Hours later Sookie was doing something with Eric that she never thought she would do. They were sitting side by side in a dark movie theater watching a romantic comedy. Sookie had wanted to get out of the house and do something that had nothing to do with vampire politics or the supernatural world, and she couldn’t think of anything more normal for them to do than go see a movie. Eric had been surprisingly receptive to the idea, although he had done the typical guy thing and complained when Sookie suggested they go see the new Ryan Gosling movie.
He had most definitely growled at little at Sookie’s reaction when the actor appeared on screen shirtless, and Sookie couldn’t help but giggle in her head over Eric’s jealousy. As if he never fantasized about other women? She wasn’t born yesterday, and she wasn’t so insecure or naïve that she expected to be the only woman on his radar screen. As long as Eric didn’t try to stick his fangs or other parts in said women, he was entitled to all the thoughts he wanted.
With the exception of a few kisses on her hand over the course of the movie, Eric had been surprisingly well behaved. He endured the chick flick better than she expected him to, and promised that next time they went to a movie she would let him pick. No doubt he would go with some gory slasher flick that would keep her burrowed into his side for the majority of the movie. At least then he would have an excuse to distract her from what was going on, and she was very well versed in what sort of distractions he would employ.
When the movie was over Eric suggested they go for a late supper, for her anyway, and they ended up at a diner a few blocks away from Fangtasia. Sookie ordered the blue plate special that just happened to be pot roast and mashed potatoes. She was surprised to find a classic diner carrying TruBlood, and was thankful the waitress serving them didn’t recoil when Eric ordered an AB Positive extra warm.
“What’s your favorite movie?” Sookie asked him while they waited for their food.
The waitress came by with her coffee and a basket of bread. She grabbed a roll from the basket and one of those little foil covered packets of butter to spread on it.
Sookie could have been knocked over with a feather when Eric said, “What About Bob?”
“Seriously?” her jaw dropped.
“Groundhog Day is also good. I can appreciate the frustration of waking up feeling like you’re living the same day over and over again,” Eric smiled at her.
“So you’re a Bill Murray fan,” Sookie couldn’t help grinning.
“Yes, I am,” Eric agreed.
“You seem surprised,” he said.
“Well,” Sookie took a bite of her roll and chewed for a moment before adding, “You’ve traveled the world and were around when the very first silent movies were coming out. It just amazes me that a screwball like Bill Murray would be your favorite. I would have expected you to say some French movie I’ve never heard of, or maybe even one of those Bruce Lee kung fu movies.”
“I met Bruce Lee once,” Eric revealed, which was a change of topic but Sookie didn’t mind. “I think he would have fit in my pocket.”
Sookie couldn’t help laughing at that and asked, “Who else have you met?”
“It’s a long list,” Eric said with a hint of a smirk.
“Okay, then just tell me the three you found the most interesting,” Sookie said, feeling like her curiosity was also completely normal. The closest Sookie had ever come to meeting a celebrity was when she’d been interviewed by a reporter after a bad storm that left Bon Temps without power for almost a week, and the creek had flooded which kept the high school closed for two days.
“You know, you’d be amazed how many celebrities these days aren’t actually having plastic surgery but instead are buying vampire blood on the black market,” Eric said as the waitress came back with Sookie’s cup of cream of broccoli soup. He looked at the cup with disapproval, but then the aroma of it hit him and he said, “That smells much more appetizing than it looks.”
“Yes, it does,” Sookie giggled. “Now come on, you’re stalling.”
“I met Betty White back in the seventies,” Eric said, and Sookie’s smile grew again. “She wasn’t quite as dirty as she is now, but for that time she had quite a mouth on her.”
“That isn’t a sex joke, is it?” Sookie teased.
“No,” Eric laughed. “I was visiting a friend of mine who was a sheriff in New York when I met her. Our conversation didn’t last long, but she was just as funny and sweet as she is now. I enjoyed meeting her.”
“Did she know you were a vampire?” Sookie asked.
“Honestly, I don’t know if she did or not. Thankfully it was winter, so if she noticed my skin was colder than usual she would have just written it off as being a side effect of the cold outside.”
“Who else?” Sookie asked.
“I met Lucille Ball in the fifties. She was in my area on a weekend trip with her husband at the time, and had dinner in one of the restaurants I owned up there,” Eric said.
“Get outta here,” Sookie’s eyes were as wide as saucers.
“Lucy Ricardo and Lucille Ball were two very different people. She was polite and charming to everyone around her, and when she laughed it was impossible to ignore. In fact, at one point, I think she had the entire restaurant going.”
