Addie leaned against the wall and apprehensively watched sparks fly between her mother’s warm brown eyes and Northman’s icy blue ones. After their long talk earlier, the younger woman knew that Sookie wanted to reconnect with the Viking; it was clear that the vampire felt the same way. When the silence stretched past awkward into painful, she cleared her throat. “Do you have to do this here? I’m positive that neither of you want to deal with Lex’s mood when he returns. I’d offer my apartment, but it’s not light-tight. Just… find somewhere else to do… that,” she said with a curled lip, gesturing back and forth between the two. “You both obviously have things to say to the other and Momma, I love you dearly, but I don’t want to know the nitty-gritty about all the ins and outs with him. And you,” Addie turned her attention to the sneering man that towered over her, “I don’t trust you. I don’t particularly like you. I certainly don’t understand why she wants to reacquaint herself with you. But she does… all of it. That’s what matters to me. My momma is the most important person in the world to me. Hurt so much as a single blonde hair and you’ll learn personally that fairy vengeance is a force that you do not want to fuck with.”
Eric respectfully kept himself from laughing at the glowering young woman. If a three thousand year old vampire that murdered his family centuries ago didn’t make his blood run colder, this little five-sixteenths fairy hybrid didn’t stand a chance of frightening him. Only regard for the girl’s mother kept him from following her threat with a far more fearsome one of his own. The single hint of his deteriorating mood was the snick of his fangs dropping. He was further disappointed when neither woman startled at the sound or sight.
Knowing the proud, pragmatic man, Sookie did what she had to do and took the first step. “Is your suite available or is Pam there?”
Eric was silent with his brow furrowed, feeling for his bond with his child. “She’s in the donor lounge being as much as a glutton as possible before her detention begins at twelve. I don’t see her returning to the suite before then. She’s quite unhappy with me.”
Sookie kept her eye roll to herself. “Shame on you for not letting her kill me and making her deal with the consequences for her actions. I’m sure we have a lot to talk about, so let’s leave my daughter to mollify her vampire and go catch up, shall we?”
The Viking nodded once and turned for the door. He waited as mother and daughter kissed cheeks and embraced, making tentative plans to meet after sunrise. Sookie slipped a spare key to the penthouse into her back pocket and left the flat behind Eric.
Floors ten through fourteen were the vampire friendly suites, however the penthouse elevator only traveled to and from the lobby for security. In addition, for admittance to the vampire suites, one required a key-card coded for access to those floors. Lex took his own safety as well as that of his nocturnal guests very seriously.
The petite fairy hybrid had to take several rushed steps to match one stride of the vampire’s long legs, forcing her into a jog to keep up as they crossed the marble-tiled lobby. Eric inserted his room key to unlock the vampire floors and pressed thirteen. No words had been spoken since the pair left the penthouse. Neither wanted to disrupt the surprisingly comfortable silence with small talk or idle blabber.
Suite 1307 was every bit as impressive as Sookie imagined. The common area was approximately the same size as Lex’s entrance hall and sitting room together. There was no need for a kitchenette like in the human suites; rather, a single corner cabinet stored a small refrigerator and microwave. The far wall was a bank of specially-treated windows giving an amazing view of the illuminated DC skyline. On either side of the den was a door leading to the bedrooms with their individual en suites. Sookie was still not accustomed to the splendor that Eric was rather blasé toward.
Now alone in close quarters, neither seemed to know how or where to start. Eric was taking pains to avoid inhaling and resolved to get the answer to her increased fairy essence at some point during the night. But first, “I’m glad there was no serious damage caused last night.”
Sookie closed her eyes and shook her head. “Don’t do that. Don’t downplay it. I know I’m really damn lucky that I didn’t bleed out between the park and here. On that note though, before I forget, because it seems as though my hastily-made prayers were answered, I’m sorry.”
Except for his week of amnesia, during which the tall, lanky vampire was adorable in his cluelessness, confusion was not a good look for Eric. “Sorry? What do you have to be sorry for?”
She huffed a slightly bitter chuckle. “Hmm… for being hateful and nasty to you about buying my house and refurbishing it? For pressuring you to offer the Hep-V cure to Bill under the noses of those Japanese gangsters. For not thanking you in Dallas. Yes, you opportunistically used a bombing to get your blood in me, but you also put yourself in the way of silver shrapnel that would have hurt or killed me. You endangered yourself for me and I acted like you committed a capital crime. I’m sorry I always seemed to treat you like the bad guy even though you saved me.”
Stunned didn’t look much better than confusion, but he was able to quickly mask it with his unchanged cocky smirk and raised eyebrow. “Well then, you’re welcome, you’re forgiven, and it was entirely my pleasure.”
