“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”—Henry David Thoreau
Last time: Eric felt something inside of him slipping away, even as a scarlet tear slipped from his eye. He should have been ashamed for showing such emotion in front of the fairy, but he was unable to control his sorrow, just as he was unable to stop the feeling of emptiness that was already throbbing in his un-beating heart.
He watched as Niall took Sookie’s hand. And then—with a loud pop—they were gone.
Eric was on his knees before the echo of the popping sound had left the room.
The words that fell from his lips were a surprise to him—and they were too late for her.
“Ek elska hana,” he whispered in the language of his father and mother. [“I love her.”]
The realization that he’d fallen in love with Sookie brought more blood tears to Eric’s eyes. The pain of her leaving jarred a place deep inside of himself, and a feeling of emptiness flooded him from that place.
He closed his eyes and attempted to “get used to” the physical feeling of the uncomfortable aching. He’d heard before that human hearts could “break” to the point that humans would endure physical pain from it, but he’d not expected that to be able to happen to a vampire. Apparently, he’d been wrong.
Seeing the phone Brady had constructed for him lying on the coffee table, the vampire reached out and picked it up with a shaking hand. Had it been possible, he would have held his breath as he turned on the phone. Sookie had been wearing the ponytail holder with the tracking chip. Eric quickly pushed the button to activate it. He sighed loudly as an error message popped up on the screen. He’d not expected to find a map marking her location—but he realized that he had been praying for a miracle. However, Sookie was now as far away from him as she could be, and no technology that he could obtain would find her. That hard truth made the mighty Viking do something he’d done only two other times. On a cold, hard floor next to his human father’s dead body. On a rooftop in Dallas.
It was several hours later when he rose to his feet and went into the kitchen. The feeling of emptiness inside of him was no less painful, but the vampire knew he had to move nonetheless. He needed to gather his supplies together and leave the house in Slidell right at sunset the next night, for the concealment spell on the property was due to run its course during the afternoon on the day after that.
Eric opened the refrigerator door and almost fell to his knees again. Instead of being greeted by bottles of TrueBlood or even the usual bagged blood he’d been drinking, he was met with a bag of A+ blood, obviously obtained by Amelia at Sookie’s request. He took the blood—his favorite human flavor—out of the refrigerator and examined the appliance’s other contents. There were ingredients present for a fried chicken meal; in fact, the chicken was already soaking in some kind of marinating liquid. He closed his eyes as he realized that Sookie had planned things so that they would both have their favorite meals on their last night in the Slidell house. He pulled out a glass from the cabinet and heated some of the blood Sookie had procured for him, despite the fact that he knew that it would taste sour that night.
He shook himself as he tried not to spill additional tears. He already felt a little weak from blood loss, and he had many things to do before the next evening—too many things to do to be able to afford more time wallowing in his misery.
The first item on his agenda was a call to Desmond Cataliades. Eric downed his glass of blood quickly and then dialed his phone.
The demon answered on the first ring.
“Northman,” Cataliades said, sounding a little concerned.
“Did you know that Niall Brigant planned to take Sookie to the fairy realm?” Eric asked without preamble.
The lawyer sighed. “He took her?”
“I did not know,” Cataliades said. “Did he tell you why?”
Eric kept his tone emotionless—even as pain gripped his heart. “Apparently, I inadvertently caused the fairy spark within Sookie to come to life, making her vulnerable to being found by Niall’s enemies. The fact that she had vampire blood in her mitigated that threat, but—according to the fairy—it would have been only a matter of time until his enemies found her once we left the protection afforded by the spell around this house.
“I did not know, Eric,” Cataliades reiterated. “You know I am not a particular fan of the Fae—though I have worked for the Brigants on occasion.”
“Did you know Niall was her great-grandfather?”
“Yes,” the demon admitted, his voice sounding tired. “I knew Fintan. But I also knew that Niall had left Sookie alone in this realm until now. I never imagined he would take her. I did not know the spark within her had come to life.”
Eric sighed deeply. He believed the demon was speaking the truth, and he couldn’t blame him for the situation either. It was the fault of his own greed that had made him lose Sookie. Then again, he had a feeling that Niall would have found Sookie whether he’d ask Cataliades to track the fairy down or not. Once they left the Slidell house, she would have apparently been exposed to both Niall and his enemies. From the moment the severing spell was complete, they had been unknowingly living together on borrowed time.
Eric closed his eyes tightly. It was an impossible situation. If the severing spell had not been done, Bill could have found Sookie. With no vampire blood in her now that the spark had come to life, the Fae could find her. Eric now wished that he’d left some of his own blood inside of her, but what would have that done to Sookie’s trust in him and in her own feelings?
