Kate Lynn (katers007) wrote,
Kate Lynn
katers007

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"True Blood" Fic: Early Risers, Part IV (Godric, Jason)

Title: Early Risers
Author: katers007
Fandom: “True Blood”
Summary: “What is to give light must endure burning.” While with the Fellowship waiting to meet the sun, a sleepless Godric and Jason share a morning neither expected to see. Amidst the growing threat of war their encounter will catapult them onto a course to defend a world in which they no longer fit. In the end, each must answer this question: is the road to salvation really one of sacrifice or self-service?
Characters: (Part 4) Jason, Godric, Eric, Sookie, Sarah, Bill, Nan, and Pam
Pairings: (Part 4) Godric/Eric
Rating: R
Genre: Drama, AU after episode 205: “Never Let Me Go”
Status: Part 4/?
Word Count: 8,687
Warning: Strong language, some eventual violence via explosions and combat
Disclaimer: All things “True Blood” are not mine and I gain no compensation from this work aside from the pleasure of playing around with the characters.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4: What We Carry

"I didn't do anything," Jason repeated firmly for the umpteenth time, a reaction which still only earned him a vague eye roll as the police continued to take down his information.

Beside him Sookie hissed, "Jason, just don't say anything." She wasn't allowed at his side, having to stand back as two men in uniform flanked him. A very small part of Jason couldn't help but think how if he was a vampire, or hell even just on V, he'd be able to overtake them easily. Then again, if he was a vampire, it would be other people he'd be dealing with, not the cops. Wouldn't it? He wondered if the vampires had any form of justice for dealing with each other.

He wondered if whatever they had was really justice at all. It was much the same he was wondering about human law enforcement at the moment.

The officers took him to an interrogation cell, which Jason realized was an experience that didn't become old hat. He could feel sweat start to stick his shirt to his underarms and back, and tried to mentally grasp anything positive he could think of to calm himself down. 'Sookie called for help. I didn't do anything wrong. At least this time I won't end up with a needle stuck in my dick.'

A hefty folder fell on the tabletop behind which he was seated, jerking Jason's attention back to what was transpiring around him. Looking up he saw a third officer standing on the opposite end of the table, her arms crossed and bearing a solemn expression. Jason wondered if that was a stance they all learned in police training. He found it decidedly more appealing on a woman and automatically started to grin. The other two officers silently departed. Jason sat up a little straighter, wondering if this was being caught on camera. Of its own volition his gaze snaked around the walls, although it was impossible to tell whether what was going on in the room could be seen from the other side or not.

The officer said, not unkindly, "Hello, Jason. I'm Detective Armata. Tell me about tonight."

"No," Jason said, shaking his head quickly. Armata just looked at him, and Jason felt compelled to continue explaining. "I, uh, was told someone was coming here I should talk to first."

"A lawyer?" The detective asked.

Jason nodded again. "Yeah, I think so."

Armata sat down across from him, her easy manner not eradicating the slightly menacing air that permeated from her. Was that on purpose? "Think so?"

"Yeah." Jason fought the temptation to lick his lips. They were dry, but he wasn't certain how any motion he made might be misconstrued. "My sister called someone. I think to get a lawyer."

Armata sat back, hands folded across her belly. "Your sister waiting out front. Tell me about her?"

What was the interest in Sookie? Or was this just another approach to get him to start talking? Suspecting the latter Jason clamped his jaws shut tight and shook his head again. With stubborn defiance he stared back at Armata staring at him. After what felt to Jason like an excruciating pause Armata was called away. Sighing, the detective rose, opening the door to reveal a man who decidedly did not look like a part of any precinct.

Purple was the first thing that came to mind when Jason saw him. The man was dressed in a dark wine-colored suit, one that even without any green made Jason think of the Joker. He didn't think that boded well. Purple Suit's shirt and shoes were black, matching the man's hair and the sunglasses he wore despite it being nighttime and inside a building. Of average height and lean build, Jason thought he looked like someone who might've been an athlete once upon a time, and now could still chase after an ambulance should the need arise. He smiled at Jason's appraising gaze, a wide smile that was unsettling in its lack of self-consciousness. A character, is what Gran would have labeled him. "Pardon me, Detective," Purple Suit said in a nasal accent that betrayed a lack of Southernism. "My client and I would like to get acquainted."

Armata coolly smiled back, seeming to know him. "You do that, Mac."

"That's Mr. Mac to you," he said, still smiling as though he couldn't imagine a more pleasant evening than one spent cordially correcting a member of law enforcement.

This time Armata ignored him. Looking back at Jason, with a decidedly more wary glint in her expression, she said, "See you soon." With a last look at both of them she picked up the folder on the desk and exited the room.

Once the door was secured shut, Mac turned back to Jason and said briskly, "Well then, down to business. First off, I'm Arthur MacKenzie." Taking the seat Armata had vacated, he set his briefcase down on the table and held out his hand to shake. He didn't bother to wait for Jason to take his hand before going on, like it was something he'd recorded, "A pleasure. You may call me Arthur, Mac, or Mr. Mac if you're still young and Southern enough to want to respect your elders."

Jason considered this, then asked, "Well, what does everyone else call you?"

For a brief moment Mac paused, and Jason wondered whether he was taken aback by the question or silently evaluating something. Then as though he hadn't missed a beat Mac grinned and answered, "Nothing you'd be comfortable introducing me as to your grandmother in church. Not if you're right in the head."

