For Blue Skies

A/N: The opening, italicized portion of this one shot was taken from Dead & Gone, written by Charlaine Harris. Please don’t sue. Thanks.

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At the thought of any more trouble, I stopped drinking and began crying. Eric’s hand stroked my face gently, but he said, “Stop that now. You must be strong. I’m very proud of you, you hear me?”

Why?” I put my mouth on his wrist and drank again.

You are still together; you are still a person. Lochlan and Neave have left vampires and fairies in rags- literally, rags…but you survived and your personality and soul are intact.”

I got rescued.” I took a deep breath and bent back to his wrist.

You would have survived much more.” Eric leaned over to get the bottle of TrueBlood, and he drank it down quickly.

I wouldn’t have wanted to.” I took another deep breath, aware that my throat was aching still but not as sharply. “I hardly wanted to live after…”

He kissed my forehead. “But you did live. And they died. And you are mine, and you will be mine. They will not get you.”

You really think they are coming?”

Yes. Breandan’s remaining forces will find this place sooner or later, if not Breandan himself. He has nothing to lose, and his pride to retain. I’m afraid they’ll find us shortly. Ludwig has removed almost all the other patients.” He turned a little, as if he were listening. “Yes, most of them are gone.”

Who else is here?”

Bill is in the next room. He’s been getting blood from Clancey.”

Were you not going to give him any?”

If you were irreparable…no, I would have let him rot.”

Why?” I asked. “He actually came to rescue me. Why get mad at him? Where were you?” Rage bubbled up m throat.

Eric flinched almost a half inch, a big reaction from a vampire his age. He looked away. I could not believe I was saying these things.

It’s not like you were obligated to come find me,” I said, “but I hoped the whole time- I hoped you would come, I prayed you would come, I thought over and over you might hear me…”

You’re killing me,” he said. “You’re killing me.” He shuddered beside me, as if he could scarcely endure my words.

Eric was absorbed in paperwork, trying to keep himself busy, and his mind off of Sookie. My wife, he thought to himself, and leaned back in his chair. He had married her for her own protection, and look what it had gotten her. He would never forget what her mangled body looked like after the attack. All of that beautiful flesh drenched in the smell of sunshine had been sliced to ribbons in some places. She had been so perfect. He couldn’t fathom why anyone would harm her. She was so kind and loyal. Unfortunately, to her captors, those qualities were not to be admired, especially since her loyalties fell to the wrong side of the argument.

By taking her as his wife, Eric felt slightly more justified for allotting so many of his thoughts to her. He had stayed away from her for several reasons, as of late, but mostly because she needed to heal and he had done all he could for her in that capacity. She was the first human since Pam to taste him in centuries. In fact, they were the only women to taste him. Had Sookie not been so clear on her wishes he might have just brought her over. Never again would he find himself thinking of that terrible day somewhere in the future when her mortal body would betray her and abruptly stop, taking her essence with it. The very thought of it made something in his chest ache and his stomach turn.

He simply did not want to imagine a world that did not include her. It was just that simple. Which was why he was so amazed by her when he considered what she had endured. In addition to the knife and silver teeth that had nearly poisoned Bill to final death, he’d heard mention of razor blades being used to mar his dear Sookie. He shook with rage at the thought of it. He’d inflicted plenty of pain on others in his long life and he would admit there were times when he probably enjoyed it a little more than he should have, but he couldn’t ever recall delighting in a human’s pain the way the fairies had.

He understood the finer points of war, and why Sookie was an ideal target. Ultimately, the only conclusion Eric could draw was that he had failed her. He should have been more insistent that they be together. He should have made a full confession to her about his memories of their time together when he was cursed. Of course it was the sex that stood out the most in his mind, but he knew that was hardly the most important part of it all. For the time they had been together Sookie had almost made him feel as if his heart was beating again. She didn’t see the relentless plotting and scheming of a vampire. She saw a vulnerable man just as out of place in the world as she was. And yet, when they were together, they didn’t feel so out of place anymore. They felt like they were home.

The last time Eric felt like that he had a human wife, three children and a heart that pumped human blood through a mortal body. He couldn’t save Aude from the infection that claimed her and their infant daughter. He would be damned if he would lose Sookie too. He rested his head on the back of the chair and closed his eyes. He summoned Sookie’s face and recalled with incredible clarity the way she looked when she was asleep. Beautiful.

“Be careful. Someone’ll tell the boss you’re sleeping on the job.” A sweet southern voice greeted him. His eyes were barely open when he vaulted himself over his desk, and gathered Sookie into his arms.

Her body was warm and a little frail as it pressed against him. She winced, and he loosened his grip on her just a little. The sunshine had faded from her scent, but she still smelled like heaven. If it were up to him, she would never leave his side. He held her for as long as she would allow him to. He relaxed a bit when he felt her heart beating against him and her breath warm on his shoulder. Even in her weakened state she was still beautiful as she had ever been. There were so many things to say and he wanted to say every single one of them. He had never been so close to losing her and he never wanted to be again.

When she pulled back he wanted to look her over and make sure she was healing. She grabbed his hands, holding them as tightly as her petite body would allow. She looked at him with sincerity and thoughtfulness. “I’ve missed you,” She confessed. “I woke up today and all I wanted was to see you- to let you know that I’m okay. You saved my life, Eric.” She said with such gratuity and conviction and it only renewed his grief and rage.

“I should have been there. I shouldn’t have let them even have a chance to harm a hair on your head. As your husband, it is my duty to keep you safe.” Eric said in a tone of regret.

