I rose at my usual time, about an hour before sunset in Sookie’s damp basement. The lack of her scent in the basement told me that up until last night, she didn’t come down here frequently. I was quite surprised with the reception I got last night. I thought it would take more work for Sookie to talk to me, let alone be invited to her house, but here I was.
Sookie was pregnant. Knowing now that those sick, fucking fairies had raped her… I would never forgive myself for not having been able to save her. I now understood why she didn’t tell me what they had done to her. If only I had told her immediately why I couldn’t and wasn’t able to get to her, then maybe she wouldn’t have been gone all these months. Maybe she would have forgiven me and talked to me. Maybe she wouldn’t have run away, but there was nothing either one of us could do about it now except perhaps learn from all the mistakes we had made in the past.
I heard the front door open, and then close and Sookie’s footsteps throughout the house. I still had another forty minutes before I could go upstairs. Sookie called out to me.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you got up. I’ll be right down as soon as I put this casserole in the oven,” I listened to Sookie moving around in the kitchen, opening and closing the refrigerator, and then the oven door. Ever since I rose for the night Sookie had been feeling dispirited. Was she regretting letting me in last night?
Sookie headed into her bedroom for a few minutes before coming downstairs. When her eyes landed on mine, she tried to smile, but it didn’t meet her eyes.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here,” she told me again.
“You have nothing to be sorry for. You could wait for me upstairs if you want. I’ll be up as soon as the sun sets.”
“I already feel like such a bad hostess. Last night I went to bed leaving you with nothing to do and no TruBlood. I’m not leaving you down here when you can’t even leave.”
“It’s fine, Sookie,” I stepped over to her and walked us over to the stairs to sit down since there was nowhere to sit, other than the floor or on my little pallet.
“Would you like to tell me why you’re sad today?” I asked her once we sat down.
“It’s stupid,” she said while shaking her head. “How’d you sleep?” she asked while gesturing toward my makeshift bed.
“Like the dead. Are you upset that I’m here? I will leave once the sun is down if you wish.”
“No! No. It’s nothing like that. I told you it was stupid. Nothing can be done about it. Don’t worry, it’s wasn’t anything about you.”
“I’m relieved to know you don’t regret me being here, but I still want to know what makes you feel this way,” I said.
Sookie sighed and looked across the room at nothing. “I pretty much can’t fit into any of my work clothes anymore. Today I had to use a rubber band in the loop that the buttons are supposed to go into so my pants wouldn’t be wide open. I’m getting fat, and I’m only going to get fatter,” she said, and then pouted a little.
“You’re not getting fat,” Sookie gave me a disbelieving look, but I continued. “You’re getting round with child. That is what your body is supposed to do. It’s a beautiful thing,” I wished I could have given her this, but we would never be able to have biological children together. This was one of the few things that I could have never provided her.
“How is it that can you say such nice things to me and still be sad?” she asked me.
“Something for us to discuss another time,” We already had too much to talk about, let alone my telling her how I wished I was the child’s father. I didn’t know how she would react, not now with so much up in the air between us.
“We sure are coming up with quite the list of things to talk about,” she giggled. “It may take till the baby is a year-old for us to discuss everything.”
“I’m certain that we’ll get through most of it before I need to leave. Everything may not be settled, but we’ll eventually get to what’s on that list of yours.”
The buzzer went off on the oven, and I told Sookie that I’d be up in a few minutes when the sun was down. After I put on my socks and shoes, I headed upstairs. I was not looking forward to what Sookie wanted to discuss tonight. I knew she was would become very distraught when I told her of my punishment for not being able to deliver her to DeCastro. Sookie was sitting at the kitchen table eating something that looked positively vile and had a cup filled with what looked like milk. Also on the table was a warmed bottle of TruBlood. I sat down at the table and picked up the TruBlood, raising an eyebrow with my silent question.
“I know you said you would be fine, but it made me feel like a terrible hostess to not have anything for you. I didn’t want you just sitting there, watching me eat with nothing for you,” I nodded, understanding that being a good hostess had been ingrained in her by her grandmother.
