Sookie thought for a moment. “On the porch—the night I found out that Bill had been workin’ for the queen all along?”
Eric nodded. “Yes, that is when I thought.”
Sookie’s mouth fell open. “I was so mad at you that night, or at least I thought I was,” she said, once she’d recovered from her shock.
“Yes,” Eric smirked a little. “You called me a very unflattering name that night.”
Sookie nodded and closed her eyes as she remembered what she had felt that night. “You told me that you were sorry I had to suffer like I was, but that you thought I had a right to know about Bill.” She gasped a little. “But it was right before you said those things that I felt it. You stood there just lookin’ at me for a few seconds, and I felt something.”
Eric sighed as she opened her eyes and looked at him. “Yes,” he admitted. “I did not even realize that I was trying to do it until I had, and then I was not sure that you had even felt it.”
Sookie spoke in a daze of memory. “All I wanted to do for a moment was to reach out for you—to hold on to you. I was heart-broken, and you were tellin’ me that you just wanted to take all my pain away.”
He nodded. “Yes—that is what I was trying to tell you through the glamour. I so badly wanted to hold you and erase the pain that Compton had caused you.” He sighed. “I have thought about those seconds many times, and I now know that I could have taken over your mind. You were open to my influence, and despite your anger, you trusted me.” He sighed again. “Any other human would have been glamoured. I felt that your mind was opening, and I was so tempted to push.”
“Why did you want to?” Sookie asked. “What would you have done?”
Eric shook his head. “You were angry. But even more than that, you were sad—so heart-broken―and it made me feel,” he stopped for a moment and smiled a little. “Well—I wasn’t sure at the time, but now I know that what I felt was love for you and pain on your behalf. That is why I would have done it—to take away your suffering, min kära.”
He paused again. “As for what I would have done—well,” he smirked, “I was covered in cement. I likely would have tried to distract you with a nice warm shower.”
She laughed a little and hit his chest. “You are incorrigible.”
“I know,” he said solemnly as he stroked her collarbone.
“But you didn’t glamour me that night.”
Eric shook his head. “No. Try to seduce you?—I could do that—always.” His eyes twinkled. “Trick you into taking my blood? Apparently, I could do that. Use you in a plot against Russell?” He looked almost morose. “I could do that too. But take away your mind? Take away your choices? Take away your emotions—even if I felt pained by them? No. Take away your fire? Hell no! Never! Those things I could never do, even though a part of me wanted to take away your agony so badly.”
Sookie was silent for a minute, “You have already tried to glamour Hunter—haven’t you?”
Eric nodded, “Once—just to know if I could do it. I felt his mind opening to my influence, so I backed out.” He sighed. “After Christmas, I had intended to make contact with Niall—however I could—and to see if you were really dead or not. I have had more of the synthetic fairy blood manufactured, and it has been waiting for my use.”
“What would you have done if I had been dead?” she asked evenly.
Eric’s voice grew matter-of-fact. “I would have glamoured Hunter to stop loving me―to forget me―to not ask questions about me in the minds of others, and,” he stopped mid-sentence.
“Eric?” Sookie asked, raising her hand to his cheek; tears once again fell down her cheeks, but her husband’s expression remained stony.
“I would have glamoured Hunter to view Jason as his father figure. I would have left him with a father, who would not,” he paused, “have to leave him during the day.” A single red tear dropped down Eric’s face. “It would have, perhaps, been better for him in the end.”
“No, Eric, it wouldn’t have been!” Sookie said forcefully. “Hunter loves you! There is no replacing that love—that choice Hunter made.”
“I know,” Eric admitted, “but Hunter would have forgotten me and felt no pain at my loss.”
Sookie tried to wipe away her tears.
Eric sighed. “I do not mean to make you feel even sadder by telling you these things, but without you, I simply do not want to go on in this plane of being. If you are elsewhere, then that is where I must follow. It is simple. But I love Hunter, and I am his father now. I would have made sure that he was happy. I have already made sure that he is surrounded by people he loves and who would take care of him. And once I realized there was a way to guarantee that he would not grieve for me, I knew that I would have to follow you—had I found out that you were truly dead.”
