A/N- After receiving so many lovely reviews for 'Turning Point', I got PM'd by readers asking, pleading, cajoling, for an Eric POV for the end of 'Turning Point'. Some of you were mad at Eric (sometimes rightfully so) and some don't like the way Eric apologizes (like you guys actually think he's used to apologizing?). But everyone seemed to agree that he had to feel much more than was given away toward the end of the story. I hope this story clarifies to you what was sort of my unwritten vision of why, as his attachment to Sookie grew, it was always so difficult for Eric to handle Sookie's feistiness, her willingness to take crazy risks, and why he may have tuned out a bit about all the stuff that she had been doing all along in her work as a human supe liaison. So anyway, this is the backstory I had in mind as I wrote and I hope that you'll have a better perspective about why Eric might have behaved the way he did about all the many things that didn't go quite as he had planned.
Charlaine Harris created the wonderful characters of the Sookieverse. I hope she doesn't mind my taking them out for a spin.
Our Little German Adventure
It was a very quiet Thursday night. No guests, no meetings. Just the usual pile of work. I looked at all the crap to get through on my desk for the night. My mind was just elsewhere. I was listening to the Brahms Intermezzi from the 1890s. Interesting man, Johannes Brahms. Kind of a loner. Vienna, 1880's. But my mind wasn't there either.
What do they call it in English? A watershed? Ja, the German adventure was a watershed moment. I guess I'll just finally have to ask her. Because, clearly, she's not going to volunteer any information. Where did she learn that strategy, I wonder? Well, I know that answer, but when did she learn not to talk freely with me anymore? And why did she learn it?
Eftersom jag var en sådan röv? ('Because I was such asshole?')
After thinking about it now for a good three weeks, I can honestly say it is a testament to how much the woman must love me that she didn't just tell me to fuck off and walk away. Clearly ten centuries of not having had a real relationship, beyond telling people what they're going to do for me and how they're going to do it, has not been particularly helpful in dealing with her at times. When she was human, it was somehow easier, because it took me out of my usual mindset. But siring someone who can just tune you out? Who will disappear if you try to compel her? Now that has been a challenge. What seems most important to me for a new vampire, feeding, seems like a mere afterthought to her. I have spent the better part of six months thinking that she was pale, wan, fragile and therefore easily killed. Finding out she had been shot in Tulsa was just the beginning of our constant battle about how she fed and how she worked. I have spent the last six months arguing with her on a daily basis. Frankly, I'm amazed that she didn't walk out back in November when I told her off while Stan was listening. But I couldn't help myself. I really think it was the angriest I've ever been at her. She had seemed so calm that night but now I realize that she was so angry at me for it. Instead of convincing her that she should tell me things, that argument seemed to have made her even more committed to keeping to herself. Of course, if I look at it from her perspective, from the angle of being her husband, rather than her sire, I was a total asshole to yell at her in front of Stan. It is hard to remember her expectations there, when I have been focused on my concerns about her.
I leaned back in my chair to look out the window, into the courtyard.
She's out there sitting and just chatting with him again tonight. Fucking ice water runs in the woman's veins at times. Every time I look at Rico I simply cannot believe what she did to get that child back. Any of it. She may say that she was afraid but she still acted as if she is just fearless. And she's so fucking clever. I will relish the look of astonishment on Niall Brigant's face for the rest of my undead life. The way she invoked and opened that portal… He simply could not believe it. A vampire opening the gateway to the Fae realm. She is lucky he loves her and trusts her. When she was threatening him that night and said that she would give them the surprise of their long lives she was definitely not bluffing. Even when she was out of it and Niall and Séamus came every night to check on her, he still looked at her with pure incredulity. And he practically interrogated Rico, who says she just 'sort of figures things out on her own'? She'd actually opened the Hotshot gate to the Crossroads once before in January… She did that, could resist all kinds of magic and glamour, could teleport with companions. But she would never tell me until she was pushed to act. Because I was the total asshole sire in her mind. Five months of arguing, shouting at her and telling her off, because I couldn't control her without hurting her, because I wanted her to feed on humans or even Weres. Blood, real blood. That was everything. I never once asked her what else she could do. I didn't think there could be anything beyond the telepathy and the teleporting. No, I just wouldn't tone down the sire mode and so she just shut down and shut up. In more ways than one. Well, I seriously wonder what else she can do beyond what we've seen. Niall said there were only a handful of people in the States who could even raise and open the Crossroad gates anymore. And she is self-taught? Unbelievable. Fucking unbelievable.
