He can smell it. He doesn’t need to see it. The stink of burning flesh. Luckily Eric’s fire is fast and burns hot, so it’s only brief, and is as merciful as it can be. Soon enough, the guttural noise from the croat dies down, and there’s nothing but the crackle of flames, not stopping until the thing was reduced to ash. It was a mercy really… Existing like that. Starving. Alone. With little but baser instincts and the drive to infect others.
Doesn’t need to see it.
Maybe doesn’t want to.
Perhaps a little cowardice in not wanting to see another face weighing heavily upon shoulders that already carried the — weight. Someone else he couldn’t save. Someone else to add to the toll — of things that happened in spite of his actions… Or maybe because of them.
Sam was busy… Taking responsibility for all of them. So maybe, another face was one too many at this juncture.
Eyes fall shut at the proximity of the other. He can still feel the heat radiating out of Eric. From his hands, from where his chest is pressed against Sam’s back. But it dissipates, easier, faster now that his maker has managed to gain a foothold in controlling the strange ability. Something that’s possibly tied into this — Aethyr problem. Along with his faltering eyesight. Along with who knew what else. Locks… Seals… holding both Heaven and Hell hostage — doors slammed and nothing going either in, or coming out…
Sam’s fingers curl a little tighter against Eric’s, feeling the press of fangs through his skin, and there’s nothing but a gentle sigh leaving the younger Winchester’s lips, letting his head fall back a little onto Eric’s shoulder. For someone who’d never had a ‘home’ his entire life, there was more than enough of it here… Now. Just letting himself melt into the embrace. Maybe ‘home’ wasn’t even a place. Maybe it was a person. Maybe it was a soul.
A slight chuckle then, Sam’s shoulders shaking against Eric’s chest, “You only turned me because you have a sweet tooth?” Pivoting in Eric’s arms, turning to look at him with a slight smirk playing at his lips.
“Yeah, everything’s packed and ready. Risa knows she can help herself to anything she needs from our cabin for Hanna. And Hanna apparently decided that you needed to take this with you.”
Sam’s hand slipped around to his back, tugging a slightly crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolding it before holding it up for Eric to see. There was a small green blob, scrawled in crayon, with very, very large vampire’ish fangs. ”She saw her first frog earlier on and wanted to draw it for you. But if I ever come across a vampire frog, you can stake me and leave me out for the crows. Because that’ll be one freaky ass amphibian.”
Leaning in, Sam pressed a quick, chaste kiss to Eric’s lips, then turned again, heading around to the other side of the jeep, “Not tired yet… I’ll sleep soon…” Maybe. Probably not. The roads would be bad, likely hard to traverse at the best of times. And the sound of the Jeep was likely to draw unwanted attention. But it was the best of a tricky situation — Flying would just exhaust Eric and running would add at least another day, maybe two because of Sam’s eyesight, onto their excursion… “Let’s get going then? Sooner we leave, sooner we get back?”
“Oh…” A pause before he jumped in, moving to the back to rifle in a small box set to one side, then holding up his hands, grinning, “Cassettes. Music. I figure why not? It’s got an old tape player in the dash sooo… What do you want? We have… Uh…” Squinting down at the plastic boxes. ”The best of the sixties compilation. Something that looks suspiciously like country and western. Elvis… uh, Bubba, right? A mix tape… No idea what the hell’s on that… And a few that might be pot luck because they have no labels on them…?”
Eric is emotional — too emotional, especially nowadays, too much for his own good. You’d think it’d be the opposite, that Sam would have to pry an “I love you” out of Eric’s cold, dead fingers, but no… At first, yes, but once the trust was built, it poured out of his mouth like water every chance he got, like he was needy, like he was nothing without Sam. He whispers the words at Hanna every minute of the day, sometimes twice a minute, as often as he can so that she knows she’s loved, so that she knows without a doubt that there will always be one man on the earth that will love her even beyond his death.
So yes, Eric feels a little bit like an emotional wreck when Sam puts the piece of paper in his hands. A gift, from their baby. Two months ago she couldn’t even sit up by herself and now she’s walking and talking and drawing pictures. His fingers run over the waxy lines, a soft smile settles onto his face after a few more moments of admiring the “sketch”.
Sam is talking but Eric isn’t listening (just another Thursday, right?)
