It was about 10:30 when Lafayette and Jesus left, promising to come again for lunch on Friday. Sookie had told them that she wanted back-up for when she told Alcide that it wasn’t going to happen between them. She didn’t think he’d get angry, but it was always better to be safe than sorry. Plus, the boys wanted to work on the wards that day as well.
Sookie quickly put on some jeans and a T-shirt before she stripped the sheets off of her bed and her Gran’s bed. She inhaled fully as she took off each set since Eric’s scent lingered on both of them. She smiled and then blushed as she thought of all the fun they’d had in those beds. Then she went down to take the sheets off the bed in the cubby. They were still stained with Eric’s blood and the silver chains were in the corner. She looked down at the blood on the sheets and felt almost possessive of it all of a sudden. “Great―now I’m blood-thirsty,” Sookie sighed.
She gathered up the chains into the sheets and brought them carefully up the ladder of the cubby. Sookie threw her Gran’s queen-sized sheet set and half of the sheets from her bed into the washer, making a full load. She carefully put the chains to the side avoiding the bloody bits and then started to work on the blood stains on the cubby sheets by scrubbing them with a brush; then she left them to soak in bleach in the small utility sink next to the washer.
Next, Sookie grabbed some utility gloves from under the kitchen sink, retrieved the chains, and took them outside to hose them off. She found Alcide sitting on the front porch with a newspaper.
“Hey you,” Alcide said fondly. “You’ve been quiet as a mouse in there. Have you been napping?”
“Umm, I’ve been going through some old keepsakes,” Sookie lied, knowing that she’d actually been making a lot of noise in the house. It looked like Jesus’s spell was still working like a charm. He’d told her that it would basically hide what was going on inside from the outside.
“What’s that?” Alcide asked, gesturing toward the chains and recoiling slightly at the sight of the silver.
“It’s the chains I had to use to keep Eric bound up so that he wouldn’t run out in the sun the other day,” she said. “I’m just going to wash them off.”
Alcide seemed happy to let her take care of that task by herself, and to be truthful, Sookie was grateful as well, given the tenor of Alcide’s thoughts when she mentioned Eric’s name.
As she walked toward the side of the house where there’d always been a utility hose, she saw a patch of beautifully groomed hydrangea plants. They were not in bloom and wouldn’t be until the spring, but Sookie smiled anyway. She kept thinking about the flowers that would be on those plants in order to keep her mind off the grisly task of getting Eric’s skin and blood off the chains. Once done, Sookie put the chains over some wooden lattice pieces so that they would dry. Then she went back inside the house, nodding to Alcide as she walked by.
Sookie decided to pull out the casserole leftovers for an early lunch and warmed a plate for herself. She sat down at the table and propped her feet up on another chair as she ate the leftovers and drank a huge glass of orange juice, relishing the feeling that the food gave her. Even more so, she enjoyed controlling the entirety of her emotions again. She was able not only to feel the loss of her Gran fully but also to appreciate the wonderful effect she’d had on her life.
Sookie realized at that moment that she really resented Bill’s blood tie with her. It had worked to manipulate her emotions, and even though her fairy nature and Eric’s blood may have diminished its influence, the tie had literally altered her ability to feel. It had made her fixate on Bill and the love she felt for him. She’d listened with fervent attention to every negative thing he’d said about Eric and hadn’t ever questioned those things. She’d never truly judged Eric with her own eyes as she could now.
Certainly, some of what Bill said had been proven somewhat accurate―after all, Eric had kept Lafayette locked up in his basement for goodness sakes! But, Sookie reasoned, even Lafayette admitted that other vampire sheriffs would have killed him, and Eric had spared Lafayette for her. Sookie knew that if she wanted to be with Eric, she’d have to accept that he could be a ruthless vampire when called upon, but he was also willing to change a little in that regard―and change for her. He’d already agreed to turn in human wrong-doers to the authorities when she helped him with her telepathy, after all. Plus, she’d never witnessed an act of random violence from him. Acts of violence―yes! But these had all been against people that were looking to hurt him or the vampires in his jurisdiction.
