A/N: This chapter includes references to the abuse perpetrated against Sookie by Uncle Bartlett. It is not overly graphic; however, be cautioned.
Also, I need to issue a Kleenex warning. I needed a few to get through this chapter.
“Before the throne of the Almighty, man will be judged not by his acts but by his intentions. For God alone reads our hearts.”—Mahatma Gandhi
Last Time: “Sookie, I know that you would gladly exchange yourself for any of your family members, but I am glad you are here and are still alive.”
“Yes. And it is time that you honor the people you love by protecting yourself with as much fierceness as you try to protect them. And that is not just about protecting yourself from harm, little one. It is about protecting,” he paused, “the inner part of yourself—your heart.”
“I’ll try,” Sookie said, brushing a tear from her eye. “But you need to go to sleep before I really start cryin’—okay? Crying and driving don’t mix.”
“Okay,” he relented, “but think about what I have said.”
“I will,” she promised as she placed her right hand flat over the passenger’s seat. “Have a good sleep, Eric.”
“I will see you soon, little one,” Eric said before dying for the day.
Sookie kept her promise to Eric as she thought about the events in her life that had led her to where she was.
“You’re right, Eric,” she sighed, looking at the empty passenger seat.
Her “default” setting was to blame herself. She’d been conditioned to do that—after all. Her mother had blamed her for most—if not all—of the problems in their family.
When her parents had been killed, Sookie had blamed herself. After all, the night they’d died, they’d been trying to get away from her. How could she not blame herself?
When Uncle Bartlett had touched her inappropriately, his very thoughts had blamed her. How could she not blame herself for that too? She was too young—too innocent—to know better.
For as long as she could remember, friends and family members alike had blamed her when she heard their thoughts—as if she could do anything to keep them out. But Sookie still took on the blame, and she had pushed herself to always be better—to better cover up the part of herself that made her “abnormal.”
The number of times she’d failed had eaten at her every single day of her life—until the days she’d spent with Eric in Slidell.
Only there had she felt peace.
Sookie sighed. Yes—when things went wrong, her automatic response was to point a blaming finger inward. A tear fell from her eye. The moment Gran had died, she had blamed herself. And then Jason’s thoughts had screamed out similar blaming.
Truth be told, she’d also been blaming herself for Bill being able to so easily take advantage of her and get his blood into her. If she’d just not been so naïve, then she would have seen through him. If she’d not been so weak and desperate for any kind of affection, she would have “felt” the influence of his blood in her. Maybe—if she would have been smarter and better—Gran would still be alive.
“So much blame,” Sookie said softly.
She couldn’t help but to wonder if she would ever get to the point that she didn’t blame herself for the deaths which had occurred around her—at least a little. She knew that she was not in control of most of the things that had happened, and it was useless to wish that she’d been born without the Fae spark or her telepathy—even though she’d certainly never wanted those things.
But the truth was that those things—the same things that had made her feel so ostracized from everyone else—were also the root of so much harm to the people she’d loved most.
Her mom’s unhappiness and drinking had stemmed from Sookie being “abnormal,” and—yes—maybe her mom should have accepted her child any way she came, but how could Sookie blame her mother for her wish to have a normal daughter.
Apparently, her parents’ deaths had been carried out by fairies that Sookie certainly hadn’t meant to attract. But those murderers were in the human realm for only one thing: to kill her. She felt another tear running down her cheek as she thought about her dad—so kind and always trying to take care of his family the best way he knew how. He was the one who would come into her room at night to try to comfort her when she’d had nightmares. He would check the room for snakes because she was scared. And then he would sit with her for hours so that she could sleep. But his mind had not worried about snakes. His mind had worried about the fact that he felt his beloved wife crumbling because of the daughter he also loved so much. He’d worried more and more that he would have to choose between them. Near the time of her parents’ deaths, Sookie knew from her parents’ minds that her mom had nearly convinced her dad that the best place for her would be an institution where doctors could “help” her. It’s what her mother sincerely thought would be best for Sookie—and for the whole family.