“So, will you please tell me what happened with your hand?” She set her fork down and pointed at my hand. I could feel her worry for me. Although I hated that she was worrying about me, I relished in being able to feel her emotions once again, even if it was only for a few days. It was something I hoped to be able to change. Soon.
“We will talk about it, but I think it would be best to wait until after dinner. What did you do today?” She glared at me for a moment before eating another bite, but didn’t argue.
“I cleaned the house, ran some errands, and went to yoga class.”
“Do you know what yoga is?”
“I do. Why are you doing it?”
“I read that it would easier to recover after having the baby if I exercised throughout my pregnancy. At first, I just got a DVD and did it at home, but then I found a class for pregnant women. I wanted to do something different and to make sure I was doing it right. I found that I really liked going to the class with all the other pregnant women. It’s nice to be around other people when I’m not working.”
“It‘s good you found something you like and that you’re taking care of your body. Do you not have any friends here?” I asked her.
She shook her head. “No, I didn’t want to have to explain my situation to anyone and if no one knew anything about me if someone came looking for me they wouldn’t have anything to say. Soon I won’t be alone though,” she said, placing her hand on top of her stomach.
I wanted to tell her sooner than she thought, but Sookie could be very stubborn. We had so much to talk about while I was here and I didn’t want her shutting down on me before she knew everything. I knew she would be upset, but she needed to hear everything so she could make her own decisions and determine just what she wanted. I hoped that it would be me.
We sat in silence while Sookie finished her dinner and I finished my TruBlood. I knew she needed to eat, and I had a feeling that if we started talking about things now that they would be too upsetting and she wouldn’t be able to eat.
Once she was done, Sookie cleaned up the kitchen all the while keeping her back to me. I could feel her nervousness over our upcoming conversation. Hell, I was nervous that she might never want anything to do with me, ever again, afterward.
“Should we go back into the living room to talk tonight?” she asked, bringing me back to the here and now. I nodded my head and stood to go into the living room. I sat down on the couch and this time Sookie sat closer to me than she did last night, not close enough for my liking, but I was not going to push her.
“Why are you so nervous? You’re really starting to freak me out. Is it really that bad?” she asked.
I shrugged, “None of it is good. I only hope that once you hear why I couldn’t be the one to save you that you’ll forgive me one day. I didn’t tell you in the hospital because we didn’t have time, and then afterward I wanted you to heal. I could feel how terribly hurt you were that I didn’t tell you, but I thought I had more time. I should have told you and maybe you would have stayed.”
“I wouldn’t have stayed. I couldn’t control my shields and hearing Amelia, Sam, and Alcide’s thoughts was not helping. I probably should have talked to you about it though,” she confessed.
“You could have stayed at my house to get away from their thoughts. You’ll always have an open invitation to my home. I meant it when I asked you to stay with me. I only wish I had been more insistent, perhaps then the fairies wouldn’t have gotten you.”
“Maybe, but let’s not keep thinking about the ‘what if’s.’ What’s done is done and we can only move forward.”
“Very true,” We sat in silence for a few minutes looking at each other. I knew we had to have this talk tonight if I ever wanted Sookie to be mine again. I felt as if I’d lost her and now I had to win her back, but the only way to do that was to hurt her with what I was about to tell her.
“We can’t just sit and look at each other all night. Come on, Eric, I need this. I need to know why you weren’t there,” I could see and feel her pain when she said this. I took a deep breath and ran my hands through my hair.
“Bill called to let me know you had been taken. I knew something was happening, but I couldn’t tell what. The bond was going in and out, and I believe that was when they were teleporting you. I called Niall for him to help us as he was the only one I knew who could teleport. Earlier, Victor Madden was at Fangtasia for an unscheduled meeting and when I tried to leave, I was told that I was not permitted to leave… I wasn’t allowed to take a side in the Fae war. I was chained to the wall in my office with silver,” Sookie’s eyes widened and she took my hand in hers.
“Pam was not silvered, and eventually she convinced the guards to permit her call the King. She explained that we were pledged and you were promised protection. DeCastro ordered that I be let loose,” I hung my head, not wanting to tell her anything more, but I knew it had to be done. “I knew that once I made it to you, there would be a war. To regain my strength after being silvered I had to feed on a donor. I would not have otherwise,” I quickly added. “I hope you know that. I have always been faithful to you in all ways. Ever since you left, I have had to feed from several donors, but I will explain that later.” I felt her hurt and jealousy, but then it quickly turned into acceptance.
