A/N: WOW I'm totally overwhelmed by all ya'll's support! I wasn't sure how many people were still following/invested in the story, so thank you guys so much for your reviews : ) Kudos to everyone who caught the Buffy reference, I've made a bit of a habit out of scene-stealing! I also took into account the critique that there wasn't enough S/E interaction in the last chappie, so I'm starting with a flashback. Enjoy!
His face grinned down at me boyishly. "It's not mine," he exhaled exuberantly, and expectantly.
There was an awkward pause as my brain processed this statement.
Finally, almost imperceptibly, my body slumped against the doorframe.
An anger I had never known was welling up inside of me. I could practically taste it, rising in my throat like bile, threatening to choke me with its sudden viciousness.
I knew it was going to poison my next words, but I released them, anyway.
"And why would you think that I care, Eric?" Although I spoke carefully, evenly, the venom behind my words was unmistakable.
His face quickly fell, but he tried to recover as he pleaded with me.
"Sookie, I know what this has done to us. I know it's been a horrible, difficult time for you, and for me. But I still love you. I'm sorry that this has happened. You haven't deserved any of it. Please give me a chance to make it right."
I looked at him, really looked. His blue eyes were bright with energy and the vitality he had exuded when we were first together. Golden hair shining, tall and broad shouldered, a veritable white knight, my Prince Charming. I still felt that magnetic pull between our bodies. It would be so easy, so right, to close the gap between with a few small steps. To press myself against him, kiss those amazing lips, lose myself in his arms, and allow him to break the spell of my misery in an echo of every fairy tale I'd heard in my youth.
I had barely registered the telephone ringing in the background. But now my grandmother's voice jolted me back to reality. "You have reached the Stackhouse residence…" began the machine. I still hadn't had a chance to change the recording, or at least that's what I'd been telling myself.
And suddenly, the answer I'd been looking for had been there the whole time.
"No." I whispered.
Eric's eyes dimmed, and he frowned slightly. But his face showed no recognition of what I was saying.
I cleared my throat and tried again, more firmly this time. My voice was steeled but not totally without emotion.
"No, Eric. Too much time has passed. There's nothing you could ever do to erase the past few months, or to make up for them. And now, I think it's time for you to leave."
Converting that anger into physical strength, I quickly and decisively closed the door on him. Despite my self-control, I instinctively sought a final glimpse of his expression. Shock, and something else very dark and very ugly marred his beautiful features. At the time, I couldn't identify it.
But now, lying on the cold linoleum of Eric's classroom, I knew it was defeat.
Because my face was wearing a similar expression.
I was on my knees the instant after she fell. I rolled her over gently, and saw that there was an exit wound through her left shoulder. Later I would realize that the trajectory of the bullet was at an awkward angle, so that it had passed through Sookie, glanced the sleeve of my shirt, and embedded itself in one of the classroom walls.
But in this moment, all I could focus on was Sookie's wound. God, so much blood, everywhere, oh God, no, please, no, I thought frantically. And then, oddly, I wondered, what did they do in the movies? Oh yes, pressure. I hurriedly ripped off my tie and wrapped it tightly and awkwardly around her shoulder. After about a minute, Sookie's beautiful eyes fluttered open.
"Eric?" she asked weakly.
"I'm here, Sookie, love, I'm here," I replied, while my mind was racing furiously. "Hold on, hold on," I begged. I realized I needed to draw attention to my room, to get her help, or else carry her downstairs.
The gunfire had ceased, the sirens were louder, but my instinct to stick my head out of the window and scream for help was quickly dismissed by my otherwise irrational brain.
Fortunately Pam had heard the commotion, and I saw her rush into my room and stand against the opposite wall, holding her cell phone.
She looked at Sookie with horror and murmured, "Oh God," before being interrupted by whoever was on the phone.
"Yes, Room C211. A student has been shot, please send someone!" she urged firmly.
Her eyes were worried and she covered the mouthpiece of her phone. "Eric, they've managed to subdue the gunmen but they can't be sure they've found all of them. And they can't send anyone inside the school until they're certain…it's your call- do you want to wait here or find help?"
I looked down at Sookie, whose face was growing more and more pale every moment.
"Pam, you should stay here, just in case it's not safe in the hallways. But I'm going to carry Sookie outside. She need help right now," I tried to keep the anguish out of my voice, but the intensity was something I couldn't help.
Pam nodded and, after abruptly ending the phone call, explained to me that she needed to return to her classroom for the students who were remaining. "Be careful, Eric."
I implied that she should do the same, and quickly moved to lift Sookie.
