Eric’s eyes snapped open at sunset. As always, the first thing he did was try to feel Sookie through the fairy bond, through the vampire bond, and through his senses.
She was not there no matter how hard he looked for her.
The night would be too long.
Eric sat up in bed and found the still-nameless kitten―now cat, really―snuggled up next to him. Eric automatically reached out to pet him. He closed his eyes tightly and then closed his free hand over the wooden pendant he’d carved from rosewood to house the two pieces of silver Sookie had taken from his body―her tokens of love to him. Every time he felt he was going to be lost forever in his heartache and despair, he’d open the little locket and touch the silver.
The pain, he’d found, could―help. Intellectually, he knew that this notion was fucked up—a sign of his deep depression. However, touching the silver would compel him to regain his focus―compel him to keep moving. So he moved and he functioned and he drank TruBlood and he made decisions and he loved Hunter. And he fought his misery for every hour of the night until Hunter slept, and then he disappeared into that misery for the rest of each night.
Eric inhaled deeply and found Hunter outside. Though it was late autumn, the night was mild, and he could hear Hunter talking with Jason and Jesus. With daylight savings time beginning a few nights before and the lengthening of the nights as winter approached, Hunter had reverted back to his previous schedule of going to sleep at midnight. It was 5:21―two minutes after sunset. That meant it would be six hours and 39 minutes until Hunter’s bedtime. All told, there would be thirteen hours, nineteen minutes, and twelve seconds of dark that night.
It was too damned long.
Eric let go of the locket, put his feet onto the floor, and rose. He showered. He dressed. He combed his hair. He brushed his teeth.
However, he avoided looking in the mirror. He avoided looking at the tub with the unused lavender candles. He avoided looking at the French doors that led out to the little balcony that he also avoided looking at when he was outside with Hunter. He would look at all those things later―after Hunter was asleep.
Eric did not need to look at the list of furnishings that Sookie had written out for him to construct in order to know that the list had been completed. The last piece had been finished just the night before. Since the fairy bond had been deadened by Claudette, Eric had spent almost all of his waking hours once Hunter went to sleep working on the furnishings. He honestly didn’t know what else to do after Area 5 business was dealt with. And Hunter had continued to work and learn woodworking and Swedish from him for an hour or two most nights as well, so the furnishings had been produced quickly.
Actually, the final piece of furniture to be completed from Sookie’s list was the first item on it—their bed. It had been ‘officially’ finished for a long time, but he had recently changed part of it.
For the last two weeks, he and Hunter had worked with the carlottan wood from the fairy realm. They first made a nightstand for Hunter’s room using mostly oak with just a little piece of the carlottan. Eric knew that the uncomplicated nature of the bedside table would allow Hunter to participate directly in most of the work. The carlottan was featured on the front of the table, as a drawer for the piece.
With the other half of the carlottan piece, Eric had remade the footboard of their new bed so that the carlottan would be in the middle of the piece. For the last several long nights, he had been carving an entwined “E” and “S” in the supple fairy wood. The design of the initials was a larger scale version of Sookie’s pendant.
Eric meant for the footboard piece to be an anniversary gift for Sookie as tonight was the first anniversary of their pledging.
He’d also gotten her a first-edition copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which Sookie had once mentioned was one of her favorite books. It was about second chances and long separations. But in the end, the love of the main characters triumphs despite the many obstacles that stand in their way. The first anniversary was designated as the “paper anniversary,” according to human custom, so he thought that the gift was fitting, and he was certain that she would like it. The present lay wrapped on top of Sookie’s birthday gift in the walk-in closet.
The newly-completed footboard was carefully covered in the workshop now―along with the other new pieces Eric had made for his and Sookie’s bedroom as well as a specially-constructed mattress to fit the bed. He couldn’t bring himself to put any of the new things in their bedroom—not without his wife there with him.
It was November 8, exactly one year since Sookie had pledged to him with the dagger, exactly one year since one of the happiest nights of his existence.