Sookie shivered when all of the feelings he had been storing for the weeks since her attack came flooding through their bond. It was staggering, to say the least, how deeply regretful he was for what had happened to her. Since she didn’t know what the right thing was to say, she did what any human would do when there weren’t enough words- she simply reached out and hugged him again. She pressed her face against his chest and she cried. She’d done a lot of things in the last few weeks since the attack but she hadn’t really cried all that much. She’d been too numb to what had happened to her to really process it. But now being so close to Eric was a reminder of how close she’d come to dying and what it would mean to her if she never saw him again.

Why do I need her so much?, he asked himself. “I was a fool, Sookie. I let you down.” Eric looked away with such heavy guilt in his eyes and when Sookie rose to kiss him he pulled away from her.

“Don’t be a martyr, Eric.” She ordered him in as tough a voice as she could muster.

“How else am I supposed to feel? You said it yourself- you needed me, you prayed for me to be there, to show up and rescue you, and I didn’t.” Eric slumped into one of the chairs in front of his desk.

“Maybe not, but I lived, and I’m sure the only reason I did is because of you.” Sookie’s voice broke, and she knelt beside the chair very slowly since her legs were still a little sore. “I was so sure that you were going to come bursting through the door and I would be able to breathe just a little bit better because you were close to me. When you didn’t show up until later…I thought it was because you changed your mind about me. I thought maybe I was too much trouble. Lord knows I’ve caused enough of it for you.”

Eric’s head turned sharply, his eyes blazing in her direction. “I like being the one you count on when you are in trouble.” I like knowing that you can depend on me to be there. I like it even better when you let me be there when you don’t need me to be there.”

“You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m not used to being someone’s wife.” She said, and it was the first time she’d said the word out loud or admitted her position in his life. “There are a lot of steps in a relationship that are supposed to come before marriage and we just sort of glazed over most of them.”

“We’ve had some pretty good sex though.” Eric finally cracked a smile, which was a good thing because the room was full of heavy tension.

“Yes we have.” Sookie agreed with a gently smile, and then added, “And don’t think I haven’t thought about that while I’ve been home healing.”

They were quiet then, each of them thinking their own thoughts. Little did they know how similar they were. It had always amazed Eric that Sookie didn’t know just how strong she was. While it was true that he was physically stronger than her and had power that she never would, she was no weakling. She had more than proven she could handle herself and just about anything that came her way. Yet, there were limits and lines that shouldn’t be crossed. It seemed as if Sookie had crossed them all one at a time and even worse, the consequences of it seemed to be weighing on her all at once.

“Do you know that the first time I ever saw you, I knew my life was never going to be the same?” Eric offered, but couldn’t look at her. The emotion he was feeling was a little too powerful and just her eyes on him was more than he could take.

“Really? That night seems like so long ago. Almost like another life.” Sookie stood up and moved so she was standing in front of Eric’s desk.

“That night in the bar wasn’t the first time I saw you, Sookie.” He confessed, and looked up to see the expression on her face. She was stunned, to say the least. “It was before the Great Revelation. You were much younger but I know it was you. I hadn’t been in Shreveport for very long and I saw you with your brother one night. You were all dressed up in this pale pink dress and your hair was pulled back. Even then the first thing I noticed about you was the sunlight on your skin. I heard you laugh and something inside of me jolted. You didn’t see me but I saw you.” Eric recalled with a wistful look on his face.

Sookie thought back, trying to recall the night he was talking about but it wouldn’t come to her at the moment. “I guess that would explain why you looked at me like you knew me that night at Fangtasia.”

“I followed you home that night, to your house.” Eric confessed.

“You followed me?” Sookie wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

“I was curious. As you know not many humans make me feel that way. Most humans don’t make me feel anything.” Eric stood and began to pace a bit. “I heard the way you laughed and I watched the way you smiled that night, but I got the feeling that you weren’t as happy as you wanted everyone to think you were. I understood that feeling. I wanted to know more about the girl underneath the smile.”

“So you were stalking me?” Sookie was more amused by this confession than she was offended.

“No, not stalking, just curious. I stayed in the woods but I was there that night while you were sitting out back in that old metal chair you used to have. You just stared up at the stars with a blanket on your lap, listening to the noises the insects and trees made. I wanted to know everything you were thinking.” Eric came to a stop at his chair and pressed his large hands against the back of it.

“If I’d have seen you out there I probably would have been screaming for Jason to get his shotgun.” Sookie giggled a little. “I know now that it wouldn’t have done you much damage.”

“It would hurt,” Eric admitted.

“I know. You’ve taken a bullet or two for me in the past.” Sookie stepped closer to him. “Why do you do it, Eric? When we were together after you were cursed, you said so many things to me and I know you meant them all in those moments. Do you have any idea how hard it is to look at you the way you are now but remember the person you were then? They aren’t the same but they could be.”

Of course she was referring to how he’d told her he loved her, and how he would give up everything to stay with her in Bon Temps. He’d spent so much time trying to figure out how he had ended up running down the road toward her house. It had seemed to random. Sookie wasn’t exactly human but she didn’t possess any powers that could have restored him. For the longest time he couldn’t figure out why he had been running toward her. It wasn’t until some time later when the witch’s spell book had been discovered that Eric had answers to all of his questions. The curse forced him to seek out his heart’s desire without him ever knowing it. Sookie was aware of this. He’d told her about it when she’d come to him the day the FBI had come to see her, the day Crystal’s body had been found at Merlotte’s.

“If what you said back then was true, Eric, then why can’t you just say it? Why can’t you just tell me the truth?” Sookie pleaded with him. There was torment in her eyes, and they looked very much the same way as his own. “I’m not asking you to tell the world- just me. No one else needs to know.”

“It is not so simple.” Eric seemed to deflate a little. He sat down on the couch and Sookie sat down so she was facing him.

