**A/N: Remember, if you commit violent acts on my person (virtual or otherwise), no one else has access to my Parts stash…**
Eric rose the next afternoon seething with an annoying blend of impatience and caution. His skin was crawling with the need to see Sookie with his own eyes, but although he had narrowed his options down considerably, he still had strategies to plan.
This was too important to risk letting something stupid like impatience fuck it up.
Any future potential he might have with Sookie would depend entirely on their first meeting in…years.
So much rested on him striking the right tone tonight; plus, he was determined to start out as he meant to go.
Part of the problem was that he didn’t yet know how much, much less in what ways, the woman in question had changed. According to the way the co-owner had described her, Sookie had changed quite a bit, but would it have been for the better?
For the worse?
As he well knew, she had a giving streak a mile wide, but she could also be extremely narrow-minded and short-sighted, too.
She was also notoriously stubborn.
Obstinacy in and of itself wasn’t necessarily a bad trait – it all depended on how it was used. Although he preferred to call it “tenacious”, Odin knew he was stubborn, but he liked to think he knew when to listen to others who were more experienced when he needed to do so. The ability to learn, to recognize when someone knew more than he did and then to actively listen to that other person’s advice, was a gift.
He hoped that during the passing years Sookie had learned at least that basic survival trick.
He also hoped she had learned better how to read people whose minds were silent to her gift.
Those passing years had been extremely beneficial to him both financially and politically; he hoped they had been as kind to his Sookie.
He still couldn’t believe she had been dropped so neatly into his virtual lap after so long.
For that matter he still couldn’t believe that Pam had been the one to do it.
She couldn’t stand Sookie in the past and, true to herself, she still couldn’t, but she loved him more than she hated “that walking fairy vagina”. Eric secretly suspected Pam was mostly bitter that Sookie hadn’t been afraid of her the first time they’d met at Fangtasia…and that Sookie preferred men. After letting that description slip out, she had even made an effort to limit her insults, instead letting her tone of voice display her…feelings.
Eric felt he owed her for being so instrumental in his “surprise“, but Pam, both wealthy in her own right and Queen of the now-lucrative state of Louisiana, had no need of anything he could think of to send her, but he was sure he could find something. However, he sensed quite a few gifts coming to his youngest child… The child currently residing in Phoenix, Ari-fucking-zona…
The child who had caught a whiff of a familiar scent one evening.
The child who had followed that scent from a distance until verifying the scent’s identity.
The child who had then promptly contacted her Sibling – the sibling being his oldest child who loved to plan surprises for her Maker.
His oldest child had matured beyond his honest expectations. His youngest child was simply a good person at heart. Maybe she would find room in her life for him some night after all.
He began pacing with the need to see Sookie, to verify with his own eyes and nose that it really was her and that she was well. It had been all he could manage the night before to stop himself from charging off after her, but the knowledge that things could go south far too easily without thorough planning had prevented rash actions.
He was fully aware that once he was in her presence he wouldn’t want to deny the urge, the need, to take her into his arms…to hold her close enough to feel the soft, lush warmth of her body bringing life back into his own…to feel the reassuring beat of her heart so close to that silent place in his chest…to become intimately reacquainted with her beautiful breasts, her sweetly curved ass…to hear those noises she made when he brought her to pleasure again and again…
He’d gone into his dayrest hard and had risen the same.
Where Sookie was concerned, he remembered wryly, such was the norm. But also where Sookie was concerned, unfortunately nothing but confusion was written in stone, either.
So much time had passed, though…
What was she like now?
He knew she would still be beautiful – her residual scent showed her hybrid status remained intact and said status guaranteed extremely slow aging.
But what about her personality? Her mind-set? Her ability to jump to wrong conclusions at the speed of light and cling to them tooth and nail?
Without arrogance he knew he could have his pick of the world’s finest women of any species…why was he still so hung up on a woman he hadn’t even heard from, much less seen, for so many years?
Because it was Sookie.
His Sookie was passion and determination and silly manners and…and some fires never died.
