A/N: This is the continuation of The Funeral of Hearts, which was told from Eric’s point of view. It doesn’t really matter which order they’re read in, but they should be read together so you understand what each character is thinking and going through.
Also, I know with Dead in the Family now out, that we know where Eric was in Dead and Gone and that doesn’t go with what I wrote in The Funeral of Hearts but just go with it. Call it creative license; or just me not knowing then what we do now. 😉
Chapter 1: An Ode for Cruelty
“How much longer are you going to make me wait?” came the deep voice from behind me.
I paused as I made my way around the kitchen table, picking up dishes from my supper. I had been lost in thought, contemplating a few of the upsides of dating a vampire. They don’t eat food, so I never had to cook for anyone but myself and I only had my own dishes to clean up! On the occasions Eric did need to augment (a word-of-the-day from last month that I had been looking for a way to use) his normal diet of my own blood, he drank straight from the bottle, and always rinsed it out and put it in the recycling himself. Now if only he could be taught to not throw his towels and clothes on the floor.
“I’m sorry honey,” I said confusedly, as I turned around to take in the sight of my Viking. He had been standing at the sink, rinsing out his TrueBlood bottle. I should have known something profound (another word-of-the-day) was churning around in his mind when it took him almost 5 minutes to rinse out a single bottle. “Just what are you waiting for?” I asked him as I set my dirty dishes in the sink and stood next to my vampire to start washing my dishes.
“You should let me get you a dishwasher,” my Viking grumbled. This kind of thing was our normal, everyday argument; he was constantly trying to buy me things. I wasn’t budging though. I am not a kept woman.
“Well, I’m the only one around here now who dirties any of the dishes, so it just doesn’t make any sense to spend money on something I don’t need,” I explained as I set to washing my few dishes. I didn’t have many; I’d only had a sandwich and some potato salad for supper. Unfortunately, it was store-bought potato salad. I sure did miss Gran’s homemade potato salad, but it had just been too long since I’d found the time to even try to make some myself.
I sighed as I thought about my poor Gran, and how much I missed her, but I pushed those thoughts away. I knew she would want me to be happy; and in the past six months, I had been working hard to forget my past and live in the present and just be happy with what I had.
All of the bad memories of what happened to me were locked in the dark recesses of my mind. I just didn’t even want to dwell on them or give them any more power over me than they already had. I knew in the dark of night, as I tried to sleep, that those memories would once again come crawling out. Neave and Lochlan may have long been dead, but their torment lived on.
A small shudder ran through me as all of these thoughts ran through my head, but I plastered my fake smile on and turned to face Eric. He was watching me intently, and I’d come to realize over the last 6 months that he also noticed every nuance of emotion in our bond and just by feeling my emotions, was able to almost know my very thoughts. It was downright scary and annoying at times how well that Viking had come to know me, and it was unsettling to realize that was how people must feel about me reading their minds.
“See,” I said, pointing back to the sink and my now clean dishes. “It only takes me a couple of minutes to wash this few of dishes. A dishwasher would be just a waste for only me.”
Eric waved it off, clearly already moving past the dishwasher idea, but I was afraid he was going to press me on the issue of my still present nightmares. I had also come to be able to read his emotions and his minimal body language fairly well myself, and I knew he was gearing up to lecture me about doing something about my nightmares. He’d already suggested I try to talk to a Supe-therapist, (a normal one was impossible for so very many reasons. For one, I can hear all of their thoughts and it was too energy consuming trying to block them out, and for another reason I couldn’t very well explain how I came to be tortured by Fairies.)
Eric meant well by pushing me to go see a Supe-therapist, but I still couldn’t tell him about another problem I was now having. It was now impossible to find any kind of creature whose thoughts I couldn’t hear, even vamps.
