Chapter 9: Chasing Threads
One good thing about only me and Lafayette hearing exactly what Godric had said – I had been able to shoot Lafayette a cautioning look when Sam started to ask what the fuck had just happened. By the time Alcide had wandered back into the bar, wondering what was taking me so long, I had kept the explanation short and to the point. Eric’s maker had a message for Eric, and Godric had suggested that as a witch, Jesus could help me answer a question about a related magical issue. I didn’t say it outright, but my attitude suggested this was really all Eric’s business and the less either Sam or Alcide knew about it, the better for them.
Maybe in different circumstances, Alcide might have pressed more on the subject, but I could tell from the thoughts that were practically blasting from his head that he and Debbie had argued some more in the parking lot. His head was all tangled up with frustration about his own problems, not mine, much less Eric’s.
Starting my car and driving off into the quiet Halloween night towards home, Alcide following my car in his truck, I was more aware of the nagging, insistent tug of my connection with Eric. He was still to my southeast, far in the distance, and he was a knot of tension and apprehension, with an undercurrent of constant worry for me. Every now and again, I’d feel a little jolt of heightened anxiety followed by a cautious sense of relief, like someone picking their way carefully through a minefield and so far avoiding being blown to bits.
As I zoomed along the dark country roads towards my house, I thought about what Godric had said. Something was going on with the vampires. Maybe that was why Eric was so tense? Or was he always like this in dealing with the Powers That Be in the vampire world? Or is it because of me? I thought guiltily. Maybe before he’d gotten tangled up with me, his relationship with the Vampire Authority hadn’t been all that complicated.
Whatever was happening with the vampires, Godric seemed to think that this bond between Eric and me would not only help us fight it, but was important to more than just the two of us. Ever since I realized how strong the bond was, all I’d been thinking about was how unprepared I was to be so closely bound to another person and how frightening some of the side effects were – not because anything had actually hurt me, I realized, but because the new sensations were just so darned powerful. It was overwhelming to have all of those new feelings and abilities so unexpectedly pulsing through me. But if Godric was telling me the truth – and I couldn’t think of a reason why his ghost would lie to me – then the power that had been unleashed by the bond was in both Eric’s and my hands, if we could learn to control it.
I couldn’t even imagine how Eric and I could ‘change everything’ for both vampires and ‘my’ kind, which seemed in Godric’s mind to be more my fae relatives than my human ones, but he’d been pretty clear that he believed in the power of our bond to do that. And what did he mean about me and Eric now ‘sharing our gifts’ with each other? If I could already feel Pam’s emotions – at least a little bit – and could see Godric’s ghost, did that mean Eric was going to start reading human minds and was I going to be able to fly through the air when the bond was ‘completed’? Whatever in the frilly heck that meant.
One thing I did know: if Godric felt compelled to come to me in spirit to pass on this information to Eric, it had to mean that Eric really hadn’t understood what he was triggering by exchanging blood with me. Maybe what he had told me before he left for the Vampire Authority – that he had only wanted to give me a way to know what he really felt so I would learn to trust him – was really true. He hadn’t known the full effects of what the bond would do to us.
Heck, maybe nobody did. Had a vampire and a fae-human hybrid ever bonded like this before? Even though Eric had shown complete self-restraint the few times he had drunk from me, he himself had told me that my blood was alluring to vampires. I somehow doubted there had been very many vampire/fae couples throughout history to start with, since the whole getting-drained-by-your-lover thing had to put a crimp on a relationship.
No, Eric and I seemed to be in new territory as far as vampire/fae-human relations were concerned, and apparently, he was only slightly less ignorant of what to expect than I was.
So, how were we going to figure out how the bond worked? I had thought that by sending him away, somehow the bond was going to go away with him, but obviously that was not the case. No, instead I was left blindly having all the feelings and experiences of the bond without any context to put them in, which just made it that much more confusing. Now that I understood that, it made more sense to me that I should try to spend more time with Eric so I could put together what I could see happening with what I was feeling.
As soon as he was back from the Authority, maybe we could start over with the whole ‘getting to know you’ thing.
Unless it was already too late. I hadn’t felt any more mixed sensations of love and lust for someone not me coming from Eric, but I hadn’t forgotten about them. Who was there in the Authority with him that provoked those feelings? What if something else happened between them before he came home? While I kept feeling Eric was worried for me, wanting me to be safe and still wanting us to be emotionally bonded were two different things. Maybe by the time he came home, he would be the one chafing at our connection, especially if it was keeping him from someone else he cared about. My heart skipped a beat at the thought I may have pushed him away too harshly with my anger and that he may have his own regrets about our relationship.
Zing! I gasped as I felt a sudden, sharp emotional pang in my heart, as if I had just unexpectedly plummeted from the top of a roller coaster. I instinctively raised my foot from the gas pedal, shaken by the way my stomach had dropped, only to quickly level again.
Eric. Something had just caused him sharp and sudden emotional pain. It wasn’t huge – I didn’t get the sense he’d had a big shock or anything – but something had definitely gotten through his control and pricked at his heart.
I carefully increased the pressure on the gas again as I reached out through the bond, gingerly probing. The stinging, painful feeling lasted only a few more seconds before I felt Eric sense my concern and respond by damping down his feelings. Where a moment before there had been a red-hot flash of hurt, now there was only a faint throb that grew more flat and muffled by the moment, until I felt nothing but a faint numbness.
He was shutting me out – and I didn’t like the way it felt.
Maybe it was because I had just been thinking about how he might be starting to regret our connection, but instead of embracing his withdrawal, I wanted nothing more than to chase the thread of that pain back to Eric and figure out what I could do to take it away. That was what people who cared about each other – who loved each other – did, right? They tried to face things together and help each other cope with the hurts of life. Suddenly I felt impatient to do what I felt I needed to, an almost primal urge to be there for him whether he wanted me there or not.
