A/N: Okay last chapter. I'm putting all my cards on the table and I hope you like my hand!
Thank you everyone who's reviewed, favorited and alerted this story. I am truly overwhelmed and I hope the ending lives up.
And thanks as always to my beta Northman Maille! You are so the best, I don't even know how to tell you!
Disclaimer: I own nothing, but if given the choice I'll always chose "Can't Help Falling in Love" over "Love Me Tender"
"Oh God, Eric!" Other Sookie cried one last time before throwing the phone heedlessly on the floor and bolting for the door. I barely caught her and by the time I did she was already halfway outside.
"Sookie wait! You can't just go running off, you don't even know where Eric is." I tried to reason with her, but it was clear she wanted none of it. She just looked at me with an expression of horrified disbelief.
"I DON'T CARE!" She yelled. "Eric is in trouble I have to help him! I have to do something!" She was all but hysterical now, trying to wrench her arm out of my grasp and pulling hard enough to hurt us both. I didn't know how to tell her I doubted we'd have to go looking Eric. The void in the woods last night, something suddenly happening to Eric just now after the sun had set, it couldn't possibly be a coincidence.
Sure enough I'd barely opened my mouth to try and explain when something hit the ground hard on the front lawn. Other Sookie and I stopped struggling against each other. Instead we just stared through the open doorway, shocked dumb, both of us barely able to understand what we were seeing.
My mind pulsed with the thoughts of Sookie, who watched the scene in front of her with a kind of disbelieving terror, suddenly convinced this was all some horrific dream she just needed to find a way to wake up from. I heard the mental chanting of her Eric too. He was praying silently to anyone who might listen to keep his wife and daughter safe from the monster who clutched him by the throat, with careless cruelty, squeezing hard enough to draw blood with his fingernails.
And I felt the pulsing void of the Vampire who held him captive. The same Vampire who must have been in the woods last night. The Vampire who, besides his clothing and the length of his hair, was the exact mirror image of the Human he held so pitilessly.
My mind was so busy refusing to believe what my eyes were seeing that the scene in front of me still made no sense.
Eric was the void.
How could that be? How could he have been the void in the woods last night and have visited me in my bedroom just afterwards, claiming to have only enough power to pull me through whatever mysterious portal led home? And why would he want to hurt his Human self like this? It was beyond my ability to process.
"Eric, what are you doing?" I finally found the voice to ask.
The Vampire just smiled at me, his razor sharp fangs on display as he began to climb the porch steps, dragging his Human counterpart with him. He stopped just short of the doorway, and the magical barrier that must have been in his way, staring directly at me.
"Invite me in." He ordered, dragging his prisoner in front of him. As Human Eric let out a pained groan, the only noise he'd made so far, I understood the Vampire's threat clearly. We invited him in or he would kill his Human version.
The other Sookie looked at me with helpless eyes. I knew she was too frightened and confounded to process anything right now. Her upbringing, in this totally Human world, left her at the worst kind of disadvantage to deal with what was happening. I squeezed her hand, which I was still holding, hoping to give her some comfort as I opened my mouth to speak.
"Eric Northman, come in." I all but whispered, my voice shaking slightly as I uttered words I'd said many, many times before, but never with such fear.
The Vampire smiled another terrifying smile before stepping over the threshold and into the house. He still refused to release Human Eric, but I saw his grip slacken just a tiny bit and sure enough the sounds of Eric gasping for precious air came only a second later. Now we all simply stared at each other, two Sookies and two Erics, standing across the length of the living room, only one of us really knowing what was going on.
Now that my initial surprise had passed I took in the sight of the Vampire in front of me and really looked at him. I looked beyond the mere fact that he wore my Eric's face, and realized two things that lead to only one, inevitable conclusion. One I would never have guessed, but suddenly made sickeningly perfect sense.