“Did you tell Pam all of this?”
Eric shook his head. “She suspected that I was not in a good place, but before you came back, she thought I was better, and I was. I was no longer depressed as I had been. But I was resolved too.” Eric sighed and wiped his wife’s tears away with his thumbs. “I once thought that if I met the true death, you would be able to go on without me, min kära. It is what I wanted to think.”
“I couldn’t, Eric.”
“I know that now.” He chuckled. “You and I are a pair. Not fucking Romeo and Juliet, but we’re idiots too—in our own way. Unlike them, we will always fight tooth and nail to stay alive, but the day I see you dead is the day I will die too.”
“Just wait to make sure it’s not a trick,” she laughed before turning serious. “I think it’s fucked up that I couldn’t live without you―you know.”
“Indeed—it is,” he chuckled. “But—if it makes you feel any better, I believe that it has a lot to do with our bonds.” His expression darkened, and Sookie could see agony there. “When they were both gone, Sookie, the whole world seemed so bleak—so black. The vampire bond being gone is one thing. That bonding sickness it difficult, but it progresses gradually.” He scrutinized her reaction to that statement, saw her slight cringe, and then knew that she’d been suffering from it as he’d begun to suspect. He decided to leave that discussion for a little later and went on. “When the fairy bond was gone, however, I felt like,” he stopped for a moment and closed his eyes. “I felt like I truly was dead inside—desolate.” He shook his head. “After being so alive because of you, I was barren.”
“I’m so sorry,” Sookie said.
Eric shook his head fiercely. “I will never be sorry for our bonds, min kära. But when one of us has truly gone to our death, the other will suffer greatly. I clung to hope because I knew that Claudette’s curse had caused the emptiness, but if you had truly been gone, I would have found no hope.”
Sookie sighed loudly. “So you die, and I die.”
Eric smiled a little. “So you live, and I live.”
She chuckled. “All this makes me feel like I’m in a bad movie where I’m yelling at the screen for the characters to stop being so darned melodramatic.”
Eric chuckled again. “Think of how I feel. A thousand years of life, and one infuriating fairy-human hybrid is my undoing.”
“I’m the one that will have to die for the corpse,” Sookie returned saucily.
“Can I never win, woman?” Eric asked with mock exasperation, as he laced his hands around her neck.
“You won me―didn’t you?” she asked even more saucily.
Eric shook his head, “No—this is a trap. If I say that I won you, you will only say that you let me win. Do not think that I don’t know what you are up to Mrs. Stackhouse-Northman.”
She smiled and interlaced her fingers around his neck as well. “So now what, Mr. Stackhouse-Northman?”
His smile dropped a little. “Now you need to tell me what you have been hiding from me. I have told you mine―after all.”
Sookie sighed and dropped her eyes. “What makes you think I’ve been hidin’ somethin’?”
He smirked. “We may not have the vampire bond anymore, but you still have my balls in your hot little hands. Do not think for a second that I don’t have yours too.”
She looked at him with a raised brow.
She chuckled. He could always read her like a book. “I think that might have been the longest that I have ever been mad at you, Mr. Northman.”
This time, his eyebrow lifted.
“Since we finally got together―that is,” she clarified.
He chuckled. “Yes. You were angry at me for twenty minutes and twelve seconds. Quite unpleasant.”
She sighed. “I wasn’t really angry at you―you know.”
He stroked her cheek and neck. “I know. But we should pretend. You need time off from being angry at yourself all the time, min kära. I do not like the pain you are putting yourself through.”
There was a moment of silence between them before Eric spoke again, this time in a whisper. “Tomorrow, you must heal yourself, Sookie—please.”
“You knew?” Sookie asked.
“I have suspected for two days; but the look on your face when I mentioned the bonding sickness confirmed that you were ill.” He paused. “Please, Sookie. Promise me. I am vampire, and I can take the pain better than you.”
Sookie exhaled loudly. “More macho shit?” she asked, but this time her voice had a slightly playful lilt to it.
“But of course,” he smirked.
