A/N: In addition to not owning the characters of True Blood, I also don’t own the poem “The Seafarer,” but it is one of my favorite literary pieces.
Sookie woke up slowly, feeling much better than she had before when Bill was there.
She was startled slightly by Eric’s soft and calm voice from across the porch.
“Sookie,” he simply said, making sure she realized he was there so that she would not be frightened.
As she looked at him across the porch, her heart jumped.
“Are you well?” he asked.
“Yes, tired, but okay.”
“Good,” he almost whispered. He stared at her for a few moments, drinking in the rich brown of her eyes.
She didn’t know what to say, but she felt the physical distance between them sharply, almost as if something were tugging at her insides. “How are you?”
“I am fine.” Eric couldn’t help the smile that spread across his lips as he tried to remember the last time someone had asked that question of him.
Sookie shifted in her seat, still not knowing what to say, but wishing she could find words that would make him come closer to her.
“I’m afraid I have disturbed your sleep when I did not intend to,” he said, sounding regretful. “You need your rest.”
Eric took an unnecessary breath and decided to bite the bullet, “I came with the intention of speaking to your brother or one of your friends about some protection I have ordered for you.”
Sookie immediately bristled, “What?”
Eric spoke cautiously, “I don’t mean to frighten you, Sookie, or to try to control you, but with Nan sniffing around and with other potential threats, I just wanted to see to your safety.”
“You offered that before,” Sookie said, the resentment now clear in her voice. Eric knew that he’d have to do something quick, or she would order him away.
“I made a mistake in the way I did that,” he said matter-of-factly.
Of all the words Sookie had expected Eric to say, ‘I made a mistake’ was at the bottom of the list. She looked at him, a bit at a loss for what to say next, so he took the opportunity to continue. “This protection requires no reciprocation on your part, Sookie. I know what you told me before. You are not mine. I simply want to make sure that you can have peace for at least a little while as you decide what you wish to do next.”
Sookie softened a bit as she continued to stare at Eric with surprise.
He smiled at her, the kind of smile her Eric had smiled that reached all the way up to his beautiful blue eyes.
He looked at her mischievously. “I have even arranged for you to have the guards that I thought would be least offensive to you, one that is not even in my own best interests.”
“What do you mean?” she asked curiously.
Eric took small, slow steps toward Sookie before placing a large manila envelope next to the roses on the table. He didn’t move to sit, nor did he attempt to touch Sookie; he nodded to the envelope and assured, “All your answers are in here. I had intended to ask one of the men inside to pass it along to you.” He smiled again, this time a bit broader, “But I am glad that I got to see you for myself.” He reached out very slowly, like one would if trying to pet a stray animal. He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and ran his hand down her jawline to her neck before stepping back.
“I will leave you in peace now, Sookie. I hope you find what you are looking for.”
Before he had walked off the porch, Sookie stopped him, “Wait.”
Eric turned around quickly, looking like he had when she’d called to him from her porch, the night she’d kissed him, the night Bill had found them together in her home. His eyes were full of hope.
Sookie took in the vampire before her, dressed again as the Eric she’d known from Fangtasia. He was in dark blue jeans and a black tank, his leather jacket completing the look she’d started to think of as quintessentially Eric.
“I’d like to invite you to my home for dinner Wednesday evening,” she said, almost shyly.
“What time?” Eric asked quickly, a smile forming on his lips again.
“Let’s say 8 o’clock?”
“I’ll be there.”
“I’ll have questions for you then,” she warned.
His smile broadened, “You always do.”
She couldn’t help but return his smile, “Will you answer them this time?”
“Yes,” he said without hesitation.
Remembering her dream from the other morning, the one that had left her so disturbed, Sookie said, “I have one question for you now.”
A look of mirth settled on Eric’s face. “I would expect nothing less of you, Miss Stackhouse.”
She chuckled a bit and then turned more serious, “What does ‘min kära’ mean?”
Eric was taken aback by her question and wondered briefly if she’d heard him say it to her the night before. “Where did you hear these words, Sookie?”
“They’re Swedish, right?”
“Yes,” Eric confirmed. He approached Sookie slowly again. He asked with his eyes if he could take the seat opposite her, and when she nodded, he sat down and stretched out his long limbs comfortably.
