Author's Note: This began as a humble novelization of the Dallas scenes in the True Blood episodes "Timebomb" (2x08) and "I Will Rise Up" (2x09), but has slowly morphed into my take on how Eric's moral barriers were broken down as he moved through his life as a vampire and how Godric has come to regret his hand in that. The memories and moments in this story not seen on the show belong to me. Unfortunately, as much as I can take credit for how adorable he is, Pinocchio does not. Many thanks to irrevocably-twisted for her guidance and support through the years.
Godric contemplated his victim down the length of his nose, his fangs carefully hidden away behind pursed lips.
The fingers of one hand dug into Gabe Triggs's jaw while the others gripped the back of the man's skull. The skin there was as red and sweat-covered as the man's face, and touching it caused a faint sense of nausea to rise in the back of Death's throat. Gabe's eyebrows were scrunched together; his teeth were pulled back in a grimace of fear and pain. His breath and body stank of spirits.
The appearance was fitting for someone who had been about to commit a crime as heinous as the one Godric was currently in the process of preventing. To think what might have happened to the poor girl...
From her position against the far wall, the fluttering of her heart, the flexing of her throat muscles as she swallowed, and the rustle of cloth as she hastened to make herself once again presentable all held a clarity in the boy's ears that he, at his age, found far from impressive. Yet these were faint in comparison to his prey's heavy gasping and the thud-thump of his circulatory system. From a foot below Godric's own face, even the flickering of Gabe's eyelids was grossly audible.
All drowned the silence which was so difficult for one as old as Godric to find anymore... But, considering the continuous beating of human hearts and the constant in-out of their breath, even when they were still, had there ever truly been such a thing as silence? Or was the concept mere foolery?
And then there was the girl's unabashed scrutiny. The fear mingling with the curiosity on her face was indescribably painful. No one should have to fear the ageless boy anymore.
A melody rose in the back of Death's mind as he considered the fear of ones so young, a supposedly cheerful tune that bore ironically ominous undertones if one sought deeply enough. And with the song came a memory—had it really only occurred three weeks ago, or perhaps a month past? It had seemed the blink of an eye.
"IIIII've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret, or make me frown
I had strings
But now I'm free
There are no strings on me..."
The humans standing sentry before the church, loosely clothed in gray... sweats, was that the term?—were armed, cradling crossbows or wooden stakes, their torsos mummified in silver.
Three of them, leaning up against a side entrance, their heads nodding over their armaments.
The hair on their jaws was visibly sparse even at this distance. A fellow human would place them in their mid-twenties at the very latest.
They are only children...
What it was that had alerted the youth standing to the right of the door to his presence, Godric would never know. He merely saw the boy's head snap upright, a marionette on a string. The boy's wide eyes grew wider still as they locked on Godric, as if his weak pupils had detected a... well...
What else would a human think they saw emerging from a graveyard, clothed in light, but a ghost?
The boy gulped like a fish—Holy shit—raising his stake in one hand while reaching over to wake his dark-haired fellows with the other. These two, instantly alert, raised their weapons in kind. All six forelimbs shook.
The center youth, bespectacled and possessing a thin growth of hair on his upper lip, edged forward, his crossbow directed at Godric's heart. "St-stop right there!"
Godric did. He was separated from them by a few meters of dark green grass, but this was obviously no comfort to them. He held his arms out slightly, palms turned toward the humans in a gesture of peace. "I wish to speak with Mr. Newlin."
The trembling of the group leader's arms increased.
"Please. I mean no one harm." Only to myself.
His thoughts sounded dull; more and more often he found that the world was dimming around him, losing its color, its very appeal. He heard this distance from reality in his own voice, felt it in his bones, and the tone was what most likely prompted the center youth's next words.
"How do I know you ain't glamourin' me? Or any of us? If a vamper is what you are, that is." The heads of his fellow Soldiers of the Sun bobbed in agreement.