"My grandmother's dead," Jason shrugged, although he knew that wasn't the point. "And she didn't care 'bout names, anyway. Not like that." Gran had loved learning about peoples' lineages, but she never looked down on anyone because of what they went by. Hell, she'd known twice more about the history of all the families in Bon Temps than Jason did about his own. It'd never seemed all that important to him to memorize historical facts about people long dead that he'd never met, not when there were living beings around to interact with. Truth be told, it still didn't hold his interest outside of the fact that it'd been a part of Gran. By virtue of her no longer being around to think it was important, Jason felt the very least he could do was balance the scales some and no longer scoff at genealogy pastimes.

With the sunglasses on it was impossible to tell whether Jason's words made Mac blink or not, but his voice was as smooth as always. "Sorry to hear about your loss. Let's just go with Mac, then." Having made one decision about the dynamic between them, Mac leaned forward and folded his hands on the table, taking the lead again. "Now Mr. Stackhouse, this is how it'll work. Right now you're being held in custody. They don't have enough right now to charge you with anything. They can, however, hold you for twenty-four hours before having to press charges. This can be extended by another twelve hours in some cases, by the courts for ninety-six hours, and in the case of terrorism, up to twenty-eight days."

Jason started to sweat again, but Mac didn't seem at all perturbed as he continued, "But the likelihood of that given the charges won't happen. The Sheriff -"

"Godric?" Jason interjected.

Mac nodded, "Yes. His staff has me on retainer. Since I was called in by his office, he's not going to be pressing charges for the explosion. Granted, all of the witnesses there are either vamps or related to you, but it's more support than the actual thrower of the grenade has. The assault in the church, now -"

"They were the ones firing the damn gun!" Jason cut in again, loudly.

Mac raised a hand in placation and Jason slumped back in his seat sullenly. Calmly Mac went on, "Fingerprints will show up on the gun. Whatever other violence that went on though is your word against theirs. Still, they really don't have much. My guess is this is a scare tactic, or a diversion." Looking at Jason, Mac explained further, "It's ineffectual revenge, minimal leverage, or an attempt to keep our eyes off of something else going on."

"Like what?" Jason wondered. He didn't think the Fellowship was above revenge; hell, it was what they were practically built on. That, and fear. But he couldn't imagine Newlin going about it in a moronic way. Was all this to distract from another sacrifice they were having? It seemed a helluva lot of risk to drag in the police just for that.

Shrugging, Mac drew a line between his job and Grisham-style heroics and firmly stayed planted on the former side. "You got me. I'm a lawyer, not a detective. My job is to keep you off the chopping block long enough for this to be figured out."

'For me to figure this out,' Jason thought. There was no way he was going to let himself be set up for something again. There had to be a weak link in the Fellowship, somewhere. Not Newlin, or Gabe. Certainly not Luke. Sarah? Her image came into his mind, and while there was nothing weak about it, there was maybe a chance. A crack in something, somewhere. Maybe. At this point Jason wasn't certain which part of his body was leading him, his head, heart, or something else. First, in order to do anything, he had to get out of there. Looking squarely at Mac he asked, "So what happens now?"

"Now, you continue to sit and be silent until they let you go. Knowing I'm your counsel, I don't think they'll want to tango with you for much longer. Not without a lot more to charge you with." Mac said this with noticeable bravado, but it didn't seem like blustering. He didn't say whether it was his name or who employed him that might be so intimidating. "Any other questions?

After a beat Jason nodded. "Where're you from?"

Again Jason couldn't tell how Mac took the question; the glasses hid his expression. Perhaps that was the point. "Massachusetts." He smiled. "Why'd you ask that?"

Shrugging Jason said, "Don't meet too many people not from nearby. Why'd you come all the way here?"

Mac's smile widened. "People move around, Jason."

"Not without a reason," Jason argued.

"Some do," Mac said, and didn't specify any further on if he was one of those or not. Instead he changed the subject by rising and picking up his briefcase. "Righty then, we'll be in touch."

Jason blinked in surprise. "Don't you want to hear my side?"

"Why would I want to hear that?" Mac countered.

"Well... to know what really happened. Seems like you should get the truth from your client, don't it?" Clearly Mac had been filled in somehow, but to Jason the idea of someone speaking for him without him having any say chafed. Before engaging with the Fellowship perhaps it wouldn't have, but Jason was by now well aware how his actions could be twisted for someone else's purpose. If it was his life on the line, he should make damn sure it was his story being dealt with.

"The truth?" That earned Jason a wide, bemused grin. Positioning himself carefully in front of Jason, Mac pulled down his sunglasses enough to expose his eyes, both a milky blind mess. Tiny red circles, more irritated skin surrounding pinprick holes rather than a scar, dotted the corners of his eyes and directly beneath them. How the hell could he see like that?

... what did he see?

Mac continued without averting his gaze. "The truth's whatever people assume. Winning's not about the truth."

"Lemme guess," Jason huffed, managing not to look away from the other's disfigurement. "It's about being on the right side."

Mac shrugged, apparently unable to be offended, and slipped his sunglasses back up his nose. "I prefer not to deal with sides. Too many sharp edges for me. No, winning's about managing to stick around for the long haul. And Jason, those backing you, they've got infinitely more haul than most."

