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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chapter 59 ~ Sookie's Line in the Sand

The sun had almost descended leaving only a thin line of radiant color against an inky sky when Eric rose in somewhat better spirits than he had the previous two nights. Sookie had been bombarding him throughout the day with emotions. He'd known that today was going to be the day that her friend Tara and her Egg were going to be leaving, so he had expected the feelings of sadness and loss he'd received at the start of the day, but as he'd lain in death, his body had been filled with much lighter feelings. His fairy had been laughing and feeling joy. She had been so happy, and her feelings such a relief from what he he'd been experiencing from her over the past few days he'd been tempted to rise and see what she was doing.

He could no longer monitor her on the surveillance system since he had ordered it turned off until he picked up and recruited the hacker Sookie had told him about, so he'd had no way of knowing what was going on to make his little mate so happy. He also hoped that Sookie's Were guards had succeeded in finding any bugs or hidden cameras that might have been planted by Sargon. Last night he'd ordered a CMS-15 Countermeasures Set that cost a little over a thousand dollars. It would easily pick up any frequencies from whatever surveillance measures Sargon had put into place. As he could no longer look in on Sookie with his own surveillance system, Eric had decided that he would simply have to wait until he rose to see what had happened to his bonded today to raise her spirits.

Now, stepping into the hallway and closing the closet door that held the entrance to the underground panic room, Eric could easily pick up on the sounds of his bonded in the kitchen with her friends Lafayette and Sam, as well as the conversation of several of her guards. Moving to the entrance of the kitchen he took in the scene before him. Sookie and Lafayette were standing together at the counter, packing up the last of the leftovers from whatever meal everyone had partaken in. At the table sat Liam, Quinn, Alcide, Sam, and Tray and by the warm timber of their discussion it was obvious there were the beginnings of some friendship. The back kitchen door was open and the three heads of Cerberus were just barely inside. The large beast was lying on the back porch since only his heads could fit through the door. Curled up between two of the heads was Thor, who was snoring away. It was certainly a strange sight, made only stranger when everyone in the room stopped talking and turned to face the vampire the moment he appeared.

Eric let his eyes scan the kitchen once more before focusing on his bonded who had turned in the abrupt silence from her place at the kitchen counter to face him. His eyes fixedly stared at her as he demanded, voice low and pitched, “Leave us.” He didn't worry about Han and Ivan interrupting them since he'd texted the two nighttime guards that they were to wait outside until he summoned them. He and Sookie were long overdue for a talk about what was wrong between them. He was determined that by the time he left for Fangtasia tonight she would understand why he had been forced to make her kneel the other night to ensure their safety.

Thor scrambled up, knocking into one of Cerberus' heads as the commotion of chairs being quickly moved back woke him. The hell beast withdrew from the room quickly as everyone began to file out of the kitchen. Thor looked confusedly between Sookie and Eric, wagging his tail, trying to get a sense of the air between them. He caught a whiff of the tension, took one look at  Sookie's glare aimed at Eric and scooted out of the house with the departing fae and Were. In the commotion outside, she could hear Sam calling Thor to him and Lafayette proposing a game of catch.

She was upset with his high handedness not even asking if she was ready for her friends and guards to leave and even more annoyed that his behavior had scared poor Thor. She had a lot to discuss with him tonight before he left for Fangtasia and not much of it was going to make him happy. She quickly decided to let his manners or lack thereof go for the time being. She certainly wasn't going to be getting him to speak to others with respect before she got him to give her some.

After everyone had filed out of the house Eric clasped his hands behind his back, and asked, “Did you have a nice day?”

“Better than the last few have been,” she said in a clipped tone.

When she said nothing more, Eric knew that Sookie had no intention of making this easy on him. Despite the closeness they had shared last night, Eric knew Sookie was still very upset with him. Before he'd gone to ground at dawn, she had assured him of that fact by telling him that she was still determined to deny him her bed until he apologized and changed his ways. Neither was going to happen. What was going to happen was him getting Sookie to see that he was right and she was wrong. She had become a part of his world, and she would have to adjust to the ways of his people. It was that simple.

Sookie watched Eric watching her, and finally quirked a brow as she asked, “Well?”

Before getting into the inevitable fight they were going to have to have before he could get her to see reason, Eric wanted to know what had made her happy today. Perhaps he could replicate the scenario so that she would laugh and smile with him now. “First, tell me what made you joyous today?”

“After Tara and Eggs left, I went riding. My guards convinced me to cut loose for a bit and take my mind off of everything—and before you ask, no, we didn't leave the barrier at all. I also got everything I was supposed to get done today as well. It was nice to just ride and not worry about everything for a while. Sam shifted into a lion while Quinn and Alcide changed into their forms. They played with Thor and Cerberus while Lafayette and I raced the centaurs. Freya's the fastest. We beat them all.”

While he enjoyed the lighthearted emotions flooding into him through the bond, he was not pleased that Sookie's delight had come about by the efforts of others.  He smiled tightly, frustration and jealousy surging through him that his little fairy had not experienced this happiness with him. He would resolve this tonight, maybe even have them sharing their bed once again before morning. He physically ached for her, needed to touch her, needed her to touch him. His mate was a smart woman, he would make her understand. Eric offered, “I'm glad you enjoyed your day. You needed to take your mind off things for awhile.”

“But now it's time for us to talk.”

“Indeed.”

Sookie popped the last bit of food into the refrigerator and then moved to grab her glass of ice water off the table before leading the way upstairs into her bedroom. She trudged up the stairs feeling uncomfortable to have Eric in her bedroom again. He currently did not belong there and she needed the physical distance to drive home her point. However, until they had statues of the old gods stationed about her property to protect them from Sargon's spying, she would have to allow talks to take place there for security's sake. She knew that Eric had called Haldar and asked him to send as many relics of the Norse Gods as he could. Apparently, while the old gods were no more, remnants of their power remained in their statues, talismans, and artifacts, and that power would protect them from any surveillance Sargon tried to use against them. Well … that's what the Pythoness had told them last night during the meeting they'd held after Sargon had so suddenly appeared. So Eric was going to have symbols and statues of his old gods placed at Fangtasia so he could hold meetings there as he built his regime. Supposedly, the statues Haldar was asked to send air express would be there by the time he arrived tonight.

Once they were in her bedroom, Eric shut the door behind him and watched Sookie move to sit cross-legged on the bed. She sat in the very center, and it was obvious she'd done so in order to leave him very little room. He could still fit, he could wedge himself at the top or bottom of the bed as a matter of principle, but with the death glare she was giving him, he decided it was best to allow her some space for now. Instead, he grabbed the old rocking chair she had in the corner and moved it to the side of the bed so he could sit facing her. “Shall you begin or shall I?”

“You go first.”

“Very well.” Watching Sookie take a drink of her water before she set the glass on the nightstand to focus on him, Eric began, “Sookie, I have lived in the supernatural world for a thousand years. I know its people and ways far better than you. I understand how you were hurt by my actions, and how you could misinterpret them to mean that I don't value you or that I don't care about you, but that is simply not the case.”

This was as much as he had rehearsed. He felt certain the words were the right blend of strength and acknowledgment. He paused, looking to her for comment, fully expecting her to jump in with angry exclamations. When she merely arched a brow, pursed her lips, and waited for him to continue, he realized this was going to be much harder than he thought. His bonded wasn't even willing to engage him in debate apparently. This was confounding … but she had not bested him yet. Sookie was determined not to see his side in this, and it was obvious he was going to have to take a more … creative approach. Taking an unnecessary breath, he leaned forward as he continued, his voice diplomatic, “Do you not remember how I went to my knees before Godric?”

“You did that willingly. He didn't demand it to make a point to everyone else in the room.”

“That is true, however, he had ordered me to my knees in front of others before.”

