At the last, tenderly,

From the walls of the powerful fortress'd house,

From the clasp of the knitted locks, from the keep of the well-closed doors,

Let me be wafted.

Let me glide noiselessly forth;

With the key of softness unlock the locks--with a whisper,

Set ope the doors O soul.

Tenderly--be not impatient,

(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh,

Strong is your hold O love.)

--Walt Whitman


She asked me what it felt like to die for the day. No human had ever asked such a question of me and no vampire needed to. It feels like sinking underwater. There is daylight outside—deadly to us—but for me the day is the absolute darkness and silence I imagine of the deepest parts of the ocean.

I've read about that, she said. It's so deep that the light doesn't make it down there and there are fish that just… Here, she balled the fingers of one hand into a fist, the other remaining on the steering wheel, and rapidly splayed them out again over and over. Fireworks. They make their own, she said, keeping her focus on the road ahead. Yes, I said. I know about this, too. I suppose that is how I would describe our dreams. Mine, at least. I have never discussed it with anyone else. Bursts of light, impressions. I do not remember them fully when I wake up.

Never, she asked. No. Not ever, I said. And there are giant worms down there, too, she said. I couldn't help but laugh out loud at how randomly funny she could be, how her mind leapt like a cat from one ledge to another. I had never shared so much with a human. Well, she said, I remember a lot of my dreams. As if this were an advantage to her humanity. Perhaps it was, though not long after this moment, she died.

Her service, by the wish that none of us had any idea she'd officially put to paper, was at night. Nearly every being in attendance was of the supernatural. Her great grandfather was there with the other fairy, her godmother. Their magic masked their scent but not their sadness. The Weres and shifters grouped themselves together, though there was no hint of animosity among any of us. Most of the Area vamps were there out of respect for Eric's wishes more than anything. They had hardly known her like I did, like I would know her again.

The single impression I got from Eric was one of emptiness, a stony exterior that was… Bereft. This word means lonely and abandoned, especially as a result of someone's departure or death. Sookie told me this when she spoke of how she'd felt after Bill had left her, of how she'd felt after Eric remembered who he was and forgot everything he'd said to her when he'd stayed in her house.

We had this conversation after he'd regained those memories and he and I had pledged our lives to protect her. It was this resentment on her part and the unwillingness to further risk her life on his part that kept the distance between them. I was between them as well and could almost feel their ache like it was my own. Their hold on each other was stronger than anything I had ever seen between human and vampire, stronger than my tie to Eric as his Child. And it was more than blood, it was life. It was soul-deep, their connection.

I asked my Maker one night, as Sookie would later ask me about my daytime sleep, what he really felt for her. I think he was so surprised I had asked that he told me outright that he loved her. In a tone of voice that the object of his love might have followed with a Duh, which was humorous shorthand, as she once explained to me, for Obviously…

To love is to bury, he said, and I will bury this for her own good.

You know she hates it when any of us try to make decisions for her, I said. Well, he said, she doesn't have to know about this one. And he went back to work, or so it appeared. When I came in the next evening, the contracts on his desk remained unsigned.

Now I do not know how to tell him what I have done. His grief remains at such a quiet, dangerous pitch that I would not dare interrupt him. He may see it as a gift, though I'm more inclined to think he will strike me dead for the final time, as would be his right. He made me and can undo me just the same. But, to love is to bury. He said it himself.

And it was my fault. I can acknowledge this fact. I was supposed to protect her while he was away. I doubted she had any idea or paid enough attention to their mental connection to know that he watched over her nearly every night. For my part, I should have paid closer attention to our surroundings. We were driving back to her home after she had finished working and this time there were no other vampires, no Weres, witches or hired thugs. It was a simple, random thing: a car driven by a careless man who ran a stoplight. His truck plowed into her side of the car. I didn't even break a bone. The driver went through his own windshield and if that hadn't killed him, I would have done it myself. As it was, I had barely been able to stand the scent of all that blood without running mad from the wanting of it.

I pulled her from the car and called for emergency assistance from my cell phone. The signal was surprisingly strong in what I regarded as the middle of nowhere. There was no one else to witness anything on that quiet road. I knew, from instinct, that she would die very, very soon. I could feel her soul quickening deep inside her, preparing to depart. The sound of crunching metal and glass had faded from my ears enough to hear her speak to me. I love him, Pam. I really do, she said, please tell him? Her voice rose at the end in a question, leaving me to share this truth according to my judgment. She gripped my hand with surprising strength. Her hold on life, on all of us was strong, on him most of all, who thought of her every day when he reached for his phone to dial her number and quietly set it back down again before he could finish. What can I give her, he had asked me, except a shorter lifespan. He meant it as a joke but it was weak and a lie and we both knew it because we both knew it wasn't a question of what he could give her but what he would give her, which was, if she asked it of him, everything.