"Unless they get killed," Jason pointed out.

Mac nodded. "Unless that." Then he smiled and gave a slight 'ta-da!' gesture with his free hand. "But that part's not your concern, nor is it mine. You're my concern, and I can assure you, I've got no reason to fail." He spoke as though failure was always an option, a choice. Perhaps it was. It was hard to tell how much Mac believed in what he said, but he spoke with conviction, and Jason wanted to believe him.

For now, it had to be enough.

###

"I trust Godric," Eric said patiently over the phone with Sookie. "MacKenzie should be with Jason by now. Godric's used him before in legal matters, I don't think you have to worry." Or at least, she shouldn't worry about her brother of all things.

Then again, while Eric didn't find Jason worth concern, Sookie's loyalty to him was admirable. And interesting.

Eric finished with, "Let me know when your brother's been released." There was a good chance it'd happen soon, it was worth sounding like he was certain of it. Hanging up, he sat down on a sofa opposite Godric in one of the Hotel Carmilla's suites. Studying Godric he said, "You're bleeding."

Godric merely stared at him. "As are you." Dawn had several hours passed, and the bleeds had begun. Eric wondered how despite being clearly starved Godric still had blood to spare. Perhaps it was magic; at the very least it was Godric. It was amazing how the machinations of a body Eric knew as well as his own could still be so wondrous. Getting up again, Eric took a soft burgundy colored hand towel from the bathroom. Sitting beside his Maker, he offered it over. "Any word yet from Stan?"

Godric shook his head. "People are searching for him." Ignoring the cloth in his lap, Godric lifted up his hand to Eric's face, wiping away the blood streaks with his palm. "You need to rest."

"So do you," Eric bandied back.

"I can't."

"Can't, or won't let yourself?" Eric probed gently. Returning the favor he reached over and cleaned Godric's face, each leaving stains upon the other. If Godric didn't wish to use the cloth, then Eric wouldn't. If Godric didn't sleep, Eric was resolved to refrain as well. His act was somehow both that of a precocious child and a master tactician. After hundreds of lifetimes they could play any part for the other, often more than one at the same time.

Godric contemplated not sidestepping the question, but then realized he didn't even know the answer, anyway. "There's a call the needs to be made first regardless," Godric said, and Eric supplied his. It took Godric a moment to recall the number, then he dialed it.

The voice on the other end was cool and crisp, definitely someone groomed by Nan. "AVL services, this is Kristina, may I ask the nature of the call?"

"This is Godric, Sheriff of Area 9," Godric said, and despite the utter lack of pomp in his delivery, the news still silenced the woman on the other end of the line. "I imagine Ms. Flanagan has been trying to reach me."

"One moment," Kristina said, and Godric was placed on hold. Rather than silence, a public service commercial explaining a new vote coming up for vampire marriage laws played. Overhearing, Eric merely shrugged. They both knew who they were dealing with; of course Nan wouldn't miss any opportunity, including anyone being on hold, to make them listen to whatever she found important. The commercial cut out halfway through as Kristina returned on the line. "Ms. Flanagan is currently en route to Dallas and will be meeting with you half an hour past sundown."

"Oh, is she?" Eric said sarcastically. "How good of her to let us go out of our way to find this out."

Kristina's tone gleamed with the same professional polish as it had before. "Miss Flanagan's schedule is extremely tight, but I can assure you that she is looking forward to meeting you. Was there anything else myself or the AVL may help you with?"

"No. Thank you for your assistance," Godric answered. Hanging up, he handed the phone back to Eric.

"You know she's going to want someone she can throw to the wolves," Eric commented immediately after, taking his cell back and pocketing it.

Godric shook his head. "We won't know anything until tonight." Sensing the objection in Eric despite the other man's stillness Godric added, "Worrying over it until then won't help."

"There's a difference between worry and planning," Eric said. "We should be ready."

"Which includes being rested." Rising, he only had to place a hand on Eric's arm to get Eric to stand, ready to follow him anywhere as always. At the very least he could stop Eric bleeding unnecessarily. Going into the bedroom Godric stretched out on the bed. Eyes closed, he could visualize Eric's movements as he heard the sounds of the other man's shoes being kicked aside and him placing his phone on the bedside table. Without hesitation the mattress gave way as Eric slid onto the bed beside him. After a beat Godric rolled onto his side, facing away from Eric, remaining still as though asleep. He felt the larger man wrap around him, and soon the dead weight told him Eric had drifted off. The phone on the table buzzed, but neither of them made any movement to answer. Perhaps Eric was too exhausted to wake. For Godric, it was a matter of prioritizing.

A fight was coming. What nature it'd take, its exact form, wasn't yet clear. However, pieces were falling into place so loud he couldn't ignore them however hard he tried. He would need Eric rested.

He would need to make sure this time things worked out right.

###

Nothing. Either Eric was sleeping, or busy, or… she decided not to think on any other or's. "We're coming back now," Sookie finished, hanging up after leaving Eric a message that Jason had been released. She took a deep breath, waiting outside the police station for Jason to follow. No part of her had assumed helping Eric would be the simplest of tasks, but she hadn't expected it to become this complicated. Although, Jason was more than capable of getting himself into trouble. At least this way there were people around to help him out of it.

