Out of all the people Eric doesn’t expect to ever see again, he expects Jason Stackhouse the least.
What he expects even less is Jason Stackhouse crashing through his window right after sunset, rolling through the shards of glass and onto Eric’s Persian rug, a mass of limbs tangled with something black, vicious and hissing. It looks like a cloud, but judging by the grunts and dull sounds of hits landing and ‘fuck!’s echoing through the room, it’s most likely a lot more substantial than that.
Eric jumps out of the way when the screeching mess of a fight rolls past him – he’s not quite sure what’s happening, and then a gun makes an appearance and a shot cracks through the air, another and another, and the black thing seems to… give up, or die, Eric doesn’t really know – but it melts into the floor, dissolving into a puddle of goo with a quiet, unpleasantly high whining noise. And then there’s Jason, standing up and brushing off his pants like nothing weird has just happened.
“Hey,” he says with a grin, waving at the half-naked vampire - Eric’s rendered speechless. For about two seconds.
“Jason Stackhouse. You’re paying for that window,” he says smugly as he straightens up (he didn’t even notice he went into a battle-ready half-crouch, somewhere in the span of the ten seconds it took for the fight to be over), sadistically calculating how many monthly paychecks of a small-town deputy it would take to replace an eight feet tall pane of UV-proofed glass.
“You should be paying me,” Jason snorts, “I just saved your ass, man.”
“Oh? From what? Stale air?”
Eric laughs then – he hasn’t heard anything more ridiculous in ages, probably since the whole Sookie-and-Bill ‘I will sacrifice myself for you’ dance played out (rather poorly for Bill, in Eric’s opinion). Jason just waits him out, crossing his arms over his chest, and there’s something in his eyes that just chases Eric’s amusement away.
“What?” he grunts; Jason opens his mouth, but chokes a little and then coughs up something black into his hand, making a disgusted face at his palm as he wipes the sticky blackness into his jeans.
“Can I get something to drink first?” he asks, grinning at Eric: “A Bloody Mary, maybe?”
“You’re hilarious,” Eric rolls his eyes at the obviousness of that joke, but waves his hand at the sofa in the corner, which was thankfully out of the way of Jason’s arrival, meaning it’s not covered in black sticky shit or glass shards.
Eric could technically take the man to another room – the goo is starting to stink – but he’s feeling vindictive about waking up to a sound of a fight, so he leaves Jason behind, walking to the kitchen to find out what else does his fridge have except New Blood. Usually, there’s at least something, for the times when business partners or representatives come bother him…
When he comes back a few minutes later, Stackhouse’s still on that sofa. Eric tosses him the canned beer; Jason frowns at him as it soars through the air. Catches it, though, so his reflexes have somewhat improved, Eric notes.
The can hisses; Jason lets shaken-up beer spill down his fingers to the carpet. Eric will really have to throw the whole thing out now, he thinks as Jason takes a loud sip, reminding Eric of why he doesn’t really miss owning a bar all that much.
“I’m still waiting for an explanation, whenever you’re done being a redneck pig,” Eric smiles – Jason snorts, grins, and burps. Eric just raises an eyebrow at him; if Jason thinks Eric hasn’t seen worse manners in his lifetime, he should think again.
“Are you quite done now?”
“As I said – I saved you. From a demon.”
Eric counts to ten. Maybe he should release Sarah and compel Jason to marry her. The sadism of that thought leaves him in a happy place for about five seconds, in which Jason finishes his beer and sets the empty, sticky can onto Eric’s marble table with a loud click.
“A demon,” Eric prompts, because Jason’s attention span seems to have decreased over the years.
“Yeah,” the man nods – Eric truly considers ripping him a few new holes if he doesn’t start talking soon… but then, finally, he does.
It’s not a long talk – Jason gives him an outline of the situation very quickly. A hole to underworld has been opened by some over-achieving and not-quite-ready witches, they were ripped apart, demons came through, and now the strongest one is seeking to establish his reign in this world. Eric is inclined to dismiss it as fairy tales – if it weren’t for the bubbly black glop that’s been steadily eating through his carpet as Jason talked, and is now seemingly working on getting through his floor.
“What’s that got to do with me?” Eric says in the end, since Jason is apparently waiting for a reaction – Eric is not quite sure what reaction he’s having except ‘keep your fights with demons away from my house’.
“Well, you’re the oldest vampire alive now,” Jason shrugs, as if that answers everything – it must be an answer to something, because the man gets visibly annoyed when Eric just gives him a blank stare in response.
“Weren’t you listening?! They’re looking for power, and they get power from souls, and yours is the oldest soul in the world, or at least one of the oldest!”
“I’ve got no soul,” Eric frowns, and Jason looks like he’s contemplating throwing that empty can at him. He doesn’t, in the end – a wise choice, one of the few Eric has seen him make.
“Well, you can call it whatever you want – soul, energy, life force, whatever shit, you name it. But the thing is, they want you, and I’m here to prevent that from happening.”
“How touching,” Eric sneers, “I didn’t know you cared, Deputy.”
“Sheriff,” Jason corrects him, and Eric raises his eyebrow – what, did Andy Bellefleur kick the bucket already? “Well, ex-Sheriff,” the man elaborates with a small smirk, wry and crooked like it’s been through tough times. Eric doesn’t ask.
“And anyway,” Jason continues, “I don’t so much care about you as I care about the rest of the world, which is gonna go to shit if the demons get you. So unless you wanna wait for another of these things to show up, I’d suggest you- what are you doing?”
“Relax, I’m just looking at it,” Eric snorts as he crouches down next to the black puddle: Eric saw it get shot and die, or what he thought was the thing dying, but now it visibly shifts as he approaches, stretches black tendrils towards Eric’s foot. It’s probably not strong enough to reach him, but that doesn’t stop the thing from trying, and trying hard; the thin strands of black it leaves on the floor remind Eric of Hep-V in his veins just a decade ago, and he shudders.
He stands up, steps away from it, looks at Jason again:
“You’re just human-“
“Gee, no, you’re fucking welcome-“
“-and you killed it pretty easily. I can get a gun,” Eric points out – he could get several, with skilled men (vampires) attached to those guns, ready to guard him day and night, ready to fire at big black goopy clouds.
“I’m sure you can,” Jason smiles, and in that moment Eric’s certain he’s going to hate the next thing that comes out of Jason’s mouth; “but you can’t get the bullets laced with my blood.”
Yeah, he hates it.
“Why would I need your blood?”
Jason shrugs, sighs, makes an aborted gesture as if to rub at his face but his fingers are still stained the greyish color that’s apparently forever named ‘Demon Guts’ now.
“I don’t know, man… it’s the only thing that worked so far. Must be because I’ve got a bit of fae blood, but I’m not, like, a full fairy – no puns intended so stop making that face at me,” Jason frowns – Eric just grins wider, the pun too good an opportunity since he can aggravate Jason a little without saying so much as a word.
“So you want me to hire you to protect me?” Eric asks, and the notion sounds ridiculous to him, that he would need protection from a human, from this human nonetheless.
Jason smirks, and it’s not pretty.
“Actually… I want you to come with me. If you stay here, there will be more little flies like this one,” he points his boot at the blob on the ground – bubbles are starting to form around the edges and they gleam silver; Eric shudders at the implication, “they will come and try to get you until one finally does. We need to take the fight to the boss… and if we keep moving, maybe they won’t track you that fast.”
Eric sits down in an armchair, leans back into the silk upholstery, staples his fingers and tries to think. Jason gives him the time; it only takes a minute after all. When Eric looks up at Jason again, the human meets his gaze with a surprisingly patient look.
“What’s your angle here?”
“My angle?” Jason repeats, and smirks: “You mean, except the fact that the whole world’s gonna go to shit if they get you?”
“Precisely,” Eric says dryly – it’s been a long time since he was naïve enough to believe that people did things solely to ‘save the world’.
And if he can judge by the way Jason sighs and looks away in response, he’s right.
“It’s been a year since they first arrived,” Jason says quietly, the fingers of his hand touching the ringfinger of the other – Eric notices the pale strip of skin now, just the right shape for a wedding ring that’s not there anymore. “At first, we didn’t even know they were there… but then they killed Keith. Y’know, Arlene’s vampire boyfriend?
