Chapter 14: Where Hopes and Fears Collide
It was still nighttime when Pam and I were free to go, with several hours to go until sunrise. As I related a carefully expurgated version of events to the Authority guards, I had periodically probed for Sookie. Despite my suggestion for her to get some rest rather than wait up for me, I could feel that she was still awake and restless.
And full of a bewildering plethora of feelings.
Love. Lust. Worry for me.
Confusion. Frustration. Fear. Anger.
She seemed to be cycling through the positive feelings and then the negative regularly. I had sent her soothing feelings as often as I could, and each time, I could feel her respond and relax, but before very long, the negative emotions would begin to swell again.
By the time the Authority representatives had cleared me to go, I was having a hard time hiding my impatience with them. As soon as I was free, I told Pam I’d see her later and then launched myself into the dark sky over the hotel. I recognized Shreveport below and changed direction towards Bon Temps, but even if I hadn’t known where I was, I would have been able to locate Sookie; the connection between us was like a magnet finding true north, leading me to her.
As I flew through the night, I could feel my link with Sookie hum with increased energy and almost pull me towards her. I couldn’t help my emotional reaction; I felt a surge of what could only be described as happiness.
Sookie had not been quite right in describing me as a “happy” vampire. I was generally satisfied and contented with my life the past several decades, that was true. I had enjoyed my roles as business owner, as area sheriff, as Pam’s maker. I had not been interested in the increased burdens and complications that more political power would have given me, and being tucked away in Northern Louisiana had allowed me to control much of my life far from the interference of vampire hierarchy. Especially after the Great Revelation, the little delights of vampire life – namely, feeding on and fucking humans – were more readily available than ever. I had created a generally satisfying life for myself that had a great many pleasures to offer, with relatively few headaches. If it was sometimes a bit dull and unchallenging, well, after a thousand years and with living in the open as vampires now did, whose life might not be?
I was not unhappy, not at all. But my time with Sookie had shown me that there was still more to be had, to be experienced. There were joys I had forgotten in my thousand years of existence. Not just the pleasures of sunlight, as intoxicating as that had been, but subtle pleasures that I had forgotten from my human life. Pleasures that had a lot to do with having life in my soul, not just in my body.
Being with Sookie had reminded me how I had once – as a human, as a child, even as a Viking warrior – embraced virtues that were not generally held in high regard among vampire kind: Honor. Integrity. Loyalty. Love. Even goodness.
Virtues that were generally reserved for humans. The only vampire I had ever known to pursue these qualities had been my Maker, Godric, and much as I had loved him, his desire to “evolve,” as he had described it to me when we last saw one another, had been baffling.
In a thousand years, I had not entirely lost those qualities that had once inspired me as a Viking warrior, but it had been many years – centuries – since I had embraced them. My desire to be with Sookie had given me a concrete reason to be that better me – but more than that, my time under Antonia’s spell had reminded me of why I would want to be that person for myself.
As fulfilling as my life had been up until now, I could envision even more satisfying things to come with Sookie beside me – and some part of her inside me through our bond – and that made me happy.
When I finally drew close to the farmhouse, I flew around once trying to see where she was inside, peeking into windows, working from the top down. Not in her girlish pink bedroom upstairs, where the sheets were still jumbled from our first night of passion. Not in the downstairs bedroom, where the bedclothes were in equal disarray. I was beginning to hope that she might have gone down to my cubby to wait for me, when I saw she was on the couch in the living room. She appeared to have been trying to get the rest I had suggested, as a crocheted afghan was still half-draped across her legs. I saw her shift as if to sit up, arms supporting her body from behind as she tilted her head, listening.
She knew I was coming. I could feel the increase in her excitement – and her anxiety.
I landed in the front of the house and sped up onto the porch at vamp speed, eager to finally be alone with min blóðfrig, able to talk freely, to plan for what would come next for us. I turned the doorknob, only to find it locked.
It was night and we had already had intruders at the house. Of course Sookie would have locked her door. And I didn’t have my keys with me.
I rapped softly on the door. “Sookie, it’s me.”
I heard her pad towards the door and then hesitate for several seconds before she turned the lock. She opened the door and then stopped, her body half-tucked behind the plane of wood as if sheltering herself. “Hey, Eric,” she said, her voice strained.
I wanted to step across the threshold and just sweep her into my arms, but it didn’t take our bond for me to realize that she was feeling wary. Her body language was shouting that loud and clear. “Are you okay?” I asked, studying her. She hadn’t changed out of the clothes she had worn at the hotel, although her feet were now bare. It bothered me that she hadn’t gotten ready for bed. It made me feel like…company.
