Sookie returned to the couch after taking care of her human needs―as Eric called it. When she got back, there was a fresh glass of tea on the coffee table, and Eric was building a fire for them. Sookie watched him work for a few minutes in silence appreciating how his glorious ass looked in his jeans.
She finally spoke to distract herself, “If I need a daytime guard after Friday, will you get someone other than Alcide?”
“Certainly, min kära,” he answered. Then his expression darkened. “Has the Were done anything to offend you?”
“Hey Mister,” Sookie chided. “Remember the rule: no violence just because someone says or does somethin’ you or I don’t like.”
Eric smiled evilly, “I never agreed to no violence, Sookie, just no killing.”
“Well I’m adding to the rule then,” Sookie said.
Eric laughed, “Frustrating woman.” Then he grew serious again, “I do wish to know why you want someone other than Alcide though.”
“Well, for one thing, Alcide wants me.”
“I know,” Eric sighed.
“Yes, and that will get uncomfortable after I tell him I don’t want him romantically. I can be his friend, but nothing else.”
“What’s the other thing?”
“Well he pretty much hates you, and I love you, so I don’t like people dissin’ you for no good reason.”
Eric’s face lit up, “You are so feisty when you get protective, my lover. I love it.”
“Anyway,” Sookie rolled her eyes playfully at him. “We need to get back to your questions.”
“Okay. Keep ‘em coming. It’s only midnight, and I am at your disposal until dawn.”
Sookie smiled, “What do you miss the most about the time when you had your amnesia, about those days you spent with me?”
Eric leered at her.
Sookie added quickly, “I mean other than the sex, that is.”
Eric smiled playfully and then answered, “Well it was such a strange time for me; I didn’t know myself, and then there was the witch’s threat, but I enjoyed many things about that time.”
“But what do you miss most?”
Eric became thoughtful. “I spent a morning in the sun for the first time in a thousand years. I saw the sunlight glint in the ripples of the water. I saw wild flowers that open only in the sun. I felt the heat of its rays on my skin, warming me. I thought the world was as perfect as it could be, and then I saw you standing there. I will always remember the sunlight in your hair, min kära―always. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever beheld.” A red tear escaped from Eric’s eyes, surprising him. He quickly wiped it away.
Sookie smiled, “So that morning in the sun is what you miss the most.”
“No,” Eric shook his head. “It probably should be, but it is not.”
“What is it then?” Sookie prompted.
“It happened several times, actually,” Eric started, “but, like you and your story from before, this is a bit embarrassing for me.”
“Well, it probably has to do with what Pam would call ‘man issues’.”
“Yet it’s still your favorite part about that time?”
Eric nodded. “It was those times when you held me.”
“But we held each other a lot, Eric,” Sookie said confused.
“No, it was when you held me, when I would lay on your stomach or chest listening to your heart and your breathing. You would be touching my hair or caressing my shoulders and face. You were holding me then; I was not holding you, nor were we holding each other. In my human and vampire lives, Sookie, I have never allowed myself to be vulnerable to the point of allowing that, yet those moments rank as some of the most profound of my life. In them, I had a sense of satisfaction, a feeling of being in just the right place with just the right person.” Another tear dripped from Eric’s eyes even as one made its way down Sookie’s cheek.
“I felt that way too, Eric,” she said, her lips trembling.
He wiped his second tear away less hurriedly than the first. They shared an intense look of understanding before Sookie continued, “If we decide to be together, what will our life be like? Where would we live?”
Eric looked at the fire thoughtfully. “I have thought much about this, Sookie, since I no longer wish to be parted from you. I would live where you wish, which, I believe, is here.”
“I would have to make it more secure for us, especially in the daytime, and I would want to make our room light tight so that I could go to my rest next to you. I am a powerful sheriff, and that means that I will always have those who might wish me harm, so they might try to go through you to do that. You would have to accept permanent guards, which, I know you do not like. I would want you to try to hone your light power, so that you could protect yourself when I am not there. I would never wish you powerless, Sookie,” he reiterated forcefully.
