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.
The light was bright against Rick’s eyelids. He squinted and then groaned when he received a poke in his sore arm. “Finally decided to rejoin us, I see?” The voice was familiar. Rick opened his eyes to see Amy Ludwig, the same woman who’d examined him in Boston. Her face was close to his and her thick glasses made her look like some kind of exotic bug.
“Where am I?” Rick grimaced, and then as he shifted under the blanket added, “and where are my clothes?”
“You don’t do anything by halves,” Doctor Ludwig was chuckling. “Guess you went down like someone poleaxed you. Scared the hell out of the Viking.”
“Huh,” Rick huffed, “I don’t think anything fazes that guy!”
“Normally, I’d agree with you, but not this time. I’d give my left nut for a video of last night. I bet it was good.” Amy got out of her chair and returned with a clear glass filled with blood. It was hard for Rick to think about blood being part of his diet and normally, he drank out of a ceramic mug, so he didn’t have to see it. Still, his fangs were itching and he maneuvered into a sitting position, keeping the sheet pulled up high over his hips, closed his eyes, and started drinking. It tasted amazing. Rick moaned and then felt his other side effect start, so he drew his knees up to try and hide the situation.
“Perfectly normal,” the Doctor assured him, causing him to blush and shift some more. She turned to get the breakfast tray that must have been waiting for Rick to wake up.
“How long have I been out?” Rick asked. He rubbed his forehead. It hurt.
“It’s nearly noon,” Amy told him. “Not surprised your forehead hurts. That’s where you landed last night. Lucky you didn’t chip your teeth!”
“Has anyone heard anything about my Mom?” It was the only thing Rick could think about.
“We’ll talk about what’s being done to find your Mom after you’re dressed,” Amy Ludwig said, using that grown-up tone Rick knew, the one that said she wasn’t going to discuss it until she was ready.
“Surprised they called you,” Rick said to fill the silence. It was really a question, but he didn’t want the Doctor to shut him down on that one, too.
“The fact that I knew about you and didn’t say anything hasn’t made me any too popular,” Amy confessed. The tray held hardboiled eggs, some kind of pastry, and cut-up fruit. Rick inhaled it. He even went so far as to wipe the plate with his finger and then sucked the salt from that, too. “Guess you’re hungry,” the Doctor laughed her dry laugh.
“Where are my clothes?” Rick asked again. He looked around, but didn’t see them. The Doctor had said the conversation about his Mom had to wait for dressing? It was time to get on with it!
“Your uniform couldn’t be saved. Your bag with the rest of your things is in the closet,” the Doctor gestured toward a door. “There’s a bathroom through the other door, over there,” and the Doctor gave another arm wave. “I’ll step out to let the guards know you’re up. I’m supposed to take you into the city, buy you some more clothes, and have you back here and ready for travel in time for the rising.”
“You don’t seem like the order-taking type,” Rick sounded more confident than he felt.
“Neither do you,” the Doctor griped as she left the room. Before she was out the door, though, she turned and snarled, “Don’t try anything stupid!”
Rick pulled out his jeans and a t-shirt. He looked at the heavier flannel shirt he’d brought and decided not to wear it. It was too warm here.
Once he was showered, the questions that he’d tried to forget crowded forward, tumbling so quickly he started talking to himself to stop the noise in his head. He dressed and walked out of the bathroom to find the diminutive doctor sitting in a chair in the middle of the room, staring at him. Rick jumped back, “Shit! I mean, can’t you give a guy a minute?”
“Not when that guy is you,” Doctor Ludwig snapped. “From what Lily Hermosa told Pam last night, you and your partner in crime snuck out of your house, hopped a train, and came half-way across the country all on your own.”
“We didn’t break any laws…” Rick wheedled.
“Don’t start with me!” the Doctor leaned in, and any sign of congeniality was gone. “Your Mother should have prepared you better. If you were prepared, you would never have pulled this stunt! If someone had killed you last night, there would have been hell to pay!”
