”Who goes first?” Sookie asked before stating outright, ”I don’t want to go first.”
”Fine,” he grit out, seriously contemplating how useful this exercise might be. ”Ask away. Next question, you answer first.”
She smiled, triumphantly, before becoming somewhat deflated at the sight of the question. It wasn’t all that exposing or hard to answer. She briefly considered demanding to go first, but figured she was already pushing the vampire to his limits while he sat impatiently waiting on her, tapping his fingers on the wood of her dining table.
”Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?”
”Easy,” he answered, becoming somewhat more at ease himself with the type of question. ”Dracula.”
”Oh,” Sookie said, not really all that intrigued or surprised by his answer. Without having ever spoken to Eric she would have been able to answer that, considering the amount of fan paraphernalia Fangtasia was decorated with dedicated to the infamous Impaler.
”Your turn,” Eric nudged. ”Same question.”
”Gran, I guess,” she replied, holding her lips tightly after.
His face softened somewhat, feeling slightly foolish for answering with so little thought before. Perhaps he too should have chosen someone from his long lost past, his father or mother perhaps? Becoming even more annoyed, he realised the answer to that question should have been Sookie. He wanted to change his answer then and there until he noticed the melancholy that now surrounded her.
”You never told me what happened to her,” Eric asked instead. Pain surfaced in her eyes, he supposed, with his appeal for her to share the details of her murder again, reliving it all over again. ”I mean, I know what happened, but you never told me. You never told me what it meant to you, what she meant to you. You never talk about her.”
She blinked, partially to halt the tears that inevitably surfaced with her Gran’s memory. ”Gran was the only one who ever accepted me for who I am,” she shared in a surprisingly level tone despite the emotions stirred. ”She taught me what it was to love unconditionally. My parents, I mean they tried desperately, but I was always wrong to them. Not to Gran.”
”I want to change my answer.”
”Eric, you can’t! No backsies.”
”Give me this one and I’ll allow you one somewhere else. Ask the question again.”
”Fine,” she huffed, arms crossing over her heaving chest. ”Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?”
”Easy,” he repeated before pulling her hand into his and squeezing it softly. ”Adele Hale Stackhouse.”
She’d fled to the bathroom with that, uttering something about human needs while yanking her hand from his, but he knew better. Bond muted, it didn’t matter, he could hear and smell the tears, despite all the taps she had running to hide what she was experiencing. He’d called an annoyed Pam while hovering outside the firmly locked door, a flimsy lock that would be open to him in milliseconds, but he had understood her message clear enough, however, the female vampire and her intense study of Dear Abby offered little tangible advice while Sookie remained inside.
With her eyes rimmed red, the object of his affection finally appeared again. ”She would have liked you,” she whispered when he remained silent, unsure of what to say anymore. ”She would have tanned your hide more than once for your leering ways, but she would have liked you. She would have liked you a lot.”
”I would have liked her, too,” he whispered in her ear when she settled into his offered embrace. ”I’m sure of it. Would you like to be famous? In what way?”
”It’s the next question,” he offered. “Unless you want to stop?”
”No, let’s continue,” she answered with a sniff. ”That one is pretty easy to answer. No.”
”Not even a little?” He probed, leading her to the sofa.
”Being ‘known’ as ‘crazy Sookie’ all my life is bad enough. Being a famous telepath hasn’t brought me much joy either. I’d happily trade it all and just be a regular blip on the unknown.”
”You could be famous for something else, something of which you’re proud,” Eric encouraged, disregarding his personal opinion for the moment that she should be proud of her achievements as a telepath, especially the way in which she honed her skill in such a repressive environment.
”Nope,” she answered back. ”Is it so wrong of me not to want that?”
”I suppose not,” he shrugged, not really caring either way. ”I just think you wouldn’t be you without that infamous fame. You’re different…” She flinched, again, the word obviously triggering unpleasant associations when he meant it as a compliment, ”What I mean to say,” he amended, remembering some advice from Pam, ”is that you’re not like everyone else around here, condemning what doesn’t subscribe to the norm out of fear of the unknown. You dare to have a different opinion, and there are not many who afford themselves that considering the personal cost. It’s not a bad thing to be famous for.”
She smiled, it was smaller than her usual wide grin, but he recognised it as a private smile she didn’t offer to many and he regarded himself lucky to be the recipient of it. ”Do I even need to ask you? I think I already know the answer, Mr. Fangbanger of the Year.”