He looks up at Eric for confirmation – Eric nods, even though he has only the vaguest recollection of the vampire.
“They killed him, took his soul or whatever… but it was like he still felt it all, he didn’t, y’know… burst or anything. Just lay there and groaned until Lafayette finally staked him.”
Jason keeps wringing his hands together, as if he could somehow change the events of the past. Eric stands up and gets him that last beer from the fridge, doesn’t even toss it to the human this time. Jason takes it, opens it, takes a gulp as if he’s trying to wash down those memories – Eric’s not quite sorry for him, but the thought of dying and feeling it all, without a natural end, somehow gets to him.
Jason starts talking again after a few moments: it just gets worse, demons getting stronger, more attacks all over Bon Temps, mostly on vampires – then other supernatural folk, shifters, weres, and finally, the fae.
“They nearly killed Jessica too – we thought they were after her, but then they attacked Sookie-“
“What?” Eric interrupts, and hates himself a little for it – he’s been over Sookie for quite some time, but he can’t help the knee-jerk reaction to care, for a split second, what’s happened to her. Jason sighs:
“She’s fine. Mostly. We figured out they were after fairy souls too. Well, Lafayette did – he’s the one who came up with the whole soul theory. Sookie’s gone into hiding, all the fairies have. I’m the only one left, and they don’t want me since I got no real powers, except that my blood’s like poison to them.”
“So you’re the only one who can save the world?” Eric sneers – Jason just grins at him in response, but it doesn’t look that amused.
Eric rolls his eyes:
“I bet that must play well into your savior complex.”
Jason doesn’t even rise to the bait. Eric thinks that he used to be much more fun when he was a bit more hot-headed, a little less controlled. The guy gives Eric a few minutes, finishes his beer and sets it down next to the first can before glancing up at Eric again.
“So? Will you come?”
“Just out of curiosity,” Eric smirks, “what would you do if I said no?”
Jason’s quiet for a while, but his eyes are full of determination. Eric can make fun of his ‘savior complex’ all day long, but the thing is: Jason Stackhouse looks worn out and hardened and exactly like a guy who has set out to do something unpleasant as shit, simply because he’s the only one who can.
“Try to kill you, probably,” Jason shrugs in the end, and Eric has always kinda liked this guy’s honesty, even when it was crude and painful and ugly.
“I don’t think you would succeed.”
“I would try anyway,” Jason says matter-of-factly and brushes his palms against his creased jeans as he stands up from the sofa. “Let’s go then. D’you need some time to pack?”
“I haven’t said yes,” Eric points out dryly. But he knows he’s gonna go with Jason, and Jason knows it too, judging by the looks he gives Eric.
“I’ll be waiting outside. Bring a gun if you got any here,” he instructs and turns to the broken window, probably not wishing to meet with Eric’s house security. Eric doesn’t offer to let him leave through the front door, feeling vindictive enough because of his disturbed peace.
He sits in the dark without moving for a good long while, processing, wondering, and maybe being just a little bit of a dick on purpose; if he’s gonna be dragged out of his home to some ridiculous demon-infested road trip with Jason fucking Stackhouse, Eric’s doing it on his own time. But in the end, he can’t kid himself any longer: it’s not so much the general threat to the world peace as the threat to his own personal safety that gets him moving. One bag easily holds all that Eric really needs to take with him, and he spends a few minutes debating whether or not he should take his phone – but Jason didn’t say anything about dropping off the face of Earth, so he fires a quick text message to Pam so she wouldn’t worry and tucks his phone into his pocket so that she can reach him later.
Jason’s car is tucked away in the bushes just beyond the gate to Eric’s estate, a beat-up old truck with a thick canvas sheet covering the back that Eric’s sure is concealing weapons.
What makes him freeze is the sight of what looks like a heap of blankets on the back-seat, but it moves, rises and falls with steady, shallow breaths and Eric scowls.
“What is that?” he growls, and Jason isn’t even startled from his slumber, just looks up at Eric and raises an eyebrow:
“’That’ is a kid, you know, the tiny people you can see around schools? I’m sure you’ve seen one before.”
“Ha ha,” Eric intones dryly. “Why do you have one?”
“Because when I got married, I didn’t suspect there would be a demon war going on, man. Now shut up and get in.”
So that answers the question of whose child it is… though Eric still has a hard time imagining Jason as a father. Nonetheless, he slides into the car just like Jason asked, glancing over his shoulder at the bundle that is now discernably blonde, rumpled and probably around six.
“What’s her name?” he whispers, because he might not be the warmest, nicest person in the world – probably not even the nicest vampire – but he still doesn’t wanna be a dick to a kid who isn’t at fault here, and who has probably gone through a lot already, considering she’s out here, driving across the country with her demon-hunting dad.
“Ashley. Just for the record, you’re not allowed to eat her,” Jason jabs a finger in Eric’s direction and scowls, and Eric snorts, resisting the urge to snap his teeth at the offending digit.
“Even if I ate children, I’m absolutely done with feeding on Stackhouses,” he huffs. To his surprise, that makes Jason snigger; Eric doesn’t really know how to feel about that so he leans back in his seat and closes his eyes. It doesn’t matter where they’re going – Jason is the one with the plan, and Eric’s okay with letting him take the lead.
Eric couldn’t say when was it that he fell asleep, but when he comes to, the car’s not moving and there’s a pair of huge brown eyes staring at him from up close. Eric draws in a sharp breath and pushes away, which makes him hit his head on the car’s window, and that makes the kid giggle in delight.
She’s definitely got Jason’s mean streak, Eric thinks as he gives a disgruntled huff and rubs the back of his head. Other than that, though, Ashley looks remarkably like a little carbon copy of Sookie – well, Sookie who had her sandy-blonde hair cut close to the head, more for practicality than style. Eric can just imagine Jason getting his hands on some scissors when his daughter’s hair started falling into her eyes. He was probably hopeless with scrunchies and combs, unable to figure out a way to secure tiny little butterfly pins in his daughter’s hair.
“Hey,” he tries with the kid, and she’s still snickering, the little devil – but then she offers him a hand over the back of his seat.
“Hello. I’m Ashley. Daddy said he’ll be right back, and also that I should use this if you’re mean to me,” she says and hands Eric a spray bottle. He takes it and raises an eyebrow: he can’t be sure, but he would bet it’s some sort of a silver solution. He offers it back to Ashley with a shrug:
“When your dad gives you something to protect yourself, you shouldn’t give it to the guy who is supposed to attack you.”
Ashley considers this with a serious expression and then nods at him:
“Okay. But you don’t look like you’re dangerous. Are you?”
Eric blinks. He’s really, really not used to dealing with kids… but Ashley reminds him of Sookie so much that he can’t help but like her, just a little bit.
“I am,” he nods. “But not to you.”
“Alright,” she seems content with his answer and they sit in silence for a while. Eric takes stock of his surroundings: they seem to have stopped at some remote gas station, but Jason’s not outside, so Eric’s guess is that he’s gone inside to pay, maybe to purchase some food.
“I need to pee,” Ashley says, and Eric raises an eyebrow high at that, unsure what he’s supposed to do with the information. Ashley must think he’s not reacting the way he should, because she huffs and leans over his seat to stare at him:
“You should go with me. I’m not supposed to go outside alone.”
“What about your dad? Didn’t he take you before?” Eric asks in a vague hope that the kid’s just bored and thinking up excuses to get out of the car. Not that he blames her.
“He asked me. But I didn’t need to go then.”
“Oh,” Eric mutters, glancing to the station’s shop. Jason’s nowhere in sight, and Eric doesn’t want to be accused of child abuse or something, so he gets out of the car and waits. The night is warm and the smell of urine isn’t too strong around these parts, which means that not many people pass this way. He wonders where they’re going and dozens of options course through his brain, so he nearly forgets he’s waiting for a little girl until that girl is standing at his side, tugging at his hand and frowning up at him.
“Daddy always opened the door for Mom.”
“You’re not my Mom,” he reasons, then realizes what he said makes no sense and corrects himself: “Or my wife.”
“But you’re supposed to treat girls nice,” she huffs and Eric wishes he could just pick her up and use his speed to get her to the damn bathroom faster, but that probably wouldn’t be appreciated…
…so he does it anyway.
“Can we go again?” Ashley giggles as he sets her down in front of the bathroom door. Eric wishes he knew there was going to be a kid involved before he agreed to this whole road-trip-hunt thing.
