OCTOBER 2, 2005—ONE WEEK LATER
“Seriously, Sookie, you really should try to get more sleep,” I drawled. “There are bags under your eyes. I’ve never seen you look worse.”
Sookie startled awake, her head flying upward from where it had been resting on Eric’s bed. There was a little string of drool on the left side of her mouth and her eyes blinked rapidly, as if trying to use Morse code to understand their surroundings.
“Ludwig said that he moaned earlier,” I deadpanned.
“He did!” Sookie smiled as if a single moan were a cure for human cancer. She sounded proud of my maker.
In truth, I’d thanked even the human God that I was pretty sure I no longer believed in for that moan as well.
I looked down at my maker. The very few parts of his body that were not bandaged were an unnatural pink—as most of his body had been burned to the point that his tissues and/or bones were exposed.
Every part of his face was covered with bandages—as if he were doing an impression of a mummy, and his amazing blonde hair had been burned off and had yet to regrow.
He was being given blood intravenously, but the healing was going very slowly.
Needless to say, he’d yet to wake up.
He’d lost his left hand—and his arm almost up to his elbow as well. Ludwig had said that over 90% of his body had been burned. I was pretty sure that Eric would be glad that he’d worn underwear to bed. His pajama pants had torn in the accident, but his “junk” was part of the unburned 10%—thanks to his Fruit of the Looms.
I’d already had the charred, but miracle-working polyester/cotton blend skivvies framed and put up in his office.
And I was working on composing enough jokes to last me a lifetime, based on his briefs protecting his meat and two veg.
Of course, he needed to wake the fuck up in order for me to use them!
In addition to his “crown jewels” being unscathed, part of Eric’s right leg—the area right around his knee—had been virtually untouched and had healed quickly. That was where Sookie kept her hand most of the time—as if her touch might make him feel better.
I figured that—if anything could reach his mind as he healed—it would be her presence.
Ludwig walked into the room.
More quickly than one would have thought, given her physical condition, she was by Eric’s side and checking under one of the bandages on his chest.
So that Sookie wouldn’t be overly upset, Ludwig had not told her what she’d told me: that she’d never seen a vampire survive as much exposure to the sun as Eric had suffered. She didn’t know if it was his age, his strength, or his gods that had saved him.
I would never admit it aloud—given the fact that people might accuse me of sentimentalism if I did—but I figured it was his “heart,” which had saved him. And the love in that heart—for the woman who’s hand was perched right above his right knee.
In fact, I would bet at least two pairs of shoes that the stubborn bastard had stayed alive just to make sure that Sookie had survived.
“So?” Sookie and I asked at the same time once the doctor was finished with her examination.
“He improves each day,” she said flatly, “and he’ll wake up when he wakes up.”
She looked at Sookie. “His woman is here to see him.”
Sookie looked at Eric forlornly before she rose and limped back toward her own room—rolling the portable monitor keeping track of her daughter’s heartrate with her. Sookie’s leg was in a splint, but she could waddle on her own as long as she had a crutch to help her. During the previous week, she’d also gone into false labor a few times because of the stress she’d been under, so Ludwig wouldn’t allow her to go home—not that Sookie would have anyway. She spent most of her waking hours—and all of her sleeping ones—by Eric’s side.
Ludwig had tried to stop Sookie from being out of her bed so much, but the little troll-like doctor had soon learned how fruitless an argument with Sookie Stackhouse could be.
Much more fruitless than a sturdy pair of Fruit of the Looms!
Except when Olivia visited, which had been every day like clockwork since Eric had been in Ludwig’s hospital, Sookie had stayed by my maker’s side.
I’d heard the telepath praying at times. At other times, she read to him. Often, the exhausted woman simply slept.
Always with her hand on the healed patch above his knee.
But she always made herself scarce when Olivia arrived.
And—as for Eric’s human companion? I couldn’t deny that I was impressed with Olivia. She would donate blood for Eric whenever the doctor would let her. And she spent at least an hour a day—which was as much time as Ludwig would allow her—sitting beside Eric.
