Chapter Twenty-Eight: December
“This is absolutely the coolest thing since I became a vampire,” Sookie marveled as she managed to remain aware the entire length of Sweden’s shortened winter day.
Eric chuckled at her enthusiasm, leaning in to kiss the top of her head. “Yes, ever since you have begun mixing honey into your bottled blood, you have managed to resist succumbing to the sun. It is very impressive for a vampire so young, even a Bonded one, to remain aware that long.”
Sookie merely grinned back at him happily, wrapping her arms around his neck, “So, does that mean your ‘hands off’ policy is lifted now that the sun’s set?”
“After a few hours, perhaps,” Eric teased her, running his thumb across her bottom lip. “I want to make sure you are not feeling weakened first. Perhaps after you have some human blood.”
“Then let’s go into town and get a donor,” she whined. “I want to go running with the girls and find out what that noise was all freakin’ day!”
“Noise?” Eric asked curiously.
“That falling rice sound,” she elaborated.
“Falling rice…? OH!” Eric laughed, having tuned out the familiar noise, “Sookie! That was snow!”
“It snowed!?” she demanded, jumping from bed, half dressed, and out the door. Mags and Junes were hard pressed to keep up with her. Eric laughed as he quickly followed his Mate out the door, marveling at her curiosity and disbelief at witnessing her first snow fall. She looked like an angel in the glittering confetti of ice, her cool hand reaching out, and letting it accumulate the small flakes.
Mags and Junes were excitedly rolling in the thin blanket of accumulation, both growling playfully and snapping their teeth at one another.
Leaning against the house, Eric laughed and watched the three of them. Sookie had ceased her captivated snowflake collecting and was now on her knees, scooping up fistfuls of snow before flopping onto her back, spreading her arms and legs energetically.
With a quick bound, she leaped from the ground and examined the angelic imprint she had left, pointing at it and grinning childishly.
“Look! My first snow angel!” she beamed.
Eric chuckled and came to her side, wrapping his arm around her waist, “If you get dressed now, we can get you a donor, and then have a nice run with the dogs in the snow.”
Before he could blink, Sookie was out of his arms and back again, completely dressed. She tugged at his wrist, urging him toward the car. “Be good, Girls,” she called before Eric shut her door and went to the driver’s side.
“You seem more preoccupied with getting back home than finding a meal,” Eric laughed as he drove.
Sookie shrugged, “You know, if you weren’t so insistent on making me feed off people all the time, I’d just drink TrueBlood with honey and call it a day.”
“And if you found yourself in a situation where you needed to feed and you could not acquire TrueBlood?” he asked with raised eyebrows. “Do you know if you could stay under control in that scenario?”
“Which is exactly why I don’t make a fuss about finding a donor,” Sookie pointed out. “Besides, the mood does strike me on occasion.”
“Yes, and those occasions are quite entertaining,” Eric agreed.
Sookie shook her head, “I don’t think so.”
Eric cocked his head curiously before understanding came to him, and he groaned, “I am sorry that I have had to begin taking donors again.”
His Bonded sighed and looked down at her hands in her lap, “I get it,” she murmured. “I just wish I could still nourish you. I don’t like seeing anyone else in your arms.”
“I have only taken male donors,” he pointed out.
“Darlin’, you’re too gorgeous for that to really help,” Sookie laughed hollowly. “You think more than a few of those men didn’t enjoy being where they were any less than a woman would?”
“Ah, well, I cannot help that,” he laughed. “But you should certainly know that I do not wish them to be under my fangs.”
“I know,” she pouted.
“Perhaps you should not listen to my meals,” he suggested softly.
“I know,” she pouted harder. “I can’t help it, though. You’re vulnerable that close to them.”
“I could glamour them beforehand,” he added. “They would be completely complacent and blank.”
“Could you?” she asked.
“I will,” He nodded reassuringly.
“Thanks,” She let out a relieved sigh.
“Anything for you, My Bonded.”
Eric laughed as Sookie was playing once more in the snow with Mags and Junes. The trio were currently entertaining themselves with Sookie lobbing snowballs at the pair of dogs. Eric merely watched contentedly, leaned against the side of a tree. They were getting further and further away, but Eric could still see them, though their noises were becoming more difficult to discern.
