Keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key.
(William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well, I.i.65-6)
I had to knock.
Unfortunately, I’d had to dump the key to Sookie’s home, along with my other personal belongings, before I’d allowed myself to be taken into custody by the “vampire cops.”
She was at the door in under thirty seconds. Her hair was still in a bun, but wisps of it now fluttered around her face. She had changed out of her black dress. She was now barefoot and wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a T-shirt. I smiled when I saw the T-shirt.
“You were wearing that the first time I kissed you,” I observed as I looked at the garment, which was advertising the Bon Temps high school football team.
She looked down at her shirt and then back up at me. She blushed a little. “I didn’t expect you tonight. I thought you’d be,” she stopped.
“On a rampage?” I asked.
“I have decided to adhere to Bill’s plan—at least up to a point. Thus, I’m stuck here for the moment.”
“Stuck?” she asked.
I smirked. “Pleasantly stuck—as it turns out.”
Her lips warred between tugging up into a smile and turning down with worry. “So—you’re working with Bill?”
“For the moment,” I responded. “I think it’s the best way for me to ensure the safety of the others. And then I will,” I paused.
“Rampage?” she asked.
She bit her lip a little and stepped to the side. Already having my invitation, I walked in.
“I’ve been cleaning,” she said almost apologetically. “I do that when I’m nervous.”
“You’re nervous?” I asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. I feel like an army wife.”
“An army wife?” I asked.
She shrugged. “I know it’s not the same, but I was worried.”
“About me—rampaging?” I questioned.
“It’s still surprising,” I said honestly. “I never thought I would be the one you worried about.”
“But you are,” she said, her eyes shining. “And that’s the way things are going to stay.”
My eyes found themselves looking at her lips. “If you aren’t ready for this—for everything—then I’ll just help you clean.”
“You clean?” she asked skeptically.
“Well,” I answered, “One must learn to clean things efficiently if one is to be discreet. In fact,” I smirked, “the last time I cleaned, it was for you.”
“When you worked on this house?” she asked.
“No,” I shook my head. “Though I did much cleaning then too in order to ensure that nothing salvageable was lost. But the last thing I cleaned up was Nan Flanagan.”
“Do you really want to know?” I asked, eyebrow raised.
She bit her lip and nodded.
“She threatened you, so Bill and I killed her. Actually, I killed her goons and Bill got the pleasure of staking her. It was before the Authority captured us.”
She took a deep breath. “You’re a vampire, Eric.”
“I am,” I responded.
“A real one,” she whispered, bringing her hand to my cheek.
I wasn’t quite following her line of thinking, but I answered even as I leaned into her touch. “Yes. I am real.”
She seemed to be trying to reconcile something in her mind. “You’ve killed for me,” she whispered.
“Yes,” I said. “I have killed many, and I will kill many more—and soon—but never for no reason.”
“You’re not sorry about that—the killing?” she asked.
“No, Sookie, I am not,” I said. My chest ached and I couldn’t help but to wonder if my invitation were about to be rescinded again.
“I’d kill for you,” she said instead of sending me away.
“Yes. I know. You tried with Bill.”
She nodded. “I’m still coming to terms with fairy Sookie, but it’s going better than it was before.”
“Yes,” I said softly, bringing my hand up to her cheek to mirror her own hand. She leaned into my touch as well. “I can see that.”
“Just so we’re clear—you like both of them. Right?” she whispered.
“Both?” I asked.
“You once said that there were two Sookie Stackhouses. You like both of them—right?” she questioned as she moved a little closer to me.
“Very much,” I answered as I began to lean down.
She stretched her body upwards. “When will you have to go?”
“At first dark—tomorrow,” I said, stopping my movements. I needed for her to choose what we did next. I needed her—for once and for all—to pick me. To move to me.
She looked at my lips and licked her own, but then she moved back a little.
“I’ve made most of my worst mistakes when I’ve been grieving. After Gran died, I felt dead inside. That’s why I gave myself to Bill so quickly and irrevocably.”