“After you’re done. And wash your hands,” he sighs, leaning against the wall as the girl nods and walks inside.
She’s in there a couple of minutes when an irate-looking Jason rounds the corner and aims straight for Eric, his scowl not all up in the vampire’s face only because Jason’s that much shorter.
“Where have you gone with my kid?! Are you crazy? You don’t just… take a kid from someone’s car without saying anything, Jesus, what’s wrong with you!”
“She needed to pee,” Eric grunts, mildly offended. He’s not gonna take blame for a child’s physiological needs, dammit. It’s not his fault Jason can’t correctly gauge how much his daughter needs to drink.
“You should’ve called me! Where did you think I went in this middle of nowhere? It was obvious I was just in the store!”
“I didn’t realize I needed your permission not to let your daughter wet herself,” Eric snarls, and Jason opens his mouth again, but then Ashley comes out of the door, her hands still dripping, and she scowls at them both:
“They’re out of towels.”
And because Eric’s kind of pissed at Jason and Jason still looks like he caught Eric trying to feed on his daughter, the vampire picks Ashley up and runs with her to the car.
“Are your hands dry yet?” he asks as she squeals and clings to him, and… there’s a damp spot forming on his shoulder, so he supposes her hands are dry now. He lets her climb back into the car (opening the door for her this time, because the last thing he needs is Jason making fun of him for being admonished by a six-year-old about his manners) and waits for Jason outside. The man jogs back with a scowl on his face.
“Don’t ever to that again, I’m warning you.”
“You gave her a silver spray. She was completely safe,” Eric smirks at him, all teeth. Something flashes over Jason’s face at that, something dark and unspeakable, and suddenly Eric is reminded of a young man two thousand years ago, a man who was supposed to be a leader, a king, while he was still in mourning for his whole family, who grasped the first chance he had of belonging somewhere, even if it meant turning into a monster. He doesn’t want to ask, doesn’t want to be reminded that he used to care about anyone in Bon Temps, even a little bit, but shit must’ve gone down that made Jason as hard around the eyes as he is now.
Eric nods at him, not saying a word. They have never been exactly on friendly terms, so he’s not about to start snooping for personal revelations now. Jason seems to get it, though, because he nods back, and they continue on the road in near silence, the only sounds that guide them being the car’s engine, the quiet drone of the radio and the barely-there snores of an exhausted child.
The sky’s just beginning to lighten when Jason pulls up in front of a run-down motel. It’s creepy even for Eric’s standards, though his first and foremost worry is that he will have to sleep in a bathtub because this doesn’t look like the kind of a place that would have UV-proof glass or at least a truly dark room. He doesn’t voice that worry, though; even after ten years of living in absolute luxury, after so many centuries of not being his father’s son, there’s a part of him that does not allow for empty whining.
Jason gets out first, opens the back door, probably to pick his daughter up and carry her inside – then, he glances at Eric instead.
“Can you take her? I’ll go get us a room.”
Eric is halfway to the motel, the sleeping child shifting in his arms, when it occurs to him that Jason said ‘get a room’ – as in, only one. And maybe he should protest: but the memory of that black demon thing swirling madly in the air, burning through the hardwood, is still vivid in Eric’s mind and if Jason Stackhouse is the only thing between him and the demons, well, then Eric will gladly sleep even in the same bed as the man. He hasn’t survived this long to be eaten by an irritable cloud, and considering how it wouldn’t be conducive to Jason’s plans if he let his demon-bait die, it seems that Eric can count on Ex-Sheriff Stackhouse to keep him relatively intact through the day.
Jason joins them by the stairs to the second floor, pointing up; when Eric carries Ashley in the designated direction and finally deposits her on one of the two rickety twin beds, Jason waves at the other one:
“I’ll just sleep with Ashley, you can have that one.”
“I can’t,” Eric snorts. Jason stares at him blankly, and Eric is in no mood to wait until things click in that miniature brain of his.
“The sun will be up soon. I really doubt those,” he points at the ratty curtains, “are going to keep the UV light out.”
“Oh,” Jason gapes a bit, and it’s somehow comforting, in a really twisted way, that even though Jason Stackhouse has learned how to battle fucking demons, deep down, he’s still a moron. Eric just scoffs and grabs his bag, walking towards the bathroom.
“If you need something, don’t wake me up,” he huffs over his shoulder and closes the door to the tiny, badly-tiled room: and holy crap, his wardrobe back home is three times the size of this piece of shit. There’s a cracked mirror over a stained sink, a toilet that hasn’t been cleaned in weeks, most likely, and yeah, a bathtub, but the only nice thing that can be said about it is that there are no cockroaches in sight, as far as Eric can sense. With a groan, he crawls into the tub – of course it’s too short for him, but if he can deal with cramped thigh muscles, he’ll fit. Not like he has much of a choice, really.
Wondering whatever the hell has possessed him to agree to this, Eric falls into deep slumber.
It’s no surprise that he wakes up with an awful crick in his neck and his legs crying for a stretch. He gets out of the bathtub, making as little noise as possible in case there’s either a sleeping child or a horde of demons in the next room, and he does his best to open the door quietly. Looking to the windows first, Eric quickly determines it’s just after sunset, the darkness not yet as deep as it would be at night.
“Good morning,” Ashley looks up at him, her green pencil hovering just above the page of a coloring book. “Wait – do vampires say ‘good morning’? Because you wake up in the evening…”
“It’s alright,” Eric says – he’s never really given it much thought and he doesn’t intend to start. He watches the girl color her picture (and a bit of a bed sheet) for a few minutes, then gets to his bag to retrieve some New Blood. If he has to sit and wait, he can have his breakfast. Or dinner… and what did he say about not giving the whole morning versus evening thing much thought?!
He snaps the cap off the bottle and takes a healthy swig, only to notice Ashley’s watching him.
“What?” he asks, and he doesn’t want to sound hostile, but there’s probably no way to make that sound friendly. Which just goes to show that Ashley’s got exactly her father’s amount of tact, because she doesn’t even flinch, just sits up a bit and nods at the bottle.
“Can I have a taste?”
“No,” Eric frowns immediately. “It’s blood. You’re not a vampire.”
“I know. But I wanna try. Please?”
“Have you ever cut your finger?”
“Yeah,” Ashley nods. “And I didn’t cry.”
How very Stackhouse of her, Eric thinks, to try and out-stubborn the pain. Or maybe it’s just because she’s seen things that are much worse than a paper-cut. He doesn’t really want to think too much about it, because then he would have to wonder about Sookie too, and that’s something he can really do without.
“I believe you,” Eric tells the girl, and can’t help but smirk a little at the proud look she gives him. “Did you lick the blood away?”
“Did you like it?”
“…not much. But your blood’s different, right? I mean, it’s not from people,” she waves at his bottle. “Does it taste better?”
“So you like eating people more?”
What the hell is he even supposed to say to that? Eric puts the New Blood to his lips and drinks, trying to stall, but Ashley keeps staring at him and shit, he’s over a thousand years old, he should not be all fidgety because a little kid is looking. He admits that he liked her more when she was asleep. As in, not asking questions.
“Can I see your fangs?”
“Where’s your dad?” Eric counters, just a little desperate, and she scowls and stabs her pencil into the coloring book, not violently enough to go through the paper, but enough to show that she’s upset.
“He brought me a burger, and then he said he had to go out, and he didn’t say when he’ll come back. So, can I see your fangs?”
“No,” Eric sighs, and braces for a long time of waiting for Jason while evading his daughter’s questions.
In the next few hours, the level of uncomfortable rises steadily, with demands for information such as ‘do vampires pee blood’ or ‘how strong does light from a lamp have to be to hurt your’. Eventually she gets around to asking the same questions she has already asked, and Eric snaps.
“Maybe you should write that down,” he grumbles, and Ashley shrugs.
“I don’t know how.”
Eric’s eyebrows soar and he doesn’t quite catch himself in time in order not to blurt out: “Do you want to learn?”