The first was Vampire Eric's dress. All in all, it wasn't the most outrageous outfit I'd ever seen Eric wear, but the tight, blood red leather pants and matching knee length leather jacket he wore with it, his sculpted chest bare and on full display beneath, was the kind of thing I would never have expected to see him in outside of Fangtasia's walls. Even more inexplicable than his clothes though, were his eyes.
On first glance they were the same beautiful, artic shade of blue as the Human Eric he was still choking, but the more I looked at them the more I saw it…a vast empty expanse of nothing. Human Eric's eyes were icy in their beauty, just like my Eric's, but this Vampire's eyes were simply ice. No emotion, no kindness, no vestige of humanity or compassion lived behind them. Instead, they were frozen windows to the rotted soul of a monster.
"You're not my Vampire Eric are you?" I asked, already knowing the answer in my heart, but needing to hear him say it anyway, if only to keep myself from feeling as though I was falling off the jagged precipice that had become sanity. His eyes focused in on me then, the pupils narrowing like a lion assessing the best way to fell its prey.
"No." He answered simply, turning his attention back to where it had been resting the whole time: on Human Sookie.
"Why are you here?" I questioned again. The Vampire turned back to me. His face was devoid of expression, but I saw the vein in his jaw tick just once and it surprised me to realize I could faintly feel his emotions. He was annoyed at me, though for what I had no clue.
"I am here for Sookie." He answered me, his head jerking slightly in the direction of the other me who still stood clutching my hand.
She'd said nothing so far and even now she made no response to his frightening words. Probing her mind I realized she seemed to be in shock. The only thing that went through her head was a steady chant that this could NOT be happening as her eyes stayed intently focused on her husband.
"I don't understand." I said, not knowing what to do and so hoping to keep him talking long enough to figure out how to get him to release his prisoner. "And why can I feel you?" I threw that one in as well since it would hopefully lead to more talking.
"My blood is my blood, no matter which me gives it to you. As long you have exchanged blood with another Vampire version of me our bond functions." He explained, his tone betraying something like boredom at my obviously insultingly ignorant question.
"Why are you here?" I pushed again.
He sighed heavily at that and I felt my fear ratchet up a little further. He was becoming extremely irritated by my tiresome questions and an irritated Vampire was a dangerous Vampire. Since this one was already terrifyingly dangerous, pushing him past his patience would only making things worse for all of us.
"I have already told you, I am here for her."
"Then why am I here?" I hoped one more question wouldn't be one question too many. I felt an inkling of indulgence in his blood as he shrugged his shoulders with all the innate elegance every Eric must possess.
"You're being here is an accident." He answered. "Your reality and this one were too close together when my servant cast the spell which brought me here. You were caught up in it as well, but I have no use for you." He said the last dismissively and again his entire being seemed to focus on Human Sookie.
I felt her shiver and all of the sudden it was as if her will seemed to swim up from the sea of confusion she'd been in. When she spoke though it was clear she was still focused on only one thing.
"Please," she begged, "please don't hurt him anymore." Her words were shaky and her eyes went wide and huge, pleading with her husband's captor. My own had remained fixed on the Vampire the whole time and for one single second, I might otherwise have missed, I thought I saw something soft pass behind his eyes. It was gone as fast as it had come though, and they once again reset into their emotionless glare.
"That is entirely up to you, Sookie. You hold his fate and the fate of your infant in your hands this night. If you come with me and promise to remain with me willingly then I will let them live. If you fight me and refuse, then I will kill them both and take you anyway." His words held zero inflection as he said them and I could only shiver as I realized it made no difference to him whatsoever if he killed two people tonight, one just a baby. He threatened it because knew it would make a huge difference to her.
"Why do you want her?" I interjected again, desperation lacing my voice. I felt his annoyance spike once more.
"I am growing tired of your inquisitiveness." His voice came out a threatening growl and I couldn't help the shiver that went through me.
"Where is your Sookie?" I couldn't help it. If he was from another alternate universe than shouldn't he have a Sookie of his own?
Pain lanced through him hot and hard at my question, like the metal of a molten blade and it shocked me. In the brief time he'd been here I hadn't suspected for a second he would be capable of feeling anything so intensely.
