Author’s Note: Thank you to everyone who has read the story and thank you to those who leave a review to let me know what they think so far. Breathesgirl, my wonderful beta: My Thanks!!
Sookie woke in darkness. She hadn’t realized how much of her feeling of claustrophobia had been tied to her unwillingness to accept that compromising wasn’t giving up something of herself; that it was gaining something more. She rolled over and hit the bedside lamp switch and then rolled back again so she could stare at Eric in his rest. Sookie stretched and then smiled and sighed. It had been another night during which she had not been plagued with nightmares. She had slept all the way through without finding herself sitting up, clammy and shaking, still mentally running from some unknown terror.
The extra sleep almost made up for the persistent headache that had started two days ago and just didn’t seem to want to let up. Eric had ended the night early for them both and then had proceeded to cancel all but the most important of appointments. Dechlan and Twy had been postponed indefinitely. When Pam had chided him about the coronation Eric had reminded her that a crown did not make a king.
It had been bad enough last night that Sookie had asked Eric to stop reading. They were in the middle of The Lord of the Rings and they were at the part where the heroes had arrived in Rohan. Sookie had always wished she was more like Eowyn, the warrior woman who was strong enough to take care of a kingdom. She told Eric as he rubbed her head. He had laughed. “Sookie, you don’t need to wish it. You are already like her.”
“Well,” Sookie had answered, “I suppose I can swing a sword, but I don’t think I could stay on a horse if you tied me with Velcro and stuck my ass with super glue.” Eric had laughed loudly and then stilled when Sookie winced. Her head pounded and she had a ringing in her ears.
“I have asked Dr. Ludwig to come,” Eric told her. “She is expected here tomorrow night. Should I have her come sooner?”
Sookie shot Eric a look. “Just when were you going to tell me?” she asked. “When Amy showed up?”
Eric had the courtesy to look guilty. “I had meant to mention it,” he told her. “So, should I call her now?”
“No, just let me rest a little.” She had leaned her forehead against Eric’s chest letting the cooler temperature comfort her. Sookie had lain low the rest of the night and Eric had called Pam and let her know there would be no work done. Sookie was sure she could hear Pam hissing over the phone but she was in too much pain to worry about it. She almost thought about looking for aspirin but then thought that it might not be good for Eric. She didn’t want to taint her blood. When she could see the worry beginning to grow on Eric’s face she finally just shut down, allowing herself to go to that other place; the place where she could watch the pain. She saw the concern on Eric’s face escalate but she couldn’t think about that right now. She snuggled into him and Eric wrapped her in his long arms. He hummed then and rocked her. The next thing she knew she was here, waking in their bed next to him.
The clock said that it was almost time for Eric to rise so Sookie got up and headed to the bathroom to take care of her human needs. She had to admit that she was ready to see the doctor. She was starting to worry. If this was a cold she would have had some other symptoms. But there was no lessening; if anything the pain was greater once she stood up and walked around.
Sookie managed to wash her hands and then staggered to the bed, suddenly dizzy and nauseous. She collapsed on the pillow and tried hanging her head over the bed to relieve the pressure. It seemed like she hovered there in limbo trying not to feel the pulsing and pressure. She felt Eric rise beside her. “Sookie?” She could tell he was feeling her pain through the bond but she was too far gone now to worry about it. He gathered her into his arms and Sookie heard some animal whimper. Then she realized it must be her.
Eric had her in his arms and he was coaxing her into taking his blood. She felt a tiny lifting of pressure but it seemed to barely scratch the surface. She could hear Eric talking on this phone. She didn’t care about the words any more. Then he was standing beside the bed and Dr. Ludwig was back. Sookie noticed that Eric appeared to be stark naked. She had a brief moment where she was angry because he belonged to her and he shouldn’t be showing anyone his business, not even Dr. Ludwig. Then she didn’t care.
Eric watched the short creature poke and smell his woman. She licked Sookie’s palm. “Smell that,” she said almost to herself. Then she turned her face up towards Eric. “The telepath has come into her heritage,” she said. “She is more fae now than human.”
“I had thought there was something going on,” Eric confirmed. “What does it mean? What’s wrong with her?”
