The afterlife is not at all like what Eric Northman expected. After having survived for over a thousand years, he was not entirely sure he believed in the concept. As a human, he had hoped to die in battle so that the shieldmaidens would escort him to Valhalla to be with the other brave warriors that had died in battle. But that was something denied him the night Appius Livius Ocella had drained the blood from his body and replaced it with his own. Three nights later, Eric had risen a vampire; and all hopes of going to Valhalla were gone. With the passing of time, Eric’s belief in an existence beyond this one diminished. He attributed the human belief in the afterlife as being mistaken for some supernatural being. So when the True Death finally came to claim him, he expected it to be all she wrote; there would be nothing beyond that. One minute he had been fighting for his survival, the next he was laying on a soft bed in a faintly lit room; there had been no pain when he had met his True Death.
Fucking Freyda! I knew that bitch would be the end of me!
Eric swings his legs over the side of the bed while sitting up so he can look around the room with interest.
This is very strange. The room looks exactly like my room in Shreveport; the house I shared with Sookie.
Looking down at the bedside table, there is Eric’s most prized possession: the picture of him and Sookie dancing at the reception in Rhodes. He picks the frame up, staring lovingly at the image of his Sookie. Tears fill his eyes as he gazes at the only woman to ever capture his heart, as a human or as a vampire. Her stunning ice blue silk gown had accentuated the curves of her figure while still being modest enough for her to look like the lady she was. Her long blonde curls flew through the air as he had twirled her around the dance floor. But it was the expression on her face that Eric loved the most; she had been so carefree, so unguarded that night that all of her emotions were visible. She looked like a woman in love, happy to be in the arms of the man she adored.
“I love you Sookie,” he whispers brokenly as his fingers touch the image of his beloved. Tears fall from his eyes, though he does not notice. “I hope you are at peace and happy in your life. Forgive me, my love, for not protecting you as I should have. Know that I will be watching over you. Perhaps one day we will be reunited here and we can be together as we should have been.”
“You don’t have to wait long my Viking,” says a soft voice with a hint of a Southern drawl.
Dropping the frame in shock, Eric’s head snaps up to find his heart’s greatest desire standing in the doorway: Sookie Stackhouse. She is more beautiful than he remembered. The breath he has no need of gets lodged in his throat; she’s wearing the dress, the red and white dress from the night they first met. Of all the outfits he’d seen his lover wear, that was his favorite. From what he can see, her golden skin is free from the battle scars that had marred her perfection. A white headband holds her hair back, allowing him to see all of her face. Eric gasps when he sees the same expression in the photograph on her face now. The lips he has spent endless hours kissing in his fantasies are curved in a blindingly brilliant smile though her lower lip is caught by her teeth. A rosy blush paints her cheeks a delicious shade of red. But it is her eyes, her cornflower blue eyes that sparkle with a love so all-encompassing that it holds Eric immobile. Never before had his Sookie looked at him so openly; not even as his amnesia self, Sookie had always held part of herself back. Not that he could blame her; the only time he had allowed himself to love her freely and openly was when he had no memory.
Eric whispers, “How is this possible?” Part of him fears that if he speaks louder than a whisper it will scare away the lovely vision in front of him.
Sookie counters with a question of her own. “What’s the last thing you remember?” She crosses the room, moving to sit beside him on the bed. Once she is settled in place, she reaches over to grasp Eric’s hand between her own. The familiar jolt Eric felt when he touched Sookie zinged through his fingers, up his arm and straight to his heart. Eric smiled broadly because he felt another long-lost sensation: the blood bond was back in place. Somehow the bond to his beloved was back in place because he could feel all of Sookie’s emotions: love, happiness, peace, and acceptance. He reveled in the feelings, wrapping them around him like a cocoon.
“Baby,” Sookie whispers gently, “what’s the last thing you remember?”
“Felipe de Castro sent his forces to overthrow Oklahoma; I was in the palace protecting myself. Freyda, that bitch, had already met her True Death.”