“And you were grieving yesterday—because you found out that your parents had tried to kill you and had been killed by Warlow for their trouble,” I said.
“Yes—how do you know that?” she asked.
“I spoke with Warlow.”
“Yes. I asked him why you were hurting yesterday.”
“How did you know I was hurting?”
“I can feel you, Sookie. I could feel your stronger emotions after Dallas, but ever since our blood exchange in the cubby, I have been able to feel almost everything—even from a far distance—unless I actively shut you out.”
“In the cubby, you said that we’d be one,” she responded with a gasp.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “And we could be. We started a blood bond—the most sacred kind of connection that any vampire can make with another.”
“A blood bond?” Sookie asked.
“Yes. Come,” I said, as I locked the door. I reached out for her hand; she took it immediately. “Will you sit with me for a while? There are things I need to say to you and only one night in which to say them.”
She nodded and looked a little apprehensive. I couldn’t say that I blamed her.
Once we were settled onto her couch, we turned our bodies to face each other, though I didn’t drop her hand.
“Did I make blood bonds with Bill and Warlow?” she asked, her apprehension changing to fear.
I shook my head. “No. A vampire can have only one blood bond at a time. And it is the same for all other creatures I know of. I sense their blood inside of you, Sookie, but the unfinished bond in your body has been forged from the connection of our blood—and ours alone.”
“Unfinished?” she asked.
I nodded. “A completed blood bond requires three mutual exchanges.”
“Like the exchange we made in the cubby?”
I nodded again.
“I’ve had Bill’s blood—a lot,” she said uneasily.
“I am aware of that,” I said quietly. “The blood of a vampire is magical, but it is limited in a way. Am I correct that Bill gave you blood only when you were injured?”
“Then his blood had a ‘practical’ goal—to fix the injury. It could not have forged a bond at the same time.”
“But he could have used it to try to influence me?”
I nodded. “Yes. After you were fully healed.”
“And Bill can track me and feel my emotions—right?”
“Yes—your stronger ones.”
“And Warlow too?”
I nodded in confirmation. “Yes, but what they feel—at least in Warlow’s case—is nothing to what I can feel.”
“Because I haven’t bonded with them?” she asked.
“Precisely—what you have with them is called a blood tie, and you can have more than one of those at a time. It’s what we had after Dallas. However, a completed bond would negate all ties. It would also make it impossible for you to be tied to or bonded with another—ever.”
“Oh,” she said. “And we started one of those?”
I nodded. “As I said, a permanent bond requires three exchanges. They must be mutual—meaning that the blood must be on the lips of both participants at the same time. And—as I suggested—a bond cannot form if the vampire blood is purposed for healing.”
“Wait. Warlow and I exchanged, and I wasn’t hurt at the time.”
“Arguable,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“I felt you hurting.”
“You mean emotionally?” she asked.
I leaned forward a little. “Yes—but I think it’s more than that—at least where you’re concerned. I think that fairy Sookie truly was injured.”
“Sookie,” I said, deciding to go for broke, “there is a light in you.”
She rolled her eyes a little. “Yeah—you’ve said that before.”
“No,” I said more forcefully, “a literal light that I can see. I noticed it when you first came into Fangtasia. It was like a beacon.”
Disbelieving, she shook her head a little.
“Pam did not mention seeing it that night,” I reported. “She just said that you smelled delicious. In Dallas, I asked Godric if he saw it. He did not. I trusted Nora enough to ask her too. But she didn’t see it either. I do not know about Bill, but I have never heard another vampire mention it.”
She was still shaking her head, but I went on. “I looked into the matter—discreetly, of course. But there was no explanation.”
“You’ve never told me this before,” she said quietly.
“I didn’t think you would take it well; you so wanted to be ‘normal.’ And I wanted to know if others saw it. But I did mention it when I lost my memories. We were sitting on this very couch when I spoke of it. I just didn’t express myself clearly enough for you to understand that I wasn’t speaking metaphorically.”
“So you—uh—see a literal light in me?”
“Yes,” I confirmed. “It is like a soft glow on your skin.”