Part of me said Eric wouldn’t be angry if he knew I could read any vampire’s thoughts if I wanted to. He’d probably be so damn practical that he’d see me as an even better asset, but I was still terrified at the thought of any vamp knowing I could read them at will. The older the vamp, the easier they seemed to be at blocking out, which I was happy about, since this meant I only very occasionally heard any of Eric’s thoughts without actually listening in on him. I just did not want to have to hear the constant thoughts of someone I spent so much time with, and in my own way cared so much for.
Though it was just my own speculation, I figured that the reason the older vamps were easier to block out was that they were that much further removed from their humanity. It had been a hard-learned lesson that vamps were very different from humans, but just one dip into Eric’s mind was enough to remind me that humans and vamps were two different beings. It wasn’t that Eric was cruel by any means, though I knew he could be when it was called for, but the way that vampires thought and saw things was just so different from humans. Plus, the older they got, the faster they seemed to think. The few times that I had accidently heard Eric’s thoughts, they just seemed to zoom by so fast I almost thought I’d get whiplash.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized how we both saw the future would be another big difference between humans and vamps.
Or at least between Eric and me.
You see, humans tend to be very, in-the-moment kind of beings. Maybe it’s just the simple difference in mortals and immortals. But I’d come to realize that Eric was always planning way ahead. I’m talking many, many years ahead, not just three steps ahead like the old saying, but about a million steps ahead. I guess when you’re going to live forever you do start planning the future differently.
“I could stop the nightmares for you if you would simply let me,” Eric said, still looking intently at me.
I so didn’t want to talk about this right now. “Eric, we’ve been over this before. You can’t take the memories away from me, and you can’t glamor me into forgetting either.” This too was an old argument. Eric seemed to believe that if I allowed him to that he could glamor me. One night, after a particularly bad nightmare, I’d even let him try it. Needless to say it hadn’t worked.
Eric slowly stepped towards me and braced my shoulders with his hands. That was never a good sign. It meant I wasn’t going to like what he had to say. “If you were a vampire, you would not be plagued by dreams. Vampires do not dream,” he told me, all the while staring into my eyes.
I pushed his hands away, and he let me. I turned back towards the kitchen table to start wiping it down. “Don’t you think that’s a little drastic there, Eric. Oh, you can’t sleep well, why don’t I fix it by killing you,” I told him sarcastically. He knew I had no desire to become a vampire. I liked being alive, I liked food, and the sun, and all of the other things Eric would never know.
“I would not be killing you,” Eric hissed behind me.
“Potato, pot-ta-to, dead is dead,” I replied flippantly. I glanced behind me, and I could see Eric’s confusion at the phrase.
Nevertheless, he continued on, trapping me against the kitchen table and staring down at me. “Your insistence upon this issue tires me Sookie,” he growled at me. Uh, oh, it’s Sookie now, not Lover, or Dear One.
Trying to diffuse the situation, I rubbed my hands up and down Eric’s arms saying, “Eric, you know I don’t want to be a vampire, just leave it alone.” Being trapped against the kitchen table was starting to make me nervous, regardless of how much I had come to trust Eric. I pushed under Eric’s arm, and once again, he let me walk out of his grasp. I started to walk towards the living room, hoping that Eric would just let the subject drop, but I wasn’t that lucky.
“This discussion isn’t over yet,” Eric said as he grabbed my arm and turned me back towards him.
“What?” I shouted, upset that he wouldn’t just drop the subject. I shrugged my body, making Eric let go of my arm.
“Why must you be so difficult?” Eric said, once again growling at me. His fangs had run down in his anger, but it was the intense look in his icy blue eyes that captured my attention, though I couldn’t fathom their meaning.
“Well, if I’m so difficult that you don’t want me, then you can just leave,” I said pointing towards the door. I was angry, but deep down, that old fear that Eric would tire of me and leave me, still ran deep.
Eric ran a hand through his long hair, “Damn it woman! I’ve told you a hundred times that I want you! I want you for all times. Can’t you get that?”
“I’m right here, Eric,” I said in exasperation.