Rubbing her shoulders, she could feel goose bumps on her skin. Her arms were bare. She felt uncovered, and cold, inside and out. Not dead, but exposed, caught in the open in a game she was only starting to understand. Bill had warned her about this. She didn't know what it said about her, that she'd still have chosen this direction for her life rather than continuing to feel as she had mere weeks before: like a little girl, with no control. For the first time she felt as though she had choices in life, and those choices were making her world larger than she'd ever thought possible.

She should have expected that there would be growing pains to go along with it. Should she also have expected that it wasn't just her that'd be experiencing the pain? At times she felt as though she should wear a sandwich board, with blinking lights proclaiming: Personal Hazard Warning. That was what happened when you didn't run and hide. If you were open enough to take on other peoples' burdens, sometimes those people ended up taking on yours as well. Gran had.

Gran also would have told her to hush up and build herself as big a life as she could. Big not in the financial sense, but in the more important one. She'd have said to put all of yourself into your life and get out of it every bit of happiness you can. Pain came with change, and as long as you took responsibility for it, you didn't have to shy away from it. You had a responsibility not to.

Which worked out well, since Stackhouses weren't very good at backing off.

"Sook?" Jason called out, and she turned to see him exiting the station. The stubble on his cheeks looked scratchy and his eyes were rimmed with red. Even still, she noticed the steely look in his gaze. It was his football face, not the grinning one he'd toss up at the crowd after scoring a point, but the one right before a play occurred. It was calculated and focused, entirely in the present but grounded with purpose. Amazing what confidence without preening stupidity could look like. She hadn't seen it on him in a long time.

He breezed by her without stopping. "I'll meet you at the hotel. There's something I gotta take care of first."

"Wait," she said, making a grab for his arm. He dodged by her, and she rolled her eyes but hurried after him, managing to match his step. "Where are you going?"

"The Fellowship."

At that answer she did grab him. "Are you insane?"

"I know what I'm doing," he said, yanking his arm free. "I'll be careful, all right? I'm just going to talk to Sarah."

"Sarah?" Sookie took a moment before placing the name. "The Reverend's wife?"

"She's more than that," Jason insisted, then at Sookie's look he added in exasperation, "No, we didn't sleep together." She knew him well enough to know the expression on his face meant 'Well, not yet. But that isn't what this was about. ... not entirely. Who knows how things might play out, but it isn't the goal, and I think that should count as personal growth.' At Sookie's appraising look he took a step back, as though encasing himself physically in shadows would keep her at bay. "But she's not like him. She might help us."

"Or she might scream bloody murder and you'll end up right back here," Sookie protested. "Can't you just call her? I'm sure Eric could get some untraceable cell or something -"

"No," Jason shook his head. "It has to be in person. And what's going on with you and Eric?"

Sookie felt startled by the question. "Nothing. He has more contacts here than Bill does, that's all. What's going on with you and this Sarah?"

"Nothing," Jason mimicked her tone, then added, "Certainly haven't been sucking on her chest -"

"I was saving his life," Sookie insisted angrily.

"I'll have to remember that one," Jason said, then held his hands up as her eyes narrowed further. "Just looking out for you."

"Not all vampires are bad!" Sookie could feel the heat rising to her face, and her voice decible level climbed accordingly.

"I know that," Jason said, loudly as well, then silenced as he surprised them both. It was a sincere sentiment, one that'd been rising in his mind but had yet to be made vocal so blatantly and definitively. "It's kinda like people. Some are dickwads, some ain't."

Sookie smiled, her tone softened but still as unaware of whomever was around as she had been when heated. "It's exactly like people, because they are." She tried not to sound rebuking, but wanted to nudge his acceptance as far along as she could. For awhile now there had been a wall between them, built by their own guilt and opinions and failings, and now rather than it being made of stone it had thinned to glass. She could see him on the other side, and it was far more easy to break through. "Let me go with you to see Sarah. I can sense if someone else is approaching, and see what she's thinking."

He shook his head. "Sneaking more'n one in is risky, and having you hide and spy on her... seems like a betrayal, don't it?"

She raised an eyebrow at that. "They did betray you already."

"We don't know that she did," Jason said vehemently. "Trust me, I can take care of this." At her pause he looked harder at her. "Sookie. Promise?"

Reluctantly she nodded. "All right. But if I don't hear from you in an hour, I'm coming after you."

"You'd have to catch me first," he said, walking backwards long enough to punctuate his remark with a grin before turning on his heel and disappearing into the night. Heading into the mouth o'hell. Heading to her.

###

It was home. Ever since Sarah could remember, she'd loved the comfort of church.

It stood to reason many found the experience too structured, or a sacrifice to be made. No, a bargain, like 'I'll get up early for you on Sundays if you let me through the pearly gates.' While Sarah fought hard not to condemn people for being that selfish, the truth was she simply, fundamentally, couldn't comprehend it. How could people not feel lightened by centering themselves around a solid purpose and set of values? It was so basic, to do right felt right, and it felt right because it was right. There was a benevolent power that welcomed everyone and gave them love and life everlasting, and all it asked in return was devotion to what one should already be devoted to doing, thinking, and wanting.

Any desires, actions, or thoughts that fell outside the scope of good He set forth then were to be subjugated. It had all been so simple, not so very long ago.