A sudden flash of lights in my rear view mirror startled me and I realized that, from behind me, the horn of Alcide’s truck was blaring in rapid-fire honks as his headlights flashed on and off. Frowning and still disoriented by my focus on Eric, I pulled over to the side of the road to regain my composure. Alcide’s truck stopped behind me and before I knew it, he was out and jogging towards me.
“Alcide, what the hell?” I called as I rolled my car window down. “Why are you flashing your lights and honking at me like a maniac? Is something wrong?”
Alcide was huffing as he skidded to a stop beside the car and grabbed the edge of the car’s roof to lean in towards my open window. “Why don’t you tell me, Sook? Where the fuck are you going?” he growled. “You sailed right past the end of Hummingbird Road a couple of miles back and were picking up speed like you were hell bent on getting out of town. We’re headed straight for I-10 and if you’re planning on going somewhere other than Bon Temps tonight, I would appreciate you telling me so.”
Shocked, I looked around and sure enough, Alcide was right; I had started heading out of town, automatically going towards the highway that would take me south.
Now that I had stopped, I could feel the magnetic pull inside me urging me to get back on the road, to keep going in the direction I knew Eric was. To go to him.
Looking up at Alcide’s frustrated face, I stuttered out, “I’m sorry, Alcide. I was –” Trying to follow the trail to Eric. I gripped the steering wheel tighter, fighting the desire to pull back out onto the road and take off again. “—I was distracted. And geez, you couldn’t have called me on my cell phone instead of honking and flashing your lights at me?”
“I turned my phone off before we left the bar,” he gritted. Thanks to Debbie and their fight, I could tell from his head. “And you were speeding up, so I didn’t want to be scrambling to turn it on while trying to keep up with your lead foot. Seriously, Sookie, where in the hell did you think you were going?” Alcide was frowning at me in consternation.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. At least, I didn’t know what city or town, even if I knew the direction. Which reminded me, I still wanted to see if I could figure out where Eric was, based on when I had felt him rise earlier in the evening. Even though I knew I only needed to follow my gut and I’d find him, that might not always be practical. Like right now, when my head knew I should stay put for my own safety, even if my heart was tugging at me. “I’ll get us turned around and we can head back to the house. I’m sorry,” I said, contrite.
“I’ll follow you back,” Alcide answered, straightening and running one big hand through his dark hair. He didn’t say it out loud, but I heard it in his head, clear as a bell, that he was glad he hadn’t lost me in his own distraction after the fight with Debbie because he was pretty sure Eric would not have been pleased.
“I promise I’ll stay put in the house the rest of the night,” I blurted out, as much to remind myself that that was the smartest thing to do as to reassure him he wouldn’t have to chase me anywhere else.
My hand shook as I restarted my car. If Eric and I did start to spend time with each other to figure out the bond, what in the hell were we going to do about the more problematic things we already knew about, like the foggy feeling when we touched or this intense desire to follow him, even into danger? How would we learn anything if we were all stoned on each other’s presence? Heck, how would we do anything in that state? I still had a job to show up for and Eric had a business to run. I didn’t think calling off work (if I even remembered to) because I was feeling all crazy in love with a vampire would satisfy Sam, much less pay for groceries.
Thinking about how I had been rocketing down the road towards Eric without even being conscious of it, I realized that my talk with Jesus about any help he could offer with the bond needed to be sooner rather than later. If Eric and I were simply left to our own devices, who knows what might happen? No, we needed outside help on this.
When we got back to my house, Alcide made a point of checking the property both inside and out (and finding nothing, which I could have told him by the lack of either human or vampire minds in the area) before we settled in for the night. After what happened out on the road, I thought guiltily that it was probably as important for him to keep me in the house as to keep anyone dangerous to me out, so when he asked for bedding for the couch, I didn’t argue. He said he thought he would hear more from the living room than in the guest room if anything happened, and I silently hoped that would include any noise I might make if I suddenly got a middle-of-the-night urge to go to Eric again. At least with Alcide in the house, I might have a chance of waking up before getting too far down the driveway in my nightgown.
Once Alcide was settled (although the couch was not quite long enough for his giant frame), I wished him a good night and wandered up to my own bed. As I slid in between the cool sheets, I felt for Eric again. He didn’t seem to be actively trying to keep me out any more (which was some consolation) but he did seem focused and resolute, with just the tiniest hints of anticipated relief, as if the end of whatever trial he was being put to was almost in sight. After the way he had emotionally evaded me earlier, I felt a little shy about being too intrusive, but it didn’t stop me from sending him a low-key but firm conviction in his strength to carry him through.
As I closed my eyes and pressed my cheek to my pillow, I reluctantly wondered what was going on with Tara. I had such mixed feelings about my oldest friend that I had barely let myself think about what she had to be experiencing in the hands of the vampires. I couldn’t justify her actions with that crazy group of hate-filled witches, especially the way she had tried to use Eric to hurt people. People had died because of what she did, not just Nan Flanagan and that other vampire Sheriff, but some completely innocent humans, too, and I felt that was wrong. But at the same time, I was pretty sure that by killing Miss Flanagan she had saved me from being taken to vampire headquarters myself.
I guess it didn’t make me the best of Christians, but while I did feel bad about Nan Flanagan having died, my regret wasn’t so strong that I would have given up my freedom in exchange for it. No, I was glad I wasn’t with the vampires, and I did have Tara to thank for that, no matter what else she had done. But even with Eric having promised to try to do something for her if he saw an opportunity, I knew that the chances of her surviving a vampire trial were slim. About the only thing I could hope for her at this point was that the vampires would not be completely brutal in their punishment of her.
So, as I fell asleep, I did the only thing I knew to do for my childhood friend: I prayed to God for the vampires to show her some mercy.
I woke up to the smell of coffee and pancakes the next morning. I groggily rolled under my blankets as the scents drifted into my bedroom from downstairs and I blinked at my clock, which showed it was well after 10 a.m. As tired as I had been the night before, it had taken awhile for me to drift off to sleep because my mind kept jumping from one thing to another. And when I finally had slept, I’d had strange dreams. I couldn’t remember many details, but I felt as if one had involved blood, and in another, I’d been sleeping buried in the dirt like a vampire. That one had seemed especially weird when I finally woke up, because I remembered feeling surprisingly comfortable with the soil nestled around me, like I was tucked under a particularly cozy quilt on a cold winter’s morning and had been reluctant to crawl out of my snug (earthen) bed.
