Once she was through the mirror Eric turned to face her, reaching for her hand, and it was in that moment that she realized what was missing.
She could no longer feel him in the Bond.
He looked down at her smiling, waiting for her to take his hand while she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt this was not Eric Northman standing before her.
Somehow, in the moment, she had lost him.
When faced with any situation there are two choices, act or react. Sookie had just lost the man she loved with every fiber of her soul, the one who had held her together with gentleness and love before she could not hold herself. The man she owed as much if not more than he owed her. The man she had spent every day and night with for the last month.
In the split second realization of loss, she could act. She could take Eric’s pragmatic approach, hold her cards close and play for time and information, or she could react, guns blazing, destroying anything and anyone who stood between her and Eric.
“Sookie, stop now. Come here to me and let’s think this through.”
“Gran? Is that you?” Sookie looked around the room but saw no one other than the man who was NOT Eric in front of her.
“Sookie,” he started, “What are you-?”
“Shh!” She cut him off, raising her hand as she shushed him. She didn’t know who or what he was, but she knew he was NOT Eric and so nothing he had to say mattered to her in the slightest.
Gran? She asked in her mind, closing her eyes and retreating to her inner chamber. Not so long ago, this place had housed six doors, Eric had shown her. Now only two remained and the door labeled ADELE was open. Looking around the chamber Sookie saw her Gran standing over next to bookcase, her face beaming her love and light at
Sookie as she held her arms open, welcoming her granddaughter into her embrace. Sookie didn’t hesitate.
When her Gran’s arms closed around her, she felt safe and it helped to ease the ache of missing Eric in the Bond. Eric, where was Eric, and how was The Pretender outside? Speaking of, she could feel NOT Eric shake her.
“Sookie! Are you all right? Can you hear me? Wake up!” She sighed in her mind, more proof this NOT Eric, her Eric would have come in after her. Mentally, leaving her Gran’s arms, she faced The Pretender and lied. There was no Bond, so it’s not like he would know.
“I am fine, I just need to sit down for a minute. You go ahead and find Pam, tell her about Russell. Make sure she is ok, and come back for me if I haven’t joined you by then.” The Pretender looked at her intently. Anticipating his next question, she cut him off at the pass. “Traveling from Parapejl is taxing for me. I just need a few minutes to rest and catch my breath. Really, I am fine.” She smiled at him, hiding her distaste when he kissed her forehead, just like her Eric would have done, before heading toward the stairs. He looks so like Eric, she thought watching him walk away, her Crazy Sookie smile pasted on her face, that if it weren’t for the Bond I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Once he was gone, she turned inward again, seeking Adele.
When Eric had showed her the chamber and the doors shortly after they had arrived at Uppsala she had been afraid. To see that place inside herself that she didn’t know was there, that symbolized all the broken pieces of herself, some so damaged she barely recognized them, had been frightening to say the least. She had been able to face it though, because she knew that Eric had already seen it, already seen her like that, and he accepted it, and loved her any way.
While frightening, Eric made it bearable, as he had done with so many things in the short time they had together. The ache in her chest from missing him in The Bond was nearly overwhelming. She pushed that back and thought about what she was seeing here.
These doors, no matter their labels, were simply doorways to different parts of herself, broken shards hidden back, splintered from the whole. She had rejoined the Cast Iron Bitch, The Pixie and The Child. She could do this with the remaining portions as well.
“No, my Sookie,” Adele spoke softly to her. “I am not like the other pieces you have dealt with so far. I am not a broken shard of you.” Sookie’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Some parts of her had been resistant to re-unification. Some had fought tooth and nail to remain independent in her psyche. Was this a gentler form of the same resistance?
“Who are you then?”
“I am a small piece of Adele Stackhouse, tucked away here by Mr. Jones, just in case.”
“Just in case of what?” She was still not convinced her clever psyche wasn’t leading her down the merry path.
“Just in case you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed a little help.” Sookie unconsciously imitating Eric raised an eyebrow at the image of her Gran before her.
“Don’t you look at me that way, young lady! You know I would never tell you anything that wasn’t for your own good, even if you didn’t agree with it!” The image sounded so much like her Gran that she felt her guard dropping and her sense of belief growing. “Jones had to let you break, but he guided those breaks as best he could, and then he put in an emergency parachute in the form of a little bit of me, to hold you together when everything else came flying apart.”
Deciding to just go with it Sookie asked the question foremost on her mind. “Who the fuck is that guy pretending to be Eric?”
“YOUNG LADY! LANGUAGE!” Adele pinned her to the floor with her stare and the anger in her eyes. Yep, this was seeming more and more like Gran every second that passed.
“Sorry, Gran. Still though, who is this guy? He’s not my Eric.”