“I understand, Eric. I would never deny you the need to feed in times of battle or death. There had to be something else. Something more. Did they do more to you than just silver you to the wall?”
“They did not,” I replied.
“Then tell me. What else would have made you weak enough to need a donor?”
I took both her hands into one of mine and looked her in the eyes. “I hurt with you; I bled with you, Sookie. I felt everything you felt. I sent you all the strength that I could, and I took as much of the pain away that I possibly could through our bond. I felt how much you wanted me there … how much you wanted to die in the end,” my voice faltered at the memory of that night. “If I could have been there I would have. To know that I couldn’t save you, and then to see what they had done to you. I knew the areas where you were hurt, but to see them, and now to know that they raped you….”
Sookie reached up and wiped away the tears that I didn’t even know had fallen. Tears were trailing down her face, but she wanted to take care of me. She wrapped her arms around me, and hugged me. We both sat there holding one another and wept. No one had ever seen me so vulnerable.
I rubbed Sookie’s back and hair hoping to help calm her. After a few minutes, she pulled away and wiped her eyes.
“Let me get a washcloth to clean up our faces. I’ll be right back.”
I nodded. I wasn’t going anywhere. That had gone much better than I thought it would, at least on her end. Sookie soon returned after having washed her face and proceeded to wipe away my bloody tears. After getting rid of the bloodstained washcloth, Sookie was back sitting next to me and she placed her hand on my leg, and gave it a little squeeze.
“I wish you would have told me this sooner. You have no idea the thoughts I had as to why you didn’t come,” I raised my eyebrow at her. “I thought that maybe you no longer cared about me, that you were getting tired of me because you had finally won me. Hell, one theory was that you were with some fangbanger. I had no idea, but as you can see my thoughts did not paint you in a very good light, yet you were silvered during that time,” she paused, hung her head in shame, and sniffed. “Even though you couldn’t come to help me, you did. In your own way, you did. Even when you were already suffering, you took my pain. You … felt my pain. Why didn’t you shut down the bond so you couldn’t feel me?”
“I can withstand pain. I knew the pain would end, but, if for some reason you couldn’t be saved, I wasn’t going to let you die alone. I needed to feel you and give you my strength. I wanted to be there for you in any way I could. I wouldn’t block the bond. I’ll always take as much pain for you as I possibly can,” I wiped away the new tears that had trailed down her face once more.
“I’m grateful that you finally told me,” she cupped my face in her hands and her eyes softened. “There’s nothing for me to forgive. I know you would have come if you were able. You helped in all the ways that you possibly could at the time. I understand. You don’t need to feel guilty,” I started to look down at her swollen belly, but she pulled my face up to look at hers. “I have accepted this pregnancy and I have chosen not to dwell on how a psychotic fairy raped and tortured me for the rest of my life. I will love my baby so I never want you to feel guilty about it.”
“Thank you for that. It’s difficult to not feel guilt when it is my job to protect you.”
“It’s not your job to protect me!” she scoffed.
“You are my bonded, my wife, and my mate. It is my job. If you could protect me I know you would try.”
“Of course I would,” she replied instantly.
“Why would you protect me?” I asked her.
“Because I love you,” she said, and I could feel her love for me, something I had never felt before I had met Sookie. It amazed me every time I felt it.
“Exactly,” I said to her.
I could feel her skepticism. She may have thought that I’d never told her I loved her, but she would be wrong. I’d told her many times, but only in my native tongue. I knew Sookie was uncertain of her feelings for me, blaming the bond on them, but I had known that she loved me ever since my curse ended. I couldn’t tell her that I loved her and have her reject me as she had with our bond and pledging. I couldn’t take the thought of Sookie rejecting me again. Sookie could feel my irritation at her not believing me.
“Let’s not fight about this. I don’t want to fight with you,” she told me, and then grabbed my right hand. “Now tell what is wrong with your hand.”
