“Hello, Sookie,” Eric said as he ran his eyes over her. He swore she got prettier every time he saw her.
“Come in,” Sookie said, taking a step back as she invited him into the room. Seeing he was on his own, Sookie arched a brow as she watched him close the door behind him. “No Pam?”
“She wanted to come and see you,” Eric replied truthfully, “but I told her she would have to wait. I have waited too long to share you with Pam at the moment.” As he stared at her, Eric couldn’t quite believe she was really in front of him. It didn’t seem real, and he was afraid it wasn’t. He feared the whole thing was some kind of a nightmare his mind had conjured up and he was in fact still stuck with Appius.
“Eric, are you okay?” Sookie asked softly, seeing the haunted far away look in his eyes. Taking a step towards him, Sookie placed her hand on his chest and looked up at him.
The feeling of her warm hand on his chest caused all of Eric’s defenses to drop. Reaching out, he wrapped his arms around her and crushed her to his chest. He buried his face in her hair and breathed in her scent. It was real; she was real.
Sookie wrapped her arms around Eric’s waist as she nuzzled her face into his chest. She let out a sigh of contentment as she felt Eric press a kiss to her head.
“I missed you,” Sookie whispered, her voice muffled by his chest.
“I missed you too,” Eric replied as he tilted her head back so he could look into her eyes.
“Did you get my letters?” Sookie asked softly as she gazed up at him.
“I did,” Eric replied as he gently caressed her face. “Although I have to admit I was surprised to receive them. The last time we were together before you left you were rescinding my invitation.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Sookie told him sincerely as she took his hand in hers and pulled him towards the large sofa that sat in front of the window. “I figure we have a lot to talk about, so we might as well be comfy,” she added as she sat down.
Taking a seat beside her, Eric smiled as he stared at her. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He had a thousand questions he wanted to ask her. He wanted to know everything that had happened in the last few years. He wanted to know what she learned, where she went, how she developed, and how often she thought about him. “Are you okay?” he asked, choosing the simplest of questions to begin with.
“I’m fine,” Sookie answered truthfully as she shuffled closer to him. “I meant what I said; I am sorry about rescinding your invitation that night. You hadn’t done anything to warrant it. I was just hurting.”
“Thank you,” Eric said, without thinking he reached out and took her hand in his. “Your letters explained some, but there is still a lot I don’t know.”
“Ask me anything you want to know,” Sookie replied as she placed her other hand on his.
“What happened to you? Where have you been? How did you end up on the Council? How did you become so powerful?” Eric asked, rattling one question after another making Sookie laugh. He smiled at the sound, her laughter warming his cold dead heart.
“Do you have anymore questions?” Sookie asked playfully.
“A few hundred,” Eric admitted. “Your letters have left me with a lot of questions.”
“I bet, and I’m sorry I had to be so cryptic in them,” Sookie replied. “But I wasn’t sure if anyone would intercept them. Let’s see, where to begin? I suppose at the beginning would be best…”
“Where have you been?” Eric asked, interrupting her ramblings. “I tried to find you after you left and again after I received your first letter, but I was unable to.”
“I know,” Sookie told him softly. “No one could find me. It had to be like that until after I was ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“Ready to take my place in the supernatural world,” Sookie explained. “Until I was ready to take my place on the Council. And until I was ready, I needed to be beyond the reach of those who would try and manipulate me.”
“Does that statement include me?” Eric asked, not sure if he really wanted to know the answer. He wasn’t sure if he could take her telling him she ran away from him as well.
“No!” Sookie answered, her tone rising slightly as she rushed to reassure him. “Eric, if I thought you were trying to manipulate me, or wanted to, I would’ve never written you those letters. I wouldn’t have fought so hard to get you out of that contract. Surely you realize by now, you were the only person I did write to. If it was safe, I would’ve told you where I was. But I couldn’t risk anyone finding out.”
“I would have never told anyone where you were,” Eric said, his voice tinged with hurt at the thought she believed he would have betrayed her in such a way.
“I know you wouldn’t have intentionally told anyone,” Sookie replied as she stroked a finger over the back of his hand. “But, Eric, your Maker is a twisted bastard. He could’ve commanded you to reveal my location. And it wouldn’t have only been me at risk. I trust you, Eric, I do. But as long as Appius had a hold over you, I couldn’t have told you.”