“Where is my Mother?” Rick felt all his bravado drain away. “I waited. I’m dressed, now it’s your turn. Has anyone heard anything?”
Doctor Ludwig stood up, and crossed her arms. “So, you do know the value of a deal, and I’ll uphold my end. Now that they know who they’re looking for, the word’s gone out. We think she was with one of De Castro’s groups who was sent North.”
“I could have told you that!” Rick barked. “If I had my phone, I could show you her text! She was in trouble! I could tell!”
“If she was here with Felipe de Castro’s group, you’re right,” Amy Ludwig nodded, “She would have been a target, but your Mother is probably in better shape than most.” It was in the way the Doctor said it that gave Rick some comfort. She sounded so sure. She looked toward the door and said, “At any rate, we can’t do anything else until the real blood suckers rise, so let’s get our errands done so you can leave when they’re ready.”
As they walked down the corridor toward the elevator, Rick had a thought. “Do you think Uncle Desmond knows anything?”
“Cataliades?” Amy sounded surprised and then put out. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find that he’s wrapped up in this! Did he know about you, too?” When Rick nodded, Amy puffed out her lower lip as she thought something over. “Well, he’s got enough troubles as it is. I don’t think I’ll let anyone here know. I’ll just use it as a favor to call in later,” and she leaned toward Rick, “And you’re my witness! I don’t know how much help he could be at the moment, anyway. He’s on his way to California to deliver Felipe de Castro’s fangs to the new Narayana Clan Chief. If he does well, he may even keep his head.”
“He’s in trouble?” Rick asked. They were out the front door now, and the glare of the sun had Rick squinting.
“He was working for De Castro, officially on his payroll. The King didn’t take that news too well. Maxwell Lee wanted to twist the demon’s head off,” and Doctor Ludwig pushed Rick to start walking toward the Quarter. “Pam told me it was pretty funny, watching the attorney boil and simmer. She said for the first time he didn’t try some lawyer dodge to convince the Viking to give him another chance.”
“It’s hard to think of Uncle Desmond getting on anyone’s nerves,” Rick shrugged. “I mean he’s so meek and…”
Amy Ludwig laughed so hard she had to stop and lean against the building. When she recovered herself, she wiped her eyes and said, “Clearly, you’ve never seen your ‘Uncle Desmond’ with a sword! I’ve got to tell you, kid, you are going to be a source of endless amusement!” Then she looked a little more serious, “Your Mother really didn’t prepare you for any of this, did she?”
“No, I guess not,” Rick shuffled, “And now, maybe she…” and Rick allowed his frustration to boil out. “She’s missing! I keep telling you people that and you treat it like it’s nothing! She could be hurt! She could be dead!”
“It’s not that we didn’t hear you,” Amy’s expression told him what she thought of his tantrum, “but your Mother is being protected by a powerful witch. Fran Miller’s wards surrounding Sookie should make her just about bullet-proof. As long as Fran is alive…”
“That’s what you’re counting on?” and Rick’s voice rose. “Aunt Fran? I don’t know if she’s still alive! Aunt Lora said she was in the hospital! I haven’t had my phone in hours! She could be dead now!”
Doctor Ludwig stopped smiling, “What happened to her?” she asked.
“Aunt Lora said she had a stroke,” Rick replied. “She said Aunt Fran wasn’t going anywhere, but she’s so old! She isn’t well.”
“When did she go into the hospital?” Doctor Ludwig was leaning forward.
“About a week ago,” Rick told her.
The Doctor grabbed his upper arm and got them walking again. “Let’s get the things you need and get back to the palace. Everything is probably fine. Witch’s spells don’t usually stop just because they’re incapacitated,” but the Doctor was looking less sure.
When they walked into the men’s clothing store, the owner was waiting for them. He was tall and broad-shouldered and Rick could tell he wasn’t exactly human. Rick was directed to the back, and through a set of curtains. The owner didn’t say much, he just looked Rick up and down once and then turned to racks and shelves that held clothes. He pulled out one item after another, tossing them on the two chairs nearest Rick, surrounding the young man with jeans, track pants, and even a suit.
