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Eric had gone quiet behind him in that creepy way Rick noticed with vampires. They became so still you almost felt as if you were standing all alone in a forest. It was during these times Rick felt the difference between what he was and other vampires. He was finding that in other ways it was easier to forget. Well, except for the blood thing. And the violence thing.
And the calling thing. Rick almost jumped out of his skin when Pam was suddenly beside them. He even felt the breeze of her coming. “Jeez!” he exclaimed, but Pam wasn’t looking at him. She was staring at Eric.
Rick couldn’t help it. He had to give them both a once over. Their hair and clothes were crusted with blood and clots of something he didn’t even want to guess at. They looked as if they’d both walked out of the worst horror movie he’d ever seen but, at the same time, it just wasn’t bothering him the way it had before. Rick figured Mr. Hermosa must have been right. Maybe you just got over noticing it after awhile.
“I will need transport,” Eric was telling Pam. Pam was staring at his Father’s face like he was the only thing in the world, and Rick realized there was something more going on than what he could see with his eyes. Rick had already figured out that Eric could call Pam without using words or texting. What was going on now was something extra. It wasn’t telepathy, but it seemed kind of close.
“For one?” Pam asked.
“Two,” Eric replied.
“Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?” Rick interrupted.
“It may be hard to find that out here,” Pam continued, ignoring Rick’s question.
“Ask Amy,” Eric also ignored Rick. “She will have access to something that will work. She must have it for her hospital.”
While it pissed Rick off, being treated this way wasn’t unusual. These were adults. They ignored kids like him all the time. When his Mother kept talking as if he wasn’t standing right there, he knew it meant she was having a conversation and he was going to have to wait until she was done before she’d acknowledge him, so Rick settled back on his heels, crossed his arms, and grit his teeth.
“Will you stay here?” Pam was asking.
“No,” and Eric looked away into the darkness, “Call Anubis. Tell them I want an emergency flight. It shouldn’t be a problem. We will return to New Orleans tonight. I can best do what is needed there.”
The longer they spoke, the more Rick felt as if they were speaking in some code. Pam glanced in his direction a couple of times. She looked sympathetic and the fear Rick felt earlier returned. He was sure that whatever they were discussing, it had to do with his Mother.
Eric laid his hand on Rick’s shoulder and Rick was so tense, he jumped at the contact. “Go with Pam,” Eric told him.
“I’m not going anywhere until someone tells me what’s going on.” Rick knew it was a false threat. He’d seen how these vampires moved and as strong as he was, he was pretty sure he’d be no match against either Pam or Eric, but he had to try. “I can tell something’s happened. Is this about my Mom?” and Rick stomped his foot. He drew a shaky breath and fisted his hands. “Look! I’ve been really patient and I’ve seen shit tonight I… I just want to know.”
“We are all too upset to discuss this any further at the moment,” Eric said tightly. “Return to the house with Pam. I need to do something here, but when I’m finished, I will come to the house and I will explain.”
“Can’t I stay and help?” Rick didn’t know why he asked, but he didn’t want to leave this place. He couldn’t explain it, but walking away seemed hard.
“Not this time,” and Eric’s hand tightened on his shoulder. It was the kind of thing Rick had always imagined a Father would do, not a full-out hug like his Mom gave, but a kind of man-to-man thing.
“Come with me, Baby Fang,” Pam still had that look on her face, the one that said something really bad had happened. Still, Rick allowed her to take his arm and walk him back toward the house. As they came to the fence that surrounded the cemetery, Rick turned. He could see Eric’s glow between the trees. It looked like he was digging.
There was a van in the driveway when they got back. It was one of those tall, commercial truck-type vans. There weren’t any lights or anything, but Rick knew this was the vampire version of an ambulance. “Is that for Mr. Hermosa?” Rick asked Pam.
She hadn’t said anything during the short walk. Pam swiped at her face and Rick realized she was crying. “Yes,” she nodded, and seemed to gather herself. “Come on. I need to talk with Amy before she leaves.”
Pam rushed toward the house, leaving Rick standing there. It wasn’t far, just a short jog, but he still smarted at her just leaving him. As Rick jogged to the driveway, he saw the other vampires clustered around his sister. Heidi was hugging Pam. Rick wasn’t sure why Pam was so upset, and then they all turned to look at him. “What?” he asked again.
Amy Ludwig walked out from the group, “Why don’t you come with me?” she said. “They are getting Rubio ready for transport inside. I think he’d like to speak with you.”
“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Rick asked the Doctor.
“Nope,” Amy shook her head. “Not my place.”
“This sucks!” Rick growled.
“So does a lot of stuff, Kid. Get used to it!” The doctor didn’t say it meanly, but Rick could see he wasn’t going to get any further with her.
