Do you really want me, Eric? Me, with my baggage and scars? Me, who tends to run when things get to hard? Me, who tried for more than a decade to love her husband the way he deserved but couldn’t because part of my heart was lost on a long-ago October night? Me, who will have no choice but to put you second after my daughter, who I would give my abnormally-extended life for. Because that’s the me you would get,” Sookie said. Part of her wanted to look down as she admitted her faults, but she forced herself to keep eye-contact.
Ten-century old calluses were rough against her skin when he cupped her cheek. “Of course I want you. I know that I’m responsible for several of those bags and scars that you bear. It doesn’t matter if you run because I will always be able to find and catch you. That missing part of your heart remains safe and was replaced with a piece of mine that I lost that same October. And children should always come first. In order for them to grow into their full potential, they must first have a solid example to follow.
“As a human, my children and my village were my priorities. When Godric turned me, I looked up to him as a role model and he spent centuries teaching me how to survive as he had. I’ve spent more than a hundred years with Pam, passing his training on to her. Much like you, I wasn’t looking for a child when I entered the San Francisco brothel, but the impetuous madam learned what I was. Before I could glamour her, she slashed her wrists and begged me to turn her.
“I can’t define what it was about her that had me feeding her my blood rather than letting her bleed out. In truth, Willa and Jessica were turned at the perfect age to mold and train. Pam was impulsive, stubborn, and cold. By the time I met her, it was too much a part of her makeup to change. Perhaps it was the challenge of taming her, but if I don’t know by now, I doubt I ever will.
“But I digress,” he said, shaking his head at their shared ability to veer uncontrollably off any given topic of conversation. “You may think those qualities you listed are faults. I don’t think you’d be the Sookie I came to care for without them. I have to ask though… your daughter had no idea who I was when we were introduced. How did she know so much about our past? After Alcide… after Bill… after all that you experienced at the hands of my kind, why would you encourage your only child to follow this path? Where she and her fae essence will confront and tempt vampires on a nightly basis?”
Sookie smiled sadly at the former Viking. “It’s what she’s good at. It’s what she’s passionate about. She wants to use her ability to give her friends a better life. I encourage her because I know her intentions are pure. If she had completely masked her scent when you and Pam met her, would you have even acknowledged her since she was playing the part of a pet?”
When he answered in the negative, she smirked. “If she’d been masking, would you have doubted her responses under glamour? You have to admit her vacant gaze and tone of voice were perfect.” He curled his lip, disgruntled at the flawless acting, but nodded. “She grew up with vampires; I know she told you that. The reason she doesn’t shy away from you guys is partly my fault.
“When Addie was little, I’d read her Snow White, The Princess and the Frog, Beauty and the Beast… all the proper Walt Disney approved fairy tales. She had no interest in those damsels that needed a price to save them. So I made up stories. A plucky, telepathic fairy-hybrid and the vampire area sheriff. They took turns saving each other. There were supporting characters: The Soldier, The Newborn, The Bitch, and The Wolf, but the stories centered around The Fairy and The Sheriff. I never named them… I guess to keep the stories in the realm of fiction. My daughter couldn’t have been more fascinated.”
“You and I, Bill, Jessica, Pam, and Herveaux,” Eric guessed after musing over the titles. “Were all the stories true?”
Sookie shrugged. ‘I churched up some of the details to be appropriate for little ears.” She tapped her forehead and said, “I had insight into what she was able to understand. Somehow, I kept her fascinated with those stories for years. Even Caelum would listen in from time to time.
“When he died…” she shook her head sadly, “… all of a sudden I had this extended lifespan, a little girl coming into her spark, and a full-time fairy guard stuck on the idea of breeding with me. If he hadn’t been so good with Addie, protecting her and teaching her skills that I never caught on to, I would have demanded that Niall send him back. As an escape, a way to clear my head and make sense of the jumble, I expanded on the stories, writing down everything from the night my parents died until the day Niall told me Caelum was dead. I didn’t censor or pretty-up any details in my notebooks. If I hadn’t shielded to protect my teenaged daughter’s privacy, I’d have known she was reading them behind my back.