And all the times I was after her about not sustaining herself 'the right way', meaning my way? When I think of how I have been after her to feed directly from a donor… Ignoring what she said about touching people, just wanting her to get past it and bite. Totally in her face, so sure I was right and she was all wrong. She just ignored me, told me I'm wrong, told me I didn't understand her. The past few months she'd wake and couldn't wait to get away from me so she wouldn't have to hear it. She's still doing it, even though I haven't said a word about it since she recovered. As soon as we're finished making love she is out of that bed as fast as she can be and off to her office or to Pam, avoiding me until almost dawn. Could there be a greater lack of bloodlust in a newly risen vampire? She decapitated that half-fairy, and just tossed him aside like refuse. You could see there was just an instant as she looked at the blood… she was tempted by it for the shortest possible instant, but she just went ahead and tossed him right at the Raedself's feet. A new vampire, who'd obviously had demon blood on top of it, that can even resist fairy blood? Ha! It made the Raedself so afraid of her. Afraid of her control and of her power and resistance to magic and glamour. Even Niall thought she was afraid of Sookie, from the way she pulled back from Sookie when she touched her… Whatever she put into that touch, it seemed as if Sookie just threw it right back at her. The Raedself, thousands of years old and so powerful, is afraid of my wife, a six month old vampire. All this time, I thought she was so weak and fragile and the woman is capable of scaring elves who are thousands of years old. Fierce, the Raedself called her. What is she going to be like in a few decades I wonder? She literally walked through what humans think of as hell, twice, and terrorized a band of elves to get that child back. And she is only six months old. She's clearly going to be the best turn I've ever made. Fierce, according to an ancient elf.
And what does Sookie do as her encore? She goes to Claudine's funeral, hugs and kisses everyone and then tells us that now she's taking the Bar exams in both Texas and Nevada, on back to back dates in July. Because she has lawsuits she wants to file for me, Stan Davis and Liesel Schall. Regardless of whatever magical power she has, all she talks about is civil rights, voting rights and citizenship. That Liesel needs to vote and that Stan and I should be able to be naturalized citizens even with limited documentation. Vintage Sookie. Rights. Everyone should have rights. But maybe that should be the point. She's really still herself. And really, the looks she gives me sometimes now show that she is so insulted that I ever expected her to be like a regular vampire, a regular, docile child. When was Sookie ever regular? Vad har jag tänker? ('What was I thinking?')
Sometimes I really don't think she even wants whatever power she's tapped into. She truly doesn't seem to give a damn about any of what she did, other than the fact that she got the child back. Well, actually… that's not true. The other day she told Pam that she feels bad she had to kill her great uncle. Rico seemed amazed that she even found it in herself to kill him. He said she'd only killed one Fae in the entire time he'd known her and it was because it attacked them and she might have died had she not. Of course, I'd never heard anything about that one, either. Rico said she goes far out of her way to avoid killing things. He mentioned something about that afanc, when she went up to Idaho. It was some nasty kind of Welsh Fae she'd told me. It must have been far nastier than I ever realized. Niall and his son just blanched when they heard that she got it to leave, instead of killing it, with Rico and Hubert's help. And that was when she was still human. She told me last year that I really didn't know much about the rest of the Fae that were moving to the US and that some of them were really bad. And Rico says it's more than a third of her liaison work now. I was so proud of her work, her position, but obviously I really didn't understand how dangerous some of it was. Maybe I just didn't want to understand it? But she also wasn't exactly letting on. Because I would get so angry whenever she would take any risks before or even after she was turned. Ever since before we were married and that Victor Madden thing. I hate it when she does the brave routine. But with all the Fae liaison work, I guess I just ignored it thinking she was safe because of Niall. And according to Rico she's been going around doing all kinds of dangerous Fae stuff, even before she was turned. Rico said to Niall that she was so brave, really fearless at times. She wouldn't back down when she believed something was wrong or unfair. He seems like he admires that about her immensely. Certainly Niall does. Well, I always knew she was brave. How many times had she saved my ass when she was human? Three? How brave was she that she was willing, without any glamour talking her into it, to even agree to the whole relationship, and then marriage, in the first place.
Eight years, nine, next month. Last summer I had started to wonder if she would ever give in. She just waited until she passed the Bar. And it never occurred to me why she wanted to be sure that she was done with that. I didn't take any of her concerns beyond the sex issue seriously. I didn't even talk to her about anything else, beyond sex and blood. We never really talked about what it might cost her. I never gave it serious thought, really. I always thought she'd retain the telepathy. She was so saturated in my blood after eight years it was probably a miracle she hadn't already turned. But no matter what, didn't I really think that our life is just so much better, that any cost was just fine by me? Why should she have any worries? What can't be improved by being a vampire? Then I find out from Roberto that she was making contingency plans about what to do in case she ended up like Stan? She said nothing to me about that. Nothing. She was willing to risk giving up her telepathy, in order to be turned and stay with me. But she said nothing and I never thought to ask. But she told Roberto about it. She told him. He just reveled in it when he picked up on the fact that I didn't know anything about her concerns, that she had shared things with him that she had not with me. Maybe she didn't want me to feel she was potentially making a sacrifice? She's never been one to belabor anything after she's made her choices. She may agonize before she makes up her mind but when her decision is made she's like steel to the whetstone.