“How are they doing?” a familiar voice asked nearby, and Eric turned to see Endymion approaching.
“Checking in?” Eric asked tensely.
Endymion shrugged his wide shoulders, coming to stand beside the vampire. “I just wish to know if your Bonded is happy.”
Eric raised his eyebrows at that, “Because?”
A secret smile curled the Voice’s mouth, and he answered, “She is very important to me.”
“Because she is your hero?”
“Oh, you heard that, huh?” Endymion laughed, scratching his cheek embarrassedly.
“You are not as formal as I remember,” Eric commented.
“It is the company,” the Voice replied.
Eric looked at the demigod and frowned, “What is it about her? Are you in love with my Bonded?” he demanded.
“I love her dearly, but not romantically,” Endymion confessed. “My heart belongs to Selene.”
“The Greek Goddess of the Moon, yes?”
“That would be our Selene,” Endymion laughed.
“Mine and the other Endymions. As I said, we are not all the same person. The original Voice of the Pantheon is the original Endymion. As dimensions began expanding, multiplying, there was a need for a Voice of the Pantheon to be present in each dimension rather than the deities overlooking all dimensions simultaneously. In comparison to most of the Endymions, I am extremely young,” the Voice explained.
“How does it feel sharing your lover with others?” Eric asked.
Endymion lifted his shoulder disinterestedly. “When she is with me, she is with only me. That is what matters.”
“Then what is your love for my Sookie?” Eric asked again.
“As I said, she was my hero in the dimension I was originally born to. In the dimensions I oversee, I always keep her future on the forefront of my priorities. I received quite a bit of flack over it when I first started out, but given my success record in my dimensions, those criticisms have waned considerably, especially now that Fenrir and Garm are no longer a threat.”
Eric watched his Bonded playing in the snow, barely visible now, and kept his eyes trained on her as he asked, “What are some of the roles you have made her play?”
“I know what you really want to know,” Endymion teased. “You want to know if she ever has you in those other dimensions.”
“Does she?” Eric looked at him with something akin to hope in his eyes.
“Yes,” Endymion nodded with a playful grin. “I have seen her in other dimension. Ones of which I am not the Voice. Every single one of them, she could not be a hero. You make her very strong, Eric. You make her a hero… And she makes you one too.”
Eric snorted at that, “Me, a hero? Perhaps a war hero!”
“No, you are her hero,” Endymion shook his head. “Even in this dimension, you were her hero. Without you, she could not have been the immortal she needed to be. She could not have remained the retainer of Fenrir and Garm.”
“It is good to know my ability to give immortality-”
“Don’t pretend that was the answer,” Endymion laughed. “There are several dimensions where Sookie does not become vampire. Plenty of dimensions where she is still an immortal without vampirism.”
“How is that possible?” Eric stared in shock.
“Ah, well, I have said too much,” Endymion grimaced. “It is never good to divulge too much information about other dimensions. It brews longing and envy. Not to mention, if any events were to intersect, it can cause errors in timeline.”
“You are a very frustrating creature,” Eric grumbled.
“I learned from the best on how to irritate you,” Endymion laughed. “Dimension to dimension, that is something that never changes. You absolutely loathe being left wanting on information. Perhaps, in the future, you will learn more, but for now you are just meant to be happy and enjoy eternity with the Guardian of the Cosmos.”
“That is a rather impressive title for her,” Eric chuckled.
“Believe me, it is not only me who calls her that. She has earned praise from the Pantheon and the other Endymions as well. It has also given me a green light for a future correction I will need her assistance in that was originally deemed unsuitable for her.”
“I do not like that you use her like this,” Eric growled.
“I know, but she does.”
“You are talking of your home dimension again?”
“I am,” he nodded.
“Does she love you in that world?” he demanded.
“I really hope so,” he laughed before shaking his head. “There is something else you really wished to ask me, though, wasn’t there?”
Eric paused a moment before asking the question that had plagued him for months, “Do you know how it was the Magister believed he could submit her to the Council without grievous repercussions?”
“Of course,” Endymion laughed. “It was rather simple, actually.”
“Please, enlighten me,” Eric growled impatiently.