Rubio was still inside, but he’d been moved to the hallway near the front door. He was strapped to a gurney and sitting up. He looked much better and he was talking on a cell phone. He glanced at the Doctor and Rick, then held up a finger, letting them know it would only be a minute. “I love you, too,” he said into the phone. “You’re sure? I can go to the hospital here.” There was a pause and Rick could hear the faint whine of the voice on the other end. “I’m sure it will be okay. Doctor Ludwig can walk us through anything we need to know, but… No, I’m sure. I’m fine. It was just… Silver can take awhile, and they got to it in plenty of time.”
Rick knew that it was Mrs. Hermosa on the other end of the line. He felt embarrassed listening, but then, Mr. Hermosa said, “Look, I’ve got to go. If you and George start driving now, you’ll be there by the time the transport pulls up.” Mr. Hermosa turned away as if it would give him a little more privacy as he said, “I promise you, Lily. I love you,” and then he said, “I’ll see you soon.”
“So, she’s returning to your home?” The doctor’s eyebrow raised.
“She knew what she was getting into when she married me,” Mr. Hermosa’s voice was quiet. “I haven’t had to test her patience often,” and then he looked at Rick. “But what’s going on, Rick? You don’t look like you’re doing too well.”
“The Viking is in the cemetery,” Doctor Ludwig said, and Rick could see that meant something to Mr. Hermosa, too.
Rick felt his throat closing. His mouth worked and he could feel his anger starting to boil over. At least his Mother told him things. These adults…
“You don’t know what it means, do you?” Mr. Hermosa was looking straight at him.
“No one’s telling me anything!” Rick half-yelled.
“The North Man said he’d explain to the boy,” Doctor Ludwig said it like a warning.
Rick shot her a look, but, thankfully, Mr. Hermosa said, “Why don’t you go get a chair, Rick? I’ll tell you what I can. Part of the reason everyone’s being so cagey is that they don’t know exactly how things are going to turn out.” When Rick’s mouth opened, Mr. Hermosa held up his hand, “Go get that chair. It will be easier for me to tell you what I do know if I can stop looking up at you.”
Amy rolled her eyes, but she walked back out the door and signaled the assistant who’d been collecting and cleaning up supplies to come with her. Rick almost didn’t want to hear any more. He dawdled, watching Ludwig’s people leave, but when he turned back he saw Mr. Hermosa’s raised eyebrows and realized he was keeping him waiting, too, so Rick sprinted to the living room and grabbed a chair. It wasn’t too big, but it was still upholstered and awkward, and Rick bumped a couple things as he hefted it into the hall. He dropped it with a thump on the floor and then shoved it closer to the gurney.
“This is about your Mom,” Rubio confirmed. He looked at the face of his son’s friend, and suddenly wasn’t sure how to start. Then Rubio thought about George and how hard it was for his son to wait for anything. He thought of how, when left to his own imagination, George always assumed things were worse than they were. “The reason they aren’t saying anything is because they are still hoping they aren’t right.”
“About what?” Rick asked.
“They think your Mom has been turned,” and Mr. Hermosa stopped talking. He wasn’t sure what reaction to expect, and, as the silence stretched, Rubio thought back to what he remembered.
For two nights, Rubio was sure he heard Sookie screaming but, after that, he lost the ability to distinguish between what was real and what was hallucination. The sun had streamed in through the windows of the office every day. While it hadn’t quite reached him, even the reflected light had been enough to burn and torment. He believed Bill Compton turned Sookie, but he also knew, based on what he’d heard, that it was just as possible that Bill had accidentally killed her.
“Turned?” Rick said at last, his eyes narrowing, “Like…she’s a vampire?” Rubio nodded, and then waited some more. Rubio anticipated anguish and disgust, but instead, Rick almost shrugged, “So, she’ll be like me?”
It wasn’t at all what Rubio expected. Rick didn’t look distressed, instead he looked curious. “Probably,” Rubio nodded. “They won’t know for sure until they…” and Rubio braced again, “dig her up.”
“So, that was her? In the cemetery?” and now Rick did look concerned. Rubio could see the boy was struggling a little, “She was that light I saw? The dim one? That was my Mom?”
“You found her?” Now it was Rubio’s turn to be curious. He thought he’d heard Pam call Rick a vampire hunter.
Rick nodded, “Eric told me to look for another vampire. He said the light wouldn’t be like the rest of you, it would be different.” What Rick said made sense. If Sookie was turning, she would be changing by degrees. “I saw something, and we ended up in the cemetery.”
Something struck Rubio about what Rick said. “Why do you call him ‘Eric’? Shouldn’t you call him Father, or Dad?”
