Bones of the Dead

Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognize.

A/N: Sorry for not updating! I've been inundated with work and assignments and learning to do radio/TV/court stories all at once! Anyway, hope you enjoy!

Chapter 2: The Conundrum in the Plan

Pam is having some difficulty trying not to laugh. In her entire life, she's never heard anyone undermine her maker's sexual prowess, yet this very human woman has just said, in the most deadpan manner, that she isn't sure if Eric's really that great. She can feel Eric's annoyance and utter shock. Perhaps not all breathers are unbearable. For sure, she can tease her maker about this later. Oh, she hasn't has such good ammunition for quite some time.

"Is that so?" asks Eric.

"Yes," says the woman. She's not afraid of him. She should be. Perhaps her survival instincts are not very high?

"Perhaps I should give you a demonstration, Dr Brennan?"

"I'd take that into consideration if it weren't so unprofessional, because you are very attractive."

"Bones," says the FBI agent. "Do you remember why we're here?" He cocks an eyebrow. Eric raises his 'eyebrow of doom'. That's what the Fangtasia staff calls it, at any rate.

"Yes," says Brennan. She seems to be displeased with herself for having been distracted by Eric a second time. They both heard her when she first commented on how impressive he was.

The FBI agent hands Eric a file. Inside are head-and-shoulder shots of two girls. Their lips are blue in death, and their skin is translucent like wax. The fluorescent lighting of the morgue or wherever they took these pictures didn't do them any favours. "Do you remember any of these people?" asks Booth. Pam remembers the two girls. One was too pathetic for Eric's taste. He enjoyed the other, even though he later said she was too thin for his liking. Neither of them were to Pam's taste.

Eric flicks through the pictures. Apart from the two dead girls, there's also a picture of a much more familiar face. Liam. Talk about someone with low standards. Eric isn't a very discriminating vampire when it comes to a feed and a fuck (the two Fs, in vampire vernacular) but even he has a bottom line. Liam, however, doesn't seem to have one. How did the FBI get a picture of Liam fucking Eric's rejected meal? And, of course, the meal has to turn up dead later on. Pam's beginning to wonder if the news is right and there really is a vampire serial killer out there.

"I remember the two girls," says Eric as he hands back the file. "They were very much alive when they left."

"We have surveillance footage if you want proof," says Pam.

"Perfect," says Booth. "We'll need all of your tapes. And what about the vampire? Do either of you recognize him?"

Eric leans back in his chair and rests his elbows on the arms. He puts his fingertips together to form a tent with his hands. "Agent Booth, the vampire community may be small, but it's not that small. We don't all know one another."

"Do you really think you're a vampire?" scoffs Brennan. "That's ridiculous!"

Instead of answering her, Eric drops his fangs. The FBI agent's hand immediately flies to his gun, as if that can help them if Eric really wanted to kill them. Brennan recoils slightly, but only for a split second. Then she's back in full force.

She wants Eric to have an x-ray.

Pam hasn't been quite so entertained in a very long time.

I've been feeling nervous on Dr Brennan's behalf for the past half hour. Yes, I'll admit that I've been monitoring her mind, and Agent Booth's too. Hey, sometimes you have to do a little evil in order to do a greater good, right? Besides, it's not a federal offence to read an agent's mind.

Originally, I intended to question this Eric Northman myself, but when Agent Booth and Dr Brennan showed up…well, they're much better at asking questions. Although Northman might not be telling them the truth because they're with the FBI. From my experience, most minority communities tend to not trust the police and their counterparts. Me, I'm different. I'm a waitress and I pose no threat to anyone.

I feel someone's hand on my head. Bill. He's trying to turn me towards him.

"What are you doing, Bill?" I ask.

"You're staring," he says, sounding displeased.

"I know what I'm doing," I say. I get up. "I need to talk to that guy up there."

He notices her as soon as she walks in through the door. He just has to deal with the FBI agent and his rather amusing partner first. The girl doesn't belong here with the dregs of humanity. Her bone structure, the way she moves, they all point back to her bloodline; a bloodline that is more royal than any king or queen who ever walked this earth. Eric can see Fintan in her face and her mannerisms.

