie, but she immediately worked to stifle it.
He lifted his laptop case a little. “Do you mind if I do a bit of work as we have our meal?”
She shook her head, grateful that he’d be close to her, but glad that he wouldn’t feel obligated to speak with her now. Imagining him interacting with her only out of pity was too much for her to bear.
Eric flipped open his laptop and plugged in a devise that would give him untraceable Internet access. He was once more thankful for Brady’s ingenuity. Quickly, he opened one of his encrypted email accounts and was glad to see an email from Rasul, who’d been his spy in the queen’s court for decades.
Eric had contacted Rasul the night after the severing spell as Sookie had slept in his arms. Rasul had promised to help by continuing to be a source of information for Eric, but the Viking had cautioned his ally. Russell would be immediately suspicious if Rasul went looking for information. The queen had been easy to spy upon, but Russell was different.
However, Eric needed to begin looking for patterns in Russell’s movements and behavior, and he hoped that Rasul could help with that. The Viking quickly read through the email. It seemed as if he and Sookie had left Slidell at a good time. Victor Madden, as well as the witch named Hallow, had been brought into the equation by Russell, and they were currently concentrating their efforts in the New Orleans area.
“What is it?” Sookie asked.
“What do you mean?” he responded.
“Uh,” she started, “it’s just that your shoulders got a little tense. Did you get bad news?”
“Rasul,” he said, motioning toward the screen. He’d told Sookie all about his vampire associate during one of their long nights together. “He has reported that Victor Madden is helping Russell in the search for us.”
“Felipe de Castro’s lieutenant,” Eric responded. “Victor is an asshole, but he’s also a very good tracker. However, I am not as concerned with him as I am the witch.”
“Yes,” Eric nodded, taking out his disposable cell phone. “Hallow. She is a Were-witch and is quite powerful. She tried to poach in Area 1 a few years back, but she lost interest after Katrina hurt her chances for profit there. I believe she turned her attention to Florida after that. But she has had a long association with Russell. He pays her well to use her gifts on occasion and then pays her even better to stay out of Mississippi for the rest of the time. He is also one of the few vampires she likely fears. She certainly didn’t fear Sophie-Anne.”
“Shit,” Sookie said.
Eric smiled and leaned in to kiss Sookie’s forehead before he realized what he was doing. He pulled back from the affectionate gesture immediately.
“Sorry,” she said awkwardly.
“For?” he asked.
“The bond. Making you do things like that.”
“As I said last night, Sookie, you are not to blame for that,” he said, his eyes blazing with sincerity. Sookie just didn’t know if his look was coming from his heart or the bond.
He could feel her uncertainty—as well as his own—but didn’t comment on it. “I should call Octavia,” he said instead. “According to Rasul, the witch is using a remnant of magic found near Pam’s residence to try to track down the source of the magic I’ve been using.”
“Oh God!” Sookie said in horror. “Octavia’s not in trouble is she?”
Eric shrugged. “I don’t think so, but it would be best to warn her of the possibility since Victor and Hallow are in the New Orleans area. I will put the call on speaker so that you can hear.”
Sookie looked at him in surprise.
“Sookie, you and I are partners in this,” he paused, “and in all things.”
He felt equal parts happiness and hesitation from her as he connected the call.
“Octavia,” he said when the witch answered.
“I did not expect to hear from you dis soon,” she said by way of a greeting.
“I am calling to give you information. Russell has called in Hallow, and a trace of magic was found at Pam’s home.”
Octavia cackled. “Excellent!”
“What?” Sookie couldn’t help but ask. “How is that a good thing?”
As Octavia spoke, her amusement was clear in her tone. “I placed a spell around dee pouch dat contained dee concealment potion I knew was meant for your child.”
“Why?” Eric asked.
“So dat she would have to drop it—of course,” Octavia said as if the answer were obvious.
Realization could be seen on both Sookie’s and Eric’s faces at the same time.
“A red herring,” Eric stated.
“Indeed,” Octavia cackled. “Dat pouch will lead Hallow to a witch named Dilmeanna Rose.”
“Never heard of her,” Eric said.
“‘Tis because she’s been dead since before you came to Louisiana,” Octavia laughed. “Dilmeanna was quite powerful and was one of my mentor’s mentors—though no one will be able to trace her to me. Her being in dee equation will keep Hallow scratching her head—and her ass—for quite a while,” the witch added with another gleeful chortle.
“But—what if the connection is found?” Sookie asked, biting her lip worriedly.
Octavia scoffed a little. “Don’t worry ’bout me, child. Even if Hallow could match my magical ability—which she cannot—she certainly doesn’t have dee intellectual capability required to track dee pouch to me. No—she will run around in circles for a while chasing her own tail.” Her tone turned a little darker. “And—if she does happen to get lucky when she stops spinning—I will finally have dee excuse I need to send her boney ass into oblivion.”
Eric smirked. “It sounds like you have no love lost for Hallow.”
“She is a blight on witches,” Octavia scorned, but then her tone softened. “And don’t worry about dee home in Slidell being compromised either. I have already removed all traces of you, Sookie, Amelia, Niall, myself, and my magic from dee dwelling.”
“Good,” Eric said.
“Be careful, Octavia,” Sookie said.
“Ah—child,” the witch responded, “do not worry ’bout me. Hallow is strong, but she has no idea what I could do to her. I would have taken her out years ago—when she was in New Orleans—if I held any affection for Sophie-Anne.”
“Be cautious of Russell,” Eric said.
“Dat I will do,” Octavia said as she disconnected the call.
Sookie took a deep breath. “Did Rasul say anything else?”
“The king believes I killed you—rather than let you get close to me—and Bill has joined with Russell and is very anxious for my demise as well.”
“Is that what you would have done if it weren’t for the Fae bond?” Sookie asked, her voice shaking. “Kill me?”
A/N: Hello all! A lot of you wanted for Eric to be awake as Sookie was speaking in the last chapter, and he was! So good guessing! I think Eric is making progress in this chapter. He’s seeing the similarities between his love for Godric and Pam—both brought about by bonds—and his feelings for Sookie. However, our stubborn vampire still wants to try to “control” his reactions to the bond—because it’s Fae in origin. At least our stubborn vamp is willing to admit his feelings are hypocritical. LOL. And he’s trying to do what he can for Sookie too; I think that emphasizing they are partners in all that’s happening to them is a big step for him. This is not an Eric who is going to tell her only half the truth anymore. This is an Eric who realizes that Sookie and he are one because of the fundamental nature of bonds (which he is very familiar with). In a lot of ways, I wanted to take the element of a bond being forced on them and then change the origin of that bond. But I liked how CH made the bond forming so complicated and problematic in the books; it was something that Eric and Sookie could conquer together. However, CH—sadly—didn’t follow that path. Sigh.
Anyway, enough rambling.