Eric is not entirely comfortable with the situation he now finds himself in. He is being forced to blindly put his trust in two fairies and a vampire that he has never met to save Sookie. This goes against every instinct he has. He is used to only trusting a select few people, mainly those of Godric’s bloodline. That hasn’t worked out too well for me either, he thinks grimly. Godric had broken his trust when he chose to meet the sun and not stay and continue on in this life. Nora betrayed him to the Sanguinistas. And he doesn’t even want to begin to think of all the ways Pam betrayed him over the years. The only one of his bloodline not to betray him is Willa, and yet he has never completely trusted her. The only times he has trusted her had been when he was able to influence her, allowing him to know whether she was lying to him or not. Now that they do not have the blood connection for him to check the truthfulness of her deeds, however, the utter devotion she has shown to both Sookie and her son mean more to him in this instance than anything else in the world. He trusts that devotion more than his own blood. Because in all honesty, the blood has lied to him.
One of the earliest lessons Godric had taught him as a vampire was that blood will never lie to you. The way it pumps through a human’s body tells you much of their physical and emotional states. A vampire can use the blood as a tool to control others, enslaving them to do whatever is needed (though it is a practice Godric frowned upon given his human days spent as a slave). The blood shared between a maker and child is a sacred bond that is not to be entered into lightly; it can be used to nurture or punish. And in extreme circumstances, the sharing of blood between vampires can be the only way to tell your allies from your enemies. A thousand years of experiences and lessons have been shattered by the most recent acts of betrayal by those closest to him. Eric finds himself adrift, unsure of what to do next; it is humbling and unsettling.
After the meeting with the two fairies, there was little time to get to one of his secure locations to rest. Willa had begrudgingly offered him the use of the sofa in her light tight space. Niall even suggested it was a good idea, saying it was safer to stay together than to be apart. He even ordered Hunter to stay and guard Sookie’s home while the two vampires were dead for the day. Eric had seen the protest in the boy’s eyes, but he did not vocalize his discontent, a trait that the vampire found admirable. Too often in his existence he had been given orders he disagreed with, but he knew to keep his protestations to himself. There is a time and place for everything; he has seen firsthand how refusing to follow orders can be fatal.
Niall had popped away, saying he needed to meet with a few allies before they could begin to carry out their plan for extracting Sookie from de Castro’s clutches. It was a bold attempt, one the over-confident King of Nevada wouldn’t see coming. However, that did not mean they could afford to be reckless.
Did Eric really trust a vampire that claimed to be Godric’s brother? In a thousand years, his maker never made mention of him nor had Eric ever met the Roman as Brigant had called him. A thousand years is a long time to keep such a relationship a secret. What if Appius was setting a trap?
Eric sighs as he shifts on the too short sofa he lies on. The sun rose nearly two hours ago, but his body refused to give in to the pull. He welcomed the oblivion that sunlight should have offered him in his dead state, but his body stubbornly refused to cooperate. Willa had been out the moment the first streaks of pink had hit the sky. Eric had chuckled at the pose Willa had gone to her daytime death in. She had fallen on her bed, face down with her limbs akimbo, her feet still on the floor. He had scooped her up, putting her in the center of her bed so she would be comfortable, not that she would notice. It was one of the more annoying things about vampirism in his opinion; one moment you are in control of all your abilities, the next you are not. Throughout the years, he had fallen into this deathly state in the oddest of positions and places. There is something humbling about waking up covered in a pile of manure or at the bottom of a frozen lake.
Eric stills and drops his fangs as he hears the sound of someone crawling in the tunnel that leads to the secret entrance of Willa’s chamber; the same tunnel little Eric used to get here safely the day Sookie was abducted. The vampire listens, silently rising as he prepares to defend himself from the unknown intruder. The shuffling in the tunnel stops and there is a pregnant pause before a tiny voice calls out. “It’s just me Eric,” Sookie’s son says quietly from the other side of the tunnel opening.
Retracting his fangs, Eric lifts the hatch and finds Sookie’s son sitting in the tunnel with his bag strapped to his back and a worn stuffed animal in his hands. The vampire extends his hand to the little boy, easily lifting him high in the air which makes the child giggle uncontrollably.
“What are you doing here? It is not safe for you to enter a vampire’s resting place while they are dead for the day,” the vampire lectures the boy as he sits him down on the floor. Eric is worried for the boy. What if Willa was injured or had one of her meals in here with her. He can only imagine the shit storm Sookie will unleash if her son ever sees something he shouldn’t. A small smile graces the older Eric’s lips; he misses her fire and spirit. Those were what held his interest even though it was her body that first attracted him to her.
