“I’m scared I’ll lose myself in you,” he admitted as they stared at the blue horizon in the distance. “You’re a great distraction, a distraction I love but a distraction, nonetheless.”
Sookie remained quiet; trying not to feel hurt by his words but they stung regardless, remaining silent in fear of further pain to come.
“I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for what we have, but I can’t lose focus, not now when I’m so close to getting what I want.”
“Except you did,” Sookie spoke softly. “You traded an anticipated moment between us for what you wanted.” She paused briefly, allowing a tear to escape with the pain. “And it wasn’t me.”
“Sookie, make no mistake. I want you. Desperately,” he enunciated sternly while he looked her deeply in the eyes, afraid to admit the weakness that reigned in his tightly held existence. “Too much.”
“I understand,” she sighed. “That doesn’t mean I’m not still hurt. I allowed myself to be vulnerable for the first time after all the things that happened, and you rejected me.”
“I never meant to reject you. I swear,” he offered while tentatively seeking out her hands to hold in his. “How can I make it up to you?”
“I don’t know, Eric,” she exhaled. “You can’t change what happened. You can’t take it back. I don’t even know how to behave around you anymore.”
“Nothing should change between us,” he offered.
“It already has changed. Every time I touch you now, I’ll be worried it’ll scare you away again. I can’t help but feel as if I’m walking on eggshells.”
“Please don’t,” he pleaded. “I promise you this, nothing you do, say, or wear will make me leave you. I love you, that is never going to change. I might momentarily step out to collect myself. I’ll never leave you behind.”
“I don’t think I can do this right now. I’ll help you with Russell and until you figure out who killed your family. Then…” she trailed off not quite sure to what exactly she was committing.
“Don’t leave me. I couldn’t bear it if you left,” he all but begged clutching her hands almost painfully.
“I don’t know how to be with you anymore, Eric,” she replied while pulling her hands from his grasp into her own lap, establishing a distance between them that no longer spoke of one but of two separate beings. “I have to protect myself.”
“From me?” he asked, the dejection crumpling his shoulders into an unsightly hunch.
“Yes,” she whispered softly before finding his eyes again. “Even from you.”
It had become clear to everyone surrounding them that something had caused a rift between the young couple. Neither of them could nor wanted to talk about it with anyone. They were cordial, still slept in the same bed but not as closely as they once did. The only one who seemed to be happy with these events was Adonia. She had taken Sookie under her wing again and seemed to be successfully teaching her a basic grasp of the Greek language.
Eric retreated into the apartment now and then, allowing him a moment to wallow at what was slipping from his hands right in front of him. He planned and schemed on ways to bring her back and he cursed himself that he didn’t see it for what it was. He had been fighting a losing battle and his defence was unknowingly inflicting the mortal wound upon his self. His thoughts were consumed with her regardless, with or without her by his side. In offering, he picked a wild anemone flower from a field and left it on her pillow every night.
She simply added them to the rest residing in the vase.
The most disconcerted seemed to be Russell. He had grown fond of the fiery, little Southern Belle. He had nudged them both individually, but they presented a united front regardless. This gave him some hope. It didn’t stop him from meddling though.
“What has my boy done to you?” Russell asked again not expecting a truthful answer this time either.
“Nothing,” she replied as she expertly folded in the corners while helping the nurse put down clean sheets on the bed. It was the truth, but it didn’t offer much of an explanation. The nurse departed with the dirty sheets when Russell was settled back in.
“Any pain?” she asked. Sookie had been asking it every day since she first helped him with his backache.
He shook his head no. “Only my poor little heart with the thought of you two separating,” he sighed.
“You’re laying it on a little thick,” she said while she fussed over the covers unnecessarily. “Even for you.”
“I’m getting desperate in my old age,” he offered with a smirk.
“Your liver is failing,” she observed by the yellowing of his skin. “You are going to have to make a decision soon.”