Sookie knew intellectually that none of the strife in her family had been intentionally caused by her. But she was also acutely aware of the fact that unintentional harm could cause just as much damage as intentional harm. For as long as she could remember, she had tried to hide her telepathy so that she wouldn’t cause that harm. But it had still negatively affected every relationship she’d ever had.
Tara had once spent almost a year not talking to her because Sookie had “heard” that Lettie-Mae hit her and had told Gran, who—of course—had confronted Lettie-Mae, who—of course—had beaten Tara more. Gran had then called the police in to check on the situation, but they couldn’t prove anything. In fact, not wanting to be sent to an orphanage, Tara had lied to Sheriff Dearborn and had claimed that her bruises had come from a fight she’d been in at school. Sookie and Tara had been nine when that happened. Sookie had been trying to protect her friend, but all her “help” had managed to do was to make Lettie-Mae even more violent. After Tara finally started talking to her again, Sookie pretended not to “hear” the bad things in Tara’s head, though she made sure she invited Tara over a lot. After that, Tara stayed at Gran’s almost more than at her own home, but she’d been as “safe” as Sookie could make her.
Lafayette had spent a long time avoiding Sookie as well. Because of her gift, she was the first person to learn that Lafayette was gay, but he wasn’t ready for others to know yet. He could tell that she had “heard” his secret because he’d been fantasizing—rather explicitly—about Jason, and she’d been unable to hide her surprise. He’d told her to mind her own fucking business and to keep her damned mouth shut! Of course, Sookie had done just that, but Lafayette had looked at her as if she’d betrayed him nonetheless. Sookie had been ten years old at the time. It wasn’t until Lafayette felt comfortable enough coming out and being himself publically that he’d once again welcomed Sookie into his life.
As the miles drifted behind her, Sookie thought of countless examples when her telepathy had been the root of unintentional harm to others.
“So much blame,” she said aloud again.
Judgment and fear—these were the things that Sookie’s telepathy had brought to her from the people she’d most loved. Or—if she was lucky—it was their pity that she would earn because of her curse.
Until Bill. He hadn’t shunned her for her telepathy. He’d come to her with an offer of fake love because of her telepathy. And—just like that—her curse had become a commodity that vampires wanted to use.
“Even you saw me first as an asset,” she whispered, patting the passenger seat.
She sighed as she thought about the men who had shown interest in her romantically. With the tie to Bill gone, she knew that the euphoria she’d often felt with him had been fueled by his blood and his manipulation of her feelings. Had she had any experience with falling in love before Bill came into her life, she might have understood that his love wasn’t real. But she’d been naïve—ignorant.
She blinked away a tear, recognizing once again that she was blaming her own deficiencies for Bill’s duplicity. She shook her head.
She wondered if she could have found happiness if she’d have tried a relationship with Sam. After all, it was harder for her to “hear” him. But even though she’d sensed that Sam had wanted to pursue her, she’d not encouraged him. She hadn’t wanted to ruin the best job she’d ever had by getting involved with her boss. Plus, she did “hear” him, especially when he touched her. Moreover, the harsh truth was that she and Sam could have never worked out because he had hidden himself from her. She’d trusted him with her own secret. He’d known that she felt different because of her “curse”—isolated and alone. Yet he’d never given her an equal amount of trust—or fidelity with another “different” individual.
And Sookie was tired of being left in the dark about everything. Even her family—even her name—was a lie.
She thought again about her “relationship” with Bill. Looking at it with open eyes and her own thoughts, she recognized that they’d had one fight after another during their short relationship. And they had broken up more than once.
Yet she’d continued to be drawn to him like a moth to the flame. While she would question his behavior almost constantly during the day, she would rarely have similar thoughts at night—unless something very disturbing had happened.
