Shortly after 7 pm that night, I sat on the front porch rocking with Bill. He was drinking a True Blood and I drank a cup of chamomile tea. Bubba was probably off chasing small animals. I tried not to think about it.
Bill and I didn't talk much. It was a bit awkward, but I guess it was for him as well. I guess I couldn't say that I'd actually forgiven Bill for everything. But I guess you get to a point where you have to let things go, even if you decide you'll remember a few of them to be on the safe side. You just don't take them to heart as much.
"So, you're pretty much ready to travel tomorrow night then?" I asked him. As the maker of the all famous vampire database, Bill was, of course, an invitee to Felipe's fêtes.
"Yes," he said quietly.
"Are you well enough to travel?" I asked him, turning to look at him. He still did not look great.
"Yes, and it will be easier to get real blood there, so it's better to go." He said it with a real hungry edge to his voice.
I nodded. Now that Selah had left for Little Rock, I'd seldom seen Bill out with anyone regularly. For just an instant I thought about the possibility of giving him some of my blood but then was immediately grossed out by the thought. That had to be the bond, I thought to myself. Even in an emergency situation, the only person I could possibly see Eric being okay with my giving my blood to would be Pam. Even then, I was sure it would not be something that would thrill him. Blood is everything, I reminded myself. To Eric, to any vampire. The vital force, sustenance. Not something to be given away lightly because you feel sorry for someone.
Bill glanced over and said, "You know Thalia's coming now, right?"
I shook my head. "No, I didn't know." I wondered where she was staying. With us or with Bill? Surely since all the preparations had been made months before, she was going to have to share a room with one of us. Bill seemed to pick up on my thoughts.
"Don't worry. She's staying with me. Eric's having her come because I'm still not very strong. In case anything happens she can even out the odds."
"I like Thalia," I said quietly. "But she scares me."
"She does what she needs to do. She's good at it. She has no qualms."
"Well, I hope she doesn't ever decide I'm a liability…" I said with a nervous laugh.
Bill turned to me. "You will never be a liability, Sookie. To any of us."
He turned suddenly toward the drive and Hummingbird Road and put up his hand to silence me. After studying the sound for a moment, he said.
"That will be Eric." He seemed sadly resigned to the fact, I thought to myself.
I just nodded.
He hesitated for a moment as if deciding whether or not to say something.
"He understands you better than I did," he said finally.
I looked at him. He still looked drawn from his injuries and though he was seemingly physically whole, he seemed very weary. But some of it was beyond just the physical injuries.
I nodded and said softly, "He does understand me, Bill."
He looked at me sadly, without further comment, and then rose. Eric's car was starting down the drive. Even I could hear it now, though I could not have told that it was his car. As he drew closer, I could feel the growing warmth of his presence, and I smiled.
Eric parked the Corvette in front and got out and to the porch in one move so swift it was gone in the blink of an eye. He and Bill greeted each other with a nod and simply saying each other's names.
"Well, I'm going into town for a while. If you could let me know about twenty minutes before you need to leave?" Bill asked Eric.
Eric nodded. Bill was going out looking for blood obviously, I thought to myself.
As Bill quickly departed Eric turned to hug me and pulled up short, eyes slightly wide.
"What are you wearing? What is that, under your sweatshirt?"
I took out the heavy platinum locket with the raised Celtic knot pattern intertwining a 'B' that was set with tiny emeralds.
"My Grandfather gave it to me."
Eric just stared at it, his eyes even wider. "That is a highly magical object, Sookie. And I'm hoping it's…"
"It's platinum. Not silver. Don't worry. You can touch it. I made sure before I accepted it."
He gingerly picked it up and held it in his right hand. Then he looked me in the eye and said,
"So I'm guessing things are better between you and Niall, then?"
"Better? I don't know how much better. We have come to a better understanding I suppose."
He turned it over and back. "What's inside?"
"Magic," I said, my own eyes wide and with a smile. I took it back and put it inside my shirt.
He looked at me and laughed a bit. He picked up my wrist and looked surprised when he slipped back my sleeve and saw the ashy scars from Helga's burn still there.
"He couldn't remove them?" Eric asked sounding a bit taken aback.
"I didn't ask. I think I'll keep them. At least for a while longer."
He met my eyes and nodded slightly, though I felt some puzzlement from him. I took his hand and pulled him inside.
"Did you call him and tell him that you told me what you two did that night at Dieter's compound?" I asked Eric.
"Yes, I told him. We talked after you fell asleep on Saturday. I wanted to explain to him why I felt I had to tell you. I wasn't certain if he would be angry, and I didn't want him to be angry at you for knowing."
"I don't think he was angry. He says he thinks you're honorable, 'for your kind'. Kind of a back handed compliment if you ask me…"
Eric made a wry face. "That would be most of what Niall says, Sookie. I take no offense."
He sat on the couch and I snuggled up next to him.