“When and why?” Sookie was pretty sure she knew where this was going, and she was actually eager for it. She had never felt so empowered, so self-contained. While she certainly didn't know the details of whatever story Eric was about to tell her, she was pretty sure she knew the overall gist of it. If Eric was fixing to say what she thought he was, he was only going to be proving her point.

“Many times, but I'll give you some examples. The first time he ordered me to my knees I was young, only about 59. He had taken me to a king's court for the first time. Before that we had mainly stuck to the wilds, but to be fair, back then there were far fewer monarchies due to the fact there simply weren't as many civilizations and areas of settlement. Godric had warned me that different behavior was expected around other vampires as before then he had always treated me very much as an equal. He led and I followed, but as I do with you when we were alone, he always asked my opinion and input. He always listened to me, even if he decided against my wishes. Regardless, that first night in the court he acted so cold and indifferent towards me. As if I was a toy. He spoke at me, not to me.  His every word was a command, and the warmth he'd always had in his eyes and voice for me in all our travels was gone. He was stoic and what you would consider cruel.”

“Why did he make you kneel?” She struck out the emotional context in her mind, wanting to stick just to the facts. Eric frequently used her tender heart against her when arguing, he was a master of manipulating arguments, and whether he did so deliberately or unconsciously, he had done so successfully far too often. She would approach this differently, would listen differently. This was not about Godric or Eric or his past and she wouldn't allow his reference of such to persuade her.

“Godric had ordered me not to feed on any of the human pets this particular king had before we arrived. He told me we would do our hunting outside of the king's home after he had checked us in and we had paid our respects. I asked him why, and he told me to simply obey. He did not command me not to feed however, simply gave the order and expected me to follow it willingly.”

“I'm guessing you didn't and drank from a girl that belonged to the king?” she asked neutrally.

“Indeed.” Eric's eyes darkened as he remembered his first true punishment at the hands of his beloved Maker. Now, at his advanced age and with all his experience, he understood Godric's actions perfectly, but at the time he'd known only humiliation and a sense of betrayal at what Godric had done. “As I was feeding on one of the girls one of the king's guards spotted me and reported my actions to the king who was speaking with Godric at the time. Godric was furious.”

“I don't understand, I thought vampires shared human pets for feeding all the time? That's what you told me at Sophie-Anne's.”

Nodding his head, Eric agreed, “They do, but each kingdom is run by the wants and beliefs of its monarch. Outside of the supreme rules of the Council, which are actually very few and have to do with our survival as a whole, kings and queens can make whatever laws they wish, and this particular king had a very unique rule about feeding on his pets.”

“It wasn't allowed?”

“Oh, it was allowed, but at a price,” he said, momentarily closing his eyes against the grit of memories. When he spoke again, his voice carried a sharpness. “If you fed on one of his pets you were required to serve in his army for a year … well, I fed, and I was caught feeding. Godric was angry that we had to stay in the area in servitude for that long. He was not fond of civilization. We were very much loners, and preferred the wilds at that time.”

Sookie didn't understand why Godric had done that. Why not simply tell Eric about the rules pertaining to the king's pets? A few simple words to Eric before they'd gone before the king would have prevented the entire ordeal. “Well why didn't Godric just tell you that when he ordered you not to feed? You wouldn't have bit the girl if you'd have known.”

“No I wouldn't have, but I wouldn't have learned some important lessons.” Eric's voice was coldly matter-of-fact. He could tell that Sookie couldn't understand Godric's reasoning behind not explaining to him why he shouldn't feed off the king's pets. Her mind did not work like a vampires. Hell, at the time even he hadn't understood why Godric simply hadn't warned him why feeding on any of the pets would be wrong. Holding Sookie's gaze, he added, “Godric was trying to teach very important life lessons that night. Lessons all vampires need to know.”

“Which were?”

“Never disobey your Maker without good cause, and always get the lay of the land, get a feel for those around you and what is expected of you, before you let your guard down.”

Shaking her head, Sookie argued, “But he didn't tell you why!”

Eric's eyes were glazed as he looked off sadly. “No, he didn't, but he shouldn't have had to tell me.” He returned his gaze to Sookie slowly, his face strained. “He gave me an order, and I should have trusted in him enough to know that he wouldn't have done it without good reason. I didn't see the problem with feeding on the girl, but that did not negate the fact the problem was there. Godric didn't tell me why I wasn't to feed on the girl for several reasons.”

When Sookie continued to stare at him, Eric continued, “First, he was seeing if I would obey simply for the sake of obeying. Before then he had always explained every action he took, or ordered me to take, in explicit detail. He always made sure I knew the 'how' and 'why' of everything he did, or anything he had me do. He always made sure I understood his reasoning behind each of his actions and orders. Even if I didn't agree with them, he made sure I understood them.”

“So why didn't he that time?”

“Again, because he was continuing my education. While there was no immediate danger that night, Godric knew sooner or later we would find ourselves in a situation where every moment counted. That night was a test to see if I could take an order, not know the reasoning behind it, and trust in my Maker enough to follow an order without question because I knew he would never intentionally lead me astray. I failed the test. I failed to obey simply because I did not see the reason for the command, and I failed to believe in Godric.  Thus, I was forced to stay in the service of the king for a year. I was forced to fight his battles. Whether I believed in them or not. All because I disobeyed my Maker.”

When Sookie remained silent, Eric continued, “I did not understand why Godric forbid me to feed on the human pets, I did not pay attention to my surroundings enough to notice that no vampires there were feeding on the king's pets which should have struck me as strange, and because I refused to follow a command I did not understand or believe in, I was forced to my knees before the entire court.”

Sookie was surprised that she actually understood the reasoning behind Godric's actions, and was further surprised that she agreed with them. She knew how unyielding the supernatural world was, and Godric had actually given Eric a very easy task. “I guess I can understand that.”

“I'm glad. It was a hard lesson to learn. Had I only asked why so few of the pets were being fed on as there were literally dozens about-and that was rare back then due to the much smaller human population—I would have understood why Godric told me not to feed. Godric later explained that part of the test was to see how quickly I could determine the threats and advantages an area had, and how quickly I could come to understand how the current situation I found myself in worked. Different civilizations, different kingdoms, different cultures have different standards, rules, and punishments. Part of my intended lesson that night was for me to make sure I knew them before I partook of any action that could land me and mine in trouble. He was attempting to see how quickly I could adapt to my surroundings, which is very important for vampires. I failed, and it cost Godric and I a year. A paltry penalty in comparison to my long life now, but at the time I was enraged, as was Godric, but there was nothing we could do.”

Sookie was silent a moment as she ingested his lesson before she asked, “So when did he make you kneel?”

“That very moment. He used his Maker's hold to call me from the girl and brought me before him and the king. There were about ten other vampires in the room along with all the human pets and Godric ordered me to kneel before him in front of them all. I was aghast as he had never ordered me to my knees before. Certainly never before other people.”

“What did you do?”

“I simply stared at him, and thus he commanded me to my knees and down I went. He told me I had shamed him, humiliated him, and worse, disappointed him in my failure to follow his dictates. I was embarrassed and brought low before all in attendance, and at the time my arrogance was so great it was the worse punishment. It was then he informed me the price of feeding on one of the king's pets. I asked why he had not told me before to keep me from making the mistake.”

Resting her arms on her knees, Sookie pressed, “What did he say?”

“He told me he didn't have to explain anything. I was his child and he was my Maker. It was his place to give the orders, and my place to obey them. The true point he was trying to make was that I should have had faith enough in him, known him well enough, trusted him enough to know he would not give me an order unless necessary. I should have been loyal enough to him to obey him without question, and trust there was a good reason he didn't want me to feed on the King's pets. I failed on all accounts and we both paid the price. I never made such a mistake again.”

