Eric’s heart swells with happiness hearing Sookie’s words. She loves me! He takes a step towards her as his lips shift into a blindingly brilliant smile. He feels so happy knowing she loves him. It erases the pain that has gripped his very soul since he last gazed upon her lovely face. He is quickly sitting beside her, the gift pushed to the side. Eric tries to pull Sookie in his arms, but she leans away from him.
Sookie sighs as she looks up at Eric with sad eyes. “Loving you was never the problem Eric. But sometimes love isn’t enough.”
Fucking emotions! Elation one minute, despair the next. He feels like he is being tugged in two different directions only to be split down the seam. Eric springs to his feet and demands angrily, “Why isn’t it enough? In all my years walking this earth, I have never felt this way about someone as I do for you! Do you think this is a passing fancy for me? That I will change my mind?”
Sookie, just as angry as he, springs to her feet so she can stand in front of him. “Yes!!! Do you have any idea how intimidating it is to hear you say you’ve never loved another person before? How do I know this isn’t because you’re bored and want to try something different? Maybe you think you love me because I was there with Godric at the end. I don’t know! But it’s scary as hell to think that you,” she says poking him in the chest, “love me! You’re immortal and I’m human . . .”
“Mostly,” Eric finishes for her as he remembers a similar conversation they had in bed.
“Yes,” she whispers sadly. “I will die eventually Eric. Are you really gonna stay with me as I grow old and withered? Because I honestly can’t see that happening,” she admits. The twinkling lights of the Christmas tree are reflected in the pools of tears that are threatening to fall from her eyes.
“Would you not consider spending eternity with me?” Eric cups her face in his hands, his thumbs brushing away the tears that spill from her eyes.
“I never thought about it to be honest,” she says softly. “Even with Bill…” Eric growls hearing his name and Sookie smiles faintly. “Oh hush. I’m here with you aren’t I? And other than at Merlotte’s, I haven’t seen him since Halloween.”
“Really?” Then how the hell does Compton know about the gifts Eric’s been sending.
“Oh he’s been snooping around, but I haven’t invited him in.”
“About that,” Eric says stepping back so he can reach inside his jacket. “I brought the paperwork to transfer ownership of the house back to you. I should have done it sooner so you’d be safe and I’m sorry I didn’t. If something had happened to you…” Eric’s face clouds as he realizes something had almost happened to her because of his carelessness and he becomes angry with himself all over again.
“Hey,” Sookie says softly as she grabs his free hand to hold between hers. “I’m fine; don’t beat yourself up over what ifs. And even if you had given me the house back, it wouldn’t protect me from everyone.”
“But I should have been here to protect you from the Were bitch,” he says savagely.
Sookie’s eyes widen. “How did you . . . Alcide! I told him to keep quiet!” Sookie drops his hand and moves away from him to pace angrily.
Eric moves to her side and wraps her up in his arms to calm her down. Sookie slowly relaxes in his embrace, resting her hands on his sides as her cheek settles against his chest. They stay quiet as they enjoy the simple comfort of being in each others arms again.
“I missed this,” Sookie whispers as she rubs her cheek against the soft fabric of his suit. “I thought I was doing the right thing by walking away,” she confesses. “One if not both of us were gonna get hurt.”
Eric’s arms tighten fractionally around her. “Lover there are no guarantees in this life. We could both die tomorrow with the way our luck has gone recently,” Sookie snorts with humor in agreement and Eric smiles as his hands caress her hair. “Or we could spend years and years together, exploring the world, loving each other until the end of days. Even if you were with a human there would be no guarantees. Will you turn your back on us because of fear? I’m scared too, but my excitement at the thought of being with you far outweighs any fear I may have,” Eric murmurs as he rests his cheek on top of her head.
“You make a compelling argument Mr. Northman,” Sookie says as she moves back slightly to stare at his handsome face.
