“I . . . I did it for you,” Pam stutters as Eric’s hand squeezes around her throat tighter.
“YOU LIE!!!!” Eric’s expression is one of pure rage as he throws Pam’s body against the wooden bar top, cracking it down the center.
Pam has not seen this type of rage from Eric since he accused her of freeing Russell Edgington from his concrete prison.
“I’m not lying Eric! I swear it!” Blood tears are falling from Pam’s eyes, staining her blonde hair red. “She wasn’t any good for you; you nearly died more times in those few years than you have in the entire time I’ve been a vampire! The two of you together were toxic. I was protecting you . . . I was protecting us!”
“You sicken me,” Eric hisses with barely controlled fury. For the first time in his existence, he is contemplating ending his progeny. Pam has gone too far this time. “You want me to believe you did this for my own good, but the only one to benefit from this arrangement was you!” He roars the last part as he flings Pam’s body through the air so she slams against the wall behind the bar, smashing bottles of alcohol and glassware. Eric vaults over the bar to stand over his progeny, blood tears of his own falling from his eyes as he uses his boot to grind Pam’s body in the broken glass. Pam cries out in pain as shards of glass pierce her skin. The pressure of Eric’s booted foot on her spine is so strong that she feels bones in her body snapping.
“For ten years, I have believed that the woman I love turned her back on me, that she wanted nothing to do with me. Do you have any idea what it feels like to have your love turn to hatred? To have something fester inside you for so long that it eats away at everything you are until there is nothing left? THAT is what you have done to me Pamela! I hope you’re happy, because you have destroyed me,” Eric says quietly as Pam’s sobs rise in volume.
He removes his boot from Pam’s spine and turns away in disgust, walking towards the entrance of Fangtasia. He stops at the door to issue a warning to Pamela. “If Sookie dies because of this, then you have signed your own death warrant. I will hunt you down, to the ends of the earth if I have to, and stake you myself,” Eric vows. The door closes with a bang behind Eric and Pam curls up in a ball crying because she knows she has lost her beloved maker for good.
Eric flies through the air as fast as possible, oblivious to the pain from the wind biting against his skin. His thoughts are focused on the only woman he has ever loved in his nearly eleven hundred years walking this earth. Yes, Pam bears the brunt of the responsibility for keeping him from Sookie, but he shoulders a portion of that blame as well. He assumed from that one glimpse of her life that Sookie was happily married, living the normal human life she had craved once upon a time. If he had taken the time to actually talk to Sookie, how different would their lives have been? Would they have been together? Would they have been happy? Now he’ll never know.
Eric drops down to the ground outside the Stackhouse home and gives it a good look. It looks different from the last time he had been here. The house is still the same sunny yellow color he had it painted while Sookie was away in the Fae realm, but the house looks bigger. There are also children’s toys scattered behind the house. A newer model SUV sits in the driveway, but that is the only vehicle.
“What are you doing here?” Eric turns slightly to see Willa standing on the path that leads to the cemetery and the old Compton home. The hostility rolls off her in waves and Eric knows she has no reason to trust him.
“I didn’t know,” he begins simply. “I thought Sookie wanted nothing to do with me,” he says forlornly.
Willa snorts with derision. “The Sookie Stackhouse I know has done nothing but love you for eleven years. Even when she was with Alcide I knew she still loved you. When I was mad at being abandoned by my maker,” Willa says the word as if it is the vilest curse she can think of, “Sookie would tell me about how you lost both your maker and your sister so close together in time. She said you needed time to heal, and I should be patient. Sookie said you were too honorable to make a child and then abandon her. She said you never gave up on your family.”
Eric’s eyes close in pain as he listens to Willa’s words. His little Southern belle knew him better than he thought. He had needed time to grieve for Godric and Nora; he even needed time to grieve for the death of their relationship. And Eric had planned to return for Willa once his grief was under control, but his illness with Hepatitis V altered his plan. Not that it mattered; Willa had every right to resent him and his abandonment of her. There was nothing he could do to fix it; that’s why he’d agreed to release her ten years ago. Eric felt releasing Willa was the only thing he could do to atone for his mistakes.
“I have much to make up for, where both you and Sookie are concerned,” Eric tells his youngest progeny regretfully. “And I hope you both will give me the chance, but now is not the time. Our priority is to find Sookie. Can you tell me what happened?”
Willa stares at the person that has hurt her more than anyone else in her short existence. Her human father loved her, but he was blinded by his political ambitions. Eric Northman had entered her life like a tornado: sudden, destructive, and then disappeared without warning. She’d been a naïve, inexperienced girl who thought she was doing something for the greater good. Willa had trusted Eric Northman, and he had betrayed and abandoned her. She wanted nothing to do with him, but knew that they needed all the help they could get to find Sookie.
