Chapter Twenty-Three: Run Away
“Hi,” Sookie tentatively greeted her Bonded as she peeked around the front door. Mags and Junes came storming through the entrance, yanking the door from her hand so that it flung open and exposed her entirely.
Eric was standing in the entryway, arms folded over his chest, looking vulnerable rather than intimidating. “Hi,” he returned just as carefully. After an uncomfortable pause, he asked, “You are feeling better?”
“Yeah, I really think I am,” she nodded slowly. The awkward silence hung around them again and Sookie played with her hair to give her eyes something other than him to focus on.
“I am glad.”
“Yeah,” she reflexively cleared her throat. “I- uh… I know it was selfish and stupid of me to go away from you like that. I’m not going to pretend like it wasn’t. I’m also not going to pretend that I didn’t know it would hurt you. I knew, and I’m sorry, but it was what I needed.”
“Why?” he asked quietly.
“Because I’ve broken in front of you so many times, but never as a vampire. You’ve seen me at my worst when I knew what my worst was, but I didn’t anymore, and I got scared. I didn’t want to say anything to you that I didn’t mean. I didn’t want to hurt you with words when I was already hurting you with my emotions. So I needed to figure myself out by myself.”
“And have you?”
“Enough,” she smiled sadly. “Enough that I can face you and not say hurtful things. Things you couldn’t do anything about.”
“I would do anything for you,” Eric argued.
“Yes,” Sookie nodded, “you would. Only, you’re shouldering too much of the blame, Darlin’, and the thing is, you didn’t do anything wrong. You blame yourself for the Queen coming after me, but she came after me for what I did. You blame yourself for not protecting me, only I would have been truly dead if you hadn’t forced me to take your blood with me to work. You think you screwed up my transformation, but it was all me. My heritage, my quirks. I’m just one big ol’ grab bag of problems, and you didn’t deserve to be burdened with them.”
“Sookie,” Eric’s voice was an apprehensive warning.
“I’ve already told you I’m selfish,” Sookie whispered. “I already told you I couldn’t stand to be left behind again, and, Darlin’, I’m too close to you not to hurt if I ever tried. So, I want you to know, if I need some physical space from time to time, it’s not because I don’t want you near me. I want you near me always, but my heart!” she gasped, clutching the front of her blouse and waiting for the ache of its pounding to kick in, but it no longer could. “My heart can’t take the guilt of you seeing me like that and you thinking it’s your fault.”
Eric closed the distance between them and picked up his Mate to crush her against his chest. Her tears were staining the front of his shirt, but all he felt was relief that she was in his arms and still wished to be there.
“Thanks for sending Pam and letting me keep my space,” Sookie added gratefully as Eric carried her to their bed.
“I understood that much, but I could not leave you entirely alone,” he admitted as he laid them both down.
“I’m scared I won’t know what to do with my telepathy anymore,” Sookie confessed. “I think that’s what scares me most of all.”
“We will figure it out, Dear One,” Eric assured her, kissing her crown.
“Can we stay here? Not travel?” she asked after a moment.
“Is that what you want?”
“I think so. Pam told me to think about what I might have wanted if it weren’t for my telepathy, and I think it’s finally time for me to do that.”
“Really?” he asked with hope in his eyes.
“Yeah,” Sookie nodded. “When I was a kid, the cop thing just made sense, you know? I had an advantage, it would be perfect. When I was in cadet training, getting my ass handed to me and wanting to quit, I told myself that I would only be alive so long. A gift like mine shouldn’t be squandered, and it was my responsibility to help as many people as I could with it before I was gone. Now I have eternity to help people, and I can spend some of that eternity just being Sookie. I still want to help people, but I want to have a life now that I’m dead.”
Eric chuckled at that, and kissed the top of her head, “It really is remarkable what we have lost in The Great Revelation.”
“What do you mean?”
