A/N: This was my submission for the 'Sookie's Secret Santa' Fick exchange. I'm so glad that I can thank my beta, Sheknitsnicely, for all the editing work she did on this fic for me now! You are the best!
Disclaimer: I don't own them, no surprises there!
"And you are sure that none of the Humans suspect what you are?" I asked my newest subject, William Compton, as I surveyed the house around me.
Why he would want to live here I had no clue, but as long as no harm came to his still living Human descendent while he was under the same roof and the day nurse who cared for the old man remained glamoured to believe that Bill simply worked all day seven days a week, I really didn't care what his motivations for moving from New Orleans to the boondocks were.
"Quite sure, my descendant Jessie," Bill gestured quietly to the old man sitting in his wheel chair by the fire, "is quite senile and the day nurse is competent enough to do her job, but no mental giant. All she cares about, one way or the other, is receiving her paycheck, which has increased significantly now that I have started living here. She won't make any trouble." I nodded my head.
"Just remember, nothing that happens to that man happens by your hand. By the smell of him, he doesn't have much longer to live anyway." I pinned Bill with my most withering glare, reminding him one more time that I would not tolerate him doing anything that caused suspicion of who or what he was.
"You have my word, Sheriff." He said, with the appropriate amount of deference. Satisfied that I'd made my point, I let myself out of the house, leaving Bill to whatever it was that he did on his long winter nights in this ridiculous little backwater he was so determined to call home once more.
I knew that I should have taken to the sky immediately after leaving and returned to my bar. It was Christmas Eve after all and, second to New Year's Eve, it had turned out to be quite the party night for lonely, young Humans in the past decades. Pam would be annoyed with me for wasting one more moment on Compton than I needed to and leaving her to keep everything in order, but something held me back.
I had begun to feel weary and dissatisfied in the last few years. Weary of the endless monotony of life, weary of hiding what I was, weary of attempting to blend in with the mindless cattle that surrounded me and dissatisfied with having to lower myself to the level of my dinner.
The bar was a wonderful investment and it had given me a bit of distraction over the last year, but already I was growing bored with it and I had no desire to rush back. No desire to sit out on the floor and play the part of the handsome owner, luring more and more young females, and males, in for the sake of business or glamouring a meal who would never remember the truth of what happened between us when I was finished with her. Not that I had ever found anyone I truly wanted to know me, save Pam, but still, the pointlessness of it all seemed to gnaw at me even more tonight than usual. I was tired of the charade and I found myself growing tired of…life.
The thought sent a shiver down my spine. Never in my almost thousand years had such a notion ever crossed my mind. I'd been unhappy at times, I'd hated my circumstances more than once, I had longed for something different, something new and exciting, countless times before, but never had I felt that living itself lacked worth.
Such a thought was dangerous to a Vampire, more dangerous than even the most determined enemy. I tried to push it, and its implications, from my mind as I found myself walking through what looked to be a cemetery that bordered Compton's property. It seemed to be quite old and large for a Human graveyard, the names on some of the headstones dating back to before the American Civil War and the words on others completely rubbed off by the passage of time and a lack of care.
In its own way the place was beautiful: beautiful and blessedly peaceful on this night. I paid no attention to where I was walking, I simply enjoyed the moments of solitude and quiet for what they were: a respite before returning to the real world. But as I ambled I found myself following, quite without realizing it, a scent on the wind. It had been light at first, barely just a hint of something sweet and lovely in the cool December air, but as I followed it, it became stronger and, by the time I realized that was what I was doing, I could not have turned back even if I had wanted to.
The cemetery was lined this way and that with large old Oaks and Weeping Willows and it was through a sort of natural pathway created by the Weeping Willows planted on either side of a cleared dirt walkway, their branches overlapping and twining together above me, that I followed the scent.
As I walked through the last set of trees I came to a large clearing and set in the middle of it was a dilapidated looking farmhouse. No lights illuminated the inside and the house itself looked to be in a truly atrocious state of disrepair, the white paint chipped off in most places, the roof seeming as though it was one harsh storm or heavy snowfall from collapsing, and the porch missing it's railing in some places.
All of this was a clear sign that the house was abandoned and yet, in the moment that it took my eyes to see all this, I knew it was not because, sitting in an old swing, on the ramshackle porch, was the source of the intoxicating scent that had drawn me here.
She was young, a woman but just barely. The moonlight caught her long golden hair, just the same shade as mine, and set it alight with its pale rays, making her appear to actually glow slightly in the darkness. She wore a lovely little white dress with large red flowers decorating it and her feet were bare.
Offhandedly I found myself wondering if she was not cold. I had not been affected by the temperature in almost a millennium and it was true that Louisiana was quite warm even in December, when compared to other places, but surely it was still too chilly for such a little thing to be wearing nothing more than a summer dress.