“Have you seen that guy?” Rick huffed. “I mean, he’s been pretty nice to me and all, but he’s…well, he’s not like you.” Rick looked away, then said, “Is that what he’s doing? Eric, I mean. Digging her up?”
“Yes,” Rubio nodded. “It’s the only way he can confirm it’s her. He could wait until she emerges, but that could take days.”
“What, you mean like she would dig herself up out of the ground? I thought that was just an Internet thing!” and Rick took a deep breath to steady himself. “So…he’s digging her up…”
“The King will confirm it’s Sookie, your Mom, and that she’s transforming. Rick, you need to know that sometimes turnings don’t work. No one knows why. It’s a magic thing, and magic is not an exact science.” When Rick pulled at his lip, Rubio added, “Although, in this case, I don’t think I’d worry too much. After all, you were able to see a vampire glow, right? That would mean if it’s her, things are moving along.”
“So, she’s not dead,” and Rick blushed as his voice cracked and quick tears started spilling over his cheeks. Until that moment, the boy had refused to admit how frightened he really was.
“If it is your Mom, then she is dead,” Rubio corrected, “just not finally dead.”
“Well, then!” Rick nodded, looking better, “That’s still better than dead, right?”
“I guess it depends on how you look at it, but, yes,” Rubio nodded, “it is good news.”
Rick started to smile and he stood up. “Do you think I could go and see her?” he asked.
Rubio hesitated. He could see how relieved Rick was, but there were some realities about turning that made it a process best done in the dirt. If Sookie was two or more nights into her transformation, she would not be fit for her son to view. There was a sloughing off of organic tissues and fluids. It was a messy, unpleasant process, which was why most Makers left the newly-turned alone in the ground until they completed their metamorphoses. He thought about George or Maddie, and how they’d react. “I don’t know if that would be a good idea,” he said carefully. “Your Father will be able to tell you if it’s a good time or not. As a vampire transforms, their human body literally falls away and it’s replaced by their new, vampire body.”
“Oh,” Rick stilled and Rubio could see him puzzling over that news. “Does that mean she won’t remember anything?”
Rubio smiled, “No. Your Mother will remember everything. She’ll remember everything from her human life. She’ll remember you. She’ll even remember transforming, but, from now on, she’ll remember everything perfectly. Vampires have complete recall. We literally can’t forget anything. It’s both a gift and a curse.”
“I don’t know,” Rick shrugged. “Sounds like a pretty good thing to me. I know I don’t have it, not really. I listen to those German tapes and I think I’m saying the words the right way, but my teacher tells me my accent is terrible.”
“You may develop that gift as you grow,” Rubio assured him. “If you do, you’ll never struggle with languages again. Most of us speak many languages. It’s simply impossible for us to forget any word or its meaning.”
“So, how is any of that a bad thing?” Rick asked.
“Well, you also remember all the not so great things. For example, one time when we were first dating, Mrs. Hermosa ate garlic pizza. Not only did she smell terrible, her stomach did bad things afterward. I love my wife very much, but I will remember with perfect clarity for the rest of my existence the bad smells she made that night.”
Mr. Hermosa pinched his nose and pulled a face, making Rick chuckle. “I guess you must really love her, then.”
“I do,” Mr. Hermosa agreed. “Enough to never mention that to her again, and I’m trusting you to do the same.”
“Cross my heart,” Rick smiled, and made the sign with his fingers. He looked toward the door, “But, she will be different, my Mom, I mean.”
‘Yes,” and Rubio watched him. Rick looked away, then toward the door. Rubio didn’t think the boy had more questions, but Rubio was wrong. It turned out Rick’s silence was just him figuring out what to ask next.
“Does everyone think that my Mom won’t want to be around me? Is that why they won’t talk to me about her?” Rick looked worried. George had described to his Father how Rick regularly pushed the envelope with his Mother. He tested her patience and did things that he should have known would worry her. Rubio had talked with George about Rick’s risk-taking, worried that Rick would pull George into some activity that would get them both hurt or worse. After they talked, Rubio felt a little better about the adventures.
Lily didn’t. Her theory about Rick’s dare-devil antics was that being the child of a single parent, he was subconsciously worried about abandonment. Lily thought Rick took risks that made his Mother ‘prove’ over and over again his place in her life.
“It’s not her reaction to you that’s worrying them,” Rubio explained. The vampire knew that he was treading into personal space, but he could see that holding back would not help the boy in front of him. He wondered why Eric Northman hadn’t said more to comfort his son, but then he stopped blaming. It had not been easy for Rubio to earn his way into the trust of his adopted children. It had taken years, and Rubio knew about them from the beginning. The Viking had less than a week of knowing about his son, and, if Rubio were to guess, the same amount of time interacting with children of any kind.
