“Am I supposed to be ‘concentrating’?” Sookie asked distractedly, digging through her bag for the chocolate bar she was sure was there. They’d been on the 425 for about twenty minutes when it occurred to her she’d done little more than think about food.
“No.” While Eric hadn’t been rude, he’d been preoccupied since hurrying her from the cabin and into the SUV.
Sookie sighed and sank back into her seat empty-handed. “Okay.”
“What is leaving you unsatisfied?” he asked.
Sookie blinked and blushed in the darkened car. “Unsatisfied?” She peeked sideways at him and swallowed. Sookie doubted there was very little involving Eric that would leave her unsatisfied. ‘Dissatisfied’ was a whole different story.
Eric reached across to gently grab her chin until he could see her face. “What has you unhappy, Sookie?”
She croaked something unintelligible and cleared her throat. “Coffee,” she repeated with emphasis. “I’d could use some coffee.”
She was lying and he let it go. “Simple enough. We will stop at the next exit.”
Casting out with her head, Sookie snickered and further rolled her head against the seat toward Eric. “Damn, he drives fast,” she mimicked, in a low, deep drawl.
“Is that what you’re hearing?” He’d barely paid attention to the traffic, his thoughts too wrapped in the woman seated next to him. She felt subdued, and what he had interpreted as unhappy. It mattered to Eric, in that since they’d exchanged blood, he’d only felt her to be…excited. About everything.
“Mostly,” she mused, turning her attention back to her window. “The rest are zooming by too fast for me to catch.”
The SUV suddenly slowed, and Sookie frowned at the appearance of a familiar fast-food chain sign. “Is coffee available here?” Eric asked, smoothly exiting the highway.
“Yep,” she said, immediately regretting her lack of enthusiasm. “Yeah, it’s great, thanks.” Sookie straightened herself up in her seat and reached for her bag, only to have Eric gently pull her arm back.
“Is there anything else you would like?” he asked. That she expected to pay somewhat amused, and disappointed, him. He studied the large lit sign as they waited in the drive-thru line.
“I’m good, thanks.” If their lives were going to go on as they had for the last couple of days, Sookie figured she should probably watch what she ate. “This stuff’s fine every once in awhile, but it’s not the real thing,” she explained.
Eric understood more than she realized. He also understood in that moment, that Sookie needed a home. Humans needed homes.
“Hey,” she said, shaking his hand. “You okay?”
He nodded and pulled to the window, watching as she leaned across him to place her order. His hand went automatically to pet her long hair, and he smiled when her words faltered. She threatened to spill the hot liquid on him, and he laughed.
“I have never done that before,” Eric commented once they were back on the highway.
“Hm, exciting, isn’t it?” Sookie replied, humming into her drink. It was sweet and somewhat bland, but it was coffee.
“It is convenient, I suppose.”
“I heard there’s a chain somewhere up north that has artificial blood, like, with the soda dispensers,” she said excitedly. “Can you imagine?”
Eric could not. “Interesting.” He could not envision a scenario that would lead him inside an establishment to purchase blood from a machine.
“Couldn’t see that flying south of the Mason-Dixon line,” she added, sipping her drink. “Must be in New York.” Sookie had never been, but she reasoned it would have to be in such an area. “Or run by vampires. Y’all would be the experts on how to market that, you should look into it.”
In his mind, he already was. “Pam contacted me,” he said, changing the subject.
“Are we meeting her in Monroe?” Sookie guessed, nodding at the sign for the town as they whizzed past it.
“Yes.” Eric had intended for them to go to ground in a place Pam kept there, but he wasn’t sure. He wanted to discuss it with his Child. Eric had felt her call to him, and while Sookie had hurriedly packed up her things in the cabin, he’d turned on his phone for the briefest of seconds. “We may not stay.”
“Alright,” Sookie replied agreeably. Her words, he was learning, were for the most part in synch with her feelings, and Eric once again marveled at her lack of duplicity. When Sookie did not feel truthful to him, it seemed to be regarding her emotions, as opposed to her actions. He credited her telepathy as the explanation.
Eric felt her curiosity spike and looked at her. “What?”
“That sign,” she said, pointing to the billboard above the off-ramp they’d taken. She turned to follow it with her eyes as Eric drove.
“What of it?” he asked.
“I never really noticed their symbol,” she replied.
“For the Fellowship of the Sun?”
“Yeah,” she said slowly. It had caught Sookie’s attention, and she wracked her brain for the connection. “I’ve seen it somewhere, but not like that one.” Suddenly she smacked Eric excitedly and gasped. “That guy’s pin!” she exclaimed. She’d seen it in James Weston’s memories, on the lapel of the man in the brown suit. “Mr. Brown! Or the deacon…the good deacon, whatever they were calling him.” Sookie hiked her thumb over her shoulder and smiled. “That symbol was on his pin,” she said confidently.
Eric was unsure of the importance of what she’d said. “Do humans wear such pins?”
