Chapter 1: The Grafter

Summary:

Set two years after the final scene of True Blood, both Eric and Sookie are reassessing their choices. And both of them realize that what they feel most is bitterness. Can they turn that bitter to sweet?

Disclaimer:

All publicly recognized characters, images, lines of dialogue, and plot lines are the sole property of their creators. I own only my own imagination as it involves the characters I love; however, even my imaginary constructions would be impossible without True Blood and the Southern Vampire Mystery series. My work is not-for-profit and intended only for the enjoyment of the writer and readers. No copyright infringement is intended.

Beta: Kleannhouse

Art Work: Sephrenia



That bitter taste title



“Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it.”—Harry Emerson Fosdick


Chapter 1 That Bitter Taste

“In hatred as in love, we grow like the thing we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our very soul.”—Mary Renault


Two Years after the end of True Blood

ERIC POV

Bitterness—I’d known of vampires who succumbed to that emotion like they might succumb to a stake. However, bitterness tended to leave a much greater mess. After all, blood and muck could be washed away, or—in the case of Bill Compton—buried.

Bitterness seemed un-washable.

I had always been self-aware—even as a child living a very different kind of life more than a thousand years ago.

I knew who I was from an early age—the son of a king. And I knew that I didn’t want to be that. So I had rebelled—with forethought and with verve. Did I really think my rebellion would get me out of being king? No. I knew my role; I knew my destiny. And—though my father was right that I appeared to be shirking my destiny in some ways—I didn’t dodge it at all in other ways.

I learned the sword.

I learned the politics.

I learned “how” to be king by studying my father. And I learned what a king’s wife should be like by studying my mother.

Call it an Oedipal Complex if you like, but I wanted to marry someone like my mother. She was strong and brave—and more somehow.

Though it was difficult to quantify that “more.”

When my father went on a raid, my mother took care of our people with even more steely nerves than my father could muster. Indeed, I learned that my father’s greatest wisdom was in the fact that he never discounted my mother’s ideas and opinions—even when he was holding court.

I’ve seen cultures where misogyny ruled, but the community of my birth was not like that. My father never appeared or felt weaker when he turned to my mother to ask her opinion. No—he recognized that she made him stronger. And she, in turn, respected and treasured him.

In my mind, none of the women I fucked back then were ever candidates to be my wife. In fact, none of the daughters of the noblemen that my father tried to foist upon me were true candidates either. Simply put, none were worthy because none were of the same ilk as my mother. I have learned since then that that kind of person—that kind of partner—is one in a million.

One in a billion.

That’s not to say that I haven’t found many people of both genders admirable over my many years. I have—most certainly. But, to that admirableness must be added true compatibility in order for a relationship such as my mother’s and father’s to evolve.

That kind of mutuality is rare—so rare, in fact, that it took me a thousand years to find such a person who I wanted to keep by my side.

Oh—there had been “possibilities” over the years.

For instance, Nora had immediately caught my eye. She was brave and smart. And I always found her to be a remarkable beauty. When I asked Godric to turn her, I’d had a clear purpose in mind. I had wanted to keep her around—though I hadn’t wanted to be her maker.

Why not?

Because—in the first moments of meeting her—I had hope that she might prove to be that complement I’d been subconsciously seeking, ever since I’d witnessed the beautiful union of my parents. Simply put, I knew that Nora couldn’t be my partner if I were her maker, which would invariably set up a hierarchy between us.

Sadly, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Nora and I weren’t true complements. Oh—I loved her. Moreover, I cared for her. But we rubbed each other the wrong way, despite the fact that—physically—we were capable of “rubbing” each other just right.

Still—”compatible” we were not.

“Sara’s made us another $200,000.00,” Pam grinned as she walked into my office at Fangtasia. She was carrying two briefcases that were assumedly full of money.

I looked around at my messy office as Pam placed the briefcases on the couch and then walked out of the room—probably to go find a lover for the night.

Why did we still have this shit-hole when we’d made billions off of New Blood? And even more off of Sarah?

Bitterness.

I felt mired in it. Moreover, I felt bad about trapping my child in it with me.