“Have you and your Mother ever talked about how she feels about becoming a vampire?” Rubio asked.
Rick didn’t get a chance to answer. Instead, Pam walked into the hallway. She looked haggard and her voice was strained. “We have another transport coming,” she announced. “I’m heading into town with Amy to get clothes for all of us.” She looked at Rick, “Do you need anything? Food?”
Rick’s stomach growled, “Yes!” he said. “That would be great.”
“It will be another half hour or so,” she told Rubio. “I hear you’re going to your home on the other side of Minden.”
“Lily is headed there now,” Rubio nodded. “She’ll take care of me.”
“What about your progeny?” Pam asked. “This one’s accomplice?” and she looked at Rick.
“George will be there, too,” Rubio confirmed.
Pam was squinting a little, and Rick wasn’t sure he liked it. Thinking to head off whatever his sister was cooking up, Rick asked, “Well, where are we going?”
“New Orleans,” Pam answered, but she sounded distracted. The horn honked outside and she said, “We’ll talk some more when I get back,” and then, she ran like her pants were on fire.
“They’ll want to clean up now,” Rubio told Rick. “While vampires are comfortable living in a world of violence, we prefer to be physically clean.”
“I guess that makes sense, what with how you smell everything and how sensitive you are,” and Rick felt that familiar tension start.
“When’s the last time you fed on blood?” Rubio asked him.
“When we started out tonight,” Rick answered, and then he yawned. “What time is it, anyway?”
“There are only a few more hours until dawn,” Rubio replied. “You should go outside and tell Doctor Ludwig you need to feed. She can provide you with bagged blood.”
“Yeah,” Rick nodded, “Okay.”
He stood up and as he turned, Rubio said, “If you see Thalia outside, can you tell her I’d like a word?”
“I can tell her,” Rick rolled his eyes, “but she’ll probably just hiss at me.”
“She can seem rude,” Rubio smiled.
“Yeah!” Rick growled as he walked through the doorway, “There’s a word!” He could hear Mr. Hermosa laughing behind him, but he knew that if you pretended like you weren’t really talking to anyone in particular, adults would usually pretend they didn’t hear what you said.
Rick walked outside. Pam was getting into a car. Almost as soon as the door closed, the wheels were turning, spitting gravel, and the car almost fish-tailed as they left.
“What the hell!” Rick exclaimed.
Thalia was standing near the doctor and she gave him that ‘I’m superior’ look that he was starting to become familiar with. “Mr. Hermosa asked if you could go see him,” Rick told her, jerking his thumb toward the house. He didn’t wait for Thalia’s reply. Instead, he turned on his brightest smile and asked the Doctor, “Would you happen to have any extra blood? I’m pretty hungry, and I’d sure appreciate it.”
“You got his charm!” Amy laughed. “Could have been the Viking himself sweet talking me. You are going to be one lady killer when you grow up.” She asked the attendant in the van to pull a bag out of the cooler. “Come on, I’ll walk you inside. Compton has a microwave and I’m sure he has a glass or mug around here somewhere.” She tossed Rick one bag, then carried a second as she started walking toward the house.
“So,” she said, as they climbed the porch stairs, “How are you holding up?”
“Better now,” Rick nodded, “Mr. Hermosa explained what’s going on.” They passed Thalia and Rubio. Thalia was staring at them, so Rick deliberately looked away. Doctor Ludwig seemed to know where she was going and Rick followed her. The kitchen wasn’t large and it wasn’t especially clean, but there was a microwave. Doctor Ludwig waved toward the cabinets, and Rick understood she was too short to reach, so he opened them until he found some water glasses. Rick carefully twisted the top off the tube that secured the first bag and poured it into the glass.
While the microwave carousel turned, Amy asked, “Well, what did Mr. Hermosa tell you?”
“He said my Mom is probably a vampire now.” Rick could see that Amy Ludwig looked upset. “What?” he asked. “Hey, at least she’s not dead. I thought she was gone! I thought any minute someone was going to tell me I was never going to see her again. Vampire? That’s not such a big deal,” but when the Doctor didn’t say anything, Rick started to worry. “Is it? I mean, I’m a vampire, and that’s okay, right?”
“Right,” Doctor Ludwig nodded. “You’re right. Being a vampire isn’t such a big deal,” but she didn’t say it like she really believed it, and that worried Rick some more. He knew George trusted his Dad. His friend told Rick that it was one of the things he really liked about his Dad, that whatever Mr. Hermosa said was the truth, even when it wasn’t easy to hear.
