A/N: It's only been two weeks since I finished my last story but…I just can't quit you guys. So I'm starting a new one. This one interrupts "Dead in the Family" and picks up right after Sookie comes home from killing Bruno and Corrina with Pam. By chapter 2 we'll be firmly in AU territory though, so if you're having a hard time remembering everything that happened in that book, don't worry! It's also a "Vampire Sookie" story.
Sookie becoming a Vampire is not the plot of this story but it is essential to the plot, so if you're up for such a story, I'm asking for some time in the beginning to set things up. Becoming a Vampire is something that I know very well 'real Sookie' would never do, so I want to make her decision as plausible as possible and that takes time.
Also, I think it's obvious by now, I'm an angst addict (the first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem, right?). So this story will be heavy on the angst, but I promise there's a happy ending.
I have to say a HUGE thank you and give major props to two fabulous women: Sheknitsnicely and Northman Maille! They both deserve unreserved praise for polishing this first chapter till it shined!
On a final note: I'm planning on posting regularly with this story, every Tuesday.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Disclaimer: I own nothing…
In the annals of Sookie Stackhouse's greatest showers, this one wouldn't even be worth a mention. It was strange, given that she'd been so cold when she'd walked into the bathroom. She'd stripped off her sodden, mud spattered blouse and skirt, trying not to worry that the mud and finally dead Vampire would never ever come out of the once pretty white blouse. She only hoped it would passably blend into the red skirt.
The water was undeniably hot. One of the clear blessings of taking a shower in the middle of the night, was she didn't have to contend with her cousin for primacy over the house's ancient hot water heater. And yet, though the water and steam warmed her soaked through, goose bumped skin, it somehow didn't quite penetrate to her bones, which still felt chilled and miserable.
Pam said it had all been worth it, if for no other reason than that they were still alive, but Sookie had begun to wonder, if things kept going the way they had been the last few years, how much longer she'd get to use that as a rationalization. Eventually the house always won, and she'd been gambling with her continued existence, like an addict, for far too long already.
Turning the water off, realizing there was no point in wasting it, since it had no hope of calming her, cleaning her conscience or washing away her memories of the last two hours, Sookie took hold of a fluffy towel and dried off quickly.
Ten minutes later, dressed in her snuggliest flannel pajamas and covered to the chin, with every spare quilt and blanket at her disposal, Sookie lay in her bed. As she looked out the window at the moonlight, still unable to turn off her brain, she let the images of the last few hours run through her head for the umpteenth time. Bruno and Corrina had tried to kill her and Pam: Bruno and Corrina were dead instead. Pam had said it was for the best.
It was for the best. It was for the best. Her mind replayed Pam's parting words over and over again but, like the warm water and the snuggly blankets, they brought her conscience zero warmth or comfort.
Any normal person…any sane person, would have gotten out of Dodge long ago, the angel on her shoulder told her, matter-of-factly. Or maybe it was the devil speaking, since someone (she couldn't be sure who at this point) on her other shoulder was quick to point out that there was no way out now. There hadn't been since the moment she naively admitted to Bill, with stars in her eyes, that she wasn't crazy, as everyone around here thought. She was a telepath.
Vampires knew of her existence. Massive swaths of Vampire knew of her existence. Even if Eric could somehow magically produce a cure for their blood bond, and would willingly sign on the dotted line of their divorce papers (were there divorce papers in a Vampire marriage? They'd certainly never gotten a license or had a ceremony… or anything really.), there was still Felipe DeCastro who would probably want her, maybe Russell Edgington too. And Victor Madden would probably still want her dead, if for no other reason than he didn't seem like the kind of guy to let something go once he'd set his mind to it. And goodness only knew who else would swoop in to try and claim her.
She doubted any of those Vampires' actions would be tempered by the love and the genuine affection she and Eric had built their strange relationship on. No, maybe logic and common sense wouldn't lead someone to try and get out, maybe that was just panic and cowardice talking.
