Lafayette, Jesus, and Jason were sitting on the porch as the sun disappeared under the tree tops about 10 minutes into Sookie’s bath. They all looked at each other, but said nothing as they took in the waning sunlight.
Jason sighed. He’d spent the day thinking about what to do with the Jessica/Hoyt situation and still wasn’t certain if he should tell his best friend that he’d slept with Jessica. To make matters worse, Jason still felt desire for her even after the tie thing was broken. He wondered if Sookie felt the same way about Eric or Bill.
Jason knew―even though he hadn’t understood exactly what was happening―that he’d been witness to something major with Eric and Sookie the night before. He also realized that the glamour he’d been given by Pam seemed to prevent him from thinking about the events of the previous night only when he was close to Sookie because he’d pondered them many times throughout his workday.
He’d been the one to open the door to Pam and Eric and invite them into the house as the spell had been going on, and though some might challenge him on the idea, Jason knew that he wasn’t stupid enough to let vampires in without a good reason. He’d realized as soon as he saw Eric and his condition that he didn’t actually know anything about the vampire, not really. Eric had looked―well, he’d looked like death warmed over―and he’d seemed desperate to help Sookie―to find her and to save her―despite his condition. Jason had expected Eric to be angry about his sister breaking the blood thing like Jessica had been, but he’d reacted unexpectedly on that too. As soon as he’d known what Sookie was trying to do, he’d done something to the magical blood thing himself. Jason had also been shocked to see the vampire pass out right along with Sookie after the spell. He was still trying to figure that one out. He hadn’t thought vamps could sleep at night.
But what he didn’t need to figure out was the way the vamp took control after he finally woke up. Jason was as protective of his sister as any brother could be, and he recognized that same desire to protect her coming from Eric. When they’d all come back into the house after Bill had left, Jason had gone to Sookie’s room and looked in on her from the door, not completely sure that the vamp was trustworthy. But as soon as he’d seen Eric, standing a few feet from the bed and looking at his sister reverently, he’d turned and left them alone. Jason had never given anyone that look, nor had he seen it given to him, but he still recognized what it was. He couldn’t help but wonder what his sister would do now that all the vamp blood was gone from her body. But he hoped that whoever his sister ended up with would always look at her the way Eric had been. He’d seen Bill look at his sister quite a bit, but he’d never seen that kind of mixture of respect and devotion from him.
“Let’s go inside,” Jesus said as the sun disappeared completely. The foreboding note of that statement struck all three of them. And they all wondered which vampires―if any―might show up.
“It sho’ gets dark quick once you turns the clocks back.” Lafayette observed, as the three went inside.
After her bath, Sookie joined the boys and her brother in the living room, where they’d settled in with beers and gumbo, a few minutes after dark. She turned down a beer but accepted the gumbo and a large glass of water as she eased into Lafayette’s comfortable recliner. She ate slowly, savoring the mixture of spices that reminded her of Gran, even though they irritated her sore throat a bit. She had finished half of a bowl and the glass of water when there was a knock at the door. Out of instinct, she dropped her shields and discovered that there was one void outside.
She tensed, wondering which one it was, Bill or Eric. Or maybe it was Jessica or Pam or some other vampire she didn’t even know. For once, she didn’t have a feeling about who it might be, and she realized that she had almost always known instinctually if Bill was the void she was feeling. She now realized that this must have been part of the tie’s effects. She also had begun to sense when Eric was the void too―at least after Dallas.
Jesus looked around at the others and nodded to Jason. Both of them rose and went to the door. Sookie thought for a moment that the two looked like bodyguards as they pushed out their chests and stood at full height. Jesus signaled Jason to remind him not to look a vampire in the eye.
Lafayette walked over to Sookie to grab her hand.
Though Sookie couldn’t see who was at the door from where she sat, she immediately recognized Bill’s accent, “I have come to call on Sookie. I trust she is feeling better this evening.”
Sookie’s reaction was to grab Lafayette’s hand a bit harder. The friends had not talked about whether Sookie would want to see either Bill or Eric, but now that she heard Bill’s voice, she wished that she had spoken to them. What she really wanted was some time to process everything before she saw them, but given Bill’s insistent tone, she wasn’t sure she was going to get it.
Jason spoke up, “This isn’t a good time, Bill. Sookie is still very tired and needs her rest. She just woke up a while ago, and she’s eatin’.”
Bill answered, his politeness sounding a bit off even to Sookie’s ears, “I will wait then, even outside if I must, but I insist upon seeing her this evening.” He paused and then added, “I wish to check on her health for myself, of course. I will not do anything to harm her.”
From the door, Jason angled himself to look at Sookie, looking over Jesus’s shoulder to do so. He was silently asking for a signal about what to do.
Jesus stepped forward a bit, “Mr. Compton, I know that you are worried for Sookie, but she is fine. She is still weary, but she is getting stronger. I’m sure she plans to call you as soon as she feels better.”
Sookie could have kissed Jesus in that moment and hoped that Bill would just leave for now.
“While I appreciate your attentions to Sookie’s health, ” Bill started, “I don’t intend to leave tonight until I confirm her well-being myself.”