The thought echoed in the back of my mind but it did not take up the majority of my thoughts: what did was the sound of her tears. She sat there in her too thin dress, on her dilapidated porch, crying softly into her hands and, for some reason, I found myself overwhelmed by the odd desire to kneel before her, lift her hands gently away from her face and offer her comfort, licking her tears away and kissing her cheeks until she wept no more.
I couldn't account for the impulse. I had never enjoyed the sight of women crying, but my reactions had usually ranged from annoyance to a desire to silence them by any means possible. Never had I wanted to comfort one or take away the pain that had caused their tears.
As I watched her, feeling almost spellbound, she lifted her head to the sky and looked up at the stars, and I found myself unable to even move to carry out my strange compulsion to comfort her. Even tear stained, her face was lovely. Her eyes were the most vivid shade of cornflower blue and her cheeks and lips held a ruddy apple red blush to them that made the urge to taste her skin even more overwhelming. The rest of her, so clearly displayed by her surely inappropriate clothing, was soft, smooth peaches and cream that shone out in the night, making her look as though she were a living porcelain doll.
I had seen many beautiful women in my years on this earth, had bedded nearly all of them, some even more beautiful than her, and yet I had never stood like this, captivated and paralyzed by the mere sight of someone. Perhaps it was the complete unexpectedness of finding her here, or perhaps I was merely looking for something to surprise me on this night. She had,completely and utterly, and I found myself unable to do anything but watch as she gazed up at the sky, her tears still falling from her lovely, large eyes.
And watch I did for I'm not sure how long, until a noise behind me drew my attention. Turning swiftly, I saw the form of a deer running into the woods. I grimaced somewhat in annoyance that I had been so caught up in the girl in front of me that I had been oblivious to my surroundings, only hearing the creature just now when it was all but behind me, but decided that it was of little consequence and turned back, eager to look on my new fascination once more.
Only when I did, I found that she was no longer on the porch swing, or on the porch at all. I could not have been looking at the deer for more than a moment, but in that time she had completely disappeared.
Looking around, I saw that I was now quite alone, nor where there any lights on in the house, even though she must have gone inside. Part of me wanted to go up to the house and look inside, anxious to assure myself that I had actually seen what I had seen, but as I determined to do so, I felt my phone vibrate.
Pulling the suddenly offensive thing out of my pants pocket I saw a text from Pam, demanding in no uncertain terms, and with a great deal of disrespect, that I get my "sweet ass" back to Shreveport right away.
Without bothering to answer her, I turned from the house, after scanning it one last time, and took to the air, attempting to satisfy my sudden unsettledness with all the horrible little jobs I would have Pam do as punishment for her disrespect. I had spoiled my child to the point of ridiculousness in the two hundred and fifty odd years since her making and now it was coming back to bite me in said ass.
When my eyes opened the next night, I knew without question where I would spend my evening. The girl on the porch swing: she had invaded my mind, taken it over completely. I had thought about her incessantly as I flew back to Shreveport. I had spent the rest of the night, sitting among the vermin in the bar, doing little more than staring aimlessly into space as I attempted to recall, with perfect clarity, every facet of her sweet features and catalogue every nuance of her divine scent, ignoring everything that went on around me.
Even in my rest she would not give me freedom and as I made the nightly journey from death back to life, I found myself dreaming for the first time in decades and the images that filled my head were all of her.
I tried to tell myself that my sudden obsession with her was understandable. After all, there were so many incongruities about my encounter with her the night before that had nothing to do with her beauty or her mesmerizing sadness.
There was her presence at a seemingly abandoned home, her strange dress and alluring scent, followed quickly by her abrupt disappearance, almost before my very eyes. Did she live there? Why was she alone and crying? Was she even real at all or did I simply imagine her?
They were all valid reasons for my curiosity and I concentrated on them, latching onto the mystery of her in the face of my ever growing feelings of boredom and apathy as the reason for my inability to stop thinking of her. I was not willing to admit, even to myself, that, mysterious though she might be and bored though I undeniably was, I cared very little for the answers to those questions. All I really wanted was the chance to gently wipe away her tears and perhaps hear her voice so that I could know if it was as captivating as the rest of her.
Deciding that I neither needed nor wanted the headache of dealing with my child and what would be her own inevitable curiosity after my behavior the night before, I chose to text Pam instead, telling her that I had been called away unexpectedly and giving her a list of things that needed tending to at the bar. It was done in seconds and, after dressing quickly, I found myself streaking through the air once more, attempting to ignore the feeling, similar to butterflies fluttering inside me, that had taken up residence in my long unused stomach.
This time I bypassed Compton's house altogether, landing on the other end of the cemetery and walking quickly to the place where the trees gave way to the clearing in which stood her house. I had not yet seen her when her scent invaded my senses once more and the sound of her weeping carried to me on the chill breeze. The anticipation that I felt at being near her again was almost overwhelming and I found myself hurrying my steps, anxious to look on her once more.