“Can you tell me now?” Eric asked, seeing the truth of her words. Knowing his Maker like he did, he had no doubt Appius wouldn’t have hesitated to command him to give up Sookie’s location if he had known about her. Appius would have taken great pleasure using his little telepath against him.
“I can,” Sookie told him with a smile. “Appius will meet the true death tonight. He will no longer have a hold on you. You’ll be free of him soon.”
A smile spread across Eric’s face at the thought of finally being free of Appius. For a thousand years he had suffered because of his Maker; in his time, he had been Appius’ slave, his warrior, and his whore. Eric had fought and killed for his Maker. Much innocent blood had been spilt on his blade at the whim of the Roman. He had been forced to do despicable things while Appius stood by and watched. Appius had repeatedly tried to break Eric, but he had never quite succeeded. There was no depth Appius wouldn’t sink to in his desire to break his child. In their early days, Appius would use Eric as a form of currency. He would trade his child’s services for the things he wanted. Appius took great pleasure in making Eric submit to the will of others. Eric could scarcely believe that after a thousand years he would soon be free.
“I can never thank you enough for that,” Eric replied sincerely. There were no words to describe just how he felt.
“You never have to thank me for that,” Sookie said, a haunted look entering her eyes as she recalled the things she had seen in Freyda’s mind. She knew she would have to tell Eric what she had seen; as difficult as that conversation would be, she couldn’t keep it from him. But now wasn’t the time.
“So, where were you?” Eric askedn trying to get the conversation back to what he thought was most important.
“Greece,” Sookie replied simply. She let out a giggle as she saw Eric raise his eyebrow. “I suppose you wanna know a bit more than that, right?”
Greece: Two years ago
The sun was setting in the sky when the convoy of cars pulled up outside the sprawling Greek mansion. Stepping out the car, Sookie took a deep breath as a sense of tranquillity washed over her. She could barely believe she was there. She had half expected Bill to show up before she left Jackson to try to stop her. Although she knew what he had done, and accepted that their relationship with over, right then she didn’t have the strength to fight him. She was exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically. She needed time to recoup; she hadn’t realized it, but she had been running on empty for quite a while. She had let others take advantage of her, destroying her spirit and damaging her heart.
“You okay, kiddo?” Stella asked as she walked around the car.
“I’m…” Sookie trailed off as she struggled to find the right words to describe how she felt.
“It’s okay,” Stella replied, a small smile curling her lips as she rubbed Sookie’s back. “You’ve had a rough few days. You’re allowed to feel out of sorts and confused. You should take some time to settle in and heal. How about I show you to your rooms?”
“Rooms?” Sookie questioned as she angled her head to look around. The place was stunning.
“Yes, the Ancient Pythoness arranged for you to have your own quarters,” Stella explained as she grabbed Sookie’s bags out of the trunk of the car. “She wants you to be as comfortable as possible while you’re here. Come on, I’ll show you.”
Guiding through the large house, Stella led her up the stairs towards her rooms. “Here we go,” Stella said she keyed in the security code. “At the moment, the code is zero-zero-zero-zero, but you can change it to something else; I’ll show you how,” she explained as she set the bags down inside the room.
Sookie’s eyes widened as she took in the splendor of the room: a king-size bed stood against the wall to her left, a deep red bedspread laying over it, offsetting the hand carved oak headboard that rested against the cream-covered walls. Two large doors led outside onto the balcony where a chaise lounge sat.
“Okay, kiddo,” Stella said, drawing Sookie’s attention back to her. “The bathroom is through that door there,” she added as she pointed to the door in front of her. “The Ancient One will arrange for wards to be placed around the room…”
“Wards?” Sookie questioned with a frown.
“Magical wards,” Stella replied. Seeing Sookie’s confused look, she asked, “You don’t know what they are?”
“No,” Sookie answered, suddenly feeling out of her depth. How was she supposed to be the Soul Seer or the heiress to the supernatural world when she didn’t even know anything?
Sookie’s eyes widened as she saw Stella shake her head and start muttering Greek. She didn’t understand what Stella was saying, but from the angry look on her face, Sookie doubted it was anything good. Without even knowing the meaning of the words, Sookie knew the anger wasn’t directed at her.
“You have been deliberately kept in the dark for too long,” Stella raged as she switched back into English. “Even if the vampire didn’t tell you, there were others of the Supe world who should have.”
“Told me what?” Sookie asked exasperation leaking into her tone as fatigue crept in on her.