Even though she may not have registered it, Sookie relaxed immediately as he sat. Eric did notice.
“Are these words that you spoke when you were human?” she asked.
“Not quite. We spoke a form of Old Norse, the language associated with the people now referred to as Vikings.”
“Did you live in Sweden when you were human?”
Eric nodded, “But my people were not known as Vikings then. We were called the Rus, and I was from a place called Svealand.”
“Like in Beowulf?” Sookie asked.
“Yes,” he answered simply, once again pleased by the kinds of knowledge Sookie carried. Her depth no longer surprised him though.
She continued speaking, sinking back even more comfortably into her seat. “I had to read Beowulf in high school; I didn’t really understand it. I tried it again, though, a few years ago when I came across a new poetry version in the library.”
“Ahh, Seamus Heaney’s?” Eric questioned.
“Yeah―that one I liked.”
“It was good,” Eric agreed, watching Sookie’s eyes begin to droop a bit. “It is hard to make the translation work right; Heaney did better than most.”
Sookie looked at Eric, interested, but obviously drowsy too. “Was Beowulf written in your language?”
“No,” Eric said, his voice quiet and lulling, “it was written down first in Old English, which is very different than modern English. By the time it was written, a group of Norsemen had long since settled in what is now Scotland and northern England. They were eventually absorbed into the culture of their new home, along with their stories and part of their―my―language. The story is set in Scandinavia though, and Beowulf eventually becomes king of the Geats in an area known as Götaland or Geatland. Actually, the people of my land and that land were often involved in skirmishes.”
Sookie felt soothed by Eric’s words, but remembered her original question to him, “And ‘min kära’?”
Eric looked solemnly at Sookie before answering. “‘Min’ means ‘my’ in Swedish and ‘kära’ means something close to ‘beloved one’, so the phrase means ‘my love’. But why are you so interested in these words all of a sudden, Sookie?”
“I heard them from you. You said them to me.”
Eric was taken aback. He couldn’t remember exactly what he’d said to Sookie the night before as he’d sat by her bedside, but he had been certain that she was sleeping the whole time. “In the dream we shared?” he finally asked.
“No,” Sookie shook her head, “but it was a dream I had with you in it. It happened a few mornings ago, the morning after Marnie was killed actually.”
Eric looked curious. “And I said these words to you then?”
“Yep. You told me what they meant and what language they were from in the dream too.”
“So why did you ask then?” Eric questioned, his brow raised.
“I’m trying to figure out if what you told me in my dreams is real.”
Eric looked thoughtful, “I did not experience the dream you are speaking of with you, Sookie, but if the translation I gave in the dream matches the one I just gave you, then what I said there was accurate.”
The two were silent for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts.
“How would you say, ‘my love’ in your original language, in Old Norse?”
Eric looked contemplative. “There is not really the exact equivalent in my birth language, but it would be something like ‘minn sváss.’ But since that language is dead now, I taught Pam the modern language, Swedish, and this is also one of the languages that Godric and I used the most. However, we did speak to each other in Old Norse when he first found and turned me, but my native language died soon after I did.”
Sookie nodded, fascinated and more awake now. She stretched for her water which was slightly out of her reach. So quickly it was almost imperceptible, Eric had placed her glass into her hand, lightly brushing her palm with his fingertips. She felt a momentary jolt at their shared touch and smiled. She settled back into her chair, taking a drink of water.
“What do you think in?” she asked after a few moments of comfortable silence.
Eric looked a bit perplexed. “What do you mean?”
Sookie explained, “Well, everyone thinks in a certain language. For instance, Jesus thinks mostly in Spanish even when he’s talking in English. I don’t know how he keeps everything straight.”
Eric had never thought about this question before. Knowing many languages had been an essential in his life, but after mastering many of the foundational or parent languages, he found modern language to be pretty easy. He answered Sookie even as he tried to work out the answer for himself. “To be honest, I don’t really think about what language I’m thinking in. I know many, but I have been in America for a long time. Right now, because I’m speaking it, I’m also thinking in English, if that makes sense.”
Sookie nodded, taking another drink.
Eric continued, “When I am alone though, trying to work out a problem, I think that I mix various languages together in my mind, almost as if the different meanings that words can create will help me find a solution.” Eric smiled again at Sookie. “I must think in Swedish quite a bit though since I still speak it quite regularly to Pam.”
