Pam told me to be patient. She’d coached me on the situation at hand. She explained that with the takeover, things would be hard for a while. “Eric is under a microscope” were her exact words. Knowing what was going on helped me to understand why Eric and I needed to keep a distance, but it did nothing for the waiting.
That’s what I had Alcide and a few other supe friends for. Alcide and I had been hanging out a lot recently, going to movies and lunch. We’d been practically inseparable.
Eric had Pam call me every week to check in, but he hadn’t been able to completely stay away… As he always had, he made sure I knew that he was thinking of me in his own way. Of course, that used to mean that he’d show up unannounced and usually at a bad time and I’d pick a damned fight with him. With the new situation though, he got creative…
For Halloween he sent an arrangement of orange roses with red tips; the card read ‘get well soon from thE Fangtasia staff.’ The capitalized E was my clue, as though I didn’t already know that I wasn’t sick, but it made me smile.
A couple weeks later Pam, Amelia and I went out dancing together… During a trip to the restroom, I found myself wrapped in his arms. A small dose of something we’d both been lacking… He told me that he missed me and then disappeared through the back door, leaving me to wonder how long he’d been lurking, if he’d been waiting for me or if he’d been just as surprised by the opportunity as I was…
Another couple of weeks went by and I returned home from work to find that someone had put Christmas lights up while I’d been gone and even though Merlotte’s secret Santa price limit was set at $10, I got a brand new blood red iPod.
Once in a while, I would clear a table to find a Fangtasia napkin with a note scribbled on it such as ‘soon’ or ‘it’s killing me’.
I wanted nothing more than to accept the invitation to Fangtasia’s New Year’s party, but I used work as an excuse not to go. Pam told me that Eric was disappointed until she explained my reason to him… I wasn’t up for pretending to be ‘just another employee’ on our anniversary… well, it was kind of an anniversary.
That night at Merlotte’s was an exercise in futility and my mood only made everything worse. Everyone was swamped, there were more fights than usual (even for a drinking holiday), customers were nastier, the kitchen was backed up… and I really just wanted to go home and cry because I couldn’t shake thoughts of Eric, but I motored through it even though it seemed like everyone for three parishes had coverged on Merlotte’s.
Everyone, including Bill Compton.
Bill entered the bar and, as usual, went directly to sit in my section. When I tried to take his order, he faked a smile and asked if I knew where my New Year’s kiss was coming from. I was almost as sickened as Sam at the invitation, but while Sam was choking on Bill’s slathered sweetness, I was fighting with the weight in my chest over spending the holiday without Eric. I only accepted because I knew Bill would be persistent. I’d kissed him plenty of times before and figured I could live through it again. I had told him that I wanted to remain friends even if I didn’t trust him as far as I could throw him anymore.
The closest to crying I got all night came at the stroke of midnight. When everyone around me got to kiss the one they loved, instead of stretching up to the tips of my toes only for my handsome blond vampire to still need to bend to give me the kiss that I’d been dreaming about, I was eye to eye with the asshole who’d lied his way into my life and refused to leave me alone.
It wasn’t bad enough that I wanted to be in Shreveport with Eric, but I was forced to fight off my over-eager ex. Bill had no idea that his idea of encouraging me had me so close to hitting him.
The bar couldn’t get cleaned up fast enough for my taste. It was just another chore to get through until I could do what I wanted; go home, go to bed and put the long miserable night behind me.
When we were all done, I practically ran through the back door, only to feel Sam right behind me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough that he was just making sure I got to my car ok like he had a hundred other times.
He called after me, “Sookie, wait a sec. I need to talk to you.”
I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to go home and listen to the iPod that Eric had been so sweet about preloading with songs. When I first noticed that some of the memory was used, I thought I’d find naked pictures of him like his calendar pose and dirty music that would make me blush too much to enjoy even in private. Instead the only picture was one of us dancing that had somehow survived the hotel being bombed and the music was stuff that I liked, an extension of my limited CD collection that must’ve come back with his returned memory…That iPod was the closest I could be to him. For the past couple of months, I hadn’t missed him like I had when he first left my house after the witch war.… I felt like the Eric I knew was dead and buried, but everything was different since he got his memory back… The Eric I loved wasn’t dead, it was just that I was the only one he showed that Eric to…by then though, I’d have taken anything I could get.
I braced myself, took a cleansing breath and turned around…
But when my eyes met Sam’s he was closer than I expected and without any kind of warning, mental or otherwise, he grabbed the sides of my face and pulled my face to his.
For the second time that night, I felt Sookie become so angry that I wanted to hit someone.
Still keeping my end of our bond closed, as it had been for far too long, I watched from the wooded area surrounding the ramshackle bar. I was quietly amused that the Shifter still had so little understanding of Sookie’s relationship with me. His unwelcome kiss was over quickly… While I’m sure that he hoped Sookie would swoon, over the idea of sexual assault no less, he wasn’t exactly pleased to be shoved away from her.
He snarled at her histrionically. “Damn it Sookie! Why won’t you give me the time of day? You know how I feel about you.”
A better vantage point might’ve given me the chance to see her beautiful eyes roll at him as she spat her reply. “Sam. We’re friends. You’re my boss. I care about your feelings, but I love someone else.”