Standing at the edge of the tree line, I found her exactly as she had been the night before, sitting on the porch swing, the house dark and dilapidated behind her, in her too thin clothing and bare feet, tears running in rivers down her face.
To my simultaneous delight and dismay I found her every bit as bewitching this night as I had the night before. Her soft beauty still appeared to glow in the wan December moonlight and her alluring scent was in no way dampened by the chill of the air. Her sorrow seemed equally unhindered and I watched as she again entreated the stars with her huge, liquid eyes, begging them, it seemed, for some solace from her pain.
Last night I had done nothing more than watch her, too captivated to move or even think of moving, but looking at her now I knew that I could not chance her disappearing again. Whether it was mere boredom on my part or something more, I found I didn't care. The overwhelming urge to be real to someone, to let someone know me, came over me with such force that I found myself acting on it without thinking first.
"Why are you crying?" I found myself asking, as I stepped out from the natural shelter of the trees.
The girl looked up, an expression of great surprise painting her face as she did. I watched as she stood slowly, her eyes focusing on my form, attempting to see me in the dim light provided by the moon and stars.
"What are you doing here?" She spoke out, seemingly shocked.
"I was walking through the cemetery and I heard the sound of someone weeping. Why are you crying?" I ended by asking her again.
Even now she was captivating and confusing me, her unexpected responses drawing me in. Her look of surprise was what I would have anticipated, as was her rising from the swing to look out over the expanse of wild growing grass between her home and the trees, but where I would have expected her to back away or even run for the house when faced with a complete stranger approaching her in the dark of night, she simply stood her ground, staring boldly at me, seeming to take in every nuance of my form that was visible to her Human eyes in the dim light.
"You…heard me?" She said, another incongruous look (stunned excitement) painting her face.
"Yes." I answered. The smile that painted her face then only made me even more eager to know her secrets.
I finally had an answer to one of my questions: the bell like clarity of her voice was every bit as beautiful as the rest of her, but instead of the knowledge giving me peace, I found she had incited yet more questions I needed to have answered. Why was she so unafraid of me? Why was she so surprised that I had heard her? Was it simply that few people came out this way in the middle of the night, or was it something more?
"You didn't answer my question?" I prompted, moving ever closer to her until I came to stand on the grass in front of her raised porch, my height allowing me to see easily over the crumbling railing to where she still stood before her swing. The look of excitement that she had worn only moments before fell somewhat and I saw her eyes began to water once more.
"My Gran, she lived here," she gestured behind her to the house, "she passed on a week ago. I was crying because I miss her and because, without my Gran, my brother will be coming and I'll have to go away." By the time she finished her sentence she was crying once more, not as heavily as before, but the crystalline drops of her tears where clearly visible as they coursed down her face. "I'm…afraid of what's next for me. I don't want to move on." She finally finished.
I had no idea what compelled me to answer her as I did, but I wanted to give her some comfort, any comfort, and if there was anything I was master at after my centuries on this earth, it would be living through death and starting over again.
"I'm sorry for your loss." I said, surprising myself with the sincerity of what I said. "But you must not fear the future. For one as young and beautiful as you, there is an entire world waiting. You have your whole life yet to live." I had hoped to comfort her with my words but they seemed to have the opposite effect, making her more agitated and unhappy than she had been before.
The confusion I felt at having made things worse instead of better quickly morphed into a kind of anger at myself. What was I doing here? Why was I wasting a perfectly good night speaking to some Human… child in this pathetic, rural wasteland when I had better things I could be doing? Why did I want so badly to see her happy? Why did I care that my words had for some reason hurt her? Why did I care at all? She was a Human, one among billions, and all as worthless as the next!
"I should go." I said somewhat bitterly as I began to turn away. But before I had taken even a step I heard her voice, loud and clear, filled with a kind of desperation that I couldn't understand, but that filled me with an immediate sense of relived joy.
"No!" She called out to me hastily. I turned back to see she had taken a single step forward, her hand held out in plea. "No, please don't go. Not yet. I…I don't even know your name." She said the last sheepishly, but I could see real curiosity burning in her eyes. For a reason I could not name, it warmed me from the inside.
"Eric." I answered her. "My name is Eric. What is yours?" I could have glamoured the information, or anything at all that I wanted, out of her. It would have been so easy, the way she looked into my eyes so earnestly, her relief evident in them, but I knew in that moment that I would not, that I could not. I knew that I wanted everything that happened between us to be honest and real. I might not be able to tell her everything but what I could…it would be true and I wanted nothing but her willing honesty in return.
"Sookie." She answered me, a slight blush and a shy smile painting her face. "Would you stay and…talk with me for a while. I don't have much company but I'd love not to be alone right now." She asked, her blush deepening in the most becoming way.
I nodded my head, turning once again to face her completely and, as we began to talk about little things, inconsequential things, tiny drops of perfect, white snow began to fall from the sky.