“Leverage,” He shrugged. “As simple as that. If Jorge not only managed to leverage a useful procurement such as Sookie, but also subdued the Viking in one fell swoop, he knew the Council would overlook the means in which he accomplished it. He would have gotten exactly what he wished. He would have been given a spot on the South American Council of Vampires, and Sookie would have become the new Magister of North America with you as her retainer and executor. It would have been over the course of several decades before this was all transitioned, but Jorge’s promotion would have been secured… Unfortunately for Jorge, he made a great miscalculation.”
“Sookie, of course!” Endymion laughed. “He thought she would panic like any newborn and slip up. Instead, she gave nothing away. No confirmations, no hesitations, no fear. Yes, this Sookie is probably the strongest of them all when it comes to her game-play. She is very adept at policing herself and gathering all the facts before reacting.”
“More so than your Sookie?” Eric snapped.
“By far. My Sookie, who is actually very much your Sookie, is not so well practiced at such things. My Sookie is more fiery. Brave, definitely, but far more bullheaded.”
“I cannot imagine a Sookie more stubborn than mine,” Eric chuckled.
“Believe me,” Endymion rolled his eyes, “I have seen her far more stubborn. You should have seen her when…” he trailed off and shook his head, as if realizing he had almost over shared. “You know, it is far too easy to fall into conversation with you, Eric. Of course, you do this to me in my origin dimension often. Ever since I became the Voice, you have tried wheedling information from me.”
“Was I successful?” Eric chuckled curiously.
“At first,” Endymion admitted begrudgingly. “Thankfully, by the time my assigned dimensions reached a point where they were influential in my Eric’s universe, I had learned not to be baited by him any longer.”
“I do not find being called your anything to be appealing,” Eric told him.
“I suppose this version of you would not,” was Endymion’s laughing reply before clapping his hands in a gesture of finality. “Well, I can see that Sookie is doing very well, and seems quite happy. I am glad. Now, I cannot dawdle long here. I must return to my duties.”
“I hope to bait you some more in the future,” Eric waved as the Voice began to depart.
“I look forward to it.”
With that, Endymion was gone in a bright flash and a chiming of soft bells.
“Hey!” Sookie came bounding toward him, giving Eric only a split second to open his arms and catch her as she lunged into him. “Hehe, that’s my Viking!” she purred happily.
“You seemed to have had quite a bit of fun out here!” Eric laughed, kissing her crown. “Are you ready to head home?”
“Yeah,” She nodded. “The girls are getting bored, and I think it’s a bit cold for us. My body’s feeling slow,” she admitted.
Eric took a short moment to evaluate his own joints and found that they felt moderately sluggish as well. “A keen observation, Dear One. Let us head back.”
Hand in hand with a pair of beastly black dogs in their wake, Sookie and Eric traveled on foot back to their concealed home. As they stepped inside, Eric went to the den and began a fire. The extra heat would quickly evaporate the stiffness of the cold, and the crackling sound within the hearth had a rather appealing aesthetic for him. He had longed to make love to her in front of a roaring fire…
“I’m going to do some cleaning while the fire gets going,” Sookie announced bouncily as she found the MP3 player he had bought her and quickly popped in her earbuds. She had taken to listening to music wearing them, trying to fine tune her ability to hear different frequencies. It was a surprising exercise she had undertaken. Most vampires did not see the benefit of such a practice, but he had already witnessed that she was becoming very adept at not catching Mags or Junes under her feet because she could hear them moving around her. Her usual practice was listening to ambient noise; traffic, nature, crushing waves, and one time he had even heard jackhammers thundering from those headphones.
Tonight, however, she was listening to actual music as she floated about the house, dusting and sweeping. She moved at a rather human pace, finding the task of cleaning therapeutic rather than a labor with which she wished to be done. Admittedly, Eric had never existed in such a clean home before she came into his world. He was not a slob by any means, but aside from the weekly cleaning lady he usually kept on staff, his home was usually not in any short supply of small debris. Now Sookie came into the picture and everything shined all the time. Perhaps it was just that she was there, not the cleaning. His existence had seemed to shine all the time since she became his, so why would his home not take on the same?