I still remember that argument I had that night with Roberto, thinking he could still try take her away from me. Fucking bastard. He was so amused that she was resistant to her sire, that I had finally had my 'comeuppance' for being so arrogant. Then he said that I had better treat her properly or that he and Stan would have something to say about it and that if we were really modernizing that I could just forget the idea that she was my 'property' to do with as I pleased. So fucking insulting. I told him he was such an asshole and he said I was just a different brand of asshole? Well apparently, in the end, maybe he was right. Stan kept insisting to me that she was fine and that I had to lay off the whole feeding thing with her. He was right. Stan insisted that she had the contract with Roberto and that he wanted it honored and that Roberto and I had better get our fighting under control or he'd tell Sookie to just move to Texas, take the Bar there and run her whole liaison operation and legal practice from Texas so that she could tell us both to just fuck off… 'Maybe she is too good for either one of you'? Every time I think of his saying that… Stan is so lucky I like him. I could have fucking ripped him in two when he said that to me. He had such balls to come to my own spread and tell me that shit to my face. I seriously wonder if he had a stake in his jacket to have risked telling me that when we were alone in my office. It took every ounce of control not to go after him. And her contract... I had to honor her fucking contract with Roberto and let her keep working or he'd personally go after me for messing up her life and I better not try to fuck with her invaluable services to the Alliance, either?
I know she knows some of what was going on with Roberto, even if I refused to discuss it. But she didn't ask anything after that night in the Bellagio, like she really didn't want to know or talk about anything else related to it. I can't imagine what she would have done if she knew that I'd told Roberto I planned to keep her from going back after October and pointed out that he himself had told me that she'd given her notice. Fucking Roberto saying I was acting like she was chattel. I didn't give a damn about what Stan or Roberto said about it but in the end I just couldn't imagine what she would have done if I had said I wouldn't let her to go back to Vegas. I really think she would have left me if I'd done that. When I even tried to broach the idea of quitting the casino work she said it keeps her sharp and that it's the best workout her mind could ever have. That it might even be dangerous not to be working regularly in a situation with so much going on. In that light, what choice did I have but to let her continue? I put memories of that argument with Roberto as far back in my mind as I could get them. She was mine, so what did it matter. I told Stan that the deal was that she'd be back in NOLA by dawn every night, using the teleportation to an advantage. Bring her home and she'd be hungry to boot, so maybe she'd finally start to feed properly. Well, at least she was home... I really can't believe that she does not know what he feels for her. What he feels was abundantly obvious in that argument he had with me. It was even worse than I thought when I talked to him that night she'd first shown up in the casino after she turned. She has to know. Yet, she still likes working for him, still seems comfortable with the whole situation, though I think she spends much more time with Liesel than with him. Not that I leave her much option about spending a lot of time there. But I still wonder, what does she think of him, if she knows how he feels about her. Maybe it doesn't even matter to her? She's taken the way Bill Compton is for all this time. She still acts as if she is very committed. She has never given me any reason to question her loyalty or fidelity. Best to leave it alone.
Looking back, this has even been worse than how I behaved after the whole thing with that Hallow bitch. I've been even nastier at times, angrier. Because I have no way of getting her to do what I want or think she needs to do, short of breaking my word about compelling her, hurting her and risking her breaking with me. Only that night she was drained, when it was a desperate situation. But for all those months, I was in her face every night. I wouldn't even let her stay the day at any job, so she could wake up and eat when and what she wanted in peace. No, I had to 'keep an eye on her'. It's amazing that she never went after me for all the crap I threw her way, about the way she chooses to sustain herself. Because I know she'd been getting more and more disgusted with my attitude. The last argument we had about it, before the Raedself thing, she just poofed in the middle of my telling her off about how pale she was, that she was avoiding the inevitable, that she was being neurotic. She said she went to Banff. That time she said was 'getting really sick of hearing it' and then went off to her office and didn't speak to me the rest of the night. The looks Pam, and even Thalia, gave me that night. But still, a few days later, when her grandfather snapped me into that charming web of his magic, she was threatening to rip his throat out if he hurt me. She was so upset looking at those burns. I felt her anger even though she hardly ever lets me feel when she's getting angry. First about me, but then especially about Hunter. 'Sookie's Golden Rules'... She was so angry. Really, I don't remember ever seeing her as angry as she was that night, in all the time I've known her. Until the following week, that is, with the thing with Hunter and Claudine. But that wasn't really just anger the following week. That was ice cold, focused purpose like I haven't seen in quite some time from anyone. I seriously cannot imagine as she grows stronger what she will be like. That Brigant fire is really in her in terms of temperament, though she is cold like a glacier when it comes to acting on her anger, so it doesn't lead her astray. But now she says she wants to practice law and get Liesel and several assistants to do the non-Fae liaison work. She clearly doesn't give a damn about being the 'magical' vampire. The law, civil rights. That's her real interest, Pam says.
He glanced out the window again and turned back to his desk.