The doctor shook her head, “Shouldn’t mean anything bad. Just might be a little inconvenient for you.” When the vampire looked blankly, the doctor chortled. “Aside from disorientation, what else has she complained about?”
“She has had a headache for a couple of days. It’s been getting worse.”
Ludwig looked up at Eric sharply. “When’s the last time she spent time in the sun?”
Eric shrugged. “I’m not sure. She has been rising with me.”
Ludwig shook her head. “Cross species romance is just a bad idea.” When Eric hissed the doctor waved her hand at him. “Complain all you want, dead man, but there are some things she needs, and a daily dose of sunshine is one of them. She’s Sky fae. You may have noticed,“ she said acerbically.
The doctor pulled out a phone and placed a call. “I have a sun lamp. It’s on its way. It won’t really fix this but it will take the edge off until she can sit in the sun for an hour or two.”
“That’s all she needs?” Eric took Sookie’s hand. She seemed almost feverish.
“Why? You think she should have more problems?” the doctor sniped. She pulled back the blanket and took a look at the telepath. “I will say this. She has recovered well. Almost looks healthy again.” She nodded to herself and pulled the blanket back. “So the lamp will be here shortly. You can expect my…”
“There’s more,” Eric interrupted. “There is something else.”
The doctor rolled her eyes and looked up at the Viking, her hands on her hips. “Well, let’s pretend that I have all the time in the world. No, wait! That would make me a vampire, like you. This just makes me a person with too much to do and not enough time being dicked around by a vampire.” She tapped her foot impatiently and then reached over and flicked his naked hip.
Eric growled a little. It was in his nature to be secretive and he felt odd telling this kind of intimate information to anyone but Pam. He retrieved his pants from the floor. While he pulled them on he said, “She isn’t turning.”
“Why? Were you trying? You know she’d hate that.”
“No. I’m not trying. I was just surprised.”
The small woman turned her head owlishly and then a slow smile crept across her face. “You want to know why,” she stated. “But I think you already know. Fairies are notoriously hard to turn. Most times they don’t survive the draining. They just crumble to dust. I think I’ve only heard rumor of one successful turning and I’m not sure how it turned out. But Sookie isn’t full fae and never will be. There will always be a streak of human to her so no turning to dust. But she is fae enough that she isn’t going to be turning into a night-life gal too easily anyway.” Dr. Ludwig shook her head, “And with her need for sun it’s just as well. It’s probably her body’s natural defenses making sure she’ll be able to get what she needs.”
Eric looked away, his eyes sad. “So, she will be lost to me someday. There is no hope for forever with her.”
“Well, well, well. This is something I never thought I’d see: The great Eric Northman wound around a woman’s finger. Stop rustling your jimmies. She is fae enough that her lifespan will be more supernatural than human. Even Niall isn’t immortal but he’s lived a good long time. So will the telepath.”
Eric looked down at Sookie, a smile lighting his face. He touched her forehead and then turned to the sound of the door opening. A tall woman came in pushing a multi-bulb silver lamp in front of her. She bustled around finding a plug. When she was ready she looked up. “Come on,” Dr. Ludwig said to Eric. “We should get out of here. It will be too bright for me and damn near fatal for you.” She chuckled as she walked. “Yeah, won’t kill you but you’ll look like some kind of crispy critter.”
Eric felt his fangs descend. He shut the door behind him. “How long before she feels better?”
The doctor sat down. “You have anything to drink around here? I would think you’d want her feeling better. She is always polite and your hospitality is for shit.” When Eric’s eyes narrowed Ludwig walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. “Oh,” she said. “Looks like chicken for dinner. You may want to order something from the main house. The telepath will be feeling better but it might be wise to not let her stand too long until she has a chance to spend some time under the real sun.”
Eric shifted behind her. “It will be fine. I’m cooking tonight.”
Amy Ludwig slowly turned around, her eyes tilted up in merriment. “I heard a rumor. You really are cooking human food?” When Eric didn’t respond she turned back to the refrigerator and grabbed flavored water. “Sookie Stackhouse is without a doubt my favorite breather,” she said. Eric held the door open so he could reach past the doctor for a bottle of blood.
“Mine too,” he replied.
