At 8:00 sharp, Sookie heard her new doorbell ring. She took a deep breath, inhaling the comforting smell of her Gran’s recipe, and went to the door. Bill stood outside in a sharp-looking suit, carrying yet another bouquet of red roses. She could see Bubba at the tree line watching over her. Sookie smiled and stepped to the side, silently beckoning Bill in without a spoken invitation.
Bill entered her home and gave her a bright smile even as his eyes betrayed some disappointment at Sookie’s attire. As he gave her the roses, he also gave her a light kiss on the cheek. Sookie felt a slight wave of discomfort at the act, but recovered well by putting on her Merlotte’s smile.
“Thanks so much, Bill,” Sookie said, smelling the flowers. “They really are beautiful.” She walked into the dining room and grabbed the vase that was already there, taking it into the kitchen. “Let me just add these to the ones you brought me the other day.” After she’d finished this task, Sookie returned the vase, now completely full of the elegant flowers, to the buffet.
Bill stood a bit awkwardly in the dining room until Sookie gestured for him to sit. She’d decided that they would sit across from each other, but she wanted to see his face clearly, so she’d set the places at the sides of the table, rather than at the head and foot Bill’s place was set with one of her Gran’s crystal goblets, which had miraculously survived the Maenad’s wrath.
“I thought that we could have a nice dinner and then talk for a while in the living room,” Sookie said in a business-like manner, immediately trying to take control of the tone for the evening.
Bill looked a little surprised but recovered quickly, “That sounds lovely, darling.”
For some reason, Bill’s calling her that bothered Sookie. She didn’t think he’d really earned it, but she put that thought to the side as she popped a TruBlood into the microwave and served herself a plate of casserole.
She had deliberately planned her evenings with the vampires to include a meal for both of them. If she was going to have a relationship with either one, she wanted to make sure they could do something domestic like share a meal together. The few times that she’d eaten around Bill before, she had noticed what she thought might have been slight discomfort, and she wanted to talk about that with him.
After the microwave went off, she shook the bottle to even out the temperature of the blood and went to the dining room. She put her plate down and then poured his blood into the goblet before sitting down opposite him.
She smiled at him. “I really appreciate you comin’ and the flowers, Bill, and I’m glad to be spendin’ some time with you this evening, but I feel it’s only right to let you know that I don’t look at this like a date. I see it as a meetin’. I have a lot of questions that I want to ask so that I can make the best choices for myself.”
Bill returned her smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “That’s fine, Sookie. After Friday, we will have all the time in the world to reconnect on a romantic level. I want only for you to make an informed decision, as I know you will.”
Sookie noticed that his Southern drawl was especially strong at the moment. She had the feeling that he was hyping up the genteel Southern gentlemen thing a bit. Still, she managed to speak warmly, “Well, let’s eat and then get to it, shall we?”
Bill nodded and took a drink of his blood. He watched as Sookie took a bite and made an “mmm” sound. He recoiled a bit.
Bill hid his discomfort pretty well, but Sookie noticed a little flicker of aversion pull down his lip for a brief moment. She decided to begin her questioning with the food issue.
“So,” she said after she finished her bite, “does it bother vampires to watch humans eat like this?”
Bill looked a bit uncomfortable and then answered, “To tell you the truth, it does bother us, I’m afraid. As you know, vampires have a strong sense of smell, and most odors from human foods are unappetizing to me.”
Sookie sighed, but still smiled at Bill politely. “Then I take it, you’d prefer not to be around humans as they eat?”
“Yes,” he continued uneasily, “it reminds me of my human life too, and the thought of not being able to share human meals with you—as I might want to—also saddens me.”
Sookie nodded, accepting the fact that with Bill, at least, mealtime was not going to be a usual domestic activity. But she shook off her disappointment and thought of other things they might do together that “normal” couples did, like watching the news or going to movies.
Bill was working hard to keep his expression even as Sookie finished her meal. The concoction in front of her was particularly unappealing to his senses as he smelled a mix of ingredients. He knew that once Sookie and he were together, he’d be able to convince her to schedule her meals before he rose or while he was attending to his kingly duties.