“But for how long? How long until someone else comes along that wants to use you or hurt you? You’re human—weak—fragile,” Eric said as he attempted to run a hand down my cheek.
I stepped back away from him, remembering just how weak and fragile I had been. Oh, how the fairies had proven that point to me already. I remembered how they had laughed at how human I was, every time I cried out in pain. I cringed away from Eric, wishing everyone could just leave me be. I wanted to be human, but I couldn’t deny that I wanted Eric too.
But at what price? Was this to be what would drive Eric away from me?
“You want to make me into something else. You don’t want me,” I said, nearly shaking in my anger.
“You would still be you, Sookie. Nothing would change that. Stop being so stubborn and just do this. We can have eternity together then, so stop being childish.”
I wanted to be human though and I knew he wouldn’t stay with me when I got old. Why prolong the inevitable? If he wouldn’t stay with me when I got old, he might as well leave now and not draw out the heartbreak.
“No, I wouldn’t be me. I would be a vampire. Don’t you get it Eric? You just want to have your own personal telepath for eternity,” I said venomously. Though that was a fear in the back of my mind, I think I knew all along that it wasn’t the truth.
“Yes, because your telepathy has been so worth the risks. I would be better off if I just drained you now and was done with you!” Eric hissed at me. I knew that he immediately regretted his words, but the damage was done. Eric turned back towards the kitchen sink and braced his arms along the counter as he stared out the window.
Eric’s words the night Mickey attacked me in that apartment in Bon Temps came back to me. About how he couldn’t decide if he was better off just draining me, so he could get back to his life. A very small part of me did fear his words, but mostly they just ignited the anger in me that always seemed to be just below the surface these days.
“Get the hell out of my house, Eric Northman!” I yelled at him. “If I’m not good enough the way I am, then you can just get the hell out!”
Slowly Eric turned around and glared at me, I blinked once, and suddenly Eric was in front of me. I was startled but I was too angry to let him intimidate me, and I wouldn’t let him see any fear.
“What did you say to me?” he asked in an icy tone.
“You have your wonderful vampire hearing, you know damn well what I said,” I spat out at him.
Eric’s eyes narrowed as he said, “No, you see, I must have been mistaken, because my bonded, my pledged, my wife, would never have ordered me from her home!” By the end of his tirade, he was shouting.
It was one thing to tease about being his wife, but it still irked me that he thought handing over a knife consisted of a wedding. “Me, handing you a knife, does not make me your wife!” I yelled.
Eric turned away from me for a moment, and I wondered what thoughts were racing through his head. Some part of me said to stop—to not say anymore. But as usual, I didn’t listen to that voice, and stubbornly continued on. “I do not now, nor will I ever, want you to turn me Eric Northman!”
Eric jerked away from me as if I’d slapped him. “How can you expect me to simply stand-by and watch you die, when I have the means to save your life?”
“What the hell are you talking about Eric? I’m not dying, I’m perfectly fine! Why do you want me to be something else? Why can’t you just take me as I am?” I shouted in confusion all the while shoving at his chest. I could feel myself getting angrier by the second. Or was that Eric? This blood bond still confused me.
“But you are dying; every single day you are closer to death. I want you by my side. I cannot simply stand here every day and watch you die!” His hands had settled on my shoulders, shaking me slightly, but I barely noticed them.
So, it had already come to it. Eric was done with me. He wouldn’t want me if I got old.
Everything was spinning out of control, and I felt like I was grasping at straws, trying to gain some kind of foothold in my life again. If Eric was going to leave me, he might as well get it over with and leave so that I could fall apart without him watching. “If I’m not good enough for you the way I am, then you can just get the hell out of my life Eric Northman!” I shouted trying to hold back the tears.
“If that’s what you want, so be it. You’ll never see me again,” Eric growled, and before I could blink, he was out the door, leaving me to collapse on the kitchen floor in a mass of tears and regrets.
