“I must say I’m confused. You once said you ‘don’t swing that way.’ Have you changed your mind?” Pam asked. She was driving us back to Bon Temps in her Avalon sedan.
“No, Pam,” I rolled my eyes, even though she wasn’t looking at me. “There’s a lot that I have to think about, and I need you. I need a sounding board, or at least someone with a few more years of life under her belt.”
I saw Pam smile. It was fleeting, but it was there. “I’m honored, Sookie. We’ll have a sleepover.”
I snickered a little. “I’m not playing any sleepover games with you, Pam.”
“Too bad. I’ve heard those are fun. I wanted to practice kissing with you.”
Of course she would. “Sorry. Eric’s spoiled me,” I said, feeling very much like a teenager after saying such a thing. What was wrong with me?
“If you like him so much, then why am I here?” Pam asked, with good reason. “Let’s start with the obvious. I’m not his child for nothing. He feels very strongly about you, won’t stop talking about you, and frankly it’s driving me nuts.”
“Short drive,” I muttered.
“I heard that. Moreover, I know that you feel strongly about him, so much so that you made him your first lover.”
“Tell me I’m lying.”
I remained silent. Sometimes she reminded me a lot of Eric.
“I thought not,” she said smugly. “Anyway, I also happen to know this is new. If you think feeling this way is something he does often, you’re mistaken.”
“I hate to point out even more obvious things, but why in the world would you two defy your queen for me?” I asked.
“You wanted to keep him safe,” she shrugged.
I tried to process it. He’d said the same thing the night before. “Anybody would have done the same thing,” I said slowly.
“Really? Are you sure?” Pam asked.
No, not anybody would have done the same thing. People were afraid of vampires, or else idolized them, or thought they were invincible… or simply didn’t care whether one died or not. Vampires were like great white sharks that happened to live on the surface. Some humans cared about their fate, but most only saw the predator and were either in awe or fear. I must have been simple. I saw that the human being they once were hadn’t been lost. So Bill’s friends had probably been deranged humans, that was a given, but when I thought of them I always remembered Indira, who was so unbelievably beautiful and gentle. Like a momma shark.
“He hasn’t eaten since he met you. Did you know that?” Pam said, cutting through the silence with her own quiet voice.
“What do you mean he hasn’t eaten?” I asked shocked. He’d told me he had, I distinctly remembered.
“He only drinks True Blood and I guess now he’s feeding from you. He won’t touch any other.” Pam was turning into my driveway.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. Eric sounded heartsick. Lovesick. He’d only known me for a few weeks. “Pam, how’s that possible?”
“What? That a man fell head over heels in love with a woman? It happens all the time. For someone who can read minds, you don’t know much, do you?” she shook her head.
We walked in silence towards my house. I was feeling dejected and a little foolish. Of course I’d seen people fall in love, and seen what it’d done to their minds. But usually they were evenly matched.
I showed Pam the cubby hole and gave her blankets and pillows to arrange as she saw fit.
“You really worry too much, Sookie. Do you really think I wake up during the day because my accommodations are uncomfortable?” she’d asked.
“I don’t know, Pam! I’ve never been a vampire,” I’d said, making Pam laugh.
Now we were sitting at my kitchen table. I was drinking chamomile tea with a hint of brown sugar, and Pam was nursing a True Blood.
“This is really not that great,” she said, pointing at the bottle.
“Then why do you drink it?”
“So that I won’t get hungry and want to eat you. Honestly, Sookie. Why do you drink chamomile? I don’t remember that it tasted all that great.”
I looked down at my cup. “You’re absolutely right. That’s why we put stuff in it.”
“I can’t put anything in the blood,” she said looking down at her bottle. “Can I ask you something Sookie?”
“Sure,” I said. By now I might as well tell her whatever she wanted to know.
“What happened today? Did you reject him? Is that why I’m here?” she asked, looking up directly at my face. She looked sad.