“When we were still myths, there was no opportunity to cling to the mortal coil. A Maker was obligated to get his progeny as far from anyone who could recognize them as soon as they had risen, a swift, clean break. No goodbyes, no last glances. There was a defining line between mortality and immortality. Now, with our existence in the public eye, the young ones do not need to run from their human lives. For all of the real estate and financial advantages our openness gives you, it hinders you just as much,” Eric explained.
“Even if it does mean I get a nasty, jagged break, I’m glad I can be out of the coffin,” Sookie admitted. “I’ve been in the dark all my life… I’d hate to be trapped there forever.”
“I would never do that to you,” Eric whispered as he began playing with the strands of her hair in his usual, comforting gesture.
“I know,” Sookie smiled at him, giggling as her dogs came bounding into the room and quickly made a space for themselves on the bed. “Hey, girls!”
“This will take some getting used to,” Eric admitted as he pushed at Junes with his leg so that she was flopped behind his knees rather than between him and Sookie. “They are not usually in here.”
“I think they know I had a rough night,” Sookie admitted ruefully. “They did the same thing when I found out about Gran’s cancer,” she reminded.
“Yes, I remember,” Eric pulled her body closer to his own, delighting when her knee draped over his hip almost instinctively. “Is there anything I can do, Sookie? To help you figure yourself out?”
“Well,” Sookie frowned, tangling her arms around his torso and pressing her face into his chest, “you’ve always been pretty good at keeping me honest with myself. As long as you’re doing that, I think that’s the most I need.”
“I can do that,” Eric assured, combing his fingers through her hair. “What about your little joke about opening a personal investigation firm with Emily?”
Giggling at the reminder, Sookie admitted, “I don’t know if I’m ready to work so closely with anyone just yet.”
“They scare you,” Eric realized.
“They just want in too fast,” Sookie replied. “It’s like, I rose, and all of a sudden, they think they know me. Godric with his connection with me through you… Emily with her connection to me through you through Godric… It’s really annoying and frustrating having strangers thinking they know how I feel and why.”
“I see,” Eric rumbled, still playing with the ends of her blonde locks. “Honestly, their presumptions at Fangtasia were frustrating for me as well, but I understood where they were coming from. For them to see a newly Bonded couple so gloomy was disconcerting.”
“I get it, I really do,” Sookie interrupted, “but understanding doesn’t make me feel any better. I just want them to back off, let me come to terms at my own pace.”
“And that is perfectly reasonable,” Eric assured, “but it is me that is making them impatient.”
“What do you mean?”
“I am not the fretting, preoccupied vampire that I have been since meeting you, Sookie,” Eric laughed. “You turned me into something to which my Bloodline is unaccustomed. I worry about you, Sookie. I have never been so brooding in my entire existence as I was upon becoming involved with you. I am indulgent with Pam a great deal, but I never made near the amount of allowances with her as I have you.”
“What allowances?” Sookie demanded.
“I have never comforted anyone in front of others. I have rarely done so in private, let alone in front of the Magister of all individuals!” With chagrin, he confessed, “For our Bloodline to see me in such a way… Perhaps it caused their concerns to stretch too far.”
“Pam didn’t bat an eye,” Sookie grumbled pointedly.
“No, she did not, but Pam has been around us this entire time,” Eric reminded. “She has seen and felt the changes in me even before you and I officially met.”
“You started changing before we even met?” Sookie gaped.
A grin split her Mate’s face and he gave her a playful kiss, “More than you could possibly realize.”
“Well,” Eric turned onto his back, pulling Sookie along to rest her head against his chest, “to begin with, I was paying large amounts of attention to a mortal. That was not common. Even when I was moved to turn Pamela, I did not sacrifice excessive amounts of time in the decision or preparation. When my Child arrived at my office purring about a lady cop who could not be glamoured, I was initially moved to investigate you for safety’s sake. A non-Were officer that could not be glamoured would raise many eyebrows and tempers.”
Sookie grimaced at the comment, knowing just how influential that aspect had been in putting her under Sophie-Anne’s murderous sights.
“I had connections to the department’s office and managed to get your picture, badge number, and name to distribute to the vampires in my Area. They understood that if they were pulled over by you, they were to be polite and accept their punishment without any attempts at coercion, bribery, or glamour.”