“So Godric stopped explaining things to you and just expected you to follow all his commands?”

Shaking his head, Eric replied, “No. Not at all. On the whole, Godric always discussed things with me if he could, but sometimes there was simply not enough time for us to go over his decisions. That was the purpose of that test, to see if I could and would obey simply for the sake of obeying, and out of trust Godric would never lead me astray. Most of the time Godric always discussed things with me, as I do with Pam, but there can and will be times, have been times, when discussion is not possible. Those times obedience without question was necessary, and I obeyed as needed. Godric wished to be a good Maker and he tested me beforehand to ensure that if a time came when there was no time for discussion or debate I would follow orders because I had faith in him. I learned my lesson that night, and I have never repeated that mistake. Just as I have tested Pam in such a way to teach her the importance of trust in one's Maker.”

When Sookie remained quiet, Eric pressed, “Godric ordered me to my knees to prove his control over me. Back then good warriors were very coveted by monarchs as our society was not as stable back then and land was still up for grabs to any monarch strong enough to claim it. If that particular king had believed Godric was incapable of controlling me he might have schemed to do away with Godric, and manipulate me into a position to be subservient to him so he could use my skills as a warrior to gain more territory for himself. Despite my young age, I was a fearsome warrior and took down many vampires older than I. Godric forced me to my knees to keep us both safe. To keep him from being killed and to keep me from being enslaved for my talents … just as I was doing the other night for you.”

While Sookie could understand how Eric believed he was justified in doing what he'd done, that didn't make it right, and she was determined to point out to him just why. “I get what you're saying, I really do, but you don't seem to understand that what Godric did with you, and what you did with me are entirely different. You—“

“Sookie, they are not different. I—“

“Hey! I was quiet while you explained yourself, buddy! You can dang well be quiet while I have my turn,” she said stridently.

Eric reared back as if struck, immediate anger rolling over him as he forced himself not to remind her that she did not have the right to order him. He wanted to fix things between them; since they were alone he could allow her transgression. Waving his hand, he ordered, “Continue.”

Glaring at him for his rudeness, Sookie carried on. “Godric forced you to your knees because you disobeyed him. You directly challenged his authority in front of a vampire court. I'm not saying I agree completely with what happened, but I know you vampires are different and really aggressive like that. The big, HUGE difference here is that I didn't disobey you. I didn't break faith with you and did nothing to challenge your authority in front of witnesses. From the very beginning, despite how much I disagree with it, I have maintained appearances in front of other vampires. I've towed the line. I've hated to do it, but I understood that failure to do so would mean you would have to punish me publically or risk putting us both in danger. I understand that's how your world works.”

When Eric's eyes narrowed as he finally caught on to what she was getting at,  Sookie hurried, “You were in the wrong that night, Eric. You were in the wrong because you punished me for no reason. You shamed and humiliated me in front of my friends without just cause. You forced me to my knees for nothing, and you broke something in our relationship. It can be fixed, but it's going to take hard work … on your part.”

“It wasn't for nothing. I had cause. My leadership was called into question, my strength and ability to defend what is mine was challenged, and I proved my strength as Godric did that night. I was not wrong.” His voice was deep, almost sepulchral.

Shaking her head, Sookie huffed, “Sometimes I think I need a jackhammer to get through that thick skull of yours.” Holding Eric's gaze, she insisted, “You were wrong, Eric. No one in that room doubted your strength. No one doubted your ability to lead and rule. Your own insecurities and worries were what had you lashing out. You weren't proving your capabilities as a king. You were highlighting your faults. Everyone else down there saw it that way too. You proved you care far too much for appearances instead of what is right.”

Her words were neat, controlled and as lethal as a blade. Where was this righteous voice coming from?! He wouldn't accept her words. He was a thousand years old, a famous enforcer, known the world over for his skill in battle and cunning. He had always been known as a brilliant strategist, so obviously he could not be wrong. Sookie's words had merit, he couldn't deny that, but he knew how his world operated. He simply couldn't be wrong. He couldn't. “That's not true.”

“Yes it is. You punished one person for the actions of another.”

“I spared your friend's life. I did that for you. Would you have preferred I didn't make you kneel and instead killed the girl for offending me?”

Something flickered in her eyes as she leaned forward, desperately wanting to prove her point, Sookie drove the blade home. “Why did anyone have to be punished at all?”

Now Eric was taken aback. Not understanding what she meant, he said, “I do not follow.”

Shrugging, she repeated, “Why did punishment have to take place?”

“Because a wrong had been committed. Your friend challenged me, struck me.”

“But I was the one punished. How is that fair?”

Shaking his head, Eric insisted, “It's not fair, and as I've told you before, there is nothing fair about my world. I had to do what I did, Sookie. I could not kill your friend. I could not do that to you, but my strength and ability to control my kingdom and subjects was called into question. Punishment had to be handed down to prove otherwise.”

“Ever heard of forgiveness?”

“There is no forgiveness in the supernatural world, nor is there forgiveness in your world. Life is unforgiving, Sookie, and thus sometimes we are called upon to do things we don't wish to in order to survive.”

Sookie smiled victoriously, and declared, “And I think, my king, it has been made more than abundantly clear that it is time for both worlds to change. It is time for us, together as one, to remake these two extremely flawed worlds into a single world. A better world. A world with forgiveness and fairness. No matter the station.”

Now Eric was the one forced into silence. Sookie scooted towards the side of the bed so that her knees brushed her Viking's as she continued to make her point. “I get it, Eric, I get that your world is dark, and mean, and unfair. The problem here is that you don't seem to get that it's time to leave that world behind. You and I are going to make a new world. A better world. A world where forgiveness and fairness do have a place. Are expected. Tara was wrong for what she did, but there were a whole bunch of other ways you could have handled it. New and better ways. Instead, you clung to the old and hurt me. You allowed the expectations of others to rule your actions instead of making your own decision. You yielded, Eric.”

Eric's hands gripped the sides of the rocking chair tightly. When had he lost control of the argument? He was always in control, but here was her voice coaxing him into concepts on the periphery of his consciousness and he didn't like it at all. Sookie's words were pure logic and he couldn't come up with a single counterpoint other than the fundamental belief he held that he was right and she was wrong. It had been made clear to them that it was time for the world to change. There had been other ways he could have punished the fool girl without making Sookie kneel, but he'd been so determined to show that Sookie was his he hadn't given any of them thought.

Sookie watched an array of emotions rush across Eric's eyes as she waited to see if he would come to see the rightness of her words. She doubted she was going to be able to break through that huge wall of denial and superiority he'd built around himself over the past millennia in one night, but she was hoping she could at least make a crack she could chip away at over time. Finally, she asked, “Do you get what I'm saying?”

He understood her words. Understood them and hated them because they put him in the wrong. An unfamiliar feeling was coiling in his chest, incendiary, hot. Emotion he was unwilling and unable to express. He saw no point in debating this any further, he needed to think, alone without those dark eyes measuring him, eyes that were suddenly far too wise and knowing. He didn't like anything about this claustrophobic moment. Shaking his head, he replied tightly, “You have your views and I have mine. You say it is time to remake the world, and you are right, but supes will never be fair and forgiving. It is simply not our way. It is not something we are capable of. You are wrong. I did what was necessary.”

“Not your way, or wasn't an option? You have forgiveness and fairness in you, Eric. I've seen it. So do Isabel, Pam, Han and Ivan. Godric had forgiveness in him. More forgiveness than most humans. His forgiveness alone prevented a war. I've seen Weres and shifters show it, and I very much believe that other supes have it as well. It just seems you all are so worried about each of you hurting each other that you only show it to the ones you love and trust the most. If you guys would just relax a little, stop hurting each other for the smallest grievances and decide you don't want your world to be so cutthroat wouldn't you all be happier?”