Of course, unlike Sookie, Olivia didn’t argue for more time. Nor did she threaten. Nor did she glare.
No—Olivia did exactly as Eric’s doctor told her to do.
Still—I couldn’t lie. I admired Olivia. But it was Sookie whom I felt was better suited to my maker.
But it was clear that he was loved by both of them.
After sharing a nod with Olivia, I went into Sookie’s room, where she was coming out of her bathroom.
“Well—I can say this for the baby: she certainly likes making me need to pee,” Sookie said with fake light-heartedness in her tone. I helped her get into her bed.
“How is little Pamela today?” I asked.
“You’ll have to tell me,” she chuckled. “There’s only one Pamela in the room.”
“What will you name her?” I asked Sookie as I sat down in the chair next to her bed.
She gestured toward the nightstand. “Andre—of all people—gave me this when he visited,” she said.
I picked up a baby name book.
“Whenever I can’t be with him,” Sookie said, glancing at the door leading to Eric’s adjoining room, “I look at it. Maybe you can help? I’m looking for a strong name—but nothing too unusual.”
I opened the book to a random page, which turned out to be the beginning of the “L” section.
My vampire eyes quickly took in many names I didn’t think were “right”: Lacy, Layla, Laney . . . .
I thumbed ahead, finding myself in the R’s: Raina, Ramona, Rebecca.
“It’s hard to decide on a name for someone you love so much,” Sookie said.
I flipped forward again, this time looking for a specific name.
As if reading my mind, Sookie sighed. “My name isn’t in there—not that I would name a kid after myself anyway.” She shrugged. “What do you think of Nadia?”
“Eric had a daughter named Nadja,” I responded before I could stop myself.
Sookie paled. “Oh. Um—I was thinking about Samine too.”
“That’s nice. But isn’t Pamela nicer?” I asked, hoping to make her smile. “Or maybe Abby?”
She chuckled. “I actually considered Abigail, but then I realized that you’d get way too much pleasure out of that!”
“Dear Abby is an icon,” I pouted.
“So are you, Pam,” she smiled.
She and I spoke of other names I randomly found in the book for a little while before I looked at her seriously.
“What does Olivia really think? Of Eric?” I asked.
“She loves him,” Sookie said immediately. “But she wonders how long her love will be enough.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“She wants children; in fact, she has done some research into in vitro and adoption. But when she has mentioned kids to Eric, he has acted indifferently, so she’s worried about what he’d think if she decided to have one, especially since she would want him to be the child’s father in every way that mattered,” Sookie sighed.
“What else?” I asked.
“She’s worried. Since Rhodes, she’s been getting death threats. She is being protected—right?” Sookie asked me with concern.
I nodded. “Yes. Indira is protecting her at night.”
“And during the day?” she asked.
“A Were named Tray Dawson. Don’t worry. He’s trustworthy.”
Sookie sighed with relief. “Eric wouldn’t want her to be hurt.”
“No—he wouldn’t,” I agreed. “Anything else I should know about her thoughts?”
“Um—Olivia thinks that she loves Eric more than he loves her,” Sookie said tentatively.
“She’s right,” I intoned.
“I wouldn’t know,” Sookie commented, biting her lower lip. “But I do know that she wants to be everything he needs.”
“And if she’s not?”
“Why wouldn’t she be?” Sookie asked, taking the book from me and flipping through it with purpose.
I knew I wouldn’t get anything else of substance out of her in that moment, so I concentrated on helping her narrow down names until an hour was almost up, and then I excused myself to see Olivia.
“Is he getting better—at all?” Eric’s companion asked me as I walked back into my maker’s room.
“Little by little,” I responded.
She smiled. “Good. The doctor never tells me anything specific.”
“Well—she is a bitch,” I intoned.
She frowned at me. “She’s just different,” she said charitably.
I chuckled. “That too.”
“Can I ask you something, Pam?” Olivia asked.
I nodded. “Sure. Asking doesn’t guarantee telling, but knock yourself out.”
She smiled at me and shook her head. “How is Sookie? The doctor said that she was here too, but she won’t let me visit her.”
