Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
DECEMBER 31, 2005, 6:00 P.M.
I played with the ring on my finger. It was New Year’s Eve. After midnight, it would be what I considered my unofficial anniversary with Eric. I looked at one of the pictures we’d taken together at our wedding in Vermont. I smiled. Jason had been the photographer, while Pam had been barking instructions. Surprisingly, the picture had turned out perfectly.
“You sure you don’t wanna come with us?” Tray Dawson asked. After the Were’s shop had closed due to the hard times Hurricane Katrina had brought with her, I’d hired him up in a flash. After only two business courses that had bored me to tears, I’d decided that practical experience would beat educational ones. Plus, Hurricane Katrina had changed everything the previous August.
I’d already been moving to open my business in late July, and I’d even hired two workers already. After Katrina, the work had poured in. As could be expected, the demolition business was booming all over the Gulf Region—even in Northern Louisiana, but I kept my company’s profits low in order to help the victims. However, the government and insurance companies were my biggest clients. Them—I charged full price.
“Did you get in touch with Alcide?” I asked.
“Yep. He’s given our name to that contractor.”
I smiled up at the manager of my team. “Excellent!” In fact, Alcide’s company and mine had done several projects in conjunction—not that it hadn’t been awkward at times.
Alcide had never been good at understanding concepts like “boundaries” and “appropriate friend behavior.” About two months before, things had come to a head. Alcide had come in for a kiss, but—thankfully—I’d “heard” his intentions with enough notice to duck away. After that, we’d had a frank talk. I liked Alcide. I was even willing to stay his friend, but I was not willing to date anyone while there remained any chance of getting my husband back.
When the Were had tried to convince me that “my” Eric was gone, I told him some truths that I would have preferred to keep to myself. First, I told him that I would never date him, specifically, because he took back Debbie, even after I’d almost been killed because of her actions. Second, I told him what Bill had told me a few months before: Debbie, in her bitterness, had been the one to tell Sophie-Anne about Eric’s amnesiac condition the year before.
I made sure that Alcide knew I didn’t blame him for Debbie’s actions, but that I did question his judgement. And I questioned what he might have inadvertently or purposefully led Debbie to believe. After all, my romantic history with Alcide included us pretending to date and him kissing me once—when we were both rebounding! Alcide had been the one to introduce the notion that there had been more between us—right after Bill had raped and almost killed me no less! And Debbie had never believed him when he changed his story.
Regardless, I made sure Alcide understood that I didn’t see him at a potential romantic partner—not anymore.
To his credit, he had accepted that, but I’d kept things as professional as possible since then, and I’d delegated much of the contact with Alcide to Tray. Good leaders delegate the jobs they don’t want—right?
For my office, I was renting a little place next to Tara’s Togs; Bill, of all people, was my landlord. I entered a couple of numbers into my spreadsheet. My little company was already turning a profit, after being open for only four months.
Sure—Eric had done a lot of the planning, but I’d seen it through. I was proud.
Tray was still looking at me. “Sookie?” he interrupted my thoughts. “You know what I want. It’s New Year’s! And you’ve been working hard. Have a drink with us. Just. One. Drink!”
“You know what?” I said smiling up at him. “I think I will.”
Tray grinned and offered me an arm. He’d become a good friend, protective like a brother. It helped that he had zero attraction for me.
I almost drove my car to the employees’ section at the back of the bar, but I stopped myself just in time and parked in front. I’d not stepped a foot into Merlotte’s since I’d stopped working there, though I’d seen a lot of the “usual” customers in places like the grocery store and the bank. And Jason had, certainly, kept me abreast of all the gossip.
Surprisingly enough, many people’s thoughts about me had changed now that I was a “businesswoman” and had been “vampire-free” for almost a year.
Most of them now thought about my marriage to Eric as an “unfortunate period for an otherwise ‘decent—though odd—girl.'” Of course, some of them wondered if I’d found a new Sugar Daddy to fund my business, though the current story going around was that I’d found a stash of Stackhouse gold buried during the Civil War.
