Summary: Set 3 years after Dead Ever After, Eric gives his POV about the events that led Sookie and he to their fates. (Spoilers: All Books)
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, lines of dialogue, titles, etc. are the property of their respective owners. Only the original plot is the creation of the author; however, no profit has been made from this work. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of the source material. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in this story have been inspired by The Southern Vampire Mystery series. Charlaine Harris is responsible for the people and places that I play with in my story.
Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to know about the events in the books (including the last one), wait to read this.
Nomination: I am honored to report that this story has received a You Want Blood Award nomination! Thanks.
Banner: Thanks Sephrenia for “going back in time” and making this banner for me!
A/N: Fair warning: I went through a box of Kleenex when writing this.
en·dure [en-door, -dyoor] en·dured, en·dur·ing
verb (used with object)
1. to hold out against; sustain without impairment or yielding; undergo.
2. to bear without resistance or with patience; tolerate.
3. to allow; bear.
verb (used without object)
4. to continue to exist; last.
suffer through adverse force or influence of any kind; suffer without yielding; suffer patiently.
“The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being.” –C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I had never wanted to love her—never wanted to fall in love with her. Or anyone.
I had been alive for more than a thousand years; thus, I had seen many beings in love—or at least many who thought they were. However, I had never seen it end well for both parties. One or both always suffered. One or both were always forced to endure great pain.
Human matches were the most erratic in many ways, but they were also the most enduring—despite the longer lives of other types of creatures. But—with humans—I had witnessed true love. Abiding love.
When I was traveling in Europe in the 1700s, I had a day man named Horace. Horace was brave for a human and very trustworthy. Although I glamoured him as a precaution so that he couldn’t tell anyone about my true nature, it wasn’t really necessary. Horace would have served me without the glamour; in fact, he never displayed any kind of fear or distaste when it came to my nature. Admirably, he accepted the world as he found it—without making judgments about things he didn’t understand. He showed me respect, so I respected him. He offered me friendship and loyal service for many decades. Thus, I remembered him—and remembered him fondly.
My human father had taught me long ago that loyalty was to be treasured but not given without thought. Horace was worthy of my loyalty, and he lived a long and comfortable life because of that fact.
Horace fell in love while he was in my service—to a young woman named Elizabeth. She was a beautiful creature—someone I had brought to my residence for my meal. Hungry from my travels, I had fed from her immediately; however, since I had to check in with the local sheriff, I glamoured the girl to forget about the biting and not to leave. It was my intention to fuck her and feed again after returning from my meeting.
However, when I returned, Horace and Elizabeth were speaking animatedly. And—in respect to the feelings which he so quickly developed for her—I never did fuck her, though she fed me in times of emergency, just as Horace did.
Like Horace, Elizabeth was extremely loyal, and for twenty years, she traveled with us. I can certainly bear witness to the fact that Elizabeth and Horace were in love. In fact, they were devoted to each other; they orbited around each other. They did their work for me, but they also established a life of their own together, despite our wandering lifestyle. Elizabeth and Horace loved traveling the world, and they saw much of it.
In truth, I envied their closeness and the way that they were able to share the world. That kind of thing seemed beyond me. Though I was obedient to my maker, I certainly could have never “loved” Appius, especially not after he forced himself upon me so many times. My devotion to him was out of my own control; it was mere submission to the magic of his blood inside of me.
But—then again—maybe the love between Elizabeth and Horace was out of their control too. It certainly seemed to be based on magic. By then I had observed enough human pairings to understand that the kind of faith and trust between Elizabeth and Horace went beyond the norm. They were “in love,” which was something very different than most human couples ever achieved.
That difference was made clear when Elizabeth died. After that, Horace merely existed, feeling no joy. I had wanted to glamour the memory of Elizabeth from him, but I had enough respect for Horace to ask him if that was what he wanted. He had merely shaken his head and whispered a single word: “No.”
I didn’t understand at the time why he didn’t want for me to erase his pain. But I understood now. Eradicating the memory of such a love would have been a crime—a horrible one. I knew that first hand because of Hallow’s curse.
Slowly, Horace had wasted away emotionally, and six months after Elizabeth died, I found his cold corpse in his bed. He had no visible marks on him, and he had been physically healthy, despite his grief. He had died of a broken heart; he had died for love.
So—yes—human love could be enduring. But—again—it never ended well. Even in the best cases, there was death to be faced. There was loss to be suffered.
Mostly, however, the word “love” was tossed around casually by humans, especially over the last century or so. It was used to manipulate. Or out of their ignorance, humans mistook “lust” for “love” and didn’t consider the ramifications of giving their hearts away on a whim.
Real love among Weres was even rarer. They were volatile—unable to control their impulses, especially during the full moon. Weres were hardly ever faithful to each other, the animal within them requiring that they chase and conquer many mates. Oh—I had seen a few Weres “pair for life” as they called it, but generally politics got in the way even if they could control their baser instincts. Alpha males were forced to fuck many females in order to keep the species going, given the fact that a male and a female could produce only one Were child together. I had seen couples “mated for life” pulled apart by jealously and duty more than once.
And—even if they were able to overcome those things—their allegiances would be torn between their multiple offspring and their mates.
Love amongst two shifters was even more uncommon. Shifters tended to stay unattached—to be suspicious of all connections, especially those with other supernatural beings.
Vampires were the worst when it came to maintaining relationships based on “true” love. Eric had witnessed bloodbaths in the name of love. And—even the greatest of loves amongst his kind didn’t endure the test of time.
Renowned by vampires as the longest-lasting vampire marriage in history was the pairing of Gertrude, Vampire Queen of Ireland, and Gordon, her consort for nearly 600 years.
I met Gertrude and Gordon in the early days of their relationship—when I was about 100 years old and still traveling with Appius. At least by vampire standards, they were totally faithful to each other. That meant that they fed from and fucked humans only when they were together. They would even choose their meals together, and since both enjoyed having sex with men and women, they were what one might call “equal opportunity employers.” Thus, they were able to curb their jealousy.
