I was a size or two bigger since I’d had Adele. Gran would have said that I’d developed a “mother’s hip” for my child to rest upon.
I had a few more wrinkles—especially across my forehead. Gran would have called them “worry lines.”
I had a few stretch marks. Adele had been a big baby.
And my breasts had gotten a bit larger and then a little less perky with Adele’s breast-feeding.
Yes—I’d aged, though I still looked younger than my 34 years—35 if you counted the “year” I’d been gone to the fairy realm. But I was suddenly self-conscious.
Eric was as beautiful as ever, and he was looking at me as intensely as ever. I couldn’t help but to wonder if he was cataloguing the changes to me.
“Hi,” I said, unable to say anything else as I looked at the person who had haunted my dreams ever since I’d allowed him back into them.
“You’ve been experiencing that normal life—I see,” he commented.
I couldn’t help but to chuckle—bitterly. “I tried. But Adele here is like me—a telepath—so I’ve changed my outlook.”
“I’ve stopped imagining that ‘normal’ is something more or less than what I am. I want to teach my kids that normal is what they make of it—not what someone else tells them it ought to be.”
Eric stood in silence for a few moments—watching me closely as if trying to see how the years had changed me on the inside.
“May I?” he asked, gesturing toward my daughter.
I nodded and handed my sleeping child to him. She didn’t wake up; she just snuggled into him to get more comfortable. I might have learned to shield myself from her—and to shield her from others’ thoughts—but vampires were still her preference.
“She likes vampires?” he asked.
“She can’t hear them, and they take away the potential to hear others. Jessica’s her favorite babysitter,” I returned. “Willa’s a close second.”
Eric nodded, looking momentarily troubled. “And how is Willa?”
“She’s going to college—by spring she’ll be finished with a double degree in law and vampire-human relations. She’s currently living with Jess and Hoyt; that house is so big—after all.”
Eric smiled a little. “I always hoped she’d turn out well. She was well on her way when I turned her,” he said with some melancholy in his tone. “She is—happy?”
“She seems to be.”
“And Hoyt and Jessica?”
“Arguing a lot these days. Jess wants kids,” I reported. “She wants to adopt them. Hoyt is draggin’ his feet. They seem happy about 50% of the time,” I said sadly.
He shrugged. “Maybe that is a good proportion for most. What of your brother?”
“You don’t care about him,” I said, “or any of them.” I wasn’t accusing. I was just stating fact.
“Maybe not—but I am,” he paused, “making small talk.”
I chuckled. “Okay then. Jason’s good; actually, he’s really good. He married a woman name Brigette, and she works in Shreveport doing some kind of research on oil’s long-lasting effects on micro-organisms.” I chuckled louder. “To tell you the truth—Jason has no clue what she does, but he’s happy as a clam. They have three kids—all daughters—and he’s become a stay-at-home dad until they all go to school. Brigette’s salary is lots more than a Bon Temp’s policeman could make, but Andy’s holding his place. How’s Pam?” I asked, in the spirit of small talk.
“Extremely displeased with me at the moment, but fine otherwise.” He smirked. “She is as bitchy as ever when things don’t go her way.”
“Would you like to come to the house?” I asked. “And—uh—tell me about it?”
Eric looked at Bill’s grave. “That depends.”
“Are you still mourning him?”
“No. I’m not still mourning Bill.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Sometimes I need a place to get pissed off,” I said honestly, “so that I don’t take my bitterness into my children’s home.”
He looked at me with narrowed eyes. “Thank you for answering. I would love to come into your house.”
I carried Sookie’s child all the way to her crib. She smelled mostly like Sookie: sunlight in a bottle. But I no longer worried so much about Sookie when it came to vampires. And I wouldn’t worry about her daughter either. Young ones like Jessica, James, Keith, and Willa were around Sookie and Adele all the time—as they were near Adilyn, who was even more Fae than Sookie. All had become desensitized to the scent of fairy. In fact, it was only the older vampires who smelled the fairy blood acutely. And, since I had kept Area 5 when the new king was appointed—and had kept a tight rein on who entered it—I was no longer concerned that others would find and covet Sookie and the other fairy-human hybrids in Bon Temps. There were very few outside of the area who knew what she was, after all.
Among vampires still holding positions of power, only Isabel knew about Sookie’s telepathy, and I trusted her to keep that secret to herself.