However, Bill had painted Eric as absolute evil, someone to be feared and avoided at all costs. Yet Bill had dumped his own child off on Eric for a while. And Bill had taken her to Eric after the Maenad attack. He would have done neither if he really thought Eric was evil. Again, Bill had been purposely trying to mislead her about something. Sookie sighed ruefully.
The most disturbing thing about the tie in her mind, however, was that it had prevented her from mourning Gran’s death. Now that she’d actually spent some time with Bill without his blood in her, she recognized that the tie had mostly likely been what had drawn her to him the night after Gran had died; she’d literally felt compelled to run into his arms. She’d believed that no one else could help her. Looking back with the lights of her mind fully on, she knew that Bill had tricked her into taking more of his blood that night too. After that, her grief had been supplanted with an increased fixation, almost obsession, with loving Bill. And she had never examined any of her feelings for him; she felt like hitting herself for her past inability to question how exactly she’d fallen in love with the man who had seemed so creepy and rude outside of Merlotte’s after she’d saved him―or thought she’d saved him―from the Rattrays, the man who had let Malcolm and his nest mates paw her, and the man who had asked to kiss her just moments after he’d been going to feed on Malcolm’s human, Jerry. There had been a hundred signals that he was not the charming Southern suitor he was pretending to be, and she’d recognized many of them, but when it came to actions, she had always NOT followed her instincts. She’d quickly overlooked all the warning signs that came with Bill.
Then a pattern to Bill and her relationship had emerged. They’d seem to be blissfully in love, then something would happen that raised a red flag in her, and then he’d find a way to influence her to accept him back into her life, despite her doubts. And each time the pattern happened, she’d feel more and more compelled to defend him and their so-called love.
She felt angry with and ashamed of herself. But she shook herself out of these unproductive feelings and instead focused on Gran. After a few minutes, she whispered, “I’m so sorry, Gran. I love you so much.”
Sookie looked down at the empty dish in front of her. She smiled fondly as she realized that Gran would skin her hide for not offering some of the dish to Alcide. She warmed a huge plate of casserole for the Were and took it to him along with a glass of iced tea. He sniffed and smiled appreciatively as Sookie quickly excused herself to get her laundry out of the washer.
She put the wet sheets in the hamper and started a new load with the rest of the sheets.
Sookie hummed lightly as she hung up the sheets on the clothesline, which had been refitted with new cord. Sookie chuckled at Eric’s thoroughness and thought more about her Gran. She could picture her hanging sheets and then sitting in the sun to enjoy the sound of them flapping in the wind. A tear drifted down Sookie’s cheek at the thought, and she was struck by a sudden desire to visit Gran’s grave. She quickly finished hanging the sheets and took the hamper back inside before grabbing both the roses and the daisies from their respective vases.
She found Alcide on the front porch, now with a clean plate in front of him and a satisfied look on his face. He looked like a man in desperate need of a nap. Sookie chuckled, “Hey Alcide, I’m going to go visit my Gran’s grave and take her some flowers.”
“I’ll have to go with you, Sook,” Alcide said almost apologetically, “but I promise I’ll give you all the space I can.”
Sookie nodded appreciatively and started in the direction of the cemetery. About twenty yards from Gran’s grave, she gestured for Alcide to stop and then approached the final resting place of the person who had been more like a mother to her than anything else. On the way, she passed her parents’ graves and split the roses between them. When she got to Gran’s grave, she smiled to herself as she saw a single daisy that looked a couple of days old. She added the bunch in her hands and dropped to her knees. She noticed that Alcide had turned around to give her what privacy he could, but she knew he might still be able to hear what she said if he tried.
She sighed, wishing that Eric were with her, but then she thought of her magic and the fact that she’d somehow bound a part of him to her, and she knew that he really was there with her. She smiled at this thought and looked at the headstone. “I hope you would approve of him, despite what you said through Marnie,” she whispered in a barely audible voice. “I have faith in him. I just hope he proves me right tonight.” She sighed again, got up, and then rejoined Alcide on the path. He looked at her sympathetically, and then they silently trekked back to the house.