“C’mon. Everyone’s gathered at Hoyt and Jess’ place. We’ll bring you up to speed there, though we don’t know much.”
The two vampires blur through the cemetery. Willa enters the antebellum mansion with no problem, but Eric is stopped at the threshold. “Willa?”
“Eric?” Jessica moves out of the office looking surprised to see the former Sheriff of Area Five. “I thought you weren’t gonna help?”
“It seems I have been misinformed about the events of the last decade. I am here to help find Sookie if you will allow it,” Eric says humbly.
“Sure,” the red-haired vampire says haltingly. “Hoyt, honey, can you invite Eric inside please?”
Hoyt calls out an invitation for Eric and he walks slowly into the home of his former frenemy. The pretentious decorations that Bill Compton favored have been replaced by a decidedly homey decor. The once grey wallpaper is gone and warm mocha colored walls surround him. The desk is the same but the chairs are now plush ivory wingback chairs. The animal print rugs are gone. Looking in the living room, Eric can see children’s toys and shoes scattered among the furniture. Compton had been a stickler for order and cleanliness. My how the times have changed…
Inside the office, Jessica, her husband Hoyt, Willa, Keith, and James are looking apprehensively towards the imposing Viking. Eric regards them with an unblinking stare. How could these four vampires hope to find and recover Sookie? Between the four of them they were barely six hundred years old!
“Thank you for inviting me in,” Eric says bowing his head slightly towards the only human in the room. Hoyt swallows and nods his head in return.
“I’m gonna get a few hours of shut-eye,” Hoyt says to the room at large. “Lafayette said he’d take first shift with the kids tomorrow, but I know he’s gonna need help when they realize Sookie’s still gone.” Jessica nods her head and kisses him on the lips as he bids good-night to everyone. Hoyt rushes past Eric, uncomfortable in the elder vampire’s presence.
“Can you tell me what happened?” Eric asks briskly. The sooner he has all the facts, the sooner he can begin planning how to get Sookie back.
“Sookie was abducted from her home this afternoon around 4:00 pm. Her fear pulled me from my daytime rest,” Willa states.
Eric looks at Willa with surprise. “You’ve given Sookie your blood?”
Willa snaps, “You have a problem with that? It’s my blood; I can do what I want with it!”
Eric shakes his head. “No, I don’t have a problem with it. But she was infected with Hepatitis V; I am merely concerned with your well-being.”
“She hasn’t been infected with Hep V for about eight years,” James offers. “When she agreed to be the surrogate for Lafayette and me, Dr. Ludwig along with her Fae kin worked to create a cure for her. It was a painful process, but Sookie wanted to go through it so she could carry the baby for Lafayette and me.”
Eric closes his eyes in defeat, dreading the answer to his next question but needing to know the answer all the same. “When was she a surrogate for you two?” Eric grits his teeth waiting for James to answer.
“Our daughter Hope will be six years old in December.”
I am such a fool. Eric’s thoughts are nothing but self-castigations as he tries to come to grips with the fact that he is the one responsible for Sookie not having been in his life the past six years.
“You say she was taken in the afternoon. Where was she taken from?”
Jessica answers. “From her home; there are signs of a struggle in the kitchen. It looks like she was preparing dinner. Er . . . her son usually naps in the afternoon.”
“Why didn’t they get her son?”
“He ran and hid so they wouldn’t find him. Sookie taught him to do that as a safety precaution,” James says regretfully. “She felt it was necessary given what she’s gone through. They have a special phrase that lets Eric, I mean her son . . .” James tries to retract his words but Eric waves it off.
“I know what she named her son,” the Viking says softly. His smile is both wistfully and heartbreaking at the same time. “When I was a human, it was tradition to give the male child the name of his father. It would let all know who the child belonged to. It was a sign of honor and respect,” Eric says as his voice cracks.
“You’re rumored to have lived during the Viking Age. Is that true?” Eric nods his head and James continues with a rueful chuckle. “Well that would explain Sookie’s choice of code words. She chose het potatis (hot potato). She said it had to be something no one would use in normal conversation. I guess she’s right since it’s in Swedish.”
Eric nods again in understanding, feeling both happiness and pain at hearing the small ways his former lover was keeping him in her life. “But I still don’t understand how … Eric would have been able to get away. The kidnappers should have been able to catch a boy.”
All the other vampires share a look before Jessica reluctantly answers Eric’s unspoken question. “Eric is . . . special.”