“I sometimes forget you have been through this all before.”
She shrugged, “I wish I could say I hadn’t. Death and I are steady acquaintances I guess.”
“I’m not scared anymore, should I be?” he asked. It was almost childlike.
“I pissed my pants in fear when Eric pulled the trigger,” she offered with a small snicker. “That was fear for the pain though, not for what came after.”
“Do you believe in God, Ms. Stackhouse?” She nodded her head in confirmation. “How will He punish me?”
“God doesn’t punish,” she corrected. “God forgives.”
“Not the likes of me, yet I find myself hoping for it,” Russell confessed.
“We all do.”
“You’ll care for him? Eric,” he asked with a raised brow almost daring her to defy him.
“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “You know how he is.”
“I shoulder the responsibility for that,” he offered with a small smile.
“Maybe not. Eric’s pretty much …” she drifted off. “Eric.”
It took another week and a half before the localised pains started transforming to an all-encompassing one. Morphine kept it bearable, but Russell recognised the imminent turning of the tide.
“I think it’s time we start talking about your other family,” Russell said.
“I understand,” Eric replied looking up from the book he was reading. “Will Pam and Talbot know?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” he replied. “What do you think?”
“Does it matter what I think?”
“Yes,” he replied with a hint of annoyance. “I wouldn’t have asked otherwise.”
“I don’t think you should tell them, but they should be aware they are saying goodbye,” he answered. “Sookie can make them forget.”
“No,” he sighed. “I don’t want them to know and then forget. The body remembers even if the mind doesn’t.”
“She can encourage the nurse to exaggerate your condition. She’s going to retrieve a bit of Sookie’s persuasion anyhow.”
“Perhaps that is best,” he agreed.
The night that Sookie and Eric sat side-by-side facing Russell was the most amount of time they had spent awake together since their rift. Sookie could have come in at the end to confirm Russell had spoken the truth and all he knew. Instead she had insisted on being there, she wanted to be there for him. He was grateful, extremely so.
Russell regaled in great detail every move and decision made. It wasn’t legible on Eric’s face, but it was clear to Sookie it was difficult for him to relive those memories. She held his hand and rubbed her thumb over the back of it and he never pulled back once. Russell had been honest when he said he didn’t know much, but what he knew was a tangible lead. When he revealed the client’s name that had contracted him for the job, Eric was too preoccupied to notice the look of shock on Sookie’s face.
“Tomorrow night then,” Russell confirmed with his business now done with the rather silent duo.
Eric nodded still unaware of Sookie’s near catatonic state. They went to their bedroom after bidding Russell goodnight, moving wordlessly in an unspoken rhythm. Sookie added the anemone flower from her pillow and placed it into the vase on her nightstand while Eric made use of the bathroom and returned in his sleepwear. She used the bathroom after him and made to her side of the bed. Eric would read a little in whatever book he was reading while she turned out her bedside lamp in an attempt to sleep.
That night sleep evaded them both as they stared into the dark. His emotional turmoil was still reeling from recounting the events of the darkest day in his past. Her insomnia was caused by the name she heard, and against her better judgement she pulled his arm over her body forcing them both in close proximity again. She told herself she could cherish this one more night and then it would truly be over.
They both fell in a heavy slumber.
Sookie and Eric acted appropriately shocked when the nurse informed the family at the breakfast table of Russell’s forthcoming passing. Pam and Talbot were as expected the most distraught with the news. Sookie’s easing of Russell’s pains had left him in an extended comfortable phase and somewhere Pam and Talbot had gotten used to it, all forgotten that it would soon be coming to an end. In the face of that sudden end they flocked to his bedside, only being forced out at Russell’s request to speak his private farewells one by one.
Eric would be the last to speak with him at the end of the day. They would watch the sun set over the blue horizon together. After, he would administer the lethal injection that would slowly lull him into a peaceful rest before calling in those nearest to him to stand witness for his final breaths.