Ashley’s way more enthusiastic than a six-year-old should be about studying anything, but then again, it doesn’t look like she’s been subjected to compulsory schooling yet, so the usual repulsion towards formal education is still absent from her mind. For Eric, teaching a kid to write (and, by extension, to read) is not exactly a fun way to pass a few hours, but it does pass the time as he attempts to get her to draw the letters correctly. It’s a bit of a trial-and-error, with more error on his side, if he’s to be fair: he has to keep reminding himself to go slow and not to get frustrated when Ashley draws an S backwards for the fiftieth time, but they do make a bit of progress by the time Ashley starts to get twitchy and impatient, glancing at the door more often than at her papers.
Funny thing, Eric thinks with a mental groan, is that it took her far longer to get the hang of Ns than it does to get her from ‘twitchy’ to ‘genuinely upset and teary-eyed’. He hasn’t exactly kept in touch with any kids in the past several centuries, so his childcare skills are rusty at best and all he can come up with is a half-assed backrub, which just makes him realize how small Ashley really is under his hand.
“I’m sure your dad’s gonna come back soon. He’ll be fine,” he says, and Ashley turns her red face to him, glaring with a heated mixture of anger and fear, her tiny hands clenched into fists.
“But you don’t know that! Nobody knows that! Daddy said Mom was g-gonna be fine,” she sobs and rubs at her eyes with so much vigor that Eric finds himself taking her hands away from her face so she can’t hurt herself accidentally. He’s not even sure that’s possible, but he certainly doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of another Stackhouse bitchfest when Jason comes back and realizes Eric let his daughter scrub her own eyes out.
“I don’t know that,” he admits – and whoa, wrong move, because Ashley only bawls louder, “but I do know your dad. And he knows how to take care of himself.”
“Yeah?” she pipes up and he lets go of her wrists because her nose is leaking and he’s drawing a very thick line between him and some aspects of taking care of a kid. He offers her the box of tissues from the bedside table and nods:
“Yeah. One time, he helped fight off a lot of bad vampires, and he wasn’t scared. Just shot them all.”
The moment Eric says that, he is expecting another bout of crying because that’s not really a child-appropriate story even for his skewed standards, but Ashley seems to take to stories of bloodshed like a fish to water, because she perks up and blinks.
“How did he do that? Aren’t vampires fast? And strong?”
So Eric launches into a slightly edited tale of the whole Bill-and-Lilith crap. It takes a while as he does try to leave the most disturbing bits out, but Ashley listens to everything intently and eventually crawls into Eric’s lap, settling her head against his chest and dozing off. Eric keeps talking quietly for a while, but when he’s sure she’s asleep, he goes quiet, and that’s how Jason finds them what feels like hours later.
“Where were you?” Eric whisper-growls, trying to convey his anger while keeping the child sleeping, because this argument isn’t necessarily what she needs to hear. Jason lifts an eyebrow with a sneer:
“You miss me?”
“No. But your daughter sure did.”
Jason’s eyes slide to Ashley’s sleeping face and his whole expression softens, just for a moment, but Eric is definitely fast enough to catch that wistful look. Jason leans down then, maybe to hide his face from Eric, but ostensibly to start making some room on the bed covered with papers and pencils. He lifts one of the papers and glances at Eric again, curiosity and mistrust clear in his eyes.
“You taught her this?” he waves the sheet around a bit – Eric can see the crooked, shaky letters done in bright red, spelling something that can be taken as ‘Ashley’ with a bit of imagination.
“Not much else to do here,” Eric shrugs. Jason’s expression turns all weird as he stares at the paper, and Eric thinks he can read regret in the lines around Jason’s eyes. Whether it’s regret of not being able to send Ashley to a school now, or a deeper, more crushing regret of losing everyone else, Eric doesn’t know.
“What happened?” he asks quietly, and Jason’s eyes are a little bit emptier than Eric remembers when he looks up from his daughter’s writing.
“There were a few demons hiding out in a cave, not too far… they’re gone now.”
“I mean with Ashley’s mother,” Eric clarifies and he can practically see whatever part of Jason has been opened up until now shutter closed.
“She’s gone too,” Jason mutters and turns away, retreating into the bathroom. Eric can understand the need for solitude, for a moment of quiet, so he doesn’t follow, just slowly lowers Ashley onto the mattress, careful not to wake her as he draws the blanket up around her shoulders and finishes picking up the rest of her papers.
He gives Jason a moment, but in the end, he’s too impatient to stand the silence for too long, so he raps his knuckles against the bathroom door to signal that he’s going in. He finds Jason staring into nowhere, leaning heavily against the old sink. He looks tired, and so much older than Eric remembers him; yes, it’s been ten years, but it looks like Jason has aged more than that. Grief has that effect on people, Eric has found, but he’s not entirely pleased to see it reflected in Jason’s face.
“You should rest,” he speaks quietly when it becomes apparent Jason’s not going to initiate a conversation. A languid, vague shrug of the man’s shoulders tells Eric he’s not going to respond much either.
“We’re not going to get far tonight,” Eric tries again. “The sun’s coming up in a couple of hours. Go to bed, Jason… I’ll wake you up before sunrise.”
He expects an argument, but when Jason turns to him, all Eric can see is bone-weary resignation – Jason probably does not allow himself to give up his fight often, so he must be truly exhausted to be like this, like a puppet on a string.
He hands Eric a gun as he passes him in the doorway:
“The bullets are laced with my blood. Just in case.”
Just in case, Eric keeps the gun on him for the several hours he spends sitting in the dark, listening to Ashley and Jason breathe, one of them with child-like, ragged haste, the other in tired, deep gasps. Just in case, he keeps looking over his shoulder when he goes out not long before dawn to get some soda for Ashley and coffee for Jason; and just in case, he lets a few drops of his blood mix with the foul-smelling concoction that passes for an espresso in this middle of nowhere before he hands it to a bleary-eyed Jason scrambling up from the cheap bed.
Because just in case, it won’t hurt to know where Jason is, the next time he chooses to fucking disappear and leave Eric to comfort his kid.
“I can drive,” Eric says as he loads the bags into the car while Ashley clings to Jason, sleepy, cranky and clearly remembering the previous night, when she didn’t know where her dad was or whether he’d come back. Jason gives him a skeptical glance over his daughter’s shoulders, but Ashley doesn’t seem like she’ll let go of him any time soon, so he tosses the keys to Eric and climbs in the back.
‘North’ is all the direction Eric gets as far as their trip’s finish line goes. The night passes in a monotonous blur of dusty roads and the one tape with children’s songs that Jason has in the car. Turns out that Ashley isn’t exactly an easy kid to handle when she’s got too much spare energy, and Eric sincerely wishes he could just compel her to keep quiet. However, when he voices that idea, Jason gives him a glare that would make lesser men’s balls shrivel in terror. Later, they have a loud, but quick argument about whether or not it is acceptable to replace the seventh time of ‘Old MacDonald’ with a rock radio station (Eric loses that one only because Ashley’s yelling drowns out Van Halen pretty efficiently and there’s no point in fighting for music he can’t hear).
The night’s coming to an end when Eric sees a sign for a vamp-friendly hotel with UV-proofed rooms. The car’s barely parked when Jason grabs his arm in a vice-like grip:
“What are you doing?!”
“Getting us a better place to stay,” Eric says, glancing at Jason’s hand pointedly because he really doesn’t like to be grabbed as if he can’t rip someone’s arm off without even blinking. Jason doesn’t let go, though, just scowls back:
“No. Get back on the road, there’s a small place ten more miles from here.”
“Why?” Eric snarls irritably – he’s not exactly spoiled, but the thought of sleeping in a normal bed instead of a bathtub does excite him, at this very moment. “I can pay. I truly doubt those demon things are tracking my credit card.”
If that were true, they would be all over them by now. Eric has paid for gas at least twice already, bought some New Blood for himself and snacks for the others, and he always used his card.
But money’s likely not the issue, because Jason’s frown just darkens:
“We can’t stay here,” he waves off-handedly to the hotel. It’s a moderately tall building, all glass and concrete and a promise of beds that don’t creak or smell, so Eric doesn’t see what Jason’s problem is.
Then, Jason holds up his hand to Eric, palm-up. Thin cuts criss-cross the skin, a few of them pale and barely there, others raw and red and fresh.
“…you don’t want to stay at a nice place because you can’t self-harm without someone sending social workers your way to remove your child?” Eric sneers. Jason’s cut-up hand balls into a fist and hits Eric in the shoulder.
