Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Eric was pleased to find that on his first rising back in New Orleans, the shoes he’d ordered in Nashville were waiting. It surprised him, itself a pleasure. Pleasance and surprise were words that didn’t go together often enough. Sookie wouldn’t rise for another hour, so he took the box to his office, pulling apart the wrappings. The shoes were exactly as he’d requested, cut long, low, and burnished to a rich copper. He turned them in his hands before holding them to his nose to savor the rich aroma of hand rubbed leather. He pulled on a thin sock and then slipped on the left. He stood and found it pinched. It wasn’t much, just a bit. He set his heel firmly in the back the shoe, tied the laces, and stepped. It pinched again.
“Not possible,” he muttered. He removed the shoe and flexed it. When he tried again, he put on the right as well. Standing, he flexed his toes. The shoes felt better, but then as he stepped the toes of both shoes closed hard, and he growled in irritation. The box was addressed to him. There was no mistake, except they were too small.
He slipped both off, and seething, Eric opened his laptop, scrolling through world events, and then domestic reports. The debate over whether vampires were citizens in the United States continued. Carmen, the Pennsylvania Queen who’d taken Tania’s territory, had testified before some Congressional Committee. Eric watched a snippet. She didn’t do well. She was arrogant, dismissive, everything humans feared about vampires. She didn’t drop fang, but she may as well have. ‘We will do better,’ he thought. Maxwell Lee had him and Sookie scheduled for a local news show, discussing their concerns for the future of vampire/human relations. Adjustments would be made to their talking points and appearance based on their performance. Isaiah was taking point in arranging a fund to be used to buy air time. Watching the congressmen’s faces, Eric was sure Isaiah wouldn’t have trouble convincing vampires to contribute ‘as long as there’s a profit.’ Removing vampires from Washington’s crosshairs would be profit enough.
He glanced at the time. Thirty minutes, maybe a little less, and Sookie would rise. He switched to his secure email. Usually, he waited for Sookie’s rising so they could review these together, but this evening he didn’t. His disappointment over the new shoes lingered. He needed more distraction.
The first few were anticipated. Quick notes from monarchs expressing their pleasure in the Summit meetings, pledges to either visit or move forward with joint ventures. Phoebe sent a more detailed itinerary for Hunter Savoy’s trip. There would come a time when Hunter would handle his own contract negotiations or hire someone like Cataliades to do it for him, but for now he trusted his Aunt Sookie and Uncle Eric to review and recommend changes.
The next to scroll on to his screen was from Stan Davis. Eric hesitated, glancing toward the door. It would be another ten minutes at least before Sookie joined him. He barely felt her essence. Stan had made appearances at the reception and final ball, but he’d been scarce otherwise, which was unlike him. Eric wondered if this message would explain. His finger hovered, and then he hit the key, opening the email.
‘I trust you made it back. You should know your decision to become the face of vampire advocacy was well received, even if it did prompt more talk than required. Our friends are jealous. You know what to do.’ Eric did know what to do. It involved even more conversation and time away from Louisiana, charming fellow monarchs, strengthening alliances.
‘Russell Edgington spent a great deal of his time disavowing association with the sleeping spies. He admitted early involvement but swore on his monarchy he is no longer involved. Many were convinced. He agreed to swear before the Pythoness herself. I believe him, but that means someone else is behind it. Have you swept your vassals recently?” Eric re-read the words, deciding to expand Hunter’s screening to include Indira’s Area as well as Area Five, wondering whether he should ask Sookie to scan those in New Orleans. He was already working the logistics when he read on and what he saw stopped him.
‘Heidi has confirmed the leaks coming from your kingdom have stopped. Whoever was spying has either moved on or decided to stop cooperating. She thinks it’s the latter. Russell is behaving more vulnerably. If his spy moved on, he wouldn’t be so shaken.’
It happened from time to time. Spies decided the danger or the money wasn’t worth it. Sometimes they changed loyalties. Eric had done some spying himself over his long existence. He’d spied for his monarchs and he’d spied for Appius, but that didn’t count. Everyone assumed a child would share news with their Maker. No, it was being a spy in the service of monarchs that could get you staked.
