“Who tried to kill you?” I asked as icy terror shot through my veins. I had lost Godric. I had lost Nora. But I could NOT lose her. I was done losing people I loved.
“It’s a long story,” she sighed.
“Then give me the short version,” I demanded.
Sookie sighed. “There was this old contract signed by my ancestors. Basically, it promised the first female ‘fairy-ific’ child to a vampire named Warlow. It turns out that Warlow had been a fairy—a full-bloodied fairy—before he was turned. Lilith made him into a vampire, and now he’s a hybrid and can go out into the daylight.”
“Bill’s had his blood then?” I asked. “That explains his sudden day-walking?”
“Yes,” she confirmed. “At least, that’s what I figure—unless Bill really is a god of some kind.”
I sighed. “I don’t know. But I do believe that he is having visions of the future.”
“A future where you die in the sun,” she said quietly and sadly.
“Yes,” I responded.
“I’d tell you not to go back to that horrible place, but,” she stopped for a moment. “But I know it wouldn’t do any good—would it?”
In truth, it almost did. Part of me wanted to stay with her—run away with her. But I had unfinished business at that camp. “No,” I answered. “My revenge is there.”
“I know,” she whispered.
“And,” I paused, “Bill’s child is there; I know she is like a sister to you. Pam and Tara are there also. And Willa.”
“Willa?” she asked.
“My new child,” I said, feeling an unexpected jolt of pride. Perhaps, I’d not been drawn to make Willa Burrell, but I had a feeling she’d turn out well. Had I been more compassionate, I’d have taken her virginity before I turned her, but I could smell that her hymen had already been broken, so she wouldn’t suffer pain when she had sex.
“You—uh—made a new child?” Sookie asked. “Were you—uh—drawn to make her?”
I shook my head. “No—making her was part of a strategy.”
“Yes. Willa was Governor’s Burrell’s child. I’d hoped that she might be better able to convince him to stop his crusade against vampires if she were one.”
“And—if not—it would be one hell of a slap to his face,” she said perceptively.
I smirked. “Yes—I suppose I wanted for him to feel a sting. It was a longshot that it would make any real difference, but I took a calculated risk that his love for his daughter might win out over his hatred of vampires.” I paused, my smirk fading away. “However, my plan backfired. Pam and Nora were both captured, and Burrell’s ire led him to want to punish me.” I glanced at the ground and then back into Sookie’s eyes. “That is why he chose to test the Hepatitis V on Nora. Steve Newlin told him of Nora and my connection.”
Her hand reached out and took mine. The gesture was comforting, and—though I was still angry at her—I didn’t push her away.
Love and hate. Thin fucking line.
“So—yes—I have made mistakes,” I said.
“Me too,” she responded.
“The governor is dead now,” I said.
“Did you kill him?” she asked.
I shook my head. “No. Bill had the honor.”
“I’m sorry—not that he’s gone, but that it wasn’t you,” she said, seeming to understand and—perhaps—to even accept the fact that I had wanted that kill.
“It is of little consequence how he died,” I said, even as I felt her tiny hand squeezing mine. “However, Burrell’s death will put Willa in as much jeopardy as the others. The governor had been making sure that she was unharmed and well-fed.” I paused. “Even though I made her and then used her for my own machinations, I also saw a strength in her. Otherwise, I would not have turned her. I hope that she lives through what is to come.”
“You care for her,” she observed.
“It would be difficult for a maker not to care for his or her progeny.”
“Bill didn’t really care about Jessica at first,” she reminded.
I shrugged. “Well—I am not Bill.”
“No,” she said, her eyes shining passionately, “you aren’t. I’m sorry I ever thought you might be. That was yet another mistake on my part.”
We stared at each other again—this time for several silent minutes. Our hands were still locked together—neither of us willing to break that physical connection. Her emotions were like the wind on my farm in Öland, swirling and overpowering—but also stirring and comforting. But most comforting of all was that her emotions included no doubt or distrust where I was concerned.