Doctor Ludwig had perched on a stool next to the door that led back to the front of the store. “We’re in a hurry,” she growled, not looking up from her non-stop texting.
“You should try on one pair of pants,” the owner told Rick. “If the fit is close enough, I can adjust the rest.” He glanced at the Doctor, “He is very thin. I will need to make alterations.”
“You have until nightfall,” the Doctor told him. “He has to be ready for travel and we won’t have time to stop again.” Rick realized he was expected to strip down to his underwear in front of everyone, and taking a deep breath, he did. The owner grabbed pins and a tape and within a short time, Rick was back in his own jeans.
The owner turned to grab t-shirts, mostly in bright colors. Rick held up his hand, “Look, I can pick out my own shirts!” He walked over to the shelf and pulled down a half-dozen men’s small long, all in black. When he caught Doctor Ludwig’s raised eyebrow, he grabbed one in gray to mix it up.
“You don’t think you’ll want some more shoulder room?” the Doctor asked, holding up one of his selections.
“I don’t like things that hang,” Rick told her. “I like my clothes to fit close to my body.” For some reason, his answer seemed to restore the Doctor’s good humor, and she grinned as they were leaving. Rick hadn’t seen any money exchanging hands. Instead, the owner bowed toward him, and Rick, somewhat awkwardly, bowed back.
The Doctor was steering them back toward the Palace when she paused on the sidewalk and said, “You’re probably hungry again.” As if on cue, Rick’s stomach growled.
Rick noticed they were standing outside a restaurant, and Doctor Ludwig was eyeing the menu posted on the wall. “Well, come on,” she said brightly, “I can guarantee they don’t have enough human food in the palace to feed you, and even if they did, I doubt there’s anyone there who can prepare it worth a damn. Besides, we can’t go anywhere until the night crawlers are awake,” and she steered Rick into a restaurant.
Amy Ludwig was clearly a regular here. In spite of the line at the front desk, they were immediately directed to a good table in the back. When the waiter arrived, Amy said, “You know what I want.” She looked at Rick, “What do you like? Fish? Steak? Hamburgers? All three?”
“Steak’s fine,” Rick answered. The thought of rare meat had his mouth watering. “Baked potato loaded. Cook it medium rare.” Water was poured out and a glass of milk showed up as if by magic.
“What’s that?” Rick curled his lip.
“Something your bones need. Drink it and I’ll get you a glass of blood, too,” and Doctor Ludwig signaled. When she told the waiter what she wanted, he gave Rick a skeptical look. “Go ahead, Baby Vamp,” Doctor Ludwig teased, “Show him your fangs!”
“I’m not your clown!” Rick retorted, but the Doctor poked him and for some reason, Rick couldn’t stop them dropping. The waiter looked impressed and left, returning with warmed blood in a glass.
“Good job,” Amy nodded. “He’s a Were. News of you will be all over town in no time.”
“Isn’t that a bad idea?” Rick asked. “Shouldn’t I be keeping a low profile or something?”
“Not anymore,” Doctor Ludwig told him. “From now on, you want everyone to know who you are and who you belong to. Day-walkers are a big deal. Combine that with being the King’s son? No one messes with what belongs to Eric Northman! It protects you and it enhances the Viking’s reputation. Win, win.”
The waiter returned with their food. The steak was still sizzling, and Rick had a hard time not drooling. He cut into it and after he’d eaten over half, he stopped. “Do you really think he’ll do something?”
“Who?” Amy was muscling through a huge bowl of pasta studded with various kinds of seafood in a cream sauce.
“You know… Eric…” and Rick stopped, unsure exactly what he should call the vampire King.
“You mean your Sire?” Amy asked.
“Yeah… I guess,” and Rick looked away. “You think he’ll help? Finding my Mom, I mean.”