It had been almost a full twenty-four hours now since Steve said they'd been infested by traitors. Sarah found it easy enough to believe a vampire had betrayed them, but Jason? He hadn't wanted to go on the mission with Luke to begin with. Then again, if he was loyal to the Fellowship, why had his blood kin been meeting with vampires? Even if he no longer trusted Steve, why did he suddenly trust this Godric? The puzzle was incomplete, and there were few things Sarah hated more than leaving anything unfinished. The world had enough half-heartedness.

Her mind churned as she sat still in the church. She wasn't certain how much time passed, but it hardly mattered. Steve was off in a meeting, he'd informed her of that much, although the details he'd left vague. It might be over already, it might take all night. Either way, he didn't call for her.

"Sarah?" The voice was unpolished and hesitant. Leaping up she turned to see Jason standing just inside the door, positioned out of view from any of the windows.

Now that he was back, she felt an overwhelming urge to throw something at him. Unfortunately, the only objects within reach were the prayer books tucked behind the pews, which felt unholy, or one of her heels, which felt too cliché. She settled for going to him and giving him a resounding smack across his face. "How could you?"

His hand went to his face, anger in his eyes. "Why'd you do that for?"

"Why? Why?!" She hissed. "How about deserting us? Just running off and-"

"It didn't go down like that," he cut in.

"I was there," Sarah protested. She could still hear the gun fire.

"Fine, then." Jason crossed his arms. "Tell me what you think you saw."

"What I saw," she clarified, "was you walking out, with a vampire." A vampire who'd saved him, and who had offered peace. She couldn't deny that fact, although she had to wonder what its ulterior motive was in doing that.

"Yeah, after your husband sent me on a fool's mission and then tried to have me shot!" He punctuated his exclamation by a wide flinging of his hands, nearly hitting a nearby candle holder.

Automatically she reached out to steady it and countered, "After you told everyone not to listen to him."

"Did you miss the fool's mission part?"

"No, I didn't." She raked a hand through her hair. "Of course I didn't miss it. He was – he thought it a test of loyalty."

"Crazy fucker almost got my sister killed," he said heatedly, and watched her face whiten in surprise at the mention of a sister, and then her eyes narrowed.

"Don't call him that. And he didn't know about your sister." Sarah hated a part of her that doubted, even though she spoke with certainty. It didn't seem possible or plausible that Steve had any clue Jason's sister was at all involved, but she couldn't help holding some residual doubt no matter what when it came to Steve now.

"But he did know someone might die, including me. And he was fine with that." They both knew she couldn't argue with that. After a moment Jason could feel some of the heat dissipate from his voice. "I don't mind risking my life, but I damn well intend to risk it on my own terms."

Looking up at him she inquired, "Is that what bothers you? That he didn't ask you?"

"Wouldn't it bother you?" He asked, then amended that to, "Doesn't it bother you?"

She looked steadily at him. "He's never put me in a position where I might die."

"No," Jason agreed. "He just puts you in a position where he gets to decide how you'll live."

His words were worse than an actual slap; truth always hurt more. "Screw you!"

He just stared at her quietly for a long moment. "We all gotta pick sides, Sarah. But that don't mean we got to stick with 'em." He turned to go, saying over his shoulder, "You have my number. Call me if you change your mind. Just remember it's your decision. Not his."

Her hands clenched at her sides. "It's not yours, either."

"No. It ain't." He turned and gave a wry smile then. "Which kinda makes it a bitch, don't it?" With that he left, already knowing the answer was yes. Yes, it really did.

###

"You might as well have ripped the head off a newborn and worn it as a party hat, for all the shit that can come from this." Nan's voice itself could drop the temperature of any room, which would have been more useful had she been surrounded in the hotel suite by those whose bodies were affected by such things. As it was, she had to settle for saying her piece and having no intention of letting them delay her longer than necessary. The only human… well, non vampiric person at least… in the room was Sookie, seated beside Bill. A quick glance at her had told Eric her mind was elsewhere. Likely her attention was being wasted on her brother, who was off on some other fool mission about which she'd remained vague.

It was almost cute how any thought they could keep secrets from him.

"We'll keep that in mind for next time," Eric responded, just as dryly.

"Funny," Nan said, in a tone that implied she had no idea what the word actually meant. She didn't bother even looking in Eric's direction, merely saying to Godric sitting beside her, "So tell me what happened before I get to read another police beat about it."

Eric kept a careful gaze on his master, watching Godric look Nan directly in the eye before he answered. "The Fellowship was looking for a sacrifice. If they'd tried to take one that was unwilling, I thought... it seemed like it would be worse."

Had Eric possessed the ability to breath, he was fairly sure this was a moment that'd have knocked any air out of him. As it was he remained completely still as Nan questioned disbelievingly, "You volunteered?"

"I thought it best," was Godric's only reply.

"Well then, your judgment leaves much to be desired." Breezily Nan moved on before Eric could finish imagining her neck slashed. Alas. "And the shootout?"

"Things got out of hand," Godric shrugged. "I believe they were overzealous -"

"No one cares what you believe," Nan cut in.

"You asked him," Sookie shot back heatedly. Bill laid a hand on her arm but she insisted at Nan, "He's the reason my brother isn't dead or locked up in prison right now-"

"Touching. Now let him speak." Leaning forward Nan smiled at Godric, a look on her that seemed more of a sneer. "Just the facts on what transpired will do nicely."