“That's not how the world works.”

“Not now, but we can make it work that way. You are my High King. You're the one that is going to make and uphold laws with me. We need to lead by example, but if we can't treat each other fairly, equally, and with forgiveness then how can we expect anyone else to? If you abuse me, how can we expect those we're leading not to abuse each other?”

Eric could feel that unfamiliar feeling a gnawing weight in his chest again. Now it was expanding beyond uncomfortable and actually starting to cause him pain. His chest seized, and were he human, he was fairly sure he would be incapable of taking a breath. The mere notion of Sookie being abused tore at him, ate at his mind until only fury remained. The idea that he himself would abuse her? Damn near drove him insane. Shooting to his feet he hissed, “I do not abuse you! I would never abuse you! I would and will kill anyone that would dare to raise a hand to you!”

He began to pace.

Sookie's mouth dropped open. His hands were trembling! She could feel his anxiety and realized she'd never seen him so worked up and knew in her bones he was fighting the unfamiliarity of feelings once more. She cast her eyes down to spare him more pain in this very naked moment. Her voice was gentle but firm. “Emotional abuse is just as bad, Eric, but I think I've given you enough to think on. We can discuss how we each define abuse some other time. Let's move on. We have more to discuss, don't we?”

Eric was staring at the fish tank willing his chest to relax. He would not do this in front of Sookie, he could not disassemble in front of her. He had to hold it together. What the hell was going on here? The logic she had thrown at him for his own reasoning for forcing her to kneel was holding fast. His stance on the matter seemed to be crumbling and he couldn't seem to find footing again. He couldn't seem to come up with all the reasons why he was right and she was wrong. He couldn't seem to be able to prove he hadn't abused her, and it was unraveling his control. Feeling his beast rousing, he decided that she was right, they both had more than enough to think on, and it was time to move the conversation along. He would think on her words later, find the holes in her logic, and he would use his millennia worth of experience and wisdom to prove her wrong. He just needed some time to find the appropriate answers.

Retaking his seat and tamping down the feeling of uneasiness in his chest, Eric said determinedly, “You would not tell me the name of the hackers you know last night. You said we needed to have a private conversation first. Thus, last night only supernatural security measures were discussed. Now I need the names of these hackers. Their names and their locations. I need to begin combating Sargon's technology.”

“First, we need to have that conversation. Well, technically it's two conversations,” Sookie insisted. When Eric simply stared at her, waiting for her to begin, she asked, “My first question has to do with something you told me earlier.”

“Which was?”

“You told me you had hackers on your payroll. You told me that's how you would wipe out Lorena's accounts if she wouldn't give Bill back, and that's how you were going to take out Sophie-Anne's. What about them?”

Eric sat back in the rocking chair and replied, “I use the term 'hacker' loosely. The people in my employ are actually government employees. They are good with computers and can use their connections through their jobs to do such things for me. All vampires have access to such resources. It's how we've stayed ahead of humans and their governments for so long. The people in my employ can do simple things. Hacking into a bank account is very different than hacking into surveillance and communication satellites.”

Sookie, of course, knew that. She had been through the minds of many hackers and knew how easy it was to access personal information like bank accounts. It's why identity theft was such a big issue, and she also knew how hard it was for people to access major government networks. “You're right. So the hackers you have can't be of help?”

Shaking his head, Eric answered, “I doubt it. In fact I think they would actually be detrimental at this point. Now that we know Sargon has such unlimited resources, we can only afford to use the best ourselves. The hackers currently in my employ can be trusted to steal money. Not provide protection for you and my son.”

“Ok then. The second question is what are your plans for when I give you the names of these hackers I know about?”

“I will have them brought in and have them bonded to vampires I trust. Probably Pam, Han, and Ivan. That way we can control them and know they won't betray us.”

Shaking her head, Sookie's voice was arctic. “Ab-so-lute-ly not.”

“What?!”

“You're not doing that,” she said simply and when he opened his mouth to protest, she shook her head and fixed him with a quelling look. “You can't just enslave these people and make them do what you want. I'm not taking part in something like that.”

Now Eric was clearly shocked. He and Sookie had spoken at length on how they would both do whatever they had to in order to protect their son. She had told him, demanded he go to any length to protect their child, so he did not understand why she was trying to keep him from doing so. “Sookie,” he managed, frustration and anger bleeding into his words, “we discussed already that there was no line in the sand when it came to protecting our son. Have you forgotten our words to each other over this matter?”

“No, I haven't,” Sookie confirmed. “But that doesn't mean I'm just going to step back and let you enslave good people just because you can't envision they might actually want to fight with us.”

Eyes shining with his disbelief, Eric scoffed at her gullibility. “You believe these humans would choose to fight with us? Sookie, don't be so naïve.”

His words skidded down her spine angrily, accusatorially. Her eyes narrowed, as she hissed, “Don't be so dismissive! You think humans are so weak, so stupid, so disloyal! Well, need I remind you that it's a vampire that is causing all this trouble? Need I remind you it's been vampires that have caused all of our troubles currently? Need I remind you that it is humans that are going to carry us into the universe? Forgetting those facts are you, o' great one?”

Before Eric could argue, Sookie doggedly pursued, “Just because you've always surrounded yourself with the shallowest, lowest, meanest and most untrustworthy humans around, doesn't mean that there aren't great, noble, honorable, and brave humans out there. Lafayette is one example. Tara is another, even if she didn't stick around. My Gran was a great example. What about humans like Martin Luther King? Gandhi? Princess Diana? Mother Teresa? What about Nelson Mandela? He sacrificed almost his entire life for a cause greater than himself. He suffered torture, degradation, and the loss of all human rights, but when he was released he let go of hate and looked towards a brighter future. What about all the soldiers of the world that take up arms to defend their countries? What about the doctors and nurses that flew to Haiti, leaving their homes and families behind to help people they didn't know? What about all the WHO workers who put their lives on the line to go into hostile countries to help the sick and dying? What about the journalists of the world that risk life and limb to show the world the truth?”

Holding Eric's gaze with her own determined one, Sookie maintained, “Humans are deserving of respect every bit as much as immortals, Eric. Pull your head out of your ass and get with the program! The old ways are dead! The times of treating humans like cattle and pets are over. If we're making a stand, we're doing it to build a better world. I'm not going to trade one dictatorship for another. Humans might not be long lived, we might make mistakes over and over and over before finally realizing we're doing something wrong, we might lie, and cheat, and steal, but we're capable of so much more. Humans also created UNICEF, and the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross. Humans created PETA and Greenpeace. Humans created telescopes, and spaceships as we dreamed of the beyond. Humans created the idea of equality. We might not be living it yet, but at least we can believe in it. Hope for it. Fight for it.”

Eric's derisive tone was laden with contempt, the sound vibrated in her chest. “Your idealism will get us killed.”

“Funny, I was just about to say the same thing about your arrogance.”

They stared off, eyes blazing with anger, moments from an all out conflagration. Eric finally asked, in low burning fury, “What is your plan then?”

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “We're going to talk to them. Explain the situation and ask them for help.”

“And if they say no?” The tone of his voice carried nothing but his skepticism.

“They won't.”

“How do you know?” he barked.

Sookie's gaze was unyielding as she stated, “Because I have faith.”

Eric's tone said it all as he snarled, “Faith? Faith! Will faith keep you and our son safe? Will faith defeat Sargon?”

“It had better, because the way I see it, faith is the only real weapon we have against Sargon. Faith in each other, and faith in what we're fighting for. Eric, it's obvious that Sargon has more power and resources than us. He's had six thousand years to prepare for this fight and we've just gotten started. We're the underdog here. What Sargon doesn't have is anyone to trust or lean on. He has no allies. No one to put faith in. We do. We have friends and family. Love and faith are stronger than anything else, Viking. Hate and Greed destroy. Love and Faith? They build nations, entire civilizations. Faith saves.”