Amy smiled and wiped her mouth, “Don’t you worry about that for even one minute. The first time I met your Mother, she’d been attacked by a maenad. She was with Bill Compton then and she was in bad shape. Maenads are poisonous and she’d been stabbed good. Your Sire? He had no claim over her at all, but he called me anyway and made clear if she died, I’d die, too. It cost him a lot of money and could have caused problems with his Queen, but he did it anyway. It wasn’t the last time he threatened me over her, either.” Amy smiled, “I’ve known Eric Northman longer than any human alive, and I’ve seen all his moods, so I am telling you, your Mother is the Viking’s kryptonite.”
“What? You mean like his weakness?” Rick scoffed.
“You’ve seen him,” Amy nodded. “He’s impressive, even among his own. He earned that reputation, act by act, and he guards it. The only time his reputation has ever suffered was when he was with Sookie Stackhouse. She had him wound around any finger she wanted and he willingly took all kinds of crap to make her happy.”
Rick rolled his eyes, “Yeah…sure, if you say so.” The relationship Doctor Ludwig described wasn’t the kind that ended in divorce. Eric Northman abandoned his Mother to marry someone richer. She’d told him it was about a piece of paper, a contract. That was, in the end, all his Mother had meant to the vampire, but Rick could see there would be no convincing the doctor.
“You’ll see,” Amy signaled for the check and they were walking briskly back to the vampire palace as the afternoon hours passed.
Rick was pulling on one of his new t-shirts when there was a knock on the door, and then, without waiting, one of the blonde women he kind of remembered from last night walked in. “So,” she stared at him, “You really are his doppelganger, aren’t you?”
“Hello! Privacy!” Rick pulled his clothes together, zipping up as fast as he could and then tucking his t-shirt in. “Who are you?”
“I suppose I’m your sister…sort of,” and the woman turned her head to the side. “I’m Pam Ravenscroft. And you’re… Corbett?”
“Rick,” Rick corrected her.
“Rick? Like what?” and the woman’s face pulled together in an expression that resembled a rabbit. Her eyes widened and she looked too pleased when she said, “Short for Eric?”
“I don’t know,” Rick felt off balance. There were rules here he didn’t know, and being near this woman who was shorter than him and claiming some kind of kinship was making him nervous. “So…” he licked his lips, “how are you my sister?”
“Eric’s my Maker,” she told him.
“What is that?” Rick asked. “People have been throwing that word at me ever since I got here. Does it mean he made you into a vampire?”
“What rock have you been living under?” Pam laughed. “Don’t you watch television? Yes, a Maker is the one who turns you into a vampire!”
“I didn’t grow up with TV,” Rick said it the way only someone from New England could, like it was a badge of honor. “We don’t have one in the house at all!”
Pam started to laugh, “Sookie? Sookie doesn’t have a TV?”
“So what?” Rick started to get mad. He didn’t like these strangers laughing at his Mother. “You don’t know her!”
“Actually,” and Pam started walking around, picking up and examining some of his new clothes, “I know your Mother very well. And just so you know,” and Pam gave him a coy look, “your Mother is the one who ruined Eric. She turned him into a total TV addict.” When Rick looked skeptical, Pam nodded, “It’s true! He’d have a screen in every room just so he could flop down and watch old vampire shows wherever he ended up. Your Mother’s favorite? “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”!” Rick didn’t know what to say. The woman Pam was describing wasn’t the person he knew. His Mother told him there was always something better to do than hand his brain over to someone else’s imagination. His friends and their parents believed it, too. Only the boarding school kids watched TV in Chester. They were the only ones bored enough to do it.
Pam seemed to decide that conversation was over, so she walked closer and said, “So, Ludwig says you have fangs. True?” She was peering at him as if Rick was some kind of science experiment.
“Yeah,” he nodded and concentrated on not allowing them to drop. He was done with putting on shows for these people. “So, are we going to find my Mom?” he asked and he didn’t care how rude he sounded.
“Why are you even asking?” Pam seemed amused. “Sookie Stackhouse in trouble? It’s like saying the sky is dark or sometimes it rains! Your mother is in trouble and we’ll all marshal behind Eric and march off to rescue her!”
