Get a Job, Hippie

Okay, so stunningly enough, this week I didn’t have anything swirling round my head, mainly because I’m listening to A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin. It’s been sort of backburner-ed for a while there. As well, my backup harddrive died, so all of my audio files on that – I haven’t been listening to them. Hence, no swirling. On top of that? I deep fried my finger, as I mentioned in the True Blood post. I was almost finished typing this one when it happened. I’m typing a few final touches with my ouchie finger now.

So I thought I’d get to one of the questions that I saved in a little text file that was asked after Deadlocked was released. And that is this one:

Does Eric have the cajones to give up his sheriffdom and get a ‘real’ job,
perhaps, a job in real estate just like in that dream Sookie had?

The short answer is “No”. But that’s not what this LJ is for – it’s for the long and tortuous answer explaining why “No”. It’s not a PMR post if you don’t take the long way round and prove your reasoning.

Firstly, this dream that Sookie had? Is just that – a dream. Even if we wanted to take things further and go to dream analysis, that really needs to be ignored. After all – according to this dream dictionary, dreaming of a realtor is about searching for a new sense of self. I don’t think that’s particularly useful, other than perhaps as Sookie’s perception of Eric changing. Since Eric actually is changing (at the rate of tectonic plates, but still, it’s change) then that’s kind of moot. If it was Eric’s perception of himself, that would say something clear. As it’s Sookie’s perception, it’s not really fundamental – less so because Eric is clearly changing, opening up. He’s not looking at Sookie with the glacial blue eyes of a being that’s forgotten what humanity was like – excepting a moment there in Deadlocked because he’s being a selfish baby.

Moreover, no matter what her subconsciousness thinks, I don’t see Sookie actually wanting Eric to quit his job. I don’t think she’s actually complained about it at all. In fact, she’s willing to accommodate his wacky hours and workaholic nature as much as she is able:

Unfortunately, I knew that Eric had more business to get through that night, so I
told him I’d go back to Bon Temps with Pam. Sometimes I stayed at his place,
reading while he worked. It’s not easy to arrange alone time with a leader and
businessman who’s awake only during the hours of darkness.

Dead in the Family, p. 84  

See any complaints there? I don’t. No complaints that Pam came over to her place, after she’d worked a full shift, picked her up at 1am, drove her over to see Eric and then had to go home (at say 3am) in the same book either. There’s a reason why vampires only end up having short term casual affairs, it’s because they’re too busy building their empires to have time for mortal schedules. This sort of shit is largely inconvenient for the rest of the population – particularly the working population. You wouldn’t go to all this trouble for someone forever. And that’s what makes Sookie so damn popular with vampires – she hasn’t got better options. She can have weres and all their using and politics, and daytime. Or she can have vampires and all their using and politics, and night hours. As I’ve pointed out before, the real lucky one is not Sookie – it’s Eric.

But back to the point. Soookie hasn’t complained about this. Yes, if you were looking at it, with your ultra convenient human husband/boyfriend, you’d think “Who the fuck would put up with this shit?” And the answer would be only rare people who are willing to put up with this shit – and that’s not to mention guys like Longshadow. In the grand scheme of things, Eric is a pain in the arse, and that is why she doesn’t have other women diving for her place. Eric just isn’t worth it. So if you see him being a hassle, that’s not a “problem to be solved” that’s just what he is – a gigantic hassle.

As Sookie isn’t Eric’s fixer-upper, he isn’t hers. He’s limited by the hours of darkness, he likes to work – loves it even. He’s busy all the time trying to be what he wants to be, which is this:

“I’m not fun now?”
“No, Eric. You’re too busy being…yourself.”
Head boss vampire, political animal, budding tycoon.

Dead as a Doornail, p. 173

Just like Eric doesn’t get to make her his Stepford fucktoy, Sookie doesn’t get to change who Eric is. This is it – this is what he loves. This is who he is, this is what he chooses. This is why Sookie was so reticent about him for so long – she knows this is who he is – not the Amnesiac version of him who doesn’t remember the thrill and excitement of power and has none – this is the real Eric who does know what it’s like to have power, and fucking loves it.