But he’s brought back to the land of the living with a kiss, and he’s quick to put the picture back into his wallet (a keepsake, a memento from lost times? there’s still $112 in here, and a credit card, and only 13 of the 37 IDs Eric’s ever had in his life, his social security card, picture of him and Pam, of him and Nora, of Godric…) before finally paying attention to his fiance.
“Stake you because of a fangy amphibian?”
Maybe he missed the joke, but he’s more interested in getting everything packed so they can leave.
The wallet goes back into the back pocket of the jeans that are too tight for him before he joins Sam at the truck to survey their luggage — it’s everything they’ll need for the journey and hopefully they come back with all of it. Hopefully they come back.
“Mh… Bubba — that cuddly little fucker…” Eric reminisces for a moment of back then, when he had a bar and a daughter and friends and was chasing a silly girl by her coattails and was patronizing BIll Compton and was rolling in money… Cushiony — at best. His life now was far better than back then — not alone, but lonely. Not happy, but content. He has a family now. A baby, a husband… he lost his daughter and his sister and there isn’t anything on the whole planet that would ever replace them or the emptiness that Eric feels without them.
But he’s happy.
He reaches for a tape and examines it with a shrug. ”I want you to sleep, not listen to music. It’s going to be a rough drive and I have to remember how to drive — but music, if it’s your forte…”
Of course, it’s not the driving that makes him nervous. It’s surviving the drive, it’s getting to Kansas in one piece, it’s maybe getting to Louisiana in one piece. It’s getting back here that makes him nervous. Until they get back from the trip in one piece and Hanna still has two parents, Eric probably won’t relax. Sam’s eyesight has him on edge, the prospect of more zombies, of not being able to eat, of when and where they can sleep without being so familiar with the land.
He needs to relax, but he can’t. Not even Sam’s blood in his mouth is enough to calm him.
“If you have everything, we should leave. It’ll be dawn soon.”
oh father you never wanted to live that way you never wanted to hurt me why am i running away? oh father you didn't mean to be cruel somebody hurt you, too
I despise what my father is doing, and it makes me sick to my stomach.
It wasn’t something Sookie liked saying to people, especially since it seemed like over the past few years all she had been doing was saying goodbye to people. She had lost nearly all of her family and some of her friends. Guilt weighed heavy on this girl as she felt that it was all her fault that the people she loved had been lost on her account. Now here she was having to say goodbye to Eric a second time. It was painful to feel and it only caused her grasp on him tighten, not wanting to let go of him. Not wanting to let go of anyone ever again.
"Once I go through that portal though…" Sookie began to say, but finding that she was stopping herself from finishing that sentence. She figured Eric knew what she was going to say afterwards. That once she went through the portal, it would soon be closed. The realms would be shut off permanently and Sookie would be stuck in a place that should have been her home but she knew no matter how much she was like the others there, it never would be. Home was with her loved ones where she fought to survive with them and protect as best as she could.
Sookie didn’t want to unravel herself from his arms but she forced herself to enough to look up into his eyes, not even sure what she wanted to find in them. Maybe she just needed to look at him one last time. Her hands cupped his cheeks, taking his face and holding it there close to her. “I know what I said,” she said in a low whisper, afraid that if she spoke any higher she’d crack and end up sobbing the words out. “That night I mean, when I…when I told you it was over. Maybe I was just confused by everything or maybe I was tired of being someone’s and I needed to find myself. I don’t know. But…”
Her brown eyes dropped momentarily as she thought over the words she wanted to use carefully. She couldn’t stumble over these words because she knew they were her last to him and they needed to count. To matter. “That was one of the hardest things I had to do,” she continued to tell him. “I lost both you and Bill that night and it crushed me. But when you showed up at my house asking for help, I felt it…and I still feel it, Eric…”
"I love you."
"I love you, too, Sookie."
Here tears were angry, genuine… sad. He wanted them gone from her face, wanted them to not be for him, but for Jason and Tara, and her gran, and everyone else that deserved her love. Not for him, not for Bill…
Because they were evil. They were the reasons that she lost everyone she loved. Bill and Eric were ill-deserving of her love and they had been since the moment she stepped into their lives.
She was dead from the moment they said, “hello.”
