“What are you still doing here, Godric?” They were sitting in Eric’s office, Eric behind his desk, Godric in front of it as he had been the night he had been summoned to teach Hjärta how to be a vampire. She had been gone now for two weeks and the hole she had left in Godric’s heart was not healing as he had told himself it would. He had left two nights before she did, and then had been unable to keep himself away from Area 51. Logically, he knew she was gone, but he felt closer to her when he was here.
He had made excuses about his visit, spending time with Pamela Ravenscroft, the scientist who had helped engineer Hjärta. She was a pioneer in the field of nanotechnology, her expertise providing the missing piece of how to fashion a living being from the supernatural DNA of so many beings, all of whom were at odds with each other. Her tiny machines introduced into the cloning process worked ceaselessly to repair tiny damages as Hjärta’s own cells wrestled with each other for dominance.
Science and magic had made the woman he had looked for the past two thousand years. Fate and circumstance had given him only a few days with her before he was forced to let her go. Her path was not his, but no matter how many times he told himself that he was simply unable to accept it.
“I don’t know,” Godric finally admitted to his friend, smiling somewhat ruefully. “I think I am looking for something that is no longer here.” Eric grimaced.
“I know how that is,” he reached for his whiskey glass again and took a long deep swallow.
“It’s not at the bottom of that glass, either,” Godric told him, arching a brow, a concerned look on his face.
“I didn’t think anything would still be here when she left,” Eric admitted softly, swirling the amber whiskey in his glass. “I thought that her changing the past would change the present.”
“Perhaps it has.” Eric looked around his small office, gesturing with this empty hand.
“Despite our best efforts we know little of temporal stability. It is possible that we fractured time and created our own pocket universe here when she left. Cut off from the main time stream but still intact and immutable.” He realized then that Eric had been counting on an ending here from her departure to the past. He also realized that Eric was determined to have one, be it from temporal collapse or liver failure from the rate he was drinking.
They had both changed so much since the Princess had been taken them. Her wounds had been fatal but theirs lingered. She bled out but they still bled every day from her loss. Godric felt it now more than he had before, the fresh wound in his heart from the loss of Hjärta rending his spirit all the way down to the old wound that would not heal.
They had lost Sookie. Twice. How could anyone survive that intact?
“Would you have sent her back if you had known that nothing would change here, Eric?”
“I’d like to think I would have,” Eric told him, sounding tired and broken as he finished his drink in one large swallow. They both knew that was no answer.
Three weeks later Godric was in a bar in San Diego waiting for a contact to show up with information as to Warlow’s hide out. He had known even before he left Area 51 that this was his plan. He would find Warlow and take his piece of the Tempus Key. As for what happened after that, the only certainty was Warlow’s death. The rest of the story split in Godric’s mind down two even narrow paths. Either he would give the Key to Eric, or he would keep it for himself and find the witch who had opened the portal to send Hjärta back so he could go after her himself.
He had told no one what he was doing, barely even himself. As Eric had wanted to believe that he would have done the right thing, so did Godric about the choices that lay before him. The Tempus Key was too dangerous to leave with Warlow. That was the certainty that drove him on this one vampire kamikaze mission. The less certain chance that he could actually find Hjärta again was the hope that fueled him.
His watchful gaze searched the crowded bar for danger while his mind replayed their sparring sessions. His face was expressionless as his undead heart clenched in his chest.
“Is that all you got, vampire?” she had asked him, a sly smile on her face when she fought him to an impasse.
“All I’ve got?” he fired back moving at vampire speed to attack. She had laughed and moved in with the same blurry speed meeting him blow for blow, the sound of her laughter bouncing off the training room walls while she parried and thrust her Fae swords, seeking to draw blood and proclaim her victory.
He had been taking it easy on her, wanting to see how good her training had been. As a result she had grown cocky and reckless in her attack. He shifted on the balls of his feet, dropped down and spun around, his very sharp sword coming at her very tender flesh.
She jumped above his blade, spinning in mid-air to come rain down death from above. He barely fell back in time to keep his head. Rising from the floor he left his sword behind and wrapped his hand around her throat slamming her into the wall ten behind them. Air exploded from her lungs with her solid impact, her swords falling from her hands to the floor. Before she could inhale he was there, raising her feet above the floor with his grip. For a moment she panicked. Then he saw something shift in her eyes.
Her hand came down to his chest, palm open she blasted him full on with Fae light, sending him into the opposite wall of the training area. Before he could right himself she had his throat, raising his feet from the floor. His fangs came down as he summoned his ancient vampire strength to tear her hand away from his throat. He flipped them around, pressing her body to the wall with his as he held her hands down to her sides. “Give up?” he asked trying not to smile.
