Chapter 5: Big Faker
What in the hell had just happened?
One moment I was smacking Eric through the bond with the force of my anger, jealousy and hurt – feeling almost like I was throwing a giant emotional brick at his stupid blond head – and then next thing I knew, a big-ass ball of light had burst from my chest only to vanish in the dark.
As soon as I’d let my angry feelings flow, the flame of arousal Eric had been experiencing evaporated as if it had been doused with a bucket of ice water. In its place, I felt his tangled response of embarrassment, remorse, and a surprising sense of relief that lasted for just a moment before the light flared out of my body and his feelings were swept away in a rush of shock.
I bolted upright in my bed, yelping in surprise. What in the hell? I anxiously pressed a hand to my chest, but the only thing I could feel was my own heart still pounding furiously. If it hadn’t been for the timing of Eric’s reaction, I might not have made the connection, but it seemed too coincidental to me that immediately after the flash of light, Eric had suddenly gone from responding to my feelings to a stunned confusion.
Well, crap. As pissed off as I was at him, I still felt a little tingle of worry that I might have hurt him. I probed warily through the bond, and couldn’t feel any sense of pain or hurt, just disorientation and a tiny ripple of…amusement?
Oh, so he thought whatever had happened was funny? Well, fuck him. I sourly hoped that whatever my runaway light had done, it had lit up a certain part of him like a big ol’ Roman – or in this case, Viking – candle.
Before I could work myself up into another round of fury, I felt Eric’s shock turn to tension and wariness.
By then, my sleep-fogged head was beginning to clear a bit and I was trying to think, not just feel. That there might be some skanky ho with Eric in Vampire Authority headquarters didn’t exactly surprise me – I’d met a couple of vamp tramps in the time I’d been involved with the supe world, and Fangtasia was filled every night with dozens of human ones lusting after my – my whatever-Eric-was-to-me-now. But I was disappointed to think he’d been apparently making out with one. What the hell? As my heart began to sting again, I felt a little soft push of love from him as if he was trying to apologize to me, and that made me think about the other feeling I had been sensing, the one that really got under my skin.
Who in the fuck could Eric love at the Authority?
Granted, it didn’t feel exactly the same as the love he felt for me, but what the hell was I supposed to make of a mixture of love and lust for whoever it was?
An ex? Eric had been around a long time, and the Authority had to be run by all these ancient vamps, so I suppose the odds were pretty good that one of them might be someone Eric had hooked up with in the past.
More than hooked up with, my jealous inner voice pointed out. Someone he seemed to care about.
I suddenly noticed that Eric’s strain and guardedness seemed to be going on for a long time and I began to wonder nervously if he was in some sort of trouble.
Eric had never seemed very fond of the Authority, but I’d never believed Eric to be actually scared of it, although Nan Flanagan had acted in Dallas like he should be. Given that Eric might be the oldest and strongest vampire in Louisiana, it made me wonder how much older or more powerful vamps in the Authority had to be, and that made my heart skip a beat. What if they were all as old or as powerful or Russell Edgington had been? I had been so worried for what Tara had to be going through in the center of vampire power, it hadn’t occurred to me that Eric, even as strong and old as he was, could be at risk, too.
He sure felt like he was treading carefully now, and I began to worry that whatever I had done had put him in some kind of threatening situation. He sure seemed tense about whatever was happening.
When I felt him begin to lie – big ol’ whoppers of lies that I didn’t have to hear to know they were not true, just based on his feelings – I grew convinced that he was in some kind of deep shit and that I may have helped put him there with whatever my little light show had done. The last bits of my anger towards him faded away, lost in increasing concern for his safety as I waited, helplessly feeling for whatever would happen next. Mixed in with Eric’s anxiety and deceitfulness was a strengthening thread that felt like relief, as if he had been afraid he wouldn’t be able to sell whatever lie he’d come up with.
And then I had a little shocking realization. I kept lying there, immersed in Eric’s emotions until I was sure what I was feeling, and when I was, I didn’t know what to think.
Eric Northman was not a natural born liar.
Not that he wasn’t good at lying (something I’d seen for myself) but I could tell from being inside his emotions that he had to work at it. I could feel it in the way his anxiety escalated with the deceit, the tension as he tried to sustain illusion, the relief when he felt he was convincing.
The Eric I had gotten to know over the last few days seemed honest and transparent, but I had always assumed that the ‘regular’ Eric would be able to lie effortlessly, cold as a stone inside. Instead, there was all this … turmoil inside him.