I sank down into my couch, and looked around at my beach house. I’d come to love it in the past five years since I moved here, but it wasn’t my old farmhouse. Sometimes I missed it and regretted selling it to Bill, but I just couldn’t stay anymore. There were too many memories; too many ghosts haunted me there.
I’d stayed for five years after Eric disappeared that night, hoping that he would walk back in the door. But he never did. Life seemed to lose any meaning after a while. I worked nearly every day for Sam, trying to keep my mind off the mess that I’d made of my life, but I couldn’t even manage to force the fake smile onto my face that I’d been accustomed to for years.
In the beginning, Bill stayed by my side nearly every night. I think he worried about what I might do if I was alone, but even the thought of ending my life seemed like too big of an effort. I know Bill had hoped I would turn my heart to him, but eventually even he saw there was no changing my heart. Still he stayed though. We may not have worked out as a couple, but he became a good friend to me.
Pam was wonderful too. I knew she was busy taking over as the new acting sheriff, but hardly a week went by when she hadn’t stopped to see me. She tried to get me to call Eric and talk to him, but I could never bring myself to doing it. We both knew what the score was between Eric and I, and neither of us seemed willing to bend.
De Castro had been surprisingly easy to work with. Of course he demanded that I work for him from time to time, I even went to Vegas several times to read people in his casinos, though mostly, he was more than willing to meet my requests and bring the people he wanted me to read to Louisiana. I think he understood quite well that a willing telepath worked much better than one who was being forced. He was even more than willing to let me always have both Pam and Bill with me when I worked.
I traveled to several summits with the King’s entourage, meeting many other vampires along the way. Happily, there was never another Rhodes; the vamps were far more prepared after that attack.
After five years of a dismal life in Bon Temps, I finally accepted that Eric wasn’t coming back. I had to move on with my life, and I couldn’t do it surrounded by memories of him—of us.
King Robert of California had been trying for several years to get me to move to his state, and one day, I simply took him up on his offer. Since Eric had left me, our pledging had been considered void, and as I belonged to no vampire, there was nothing holding me in Louisiana. Not anymore.
I wanted a fresh start in California, so I never said a word to Pam about my plans. But I also didn’t want to get her in trouble with Felipe. I did tell Bill though; he bought my family’s farmhouse, saying that he could tell I needed to leave, and that he didn’t want someone like my brother moving in next-door to him. I’d been surprised that Bill let me move away like he did, but I’d had his blood too, I guess he really could feel my need to leave.
Life in California wasn’t so bad; I had a pretty ironclad contract (thanks to Mr. Cataliades who on my Great-grandfather’s last orders had become my lawyer) with Robert, although he was a pretty easy going vampire anyway. I laughed every time I thought about how much he liked night surfing. It just didn’t fit the image of badass vamp, but he was smart and innovative, and he knew how to get along with humans better than almost any vampire I’d ever seen.
I roused myself from my thoughts of the past and went back outside to sit on the deck to take in the sunset. They were always beautiful over the ocean.
“So I take it you aren’t coming?” asked a voice behind me.
I didn’t need to turn around to know who it was or what he was talking about. “I’m sorry Rory. I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” I said not turning around. Rory came to sit beside me on the deck anyway and in silence, we watched the last rays of the sun fade away.
“We had fun the last couple of times we went out didn’t we?” Rory asked as he leaned back against the side of my house and looked up at me.
I sighed and turned my gaze to Rory sitting beside me. Even sitting on the deck and me on a lounge chair, I was nearly looking him level in the eye. Rory truly was a beautiful man. He had dark brown hair, with sun-kissed highlights from all of his hours spent outside. He was wearing swim trunks and a loose white cotton shirt that wasn’t buttoned. Any girl in their right mind wouldn’t be able to keep her hands off those tanned abs and pecks, but they just couldn’t seem to tempt me.
