It's political. I never suspected she would stand for this sort of thing - pandering to people she doesn't know, doesn't like, just to make someone else happy. As much as she has always put others first, in our entire acquaintance she has never been able to put the desires of others above her pride when she believes herself to be in the right. In my time, I would have called her pig-headed, but it never kept me from loving her. You can love someone very much even when you don't particularly like them or what they do.
She flits from table to table and makes nice with people who have, in the past, expressed honest desire for her demise, her capture, or simply to possess her. But things are different now, because she basks in the most complete protection that can be afforded someone with a heartbeat. She no longer has to fear them, and they have bigger fish to fry. While rare, she is not the only telepath to be had, and the rest can be had at a price much more agreeable to their palates - one that will not cause a war.
Previous lovers are given the same attention that strangers are, basking in her delight. Those who once stood on precarious terms with her due to the very relationship she celebrates today are not snubbed, nor are their faces rubbed in her situation. Instead, they come to share in her good fortune, and put on a happy face and pretend like they haven't argued about this with her for literally years.
I wonder if I ever had a real chance. I did love her. Do. Do love her. But from the moment we met, it was a house of cards built on a foundation of lies, and she never got the chance to know me - the man I was, the man I could be, when not involved in subterfuge of the most dangerous kind. She said to me, before she told me of what was to happen tonight, that she did love me, but I found I wasn't sure that I believed her. She thought she loved me, but in reality she loved the idea of me - a man who wanted her despite her differences, a man who doted upon her, a man with whom she could have some semblance of a real relationship with. I may have given her many things, but she never got the opportunity to know how I may have courted her if I wasn't a man on a mission - how things might have been.
Of course, I would never have returned to Bon Temps if it were not for seeking her out. My family home may have been the impetus with which the Queen decided I should be the perfect agent for her mission, but I never had any intention of revitalizing it. I did it to make my excuse plausible. I remember that I was not very kind to her in the beginning - she may have mistaken it for an expected vampiric attitude towards humans, but it was very much a particular dislike directed at her personally. I hated being told I was to seduce someone, much less a human. I wanted nothing more than to be left alone, but such was not my fate. I came to love her, but by the time I realized it, I also knew there were simply too many lies between us for any real confession to be taken with its intended weight.
The perfect Southern hostess, she charms her new husband's friends and his acquaintances, and they are enthralled by her - that which always drew the supernaturals to her, her ability to see beyond their superhuman qualities, is the same that makes them laugh with her now. Her smile is not the forced one, it is absolutely genuine, because she is truly happy. It took me some time to figure out why it looked wrong on her face, only to realize it was because it had never looked more right. She has never been simply happy - for one reason or another, it has been denied her these many years.
They are some sort of supernatural royalty, a modern day Jackie and John, without the secret affairs, I assume, because I think these days she has quite the nose for a lie, and even if she didn't, I doubt he would stray. I wouldn't, if I were him. While she engages with one side of the room, he plays the part with the other side, and her attention is piqued by the loud sound of laughter from another corner. Her head turns, and she sees him, and she keeps smiling that smile, and then goes back to her conversation.
I'm not sure how many of them are playing nice because they love her or are afraid of him as opposed to the number who are genuinely fond of the pair of them - I know perhaps that number is more than it used to be, and I can no longer tell who will go home and drink themselves into a stupor because this was the final straw. The shifter has found a mate of his own, and it seems to have lifted the pall of 'broken heart' from the way he stands and the way he genuinely kisses her temple and calls her 'cherie' like he was born and raised here, with family in the swamps. While he may still have regrets on that score, they are the sort that he has come to terms with. He may not like the vampire, but he knows how it is between them, and knows that despite their differences, he can trust the other to protect her.
That always seemed the most important. Protection. So many of them couched their affection in a desire to protect her, to shield her fragility from the big bad world just waiting to snuff out her light. She used to hate when people said 'it's for your own good'. Nothing got her dander up like being handled. But here she is, playing the part like she was born to it, and maybe she was. She should have gotten an Ivy League education and married a senator and sent her children to private school. But instead she had no better than a high school diploma and a job waiting tables. She needed someone to take her away from all that, and part of me still wishes it could have been me. I should have whisked her away from all the dangers the world held, but she would not have let me do so, even if I had told her the truth from the beginning.
I've been so intent on staring at her, that she's become a fixed image on my retinas, and I did not notice him approach her until her girlish giggle broke through the murmuring waves of clustered conversation. But he's there, with his arms around her waist, his tall body curled around her shorter form like a large comma, pulling her into himself as he whispers in her ear and kisses her neck which she loves, but which tickles and makes her yelp with glee. She turns her head to kiss him, and their audience applauds, and I hate how they all pander to them just as much as they return the favor. This is an entire gathering of lies, but somehow they are more acceptable than other sorts of falsehoods.