Eric placed the bottle in the microwave and set the timer. Without turning around he said, “She also appears to be resistant to bonding. Any theories about that?”
“Have you asked her,” Amy asked. She sat down on a chair at the table and started peeling the label from the bottle in front of her.
“Sookie doesn’t know. She was just as surprised as me,” Eric replied.
“No, Mr. No Brain Activity. Have you formally asked her to bond with you?” Eric looked up then and smiled.
“Consent,” he said.
“Consent,” Dr. Ludwig confirmed. “And now with her heritage it is even more important. She has to agree and mean it. It will complete the magic.” Amy glanced towards the front of the house before saying, “You may find that it’s not just that simple now. She has to really mean it. That is unless you are fine with that impermanent thing you formed last time.” Eric’s eyebrows lifted in a question. “She has to really know what she is consenting to, Viking. She has to agree and, in effect ask you to bond with her as well. If you can manage that, the bond will be permanent and no witch or voodoo priest will be able to change it. Just saying.”
Both their heads turned as they heard the door to the bedroom open. Sookie walked in wrapped in a bright robe. She still looked a little pale but her eyes were clear and pain free. “Hey y’all,” she said.
Eric stood up and wrapped her in his arms. He guided her to the table and got her a glass of ice tea. “You look better,” he said and kissed her head as he placed the glass on the table.
Sookie looked across the table, “Thank you doctor. You sure came to the rescue again. I am beholden.”
Dr. Ludwig smiled and then tutted a little. “Don’t be thinking I do this for any kind of higher purpose. I charge extra for house calls and your boy toy is going to be paying through the nose for this one.” The doctor hopped off the chair and straightened her jacket. “Sunshine every day, fairy girl. Doesn’t even have to be direct. Just make sure you see the light of day. I’m leaving the lamp here for now. You may want to give yourself another dose later tonight. Don’t sit under it for more than fifteen or twenty minutes. You don’t need sunburn.” Without another word there was a pop and the doctor was gone.
Eric turned toward the refrigerator, “I have chicken marinating. I found the recipe under that Rachel Ray website you like. I was very precise in the measurements.” Sookie smiled. The discussion last night about recipes being like science projects had obviously sunk in. Eric’s more cavalier approach had resulted in a stew that was so heavily laced with jalapenos it was inedible. Sookie watched Eric working the stove area in his efficient way. It was amazing how quickly he had learned and was learning. But that had always been something about him she admired, his amazing ability to adapt.
She saw the slight tension in his shoulders. “You’re hungry,” she stated.
Eric didn’t turn around, “I have had a bottle of blood and I’ll have another later. I’m fine.”
“You didn’t take much yesterday. You were worried about me,” Sookie said.
Eric turned around then and faced her. “Sookie, I am not going to feed from you. You are not recovered. I am not in any pain. I will be fine.”
Sookie took a deep breath and then let it out. “Eric, this is silly. I was silly asking you to make this such a hard and fast thing. I’ll need to travel for work. There will be days like today when I’m not feeling my best. There are donors right across the way and you have so much work you need to get done.” Sookie gave him a look that said she wasn’t going to argue about this. “When you finish here I want you to go feed. Now, I also want you to make it some ugly man and I want you to come right back here. But I don’t want you to starve because I can’t give you what you need today.”
Eric looked like he was going to say something, but when he looked at the way her face looked back; so serious, he turned back to the stove and nodded. “Yes, Sookie,” he said, echoing the tone of every hen-pecked husband Sookie had ever heard. She just couldn’t help but laugh.
“Eric Northman, don’t you dare sass me. This wasn’t easy for me and if you are going to make fun I’ll just get all kinds of mad.” He flashed his best impish smile over his shoulder and got busy.
But as she ate her dinner and stared at the empty chair across the table, Sookie Stackhouse realized she wasn’t quite okay. Not really.
Sookie had insisted on making love to Eric with her mouth and then taking one more dose of sunshine before they walked over to the main house. Sookie knew that Thomas was still here and that he had agreed to become one of Pam’s sheriffs. Sookie remembered meeting him briefly in Minnesota and then nodding in Nashville. He seemed competent but he had a kind of dangerous edge. She remembered Karin being interested in him.