The Shifter scoffed, unwilling to accept that Sookie wouldn’t want him. “You mean Alcide? You’re just a trophy to him!”
“Alcide and I are none of your business, boss. But for the record, we’re just good friends. He’s not who I’m talking about.”
“So you’re back on the vampire, huh? Is that what you really want, to be treated like property?” She’d been ‘property’ for long enough and that was over; he just didn’t know it yet.
“Sam Merlotte! You’re one to talk. You’re acting like you found me in a lost and found box!”
“You’re better than that. He doesn’t love you. He can’t love you!” I took a step forward, considering which way I’d end him… As wrong as he was, I would’ve been doing him a favor that he didn’t deserve.
“No, Sam. I’m better than this. Eric can and does love me. More importantly he does everything he can to make sure I know it, which is why I do belong to him!” She spun around quickly, storming towards her eyesore of a car, but she stopped herself as she felt an evil streak. “All things considered, I’ll make sure he knows that some people think me to be insufficiently claimed!”
I couldn’t help but smile. The fact that Sookie proclaimed that she loved me and declared that I owned her aside, my imagination ran riot of the ways I was going to be claiming her… as soon as possible.
I watched her ugly little death trap rattle out of sight, tempted to follow her, but the lingering look of shock and disgust on her Shifter’s face was just too much of a draw.
The expression only became more exaggerated as I stepped out of the shadows, approaching him slowly enough to make him more anxious with each of my steps until the air around him was rife with fear.
Words weren’t necessary. All it took for Sam to get the message was a simple smile. My smile said everything: I won. She’s mine. You lost. She’s not yours…
He was smart enough to know I was rubbing it in that Sookie had just advertised her feelings for me.
As hard as it was for me to keep my hands to myself instead of pummeling Sam for touching my bonded, I didn’t want to waste the time.
I was barely off the ground when I heard Sam call me an asshole under his breath. The funny part was that he thought it bothered me.
I tracked Sookie through the air just as I’d done so many other nights in the recent weeks to make sure her long shifts wouldn’t leave her too exhausted to sense trouble waiting for her when she arrived at home. It wasn’t as though Sookie had much practice at getting any peace…
I watched her slow down as she drove through the area she’d found me in just a year earlier. I’d questioned how much, how fast, how willing she’d be to be mine completely so many times since I’d gotten my memories back… Watching her look for me, feeling her disappointment, like she was clinging to hope that she’d get to see me made me that much more anxious to have the talk that had become a haunting for me… She’d been so reluctant in the past that she’d resorted to bribery before giving me any information about the time I’d lost.
My original plan had been to be waiting there for her. That was the spot I originally landed, but that had been a couple hours earlier. I’d stood on the roadside, fondly replaying memories of Sookie to myself while I waited, but my anxiety had gotten the best of me and I’d gone to search her out. I could feel that she was frustrated and unhappy, having the occasional spike of anger and sadness. I didn’t expect for her to take so long and needed to settle my curiosity.
I watched from the sky as Sookie trudged into the house that wasn’t nearly good enough for her and circled the area to make sure nothing had followed her. Compton hadn’t even been creeping around in the cemetery like he usually was when I visited.
I quietly entered the house to the sounds of Karmacoma playing from Sookie’s bedroom, pausing as each room came into view, each space reminded me of something I wanted more of. Sookie and the way she made me feel within those simple walls.
When I finally reached the bedroom, Sookie was already close to sleep, exhausted by her long shift and all of the collateral stress that had come with it.
Since the takeover, that bed had been in my thoughts every morning when I died. The smell of that room and the sight of her bed had been all it had taken to bring my lost time back to me. I’d been resisting her for far too long. I’d let myself lapse to sneak the occasional moment with her, but I’d already stayed away from Sookie Stackhouse for longer than I wanted to.
I sat on the side of the bed, sliding my shoes off silently. I had every intention of staying with her for the night and was willing to stay in that horrid little ‘hidey hole’ of Compton’s if it meant being close to Sookie.
When I turned around, her eyes were on me. I was suddenly worried that she’d be unhappy to see me or think I had some ulterior motive because of her instant aggravation.
She was close to tears as she scooted closer, putting her arm over my waist to rest her head on my chest. She muttered sleepily, “Crazy Sookie snuggles with her imagination. How sad is this?”
I smiled sympathetically at the top of her head, understanding because of how cruel my own imagination had been to me… I was grateful for the contact even if Sookie thought she was imagining me. To be honest about it, the idea that she wanted to see me enough to hallucinate being together gave me a twisted sense of hope.
Listening to her breathe, feeling her heartbeat… it was almost enough for me.
I waited until it was almost too late for me to get back to Shreveport; I’d basked in her scent for as long as I possibly could.
I felt high on the possibilities as I scribbled a note inviting her to go out the next night, completely certain that if I stayed, she could have fallen into old habits of being suspicious of me.
So many things had changed. Pretending to own her and nothing more wasn’t necessary since Madden had finally gone back to his corner of Louisiana and deCastro had returned to Las Vegas.
I could be with her again.
I was free to love her just like I promised I would.