In truth, I didn’t know what to think about my current interaction with Sookie. Just a few days before, she’d sent me from her home—the home I’d bought when her worthless brother had sold it. He’d not believed me when I told him that I knew Sookie would be back. Bill hadn’t believed me. The shifter hadn’t believed me. Sookie’s friends hadn’t believed me. They’d all mourned her like she’d died. They’d even had a memorial service—near the very spot where we were standing. Meanwhile, it had fallen to me to make sure that her home was waiting and ready for her.
Finally—unable to stop myself—I spoke. “You said you wanted to be the girl in the white dress,” I said uncertainly. “You told me to go away.”
She sighed. “I know.”
“And I went. I went because I wanted you to be able to be anything you needed to be.”
“I know,” she said, her shoulders slumping.
“And then just a few days later,” I stopped for a moment. “Sookie, I can smell another vampire on you. In you.”
“I know,” she said again. She closed her eyes and took a step away from me, though I did not allow her to let go of my hand. “The day after you returned my home to me, I was walking to work through the woods,” she started.
“Wait—why were you walking?”
“My car wouldn’t start,” she said.
I nodded. I should have replaced her piece-of-shit car when I owned the house.
“Anyway,” she continued, “I came across Warlow, but he called himself Ben. Quickly, I realized that he was a fairy, but I had no idea he was a vampire too.”
“So you found him during the day?”
“Yes,” she said.
I nodded. “Then you cannot blame yourself for not recognizing him as a vampire.”
“He was injured—a vampire bite,” she said.
“He played upon your sympathy,” I observed.
Sookie nodded. “Just like Bill did.”
It was my turn to nod. “Yes. I’m guessing that he was not upfront about being the vampire in the contract either.”
“No,” she said, looking nervous.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I know that it probably makes me look like some kind of slut, but I did feel a connection with him right from the start. I think he has a fairy version of glamour—or something. And I didn’t notice it for a while. But I can’t blame that fully.” She paused. “I liked him—or at least the idea of him. He was a fairy, seemingly a telepathic hybrid.”
“Just like you,” I said.
“Yes—I thought so.”
“Someone to share the day with.”
“Yes,” she whispered. “But then I realized that he was Warlow, and everything’s gone to hell since then.” She closed her eyes. “But I realized something today—something I should have realized a long time ago.”
“What is that?” I asked.
Her eyes opened; they struck me with their fierceness. “That you have been the only person who’s ever really seen that girl in the white dress.”
“Sookie,” I responded, unable to say anything else.
“Eric,” she said, “now isn’t the time to have this conversation. I know that.” She looked over at the blanket holding Nora. “But I want you to know one thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I un-rescind your invitation. You are welcome—very welcome—into my home whenever you wish to come in, Eric Northman,” she said with sincerity and fervor.
“And when I come in?” I asked. “How welcome will I be?”
“Very,” she said and blushed.
“Will others be welcome?” I couldn’t help but to ask. I knew that if we were truly together, I couldn’t share her.
She shook her head. “No. Not as long as you don’t welcome others into—um—your house or—um—resting place,” she responded a little uncertainly.
“I will not,” I promised. “But you should know that I have had sex with two others since that evening the witch tried to burn me—the night you told me that you did not desire to pursue a relationship with me,” I disclosed.
I little pain flashed through her eyes, but she quickly nodded in acceptance. “Nora?” she asked.
I nodded. “Yes. I cared for her deeply. I have always admired her strength and courage, and she has been a comfort to me through many dark days—including some recent ones,” I said honestly.
“Okay,” she said. “Willa?”
I shook my head. “She is strong in her way, but—though it was pleasurable—I had sex with Nora mainly to,” I paused, “feel better—about you and Godric and what happened at the Authority.” I paused. “I did not wish to take my new child’s virginity from her when I held no true romantic attraction for her. I feel for her as I believe Bill now feels for Jessica.”
“Then who?” she asked, her voice demonstrating more curiosity than jealousy.
“Salome,” I answered. “When I was first taken by the Authority, she needed to believe that I was loyal to her—that she could control me. It was the only way I could make sure I eventually got the upper hand.”