I had lived in Louisiana for over seventy years and could count on one hand the number of times it had actually snowed here, and yet as I stood there, having the first conversation that I'd ever had with a mortal purely for the pleasure of their company, it fell around us.
Was it some kind of sign? Was it a blessing from my gods, who so loved the winter and the snow? I had yet more questions there were no answers to, but again, I didn't care. The moment was simply perfect. Talking, really and truly talking to someone, while the beauty of the winter and the night surrounded us. I knew that if I lived a thousand more years I would never forget how truly happy such a simple thing had made me on this night.
Time seemed to work differently in Sookie's presence and, as we talked, it felt as though only minutes had passed, yet the pull of the sun and its imminent rise told me that it had been hours instead.
"I must leave." I said eventually, reluctant to do so, but knowing that I had no choice.
"Thank you so much for coming to look for me, Eric, and for staying and talking. I know it seems like a very little thing, but it meant a great deal to me." She replied, her beautiful cheeks blooming with roses once more. It was beautiful and enchanting all at the same time, just like everything about her, and though I knew that I shouldn't, I found myself asking to see her again.
"May I visit you again, Sookie, tomorrow night?" Her shy nod and innocent wave were with me as I walked at Human speed back into the cover of the trees. They were with me as I flew back to the shelter of Shreveport and they were with me as the sun and death took me for another day.
I dreamt things as night fell again that could never be. I dreamt of seeing Sookie in the daylight. I dreamt of running through the snowy woods with her as the sun shone down on the bright, white world, playing games, laughing, holding her and kissing her lovely rosebud mouth. I dreamt of the life we would live in her rundown little farmhouse and the love we would make. I dreamt of the children we would have and the years we would see together.
When I rose again, it was my own face that was streaked with tears. Only they were not the crystal drops of water that had painted Sookie's face on the last two nights: they were dark, thick and red, a harsh reminder of why my dreams would never be anything more than that.
As I washed the bloody tears from my face, looking at my reflection in the mirror, I began to question my sanity. What was I doing? What was I thinking? What had possessed me? I was a thousand years old and had lived this long by knowing what I was and what I was not. My very existence was inured in the shadows, my true nature a secret that I revealed or let slip at peril of losing my life.
Yet here I was, eager as a callow boy to hurry off and visit a mere child, in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. Why? What did I want from her? What did I hope to gain? If I wanted a woman, I could have any that I desired: they fell at my feet nightly in my bar, easy, willing and disposable. If I wanted a companion, I already had one: Pam. She knew me as no one else did, she understood me as no one else could. And yet, it had become…not enough.
I would never believe that sex was unenjoyable, but it had become meaningless to me. I would never say that Pam was lacking: she was my most treasured possession in a world where I had let myself keep few other things, but the nature of our relationship had begun to leave me wanting.
I was her maker, her master, and she was my child, it was my responsibility to be the one in control, to be the one to carry the burdens. Our relationship was inherently unequal. I set the rules and made the decisions, but I also owed her nothing less than my strength and my confidence in return. It would be wrong of me to lay my needs at her door.
And I had found, two nights ago, that something in me needed. What that need was, though, I wasn't sure. Did I desire Sookie? Unequivocally. Did I wish to share myself, both the good and the bad, with her? Undoubtedly. And yet the question remained…what did I hope to gain? I had realized, even before I spoke to her, that Sookie was different. Desire her though I did, I would never treat her like the women who were my meals. She was clearly cut from a different cloth. She was something I had not encountered in many, many years: a lady.
But a relationship with a Human was the height of foolishness. I had seen what it brought to others over the centuries and I knew it was nothing for me. To attempt it would be to put myself in great danger and, even then, it could only be accomplished through a great deal of glamour, something I already knew I did not want to do to her. I wanted her company of her own free will.
I began to feel frustration and anger well up in me. Why was Sookie nothing more than an endless parade of questions with no good answers? Why was I so eager for the presence of someone who left me feeling continually filled and yet always…wanting?
As I dressed I realized that, perhaps, for once I had found a question with no answer. Sookie's brother would be coming to take her away in a few days anyway. Why not simply enjoy this for what it was. She would go away soon and I would return to my life, she would begin her new one, wherever her brother took her, and we would never see each other again.
I could look back on our time together, ponder it, let it fulfill and exasperate me as I chose for the rest of my nights with no danger. It would be a sweet memory and she simply a beautiful image in my mind: an angel in a sundress in the snow.
The days between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve seemed to fly by. Despite Pam's ever ratcheting curiosity, I managed each night to get away and return to Bon Temps to see Sookie, and every night she waited for me on her Grandmother's porch.
Our time together was so strange that when I was not with her, I found myself attempting to quiet the endless litany of queries that swirled around in my head like a never ending song. We talked of most trivial, insignificant things. We laughed together and shared silly secrets, but we never touched, we never even got close enough to one another to brush against each other. She sat on her swing and I leaned over her railing.