“No, of course not. What makes you say that?” I asked, taken aback. If anything I was trying to match my feelings for him, brain with heart.
“You know I can feel some of what he feels. I woke up and felt he was in a great amount of distress. The only thing I could think of was that you had rejected him.” Pam was being logical. I hadn’t known that my own freak attack had affected Eric so much, so much that his feelings transferred and his child felt it.
“It’s a long story,” I said, looking down ashamed. “Eric helped me with something. He must have felt bad for me. I don’t want to talk about it, if that’s okay. I’m finally feeling better.”
“He didn’t tell me anything, but his desire for vengeance is a living thing within him. It’s making me wonder what I’m missing,” she said, her fangs running out.
I gasped. “Pam!” I grabbed my cell phone and called him. He didn’t answer. “God damn it! Answer!” I yelled at the phone.
Pam called from her phone, and he didn’t answer her either. He answered the second phone call from my phone. “Yes?”
“Eric, quit it. Whatever you’re doing or about to do, come home,” I said immediately. I feared he’d gone to look for my great uncle.
“Sookie, I’m not doing anything at all. I’m still at Fangtasia. I’m thinking of many things, however. Perhaps Pam picked up on that.”
“Please, Eric. I don’t want to think about this ever again,” I felt teary eyed again and put my head down on the table. I missed my Gran more than ever right about then. She was the one that had made all the humiliation stop.
I felt Pam’s cool fingers take the phone from my hand. “Whatever you’re doing it’s upsetting her,” she reported, and paused to listen to what Eric was saying. “Well I didn’t know and she won’t tell me.”
I stood up from the table to get a glass of water. As I stood at the sink, looking out over the backyard, I could have sworn I saw a ghostly pale face disappear behind a tree. Before I panicked I reached out with my brain. It took a lot of concentration to reach out that far, but sure enough: there was a big holey brain standing right behind the nearest tree to the house, about thirty feet away.
“Pam?” I turned around so nobody that was outside could see my fear. She was looking at me already done with her conversation with Eric. “There’s somebody out in the woods, a vampire.”
Pam was on the phone again, whispering something too fast for me to catch. She hung up in half a minute. “Let’s go to the living room,” she said.
We crossed the length of the house and sat down on the couch, with the lights off. “Were you able to get a good look at the face?” she asked.
“No, it moved too fast. Dark hair, pale face. It could have been Bill, but I couldn’t tell you a hundred percent. Are we staying here?” I asked, practically jumping in my seat.
“If they wanted us to leave the house, they would have made us leave already. Eric is the sheriff. Let him see to this matter. He’ll let me know if he needs help,” she said as if this was just any ol’ regular night in the backwoods of Bon Temps.
“What if that’s what they’re waiting for, to ambush the sheriff?” I asked, folding my fingers tight over my hands.
“You worry too much Sookie. No one would take one of the oldest vampires around, let alone the sheriff. Calm down. Hey… do you have anything that can be used as a stake?” she asked, getting excited.
“No, Pamela. I don’t happen to own weapons that can be used to kill my friends, thank you very much.”
“Don’t you have a shotgun?”
“It’s Jason’s, and it’s for hunting. He needs to come get it but he’s not allowed in the house anymore.”
“Too bad. He’s cute, and I owe him a good bite for what he did to you,” she said, her eyes turning dreamy with imagined bloodshed. “I’ll tell you what: if things get out of hand I’ll make a stake out of your broomstick and I promise to replace it.”
Pam was gone and back before I had a chance to answer, with my broom in her hand. Between her Elvira dress and the broom, all she needed was a pointy hat and she’d made an excellent witch.
“Can you fly too?” I asked her. That would have been all kinds of funny.
“No, not all of us have gifts like that. I’m a great fighter, though, better than most. But that may have to do with my age and my maker.” And she was modest about it too. Jeez!
Tina made her debut as we were sitting talking. She rubbed my leg then climbed onto my lap. I felt better instantly.