As the sensations of my dreams drifted away, I automatically felt for Eric. He was obviously in his day sleep, which today seemed somehow heavier and deeper than I remembered it. I probed the bond cautiously just as I had the previous day, but this time, there was no answering response to my gentle nudging. Eric seemed to be out cold (so to speak). It was not a bad feeling, necessarily, but noticeably different from the day before. Hopeful that it meant he was getting some much-needed rest, I gently withdrew and rolled my own sluggish self out of my blankets.
Alcide had made himself at home in my kitchen and stood sipping coffee from one of my grandma’s favorite cups, pancakes browning on the stove. “Morning, Sook,” he rumbled. “I checked on you earlier and you were dead to the world. I wondered if my cooking might lure you out of bed.”
“I don’t normally sleep this late,” I admitted. “Even hanging out with vampires as much as I do, I still like my sunshine, and mornings are the best.” I yawned. “I do feel more tired than usual this morning, though. Maybe this week is just finally catching up with me.”
Alcide grunted and flipped a pancake over in the pan before offering me coffee. As he finished fixing breakfast, we had the usual sort of morning talk about how the two of us had slept (both restlessly, me because of my dreams and him because of the inadequate size of my couch) and plans for the day. I told him I needed to talk to Lafayette and Jesus about some magic stuff and he squinted at me over a forkful of pancake. “This to do with that message for Eric?” he finally asked. “I would think both you and him would have had enough of witches after what happened to him with that coven in Shreveport. Nothing personal against Jesus and Lafayette, but I think all y’all would want to stay the hell away from magic after all that.”
I sighed, my hands curled around the heat of my coffee cup. “Alcide, I’m from Bon Temps. Seems to me that we don’t have to go looking for magic here – it comes looking for us, whether we want it to or not.” I took a sip of my hot coffee. “I can’t blame people who want to know how to handle it when it comes callin’. And in this case, that knowledge might help Eric.” And me.
Alcide shrugged in a begrudging agreement and then cut another piece of pancake with his fork. “Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but the less I know about Eric Northman’s business, magical or otherwise, the better, so I’ll try to make myself scarce while your Wicca friends are here. I’ll still be around, but I’ll hang out on the porch or something.”
“Deal,” I murmured, taking a big bite of fluffy pancake. “And speaking of magic, mister, what did you do to these pancakes? These are almost as good as my gran’s – almost.”
Alcide grunted. “It’s the melted butter in the batter. Makes ‘em fluffy as hell. Trick my father showed me once.” Then we talked about the various merits of pancakes versus ho cakes.
And for the little bit of time that passed while Alcide and I ate breakfast and talked about simple things, I forgot all about vampire politics and whatever was going on with Eric to my southeast and just enjoyed the sunshine and coffee.
When Lafayette and Jesus came over by the mid-afternoon, Alcide made good on his promise to go outside for a bit (and try to call Debbie, I heard from his head). I started to lead the way to the cupboard that hid the entrance to Eric’s cubby but stopped when I noticed Lafayette and Jesus hanging back, a chorus of thoughts breaking out as they shot significant looks at one another.
“Ask me what?” I asked. I stopped and crossed my arms. “I can hear you both thinking about whether Lafayette should ask me something, so you might as well spit it out.”
“Sook,” Lafayette began, “You took the mystical mojo off of Tara’s mind that time Maryann fucked up her head with her black-eyed juju. Do you think you might be able to break a vampire glamour the same way?”
“Why do you want to know?” I asked cautiously, glancing at Jesus. Both men had been glamoured by vampires after the tolerance rally, but from what Jesus had said last night, it hadn’t worked on him for reasons I still didn’t understand. Last I knew, Jesus hadn’t yet fessed up to his boyfriend that he remembered what really happened at that rally, mostly because he didn’t know how to tell Lafayette about the deep trouble Tara was in without freaking the cook out.
You would have thought Jesus was the mind reader instead of me, as quick as he responded to my look his way. “I told him what’s going on with Tara after we went home last night,” he explained. “I couldn’t stand the thought that she might show up when he didn’t expect her to.” Show up as a ghost if the vampires executed her, I knew he meant.
“Not that it would surprise me all that much if that girl showed up as a ghost at some point, but that the fucking AVL has her was a kinda big secret to be keeping from me. And we ain’t gonna keep those kinda big secrets from each other anymore, now, is we, lover?” Lafayette murmured to his boyfriend with a sidelong glance.
Jesus looked chastised and squeezed Lafayette’s hand with his own. “No, baby, you’re right. We shouldn’t be keeping stuff from each other. Even if we think it is protecting the other person.”
The two men had obviously had quite a long talk at some point during the night to clear the air between them after what happened at the bar. But isn’t that what couples did? Try to share things and work out problems together?
Yeah, Eric and I definitely needed to have a talk when he got back. If he was still willing, that is.
“I know we couldn’t a walked out of that hotel without the vamps clearing our heads,” Lafayette continued, “but I think I’d rather know what I’m dealing with now. ‘Specially if some spirits gonna keep comin’ round, like your vampire friend.” Lafayette looked at me. “Jesus says I made his acquaintance the other night at that rally but the glamour wiped all that out. So what you say, Sook, you willing to try to undo that vampire whammy on me?”
“If you’re sure, Lafayette. I’m willing to try,” I responded. I led my two friends to the seating area of the living room, and made myself comfortable on the couch with Lafayette, my hands gently placed on either side of his head.
Maybe my light powers were getting stronger or the bond with Eric had boosted my ability to undo what vampires did, but it didn’t take me very long at all to clear away all the cobwebs and fog of the glamour Bill had placed on Lafayette. Not that it helped too much with memories about the medium’s possession by Jesus’s Uncle Tio or Godric in the hotel ballroom – I could tell that those details were still hazy at best.