Showed how fickle humans could be. And how fucking little they knew!
I still considered my time with Eric to be my most fortunate period.
I sat in my car for a moment, contemplating whether or not to go in.
The last thing I wanted was any drama.
I sighed and closed my eyes.
After killing Ocella, I’d returned home. The following night, Pam—released from her maker’s command to ostracize me—had come to the house, delivering a bouquet of dark pink roses. I’d looked them up and found that they meant thankfulness.
The next night Pam had come back with a sprig of fir. I’d looked that up too. It meant “time.”
Eric was asking for time.
I’d asked Pam if she wanted to take Eric the things of his that remained at the house. With a shake of her head and a wink, she’d told me that he’d asked that they stay where they were.
I did, however, send him three things.
Copies of all the pictures of us.
A letter telling him everything I could remember about what we’d had together.
They stood for hope.
Bubba was still a constant presence in my life—guarding me every night since I’d had his blood. He had become a good friend, and we enjoyed listening to Gran’s old records, though I’d hidden the Elvis ones.
After Ocella was dead and gone, I’d found the courage to move back into the bedroom I’d shared with Eric. Over the months, it had smelled less and less like him, though I’d never washed a couple of his flannel shirts. Whether “current” Eric liked them or not, those shirts had suited my Eric, and they held onto his scent.
As did the afghan.
Not counting Alcide’s attempt, I’d had two offers to “date” during the previous year, but both were from humans—one a fellow student in my very first college class and one a client. Neither had tempted me.
In my mind and my heart, I was still married, after all.
In early May—a month after I’d killed Ocella—Pam had come to me again.
Again at Eric’s request.
She’d brought purple hyacinths, a flower asking for my forgiveness.
When I’d asked Pam why Eric was asking for my forgiveness when the spell hadn’t been his fault, she’d sat me down—never a good sign—and told me about Appius’s time in Shreveport. Apparently, Ocella had ordered Eric to fuck fangbangers left and right—obviously to hurt his child and take away his control again. According to Pam, Ocella also enjoyed watching Eric fuck someone else before fucking him.
Pam hadn’t pulled any punches when she’d discussed the darkness of the weeks when Ocella was “visiting.” Eventually, Ocella had decided that the “funniest” thing he could do regarding me was to make Eric get an annulment and force him to shun me. Eric was an expert at repressing his feelings when his maker was around, but even he hadn’t been able to convince his maker that he had no feelings for me. However, Ocella liked the idea of Eric caring about an object he could never have.
It had been a hurt that would have kept on hurting.
If I wouldn’t have staked the bastard!
Of course, Ocella’s commands died with the fucker!
Pam had told me that Eric couldn’t come to me yet—for a variety of reasons. However, she’d assured me that one of them wasn’t because he despised me. Clearly, Octavia’s counter-spell had helped to mitigate the damage of Hallow’s curse, though Eric couldn’t remember his time with me. The curse had brought with it other repercussions, too. Eric felt a longing for something he couldn’t quite grasp. He also felt violated—thankfully not by me—but by the one who had taken his memories.
The one who had tried to curse him even more profoundly.
And he felt guilt about causing me pain and about dissolving our marriage—though he’d been ordered to do so by Ocella—thus the flowers.
Pam had also volunteered that Eric’s sexual encounters with others had ended immediately after his maker was no longer there to compel him to do things. For the foreseeable future, Eric had committed to feeding only from bags and fucking no one.
When I’d asked Pam what Eric’s status with the queen was, the vampiress’s lips had twitched upward into an evil smile.
“They have called it even. Eric expressed his contrition that she’d not been informed of his memory loss, and Sophie-Anne expressed regret that she’d attempted to poach in Area 5. Given the fact that Niall has claimed you, the queen now considers the whole situation to be a “non-matter.”
