The pain comes crashing down on Sookie in unrelenting waves. She can’t breathe; there is an unbearable tightness in her chest. Tears flow in an endless river from her eyes. How could it all have been a lie?
Sookie looks around her home and feels her agony increase exponentially as she takes in the destruction left by Maryann. She had given everything to Bill. He had been her first love, she had given him her virginity, he had proposed marriage to her; she thought they were building a life together. But she was wrong. He had only come to Bon Temps to procure her for the Queen of Louisiana, using any means necessary. And he had; seduction, alienation, and even murder were used to achieve his goals. Everything bad that had happened to her in the last few weeks could be traced back to her connection with Bill. She probably would have been on her way to New Orléans at this very moment if it hadn’t been for Eric’s intervention.
Sookie’s eyes settle on the mantle where a picture of her with Gran and Jason sits in its place of honor. She walks over to the mantle, picking the picture up so she can lovingly touch the image of Gran. Her Gran had also been deceived by Bill’s lies. She had thought him to be a perfect Southern gentleman, and he acted the part beautifully. He played on her love of history to ingratiate himself to her, and it had cost Adele Stackhouse her life. Bill may not have killed Gran, but he was the reason she died the way she did. She might have been alive today if it hadn’t been for Bill’s deception.
Sookie gingerly places the picture back on the mantle. She needs someone to talk to, but she has no one. Bill managed to alienate her from almost everyone she cared about. Tara and Lafayette had both been traumatized by vampires, and Sookie couldn’t help but feel as if it were her fault for that too. She didn’t want to burden either of them, because they had their own problems to deal with. Sam thought her a fool for being involved with vampires, and believed she would end up dead. She couldn’t talk to him about anything because all she would hear from his thoughts were ‘I told you so’. The entire town of Bon Temps thought she was a stupid fangbanger who deserved to die. Many even thought it was a good thing Gran was dead so she wouldn’t have to deal with the shame of her granddaughter. And Jason, he was dealing with his own demons now. He wouldn’t really understand her if she tried to talk to him; he would just want to kill Bill for hurting his baby sister. Sookie didn’t need to lose her brother on top of everything else.
The walls of her decaying house are closing in on Sookie. She feels as if she is suffocating; her hands clawing at her throat in panic. She has to get out of here; she needs to go somewhere where she won’t be alone.
Flinging the front door open, Sookie takes off running. She follows the path that leads from her house to the cemetery; the home of so many of her family members. Her feet move as fast as they possibly can, her body heaving with exertion from her mad dash. Sookie reaches the cemetery, and skids to a halt. Gran always taught her to respect the dead, so Sookie walks quietly through the graveyard until she reaches the section reserved for the Stackhouse family. She drops to her knees in front of her beloved Gran’s headstone. The grass has already begun to grow; the flowers from Sookie’s last visit have wilted and died. Sookie clears the debris, staring mournfully at the name of her adored grandmother.
Sookie’s voice is barely above a whisper as she begins speaking. “Gran I am so…lost. I followed my heart, but it led me down a dead-end road.” Sookie looks down as fresh tears fall from her eyes, but eventually she returns her gaze to the headstone. “I miss you so much. I’ve never felt so alone.” Sookie’s voice breaks as she continues speaking, her voice muddled by her tears. “And I’ve spent my whole life feeling alone.”
The sound of a twig breaking snaps Sookie out of her melancholy. She uses her telepathy to scan the area and finds a void in the woods. She jumps to her feet, ready to fight her unseen intruder. “Who’s there?” No one reveals themselves. Sookie’s hands begin to glow with her light. “I’m not in the mood for any vamp bullshit, so just leave me alone!”
Eric vamps to the entrance of the cemetery. He is still wearing the blue track suit covered in dried pieces of cement, which also clings to his skin and hair. He looks at Sookie with a sadness in his eyes that reminds her of what happened on the rooftop in Dallas. He holds his hands up in a gesture of peace. “I mean you no harm,” he tells Sookie quietly. “I merely wished to make sure you were safe. I do not trust Bill to leave you in peace.”
Sookie scoffs as the ball of light glows bigger and brighter in her hand. “As if I am safe around you! Or have you forgotten, you let Long Shadow bite me; you sent me into a trap in Dallas; you gave me to Russell Edgington. How the fuck am I safe with you?” Sookie screams as she hurls the ball of light at Eric. Instead of moving out of the way, he allows the light to hit him. He drops to his knees in pain, but does not cry out. Finally, Eric lies still on the ground. Sookie stares in wonder at the Viking vampire. Why hadn’t he moved?