Soldiers of the Sun. Even the children were being praised for acts of murder... "Had I the will, each of you would have died minutes ago. Had I even bothered to glamour you beforehand, it would have been only to toy with you. You would be drugged, oblivious to all but my voice, and no suspicion that your life was in danger would ever cross your mind. And at that point, had you been aware, you would have begged me to kill you."
All three gawked openly at him, sweat shining on their faces, their blood racing with animalistic terror.
Godric felt his eyelids sink to half-mast, as if they were sighing. "If you doubt me still, look into the eyes of your peers and observe their clarity."
Now it was their turn to act as they were bid; apparently seeing no cast over each other's eyes, they quickly returned their gazes to Godric.
"All right." The leader again. "So we ain't been glamoured. But that still don't mean we can trust you."
Godric's eyes sighed again; the statement had been long in coming. It was very difficult to surprise one of his longevity anymore... "If you did not use the chains you wear to bind me, what other purpose would they serve?"
"Huh?" The Soldier's gaze dropped. "Oh! Here, boys—truss 'im up while I cover you." The crossbow was once again directed at the only non-beating heart in the vicinity.
The one who had first noticed Godric bound his wrists before him, one crossed over the other in a clumsy mockery of a soldier at ease; the other looped a second chain around his ankles.
Godric was unable to prevent the exposure of his greatest weapons as they snapped into place with a fleshy clicking sound.
And then they were inside the church, inside the basement.
His old eyes were thankful that the fluorescent lighting was low. He could not see through the doors branching off the endless hallways, and he did not want to see. His head sank down toward his chest, eyelids slowly rolling shut, the weight of the earth closing in on him even though it was barricaded by man-made structure. He was so tired... tired not in the physical sense. Yet all he wanted to do was sleep, and bring pain to no one any longer. Sleep forever...
"Hey, man, come on—you're slowing down."
It was such an effort to raise the ball of lead set upon his shoulders... but the realization of who it was that had spoken prodded him into movement.
The youth who had first spotted Godric's emergence from the woods surrounding the church, previously silent.
Godric could only blink at him.
The boy shook his head—"Vampers"—and Godric was yanked forward again.
Everything was so faint, so distant—even the mockery of the sun's light was something barely felt on Godric's arms. Such was the fog that had enveloped and become the ageless boy's thoughts...
Dimly he was aware that they had stopped moving. As the lead Soldier's footsteps died away, the ones left behind threw Godric to the floor. He grunted softly on impact, having been unable to brace himself with his hands, and the sound was reflexive. He long suspected he had lost the ability to detect pain.
The ageless boy did not know how long he lay there. He only knew that it was peaceful, and the immobility and the complete lack of responsibility which accompanied it were concepts of such grandeur... The white tile was firm and unyielding against his cheek, nearly hypnotic in its solid tranquility. He knew he would be perfectly content to lie there for eternity, until his blessed executioners came for him and he finally, finally died for the last time—if he could remember what contentment was...
A persistent tap-tap lagged, jittery and off-tempo, behind the boy's returning footsteps. Godric's escorts quickly jerked him upright, and he could not summon the strength to find it strange that this numb semi-awareness was the only thing keeping him on his feet.
The floor had been more comfortable.
Steve Newlin's eyes were lit with a positively manic glee, the grin stretching his cheeks almost too wide for the gesture to be natural. "Well," he chuckled softly, "what have we here?"
The youth with the crossbow gestured toward Godric. "This here vamper wants to talk to you, Mr. Newlin sir."
"Does he now?" Godric watched Newlin's eyes as he inspected, literally from head to toe, an image with which the two thousand-year-old being had been confronted for too long a time. The short brown hair, the child-like face, the tired old eyes rimmed red with hunger, the tattoos binding him to memories he had never wished to keep...
Godric blinked. Narcissism, even indirectly summoned, was selfishly unproductive. "Your institution has been greatly observed by our kind."