He shifted, crossing his arms over his chest, and argued, “How can you be so sure these people you speak of will fight for us? With us?”

“Because it's the right thing to do.”

Rolling his eyes, Eric replied waspishly, “Humans do nothing without incentive, Sookie.” He goaded her. “Are you thinking of offering them pay? Perhaps the chance to be turned? Do you think to buy their loyalty with riches and immortality?”

Shaking her head, outraged that he would think she would come up with such a plan, Sookie exclaimed, “Eric! How can you think that of me?”

“It is a logical question. What incentive will these humans have for helping us? If you are not planning on paying them or offering them immortality, why would they put their lives on the line for us? People they don't know? Why would they take part in a fight they know nothing about? A fight that could get them killed? A fight that could cost them everything?”

“I told you! Because it's the right thing to do!”

Eric's fury was rising as he roared, “No one put's their life on the line because it's the right thing to do!”

Sookie leapt from the bed to glare up at her Viking in indignant outrage. “I do! I have! I will!”

“And you are a fool! Had I not interfered, your foolishness, your desire to do the right thing would have made you a pet to Sophie-Anne and later her child! My way of doing things is what saved you from eternal torment! Not your foolish, naïve, and dangerous belief in doing the right thing!”

They were both furious now. They stood toe to toe as Sookie glared up at him. Both of their gazes were commanding, unyielding. Both had conviction, and neither was willing to back down. Finally, Sookie decided she would need to convince Eric that the hackers she knew of didn't need to be enslaved to gain their cooperation. “What if I can prove it to you,” she asked?

Arching a brow, Eric questioned, “Meaning?”

“What if I can prove to you that these people are willing to risk everything in order to do the right thing?”

“Then I will consider your alternative.”

“Fine. Take a seat, Viking, and I'll tell you about how I learned of these hackers.” When they were both reseated, Sookie began, “There are four of them, but only one lives in the U.S., in Monroe. The others actually live in different countries. One in Ireland, one in Russia, and one in Spain.”

“Then how do you know the other three? You've only left Bon Temps a few times, and all were recently with me.”

“The other three come to Monroe occasionally to visit their friend.”

Sitting back in the rocking chair, Eric pressed, “Why do you trust them so much?”

“Because I know what they do. Eric, do you really think I'd allow someone who does bad things to stay free? If I ran across the mind of a serial killer I would find a way to get them arrested. Why wouldn't I do the same thing with a hacker?”

“Explain.”

“These four hackers lead very normal lives. Most of the people that know them aren't even aware they are computer experts. They don't make a dime off their hacking. They don't steal identities or anything like that.”

Not understanding, Eric asked, “Then what do they do?”

“They look for covered up crimes and bring them to the light. They dig into quasi-governments, organizations and businesses and look for wrongdoings. If they find a business that is knowingly polluting a lake or stream, dumping chemicals, making people sick, or if they find a company is stealing from good people, they expose them. These four hackers are the ones that are responsible for Enron finally getting caught, and they did it solely because it was the right thing to do. Sometimes they hack into satellites and private computers to look for fugitives and have actually led authorities to serial killers and pedophile rings. They do this without claiming responsibility as most hackers do in order to build a name for themselves, and they never attempt to take a cent from anyone or any organization. They believe in a better world, and they're fighting for it. Each one knows if they get caught hacking they'll spend the rest of their life in prison at best. At worst, they'll be executed because they do hack into all manner of government systems which is paramount to treason. Not to mention that if any terrorist organizations ever got wind of their abilities, they and their entire families could be kidnapped and forced to do other's bidding … much like you want to do.”

Eric remained silent as he digested everything Sookie said. He didn't doubt her words as the bond between them clearly proved she was telling him the truth, nor did he question how she knew so much about them as it was obvious her telepathy had shown her who these people were and what they were about. As Sookie stared at him intently, he resolved, 'She is right. If these people only use their skills to help others, perhaps they can be trusted enough to fight for us. Most of the hackers I've heard about use their skills to cause problems or to steal. Not to help the world. And if these hackers have truly never taken a dime for their efforts, have never attempted to make a name for themselves, then wealth and power is not what drives them. Sargon would not be able to bribe them. Besides if I try to force them to blood bond to vampires under my control, it will push Sookie further away from me.'

Mulling the matter over for a few more moments Eric finally asked, “How do you know they are good enough to take on Sargon's hackers?”

Her laugh worked its way into her chest at the absurdity of his question and Sookie replied, “If they can waltz in and out of the Pentagon's computer systems without anyone even knowing they got in, I'm thinking Sargon's systems will be a snap.”

Eyes widening, Eric asked, “They can do this?”

“They do it all the time. They can hack into the Pentagon in under five minutes and do so without being detected. They have access to some of the biggest secrets in the world, secrets that could break this country. They have access to every country's secrets if they have a computer system. Never, never have they spilled secrets for power or money. Only if it meant saving the environment or saving lives. They believe in doing the right thing simply for the sake of helping others.”

Tapping his fingers on the chair, Eric thought the matter over for a few moments, and finally offered, “A compromise. I will have these people picked up and brought here. If they are as you say they are, then once you explain everything to them they should willingly agree to help us.”

“And if they don't agree?”

“Then we do it my way.”

Shaking her head, Sookie began, “Eric, I'm not—“

“Sookie, you assured me these people always do the right thing. That they want to save the world. If you are correct, my way will not be necessary. If you are wrong, then we'll have no choice but to force their compliance. We need hackers and we need them now.”

Sookie stared at Eric as she thought it over, and finally she decided that it was as good as she was going to get. Besides, she was sure that these people would agree once they were presented with the facts. Nodding, she said, “Ok then. I'll tell you their names and you can have them picked up and brought here. We'll tell them what's going on. Together we'll explain the situation, and I'm sure they'll agree to stand with us. And I think I should be the one to do most of the talking. You obviously aren't equipped to talk to people without offending or threatening them.”

He decided not to touch that statement, and simply replied, “Very well.”

Eric continued to look at Sookie before him. He had not resolved the problems between them as he had wished to, but he did not think it would be wise to try and convince her to share his bed again at present. His eyes caressed her as his hands could not. While he longed to hold her in his arms again, longed to bask in the feel of her writhing beneath him as he sought her warmth and touch, he knew that trying to force her currently would only make things worse between them and he couldn't stand for her to be any more upset with him than she was already. He didn't know how he'd come to the point where a simple unhappy look from her could rattle him so, but there was nothing he could do to fix it now. He didn't know what he'd do if Sookie ever found out how much power she held over him. Heaven help them if any of their enemies found out.

As if sensing what he was thinking, Sookie announced, “We're still partners, Eric, we just can't be lovers for awhile. Not until you understand and accept how things are changing. Have changed. For the world and between us.”

Before Eric could argue the point with her, he heard Pam's BMW pulling up to the house. He had ordered her to come to the house tonight as soon as she rose. He had not had time to inform her yesterday of everything that had changed. She did not know that Sookie was pregnant with his son, nor did she know about Sargon. He had left Fangtasia so suddenly the night before, and she had been carrying out his order to see Sophie-Anne from the state, not to mention he'd spent the rest of the night making plans here after Sargon appeared so suddenly, that he hadn't had a chance to talk to her. So last night when he'd gone to ground, he'd called her phone and told her to come here first thing. As his child, she deserved to hear from him what was going on.

His long fingers running from thighs to knees as he did so, he stood from his chair and announced, “Pam has arrived. I need to speak to her alone and explain what is going on. She does not know yet, and I want her to hear it from me.”

