Sookie was awakened by her cell phone alarm at 10:30. Happily, she noticed that she no longer felt sore at all; in fact, she felt well-rested and full of energy. “Must be your blood, vampire,” she chuckled as she kissed Eric lightly on his lips. She thought she felt him stir slightly at her action, but she began to dismiss the thought since he was most decidedly dead for the day, despite his tardy beginning to his sleep.
Then, she stopped herself. Her days of dismissing the odd things that happened to her were over. She was going to talk to Jesus about Eric’s new ability to stay up and be in the indirect sun well past the dawn. She knew that since Eric was an older vampire, he could resist the pull of the sun to some extent, but she also knew that he’d never felt ‘safe’ in the light before. He’d said that he hadn’t even perceived the sun’s pull for a while―that he’d sensed no threat from the ambient light in the room. And now, he may have stirred in his sleep, and he should have been quite literally dead for the day. Sookie knew that something was up, and she wasn’t willing to put it on the backburner of her mind and just hope that it worked itself out.
As Sookie got up and slipped on her robe, she immediately longed for the feel of Eric’s naked flesh against her own.
“What are we gonna do with each other if we can’t even bear to get dressed?” she laughed to herself. She checked the bond between them. She felt Eric’s life force thrumming along, and she mentally stroked the bond. She was surprised to hear Eric make a sound like a sigh of contentment in his sleep, and she added that to the list of things to talk to Jesus about. Vampires, most decidedly, were not supposed to sigh in their sleep.
Sookie bit her lip in worry; Bill would be coming by at 10:00, and she wasn’t sure how he’d react to the news of her and Eric being together. She hoped that he would take the news with the kind of Southern grace that he’d shown in the past, but now she wondered if all his previous actions and behavior had been authentic at all. She feared he might act in anger or do something to try to reintroduce his blood into her body. Sookie knew that if he tried to do that, she would defend herself with everything she had, and she knew that Eric would kill Bill.
Still, she felt sorry for Bill. In his own way, he did love her. But as she looked at the man in the bed before her, she could find no comparison between the Viking and the Civil War vet, except that they were both vampires.
Bill seemed honorable on the surface, but it was he who had tricked her into taking his blood―more than once. Eric seemed more dangerous, but when it all came down to it, the tie he’d made with her was the pure one, the one made out of love. Eric’s bullet trick in Dallas now seemed like a misdemeanor when contrasted with Bill’s felonious behavior since the first night she’d met him.
Sookie steeled herself. Alcide and Bill would both have to be dealt with that day; she’d put it off long enough, even though she’d been leaning toward choosing Eric for days. She’d felt an ache when she had awoken after the severing spell and hadn’t been able to quite put her finger on what was causing it. After the previous night, she realized that she’d been aching for―longing for―her missing piece; she’d been longing for Eric from the moment she’d expelled his blood and magic from her body .
After one lingering look for her beloved, Sookie went upstairs and took a quick shower before putting on a pair of comfortable cargo pants and a T-shirt. As she came downstairs, she glanced outside and saw Alcide sitting on the porch. There was no indication that he heard her moving about, so she guessed that the privacy spell was still at work.
She quickly made a pot of coffee and then set to work marinating the steaks. She threw some potatoes in the oven to bake and then looked at the pies she’d made. She smiled and cut a big piece of the peach pie to set aside for Eric and her later. From past experience, she knew that if she didn’t hide a piece now, her brother would devour the whole pie before she knew it! After that, she made some fresh iced tea even as she eased herself awake with more coffee. She pulled together a salad that would complement the steak and potatoes.
At 11:45, the doorbell rang, and Sookie used her gift to ‘hear’ that it was the boys. She opened the door and stepped outside slightly, giving both Lafayette and Jesus big hugs. Alcide looked a bit confused, however, as Sookie waved good morning to him.
“I didn’t hear you in there, cher. I thought you were still asleep,” he said.
“Nope, I’ve been up for more than an hour, Alcide. I’ve just been real quiet,” Sookie lied, not wanting Alcide to know about the privacy spell for some reason.