“Fuck!” Lafayette burst out as the memories of Tara’s actions at the Dorchester Hotel came back to him. “Jesus fucking Christ, girl, what the hell was you thinking?” I knew that was not directed at me, but at his memory of Tara. He had begun to tremble and I could hear in his unsteady breathing how shaken he was to have the memories back.
“Sorry, Lala, I think that is the best I’m going to do,” I finally said, dropping my hands from his head to rest reassuringly on his knees.
“Damn, damn, damn,” Lala groaned. “The vamps kept me for two weeks just for dealing V, and I swear Eric would have put me down for it if it wasn’t for you stepping in, Sookie,” he said. “There ain’t no way Tara’s getting out of that situation alive after killing high-up vamps.” His dark faced had turned ashen with distress.
“Two weeks? I thought you said Eric Northman only had you for three days,” Jesus burst out just as I blurted, “You were dealing V? From where? Oh my God, Lafayette, tell me you weren’t a drainer!” My fingers clutched at the cook’s knees involuntarily and I felt him jerk in response. In Jesus’s mind, I could hear the witch was as stunned as I was, although he had known his boyfriend was involved in V trafficking. How Lafayette had gotten his hands on the V was something Jesus apparently hadn’t previously thought too deeply about.
Lafayette shifted and I lifted my hands from his legs, suddenly conscious of how my fingers had pinched him in my upset. “I had this vampire friend, Eddie, who used to share a couple of vials of his blood with me whenever I’d, uh, visit,” he confessed, and in his mind, I saw the memory of a doughy, middle-aged vampire who looked as if he might have been an accountant in his human life. “I never would have hurt Eddie,” Lafayette insisted. “And what we had was a mutual, err, exchange thing. But when he disappeared, I guess Eric found out about our little arrangement and thought I might be the cause of it. But it wasn’t me that took him.”
Clear as could be, I saw my brother’s face pop into Lafayette’s head.
“What does Jason have to do with this Eddie?” I demanded, my heart suddenly tripping with anxiety.
Lafayette hesitated but then said, “Sook, I never hads no proof or nothin’, but I think your brother might have been the one who took Eddie outta his house. Back when he was hangin’ with that crazy Amy girl and all that was going on.” Amy being murdered, I knew he meant. “And I gots my reasons to believe Eddie is definitely among the truly dead undead now.” Lafayette looked unhappy.
“That can’t be right,” I said, numb. “I mean, I know Jason had used V back then and was getting into some nasty stuff –” Like stealing my gran’s candlesticks to buy drugs. “— but you can’t be saying he drained this Eddie guy?”
Lafayette shook his head. “Sook, I honest to God just don’t know. I just know that Eddie got snatched from his house and I found some evidence in the hallway that made it look like your dickhead brother was involved. I just know Jason’s lucky Eric Northman didn’t snatch him and throw his ass in that shithole vampire dungeon when all that was goin’ down.”
I felt sick. I had been outraged when I found out Eric had my friend in his basement, but if Eric had suspected Lafayette of being a drainer – well, it was a surprise that Eric had kept him alive as long as he did. And my brother, if he actually had taken that vamp, maybe even drained him –
I shuddered. I had always thought drainers were monsters, and my encounter with the Rattrays had proved it, so it was hard to get my head around the idea that we could be talking about my own brother doing something so terrible.
Eric couldn’t have known or Jason would be dead, I was certain. And, honestly, if it had been some drainer I didn’t know who had killed this Eddie, I’m not so sure I would have disagreed with Eric’s decision to punish the drainer on principle. He was a Sheriff, after all.
“So Eric doesn’t know Jason might have been involved?” I croaked.
Lafayette’s sigh was heavy. “Sook, no point in lyin’ to you since you gonna see it in my head anyhow.” He shook his head. “Once I knew that Eric n’ them thought that I had been the one what took Eddie, I told them I thought Jason was involved. Eric kind of brushed it off, though, cuz he was more interested at that point in knowing if I knew about any vampires missing in Dallas or really old vamp blood hitting the market.”
“When Godric went missing,” I guessed. “So Eric knew Jason might be involved with draining before he went to Dallas?” Jesus H, Eric might even have wondered early on if Jason was involved in taking Godric to the Fellowship of the Sun.
My brother was lucky that the first time Eric laid eyes on him in that church, he was carrying a paint ball gun and shooting at the right people, I realized.
“Anyhow, I figured that Eric and Jason must’ve squared things between them while y’all was down in Texas because your brother still alive,” Lafayette said, raising his eyebrows.
“Jason helped rescue Godric,” I answered. “Eric would forgive a lot for that.” And obviously had, if Jason really had drained a vampire and Eric knew it yet looked the other way.
“And I guess he’d forgive a lot for your sake now, too, Sook,” Lafayette said. “I wonder if Eric been able to help Tara at all like he said?” I could hear the sliver of hope in his voice.
“I believed him when he said he’d try,” I replied. “Although, honestly, I don’t know how much power he really has to help. The whole time Eric’s been at that vampire headquarters, I’ve been able to feel what he’s feeling, which is a whole lot of tension and anxiety. I don’t think he’s felt truly relaxed for a single moment he’s been there. But I can’t tell from the feelings what that all means for Tara.”
“Well, I guess if they kill her, we’ll find out soon enough,” Lafayette said, his voice desolate. “But at least she ain’t showed up here yet.”
From beside his boyfriend, Jesus frowned at me. “Wait, did you say could feel Eric Northman’s feelings? Is that part of what you wanted to talk to us about?”
Despite the two male witches having helped me rescue Eric at the rally, I hadn’t filled them in on what had happened between Eric and me before he’d been taken. I had approached Bill for help in rescuing Eric before I’d turned to them, and Bill’s reaction to the bond, once I had explained how I had been able to locate the missing Eric, made me feel like it wasn’t something I was going to explain to anyone else until I had to.
I just didn’t need the aggravation.