She shook her head. “Okay,” she relented. “What are we gonna do, Eric?”
His smirk deepened. “Well, we get back to work―as always. We both do our best for each other―as always. Sookie, you will either save us both, or we will both die, and you will have tried your best. Either outcome will see us together.”
“But we’re gonna fight our asses off to stay alive; do you understand me?” she said firmly.
Eric grinned and raised himself up so that he could bury his face into her hair. He sighed into her scent. “There’s the fire, Sookie. That’s what you are—who you are. Don’t forget that—ever. I know it will be enough. You will be enough. You have always been enough for me, min kära; you will always be enough―no matter the outcome.”
“Right back at ya,” Sookie whispered, slipping one hand down to his chest. She sighed.
“What else?” Eric asked as he lifted up to look into her eyes again. “You came here with another secret that I have not yet figured out. I knew you had it the moment I saw you tonight; I just got distracted by your sexy lips, and your beautiful breasts, and then our fight.”
“We weren’t fightin’,” she pouted. “We were gettin’ our groove back.”
Eric laughed. “Nothing can ever be ‘normal’ with you, min kván. Why could I not have found a nice boring woman to settle down with,” he sighed dramatically.
Sookie shook her head. “That woman married that nice, boring man I should have settled down with.”
“Then we will both have to make do—somehow,” Eric said, even more dramatically. He smiled and kissed Sookie on the nose. “So tell me what you don’t want to say to me.”
Sookie thought for a moment. The A.P. had made it clear that she should not tell Eric about her visit, but Sookie had other things to tell, so she told them. “It’s Hadley,” Sookie said. “She wants to leave the place we are now and go into Faerie soon, but she wants to see Hunter first, and she is pretty certain that he will choose to live with her. In fact,” Sookie bit her lip nervously, “that’s the only reason she agreed to let him choose in the first place.”
Eric sighed, but he didn’t seem surprised. “I knew this was coming.” He raised himself off his knees and moved onto the bed, motioning for Sookie to settle into his arms again. He was quiet for a minute as he picked up stroking his wife’s back as he’d been doing before their fight. The act gave him a great deal of comfort.
Finally, he spoke. “I have spent many evenings planning for this possibility and for,” he paused, “other things. I want to tell you my plan, and I need your feedback.” She looked at him, and he smiled a brilliant smile at her. “I am glad that you are here to hear it. I missed ‘telling you the plan’ all the time.”
She chuckled and sat up again. He joined her. “Okay, husband―spill.”
“I assume that Niall would come get Hunter and take him to Hadley―correct?”
“Yeah—that’s probably how it would happen.”
“And Hunter’s fairy blood will allow him to go to the ‘in-between place’—if Niall is with him, shows him the way, and invites him in?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Sookie agreed.
Eric nodded, “Good—then I’m coming too.”
“I will agree to let Hunter go if I go too. He can spend his time visiting with his mother. I will not interfere with that, but I want to be there with him—just in case he needs me, just in case he gets upset. And he will want me to be there—that I do know. Also, I want you to confirm that Niall will be able to keep Hunter out of Hadley’s thoughts.” He paused, “My son has told me some of the things his mother used to think of him, Sookie—about wanting him to be different. I know from you that she is no longer thinking things as damaging as that, but I will not have him hurt.”
Sookie nodded. “I’m sure that Niall still plans both to keep him out of her thoughts and to keep her from influencing him with her empathy, but I’ll make sure.”
“Good,” Eric said. “Also, I want Batanya there. With an invitation, she will be able to enter and keep guard over Hunter while I am doing other things.”
Sookie was smiling. “What other things could you possibly want to do, Eric Northman?”
“You,” he leered, “in person. Many times. So there’d better be some kind of fairy privacy spell because I plan to do everything I’ve been wanting to do to you very loudly, lover, and I do not want Hunter to hear. He does not need those particular lessons until he is older.”
Sookie laughed, “No—he doesn’t.” She paused and shook her head. “But I don’t think Niall will agree. I’ve asked him if you could come to the ‘in-between place’ more times than I can count, but he always says, ‘No.’ He says that you need to stay here so you can,” she stopped and smiled at him.
