Sookie had managed to surprise me once more. It had me wondering if it would continue to be a reoccurring theme. Her description of the murky state my brain had resided in when I did not know who I was quieted me. The accuracy was haunting. Her embrace was beautiful. I wanted to own every piece of her because this I refused to share.
Added to that, she intended to cuss out my maker for his bad parenting. Only she would have the audacity to call out one of the most powerful creatures walking this earth because he failed to see what was so clear to her.
I couldn’t stop myself. Nor did I want to. She needed to know, so the words tumbled out of my mouth. “I love you.” I wasn’t expecting a reply or a reciprocation. She was barely processing me being in a state of some sort of life.
Of course she knew. She heard it in my mind all those years ago although I had spoken those words as a question to myself then. Could I be in love with her? It had been a fleeting thought, not understanding the grasp of the statement. I had answered with yes regardless.
I had told many I loved them and aside from family those words never held any truth. I had no real grasp of the concept until my eyes and heart had found Sookie. Not ever had I uttered those three words to anyone. Supplemented with the obligatory too when required, yes. Even as I spoke them then I recognized it for the lie that it was. The falsehood was an easier one to carry than to hold out for the real thing. I was a man weak to my loins.
I should probably have never told Freyda when she demanded to hear it over the phone once. Looking back, it was the beginning of our collective demise. I gave her something and then proceeded to prove she wasn’t worthy of the words. I hadn’t even said the words out of obligation. I had done it so she would stop hounding me for it and I could get back to whatever I was doing at the time. I’m pretty sure it was another woman.
We both knew the comfort of our embrace had lasted too long and her grumbling stomach gave us both an excuse to ignore her embarrassment over it. The smell of the cooking had come second place to the scent that surrounded me when I woke up. As delighted that I was with the smell of her in it, simultaneously I knew I was alone in the bed and in the room. I doused myself in it despite that, as if it were a costly perfume.
The evidence was there, she had slept beside me for a while. When she had come to check on me my unsure question was confirmed with the truth. I had almost been scared to think I had merely imagined it and had steeled myself for another correction of my assumptions.
“Let’s get you fed,” I said lifting her of her knees with a helping hand. “It smells good.”
“I hope you like it,” she said with an appreciative smile. “We had to improvise with what was there. Unfortunately the blood stock is past its due date. I hope you like stew.”
I seated her at the candlelit table. The other vampires of our party had taken their meal to the control room. It would be romantic under any other circumstances, a home cooked meal by candlelight. Tonight however the candles were merely for Sookie’s benefit considering the poor illumination of the emergency lights. The food was nourished with her care that much was clear to me from the moment I took a first taste. She was happy to acknowledge my compliment of her cooking though she did give some credit to the apparently multi-talented driver. I kept my annoyance of their time spent together deeply burrowed, though my maker seemed to peer into the room briefly carrying a questioning look at the same moment.
“I would have offered my own blood if you were all in need of it,” she said startling me with her charitable nature. Of all the things I would want her to be generous with, her blood assuredly wasn’t one. I didn’t know if it was because I was so drawn to her but it called to me like no other. The scent was heavenly, inducing me into an altered state on just that alone. “I’d make a terrible meal for four.”
I laughed politely at her quip. “Have you ever given your blood?” I asked though I really only wanted to hear that she never had. Thankfully she shook her head in compliance to my desired answer.
“I know it’s not just food to you all,” she offered in explanation. “I gave Pam permission that I’d be a donor in emergencies. Blood emergencies that is.”
I chuckled at that. Without that addendum I’m sure Pam would have been hitting her up for sexual deprivation more often than not.
“You never dated a vampire? Our lack of thoughts must be an enticing aspect in a partner?” I asked because I like to torture myself with my own jealousy. She looked at me as if she wanted to say something but held back.
“The resident vampire of Bon Temps asked me out once,” she said after some contemplation. It reminded me that I never sent in that check to repair the dent I caused on that vampire’s car. As a Sanguine I wasn’t required to but I felt the need to make the payment. “I was hesitant. Some men only talk to your breasts but with him it was like he was talking to what lay waiting in my veins. I felt like the drug of choice for a junkie who needed his fix.” Her whole body shivered with disgust at the memory of it.
With that information I was happy I never sent the Impurus the monetary repair. I might even be inclined to add to the damage.
“I think Pam scared him away after I refused his advances for a second time,” Sookie said in between two bites. Forget extra dents I was going to crush his car. “He’s been cordial ever since.”
“You’re not officially Pam’s are you?” I asked with worry. It was clear to me they had no physical relationship but they were unusually close and I wondered how far Pam’s protection reached and whether it would interfere with my own goals to be with Sookie.
“She’d like that,” Sookie smiled. I was sure Pam would and was plotting every moment. I would. I am. “But no.”