She was tempted to lean forward and press herself against him. She remembered clearly how Eric had been more willing to talk when she was closer to him. When he was cursed they would snuggle together in her bed and he would talk about anything she wanted. He would talk about his feelings and he would listen to the things that had happened during her day. It was like a real relationship and she hadn’t expected him to be so warm ‘n fuzzy with her, relatively speaking. But she had gotten used to it quickly. She’d found herself speeding through her day so she could get home and spend her time snuggled up with him.

“Does it scare you that you needed me for a change?” Sookie asked him, surprising even herself, but it was a sudden thought that popped into her head. “Does it make you uncomfortable to know that for a while I was the one with the answers and making all of the decisions?”

As modernized as Eric was there were some ways he was very old-fashioned. He certainly felt a sense of duty to protect and provide for her. He had made it clear that if she ever needed anything, he was the one she should ask and this was even before they were married. Sometimes she thought he offered her material things because he couldn’t tell her how he felt. He kept that locked deep inside of him. She still had questions about this marriage and what it would mean for her. It wasn’t a legal marriage that was recognized by any government but the state of Louisiana didn’t recognize human/vampire marriages anyway. States were catching up so it was only a matter of time before Louisiana got on board, but they weren’t there yet. Not that Sookie had given it much thought.

“I trust you with my life, Sookie.” Eric said without hesitation. “I have no doubt that if I found myself back in the same situation, you would do the same thing all over again.”

“Would you? Knowing what you know now about the things you said to me and the conditions of the curse, would you still be running toward me?” Sookie asked.

“I always want you, Sookie. That is not even a question you should concern yourself with.” Eric told her.

She sighed with frustration and couldn’t help but feeling like she was bashing her head up a great big brick wall. With Eric there wasn’t much of a difference. “You are a big pain in my butt, you know that, don’t you?” She glared at him.

It might sound crazy but he actually felt better to see her staring at him that way. It was the Sookie he’d known since that first night at Fangtasia. She was so fiery and not at all threatened by him. Well, at least that’s what she’d wanted him to think. He’d called her sweet and she had classically responded by saying, “Not really.”

She couldn’t have sounded more bored with him and they had only been in each other’s direct presence for a matter of seconds. She was a breath of fresh air for him. In a life where humans were constantly throwing themselves at his feet and expecting things from him she wanted absolutely nothing. Her initial indifference had been quite a turn-on. He liked a challenge and Sookie had given him that in spades. And he’d matched her, time and time again. He got under her skin just the same way she got under his, and somehow, they always seemed to find one another in all of the chaos that was going on around them.

Eric was old enough not to believe in coincidence. Things didn’t just happen by chance. He was sure everything happened for a reason. Had his wife not died he would not have been drunk the night he was turned. Were he not a vampire he would not be alive now to meet Sookie. Had he not met Sookie he would not have ended up running toward her after he was cursed. There were reasons for all of it and it wasn’t until he’d seen her laying in that bed at Dr. Ludwig’s office that it all started to become clearer to him.

“Do you ever wish I had not been running toward you when I was cursed?” Eric asked her.

“You mean do I regret the time we spent together?” She wanted to be sure of what he was asking. He nodded, and she said, “No, I don’t. I got to see a side of you that I had always hoped was there some place. I think I understand you better, in some ways, than I did before. That person is there inside of you, Eric. It might be buried under centuries of vampire politics and plotting, but it’s there. That night that Quinn showed up at my house…” She trailed off.

“You said you were mine that night while we were laying in bed together.” Eric reminded her.

“Yes I did.” Sookie nodded her agreement. “But are you mine too?”

That was the million dollar question in all of this. Sookie wasn’t new to vampire psychology. She knew they could be possessive and scheming. Her relationship with Bill alone was proof enough of that. He’d schemed his way into her life by orders of the former queen, Sophie-Anne Leclerq. While Sookie was now sure that Bill had genuinely come to care about her his deception had left a pretty big welt on her heart for a while. She wasn’t sure it would ever really heal right, even if he had come to her aide on many occasions since then. Slowly but surely he was paying his penance and the worst of it was, Sookie was untouchable to him now. According to vampire law she belonged to Eric. Whether or not she knew what she was doing when she gave Eric that knife wasn’t the point. She had done it and it had been witnessed by Victor. That was all anyone needed. It was done.

“What does our bond tell you, Sookie? Anything you ever wanted to know about me you can find in it.” His eyes were sparkling.

“I can tell when you’re getting closer to me and I can sometimes feel what you’re feeling but it’s not all the time. You aren’t easy to read, Eric. But for what it’s worth, I’m thankful I can’t read your mind. There are some things that are better left unsaid.” She moved a little closer to him on the couch so that her bended knee was now pressing against his large thigh. Just that simple connection was enough to trigger all sorts of thoughts and feelings in both of them.

“The night of the Fae war, I felt your pain.” Eric confessed, and put his big hand on her leg. If he remembered right there had been a particularly nasty bite right around where his palm currently was and he was curious to see if it had completely healed yet. “I sensed it when it was happening, and I wanted to get to you. It was almost like I could hear you screaming in my head. When I was finally able to get to you and I saw what you had lived through…” He trailed off.

“You felt guilty.” Sookie finished for him.

“I felt responsible.” Eric corrected her.

“It’s not your fault, Eric.” Sookie climbed into his lap.

She wrapped her warm hands around the sides of his neck and locked her fingers together at the back of his head. She moved around until she was back in his line of sight because she wanted to be sure he was looking her in the eyes when she said what she had come all the way to Shreveport to tell him. As far as she was concerned, both of them had suffered long enough. It was time to put it behind them and move forward and she didn’t want Eric making any more decisions on her behalf without her input or consent.