Still, I craved her from the moment my eyes opened each night to the time they closed, even when I was with her. Yet my fear that my cold skin or my lack of regular breath might betray my difference to her, kept me at arms-length from her.
I could not tell if it was merely Sookie's innocence that kept her from attempting to touch me or noticing that I did not touch her, or if it was something more: but as always, as ever, with her, I pushed it from my mind, not caring enough to give the thought the time it might have deserved. I was far too busy filling the senses that I could indulge freely with her presence.
My eyes devoured her beauty, my nose drank its fill of her scent, my ears longed for her perfect, bell-like laughter and, in her company, I felt almost free, almost young, almost as innocent as she was. I knew it could not last, but I banished that thought each time it rose up, content to take what I could and greedily store up every moment to cherish later, after we had inevitably parted ways.
But on New Year's night, I woke with a dread that filled my insides almost like a physical ache. I would not see her again after tonight. She would leave the next day, she had told me. The denial that I had been living in seemed to shatter like a fragile glass at that thought: all the very good reasons why I knew I had to let her go and never see her again seemed pale considerations now that the inevitable moment was nearly upon me.
I did not bother to shower, I barely cared what I put on: all that mattered to me was getting to Bon Temps. All that I thought about was what I was going to do. I knew it to be the very height of lunacy and yet I was determined. I would tell her everything. I would beg her to accept me as I truly was and if she would, I would give her everything. I would buy her Grandmother's house from her brother and make it a grand home for her, just like the Tara of her favorite movie. I would shower her with anything, great or small, that she desired and I would show her a love that no other person had ever experienced.
My body stopped dead in the sky at that last thought. And I laughed when it did, a full on laugh, loud, long and possibly crazed sounding. Yes, it was love that I felt for her, love that I had felt missing from my life and love that I had gone looking for that night as I crossed the cemetery. It was the one thing that I had never had in my thousand years and the one thing that could make the world feel new again, when it had begun to look so very old and gray.
I loved Sookie and if she did not love me then would it matter if I glamoured her to forget it all? The thought caused me more pain than I cared to admit, but in truth, if it did not mean to her what it meant to me, then it was not worth her remembering it. I could only hope that it did and that I would not lose her tonight.
When I walked through the trees to her front yard that night, I found her sitting on the swing, looking up at the stars. There were tears in her eyes again and part of me hoped that perhaps some of them might be for having to leave me, as much as they were for having to leave her home and her Grandmother's house behind. When I called to her she looked at me with a sad smile on her face.
"Eric." My name fell from her mouth and I knew that no one had ever said it the way she did.
"Sookie." I answered her. Without realizing it, I found myself running to her, almost too fast to pass for a Human speed. This time I didn't stop at the rail but took the porch in two big steps and was directly in front of her.
"You're crying again." I said, kneeling down so that we were face to face, still not close enough to touch, but closer than we had ever been before. "Why?" Sookie made a sad little laughing sound.
"I was thinking how unfair life can be." She answered. She was silent for a moment and I thought she would say no more, but then she spoke again. "I was so lonely just a few nights ago, when you first called out to me from the trees, but I had almost made my peace with what would happen next. Then I saw you and now I want to fight all over again not to leave, even though I know it's no use." I felt my chest swell with happiness at her words, to the point where I feared I was giddy, an emotion that I had never felt in all my many years. It was like a dream unfurling before me and I said the words that I had come to say, brimming over with confidence.
"Then don't leave. Stay, stay with me. I have not told you much about my life, there are many things that I haven't told you actually, but I have money, more money than you can dream of. It's yours if you want it, to buy this house from your brother, to make it livable again. I would give you anything you want Sookie, you have only to name it." Sookie's reaction, as ever, was not what I expected. She rose from the swing and pinned me with a gaze that was both sorrowful and angry.
"Is that what you think I want from you Eric, money? Don't you suppose, if money was all that kept me from being able to stay, that I wouldn't have gone out and gotten some for myself?" Her anger quickly gave way to tears, tears of such force that she covered her face with her hands to hide them from me.
"Then what? Why can't you stay? I want you to stay!" My voice had all the passion of a tiny Human throwing a temper tantrum. I wanted to yell at her, to shake her, to make her tell me what was happening. I needed to know. "I love you, Sookie!" I finally said and, as I did, I took those last steps towards her and attempted to take her into my arms.
Even through her fingers she saw me moving towards her and, with a speed belied by her tiny frame, she moved away from me, evading my touch so completely that not even my fingertips brushed against her. Her actions were like a knife through my heart. She didn't want to stay, at least not with me. She didn't want me at all: that much was clear. I should never have asked it of her. I should have said my goodbye to her tonight and cherished my memories, as I had continually told myself I would.
Instead of walking past her to take the steps back down, I merely moved to one of the many places on the porch where the railing had broken away and jumped down onto the ground again, determined to walk away without another word, attempting to be content that I had at least not made the mistake of revealing myself to her, when I heard her whisper. It would have been too soft for a Human to have heard but it was clear to my ears.