Grabbing the dirty dishes, Sookie left Alcide on the porch again and found that the second load of sheets was done. After inspecting them to make sure they were free of blood, she hung them on the line too.
Sookie checked the clock and saw that it was 12:20. She went back to her Gran’s room, where she’d started the morning, and took a moment to lose herself in the feel of the carved wood on the headboard again. She smiled and then put the keepsakes box back on the bed. Inside were mostly cards and photographs she’d been collecting throughout much of her life. She opened the lid and pulled out Godric’s linen shirt, determined to give it to Eric. If he decided to keep it here in his cubby, that was his decision, but she wanted him to have the choice. She made sure it was folded perfectly and then put it on the dresser. Then she returned the box of keepsakes to the top shelf and returned the chair to its place.
She decided that right then was as good a time as any to begin the process of moving her things from her old room to Gran’s room. She carefully packed what little there was left of Gran’s belongings into the empty boxes she’d left in the room a few days before. She separated Gran’s things into two boxes, things she wanted to hold on to and things that could go to Goodwill.
It took Sookie only 10 minutes to pack what was left of her Gran’s possessions. She was saddened that a whole life could fit into just two boxes, but the Maenad’s destruction to Gran’s things had been especially acute. Most of what was left were house-dresses and underclothing. Sookie felt her eyes burning when she thought of Maryann in Gran’s wedding dress.
Sookie left the two remaining daisy knickknacks that Gran had loved where they were on the dresser. She’d looked closely at them earlier and had noticed a few glue marks to show that they’d been put back together, more than likely by Eric. Most of the other decorative things, including the antique silver brush set that Gran had inherited from own grandmother, had been stolen or destroyed.
Sookie took the box for Goodwill to Jason’s old room next door. She’d look around the house in the next few weeks to see if there was anything else she wanted to take. She took the other box to the hallway and pulled down the steps to the attic. Though the box wasn’t really that heavy, she took it carefully up the narrow steps. It did not escape her notice that even the attic steps looked as if they’d been refurbished and were more stable than she’d ever seen them before. She smiled as she thought of Eric handing out hundreds of edicts to workmen in her home. She laughed out loud when she imagined the thousands of tasks that Bobby must have been required to perform during the repair of her home.
Left untouched by the Maenad, the good-sized attic looked just as Sookie remembered it with the exception that it was now cleaner and had a fresh coat of paint on the walls. During his teenaged years, Jason had decided that he needed more privacy and had begun to turn the space into a kind of den for himself. He’d lost interest in the project, however. As Sookie took in the beautiful streams of light coming in through the slanted attic windows, she thought that it might be a good idea to make a reading room for herself up there.
Again, tears welled up in Sookie’s eyes as she noticed the stack of boxes in the corner of the room, boxes that had stayed in that position for almost two decades. Sookie placed Gran’s things next to those boxes, which Gran had packed with Grandpa Earl’s belongings a few years after he’d disappeared. Sookie vividly remembered the day when Gran had carefully folded up all of his clothes and lovingly placed them into the boxes. Her thoughts that day had been confident that her husband would make his way back to her if he could.
A few tears fell from Sookie’s eyes as she thought about the tragic love story of Gran and Grandpa Earl. They were so happy, but because of the fairies, Gran had to spend almost two decades without her soul mate. Sookie could only pray that somehow, somewhere their souls had found their way back to each other after so many years of faithfulness and devotion between them. She also said a quick prayer that Eric and she would never be parted like that. The thought of leaving him to the rampages of time while she was stuck in the fairy realm made even more warm tears fall down her cheeks.
Sookie went to the opposite corner of the attic and kneeled. She worked up the loose floorboard and took out the little wooden box of treasures she found there. She had decided to take it downstairs to her new room so that she could store Eric’s letters inside of it but still have quick access to them.