Sookie spoke to Russell at his request before Eric was set to arrive. It proved to be a stark contrast of their first meeting. They spoke plainly and she received his gratitude for her care to which he felt undeserving. He handed over his book full of writings and a letter he asked her not to open until after the cremation.
“What do you wish me to do with these journals?” she asked.
“Do with them what you wish. Read them if you want, destroy it. I find I do not care anymore,” he offered with a smile. “Will you promise me something?”
“Depends,” she returned.
“Promise me you’ll try with him,” he pleaded. Her eyes glistened at his request while she choked on a sob.
“I don’t think it’s possible to repair anymore,” Sookie spoke ever so softly while the tears fell down her cheeks.
“Don’t sink to defeat yet, Ms. Stackhouse. Promise me you will try.”
“I promise,” she returned in a tiny voice.
“Of all the scenarios running through your head, did this one ever enter your mind?” Russell asked while he was preparing the syringe.
“No,” Eric replied while checking the bag of fluids that were entering his body through the IV. “My worst case scenario was you telling me the truth on my deathbed.”
“I probably would have told you if you’d asked sooner,” he said.
“I don’t need Sookie in here to tell me that’s a lie.”
“You know me better than myself sometimes,” he cackled.
“Any final words before we start?” Eric asked.
“You realise it will take several hours before I’m gone.”
“Like you said; I know you well. I doubt you’d leave this moment unspoken,” Eric replied, the needle still sitting idle in his hands.
Russell looked pensive for a moment. “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye?” Eric asked. Russell’s flair for the dramatic had him anticipating more lofty words.
“‘Goodbye,’ said the fox. ‘And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’” Russell spoke repeating the words of Eric’s much loved book, “The Little Prince,” to which he had clung to when just coming into his care.
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” this Little Prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
Eric nodded remembering the words. Now knowing all too well his time was not wasted on Sookie, she was what was important.
Russell continued, “Men have forgotten this truth,’ said the fox. ‘But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”
“I am responsible for my rose,” Eric repeated when Russell’s frail hand came to rest on the one that would take him from this mortal plane. “I will be sure to remember.”
“As I will remember you,” Russell spoke before giving the nod for him to administer the drug into his IV line.
The people most important in his life surrounded Russell Edgington as he passed away several hours later. Unlike when her Aunt Linda died, Sookie shed a tear at the sight of his heart stopping and the strangled exhale of his last breath. With her Aunt Linda, this had been the moment that had stayed her tears as it marked the end of her Aunt’s pain and suffering. At that time, all she could feel was relief, now she could cry simply for the loss as it transpired before her.
Eric was the first to leave after the nurse confirmed his death. Pam and Talbot stayed beside him through the night tenderly washing his body while the women of Talbot’s family wailed in the kitchen and the house became veiled in black. Jill and Adonia retreated to her house at the end of the garden not being seen again till the next morning.
Sookie found Eric in the bathroom adjoining their bedroom. She sat on the edge of the bed waiting patiently for him to come out. When it took longer than she expected, she held her ear to the door, and only then did she hear the sobs over the running shower. When she knocked she heard no answer. She looked in, carefully taking in his heaving form, and she remembered her promise. If she couldn’t be with him, at least she would be there for him.
She moved into the shower with him. The water had turned cold and her clothing fell wet as she turned at the taps. She didn’t care, nor did she care he stood naked before her, shivering and wracked with tears. She pulled him to her, and with her embrace he sank to his knees. She pulled the towel from behind him and wrapped them both inside, sinking her knees onto the cold tile floor aside him. She cupped his face with her hands and kissed him softly, tenderly, where the tears were flowing from his eyes. She gathered his grief, his loss, and his release for the man who had taken everything from him, but somewhere became the father he had lost.