It’s funny how the rebellions of my human youth had amounted to little more than sexual promiscuity. Like I said, even though my father might have thought otherwise, I had learned how to rule effectively. And, after his death, that is just what I had done; I’d ruled—well. Of course, I did it out of duty—not choice. I married a woman who was not a partner to me, though she did her duty too. She was a beauty, and she accepted my body when I wanted hers. When I was off on a raid, she oversaw things at home, though she would always defer to Úlfr, an advisor to my father who had lost the use of an arm during the raid by Russell’s Weres. Úlfr couldn’t fight anymore, so he stayed at home. And, essentially, Aude let him make all of the important decisions when I wasn’t there. It wasn’t that she was weak; she was just “uncertain.” However, she was a good mother to our children.

Yes. Back then, when duty had called, my rebellions had ended.

But my rebellions now seemed endlessly fed by my bitterness.

Quicksand.

And the vampire in the mirror was a stranger to me.

What was I rebelling against now?

Feelings.

I hated them. The witch, Marnie, had once ripped my sense of self out of my body and left me memory-less. But, perhaps, her greatest harm had been ripping away the barriers I’d always put between my emotions and my actions.

As a human, I’d had to erect that barrier. I’d hated being king—despised it—but I still needed to be a good one because others relied upon me. I had consciously separated my disdain from my duty so that I could rule.

After I became a vampire, I became even more efficient at separating my feelings from my actions—though I did have slip-ups on occasion. However, Godric taught me that emotions made vampires weak and that they should be mastered.

And, of course, I witnessed firsthand what happened to him when he allowed his emotions—specifically his guilt—to “master” him. It was ironic that Godric could be such a good teacher when it came to separating emotion from action—when he was the one who committed suicide as his guilt drove him to that Dallas rooftop.

Am I bitter about what he did? Yes.

Am I bitter about the hate I feel for him now—hate that is mixed interchangeably with the love I have never been able to stifle for him? Yes. There is much to be bitter about; he left me.

He left me confused. Confounded.

Am I bitter that I “saw” him after his death? Yes. It was he who had counseled me to “forgive” the murderer of my parents by giving him a swift death.

Not surprisingly, I’d rebelled. And Russell had ended up in cement—a can of worms to be opened later. But in leaving him alive, my bitterness against both him and my maker had festered.

Godric “graced” me with more appearances. Ironically enough, he took on his “old” persona and suggested that I chew up Sookie when I had no memories. I’d almost given in to that “teaching.” I suppose that would have created guilt in me to match even Godric’s. Maybe he had wanted me to join him in the sun.

Yes—I am bitter.

His next visits—during the whole Lilith debacle—were no picnic either. First, he put me in “charge” of bringing sanity back to Nora—to keep her safe. And I failed to do that.

Another cause of bitterness.

Next, he “visited” both Nora and me, only to be struck down “forever” by Lilith. Talk about getting fucked in the head!

Yes—I am bitter.

But most of my bitterness comes from my own failures. I failed to convince Godric to stay. I failed to protect my sister because I was short-sighted in making Willa—who is another failure of mine.

In fact, when I think about it, I’ve been a shitty maker all around. I should admit that I didn’t want to “make” Pam. She forced my hand by slitting her wrists in her brothel. Otherwise, I would have glamoured her to forget vampires, and I would have left. Oh—I “liked” Pam even as a human. Her survival instincts were as cold as any vampire’s, and she’d already learned the lesson Godric had spent centuries perfecting in me: mastering your emotions. Pam had been a master at that well before she’d met her first vampire.

I won’t lie and say that I don’t love her. I do. She is good company and has always kept me amused—on my toes. But I know now that I’ve done her a disservice by wanting to hold onto her company for so damned long! Her life is too wrapped up in mine—just as mine was wrapped up in Godric’s. His death left a bitter hole in me—the same kind of hole that my death would have created in Pam. And that is why she was so fucking relentless in making sure that I lived.

Don’t get me wrong. A part of me is grateful to her for my continued survival. But another part of me wishes that she’d just left me the fuck alone. Maybe I would have simply shriveled up and died, or maybe I would have eventually fought. But the fact that Pam couldn’t let me go, even after I’d “freed” her has left me thinking that she will one day be bitter at me. As it stands, she should be.