Eric chuckles and squeezes Sookie’s hand before continuing his story. “With Freyda gone, I was finally free; there was no one left to control me. My maker was gone; the contract with Oklahoma was no more. I could return to Louisiana; I could see my progenies once again.” Eric squeezes Sookie’s hand again, his eyes staring intently in hers. “I could return to my true wife, the wife of my heart; the one that had been stolen from me.”
Tears fill Sookie’s eyes at Eric’s words. They were a balm to her tattered heart; she needed to hear it after all this time. She’d been humiliated publicly with their divorce; decimated privately with Eric’s attempt to get her to hate him. And it had worked . . . for a time. Eventually Sookie had come to realize that Eric had said everything he did that evening so she wouldn’t miss him, so she wouldn’t spend time mourning the death of their relationship. Eric had wanted her to go on with her life; to live a life free of vampire politics. To him, an extra hundred years of servitude seemed a small thing to give up so that Sookie would stay safe. But there was one thing Eric failed to realize, there is no getting over Eric Northman. Even when she hated him, Sookie still loved Eric and that love had only grown as the days passed.
Eric’s voice pulls Sookie from her thoughts. “I was ready to surrender when I was staked by de Castro himself. The next thing I knew I was lying in this bed.” Eric’s voice is filled with rage as he thinks of the cape-wearing vampire responsible for the deaths of so many. Only a coward would end another when their sword was lowered in surrender.
Sookie remains quiet while Eric works through his emotions concerning de Castro. She had never liked the King of Nevada. He was responsible for the final deaths of many vampires that she cared for. He was completely useless when it came to the problems they had with Victor Madden. But the biggest sin in Sookie’s eyes was taking Eric away from her; he could have voided the contract Appius had made with Oklahoma, but he did not. Felipe de Castro wanted Eric gone from his kingdom because he knew it was only a matter of time before Eric took a stand against him.
“Lover,” Eric’s voice is rough with emotion and causes a shiver along Sookie’s spine. “How did you come to be here?” He had been so lost in thoughts of his own death that it took him some time to realize that for Sookie to be here, she must have died too.
“Bill,” Sookie says in disgust and Eric snarls in rage as his fangs drop. “I’m guessin’ he knew about de Castro’s plan for Oklahoma. He came to the bar to warn me. My first thought was to pray for your safety,” Sookie admits with a smile.
Eric releases Sookie’s hands to cup her face tenderly. “Always worried about others first,” he admonishes. “When will you learn to worry about yourself first?” Eric leans down to kiss her forehead before releasing her face.
Sookie’s smile becomes self-deprecating. “I suppose I don’t have to worry about that now,” she says ruefully. “Sam told me to head home; he was gonna call Terry to cover for him and then he would be at my house. Bill said he’d escort me home to make sure I was safe.” Her tone of voice became sarcastic when uttering the last word. “Part of me must have suspected something though. I grabbed my purse out of Sam’s office. However, before I left, I called Niall and left a message about the attack in Oklahoma. I remember how angry he was with me that we didn’t notify him the last time.”
Sookie sighs heavily before continuing. “Bill was tense the whole way home, but that’s not unusual for him; I thought he was worried about the situation in Oklahoma. When we stopped at my house, I scanned to see if we were alone. Once I told him no one else was around, he smiled coldly.” She shivers in both fear and disgust at the memory of her first love. Eric wraps his arms around her to provide comfort and support; he can already guess how this story will end.
Sookie’s words are muffled by his chest as she continues, her tears soaking the cotton of his shirt. “He grabbed me and dragged me into the woods; he’d already dug a hole. His hand was over my mouth to muffle my screams . . . just like in Jackson,” she whispers hoarsely. “I remember him draining me . . . then laying me on the ground with him above me, ready to give me his blood. But then he was gone; Sam, Alcide, and a few others were attacking Bill. I think Niall was there also because Bill exploded in a ball of light. The next thing I remember is waking up here.” Sookie leans back so Eric can see her tear-stained face. He has gone still as a statue and has locked down all his emotions. The overwhelming urge is to seek Compton in the afterlife and kill him again; just as he should have done all those years ago. Shame also spreads to every recess of his body; once again Sookie was in the crosshairs and he had not been there to prevent it!