With a sudden wave of sickness, I realized I’d let Eric go off to the Authority without much worry, confident he could take care of himself. But if he wasn’t as good at lying as I had always thought, he might be in real danger. And what else did he really have to lie to the Authority about besides me? He had made it clear at the tolerance rally that he was committed to not letting them find out about my fae blood. He might not even have been in that den of vampire vipers if it hadn’t been for what Tara had done to protect me.
Just as I was beginning to panic with worry for him, I felt Eric’s anxiety and guardedness finally begin to relax just a tiny bit. Whatever he had been lying about, apparently whoever he had been lying to (the skanky ho?) had believed it. As his relief grew, so did mine. For the moment, he seemed to be safe. I felt him respond to my concern, sending me reassurance that he was fine, and in turn I felt myself relax little by little.
As his feelings settled down, I frowned, still puzzled by what had just happened. Bill had told me how many dozens of times that Eric was a master manipulator and expert liar, but the reality I had just experienced from Eric’s own perspective was … different. In my mind, I started turning over the lies Eric had told me in the past, trying to reconcile what I’d just learned about him with what I had believed until now.
He had lied to me to get me to drink his blood after the explosion at Godric’s house, and as I thought back to it, remembering the overly dramatic way Eric had flopped his head back against the floor, announcing he was “dying,” maybe in retrospect I should have known he was bullshitting me. That said, his intent had clearly been to fool me, so I wouldn’t give him a pass there, I decided.
He didn’t tell me that he was using my blood to trick Russell, but I wondered again if that was because he was trying to make his lies to Russell convincing. I had to admit that I wasn’t the best of liars myself and it was probably smart of Eric not to let me know he didn’t intend to let me come to harm. My screams of terror had been completely genuine when he and Russell bit me. I didn’t like that he hadn’t told me what he was really up to, but I could kind of understand it, especially if he was worried about convincing Russell of his agenda.
And he lied to me about not knowing the meaning of the Operation Werewolf symbol, but just a few hours later, he’d been on my doorstep telling me the truth – and questioning why he was telling me that much at all. So, if someone tells you the truth later – and even admits what went before was a lie – does the first lie still count?
And, of course, he lied to me about what would happen when we took each other’s blood.
I stopped myself right there, suddenly conscious that I was jumping to a conclusion based on what I’d thought of Eric – until now. Had he lied to me about the blood exchange? “We will be one.” I couldn’t deny he’d said something like that, even if I hadn’t understood what he’d meant. Or asked what he meant. I rolled over in my bed, remembering the hopeful, open expression on his face as he’d offered his hand to me. Whatever “that” Eric had wanted from me, I couldn’t believe it was maliciously intended. No, he had loved me and wanted to be close to me and had seen the bond as the way to demonstrate that.
And “this” Eric…he said he hadn’t been consciously withholding information about the bond. He claimed that he loved me as much as the “other” Eric.
The question was, could I believe that? Or was the real Eric truly the liar I had always believed him to be?
As I lay there pondering Eric’s history of lies, trying to figure out the truth, something else suddenly hit me.
The number of his lies I’d come up with was actually surprisingly short.
Other than the handful of lies I had just been thinking about, I couldn’t actually remember any other times that Eric had been dishonest with me. And in some of the incidents I’d been thinking of, I could kind of see why he’d withheld information.
So, why had I always thought Eric was such a big, fat liar?
The answer was so simple that I almost missed it.
Bill. Bill who was always telling me what a liar Eric was.
Bill who had not told me he’d been sent by his queen to procure me. Bill who had let me get beaten nearly to death by two lowlifes in order to get his blood into me. Bill who hadn’t told me about turning Jessica until he couldn’t hide it any more. Bill who told me he’d killed Russell Edgington and Eric when he hadn’t actually killed either.
Bill who might not have told me all of that at all if Eric hadn’t told me the truth first.
So, who was the master manipulator and skilled liar in this scenario?
I was suddenly so annoyed with myself for never having thought that through before that I actually smacked my pillow with my first. I’d taken Bill’s word where Eric was concerned all this time. But whose word was more believable now?
I suddenly wished I could call Eric and talk to him about all of these thoughts and feelings. And maybe ask him a few questions I wanted answered. I stared at the cell phone beside my bed, conscious that I did not have Eric’s number programmed into it. I had never, ever called Eric before the incident with the spell, and he had lost his phone before he ever came to be with me, so I didn’t have a clue what his cell phone number was.
But I did have Pam’s.
Ignoring the thought I was not her favorite person at the moment, I sat up in my bed and dialed Pam’s number.
To my disappointment, the phone system announced that the user was not available, but my call did go to Pam’s voicemail, where I politely asked her to call me back with Eric’s phone number and wished her well during her “business trip.”
