Appius was chasing me—for fun. He often liked to toy with me during my earliest decades with him.
“If you can elude me for an hour, I will set you free,” he said.
“I won’t even use the bond,” he promised.
I flew as fast as I could. Hid as well as I could. But he always found me in the final minute. And then he would hurt me.
Pain so intense that it reminded me of my maker—made me remember him even though I was barely conscious.
Even though I knew that Appius wasn’t really there.
Had he not eventually tired of me and sent me from his side?
With the pain I felt, I couldn’t tell.
From my maker, I’d learned that there were three kinds of pain. One kind cut the flesh. One kind cut the will. And one kind cut the heart.
In the end, Appius had owned two of these parts. He’d owned my body; there was nothing I could do to stop him from taking it at will. And he’d also owned my will, for he could order me to do anything his sadistic mind desired.
Eventually, I’d learned to do as he wanted—to be as he wanted—before he even had to ask.
I learned to take pleasure in being fucked because Appius wanted me to.
I learned to take pleasure in inflicting pain onto others because Appius wanted me to.
And I learned to take pleasure in my captivity because it was the only way he would ever let me go.
And—eventually—he did let me go.
After declaring that he had no more to teach me.
Yes—he’d taken my body and my will, but he’d never found my heart.
I’d hidden it so far away that I’d begun to wonder if I’d lost it when I was transformed from human to vampire.
After all, my heart was dead. Un-beating. Useless. Rotted.
But my heart felt warm as a warm hand firmly held above my cold knee. Everything else hurt, but that hand felt so good that it seemed to drive the pain away—though it brought a different kind of ache with it.
An ache of the heart.
OCTOBER 9, 2005—ONE WEEK LATER
“He could reject you.”
Pam’s words echoed in my mind. Of course, they were in stereo. Sophie had said that same thing. And Dr. Ludwig.
And my own mind.
Still—I was trying to be positive. I was trying to remember the other things Pam had said to me too—as well as the sense she’d tried to slap into me. She’d been right about a lot of things. I had always tried to hide what I could do. Even with Gran, I didn’t want to speak about my telepathy—not that she’d ever encouraged me to do so. I suppose I took that to mean that she didn’t like that part of me any more than my mother or father had, and I didn’t want Gran to start to resent me—as they had.
So I’d tried to hide it.
Even when Uncle Bartlett began to think horrible things about me, it had taken me a long time to tell Gran what I’d “heard.”
I shook my head to shake my memory of that monster away. I took several breaths and let the feeling of Eric’s cool skin comfort me.
As for the positive things Pam had said about me? Well—I was trying to believe them. But—regardless—I’d decided to strive for them.
“Hi,” Olivia said tentatively as she walked into the room. When I’d learned that the doctor and Pam were limiting Olivia’s time with Eric—I’d been pissed off at them both. Yes—I’d decided to tell Eric how I felt, but I didn’t want them to stack the deck in my favor!
I’d insisted that she be allowed to come whenever she wanted—even if that took away from my time with him.
“Hi,” I said as I stood up. My leg was a lot better, and I could manage without the crutch now. Plus, Dr. Ludwig no longer thought the portable baby monitor was needed. “I’ll just give you some privacy.”
“Stay for a minute?” Olivia asked.
I nodded and retook my seat somewhat tentatively. “Sure.”
After she took the seat on the opposite side of Eric, the atmosphere in the room quickly turned awkward.
“You’re in love with Eric—aren’t you?” she asked.
“Yes,” I admitted.
“You are the reason he held back with me,” she said with a sigh.
“I hurt him,” I shared. “He tried to love me, but I rejected him. And—by the time I realized I’d made a mistake . . . .”
“He was with me,” she finished.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “And I honestly thought he was better off with you, too.”
Olivia contemplated for a moment. “What do you think now?” she asked.
“I still think you are the better person,” I said honestly. “But I want him, so—when he’s better—I’m gonna tell him how I feel and beg for another chance to make him happy.”
“I should instigate a cat fight for those words,” Olivia said—though I could tell she wasn’t serious.
“Pam would be pissed if we did it without her here,” I chuckled.
Olivia lightly touched Eric’s newly pink cheek. The bandages had come off of it only the day before. “He still loves you—you know?”
“Sometimes love isn’t enough,” I sighed, shaking my head.
“You’re right,” she said knowingly.
“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I’m sorry I’m messing up your life.”
She chuckled. “Sookie, you saved my life. And Rhodes changed a lot of things.”
“I know,” I whispered.
“Life is too short to spend with a man who cannot love me—even though I love him,” she sighed. “I want a partner in my life—not a,” she paused, “perpetual boyfriend.” She smiled at me and we both chuckled at that label for Eric.