“Stop it!” Sookie’s words force Eric’s eyes to rise from their lowered position, and he arches an eyebrow, silently questioning the meaning of her words.
She grasps his face between her hands, pulling him closer to her. “I haven’t felt you in over five years Eric; do not shut me out now!”
“Sookie,” he says her name as a warning.
“Eric,” she counters hotly. His lips twitch involuntarily as he sees the passion and fire that first captivated him. “It wasn’t your fault; none of this was your fault!”
Eric shoots up off the bed, pacing like a caged animal before wheeling around to shout in frustration. “How can you say that? EVERYTHING that has happened is my fault! Appius made that contract with Oklahoma to control me; he had felt the love and happiness I shared with you and wanted to take it away from me. He wanted to crush me by proving that he would always control me, making sure that I would never be truly free or happy. When he was gone, I thought I was finally free; all I had to worry about was my obligation to the state of Louisiana. But I was working to find a way out of the contract. I knew de Castro would cause further problems for us, so I was looking for alternate plans. I was working to see if we could seek asylum in Mississippi or Texas; both owed us favors and they respected you. But Appius proved that he could still control me even in his True Death. I hid the marriage contract from you not because I wanted to be a royal consort, but because I was ashamed and scared; I didn’t want to lose you.” Eric’s voice which had been so impassioned suddenly dropped to a whisper. “But I did anyway . . . I did everything I could to make sure you were protected and free to live the life you wanted. Still I failed you . . .”
Sookie stares at him incredulously from the bed. Her voice is shrill as she begins speaking. “You think you’re the only one to blame for this? I had the cluviel dor; I should have used it to save you, but I didn’t. I was too stubborn and proud; I thought if you really loved me, then you’d find a way to break the contract. By going through with the marriage, I thought you were trying to prove to me that you loved your power and position in vampire politics more than me. I was a fucking idiot!” Sookie’s frustrated shout echoes in the otherwise silent room. Taking a deep breath, she visibly relaxes her position on the bed and resumes speaking at a normal volume. “It wasn’t until after all the dust settled that I truly understood what happened. Mr. Cataliades and Niall sat me down and explained the situation you were in, everything you had given up to protect me. That was when I ended things with Sam. Yes, I loved him and I used the cluviel dor to save him, but I was never in love with him.” With a sigh she continues, “When I was just a waitress in a backwoods town he was something nice to look at and fantasize about. Maybe if vampires never entered my life, we’d have been happy together; but it would have been me settling for the best of what was available to me. I think Sam even knew while we were together it wasn’t good. When things ended between us, we were both . . . relieved. It didn’t take us long at all to get back into the dynamic of bein’ friends; hell, I’m the one that set him up on the date with the woman who became his wife!” Sookie finishes talking with a chuckle, recalling Sam’s reluctance to approach Jessica, the beautiful redhead that had walked into his heart the moment he met her.
“So where does that leave us?” Eric stands in the middle of the room with his hands in his pockets. For once, his confidence has deserted him. He longs for the woman on the bed with every fiber of his soul; he never expected to have this chance with her.
“I’m still the girl in the white dress,” she says plucking at the skirt of her dress spread across her legs. She rises from the bed and walks towards the man she loves; Eric may be a vampire, but she has always seen the man he is beneath the fangs, just as he has always seen the woman beneath the fairy.
“That walked into my bar,” Eric says wistfully as Sookie stops in front of him. She places a hand over where his heart should beat. Her beautiful eyes shining with love for him.