Sookie didn’t want to risk her friends’ safety no matter what, so she spoke up, her voice a bit stronger now that she’d had some warm food and more water, “It’s okay, Jesus, Jason. I’ll talk to him for a minute on the porch.”
Lafayette shook his head no, but Sookie gave him a pat on his hand, signaling that her mind had been made up. “We’ll be here if you need us, Sook,” he whispered as he helped her to her feet. “And I’ll be watchin’ from the window.”
Sookie gathered herself together and walked slowly to the door, wondering why she was so nervous about seeing Bill. She chided herself for her fear; this was the person who had saved her life just a few days before. Still, she was nervous to see how he’d react to her severing the blood tie. Plus, she hoped that he wasn’t going to be as pushy as he’d been the other night.
As she walked past Jesus and Jason, she gave them both reassuring pats on the shoulders before joining Bill on the porch and closing the door behind her. She looked into the dark eyes of the handsome vampire in front of her; she noted that he looked very good in his tailored suit, which fit him to perfection. He held an elegant bouquet of red roses in his hand.
“I believe it is still customary to bring flowers to wish someone good health,” he said with a warm smile on his face.
Sookie accepted the gift and gestured toward the small table on the porch.
“Thank you, Bill. Please, let’s sit. I’m a little tired.”
“Of course, darling.” Bill pulled a chair out for Sookie.
Sookie took the seat warily, and pulled back a bit when his hands brushed her shoulders.
After Bill too had sat, he began, “I understand why you felt the need to break the ties between yourself and Eric as well as with me. You have suffered through so much because of this situation with the witches, the Russell situation,” he paused for a moment, “and even the deception that my queen forced me into.”
Sookie looked at Bill and sighed in relief that he seemed to have accepted her choice.
He continued, “In fact, I think it is good that you broke the ties. Now we will have a chance to start anew.”
“Thanks, Bill,” Sookie said sincerely. “That’s all I really want―a nice, clean slate so that I can decide what I truly want with my life.”
Bill looked at Sookie pleadingly. “I have always regretted the way that the queen made me coerce you into drinking my blood, Sookie. This gives us a chance to make things right. You and I could enter a tie by choice and love this time.”
Sookie stayed silent, though tears had begun to gather in her eyes. She certainly didn’t feel ready to hear Bill’s words; plus, she didn’t like the fact that he seemed to be blaming all his actions on the queen. Nor did she like that he seemed to just assume that she’d want to take his blood again. The emotion and toil of the last few days caused tears to roll down her cheeks.
Bill misinterpreted Sookie’s tears as a sign that she now regretted breaking their tie. He also took them as a sign that she would soon be his again. He felt certain that his use of words such as “choice” would show Sookie that he was willing to let her come to him freely. He also wanted to convey to Sookie that his first acts concerning her had not been by his instigation. Certainly, he’d come up with the plan with the Rattrays, but he had been ordered by his queen to get his blood into Sookie by any means possible as soon as he had reported that she could not be glamoured.
Bill continued, “Sookie, you are the love of my life, and I want you to be by my side. I know that even without the blood, you must feel the same.” He looked deeply into her brown eyes, hoping that even though he could not glamour her, he might be able to influence her a bit.
Sookie felt a pressure in her head, one that she hadn’t felt from Bill since the second night she’d known him. She wondered why he’d attempt to influence her in this way, but the sobering thought that he would made her tears stop falling. She took in a long breath to compose herself. “Bill, I’m not ready to make any big choices right now. I need time to work things out before I decide anything.”
Bill looked at Sookie with affection and reached out, grabbing her hand, which had been on top of the table, still grasping the flowers he’d brought. “It is fine, darling. I know that now that Eric’s influence is out of your system, you will do what is right for you. And I will be waiting.”
Sookie felt a strange mixture of discomfort and familiarity at his grasp. “Like I said, Bill,” Sookie continued more forcefully, pulling her hand from his slowly, “I need time to think about what I want.”
Bill took a deep, unnecessary breath before looking at Sookie with an expression she associated with a parent looking at a child. “Sookie, you must understand that you are in danger as long as you remain unclaimed. I know that you believe you need time to work out your feelings, but Nan Flanagan and others may know of your gifts, and I fear that if you do not tie yourself to someone, you may end up being taken.”
Sookie stiffened in fear that Nan or someone else might try to kidnap her. She also thought about the fairy threat she still faced; she didn’t think that Claudine would be the last fairy she encountered. Someone else would eventually come looking for her. She thought momentarily about Eric’s words to her before he’d lost his memories. He’d offered the same thing to her―protection. Eric had called upon her practicality―Fairy Sookie―to rule her. And then she recalled Pam’s words to her the night she’d gone to Fangtasia looking for Eric, ‘You need to be somebody’s or you won’t be at all.’
For a moment, as she looked at Bill, she saw the vampire she’d seen the first night she met him. His mind was quiet to her, comforting. He also loved her, of that she was almost certain. For a split second she thought about how it would be very easy to just take a drop or two of his blood so that he could sense it if she was in danger.