Her coldness when dealing with the world has only grown during the last several years. The Madame who once took such care of her girls that she was willing to go against a vampire had become a seller of Sarah Newlin’s blood. She drew the line at “whoring” Sarah out as a sex slave. After all, a minute wasn’t a long enough time to both feed and fuck. But was being a blood slave dressed up in a piece of lingerie much better than being a sex slave?

I thought not.

Of course, I let Pam do what she wanted with Sarah—though the action “should” have been out of character for her. After all, I owed Pam, and she, too, was bitter at the world. She was bitter at me for almost leaving it, although her love for me made her refuse to lash out in my direction. So she lashed out at Sarah as a substitution.

Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t give two shits about Sarah, and I’d not shit in a very long time! But, even in my human time, I was against gratuitous violence against women. But my bitterness had made me “justify” Sarah’s treatment. She had tortured vampires at that Vamp Camp, after all. She’d be partly responsible for Hep-V. She had been partly responsible for killing Nora.

Torture. Suffering. Sarah deserved it. And I knew that it had driven her insane.

Karma.

But her misery didn’t leave me any less bitter. Could any pain that Sarah Newlin felt make the bitterness less in me? No. I’d learned that lesson well now.

But Pam still celebrated Sarah’s pain—probably to cover her own.

Bitter. I was bitter that I didn’t teach Pam—by example—to be a better maker. Like me, she’d turned her first child not out of desire, but because of coercion. Sookie had begged her to turn Tara in exchange for something. Pam hadn’t wanted Tara, though she’d eventually made “somewhat” of a go at being a decent maker. But she’d not made Tara a true priority.

At least I’d done that much for Pam. But I’d not given her the thing she’d craved the most when becoming a vampire: true independence from the whims of the world and from “men.”

Maybe I’d been too bitter that she’d “forced” me to be her maker.

Another bitter pill that I have let linger on my tongue instead of just swallowing the mother fucker is Sookie Stackhouse. As I said, the witch’s spell did more than take my memories. It made me—for, perhaps, the first time in my life—align my actions with my feelings. I had “felt” something for Sookie, and I had acted on it. I had loved without shame or hesitation or question. Twice, I had gotten down on my knees ready to die for her. And one of those times had been after I’d regained my memories.

The damage, however, had been done. With Sookie, my actions and feelings seemed destined to be one.

More than with any other, I intuited that Sookie was the complement I’d hoped for—even when I didn’t recognize that I was hoping.

The first night I’d met her, she’d felt “right” sitting next to me on the dais. She proved herself brave that night, if a little naïve. She proved she cared when she told me about the raid. After all, neither she nor Bill would have gotten into any trouble for being there.

She’d proven brave again when she’d successfully negotiated with me to not kill any guilty humans when she read their minds for me. She’d reminded me—in that moment—of my mother, reaching compromises in discussions with my father. And I’d wanted to compromise with her. After all, she’d made a fair point.

Beautiful. Brave. Loyal. Clever. Those qualities were very attractive, but none solidified her as my match. Something else had. Who knew that it would be her defiant stubbornness that had truly made her a partner for me—my complement. Of course, fate decided to be a bitch and give me only small tastes of the kind of life I might lead with that complement. For—if I were Sookie’s match as she were mine—she’d certainly never recognized that fact.

Was I bitter that Sookie had always seen Bill Compton as her own “match?” As her soul mate?

Yes.

Sookie would likely defend that she had loved me—in her own way.

But when my eyes were open, I knew where I had ranked with her: somewhere below the Were, somewhere above the psychopathic faepire, probably about even with the shifter.

Well below Compton.

Maybe Sookie was scared of how “good” we could be together. After all, her life had taught her—many times—that “too good to be true” was just that—”too good to be true.”

What we had when I was without my memories was—without doubt—seemingly “too good to be true.” So she likely thought my claims of love were false. I knew that—at the very least—she doubted that she loved me. She had been certain that it had been my blood in her which had created her love for me.