She's still out there talking to him. For more than half an hour now. Thalia said they just talk about the Fae and politics. I still don't understand why even a part-Fae would be willing to be bound to a vampire, even a part-demon Fae. That's one thing I want to ask her. Why. He acts as if actually loves her. He was so upset those nights before she began to heal. Perhaps, that's why she said he would never flip sides. But now he's bound to her. Really bound. You can still see it and feel it, even though we drained her almost dry, taking her back to the start on her strength. That bond is still there. You can feel it. What benefit is it to him? Can she still draw on his strength? She's bound someone far older than she is when she is six months vampire. Unbelievable. I don't even know how that can work. I waited ten centuries before I bound anyone. Rico's been very careful to make sure I don't think he's 'after her' in any way. That whole thought would be… let's just skip that thought.
Looking at her out there with Rico… you know, he's never glamoured when he's alone with her. He is himself with her. Maybe that's part of why she trusted him to do it, and to go with him there to get Hunter back. Though he said it was her idea to burn the Raedself's trees. She can see exactly what he is and she accepts it. When I asked her if she knew they eat people the other day she even said yes, and on top of it, she knew that he'd eaten people, even undead people, but that it didn't matter because he wasn't ever going to eat her or me or any of us because he didn't do stuff like that anymore. She knew and said that she totally trusted him.
She's laughing… That happy laugh of hers. The laugh I only really hear these days when she's with me in bed, when we're relaxed at the end of the night. Never on waking, since all she can think about is getting away in case I start up again on the feeding. I hope she sees that I've tried, really tried, to improve my attitude on the issue since Germany?
I leaned back and glanced out to the Courtyard again and saw her rise and take Rico's hand briefly, smile and say good night. Then she started walking toward the kitchen door.
Finally, she's going to get something to eat then. It's been what… three hours since we left the bed? She's so fucking stubborn. Checking her mail, paying bills, talking to Tan, talking to Thalia, to Anne, to Emily, calling Amelia, ordering more wedding shit with Pam. Anything but feeding. Sometimes lately I feel like she's almost doing it on purpose to make a point. Four hours last night. But I'm trying to give her more space. I can see it annoys her that I track what she does but I'm still her sire and I'm supposed to keep track of her. What was it that she said that other time she got so angry the week before Germany? That I was controlling enough to drive anyone in their right mind wrong?
Well, I still have a few more hours here but tonight I'm going to ask her. All about our little German adventure.
Pam knocked on the door and entered brusquely, carrying a piece of paper, which she placed in front of me on the desk.
"Did you know that Séamus Brigant has been going around telling people that Sookie is a part-Fae vampire and his niece? My friend Wendy in Dublin just sent me this email. She asked me if it's really true that my 'sister' is part-Fae, related to the Brigants and fights with elves? You know that word is going to work its way back to the States in no time, right? Does she know about this? She's so private. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing Sookie would approve of."
"Does she know? Probably. She's talked to him several times since Claudine's funeral. As Niall predicted, Séamus is 'endlessly impressed' about her killing his half-brother. They all just love her for it. Does she understand why people will talk about the rest of it for decades is a better question. Probably not. I still don't think she really grasps the general impression of what she did makes on people. She only thinks it was a big deal to Niall and the elf, to Hunter because he was rescued, and maybe the werepanther pack because they saw her do part of it. As for word working its way here, I heard from Herveaux that some of Norris's people have already been talking about what she did that night in Hotshot. I guess it's a good thing that Norris always liked her so much because according to Herveaux at least they tell people she did it to rescue a child, not to go cavorting with demons."
"I really wish I could have seen it. All of it. It sounds amazing."
I could hear Sookie in the hall, probably on her way to her office. She whisked by the open door, not even stopping. I could smell her. She's had some real blood tonight. I can smell it in her scent. Good. We should hire more Weres. If I get enough Weres on staff, maybe she'll get more tempted. She just loves Were blood. Quite amusing. Even if I'm going to be more accepting, there's nothing wrong with being hopeful. I just want her to look robust. So people who don't know her will not even think about trying anything.
"Well, I really wouldn't recommend the crossroads portion of the experience, Pam."
"You always were such a sissy, Eric. Seriously, it was really that bad? She said the fairies and elves won't even set foot in the place."
I just looked at her. It was a very bad place. The stuff of nightmares. Of course, Sookie took it all in stride, familiar as she is with so many kinds of demons or Fae and both of us protected by Rico, under by his oath of fealty. She is really crazy, my wife- that's what they're all going to say. Like I care. Could you have a better partner with you for a fight or a war?
After a moment's pause, in which she absorbed my silence on the matter, Pam continued, "But on another note… now you don't care anymore about her just drinking it from a bottle or a glass, right? She had some blood the phlebotomist drew from Edwin. The first real blood in about three weeks since she had all that blood after she was drained. She said she had to go on a job later this week and would have more tomorrow. Edwin's getting a friend to donate some because she won't take any from Emily because of the pregnancy. But this is okay with you now? I need to be sure because we're keeping the phlebotomist on call. You're satisfied that she's fine the way she is?"
"She's magnificent the way she is, Pam. As long as she eats, I don't care how she gets it."
Pam gave me the snidest look.
"What?" I asked sharply.
"Nothing. I'll get back to correspondence."
"What was the look for, Pamela?"
