“Bill’s clamoring to ‘get you home to safety,'” Eric said, imitating the younger vampire’s Southern accent as he descended the basement stairs. “Pam told him that you needed time to compose yourself—that you wanted to tell me goodbye in private,” he added, obviously trying to keep his tone light.
“That’s not what I want to do,” Sookie returned seriously. “I don’t intend to tell you goodbye at all.”
“Regardless, Bill is anxious to have you to himself—I’d imagine.”
“Yeah,” Sookie returned with a hint of derision. “I bet he is.”
“Trouble in paradise?” Eric asked with a smirk. “I can’t imagine that—not now that Bill’s not an ‘asshole’ anymore,” he deadpanned.
“Anyone who has to say that out loud . . . ,” Sookie started.
“Is most definitely still an asshole,” Eric finished with a chuckle. “Still—it’s clear that he considers you to be his again.
Sookie looked at him in question.
“I smell him in you—and you in him,” Eric remarked. “In fact, he’d newly fed from you when I arrived at his house tonight.” He looked at her through somewhat narrowed eyes. “Even with Hep-V, my nose is still keen enough to smell that.”
“And?” she challenged.
“And what?” he returned in the same tone.
“And why do you sound like he stole your lunch money?”
“Odd choice of words, lover,” Eric said.
Sookie rolled her eyes. “You’re jealous? Of Bill?” she asked.
“Jealous of him for feeding from you?” he returned.
“Of course I am!” Eric said as he approached her at human speed.
With a sigh, Sookie realized that traveling at vampire speed must be becoming too taxing for him.
He sank onto the floor next to her. “I hope you don’t mind if I sit as well,” he sighed. “It helps me to conserve my strength, and—though I will admit that I have been trying to appear as invincible as ever—” he said with a weary smile, “I’m tired.” In that moment, his eyes showed every single one of his thousand years. “Really fucking tired.”
Sookie felt a tear slip down her cheek. “I thought I told you that you weren’t allowed to die on me.”
“You’re a thousand years too late in making that request,” he responded, though his smirk was not convincing.
“How bad is it?”
“The Hep-V?” he asked.
He took a deep, unneeded breath and then took off his jacket, followed by his tank top. Spidery trails of blue, showcasing the progress of the Hep-V inside of his body, met her eyes.
“I’ve told Pam and Bill that I’m still in Stage 1 of the disease, but these,” he said, pointing to the thin marks reaching his upper arms, “indicate that I’m in Stage 2 now. Not long now,” he said with false levity.
Sookie reached out and traced one of the offending pathways with her uninjured hand. “Oh Eric.”
“I have become a modern art piece,” Eric said, once again trying at light-heartedness.
“I’ve always preferred comparing you to a Greek statue.”
Eric chuckled. “Preference is no longer my forte, lover.”
Sookie took a breath. “What is it you want?”
“What do you mean?” Eric asked.
“Do you want to live, Eric? Or—uh—stay undead?” she asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Just what is there to live for?” he asked with a frown.
“Yourself, Eric,” she said sternly.
“Not you?” he asked, trying to sound playful.
“No. Don’t ever live for others—unless it makes you happy too.” She sighed. “My Gran taught me that—though I don’t think I knew what it meant until I saw these on you earlier tonight,” she said, touching the marks over his un-beating heart.
“What do you want, Sookie Stackhouse? If you were taking your grandmother’s advice and living for yourself, what would you do to be happy?” Eric asked.
“I’d see the world—for the first time,” she responded. “And I’d see it—all of it—with you.”
He sighed. “I would give you the world, Sookie. I think you’ve known that for a while. But I can’t see it with you—not anymore.”
“So Pam was right. You really have given up?” she asked. “You’re really not lookin’ for a cure.”
“There’s no cure for Hep-V, Sookie.”
“Is there a cure for what I did to you?” she asked.
He stiffened. “What are you talking about?”
“You know the answer to that question,” she said quietly. “And you should know more. I was confused six months ago. I’m not confused anymore, Eric.”
“What of the wolf? You were with him.”