When she moved away a little from him to take in his eyes, he pulled her back as her forehead rested against his and their noses grazed in a delicate touch. He looked at her in earnest, in his most vulnerable. Eric moved his mouth to hers and kissed her fervently, pouring his every insecurity into it hoping she would accept him. Her back fell onto the hard floor, the towel now soaking wet as it fell open beside them. She opened her arms around his neck pulling him closer upon her. They languished in their kiss; it could have been minutes or hours. Neither one of them could tell. He pulled her up off the floor and grabbed another set of towels and covered his lower half. He turned around while she pulled the wet clothing from her body and wrapped herself in the other towel. She grabbed his hand and entered the darkened bedroom.
They slipped into the bed without a word, meeting in the middle in an earnest embrace and held each other for comfort till sleep took them. The towels lost their hold on their bodies somewhere in the middle of the night but that was all that happened.
She woke to an empty bed, her vase full of anemones replaced by a single white rose. Sookie knew the meaning very well despite him leaving a note to say the same, ‘I am worthy of you’.
She sobbed at the thought of it. Would he still believe that when he knew the truth?
The cremation took place four days later. It was a grand and elaborate affair prearranged by Russell. A few old friends and family had flown in to pay their respects. The house was overflowing with floral arrangements from mourners around the globe.
The days before were occupied with hosting the new guests as well as dealing with the grief that surrounded them. Sookie had been especially important to Pam who had a difficult time accepting Russell was truly gone. She remained angered by Eric’s seeming aloofness through it all. It was not unheard of to hear her mutter, “Cold Nordic ass,” in reference to her brother.
Things had gotten especially tense when Talbot had asked Eric to attend the reading of the will. He had declared no interest in it, and if Russell left him anything, to give it to Pam. Sookie had ended up soothing a seething Pam with limited success.
Sookie understood Pam’s feelings, but understood Eric’s just as well. There was little that could be said to remedy the strife between the siblings. Eric retreated to the apartment often during these times and Sookie let him, only retrieving him when she feared he went hungry. He would always return at night to their bed where they held each other tight as one or both released a tear from their eyes.
Talbot was understandably upset. He cloistered himself in a shroud of black in deep mourning. Adonia was his only source of comfort, and for once she let up on coupling him to Sookie.
Pam made her intentions known to stay with Talbot for the traditional full forty days of mourning, perhaps even longer, hoping her brother would agree to the same. She was now a wealthy woman in her own right and she didn’t know her next step. The days past had diminished any thought of her and Eric’s continuing of the family business together. When Talbot enquired how long Eric intended to stay, he had merely replied, “Soon.”
Jill was the first to depart, eager to get back to micromanaging her own family. Despite the fear she instilled in the other family members, she had proved a dependable rock during these stormy times and they were sad to see her go. Pam greeted her farewell with a genuine ‘bless your heart’.
A/N: Many thanks to msbuffy once more for editing this.
I was discussing with msbuffy how Russell sort of became likable in this (well at least to us) but then I’ve always had a great love for that character on the show and sometimes I do wonder if it’s just me (I know with BOTV Tara is still deemed irredeemable *sigh*). In my mind he’s a bit of an amalgamation of Russell and Godric in this story, hence I borrowed some of Godric’s lines from the show for his conversation with Sookie.
He could only ever be Russell in this story though, it wouldn’t have worked to cast Godric (or even worse Appius) in his place. Yes, he was painted as the bad guy early on in this but just as Eric was doing a job when going after Sookie, Russell was much the same. The main difference being that he lacked the more scrupulous moral code Eric possesses in this. I think it was VAlady who commented on it last week how Russell’s character was turned around in this, that he went from despicable to someone you had great sympathy for despite his past actions. Since that was Eric’s emotional journey to make with this pseudo father in this story that’s what I intended although it even surprised me how ‘human’ Russell became.
The goodbye between Eric and Russell contains quotes from ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Officially a children’s book but one you will happily read into adulthood, the exact text is below.
 And he went back to meet the fox.
“Goodbye,” he said.
“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”
“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.