A/N: For some reason, I had trouble with this chapter. Hope you like it guys. If you feel like it, please let me know what you think. Your support is very encouraging. Thank you to everyone who took time to leave me a note or a PM, and a giant-ass Skars-shaped thank you goes to Kristen, my lovely beta and dear friend. I love you, dude!
I was sprawled on my stomach, languishing in the feel of cool fingers absently drawing circles on my lower back. The sky outside started to pale, signifying the impending sunrise, and the forest was no more a mass of impenetrable black. I could see the darker trunks of separate trees and the clear outline of the branches.
We were both comfortably silent, and I was doing my best to stay as still as possible in order not to break the magic of the moment, as if doing so would stop the run of time and keep my vampire here with me.
We were yet to have that talk. After our initial hunger for each other was satisfied, Eric made a feeble, but honest, attempt to tell me. But seeing him lounging in my bed, gloriously naked and fully aware of the fact, I just could not resist the temptation. And then, when my sated awareness started to encompass something other than the man beside (on top, below or in positions there are no prepositions for) me, it was almost dawn.
Eric's fingers crawled up to my still spotless neck.
"I'll have to impose on your hospitality for the day," he said softly, and though usually I didn't feel comfortable having a vampire sleeping underneath the floorboards in my old bedroom, I almost purred at the thought that for the whole day Eric would be nearby.
"You must be hungry," I started, asking a question without the actual question.
Eric got me. He always did.
"I appreciate the sentiment, but I can manage," he said with an indulgent grin. It was only a matter of seconds before his face turned completely serious. "I don't want to feed from you or have you drink my blood before we talk." How sweet. "So, I expect you to clear out your schedule tonight. And no fairies in the house, please." Dang. Sherriff Northman had to go and spoil it all.
"You are so disgustingly domineering!" I rolled my eyes in anger that was not even half-hearted.
"Maybe, yes," he chuckled, as his wandering palm flattened over the tops of my buttocks. "And while I still have some precious time, guess what I'm going to domineer you into," he murmured into my ear seductively.
And then he left me not one second to do the guessing.
When I next woke up next time, I was, of course, alone in my bed, and the sun, that seemed more joyful and gave a good deal more light today, was shining invitingly through the window.
Feeling like a fourteen-year-old after her first date with that boy, I giggled, took a quick shower, put on my bikini, grabbed a pop-tart in the kitchen and ran outside. I had a moment's sadness at the thought that I could have had a lunch dinner shift today, but I let it sail right on past without dwelling on it. If Sam thought me a threat, well then, let him.
I threw a towel over the ancient deck-chair and sprawled over it, feeling complete relaxation only a night of fantastic sex, combined with a huge weight lifted from my shoulders, could give.
However, I didn't have long to enjoy it. The said weight, or at least, some of it, started to settle back in. I realized that I was both looking forward to and dreading the coming conversation with Eric. I was completely unprepared for whatever new facts about him that were about to surface. There were definitely sides to Eric I hadn't seen, and I was aware how many there truly were, what with his thousand years of adopting to lifestyles, morals and societies. And yet, the sides I had made acquaintance with, I thought I knew like the back of my hand.
And here were these two… women. Girls. Vampires. I didn't even know what they were to him. I knew Pam. Pam was safe. I knew they had a sexual relationship, and it was, probably, longer than my mortal life would ever be, yet, I somehow felt completely comfortable with that fact. Soon after my thoughts turned into that direction, I understood what was bugging me.
I was jealous.
No, scratch that. I was fucking unbelievably, unreasonably jealous. And this jealousy was made stronger by the fact that I didn't know, well, anything. Pam, I knew. If ever it could be said that a vampire was a completely open book, that vampire would be Pam. These… gals? A mystery, wrapped in enigma and with a cute little bow of secrecy on top.
I wondered if he loved them.
My good mood gone out to the wind, I picked up the bottle of coconut oil and stomped back to the house.
The day passed uneventfully. Claude sauntered in at around three in the afternoon, relieved the fridge of excess food, gave me a look the clearly told 'good fucking becomes you' and breezed off after saying that the house reeks of vampires.
Eric rose the second after the last of the red-gold flank of the fat Southern sun sank below the horizon. One minute I was standing there, willing it to move its ass, and the next, cool, strong arms were encircling my waist.
"Staring out into the window, waiting for the sun to set, hmm?" Eric's slightly arrogant drawl resonated in my ears.