Spying was a curious business. It was always your decision, although sometimes the choice was between spying and final death. Rulers, particularly those who were allowing you to exist following a takeover, were likely to provide that kind of choice. It’s how Rasul found himself in Michigan. ‘Rasul!’ For some reason, his Sheriff’s name rang a bell. Eric re-read Stan’s message. There was no hint the spy was Rasul, yet he fit the profile. He’d been in position to spy on Area Five. They knew secrets were being funneled to Mississippi. Heidi disappeared and Rasul was transferred back to his own Area. The spying had now ceased. It was possible it didn’t align, still, it was possible it did.
Eric closed the secure server, opening the account reserved for his Sheriffs. Rasul’s reports were there, thorough and detailed. He included tidbits of information and suggestions, always the model Sheriff. Eric mentally ran through every interaction since the vampire returned; the depth of his bow, the vampires he sought out. He could see nothing there to cause any alarm, but still…
“What you reading?” Sookie asked from the door.
“I should have waited for you,” he confessed immediately.
Sookie walked into the room, her robe belted. She hesitated and he glanced over to see her looking at the shoes, abandoned midway between the door and the desk. She didn’t move. She just stared and he got the point. “I’ll pick those up,” he assured her.
“Why aren’t you wearing them?” she answered. He knew she was laughing. He could feel it. He found the sight of her naked, wearing just her shoes titillating. She found him doing it funny.
“They pinched,” he growled.
Now, her laughter ended. “Really?” and she stooped, picking them up, and examining them as if she could see the defect. “I’m sorry.” It was the right thing to say. He shouldn’t feel so disappointed but found he did.
“It doesn’t matter,” he told her, opening his arm so she’d come closer.
“It does,” she said in her firm, bossy way. “We’re sending them back. You deserve a pair in this color and they need to fit.” She set the shoes on the sofa table and advanced, kissing his head before draping her arm around his shoulder while Eric re-opened the Texas King’s email. “Stan? What’s he got to say?”
“According to him, our spy seems to have had a change of heart, but may still be among us,” and Eric scrolled to that part of the message.
“You have an idea who it is,” Sookie stated, then, twisting a bit, said, “Rasul?”
“How interesting we have the same thought,” Eric nodded, taking Sookie’s instincts as confirmation.
“I wish we didn’t,” his mate sighed. “What will you do?”
“Question him,” Eric shrugged. “Kill him if it turns out he betrayed us.”
“But if he isn’t sending messages anymore…” and Eric felt the softening he identified with Sookie.
“Nevertheless, if he did, he agreed to it. What’s to say he won’t do it again?” She didn’t seem to understand so he spoke his next words slowly. “A vampire who has allowed their loyalty to become a commodity…”
“…If they change their minds, though? Sincerely change them? Rasul was gone a long time. He was sent there to spy, you told me so! What if he was Russell’s there, too? You didn’t exactly interview him for the job. Did you ask if he had any prior commitments?” She was standing behind him, but he could see the jut of her lip in the reflection of his laptop screen.
“I’m sure Pam or one of the others did,” Eric sighed. “It’s how it’s done. He also pledged himself. You saw him.”
“So, you lose someone who’s loyalty you’ve earned because he’s not allowed one mistake!” and Sookie took a sharp, angry breath. “Like Heidi! You heard what Stan said! She left here to protect you!”
Now he did turn, bringing her into his lap so he could look in her eyes while he tried to explain. “Vampires, because we exist so long, we understand the consequences of our actions. You are young, Lover, you will come to understand these things.”
“So if Rasul really did repent?” Sookie challenged again.
“There’s no way of knowing if that’s true,” Eric replied. “We can’t see into the thoughts of vampire…” and, in that instant, Eric recognized his mate’s own trap.
“No, in our case, we can!” she said a touch too triumphantly.
Eric used his last gambit, “You are really prepared to use your son this way?” It was a low blow, but Sookie didn’t back off one inch.
“If it means saving friends, then, yes, I’m willing to ask Rick for help!” and her eyebrows lifted as if to say, ‘OK, top that!’
“Rasul means so much to you?” Eric wasn’t sure where it came from, but now it was said, and the words sounded every bit as jealous as the emotion.
Her eyes widened and he felt Sookie’s disbelief. “Of course not!” she protested. “I was really thinking of Heidi! You see how hurt Hunter is. If we test this and it allows her to return, would it be such a bad thing?”