"She is dead." I felt his shock at deigning to answer me. He wasn't accustomed to explaining himself to anyone, let alone an infuriating Human. We were both shocked, I think, when he went on. "Where I am from only Sookie's father was killed by the water Fairies, her mother lived. The stress of losing her husband coupled with her inherent fear of Sookie's telepathy caused her to decide to commit the girl to a mental institution when she was only eight. Sookie took her own life four years later…before we could ever meet. " Anger seemed to radiate from him like a visible aura then and I felt that he was close to losing his temper. Still I tried to keep him talking.
I had no delusions now that I could get him to free Human Eric. At this point I knew that was a pipe dream, but it well past sunset by now and I knew my Eric would be coming for me soon. He might be able to help us. I prayed he would. He was the only one who would be any kind of a match for this other Vampire version of himself.
"Then how do you know about Sookie at all? How did you get here?" This time I'd done it. He made a nasty hissing sound and advanced on me, but just when I feared he might try and reach for me with his other hand, he stopped short and his whole body seemed to shudder.
"That will be Niall." He said shaking it off. "It's time for us to go little one." He said, reaching over with lightening quick speed and taking the other Sookie by the hand.
The other Sookie screamed in fright and started to struggle, but it was even less useful than when she'd tried to fight me. I still didn't entirely understand what was going on, but just then I heard April start to cry from her crib where I'd left her.
I knew then, hearing her voice, that I couldn't let this monster take her mother or kill her father, no matter whose face he wore. I had to do something. Closing my eyes, barely believing what I was about to say, I just let the words fall out before I could stop myself.
"Wait!" I shrieked. "Take me instead." Vampire Eric stopped and turned back to me eyes narrowed in suspicion. I swallowed hard but stood my ground.
"You are a telepath?" He asked me, although he sounded pretty confident of the answer.
"Yes." I nodded.
"Then you cannot be glamoured. You will not do." His words were again said dismissively, so dismissively that he was actually turning away from me again even before he was finished speaking.
"Why not? Your Sookie must have been a telepath. I can help you. You must know how valuable my talent can be." I was beyond desperate at this point.
April's cries had become screams as the minutes passed and no one came to her, and I could see that Human Eric was starting to turn an alarming shade of blue. Human Sookie, had stopped struggling too, seeing how it only made the Vampire holding her and her husband squeeze his neck even tighter, but I could see tears streaming down her face.
"I do not care about your ability." He snarled at me. "What I want is the love I am owed. I have walked this earth a thousand years alone, a creature of death and darkness. Almost all the other versions of myself have done the same and yet they have been gifted with one of you!" He shook Sookie by the arm slightly in emphasis, "A being of pure light to love them. Why?
Why am I condemned to walk alone while all the others find happiness? Why have I been left to suffer and not them? I have seen them! Niall has shown them to me in his greedy bid to win freedom from his slavery to me. Eric after Eric, ruthless and bloodthirsty as I, but given happiness. I will not be cheated out of what is rightfully mine!" He was so angry now he was actually taking shallow breaths after every sentence and his fangs were dripping with saliva. He was the single most frightening thing I had ever seen and yet the cries of the little girl down the hall demanded that I not back down.
"And so you think if you take a completely Human version of Sookie you can simply glamour her into forgetting about her family and loving you instead?" Even before the words tumbled out of my mouth, I knew they were true.
"And of course there is the added benefit that he is too weak to stop me from taking her." He shook Human Eric, who looked as though he was close to losing consciousness at this point, in demonstration of his physical inferiority.
"What if I promise to cooperate?" I saw Vampire Eric cock his head in a gesture of curiosity.
I was desperate now, not just for him to release Human Sookie and Eric but for my Eric to come. I just had to hold him off long enough for my Eric to arrive, that's all. I'd say or do anything I had to, but I knew I was running out of time. Seeing him contemplate my words I hurried on.