The child rolls his eyes insolently as he drops his bag on the ground. “I know that,” he says in a tone that Eric recognizes hearing from Pam quite often. Eric half expects the boy to end his sentence with ‘duh’. Pain lances through his chest as he thinks about his progeny. Despite what he told her, he misses her; he grieves the loss of his dotter. She had been his constant companion for over a century. He is not so unfeeling that he can forget all the memories, the love. It doesn’t go away because of what she did; if anything, it comes to the forefront because her betrayal makes the pain that much sharper. Despite his self-imposed decree, Eric feels tears beginning to pool in his eyes. The emotions he has held at bay rush through him, overwhelming him, threatening to cripple him to the point that all he can do is curl up in a ball on the floor and sob with his hands over his ears. Part of him wants to rip his own heart out so he can stop feeling the pain. Why is it that an organ that has not beat in over a thousand years is throbbing with pain?
As the emotions begin to overwhelm him, Eric feels a tiny warm hand press against his, holding his fingers as tightly as it can. Eric looks to see his namesake staring at him with a look that is far beyond his years. “Mama says that if you love someone and they hurt you, it doesn’t mean you stop lovin’ ‘em. It means you have to love them even more to help you get over the hurt.”
The Viking takes a deep, shaky breath. If anyone would know about loving people despite the hurt they have caused her, it would be Sookie. Everyone in her life that she has loved has hurt her, in the deepest of ways. Her parents . . . her brother . . . Bill . . . even him. Yet, she still loved them all in spite of the hurt. Eric looks at the little boy with a sad smile on his face. “Your mother is a very smart woman.”
“Don’t tell her that,” the boy says with a roll of her eyes and makes a disgusted face. “If you tell her that, she’s gonna try and make me eat my peas and broccoli. I hate both, but she says I need them to grow up to be big and strong.”
Eric does not know what food the boy speaks of, but he has to smile because it pulls at a long forgotten memory of his own mother telling him to eat all of his dinner so he could grow strong. How strange that some things never change no matter how much time has passed. “It shall be our secret. Now tell me, why are you here?”
The boy shrugs as he drops his hand from Eric’s. The vampire feels the loss of his warmth intensely; it makes him feel colder than he ever has before. “I always come here when I need quiet. Momma says sometimes when the voices get to be too much that we all need to find a place where we can be alone. Momma’s quiet, Willa too. If Willa doesn’t want me coming in, she’ll put a pillow and blanket in the hallway for me,” he says while unpacking his bag which has a few books, crayons, and food. “But she’s never done that. I can always come in.”
“So why are you here?”
“I didn’t wanna be around the other kids. They want to play and have fun, but I don’t. They wouldn’t leave me alone and I started crying,” he says with a trembling lip. “I couldn’t keep ‘em out. Lala’s the one that put food in my bag along with my favorite toys. He brought me to the house so I could get to Willa.” He sniffs loudly and looks at the vampire. “What are you doing up? The sun’s out. How come you aren’t sleeping like Willa?”
“I’m a lot older than Willa; I can stay awake longer if I have to,” Eric says with a smile.
The younger Eric shrugs. “Makes sense. The older kids get to stay awake longer than me.” He looks at the vampire again. “You’re bleeding though. Are you hurt?”
“Vampires bleed when they stay awake while the sun is out.”
“Ewww, that’s gross! Then why stay awake?”
Eric smiles faintly as the boy sits cross-legged on the floor, munching on apple slices. He lowers himself back down to the couch, wiping the blood from his nose as he does with a towel he found in Willa’s tiny kitchenette. He’d wondered when they arrived at her resting place why she had a kitchen, but now he knows it’s for the tiny boy staring at him expectantly. Again Eric cannot begin to understand how Sookie could teach her child to trust a vampire after everything that his kind had subjected her to. Eric is no better than Bill, Sophie-Anne, Russell, or any of the others that have used and abused her over the years. How can she still be so forgiving? How can she love him still?
“Sometimes there are reasons to stay awake even when you feel the need to rest. There are times when my comfort is the least of my worries,” he says as he stares at the little boy with the blue eyes and blond hair.
“Mama,” little Eric says quietly and he sets the bag of apple pieces back on the floor. His lower lip quivers again and he bows his head so the vampire cannot see his emotional outburst. “I’m so scared she’s not coming back,” he says as he can no longer hold the tears back.
