It was midnight exactly, and Sookie was on edge, knowing that Eric and Bill would be facing Nan at any moment, if they weren’t already. Bubba had gone into the woods in search of dinner―assuring Sookie that he’d be close enough to hear if she was in trouble. Earlier in the evening, Pam had informed everyone that Bubba’s favorite meal was actually a cat, and Jason had made a joke about Bubba having a field day in Hot Shot. When Pam had explained to Bubba that Hot Shot housed a community of Werepanthers, Bubba had gotten a serious look on his face.
He’d told Jason sincerely, “Oh, no thanks, Mister Jason. I don’t really care for Were blood, not even panther. Just a good old fashioned cat is what I like best of all.”
That had effectively put an end to that discussion.
Since Lafayette had promised Sam that he would work all three shifts the next day to make up for yet another day of calling in, Lafayette and Jesus had gone to bed at around 11:30 to catch up on some much-needed sleep. Jason had taken off about fifteen minutes after that.
Right after Jason had left, she packed the few belongings she had at Lafayette’s, ready to go at 12:30 if they had not heard from Eric.
Sookie glanced at the clock on her cell phone again―12:02. She felt her anxiety welling inside of her and had unconsciously begun to bite her nails.
“Please,” Pam drawled, “your anxiety is hard enough to take, but I cannot abide the desecration of a good fingernail.”
Sookie dropped her fingers from her mouth and grasped her knees with both hands to stop them from shaking. “I’m sorry. I’m just real nervous.”
Pam looked Sookie straight in the eye, “You need not fear. No harm will come to Eric.”
From the look in Pam’s eyes, Sookie could tell that the vampiress was trying to convince herself of this as well.
Pam stood up and pulled a small envelop from the pocket of her jacket. She handed it to Sookie and spoke formally, “My master has tasked me with paying you for his care while he was cursed.”
Sookie accepted the envelope and looked up at Pam, “Thanks. But after everything, I feel weird takin’ this.”
“You must take it,” Pam said. “Or Eric will find other―even worse―tortures for me.”
After a few moments, Pam added in a mumble, “Oh and I’m sorry I shot at you with a rocket launcher, okay?”
Sookie couldn’t help but laugh at the pained look on Pam’s face as well as her sentence, which would have been ridiculous in any other context. “That’s fine, Pam,” Sookie said magnanimously. “In retrospect, I’m actually glad that you did. It stopped Eric and Bill from dying needlessly.”
Pam nodded as she took her seat again, “That is just what I think.” She gave Sookie a half-smile/half-smirk, “Perhaps you will be good for my master, after all―especially if you agree to be on my side in matters such as this one. Dear Abby says that we women must stick together as we gently and covertly prod the men in our lives to do what we wish for them to do and to prevent them from acting like idiots. Of course, we have to do all this in such a way that they will think it is all their idea.”
“Well, I’m not sure launching a rocket counts as a ‘gentle’ prod, but I see your point,” laughed Sookie. After a moment, she looked at the vampiress with sincerity, “Thanks.”
“What for?” Pam asked, the curiosity clear in her voice.
“For distracting me for a minute.”
“He will be fine,” Pam said more forcefully this time.
Sookie very much wanted to believe her.
At 12:15, Sookie nervously took a big gulp of the glass of wine Jesus had brought out to her before he went to bed. Pam was choking her way through a TruBlood.
“These really are horrible,” Pam said.
“Well, you could always go looking for cats with Bubba,” Sookie deadpanned.
Pam looked at Sookie and laughed, “I can understand what he sees in you now.” She turned serious. “I couldn’t before, and for that, I am sorry.”
Sookie nodded and looked out into the woods. “Will he really be okay?” Sookie asked, unable to look at Pam directly.
“He always has been,” Pam said, her voice sincere.
They sat for a few more minutes, Sookie continuously eyeing her cell phone. It was 12:18.
“Do you still feel him?” Sookie suddenly asked, looking at Pam again.
“Yes, he is still alive,” Pam answered.