"You can't glamour her into loving you. Love doesn't work that way. But I'll come with you if you let them go and I promise to love you." I thought of my Eric as I said those words, hoping that if I thought them about my Vampire, this one wouldn't read them as a deception.
"If glamour cannot make her love me than why should I believe you can?" He asked. I could sense he was at least interested in my offer now, interested enough to hold off just a little longer. Taking a deep breath I tried my hardest to sell my bargain.
"She has a husband and a child. If you take her away from them she will never forgive you and her real heart will always be with them. You can't keep her glamoured every second of every day, you know that. And once you bond to her you'll know every moment her mind is her own she'll be hating you.
I…I have nothing. I will never be able to have a child without passing on my ability, my Eric and I have bonded but we aren't together. But he's a Vampire just like you. I know who and what you are and I can love you." The words burned me as I said them.
My Eric might also be a Vampire but that was where the similarities between them ended. My Eric would never stalk the weakest of the weak and prey on them to meet his own selfish desires. I knew he was capable of it, but my Eric cherished his honor and there was no honor in hurting someone who couldn't defend themselves. It was honor, among other things, that this this version of him was completely without.
Would this Eric believe me or would he sense the lie in my words? I was terrified. I knew that I shouldn't be able to mislead him. But just after I finished speaking I saw him shudder from head to toe again. It appeared his Niall was telling him to hurry. It was a lucky distraction, because either he hadn't sensed my deception, or he'd been too distracted by whatever Niall did to contact him that he missed it. He only looked at me with those contemplative eyes for one long moment more before dropping both Human Sookie and Eric to the floor and streaking over to grab me instead.
I heard the sounds of Human Eric gasping for air now that he could finally fully breathe and I vaguely saw them crawl to each other, wrapping their arms around one another in comfort. But truly, the only thing I could really concentrate on was the monster who now began dragging me out of the house. Looking outside I saw the full moon and clear night sky and sent up a prayer that if my Eric didn't come here soon he would be able to find me wherever I was.
I was so distracted by my own terrified thoughts that I didn't hear Human Eric's mind until it was too late.
I had no idea why he did it. He had treated me, in the past two days, with a kind of wary disinterest always sure to keep a physical and mental distance between us, to keep me separate in his mind and heart from his wife. But as he watched this monster, who wore his face, pulling me out of the house, and to what he thought would be a lifetime of suffering and servitude, something in him snapped.
The idea of Sookie, any Sookie being forced to go with this Vampire was unfathomable to him and he acted then on pure instinct, not thinking or reasoning before he grabbed a poker from its home by the fireplace and charged at his Vampire self.
I could only scream as Vampire Eric threw me off to the side and turned on his Human version. He batted the poker out of Human Eric's hand like anyone would swat at a fly and then grabbed him once more by his bruised throat. This time he didn't choke though, he simply pulled Human Eric near and plunged his fangs deep into his neck, sucking hard and making his victim scream out in pain.
The other Sookie cried out at the sight of her husband being hurt and lunged at both of the Erics, trying desperately to free him. It was useless. Even with half his attention on his meal, Vampire Eric was able to throw her off with ease and I heard her hit the wall. Hard.
All of this happened as I lay on the floor, where I'd been thrown into the small table by the door. The table had smashed to pieces under me and I could feel splinters of wood lodged everywhere under my skin. I paid them no mind. Instead I concentrated all my effort on the leg of the table which now lay broken off beside me. Picking it up, I got to my feet. I didn't think, I didn't plan, I knew I couldn't or he'd feel it.
I could have rescinded his invitation, but I knew if I did he'd escape back to wherever he came from and lay in wait to hurt Eric and Sookie again, if not this Eric and Sookie than another. It was clear he would never stop until he had what he wanted or unless someone stopped him first.
So I charged him. I ran with all my might, the makeshift stake in my hand. His back was to me now as he continued to drain Human Eric and without a single moment of hesitation I plunged the leg of the table into his back pushing as hard as I could, making sure it went through to the other side.