“Sick,” another voice from the door added. It was the one called Karin.
“This is your other sister, Karin,” Pam said by way of introduction.
“Don’t say that!” Karin hissed. “We don’t really know what it is!”
“I’m standing right here,” Rick’s eyes narrowed. “Doctor Ludwig told me I’m a Damphir.” Rick had done some Googling, and although the information was sketchy and mostly made up for gamers, some of it seemed pretty accurate based on what he’d been experiencing.
“Mongrel,” Karin grumbled.
Pam didn’t seem the least put out by her sister’s reaction, “Jealous!” she taunted.
“Of what?” Karin snarled. “I was chosen! So were you! This?” and she gestured toward Rick, “Was nothing more than an accident. We aren’t even connected.”
“Enough!” And Eric Northman was in the doorway. “Karin! Arrange donors. We leave within the hour.” Karin bowed and scuttled past the Viking. Rick had a hard time not blushing, the Viking was staring at him so intently, but then something kicked in, and Rick threw his chest out and lifted his chin. He didn’t notice Pam’s grin, but the King’s voice was gruff when he asked, “Are you feeling better?”
“Yeah,” Rick nodded, “Yes, better.” It was a lame answer. Rick had a million things in his head he wanted to say, another million he wanted to ask, but all he could get out of his mouth was, “Thank you for asking, Sir.”
After another awkward pause, Eric said, “Pam, he can ride with you? You have room?”
“Plenty,” Pam was grinning. She turned to Rick, “It will be nice to have a co-pilot for the way.”
“Where are we going?” Rick asked.
“Shreveport,” Pam told him. “That’s where Rubio and the audit team were last seen.”
Rick turned back to the doorway, but Eric Northman was gone.
Pam caught the direction of his look and touched his arm, “Come on, kid. Let’s drink and drive!” She led the way to the elevator and this time, they went all the way to the basement level. The doors opened into a large, open area. There were several humans sitting in a semi-circle on furniture that looked like couches. Karin was sitting beside a man, her head at his neck, and Pam walked forward toward a woman who smiled at her and raised her hand as if in greeting. When Pam sat down next to her, she stroked the woman’s arm and the woman flipped her hair to the side. Rick realized Pam was about to bite her and he found himself riveted in place. He wanted to turn away, get back in the elevator, and not return, but another part of him couldn’t look away, as much as it disturbed him.
Pam didn’t seem to notice, but as Rick started to hyperventilate, his eyes swung to where Karin was sitting behind her human, and he could see she was staring at him. As if she timed it, two twin trails of blood appeared on the man’s chest, and that was it. Rick spun around, his hand stabbing at the elevator button. The doors opened and he ran into Eric Northman so hard, he almost bounced off him.
“What’s wrong?” Eric was looking down at him.
“Hey,” Rick was gasping, “I’m not ready for this! I need to get out of here!” Eric glanced over Rick’s head, and then he placed his hand on Rick’s shoulder and stepped back, bringing Rick into the elevator with him.
“You’ve never fed before,” Eric said it like a statement, moving his head until Rick met his eyes.
“Mom got me bagged blood,” Rick told him. He didn’t want to cry, not in front of this guy, so he bit the inside of his cheek hard enough that the pain of it would distract him.
Eric leaned over and pressed a button that had the car moving again. “Doctor Ludwig tells me you need fresh blood. She told me it’s especially important now while you’re growing.”
“Well, that’s great that she’s talking about me while I’m not around, but she’s okay with blood in a cup, too. She bought me some for lunch.” Rick was breathing a little more normally. He took one more deep breath and realized how close he’d come to outright panic. “By the way, where’d she go?” he asked. “I haven’t seen her since we got back from lunch.”
“Amy has gone to Boston,” Eric told him. The tall vampire was still looking at him strangely, and for a moment, Rick wondered if he felt as awkward as Rick did.