However, he did revel in the fact that Sookie had gone to the trouble of setting the dining room table elegantly for them. She’d obviously wanted to make what she called their “meeting” as special as possible. He doubted that Northman would be receiving the same attentions. Smiling, he took in the crystal goblet in front of him and the overflowing vase of red roses he’d been responsible for. They were obviously on display. One little meal was certainly worth it if he could get Sookie to recognize her affection for him.
As soon as she had finished eating, Sookie rose and took her plate into the kitchen. “Would you care for another TruBlood?” she asked Bill from the kitchen.
“Thank you. That would be lovely,” he said as he rose.
“Why don’t you get settled in the living room,” she said, as she popped a bottle of blood into the microwave.
As Bill walked out of the dining room, Sookie took a moment to take a deep breath. She covered the casserole with tin fowl; she’d wait for it to cool completely before putting it into the refrigerator. Then she refilled her glass of iced tea and went into the dining room to retrieve Bill’s goblet. She rinsed it out and dried it, before pouring in the new bottle. She took another deep breath and moved to join Bill.
Sookie sat down on the couch opposite to the one Bill had chosen. She started with some words she’d been thinking over in her mind for the last several hours, “Bill, I know that our relationship started off wrong because of the queen and because she ordered you to pursue me, and I also know that you really couldn’t avoid doing what she asked you to do.”
Bill nodded, very encouraged that Sookie recognized his position. He had hoped that she’d understand that the queen had been responsible for the negative things that had happened between them. He smiled at her.
Sookie continued, “I want to take tonight to really talk about everything I have had questions about since we met. I know that sometimes, especially right after we first met, you had to be more secretive than you might have wanted to be. So I want tonight to be a kind of starting over point for us, okay?”
Bill nodded again, “Nothing would please me more than that, darling,” he said. Bill was certain now that Sookie had been using her time without the ties to clear away the confusion of the Eric situation. And he was ready to begin afresh without the shadow of the queen looming over them, just as Sookie seemed to be.
“Okay then,” Sookie said, reaching out for the little composition book she’d put on the table and opening it to the list she had written.
Bill seemed surprised she had her questions written out, so Sookie said, “I wanted to make sure I remembered everything.”
Bill nodded, “I will answer anything you ask, my dear.”
Sookie smiled in thanks and then began with a question she already knew the answer to. She wanted to give Bill the chance to literally rewrite history by being completely honest. “I want to start by asking you about blood ties. When you first gave me your blood, you told me some things a tie would do, but I think that you had to hold back a bit, so I just wanted to make sure I have all the information just in case I decide to tie myself to a vampire again.”
Bill shifted a bit in his seat and then responded, “Well, I told you most of it that night after you first took my blood. When a human takes blood directly from a vampire, the blood has the power to heal the human of wounds. It also makes a human’s senses more keen, as you experienced.”
Sookie nodded and gestured for Bill to continue.
“And it enables the vampire to track the human. And, as I told you, it increases the libido,” Bill stopped.
Sookie waited for him to go on. “Anything else?”
Bill shook his head, “No, that about covers it.”
“Didn’t the blood tie help you to know that I was in trouble when Rene attacked me?”
“Oh yes,” Bill added hurriedly, “if enough blood is exchanged, then the vampire can feel the human’s stronger emotions, like fear, anger, and love.”
“And after I was tricked by Eric in Dallas, you told me that I might start feeling attracted to him, so the blood makes someone not only have a stronger libido but also be more attracted to the specific vampire that gave the blood, right?” Sookie was trying to hide her disconcertment over the fact that Bill was still being less than forthright.
“Yes, to some extent. It might make the human feel things that weren’t there before, as it did with you and Eric. I know you hated him before he tricked you, and after you took his blood, you,” he paused, “seemed to soften toward him a bit.”
Sookie didn’t bother correcting Bill’s supposition that she had hated Eric even though she now knew that she had not.
“So the blood can create totally new feelings that weren’t there before?”