Slowly, Eric pushes himself to his feet. His clothes are singed, his skin is bright red, and little wisps of smoke rise from his body. He looks at Sookie with an expression of resolve on his face; his fangs are nowhere in sight. “You are right; I have hurt you. And for that I am sorrier than I can ever express. But I am asking you to trust me tonight. Both of our existences depend on it.”
Sookie relaxes her stance slightly. Eric may not care about her well-being, but he definitely values his own. “What could have changed in the last hour?”
Eric moves inside the cemetery, still maintaining his distance from Sookie. “Bill is meeting with the Queen tonight.”
Sookie’s heart skips a beat in fear. She remembers Bill’s words about vowing to kill the Queen. Did he really mean it? She looks at Eric with uncertainty on her face. “He told me that he plans to kill everyone who knows what I am, including the Queen.”
Eric looks troubled as he glances in the direction of Compton’s home. “He is a fool. The Queen is more than twice his age. There is no way Compton will win in a fight against her.”
“Maybe he has help,” Sookie says glancing in the direction of Bill’s house.
Eric shakes his head. “He has no one left in his line except Jessica, and she would be of no use in a fight. Unless…” Eric vamps in front of Sookie, startling her with his sudden nearness. “I need you to come with me to Compton’s house; I think I know who may be helping him.”
Sookie shakes her head vehemently in protest. “No way! I’m not getting involved in a fight between vampires! The Queen can kill Bill for all I care!”
“If Bill does not succeed, the Queen will send him to his True Death, but she will still come after you. She thinks your blood will let her walk in the sun. Sophie-Anne is spoiled and selfish; she will never believe the effect only lasts a few minutes. And when she does learn it is temporary, she will most likely kill you.” Eric’s voice falters as he says the last part, a look of sorrow shadowing his face.
“If Bill succeeds in killing Sophie-Anne he will become King of Louisiana. If he is sincere in his wish to protect you that would be an advantageous position to have. However, as a king, he will have powerful enemies. Because he is so young, he will also likely be a target.” Eric appears thoughtful as he outlines all the possible scenarios for Sookie.
“And who knows if he is sincere in his wish to protect me,” Sookie spits out in disgust. “His claim to end all those that know about my heritage wasn’t so much to protect me, but to protect himself.” She remains quiet for several moments, looking at Eric in an assessing way. “What happens to you in either scenario?”
“If Sophie-Anne remains queen, I will be executed for treason. I could always argue that I pretended to turn on her to gain Russell’s trust, so that I could ultimately overtake him. However, Sophie-Anne will never forget my betrayal. She will find an excuse to have Pam and I meet the True Death.” Eric’s expression turns to one of disgust before he continues speaking. “If Bill becomes king, I will ultimately meet my True Death. He will need my age and fighting ability to solidify his claim to the throne, but he will never trust me. There is too much bad blood between us.”
“So you would leave the state?”
“No,” he says quietly. His face is expressionless, but his eyes blaze with emotion. “I would stay to keep you safe. Bill will be even more of a danger to you as a king. He has no one to answer to besides The Authority, and even they rarely interfere in matters of state. I would not see you taken against your will.”
“Why?” Sookie stares at Eric intently. He has offered to protect her before, but he has betrayed her too.
Eric’s eyes scan Sookie’s face as if memorizing every freckle, every curve, and every feature. He moves closer to her, like a moth to a flame. He lifts his hands to caress the side of her face. “You know why,” he says as his eyes fill with an intense longing.
Sookie gasps as she looks at Eric. He is staring at her the same way he did in his office, as if she is the only thing in the world he wants. Tears fill her eyes again. Bill never looked at her as if she was the only thing in the world that mattered to him. Why is Eric Northman the one to finally look at her that way?
Sookie steps back from Eric’s touch, and his hand falls to his side. “What do you want from me?”
“I need you to come with me to Compton’s home.” Eric’s head whips to the side, as if he is listening to a conversation taking place. His expression hardens, and his fangs drop. “We need to go now.”