Eric felt an unfamiliar feeling and realized it was his own shame. It wasn’t comfortable. “You expect me to believe this has nothing to do with Rasul?” he doubled down.
Sookie laid her hand alongside his face, turning it toward her own. “Do you need me to ask Rick to ‘read’ me, too? Open the bond, Eric. There are no lies between us! Can’t you feel it, the love I have for you? It fills me!”
He did feel it, warm and sweet and true. “I apologize,” he purred. “I shouldn’t doubt you.”
“No, you shouldn’t!” and she nipped his lips before turning back to the computer. “Any word from Thalia?”
Eric forced his fingers to move. He had heard from Thalia yesterday, telling him she had nothing to report although she had agents in place. He knew there’d be another report from her. He decided to gamble. Thalia’s writing style was like her speech, short and to the point. If the report revealed her time wasn’t being spent strictly vacationing, he resolved to come clean with his mate.
He found the message below a few others. He clicked it open, steeling himself.
‘Heading to Slovenia. Tracking down the old legends. More soon.’
Eric held his breath, willing his emotions to remain still. “Looks like she’s having a good time,” Sookie said.
“Yes,” and Eric forced a smile. “Yes, a well-deserved rest.”
“So, you going to ask Rick while you’re up there?” Sookie asked, returning to their prior conversation.
Eric closed Thalia’s email first before confirming, “About Rasul? I could. Or, we could broach the subject together when we see them next week.”
“I don’t think we should wait,” Sookie shrugged. “If Rasul is a liability, wouldn’t it be best to know right away?”
Eric nodded, “Yes, but Rasul is also old. Rubio tells me Rick is having problems processing what he reads.” Eric anticipated her quick response, instead she just watched him. She wasn’t surprised. “You knew?”
“Rubio talks to me, too,” Sookie told him. “Particularly when I ask him direct questions.” When Eric continued to look surprised, Sookie chuckled, “What? I’m Rick’s Mother! You think I’m fooled by ‘fine’ and ‘it’s okay’? I learned to read that child’s deflections a long time ago. I had to with a kid who could find as much trouble as Rick.”
“A Mother’s instinct!” and Eric sent her his pride. “Still, you didn’t run right up there.”
“This was his choice, Eric,” Sookie pointed out. “I did tell him he could stop any time, but he’s determined to see this through.”
“It’s why I’m taking Hunter with me,” Eric confessed.
“I figured as much,” and Sookie threw him some jeans. “Come on, let’s feed. I’ll sit with Hunter tonight. We can review techniques before you go.”
“You surprise me,” Eric confessed. It was on the tip of his tongue, to tell her more about Thalia’s trip, but her smile was so open. He didn’t want to ruffle the calm existing between them.
“You can’t fool me, Northman!” she teased.
“No, I can’t,” he lied. He pulled on his jeans. They tugged a bit past his hips and the button closing them had a quarter inch gap. “That’s odd,” he remarked, showing her.
“Maybe they shrunk in the wash,” Sookie shrugged. He tugged and they closed, pulling just a bit across his abs, but then Sookie smiled again, “Like we need another mystery!” and taking his hand, they headed downstairs.
The entire ride north was marked by a series of irritations. Eric left his new boots behind, but the shirt he wore pulled across his chest and his waistband pinched. His head seemed closer to the roof and when he pressed the button for his setting, his seat wouldn’t move a bit. Hunter sat beside him, leaning against the passenger door. “What is it?” Eric asked after an hour. “Do I offend you?”
Hunter looked surprised. “What?” and when Eric stared at the door, Hunter shrugged, “Just seems a little close in here,” and went back to staring at the passing scenery.
They stopped at the gas station that marked the halfway point and as Eric unfolded, the clip on his waistband let go. “Fuck a zombie!” he hissed, pulling at his pants to bring the two sides together.
“You can’t gain weight, can you?” Hunter asked.
“Vampires don’t change!” Eric snarled, but it seemed his clothes didn’t know that. Then Eric’s eyes narrowed. “It seems someone decided to make me the object of their latest joke,” and he fastened his gaze on Hunter.
“Or decided you needed a message,” and Hunter winked.
“I’m imagining you’ll tell me what I’m supposed to ‘gain’ from this?” Eric asked, but Hunter just shook his head.