”Ask,” he instructed with a flourish of his hand. ”The answer might surprise you.” She rolled her eyes disbelievingly before repeating the question, and was indeed surprised when he answered in the negative.
”You love the attention!” she accused. ”All those fangbangers lining up for you night after night!”
”Hardly,” he shrugged. ”It’s business, not pleasure. Well, most of the time.”
”It’s convenience, that’s all. I prefer respect,” he continued with little apology of his dining habits, ignoring her little outburst. ”Fame is easy; it can be engineered, bought, and traded. Respect is earned, it has more worth.”
”Makes sense,” Sookie agreed, reaching for the paper for the next question. He stopped her before looking her in the eyes intensely, and she briefly wondered if he was about to kiss her, but instead he offered sincerely. ”I respect you. Very much. I hope you know that.”
”I didn’t,” she answered with a poorly held breath that forced him to retreat from her personal space. ”Thank you. Next question?”
”Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?” he read before answering. ”Yes, I rehearse everything I say, it’s imperative to survival.”
“Why?” Sookie whispered, her fingers finding his again in an attempt to coax more out of him.
”If I offer you that, I hope you offer me the same.”
She nodded before reminding. ”This doesn’t mean I’ll reciprocate everything you desire.”
”Of course not,” he laughed. ”I know you too well for that. So, are you a rehearser?”
”On the phone? Yes,” she offered. ”People have assumed I’m dumb all my life, the anonymity of the phone and a lack of their thoughts makes me try harder to prove that notion wrong. You and Pam are the only ones who can ever throw me off my game.”
”Good to know,” he grinned. For once she didn’t mind the smugness of it all and laughed along.
”What would constitute a ’perfect’ day for you?”
”Lying out in the sun? An entertaining book?”
”You’re asking me?” He noted dryly. ”I asked you.”
”This is harder than it seems! What’s your answer?”
”You haven’t exactly answered yet.”
”Fine!” she bit back defensively. ”Want to know what my ’perfect’ day would be? Waking up without my telepathy to a husband, breakfast in bed, the sunshine pouring in. He’d feed me bites between kisses and we’d make love after, then our perfect children, three, two girls and a boy, would toddle in. They’d smell like fresh baked bread and sunshine and load us with kisses. We’d go to a park or a zoo while they enjoyed every minute of it and never fuss over a thing. We’d eat dinner on the porch as a family and he’d do the dishes while I put the kids to bed. We’d watch the sunset from wicker chairs, and after we’d catch something inane on TV before falling happily in bed together. The end.”
His distaste with the entire picture she had painted was apparent all over his face. She assumed his disgust was based on anything human and ‘normal,’ rather than the fact that in the entire narrative there was no chance to ever insert him into this fantasy of normalcy.
”Your turn,” she demanded. He contemplated briefly, despite his earlier intent to answer with whether to simply state all the sexual desires he wished to endeavour upon with her filling the day, or rather night in his case, and then questioning himself whether that really was what he considered ’perfect.’
”You would come to me and you wouldn’t hate me,” he finally answered.
”You think I hate you?” She questioned with a discernible tremble to her voice.
”Resent me, I know for certain,” he answered. ”Hate can’t be far off.”
”I don’t hate you,” she denied. ”I only resent you a little bit, and only when you deserve it.”
”I deserve it all the time then?”
”Only when you’re being an ass,” she huffed before amending, “which is far less often than you’d think.”
”Next question?” He asked, sensing she was becoming uncomfortable with having voiced that admission aloud.
”When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?” She asked.
”To myself, a very long time ago. As a human child, after my mother had passed. She was no longer there to sing me a lullaby at night, so I did instead. It drove my elder brother insane, so at some point I stopped.”
”Will you sing it for me sometime?” she asked with a shyness that was unknown to him when it came to Sookie Stackhouse.
She shook her head. ”Maybe after. When did you last sing to someone else?”
”Pam,” he answered. ”When she was newly turned, her hearing strengthened and it drove her insane at first. I’d relocated her to a quiet home miles from anywhere. I’d sing to her every night, increasing the volume ever so each time till she was able to sing along without pain. She has quite a nice voice. You?”
”In the shower this morning,” she shrugged. ”To Arlene’s kids when I babysat them last.”