Rick looked down at his shoes, “So, what’s going to happen now? Pam said we’re going to New Orleans tonight.”
“That is the plan,” Doctor Ludwig pulled the blood out of the microwave, poured, and put her hand over the glass and shook it a couple times before handing it to Rick. “As soon as the second transport and the coffin arrive…”
“Coffin?” and Rick’s eyes widened. “Why do you need a coffin? I mean, Mr. Hermosa said Mom isn’t finally dead, so why…”
“It’s how vampires prefer to travel,” Doctor Ludwig laid her hand on Rick’s arm. Rick found the contact kept him from going into full-blown panic. “These are special travel coffins. They are constructed to be opened from the inside. It’s so if the vampire is caught in daylight, they’re still safe. It’s a very practical solution for vampires, especially when they can’t be sure they’ll make it where they’re going before sunrise.” Amy wasn’t being totally honest. The reason for using this coffin had little to do with sunrise, but seeing how stressed Rick was, she didn’t think telling him his Mother wasn’t totally solid would help the situation.
“Oh,” Rick was swallowing hard. He looked at the night sky outside the kitchen window. “Yeah, I guess that makes sense.” Rick had been holding his own with all this, he really had, but the thought that his Mother was going to be placed in a coffin made it all too real. “Do you really have to do that? I mean, can’t she just be wrapped in a blanket or something? Why does she have to be put in a box?” and that was it. He was crying.
Amy looked at Rick as if he was some deranged psychiatric patient. She cleared her throat twice, and then she said, “About time you got in here!”
Rick was trying to brush the tears away, but it was no good. His nose was starting to run. His chest ached with the effort to suppress the sounds coming out of him and his throat felt tight. He didn’t want to sob, but he could feel a full-on meltdown coming. He looked to where Doctor Ludwig was staring to see Eric standing near him. The vampire was covered in dirt and grime, but Rick didn’t care. He walked into the vampire and wrapped his arms around him. “Please tell me my Mom’s okay,” he gasped. “It was her, right? In the cemetery?”
It was a long moment, but then Rick felt the vampire’s arms wrap awkwardly around him. “Yes,” Eric said. “It was her.” His voice was raspy.
“And she’s turning okay? I mean, she’s going to wake up and everything?” Rick asked.
“You know your Mother is becoming a vampire?” Eric asked.
Rick nodded, “Mr. Hermosa told me. So, everything’s going to be all right, right?” The vampire didn’t say anything, but his arms loosened. Rick looked up into Eric’s face, “Right? It’s going to be okay?”
Eric pushed Rick away a little, so he could look at him more fully, “She is turning,” he confirmed. “You are not upset about your Mother becoming a vampire?”
“No,” the boy sniffed. “Not really. I wish she didn’t have to change,” Rick’s voice was too loud and he knew he was on the edge of breaking down, but Eric talking helped him to pull together his control. “But it’s better than her being dead. I thought for sure she was gone… I mean really gone,” and Rick snuffled again. “I got that text, and the whole way down here, I didn’t know what I’d find. I just knew she wasn’t gone; I don’t think I could have kept going if I believed that, but I knew something bad happened.”
“You’re not upset? You aren’t…angry that your mother is becoming a vampire?” Eric asked it again. The way he said it was like he was stuck.
“No,” Rick shook his head. Eric’s reaction was puzzling. “Why would I be upset? I’m a vampire, right? Why would Mom have a problem being like me?”
Eric stepped back, but he left his hand on Rick’s shoulder. “Yes,” he said, and his face seemed to lift a little, “Sookie could not object to being like her own child.” He raised his other hand and cupped Rick’s face, “My son,” he said, but Rick had the impression he was really talking himself and not to Rick at all.
Then it was as if Eric shook himself and woke up. “Come!” he said, “Pam is bringing clothing for us. There is a bathroom upstairs. We will be traveling and we shouldn’t be seen on public ways as we are.” Rick glanced down at himself. He hadn’t exactly been clean and tidy before, but, after hugging Eric, his clothes were streaked with fluids and dirt. He made a face and the vampire actually smiled before pushing Rick toward the stairs. “There are some clothes upstairs. The vampire who owned them was about your size. We should find something that will fit you.”
The bathroom was just at the top of the stairs. There was a large walk-in shower that could have fit a couple people and it was surrounded by heavy glass. There was also a toilet, which Rick eyed longingly.
“I will find you clothes,” Eric told him, and then left, shutting the door behind him.