Seeing the boy cry is like seeing Sookie cry. He once told her that seeing her cry made him feel disturbingly human. That wasn’t entirely true. Tears by themselves did not affect him one way or another. In a thousand years he’s seen rivers of tears, cried for one reason or another. But seeing her tears had affected him on a deeper level. It reminded him of seeing his human mother cry. His mother had been a strong woman; she had to be given the harsh and primitive world they lived in. There were only a few times in his life he could ever remember seeing her cry. One of those times had been when they had buried his brother Bjorn. His brother had been younger than him by three winters, and it was during the winter when Bjorn had fallen through a patch of ice on the river by their village. Others had pulled Bjorn out of the water, but there was no way back then to save him from the hypothermia that claimed his body. As was the tradition of his people, Bjorn and his grave offerings were burned on a funeral pyre. It was not until the sjaund (funeral ale), seven days after his brother’s funeral that he finally saw his mother in tears. She did not sob or cry out to gain attention to herself. She sat in the chair next to his father, the ceremonial cup of ale in her hands, in quiet contemplation. When his father had toasted Bjorn, his mother had raised her cup along with everyone in the village. It was then that Eric saw the silent tears coursing down her cheeks. His mother’s tears had affected him profoundly. The tears of Sookie and her child affect him the same way. He wants to give comfort to them in any way he can, because seeing them in pain hurts him too.
Eric does the only thing he can think of to do to comfort the boy; he picks him up and settles him against his chest. He knows of no words to comfort Sookie’s child. Eric will not lie to the boy and tell him everything will be alright, because he is unsure that this situation will result in a happily ever after. It is too much to hope that he and Sookie will survive another impossible situation with insurmountable odds. How many second chances does one get in a lifetime? In his case, he’s had more than his fair share of second chances. The vampire fears that the sand in his hourglass is finally disappearing.
As his hand moves rhythmically up and down the child’s back, Eric begins humming a tune that he used to sing when he was human. Thankfully no one knows the meaning behind the song since it is something that was usually sung during drunken revelry. The song covers two topics that Sookie definitely would not want her child knowing about: booze and women. However, it seems to do the trick because young Eric’s tears abate and an unease silence stretches between them.
“When is Mama coming home?”
“Soon I hope.”
The child shifts in the vampire’s arms and manages to move so that he can stare at Eric with his large blue eyes. “Are the bad guys hurting her?” His voice shakes at the thought of someone hurting his mother and the vampire can feel the swirl of emotions and thoughts coming from the child. When he is upset, young Eric cannot control his ability, so the vampire is able to hear all the thoughts and emotions swirling around in the Fae hybrid’s mind. Sookie’s son does not think in sentences or words; he recalls everything with perfect clarity. The images that come through to are full of love and laughter. It is shocking to the elder Eric that the younger Eric also sees a glow around his mother. It’s almost as if he looks at her like she is an angel.
“Your mother is very strong and brave,” Eric says to avoid answering the question. The answer to that question is most likely yes, and Eric does not want to think of the ways that de Castro may be hurting Sookie. The King of Nevada has a reputation for having no regard for human life whatsoever. He kills humans for the slightest infraction; enslaves those that are indebted to him. Considering that Sookie helped capture and eventually kill de Castro’s maker, Eric cannot begin to imagine the tortures that the Spanish vampire will have lined up for his beloved.
A drop of Eric’s blood lands on the hand of the child and it seems to distract the boy from his line of questioning. “Does it hurt when you bleed? It hurts when I cut myself and bleed. Last week, Mama and I were walking through the woods and I fell over a tree branch. I scratched my arm up real good. See!” Young Eric lifts his arm up so the vampire can see the scabs around his elbow and on his forearm. “I cried because it hurt, but not a lot,” he adds hastily trying to impress the vampire.
“No, it does not hurt when we bleed like this. It is merely annoying.” Having the boy arrive has eased Eric’s burdens somewhat and he feels himself giving in to the pull of the sun. His body and mind are becoming lethargic. Before he can give the boy any warning, Eric succumbs to his daytime rest.
Hours later, Eric’s eyes snap open and his head twists around trying to find the child only to realize that he and his progeny are alone in the room. However the boy left Eric a present. In his lap is a piece of construction paper with a childish drawing on it. There are three stick figures; all with yellow hair, standing next to what he can only assume is a house underneath the moon. The tallest of the stick figures has a pair of fangs and is standing in the middle of the other two holding their hands. The stick figure on the left is shorter and has long blonde hair; the stick figure on the right is very short. Above each figure is a name. From left to right it reads Mama, Eric, and Eric.
The Viking has seen some of the most beautiful art the world has to offer, yet no image has every meant more to him than this one.