New York City, 1972
They spent the evening talking while wandering the streets of New York, watching as the city that never slept, slowed down. Eventually we made our way back to the TARDIS, but not until a sliver of sun broke free from the horizon and bathed the city in newborn light. I understood then how people could hang their hopes and dreams on skyscrapers; the city dazzled, and I surrendered to its swaggering charm.
“You’d never get bored if you lived here,” I remarked to the Doctor whose gaze sought one last look at the awakening life that yawned out a sleepy goodbye.
He leaned on the doorframe, one ankle crossed over the other, hands in his pockets, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. He looked very much like Eric.
“I never get bored anywhere. Too much to see, too much to do. Too many worlds to save, and not enough time for tea.”
I stepped away to give him time to enjoy the rising sun, deciding to collect the random items I’d acquired during our jaunt through time. I changed out of the 70s mini dress and re-hung it in the spacious wardrobe. I redressed in the sweatshirt, jeans, and shoes I’d been wearing when I boarded this magical mystery tour. Pulling out the chain that held my wedding ring from beneath my shirt, I curled my fingers around the cool braided metal. If I closed my eyes, the incorporeal warmth of the Swedish sun beamed down on me.
I shook myself from the memories and returned to The Doctor, who hadn’t moved an inch in the time I’d been gone.
My presence proved enough to jar him out of his reverie. He closed the door on the city, tossed his coat next to Rose’s jean jacket, and skipped to the control panel. He exuded happiness, but he was too bright, too cheerful. I moved to stand beside him and placed my hand over his. My fingers curled around his palm, seeking strength, offering comfort.
“I wish I could come with you. I really do.” A resigned sigh escaped me. “But I just can’t. It’d be as easy as pie to get lost in time with you. And Gallifrey knows, we would most certainly end up lost in time.” I hooked my arm around his elbow and leaned my temple on his shoulder.
I didn’t need to see him to feel when The Doctor’s grin stopped being automatic and became authentic; his whole body electrified, vibrating with unspent energy.
“Gallifrey knows…” The Doctor chuckled to himself. “Sookie, I can see I’m rubbing off on you.” He wrapped his arms around me. But he didn’t hug like a normal person. No, he hugged me as if he could press every ounce of goodness in the universe deep into my being just by enclosing me in his arms.
I felt safe.
Despite everything: the near death witch burning at the stake thing, the near death almost draining at the fangs of Appius thing, even the saying goodbye to Eric over and over until my heart ached from leaving him thing; none of it mattered. The Doctor would always look out for me, and I knew I would do the same for him. If he asked, I’d say yes without hesitation.
“You give really great hugs,” I said when he finally released everything but my hand, our fingers still entwined in a friendship born of adventure and danger. Two things I’d come to recognize I craved.
Never letting go of my hand, The Doctor answered by seeming to smash at buttons haphazardly, and point out random levers I needed to pull.
Usually accompanied by a shouted, “Oi! Grab the shiny green knob and put it in first gear.”
It made me glad I knew how to drive stick or we might’ve gotten redirected to who knows when, where, or why.
As the TARDIS finally settled into stillness, silence fell between us. I didn’t know what to say. Thank you seemed so inadequate. The Doctor’s adventure changed me. But the truth never did: I loved Eric and Eric loved me. We proved just that when I criss-crossed the path of his lifetimes. It didn’t matter which choice we made. We’d made the choice long ago in a sunlit sanctuary, hidden away from the rest of the world.
How do you thank someone for not only given you the universe, but also your twin soul, in the space of a cosmic heartbeat?
Honestly? I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to The Doctor.
“Would you like to come in for some sweet tea?”
The Doctor bolted into action, sliding down the ramp and opening the door of the TARDIS. “Would I ever? No one ever thinks to invite me to tea. And I do so enjoy a nice cuppa every now and again. After you, mademoiselle.”
I watched as he bowed as if still in the Russian court. Giggling all the way, I ran down, grabbed his hand, and pulled him into an all-out sprint to the front door. I risked a quick glance around to survey the front yard where we’d landed. None of the flowerbeds were squashed. Thank goodness. I slashed an invisible check mark in the win column, and bounded up the steps to the porch.
I came to an abrupt halt when I realized that although I stood in front of the door to my house, I wasn’t standing in front of the same front door I’d locked up before leaving. The red door looked slightly aged, the paint beginning to crack from the ravages of weather.
Spinning around in search of The Doctor, my eyes caught him standing in the middle of the yard, right next to the sunflowers whose heads had just begun to droop from the slight chill in the air.
“Doctor?” The question came out sounding hesitant, and just a little bit frightened. Something was off.
The Doctor whipped out his sonic screwdriver, and it made its usual buzzing sound as his eyebrows danced in confusion above his manic eyes.