Newlin's leer widened; he leaned forward slightly. "And I suppose your kind perceive us as a threat?" He spoke slowly, with clear enunciation despite the Southern twang in his voice, as though he were addressing a very young child.
Godric's eyes sighed again. "You cannot argue the feeling is anything but natural." And now he must say what he had come to say, words which had been on his tongue since he first heard of the Fellowship. "I wish to be the sacrifice."
Newlin blinked, his smile faltering. "Sacrifice?"
"On the pyre which is being erected to commemorate the rise of your church."
Newlin's brows drew together. "Why? I would've thought you vampires valued your own damned lives above all else."
Godric blinked once more, slowly. "Would I willingly harm myself in order to seek an audience with you if I still did?"
Newlin's eyes flickered to Godric's smoking wrists; he grimaced slightly before returning his gaze to the ancient one's face. "You're sick of it all, aren't you?" The grin began to reaffirm itself. "The Final Day of Reckoning is coming, and you're too shit-scared to face it!"
The ageless boy could not speak, wondering instead what reaction he would gain if he screamed the truth: I CANNOT FEEL ANYTHING ANYMORE!
But even the one, especially the one, who had followed in his footsteps for a thousand years did not deserve to hear such a cry.
Newlin straightened up as he laughed aloud. "Looks like we got ourselves a centerpiece for our grand celebration!" He called in the direction from which he had come: "Hey, Gabe! Come see what the Good Lord has provided for us through the hard work of your boys!"
And then there he was, standing at Newlin's left shoulder as if he had always been there. The guard dog's eyes were clouded with stupid, primal hate.
Newlin gestured to Godric. "Gabe, this is—I'm sorry," the reverend laughed, "what's your name again?"
The sighing of the eyes. "Godric."
"Gabe, this is Godric. Godric, Gabe. He'll be takin' care of you during your little, ah... stay here."
Gabe joined the Soldiers at Godric's side, nodding to his pupils while keeping his eyes dutifully fixed on Newlin. "Good work, boys. Collect your silver and return to your posts."
The man's voice was expressionless, almost mechanical.
As the Soldier who had first noticed Godric in the cemetery uncoiled the chains from his wrists, the ancient one watched as his skin clung to the deadly ties in strands like bloody spider's silk. Yes, he was certainly beyond pain...
That was the moment when the puppet-child's desperate litany had faded into clarity between his ears:
"IIIII've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret, or make me frown
I had strings
But now I'm free
There are no strings on me..."
And so here they were, roles reversed, all because Gabe had been so foolish as to attempt to vent his rage on an innocent girl.
Godric wrinkled his nose as he tilted the man's head upward, forcing eye contact.
His prey possessed the nerve to make one final, desperate plea for life. "Godric, it's me..."
The ancient one pressed his lips together.
You have shamed your race.
Godric was well-acquainted with shame. They had been old friends for many years now.
This disgusting creature in no way deserved mercy... but Godric had vowed to himself that he would never again directly cause another's suffering, no matter how much they deserved it.
The resounding crack of Gabe's neck as it snapped was sweet to the ageless boy's ear... The process of mental detachment from the situation was swift and much-needed as Death retracted his fangs. His fingers sprang open, and Gabe crumpled to the floor, eyes wide in death, tongue lolling grotesquely.
Godric forced himself to look at the girl as his instincts cooled. Her interference had not only been foolhardy, it had come at a cost affecting the human and vampire communities as a whole. Yet, as he had overheard, she had acted under another's instruction, and for that he could not reprimand her severely. "You should not have come."
Then, amid cries of surprise and fear, he heard the sound of air rushing at improbable speeds.
A vampire, movements too quick for the human eye to clearly detect.
Something long forgotten stirred within Godric as his head whipped toward the sound. He closed his eyes, and for the first time in nearly seventy years was filled with the impact of the bond that he as a Maker shared with—
Indecisiveness. Desperation. Rage. Pain.