Oh, I know fanfic will make out like he’s constantly sitting around in the bar at Fangtasia, or sitting on the stupid throne from the show, and mooning over Sookie. Or that he’s forced into being part of this world – but this is what Eric has legitimately chosen. This isn’t some unfair brush that Sookie has tarred him with – this is who he is. And like Bill had to campaign to be Area Investigator, so too did Eric have to campaign to be Area Sheriff. You don’t accidentally a Sheriff’s job. You have to want it. You have to keep going at it:

“We’ll go somewhere else. You’ll work for some other king or queen. I’ll find a job.”
But even as I spoke the words, I knew he would not opt for this.

Deadlocked, p. 289 

Without his job what the hell do you think ties him to Shreveport? His house can be left there. He has no family there. He didn’t grow up there. Pam is the only vampire he trusts, and his only child – and she can leave. Shreveport in the general scheme of things is not some pivotal area of Eric’s life. Since Eric wouldn’t run away from Freyda with Sookie and leave his job, don’t make believe he’d do it of his own free choice – he wouldn’t.

Think about the last time you read Eric when he had his memories, and hadn’t just had sex, just sitting around, doing nothing. See? That’s not his dealio. I think it would probably depress the hell out of any vampire – staring down the barrel of forever and nothing to fill it with. Mooning over someone is not an activity. Eric loves the parry and thrust of politics, he loves manoeuvring in his own favour. He loves playing head games. And I can say, as a person who loves the same things that it is a rush to get intellectual victory over someone or something. It is a high. I love it. It’s as good as a physical fight for the adrenaline that is released. If Eric did quit, that junkie would be right back at it. Not all risk taking behaviour has to be looking for fights at the local bar – some of it can be cerebral.

One of the key things to remember about Eric is that it’s not just power, it’s not just money – it’s Eric all the way to the core that loves this. This is the Eric who has most importantly control. Eric hates it when he loses control of a situation. Fuck – even the hard bite was something he was in control of. Eric becomes almost impossible when he’s lost control:

“He doesn’t remember what happened while he was cursed,” I said, speaking
slowly out of sheer weariness. “That makes him feel like he’s lost control.
Vampires are big on having control.”

Dead as a Doornail, p. 173

Being Sheriff of other vampires enables you to have some control over your life. You’re not like Bill the first night in Fangtasia – having to follow strict protocol so that the boss won’t fuck with you. If you’re in Eric’s position, you get to tell all the vampires in your Area what to do. Apart from guys like Victor, your immediate boss isn’t going to be in the Area for an extended period of time – he’s going to leave you alone, and it’s all yours to do whatever you want. It’s even more important for a guy like Eric who has endured a huge lack of control under Appius. In fact, more than Sookie, it is Eric who is most like Lily Bard. Note all the same things we see in Sookie – the hygiene rituals, the need to be in control of everything sexual – they all exist in Eric too.

But let’s make believe that both of those premises are true – Eric doesn’t like his job, and Sookie doesn’t like him having that job. Eric still couldn’t quit his job. Ever. He’s a Sheriff until death, no matter what.

Firstly there’s the problem if he’s with Sookie. As long as he’s with her, he’ll have to be in the hierarchy. It wasn’t long before Bill had to get more leverage against Eric – to stop having to be a lackey:

“What’s to stop him from taking me? You say he’s stronger than you.”
“Courtesy and custom, first of all.”
I didn’t snort, but I came close.
“Don’t discount that. We’re all observant of custom, we vampires.
We have to live together for centuries.”