“She heard you call me ‘sunshine in a blonde bottle’ last night. That was all she needed to know who you are because she read that same line years ago after I wrote about my return from my fairy abduction. With that single sentence, she knew you were the source of every shady deal and manipulative comment made by The Sheriff. She’s in a funny position: she’s protective of me even though she knows I’m fully capable of taking care of myself. She’s protective of Willa, who was the closest friend she had as a teenager. She doubts herself around humans, unsure as to whether she’s subconsciously pushing them or if she’s really just that damn charming when they do what she wants or gets her way.
“I’ve tried not to jade her. I don’t tell her when the waiter is just extra flirty to get a bigger tip. I don’t tell her that the class president thinks she’s a freak, but that her tits are awesome enough to deal with a few hours of weirdness if he gets to feel her up. I don’t discourage her desires – writing, track, tennis, poli-sci – because those activities help nurture her creativity, learn team work and fair play, and her pushing has no effect on physical stamina. She can learn to draft a persuasive argument in print, bringing people to her side, since her skill is useless on supes. If she wants to convince a closeted Were attorney to give her a job or get a hybrid congressman to sign a bill, she can’t rely on her spark to do all the work for her. I’ve encouraged her to people-watch, study human and supernatural nature. Even without telepathy, she’s almost as good at reading people as I am. Unfortunately, she’s also just as stubborn as me, so that’s something else I should probably apologize for. I know now firsthand how frustrating a stubborn fairy can be.”
His icy blues were slowly changing to a more regal shade. “I don’t accept that apology. Your stubborn streak, that fiery independence, that…tenacity that often made me want to pull my hair out… frustrating, yes, but a refreshing difference from the breathers that accosted me nightly. You fascinated me from the first, when you appeared in my bar on Compton’s arm in that virginal white sundress.
“It didn’t take me long to learn how much more than that you were. Yes, your fairy scent is intoxicating, your blood has no equal, and your telepathy is definitely useful. But it is the woman that put herself at risk to save a strange vampire – more than once – that made me start seeing you as more than Compton’s sexy blood-bag. You, who cried for a despondent, two-thousand year old killer. You, who stood by his side and gave him forgiveness during his final sunrise. You, who allowed me to give you a kiss goodbye before I used you as bait. Even after that, it was you who saved me from my true death with your precious blood. Then you disappeared for a year.
“Your absence made me feel empty in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I hated rising and not feeling your presence humming in the background of my consciousness. When you returned, the tie I had to you jolted to life like a bolt of lightning to the sternum. If I hadn’t been held prisoner by the sun, I’d have flown to your side. Excepting my human family and my maker, I’d never missed anyone like I missed an outspoken, foolishly brave, fragrant, delicious, and very stubborn telepath.
“I felt that emptiness again twenty-odd years ago when you left Fangtasia but in a different way. At least that time I knew for certain that you weren’t dead. As determined as I was that I wouldn’t let my tie to you distract me, I couldn’t help but use it to check on you every so often when your emotions would flare. I clearly remember feeling what must have been your daughter’s birth and your husband’s death. Beyond that, your continued existence was a comfortable background buzz that made me feel… complete.”
Sookie bit her lip at the revelations. “You felt me… kept track of me… from the other side of the world? How? Do you still have connections with Lafayette? With Jason? Because let me tell you, my brother’s blood dreams were some of the sexiest yet… most disturbing pseudo-porn I’ve ever been exposed to.” She shuddered a bit at the memories.
Eric flashed her a mock pout. “Surely with all that you’ve seen and heard over the years, I’d think you’d be past homoerotic squeamishness.”
The telepath giggled. “One, with Lafayette as a friend, I got over ‘homoerotic squeamishness’ in my mid-teens. Two, it was mental porn starring my brother. Eww. Three, call me crazy, but I can’t see someone as simple and pedestrian as Jason Stackhouse topping you. You’ve always struck me as more of the dominant type.”
