in the evening
THE LONG WAY AROUND
We only part to meet again.
I should have killed you the first time I saw you. I've said this to her more than once. It also meant, perversely, I love you, but I wasn't willing or able to say it without reference to biting, killing or draining of some kind. I remember her trying to be angry but the anger not reaching all the way inside. Even before I could feel her in my mind, I could see this on her face. Whether or not she could or would fully acknowledge it, she knew what I meant.
And I was wrong. Loving something means keeping it close. Keep one loved thing closest to you. All the rest doesn't matter. This is what I was thinking, over and over, as I went to her funeral, stood in her bedroom, aimlessly wandered through long, dark summer nights—all two of them—without an anchor of any kind. I missed her. Desperately. And then she came back.
The night seared past me in one long burn I was going so fast. I landed hard and went straight for my Child, who had done something terrible and wonderful and beautiful. For me, she said. Eric stop, a smaller voice pleads. It really is true. The new vibration in my mind, the reawakening of my heart a second time, the song of her, all there before me in the mended body of my lover. I let my fingers find her features again. Blonde hair, smooth forehead, slim eyebrows, blue eyes, nose, mouth, chin, throat, all there to know again. She is crying. She knows and doesn't know what has happened to her. Pam gazes down at us with an expression of pride, possessiveness and love. I slip by arms under Sookie's back and knees, lifting her out of the dirt. The weight and pressure of her arm around my neck is as urgent as the hand clawing and curling into my shirt. I want to take her to her bedroom. To mine. The forest floor would be good enough for me right now but this is not the way it must go. I look at my Child. Where to, I ask her. She leads us out of the woods.
While Pam is in Sookie's house, I settle my her into the backseat of the car, which would also be good enough for me right now. Her arm is reluctant as I pull it from around my shoulders. She is silent, still clinging to my shirt. I lean in to place a palm on her cheek and turn her face to me. It will be okay, Dear One. At this her eyes light up, as if she is just now seeing that it's me who has carried her from the woods, who has stayed next to her, whose face is just inches away from hers. She darts forward and catches my lips with hers, holding them for a too short moment before she sinks back into the depth of her quiet. I look out through the windshield. Pam is coming down the steps.
It is all I can do to sit still as Pam begins to explain Sookie's new nature to her. These are things I'd rather be discussing in bed, after I've enthusiastically welcomed her back into the world, after we have thoroughly reacquainted one another with every curve and secret of our bodies. I can feel her exhaustion as she absorbs all she's being told. Pam can feel it, too, and guides her to the bedroom she'll use while she stays here. I am still at the table, sliding an empty bottle of True Blood back and forth between my hands. The rhythmic scraping sound echoes in the open floor plan of the house.
By the time Pam emerges from the bedroom, I have felt Sookie slip into her daytime rest. Now my Child and I level with each other. She backs away from me slightly as I ask her why she has done this. None of us has forever, you know. Looking into her eyes, I know she is right and that, all things being equal, the simplest answer is most often the right one. In this case, the simplest answer is: give in.
I open the door to Sookie's room and sit on the edge of the bed. She is wearing the t-shirt I discarded on the very last night I ever saw her alive, felt her breath on my face, her warm lips, felt the heat of her heart as it beat in her chest. Who gets these second chances? I always assumed—and have been proven right during the long course of my life—that I did not merit them. Though in a sense, my entire existence has been a second chance, so maybe the one big one is all I get. She should have been entirely lost, Eurydice falling back into the Underworld after I, her Orpheus, failed to lead her out of it. But she was not lost. When she rose and I felt her again, her thrumming song renewing its steady pulse in my head, I resolved that this time it would be different. It will be right. I will give in.
I remember everything Pam has ever told me about her mortal life before I caught her sneaking around in the night. She relished in her new existence so much because her human one had been so restricted. She was expected to marry, to produce children, to raise them and love them and keep a good home and a good appearance. Only she hadn't wanted any of it. But I feel in her now the blossoming of a new perspective. Not as if she wished she could have continued her human life to see how it turned out—maybe it wouldn't have been so bad—but instead that she was now willing to give of herself in a way she had not thought previously possible, from which she'd hidden for two hundred years. To give a human your blood was alone a gift. But to save them from death, to give them blood and a second chance and to therefore be bound to them forever was something else entirely. I've never tried to name it but I think, all things being equal and the simplest answer the right one: it was one of the deeper forms of love.