Dead Until Dark, p. 224

Bill didn’t think that would hold Eric off for long – so he got smart, and got a job as the Investigator of the Area. If you’ll notice – Felipe and Victor didn’t just take Sookie either – they tried to use customs of their own against Eric to acquire Sookie. Rarely are vampires so damn blunt. In fact – that’s how Eric got round Bill – he used seduction to acquire Sookie. Just sadly for him, Sookie rejected him until he had amnesia – and then she wouldn’t be loyal to him, and he found out he started having feelings. This love story didn’t happen because Eric had been waiting 1000 years for true love – it happened this way because Eric got caught in his own trap.

But if Eric wanted to enact customs, be at meetings to stop another vampire from seducing Sookie, then he’d have to be in the hierarchy. If Eric wanted to be in on the whole thing to do with a telepath in the area – then he would need to get a position. Otherwise, he might accidentally fall on a stake if the local Sheriff thinks he’s being too difficult. If some random vampire – whose maker is dead – goes missing, then no one would bat an eyelid. And who would you complain to? Your local Sheriff? And then you’d have to prove it.

How about then we make believe that Eric has a bazillion friends like he does in fanfic – powerful vampires who want to do nothing more than kiss his arse. Lol. Because we see so much friendship among the vampires. Okay. But let’s make believe that’s true – that he can take Sookie somewhere where he’s like a human man with a huge amount of friends or people who owe him favours. He gets out of politics, and just has a business somewhere. Something probably a lot like Fangtasia, because I can’t imagine Eric ditching all his management work and such.

He would have then to beg his Sheriff to intervene and do things for him. If some group is coming by his bar – like Malcolm, Liam and Diane, he couldn’t actually do anything about it. If they came to leer at Sookie, or if they wanted to kill humans who were under his protection, he could do zippo without someone else actually enacting it. There’d be no semi-regular stakings allowed for a guy like Eric – he has no authority to order other vampires around. He’s not the boss of them. I can’t imagine Eric sitting back and taking vampires like the Trio, who would dance on tables and do silly things to incite human ire – I don’t think he could stand sitting back and doing nothing, or having to go through all the protocol:

“So the queen is not only the queen, but the sheriff of her own area.”
“Not all the rulers follow that pattern, but the queen found it irksome to
constantly consult another vampire when she wanted to do something.”

All Together Dead, p. 106

One only has to look at how much Eric loves being ‘overseen’ by Felipe and Victor to see how well he would react to that overall. If Eric quit because he hated it, he’d realise there were things he hated more – like having to ask permission to do things and have his vengeance. Even if he would always get his way, and it was always benevolent leadership, Eric likes Sheriffdom because he doesn’t have to ask too many people permission to do his local Area his own way. That means expanding your business, if you go to conferences – these things are not in your control. This is what you have to say to your Sheriff:

“If it’s your will, I will stay.” Maxwell Lee wanted to make it clear that he
knew a thing or two about being a good underling.

All Together Dead, p. 16

This is Maxwell sticking it to Bill and scoring points with Eric. Note how it goes even if they like you, and they’re ordering you to do what you want to do. Personally, I can’t see Eric abiding this shit for too long. I don’t think he would like too much have to play along with his boss. I think as soon as he got out, he’d be hell bent on getting back in, no matter how shitty a job it is.

Then there’s the fact of Eric’s workaholic nature. Eric is not one of nature’s delegators. Whatever job he works at, he’d spend a bit of time at it. As I’ve pointed out in the past, Eric has taken off at the end of all the Sookie novels to go back to work. If you doubt this, well here’s idle Eric:

When Pam knocked on my front door thirty minutes later,
I was ready for work, and Eric was antsy as hell.
Pam was no sooner seated opposite him that
he began bombarding her with questions.

Dead to the World, p. 266

You think Sookie was referring to what was going on in her house, or his business? It’s his business and all the events of the last five days. And that’s only five days he’s been gone. As you can see above – on days Eric is at home, he’s working because Sookie reads while he works. Just because Fangtasia is closed on Mondays doesn’t mean that Eric is sitting around looking at his toes. Fangtasia is his most lucrative business, but it’s not his only business.