Sookie shook her head again. “Don’t, Eric. I’ve seen you sweet. I’ve seen you grieve. I’ve seen you care. You might be able to pull off smug and aloof for most, but don’t forget that I know you have other sides to you that a very few have seen, if they know they exist at all.”
Eric wiped his face of the arrogance that most expected of him. “I apologize, Sookie. Sometimes I forget how well you know me.”
“HA! I don’t know anything! Okay, so I know that Pam and Willa are your children, Nora was your sister, and Godric was your maker. Russell had something to do with the murder of your human family. Godric turned you approximately one thousand years ago, give or take a few decades. You used to own Fangtasia… and that’s the sum total of what I know about Eric Northman. Vampires are secretive sons of bitches and I bet you know enough about me to write an unauthorized biography. Just because I know that you’re more than a cocky asshole doesn’t mean that I know anything real about you. I dare you, Northman. Tell me something… just one thing… that no one else knows.”
The Viking couldn’t help but grin at the challenge. Between them, Godric, Nora, and/or Pam knew all his secrets. He skimmed through a millennia of memories, trying to find something both little known and significant to tell his telepath. Finally he found one and only Godric had known this. As his maker no longer walked the earth and only remained as an ache in his unbeating heart, Eric felt it met the qualifications. “When Godric found me dying on the battlefield, he gave me a choice: die and become nothing more than a memory and ashes on a pyre or accept his gift and live beyond death. It was hard to turn my back on Valhalla, but there was more I wanted to do and see. Godric gave me that chance. After several years, when my urges were better controlled, under his watchful eye and at his command, he took me back to my village so I could see my children.”
Sookie’s eyes were wide in surprise. “You had… but… what?” she stammered. “You were married?”
“Surely you know that neither a ring nor vows are required for a pregnancy to occur,” he replied with his characteristic mischievous smirk. “One of the last things my father said to me was that I couldn’t spend my life between a woman’s legs. I told him I could try,” he chuckled, remembering his father’s combination of amusement and frustration with his oldest son.
“After his death, I became de facto chief of my clan. I had the largest home, the most livestock, and the richest farming land. There was no shortage of village girls willing to warm my bed on a cold Swedish night. It was inevitable that my seed would take hold. When Godric claimed me, my son was four and my daughter was still a toddler. They were the two that survived the birth and infancy.”
“Did you at least love their mother?” Sookie asked hesitantly.
“I didn’t lie to you all those years ago. When you said that you could tell that I loved Godric, the concept was absurd to me. I worshipped my maker; what I felt for him was too much for a paltry word like ‘love’. Nora and I had a passionate attraction to each other mixed with a strange sibling rivalry. I have a strong affection for Pam, like a teenage younger sister that tends to test boundaries when she feels I am inhibiting her fun. My Willa… I can’t say much except that I regret turning her when I did. With the governor, the camp, the creation of Hep-V, Billith, Warlow, Nora’s true death and the escape of Sarah fucking Newlin, I didn’t have the time, patience, or attention-span required for a newborn. Abandoning her is one of my biggest regrets.
“To answer your original question, no. You know as well as I that love and lust exist independently. It was not uncommon for chiefs and prized fighters of a clan to have many lovers. My father was the same. My mother was his favorite – she shared his house and bed, but monogamy was not a value I was exposed to as a human. But while I felt begrudging affection for Aude and Eydis, I loved Brynn with her fine blonde curls and easy smiles. My son Éldi, with his mother’s flaming red hair and green eyes… he was my delight.”
Eric’s blue eyes were hazy with the memories and Sookie couldn’t take her eyes off him. “From the moment he could toddle unassisted, he followed me like a pup, wanting to be big enough to do what I was doing. He would try to help harvesting crops, chopping timber for building or fires, and delivering the pelts of game we killed to be cleaned and sewn by the womenfolk. Even at his young age, he was already tall and strong, so very much like his far.
“When Godric took me back, it was a feast night. It was easy for us to linger just inside the woods and remain unseen. Brynn had grown into a beautiful girl, sturdy and striking. In a few years she would add to the clan with children of her own by the strongest and most virile warriors.
“Éldi… he was counted as a man at thirteen and began training with a sword. My son at fifteen was nearly as tall as me with his long legs and broad shoulders. His hair was long and just as flame-like as it had been as a child. Even from our hiding spot in the woods, I could see his eyes sparkling with spirit and frivolity – so much like me at that age. The village girls would bring him drinks and dance for him; I have no doubt that the one that pleased him most joined him in bed that night.”
Sookie didn’t know what to think. Rarely ever did she put much thought toward Eric’s human years and what his life had been like then. Never once did she think that he’d had children… human children. She forcefully pulled herself out of the thoughts racing around her brain to return to Eric’s accented baritone.