“There is nothing wrong with my hand.”
“I thought we were going to talk about this,” she let go of my hand and sighed.
“We were discussing it, but there is nothing wrong with it. It’s perfectly fine. So good, it’s … new,” I told her. We sat in silence for a few moments while Sookie looked at my hand, turning it and looking at it, this way and that. I wasn’t able to grasp what she was feeling. There were too many emotions running through her. Finally they settled on what I would describe as horror. She gripped my hand tightly, and then dropped it.
“Your hand looks this way because it’s new,” she said, looking me in the eyes.
“Yes,” I said quietly.
“Why is it new? What happened? No more stalling, tell me what happened,” Sookie demanded.
Sookie was the only person, alive or dead, who could speak to me that way. No one else would dare, and yet she had no qualms about it.
“It was punishment. Everything else has healed; the only things left are my fingernails. In a month or so the pink should be gone too.”
“What do you mean everything else has healed? There was more? Why were you punished?” She asked. Shock, concern, and dread filled our bond.
“There was more punishment. I was punished by my King,” I was trying to give her answers that would appease her so she wouldn’t know the full extent, but I should have known that she wouldn’t let go.
“DeCastro did this to you?”
“Not personally,” I replied.
“Why, Eric? Why did you get punished?”
“This will only upset you further, but know that I’m fine now, almost fully-healed except for the fingernails.”
“I’m upset now, and I can tell you don’t want to talk about it, so it must be bad. Please just tell me,” she pleaded.
“I was punished for not being able to deliver you to my King. He wanted to use your services, I told him you were healing, and could not work. After a month of excuses, he sent his guards for me. When I still wouldn’t tell him where you were, I was held for two months. They tortured me to try to get the information out of me.”
Tears were now streaming down her face. The bond was filled with a staggering amount of guilt and shame.
“What else? I know you’re holding back still. Just tell me the rest. Please, I have to know it all. If we’re to ever have a real relationship, we have to be honest with each other.”
“I was beaten, stabbed, had my hand cut off, my toes removed, held in a silver-lined cell with only a chair to sit on, and only given one TruBlood a week,” I told her all of it, barely above a whisper.
By the time I was done, I had pulled Sookie into my lap. She was sobbing uncontrollably. I was stroking her back and hair while speaking in my native tongue in the hope that it would soothe her. After ten minutes or so, she calmed down some. She was still crying, but she was no longer sobbing. I didn’t think I had ever felt Sookie so upset before, not even after I couldn’t remember our time together or when she found out about the true reason Bill was in Bon Temps. Sookie’s arms were tightly wrapped around my neck and between her ragged breaths; she repeatedly told me how sorry she was.
“Sookie, I am fine. Even if I had known where you were, I wouldn’t have told them. I didn’t want to tell you. I knew it would hurt you, but I knew by not telling you, you wouldn’t trust me.”
“But you were hurt because of me,” she sobbed. “If I hadn’t left, nothing would have happened to you. All of this was my fault. I ran away from my problems and before that, I was too stubborn to come and stay with you and look where that got me. I’m so sorry.” Sookie buried her face in the crook of my neck and wrapped her body around me. “Please forgive me,” she said while she continued to cry.
“As you said, there is nothing to forgive. I understood that you needed to heal. We can’t change the past, but only learn from it. Know I will do anything to keep you safe and I’m not trying to be high-handed, I’m just trying to do what I think is best to make sure you’re safe. I’ve been alive for a very long time and, in matters of security, you should trust my judgment.” I told her while I held her in my arms.
“I will try,” she said with a nod. “I know I’m stubborn, and I know I’ve made some terrible decisions in the past, but I know I do need to be more careful now. It’s not just me anymore; I have a baby to think about now.”
I nodded against the top of her head while I continued stroking her hair and back.
“Speaking of the baby, you should probably get some sleep. Tonight has been stressful. We can talk some more before I have to leave tomorrow night.”
Eric rose from the couch with me still attached to him. I began to panic over the fact that he would be leaving tomorrow night. When would I see him again? What was going to happen now?
“When will you have to leave tomorrow?” I asked as I detached myself from him. Immediately I felt the loss of being in his arms.