There was nothing “his” about Sookie.
For a slightly hazy and far too brief period of time he’d had paradise in his amnesia-ridden hands. Later, if he’d played his cards differently at certain other points he might could have regained that lost ground, but he hadn’t, and she’d been blinded by Bill’s blood and lies anyway.
At least she wasn’t anymore. Compton’s goo had long since decomposed…
Reluctantly he wondered if Sookie hated vampires now considering her purposeful avoidance of his kind. She certainly had enough reason to, especially given Bill and Russell’s treatment of her…even Pam’s shit hadn’t helped. He decided that even after all she had been through, she must not, at least, not to an obvious extent. The business she co-owned did cater to eaters at vampire events, after all. Perhaps she was simply playing it smart by keeping herself out of their world as best she could.
Eric shook his head as he headed to the suite’s kitchen. Given her scent and her previous luck with his kind, that was the best thing she could do.
Memories of sunshine in a pretty blonde bottle whetted yet another of his appetites so he heated in succession several of the “private reserve” Pam had apparently ordered one of his minions to stock the room with when she’d organized his “speaking engagement”.
While he would have preferred fresh blood from a living donor, he didn’t call down to order anyone sent up. Not only was it still daylight and most humans had no idea that older vampires could rise during the afternoon, but the idea of physically biting someone who wasn’t Sookie didn’t appeal.
He glared at the microwave.
In his frank opinion the exclusive top tier of his company’s offerings were stupendously expensive but worth the cost considering they contained more than 78% human blood – triple filtered and sourced from the least polluted regions found on the planet. That brand division’s particular clientele certainly didn’t mind paying the price for the convenience even if – generally speaking – nothing beat fresh from the living body.
He smirked as he waited for the microwave to ding. Naturally this version was the tastiest, if most expensive, product on the market, but even the cheapest version he produced was palatable enough to suffice…in an emergency situation, at any rate.
Eric might have been an entrepreneur but he had discriminating taste in spades.
He was also now a legend in the vampire world.
His publicly available products no longer carried the cure…because there was no need. That it had once done so, however, had bought him something invaluable in the vampire community – extreme loyalty. In direct contradiction of the nefarious Yakuza schemes, by his sixth month in business Eric’s developers had synthesized enough of the antidote to cure and inoculate the world’s vampire population.
Each bottle had contained enough of the antidote to cure one large adult male vampire. A next bottle ingested by the now-cured vampire had provided the inoculation. Further doses weren’t necessary. Even vampires so far gone that they were only nights away from dissolving into goo had been brought back from that edge, although they had often required three to five bottles of the initial cure.
Of course several dedicated facilities safely scattered across the planet continued synthesizing and bottling the vampire inoculation and every undead authority figure, from Monarch to whatever their version of the local sheriff might be, maintained an in-date supply for Makers to give to their newly-Turned progeny.
A human version of the cure had been mass produced the moment researchers had discovered a way to have the product introduced into into the world’s water supplies while maintaining the integrity of the product.
The cure was engineered to survive a regular brew cycle for both coffee and tea and would remain viable in bottled water for, he’d been informed, up to six months. When during the distribution of the water he had discovered just how bad the drinking water supplies in some areas was, Eric had instructed the shelter companies he’d been using to continue donating bottled water until proper sanitation systems could be brought in.
Vampires were the worst gossips so they knew of his activities; humans did not, and he preferred it that way.
However, only select vampires – a total of four – knew his researchers had also developed and put into practice a way to render useless the purpose of “anti-glamour contacts”. It had taken them some time to alter the chemical composition of the materials used in the manufacturing process, but eventually that plan had been deemed a success.
What humans didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
Eric was determined that things like vompires and Hep V and the government suppression of those different from themselves would be relegated to history.
If anyone – governmental, civilian, or somewhere in between – complicit in developing, testing, or spreading the virus or promoting government bigotry had dropped out of existence during the following years, he wouldn’t know. He spent a lot of time out of the country, you see…
For all her many faults, his Sibling Nora hadn’t deserved to die in such a fashion.