Sookie noticed that Bill’s eyes shifted slightly to the side before settling back onto her. She’d seen this look before from Bill. More significantly, she’d seen it from other people whose words were the opposite of their thoughts. In that moment, she knew that Bill was about to lie to her. He said, “Yes.”
Sookie nodded, schooling her expression so that her disappointment was not revealed. She knew from what Jesus had said that vampire blood could amplify but not create feelings. She was certain that Bill was trying to mislead her to think that all her feelings for Eric were a product of the blood only, whereas he was trying to make her overlook the possibility that all her feelings for him might be because of the blood too―at least if that same logic were applied.
Sookie went on with her questions since Bill was unwilling to offer up the information voluntarily, “What about dreams? Can vampire blood make a human dream about the vampire?”
Bill hesitated, his eyes involuntarily making a trek to the side again, “Well, the blood can make a human prone to having dreams, I’m afraid. Those dreams are often sexual in nature. They might also contain disturbing images that reflect the human’s subconscious fears of vampires and death.” Bill stopped for a moment, obviously contemplating his words carefully, “If you have dreams about a vampire you love―like about me―then that shows the subconscious connection of the human to the vampire. Having dreams about a vampire you dislike indicates that the vampire is trying to manipulate the human into feeling some affection.”
Sookie almost scoffed at Bill’s flawed logic and obvious attempts to make her accept that she must love Bill and hate Eric. However, she was able to maintain a placid expression due to all the practice she’d gotten hiding her telepathy. She was most unsettled by the fact that she would have certainly believed Bill if she still had his blood in her. She wondered how many times she’d taken him at his word when he was misleading her.
She asked, “Did you ever try to use your blood to influence me?”
His eye twitching like a beacon, Bill answered quickly, “Of course not, darling. I realized right away how special you are to me.”
“You mean after the Rattrays attacked me?” Sookie asked quietly.
“Yes,” Bill said, the shame real in his voice, “I am ashamed of arranging that. I did not really know you then, and I was just following orders. Once I knew you could not be glamoured, I had to tie you to me somehow. At the time, I was simply doing my duty for my queen.”
Sookie nodded, remembering an early conversation she’d had with Bill about glamouring. “So you lied to me the night I asked if you’d ever tried to glamour me and you said no?”
“Yes,” Bill admitted. “I had tried to glamour you twice before then: the first time I met you and the second night I saw you when you sat down with me at my table at Merlotte’s and took my hands.”
“Why’d you lie?” Sookie asked, careful to keep her voice calm and steady.
“There were two reasons. First, I was under orders from the queen. And second, I had already begun to care for you, even then, and I didn’t want to disappoint you.” Another eye twitch.
Sookie decided to give Bill one more chance to come clean. She asked him directly, “So you never tried to influence me with your blood?”
Yet another twitch. “No,” Bill shook his head. “As soon as I tasted you that evening, I knew that you were very special.”
“Okay,” Sookie said as she took in what Bill had said and how he’d said it. Stalling so that she could think for a minute, she took a drink of her tea and used her good, old-fashioned common sense. He was trying to mislead her. She knew he had influenced her at least a couple of times, starting right after he’d given her his blood for the first time. As she lay on the ground after the Rattrays had beaten her, her face smeared with his blood and her own and her body newly healed, she’d told him about her telepathy, one of her most closely guarded secrets. She had looked up at Bill that night and had felt compelled to trust him with everything about herself after taking his blood. Before that, she’d been attracted to him, especially his silence, but she’d also been put off by his manner after she’d saved him from the Rattrays.
“Hey,” she said, thinking of a new question, “did you pay the Rattrays to attack you that first night?”
Bill’s eyes shifted as he said, “No.”
Seeing that he was lying yet again, Sookie decided to change the topic before she lost the ability to control her expression. “Okay, I wanted to ask you about Lorena now, if that’s okay.”
Bill looked down and then nodded.
“When you called me in Jackson to break up with me and tell me to stay away, you said you’d just slept with her. Was that true?”
“Yes,” Bill said, looking her straight in the eye.