“That was the last time I saw them. Godric and I worked our way south and eventually got to France. We spent a couple of centuries migrating around the Mediterranean. When we returned to Sweden in the 1700’s, a tall, red-haired, green-eyed soldier pointed us to the nearest ale-house and all I could see was Éldi. Even before Godric brought me over, I already had a kind of immortality. Someday, if or when I meet my final death, I can take comfort that my blood, the blood of Vikings and warrior royalty, will go on flowing in the veins of innumerable descendants. So while I have great affection for Pamela and a very high regard for Willa… I haven’t felt clear, untainted love since that long-ago night when I last saw Brynn and Éldi. In fact,” he said, the past clearing from his stormy blue eyes, “the closest I can remember to feeling something so pure…” he swallowed needlessly and met the mocha eyes of his companion, “… was while I was cursed. When we exchanged blood after I spent the day under silver.
“The tie that started in Dallas strengthened. As you pulled my blood from the heel of my hand, I could feel your every emotion. I felt your worry, your care, your fear. Your honey and sunlight-flavored blood mended the burns from the chains and right before my hand healed, I felt it. Your utter surrender. You let yourself abandon the ties that were metaphorically holding you back. That bed in the snowy, sunlit forest was a hallucination, but the conversation we had was not. With us, anything was possible. If you had let yourself, after the curse was lifted… fuck, Sookie. We could have been perfect together and you let Bill’s blood blind you all over again!”
The telepath’s temper flared. “How do I know that it wasn’t your blood making me feel things that weren’t real? Your ancient-ass blood is supposed to be so much stronger than his was. Maybe you were the one trying to ‘blind’ me,” Sookie grumbled.
“If the donations had been equal, my blood would have absolutely overpowered his. However, you had his blood when the inbred addicts were glamoured – by him – to beat you to the brink of death, when the maenad attacked you, after he nearly drained you when you helped him escape Lorena, to heal you when Russell and regretfully I attacked you to attempt day-walking, and after one of his own men shot you, possibly on his orders. That’s not counting any possible… er… romantic exchanges. While the mental image of you in the throes of passion with bloody lips is a delicious one, his sideburns and lack of muscular definition simply ruin the picture.”
Sookie’s mind reeled. Never once, in all her recollections, did she realize that she’s had that much of Bill’s blood. “I was essentially his puppet, wasn’t I? All the times I forgave him and defended him… that was his influence, wasn’t it?”
Eric nodded solemnly. “That night, after Bill and I were chained to the stake and you healed our burns… I could feel your confusion. A part of you didn’t understand how Bill had earned your forgiveness. He lied to you, cheated on you, abandoned you, and nearly killed you more than once.
“That same night, you told me that I had lied to you more times than you could count. Now lover, I think we both know that’s false.” His deep voice growled the pet name, making the blonde next to him suppress a shiver. “A tiny falsehood for your protection after a zealot bombed my maker’s home is one. I know that rural southern schools are underfunded, but you are very smart and can surely count higher than that. I have told lies about you – to Russell, Nan, Nora, the Authority, and the fucking Yakuza – mainly for your protection and occasionally in your presence. Besides that single time in Texas, name another time I lied to you.”
Sookie forced her memory back twenty-five years, to the night she met William Thomas Compton and became involved in the supernatural world. Between her first visit to Fangtasia and the night she rejected both Bill and Eric… she could not think of anything he had lied to her about or if he had misled her in any way. “I suppose that’s another apology I owe you. To be fair, you were occasionally brutally honest, never making the truth easy to swallow. That sometimes hurts more than being lied to.”
“Sugarcoating is for cowards and wimps. Sookie Stackhouse was never either of those. I could say ‘I’ve thought of you often over the years. While I regret the circumstances of our reconnection, I’ve pleased to see that you’re happy and healthy’. That’s absolutely the truth. Sweet, sappy, honest… and hollow. Something you might say to one of your daughter’s former teachers or a child you babysat for as a teenager. Impersonal and polite. I could also say ‘You haunt my nights. When I’m around your daughter, I smell coconut and cocoa butter, milk and honey, the pear scent of your shampoo, and sunlight. For the past quarter-century, I’ve tried to forget you and the way it felt when you walked away from me for the second time, but you’ve had my blood. Before last night, I had to actively search for the tie, but it was still there. Every fucking time that connection tingled, I’d want to touch you, even from half a world away. Just sitting next to you challenges my control’.”
He continued when Sookie bit her lip and inhaled deeply. “I want to see if you still fit in my arms perfectly. I want to see if I can still feel your kiss in my toes. I want to relearn the taste of your skin. My fingertips want to map the curves of your body. I want to experience your exquisite tightness again and learn how only you ever made me come so hard I became dizzy. Do you know how hard it is to make a vampire lose their equilibrium?”