"So, Niall was not my only visitor today. It was so odd. Jason came by right after work. He had a beer and just chatted. He asked me to be his baby's godmother. It was really weird. He just showed up, like it was nothing. We just sat and talked and listened to music. He told me off for not keeping the Benelli clean enough. He's going to loan me his sawed-off so Thalia can try it out back. Although, I guess the idea of putting another weapon at her disposal is a little questionable on my part, actually now that I'm thinking about it…"
"So you two got along okay, then?" He smiled at me encouragingly.
"Yeah, although like I say, it was kind of odd. We hadn't really spoken since the night of the Were Revelation a few weeks back. He went after Arlene when she was being nasty to me. I really wonder if Sam sent him over here. I just can't believe he put it together to come over here on his own. I have to ask Sam."
Eric looked amused but said nothing. But something about his manner seemed…
"Eric, did you ask him to visit me?"
He nodded. "I called on the weekend and left him a message. He certainly took his time, since he waited another four days to visit, didn't he? I guess maybe it was hard for him."
"But what did you tell him?"
"I just told him that he can't expect that you're ever going to forgive him if he doesn't even come around. I think he wants to be on better terms with you. Bill and Sam think so, too. But I guess nobody would talk to him about it. So I did."
"What makes you even care, Eric? I thought you didn't even like Jason?"
"Well, I guess I don't. But you still do. He's your brother. I think you can use the family, frankly."
My eyes welled up with tears. I kissed him, and our embrace gradually took its usual course and we were off to the bedroom. Later, when we were lying there, he sat up and looked down at me, and touched the pendant. He looked me in the eyes and said,
"What else does it do?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you… feel different…"
I nodded. "You mean because I wasn't fighting the urge to haul off and bite you?"
He stared into me with eyes that were like sapphire lasers. That was indeed what he meant.
"I realized what it means. And I'll never be vampire, Eric. I'll never be turned. Not willingly. If you love me, you won't try or try to convince me. It wouldn't be me anymore, anyway. I love you, but I could not live like you. I just couldn't. So, no more biting. It's just too much blood. I know what will happen if I continue to get too much at a time. I sense it. You wouldn't even have to consciously turn me, would you? Bill told me about stuff like that, long ago. So understanding where it comes from, yes, I feel differently. I have to be with you my way, as me. Just like you are you."
He looked at me with eyes that glowed slightly. He nodded slowly. "I accept your choice. I was not trying to mislead you. I guess I thought you needed to understand it your own way. And I didn't want to frighten you into one choice or the other. And you were a long way from turning."
"I'm still very yours," I said, brushing his hair behind an ear, then kissing him. There was a wave of sadness flowing through him.
I remembered what he had said the previous night. To be apart can be painful. To suffer loss… would be very difficult. He knew the risks when he wanted to move forward with the relationship with me. He knew them better than I ever could. We still have time together, I thought to myself. Besides, if there was one thing the past week had shown me, it was that you never know when your time could end. Even if you were a vampire. I wasn't exactly about living only in the moment now, but for the first time in my life, I wasn't thinking about some future point that I had to get to in order to be happy. I was happy. Here, now, with Eric. Even though tomorrow we would be headed to Las Vegas and uncertainty. I just have to try to be prepared for what lies ahead and to enjoy what I have now. And I was. On both accounts.
"I promised Amelia I was going to make Gran's apple pie before I left. Do you have time to stay a while?"
"I left Pam in charge. I don't have to go until much later. Pam was trying to get Thalia to stop threatening the tourists while she was checking some things in the club. Thalia wants to hire Amelia to ward all our businesses for stuff like fire and Fellowship activities. It's an interesting idea I had not considered."
"That sounds good. It sounds like a positive plan. I should tell Amelia to quietly add something to repel disposable Weres…"
"I don't think I'll tell Thalia about that one… what a crushing disappointment," he chuckled.
We got up and dressed and headed out to the kitchen holding hands. I hoped he was really okay with what I had told him. I felt a sadness from him. And I was sad for that. But I couldn't be different from what I was, anymore than he could. On the other hand, my choice meant that I could offer him things that I could not had I been like him. I could pull him from collapsing buildings in daylight. I could offer him a measure of protection that he might not have considered possible.
As I busied myself in the kitchen, Eric sat at the table, doing email on his evil Blackberry. I stood and looked at him for a moment and felt a swell of love in my heart. He turned and looked up at me and smiled softly, then went back to what he was typing. When I took the butter for the pie crust out of the refrigerator stopped to read the note again. I put the butter on the counter next to the back of flour and the pastry knife and got a highlighter pen out of the glass with all the pens and pencils near the phone. I highlighted harmony on the verb and noun definitions and put the pen back in the glass. Then I put an old U2 CD of Jason's in the CD player and went on making the apple pie for Amelia and Octavia. I paused for a minute to listen to the song One, which I had always loved. The lyrics at the end really struck me, and I realized that in spite of everything, my heart was really filled with hope. I still believed that it would all work out. I believed in harmony. And it was possible to reach accord even when two people were literally as different as night and day, as long as they had love in common. The music played on and I swayed with the song as I made apple pie for my friends.
You got to do what you should
With each other…
But we're not the same
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
A/N- Next up a shorter story (bit of a thriller) on the Vegas trip, wherein you will learn more about Niall's gift.