I looked at the camera feeds once again. Satisfied that things were going as well as could be expected at Fangtasia, I sat next to Sookie on the couch.
“I went to see Bill earlier,” I informed her. “That visit is what I want to talk to you about.”
“Bill is the last person I want to talk about right now,” Sookie said, her chin jutting out stubbornly.
“Which is why I brought you here—so that you’d be forced to listen and couldn’t run away or rescind my invitation.”
I could feel her anger rising.
“I know it was high-handed of me,” I admitted before she could accuse. “But there are things you need to hear—truths that you have put off dealing with for too long already. And—frankly—I’m fucking tired of seeing Bill Compton yank your chain in the name of love.”
“You’d rather do the same?” she asked bitterly.
“Yes,” I confessed with a chuckle. “But my yanking of your chain wouldn’t be of the same variety as his,” I added suggestively, causing that wonderful blush that I loved so much to rise into her cheeks.
“I won’t deny that I want you, Sookie Stackhouse—that I’ve wanted you from the moment I first noticed you in Fangtasia.” I smiled at the memory. “So much purity and so much pluck mixed into one person. That night, you were like a wildfire started by a bolt of lightning—completely innocent of the destruction you were causing in me, but ravaging me all the same.”
“Destruction?” Sookie scoffed. “That’s not a very romantic word, Eric.”
“It wasn’t a very romantic feeling, Sookie,” I responded with a smirk. “I’d managed to distance myself from my emotions for a thousand years until you came into my life.”
“I don’t believe that. I’ve seen you with Pam, with Nora, and,” she paused, “with Godric.”
“I won’t deny that I have deep feelings for all of them. But—even with them—I didn’t show the,” I paused, “more sentimental ones.” I looked at her pointedly. “At least—not until you’d begun to melt the ice I’d placed around my heart.”
Sookie shook her head as if in denial.
I chuckled. “You can shake your head all you want, Miss Stackhouse. The irony is that I know you began to look at me differently because you saw me express my sorrow when Godric planned to meet the sun. Yes—my blood made you feel more physically drawn to me, but I didn’t use it to compel you to care about me. Still, I felt growing affection from you after that moment on the rooftop.”
“How is that ironic?” she asked quietly.
“Because that moment would have never happened had it not been for you coming into my life, Sookie. Oh—I would have still felt misery when I realized my maker’s plan to leave the world and me. But the frigidity around my heart would have caused me to face my sorrow with stoicism—not drop down to my knees and weep.”
“How do you know that?” she asked.
“A thousand years is a long time to get to know oneself,” I returned. “So—you see—the irony is that the moment that softened your own heart toward me would not have occurred as it did if my own heart had not already been softened—by you.”
She sighed loudly, clearly uncomfortable with my confession. “So—uh—why did you go see Bill?” she asked, obviously trying to change the subject.
“Because I love you,” I answered simply.
She looked even more uncomfortable than she had before.
I chuckled. “Surely, you aren’t surprised by that.”
“But I . . . ,” she started, but then stopped.
“Rejected me?” I finished for her. “Yes—I was bitter about that for a long time. Actually, I still am bitter, especially considering the fact that you retook Bill into your bed.”
“I . . . ,” she started.
This time I interrupted her. “I don’t want you to tell me why you went back to him,” I said, hearing the weariness in my own tone.
She bit her lower lip as if she wanted to try to explain, but then nodded. “Okay,” she said a little meekly.
I hated that tone coming from her, so I moved the conversation along. “I went to see Bill because I thought he was being an unfair bastard. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care to help him to live if he’s so anxious to die. In fact, I’ve considered staking him myself over the years—both when he was behaving like an asshole and when he wasn’t,” I smirked. “However, in this situation, I want him to take the goddamned cure—for you.”
I nodded. “I know you, Sookie Stackhouse—a lot better than Bill Compton ever has—though you might not believe that. I know that Bill believes that his death will set you free. But I know that it will actually enslave you to his memory for as long as you live.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, though I could already see understanding coming into her eyes.
“Part of Bill’s reasoning for letting the Hep-V finish its work in him is that—if he’s not gone—you will keep coming back to him and will never be able to lead your own life.”
She scoffed. “Arrogant ass,” she muttered under her breath.
I smiled sincerely. “There it is,” I observed.
She looked at me in question. “There what is?”
“That fire I love in you—ready to tear through another unsuspecting forest.”
“Well—I’m tired of destroying things,” she said wearily.
I sighed. “I know. Bill sees things only from his own point of view. I am arrogant, but even I am not that myopic. He has failed to understand that if he dies from Hep-V, your guilt will only increase. If he were truly altruistic, he’d take the fucking cure and then meet the sun the next day. Or—better yet—he’d hand me a stake and let me put him out of his misery right after he swallowed Sarah’s blood. Either way, you wouldn’t have a reason to feel like you were guilty of his demise.”
Sookie looked down at her lap as she took in my words. “You’re right; you do know me.”
“Yes,” I said quietly. “You know—Bill’s not entirely wrong about you either. You do continue orbiting him like a moth circles a flame.”
“I love him,” she confessed.