If Eric didn’t make as much money for his tithe, it’s not as if his new Sheriff would say “Fair enough” – you have to make it up to your Sheriff. You pay in other ways:

Eric: As you know, the vampires in my Area pay
their fealty by working at Fangtasia.

Bill: I understand that your vampires may offer
a tithe as an alternative to working at Fangtasia.

The Secret Dialogues of Bill and Eric, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, p. 93

You just don’t get to slack in the vampire world. And as CH has pointed out, Indira and Maxwell Lee have their own jobs, own pastimes, and they still have to serve time at Fangtasia. Bill pays a lot of money not to have to go in – it’s not just free. So if Eric got a regular real estate job, he just wouldn’t be home any more – he’d be sitting in someone else’s bar, making them revenue. Or something else appreciable.

That’s not to mention that Eric is kept alive by his ability to work – it’s what’s kept him alive and making money for other vampires:

“Why am I alive, of all the sheriffs?” Eric asked – the four-hundred-pound question.
“Because you’re the most efficient, the most productive and the most practical.”

From Dead to Worse, p. 175

Eric has ensured he continues to live – at least according to Felipe and other royals – by buying his life with working. If he’s suddenly not productive, and suddenly not making money then Felipe will kill his arse. If he kills Eric, there’s no reason to show loyalty to Eric, and Felipe can incorporate Eric’s businesses with no problem. In fact, as long as he stays with Sookie, he better be valuable. Otherwise it’s cheaper to kill him and get a free telepath.

By tying himself into the hierarchy he ensures that he stays alive even if his revenues fall. See, if he dies, all the vampires who flocked to his Area may leave too:

“Oh my friend Indira asked me to come. She said servitude with Eric is not so bad.”
Felicia shrugged, to show how “not so bad” it was. “He doesn’t demand sexual
services if the woman is not so inclined, and he asks in return only a few
hours in the bar and special chores from time to time.”

Definitely Dead, p. 122

Eric is a charismatic leader who’s good to his underlings – he’s not killing the men, like Bill; and he’s not raping the women, like Felicia. Hence why Eric the fanfic rapist is so damn gross – and as un-canon as you can make him – not only is he a rapist, he’s a goddamn political fuckwit. Take Eric out of the Area, and not only do you lose money, you lose loyal vampires. There is no reason to stay if you could be working under someone who is considered bad. This is what keeps Felipe from killing him to get his hands on Sookie. This is why Felipe followed custom and courtesy. Without Eric, then Pam leaves, and so do a lot of other vampires. This is why Felipe is trying to make Eric choose to go with Freyda, and not just shipping him off without his consent.

Eric keeps his position by having no one to replace him easily. The closest to the throne – so to speak – is Pam. But if Eric died, she probably wouldn’t stay. And if Felipe ordered Eric to leave the Area, and pick up Sookie, you can bet your arse that he’d take his Second with him – leaving Felipe with an Area that’s just fallen over. He’d do that just to spite Felipe, and make sure that everything else falls apart around him. If Eric chose to go with Freyda, there would be no spite, because he would feel as if he was making the best choice. Eric really is in control of that – Sookie isn’t wrong. Felipe has almost all of the most lucrative state for the vampires to re-build – and no revenue. If Eric leaves, he’ll collapse the most stable power structure Louisiana has right now. This is why Eric’s safety is guaranteed by his job – he couldn’t give it up even if he wanted to.

Eric will never be a nine-to-five guy. For a start, that’s not how the vampire world works. Vampires don’t take days off to spend with their kids, they don’t retire. They work their guts out to stop concentrating on the idea that they went from a family, a reason to work, to having nothing to go home to. All of the vampires try to do other things and keep their minds off bad things. It seems too that every single one of them – including Eric – loves their work. It’s their lives. It’s the only structure they have to demarcate eternity. It’s their only human contact. For Eric and Pam, it’s also the majority of their fresh food source. For Eric in particular, when money goes south, his political manoeuvring keeps him alive. That hippie is never going to have a haircut, and he’s never getting a “real” job.