Disclaimer: The Sookie Stackhouse Series is the creation of Charlaine Harris. Don't sue me Charlaine! I love your books.
A/N- Readers should remember that the vampires of Charlaine's world are complex and multifaceted.
Eric turned on his side toward me and propped his head up on his hand. He brushed some of my hair out of my face and tucked it behind my ear. He laced his fingers back through mine.
"Sookie, I knew in Rhodes. That's why I stood behind you when you talked before the Pythoness. I wanted to protect you, just in case anyone suspected. Although what I could have done, practically speaking, in a room full of vampires, many of whom were as old as I am, I don't know. That would have been an interesting fight. I wasn't sure it would keep happening but I thought it likely that it might. I was sure after our conversation about whether I'd turn you. And it's been a dead giveaway that, anytime I think anything bad about Sam, you get so mad."
Eric stretched and got up out of the bed.
"I'm going to have a Blood. You're probably too upset for me to have you," he said with a smile.
Not too far off the mark, I thought, since a few moments ago I was envisioning him ripping my throat out.
He pulled on a black t-shirt and a pair of boxer briefs. He walked around my side of the bed and extended a hand to me.
"You should have something to eat, Lover. When you get stressed you seem to just lose sight of eating. That's another reason why turning you might be counterproductive," he said, "It's supposed to be the other way around, you know," and then he laughed rather heartily.
We went downstairs and sat silently at the table in the kitchen for a while. He drank a bottle of O neg, and I had cheese and crackers.
Finally, I couldn't stand it. "Can you tell me why this is okay with you, Eric? I mean it's like a disaster to me, so I'd really like to know how this is okay with you."
Eric stretched in his chair. He regarded me coolly. "Sookie, I don't see why it's a disaster to you. You've had two weeks and you're already able to pretty much control how much you "hear", or whatever it is you do, to a good extent from what you're saying. You've been pretty discreet, although I think it's possible that Bill may know, since you've had his blood. It may be safer to use Bubba in future for watching over you near home."
I remembered the odd look that Bill had given me. Could he have been aware? Had he sensed me in his brain? I remembered with a chill that Hallow had been able to do so.
Eric was now leaning toward me, with his elbows on the table and his fingers, interlaced, extended toward his eyes. He stared at me with those blue, blue eyes. Sometimes what was beyond them just seemed unfathomable. It was almost as if he was challenging me to read him. But I would not.
After a pause, he said "Bill's never given you the credit you're due, Sookie. He has always seen you as a simple and uncomplicated creature. I, on the other hand, appreciate you for all you are. For all you can become."
Well, that was a little ominous…. And part of me actually wondered if this expansion of my "gift" had been part of Eric's plan all along. I wasn't really liking this part of the plan. I reflected back on the past two weeks and began to realize that I had been so hopelessly naïve. What had I been expecting? A fairy tale? I have the feeling that I haven't even begun to see the full consequences of my choices, my desires, much as Sam had warned me. But part of me knew that there was no going back from here.
"If you knew, why on earth would you put me into that position, by sending Bill, where he could possibly figure this out, Eric?"
He regarded me intently for a moment, as if I was finally starting to ask better questions.
"It was a safe way to find out if someone else could sense it. If he does know, Bill will never harm you Sookie. I'm sure of that. And he will tell me if he knows."
"Does Pam know?" I asked hesitantly.
"I'm not sure," said Eric thoughtfully. "I'm inclined to say no, because you haven't had her blood, as you have had Bill's or mine. But Pam is so sharp. She may suspect. I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you that the fewer people, especially the fewer vampires, know about this, the safer I can keep you. You really shouldn't tell anyone."
Eric looked at me with his head tipped slightly to one side. I looked at his meltingly blue eyes and sighed.
"Do you still love me? Do you forgive my not telling you before?"
He leaned back in his chair for a second and then leaned forward again, elbow on the table, with his chin in his hand, looking at me intently.
"Sookie, I've loved you for quite some time, and I really don't think I'm going to stop loving you because of something that, frankly, I can see as nothing but making you even more useful and interesting than what you already were." He felt the strange response that I had to this little statement and tried readjust himself.
"Sookie, you have to be realistic. I love you. I'm in love with you. I have not been in love with anyone, quite possibly ever, in my long life. I have very much wanted you in my life. I was always attracted to you and you offered a set of skills I very much valued. But along the way, I grew to really love you. To be willing to take risks for you, risks that I have never been willing to take for another human. Risks I might not even take for most others of my kind. Time and time again, you've shown me in every possible way that you're worth taking those risks for, Lover.
"But I am still a pragmatic man, Sookie. In addition to loving you, you're an incredibly precious and valuable asset. Your skill set, and your status among various groups makes you all the more valuable and fascinating. This latest wrinkle could prove very useful. You look at all the events you've seen in the past two years as huge upheavals. When you have lived as long as I have, they are merely bumps in the road. The big events, the real wars, you can have no idea of. I hope you never do. But what you've got is a powerful tool, an advanced warning system, a means of keeping us, and those you love, safe. You need to learn to use it with skill, and control yourself when you see things that shock you, so that you will never give away your hand."
Well, that was a lot to take in. In love with me. Valuable asset. Tool. In love with his asset? I cringed. And he was just so calm about it all. This was the side of Eric of which I had been most afraid just over a month ago. My other Eric was somewhere inside this one. That was the Eric that I was concerned I'd hurt by lying by omission.
I stood up to clean up the table. I couldn't really look at Eric. No matter which Eric was having this discussion with, I still felt wrong for having not been truthful with him. Maybe I was closer to being the woman Bill thought I was than Eric realized.
Eric pulled me toward him and into his lap. I looked up into the eyes of the man I loved.
"Sookie, yes, I knew you weren't telling me. But I felt your pain at not telling me every time. I felt how you felt about yourself for it. I felt how you love me. I can read you like a book, my Lover. And the fact that you didn't run from it, no matter how scared you were, means the world to me. You cannot imagine."
I was still unsettled but I felt warm and safe in his arms. I looked into his eyes and I saw that he loved me. He kissed me gently at first and then more and more passionately.
Later, looking up at the ceiling in my blue room, I reflected on Eric's ominous statement, about what I could become. The truth had set me free, but to what? I lay in my bed puzzling over this. This world that I had joined so blithely only two weeks before appeared far more complex and shaded now. I was in it for keeps. I would have to find my path in it. At least I could do it with someone I loved, who loved me.
I played with Eric's hands while thinking about it all at the speed of sound. And just as my pulse started racing, Eric leaned over and said softly,
"Sookie, you really have to just stop sometimes, my Love."
He got up and headed to the bathroom to shower. With a mischievous look on his face, he glanced back at me, clearly beckoning.
My heart and I followed him.