Realizing that her sex trade bust involving Michael Grosse had not been the reason she was so well-recognized on her first trip to Fangtasia was a surprise, but Sookie hid it well and remained focused on Eric’s recounting.
“That was the first step in my plan,” Eric continued. “Outing your inability to be glamoured gave me a reasonable excuse to continue keeping a close eye on you. No one thought twice about my donations to the police department, figuring it was my famous schmoozing opening slammed doors. In reality, I wanted your department well-funded so that you would remain as safe as possible on the streets, properly-issued body armor being the top priority with funds available for overtime and a well-staffed precinct being the second motive. If your department was well funded, you would be safe and decently paid for your services,” He looked at her tentatively, gaging her reaction physically and emotionally. She was professionally stoic. With a sigh, he went on, “I only researched your town from a distance. Stepping in Bon Temps so early on was more interest than I could raise at such a time. There would be few excuses to warrant such an action.”
“But, why me? Did you suspect some sort of gift behind that inability others had to glamour me? I mean, I know I’m pretty, but you’ve been around long enough to see plenty of women who were gorgeous, so it can’t have been my face!” Sookie protested.
“First off, you are gorgeous. Second, you were my Valkyrie,” Eric shrugged. “That is the most sense I can make of it. The second your photo was on my desk, I wanted you to have me. I wanted you to choose me,” He bobbed his head a moment as though preparing to admit a white lie. “As you know, I sort of stalked you a little bit. Just enough to know how to not put you off when I finally had the chance to meet you. You could not be glamoured, so I would not have second chances at a first impression. I had to stack the cards in my favor.”
“How did you manage that?” Sookie asked. “Did you use Compton as an informant on me?”
Eric’s face transformed into a displeased scowl, “Of course not! I did not want him anywhere near you. The only vampire I intentionally put in your sights was Pamela who was actually the one doing my snooping. She would run a red light here and there, glamour the officer pulling her over if it was not a Were, and gather information. You made it quite hard on us, Dear One.”
Sookie rolled her eyes, “I’m sorry I don’t share my personal business with everyone at the precinct.”
Grinning at her response, Eric nipped at her bottom lip, “That in itself was telling. A private person. Also, the fact that, even under glamour, every officer called you ‘Stackhouse’ was quite informative. No one ever called you Sookie. That was really all I needed to know. You were distant, careful, but kind.”
“How’d you know the ‘kind’ part?” Sookie pinched his nose playfully.
“When you pulled over Pam. You were good natured, polite, and you lowered her speed on the ticket to save her a few dollars.”
“Well, she was flirting with me,” Sookie teased, rolling atop him, and straddling his waist. “I didn’t used to get flirted with much, so I might have been preening a bit when I dropped the overage on her speed.”
“Oh, and now you are a receptive temple of flirtatious advances?” Eric cajoled right back, sitting up to kiss the tops of her breasts. “Who might I be murdering for such unwelcome attention on my Mate?”
“Darlin’, I meant you! Ya got me for forever and you still flirt with me,” Her Bonded did not look convinced. To placate him, she held his face firmly between her breasts, making him laugh.
When she went to lean back, Eric placed a hand between her shoulder blades, “No, this is the perfect place to be!” he claimed, nuzzling his face in her cleavage.
Laughing at his antics, Sookie wrapped her arms once more around his head and held him to her breasts. She kissed the top of his head before finally forcing him to pull away so she could heatedly capture his lips with her own.
When their mouths parted, Eric asked in a soft whisper, “I am frightened for you still.”
“You want to keep talking, don’t you?” Sookie accused teasingly.
“I do,” he nodded, bringing his hand to her face and stroking her cheek with his thumb.
“What about me?” Sookie brought her hand to his and played with his fingers.
“I want you to talk to me, Sookie,” he whispered. “About how you are feeling, why you are feeling that way. I want to know how you are finding vampirism, and if there are things I can be doing for you to make it easier.”