After she’d met Malcolm and his crew at Bill’s home, she’d been scared to death of Bill, who had sat in a corner of the room and had watched his vampire “friends” practically molest her. He’d also almost drunk from their human—and would have if she’d not warned him of the Hep-D. She thought of all the times she’d gone against her own common sense and reason to forgive him and to believe in him. At the time, she’d thought that it was because she loved him—because she “knew” him deep down inside. Now she understood that it was Bill manipulating the blood of a girl so desperate to have someone to love that she couldn’t question why she was falling for him so quickly and so obsessively. She thought about the dreams that she’d had of Bill—both during the daytime and at night. They’d all been disturbing in one way or another, yet she’d never questioned them.
But every single one of them had ratcheted up her fear—even the one she’d had of him before she’d had his blood. In that one, she’d gone down to meet him in her yard. He’d snuck up on her and, then, without a word, he’d started to undress. When she’d remarked that she couldn’t believe that they were about to have sex, he’d lowered his fangs. She would never forget his words, “Who said anything about sex?”
She’d woken up scared of him—scared to death.
Her second dream about Bill had been after she’d had his blood. She’d gone to him—almost begging him to take her virginity. Now, she understood well why fear and lust had been so prevalent in that dream. Hell—she’d even admitted to being scared to death of him. So why had she just “known” that he was the one she should “give herself” to?
She scoffed. His blood.
Another of her blood-influenced dreams had found Bill making her breakfast and then going up in a ball of flame. She’d been so frightened of losing him that she’d been even more pliable to his influence after that.
Fear had been one of the emotions she’d never felt in her dreams of Eric, and—that—more than anything else, told the story of the differences between the vampires.
She placed her hand, once again, onto the passenger seat.
“I wonder what you would say if I told you,” she whispered, as she turned her thoughts to another dream she’d had because of Bill—a dream that she now knew was the first woven dream he’d sent her.
She’d had it on the worst day of her life—the day of Gran’s funeral. She’d just lost the only person who had ever truly accepted her—the only one. Her brother outwardly blamed her for Gran’s death. And her friends were inwardly thinking that she was responsible—at least, partially—too. And—of course—pretty much everyone at Gran’s funeral blamed her as well. She would never forget their thoughts. They all centered on one major idea: If not for “the freak,” Adele would be alive. And then Uncle Bartlett had arrived—right before Sookie had been called up to speak. All that she’d been able to think about was that the young man pushing his wheelchair seemed very young indeed. And then Jason had told her that he’d invited their uncle. And then she’d heard Uncle Bartlett’s twisted thoughts—for the first time in almost twenty years. He’d been thinking about how it was a shame that “little girls” had to grow up.
Yes—that was the worst day of her life. And—unbeknownst to her—Bill had already sent her a woven dream, and all that she’d needed to do to activate it was to fall asleep.
The day had driven her to her knees—figuratively and literally. And, after she’d finished off the pecan pie—the last thing her grandmother had made—she’d lain down.
And she’d slept.
Her dream had begun with Uncle Bartlett just staring at her from the chair he used to sit in when he was “visiting,” a chair that was still in the living room—though Sookie never sat in it. Understandably, Sookie had been frightened in her dream. Uncle Bartlett had crooked his finger for her, signaling that he wanted her to come and sit on his lap. Sookie had felt herself shaking her head—even in her sleep—but she’d not been able to wake herself up.
And then Uncle Bartlett had changed and was suddenly Bill. That alteration had disturbed her even more than the pedophile who had been gawking at her, especially since Bill was also sitting in the chair Uncle Bartlett had been in.
Sookie shivered and gripped the steering wheel tighter. Her fears in the dream had been replaced by lust for Bill, and—suddenly—the only thing she’d wanted to do was to give herself to Bill. The juxtaposition of the fear and shame over Bartlett and the lust over Bill had finally shaken Sookie out of her sleep. At the time, she’d thought she was sick for having such a dream—deranged—and her uncle’s voice had rung out at her from her memories.
“You like me touching you. I know you like it,” her uncle would coo as he’d touched her legs and her undeveloped breasts. “You know you like sitting on Uncle Barlett’s lap and playing. You know I only touch you because you want me to.”