The Viking rolled his eyes but couldn’t hide his smirk. “While my personality and preference is one of dominance, after more than a thousand years, I’ve experienced the pleasure of being submissive. Godric was the first to show that to me and there’s a unique freedom to being able to let go and have someone else control your pleasure. I’ll have to show you personally one day,” he quipped with wiggling eyebrows that made the telepath giggle.
“As to your original question, no. Your brother and Lafayette only had my blood once each in order to heal themselves. You had my blood twice. The first time was to save me. Bill didn’t lie, the bullets in Dallas would have worked themselves out… eventually. However, the pain of silver imbedded in muscle is excruciating and the longer silver is in contact with a vampire’s blood and/or tissue, the greater the chances of contracting silver poisoning, which is unbelievably debilitating. So your selfless intentions in removing the silver from my body had an effect on how my blood affected you.
“The second time was a mutual exchange. You gave me your blood to heal me and I gave mine in return as a way to feel closer to you. If enough mutual exchanges are done, it creates a stronger, shared tie… a bond. I think, besides a shared hallucination, that immature bond cemented the connection more firmly in my consciousness. That’s the only explanation I can come up with as to why I would feel flashes of you after more than two decades.”
Sookie relaxed into her vampire, reflecting on the new information. Years ago, before she accepted her place in the supernatural world, she would have run from this conversation and the numerous revelations. “I never stopped thinking about you,” she reluctantly admitted. “Even after Bill. Little random things would bring you to mind and I’d miss you. I was sad that you stopped dropping by once he was no longer around.”
Eric relished the feel of her against him, so similar to how she felt when he was cursed. Like she had been made with him in mind. Despite towering over her by more than a foot, her curves matched his angles; slotting them together like divinely-designed puzzle pieces. While he spent years relegating their connection to the background of his life, after renewing the tie, he couldn’t help but loathe the thought of her leaving his side again
He also knew well her responsibilities: her daughter, her extended family, her beloved home. He was aware that currently, he was not one of her priorities. Not that he could afford to make her a priority in his life. The uncertain and cutthroat nature of business didn’t allow it. That didn’t mean that he couldn’t take advantage and cherish the time he had now.
Gently he ran his fingers through her still-naturally golden locks, savoring the softness of the strands and the way the movement released the addictive and unique scent of sunlight. After inhaling deeply, he tilted her face up to his. The Viking moved slowly, giving her time to flinch or back away if this wasn’t what she wanted.
Instead, she grew frustrated with his pace, stretched up on her toes, reached up to lock her hands behind his neck, and met his lips with her own. The moment the connection was made, an indefinable mix of emotions washed over them both. It was the desperation and lust of their first kiss blended with the sweetness and affection of their second. Neither being wanted to release the other, cherishing the closeness that had been missed longer than either realized. There were no learning pecks or tentative brushes; their first kiss in decades was a long-awaited communion and the beginnings of their bond crackled and popped in satisfaction at their physical concert.
Eventually the telepath’s need for fresh air won out and she reluctantly broke away from Eric’s mouth, panting. “That was even better than I remember. Why didn’t you ever kiss me after the curse was lifted? I know there were times you wanted to.”
A single Viking eyebrow arched skyward. “You are not an easy woman to show weakness for, Sookie Stackhouse. Many times, I wanted nothing more than to kiss you, lick you, bite you, fuck you, and rub myself all over you just so I could go to rest with your scent surrounding me and rise the same way.
“Now imagine your reaction to that confession all those years ago. After staking your neighbor who happened to be both your ex and a reincarnated vampire god, would that would have been a good time? Maybe while vampires including my child, my sister, and your friends were being imprisoned in modern concentration camps and forced into sadistic death matches for the amusement and curiosity of humans? Would you have had the ability to handle this while being courted by a violent, manipulative, ancient fairy-vampire hybrid? We both had other matters to deal with during the Hep-V outbreak. First I was weak and dying while you mourned your Were. Once I was cured, you had to deal with Bill’s illness and the guilt you felt for causing it.