After a moment of thoughtful silence, Sookie murmured back, “I’m feeling scared a lot of the time. Really confused… It makes me angry and frustrated. I know the anger and frustration are because of the first two things.”
“The fear might be due to the confusion as well,” Eric pointed out.
“What is confusing you?”
Shrugging, Sookie continued playing with his fingers quietly. Finally, after a few moments, she answered, “Not knowing what to do with my gift is probably the biggest conflict right now. I guess the runner up would be how much like a vampire I don’t feel… I still feel like me. The only differences between human me and vampire me are that my throat burns when I’m hungry instead of my stomach aching. The other thing is when I’m nervous or scared, there’s no racing heart or butterflies in my stomach. The only physical signs my body gives that I recognize is when I’m turned on. That makes sex really nice and familiar, and I want to do it all the time… Or more of all the time than how much I was already doing it.”
Eric laughed at that, “You will start noticing the smaller reactions once you stop focusing on the absent reactions.”
“What do you mean?” Sookie asked.
“You say that your stomach does not get butterflies when you are nervous, but you go extremely rigid and stop breathing. This means you would feel the tightness in your muscles and the disorientation of being scent-deprived. Your nerves are probably harder to rein in than they were, correct?” he guessed.
“Yeah,” Sookie’s eyes widened in surprise. “I thought they were hard to bring under control because I couldn’t focus on slowing down my heartbeat!”
“More than likely you are making your discomfort greater by the fact you are not breathing at all. Your predator instincts rely heavily on scent. When you are not breathing, you are not tasting the air to make yourself aware of danger. This is causing a hyper-reaction in your other senses, which causes you greater stress.”
“So, just like when I was human I should just breathe through it?” Sookie asked.
“Wow, that’s reassuring.”
“However, instead of breathing and focusing on your heart rate, you should breathe and focus on what you are smelling and tasting in the air. Try identifying the different scents and flavors. The small distraction will calm you as you realize there are no physical threats,” he suggested.
“Why don’t you just use the Bond to calm me down?” Sookie asked.
“I would if you were becoming hysterical or uncontrolled, merely for the sake of your safety and the safety of others. However, repressing your emotions, or forcing you to feel something you do not, is only going to make these transitions harder on you,” he brushed his thumb over her bottom lip before giving her a brief kiss. “You need to feel, Sookie, even the bad things. Not just for the sake of learning the many realms of self-control needed to be a successful vampire, but for your own mental health. You know that vampires feel things more strongly than mortals, and this means you need to develop a measure of your responses to those emotions.”
“I thought I was exhibiting pretty impressive self-control already,” Sookie frowned.
“You definitely are, but it is because you are repressing your own emotions much like you did as a mortal… It does not feel like you have properly mourned your grandmother yet,” he hinted softly.
Sookie scowled, “I’m fine!”
“So stubborn,” Eric sighed, pressing his forehead to hers. “Well, if it turns out that you are not, do not fight it. All right? You believe you have seen yourself at your worst already, but I have my doubts.”
“I really want to say you’re wrong about that,” Sookie disagreed.
She paused briefly before shaking her head, “No.”
“Will you run from me again if you find that I was right?”
“No,” she shook her head again.
“You are certain?”
“Hurting away from you hurt more than hurting with you,” Sookie whispered.
“I would understand if you needed space,” Eric replied softly.
“That’s not what you were saying before,” It was not an accusation, but more an inquiry.
It was Eric’s turn to retreat into silence. After a long moment, he confessed, “I handled myself very poorly tonight, Sookie. I am actually ashamed of it.”
“Ashamed? Why?!” she asked in alarm.
“When we were driving back, I begged you not to cry again. When we returned to the house, I stormed off like some petulant child who did not get his way. I pushed you out the door, and then had the audacity to act as though you ran from me.”
Sookie’s lips tightened into a thin, thoughtful line before she consoled him, “Hey, hey!” She nudged him carefully. “This is crazy for both of us. We had a really crappy start to our vampire existence together, and a really crappy end to our human/vampire life. We’re both confused, frustrated, and angry. I mean, sure we’re those things for different reasons, but it doesn’t make it any easier on either of us, right?”