I had raised an eyebrow to that. I would bet a lot of money that Eric didn’t see it as a “non-matter.” But, again, I’d learned not to ask questions that might lead to more harm than good. I sent Pam back to Eric with Eric’s ring and the assurance that there was nothing for me to forgive.
In my mind, Ocella was a rapist; every time he’d forced his will or his body upon Eric, he’d violated him. Eric wasn’t to blame for any of it. I just prayed that Eric believed that too.
Pam hadn’t contacted me again, and the sprig of fir I had gotten once a week since then was the only contact I had with him. He still needed more time.
So I continued to give it.
I sighed when my phone buzzed. It was a text from Tray wondering where I was. I grabbed my purse, squared my shoulders, and prepared to go into my old workplace to have a drink with my employees—all of whom were also real friends to me. I was resolved. I wasn’t going to let Sam’s presence—or anyone else’s—interfere with my choices.
Quickly, I’d spied my employees at a table in the far corner, and then I took a moment to look around. Arlene was giving me “the eye.” Jason had said that she’d become “full Fellowship” now that she was dating a fanatic.
Not surprising. Hell—it was surprising that she hadn’t become “full serial killer” when she’d been with Rene. It was sad, but there just wasn’t much independent thought in her.
Thankfully, “my boys” had sat in Holly’s section.
As I passed the bar, I nodded to Sam, whom I had heard was dating a shifter. He didn’t bother to nod back.
Jason, Tray, Jin Akinto, and Michael Knight greeted me with a synchronized “Hi boss-lady!” as if they’d been practicing.
Yes—I’d hired my brother to work for me. After all, he was excellent at destroying things.
But he and I had also built a much better relationship over the previous year, too. Before her death, Gran had sort of forced us to get along. Now—we just chose to.
I was glad that Sam didn’t come by to visit our table. I could still feel his bitterness and disapproval, and I’d long since disavowed both things from my life.
At a certain point, Tara joined us—and then J.B., who was seriously trying to get her attention. Halleigh Bellefleur came by to ask me if I had time to meet with her the following Monday. I agreed. Then Hoyt came by to see if I was taking applications for employment. I hired him on the spot and then bought another round for the table as the guys—especially Jason and Hoyt—celebrated. Mostly, I just sipped on a gin and tonic and laughed a lot as “my boys” told stories that were likely not “exactly” true.
At 11:30 p.m., I bid my farewells. Tray insisted on walking me to my car and then made sure I was okay. He really was a good person. I assured him that I was and then took off.
In truth, I had no desire to chime in the New Year at Merlotte’s again.
I wanted to go home.
I had a wish to make and a bath to take.
DECEMBER 31, 2005, 11:30 P.M.
I landed in front of the house that had haunted all the “day-dreams” I’d had during my downtime for the last ten months. Sookie wasn’t home.
“Ah, hey, Mister Eric!” Bubba greeted fondly, as he came out of the woods. “Miss Sookie’s not home yet.”
He didn’t seem concerned. “Do you know where she is?” I asked.
“Sure! She texted me on that nice phone you got me.”
“And what did she say?” I asked patiently.
“Oh!” Bubba exclaimed as if suddenly realizing that he should have led with this information. “She’s at Merlotte’s with her employees, but she said she’d be home by midnight.
“Well—I just wanted to say howdy,” Bubba said. “I was doin’ some huntin’ and I’d like to get back to it.”
“Happy New Year, Mister Eric!” he enthused as he zipped back toward the trees.
“And to you,” I responded.
I sighed. I had smelled Sookie’s blood in him—but the scent was faint and fading. It was clear that Bubba was romantically indifferent to her, which was good—for him—since indifference had never been a word that I could use where she was concerned.
Anything but that.
I’d memorized all of the pictures from the box she’d sent months before.
Her face. Her eyes dancing right out of the photos and so full of love that they were hard to look at sometimes.
My face. But with a smile I’d never seen on it in any mirror. And happy, carefree eyes that matched Sookie’s.