The paper was tossed in his lap. ”If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?” His face fell hard when he reached the end of it, the question standing symbol to the eternal dispute between any human-vampire relationship. If one wanted to stay together for a considerable length of time a change was needed, but that change often propelled the two apart in the end.
”Mind,” she answered easily and somehow it didn’t surprise him.
”Really? I figured…”
”You figured wrong,” he interrupted harshly, startling her in the process. ”It’s more burden than anything else to always be the same, but constantly having to reinvent yourself regardless.”
”I can see how that would grow old,” she quipped, glad to see him relax again while taking the paper from him once more. ”Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?”
”Yes,” he answered, offering little else.
”Too young,” she answered for herself.
”No,” he denied. ”I won’t allow it.”
”Death really isn’t about allowing, Eric,” she pointed out. ”It’s a certainty, even for you.”
”You’ll be the death of me,” he pronounced rather coolly, devoid of any romantic notion the statement usually inserted in films and the romantic novels in which she often indulged. ”I will ensure you live the life you’re meant to have and if I fail, I’ll wait for the sun the first morning it shines on your grave, letting my ashes fertilise the soil that covers you.”
”No,” she whispered. ”I won’t allow it.”
”Too bad, my mind’s made up.”
“I think we need to stop,” she said, wiping away the tears that were falling for a sadness she didn’t even know she possessed. ”Your devotion is stifling.”
”We should continue,” he spoke in the same even, eerie tone in which he had just declared her death would be his. ”We’ve come this far.”
She glanced at the clock and was startled to see how much time they had already spent on the first few questions and, up until that reveal, had actually appreciated his frankness and discovering the hidden depth of him that he otherwise so closely guarded from her. ”Ok,” she whispered. ”I’m going to get a glass of water, do you want anything?”
He shook his head and they soon returned to their former positions. Eric cleared his throat briefly, waiting for some signal from her to continue and with a nod, he did. ”Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.”
He was surprised that she didn’t instantly protest to the use of the word ‘partner,’ perhaps because it was written and he was, therefore, forgiven, but he did briefly consider whether she took no objection to it given it was a relatively modern term that distinguished them as equals rather than of belonging. A mental note was made to test it out in a different context to gage her reaction then.
”We both value loyalty,” she started after thinking on it for a while. ”Honesty, it counts for a lot for both of us. Even if you’re selective with what you offer me, you won’t lie to placate me.”
”Just one more,” he reminded, hiding the fact that her answers so far had pleased him greatly.
She quieted again, foregoing the superficial choices of the physical likeness of their hair or the fact they were both rather fond of Pam. ”We know what battles to pick,” she finally decided on before adjusting, ”except when it comes to us.”
“True,” he agreed.
”Your turn,” she urged while settling back into the sofa, figuring he’d take a while before offering his trio of answers.
He surprised her by rattling off three similarities with ease and little thought. ”We understand passion, not just between the sheets, a drive that sets our determination in course, and we’re both too stubborn to veer from the path on which we set ourselves. We know trauma and know that to survive that, it makes us better not weaker. We’re selective with our hearts, but only because we know it makes the ones inside it more worthy of our affection.”
”That’s four,” she pointed out with a pout.
”I could go on for longer,” he grinned before offering a wink. ”Another thing we have in common.”
”I get it, I get it!” She threw out bitterly.
”And we both like to win,” he pointed out. ”We’d rather die than admit defeat. We become defensive and immobile, gearing up for another fight instead, even if it means our end.”
”Is that what this quiz is about?” She whispered with a sudden vulnerability. ”The end?”
”That’s up to us, isn’t it?” He posed. ”It can be the beginning or the end, but at least the battle will be fought.”
”With a winner and a loser,” she said bitterly, clearly unhappy with that thought.
”If we lose, we both lose,” he offered simply. ”Or we come out as winners.”
”Together,” she agreed, finding the first piece of true common ground that night and invigorating them both to succeed with the questions ahead. After all, they both liked to win. ”For what in your life do you feel most grateful?”
”That after so long I’m still able to appreciate something new, that it hasn’t all become mundane. That I can still find joy.”
”I like that answer,” she smiled, suddenly finding her own face had moved subconsciously closer to his. ”You know what I feel most grateful for?” She breathed out. “You.”
”Me?” He questioned somewhat taken aback, not for its validity, but rather the choice.