Ironically, my biggest concern regarding Sookie involved Pam, who continued to hate her venomously. But my progeny had finally come to terms with the fact that hurting Sookie hurt me. And—though Pam currently hated me—I knew she wouldn’t destroy me by bringing harm to Sookie and her kin.
No—Sookie was safe in the little enclave of “friendly” Supes in northern Louisiana that I’d made sure was intact for her.
Thus, Adele would grow up safely too. And the boy—Hunter.
The truth was that it had been Bill who had always been the wildcard—the one who had added variables to the mix; Lorena, Russell, Talbot, and Nan were all made aware of Sookie’s telepathy because of Bill. Sookie had been ready to give herself to Warlow because of Bill’s prodding. The witches had become more dangerous because Bill had forced the issue. Hell—I was surprised that he’d not announced Sookie’s telepathy and fairy heritage in that damned book of his!
Even Sophie-Anne had kept Sookie’s existence quiet, for she’d coveted Sookie. No—Sookie had been compromised most because of Bill—because he’d kept things like that damned file on her: a file that had spilled all of her secrets!
As if a vampire needed such a thing to remember information!
But Bill was no more. Neither was Sookie’s other potential “compromiser,” Hadley.
I heard the steady breathing of the twelve-year-old boy who occupied Sookie’s old room in the home. She’d “inherited” him only three days after she’d had her own child. His mother had died of a drug overdose, and the child had been found in squalor. Sookie’s ex-husband had filed for divorce soon after that. I knew of these things because I had kept tabs on Sookie.
Even as I’d kept my distance.
“How is the boy doing?” I asked.
She smiled sadly. “Hunter’s still a little small for his age; he was just so malnourished when I got him. But he’s healthy now! And he no longer has nightmares.” She paused for a moment. “He enjoys being home-schooled. Next year, we’re gonna try regular school since his shields are getting better. But if that doesn’t work, Keith will help me with some of the subjects. He used to be a high school math teacher. Did you know that?”
“I did,” I said as she led me to the living room. I knew everything about the vampires in my area.
“NewBlood?” she asked.
I shook my head. “No thanks,” I said sourly.
She chuckled. “What—don’t you like the taste of your own product?”
“It’s the aftertaste I dislike,” I said honestly.
We sat down on either end of the old couch.
“Why did you come?” she asked, cutting to the chase.
“I’m making some life changes,” I responded. “I’ve grown weary of the life I’m leading.”
“Not like Godric!” she exclaimed, sounding afraid.
“No,” I chuckled ruefully. “At least—not yet.”
“You said Pam wasn’t happy with you?” she asked, shifting the subject, even as she shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“She’s not. She thinks, for example, that I’m insane for coming here.”
“Why are you here?” she asked, biting her lip.
“I love you,” I responded.
She gasped and then took a lengthy breath. She looked unsure—skeptical.
“You still love me?”
I shrugged. “Ask me how many times I’ve fallen in love in a thousand years, and I’ll tell you twice. Ask me how many times I’ve found someone I thought would make the perfect partner for me, and I’ll tell you an even lower number.”
“Never?” she asked in a whisper.
“No. Once. You.”
She took another long breath.
“You are surprised,” I commented. I didn’t need to ask.
“I’m not surprised that you are surprised,” I smirked. “For fate clearly hates the both of us.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I love a woman who seems to doubt that she has a right to be loved. And, even if you could love me back, you doubt my ability to love at all. So—yes—fate is a bitch who hates us.”
“Yes,” Sookie agreed. “It is.”
We were silent for a moment.
“How about we make it our bitch?” I asked her.
“A chance,” I whispered. “A change.”
I nodded. “You are now looking at the ex-CEO of NewBlood. I have dissolved the company. In about an hour, the formula for a blood containing the cure for Hep-V will be leaked on the Internet, and samples of Sarah’s blood have already been sent to twenty of the world’s most renowned chemists. I imagine that a lot of companies will scramble to produce the cure.”
“That is why Pam is angry?”
“Yes—that is one reason,” I said. “Plus, I let Sarah Newlin go, though she was glamoured to go to the nearest police station to turn herself in.” I sighed. “For too long, I enabled Pam to use Sarah as a blood slave. But that didn’t help me ‘feel’ avenged for Nora’s death. It just left me feeling dirty. I think Pam would have eventually felt the same way—or not. Either way, it is time that I truly let Pamela live her life on her own. I love her, and she is loyal like no other, but I’ve done her no favors by keeping her too tied me. She deserves to seek true independence, and—to do that—she needed to hate me a little.” I chuckled. “Like all children must ‘hate’ their parents as they reach for their own lives.”