Thus, my blood made her bitter—at me. And Bill’s blood made her bitter at him. That is why she’d initially rejected us both.

I had understood her reasoning. But it hadn’t decreased my own bitterness at her.

So—as with Godric—hatred became mixed into love.

I hated Sookie for never giving me a chance. I hated her for taking away my chance to live a fulfilling life with a true partner. I hated her for not recognizing that we could perfect each other. I hated her for failing to see that I was willing to act on my love—but only with her. I hated her for not understanding just how risky that was for me to do after a thousand years of trying to be the master of my emotions. I hated her for becoming the master over my heart.

Yes. When she’d rejected me, my bitterness had grown.

So I did what I’d always done. I tried to separate my emotions from my actions. I returned Sookie’s home to her in order to try to prove that I was over her. I told myself that “another life” would have made things right between us. I tried to overlook the fact that she sought out the affections of others—the “faepire” and the Were—after she’d determined that my love for her wasn’t good enough. Those others got a chance—a real chance with her.

I never did.

Strange how those others did so much goddamned damage to her—when I never did.

Yes—I am bitter. Even more bitter because I haven’t been able to stop loving her. I wasn’t able to stop “acting” out of that love.

Even when I returned to Bon Temps with Pam when I had Hep-V, I felt compelled to go to Sookie—to make sure she was okay. She wasn’t. So I helped her. As usual, she and I worked well together—when she gave me the chance.

That chance hadn’t lasted long.

Holding her had felt like paradise. Fighting by her side—even though I couldn’t fight worth a shit at the time—was transformative. Helping her save her friend had earned me a look of gratitude from her.

The fool I was, I’d mistaken it as a look of love.

So after I’d been cured, I went to her again—ready to take her into my arms again—only to find her back with Bill. And I’d agreed to help her once more by getting Bill a cure, though my bitterness ate up another piece of my soul as I stood on Bill’s porch and smelled him on—and in—the woman I loved.

She’d gone back on everything she’d said about wanting to be “normal.” But I could read the bitterness in her own eyes. Her guilt had driven her back to Bill, just as surely as Godric’s had driven him to the top of that rooftop. And her guilt had taken away the possibility of my being with her—of my truly “living”—just as Godric’s guilt had taken his life.

Neither one of them had chosen me.

Again, my love just wasn’t enough.

Yes. I was bitter.

The person I’d loved most had chosen to love Bill Compton—despite the fact that he wouldn’t take the fucking “Sarah cure” and rid Sookie of her guilt. That evening—even as he’d denied his own life—she had instinctively sought out the comfort of my arms, but she had never trusted that comfort enough to stay in them.

Was it bitterness that had made me tell Sookie that she ought to speak with Bill the last time I’d seen her?

Yes.

I had been bitter that I’d been asked to be a “marriage counselor” by Bill. I was bitter because I knew that talking to Bill was what Sookie would do no matter what—after she’d cooled down. Bill had always had the ability to manipulate her.

He’d always thought of darkness and light as opposites—always opposed to one another. That was why he and Sookie had had such a painfully volatile relationship.

These days, Sookie might romanticize their time together by claiming that love had to be “fought for.”

But I knew better.

My parents had shown me that “better.” Love wasn’t a fight between the two people “in love.” It wasn’t a struggle. It was a joining that made them “one.”

In short, it didn’t “steal” light. It couldn’t.

Meanwhile, even as Sookie had rejected me, I had known that she and I were complements—just as I knew that light and dark were complements. They didn’t have to struggle for supremacy, for—when they were together—did they not create something “new?” Something beautiful. In pure darkness, one couldn’t see. In pure light, one would go blind. But—when light and dark mixed together—one could see clearly.

Sadly, Sookie believed Bill’s narrative—just as the bitterness inside of me had known that she would.

I had tested her, and she had failed. And I lost her yet again.

In the end, she’d helped that selfish motherfucker take his own life when he could have staked himself or met the sun. It had been only a small victory that she’d not given up her Fae nature when helping him. After all, she’d almost immediately taken steps to seek out the version of life Bill wanted for her.