With a roar of astonished anguish Vampire Eric fell to pieces, his body collapsing, already flaking to ash before he hit the floor. Human Eric, suddenly free of the Vampire who'd been holding him collapsed onto the floor as well. For a single second I stood there stunned, the realization that I could be the only person left alive in the room tugging at the edges of my consciousness but not quite sinking in.
I went down on my knees then, my legs half in the pile of Vampire ash that had been a version of the man I loved and grabbed the other, Human version of him, hauling his upper body into my lap. I put my hands over the artery in his neck trying desperately to feel a pulse, but where it should have been there was nothing. Laying my head over his chest I heard the silence where his heart should have beat and where his mind had been there was only empty space. He was dead.
Turning to Sookie, I saw her body crumpled on the floor next to the wall she'd been thrown into. I didn't bother to go to her though, the trail of her blood and brain matter that streaked down the wall was proof enough that she too was dead.
I vaguely felt the tears streaming down my face as the reality of things finally began to set in. But before I could think too much I heard it: the first crack of thunder that signaled a storm coming on. I didn't even have to look outside to know it would start to hail soon and the room would start to fill with other worldly shadows.
I'd tried so hard to help them, but in the end it had all been for nothing. I didn't know if other Sookie would have tried to reassure me she was happier with this fate than the one that had been in store for her. Would living as the glamoured slave of a monster who looked like her husband have been better or worse than death? Would her Eric have thanked me or cursed me? No matter what I knew his death had been inevitable. Even if I hadn't been here he would never have meekly allowed the other him to take his wife and the evil version of Eric would have killed him for it. If only he hadn't tried to play the hero they would both still be here.
I had no idea what to make of it all. All I wanted to do now was go home. I wanted… I needed to be held by my Eric. If there was anyone who might make the nightmare of all this bearable it was him. Standing unsteadily I prepared to wait, when through the haze of my shock I heard a faint cry from down the hall: April.
She must have stopped crying at some point during the fight, realizing that no one was coming to her, but now all was quiet again she was making her displeasure known. Rushing down the hall, needing more than anything to see that she was alright, I shoved the half open nursery door aside and ran to her.
She was there in her crib, wearing a look of utter fear and confusion, the tracks of already drying tears streaking down her little face. She'd never been left like this before and she had no idea what to think about her brief abandonment. Her Mommy and Daddy had always come when she'd called. She looked at me then and I could swear I saw relief in her sweet little eyes.
Picking her up and cradling her in my arms I knew I had a choice. My Eric was coming for me and I was going home. I could try to contact Pam or Jason to come for her and hope they would, but I'd probably never know one way or the other, or… I could take her with me.
Part of me said that she wasn't mine, that I didn't have the right to kidnap her the way Evil Eric had hoped to kidnap her mother. Another part of me, the bigger part, said that I couldn't leave her. She believed I was her mother, even if it was only because she wasn't old enough to know any better, and she was half me even if it was another me that made her. I had begun to think of her as mine since almost the first moment, and she believed I was hers.
I knew what it was to grow up without your parents and no one, not even the most loving guardian, could make up for the endless ache of that loss. But I could be her mother and I could take her home to another version of her father. She'd never have to be without her parents, even if the ones who'd made her and who'd loved her first were no longer here.
I owed April that. I owed Eric and Sookie that. So pushing the doubts out of my head, I walked back to the living room holding my little girl in my arms and waited.
Just like it had happened on both of the previous nights, lightning cracked close to the house, so close it made me jump back and then a shadowy shape appeared in the room. Only this time I wasn't afraid. I stood my ground and waited and as I knew he would, Eric…my Eric appeared in the room with me.
Our eyes met and our bond flared and without a single word between us, he held out his hand to me. Never taking my eyes from his, I reached for him, grasping onto him… my anchor in the storm, and when he pulled I went without a moment's hesitation.
One moment Eric held just my hand and then in the next I was completely in his arms, April pressed between us.