“I’m sure she did,” Sookie shook her head. “You know my Gran adored her? Then again, I think anyone who watches old episodes of I Love Lucy has to be able to appreciate how funny she was.”
“Pam never cared for it,” Eric admitted.
“What?! Why not?!” Sookie looked almost offended.
“Because she thought Lucy was a big whiner waiting on her stubborn husband to get her into show business. She always thought that if Lucy wanted it badly enough she would have just gone and done it, with or without Ricky’s help,” Eric said.
“I suppose,” Sookie reluctantly agreed. “But even so… how can you not think that is one of the funniest shows of all time?”
“Oh Pam thought it was funny; she just doesn’t like it,” Eric said.
Leave it to Pam to go all feminist on it. The final celebrity was a Russian composer that Sookie had never heard of, but then she’d never really been that big on classical music. Not that it wasn’t beautiful, or she couldn’t appreciate it, but she had never followed it. Her personal songbook was full of classic country, jazz from the forties and fifties and whatever was currently playing on pop stations. Mostly Sookie preferred music she could dance to, and by that she didn’t mean waltz.
Eric sipped his blood while Sookie ate her dinner. They continued to make small talk about little things they both liked or didn’t like. Sookie was more interested in hearing about Eric than she was talking about herself. Partially because she felt like she didn’t have a whole lot to offer in a lot of ways. Her life had been so small and boring until vampires came into the picture. Her days consisted of going to work, helping Gran with chores around the house, having supper and going to bed. Every once in a while she would go out with friends or go on a date, but those occurrences were few and far between.
Her life was all about figuring out how she was going to support herself and Gran. There was rarely ever enough surplus to do fancy things, and traveling had darn near been out of the question. She’d never been north of the Mason-Dixon Line and leaving the country? Ha! Sookie had dreamed about it but never really thought it would actually happen.
“Why not?” Eric asked her when she told him that.
“Because it’s expensive to travel and waitressing isn’t a gold mine. I thought maybe if I got married I’d be able to go somewhere fancy on my honeymoon, but I figured out when I was still just a teenager that I would probably never get married because of my telepathy. Just holding someone’s hand was next to impossible for me, so there was no way I’d ever be able to marry somebody,” she explained.
“It’s different now though,” Eric said. “Now you know how to turn it off.”
Sookie opened her mouth to say something and then shut it again. Oddly enough, she had completely forgotten about that handy new ability. Did that change anything, though? Okay, so even if she could get close enough to a human man to have sex with him or be in a relationship with him, there would be the possibility of children no matter how careful they were. While Sookie loved children, she knew being a mother wasn’t in the cards for her.
“I suppose it expands my field of possibility somewhat if you and me don’t work out in the long run,” Sookie shrugged. “But it won’t change the way I feel about having kids, and as long as I’m with a vampire I won’t have to worry about that.”
“So you’ve found your type, hmm?” Eric smirked.
“I suppose,” Sookie shrugged. “I guess I can’t say that I could never fall in love with a human man. I mean, when I was a little girl I didn’t think someday I’d grow up and fall in love with a vampire, so anything is possible. But with a human man I would always have to try to be something other than myself. When I’m with you I don’t have to do that; I can just be.”
Sookie sat there reveling in the words she had just said, and came to the conclusion that even with Bill there had been a part of her that had tried to be something else. He had been so conflicted about being a vampire and part of what he’d liked about Sookie was that she was a human he could cling to, to make himself feel more of what she was. Bill had pulled her into the vampire world, but that was unavoidable. Sookie was smart enough to know she would somehow end up involved with vampires one way or another.
Had it not been for Bill, there was the possibility she wouldn’t have met Eric. What if the queen hadn’t been so lazy and come for Sookie herself? She couldn’t imagine what her life would be like if she had simply been taken from her home and brought to the queen’s court to serve as a telepathic slave for the balance of her natural life. Worse, there was the possibility that the queen would have just turned her and no doubt if Sookie’s abilities didn’t transfer over as a vampire, the queen would just kill her the way she did with Hadley. When Hadley was no longer useful the queen had bumped her off. Why wouldn’t she do that with Sookie?
This was all coming together and happening the way it was for reasons. Bill was just a piece of the puzzle; a sad, hurtful chapter in the book of Sookie’s life. She sighed and felt a little more at peace with the way things were going. If Eric was her reward for dealing with all of the bullshit she had endured because of Bill, then it was all worth it.
