“What do you mean?” Sookie asked.
I let my own weariness show. “You and I have danced around our attraction for each other for a long time. And then—finally—when I didn’t have my memories, we were together.”
“When you weren’t yourself,” she added in a whisper.
“You think I wasn’t myself?” I asked, definitely surprised by her words.
“You weren’t,” she responded, almost defensively.
“But I was!” I returned insistently. “Memories or not—the things that make me myself were present when we were together. Never doubt that!”
It was her turn to sigh. “How can I know that—or anything?”
“Use your beautiful head!” I said passionately. “Use it to compare what my blood inside of you has done with what Bill’s has done. Bill draws you to himself. He thinks of himself as the tormented hero—a fucking victim to his vampirism. And you are compelled to try to do what? Save him? Confirm that he still has his humanity?” I scoffed. “I have seen you be hurt by Bill time and again. Yet the next time he feeds you his blood, you feel compelled to go back for more hurt! Meanwhile, he seems to bemoan that fact, yet his blood is the fucking flame that draws you in! And he uses it to turn you into a fucking moth!”
“But I asked for his blood the last time I took it,” she said defiantly. “I wanted him to be able to track me.”
I shook my head. “Vampires can’t control how humans dream of us, but we sure as hell have a say in whether or not our blood influences their emotions when they’re awake.”
“But you said Bill’s influence was probably unconscious on his part,” Sookie reminded.
“Yes, but if he truly believed he was bad for you, he would have damned sure compelled his blood to stop its influence over you—period. End of fucking sentence! End of fucking influence!”
We were both quiet for a moment as my words sank into her beautiful—and, indeed, sometimes thick skull.
Sookie closed her eyes. “Having your blood made me drawn to you too,” she whispered.
“Did it?” I questioned. “Did it really? I’m sure it caused you to dream of me. And I did want you to be as drawn to me as I was to you. But did you ever feel like you’d lost yourself when you were with me?” I shook my head. “I enjoyed the hell out of feeling my blood in you! I loved knowing you were alive—still in this world with me. I celebrated experiencing your fiery nature firsthand. And I wasn’t about to let my blood fuck with that!” I paused for a moment. “Sookie, I was attracted to you from the beginning. And it’s goddamned time you admitted the same. It’s also time that you recognized that—though I did trick my blood into you the first time—I did it after saving your life, not after almost taking it as Bill did! I also think it’s about time that you ask me ‘why’ I tricked those few drops of blood into you in the first place!”
“Fine!” she yelled, her own emotions flaring. “Why?”
“Thanks for asking,” I said with a smirk.
“Asshole,” she muttered.
“Well—you do seem to like those. Maybe I’ve decided to be more like Bill—since it seems to work out so well for him,” I added sarcastically.
She rolled her eyes. “You’re the one who insisted I ask you the question. What? Are you avoiding it now?”
“No,” I said. “The truth is that I had come to care about you very much before we went to Dallas. And I care for very few beings in this world: only a handful of vampires and you. The truth is that you intrigued me, and I wanted you to be mine. However, none of those things was the reason I tricked you into taking my blood. I had two reasons actually. First, I wanted to gauge the level to which Bill had been honest with you. He was so keen to profess his love for and possession of you, but I already suspected there was something he was hiding. Had he truly wanted to protect you—had he truly been honest with you—you would have known exactly what my blood could do in you. And you would have known that I didn’t need it to heal from silver. Bill should have taught you those basics—at the very least. When you took my blood, I knew he had been keeping you in the dark. So I started to investigate ‘why’ that was. And that path led to the queen.”
Sookie sighed deeply. “Bill was irate after I’d had your blood, and it was only a couple of drops. He implied that you could control me—that it would be impossible for me not to succumb to your charms.” She rolled her eyes. “It was only later—much later, I’m ashamed to admit—that I actually thought about why Bill hadn’t given me the same warnings after I’d had his blood.”
I gave her a moment of silence as her emotions slingshotted through her.
“What was the other reason you wanted me to have your blood in Dallas?” she asked.
“The teachings of my father—my human father.”
She looked at me in question.
“In my culture—if someone saved the life of another—he or she was responsible for that life from then on. You warned us of the bomb in Godric’s home not even a second before it went off, but that’s a long time for a vampire as old as I am. I needed to protect you; I didn’t know why at the time, but I needed you to live as much as I wanted to stay undead—maybe more. And—after that—I wanted you to have my blood so that I could feel when you were in danger.”
She scoffed. “Are you sure it wasn’t my so-called ‘light’ that made you want to save me?”
“Don’t sell yourself or me that short, Sookie Stackhouse,” I admonished.
She lifted her chin stubbornly. “Don’t even try to deny that it’s not my scent and my blood that made you want me so much.”
“Oh—your scent is divine, and your blood is the best I’ve ever tasted—including that of the full-blooded fairy I drained. However, it is ‘this‘ that I love most,” I said, reaching out to caress that stubborn little chin of hers. “This challenge that you offer me at every fucking turn. I used to resent that you didn’t fight others as you fought me, but then I realized that it was a fucking compliment—and a gift! And it proved that you were a woman—maybe the only woman—with whom I could spend centuries and never know exactly what to expect.” I shrugged. “Who knows and who fucking cares if part of that fire in you comes from your Fae blood! What is important is that I would protect that fire with my undead life! And I cherish it.”