Pam brings her to the bar the next night, shortly before we open. Though my office door is closed, I feel her entrance and her passage through the hallway. When I can't stand it anymore, I call them back, knowing they can both hear my voice through the door. They walk in. Pam closes the door and leans against it. Sookie is clean of dirt and wearing a virginal white dress. How are you doing, I ask. She looks at me strangely. We haven't spoken at all except for my telling her that everything would be okay. Fine, she says. Overwhelmed, she says, a look of confusion and distance on her face as she stares at my feet. How do you feel? Again, her eyes avoid my face, although I suppose she already answered that question. Fine, she says, shrugging her shoulders, and then, hungry. Will you feed tonight? Of course, she says. When she finally turns to look at me, I am the one who turns away. With my eyes focused on a poster on the wall behind her, I say:
You do look different. You are different. But you are still so beautiful. And I am so sorry for everything before this.
Now we can look at each other. When our eyes meet, I feel a stream of images, sounds and feelings surge between us, burning from the inside out. Memories of our history. Her voice in my head is like the crystalline peel of a knife tapping the edge of a wineglass, asking for the chance to say something important. And here it is, what I was before and am in her mind: safety, comfort, warmth. And her, my comfort. My heart.
We have certainly taken the long way around, she and I, slogging through landscapes of confusion and avoidance, twisting our path until we didn't know which way was forward or where we were or even how to divide ourselves, one from the other. This part is you, this part is me. The edges of such distinctions had begun to blur and we fought it, jealously snatching back the things we each thought were ours alone. Now it is time for the way to be straight and simple.
We step forward at the same time and I catch her in my arms, resisting the urge to twirl her around like an idiot. Her body feels the same—weightless and slender—but cooler now. She pulls her head back from where it is nestled on my shoulder, lips brushing the skin on my neck. We are each looking into the deep of the other's eyes, the blue of oceans, of skies both light and dark. Our bodies and minds are wrapped around each other but we both want more. I can feel Pam's exasperation turn into sly contentment as she slips out the door, shutting it behind her. And then. We kiss, we kiss, we kiss…
She has wrapped her legs around my waist, perhaps not entirely aware of the strength of her hold. I place my hands gently on her knees and she understands, loosening her muscles, our lips never parting. It would be easy and wonderful to take her right here, to sweep paperclips and invoices off of my desk and lay her down on it. But I want this to be more than an urgent coupling on a quilt, in a field, on a warm summer night. She senses my hesitation and pulls back, her hands on my cheeks. I can hardly speak, with her looking at me so earnestly. I stutter like a fool.
I— Before we do— I want you to hear—
I love you. I'm telling you out loud before anything else happens. If we burn up and die for good in the next minute, know that I love you.
I love you too, she says, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
Pam appears slightly surprised to see us emerge from my office so quickly and looking quite put together. I escort Sookie to my booth and slide in next to her. Again, we kiss. Felicia has come over to ask what she'd like to drink, knowing gin and tonic is no longer an option. Pam comes over to wave her away and nods briefly in deference to me before reaching out her hand. Sookie takes it and allows herself to be gently tugged along in the direction of a pocket of fangbangers, a man and two women. This is the part that I don't like. We can no longer feed from each other, at least not often. The thought of this shades my contentment with darkness. I will have to share. With Pam, with her meals. I feel the rumble of my dissatisfaction like oncoming thunder. She looks at me from across the room, her face troubled. What's wrong?
When I say I hear her voice ringing in my mind, I mean the impression of it. I mean that her presence has the same soft cadence as her voice and voice is a good enough word to use for how her emotions speak to me and inform my own. But now I clearly hear her asking me a question, what's wrong?
Pam has turned to look as well, her eyes darting back and forth between us. The connection of a Maker and Child is more instinct. They can sense each other's presence and emotions, the Maker can call the Child and force her to yield. But telepathic communication is a rare gift to an individual vampire, rather like Sophie-Anne had with her children. In my head, I can no more ask Pam to pick up my dry cleaning than she can hear me ask the favor. We have known each other for so long that, in business and in danger, we are of such similar minds that we react and strategize in the same anyways. To an outsider, we might as well be speaking mind to mind.