Except for one thing; Bill had still needlessly killed Gran.
That still stuck in her craw as something that had been completely unnecessary. Maybe he saw it as a safety precaution because Sookie had been skittish at the time of Gran’s death. She had been doubting her relationship with Bill, and whether or not she wanted to pursue it further. The whole plot was so diabolical that it made her stomach turn all over again, and she pushed her plate away.
“Full?” Eric asked her.
Sookie shook her head and said, “I’m thinking about Gran.”
“What are you thinking?” Eric asked her, and she could feel his concern.
“When Gran died Bill and I were on the rocks,” she told him. “The night I met you I told Bill that I needed some time to think about things. After we left Fangtasia he got pulled over by a cop on some backroad on the way back to Bon Temps. The cop was trying to throw his weight around and hassle Bill because he was a vampire and I’m a human. The cop straight up asked us about the raid at Fangtasia and assumed that was where we’d come from. The cop asked to see my neck to make sure I hadn’t been bitten recently and Bill took offense to that.”
“I would have as well, but continue,” Eric said.
“Bill ended up glamouring the cop and taking his gun. The cop was a jerk, but Bill could have just let it go instead of scaring the man half to death. It was the first time I got a glimpse of Bill’s dark side, I guess, and it made me nervous. After what had happened with those other vampires in Bon Temps that died in the fire, I was on the fence already about whether or not I wanted to stay involved with vampires. Then for Bill to go and do that it just… it made me reconsider whether or not I wanted to spend more time with him. We argued the rest of the way back to my house about what he did to the cop.
“I realize now that just being glamoured was really the kindest thing most vampires would do in that sort of situation, but Bill had practically admitted to me that if I hadn’t been with him he would have drained the cop and left him for dead on the side of the road. Bill started talking about how he was ‘trying’ to mainstream, but draining somebody in a fit of rage still doesn’t sound like mainstreaming to me. For someone who was trying to act all noble around me, his actions completely betrayed everything he had said to me so far. He told me I couldn’t be afraid of everything in the world that I didn’t know, and maybe he was right about that, but it was overwhelming for me.
“I was still freaked out by what I had seen with those other vampires and then I’d met you and Pam and—” Sookie sighed, and was also cut off.
“What did you think of Pam and I the night we met?” Eric asked out of curiosity.
Sookie smiled and said, “I thought y’all were arrogant and rude, to be honest.”
Eric laughed and said, “You were delightful as always. And you weren’t afraid of me.”
“Oh yes I was,” Sookie admitted.
“I didn’t scent it,” Eric said, obviously impressed with her.
“I tried not to let it show.”
In a blur of movement, Eric came over to sit beside Sookie on her side of the bench and whispered, “When you showed me those photos of the dead women Pam had made a comment about remembering them both. You sassed her in regards to her vault, as she calls it, and it took all the restraint I had not to take you right there in the bar in front of everyone.”
Sookie gasped, feeling the lust pouring into their bond as he recalled that night. Her heartbeat sped up, and when she felt Eric’s lips graze her neck her entire body felt like it was lighting up.
“You were a brave woman, walking into my bar like that demanding answers, and you didn’t back down. You intrigued me, Sookie, and you still do,” he said, turning her face to his. “It’s a shame you wouldn’t have yielded to me that night.”
“I… I might have if you had been nice to me,” she said.
“But what fun would that have been?” he smirked and she smiled back.
“Can I finish my story now? You can whisper all the dirty things you want in my ear when we get home,” she promised.
Eric kissed her forehead and said, “Certainly.”
He moved back to his side of the booth to give Sookie a little more space to herself. She took a few deep breaths to get herself calmed down again, and then started talking.
“So the point is that I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the things I had seen in just a few days. On top of that my brother was in trouble with the police since they thought he was the one killing all these women, and I was desperate to clear his name. Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if Rene had been glamoured into killing those women in the first place, but since he’s dead it’s not like I can check his head. No matter…” she trailed off for a moment. “The next morning I told Gran about my decision not to see Bill anymore. It was the day that he was going to speak at the Descendants of the Glorious Dead meeting and—”
“Descendants of the Glorious Dead?” Eric asked.
“It’s sort of like Bon Temps historical society. All the folks involved like tracing back lineage and have a big interest in The War,” Sookie explained.
Eric nodded and Sookie continued, “So you can imagine how exciting it was that there was a real sort of live war veteran that was willing to come and talk about things. Not to mention, since he was a Bon Temps native he remembered several ancestors of the people in town, which practically made him something of a hero to some folks. Gran was tickled pink that Bill had agreed to do this.