After Appius had gone, Pam had told me that, at first, she’d agreed to let me stay in my memory-less state—because she’d felt pure happiness from me. Then, of course, she’d learned about Hallow’s curse.
Pam’s plan—when I’d had no memories—was to eventually pull me out “for show.” She’d wanted to give me and Sookie a few months of honeymoon time, and then she’d planned to train the other me to be “me” when required. Meanwhile, she had brought in Clancy to help with the bar and had been doing all the Sheriff’s work mostly by herself—though a contrite Bill had assisted her with some things.
However, Pam’s plans had failed because Sophie-Anne—the bitch—had wanted “her” telepath like I spoiled child lusts after a toy. She’d resented the fact that Niall Brigant had swooped in to claim Sookie as kin. She’d resented me—even more—for getting in her way.
So she’d placed a phone call to Ocella.
I smiled. Now that he was dead, I could call that prick whatever I liked, including Pam’s favorite: “puss-filled dick sore.”
I closed my eyes and felt my hands balling into fists. Though he’d given me a second life, Appius Livius Ocella had been the bane of my existence. I’d hated him from the start, and then I’d been “programmed” to “love” him.
It had been nighttime in Louisiana when he’d died in Austria. The bond breaking had hurt like a son of a bitch, but—knowing what I was feeling—I laughed through the pain. Hell! I celebrated the pain!
To say I was glad he was dead would be an understatement.
I knew—even as my bond with my maker died—who had killed him. Sookie.
I looked down at the wedding ring she’d sent to me—the one I’d seen myself wearing in the pictures. After receiving it, I’d put in on every morning before succumbing to my day-death. However, upon waking, it was necessary that I take it off—until tonight.
I thought about the long letter that she’d written for me; it had detailed all of her memories of our life “together.” She’d held nothing back.
But, unlike her, I had needed to hold back, though I had wanted to come to Sookie right after my maker was no more. But it wasn’t safe.
The queen had reneged on our deal. And she’d called Appius. If Hallow’s spell hadn’t been “completed,” my maker would have taken the innocent canvas that had been Sookie’s husband and destroyed him.
And I knew that he would have found a way to destroy Sookie too—because that would have hurt me the most. It was a good thing Appius hadn’t realized that that truth was no different for me than it had been for the “other me.”
I’d learned—the hard way—how to hold some things back from Appius. Otherwise, I would not have retained any semblance of myself following his “training.”
I couldn’t prevent my maker from realizing that I cared about Sookie. But I had held back the fact that I had love for her—memories or not.
Luckily, Appius had quickly lost interest in me since he perceived that I was “my usual self.” I had learned how to bore him, and he had a jealous Alexei to focus upon. Of course, before he’d left, he’d spent a few weeks reminding me who was the master.
Now that he was gone, I could allow myself to truly feel my hatred of him for the first time in almost a millennium. It felt fucking good!
But it was eclipsed by the love and the longing I had for another.
I left Sookie’s porch to make my way to the section of the road where she had found “her Eric” the year before. The letter had told me all about it.
I sat and I waited, spending several minutes contemplating the past twenty-four hours.
I was now the King of Louisiana. I had never wanted a kingship, but Sophie-Anne’s acts—both to poach in my territory and to send my sadistic maker after me when I was most vulnerable—were unforgiveable. And then the cunt had dared to ask me to sell V in order to replenish her personal coffers after Hurricane Katrina!
It had taken me a while to come up with a take-over plan that was foolproof. Thankfully, I’d known that Sookie was safe from my queen because Sophie-Anne had truly been scared shitless of Niall. I was just grateful to him. Because of him, my EX-queen had been held at bay until I could take her head.
Killing Sophie-Anne had been satisfying—so fucking satisfying! Thalia had had the honor of killing Andre. Waldo and Hadley were also no more—thanks to Pam and Bill. The “Berts” had been “harder” kills to make because I actually appreciated them. But they would have been obsessed to avenge their maker if they’d lived, so they had to go too. I took out one of them and Rasul took out the other.