Gamely Godric complied. "Sookie, it's fine. From what I've gathered, two humans were sent to spy on my nest. One decided to take the opportunity to attack. Stan was provoked, but he was neutralized." A quick look Bill's way caused the younger vampire to offer a grave nod in support of the claim. Godric continued, "However, we haven't been able to locate him since."

"What idiot left him unattended?" Nan demanded, then waved her hand to dismiss her own question. "Doesn't matter. It all falls back on you, sheriff. You fucked all this up, including your own people."

"According to you," Eric said coldly, making it clear his view was decidedly, and potentially deadly, different than hers.

"I speak for many people, sheriff," Nan smiled at Eric, wholesomely unpleasant. "It wouldn't be wise to forget that." She wasn't one easily intimidated. In another context, Eric might have appreciated that about her. She continued, "No human sustained visible injuries, you're all lucky on that account. Still this is a PR nightmare."

"What did you have in mind to do about it?" Godric said calmly. Once more Eric felt a slight distancing awe at his maker. Always Godric had possessed a strong center, a solidity of being that led few to ever move him against his will. Only now, his directness seemed devoted to pacifying those around him. With one question he'd squashed any bickering and focused the group on solutions at hand. For centuries Eric had seen pacifying others as, if not demeaning, then catering to them at too high a compromising price. Now that he was in charge of his own area, pacifying those beneath him to his own advantage came with the position. However, playing mediator to Nan while retaining one's dignity wasn't something he'd care to undertake. Godric stepped into the role flawlessly, without any menace lurking beneath, something wholly unlike Eric had seen before. There was no part of his maker's demeanor indicating that he could kill them all within moments without spilling a drop of blood on the carpet for the hotel to have to clean. As if his swift, expedient savagery didn't exist. Only Godric could manage to make such a countenance not appear weak.

Nan's curt gaze held no respect. "You're fired, for one. And when he turns up you get to break the news to Stan that there's no way in hot Texas hell he's moving up the ranks."

Sookie let out an incredulous sound and began to argue, but to Eric's disbelief Godric started to nod agreeably, then he paused and asked softly, "Who would step in?"

"Nobody," Eric interjected. Looking at Godric he waved at Nan as though he might dismiss her with merely his hand. "You can't seriously be thinking of stepping aside now. What, you'd let the AVL move in on your -"

"Nothing is his, Mr. Northman," Nan said simply, without room for negotiation. "As noble as your sense of entitlement is I'm sure -"

"It's not about that." At Godric's voice both Nan and Eric looked at him. "Someone brand new to the area, as it would have to be if it's not Stan, would find it a difficult transition at this point."

"Not your concern," Nan shrugged. "You can't really expect us to trust your judgment at this juncture, anyway. Sorry, this isn't a discussion."

"What dead blood have you been feeding on?" Eric sneered, not moving but feeling his ire rising in steady waves.

"Pardon me," Bill said, his Southern blather in full force, reminding Eric he was even still in the room. He was the odd contrast to the room, with Eric and Nan leaning forward in their seats, Godric sitting back, and Bill remaining perfectly upright in his. Perfect, or rather trained, posture. He had served his purpose in supporting the events that had transpired at Godric's apartment and in the woods with Stan; Eric could only hope he'd remain useful now. "I'm curious as to what the king thinks about this?"

To be fair to Bill, it was a fair question. Eric looked at Nan. "Well?"

Nan's jaw tightened, briefly yet Eric caught it. She wasn't any more used to being questioned than the rest of them in the room were. She repeated, "Not your concern. But we have full backing of -"

"I'll speak with him." Godric looked at all of them, ending his gaze on Nan. "It isn't about a power struggle. But I can't leave things as they were. Are." He shook his head. "At the very least, he should hear out any recommendations -"

"From the sheriff that had his headquarters exploded, killed one of his lieutenants, has his other one gone renegade, let himself be taken hostage without any word on his whereabouts, caused another area to be deprived of their sheriff while he was hunted down, involved the police in a shootout, and further alienated one of our largest oppositions in the nation." Put like that, Nan didn't even bother trying to make it into a question. "Yeah. Where would Texas be without you." Standing up, she looked down at him squarely. "You're done. I expect the paperwork signed by the time I leave. Tomorrow at sunset. You don't want to try and fight this." She turned on her heel, leaving an aura of, 'not if you want to make it out intact,' in her wake.

"Ms. Flanagan." Godric stood up, though didn't approach her. He merely said, "I do respect that you want to protect rights and create a positive image. We don't have to be on opposite sides."

"Very nice speech. Did you give the same one to the people who still want to fry your ass?" With that she opened the door, tossing out, "Be smart. Leave the politics to those who can play the game," before leaving the room, the door closing heavily behind her.

Clearly she didn't realize there was no game Eric Northman couldn't win. Rising he was immediately at Godric's side, looking between him, Sookie, and Bill. "We can fight this."

Godric moved away from him, going to the door. Quietly he said, "That isn't the question." Without saying what was, he left both the younger vampires and human to answer it for themselves.