“She’s fine. A couple of false labor issues. A broken bone or two,” I remarked.
“She saved my life,” Olivia said. “And she saved Eric’s life.” She closed her eyes. “And so many more lives too!”
I sat down in the chair across from Olivia, putting Eric’s unconscious body between us. “Saving the lives of others was never Sookie’s problem,” I informed.
Olivia looked at Eric’s face and then at mine. “What about her own life?”
“Her life is for her child now,” I said honestly. Before—it had been for her grandmother. For the shifter. For her so-called friends. For her useless brother. For Bill. Sookie had never lived for herself, though I knew that she thought of herself as selfish.
“Does she still love him?” Olivia asked, looking down at Eric’s bandaged face fondly.
“Yes. Enough to risk everything for him,” I responded.
“Enough to give him up?” she asked.
“Does he love her?” Olivia asked.
“I would never speak for my maker,” I said, though I gave her a look that clearly indicated my own beliefs on the matter.
Olivia took a deep breath. “Would it be better—for Eric—if I stopped coming? If I cut ties with him?”
“Have you ever thought about being a lesbian?” I asked her, even as my respect for her grew.
“There was an episode—in college,” she smiled. “But I’m afraid it was—ultimately—unsatisfactory.”
“I cannot compete with Sookie—can I?” she asked forlornly.
“No one ever would be able to compete with her,” I said honestly.
“So—should I stop coming here?” she asked.
“Eric and Sookie are their own worst enemies,” I relayed honestly. “And you have been good for him.” I shrugged. “Honestly, he’d be pissed at me if I told you to stop coming.”
She chuckled. “Thanks for the ‘straight’ answer,” she said sarcastically.
“You should have learned by now—nothing about me is straight.”
She chuckled, but then sighed as all the mirth left her eyes. “I like Eric—love him even—but I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m intruding here.”
“Eric’s a big boy,” I said. “When he wakes up, let him decide what he wants.”
She nodded as she twisted her fingers into the sheet next to my maker. She’d not felt emboldened enough to explore his body in order to find the spot on his leg that was uninjured, and I’d not told her about it either. To me, it was Sookie’s spot—maybe the only one she’d ever have.
Still—I didn’t think less of Olivia for not finding it.
Rather—I thought more of Sookie for searching until she had.
Olivia had left exactly an hour after she’d arrived.
And—like clockwork—Sookie hobbled back into Eric’s room moments after she had.
My telepathic friend quickly moved the sheet off of his right leg—completely ignoring the parts of his body that were still charred—before placing her unbroken hand onto his knee, her IV wires looking uncomfortable as they jostled against her skin.
“What will you do?” I asked her.
“When he wakes up?” she responded.
She sighed deeply. “I’m going to do the wrong thing—the selfish thing.”
“I’m going to tell him that I love him. I’m going to tell him that the biggest mistake of my life was not being brave enough to fight for him after Hallow’s spell was broken. I’m going to tell him that—if he wants me—I’ll never not fight for him again.” She sighed.
I looked at her thoughtfully. “He may very well reject you,” I said honestly.
“He should reject me,” she said forlornly. “Olivia’s the better woman.”
I walked over to Sookie’s side, and she raised her head to look up at me.
I’m sure that she was surprised when I slapped her.
“Ouch!” she yelled. “What the fuck?”
“Yes. What the fuck?” Dr. Ludwig sneered from behind me.
“Trust me. I didn’t hit her hard.” I shrugged. “Plus, it was a medicinal slap.”
“What?” Sookie asked incredulously as she rubbed her cheek.
“Don’t be a baby,” I chastised. “You have needed someone to slap some sense into you for a very long time now. First, you were so naïve that you thought Compton was a good catch. Then, you were too blind to see that my maker wanted you—before, during, and after his amnesia. Then, you decided to try a pussy, but you didn’t choose mine! And, now, you are all, ‘Eric shouldn’t pick me because Olivia’s better than I am.’ Really, Sookie, you need to stop saying—stop thinking—such things about yourself!”
“But she is better,” Sookie said stubbornly.
“How so?” I asked.