To her credit, Sookie simply nodded. “Okay,” she said accepting my explanation.
“So we are even then,” I observed.
“Yes. Did you not wish to have sex with the Were in order to feel better?”
“Yeah,” she agreed with a rueful laugh. “I was feeling like the angel of death. And Alcide is a,” she paused, “friend. I know it’s wrong to use someone like that, but I think he was wanting to feel better too—about Debbie—so I justified it.”
“And you had sex with Warlow in order to feel more in control—in order to try to get the upper hand with him as I needed to with Salome.”
“Yeah—sort of,” she said hesitantly.
“Do you have feelings for Warlow?” I asked, trying to keep my tone even.
“I feel for him,” she said. “I feel sorry for him. He claims to have loved me for more than five thousand years.”
“What?” she asked.
I shrugged. “I do not claim to know everything about love, but I do not believe one can love unless one knows the other.”
“He believes we are soul mates,” she informed.
“What do you believe?” I asked.
Her eyes plowed into mine with intensity. “I don’t believe he’s the one that’s my soul mate.”
“And what do you believe?” I asked.
“That soul mates should both get to decide. And that no contract signed before someone is born should determine his or her destiny. And that a real soul mate wouldn’t have to use blackmail or blood to make another person his.” She paused and took a deep breath. “And that if I have a soul mate in this life, Eric Northman, it is the man who bought my home just so that he could fix it and keep it safe for me. It is the man who walked away—more than once—because I needed time to get my shit together. It is the man who makes me feel like I am worthy and too precious to waste my life. It is the man I’m looking at right now.”
By the end of her final sentence, Sookie’s voice was loud and fervent, and tears trailed down both sides of her face. Her hand squeezed mine as if holding onto me for dear life. And her eyes were begging me to believe her, to accept her, and to love her.
“If I have a soul mate, Sookie Stackhouse,” I began, “she is the woman who lights up my nights from the inside out. She is the woman who infuriates me, challenges me, and dares me to dream of the sun. She is the woman who walks bravely into a vampire bar wearing white—not once, but twice! And—let’s get one thing straight—I was not enthralled by that woman in white because of her innocence or her blood or even her scent. I was enthralled because she did not cower. She did not treat me or any other vampire like an “other.” She did not hesitate to help me when the police came to raid my bar. And she stayed with my maker when I could not. She is bold and loyal, and her flaws make me want to fix my own.” I paused, “If I have a soul mate, I am looking at her.”
“Eric,” she whimpered, as more tears fell. I wanted to taste them—to taste all of her—but I refrained.
“So,” I asked after a pause, “what are we deciding here, Sookie?”
She sniffled. “That if you come to my home again, you are welcome to stay as long as you want,” she said with conviction. “And that—until I know what you have decided for sure—you won’t be smelling anyone else on me or in me anymore. And that—if you take me up on my invitation—I will remain faithful to you for the rest of my life.”
“And I will remain faithful to you,” I vowed. “And what of the rest of it?” I asked.
She smiled and swiped her tears with her free hand. “I have no idea. But I’m looking forward to being in a relationship where the man I’m with isn’t trying to manipulate me at every turn.”
I reached up and stroked her cheek with the backs of my fingers.
“I will not lie to you, Sookie. I will likely die when I return to the Vamp-Camp,” I said evenly. I was always ready for death, but she needed to be prepared for the probability.
“I hope you don’t, Eric,” she responded in barely a whisper, “but if you do, I will bring you here if I can. I will put you with your sister and Gran. And when I die, I will join you.”
We were silent for a moment. She was right. This wasn’t the right time for us have our happy ending. Maybe it would never be the right time. But I was glad that there was now a possibility.
“I must see to my sister,” I said.
She nodded and handed me the package she’d brought.
It was a Ziploc bag, holding a garment of some kind.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Open it,” she said.
I broke the seal of the bag and was immediately bombarded by the scent of my maker. “Godric,” I said closing my eyes and inhaling deeply. I felt a tear slipping down my face, but I didn’t care.
