Eric & His Great Pumpkin Entry
I always hated Halloween in the country. As a kid, trick or treating was frustrating at best because all the houses were so spread out. It wasn’t at all like the movies made it out to be. Most of them portrayed a suburban hamlet in an average town with tree lined streets and the crisp crunch of leaves under the feet of excited costumed children. Of course, by the end of the movie half of the town had been slaughtered by an onslaught of vicious beasts trying to fulfill some magical prophecy that would make an evil demagogue the master of the universe.
As an adult, I found myself missing Halloween. My co-workers have kids, so I’ve martyred myself for the last few years by working so that they could take their kids out. This year had been no different. I’d gotten to work at 3 and worked 11 hours straight so that Arlene and Holly could have the evening off. The shift had been miserable. Not because it was hectic. No. I couldn’t be that lucky. The bar had been so dead that I could hear the clock on the wall and I was angry that I’d bothered to dress in a costume. I stood against the bar, waiting for customers that didn’t show up. The whole night rubbed my nose in the fact that EVERYONE in Bon Temps had something better to do. Everyone but me. I suppose I didn’t have a right to complain though. I hadn’t bothered putting up decorations and Amelia was a ‘conscientious objector to the mockery of a holiday’. Still, it didn’t keep her from going to New Orleans to do some special witch thing.
The slowness of the shift gave me plenty of time to think. I had a lot on my mind; all I could think about was Eric. I was worried about him, scared for him, fretting over his thoughts on his recently regained memories. I was preoccupied with him in general. The few customers I had must have thought I’d lost my last grip on sanity. Depending on what I was thinking about, my mood changed from one minute to the next.
When my shift was finally over, I found a pumpkin in my passenger seat. It was carved with an adorable ghost face and the candle was lit. I didn’t notice until I was backing out, but ‘Happy Halloween’ was written in the dew on my back window. He’d even thought to write it backwards so that I’d be able to read it from inside the car.
That would explain why I’d been thinking of him all night. While I smiled at the surprise, I realized that I was disappointed that he hadn’t come in to see me. He really is an exasperating man. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to convince him that the occasional phone call would make me happy.
As I pulled into my driveway, I saw another carved pumpkin with a lit candle, then another and another. He’d lined my driveway, every couple of feet with them. Every one of them had a different face. Some of them were scary, some funny, a few looked like spider webs or cats. One even had the silhouette of a baying wolf and a full moon. I inched my car along the path so that I could enjoy each one.
As I got closer to the house, I felt that familiar rush from the bond. He was sitting on the front porch swing waiting. He’d moved fast enough that I didn’t see him again before he was opening the car door for me.
I greeted him with a smile. “Hello. What brought all this on?”
“I came for a visit and when I found you working, I entertained myself.” He was smiling and trying not to laugh at my costume. “What’s new pussycat?”
I fought the urge to finish the campy lyric with ‘Woe oh who oh oh oh ohhh’, but I giggled. “They’re amazing. Did you have fun?”
He nodded and jiggled the bell on my collar. “Are you tired from work?”
“No. Work was really boring.”
“Could I convince you to discuss a few things?”
As much as I’d like to skip it all together, I wasn’t going to get out of our talk. Eric had been after me about discussing things almost since he became himself again. I took a deep breath and resigned myself to dealing with things head on (if you could call several months later ‘head on’) and invited him inside.
I warmed up a true blood and started a pot of coffee, figuring that I was in for a long night. Then I excused myself to change out of my black leotard and kitty getup in favor of sweats and a tank top. When I came back, Eric was still sitting in the kitchen, waiting patiently.
I sat next to him at the table with my cup of coffee, took a calming breath and gave him a smile. I was trying to convince myself that I was ready for this.
“Ok Eric. The floor is yours.”
“I remember everything.”
“I figured. And…?” I wasn’t being dismissive. I was just trying to move things along.
“I lied to you.”
I felt like I was going to throw up. This is what I was afraid of. I tried to hold myself together. “About what?”
“I told you that I had feelings for you. That it wasn’t exactly love. That was the lie. I did love you. I am almost…”
There was a very poorly timed knock on the door. I watched Eric clench his jaw. “Bill?”
“Probably. It’s too late to be anyone with manners.” I got up with a frustrated grunt and answered the door.
“What can I do for you, Bill? It’s really late.”
He smiled at me in spite of my mood. “I didn’t think you were putting up decorations.”
“I wasn’t going to. They were a surprise. I have company. Was there something you needed?”
Bill’s demeanor changed and he screwed on his jealous face. He’d seen Eric’s car outside. I suppose he was hoping I’d invite him in anyway. “Does Eric have use for you again?”
“That was shitty, Bill and you know it. Other than using my new decorations as an excuse to be possessive, was there anything you needed?”
