*A/N: Let’s just pretend that CH’s latest fiasco never happened… Now, on with the story:*
Eric escorted his human into the convenience store to obtain her coffee, and watched as she prepared her beverage. His human. He couldn’t recall ever wanting to claim one of them for himself, much less going through the trouble of acquiring one. And now with the blood…the bond…
Once he settled his human back into the vehicle, he quickly resumed driving toward their destination. He was oddly thankful that Sookie seemed lost in her own thoughts as she sipped pensively at her steaming coffee. While he foresaw no real trouble during the upcoming meeting with Stan Davis, Eric knew full well that the only vampires a vampire could trust were his Maker and himself. To a lesser extent a vampire’s progeny could be just as trusted, of course, but it was always better to be safe than staked.
It irked the tall blond Viking that he was going into a potentially volatile situation without knowing all the facts, but on a deeper level, his worry for his Maker knew no bounds. He knew he was missing some vitally important piece of information, something that might tie everything together, and only his thousand-plus years of practicing self-control restrained him from zipping off into the local woodlands to release that frustration on the local flora.
He sincerely hoped his little Telepath would be able to ‘hear’ what he needed her to hear, but didn’t want to over-stress that need to her. He also didn’t want to over-emphasize the importance of whatever information she might could gather. One, he didn’t want her going into the situation feeling pressured, and two, he had read somewhere that stress wasn’t good for humans.
And, since she was now his, it was up to him to protect her, even from his own needs.
He reluctantly admitted in his thoughts that her mere presence soothed something inside that he barely acknowledged even to himself. However, he definitely would not admit that he actually was a bit concerned about bringing her into Stan’s world of Dallas vampires. They were not the kind of vampires she was used to.
These vampires, as far as vampires go, weren’t a bad sort, but with their less ‘restrained’ reactions combined with Sookie’s beauty, not to mention the delicious scent of her blood…he was going to have his hands, if not his fangs, full if things went south. At least her natural personality and innately gracious manners would be to her benefit. He smirked; his own age and reputation would help even more.
As they eventually neared Stan’s neighborhood, Eric mentally began putting the assorted pieces together. It seemed plausible that Godric possibly knew or even could have been mated to this Elspeth who had somehow met the sun. Raban, Elspeth’s Maker, was not taking the final death of his Child well, as would no true Master. If this Raban felt that Godric had anything at all to do with his Child’s final death, then it would make a sort of twisted, bitter sense for Raban to go after Godric in retribution. If Godric had nothing to do with the Child’s death, or if his involvement were accidental, then, depending on this Raban’s state of mind, he might still go after Godric or even his people. Of course, if Raban were of questionable sanity, there was no telling what he would choose to do.
He fervently wished for the millionth time that he could speak directly to his Maker, or even clearly identify what his Maker was feeling. Unfortunately, Godric had been slowly closing the bond between them for quite some time now. At first, the differences were so subtle that Eric hadn’t even noticed it, but by the time he did, there was so much distance, emotional and otherwise, between Maker and Child that Eric had not been able to ask Godric what was wrong.
Although he regretted being unable to answer Sookie’s questions earlier, the bonds between Maker and Child were so incredibly complicated, deep-rooted, and personal that there was no way he could adequately attempt to explain them to her. To any human, the logical and simplest solution would have been to just pick up a phone and call Godric to find out what was going on, and while that may well be how some Maker/Child relationships might work these days, things were never so easy between himself and his ancient Master.
With a sigh, Eric slowed the vehicle before turning into the driveway of Stan’s large but studiously homey estate. He parked in an open space off to the side of the house, and killed the ignition.
Coffee long gone, Sookie had been silently contemplating what she had learned, she hadn’t learned, and what she was expected to learn once inside Stan’s compound. At another time Eric’s prolonged silence might have annoyed or troubled her, but she was actually glad to have a chance to organize her thoughts in peace.
Not that it had done her a lot of good, she thought as they slowed down to enter what she guessed was Stan’s neighborhood. The more she’d considered all the available information, the more apparent it became that they were missing something huge, and that she would have to buy some bras.
After shaking her head at Eric’s teenage boy mentality when it came to women’s clothing, her thoughts once again focused on the weird, to her at least, relationship he seemed to have with his Maker Godric. Why couldn’t he just call the older vampire and ask him what the deal was? Granted that was the most simplistic and logical way of solving the problem, but… Men. They’ve always got to complicate the issue somehow, she concluded morosely.