“I may have some slightly bad news. Why don’t we head inside?” His voice resonated an easy, even-keeled tone. The Doctor was trying to preemptively calm me.
Which could only mean one thing, “Something went wrong I take it?”
I bent down and pulled out the spare key to the door. A new spare key for a new door. Something was definitely rotten in Denmark, and I intended to make The Doctor tell me what. The Doctor stayed silent, but I could be patient. I motioned for him to follow me into the house. I flipped on lights as we went, heading towards the kitchen.
“Take a seat, I’ll just get us some – ” Upon opening the fridge, I noticed another series of unsettling changes. That isn’t my food. Closing the door, I whirled around and sank in one of the chairs that sat cock-eyed to the kitchen table. A kitchen table graced by a vase of red Gerber Daisies. Those weren’t there when I left. The chair leg scraped against the floor as I adjusted myself closer, and focused on the face the still-silent man who sat across from me and avoided my eyes.
“So…an explanation could work really nicely right about now.”
November 3rd, 2007
Eric sat, as he did every night for the last 264 days in a row, in the same outfit he wore every other night: jeans, black tank top, and leather jacket. He stationed himself on his throne, perfectly immobile, and stared without emotion at the door to Fangtasia. As if he could will Sookie to walk through it just by desiring her presence.
She never did.
Tonight was no different. He knew Pam worried over his vacant stare; he didn’t know what to tell her. It wasn’t vacant; it overflowed with the remnants of an almost-life. He kept on playing the role of Sheriff of Area Five., but it held no desire for him. Nothing did anymore.
“At least that’s a new version of statue Eric,” Pam snarked as her voice broke into his solitude. He redirected his scowl at her.
“I’m not in the mood, Pamela.”
Pam pouted, as only she could. “You’re never in the mood anymore. Not since Princess Magic Snatch disappeared.”
He chose not to throttle her.
“See! This is what I’m talking about.” Pam spun around and planted herself on the arm of his throne. “Six months ago, you would’ve had me up against a wall, choking the life out of me, and threatening to make me wear off-the-rack clothing.”
Eric exhaled a heavy sigh, “Pam – ”
“No. Don’t you Pam me.” She turned to face him again. “I want my maker back. Pick up your sword and fight. Go slaughter something. Bathe yourself in the blood of whatever floats your Viking boat. But for fuck’s sake, stop brooding.”
He growled at his child, and considered slaughtering her first. “I have not been brooding.”
Pam’s laugh came out a harsh bark. “Ha! You didn’t even notice when I maxed out every one of your credit cards last month.” She folded her arms over her yellow cardigan clad chest and waited. “And from the slight uptick of your eyebrow, I can tell you would never have known if I hadn’t told you.”
His voice came out an icy hiss. “Pam, I don’t have the energy for your tedious arguments. Spend as much damn money as you want. What the fuck do I care about money?”
“Well you’d better start caring, you’re scaring off the breathers,” she paused, glancing around, “and half the staff for that matter. I don’t know why you can’t let this girl go, Eric, but I’m not going down with you. You need to pull your head out of your ass. And soon.”
Eric watched as she twisted on her heels and stalked away. He still couldn’t bring himself to care, but it irked him. Mostly because Pam was partially right. He had no idea why he couldn’t just let Sookie go. The time they spent together really wasn’t that long. Not long enough to justify this obsession anyway.
And an obsession it was.
He couldn’t shake her absence from his bloodstream; he missed her vibrancy. Her loss still ricocheted around inside him until nothing remained of Eric, but the empty pathway of scars left after her light vanished from his life.
Then there was the heavy, aching feeling that he had lost something. The mystery constantly prodding him to remember remained elusive. No matter how hard he searched, the answer kept slipping away.
He needed to move.
Eric stormed out of Fangtasia, and soared off on his Harley. He ripped through the city streets, turning until he reached the back roads. The bike roared beneath him as he raged through the darkness at speeds even the speedometer refused to reveal. Only one destination existed in his mind, but the ride might go on for hours before he found himself there. He never paid attention to the route he drove, never even noticing he was there until he pulled his bike around back, and walked up the back stairs, letting himself into her house.
He drove for hours, until at last he found himself skidding into her driveway.
He screeched to a halt and hopped off his bike, barely remembering to set the kickstand, and surged into backyard, furious at the universe. He couldn’t go in there yet. Not tonight. Fury in motion, he paced the backyard like a prowling, hungry tiger.
He’d kept her house as pristine as possible. A service delivered groceries every week, and a maid came every three days to clean and dust and arrange fresh flowers in the vase at the center of the kitchen table. When she returned, he wanted her to know….
“Fuck!” He screamed to the empty night. What exactly did he want her to know? That he was fucking lost without her? That she brought light into his shadowed existence? That she turned him into a fucking poet?
That most nights he slept here, on the off chance she returned? That he wanted his face to be the first one she saw when she came back?