“I loved Alcide,” Sookie said honestly.
Eric glanced away, obviously hurt by her words.
“Hey!” she cried out, bringing his eyes back to her own. “Alcide was my friend—and a good man. And he was a good lover too.”
“You’re gonna tell me that you didn’t sleep with anyone after me?” she asked skeptically.
He shook his head. “No—I can’t tell you that.”
She sighed. “The truth is—Alcide was good to me. And for me. And I did love him in a way. And—God help me—I probably would have married him and had kids with him.”
“That’s what you would have wanted?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No. But I would have done it—for Alcide.”
Eric sighed. “My beautiful martyr.”
“I’m not the one reconciled to die,” she reminded.
He shrugged. “A thousand years is a long time to live.”
“What if I could offer you a thousand more—with me?” she asked.
He leaned away from her. “Sookie, I don’t think you understand what you’re saying. Anyway—I could not give you what you are asking for. Maybe you should ask Bill,” he said somewhat bitterly.
“I don’t want Bill,” Sookie said, her chin out defiantly.
“Since when?” he asked skeptically.
“Since I grew the fuck up.” She shook her head. “The other day—when we were tryin’ to figure out where the infected vampires might be, we went to a little town, Saint Alice. Everyone there had been killed—systematically taken by the infected vampires. They didn’t organize themselves to fight. They didn’t run.” She shook her head. “Alcide asked me—after we’d visited there—to run away with him.”
“And why didn’t you?” Eric asked.
“Nostalgia. While we were in Saint Alice, I read a young woman’s diary—looking for clues about what had happened. She wrote about how she fell in love with a vampire. It sounded so much like something I would have written about Bill and me that I forgot—for a while—why I shouldn’t really trust him. And—I wanted . . . .” She stopped midsentence.
“You wanted?” he asked.
“You always do,” Eric said.
“My help’s not always wanted. And—being honest with myself—it’s not always helpful,” she remarked flatly.
“It always has been to me,” Eric said wearily.
“You’re tired,” she observed.
“This disease—it requires that I take much blood to remain strong.”
“Then why not take some of mine?” Sookie asked tilting her head to expose her neck.
Eric’s fangs clicked down in both anger and want. “No! I would infect you.”
“So what if I were infected?” she asked. “Didn’t you once tell me that we were ‘one’—when we were in the cubby? Eric, I don’t intend to feed any other vampires anyway. And—just look at it this way—if you fed from me, I could never feed Bill again,” she added a little playfully.
Eric smirked as he managed to put his fangs away. “Make no mistake—Bill Compton would infect himself just to have another taste of you.”
Sookie sighed. “I wish I could tell you that you were wrong, but you’re probably right,” she agreed.
They both chuckled a little.
“Anyway,” Eric reasoned, “you can’t know what you will want to do in the future, Sookie. Plus, we don’t know what effect this virus might have on your unique physiology.”
“No—we don’t,” she said firmly. “But I have a theory.”
“A theory?” the vampire asked.
Sookie nodded. “Yeah. Did you know that I started college while you were gone?”
“I didn’t, but I’m glad for you.”
“Online classes,” she explained. “Biology 101 and Biochemistry 103.”
“You aim to be a science major, lover?” Eric asked in surprise. “I never expected that.”
She chuckled. “Oh—hell no! I figured I’d try for accounting or business—maybe even literature or art. But the science classes were open, and since I enrolled late, I had to take what I could get.”
He smiled. “And how did you do?”
“A’s—in both classes,” she said proudly.
He smiled sincerely. “Congratulations.”
She sighed. “When Alcide found out I’d gotten all A’s, he told me that he was proud of me.”
“I imagine he was,” Eric observed.
“No,” Sookie sighed. “Not really. His thoughts told me that he believed my getting a degree was a waste of time since I didn’t need one to work at Bellefleur’s or for him.”
“I’m sorry, Sookie,” Eric sighed, “about many things.”
“Don’t be sorry. Be Eric!” Sookie exclaimed.
“And what would Eric do?” he asked almost mischievously.