“It’s part of it, yes,” I began. “While Eric was in my house, we exchanged blood and he says it formed some kind of magical bond between us. I’m not even sure how we did it, but we can feel each other’s feelings, and I can tell where he is all the time – at least, what direction he is in.”
“You mean like when a vampire has a human’s blood?” Jesus asked. “Only you’re feeling it from a vampire?”
I nodded. “And that message Godric passed on through Lafayette last night? It was about how important this bond between me and Eric is and how we needed to find out all we could about it.”
Jesus looked in surprise at Lafayette, who shrugged and said, “The details wasn’t my secret to share, lover, so I didn’t saying nothing about it last night. Other people’s stuff that ain’t really our business don’t count in our secret-sharing agreement far as I’m concerned. You okay with that?”
“No problem,” Jesus agreed, rubbing Lafayette’s knee.
I continued, “I don’t know much about the bond except what Eric told me and I’m beginning to get the idea that even he didn’t really know what we were getting into before we did it. Jesus, since you know so much about magic, I’m hoping you might be able to help me – well, both me and Eric – figure out more.”
Jesus replied, “Sookie, I don’t know too much about vampire magic, but if you tell me exactly how you think the bond was formed, maybe it I’ll have get some ideas about the magics involved.”
I went through what I remembered of the day of the sun spell: me offering Eric my blood to heal him from his silver wounds, him offering me his blood in return even though I was not injured, how he had said, “We will be one,” and the surreal experience after we had exchanged blood with one another. I didn’t go into much detail on the sexy parts, just that when we had touched, our senses had seemed somehow gotten all scrambled up with colors and feelings and sounds, like some kind of psychedelic acid trip.
“I just figured I was high on vampire blood and he was high on fairy blood,” I explained. “Jason once told me that when you did V with someone else, you could share experiences, so I figured that was what was going on. That maybe it was so powerful because Eric’s blood was so old.”
“I’ve had Eric Northman’s blood,” Lafayette volunteered. “And while it made me feel motherfuckin’ fantastic, it ain’t never took me to no magical snowy woods. Jesus and me have had a couple of adventures together in Vland and we did have a little of that mixed-up-senses thing – but it also ended after the V trip ended.” I caught a mental picture of a flash of a mask-like face in Lafayette’s head. “Mostly, that is.” Lafayette shifted uncomfortably. “Jesus says it probably is what opened up my ability as a medium, though. V brings out dah magic in you,” he ended in a singsong voice, waving his hand with a flourish.
“Well, it seems like magic that is going to get both me and Eric killed if we let it have its way,” I grumbled. “Any time we’re together, we both seem to get all foggy and lost in each other like we’re high all over again. I’m afraid that if we let it happen, something bad could be going on around us and we’d be oblivious.”
“But it isn’t a curse?” Jesus clarified. “Neither Eric or Godric talked about it that way, right?”
“No, Godric seemed to think the bond would be a good thing, not just for us but for ‘both our kinds.’” I used my fingers to make air quotes as I lowered my voice to imitate Godric’s solemn tone. “Once we complete it, anyhow.”
Jesus frowned. “So the magical action of the bond is not completed yet?” The witch pondered for a moment before demanding, “Tell me again exactly what was going on between you and Eric before the witches took him.”
“Well, Eric I were, errr, in bed, after having a shower and we had gone to sleep, feeling less spacey than earlier but still kind of out of it, I guess,” I answered.
I closed my eyes as I remembered how Eric had spooned his huge body against my back, one arm beneath my pillow and the other tucked securely around me, one huge hand pressed against my stomach. I felt a pang as I remembered how contented I had felt as he held me. “I fell into a really deep sleep that I think now must have been something Marnie did to me with magic, because I didn’t wake up until after Eric was gone.” My brows furrowed as I remembered what had followed. “I somehow just knew which direction Eric had gone in, so I threw some clothes on, jumped in my car and followed those feelings until I found him in that trailer. And when I figured out I couldn’t do anything to help him on my own, I went to look for help, first from Bill and then you two, like you know.”
“So, you were still feeling the effects of the magic when you went to bed, but Eric and you were separated when you woke up.” Jesus looked thoughtful. “And now, anytime you’re close together, you start going into some kind of altered state.” The witch tilted his head slightly. “Sookie, maybe it’s just the bond trying to finish forming. Do you have any idea how long it was supposed to take to complete the connection between you?”
“Noooo,” I answered, “but maybe there’s something in Eric’s books about it.” I explained about the collection of books Eric had in his cubby. “I did see a drawing in one of them that looked like it could have to do with our bond.”
Jesus stood up. “Well, then let’s go take a look.”
I led the two witches down into Eric’s cubby. Lafayette was the last to come down the ladder and I know from his thoughts that while he approved of Eric’s decorating sensibility (especially that faux fur throw on the bed), he was never going to be a fan of basements. Just being below ground like this made him twitchy.
“Lafayette, you sure you’re okay being down here?” I asked with concern. “If you want to wait upstairs while Jesus and I look through the books, you could do that.”
“Nah, I’ll go up if it gets to me,” Lafayette responded. “But if you don’t mind, I think I’d rather stay over here by the way out while you’re looking at those books.” He sank down to the floor near the ladder, and made himself comfortable against the wall.
Nothing like being reminded of Eric’s past by the lingering effects of my friend’s post-traumatic stress disorder. I tightened my lips. On the other hand, I had reason to think Eric really had changed since he had held Lafayette prisoner. “Lafayette, I know this can’t be easy for you and Jesus to help me out with this thing with Eric. But I appreciate your willingness to do it,” I said.
“I’d rather have your boyfriend on my side than against me,” Lafayette said frankly. “He made it clear that bygones was bygones after that rally, but I’d just as soon me and Jesus built up some more social capital with him while we can. And hope we never motherfuckin’ need it.”
“Fair enough,” I nodded. I gestured to the stack of books by Eric’s bed. “Jesus, Godric said you might not know the language, but that you should be able to understand some of the magical symbols.” I knelt down by the bedside table and rifled through the volumes until I found the one I had noticed earlier. “Here’s the one that I saw yesterday.” I handed the book to Jesus as he seated himself on the bed.