In private, Appius had ridiculed the couple’s so-called “love,” but I had secretly wished that their love would outlast my maker. For a long time, it seemed as if it would.
Hell—in their quest to be a “normal” couple, they even made children together, draining them together and then giving them their blood together so that the transformation involved them both. And the damnedest thing was that it worked! The children rose having bonds with both makers. Gertrude and Gordon made four children this way.
Theirs was called the greatest love of all time—at least by those that knew their history—but trouble began when they made a fifth child. Unlike the others, this one carried over only Gertrude’s essence once he was changed.
Predictably, jealousy ensued. Seeing the pain caused to her beloved and unable to convince Gordon that she belonged to only him, Gertrude killed her child. For a while, things went back to how they had been before—until Gertrude’s bitterness began to eat away at her.
One morning, the two ancient vampires walked outside of their nest to meet the sun together and burned into ash in each other’s arms. They did it because they had known that their love was slipping away, and that was a fate worse than death for them both. They could not endure inflicting pain upon each other for a moment longer. Theirs was a romantic story. But it was tragic as well.
And it proved that, among vampires, even love at its best was finite.
Usually, however, “love” between vampires—whose volatile emotions made those of Weres seem benign—led to bloodshed.
In Europe, I had been a “cleaner” for a time, someone in charge of covering the evidence of vampire violence so that the humans wouldn’t learn of our existence. I had seen many scenes of “passionate love” gone wrong. Generally, vampire sludge and human corpses were all that was left in “love’s” wake when two vampires were involved.
So—yes—I had witnessed love and its effects. I had seen “real” love rarely, but I had seen it. And it had been something that I didn’t think I was capable of. And for that, I had been glad—very glad.
I hadn’t wanted to love.
I hadn’t wanted the pain of loss which it inevitably led to. I hadn’t wanted to suffer when my duties inescapably led me to be torn between obligation and love. I hadn’t wanted to lose control of the emotions that I needed to keep tightly bottled up in order to survive.
I hadn’t ever wanted jealousy to consume me. I hadn’t ever wanted bereavement to overpower me. I hadn’t ever wanted the knife of uneven affection to twist in me.
But here I was aching for my beloved.
My heart’s desire.
I had tried to blame my love on the witch’s curse. I used to lie to myself and to Pam, saying that I had fallen in love with Sookie Stackhouse while I wasn’t in my right mind. But—in truth—I had loved her before Hallow’s spell.
When I asked for Sookie to “yield,” she had always assumed that I meant her body; expectedly, she had thought the worst of me.
However, I had wanted her heart. But I didn’t correct her; in truth, I didn’t know how to express my feelings. I was frightened, so I hid my love behind overt lust, effectively keeping it from both her and myself. By the time I was able to admit to myself that I loved her, I was completely lost to her. And by the time I was able to admit it to her, I was already well on my way to losing her. That was the real curse. So I had to endure the worst kind of love—unrequited, uneven.
Sookie Stackhouse hadn’t loved me—at least not at first. And even when she gave her love to me, she held something back. I didn’t blame her; after all, I had held back too. We had just held back different things. She couldn’t let me own her heart. And I couldn’t tell her that she had owned mine from the start. We were both afraid.
I sighed deeply and checked the time. Ten minutes.
Of course, any feelings Sookie might have eventually developed for me were tainted by a variety of factors. The first was the foundational impression she had formed of me—filtered through the words and actions of Bill Compton. He had warned her that I would try to control her, use her, and manipulate her. He had painted me as the worst kind of playboy—a vampire who toyed with and then cast off his food mercilessly.
Undeniably, when Sookie and I first met, I drank from and fucked many fangbangers. But those women were not playthings to me—at least not in the way Bill suggested. I never left one unpleased or unsated. And I never lied to any of them about my feelings in order to control them.
That was Bill’s specialty—not mine.
I am no saint, and I don’t hide the fact that I find vampires superior to humans in many ways, but I have found many humans worthy of my respect during my long life. Moreover, humans are my food, and I am nothing if not practical.
Any vampire that didn’t see the worth in humans was a fool. And any vampire that treated all humans as cattle was an even bigger fool. Handling humans that way—especially since the Great Reveal—was a good way to get killed. Plus, all vampires began as humans. And I, for one, had never lost sight of that.
However, Bill’s influence over Sookie and his negative words about me were efficacious. Thus, from the first night Sookie and I met, our fates were sealed.
I was fated to love her with my whole being, but to deny that love until it was too late to convince her that my feelings were real. And she was fated to have a skewed vision of me and my motives—always.
From the start, Sookie’s scent drew me in like a moth to the flame—undeniably. But that didn’t stop me from lying to myself about the extent of my feelings for a long time after that—despite the fact that I “acted” as though I were in love—right from the beginning.
As vampire, my instincts are to take what I want, but I instinctively knew that love was not something that could be forced upon Sookie, so I bided my time. But still—I “acted.”
I killed a vampire for her when I staked Longshadow. I told myself that it was to protect an asset and to take revenge upon someone who had stolen from me. In other words, I lied to myself. But I still acted.
I covered Sookie’s body with my own when Stan’s nest was attacked by the Fellowship of the Sun. Bill’s reaction to chase the perpetrators and take their blood was the “normal” vampiric one. And my injuries wouldn’t have prevented that. But I stayed with Sookie. I told myself that it was to protect an asset and to manipulate her into taking my blood. In other words, I lied to myself. But I still acted.
I zipped to her side, almost breaking my cover, when she was staked at Club Dead. I gave her my blood and pleasured her body. I told myself that it was to protect an asset and to cover my ass so that she could help me rescue Compton for the queen. In other words, I lied to myself. But I still acted.