I wondered if Eric was still okay. He’d been emotionally quiet the last few minutes and I reached out to him, trying to check on his well-being. To my surprise (and a distinct sense of relief), he responded with reassurance that he was fine, safe, secure. And then, it was like a wall came down and Eric’s feelings, which had been so carefully guarded while he’d been deceiving his companions in the vampire headquarters, were suddenly all around – no, inside and throughout me, like a cozy, affectionate blanket.
He loved me – deeply and completely. And he was mine – whether I wanted him to be or not. He belonged to me and me only, and whatever I felt towards him, it didn’t matter, he just loved me anyhow. And I could feel that he found this amusing, although I didn’t get the joke.
I still felt a little tentative after the bizarre way I had woken up to find him half-seduced by someone else, but I responded to the flood of his love by letting him feel that I was worried for him and that I wanted him to be safe. And if I wasn’t quite as open with my love for him at the moment, well, who could blame me? While it would have been easy to just run away and write him off based on the confusing sequence of feelings I had experienced, I resolved that I was not going to do it until he told me himself what had happened and I judged for myself whether what I felt was forgivable or not.
As I lay in my bed, surrounded by Eric’s love for me – which gradually made the feelings I had awakened to seem like a distant dream – I realized that the only way I was going to understand Eric – and possibly learn to trust him – was going to be to spend time with him and get to know him. The real Eric.
While I couldn’t guarantee yet that I would still love the ‘new’ Eric as much the Eric I had fallen for in the little bubble we had shared the last few days, I owed it to myself to see what happened if I gave him a chance.
If Pam called me back, maybe I could even call him and we could talk before he fell asleep for the day.
Pam never called me back.
I had stayed in bed until I knew Eric had gone to his day sleep and then drifted off for a little while longer, emotionally wrung out.
Sunlight was just coming through my window when I woke up again, and after checking to make sure Eric was still soundly out for the day, I had shrugged into a robe against the October chill and padded my way downstairs.
I was standing in the kitchen near the coffee maker just a short while later when I felt it – there was someone in the woods behind the house. I had just poured myself a cup of fresh coffee, and my hand stilled where it was as I ‘listened.’
“Goddamn, is it cold out here. Wonder if Sookie is up yet. Do I smell coffee? Damn, wish I could have me a cup.”
I rolled my eyes and crossed my kitchen, unlocking the back door and stepping out onto my back porch. It was cold, and I hugged myself against the brisk morning air.
“Alcide Herveaux! Come out of those trees and get some coffee before you freeze to death!” I yelled in the direction where I could hear the werewolf’s mind.
Alcide came slinking out of the trees, his fall jacket turned up around his neck and big hands tucked under his armpits to stay warm.
“How long have you been out there?” I asked as he drew close to my back steps. “And what the hell are you doin’ lurkin’ in my woods anyhow?”
He didn’t even have to open his mouth to answer; I read it in his head as clear as could be. Eric.
“Never mind,” I said, shaking my head. “I know why. Just come get your coffee and warm yourself up a bit.”
“Thanks, Sookie,” Alcide more or less grunted. “I’ve been out there since about 4 a.m., so I appreciate the offer.”
“Why does Eric have you watching my house?” I asked, turning to pull a second coffee cup out of my cupboard.
“He said he was going to be gone for a few days and that he was worried about you being alone in the house after what happened the other night at that rally.”
I poured the coffee and offered him milk and sugar. “Did he tell you what happened at that rally?” I asked cautiously.
“Not much, just that he had his memories back thanks to you and that a couple of vampires had been killed, so he’d have to go away to deal with that.” Alcide sipped gratefully at the hot beverage and sighed with pleasure. “Damn, nothing like a good cup of coffee in the morning.”
I gestured for him to sit down. “So, what, you’re supposed to keep an eye on me until he gets back?” If he gets back. After what had happened before sunrise this morning, I was less certain of that than I had been the night before. “It’s a generous thought, Alcide, but I don’t know that it’s really necessary,” I began. “I hate to see you put out on my account. Again. And I don’t suppose Debbie is going to be very happy about it.”
“I’ll handle Debbie, don’t you worry none about that,” Alcide replied. He had paused with his cup between his hands and was staring at me with a puzzled frown, his nostrils twitching the tiniest bit. “Sookie, so you’re really with Eric now, huh?”
I blushed, remembering that Alcide and Debbie had seen how very with Eric I had been out in the woods just a few nights before. “It’s complicated,” I answered shortly. “We’re still working out things now that he has memories back. But yeah, we were together. The future is still kind of up in the air, though.” I sipped my coffee and stared down into my cup to avoid meeting his brown eyes.