Sookie let out a breath she didn’t even know she was holding. “If I had a blood bond with him, could I feel him too?”
“Yes,” Pam answered. “And he would feel that you are anxious for him to return to you as well.” The vampiress gave Sookie a slight smile.
“You’ll tell me if you feel something happening to him?”
“Yes,” Pam answered simply. “So far, he has been only calm and then exhilarated. These are both common emotions for him in battle.”
Sookie watched her clock turn to 12:20 and then 12:21, feeling more and more nervous at each tick. Pam had to admonish her many times for biting her nails.
“Do you love him?” Pam asked when Sookie’s phone read 12:22. She’d been studying Sookie all night, and Pam was becoming more and more certain that Sookie did indeed love her maker.
Sookie paused, “I care for him very much. I like to be with him. He makes me laugh, and he makes me feel safe. And I,” she paused again, “miss his presence when he’s not with me. But I am not sure about love yet. I’m still trying to understand what I really feel.”
Pam spoke quietly, but passionately, “He will give you your time, Sookie. And if you let him, he will give you his whole dead heart. But for his sake, if you do decide that you love him, make sure you can also accept all that he is. Do not make him feel ashamed of his own nature. I couldn’t bear to see that.”
“I won’t do that to him,” Sookie said looking at Pam sincerely. She clearly saw the vampiress’s love for her maker in her eyes. Sookie looked at the time: 12:24.
Three more minutes had slipped away when Sookie’s phone rang.
“Hello?” she answered immediately.
“Min kära, how was your evening.”
Sookie sighed with relief and then launched into Eric, “You scared me to death! It’s 12:27!”
Eric chuckled on the other end of the line, “I guess that visit is out of the question then? It’s a pity; you look particularly lovely in the light of the porch.”
Sookie looked around and then noticed an Eric-shaped shadow just out of the light at the side of the porch. Pam bowed to her master and quickly retreated inside the house.
Sookie launched herself at Eric, engulfing him in a hug. “You’re alive,” she managed to say into his chest.
“Yes,” Eric said. “Everything is well, min kära.”
Sookie grasped him tighter. “You scared me.”
“I’m sorry,” Eric said.
They held each other for a few moments before Eric led her to the porch and onto the swing at the end. They sat quietly for a moment, enjoying the silence and each other, as Eric swung them slightly.
“You’ve only ever called me that in my dreams before,” Sookie said as she took Eric’s hand.
“I will stop, if you wish, Sookie. I did it without thinking because it is how I think of you in my head, but if it makes you uncomfortable, then . . .”
“No,” she interrupted. “It’s okay―for now―but if I decide to be alone or to be with someone else . . .”
It was his turn to interrupt, “. . . then I shall have to stop saying it out loud. Yes, I understand.”
After a few more minutes of silence, Sookie asked, “What happened?”
“It was as I thought,” Eric said. “The Authority recognized Bill’s dominion once he had demonstrated that he had the backing of powerful sheriffs. Then Nan came and we eliminated that threat as well.”
“You mean you killed her, right?” Sookie asked placing her head on Eric’s shoulder as the porch swing swayed back and forth.
“Yes,” Eric answered swiftly and passionately. “I killed her right after it was clear that she had told no one of your powers. And I would do it again a thousand times.”
Sookie took in a deep breath and then grasped Eric’s hand harder even as she laid her head more heavily against his shoulder. “I know you would,” she said in a whisper.
“Is Bill okay?” Sookie asked after several more minutes. She couldn’t help but feel a little bad that she hadn’t checked on Bill before then.
“Yes,” Eric answered. “His position has been fortified. He now has four powerful sheriffs, much more powerful than he had before. The Authority entrusted him with Nan’s death, and he succeeded in this test. He is secure.”
“And what about you? Are you secure?”
“Yes,” Eric answered simply.
The pair sat in silence for a while until Sookie began dozing. Eric tucked her more closely into his side and enjoyed her warmth for a few more moments before speaking softly, “You should go to bed, min kära. You have a long day tomorrow.”
Sookie sighed groggily, “Will you take me again?”