I leaned over and helped the witch flip through the pages until I finally spotted the drawing I had seen when tidying up the cubby. “See that one with the couple exchanging blood?” And other bodily fluids. “That looks kind of like what Eric and I did.” My cheeks flamed pink as I took in the erotic details of the sketch again. With the bond tugging persistently on me the last few days – and the way thinking of Eric at all plucked at the sensitive areas between my thighs – I was finding the picture increasingly arousing. I wanted to avert my eyes, but instead I found them lingering on the ecstatic expressions of the couple. I could almost picture the motion of their hips as they rocked against one another, drawing one another’s essences in through their mouths, through their –
“Oh, girl, I caught that blush. Do I want to see this artwork?” Lafayette rolled up onto his feet from his perch by the ladder as I flushed and finally looked away from the drawing. “Or is it nasty?” He approached cautiously until he could peer over Jesus’s shoulder. “Uh-huh, looks like one of them dreams you have after a vampire gives you his blood, alright.” He slid lightly onto the edge of the bed nearest the ladder as he leaned in for a closer look. “Gots to say, for all I’m not into doing vamps these days now that I gots my sweet baby Jesus, that sex looks hot, mmm-hmmmm.”
I licked my lips and tried to focus on the very important reason we were looking at vampire erotica. “You see that word there? Blóðfesta? That looks kind of like the word Eric has used to refer to our bond,” I said, tapping the word below the sketch with the tip of my finger.
Jesus was studying the picture intently. “Looks Scandinavian to me, but I couldn’t tell you which language. I’d guess the blóð part of the word might mean ‘blood,’ but I don’t have a clue about the festa part.” He peered closely at the tiny halo of three crescents that floated over the entwined couple, then touched a finger to one of the fulsome arcs and glanced up at me. “These little moon-like symbols look like an indicator of magical timing. Three of them indicates that the magic would require a time element of three … somethings.”
“Well, if they’re moons, could it mean three months?” Lafayette asked.
I had a mental picture of Eric and I intimately entangled, lost to the world around us, for three whole months. “Ah, geez, I hope not.” Not that I would object to having sex with Eric Northman that long, but, in a practical sense, if we were punch-drunk all that time, would that even be safe? “I mean, seems to me that being so distracted would be dangerous for that long,” I clarified, off Lafayette’s arch look.
Jesus frowned. “It does seem kind of a long time, I agree.” He thought for a moment. “Sookie, about how long was it between the time you and Eric exchanged blood and when he disappeared?”
“Gosh, maybe four or five hours, I guess?” I answered.
“And how many days ago was that?” Jesus asked.
I did the calculations in my head. “Well, the day of the sun spell, right around sunset, so that was, what, the 28th? So … four days ago?”
Jesus’s brow furrowed. “And you’re still feeling this compulsion to get to Eric?”
I nodded. “Like some kind of magic magnet, yup.”
The wheels were turning in the witch’s head. “Well, let’s say this is meant to represent three days – or nights, since we’re talking vampires,” Jesus said, tapping his finger on the three crescents. “If it meant three literal nights, I think the magic would have finalized by now. By last night’s sunset at the latest. But what if it’s not literal nights?” Jesus looked excited now. “What if’s meant to represent the amount of time that you and Eric have to be together before the bond is completed?”
“Huh? I’m still not following,” I said.
Lafayette’s eyes brightened. “Aw, baby, I think I get what you sayin’! Sook, it’s like cookin’…” Lafayette waved his hands while he explained. “Recipe calls for you to cook somethin’ for 45 minutes. You set your timer, you watch it cook, and hopefully, it be done when the timer go off. It actually takes 45 minutes.” The cook tilted his head. “But what if you gets interrupted and you have to turn off the stove and leave the pan? Say, it only gets 10 minutes cookin’ time before that happen.” Lafayette gestured emphatically. “Whenever you come back to it, you have to finish the cookin’ process. Could be ten minutes later, could be an hour, could be the next day. Don’t matter because that dish still need to get to that full cookin’ time before it’s done. It still going to take you 45 minutes of heat for you to finish cooking what’s in the pot before it done. Make sense?” Beside us, Jesus was nodding in agreement to the analogy.
I bit my lip. “Okay, so you’re saying that Eric and me are like a—a half-cooked pot of something?”
“Well, that would be the best possibility, yes,” Jesus cautioned. “It would mean that whatever the magical process is, it’s got about two and three-quarters days of you and Eric being together to do its work before it completes the bond. Long enough to get the magical job done, but hopefully short enough that you two aren’t put at risk while it’s happening. Heck of a lot better than three months, I think.”
“And what if we’re not together?” I asked. “Will the magic just quit? Will the bond break then?” I wasn’t entirely sure what answer I wanted to hear, but I did want to know exactly what the options were for Eric and me.
Jesus pondered. “I just don’t know, Sookie. It could be that the magic will eventually quit trying to complete itself after some time if you aren’t together to allow that, but if it’s already been more than three days and you’re still feeling the compelled to get as close to Eric as possible, I think it’s not that likely. My guess is that you will probably feel those desires until you allow the bond to finish manifesting. And if you do, it will just take those couple of days to do that.” Jesus shook his head. “I could be wrong, though. I’ll have to see if we can figure out more.”
“Well, we’ve got a freaking library to look in for answers,” I sighed. “Are you up for looking for more right now?”
Two hours (and a check on Alcide, who was chopping wood in a broody way outside) later, we had at least glanced at every book in Eric’s cubby. Lafayette had grown more relaxed as we sat pouring through the pages and had even tackled a couple of the books himself. Most of the volumes seemed to involve fairy lore, as I had noticed before, so I felt like we weren’t gaining any more info. Finally, Jesus picked up the original book again, looking one more time to see if he could have missed some helpful detail.
I had gotten slightly sidetracked onto a description of suspected fae abilities in one of the other books when Jesus made a noise. “You find something?” I asked.