As Sookie tossed and turned under the covers, another thought presented itself, one she wasn't sure she liked much more than contemplations of her inevitable early, and bloody demise.
Did she really want Eric to give her up?
Hadn't they just, this very night, admitted (sort of, anyway) that they loved each other? Did she love him? She'd hedged away from admitting it outright, even when he'd plainly declared himself, boldly proving, once again, that the reserved, outwardly cold, thousand year old Vampire was somehow still more emotionally brave than she was.
"Oh God." She heard herself moan and, for once, those words coupled with thoughts of Eric weren't the sound of passion. It was more…terror than anything else, and for one reason and one reason only. It had just hit her, like a ton of bricks, like Bruno slamming into her and gripping her by the throat. And just like Bruno's assault, it left her gasping for air and clutching at the still tender and bruised skin of her neck.
Yes, she did love him. No, she didn't want him to let her go. She loved him. She loved Eric. She was in love with Eric. And yet, if they somehow outlived Victor and managed to get him before he got them, there would always be someone else and then someone else after them. Maybe it was the morbid atmosphere of the night, but somehow Sookie just couldn't see it ending and even if it did, even if she, by the grace of God, lived to be a very old woman, dying in a moment of peace in her bed, what then? Would Eric be there at the end to hold her hand?
Could she really see him staying with her until the hand of death parted them? He'd be strong, young and beautiful: twenty-four forever. Would he be willing to stand by her as she aged, as she wrinkled and hunched over and slowed down? Would he be faithful when she couldn't satisfy his needs any longer, and still look on her with genuine love when she could no longer inspire his desire?
Or would he just leave? Would he go back to the life he'd lived before, fucking and feeding on anything that came his way? Would he shrug his shoulders in apathy when someone bothered to remind him of his bonded who still lived, barely, but whom he didn't wish to remember? Or worse, would he stay but no longer be able to love her? Would he lie to her with his lips, even as the bond whispered to her the truth of his cooling affections? Would he be there for her last breath, holding her hand and telling her how much he she meant to him, while she felt the eagerness inside of him to be finally free… finally rid of her?
Her ever spiraling thoughts combined with her exhaustion, and the low from her adrenaline rush only hours earlier, becoming one huge chemical reaction within her and suddenly the floodgates of Sookie's tears opened wide.
She didn't know how long she cried in her bed, terrified over the now undeniable proof that Victor intended to kill them, over her worries for herself and for Eric, and for Pam, and for all the Vampires who were depending on him to keep them from finally dying. Especially over her worries for a future that she might not even have.
And yet, through all her tears, two things seemed to batter at her brain over and over again, unrelenting and unwilling to let her completely give in to her self-pity. The first was that she was in no way, under no circumstances, ready to die. She'd lived through a lot in the last few years: the death of her Gran. Her rape, near-draining and betrayal by Bill, the bombing in Rhodes, the coup, her torture by the water Fairies and so many petty murder attempts that scenes like tonight had become more the 'wash, rinse, repeat' of her life rather than the deeply disturbing surprise it would have been to a normal person. And still none of it had broken her. None of it had destroyed her.
Of it all, the Fairies had come the closest, but she was still here. She still wanted to be here. She wasn't ready to lie down and die, not yet and not for a long, long time! And she sure as heck wasn't going to let it happen at the hands of such a mediocre excuse for a villain as Victor.
The other was that she couldn't turn back from, ignore, or erase the truth she had finally given into tonight, here in the very bed where he'd taken her so many times already. She loved Eric. The real Eric, the whole Eric, not just the sweet, almost Human man, she'd sheltered in this same house just the year before.
She loved the Eric who'd sat and listened to her tonight. She loved the Eric who made time in his busy evening because she'd said she needed to talk to him right away. She loved the Eric who'd admitted, without fear, that he loved her. The one who told her he thought about her, dreamed of her incessantly while, the entire time, bringing her more pleasure with just his finger tips and his voice than either of her other lovers ever had, when she'd given them everything. She loved the Eric who'd been so crazed with worry for her that he'd been willing to drive to the scene of the murder tonight, without a thought to the consequences, just to see for himself she was alive and mostly uninjured.