“As okay as I can be, given the circumstances,” she said in a cool voice, her shoulder shrugging slightly.
She hadn’t moved from behind the door and she was staring at me as if weighing what to do next.
“Can I come in?” I finally said, my concern beginning to grow. Something was clearly wrong here. If I had hoped for a warm welcome, I was clearly not getting it.
She was silent for a moment and then stepped back from the door for me to step through, only to shut it firmly behind me. I noticed she didn’t flip the lock.
I guess she didn’t consider us in for the night.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked, reaching out to take her by her upper arms.
As soon as my fingers touched her, the bond swelled with energy and I couldn’t help myself; I pulled her against me, encircling her with my arms until she was curled against the front of my body, her blonde hair tucked under my chin, her reluctance seemingly diminishing. A profound sense of contentment surged between and around us, creating a warm and comforting bubble of pleasure and heat around our nestled bodies.
I raised one hand and tilted her face up to mine, brushing her lips with my own, causing a tingle of pleasure to ripple through both our bodies and our connection. My kisses were soft and coaxing at first, as I could still feel some tentativeness inside her, but as my lips caressed hers lightly, I felt her start to open up to me, not just physically but emotionally.
When her warm mouth finally parted invitingly to mine, I delicately probed it more deeply with my tongue, and slid my hand from her jaw into the thick glory of her hair. Entangling my fingers in the soft strands at the nape of her neck, I used the leverage to tilt her mouth for deeper plundering and simultaneously slipped my other hand behind her back to pull her more tightly against me. Groaning, I began to grind myself against the soft curve of her belly. “God, min blóðfrig, I will never be able to have enough of this. Of you,” I muttered thickly before burying my lips against the pulse of her neck.
Although I could feel that Sookie had been as swept away by the feelings of the bond as I had until that point, I felt a rush of panic well up inside her as my mouth nuzzled the side of her throat. Breaking free of my embrace, she put her hands against my chest and stiffly pushed herself out of my arms, avoiding my eyes. “We need to talk,” she said, turning away and walking into the living room, where she dropped onto one end of the couch. She curled her back against the end of the couch and pulled one of the red, decorative throw pillows into her lap as if to put up a shield between us.
As I dropped down beside her, I automatically reached for her, wanting to keep up the blissful connection that touch brought with it. “No!” she said sharply, twisting away from my hands. “Please don’t touch me while we discuss this, Eric.” There was a note of pleading in her voice. “I can’t think when you touch me.”
Well, fuck. I leaned back, wary now. “Okay,” I finally said. “Sookie, what’s going on? Why are you so upset with me?” I tried to keep my voice steady, but my own increasing unease may have raised my volume a bit. “Are you worried that I might not remember everything? Remember us? Because I do. I did as soon as you hit me with your light. You restored me completely to myself.” I looked searchingly into her eyes, but instead of relief at my statement, I saw – and felt – increased guardedness.
“Well, if you remember everything, then you definitely have no excuses, Eric,” she said frostily.
“Excuses? For what?” I was confused.
Sookie’s lips pinched tight as she gestured back and forth between us. “For whatever the fuck this is. What did you do to me? Why can I feel your feelings and why can I sense you and – and find you, and why, when you touch me, does it feel so – so –” Her emotions were spinning up into a hard knot of anger and anxiety and fear.
“Sookie,” I interrupted, anxious to put her at ease. “Those feelings are just the normal effects of our bond.” I shook my head. “I admit, I wasn’t aware of some of the side effects –” I thought of the strange echo I had been able to sense through Sookie of how many minds were in the ballroom earlier in the night. “—but I’m sure that what we’re experiencing is normal. We just need to get used to the different way it feels.” I instinctively sent her a wave of reassurance, trying to soothe her even if she wasn’t ready to have physical contact.
Sookie’s cheeks reddened with anger despite my attempt to console her. “Eric, what bond are you talking about?” she demanded. “Is this because I took more of your blood?”
I frowned at her, bewildered. “Sookie,” I said cautiously. “We exchanged blood. Voluntarily. I told you before we did it that we would be One.” A feeling of dread was now creeping up inside me. What the fuck was going on? We had talked about it before I gave her my blood. Hadn’t we? I tried to recall in detail what we had said to one another, but all I could remember was thinking that the circumstances had aligned to form the bond I had so desperately wanted, and that I had made a point of confirming her willingness before I offered my hand to her.