“Not my message to deliver,” he grinned, “but you have a couple more hours to figure it out. Would serve her right if you had the mystery solved before seeing her.”
“Pam!” Eric could just imagine his daughter’s disappointment when he threw her joke back at her. The car raced north, and Eric almost didn’t mind the way his shirt pulled apart at the shoulder or the button nearest his waist popped as he turned over the possibilities.
Still, when they pulled into the spot reserved for them in back of Fangtasia, Eric wasn’t sure. “Greedy?” he asked Hunter. “Arrogant?”
“I told you I’m not telling,” his nephew replied, climbing out of the car and pressing the buttons to unlock the building’s back door.
This time Eric’s pants gave way with an audible tear. Both shoulders were sagging and Eric had given up with the buttons, the shirt hanging loose over his t-shirt. He felt his old swagger return. He hated looking unkempt, but he’d be damned if he gave anyone the satisfaction.
“My, my!” Pam was waiting for them in the hallway. “Look what the cat dragged in! Should I pull your old throne out? You look like you’re ready to enthrall the vermin.”
“You look like a woman who wants to watch her wardrobe go up in flames,” Eric answered.
Pam laughed, “Oh, you still haven’t figured it out? I thought it was too obvious.” She reached into her pocket pulling out a dollar, handing it to Hunter. “You were right, sometimes simple is better.”
Mustapha stood behind her. He extended a bag toward Eric. “Here. You can’t be all kingly-looking like that!”
“So?” and Eric waited.
“So?” and Pam gave him a slow once-over. “Not looking so high and mighty now, are you? What’s that word Sookie uses? High-handed?” Now it was starting to dawn on Eric. “That’s right!” Pam said, seeing his eyes focus. “Getting a little too full of yourself, all puffed up! Just because you’re King and liking it doesn’t mean you should forget things like courtesy and trust.” She leaned closer before dropping her fangs. “Tell your wife about your suspicions! If you don’t it won’t go well. You know that, Eric!”
“You were in on this?” the Viking asked Hunter who just shrugged.
“You can use my office to change,” Rubio offered, walking past them to open the door. “Your son will join us downstairs. Our guest is already secured, when you’re ready.”
Rubio followed Eric inside, taking the clothes his King discarded while they talked. “I’ve taken every precaution to maintain Rick’s security. There are two rooms. Rick stays outside. Our ‘guests’ don’t see him. Most nights Rick arrives through the back and leaves that way, too. Tonight, he came through the front entrance, but he was with the Packmaster. He’s been seen out front and they both came back here. You’ll make an appearance and his visit will be explained.”
“You don’t think people know about his gift?” Eric asked.
“Rumors are already flying,” Rubio confirmed. “They know he can read people. They just aren’t sure who or how well. He is, after all, her son, and Hunter’s skills are already known. They’re cousins.”
“The guest?” Eric asked.
“Isaac. He’s new here. Arrived from Oklahoma, working in the gas fields. Night shift,” Rubio supplied.
“So, what makes him suspect?” Eric asked, preceding Rubio across the hall to the supply room that hid the staircase.
“We found another sleeper. Girl who comes here frequently, fangbanger. She’s been making phone calls to an unidentified number, but has no memory afterward. Not too smart about it, either.”
Eric thought about it. “Has Rick read her, too?”
“Yes,” Rubio told him. “She’s been glamoured or, at least, that’s what Rick thinks. She has all the signs.”
They were at the bottom of the stairs and Rubio gestured toward the room Eric once used as an armory. It was changed. Instead of tables and weapons, the room had sofas and a small kitchen setup. Rick was talking with Hunter, but he stood when his Father walked in. “You look well,” Eric said, then, not giving his son the option, opened his arms, waiting until Rick advanced to embrace him.
“You, too, Father,” Rick answered. Eric felt it, that sense of well-being, but, at the same time, the distinct, sweet scent of Fae floated up. It was faint and soon it was all Eric could smell.
“Forgive me!” and he stumbled back. He exhaled and waited. The cloying sweetness that called to all his dark instincts seemed to be everywhere.
“It is compelling?” Rubio observed.
Rick held up his hands, “I’m sorry! I really don’t notice it. I should have said something.”