“I can’t tell you how to feel, Eric. You are who you are and you’re going to do what you want to do no matter what I say because that’s just the way you are.” Sookie looked into his eyes and she held his head up as best she could. His hands stayed at his sides which surprised her. She’d thought for sure they’d land on her hips making her gesture a little more sexual in nature. As it was she knew she was starting to arouse something in him that had been sleeping since that night in her room after she’d been knocked out during Quinn and Bill’s fight.

“You have a little more influence over me than that.” Eric said, although that was certainly news to her.

“We still have to talk about with this whole marriage thing and what it means for me, but I want you to know that I don’t ever want you thinking that you are responsible for my decisions. And I don’t want you sneaking around making decisions for me because you think you know better. That isn’t what a marriage is and I won’t stay in one that doesn’t work for me. To me marriage is a partnership and the most important part is that we can communicate with each other and trust that we’re on equal ground.” Sookie explained to him.

She knew he was listening to her and taking in the things she was saying. Eric had a excellent memory, which was amazing considering his life span. But she also knew he was just as stubborn as she was. While it bothered her that he kept secrets she knew there were times when it was for her safety. She was mostly concerned with the secrets that could potentially alter her own life. When he withheld information that could put her in danger or in a position she wasn’t comfortable with she felt it was only right that he should tell her. Maybe she’d stay out of trouble more if she had a clearer picture of what to expect.

Who am I kidding?, she thought to herself.

Feeling her slight weight on his lap did wonders for Eric’s well-being. “You tell me what you want, Sookie, and I will do my best to give it to you.” He told her.

“The night of the Fae war you promised you would explain everything to me. You said I was killing you, Eric. What did you mean?” She put her hands on his chest.

This was the moment he had been both waiting for, and dreading, since the night of the war. He had wanted to tell her everything before that but he wasn’t sure she was ready to hear it all. He had asked her how she felt about him and she had been uncertain, which was a bit of a blow to his ego. She had blamed her confusion on the bond they shared and in that moment, he nearly cursed the whole thing. His feelings weren’t convoluted or a product of their bond. From the moment he’d seen her he’d known that his life was never going to be the same. He hadn’t even known her name and already he’d known there was something special about her. He hadn’t known anything about the fairy blood running through her body or the telepathic abilities she had. He’d simply seen a beautiful girl with a magical laugh. There was a light she was bathed in that no other human could touch and he had seen plenty of humans. She was something else and there was nothing he could do to shake her from his system. If there was, he would have done it long ago.

“I tried to tell you how I felt the night we made love at your house.” He started, and already, Sookie looked confused.

“You did?” She arched an eyebrow at him.

“I asked if you wanted to know, and you told me you didn’t.” Eric reminded her.

“Only because you made it pretty clear that I wasn’t going to like the answer.” Sookie pouted, shoving him a little, even though there was nowhere for him to go.

“You make many assumptions about me, Sookie.” Eric moved his hands to her hips then.

“And many of them have been right.” She answered pointedly.

“That might be true, but I would like to think I have been able to surprise you once or twice in all the time we have known each other.” He squeezed her.

“That’s for damn sure.” She admitted and both of them smiled weakly, but her smile faded quickly. “Don’t change the subject on me. You promised me an explanation and I want to hear it.”

He was taken aback a by her take-charge attitude. The waif that had come into his office was gone and now she was fired up. He knew her well enough to know when she was ready to do battle with someone and he knew there was a small window of time before she turned horribly sarcastic and just shutdown. She could be just as cold as he could when she wanted to, although she wouldn’t see it that way. But that was part of what made her so endearing, at least in his eyes.

“Are you sure you want the truth, Sookie? It could change everything.” Eric pointed out.

“Everything has already changed, Eric.” She reminded him but he kept silent. She could feel the torment that was running through him and it was incredibly aggravating to her. “You are such a drama queen.” Sookie climbed off his lap and unzipped her sweater.

She stood in front of Eric and pulled the sweater off to reveal bruises and bites that had yet to completely heal. It was better, but it wasn’t perfect. For the rest of her life she would carry the scars as a reminder of what she had lived through. She knew she owed Eric something for his role in her recovery but how much was too much? She hadn’t come to make him feel worse but she was tired of playing games with him. They were married, at least according to him, which meant there were certain things he should be able to tell her without hesitation. Yet, he was hesitating.

“You’ve never lied to me before, Eric.” Sookie fumbled for a second with the drawstrings of the pants she was wearing before untying the knot.

Eric watched with total stillness as her pants fell to the floor in a whoosh. She peeled off the tank top she’d been wearing under her sweater and then she was standing in front of him in nothing more than her bra and underwear. He could see all of the scars and things that had been haunting him for weeks. His blood had contributed to her healing but she would never be the same. He wanted to kiss every single spot on her body that had been hurt by those fucking fairies, starting with stomach. It had never been perfectly flat, which he hadn’t minded one bit, but now it was cratered in places. It didn’t look natural and there was nothing that could be done about it. This was the new Sookie Stackhouse and it was enough to make him want to weep.

“While it is true that by marrying you I am protecting you from Felipe, that was not the only reason I did so.” Eric admitted and Sookie seemed to breath a silent sigh of relief. “Ever since I regained my memory of the time we spent together…” He trailed off for a moment as he contemplated how to phrase what he wanted to say next. “I know that I told you I loved you but you never said you loved me.” Sookie stood before him expressionless and she remained silent. “I have to assume that is still true.”