“It would be my pleasure,” Eric said as he picked her up in his arms. Pam opened the door for the couple and then moved to the side as they entered.
Eric nodded to his child and then took Sookie to her room.
Sookie was glad that she had changed back into her yoga pants in order to be more comfortable after Bubba had left. Once again, Eric helped her take off her bulky sweatshirt. “I like this T-shirt,” he said with a glint in his eye as he tucked Sookie in.
Sookie smiled up at him. “Yeah, some high-handed vampire made sure it was right at the top in a box of my clothes.”
“The rascal,” Eric said with mock disgust. “Perhaps he was just trying to make sure that you thought about him.”
“I don’t need a shirt for that,” Sookie said, smiling coyly.
“I’m sure he would be very happy to hear that,” he said as he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.
She gave him another lazy smile. “Can you stay until I’m asleep?” Sookie asked closing her eyes and sinking comfortably into the bed.
“I can,” he said sitting next to her and lightly touching her cheek, jawbone, and hair.
“I’ve been dreaming about you the last few days,” Sookie’s voice was even groggier.
“Even without the blood?” Eric asked surprised.
“Mmm hmmm. Do you dream too?” she opened her eyes a crack to see him watching her, a soft at-ease expression on his beautiful face.
“Vampires cannot dream, Sookie. We are quite literally dead when we sleep, the magic that animates us regenerating in our blood.”
“Oh,” Sookie said softly. She was surprised to find herself disappointed; she wished that Eric could somehow enjoy the same dreams that she was.
Eric looked thoughtful, “I did have what you might call a daydream about you once. It was an―odd―sensation, one I’d never experienced until then.”
Sookie sat up a bit against her pillows, a little more awake now and wanting to hear more.
“What happened in the day dream?”
Eric took off his jacket and boots slowly, giving Sookie a chance to protest if she wanted to. Then he moved so that he was lying on his side on top of the covers next to her. She mirrored his position so that they were facing each other. He reached over to her and settled his hand comfortably, but innocently into the dip above her hip bone.
“It happened right after you had gone to Jackson and before I had to go there in order to save Pam.”
“Save Pam?” Sookie asked settling her hand onto his broad chest where his heart would have been beating.
“Yes. Oh, you don’t know this part of the story, do you? The queen had been forcing me to sell vampire blood to finance her lavish lifestyle.”
“I know that part,” Sookie said a bit angrily, as she removed her hand from his chest and looked down. “Lafayette and Jesus told me that you made Lafayette sell V again, despite that time in your dungeon.”
Eric looked contrite and removed his hand from her body too. He shifted backwards a few inches, getting ready in case Sookie ordered him from the bed. “I am sorry for that, Sookie. Lafayette had had my blood by then, and he already had a clientele. Plus, he is very discreet, so it was expeditious to have him do it. The queen left me with few choices, and the Magister was breathing down my neck.”
“He’s the one that made Bill make Jessica, isn’t he?”
“Yes, he administered justice for the Authority. Someone had leaked information that the queen had been selling V through me. I later found out that the leak came from Russell via Bill.”
“Bill?” Sookie sounded angry.
“Do not judge him too harshly for that,” Eric said fairly. “He was trying to stay alive in Russell’s grip, all while dealing with his psychopathic maker and trying to keep your name out of it.”
Sookie shuddered at the thought of Lorena. “What happened with Pam?”
“The Magister came to Fangtasia while I was not there one evening, and he found some V that had just been delivered by one of the queen’s lackeys.”
“That sounds like too much of a coincidence,” Sookie observed.
“Indeed,” Eric said. “I made a similar deduction. I have since discovered that Russell, in an attempt to ingratiate himself to Sophie Ann, informed her that the Magister knew about the sale of V in my territory. He did not tell her that he’d been the informant, but that is of little matter. What did matter greatly to me was that the queen had decided to use the situation as a chance to get rid of me―to make sure that the Magister would find evidence when he arrived.”
“What a bitch,” Sookie observed.