Changing the subject, Sookie asked, “Do you know the poem called “The Seafarer?”
Eric smiled again. The last thing he would have expected for this evening would have been a discussion of literature, but he found himself enjoying Sookie’s company too much to even contemplate leaving to do one of the many things he needed to take care of that had fallen by the wayside because of the witch’s curse.
“Yes, it is a good poem. It was also spoken and then written in Old English originally, but it is about a man who was on the sea for most of his life.”
“Is that what you did? What Vikings―um Rus―did?”
“Some,” Eric said. “In the warmer months, my people went in long boats to explore or fight our enemies. After I reached 15 years, I went with the men, first my father, and then, after he died, I had to lead the raids.”
“Did Russell really kill your father? Your whole family?”
Despite the dim light on the porch, Sookie could see Eric nod. “Yes,” he answered in a low voice.
“Did finally getting him help you feel better?”
Eric leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table and resting his chin in his hands for a moment before sitting back in his chair again.
“You don’t have to answer,” Sookie said, worried that she’d pushed the ancient vampire too far.
“It’s fine,” Eric said, a slight catch in his voice. “To be honest, no. I did not feel better. I am glad that I finally know who was responsible though.”
“Sorry,” Sookie said, reaching out and briefly touching Eric’s hand, which still lay on the table. After only a few seconds, she withdrew it and picked up her glass again.
The momentary touch had meant much to Eric.
They sat in silence for a few moments before Eric spoke again, “Yes, I like ‘The Seafarer’ very much. It seems to relate to my people as much as it does to Englishmen.”
“When did you first hear it―or read it.”
“Many hundreds of years ago, actually. It had not been translated into modern English when I first saw it. I was making some money as a kind of linguist at the time, and since scholars were often looked at as eccentric, I was able to study and do my translations at night. I was mostly translating Latin texts into English, but I ran across a copy of ‘The Seafarer’ then and memorized it.”
“It’s hard to imagine you doing something like that―working as a translator, I mean. It’s like you had a real job.”
Eric laughed, the sound lifting the melancholy of the last several minutes. “I have a real job now Sookie. I own many businesses and manage Fangtasia. And I am a sheriff.” He sighed unnecessarily, “I have done many things, Sookie, in the last thousand years. Many vampires simply glamoured to gain money and position before we came out to the public, but I enjoyed having access to libraries, especially in the days when the written word and texts were more rare and valuable. And I didn’t want to glamour the minds out of the scholars of the time; I wanted to learn from them.”
“I think I would have liked you then.”
“Probably not,” Eric chuckled honestly. “Just because I didn’t glamour or feed on the scholars that I respected didn’t mean that I was innocent. I have always fed on humans Sookie, both before and after the invention of TruBlood.”
“But you didn’t kill the people you drank from, did you?”
Eric shook his head, “I killed some humans by accident when I was a young vampire, despite Godric trying to teach me discipline. Discipline, I’m afraid, was not a virtue I had carried over from my humanity, so it took time. But, no, by the time I was in England and working as a translator, I no longer was killing people by accident as I fed unless I had been injured. Glamouring worked well enough, and well-concealed bite marks were much easier to hide than dead bodies.”
“Very practical,” Sookie said a bit heavily as she tried to take in the fact that Eric had been a cold-hearted killer at various points in his life. He was also the man she had felt love for―and maybe even still felt love for.
Eric sensed her conflict, “You have seen me kill, Sookie. I will not hide this. I could not. It is in my nature to do so, and I am good at it, but I try to keep this confined to my enemies.”
Sookie nodded. She would think about Eric’s words the next day, but she’d seen him kill twice in the last week with her own eyes. The first time, he’d been her Eric too.
The two settled into silence for a moment, and Sookie’s eyes began to droop again.
“I should go so that you can rest, Sookie. I will see you on Wednesday evening.”
“Wait,” Sookie said again, feeling sad that her conversation with Eric was about to end but very exhausted at the same time.
“Yes?” Eric asked, thinking about how the word ‘wait’ was quickly becoming his favorite word.
“Can you do me a favor without drawing any false conclusions from it?”