Jason’s truck pulled up, and Sookie began to walk across the porch to greet him and to help him with the beer and chips she knew he was bringing. However, as soon as she stepped further onto the porch, the cool November breeze picked up a bit, carrying her scent to Alcide.
Sookie heard the Were’s low growl and immediately looked around, as did Jesus and Lafayette, to see where the danger was coming from, but she found Alcide’s predatory stare trained on her.
“Oh fuck!” Lafayette said when he too saw the target of the Were’s glare. He instinctively took a defensive stance in front of Sookie.
Jesus also put himself between Sookie and Alcide as the Were’s growling continued.
Clueless to what was happening, Jason jumped out of his truck and called out, “Hey everyone! I brought some beers and stuff!”
Alcide rose from his seat on the porch and began to slowly stalk toward Sookie, still growling low. Only then did Jason notice that there was a problem, and he left the items he brought in his truck and ran to the porch to stand protectively next to his sister.
“What the fuck did he do to you, Sookie?” Alcide roared, coming closer, a look of pure hatred in his eyes.
At that moment two things happened almost simultaneously. The first was that Sookie felt afraid of Alcide for the first time―real fear, like he might harm her. The second was that a very naked Eric suddenly zipped onto the porch, placing his body between the angry Were and his beloved. His skin was completely exposed to the sun, which was bathing the porch with bright light. Eric and Alcide stood fewer than five feet apart and both were growling menacingly.
“Oh my fuckin’ God,” Lafayette muttered as he took in Eric’s beautiful body even as he tried to reconcile the fact that Eric was out in the sun.
“Eric!” Sookie yelled, as she saw his skin begin to get a little pink. “Get inside―right now! Please!”
Eric did not turn to look at her; instead, he leveled Alcide with a withering look that invited him to attack. He smirked, “The sun might be shining, Were, and I might burn to a fucking crisp, but I can guarantee you that I will still kill you before you make one move toward my wife!”
“Wife!” yelled Alcide derisively. “I’ll fucking kill you so that she can finally be free of you!”
Sookie had had enough. She yelled at Alcide, who had begun growling again. “Alcide stop! I have chosen Eric, and if you cannot accept that, you can get the fuck off my property right now!”
Alcide went to speak, but Sookie stopped him even as she reached for Eric to try to tug him back inside. “Alcide Herveaux, I want you to be my friend, but right now, I don’t give a rat’s ass what you have to say! All I care about is that your fuckin’ reaction has caused the love of my life to endanger himself, and I won’t fuckin’ have it!”
His skin turning pinker by the second, Eric gently shook off Sookie’s hold and continued to stare down Alcide.
Alcide’s growl turned more deadly, and his body began to shake as if he were about to turn into his wolf form; meanwhile, Eric’s skin became even redder and small wisps of smoke began to rise from his body. Eric growled and spoke in a voice of cold, deadly steel, “If you turn, Were, it will be the last thing you fucking do.” He postured himself for attack.
“Fuck!” Sookie yelled loudly, drawing everyone’s attention to her. Even Alcide and Eric froze and stopped snarling long enough to take in Sookie’s hands, which seemed to be collecting light; however, instead of hitting Alcide with her power, she pooled the light and aimed it directly at Eric’s chest.
Everyone on the porch, including Alcide, gasped with surprise as the light slammed into Eric and then absorbed into his skin, causing the vampire’s body to become momentarily rigid.
“See!” Alcide yelled. “The bastard was about to attack, and she used her power to stop him!” Alcide looked victorious in his mistaken belief that Sookie had just supported him by attacking Eric.
“What the fuck, Sook?” Jason yelled. “Why you hittin’ Eric?”
“Oh my God!” Jesus exclaimed as he realized what had happened. “Look at his skin!”
As Sookie rushed to embrace Eric, everyone else looked on as Eric’s skin healed, the redness and burns that had begun to form on him disappearing. Smoke was no longer coming off of his body.
Sookie held Eric tightly even as the ripples of her magic ebbed in his skin.
“Min kära,” Eric said, his lips on her hair, and his arms holding her to him, “you are my miracle.”
Sookie looked up at Eric, her eyes pleading, “Please, please go inside before you start burnin’ again. I can’t bear you being burned. Please, Eric!”