“Well, sure, people wear all kinds of pins, but not like that. His was small and gold, I think. You see them on people who want you to know their affiliation, like politicians.” She thought for a moment and nodded to herself. “It’s discreet, but yeah, it fits. I told you he looked ‘church-y’. Even the drainers called him Deacon behind his back.” Sookie was sure, the man in the brown suit belonged to the Fellowship of the Sun. “I don’t think that’s a pin you’d wear lightly, Eric.”
“You do not like it,” he replied, feeling her disgust.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given their views,” she huffed. “But yeah, I don’t think too much of a member of a vampire-hating organization disguised as a church, who’s addicted to V and has a side business of draining.”
Eric was less moved. “He is taking an opportunity,” he reasoned, smirking at the immediate look of shock on Sookie’s face.
“He is supposedly a man of God,” she bit out, emphasizing each word. “And why on Earth are you defending him?” she asked hotly.
“I am not,” Eric answered calmly, turning onto a dirt road that led to what looked to Sookie to be an abandoned farm. “You said it yourself, that you believe he is not the one organizing this attack. If that is the case,” he said coolly, pulling up to a large dilapidated barn, “then he, too, is part of someone else’s opportunity. A very clever part.”
Sookie sighed and took in his words. “It’s still wrong.”
“Everyone cannot be good.” Aside from her, he could not recall the last human he could consider as such.
“Are you being serious?” she asked, looking at Eric in disbelief. “Are we really having some kind of morality lesson?”
“Hardly. In the end, they will all be dead. One way or the other.” He may have released Robbie back into his environment, but Eric had no intention of leaving anyone connected to this plot alive to tell the story.
“So it doesn’t matter, what happens in between?” Sookie wondered what the hell had gotten into him, to be so blase about the whole thing.
“It is a waste of time, I can assure you, to judge someone on principle,” Eric hissed, tired of her inability to see the larger picture. “If you stop to question every action, every decision, if you weigh every action against what you believe someone to be, you will lose.”
“So don’t expect too much, because you’ll only be disappointed?” Sookie shot back.
“Exactly.” Perhaps she did see.
Sookie was breathing hard, and she didn’t want him to see her tears, though she knew that was impossible. “Well, that is just…depressing,” she said, struggling to push open her door.
“How do you not know this, given your gift?” Eric asked honestly, gesturing to her head. “This deacon hides behind his church, to promote his hatred. He funds drainers, to fuel his addiction. You wish to take it personally.” If she were this upset over some worthless humans, how would she survive amongst vampires?
Eric zipped around the SUV to block her as she stepped from the vehicle. “Sookie,” he said seriously, staring at her intently. “If at the end of this, there stands a vampire, responsible for all this destruction, how will you feel?”
“It won’t matter who it is, Eric. Vampire or human. I’ll feel sad, I guess. And glad, when we figure it out,” she added, wiping her cheeks. “Bad is bad, and I wouldn’t judge them based on principle.”
She was telling the truth, and it surprised him. “You are compassionate,” he said suddenly, as if it just occurred to him.
“And you’re a hypocrite,” she said, wincing at her own rudeness. “If none of this…in between stuff matters, then what do you care, how I’ll feel at the end of this? I’m a means to an end, right?” Sookie asked, challenging him.
Eric blinked, confused at how they’d reached this point. “Of course not.”
Sookie poked him gently in his broad chest. “Hypocrite.”
He mentally conceded, that he’d hired her as just that, an expendable human hired for a specific task. “What do you care, then?” he forced himself to ask.
Sookie’s eyes welled up again, and she took a large breath. “I care about you. I care about Pam. I care that what’s being done is wrong, and that maybe I can help.”
He was silent for a moment, staring at her. “You will help,” he said quietly. Eric realized, he needed to tell her about his Maker and about his…fears. How he thought he’d be able hide himself from Sookie’s perceptiveness, especially after sharing his blood with her, was beyond him. “Come.”
Eric led her through the darkened barn, to a trap door, hissing something into the black hole it revealed. The opening was suddenly illuminated, and he gestured for Sookie to climb down the ladder. “Pam,” he said, and Sookie nodded, lowering herself onto the rungs. He followed, levitating beneath the heavy door as he lowered it into place.
“Holy shit, what was that?” Sookie asked, wide-eyed as he slowly descended to the ground in front of her.
“I can fly,” he explained, shrugging.
She slowly shook her head. “That might be more amazing than the whole vampire thing,” she said seriously.
Eric was pleased with her admiration and smirked. “I have other talents more amazing than that I could show you,” he offered, “if you would like.”
Sookie snorted. “I’m sure.” If Eric were anything like the dreams she’d been having, he’d make her forget all about his flying talent.
A heavy door swung open behind her, and she turned to see Pam standing behind it. “Company!” she exclaimed, her face impassive. “How nice.”
