Jesus walked quickly into the living room. He didn’t look at anyone else but Lafayette. He didn’t think about anything other than what he needed to do in that moment. He sunk to his knees in front of Lafayette, who was looking at him in both confusion and relief.
“I love you, Lafayette. I will never be able to pound a hole into the earth because of that love, but I swear that I would dig one if you asked. And I promise that I will live for you and with you for as long as I’m alive―and even longer if I can.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the ring that had been there all day. It was yellow gold with just enough bling to satisfy his beloved.
Lafayette put his hands over his heart and stifled a cry as everyone else looked on in surprise.
Jesus continued, “Will you marry me, Lafayette Reynolds? Will you be my husband and my love for the rest of our lives?”
Lafayette looked at his beloved and shook his head, “You’s askin’ me this now?”
“Right now,” Jesus said with a smile dawning on his face.
“Is this ‘cause you’s was afraid of dyin’ out there?” Lafayette asked. “‘Cause I don’t need no fear of death makin’ you do somethin’ you’s wouldn’t normally do.”
“Lafayette, I’m a demon and a brujo, but I can’t make a ring like this just appear in my pocket. I’ve had it for a while―just waiting for the perfect moment.”
“And this is it?” Lafayette asked with incredulity.
“Yes—this is exactly it,” Jesus said with confidence.
Tears began to fall from Lafayette’s eyes, “Well, in that case, my answer’s yes. Now give me my ring, bitch.” Lafayette held out his hand, and Jesus slipped it onto his finger. It was a perfect fit. Lafayette grinned, “Did you use that fuckin’ spell or a piece of string?”
“The spell, of course,” Jesus said as he leaned in and gave Lafayette a kiss that he would feel down to his very soul.
When Jesus pulled back, everyone in the room was smiling, except for Jason, who just looked confused, and Pam, who graced the newly engaged couple with her signature smirk.
Jason spoke, “Did I miss somethin’? Weren’t you just outside talkin’ to Eric about―well―I don’t know what about? That hitting the earth thing, I guess. And now you’re in here gettin’ engaged?”
Pam laughed, “It seems the talk went well enough and that Jesus survived. I think it is safe to invite Eric back in. You wouldn’t want him to get mad about havin’ to knock, now would you, Jason?”
Jason looked apprehensive and quickly said, “Eric Northman, you’re invited back into ―um—your house.”
Pam chuckled. “Well—while we’re waiting, I suggest we celebrate.”
Thirty minutes later, Jesus, Lafayette and Jarod were well into a celebratory bottle of tequila, and, along with Jessica, they were telling stories about the craziest things they’d ever seen at weddings.
Miranda looked at Pam and asked in a whisper, “What are you getting from him?”
Pam sighed with relief, “Determination. Solid―strong determination.”
Eric had barely heard Jesus’s last comment before the brujo went inside; his eyes were tied to the little box. As soon as he heard the door close behind Jesus, he went to reach for it, but his hands, though they’d begun to heal, were covered in his own blood.
He stood up and walked to the faucet, keeping his eyes trained on the little box as he went. He turned on the faucet with his foot and then washed off his bloody hands before shutting the water back off. He walked back to the box, wiping dry his hands on the least dirty part of his jeans—the ass. His lips sneaked up a bit; Sookie would love that. He sat back down―this time even closer to the box.
The box was cubed shaped, and he smelled gold. He gingerly picked up the little box with his still injured fingers and opened it.
Inside was a ring of beautiful white gold. He carefully pulled the ring from the box and examined it. It was wound with a series of intertwined knots, which he recognized as Celtic in design. In the dim moonlight he made out an inscription on the inside of the ring. It read, “My Marked One. Forever.”
Eric chuckled and spoke into the night sky, “She always finds a way―that one.” He remembered Sookie saying that she wanted to mark him just as he was able to mark her when he bit her.
He stared at the ring for a long time.
Thirty minutes after that, Eric had come to realize that Jesus was fucking right. Being mad at the fucking world wouldn’t bring Sookie back, but what would was what he was best at―solving a fucking problem with logic and the knowledge that came with his years of experience. He had chess pieces he hadn’t moved yet. He had others that he would learn to move in new ways. He would find a way to the fairy world even if he had to cut a path through hell itself and slay the devil to do it. He enclosed the ring in his hand and walked toward the house.
Not wanting to get dirt on the rug, Eric kicked off his mud caked boots outside the back door and then rushed inside at vampire speed. He pulled three TruBloods from the refrigerator; he drank one cold as he warmed the other two, and then he downed those as well. Then he placed the ring lovingly onto the counter, splashed water onto his face to wash away the dried blood there, and washed his hands properly, watching them heal completely as he did.
He picked back up the ring and closed his eyes tightly. He remembered Sookie as she had looked when they had pledged—a vision in red. He remembered her eyes shining with confidence and unshed tears of happiness as they’d walked toward each other in the middle of Fangtasia. Time had seemed to stop for him then; he only wished that he could stop it now.