"Goodbye Eric. I love you too." I stopped. I had not made it more than half way to the trees, but I could not move a step farther. Turning around, I looked at her. Her face was once again wet, her shoulders shaking slightly with the force of her sorrow, but her eyes were fixed on me.
"Why? Why send me away then? Why refuse to let me help you? Why refuse to let me even touch you?" I called to her from where I stood. Sookie gasped, clearly astonished that I had heard her. For a single moment she looked at me with eyes wide with fear and I believed with all my heart that she had suddenly realized that there was something different about me, but then she simply disappeared from the porch. If I had needed to blink it would have happened that fast. Before I could call out to her though, she appeared again, this time in front of me.
"This is why." She answered. "This is why I can't stay with you no matter how much I want to and why what you offer can't help me." I do not know exactly what I was thinking at that moment, what my mind was making of what I had just seen. There was only instinct and compulsion inside of me then and it told me that I could not let Sookie leave me. So I stepped forward as fast as I could to grab at her, but when I did my hands touched nothing, going through her and coming away empty.
"You're a ghost." I whispered as comprehension dawned. Sookie smiled at me sadly.
"Not a ghost, not yet anyway: a spirit." I looked at her dumbfounded and my mind, unable to process everything all at once, latched onto her last statement.
"What's the difference?" I asked, my voice comical in its awed curiosity.
I could see the question on Sookie's face. She wondered why I was not frightened. She wondered why I was not running. How could I tell her that I had seen many, many things in my thousand years, so many things more frightening than her? I was something far more frightening than her. All I felt when I looked at her, all I felt when I let the truth of what she was sink in, was deep anguish. I felt anguish that I could not help her, anguish that I could not touch her, anguish that I might never see her again after this night, anguish that she could never be mine.
"I'm not dead." Her answer caught me almost completely off guard.
"What?" For the first time in a thousand years I worried that my hearing was faulty.
"I'm not dead." She repeated. Something in me lit from within at her words and I stepped towards her again, my face probably a picture of insanity though I cared not at all.
"Sookie, tell me everything now!" I commanded her. She only looked at me with astonishment, before starting to laugh a harsh, bitter sounding laugh.
"What is there to tell Eric? What is it that you want me to say? Shouldn't you go now and attempt to convince yourself that you've been in an alcoholic haze for the past week and that this is all just a really, really bad dream brought on by too much Christmas partying? I just told you that you've spent the last six nights with a spirit!" Sookie yelled at me and I did feel fear then, but it was fear that she would disappear again.
"I don't care about any of that!" I yelled right back, desperate to make her believe me. "I love you! Just answer me, please?" I finally resorted to begging. Sookie looked at me incredulously for a long time before finally seeming to come to a decision.
"Five years ago I was in a car accident. I was coming home, to this house, from work. I'd just graduated from high school and my Gran was too poor to send me to college so I ended up working at the bar in town. It wasn't what I had hoped for, but I knew that if I saved like crazy I could probably afford to go to college in a few years and so I worked as much as I could. I worked six days a week, I took other people's shifts when they called in sick, I worked holidays, everything.
That Christmas Eve I volunteered to work and the owner, Sam, was so grateful that I wanted to come in when everyone else was begging him for the day off, that he gave me a double shift. I left just after closing and I was driving home when I was hit by a drunk driver in a truck on the dirt road that leads here to the house. My car spun out and I hit a tree. My car was…it had seen better days and the airbag never deployed, so when it hit the tree, my head hit the steering wheel, hard.
I don't remember much else after that, except that when I came to again I was in terrible pain. It hurt so badly that all I wanted to do was cry and scream and beg someone to help me, but I couldn't. I was awake, I was alive, but my body wouldn't listen to me or do anything I asked it too. I laid like that, in the hospital, for I don't know how long, feeling so much pain and not being able to do anything about it until one day I just gave up fighting and wished that I could float up and away from all the hurt and suddenly I did.
I saw my body below me in the hospital bed, I was broken everywhere and there were so many tubes going in and out of me, to machines that fed me and helped me breathe and kept me alive. I was so scared and all I wanted was my Gran. Somehow I found myself here. When I saw my Gran she was talking to my brother. They were fighting. Apparently I'd already been in that hospital bed for months and the doctors saw no hope. My brother was trying to convince my Gran that it was time to let me die.
After hours of arguing, my brother got up and just left, walking right out of the house, right past me without even seeing me. I was so scared and desperate that I sat down at the kitchen table across from my Gran and started to cry. I don't know how it happened but, as I cried, she got real still and real quiet and then she called my name.
When I looked up at her I knew that she could see me. She was terrible scared at first, but also…hopeful. She tried to hug me but of course she couldn't, but she could see me and hear me and, from that moment on, she never let Jason talk about letting me die again.