She approaches the dais after the FBI agent and the forensic anthropologist leaves, with Bill Compton behind her acting as some sort of escort. Compton clearly isn't happy to be here. "Bill Compton," Eric drawls. "What a nice surprise."

"Sir," says Bill stiffly.

"Who is your companion?" asks Eric.

The girl sticks out her hand, clearly expecting a handshake, as is the usual human custom. She knows nothing of the supernatural world, clearly. "My name is Sookie Stackhouse, Mr Northman," she says. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

Vampires do not shake hands, but Eric takes her hand in his. She is warm. Her pulse is racing and he can smell the adrenaline in her sweat. He kisses the back of her hand. She smells sweet. Almost too sweet. He's enraptured by the exquisite creature standing in front of him. Tonight has been a most interesting night, firstly with the FBI and now this. "Miss Stackhouse, the pleasure is mine," he murmurs. "How can I help you?" He smirks as he sees Bill Compton become increasingly uneasy. Bill believes that his propriety far outweighs Eric's charm, at least when it comes to good girls like Sookie Stackhouse. Eric enjoys proving people wrong. He particularly enjoys it when it comes to 'stick-up-his-arse' Compton.

Sookie blushes most delightfully, enhancing her delicious scent even further. She's wearing no perfume, unlike the other girls who come to Fangtasia. Eric doesn't mind a bit of perfume as long as it's designer. Cheap perfume just smells…cheap. She takes out two pictures from her little vinyl purse and hands them to Eric. He notices it has a tiny little pattern of hearts and flowers. How innocent and naïve the girl is. It is refreshing after centuries of jadedness and cynicism.

"Do you recognize these girls, Mr Northman?" she asks.

"May I ask why you want to know?" asks Eric. He indicates that she should sit. Since there are only three chairs on the dais, Bill has to stand. He knows he's being a jerk. He's enjoying it immensely.

"My brother's a suspect in their murders, but I know he didn't do it," says Sookie.

"So you are out to prove his innocence," says Eric. "How noble of you." He hands the pictures back to her, making sure to just brush her hand. The contact sends something that feels like an electric shock through both of them. She jerks backwards, clearly frightened and intrigued —and frightened of her own intrigue. "I recognize them both. The pretty one, I have had her. The other was too pathetic."

"I recognize them both too," Pam volunteers. "Neither of them were to my taste. You, on the other hand…"

"Sorry, I don't bat that way," says Sookie. "But it's very flattering." Maybe she's not as much of a good girl as Compton thought. Eric likes that. She's feisty.

"Well, if you ever change your mind, you know where to find me." Pam winks at Sookie.

"Pam," says Eric with a warning in his voice. He intends to have Sookie Stackhouse for himself, thank you very much. "Why do you think that coming to Fangtasia will help you prove your brother's innocence, Miss Stackhouse?"

"Well, I thought…maybe…you'd know who did it…" the girl replies.

"And why would you think that?"

"Because they had bite marks on them."

"Were they drained?"

"No." She sounds certain. Too certain. Eric narrows his eyes at her.

"How would you know that?" he asks.

"Because…" Behind her, Bill is also frowning, although it is not a frown of confusion. He looks as if he's frowning because he wants her to stop talking.

Suddenly Sookie's eyes widen. "We have to get out of here," she says.


"Because there's going to be a raid, and a vampire just took a man out back." She looks at him desperately, hoping that he won't ask her more questions. "Please, just trust me on this one."

Eric cannot read the hearts and minds of people, but he over the years, he's learned to recognize the scent of deceit. He doesn't smell it on this girl. It's better to be careful, and there's something about this girl.

"Pam, deal with it," he tells his child in Swedish. Pam rolls her eyes but hurries off to do his bidding anyway. Sookie stares at the spot where she occupied a split second ago. The poor sweet girl still has such a lot to learn about vampires. He wouldn't mind teaching her, especially not about the more pleasurable aspects of life with the undead.

Booth is furious. Of all the times the locals have to conduct a raid, why now? What's worse, they haven't found anything. Now there is every chance in the world that the murderer might have heard something about it and gone into hiding, and they might also have ruined the bureau's relationship with the vampire community forever. Northman might have thought that Booth was responsible for the raid. Getting information from them just got a whole lot harder.