“There’s a small furry thing on your legs. Is that a rat?” Pam said. I wasn’t sure if she was saying it with disdain or if she was trying to be funny.
“This is the cat I told you about. Her name is Tina,” I said, while Tina started climbing over my arm to play with my hair. “Come here little furry purry,” I said, bringing her back to my lap.
“Do you call Eric by some term of endearment? Viking muffin? Honey bun? Schnookums? You know you have to tell me. You know that right?” she was super vampire serious.
“No I do not call him anything but by his name, and if I did I wouldn’t tell you, you evil witch,” I said, trying to stay serious, but I couldn’t. Even the situation outside couldn’t stop my sudden giggles. “He does have nice honey buns,” I said and burst out laughing, scaring the cat.
Pam was smiling. “Those are nice, for sure, but his korv is better.”
“Korv?” I asked. I was sure it was some kind of meat.
“It’s sausage,” Pam answered in a conspiratorial tone.
I made a mock gasp. “Pam! I can’t believe you’d prefer sausage over baked goods.”
“Actually I prefer neither,” and she smiled. Evilly.
We sat in silence for a few minutes. The conversation had helped with my nerves, but not for long. My quirk was addled by nerves, and even though I was trying to cast a wide mental net, all I kept coming up with was Pam’s brain next to me.
I looked up when I felt a breeze. Pam was at the door in a blink, opening it ever so slowly, peeking outside. I stood up too, getting ready for what? I didn’t know. Pam threw the door open and broke the broom handle into three pieces as easy as a piece of spaghetti. My heart didn’t start to race until I saw her face.
“Stay in here and kill anyone that steps close enough,” she said in her usual monotone, throwing a piece of wood that I caught I don’t know how.
Pam ran out the door in a flash, and I stood by it, trying to see anything. Whoever was out there was moving too fast for me to see. But I could hear: growls, snarls, the ripping of cloth and suddenly, very close to the porch, the sickening sound of tearing flesh and a keen wail.
I stepped onto the porch in a haze of adrenaline, knowing where I had to go and what I had to do and how fast I had to do it. I scanned around the porch quickly, found who I was looking for, and ran faster than plain human, handing Eric the piece of wood. He sunk it into the female he had pinned to the ground, and she began crumbling immediately. He ran off to the east in a blur killing one of two vampires who had engaged Pam. Pam took care of the third and it was over.
All of it had lasted no more a few minutes.
Eric bent to check each corpse. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was okay. He was moving. I forced myself to look for Pam, and she was okay too, walking beside him. Together with the end of the short battle came the loss of the adrenaline high, the shakes, and the revelation I’d been waiting for.
I ran to Eric, throwing myself at him not caring he was covered in dirt and blood. He caught me and held me tight, but when I tightened my grip he hissed a little.
“You’re hurt,” I said, letting go immediately. I searched his body. His T-shirt was ripped around his abdomen, and that’s where the blood was spreading. I stopped in my tracks, needing to look at the damage. He let me lift his shirt gingerly. The wound looked like Wolverine had caught him with his claws, three wide slashes spilling thick blood, exposing muscle and… was that bone?
“Oh, my God!” I felt the ghost of the pain within me. Could pain transfer? We weren’t bonded yet, this was something else. “What do we do?” I turned to Pam because Eric was looking worse by the second.
“Let’s get him inside,” she said, and before I knew it she was carrying him as if he weighed no more than a toddler. It looked awkward because she was so much smaller. “The wounds will close but he needs to rest.”
I told her to put him in the bedroom, and damn the sheets. That’s why God invented bleach. She was gone and back in a flash, with the rest of the True Bloods I had in my fridge. Eric’s eyes were closed and I tried to keep my wits, thinking faster than ever.
“Will that heal him quicker than my blood?” I asked Pam, pointing at one of the bottles.
“No,” she said succinctly.
I nodded curtly and got close to Eric. His fangs were retracted and he wasn’t moving. I didn’t need a lesson from Pam to know what to do. I put my wrist right in front of his nose, and his fangs ran out slowly.
