Eric’s head was pressed against the glass of the passenger door as he watched the miles tick by. He had not spoken since they had left the accident sight in Tennessee hours before. When Sookie had stopped for gas he had remained in the car. They were nearly home now. Home, the word didn’t belong here in the small town of Glasgow, Virginia. Home was in Shreveport. It had been anyway, but that was over now.
Sookie saw his hand clench in his leg and felt the anger and confusion moving through him like a tidal wave. She had not looked into his mind, there had been no need. She clenched the wheel and tried to believe that the shift in his focus from her and a future for them to facing his new reality was for the best, but she couldn’t stop thinking of that kiss outside the Sunshine Bar and Grille.
She should not be thinking of that, she had told him that she couldn’t let that happen, and then she had let it happen anyway. She had told him that he was just holding on to her because there was nothing else for him to hold onto, and it seemed she had been right. His reaction to her execution of the Dark Fae that had tried to take his life was…predictably human. Her lip curled in contempt and then she stopped.
He was human.
She had never felt contempt about that before. Why did she now? Was it because all his words of desire, his feelings that matched those words had changed her expectations of him? Did she expect him to mean what he said and did? Yes, she concluded. She did expect him to mean his words to her, and his detachment and distance left her angry and confused. Why had she rearranged her mind, and considered opening her heart of he was fickle in his words and affections?
How could she expect him to know what he wanted when his world was completely upside down? This was her world they were in now, the curtain back and the man clearly before them. She had always known but he had not. This was her fault, not his.
Perhaps it was herself she felt contempt for and he was the only person around to aim it at. She took a deep breath and tried to focus on the fact that they were nearly at the Northman farm. Coming off the interstate she merged the car fluidly into the traffic. She stuffed all her emotion back down deep inside her. It’s for the best, she thought for the hundredth time. It’s for the best. Maybe if she told herself enough times she would actually start to believe it. She took a left off the main road and onto a secondary road that did not even have two lanes marked off. When they topped the hill that looked down into the sixteen acres of Northman property she felt sadness roll through the tie. Eric was not happy about coming home.
The large white farm house sat atop a hill that offered a vantage point to all sides. It was surrounded by flat grassland that when Eric was a boy had been filled with cattle. The Northman’s didn’t raise them, but rather rented the space out for profit to local cattle men. Now the fields were overgrown with grass right up to the fence. She had arranged for someone to maintain the property and was pleased to see they had the yard looking exactly as it had when she and Eric had lived here long ago.
When they exited the car, Sookie immediately checked the wards, they were intact telling her that no one had been in the house. She turned to see Eric headed for the old barn situated about a hundred yards from the main house. There were several buildings on the property but it was hard to miss the barn, it was the largest of the out buildings. She moved to follow him.
He was already in the loft when she came in the door. “Where?” he called down.
“Over in the left corner, there is a loose board.” She listened to his footsteps and watched the dust falling as he moved over her head. A moment later she heard the board pulled back, old nails screeching as they moved. Then his footsteps came back toward the ladder. He walked toward her a small leather case in his hand.
“This it?” She nodded, he stepped around her and headed back to the house. She followed, the feeling of dread growing in her no matter how many times she told herself this was for the best. When he got to the backdoor, he moved the large flower pot and picked up the key that was there. His mother had always kept it there in case he lost his when he was at school. Another stab of pain hit him and then her.
He opened the door and moved inside. She followed slowly. He was standing in the kitchen, his head turning as he absorbed that nothing, nothing had been changed. His pain amplified. She moved closer to him and then stopped. She couldn’t help what he was feeling, and she couldn’t stop what had to happen next.
There was a small table in the kitchen, he pulled out a chair, the one he had used when he lived here before and sat down, placing the small leather case on the table. Taking a deep breath, he looked at her for the first time in hours. “What now?”
“Open the case and get your answers.” He raised a brow at her.
“Whatever is in here can tell me why my life has gone to shit in the last twenty-four hours? Why my friend is dead? Why you have been lurking in the shadows of my entire life watching my every move? Can it do that, 500K13? Can whatever is in there tell me all that?”