She hesitated, edged closer to the door and then said with a wry look,
"It's about time, Your Majesty."
She bolted swiftly, leaving the office before I could toss anything at her. I was tired of messing up my office anyway. And it would just annoy Sookie if she had to arrange for more repair work. Now that she was no longer awake during the day, she was quite edgy about having workmen in the house without her personal supervision. This, in spite of Rico and Hubert's careful watch over the compound during the day. Tan was also watchful and we all trusted Tan and Anne now with our lives while we rested during the day. But they weren't telepaths. I tended to side with her on the issue. The less repair work required, the better. With scares like that Fellowship plot at Roberto's hotel, you never really know who you're giving access to. It was one of the reasons I'd kept the number of people actually living in the residence area of the compound so limited. The smallest full time residential complement of probably any Alliance King or Queen. Few were lucky to have someone as ruthless and thorough as Thalia could be, or as efficient as Pam, though. Having a small group you could trust and contracting outside help for the other business was much safer. And no one had daytime guards quite like Rico and Hubert patrolling the halls and grounds of their compound, either. There were half-demons aplenty in the world, but few of them were also half-Fae.
After another few minutes of reading through various Alliance bureaucratic crap, I got up and walked down the hall toward her office. I wanted to see her. I could hear her on the phone as I stealthily approached the office. This was our game, to see how close I could get. Barefoot, I was quite silent.
"Well, Jason, you should have thought of that before you started. Same old, same old… What? Yes, you still owe her the child support! What is wrong with you? No! It has nothing to do with anything she does. Don't be a moron, Jason. It supports your children, and that woman works hard supporting them and herself. You know, so help me, I'll report you if I find out that you're not paying and they'll garnish your wages… I am not threatening you Jason. I'm telling you that you had damn well better do right by my nieces or I'll be making sure legally that you do… You can be such a pill at times, you know that? Well, if she's not letting you see them then take her to court. But you better pay her every dime she is due in the meantime, Jason. I'm serious. No judge in the world is going to side with you if you are not paying her… Hang on a minute…"
She paused for a moment listening. I could hear her sniffing the air then felt a subtle, cool sensation in my mind.
Her awareness was just getting sharper and sharper. I moved the last ten meters down the hall and pushed open the door and looked at her, smiling. She looked slightly pinker from having had the blood. But just slightly. She hadn't had all that much. There was also an empty bottle of True Blood A positive on a coaster at the corner of her desk. That must have been why she passed the office so quickly, I realized. She looked invitingly attractive as always. That deep v-necked ruby red sweater I liked… She was so beautiful. Maybe even more so than than the first time I'd met her. Beautiful as a human, but truly gorgeous as a vampire. So graceful, so sensual, so intelligent. Her eyes had taken in my glance at the bottle on her desk and she stiffened ever so slightly. She looked at me guardedly then.
She's worried I'll start up when she's on the phone with him. I need to make it clear it's not about the stupid True Blood.
"Lover. You're busy. I can come back later."
"But did you want something? I can call Jason back…" she said almost cringing.
"Just you, Lover," I said, raking my eyes over her again. "Just you. Give Jason my best, as always," I said with a raised eyebrow. Third marriage down the tubes, problems with the second divorce. Hard to believe he's related to Sookie at all.
Her eyes widened just ever so slightly at the 'just you' and my lustful look. She shook her head and smiled slightly mischievously.
"Again, eh?" she said as she pulled the phone away from her ear, covering it and looked through several stacks on her desk and then at something on the computer. "I'll be done by 3:30 or 4 at the latest."
"'Til later then, my Lover…" I said.
She smiled that smile I love and put the phone back to her ear with a nod.
She still loves me, even if I have taken her to the very brink of disliking me at times in the past six months… That look, she looked happy. It's not just the sex. She loves me, still. I see it in her eyes. It's there next to the guarded look that I'm so sick of seeing. That I helped ingrain.
"Eric says hello. No, Jason, he did not say 'fuck you'," she said chuckling. "He wouldn't even bother… Yeah, that's right you better cut him some slack. He did go with me… What? Jason, there is not a chance in hell," more chuckling… "that I would have let you be there. Leave Calvin alone about it. Get a grip. You've got three kids to support. No fairies do not go there. It's… Jason, there's stuff that you don't know about the Fae, okay? And trust me, you don't want to know… enough said. Now back to your visitation situation. This is what you need to do. There's a form in the Clerk's Office at the Caddo Parish Courthouse that you can fill out to request a hearing. You just have to provide a copy of your divorce decree, so they know they have jurisdiction, and probably the Family Court Case Number… Request a nighttime hearing. There's a place where you check off that you need one. So do that and when you get the date, just let me know as soon as possible. My only totally blocked out dates are July 20-27. I can't do it then, but I don't think the date will be that late. If it is we'll just get a reset… Yes, we. What do you mean? Jason, you just told me you can't afford an attorney when you're supporting three kids. Do you honestly think that I wouldn't help you? I will fight like you won't believe so you can see Em and Patty. I promise…"
As mad as she gets at Jason, and she'd been plenty mad at times, she sticks by him through thick and thin. That's Sookie.