Sookie’s breathing had quickened with anxiety. “I remember you saying that,” she admitted. “But I thought you meant we would both be – be, well, high together or something. Just for that night. Until the effect of your blood wore off.” Her voice was ragged and I could feel her very real confusion.
Well, fuck me to hell and back. “You didn’t realize that our bond would be permanent?” I asked uneasily.
“Permanent?” Sookie rasped. “You mean this won’t ever wear off? Even after some time for your blood to clear out of my body?”
If she had physically slapped me across the face I might have been less stunned. The blóðfesta was a mystical bond of commitment between two lovers, not some one-shot V trip. Her question was like asking if human wedding vows “wore off” a few hours after the wedding ceremony.
“Sookie, the blóðfesta is a sacred bond, not some fucking casual drug high. So, no, it doesn’t wear off,” I said tightly.
“The blued-fessed—what? ” She stumbled over the ancient term.
“Blóðfesta,” I repeated. “The word is from Old Norse, although other languages have other names for this kind of bond. It means ‘blood union’ or ‘blood pledge.’”
One of the other translations was ‘blood marriage,’ but, given Sookie’s already irritable mood, I suspected mentioning that would bring any chance of a rational conversation to a halt, so I decided to skip that particular detail for the moment. The bond was the bond, whatever it was called.
“And we formed this bond when we exchanged blood?” Sookie asked tersely.
“The actual blood exchange is only part of it, Sookie, or vampires would have bonds with many of those they bite and then give their blood to,” I explained. “Blóðfesta can only happen if the blood is offered freely and if love already exists between the two who offer their blood to one another.” I looked into her eyes. “The magic of the bond wouldn’t – it couldn’t – have happened if we hadn’t already loved one another.” As I felt her increasing tension, I was clinging to that reassurance for my own sake: the bond wouldn’t have formed if she didn’t love me. The magic itself was my proof of her feelings for me.
Unless, of course, Pam was right and Sookie had only loved the “other” me.
Fuck. I tried to remain calm and focus on Sookie’s feelings. She was definitely pissed off, but I could also feel the undercurrent of love for me.
Which me, though?
Sookie raised her chin at me. “How do I know you’re telling me the truth about any of this?”
Jävla fan. Now I had my memories back, Sookie apparently regarded me with the same suspicion she always had. But that had been one point of my wanting the bond with her, hadn’t it? I had believed that if she could know my true feelings, she would no longer be suspicious of me.
So much for that being a given.
“Don’t confuse me with Bill Compton,” I said flatly. “And one of the effects of our bond is that you will know whether or not I’m being truthful with you. So feel it, Sookie. You tell me if I’m lying to you,” I challenged her.
As she probed my sincerity on this point, I felt a tiny knot of her fear loosen as she concluded that I was, indeed, being honest with her. In turn, I relaxed a fraction at this little piece of progress between us.
“Okay, I guess what you’ve told me so far is true,” she begrudged. “But if you want to keep my trust, Eric, you need to tell me what else this blóðfesta thing does,” she warned. “I know we can feel each other’s feelings and I can find you anywhere, like I did in Roy’s trailer last night. And there is the creepy emotional rollercoaster thing when you touch me, but what else?”
“Creepy emotional rollercoaster thing”? Ouch. Ecstasy must be in the eye of the beholder if the emotional bliss we experienced when we touched felt “creepy” to her.
Trying not to let her harsh words get to me, I shook my head. “Honestly, Sookie, I don’t know what else to expect. There are some books in my cubby that mention the bond, but I don’t know everything there is to know about it and I’m finding that I’m already surprised by some things. Including the creepy emotional rollercoaster thing, as you put it.” My tone was dry.
“Eric, did you think that falling under some kind of seductive spell every time you touch me wouldn’t freak me out?” Sookie snapped. “Is that some—some vampire way for you to control me with your blood since you can’t glamour me?” I felt a tingle of fear creep through her, underlying her outward belligerence.
“Control you?” I growled. What the fuck? Even before I had lost my memories, I had not wanted to force her to do anything, although I easily could have. “Sookie, I can’t control you with the bond. Why would you even think that?”
“Well, you can control Pam,” she replied. “You just have to command her and she has to do what you say because of your blood, right? How is this any different?”
“I am Pam’s Maker. There is an element of power that runs only one direction in that kind of bond. But you and I –” I hesitated as I prepared to explain what made the blóðfesta different even from other blood bonds. “In this kind of bond, we are equals.”
For this very reason, it was rare for vampires to bond with humans in the blóðfesta. Unlike when making a human a pet, the magical influences of the blóðfesta ran both ways. Few vampires liked giving what many considered a lower life form that much equality in a relationship. Some might even consider it blasphemy.