“Exactly, min kära—so I can protect Hunter. And so I shall be.”
“That’s right! The A.P. made it clear you needed to be here to protect Hunter, but if Hunter is there, then,” she stopped mid-sentence and smiled as she remembered the A.P.’s cryptic words earlier that night about Eric finding her bed cramped. It looked like they were going to be testing that idea very soon.
Eric spoke, “Tell Niall and Hadley that Hunter and I will come for one night—the night after tomorrow—for a visit.”
Suddenly, Sookie understood why the A.P. had given her three days.
“And tell Hadley,” Eric continued, “that tonight I am going to tell Hunter the truth about her not being able to return to the human realm.” His tone was fierce. “I will not have him blindsided by this news while he is in a strange place.”
Sookie nodded in agreement. “I’ll tell her.”
There were a couple of minutes of silence between them.
“Will the synthetic fairy blood keep you there for a whole night?” Sookie asked.
“Maybe not, lover,” he growled as he ran his fingers gently over the artery in her neck, “but that is not the only fairy blood I intend to taste that evening.” She noticed that he was panting a little. “Plus, I have a feeling that our bond will keep me there as long as you want.”
Sookie nodded excitedly as she analyzed everything the A.P. had said, “I think Niall will agree to let you in if Hunter is there too.”
Eric took Sookie’s chin into his hand and looked into her beautiful brown eyes. “And give Niall an added bonus. Tell him that after the night I am there, you will spend some time training in Faerie the next day. Promise him an hour there.”
“Eric!” Sookie said, surprised. The A.P. had told her that the idea for her to go into Faerie would seem to be Eric’s, but the reality of him presenting it to her on the same night the A.P. visited her was striking. The ancient vampiress seemed to know what she was talking about. Still, Sookie put her hand against her mate’s cheek softly. “But if I’m there even for an hour, that’s another year for you.”
His eyes were fierce. “No. We are going to do all we can to make that less time, min kära. I am going to take your blood, and you will take mine—several times. We will be truly together, so our bonds will be strengthened.” He stroked her cheek so that his actions were matching hers. “The potency of our bonds changed the pull of time between the human and fairy realms before; this time, the bonds will be glutted with our renewed connection.” He smirked. “Let’s try to make the two realms’ times line up even more.”
Sookie’s tone became as fierce as her husband’s. “I’ll ask Niall if there is anything we can do to strengthen our bonds—usin’ fairy magic.” She smiled. “Remember our dagger that we finished the vampire bond with?”
Eric growled, definitely not in anger this time. “I remember everything about the night we finished our bond.”
Sookie could feel her arousal rising from just her husband’s look. She blushed and he growled even louder. She caught her breath and said what she needed to before she attacked him. “I think that dagger helped to make the bond stronger because of fairy magic. Maybe Niall can offer something more to help as well.”
Eric nodded. “Ask him, but do not mention the dagger.”
“Why not?” Sookie asked.
“Just a feeling?” he shrugged. “You would call it a gut feeling.”
Sookie nodded. “Okay then.”
Eric looked thoughtful for a moment. “I also want Claude to come with Niall when Hunter and I go.”
Sookie looked at Eric with a bit of question. “Why?”
Eric smiled. “Because you trust Claude most, and I trust your instincts as well. Niall can take me, but I want Claude to be the one who takes Hunter.”
“Don’t you trust Niall?” Sookie asked.
Eric nodded. “Yes—I even like him, but I think he might intimidate Hunter a bit, and from what you have told me about Claude, I believe that Hunter would be,” he paused, “less frightened with him.”
Sookie’s face clouded. “I know this is just a visit—the first visit―but what if Hunter decides to,” she stopped.
“Yes,” Eric said solemnly. “Hunter may not be able to leave his mother once he has seen her.” He sighed. “I understand this possibility. Hadley may also try to influence Hunter to stay in ways not involving her empathy.” He closed his eyes tightly. “Hunter spent the last year before he was with me trying to please his mother, and that inclination may not be easy for him to quell. However, I want him to choose the life that pleases him the most—not me and not Hadley.”
