Finally, Eric got up to stir the fire and add wood. As he turned back to Sookie, he saw a tear streaking its way down her eye. She was looking at him with intense love.
He was before her on his knees in less than a second, wiping the tear with his thumb. “I hate when you cry, min kván.”
“I know,” Sookie said smiling lightly. “And that’s why I’m crying.”
Eric seemed confused. “What?”
Sookie sat up in front of him as Eric sat down facing her.
“Eric, you knew just now from the bond that I was sad and grieving for Gran, that I was crying on the inside―right?”
“Yes,” Eric said in a low voice. “It is difficult to feel you that way.”
“I know how hard it is for you to feel like you can’t do anything to help me. Remember―I can feel you in the bond too, and that is what I felt from you. Yet you just lay with me for a long time; you didn’t try to take my mind off of what I needed to feel. You respected my need to feel it. That’s where my tear came from.”
Eric still looked a bit confused.
“I was crying because of the love you show me, the respect. Bill . . .” at the sound of his name Eric stiffened a bit, and Sookie paused. “Eric, can I tell you about what happened between Bill and me the night I lost my virginity to him. Uh―not the sex stuff, but other things? Can I talk to you about that without hurtin’ you?”
Eric brought his hand up to Sookie’s cheek, feeling both her uncertainty and her sadness through their bond. “You may tell me of anything. I will not lie; I hate to think of you ever being with Bill―or anyone other than myself for that matter. But you need never keep anything from me.”
Sookie looked at Eric thankfully. “It is difficult for me, too, to think of being with anyone else but you.” She brought her hand up to his, which was still stroking her cheek. “And it’s gonna be difficult to talk about that night and what I’ve come to realize about it.”
“I’m not going anywhere, min kära.”
She brought his hand to her lips and kissed it lightly, another tear finding its way down her cheek. “I know.” After a minute or two, Sookie took a deep breath. “The night I found Gran dead on the kitchen floor, I think I went into shock. There was just so much blood,” Sookie’s voice caught, and Eric readjusted his position so that he could pull Sookie onto his lap and cradle her to his body.
It was another few minutes before she was able to continue. “I was supposed to be at home that night too, but I’d gone out with Sam on kind of a test date. When I got home, I felt something ‘off’ in the house. I always tried to block out Gran’s thoughts and the thoughts of the people I care about, but I can always feel their minds there anyway, like lookin’ at a television that’s been muted or something. That night, she wasn’t there at all. And then I found her in the kitchen. And then Bill was suddenly there. Maybe he felt my emotions through the tie, or maybe he was spyin’ on me even then; I don’t know. And then Sam came to check on me since the door was open. And then the police were there, and before I knew it, they were takin’ away my Gran.”
Eric listened quietly, stroking her hair and shoulders in comforting gestures.
“So I think I was in shock right after I found her, and I felt―just so empty inside. She was the only person that never had a bad thought about me that I picked up on―not even a stray one. She never once thought about me being a burden to her or wondered why I couldn’t just be normal.”
Sookie paused and then picked up her train of thought, “I didn’t really sleep the night she died, and by the morning, all that shock had worn off, and I was heart-broken. People kept comin’ by the house―pretending to offer sympathy. But I knew from their minds that only a few really cared about Gran or me or Jason. Some even thought that I deserved to have died too because I’d been seeing a vampire. Most were there for the gossip or to see if there was still,” she paused, her voice choking up, “blood on the floor.”
Eric interrupted her story for the first time. “Who cleaned the blood, min kära?” he asked in almost a whisper.
Sookie’s eyes filled with tears. “I did.”
“Bill did not see to this before dawn?”
Sookie shook her head as Eric tried to squelch his anger so it wouldn’t seep into the bond.
“I am sorry you had to do this task alone,” Eric said sincerely. “I am sorry I was not yet with you.”
Sookie nodded before continuing. “Jason finally heard about Gran and came over the afternoon after she’d died. By then, Lafayette had given me something to help me sleep. Jason was real angry at me. He hit me.”
Sookie looked at Eric and took in a deep breath. “I’m not excusing what he did, and I’ve told him that I won’t stand for that kind of thing if he wants to be in my life, but he was,” she paused, taking another deep breath, “taking V at the time. He’s not anymore,” she added quickly. “But he was then.”