“I was hoping to visit. Are you going to invite me in?” His behavior hadn’t improved. It was more of an insistence than anything.
“No. Goodnight Bill.” I calmly closed the door, giving him the chance to step back, but I ended up closing it in his face and threw the bolt.
I returned to my seat and grinned at Eric and was met with a raised eyebrow. “You completely dismissed him?”
“Yes, I did… You were saying?”
He gave me a very Eric smirk; cocky with his victory. “I was explaining that I did love you and still do.”
“Really? Do you even know what love is?”
“I do now.”
“Eric, over the years, how many times have you told someone you loved them?”
He dropped his head, I’d actually hurt him and I felt it. “I deserve that, I suppose, but to answer your question… In my life, I’ve said it hundreds of times and not ever meant it. Over the last year, I’ve felt it and not said it.”
I felt bad for stinging him. “So, what does that mean to you? Loving me.”
He didn’t give any pause. He’d been working things over in his head for more than a week now since he’d gotten his memories back. “I wasn’t lying when I said that I’d walk away from everything. I’d be willing to discuss options with you if you hate… truly hate my position. I want to be with you. I’ll do what you want to make you happy because you make me happy.”
“But I had the chance to let you walk away already and didn’t take it.”
“And yet, I still feel pain and regret through our bond every time you see me.”
I had to fight the urge to cry. I knew it had been there. Even when I was happy to see him, it still hurt. I shrugged, hoping it would help block the water works. “I missed you.”
“Would you have me?”
I wanted to jump up and down and say yes. “Eric, I would love to be your girlfriend, but what does it mean to be owned by a sheriff?”
“We would have to act in public as though I am in control. Certain social etiquette would be required, but it isn’t anything you haven’t already done and well.”
“And working? As a telepath.”
“Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be avoidable whether you are mine or not. I am in a position of power and you are my telepath. Unless we walk away.”
“What would walking away involve?”
“Long story short… New names and leaving the country.”
“That wouldn’t last long unless we become hermits though. A huge Viking vampire and his telepathic human girlfriend will stand out no matter what hole we’d climb into.”
He simply nodded.
“How safe are we with the new change though? Staying here… under De Castro. What could come of that?”
“I am afraid that leaving would be preferable than staying and doing nothing, whether or not we do it together.”
Just great. “Why?”
“I have very loyal underlings. Killing me would have started a war. Waiting for an ‘accident’ would be better for De Castro.”
Here comes the sick feeling again. “Your resting place burns down during the day and then I get relocated to Las Vegas as De Castro’s helpful new pet.”
“That seems fairly accurate.”
“Or? You said ‘staying and doing nothing’ like there would be a ‘staying and doing something’ option.”
“If I stay, I would need to take over.”
“The options are: walk away and hope we can hide or stay and hope a war goes our way.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I have already been making arrangements for leaving and for taking over. I am only waiting for you.”
“Waiting for me to what?”
“If you want to be with me but want no parts of the politics, then we will leave and put roots down in Europe. Vampires there have little to nothing to do with vampires here and humans are more accepting. If you don’t want to be with me or are willing to deal with my being king, then I will take over.”
“Would we fake our deaths or just become ‘missing persons’?”
“Faking our deaths would be easier. Just leaving would have everyone looking for us. It would give your friends and family closure too… Are you saying that you want to be with me?”
“And you would pretend to die?”
“I don’t know. I want the whole story though. I don’t like what I picture for either of us if you don’t manage the take over.”
“As king there would be extreme changes as well.”
“If we leave, you and I would be relatively free. As King, there would be no way for you to work or stay here safely. You’d need to have a body guard. You would basically live in a gilded cage in New Orleans.”
“If we leave I would miss my friends and eventually, Niall could find us because he’d know I am still alive. If we stay I could get used to limited freedoms if I don’t lose you altogether.”
“It sounds like you are just as undecided as I am.”
“Well, I’m getting pretty used to it. I haven’t made an easy decision in over a year. How confident are you that you could take over?”
“As confident that we could stay hidden, but I’ve never been one to back down.” He shrugged. “Walking away is smarter.”
“But you’d rather be king?”
“I’ve never wanted to be king. I’ve had the chance and not taken it several times. It seems like an immense pain in the ass, but I don’t want you to hate me for taking you away from your life either.”
“I’m gone no matter what.”
“I’m very sorry.”
I sat quietly and finished my coffee while I considered things. “I trust you, Eric. You decide. I’m just along for the ride.”
I got up to pour myself a fresh cup of coffee. I couldn’t believe that I had just given up my life to Eric’s hands, but I do trust him. He’d always kept me safe and more importantly, made me feel safe.
He came up behind me and hugged me around my waist. “Sookie, are you sure that you even want to be with me?
And there it was, that secure feeling as soon as his arms around me. I leaned against him. “Yes. I’m sure. I know you’ll do what’s best for us.”