Once Sophie-Anne and her children were gone, almost all of the other vampires in court had bowed down to me and accepted me as the new king. Those who didn’t were quickly dealt with. But, truth be told, there was no love-loss for Sophie-Anne in Louisiana.
For decades, Sophie-Anne had overtaxed her subjects. After Katrina, she’d added to the taxes in order to repair the damages to her estates, but she’d done very little to help displaced vampires in and around New Orleans, nor had she helped the city itself.
Selfish bitch. No one would miss her.
Every vampire who had sworn fealty to me knew that I could be a brutal bastard, but I was also a fair ruler of my people, too. And I was actually a leader, rather than an entitled child on a throne.
Needless to say, the Supernatural Council had approved my kingship earlier that night.
My first order of business? A protection edict for Sookie Stackhouse.
My second? Selling off Sophie-Anne’s “crowned” jewels to begin helping with the rebuilding of New Orleans.
I heard Sookie’s car before I saw it. I smiled, feeling tenderness for her—and pride. Whenever I thought of her now, my feelings seemed to come from two places—almost like an echo in a deep canyon. I’d talked to Octavia while I was in New Orleans, and she’d posited that the “other Eric” was slowly rising to the surface. She couldn’t be sure, but she did tell me that my aura looked better—whatever the fuck that meant.
I rose to my feet and waited for Sookie.
She now had a successful business—which the “other me” had apparently dreamed up. But she still drove the yellow piece of shit she always had.
I’d come to respect the part of her that refused to relinquish that car.
She found use in things as long as they continued to work. And she didn’t discard things just because she could.
I stepped out into the road, though I was careful not to impede her way.
She passed me.
I heard brakes moments later. But I didn’t turn around until Sookie’s car door had opened and then closed.
“You didn’t lose your memories again—did you?” Sookie asked me as she came toward me. She stopped when she was about fifteen feet away.
“No. But I haven’t remembered us either,” I said truthfully.
I heard her sigh. “Um—okay.” She shivered from the cold or maybe from the fear of the hurt I could cause to her. But I was done with causing her pain.
I walked slowly toward her.
“I don’t need to remember him to know that I love you, Sookie,” I said.
“The only question is whether you can love this me.”
She glanced at my left hand. The ring she’d given to “him” was there. I just hoped she’d let me keep it.
“You have always been him,” she said, running the rest of the way to me.
I caught her in my arms.
Warm. Beautiful. Home.
I kissed her because I couldn’t help myself.
I didn’t want to help myself. I kissed her harder.
Warm. Beautiful. Home.
When she was breathless, I reluctantly pulled away.
“I don’t remember,” I said again.
“I can help you with that part,” she promised.
She already had.
“I’m the King of Louisiana,” I added.
She gasped, but then shrugged. “I figured that might happen.”
“You always did ‘get’ me,” I smirked.
She smirked back. “You know that I won’t give up my business—right?”
I chuckled. “I was going to ask if I could moonlight as one of your employees.”
“You were always good at tearing things down,” she said, a smile playing at her lips.
“I’m good at building things too,” I responded sincerely. “And I want to build a lot of things with you.”
“Good,” she sighed, taking my hand and leading me to her piece of shit car; I knew I wouldn’t quite fit in it.
But that was okay—because I somehow knew that I would fit into Sookie’s life in the ways that mattered. And I somehow also knew that I’d remember the “other Eric” soon enough. Meanwhile, I didn’t mind simply being in love with her as me.
A/N: Well that’s it.
I have to thank my wonderful friend who gave me the idea for this story and the “SHORTS” that I’m composing by reader request. She has finally given me permission to share her initials: A.R. But she continues to want to be anonymous beyond that. Love ya, A.R.!
I hope you liked this story. I’d not intended it to be so angsty, and A.R. was shocked when I told her what my plan had become. She’d wanted pastoral and idyllic—NO ANGST. But she got Ocella! She has, thankfully, forgiven me.
Best to you all,
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