I've been gone for awhile, yes. There was another story I was determined to finish because I'd left it on hiatus for so long. Now that it's completed, I can refocus my attention. Although, the interest is mixed for this story, I will continue it because I feel like a part of me has to explore certain emotions in here, just to help me progress as a writer and to help explain this strange little story. So whether you like it or not, here's the next chapter. Also, I just wanted to mention from the last chapter about Sookie's attempted seduction. Basically, she was frustrated at Bill's absence. No call, no nothing. Knowing that Eric holds an interest in her, for just one night, she lets down her guard and tries to make due on the lust stirring between them. It's further spurred when Eric does the sort of "honorable" thing and moves to leave. Eventually, he asks her what she's doing and at that moment, reality comes slapping her back in the face. All she wanted was a momentary release, and while she may have been a bit selfish in the way she gained it, it's a fairly common mistake attributed to the lonely woman. I wanted to get that straight because some of you were confused about what had happened. Her use was to explain to Eric why exactly people held back details when they could potentially be so liberating. Enjoy.


Chapter 7

Even a full day of rest couldn't prepare Eric to face Natalie Warren again.

This time around, he had to make a noticeable effort not to lose his temper as well as mentally or physically scar her, all the while attempting to gain her trust. Which had to be achieved within five nights.

To say the task was daunting would be a severe understatement.

However, Eric found to his great confusion, that Natalie was a uniquely forgiving person. Toward him, at least.

"How did the day treat you?" he first questioned upon descending down the basement stairs.

He already knew the essentials courtesy of Ginger, but Pam warned him to ask simple questions at first. No need to relive what had occurred the night before.

"Good," Natalie expressed, bruised arms wrapped around her knees. "Ginger tried convincing me Ted Nugent was her uncle."

At his blank stare, Natalie elaborated.

"Singer and proud NRA member. That one song - 'Cat Scratch Fever, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh' - Que guitar solo."

"Would Ginger's relation to...Ted...be considered something of a proud achievement?"

Natalie's brows furrowed and she expelled a sullen laugh.

"When Ted realized he couldn't have sex with the girl he was dating because she was way under the legal age of consent, he asked her parents if he could adopt her. They agreed, and from then on, he was able to legally have sex with her. Even though he was her guardian. You tell me whether that's something to be proud of."

Her interested gaze served the purpose to begin a conversation. Unfortunately, Eric was still uneasy at how calm she acted around him. Especially after the attack.

No one could simply flip on and off emotions without concealing some.

"In my time, it was not uncommon for cousins to marry. Royal families also wanted to keep the throne within their respective bloodlines. Brother and sister would join in matrimony, but their heirs rarely turned out normal. Often, this was the cause of many prominent families downfall."

The level of interest seemed to illuminate the sick paleness of Natalie's skin.

"Wow," she mumbled. "That's fascinating. You own this club, right?"

"Yes," he answered, pulling a nearby chair to him.

Once seated, Eric felt a bit of the tension sprint out of his shoulders.

"You could probably make a better profit by renting out your knowledge."

"In what way?"

Despite himself, the blonde was generally curious. Even if he didn't show it.

"Scholars and historians," was her response. "Think how many of them would die just to understand what happened centuries, even millenniums ago. And they'd pay incredible amounts of money to interview you. Or-."

At this point, her arms flung off the shelter she'd created and the blue in her eyes suddenly sparked animatedly.

"-if you have any artifacts from those time periods, you could sell them to museums. Honestly, you could make enough money to last you comfortably for another millennium."

Smiling, Eric clasped his hands.

"The problem with this theory," he explained, "are the memories associated. I have acquaintances who've considered this option, but ultimately, felt that the past needs to be buried for a reason."

"Why?"

"Because humans will come to find that their ancestors were far more vicious than they could imagine. And I assure you, those events will not be something this generation will be thrilled to hear."

"Well-," she pondered, biting at her lip, "-how about discussing the small things? Clothes, medicine, lost cities. There are historians strictly committed to those types of fields."

When her expectant eyes found his, Eric realized she wanted an answer.

"Perhaps," he finally replied, storing away the idea for Pam. Although not exactly sociable with humans in suits, she did love explaining how fashions had drastically changed over the years.

"Anyway, we need to hear the bad about ourselves so we can avoid those mistakes again."

