Walking out of that kitchen door was the hardest thing Sookie could recall doing. She needed to go, she needed Eric to understand and she hated the thought of leaving him alone, even for a moment. Everything that mattered to her was impossible. It tore at her, pulling her in so many directions at once she felt her legs wobble as the crossed the yard outside.
I am no fucking good to Eric of myself in this emotionally compromised state, she thought as she shifted into a falcon and started heading toward the small township of Glasgow on the other side of the mountain where she had killed the three wolves so long ago. Maybe there would be something there tonight that she could vent her frustration on? Maybe some blood would soothe the raging pain inside her? Maybe, if she could a partner worth making it “pleasant” for, it could prove to be what she needed, too?
Falcons did not cry. Falcons did not sigh. In this form she was safe from either humiliation, but the thoughts in her mind and the pain in her heart could not be shed with her skin, nor outdistanced with her incredible speeds in this form. All of those things traveled with her, wrapped in her memory of one tall, handsome, warm package labeled “Eric Northman”. Even when he was miles away, he was all she could think of. Her cry pierced the night, making the small night animals below freeze as they waited for death from above to pass. Again, she screamed and then flew toward the small town.
Years ago, there had been a pool hall in Glasgow. There was a regular crowd of blue collar good old boys who loved to rack ‘em when the whistle blew at five. There was also the occasional predator that liked to look for young kids who had no place better to be and no parents who gave a shit either way.
Sookie could have found them by the way the light reflected in their constantly searching hungry gazes, but of course she could also read their minds. More than one kind of predator roamed the nights back then.
There had been rumors of townsfolk that disappeared, but nothing substantial had ever been proven. The local sheriff was corrupt and lazy so with nothing obvious that led to any explanation other than they had picked up and moved on, he had let the investigations go cold. They had been evil men, no one had been really interested in finding them again.
There had also been some men there that she, in another life, would have let herself call friends. The place was called Merlotte’s, and it was owned by Sam Merlotte, who was over all a nice guy, if a little shifty about the fact that he was himself a Shifter. Sookie had concealed her abilities from him, but he had lived in the delusion that way the hell out here in the middle of nowhere he didn’t need to get dressed up to fool anyone.
For the most part he was right. Humans were the most plentiful species in this backwater, even if she was the dominant one. It amused her sometimes to swim like the mythical shark JAWS in their midst, silent, unknown. Sometimes she went in her natural form, sometimes she went in disguise, changing wheat colored hair for something darker, blue eyes for green, curvy figure for something less attention getting. Sometimes looking older, sometimes younger, sometimes male, depending on the preference of the evil she was about to turn into an all you can eat buffet.
Some nights, rare nights, she found a nice guy and danced with him, her eyes closed, her mind somewhere else, pretending he was someone else through the dance, through the ride in his jacked up country truck to some cricket filled back road turn around, usually next to a railroad track, where she made it pleasant for them to get what they both needed from each other.
If she said someone else’s name, she glamoured the anger away with the memory of their sweet moments of hunger driven bliss. She could be savage, yes, most of the time she even preferred it, but not all the time. Sometimes, she could be downright tender.
She was unsure which she wanted tonight, the evil doer or the tender soon to be amnesiac lover, but found the choice was taken from her when she circled high above Merlotte’s to see the doors and windows boarded over. What a fucking day, she thought angrily as she turned north toward Lexington, the next most likely place to find what she needed to get back to Eric as quickly as possible.
She was caught in midflight by a feeling of such terror from Eric that she nearly fell from the sky. Screaming out her pain and fear she locked onto the fading blood tie and torpedoed back toward the farm. She arrived within minutes descending from the sky landing in the yard in her normal form, adding leather armor and calling Vengeance and Death to her side. “To me!” she bellowed into the night, blasting through the old backdoor at vampire speed to stop before Eric, her fangs down and hell in her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, extending her senses to the surrounding area and finding no threat. Eric had been pacing when she burst in splintering the old back door into a hundred different pieces. He stopped mid-step and looked at her. Her long hair was windblown and she held two long swords in her hands. Her eyes were glowing and her fangs were fully extended.
This was the first time he had seen her like this. Needing to know what was happening Sookie looked into his mind to assess the threat. His thought were a jumble. Paradox, Tempus Key, another Sookie.
“What other Sookie?” she blurted out taking a step toward him. The images in his mind scrambled while the tie turned into fear and regret that blew through the middle of her stealing her breath. She doesn’t know, she heard him think and felt him cringe.
“Tell me!” she commanded taking another step toward him. He froze, his eyes large with fear and something else. Still searching for what had scared him so badly she went back into his mind and heard the last thing she ever expected.
Even like this she is beautiful.
“You think I’m beautiful?” He nodded unable to articulate his thoughts beyond that. Taking a deep breath she threw Vengeance and Death in to the air commanding them, “Away!” Eric gasped as they disappeared in mid-air. She held her ground and looked him in the eye as she willed her fangs back up. He blinked at the snicking sound they made as they disappeared.
