Eric paused to put on his leather jacket as he reached the door that would take him into the club. He glanced back down at Sookie.
“Five minutes,” she said with a little smile. “Do what you need to do, but don’t be too bad—okay?”
Eric gave her his signature smirk, and—for the first time since he’d walked back into her life—there was “life” in that smirk.
“Me? Bad?” he asked.
She rolled her eyes, but then sobered. “Still okay?” she asked as he went to open the door.
He had vamped down to her and had swept her up into a kiss before she’d finished her question.
“Yes,” he whispered when he finally let her up for air. “Better than okay. I feel like myself again.”
“But not all the marks are gone,” Sookie said worriedly.
“You know how vaccines work—yes, Ms. College Student?”
She chuckled. “Yes. They inhibit; they don’t cure outright.”
“Then chill,” he said.
“Chill?” she asked, giggling at his slang.
“Yeah, chill out, woman.” He grinned. “I already feel better—stronger.”
“But that might just be because you fed, not because my blood is healing you,” she said worriedly.
“The marks on my shoulder have already faded,” he reminded.
She sighed and sank against his chest as he kissed her again.
“And you still feel okay?” he asked when he had to break their kiss in order to let her breathe once again.
“Better than okay,” she panted, repeating his words from before.
His expression remained serious, his eyes conveying passion and love. “No matter what happens—even if I am not cured . . . .” He stopped midsentence and stroked her cheek.
“I know, Eric. I know. What matters is that we’re together now.”
He placed a soft kiss onto her forehead.
“Five minutes,” he whispered.
“Remember to be nice,” she reminded, even as a smile tickled her tips.
“Nice? Me?” he asked mischievously.
“Okay—as nice as possible,” she returned, not being able to stop her grin from spreading as he waggled his eyebrows.
“Five minutes!” she said as he vamped back up the stairs.
Her breath caught as he turned to grin at her. The light was back in his eyes, his orbs dancing with seemingly all of the colors of blue she’d ever seen. Moreover, the fact that he was moving at vampire speed was encouraging. She knew that she wouldn’t relax until Dr. Ludwig told them that he was going to be okay, but something deep inside of her—maybe the bond that she and Eric had just strengthened—was telling her that he was well on his way to healing.
As she heard the door close behind him, she sank to her knees as her emotions of the last few days overtook her. She wept in gratefulness and in prayer.
“Please, God. I know I’ve made mistakes. And I know I’m not the best Christian, and Eric’s not a Christian at all! In fact, I think he believes in lots of gods and goddesses,” she whispered as she looked skyward. “Heck—maybe he’s right and there are lots of you all up there. Or out there. Or wherever you are.” She wiped away some of her tears with her newly-healed hand.
“So—uh—wherever you are and whatever you are, please just look out for him. I need him,” she finished as she let more tears fall.
They were falling for Eric, for Alcide, for Tara, for Gran, and even for Bill.
They were falling in sorrow and hope and joy.
They were falling freely, and—for the first time she could remember—she felt free too.
“Where’s Sookie?” Bill asked as soon as Eric emerged from the basement.
The Viking moved toward Bill with more strength than he’d felt in months—more “life” than he’d felt in even longer than that. If he were being honest with himself, the only time he’d been “happy” since Godric’s death had been when he was memory-less and living with Sookie.
Whether he was feeling physically better because of simply taking Sookie’s blood or because that blood was healing him—even then—of the Hep-V, he didn’t yet know. What he did know was that they were now twice bonded, and it felt fan-fucking-tastic!
He could feel her emotions spilling over into their bond. To say the least, her feelings were mixed, but the dominant of those feelings was love—love for him. He had known that—even as Sookie had given him the time he wanted to “get things straight with Bill”—she had needed a private moment to let her torrent of emotions take her over. And that—more than anything else—had been why he’d asked for his five minutes, though he planned to enjoy the hell out of them all the same.
“She’ll be along in a few minutes,” Eric said in answer to Bill. “Sookie is letting me have a moment to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”
“And what’s that?” Bill asked with a scowl.
“Tell you that she is mine,” Eric responded, his eyes intense.
“Sookie said that only as part of a ploy with the infected vampires—the other infected vampires, that is,” Bill added with something close to triumph on his face.
“Take a whiff, Bill,” Eric said, holding out his arm and trying—though failing—not to gloat.
As soon as he’d inhaled, Bill’s fangs clicked down. He yelled angrily, “How dare you take her blood! You’ve infected her!”