“I may not read the language, but some of these other words still look familiar,” he said, gesturing at the page. “Frigg. Freya. Loki.” He looked up. “They’re from the Norse pantheon of gods and goddesses. I can’t make heads or tails of what it is saying about them, but given where they are in the text, it looks to me like this blóðfesta bond is connected with the Norse gods somehow.”
“Huh!” I exclaimed in surprise.
“Hey, didn’t Godric say that both you and Eric had to look to your roots to understand this thing?” Lafayette said. “I know he mostly said you had to seek out ‘your people,’ I guess meaning your fairy ancestors, but maybe there’s some part of Eric being a Viking that plays into this, too?”
“Could be,” I replied, slowly. “Although I still don’t get why fairies would know about vampire magic. And it’s going to be kind of tough to get information from ‘my people,’ given that my fairy relatives are all in another dimension I’ve got no interest in visiting again, thank you very much. Checking into Eric’s ancestry might be the best option we have.” I wrinkled my face up in consternation. “Although how do you figure something like that out with a 1,000-year-old vampire? It’s not like Ancestry.com has records going back that far.”
“At least it’s another trail to follow,” Jesus said. “Do you know when Eric is going to be back? I’m assuming he actually reads this language, whichever one it is. If you’re okay waiting until he gets back, maybe he can tell us more.”
“No idea,” I answered. “Although I’m hoping for tonight, as much for Alcide’s sake as anything. I don’t think Debbie is taking this little side job of his keeping an eye on me for Eric very well.”
“So long as the girl ain’t stupid enough to go complaining to Eric about it,” Lafayette muttered. “I don’t know that Eric would have much patience with that bitch, ‘specially if he knows she the one that helped trash your house while tryin’ to kill you before you went missin’ last year.”
Despite looking through the books for a while longer, we weren’t able to figure out anything more before Lafayette had to leave for work, so I waved the witches goodbye with a promise to let them know as soon as I heard anything about Tara.
Alcide came back into the house once they were on their way, his skin glowing with the effort of having worked in my yard. His mood seemed to have headed south since the morning, though, and I was surprised to find him harder to read than usual. I wondered if it might be a were thing, because it seemed like the more his emotions got worked up – and while I couldn’t actually feel his feelings, I could still tell he was cranky by his expression and body language – the more difficult it was to pick up actual thoughts. Everything just seemed all red and snarly inside.
“Alcide, you have any preference for dinner tonight?” I asked about an hour before sundown. When he grumbled some vague response, I sighed and leaned back against the kitchen sink. “Alcide, I know this has to be boring and frustrating as hell since not a thing has happened to justify your spending so much time twiddling your thumbs here with me. I’m so sorry this has turned out to be such a waste of effort for you.”
Alcide sank into a chair at the table with a grunt. “Sook, it ain’t your fault or even Eric’s that I’m in such a bad mood. I expected to do a lot of waiting around given the circumstances, and I’m frankly just as glad I didn’t have to deal with any kind of attack on you.” He shook his dark head. “I’m more upset by Debbie’s attitude about this. I told her even though you and me are friends that this was just business for Eric as far as I was concerned. But she doesn’t seem to trust my word, and that pisses me off. She ain’t even picked up her phone since last night, and this morning, she switched over her voicemail to a bitchy message telling me to go screw myself if I did call.”
Well, that was real mature.
“Well, I’m sorry this is causing problems between you two,” I said, sincere in my regret for him. I know if the shoe were on the other foot and it was my boyfriend protecting some other woman, I might be unhappy, too, (depending on who it was) but I hoped I’d at least be a little more self-controlled in my response. “I’m hoping that when sunset comes tonight, maybe we’ll hear something from Eric and you can finally get on home.”
Alcide snorted. “Not sure I’m looking forward to it so much at the moment,” he replied. “I just hope she doesn’t use this as an excuse to break her sobriety.” He looked down at the tablecloth, his eyes distant. “She’d been doing real good until the last few days, Sookie, honest. And I thought maybe hanging out with the local pack would make her feel more secure, but maybe I was too late in agreeing to that.” A flash of guilt passed over his face. “This is just like before we broke up the last time. Same kind of fights over shit she was imagining was going on, same kind of accusations that I don’t really love her –” Alcide cut himself off as if he’d said too much.
“How do you still love her?” I asked quietly, moving to join him at the table. “Even after all she did?”
He sigh was as heavy as the boulder that sat to one side of the local lake, the one that served as the jumping off point for anyone who wanted to cannonball into the water. “I’ve loved her since we was kids, Sookie. We’ve got a history together, and as bad as it has been between us after the V messed her up, there is probably always going to be a little piece of me that can’t give up on the girl I first fell for. She’s been trying, and I got to honor that.”
I reached across the table and squeezed Alcide’s hand in comfort. His hand reminded me of Eric’s not only because they were similar in size, but because both were and vampire had hands that had done hard work in their day – Eric’s, I assumed, in handling swords in battle and Alcide in working his construction job. Alcide’s hand, of course, was much warmer than Eric’s but what struck me was how that heat couldn’t compete with the singing rush that Eric’s touch now brought me. As I let Alcide’s hand fall back to the table, I noticed he let my fingers go more reluctantly than I felt comfortable with. As I stood up, I changed the subject. “So, what can I get you for dinner?”
Alcide and I were just finishing up some simple hamburgers when I finally felt Eric wake up. As the hum of his consciousness kicked into gear, I glanced at the kitchen clock: it was a minute later than last night, but still a few minutes before the sun would actually set here in Bon Temps. “Alcide, is there a way to figure out where someplace is if you know the time the sun rises and sets there?” I asked before taking a small bite of French fry as if it was just an idle, curious thought that had occurred to me.
Alcide chewed his bite of burger before answering. “Well, you wouldn’t be able to figure out exactly where a place was that way unless you knew what direction the sun was coming up on the horizon, but you might be able to make some educated guesses about the general area. Why you asking?”