“Oh hell.” Sookie muttered in a familiar way. “Eric, you weren’t you then. And ever since you’ve been yourself it seems like all you’re interested in is getting in my pants. All you wanted to know when you first found out you’d been staying with me while you were cursed was if we’d made love. Is that all that matters to you?”

Eric was on his feet and towering over her immediately. He stared down at her making sure he kept his eyes on hers, which wasn’t easy to do with the excessive cleavage in his line of sight. “If all I wanted from you was sex I would have thrown you down on the couch by now and taken all I wanted.” His fangs were out. When she cowered away from him, her mind going back to the horrible teeth that had torn at her, his fangs receded. “I’m sorry, Sookie.” He apologized instantly.

She stayed curled in one of the chairs in front of his desk and dodged away when he reached out to touch her. She knew he wasn’t going to hurt her but it was just too much. “Maybe it was a mistake to come here.” She wiped at tears that were falling from tired blue eyes. “You are who you are and that isn’t going to change.”

“What do you want from me, Sookie? What do I have to do to prove to you that you are important to me?” Eric braced himself on the arms of the chair so that his head was level with hers.

“Do you love me?” Sookie asked point blank. “I need to know, Eric. I need to hear it from the you I’m going to have to deal with every day. The one that I was unknowingly pledged to for the rest of my life. I need to know if you love me right now, as I am.” His silence was deafening. “You’re killing me.” Sookie glared at him with angry tears in her eyes. “You promised you would tell me everything and you have told me nothing.” She seethed through a clenched jaw. The impulse to slap him was incredibly strong, but she wouldn’t do it.

“Each night I sit in that bar out there and I looked at all of these humans trying to find some spark in their life. They hang around the dead so they can feel alive. They romanticize vampires because they are too pathetic or weak to get out into the world and find something real to hold onto. They think we can offer them something that life as a human cannot. They do not appreciate what they have. They want something more. They want adventure, or danger or maybe just a reason not to give up on their own small lives. So they come here thinking that vampires have the answers to all of their problems. We can cure them of whatever hopelessness has invaded their souls. I never understood how it would take coming so close to death in order for a human to be thankful for life. When I was human, I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I was good at it, but I enjoyed it. I had my wife, my children, my home, my fighting…I had reasons to stay living. My maker could have left me for dead that night on the side of the road. He could have drained me dry and that would have been the end of me. I adapted to the life of a vampire and that is all I have done ever since. I have adapted to my surroundings and I turned inward because I had no choice.

“It wasn’t until I saw you that I realized I didn’t have to live alone anymore. You aren’t interested in surviving, Sookie. You want to live and you don’t expect me to give you a reason to do so. You have plenty of reasons all your own to keep going. You have goals and dreams. You have family, friends, a job, a home and all sorts of things that ceased to be important to me centuries ago. And yet, each time I look at you I am reminded of the things that I have learned to live without. When I am close to you I am reminded that I could have those things again. For once, I am a vampire looking for life instead of a vampire trying to talk a human out of it.

“I would rather meet my final death than see a world that does not include you. The thought of you committing your heart to someone else makes my skin crawl. And it frustrates me to no end that there are some things that I will never be able to give you because I am not a human. But in many ways I can give you so much more because I am not. I cannot give you a child but I can give you the space you need to be yourself. I cannot give you a day at the beach but I can make sure that you are never taken against your will ever again. I cannot share an ice cream cone with you, but I can guard your heart with my life.” Eric told her with complete sincerity and she was crying again.

Her hands were shaking and her breath entered and left her body in a ragged sort of way. He could feel how tired she was and it unnerved him. He straightened out her legs, putting her feet on the floor near his own. She crossed her arms over her chest and he trailed his fingers up them to her shoulders. To him, she was still the most beautiful woman walking the earth. In fact, her beauty had tripled, in his estimation. He slid his hands under her arms and picked her up as gently as he could so that she was standing on the seat of the chair. He looked up into her face and when her knees went weak he caught her easily.

Her arms closed around his neck and her legs wrapped around his waist. She continued to cry and he stroked her back while her tears continued to flow. Her tears fell like warm rain against his neck and he could smell the trace of Fae in them. She was holding onto him so tightly that he could have let go if he wanted to, but he didn’t. He couldn’t remember her ever holding him like that. It felt good. It felt natural, as if that was the way it should have been from the very beginning. Why it had taken him so long to realize it, he didn’t know.

When her tears finally relented she pulled her face back and asked him, “Do you love me?”

“I adore you.” He answered her.

Do you love me?” She asked again, her words were slow and ragged from crying.

“Sookie, what I feel for you defies explanation or rationality. It simultaneously drives me and weakens me. It sustains me and makes me question everything I have come to believe. Do I love you? Love is the very beginning of what I feel for you.” Eric brushed her hair back from her face and blotted at her tears with the pad of his large thumb.

She was thankful she hadn’t bothered with makeup. It would all be smeared and running down her face by now if she had. Her leg muscles started to give out on her and her arms were quick to follow. Eric set her down again and she slowly made her way back to the sofa. She pulled her knees to her chest. She was cold and felt a little silly for removing her clothes like that. She knew it was manipulative and something Eric would have done to get his way but she had hoped that if he saw her scars and bruises that maybe it would urge him to tell her the truth. Maybe he was rubbing off on her a little too much.

“There’s something I wanted to tell you.” Sookie said once her breathing returned to normal.

Eric picked up her sweater and dropped it over her knees so she wouldn’t be so cold. He took it as a good sign that she wasn’t putting her clothes back on. While he wouldn’t pressure her into giving him anything she didn’t want to, he wouldn’t protest if she decided to rip his clothes of right there. He had most definitely been thinking of her, too, while she was healing but if she wasn’t ready for that yet he would wait. He would wait as long as he had to.