When she’d woken up from her dream, the only thing that she could imagine that would take away that voice—as well as her own self-loathing over Gran’s death—was Bill. She’d felt desperate to go to him as soon as the sun set. She’d felt the intense need to give him her body, knowing that he would make her feel better and erase the things that Uncle Bartlett had said—and done—to her. She just knew that Bill would be able to take away the fear of sex that she had always had because of Uncle Bartlett’s thoughts about her—that Bill would make sex “pure” because he loved her.
She had been shaking—from both fear and desire—as she’d found the nightgown that would make her look most like the “pure” bride she felt that she desperately needed to be for Bill. She’d not “thought” about what she was doing as she’d taken the garment from Gran’s dresser. She couldn’t “think” about it. She could only prepare to give herself to Bill.
No—to offer herself.
She’d been so afraid of what would happen if she didn’t.
So desperately afraid.
And, as soon as the sun had set, she had offered herself. She’d run through the graveyard to Bill as if her body and soul were on fire. She’d not even spared a look toward the freshly shoveled dirt on top of Gran’s grave.
Now, Sookie could recognize that her actions that day had been because of a woven dream sent by Bill. As soon as she’d been strong enough to think things through following the severing spell, she’d known that the woven dream that had propelled her down the Interstate from Slidell to Shreveport wasn’t the first she’d experienced. But she hadn’t been able to tell Eric about her first woven dream—not even during their perfect week as they’d shared their histories with each other. Of that night—of the night Bill had taken her virginity—she’d been too ashamed.
Rationally, Sookie recognized that her feelings of shame were probably akin to what a rape victim might feel. After all, through the dream and through his blood, Bill had stripped Sookie of her own free will, even as he’d stripped her of her virginal white nightgown. However, the guilt and the shame regarding that night still lingered in Sookie.
And then there were the unrelenting questions that she pummeled herself with—over and over again.
Could she have done anything differently? Could have she stopped Bill from manipulating her? Why did she have to be so defective? Why did she have to be the perfect target for Bill?”
Once more, she sighed and placed her hand back onto the passenger seat.
“I know what you would say,” she said with a tiny smile as she thought of Eric’s beautiful face underneath the seat cushion. “You would tell me that none of that was my fault—just as none of my family’s deaths were my fault.” She sighed again. “Maybe you’re right,” she added to the sleeping vampire. “I suppose I’ll have to keep working on really getting myself to believe it though. But because of you,” she paused, “I think that—maybe—I’m on my way.”
She patted the seat. “Thank you, Eric.”
Sookie was silent for a few minutes as she caressed the soft leather of the seat. “I’m scared,” she admitted. “I’m so scared that the Fae bond has taken away my free will again. And—I’m especially scared that it’s taken away yours.” A tear fell from her eye. “I don’t want to unintentionally rape you, Eric,” she whispered. “And—if we made love because of the Fae bond, wouldn’t I be doing just that?”
She shook her head. “I know you wanted to have sex with me before that—to fuck me,” she said, reddening even as she called the physical act of sex by its most common vernacular name. “But if we just,” she paused, “fucked, it would hurt me. And if we made love, how could I be sure that I wasn’t taking that from you—against your will?”
She wiped away a tear and continued. “Oh, Eric—I never want to take anything else from you. If I did that,” she paused, “then I would truly become the monster most people always thought I was.”
She brushed away another tear and took a long ragged breath before straightening her posture and glanced into the rearview mirror.
She laughed ruefully, knowing that—if she were in a movie—this would be the part when she would have an epiphany about her predicament and a moment of self-forgiveness. But neither of those things happened. Another tear fell—this one because of self-pity.
“Get ahold of your, Sookie!” she chastised herself. “You still have two hours left to drive, and—like you told Eric, cryin’ and drivin’ don’t mix.” She took another deep breath and turned on the radio.
She shuffled through the channels for a while before settling on a baseball game. The commentary was just enough to keep her interested and—more importantly—to keep her from sinking back into her thoughts.
She needed a break.
So she took one.
Sookie stopped only once on the drive from Houston to Fredericksburg. She chose another small café, and she bought some black bean chili to go, knowing that she’d be at her destination in an hour.
She didn’t see a camera in the café, but she kept her head down anyway.