“No, idiot. My blood hurts demons, remember? It’s easier to check whether the place is safe when there’s only one receptionist in the whole motel. I won’t be able to check in a place like this – there are dozens of people on staff.”
Eric takes a minute to let that soak in.
“So you bleed on every receptionist you meet?” he asks carefully.
“Pretty much. And we should really get going, unless you wanna burn in this car.”
Eric doesn’t, so he pulls away from the hotel and gets them to Jason’s hellhole; he’s not giving up on a proper bed for himself, but he can just as well argue the issue of accommodation somewhere without the possibility of being reduced to a heap of ashes.
Of course, of course he ends up in a bathtub again. This one is larger, but he can smell the rust under the thin layer of varnish, so that’s not a step-up in any book Eric knows. He vindictively thinks that he should just stop dripping his blood into Jason’s drinks, because if the asshole is going to make Eric sleep in fucking tubs all the way to Canada or wherever they’re going, Eric is increasingly okay with the idea of letting Jason wander away and get himself murdered.
After a day of what definitely can’t be called his beauty sleep, Eric’s out on a food run (not that the giggly, fluttery cashier makes it much of a chase). He’s in the middle of deciding which yoghurt is the closest approximation to the one Ashley kept whining about, when he feels it.
Panic, then worry, then anger.
However much Eric loathes being sent in search of little candy dinosaurs to put into a sugary concoction that only vaguely resembles yoghurt, he’s not feeling that hatred deep enough to cause actual panic. The feelings tugging at the back of his mind aren’t his own, so they can only really belong to one other person. Eric tosses a bill somewhere in the direction of the counter, running for the motel room and imagining Jason eaten by demons before Eric gets there. He realizes how ironic it is, him feeling a tiny spark of worry for Jason, but there it is, and he gave the idiot his blood for this very reason. It would be wasteful not to check up on that steady stream of negative emotions coming through the link.
Contrary to what Eric expects, he finds Jason hunched over the railing in front of their room, wearing just his ratty boxers and breathing deeply, in, out, in, out – the furious huffs of air stop for a moment when he looks up and sees Eric near.
“How’re you doing this fine night?” Eric starts, smirking as he can guess the reason for Jason’s freak-out. Something else is seeping through the connection, and it’s a slightly more pleasant… hm. Emotion? A physical state, more like.
Jason glares and rubs a hand down his face.
“Just… don’t start. I’m okay. Go away, please. Go eat someone, whatever.”
“I already have,” Eric shrugs, licks his lips slowly. Judging by the way Jason’s eyes trail the motion just confirm Eric’s suspicions. He can’t say he’s not amused – he’s an asshole enough to enjoy the heck out of this. He hadn’t been there the first time Jason felt the effects of ingesting a thousand-year-old vamp’s blood, so he fully intends to be a jackass about it now.
“Bad dreams?” he asks sweetly. Jason looks like he wants to punch him more than anything in the world.
“Fuck you,” Jason replies with heart-felt sincerity, and Eric returns the sentiment in a huge shit-eating grin. It’s a testament to how much smarter (or maybe just more suspicious) Jason has gotten over the years because his eyes narrow slowly as the truth dawns on him in an almost visible display of brain-cells lighting up. It’s a thing of beauty, especially when Jason’s face contorts in a mask of rage:
“You fucking piece of shit, tell me you didn’t!”
He’s more hissing than yelling, probably on auto-pilot called ‘do not wake the kid’, but it’s amusing anyway when he grabs Eric’s shirt and gets all up in his face.
“Tell me you did not feed me your blood, you motherfucking-“
“I did,” Eric’s smile grows wider. Jason’s fingers spasm around the fabric as he basically climbs the vampire to close the distance between his glare and Eric’s face.
There’s only so much abuse Eric is willing to take without retaliation – and this has just crossed the line. He’s pushing Jason back, smirking when the man’s ribs hit the ugly wall behind him as Eric looms closer.
“You would do well to remember I can snap you in half,” he promises in a huff. Jason kicks him in the shin.
“You made me get a hard-on near my baby girl, you psycho jerk. That’s not okay! In what fucking universe is that okay?!”
“In the one where you leave your kid alone with a vampire without leaving any trace of where you went?” Eric says dryly and Jason pushes at his chest violently, growling out some insults under his breath, but neither the physical nor the verbal abuse take much root. Eric simply grabs Jason’s wrists when he’s had enough; Jason responds as well as expected and attempts to kick him again, which makes Eric step closer to minimize the damage (to his ego – Jason’s bare feet aren’t exactly lethal weaponry).
“I did it because I had to!” Jason growls under his breath, inbetween the fuckers and letmegos. “And what did you do? You fed me your fucking blood without asking, just so, what?! So you could track me?! Need I remind you that me and V is a really damn bad combination, huh? You said it yourself, I’m supposed to save the world from fucking demons, Jesus Christ, Eric, I have a kid, I can’t go around gettin’ high on your damn blood!”
“You didn’t look high yesterday,” Eric smirks. Jason thrashes a bit under his touch, but eventually he goes limp and just glares:
“So that makes it okay, huh? You had me under your close fucking observation, is that it?”
“Maybe,” Eric breathes against Jason’s cheek, just to fuck with the guy’s head a little, but Jason gives a strangled, shaky sound and goddamn trembles. An urge to bury his fangs in that stubbly, sweaty neck washed over Eric like a tidal wave.
“Stop,” Jason whispers and Eric realizes his fangs are out just as a hand comes up to tangle in his hair, yanks him an inch further away from Jason’s artery. “Stop it. I’m not your midnight snack.”
“It’s just past ten.”
“I mean it, Eric, you can’t just-“
“Tell me about your dream,” Eric interrupts, and Jason seems to forget the list of things Eric can’t, because he draws in a breath and holds it like he wants to deprive his brain of oxygen so that he doesn’t have to think. But Eric knows what a spike of arousal feels like through a blood link, and he smirks slowly as he lets go of Jason’s wrist, runs a thumb against the edge of the man’s jaw.
“Tell me,” he prompts quietly, eyes on Jason, on the planes of his face, on the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth that make him look older than he really is and so, so noticeably mortal under Eric’s hands.
“You were rough,” Jason rasps, and the sand and gravel of his voice finds a direct line to Eric’s cock.
“Do you want me to be rough?” Eric asks and pushes his knee between Jason’s naked thighs.
Jason keens, something like ‘nnoaaaaaahshityes’, and Eric takes that as encouragement to grab Jason’s legs, twist them around his waist and then rock into Jason so hard that he can practically hear the uneven wall scraping through Jason’s skin. The sound Jason makes is enough to either summon all the damn demons in the world or scare them away forever – Eric smashes his mouth into Jason’s and swallows the sound in a shaky attempt to keep things as private as they can get on the rusty staircase of a ratty motel. Jason bites into his lip, viciously and angrily as his hips thrust forward and his cock presses against Eric’s stomach in erratic, needy twists. His knees tighten against Eric’s sides like a vice – all Eric wants is to yank Jason’s stupid old underwear down and have his way with Sheriff Stackhouse right here, right now-
The world around them freezes. Or maybe just the two of them do, Jason’s teeth still digging into Eric’s lip as his eyes open and they stare at each other for about two seconds, sharing wide-eyed horror and breathing air before it occurs to Eric to let Jason drop his legs from Eric’s waist.
Jason tries to straighten up, but it’s difficult to mask a hard-on while clad only in thin boxers. Thankfully, it seems to go away pretty quickly, and Ashley is still rubbing her eyes sleepily, which Eric takes as a sign that she has not been properly traumatized by the sight of her father grinding against a vampire.
Arousal is quickly exchanged for anger in Jason’s face.
“Leave me alone,” he snarls at Eric as he stalks into their room. Eric follows, maybe still too much in the ‘sex’ mindset that makes him trail after Jason like something’s gonna happen tonight, but Jason whips around at the sound of Eric’s footsteps behind him: he’s clearly on his way to their tiny bathroom, alone, if the way he jabs his finger in Eric’s direction is any indication.
“I said, leave me, you f- stupid vampire!”
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Eric growls back, which just makes Jason’s finger travel closer to Eric’s face.
“Don’t you dare say that in front of my kid! If she starts cursing because of you, Northman, I swear to God I’ll put a stake through your heart!”