“Sookie, I am over one-thousand-years your senior. I had no right to treat you like that. I am supposed to be your rock, your guide, and I failed at that tonight.”
“Oh, Darlin’,” Sookie crooned, “don’t say that! This isn’t like when you were training Pam. You can’t pretend you had much more knowledge on what you were doing entering into this Bonding thing than I did!”
“But I did!” he protested.
“No, you really didn’t. You can read all the books on doing something, but it doesn’t make you an expert the first time you try to do it. Plus, how levelheaded can you be when you have this mess,” she pointed to herself, “swirling around inside you?”
They returned to companionable silence as they considered the turn their conversation had taken. After several minutes, Sookie asked, “How you feel me, it’s nothing like how you feel Pam… Is it?”
“No. Knowing one’s emotions is not the same. It is like the difference between sympathy and empathy.”
“When’s the last time you empathized with someone?”
“I could not say for certain if you are asking about events that happened before I knew of you.”
“Then we’ll just have to go through the growing pains together.”
“I suppose we will.”
“Ah, guilt,” Sookie frowned. “I know this emotion easily enough.” Tangling her fingers in his hair, she lightly nudged at the Bond with encouragement. “You know; I don’t expect you to get everything right the first time. I don’t expect perfection. You’ve already gotten me through the hard parts. We can do the rest of this journey together. No one leading, no one following, just hand in hand.”
“You deserve perfection,” Eric told her softly.
Sookie sighed, letting Resignation sing through the Bond. “You’re just going to beat yourself up over this for a while, aren’t you?” Eric pouted, making Sookie laugh.
Deciding to take himself out of the spotlight, Eric suggested, “You should practice reading the Bond. You still rely quite heavily on me to read it for you.”
Swallowing reflexively, Sookie quietly confessed, “I was void for so long, I really don’t know what most of my emotions are anymore, let alone yours.”
“All the more reason for you to exercise your interpretations of the Bond,” Eric pointed out.
Nodding in understanding, Sookie closed her eyes and reached deep within herself and their connection.
“Try sending to me, Dear One,” he encouraged as he reached up to play with the strands of hair that framed her face. The swirling apprehension in the Bond nudged weakly, and a tentative trickle of love poured into his heart. “That feels wonderful,” Eric whispered, running his thumb across her cheek, “but you love me much more than that, right?” Now that digit scraped across her plump lower lip. “It is just you and me, Sookie. No need to police your feelings.”
Carefully the Love from her end of the Bond swelled until a grin split Eric’s face. “Now, you know what you are feeling because you are sending it to me. What do you feel from me?” he asked.
“I-I don’t know,” Sookie stammered, trying to interpret the emotions that her Love tangled around. “Concern? Patience?”
“Those are just byproducts of what I feel, Sookie,” Eric explained. “Feel all of it at once, do not break it apart.”
“Is this how you love me?” Sookie gasped as she felt a strange, but pleasant expansion in her heart.
“Yes, my Sookie,” Eric cupped her chin in his palm to draw her lips to his own. “This is how I love you.”
“It doesn’t feel as lusty as I would have imagined,” she admitted jokingly before his mouth found hers. As their tongues twisted around one another, Sookie groaned and pulled away, “Oh, there it is!”
Chuckling, Eric rolled atop her and continued peppering kisses across her cheeks, the bridge of her nose and finally lips once more. Mags and Junes made a quick escape as their pair’s movements forced them off the bed.
“Give me more, Sookie,” Eric pleaded as he began suckling the length of her neck. “I want to feel how much you love me.”
Capturing her lip between her teeth, Sookie tried once more to focus her intentions into the Bond. Lust-laced love flowed from her, twisting into his own feelings until she heard her Bonded’s approving purr.
“You feel so good in here,” Eric brought her hand to cover his unbeating heart. “You do not need Reservation in here,” he squeezed her hand tightly. Sookie’s response was to nod, and Eric moaned as he felt her end of the Bond split open and flood him with everything she had held back the last two weeks. “There you are!” he crowed, his hips rocking against hers. “Oh, Sookie, why do you keep trying to hide from me?”