Before Sookie can respond, Eric grasps her in his arms and shoots up in the moonless sky. Sookie is about to scream in terror, but Eric’s voice in her ear stops her. “Do not make a sound. Sophie-Anne has arrived at Compton’s.” Sookie nods in understanding. Eric lands in a tree near the side of the house. Sookie cannot hear anything, but she can sense two voids in the house. One void she knows is Bill’s; the other is older, female. The thoughts are like a pit of snakes, tangled and twisted. All of the thoughts are dark; Sookie doesn’t know what is going on, but she knows it isn’t good.
The sound of fighting is suddenly loud enough that even Sookie can hear it from their perch outside. It sounds like two alley cats fighting in a trash can. As the sound increases in volume, two black SUVs pull up the drive and stop in front of the house; the doors to the vehicles open at the same time. The first vehicle has four humans dressed all in black, machine guns in their hands ready to fire. Two more humans climb out of the second SUV. Eric quickly moves himself and Sookie further away from the house as Nan Flanagan climbs out of the back of the second SUV. She gestures for two of the soldiers to stay on guard outside. The remaining guards form a protective shield around Nan, and they move in the house.
“Fuck,” Eric exclaims. “That fucking bitch is helping Compton! I should have suspected something after Dallas. Bill’s been her fucking puppet all along,” Eric spits out in disgust. They have moved down from their perch in the trees to stand on the ground in the woods surrounding the Compton home.
“Whose side is Bill on?” Sookie is confused by the latest turn of events.
Eric is using vamp speed to type a message on the phone. He answers her grimly, “Whichever one suits him at that particular moment.” His fingers stop moving, so Sookie can only assume he is finished sending his message. Eric stares at the house indecisively; it scares Sookie that the once cocky, arrogant vampire does not know what to do.
“What do we do now?” She draws Eric’s attention back to her by touching his hand lightly with her own.
“I am waiting for a response from my contact at The Authority. I need to know if they sanctioned this,” Eric stares at his phone. To Sookie, it looks as if he is trying to glamour it to give him the answers he needs. He returns the phone to his pocket when he doesn’t get an answer.
“What’s The Authority? You mentioned it earlier,” Sookie asks. She fully expects that Eric will keep her in the dark. Anything related to vampire business has been kept from her; why should this be any different?
Eric answers her without taking his eyes from the house, “The Authority is the governing council that is supposed to oversee the vampire hierarchy. They are the group responsible for revealing vampires’ existence to humans. They Authority is ruled by the Guardian, a pompous windbag that thinks he is the next messiah. Then underneath him are a group of Chancellors; each chancellor is responsible for a different region. For example, my contact is the Chancellor for the Southeastern Region of the United States. Since we have revealed ourselves to humans, all changes at the monarch level must be approved by The Authority. Before it used to be quite bloody,” Eric smiles wistfully, as if he is remembering happier times as a vampire.
“So . . . with Nan being here, it means The Authority is ok with Bill taking over for Sophie-Anne?” Sookie knows little about vampires but she does know that the older the vampire, the more strength and power. What good is a 200-year-old vampire to The Authority?
Eric shrugs, “Maybe, maybe not. Nan is the mouthpiece for The Authority, but she doesn’t have any real power. She thinks she does because she is on TV, but she has none. If I had to speculate, I would say that Nan plans to rule Louisiana through Bill.” Eric’s phone vibrates in his pocket. The phone is in and out of his pocket in the blink of an eye.
Sookie demands with an impatient gesture, “Well?”
“My contact said it is not sanctioned. They agree Sophie-Anne needs to be removed, but Compton would not have been their choice as a replacement. He is too young, he has no allies. This is all Nan’s work.” Eric regards the house as if it is a chess board; he is strategizing all of his moves. “The fighting inside is still ongoing. Nan and Bill are trying to fight Sophie-Anne; the guards are unable to shoot because they cannot track the vampire movements. Sophie-Anne and Nan are well-matched in a fight. Bill is a non-factor; Sophie-Anne ripped his arm off,” Eric says with a snap of his fangs. Of course his bloodlust is kicking in hearing the battle near them.
“What are we going to do?” Sookie stands with hands on her hips, looking expectantly at the Viking vampire.
Eric raises his eyebrow at the diminutive blonde in front of him. “We, Miss Stackhouse? I seem to recall you saying you wanted to stay out of vampire bullshit,” he ends with a smirk.
Sookie pokes Eric in the chest, “Listen, Buster. I may not want to get involved in your vampire bullshit, but I don’t have a choice. I won’t be anyone’s puppet and I will not live in a cage. So what are we going to do? I know you have a plan; you always do.”