Not seeing surprise on Eric’s face, Sookie paused her story to ask, “You knew, didn’t you? You already knew about Jason?”
Eric spoke in a low voice, “I did not know he had struck you, my love.”
Sookie could feel his anger rising and brought her hand up to caress his cheek. “He will not do it again, and if he does, he knows that he is no longer allowed in my life. He’s changed a lot since then too.”
Eric leaned down to kiss Sookie’s forehead and then cheeks before his lips met hers in a light touch. Then he rested his forehead against hers, a gesture that calmed him. After a few minutes, his anger left the bond. He pulled back from her a bit and spoke, “I did know about Jason’s V-habit.”
“How?” Sookie asked.
“I apprehended some V-users at Fangtasia. The blood they had was from a relatively young and not well-adapted vampire named Eddie Gauthier. I went to confront Eddie, but he had disappeared. At his home, I picked up the scents of three humans, two of whom you know very well.
“Lafayette and Jason?”
“Yes―I had found out from the V-users that Lafayette had sold them the blood, and using glamour, I was able to get his address from them. Once I had confirmed that Lafayette’s was one of the scents I had picked up at Eddie’s home, I simply waited for a good opportunity to apprehend him. After questioning him, I did not think that he’d harmed or taken Eddie. Apparently they had an arrangement that was mutually beneficial for both of them, but since Lafayette was a known V-dealer and Eddie was still missing, I had to,” Eric paused.
“Hold him,” Sookie completed.
Eric nodded. “The next night, I followed up on the other two scents from Eddie’s home. I recognized both from a few days before at Fangtasia. I knew one of them to be your brother; Pam had informed me of his name―Stackhouse―the night that he’d come into Fangtasia. He had been trying to locate V that night and left with a woman, who was the third scent from Eddie’s home. I allowed him to go unharmed that night because I had guessed his connection to you. I intended to find him later and glamour him to no longer take V, but Eddie’s disappearance came before I was able to see to this task.”
“You were gonna make him stop?”
Eric nodded, “This seemed the easiest way. I couldn’t allow him to continue using, and I didn’t want to do him physical harm.”
Sookie nodded and placed her hand lightly on Eric’s chest.
“After Eddie disappeared, I found out where he lived and picked up on Eddie’s scent there; he had met the true death. I also picked up on the scents of your brother and Amy Burley, who had also been slain there. By this time, your brother was in jail for allegedly killing Miss Burley. Then he disappeared and didn’t resurface until Dallas.
Sookie looked at Eric in shock. “A vampire was killed at my brother’s house?”
Eric nodded, “Since Jason was your brother, I dug into Miss Burley’s past and discovered that she’d been suspected of involvement in several vampire drainings in New Jersey.”
Eric looked a bit guilty, “I threatened your brother in Dallas. I told him that I knew of his past drug habit and his connection to Eddie. I told him he’d be killed if he used V again.”
Why didn’t you punish him like Lafayette? Question him about Eddie?”
“You know why, min kära, “Eric said, stroking Sookie’s hair.
“You could get into trouble for covering up his involvement, couldn’t you?”
Eric shook his head. “The true death of Eddie Gauthier was probably dealt out by Miss Burley. Despite his shortcomings, I do not believe your brother would have killed him, though after hearing of his behavior toward you while being high on V, I am not as certain of this as I once was. Regardless, Miss Burley has been officially identified as the killer, and as she is already deceased, there will be no further inquiry.”
“You did all this for me, didn’t you?”
“Your brother proved himself to be brave and loyal to you in Dallas, but yes―if he had not been your brother, my actions would have been different from the first night he entered my club.”
Sookie raised up to kiss Eric on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said in a whisper.
Eric got up to add another log to the fire as Sookie went to take care of her human needs and grab a drink from the kitchen.
As they settled back onto the floor, Eric sat with his back against the coffee table and pulled Sookie so that she was cradled into his body once more. He could feel that she was anxious to continue her story.
After a few moments, she did. “So Jason came and blamed me for my Gran’s death. I felt alone and so sad. I mean―Lafayette and Tara were there, but . . .” she stopped.
“ . . . You felt like a part of yourself was gone, like you’d never be the same, “Eric supplied softly.