“You have warned me,” Eric reminded him. ‘Just not enough,’ he thought. He and Sookie were due to visit Bon Temps in a few weeks. Sookie was anxious to bring gifts. He’d have to prepare her so her happy visit didn’t turn tragic. He didn’t think Sookie would ever hurt Rick, but Brigid was another matter.
Eric wrestled his impulses back under control, forcing a smile. “It is I who should apologize. I’m fine!” Turning to Rubio, he asked, “So, I’m anxious to see my son’s approach.”
“There’s not much to see,” Rick chuckled. “It’s mostly Rubio in the other room, asking questions, and me sitting here, listening in.”
“Do you hear the vampire now?” Eric asked.
“Yes,” and Rick sat down. “I hear him. I can hear a lot, but by asking leading questions I get him to think about everything we want.”
Eric sat down, too. “The Sheriff tells me you weren’t able to get much from the girl.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s glamour,” Rick nodded. “She recalled things, but then she’d hit these blank places, at least that’s how it feels in her head, like a void.”
“It sure sounds like glamour,” Hunter confirmed. “She around? I’d be interested in seeing if it’s the deep glamour we’ve been finding.”
Rubio shook his head. “Could you find her?” Eric asked.
“If you can’t, it’s okay. I’m going to stick around for a while,” and Hunter grinned at Rick. “You still have that attic room, right?”
“You might be sharing it with Uncle Jason,” Rick grinned back. “We’ve been working on the nursery. When he’s there late, he crashes upstairs.”
“As long as he doesn’t snore,” and Hunter glanced back at the vampires surrounding them. “Want to get started?”
“Will you be joining me?” Rubio asked Eric.
“No,” and Eric glanced at Rick. “I wish to stay here with my son.”
“As you wish,” and Rubio bowed, leaving to join their prisoner.
“Do you need to do anything to prepare?” Eric asked Rick.
“Oh, right!” and Rick closed his eyes, his lips moving. Eric waited but, after a moment, Rick opened his eyes, showing his Father it had all been a joke. “Nah! It’s… I guess it’s really nothing for me. I’ve been able to do this all along, it’s just I never… well, Mom always said it wasn’t polite to eavesdrop on people.”
“She paid the ultimate price for her pride,” Eric shot back.
The humor drained from his face as Rick protested, “I don’t think it was pride!”
“Call it stubbornness, then,” Eric shrugged, and giving his son a direct look, added, “a trait you may share.”
“Touché!” but then Rick’s head swung toward the door. “They’ve started.” Everyone was silent as Rick stared, intent. “He doesn’t know anything,” he said after a moment. “He came here to follow you,” and he looked at Eric. “He never met you, but he did well while you were in Oklahoma with Freyda. The new King there, Stan Davis’ King, he’s greedy. This Isaac thinks more Oklahoma vampires will move here.”
Then, Rick’s eyes widened, and he sat down. His hands trembled and his breath caught. “What is it?” Eric asked.
“Nothing!” but Rick didn’t look as if it had been nothing. “He’s saying he knows the girl, but only for blood and sex.”
“It’s weird, isn’t it?” Hunter asked. “The moment when they have that stray thought and you wonder if it’s real or just something they’re thinking.”
“Is that it?” Rick asked. “I don’t know. He seemed pretty sure he’s going to find the girl and rip her throat out.”
“I have no doubt he’d think that,” Eric told his son. “It’s a normal reaction for any vampire who’s found out their association with a human or Were has caused them trouble.” Rick’s eyes widened, but Eric added, “We don’t, though. If we did, there’d be slaughtered humans turning up on the pages of newspapers. You don’t read about that, do you?”
“You could have someone hide them,” Rick answered quietly.
“But, they don’t,” and Hunter took Rick’s shoulder. “It’s the same when you read anyone. You see it all. I’ve figured out the difference, but I won’t tell you it’s easy.” Hunter sat down on the couch beside the younger man. “And I don’t read vampires. I can’t imagine… well… maybe I can. I’ve lived around them for a while and I know they can do some crazy shit. I can’t imagine what they think.”
“It’s pretty terrible, most of the time,” Rick nodded.
“The one in there? Is there anything more we should know?” Eric asked Rick.
“No,” and Rick shook his head. “He’s not involved in anything.”