When they arrived at Stan’s place, the size of the house and the brands of the vehicles parked outside didn’t surprise her as she had almost gotten used to vampires’ needlessly expensive tastes. The number of vehicles, however, did cause her some unease.
Sensing her sudden alarm, Eric took Sookie’s hand in his own and calmly rubbed soft circles on her palm as he quietly told her to breathe.
“When we enter his home,” he continued just as quietly to avoid detection by nearby vampire ears, “expect everyone to look at you for just a moment. After that, they will most likely ignore you. I’m hoping Stan will meet with us in a more private area, but either way, I will keep you safe,” Eric paused for Sookie to nod her understanding. “If you hear something that I should know immediately, squeeze my hand three times.”
With a forceful exhale and another nod, Sookie was as ready as she was ever going to be. In the blink of an eye, Eric was beside her door to help her out of the vehicle. The front door opened at their approach, and Eric was surprised by how proud he was of his little Telepath. She gave no outward sign of her nervousness even if she did have a grip on his hand that may well have broken it had he still been human.
The slim, dark-haired female in the doorway nodded deeply to Eric, then stated flatly, “Come. Stan is waiting for you.” Ignoring Sookie completely, she then turned on her unnecessarily high heels and led them to a large den that opened to include a kitchen of all things.
En route to the door, Sookie had counted a total of fourteen voids and seventeen humans in the entire house, but only counted six vampires and five humans in the large room. A couple of the humans were in the kitchen area but everyone else was standing around in the den obviously waiting to greet the guests.
She kept her death-grip on Eric’s hand and kicked her brain into gear – this was what she was here for, and it was time to kick it up a notch.
It took her a moment to filter through the chattering mental voices, but she was quickly able to focus in on the ones who weren’t solely thinking about sex and blood with a vampire, which thankfully eliminated most of the humans in the house. She would have to visit their brains again later, she thought with a shudder, but tuned her focus to the humans with more relevant, and less drugged, thought processes.
Glancing quickly around the room to get her bearings before slipping back into listening mode, Sookie realized that, except for the overly-serious lady vamp and a thin, geeky looking male vamp, the cowboy look was apparently highly favored by the Dallas crew.
At that point her focus switched from taking in her surroundings to the approaching vampire she’d thought looked oddly geeky. When Eric introduced them, she was shocked to learn he was actually the Sheriff Stan Davis – the vampire they were there to meet. After giving the perfunctory head nod and saying her “howdy do’s”, she was relieved when his attention immediately switched back to Eric. Mr. Davis might have the geek costume down to a science from his ‘khakis and a button-up’ to his taped glasses and pocket protector, but the intensity of his cold stare belied any sort of weakness.
Glad to be ignored, and thankfully having missed the flaring nostrils of the vampires in the room as they caught her scent, she scanned lightly from mind to mind until she suddenly caught a fleeting glimpse of a picture of Eric in someone’s head. She subtly glanced around the room as she sought to determine whose brain she was reading. She soon locked down on her target who apparently knew of Eric by both name and picture. While it made sense to her that Eric would be well-known in the vampire world, this person was human, so she made a mental note to keep tabs on that particular man’s brain.
During this time Eric and Stan were doing the traditional vampire political routine, but Eric was keeping a strong bead on Sookie’s emotions. He’d felt her stiffen up briefly at one point and wondered what she’d heard, but of course there was no way of asking just yet. Instead he worked to keep Stan’s attention on himself, and within a few minutes they were finished with the generic “welcome to my area” bit, and Stan led them down a short hall to his office.
Sookie wasn’t surprised at how comfortably unpretentious Stan’s office was considering how the vampire chose to present himself. Instead of sitting at the scarily uncluttered desk, Stan led Eric, and by association herself, toward a comfortable seating arrangement in the back of the large office. Within moments Eric was sitting on a sofa with her ensconced on his lap, just like he’d said he would.
Sookie sighed as she felt Eric’s strong arms encase her and draw her in closer to his hard body. Thanks to his blood her telepathy was stronger, but touching him physically made it even easier to control. Plus, she gladly admitted to herself, she felt much safer being in his arms.
Sensing both through the bond and via her slight stiffness that Sookie was actively reading the humans, Eric kept the conversation with Stan on lighter topics, allowing the Sheriff to drone on abut generic Sheriffdom hassles as was his wont. He hoped she would hear something of use soon, however, since time wasn’t something they could waste.
He could tell at a glance that several of the humans were little more than semi-mindless pets, but the two men and a couple of the women looked as if they still retained the ability to think for themselves, and he would have bet blood bags that those were the people Sookie focused on the strongest.