Alcide’s mouth had dropped, and a very audible “shit” was heard from Lafayette.
Eric looked down at Sookie. “I will go in, but only if you are by my side. I will not leave you with him.” Eric gestured toward Alcide, who still looked dumbstruck.
Sookie nodded and looked at Alcide. “If you want to try to retain any kind of friendship with me, Alcide Herveaux, you can come in to talk to us in 10 minutes after you simmer down. Until then, you can decide whether or not you can behave! I won’t be scared OR judged by you, Alcide. Not on my property! Not anymore!”
With that, she turned on her heel and led a perfectly healed and still very naked Eric toward the door. Eric’s eyes never left Alcide’s except for a moment―right before he entered the house―when he glanced toward the sun with wonder.
“Fuck!” Jason and Lafayette said in unison even as Jesus looked on in awe as the door closed behind Eric and Sookie.
Not able to help himself, Lafayette let out an enormous sigh, “Well, at least now I knows that Viking-sized refers to everything on the body.”
Jesus chuckled and Jason cringed a bit at the thought, even as all three friends kept a close eye on Alcide.
For his part, Alcide looked equal parts shocked and ready to spit nails.
As soon as Eric and Sookie were inside, Sookie led him to a part of the living room that was not taking direct sun. She embraced him fully, “What were you thinking?” You could have burned. You were burnin’!”
Eric pulled her just as tightly against his form. He spoke feverously, “I was thinking only of you. You were frightened, my love. I had to come to you.”
“But how are you awake? How did you wake up?”
“I don’t know. But I felt your fear, and I had to get to your side, min kära.”
Eric placed his forehead against Sookie’s, an intimate gesture on his part that always left her breathless.
After more than a minute that way during which they simply appreciated the fact that they were both safe, Sookie said, “Eric, I need to talk to Alcide, to try to salvage something of our friendship.”
Eric nodded but spoke firmly, “I understand, but I cannot let you do this without me―not now, not after he frightened you.”
Sookie raised her lips to his, “Thank you.” She kissed him lightly and then ordered, “I want you with me while I do this, but I also need you to try to be nice. And go put your pants on, cowboy!” she added as she playfully smacked his bottom.
Eric growled and pulled Sookie into a deep and passionate kiss. She felt his member rising to attention between them and almost gave into her carnal desire to let him take her right then and there―Alcide be damned.
Mustering up all of her resolution, Sookie pushed him away. Breathlessly, she whispered, “Go cover that thing up before Lafayette changes his religion.”
Eric smirked, “No fun, Sookie. Just no fun!”
Eric walked toward stairs―careful to avoid the pockets of direct sunlight in the room―even as he made a point to give her a show with the retreating form of his bottom. She couldn’t help her wistful moan, and she heard him chuckle as he reached the top of the stairs.
While he was dressing, Sookie pulled the drapes tight in the living room and the dining room. The front door didn’t have a heavy curtain over the window, so light still poured into her entryway.
By the time Sookie had closed out all the sunlight she could, Eric had returned to her side in the living room, clad in his jeans and flannel shirt, though he hadn’t bothered to button the buttons. Sookie looked him over from head to toe to make sure there were no more burn marks.
Once she was satisfied, Eric pulled her to him in a comforting embrace. “I called Jarod and Miranda. They are coming but were still on the other side of Shreveport when I talked to them. I will stay awake until they arrive.”
“Will you be okay?” she asked as a knock sounded on the door.
Eric smiled, “For some reason I have not fully figured out yet, min kära, your light just healed me, and now I can feel it protecting me like a blanket. I don’t know how to explain it, but I know I’m safe from the sun for now, as long as I stay out of its direct rays.”
“Okay,” Sookie relented. “But I mean it. If you start to feel any burning at all―even a baby tinge―you have to tell me! Oh, and you need to stay calm. I’m probably gonna say things that you won’t like―about how I thought I felt about Alcide at one point―but I need you to remember that I love you and only you.
Sookie gestured for him to stay back as she went to the door; reluctantly, he backed up so that he was farther from the direct light.
Through the door’s window, Sookie saw Jason standing right outside; she opened the door slowly. Jesus and Lafayette were blocking Alcide’s access, and Jason was looking to be in full cop/brother protective mode.