Eric sat down beside her on the couch and once again she climbed on top of him. He was convinced that all of the wriggling around in his lap had to have been some sort of punishment. Sookie was no fool. She knew what she was doing even if she would try to play it real innocent. She knew damn well how to push his buttons and she was doing everything in her power, at that moment, to push them all. For some reason it seemed to take her longer than usual to find the right spot to sit and the effects of it were quite visible between them.

“Comfortable?” His fangs ran out because he couldn’t help it, but this time she did not cringe or cower away.

“I came here tonight to tell you two things and I want to make sure that I have your attention.” Sookie told him.

“You have it.” Eric promised her.

“I want you to know that I don’t blame you for what happened to me. I know that you blame yourself and you have to stop. It’s over and done and I’m alive. That’s all that matters. So I want you to know that I forgive you for not being there because I’m hoping that if you hear me say it you’ll do the same thing for yourself. I forgive you, Eric.” She said to him, and raised his face so he had no choice but to look her in the eyes. “You hear me? I forgive you.

“I hear you.” He said, although he wasn’t quite ready to let himself off the hook just yet.

“The second thing I wanted to tell you is that the most painful part of being in that room with the fairies was the thought that I might never see you again. I didn’t want the last thing you ever said to me would be that you’d call me back. Although I guess it would have been slightly fitting if the last thing you ever heard from me was me calling for help.” Sookie cracked a smile at that last part but Eric wasn’t all that amused.

“I hate that you were in danger. I hate that anyone could ever even think of hurting you.” Eric bowed his head against her chest and inhaled deeply, enjoying the feeling of his face against her breasts. It was a feeling he’d greatly missed in the last few weeks.

Sookie kissed the top and side of his head. Her skin was so soft and warm and he was a little disappointed when she angled his face up to hers. But then she lowered her lips to his and the disappointment was immediately replaced with warmth and affection. She kissed him deeply until she had no choice but to pull away so she could breathe. Even Eric was a little lightheaded after that and her body slumped against his. She stayed so still and was so quiet he thought she might have fallen asleep.

“Sookie?” He whispered.

“Yes Eric?” She didn’t move anything but her mouth.

“I want you to see my house.” He told her.

“Okay.” She was being oddly agreeable but her voice was distant and a little on the dreamy side. She was definitely exhausted.

“Now.” He told her.

“I’m ready.” She snuggled against him but didn’t move to get up.

Sookie’s body folded easily into Eric’s arms when he lifted her out of the front seat of his car. He walked through the door that connected the house to the garage, headed for the stairs that led up to his bedroom. Sookie snuggled against him as if they were laying side by side in bed and he squeezed her a little tighter against him. He laid her down on his bed and sat beside her to remove her shoes. He unzipped her sweater and pulled that off as well. Dressing her after she’d fallen asleep on him had been a bit of a project but he’d managed to do it. As her arms came out of the sleeves of her sweater he took stock of every scar, scab, bruise or discoloration that remained on what had once been flawless golden-brown skin. He kissed various spots, unable to resist the sweetness of her smell. It beckoned him and in their time apart, it had haunted him. He would find himself searching for that smell, knowing he would never find it anywhere else.

He smoothed her hair from her face, looking closely at her neck. He could see faint lines on it that most human eyes wouldn’t be unable to detect. The fairies had used razor blades on her there, cutting just deep enough to draw blood and cause her more pain. He had spent much of his time thinking of what he would have done with the fairies had Bill and Niall not killed them. He decided he would have started by pulling out Neave’s silver teeth with rusty pliers before grazing her skin with iron in all of the places she had bitten or jabbed Sookie with her knife. He would delight in seeing her scream and writhe in agony as holes opened up on her body.

Oh yes, he’d thought about retaliating and part of him was enraged he wouldn’t get the chance to avenge what had happened to Sookie. But just knowing that the fairies were dead and Niall had sealed the portal between worlds brought him some comfort. Not only did Sookie no longer have to worry about being pulled into the problems the Fae were having but Eric felt like there was a little less competition for Sookie’s attention and affections. He knew it was selfish but he figured that with all they’d been through he was entitled to be that way for a while.

Since it was Monday, Fangtasia was closed for the evening. Eric left Sookie asleep in his bed, her blond hair glowing against the rich redness of his comforter. She looked peaceful. He closed the door half way and went down the hall to his office to call Pam. After quickly consulting his calendar he dialed Pam’s number. She didn’t answer but he was fine with that. A conversation wasn’t necessary. He was giving orders.

“I will be taking some time off. I do not know how long. I will need to meet you at my house tomorrow to brief you on my calendar. Be here at 8:00.” He said and hung up the phone.

Pam was more than capable of handling the bar for as long as he needed her to. In fact, Pam was the only person he would trust to take his place. Clancy had been replaced by a vampire from Baton Rouge by the name of Clementine. She was an interesting character and a nice addition to his staff. She brought new faces with her and their profits reflected it greatly. She was eager to make her mark on Shreveport the way she had done with Baton Rouge. She would never surpass Pam but Eric would enjoy watching her try.

He went downstairs to the kitchen and warmed a bottle of blood for a few seconds in the microwave. Sometimes it baffled him that he had lived long enough to see such things invented. When he had been human the only source for heat or light that was man-made was fire or the sun. His home then had not been as sturdy as the one he now owned and it certainly didn’t have more than one level to it. He considered himself to be somewhat of a master at adapting. There was no way a vampire could survive for long without being able to adjust to the times he or she was living in. He had learned early on that clinging to his old ways would only raise too many red flags. But then, he had lived for much longer than most vampires. He credited that to his ability to progress from one era in time to the next. He had witnessed the dawn of many technological advances and he had taught himself how to use them all.