“She took mine first,” Eric stated evenly, though not sounding arrogant was a stretch for him. “She claimed me. Who was I to disagree with someone as stubborn as she?”
Bill shook his head in denial. “You lie! What did you do to her? So help me God—if you harmed her, I’ll kill you before the Hep-V can do its work!”
“Still an asshole—I see,” Pam intoned from behind Bill.
“Now, Pamela,” Eric said teasingly, “I’m sure that Bill is simply concerned for Sookie.” He looked back at Bill. “But I assure you, I did nothing to—or with—Sookie that she didn’t ask for.”
“You preyed upon her grief!” Bill accused.
“No, Bill,” Sookie said as she entered the room from the basement, “that’s one of your strategies—not Eric’s.”
“Snap!” Pam snarked. Hands on hips, the vampiress looked at Sookie. “I see you got him off of his Emo ass. Well done, fairy princess.”
Sookie chuckled and nodded in affirmation. Pam gave her a nod in return.
“What is going on here, Sookie?” Bill demanded. “Why did you give Eric your blood? You’re infected with the Hep-V virus now! Did he force you? I’ll kill him!”
“No!” Sookie yelled. “I had to convince him to do an exchange.”
“An exchange?” Bill asked, his posturing deflating immediately.
“Yeah. Eric and I are going to form a permanent bond,” Sookie said.
“But you’ll be shackled to him forever if you do that!” Bill snarled.
Sookie nodded and looked up at Eric. “Yeah.” She took a deep breath. “For better or for worse.”
Eric looked down at her with surprise. “Marriage vows?”
She nodded. “If you want them to be—till death do us part,” she said sincerely.
As Eric looked at Sookie intently, Pam and Bill gasped in surprise at the couple’s words.
“But . . . ,” Bill started.
“Shhh,” Sookie ordered, not taking her eyes off of Eric. “Don’t ruin this moment for me, Bill!”
“Yeah—shut the fuck up,” Pam intoned, coming closer to Bill so that she could secure him if he moved to stop what was happening between her maker and Sookie. Pam might not have liked the fairy, but she couldn’t deny that Eric loved her and that she had somehow put the fight back into him.
Meanwhile, Eric was ignoring everything and everyone—except for the woman in front of him. “For richer or poorer, forsaking all others—for as long as I am undead,” he said. “You have my vow, Sookie Stackhouse.”
Sookie smiled. “And you have my vow, Eric Northman.”
“Sookie!” Bill yelled out. “What are you doing?”
“Making the choice I should have made a long time ago.”
“You’re agreeing to be his?” Bill asked with shock and disgust.
Sookie nodded. “Yep! I am Eric’s.”
Still ignoring Bill, Eric reached out to cup Sookie’s cheek. “I believe it is customary for a wedding to end with a kiss—correct?”
Sookie narrowed her eyes a bit. “Okay—but don’t get carried away.”
The Viking nodded and bent down to place a gentle kiss onto her lips. “Until you are ready and until I know of my condition—I will wait for the consummation,” he whispered.
Immediately, Sookie blushed bright red, knowing that everyone in the room had heard Eric’s words.
“Well—what the fuck?” Pam asked.
“I’ve told Eric that I love him and that I’m his,” Sookie said glancing at the vampiress.
“Yeah—I got that part. And—may I say—about fuckin’ time Tinker Bell,” Pam droned. “But what’s with this waiting bullshit. If you’re gonna keep yankin’ my maker’s chain, I’m gonna turn you just so that I can stake you myself.”
Both Bill and Eric hissed at Pam’s threat, and Eric’s fangs popped down.
“Oh—put those away,” Sookie chided. She looked up at Eric. “Pam deserves an explanation. And I’m gonna give her one.”
Eric’s fangs clicked upward and he nodded.
Sookie looked over at Pam. “Alcide died just this morning, and I loved him too.”
Pam rolled her eyes.
“Listen here,” Sookie said, hands moving to her hips. “My loving Eric—and my finally realizing that he’s the best person for me—doesn’t change the fact that I was with Alcide for several months. And I need to honor that relationship and grieve for him. Or—I’m not gonna be any good for Eric!”
“That’s why I’m going to give Sookie a little space. Meanwhile, you and I are still going to track down Sarah Newlin as planned,” Eric said to Pam.
“After you stop in with Ludwig,” Sookie said sternly.
“Yes, dear,” Eric deadpanned.
“And you’ll be making a visit to her too—correct?” Eric asked. “We need to make sure that you are well.”
Sookie nodded. “And we need to make sure that you’re better.”