This time, Eric's smile froze.

"Humans are a repetitive race," he informed slowly. "Even if the mistakes were to present themselves before you, you'd blindly make them again."

She visibly shivered at the coldness his tone had taken on.

In fact, Eric himself was surprised at the malice.

Then again, how often had any humans ever willingly discussed their own past mistakes? It was a greatly overdue topic he'd never had the chance to openly debate. Until now.

And since his bitterness toward humans had only increased over time, yet again, Natalie became the recipient of his anger.

"Don't judge the actions of the many by the actions of a few," she knowingly suggested.

Just like that, Eric suddenly couldn't retort with a sound argument. The words quite literally brought down his opinions like a cement tsunami.

A part of him did give her credit though. She chose her words wisely around him.

"Are you normally this...philosophical?" he asked.

"No," she admitted, lips stuck in between a smile and a frown. "Actually, I never really thought over ethics or morals or philosophies until after I put myself through college. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I was actually a bit naive. Maybe spoiled would be the better term for it."

"If you put yourself through school, how was it that you were spoiled?"

"Well...I suppose not financially. But I was under the impression that things would be handed to me once I got to college. I graduated second in my high school class, and colleges were impressed with my athletic abilities. I was quite sure I'd get somewhere with that and as a result, I ended up casting out my family. Moved to Mississippi, really enjoyed the Jackson State campuses, and eventually joined the women's soccer team. Went all the way to state my freshman year...lost to Mississippi Valley. Only because their top scorer was a bulldozer. And magically, the referees just happened to miss all of the penalties she'd crippled us with."

She took this time to release a breath, perhaps surprised at everything she'd divulged.

Eric was momentarily concerned that she'd stop. But all Natalie did was carefully inhale.

"Macy Brookens. What a complete and total-."

Crossing her arms, she tried to hide a smile threatening to surface. One hand moved over her mouth and quickly became concealed beneath her dirty palm.

"Anyway, being on my own made me a bit more prone to ignoring the realistic view of the world. I honestly thought I could have it all."

"Your claimed selfishness surprises me," Eric remarked. "What changed?"

For a split second, Natalie's eyes morphed into walls. No emotion could get out, nor in.

"A whole lot of crazy circumstances," was her slow response.

But she left it at that, arms finding their way back around her knees.

Instead, she abruptly changed the topic.

"I hope you don't hold me attacking you, as a punishable offense. Although, how much more punishment can I receive in my predicament? But you did provoke me. And I don't take kindly to people, vampire or human, threatening to murder my sister. Do you understand that?"

Eric studied her for a full minute, deducing which matter to pursue. The topic she'd initially spoken so knowingly of, then suddenly shut down, or this new one.

In complete seriousness, the woman was a complete mess. Emotions and intentions scattered everywhere.

Yet, he understood the same protectiveness in divulging the events of what happened to Isaac, shielding the events leading to her reawakening and release of being "spoiled".

If her story was true.

Which he hated to immediately assume it was, even when she dispensed it with such a brutal honesty. He couldn't remember a time when a human had spoken so nakedly about their own faults.

Normally, his club was filled with humans constantly displaying a mask of everything they believed others wanted them to be. This meant no faults could be shown, lest the mask cracked and the real human being living beneath, was revealed.

To so many, their plainness or mistakes were such a difficult aspect of themselves to accept because they had yet to accept those things themselves. They lived with the impression they were detestable.

But he wondered often whether these humans knew hiding their selves and showing off a false, alter ego was just as demeaning as burying what made them human.

This sort of puzzling trait within the broken woman, held his fascination like a butterfly beneath a cage. And unlike the one that fueled Sookie's, this one stemmed not from a sexual appeal, but intellectual. She understood what she'd done wrong, understood with a clarity how her mindset had blindsided her to what was occurring around, and rather soberly, accepted that.

No dodging the bullet. No procrastinating. No false mask.

She had made mistakes and she accepted them without a fuss of trying to hide them.

All of these swift revelations only fueled Eric's need to attain the knowledge of what occurred between herself and Isaac, that greater. How could an individual who seemed destined to rally for AVL meetings as a human representative, so mindlessly murder what she stood for?

Never forget, she could be lying.