Kings and queens offer her their congratulations as retinues point out schedules which must be kept; men and women in positions of power and the entourages she knows well give her kisses on the cheek, on the hand, as they say they wish they could stay. But dawn approaches, and the airport is still a bit of a drive, you see, or tomorrow they must return to their regular lives, as they can't afford to ignore the real world like certain honeymooners they know.
The party has wound down enough that the caterers have begun to clear the dishes before she comes to me, and I've been distracted again, staring off into space, so that even her soft touch on my shoulder startles me.
I take her hand, and I kiss it, tugging gently to bring her around to face me, pulling my feet off a chair and leaning forward to dust it off before I insist she sit with me a minute.
"Congratulations, Sookie," I say, because I have to, because it's what people do, and because in my first completely selfless act, I want her to simply be happy - there's nothing in it for me, except perhaps her gratitude that I played nice tonight.
She smiles, and squeezes my hand.
"When do you leave?"
"It's a long flight?"
"Mmhmm. Twenty-three hours because we have a layover in Boston. Have to change planes before we head overseas. You know, I actually looked it up on one of those online websites, if I we weren't taking Anubis, it would take us thirty-two hours. I mean, sitting around in Boston is bad enough, but I think going the regular way we fly from New Orleans to Minneapolis and over to Boston. I don't see why we can't just fly straight up to Boston? I'll never understand," she says with a wave of her hand, sitting back a bit in the seat and lets out a sigh. "At least I'm getting one of those seats that turns into a bed. I don't know how anyone else would do it, that long of a flight stuck in one of those tiny little seats? I'd go nuts. I don't think I'm claustrophobic, really, but I think I'd develop it real quick, you know?"
"Where are you staying?"
"Are you kidding me? I'm lucky I know where we're flying into," she scoffs, and leans in with a conspiratorial glint in her eye. "I hate surprises, and he knows it, and it does it anyway, and it pisses me off."
I can't help but chuckle. I want to ask if there's trouble in paradise already, but from me it would just sound petty. So I don't.
"You love surprises," I say with a secret grin.
"I know," she sing-songs and leans back in her chair again, and with another sigh, reaches up and starts pulling pins out of her hair.
"It's probably time for me to get home."
"Mmhmm. Dawn in about an hour, I think."
We sit in silence for a moment, and I watch her out of the corner of my eye while she picks out bobby pins and plays with them in her lap.
"Thank you for coming. It means a lot, it really does," she says quietly, and I smile at her, knowing that despite its genuine nature, it can't help but look sad, and I know she knows that too.
"I would have come even if you hadn't invited me."
"I know. But I did. I never wouldn't've, you know."
The jingle of bobby pins and the clatter of plates fills the silence, but it's not awkward - it just is.
"Sookie?" he says, and she looks up at him.
"Be right there," she says.
"I should go."
"I was told the bride should be the last to leave her own party, so I can't leave until you do, Bill Compton," she tries to jest with me, and she succeeds in getting me to smile again. She's just too happy, and it's contagious, even though I am leeching off her good mood to keep mine afloat.
"Then consider me gone, Sookie Stackhouse."
"Watch my house while I'm gone?"
We rise together, and she puts her hands on my shoulders and leans in to kiss my cheek. Her lips rest there so fleetingly, but it's divine anyway. Then she hugs me, and I rest my head in the crook of her neck, saying my final goodbye to fantasies of my past before pulling away from her.
"That's that, then, I'm on my way, so you can leave your own party."
"I never told you how beautiful you looked today," I say quietly, and I clench one fist at my side, keeping my fingers from sweeping a blonde curl off her face.
"Thank you," she says, just as quietly, and gives me one more brief kiss on the cheek, and reaches for my hand, squeezing it once, before she turns away.
I lost her before this day, if indeed I ever really had her. I lost her a long time ago, and it wasn't to him, it was to herself, because if my lies had not been exposed when they had been, I would have told her myself. I couldn't keep it from her any longer, and had decided that I couldn't lie back and think of Louisiana any longer. I wanted her for myself, and knew I couldn't have her and make the Queen happy at the same time. I didn't plan it very well, but in the end, fate made the decision for me, and exposed me before I could expose myself. Which only assures me it was never meant to be.
But that thought will never keep me warm at night. Nor will it make this hurt any less.
Maybe in my next life, I will deserve her.
# # # # #
Cheers darling, here's to you and your lover boy
Cheers darling, I got your wedding bells in my ear
I die when you mention his name
I lied, I should have kissed you
I die when he comes around to take you home
What am I, darling? A whisper in your ear, a piece of your cake?
Or your biggest mistake?
-Cheers Darlin', Damien Rice