Eyes widening, Sookie whispered, “She doesn't know yet? She knows nothing about the baby or Sargon?”

“I have not had the opportunity to speak with her.”

“Oh, Eric, she's going to be hurt you didn't tell her first.”

“She will have to get over it, and she will understand,” he said, feeling self assured. “The queen's actions were unexpected and from the moment we returned from Sweden things have been hectic. She will understand.”

Standing as well, Sookie replied, “Doesn't mean she won't be any less hurt.”

Shaking his head, Eric countered, “Pam is not that emotional. She will simply be surprised.”

Sookie couldn't believe that Eric could be that ignorant. “Viking, just because Pam's a vampire, and a ruthless one, doesn't make her any less your child. She's going to feel really insecure about this. You're having a blood child now. You'll need to reassure her that she is still dear to you, and you need to apologize for not speaking to her about this before everybody else down there found out.”

“I will not apologize when I have done nothing wrong.”

His quiet arrogance almost made her laugh. There were times when Eric's inability to see what was right in front of his face truly reminded her of Jason. She would find it funny if the situation wasn't so serious.

“You will if you don't want to hurt her feelings. You already have one of the women in your life pissed at you, if you're smart, you won't piss off the other one.”

Moving towards the door, Sookie added, “You stay up here. I'll send Pam up. You should talk in here. If Sargon is somehow still watching, I don't want him to see that conversation. It should be private.”

Eric watched Sookie leave the room and thought, 'When did I start losing ground with her? When the hell did she become the one that always had the upper hand? I need to fix this, and soon. I cannot be at the mercy of my feelings for her. It is simply too dangerous.'


While Eric contemplated his circumstances, Sookie made her way down the stairs She was a little apprehensive about how Pam was going to take the news. She knew that Pam had held some resentment towards her initially due to Eric's fascination with her, but she was certain that the vampiress had all but moved past it by the time she and Eric had headed to Sweden … but this was different. She was going to be having Eric's baby. His son. His child … in all ways. Sookie didn't care how emotionless Pam was, there was absolutely no way the woman wasn't going to harbor some resentment over this, feel insecure over it. If she were in Pam's shoes she'd feel as though she was losing her place in Eric's life. She decided that she was going to find a way to speak with Pam alone later. She wanted to assure her that she was in no way trying to replace her or remove her from Eric's life.

Opening the door Sookie found Pam standing on her porch in a pink business suit. Her hair was ironed straight and hung like a waterfall around her shoulders framing her face beautifully, and for a moment Sookie felt drab next to her since she was only in shorts and a t-shirt, but she let it go. She had too much to worry about to let fashion bother her. “Hey, Pam.”

Pam nodded her head at Sookie as she stepped into the house. She was most eager to speak with Eric. Obviously a lot had changed since he and Sookie had first left for Sweden and before now her Maker had not had the opportunity to explain everything to her. She very much wanted to know why so many supernatural creatures were now guarding Sookie's home. She wanted to know why Eric had torn out of Fangtasia the other night and not come back. She was simply full of questions for her maker. “Sookie,” she said in way of greeting. Letting her eyes scan the house and seeing no one, she asked, “Where's Eric?”

Shutting the door behind Pam, Sookie answered, “He's upstairs in my bedroom.”

“He will be down soon?”

“No, he's waiting to speak to you up there.” When Pam arched a brow in question, Sookie added, “He'll explain everything to you. Just go on up. I'm going to go through some of the stuff Bobby dropped off today.” Sookie was determined to give Eric and Pam the alone time they'd need to go over everything, and she figured busying herself with some of the all-natural health books Bobby had dropped off would be a good way. She needed to sit down and start reworking all of her Gran's recipes since she could no longer use processed foods ... but first she'd check up on Thor. It dismayed her the dog had scuttled out reacting to the tensions. He deserved better.

Pam studied Sookie for a moment longer before turning and heading up the stairs. She had never been in Sookie's private quarters before so she simply followed the scents of her Master and his bonded until she came to a closed door. Knocking once she waited for Eric to bid her to enter before stepping into the room and closing the door behind her. Letting her eyes scan the room, she couldn't help but think that it fit Sookie's personality perfectly, but doubted her maker was as fond of the décor.

Finally focusing her sight on Eric, seeing his hesitant expression, she asked, “Master?”

Eric shook himself out of his reverie. “Pam, I must speak to you of the changes that have taken place. I did not mean for our conversation to be delayed this long, but nothing has gone according to plan since Sookie and I returned.”

“I'm aware.” Pam's eyes fell to the floor as she quickly appended, “I failed you, Master. You told me to maintain order and watch over the area while you were gone. I should have protected Sookie's brother. Forgive me my incompetence.”

Moving forward, Eric stroked his hand down his child's straight hair, and replied, “You have not failed me, Pamela. The fault is not yours, it is Sophie-Anne's and she will pay. Sookie and I have discussed her brother already, and everything that can be done to save him is being done, however, that is not what I asked you here to discuss.”

Raising her head to meet Eric's gaze, Pam asked, “I take it you wish to explain everything that happened last night?”

“Yes, but first there are several other matters I need to discuss with you. Both vastly more important and pertaining to the changes we are all going to have to make.”

The portent of something truly epic was in Eric's eyes and Pam suddenly found herself afraid, but refused to show it. In an attempt to lighten the mood, she teased, “I don't know what it is you're about to say, but I'm guessing it has to do with Sookie. I tried to warn you that girl was nothing but trouble.”

Knowing his child as he did, Eric couldn't help but laugh. Pulling Pam into his arms to hug her lightly, he replied, “I am glad you are my child, Pamela. Never forget that.”

Returning the hug briefly, Pam pulled back and said, “Now tell me what kind of trouble your little telepath has gotten us all into now.”

Stepping back, Eric moved to take a seat on the side of the bed as he gestured for Pam to sit in the rocking chair. When she was seated he began. “You are aware that when the Pythoness and Brigant came to see me before they alluded to the fact that something unprecedented was going to take place between Sookie and I, correct? How they warned me that when it happened I 'must not doubt'?”

Nodding, Pam acknowledged, “Indeed. You speculated on several different scenarios they could be alluding to, and due to recent events I'm assuming that you really will become High King as you hypothesized previously.”

“That is part of it, yes,” Eric confirmed. He held his child's gaze as he continued, “What has happened is beyond anything you or I could have imagined. I was shocked and unsure at first, but after examining the situation I can assure you that I am most pleased with what has transpired.”


“Eric, you're stalling,” Pam sighed as she rolled her eyes at her maker.

Smiling at his child's impatience, Eric decided to give it to her straight. “Sookie is pregnant … with my son. She conceived when she yielded to me at my cabin in Sweden.”

Pam went still. Dead still. Her eyes locked onto Eric's gaze in disbelief. Her mouth opened to respond, her lips formed around a word but she could not vocalize. 'Did … did he say what I think he just said?' She sat perfectly still, the stillness only a vampire can achieve, for long moments as she regarded Eric before her. Finally, she broke through her shock and said the first thing off the top of her head, the only thing at the moment she trusted herself to say. “You're joking, right?”

Shaking his head, fully expecting Pam's doubt as he'd had a healthy dose of it himself initially, Eric explained, “That is part of the prophecy regarding Sookie and me. We really were born for one another. She was born to give me children. Vampire children. Vampire Gods. The child she carries is vampire … and it is a boy. My son.”

Pam's voice was dead, emotionless as she intoned darkly, “A son.”

“A son.”

Silence.

