Magic seemed to travel in the door with Octavia Fant as she entered the house. Her jet black hair fell to her shoulders and complemented her chestnut skin. She was the kind of woman whose age was difficult to pin down—the kind with a timeless beauty and an eternal sparkle in her eyes. Only the wrinkles on her neck gave away the fact that she was likely closer to seventy than forty.
Octavia’s eyes, which were almost as dark as her hair, immediately fell onto Sookie—studying her. Almost dissecting her.
Unconsciously, Sookie moved a step closer to Eric.
“I will not hurt you, child,” Octavia said in an accent that seemed half-Cajun and half Jamaican. “Well,” she corrected, “I suppose I will be hurtin’ you, but I don’t want to—dat I promise.”
Sookie nodded, but still took another step toward Eric before taking his hand. The vampire made no show of her action being unexpected as he twined his fingers with hers.
Octavia had been trailed in by a petite brunette who was carrying several large bags and who seemed to be bursting at the seams with energy and excitement.
“Hi,” the young woman said in a bubbly voice as she shifted her bags to one hand and held out her other toward Sookie.
Sookie took it somewhat tentatively. “Hi, she returned.
“I’m Amelia,” the young witch said brightly. “I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you my last name, and I’m not supposed to know your name at all.” She shrugged. “But I gotta call you somethin’ since I’ll be stayin’ with you during the days till you recover. So what’ll it be?”
Sookie looked up at Eric in order to find out what name she should use. But before she could ask, she saw that he had already caught Amelia’s eye. Faster than Sookie could have imagined was possible, she felt the young witch’s mind stop its very loud broadcasting as she fell under the influence of Eric’s glamour.
“You may call her Sookie while you are in this house,” Eric said in the alluring tone that vampires used when they were glamouring someone. “But out of this house, you will think of her as,” he paused.
“Her friend Maggie,” Sookie interrupted with a whisper, though she knew that Eric could easily hear her.
“Your friend Maggie,” Eric said as he looked back at Amelia. “Your friend has been ill and you are caring for her. However, there is no need to mention even that to anyone—is there?”
“No,” Amelia said, her voice trancelike.
“When you leave this home, you will not remember that there is a vampire here, Amelia, nor will you be able to tell people the address. You will not even remember that you performed magic here; however, when you are here, you will remember me and Sookie and your purpose here. You may address me as Eric.”
The young witch nodded as Eric released her from his glamour.
“Nice to meet you, Eric and Sookie,” Amelia smiled as if nothing had happened.
Octavia gave Eric a little nod and then went into the living room with Amelia in tow.
“Why Maggie?” Eric asked Sookie once the witches had left the home’s small foyer.
“Amelia’s first thought when she walked in the door was that I looked a little like her friend Maggie from high school.”
Eric looked down at Sookie and smiled. “You think with strategy, little one. It is always good to build glamour around a kernel of reality.”
Sookie smiled at the unexpected compliment and gestured toward the door of the living room. “She’s the loudest thinker I’ve ever heard,” she whispered to Eric.
“Octavia?” the vampire asked.
Sookie shook her head. “No—I can pick up only a weird buzz from her. Amelia’s the loud one.” Her face suddenly reddened.
“What?” Eric asked curiously.
Sookie shook her head. “Amelia’s tryin’ to figure out which one of us she’d rather sleep with.”
Eric’s booming laughter suddenly filled the space. “Well?” he asked. “Who is in the lead in the witch’s thoughts?”
Sookie shook her head. “You’re gettin’ your ass kicked, vampire,” she said jokingly.
Before Eric could respond, the topic of their conversation poked her head back into the foyer.
“Octavia needs y’all for a minute,” Amelia said with a smile.
Eric winked at Sookie before leading her into the living room.
“I’ll need all of dis furniture moved out of dee room,” Octavia instructed Eric. “And dis too,” she added, pointing down at the large area rug which covered much of the wooden floor.
Eric looked down at Sookie and squeezed her hand, causing her to realize that it was still linked with his. She blushed and pulled it away when she saw that Octavia was looking at their joined hands too.
“Drink dis, child,” Octavia instructed as she handed Sookie a large thermos.
“What is it?” Sookie asked.
“‘Tis a lot of tings,” the witch said enigmatically. “And ’tis needed, so drink.”
Sookie looked up at Eric, who nodded.
“Do I have to drink it all at once?” Sookie asked, somewhat daunted by the size of the container.
“Not all in one gulp,” Octavia chuckled, “but drink quickly.”
Sookie nodded, took a deep breath, and opened the cap.
Eric had removed all of the living room furniture—including the couch, two end tables, a coffee table, two floor lamps, the area rug, and an entertainment center and television—before Sookie swallowed the last drop of the bitter mixture.
Sookie handed the empty thermos to Octavia, who gave her a pointed stare. “Has dee vampire told you of dee pain that you will face dis day? You will suffer much and be sick for many days to come. Are you prepared for dis?”