His returning to her designation rather than using the name he had given her sent a wave of pain through her. She blinked, but that as all she showed him for impact from his harsh words. She stood there, her face stoic, prepared to take his anger and his rage if need be. All of those things had to get out of the way to make room for the truth.
“What are you, anyway?” he asked her, his lip curling with the same contempt she had felt as they approached this place. “What are you that you can do all these things that I have seen you do?” His tone clearly said that he found her less than satisfactory in some way. She kept her face blank and hoped it would be over soon. To say anything before he knew what was on the crystal was to say too much. They could talk once he knew enough to know what he was talking about. Until then he was a child swatting out in petulant anger.
Enraged that she was unresponsive to him, completely unmoved by the fact that he was coming apart made him rise to his feet and tower over her. She looked at his chest refusing him the courtesy of looking into his eyes. “Look at me!” he said as he viciously jerked her head up to him. She kept her expression blank. It was killing her to see him like this.
“WHAT ARE YOU?” he roared into her face. She blinked.
“Whatever you need me to be.” He jerked his hand away and stepped back, his face a mask of rage and fear. She might as well have punched him.
“So, this is my fault? All these people are dead because of me?” Or because of me, she thought, but this was not the time to share that information. Nor could she tell him of the millions he could still save. She couldn’t tell him that, but if she could get him out of this spinning rut and on to the crystal he might find some answers there in a way that would leave them something to talk about.
“You must open the case and touch the crystal. Then you will have your answers.”
“Fine!” he said through gritted teeth, jerking the case up and open. A square blue crystal rested inside. He picked it up and looked at it intently. He looked back to her, his face still masked in anger. “A rock? What the fuck is a rock supposed-“he stopped, his eyes rolling back into his head.
She caught him as he fell, protecting him from hitting his head on the table. The crystal was gripped in his hand. It has begun, she thought as she gently placed him on the floor and waited for him to awaken.
“Time splinters. A lot of people don’t know that.” That voice, Eric thought. I know that voice. “It happens in moments of choice, of cataclysmic events, of a single blade of grass mowed down before its time. Something else they don’t know? We’re all blades of grass.”
The dark around Eric lit up and found himself standing before an older version of himself. He remembered seeing that face in Sookie’s mind on a monitor in her lab. This was his future self, right down to the scar on his face. He looked into the older Eric’s eyes and again felt that he would not want to see the things those eyes had seen.
“If she has given you the crystal then she has been forced to step from the shadows and intervene in the open to save your life. I would be pissed off if I were you.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Eric answered himself.
“See, that’s where you’re wrong,” older Eric smirked at him.
“You can hear me?” Older Eric smiled and nodded. “Let me guess, we don’t have much time and you have a lot to tell me?” Older Eric chuckled.
“Yes, so shut up smart ass. You can be angry later.” Eric was expecting him to speak then but instead he felt his head crack open as information was shoved in at in incredible rate. He screamed inside and outside. Sookie flinched at the sounds he made but made herself stay still. She didn’t know what was supposed to happen exactly but she had to trust that whatever was going on was what was supposed be happening.
In seconds Eric saw it all. In 1947 in Roswell, NM the reports of a UFO being shot down that were then purported to be a weather balloon by the US government had been the discovery of what he now knew to be Dark Fae. They were “aliens” to this world, not in the grey skinned large black eyed variety. They were more the tall, big Dark variety that had tried to kill him three times now. The encounter had been a reconnaissance scout for Warlow, the Dark Fae King. Their dimension had become unlivable due to wars and they were looking for a suitable place to migrate.
The US government in its wisdom had experimented on the emissary, horrible inhuman experiments that made Eric shudder. Then they had foolishly let him escape. When he returned to his dimension Warlow had been enraged and immediately gathered his large army to invade and conquer. Once he was here, he found that while his magic did work, it was weak compared to how it had functioned in his home realm. His plans to enslave the human race quickly fell to ashes at this feet. He adjusted those plans for immediate decimation and moved into a long game.
He and his army infiltrated the governments of the world, and slowly set about creating chaos and destruction. If he couldn’t destroy the human race he would trick them into destroying themselves. Every major political upheaval and war of the past century had been at his behest. All the while he remained in the shadows and let his magic grow, working hard to restore his power to levels he had enjoyed in Fae.