Sookie reached up and brushed the tear away. “We’ve never talked about that morning. But I want you to know that Godric was at peace—though very sad to be leavin’ you.”
“And he died,” I paused, “well?”
“It took only seconds,” she answered, seeming to understand what I was really asking. I’d worried that he’d suffered.
“He just,” she paused, “let go, and then he was gone in a blue flame.”
I nodded. That meant he’d not fought the sun at all.
“I—uh—always meant to give this to you, but it never seemed the right time. Now seems right,” she said gesturing toward the shirt in the bag. “He took it off—right before he met the sun. Maybe he intended for you to have it. As soon as I could, I put it into the Ziploc.”
“Why?” I asked, barely able to form the word.
“Because,” she answered, “vampires are all about scent.”
I nodded. “Thank you,” I said quietly. “This is a gift I cannot repay you for.”
“Can I ask you to do one thing for me then?” she asked.
I nodded again.
“Just be careful, Eric,” she said, her eyes begging, “as careful as you can be.”
“I will try to return—to you,” I promised.
She smiled. “Thank you. Um—do you want me to stay? Now?” she asked.
I shook my head. “I need to do this alone.”
Sookie nodded and I saw understanding in her eyes. “I’ll put flowers on the grave tomorrow,” she said. “There’s some sweet alyssum that’s blooming thanks to the gardeners you hired.”
I nodded as she handed me the shovel and turned.
“Eric?” she said, turning back.
“Like I said, it’s not the right time, but in case it’s the last time I see you, I want you to know that I love you.”
“As I love you,” I returned.
“I heard you tell Nora that we could love each other in another life.”
“You heard that?”
She shrugged. “Fairy-ness has some perks.”
“It’s good to see that you’re embracing fairy Sookie a little.” I couldn’t help but to smirk.
She smirked back. “Apparently, she was the red in that white dress.”
I nodded. “I remember that red.”
“I think we could love each other in this life if we played our cards right. And—if we got a little lucky. Do you think I’m right?”
I could tell she was holding her breath waiting for my answer.
“Yes,” I said. “We might need more than a little luck, but yes.”
She smiled. “Will you promise me something else then?”
“Let me know if I can help you? I mean—my blood is only good for a couple of minutes in the sun, but if it helps, it’s yours—every drop of it.”
I could tell that she meant her words, and they rattled and comforted me all at once. “Thank you,” I said.
She smiled, turned, and walked away, taking her light with her. Still, I felt better—much better. I looked down at the blanket, wishing that Nora were there for me to speak to. Though it likely made me look and sound a little crazy, I spoke to her remains as I began digging a hole into the earth.
“You would laugh at me, sister,” I said confessingly, “but I started a bond with Sookie when I had no memories.”
Of course, there was no answer, but I kept digging and speaking to the blanket.
“I felt a pull toward her from the start, though not a compulsion to make her my child.” I shrugged. “But I think I saw the same thing in her that I saw in you—courage amidst foolishness.” I chuckled.
Not caring that I was holding a one-sided conversation, I went on.
“I still can’t believe you tended to people who had the plague,” I said, shaking my head. “It was the Black Death for God’s sake!” I chuckled. “That sounds like something Sookie would do.” I scoffed. “Zero self-preservation!”
By then I had dug the hole. Though there was not a whole body left of my beloved sister, I had made the hole large enough so that it would have fit a complete corpse—just as I’d done for her once before.
“The last time I did this for you,” I said as I felt another tear trailing down my face, “was when I buried you and Godric after he’d turned you.”
I carefully cradled the blanket and gently laid Nora into Gran’s grave. I’d decided to put her four feet under the earth. The sun would not reach her there.
I felt another tear fall. “But this time, you will not rise—will you?”
As soon as she was in place, I took Godric’s shirt out of the plastic bag Sookie had put it in. She’d been right. Vampires were all about scent, and the shirt still smelled strongly of my maker. I put the shirt to my nose and inhaled deeply before placing it next to Nora’s remains.
