“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”—George MacDonald
Having completed his glamouring of Charlie, Eric returned to the patio to find the table already set. Sookie was in the en-suite bathroom of their room, and the hearty smell of the food that she was preparing filled the air.
He smiled. He liked the smell.
The vampire busied himself with moving candles around the table. He lit them right after he heard the timer of the oven go off.
Sookie appeared minutes later. She was wearing a yellow sundress; it was the only one she had since sundresses were conspicuous, so she couldn’t really wear them when they were traveling.
“It’s a warm night,” she said as Eric took in her appearance with appreciation.
“It is,” he agreed. “You look lovely.”
She smiled, and her face took on a slight shade of pink as she put down her plate and the glass of TrueBlood she was carrying. In their time together, Eric had learned that Sookie preferred to give him his meal in a glass, instead of a bottle. It was a little thing, but the vampire appreciated it nonetheless.
“Thanks,” she said. “This is nice.”
“It is,” he agreed again as he pulled out her seat for her.
She turned a little pinker, and he could tell she was nervous.
“Shall we eat and then speak?” the vampire suggested.
Sookie nodded and immediately looked more relaxed—clearly because the topic she was intending to bring up was a difficult one for her. She dug into her casserole and blew on her bite to make sure the food was cool enough to eat.
“Good?” Eric asked after she’d been eating—and groaning her appreciation—for several minutes.
She nodded. “Yes.”
“So—tell me. Do you like the desert?” he asked, happy to engage her in small talk as they ate their respective meals.
She considered for a moment. “Well, it’s hot,” she giggled. “But yes. I do. It’s so peaceful here. It reminds me of Gran’s house in Bon Temps in a weird way because there aren’t neighbors close.”
“You still think of your house in Bon Temps as your grandmother’s home? Not yours?” Eric asked.
“Yeah,” Sookie answered quickly. “Actually Gran left me the farmhouse, and Jason got my parents’ old house. But Gran’s house doesn’t feel like it’s mine—not really. At least, not yet. And now there’s so much damage from the Maenad that I wonder how I’ll ever be able to fix it all.”
“One day we will repair it together, Sookie,” Eric said. “If we live,” he added with a boyish grin that broke through all the melancholy in the air—despite the seriousness of his words.
They finished their meal, speaking of the little market where Sookie had stopped that day, before she took in their dirty dishes. She returned with a slice of her pecan pie.
She stared at the slice for a moment and then looked up at Eric. From the seriousness in her eyes, he could tell that she was preparing to tell him something important, so he leaned forward to listen.
“I loved my Gran’s cooking,” Sookie began. “But mostly I loved it because of the way she thought when she was making food.” She smiled and closed her eyes for a moment. “She liked teaching me how to do things, and she liked the fact that it felt ‘normal’ when we cooked together. But she never taught me how to cook her pecan pie.” She shook her head and frowned. “She’d just made one for me the day she died. She’d made another for the Descendants of the Glorious Dead meeting we’d gone to that night, but she knew how much I loved them, so she made an extra.” Her smile came back. “And she was sneaky too—always makin’ them while I was at work so that I didn’t hear exactly how she did it.”
“I would have liked her,” Eric said matter-of-factly.
“She would have been skeptical of you,” Sookie returned with a little chuckle. “You come off as—um—gruff at first. And arrogant. But she would have liked you eventually.”
“Hard won approval?” he asked with a smirk.
“The best kind, “he said sincerely.
They were silent for a moment as Sookie was obviously gathering her thoughts.
“The day of Gran’s funeral, I sat at the kitchen table and ate all that was left of the pecan pie she’d made, knowing it would be my last taste of her cooking—my last time with her in a way.”
“That must have been difficult for you to do—especially in the room where she’d been murdered.”
“Yes,” Sookie confirmed in a whisper. “But I wanted to be where she was alive for the last time. I needed to be there. I felt less alone in there than I did anywhere else in the house.” She looked from the pie on her plate to Eric. “Did you know that Rene killed my cat too? Not the same day as he killed Gran—but earlier?”
“I didn’t,” Eric said.
“When I cleaned up Gran’s blood, I found a few pieces of cat food under the refrigerator,” she said in a faraway voice. “And I realized that I’d left Tina’s food and water dishes out on the porch. I washed them in the same dishwater load as I washed the empty pie plate. But then I decided to throw the cat dishes away.”
“Why?” the vampire asked.
“I knew that I would just love another cat if I got one, and I didn’t want to think about losing something else. Or loving anything else.”
Eric nodded. He understood.
“After I threw the dishes away, I went upstairs and lay down. I was so tired.”