"They didn't give us anything useful, Booth," says Bones as she bends over the…uh…bones on the steel examination table. She requested the remains of the other victims of the Strangler from the other coroners. No, Booth doesn't approve of the name, but he doesn't make them up. "He practically sawed through her neck."

"What?" says Booth.

"The killer," says Bones. "He pulled on the murder weapon so hard that he almost cut off her head. He used something thin, like wire or fishing line."

"That shows a lot of hate," says Sweets, who is observing from a little distance away. "Does it say whether the victim had bite marks?"

"There is nothing to prove that those puncture wounds were caused by teeth," says Bones.

"Bones, we went to a vampire club last night."

"I concede that those people's fangs are capable of causing such wounds, but you need more proof to definitively say that the victims were bitten by your so-called vampires." She picks up a finger bone and examines it with a magnifying glass.

Cam strides up the steps with a file in her hand. "I got the results on what I found under Dawn French's fingernails. That girl put up a hell of a fight." She hands the file to Booth, who flicks it open but waits impatiently for her to tell him everything. It's quicker that way. Cam knows how he rolls. "The DNA is male, and there are some particulates that correspond with what you would find on any road in DC. I'm having Hodgins analyze them in more detail."

"We should visit the women's apartments again," says Booth. "Maybe we'll find something there."

I have been thinking about last night, about Eric Northman, and about the strange way Bill behaved. The more I think about it, the more I feel that Bill didn't want me to meet Eric. I get that Eric's some sort of vampire head honcho and he's considered to be very attractive—let's face it; he is very attractive and I've been thinking about what he would look like emerging from a lake all wet like Colin Firth in the BBC's production of Pride and Prejudice. He'd look even better than Mr Darcy.

After the police left, Eric asked me what I was. I had no choice but to tell him. Unfortunately, that meant telling Pam and Bill as well. Eric said he would call on me because he would have use of my abilities in the future. All the while, he was trying to look down my top. Mr Northman is a veritable expert in multitasking.

"Earth to Sookie!" says Tara, waving a hand in front of my face. "Mushroom pasta's ready. What's gotten into you, girl? You looked like you're in love. Good date?" She knows I went out with Bill last night.

"It wasn't a date," I say. "I needed his help."

"With what?"

"I wanted to check out that vampire bar."

"Sookie! I didn't know you were the type."

I deliver the pasta to table five. The guy there barely looks at me. He's too busy trying to stare down his female companion's top. Should I tell Tara about what I'm trying to do, or should I keep it quiet? I go back to the bar. It's past lunch time, so it will be a while before the restaurant is busy again. Plus, I'm on lunch shift. I won't be here for dinner.

I intend to go back to Fangtasia tonight. I need to speak with Eric. I don't know why, but somehow, I get the feeling that he will be able to help me catch this murderer. I'm not going to ask Bill. He almost got drained so I'm not sure how good he would be in dealing with a serial killer. Besides, Eric's the head honcho. He's probably got more resources.

Fangtasia is filled to the brim with people. Pam, however, waves me through. "I was wondering if you'd come back," she says. "And you still don't fit in."

"I'm not here to fit in, Pam," I say. "Is Eric around?"

"It's always about Eric," says the female vampire. Is that a pout I see? "It's not fair that he's so lucky."

"That's not true," I say. "That brunette over there is wondering if you'd bite her."

"Hmm, I think I might be able to tolerate you," says Pam. "And by the way, I wouldn't wear that colour if I were you. It fades you out." I look down at my champagne coloured top. What's wrong with it? However, I'm pushed inside by the crowd of people outside, and I don't have the chance to ask Pam why she doesn't like this colour on me.

Eric is on his throne, looking very bored again, but he smiles when he sees me and gives me a generous flash of fang. "Well, hello, Miss Stackhouse," he says when I come to the edge of the dais where is throne is. "I see you are without Compton this time."

"Is now a good time to talk, Mr Northman?" I ask.

"Are you sure you simply want to talk?"