There was a part of him, somewhere between “Godric” and “nobility” that held a love for Sookie that would forever thrive until the hour of his true death. There was a love that would bend him, sway him, weaken him, turn him into this thing that loved her more than he loved himself and it frightened him, truly, the amount of love which was held for her within his person.
Don’t ask why, because we don’t have eons for Eric to explain to you exactly how the light bouncing off of her hair reminds him of the rolling meadows of Sweden.
He was ancient, fucking old as dirt and wise well beyond his years, and yet there was still this girl, this little human not human girl that rendered him weak… There was something to be said about the situation, that Eric still thought of his love for her as a weakness, but when the day came when he could think of that love and feel the amount of shame he felt now.
When that day came, his love would be a gift. Until then, it would remain a curse.
There was a rumble in the distance, something dangerous, something telling them that their time was up, that this was it…
"You have to go, Sookie."
If he was being honest, Alaric would say the man before him had seen better days. The slight crow’s feet at the edge of the man’s eyes and the lax look upon his face gave him an air of exhaustion even though it could all be a ploy to get Alaric to let his guard down. One could never be too careful in this day and age. Everyone was always trying to one up everyone else, using any and everything get the edge. He had learned the hard way a few months and towns back, people would even use a pretty face to distract you while they stabbed you in the back and took you for all you were worth.
Alaric’s eyes widened slightly as the man easily gave his reasoning for being out so late on such a night. A two year old child. Well that was as good an excuse to brave the dangerous woods as any he had ever heard. Now he kind of felt like an ass for giving the man the attitude he had earlier.
"A kid huh?" he asked with a slight tilt of his head, the tenseness in his muscles easing slightly though never going away completely. "That’s rare these days…" he had lost count of the number of children who had been abandoned or offered up as some sick ass sacrificial pawn so the adults could escape, it had sickened him in Mystic Falls as he watched the people carelessly leave crying toddlers so they could run from the advancing hoards.
Bringing a hand up, he heaved a soft sigh as he ran his fingers through his hair. If the man had a child, supernatural creature or not, the least Alaric could do was offer some assistance. It wasn’t like he had anything better to do than wander the woods anyway. If he could at least help someone then that was a good enough excuse for his following offer.
"I saw a store about two miles back" he tilted his head in the direction of the town "It was a generic grocery store and I’m sure it’s been hit quite a few times but I’m sure they might have something you can feed her. Even now most people can’t stomach the mush we feed kids" he cracked a slight smile in the other’s direction, hoping to ease the tension of the situation even a little "Want me to show you the way?"
Alaric had always been a sucker for kids even though he had none of his own, even back when he was still teaching high school instead of running and scavenging for his life. If he could help someone so young get through the hell they were living then he could sleep easy tonight and know that there was a small beacon of hope still in the world.
The man seemed genuine…
Eric wasn’t sure if this man would lead him to a store or straight to his death, and he couldn’t risk it with a baby at home. Two babies — one was about five feet taller than the other one, but two babies nonetheless.
"Rare, but true." Eric almost let her name slip but he shouldn’t have told the man about her in the first place. "My first in quite a while — I’m floundering… it’s hard enough having a baby period, but a baby in these days…" He sighed heavily.
There was plenty of food at camp, things the adults would eat, things they could get over if they tasted bad or foul. Nothing was expired but you probably shouldn’t eat a five year old twinkie, just to be on the safe side. Eric needed canned foods, things that would help her grow stronger, like fruits and veggies. They’d fed her the last of the canned peaches and she was sure to throw a hissy fit if they tried to feed her anything else come dinner time.
Eric could find the shop on his own… it wasn’t worth the risk, even if this man had been nice.
He was human, but that didn’t mean anything these days. He could be some new kind of monster they’d never heard of and the second Eric turned his back, he could be dead.
“I appreciate the offer, but I think I can find it on my own. No hard feelings, I hope,” Eric replied.
It was clear that neither man truly trusted the other but Eric was grateful that he told him there was a store. It wouldn’t be that hard to find.
“I hope you have shelter. It looks as though it’s going to rain, and it could be a nasty one. It doesn’t smell pure…” Smelled like acid…
“I… you do have a place to stay, yes?”
“I think it depends on your context? I do not understand…”
“It depends on if you can handle it or not, sweetheart.”
"Okay, then get out of the showers? No one told you to come in here.”