Sookie was glad Bill was at least telling the truth about that. “And did you mean what you said about sex with a vampire being better?”
Still being forthright, Bill responded. “No, I was saying those things to try to keep you away. I had had sex with Lorena in a fit of anger, but I didn’t love her. I loved you. She wanted to kill you, and I wanted to keep you safe, so I lied to protect you. I felt disgusted with myself for having slept with her and felt unworthy of you.”
Sookie nodded as she recognized he was telling her the truth. She asked, “After she was dead, were you sorry at all?”
Bill hesitated and contemplated his response, but still seemed to answer truthfully, “The bond between maker and child is strong, Sookie. And I did feel the breaking of our bond when you killed her, so there was a moment when I experienced her loss intensely―even as I was suffering from the torture she’d been executing on me. However, the sense of loss was immediately replaced by relief―relief that I was free from her at last.” He continued, obvious sincerity shining from his eyes, “I never said thank you for saving my life that day. You saved me from Lorena’s torture and, more importantly, from her influence forever. I am only ashamed that I almost killed you for your pains.”
In that moment, Sookie saw the vampire she’d once fallen in love with. She reached out and patted his hand. “I’ve forgiven you for that, Bill. You were not yourself.” Sookie gave Bill a minute and thought about the words she’d just spoken. She had forgiven Bill for nearly draining her in the back of the van, and she felt certain that had been an accident. Yet she couldn’t help but to contrast Bill’s loss of control to Eric’s keeping his control when she fed him her blood after he’d been burned so badly by the sun. Perhaps, Eric was able to be more disciplined because he was so much older. Or perhaps, he’d been able to recognize that it was her and that he didn’t want to hurt her.
She turned her line of questioning again. “Eric told me that he asked you to keep him informed about what the police had found out about the murders after we went to Fangtasia for the first time. He also said he asked you to inform him if there were more murders. Why didn’t you tell him about Gran dyin’? And why didn’t you tell me he was lookin’ into things too?” Sookie knew she was taking a risk in asking these questions. She had learned of this information from Dream Eric only, but she felt certain that it was true, just as his memories had been.
Bill looked down at his hands, a mixture of frustration and remorse in his manner. “I am sorry how things progressed regarding the Rene situation, Sookie,” he answered truthfully. “I knew that Eric wanted you for himself, and I did not want that for you. I told him only what the police initially knew about the murders. I thought that between Sam and myself, we could keep the killer from getting to you, but I did not anticipate his getting to your grandmother. For that, I will be forever sorry.”
Sookie nodded, her eyes burning a bit as tears threatened to fall.
Bill continued, “And after your grandmother’s death, things happened very fast with the tribunal and Jessica. I was still hoping to protect you from the killer, as well as to keep you away from Eric. I did what was best, but I’m afraid, it put you in danger.”
Sookie looked directly at Bill and asked quietly, “Did you want to keep me away from Eric because you loved me or because you had orders from the queen?”
Bill’s eyes shifted, “Because I loved you, Sookie.”
She nodded and sighed, a sign that Bill mistakenly took as her acceptance of his explanation.
Finally, Sookie began her last line of questioning, which in many ways was the most important to her. “Bill, I need to know exactly when you first started lovin’ me.”
Bill shifted a bit before answering truthfully, “It was the night I killed Longshadow. He attacked you, and I acted on pure instinct to make sure you were not harmed.”
Sookie nodded, cataloging their time together in her mind. He’d taken her virginity without loving her first; they’d had sex on his grave without him loving her first. These were hard pills for her to swallow. Until Longshadow’s death―at least―Bill’s endgame would have always been to take her to the queen. What she had thought was the foundation of their love for each other was being chipped away in her mind.
“Would’ve you still taken me to the queen after that?” she asked quietly.
Bill nodded, “I would have had to, Sookie, but I was already planning to set certain conditions, like that only she and I could feed from you.”
Not able to hide her disgust, Sookie bristled visibly at this.