I walked back down the hall to deal with that mountain of Alliance bureaucratic crap on my desk that always made me so happy I agreed to be a fearsome leader. I decided to look at my independent engineer's evaluation of the levees in the Ninth Ward around Desire first, though. At least that would be more usefully spent time. It was important to try to protect that investment in the rebuilding. Those levees had been a disgrace before.
I heard strains of Neko Case's "Hold On, Hold On" from Sookie's office. Not the usual Bach or Vivaldi that she favored while reading. She must be writing to people, I thought to myself. I refocused on the music in my office, Sibelius' Swan of Tuonela and the Lemminkäinen Suite. I read.
The levees near Desire were still shit. A risk to eight years of rebuilding and tens of millions of dollars of investment. I seriously wondered if we should just circumvent them entirely and fuck the Federal government. Maybe we could build a new levee on private land. We owned enough of it at this point anyway... I'd have to get the engineer to look at the surveys. Those people should not have their land go underwater again.
I switched to listening to Coltrane then to the Doors and then finally settled on Metallica. I needed something appropriate for looking at the Alliance bureaucratic bullshit. Centuries of vampire intrigue had been replaced with endless forms, reports and rules. Better and more modern. But somehow, so much less enjoyable.
Afterwards, she sighed as she leaned over the edge of the bed to retrieve the light reading materials I'd found her pouring over when I came back to the room much later than I planned, at almost 4:30 am. Maxwell with his need to delineate every possible detail by phone. Still as compulsive as the day I made him Sheriff in Area 5. Maxwell was a great success in Area 5 and I'd never regretted making him Sheriff. But every conversation was like a novel.
"Do you really need to go back to reading that stuff right now… I thought we could talk," I said quietly, my hand on her hip, steading her as she lifted the books.
"Just picking things up… I don't want to lose my place."
She picked up two heavy books, one on Preparation for the Texas Board of Law Examiners Bar Examination, the other a huge volume that dealt with Texas State Statutes. She slipped some notes into the latter and closed the book. She placed them on her nightstand, next to an even taller stack of Nevada law books. When I'd come in, she told me that Nevada was a nightmare and that she didn't know if she'd pass that one. I'd reminded her that she was fierce, which at least got her to laugh.
She turned back to me and in the candlelight I could see the still sparkling copper flecks in her eyes. Her eyes still never really glowed. They sparked. It was the Fae blood, I guess. Fierce Brigant eyes, had they been green instead of aquamarine blue. She smiled at me but seemed to hesitate a bit. Finally she said,
"I really think you need to cool it on sampling my blood Eric. I think the residual stuff from Rico is really getting to you or something. I just... Don't get me wrong, the past two weeks has been great, but..."
"I'm not hurting you, am I?" That would be the very last thing we need… Maybe two or three times a night is laying it on too thick?
"No, but… I mean come on Eric… seriously. What's the deal?"
"You seemed to be enjoying yourself… unless I am very mistaken, which admittedly, lately…"
She looked at me oddly.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I leaned back heavily into the pillows. I was just silent. Still not saying it… Uppenbarligen är jag en sådan röv, jag kan inte ens säga det... Underbar. ('Apparently, I am so much of a asshole, I can't even say it… Wonderful.')
"Eric, if this isn't some side effect from my having had Rico's blood then, what the heck? How did you ever survive my being human? Were you in an eight year drought? And… why now? What is so different now versus three months ago, for instance?"
"You're not as fragile as I thought you were. And I find the fact that you can frighten elves to be positively sexy. In fact, I have to say I feel safer knowing I have you at my side. Or under me or on top of me," I said with a mischievous look but fully meaning it.
"I'm serious, Eric. What's going on with you?"
"I am serious, too. She was really afraid of you. It was incredibly sexy, Lover. Can't you see what a turn-on it…"
She whacked me with her pillow.
This all seems so familiar... She really gives new meaning to the phrase 'pillow talk'. Maybe it's an easy way to be mad at me without anything bad happening. And what am I going to tell her? That I want her to look at me with pleasure instead of wariness and the only time I'm sure to see that is when we fuck? Something tells me that wouldn't be a smooth way to convey it...
As usual, I won in less than two minutes even though she was a ten times stronger than she was before she was turned. Although she was noticeably weaker after having been drained only a few weeks before. But we both ended up laughing. After retrieving all six pillows, I climbed back into the bed and pulled her partially on top of me.
"Your version of pillow talk continues to be a losing prospect. I think you should give up and admit that I will always win."
"I will never give up and I do wish you would answer the question."
"Why? Because we can. Very simple. So Lover, I wanted to ask about our little German adventure. I have questions. Many questions."
"Ask away, my Liege…" she said in a voice laden with sarcasm.
"You know, I can do the pillow thing too, and I probably hit harder than you."
"You better not. These pillows were a fortune. If you break them, I won't clean it up. And you won't be happy with the replacements, either."