“You can just leave them outside the door!” Rick shouted, hoping the vampire would catch his meaning and not open the door again. Rick turned on the shower and took care of other needs. He caught sight of his face in the mirror. His cheeks were smudged with dirt and there was something sticky on the collar of his shirt and part of his neck. He tried not to think about it too much. The shower water was hot and it beat down on him. ‘Mom will wake up and be able to talk with me like before,’ he thought to himself. ‘She’ll be different, but she’ll still be my Mom.’ After a minute, he even said it out loud, “She’ll still be my Mom!” and it steadied him.
After a few minutes, there was a knock at the door. “I’m getting out!” Rick automatically called out. He turned off the water and then he remembered he hadn’t seen any towels. When he swung the shower door open, though, there was a towel folded on the sink and a stack of clothes on the closed toilet seat. “Never going to get used to that sneaking around!” he groused, grabbing the towel.
It didn’t take long to dress. The jeans were a little short and he had to tighten the belt to the last hole to hold them up, otherwise, the clothes fit okay. They were definitely better than trying to put the other clothes back on. Rick pulled his wallet out of the pocket of his dirty pants. He figured it was the last time he’d see this particular outfit, which was fine by him. He wasn’t fond of the collared shirt, but it was one his Mom insisted was appropriate for company, which was why Rick had chosen it for tonight.
Rick opened the door to find a very naked Eric standing in the hall. He was talking with Pam and when Rick made a startled sound, the Viking looked at him with that up-lifted eyebrow that made Rick feel like a two-year-old. Rick wasn’t quite sure what to do. Eric didn’t look uncomfortable in the least. He was standing tall, his arms crossed, and balanced back on his heels. Eric was saying, “I’ll consider it,” and Rick had the impression they were discussing him.
“He’s embarrassed!” Pam drawled, which was all Rick needed for his blush to burn through him.
“By what?” and Eric looked puzzled, then annoyed. “You must learn not to be so human!” he hissed at Rick, then made a motion, indicating that Rick should step out of the bathroom door so Eric could pass.
“Sorry,” Rick stammered, but he was having a hard time knowing where to put his eyes. If he looked down, all he could see were Eric’s parts. If he looked up, he was looking at a broad, muscled chest that really did look like it came from another age. He could hear Eric huff, but then the door was pulled closed, and the water started to run again.
“So,” Pam walked a little closer. She’d changed her shirt, but there was still dried blood in her hair. “You really think your Mom is going to be okay with being turned?”
Rick shrugged, then nodded, “Sure. I even asked her about it once. She said when she was here before she wasn’t so sure, but she changed her mind once I came along.”
“You’re all right!” Pam smiled. She glanced at the bathroom door, then leaned past Rick to pull it completely closed. “Come on, let’s head downstairs. I brought you a hamburger from one of those fast food places you humans seem to like.”
“I don’t, generally,” Rick told her as they walked downstairs. “Grilled chicken works for me. Or salad.” When Pam threw him a look, he said, “Hey, we’re related! I thought you’d want to know!”
Pam walked through to the front hall. Thalia was standing beside Rubio. Rick was surprised Mr. Hermosa was still here. Thalia walked in back of the chair that was still sitting in the hallway and put her hands on the back of it, telling him without words she expected him to sit down. As he did, Pam handed him a bag with a familiar logo on it. Even though Rick could tell the food was cold, his stomach growled, so he grabbed a couple French fries. “You mind if I eat?” he asked.
“It’s fine,” Rubio told him.
“I am grateful,” Pam told him. “Whatever you told Eric, it calmed him down.”
“What?” Rick kept looking from one vampire to the other. “About my Mom? I guess she had a weird reputation when it came to vampires when she lived here before.” He looked down at the floor as he said, “Mustapha told me that, that she really wasn’t great when it came down to it.” Rick looked at Rubio as he said, “But she’s okay with it now. She helped me get set up to drink blood. She tells me stuff about vampires.” Rick glanced at the stairs, “She told me a bunch of stories about…well, you know…about Eric,” and Rick felt his cheeks pink up. Thalia laughed and Rick smiled in spite of himself. “Look, my Mom told me how lucky I am to be this way, and how I’ll be getting all kinds of special gifts and we talk about stuff. She even told me she wished she could see in the dark like me. I’m not saying it won’t be weird for her, but I don’t think she’s going to freak out about it, either.”
“So, we will find out how far along she is,” Pam turned to Thalia, suddenly all business. “She will complete her transformation in New Orleans. Eric is committed to moving her there.”
“It would be better if he just left her in the ground here,” Thalia growled. “If he’s worried about her being alone, he could just as easily join her. Moving her is foolish and inconvenient for everyone!”
“You tell him that!” Pam snorted. “Nothing is too good for the Princess!”
“What’s the big deal?” Rick asked, and as soon as he did, the vampires went silent around him. After a minute, Rick turned to Mr. Hermosa, who at least looked embarrassed, “What?” Rick huffed. “You, too?”
