[A/N: Extended italics = dreams]
“Why are you always here? How can you even be here anymore?” Sookie asked Eric as she sat down at her kitchen table, coffee in hand. The morning light was streaming in through the windows of her kitchen, and she looked at Eric with curiosity. He was dressed in only the black gym shorts she’d given him to wear while he’d had amnesia. He was leisurely reading a newspaper, his pale bare chest seeming to glow in the sunlight. His hair was not styled and fell boyishly onto his forehead.
“Always where?” Eric answered her question with one of his own.
Sookie’s breath caught as he looked over at her and gave her a glorious smile, a smile like her Eric would have given.
“You look like him right now,” she whispered.
“Like the vampire I fell in love with, like you did when you didn’t have your memories.”
“Ah, him.” Eric’s eyes fell a bit, and he looked off into the distance.
“I can go if you want,” Eric said rising. “You need only want me gone, Sookie, and then I’ll be gone.”
“No, it’s okay,” Sookie responded, gesturing for Eric to sit again. She realized that something was suddenly wrong with Eric and wanted to help him. “What’s wrong?”
Eric sat back down, but instead of answering her last question, he answered her earlier one. “I’m not one hundred percent sure why I keep popping up in your dreams, but I will admit that I’m always happy to see you like this. I miss you.”
“You just saw me last night, silly,” Sookie chided.
“I did?” Eric asked, looking surprised. “Well, I still miss you. I miss the bond and I miss feeling you all the time.” He finished in almost a whisper.
“I miss you too; I feel more at peace when you’re close to me. In fact, last night when I saw you, I made you stay with me until I was asleep. You tucked me in and told me a story,” Sookie responded, a small smile playing on her lips.
Eric didn’t return the smile; instead he looked at her searchingly, “Which me do you miss, Sookie?”
She was a bit taken aback. “I don’t know. I liked how you were when you were stayin’ with me, but I didn’t want you to be without your memories forever―without yourself. And then the last few days, after you got your memories back, you seem to be different again. I’m kinda confused.”
Eric looked contemplative, “I asked you once if you would still want me if I remembered.”
“Yes, and I said that I didn’t know but that I wanted to. I hoped I would.”
Eric finally smiled at her again, not as bright and wide as before, but still sincere and beautiful. “I hope that too.”
He resumed reading his newspaper and reached for a cup of coffee. He took a long sip, “This was not around when I was human. But I think I like it.”
“It’s weird to see you drinking coffee, to see you in the sun.”
“It is strange for me too.”
“I had a dream of Bill sort of like this before. It was right after we got together.”
“Oh?” Eric asked, his eyes betraying a bit of disappointment that she’d mentioned Bill.
“Yeah, he had cooked me a big breakfast, and he was sitting right where you are in the morning light. But he was dressed.”
Eric smirked and teased, “I just don’t feel like wearing many clothes when you’re around.” Then he paused and said, “I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” Sookie looked a bit baffled.
“Well, as you can see, I made no breakfast,” he winked.
Sookie looked nervously to the window and then to Eric’s skin, a heavy frown forming on her beautiful face.
“What is wrong, min kära?” Eric asked. When he saw the worry on her face, he was immediately kneeling in front of her. He put a hand lightly onto her cheek and then moved it to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear.
Sookie looked at the light coming in and then back at Eric. “In my dream with Bill, he burned,” she said quietly, trying to cover up a small sob.
Eric looked at Sookie closely, his eyes intense. “That’s not going to happen to me; everything is fine. See,” he said moving his hand so she could see it, “I am not burning, nor will I.”
“But you did already,” Sookie said, tears now escaping her eyes. “You were burning outside of Fantasia with Russell and then again at the lake the other morning.”
“No, you saved me, Sookie―both times. You came for me. You healed me. You protected me. Please don’t cry. I hate your tears, min kära. You don’t have to be afraid.” He placed his hand gently onto her cheek, wiping the tears away.
“But I do have to be afraid,” she sobbed louder. “You’re going to leave me just like everyone else.
Eric looked at Sookie, seriousness radiating from his eyes. “No, Sookie. I will never leave you. Even if you decide that you don’t want me anymore, I will stay close enough to be there if you ever need me. I won’t leave; I swear this on the memory of Godric.”
“But you already did,” Sookie said weakly, “as soon as you got your memories back.”
“No!” Eric said fiercely. “One day you will see that I am the same person as that other Eric. Sookie, you need your clean slate right now so that you can make things right in your life. Can you not see that the time under the witch’s spell was my clean slate? But he is still me, and I was always him.”
Sookie looked at Eric and couldn’t help but laugh ruefully. “We are a fine pair, aren’t we?”
Eric smiled back, again brushing a piece of Sookie’s hair behind her ear. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you say that there are two Sookies, the fairy and the human. And now there are two Erics, the sweet one and the badass sheriff.”
“Then we make two fine pairs,” he corrected, a twinkle in his eyes.
“We’ll have to double date sometime,” Sookie hiccupped, the last of her tears drying up.
Eric laughed out loud. “Well, speaking for both Erics, I accept your offer for this date.”
Sookie grinned back as Eric tenderly stroked the sides of her face with his graceful fingers.
After a few moments, she looked at Eric seriously, “Promise me that if you start to burn, you won’t stay here.”
“I promise, Sookie.”
“I don’t want to lose you,” she said softly. “I don’t have very many people left that really love me now that Gran’s gone.”
“You have one right in front of you,” he said, looking at her earnestly.
She bent down and hugged him to her, feeling his cool back with her hands. Eric returned the hug, holding her tightly. They stayed that way for several minutes.