Full of thankfulness for her brother and her friends, Sookie noticed that Alcide looked a bit calmer and somewhat contrite. “Y’all can go ahead and let Alcide in, and give us a few minutes, okay?” Sookie said.
Jesus looked at Sookie significantly, “We might not be able to hear if you get in trouble, Sook.”
She nodded as she was reminded of the privacy spell and then said, “All right, then. Why don’t you guys go to the kitchen and wait in there so you can be sure to hear if there’s trouble.”
Jason spoke up, “But, Sook, I don’t want you to be alone with Alcide. I don’t know what’s got into him, but he’s not bein’ himself.”
“I won’t be alone,” Sookie said, patting her brother’s hand reassuringly. “Eric’s gonna stay with me.”
At Eric’s name, Alcide scoffed, but Sookie decided to deem that as an improvement over the growling.
“But Sook,” Jason said. “I didn’t think he could be awake in the day, and he was in the sun for a while without burnin’ up much. And what did you shoot him with, anyhow?” Jason looked confused.
“She gave him her blood,” Alcide said gruffly, the judgment thick in his voice.
Sookie looked at Alcide irritably and then told her brother, “Just go on ahead with the boys into the kitchen. I’ll explain things to you all in a little while after I talk to Alcide.”
Sookie moved back to allow Jason, Jesus, and Lafayette to come in. Lafayette gave her an affectionate pat before the trio moved slowly toward the kitchen, keeping a close watch on Alcide as they went. Sookie backed away toward Eric as Alcide entered.
Sookie could feel Eric’s protectiveness and strength from the bond. She knew that if Alcide tried anything, the Were would be dead in moments, so she kept her voice calm.
“Alcide, can I assume from your reaction that you smelled Eric’s blood in me?” Sookie asked.
“I can smell a lot more than his blood, Sookie,” Alcide said crudely.
Eric took a step forward but Sookie held her hand back to stop him.
“Alcide, I’m sorry that you found out like you did. I was hopin’ to tell you today. It was my mistake to not consider that you might be able to tell what had happened from the scent.”
Alcide spoke up, confusion clear in his eyes, “I shouldn’t be able to smell him like I do, Sookie, especially since, from the look of your hair, you just took a shower. But it’s like his stench is flowing out of you.” Alcide sniffed with disgust.
Sookie tried to keep calm even though she was now boiling with rage at Alcide’s words and demeanor. “I think we should all go and sit down in the living room,” she said firmly in a polite voice that even Gran would be proud of.
Alcide sneered in Eric’s direction and went into the living room. Uneasily, he sat in one of the chairs, and Sookie took a place on the couch that was further away from him. Eric slowly moved to sit next to Sookie and leaned back casually even though Sookie could feel that he was ready to attack if need be. She continued to sense his protectiveness through the bond, but added to that were now pride and respect for Sookie. She shared a look with him and put her hand on his leg, between thigh and knee. The gesture settled both of them.
By contrast, Alcide reacted to the touch with a low growl.
“None of that, Were,” Eric said evenly, once again leveling Alcide with an intense blue stare. “I have not killed you yet because of Sookie’s regard for you, but I won’t have my bonded threatened.”
“Your bonded,” Alcide spit out. “That’s not likely for a selfish son of a bitch like you, Northman! I don’t know what bullshit you have been feeding Sookie―besides your blood―but I’m not gonna let you keep your fangs in her!”
“Even so,” Eric continued, his voice dangerously low, “we have bonded. Sookie is mine, and I am hers. Accept it now, or I’d be happy to send you to that little dog pound in the sky.”
“Enough! Both of you!” Sookie said loudly.
Alcide quieted down and looked closely at Sookie, “Did he force you? If he did, I will kill him, vampire or no vampire.”
Eric tensed, but Sookie squeezed his knee. The last thing she needed was a continuation of the testosterone exchange. Eric relaxed a bit at her touch. From her bond, Sookie felt Eric’s emotions shift from mainly anger to trust in her. Again, Sookie gave Eric a thankful look.