It was a good thing I didn’t really care what other vampires might think of my choice to bond with Sookie.
“So you aren’t creating those hippy-dippy bliss feelings to control me?” Sookie asked skeptically.
I waved a hand back and forth between my head and heart with a raised eyebrow, silently reminding her that she could verify the truth of what I was saying on her own. “As far as I can tell, the bond itself is making those hippy-dippy bliss feelings between us when we touch,” I stated. “I don’t know why, but I speculate that it is to bring us closer together.” And that was working so well.
“And with this bond…do you consider me Yours?” she demanded. I could feel her irritation. My Sookie, never fond of the vampire language of claiming, even when such a claim was in her best interests.
“Yes,” I replied evenly and then raised an eyebrow as she pursed her lips with annoyance. “As I. Am. Yours.” I leaned closer to her. “We gave ourselves completely to one another, Sookie. As equals.”
“Well, ‘equals’ except for the part where you didn’t make it clear to me as your equal that we were entering some kind of permanent bond, Eric!” she snapped. “If you really loved me, how could you have done something like that to me without my permission?” Her voice was choked. “I trusted you. My God, you had just promised not to betray me before you apparently did.”
“No!” I said emphatically. “Sookie, I never intended to betray you. I asked you if you wanted to be One with me. I thought you understood what we were doing.” My own frustration with how this conversation was going was beginning to spiral upwards, but I tried to tamp it down by focusing on the facts, not the emotions.
I began again, careful to keep my tone composed. “Look, I’m sorry that we…misunderstood each other when we exchanged blood. But I think the important thing now is that this bond exists between us because we do love each other.” I studied her face intently. “Don’t we?”
Sookie stared at me before she spoke, hesitantly. “Eric, I did fall in love with you – with the other you –”
I felt my heart drop as she made the distinction between me without my memories and my restored self. Was Pam right? Had Sookie only loved the “other” me?
“Sookie,” I interrupted. “I am still me. The me you fell in love with is a part of me. I admit, I haven’t let that part of me come out in a long time. But the ‘other Eric’ is still me. And I still love you. Completely. Can’t you feel that through our bond?”
I could feel her silently assessing my emotions. I did not try to push anything at her, although it was a challenge not to let my increasing fear and desperation control that choice; I just let myself be as she explored inside me, trusting in the thought that once she knew my love for her, all would be well.
“Yes,” she finally whispered. “Yes, I can feel that you do love me.” I could tell she was faintly astonished at the fact, but I didn’t mind that, so long as she knew I loved her. The tension in my shoulders began to ease a bit, at last. What was there to stop us so long as we both loved one another?
Then I felt her steel herself with resolution. “But, Eric, that doesn’t change anything,” she said. “Even if we love each other, this –” She motioned her hand between us. “—is all just too much, too fast for me. I don’t know how to handle finding myself mystically bonded with someone I don’t really know.”
“So, we’ll get to know each other better,” I said firmly. “If we’re together we’ll be able to –”
“No!” Sookie’s voice was sharp. “No, we’re not going to just suddenly be ‘together.’ We can’t – Eric, I can’t, not yet. Not like this.”
“But you love me.” I said stupidly. “Sookie, I can feel that you love me.”
“Yes, I do,” Sookie said and for the first time, I felt sorrow in addition to her frustration and suspicion. “But, Eric, this has all happened so fast. While I was in Faery, what was a year for you was only a few minutes for me, so, in my mind, it was only a couple of weeks ago that the whole thing with Russell happened and Bill betrayed me. And then, the next thing I know, you’ve bought my house and then you’re in my car and half-dressed and all sweet like I’ve never known you to be until now. And then with Bill arresting you, and the sun spell, and the witches grabbing you and Marnie almost killing you – my head is still spinning!”
She stopped and shook her head. “I can’t deny that I love you. I do.” My heart leaped with hope, until she continued, “But I just don’t know who it is I fell in love with. Which Eric is the real you. And while maybe you didn’t mean to trap me into this relationship – ”
I snapped my head back, stung. She viewed it as a trap?
“—the fact is that I do not want to be in some – some permanent bond with you until I’m sure that’s what I want. And at the moment, I am pissed as hell that you put me in this situation without my consent, Eric.”
My jaw tightened. I could feel her anger and I knew she could feel my own disappointment and hurt. “What are you asking of me, Sookie?” I asked finally. “What do you want me to do about this?”