“You have no idea,” Eric agreed. “The thing that made me most angry was that I had served her loyally for over 40 years by that point, no matter how ridiculous she could be. Of course, once I found out about her duplicity toward me―and her actions toward you―I had no desire to serve her any longer. If Bill wouldn’t have taken her out when he did, she would have died by my hands.”
“Would you have been the king then?” Sookie asked curiously.
“I would have pushed for another sheriff, Luis, to become king. He was competent and desired advancement.”
“Oh―so what happened with Pam?” Sookie prompted.
“After the Magister arrived at Fangtasia, he began to torture her for information; he silvered her.” Eric’s face was a mixture of anger and pain as he thought of his child under silver.
Sookie couldn’t help but raise her hand back up to his chest, a comforting gesture for the ancient vampire.
“I arrived at Fangtasia to try to help Pam, and she came up with the idea to say that Bill had been selling the V.”
“He had disappeared. Finding him would give me what we needed―time. The Magister agreed to give me two days to locate Bill, but he would keep Pam under silver as collateral until I returned with him.”
“Why not say Sophie Ann was responsible?”
“Ah―the rub there is that I would have been guilty of treason if I had done that. And I would have been subject to the true death for that alone.”
“You would have let Bill take the fall for the queen?”
“Honestly,” Eric said, looking down, “there is not much I would not do to protect those I care about. And if Bill had been the source of the leak, as I thought he’d been, then . . .” his voice trailed off.
“Then you would have felt justified,” Sookie finished.
“Yes,” Eric said simply.
They were silent for a minute, and then he continued, “As soon as I got to Russell’s house, however, my plans were made much more complicated. Lorena didn’t want to give Bill up, and he had already sworn fealty to Russell. I saw that I could align myself with Russell and help him force the queen into a marriage with him. In exchange, he agreed to help me save Pam from the Magister.”
“Why did he want to marry Sophie Ann? He was in love with Talbot, right?”
Eric nodded. “Ambition. His head was big enough that he wanted to become king of the whole United States, I think. And he definitely wanted to bring down the vampire Authority. Sophie Ann ran Louisiana like a money pit, but this state, with its casinos and the lore of vampires in New Orleans, could be very profitable, much more so than Mississippi. Russell, though mad, was always good at business.”
Sookie nodded, “I can definitely agree with you about the crazy part.”
Eric tentatively reached his hand back up to place it on Sookie’s hip and then continued, his face relaxing, “Then things got even more complicated. All within half an hour, three events occurred that made me uncertain about what to do next.”
“You uncertain?” Sookie asked teasingly. Her hand was now stroking his chest lightly.
“Yes,” Eric smiled over at her, but she noticed it did not reach his eyes. “The vampire that had taken your friend Tara, Franklin Mott, was an investigator for Russell. He’d come back from Bon Temps with a file on you, one he’d found hidden at Bill’s home.”
“Russell showed me that,” Sookie said quietly.
“It confirmed that you were a telepath, and indicated that Bill was looking into your genealogy to try to find out why your blood had a different taste. The branch that led to your grandfather, Earl Stackhouse, seemed to be of particular interest to him.”
“Grandpa Earl was in the fairy realm,” Sookie confessed. “He thought that he’d been there only for a few hours, but he disappeared over twenty years ago. They were tryin’ to keep us all there by having us eat this light fruit, but I didn’t want to do it. When they tried to force me, I shot this queen person with my light, and then Grandpa Earl and I ran.”
Eric nodded for her to continue.
“Some other fairies wanted to help us get back to this world but said that Grandpa Earl couldn’t come because he’d eaten the fruit. I didn’t want to leave him, and the bad fairies were coming. The doorway to this world was shutting when Grandpa Earl pulled me in with him. He died when we got back here. It was like losing him for a second time.” Sookie’s voice had gotten quiet as tears collected in her eyes. Eric pulled her to him, and she buried her face into his chest, crying softly for several minutes. He ran his hands softly and slowly through her hair and down her back. After a while, she stopped crying but didn’t pull away for a few more minutes as she enjoyed the comfort he was bringing to her.