Another vampire by the name of Jane had also arrived and it looked like Pam would offer her the other Arkansas sheriff’s position. Sookie had asked Eric if Pam would find a second. Eric had shrugged and told her that although Victor had done so it was generally not something that a regent did. It smacked of ambition and sent the wrong signal. “Of course, Pam is welcome to do so if the work becomes overwhelming,” Eric had told her.
Sookie had brought a book with her and intended to sit and read. Eric had tried to insist that they both rest at the cottage again but Sookie knew that would be bad for him. Since he was reluctant to leave her she made a point of telling him that she could use a change in the landscape and how comfy the study at the main house was. She knew he could see through her but he had agreed on the promise that if she felt even a twinge of headache she would let him know and they would leave.
When they entered the study it was clear that Pam was expecting them. She and Eric did that silent communicating thing and then Eric kissed Sookie’s forehead. Sookie recognized a dismissal when she saw one and moved to the sofa at the far end of the room next to a light.
Eric nodded to both Thomas and Jane. They both bowed deeply and Sookie was struck by the realization that this was the first time she had really seen other vampires treating Eric like the king he now was. She knew her surprise must have registered with him because his head swiftly turned towards her, his look concerned. Sookie rolled her eyes and allowed pride to flow through the bond. Eric visibly relaxed, his mouth turning up into a buoyant smile and he turned back to the table and the waiting vampires. Sookie caught bits and pieces of the conversation. There were candidates being presented for consideration as sheriff for Area 2 in Louisiana. There were requests already coming in for audiences. The palace refurbishing would be completed within the next week and Eric needed to name a date that he would be moving back. Pam had similar work moving forward in Little Rock and she planned to leave for her palace tomorrow. Sookie realized with a start that she had had little time to spend with her friend and she found herself feeling a little guilty for ignoring her.
Sookie also realized that she would miss the easy pace of the Jackson cottage. She and Eric had been free to just be themselves. Somehow Sookie doubted that they would have the same luxury when they reached New Orleans. Sookie felt a soft sadness begin to creep towards her but she determinedly pushed it away. She looked at the tall, blond vampire who was so clearly in command across the room. She saw the way the light glinted from his hair and the way his eyes became thoughtful. She found her eyes traveling over his body and then found she had fastened on his butt when he leaned over to point at something. Sookie blushed when she shifted her eyes and saw that Eric was watching her from under his arm, his fangs descended. She felt herself turn even brighter when she looked up to find Thomas and Jane looking at her speculatively and Pam rolling her eyes.
“She smells sweet,” Jane said.
Eric stood straight then. Sookie saw his back stiffen and heard him say distinctly, “She is mine.” Both of the vampires immediately dropped their eyes and bowed deeply. Sookie was so startled she didn’t realize that Bill Compton had walked up to her.
“Sookie, you’re here!” he exclaimed.
Sookie felt her breath catch and then she felt her blush give way to something that felt a little like anger. Eric was beside Bill before she even realized what had happened. “Compton,” he said.
Bill stepped back and then bowed to Eric. “Your majesty,” he said. He stayed in that position and Sookie realized he was waiting for Eric’s permission to stand. Eric seemed perfectly content letting the younger vampire remain in a subservient position. Finally Sookie shot Eric a look that said, ‘cut it out.’
“So you have returned then,” Eric said without taking his eyes off Sookie. It was apparently the signal he was waiting for and Bill straightened.
“I have,” he said. “Hollywood was everything I imagined.” Sookie found herself looking closely at Bill. There was something a little off about him and then she realized what looked different.
“Bill?” she said. “Do you have a tan?”
“Why yes,” Bill preened. “It’s a spray on tan. It looks quite wonderful under the lights.” Sookie felt her eyes getting wide and her throat was hurting as she tried not to laugh. “Everyone in Hollywood has one. I couldn’t believe how quickly I fit in.” Sookie found the impulse to laugh growing. She had a hard time imagining Bill Compton hob-nobbing with the rich and famous. Bill was oblivious to her discomfort. Without even being asked he sat down on the sofa beside her. Eric gave her a narrow-eyed glare but Sookie rolled her eyes and gestured with her shoulder that she was fine and he should get back to work.