He automatically refocused his thoughts before they could continue down those particular roads then instantly remembered that he would be glady taking the most sternly-avoided road soon enough, and grinned.
Once the bottles had been warmed to the perfect drinking temperature, he loaded them into the heat-retention container developed specifically for this purpose, and headed to one of the suite’s sitting areas to down his meal while thinking.
Eric had worked his admittedly fine ass off in the early years after the vompire shitstorm. At the time he’d considered the driving need to eradicate Hep V and government interference, not to mention making a success of his ventures, his only motivations. Upon reflection, however, he realized that he had also used the hard work as an excuse to keep from thinking and feeling things he would rather forget…namely the “relationship” he’d never quite had with Sookie, not while in his right mind at any rate.
When he had left her that last time, he hadn’t allowed himself to look back. The view would have been too painful, and he knew that a clean break was always the best.
And it wasn’t as though she couldn’t have contacted him if she’d wanted. He’d kept the Fangtasia property intact and the business thriving, and had maintained it as a home base of sorts…
Now he wondered if he had subconsciously done it so that Sookie would have a way of contacting him if she’d wanted.
She never had.
If occasionally he thought vaguely that something seemed to be missing, that his astronomical successes somehow felt less thrilling than they should have, he would chalk it up to something that made sense. Maybe he needed a vacation from working so hard…but not on a fucking mountaintop in broad fucking daylight, for fuck’s sake.
Maybe he just needed to acquire yet another lab…or production facility…or airline…or private security company. Weres were always looking for decent work.
He’d quickly divested himself of his last remaining cruise line, though. Humans were prodigiously contagious – they bred and carried far too many diseases.
Acquiring another congressman was always an option…
Back then, having his “caretaker” underling acquire him a set of triplets from Transylvania or whatever they were calling it now – as opposed to wherever a last batch had come from – had always proven mildly interesting.
New blood on tap was new blood on tap, regardless of the packaging.
Several times he had fired all his current human retinue, although he knew he was supposed to call them “staff members” now according to Pam. Regardless, he’d glamoured them to get the hell away from him and replaced them with entirely new minions. While that had proven vastly satisfactory, it hadn’t solved whatever the hell the real problem had been.
Despite all his efforts, nothing had ever honestly worked, yet something had whispered to him that it wouldn’t pay to delve too deeply into the root cause of that empty feeling at the back of his mind.
He tuned into his senses and, when he was certain the sun had finally lowered enough to be safe, he downed the last two bottles of warmed private reserve and went to shower.
Once dressed in his favorite black jeans – the ones that “cupped his ass just so” according to more than once source, his favorite well-worn black t-shirt and black leather boots, he checked photos of and directions to Sookie’s current dwelling on his laptop.
She had been off work since 5:00 pm, and as it was now finally approaching full dark, it was time to put that missing something back into his life.
It was a great evening for flying across the small city.
Anticipation sending tingles throughout his body, Eric hovered above the rooftop of Sookie’s townhouse for a few minutes as he surveyed the scene below and listened acutely to all the nearby background noises. Once deciding that it was safe to do so, he landed lightly.
His fangs snicked down when he inhaled deeply and he gave a rumble of appreciation.
The scent of a sunbathing Fairy hybrid still permeated the air.
As he studied in minute detail the area that seemed to belong solely to his Sookie, he suddenly realized that she might not currently be single. Just because her co-worker didn’t think she was currently involved with someone didn’t mean she…wasn’t. She and the woman didn’t seem to be especially close…
Several focused sniffs didn’t reveal any other scents, but that was irrelevant. Not everyone shared her love of the sun.
It didn’t matter, he decided as he rose once again into the air.
People disappeared every night of the year.
As he slowly descended to the front door of her unit, he noted with a grin that her windows were well shielded against floating peeping Toms. It almost looked as though she used black-out curtains. He listened intently and, from the noises within the home and the off-key humming, concluded that she was busy in the kitchen.