“I want someone who loves me more than anything or anyone else. I want someone I can raise children with,” she said, smiling at my belly. “And—vampire or not—I’d hoped that Eric would be that someone. I still hope that. But—once he recovers from his injuries—I’m going to insist that he take a long look at himself and decide if he can be the man to give me what I want—if he wants to be that man. And if he can’t,” she paused, “then I’m going to walk away.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“I love him enough to want him to be happy, and—just as importantly—I love myself enough to want to be happy too,” she said. “In fact, if he can’t give me what I want, I hope he ends up with you.”
“I admire you,” I observed.
“And I admire you too,” she smiled. “He’d be lucky to have either one of us.”
“Very lucky,” I said, actually believing what I was saying.
Probably for the first time.
Yes—Olivia was a good woman.
But I still wanted my vampire back.
I felt the groan that escaped my mouth throughout my whole body—the vibration of it causing me further pain.
“Eric,” a voice said.
It was feminine and familiar, but I felt as if I were hearing it from underwater. Was it Pam? The queen? Olivia?
Would it be impossible to hope that it was Sookie?
The mystery didn’t seem solvable in that moment, and I forced myself to ignore my pain as I turned my mind toward assessing my condition. Clearly I’d been burned—badly—in the sun.
Likely, my hearing was off because the hair in my ears—or maybe my ears themselves—had been burned. Growing back or healing complex systems always took longer, and the ears were quite complex.
I couldn’t open my eyes. Had my eyelids been burned? I knew that—if they had been—the healing of them would force my eyes closed for several days as the nerves repaired themselves. I tried to inhale, but again I was stifled. In fact, all my senses seemed completely useless.
Except for touch. Something was touching my leg—still right above my right knee.
If felt right.
OCTOBER 16, 2005—ONE WEEK LATER
As odd as it might have been, Olivia and I had become friends. We often laughed together or talked for long hours as we sat vigil over Eric, who’d still not woken up. Dr. Ludwig assured us that he was progressing “normally” and that his body was accepting the blood she was giving it and healing itself as it could. According to her, the burns and the missing “bits” were “competing” for the blood, even as the magic which had barely been enough to keep him alive was trying to recoup. It was the replenishment of that magic which was causing Eric to stay in his coma-like state.
Of course, there had been more positive signs. At night, he would groan if he tried to move. And he’d actually uttered a few words—though none that I could understand. However, his eyes hadn’t opened.
I suppose that Olivia and I had bonded over the fact that we both loved the Viking. And I’d learned that she was an even more amazing person than I’d thought she was. In fact, I would have been truly intimidated if she hadn’t been so likeable!
Oddly enough, I found myself more jealous of the belief she had in herself than even her relationship with Eric.
Olivia knew exactly what she wanted. And she wasn’t the kind of woman who would settle for anything less than that. Being around her made me realize just how much I’d “settled” during my life. But I was determined not to do so anymore. Even if Eric rejected me, I was done settling—in any part of my life.
According to Pam, rumors had circulated around the Supe community that I’d been the one to notify the Pyramid of Gizeh manager that a bombing was imminent. And—honestly—it made me feel good to know that my actions had helped to save hundreds of lives. Sadly, hundreds of others had died, but I knew I’d done my best. The story of my going after Eric had also been widely told—thanks to Matthew, who seemed to be the origin of all the information about me. Part of me was pissed off that he’d talked about me at all, but a larger part of me was grateful that he had survived.
Predictably, when Sam had heard about my latest near-death experience, he had called me on my brand new iPhone (which Sophie had insisted upon and which had my same number as before). Sam had wasted no time in lecturing me about the dangers of vampires. And then he’d followed that up by implying that I’d been a bad mother by risking my child’s life to try to save Eric. He’d finished up by suggesting that the happenings in Rhodes clearly proved that I should settle down with him so that he could keep me from getting myself killed.
My first inclination had been to hang up on him.
However, I supposed that much of Sam’s lecture had come from a place of concern. And I listened to every word of it, happy that it was over the phone so that Sam couldn’t witness my tears as he laid into me. I suppose that I also felt guilty. After all, I had risked my daughter’s life by going after Eric. But I knew that I could have made no other decision—not if I was to retain my soul.
In the end, I once again thanked Sam for having given me my job, and I reiterated that I had quit and I was staying that way!
Given Amelia’s experience as a property manager, I asked her to manage mine, too. I was done with Bon Temps—finally done. I’d called my brother to make one last try of a relationship, and he’d just echoed what Sam had said before telling me that “everyone” would have been better off if I’d never been born.
Well. Fuck. Them!