Eric walked back across the room but Sookie had the impression that he was going to listen. “So, when did you get back, Bill?” Sookie asked.
“Just tonight,” he told her. “There was so much to do. And now I’ll be so busy with the script and the re-writes. Did you hear? They are going to turn Bonded by Desire into a movie. Shanna and Troy will be made real.” He looked at Sookie in the earnest way that she remembered; the way he looked at her when he was going to kiss her. And then Sookie started to feel any humor she had been experiencing recede as her anger marched forward.
“So, I guess Shanna and Troy end up together?” Sookie said brightly.
“Yes,” Bill smiled. “It is a happy ending. The way it should always be.”
“Uh huh. And Shanna is a waitress?” Sookie asked. “From a small town in Louisiana?”
“Well,” Bill smiled back. “They do say you should write what you know.”
“Well, you know I’ve heard that too,” Sookie smiled. “And this Troy? He’s a dark-haired vampire?”
Bill smiled smugly and nodded in a self-conscious, pretty pleased with himself kind of way. “Why yes, Sookie. He is.”
“My sister-in-law Michele tells me that Shanna and Troy get up to all kinds of stuff; smutty stuff.”
“Oh no!” Bill protested. “Not smutty! They are in love and romantic. Of course they express that love in a physical and natural way.” Then Bill leaned over closer to Sookie. “Surely you remember,” he whispered.
Sookie felt the heat rush over her and she shoved Bill hard. “Remember?” she said. “Oh I remember plenty Bill Compton!” Bill looked startled and that just fueled Sookie’s fire.
“I had a pretty good idea that you were thinking this was us, you son of a bitch,” she said. “You know what my brother told me? He told me that he had to punch people for making remarks about me after that book came out. How do you think I’m going to show my face in my own home town?” Bill’s mouth opened but before he could say anything Sookie poked his shoulder with her finger. “You know what Michele told me? That she could never let my nephews read the book because it was so smutty. You wrote a dirty book about me!” Sookie knew her voice was getting louder and she had the distinct impression that she had a rapt audience in the vampires who were in the same room. She saw Thalia come through the door from the corner of her eye and it made her stop as she tried to get a handle on her temper before it really ran away from her.
“Sookie! Darling!” Bill said.
Sookie knew that across the room Eric’s fangs would be running out and she felt her temper slip. “Don’t you ever call me that again, you bastard!” she yelled. “If I had my brother’s shotgun handy I’d fill you full of buckshot just for that. But that’s not the only reason I have to send you to your final death, is it Bill Compton?” Bill started to back away but Sookie wasn’t about to let him get away. “You never treated me right! You make out like we had some great relationship or some unfulfilled love, but you were never more than some sidewinding snake in the grass! When did you ever treat me like a lady should be treated?” Sookie found herself shaking she was so angry.
“Did you think you treated me like a lady when you never took me out on a date? Did you think that my spending time at your house in your hot tub was enough to make me feel special? Or maybe you think the way you used me like your day person was love. Did my running around like your unpaid secretary create some great romance in your little head?” Bill’s eyes were getting large. “Or maybe you think taking me to Fangtasia and letting other people hit on you was a way to show me respect. Was that it? You made sure that I found myself in front of Eric. But I think you thought he’d look the other way didn’t you? You thought he’d ignore me or that he’d treat me like some fangbanger so I’d know how lucky I was to have you around, right?” Sookie could see that Eric was leaning back against the table, his arms crossed. The other vampires were standing around. They seemed to be smiling.
“Don’t you ever think that I will forget that I was just some job to you; some stupid hick you were supposed to trick and drag off to New Orleans. Don’t you ever think that I don’t know what you were really about. You would have thrown me in front of Sophie-Anne and Andre and looked the other way when they turned me into some kind of blood slave.”
“No, Sookie! I would never have done that!” Bill cried. “I loved you. You were… are important to me!”