While this thought did remain in the forefront of his mind, Eric also noted that had she wanted to lie, she would have continued with the story instead of pausing.

In that case, to pursue it would be unwise. If she wants to avoid the subject, we will...for now.

So, he became determined to answer her original question.

"If one was to threaten my progeny, I suppose I would have much of the same reaction," he concluded.

A buried relief fled the woman as she offered up a relieved smile.

"I don't want you to hate me."

Perplexed, Eric stood from the chair. The position quickly was becoming intolerable considering his normal routine included a lot more...physical tactics.

"Why is that?"

"Because I'm on my death mattress and you're my last contact with this world. I want to make an impression on at least one vampire and let them know not all humans are bad."

"I do not-."

"Please," she interrupted, glancing around the basement with a disdainful frown. "Do you really think this shithole is a lavish attraction for willing humans to wander into? You torture them, as obvious by the dried blood on the manacles and that smell of decomposing flesh you never seem quite to be able to rid no matter how much bleach you use. Whatever your misanthropic views toward humans are, know that my last dying goal is to change that. At least a little bit."

He tried to remain indifferent to her promise, but the level of devotion in her voice continued to reel in his fascination.

"Do you honestly believe you will be able to convince me that humans are actually peaceful? Remember what it is you've done. What you are sentenced to die for."

"That is true," she agreed. "And with my reluctantness to discuss what happened, I imagine you'll constantly be wary of me. But I live with the belief that one day, humans and vampires can coexist. And one silly human girl's promise to spread that sort of change, may just be enough for an ancient, pessimistic vampire to take notice."

Eric suddenly couldn't move a single muscle. Or maybe he could, but Natalie's words paralyzed him.

She sounds just like him. So very much like him.

And not for the first time, Eric silently submitted to the intense grief he still carried from Godric's death. Only this time, he marveled in a way, how Godric would have been far more suited to interrogate Natalie as opposed to himself. He who saw humans as being below his own race. He who would have killed Natalie without a thought, had he been aware of her intentions, without giving the slightest of attentions to her provocation. He who saw his customers as nothing more than meals. He who held such a demoralizing perception of those that breathed, it successfully branded into his mind, a needed separation between the two races.

"You appear dazed," Natalie noted, eyes wide and inquisitive.

An angry grimace fell over his features. This was one thought he personally wished to keep private. If other vampires even began to suspect him of being morally supportive for humans, not only would his reputation be called into question, but so would his every action.

But this was what Godric wanted me to explore. This is what he risked his own reputation and life for.

"I am simply bored of this conversation."

Lie.

"Me too," she echoed. "It's a stretch to think you'd be fazed by my values. Then again, that's what quitters say."

She then laughed softly to herself, seemingly amused with her own words.

"What do you want to talk about then?"

"You already know," was his firm reply.

"Boring topic as well," she maintained. "In fact, you'll practically fall asleep it's so boring."

"That is impossible to do during the night for us."

"I know!" she exclaimed. "That's how boring it is."

But the next laugh shook her whole body and suddenly, Eric could nearly feel the bruises and cuts returning full force. Whatever momentary peace she'd had balanced within her body, was now wiped away.

And yet, she still remained physically unperturbed to the shifts.

"You have an incredible tolerance for pain," he mentioned.

When she didn't reply, the blonde realized he'd touched down near a sensitive topic again.

"It's impressive," he tried, circling her. "I'd actually be willing to hear your secret. Perhaps you could provide some backbone into vampire associates of mine."

Again, her lips were pressed together, making her nostrils do all of her inhaling.

Eric vented his own version of a sigh behind her, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Stubborn as well," he accused.

"If I were the interrogator, would you honestly divulge everything you knew right away?" she countered.

"Never."

"Then know my stubbornness is for both of our benefits."

"I am sadly lacking this point of view."

"You're an intelligent vampire. You'll figure something out."

When he came to stand before her again, he noted her expression to be at ease once more. Every so often, her lips did pull back in a frown, but he determined it to be from the pain she was attempting to hold back.

"All vampires are intelligent."

Raising both eyebrows, Natalie smirked.

"Okay."

"No passionate argument? I'm disappointed."

Shrugging, the woman's eyes scattered over the newly bandaged wounds inside her arms.

"My passion is sadly lacking tonight," she responded.