It wasn’t the version that I knew she’d been “meant” for. But what the fuck could I do about it? I couldn’t—wouldn’t—force her to love me.

And I wouldn’t beg—not again.

Sookie had been mistaken. I had loved the girl in the white dress because she’d proudly sat next to me on the dais as if she’d belonged there. And she had belonged there—next to me! That girl could have chosen me because she’d yet to become jaded by Bill’s deceptions and her own guilt regarding her grandmother’s death.

I didn’t love that girl in white and red because I thought she should be “normal” according to the close-minded ideals of Bon Temps—or Bill Compton. I didn’t love that girl because I thought her naivety was preferable to her knowledge. I wanted that girl to come back so that she could “choose” me.

So that she could choose the best version for her life—choose her own “normal” with no regrets or apologies!

I wanted to see the woman who could easily and confidently etch out the best life that she could in her world—just as my mother had done.

Was I bitter that Sookie had sold herself short and hadn’t done that? Yes.

Was I bitter that the Sookie left behind following Bill’s death was “his” version of what she should be?

Yes.

Sookie had written me a letter, not long after Bill’s death. In it, she’d told me that she had “helped” Bill to die, though she’d not given up her “light.” In it, she’d told me that Bill was right—that she needed to seek out a “normal” life with a “normal” man. She thanked me for helping her save Arlene. She thanked me for convincing her to talk with Bill. She thanked me for her home and offered to pay me for it “a little at a time.” And she asked me to respect her need for normalcy by staying away.

Was I bitter? Yes.

The accumulated bitterness in me made me withhold the cure for Hep-V from my kind; I pretended that my motivation was increased wealth, but it wasn’t. Call me a bastard—but I truly didn’t care about the suffering of the infected.

For those who had Hep-V already, I gave them a continuous supply of Band-Aids that would keep the disease from taking hold of their bodies—but just barely. New Blood also gave those who drank it “temporary” inoculation, so that vampires could feed from infected humans without getting the Hep-V virus. Of course, they needed to have a New Blood right before they fed on a human—just to be safe.

Indeed, I had been betraying my kind for money that I didn’t even need every day for the past six years because I was too bitter to allow them a real cure. I had suffered immeasurable loss, so I made others suffer too.

I was a sadistic, blind jackass.

I let vampires exist with the same disease that had killed Nora, and I profited from their travail.

My bitterness had allowed me to overlook my own hypocrisy—until now.

I had awoken that night seeing my actions as what they truly were—the child-like rebellion against hurt that I hadn’t wanted to acknowledge.

But there were worse things than hurt.

It was time either to swallow my bitterness or to do the world a favor by meeting the sun.

I had decided to swallow—come what may.

I decided to feel again.

And to change.


 

Many thanks to Kleannhouse for lending me an extra set of eyes. AND many thanks to Sephrenia for the AMAZING banner!


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23 thoughts on “Chapter 1: The Grafter

  1. Anytime you want to write a new story please do–I will read anything you write. I can understand Erics bitterness and glad that he is going to try to do something about it instead of meeting the sun. I trust you so I know after Eric and Sookie go through their bitter times they will come to the sweet part. 🙂

  2. Your short pieces relieve the tension from the longer works. This is wonderfully written piece of self-reflection on Eric’s part…looking forward to Sookie’s as it seems the she has further to go on the self awareness front. Hope they can find the sweet in three chapters.

  3. I enjoyed this new story and always look forward to other new ones. Your “Comfortably Numb … series is a little too depressing for me, but I enjoy your others, Looking forward to more chapters on Uncharted, and to seeing more on this one. We appreciate your writing!
    Susan

  4. After this start, I find myself wishing it wasn’t only going to be three chapters. However, this first one was very insightful on Eric’s part and I’m sure Sookie’s will be the same. I’m looking forward to hearing how she is feeling and then coming together for their HEA.