“Important? How do you mean that, Bill? Important enough to let the Rattrays catch me and beat the shit out of me? Important enough to force enough of your blood into me so that I didn’t know my own mind?” Sookie saw Pam suddenly move. Sookie stopped and watched her and the other vampires leave the room and shut the door. Only Bill, Eric and Thalia remained. Sookie swung back toward Bill, “Important enough that you dangled me in front of Liam and Diane? Allowed them to scare me? Important enough that you raped me in the cemetery?” Sookie felt tears then; tears of rage. Eric was beside them now but Sookie held up a finger in warning and shook her head. “Don’t you dare stop me! I have something to say to this…. This person and it’s long overdue.”
“You are going to make this right, Bill Compton. You are going to do the right thing and you are going to make it clear to everyone that you were a sniveling, creepy asshole. You are going to write your big Hollywood script but you are going to let people know that Troy was no hero. I don’t care how you do it, but you are going to write this the way it’s supposed to be.”
“But Sookie..” Bill started.
“Don’t you ‘but’ me, Bill Compton! You do it. You figure it out. Because if you think I’m going to let you off the hook for all the shit you put me through you are dead wrong. Don’t you think I’ll ever forget what you did after the football game that time. You know what you did. And don’t get me started about the trunk of that car. You could have killed me, Bill. And maybe you should have,” Sookie could hear Eric hiss beside her, “Because I almost blamed myself for being so stupid. But you know something, Bill. That wasn’t my fault. It was your fault. You used me and hurt me and you never said you were sorry. You just wrote it all up in a book like it was some wonderful thing and you made money – more money that you probably spent on everyone but the person that you supposedly loved.” Sookie knew she was rambling but she found she just couldn’t stop. “You made me feel small about myself, Bill Compton. You made me feel like caring for someone; loving someone was allowing them to hurt you. And I blame you. I blame you for letting an inexperienced woman doubt her ability to be loved for who she was. I blame you for making me doubt that I was attractive enough or smart enough. You could have made me feel cherished and strong and wonderful, but you didn’t. You made me doubt whether I was ever really worthy because in the end you were just following orders and I was just your job.”
Sookie stood up, the book falling from her lap. She turned to Bill who was sitting on the couch staring at her in shock. “You are going to fix this, Bill Compton. You are going to write another book and you are going to fix that movie. You are going to make Leif the hero and you are going to let Shanna have her happy ending. And if you don’t you better believe that I will find where you rest and I’ll stake you in your sleep, so help me god.”
Sookie felt Eric’s arms come around her. She started to shrug them off, her anger so strong that she had trouble having anyone touch her. But Eric was persistent and she allowed him to ease her against him.
Thalia spoke up from across the room. “Should I kill him?”
Eric growled in a menacing way. “Why should you have all the fun?”
“No, Eric!” Sookie said. “No. I will not have you have one minute of trouble over this shit stain. Bill made this mess and he will fix it.” And she looked at Bill, her eyes hard. “Won’t you Bill?”
Bill looked miserable. All the smugness had left his face and he was pale under his fashionable tan. He nodded and looked down. “You better,” Sookie said. “And you better believe that I will be looking. Now you get the hell out of my sight.” And Bill did, his whole body hunched a little as he ran for the door.
Thalia gave a sharp laugh and Eric found himself smiling until he saw Sookie’s face. “We are done here for the night,” he said.
He picked up the telepath and carried her to the cottage. He set her on the sofa and he turned on the gas fireplace. He could feel her watching him as he arranged the cushions and blankets. She sighed a little as he lay down and fitted her against him.
Eric stroked her hair gently and he pressed his lips to her forehead. Then he started to talk. He told her about Appius. He told her about his turning; the terrible days before Appius finally drained him and the days that followed. He told her about the terrible price he had paid for his immortality. He felt her pain for him as he told her about how Appius would lend him to others. She cried with him when he talked about the first time Appius released him; the pain and the anger and self-loathing. And she held him close when he told her about how Appius had called him back and started the cycle all over again. He told her things he had never told any other soul; not Karin; not Pam. When he finished she found herself clinging to his shirt. She felt totally open; like she was reflected in this man. She had always felt like Eric got her. Now, hearing his story; the way that he confided in her, she felt connected to Eric in some profound way; like they were tethered by something more substantial than an attraction for each other.
In the quiet of this place, in the safety of his arms, Sookie knew what she needed to do. “The first time Sam hit me, I couldn’t believe it really happened,“ she heard herself say.