Finally, she resettled into her former position though she was a little closer to him than before. His hand again came to rest at her hip, and hers stayed resting on his chest.
“What were the other two things that happened?” she asked.
“Talbot, Russell’s husband, was taking me on a tour of the mansion. As it turned out―this was something to keep him busy while Russell was trying to capture you. In Russell’s collection was my father’s crown, which one of the tattooed Weres had taken to a cloaked figure the night they had killed my parents. I had been trying to find the leader of these Weres for a millennia, as you know. But I didn’t know that Russell was the one in the cloak until that moment.”
Eric paused and Sookie moved her hand to his cheek; this time it was her turn to comfort his losses.
“I’m sorry you had to lose your family like that,” she said softly.
“It was a long time ago,” he said as he arched his neck so that her hand moved to his lips; he kissed her palm slightly before speaking, “but thank you.”
Sookie nodded, giving him a moment before asking, “And the third thing?”
Eric smiled a bit―this time the emotion reaching his eyes―as Sookie ran her hand back to his chest. “The third thing was a spitfire blond barmaid being dragged into the mansion, challenging a 3,000-year-old vampire all the way.” He chuckled. “If I hadn’t been so worried that you were going to die any minute at Lorena’s hands or that you were about to be entrapped in Russell’s, I would have simply pulled up a seat, grabbed a blood, and watched you work.”
Sookie grinned, “I guess it wasn’t really smart to talk back to them like that.”
“I guess not,” Eric smirked, “but it makes for an entertaining memory for me.”
“Not entertaining at the time though,” Sookie pouted.
“No, it was not,” Eric agreed, the seriousness returning to his eyes.
Sookie looked contemplative, “So when you told me that I meant nothing to you in Russell’s mansion, you were . . .”
Eric looked at Sookie intensely and tightened his grip on her hip slightly. “I am sorry I said that to you; it was a lie. I was . . .”
“Not yourself,” Sookie finished his thought as well as her own.
“No, I was not. I was trying to figure out how to kill a 3,000-year-old vampire―with ten times my strength―in order to take vengeance for my parents.”
“And you were trying to figure out how to save Pam.”
“Yes, and then you were there, and all I could think about was how to save you at first. And I became angry at myself for wanting to put you over Pam and my parents. I’d never felt so tied up in knots before, and I just . . .”
“Said something you didn’t mean,” Sookie finished quietly. “And then I said something that I didn’t mean.”
“You said you hated me,” Eric said quietly.
“I was hurt and scared.”
“I know. I think I knew that you didn’t mean it even as you said it, but it still hurt me more than any words ever had before. And I also knew in that moment that my words must have hurt you too. I was going to take them back, but that’s when Russell came back in. It almost killed me to leave that room. I almost risked everything by trying to attack Russell right then.”
The two lay in silence for a while, absorbing the information that had been shared. Sookie finally spoke, “Well, we’re even then. We both said something we didn’t mean because we were both in horrible situations. It happens.”
Eric squeezed her hip in silent agreement.
“Hey, you never told me about your daydream,” Sookie said. “You aren’t getting out of that!”
“Wasn’t trying to,” Eric said innocently. “You distracted me, remember.”
“Spill it, cowboy,” Sookie said playfully.
Eric got a faraway look in his eyes and then looked at Sookie in mild surprise. “You called me that in my daydream, actually.”
“It wasn’t some kinky sex dream was it? ‘Cause if it was, I don’t think I need to hear about it, after all.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Eric laughed. “Well, not at first, at least. And even then, we really just kissed and then you shoved me onto a bed.”
“What? Okay, now you have to tell me,” Sookie said as a surprised smile spread across her lips.
“Fine,” Eric said playfully. “Like I said, this was before I went to Jackson, but after you had been there for an evening. I had felt your emotions earlier in the night. You had been frightened at the Were bar; I could tell you were in danger for a few moments, but then you were okay. Later, you became so sad, and my instinct said that I should go to you, but I didn’t. Instead, I tried to distract myself.” Eric didn’t add that that distraction had been in the form of Yvetta dancing for him.