“A couple of hours after the sun goes down. I have a long way to fly. I’m sorry, I wish I could stay longer, but I’m sure there will already be questions as to my absence.”
I grabbed his hand and asked, “Will you come and lay down with me for a little while?” I was not ready to let him go yet. I already knew that when he left I would feel more alone than I had the entire time I’d been here.
“Are you sure you’ll be comfortable with that?” he asked while I led him back to my bedroom. I took him over to sit on my bed and told him I would be right back. As quickly as I could I changed into my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and used the restroom for what felt like the fiftieth time today. Going to the bathroom so often was definitely one downside to being pregnant! When I walked back in the bedroom, Eric was still sitting there, but he had taken off his shoes. I walked over to the left side of the bed, got in, rolled onto my side, and lifted the blankets for Eric to climb under.
“Would you rather not be in here?” I asked him. Never before had Eric hesitated to jump into bed with me, whether we were together or not.
“Of course I want to,” he said as he lay down beside me on his side. I snuggled up as close as I could to him, and lay my head on his chest. His shirt was wet from all of my tears.
“Your shirt’s all wet. If you take it off, I’ll wash it tomorrow before you leave.”
He chuckled. “You just want me to take off my shirt,” he said, and then sat himself up a little and took it off. I watched as his abs rippled and his pecs flexed.
God, it had been a long time! I didn’t think there was any other man on this planet that had a body as perfect as his. I caught myself reaching out to touch him, but stopped myself. Eric must have noticed out of the corner of his eye because he grabbed my hand and placed it right where his un-beating heart rested. I kept it there for a few moments while I took Eric in, wondering how I could have ever been so stupid. I was always wary of my feelings for him after the bond, but, if I had to be honest, I had known that I had been in love with Eric ever since he had had amnesia. It was easy to love that Eric, but I had feelings for the real Eric even before Jackson. He had done so much to protect me, to try and let me still be me while making himself look bad. I never wanted to do that to him again.
Finally, I let myself look and touch his shoulders, chest, and stomach, running my fingers over and feeling his cool, smooth skin over his sculpted muscles. I stopped once more over his heart and looked him in the eyes.
“You really are a very beautiful man. All of you,” I told him, tapping my fingers over his heart. Eric was quiet for a moment. I couldn’t distinguish what I was feeling from him, but I think I might have stunned him.
“Thank you,” was all he said. I snuggled back up to him, resting my head on his chest, my arm draped over his side and back while I trailed my fingers along his back. He wrapped his arms around me, hugging me close. We were quiet for a few minutes just enjoying being in each other’s arms again.
“You’re happy,” I said. I was feeling happiness and contentment through the bond, more than I’d ever felt from him.
“Yes, in this moment, I am. You’re the first person since I became a vampire that has truly accepted me for who I am; the first to lay with me, to love me, to make love with me. The first of many things.”
“In a way it makes me feel very special to be the first for all those things, but then it also makes me sad for you. I can’t imagine how lonely you have had to have been to not have had those things. To have to hide who you were,” I said as tears welled up in my eyes.
“No more crying tonight,” he said softly and I nodded my head, willing my tears away. I was going to miss him when he left tomorrow. I hugged myself closer to Eric trying to push the sadness away, knowing I should be treasuring these moments while they lasted. “That’s why I felt that what we had was so special. In all my thousand years, I have never felt this way about another. Jag älskar dig, min Sookie. Jag kommer göra det så länge jag är här på denna jord. (I love you, my Sookie. I will for as long as I walk this Earth.)”
“You know I have no idea what you’re saying, right?” I’d heard the beginning part before many times, but I still didn’t understand why he said whatever he was saying in some language I didn’t understand.
He chuckled, “I know. Someday you will. It’s getting late, Sookie. Please get some rest.”
“Okay, but will you stay here with me until I fall asleep?”
Eric nodded and held me tighter. “Good night, Sookie. I’ll see you when I rise.”
“Good night, Eric,” I said to him and snuggled up to him while he pulled the blankets up tucking them in around my shoulders.
Translations are from Google Translate. I don’t know any Swedish so blame any mistakes on Google.