“She’s smarter, prettier, and more cultured—just to name a few things. I can’t compete with her!”
“Then don’t,” I returned. “Let Eric be the one to decide.”
“I already said that’s what I was going to do! You were the one who said he might reject me!” she reminded.
“Yes, but you aren’t supposed to think that he should! Dammit, Sookie, stop thinking of yourself as not good enough for him. That’s always been your problem!”
“But I’m not good enough!”
I slapped her again.
“Ouch!” Sookie yelled out, looking at the doctor. “Aren’t you gonna stop her?”
Ludwig cackled. “Looks medicinal to me,” she snarked before leaving the room.
And then I did something that went against my every instinct: I knelt down next to Sookie, probably dirtying my Gucci suit as I did so.
It was the winter line and fit me like a glove.
Only for Sookie.
My telepathic friend looked at me with suspicion. “Please don’t hit me again.”
I smirked. “I can’t promise that, Sookie. But—if you will hear me out—I will promise not to hit you again today.”
She sighed. “Fine.”
“I know that your life has been difficult, Sookie. I know that you’ve been conditioned to believe that—because you were different and, dare I say, more than others—you were actually ‘less’ in some way. You were conditioned to believe you were abnormal. You were conditioned to believe that nobody would love you if you weren’t normal. So I understand why you spent most of your life focusing on building shields so that you could pretend to not be you. However, I believe that trying to hide your true self from others—because you fear rejection—has made you believe that you aren’t worthy of being loved.”
Large tears collected at the corners of her eyes and then began to fall. She was shaking her head as if to deny my words.
I took her unbroken hand firmly and continued. “I have excellent taste, Sookie.”
“Huh?” she asked, before sniffling.
“In clothing, in décor, in women, in blood—in everything really.”
“Okay,” she said, still obviously confused.
“In the people I decide to like, too,” I added. “I liked you from the start. Do you know why?”
“I’m not boring?” she responded.
I chuckled. “No, you are not. But you are also brave. You are loyal. You are principled. You are clever. You work hard. You know what it means to sacrifice for another. You know what it means to put others before yourself. Sookie Stackhouse, you are a good person—a beautiful one, inside and out.”
She was crying in earnest now, but I kept speaking.
“You are right that Olivia is worthy of my maker. And he might choose her over you. And—because of the hurt he felt in the past at your hands—he might not be able to accept you back into his life.” I shook my head. “Eric is just a man—after all.”
“A man who hates having feelings,” she sniffled.
I laughed. “Yes. And you caused a lot in him.”
She sniffled again; it was a horrible sound.
“How could I ever have rejected him, Pam?” she asked hysterically. “I love him so much.”
“I think that Dear Abby would tell you that you and Eric are a lot alike. You don’t like having feelings much either,” I said.
“Every time I love someone . . . .” She stopped midsentence.
“They are taken from you or reject you. Or—in the case of Compton—they are duplicitous, unredeemable, soiled douchebags,” I finished for her.
She nodded in agreement.
She sniffled again.
“Doctor!” I yelled.
Ludwig seemed to appear out of nowhere.
“How is this cured?” I asked, gesturing towards Sookie’s tears and snot-filled nose with distaste.
Ludwig sighed and threw me a box of Kleenex before “popping” away again.
I handed the box to Sookie, who dutifully wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Thank God!
“You know, Eric is just as likely to choose you as he is to choose Olivia. For all of her style and grace, for all of her intelligence and education, for all of her beauty and kindness—she couldn’t have done what you did in Rhodes.”
“Because she’s not a telepath,” Sookie said.
I scoffed. “Sookie, name another person whose first thought would be to make sure the girlfriend of the man she loved was taken to safety. Name another person who would have gone further up in a bomb-filled building. Name another person who could have woken up a vampire and then tobogganed down the side of a building with him before blackmailing an ambulance driver to rescue him.”
Sookie frowned. “But I love him. I couldn’t let him die.”
“No, Sookie,” I said, shaking my head, “you wouldn’t let him die. And—trust me—when I say that that kind of tenacity and stubbornness is hotter than hell,” I leered.