“What about Fangtasia?” Sookie asked.
“I signed it over to Pam to do with what she wants.”
“But you love that place.”
“No. I don’t. But even if I did, I love other things much more.”
“Are you still sheriff?”
“Yes,” I responded. “And that I will stay.” I smiled. “I like this area. I always have. It’s grown peaceful now that Bill is gone. And the new king of this state is content with letting me manage things my way as long as the coffers continue to be filled.” I paused. “I’m not contrite enough to let leak the fact that I’ve had the full cure to Hep-V all along. I don’t want to be caught in that shit-storm. But I am contrite enough to stop making a profit on the misfortune of others of my kind.”
Sookie gave me a little smile before she frowned. “Did any of it matter? Any of what we went through?”
“It’s life,” I said. “Of course it mattered.”
She shook her head a little.
“Bill once told me that ‘life’ was about having children—and maybe seeing their children—or even their children’s children. But he felt that life should have a shelf-life—that it was unnatural if it didn’t.” Sookie sighed. “In the end, he thought only of the graves of his family—and of his own empty grave.”
I nodded. “I know what Bill thought. Would you like to know what I think ‘life’ means, Sookie? Would you finally risk asking me that question? After all this time? All these years? All the bitterness?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes. What is ‘life’ to you, Eric?”
I smiled a little. “First of all, the length of a life is nothing. A minute of real life—true life—is preferable to a century of half-life or no-life. Take it from someone who knows. What matters is connection.” I held out my hand to her.
Tentatively, she took it.
As always, I felt a jolt at our touch. And I could feel from her jumping heart that she felt it too.
I looked at our joined hands. “This mattered. And it could matter again—if you let it matter, Sookie. I am ready to stop being bitter at the world. I am ready to enjoy the sweet again. And I want to do both with you. However, I am prepared to do them on my own. I don’t need you, Sookie Stackhouse. I have existed without you, and I will continue to exist without you. However, I want you. I’ve always wanted you. Make no mistake about that.”
“My human mother once told me that the men of my line were difficult to live with.” I chuckled. “She said we were high-handed and high-maintenance. She said that we required a tenacious touch. My father valued my mother above all others. He knew her worth—even during the early days of their lives together when she’d yet to understand her own worth. And, in turn, she bolstered him—even during the early days when he was not always strong.
“They lived as partners—true complements. Even as a child, I recognized that what they had was rare and priceless. And I have looked for it for a thousand years—even though I doubted I’d find it.
“You—Sookie. It is in you that I have found what I was looking for. You are my complement. My other half. My soul mate.” I smiled gently at her. “But it does not stand to reason that you would see me in these ways. After all, fate can be a hateful bitch—as we’ve already established. I will admit to becoming bitter—bitter that you seemed to see Bill as I saw you. That you saw him as your match. And I have held onto my bitterness about that—and about a great many other things—for years. But I am weary of feeling bitter.”
“What will you do now?” she asked quietly.
“I will get down onto my knees and ask you to love me as I love you,” I said, even as I sank to the floor in front of her.
She gasped to see me on my knees, but she shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, she’d seen me on them before.
When I’d dropped to them when greeting my maker in the basement of the Fellowship of the Sun church.
When I’d fallen to them to beg Godric to stay in the world.
When I’d collapsed to them while handcuffed to Russell in the sun.
When I’d volunteered to sacrifice myself to the witch’s ire in order to save Sookie.
And there had been other times that she’d not seen. But she needed to know that I would always fall to my knees before her—if she would only be willing to fall with me.
As I looked into her eyes, I tried to let my bitterness go.
“I am here,” I told her. “I am unafraid. And I am not weakened through this act of being on my knees. I do not beg. On the contrary, I offer you myself to love, Sookie Stackhouse. I do this because fate had never given us a real chance before, but I still want to make that chance with you. If you say, ‘no thank you,’ I will grieve your loss—finally—for I’ve avoided grieving for you for six years. But I will move on.”
“Eric,” she whispered, looking extremely uncomfortable that I was kneeling before her. But I didn’t care.
“Please, Sookie. Give me us a chance to live a love story for the ages. Give us a chance to right wrongs. I love you—all of you. There isn’t a part I don’t want.”
“I have children now,” she said.