“You see is now?” she asked.
“Every time I look at you.”
“You must think I’m a freak?” she said, trying to yank her hand away from mine.
“I believe that both you and your light are beautiful,” I said, keeping hold of her.
“I don’t get why you’d even want me,” she said a little dejectedly; I noticed that her confidence from earlier was waning.
“You do not think enough of yourself, Sookie Stackhouse,” I said, squeezing her hand a little. “I have told you this before.”
“I know,” she said sitting up a little straighter. “I’m trying to believe it, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes.”
I nodded. “Yes. But I’ve had a thousand years to make mistakes. You still have some catching up to do.”
“Probably not by much,” she said ruefully.
I took an unnecessary breath into my lungs. “The night you saved Bill and me from burning at the stake—you decided not to be with either of us.”
“I remember,” she said sadly. “I hurt you.”
“The look that was in your eyes then is the one I see now. And that look is what truly hurts me, Sookie.” I paused. “That look tells me that you do not trust in your own worth.”
“I don’t,” she confessed.
“But you trust in my worth?”
She nodded immediately. “Yes.”
“I am a killer. I am arrogant and what you have termed ‘high-handed.’ I am stubborn and ruthless at times—cruel even. I am vampire and have survived on the blood of humans for a thousand years. Yet you still believe me to be worthy of your love?” I asked.
“Yes.” Again she didn’t hesitate.
“I could ask you why then too,” I said. “Why do you love me, Sookie Stackhouse?”
“There are a lot of reasons,” she answered after a moment. “You’re just you. You’re Eric.”
“Do you know what I believe?” I asked.
“I believe that the ‘why’ doesn’t matter so much. I too have many reasons for loving you—some easily explained and some impossible to quantify. Some are even illogical. But at the base of all those reasons is a foundation that I cannot fathom. I do not know how or when or why it was built. Yet it is there, and it is strong, and I know that it will never leave me.” I paused. “For I while, I tried to ignore it or even to destroy it. But nothing felt right—that is, until I let myself embrace the only pertinent fact.”
“What fact is that?” she asked.
“That I love you. One night—three days after you disappeared into the fairy realm—I woke up from my day sleep, and my first thought was of you—not of feeding from you or having sex with you or needing your help for anything. It was just of your face. And the next night it was the same. And all others. No matter what the world has brought to me since then, a thought of you greets me first each night. And—many of those nights—it was that thought which grounded me to myself and spurred me to go on.”
“Eric,” she said, a tear dripping from her eye. “I don’t deserve that or you.”
“Does that matter anymore than the ‘why,’ Sookie?”
She shook her head after a moment. “No.”
I felt myself smiling a little. “Then we’re in agreement.”
“But I’ve hurt you,” she said.
“Yes. And I have hurt you too.”
“Let’s try to stop doing that,” she whispered.
“Good idea,” I chuckled.
I pulled her into my embrace and breathed her in. I enjoyed feeling the emotions within her calming—calming because of my words and my touch. I enjoyed it even more when I felt her confidence rising a little.
After a while, however, I felt curiosity and then confusion from her. Sookie sat back up, shaking her head as she broke our embrace in order to look at me. She did not, however, let go of my hand. “I get why I didn’t form a bond with Bill, but what about Warlow?”
Immediately, my arrogance soared.
“What?” she asked, clearly seeing the triumph on my face.
“You should have a bond with him,” I shrugged. “His blood is older and stronger than mine. And—you are right—you had no physical injury. There are, therefore, only two possible explanations for why our bond has not been superseded because of your making a blood exchange with Warlow.”
“What are they?”
“I believe that your light—that thing I see in you—was injured in a tangible way when you discovered that your parents had tried to kill you. However, I think that is was your guilt over their deaths that caused much of that injury. A similar thing happened between the first and second times that I saw you. Your light dimmed for a while back then too.”
“It dimmed?” she asked.
“Do you know why?”
“I did not feel your emotions then because you hadn’t yet taken my blood, but knowing how you tick now, I’d hazard a guess that your light had dimmed because of guilt then too.”