“This is something that would be best coming from your Father, Rick,” Mr. Hermosa told him.
“Well, that’s great!” Rick exclaimed, “Because Eric,” and he emphasized his use of his Father’s name, “doesn’t tell me anything!”
“Perhaps that should change,” said the deep voice behind him, and Rick knew that the Viking was standing just behind his chair.
Rick swallowed, but then he squared his shoulders, turned, and faced the vampire. He jutted his chin forward and, in that moment, it was perfectly clear to everyone that the two were closely related. “Yeah,” Rick said with more confidence than he felt, “it should!”
“Come with me,” Eric told him, and then turned and walked outside without waiting.
“He’s got to stick around,” Pam sighed. “We are going to have all kinds of fun watching Eric figure this one out!”
Eric walked across the porch and then down into the yard. He walked until he was on the other side of the large tree that marked the halfway point between the house and the cemetery. A coffin was sitting at the fence. It was where Eric had placed his Sookie while her boy showered in Compton’s house. Once the coffin was secured, Eric planned to climb into the coffin so they could complete their journey together. He would wrap himself around her, cushioning her, letting her know through his presence that she was cherished and safe.
He glanced over his shoulder to see Sookie’s son following him. ‘Our son,’ he reminded himself.
His eyes rested back on the coffin. He was certain he knew how Sookie had been turned, and he wished it did not remind him of his own. His turning was so long ago, but still Eric remembered.
His Maker, Appius, had thrown him into a hole he made Eric dig, but only after days of torment. Appius told Eric that he was being transformed into a higher form of life, one that would feed on those around him. Because of this, Eric was told he owed Appius a great debt, and his Maker intended to collect in many ways. It was the first time Eric had ever been used by a man, and the pain had been memorable. However, it was nothing compared to the pain Eric felt when Appius used his knife to carve out the Viking’s battle scars and the clan markings from his body. While his Maker used his glamour to subdue Eric, he did nothing to mask the pain he inflicted. Eric came to understand over the years he was held by his Maker that Appius enjoyed hurting others, a true sadist. Appius whispered to Eric as he drew his knife through the Viking’s flesh that he was making him ‘perfect.’ Only after Eric’s skin began to heal, aided by his Maker’s blood, did Appius drain him.
Eric remembered his slow awakening in the cold ground, the twilight that was bad dreams and fear. He remembered feeling alone, and yet relieved to be so. He remembered his anger, and then the great weight of his despair until Appius used his Maker’s command to force Eric’s compliance.
When he first dug her from the ground and saw her pale face and hair, he considered ending her, and then waiting beside her for the sun to take him, too. When Eric lifted Sookie from the ground, he noticed the scars on her belly were gone. It made him look closer. The scars on her legs from her time with the fairies were gone, too. His stomach churned and he wished Bill Compton was still with him, so he could pound him into a boneless rag doll all over again.
Without the power of a Maker’s command, he knew that his Sookie would be disoriented when she rose and realized what she’d become. She had told him so many times in the past that she never wanted to be made a vampire. She told him she needed the sun, and Eric was sure that without a way to compel her, his Sookie would find a way to end what she would have to consider a hateful existence. It would be like his own rising when he yearned for his final death every minute he was awake.
As he brushed his fingers across her still face, Eric also knew that having found her, he wouldn’t be able to lose her again. It seemed fitting, somehow, that if they couldn’t find peace together in this life, that they would be united in final death. He thought about carrying her to her house and stretching out on the bed they had once shared, holding her as the sun came for them.
But he couldn’t bring himself to end her. Eric knew there would be that moment when she would open her eyes, and he could speak with her one more time. It was weak and selfish, but he wished it and it stayed his hand.
It was then that Thalia appeared, standing at the edge of the grave above him. “Stop it!” she hissed. “You are forcing Pam to live through your grief. She has done nothing to deserve it.”
Eric brushed the dirt from his Sookie’s still face as he closed down the bond between his child and himself. “I will apologize,” he told Thalia.
“What do you intend to do? You are King now! There are many who depend on you,” and Thalia crossed her arms, making her disdain clear. Eric was certain Thalia had guessed his intent and she was using her words to remind him of his duties. It worked.
“I’ve asked Pam for a coffin and transport,” Eric conceded. “I will take Sookie to New Orleans. There is a large tub there. I will care for her until she rises, and I have made my arrangements.”
“Arrangements?” Thalia persisted. “She may have the privilege of being selfish,” and Thalia jerked her chin at Sookie, “but you do not! What about your progeny? What about her son? Your son? What do you intend to do with him? Would you leave him alone with no Mother or Father?”