"Yeah, I really am just here to talk." Down, libido! 'It's just hormones,' I remind myself. 'Seratonin and something else.' Science is the least sexy thing I can think of. It's not doing one bit of good. I try to think of something else. Like…murders. Yeah, that does the trick. The Strangler is too serious, and I need to get to the bottom of this before the FBI hauls Jason in again.

"What a pity, then, for me," he says. He indicates that I should sit and he rests his elbows on the armrests of his chair. "What is it that you wish to talk about, Miss Stackhouse?"

"I was wondering if you could help me," I say. "I have a theory about this serial killer. All the women he killed had bite marks on them. Well, puncture wounds that look a lot like vampire bite marks, anyway."

"This information has not been released," says Eric, raising an eyebrow. "I checked. How did you get it?"

"It's not a federal offence to read a federal agent's mind," I say defensively. "At least, not yet." He laughs.

"I like the way you think," he says. "Go on."

"Well, that seems to be the only thing these women have in common and I was thinking that this is the motive for killing these women."

"You think the serial killer might be after fangbangers?"

"I don't like that word," I say with a grimace. "But that's basically the idea."

"It's not incomprehensible," says Eric slowly. "How does your brother feel about fangbangers?"

"He doesn't like them but he wouldn't kill them either," I say firmly. "And I read his mind so don't go telling me that I might not know him as well as I like."

"Fair enough," says Eric. "Do you read vampire minds?"

"No. You are completely silent to me."

"Have you ever tried?"

"No, and I don't want to."

"Are you afraid you might like it?"

I don't need to read Eric's mind to know what he wants. Men usually only ever want one thing from a girl like me. He's not getting it. Not now, anyway. I'm not a psychic so I can't predict the future. Let's just say I'm not repulsed by the idea of getting to know Eric Northman a little better. "I'm here to ask for your help, Mr Northman."

"You mentioned that," says Eric. "What can I help you with?"

"I want to get the killer and exonerate my brother," I say. "Hunting for him would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but if we know what he wants, we can get him."

"He wants to kill people," says Eric.

"He wants to kill girls who sleep with vampires," I amend.

"There are many of those," says Eric. "You cannot possibly predict his next victim, unless you are psychic as well?"

"No, but maybe we can…fix the results?"

"You want him to target a certain girl so he can be caught in the act?" The vampire leans forward. "Who is this girl in question?"

"Well, I've only got me," I say with a shrug. "Will I do?"

"You are not a fangbanger," Eric points out.

"True," I say, "but I can pretend to be one."

"Forgive me, Miss Stackhouse, but I do believe you need a vampire in order to make yourself appear to be a fangbanger. I suppose you could stab yourself in the neck with something sharp, but I don't recommend it."

"That's why I'm here." I blush. "I was wondering…if you could help me put on this vampire groupie act. Superficially, that is. I mean…um…if…you know…I only need the bite marks. But if you don't want to, it's okay. I'll find someone else…" Eric's nostrils flare. He takes a deep breath, even though I know vampires don't need to breathe.

"Miss Stackhouse, it would be very selfish of me to refuse you," he says. I don't think he really means it. He's grinning, after all. It's a very fangy grin that makes me scared and excited at the same time. You know, you sometimes have to think about why all these people are so eager to be bitten. Either there's money in it, or there's something about being a vampire's donor. Since all those…uh…donors are willing to pay money to get into Fangtasia…well, you get the idea. Eric's grin widens as he takes in the slight change to my scent. "You have a deal, with some conditions."

"What are the conditions? You're not going to make me have…sexual relations with you, are you?"

"Not if you don't want to," says Eric. "I have a suspicion that you do want to." He taps his nose. My face must be red enough to light up Santa's way from the North Pole. "However, that is not what I am talking about. You have a rare gift, Miss Stackhouse. I would like you to be my…consultant on a case by case basis. And there is a terribly boring Independent Entrepreneurs' Association dinner that I must attend in a week's time. Pam has astutely chosen to take her annual leave then, and I do not fancy the idea of taking Ginger—" He glances over at a waitress who probably survives on a diet of cigarettes, water, and Tic Tacs. "—as my date. Your company would, no doubt, alleviate my boredom immensely."

"You…you're asking…me out?" I squeak. Very smooth, Sookie. Very smooth.