“Did you not feel responsible for your grandmother’s murder?”
“Oh,” she said, a tear rising to her eye. “Yes. I still do sometimes.”
I sighed. “And your parents?”
Another tear fell from her eye. I couldn’t stop myself from brushing it away, though I refrained from tasting it.
“Yes,” she confessed in a whisper. “You’re right. I felt guilt over them too.”
“But not anymore?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “I feel bad, but I know that their deaths weren’t my fault—that I was just a kid and couldn’t control their actions any more than I could control Warlow’s. I did some thinking—what Gran would have called ‘soul-searching’—about everything earlier. And I felt,” she paused, “better at the end of it.”
“Yes,” I said, “I can tell. And not just from the bond.”
“From my light too?” she asked.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “It’s not dim anymore.”
“Maybe that’s because of you,” she whispered, looking at me with eyes that held both the remnants of her grief and a lot of hope.
That hope belonged to me.
“Maybe,” I said, reaching forward to brush away a final tear.
“And you think that Warlow’s blood might have failed to make a bond with me because it was too busy trying to heal my light?”
“Maybe,” I responded. “But even if his blood was trying to heal your psyche, it wasn’t able to do so completely, or maybe vampire blood cannot heal such wounds. I don’t know.”
Her brows furrowed. “What’s your other theory about why Warlow and I didn’t make a bond?”
“That because you are a fairy and supernatural yourself, you rejected the bond with him before it formed,” I said smugly, “because you preferred the bond you’d already started.”
She chuckled. “And that is the option you prefer?”
“Oh yes,” I admitted.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Is there a way to break ties and bonds?”
I paused before answering. “In a thousand years, I have never heard of a way to break a completed bond. A tie can fade over time, especially if magic is used to help create a fissure. However, the only way I know to eradicate a tie right away is to—in effect—override it with a completed bond.”
She took a moment to ponder that information.
“Can vampire blood influence me?” she asked. “I mean—Bill told me some things, but I’m not sure if what he said was all true.”
“A vampire’s blood will make you feel,” I paused, “more positive about the vampire who gave it to you. And it can be used to amplify the feelings you already have.”
“So if I were attracted to someone?”
“You’d become more attracted.”
“And if I had a crush on him?”
“Yeah,” she said sheepishly. “Before Bill gave me his blood the first time, I thought he was kind of an ass. I mean—I’d supposedly ‘saved’ him from drainers the night before, but he was kind of creepy to me. On the other hand, his mind was silent, and I was intrigued by him. And I thought he was handsome and mysterious, especially compared to the people I was used to. So—yeah—I guess you could say I had a crush on him.”
I nodded. “Multiply those feelings by about ten and you will know what his blood could have done in you.”
“Could have done?”
“The vampire must choose to make it so.”
“Do you think Bill chose to use his blood that way?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said, “at least at first. What he did or intended to do later is less certain, but if you felt your feelings growing noticeably or shifting conspicuously, especially just after having his blood, then it was likely because Bill wanted that to happen.”
Recognition and understanding made their way onto her face.
“I can think of more than a few times,” she said through clenched teeth.
I nodded. “I’m not surprised, given the last time he gave you blood.”
“After I was shot,” she said.
“Yeah. Before that, you were wary of Bill—suspicious even—and you,” I paused for a moment, steeling my own emotions. “Your hand always sought mine and your heart beat faster for only me when he and I were both in the room with you.” I shook my head. “After he saved you with his blood, I felt your turmoil. Between the confusion that his blood caused and seeing me behave as the witch’s puppet, you no longer looked at me as you had before.”
“And you had your memories again,” she said quietly.
I nodded. “Yeah. There was that too.”
“I was worried that you’d remember how much you wanted me for other things,” she sighed, “things that had nothing to do with love.”
“Your telepathy, your blood, your body.”
She blushed a little. “Yeah.”
“I was not lying when I told you that I wanted everything about you—everything from you—the night after you returned from the fairy realm.”
“During that same conversation, you implied that you owned me,” she reminded, her anger swirling a bit.