After finishing his blood he went around the house to make sure everything was locked up just as tight as he’d left it. He would have smelled a foreign scent in his house and it made him happy to know that Sookie’s scent would linger in his home for quite a while after she was gone. Once he was convinced the house was secure he went back upstairs to check on Sookie. She hadn’t moved at all. He went to his closet and removed his shoes. He put them where they belonged before pulling off his fitted black t-shirt. He removed his pants and socks as well and then dropped his clothes down a laundry shoot so that his clothes would land in the bag he delivered to Bobby once a week to be taken care of. Eric hadn’t done his own washing in a long time. He did most of the cleaning around his own home for several reasons, but mostly, because he trusted no one other than Pam to know where to find him. Of course Sookie was an exception to that, but he figured he owed her that courtesy as his wife.

My wife, he thought again, letting the words roll over and over in his brain. It had been more than a thousand years since he’d had a wife and Sookie was nothing like Aude. Aude had been beautiful, of course, but women back then were nothing like they are now. Aude’s role in life was to make babies, clean his house and cook his meals. He wouldn’t be dashing into the fray to rescue her, that’s for sure, nor would he have to argue with her about quitting her job so he could take care of her. Sookie was definitely more of a handful but he enjoyed that about her. He enjoyed her independence and her need to be self-sufficient. Although, he sometimes wondered what the point of taking a husband was if you were so intent on doing everything yourself?

He pulled on a pair of silky black pajama pants and returned to his bed. It was early for him but he wanted to be as close to Sookie as possible. Generally, he rested naked. Why bother with clothes when you rest alone? Until about a half hour ago the only one who knew where to find him was Pam and if she walked in on him naked, well, it wasn’t anything she hadn’t already seen. Not to mention, Pam wasn’t at all interested in him that way anymore. Like all vampire relationships, theirs had been intensely sexual and it had burned out quickly. Pam was definitely more adventurous in her tastes than Eric was. Relationships were one of the few ways in which Eric was more of a traditionalist.

Time passed slowly as they laid there together. He hoped she wouldn’t sleep the rest of the night but he certainly couldn’t blame her if she did. She hadn’t gotten her strength back yet and with all of the emotions passing back and forth between them he was a little worn out himself. Even so, there wasn’t another human on earth that could have gotten him to just lay still like that for as long as he did. He found he didn’t mind standing (or laying) still as long as she was with him. He didn’t mind the quiet that was occasionally punctured by a moan or a whimper and he wondered if she was reliving what she’d been through in a nightmare. In her sleep did he come to rescue her from the fairies, or was she still laying on the cold floor praying for him to save her?

He had to find something else to fill his mind because the idea that his failure extended to her dreams was something that was just too difficult to accept. Eventually his eyes closed and he drifted off into this trance-like state. It was almost like a deep sleep but he didn’t dream the way a human would in that state. He was just perfectly still and closed off from the rest of the world. He didn’t feel it when Sookie stretched out next to him, or when she rolled over and then climbed on top of him. What woke jarred him from his rest was a sudden warm weight pressing against his pelvis. His eyes opened and there she was.

“That is the second best way you could ever wake me up.” Eric told her.

“Where are we?” Sookie asked.

“My house.”

“Your house?”

“You don’t remember?” Eric was a little concerned about it but she had been sleeping when he’d suggested it.

“The last thing I remember,” Sookie leaned into him so that her mouth was just an inch or so away from him. “Is you telling me how much you hated that someone had hurt me. Then there was kissing and then I woke up in your bed. I must say, I’m surprised you put my clothes back on after all the time you’ve spent trying to talk me out of them.”

“Don’t get used to it.” He warned her, his hands sliding up her legs, past her hips and toward her stomach. He eased her tank top up and she rose her arms so he could remove it altogether.

“I look hideous.” Sookie looked down at her stomach with disappointment. She still wasn’t used to the new body the fairies had left her with.

“I never want to hear you say that again, lover.” Eric sat up so that they were eye to eye. “You are beautiful.”

She opened her mouth to argue, but Eric kissed her instead. The last thing he wanted to hear was Sookie blaming herself, in any way, for the situation she was now in. If what had happened to her wasn’t his fault then it certainly wasn’t hers and he wasn’t going to listen to her beat herself up over it. Her body folded against his and he was slightly spellbound by how warm she was. He wondered if she had always been that warm or if he just hadn’t ever noticed it before. Either way he was certainly enjoying it now. He moved his hands on her carefully so he wouldn’t pull at the few stitches that still remained in a couple of spots on her right side. Where she was scarred her skin was a little more translucent and had taken on a shiny texture. He looked at her closely, his fingers trailing from one spot to the next. He was so busy touring her scars and wounds that he didn’t notice right away that she had removed her bra.

When he looked up again he saw the damage that had been done to her breasts and he felt his blood began to boil a little. He felt remorse for what she’d been through and rage for the fairies who had done it. It was quite clear to him that it was going to take a lot longer for his psychological wounds to heal than Sookie’s physical ones. She was being a champ about the whole thing. She was doing everything exactly right. So why was he having such a hard time letting go? Why wasn’t he just enjoying the moment that was being presented to him?

“Hey, you remember what I said to you earlier in your office about this not being your fault?” Sookie asked him.

“Yes.” Eric’s hands were on her chest, touching her gently.

“I meant it. It’s not your fault. Stop blaming yourself.” She whispered and kissed his face before settling on his lips. “I’ve got a whole lot of life ahead of me and I don’t want to spend it thinking about the things I can’t change.”