“Go,” Eric told Hunter. “Once they emerge, let Rubio know.” He glanced at Rick. “We will join you shortly.”
Eric waited until Hunter shut the door behind him. “Have you come to terms with it?” he asked.
“I don’t think I want to do this anymore,” Rick answered. He licked his lips, “I mean, there’s got to be other ways to make a living.”
“There are,” Eric replied. “Many.”
“Yet not so many that could make me the kind of money I can make doing this, right?” Rick was staring at his hands. “Rubio told me I could command any price. Thousands of dollars. Tens of thousands. I’d never have to worry about Brigid or the baby. I’d be able to get them anything they needed. I could even afford Karin if needed to hire her.” Rick shrugged, “Nightmares seem like a small price to pay for all that.”
Eric didn’t bother arguing. He thought Rick was right, so instead he approached the young man’s discomfort from another angle. “What do you see that bothers you so?” Eric thought of his own long life, the comfortable and many uncomfortable moments. None seemed worth losing rest over now.
“I’m not like you,” Rick sighed. “I can’t see this shit and just tuck it away. It’s terrible! Like that guy in there? His Maker is in Italy somewhere. He’s old. Not as old as you, but pretty old. He’s had his arm ripped off. He still remembers how it felt to grow it back. It’s like needles in his brain!”
“A vampire remembers everything precisely,” Eric nodded. “That’s why those kinds of lessons are so effective. We know exactly what we’ll face the next time.”
“It’s like a never-ending parade of blood and pain and sex,” Rick said, his voice tight. “One tragedy right after the other. Maybe the guy works, like that guy. There’s a flash of something that happened while he worked, maybe the face of someone he knows, but it’s not like there’s friends. There’s rivals and blood sources and everyone being divided into one category or the other.” Eric smelled tears and his fangs itched. “How do you do it?” Rick asked. “How do you live with all of it?”
“It’s who I am,” Eric replied. “This is my life. This has been my life since the day my Maker found me. I won’t tell you it was easy, but now that I’ve accepted it, I wouldn’t want it any other way.” He stood, his head thrown back, “I have watched the rise and fall of civilizations, great kingdoms. I have seen the very land change and change again, and through it all, I have been.” He stared at Rick, “And you, my son. You will see all of this, too. Yes, there is violence, but even that has changed.”
Eric thought of his own history and tried to explain. “Since the Revelation, vampires have been able to live differently. We don’t have to hide. We don’t have so many secrets worth killing to keep.” A single tear made its way down Rick’s cheek and Eric’s eyes followed it. “Even for humans, your acceptance of violence has changed. It wasn’t so long ago families packed picnics to watch hangings. Now, you sanitize your desire to kill by putting it on TV and calling it entertainment.”
“TV isn’t real,” Rick sniffed.
“I suspect much of what you see when you read our kind isn’t real, either,” Eric countered. For a moment, he considered inviting his son into his own thoughts, but just as quickly dismissed it. “For example, Pam,” he said. “Can you read her?”
“Are you sure she won’t mind?” Rick asked.
“I’m sure she will,” and Eric chuckled, “but we don’t have to tell her. What’s important is I know her. You tell me what you read, and I will tell you what’s real and what’s not.”
Rick hesitated, and then he sighed. “She’s hoping you learned your lesson,” he said, then “What lesson?”
“Not to keep things from your Mother,” Eric answered. “What else?”
“She thinks Russell Edgington is a liar. She’s thinking about a time she staked him…”
“She didn’t,” Eric interrupted. “Pam has wanted to do that, many times, but she hasn’t.” Eric waited for Rick to absorb that. “So, one thought was real, but the other was desire. Can you tell the difference?”
“I’m not sure,” Rick sighed.
“Then find another,” Eric instructed, and so they sat for the next hour, Rick telling Eric what he read, and Eric telling him reality from fantasy.
Finally, Rick said, “I think I can tell.” They’d just examined Pam’s memory of the night of Victor Madden’s death. At first, Rick was upset by the violence, but, with Eric’s help, he distanced himself, as if he was watching a movie. It helped him keep focused. He recounted the story from Pam’s perspective. It was as revealing to Eric as it was to Rick but when they got to the part about Victor’s death, Rick saw Pam killing Akiro.
