Jason and Sookie had a good lunch and had sat talking for a few hours. They had not been able to spend as much time together lately as they use to, with Jason on alert for marauders and Violet dominating his time. Besides, Sookie had been spending a majority of her time with Alcide and now that had changed suddenly. It felt good having her brother home right now.
Jason was telling Sookie about a recent incident involving two of the kids he use to help out up in Hotshot, when Sookie heard faint words creep into her head – need a ceremonial knife. Sookie looked up at Jason and interrupted, “Eric is up, I can hear him!” The sun had not even set yet and Sookie checked the clock which read ten until five.
“Isn’t it a little early for him to be awake?” Jason responded and added, “Don’t ya think it is a little creepy hearing his thoughts, Sook?”
“Agneta said he was changing more rapidly than she had expected; possibly because of all the fairy blood he has consumed…” Sookie got up and headed towards the living room. “…and no, I don’t find it creepy. I like knowing exactly what he is up to!”
Jason followed behind and stopped just inside the door jamb that separated the front entry from the living room. Sookie continued on past the living room to the large wooden doors of the cubby and opened them. She peered down the hole and could see the lights on below. “Eric? Eric you can come up if your already awake.”
Sookie backed away from the cubby and Eric ascended the ladder with unusual speed. As he exited the cubby, he looked at Sookie and then said, ”Sorry, I am just not use to waking up so early and didn’t want to interrupt your time with Jason.”
“It’s fine and you might want to clean-up before we go,” Sookie pointed to a blood spot on the shoulder of his white sweater.
“I don’t really have any clothes…” Eric started, but Sookie jumped in suddenly, “You can find something in the things Alcide left behind. I am sure there is a shirt and a pair of jeans that will fit.”
“Thanks!” Eric nodded and headed past Sookie to the living room where he could see Jason still standing there.
“By the way what do you need a ceremonial knife for?” Sookie looked at him suspiciously and folded her arms in a disapproving manner.
“You’ve been reading my thoughts again haven’t you?” Eric looked at her hard. “Be careful Sookie, you do not know what you may hear and you may not like it!” He turned and zipped past Jason heading up the stairs to the bedrooms and bath.
“What was that all about Sook? Are you tryin’ to piss off a thousand year old vampire that just happens to be the key to helpin’ Jess?” Jason looked at his sister as if she was slightly insane.
“I just have the feeling he is up to something! Just typical slimy Eric stuff and someone might get hurt.” Sookie said in defense.
Eric found the closet Alcide had inhabited upstairs and grabbed a shirt and pants that fit to his liking. He also, heard what Sookie had said and tried hard not to think about his plan. It was going to be a task not to let things slip around Sookie. He quickly changed and stopped at the bathroom to wash away the remnants of blood from the side of his ears. He had not told Sookie the truth that he had been awake most of the time he was in the cubby. Since he had returned resting had become more difficult and he felt his strength had been drained.
Eric finished and descended the stairs to where Sookie and Jason stood by the front door. Sookie watched him as he came down. Being slightly emotional already, it was hard for Sookie not to give in to her own feelings about Eric, as he looked so damn good and exuded that typical confidence of his.
“No one is going to get hurt and the trade is not what you think!” Eric said as he continued on to the kitchen and retrieved the elixir from the refrigerator and put a small amount into a glass he found in the cabinet. He added some of the blood he had and mixed the two. He took the concoction as if downing a shot of tequila. He could feel the tingling sensation surge through his body and his strength return. He took a jelly jar from the drying rack and mixed up a second helping and put the lid on.
Sookie watched as Eric moved about the kitchen and she could not hold back, “Really! Well, I know you still have feelings for me and somehow I think you are going to trade Jessica for me.” There was anger in Sookie’s words, and she held her ground. “I can’t let you do that!”
Eric could not help but turn and dart towards her and the words came out somewhere between a growl and a hiss, “Then you would be wrong Sookie and Jessica would die!”
There was only a small air space between them and Sookie could feel the emotional electricity bounce between them. She was so close she could feel his warm breath and she could smell him for the first time. It reminded her of rain on the Bayou. Her golden brown eyes looked up and deep into the blue of his. In that moment there was only her and Eric and she could hear the words Trust me, I will never betray you!
“Hold it you two! Calm down and can we focus on Jess!” Jason said shattering the moment.
Eric turned and moved away from Sookie as he apologized, “I am sorry.”
Sookie stood for a moment. She had just smelled Eric; he was most definitely changing faster than expected. The sound of his voice when he apologized reminded her of the time they spent together, when his memory had been lost to Antonia. Eric had the same boyish sound she had heard from him then.
Eric turned his head and glanced at Sookie where she still stood. Sookie could see the look of sadness that he carried with him. She walked past Eric and through the kitchen to the dining room. Sookie opened a drawer to the sideboard and took out an ornate knife. Eric had made that promise before and stuck to it, therefore there was no reason to doubt him now.
When she returned, Eric and Jason stood watching her. “Here, I hope this is ceremonial enough,” she said handing him the knife. “It was the knife Grams used for carving the ham at Christmas dinner.”