Rory was one of the guards that Robert almost always hired to travel with me, even when I was doing freelance work on my own for humans or other supernaturals. Robert had become a good friend, and he always said he wanted to make sure I was safe, no matter who I was working for. Like all of the two-natured, Rory was incredibly well built, but he had a whit and intelligence that I truly enjoyed. In another life, I could have probably been very happy with him.
“Rory, people can’t help but to have fun with you. But that’s not the point,” I told him tiredly.
“Look, if it’s about what happened last night, I’m sorry, if you’re not ready for that, I can wait,” Rory said running his hand through his thick wavy hair. I was reminded of another man running his hand through thick, long blond hair, but I stopped my thoughts there and returned my attention to Rory.
For several weeks now, Rory had been trying to teach me how to surf. After all, I lived in California and right on the beach. I had actually very much enjoyed spending time with Rory, and I knew from his thoughts that he was hoping for things to develop between us.
I guess I was just hoping to feel anything at all.
The night before, as Rory was trying to help me get back on my board after I had fallen off, we had kissed. Or rather, Rory had kissed me, and I made no move to stop it. Life would have been so much simpler if only I could have felt something, anything for Rory. Anything other than friendship anyway. Our surfing lessons had been the first time we had spent any real time alone together. I wanted to be able to feel something for Rory, but when his lips touched mine, I could only think of other lips—cool lips, that had touched mine with a fiery passion. Lips that didn’t belong to Rory.
I reached out and put my arm on Rory’s warm one, once again reminded of how different this man was from the one I wished was sitting here. “It’s nothing you did Rory,” I said gently. “I just can’t give you what you want.”
Rory moved to his knees so that he could get closer to me, and took my hand in his, saying, “How do you know, bonita, if you never give us a real try?” I gave a small smile at the Spanish endearment. Rory and a couple of my other guards were endeavoring to teach Spanish to me since it was so prevalent in California.
“You’re a good friend, Rory. But if we were meant for something more,” I briefly touched my free hand to my heart, “I would feel it here. But I don’t, it’s just—empty.”
“You’re still pining for that vamp what left you?” Rory asked with some anger in his voice. He let go of my hand and sat back down against the side of the house. “Why let your heart waste away for a vamp that ain’t coming back for you? Why let your heart ice over because of the hurt he caused you?”
I didn’t bother asking him how he knew about Eric and I, the Supe world loved to gossip, and I knew Robert knew everything there was to know about Eric and I, though he had never once even mentioned the name to me, for which I was eternally grateful.
“I hurt him, just as much as he hurt me,” I replied, settling back down into my lounge chair and drawing my wrap around me to fend off the chill that came with sunset.
Rory shook his head and asked, “So that’s it? You won’t even give me a chance?”
“I have nothing left to give you Rory. You’re a good man, you deserve better. Maybe you’ll find another were-dolphin out there to go surfing with you,” I said quietly. I just didn’t have the energy to argue about this with him.
“What are you waiting for Sookie? Do you think that vamp is gonna wake up one night and realize what he missed out on with you and come back? He’s gone! You gotta move on with your life. Actually live it! Cause working some and sitting on this beach every day ain’t livin’!” Rory shouted as he sprang to his feet.
I couldn’t even muster up the will to argue with him about that. “You’re right, Rory. He’s not coming back, and this isn’t living. But right now, it’s all I’ve got left in me. So please just let me be.”
Rory turned away from me, and I could tell he was gearing up for more. I stood up and made my way back over to the sliding screen door, pausing before I went in. “You’ve been a good friend to me Rory, but you shouldn’t have to keep watching over me. It’ll only bring you pain. I’ll call Robert later and tell him to have you reassigned elsewhere.” I walked into my beach house without a backwards glance.
I never saw Rory again.
Many times over the years, I wished things could have been simpler. I wished I could have loved Rory and married and had children, the great American dream. Hell, I wished I could have loved Sam, or Bill, or Quinn, or even Alcide. But my heart could never belong to any of those men. It would always belong to one alone.