Looking back, I knew that Sookie Stackhouse had never been just an asset to me, and though I wanted to protect her, it wasn’t because I wanted her telepathic skills or even her delicious blood, although those two things were bonuses indeed.
I always “acted” when she was in danger; it was all the other times that I didn’t act which haunted me now. Perhaps I listened to my favorite poet—and friend—John Donne too closely when he versed, “I am two fools, I know, / For loving, and for saying so.” Of course, he wrote those lines while shit-faced on smelly alcohol. So I ought not to have heeded his advice.
But—in my defense—I heeded only half of it.
Plus, I was in love for the first time in a thousand years. Should I have gone to her more often? Yes. Should I have made my intentions clearer? Yes. But a fool is not known for making the best moves, and when it came to showing Sookie that I loved her, I was a fool.
I tried making her understand indirectly. I tried giving her a driveway—for God’s sake! Who gives a fucking driveway? A fool. I wore lycra pants—pink and aqua ones—to an orgy for her. And it was an orgy that we wouldn’t be participating in! Who agrees to that? A fool in love.
Of course, I used to justify my attraction to Sookie by saying it was her scent; in fact, I was relieved when I first found out that she was part Fae. It explained my ever-increasing fixation with her.
Indeed, I got good at lying to myself.
But deep down, I knew the truth. I always did. And I always acted in her best interests. It was my inaction at times that proved to be a disservice to us both.
Even though I tried to push my feelings away, I knew that I was in love with Sookie every time she pushed me away. The first time I felt it was when she rescinded my invitation along with Compton’s after the Jackson trip. Bill had assaulted her—raping her and almost draining her. I had—for the second night in a row—seen to her healing, all the while not risking the possibility that she would take too much of my blood since she never wanted to be a vampire. She’d asked me to give her a ride home, and—together—we had thwarted the attempt to kidnap us. I had, with the help of Compton, killed all the Weres that had been waiting in ambush for us at the farmhouse.
And then she had expelled me from her home and her sight. If I hadn’t loved her, it wouldn’t have hurt so goddamned much to be lumped in with a vampire who had almost killed her and sexually violated her less than eight hours before. In fact, if I hadn’t loved her, I would have killed Bill for all he’d done. It took everything in me not to rip off his fucking head. But I was the vampire Sookie was ready to hate; I was the villain in black. Bill was the vampire she was ready to forgive; he was the tortured soul who hated what he was. I couldn’t kill him; it would have hurt her too much. And I would have lost any chance with her.
Not long after that night, Hallow had cursed me, and I had traveled straight to my heart’s desire. Of course, “to desire” meant “to want, to long for.” It did not mean “to have.”
The real curse was that Sookie loved me for a week, but I did not remember her love after the spell was lifted. No. The true curse was that Sookie loved “her Eric,” and he was not me. He was only a piece of me, but that was the piece she wanted.
That was—perhaps—the only part she ever wanted.
But—make no mistake—I knew that she had suffered for love too. I could give her only everything I was. I could be only what a thousand years had formed me to be. I could never find and isolate the part that Sookie longed for; God knows I tried. That is why I had been so desperate to remember—to understand—what we’d had. But she wouldn’t speak of it. No—she couldn’t speak of it because of the pain she was enduring. And by the time I remembered, it seemed to me that she didn’t want to remember anymore.
Oh—I knew that Sookie liked me; she liked Eric the Sheriff. Before the curse, I could even make her laugh sometimes. She flirted with me on occasion. And she trusted me—at least when her life was on the line. Part of her even lusted for me. But she didn’t love Eric the Sheriff; she didn’t love me. She loved him—”her” Eric.
If I could have returned her beloved Eric to her, I would have. But I couldn’t without putting her into more danger. I had to be sheriff to keep Sookie safe. And then—later—I had to become the consort to a queen to ensure that Sookie stay safe.
After Hallow’s curse was lifted and I remembered “myself,” but not our week together, I had wanted to ask Sookie why it was so much harder to push my feelings for her to the side, but to do that would have been to admit that they had been there all along. If I wouldn’t have loved her, I wouldn’t have been scared to admit that. I wouldn’t have feared her rejection, but I did.
And my fear led me to do the worst thing I could have; I stayed away from her for the most part.
And—of course—it injured me that she didn’t want to talk to me about our week together. Even when I blackmailed her into spilling the beans, her version of our time together was clinical fact-telling. She and “her Eric” had—in the space of a week—meant everything to each other. They had made love and had made promises that she had no faith that I could keep. In fact, she assumed that I wouldn’t want to keep them—or perhaps she assumed I was incapable of it.
Looking back now, I understood why Sookie hadn’t wanted to tell me about our week. It was because I was not the man she loved. I was the man who stole “her Eric” from her. In coming back, I had taken him. Once again, I was the villain in black.
And—once again—I was a fool. I told her that I wanted to know what had happened for me. That was a lie. I had wanted to know for her. But that was a truth too difficult for me to acknowledge to her. So I sent her a coat to keep her warm because I noticed that hers was threadbare and smelled of dead Were. It was an inept gesture at best, but at least she didn’t return the gift.
At least I had found something that she needed enough to keep.
Ironically, the moment she fell in love with that “other” me, I lost any real chance I had with her, for I was always compared to him. And I was never up to snuff.
I did try to be, however. I was still trying.
I did the best I could to earn her love. I tried to tell her how I felt more than once—to explain myself. But I had a good memory—when it wasn’t stolen from me. And though Sookie had eventually “loved” me—the real me—she had never looked at me like she did “her Eric.” She had never been “in love” with me.
But—selfishly—I was ready to accept an unequal love as long as I could have her in my life. It turned out that even that was not part of my fate.
After the witch’s curse, things seemed to both speed up and slow down. Instead of speaking to me about our time together, Sookie took up with the tiger. Instead of renouncing Bill for his duplicity and for the way he’d attacked her, she allowed herself to remain his friend. However, from me, she kept her distance. So I prayed to long-forgotten gods that she would come to me—because she cared for me, the real me. My prayers went unanswered.