“No,” Eric told him. “That was me. Pam wished she had, but she didn’t. She killed Victor Madden.”
“I thought that was my Mother.” Rick’s face was ashy. “There was a lot of blood.”
“It was a fight for the ages,” Eric answered. “Your Mother struck a great blow. She saved Pam’s life, but it was Pam who delivered the fatal stroke.” Eric paused a moment before saying, “Now, let’s go over it again, piece by piece.”
Rick ended up with three things that were Pam’s wish, but not reality and in each case, it was Rick who distinguished between them. “How could you tell?” Eric asked him afterward.
“I’m not sure,” Rick confessed. “It’s more a feeling than knowing.”
“Then, you have good instincts,” Eric nodded. “You must learn to trust those instincts.”
“How did you survive your Maker?” Rick asked. He stared at his Father and Eric knew his son had confessed some part of what inhabited his nightmares.
“I didn’t think we were talking about me tonight,” Eric answered. “Are you telling me you’ve sifted through my thoughts?”
Rick opened his mouth, then shut it. After a minute, he nodded. “A long time ago, after my Mom was turned. I didn’t like you too much, you know?”
“I remember.” Eric did. It hadn’t taken much imagination to read the sullen boy who made himself scarce whenever Sookie turned affectionate. “What did you find?”
“More than I wanted,” Rick admitted. “Maybe some of it wasn’t real? I mean, did he really do all those things to you?”
“My Maker was a great vampire, “ Eric answered. “He was old, and his rules were old, too. It was a more brutal time.”
“He tore your body parts off,” Rick stammered.
“Yes,” Eric answered.
“He fucked you, even though you didn’t want it,” and Rick looked ill.
“I was his to use,” and Eric simply shrugged. “Those things are my past. I don’t think of them now. They don’t matter.”
“But, you’re not the only one!” Rick protested. “Each time I read a vampire, there’s some terrible thing, some horror I stumble across. Is this really what vampires are? Is this what I am?”
‘And so, we’ve come to it,” Eric thought. “I’ve said it before,” and Eric sat beside his son. “Our pasts reflect their times. A vampire like Appius would have a hard time surviving now, in this place, even for all his age. That is what the Revelation has done. Will some survive as we once did, living in shadows, and striking from the dark? Yes, for a while, for that way of life is dead to us,” and Eric chuckled at his own joke. “When vampires decided to come out to humans, we knew it meant the end of a way of life. We would be forced to treat our progeny differently. We wouldn’t be able to take justice into our own hands as we once had. We would need to become kinder to lesser species.” Rick snorted, and Eric shook his head, “You know what I mean! The days of blood slaves and retribution are over. For some, this change comes hard. Some chose to meet the sun rather than give up what they viewed as our way of life.”
“You’re among the oldest, right?” Rick asked. “Did you want it? The Revelation?”
“I fought to make it so,” Eric told his son. “I argued for it. I could see that with all their technology and growing numbers, it was only a matter of time before humans found us. If we didn’t set the rules, we would be condemned by them. So, yes. I was an advocate. I am still an advocate.”
“Is that why you and Mom are doing the publicity thing?” Eric knew Sookie told Rick and Brigid of their plans.
“The best defense is a strong offense,” Eric answered. “Best to get ahead of this. If we approach this intelligently, these humans will follow where we lead them. They fear us, but if they think they’re getting the upper hand…”
“But, they won’t really have the upper hand?” Rick asked.
“What do you think?” and Eric smiled at his son. “But that is a discussion for another day. You are making decisions about the direction your own life will take.” He leaned back. “Regardless of how you see yourself, others will always see you as vampire. You have the fangs and they mark you as one of us. That means you have to take your place among us. You have sampled a way that would allow you standing, which is a good thing. Vampires, as you’ve probably noticed, covet power. If you have something they can’t have and you are willing to use it, or sell its use to others, that makes you powerful.”
“I just have to live with myself,” Rick answered.
“Yes,” and Eric waited.
“It helped, what we did today,” Rick said after a bit. “And you think Hunter can help, too?”
“He has had a lifetime of sorting the thoughts of others,” Eric replied. “So, yes. I think he can help.”
“Thank you.” It was simple, those two words given from son to Father, but for Eric Northman, they meant the world.