“About the world you are now a part of,” Stella replied. “Although I suppose if they did that, they might have had to lessen their hold on you.”
“I don’t understand,” Sookie confessed as she crossed the room and perched herself on the end of the bed.
Moving to sit beside Sookie, Stella offered her a small smile. “The vampire…”
“Bill,” Sookie supplied.
“Yes, him,” Stella sniffed distastefully. “He should’ve told you all of this; but we know why he didn’t…”
“Because he was sent to procure me,” Sookie interrupted, the pain of that revelation still fresh within her heart.
“Because he is a devious, two-faced, καθάρματα,” Stella countered. “He would’ve never told you any of this or the truth because it would’ve exposed him. The Norseman…”
“The Norseman?” Sookie repeated.
“It’s what Eric Northman is referred to in most circles,” Stella explained. “Either, the Norseman, or Eric the North Man. I believe he was exposing you to the supernatural world little by little. It was him, he told you about monarchs and introduced you to werewolves.”
“Yes,” Sookie replied with a nod. “I was a little shocked hearing vampires had Kings and Queens.”
“I bet, Stella said with a chuckle. “But it’s to my understanding, you also knew of another Supe.”
“Sam,” Sookie said, realizing who Stella was referring to.
“The Shifter knows all about our world,” Stella replied. “He has quite a few contacts and is more entrenched than he would like people to know. Even he could’ve told you all about vampire monarchs, werewolves, witches, and even fairies. Instead, he chose to leave you in the dark.”
“Sam is my…”
“Friend,” Stella said, finishing her sentence. “From what I understand, he concealed his real identity from you for years, even after he learned you were a telepath. He was also quick to judge you when you got involved with vampires and tell you how wrong it was and how dangerous, but he didn’t mind getting involved with the creature who attacked you.”
“You seem to know a lot about my past,” Sookie remarked suspiciously.
“The Ancient One has seen most of your life in her visions,” Stella explained, a smile tugging at her lips as she heard the clear suspicion in Sookie’s voice. She wanted her to question them, to question everything she was told and taught. It would be the only way she would learn. It would teach her how to find out who was being truthful and who was being deceitful. “And I’m fortunate enough that she chose to confide in me. I’m not saying the Shifter didn’t care for you, but…”
“He cared more about keeping me ignorant and in Bon Temps,” Sookie said with a sad smile. She was beginning to think something similar herself. She wasn’t sure if Sam had kept her in the dark because he foolishly thought he was protecting her or because he was trying to keep her in the cage that was called Bon Temps. But, Sookie had to wonder, if she had known about all the different kinds of Supe before Bill walked into Merlotte’s that night, would she have still been there? For as long as she could remember, Sookie had thought she was alone, an abnormal in a world of normal, and to find out she wasn’t had been a huge shock. But at the time she had been busier focusing on the fact that she had a serial killer after her than the fact she wasn’t alone. But as she thought about it, she couldn’t help but wonder if Sam hadn’t somehow used that to his advantage. If Bill hadn’t shown up and Rene hadn’t targeted her, would Sam have ever told her? Although she couldn’t be one hundred percent sure, Sookie was leaning towards no. If she had known about the Supe world before, she might have been tempted to seek some of them out, and if she had done that, she might not have been around as much as she had been. Had Sam kept her in the dark just to keep her in Bon Temps?
“Looks like you’re thinking hard there, kiddo,” Stella said, breaking into her musings.
“Oh, yeah,” Sookie replied absentmindedly as she tried to shake away the thoughts. She was beyond exhausted as it was, and she didn’t think she had the energy to debate whether or not someone she thought was her friend had intentionally kept such a huge secret away from her for selfish reasons.
“You should get some sleep,” Stella said as she stood up. “The witch will be here tomorrow night to ward the room.”
“You still haven’t explained what that is,” Sookie grumbled as she dragged herself to her feet.
“They’re protection wards,” Stella explained as she watched Sookie cross the room and pick up her bag. “The house is owned by a vampire, so any vampire can enter without an invitation. So the Ancient One arranged for Athena to place wards on all the non-vampire rooms. Basically no one can do you harm in these rooms, and you can ‘rescind the invitation’ of any vampire who you might invite into the room.”
“Will that be necessary?” Sookie asked, concern etched on her face as she pulled a nightgown out of her bag.
“It’s unlikely,” Stella answered, as she sought to reassure Sookie. “No one has ever attacked a guest of the Ancient Pythoness. It’s more for your peace of mind. You’re safe here, Sookie. I promise you.”