Sookie gulped, but nodded.
“You must be sure of dee risk. ‘Tis no easy ting to remove dee ties of two vampires from a human, child,” Octavia cautioned.
“Two?” Sookie asked. “But—uh—we’re only gettin’ rid of Bill—right?” Apprehensively, she looked over to where Eric stood.
“Ah,” Octavia chuckled. “I see dee Viking is as he has always been. He is very careful with dee truths dat he tells.” She gave Eric a pointed look. “And dee half-truths.” She waved her hand. “I have work to do to prepare dis room. Take yourselves out of my way till dee sun is on dee horizon, and tell dis girl dee tings she needs to know—all dee tings! After dat, I will conduct dee spell. Not before.”
Eric nodded and moved to leave the living room.
“Vampire?” Octavia said.
Eric turned around to face her. “I will need your presence as much as hers if she is to survive dis day.”
“Eric?” Sookie asked, looking up at him.
“Come,” Eric said quietly, reaching out his hand for hers.
Without thought, she took it and followed him from the room.
Sookie did not speak to Eric until they were in her bedroom and the door was closed. Once there, she dropped his hand.
“Why didn’t you tell me that the severing spell was gonna eliminate the ties with both you and Bill?” she asked somewhat agitatedly.
“You didn’t ask. But does it not stand to reason?” he responded. “A severing spell is indiscriminate, Sookie. It will burn all the vampire blood from your body.”
“So we won’t have a tie anymore either,” she said as she sat heavily onto the bed.
For the briefest of moments, Sookie thought she saw disappointment flicker into Eric’s eyes, but—if so—it was gone almost as soon as it appeared.
“I’ll have a clean slate,” she mused quietly. There was hope in her brown eyes.
“As far as vampire blood in your body goes? Yes,” Eric answered evenly.
“So I won’t have to worry about whether I really feel what I feel or if it’s from the blood,” she added with a little smile.
“Your feelings will be your own,” Eric stated. “Yet it would be better if you took my blood once the effects of the severing spell wear off. But this time,” he paused, “it will be your decision.”
A wider smile broke out onto Sookie’s face as she more fully absorbed the fact that she’d soon be able to be sure of her own feelings again.
“I can see what your choice will be,” Eric said, his expression conveying both disappointment and amusement.
“I’m sorry,” Sookie said quickly, though she was still smiling a little. “It’s not you, and I will think about taking your blood again, but it’ll be nice for it to just be ‘me’ for a while.”
He shook his head. “You apologize for things that you shouldn’t.”
“And you never apologize, so we even out.”
“True,” he smirked.
“Eric,” she asked with concern rising in her voice, “will it hurt more since two vampire ties are—uh—getting severed?”
He took a long, unnecessary breath. “Yes and no.”
She arched her eyebrow in question.
“Yes―in that the process will take longer to complete because there are two ties and a lot of vampire blood to eliminate from your body. No—in that you will not feel the pain from the severing of your tie with me.”
“Explain,” Sookie said with her arms now crossed.
“I will be taking on that discomfort,” Eric said simply. “I cannot take on the pain from the severing of your tie with Bill, but I will be able to take on the sting of my own blood being eradicated from your body.”
Sookie stood quickly onto her feet. “But you said the vampire wouldn’t feel pain!” she insisted, trying to remember his exact words from the night before.
“I said that since the severing spell was occurring during the day, Bill would not know of it. I also said that the spell was painful for the human, rather than the vampire. However, that is because the vampire always initiates such a severing. Why would the vampire wish to feel pain when severing himself or herself from a human who is no longer wanted?”
“But you can choose to take on the pain?” Sookie half-asked and half-accused.
“Yes. It is, after all, my blood,” Eric said simply.
“But I’m havin’ the spell done during the day,” she reasoned. “You can’t help but to be asleep.”
“In a light-tight space, I will be perfectly capable of staying awake. I will develop what is called the ‘bleeds’ because I will be forcing myself to fight the sun, but that will be of little consequence to a vampire my age.”
“No!” she yelled. “I can’t let you do that! You shouldn’t have to feel the pain of the tie breakin’, not after your blood’s saved my life—more than once!”
“Ah, Sookie, always the martyr,” Eric intoned with a mixture of wonder and sarcasm. “You would sacrifice yourself to save even me from pain?”
“Yes!” she said without hesitation.
“Are you sure that is not just my blood talking?” he smirked.
“Don’t be a jackass, Eric.”
His face grew serious. “I must take on the pain, Sookie.”
“No!” she said, standing up a little straighter. “I’ll do it.”
He shook his head. “I believe—and, more importantly, Octavia believes—that your body can handle a single severing, but a double severing is a different matter. And you have had a lot of vampire blood, Sookie. Just last night, I gave you more than two and a half pints. And Bill has given you quite a bit too. Consider your last 120 days, Sookie. How much vampire blood is in your body?”
