“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”—Bruce Lee
Sookie couldn’t move, nor did she want to. The weight of Eric’s arm was comforting—his body cradling. And, for once, her bladder seemed to be of the same mind as the rest of her.
“That’s because the pee was all scared out of me yesterday,” Sookie whispered mordantly into the dark.
Since the room was light-tight, she had no idea what time it was. And she didn’t care. All she cared about at that moment was staying safe in the arms of the man she loved.
The day before had sapped so much of her energy from her, but it had also helped her to understand things with much more clarity.
Almost dying could obviously do that.
Most important, she’d had an up-close look at the strength—and the brutality—of the vampire with whom she had created the Fae bond. Oh—she’d known that Eric was powerful before, but she’d never witnessed him as he’d been in that parking garage. And she knew that he’d not even been at his strongest—given the fact that it had been daytime.
He’d been savage.
He’d been primal.
He’d been an animal.
Before that, Eric had always demonstrated restraint around her. Lafayette had once told her about Eric literally tearing the limbs from the redneck who had burned down Malcolm’s nest. But—as horrible as that was—Lafayette hadn’t been particularly condemning of Eric’s actions, given the fact that the stupid redneck had pressed silver into Eric’s flesh.
Indeed—when she really thought about it—Sookie couldn’t much blame Eric for killing that man. After all, he’d murdered four vampires in Eric’s area, and though Malcolm and his nest-mates had been horrible in Sookie’s judgment, Eric still needed to see justice done in order to reassure the other vampires of Area 5.
Goodness knows that the Bon Temps police department hadn’t done much of anything to investigate the arson that had killed four vampires! Sookie had been into both Andy’s and Bud’s heads as they’d “investigated” the aftermath of the fire, which seemed to involve kicking a lot of burned wood around a charred house foundation. And—especially after Bill was found to be alive—neither of them had cared about pursuing the matter any further. To them, it was only a crime against vampires—and unsavory vampires at that.
To them, the fact that Malcolm, Liam, and Diane were “bad” made the matter unimportant—and, therefore, closed.
In fact, both Andy and Bud were glad to have the potentially unruly vampires gone.
And for the good.
Of course, Sookie had also seen the after-effects of Eric’s treatment of Lafayette. However, even her friend had admitted that he’d suffered very little physical pain because of Eric, beyond spending a week in the “dungeon” and getting bitten a few times. He’d apparently been given food and water and a bucket for his “human needs.” And—as horrible as that sounded—at the time, Eric had been questioning Lafayette for crimes against vampire law: selling V and draining a vampire. Sookie now knew that Eric had intended to let Lafayette go—not only because he needed Lafayette to sell the queen’s V but also because he didn’t want to kill her friend. It had been a jumpy Ginger who had given Lafayette his worst injury—the gunshot wound—when he’d tried to escape.
A part of Sookie was still horrified by what Eric had done to Lafayette, but she could also understand the Viking’s actions. Lafayette had been selling vampire blood, and that—in and of itself—could have been a death sentence. And then there had been the matter of the missing vampire, Eddie. Indeed—there had been clear restraint in Eric’s actions. Eric had shown similar restraint in the Fellowship of the Sun church—albeit because of Godric’s orders. Still Eric had tried to get them out of the church without creating a bloodbath.
But the day before—in that Phoenix parking garage—Eric had shown her just how large of a massacre he was capable of creating. She closed her eyes and let the images she recalled patch themselves together into a narrative. She’d been hit in the head by Ray. And she’d been groggy, but she’d still been able to feel Eric’s presence like a hurricane—a hurricane that had swept through the garage even as she was kept in the eye of the storm.
She’d felt the degenerate Were who’d been holding onto her—who’d been planning to rape her—go absolutely limp. However, before she’d crumpled to the hard concrete floor, gentle hands had lowered her down. After that, it had been difficult for her to keep track of Eric because of her blurry eyes and the rapidity of his movements. But she had seen—and had especially heard—the splats and the thuds of body parts hitting the floor and walls of the garage. And she’d seen Ray’s cruel eyes, opened and near to where she lay; they’d been in a head that was no longer connected to any body.
By Sookie’s reckoning, Eric had killed seven Weres in less than a minute—before any of them had been able to shift even! And there had been ambient sunlight in that garage—as well as wisps of light streaming in through the windows of the parking structure! Yet Eric had not let himself fall to his knees until he’d known that their back-up had arrived.