“Never,” she said, her own fangs down now as her mind raced to find a way to turn this to her advantage. “TO ME!” she called out. He barely moved back in time to avoid the upper cut from Vengeance, or was it Death that came close to bringing his own? He could never tell them apart, and they were always moving so fast in his presence there was no time to try and discern the difference.
He levitated up off the floor rising to the ceiling and out of the reach of her flashing swords. Her howls of rage brought laughter up from deep inside him. When she stamped her foot furiously on the floor and blew an errant strand of blonde hair from her eyes to skewer him with her gaze he laughed all the harder. She pursed her lips fighting a smile of her own.
“You realize, of course,” she called up to him, resting the points of her swords on the floor, “That this means I win?”
That was the moment I fell, he thought feeling the smile spread across his face again as the joy of that memory suffused his being. That was the moment I knew I was meant to love her.
Maybe it was the distraction of her memory that left him vulnerable. Maybe it had been a trap from the beginning. Maybe this was just how it was always supposed to be, the only ending he could have with a woman who was never destined to be his.
He felt the needle slide into his neck, and then the sting of the silver invading his veins before the black closed in, blocking even the memory or her beautiful face staring up at him making his dead heart lurch as though it were trying to beat for the first time in two thousand years.
Godric opened his eyes and found himself face to face with the Dark Fae King. He was leaning down so close to Godric’s face that they almost touched noses. “I remember you, vampire,” the Dark Fae said thoughtfully as he stared into Godric’s face. “I saw you last on the battle field.” He leaned back, crossing his arms and resting his chin on his hand. “You were wicked with that mace.” Warlow moved suddenly mimicking Godric’s fighting moves. “BOOM!” he screamed suddenly, his voice echoing through the large room where Godric hung suspended from silver chains. They had eaten through his flesh to the bones. “Their heads exploded like melons!” he exclaimed joyfully, laughing at Godric’s past battle glory. “Where did you learn how to do that so…proficiently?”
The silver injection had sliced Godric’s veins to threads, speaking was nearly beyond him. It hardly mattered, it seemed that Warlow was speaking to himself. His head cocked to the side as if he were listening to someone else.
“Of course,” Warlow said, clapping his hands together several times in his excitement. He leaned in close again. “You are quite old, aren’t you vampire? You have lived lifetimes, mastered many weapons I am sure. Is that not so?” Again, not waiting for an answer he reached out and ran a hand down Godric’s face, gentle at first and then digging his long nails in at the end tearing into him, removing skin and flesh. “Of course, compared to us you are but a babe in swaddling.”
Us? Who is us, Godric wondered? Warlow leaned in and licked the blood from the wounds he had just inflicted. “MMMMM,” he intoned his eyes rolling up into his head in exaggerated pleasure. “Tastes good, like a vampire should,” he chanted as he turned away throwing his arms up in the air to an audience that only he could see. Then he bowed theatrically from the waist accepting imaginary accolades. When he turned to face Godric again, he hiccupped, covering his mouth looking abashed.
“Excuse me,” he said politely, just before his mad eyes locked onto Godric’s again. “Maybe I’m allergic to silver,” he added by way of explanation for his action. Then quite suddenly, Warlow’s entire body convulsed so hard his spine made a cracking sound. When he looked at Godric again his appearance had changed in some almost imperceptible way. He had seemed mad before, now he seemed cold and possessed by an energy that had not been there before.
“You are going to tell me everything, vampire.”
No, no I’ll tell you nothing, Godric thought. Of course, in the end he did. He couldn’t help it. Hours later, when Warlow ripped into his chest and grabbed his heart he sent up a prayer of thanks that it was finally over, followed by a final thought that he hoped she could hear all the way back in the past.
Forgive me, Hjärta.
Godric was gone.
“Eric, you need to let me give you an injection of nanites.” He knew that when Pam got something set in brilliant mind it was impossible to sway her, but stubbornness be damned! There was no fucking way he was going to let her put those fucking machines in his body. “You’re not getting any younger, Northman, and frankly I never figured you for a coward.”
“Coward! Who the fuck do you think you are, Doctor Ravenscroft?” Her hand went to her slim hip, her chin went up.
“The only one with a pair big enough around here to stand up to you!” she yelled back at him. “You’re still in excellent health for a man your age, but that won’t last forever, especially if you keep drowning in the bottle every night.” He stood to his full height and glared down at her. He had a soft spot for Pam, but it wasn’t that soft. Unintimidated she continued. “Look, Warlow is still out there somewhere and we need you!”
“The war is over,” he ground out, his jaw locked in anger.
“For now, sure, but what about tomorrow? What if he gets tired of play crazy-winks all by himself and comes back for round two? Do you think we can beat him without you?” Oh, how many fucks do I not give? This war was done, he had paid with everything he had there was nothing left in him to give. “If you let me give you the injection we can save your liver and your life, Eric.”
“Fuck my life,” he said, turning and striding out of the lab away from the harpy who was not done yelling yet.