“Even more than me, Gran was won over by Bill’s charm and southern manners. He played his part perfectly, and I didn’t really tell Gran about the darker things that I had seen. I kept that to myself because I didn’t want her to worry about me. She had enough to worry about with Jason being in trouble with the law. But I couldn’t really hold back anymore. I didn’t get too specific with her about what had happened, and I didn’t even mention that I had met you and Pam, or anyone I had met at Fangtasia. I did tell her about the raid and that we had gotten out before the police caught us there, but I didn’t tell her about the man you kicked or the vampire feeding on him in the bathroom.
“I explained how I was feeling and Gran had encouraged me to give Bill another chance. She reminded me that of course a vampire was going to see the world differently, and that if I was in Bill’s shoes I might not have reacted any different than he had. She gave me a lot to think about, but I was still spooked. Sam asked me to go with him as his date to the meeting—”
“You went on a date with the Shifter?” Eric raised an eyebrow.
“It didn’t end well, so don’t go thinking there’s something there when there isn’t,” Sookie told him. “When I look back on it now I understand what Sam was trying to tell me but the way he went about it was all wrong, and it just ended up offending me and making me feel stupid instead of sounding like the concern that it was.”
“What did he tell you?” Eric asked.
“That vampires are dangerous and I had no future with one,” Sookie said honestly.
“You believe this to be true?”
“Well, vampires are definitely dangerous, especially to someone like me; I think we can agree on that much,” she said and Eric nodded, conceding that point. “Do I think I don’t have a future with a vampire? No, I don’t think that’s true. Now if I pick the wrong vampire to devote myself to, like Bill, then yes, it’s a big mistake. At the time I just… I thought maybe Bill was as good as it was going to get for me. I was caught up in the notion that I might end up alone forever, and now I know that having Bill’s blood in my system was part of what swayed me to him. It was part of what allowed me to keep going back to him even when my conscience told me it was best that I walk away.”
Sookie’s eyes filled with tears as she remembered coming home from that awful date with Sam, only to find Gran lying in a pool of her own blood on the kitchen floor. That wasn’t at all how the night was supposed to end. She was supposed to be able to tell Gran everything so they could talk it over and Gran could help her make sense of things. Instead she had spent the night talking to police and scrubbing her own kitchen floor to get rid of all the traces of Gran’s blood.
A tear escaped one of Sookie’s eyes and she said, “When I got home that night I found Gran. She was already dead. She was lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of her own blood. Her eyes were open, vacant. She was gone, and I… I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I remember falling to my knees, feeling like the world was closing in on me. How could this have happened to Gran? Yes, she associated with a vampire but she sure as hell never let one feed from her and she definitely never had a sexual relationship with a vampire.
“I was completely devastated, and then Bill was there. He just appeared out of nowhere and at the time I chocked it up to having his blood in me. He’d told me he would feel it if I was ever in trouble, and like magic he appeared. Sam showed up a short time later and I was sitting out on the porch just trying to get the world to make sense again, but I heard the police asking Bill questions about his relationship with Gran. He told them that he thought Gran wasn’t the intended target and he hadn’t heard anyone coming or going from my house, but he had heard my car coming up so he thought he’d try to come smooth things over with me.
“Of course now I know that was all just a lie. I can’t help but wonder if he would have done things differently if he had known that Gran was on his side. Gran wasn’t the problem; she never was. My reasons for doubting Bill were all on him. It was his actions that kept me from throwing myself into his arms and riding off into the sunset, and not because Gran discouraged me from spending any more time with Bill. It makes me so angry that he took his failures out on her, and she did nothing wrong. Gran was the most innocent victim of all the women that were killed. Sometimes I think it should have been me—”
“No,” Eric said firmly, cutting off that line of thinking because he had a sense he knew where it was going. “What happened to your grandmother is unfortunate. Bill murdered her to secure his position in your life. By removing her as a potential obstacle he was able to insinuate himself into your life at a time when you were vulnerable and in need of someone to protect you. By telling the police that he believed your grandmother’s killer to have intended you to be the actual victim, he intimidated you by proxy.
“Sadly, it was a clever maneuver on his part, and it worked to his advantage. It was a gamble, because you could have gone the other way entirely, and told him that you absolutely wanted nothing further to do with vampires if this was the end result. He banked on your innocence and lack of knowledge in order to endear himself to you. Learn from your mistakes, Sookie, but don’t let them define you.”