He was both the Eric who'd infuriated, annoyed and intrigued her throughout the (now painful to remember) months of her courtship with Bill, and the Eric who'd loved her so completely and totally, who'd made her feel so cared for and so important, without even understanding that his actions had been the actions of love. He was more complicated than his amnesia self, and more open than the Vampire she'd first met. He was a combination, and a perfect compilation of them both, and she was finally tired of trying to deny it.
She loved him. She wanted him. She might never be happy about all the things he'd done to get them to this point (from the high handed to the downright deceptive), but she was done playing games with him, and with herself, about it. Life was too short.
And yet, even as Sookie let the thought truly sink into her system, she couldn't quiet the nagging doubts that had started her torrential downpour of tears. She'd believed Eric when he'd said he loved her earlier in the night, but loving her now didn't mean he'd love her twenty years from now (if she even lived that long).
Looking at the clock on her nightstand and then out at the sky, she nodded her head and picked up her phone, determined not to back down from her sudden burst of bravery. Sookie could feel deep down, to those still chilled bones, there were big decisions that needed to be made in the near future: decisions about how involved she wanted to be in Victor's imminent demise. Decisions about whether or not to accept her marriage to Eric and his place in her life, decisions about where she would live, where she would work… who she would be.
The world she found herself living in was too dangerous for her to keep straddling the fence the way she had been for so long, putting off making any big choices for fear of getting hurt. But she couldn't make the right choices if she didn't have all the facts. There was only one person she knew that could answer her questions and would give it to her straight, no bullshit, no deflection and no worry for her tender, Human sensibilities.
"Sookie, it's four thirty in the morning, is everything all right? What are you doing still awake? Dear Abby says it's very important for Humans to take care of themselves during stressful times and that sleep is an essential part of Human health." Pam's voice was pragmatic in the extreme, even while her words were caring and affectionate. It was part of the mystery that was Pam. Deep down, Sookie knew Pam cared. She just also knew that Pam (much like her maker) didn't always hit the mark when it came to showing it.
"I'm okay Pam, really." Sookie croaked out, not knowing if the sound was caused by her bruised throat or her bruised emotions, but hoping Pam would believe it was the former and not the latter.
"You don't sound alright. Nor would you be calling at this hour if you were. What's wrong?" Sookie had been so determined, not five minutes ago, to find out the answers to her questions, but now that she had Pam on the line she wondered if this was such a good idea after all.
Shouldn't she be asking Eric these questions? Without realizing it, Sookie snorted audibly. Yes, she should be asking Eric. But given that they'd needed to have their fingers and mouths buried 'private parts' deep tonight just to sort of, maybe, kinda admit they loved each other, she knew the likelihood of getting a straight answer from him, to the very hard question she needed to ask, was unlikely.
Especially before dawn.
They'd never been good at the whole 'mutual, open and honest communication' thing couples were supposed to build lasting relationships on. They'd always been much better at the grand gestures, begrudgingly cryptic admittances and ecstatic orgasms that bound them together in a unique love, even if they could barely own up to it out loud. Which brought her back to the reason for cornering Pam, and not Eric.
Pam was privy to pretty much all of Eric's emotions, understood him possibly better than he did himself, had already stated tonight that she had no idea if Sookie and Eric were better off apart than together (and therefore wouldn't be biased in any particular direction). Pam being Pam, would have no compunction about answering, with brutal honesty, any question Sookie put to her. All of that, coupled with Sookie's own inherent cowardice when it came to her feelings for the Viking, made Pam her only viable option.