I tried many times to open myself up to our bond, to see if I could still feel him. But it was empty, like it always was—like me. Pam had given up years ago trying to get me to call Eric, though she still always came to see me, at least once a year, sometimes more, if her job allowed it.
At least she did until about fifteen years ago. I asked her to stop coming when I could no longer stand the look of pity in her eyes as I aged. She tried to come anyway the next year, but finally she respected my wishes, and only called every so often to check on me. I missed her, as my last link to Eric, but I told myself it was better this way. Better to keep the pain to a dull ache by not seeing her, than to cut open the wound every time I saw her and was reminded of him.
“Do you want some more water glikia mou?” a voice asked beside me. I struggled to remember the endearment, but somewhere in my foggy mind the answer came, my sweet one in Greek. Fever had set in worse than ever, and I knew it wouldn’t be much more wait now.
“Robert?” I questioned, trying to make my eyes focus on the shape beside me. He was the only one who ever spoke Greek to me.
“Yes, how are you feeling glikia mou?” the shape that was Robert asked. He had always called me sweet one, but in truth, we were like siblings to each other.
I raised a wrinkled had to touch his cool cheek, and answered simply, “I’m dying.”
Something wet rolled down Robert’s cheek onto my hand, and it took me a long time to make the connection that the streak of red I saw on Robert’s hazy cheek, were tears. The chemotherapy and radiation had slowed down the progression of the tumor in my brain, but they also had done a lot of damage too.
“Let me turn you,” Robert whispered. It wasn’t the first time he’d offered. He’d probably offered a hundred times since I was diagnosed.
“Too late now,” I whispered back, my fevered throat feeling raw. “Besides, why would you want an old woman like me for a child? No one wants me.”
“Damn it!” Robert yelled as he sprang to his feet. He rattled off a long line of curses in Greek, or at least it seemed Greek to me, then again, some days everything seemed Greek to me. I smiled faintly at my own silly joke, and tried to once again focus on Robert as he knelt beside my bed again. “Do you think vampires are so shallow as to give a damn about looks glikia mou? And you don’t know that it’s too late. I’m over 800 years old, maybe my blood will be strong enough to counter act the drugs they’ve given you,” he argued fervently.
“Don’t wanna end up like Bubba,” I whispered back. “Won’t be long now, I’m almost ready to go.”
Robert shook his head sadly, asking, “What are you waiting for glikia mou? I hate to see you linger on and suffer if this is the fate you’ve chosen.”
I rolled my head away from Robert to look at the ceiling, as though the answer might be written in the cheap ceiling tiles of the hospice center, or maybe in the stars above. But they weren’t. They were written in my heart. The heart Rory once said I’d covered in ice.
“You know he’s not going to come,” Robert said softly, as though he were afraid to say the words aloud.
I felt two silent tears escape my eyes as I said, “I know.”
“Let me call Pam and have her come,” Robert insisted, not for the first time.
“There’s no need for that,” I replied, as I always did. For the first time in many years though, I opened my heart and the bond, trying to see if I could feel even a sliver of Eric. I just needed to feel something from him, and then I would be content.
Surprisingly, when I opened the bond, I did feel something. I felt Eric. There was shock and confusion. And love? I let out a gasp at feeling Eric for the first time in sixty years, and I felt a whole slew of other emotions from him, but love was still the overriding emotion.
Through the fog of my mind, I could hear Robert asking me questions and then shouting at me, but I ignored it and focused all of my remaining strength on feeling Eric. It was wonderful to feel him again. As the emotions flew across the bond from him, they finally settled on love, and acceptance. I knew in my heart that he had finally accepted me. Accepted that I was human, and that I wanted to remain human. And he still loved me, even sixty years later.
Peace settled over me, and I knew I was finally ready. This was what I had waited sixty years for. Love. Acceptance. “I still love you Eric,” I whispered.
And then, I knew no more.