“No, he isn’t. I like your Eric, Sookie. I have seen him when he is with you both inside and out and he loves you very much. I am so glad that you found love, my dearest Sookie. The kind of love that you deserve!” She reached to hug Sookie again. As she enclosed her in her arms she felt tears sliding down her cheeks. She had so wished that Gran could have met Eric. That she could have known the man that had totally captivated Sookie’s broken heart, and made it whole again. Letting herself enjoy that for a moment in a way Gran had met Eric, and she had seen the same wonderful man that Sookie herself had seen she let Adele embrace her for a few minutes before pulling back.
“So, who is this chuckle head that hasn’t managed to pull off being the Viking?”
“I don’t know, Sookie, but I think that he is the Viking, just maybe not your Viking. Remember, all the “Pretty Eric’s” as you called them?” Thinking back to that shower with Eric when they had Bonded, she was unable to suppress a shiver of desire, nor could she prevent the reflexive reach out to Eric through the Bond, but there was only the empty ache she had felt since coming through the mirror from Parapejl.
“So, this is some other Sookie’s Eric?” Adele nodded.
“But you should remember, my Sookie, everyone is someone’s Eric.” Sookie stopped for a minute and turned that idea over in her mind. Yes, her inner voice told her, everyone was someone’s Eric. Everyone that you met had the potential to be to someone what Eric was to her. The thought was so large that her mind could barely contain it. It made the whole universe feel connected to her in a way that it never had before.
“So, he’s a good guy, even if he’s not my guy?” Adele laughed.
“If someone had told you two months ago that your favorite place to be in two months would be curled up in bed with Eric Northman playing with his hair, what would you have said?” Sookie snorted.
“Probably something that would have sent you to get a switch for me.” Adele smiled.
“Things change. There is no such thing as good and bad, these are human notions. Neither you nor Eric, nor anyone that you now must deal with are human. Set aside those self-imposed limitations and open yourself to the one universal constant that matters here. Open yourself to Truth. If you can be brave enough to accept the Truth, then all will be well, Sookie.”
“Do you know the truth, Gran?” Sookie felt dread in her middle and wasn’t sure she wanted to hear what she sensed was coming next.
“You already know it, my darling. You tell me. It’s ok, I got you.”
“I think I hurt NOT Eric, I think I hurt him a lot before you came. Oh, Gran, I can’t stand to think of someone hurting MY Eric, yet I know I have hurt someone else’s now!”
“Shh, when you left him, he was fine, wasn’t he? He was off to see about his Pam.” Sookie sniffed, nodding.
“Y-yes, but how, I am pretty sure I killed him, a lot!”
“When you arrived here, you were put into a time loop, and you set the action by killing ‘Eric’, which you have been doing over and over for a while now. Locked in your rage at the loss of your Bonded, but you’re better now. We managed to break the loop.” She hugged Sookie again, tighter this time, kissing her forehead.
“How long, Gran? How long have I been here? How long has The Master had me?”
“It doesn’t matter, Sookie. It only matters that he no longer does.”
“Where is MY Eric, Gran? Is he safe? How can I find him? How can I get to him?” Her level of agitation rising again as she struggled to free herself from Gran’s arms.
“Shh,” Gran soothed her, rocking her back and forth gently. “Just another moment longer. I have missed you so, and when I go, it will be for good.”
“NO! Gran you can stay here! You have been hiding in here for so long now, you can stay! Please don’t go!” The thought of losing Adele again was almost as devastating as the loss of Eric, and the strain of both was more than Sookie could stand. She was crying in earnest now, sobbing as she clung to Adele fiercely, demanding she stay RIGHT. HERE!
“I must go, my dearest. It is time, and I have things do to as well as you. You have a man to find and love with all your heart. Bless you my Sookie, you deserve this chance to love and to be loved, more than anyone else I know. You’ve been through so much, you keep letting Eric help you heal! I want you to tell him something for me, please.” She was still crying as she looked at the ghost remnant of her grandmother before her, but she nodded and clasped her hand to her face, as if trying to absorb her touch into her skin for all time.
“Tell your young man, ‘thank you’ for me, will you?” Sookie looked at Gran puzzled. Adele laughed, “Thank him for taking care of you, my sweet granddaughter. I can never repay him for what he has done for you.” Sookie smiled through her tears.
“He wouldn’t let you any way. You’d start out thanking him, and he wind up buying you a car or something. He’s like that. It makes me crazy, but I love him so much, Gran! Truly I do!”
“I know my dear, and because of that I love him, too. Take care my Sookie. I love you!” and with that Adele faded from Sookie’s inner mind chamber. The door with her name swung slowly shut and then disappeared slowly as well. Sookie was drying her tears when she heard her Gran’s voice one last time.
Remember, dearest, when one door closes, another opens.
As soon as the words registered in her mind, she turned to the last remaining door in the chamber of her mind. The door that said simply ERIC. She moved toward it, placed her hand on the knob and turned it slowly. When the door was opened all the way, Sookie leaned into the darkness and listened a moment.
She summoned all the strength, all her courage, all her love and she called out to him in the dark.
I LOVE YOU, ERIC!
And he answered her….