“Okay now?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said breaking the hug.
Eric took the seat next to hers instead of returning to the one across the table from her.
She reached out and took his hand in hers, and they settled into the quiet of the morning for a few more minutes.
Finally Sookie spoke, “You said you weren’t 100 percent sure why you are still in my dreams. Does that mean you think you might know?”
“Picked up on that, did you?” Eric winked at Sookie. “You always were quite sharp, Miss Stackhouse―couldn’t get much past you.”
Sookie grinned at him, “Don’t try to change the subject; tell me what you think about the dreams.”
Eric looked thoughtfully out the window. “I have a few theories, but I cannot say which―if any―of them is correct.”
“What are they?”
Eric looked at her, the mischievous glint that she liked so much appearing in his eyes. “I will tell you one of my theories now. The rest you may ask me about during your next dream, if you wish.”
Sookie laughed, “Is this your way to make sure that I want to dream about you again?”
“I am, as you know, an opportunist, Miss Stackhouse,” Eric returned, the mischief clear in his voice.
Sookie fake pouted, “Must you always be so difficult?”
He smiled widely. “Must you always be so easy to frustrate?”
She couldn’t help but to smile back at him. “Fine, tell me one then.”
Eric leaned over and brought her hand, which he’d not let go of, to his lips, kissing it gently. He began in a steady, but quiet voice, “You are working to make an important decision, maybe the most important decision you will ever make. You are deciding whether you wish to give your heart away, and to do this, you must confront the real possibility that the love you thought you felt might have been an illusion. Whatever decision you make, your life will be changing profoundly. I’m also certain that you are frightened: you have been targeted by vampires, Weres, fairies, and now witches.”
“Don’t forget the Fellowship of the Sun,” Sookie added with a long sigh. “I sometimes wish that I could just have a normal life.”
“I know,” Eric said. The two sat in silence for a long moment.
“So why are you here?” Sookie asked again.
“As strange as it sounds, Sookie, I believe that I―or at least the version of me that spent the last week in your home with you―am a representation of that ‘normal life’ for you in a way.”
“Huh? How?” Sookie asked.
“Well, between the memory loss, and the fairy high, and my almost being executed, and the silver chains, we spent a lot of time just being together.”
Eric chided, “And I’m not just talking about the sex―which was great, by the way.”
She blushed even more.
Eric continued, “We talked a lot about little things, mundane things. You told me what you liked and about your days. Even while I was chained all day, we talked about your family and why you loved Bon Temps so much.”
“I rambled on and on because I was so afraid and hated seein’ you in silver like that,” she said.
“Yes,” Eric responded, “but as much as I was in pain, I was also happy to be there with you like that. I liked just being with you.”
“Me too,” Sookie admitted.
Eric smiled, “We developed a kind of ‘domestic comfort’, you might say. So maybe I am here because you trusted the person you spent that week with and want someone by your side right now. You managed to bring me comfort when I was wrapped in silver chains and when I had no idea who I was. Maybe I am here to offer you comfort now.”
“Maybe. But why am I not dreaming of you the way you were without your memories then?”
“That I do not know,” Eric said quietly.
Sookie waited a few minutes and then asked some questions that had been nagging at her, “Why are my dreams with you in them still so vivid to me? I remembered everything that happened in the one from last night. Is it possible the spell didn’t work? Could your blood still be in me? I mean, only vampire blood makes dreams that vivid, right? So if I am just bringing you into my dreams from my own subconscious―as a kind of helper―then why aren’t they like normal human dreams? Why do I still remember every detail when I wake up?”
Eric looked at Sookie with something akin to pride in his eyes, “These are good questions to ask, Sookie. I do not think my blood is in you because I can no longer feel you, and I can tell you for sure that your blood is not in me, but I have felt a kind of emptiness inside since the spell broke our bond; there is definitely still something residing where our bond used to be, but it’s hard to describe. It’s kind of like a bookmark put in a book with blank pages.”
“I think I feel something like that too―like a hollow place,” Sookie confessed quietly. “I know that something was there, and I still feel where it was, but I cannot feel what it was―if that makes sense.
Eric nodded, “I does, min kära. However, this is not what normally happens when a tie or even a bond is broken. Normally, once the vampire’s blood and magic are gone, the entire connection is destroyed, as if it were never there to start with. For me, it is almost as if something was left behind other than blood, but I do not know what it is.”
Sookie cleared her throat and looked at Eric almost apologetically, “But how can I be sure you are telling me the truth, Eric. If some of your blood or magic is still in me, it would only benefit you. It seems to be the only way, I’d still be having this kind of dream about you.”
Eric smiled at Sookie, again something akin to pride in his eyes, “You are right to be skeptical and question me. In Dallas, I showed you that I was willing to trick you to get you to take my blood, and even though I would not do so now, you are not wrong to distrust my word.”
Sookie nodded slightly.
“I will earn your trust one day, Sookie. Until then, you may question me all you need. Ask Jesus and Lafayette if you are unsure about the effectiveness of the spell. Explain to Jesus what I said about the hollowness left behind. See if he can find anything in the witch’s books.”
Eric paused for a moment, “Sookie, if you wish it, I will try to stop coming to your dreams. I do not know if I can prevent it, but I will try.”
“No,” Sookie said quickly, causing the smile to return to Eric’s face. “I mean. It’s okay that you are here. It’s nice, actually.”
“Okay, then I shall see you in your dreams,” he smirked.
“Don’t get too full of yourself, buddy,” Sookie chided playfully.
“Too late,” he smirked in her dream, right before she woke up.