Eric smirks. “I do have a way with words.” One of his pointer fingers traces the side of her face, sliding down to her chin where he tilts her chin up so they are eye to eye, his expression becoming solemn and intense. “I love you Sookie Stackhouse. Whether it’s for a lifetime or eternity, I swear on Godric that you are the woman of my heart. Do not walk away from me again,” he pleads.
“This is all happening so fast,” Sookie says with a shaky voice and moves away from Eric’s touch. His entire being screams out in pain at the loss of contact but he remains still. He has put all of his cards on the table; the ball is in her court. Sookie sits back down on the couch and takes a deep breath before looking up at him to speak. “When I walked away from you, it broke my heart. I felt like I would never be whole again, and these weeks apart hasn’t lessened the pain. If anything it’s become sharper and I am completely miserable.”
“Good,” Eric states shortly though there is a smile on his face. “It’s petty I know, but I’m glad I wasn’t the only one suffering.”
“But I didn’t go running into the arms of someone else looking for comfort,” Sookie says in a choked voice and drops her head to look at her lap as the tears finally fall from her eyes again. Eric has always hated her tears, but knowing that he is the cause of them – again – makes him feel a discomfort that is far worse than any torture he has experienced in his millennium on earth. He snarls mentally at the thought that love has made him a pansy, but it doesn’t ease the sorrow he feels knowing that it is because of his thoughtless actions that she sits here in tears. Her tears when she’d ordered him to get off her porch after finding out about Compton’s deceit had been heartbreaking, but he had consoled himself that it was for her own good to know the truth about the duplicitous snake in the grass. Of course, that sentiment quickly evaporated when he’d learned she had disappeared. For over a year, Eric blamed himself for Sookie running away. He knows and understands why she ran away, but that didn’t make his guilt any easier to bear. There could have been other ways to tell her the truth, but instead he’d been brutally cold, indifferent even, as he’d shattered the illusion she had lived with for months. It was little comfort to know that he had ultimately done the right thing but it was at the cost of Sookie’s mental and emotional well-being. It was his guilt as much as his hope that she would return that had him buying her house when her idiot brother had put it on the market, but it was love that made him painstakingly restore the home to exactly as he knew Sookie would want it. If it had been up to him, he would have leveled the old homestead and started over with something far more modern, with all the bells and whistles that modern technology provided. But the home wasn’t about him, it was about Sookie.
Eric has no idea what to say that will possibly make this better for Sookie. She’s right; he can explain why he did what he did until the end of time, but it won’t ease her pain. He selfishly used others to try to make himself feel better, but it only made him feel worse. If the tables were turned and Sookie had been the one to seek comfort in the arms of others, Eric knows he would have gone on a rampage that would have made his antics as a newborn vampire look like child’s play.
“I can’t take back what I did no matter how much I wish I could,” Eric admits with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He finally understands what she means about love not being enough, because he can already see his future without Sookie in it because of his selfishness. It is a bleak, cold void that will swallow him whole and leave him with nothing. It is not a future he wishes for himself and he struggles to find the words to make Sookie understand how much he wishes it had never happened.
“Sookie look at me,” Eric pleads as he drops to his knees in front of her. He places his hand under her chin, but she stubbornly refuses to meet his gaze. He smiles faintly at her display of rebellion, her fire, but it fades as he feels the wetness of her tears on his fingers. “I have no excuses, no rationalizations. I was devastated on so many levels and was looking for a way, any way to feel in control of my existence again, to feel something like myself. It was petty and stupid and I regret it more than you will ever know because of how it hurts you,” he says with his voice achingly soft.
Sookie looks at him with her tear-stained face in outrage. “How could you possibly know how it hurts me? Don’t you think I wanted someone to hold me and tell me everything would be alright? Alcide’s been here for me the last few weeks. It woulda been so easy to take that step that woulda ended up with me and him in bed.” Eric growls hearing how close the Were has gotten to his little fairy. He knew Alcide was attracted to her, and with his bitch finally out of the way, there was nothing stopping him from making a serious play for Sookie. A hot acidic feeling sits heavily in the back of his throat. What if his Sookie had ended up in the arms of the wolf? What if . . .