Before him stood the woman he had lived with now for several months. He took a step toward her, hesitant at first and then with more certainty. He surprised the hell out of both of them when he caught her up and pressed his lips to hers in a kiss that was a twin to the one they had shared so long ago outside the Sunshine Bar and Grille.
Sookie let herself enjoy it for a moment and then she pulled back, licking the taste of him from her lips as she looked up at him. “Eric, what the hell is going on?”
“Bring the fangs back,” he said rather than answering her question looking intently at her lips.
“Bring the fangs back,” he said again, a look of wonder in his eyes. “I want to see them.” He jumped a little when she let them back down, but held his ground. Slowly, his hand came up and his finger reached out to touch the left one. Gently, he ran his large finger down the slender razor sharp fang, exhaling slowly as he touched this unfamiliar part of her. She shivered and let her eyes drift shut in pleasure at his touch.
Entranced, he leaned down to her, tilting her head up he brought his lips to hers again and ran his tongue along the same path his finger had just taken. She jerked at the sensation and accidentally caught his tongue on the razor edge. A drop of blood hit her tongue before she pulled back, fighting for control.
The look on her face pulled him closer, not further away as she had anticipated. She placed her hands on his chest, afraid that she could protect him from everything but herself. She felt the pain of her rejection in their blood tie. “Why won’t you let me take care of you?” Her eyes locked with his, wonder and confusion filling hers as she tried to comprehend what he was saying. “I thought… I remembered…I was afraid…I was afraid that I had lost you tonight because I was such a coward that I let you go out to get what you need instead of telling you that I wanted it to be me. I wanted to care for you as you do for me.”
“I don’t understand, Eric. What are you saying?”
“If you need blood, take mine.”
“I can’t,” she said, her face crumbling a moment before she dropped her eyes to the floor.
“You’d rather have a stranger’s blood?” She shook her head no but didn’t look at him. “Then what, Sookie. Talk to me, tell me why you can’t.”
“It would be too confusing for us both to let that happen.”
“Confusing? What do you mean?”
“I could do that with a stranger and it would mean nothing, but with you…”
“With me…?” She took a ragged breath.
“I already feel so much for you, Eric. To do that, to let that happen with you, it would make the fact that you don’t want me unbearable.” She slumped then, her shoulders rounding and all the fight going right out of her. She looked so tiny in front of him that if a few moments before he had not seen her with swords and fangs flashing he would not have believed this could be the same magical creature.
“Who the hell said I didn’t want you?” Her gaze met his again.
“You…you, after you saw me, what I could do, what I was really like. You thought I was a monster.” She felt his pain and regret again burning through their blood tie. He stared at her not believing what he was hearing. Thinking back he recalled that he had said some things to her that he was sorry for, that he hadn’t meant but she knew that surely. She could read his fucking mind, for God’s sake. He closed his eyes and sighed deeply, feeling his own shoulders round in defeat from the weight of everything between and around them. She changed the subject, hating to see him look so downtrodden.
“What happened tonight?” she asked him, placing a hand on his shoulder to steady him as she looked up and waited for him to explain why he had been so scared just a short time before. Refusing to meet her eyes he reached up and pulled the cord that held the Tempus Key over his head and placed it around her neck. Then he moved back to the sofa and fell down, his long legs stretching out in front of him, stretching out so far that one of them rested between her legs as she continued to stand a few feet away. There was just so damned much of him, she thought as she tried to focus on his answer and not the body she had climbed in dream a few short hours before. He ran his hand through his hair and let his head fall back on the sofa.
“When you left I looked into the memories I had gotten from the crystal before it turned into the Tempus Key. I found…” he stopped, licking his lips.
“Another Sookie,” she finished, her chin coming up sharply.
“Yes.” Her lips twisted in anger.
“Who is she? Did Older Eric make more than just me?”
“No! At least, I don’t think so. There is a lot I haven’t let myself see.”
“Then who was she?”
“I don’t know really. I just know that if you meet her and are not wearing the Key the paradox will snuff you out like a light.” Forcing her emotions away, cursing their uselessness again she tried to reason her way through what he was telling her.
“You’re going to meet her, aren’t you?” He shrugged. “And at some point in Older Eric’s timeline she died?” He just looked at her. “And if she doesn’t die then Older Eric doesn’t make me, 500K13?”
“That seems to be the case.” She could feel his pain, but she pushed that away, too, on the edge of something large and dark. “And he asked you to save her, thus creating the paradox of her not dying, and me never being created.”
“I really hadn’t gotten that far, time travel gives me a nosebleed. That does sound about right though.”
“So, then you will love her, as he did.” He sat up suddenly and reached a long arm out to grab her hand.
“Stop thinking and come here before you go down the wrong road.” She let him pull her to him, and hated how good it felt when he rested the side of his face on her middle and his arms came up around her back.