“Hey, Pam,” Sookie managed to mumble as Eric hurried her past the vampire. “Jesus, Eric,” she swore, shaking free of his grip and stumbling into the next room. She could hear the loud closing and locking of doors and wandered to one of the pretty couches in the room. “Your place is nice,” she said, admiring the feminine decor. It was a formal sitting room, and Sookie wondered how Pam had managed to fit the ornate pieces through the trapdoor.
“Sit,” Pam said, perching on a chair across from Sookie. Pam waited, staring across the room in a trance, while Eric paced with his phone.
After a few awkward minutes, Sookie found the nerve to stand and have a look around, grateful that no one seemed to notice. A quick peek down the hall revealed a bathroom and two bedrooms, but that was all. No kitchen. Sookie sighed and decided to use the toilet before returning to the others.
Pam sat like a statue where Sookie had left her, and Eric was slipping his phone back into his pocket. “We will return to Shreveport,” he announced, rousing Pam from her stupor.
“When?” she asked.
“Tonight. The club stays closed.”
Pam nodded thoughtfully. “I think that is wise. There does not seem to be a press for time concerning your abduction, or mine. Though it is strange that her home was invaded,” she said, nodding at Sookie.
Sookie watched, as she assumed Eric and Pam were having a conversation, but there was so little sound or movement, she couldn’t be sure. “Are you talking to each other?” she asked, amazed. Sookie realized then, how unnerving her telepathy must seem. “You can go ahead, I was just wondering.”
Pam studied the pretty telepath and raised her eyebrow. On the surface, Sookie was as innocent and kind as could be, and that Pam was constantly taken with her surprised the vampire to no end. “She is priceless,” Pam marveled, and Eric agreed. “What is it, do you suppose?” she wondered aloud.
“It is her,” Eric answered, reassured by the blood they shared. “I want to hear about Stan Davis,” he said, raising his voice to include Sookie.
“Who’s Stan Davis?” Sookie asked.
Pam looked to Eric for his permission and answered the question. “He is a Sheriff in Texas. He left a message for me earlier.”
“He’s a friend of yours?”
Sookie eyed the two vampires and smirked. “Did he call you, Eric?” Pam wasn’t a Sheriff, so Sookie figured it had to have meant something, that this Stan Davis reached out to Pam first.
Eric smiled and sank down on the couch next to her. “No, he did not,” he said, stretching his long legs out in front of them, and resting an arm along the back of the couch behind Sookie. “And I am deeply offended.”
Pam rolled her eyes and dismissively waved her hand. “Then perhaps you should fuck him occasionally,” she suggested, and Sookie mockingly gasped, holding her hand in front of her mouth.
“He is not my preference,” Eric replied, his eyes briefly roaming Sookie’s body. “Continue.”
Pam hesitated, enough that it caught even Sookie’s attention. “He is concerned about Godric.” Both women could feel how the comment affected Eric. “He wishes to help.” Sookie unconsciously leaned in closer under his arm, and Pam moved to kneel on the floor by his feet. The gesture brought tears to Sookie’s eyes, and she looked to Eric.
Sookie knew Pam was choosing her words carefully. “Stan has offered his homes, and his nestmates…” Pam said, her voice trailing off.
“He knows where he is?” Eric asked, and she nodded. “He believes it is time?”
“Stan says, his King is unaware,” Pam said softly.
Eric abruptly stood and disappeared into one of the bedrooms. Both women watched before coming to look at each other. “Men,” Pam said drily, and Sookie fought not to laugh.
“So what’s wrong with Godric?” she asked, whispering.
Pam shook her head. “I don’t know, but his behavior is erratic enough to catch the attention of the local Sheriff. Eric has known something has been amiss for weeks now.”
“What can he do about it?” Sookie assumed that vampires had relationships somewhat like the ones they had as humans. “If it were Eric acting weird, what would you do?”
Pam slowly rose from the floor and adjusted her shirt. “Whatever I could,” she said honestly.
Sookie nodded and stood. “Me, too,” she agreed, following Eric’s path to the bedroom. She knocked twice on the door and slipped into the dark room. A low light switched on, and Sookie saw him on the bed, patting the spot next to him. “So I was thinking,” she said, climbing over the covers and kneeling next to him.
Eric chuckled and rested a hand on her lap. He wondered if she could feel the same ache he did, small as it was, in his chest when she was near, worse when she was not. “Go on.”
“If you were in trouble,” she started, tracing the back of his hand with her fingers, “and needed help…” Sookie looked up into his eyes. “I’d try to help you.”
“Of course you would.” He hadn’t known her long, but even without their bond, he knew she was speaking the truth.
“You’re in trouble, Eric.”
He was, in more ways than one. “You wish to help,” he said, pulling her down to his chest.
“And not just because it’s my job,” she joked, wrapping herself around him as much as she could. “I can help. Please, let me.”
She felt his lips rest against the top of her head, and she gripped him tighter. “You won’t be the vampire left standing there at the end of this, Eric,” Sookie promised. “You won’t be alone.”