“MINE!” He snarls in frustration and grips Sookie’s knees in his hands pulling her closer to him as he tries to surround her body with his. Eric’s fangs have snapped down as his instinct to protect his mate rises up in him.
Sookie’s eyes narrow angrily. “Really? Was I yours while you were busy fuckin’ your way through New Orleans?” Eric’s eyes widen comically and his jaw hangs open in shock. How the hell . . .
Sookie pushes away from him, moving to stand across the room from him. She turns back to him with a bitter expression. “You shoulda known Bill would make sure I knew every single thing you did while you were away. He took great pleasure in making sure I knew just how much you really loved me,” she says bitterly.
Before Eric can respond, Sookie rushes on. “Look I know I have no right to be angry or jealous but I am! I can understand Nora even if I don’t like it. How can I compete with someone you have a history with that spans centuries? But the others? Those are the ones I can’t understand. I am so mad at you, and yet I’m so happy to have you here. Part of me wants to run to you and kiss you; the other part wants to light your ass up like the Fourth of July!”
Eric cannot help but smirk as he rises to his full height. “Must be Fairy Sookie. I like when she comes out.”
Sookie scoffs but there is a touch of humor on her face. Her expression fades as she stares at Eric in silence for several moments. She wraps her arms around her torso and rocks back on her heels nervously. She bites her lip and asks shyly, “So where do we go from here?”
Eric walks purposefully towards her advancing as she retreats until she ends up pressed against the wall with him caging her in with his impressive stature. “I think this means we are ‘going steady’ as Dear Abby calls it.”
Sookie giggles. “You read Dear Abby? That’s got to be the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard!”
Eric shakes his head with a carefree smile of his own and a conspiratorial wink in his eye. “Not me; Pam.”
Sookie’s eyes widen and her mouth moves in a silent ‘oh’. “She used to record Oprah and Dr. Phil too,” he says in mock seriousness.
“To blend in better with society. Now she watches TMZ and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
Sookie laughs heartily. “OK, now that is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard!”
Eric wraps his arms around her, his head settling on top of hers, chuckling as he too finds the situation humorous. “So Miss Stackhouse, will you go steady with me?”
“You big dork,” she snorts as she snuggles in his arms. “They haven’t called it ‘going steady’ since the fifties.”
Eric sighs in agony. “Pam made me watch a movie about dating that she said ‘fit’ our situation perfectly. She said I was the bad boy and you were the goody two shoes.”
“What movie was it?”
Sookie busts out laughing. “Seriously?!?! That’s the movie she said would help you figure out dating?!?!?! Oh God, that’s too funny!”
Eric smiles at seeing her amusement as he wipes the tears that have fallen during her raucous laughter. “I learned valuable lessons from that movie I will have you know,” he says solemnly though his eyes twinkle with mirth. He grabs her hand and tugs so she will follow him. He settles her down on the couch as he sits beside her too.
“Oh? And what have you learned, oh wise one?” Sookie lifts her eyebrows expectantly as her lips curve in a beautiful smile.
“I learned that your ass will look phenomenal in black leather pants,” he says with a wink which makes Sookie roll her eyes. His fingers toy with hers nervously while he reaches for the discarded present on the couch. “And I learned that a man should give the girl he cares for a token of his affection.” Eric sets the elegantly wrapped present in Sookie’s hands.
“Eric what did you do?” Her voice is a soft whisper as she stares at the package in her hands. She knows that today is supposed to be the five golden rings. Sookie had hoped that Eric would ignore this song lyric and opt for something else, but she knew the extravagant vampire wouldn’t be able to resist the opportunity to lavish her with something golden or something jewelry related.
“Open it and find out,” he says gruffly.