But then—suddenly—one night she was there. And for a moment, my dead heart filled with hope, but—as it turned out—she came to me only because the shifter needed assistance. So—yes—I was jealous. What lover would not be under those circumstances?
One might say that what was good for the gander was good for the goose. After all, I fucked others after my forgotten time with Sookie. However, a skewed sense of “infidelity” was not at the root of my jealousy. I have never been a hypocrite.
I was jealous because I knew the women I fucked meant nothing to me—less than nothing. On the other hand, I knew that Bill meant something to her—even after what he had done. I knew that Quinn meant something to her. I knew that Sam meant something to her. I knew that “her Eric” meant something to her.
But did I mean anything to her?
I could not answer that question, so—of course—I was jealous. And—again—I was a fool and stayed away.
By the time I completed the bond with Sookie in Rhodes, I had admitted to myself that I loved her. Ever opportunistic and wanting to protect her, I offered myself in place of Andre. But I knew I was the lesser of two evils in her eyes—with Andre being the only other option.
That fact tore something inside of me.
I may have been the lesser of two evils to her, but I was still “an evil” to her. Simply put, I was the “devil she knew.” But she didn’t want me. And, from the start, I could tell just how much she hated our bond—how much she didn’t trust it.
No—I could “feel” it.
On the other hand, I loved the bond, and I couldn’t hide that fact from her. Thus, in her mind, I became even more of an enemy.
So—once more—I was a fool and kept my distance from her.
However, when Madden came to take over Area 5 for de Castro, I thought of only one thing—to get to my bonded.
That night, Bill offered to die for Sookie. It was just that easy for him—simple words offered without real thought about her future.
But my death would have accomplished nothing for Sookie. I could offer only my life, a life that I put into the service of a vampire I didn’t trust in order to protect my bonded, even though a part of her resented me for not being willing to die for her too.
After Madden left, I finally remembered our time together when I was under the influence of Hallow’s spell. And that meant that I remembered just how much she’d loved me. Sitting on her bed with my face in my hands, I dared to hope for many things—acceptance being chief among them.
But Sookie shut me out and turned me away. She didn’t want to talk about—or even to think about—our time together. She didn’t want me. She wanted “her Eric.” And—even with my memories intact—I was still not him. I felt her longing through the bond and I felt her love, but neither of those emotions were directed toward me.
So I had gone. And any hope that I had that my memories were the key to making her love me was gone too.
And—once again—I was a fool. Once again, I stayed away. I told myself—and later Sookie—that it was because I had to shore up my position under the new regime and to make sure that de Castro and Madden wouldn’t understand her importance to me. But that was only half the truth. I also stayed away because I couldn’t be what she wanted me to be, and I was not yet ready to see her looking at me differently than she looked at “the other me.” For that, I had to prepare myself mentally.
Looking back, I regret that I didn’t go to her the night after the takeover. I regret that I didn’t lie prostrate before her and beg for her love. Had I to do it all again, that is the one thing I would change. I would have begged her to give me—to give the “whole” me—a chance. However, I didn’t do that because of pride.
She always had stubbornness, but I have my pride. At least I used to.
I glanced at my watch. Five minutes.
Feeling all my regrets swirling within me, I sighed and looked out into the night.
Before the bond was complete, I found difficulty dealing with Sookie’s ambivalence when she saw me. After it was complete, I had to experience her mixed feelings from the inside out. And it was almost unbearable to me. So I stayed away, once again hoping that she would come to me.
When I would break and find a reason to contact her or when she would seek me out for help, she was always happy when she first saw me. And I always had a moment of hope. But her happiness was soon replaced by suspicion or hesitation because of her trepidation about the bond.
After we pledged, she grew even more suspicious of me and the bond. But I saw no other way to keep her in Louisiana. I’d heard rumors that Felipe planned to take her to Las Vegas and put her to work in his casinos, telepathically monitoring his customers. And I knew that she would have hated that existence.
In retrospect, I know that I should have gone to Sookie and told her of my plan to keep her in Louisiana by pledging myself to her—by marrying her. I could have slipped away for a few hours without Felipe’s spies noticing, but I hadn’t done that. I knew that Sookie would agree to the pledge; after all, I had seen her agree to the bond. I knew she would pick me because, once again, I was the lesser of two evils.
So I made a choice. I decided that I would rather feel her anger over my highhandedness than her resignation when she had to pick me. It turns out that I felt both.
Still, I had learned to live with her doubt in the bond and in me. And eventually, I found the opportunity and the courage to pursue a relationship with her—a real one with the “real” me. I wanted her so badly that I convinced myself that her deepest feelings didn’t matter. I convinced myself that even if I couldn’t make her completely happy, I could make her safe.
And I had tried to protect her, but she was so apprehensive about me and our bond that she wouldn’t even come to live with me in my home when she was in grave danger from the fairies. She had accepted Bubba as a guard, but not a place in my home. Soon after my offer, of course, my fears had come true when she was taken by Neave and Lochlan, and her fears had come true when I did not rescue her.
I had failed her—just as she expected I would.
After that, I could not blame her for losing just a little more faith in me. But—again—feeling her disappointment tore at me.
Eventually, Sookie suspected that the bond had formed every good feeling she had about me. That was why she broke it.
And that had broken me.
After that, I knew that my time with her was almost done. By then, my maker’s long-term plans for my misery and subjugation had been revealed to me. He had—in essence—done that which he had always threatened he would do: he sold me. Mr. Cataliades had exhausted most of the legal channels he knew of to get me out of Appius’s agreement with Freyda.
Yet before Sookie broke the bond, I had a dim hope that she would run away with me—if I could find no other way to avoid marrying Freyda. I imagined saying words similar to the ones “her” Eric had spoken before the witch war: “We could run away together. We could stay together always. We could know each other’s bodies in every way, night after night. I love you. We could work together to build a new life. We would not be poor. We would be helpmeets.” I even let myself imagine her saying “yes.”