“I can’t lose her again,” Eric whispered. It wasn’t a good answer and he knew it, but he felt powerless in this thing. He could tell by Sookie’s smell that she had been drained only last night. It meant that while he wandered, Bill Compton had stolen the warmth from her. Eric felt his failure choking him. Always a step too late. Always missing her by so little.
“You need to speak with the boy,” Thalia persisted. “Pamela is leaving. She needs to get some distance from you before you harm her.”
“I have been selfish,” Eric nodded.
“Far be it for me to correct you, but you have done what you could here. Now, go speak with the boy, your boy, and help him prepare.” Eric nodded. Thalia could be harsh, but he knew her words sprang from her love of him.
Eric thought about lifting his Sookie from the ground but, without a coffin, he couldn’t be certain she would remain intact. He stared at her face. She looked dead, but that was as it should be. Even now, more dead than vampire, Eric could feel the faint vibration that flowed through her. She was turning and in three nights, she would rise.
Eric lifted himself from the grave and returned to Compton’s house. As he walked up the broad porch stairs, he saw the second transport with a coffin large enough to hold both of them arriving from Shreveport. The attendants jumped from the truck and then opened the back doors. They pulled the coffin out on its wheeled base.
“Take it there,” Eric indicated the fence that separated Compton’s property from the wood line. He would place his Lover into their coffin under the cover of trees, not in the house where Compton had stolen her.
When the coffin was where he wanted it, Eric walked into Bill Compton’s house again. He found Rubio still resting in the hallway. “You need to speak with your son,” his friend told him. There was something in the way Rubio said ‘son’ that sounded like an accusation, but Eric couldn’t concern himself with demanding respect. He followed Rubio’s direction to the kitchen and there he found Amy Ludwig and Rick. The boy was crying. Eric could smell it and then, in a move that was unexpected, the boy flung his arms around him.
Eric wasn’t surprised when the boy asked if his mother would be all right, but he stunned Eric with what he said next. It hadn’t occurred to Eric that Sookie’s attitude about becoming a vampire might have changed, but with each word Rick said, Eric realized that her boy believed it.
The boy pointed out that he was a vampire and his Mother couldn’t object to being like her own son. It was hearing Rick’s words that made Eric realize there wasn’t any world in which his Sookie would reject her own child. It just wasn’t possible, and that possibility opened the door for other possibilities. For instance, his Sookie might embrace being a vampire, she might decide that forever with him and her child was an acceptable future, and that thought brought hope to Eric in a way he hadn’t dared to dream.
Eric took the boy upstairs and found him clothes. The prospect of the trip to New Orleans felt different now. Eric rushed back to the cemetery. He jumped into the grave where his Sookie gleamed in the moonlight, and he lifted her gently in his arms. Cradling her against him, he flew her the short distance to where the coffin waited. The lid was open and he arranged her, taking care to brush the dirt from her eyes and lips. He lifted her hair from her face and pulled a single strand over her shoulder to lay on her breast. “Soon,” he whispered and he kissed her still lips.
For the first time, Eric considered the possibility that Sookie might open her eyes and take his hand. He felt hope that she might wish to join him in this world as their forever. Suddenly, Eric could see an existence where Sookie stood at his side and their son and his daughters stood with them.
‘My son,’ the phrase ran through his head and he felt the kind of tightening in his chest he’d only felt before when Sookie smiled at him. Eric headed back to the house and when the boy headed downstairs, Eric showered. He would be clean when he went to her. He would smell like himself and not Bill Compton as they started their lives together.
It was with a light heart that Eric walked down the stairs and into the hallway, which was why his son calling him out and accusing him of not communicating stung. “Come with me,” he ordered the boy.
Eric could see Rick was embarrassed at having been caught out. His face was ruddy and he hung his head. Once they were outside, Eric crossed his arms and looked down at Rick. “I warned you before about being disrespectful to me in front of others,” Eric told him.
“So, what? Are you planning on punishing me? For what? For wanting to know what’s going on? For wanting to know the plan? She’s my Mom!” he said and then, in a voice that broke, he added, “She’s all I’ve got.”
“No,” Eric told him, and then he paused, surprised at what he had been about to say and how much he meant the words. Eric leaned toward Rick and laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “No, she is not all you have. You have me, now. I have claimed you.” He waited until Rick looked at him before tightening his grasp a little and saying, “You are my son. You are Sookie’s son. You have us both.”
Eric could tell that Rick didn’t accept his words. Perhaps he couldn’t. Looking around, Eric motioned them toward a stone wall. He lowered himself and indicated that Rick should also sit. “You have questions,” he told the boy. “I will try to answer them.”