He continued, “I would hand most of the day-to-day running of Fangtasia over to Pam and Chow, as I would no longer want to be displayed to the fangbangers as I have been. I would not wish to expose you to their jealous and angry thoughts either. I would still have to go there several nights a week to work in my office and conduct Area business, and I sometimes might wish for your presence to aid me with the human matters that come up, but I would spend much less time there. I conduct much of my area business via phone, computer and the occasional personal surprise visit anyway, but this house is already set up for wireless, and there is a secure hardline to the cubby.”
“High-handed vampire,” Sookie muttered, her lips turning up in a smile.
“As for the rest―as for us―I do not know how that would go, Sookie. I have never had a relationship like the one I wish to have with you. I want to be a husband to you Sookie. That is what I want if you will have it. I know it is not legal in this state yet, and I know it may take time for you to be ready for that, but I want you to be my wife, my help-mate, and my partner, for as long as you live. I also warn you that I will try to convince you to join me as vampire so that we can be together even longer than one lifespan. I fear that I will not want to go on if I lose you, min kära. I already feel unable to handle a world where you are not present as I did for the last year.”
Sookie’s throat tightened as tears glided freely down her cheeks, but Eric went on, “Pam was right. I was not in a good place the year you were not here. The only things that kept me from meeting the sun were a desire to stay with Pam and the hope that you would return to me.”
Sookie was openly sobbing now, but Eric finished, “And then after I bought this house, I turned myself to it, imagining it being our home, Sookie. I had such big plans in my head about us here.”
Sookie buried her face in her hands, unable to stop her cries. Eric rose and went to the kitchen to grab a clean towel for Sookie’s tears. He bent down before her and gently began to wipe them as they looked into each other’s eyes. Sookie hiccupped, “Just a couple more questions, okay?”
Eric nodded, “Of course, min kära.” He handed her the glass of tea so that she could relieve her throat and added a piece of wood to the fire before returning to his seat.
Sookie finally composed herself and asked the question she’d been dreading all night, “Why did you glamour Lafayette, Jesus, and I’m guessing Jason too?”
Eric sighed, “Yes, it is time that you know everything. You will not like it, but I have been keeping something from you so that it could not influence the choice you were trying to make or prevent your finding out your true feelings. I am sorry that I have kept this from you, but I hope you can forgive me. The reason why you went through the blood breaking spell to start with was to have a clean slate. I kept from you what I am about to tell you because I wanted to give you that clean slate; you almost died to get it.
Sookie looked at Eric with apprehension and shock, “Almost died?”
“Yes,” Eric said in a whisper, “and it would have been my fault if you had.”
“Your fault? How?” Sookie asked.
“First, please know that I never intended you any harm and that as soon as I understood what was happening, I stopped what I had been doing.”
“Tell me,” Sookie whispered.
“As you know, the blood of vampires contains magic, and as the vampire voluntarily gives blood, a bit of that magic moves into the human. That is what makes the ties or bonds and what accounts for the connection between the human and the vampire.”
He continued, “The spell that Jesus and Lafayette did is known as the scorching spell among vampires because it literally incinerates the blood tie, which accounts for the pain that you went through that night.”
Sookie nodded again, “Yes, the pain was very bad.” She shuddered and looked into the fire.
“To work, the spell has to destroy the tie in both the human and the vampire. From what I have discovered, the spell first locates the vampire blood in the human host and isolates that blood; then the spell sort of latches on to the magic, which it then traces back to the original vampire donor.”
“Yeah,” Sookie confirmed. “Jesus said that the spell piggybacks on the vampire’s own magical force at that point and begins to seek out the tie in the vampire’s body.”
Eric continued, “And I’m sure that Jesus also told you that if the spell is stopped before completed, the human host will die because the spell will rebound onto the human and try to destroy the vampire magic there.”
Sookie nodded again. “Yes, he told Jason and me that before we did the spell.”
“Okay, as you may also know, the process of the spell generally takes between 5 and 10 minutes, as the witch’s spell must first find and then isolate the vampire blood and magic in the human and then trace the magic back to its source. Then, as I said, the witch’s magic must travel throughout the vampire’s body until the location of the tie is discovered. At that point, both halves of the tie―the human’s and the vampire’s―are literally burned. The human, at that point, feels intense pain, which induces him or her to pass out. Thus, unconsciousness is seen as a sign that the spell has worked and the witches may stop chanting.”
Sookie nodded again. “I know all this from Jesus.”