It took only another 20 minutes for Sookie to transfer her clothing and personal items from her old room and bathroom to her new one. She too had lost a lot of clothing to the Maenad and resolved to take some of the money from Pam and do something that the vampiress would actually approve of―shop! She’d start by buying a few new hoodies so she would no longer have to wear the ones she had gotten when she was eighteen. The thought of continuing to walk around in the one with the purple and pink hearts on it actually made her cringe.
Once everything was in place, Sookie opened the little box of treasures from the attic. She smiled when she saw the charm bracelet that her dad had given her when she was four. It looked so tiny now. She picked up one of the shells she’d found on the beach that long-ago winter’s day and put it to her ear. It still looked and sounded perfect. As she placed the shell back into the box, her thumb hit what she was looking for, a little piece of silver. It had been one of the pieces she’d drawn from Eric’s body in Dallas. She had put it in her pocket and kept it. She didn’t have any logical reason for doing that at the time; in fact, she had every reason not to, given his trickery. But here it was in her hand.
She thought about Dream Eric’s question and wondered if she could have been falling in love with Eric even in Dallas. So that the reminder of the first time she’d taken Eric’s blood would be even closer to her, Sookie decided to put the fragment into the little hidden drawer in one of the tables next to the bed. She lifted the doily covering the table and pulled out the drawer. Inside was a lace handkerchief that she recognized as her Gran’s. She pulled out the lace and opened it to find a beautifully carved wooden pendant on a leather cord. Two entwined initials formed the shape of the pendant, an “S” and an “E.”
“Eric,” Sookie gasped quietly, thumbing the beautiful piece of woodwork. The tears were back and had begun to drift down her cheeks. “If you lie to me and mess this up tonight, I’m going to stake you myself. I swear.” She carefully placed the pendant back into the handkerchief and added the silver fragment. She put both into the little drawer. Then she put the little wooden box into the bottom drawer of her side of the dresser. The other side remained empty―for now―both because she didn’t have enough items left to fill it and because she hoped that someone else’s things might soon need a space of their own.
Sookie sighed and looked around her new room. She felt closer to Gran in there, and she took a minute to sit in the rocker in the corner, noticing that the afghan thrown over the back of it smelled like Eric. She sighed and inhaled deeply. This was the room that might soon become their room. “Just don’t fuck it up, Northman,” Sookie reiterated under her breath.
Satisfied with the room and in need of a break from her emotional overload, Sookie decided to put on her bikini and get a bit of sun. It was only about 75 degrees outside, but the sun was bright and warm, and Sookie missed proper sunbathing. Being in the sun the day before had been nice, but there was something about being in a bikini and doing it right that just made things so much better.
Struck by a sudden idea, she went into her new bathroom, which was attached her new room, and quickly showered before putting back on her bikini. She knew that Eric would appreciate the smell of the sun on her skin, and if she showered after she sunbathed, the smell would be muted.
She grabbed her cell phone , put on her robe, skipped down the stairs, went out back, and pulled her lounger to a nice, sunny spot, happy that Alcide was probably dozing on the other side of the house. She closed her eyes and relaxed, letting her mind drift to the question of when she first started to love Eric Northman. She knew for certain that it was before their most recent exchange of blood. She had already loved him when they had made love for the first time too. She thought back farther in her mind. She was already in love with him when her Gran warned her via Marnie that the love would be fleeting. Sookie took a minute to speculate again about her Gran’s warning. Eric’s love, as it turned out, didn’t seem temporary. She wondered if her Gran’s warning had become moot since her magic had helped Eric regain his memories. Sookie couldn’t help but hope that Gran had gotten her after-life wires crossed somehow, but the memory of her warning still nagged at the back of Sookie’s mind.
Sookie continued to think back to one of her dreams, the one she’d had right before she’d gone to Fangtasia and shared her first non-dream kiss with Eric. Of course, he had to screw stuff up by chaining her up in the basement right after that. “Stupid, idiot vampire,” Sookie said under her breath, mentally adding another question to her list. She flipped over and continued her musing.