Eric draws in a quick breath. “Is he telepathic like his mother?”
“Not exactly,” Willa hedges. “His gift is a bit difficult to explain. It’s easier to experience it for yourself.”
Eric is frustrated. “Where is the boy now?”
“He’s sleeping upstairs with the other kids,” Jessica says softly. “He knew to run and hide with Willa. She has a light-tight room hidden on Sookie’s property and there is an escape route that leads to it from the house. It’s come in handy a few times over the last few years.”
Eric looks at Willa with an inscrutable expression. He is jealous of the relationship his youngest progeny has with the woman he loves. Willa stares back at him defiantly. She loves Sookie Stackhouse and will do anything for her. Sookie was the only one that really understood everything Willa has gone through in her life as a vampire. Sookie mourned the loss of Tara; they both had parents they loved and despised; and most importantly, she too had been abandoned by the ancient vampire that meant so much to both of them. To Willa, Sookie and her son Eric are her family and she will do anything for them.
James and Jessica share a worried look. They knew going to Eric was going to present problems for Willa, but the younger vampire assured them she would do whatever was necessary to find Sookie. What they hadn’t counted on was Eric still having feelings for their telepathic friend. They thought he would refuse them, and if he did help them they thought they would have to bargain for his help. Everyone knew Sookie had tried to contact Eric several times after she had grieved for both Bill and Alcide without receiving a response from him. Jessica had known of the romantic relationship between the fairy and the elder vampire but she didn’t know Sookie had still carried feelings for Eric until her son was born. It surprised everyone in their circle of friends when Sookie named her son after the imposing vampire, but Sookie said it was the only name she had considered.
The silence that had descended over the room is broken by a sleepy, voice. “Where’s Mama?”
All the vampires turn to look at the tiny child standing in the doorway. Willa rushes to pick the child up, cuddling him in her arms as she looks helplessly at the other vampires in the room for help on how to answer his question.
Eric is mesmerized by the teacup human. He is a miniature version of Sookie with his blond hair, brown eyes, and slight gap between his front teeth. His cheeks are flushed, and his eyes blink rapidly as he tries to clear the sleep from his eyes. The boy is wearing pajamas with Spider-Man on them and he is carrying a stuffed Spider-Man toy in his hand. The child stares at Eric with equal interest. He knows who this is; his mother had shown him pictures before, explaining that if trouble ever came for them, that this vampire was the one his mama trusted the most.
The younger Eric reaches a hand towards his namesake. Eric looks suspiciously at the child but raises his hand for the teacup human to take. The elder of the two looks awestruck as the tiny hand grasps his firmly. Unnamed emotions swirl inside the vampire nearly choking him. As a maker, Eric has experienced pride for both his progeny, but it’s more than that. With Sookie, he has felt love, happiness, and completeness. But the feelings that this miniature being elicits in him are more than anything he’s ever experienced before.
As the elder Eric struggles to come to grips with his emotions, the younger Eric stares wonderingly at the man his mother has told him stories of. His mama often spoke of a fairy princess that was saved by a brave vampire warrior that risked his life time and time again for her. When Eric had asked his mama why the brave vampire wasn’t with the fairy princess now, she would smile sadly and say because she had messed up. Mama always said if you make a mistake you need to say you’re sorry, so the young child didn’t understand why Mama hadn’t told the vampire she was sorry.
“Are you gonna help find Mama?” The younger Eric’s lip trembles as he thinks about his missing mother. He’d been so scared earlier when Mama had told him their secret code. She had woken him from his nap; her voice had been filled with fear and urgency. Grabbing his emergency Spider-Man bag, Mama had rushed him into the private passage that would take him to Willa’s resting place. Eric had cried as he crawled his way to Willa’s resting place which sat underneath the old shed on the property. Willa had been waiting for him with open arms when he opened the hatch to her resting chamber. He wept for what seemed like forever until he’d fallen asleep and woken up in Hoyt and Jessica’s home. No one could tell him what happened to his mama. He was scared and sad. The only time those feelings had gone away were when he saw the brave vampire warrior in his mind that his mama had described to him countless times.
If the younger Eric is feeling safe, then the elder Eric is overwhelmed with uncertainty. As if watching a movie, the Viking vampire watched the events of the afternoon playing out in his mind. Except it wasn’t his eyes that saw the events of the afternoon, it was through the chocolate-brown eyes staring back at him with absolute trust.
Eric Northman, the Viking vampire feared by the world over, stares at the precocious child with something akin to horror. “What just happened?”
Willa cuddles the child closer to her, ready to defend him with her very existence. “I think he just showed you what his ability is,” she says guardedly.