When I glanced up again, Alcide was still looking strangely at me and this time he leaned forward and took a deliberately deep whiff of air before making a kind of growling noise. “What did he do to you?” he demanded roughly. “You smell different.”
Oh, these damned werewolves and their damned sensitive noses. “Alcide, you of all people should know what he did to me,” I said drily. “Isn’t there some kind of werewolf etiquette about bringing it up, though? ‘Cause I gotta tell you, having you mention how I smell after being with someone is kind of embarrassing –” I grumbled.
“I’m not talking about sex,” Alcide cut me off, shaking his dark head. “No, Sookie, when I say you smell different, I mean you smell kind of like – ” He sniffed at me again and paused as if rolling the scent around inside his nose to look for its nuances. “You smell like a mixture of you and vampire. Eric give you a lot of his blood or something?”
What the hell? “No,” I answered cautiously. “He gave me a little bit at one point, but not a lot.” Not enough to make me smell like a vampire, I thought. Unless there was something different that happened when a human exchanged blood with a vampire the way we had? Something that only happened with the blued-festa thing?
“You sure he didn’t give you more than you realized?” Alcide asked. “’Cause I’m tellin’ you, Sookie, you smell kinda like a V addict or something.” He stopped and a faint blush crept up his cheeks. “Uh, not that I mean that I think that you are one or anything,” he added stumblingly, as if suddenly aware of how bad what he had just said might sound. Judging from the curse words going through his head, he did know how it sounded.
I sighed and took another sip of my coffee as I considered whether or not to tell Alcide about the blood exchange. Somehow, it seemed like a really private thing, at least until Eric and I had sorted out where we stood with each other. “Well, Eric’s got really old blood,” I finally said. “Maybe it just doesn’t take that much for it to be noticeable in my system.” I shrugged casually.
As worried as I had been just an hour or two earlier about Eric’s ability to lie, I seemed to be doing a mighty fine job of it myself. But just a white lie, I told myself. And what Eric and I do together is not really Alcide’s business, I thought defensively.
I guess Eric wasn’t the only big faker when it came to telling the truth.
“Huh,” Alcide grunted. “Could be the age of his blood, I suppose.” He gulped another hot swallow of coffee.
“You want some eggs or something?” I offered, hoping to distract him. “I imagine you are about due for breakfast, too.”
“Sure,” Alcide said, “I’d appreciate that.” He took another sip of his coffee and swirled it in his cup before speaking again. “Uh, Sookie? What’s your plan for today? Because Eric spelled out that he wanted me to stick close by you until he got back.” He looked apologetically at me. “I know you’re not going to be a fan of it, but I’m not going to cross him on this. He made it pretty damn clear that he wasn’t going to be happy if I did.” The particular remembered threat that crossed Alcide’s mind was perversely creative.
I wrinkled my nose in disgust. “Ewwwwww. No wonder you were out in my woods half the night. You do know that I wouldn’t let him do that to you, though, right?”
“Well, I’d rather not give him the opportunity to even think of following through,” Alcide replied. “And he’s going to make up my lost pay, so it’s not like I’m suffering any by spending time in your company. Especially if you are willing to rustle me up a hot breakfast.” The corner of his mouth quirked up in a half smile.
“Well, I need to work the dinner shift tonight, but nothing but housework and errands on the agenda until then,” I said, standing up to put my coffee cup in the sink and get a pan out for breakfast. “So, if you really want to hang out, you’re free to do it. You can watch some TV or something, and if you want to go along with me to the store, that would be fine, too. I should probably get some Halloween candy to leave in a bowl on the porch for tonight since I won’t be home.” As I was getting out eggs and bacon from the fridge, I had another thought. “Hey, Alcide – if Eric called you to come over here, you have his number, right?”
“Yeah,” Alcide answered. “What, your boyfriend didn’t give you his cell phone number before he left?” He frowned at me.
Referring to Eric as my boyfriend was a whole new concept I was going to have to think about, but I didn’t want to talk about it with Alcide of all people, so I just let the term slide by without commenting.
“There wasn’t enough time,” I answered, laying the bacon out in the pan. “As far as I know, he didn’t even have a phone when he left yesterday. I guess he replaced it on the road. I don’t have the new number and I’d like to call him when I get a chance.”
“Uh, he didn’t tell you he wouldn’t have phone service where he’s going?”
I turned at that. “What? No, is that what he told you?” Damn, damn, damn.