Even at the time, I had understood her decision for breaking the bond—at least intellectually. Having been compelled to do so many things by Appius and by the kings and queens I had served, I could empathize with the fact that Sookie wanted to make sure her feelings and choices were her own.
But that didn’t make the pain any less. I thought she was dead when I woke up after the severing of the bond. And then—once I knew she was alive—all I could think about was telling her how much I loved her. So I had gone to her. And we had made love.
And she had still loved me—or at least a part of me. But she couldn’t love all of what I was. She didn’t love the vampire who coldly did what was needed to protect what was his. She didn’t love the vampire who was unapologetic about his nature. She didn’t love the vampire who succumbed to the bloodlust of battle and kissed her in celebration after she vanquished our enemy.
After Victor was dead, I had seen the judgment and the guilt in her eyes. She hated the fact that I was proud of her for killing Victor. And though I could also see that she “accepted the way I was,” it was not the way she wanted me to be. I was still not “her” Eric, nor was I the “sensitive human-like vampire” that Bill purported to be.
I was not who she wanted me to be. That person was gone, and Hallow was no more. Had she been alive, I would have been tempted to beg her to redo the curse—to make me the way that Sookie wanted.
But even if I could have become “her” Eric again, would she have run away with me? By then, we would have had no choice but to flee the United States to escape the reach of Felipe and Freyda. Would even “her Eric” have been enough for her? She had rejected his offer the first time, so I had to wonder.
Of course, I was at least partially to blame for her uncertainty. If I had gone to Sookie in Bon Temps every night that I had wanted to, she may have seen how much I cared for her—how much I loved her. But—as I said—I had my pride.
I do not have it anymore.
I lost it bit by bit after the takeover by Felipe. First, I could not stop Sophie-Anne from being killed. Then I couldn’t protect Sookie from the fairies. She was tortured, even as I was powerless. Later, I couldn’t act for Sookie and my best interest against my maker. And I couldn’t prevent Victor’s interest in her.
In the end, I could do nothing but give myself up—and give her up in the process.
So my pride was now gone. I had sold what remained of it for Sookie’s freedom.
In fact, I had sold a lot of things. I had sold my marriage to my beloved. I had sold my relationships with my vampire children. I had sold two hundred years of my life.
I was Freyda’s prize stallion now. She required that I dress in fine suits and tuxes. She required that I share her bed whenever she wanted. She required my absolute compliance. It was like being back with Appius again.
But it was all a small price to pay. My pride had purchased my beloved’s freedom, and her pride had been spared.
“Make her hate me,” I had told Pam the last time I spoke to my child. “Tell her something that will make her hate me. Do whatever needs to be done so that she doesn’t see Karin’s protecting her as a sign that I love her.”
Of course, Pam knew—as well as I did—that there was no hope for Sookie and me to have a “happily ever after” together. I was not designed by the fates to be a fairytale prince. I had no white horse; I had no “Sword of Truth.” Instead, I had sharp fangs and a thirst for blood.
In the end, Sookie’s only hope for being happy was if I slayed “her” Eric for good and became the villain she needed me to be.
So—for love—I had lied.
I closed my eyes and remembered our talk after the first night Sookie and I made love when I was truly myself: “I always tell you the truth,” I had told her. “I may not tell you everything I know, but what I tell you… it’s true.”
At the time I spoke those words, the bond would have helped her to know if I was lying, but that fact hadn’t made the words any less true. Even before the bond, I had been honest with her. But, once she broke the bond, I was able to lie without her knowing.
The lie was like the goddamned driveway and the coat. It was a gift I knew she needed. It was a gift she would accept.
Knowing that Bill would see to it that Sookie thought the worst of me, I made sure that he was in a position to tell her about my demands of the shifter—demands that Merlotte not pursue Sookie romantically. I knew that Merlotte had too much honor to speak of it, but Bill was no Merlotte. And Sookie would listen to Bill. I also knew that she would arrive at the worst possible opinion of me; she always had, after all.
In truth, I had hoped that the shifter would court Sookie. I was not a petty individual, despite what seemed to be true of me. I wanted Sookie happy. But I was also selfish. After all, her happiness was now my only conciliation.
In spite of my jealousy, I knew that Merlotte was the best candidate for her. He truly cared for her as a friend and as more. And he would keep her away from vampires as much as he could. Alcide’s loyalties were too stretched. Quinn was a waste of fucking space. And Bill was a son of a bitch. Plus, Sookie loved Sam—at least as a friend, if not more. That was the only way that the Cluviel Dor could have ever worked on him.
She loved him.
I closed my eyes. Sam really was the best option for Sookie. He gave her some protection, and he wasn’t encumbered by duty. He had no maker’s edicts to follow. He had no supernatural politics to juggle with his love for Sookie. They could have children. She could be a mother. I could have never made her that.
Still, I hated myself for hurting Sookie as I had—for lying to her. I had seen her face when we “divorced.” But I couldn’t stop there. For the lie to work, she had to hate me. So I had flown to her house later that night, ostensibly trying to convince her to do the one thing that I knew was against everything she stood for. I asked her to be my mistress—my kept woman. I asked her to be my second best—my afterthought. I pushed the button that I knew would cause her to despise me—that I knew would set her free.
Without the bond, I was able to lie to her at will so I went even further. I told her that I had considered making her a vampire against her will. I piled on lie after lie until she rescinded my invitation.
And then I took one last step—made one last move to make sure that even “her” Eric was finally dead in her eyes. After she was injured, I went to see her in the hospital. I made sure that Bill had the final nail to drive into the coffin that held all the love she had ever felt for me or “her” Eric. A triumphant look in his eyes, Bill had driven in that nail—just as I predicted he would. He told Sookie of my petty demand that Sam not be allowed to court her.