Sookie spoke, “I was sad because Bill had called and broken up with me. He’d told me that he was with Lorena and that they’d just had sex like only two vampires could. He said that he’d always had to hold back with me and that our natures were too different to be together.”
Eric was silent for a moment as tears again gathered in Sookie’s eyes. “It was a harsh thing to say,” he finally said, “but I am certain he was also trying to protect you, to make you not want to find him.” Eric caught the tear that had fallen on Sookie’s cheek with his thumb. “Please, don’t cry, min kära.”
“Is it true that vampires hold back when they have sex with humans?” she asked after several moments. “Did you have to hold back when we had sex?” she continued shyly, her face turning pink.
“Of course, we hold back our strength with humans, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, Sookie. When vampires have sex with other vampires, the act tends to be . . .” Eric paused, looking for the right word to use, “. . . rougher. But I can tell you that I much prefer sex with humans to sex with vampires. And you may think it exaggeration, but I am being truthful when I tell you that having sex with you has been the greatest carnal pleasure of my life.”
Sookie’s blush went full red. “But you must have been with thousands of women before.”
Eric smirked, “Yes, so you should feel especially smug right now―not embarrassed. I think that you broke me when we made love, Sookie.”
“Broke? But everything seemed to be―umm―working okay when we were together.”
Eric laughed hard, “You didn’t break me physically, Sookie. But I feel like I will never be able to enjoy sex with another again the way I enjoyed it with you. So in a way, I am ruined for others―broken.”
“Oh,” Sookie said quietly before adding even more quietly, “You weren’t so bad yourself.”
“Ahh, a thousand years of practice finally pays off,” he teased.
She smacked him on the chest. “No dirty talk! And you still haven’t told me about your daydream. Get to it, cowboy.” This time she emphasized the nickname.
“Again, you are the one that interrupted,” he continued playfully. “So as I was saying before you distracted me yet again, I had been thinking about you and feeling your emotions all evening, which was disconcerting enough, and then I had this vision of you, of us―a daydream.”
She nodded, gesturing for him to continue.
“You were sitting in Alcide’s apartment in a bedroom. You were wearing a robe with little flowers on it, and there were spent tissues on the bed, so I knew you had been crying. And as you know, I hate that.”
Sookie nodded as she unconsciously continued drawing circles into his chest.
“I flew down to the window, and when you saw me, you got up and opened it. You asked me if all vampires could fly. And I asked you if all humans could sing. And you said something quintessentially Sookie―let me get this right. You said that you ‘couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it’.”
Sookie laughed. “That’s very true. It’s also true that I had been crying all evening.”
“Interesting,” Eric said meditatively. “You invited me in, and I asked how your search for Bill was going. You said that you had realized that he wasn’t who you were looking for, and then you put your hand on my chest, just where you have it now,” he said looking down at her hand. “You told me that I smelled like the ocean in winter and that I had played by the North Sea as a child, which was true. You said that you could smell my memories.”
“But that’s impossible.”
“That’s what I said,” Eric intoned playfully. “And that’s when you said that you had skills I couldn’t even dream about, and then you called me cowboy.”
“I bet you loved that,” Sookie said sarcastically.
“Oh, you know it. But I loved the next part even more.”
“Dare I even ask?” Sookie said nervously.
“You slid my jacket off my shoulders and kissed me. And then you pushed me on the bed and climbed on top of me.”
“Wait, I don’t think I need to hear any more,” Sookie said, blushing again.
“Well, unfortunately for me, there’s no more to tell. The daydream was interrupted by someone talking to me.”
“Too bad for you,” Sookie teased.
They were quiet for a few minutes, just looking at each other. Finally, Sookie spoke, “You know I cannot smell your memories, but you do kind of smell like the ocean to me. I never really thought about it before, but you definitely have your own smell. It reminds me of a time when I was really little when my father and mother took Jason and me to the beach in the middle of the winter. It was really cold outside despite it being sunny, but we had a great time playing in the sand. You smell kind of like that day to me.”