“I know,” I responded with yet another sigh.
“I don’t know how to stop,” Sookie admitted. “I’ve tried—time and time again. And I’ll think that I’m over him. And—then—all of a sudden, it’s like the love gets turned on again.”
I smiled and took her hand. “I know what you mean. It’s how I feel about you.”
“Eric,” she whispered, even as she wiped away a tear with her free hand. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” I said. “My choice to love is my own, but I’m not sure yours is anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“Blood,” I responded. “After the Festival of Tolerance—you weren’t totally wrong when you said that you worried that vampire blood was causing your feelings. Vampire blood can make humans behave as they normally wouldn’t. Sometimes, that’s because the vampire wills it to be so—controls his blood. Other times, the elicited feelings are unintentional on the vampire’s part,” I informed.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I believe that Bill loves you—as much as he can, at least. But—after I spoke to him tonight—I also believe that he’s under the misperception that you are naturally attracted to what he calls the ‘darkness’ in vampires.”
“The darkness?” she asked.
I scoffed. “Yes. It sounded ridiculous to me too—as if our not being able to exist in the sun makes us fundamentally evil or something.”
She lifted a brow. “Well—y’all do drink blood.”
I smiled. “Point taken. But we quickly learn not to kill if we have adept makers.”
Sookie smiled a little. “I know. I’ve never thought that being a vampire made someone inherently bad, just as I have never thought being human—or fairy—made someone automatically good. I know better,” she added, pointing to her head.
Knowing she’d learned that lesson the hard way, I nodded. “The thing is—if Bill believes that his so-called darkness draws you to him, then it does.”
Realization hit her like the proverbial ton of bricks. “Because of his blood inside of me.”
I nodded. “Bill was sent to ensnare you for Sophie-Anne, but he really did become ensnared by you in a way. In you, he saw beauty and purity—a person who could accept him as he was. That kind of person is rare; trust me. I think that Bill initially fed you his blood to make you attracted to him—and to elicit your affection—as part of his job.”
“But you don’t think he’s intentionally trying to influence me with his blood anymore—do you?”
I shook my head. “No, I don’t—but that influence is happening all the same. He’s convinced himself that he’s powerless to stop you from being drawn to him, so every time you have his blood, you get convinced of the same thing—because Bill’s not self-aware or in control of his blood enough to know what the fuck he’s doing to you!” I added with frustration.
We were silent for a few moments, and I could almost see the thoughts forming together in her brain. I knew she was recalling all the times she’d had Bill’s blood—as well as her immediate reactions to it.
“He would tell me that he was no good for me,” Sookie whispered, “but that never stopped me from wanting him—even when I,” she paused, “didn’t want him.”
I sighed. “He was convinced that you craved the ‘dark’ because you were the ‘light.’ So that’s just what his blood inadvertently made you do—to crave him because you are Fae.”
She closed her eyes tightly. “The other day, a part of me already knew that Bill wanted to die—before we—uh—reconnected.”
“And you thought you could somehow save him,” I commented.
She nodded. “I thought I needed to. It’s my fault he’s sick.”
“Not anymore,” I said, sitting forward a little. “Now it is his fault. You made sure he had the option to live, Sookie. You’ve done all you could—essentially handing him the cure. The fact that he didn’t choose to take it doesn’t mean anything—except that he’s a selfish asshole.” I paused. “And more so than I’ve even told you.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“When I spoke to him, he asked me to convince you to let him ‘call on you’ so that he could explain his reasoning for not taking the cure.”
She scoffed. “What are we—in junior high? He has my phone number and lives right across the cemetery from me. He could put a note on my door. Or he could’ve just skulked around waiting for me to come home; Lord knows he’s done that plenty of times before!”
I couldn’t help but to laugh. Her words told me how much we were actually alike—given the fact that I’d thought most of the things she had. “I imagine that he thought you’d refuse to speak to him.”
“But he knew that—if you wanted to—you could convince me to hear him out,” she commented.
I nodded. “In his mind, both of us fell in love with you because of your ‘light,’ and you are attracted to the ‘darkness’ in us. Thus, he seemed certain that I would be ready, willing, and able to punt you to him—so to speak.”
She looked at me almost guiltily. “What an ass,” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed. “However, I would have agreed to do just as he’d asked—if I would have thought it was the best thing for you. But I didn’t.”
“Well,” she smirked, “then you’re an ass too—just a high-handed one.”
“I can’t argue with that,” I chuckled, but then my smile faded. “If you want to give Bill the opportunity to call on you, then I will take you home now, Sookie.”
She let out a long exhalation. “I don’t want that.”
Though mine was unneeded, I let out my own breath—a sigh of relief.
“So—I’m guessin’ you let Bill believe you were gonna talk to me—for him?”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“But you decided to talk to me—for you,” she commented perceptively.
I nodded. “Yes. This is the moment, Sookie,” I whispered.
“What moment?” she asked, her expression suddenly afraid.
“The one that could very well signal the last we ever share together,” I sighed.
I hated to fucking sigh—yet again—but no other sound was more appropriate as I thought of the possibility of never seeing her again.