“You were right, Nora,” I said softly. “Pam and Willa will walk with me into the night from now on—if we can survive.” I sighed, this time not berating myself for the action. “But if I am to be happy, Sookie must be by my side too.” I sat down in the grave next to what remained of my maker and my sister. I rested against the earth, enjoying its coolness.
“You would ridicule my attachment to Sookie, but after a thousand years, I have found something I never thought could be real. I have found a beloved to strive for—to commit to for the rest of my existence. All my days until the one when I met Sookie, I doubted that love like that could exist. I scorned those who spoke of soul mates and true loves. And—even if they had existed—I would not have thought that fate would make me the recipient of one.” I paused. “Or maybe you would have just been happy for me. Yes,” I sighed, “you, Sister, would have supported my decision to try with her. You would have been wary, but you would have supported it, and that is why I love you.”
Having nothing more to say for the moment, I listened to the quiet sounds of the animals of the night and lingered for a while, relishing the scents of my family. Soon, I would have them only in my memory.
I had burned the bodies of my human parents and sister when they had been killed. I had placed them into a dragon ship with all the others who had fallen the day Russell’s wolves had attacked. All the riches that the wolves hadn’t taken had been sacrificed to our gods to make sure all the deceased people of my village were well-received into the afterlife.
However, as much as I wanted to light a flame to burn into the night, I refrained. It was not Nora’s way to do such things; thus, I picked up the shovel as soon as I exited the grave.
During my long life I had memorized many things. Nora had been a Catholic in her human life, but as vampire, she had become a follower of Lilith; however, that devotion had surely waned in the days before her true death. I felt another tear stream down my face as I shoveled the first scoopful of loosened dirt over my sister’s remains and Godric’s shirt.
As I continued to cover the hole, I realized that none of the words from the Book of Lilith were appropriate to say over Nora’s grave. The verses that spoke of a vampire’s true death also called for those left behind to avoid mourning. They claimed that true death was to be seen as a kind of failure on the part of the vampire—an inability to withstand the test of time. I had always thought the words to be hypocritical—since Lilith herself had met the true death and vampires were supposed to remember and revere her.
Still—vampires were taught not to grieve, not even when their makers left the world. Of course, vampires felt it when their bonds with their makers disappeared; however, that pain was supposed to be followed quickly by cold acceptance.
I was still working on that with Godric and felt certain that I’d have to work on it with Nora for a long time too.
But—then again—I’d never been the stereotypical vampire. I had kept the memory of my human parents alive in me for a thousand years. I had never craved to proliferate. And I had never wanted much power. All these things were anomalies among vampire.
No—a reading from the Book of Lilith didn’t seem right, so I spoke words from Nora’s first religion, words from the Book of Wisdom in the Catholic bible:
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
And no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
And their passing away was thought an affliction
And their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
With vampire speed, I finished filling the hole and stood over the grave.
I wasn’t sure what else to say, but I spoke nonetheless.
“When I first saw you, I thought that you were special, Nora. And I was right. Godric saw it too, my sister.” I heard my voice shaking and slumped to my knees.
“You were always the better of us, little sister—kinder and more attune to others’ needs than your own.” I shook my head a little. “Your goodness restored our maker’s faith in a way that I never could.” Another tear fell. “And if I have any human kindness left, it is because you reminded me of it.” I chuckled, “But you were one hell of a vampire too. Do you remember the early days after your turning?” I asked the ground. “How I taught you to fight and Godric taught you to feed?” I smirked. “And how we both taught you how to fuck properly?”
I placed my hand, palm down and stretched out fully, onto the dirt. “I will remember you, my sister. And I will avenge your death. The Book of Lilith tells me to forget, but I will not. I hope that the Christian bible is right and that you are in the hands of your god, safe and at peace—in a true forever, one that I could not give to you.” I paused. “I am sorry I failed you, dear sister.”
I felt myself standing up and looked once more at the dirt that covered Nora.
“If I reach Valhalla one day, I hope that I might be allowed into the halls of your god to visit you. Jag kommer alltid att minnas dig, min vän, min syster, min älskare, I whispered before I walked away into the night. [“I will always remember you, my friend, my sister, my lover.”]