Bill quickly added, “Later, after the Maenad incident, I resolved not to take you to the queen at all, Sookie. I was going to go to Vermont with you, marry you, and then run away with you to get away from her and keep you safe.”
Sookie nodded and was silent for a moment.
Bill once again mistook her silence as her acceptance. “I would have disobeyed my queen to keep you safe, Sookie. I love you that much,” he declared.
She asked, “Why didn’t you tell me about the queen’s orders after you had resolved to keep me away from her? Why not tell me before you asked me to marry you?”
Bill looked at this hands once again, “I swear I kept this from you because I didn’t want to hurt you. After a while, there was no need to tell you. I had already arranged with the AVL and Nan Flanagan to help me kill the queen and to take her place, acts that were completed the night Eric told you about my work for the queen.” He said the last part of his sentence bitterly before changing back to a more contrite tone. “I had thought I’d found a way to protect you from everyone, including Eric, and since the queen was about to perish, the truth would have served only to hurt you more―as it did.”
Sookie nodded again. There had been many opportunities between Bill’s proposal and the night Eric had compelled him to tell her the truth when he could have told her about the queen, but he hadn’t. She knew that he was telling the truth about not wanting to hurt her, but she also knew that he had been omitting things in order to protect himself and keep his hold over her as well. Most troubling was that he was still omitting things even now.
Bill spoke up, “I became king to keep you safe, Sookie. I became king because I love you so much.”
Sookie saw the truth in Bill’s eyes and knew that he did love her―or at least he thought he did. She asked her last and most important question, “Why Bill? Why do you love me?”
Bill seemed taken aback for a moment, “What?”
“What is it about me that you love, Bill?” Sookie rephrased.
Bill looked thoughtful for a few moments before answering, “It’s hard to say, Sookie. Like I told you, I attacked Longshadow out of a kind of instinct to make sure you were safe.”
“Yes, but you have to have a reason why you want to protect me―why you love me.”
Bill answered, speaking hesitantly. “It is many things, Sookie. It is your innate goodness and your desire to accept people, even vampires, at face value. I know you have had a difficult life with your gift, but you always give others a chance to prove themselves. I value all these things in you.”
“Is it also the taste of my blood, Bill?” Sookie asked softly.
Her question caught Bill off guard, but he answered right away, “No Sookie. As I said to you before. It is who you are and not what you are that makes me love you.”
Sookie recognized the words that Bill had said in this very house the night she’d been taken to the fairy realm, but this time, she also recognized something else. Right before he said them, his eyes twitched momentarily to the side. Sookie knew two things for sure in that moment. First, Bill Compton, whether he could admit it to himself or not, loved her mostly because of what she was―because of her fairy taste―not who she was.
Second, she knew that she would be able to kick his ass in poker because she could see his “tell” when he was lying or misleading her all the time now. She realized that having his blood had kept her from recognizing what was right in front of her face before. She was thankful to be seeing clearly now and even more thankful that she’d dusted off her good, old-fashioned common sense and put away her rose-colored glasses. As she looked at the daisies on the coffee table, she felt as if her Gran would be proud.
Sookie spoke after several moments of silence had dragged between Bill and herself. She mustered up all the politeness that her Gran had ever ingrained in her. “Bill, I want to thank you for coming over here tonight. And I want to thank you even more for answering my questions. I know it is difficult to talk about vampire knowledge, and I know how secretive y’all have to be.”
“Sookie, you know that I would do anything for you,” Bill said sincerely. “If you agree to be mine, we will have a good life together. As king, I will always be able to protect you, and I’ve recently even arranged for my position to be much stronger,” he added, his eye twitching. “You could come and live with me in my refurbished house, which has everything you could ever want―servants included. And I am even planning to add a pool out back because I know of your love for the sun, and I can add anything else you like. Now that Eric is lording this home over you, you can leave it behind. However, if it is what you wish, I will keep pressuring him until I can buy this house back for you. I want you to be with me Sookie, and we will have a happy existence together. I know it.”
Sookie looked at the man she had given her virginity to, the first man she had ever thought she loved. With difficulty, she managed to give him a slight smile. “You have given me a lot to think about tonight, Bill. As I told you before, I will give you my answer on Friday.”