“Thank you,” Eric said softly taking the knife from Sookie.
“Well are we ready now!” Jason exclaimed in an excited voice and he added as he opened the front door, “Jess don’t have all day!”
Eric hesitated for a moment as he could see the sun setting over the tops of the trees. It had been a little darker the first time he had been able to walk at sunset, so he was not sure if this would hurt or not.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” Sookie said with a little encouraging smile and taking his hand as she led the way.
Jason was already across the front yard and headed for the path that led to Bill’s. Sookie stood with Eric on the front porch for just a moment. Sookie looked at Eric and said, “Who would have thought that this moment would ever have been possible? You and me standing on this porch in the last light of day together.”
Eric looked at her and smiled, “Definitely not me! Go ahead I’ll meet you there.” Sookie looked concerned, but realized that Eric was probably feeling cautious and remembered that he could make the distance to Bill’s in less than a blink of an eye.
Once Sookie was across the yard and starting to catch up with Jason, Eric closed his eyes and called to Willa. It would be dark soon enough for her to find him. Sookie had been right that he did have a scheme and he was going to make a trade. He was not sure if anyone would get hurt, but it was his only opportunity to try and have a future with Sookie and she had so unexpectedly given him just what he needed.
The grave yard took on the cool tones of dusk and shadows began to form in the bushes along the perimeter. Sookie was not looking forward to the encounter she was going to have with Bill and was quiet the entire walk with Jason. It had not seemed that long before the white porch that encircled Bill’s home came into site. Sookie and Jason slowed down as they approached. Jason was glad to catch his breath before having to talk with Bill. They stopped a few feet from the bottom stair that lead to Bill’s front door. Sookie wondered if Bill could still feel her or if by now their blood bond had completely wore off.
“You want me to do the talkin’?” Jason asked seeing Sookie’s hesitation.
“It might be a good idea. Bill and I did not end on very good terms,” Sookie admitted to Jason.
Jason cleared his throat and ascended the stairs. Sookie stayed back, but where she could hear every word exchanged. With each knock Sookie’s chest pounded. It took a while before Bill opened the door. Sookie could see the redness around Bill’s eyes that signaled he had been crying and a good amount of blood around his ear, which indicated he had not sleep either.
“Jason…” Bill caught sight of Sookie and hesitated before he continued, “…How can I help you?”
“I have to do a follow-up on Jessica, Bill, and find out if she has become infected with the virus or not from the injuries she sustained last night.” Jason had tried to be as official sounding as he could.
“Jessica is currently in quarantine and receiving treatment for her condition,” Bill said, but he could not hold back obvious pain.
“How bad is she?” Sookie now ascended the stairs and came face to face with Bill. She swallowed hard and looked him directly in the eyes.
“She is fine…she is comfortable…” Bill began, but Sookie cut-off his lie quickly. “Bill don’t! I need to know how far along she is exactly.”
“There isn’t anything that can be done Sookie!” Bill started to close the door.
Where the hell was Eric, Sookie yelled inside her head. She had to say something, “Wait Bill, there is something we can do and that is why Jason and I are here. We can help!”
Bill looked at Sookie and shook his head, “Sookie, I wish to God there was something you could do, but there is no cure for this!”
Jason moved inside the door that Bill still had partially open, “You need to listen to Sookie, she is right!”
Sookie followed Jason and Bill left the door open and walked towards the stairs that led to the cells downstairs. He loved Jessica as his child and she lay down there slowly being consumed the way he had witnessed Nora dying. He doubted they could help and turned to ask, “What do you think you can do? I could not stop this virus even when Lilith inhabited me! What can you do differently?”
“Oh it isn’t what Sookie or Jason can do, it is what I can offer!” Eric said boldly unable to enter past the threshold.
Sookie, Jason, and Bill turned to see Eric who stood waiting for an invitation. “Eric, what took you so long?” Sookie scolded.
“I had to make a call,” he answered Sookie calmly. “Well, are you going to invite me in Bill or do you let Jessica die?”
“When did you return?” Bill said looking at Eric and then towards Sookie.
“A few days ago and Sookie has been so kind to put me up.” Eric said casually.
“What exactly can you offer?” Bill knew that Eric would only want revenge for what happened to Nora.
“Life Bill! A cure for the virus. Something you were not able to do for Nora.” Eric said maintaining his demure of calm even as the memory of Nora flashed in his mind. “Now let me in and we can work out a deal.”
“What type of deal?” Bill asked with contempt at having to deal with Eric.
“I am losing patience Bill,” Eric said and started to turn and walk away.
“No! Wait Eric!” Sookie pleaded. She turned and begged Bill, “He isn’t lying Bill! Eric is the key to saving Jessica. He possesses an elixir that will slow the virus and give us time to get her to Agneta. Please Bill!”
“Sookie’s right!” Jason added.
Bill looked at both Sookie and Jason before answering, “Can he be trusted?”
“I don’t know what deal he wants to make, but he can save Jessica,” Sookie replied.
“I’d take it, if I were you,” Jason agreed.
“You can come in…Eric,” Bill resigned.