But Eric's eyes were just for me and he stared at me with such a look of tender adoration it nearly made my knees buckle. After all the bad that happened tonight, I felt as though his eyes were healing me with the strength of their emotion alone. And it was his eyes, those beautiful, arcticly blue eyes that were so cold in color, but held such a wealth of life and warmth behind them, that told me better than anything else I was once again safely home. That and his single breathy word of greeting.
I smiled up at him then and without needing or wanting to say anything more, I took the hand that wasn't cradling the baby and reached up. Cupping the back his head and entwining my fingers in his long, silky gold hair, I pulled his lips down to mine and took them in a kiss that I hoped, along with our bond, told him everything he needed to know.
I woke sometime in the middle of the night unsure what had pulled me from the blissfulness of sleep. Given the way the past few days had gone my first reaction was wariness. That wariness turned into outright panic when I looked over to find April was no longer beside me.
We had been home, in my right reality for less than a week and I slept with her in my arms every night since then. I knew she needed to have her own room again with her own crib, but something in me, maybe still shaken from the horrible night that had made her mine, wanted to keep her close. I needed to have her right where I could see and hear and touch her whenever either of us needed reassurance.
Finding her mysteriously gone, I bolted out of bed in near hysterical panic. I ran out of my bedroom without even giving a glance to my robe or a thought to modesty. My only thoughts were for my baby. Where had she gone, who could have taken her from right beside me?
It was probably comical, the way I skidded to halt on the slippery hardwood floors in the entryway to the kitchen, but I didn't even stop to think about it. The sight that greeted me there, was anything but funny. I knew then what had woken me.
It was the sound of singing.
Déjà vu was the first feeling that crept over me as I looked at the scene before me, but it was quickly washed away by the utter, heart stopping well of love that engulfed me. April was there, healthy and alive and as far from danger as she could possibly have been. Her tiny mind was radiating the most pure waves of love and adoration as she stared up at the man who held her.
It was the same way she'd felt when her Human father had held her in this very kitchen less than a week ago. Only now she was feeling it for my Eric. And Eric, who'd seemed so unsure about her, almost frightened of her, when he'd first seen her in my arms, now held her protectively, dancing slowly around the kitchen and singing to her.
They weren't alone though. Sitting at my kitchen table, in a strange twist of the very same moment I'd witnessed just a few mornings before in another reality, was Bubba. He smiled serenely watching the Vampire Sheriff sway while cradling the angelic little girl, and gifted them with one of his rare moments of song as he and Eric serenaded April with a duet of "Can't Help Falling in Love".
As Eric turned in time to the languid rhythm of the song, I caught his attention and a wide smile lit his face. This time, the Eric who stared at me as though I was the sun itself wasn't expecting another version of me. This time he didn't look at me, realize who I was, and let his smile drop. This time I was the Sookie he was looking for. I was the Sookie he loved and this time he opened his long, strong arms and beckoned me to him.
In that moment, I knew I would always mourn for the other versions of us. Their lives had been so idyllic so filled with light and love, they hadn't deserved what happened to them. But I would never regret my strange journey. I hoped wherever they were they knew I would love their child, my child, with every ounce of my being. Looking at Eric, holding the tiny blonde bundle of baby as though she were made of the most precious, fragile material on earth, I knew her father would love her too.
The strange machinations of a mad man who longed to be loved, but hadn't truly understood what love was, had wrought a havoc I could never have imagined. But his evil had brought me a gift I would never have dared hope for. Not only had I been shown the love I had been denying for my Vampire, but it had brought us a daughter too, a daughter who was one part me, one part Eric and all miracle.
I went into Eric's arms then, more willingly than I had ever done anything.
And as Eric's held me close against his body, April between us, we all began to sway together, dancing as Bubba sang. It was a magical moment made all the more perfect when Eric leaned down and began to whisper the words of the song into my ear. As Eric sang to me and April cooed in happiness to have us both holding her so tightly, it hit me.
There we were, April, Eric and I: a family.