She chuckled, even as she continued wiping her face of various kinds of moisture.
I stood up and looked at my slacks. I smiled when I saw that they appeared to be unharmed.
Thank the fashion gods for the doctor’s cleanliness!
“You are a strong woman, Sookie Stackhouse,” I said confidently. “And you will survive even if Eric doesn’t choose you. Moreover, his choice will not affect your worthiness.” I moved to the other side of the bed and looked down at my maker.
“He really is worth fighting for,” I said. “So do not give up before you even start. You have many merits—just as Olivia does.” I winked at her. “Don’t downplay them. Don’t deny them. Don’t discount them.”
“I want to fight for him,” Sookie said. “But I don’t want to see Olivia get hurt. She really is a good person.”
“Two women love one man,” I said dryly. “One will be hurt. That’s just mathematics.”
“But is it really fair of me to swoop in? I mean—I had my chance with him. And I blew it,” she said, shaking her head and sounding again as if she’d already lost the battle—or maybe an entire war.
I wanted to slap her again. But I refrained.
“Would Olivia not be hurt even more if Eric stayed with her only as a form of settling?” I asked, shaking my head.
“Maybe,” she relented.
I figured that was the best I was going to get from her—for now. So I changed the subject to one that was even more potentially unnerving.
“I can smell that your child is Quinn’s now.”
“I know,” she whispered. “And I also know that that means Bill’s dead.”
“Do you feel any grief for him?” I asked, trying to keep my distaste for the man from my voice.
“No,” she admitted. “But I do wish Quinn had died too—even though I know that makes me a horrible person.”
I chuckled. “Not in my eyes.”
“That’s not exactly an endorsement of my morality, Pam,” she said sarcastically. “Amelia and Claudine are trying to come up with something to cover up the baby’s scent though. The doctor is helping.”
“Meanwhile,” she said, “I’m stuck here—not that I would leave Eric anyway. And I feel better having this on,” she added, touching the monitor that was keeping track of her daughter’s heart rate.
She sighed and lay her head next to Eric’s leg.
“How are things, Pam? Out there?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Jennifer Cater tried to get spies into Area 5, but between Rasul and Thalia, they were neutralized.”
“Do you need me? For work?” she asked. “Sophie says that all is well every time I talk to her, but I don’t believe her.”
I smirked. “We vampires have done quite well without you for many, many years, Ms. Telepath,” I grinned.
“Don’t joke, Pam. Eric was a deterrent for attacks. We both know that. And—with the damage from Katrina . . . ,” she started.
“Sophie-Anne was even cleverer than my maker gave her credit for,” I reported. “She has called in favors, and our borders are secure. Stan is secure, and even Isabel survived—thanks to you. And your friend Barry is with them even now. Mississippi and Indiana cut their honeymoon short and are both back in their states. And Russell, Bartlett, Sophie-Anne, and Stan are staunch allies.” My voice softened. “So—we are fine out there, Sookie. Just worry about yourself and little Pam.”
“I’m not naming my baby after you,” she chuckled.
“Too bad—for her,” I said before leaving the room.
A/N: So many of you seemed curious to know what the plane ride from Rhodes to Louisiana would have been like. Sorry to you all for the time jump; however, honestly, I would imagine that the plane ride would be boring to tell you the truth. Due to Eric’s grave condition, he is in a coma of sorts as his body heals slowly. I figured that Ludwig had him in a coffin wrapped in bandages of some kind. As for Sookie, I bet the doctor sedated her (as much as was safe). It didn’t seem realistic that there would be any sort of “bedside” scene at that point, so I jumped ahead a bit in time. And we see that Eric is still in bad shape.
As for Quinn, lots of you wanted him to die in Rhodes. Sorry—that would be too easy. But his injury kept him from going after Sookie immediately.
Oh—and Bill IS definitely dead. Some of you have pointed out his cockroach like existence, but he’s truly gone in this story. LOL. (I think you are worried after what I did at the end of the UN-iverse.)
I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Thanks to those of you who are sharing your thoughts about this story.