He smiled, “You have a certain smell to me too.”
“Fairy fragrance,” Sookie grimaced.
“Yeah, maybe, but also sunlight and wheat and honey.”
“You said that to me before―when we were on the road right after you’d lost your memories.”
“Yes, I remember,” Eric said quietly.
“Do you think that everyone thinks I smell like that?”
“I don’t know. As I told you, my sense of smell is very strong, but your skin does hold the smell of the sun like no one else I have ever encountered.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s like what you might compare to sheets that have dried outside versus those that have been dried in a dryer.”
Sookie nodded. “I think I get it, at least a little.”
There was a minute of silence again before Sookie spoke, “You told me your memories in the dream I had last night. Do you think what I dream about is real all the time, like it was when you told me what ‘min kära’ meant? Or is my subconscious just making stuff up?”
“I don’t know,” Eric said thoughtfully. “Ask me about something I told you, and I’ll tell you if it’s true.”
Sookie thought for a moment, “Did you ever help carve a dragon on one of your people’s boats―uh you called the boat a . . .” Sookie paused trying to remember the word.
“A drekar?” Eric finished, looking surprised. “I did help with the carving when I was young.”
“What part did you carve?” Sookie asked, looking for more confirmation that her dream was accurate.
“I’m afraid that at that time I was not as skilled as I would have needed to be in order to carve the main part of the creature,” he smiled at his memory.
“So you carved just some of the scales, right?”
“Yes,” Eric said looking at Sookie. He was now even more surprised.
“You showed them to me. I touched them.”
Eric shook his head, his eyes showing disbelief, just like they’d shown in his daydream when Sookie had announced that she could smell his memories. To him, the two things felt the same.
Sookie took a deep breath. “The Weres killed your parents and your baby sister.”
“Yes,” Eric answered quietly.
“But you had a little brother too, right?”
“He died when he was four?”
“Yes,” Eric’s eyes were again full of wonder.
“And you had started teaching him how to fish the summer before he died?”
Not understanding what to do with the emotions that were welling inside of him, Eric sat up in the bed and turned, putting his feet on the floor and his face in his hands.
Sookie sat and raised her hands to his shoulders, laying her head on his back.
“How is it possible that you are dreaming about me and that I’m telling you real memories―especially now that my blood is no longer in your body?”
“I don’t know, Eric,” Sookie said as she wrapped her arms around his body. They stayed like that for a few minutes while Eric gathered his thoughts.
Eric turned so that he was looking at Sookie. They stared at each other for several long seconds, Eric looking down at her lips.
“I want to kiss you,” he said, his voice full of emotion.
“I want to kiss you too,” she said back.
They both smiled, and Eric rose from the bed. “We will wait though.”
“Yes, we should.”
Eric’s smile dropped. “Ask your friend Jesus what he thinks of all this tomorrow. He may be able to find something out. This kind of thing doesn’t even happen when vampire blood is inside a human, and I can tell you for certain that my blood is no longer in you because I cannot feel you.”
“You can only feel a little empty spot?” Sookie asked.
Again Eric looked surprised and nodded.
“Me too. And you told me that in a dream as well. Dream Eric also told me to talk to Jesus about that, and I already have. He’s going to start looking into it tomorrow since it’s his day off.”
Eric nodded again and looked like he wanted to say something before he stopped himself.
“What is it, Eric?” Sookie asked.
“I just . . . I just wanted to ask if you were dreaming of Bill like this too,” he said with uncertainty in his eyes.
“No, just you.”
Eric couldn’t help the smile that crept onto the corners of his lips.
“Don’t get too full of yourself, cowboy,” Sookie said shaking her head and then lying down again, suddenly feeling the weight of the day on her shoulders.
“You should have been asleep an hour ago,” Eric said, the concern clear in his eyes.
“I would have been if you hadn’t kept me up,” Sookie said playfully, although the fatigue was now clear in her voice as well.
Eric lay down next to her again and replaced his hand on her hip.