“The brief period I was cursed was a small reprieve… a moment of relative quiet in the insanity that was Area Five. Add to that the lingering bitterness at your rejection after I recovered my memories, and there was never an ideal moment to pursue physical affection. Besides… I’m not the only one capable of initiating contact.”
Sookie couldn’t help rolling her eyes as a rueful grin played on her lips. “You’ve never been the most approachable man, Eric. Even after your curse… after I was a gigantic coward and refused to choose between you and Bill… you still seemed to be intimidating as sport. Especially after the intimacy we shared when you had no memories, it was hard to go back to being nothing more than an acquaintance. When Bill told me of how you moved on to Nora just hours after telling me how much you loved me, it hurt. When you turned Willa, a tiny part of me was jealous because she would always have a connection to you. Even estranged as you are, I know that if she ever truly needed you, you’d go to her. When you flew me home from Bellefleur’s after convincing me to hear Bill out, I wish you’d accepted my invitation to come in. It wasn’t until Caelum moved in that I had to rescind all my invitations for his safety. Part of me hoped that you would recognize that my home was still open to you and that you’d come to me when you were able… even after I saw you with that damn redheaded fangbanger.”
Eric’s focus was on her cherry lips. “I would love nothing more than to make up for lost time.” He ducked down to brush his lips over her carotid and appreciate the long-missed cadence of her pulse. “But sunrise is coming soon. Will you be available tonight?”
The hybrid’s eyes fluttered when the Viking’s cool lips teased her neck. “I’m not sure. Addie is in charge of the schedule. My baby is graduating college in a little more than twenty-four hours… the first Stackhouse to ever do so. Her daddy would be so proud of her right now.”
It was a measure of their comfort that Sookie could mention her late husband while in the arms of her one-time lover and neither felt awkwardness or jealousy. Despite the impending dawn, the telepath didn’t especially want to leave nor did she want to return to the penthouse while the sheriff and her daughter were… negotiating. “I can call when you rise and go over the plan. I can’t imagine that she’ll have a problem with going separate ways. We’re flying back to Louisiana tomorrow night and will have an abundance of time together. As I’m almost certain she has plans with Lex tonight, I doubt she’ll begrudge me leaving her to her own devices while we… catch up further.”
Eric smirked at the mischief in her grin. “Miss Stackhouse, your tone seems to imply more than reminiscing and story-telling. Are you suggesting something of a more… physical nature?” He ran a tepid finger down her cheek and along her jaw, making her shiver.
Sookie swallowed with difficulty. “I’m not promising anything, but I’d be a liar if I said I hadn’t thought about it about a hundred times since we came down here. But my wild and reckless days are behind me. I can’t have sex with someone without a solid connection. You and I have chemistry in spades, but I won’t step into another room while you order a donor or look the other way while you feel up a sexy, young, fang-curious model. I’ve spent years watching Jess do that to Hoyt and glamouring him to forget when he catches her or has had enough of ignoring it to want to leave. I get that you have needs, but if I don’t meet them, tell me so. There are few things I hate more than lies and deception.”
Eric nuzzled her neck and inhaled the sweet, familiar pear scent of her hair. “A vampire with less than five decades has little control and stronger urges. A vampire with less than two centuries will still have issues controlling their impulses and cravings, as I’m sure you witnessed with the late Mister Compton and my own child two nights ago.” The Viking inhaled again, loving the way her fae essence enhanced her already-sweet bath products and toiletries. “There are few things a vampire than has been on earth for more than a millennium hasn’t encountered or experienced. Yet very few can claim a telepathic fairy-hybrid. Only four can say they’ve met Sookie Stackhouse and only two still walk among the living. But I am the only one who knew you when you wore a white sundress to a vampire bar. I am the only one who saw the care and grief in your eyes when I was forced to leave my maker on that rooftop in Texas. I am the only one to see how your heart was shattered just before you disappeared for more than a year.