With that (and a vicious slam of the door) Jason’s gone to the bathroom, and Eric sinks onto one of the twin beds, staring at a wall. Well, that escalated quickly, he thinks, remembering some picture he saw on some webpage when he’d been bored out of his skull, not so long ago in the safety of his home and his actual bed.
A tiny warm body folds against his back and Ashley’s breath washes over his ear as she speaks:
For one bizarre moment, Eric is certain he is about to receive blessing from a six-year-old to have sex with her father, but of course that’s not what happens.
“You can say ‘fuck’,” she whispers to him (and Jason was right, the word does sound rather scandalous from that tiny mouth) over the sound of a shower starting: the idea that Jason’s trying to get rid of any lingering scent of Eric on his skin is not great, but then, Jason’s probably just jerking off. Eric smirks a bit at the thought and twists around a little bit to look at Ashley with an amused raise of his eyebrow:
“Oh yeah? Why is that?”
“I won’t start saying it just because you did.”
“Yeah?” Eric repeats, still unsure how to talk to this girl – she’s just a little kid, but sometimes she sounds so grown-up. Maybe that’s what death of a parent does to a kid; Eric had been no child when his family was slaughtered and he still remembers how it killed something inside of him, some essential part he could never get back afterwards. “So you know it’s a bad word?”
“It’s just a word,” she shrugs. “But it would get you in trouble with Daddy.”
Eric can’t resist the force that tugs up the corners of his mouth just a tiny bit. The thought that this little girl is trying to protect him, a thousand-year-old vampire, from her father’s wrath, is heart-warming even for a hardened man like Eric. But maybe she’s just starved for people in her life, any people she can trust and like and keep. Eric wonders if Jason has given a thought to what they would do once he managed to get rid of the Big Bad; would they go back to Bon Temps, to the town that would remind them both of the family and friends they lost? Or would they settle somewhere else? Would Jason tell Eric where they were? And why should he? The questions are swirling in Eric’s head, unbidden and impossible to just discard as he wonders why he even cares to have an answer to any of them.
Maybe his convoluted thoughts are a reason why it makes him jump when the window suddenly implodes.
Glass shards are flying everywhere and Eric has the presence of mind to grab Ashley and drag her behind the bed, leaning over her as best he can. There is no smell, no sound except for the glass tumbling down to the worn-out carpet. Ashley starts to shiver and Eric raises his head to see what’s going on just as the bathroom door slams open and Jason stalks out. But the black cloud rolling in through the broken window is fast, really fast and it lunges for Eric, wrapping slimy tendrils around his arm and shoulder and neck, slithering up to his face.
He’s been a vampire long enough to know pain intimately. He knows how it feels to be shot, burned, stabbed, poisoned, and a number of other extremely pleasant things: but he can’t remember ever feeling like this, like something is drawing out tiny flecks of his mind through his pores. Under the touch of the demon or whatever the fuck this is, Eric’s skin boils and blisters and breaks, and he wonders if this is what it feels like to step into the sun and why the hell did Godric look so peaceful if this is the kind of pain that happens when you die.
There’s a gunshot somewhere nearby, but it sounds like it’s echoing underwater; Eric can’t see much at that point, and he’s not even sure if it’s because the demon has burned his eyes or because the pain is so searing that his vision has whited out. He’s dimly aware of the pain subsiding, but that could be because of his nerve endings being completely fried or the part of his brain that registers pain being invaded by the demon, so he doesn’t trust that feeling of slight relief for a good minute.
“Hey. Northman. Eric? Can you hear me?”
The voice is coming from a great distance and Eric shakes his head, sluggish and still half-blind. He realizes a moment later that someone’s sobbing, a kid – shit, Ashley, did the demon get to her? It takes a few more seconds for him to figure out that he’s squeezing his eyes shut; when he manages to look, his vision is a little blurry, but Jason’s face comes into focus. The man’s crouching in front of Eric, covered in that same black stinky goo that had burned a hole through Eric’s carpet a few days ago, but he seems intact.
“Ashley…?” he croaks, and Jason runs a hand over his face, scrubbing off a huge glob of blackness.
“She’s fine. Scared, but fine. How’re you doin’?”
Eric takes a moment to assess, and comes up with a grunted ‘fine’. When he looks down at his arm, the one that was touched by the demon, he can see the skin trying to knit together, but it looks like his body needs to regrow some muscle mass first. The sight is disgusting and the smell isn’t much better, though the latter might be the decomposing demon’s fault. It has already soaked halfway through the mattress, eating away at the ratty bedcovers and creaky bedframe. Eric braces his foot against the floor to push himself away from the damn bed before the blackness can start reaching for him like tiny tentacles.
“Alright,” Jason says and disappears, and Ashley’s sobs go quiet so Eric assumes he’s gone to comfort his kid. That’s fine by Eric – he needs a moment to compose himself, from the attack and from the way his faith in himself has been shaken to the core. To need actual rescue from a human, not because he’s been trapped or tricked, but because he just isn’t strong enough against these… things, it rattles Eric’s confidence in a way he just isn’t used to.
Jason’s back with a bottle of New Blood. Eric takes it, because if he needs to have a human shoot the damn demon for him, he can as well accept the sustenance his body requires to heal.
“Will they attack again?” he asks after the first healthy swig of synthetic blood. He’s not particularly fond of the taste, but it’s better than seeing the muscles in his arm naked and half-gone.
“Probably,” Jason shrugs. “We’re getting close to their main den, though, for them to attack this close to sunrise.”
“Fantastic,” Eric drawls sarcastically; he’s got no particular wish to walk right into the demons’ home base, but Jason made it sound like they don’t particularly have a choice. It occurs to Eric that Jason’s initial plan was to use Eric as bait – he can’t say he’s fond of the idea after living through this attack.
“We should move… but it’s almost morning,” Jason frowns: Eric can tell the guy’s equally unhappy about the thought of sitting tight with a dead demon on the floor. “I’ll get us another room. Take a rest and I’ll go scout the surroundings. We’re getting out of here right after sunset.”
Ashley’s fallen asleep, probably exhausted by the stress and the crying; Jason carries her to the new room, just two doors down from the previous one, and Eric grabs their bags with his healthy hand.
“I know you’re probably gonna sleep, but… just in case,” Jason says before he leaves: the horizon pales behind his back as he hands Eric a gun, again. He’s got two more tucked into his belt now and Eric saw him strap another one to his ankle, but somehow, it still doesn’t inspire much confidence.
“Just shoot if any more of them come in. As far as I know, they don’t have a heart or anything like that, if you hit them anywhere, they die.”
He looks like he wants to say something more, like ‘keep safe’ or ‘be careful’ or ‘good luck’, but he ends up silently staring at Eric for a moment, taking in his still-burned neck and chest. He turns away, and Eric’s hand is on the man’s arm before he knows what he’s doing. Jason’s eyes travel up from the grip of Eric’s fingers on him, up over Eric’s arm and to Eric’s face.
“I’ll be fine,” he says quietly, and Eric isn’t aware of having asked, but his expression must have, because Jason looks like people look at a spooked animal, trying to calm it down. He lets Jason go, slowly, reluctantly; he doesn’t expect the man to lunge forward and press his mouth to Eric’s. He tastes like the dead demon’s remains that are still stuck to his skin, tastes sour with anger and fear and uncertainty, hard with determination. Before Eric can raise his hand to keep him right there a little while longer, Jason pushes back and nods.
“Keep an eye on Ash.”
Eric nods back and watches Jason run down the rickety metal staircase, jump into his car and drive off into the hell that looks like a simple all-American morning. Eric closes the door when he can feel the tension in his skin signaling there’s just too much light in the sky now.
He can’t sleep, even though he’s tired like he hasn’t been in quite a while. Gazing into the cracked greenish tiles on the wall opposite the bathtub he’s in, he clutches the gun in his fingers and can’t shake the bitter worry that Ashley’s in the next room, alone and right next to the window, to the door, and if anything comes charging in, she’ll be in its way.
His skin sizzles a little when he stalks back to the bedroom and gathers her up in his arms. His healing flesh leaves a bit of a bloodstain on her shirt, but Eric thinks it’s a better stain than the demon goo, and grabs a pillow and a blanket before retreating back to the bathroom.