“Never again,” she groaned while his rolling hips brought her further pleasure. His hand released hers to glide down the length of her body and cup between her legs. The firm pressure caused her to gasp as his fingertips stroked over her clothing. Jaw slackening, Sookie’s fangs popped, earning a laugh from her Mate, “D-don’t laugh, I can’t help it!” she whimpered at his attention.
“Those fangs are just too beautiful, my Sookie,” Eric kissed the corner of her mouth. “I cannot help but laugh when I see them because they make me so happy.”
Halfheartedly exploring their Bond, Sookie found this to be true. Aside from happiness, the sight of her pointed teeth brought more lust singing through their connection.
“Why does it feel so good when you run your tongue along ’em?” Sookie asked before experimentally doing just that and shivering pleasurably.
Bracing an arm alongside her head, Eric gave her a chaste kiss, “You have glands right here now,” he leaned in, and gently rubbed his tongue along her gum line of her fangs. Sookie made a small, simpering noise at the contact and arched her hips against his hand. “It produces the anesthetic that dulls the pain of our bite. Your salivary glands now produce coagulants rather than saliva.”
“What about down here?” she arched against his hand. “What makes me wet?”
“Me,” he teased.
“Well, obviously,” she nipped at his lower lip. “I meant, what does it do?”
Eric shrugged, “Nothing really. Your secretions are similar to my own, residual plasma and blood from what we have consumed. It is why we are much more sexually insatiable after feeding. There is excess blood for our genitals to utilize.”
Sookie’s face scrunched, “That sounded way too clinical. My curiosity is satisfied, so turn the sexy back on.”
Laughing at her mood swing, Eric leaned down and kissed her deeply, running his tongue along her fangs. This tactic paired with his nimble fingers between her thighs had Sookie squirming and mewling within moments. Soon his hand was slipping beneath her skirt and navigating around the elastic of her panties to glide against her weeping slit.
“Eric,” she groaned into his mouth when she felt his fingers slipping inside of her. “Oh!” she wrapped her arms around his neck to keep his lips pressed against her own.
A brief, flat tone diverted Eric’s attention, Sookie pouted as his mouth parted from hers, and he looked at his phone on the nightstand.
“Ignore it,” she told him. “Keep kissing me.”
Momentarily distracted, Eric continued sliding his fingers against her entrance, but he sat back on his knees to reach for his phone.
“Eric,” Sookie moaned with a strange combination of annoyance and arousal.
“Shit,” Eric grimaced before lobbing his phone on the bed beside them.
“Nothing for you to worry about,” he assured while layering his body once more over hers.
“Easily distracted baby vamp,” Sookie reminded. “What was that text message?”
“The King of Arkansas is making a play for the Louisiana kingdom,” he griped, pressing his mouth back to hers.
“What does that mean?” Sookie pulled from his lips.
“Annoyances. It is too late in the evening to do anything about it now. I will work on it tomorrow.”
“Sookie,” Eric looked at her amusedly, “you have two choices. I either take my fingers out of your wet, little pussy to continue a very boring discussion that will take the remainder of the evening, or we drop this topic until tomorrow, and I fuck you so hard you do not stop cumming until dawn. Which would you prefer?” When a burst of Confliction rang through the Bond, Eric had to admit he was surprised. Realizing where her apprehension stemmed, the older vampire smiled and murmured, “I promise that no matter what the King of Arkansas does, it will have no effect on us.”
“Then I will take option two,” Sookie grinned up at him.
“I was hoping you would say that.”
Jason Stackhouse flung open the front door of his home, agitation creasing the corners of his eyes at being awakened by the obnoxious, continued ringing of his doorbell at 4 AM. “WHAT!?” he hollered, but suddenly stumbled back at the presence rooted at his doorstep. His eyes glazed immediately at who stood before him, and another tentative step of retreat backed him further into his home.
“Jason Stackhouse, tell me everything you possibly can about your dear, sweet sister.”