Stan may have tried to downplay his vampirism with his ridiculous costume, but Eric could tell that the younger vampire had caught Sookie’s delicious scent…just like he’d thought he would. He also wasn’t surprised when the Sheriff decided to play the gracious host, even though he knew Stan was anything but. Eric prodded his human to pay attention to the conversation just in the nick of time.
“I believe it’s the custom to offer humans some sort of liquid refreshment, so, Ms. Stackhouse, what would you like,” he asked magnanimously.
Being the coffee hound that she was, Sookie had noticed the scent of coffee in the air when they’d entered the house, and so requested that since she knew it was readily available.
“I’d love a coffee, Mr. Davis. Thank you,” she replied sweetly, even if she was too nervous to actually enjoy it. She nuzzled a bit closer into Eric’s big body when the brown-haired vampire’s cold gaze flitted down her figure.
When Stan made no move to call anyone to order the refreshment, Sookie readjusted herself in Eric’s lap and tried to look as if she were paying attention to their conversation as she resumed scanning the humans. She caught a flare of surprise then, a few minutes later, a sense of rising nervousness neared the closed office door.
After a brief knock, the same man whose brain had showed her a picture of Eric entered Stan’s office. His gaze flickered to her and his brain was now revealing another picture, this one of herself. This photo was placed atop some papers, a memo, on a cluttered desk… Sookie stifled a gasp as she realized that the memo was from the FOTS judging by the emblem and the words predominantly displayed at the top of the page.
The man placed a small coffee service down on the table in front of the sofa where she and Eric sat, bowed to Stan, and promptly left the room. Eric’s nose twitched as the acrid stench of the man’s fear permeated the room. Stan just looked momentarily confused.
Sookie thanked Mr. Davis for his thoughtfulness, then prepared her coffee. Afterward, she made a show of slowly sipping at it while delving farther into the man’s brain. What she found truly sickened her.
Not ever having been one to be “seen and not heard” as was apparently required in the company of most vampires, Sookie was grateful to be able to play the part for the next half hour or so that she and Eric were in Stan’s presence. During that time, she was so busy with the man’s squirrelly brain that she completely missed any conversation between the two vampires.
At first his thoughts were so filled with anxiety that they flitted dizzyingly from one thing to another, including mentally reviewing that picture of Eric. As he settled down somewhat he spent a couple of (uncomfortable for her) minutes brooding over a female vampire he was apparently overly-involved with, his mental activities waffling from loving her to staking her with flowers in between. Sookie mentally shivered just as badly during the strange loving parts as she did during the staking parts.
Eventually he thought again of the picture of herself on the memo, at which time she double checked to be sure that the emblem and words really were of the FOTS, and they were.
Then a picture of Pam floated through his mind.
Sookie made a great effort to relax and not appear as stressed as she was, and resumed listening in to the man’s head.
Suddenly his mental voice seemed to be coming from farther away, as if he were off in another part of the house, so Sookie took the chance and excruciatingly politely interrupted during a lapse in the conversation to ask to use the facilities. She remembered passing what she’d thought was a bathroom en route to Stan’s office, and it was at least a bit closer to where she guessed the man with the mental voice was.
Stan, once again determined to prove how magnanimous he could be, and possibly glad for a chance to end the now-boring conversation between himself and Eric, took the opportunity to lead them himself to the “human facilities”.
The vampires, Eric protectively and Stan with boredom, waited on the other side of the hall from the bathroom door when she entered for her “human moment”. Barely having time to lock the door, she ‘overheard’ someone in the man’s mind calling him Hugo, then saw him looking up at The Deacon who was wearing a cheap blue suit and that same pin.
As she washed her hands after taking the time to actually do her business, she heard Hugo begin questioning himself about whether he should contact The Deacon now, or wait until “those people” leave…which then caused him to flash back to a conversation between himself, The Deacon, and an unknown male vampire who stated that “Raban will be pleased.”
When they were finally in the process of taking their leave in the den, Stan wished Eric luck in contacting Godric, which prompted Hugo to immediately remember a vampire’s face, one Sookie had never seen before, but one she wouldn’t forget any time soon.
Stan’s phone rang, giving them all the excuse he needed to part ways. While Stan didn’t seem unfriendly, he did seem glad that their visit was winding down. Just as the lady in the super-high heels was about to open the front door, Stan’s voice stopped them.
“Eric, you may want to hear this,” Stan said with conviction.
**A/N: Reviews are love!**