As if it were the most precious thing in the world, Sookie carefully slides the bow off the package and then slides her finger along the paper’s edge to delicately open the paper. Eric, with supreme impatience, takes the box from her, ripping the paper with one long tear. Sookie glares at him for ruining the most beautiful paper she had ever seen. Eric makes an impatient hurry up motion with his hands. Sookie narrows her eyes at him before returning her attention to the box. A small gasp falls from her lips. Never in her wildest dreams did she think she would have a box like this in her lap. She expected something from one of the mall jewelry stores; that she could handle even if she thought it was too much. What she held instead was a flat black box with gold lettering: BVLGARI.
“Eric what did you do?” She asks her earlier question as she stares in shock and awe at the box in her lap. The contents of this box probably cost more money than Sookie made in the last year . . . well two years since she’d been gone a year. He says nothing but smiles sheepishly as she lifts the lid.
Sookie gasps. “Cheese and rice!”
Nestled inside the soft velvet is Eric’s version of five golden rings.
“Eric, I can’t . . .” Sookie starts to protest but Eric lays a finger against her lips.
“Yes you can.” Eric lifts the delicate chain holding the golden ring with the Bvlgari logo etched on the rim in his large hands. With practiced ease, Eric opens the clasp and drapes the chain around Sookie’s neck so the pendant rests at the start of her cleavage. He slips the earrings and bangle from their respective holders and deftly slides them on Sookie. Eric saves the ring for last, holding it between his fingers for Sookie to stare at. “Miss Stackhouse, will you do me the honor of wearing my ring?”
“Ummm . . .” She takes a deep breath and blows it out noisily, puffing out her cheeks. Eric holds her right hand, sliding the ring on her finger until it is as far as it will go. He lets her hand go so she can admire the simple, elegant band on her hand. She twists and turns her hand she so can admire the ring. It may be expensive, but it is simple and classic, something she definitely likes. Yes, the cost of the gift intimidated her but that’s not what scares her most about his gift. It is the sentiment that goes with it; the idea that she, Sookie Stackhouse, telepathic barmaid from Bon Temps, is meant to be with Eric Northman, the Viking, the thousand-year old larger-than-life vampire. It’s mind-boggling!
Eric watches her still as only a vampire can, but he is anything but calm. His ring may be on her finger, but he needs more assurance than that. He needs to hear her say it; he needs to know that she wants this too. If she isn’t in it with her entire heart, than he has nothing.
Sookie smiles reassuringly at Eric. “Is it wrong that I want to say ‘my precious’ in the creepiest voice possible?” Eric guffaws, his loud laughter easing the tension in his body and the room. She smiles tenderly at him as she clasps his hand with hers. “I love it Eric. Thank you.” She leans forward to kiss him tenderly. Eric revels in the feel of her lips against his. But he is left wanting because she pulls away when he would have deepened the kiss.
“But don’t think you can get away with always buying me expensive gifts! I don’t need anything fancy. I’d rather have your time and attention than the crown jewels of Europe,” Sookie says in all seriousness.
“Duly noted,” Eric says with the same level of seriousness. “I only have the crown jewels for Scandinavia and the British Isles. So those are fair game in the future,” he says with a smirk as Sookie smacks at him playfully. They spend the rest of the night as they did while he was without his memories; talking in front of the fire, completely comfortable with one another. The only difference this time is that Eric holds Sookie in his arms, nestled against his chest. As much as he would love nothing more than to lay her naked body in front of the fire and show her how much he loves her, Eric knows she is not ready for that yet. They still have much to work on to get back what they have lost. When Sookie falls asleep in his arms, Eric continues to hold her, staring at the dying embers until he is forced to carry her to her bed because of the coming dawn. His hand skims lightly along her cheek as she nestles under the covers, her hair fanned out over her pillow. He smiles happily when she whispers his name in her sleep and turns as if seeking him out. Eric places a lingering kiss against her brow before locking up the house and then descending to his cubby to rest for the day.