"You want to be seen as a 'vampire groupie', as you called it, do you not?" asks Eric. "Then it stands to reason that you should be seen with one. With any luck, you might even end up in the morning paper, and that serial killer you want to lure out will have a much greater chance of targeting you."

I think about it. He's making a lot of sense, and his conditions are reasonable. It's not as if he's making me do anything I'd be totally uncomfortable with. If anything, I'm the one making an awkward request. "Done," I say.

"Great," he says. "I will have my lawyers draw up a contract." He smirks when he sees my face. "This is for your services as a consultant. Your little plan will be our secret." He winks.

"You have no idea how much this means to me, Mr Northman," I say, relieved that he said yes and that he's not asking me to do more in return. Honestly, I don't really know what I was thinking when I hatched up this plan, but I'm glad that my gut instincts were right. I think they were right. Maybe. I don't know. "I can't thank you enough."

"Please, Sookie," he says. "If you're going to pretend to be fucking me, then you should at least call me by my first name. I'm not into Austen novel role-plays."

One man's hell is another man's heaven. To Booth, Hodgins' office, with all those tanks full of bugs and slime and fancy equipment, looks like a place where unwanted junk is kept. The whirring of the machines and the bubbling of liquid creates a hum in the background. "Hey dude," says Hodgins. He looks even more like an alien life form than usual in his lab goggles.

"Cam said you have something for me?" said the FBI agent.

"I just got more results from the particulates I found on one of the victims," says the entomologist as he peels off his latex gloves and removes his goggles. "Get this; there were large traces of ethanol, isopropanol, butanol and urethane resin on the victim."

"Okay, stop it right there," says Booth, holding up his hands. "None of that means anything to me."

Hodgins sighs at his ignorance. Booth ignores that. "Those are ingredients often found in ink. Dry erase ink, to be exact," he tells the FBI agent.

"She was a waitress at the Founding Fathers," says Booth. "They write things on the specials' boards all the time."

"Ah, yes, but the Founding Fathers uses blackboards, not whiteboards," says Hodgins. "I haven't found anything at the crime scene which could be the source of those chemicals, which suggests the killer brought them in with him."

"So the killer used a dry erase marker at some point," says Booth impatiently. "That doesn't really help."

"There was a lot of it, so my guess is he works in a job where he has to use them quite often," says Hodgins. "I also found traces of hydrochloric acid, copper sulphate, nitric acid, citric acid, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium oxide—"

"What does that tell you?" asks Booth impatiently.

"I have no idea," says Hodgins. It doesn't seem to bother him. "I'll tell you once I figure it out."

"All right," says Booth. He knows he can't rush these scientists. For one, they don't like it when they're rushed. Two, accurate science takes time. "Thanks, Hodgins. Keep me posted if you find anything else."

"Will do," says Hodgins. "By the way, I have a question about Angela—"

"Bye Hodgins," says Booth. He's going to go and take another look at those hedonistic and ultimately very sad surveillance tapes. How can people have little enough self-esteem to actively seek out people who obviously despise them and pay good money for their condescension?

I have my vampire partner in crime. Now all I need is to tell Sam that I can't take the night shift next Tuesday because I have an interview —well, date— with a vampire. Don't get me wrong. Sam's not a bigot. He's got nothing in particular against vampires. He just doesn't trust them and he thinks they're dangerous. He's probably right about that. But still, I don't see why I can't trust Eric Northman. He could have done a number of things to me when I went to find him the other night, but he didn't. In fact, he was very gentlemanly. Well, as gentlemanly as he could be while trying to look down my top and get into my pants. I have to admit that he had an effect on me.

It turns out I don't even have to wait until I ask Sam if I could swap shifts with Arlene that night. See, I forgot something. Sam's also an entrepreneur, and he's going to that dinner too.

"Sookie, can I ask you for a favour?" he asks me while I'm just about to go on my break.

"Sure," I say.

"There's this dinner on Tuesday night for the Washington Independent Entrepreneurs' Association," he begins awkwardly. "And I was wonderin'…if…maybe…you'd be my date." I almost drop my purse.