Eric sat and waited for Pam to digest what she had just learned. Just as he had with Sookie, he would wait to tell Pam that the child was Odin reborn, and that there would be many more children to follow until he knew his child was ready to hear such news. It was obvious she was already having trouble assimilating the idea that he was to be a father at all. He knew his child was jealous of his attention. She'd been resentful of his desire for Sookie, so he was expecting her to be jealous of this child that would truly be his in all ways. He knew he was going to have to assure her that despite the fact Sookie was going to birth him a son, that did not mean he considered her any less his child. His daughter. She would call all the children Sookie bore him brothers and sisters, because in his mind they were all his children.


Pam's mind was reeling. She was old enough to think there could not possibly be anything 'new' and there was comfort in sameness, in the expectation of people's behavior, in the routine of how her days were filled, because she understood what to expect and acknowledged her capabilities … and here she was facing something new for the first time since her turning and it undermined her composure and confidence. 'A son? A vampire baby? This … this is not possible! No vampire has ever had a child! We are the dead! We do not create life! We steal it!' She couldn't wrap her mind around it. She simply couldn't. Nothing like this had ever happened. Couldn't happen! Refusing to admit most of her outrage was due to her jealousy at the thought Sookie would be giving Eric a true child, refusing to admit she suddenly felt very insecure and unsure of her status in Eric's life, which had been set in stone before, she latched onto her anger. Shaking her head, Pam remarked, “Are you sure the child is yours? We're dead, Eric, we don't have babies. Sookie could be trying to trick you to gain the upper hand with you.”

Eric gave her a castigating look. He had expected he would need to talk Pam through all of this, but he hadn't expected Pam to deny the paternity of his child. “Pamela, I will answer any questions you have, but you will not question my paternity of the child. It is my son in Sookie's womb. It is my seed that created him. I understand all this shocks you. I felt shock as well. I have the answers to your questions and shall tell you all that I know, but do not ever again think to deny my son.”

“Eric, this is not possible!”

“Apparently it is.”

Pam jumped from the rocking chair and began pacing the room. She rolled all the scenarios over in her mind before remarking, “We'll be hunted. Killed. Humans and vampires alike will not tolerate such an abomination!”

Eric leapt to his feet as well, the room stifling with both their agitation. He had expected Pam's disbelief, not her disgust. “You will watch your words, my child!”

Spinning to face her Maker, Pam growled, “Exactly! I am your child! Not whatever parasite is growing inside that girl!”

“Pamela!”

“No!” Pam's eyes flashed with the heat of her contempt and she held nothing back. “I have stood back and let you carry out your plans for the girl. I have watched you lower yourself by allowing her to speak to you without the proper respect you are due. I have stood by and watched you endanger us, flouting the very laws of survival you taught me, and I have said nothing. But this? This is lunacy! We are vampires! We are death! We do not play happy family! This will destroy us! Everyone will hunt us to destroy whatever is growing in that girl! We cannot allow this madness!”

Eric's fists clenched and unclenched. His fury was mounting. Pamela was his child, and he loved her dearly, but he would not allow this. He understood she was angry, jealous, and confused, but she would see reason! Stepping forward, only inches separating them, Eric spoke in a deathly self-possessed voice. “Pam, I understand you are scared and confused. I understand that this is a shock to you and you see only the problems it poses, but you will sit down and hear me out before you continue in your foolish tirade.”

“Eric, how can you—“

“I command you to sit and listen, my child.” Eric watched as Pam was forced to retake her seat and remain silent as her eyes, wild and angry, followed him as he, too, retook his seat. Leaning forward with his forearms on his knees, Eric began, “We will not be hunted. The Ancient Pythoness has rallied the council around me, and I am technically High King now, but I ordered this kept secret for now. I need time to build my army before the importance Sookie and I hold becomes well known. We do have enemies that wish to see me dead, but I will not allow anyone to take the life I have made myself with Sookie. She is my bonded, my mate, and the mother of my child … and those children that will follow.”

Pam's eyes went wide as she absorbed that Sookie would bear him even more children. Eric continued, “There is a prophecy concerning Sookie and I. The Ancient Pythoness and Niall alluded to it when they visited me in my office at Fangtasia, and you and I have speculated on what it might be, but Sookie and I were finally apprised of the full truth the other night. The truth I shall now share with you. First, I shall share with you what happened between Sookie and I in Sweden. This knowledge is for you alone. Sookie and I have shared it with no one else nor will we.”

Holding his child's gaze, Eric launched into his explanation. He spoke of his and Sookie's first joining by way of how they had been marked the first time they joined and showed her the tattoos that now adorned his body to prove it to her. Her shock was clear, but she was still held silent by his command, so he continued. He told her of Sookie's dream, her waking with the talisman Odin had given her, and their subsequent trip into the mountains to find the cave that had held Odin's sword. He told her of his conversation with Odin, his learning that he was, in truth, the son of a god turned vampire and then pulled his father's sword from his chest to prove to his child his words were true before willing it back into his mark. As Pam continued to watch him, her eyes reflecting her mounting disbelief, Eric finally revealed the full truth of the child inside Sookie. He told her how Odin had explained how the old gods were going to be reborn, the part he and Sookie would play in bringing them back into the world. When Pam's eyes began to darken with understanding, Eric pressed on.

Still not releasing her from his command to hear him out, he carried on and explained how the Ancient Pythoness and Brigant had told him and Sookie that they would build a new world. He informed Pam of their destiny to build a truly united world, their destiny to lead their world into the stars to expand their civilization. As his child's expression became more suffused with her shock and worry, Eric stated how he and Sookie were born to bring the old gods back, but that was not the danger they faced now. He paused, steeling himself for what followed. When he continued, his tone was dark, heavy with his own apprehension, and he told Pam that Sargon, the stuff of legends, the ancient vampire sorcerer, was not dead as everyone believed. In truth, he had lain in wait the last six thousand years in order to be in a position to steal Sookie from him so that he could put his own seed in her to exert control over the vampire gods she would bear. He told Pam of Sargon's desire to rule the world with these children, and of the vampire's unexpected visit the night prior that had led to Eric's own hasty departure from Fangtasia.

When he had finished reciting all the problems and challenges that now lay before them, Eric moved to take Pam's hand, still not releasing her from his command. Stroking his fingers along her palm, he assured, “You are my child, Pamela. Nothing will ever change that. You are as much my child as the one now growing in Sookie's womb. This child will be your brother. Those that follow will be your siblings as well. I expect you to help raise them, teach them, guide them. I expect you to be as much a part of the family I am building as they will be. Nothing has changed between us.” As blood tinged tears filled his child's eyes, he murmured, “You may speak.”

A harsh sob Pam had been holding escaped as she felt released from her Maker's command. Moving to her knees before Eric, she laid her head in his lap and cried, “How can you say this? Everything is changing! Has changed! I-you-everything I thought we had is gone.”

Stroking his hand through Pam's hair as she pressed against his legs, seeking his assurance, Eric soothed, “No, it is not, Pamela. Am I not still your Maker? Am I not still your teacher? The pillar of strength you lean on? Can you not still turn to me for guidance and protection? Is there not affection and trust between us?”

Looking up at Eric with eyes betraying with her inner struggle, Pam whispered, “There is much between us, my Maker … but now there is more between you and Sookie. She holds greater importance in your life. The … child she will bear you will be more important to you than I am. Your love for them will be greater than your love for me … I have been replaced.”

Eric did something then that he had never done with Pam … he pulled her into his arms and cradled her in his lap with her face tucked into his neck. He cradled her as he would a child, his child, comforting her. He had held Pam in his arms many times before, but never like this. He had never coddled her, but he knew she need it now. He held her as he had held Sookie so many times and kissed her forehead as he whispered, “My devotion to Sookie and this child is not greater than my devotion to you, Pam, it is simply different.”

Unable to staunch the flow of tears streaming down her cheeks, Pam argued, “You lie. You would sacrifice me for them.”