A year ago, the night had not seemed long at all; in fact, it had not been nearly long enough for him. He’d stayed up into the day with Sookie the morning after their pledging. They’d talked and laughed. They’d made love, they’d exchanged blood, and they’d strengthened both of their bonds that night.
Now both bonds lay deadened; thus, he was still dead inside.
Eric opened the locket over his heart and let the silver pieces fall into his hand. The silver stung him and shook him from his depressed thoughts. He focused. It was still six hours and eighteen minutes until Hunter’s bedtime, and he needed to get to his son.
And after that, Eric planned to do something he’d not done for almost a year. He would go to the cabin and take his day rest there. He’d told Pam that he needed to spend the night away from everyone else, but she―like the others in the household―knew the significance of the day.
And Eric knew that Pam had been watching him like a hawk and had been staying up well past sunrise each morning in order to monitor Eric to make sure he did not meet the sun.
He sighed. He had thought about doing just that every morning since the fairy bond had been deadened. The half-hour before dawn was always the worst, as Eric was now in the habit of going to his room and sitting on the floor in front of the French doors that he’d still never opened. He would wonder whether Sookie was alive or dead. He would pray to any God who might be listening that she was not being harmed even as he sat there.
He understood his wife well, and he knew how a horror such as rape would trigger memories of Sookie’s childhood horrors of her Uncle Bartlett molesting her.
Eric would sometimes wonder if she was being attacked when he was at the fairy pool with Niall. Was that why she’d been so afraid? Was that why she’d needed his strength so desperately? Had he been in time to prevent the worst? Had he left too soon for her to be truly safe? Or was she being tormented even then—now that he could not send her strength even if she was calling for him? What if—even in that moment—she was crying out to him for his strength?
Some nights, Eric pictured Sookie fighting off her rapist. He thought about how she would try to use her fairy gifts, and many nights, he could imagine her winning and getting away. Other nights, he would imagine that her powers were not strong enough and that her attacker would be stronger. He imagined the man hitting his Sookie again and again to stop her from fighting. He imagined the fire that he loved in Sookie compelling her to keep struggling until she was battered and broken. And then the fairy would rape her and try to steal the rest of that fire from her very soul.
In his desolate thoughts, Eric saw his bonded one crumpled up and dying on a bloody bed. He imagined wounds that he was not there to heal and emotional scars that might never heal—even if she made her way back to him. Again and again, he thought of Sookie trying to call him for strength through the fairy bond and wondering why he didn’t answer her. He thought of her feeling like he’d abandoned her. He thought of that being the last thought through her beautiful, beautiful mind before she died.
Eric felt utterly powerless—entirely useless to his wife.
In his worst moments, he imagined that Sookie would not fight her attacker―would not fight because she could not. He had felt her terror-induced paralysis as he’d sat next to the fairy pool. What if the same thing happened/was happening again?
She’d once told him how difficult it had been for her as a child to hear the sick thoughts of her uncle; she’d said that his thoughts were worse to deal with than the actual physical trauma of the molestation.
Eric imagined his Sookie having to listen to the plans of her rapist through his thoughts. He’d seen the look in his wife’s eyes when she’d recalled her Uncle Bartlett. It was the look of a child who wanted only to hide from her pain. What if Sookie’s attacker’s thoughts brought back all the moments of trauma and pain in her life? What if they caused Sookie’s fire to be extinguished completely so that only the scared child remained―the scared child who would be repeatedly pummeled by all the ugly thoughts of her tormenter and plagued by all the tormenting thoughts she’d ever heard in her life?
Yes―every morning at day break, he thought of opening the French doors. They faced the East, and the sun would be rising right in front of him. He’d planned to watch many sunrises with Sookie, but now he contemplated watching them alone each day.
But each day, he’d dragged himself to bed because of the promises he’d made to his wife―because of the faith that he still had in her and their bonds. He dragged himself to his bed for his child.
But each night he woke up to more emptiness.