The rest of the way to the safe house, she worked on using her telepathy as she drove. She stretched out her gift to the others on the highway, getting short snippets of thoughts from them as if she were scrolling through Jason’s plethora of channels on his satellite television.
And, after getting Eric safely into the garage at Fredericksburg, she stretched out her telepathy even more—pushing herself to go further than she ever had before. There were a lot of people close by since the neighborhood was closely packed with apartments. And there was even a school within her range, and—being a Wednesday around lunchtime, the building was bustling. But she didn’t let this stop her from practicing her skill—despite the headache it generated. She made herself pause at each mind, confirming that no one had any thoughts that indicated that he or she was a danger to the vampire sleeping in the car.
That almost-hour-long task completed, she grabbed the chili she’d bought and took it inside, deciding that she would eat before doing anything else. She hated eating out of Styrofoam containers, so she transferred her meal into a bowl and warmed it in the microwave.
After her meal, she took her suitcase into the only furnished bedroom. She looked around the duplex, wondering where Eric would sleep since none of the few rooms in the house looked light-tight. Maybe they’d be leaving before he needed to sleep again.
After once more testing the immediate area with her telepathy, she unloaded the cooler and brought in the sturdy cloth grocery bag that was serving as a kind of traveling pantry for her. After that, she took a quick shower. Eric had said that she should reapply the potion immediately, so after she dried off, she reapplied it and then put on a comfortable-looking maxi dress that Amelia had gotten for her.
And then she returned to the car. It was too warm to wrap up in the quilt, so she used it as her pillow.
As she closed her eyes, her mind was invaded by more questions about Bill and her own uncertainties about herself. She wished that she could trace all of her self-doubts back to a moment in time that she could somehow move beyond. She’d talked to Eric about her first memory and wondered if that was where all of her pain originated from. And—if it was—how could she ever overcome it? Most of her memories were unpleasant in some way, and almost all of the good ones had occurred as she’d been stifling her telepathy with all of her might. She wondered if there would be anything left of her if she tried to move beyond her pain.
Was that why she couldn’t seem to do it? Was she afraid that she would disappear if all of her pain suddenly went away?
During the previous week, she’d actually had hope that there would be something left—some stronger Sookie that she’d caught glimpses of in the mirror, but had never actually met. Eric had seemed to “love” that Sookie and had encouraged her to seek her out. And the miracle that Sookie had found was that Eric had been “pointing” right at her—the her that was before him.
Not some idealized or “super” version of herself. Just her.
Yes—it had felt like a miracle.
Indeed, Sookie had begun to imagine that she was worthy of being accepted just the way she was—that she didn’t have to pretend or to change in order to be loved. Even Bill—with all his acting and the manipulation of her blood—had always made her feel like she needed to change. He hadn’t liked her moments of independence. He hadn’t wanted her to question anything about him—or herself.
Eric hadn’t minded Sookie’s independence; if anything, he’d seemed attracted to her for the very things Bill had tried to quell. Of course, now Sookie knew that Eric had been hiding the fact that she was a fairy during their time in Slidell. And he’d contacted Niall because he’d wanted for her to learn how to harness her light power into a weapon that could help him to defeat Russell. Did that mean that Eric didn’t really want her as she was—that he wanted her to change into “Sookie, the vampire slayer?” Or had it just been the Fae bond which had made him seem to like her in the first place?
Questions she had no answers for continued to swirl around her head as she sat up and brushed her fingers through her still-damp hair.
She sighed. She missed Eric’s fingers in her hair.
God—how she missed his gentle touch!
She missed the care he’d always taken in braiding her hair. She missed the way he would talk freely with her as he wound the braid. She missed their baths together—the intimacy that even most lovers never found.
She sighed. She felt drained from her irregular sleep during the past several days and from the weight of her thoughts during her drive, as well as her telepathic exercise. But she was almost afraid to sleep—afraid that if she did, someone might hurt the vampire in her charge.
She did another sweep with her telepathy, being as thorough as she could. And then she kept her shields down—a white noise of thoughts. She let herself get used to that cacophony, and she prayed to God that she would hear any changes in the noise within her mind. And—then—she fell asleep.