Eric fell still. He could not deny Pam's words. He would sacrifice her if it meant saving Sookie and their child. It would kill him to do so, but he would if he had to. He placed his hand on the nape of her neck, his long fingers turning her face upward to meet his fathomless blue eyes. Seeing her sweet vulnerability, he tried to reach a composure he didn't feel and sighed. He said into the painful silence, “I would sacrifice you to save them if I had to … but only for them. I would die for you first. I would lay my life down if it meant keeping you safe. You are not my only priority anymore, Pam, that is true, but that does not mean you aren't still one of my primary concerns. I trust you above all others in this world. I trust you with my life, and I will trust you with the lives of my mate and unborn son. You will help me rule. You will be my right hand.”

“But Sookie is your heart. You can live without your hand, Eric, you can't live without your heart.”

Silence fell between them as they stared off. The truth hung between them and forced them both to face how drastically their worlds had changed. Pam had to face the fact that Eric now cared for two others more than he cared for her, and Eric had to face the fact there might come a time when he'd have to sacrifice his beloved child in order to save his mate and son.

Finally, Eric admitted, “No, I cannot live without Sookie. If she were to die, I would have to meet the sun. I … I need her. I need her as I've never needed anything else.”

When Pam lowered her eyes, Eric tilted her chin up once more to return her gaze to his. “But I need you as well, Pam. I need you to lean on. I need you to help me defend what is mine. I need you to help me protect your little brother. I need you to help defend what is ours from our enemies, and what's more, I want you. I want you to make a stand with me. I want you to fight at my side as we make the world safe for my mate and your brother. I want you to help me establish my rule. Are my want and need for you not enough?”

Pam held her Maker's gaze. She searched his eyes for evidence that he still loved her, and she saw his unguarded heart. “You're afraid I'm going to leave.”

“Terrified,” Eric affirmed. “I have few people I can truly trust, Pam. Very few. Our enemies are many and they are powerful and I cannot make this stand alone. I have no choice but to rely on the Pythoness and her resources, but I need you at my back so that I can fight without worrying those I'm forced to put faith in will not betray me. You are the only one I can truly trust and I need you to help me fight this war.”

“You trust Sookie,” Pam countered.

Smiling wryly, Eric teased, “Trust her to want to fight for me, but can you really imagine her on the battlefield with me?”

Pam laughed as well. “I can see her running into a fight half cocked. Easily.”

Eric looked directly into her face, willing her to see that the future was shared. “Sookie is meant to wait at my home and care for the babes. You are meant to stand strong at my side and fight my wars with me. Sookie is my mate and mother of my children. You are my first child, my chosen child, the child I have taught to be strong and stand at my side as a true warrior. Can you do this?”

Pam held her Maker's gaze unflinchingly. She worried over what all this meant, and she understood very little of it, accepted even less. She knew she was going to have to take some time later to go over it all. There was simply too much for her to make any sense of it now. She could hardly believe it now, so she certainly wasn't ready to be accepting of it, but she knew one thing … she would not abandon or betray her Maker. Never that.

Stroking her fingers along his cheek softly, Pam whispered, “I'm not happy with any of this, Eric. I … I don't know how to feel about this. Any of it. I'm angry, and if I have to admit it, a little resentful that Sookie has caused all this.”

When it looked like Eric was going to say something, Pam set her fingers over his lips, and added, “But you are my Maker. You saved me. You made me. You have never lied to me. You have never abandoned me. You've taught me everything I know about survival. You've taught me to stand against adversity and emerge victorious. You've made me strong, and I will use that strength to stand with you now.”

Gratitude softened his face. Pam continued resolutely, “My loyalties lie with you, Eric. They will always lie with you. No matter if I never accept Sookie's new status in your life, no matter if I can come to see this child as my sibling, I will fight and die for them because they are a part of you. I will never abandon you, Eric Northman. Where you lead, I follow. Till final death come. I'm with you … father.”

Eric's eyes misted with tears as well as he pulled Pam into his chest. He tucked her face into the crook of his neck and stroked her hair softly. “You make my heart soar, daughter.”

They sat together in silence for a moment, before Pam suddenly pulled back and said, “Command me.”

“What?”

“Command me to die for them,” she asked succinctly.

Eric's eyes widened in shock. “Pam, I don't doubt you.”

Shaking her head, Pam insisted, “I know. I doubt myself. You know I'm spoiled and lazy. You know I'm jealous and resentful of anyone taking you from me. I … I don't want to doubt myself, and I don't want to fail you. Ever. I'm asking you to command me to sacrifice my life if necessary to save Sookie and your son.”

“Pam, it's not necessary. I know you will do whatever is necessary to protect what is dear to me. Even if you don't like Sookie and this child, I know you would not betray me by failing to protect them.”

More determined, Pam argued, “I don't want either of us to have a second of doubt. I don't even want the possibility of it. I'm asking you, as your child, please command me to sacrifice my life for Sookie and your son if I must to save them.”

Holding Pam's gaze, feeling her determination that radiated through their bond as Maker and child, Eric found he had never been more proud of her. Leaning forward to kiss her forehead, he whispered, “You honor me, my child. You make me proud to be your Maker. You are a better child than I was.”

“Command me,” Pam begged. She never wanted to fail Eric, and she was afraid that once she had time to sit down and think about all this her resentment would only grow. She was afraid that as their world began to change quickly around them she would come to hate and blame Sookie for all of this. Hate the child that was growing inside her. Hate the child that was more a part of Eric than she herself was. She couldn't bear the thought, and she didn't want the possibility to betray or fail Eric even to exist. She wanted her loyalty and dedication to Eric to be absolute even if she couldn't assure that with her own free will. Her heart lay with her Maker. She needed to make sure her mind did as well. She didn't want her insecurities or jealousies to sway her for even a moment in the future. “Please, please command me.”

Resting his forehead against hers, Eric whispered, “Child of my heart, I command you to sacrifice your life if necessary to protect Sookie and my son.”

Pam felt the shift inside her and released an unnecessary breath. “We're in it together now.”

“We've always been it together, Pam, always.”

“Till final death, Master.”

Smiling softly, Eric countered, “No, my child. To eternity. We're going to have it all.” 

3 comments:

  1. Godric story was interesting but irrelevant to the situation he created. Woo Hoo Sookie is finally thinking with her head and heart and standing up to the lunkhead. Jackhammer indeed. Excellent argument Sookie. Kill him with logic. Eric is so skeptical. Glad he is listening to Sookie about them. LOL Yeah SOokie....tact is not his strong point. Yeah Pam is going to be upset Cant really blame her for being upset at what she sees as being replaced.

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  2. great chpater, so much learned and termoil of the hearts....Kristie

    FYI i am okay with you not posting my comments and oops.... no biggie to me just trying to help where i can...


    OOPS
    1- CAPS "He also hoped that Sookie's were guards had succeeded in finding" "Sookie's Were guards"
    2- CAPs "and scooted out of the house with the departing fae and were." "departing Fae and Were."
    3-CAPS "They played with Thor and Cerberus while Lafayette and I raced the centaurs. Freya's the fastest." "I raced the Centaurs."
    4-CAPS " Sookie smiled victoriously, and declared, “And I think, my king, it has been made" "think, My King, it has been"
    5-Caps becasue you are listing catrgories they need to be capitalized... "I've seen weres and shifters show it, and I very much believe that other supes have it as" "seen Weres and Shifters show it, "
    6-okay two different options " It is my seed that bred her" 1-"It was my seed that has bred with her" 2-"It was my seed that bred him"
    7-

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  3. Yay for logical Sookie! I would feel bad for Eric regarding the emotional upheaval he's going through, but he has been more than a bit of an ass. Nothing wrong him getting a small taste of what he's done to Sookie, whatever his reasoning for actions is.

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