Sookie had handed him the pledging knife with no hesitation. She’d already been wearing the ring that he’d left for her at the safe-house. Usually in weddings, the rings were exchanged during the ceremony and were placed by one’s beloved. But that had not been how Sookie had gotten hers. Just like him, she’d not been expecting hers either. She’d opened it without him there, and without him there, she’d placed it onto her own finger—choosing him for herself. It was ironic that she was not with him either when he would put on his ring for the first time, but it was appropriate too. He would choose her a million times over, whether she was right there with him or not.
He opened his eyes and looked at the hole in the middle of the ring, surrounded by the precious metal, the unbroken Celtic knot, and the words from his bonded mate. Jesus was right. It looked empty inside, but it could be filled.
He placed the ring onto the third finger of his left hand. And, of course, it fit perfectly―not just in size, but in every other conceivable way. Sookie had known it was the right ring for him, and he brought it to his mouth and kissed it, feeling full of more than just fear or anger for the first time in a long time. Once again, his beautiful wife proved to be the dock at which he was moored—the harbor where he would forever be safe. He could be angry at himself for thousands of things, but she would love him all the same—accept him just as he was.
He simply needed to remember that no distance would undo the marks that his Sookie had made upon him. She may not have been able to leave a mark on his flesh, but the marks she had left upon his heart, mind, and soul were deep etchings that would never fade away.
Eric walked into the living room at human pace, going straight to Pam. He got down on his knees before her. He heard Stackhouse mutter, “What the fuck? This can’t be happenin’ again.”
Eric ignored Jason and spoke to Pam sincerely. “It hurt you. You tried to shut me out, but I still got through and hurt you.”
“I am sorry. It was too much and I could not control it,” he said softly.
“I know,” she said wiping an errant tear from her eye and then looking angry about the fact that she’d been caught crying yet again. “It was my fault anyway. I’m the one who thought it would be better if you felt something―even if it was anger.”
Eric raised his hands to her cheeks and tenderly wiped away another tear with his thumb. “You know I love you more when you’re cold and heartless,” he said with a little grin.
“And I love you more when you’re not actively trying to kill yourself,” Pam returned sarcastically.
Eric kissed her forehead and then looked at her intently, “I will try, Pam.”
Pam knew that he would. She used their bond to assess him; he felt better to her than he had since Sookie had gone, but there was still a weight in that word, “try,” that she couldn’t ignore.
Eric turned to face the room. “I apologize for what happened tonight. I trust that Hunter did not hear?”
“No,” Jesus assured. The brujo was now sitting on the couch next to Lafayette, their hands entwined. “We did a spell that would block noise in and out of his bedroom. Bubba and Batanya stayed in the room with him.”
Eric looked at Jesus. “You have my gratitude.” Jesus nodded, understanding that Eric was talking about much more than just the spell. Eric spied the ring on Lafayette’s finger, “And my congratulations as well.”
Eric winked at Lafayette. “A wedding in New England can be quite beautiful, you know. We actually have a house up there somewhere, don’t we, Pam?”
“Yes,” the vampiress said. “Outside of Boston.”
“Perhaps a vacation to the North would do us all some good,” Eric added. He then looked at Miranda, “You had Jason rescind my invitation, I assume.”
Jason looked a bit concerned, but the Werelioness nodded as Jarod helped her get to her feet. “And now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go to bed.”
“Waddle there, you mean,” Pam said under her breath.
Miranda glared at her.
“Thank you, Miranda,” Eric said sincerely.
“You can thank me by not being such a prat, Northman,” Miranda said with a little smile as she rubbed her belly. She and her mate turned to leave.
Eric walked toward the stairs before turning back to those remaining in the living room. “The swimming pool idea was a good one, Jesus.” He nodded to them all and then quickly went into his bathroom to get cleaned up.
When he took in his appearance in the large bathroom mirror, he shook his head and thought about what Sookie would say. His clothing was caked in dirt and dried blood, but he smiled as he saw the ring picking up the light. He quickly undressed and put his ruined clothing into a trash bag. Then he showered in the large luxurious shower that had been put in as part of the renovations. Its three nozzles very quickly cleaned even his large body.
He closed his eyes and thought about Sookie. She had never seen this shower or the many other changes made to their home―changes that they’d discussed and decided upon over several nights in bed—after they’d made love, of course. “And before we made love again,” he said to himself with a little chuckle.
He dried himself quickly and dressed in track pants and an old T-shirt. He’d placed some of his and Sookie’s undergarments and night clothing into the drawers in the bathroom once it’d been renovated, but other than that, the new cabinetry was mostly empty.
There had been thousands of things that he’d been forced to do without Sookie by his side during the past few long months, but there were also many things that he had saved for when she got home―like buying new towels to match their new bathroom and using the large tub that sat in the middle of the room. He looked at the tub; Sookie had wanted something with modern bells and whistles but also classic-looking. He had decided to make it himself as a surprise to her, and he’d scaled it to perfectly accommodate all of the baths that his wife and he would share. Eric had arranged for the tub to have jets as well―an extra surprise for his beloved. On one side of the bathtub was a mosaic-tiled platform, which currently held an array of hand-made candles of various sizes and shapes—all in Sookie’s favorite scent, lavender, and all awaiting her return to be lit for the first time.