“How will this change your plans?” the demon asked, interrupting Eric’s circular thinking.
“I am not sure yet,” Eric admitted, “though the likelihood of my ultimate success just went down.”
“It was already quite low,” the demon stated truthfully.
The vampire held in his sigh. “At least Sookie will be safer now.”
“You do care for her—just as my goddaughter said.”
“That no longer matters,” Eric responded, even as he used a dishtowel to wipe another bloody tear from his eye. “I will leave at first dark tomorrow. I will contact you when I am at my next stop. Have you had any luck finding Klymene?”
“No,” the demon reported. “There has been no trace of her since the early 1800’s. Are you sure she is still among the un-dead?”
“No,” Eric admitted. “Godric never mentioned her dying, but—as you know—there were many things he did not mention to me, especially in his final years.”
“Pam?” the demon asked. “Does she yet live?”
“Our bond is still alive,” Eric said, not giving too much away. Not even Cataliades knew of her whereabouts. Eric had kept all of Pam’s arrangements separate. He trusted the demon, but he’d learned long ago never to put all of his eggs into one basket.
“That is good,” the demon said.
“Niall spoke of Sookie’s cousin Hadley having a child. I know only that his name is Hunter. I do not know his surname.” Eric paused. “Hunter has inherited telepathy, but no spark, so Niall doesn’t seem to give a shit about him. I estimate that he is around the age of four or five—maybe six. I need you to find him.”
“Hmm,” Cataliades sounded. “That shouldn’t be too difficult if Hadley gave birth to her son in a hospital.”
“I promised Sookie that I would make sure that Hunter did not have the problems she did when she was a child.”
“What do you wish me to do?” the demon asked. “I assume it is not to reunite him with his mother.” Eric heard the shuffling of papers and knew from Cataliades’s tone that he was now in lawyer-mode.
“No,” Eric said quickly. “Hadley is the reason Sophie-Anne knew of Sookie; it is dumb luck that she didn’t tell the queen of Hunter before Niall erased her memory of him. I believe the boy is living with his father,” Eric relayed. “Once he is found, have the father approached. Sookie would not want the child and parent separated—unless that would be necessary for the child’s wellbeing. I will leave that decision up to you, but if the father is a good one, he will want to help his child if Hunter is showing signs of being a telepath. I would like for you to arrange for that help—or for an appropriate family to take in Hunter if his father is found lacking.”
“A demon family, I assume?” Cataliades asked.
“Preferably. Or Were. Sookie cannot hear them as well.”
Eric could hear the scratching of the lawyer’s pen. “There is a demon of my acquaintance who has taught several telepaths among the Dae how to use that gift. Telepathy is not as common among us as it is with the Fae, so Finola is currently between pupils. However, her price is very high.”
“My account in Switzerland?” Eric asked. “Would that be adequate?”
“Yes,” Cataliades said, “much more than adequate.”
“Good,” Eric said. “You can earmark that entire account for the child. And—if more is needed—use the one in Singapore.”
Eric heard more scratching from a pen.
“I will find the child and arrange for the father to be screened,” the demon rehashed, obviously double-checking to make sure he understood the Viking’s wishes. “If he is an acceptable parent for the boy, I will arrange for Finola to speak to the father and then begin teaching the child. If the father is found wanting, I will arrange for a place for Hunter to stay while Finola works with him.”
“Sookie would want for Hunter to have,” Eric paused, “a family, so make sure that if he is placed somewhere else, it is with people who will come to love him—people who would be willing to treat the child as their own.”
“Understood,” Cataliades said. “There should be plenty of money in the Swiss account to fund his upbringing and pay for Finola’s contract. Should I set up a trust for the boy with the remainder?”
“Yes,” Eric said. “And just add the money from the Singapore account to it too. I never want the child to have to struggle financially.”
“That’s a lot of money,” the demon observed quietly.
“And I have a lot more,” Eric said just as quietly. “Should I live, I will make contact with Hunter when he is of age; otherwise, I would prefer that he not be put into the paths of vampires—if that can be helped. He is only one-sixteenth Fae, but his blood might still attract my kind.”
“I will do all I can to keep his telepathy and Fae heritage a secret. I will have Finola sign her usual confidentiality agreement; the Dae are extremely reticent about their gifts as well, so if he is placed with a Dae family, he will be well-insulated. And I will ask my goddaughter about the possibility of having scent inhibitors made up for the boy if he is ever in situations where he might encounter vampires.”
“Good. I will be in touch tomorrow night for a report.” Eric hung up the phone and then dialed Octavia.
“How long have you known that Niall would be coming tonight, witch?” he asked harshly.