Rick nodded, then purposely turned to stare at the doors. “I guess she went to see Aunt Fran, right?” he asked. It was easier not looking at the vampire.
“The witch, yes,” Eric said from behind him. The doors opened and Eric said, “Step out. There is something we need to do. It won’t take long.” He stepped out and held the door open, and when Rick stepped out with him, Eric gestured down the hallway. Eric opened one of a set of doors, and Rick realized they were back in the room where he’d first met the vampire. “Sit,” Eric told him and gestured toward a chair. When Rick did, Eric sat down across from him, and then leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.
“I am told that you are only recently more vampire. Is that right?” he asked. Rick nodded, afraid of where this might be going. “How long have you been drinking blood?” Eric asked him.
“Since Christmas,” Rick swallowed.
“And in all that time, your Mother didn’t help you learn how to feed?”
There was something in the tone of how Eric said it that had Rick seeing red. “Don’t you criticize her!” he bit out. “You don’t have any right to say one bad word about my Mother! She’s been the best mother I could have ever asked for. She’s never made me feel bad about any of the crap I’ve put her through, and it’s been a lot! You dumped her and left her alone with me, so you don’t get to say anything!” Rick stood up. He wasn’t sure where he was going, but he didn’t want to sit here in the same room with Eric Northman!
“Sit down.” It was in the way the vampire said it that calmed Rick right down and had him sitting back in the chair. When Rick refused to look at him, Eric sighed, “I apologize,” he said. “I did not mean my words to be taken as a criticism of your Mother.” He waited then, and Rick finally looked up at him and nodded, Eric added, “I would never criticize your Mother, but you are right to defend her. You would make her proud.”
There was a discrete knock at the door. Eric kept Rick’s eyes captured with his own as he called out, “Come!” Rick couldn’t not look. It was a woman and she sat down on the couch nearest the vampire.
Eric looked at her for a moment, then looked back at Rick. “Feeding is critical for our health,” he said levelly. “It is not generally a destructive act. It doesn’t hurt anyone, and, in fact, can be quite pleasurable for both parties, if you wish it so.”
Rick could feel the tension inside him begin to build again. He knew what was coming, but the vampire didn’t make any sudden moves. Instead he continued talking, his words sounding like any of Rick’s teachers explaining some new concept. “None of us require much from our donors to survive. Even the youngest who need the most never take more than a cup or two. More is not necessary. For someone like you, who exists on both human food and ours, you should be able to survive on little more than what I need.”
Rick stared at Eric. He seemed like a pretty big guy. “How much do you need?” he asked, almost in spite of himself.
“Only two mouthfuls once a day. Of course, if I’m injured, I need more,” and Eric gestured to the healing skin still apparent on his face. “But even then, I don’t need much. Never enough to injure a donor.”
When Rick didn’t say anything, Eric stood up and moved to stand behind the woman. “There are several places that work well,” he told Rick. The woman didn’t look at all worried, in fact, she was smiling at Rick and Rick could hear that she had thought she would feed Eric. Now that is was clear she was meant to feed Rick, she was a little disappointed and just as quickly as Rick wondered why, she thought about having sex with Eric. Rick turned bright red.
“What is it?” Eric asked.
“It’s just that…” and Rick blushed harder, too shy to say what he’d heard from the woman’s head.
“You read her thoughts?” Eric asked. There was something so knowing on the vampire’s face that Rick nodded, and then glanced away.
“You are so like your Mother,” Eric’s voice was soft and Rick looked back to see the vampire gazing at him in that odd way again.
Eric turned toward the woman and said, “Feeding is pleasurable, and there are acts that enhance that pleasure. Sex during feeding is natural between vampires and donors…” Eric hesitated, and then observing Rick’s flaming face didn’t say anything more.
Rick tried not to think about it. This was his Father, supposedly, his Sire, and he was talking about having sex with random women. Rick could tell from her thoughts that the woman in the room with them hadn’t had sex with Eric, but she wanted to. It was confusing. “So,” Rick stammered, desperate to change the subject, “Where’s your wife? The one you left my Mother for?” It was a rude thing to say, and Rick saw Eric’s eyes go flat. Rick immediately regretted saying it, but he felt he couldn’t take it back, so he swallowed and stuck his chin out further.