"I'm sorry, Sam, but I can't," I say. "I'm kinda…going with someone else." I don't know how you can 'kinda' go with someone else but that's what came out of my mouth. What can I say? It's a real uncomfortable situation that no girl wants to be in. Your boss is in love with you and you're rejecting his request because you're going to the very same thing with someone else who he probably doesn't like.

"You're going to the dinner with someone else?" he echoes.

"Yeah…" I say. "I'm sorry."

"Who are you going with?"

I debate whether I should lie and make up someone. Then again, Sam would probably know if I lied. I'm not exactly a great liar, which is why I'm a waitress and not an actress. I can't pretend to be something I'm not. It's ironic because I'm weaving a huge lie to try and catch a serial killer. "Eric Northman," I finally say.

"You're going with a vampire?" Sam demands. "And not just any vampire, but that vampire? How do you even know him, Sookie?"

"Mr Compton took me to this vampire bar, Fangtasia," I say quite honestly. Well, it's not quite as honest as it should be because technically, I made Bill escort me. However, he did take me there because I had no idea in hell where it was so I didn't lie to Sam. "I met Eric there and he seemed nice, so I said yes when he asked me out." I leave out all the little details which led to him asking me out. Sam doesn't need to know any of it. In fact, the fewer people who knows, the better. I haven't even told Gran yet and I don't intend to any time soon.

"You're crazy, Sookie," says Sam.

"That's what they all say," I say.

"You know what I mean! Eric Northman isn't just any vampire. He's probably one of the most dangerous vamps in the city!"

"I know," I say. I don't; not really. I kinda do know that Eric Northman is dangerous. I just don't know where he sits on the danger scale. "I'm the one who's dating him, Sam."

"Are you sleeping with him?" he asks. I hear the jealousy and rage creep into his voice.

"Yes," I lie. "What about it?"

"No, Sookie, you can't swap shifts with Arlene on Tuesday night. It's not fair on her to be doing two night shifts in a row," he says.

"What? Come on, Sam! You've never had a problem with us swapping shifts! I've done it for her before and I've talked to her about it and she said it was okay!"

"I'm the boss, okay?" says Sam. "I'm not okay with you swapping shifts whenever you please so you're not doing it on Tuesday night."

"You're just being unreasonable and petty and jealous! Why can't you just accept that I like this guy and that I'll never feel the same way about you?" Honestly, I don't know where that came from. I kinda do like Eric, but he's not even a friend yet, much less something more. I mean, he's one cool customer and I admire him for it, but I'm not about to tell him all of my secrets. Granted, I have told him one of the two secrets I keep, which is one more secret than Sam knows…

"That's low, Sookie," says Sam quietly. "That's really low."

"I'm sorry, Sam," I say, immediately feeling terrible about it. I don't know what's gotten into me. Perhaps it's the stress of trying to exonerate Jason. Perhaps I'm just feeling defensive because he's judging Eric based on the sole factor of him being a vampire. I don't like it when people generalize about certain groups. I don't like stereotypes and I don't like discrimination. Ignorant hate is such an ugly thing. "I didn't mean to say that."

"But you did mean it, didn't you?" he says. I have no answer for him. "Listen, Sookie, you go do what you want with your life, but if it's going to be like this, then I don't think I'm going to be able to work with you anymore. It'll create too much tension."

"Are you firing me?" I whisper.

"No, I'm asking you to resign," he says. "I'll give you good references if you need them for your new job, and I'll give you a week's paid leave, but Sookie, you can't stay here."

"You're going to ask me to resign because I'm dating a vampire?" I am dumbstruck. How can he do that? Is my dating a vampire going to affect my work? I don't think so. "All right, Sam Merlotte, you know what? Fine. I'm resigning now. I'm just really disappointed in you. I thought you were a better man than this." I take off my apron and throw it at him. Childish, I know, but I can't help it. I'm hurt that he asked me to resign. I guess it's more reasonable than firing me, but still, I can't believe how narrow-minded Sam's being. It's like I don't know him at all.

Once I'm in my car, I just sit there in the seat, taking deep breaths. I don't feel like going home. I don't know where to go. Oh, stuff it. I need a drink and something to take my mind off the fact that I am now unemployed, except for my deal with a vampire. I flick on the indicator and turn onto the road. I'm heading to Fangtasia.