Bill saw the various emotions stream across Sookie’s face, finally seeing a flash of acceptance in her eyes. He spoke, hoping to take advantage of the moment, “Darling, I meant what I said in the restaurant that night. I do want to marry you. Since then, I know that things have gotten beyond our control, but I am now free of both Lorena and the queen. I became king for you, Sookie, to make sure that I would always be in a position to keep you safe.” Sookie noticed the slight glance to the side that sometimes accompanied Bill’s speaking. He continued quietly, “And then you disappeared without a trace. Now we have been given a second chance.”
Sookie looked closely at Bill, her tears threatening to fall again, this time because of Bill’s words, which were pulling at her heart. But as much as she might want to just collapse in the arms of the first man she’d ever loved, the one she’d given her virginity to, a little voice in her head pulled her back. She steeled herself and said to Bill, “Thank you. I know that you didn’t mean to hurt me.” As she looked at Bill’s face, she was certain of that much at least. “But Bill, I’m not ready to give myself to anyone right now, despite the fact that there might be dangers for me. I know that there are vampires and others that would want to use me for my telepathy, and I also know that my stupid fairy hands and blood only add to that, but I need time to figure things out.”
Bill realized that Sookie’s stubbornness had reared its ugly head as he saw the resolve in her eyes. He decided that his best tactic would be to withdraw for the moment.
“All right, darling. I will, as I said before, be waiting for you. I ask only that you do not return to your home as you are making your choice and that you decide as soon as possible. Since Northman owns your property now, you would not be able to keep any vampires out.” The last thing that Bill wanted was for Sookie to return to a house owned by Northman.
Sookie nodded, “I have already decided to stay here for a couple of days until I feel better anyway.” Sookie took in a deep breath and told Bill about another decision that she had made while she was soaking in the tub. “I think it would be a good idea to get together―to talk―before I make up my mind about anything.”
Bill nodded, happy about any excuse to spend time with Sookie.
Sookie continued, “I would like to have dinner with you, day after tomorrow at my home. That’ll be Tuesday evening. I’ll cook myself something, and I’ll have TruBlood for you. I want to ask you some questions about things.”
Bill answered, “I’d be honored, Sookie.” He had to use the best of his Southern charm to hide the fact that the thought of her eating in front of him was really not appealing to him. However, he would suffer through if it led him one step closer to Sookie. He leaned toward Sookie and raised her hand, which he had taken back into his own, to his lips. He smiled with satisfaction as he heard her heart rate pick up. Whatever questions she might have, he was certain that he would be able to address them satisfactorily.
He laid Sookie’s hand back over the roses and stood.
Sookie looked up at him with a slight smile on her lips, “I will see you Tuesday evening, Bill. Let’s say at 8:00? And just so you know, I intend to have made my decision about what to do by Friday night. I know that I cannot wait too long to make my choice because of all the threats you rightly pointed out.
Bill bowed slightly, “I will look forward to both Tuesday and Friday nights then, darling.”
He walked to his limo at human speed, glancing back once at Sookie and giving her a slight wave and smile as he opened the car door.
As soon as he had gone, Jesus joined her on the porch after having been elected by the other two, who were having a hard time keeping their emotions in check. “You okay, Sook?” Jesus asked, the concern evident in his eyes.
“Thanks, yeah. All in all, Bill was real decent about me breakin’ the tie.”
Jesus handed her a fresh glass of water he’d brought her. She accepted it gratefully, smiling up at him.
“Do you wanna come in?” Jesus asked, a bit worried about Sookie sitting on the porch alone at night.
“Can I have just a few minutes, Jesus, and then I’ll be in?”
“Sure, Sook.” With some hesitation, Jesus turned and walked back into the house though he was keeping a close eye on Sookie through the open curtain.
Sookie sat back in her chair, taking her water with her. She sipped it slowly, letting the liquid swish on her tongue, which still felt a little swollen. She thought about her visit with Bill, and she realized that the encounter had left her with mixed feelings. On the one hand, she didn’t like the fact that he seemed to be trying to pressure her into a decision; she was certain that he would have given her his blood tonight if she would have let him. Given the fact that she’d just gone through so much to sever her blood tie and bond so that she could make a rational choice for herself, she thought that Bill’s behavior was a bit clueless―at best. At worst, it was downright suspicious! On the other hand, her heart couldn’t help but be warmed by his protestation that he’d become king to keep her safe. Of course, all that felt a bit odd too since he was now telling her that she needed to retie herself to him in order to keep safe. Was being king not enough to work to keep her safe without the blood tie? Whatever was the case, she certainly was confused.
She tried to clear her mind as she continued to sip her water. She set her glass back on the table next to Bill’s roses, and she ran her fingers over the petals. She remembered that Gran had once told her that red roses signified both love and respect, though most people only knew about the love part. Gran had also told her that the two things always went hand-in-hand and that true love―the real and lasting kind―never existed if respect wasn’t also there.
She shook her head and whispered out loud to herself, “Bill, you might love me, but you need to work on the respect part.”
Sookie leaned back into her chair, letting her muscles relax into the cool wood. Within minutes, she was dozing.