Relief seemed to be the word of the evening as her answers seemed to be providing me with just that in response to every nerve wrecking question I dared ask.
“Are you anything else besides a telepath?” When she didn’t seem to grasp the full extent of my question I supplemented, “You’re unlike any being I’ve ever come across and that’s disregarding my attraction to you. Are you something other than human?” I had refrained from using the word different again. I knew it triggered something within her, it was an accurate adjective to describe her but her mind dwindled on the negative definition of it.
“I don’t know,” she replied softly. “I was born like this. I asked Pam once and she said it was possible but she didn’t know. Meet any other telepaths while you were gone?”
I shook my head. Even if I did, they wouldn’t have interested me as much as this one. “Godric told me he only ever met the one,” I said reaching over for her hand. I squeezed it softly. It was clear to me that the source of her telepathy was a vulnerable subject to her. “Turns out it was you.”
“So that’s how you figured it out.”
“No,” I offered. “Louvelle takes the credit for that, and she took my credit card along with it in triumph.”
She laughed delicately at the thought of a young child unmasking her well-guarded skill and robbing me blind in the process. Apparently handing out my money to the women in my life was a behaviour I’d never relinquish. Thankfully the women that I indulged that with now were the ones I actually cared for. Despite the harsh reverberation of her giggles on the concrete walls I knew from that point onwards as long as we were laughing we would be ok.
“Why did you never ask me to be your mistress?” she asked when her laughter died down. I wasn’t prepared for such a serious question after her amusement but I intended to answer honestly nonetheless.
“Would you have said yes?” My question was just as inquisitive as hers. It took her an extended moment to gather her thoughts.
“It wasn’t worthy of the woman who my grandmother raised me to be, but back then I probably would have,” she spoke so easily, from this I knew that like me she had entertained a few ‘what ifs’ of her own. “Yeah.”
We sat silent for a moment. There was no doubt in my mind that we were both thinking the same thing, what could have been. I had run the scenario several times and in my mind I knew for certain the outcome would never have been good. We would have poisoned each other within our confinements and if we didn’t Freyda would have. There was no room for love in my life back then and Sookie didn’t deserve to be a victim of the toxicity that was my marriage.
“That’s why then.” Her eyes raised up from contemplation to meet mine. Our meal lay forgotten, we’d had our fill and our conversation seemed more nourishing than anything else.
“I don’t understand why you hold me in such high regard.” I hated her self-doubt but I understood it. Despite the extraordinary nature of her gift, it was a handicap at the same time. I understood it because I had lived it. I proved to be an extraordinary Sanguine in my first years but my mind was handicapped without my memories and I couldn’t help but feel ostracized for it. Whether it be by my own mind or the actions of others.
Venom was always capable of attacking from both sides, intended or not. I knew she endured far more than I ever had and at ages where such actions could be crippling. Yet she persevered, it was an enduring quality that prevailed above all others. With it was her resistance to accept what I attempted to make her understand. Unfortunately for her my persistence rivalled hers.
“I know you’re worth more than anyone has ever been willing to give to you,” I said knowing I was venturing into dangerous territory. The issue of my inheritance was a subject between us that was yet to be resolved and I was a tactical bastard that wouldn’t let this opportunity pass. In this situation she couldn’t run from me or the conversation, so I went all in. “That includes myself.”
The lovely colour of her pink stained cheeks sank away to a pallor that didn’t suit her. It reminded me of the comment she had made to Pam the night before. She intended to use my vacant grave as her own one day. While I usually valued pragmatism, in that moment I couldn’t and now I knew it as truth. She could never be a vampire because with the loss of her beautiful golden skin tone that innate light that was uniquely her would vanish along with it. I could never be the cause of the world’s loss of that.
“Eric I…” she started but I interjected her knowing her response wasn’t anything I wanted to hear or would help our conversation along.
“I will never be able to thank you enough for how you withstood in my years of absence,” I started while my grasp of her hand became firmer than it should. Her body was searching for distance that in this moment I refused to grant. “The way you took charge and held everything upright proved to me I made the right choice. Everything my family had built was granted safety under your stewardship. You pretty much negotiated a divorce with Freyda I could only dream about. Those are the things I care about. Numbers on my bank account leave me cold.” She was quiet and I let her be.
“All right then,” she said after some contemplation of my words.
“So you’ll keep it all?” I asked, hopeful we were done with what appeared to be the sword of Damocles* hanging over the beginnings of our relationship. Threatening at any moment to sever the beginnings of a tie.
“I didn’t say that,” she responded with terse lips. “But I’ll consider it without flat out rejecting it.”
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear but it was close enough. She had stopped running away from me for now. I knew I’d always be chasing her but then I never enjoyed an easy conquest. As long as she was in my grasp I could live with that. Like Sookie said, I was never scared to get my hands dirty.