“Good,” Eric said. “Pam questioned Jessica last night at Fangtasia when Bill was here. The normal process of breaking ties is precisely what happened with her and with Bill, according to what he told her. They were both awakened when the spell was begun, and Jessica said that she felt a sensation like there was an energy moving through her body. Bill was awakened at that point by Jessica’s distress, and they thought that the necromancer might somehow be back. Jessica said that the energy movement finally became localized in her body, and then she felt something akin to a momentary shock, realized her connection to Jason was gone, and then fell back into her day slumber. When she woke up, she felt that Jason might have died, but then she learned of the spell. Jessica thinks that her experience lasted about 3 minutes altogether. When she and Bill rose the next day, he talked about how his own experience had lasted a few minutes longer than hers, but he also felt the tie break with you to be like a momentary shock.”
“This isn’t what happened to you, is it?” Sookie asked worriedly.
“No,” Eric said slowly, “as always, you are very astute. As you know, when we exchanged blood the other day in the cubby, we began a blood bond. A bond is a type of tie, so Jesus’s spell worked on it, but as you also know, there’s a much more profound connection in a bond than there is with a tie.”
She nodded, the anxiety clear in her eyes.
“I told you of the experiences I had when I drank your blood; its taste was wonderful, but it also created feelings within me. There is a human song that compares a deep love connection to the feeling of being home, that a beloved one can ‘feel like home’ to another. This is the only way I have to try to make you understand how it really felt when I took your blood into me. I had no memories or knowledge of ties or bonds in my state at the time, but my instinct fueled me to offer you my blood.”
“So when you said that we would be one . . .” Sookie started.
“. . . that was an instinct; I felt driven to make us one, Sookie. A bond forms instead of a normal tie if and only if two factors are present. The first is a true blood exchange, meaning that the exchanges are made within a short amount of time, literally the blood must be on both lips of the sharers in the same moment. Your blood was still on my lips as you drank from me that morning. The second factor is intent, and this protects both human and vampire. The vampire’s intent cannot be selfish if the blood is to bind. The vampire must love the human. In this way, the tie that we had at first was similar to the bond we made. The difference is that the human must also choose to bind himself or herself to the vampire. The human’s motives must be pure as well; there must be love from both for the bond to form. If there is not, then only a tie results. Do you follow?”
Sookie nodded again.
“I know that we formed a bond that morning because of our shared daydream. After I completed my work at Fangtasia last night, I did some research in some of Godric’s old books that I’d had shipped to me after his death and then had stored until now. A true blood bond is really rare among my kind, as you can well imagine. But when it is formed, there is a kind of euphoria shared by both human and vampire. I believe that your fairy blood turned that euphoria up a notch, so to speak.”
“The shower and the bed in the snow,” Sookie whispered.
“The idea that anything at all is possible,” Eric added also whispering.
“So the bond was harder to break than the tie?”
“Yes,” Eric said, “as I indicated, my experience we very different than Compton’s or Jessica’s. Like them, I was woken up, and from what Jessica said, my initial experience was similar to theirs. However, instead of feeling just an energy traveling, I felt pain, acute pain.”
“You felt my pain, didn’t you?” Sookie asked trembling.
“Yes. And though our bond was new, I tried to take some of that pain from you, but I do not know if I succeeded.”
Sookie shivered again, remembering the pain she’d initially felt before she seemed to lose awareness. She wondered if Eric had somehow managed to take away at least the conscious experience of her pain. “I think you did,” she said.
“That is something at least.” Eric continued, “I knew that there was some kind of foreign magic in my body, and I felt it try to latch on to our bond. And I resisted it.”
“You resisted it?”
“Yes,” Eric said dragging his fingers through his hair. “Like Compton, my first reaction was to theorize that the necromancer had somehow managed to find a new host, and I tried to hold on through the pain, to survive for Pam and for you. Then as soon as I began thinking about you, it was as if the spell homed in on our bond. It began to try to sever our connection, but I grabbed onto the bond.”
“You can do that?” Sookie asked, engrossed.
“According to Godric’s book, I should not have been able to, but I marshaled the magic in my blood, and I sent it to the bond to protect it.”
“And all that time, you were in agony, maybe even more than I was?”