Sookie gripped her husband’s hand lovingly.
He continued, “That is why I hope this will just be a first visit so that he can have time in order to understand his own heart.”
“And you think that heart will pick you?” Sookie asked.
Eric nodded and smiled a little. “I am biased, but yes; I hope he chooses to stay here.” His eyes became troubled. “Hadley tried, but was not the mother he needed.” He paused. “To be truthful, Hunter said things about her mind that left me hating her for a while. From what you have said, she has changed, but I wonder if some things can change—no matter our best intentions.”
Sookie stroked his chest.
Eric spoke solemnly, “I want my son to be happy, Sookie. If I think that he would be happier or safer with his mother once we are there and I have seen them together, I will tell him this truthfully. And it will be his choice if he wishes to stay with her. I will tell him that I love him no matter what. I will tell him that I am vampire and will live long enough for him to visit whenever he wishes as he grows.”
“But if I go into Faerie and Hunter goes,” Sookie started again—this time with tears in her eyes.
“Then I will be here without you both,” Eric finished quietly. “But I will know that you are alive. I will feel the fairy bond. And I will know that Hunter is safe and happy.”
“Eric,” Sookie said, shaking her head.
“Min kära, we cannot know what will happen with Hunter, but I feel in my soul—the soul that you helped me to find, by the way—that he is my child, just as much as Hadley’s now. Maybe even more. He is mine and I am his―by choice. And I have been fostering him to make his own choices, Sookie. I told him he would have his home with me as long as he chose, and I will not just pay that idea lip service. I will allow him his choice; I love him enough to do that. You have told me for weeks that it will work out, and you have told me of the changes in Hadley. If she is ready to make Hunter a good mother and would make him a better life than the one I have for him here, then they both need for that to happen. I cannot stop what may come. But if I must say goodbye to him tomorrow night, then I need for you to be there with me. I will need for you to keep me on my feet.”
Another red tear slipped from his eye.
“But this is only gonna be his first visit there,” Sookie protested. “He’s not gonna stay this time.”
Eric shook his head. “I hope that to be true—that Hunter will give himself more time to decide, but I cannot tell the future, and he is a small child who loves his mother and hasn’t seen her for more than a year. I know that part of him will want to stay with her, and if that is his choice, then.”
“But he belongs with you,” Sookie interrupted with a protest.
Eric smiled a little. “I hope so.”
Sookie wrapped her arms around Eric as he changed the subject. Feeling his fears, she let him. “Lover, I cannot wait to feel your blood nourishing me once more. I cannot wait to feel our fairy bond strengthen once more.” He sighed and let his anticipation wash his fears away for the time being. “We will feel each other through the vampire bond again, and our blood will mix afresh. Your magic will strengthen with our joining, and that will help you know how to best use your abilities; I am certain of it.” He paused and sunk his forehead into hers. “If I have my way, our bond will be so strong when I leave that the time between this realm and Faerie will line the fuck up perfectly, even if it has to rip that fucking piece of paper Niall keeps talking about into two pieces for us to tape together as WE fucking see fit.”
Sookie looked Eric in the eye and then kissed him forcefully. “That’s a plan I can get behind, Viking. Now—how much time before dawn.”
“Five minutes,” Eric said, growling at his mate.
“I wanna be screaming your name in three,” she said, as their lips crashed together.
They were both screaming in two and a half as they tested the notion that make-up sex was the best kind—as well as tested the strength of the cubby’s bed.
An hour later, after Pam had watched with concern as Eric got the bleeds in his downtime but wouldn’t fall into his day rest, she finally saw him smile slightly and then fall into his deathly slumber.
Pam knew that Eric was likely holding on to his dream with Sookie as long as he could because of his fear that he’d soon be without her altogether. Pam didn’t want to think about it, but she knew that they might all be without Hunter soon as well. And if both of those things happened, she was worried that her maker might once again succumb to his depression.
“That’s another pair of shoes for making me fucking worry!” she said to her dead-to-the-world maker as she wiped the evidence of her own bleeds from her ears and succumbed to sleep as well.