“Hi,” she whispered.
“Hello,” he said as he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Did Eric send you?” she asked.
“No. Would you like me to go?” he returned.
She shook her head.
“Good,” he said, looking around them. “As a vampire, I cannot dream. It is odd to be inside of one of your dreams.”
“Will you remember this when you wake up? I mean—will the real Eric remember?”
The Eric in Sookie’s dream shook his head. “No. I am his blood. You brought me into your dream, and I am here for you—not for him.”
She nodded and sighed.
There was a moment of silence between them.
“Every time you’ve been in one of my dreams—except for the one Bill wove—there’s been a bed,” she chuckled as she looked at her surroundings and recognized that they were in their bed in Slidell.
She shook her head fondly. “It’s weird though; I’ve never really felt lust in my dreams about you—except maybe the first one—but even that wasn’t the kind of lust I figured Eric would send.”
He shrugged. “Perhaps the Fae bond affected the dreams somehow.”
“Maybe.” Sookie sighed.
Again, there were several moments of silence between them.
“I went to sleep in the car again,” she confessed.
Eric just nodded and drew her into his arms. “It is okay to sleep, Sookie. It is okay to enjoy being with me—and with him. He enjoys it too. Do not begrudge yourself comfort.”
“Are you sure he likes it too?” she asked.
“Yes. I am his blood. I am certain.”
“And everything’s about the blood?”
He didn’t answer her question directly. “He wants to be close to you; I want to be close to you.”
“Because of the Fae bond,” she said resignedly.
“There is more to it. At least, I think there is. Anyway, the Fae bond is a part of us all now.”
“I get the impression that your counterpart wants to learn how to get around the bond so that it doesn’t govern how we are with each other.”
“He doesn’t like feeling out of control.”
Sookie cringed a little. “I sometimes wonder what it would feel like to be in control. I don’t think I’ve ever felt in control—not of my telepathy, not of my life. Not of anything.”
“Maybe he can help you gain what you have been missing. Maybe you can help him reconcile the fact that sometimes the things we cannot control are the best things we ever have.”
“You don’t sound like yourself,” she said.
“I am as much what you need him to be as I am him.”
“So you aren’t real?”
“No. I’m sorry. I’m not. I am just a dream, but I do carry a part of him. Perhaps, it is the part you need and the part he cannot show you.”
“There are things that I haven’t shared with him either,” she admitted. “Things I’m ashamed of.”
She curled into her dream Eric and put her head onto his comfortable shoulder.
She sighed. “But I don’t wanna think about those things right now.”
“Then don’t,” he answered simply. “Rest.”
This chapter—I’ll admit—was difficult for me to write, and I rewrote it several times before I felt like I was properly conveying this Sookie’s raw emotions: her turmoil, fear, and strength. In this story, Sookie’s first sexual experience really is “rape” in my reimagining of the Bill character. And it was difficult to try to convey Sookie as both victim and survivor, which is what I see her as. It took a lot of drafts and tears to get this chapter to where it is. I hope that I did the subject matter justice. And I hope I did this Sookie justice. Unlike her counterpart in the show, this is a questioning and thoughtful Sookie. And this is a Sookie who is trying her best to deal with the abuse she’s had to face. She doesn’t want to—even inadvertently—do similar harm to Eric. I think that this is the moment that we see that she truly loves Eric—Fae bond or no (though she’s not ready to admit it). And we also see her immense strength as she tries to “push” her gift to protect him. I have to say that—of all my Sookies—this is my favorite. She’s vulnerable, but she doesn’t use that vulnerability not to move on and grow.
P.S. You probably know by now that I love Sephrenia. She’s become an amazing friend in the virtual world of my fanfiction life, and she makes the banners for my stories. For this chapter, she has outdone herself! I gave her only a sketch of the chapter, and she came up with this animated banner. Please take a moment to watch it all so that you can appreciate her work. Here it is again. Please give her some love for this incredible effort.
The woven dream was NOT a part of the show.