“We had a really shitty life together Eric; everything and everyone conspired to keep us apart. Is it so wrong that in our afterlife we finally get to have the life we were meant to have? One where you and I can love each other without fear or reservations,” she whispers hopefully.
Eric’s arms wrap around Sookie, pulling her flush against his body, as his lips capture hers. Finally, they both think to themselves as they sigh into each other’s mouths. Eric’s lips move slowly along Sookie’s, savoring both the taste and feel of her once again. So sweet, he thinks as he slides his tongue along her lower lip, seeking permission to enter. Sookie’s mouth opens with a moan, and he slips inside to continue his exploration. Eric is savoring her, as one would a fine wine; his tongue moves in a slow, sensual dance with hers as his hands ghost over her skin, not quite touching her fully, but arousing her all the same. He finally has Sookie in his arms again and he is not going to rush the experience.
Eric’s desire to move slowly frustrates Sookie; she is in a frenzy to have him this instant. If he doesn’t make love to me soon, I’ll burn to a cinder she thinks as she moans again. Her hands grip his hair tightly and she rubs her body against his sinfully. Her nipples are stiffened peaks beneath the thin layer of her sundress and her underwear is steadily becoming wetter as her arousal flows out of her body.
Eric growls deep in his throat as he smells the sweet honey that is flowing between Sookie’s thighs. Never has he tasted anything as delicious, and now he will never be without it again. Chuckling at the urgency coming from his mate, Eric’s hands begin lifting the skirt of her dress, the fabric slithering against Sookie’s heated skin causing her to moan and shiver. YES is all she can think in her head.
A knock at the door sounds.
“GODDAMN IT!!!!” Sookie shouts in frustration as she and Eric separate. Her beautiful Viking is doing some cursing of his own though it is all in Swedish. Eric strides quickly to the door and flings it open so hard that it bounces against the wall and ricochets back to hit him in the arm.
A woman in a white robe stands in the doorway. Her lips twitch with humor. “Am I interrupting something?”
“Who are you?” Eric is fighting the urge not to kill the woman in front of him. He may have been taking his time with Sookie, but that doesn’t mean the urge to claim his mate in the most primal of ways wasn’t scratching and clawing at him to get on with it.
The woman smiles faintly though her gray eyes show a slight pain. “I’m the reason the two of you are here.”
Sookie comes rushing over to the door, her irritation at being interrupted forgotten. She looks into the kind gray eyes of the blonde woman before her. “I’m sorry, but have we met before? You seem awfully familiar.”
“We have met before . . . a long time ago. If you would please come with me, I can explain everything. I am sure you both have questions.” The woman moves away from the door and back into the hallway. Sookie and Eric share a look of curiosity before joining her in the hallway.
The woman walks sedately down the hallway, almost as if she is gliding above the floor. Sookie and Eric follow closely behind her, curious about all the pictures on the walls; the pictures are of the two of them and the people who were most important to them. However, the pictures were mainly of scenarios that had never occurred for them. Sookie looks ready to ask questions but Eric shakes his head to stop her; he knows the woman in the robe will reveal everything when she is ready.
The robed woman stops outside of an open door and turns to gesture for Eric and Sookie to enter. Grasping Eric’s hand tightly, Sookie leads the way into the room and gasps in shock; it is the largest library she has ever seen. The ceiling is so high that Sookie cannot even see the top of it in the dim lighting. She is amazed to see all the books, ranging from the classics to modern-day; her Gran had instilled in her a keen appreciation of literature. Eric looks around avidly; there are hundreds if not thousands of first editions on the shelves, in many languages. There are also other famous artifacts and works of art in the room. It is a collection that every museum around the world would kill to have its hands on. There are some items in the room that he would have killed to possess.
A large object in the corner of the room catches his eye. Unable to resist, he moves towards the historic instrument. “Is that a replica of the Guttenberg printing press?”