I knew that Sookie would always wonder if “her” Eric was still inside of me if she thought that there was any nobility to my actions, so I imagined a plot that made sure that didn’t happen. I created a story—a fiction—that would negate any “good” that she had ever seen in me.
What did Sookie most hate? The thought of being manipulated. Making her think that I intended to control her life even after I married another woman made me into not just a villain, but a petty and vindictive one. Once she believed I was capable of trying to steal her chance at future happiness, her eyes no longer held any love for me or any longing for “her” Eric. And once I had confirmed that with my own eyes, I left the hospital.
Throughout my thousand years, I had lived through many horrors, including rape and torture. Watching Sookie’s love for me disappear from her eyes was worse than anything I had ever faced before. I now understood how Horace could die of a broken heart. If my heart was still the organ that determined my life, I knew that I would be no more. Yet I endured.
Those moments at the hospital were destined to be the last I ever spent with her unless I learned that Freyda and Felipe had broken their word to me.
I closed my eyes—tightly.
Selfishly, I had allowed myself only thirty seconds of truthfulness before Sookie and my “divorce”—before the lies began. It was those thirty seconds that I now wanted to cling to the most. I had needed to see the faith and love in her eyes one last time; I simply ignored the fear and suspicion that were also in those beautiful orbs.
Before taking her into my office, I had told Sookie that what was about to happen was necessary. I had asked her to never doubt my affection for her. And—for those precious seconds—I had let myself believe that she wouldn’t doubt me—that she would refuse the divorce. Her refusal wouldn’t have made much difference in the long run. Felipe was ready to kidnap Jason Stackhouse in order to force Sookie’s compliance. And I was ready to go through with my lie no matter what.
However, a part of me had wanted her to fight for me—just as I was fighting for her.
But she had always doubted my love for her. I recognized it in her eyes as soon as she saw Freyda and Felipe in my office. She had been—as humans say—waiting for the “other shoe to drop” for a long time.
So I had dropped it. I had thrown it to the ground—for her.
I heard a popping noise.
“Hello Niall,” I said.
“Eric,” he greeted tersely, looking around to make sure we were safe. I had—as always—chosen a place near enough to Freyda’s palace not to draw suspicions, but far enough away to ensure our privacy. But I waited for him to come to that same determination before I spoke.
“I see that you still haven’t sealed up all the portals to the fairy world,” I observed with a smirk.
Niall smiled. “No—and I likely never will, though it is best that people think they have been destroyed. Do not worry, vampire; the portals are all secure now.”
I sighed. “You have said that before.”
Niall shrugged. “And I will—most likely—say it again, but then you already know that.”
I nodded. “Yes. That is why I have never thrown away your number.”
“You are wise.”
“No. I am thorough.”
It was his turn to nod. “Do you have the usual questions for me?”
“Yes,” I confirmed.
“Sookie is fine. Your children continue to watch over her.”
I smiled. As sheriff of Area 5, Pam was keeping an eye on Sookie. And even though Karin was “officially” to guard Sookie for only a year, I had privately asked my child to protect my beloved through her life and then to make sure any children Sookie had were also taken care of. Hunter, her cousin’s child, was being watched over by Bubba.
Niall sighed. “Sookie married ten months ago. She is also with child.”
“The shifter?” I asked, keeping my emotions off of my face.
Niall handed me a single picture of her as he always did during our meetings. She looked lovely, and her round belly was noticeable.
“It is as it should be,” I said evenly, knowing I would grieve later. “The money?”
“She continues to get the $3,000.00 each month—just as you set up with Cataliades when you bought Claudine’s and Claude’s assets.” Niall moved toward Eric a little. “Why didn’t you arrange for her to get more?”
“Sookie would have been suspicious of any more. So would have the shifter—her husband,” I said, barely stopping my voice from catching.
“Yes. She wouldn’t accept money from me either,” Niall sighed.
“She is stubborn,” I smiled.
“That she is.”
“Is she happy?” I asked.
“She seems to be,” the fairy reported. “She has made friends with your child, Karin. The extra monthly income has allowed her to make many repairs on the old farmhouse. She seems to enjoy her work. She inspires loyalty from her employees. She is beloved by her husband, her family, and her friends. She looks forward to being a mother. Ludwig is overseeing things since the child will be part Fae and part shifter.”
“Is the child healthy?” I asked.
I nodded and Niall and I were quiet for a while. I appreciated his understanding that I need the silence.
“I had six human children,” I said softly. “Not all of them survived for long, but I loved them the best I could, given the ways of my time. Sookie will be a good mother.”
“Yes,” Niall agreed.
“Will you tell me if the child is a telepath?”
“Why? So that you can protect the child as you protect his mother and Hunter?” Niall asked.
“That is no longer your duty,” Niall said, though his voice held no accusation or surprise.
“No—but it is what I live for now.”
“She doesn’t know. Will you not let me tell her?”
I shook my head. “It is best if she lives her life without thinking of me.”
“And what of you?” Niall asked.
“I am still alive—undead,” I said evenly.
“Are you?” Niall asked perceptively.
I shrugged. “I have at least one more lifetime to live.”
“Hers?” Niall stated as much as asked.
“Yes. And then I must see to those she leaves behind,” I sighed. “I cannot let harm come to them. She would,” he paused, “never forgive me.”
There was another pause between us.
Niall broke the silence this time. “I tried to tell her how much you love her once. I tried to tell her that you are a good man.”
I lowered my head. “Sookie told Pam of your words. She wasn’t sure you were even speaking of me; she thought you might be referring to Bill Compton.”
“Oh,” Niall said. “I would have thought it would be obvious to whom I was referring.”
I shrugged. “No. Not to Sookie. Likely that is my fault. I should have told her every night how much she meant to me.”
“It is not in a vampire’s nature to speak of love, Eric Northman.”
“No. It is not.”