He tensed, suddenly aware of where the conversation might be going. “And did you sleep?”
She nodded, a look of dread washing over her face.
“And did you dream?”
She nodded again and then took a deep breath. “Uncle Bartlett was in my dream. Jason never knew what he did to me, so he made sure Uncle Bartlett came to the funeral. Jason always blamed me for the fact that Uncle Bartlett quit coming around. He thought it was because of my curse. I guess it was in a way.” She closed her eyes and trembled as she remembered her fear from the dream. “When the dream started, my uncle was sitting in the chair he always sat in, and he was looking at me and thinking bad things—just like always. He wanted me to sit on his lap so that he could . . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“Sookie,” Eric whispered as he reached out to lightly take her hand.
She took another deep breath. “I felt so afraid in my dream—just as afraid as I’d been of my uncle when I was a little girl. I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t. I wanted to wake up, but I couldn’t.”
“Sookie,” Eric whispered again even as his thumb stroked her palm in a comforting motion.
“In the dream, Uncle Bartlett suddenly became Bill—sitting in that same chair and staring at me in that same way. At first, I was just as afraid of Bill as I’d been of my uncle. But . . . .” She stopped midsentence and let out a little sob.
“You don’t have to go on,” Eric said soothingly. “You don’t have to tell me.”
“I know,” she said, taking another deep breath. “But I need to say what happened—for me. And for us.”
He nodded. “Okay then,” he said, squeezing her hand a little.
She took a deep breath. “In the dream, I went from scared to lustful. When I woke up, I felt dirty—almost as if I’d somehow given into Uncle Barlett’s advances—as if I was all the things he used to say I was.” She shook her head in disgust. “He used to call me his ‘special girl.’ He used to tell me that he knew I liked it when he touched me. He used to say that if I wasn’t so ‘special,’ he would be able to resist me.” She took another shaky breath.
Eric squeezed her hand again, offering her the only comfort he could.
She went on, “I know now that Bill had woven that dream—that he’d instilled fear and lust into it. And the thing I had always feared the most was my uncle, so he’d appeared in the dream.” Her body trembled in both fear and disgust again—and shame. “When I woke up, my horror at having dreamt of someone I loathed and someone I thought I loved in the same dream disappeared, and all I could think about was giving myself to Bill.” She looked down. “I took a two-hour-long shower as I waited for nightfall and Bill. In my head, I was screaming at myself to get clean. I scrubbed and I scrubbed and I scrubbed. Later, I explained my actions as being from my grief and from seeing my uncle, but now I know it was more. Now I know that Bill’s dream was controlling me. And I did—” she paused, “I did feel out of control.” She wiped away a tear. “After I showered, I dressed in a long white nightgown I found in Gran’s dresser. I think it was from when she got married.” She shook her head. “I wanted to look like a bride that night. All I could think about was giving myself to Bill. All I could think about was letting him have me so that I wouldn’t have to be afraid anymore. All I could think about was trying not to disappoint him—trying to be worthy of him. All I could think about was that the only way I’d ever feel clean again was if he made love to me.”
“That was your first time?” Eric asked in a quiet voice—though Sookie could tell he was covering up his anger at Bill.
Sookie nodded in confirmation. “Yes. And I thought it was my choice to give my virginity to him, but it wasn’t. I know now that the woven dream drove me to him. Bill was just like Uncle Bartlett. Maybe that’s why I dreamed of them together.” She frowned. “They both preyed upon me right after the people I loved most had died. They both made me think I was not worthy to have anyone else. They both made me feel ashamed and guilty of their actions in order to keep controlling me. But Gran wasn’t there to save me from Bill—like she saved me from my uncle.”
“And you don’t want anything between us to happen because you were forced,” he said perceptively. “Whether that forcing comes from a vampire bond or the Fae bond,” he added.
She nodded. “Yes—and no. Eric—honestly—I’m mainly concerned that I don’t force you.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “The vampire bond was my suggestion.”
Sookie took a deep breath. “Today when I was driving here and then when I was lying in the sun, I came to truly understand that I wouldn’t have formed a Fae bond with you if I hadn’t already cared about you. From what Niall said, my trust for you had to be real, or the bond would never have formed.” She bit her bottom lip as she contemplated her next words. “Somehow I knew that—of all the people I’d ever known—I could trust you the most. I knew as soon as I saw you in the basement of the Fellowship church that I would be okay. Godric saved me from being raped, but it was you who made me feel like I was safe. And you had made me feel that way before we went to Dallas too.”