Eric turned and entered the house and walked up to Bill. “Now that we have gotten that taken care of, let’s talk.” Eric moved quickly to the office that Bill had used when he was King of Louisiana.
Bill entered and closed the doors before Sookie and Jason could follow. “What is it you want?” Bill said facing Eric now.
“A trade Bill. You see the cure has an unusual side effect for vampires, as I would well know.” Eric faced Bill with his fingers touching together in an open prayer position in front of his lips.
“What type of side effect?” Bill asked.
“One that will not go away, unfortunately.” Eric looked at the floor before adding, “She will change and you will lose control of her as your progeny. You will no longer be able to call or command her.”
“So, what do you want to trade for? I would think that my losing control of Jessica would make you happy?” Bill said sarcasticly.
“It would except the same thing is happening to me, as I change,” Eric revealed and added, “Willa is my progeny and new as a vampire, she will not have me to guide her and I want you to take my place.”
Bill had not seen this coming. “You’re changing! Changing to what?”
“That doesn’t matter, what matters is that I am willing to take care of Jessica, provide for her, if you do the same for Willa,” Eric said as if brokering a business deal.
“But she is not my progeny, I would not really have the same control over her that you had,” Bill said suspicious of Eric’s intent.
“Yes that is true, you would not have a makers bond. However, there is one bond that would make you both as close as possible to a makers bond?” Eric smiled at Bill.
“And what would that be?” Bill asked as he moved to put the desk between them and where he had access to a weapon if needed.
“Bond yourself to her in marriage,” Eric said with a smile.
“What? You’re suggesting I marry Willa?” Bill asked incredulous of Eric’s suggestion.
“She is beautiful and politically astute; she is also strong and carries my knowledge Bill. She would make the perfect partner,” Eric countered.
Bill had been blind-sided by Eric. Eric knew he had full control of the situation.
Sookie had tried to focus on Eric’s thoughts and had only caught the word marriage. Sookie knew that Eric would try something low to try and get her back. She moved towards the office doors, but suddenly found her path blocked by Willa.
“What are you doing here?” Sookie asked surprised by Willa’s appearance.
“I was summoned by Eric!” Willa added, “I can’t let you go in there right now. Bill and Eric need to finish.”
Bill looked at Eric and could not believe the choice that lay before him. He loved Jessica and didn’t want to see her die; she still had so much more life to experience. Willa was smart and beautiful, she had been such a part of his decision making with Sam as of lately. Bill knew the clock was ticking for Jessica, but when he had seen Sookie those old emotions arose and now stood in his way. He walked past Eric and opened the door.
Willa stood there in front of Sookie. She moved to the side when she saw Bill emerge.
“Sookie, I need to ask you something?” Bill said softly. “Do you still have any love for me?”
Sookie looked at everyone quickly and realized that Jessica’s life now rested on her answer. “I...I love you as a friend Bill. You hurt me so much and I finally forgave you for that. But…I…I don’t think I could ever love you the way I did before.” It had been a hard pill for Sookie to swallow. She had in an instant come to face the question that still lingered for her. She cared for Bill Compton and always would, but she did not love him anymore.
Bill turned and looked at Eric, “I agree then; I will marry Willa.”
Willa looked at Eric in shock, “What did you say?”
“It was the only way to secure your safety for when I am completely changed,” Eric said releasing two red, watery droplets from each eye. He walked up to Willa and handed her the knife and then said to her, “I command you to give the knife to Bill.”
Willa turned and slowly walked up to Bill and presented him the knife. Bill knew a little about the meaning behind such a gesture. If he accepted they would be entered into a marriage contract. “I want you to know that before I accept, that I will treat you as an equal in this relationship and I will not force you to ever love me,” Bill said as he reached out for the knife.
“My maker apparently did not make it clear, but I already do love you Bill Compton,” Willa said as she looked up at him shyly.
Eric bolted to the cell below the floor and found Jessica laying on one of the beds. Bill had tried to provide her with different medicines from his lab, as the IV suggested. She was nearly consumed by the virus and he could see the blue lines that crawled up her delicate white throat and past her chin.
“Drink Jessica! You have to drink!” Eric lifted her head and touched the edge of the jar he had with him to her lips. She took a small swallow and some of the mixture ran down the side of her lips and on to the bedding. Sookie and Jason arrived shortly after to see Eric pick her up and carry her out of the cell stating, “I don’t think we have much time left.”
Sookie was in shock with all that had transpired. She had never suspected Eric would trade Willa for Jessica, but it all made sense now to her. “Ah, we need to get to the portal quickly.”
They all emerged from downstairs to see Bill and Willa make a slice into one another’s palms and join hands. “Take care of my daughter Bill and I promise to do the same for yours,” Eric said as he slid out the door and towards the cemetery with Sookie and Jason it tote.
Eric moved fast, but just enough to stay ahead of Sookie and Jason. There was no reason to make it to the portal without Sookie, as Eric could not cross the barrier without her. Eric noticed that the elixir had helped and the blue lines had receded back down Jessica’s neck. There was hope that Agneta’s blood would save her.