She moved her fingers to gently caress Eric’s face. His skin, as always, was cool to her touch. It was difficult to explain to anyone who’d never seen it—felt it—just what a vampire was like when he “slept.” Yes—the vampire was dead for the day, completely still. But there were differences between a vampire and a human corpse. Sookie smiled a little. The glow that marked Eric as a vampire was ever-present to her, reminding her of the magic that animated him—that magic that was him.
She sighed. He was so strong, stronger than even he knew. He’d come for her during the day.
Rescued her during the day—from nine Weres.
And he’d personally accounted for seven of their deaths. Sookie had no doubt that he would have dealt with the other two as well—if Leonie and Claude hadn’t arrived to help.
Eric would call his actions a “calculated risk.” He had once critiqued Bill for coming to “rescue” her when Rene Lenier was trying to kill her, and he’d been right to do so. Bill hadn’t gone about things in an intelligent way. He’d not arranged for other—useful—help to come by calling the police. He’d not calculated the help that he could give before the sun burned him. Hell—Bill hadn’t even grabbed a blanket to cover himself with.
By contrast, Eric had already arranged for help to be coming in the form of Leonie and Claude. Clearly, Eric had also calculated exactly how much help he could be to her before he succumbed to the sun. Plus, she was certain that he had been using all the magic in his own blood to stave off the sun’s effects.
Still, despite his “calculations,” he’d also risked himself—for her.
He could have waited the one more minute it took for Leonie and Claude to arrive. Sookie knew that the Weres would have done more damage to her, but she also knew that they wouldn’t have killed her in that minute. And Eric would have known that too. Despite the risks to himself, Eric had chosen to act before the Weres could rape her. It was as simply as that. And Sookie knew that wasn’t because Eric thought he “owned” her either.
It was because Eric knew what it would do to her if she were raped.
Sookie wiggled a little closer to the vampire. She’d learned about more than just Eric’s strength the day before. She’d also learned a little about her own. She’d been scared all throughout the day, but she’d kept her wits about her. In fact, she’d not allowed herself the luxury of falling apart until she had Eric and herself safely to Needles.
Yes—it was safe to say that Sookie had learned that she was stronger than she had thought.
And she was also confident that she would become even stronger! She had been overcome by the Weres that day, but she’d also successfully used her light several times. It was the fact that one had hit her from behind which had caused her to be caught. But—before that—she’d felt more in control of her light than she ever had before. She would have a month before Rhodes, and in that month, she was determined to gain even more control—so that she’d never put Eric into a position of having to endanger himself again.
She stroked his long neck and collar bone. “I swear that I’ll keep you safe during the day from now on; that’s my job, my love.”
Sookie closed her eyes and tried to focus upon more of what she’d done right the day before, rather than the fact that her situation had caused Eric to come out from his safe haven during the day. She’d been able to both control and manipulate her scent, even reproducing Leonie’s scent at one point. The only thing that had let her down had been her ability to “pop”—or inability, that is. But—then again—she’d literally just been punched when she’d tried it. So she was willing to let herself off the hook just a little.
The important thing was that she’d fought with intelligence and effective weaponry. And then she’d protected her beloved vampire after he’d fought. They’d complemented each other—just as the Fae bond dictated.
And that complementing had felt good to Sookie—good and right.
“I love you,” came a voice from next to her—Eric’s voice.
Sookie was caught off guard, for Eric’s words had come at the exact moment of his reanimation.
“You do?” she asked uncertainly, not knowing what else to say.
“Yes. I love you, min älskade,” he reaffirmed, as he raised his fingers so that they could roam in her soft hair.
“Min älskade,” she whispered, repeating his words as a tear fell from her eye.
“Those words do mean that you are my woman,” Eric responded. “But their literal translation is ‘my beloved.’ I was,” he paused, “afraid to tell you that yesterday.”
The glow of his skin helped her to see his small smile. “Why is any man afraid to admit love?”
Sookie’s eyebrows crumpled together, and her mouth turned down into a frown. “I have no idea.”
Eric shrugged. “Neither do I.” He chuckled. “General dumbassery.”
“Dumbassery? Is that even a word?” she challenged.
Eric’s grin widened. “When there is not a word for something in any language, one must improvise and create one.”
Sookie smiled. “So—you love me?”
“What about the Fae bond? How do you know it’s not just forcing you to love me?” she asked as she looked down. The smile fell from her face a little.