“I don’t know her. I know you. You are my Sookie.” Her hands came up to his head, her fingers threading through the stands of his hair. “It was you who stood beside me from the moment I was born. It was you who saved me when I lost all hope. It’s you who takes my breath away when I think of you. For me there is just you, my Sookie.”
“But”- he cut her off.
“No buts, no ifs or ands. I can’t see the future but I know that whatever happened before has changed because you are here, and you have changed me.” He turned his head slowly, resting his chin on her middle as he looked up at her, his blue eyes so soft and so serious it made her dizzy. “I know that she fought with Older Eric in the original timeline, and that she gave her life to save him. I know that she helped him in many ways. That was then, this is now and you, you help me. I need you, not some woman I have never met before, and may not meet again.
“I know that I want you to let me take care of you, as you do me. I want to be closer to you, my Sookie. I know that I don’t want to do this without you. I am not sure I can do this without you.” So many things rushed through her, fear, doubt, need and hunger. She still needed to feed and here he was, the one man she had ever really wanted offering himself to her. It was too much.
“Remember,” she said softly, “How you felt when you were singing to me? All that emotion, all that love and need that was churning around inside you?”
“Yes,” he said his tone matching hers.
“That was me. Those were my feelings that you were experiencing. I fucked up, Eric and your empathy was overcome by me. You weren’t feeling those things for me. I was feeling them for you.” A tear slid down her cheek as she said the words that she had used as walls and shields in her mind for months to keep her distance from him. “I am so sorry to have confused you like that. I’ve tried to stop. Since then I make sure that I keep that all locked down so that you are not forced to process my feelings and confuse them with yours.” He frowned, listening to her, hearing her, even if she wasn’t hearing herself.
“It was the blood tie you accidentally formed with me when you sucked the bullets out of my back. I wasn’t used to processing your emotion and it weakened my reserves at first. It tore down all the walls I had put in place to protect me.”
“Protect you?” She sighed then and leaned down to kiss his forehead as she had the night she tucked him in after Lorena’s attack. His eyes closed a moment at the touch of her lips, letting himself feel her lips and her love that came with her kiss. He gasped as it all ran through him.
“I’ve always loved you, Eric. At first, it was almost motherly, or at least how I imagine that feeling to be, since I have never been one. I have seen it on others and in movies but since I never had a mother then I really wouldn’t know.” She pulled back and looked down at him again, one hand moving around to cup his cheek. Her hand barely covered half of it.
“Over the years it changed and grew into something else. It changed into wanting to be closer to you, wanting you to know me as I did you. I told you that you were my father, my brother my son. You are the only thing that has ever been real to me in this thing I call a life. I’ve looked for what to call this thing I feel for you. Love is too small a word for what fills my graceless heart when I think of you, Eric Northman.” He licked his lips slowly, not moving his face or his arms, still holding her close to him.
“You said that after the Sunshine Bar and Grille you kept it all back from me?”
“Yes. All of it.”
“Then I have been falling in love with you because of how I feel, not because of how you feel.” His words hit her like a bolt in the chest. “You said that you could feel me in the blood tie?”
“Then, feel me now.” He closed his eyes and thought of all that she meant to him. How she made him feel when she was near. How she made him feel when they shared meals and reading time together. How she had made him feel today when he awoke to find her splayed out in his body touching him like she had finally figured out what to do with him. The heartfelt emotion and physical lust left her struggling to breathe as he pushed it all to her as hard as he could through this mystical tie that he did not understand, but believed would say more than any words ever could about his feelings. When she started gasping for air above him he opened his eyes and looked at her. “That’s…all…me. Do you feel it, Sookie?”
“Oh, yes!” she rasped out, her face flush with his desire.
“Good. Now, let me feel you, too.” Looking into his eyes, one last chance for him to pull back, to change his mind, to demand that she put it all away once and for all. “Now,” he said, pushing her to surrender. That final word blew apart her walls of stone and delusion that she was not completely and totally his. It hit him like a wave from the ocean, pulling him down, spinning him around as it pummeled him on the sand below.
Her feelings were sharp and deep and filled with so much resonance that it rocked his very frame. He was drowning in something so large and comforting that he understood how right she had been. Love was too small a word for her graceless heart. If indeed her heart was graceless it was only because she had given it all to him that he might survive and flourish. It ran beyond mother, sister, and daughter into places that people dream of and never fully remember. The fleeting glimpses of this place told them that they were missing something and made the rest of their lives achingly unquiet but in the naked light of day was so far away as to seem ridiculously impossible.
Eric had been looking for this feeling his whole life and never known what he was looking for. Even now, unable to name it still, he only knew that he had found it, and that he planned to never let it go.
“Come here,” he said with a deep voice when he caught his breath. The sound of the ocean roared through his mind as she leaned down to kiss him, to share a breath of air with a drowning man.