“Sookie, he might take too much,” Pam warned.
“Then don’t let him,” I said in the clipped tone I always had when I was stressed.
Eric didn’t make any attempt to move, so I put my wrist under his fangs and pushed up with all my strength. It hurt like a motherfucker, but I’d accomplished my goal. He smelled the fresh blood and began drinking automatically. Without thinking too much about it and before I could change my mind, I bent the other way and licked the seeping wound. His blood tasted the way I remembered, sweet and salty.
The purpose was twofold and I accomplished it. First, as he took my blood I regained strength by taking his. Second, I felt what he felt. There was a strange feeling of euphoria, which I quickly associated with what he felt when he took my blood. When fear crept up within him, I knew it was time to withdraw my wrist.
Pam helped me take my wrist away from the tight grip his mouth had on it, and she licked the wounds to help me heal, since Eric couldn’t do it. Eric opened his eyes slowly. It was time for True Blood.
“I will leave you two now,” Pam said quietly. She’d probably noticed just like me that Eric was aroused. I wondered why blood drinking was tied to sex, and then remembered what Pam had said about Eric not eating. He would have had sex with his donors. I processed this thought slowly, trying to internalize it, to understand the true meaning of her words.
“Did I hurt you?” was the first thing Eric said, as I felt his hand on my knee. I’d been sitting next to him on the bed.
“No. I knew when to make you stop and Pam helped,” I said. Eric’s blood in my system was having some interesting effects. I could see him perfectly well in the dim light of the bedside lamp. I could hear Tina following Pam around, and I could hear Pam walking to the first bathroom. Vampires are super stealthy, so it was a big deal that I could hear her. I could still feel some of Eric’s own feelings. They were a slow revolving door of love and lust, fear and apprehension, confusion. He couldn’t settle on one thing.
Eric touched his side and winced a little. “That bitch got me with her nails. She was stronger than I thought.” He looked down at himself, ripping the shirt off him. The gashes were healing to red puckered scars. He sat up with a little help from me, and I propped some pillows behind him. I handed him a True Blood and he finished it in a couple of gulps.
“Do you need another?” I asked, already reaching for a second bottle.
“No, Sookie, come here,” he said. I knew where he wanted me. I pulled my skirt up a little and knelt astride him. I think I was still in shock from seeing him so hurt, plus everything else that had happened that night, and the waterworks started.
I couldn’t help it, I cried. I was supposed to be offering him comfort, and here I was basically begging for his. He licked the tears off my face, kissing my eyelids, kissing my lips softly. I kissed him back, so glad for him to be there, in my bed, safe.
I breathed him in, the familiar scent I was beginning to recognize filling me like nothing else could. Except one thing. “Eric,” I breathed out. I didn’t need to say anything else. In a frenzy my dress was off, probably ripped to shreds, along with my panties. I reached between us, pulling down his zipper and reaching in, pulling him out, guiding him inside me and gasping as the need within me was fulfilled in the most impulsive way.
I kissed his face, smoothed his hair, caressed his back and shoulders, while his hands held me tight, tighter, not letting me go. I held his face so that he would look at me, and his gaze kept me whole, helped me heal.
“I love you. I love you, Sookie,” he breathed. I touched his lips with my fingertips, following the slight rise, the soft dip. My hand found its way to his neck, the soft skin of his throat. I ducked and kissed him there. His skin was cool like marble, but soft over hard muscle. A wonder. It cooled my own overheated skin.
I hugged him hard, moving faster over him, seeking release. It built up quickly and I cried out as I exploded within his arms, driving him to his own completion. Eric held me still as he pumped the last few times, grunting and whimpering. I sagged against his chest, with him still inside me.
I decided to tell him the secret that was eating me alive. I’d saved him from a slow and painful recovery. My feelings were as obvious as the night is dark, yet he needed to hear it aloud. I turned my head to whisper in his ear.
“Eric, I love you too.”