"Pam, you know before… ." Before we killed two people and ditched their car, seemed too straightforward for a near dawn phone conversation, so Sookie bit back the words before they could fall from her mouth, "… before we got out of the car, how we were talking about Eric and me?" She answered instead, her voice suddenly soft and timid. Pam's first reaction was a put upon sigh.
"Of course I remember, Sookie. I am a Vampire, I have perfect recall."
Sookie mentally lectured herself to stay on the rails when every fiber of her being wanted to put off her question by biting back with a sarcastic reply of her own. Maybe she and Pam could trade snark until the sun forced Pam to die for the day, making the conversation she'd called to have impossible. Forcing down her instinctive desire to run from the issue, Sookie pulled up her big girl pants.
"Yes, I know Pam. The thing is… I need to know something and you're one of only two people who can answer me. Given the way things have been going for us, I need the answer straight, quick and dirty and I thought you'd be the only one who'd give it to me that way." The snort that came through the phone made Sookie realize exactly what she'd said.
"My lovely telepathic friend, if you've finally come to your senses I'll be willing to give 'it' to you any way you'd like."
Sookie couldn't exactly be mad. She had known, the second the words were out of her mouth, how Pam would reply.
"Please Pam, I'm serious." She pleaded, pathetically. From the other end she heard her…friend subtly readjust the phone and, when Pam spoke again, her voice was almost contrite.
"I know you are. What did you need to ask me?" Pam answered, serious for the first time since she'd picked up the phone.
"Pam, does he love me? What I mean is, does he love me enough to stay, even when I get old and gray, or will he leave me as soon as the wrinkles start forming?" The line was silent for long enough that Sookie worried the storm that still raged outside might somehow have cut the phone line, but just when she was about to call Pam's name, the Vampire answered.
"Sookie, we never had this conversation, do you understand me? What I tell you, it never gets repeated to another being, living or un-living." Sookie nodded her head instinctively, then remembered she probably had to speak, even if Pam had somehow heard the rubbing of her face against the phone, with her heightened sense.
"I promise, Pam, I just need to know. With everything that's happening around us, I need to know." There was another long silence and then Pam's voice came across the receiver, low and almost hurt sounding.
"He loves you, Sookie. If you would let him, if you would stop pushing him away and putting him off, he will love you like no other has ever been loved, and he will continue to love you long after you stop drawing breath. Whether that's five years from now or five decades from now, he will still love you." Pam's words were like a freight train hitting her square in the chest.
She supposed, in her usual way, she'd been deluding herself into believing Pam would tell her that Eric would leave her. That his 'love' was nothing more than lust and fascination and that it would wear off long before her looks started to fade. But then, she'd always had a way of underestimating him… and herself.
It was what she needed to hear to really be able to make the decisions she now saw in front of her, but Pam's words had brought another question to the forefront, one she hadn't considered before.
"Pam, what will happen to him when I die?" The question was so softly spoken that, if Pam had been anything but a Vampire, she never would have heard it.
"Sookie, don't ask questions you don't want the answer to." Pam volleyed back with more feeling than she could ever remember Eric's child displaying. The words had an almost venomous sting to them.
"Pam, I'm not asking to ask. Please, I need to know. If I stay with Eric, if I let myself love him and be with him completely, what happens when I die?" This time, Pam's words came quick and emotionless, but Sookie knew it made them all the more true. She said them quickly, because the very thought of them caused her too much pain. Pam was ripping them out of her mouth the same way someone would rip a band aid off a still open wound.
"He'll go insane and get himself killed by one of his enemies or he'll take the easier route for all of us and meet the sun. I don't see it ending any other way."
In the morning, when Sookie woke up, she couldn't really say that she remembered falling asleep, or even hanging up the phone. She had no idea how she had ended her pre-dawn interrogation of Pam either. Had she simply hung up, rudely, without even saying thank you or goodbye? Or had they made pointless chit chat for a few minutes before disconnecting? All she remembered clearly was the image of Eric, in her restless dream, blood tears streaming down his beautiful face as he turned into the dawn for the first and last time in a thousand years.