“Just something I was thinking about with the idea that vampires rise with the sunset,” I answered (mostly) honestly. “Don’t you think the timing’s got to be local to wherever the vampire is? So, if a vampire woke up when the sun set at, say, 6:15 tonight, would it be possible to figure out where the vampire was?”
The vampire I was so specifically curious about probed my emotional state, and apparently satisfied with what he found, turned his focus to whatever was going on around him.
Alcide fiddled with his phone for a couple of minutes, awkwardly punching the keyboard with his large thumbs. “Well, sunset in Shreveport tonight is at 6:25, so wherever it would be would have to be to the east since the sun is setting earlier.” He punched some more keys. “Baton Rouge has sunset at 6:17, so we’re getting closer.” He clicked some more, taking another bite of his meal between searches. “Here you go, Sook. The sun sets tonight at exactly 6:15 in New Orleans.” He pushed his phone over to me to see the details on the screen.
New Orleans. It was to the southeast, which fit my sense of Eric was, so that would make sense. People joked about it being the vampire capital of the world; maybe that wasn’t so far off from the truth if that’s where Eric really was.
“So, what’s really going here, Sook? Why would you even be thinking about where the sun could be setting at 6:15 tonight?” Alcide asked gruffly, dipping a french fry in ketchup and not meeting my eyes. “This is something to do with where Eric is, right?”
I shrugged one shoulder. “I just wondered if it was something you could figure out if you knew the sunset time. And maybe the direction the vampire was in.”
Alcide frowned at me. “And do you know which direction Eric is in?” he asked.
“I had an idea, yeah,” I answered noncommittally.
“And you had an idea of when he woke up tonight, too,” he growled. “Sook, what the hell is going on here?” His nostrils flared as he deliberately took in my scent. “You still smell like Eric just as strong as you did when I first showed up at your house yesterday morning.” He breathed in again. “Hell, maybe even stronger. I thought you said you thought that was just because his blood was so goddamn old.” The brown eyes were accusing. “Something more is going on here. You got some kind of vampire bond with him or something? Is that why you asked Jesus and Lafayette to come over?” He stared. “Damn, is that part of whatever the hell you were doing trying to head off on that little road trip last night, too?”
I didn’t even have to answer; he could read my answer on my face. Alcide smacked his hand down on the tabletop and rocked back. “Shit, Sookie – how could you get even more tightly bound up with Eric Northman?”
“Well, hey, way for you to be understanding of who I choose to love,” I muttered. “And here I am trying to be understanding about Debbie, too.”
Alcide groaned. “Aw, fuck, Sook, it’s just that I’m worried about you. It’s one thing knowing you’re, uh, ‘dating’ him, but knowing you’ve got some kind of blood bond with him?” He shook his dark head. “Do you even know what you’re doing?”
“Well, no, not really. Which is why I did ask for Jesus and Lafayette’s help.” I toyed with the paper napkin beside my plate. “And I thought you didn’t want to know about Eric’s business, magical or otherwise,” I said, my voice dry.
“Hell, no, I don’t.” The big man sighed. “But damn, this involves you, and you I care about.”
“And I appreciate that, Alcide, I really do.” I glanced up at his face. “But I don’t want to get into the details of all this until I’ve had a chance to talk to Eric about what is going on between him and me. For all I know, the whole thing may be a moot point whenever he comes back from wherever he is anyhow. We didn’t exactly part on the best of terms.” I rolled the edge of my napkin into a tight little coil.
Alcide rolled his eyes. “Well, for someone you parted on not-so-good-terms with, he sure was hell bent on making sure you were safe while he was gone,” he said, begrudgingly. “Which I guess is something.”
Through the bond, I could feel Eric’s emotions beginning to shift. A strange mix of worry and anticipation had begun to escalate, the two feelings tumbling over one another. And twining through them, a steadily strengthening strand of tentative relief. Whatever was going on, Eric was feeling like things were starting to resolve – finally. Maybe he really would be home – well, back closer to me, anyhow – before the end of the night.
Alcide and I ate in silence for a few minutes before the were cleared his throat. “Sook, you want me to see what I can find out about vampire bonds for you? Ask around a little?”
I swallowed the piece of fry I was eating and then nodded. “It might help, yes. Thank you, Alcide.”
And just as I said that, I felt a little tingle of awareness, echoing through Eric’s emotions in much the same way I had felt Pam. I realized with a start that I could already feel the barely perceptible trace that I associated with Eric’s blonde progeny. It was so faint that it was hardly noticeable until I consciously looked for it – but I detected it, and realized that this new sensation was definitely not Pam.
Across the table, I vaguely heard Alcide saying something about a rumor he had heard about vampire bonds, but I wasn’t really listening any longer. Instead, my attention was focused on the thin, frail thread of new consciousness I felt beginning to blossom. There was confusion, rapidly followed by fear, some sorrow, and a small rush of relief. Slowly the strength of the little river of feeling began to grow, although it was nowhere near as strong as what I felt from Eric himself.
It was strange enough to have that weird little echo of someone else coming through Eric, but what really stopped me cold, what made my heart suddenly begin to pound hard was the familiarity of what I felt.
If I hadn’t helped Lafayette remove Bill’s glamour earlier in the day, I might not have recognized the patterns, but my thinking back to my previous mental excursion into another magic-clouded mind in order to prepare for working with Lafayette had made the memories fresh.
And when the fragile, reflected trickle of emotions swelled into outright terror, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt: I was feeling Tara Thornton.
A/N: Eric will be back NEXT CHAPTER! Finally!!! I want it as much as you do, seriously, but I had to get things set up for what is to come.
One reminder: guest comments are moderated and may not post for as long as 36 hours depending on when I get around to signing into ff dot net. Unsigned reviews that are flat-out abusive will be deleted. I write these stories for fun and my own entertainment and I see absolutely NO REASON to put up with personal attacks. If you’re that unhappy with how my story is going, stop reading it and write your own. That’s what fanfic is FOR, people!
Big thanks to all those who express their opinions, whether negative or positive, in a respectful way. You rock; trolls don’t. And a special shout out to Jan of Arc for the tip about melted butter in pancakes!