Sookie, can you hear me, I ask her without opening my mouth. Yes, she says and asks me again what's wrong, like she's not surprised. I'll tell you later. Eat. Her face drops into a look of suspicious irritation. She takes one of the human women by the hand and brings her directly to my table. Felicia brings an empty glass and Pam has joined Sookie, placing a hand on her shoulder. The fangbanger is beside herself with excitement at being surrounded so closely by multiple vampires, clearly the object of their attention. She would do well to be more cautious. Pam presents Sookie with a knife. She takes it and takes the woman's wrist in her hand, holding it over the empty tumbler. She makes a cut and lets the blood fill up the glass in arterial surges before pricking her thumb on her fang and smoothing her own blood across the bleeding wrist, sealing the sliced skin. The human looks vaguely disappointed. Another night, my lover says, before tossing back the glass of blood and drinking it all in one gulp. She winks at the human woman and jerks her head in the direction of her friends, silently indicating that she is excused. The human bounces back to her group, holding out her wrist to show them the slight remainder of the wound. Then Sookie turns to Pam, who nods and squeezes her shoulder in approval. Then she looks at me. I'll bite when I'm ready, she says out loud.
It is like this for many nights, though the very next night, she and Pam drove to Bon Temps to see her brother and her boss. Pam also contacted Amelia, who'd been staying with Tray in her parents' guest house in New Orleans. Not a week later, they were back and Amelia was staying in Sookie's house again and overseeing security renovations. Both she and Sam are fairly frequent visitors to the bar. Even her brother has stopped by once or twice.
I don't see Sookie outside of Fangtasia, though when she is here, the wall of our closeness cannot be breached by anything. We can sit and speak or sit without speaking or sit without appearing to speak. When she closes her eyes, it is easy to show her things. The landscape of my youth. The other vistas from all of my travels. She shows me the sun because her memories of it are fresher than mine. Though we feel them, we haven't repeated our words to each other, spoken in the privacy of my office the night she first came to the bar as one of us.
She doesn't want to bite anyone. Pam is teaching her about glamour, about how much blood you can take without harming the donor and other nuances of vampiric behavior. There are only a few nights when they arrive at the bar clearly put out with each other. I understand why she would so irritate you at times, Pam told me one night. She brought her stubborn nature back with her. I laughed and told her she'd get used to it. And then it would become one of her favorite things.
Pam is equally frustrated that she cannot find Bill. He ought to know, she said. Who says, I asked her. Sookie, she replied, I just happen to agree.
I asked Sookie one night, only a few weeks after she rose, if she missed Bill. Of course, she said. He will always be important to me. I will always care. There's no point in trying to hate someone forever. Because now it really could be forever. I just nod. She is looking at me, trying to catch a strand of my thought. We have found that we can only hear each other when one of us becomes angry or agitated. A human kept approaching her one night, insisting on being her dinner and then some, and she nearly threw him through the wall when she'd had enough of his advances. I could hear her cursing in my brain, her anger flashing like knives. It disgusts her just as much as it does me when they're so desperate for our attention.
I found Bill myself, through a network of contacts in the university system in Europe. He was in Budapest, most likely spending his waking nights in the Central European University Library. When I handed Pam the slip of paper with this information, her eyes widened in appreciation. I didn't think you cared whether or not we found him, she said. She cares, I said, as if it were the most obvious reason in the world.
When I hear Bill has come home to Bon Temps, I am wary. It would have been my right to kill him for attacking my child the night Sookie first died. I felt so overwhelmed by the finite nature of a mortal life that I didn't want to take life of any kind. So I let him go. And off he went.
When he made his return appearance at the bar, I tried to be decent about it. I have been trying many new things these past four weeks, including restraint. I have begun to feed again, from the humans' slender wrists, some men, some women. Mixing gender makes it feel less intimate in my mind. Sookie appreciates this and similarly varies her choices, though she still refuses to bite. Neither of us has had sex, I know, since that night behind her house. She eats early, is anxious for Bill to arrive. I can tell when he does, from the tide of release that flows through our bond. I decide that two hours is enough time and I merge into the crowd on the main floor. I see him hug her, his expression hidden from her view as he tucks his chin into her hair. He loves her. I see this. But there is nothing I'm willing to do about it except cover his bar tab, shake his hand before he departs and wish him well.