“Yeah, someone else told him that he shouldn’t count on service when he got to wherever he was going. That’s why he called me when he did, wanted to make sure things were in place for you in case he was out of touch.” The furrow in his brow deepened. “And he didn’t let you know that, either?”
“Probably not enough time,” I repeated. I wasn’t about to explain to Alcide about the fight Eric and I had had before he left or that I’d asked Eric to give me some space. Those details still felt like oversharing, especially given that Alcide seemed to have such mixed feelings about Eric already.
“Pam’s phone must not be working, either,” I thought out loud. “I tried calling her this morning and it said she had no service. Must be that wherever it is that they’ve gone blocks phone signals.” Suddenly the bond, as annoying as some aspects could be, seemed like a gift. I couldn’t have stood not knowing at all whether or not Eric was okay. Who takes phone access away for any good purpose? I shivered.
“Fucking vampires,” Alcide muttered. “Don’t even trust their own. What kind of social system is that?” he grumbled.
“Well, I haven’t noticed that humans are much better,” I said, pouring myself another cup of coffee as the bacon began to pop with heat.
“Other supes sometimes give us wolves shit, but at least we got pack,” Alcide said. “If you got a good pack at your back, you can always count on having someone in your corner.”
“And your new pack is a good one?” I asked, sipping more of my coffee. I knew Alcide had had a bad experience after his old pack had fallen prey to Russell Edgington’s control.
Alcide sighed. “Honestly, jury is still out on that. Packs are only as good as their pack master and I haven’t made up my mind about this one yet.” He leaned back in his chair. “But I still stand by the idea of pack as a good one. Better than vamps and their every-one-for-themselves attitudes.”
“Well, given that you’re sitting here in my kitchen because of a vamp who wanted you to keep me safe, I think they aren’t all like that. At least, not all the time,” I said pointedly.
Alcide begrudgingly shrugged his agreement. “Well, maybe Eric is an exception. It isn’t like this is the first time he’s had me keeping an eye on you. Besides during the thing with Russell Edgington, I mean.”
“What?” I looked at him in surprise. “What do you mean by that?”
“He had me out here at your house just after you disappeared,” Alcide answered. “I was only out here for a couple of days before I had to get back to Jackson, but I heard he had a bunch of locals keeping an eye on the house right up until the holidays that year. I guess he hoped that you would show up at some point, or that maybe there would be some clue about what happened to you.” Alcide snorted. “And no disrespect meant, Sookie, but if you were on business for Bill, couldn’t he have let Eric know that?” He shook his head in disgust.
Gosh, how many other lies I’d told were going to come back to haunt me this morning? There seemed to be some sort of karmic message in that.
“Yeah, well, you know vampires,” I replied, “They’re not the best communicators.” Even when you could feel their feelings. I sighed.
Alcide’s brown eyes narrowed at me. “So, even though you and Eric were together, you haven’t talked about him looking out for you while you were gone yet?”
“No, there hasn’t been –”
“—been enough time,” Alcide finished for me. “I know it’s none of my business, but sounds to me like you and Eric need to talk more.” He shook his head and slurped from his coffee cup.
“Can’t disagree with you,” I answered with a shake of my own head. This morning’s incident was proof, to my mind, that not being in contact with Eric while still knowing what he felt – but not the context of those feelings – was a bad idea. No, we did need to talk more. And if we couldn’t do it by phone while he was gone, then we would talk in person as soon as he got back, I resolved.
If he got back.
Stuffing down my worry for Eric, I focused on the were my ‘boyfriend’ had sent to be my bodyguard in his stead. While I hoped it would turn out to be unnecessary, I was actually touched that Eric had wanted to protect me even after I’d sent him packing the way I had. And it was kind of nice to have the company to keep me distracted until I could check in with Eric through the bond later tonight. Even though I knew Eric was in his day sleep, I sent a little wave of gratitude towards him and again was surprised to feel a tiny thrum of faint response through the bond.
Yeah, we definitely needed to talk more, including about this weird connection between us. I was beginning to think that Eric really didn’t know much more about it than I did. And that made me a little nervous for both of us.
But I couldn’t do anything about that right now. I’d get that phone number from Alcide and try Eric later, even if it sounded like it might not get through.
“So, how do you want your eggs?” I asked Alcide brightly. “Sunny side up or scrambled?”
And when Alcide gave me some answer that barely registered, I realized that I could hide my real feelings just as well as any vampire I knew.
A/N: Just reminding you that since you are reading this from Sookie’s POV, she sometimes has wrong ideas about things she doesn’t (yet) know about – including what kind of vamps make up the Authority. It made sense to me that she would assume that the vampires in the Authority were probably all older and more powerful than Eric. What a surprise she is in for…