###

Steve was a restless sleeper. It was something Sarah had known since their wedding night. They'd fallen asleep after a passion-filled night in each other's arms, and she'd woken up an hour later from an elbow to her head. In all their years of marriage, it was rare for them to wake up and not find the blankets tangled on his side or a pillow tossed on the floor. Her first thought was that there'd been some inner turmoil that was troubling him, something she might perhaps soothe. Soon she'd discovered it was simply Steve, always on the go even in bed. Content it wasn't something harming him and secure on her own side of the mattress, the quirk had quickly become affectionately amusing, if occasionally irritating.

Even now, staring down at him shifting in his sleep, a part of her wanted to smile at the sight. There were harmless parts to Steve, perhaps even parts that were good.

Steve had told her he'd never even realized he was a restless sleeper until she told him. He'd jokingly said she could tie him down in bed, then more seriously suggested placing pillows between them, so he'd be less likely to move over to her side. She'd said it wasn't necessary, and it hadn't been.

Neither had suggested the idea of having separate beds.

If it had come up now, would he?

Silently she slipped out of bed. Steve moaned behind her, and she bent over and lightly kissed him. Pulling back, she leaned in quickly and kissed him again, harder. That brought him at least halfway awake. Blinking sleepily at her, he asked in a husky twang, "What's wrong?"

Even tired she could see he realized that was the wrong thing to say. Sitting up he held up a hand to have her wait, rubbing his face with his other one. "Sorry. But why are you up?"

"Thirsty," she answered. And she was, though for what, she didn't entirely know or want to admit. "I was going to get a drink and saw you lying there and just…" she shrugged to finish her explanation.

He smiled, reaching out a hand to pull her close. "Just couldn't resist?"

She smiled back, sadly, and nodded. "Something like that." Pulled down to sit beside him she placed a hand on his chest. A protective barrier, masked as a sign of affection. Through his shirt she could feel the warmth of his skin, and the steady beat of his heart. Lightly she pushed him back. "Did you want something?"

Shaking his head, he laid back down at her encouragement. He must have been exhausted. "I'm good."

"Are you?" she asked softly, but maybe the question she should be asking was, was she?

Looking at her oddly for a moment, he assured her. "I am. You okay?"

"I think so," she nodded. After a beat she said, "Steve… what are you going to do, about what happened last night?"

"I already took care of it," he said easily.

She saw his eyes start to close and tapped his cheek. "Meaning?"

With a sigh he edged himself up on one elbow and looked at her. "I called the police and our legal counsel. A written statement was made earlier, and tomorrow –" he checked the clock and amended, "today rather, there's a news interview."

"The police?"

"A gun went off, Sarah," he said, patronization again creeping into his tone. "The police had to be notified."

"And you told them one of your men did the shooting?" she pressed.

At that he raised an eyebrow. "One of mine?"

Levelly she stared at him. "Aren't they? Yours? Isn't all of this yours? What part of your life am I even a part of anymore?"

"Woah, wait now," he held up his hand, as though her words were a verbal assault to ward off.

"That's all I've been doing, Steve. Waiting." With that she left the room, heading down to the kitchen. Filling a glass with tap water, she sipped it idly, staring ahead in frustration. Through the window she saw a tall form exercising. At first she thought it was Jason, but upon a closer look that wasn't the case.

The figure was pushing himself like Jason would have though, and Sarah took a second to muse on how from a distance, all of their soldiers might appear interchangeable. Holding the glass of water, Sarah looked at it, then back out the window, and impetuously stepped outside. Walking quickly in just her nightgown and robe, feeling the uneven ground scratch at her bare feet, she stopped several feet away from a sweaty, grunting Luke. Watching him for a moment completing push ups, she finally said, "Luke?"

He startled, scrambling to his feet. "Mrs. Newlin, I - I'm sorry..."

Her brow furrowed. "What for?"

Dark eyes met her, ones disoriented and pained. "I don't know." He raked a shaky hand through his hair. "I can't get it - him - it out of my mind."

"Who?" she asked softly. It was enough to snap his attention towards her again, as though he'd forgotten she was even there.

"Nothing, no one. Never mind," he muttered, and attempted to walk past her. "Goodnight."

"Wait." She held out the glass of water to him, and at his hesitancy added, "You look like you need it more than I do."

At this prompting Luke grasped the glass and drank deeply. After a moment his face spasmed and he spat the water out on the ground. Kneeling over he retched. Worried, Sarah crouched down beside him, hesitantly placing a hand on his back. "Don't touch me!" he screamed and she jerked back in shock that he would dare raise his voice to her. Her eyes narrowed, though it was hard to rebuke someone now curling up into themselves. She thought she heard him saying, "I can taste it, I still taste him, I can taste everything in the glass..." slowly his eyes met hers, though whether he was really seeing her she wasn't sure. His voice dropped and he whispered, "It's wrong. It's just wrong."

"What is?" Positioning herself in front of Luke so he'd have a harder time not meeting her gaze, she firmly said, "Luke, what are you talking about?" At his firm head shake she added, "I can't help you if you don't tell me."

"I can't." She saw his cheeks glisten with what must have been tears; she was ashamed to say she found it slightly revolting. Knowing he must feel the same, she tried to keep her face impassive as he said, "I'm tainted. That thing did it... I can't close my eyes without seeing him, doing what he did to me, and... and other stuff..." with a low moan he buried his face into his shoulder, eyes squeezed shut.

Keeping her voice calm Sarah pressed him. "Who, Luke?"