Eric smiled, wondering what the beautiful fairy sitting across from him wanted. “Maybe,” he answered truthfully. “I will happily do any favor you ask of me.” His lip turned up roguishly, “But I retain the right to draw whatever false conclusions I wish.”
Sookie smiled up at him, enjoying the glimpse of the flirtatious Eric she had known. Of course, Eric was usually even more suggestive, but he was being extra nice that evening for some reason.
Sookie bit her lip, “Would you carry me inside to where I am sleeping? I feel so tired and stiff right now that I think I might keel over if I try to get up on my own, and I’m afraid that being carried by Jason or Jesus might hurt more than help. And, well, I don’t want Lafayette to break a nail or anything,” she chuckled wearily.
“Of course,” Eric said, getting up. He moved to the door and knocked. Moments later, Jesus answered. The trio inside had been monitoring Sookie from the window until Eric arrived.
After Eric had sat down with her and the men knew that Sookie would be safe, they returned to the living room and settled in to watch one of the Matrix movies on television.
“Hi Eric―um Sheriff Northman,” Jesus said.
“Eric is fine. Sookie has asked that I carry her inside to the room she is sleeping in since she is weary and sore. Is this okay?”
Surprised a bit that he was asking, Jesus answered, “Sure, if that’s what Sookie wants, it’d be fine.” He opened the door wider.
Eric again approached Sookie slowly, not wanting to spook her. He turned her chair slightly as he lifted her into his arms, making sure not to jostle her too much. Her arms went instinctively around his neck, and their eyes locked briefly before she laid her head onto his shoulder.
As Jesus, Jason and Lafayette looked on silently, the tall vampire gracefully carried Sookie into her room.
He sat her on the bed gently. “Will you sleep in this?”
Sookie nodded. The yoga pants and T-shirt she was wearing were doubling as her pajamas. “Will you help me take my sweatshirt off though?”
Silently, Eric reached down and gently lifted the bulky shirt, careful not to move too fast. Sookie raised her arms wearily. The sweatshirt gone, Eric helped Sookie to get under the covers, keeping his intense eyes locked on hers the whole time. It took all of his willpower not to crawl in with her.
“I’ll be right back,” he said. Moments later he returned with a fresh glass of water and set it on the nightstand.
“Thank you,” she said sinking into the pillows.
Eric sat carefully next to her on the bed and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear as he’d done before.
Almost in a whisper, Sookie asked, “Are you angry?”
“About what?” Eric asked just as quietly.
“That I made the blood bond go away?”
Eric shook his head, “No, I am saddened, but I realize that you are acting for your own best interests, and as someone who has survived for a thousand years following the same philosophy, I cannot fault you.”
Sookie nodded. “Did you say that you memorized ‘The Seafarer’?”
“Do you know it in English I would understand?”
“Will you tell me some of it?” Sookie sank down even lower under the covers and closed her eyes.
Eric thought for a moment about whether to begin at the beginning or in the middle. He opted to start with his favorite lines since he couldn’t imagine Sookie staying awake much longer. He spoke the lines slowly and softly as he ran his fingers lightly through Sookie’s hair.
And now my spirit twists
out of my breast,
out in the waterways,
over the whale’s path
it soars widely
through all the corners of the world―
it comes back to me
eager and unsated;
the lone-flier screams,
urges onto the whale-road
the unresisting heart
across the waves of the sea.
Eric knew from Sookie’s heart rate that she was asleep already, but he continued the poem until the end just as he continued the movement of his fingers, taking more comfort in the action that she was at this point. The loss of the bond had affected him more deeply than he could communicate in any of his many languages. He felt like the most substantial and significant part of himself had been hollowed. But he couldn’t help but take hope from his encounter with Sookie, especially since he’d previously resigned himself to not seeing her at all that evening. She’d seen Bill too, but he hadn’t stayed long.
Eric rose; it was 10:30 p.m. He had planned to call Pam after he’d dropped off the envelope and to watch over Lafayette’s house himself until she arrived to replace him. But knowing that he would not be seeing Sookie until Wednesday, three nights from then, made him yearn to sit with her as long as he could.
Plus, the strongest instinct within him told him to stay next to her―to make sure that she was safe. Bond or no bond, tie or no tie, that instinct was still firmly intact.