“He’d be happy if I gave him my blood—happy to mark me as his—and happy to ensure that Bill couldn’t ever drink from me again without being infected. Sheriff Eric Northman wouldn’t care if I got Hep-V—as long as he got some fairy-laced blood!”
“Maybe I’ve grown the fuck up too,” he returned.
She tilted her head. “No. I still see the Eric I always have.”
“And what do you see?”
“The vampire who is so full of life—and himself—that I sometimes forget that he’s a thousand years old.”
“And I still see the girl in the white dress,” Eric sighed.
Sookie shook her head. “It’s time we both stopped looking for her. Instead, look for the woman you found in the middle of the woods carrying a shotgun. Look for the woman you made love to in those woods.”
“What good will looking for her do me?” Eric asked cautiously.
“Because she’s the Sookie that’s yours. And—I’ve also realized that she’s the Sookie that’s me.”
“That’s not what you said after the witch made a bonfire with Bill and me,” Eric stated guardedly.
“I was scared then—scared of having my heart broken even worse than before. But I’m not scared anymore.”
“You’re infected with Hep-V and resigned to dying. Arlene almost died. Alcide’s dead. Tara’s dead. All the things I’ve ever been scared of have happened. But I’m still here. And I’m ready to fight to hold onto what I want—even if I end up losing it and my heart breaks.”
“Sookie,” Eric said, lifting his hand to stroke her hair, “I don’t want your heart to break.”
“It will break if you don’t fight next to me, Eric—if you don’t try.”
He sighed. “I don’t know how to defeat the monster waging a war inside of my blood.”
“And if you did know? Would you fight?”
“With you next to me?” he returned.
“With the promise that you’d be next to me always?” he pushed.
“Yes,” she affirmed.
He paused as he took in what she was saying—what she seemed to be agreeing to.
“Yes,” he said. “With you next to me, I would fight. I would do anything to live a thousand years of nights with you, Sookie Stackhouse. But I don’t know anything I could do to give you those nights.”
“What if there was something I could do?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well—Hep-V is a virus. Right?”
Eric nodded. “Yes.”
“So—according to what I learned in school, a virus has its own DNA, but it doesn’t reproduce by dividing itself. It has to use a host cell; it basically leaches off of that cell so it can make copies of itself.”
“You learned a lot in your classes,” Eric said with a smile.
“I learned more tonight,” Sookie returned. “Pam told me that the Hep-V virus is progressing slower in you because you’re older. Is that right?”
Eric nodded. “Yes. As vampires get older, the magic that keeps us alive increases. And the amount of blood in our bodies actually decreases. That’s why older vampires need less blood for food. Therefore, the Hep-V virus in me has fewer blood cells to work with—and there is more magic trying to stop it. But—as you can see—the virus will eventually have its way with me.”
“What if there was a vaccine for the Hep-V?”
“Yes,” Sookie said. “Viruses can’t be killed like bacteria can be, but vaccines can prohibit them from reproducing. If there was a vaccine, do you think your magic would be able to fight off the Hep-V already inside of you?”
Eric considered for a moment. “Theoretically—yes. If the virus stopped replicating, my condition would stabilize. Then—as each cell of the virus was killed by the magic animating me or even just ran out its normal lifespan—the Hep-V would be cured in a manner of speaking.”
“And you would become immune to it,” Sookie added.
“Yes—unless the virus underwent a mutation.”
Sookie smiled. “Well—what if I could be your vaccine?”
A/N: Hello! Thanks so much for all the people who favorited or followed this story! I’m so grateful for your positive feedback!
Two things: 1. Remember that I tried to get this out quickly, so please forgive any typos. 2. I’m no scientist! And I didn’t do a ton of research either—as I normally would have in a long story. (Sorry.) I hope that my explanations of things end up seeming reasonable though. I have a suspicion that they will seem more thought-out than the ones we’ll get on the show, which is a shame—’cause those writers are paid and COULD get people to do research. Anyway, bear with me, and remember we are dealing with fiction.
Thanks so much for reading! I’ve loved your comments so far. I hope you will keep them coming!
Until next time,