If she asked me to find a way to break the bond, I wasn’t sure if it was even possible, but I would do my damnedest to do as she asked. My motivations were not particularly noble: I suddenly imagined being emotionally bound to Sookie while she chose to live her life with someone else and my experiencing her feelings as she did so.
I’d for fuck sure find a way to break the bond before subjecting myself to that particular emotional torture.
Min blóðfrig folded her hands into her lap, twisting her fingers together. “I guess – I want some time. Some space to think things through. To figure out what I want and what I feel.” She reached out with one hand and placed it on my own and the bond between us roared with fulfillment. “Without this influencing me.” When she pulled her hand back, cutting off the pleasure of the energy flow, my only consolation was that I could feel how difficult it was for her to do so. “Cuz, Eric, feeling that every time we touch when I don’t know what I want just isn’t fair.” She shook her head in vexation.
I was suddenly aware of how physically and emotionally exhausted I was and how much I wanted nothing more than to crawl into my cubby with my blóðfrig and rest in the rapture of our connection.
I might as well be wishing for another day in the sun.
Everything I had hoped for when I had exchanged blood with Sookie little more than 24 hours before seemed to have crumbled around me like ash, I realized grimly. Even knowing I loved her, Sookie still had doubts about me, doubts about whether she could love me – the real me. Instead of resolving everything between us as I had hoped, it was as if the bond had repeated the painful lesson of my fairy-blood-driven day in the sun: I had been given a tantalizing glimpse of what could be, only to have it all yanked away again, thrusting me right back into the darkness where Sookie felt I belonged.
I was too tired to deal with the disappointment and the hurt, so I just shut it all down. Vampires are never at the mercy of their emotions.
Of course, Sookie could sense the dark turn of my feelings. I felt a pang of pity from her, which made it all that much worse. She pursed her lips and tilted her head. “You’re tired,” she stated. “You should probably go so you can get some rest.” She stood up and started for the door.
I followed her numbly, trying to get my head around the clusterfuck that our conversation had become. I paused at the threshold, suddenly aware that once I stepped over it, this time with Sookie –this interlude – was truly going to be over. And while I had some small crumb of hope that it might not be over forever, I had no guarantee. Just a heart heavy with love for someone who didn’t know whether she could love more than a part of me.
I took one more long look at her as she stood there in her front hallway, her golden hair hanging down around her fatigued face. “Sookie, I only wanted to bond with you because I loved you,” I said simply. “I thought if you could feel my feelings – if you could feel the love I have for you – you would finally let yourself trust me. I just wanted you to know how much I loved you. Nothing more.”
She stood silently looking at me for a moment, and then said quietly as she opened the door. “Eric, sometimes just loving each other isn’t enough.” She shook her head and I felt a wave of sorrow and regret swell through our connection.
God, I was so fucking tired. Especially of feeling shit. It wasn’t natural to me and it hadn’t been in nearly a millennia.
“I’ll be gone for a few days while the Authority decides what to do with Tara and the other witches,” I finally said in a business-like tone. “I’ll let you know what I can, when I can.”
“Thank you,” Sookie said softly.
As I stepped over the threshold onto Sookie’s porch – and at the moment, it once again felt like her house, not ours – she placed her hand on my arm to detain me. The bond swelled again, hungrily, but she didn’t yank her hand back the way I half expected her to. “Eric –” I felt what she wanted to say before she formed the words with her mouth. “This hurts me, too. Please don’t think that it doesn’t.” She was telling me the truth; I could feel her pain and sadness, competing with the pleasurable rush brought on by her fingers against my skin.
Fucking feelings. Fucking bond. Fucking Sookie.
Suddenly it was just all too much. She was right; the creepy emotional rollercoaster ride had to end.
I carefully removed her hand from my arm and let it drop, impassively.
“Sookie,” I said, my voice cool and composed, “Please don’t ever touch me again unless you mean it.”
And then I took off into the dark night, but not before I heard her lock the door behind me. And while I flew towards the lights of Shreveport in the distance, the bond tugging unhappily at the ever-increasing distance between us, I knew Sookie was crying, but I was too worn out to care.
A/N: Before you consider giving me the True Death for this chapter, remember that dead writers don’t keep writing. *cough* As promised, this is where this part of the story ends, but it will pick up – with Sookie’s POV – in the third story in my trilogy, The Real Me, and I am committed to our Sooric resolving their temporary differences of opinion. Special shout outs to treewitch703, sweetmg and eys1214 for giving me feedback on this particular chapter, and to all my regular reviewers who have inspired me to keep plugging away at this story. XOXOXOXO Here’s to our Sheriff saving the day in the season 5 finale! Team Eric all the way, baby.