Eric growls appreciatively. “There it is; the fire I remember. It is good to see it again; it has been gone too long thanks to Bill’s influence.” He gives her a fangy leer before refocusing on the house. “I am going to do the only thing I can do; I am going to bring the True Death to Compton, Sophie-Anne, and Nan.”
Sookie looks startled. “But . . . that would make you King of Louisiana? Is that what you want?”
Eric shakes his head. “No, but as I told you before, I will do whatever is necessary to keep you safe. If becoming King of Louisiana is necessary to make sure you can have the life you want, then that is what I will do.” Eric’s expression is one of resolve. “Even if that life does not include me,” he adds in whisper.
Before Sookie can reply, Eric leans down to brush a soft gentle kiss against Sookie’s lips. It is vastly different from the kiss in his office. That kiss was the stuff of fantasies, full of passion, longing, and relief to finally give in to ones desires. This kiss is different; it is gentle, sweet, and loving. Sookie pulls back from the kiss with a stunned expression on her face, her fingers pressing against her tingling lips. Eric smiles at Sookie, his face completely devoid of the masks he normally wears. This smile is shy, sweet; it makes Eric look so much younger. His eyes are a sparkling blue, and they hold something in them that Sookie never expected to see from Eric Northman: love. Before she can say anything, Eric vamps in Compton’s house. The sounds of gunfire and screams fill the night before an eerie silence descends.
Sookie stares in horror at the dilapidated mansion. A sick feeling settles in the pit of her stomach. “ERIC!!!!!!””
One year later . . .
Sookie pulls the door closed behind her as she walks out of the house. The sun is setting, leaving a bit of a chill in the air. She pulls her cardigan tighter around her as she sets off on the path to the cemetery. She is humming a wordless tune as she walks through the woods to the cemetery, flowers dangling from her hand. The leaves on the trees are changing colors and beginning to fall; Halloween is only a few days away. Sookie moves to the cemetery, her destination the Stackhouse family plots. She sets the flowers on top of the headstone for her grandmother so she can clear away the dried flowers from her last visit to the cemetery. Once all the withered flowers are gone, she places a few flowers on the graves of her parents. She kisses her fingers before touching her fingers to each headstone. The remaining flowers she places at the base of Gran’s grave.
“Hi Gran. I’m sorry that I haven’t been by to see you in a while. Things have been hectic,” Sookie says with a smile on her face.
“I’m doing well. I quit working at Merlotte’s so I could go back to school. I’m taking online classes at the community college. I’m only doing the general studies requirements now, but I think I want to be a child psychologist. I want to help kids that have suffered something like what I did as a kid. I think my extra ‘gift’ would give me a great advantage to making sure kids get the help they really need.”
Sookie shifts to sit cross-legged on the ground, settling in so she can have a nice long chat with her beloved grandmother. “Jason’s doing well. He seems to be serious about settling down with Jessica. You didn’t get to meet her, but Bill was her maker. She’s a sweet girl, even though she’s a vampire. She had dated Hoyt when she first came to Bon Temps, but that didn’t work out. Well Maxine Fortenberry didn’t approve first of all,” Sookie says with a roll of her eyes. “But the bigger problem was that Hoyt tried to treat her like a “normal” human girl and wanted to have a “normal” relationship with her. You and I both know that you can’t have a “normal” relationship with a vampire,” Sookie says with another roll of her eyes.
“Anyway, Jess saved Jason when he was attacked by some people out in Hot Shot. They got close after that and started dating a few weeks ago. Jason was worried Hoyt would be mad at him, but Hoyt was the first to wish him the best. Hoyt and Tara actually started dating if you can believe it!” Sookie shakes her head in amazement. “It’s so strange Gran; Hoyt’s so nice and quiet. And you know how Tara is. But when they’re together, it’s like there’s no one else in the world. I’m happy to see her finally find someone.” A wide smile spreads across Sookie’s face as she thinks about her best friend’s happiness.
“Now, I got sidetracked. I wanted to tell you more about what happened to Jason in Hot Shot. He went out there on account of a girl,” she rolls her eyes in disgust before continuing, “and they didn’t like an outsider coming in their area. You know those people out in Hot Shot always were different. But Gran, you’d never believe it,” Sookie says excitedly. She looks around to make sure no one else is around and scans the area to make sure she doesn’t detect anything out of the ordinary. “They’re Were-panthers! You always said there was more out there than what we thought, and you were right! Granted, I don’t think you ever imagined a Were-panther.” Sookie looks at the headstone, deep in thought. The earlier excitement leaves her voice, and she sounds sad when she continues speaking. “Or maybe you did. You always knew there was something different about me.”