"This is going to hurt, darling," I whispered softly into her ear. "But you've been so brave, you just have to keep doing it a little longer. I'm so proud of you, Susannah. You're so strong, so beautiful, honey…" I continued the trail of sweet nothings and praise as I raised her off of the ground as swiftly as possible.
She whimpered quietly. I accidentally looked into her eyes and it was almost my undoing.
The bluish-green orbs were frozen in fear and pain. Her breathing was labored as she tried to speak. Her voice faltered as she whispered,
"Eric…I'm going…to die…"
I clenched my jaw and shook my head furiously as I tried to ignore her face, which was growing pale at a rapidly alarming rate. "No, no, no. Hold on, just a little longer. You're going to be fine."
As I started to walk, as briskly as I could without jostling her, she rested her head limply against my shoulder and softly issued a few more words.
"I'm sorry…I'm sorry...Eric, please…please forgive me…"
Hot tears were filling my eyes, threatening to flood over my cheeks. I had to stay alert and focus on the hallways, just in case, but I wanted time to stop, and just look at her, so that I could make everything right.
My chest rumbled as I answered.
"Sookie, you're an angel. There's nothing to forgive. I am the one in the wrong. And you will be fine. You have to be okay, because I have to make everything up to you. God, I love you. You have to be okay."
I'm not sure when I passed out. The last thing I remembered was feeling Eric carrying me…and then nothing.
I woke up in a cold, sterile, white-washed room. I couldn't speak, there were tubes crowding my throat and my arms and my everywhere, it seemed. I thought I saw Jason, and Amelia, but I wasn't sure. I wanted to say, "Eric." Over and over again, I wanted to call for him.
But I couldn't; besides the tubes, I simply lacked the strength.
I didn't remember seeing him as I was reluctantly lulled back into a deep rest.
I was able to keep up the façade of a teacher simply being concerned for his student. Even in the ambulance, I was the model of a concerned citizen.
But when we got to the hospital, and they refused to admit anyone except family beyond a certain point, I was so bitterly tempted to scream the truth. That we had been intimate, as close as any husband and wife, and GODDAMIT THEY'D BETTER LET ME BACK THERE.
But right then Jason arrived, and they refused to allow him through because Sookie had gone straight to surgery.
I prayed furiously.
Fortunately, the national and local media attention was focused on the three gunmen and their motives, upbringings, weapons, etc. Sophie Ann and Andre had committed suicide in the school's courtyard, (almost romantic if you considered that they died in each other's arms and subsequently ignored the five innocent victims they had slain). On the other hand, Debbie Pelt had been taken down by snipers while attempting to flee the scene. Few mourned for them, but somehow media outlets like the TODAY show made them all out to be victims, just the same.
My wound was a clean one; the bullet had exited smoothly, and once it was irrigated and stitched up, it simply needed time to rest and heal.
Eric was by my side for the entire ordeal. He ignored the various suggestions of my friends and family that he should go home in order to sleep and refresh himself, replying simply that he felt responsible for my wellbeing, since he had been the one to carry me from the school.
Amazingly, everyone was so distracted by the audacity of Sophie Ann and her two accomplices that no one bothered to question his intentions.
After about a week, I was released and allowed to go home. Amelia visited occasionally, and Jason promised to be a faithful caregiver, but ultimately his immaturity conquered his hasty assurances and he fidgeted around the living room for a few hours before heading out to a friend's house.
I was lying on the couch, mindlessly watching a re-run of Buffy, when I heard a decisive knock at the door.
I grinned ecstatically wide, almost goofily, as Sookie walked across the stage in her cap and gown to receive her diploma.
She smiled gorgeously at the crowd before her gaze lingered on me for an extra moment. Her eyes brightened as she mouthed to me, "Love you."
I had handed in my resignation a week earlier, and was headed to a simple TA position at LSU while I entered their graduate school to work on my masters in History. Sookie would also be attending as an undergrad student, double-majoring in History and English. I had sold my candy-apple red corvette to help her finance her education. Although we had agreed it was a loan, privately I saw it as a gift to my future wife.
After that horrible day in April, there was never a doubt in my mind that we should be together. Despite her broken confession about what had happened with Bill after her grandmother's funeral, I still felt that I was undeserving of her love, and not the other way around. If she could forgive, I certainly could, too.
I unconsciously held my breath as I saw her walking towards me after the ceremony. The wind was gently caressing her curled blond locks, her eyes twinkled, she seemed to glow. I smiled broadly, happy, as I walked to meet her.