“My Queen is finally dead,” Eric’s voice was flat, too. “But this is distracting us from our purpose. Stand up!” Rick didn’t dare defy the vampire any further. There was something there now, a restrained violence, and Rick knew he’d pushed farther than he should. “Come here!” and Eric gestured to the seat next to the woman. Rick could barely bring himself to put one foot in front of the other, and then he made himself look at Eric. He remembered his Mother telling him about how she’d met him and how this vampire made her laugh. He couldn’t see it. All he could see was the cold man who could leave his Mother even though she loved him, all for the promise of money and power. Rick’s lip jutted out and he found his anger propelled him forward.
Eric watched the young man and rightly saw Rick’s attitude shift. Eric could understand it. Sookie may have said she loved him in Denver, but she told her boy something else. “You will have a numbing agent in your saliva,” Eric explained. It was the same explanation he had given Karin and Pam. Then, he could compel his progeny, using his Maker’s command. This one he would have to train using other means. He pointed to a place on the woman’s neck. “This is where things are closest to the surface and there are fewer nerve endings. It is easiest to lick the area, but you can transfer your saliva using your fingers if you are more comfortable.”
Eric noticed that avoiding using the word ‘blood’ had a calming effect on the boy. Rick opted to lick his fingers and then puddle them against the woman’s neck. She giggled, and Eric could see it almost cost Rick his composure. “This woman is a paid donor,” Eric said carefully. “She has volunteered for this job and she uses the money to pay her tuition at school. If she doesn’t donate, she isn’t paid. She does this because she wants to.”
“It’s true,” the woman confirmed. “I don’t mind donating. It’s easy money for me.”
It was enough to embolden Rick. He leaned over and licked this time, and his fangs dropped. He looked up at Eric and, in that moment, Eric saw himself as he was that first time he had fed. Appius insisted the Viking drain both a brother and a sister. He forced Eric to endure the horror of their cries and begging. It was meant to be his Maker’s first lesson in the inconvenience of emotions, and it was a lesson that made Eric hate himself for a long time.
“It doesn’t hurt her,” Eric repeated. “And I am here to make sure nothing goes wrong.”
“Do I have to?” Rick asked.
“It is our way,” Eric replied.
Rick closed his eyes, his face reflecting his reluctance. His strike wasn’t clean and the woman flinched, but once her blood hit his tongue, Eric could see that Rick appreciated the difference. His face relaxed and he started to drink in earnest. “One mouthful,” Eric told him, “Now two. And that’s enough.”
Rick looked up, his eyes troubled, but no longer angry. Eric placed his hand on the young man’s head, “Now, lick the wounds. Your saliva will heal her so there is no tearing or scarring.” Rick detached and did a credible job repairing the woman’s neck. There was blood on the woman’s shirt and Eric reached into his pocket and pulled out a twenty. He handed it to the woman, “Thank you. For your troubles.”
The woman rose and she turned around and kissed Rick’s forehead, “You did good,” she told him.
When the woman left, Eric looked at Rick. “You have had your first lesson in what it is to be vampire. Know this, if you ever disrespect me in front of strangers again as you did tonight, there will be other lessons you will learn, and they won’t be so pleasurable. Do you understand me?”
Rick looked suitably cowed, “Yes, sir,” he replied.
Eric knew he should be angry, but he couldn’t find it in himself. Every time the boy showed his defiance, Eric saw Sookie. “Come,” he walked to the door, not looking behind him to see if the boy was following. “We leave for Shreveport.”
As he walked down the corridor, Eric prayed he would find her. He prayed he would reunite Sookie with this child. He prayed she would help him to find the bond that his head told him he should feel with Rick, but didn’t.
Eric didn’t wait for the elevator. He took the stairs, the heavy sound of the boy’s feet running after him.