A tear falls from Sookie’s eye as she leans forward to touch the headstone of Adele Stackhouse. “I wish you had told me Gran. It would have been so much easier growing up knowing why I was different from everyone else. I know you helped me out the best you could. It would have been nice to have guidance along the way from someone like me. But at least I have Claudine now. She’s sorta like my fairy godmother,” Sookie says in a whisper. “She’s been helping me with my telepathy and teaching me about being a fairy. She’s been helping me develop my ‘light’. She’s amazing Gran; I’m so lucky to have her.”
Sookie sighs heavily, but a smile is on her rosy lips. “I’m happy Gran. For the first time in my life, I can say I’m truly happy. I feel complete. I have friends and family that care about me. I’m going back to school to do something with my life; I want to be more than just a waitress. And I’ve finally found the man I love more than anything in this world. The most amazing part is that he loves me the same way. He’s thoughtful, caring, funny, smart, and probably the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen,” she admits with a blush. “He lets me be independent, but he’s always there to support me if I need it. He treats me like an equal instead of keeping me in the dark. He’s fiercely protective of me, but doesn’t try to keep me from living my life. He’s everything to me,” Sookie admits reverently.
A gentle breeze stirs the air, causing Sookie to shiver. There is a soft thump and then the sound of gravel crunching joins the music of the night. Sookie smiles happily at the headstone, even with the unexpected company during her visit with Gran.
“I know you said you would call when you wanted me to join you Lover, but I missed you.” Eric says as he comes to a stop next to Sookie. He wears his customary uniform of all black; boots, jeans, wifebeater, and leather jacket. His hair is slicked back, his sensual mouth moves in a little pout. But it is his eyes that capture Sookie’s attention; they blaze with love for her.
Eric holds his hands out for Sookie, helping her rise from the ground. She brushes at the debris clinging to the front of her dress. Eric enthusiastically brushes at the debris clinging to the back of her dress; his hands may have squeezed and pinched her backside in their quest to remove all lingering items from her dress.
Sookie shrieks and swats at his hands. She asks in mock outrage, “Did you just pinch my butt?”
Eric smirks and leers at her. “Beautiful butt,” he teases.
Sookie blushes. “Well thanks, but hands off.” Eric laughs at her as he pinches her backside again, and she leaps forward in his arms. He wraps his arms around her, his cheek resting on top of her head. He hums in delight. Peacefulness settles over the two of them as all is silent in the cemetery.
Sookie pulls back so she can look at Eric, but remains in the circle of his arms. “Do you want to meet my Gran?”
Eric nods solemnly. “Of course.”
Sookie steps out of Eric’s arms, but her hand remains in his. “Eric, this is my Gran, Adele Stackhouse. Gran, this is Eric Northman, my bonded.” Eric bows his head respectfully, but says nothing.
“I wish I could have known her.” Eric says after a few moments. His arm has moved to pull Sookie tightly against his side.
Sookie snorts as she thinks about Eric meeting her Gran. “She would have hated you at first. She couldn’t stand arrogant people.” Eric pushes his lower lip out and looks at Sookie with pitiful eyes. Sookie laughs at him for giving her the boo face. She runs her finger along his lower lip and he moves to suck her finger in his mouth as his eyes quickly fill with lust. He scraps his fangs lightly against the digit, causing Sookie to shiver. He releases her finger with a pop.
Eric gives Sookie his sexiest smirk. “I would have worn her down. I wore you down after all.”
Sookie shakes her head at him. “You didn’t wear me down Eric. I finally realized just how good a man you are beneath that tough vampire exterior. You became King of Louisiana to keep me safe. You walked away from me, even though you wanted me for yourself. It’s because of actions like that which would have had Gran soften towards you. She would have seen the good in you just as I have.” Sookie leans up to kiss him softly on the lips. It is a kiss filled with love and appreciation.
When Sookie pulls back there is a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. “You know, you should thank Gran. She’s the reason we’re together.”
Eric raises his eyebrow. “And how do you figure that Lover?”
“Well, she told me to follow my heart. There were lots of twists and turns, and more than a few bumps in the road. But ultimately, my heart led me to you.”
~ The End