In that dream, Eric―the Eric that she had obviously planted into her own dream―had told her it wasn’t just his blood and that she had feelings for him. And in that dream, she’d known he was telling the truth, which is why she’d gone to his office that night to start with.
Thinking about that kiss still put a blush on her face, and when she realized that Eric was indeed kissing her goodbye, she couldn’t imagine a life without him in that moment. If she was being really honest―and she was finally doing just that―she could admit to herself that she had been in love with him even then. The words that he’d spoken to her that night―“Don’t pretend that you care about me; this is about Bill”―had cut into her, even though she’d said nothing to contradict them.
She thought back farther, much farther, thinking that working her way from a time when she knew she didn’t love him toward that moment in his office when she had already been in love with him seemed like a logical plan. She did not love him in Dallas, but she knew that was where her heart had started to turn toward him. Before Dallas, she had been intrigued and attracted, even if she didn’t admit these positive feelings to herself at the time. Despite Bill’s admonitions and the influence of his blood tie, she’d actually found Eric quite interesting and witty in her several encounters with him―at least, before she found out about Lafayette. That day, she’d felt profound disappointment as much as she’d felt anger.
Yes―by the time she’d left Dallas, her heart had definitely begun to turn. She now knew that it wasn’t really the blood that did it either, at least not fully. The blood, or at least Eric’s influence on it, may have been the catalyst for the first dream she had, but that dream only proved that their tie couldn’t actually be controlled by Eric. And there were other things that happened in Dallas that turned the tide in his favor. His fervent desire to rescue Godric from the Fellowship of the Sun was one of those; she found herself wanting to help him, despite everything with Lafayette. And then after Godric had saved her from Gabe in the basement, she remembered Eric zooming in like a bolt of beautiful lightning. He’d taken her breath away. Then against all odds, she had trusted him when he asked her to, and when he was chained up on the altar in that church, she would have done anything to save him. All she could see was his pained blue eyes tearing through her; there had been something so transcendent in those eyes. She now knew that it was his love for her.
So even before the blood, she’d been drawn to him. Eric―at least Dream Eric―had said they were a “match,” one he recognized at their second meeting. She speculated about whether some innate part of herself had recognized it too. She wondered if it was her fairy part that was initially drawn to him. Indeed, it was only days after she took Eric’s blood that the light in her hands began to manifest. Part of her hypothesized that taking blood from Eric had activated her in some way since, according to Jesus, at least one other aspect of her magic had seemed to respond to him as soon as his blood was in her body. If she’d been capable of using her light before, she’d certainly had a good reason when Rene had attacked her, but she didn’t use it then. It was only after Eric’s blood was inside of her that she’d instinctually raised her hands and shot at Maryann.
She flipped over again. She’d definitely not loved him when she saw him naked in the basement of Fangtasia with Yvetta. But she’d had one hell of a jealous moment, so she had obviously been well on her way.
Then over the next two days, she’d gone to Fangtasia to tell him about the tattoo, and he’d come to her house to save her from the Were. Those two days were confusing for her, but looking back, she had felt her attraction shifting to something else during that time. He’d been sincere, charming and protective, and he’d opened up to her even though she could tell that a big part of him was almost afraid to.
He’d said that he was “risking everything” to tell her the truth about the Weres, and when she’d asked him what he meant, he talked about how he was somehow putting her into more danger by telling her. Now, she realized that she’d been witnessing his conflict between telling her the truth and keeping her safe, but in the dark. He’d opted for the former; she recognized now that his struggle those two nights had been because he loved her. She couldn’t help but contrast Eric’s actions to Bill’s. Bill, it seemed, always wanted her in the dark―all in the name of love. Eric could have kept her in the dark and justified it the same way, but he hadn’t. He’d told her about the Were’s tattoo, he’d told her that Jackson referred to the place and not a person, and he’d sent Alcide to take her there―despite his obvious desire that she not go. Sookie whispered, “Please, Eric, don’t fuck it up.”