As she took in the many shades of blue swimming in Eric’s eyes, Sookie stated rather than asked, “You fixed all the wood furniture in my house yourself.”
Sookie said in a quiet voice, “Grandpa Earl made all that for Gran. Your fixing it means a lot to me. It means the world.”
Eric brought his hand up and began to stroke her cheek as she closed her eyes. He spoke quietly, “I will not see you tomorrow, min kära. Bill told me that you had invited him to dinner tomorrow evening, and I will respect your need to spend time with him. I cannot feel sorry for the time we have spent together during the last few days, but it had been my intention to leave you completely alone until you called me. I’m afraid that I have failed miserably in this.”
“I know that from your letter,” Sookie chuckled tiredly, not opening her eyes. “But things keep coming up.”
He continued stroking her hair, “Bubba will be outside your house tomorrow night should you need him.”
Sookie nodded almost imperceptibly and then drifted to sleep.
Eric rose and looked down at the woman that he fell more in love with every time he saw her. He thought back to the hours after they’d shared blood in the cubby: the shower of snow, the bed with furs on it, their making love. He had never experienced anything like it, even when he’d taken Sookie’s blood before. It had felt like a kind of high, something like what V-users might experience, but even stronger from what he could gather. But he’d never heard of anything having such an effect on a vampire before, and he’d shared in that experience with Sookie. In that imaginary world they’d inhabited for a time, he’d said that everything was possible, from the snow falling on them without making Sookie cold to the fact that he wasn’t burning in the sun. With the woman now asleep before him, he was beginning to believe that everything was indeed possible.
He left the room, quietly closing the door behind him. He needed to call Bill to let him know about Bubba protecting Sookie since the king would no doubt smell him outside Sookie’s farmhouse the next night. He also needed to get Pam up to speed on the events of the night.
He found Pam standing on the porch with a disgusted look on her face. “I think he’s managed to tree a cat,” she said gesturing toward the woods, where Bubba was hunting.
“Indeed,” Eric confirmed as he inhaled, smelling both the feline and Bubba about 50 yards into the darkness. “Bubba does have eccentric tastes. Do not tell Sookie, but I have arranged to have quite a few feral cats―which are already scheduled to be destroyed at Shreveport’s animal shelter―delivered to the woods around her home for Bubba. Perhaps a few will even make it to freedom,” he said with a wry smile.
“Yuck,” Pam grunted.
Eric spent the next ten minutes speaking to Pam in Swedish in low tones. Then he pulled out his cell phone and called Bill.
“What now?” the king answered, not even saying hello. “You interrupted my feeding.”
Pam rolled her eyes even as Eric remembered that he had not yet eaten that day. He gestured toward an empty bottle of TruBlood on the table, and Pam dutifully went into the house to warm them both one. Though disgusting, she was stuck there for the night and was hungry. For the first time in her life, she envied Compton, who was probably snacking on some yummy young woman.
Eric did everything he could to hide his sarcasm, but some still seeped into his words, “I apologize, your majesty, but you told me that you are seeing Sookie tomorrow night.”
“What of it?” Bill said, obviously jumping straight from calm to defensive yet again.
Eric paused for a moment to let Bill stew a bit, “I just wanted to inform you that I have hired Bubba to watch over Sookie at night for the time being. He has been told to keep his distance, but I’m sure you will sense him there.”
There was a pause on the other end. “Fine,” Bill said, frustration clear in his voice. “Is that all?”
“Yes, your majesty,” Eric said smoothly.
Bill hung up.
“So rude,” Eric laughed to himself as Pam returned with his blood.
Pam turned up her nose as she took a drink. “Drinking this is fucking torture,” she grumbled.
Eric shook his head, “It’s grown on me.”
Pam looked at Eric closely, “If she chooses you, you’re going to try to be monogamous aren’t you.” She couldn’t help the disapproval and disbelief working their way into her voice.
“I will not have to try, Pam. I will just be. I am already, truth be told.”
“But how? It’s against the nature.”
“Anything is possible, Pamela,” he said as he put his empty bottle down and flew into the night sky.