“When Bill brought me into Fangtasia after I was attacked by the Maenad. I knew that—as soon as you took charge of things—I would be okay. And also when you and Pam came to Merlotte’s to take Bill to the tribunal. You looked back at me when you were walking away that night. It was just a glance, but I thought that there was some kind of promise in it.”
Eric sighed. “I spoke up for Bill that night—with the Magister. I didn’t really want to—and I certainly didn’t have to—but I did. I surprised myself when I did it—and probably surprised Pam even more. But I didn’t want you to be hurt—even then.”
She nodded. “Obviously, part of me trusted you more than I trusted Bill—much more. Otherwise, I would have offered him this Fae bond thing.”
Eric growled involuntarily, an action that made Sookie both smile and lean away from him a little. However, he kept hold of her hand.
“Don’t,” he said, looking down at their entwined fingers. His voice shook with emotion. “Don’t speak of Compton and the Fae bond in the same breath.”
She squeezed his hand back. “Okay. I won’t.”
She waited for a few moments as Eric composed himself before taking a deep breath. “What I needed to make clear is that I chose you, Eric. It may have been an unconscious choice, but it was still a choice. A part of me—a part that I’m only just beginning to understand—picked you, and that part of me seems to know what it’s doing.” She paused and looked up at him, her eyes rich with emotion. “I just need to know if you picked me too—at least in a way. Do you think that you accepted the Fae bond only because of Godric ordering you off of that roof—because your heart was breaking and you felt vulnerable?” She sniffled. “Because—if that’s the only reason—then I did to you exactly what Bill did to me. I pulled you to me on the worst day of your whole life. I just unintentionally wove a bond instead of intentionally weaving a dream. But the effects are just the same—regardless of motives”
Eric could feel Sookie’s hand shaking—could see her whole body shaking a little—despite the warm air.
“I don’t think it’s the same,” he responded. “Not at all.”
“But I still need to know the answer to my question—for my own piece of mind.”
He closed his eyes. “I’ve told you a little about the night you got attacked by the Maenad, but you need to hear the rest.” He sighed. “That night, it felt like my world was exploding. I’d been ordered to sell V by the queen, and I’d been told that Godric had disappeared. And I couldn’t feel him because he’d shut off his end of our bond years before. And—then—Bill brought you in, and I thought you were going to die.” He shook his head. “It was all so much already! Too much. I had to force myself to stay calm and in control when all I wanted to do was to heal you and kill the one who had harmed you. I called Ludwig in, and I sat exactly fourteen feet away as you went through agony.” He paused. “I didn’t want to be fourteen inches from you—let alone fourteen feet.”
“I didn’t know.”
“How could you have known?” He sighed. “And then Bill gave you his blood. And I wanted to be him.” He chuckled ruefully. “And—trust me—the idea of me wanting to be BillCompton made me cringe, but I would have traded almost anything to be the one healing you.” He paused and opened his eyes. “Fangtasia is light-tight. After Bill went to his rest, I tended to you. You were unconscious, but I cleaned the blood from your back and your face. It calmed me—just to be with you.”
“Calmed you?” she asked.
He nodded. “Yes. I had many burdens that day, yet your presence aided me as I have never been helped by another before. I may not like the fact that the Fae bond has changed me, but it was not the only thing that changed me.” He paused. “So—no—it was not just because of Godric that I accepted the Fae bond, Sookie. I did not knowingly choose the bond, but I did choose you.”
She smiled up at him and squeezed his hand. “Then, I choose the vampire bond, Eric.
He nodded and smiled a little. “Tomorrow night?”
“Why not now?” she asked. “Do you need more time to think?”
“No,” he shook his head. “I want you to have one more day to think about it. Tomorrow, you will learn how to ride a horse, and you can lie in the sun.” He smiled a little. “You are safe here, and you can have,” he paused, “fun. When I rise, we’ll practice your magic and enjoy another meal. We’ll swim in the pool together and then bathe together if you wish—just as we used to. Then—if it is still what you wish—we will exchange blood for a second time.”
She nodded. “That sounds nice.”
“For now, why don’t you eat your dessert and then show me a bit of your magic. There are many more cacti to kill,” he winked.
She chuckled and took a bite of the pecan pie.
So—Sookie has decided to do the vampire bond and—better yet—they’ve finally realized that the Fae bond is not responsible for their whole relationship. I really wanted to show Sookie’s struggle here. I think it makes sense that she is very reluctant to have a physical relationship with Eric if she thinks it’s “forced” on either side. She has realized that it’s not being “forced” on her; she needed to make sure it wasn’t for him either. I think that’s why I like this Sookie more than my others. When she “talks” to me as I write, she seems more logical and thoughtful of others—maybe b/c of where I started the story. Anyway, enough rambling.