He landed then immediately knocked loudly on her door.
He heard her stop whatever she’d been doing. Then, after a long moment, he heard a crash and a low noise that sounded as though a body had hit the floor…then nothing.
“Sookie?” he called out loudly as he pounded on the door. “Sookie!”
When he could still discern no movement inside, he cursed the fact that he knew no Weres in the area as he continued pounding on the door and calling her name. In his concern he instinctively grasped the doorknob at some point and rattled it, perhaps in hopes that particular noise would rouse her where his voice hadn’t, but he would never know for certain because he inadvertently broke something inside the flimsy metal device.
The door swung inward upon his surprised release of the knob and, without conscious thought, he took a step forward before halting. When he realized that he was more than halfway through her doorway into her living room and that nothing was repelling his entry, he thanked whatever forces had made his access possible and, following his nose as he detected the scent of new blood, blurred down the hallway to her side.
She was in the kitchen and had, indeed, fainted.
And her freshly-spilled blood smelled…
A quick scan of Sookie’s vital signs soothed Eric’s worry about the state of her being; the delicious scent of her blood, however, urged immediate action.
She had apparently been chopping some sort of green vegetation when his knock at her door had caused the knife to slip. Blood was now flowing a little too freely from a gash just below the knuckle of her middle finger.
Eric gently rearranged her body into a slightly more comfortable position on the floor and, without conscious thought, raised her injured hand to his mouth. As much as he would have wished to savor the experience, he rushed to lave away the blood so he could seal her wound quickly. It tasted slightly different from the way he remembered, but he didn’t take the time to ponder that difference.
Once the bleeding had stopped, he pricked his finger and smoothed his healing blood over the cut so that not even a scar would remain.
Satisfied that she was now truly not injured, he gathered her into his arms and retraced his steps to the living room far too quickly for his tastes.
Her slight weight felt incredibly right in his arms.
With reluctance he placed her on a long sofa and arranged her as comfortably as he could. When he’d entered the room a scent – familiar and comforting – had teased his nose, and a glance at the back of the couch confirmed his feeling.
That horrid old afghan…
As he removed it from the back of the couch and spread it over his unconscious Sookie, he lifted a corner of it to his nose and let the hazy memories resurface for a brief but overwhelming moment.
Eventually he remembered the unsecured door, and blurred from her side to tend to it. He ventured back to the kitchen to clean up her spilled blood and pour her a glass of the orange juice he found in her refrigerator, and returned to hold vigil in the surprisingly comfortable chair he pulled over to the sofa.
The sounds of her heartbeat and breathing said her unconscious state had changed over to simply sleeping, so he wasn’t unduly concerned.
His superior vision easily recognized the faint changes in her appearance that had taken place during the passing years. He somehow thought that the minute changes in her face – delicate new lines around her eyes, a deepening of the folds around her mouth – and even in how she unconsciously carried herself were caused more by stress than time.
Although she was thinner now than she’d been the last time he’d seen her, something told him any “fleshing out” of her body was a more recent occurrence. The softness that had been in her face was…missing.
No scent of the sun remained on her person as she would have showered since the last time she’d been able to relax under its rays, but her sun-kissed skin fairly gleamed to his vampire sight with its warmth.
As the shock of suddenly being so near his Sookie again after so long began to settle in, he took several deep breaths to steady himself, and savored her concentrated scent in the dwelling… as well as the lack of odors from any recent male visitors.
He greedily observed and memorized everything he could about her while he was finally free to do so, but had to wonder what had really brought her to Yuma, Arizona.
There couldn’t be any sort of Fairy lure as the area was notoriously devoid of their fair presence.
The other woman had said that she’d been in this location for years, but why…here?
And why were her fingernails and toenails painted blue?
A quiet movement brought his gaze from the blue tips of her toes to meet her slowly opening eyes, and her gaze of disbelief made him smile slightly.
“Enjoy your nap, Ms. Stackhouse?”
**A/N: So, what did you think?**