  5. Are you nuts? 😳 I’ll take anything you offer 😉 and it does give some relief from the longer stories (not that we don’t love those too). It’s like an intermission at the movies.
    Love Eric’s POV although it’s sad that he’s so bitter. But I can see why he has every right to be *sigh*
    Look forward to Sookie’s bitter POV too…although I don’t feel as sorry for her *shrug*
    And then whatever magic you pull out of your hat to get them talking and back together! 😀😀

  6. This is so wonderfully written! This piece is so sad and bitter but it really reflects what Eric is “feeling” inside! All is past and present emotions are all there: The suicide of Godric, The meeting with Nora and thinking that she could be his soul mate, his destiny, the making of Pam she obliged him to turn her and how she is so dependent to him the “relationship” with Sookie, how she always chose others before him,never gave him a real chance,The making of Willa another failure…You have described his emotions in such a great way! Can’t wait to read what Sookie has to say! Until then take care.

  7. Poor Eric, you have painted him in a very dark place. Yet everything fits with his life history and where he is now. And I want to kick Sookie’s ass again for being so stupid where he is concerned. Thankfully, we have you to right this wrong.
    And never apologize for creating new stories for your readers..

  8. Don’t be sorry for giving us another story. With all that has happened to Eric I’m not surprised that he would be bitter. I like the references to Erics’ parents, their compatibility and mutual respect for each other.
    The reference to Pam and being “forced” to turn her were also spot on. As much as I love Pam and how gutsy she is the one thing about her character that I hate that she forced Eric into turning her.

  9. Wow. Excellent. Eric’s bitterness is so painful. He’s lost everyone he ever loved accept Pam. I’m hoping he can find his way to happiness.

  10. This is a very sad story so far. This is how we all felt, when TB ended, but hopefully you will fix this!!! Poor Eric – left alone will all his bitter thoughts! Get your shit together Sookie!!!
    I like your explanation for ‘whoring’ Sarah out.

  11. So excellent as only you can do. Eric’s bitterness isn’t surprising. I love reading a self-reflecting Eric. He always seems to be more aware of his feelings and/or emotions than someone who claims to have repressed them for so long. I love his attitude and his self-awareness. Looking forward to reading Sookie’s POV.

  12. “In pure darkness, one couldn’t see. In pure light, one would go blind. But—when light and dark mixed together—one could see clearly.” How beautiful is that! If only TB had put their pro-Bill prejudices aside and given us what we wanted –two characters together because together they were more than the sum of their parts! Yes!
    The bitterness in Eric is suffocating. How could he not be bitter! A thousand plus years of disappointments with some glimmer of hope shining in the cracks. Oh my! Only hope that Sookie is mirroring his sentiments and does right by the both of them!
    As always! Fantastic!
    Pat

  13. I’m feeling bitter on Eric’s behalf!! When I think about how that show ended…grrr! Looking forward to what Normal Sookie has to say. Hopefully she’s feeling bitter about the choices she unwisely made.

  14. First Of All Kat ! Thank You For Yet Another Interesting Story And I Love How This One Is Leading, I read Everything You Write So Keep Them Coming Please……Sad That It Will Only Be 3 Chapters but Im Sure They Will Be Good

  15. The real problem with that ludicrous fiasco of a TV series and its final season is that Sookie never loved Compton. It was always the toxic blood and the manipulation of it by that weasel of a vampire.
    I simply sneer in contempt at the pathetic attempt by Buckner to delude himself and the TV audience to the contrary.
    Buckner is as petty and pathetic a small minded misogynistic asshole as the original joke of an author.
    The vile misogynistic trope of woman as bloody victim – both literally and figuratively – from the very beginning of both the books and the TV series was offensive in the extreme.
    Both the original author and the talentless TV hack did a great disservice to the characters who deserved better, particularly Sookie.
    Thankfully far superior and more talented writers such as yourself are able to rectify the abominations made of the potential that was tossed aside in service to small minded mediocrity.

    Apologies for the rant but the rank and offensive misogyny that Buckner and Harris attempted to peddle as ‘love’ offends me to the core of my being.
    I love your stories and have been enjoying catching up with them.
    Long may your muse continue to provide the wonderful inspiration that continues to banish the offensive odor of both the books and that ludicrous excuse for a television series.
    And long live the glorious Viking vampire and his fiery Fairy. 😉

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