“I am the only one who knows that you are as loving as you are stubborn. I am the only one that realizes you have been both jaded and spoiled by your telepathy, knowing when humans and Weres are less than honest but having the tendency to run scared when that intimate insight isn’t available as a crutch.”
He wrapped an arm around Sookie’s small waist and pulled her close. With his lips against the shell of her ear, he breathed, “I’m the only one who can see the difference between girl who held fast to the belief that she was only human and the woman who has not only accepted but flaunts the fact that she is better than that. Yet, despite all that I know about Sookie Stackhouse, I’ve also been around long enough to know that those facts are mere drops in a very large bucket. There are no words that precisely define how fortunate I feel now that the time available to learn is relatively limitless. What appeal could an over-glamoured donor or sycophantic socialite have next to an intriguing, mysterious fairy-hybrid that smells like sunlight, tastes like honey, and feels like heaven?”
Sookie’s blood rushed at the rasp and faint accent of his voice. It made her face flush pink, her nipples tight and tingly, and dampened her lady parts with longing. Eleven years of celibacy was, again, far harder than the first twenty-five. She also flawlessly remembered how the vampire wrapped around her could satisfy every one of her carnal needs better than Buzz or Woody ever could. “We don’t have time for… this… before sunrise,” her voice wavered when she felt the Viking’s impressive erection pressed into her belly through the thick denim of his jeans.
“You’re right, of course,” he replied with reluctance. “That fact does nothing to dampen my desire for you though, Miss Stackhouse. Thanks to the blood I gifted you to aid in your healing, I can tell that you have as little want to leave as I have for you to go. There is no possible way to show you the many… many… ways I’ve missed you before daybreak since the horizon is already getting lighter. You need to return to the sheriff’s penthouse and your daughter; the vampire floors lock down at dawn.” Eric’s icy eyes burned into the hybrid’s warm brown ones. “I will see you tonight. I want nothing more than to make up for lost time and my blood tell me that you want the same.”
The petite blonde could only nod her head. For all the she had grown and matured over the past two and a half decades, Eric Northman still had the ability to knock her speechless. Sookie allowed him to lead her to the door of his suite and she stepped into the corridor with him holding the door open behind her. “Good day, Sookie. I look forward to tonight,” he said quietly.
“Good day, Eric,” she responded just as softly. “I’ll leave a message when I know something definite. Until then…” Sookie stretched up on her toes to press her lips to Eric’s, running her tongue over the seam before pulling away and resting back on her soles. “At least I’ll go into my naughty dreams of you with your taste on my tongue.”
She could see the faintest droplet of blood trickle down to his lobe from his ear canal, a result of fighting his nocturnality to wish his telepath farewell. “If only I could share that dream with you. Rest well, Fairy Sookie.”
Not wanting to repeat her goodbyes or force Eric to stay alive longer than necessary, Sookie simply smiled, nodded, and turned to exit the floor before the doors locked down. As she entered the elevator, she heard the dull thuds and clicks of automated locks engaging. The hybrid swiped the keycard given to her by her daughter at the beginning of the night to activate the lift to return to the lobby.
The penthouse was dark and silent when she entered, to her relief. The scent of freshly brewed coffee drew her into the small but functional kitchen of the suite when she found a mug and a note from her daughter.
I have no doubt we’ve both had long nights and need our rest. I called reception and scheduled a wake-up call for two this afternoon. Get some sleep and I’ll take you out for a late lunch before we pack up the apartment. Love you bunches,
Sookie smiled at her daughter’s sleepy, sloppy scrawl. Absent-mindedly, she sipped the mug of perfectly brewed joe which did absolutely nothing to replenish her flagging energy levels after the all-nighter she just pulled. She stripped, decided against a shower in favor of more sleep, changed into the oversized t-shirt she usually slept in, and snuggled into her temporary bed.
Under the bitter taste of the coffee, she still tasted wood smoke, salty sea air, and frost on a winter wind. She smiled into the blind-darkened room and slipped into her dreams.