"Right then." I will be extra careful with the down pillows. I do not clean. Anything. "Do we owe Rico for his having let you do this? And I'm curious as to why he'd offer to be bound to you in such a way? It seems so unusual for someone even part Fae to want to be so closely tied to a vampire."
For the next half an hour she explained all about her friendship with Rico, not 'owing' Rico anything other than continued friendship, that it was ludicrous to think of Rico really being bound to her in any conventional sense of a blood bond, that in doing it, he actually made it easier on himself because she was more resistant to things that might harm her, stronger, and therefore less work to protect. The bond was still there however, and she said that she could in fact draw on it, if she needed to, if he was close enough. We didn't owe the demons anything because they didn't operate like the Fae when it came to favors and besides they were really Rico's family and friends and they enjoyed spruce trees. She also talked about how she had read and basically figured out on her own how to invoke the portal at the Hotshot crossroads. She got up and went over to the wall safe in our room, opened it, and after shifting the cash and the ceremonial knife and other things, carefully took out a silk wrapped item that I'd seen but never really paid much attention to inside. She unwound a leather-bound book carefully and after looking at my hands with no small suspicion to see if they were clean enough, handed it to me. It looked like it was several hundred years old at the very least. Reading my thoughts, she said,
"Around 1725. Rico says his grandmother told him she got it around 1725. But it's probably older than that. I'm really thinking about how to conserve it better."
I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "So how old is Rico?"
"He thinks he's about 550 years old. He's not really sure. He has… family issues. The two sides of his family don't get along. They give differing ages for him. He remembers reports of the end of the War of Roses. So it seems like he was old enough even in 1485 to have kept up with goings on in the world around him. But he really doesn't know exactly how old he is."
"I'm quite familiar with the feeling. What language is this? It's… Celtic?" I asked tracing my finger over some of the words. It was definitely some type of Celtic language but not one which I could easily decipher.
"It's Welsh. Or maybe it's Middle Welsh. I really can't tell the difference. Rico can read some of it because of his paternal Grandmother, who was Welsh Fae. We asked Hubert to help us. Hubert speaks fourteen or fifteen languages and is pretty good with Welsh. I think he said it was more like Middle Welsh?"
I turned to her, quite surprised. In my experience, Hubert hardly speaks at all?
"Really? Hubert hardly talks at all. I never would have guessed. Other than German and English."
"He speaks Norse. Old Norse. I found that one out about a week ago. Swedish, too. He likes Nordic, Celtic and Germanic languages best. But he knows some Latin and Slavic stuff too. You never talk to him. He never talks unless you talk to him and draw him out. I just don't know him as well as I know Rico. And I'm still a little scared of him, actually. Rico told me to be careful and go slow with Hubert and I take Rico's advice very seriously. Hubert's really interesting, though. But anyway, Rico gave me the book as a gift at Christmas. And that's when I began to figure out how to work a portal. You can open the portal with any words in any language and your clearly focused intent. You raise it with magical intent, just like teleporting involves intent to go a particular place. The book talks early on about how the Fae hate Latin, so Latin seemed a good safe way to go and I already knew some Latin because of studying law. The Fae and demons don't like the Latin because they associate it with the Christians, who drove out the pagans and changed their natural order. They actually fear the language. Rico is so funny, he says that it's like the Black Speech of Mordor in the Tolkien world. That it sounds that foul to them. So I just put Latin together with some mental focus of the intent to see the portal and we tried it. It worked to raise it, then to open and close it. And using the Latin kept things away from the opening because they feared the language, when you cross the threshold you can hear the echos of the words used to open it resounding. It seemed like that echo remains in the open portalway. After that success, which was back in January, I just read more, and… I guess it's worked out well. I'd probably never have been able to do any of it without Rico's grandmother's book. Well, maybe that's not true. I might have been able to do it but knowing more details makes it much safer."
I just nodded. I took it all in but was still stuck on my never talking to Hubert. On the fact that she had known how to do this since January and never said a word of it to me.
Not knowing that someone who had worked for us for almost five years speaks Old Norse? It's almost as bad as not knowing your wife could do all these many things. All I had to do was start asking her in a non-accusatory way and she's telling me all this stuff. I was so busy telling her how I thought she should be that I never asked a damn thing. She's actually happy talking about it. She is happy to share it. What was so fucking wrong with me? Varför har jag agera på det sättet för alla dessa månader? ('Why did I act that way for all those months?')
"You can find the portals or you just know this one from Claudine? Niall said Claudine had told you about that one," I said.
"There are markers, and sometimes obvious guardians, like the trees. Actually, now that I've been through two different ones, I realize you can even smell the magic of them. It's very distinctive. I can find them, yes. I'm sure of it."
She was busy looking at a section near the back of the book, where she had slipped in a paper with some translations of a long passage. It was partly her handwriting and then there was additional writing in a much heavier style that I guessed was Hubert's. She leaned toward me and said,
"See here… there's even a long passage that deals with ways to make a portal. But I… Hmmm, I don't think I'd ever be up for trying that. Seems risky. I can find them and that's probably enough for me. Although, I don't know, maybe to be prepared in an emergency situation it would be invaluable. I'll have to think about it."