“Would you marry me?”
He nuzzled his nose against my neck and I giggled. “Why? Wouldn’t our new identities start off married? Or will you need a dependant on your taxes when your royal income increases?”
He chuckled into my ear, giving me a shiver. “No. I need a queen.”
I started laughing. “Sure. If we both get through this alive, I’ll marry you.”
“Because you love me?”
I turned around to face him. His face was serious except for the slight pull at the corners of his mouth. “Yes, you giant asshole. Because I love you. Why else?”
He started laughing. “I just wanted to hear you say it before I confess something.”
Oh, see… there was a reason I had called him ‘my big bull shitter’. “Eric, I love you. Now confess.”
“I’m already king.”
“No. Seriously. Keep in mind I can reach the silverware from here.”
He laughed at my threat. “Sookie, as of 7 o’clock tonight, I am king.”
“Then why the long conversation full of what ifs? Why make me think that you’d walk away from everything?”
“Because, I would. If you had said that you wanted to be with me and not the politics, I really would have turned everything over to Pam and walked away. We would still have to hide somewhat. Staying in power would offer a certain security… I wanted you to tell me what you wanted without worrying about if you were just telling me what I wanted to hear. You’re the mind reader. Besides, I was worried that it would scare you off if I opened with: ‘Hi. By the way, I’m king of three states now’.”
“How did you do it?”
“I killed Madden, De Castro and their associates.”
“But why? I thought you… I don’t understand.”
“We’d been working on my new contract for a while now. The ‘new rules’ and so on. Tonight, we got to the Sookie part of the negotiations. De Castro offered me two options. Neither of them were acceptable.”
“What were they?”
“Because of our bond, I was given the option to turn you to guarantee your services. Otherwise, De Castro would have done it. It wasn’t planned, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching their heads hit the floor.”
When I caught myself smiling, I realized that I’d probably been spending too much time with vampires. “When would we need to leave? Where are we going? If you’re king of all three states, who’s going to run Nevada for you? Shreveport?” I slapped his arm and he laughed at it. “You call me trouble!”
“I’m sending Pam to straighten out Nevada and chose one of the Nevada sheriffs to promote and run things out there. When she comes back, she will be the new sheriff of area 5. I can tie up my loose ends here from New Orleans. I spoke to the sheriffs of all three states while I carved pumpkins and they’ve all sworn to me. They had no loyalty for De Castro, only fear.”
“That could be said of you too though. Who wouldn’t be scared to stand up to the guy that just beheaded a room full of vampires?”
He smiled. He didn’t mind one bit that he was feared. “Most of them were ‘mine’ to begin with. De Castro didn’t underestimate my allegiances.”
Sneaky ass vampire… he really knew how to stack a deck. I couldn’t help but be proud for him though. “Well, it sounds like the big stuff is pretty much sewn up, but you never answered me. When do we need to leave?”
He lifted his hands from my back and put them on the crown of my head. “Lover, the plane is waiting. How soon can you pack a few days worth of things?”
“As soon as we have security in place, you can come back to take care of the house, or have Amelia pack your things for you. She IS welcome to stay with us if she chooses. But with the sudden change, I don’t want to leave without you. I’m worried that someone could get to you.”
I stared at him. My mind was racing. “I don’t know if I want to hit you or kiss you.”
He gave me his devilishly sexy smirk and waggled his eyebrows at me. “Why not try both?”
I punched him in the arm and snaked away from him as we both laughed.
“Excuse me. MAJESTY! But I have to pack.”
He followed me down the hall. “You think I might get that kiss on the plane.”
“Why ask when you could just take it?”
He grabbed my arm and turned me around. “Sookie, I won’t be like that. Not with you.”
I hugged him, resting my face on his chest. “I’m sorry, I know that wasn’t fair. Just give me a little bit. You’ve had a few hours to get used to things. I’ve only had a few minutes. This is a lot to take all at once.”
He held me to him and tried to sooth me by running his fingers through my hair. Damn if it wasn’t working. “It’s not too late. We could still leave.”
I hugged him tighter as my tears started to fall. He’d managed a hostile takeover, basically in my defense, and was willing to walk away from being his own boss. He’d leave behind god only knows how many businesses and properties and all of his popularity. I suppose that pulling on my big girl panties was in order since whining about moving seemed a little petty, so I forced a laugh. “No. I’ll get used to it just like I get used to everything else.” I stood back to look at him. “I know that it sounds silly in perspective, but Bon Temps is all I know. I’ll miss it.”
“You’ll be able to visit. We can make this house more secure and stay here from time to time.”
“You can never go home again.”
“I know it won’t be the same as living here… Sookie, I will hire guards and you can stay here.”
“And never see you? No. Just let me miss being here. You have to know what it’s like.”