Eric untied the drawstring of her pants and moved his hands into them uneasily, since he didn’t know where she was still sore. The last thing he wanted was to hurt her in any capacity. She’d been hurt enough and even without the attack from the fairies he’d played a pretty big part in that. Still, he knew Sookie was right and it made him realize that holding onto all of the bitterness and rage wasn’t going to change what had happened to her. It was done, and the best thing he could do for her now was be in the same moment she was. She wasn’t stuck in that horrible shack reliving her torture; she was in bed with him- which was where he’d always wanted her to be.

So, he pushed the darker thoughts from his mind, and decided to concentrate on the present. He’d told Sookie he loved her. Now he wanted to show her. He stopped seeing the scars and bruises on her body and just concentrated on seeing her. He laid back, taking her down with him. When he rolled on top of her she lifted her hips so he could remove her pants, taking her panties along with them. He dropped them over the side of his bed and paid them no further mind. His hand moved up her leg like it was made of silk and he could feel her watching him. Her legs opened and he made himself comfortable between them. He was careful around the wounds that were still healing on the insides of her thighs and he paused only for a moment when she shuddered. A quick look up at her face told him that she wasn’t in pain and so he continued onward.

His fingers found their target easily and he delighted in moist warmth he found. Centuries of experience and experimenting allowed him to know exactly what to do and he wasted no time getting right to it. While the lust running through him demanded he move faster, he ignored it. He would be gentle with her and move at her pace. He was sure if he’d had a human heart it would have stopped beating when she started to writhe around on his bed. Every sound that escaped her mouth made it that much harder to keep himself from just pillaging her. The sweet smell of sex was radiating from her and it was slowly making him crazy. Her body tensed up under his mouth and around his fingers, and she cried out a little louder than he remembered her doing the last time they had been together.

She scratched at his shoulders and he hissed against her thigh. He wanted to bite her but he wouldn’t do it without her consent. Not so soon after her attack. He dragged his lips up the length of her torso, careful not to knick her with his fangs. He didn’t want her feeling any more pain. He just wanted her to feel good and get as lost in the moment as he was. His tongue collided with hers and her arms closed around his shoulders. Her fingers trailed in slow motion around his shoulder blades before sliding down his back and pushing his pajama bottoms down. When her arms weren’t long enough to finish the job he did it himself. He had dreamt of this for weeks. Her breath was warm against his face and throat and he was pressed against the very part of her he never wanted to leave.

“There’s something else I wanted to tell you.” Sookie said, her hands moving back to his face, holding him back when he kissed her again. She squirmed a little when she felt him starting to slide inside of her.

“Do tell, lover.” Eric stopped and stared down at her.

“I wanted to tell you that I love you, too, and I was an idiot for not saying it sooner.” She confessed with tears in her eyes.

He rewarded her with a kiss while he pushed the rest of the way inside of her. She was slick and hot around him and the combination of those feelings, along with what was coming through loud and clear on the bond they shared was almost overwhelming to him. Never had he felt so completely connected to a human in his entire life. He moved slowly even though she was pleading with him to go faster. Her fingernails dug into his back and he groaned against her. She used her feet to push him deeper inside of her and she moaned loudly. He could feel the vibrations in her chest, which caused him to echo her sounds. He was like a wall on top of her but she didn’t seem to mind that. She looked at him lovingly and he hoped he was returning her gaze.

Just when he least expected it she turned her head away from him so that her neck was exposed. “Bite me.” She told him.

“No.” He answered softly, his voice thick with wanting.

“It’s okay, Eric. You won’t break me.” She assured him, but still, he hesitated.

She turned back to face him. Her hips were rising to meet his and they were moving faster and faster. She reached up and touched his fangs before raising her head to lick them. Eric growled in that familiar way he did to let her know she was pushing all the right buttons. He sought out a spot on her neck that didn’t have any of those little lines on it that let him know a fairy had already been there. He kissed her neck, taking in the taste on her skin. The sunlight wasn’t entirely gone but it was close enough. She urged him on, almost demanding that he bite her. He mumbled something against her throat that she couldn’t understand and then there was the slight prick of pain from his fangs sliding into her neck. Again, her body tensed up around his as he lazily licked around her neck to make sure there would be no evidence he had been there to feed.

Her body went a little limp underneath his and just when he started to get close to finishing himself, she surprised him by biting hard on his shoulder. He had told her the last time they were together that he enjoyed it when he was bitten and she hadn’t forgotten. She bit hard enough to break the skin and while it was a little painful for him, there was one hell of a release that followed it. She sucked on the wound she had created and as she did so their bond became even stronger. He lost control of his strong body and just collapsed on top of her. Even though he healed quickly she was still licking that spot on his shoulder a minute later. He was lost for words, which was rare, but Sookie knew just what to say.

“See? I told you you wouldn’t break me.” Sookie kept her legs wrapped around him and kissed him deeply.

And just like that, he was sure she was going to be just fine.


♦ ♦ ♦

For Blue Skies

It’s been a long year
Since we last spoke
How’s your halo?
Just between you and I
You and me and the satellites
I never believed you
I only wanted to
Before all of this
What did I miss?
Do you ever get homesick?
I can’t get used to it
I can’t get used to it
I’ll never get used to it
I’ll never get used to it

I’m under that night
I’m under those same stars
We’re in a red car
You asleep at my side
Going in and out of the headlights
Could I have saved you?
Would that’ve betrayed you?
I wanna burn this film
You alone with those pills
What you couldn’t do I will
I forgive you
I’ll forgive you
I’ll forgive you
I forgive you

For blue, blue skies
For blue, blue skies
For blue, blue skies
For blue, blue skies
I’ll forgive you

-Strays Don’t Sleep

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