“Yes,” Sookie said as she leaned further into Eric.
“This is how it was for me after Godric.”
They sat silently in shared grief for a few moments before Sookie continued. “Then the next day was the funeral, and Uncle Bartlett came.”
Eric felt Sookie’s fear at this name and tensed. “This man hurt you in some way?”
“Yes,” Sookie said quietly. “He did things to me when I was a child―touched me inappropriately―but the nastiness in his head showed me that he intended things that were a lot worse. When I told Gran, she banished him from our home and told him she never wanted to see or hear from him again. Jason never knew about it, so he contacted Uncle Bartlett and told him about the funeral.”
“Does this man still live?” Eric asked, his rage boiling just under the surface.
Sookie felt his anger through the bond. “No,” Sookie said quietly. “I told Bill about him, and Bill killed him.”
“At least in this―we can agree,” Eric said.
“I don’t want killin’ done for me. I never did!” Sookie said forcefully as she pulled away a bit. “Bill went behind my back to kill him, and that’s not somethin’ I needed on my conscience. Uncle Bartlett was too old to hurt me anymore, and it’s God’s job to punish him, not mine.”
Eric buried his face into her hair and pulled her closer to him, “We will sometimes disagree about things such as this, min kära. My very first instinct has become to protect you. Given your uncle’s actions, I would have wanted to do the same thing Bill did. I will be honest and tell you that part of me wishes he were still alive so that I could be the one to exact justice for you. But I would not have acted without first speaking to you. I would have, however, tried to get you to see and accept my way of thinking.”
After a few moments, Sookie responded, “I can live with that. But I would have also tried to convince you as well.”
“And we would have come up with a course of action together.”
Sookie nodded in agreement.
After a moment, Eric said, “So your Gran had been killed, your brother was on drugs and violent with you, and your pedophile uncle was at the funeral.” Eric’s sorrow for his beloved was flowing through the bond even as he tried to send her comfort as well.
“And I had to give a eulogy, but when I heard everyone’s thoughts, I―well, I kind of went a little crazy. And then I went home and ate every last bite of Gran’s pecan pie. It was the last thing she made before she . . .” Sookie’s voice trailed off due to the tears that were now streaming down her cheeks and the sobs that wracked her body.
Eric turned her and cradled her to his body again. “I have you,” he said simply as he held her close.
After a few minutes, Sookie continued, “That night, I went to Bill, and we had sex for the first time.” Sookie’s voice grew almost inaudible. “I’m certain he snuck more of his blood into me that night, and he took some of mine. It was right after that, that I felt compelled to tell him about my uncle. But I’ve realized something even worse about what happened that night.”
“What’s that?” Eric prompted quietly after Sookie had been silent for several moments.
“Because of the tie and his manipulations, my grief for Gran became numbed. And my emotions turned to only love for Bill―to the point that I was practically blind to everything else.” She paused and looked up at Eric. “So a while ago, when you just held me, and when you let me feel my pain and sorrow over Gran without trying to do anything to distract me or sidetrack my emotions, I was so grateful for you―for the kind of man you are.”
Eric spoke, “Bill acted with dishonor, taking advantage of you in your time of crisis. And he continued to act with dishonor as he muted your feelings and replaced them with those he desired for you to have.” Eric was silent for a moment. “However, I cannot profess to be a saint. I have committed many dishonorable acts over time, including taking advantage of people’s vulnerabilities. I am learning a different way now―from you.”
Eric was relieved when Sookie didn’t pull away from him again. He continued, “Perhaps, Bill was operating under the misperception that such a thing would be best for you, that forgetting your grief would be a gift to you. However, this would not have been my way.”
“I know,” Sookie said, nestling into Eric. “That is why your respecting my feelings is so important to me. You are the first man to do this, as it turns out.”
“I will always do it, min kära.”
Sookie relaxed into Eric’s arms, and it wasn’t long before she was dozing, her light snore making Eric smile. He retrieved his phone off the coffee table and made some final plans for the next night via emails to Pam. He also made some final arrangements for his “wedding gift” to Sookie with Miranda. It would be waiting for them at their Bon Temps home.
After his work was completed, he simply held Sookie to him, enjoying the rhythms of her sleep through the bond.