“But I almost bled to death,” Sookie challenged. “Surely that got rid of some of it.”
Eric shook his head again. “I can tell you one thing for certain, little one. When Bill almost drained you, none of my blood that was in your body left it. Do you want to know why?”
Sookie shivered, but nodded.
“A vampire’s blood will do all that it can to avoid an open wound,” he said. “Whether it is there to heal or to monitor or to just,” he paused, “hang out, a vampire’s blood is not keen to leave its host.”
“But—if it won’t go toward wounds—then how does it heal humans?”
“The magic within vampire blood activates the healing systems of a human’s body. And—as I said—an older vampire has some control over what is healed first. But the vampire blood will do all it can to keep itself nice and cozy—as far away from an open wound as possible.”
A little defeated, Sookie sank back onto the bed. “So—uh—I still have all that blood Bill gave me?”
Eric nodded and sat beside her, though about a foot away. “Yes. Because you have known Bill for fewer than four months—which is the approximate time a vampire’s blood is alive inside of a human—we must assume that none of his blood has left you.”
She shivered again. “I’ve had a lot of it.”
“I know,” Eric sighed. He grabbed the quilt off of the foot of the bed so that he could wrap her up in it.
“I’m not cold,” she said quietly.
“Regardless, the blanket will help,” he responded as he guided the cover around her.
“So,” she said after a minute of quiet, “I’ll die if you don’t take on the pain of our blood tie severing?”
The Viking shrugged. “It is hard to know for sure. But, based on what I’ve told Octavia about the amount of blood you’ve had, she believes your chance of survival is less than ten percent if I don’t help you. But—since I am going to help—she is almost certain that you will pull through, and I will be awake and ready to heal you if something does go wrong as Bill’s blood is removed.”
“You’re really willin’ to take on all that pain for me,” she said in disbelief. “Why?”
“You know why already.”
“I’m an asset,” she said somewhat ruefully.
“Yes,” he answered simply.
“And you want my blood and want to—uh—have sex with me.”
“Yes and yes,” he smirked.
“You can,” she said suddenly.
“Huh?” he asked inelegantly. “You want to have sex with me? Now?” he continued hopefully.
“Ugh,” she sounded as she slapped his arm. “No! But I assume that my blood wouldn’t leave you during the spell the same way yours will leave me—right?”
“You are correct,” he answered. “A tie affects only vampire blood in the human. That is why a tie can be broken, while a bond cannot be. A bond is like a tie going two ways, and—once in place—the magic cannot be removed from the vampire. The bond magic entwines with the life force of the vampire, and can only be broken by the vampire’s death. Of course, a bond breaking would kill the human too.”
“So,” Sookie said, “it stands to reason that if I gave you some of my blood now, it would help you to be stronger—so that you wouldn’t feel so much pain during the severing.”
Eric had stood up and was across the room before she could finish her sentence. He was panting a little.
“You are offering me your blood?” Eric asked.
“Why not?” she responded. “You want it—right? And, after all, you’re offering to do a lot more for me.”
“I can’t,” Eric said, his voice clearly agitated.
Sookie’s voice now held frustration. “Why the hell not? I thought you said that everything was about the blood.”
“It is,” he said simply. “I want to drink from you. In fact, I want to drink from you very much, but I cannot. You are not willing!”
“But it was my idea!” she insisted. “How is that not willing?”
“You offer out of obligation,” he said simply.
“Yeah. So what?” she asked.
“So,” he said, his voice evening out again, “thank you, but I will decline.”
“I don’t like owing you, Eric,” she confessed. “If you took my blood, I would feel like I owed you less.”
He sighed. “You need your blood; plus, you will soon be protecting me every day.”
She nodded, acknowledging his point. “But I don’t like the idea of you having to stay awake all day. You’ll get the bleeds, and then you’ll be taking on my pain to boot!”
“Even if I was not taking on the pain of our severing, I would have to stay awake and stay with you,” Eric informed.
“Why?” she asked.
“The spell requires that you have someone you trust by your side, a helper of sorts.”
“Do I trust you?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered simply, though there was a twinkle in his eye. “Inexplicably, but yes.”
At Eric’s insistence, Sookie had lain down to rest after their talk, though she was not able to sleep. About twenty minutes before dawn, he roused her and waited as she brushed her teeth and hair and took care of her human needs. After that, he had her stand next to the white wall of the room and snapped a few pictures of her with the camera on his phone before sending them off to Brady.
“I’m scared,” Sookie said in a meek voice as they made their way down the stairs.
“I will be with you throughout the severing,” he promised.
She stopped and looked up at him. “You confuse the hell out of me, Mr. Northman.”
“Ah,” he smirked, “it’s all part of my evil plan, Miss Stackhouse.” He winked and pretended to twirl the ends of a mustache. Then he extended his arm as if he were about to escort her to a fancy party.
She laughed a little and took it.