“Bill thinks that vampires will squelch the light in you somehow.” I shook my head. “And I have no fucking doubt that he would—unintentionally, of course,” I added with sarcasm. “But I want to encourage that light and make it grow into something un-fucking-extinguishable! I once told you that there were two Sookie Stackhouses—the human and the fairy. I love them both! I want them both! I’d fucking love to see them merge into one; at that moment, you’d be even more beautiful than you are right now, and your beauty already makes my heart want to beat—just so that it can stop every time I see you!”
Sookie sniffled. “Eric, I just want to be a normal human.”
All the hope in me exited like the air from a popped balloon. “You’ve said that to me before,” I sighed. “That’s why I walked away from you and stayed away. I wanted you to have the chance to have what you seemed to want so badly. I loved you enough to exit your life. But—please for the love of your God—stop fucking lying to yourself! You say that you want a normal life, but you shack up with a Were! Then you run back to Bill! I’m pretty sure that neither one of those choices would put you into the category of ‘normal human.'”
Frustration filling me, I stood up and walked across the room, keeping my back to her. “That’s why—as of tonight—I’m done accepting your claims that you want ‘normal,'” I said wearily. “I can no longer be your friend. I can no longer be the one you accept only when you need help.” I chuckled, though I felt no mirth. “I’m afraid that even my ego isn’t large enough to withstand another blow at your hands, Miss Stackhouse.”
I turned around to see a tear falling down her cheek.
“I have always hated your tears. It was imagining them that compelled me to buy your home when your idiot brother gave up on your being alive. It was fearing them that made me help you save your friend, even though I knew I could easily be killed, given my illness.” I shook my head. “I am not one to beg, Sookie, and even my love for you won’t compel me to give you a speech pleading for you to choose me for once. But I want a real fucking chance! I want you to look at me and see the man who would love you without apology or reservations. I want you to recognize the man who knows you. I want you to acknowledge that I’m the best fucking choice you could make—because of the simple fact that I am! That’s why I wanted to talk to you tonight, Sookie. And it’s time you made your final choice about what you want. If that’s Bill, then have at him! There’s a car in the garage with the fucking keys inside! You can still be home in plenty of time to let him call upon you.”
She scoffed, but I went on. “If you choose neither of us—again—then take the car and drive away from Bon Temps. And stay away for a while so that Bill can play his final role as martyr and exit stage left for good! And don’t feel guilty when he dies, Sookie! Don’t feel like you are to blame for any of it! You might have infected him, but you aren’t the reason why he’s not right as rain—even now! And don’t you dare feel guilt over hurting me either!” I demanded. “As soon as I realized I cared about you, I could have killed you or stayed away from you. No fucking mystical light compelled me to fall in love with you! And it wasn’t your fairy nature that compelled me to want to be near you. That was my choice! If I’m not your choice too, then that sucks for me, but it’s the way things are. I will be sad, but I will go on. And so should you! No guilt and no regrets!”
“But I do have regrets,” she said, her voice steady and her eyes gazing into my very soul. “And I’ve just realized what my biggest one ought to have been all along.” She stood and came over to me. “I’m sorry, Eric.”
“I don’t want you sorry, Sookie,” I returned. “I want you to be mine. I want you to be happy. I want those two things to coincide. But I don’t want you sorry! Not ever.”
She lifted her hand up to cup my cheek. “Okay—then. I won’t be sorry. I’ll be yours, and we’ll have a go at being happy together.”
Her words surprised me—astounded me. The sincerity behind them made my heart constrict—not a beat, but as close as I would ever get.
It hurt like hell, and it was the best feeling I’d ever experienced.
I could feel the weight of months of hopeless longing for the woman I loved melting away. And my spirits soared higher than I’d ever flown.
I smiled down at Sookie and then covered her answering smile with a kiss. It was a light kiss—a kiss to seal a promise.
A kiss to signal that Sookie and I would be trying out that “other life” after all.
“Can I ask you a favor though?” she inquired, as we broke the kiss.
I chuckled. “Sookie Stackhouse, if you haven’t yet learned that you can ask anything of me, then your skull is thicker than I thought it was.”
Sookie smirked and took a playful hit at my arm, before her smile became beautifully soft. I’d seen that smile before—when we were living together in her home and even a few times after that. It was a mixture of comfort and joy. And I’d never seen her use it around Compton. This smile was mine.
“I know I can ask anything of you, Eric,” she said with something akin to awe in her voice. “But what I need to ask is probably unreasonable.”
“You want to take things slowly,” I speculated. “You need a little time to grieve for the wolf and even the asshole. That is fine. I have plenty of time now. ”
She looked up at me with wonder. “I shouldn’t be surprised that you know what I need so well.”
“No—you shouldn’t,” I commented. “And—soon—you won’t be. Meanwhile, however, I wish to ask something of you in return.”
“What is it?”
“I will be patient when it comes to reestablishing our sexual relationship, but not our intimacy. I find that I,” I paused, “crave closeness with you. I wish to spend what time I can get away from the Yakuza with you. I wish to sleep with you in my arms—whether it be here or in your home. I wish to claim you and have you claim me. I will not settle for a half-relationship. And I will never share you again, Sookie. If we are to be together, then we must be together.”
She took a deep breath. “Okay. I can agree to that.”
“Just like that?” I asked.
“Yeah—just like that. Thank you for giving me another chance. Thank you for helping me see the things that have been hurting me—and the things that could make me whole. Thank you, Eric.”
She rose onto her toes and initiated our kiss this time. And—when her tongue requested that the kiss be deepened—I welcomed it into my mouth.
However, before we could get too lost in our kiss, my phone vibrated in my pocket.
“Fuck,” we both muttered at the same time.