And then the light left her eyes. Bloodied salt water left mine. I cannot remember before that moment the last time that I had cried or felt anything so deeply as I felt then and later. My grief and my guilt.

Her house sits in its lot like a giant mausoleum, though her tomb is not inside it. Amelia—lovely Amelia—left for New Orleans within two days, she could not stay here. I couldn't blame her for leaving so quickly. Her Werewolf even closed up shop and went with her. She had left in such haste that her magical wards were still in place and I was fortunate to be included in their recognition as a friend.

And Bill, a portrait of anguish. Sharing a booth with him in the convention hall at the Rhodes summit had been quite a treat. He'd practically vibrated with anger and frustration and it all released and gave way to impossible sadness whenever she walked into his view. With a keening wail, he had launched himself at me with every intention of killing one or both of us forever. The only reason Eric stopped him, I assumed in the moment, was because he wanted to hear my explanation of exactly how it happened before he killed me himself. And now Bill has left us, too, carting his books and papers across the globe to God knows where. Eric sent me to check on his house and sure enough, he'd left it unlocked, with a light still on in the living room.

Inside her house, after the evening funeral, we gathered. Amelia was packing upstairs. Bill had by this time let go of his desire to kill me and Eric was just his newly emptied self, dismissing the remaining vampires with a wave of his hand. We drank the last of the TrueBlood from her refrigerator because why leave it there and the other Supes—Sam and her bitten brother among them—ate the food they'd brought with them because eating was apparently what one did, a different way of filling up a void. The void of her house filled with the quiet buzz of remembrance and even the occasional laugh at a happier memory. I said I would remain behind after everyone else had left and nobody asked me why. Eric emerged from her bedroom, slipping something into his pocket, and walked out the door. I helped Amelia clean up and make sure windows and doors were all locked. At three in the morning, she loaded her bags into the back of Tray's truck and sped off down the graveled driveway.

I turned off all of the lights and shut off the central air. I trailed my fingers over her worn furniture, over the walls of her house. There were framed pictures of her, her parents, her brother, her Gran. I had been raised very long ago to believe there was life after death and that the way to get there was through ritual and worship. When I died, I saw nothing until I awoke to my new existence, but since on some level—God, the Devil, the ether?—must have known I wasn't really dead, maybe there wasn't anything to see when I was in between. Maybe there was nothing to see at all.

That night, I moved her from the cemetery deep into the woods near her house.

On the side of the road where she lay dying, where she did die, I pulled her body close to me and sank my fangs into her neck. I drained her dry, cutting her wrist with a piece of broken glass to hurry the process. I did not know how much time I had. With her head tilted back on my shoulder, I bit my wrist and raised it above her open mouth, dripping my blood in until the wound healed itself. I did it twice, to be sure. After a moment, with the new instinct of a Maker, I knew it would work. And though it disgusted me to do it, I cut her neck with glass where I'd bitten, to hide the marks my teeth had left. I wiped my mouth clean on the sleeve of my sweater and the officers and other personnel who responded to my call did not ask me questions when they saw the extent of the wreckage.

Eric knew she was dead and found us before they could load her body into the back of the Coroner's van. He stroked her hair and shut her eyes himself, then looked murder at me. I felt the chill of it up and down my spine. With his hand on her forehead, he knew she was too far gone for him to turn her himself. We both turned to look as the scent of the fairy caught us and she stood there, beautiful and helpless, because this happened too fast. Then she was gone as quickly as she'd come.

It took all of my skill to ensure she went almost straight into a coffin. There was no embalming, no preparation, no viewing. I wiped the dried blood from her skin and redressed her myself, then she was in the ground as quickly as I could make it happen. She pulsed under my feet like a heartbeat as I walked through the cemetery to her service. I could feel her from her house, from Shreveport as I behaved as if we were getting back down to business. I was the only one who knew we'd all be seeing her again soon.

And now there is nothing to do but wait for the end of this third day. It is nearly two a.m., the time she first died. I hope Eric will regard my action as a gift to him, in gratitude for my second life and all he has shown me and done for me since my death. I hope their bond will hold through her transformation. I hope Amelia will come back to Bon Temps and revive that quiet house. I hope Bill can let go. Hope springs eternal. To love is to bury. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Obviously.

In the depth of the woods around her house, the trees and stones regard me stiffly. The animals are silent. They know what I've done. And what have I done, but given two very different beings what they would not acknowledge they even wanted? Lifetimes, together, and the common ground that only death could give them. Well. They'd get used to it.

I sensed her prickling consciousness deep in my mind, the awakening of the bond between Maker and Child. So this is what Eric felt when he made me. She will be my first. The only sound to be heard is the clinking of the glass bottles of synthetic blood I've brought with me as I sit on the ground to watch the mound of earth that is her second grave.

The night drops further into the deep silence of a daytime sleep as I wait for her to rise.