Eric sighed and lifted her chin with his fingers. “I was a fool to believe there was a difference between the fae bond and my own feelings. And—for that—I am sorrier than you will ever know. I am sorry that I hurt you, min älskade. But I am done with that. I ask for your forgiveness—for my dumbassery.”
“But,” Sookie stammered, “the Fae bond does make us feel things that we wouldn’t feel otherwise.”
“No,” Eric said firmly. “I realized something last night—something I should have recognized as soon as I learned about the bond.” His eyes filled with regret. “I was so hell-bent on blaming the Fae bond for all of the new feelings that I’d been experiencing that I didn’t stop to remember.”
“Remember what?” Sookie asked.
“The exact moment I truly fell in love with you, Sookie,” Eric responded quietly.
“The exact moment?” she asked as another tear fell.
“Yes,” the vampire responded gently as he thumbed her tear away and brought it to his lips. “That moment was just confused with so many other moments that night that I didn’t recognize it.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that I loved you before you touched me on that rooftop. I’m saying that I’d been falling in love with you from the moment I first saw you and that my love for you solidified the exact moment you defied Bill and spoke up for Godric in front of Nan Flanagan. My maker had already abdicated his position as sheriff. And he was not speaking up for himself. I was,” Eric paused, “just beginning to apprehend his intention to meet the sun—to kill himself. And—still Godric kept our bond closed. I couldn’t feel him, but I felt you in that room. Because you’d had my blood.
“I felt your intense desire to help him—to make not only Nan but also Godric see how valuable he was. To us all.” The vampire sighed and gently brushed the backs of his fingers from her cheek to her chin. “If anyone’s words could have swayed Godric from killing himself that morning, it would have been the words that you spoke in that hotel room—the words reminding everyone that Godric’s actions had saved not only yourself but also the lives of many others—both human and vampire.”
Eric tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’d felt your emotions for a little while the night before—right after the bombing. You were concerned for others and angry at me.” He chuckled. “Then—the next night—I initially felt your anger again. And then I felt resolve from you. I knew you were coming to grips with having my blood in you. But your blood was not fighting mine. If anything, it seemed almost ‘thoughtful.'”
“My blood was,” she paused, “thoughtful?”
“Wary,” Eric corrected. “Likely because you are part Fae, your blood has more control over itself than human blood. That is how you recognized and resisted—at least subconsciously—some of Bill’s influence. As you know, I had sent you a dream before I fell into my day rest that first morning we were connected by a blood tie, but I had no idea what it entailed or if you’d even slept that day.”
“What did you send?” she asked.
“As I told you before, I sent the more passive form of dream. But I did try to infuse my blood with lust before I entered my day-sleep.”
“It didn’t quite work that way,” Sookie said with a blush.
“You’ve never told me about that dream,” Eric said with curiosity. “Will you tell me now?”
“We were in bed—naked.” She giggled.
“And how was that funny?” the vampire asked flirtingly, even as he tickled her side a little.
She wiggled away from him. “My imagination got most of how you looked naked correct, but it underestimated your—um . . . .” She blushed and glanced down.
Eric chuckled. “I see. Well—the naked and in bed part gels with what I was trying to send to you that morning.”
“Maybe. But mostly we just talked in the dream,” Sookie shared with a shrug. “We talked about how we perceived each other. You said that I’d make a good vampire.”
“You would,” Eric responded without hesitation.
Sookie smiled a little. “I told you that there was more to you than what you showed the world. I said you were deep.” She sighed. “You were affectionate with me in the dream—playful even.” She stroked his cheek. “You were like you are with me now, and though it ended with us kissing, ‘lust’ wasn’t the biggest part of the dream.”
“Love,” he said, leaning forward to kiss her gently on the lips. “It’s just as I have come to realize; I already felt love for you then. Otherwise, the dream wouldn’t have been imprinted as it was.” Eric sighed. “I couldn’t infuse the dream with mere lust because that is not how I felt about you. I was confusing my feelings. Denying them. And I kept doing that—after we learned of the Fae bond—hurting myself and you with each denial. Forgive me?” he asked again.
Sookie took a deep breath as another tear tracked down her cheek. She nodded. “Yes.”
A/N: Hello all! I appreciate everyone who has already joined me for this third part of the UN-iverse! For this chapter, I thought that Eric finally needed to say certain things out loud and put to rest the notion that he wouldn’t care about Sookie-love her-without the bond. She needed to hear that so that they can go on. 🙂