He walked through to their renovated bedroom. Their old bed now seemed way too small for the space. The door leading to the new balcony that Sookie and he had hoped to enjoy together on late evenings and early mornings had not been opened by him, and he’d kept the light-tight shades closed since the renovations had been completed. There was nothing keeping him from enjoying that space during the nights except for the fact that it was yet another thing he wanted to save for Sookie and himself to do together. He’d been saving many experiences, but he hadn’t even acknowledged that fact to himself until now.
He sighed and opened the top drawer of their old dresser. There, he found the list of furnishings Sookie had told him to make. He’d not looked at the list since Sookie had been taken to the fairy realm, concentrating instead upon the chairs for outside and Hunter’s bedroom furnishings. The only thing that he’d constructed from the list had been his new desk for the office, but he’d still not begun Sookie’s matching desk.
In truth, he’d been afraid of Sookie’s list—of seeing her dainty little handwriting ordering him about in that sassy, glorious way of hers. More than that, however, he knew what this list meant to his wife; it was all the things that she wanted in order to turn this space into their home. And she wanted those things to come from his own hands. No—he had been unable to look at the list until now. He had been afraid of the emotions it would stir in him―afraid of the fear that Sookie would never return to see the pieces he had made for them. He had even been afraid of becoming angry at his wife for leaving him; rationally, he knew that she’d had no other choice and that he would have done exactly what she’d done to save her life if their situations had been reversed. However, he realized—especially after that night—that anger was often not the most rational of emotions.
Now he smoothed out the list and looked at the first item: “New Viking-sized bed (with plenty of room for me and the cat too).”
He grinned. He couldn’t help himself. It would have to be big enough for Hunter now too—as well as for Odin—for when the boy had nightmares. Eric closed his eyes, and the image that filled his mind made him smile even wider. Sookie had decided that they should put a television in their room. The fourth item down on her list of required furnishing had been an entertainment cabinet, in fact.
His wife and he had looked forward to nights when they could just curl up in bed, snuggle, and watch a movie together—with the kitten too, of course. Now—Eric imagined that same scene but with Hunter and Odin there too. Eric let the emotions of such a dream wash over him. Yes—that is what he was fighting for now. He would do anything he could in order to bring Sookie back to where she belonged.
Eric briefly wondered what would happen when Hadley returned as well. Would she take Hunter away? Eric shook his head and tried to shake away that thought as well. No―he could never allow that now. Sookie’s cousin would become part of their group. They could make the downstairs room hers permanently or build her a house of her own on the property. And Hunter would enjoy his mother being back in his life very much.
Eric wanted for Hunter to have everything he needed―his mother being the chief among those things. And the vampire knew that he could go on being Uncle Eric to the boy, even though he felt like the boy’s father in every way that truly mattered to him. He hoped that Hadley would judge him worthy to continue in this capacity, but even if she didn’t, he could not give the boy up.
He shook away his residual fears. Hadley would see that she would have all of her cares and comforts seen to if she stayed with them, and that would mean that Hunter would stay too.
Eric folded the list lovingly and placed it back into the drawer. He padded barefoot into the hall and opened Hunter’s door. Batanya was standing by the bathroom door and Bubba was sitting in a chair and looking out of the window. Hunter was softly snoring and curled up comfortably with Odin and Dino.
Bubba stood up and spoke quietly, “Hey, Mister Eric, Don’t worry none. Hunter’s been sleepin’ real good.”
“Thanks, Bubba,” Eric said going to the boy’s side.
“I’ll just go to Miss Thalia’s now, Mister Eric―since it’s so close to dawn and all—if that’s alright by you,” Bubba said.
“That’d be fine, Bubba,” Eric said.
Batanya was looking on, seemingly as emotionless as ever.
“Did Jesus mention the length of the privacy spell?” Eric asked, as he looked at his son sleeping peacefully.
“Until daybreak,” the Britlingen reported.
“I will take Hunter to Sookie and my room then. I don’t want to be where I cannot hear him. I do not,” Eric paused, “enjoy not hearing his breathing and knowing he is resting safely.”
Batanya stepped toward Eric and said in a low voice. “You are my employer, and I,” she paused, “enjoy working for you, but if you had lost control like that with the child, your blood would be decorating my blade, Northman.” Her voice was matter-of-fact.
Eric nodded, “And that is exactly why I want to keep you around, Batanya.” Eric knew that the Britlingen would defend Hunter even from himself. He also knew that Batanya could probably kill him if she wished. And in that moment, both of these thoughts gave him immense comfort.
Eric gently picked up his child and hugged him to his chest before carrying him to his bedroom and laying him on Sookie’s side of the bed. He kissed him lightly on the forehead and then rushed into his office to get one of the new laptops Pam had started keeping on hand for him again. He returned to his room, quickly set up the computer, watched over Hunter, and made plans for his next moves.
[A/N: This is close to how I’m visualizing Eric’s ring.]