Eric watched amusedly as Sookie bobbed into the room, a spoonful of honey tucked into her cheek. Her bottom swiveled with the beat of a song as she came through with a dusting cloth. She plucked every single knickknack from the shelf, dusted, waxed, and buffed it, and then cleaned each of the decorations before replacing them to their homes. He watched her shoulders shimmy and the way it caused her breasts to sway.
Who knew domestication could be so arousing?
Continuing his observation for a moment longer, Eric rose from his vantage point and came past her to kiss the side of her cheek which was already tilted toward him invitingly. Eric merely laughed, patted her rear, and went to the bedroom to retrieve his laptop. Perhaps she would enjoy the added challenge of sound canceling headphones for her exercise.
As he returned to the den, Eric felt a strange shift in the Bond. He looked at his Mate with alarm as she stood lax, still holding a porcelain figure in her limp hand, eyes staring ahead. Sadness, Regret, Worry flooded the Bond, and Eric looked where she was staring, tasted the air in the room, and listened intently for a disturbance. Nothing was out of place, nothing that could cause this extreme of a fluctuation to her mood.
Listening again, Eric heard a deep, rasping voice from her headphones. The lyrics made his body tense and he was quickly at her side.
“Sookie,” Eric pulled the headphones from her ears and spun his Bonded around, “it is only a song.”
“I-I know,” she stammered before laughing. “I just…” She laughed nervously again. “I guess I never realized this song was my anthem before I met you. And then I thought about how I did let you have it all, all my screwed up problems, and I did hurt you with my pain.”
Smiling, Eric brushed an errant strand of hair from her face and traced his thumb over her bottom lip. “You never let me down,” he pointed out.
“That’s what makes me worried,” she admitted guiltily. “Eternity is a long time, Darlin’. Who’s to say I won’t?”
“You never could,” he assured her. “As long as you exist, it is not possible. Even if by some tragedy I did lose you, Fenrir would end my suffering instantly.”
“Oh, that’s comforting,” Sookie rolled her eyes and laughed with a bit more spirit.
“As I said, it is only a song,” he reminded.
“I know,” she sighed. “I really like this song though. It makes me a little melancholy, but it also reminds me that it’s not my theme song anymore.” With a tentative shrug, Sookie stood on her toes and kissed the underside of Eric’s jaw. “Sorry I worried you there.”
Tilting his head down, Eric nuzzled against her ear, “I suppose your first few years as a vampire will have me on edge. You adapt in such startling ways that it disarms me at times.”
“How so?” she laughed.
Taking her iPod from her pocket and finally turning it off, Eric placed the device on the entryway table and took Sookie’s hand in his. Leading her toward the fireplace, he sprawled before it and pulled Sookie into his lap. “How do you surprise me?” he began thoughtfully. “Let me see… You are the most self-contained creature I have ever met. Whenever you feel anything strongly, it floors me. I wait for the day when you do not hide from yourself any longer. You are also very astute in fine tuning your new abilities. From languages, to hearing, to speed and agility, customs, interactions and building secure relationships. Frøkn is completely curled around your little finger, and you have only met him a handful of times in these past months. You are so adept at commanding the respect of those around you that your age takes in no consideration.” With a sigh, Eric shook his head with disbelief.
“It’s easy to earn respect of those around you when you respect others,” Sookie shrugged as if that one comment could wipe away his assessment entirely. “Besides, good manners play a huge role in that.”
“So quick to devalue your accomplishments,” Eric laughed, pressing his forehead to hers. “You are the most blind detective when you are the subject of scrutiny. That is another time I long for, one where you accept all of the wonderful things that you are.”
“I hope it never comes,” Sookie told him.
“Why is that?” Eric asked curiously, playing with a strand of her hair absentmindedly.
“Eric,” Sookie gazed at him seriously, “I don’t want to be full of myself. I don’t want to be overcome with a sense of entitlement. I have a duty to every universe. If my humility prevents me from taking advantage of that, then I’d rather devalue all of the things that you marvel at… Being imperfectly, blissfully happy. That is all I want. The only perfection I need is your love. I have that, I will always have that.”
“Yes, you will,” he agreed, smiling.
“Yes, Sookie?” He nuzzled her ear.
“Take our clothes off.”