"Take my small satchel and go Frankie! Just go! I will meet you by the dried up lake over on the far side" Unkempt, desolate lands surrounded Frankie but she grabbed Father Carltons satchel and injected every bit of energy she had left inside of her, running the open acres of fields where crops used to grow in abundance. Frankie hid out for days, trained to not make any manoeuvre, but the trouble was, this was no training exercise or mission. She had grown close to the Father, who had taught her quite a few things relating to the supernatural. He told her he would follow, damn it! But after almost a week , feeling tired and exhausted through her entire body, Frankie reluctantly accepted he would never turn up. A whole host of emotions hit her—guilt—anger—upset—revenge—numbness, till in the end she had to pull herself together to save her own psyche from fracturing into many pieces and not being able to recover. The blonde wouldn’t allow herself to think about him, she couldn’t—it was for her own well being. Instead she was plagued by nightmares about the broken devils trap, one stupid mistake on her part, had sealed the Fathers fate. It was a guilt which would never leave her, she should have trusted her own judgement and gone back to help. Yes Frankie had fucked up, but tried to ease her conscience by retaining the small carved ‘momento mori’ safe. It was of value to the demon for some reason and she didn’t know why, but Father Carlton died to stop it getting into the black eyed skanks clutches, so Frankie would die too before letting it go.
Vengeance. An important word and it would play a part in Frankie’s life eventually. She wasn’t one who would make it her mission, disregarding anything else. She would live her life the best way she could, learning, observing, trying to stay under the radar of others; especially croatoans which she hated, knowing one day, if the bastard was still alive, she would find him. How’s the saying go? oh yeah—Revenge is a dish best served cold.
So every day she stuck to routine and headed out, going further afield as dusk fell and she could slip around un-noticed in the shadows. Frankie was trying to locate various components and parts for a generator she was making, but realised food was in low supply so that had to be priority on this day. She could always fall back on the boxes of biscuits, but if anything more substantial was out there, it was a more preferable option.
The evening was a little darker than usual, Frankie looked up at the sky and noticed heavy storm clouds starting to form and knew there was a downpour due sooner rather than later. She gave a heavy sigh and made her way to a cul-de-sac which housed five or six derelict shops with small apartments above them. Even though they were in bad disrepair, it was still plain to see they were probably flophouses long before the apocalypse had left its calling card. It didn’t bother her, some good useful things could always be found in the most unlikeliest of places.
Eric could smell the rain on the air like a soft fog, a mist of foreshadowing for the days ahead. Would it be true rain, or acid that would kill more and more things even further? Would it be a rain Hanna could play in or a rain they’d all have to take shelter from? Eric was nervous with every right to be as his boots tread carefully on the softening earth.
Vengeance… Eric knows it well. It was the last word his father ever said to him on that night, when he was still human, just a boy, and back then a king when he didn’t deserve it. The memories are seared into his brain and they hurt, they always have and they always would. Eric thought that pain would go away, that it’d lessen and he’d never be sad again, but wounds like that don’t heal… they never go away. They get ghosted over, maybe overlooked, or maybe they hurt so much and for so long that they just become numb, and you forget they’re there until someone else shoves a knife into the same hole… a pain that leaves you so irreparable that you don’t even know who you are anymore.
Eric understands that kind of pain.
There is someone else in the store with him, and a knife is drawn on him too fast and too prematurely in the dark.
"A knife won’t do you any good."
He raises his hands anyway. Eric is tired. He’s tired of fighting, tired of wondering who’ll be alive tomorrow and where his daughter is going to sleep for the night. He’s never had to physically hunt for food. Blood, yes—but that was as easy as sniffing the air downwind. Finding actual food for Hanna that wasn’t expired or too disgusting for her to actually consume was the challenge, and this human with her pathetic little knife was standing in Eric’s way.
His fire roared through his veins, and Eric struggled to keep his calm about him. There was no need for fighting, no need for flying fists or for fires to needlessly be started.
"I’m not here to harm you — I am simply looking for food. Will you put the knife down?"
He’ll glamour the kid if he has to… but he’s hoping to get out of this as cleanly as possible—no blood, no wounds. Food for Hanna and perhaps fresh clothes if he can swing it. He’d been trudging around in the same filth for days. It was the apocalypse, but did they have to live like Neanderthals?