“You were dee one to initiate contact with the fairy,” she returned.
“Did you know he would take Sookie to Faerie with him?”
“Did he?” Octavia asked, her tone conveying astonishment. “I wouldn’t have thought it possible.”
“Explain!” Eric demanded.
“Apparently, I was wrong,” she said instead. “But—no—I did not even know she had dee power of light until earlier today when I saw it. And by den, it was too late to stop Niall from coming to you.”
“But you knew she was Fae?” he asked.
“Yes. Niall contacted Desmond, who told him how to make contact with me. Dee fairy came to me soon after. I told him dat he’d best not separate you and dee child until her healing was done. I’m afraid he used his own magic on me, so I could say nothing to you—until he permitted it. I believe he used a similar spell on my godfather. I told you and Sookie of Niall’s impending visit as soon as the fairy permitted it.”
They were silent for a moment.
“He took her,” Eric said, his heartbreak evident.
“I am sorry, Eric—so sorry,” Octavia said sadly.
Eric closed his eyes and wiped away more tears. He composed himself. “You did not bring the items I requested.”
“I will have dem to you at first dark tomorrow,” Octavia said before hanging up.
Eric ran his hand through his hair and warmed up more blood. He made himself go slower with this glass, and he tried to savor the flavor that Sookie had arranged for him to have.
He closed his eyes and imagined her sitting next to him, unapologetically eating her fried chicken with her hands and then washing it down with her beloved sweet tea.
After he was done with his meal, he rinsed his glass and put the remaining blood into the refrigerator to drink before he left the next night.
Slowly, as if a monster from his childhood nightmares were waiting to hurt him, the Viking climbed the stairs and went into the room he’d shared with Sookie for the previous twelve days. He could not remember a fortnight which had been so long and yet so short. He could not remember one that had meant more to him.
To preserve Sookie’s scent on his body for as long as possible, he decided that he would shower when he rose the next night, but he did wash the dried blood from his face. Blood had gotten onto his shirt as well, but he did not want to take off the garment yet since Sookie’s scent clung so richly to it.
He looked around the bathroom. Sookie had obviously begun packing her things in preparation of them leaving. Many of her hygiene products were already in a clear bag next to the sink. He left the bathroom and looked around the bedroom. Sookie’s clothing was all folded neatly and waiting for the small suitcase that Amelia was to bring. Eric had noticed the suitcase downstairs and quickly retrieved it. He also saw that there was a shopping bag next to it, so he picked that up too.
When he got back upstairs, he opened the suitcase and then emptied the shopping bag. There were a few more pieces of clothing and some more shampoo and conditioner. He zipped into the bathroom to collect the rest of Sookie’s hygiene products and then added the shampoo and conditioner to the bag.
Having been specially made, the suitcase had a false bottom. Eric opened that and then retrieved the various IDs he’d had made up for Sookie. He looked through the pictures. Brady had used several different pictures to create the various IDs. Eric chose his two favorites and put them to the side before placing the other IDs into the false bottom of the suitcase. He knew that he had the pictures on his disposable phone, but he would have to replace that soon. Plus, he wanted images of his beloved in a more tactile form.
Next, Eric packed the new clothing Amelia had brought before getting the folded pile of items from the dresser. All of the items had been washed since Sookie had last worn them except for a sweater that she would pull on every time she was cold. That garment held her scent the strongest. Eric put it to the side as well. After he’d gathered all of her clothing, he placed her bathroom items and her other pair of shoes into the suitcase.
That done, he went to the purse Amelia had brought Sookie the week before and dumped its contents onto the bed. He thumbed through them before picking up the cherry-flavored lip gloss she liked to wear. The taste of it was still on his lips, and he put the little tube with the sweater and the IDs before checking the driver’s license that Sookie had put into her wallet to work as her first new identity when they left the Slidell house. “Katherine Miller,” he said out loud.
Finding that the picture matched one that he’d taken already, he put that ID back into its place. Then he went to the nightstand on his side of the bed and pulled out a large wad of bills. He put several thousand dollars into Sookie’s billfold before putting all of her belongings, as well as the book she’d been reading, into her purse. He moved her packed suitcase and purse to the side of the room and then began to pack his own things.
He didn’t have much. He wouldn’t need much. He used the duffle bag he’d had before and quickly packed all of his belongings, except for one change of clothing. As he did, he noticed that all of his clothes—except for the boxer-briefs he’d worn to bed—had been laundered. He knew that Sookie must have done the chore earlier in the day.
He stopped for a moment and closed his eyes. He inhaled unneeded air into his lungs and then exhaled it slowly.