“Listen Alcide,” she said. “You have been a good friend to me, and I want us to remain like that, but you don’t get to make accusations against Eric or suggest that I was somehow manipulated by him.”
Alcide went to interrupt, but Sookie stopped him, “No, Alcide, I’m gonna say everything I need to say, and then you can talk, or I’m gonna ask you to leave.”
Alcide grudgingly nodded as Sookie continued.
“I’m the one that decided to have all the vampire blood removed from my body so that I could see things clearly and choose what I really wanted based upon my own feelings―without the sway of vampire blood in my system. And that’s exactly what I did. More than anyone else―including you, Alcide―Eric was patient and let me work things out on my own; he never tried to pressure me into anything or sway my feelings against anyone. If anything, he did the opposite, even where you were concerned.
“But that’s all part of his game, cher!” Alcide couldn’t keep himself from speaking.
Sookie’s hurt expression silenced him, “I know that you hate vampires, Alcide, but I love Eric, and I’m the one that ultimately decided that I wanted to exchange blood with him and to be his.”
“But, Sook,” he’s a master manipulator. “You cannot trust a vampire! I thought that you and I were finally gonna be together. With their fucking blood out of you, we could have had a life together without their influence.”
“I realize what you think you wanted, Alcide,” Sookie said quietly, “and I am sorry, but it’s not what I want.”
“I don’t understand. I thought you wanted a normal life. You said once that if you were smart, you’d have fallen for someone like me. Without the blood, it just seemed natural that you’d be able to get past all the bullshit.”
Eric tensed at Alcide’s words, but Sookie again gave him a reassuring squeeze, “I did get past the bullshit. And Alcide, I realized that I love Eric―for real. With or without blood―it didn’t matter. I love him, and I have for a while. It was gettin’ Bill’s blood again that confused me so much.”
Sookie took a deep breath and continued, “As for us, Alcide. I have come to recognize that we would never work together; even if I had decided not to share blood with a vampire again, I wouldn’t have chosen to be with you.”
Alcide looked hurt, and Eric felt Sookie’s pain in causing that. He covered her hand reassuringly with his larger one.
“But why?” Alcide asked quietly, taking in the couple before him.
“Because we don’t love each other, Alcide,” Sookie said compassionately. “We were attracted to each other, but that’s not love. You helped me during some vulnerable times in my life, and those few times when we almost kissed . . .” Sookie paused as Eric stiffened next to her. “Well―I was not myself then. I was hurt and sad after Bill’s kidnapping. And then I was heart-broken by his break-up with me and findin’ out that he was with Lorena. And then I was even more messed up after Bill’s attack on me, and, of course, he fed me more of his blood that time too in order to heal me. So added to all the shit that was going on, I had had even more vampire blood, which made my libido get all blown out of whack―again. I would never have let myself get that close to kissin’ you otherwise. If I had been thinkin’ clearly, I wouldn’t have done those things―which I can see now were really mixed signals to you. And I’m sorry for sending those mixed up messages your way, Alcide. But as soon as the vampire blood was out of me, I didn’t feel that kind of attraction for you anymore.”
Alcide looked crushed, and Sookie hurried on, “I do value you as a friend, Alcide, and like I said, I want to keep you as one. But nothing else is gonna work between us.”
“What about his blood?” Alcide asked bitterly. “Won’t it do the same thing? Won’t it confuse you again?”
Sookie shook her head, “No―with Eric, things are different.”
“But Sookie, I thought you wanted to get away from vamps. We could have a family and children. What can he give you but death?”
Sookie could feel regret coming from her bond with Eric, so she scooted closer to him, sinking her shoulder into his.
“Alcide, the truth is that you didn’t want a kid with Debbie because you didn’t want to bring a Were―a Supe―into the world. Clearly, you just haven’t thought things through about me. What makes you think I wouldn’t pass along my telepathy or my fairy powers to a child? Would you really want a kid like that when you seem to want only so-called normal kids? And, Alcide, even though I try not to, I can still hear your mind at times. And that just won’t work for me in a relationship. I don’t want to be with someone that I have to hold up my shields with every minute, just to avoid hearin’ something I don’t like.”
“But, Sookie,” Alcide appealed, “I love you. We could make it work.”