The robed woman has stood by the door smiling as she watches the two lovers investigate the room. “No Viking; that is the press that Johan Guttenberg used to print the Holy Bible.” She walks into the room and pulls a book off one of the shelves. She turns to offer the book to Eric, “I think this will interest you as well.”
Eric takes the offered item and gasps in surprise; it is a first edition of Clarissa. Sookie stands by his arm and looks at the book. “What is it Eric?”
He swallows the large lump that is suddenly lodged in his throat. “It’s a book,” he says hoarsely. “Clarissa has been my unicorn; I’ve searched high and low for a first edition but could never find one.” He looks around in awe. “What is this place?”
“It’s your home, or what should have been your home in Louisiana. In other versions of the braid, this is the house the two of you resided in together on Cross Lake.”
The bonded mates ask in unison, “The braid?”
The woman gestures towards the seating area in the library. “I think we should all sit down; this will take some time to explain.”
Eric and Sookie move to the couch, his arm going around her pulling her against his side. Her arm moves around his back, her hand resting lightly against his award-winning butt. Her other hand rests on his thigh. They both look expectantly at the woman who can give them all the answers they need.
The woman sits in a comfortable leather chair, a true smile on her face as she sees the lovers wrapped up in each other. “It is good to see the two of you like this, even if it is here in the afterlife. You two were destined to be together in every realm that exists.” Sookie opens her mouth but the robed woman stops her by holding her hand up in a stop motion. “Please let me explain and then you may ask me all the questions you desire.”
“You both understand that the Fae live in another realm, yes?” Both nod, so she continues her story. “There are many parallel universes that coexist at the same time; the differences between universes can be attributed to the most minor of decisions. What would happen if I turned right instead of left . . . yes instead of no . . . Or something even as simple as a coin flip,” she says producing a coin from her robes. “Eric, how did you come to be in Louisiana?”
“Pam and I flipped a coin . . . It was either Los Angeles or Paris.”
“Have you ever wondered how different your existence would have been if it had been Los Angeles?”
“I suppose I never gave it much thought until now,” he admits honestly.
The third blonde in the room smiles before speaking. “I am getting ahead of myself here. As I said parallel universes do exist, though most never even know about the others. Because of what you are my dear,” she says to Sookie, “you have the ability to enter the braid as the Fae call it. The braid consists of all the different parallel universes woven together. The Fae have the unique ability to move between the parallels, forewarning their other selves about possible dangers that may lie ahead. In your case, the two of you as well as those closest to you have been able to enter the braid.”
“Why did we never enter the braid? And why were we never visited by our other selves?” Eric is angry; if they had been warned, they could have prevented all the obstacles they have been forces to endure.
“There are always those that will work against you, just as there are those that will be there to help you. In some strands of the braid, Sophie-Anne was an enemy; in yours, she was an ally. There are versions where Sookie’s parents lived but Gran died; Pam met her True Death; Sookie was married with children. As I said, it all comes down to the choices we make.”
“So why are we here now?” Sookie asks after digesting all the information that has been presented to them.
The robed woman sighs before standing from her chair. “You are here because this is the only way I could help the two of you be together in this strand as you were meant to be. This is the final strand of the braid; this is the only universe in which the two of you had not found your way to each other. Once the two of you had bonded, you should have been indestructible. All of the other strands in the braid have the two of you as bonded mates, and no one has been able to defeat you. I do not know what went wrong this time.”
“So what do we do now?”
“You love each other the way you were meant to; spending eternity in the arms of the one you love. You may enter the braid to help the other versions of yourselves avoid making the same mistakes as the two of you did. The other versions of you two have created journals describing all of their adventures in the braid and the information they have found; they call them skips. But you will stay here for all time though I am sure those closest to you will join you here eventually; it is my final gift to the two of you.” The woman makes her way to the door, intending to leave the bonded pair alone.
Sookie jumps up from the couch, ready to run after the woman. “Wait!!!!! Who are you?”
The woman turns around and smiles. “My name is Angela; I am the one that created the braid.”
~ The End