Sookie rose and Bill followed her to the door. He bent down to kiss her gently on the cheek.
Sookie opened the door, ready to call Bubba if Bill tried to get all handsy again, “Come by Friday at 10:00, Bill.”
“Until then, my dear,” Bill said as he walked out the door and zoomed away to his home. Sookie watched the darkness that he’d disappeared into for a few minutes until Bubba walked out of the shadows slowly.
“Miss Sookie, now that King Bill has left, I’m gonna do my huntin’ if that’s okay. Don’t you worry none though. There’s a real nice critter close by, so I won’t be far at all, and I’ll be able to tell if anything’s wrong, okay?”
Sookie grimaced slightly when she heard the word, “critter,” but still managed to smile at Bubba. “That’ll be just fine, Bubba. I’m glad that there’s―uh―food for you close by.
Sookie went inside and grabbed the red blanket she’d wrapped Eric in that day she’d found him in the lake. Though his skin had gotten red, he hadn’t had time to burn, thankfully, so the blanket had been good as new after it’d been washed. She pulled it out onto her porch and sat on her swing, wrapping herself up in the blanket. She thought of the morning it’d been wrapped around Eric: the way the sun had glistened in his hair, the playfulness with which he’d invited her into the water, the frightened look on his face when he’d started to burn. She loved him with all her heart.
However, she knew now that she did not love Bill though she might always have some kind of affection for him. She still believed, despite all the half-truths and downright lies he’d told her, that he loved her―at least the best he could. But none of that was enough for her. Bill had tried to manipulate her with has blood―of that she was certain. He’d―at the very least―used it to make her feel like she could confide anything in him. She’d told him her two deepest secrets―about her telepathy and her Uncle Bartlett―right after getting his blood and giving him hers. The dreams caused by their tie also indicated his motives, and he had not been forthright about them. Looking back, she saw that he’d always kept vital details from her, sometimes in the name of protecting her but mostly in order to protect himself. His choices had led to her continued danger at the hands of Rene. Moreover, he’d still intended to take her to the queen and “share” her even after he’d fallen in love with her. She didn’t like that kind of love, not at all. Even now, his love was based on her blood―of that she was positive, whether Bill could see it or not.
She resolved that she would try to build a kind of friendship with Bill if that was possible, but she also knew that she would never trust him again. And that was coming straight from the gift she should have been relying on the whole time with the vampires: her common sense! She mentally scratched another item off her list of options, somewhat surprised that she’d been able to eliminate Bill so quickly and so decisively.
Her right hand dropped and began to trace the strange pattern she’d discovered carved into the porch swing the week before. Her fingertips grazed the circular designs. Thoughts of Eric enveloped her even as she pulled the quilt tighter around herself.
For Bill’s part, he returned to his mansion confidently. He’d done what he’d set out to do. Sookie’s silly questioning tactics had given him the perfect opportunity he needed to plant even more seeds of doubt concerning Eric. Bill did legitimately fear that the Viking would only hurt Sookie in the long run, especially now that his memory was back. And he honestly felt he was the better choice for her.
Bill felt momentarily guilty that he’d had to mislead Sookie about a few things, but he was trying to protect her, just as he’d tried to protect her with the queen. Eric had been the one who had messed that up.
Bill grunted. He wished that he could just immediately arrange for Northman’s death, but he also recognized that if he did so, he’d lose his own life and his position. He was, unfortunately, stuck with Eric Northman for the foreseeable future, but soon that would not matter. Once Sookie was his, he could rub that fact in the sheriff’s face. Bill could recognize that Eric was and probably always would be the better vampire between the two of them. But that is not what he felt Sookie wanted. Yes―she wanted a vampire, someone she could not hear with her gift. However, she wanted one who embraced his humanity, as Bill was trying to do. He knew Eric would never do that.
Bill entered his office and called for a human to be brought to him. Being around Sookie all night had made him both hungry and horny, but he’d have to make do with donors―at least until Friday night.