"Maybe I'm just curious and want to get this situation with your fairy progeny out of my system," I mumbled going for defensive, but sounding like a petulant child wanting to be coddled, instead.
"Of course you are," Eric agreed solicitously, and for some reason I knew he was absolutely positive as to whom I was waiting for. "But don't you want to make all that… waiting worthwhile?"
He pressed his hips suggestively into my bottom and rolled. I had to keep my eyes from doing a roll of their own which would lead to me watching into the inside of my head.
"Do all vampires get evening wood?" I asked.
"See, we aren't that much different from regular guys," Eric cooed with false excitement.
"Sure you aren't."
"Well, we are able to keep… how did you put it? Wood. Yes, we are able to keep the wood longer." Eric was positively enjoying this absolutely ridiculous conversation which would make my brother Jason proud.
"This is the most lame attempt to talk a girl into having sex I've ever encountered, Eric," I answered, unable to contain a laugh any longer.
"Maybe, but it's working, isn't it?"
Damn right, it was.
Forty most glorious minutes later, I was lying on my back in bed, with Eric's head on my stomach, and my fingers were luxuriating in the silky feel of his long, slightly wavy hair.
"This is not fair," I said with a pout.
"This." I ran my fingers through the perfect tresses. "Why is your hair so perfect all the time, even after you've gone on a huge sex rampage, and mine is all a mess?"
"My lover, this was by no means a sex rampage, I was just stretching my limbs." Cocky bastard. "And I am a vampire, which means I don't have to deal with all those countless bodily fluids you humans have."
Since me being a human as opposed to him being a vampire was a conversation which ran into much deeper waters than I cared to probe at the moment, I dropped the subject like a hot potato and kept my mouth shut and hands busy.
Very soon, the air around us grew stifling with tension. The subject of Eric's progeny was haunting the space of the room like the proverbial elephant, and it appeared neither of us knew how to start this conversation.
"Not that it bothers me, but are you really that jealous of my hair that you're going to pull it all out?" Eric broke the awkward silence, and I realized that my hands weren't exactly caressing anymore.
"Oh, sorry!" I smoothed his hair in embarrassed apology.
"What is it that you are afraid to hear, Sookie?" he asked, catching me rather unprepared.
"I don't know. Everything, probably." I realized that I was interested equally in both the vampires. It wasn't the fairy factor that intrigues me so much, but rather the Eric factor. Why did he choose them? What were they like? How did they… part ways?
"There was a fairy war," Eric started after a pregnant pause. "Fairies need people to survive in this world, and back then, the four elemental clans didn't live in peace as they do now. The Faery was firmly controlled by the Air and Fire Alliances and the Water and Earth fairies were cast out."
"Wow, that sounds like the initial paragraph of one of those fantasy books," I observed, mesmerized. No matter how many supernatural creatures I knew and how many supernatural happenings I'd been part of, the reality of this world was still hard to wrap my brain around.
"It does. Except, in real life, fairies are not benign trickster spirits, Sookie, make absolutely no exception."
"Even Claude?" I asked, shifting uncomfortably.
"Even Claude. I'm not telling you not to trust him. He seems… to hold you dear. But it doesn't mean he hasn't any fairy ruthlessness in him. He's lived a long life in your measurements."
"Go on," I prompted. I didn't want to discuss Claude and his virtues or lack thereof. The last thing I wanted was to become judgmental of someone I considered family.
"The coven I lived with at the time and a large water fairy tribe were laying claims on a cluster of fishermen villages in Ireland. Neither side was ever known to negotiate with the other, so very soon there was a full-blown war raging. Vampires had an advantage in numbers, but fairies had daylight. After a few very unfortunate losses, we lost that advantage as well and realized that if we didn't act, we would be eliminated one by one while in our day sleep."
"Wasn't that kind of a suicide mission?" I asked.
"Not really. Vampires are generally stronger and faster. And our coven was extremely well-trained in fighting. Besides, fairies had families. Women and children who were liabilities, while every single one of us was a warrior."
"That just sounds so horribly… cynical," I said, remembering one of the more recent words from my calendar.
"I'm afraid I'll have to retort with a most banal platitude, Sookie. Life is cynical. Especially it was back then. The natural selection was still strong."
"So, I guess you won?"
"We did. And we drained every single one of them." I knew it meant women and children too, but I didn't ask for a confirmation, afraid to hear such things coming from my vampire's mouth."
"Apparently, not every single one," I said instead, hinting that he should get to the point already.