After opening his eyes, he packed the things he was going to keep of Sookie’s. This chore completed, he moved quickly around the house, gathering the things that they had been planning to take with them. Most of those things were books that Amelia had been collecting for them.
After boxing those up and loading them into the hatchback of the Prius, Eric wandered into the living room and stared into the barely orange embers of the fire he’d built at the beginning of the night.
The fire had gone out.
He found some paper and a pen and then went into the formal dining room. He’d not been into that room so far that night since he and Sookie didn’t really use it. When he looked at the table, he felt more bloody tears rise to his eyes and then fall down his cheeks. She’d set out two places for the meal she’d planned. She’d put candles onto the table and there was a book of matches next to them. Eric retrieved another dishtowel from the kitchen and then returned to the dining room, where he lit the candles and turned off the lights.
Then he wiped his eyes and sat down to write:
Sookie, my love,
You are gone from me now, and I fear that your great-grandfather will hold to his word and keep you forever from this realm. I do not know why I write, knowing that your eyes will likely never see this page.
But I find that now that I have discovered that I do love you, I cannot leave this place where I fell in love with you without the hope that I might see you once more. Without that, I could not do what I must do; I could not face my fate with Russell.
I do not know what human time in relation to Faerie time is right now. You have been gone from my side for seven hours and fourteen minutes here. Yet it feels longer than a thousand years in many ways. My soul is empty now that you are no longer in this world. I had not even known I had one until you entered my life. And now I will—I fear—forever feel the pain of your not being with me to fill it again, for that is what you did, little one. You gave me a soul and then you filled it with your light.
Earlier today, you literally put your light into me. I will never forget the feeling of that. I will never forget what it felt like to kiss you or to tell you about my long life. I will never forget the feeling of your body leaned against mine as we bathed together. I will remember everything, Sookie. And—if I am lucky enough to go to Valhalla when I am finally done with my vampire life—I hope that I will take the memory of you with me there as well, for no Valkyrie could ever compare to your beauty.
I feel so far from you and myself as I write this. I know not whether the hours I have spent without you have been seconds or decades to you in the fairy realm. Are you even still alive? Or has time—as well as distance—already taken you from me?
I cannot think of these things past tonight—not if I hope to live to outlast time itself. Perhaps one day Niall’s enemies will all be gone, and he will let you go. I intend to write another note to you as well—one that I will give to Mr. Cataliades in the hopes that he will get it to you through Niall. That one will lead you to this one if you get it.
I have left your belongings, including your IDs, in your suitcase. I will arrange for another car to be left in the garage. If weeks are minutes there, then perhaps you will come back here someday. I am including Mr. Cataliades’s phone number in this letter. If you are reading this and I am still among the un-dead, he will be able to find me. I will also keep the tracking device with me at all times, and I am leaving you your phone. I will check each night when I rise to see if you have returned to this realm, and if you have, I will come for you.
You told me that you’d fallen in love with me. I will carry those words with me until I am no more.
I did not answer you as I should have. But I learned something when you were ripped from me. I can love. I do love. And I will fight the true death every day of my existence just so that I may one day have the opportunity to tell you that in person. For now, my written words will have to do.
I love you, Sookie.
Eric folded the letter into thirds and then set it aside before picking up another piece of paper. On it, he wrote a much shorter letter, knowing that it would pass through Niall’s hands before Sookie saw it—if she ever saw it.
I miss you.
If this finds you, I want you to know that your personal items are still in our home in Slidell. In our bedroom.
I will always think of it as ours—and you as mine. (Though I am certain you would fight me on that.)
Could has become do.
The vampire sealed the shorter letter in an envelope and addressed it to Sookie before blowing out the candles and taking the longer letter to the bedroom. He put Sookie’s specially-made phone and the letter into her purse. He put his own phone and his Thor’s Hammer pin on his nightstand before picking up the wristband. It had been a successful test—enough silver to awaken him. The dosage had hurt, but his body had already been healing itself when Sookie shot him with her light.
Yes. It had been a successful test—of the wristband. But it had also led to the most perfect kisses of his life. He placed the wristband into his bag and glanced at the pictures of Sookie on his phone before stripping off his clothing. Out of a habit that had formed due to Sookie’s modesty, he left on his boxer briefs. Then he settled into her side of the bed and buried his nose into her pillow.
The pillowcase was streaked with blood long before he died for the day.
A/N: Thanks for everyone who has already “favorited,” “followed,” or commented on this story already! I’m so glad that many of you have followed from Uninvited. For those of you who are worried about the length of time Eric and Sookie will be apart—please don’t panic. It’s been only one chapter so far! Give me a few more to get some new plot-points rolling before you threaten to jump ship.