Sookie woke up with a start when she felt her bed move. She sat up and immediately remembered that she had fallen asleep holding Eric’s hand. He was looking at her with a sweet smile from the other end of the bed. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes so she could see him better.
“Is it almost dawn?” she asked as he leaned over the bed and kissed her forehead.
“Yes, my Sookie. I’m going downstairs now. It’s very early, you should go back to sleep,” he suggested.
“I’m coming with you.” She jumped from the bed, grabbed a couple of pillows and her blanket and led the way.
Eric smiled to himself, watching her small figure clutching her pillows and blanket, clad in that horrible pink nightgown with angels stamped on the front, and her hair sticking out every which way. He couldn’t love her more.
He descended into the cubby first, took the pillows and blanket, and then waited as she made her way down slowly. He hadn’t noticed her socks before: they were pink and fuzzy. He smiled again and grabbed her waist, lowering her the last few steps. She arranged the pillows and the blanket while waiting for him to get comfortable. Eric took off his shoes again, and settled his long body on the dark bed that was really meant for only one. Sookie lay beside him, her head on his shoulder, and covered them both with the blanket.
“I don’t have to go to work today until eleven,” she said sleepily, snuggling closer to his chest.
Eric hugged her, enjoying her warmth. “I’ll pick you up from work.”
“You haven’t told me yet what’s wrong,” Sookie said, lifting her face to look at his eyes. “I won’t have you treating me like…” She stopped herself. It wasn’t fair to compare Eric to Bill… or even to Eric himself.
“Like Bill did,” he finished for her. “The times I kept things from you were for your own good. If I’d told you what was going on, your reactions wouldn’t have been genuine. I needed Russell to believe I would kill you. I’m so sorry.”
Sookie took a deep breath. That was something she would have never expected “real Eric” to say: sorry. “Apology accepted on one condition.”
“Tell me what’s going on now.”
Eric paused. He’d thought all night about how to tell her what had happened with Russell, knowing it was his fault for not killing him once and for all. His thirst for revenge had clouded his thoughts. He should have known better. And now Sookie was in danger once again. Even some of the sun was better than nothing at all and Russell would want that. Eric was sure that Russell’s first item of business would be to get to Sookie so he could take advantage of her blood. After that, he would get Eric, probably using Sookie as bait. Eric would never allow it. Sookie would remain safe.
“I didn’t kill Russell,” he said finally, and felt a stab of pain in his chest remembering his family and how Russell’s wolves had savagely killed them all. He finally confessed to Sookie the whole story of how and why he despised Russell Edgington with every fiber of his being. He confessed to killing Talbot. He confessed that, even though using Sookie looked like a means to only exact revenge, it was in fact a means to keep her safe as well. Russell already knew what Sookie could do with her powers. He would have kept her for himself, another oddity, another knickknack for his collection. “In the end,” he concluded, “I wanted him to suffer. Death seemed too good for him, too peaceful. Bill and I bound him in silver and threw him in a pit under a building, then covered him with cement. Bill tried to do the same thing to me, and you know how that went. Right then I should have known that if the cement wouldn’t hold me, the cement and chains wouldn’t hold Russell.”
Sookie was staring at Eric wide-eyed. She wasn’t sure what to think. For once Eric was telling her every single little thing that she wished to know, only it was all like a horrible nightmare. She tried to put herself in Eric’s shoes and view it from his perspective: the mighty Eric, prince of a Viking kingdom, losing everything in one night to a powerful being that he had no way to defeat. His warrior nature would have wanted to find and punish the culprit no matter the cost. It had taken him a thousand years, and he had failed.
“I’m so sorry,” she said finally, coming to her own conclusions.
Eric looked at her puzzled. “Why? You are the least culpable.”
“Because of everything you went through. It was unfair. I know what it’s like to lose your family, but at least I had my Gran, and I still have Jason. You had nobody. I understand your wish for revenge. I’m just sorry it went all crooked. I know I should probably be mad at you for not killing Russell, but I’m tired of being mad at you. I’d rather you tell me how I can help.” Sookie put her head down on his chest again, feeling as she was lifted up when he took a deep breath.