“Okay,” Sookie replied tiredly.
“I’ll leave you to it,” Stella replied. “I’m in the room just opposite from you in case you need anything.”
“Thank you,” Sookie said sincerely as she watched Stella walk out the door.
Once she was alone, Sookie let out a breath as she took another look around. She still wasn’t sure what to make of everything, and it seemed the more she thought about it, the more questions she thought up.
‘Suppose I’m just gonna have to do a Scarlett and think about it another day, she thought as she pulled her clothes off and slipped her nightgown over her head. Walking towards the bed, Sookie practically collapsed on it, too exhausted to even shower first.
Eric was unable to keep the shock of his face as he listened to Sookie’s tale, “The Ancient Pythoness,” he said, his voice filled with wonder. “You have been staying with the Ancient Pythoness.”
“Yep,” Sookie replied, popping the ‘p.’ She giggled as she noticed Eric’s reaction. “Not what you were expecting?”
“No,” Eric admitted. “I’m not sure what I was expecting, but that certainly wasn’t it. Sookie do you understand what that means. The Ancient One is…”
“The supernatural worlds holy grail, revered by all,” Sookie cut him off, a smile spreading across her face. She didn’t think she had ever seen Eric in such shock before, and she could help but find it endearing. “Pythia cackles madly whenever she hears that.”
“Pythia?” Eric repeated, practically choking on the word, not believing Sookie was talking about the Ancient Pythoness is such a familiar manner. It seemed he had missed even more than he first thought.
“Yeah, the Ancient One, or Ancient Pythoness is such a mouthful, so I call her Pythia,” Sookie replied, shrugging as it was no big thing.
“This is remarkable,” Eric said. “You have been living with the Ancient One, you are a member of the Council, and you have certainly grown more powerful. What else is changed with you?” he asked. There was no bitterness in his tone. He was genuinely happy for her and wanted to know all about her life. “Do you have a new man in your life as well?” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer to that, but he had to ask.
“No,” Sookie answered softly as she looked him in the eyes. “I swore off men after what happened with Bill. I needed time to heal, and by the time I did, I was too busy with my studies. I won’t lie and say I haven’t been on a few dates, although someone else usually set them up, but none of the guys were right for me. They didn’t hold my interest and no one touched my heart. Pythia says it’s because I’m awaiting my destiny, waiting for the other half of my heart. And maybe she’s right.” Sookie snorted as she added, “And after all, she would know”
Eric couldn’t hold back the smile at hearing her words. He wasn’t sure if he could have withstood knowing she was with another man. It had disturbed him whenever he had seen her with Bill, and back then he hadn’t even been in love with her, just a healthy dose of lust.
“What about you?” Sookie asked. “Do you have someone special in your life, Eric?”
“No,” Eric answered truthfully. “I hope to have someone soon though,” he added as he lifted his hand and stroked her cheek, hoping she would understand what he was saying. He knew they still had a lot to talk about; he was sure they hadn’t even scratched the surface of what she had been through in the last two years, and they hadn’t talked at all about how her life was now. He was aware he had to fill her in on what he had been up to in the last two years as well. He might not have had anyone special in his life, but he hadn’t lived a celibate existence either since she had been gone.
Although, before Appius reappeared in his life and turned him into a whore, it had been close to eleven months since he had done anything but feed on a person. It had been one of her letters that brought about the change in him. She had written how her friends had had a baby and how they made her the godmother. He could tell how happy she was as he read the letter, and he had wished he had been with her. He had wanted to witness her happiness and be a part of her life. It was in that moment that Eric had realized what Pam had already suspected: he was completely in love with Sookie Stackhouse. After that revelation the thought of touching another had disgusted him.
Covering his hand with her own, Sookie smiled at Eric, his words warming her heart. Without even thinking about it, she started to lean in closer to him, her eyes flicking down to his lips.
Caught in her gaze, Eric mirrored her actions, lowering his head until their lips met softly, tentatively as they brushed against each other. Lifting his other hand, Eric cupped her cheek as he tried to pour all he was feeling into the kiss. His soul was calling out to her, and Sookie heard and answered its call.
Raising her arms, she wrapped them around his neck, and she crawled into his lap. Her lips parted in invitation. Their tongues twisted together as they sank into the kiss, flames of desire burning between them as their soul began to unite.