Sookie shook her head, “No, Alcide, you don’t love me. I can see into your mind, remember? As much as you might like the idea of me, you don’t love me. You are still in love with Debbie.”
Alcide was silent for a minute as he took everything in.
After several moments, he said, “I still think he’s wrong for you, Sook.” He gestured toward Eric.
“That’s not your decision to make, Alcide. If you wanna be my friend, you have to accept that Eric and I are together now.”
“If he hurts you, Sookie, I’ll kill him.”
“Then there will be no problems, Were,” Eric spoke up. “Sookie is my bonded; I will not see harm come to her, let alone be the cause of it myself. As you are her friend, I will forget about your behavior today―as long as it never happens again.”
Alcide grunted and then looked closely at Eric and Sookie, sitting comfortably close together despite the tense situation. He saw how Sookie was sunk into Eric’s shoulder, he noticed their now-entwined hands, he took in Eric’s protective but still relaxed posture, and he saw the love reflected in their eyes as they glanced quickly at each other. Alcide sighed, and then he let himself be honest with himself; Sookie was right. He wasn’t over Debbie. All he could think about at that moment was that he was jealous that he and Debbie had never fit as comfortably together as the unlikely couple that was sitting in front of him.
Finally, he spoke, “Listen Sook, it is gonna take me a while here. I wasn’t expectin’ this.” He took in a deep breath before continuing, “But I want you to be happy. In the end, I thought I’d be the one to do that, but if it turns out to be him . . .” he paused. “Well, if Eric makes you happy, then that’s what’s important.”
Eric nodded at Alcide. “Herveaux, I know of your feelings about vampires due to your father’s problems, but you have been a valuable associate of mine at times despite those feelings. You―and everyone else―will see that my intentions toward Sookie are honorable. Still, I want to keep the closeness of our bond and the knowledge of her power within a small circle in order to ensure her safety. Sookie―and I―would appreciate you discretion.”
Alcide looked slightly insulted but then assured Sookie, “Your secrets are safe with me, Sook. No matter what happens, you can count on that.”
“Thanks,” Sookie said gratefully. “Alcide, I know that this is hard for you, so just to let you know, Eric’s got me new daytime guards from now on.”
Alcide nodded, “It’s probably for the best, but if you need anything Sookie, anything at all, you will call, right?”
“Yeah,” Sookie answered. “And you can do the same, you know.”
Eric spoke up again, “As per our arrangement, I have already settled your father’s debts in full. And if you wish, I will ask the new sheriff of Areas 3 and 4, Isabel, to ban him from the vampire-owned casinos on the Mississippi that he is still frequenting. She has taken over the last sheriffs’ holdings, which include many of the casinos, so she could―perhaps―frighten him away instead of taking advantage of his addiction.”
Sookie held Eric’s hand even tighter and sunk into him more, her gratefulness and pride for him swirling in the bond.
Alcide spoke in a low voice, “You would do this?”
“I would,” Eric said. “It pleases, my bonded. Plus, as I have said, you have been a good asset in the past―though I know you have worked for me only out of the need to repay your father’s debts. Perhaps in the future, our dealings can be about mutually beneficial business rather than debts.”
Alcide nodded a bit to Eric and then stood up. “I think I’ll go now, Sook. With everything that’s happened, I might also go back to Jackson for a while―check on family and such.”
Sookie and Eric stood simultaneously, never losing the link between their hands. “I am sorry about hurting you, Alcide,” Sookie said, her voice low. Part of her wanted to hug Alcide, but she knew that wouldn’t be good for the Were at that time.
“It’ll be okay,” Alcide said, the kind-hearted warmth that she loved in him finally returning to his eyes. With a small nod in their direction, he went to the door. “Remember, Sookie. If you need me, you just call.”
“Thanks,” Sookie returned as Alcide left.
Sookie sunk back onto the couch, taking Eric with her. She put her head onto Eric’s shoulder, and he rested his head on hers. “You still okay?” she asked after a minute of quiet.
“Yes. I’m not even feeling the pull to sleep yet. Your magic is truly a miracle, my love.”
“Yeah―well―right back at you, baby.”