He didn’t say anything, but the look on his face was one of understanding. I’m pretty sure I felt melancholy in our bond. Whether it was mine or his, I don’t know.
He kissed my forehead as he went to my closet and started pulling out my clothes, folding each item and setting it on the bed. I watched him work for a few minutes before I went to my dresser to start on my underwear and pajamas. When I had a few days worth, I turned around and noticed that the only things Eric had pulled from my closet were jeans and t-shirts.
“Won’t I need something fancier?”
“Yes, but there are shops in New Orleans too. We’ll make arrangements for a new wardrobe for you. We’ll both need a lot of things.”
“You’re not going to stop wearing those sexy shirts and jeans are you?” I was trying really hard to not dwell.
I made him laugh. “I won’t be wearing them as often, but they’ll still come out to play, especially when we vacation.”
I smiled at him on my way into the bathroom to collect my incidentals. “Vacations, huh? Where will you take me?”
“I suppose our first will be our honeymoon.”
I was leaning over the tub when he answered me and I froze. He’d been serious? My thoughts started swirling again. The first time he mentioned it, I completely dismissed it because he wasn’t himself. This time, I agreed and I hadn’t spent a minute thinking about it. I wondered for a second if I meant it or if I thought we were joking around.
When I stood up from collecting my body wash and shampoo, he was leaning against the doorway. “Lover, what are you thinking about?”
I smiled at him as I squeezed by. “We should go some place warm and private so we can go skinny dipping.”
“I like the way you think.”
He packed my suitcase and took it to his car, while I dressed, tended to the dishes in the sink and paced around to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything.
I fought off a panic attack a few times as I looked around the house I’d lived in for nearly 20 years. It was a drop in the bucket for Eric. Two decades would be a ridiculous thing to fuss over for him. For me though, it was the only place I ever remember calling home. I’d been so young when my parents had died, I barely remember them let alone living in our house. One thing I do remember from back then was something Gran told me when I came to live with her and I cried that I missed my old house. She told me in her sweet and loving way: ‘a house is where you make your memories; home is where you keep them’. This house was my home for so long, I wasn’t sure how to say goodbye.
Eric came back in to find me standing in the living room with both of my hands to my head. “Lover, there are good things about moving.”
I turned around and dropped my hands, embarrassed that he’d seen me as witless as a child. “Good. Talk me through this then.”
He smiled at me and took my hand. “Sookie, the mind is a funny thing. Yours will let go of some things but hold on to others.”
He took me back to my bedroom and we stood in the door way. “That bed. The one you recovered in after being beaten and nearly killed. How often do you think of being too sore to roll over in that bed?”
“At least every time I change the sheets.” There were blood stains on the mattress from a few cuts.
“And how often do you remember checking in with Gran after a long shift to find her reading? Or the times we’ve had in here?”
“Do you have to be here to think of it?”
I smiled up at him and shook my head and he walked me back to the living room.
“How about our meeting with Madden?”
“Every time I dust the table I set his true blood on.”
“Our talks by the fireplace?”
“All the time.”
He squeezed my hand and slowly led me to the kitchen.
“I know that every time you enter this room, you either remember the night you found your grandmother or the night you killed Debbie. But how often do you think about your Gran’s cooking?”
“Every time I eat, I compare something to Gran’s cooking. Every time I hear a real phone ring, I think of the way she used to sit on that stool and talk to her friends. Every time I hear an egg timer I picture her reaching into the oven to pull out a pie.” God bless him. I was really starting to get it.
He wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. “Sookie, when we come back to visit, and I promise we will come back from time to time, you will walk through the door and remember the good things before you think of the horrible things that have happened here. In my life, I have found that fond memories are easy to hold onto because they make you feel better. The ones that make you feel awful have to be brought about by something. Like you. I have a thousand years of history, most of it unpleasant. But for months now, when I close my eyes, I think of you because you make me happy. I don’t have random thoughts of trying times. My random thoughts are of you.”
“But you only got your memory back a few days ago.”
“Lover, getting my memories back only explained my feelings for you. Until I got them back, my random thoughts were still of you.”
“Do I have to wait for the plane to give you that kiss?”
He smiled as he bent to gently kiss me with his cool lips. But he didn’t stay for more. “We need to get on the plane. I’m worried that I might be tempted to make a few more memories here, sunrise be damned.”
I giggled. I understood his feeling. I had a moment of thinking about stoking the fireplace one last time or a farewell shower more than once. “We’ll have to settle for memories of the plane.”
He smiled at me as we walked out and locked up. He had just opened the car door for me when I heard Bill’s voice in the distance.
“Where is he taking you to use your telepathy and risk your life this time?”
I turned to look at him and my mental queue of witty, nasty or otherwise impolite replies swelled up against my propriety filter. I held on to my manners as best I could and lowered myself to the seat. “Home.”