“You know I’m right! I’ll be here waiting when you are man enough to admit it, Northman!” I need a drink, he thought as he continued to his office, her jabs echoing in his mind. For my age? For my age? Fuck her thirty year old aggravating ass! I’m eighty-four fucking years old and I can still beat the ass of any man I know! I barely look more than fifty, thanks no doubt to my supernatural ancestor.
You’re really still vain, he asked himself?
Yes, I fucking am, he admitted as he came closer to the sweet quiet sanctuary of his office and his bottle of whiskey. Then the thing he hated more than anything else happened, his voice of reason surfaced, playing referee between his ego and his id.
She’s right you know. You do need to take better care of yourself. They still need you even if Warlow never surfaces again, the damage is done. They need you to help them heal the mess he left behind.
This only made him angrier. If he wasn’t careful, if he didn’t get a drink soon the guilt he kept under a tight rein was going to ooze out through the cracks of his reasonableness. It was his fault she was dead. She died to save his miserable life.
Yes, and you are doing such an amazing job of making that sacrifice meaningful. Asshole.
Yeah, but I am still a pretty asshole. A few gray streaks, a few lines in my face but other than that I look like I did the day she met me.
You really want to go there? You want to remember the first time you saw the Princess?
No! I don’t. I want a drink, not a walk down agony lane. His hand touched the door, almost there when his bleeding psyche kicked him right in the balls. It didn’t end when 500K13 left. You have an obligation to-
“No!” he bellowed into the empty hallway, his voice echoing through the underground corridors, a ghost of his inner turmoil. “No more obligations!” He turned the doorknob with a hard jerk and threw the door open slamming it against the wall. He took a step into the room and then came to a halt, his clenched jaw opening and hanging there while his brain worked to process what his eyes were showing him.
“Uh-oh! Somebodies been sittin’ in your chair,” Warlow intoned from behind Eric’s desk, his feet propped up, hands behind his head. “And he’s still here!” Warlow chuckled at his own wit while Eric reached for his gun that he kept strapped to his side even inside the compound. He was fast, but Warlow could teleport. A moment later the gun was thrown out into the hall, the door closed tightly and Eric was sitting in his chair while Warlow leaned down over his shoulder. “Well, if the chair means that much to you, you can have it.” Eric growled, his hands clenching, Warlow put his hands on Eric’s shoulders massaging them a moment as he made calming sounds.
“It’s all right, Eric. Really it is. I promise.” He let out a long sigh behind Eric and then leaned down to speak directly into his ear again. “I have some good new and I have some bad news. Which do you want first?” Eric didn’t answer him.
“Ok, good news first then. I’m going to give you something you want more than anything else in the world. You ready?” Not waiting he reached down and cut into Eric’s thigh with a knife that seemed to appear out of thin air. Eric hissed, and then he screamed as Warlow pressed on the wound working something deep into Eric’s leg. The pain was electric, but faded a moment later when Warlow muttered a spell and closed the wound as though it had never been.
“I’m going to take you to the woman you love. That’s the good news.” Warlow made a gesture that Eric caught in the corner of his eye. His office door opened and two Dark Fae came in with a man struggling between them.
“Jesus!” Eric said, too surprised to remember that he was supposed to be quiet. The brujo had been the witch that opened the portal for 500K13 to return to 1981. Eric got a sinking feeling in his chest that he knew what the bad news was going to be.
“Yes,” Warlow purred behind him sounded delighted. “The witch that opened the time portal. We’re going take a trip. Hope you pack light?” Oh, God, Eric thought, his stomach doing a flip. “So, now to the bad news, though for me it’s still more good news! It’s all about perspective you know?” He jerked Eric’s chair around so that they were facing each other.
“We’re going back because killing her once was just not enough for me. It felt so fucking good that I need to do it again, and I need you to watch. I need you to cry. I need you to scream because as good as it was to kill that betraying bitch, it was only perfect because you were there to see it.”
“No!” Eric grabbed for Warlow, pushing him and beginning to rise from the chair. Warlow cast another dark spell that froze Eric in mid-rise. Even his power of speech and his screams of denial were frozen in his throat.
“Yes!” Warlow said, clapping his hands with glee. “When the vampire told me I could kill her again I thought to myself, how is the world so good to me? I mean really? Sure, I lost the war to you, but this…this more than makes up for it, I think. Don’t you?” Warlow shoved Eric’s frozen body to the floor and took his seat again behind the desk. “Cause this time I’m going to kill her slow…make her beg…make her confess what she did to me. What she did to Daletheon! This time, oh this time will pay for all.”
A silent tear slipped down Eric’s cheek as he lay on the floor frozen by dark magic. It may have been a tear of joy to think he would see her again, and it may have been a tear of pure remorse born from the belief that he would fail his love one more time.