I tried so hard to take care of her, but there was nothing I could do and, over the years, Gran's health got worse and worse. Jason moved away after a while and didn't even think to help her and, without my working, she had only her little pension and, with all my medical bills, it just wasn't enough. The house fell into disrepair, she kept getting sicker and sicker and finally, two weeks ago, she had a stroke." Sookie started to cry again in earnest this time, the tears falling as she sobbed brokenly.
"I couldn't call anyone to help her. I couldn't even hold her and comfort her. She died on the floor in the kitchen and they didn't find her until two days later when one of her friends stopped by to gossip.
I miss her so much. She raised me up from the time I was little. She sacrificed everything for me. She kept me alive when she could have let me die, all because she loved me and I couldn't even give her a last hug goodbye. And now that she's dead, Jason's coming back and he's intent on telling the doctors to let me die. He won't pay the huge bills to keep me alive when he thinks I'm already basically gone.
I'd made my peace with it, I'd accepted it… and then you came to me. You're the only person in almost five years, besides my Gran, who's been able to see me and for some reason you kept coming back, giving me comfort, making me laugh, making me want so badly to live for the first time when I know I have to die! I have to die, Eric, and you have to leave. There's nothing for either of us here!" With those words and one final pained expression, Sookie disappeared from sight.
If my heart had been able to beat it would have stopped right then. With all the force of a great weight crashing down on me I began to feel frantic. I called for Sookie, I screamed her name, begging and pleading for her to come back, but nothing happened. She was gone. For a moment I thought that I might actually go mad: my brain seemed to have stopped working. All I could do was yell out blindly, unable to understand that she would not materialize again.
A moment could have passed, or perhaps it was an hour that I stood there, hopeless and helpless, and then something seemed to happen, something inside me made the connection. Sookie wasn't dead, not yet. Running at my heightened speed, I made it to the top of her dirt and gravel driveway and found an old beat up looking mailbox barely still on its pole. The name on it was "Stackhouse". Taking out my phone I frantically dialed Pam's cell.
"Eric, I didn't think I'd be hearing from you tonight." No doubt Pam intended to follow that up with a sarcastic remark but I cut her off.
"Pam, I'm on my way to the bar. Get on my computer, I need information about a woman named Sookie Stackhouse. She lived in Bon Temps and she was in a car accident approximately five years ago. She's alive and in a coma right now. I need to find out what hospital she's being kept at. I need it now, Pam. Call me if you find out before I get there." I was just about to hang up when Pam replied.
"Eric, what the fuck is going on with you? Have you gone mad? What do you care about some half dead blood bag?" I had never once, since making Pam, used my powers as her Maker to compel her to do anything, but I did it then. I pulled the bond between us tight until I heard her make a gasping sound from the pain.
"I don't have time for explanations, Pam, just fucking do as you're told!" With that I hung up and took to the sky, flying faster than I ever had before. I was just landing in the parking lot when my phone went off.
"Sookie Stackhouse, twenty-three years old, former resident of Bon Temps, is being cared for at the LSU Health Center here in town." Pam said when I answered, her voice clipped and angry.
"Thank you Pam, I will explain all later." I said, before hanging up and running, at top speed, the approximately ten miles to the hospital.
Walking through the doors to the emergency room, I stalked directly up to the nurse's station. Luckily there was only one nurse there. Putting on my best smile, I leaned down over the countertop and caught her eyes. Her mind was mine almost immediately.
"Tell me what room Sookie Stackhouse is being kept in." I demanded. Her eyes were vacant as she looked up at me, but almost immediately she turned to her computer and, after a few moments in which she clacked away at the keyboard, she had an answer for me.
"Twelfth floor, room twelve twenty-five." It was all I could do to remember to erase myself from her memory before rushing up the stairs faster than Human eyes could see.
When I came to the correct door, I saw that it was already open. Walking inside, I saw a figure on the bed and my breath caught just as it had that night, a week ago. It was her. It was Sookie. She did not look broken. I supposed after five years the physical injuries from her accident had healed completely, but just as she'd said, there were wires and tubes coming out of her in every direction.
Still, my angel was beautiful and her immobile form seemed to draw me like a magnet until I was standing right in front of her, my hand reaching out of its own accord to finally, finally touch her. My hand was just a millimeter from her soft, golden hair when a voice behind me startled me out of my trance.
"Hey, who are you?" I turned around to see a man, not much older than Sookie, with the same golden hair and cornflower blue eyes, and I knew immediately that this must be her brother.
He was handsome after his own fashion, but the dimness behind his eyes was unmistakable. I found myself having to hold back from simply wrapping my hand around his throat and squeezing until his neck broke and his windpipe collapsed. His stupidity was no excuse for abandoning Sookie's Grandmother to fend for herself after she selflessly loved and raised him. His stupidity was no excuse for what he planned to do to his sister, simply so that he could save a few dollars.