“Every word I said that night was what I truly felt. However, I admit that I could have been,” I paused, “more subtle during our conversation.”
She chuckled. “Yeah, you were about as subtle as a sledgehammer banging a piano.”
“Then how about this? I should have told you that my only purpose in buying this house was to save it for you. I should have told you that I wanted to own you because I already felt owned by you. I should have told you that the ‘everything’ that I was asking for included so much more than your telepathy and your blood and your body—though I wanted to possess those things too. I should have told you that I didn’t—and still don’t—know why I need every part of you to belong to me in order to be truly happy. I should have told you that you could have had—could still have—anything of me that you wanted with only a single word.”
She gasped at my declaration.
“What word?” she asked in barely a whisper.
I chuckled. “I think any number of words would work, Sookie.”
She sighed as she squeezed my hand. We were quiet for a moment, but I could feel her trepidation growing in the bond.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Did you try to influence me with your blood—after you tricked me to take it in Dallas?”
“Yes,” I said unapologetically. “At first, I tried to increase your lust for me. Do you remember the meeting with Godric and Nan?”
“During that meeting you had a very difficult time taking your mind off of me—correct?”
“Yeah,” she whimpered.
“That was the influence of my blood.”
“I felt a pull toward you,” she confessed. “I wanted you.”
I nodded. “Although you’d swallowed only a few drops, thousand-year-old vampire blood is quite strong. I’d seen your attraction for me before, and I used my blood to amplify that attraction.”
“When did you stop doing stuff like that? Did you stop?” she asked cautiously—fearfully.
“That was the only time I did it.”
She looked at me skeptically. “But your blood would have given you the upper hand over Bill—right?”
I nodded. “Despite your having more of Bill’s blood, mine is much more potent than his.”
“And you’re not the kind of person not to take advantage of something like that,” she commented.
“Normally, you’d be right. But Sookie, you stayed with my maker,” I said simply. “I owed you and felt honor-bound to protect you.”
“Even from yourself?”
I chuckled. “Especially from myself.”
“But I kept dreaming of you.”
“My blood would have compelled you to dream about me—especially right after you had it. However, the dreams are separate from the tie and, therefore, cannot be directly controlled by the vampire. Like all dreams, the content would speak more of your own desires and anxieties than the vampire’s.”
She seemed to be processing that information.
“You’ll have to tell me about the dreams you had of me one day,” I commented as I saw a smile playing at her lips.
She blushed. “You really have no idea of the dreams’ content?”
“No,” I said, “but given the way you feel about them and that little smile on your face, my curiosity is piqued.”
Her blush deepened. “You were nice in them—affectionate even.”
I chuckled. “How very unlike me.”
She shook her head. “Except with me.”
She was right. “Except with you,” I concurred.
“You didn’t try to influence me after we exchanged blood in the cubby—did you?”
“No,” I confirmed.
“Not even when you got your memories back.”
“Not even then,” I said, sitting forward a little.
She stood up, but didn’t drop my hand, so I stood up with her.
“I put clean sheets on the cubby bed earlier,” she said, gesturing toward the cubby entrance.
“Are you sending me there without my dinner?” I asked with a smirk.
“No,” she chuckled. “We’re gonna start off in my bedroom; I just wanted you to know that the cubby sheets are clean in case I’m asleep by the time you have to go down there.”
“You won’t be,” I promised with a growl. “If you are inviting me to your bed, then you shouldn’t plan on sleeping until I can no longer fight the pull of the sun.”
Her face flushed to a nice shade a pink, but before the color could darken, I pulled her into my arms. She gasped a little, and I could hear her heart rate increase in anticipation.
“I have missed you in my arms, Sookie Stackhouse,” I whispered, my lips hovering only inches from hers.
“I’ve missed you too, Eric Northman,” she half-moaned and half-whimpered.
“When we had sex before, I was forced to go by instinct,” I said, moving my lips fractionally closer to hers. “Tonight, I will make sure you have the benefit of all of my thousand years.”
Her only response was to quickly close the rest of the distance between our lips.