Ashley blinks back to consciousness an hour later, and she’s only a little bit confused about sleeping on top of a vampire in a bathtub. The way she cuddles up to Eric’s neck (thank fuck healed by now) suggests that she’s more than happy not to be left alone.
“Is Daddy back yet?”
“Not yet,” Eric mutters to her and strokes her hair: a little bit of the dead demon’s decomposing body is stuck in her messy golden locks like a piece of gum. Eric fucking hates how that shit gets everywhere.
“He was lying,” Ashley whimpers and buries her face in Eric’s chest. “Daddy was lying.”
“When?” Eric frowns: he has a feeling Ashley’s not talking about the usual childlike hunch that an adult is bullshitting them to calm them down.
“When he was leaving. I woke up a bit, and he said he’ll be fine, but he was lying.”
“You don’t know that,” he says, inadvertently echoing back what she told him not so long ago, and he hates himself for lying to the kid. She huffs a little, shakes her head:
“I don’t know if you are lying, but Daddy was. He didn’t think he will be fine.”
Frost grows around Eric’s heart at the implications. He lets his hand stroke down to Ashley’s back and licks his lips.
“What do you mean? You could tell what your dad was thinking?”
Her forehead brushes against Eric’s collarbone as she nods. Eric never felt any other motion as so singularly damning.
Jason said that the demons were out for the fairies. And with the Stackhouse blood- the chances are not high, but six-year-olds don’t usually know what their parents are thinking without something going on.
“Can you often tell what others are thinking?” he asks the girl. She sniffs a little.
“Not much, before. But I heard a lot in the last week or so. That’s how I knew you weren’t a bad guy; Daddy thinks weird about you, like he doesn’t always totally trust you but he likes you, and he doesn’t like bad people.”
Eric sends a prayer to any god that might not have forsaken him yet that Ashley wasn’t listening in when her father was having wet dreams about Eric, because that is a conversation he’s hoping not to have with Ash for at least ten more years.
He doesn’t even know why he’s thinking about this long-term, when it’s gonna be over soon if Jason’s to be trusted. And no matter what Ashley said, Eric chooses to believe in Jason. He doesn’t have a whole lot of other options, anyway, and just because Jason’s not sure whether his plan is going to work doesn’t mean that it won’t work for sure. Just that the odds aren’t great – and Eric’s used to awful odds in his life.
“Try to get some sleep, your dad said we’re moving out as soon as he gets back.”
He’s glad Ashley can’t read his thoughts, or she would know he’s not completely confident either; like this, she takes his words at face value and curls up into his side again. He falls into restless slumber himself, one hand on the little girl and the other on Jason’s gun – he dreams of dark, tight spaces and anxiety.
He wakes up with the light still strong outside and with a sense of something horribly wrong. He sits up before he remembers Ashley’s still sleeping on him and he rouses her too, but he’s struggling too hard not to throw up at the moment. Panic sets in, and then desperation, and the pain that courses through his body makes him look at his arm and wonder if somehow, the demons are poisonous and killing him from the inside, eating away at his body. But his arm is all healed up and freshly, healthily pink – it takes him another second to realize the pain and panic are not his own.
“Jason,” he grits out and Ashley curls her hands around his neck, eyes huge and terrified:
“What’s wrong with Daddy?”
Everything, Eric wants to say, but can’t because she’s six and already scared enough. What’s wrong with Jason, after all, is that the idiot doesn’t listen, that he walks right into danger and right now, he’s not even far but the sun is burning bright and Eric can’t get to him and it’s tearing him up like a hot knife in his guts (besides the pain already there from the blood link with Jason).
“He’ll be fine,” he swallows around his dry throat; Ashley’s face crumples and shit, she doesn’t even have to read his mind to know that he’s lying right now. The pain deepens, sharpens – Jason’s phantom scream rings in Eric’s ears just as the man’s daughter presses against him, her heart running like a spooked rabbit-
Eric’s head is suddenly, terrifyingly clear.
“I can save your dad,” his voice rings hollow, because he shouldn’t even be considering this but he can’t, can’t just let Sookie’s brother die like this, not when he’s got a daughter, not when the fucker promised to save the damn world on his own. “It’s going to hurt you a bit, but I can save him. Do you know how to use a gun?”
She nods solemnly, pulling back from Eric and extending her little hand so Eric can put the heavy steel handle into it. When her tiny fingers curl against the gun, he grabs her wrist and sinks his fangs into her forearm. She whimpers, and Eric wonders how bloody stubborn the Stackhouses are if a six-year-old kid doesn’t even scream when a vampire feeds on her. And the blood’s sweet, so, so sweet, just like Eric remembers from Sookie, clouding his senses in an opalescent haze of lust for more, so he drinks and drinks even though the whole act carries a distinct bitter tang. It’s what grounds him, the horror of feeding on Jason’s daughter after he promised he wouldn’t. A child’s veins are so much more delicate; he knows her whole arm’s probably going to be black and blue the next day, but any kind of pain he can inflict is going to be ten times worse if he lets her father die.
He’s out of the door when he realizes he can’t take any more or she’s not going to be able to defend herself at all; he’s not sure if what he’s taken will be enough to get him to Jackson, but he has to hope. The exhilaration of running in the sun doesn’t kick in this time, terror and anger and pain too strong, but Eric’s thankful because everything he feels from Jason is like a compass to the man. He runs for a few minutes and his skin’s starting to itch – he’s going to burn if he doesn’t get to Jason in time.
The pain intensifies and Eric’s body steams: he didn’t even think about getting dressed first, getting some shoes on. Just a little longer, just a bit more, he replays in his mind like a mantra and wishes he could somehow send a message to Jason, make him know that Eric’s coming for him and for whatever it is that’s killing him, and very likely they’re both gonna die but Eric’s not going to let it go without a fight.
He can feel his body burning by the time he stumbles into the cave in the side of a mountain. Drops of blood are seeping through cracked skin and he doesn’t have the time to heal, just runs into the darkness, deep into the heart of the mountain where he can feel the air press down with the heaviness of the tons of rocks above him. It’s damp and hot and stifling, his feet slipping on the floor, and he can hear screams and curses and shooting now, not just in his head but a few hundred yards ahead.
“JASON!” he roars – in hindsight, maybe it wasn’t such a great idea, because tendrils of darkness start reaching for him through the shadows. They don’t hold him for long, but his body, still sore from the sun, screams against the touch.
Jason’s on his back when Eric reaches him – the cave is larger than the maze Eric has just run through, but he doesn’t have the time to appreciate the wonders of nature. The thing attacking Jason is almost filling the space, huddled among the stalactites and lunging with what looks like blackened, sticky fists. Jason shoots at them and they dissolve, but the whole thing is not dying, not like Jason said it would; it has to be the archdemon or however the hell Jason would call it. Eric cannot think in words: his world is filled with Jason’s panic and fear and stubborn determination, and when he sees Eric, there’s a spike of hope and then more terror.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING-“
Another lunge of a black mass towards his face, another shot, and how many bullets does he even have left-
“-HERE, WHERE’S ASHLEY!”
“Safe,” Eric hisses and the demon turns to him.
There’s no face, none that Eric can discern anyway, but he knows it’s looking at him, deep into his mind or soul or ‘whatever you wanna call it’ as Jason said once, and it’s sucking him in, drawing him closer. He knows it’s going to attack before it moves: the thing, the demon bunches up and there’s a feeling as if air is being sucked out of the room. Jason gasps and the demon shifts its unseeing face to him.
Eric’s moving before he’s aware of it. Jason shoots at the attacking demon – the bullet gets Eric under the shoulderblade, lodging between his ribs and the dark mass collides with him full-front, spilling over him like a wave, drawing him under and yanking his feet from under him. He has just time enough to think ‘sorry’ because this is exactly what Jason did not want, giving Eric up to the demons, but he couldn’t just stand there and watch it kill the man.