“Did you love your human wife?”
“Sookie is not human,” I replied, confused by Niall’s question.
“No—when you were human—did you love your wife?”
I shook my head. “I had a duty to her. But I have loved no other than Sookie in my thousand years.”
“Love is a difficult thing, which I have managed to avoid,” Niall said. “I do not envy you it.”
I nodded. “I tried to resist its pull—her pull. I failed.”
“But you have not failed her. Perhaps that is the truest test of love.”
“She despises me,” I said softly.
Niall shrugged. “When she speaks to the rock marking Adele Stackhouse’s grave, I have heard her say your name.”
“What does she say of me?” I asked.
“That she’s grateful that you sent Karin. That even though she cannot forgive you, she cannot hate you either.”
I nodded. Once more we were quiet for a few minutes. “I used to have hope that she would understand that I did everything for her.”
“It is difficult for her. She is—despite being part Fae—mostly human,” Niall responded.
“Yes. Perhaps that is my problem too,” I admitted.
“Too human?” Niall asked.
“Yes. After all this time, I can admit to that.”
“You are very human, Eric Northman,” he said, without accusation or pity. I appreciated that.
“Humans have the most enduring love,” I observed.
“But you are also vampire,” Niall said sagely.
“So it will endure longer.”
“She once let me glamour her—you know,” I shared.
“She cannot be glamoured.”
“She has to accept it,” I corrected, “but it can be done. She had been injured and I took away her pain.”
“That is what you have always done.”
“No—it is what I have tried to do. I haven’t always succeeded.”
“Shall we meet again in a year’s time?” he asked after a few more moments of silence.
I nodded. “Unless something changes and she needs my sword.”
Niall sighed. “Part of me wishes that they would break your deal so that you could be free too.”
“But then she would be in danger,” I said. “My suffering is the,” I paused, “lesser of two evils—don’t you think?”
With another sigh, Niall nodded.
“And even if I were free,” I added, “who is to say that she would want me in her life, especially now that she has another?”
“A soul can be reborn. It can mature. Perhaps in another lifetime, it will be different.”
I shook my head. “It does not stand to reason that just because she is my soul mate that I have to be hers. And I wouldn’t want her to be different than she is.”
“What if she is your soul mate, Eric?” Niall asked.
I shrugged. “Then fate is a sadistic motherfucker.”
Niall smiled a little. “I have always liked you, Viking.”
Again, we were quiet for a few moments.
“Will you tell me the gender of the child Sookie has?” I finally asked.
“Why does it matter?” Niall asked with curiosity.
“It has all mattered—from the beginning—even though the end is not what I had wished it would be,” I said in a whisper. “It all matters to me.”
He nodded and then I heard a pop as Niall disappeared.
I sighed as I looked at the picture one last time before placing it into a Ziploc bag that I had brought along with me. I buried the image so that I could revisit it again.
I had once told Sookie during our lovemaking that what we had was “best”—that it was “right.” What I should have said was that it was “best” and “right” for me. To live a life in the sun was best and right for her. To be a mother was best and right for her. To be loved by someone who wasn’t torn in two because of duty was best and right for her.
I was not.
Feeling empty inside, I flew back into the confines of Freyda’s estate.
“Where have you been?” the beautiful Queen of Oklahoma asked when I walked in the back door. Too bad she was repellant to me.
“I was out walking, my queen,” I answered evenly. “Can I be of assistance to you this evening?”
She narrowed her eyes at me. “I have news for you—about the telepath.”
I had to put forth a great effort not to show any emotion on my face. Luckily, living with Appius all those years had taught me much.
“Oh?” I asked, though I made sure not to intone too much curiosity.
“She is with child. And she is married to the shifter you insisted not court her,” Freyda said triumphantly.
“Well,” I said, “I have always maintained that shifters ought not to be trusted, though perhaps she courted him.”
“Should I have the shifter put to death?” Freyda asked.
“The shifter’s presence in the telepath’s life no longer concerns me,” I responded evenly. “I admit that I allowed my jealousy to affect my words to the shifter three years ago, but I no longer care what he does.”
“And you are no longer jealous of him?” Freyda asked with curiosity.
“No,” I lied. “There is no cause for it.”
She studied me, looking for deceit, but I knew she would find none. For now my jealousy was hidden well—as was my love.
I bowed a little. “Will that be all my queen?”
“No,” she said somewhat petulantly. “I will expect you in my bedroom at 3:30 a.m.”
“Of course,” I said.
“I want candles and flowers,” she added.
I nodded. “It is my pleasure to give you what you wish,” I lied smoothly.
She turned and left in a huff as I called my assistant and arranged for the candles and flowers Freyda liked. Then I saw to the other duties on my agenda before going to my room to wait the half hour I had left before I was to go to Freyda.
I was not naïve. I knew that the individual Freyda had appointed as my assistant searched my room each day. But I spent my days in my coffin, which had a locking mechanism that only I could open. In it were the two possession that I held most dear and the one object I most loathed. I opened the coffin and took out the things I loved: the ceremonial knife that had bound me to my beloved and a velvet case, which housed the bullet that had been the catalyst for Sookie first taking my blood.
I held these objects in my hands for a few moments and took strength from them.
I had never wanted to fall in love. But I did love.
I had never wanted to feel jealousy consume me, but another man had the life I craved. He held my wife each night, and it was his child she carried in her womb. Yes—I loved.
I was cursed to a life where I had to choose duty over happiness. But I had learned that duty didn’t negate love. In fact, it was my duty to Sookie that had governed every single one of my actions from the moment she first took my blood in Dallas.
It didn’t matter that Sookie had never loved me as I loved her—love her. It didn’t matter that she never understood the depths of my love or how much I was willing to sacrifice.
It didn’t matter that she didn’t know how close I had come three years before to killing Freyda and Felipe and every vampire who had or would ever covet her.