“Better?” Pam asked Eric.
The Viking nodded. “Yes—Sookie has an interesting theory that may prove to be a cure for Hep-V if it can be adapted to other vampires. Meanwhile, we’re hoping it is already working on me.”
“A cure?” Bill asked.
“A vaccine of sorts,” Eric stated. “My bonded’s idea,” he added, radiating pride for Sookie.
Bill growled at the label Eric had given to Sookie.
“Oh—get over it, asshole,” Pam said under her breath. Well,” the vampiress said, looking at her maker, “where should we start looking for Sarah Newlin?”
“Dallas,” Willa said, as she walked into the bar from the office area.
“Dallas?” Eric asked with confusion.
“Sarah is one of reasons why my father’s dead. Her twisted ideas only spurred him on,” Willa sighed. “He didn’t start out so bad.” She paused and shook her head. “Anyway, I overheard Sarah talking about her sister one night—her vampire sister who lives in Dallas.”
“Vampire sister?” Pam asked, even as she licked her lips as if she were savoring a delicious treat.
“Yeah—Sarah managed to keep that a secret by paying her sister off. But I heard that she lives in East Dallas—in Bryan Place. That might be a good place to start your search for Sarah,” Willa commented.
“Thank you, Willa,” Eric said, nodding appreciatively at his youngest child.
“Just make her suffer, and that’ll be thanks enough,” Willa returned coldly.
“Sarah Newlin was one of those responsible for the vamp camp, Hep-V, and Nora’s death. And I promise you, she will pay—after we question her,” Eric said menacingly.
“Surely, you must see that Eric’s a monster,” Bill insisted, looking at Sookie with pleading eyes.
“I know who and what Eric is; unlike others, he’s never tried to hide what he is from me,” Sookie defended. “Eric kills his enemies like the vampire he is; heck—I’ve seen him rip out someone’s heart and use it like a sippy-cup. And that was gross, by the way,” she added, looking up at Eric.
“Duly noted, lover,” Eric smirked.
Sookie looked back at Bill and continued. “And you were standin’ right next to him and then shot someone right after he did his—uh—thing. The way I see it, the result’s the same.” She narrowed her eyes. “And we both know that you are capable of being just as brutal as Eric has ever been.”
“Just ask my daddy’s head,” Willa said under her breath.
“I was possessed by Lilith’s blood at that time,” Bill said in Willa’s direction.
“Save it, Bill,” Sookie sighed. “If you want to try to be my friend, you need to start by being honest with me—and yourself.”
She looked up at Eric. “See you when you get back?”
He nodded. “Yes, my wife,” he smiled as he emphasized the word ‘wife.’
“And if the Hep-V gets worse?” she said.
“Pam will bring me right back to you—right back home,” Eric said softly. “Won’t you, Pam?” he added, glancing at his eldest progeny.
“What about me?” Willa asked. “You promised that we’d deal with the shit between us as soon as we’d helped Sookie.”
Eric looked at his youngest child. “I’ve been a shitty maker, Willa Burrell. Yet—still—you’ve helped me tonight. And—given that—I’m going to give you a choice.”
“What choice?” she asked with challenge in her tone.
“You have proven yourself a resilient vampire,” Eric observed, “even without a maker to guide you. You found a mentor in Tara. And you are strong in your own right. I always knew you were intelligent, though you were also extremely naïve when I turned you.”
Willa scoffed. “I wasn’t naïve,” she muttered.
“Were you not?” Eric asked. “You saw me like a hero from a Gothic Romance and were shocked when I used my power as your maker to send you to your father.”
“Bastard,” Willa said through gritted teeth.
“Yes—I was. However, you let your idealism obscure the truth that was right in front of you. I took you from your father’s house to use you against him. Was that not clear from the start?”
“I wanted to help you,” Willa stated.
“So you did,” Eric agreed.
“And then you just sent me away,” the young vampiress accused, the hurt clear in her eyes. “You discarded me like I was nothing!”
“You are right,” Eric acknowledged, “thus the choice I’m giving to you now. If you wish to be on your own—to no longer have to answer to my call—I will release you. And I will provide you with the means to make your own way in the world. Hep-V has not—as of yet—found its way to New Zealand, and I know the king there. He would take you in—mentor you. Or—if you wish to give me another chance and to benefit from my thousand years of knowledge—I will endeavor to be a better maker to you from this moment on.”
“But—you’re gonna die soon,” Willa said, her bottom lip quivering and her gaze moving to his chest, where the spidery evidence of his Hep-V was still clear.