Sensing the same roadblock, Eric shifted over the conversation. The rotation of emotions were quickly becoming easier to pick out.

"How is it you are so at ease now around me? Last night made it seem as if you would attempt to kill me once more."

He wasn't sure whether the topic was sensitive, but he wasn't leaving the basement without an answer. Especially when he remained so bothered by the display and her motivation remained so unclear.

"I guess I tried reasoning it out in my mind afterward," Natalie mused tiredly. "You're under strict orders, probably from your Queen considering I've been passed around from one Sheriff to another. She obviously trusts you and to fail in your task would mean some sort of punishment, physical or otherwise. Casted out of the vampire community. Tarnished reputation. Etcetera. Once your own safety is threatened, gaining it back becomes the only goal. So my reactions are secondary as are the methods you use to attain your answers. Although, I don't understand why you just don't bend the truth. Nobody will notice, or hardly care. All the vampires want is a public execution. And I'm fine with that."

Eric gritted his teeth, displeased with the answer. Even when realistically, he could easily do just as she'd suggested. Simon, although his story was false, could easily be a reliable source for whatever sort of madness he prescribed Natalie to have.

But what bothered the Viking intensely was her last statement. She was alright with dying.

If she could withhold a secret through means of torture and threats, that indicated an intensive ability to persevere. And that ability to persevere fueled the instinct to stay alive. How was she so prepared to face death when the struggle to survive still raged inside?

Perhaps I am giving her far too much credit. Inside, she may be just as emotionally dead as on the outside.

Again, he wasn't sure what to reply with. It seemed like a very one dimensional statement. She wanted to die and she was promising to cooperate with whatever story he deemed her to be involved in.

And that's when he realized something else about her willingness to die, bothered him. Maybe it was how selfish she had made him sound? Not to say he was exempt from that trait, but it seemed in the way she spoke, that being selfish was what defined him.

Whatever it was, he wasn't exactly in the mood to offer himself up an answer. Now wasn't the time to take apart his own intentions.

"Eric?"

Breaking away his gaze, the blonde shifted his attentions to the top of the stairs. The door had been cracked open only a few seconds ago.

"Yes?"

He was hoping his progeny would understand the displeasure in his tone and close the door.

"We've got a slight problem," she voiced in the language he'd taught her so many decades ago.

"What is it?" he replied, definitely unhappy now.

Earlier in the night, he'd left her in charge with the club. It couldn't withstand another night of being closed down, especially if he wanted this year's profits to surpass last year's.

"Russell Edgington is here."

His surprise was overtaken by the sharp gasp Natalie had let out behind him.

Immediately, he turned to her.

"Did you say Russell Edgington?" she asked, voice devoid of any graspable emotion. In fact, her face was meticulously clear. Something he'd have applauded her on had they not been interrupted.

"What does he want?" Eric questioned, still speaking in tongues as he observed the dark haired girl's unflinching stare.

"He wants to see our captive. He's...enticed by a vampire's inability to glamor her."

Twisting his head back, Eric's lips nearly recoiled into a sneer.

"He is aware," keeping his tone level, "that she can be glamored? Only the events of what occurred, are shut out."

Pam crossed her arms, eyes narrowing.

"Well aware. Bring her up before he-."

"Is that her?"

Both progeny and maker froze as Russell appeared at the ledge of the stairs. Always regally dressed, his eyes were focused completely on Natalie.

What spiked Eric's dislike for the King was the interference with his own language. The vampire hardly possessed the fluency to speak it.

But for his own sake, and the entire population upstairs, he refrained from any form of critique.

Before he could welcome the King, Russell was at the bottom of the stairs and quickly approaching the worn woman on the mattress.

Eric met Natalie's eyes for a second, and swallowed back his concern for her. Whatever the vampire wished to do, he'd have no say in denying the request. To do so would displease the vampire as well as Sophie-Anne and that would instigate an unnecessary headache.

"Hello," Russell greeted, extending a hand. "I am to understand that you know who I am."

Natalie's eyes scurried from face to his hand. When she didn't take it, Eric nearly apologized for her.

Instead, Russell shook his head like he'd expected that all along and simply continued his observation.

"I am here," he drawled, clasping his hands behind his back, "to seek the truth. Even moreso, I'm concerned that your...how shall we say this...actions were a consequence of unfavorable timing."