He quietly left Sookie’s bedside and went into the living room where Jason had just risen to leave. Jason didn’t know everything that was going on in Sookie’s head, but after seeing her cradled in Eric’s arms as if it were the most natural place for her to be and comparing that to the apprehension he’d fell from her as she’d gone out to meet with Bill, he knew whose team he was on.
Jason walked up to Eric and extended his hand, despite the fact that his police training had taught him that vamps do not normally shake hands.
Jason, never one to stand on much ceremony, thought that if Eric wanted to be with his sister, he ought to be willing to shake hands with her family.
Eric looked into Jason’s eyes and saw both acceptance and a challenge there. He had to admit that the Stackhouses did have their ways of surprising him.
Much to the astonishment of both Lafayette and Jesus, Eric took Jason’s hand and shook it.
“Oww,” Jason said when Eric squeezed a bit too hard.
Eric quickly pulled back. “We don’t usually do that,” he said by means of apology.
Jason quickly recovered as he rubbed his hand. “It’s okay. But if you are going to be around my sister, we’re going to have to work on your grip.”
Eric chuckled as Jason turned to leave. Jason told Lafayette, “Tell Sook that I’ll call tomorrow and that I’ll be by after my shift again.”
Eric was already beginning a phone call to Pam as Jason disappeared out the door.
“Pam,” Eric said on his end. “Is there anything to report?”
He listened for a moment as Lafayette and Jesus watched him.
“Good,” he spoke into the phone. “Tell Compton if he calls back that I am out surveying Area 5 to see how many vampires were lost because of Marnie’s sunlight spell and that I am contacting the others from the area to let them know that they may return. If he still insists on speaking to me, give him this number. I’m about due for a new phone anyway.” He smirked at Jesus and Lafayette before continuing.
“I will be staying here again until near dawn, but you may text me if you need to report anything.” As Eric was finishing up his phone call, he walked quickly outside and surveyed the area, scanning to make sure there were no threats. He retrieved the envelope and Sookie’s roses and brought them inside before locking the door. “She would probably want these put in water to preserve them,” he observed, putting the flowers down on Lafayette’s table before turning to face the two men.
Eric gave Lafayette and Jesus a little bow. He could probably count the people he had thanked on one hand, but he spoke anyway. “You have my thanks for your care of Sookie and for allowing me to be in your home. I believe it is good for Sookie to have strong people in her life, especially now.” He bowed again and then handed the envelope to Lafayette. “Will you see that she gets this when she awakens?”
“Sure,” Lafayette answered, as Eric walked back to Sookie’s room.
As soon as he was out of the room, Lafayette and Jesus turned to each other, the disbelief clear in their eyes.
“That motha fucka loves her,” Lafayette said quietly.
“Yeah,” was all Jesus could say as he went into the kitchen to find something to put the roses in. As soon as that was done, the couple went to their bedroom and closed the door.
Eric carefully lay next to Sookie though he kept his body above the covers. He was pleased as she instinctively reached for him and placed her head on his shoulder, her hand on his chest. Eric breathed in her scent and put his arms around his beloved, careful to keep his touch light so that she wouldn’t awaken.
Sookie stirred a bit in her sleep before mumbling, “Eric, can you keep saying the poem till I fall asleep?”
Though Eric could tell she had already fallen back into her slumber seconds after asking her question, he began to recite the poem again, this time from the beginning.
After he’d said it all the way through, he carefully pulled out his phone and took care of some business via a series of texts and emails to Pam, Chow, and Bobby.
About twenty minutes before dawn, he rose carefully, settling Sookie back onto her pillow and pulling the blankets snuggly around her.
He took in her form one last time as he whispered, “Until Wednesday, min kära.”
Eric was about halfway to his safe house when he got a text. He checked it quickly and found that it was from Isabel, who had taken over Godric’s position as Sheriff of Area 9 in Texas. It said only 4 words, but they were words that chilled him, “Danger, go to ground.” Too late to check on the nature of the threat, he forwarded the message to Pam, flew to a secluded spot in the woods where he wouldn’t be tracked, dug a hole, and went to ground for the day, praying to gods that he’d ignored for hundreds of years that Sookie wasn’t in danger too and that his protection for her would be enough.