By the end of the night, I am aching to take her home with me. For the first time, she has bitten her donor's wrist instead of cutting it and taking the blood from a glass. Seeing her sink her fangs into flesh does things to me and as soon as she's done, I kiss her like she's full of oxygen and I still need it. Your lips are bloody, I tell her and kiss her again. She smiles into my mouth. We wait until we both know Bill has left. It just seems decent, she says, and I'm willing to defer. In a lighter tone, she says, you know we'll have to ask permission. This brings up a whole new issue. She is still a young vampire and should stay with Pam for at least another month, maybe two. I would have to ask her if it's okay to take Sookie out of her care for a night at a time. I could try playing the blood-bond card but that seems like cheating. After Bill has come and gone, I ask her. She is trying not to smile, having anticipated my request. Of course, she says, you may have a sleepover.
I almost wanted to wait another night for my pride to recover. But I didn't, because none of us have forever, you know. Fangtasia closes at three am, though I led Sookie out the back door before last call, leaving Pam and the others to close up. She was perfectly relaxed as we drove to my house, which she had never seen before. The whole way there, she rested her hand on my thigh as she looked out her window. I felt nervous taking her hand and leading her inside. Once there, she darted from room to room, taking in everything. I locked down the house and leaned against the wall to wait for her. She came over to me and starts up the stairs, urging with her eyes for me to follow. As I turn the corner to walk up, she is there to surprise me and our lips meet at the perfect level, her on a higher step and me still on the ground floor. I kiss her like her lips are bloody. Then I pull her close to me with my hands on her butt so she has to wrap her legs around my waist for me to carry her upstairs.
In my bedroom, we undress each other with cool fingers flying over cool skin. When we are both naked, me standing at the foot of my bed, her kneeling on top of it, she slides her hands under my arms to grip my shoulders from behind and pull me closer. She is kissing my chest lightly, over and over again, trailing up my throat to my lips as she presses our bodies together. My hands rest on her lower back, my fingers spreading, moving lower, kneading her flesh. I've missed you very much, she says and gasps as one hand moves around to the front of her hips and between her legs. We stay like this for the length of one deep, languorous kiss until it's my turn to gasp and moan into her mouth as one of her hands encircles me and begins to stroke. I push her backward and move onto the bed with her, gently laying her down before me like something fragile and priceless. My hands are on her hips again, sliding down her thighs to pull her open for me. As soon as I'm on top of her, she slings one arm around my neck to pull me down further, the other on my ass and curving forward around the arc of my pelvic bone until her thumb is teasing the sensitive juncture between my hip and thigh. I take her hands and pin them above her head with mine, our fingers lacing together. She tightens her thighs around me and encourages me to enter. I thrust into her body and she arches her back, driving her pelvis up to meet mine. Our legs tangle as we establish a rhythm with our hips that picks up speed as we get closer to our release. We come together, like I knew we would, and as we lay there afterward, we are both feeling the other's physical pleasure and the pleasure of the possibility of so many more nights like this one.
Two nights later, Pam has allowed us another sleepover and I know she took no small pleasure in the requirement of our kind that I seek permission from her every time I wanted to remove her Child from her care—however briefly—so soon after her rebirth. Now she is laying naked next to me in my bed, in my house. She is turned away, with her back to my side, curled up with the light on next to her, reading a book with fingerworn pages. I am sitting up, one hand over the soft cotton sheet on her reclining hip, the other holding my paperback Metamorphoses open, the text as clear as day in the dim light reaching from her lamp. I scan the pages slowly, letting the words sink in. There are many things that can be done quickly enough but that doesn't mean they should be.
Looking down at her, I feel like taking a deep breath. I feel like heaving a sigh of contentment. I feel, I feel, I feel. This is a good thing. The vessel, the heart, the brain full of her new rhythm, all parts representing the whole, coming together in a perfect collision of air and heat and light. I will not let go of this. I will not bury this. I will not lose her again. I will tell her every coming night with exact words that cannot be interpreted to mean anything other than what they do: I love you.
With the ease of gravity, every broken part falls back together.
Everything that was empty begins to fill up.