“Oh—I’m feeling much better now,” Eric said, looking pointedly at Bill. “I have every hope that I’ve been given a cure.”
“A cure?” Willa questioned.
Eric nodded. “Sookie’s blood seems able to make me better—though we’ll have to wait to know for sure.”
Willa considered for a moment. “If I agree to stay with you for now, could I change my mind later—about New Zealand?”
Eric nodded. “Yes. Any time you want me to free you, you need only ask.” He gave her a sincere smile. “I hope you will be willing to offer me a second chance, Willa Burrell. But—if you do—I have a request of you.”
“Not a command?” she asked suspiciously.
“No, Willa—a favor. Will you watch over Sookie while Pam and I are away? She has a safe place where you can stay, and—though she may not be safe for you to drink from—I’m sure she would be able to help you find a safe donor or two.”
“You would trust me to protect Sookie?” Willa asked with surprise.
“Willa’s too young!” Bill said immediately—and loudly. “I will protect Sookie!”
Sookie sighed and looked at Bill, even as she leaned into Eric and took his hand.
“Oh—I’m pretty sure that Willa and I would be just fine,” Sookie said looking at Willa hopefully.
“After all, Willa’s already a better vampire than you, Billy boy,” Pam intoned.
Surprised by the compliment, the younger vampiress looked at her older vampire sister.
“Well—at least your vampire stock is good,” Pam smirked. “I’d wager that you’re a lot stronger than a normal baby vampire—and a lot faster too—just like Tara was,” she added, grief clouding her features for just a moment before she sneered it away.
“That’s what Tara told me,” Willa said with a little smile.
Pam nodded. “So what’s it gonna be, little sis? New Zealand or Bon Temps? I’d pick New Zealand,” she added, looking at her nails and sounding bored.
Willa looked back at Eric. “I pick Bon Temps, and I’ll stay with Sookie. I promise to do all I can to keep her safe.”
Eric smiled and walked over to Willa to place a kiss onto her forehead. “Thank you, dotter.”
Willa gave Eric a genuine smile.
“You’re too sweet and forgiving for a vampire,” Pam snarked to her sister.
“Come now, Pamela,” Eric said. “Not everyone can be a cold, heartless bitch like you are.”
“So true,” Pam agreed with an evil grin.
Eric smiled at both of his progenies. They were so different, but he was coming to see that they might truly complement each other. He just hoped he’d be alive to see it.
He turned back to Sookie, who was pointedly ignoring a beseeching look from Bill. Eric rolled his eyes and went back to his wife’s side.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he said, cupping her cheek gently.
“Be sure to feed as often as you need,” Sookie said worriedly.
“You are trusting him to feed without being unfaithful to you?” Bill asked skeptically.
“Unlike some vampires, Eric has control,” Pam intoned. She gave a barely perceptible wink to Sookie. “And now that Eric’s a married vampire, I’d cut off his balls if he cheated on his wife.”
Eric chuckled. “They would grow back.”
“Yeah—but it would be painful,” Pam smirked. “And you deserve it anyway—for all the shit you’ve put me through these past months.”
“She wouldn’t really do that—would she?” Willa asked in Sookie’s direction.
Sookie responded with a questioning, “No,” even as Pam snarked out a resounding, “Yes.”
Eric simply chuckled again and then fixed his attention back onto Sookie.
“You’d better come back safely,” Sookie whispered. “Don’t get yourself killed just to take revenge. I’m afraid to test our luck,” she added.
Eric kissed her forehead. “No more tests, Sookie—not for us.”
She smiled. “Sounds good.”
He smiled in return. “You know what you’ve given us tonight—right?”
She nodded. “Another chance.”
“Another life,” he corrected before vamping out with Pam.
A/N: I have to confess that I loved giving Eric the opportunity to stick it to Bill. Many of you might be sad that I’ve decided not to kill Bill off in this fiction or give him Hep-V. For this story, it seemed “righter” to just make him live with the fact that Sookie is choosing Eric.
Well—we have only the Epilogue to go. We’ll be jumping forward 6 months for it.
P.S. I really want to thank the wonderful Kleannhouse for always letting me know when she sees a typo with those eagle eyes of hers. She’s my beta whenever I am uncertain of elements of a story and need a sounding board, but she also makes a point to let me know when I’ve missed things even when I don’t ask. You’re the BEST, Kleanny!
P.S.S. Kleannhouse is a wonderful writer in her own right. If you haven’t done so, check out her stuff here.