"The vampire." Luke let out a shuddering breath, meeting her gaze once more. "From yesterday, when he bit me." A terrified look crossed his face. "Am I becoming one of them?"

Sarah shook her head, then paused, slightly uncertain. "I don't think so. I think you have to die, and you didn't, did you?"

"No," Luke shook his head, then quieter, "Though maybe I should have. It might've been better."

"Don't talk like that," Sarah said sharply. "Don't even think it."

"Right. It's a sin," he replied in a hollow tone. It was clear something was deeply broken inside him, and Sarah was torn between her instinct to run away and the awareness that he was one of her flock. She couldn't help but wonder whether this was why Luke had been spared, so he could live on tormented.

Was this what happened to her sister, before she'd died?

"Don't tell, Mrs. Newlin," Luke's voice cut into her thoughts. He looked incredibly young to her, scared and pleading. Was this what their soldiers would amount to? "Please. I'll figure it out. I'll... I'll stop it." Warily she wondered how, but it was clear he didn't yet know.

Slowly she got to her feet. Was this the fate in store for Jason?

Was it her choice to save him from it?

Resting on his knees, Luke appeared every inch the repentant follower. Only it wasn't clear for what sins he was paying. Still, he now seemed lost in prayer, and if anything could offer comfort it would be that. Not wanting to disturb him she backed away.

For the first time, situated between her house and her church, she didn't feel safe.

###

"I've never known you to shy away from a battle." Restlessly Eric stood by the window in Godric's hotel suite, arms folded. After Bill and Sookie had left for their room, he'd waited for Godric's return. It had to be near sunrise now.

Stepping inside the room, Godric shook his head. "I wasn't shying away. I was trying to prevent one. I just didn't go about it very well. Obviously."

"Did you really think you could just disappear?" Eric watched as Godric quietly closed the door, as silent and still as if he'd never opened it. Godric gave him no answer, and perhaps there wasn't one. There wasn't an excuse for acting as though nobody would care he was gone. Eric dropped his arms, acknowledging that continuing to harp on it would serve no good. Quietly he asked, "What does the king of Texas think of this?" The situation at large, the politics of it, this was safer, sturdier ground for him to tread.

"We haven't spoken of it, or of many things." Godric sank down onto the sofa with a sigh.

Tired and slight, silent and eyes downcast, he was a force Eric knew to be reckoned with. Almost to himself Eric said, "It should have been you." When Godric looked up to meet his gaze questioningly, Eric elaborated. "You could have had all of America, had you wanted."

With a faint smile Godric shrugged. "But I didn't want it. I still don't. A district was fine."

Fine. "So fine that you were going to die and leave it." The words came out before Eric could stop them, and he looked down cursing himself for it. Still, it didn't mean he didn't believe what he'd said.

"That wasn't because of the district," Godric responded gently, like the faint pressure from a knife drawing blood. There it was. An admission, framed by refusing to place blame for it. The man who had given Eric eternal life sought death. Without looking at him Eric rose and crossed the room to exit. He couldn't pass through the doors without some acknowledgment, however. No matter the infuriating confusion, he couldn't imagine abandoning Godric even in this slight way.

He'd thought that went both ways.

Eric wasn't certain which was worse, knowing he wasn't enough to cause Godric to want to live, or knowing that whatever it was had to be incredibly... unendingly... painful for his Maker.

"The king should know about this." Godric's words cut through Eric's thoughts.

Blinking, Eric gratefully grasped onto the concrete problem presented to them. It needed to be dealt with, and Godric was needed as long as it was. "You think he doesn't?"

"I'm certain he knows a version of it," Godric answered wryly. Indeed, wasn't that all there ever was? "It isn't even that either side is wrong. They think they're doing what's right. Goodness can come from both sides and still find the path to one another unsure. Depending on how far two lights are from each other, between them can still be a point of darkness. Where everything gets lost."

Eric wasn't really in the mood for prosaic speech. "What do you do then?"

"Flail about. Guess on a direction to take. Or, inch by inch, each side brings their light closer together, until both sides can see the way." Godric looked at him. "We need to speak with the king."

"He could definitely help prevent a war," Eric agreed. The power of a king wasn't to be trifled with.

Rising up, Godric went to the window. Light was beginning to appear on the horizon; its presence triggered the hotel's sensors and the blinds closed the day out. Without looking back Godric quietly asked, "And if he says no, and all that's left is me?"

Within a moment, a time span so sudden not even a human would've had the chance to breath, Eric was by his side. "Your people will follow, wherever you lead."

Godric nodded imperceptibly, staring ahead as though he could see a finish line, needing it to keep going. "Then I'll lead them."

A door knocked, insistently, determined to break the moment. Filled with glee that spilled over into a slight grin, Eric bounded over and opened the door, the smile fading as quickly as it had come as he took in the sight before him.

Pam stood there with her clothing torn, singed hair partially covering a face coated with blood. Paler than normal, she still met his gaze steadily and said, "That's right. Things in Shreveport are going to hell in a hand basket, so kindly tell me whose intestines I can rip out 'cause I'm dying to make a pretty little bow for it."

###

Coming Up, Part 5: Where Godric gives Jason a special kind of proposal, Sarah paves her own path with an unlikely ally, and everyone realizes that it is indeed good to be the king

Tags: true blood fanfiction
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