When I stood to clean the dirty dishes she halted my hands. “Leave it for now,” she urged. “This might be the only peace and quiet we get for a while.” I returned to my seat and she pulled my hand back in its former stance. It was nice, like we were any other couple enjoying the aftermath of a good meal. Well if you squinted a bit and forgot the cinderblock walls and utilitarian atmosphere.
“Sure,” I replied happy to enjoy the moment of silence with her. “But I’m doing the dishes and I’ll rope in the others by their fangs if I have to.”
“I can’t wait to see Pam on drying duty,” she smiled back at me. “Honestly I don’t think Pam would know what to do with a kitchen towel. She might mistake it for fashion accessory.”
“How did you and Pam meet?” I pondered aloud. I had probed Pam plenty on her relationship to Sookie but she had always remained tight lipped, so I had stopped incessantly beating on her for answers. She invoked some sort of sisterhood ban on selling out Sookie’s private conversation. Isa had been similarly hesitant on revealing the intricacies of her relationship to Sookie. It all fell like a giant conspiracy to keep me deliberately in the dark because despite knowing so much about her on paper I know that veneer barely covers what lies beneath.
“Charity function,” she replied before taking a sip of her water. “We were seated next to each other. Don’t remember the cause though, I’ve been to too many I guess. She’ll know, she has a memory like a vault.” I knew the feeling, I had attended far too many of those anonymous events in the past, so they all tended to just blur into one long never ending evening.
“She told me my dress was atrocious and I agreed with her,” she continued. “No one ever really talks to you at those things. It’s all niceties and fakery but she was real and I liked that. We’ve been friends ever since. And she’s dictated my wardrobe from that point on.”
“I like you like this,” I complimented. She was wearing casual clothes; jeans, simple white t-shirt and a well draped soft cardigan in a beige colour. It had enhanced the feel of our embrace earlier, she was all comfort. She didn’t have a speck of make-up on and despite how enchanting it made her look the evening before, I liked her bare of it. This felt like a person I could reach and to prove my point for once she thanked me for my praise.
“Your world was quite an adjustment to make,” she confessed. “It was weird that people liked me. That they put up with my quirks because I had money all of a sudden. It gave me an instant respect that I didn’t think I deserved. Pam helped me navigate between the ass kissers and the ones who were actually worth my time.”
I knew the sentiment well, despite growing up in an egalitarian society being rich from birth always came with privileges that were unfounded in relation to accomplishments. At the same time any achievement I ever made on my own was always attributed to my family name or fortune. It’s why I had taken the position in Louisiana, so I could prove my worth without the stigma of the family name. Freyda had, however, continually dropped the importance of my last name to anyone who would listen.
“So am I?” I asked.
“Are you what?” she returned, her mind obviously lost to somewhere else.
“Worth your time?” It was a redundant question. I simply wanted my ego stroked, considering the careful path we were treading it would be the only thing to get stroked by her for a while.
“Yes,” she answered without hesitation. “I meant it what I said at your grave that first time. I felt cheated for never getting to know you. Now on top of that you have almost a decade of time to fill me in with.”
“I’ll be happy to sing for my supper every night,” I said to which she smiled. Though I hoped she wouldn’t take me up on that in the literal sense. From the sounds I heard coming out of the shower last night it turned out we were pretty much evenly matched when it came to out of tune singing. The Swedish lyrical gods surely passed over me when handing out those golden vocal chords.
“Why don’t you start at the beginning?” she asked and so I did.
A/N: For those of you who haven’t seen it yet: in celebration of my fanfic birthday this past Wednesday I wrote a silly little one shot called The Doctor is in that has Dr Ludwig setting right some of the wrongs of CH’s dead ever after. Please check it out if you like.
Special thanks to VAlady and treewitch703 for taking the time to pre-read and their invaluable feedback.
*Sword of Damocles [sourced from Wikipedia]: According to the story, pandering to his king, Damocles exclaimed that, as a great man of power and authority surrounded by magnificence, Dionysius was truly extremely fortunate. Dionysius then offered to switch places with Damocles, so that Damocles could taste that very fortune first hand. Damocles quickly and eagerly accepted the king’s proposal. Damocles sat down in the king’s throne surrounded by every luxury, but Dionysius arranged that a huge sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse’s tail. Damocles finally begged the king that he be allowed to depart because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate, realizing that with great fortune and power come also great peril and anxiety.
The sword of Damocles is frequently used in allusion to this tale, epitomizing the imminent and ever-present peril faced by those in positions of power. More generally, it is used to denote the sense of foreboding engendered by a precarious situation, especially one in which the onset of tragedy is restrained only by a delicate trigger or chance.