She returned to the question of when she had started loving Eric and suddenly had what Oprah Winfrey would call an “Ah-ha moment.” She replayed the memory a few times and shook her head. Frustrated, she muttered to herself, “Of course, that would have to be the moment. Sookie Stackhouse, you are just one big walking, talking fiasco. I can’t believe you fell in love with him then.” She rolled her eyes at herself, right as her cell phone alarm beeped, preventing her from continued self-flagellation.
She got up, put on her robe, and took her chair back to its original spot. The chair, too, was perfect and comfortable, another addition by that frustrating, high-handed vampire that she’d fallen head over heels in love with at such an “f”-ed up moment.
She walked over to the clothesline and ran her hands along the sheets, pleased that they were all dry. She inhaled deeply, loving the scent of the fresh breeze trapped inside of them. She couldn’t help but hope that she’d managed to absorb some of that scent into her skin for Eric, even though he was currently a pain in her ass.
She grabbed the laundry basket and quickly took down the sheets.
Once inside, she downed a glass of water to rehydrate after being in the sun. It was 4:30, three and a half hours before Eric was coming, so she decided to prep for dinner. She’d opted to make a vegetable beef soup that Gran had been famous for, so she pulled out and began to chop up vegetables. Alcide interrupted her once with a knock on the door to bring her the empty glass he’d been using for water all day; he eyed her outfit a bit too closely, and Sookie unconsciously tightened her robe. Since he’d be leaving as soon as Bubba arrived, which was within the hour, he’d said his goodbyes then and assured her he’d be back before sunrise.
By 5:30 all the vegetables were prepped, and the meat had been cooked enough to drop it, along with everything else, into a large pot of beef stock. Sookie stirred in all the spices she remembered Gran using as she waited for the mixture to boil. Once it’d been boiling at a good rate for a few minutes, she turned down the heat to a simmer. The soup would be perfect by 8:00. Adele Stackhouse’s philosophy about soups never failed. Just put in good ingredients and let everything percolate, she’d always said.
Sookie picked up the laundry basket and carried it toward the cubby. She pulled out the sheets to that bed and climbed down with them. After she had made the bed, she remembered the chains and went outside to grab them. As soon as she was outside, she noticed Bubba standing at the tree line and gave him a big wave.
Bubba used vampire speed to come over to her, “Good evenin’, Miss Sookie.” He eyed the chains warily. “Is them silver chains?”
Sookie looked at Bubba apologetically. “Yeah, but don’t worry Bubba. No one is gonna get silvered here anytime soon―not if I can help it. I had to use these to hold Eric down when that witch was doin’ that spell that made vampires want to go out in the sunlight.”
Bubba nodded. “I heard ‘bout that. Glad I wasn’t here then.” He continued to eye the chains.
“Well,” Sookie said, “I’ll just get these inside.”
Bubba nodded, looking grateful that the offensive material was going to be taken away. “Well, I’ll be close if you need me Miss Sookie. Mister Eric said he’ll be here at 8:00, and I’ll do my huntin’ after that.”
Sookie smiled. “Thanks Bubba.”
When she got the chains back inside, she didn’t really know where to put them. “Definitely not back in the cubby!” she said out loud.
Finally, she settled on the small closet that had always held her Gran’s shotgun and Jason’s guns when he’d lived there. Gran had always been a stickler for self-defense, and she’d made Sookie learn to use the shotgun and a handgun when she was thirteen. Sookie had actually become really good with them over the years as Gran insisted she practice and then learn to clean the weapons. Sookie was pleased to see the shotgun tucked in next to the water heater where Gran had always kept it. The closet was relatively free of dust, so she guessed that Eric’s little cleaning teams had been in there too. She put the chains in the closet, and then picked up the shot gun, pleased to see it clean and in good shape as well. She checked and found it loaded; there was an almost full box of shells next to it in such a pristine looking box that she could only think of one source. For what must have been the one-thousandth time that night―since the phrase had become her mantra as she had cut vegetables―Sookie muttered, “Don’t fuck it up, Northman.”
She put the gun back in place and closed the closet door before putting the sheets on the two remaining beds.