The girl, aware of the sound but of nothing behind it, scrambled to her feet. "Bill?"
Hope. Longing. Sorrow. Joy.
More emotion was contained in that single word than Godric had expressed, experienced, in a very long time...
And the bond thrummed between them: a beating heart, whole and strong.
"I am here my child!"
Godric dipped his head slightly, his eyes attempting to blink though they were still closed.
Softer, full of promise.
He slowly opened his eyes, raised his head, and it was much easier to perform the motions than it would have been a minute ago.
Another rush of air—astonishment, immeasurable elation—and then his progeny was standing in the doorway of their prison.
Godric barely took note of how his child still favored the color black in his clothing, barely took note of how this and how the Viking's fair hair had been modernized. All Godric truly saw were the relief, fear and worry—among deeper, unnameable emotions—lining the face of the one made his.
Eric moved again, blurring time and space, and then he was just over a foot away, gazing down at him, cerulean ice pooling with gray clouds.
Oh, how he did not deserve the gift of his name spoken on the lips of his child, the first true word between them in so long...
He watched Eric drop to one knee before him, the lowering of his gaze keeping exact pace with his other movements as he bowed his head.
Such a display of loyalty, and after so many years...
And Godric knew then who had sent the girl and her unconscious companion. He did not know how he had not even guessed the answer beforehand. It was so obvious...
Which cursed him again the foolish narcissist.
The mistake of a child deserved the rebuke of a father, but because there had been no way for the child to know why the father had done what he did, the rebuke would be gentle. "You were a fool for sending humans after me."
"I had no other choice." Self-defense. It had always been one of Eric's... endearing qualities. "These... savages, they—they seek to destroy you..." Eric looked up with these last few words, and as their eyes met, the confirmation of Eric's pain was so strong that Godric longed to drop to his knees and comfort him with physical, intimate touch, communicating the reciprocation in ways Eric could understand...
But right now the love of the father was what Eric needed most.
"I am aware of what they have planned." And you were wrong to interfere. Foolish child. My foolish child. My child... Godric indicated the girl's unconscious companion. Blood was drying on his left temple where Gabe had shoved him into a cabinet and he collapsed to the floor. "This one betrayed you."
"He's with the Fellowship." The girl. Her hair trembled slightly as she rubbed her arms; she shivered, glancing at the deceiver and then away again. "They set a trap for us..."
"How long has it been since you've fed?"
Godric blinked and looked back to his child. "I require very little blood anymore." There are times when you are aware of more than you should be, and for that I commend you. But at this moment it makes you extremely imprudent. Tread lightly, my son.
An alarm began to sound inside the church, heard clearly even within the depths of the basement. Godric lifted his head, his eyes on the door; he sensed his child's and the girl's to be on the same. The sound put him in mind of an up-tempo, electronic rendition of the air-raid sirens used in London during the Great War... "Save the human." They will have to kill me now, if only to put the minds of those they protect at ease...
But Eric had not moved, his regard once again upon Godric's face.
"Go on." Firm, yet gentle, as Godric had most always been with his child.
And this, amidst undercurrents of desperation and fear, was met with defiance. "I am not leaving your side until you're—"
"I can take care of myself!" He had not meant to scold him so harshly—Eric was, after all, only being himself... a self Godric knew better than ever his progeny could realize.
The girl stepped forward, tension, fear and sympathy etched in her posture. "Come on, we have to go!"
The father must instruct. "Spill no blood on your way out." And the child must obey.
Eric's eyes slowly dropped, and even his usual gifts of subtlety could not hide his confusion.
"Go." He prodded gently at the child with his will over him as Maker.
Eric stood, placing a hand on the girl's arm and looking back at Godric one last time as he guided her through the basement door.
Godric stared at the body of Gabe Triggs without seeing it as he was swept back a thousand years to a time and place very different from this one... happier... and yet so much worse...
And Eric's emotions told him that he was thinking of it too.