“So? I happen to like children.”
“What about when I’m old and wrinkly?”
“I will convince you to let me turn you before that happens.”
“Oh really?” she asked, a little light in her eyes.
I nodded. “Yes. Once we are truly together—as we should be—it won’t be any issue.”
“You are confident—aren’t you?”
“No—I think I will fail,” I said honestly. “But I know that, if I succeed, there will be no more doubts or pain when it comes to what we are together.”
“You came here thinking you would fail?” she asked.
I nodded. “Of course. I have always failed to win you, Sookie.” I felt myself smiling slightly—sadly. “The difference this time is that I will no longer be bitter at you or myself if I fail. This is it, Sookie. This night. This moment. Your choice—now. My choice has been you all along. You are the one I wish to be my partner—my helpmeet for the years to come. I believe that we were meant to be ‘one.’ But what matters now is if you can believe that too.”
“One,” she whispered, “like you said in the cubby?”
“Yes. Even without my memories, I knew what you could mean to me—what I wished to mean to you.”
We were silent for a moment as she processed what I’d said—what I’d offered.
“So?” I asked when it seemed from her eyes that she’d made her decision.
She got onto her knees with me.
“So—maybe it’s time that you and I finally got to know each other,” Sookie said, “without one of us having amnesia, without Hep-V-infected vampires running amuck, without bombs going off, without deranged vampires or Weres or witches or faepires trying to kill us, and—most importantly—without Bill. Who knows? Maybe we could find that ‘everything’ you once asked me for.”
Her words were like music to my ears. But a part of me—the part that had been rejected by her before—had to make sure. “You’re sure, Sookie? If we do this, we do it. No more hedging, no more half-truths, no more . . . .”
“No more half-life,” she interrupted. She smiled a little, and—for the first time that night—it snuck into her eyes. “I’m tired of the bitterness too, Eric. I can’t promise you that ‘everything’ right off the bat. But that real ‘chance’ you want—that change you want? I want those things too.”
“So,” I said with a smirk, “how do we go about doing this—when we don’t have deranged vampires and Weres and witches and faepires after us?”
“I have no idea,” she answered with a laugh.
I laughed with her; it felt good.
“Well—what are you doing tomorrow night?” I asked, even as I stood up and took her hands in order to take her up with me.
“Being a mother,” she chuckled.
I refrained from asking her if I could be a ‘mother fucker.’ Instead, I asked her the question she needed to hear and the one I needed to hear answered: “It would be my honor to take you and your children out tomorrow night, Sookie. Would you go on a date with me?”
“A date?” Sookie asked.
“I’ll want a kiss at the end of it—at the very least,” I smirked, feeling lighter than I’d felt in years.
Her eyes looked lighter too—less worried than I’d ever seen them. And more beautiful because of it.
“Then you will probably get one,” she responded.
“Can I have one now?” I asked.
“You may,” she said a little coyly.
Her lips were as soft as I remembered them. Her taste was even better, for no traces of Bill Compton lingered in her scent or in her blood. She opened her lips, inviting in my tongue.
And just like that—in the blink of an eye, in the catch of her breath, in the tic of a clock—the taste of her exploded my senses.
And that bitter taste that had been in my mouth and in my mind for so long was gone.
And there was only sweet possibility left in its wake.
A/N: Well—I hope you liked this little story. (Well—little for me.) You can thank my getting stuck on campus without my laptop as I waited for a meeting. I had intended just to brainstorm a bit, but then this short story started coming out of my brain. I think I’m still trying to come to terms with the end of the show, which left me unsatisfied in SO MANY WAYS. This is just a brief attempt at a “fix.” I know that it’s probably “too easy.” LOL—Eric and Sookie actually talking? INCONCEIVABLE!
I do still plan to write a complete version of Season 7 at some point, but I don’t know when. I have so many things brewing in the pot right now. But that’s good. Right? I hope you think so. That means I’ll keep writing Eric/Sookie stories for a while since I have many more I want to tell. I hope you will continue to read them.
Thank again to Seph for the wonderful artwork for this story!
And thanks again to Kleannhouse for the beta work!
NOTE: This quote by Rumi is one of my favorites ever! It was read by a friend at my wedding. I think it’s a beautiful sentiment and it fits Sookie and Eric to a “T.”
That Bitter Taste .pdf Above is the complete .pdf of the story. I hope you'll leave me a comment before you download the .pdf.