His main opposition had been one human man, well mostly human. Eric Northman, former radio personality who used his latent empathic abilities to pull together the humans and the supernaturals that he had found to already be sharing this world in a last stand against the Dark King. It had been a close battle but in the end they had put Warlow and his armies down. Millions had died, but billions had been saved. Warlow had escaped in the end, his whereabouts unknown.
Rumors reached the older Eric that Warlow had found a piece of the Tempus Key. It had been a legend, something thought to be myth only and at first they had ignored the rumors, but before long they received confirmation that not only did Warlow have a part of the Key he had started using it to reach out to himself in the past, seeking to change the future by killing Eric Northman before he could lead the humans and supernaturals in the final tide turning battle.
Images of the key spun out in Eric’s mind. A triangle, a circle, and a square. They were separate pieces each representing an aspect of time. Myth said it was as old as time itself and whoever possessed the entire Key could travel to any place and anytime immune to paradox. It was the weapon of a god, maybe The God.
The triangle represented the future, the circle the present, the square the past. When placed together in variations they opened doors to any place and any time. According to the myth it had been separated by the gods of old and flung out into the whole of space and time never to be rejoined. Warlow found the square in the future, the Key to the past and communicated with himself to find the triangle representing the future and in this way they can exchange information.
Older Eric, to protect Eric in the past, he had worked with a team of the strongest supernaturals and the greatest scientists to create 500K13. They sent her back to guard him so that he could do what he was destined to do.
His mind still processing the information he was receiving but he still felt the pain around the creation of 500K13. Understanding better than he ever had before why he felt what words needed to be said and how he knew on some molecular level what was Wrong and what was Right, for the first time he consciously dug into the older Eric’s pain needing to see more.
The older Eric had met the Light Sky Fae Princess Sookie at the peak of the war with Warlow. She and her people had fled here centuries before to escape his cruel oppression and destructive ways. Sookie had been older Eric’s greatest ally in the effort to join forces with the shifters, vampires and were folk that also lived here beneath the radar. Sookie had convinced them that the human race was but the first to fall. She had seen Warlow’s darkness first hand and knew what would happen to the other races once Warlow wiped out the humans.
But there was something else. Eric dug deeper, but older Eric spoke now. “She taught me that not being human was not a bad thing. She opened me up to see that there is more to the world than what I had known with my humanity and my faith in them. I rallied them together with my empathy and my words. With her by my side I opened their minds to the possibility that different is not bad and that the only way we could win was together. She was my whole world.” Turning back to older Eric he looked at him.
“She was killed in the final battle. She…sacrificed herself to save me from Warlow’s killing blow on the battlefield.”
“But she is here now?”
“Yes, and no. To make 500K13 we used science and magic to combine human and supernatural DNA into the woman you see before you. She looks like my Sookie, and from what I have seen of her in training she fights like my Sookie, but…she is not my Sookie.”
“You named her 500K13 because of the letter word code. You knew I would figure it out!”
“Yes. She is not my Sookie, she is yours.”
“Yes, and if you can find it in yourself to bury your natural prejudices, your fear and your anger you will see the woman at your side will make differences in your life that you never dreamed possible.” Eric frowned, older Eric continued. “Warlow seeks to undo the past, and to win in this time by taking you out before you can become me. As long as he has a part of the Tempus Key he can do this and be immune to paradox. You must get that away from him and stop him from changing the past where he was defeated by severing the link. Kill him if you have to.”
“But that will change your time as well.”
“Yes, it will.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Eric said, trying hard to process it out, but there wasn’t time. The download was nearly finished and he could still hear himself screaming distantly.
“It means that time splinters. It means that we are all but blades of grass.” Older Eric faded as the download completed. In the real world Eric sat up his scream cutting off abruptly. Sookie moved to him immediately, frightened to see blood coming from his nose. He looked at her, seeing her, but seeing everything he now knew about her, about them, and about what they were facing over her image.
He looked down at the hand that had been holding the blue crystal and made it open. In the middle of his palm lay a round circle. The third part of the Tempus Key, the Key to the present, sat his hand shining like a beacon.