In fact, only two things had stopped me from doing that. The first was that I would have failed. I was only one vampire, after all, and even with my children and allies by my side, I would have fallen eventually. But I would have tried; selfishly, I would have tried so that I could keep Sookie by my side.
But there was also the second thing.
There was the look in her eyes after Victor Madden had died. She’d hated the fact that anyone had had to die. She’d hated the fact that I wasn’t sorry—not in the least. She had mourned “her Eric” even then.
My only hope for freedom after Appius brokered of my life away was that Sookie would use the Cluviel Dor to help me, but even from my first knowledge of it, I had known that she wouldn’t. I put the knife and the bullet back into the coffin and took out the used Cluviel Dor.
It was ironic that the bullet and the dagger were both tools meant to inflict pain, but it was the Cluviel Dor—a tool for love—that had wounded me irreparably.
I turned the object over in my hands several times; it still held the faintest hint of magic. It was now a greenish black, and the gold had darkened as if burned. Sookie could have used it to free me from the hell I was now in, but she had no faith in me. She had no faith in my love for her.
That was why she had not used it for me. Looking back, I couldn’t begrudge her for that decision. I had not done enough to show her that I loved her above everything else. I had let my now-gone pride get in the way. And—inarguably—because she’d still had the Cluviel Dor, she had been able to save the shifter’s life. And now there was a life growing in her which was half him.
Her choice had been the “best” one for her—the “right” one for her.
I hated the object in my hands. It had caused me to have hope for a few hours one night. Its existence had compelled me to see a path which would have enabled me to stay with my beloved. I had imagined bonding with her again—properly—with no deception or reservations. I had imagined marrying her in a human ceremony. I had imagined a full life with her.
But—even that full life would have led to my heart breaking with her death. That was, after all, the nature of love—even love that endured. Especially love that could not die.
I put the used and useless Cluviel Dor back into my coffin. As much as I hated it, I loved it too. It had allowed Sookie to have her “happily ever after,” even as it had stolen away my hopes.
I sighed. The happiest time of my life had been when Sookie and I were bonded to each other—when I could feel her life force inside of me. Now, there was only an emptiness—an ache.
But, while Sookie had been a part of me and when I had been part of her, I had experienced nights that rivaled any happiness I had ever heard about. Just being with her was all it took to light the whole fucking night.
On one such night, while she was still recovering from the torture inflicted on her by Neave and Lochlan, we had lain together on her couch, spooned together and as close as two beings could get. That night, we had spent hours watching old Audrey Hepburn movies. Sookie loved them almost as much as Gone with the Wind. We watched Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade. My favorite of the three had been Roman Holiday. Later, I realized why. Sookie had been my holiday from the night.
But now I had to get back to work in order to keep her safe. I made sure the coffin was locked and then started toward Freyda’s room.
I recalled a quote by Audrey Hepburn as I walked through the lush palace. The actress turned stateswoman had once said something very wise when someone had called her acts of charity selfless. She had told them that she acted according to “that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first and you come second. This was the whole ethic by which I was brought up. Others matter more than you do, so ‘don’t fuss, dear; get on with it’.”
I steeled myself and got on with it.
“But he’s not mine, Felipe,” Freyda whined. “He won’t love me no matter what I do!”
“I don’t know how you expect me to help,” the Nevada king said with a sigh. “I ordered him to be your husband, but I cannot order him to love you.”
“Why can’t we just kill her?” Freyda pouted, asking the question she’d asked a thousand times before.
“Because that would negate the agreement we made with him,” Felipe answered.
“But if the little bitch were to die of natural causes? Perhaps during childbirth?” the Oklahoma queen asked.
“I do not want to hear such things,” Felipe snapped. “And I will not be involved in them.”
The king hung up and sat down heavily in his posh leather chair. In truth, he regretted giving Eric up to Freyda as he had, but Oklahoma had paid him a lot of money—was still paying him a lot of money. And there was the alliance they had made too. Felipe had needed that accord to shore up his kingships of Arkansas and Louisiana.
Sookie had saved his life, but was she worth the political capital he would lose if he intervened on her behalf? Felipe didn’t think so. The telepath had proven to be more trouble than she was worth time and time again.
In fact, it might be best if Freyda killed Sookie, as long as the queen made it look like she had died of natural causes. That would ensure that no other enterprising vampire could steal the telepath and use her against him or his allies. He had always been wary that Northman would use her against him; at least that was no longer a possibility now that the Viking was caged in Oklahoma.
Still—Felipe was torn. If Northman found out about a plot—either before or after it occurred—there would be hell to pay. Felipe knew that the only thing currently keeping the Viking in check was his desire to see Sookie Stackhouse safe.
Eric Northman truly loved Sookie; that was what worried Felipe the most. The king had seen human empires fall because of love. He had seen Were packs decimated. He had seen vampires raze entire cities—all in the name of love.
Felipe sighed and left a message for his maker. He would need her council no matter what he chose to do. The tone in Freyda’s voice indicated that she had reached her breaking point and would attempt to kill the telepath. If Felipe allowed that to happen, it could open a can of worms. Of course, if Felipe warned Eric Northman of the potential danger to the telepath, there would be other kinds of fall-out.
Felipe sighed. “What a fucking mess,” he muttered to himself. “Fucking love!” he added with a shake of his head. Love made people—especially vampires—go berserk at times. And Felipe did not want to deal with the Viking in that state. He didn’t think he would survive it. Hell—he wondered if anyone would.
Felipe took a deep, unnecessary breath and decided that he would call Freyda again after he spoke to his maker the next night. Hopefully, he could talk the overly emotional queen down from the ledge—so to speak.
The King of Nevada put the matter out of his mind as he selected a delicious-smelling redhead from his stable of donors.
For the night, Eric was confined and docile. And there was, after all, no need to worry about problems until they actually existed.
Go to Part 2 of the Enduring Series, “Uncovering,” by clicking the banner.