“Thank you,” he said simply, yet another thing she wasn’t sure she’d ever hear coming from his lips. “This is why I love you,” he whispered and caressed her hair. Sookie closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, cherishing that moment for what it was.
Eric was astounded, even though he knew that he shouldn’t have been. Sookie was so brave and perceptive, willing to see things in a way that others wouldn’t or couldn’t. He realized that he should have always trusted her from the very beginning. He closed his eyes and let the dawn take him.
Pam followed Eric to Merlotte’s, keeping her distance and watching to see if anybody would follow her master. When he took to the air she ran and hid in the trees surrounding Merlotte’s. Eric was already there, leaning against Sookie’s car. Pam stayed still, watching and listening. Smelling. What the hell was that foul stench? It smelled like a corpse, but the smell was moving. How could that be?
Eric must have smelled it too because he took up a protective stance in front of Sookie’s car, lifting his face to the wind and following the direction of the disgusting odor. Pam decided it was time to join her maker. Something was wrong and, whatever it was, they needed to face it together.
“I knew you were around,” he quipped when Pam appeared beside him. “It smells like a walking corpse,” he said under his breath, barely able to believe it. Could it be? And who had done this? He thought they’d gotten rid of the only one who could bring corpses to life.
“A zombie?” Pam asked, sounding like someone had just hit the air out of her. His child was not easily surprised, but he knew she’d never seen a zombie before. She was about to see one now.
“Get ready,” he announced, as both of them braced themselves.
They waited and waited, the zombie was there, just past the tree line, but it wasn’t advancing, more like tottering back and forth. Eric and Pam followed the movement with their ears and noses, unable to see exactly where it was inside the trees.
“What is it doing?” Pam asked, just as they heard the employee door open behind Merlotte’s.
A sudden fear gripped Eric at the same time that they heard a scream in the night. “Distraction!” he yelled as he ran towards the scream, now moving farther away from him.
Somebody had Sookie. The walking corpse had served as a distraction to steal Sookie right from under him. He took to the air, flying faster than he could run, hoping Pam had brought some kind of weapon with her because they might need it.
Sookie’s scent hit his nostrils, a mixture of her sweet honey bouquet and the stink of abject horror. He could feel his own fear mixed with hers. Russell had her, he was sure of it.
“Not again, not again,” he muttered, seeing the vampire below him carrying Sookie over his shoulder. She was no longer screaming but whimpering, probably because it was difficult to catch her breath as fast as they were moving. It would be of no use to engage Russell in a fight because he was three times as old as Eric. Eric would lose. His best bet was to snatch Sookie back from Russell and fly her out of there.
Eric fell on Russell, which made him release Sookie. She fell to the ground with a thickening thud. Russell had been moving as fast as a car, and the force of Eric’s hit on the other vampire was like a car hitting a wall. Eric didn’t have time to think about Russell, who was bellowing some incoherent nonsense, or to see if Sookie had been injured by the sudden stop and fall. He took Sookie in his arms and flew, calling to his child so that she would follow him and stay away from Russell.
“Can’t breathe,” Sookie mumbled in his arms.
Eric reached her house and set her down on the porch, checking her for injuries. She winced as he touched her stomach, and screamed when he pressed harder. Faster than he could think, he bit his wrist and put it to her mouth.
“Drink, Sookie, please. I’m so sorry,” he said, watching her drink, scared that Russell would show up at any moment while she was still drinking and unable to move.
He felt Pam nearby and smelled the foul odor from the zombie. He turned his head quickly to see his child emerge from the trees towing the unlikely corpse.
“You have GOT to be kidding me!” Pam yelled, shaking the corpse until its teeth rattled. “She cannot be killed! How many times have I tried and look at this shit!”
“Tara,” Sookie whispered. She had stopped drinking Eric’s blood to look at what had happened to her former friend. “Who did that to her?”
Sookie turned to Eric for some sort of explanation, but there was only one thing he could say.