The only person in town that I was determined to maintain a relationship with was Tara; however, I knew that friendship would likely consist of only a few exchanged cards each year and maybe getting together in Shreveport once in a while. That fact made me sad, but I couldn’t stay in my hometown just for the single friend I still had there—not when most of the thoughts directed at me were hate-filled.
Indeed, Olivia had been right. Rhodes had changed everything.
It had made me braver. It had taught me that I needed to fight for the life I wanted.
Though I was still stuck at Ludwig’s hospital, I was determined that I was going to make a brand new life for my child and myself once I was out. I now hoped that life would include Eric, but I was prepared if it didn’t.
I sighed as I took Eric’s newly healed right hand. His left arm had begun re-growing but it would be a while before his hand came back in.
“You were right,” I whispered to him. “I gave everyone else in my life so many chances—and then second chances and then third chances—just hoping they would love me. I’m sorry I couldn’t do the same for you. But I was so scared—scared of what would become of me if you couldn’t love me. I wasn’t even brave enough to really give you any chances. But I am now—if you’ll let me.”
I rested my other hand on my child. “Maybe things happen for a reason. Maybe I needed to get my ass kicked so that I could teach her how to be the one who kicked ass.” I shrugged. “Maybe I needed to lose you so that I would understand how blessed I was to have you. Who knows,” I said.
“But here is one thing I do know: Bill’s blood is gone,” I whispered, lying my head as near to his body as I could without touching him.
According to Dr. Ludwig, there were still certain places on him which were still “raw.”
In fact, I’d just gotten the okay to hold his hand only that morning.
“Bill died when the pyramid collapsed,” I whispered. “I suppose that’s a blessing—really. I’d been prepared to break the blood bond with him as soon as my pregnancy was over,” I shared, even though I was certain Eric couldn’t hear me since it was daytime. “Anyway, I’m pretty sure that Sophie meant to ensure that Bill died one way or another, despite my ‘human ethics.’ Between you and me, I think that Sophie has a lot more human ethics than she says she does!”
Her treatment of me was evidence of that.
One hand over my daughter’s insistent kicks and one holding Eric’s hand, I rested. When she visited, Amelia thought I must be terribly uncomfortable, sitting up as I lay my head onto Eric’s bed, but—truth be told—my little girl had been giving me heartburn from hell, so the position was nice. And—away from Eric—I simply couldn’t make myself sleep.
No matter what I did.
The soothing hand was on my own now—or at least on the hand I had left. I could feel the skin on my left forearm knitting itself together. I could feel bone trying to grow. These things—and the pain that went along with them—told me that I’d lost my left hand and my arm up to almost the elbow.
Had it burned off? Had it been cut off?
I tried to remember.
Rhodes. I could recall being there.
Russell and Barty’s wedding.
My decision later that night to tell Olivia—for her own good—that we needed to end our personal relationship as soon as we returned to Shreveport.
“You were right,” I whispered.
“Eric!” an excited voice said.
I still couldn’t tell who was talking though.
But I did know that Sookie was right. Everyone in her life had been right. Being around vampires only endangered her. It made her vulnerable to attack.
“Why did you come?” I asked angrily.
“Eric?” the voice asked.
“You stupid woman!” I mumbled as I relived the moment when I woke up, only to find Sookie risking herself and her child for me. A part of me had celebrated. She’d come for me. She cared for me!
But at what cost? I’d barely been able to get her and her daughter to safety.
But were they still safe?
“Fucking idiot,” I mumbled.
In my mind, I heard and felt the bomb blasts.
I’d wanted to say so many things to Sookie in that moment.
I love you!
Thank you for coming for me—and not Bill or Quinn.
I shook my head. She was in danger because of me! She and her daughter were going to die—because of me!
“Stay away from me, Sookie!” I yelled out, the pain of the movement against my burned lips causing me to cry out in pain.
I heard crying.
Was I the one weeping?
“Get away, Sookie,” I whimpered, not able to yell again.
I wanted her so badly to get to safety. I shook my head and felt my whole body convulse. It wasn’t safe—not with me.
“Get away, Sookie,” I muttered again before all conscious thought drifted away.
A/N: This was a difficult chapter to write. Given Eric’s words, how do you think Sookie will react? That was a big question for me as I was writing this story. You’ll find out next time.
A lot of you thought that Pam shouldn’t have slapped Sookie. But—it was one week after Sookie’s concussion, and Pam held back a lot. I thought about taking out the slap(s)—just so you know. But then I rethought it. I actually liked the idea that some readers would feel like it was too much here—even though lots of people wanted to slap Sookie themselves after reading the first two chapters. So—if you have gone from wanting to slap her to wanting to protect her from even Pam’s “medicinal slap”—then I have accomplished what I wanted with Sookie in this fic.
Thanks so much for reading!
Many thanks to Sephrenia and Kleannhouse!!!