“Yes,” Eric said softly. “But I didn’t know you wanted it gone, Sookie. I thought that you might be dying or that the fairies might have returned. I felt that if I let go of the bond, I would lose you.” Sookie saw red tears forming in the corners of Eric’s eyes.
“What happened then?”
“I just kept holding on, trying to control the pain until sunset.”
“Wait. We started that spell more than two hours before sunset!”
“I know,” Eric said heavily.
“But you wouldn’t let go,” Sookie added softly.
“No, I couldn’t― wouldn’t ―lose you again.” Eric paused for another moment and stood up, pacing the room. “Finally, it was sunset. I managed to move outside, but I couldn’t fly or run or even drive because of the pain. I called Pam, and she drove me to you.”
“Yes. Your brother let us in even as the witches continued their chanting. You were curled up on the floor in the middle of the circle. You were convulsing and barely conscious, but unaware. I felt that you were very close to death. I felt your pain in me even more intently by that point. It had increased the closer I got to you, and I was trying to take more and more from you.”
A tear drifted from his eye as he continued, “Your brother was able to explain what was happening, and when I knew that you wanted to sever the bond―to burn my blood out of you and yours out of me―I let go.”
“I don’t remember you being there at all,” Sookie said as large warm tears fell down her cheeks.
“You wouldn’t, min kära. You were in so much trauma by the time we arrived that you were unaware of anything but your pain. You could have died, and it would have been my fault.”
“No,” Sookie said insistently, jumping to her feet and stopping Eric’s pacing by placing herself in front of him. “You don’t get to blame yourself for that. I was the one that kept it a secret. I thought you or Bill would try to stop me or hurt Jesus and Lafayette so that they couldn’t do it. I was wrong about you in that, but I now believe that Bill would have done anything to keep me tied to him. You couldn’t have known what I was doing.” Sookie’s voice dropped into sobs as she reached up to place her hand along his cheek. “You were fighting for me―for us. You fought despite being in agony yourself.”
Sookie shook her head fiercely. “You never need to apologize or blame yourself for fighting that hard of us, do you understand!?!”
Eric grasped her hand, which held his cheek and then sunk down to his knees in front of her, two trails of red flowing on his cheeks. He pulled her body to his, holding his arms around her stomach and burying his face into her red shirt.
Sookie put her hands into his hair and stroked gently, comfortingly.
After a few minutes, Eric looked up at her and smiled, “At least your shirt’s already red.”
Sookie laughed and sunk to her knees before him, grabbing the kitchen towel that he’d discarded on the coffee table. She wiped the blood from his cheeks carefully and then kissed him lightly on each of them. She sat down fully onto the floor and pulled him to sit next to her by the fire. They watched its flames in silence for a few minutes.
“So Godric’s book said that you shouldn’t have been able to hold onto the bond like that?”
“No,” Eric said his voice now composed again.
“How did you do it then―and for so long?” Sookie asked.
“I’m not certain, but I felt that I had your help somehow.”
“My help? But I was the one that decided to have the spell done. Why would I help you keep it in tact?”
“I have been trying to figure that out since Saturday, min kära. All I know is that I sent my magic to hold onto our bond, but it still felt like it was slipping away. Then my magic seemed to be aided by something, a white light that engulfed the bond and helped hold my magic to it. Without it, I would not have been able to withstand the pain and keep my grip.”
“Did Godric’s books say anything about that?”
“No, but then again, ours is a unique case. Bonds are rarely entered into to start with and are even more rarely broken, and then when you add to that the fact that you are not merely human, then it becomes impossible to find a case like ours ever happening before.”
“Cheese and rice!” Sookie exclaimed sitting up straight and jumping to her feet.
Eric was quick to follow her to her feet. “Sookie, you used that expression in the day dream I had of you; does it mean that you are hungry? Can I get you more of your soup?” Eric looked concerned.
“No,” Sookie said laughing at Eric. “It’s an expression. It means that I just realized something important, something that surprised me.”
“Oh,” Eric said, his brows furrowing. “Human expressions are getting odder and odder by the year.”
“Okay, but that’s not the point, Eric. I think I know what that little white light was twisting around our bond.”
Eric looked at Sookie, interest apparent in his eyes. “What was it, Sookie?”
“You’d better sit down,” she said heavily as she gestured toward the couch.