He didn't elaborate on this, and Natalie didn't ask him to.

"Would you mind desperately if I had some alone time with Miss Warren?" Russell questioned, for the first time, turning to Eric.

If the King's words weren't a loaded warning, the expression in his eyes were.

"Of course," he ended up replying, helpless either way.

"Wonderful. This shouldn't take but a moment and I promise I'll have her in one piece in time for her...well, we'll see what happens," he grinned.

Eric purposely avoided eye contact with Natalie. All he knew was if he met her equally blue eyes, there would be a silent accusation there. Perhaps not easily seen, but it'd be there nonetheless.

I am sure this is giving her a better impression of us.

Once at the top of the stairs, Pam quickly pushed in the door behind them.

The sudden blare of the music, odorous smells, and throbbing veins, slammed into him. But Eric payed no mind.

"When did he arrive?"

"Not even five minutes ago," she hastily informed. "He came alone and assured me that Sophie-Anne was alright with his visit."

Gritting his teeth, Eric glanced back at the door.

"The entire fucking state should be banned from here," he nearly growled.

"Concerned about what's going on down there?"

When he didn't answer, Pam too met the oppressive door.

"I have a distinct feeling...not pleasurable in any way...that the basement will not nearly be as recreational after this."

And just as soon as they'd left the King to his own device, the basement door sprang open. Russell stood there, but Eric couldn't place the emotion on his face.

"I am finished here," he announced over the noise of the club. "But it is fascinating to know, as I am sure both of you are aware, how dark her mind is. Truly a shame such a rare trait will be put to death."

"Glamor did not work?" Eric asked, already knowing the answer.

"Not for the answers I was searching for. I guess I had to see it for myself."

He didn't explain how he came to know the information.

"Thank you for allowing me to see Miss Warren, Mr. Northman. Your cooperation will not be forgotten."

As an afterthought, he held up a finger.

"And I would love to be the first to know just what exactly happened that night. Simon's judgments have not always been known to be clear."

"It is looking to be exactly as he described," Eric lied, modifying his tone. "My presence inside of Mississippi was unfortunately, wasted."

"Hmm," the King thought over, "well once this matter is settled, I would be more than honored to allow you passage back in, provided you allow me to offer up a personal tour."

Grinning through the obvious attempt at flirtation, Eric placed a hand on the vampire's velvet, red coat.

"I would enjoy that."

EWNEWNEWNE

He nearly had to command Pam to stay upstairs. Sometimes, her curiosity rivaled his own.

"Keep an eye out," he had urged. "I do not want any more surprise appearances."

Eventually, this had deterred her.

Once he was in the basement, Eric took in Natalie all at once. Physically...well, she appeared the same.

"What did he want?"

Natalie glanced up, eyes steady.

"Just tried glamoring me," she assured. "Cursed in...German maybe...when it didn't work."

"That is all?"

"Yep."

"You are aware of what happens if you don't tell me the truth?"

"No, I'm not. Considering I'm going to die regardless, your threat has no significant relevance. But, I understand your request and I am telling you that for some reason, he traveled all the way to Louisiana just to determine I truly could not be glamored. Isn't that strange?"

Eric wordlessly agreed.

"Is it alright if I get some sleep?" she asked, forcing back a yawn. "All of this...excitement has made me tired."

"Yes."

He then paused, theorizing over how Pam would handle the situation were she in his position.

"Thank you for telling me about yourself."

The words sounded so foreign from his own lips that he nearly believed himself to be someone else entirely. But they did come out regardless and needed to be spoken if only to guarantee a form of openness established between the two.

"You don't have to say thank you," she said, observing his strained features. "But I appreciate the sentiment. Until tomorrow, Eric Northman."

Her dismissal was graceful and ended with her plop onto the mattress. Shortly after, her eyes glued themselves together.

How much confidence she must have to slumber before a vampire.

Taking one last glance at the woman, Eric sped back up the stairs. For now, he would respect her need to sleep.

Unfortunately, the rest of the night would be long and for once, he wasn't looking forward to appeasing some brainless girl's fantasy. All of his thoughts, even as he tried denying their relevance, were solely focused on Natalie.


I hope no one got too mad about Eric's internal reflections. Or thought them a bit much. Let me know your thoughts in a review.