Then there’s nothing but pain. His skin rips apart, his muscles liquefy – Eric feels it but he doesn’t see it, his mouth and nose and eyes and head filling with hot tar and he chokes on it only to get it further in, lungful by lungful. He’s aware of every vein in his body, his blood mingling with the darkness and the pain sears his mind white. There’s a smell like burning, and then acrid, dead, and he wonders if he’s smelling himself getting killed. He can’t hear anything anymore, except a dull roaring of his blood. He’s vaguely aware he’s on his knees, but his body isn’t his own and finally finally freedom yes now power
been waiting for so long finally this human brought the vampire to us very good we eat now and his power is ours we will make this world ours
right after we kill the human Jason is just standing there, his mouth gaping open, and a flock of smaller demons is creeping up behind him, and Eric wants to scream but yes we kill the human we are so close
what is this why is this here WHAT IS HERE
HURTS PAIN the pain is clouding Eric’s mind, and there’s an eerie sensation of the pain not being all his own, like we are hurting WE ARE DYING
we need to kill the human
we need to go away
Eric opens his eyes. The demons are gathered to the sides of the cave. They’re not attacking, and he knows they will stay there, just as he knows his legs will carry him to Jason.
The human’s eyes are wide in his pale face: he’s stained with the dark grey of demonic matter all over his hands, but he looks unharmed. Good.
Eric crouches down in front of him, touching his knee, because Jason is shaking like a leaf.
“You okay?” he asks – he doesn’t know what just happened, but the big demon is not around anymore. His mind is swimming a little, a bit clouded and weird, but he’s not dead so Eric’s not gonna be picky about his feelings at the moment.
“What the hell are you?” Jason yanks away from the touch. Eric frowns.
“Same thing I was when I ran in here to save your ass,” he snarls, and Jason… gapes.
“Who else?!” Eric is starting to feel really frustrated with this idiot: for someone who set out to save the world, he’s pretty dense.
Unless the demons have caused more damage than Eric thought before he managed to get here… with concern, he leans forward, frowns a little as he brings his hand up to Jason’s cheek.
“Do you know who you are?”
Jason slaps his hand away with a huff:
“Don’t give me that shit, you’re the one whose eyes are pitch black, you jerk.”
Eric blinks – what? His eyes…. he shakes his head a little, tries to blink as if whatever Jason’s talking about is just a bad hangover.
His vision clears a little, so do the clouds in his head.
The demons inch closer. Suddenly, Eric’s not all that certain they won’t lunge for them.
“Holy fucking shit,” Jason exhales and he’s the one to reach for Eric this time, but he stops his hand mid-way there, just looking at Eric’s bare shoulder. Eric follows his gaze to his own body – the skin is whole, healthy, if a little tense, as if there’s a bit too much of him underneath it suddenly, which is a ridiculous notion but that’s exactly how it feels to Eric.
“What have you done?” Jason glances up at him, and Eric shrugs.
“I felt your pain. I knew you were in trouble, so I ran to where you-“
“You ran,” Jason interrupts, frowning. “You just took a nice damn jog through the sunny fields? You expect me to believe that, Northman?”
“Well…” Eric sits back on his feet, scratches the back of his neck, feeling a little bit on edge. “I had some help. Fae blood.”
“Yeah right, why don’t you cut the crap, Eric, where would you get fairy… blood…” he slows, stops, his eyes flash with understanding.
“Oh god,” he gasps, his hands running up his face, through his hair. He leaves bloody smears all over his head – he must have tried to fight the demons by all means necessary, probably cutting up his skin where he could so he would be poisonous to the touch to the damn things. That was probably what kept him alive this long; Eric is both impressed and retrospectively terrified about what could have happened had he not arrived, had Ashley not turned out to be fae.
“Wait,” Jason’s head snaps back up and he glares oh so hotly. “Does that mean… did you bite my daughter, you good-for-nothing fanger asshole?!”
His hand shoots up – for the lack of a shirt to yank on, Jason grabs him by the shoulders and shakes.
Searing pain shoots up Eric’s neck, radiating from the points of contact – what the fuck is that, acid?!
The demons glide forward, reacting to the pain, flocking to protect one of their own. A glare and a hiss sends them back to the shadows.
“Oh holy fuck,” Jason says again, awe and wonder and a bit of horror – Eric’s getting tired of his exclamations fast.
“Can you please get your fucking hands off me,” Eric snaps, because he’s still HURTING. Jason yanks his bloody palms away, and Eric instinctively rubs at his shoulders, raw and blistering, until he feels the pain is subsiding.
“You… absorbed him. It. The demon.”
“What?” Eric looks up with a scowl.
“Your eyes – they’re black again. Shit. You absorbed the demon, Eric. Somehow, he’s inside of you.”
Eric blinks again. What the hell is Jason saying?
“That’s impossible,” he shakes his head, and Jason snorts:
“When I was Ashley’s age, I would’ve thought that fairies didn’t exist, you know, and my sister is one. A few years back I thought demons didn’t exist, and here we are.”
“That’s not actually an argument,” Eric frowns.
“Well, do you have any other explanation for why those demons are skulking around instead of attacking us now?”
Eric looks around: he can feel more than see the masses of black tendrils swirling in the darkness. But where he only felt mindless malice off that huddle of demonic matter before, now there’s… uncertainty. Curiosity.
“Oh shit, I’m their king now, aren’t I,” Eric flops his ass to the hard, damn ground and runs a hand over his face. What the fuck.
Pam will have a field day with this. First, she will take his head off for going on a demon-hunting road-trip with Jason Stackhouse. And then she will rip him apart for getting himself a demon parasite.
“C’mon,” Jason gets up and offers him a hand. Eric gives it a pointed look, and Jason coughs, wiping his bloody, still-cut-up hand on his dirty jeans.
“Oh. Right,” he mumbles sheepishly and looks around. “We should go though. I need to check on Ash.”
“She’ll be fine. I left her your gun… and I control the demons now, don’t I?” he asks a little ironically – he doesn’t know how it happens, but he knows that they’re waiting for his command, the skulking pieces of darkness all around them, all over the continent and possibly the world. He wonders if he can send them back where they came from somehow, or if that will mean ripping himself apart as well. He’s not so gone on the idea of self-sacrifice for the sake of the world: as long as the demons obey him, he’s not gonna kill himself to get rid of them.
“She’s still a six-year-old suffering from blood-loss. With a gun,” Jason says pointedly, and Eric knows that the man can’t really blame Eric for leaving Ashley with some means to protect herself, but yeah, okay, he gets why the idea of a kid with a gun isn’t that appealing.
“Go,” he says, twisting his legs under him to make himself more comfortable. He knows he can’t leave yet: the sun’s up high, and even if he’s half-demon or whatever now, the demons weren’t doing so well with sunlight either, last he saw. Even if the fae blood in his system hasn’t been all burned away by the demon attack, he was feeling the sun already even before he came here. He wonders if the bullet Jason shot into him helped, if Jason’s blood that burst into his flesh was the deciding last drop in the cup, the thing that kept him alive, that allowed him to somehow win over the archdemon. It’s a nice thought, regardless of whether or not it’s true.
“We’ll be waiting for you after sundown,” Jason says, and Eric looks up at him, skeptical.
Jason doesn’t need to tag along now: the demons are under Eric’s command, the threat is gone. Sookie and the other fairies can return, the vampires and other supernatural creatures don’t have to worry about attacks. Jason and his daughter can go wherever they want – an idea that somehow doesn’t sit so well with Eric, but he has no grounds on which to stop Jason.
Except Jason’s stopping himself, apparently, and it confuses Eric to no end.
“Someone needs to keep an eye on you, oh Demon King,” Jason smirks, and leans down – his mouth is on Eric’s, lingering, deliberate, and- yeah, ow, the blood’s still there, just a smear, but it makes Eric hiss when his tongue blisters after he runs it over Jason’s lip.
“Suck it up,” Jason sniggers and gathers up his gun from the ground. “After sundown. I’m not gonna stand in the way of you and your fancy hotels this time. And I’m telling Ashley she gets her own room, so you better tell your Progeny to paint the walls pink, because Ash will not stand for that hospital white décor you’ve got going at your place, buddy.”
The sheer ridiculousness of Jason calling him ‘buddy’ makes Eric smirk.
“You’re still paying for my window,” he calls after Jason as he watches the man go – Jason laughs and flips him the finger over his shoulder. When the sun finally sets, the demons don’t follow him outside, but he can feel their presence all around, dormant and lurking and waiting for his will to bend them to the desired shape.
The Stackhouses are crazy, Eric decides, when Ashley begs him to show her ‘demon eyes’ – she squeals in delight as if it’s the funniest thing she’s ever seen, and Eric gives Jason a weirded-out glance over the girl’s head.
But he does text Pam about the pink, in the end.