She nodded. ”I’m not stupid, Eric, despite it being opportunistic of you to tie us together, you’ve sacrificed a lot for me too. You could have handled things differently, like most vampires would, but for whatever reason, you care enough for me to value who I am regardless of the telepath.”
”It’s more than care, Sookie,” he pointed out.
”Maybe,” she retorted, not agreeing or disputing it either way. ”It can’t have always been that way from the start. You were that way from the start though.”
”True,” he admitted. ”You were, after all, one of those novelties from whom I can still extract joy.”
”Well, at least we keep thing entertaining for each other,” she grinned.
”That we do,” he agreed, pulling his arm around her shoulder and nudging her close. Without protest she rested against his chest while he dropped a kiss to the crown of her head. ”If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?”
”It would have been nice not to be regarded as less than,” she answered. “Though that’s not really a conscious choice of how I was raised, I think, more an occurrence. I think I wouldn’t want things to be swept under the rug, never to be spoken of again like they were all to maintain the status quo.”
”What did they hide, Sookie?” He asked carefully, sensing it was more than her gift.
”Nothing,” she answered back defensively before easing under his touch when she realised his tone hadn’t been demanding, merely inquisitive. ”I mean, obviously, not nothing,” she sighed. ”Do I really need to talk about it, Eric? This is emotionally exhaustive enough already.”
”You’ll tell me sometime,” he stated before offering with a shrug. ”Or not, whatever you prefer.”
”Maybe it’ll be the answer to a different question tonight,” she mused while playing with the ends of her hair. ”How about you?” She asked, turning her gaze on him instead, happy to get out of the hot seat for now. ”What would you change?”
”Tough to say, I’ve had two rearings, so to speak, as man and as vampire.”
”So do both,” she encouraged. ”What would you change about your human childhood?”
Sookie frowned before letting it go since he did seem genuinely happy with the thoughts of his first childhood. ”What would you change about your early vamp years?”
His expression grew dark instantly; it was startling to see the stark contrast occur so quickly, Sookie, in turn, became hesitant about the answer she would receive.
”Everything,” he finally offered. ”It was not pleasant, perhaps, like you, it will be the answer to another question.”
She nodded, glancing down at the next question. ”Perhaps we should skip this one; it’ll take forever with a life as long as yours.” He looked at where her finger was tapping, ‘Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible,’ and was inclined to agree. ”I’d like to hear your life story though. I can give you a condensed version of the same years for me.”
”That should work,” she agreed and started to regale her earliest childhood memories to the moment in time they first met. He seemed genuinely intrigued, despite how small she had always considered her existence, and she soon discovered that until they met, Eric’s life had not been all that interesting in the same number of years until she appeared in it.
”Last of this set,” Eric noted, coming to the twelfth question. ”Are you still good to continue after? I know it’s late.”
”I might need some coffee,” she smiled. ”I’d like to finish this though.”
”If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?”
”Supernatural strength or something like that,” she answered. ”I’d like to be able to defend myself, just so I could. I’m tired of being at the mercy of others.”
”I could fix that,” he grinned with a hint of fang. ”You and me in a delicious pile of soil for three nights…”
”You make it sound so appealing,” she retorted with palpable sarcasm. ”I knew I should have just gone with flight. Always been rather jealous of that. I’d love to see Bon Temps from above for a change; I’d be so high up and away from all the voices that I always have to keep out.”
”I could take you now,” he offered. ”There isn’t that much to see, a metropolis is more impressive.”
She was about to say no, but found herself questioning why she would. ”I’d like that,” Sookie answered, standing up from the couch.
”It’s beautiful,” she whispered as if someone would overhear them from their hovering position. She was fortunate that the sky was clear and the moon was nearing a fullness to provide some light in the night. ”So what would you like to add to your already envious set of abilities?”
”I’d be a telepath,” he answered softly, keeping the bubble they had created intimate despite being in the wide open.
”Why?” She asked with genuine surprise that anyone would willingly want her curse.
”Firstly because I’d know what it is you suffer each and every day,” he spoke with a hint of calculation, revealing he’d given this some extensive thought, probably long before this questionnaire. ”Secondly, so I would know exactly what to say, what to do, to make you love me.”
A/N: So how’d they do with their first set of questions? There’s just two more sets to go and then we’ll see if Eric gets his way 😉
Questions in italic and dark blue are the original questions from the study and they certainly do not belong to me.
Many thanks to msbuffy as always.