I reached up and stroked a strand of her hair behind her ear.
"Why didn't you tell me any of this before, Sookie."
Her face darkened. It was one of those times where I couldn't really quite feel her. She has gotten so skillful in limiting everything to only certain feelings. She just won't leave it alone, our connection. She has to tailor it, edit it. Censor it. Only positive feelings flow through it. She has cut me off from all the emotions I can read in her face, her body language, at a moment like this. As if she doesn't want me to feel her anger at me.
She closed the book and then began carefully wrapping it in the silk cloth again. She rose and put it back in the safe and seemed almost reluctant to come back to the bed.
"Why?" I asked again offering her my hand and then pulling her back near me when, after another moment, she took it.
"Eric, you already know why. Because of your attitude. Because I just…" she gasped slightly. "It doesn't matter. You know now."
Her face looked like a mask. She isn't angry at all. She is hurt. She is so wounded by my behavior, my attitude. Looking at her in the fading candlelight, I could see she was so wounded she was even beyond crying about it. She has been deeply hurt by me, by my manner. It has made her feel... rejected?
"Sookie, you can tell me that I've been an complete asshole. That I was a fucking idiot. You can. Really."
"It appears that's not necessary," she said sharply, looking away from me. "You've already been covering that territory quite well on your own for the past few days. I'll just leave you to it and hope things improve as a result."
I looked away and closed my eyes.
There are times when she says things that are just so cutting. She is not going to let me off easily by just telling me off. But really, I don't deserve to be let off easily. And excellent sex is not an apology, no matter how much of it you offer, no matter how much pleasure you give. It's only a temporary solution when real forgiveness is required.
"I love you, Sookie."
I glanced back at her. Her expression was still so remote.
It still isn't what I need to say. Why is it so fucking hard for me to admit how wrong I've been about things? I'm not used to apologizing for anything. Even less so now. I'm not even used to being wrong and needing to apologize. And to have to apologize to her, for having hurt her… having hurt her so deeply? It is so long since I felt so… lost. When did I last apologize, really, to anyone other than her... but I always have to make light of it, diminish it. But this...
I picked her hand and kissed it and looked into her eyes. The eyes I love, that haunt me when I see how guardedly she looks at me in recent months. The words suddenly spilled out from some place deep inside...
"Jag hade fel. Jag ber om förlåtelse, min älskade." I closed my eyes with her hand pressed to my lips. "I was wrong. I ask for your forgiveness, my Lover," I translated softly.
My voice sounded ragged, not like me at all. I looked at her again, meeting her eyes. She winced and closed her eyes as if absorbing my words and let out a soft sigh. I pulled her to me and leaned her against my chest. Pressing my chin against her forehead I continued softly,
"Jag älskar dig som du är. Förlåt mig, min älskade... I love you as you are. Forgive me, my Lover. Forgive me."
With my chin pressed against her, in that moment, I gave a low gasp as I finally understood. Understood all the anger, the fear, the apprehension of loss that I had felt for these many months. Maybe for years. It all stemmed from things I would not let myself remember. Things that I had shut away long ago.
I have not felt sorrow over a loved one since I watched my wife die in childbirth more than a thousand years ago as a human. I had not let myself feel it. Even as a human, I shut all the loss away. I have not let myself truly feel for any companion until now. Now I marry again, share my bed every night for years and years. I love her. I fear for her. But I hurt her, almost lost her, and in the past seven months find myself thinking again and again that I have harmed her because of my selfish desire to turn her… Losing Auđr is what I remember. What I fear to feel again. I would not lose another wife. Could not... Could not. Jag kan inte bära trodde... (I cannot bear the thought…')
She shuddered and I felt a flood of emotions as she just broke down crying, presssing herself against me. I held her and then she let me feel… everything.
It felt like the world going from black and white to color.
After a time, she turned her face up to me and I knew she saw, before I had been able to shut it all away again.
She knew. Knew why I had to walk into that place with her, rather than let her go alone. Knew… all of it? Knew I couldn't possibly speak of it.
She was silent, but cautiously took up my hand and touched my wedding band.
Please don't ask, Lover, because I cannot bear to speak of it, of what it felt watching someone you grew to love die a slow and agonizing death giving me another child she never should have had. Maybe I was lucky I died so soon after and did not have to deal with really feeling anything again for so very long. Because it is so hard. Even like this. Even with you safely turned.
Then, she interlaced her fingers with mine and kissed my hand.
"I... understand. I love you, Eric. I forgive you. And I hope you forgive me. But I have to have my own way. You loved me. This is who I am. I am not like you, at least not in some ways. But I am strong. In different ways from what you anticipated. But I cannot be what I am not. It would be wrong of you to ask me to be different. I never asked you to be different from what you are. You need to let me be as I am."
"I'll say it again. I love you as you are."
Our little German adventure had shown me that we were safer with her being just as she was.
And she was magnificent in my eyes.