I would not kill him, Sookie wouldn't have wanted me to do that, but I wouldn't allow him near her ever again. Stalking towards him until he was directly in front of me, I grabbed him by the throat as I had wanted to and hauled him up off his feet so that we were face to face. He struggled slightly but his stupidity made him even easier to glamour than most Humans.
"Leave here and never come back. Your sister is alive and safe and wants nothing to do with you. Do not come back to Louisiana. Do not look for her. Go about your miserable, selfish life as you have been and leave her alone. In three days' time you will call your Grandmother's home and you will happily give your sister her Grandmother's farmhouse and then you will never contact her again." Sookie's brother nodded his head as best as he could while it was still in my grasp and, when I put him down, he turned around and left the room without a backwards glance.
Following behind him, I closed the door and locked it. Then I was instantly backed at her side. I wanted so badly to touch her, to kiss her, to hold her in my arms, but in a way I was glad for Jason's interruption. The first time I touched Sookie, I wanted it to be with her permission, with her express consent, just as everything else that had been between us.
To that end, I chose to unhook the tube to her IV from the liquid bag that fed her and, when I opened my wrist, I put the bleeding wound to the tube and let my blood seep into her that way. I watched as my blood turned the tube red and felt the exact moment when the first few drops of it made their way completely down the plastic path and into her body.
I had not given my blood to anyone except Pam in centuries and, even then, I did it only to turn her. That experience was nothing like this. I could feel myself inside of Sookie. I could feel my blood searching out the places within her that were still injured and wrapping itself around them, healing them, restoring her.
It took only a few moments before I saw it: the fluttering of her eyes that meant that my blood had worked. Carefully, carefully I removed the end of the tube from my wrist and watched as consciousness came back to her.
Her hands began to rise up tentatively from her sides, to touch the mask situated over her mouth and nose. With as much gentleness as I could, I helped her lift it from her face and, as I did, I felt her touch me for the first time, her hands coming to rest over my own.
Our eyes locked and, for a moment, I saw nothing in hers and I was gripped by a sudden terrifying thought. What if she didn't know me? What if she didn't remember me? But, just when the thought was about to consume me completely, I saw her face break into a heartrending smile.
"Eric?" She whispered my name in that same tone, the one that no one else had ever used, and I felt my heart breaking and being restored all at once.
"Sookie." I answered her, smiling absurdly.
"How?" She asked me, wonder in her voice as her little hands squeezed my own. I don't know that I had thought things through quite that far, or if I had really considered how she might react, but I knew when this night had begun that I would tell her what I was and I hoped, as I had never hoped for anything, that she would accept me. And so I took a tentative breath and told her everything, just as she had told me everything not two hours before.
I told her what I was, why I had been in the cemetery that night. I told her how my blood could heal and that, even though it could, I had never used it to heal another in my entire existence and I told her that I loved her…still…always. When there was nothing more to tell, I simply stood there, her face still in my hands, her hands still covering my own, and waited.
Sookie looked shocked, but not once had my blood inside her detected fear. She was thoughtful, perhaps overwhelmed, but not afraid. Still it did not mean that she would accept me, and I found myself fearful that I might still lose her.
"Sookie, I love you. I have never loved before, but I know that I love you. I did almost from the moment I saw you on your Grandmother's porch. I meant every word that I said to you tonight. I want you. I want to be with you. I will give you anything, everything, your heart desires, if you will only say yes, if you will love me in return." Sookie looked into my eyes searchingly, and for a single moment, the urge to simply glamour her into acceptance washed over me with an insidious strength, but no matter how tempting it might have been I knew that I would not do it.
I wanted someone to know me and that need had somehow brought me to her. She was the only Human ever to live to not just know what I was, but what was inside of me and she was the only Human I had ever truly known. What I felt for her was the first real thing I had ever felt for anyone and I would not sully it, no matter what her answer.
"I don't want your things, Eric. If money or possessions were all I wanted I could go out and get them for myself." I felt my heart drop into my feet. They were her words of rejection from earlier, but just as I was about to turn from her, I felt her hands grip mine with a strength I would not have thought she could possess. "All I want is you."
In that moment everything stopped and, though I feared for the second time that night that I had misheard her, her sweet, beautiful face, shining with love, told me that I had not.
"I love you, Eric. You saved me, not just now, but every night since the night we met. How could I not?" Sookie's eyes were bright and shining and, for the first time since I saw her on her Grandmother's porch, there was no hint of tears in them. Her declaration was pure and filled with joy and happiness and I felt those emotions seeping into me as well, mingling with my own joy and making me feel an elation that I had never felt before.
Leaning down slowly, so that every move I made was visible to her, I closed the distance between us until her breath was a warm puff of air against my face and, as our eyes locked, they held for a single moment before I gently touched my lips to hers.
Our first kiss was sweeter than anything I had ever felt and, as it deepened and our arms wrapped around each other, I knew that this was merely the beginning.