"You are right. When we entered the village, it was… bloodbath, to put it mildly. We were all drunk and high on fairy blood, there was so much that it was a rare case when we were all full. Full for days. Walking in the daylight and not going hungry. And then, there she was. She was young, and alone, hiding in the reeds near a creek. I didn't want to drink her, I'd already had too much. I thought I'd just painlessly snap her neck. She begged me for her life. There was something in her eyes, I think. Or maybe, I was just so inebriated that I wanted to see this something."
"Was she beautiful?" I asked, trying to hide my hurt. When Eric talked about this gal, his voice took the dreamy cadence I didn't like since it was applied to another woman. And his eyes misted with the sadness that made my heart clench.
"She was. Very beautiful," Eric answered with the same inexplicable sorrow now creeping into his voice.
"What did she look like?"
"A tiny thing. Small and dainty, like a doll. Long, luxurious red hair and blue eyes. Perfect skin, pearly white."
I already hated that bitch.
"So, what happened?"
"I drained her. Slowly. I glamoured her so that she didn't feel a thing."
"You can glamour fairies?"
"When there's so much pure fairy blood in you, you can do pretty much anything."
"It's a good thing fairies are few and far between nowadays, then," I quipped defensively.
"Yes, it is. So, I drained her, was able to stop and feed her because I was so full already, even though she had the sweetest, most addictive young blood…" Eric seemed to be heedless of what these particular confessions were doing to me. "Then I took her away from my coven and buried her. The war was over, and I could enjoy the celebratory freedom. She rose on the second night as a vampire."
Eric looked at me as if this were the end of his tale. But I was far from satisfied.
"So, what happened with this fairy chick then?" I asked, sitting up on the bed and folding my arms over my chest.
"I see I've ruffled some of your feathers," Eric said with a sad smile, giving me a look-over.
"Would you stop being coy and just give me the rest?" I huffed impatiently, not looking him in the eye.
His hands unfolded my arms gently and ran over my torso appreciatively, as if he were trying to reassure me. It didn't quite work, but I could appreciate the gesture.
"I know you'd prefer the truth, Sookie, so I'm being honest and not trying to whitewash it for you."
"Thank you," I mumbled, slightly mollified. "Please, tell me the rest."
"Despite what you know about Claude, Dermot… Claudine," he pronounced the name carefully, knowing that he was stepping on a very sore spot, "and even Niall, fairies are generally not like them. When I think fairy, I usually think of them more like… Lochlan and Neave."
I shuddered at the mention of these two. They still haunted my dreams sometimes.
"Some would think she made a perfect vampire," Eric went on. "Some, who are vampires, that is. But in truth, there's much more in us from our human life than we'd care to admit. And when our humanity goes completely, we turn into something I don't really like to ponder."
"Wow, I wish I had a recorder right now," I said with sarcasm.
"Yes, and that is the first and the last time you hear me say it." Eric chuckled. "She, on the other hand, was never a human. She was as far removed from human as you can imagine. Completely different set of values, a sense of right and wrong even vampires had trouble understanding. On top of that, a willful, arrogant, driven creature." Something in his voice set all my inner alarms a-buzzing, and then it dawned on me.
"Were you scared of her?" I asked still not believing the words came out of my mouth.
"I was," Eric admitted with a morbid sincerity.
"But you stayed with her for some time, right?"
"Yes, for a long time, actually. Very soon, our coven insisted that I get rid of her or they would do it for me."
"And you chose her?" Somehow, this I could understand. If anything, Eric was extremely loyal and responsible to those who were in his care.
"Yes, but not because I was responsible for her," he answered, as if having just read into my thoughts.
"Then why?" I asked and waited for his answer with baited breath. Something told me that what I was about to hear would be essential to the story.
After a long pause, filled with furrowing of the eyebrows and obvious searching for the right words, Eric said, "For some unfathomable reason, she loved me. Despite her completely alien mind and her foreignness, I knew the feeling was true. She loved me and, for me, she tried. It was extremely hard for her to fight her own ways and savage nature, but she did. It awed me. I couldn't abandon her or kill her."
"But you did separate?"
"Yes. Eventually, she'd done a number of things… which just tested the limits of my patience, and I ordered her to leave me. As her maker."
I gathered my strength for the important question.
"Did you love her?" I asked and swallowed a lump in my throat.
"No," Eric answered with fierce conviction. And just when I was to melt into a puddle with relief, he dropped a bombshell, "But I did love my first child."