That somehow that one fucking week they spent together meant more than a thousand forgotten encounters. And he stayed here to be close to her.
He vamped into the house and collapsed at the table, the chair leg dragged sideways over linoleum as he pushed it to give himself room.
He buried his head in his clenched fists. He felt useless. He always had a plan, but not this time. This time he’d exhausted every possible, and impossible, alley months ago.
Ten months he’d lived without her. Frustration crashed into him. Ten months! He wanted to pummel the table into kindling, but he didn’t dare for fear it’d mean he’d really given up on Sookie ever finding her way back to him. Nothing remained except the physical, tangible proof of her existence; even her scent faded with the passing weeks, until every object anchored Eric to her house. Reminded him that she was flesh and blood; he hadn’t imagined her. If he concentrated, he could almost remember the feel of her, her body curved around the length of his.
When sunlight finally threatened, he left the chair askew, and climbed down into the cubby beneath Sookie’s closet. After the first few months of sleeping in the cramped confines, he decided to expand it slightly into a bedroom that fit nothing more than a small bed and dresser. The space sparsely decorated: a basic desk lamp, a forgotten novel, and a picture of Sookie in a pale pink, cotton sundress, reclining on a well-loved blanket. The sun cascaded over her long blond hair, she smiled up into sunlight, basking in its warmth.
He kept meaning to put the picture back in its place.
He imagined her angry retort. Highhanded, arrogant vampire! The rising sun tugged at his consciousness as he chased the memory of Sookie’s voice. The same dream he chased every night before oblivion claimed him.
Come in for some sweet tea?
She sounded so close.
Reality faded in and out, as Eric fought the pull of daylight.
The click of a lock.
Reality blended with fantasy.
The turning of the door handle.
Dreams brought to life by desire.
An explanation could work really nicely right about now.
As the chains of consciousness released him, Eric agreed.
His last sensation before the void of his daily grave claimed him questioned his very sanity. Because he could swear, he felt a flicker of Sookie’s light pulse to life inside him.
November 4th, 2007
“So what you’re telling me is that you’ve accidently returned me ten months in the future, when you promised you’d get me back in two days. And the cherry on top of the sundae is…You can’t fix it. Am I understanding this correctly?”
The Doctor shrugged his shoulders, and let out a guilty sigh. “I’m sorry seems a bit of an understatement.”
Harrumph. “You’ve got that right.”
The Doctor opened his arms as if to launch into another explanation of causality and the ramifications of messing around in a currently active time line.
I waved off his timey-wimey insanity. “I get it, well as much as I can. Once we touched down, we activated this time stream. Since we didn’t encounter anyone, usually it wouldn’t be a problem to just pop back in time. But now, for some reason you aren’t really sure of, we can’t go back.” I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice, I really did.
“That about sums it up, I think. Nicely done!”
I stared at him blank-faced for a full five seconds; then I laughed hysterically. I couldn’t help it. After everything else that had happened in the past week, this topped it all. The more I considered it, the harder I laughed. The Doctor just watched, stunned and unsure how to handle hysterical Sookie.
When the laughter turned to choking sobs, I knew I needed rest. I wouldn’t handle any of the frankly insane situation well until I got some sleep.
And a shower.
“A shower would do nicely,” the words slipped out before I could catch them. I held my hand up to stop his sure-to-follow madness. “Listen, Doctor. I’m heading to bed. I’m exhausted and dirty and strung out to high heaven. I can’t get a grasp on any of this until I get some sleep. There’s a guest room off to the right, plenty of food, and movies to entertain you if you aren’t tired. As for me, give me a couple hours and I’ll be right as rain.”
He pulled me against him and kissed my forehead. “I don’t know why this happened, but I will figure it out. I promise.”
Despite everything, I still believed him.
As I closed the door to my bedroom, I heard the buzzing of his sonic screwdriver. Apparently, rest wasn’t high on his list of priorities.
When I finally tumbled into bed and gave in to exhaustion, I dreamt of flying.
Eric woke minutes before sundown, coming alive with one thought: Sookie. Searching the blood bond, he could feel her again. He wanted to scream with joy. Even though it wasn’t a full bond, its reemergence transformed it into an inferno that seared through him.
In the instant after, the sound of three heartbeats seeped down into the bedroom, followed by the scent of ozone. The same scent lingered in the backyard for weeks after Sookie disappeared. Trapped by sunlight, he raged against enforced inaction.
A man’s voice mingled with Sookie’s and filtered through the floorboards. Nonsense. Their conversation made no sense. He eliminated the distraction and focused on the bond; he sensed she faced no danger. Yet.
The knowledge that he would burn to a crisp before he reached her served as his only deterrent. He wanted to protect her, wrap his arms around her, fitting her smaller frame into the armor of his body. He wanted to shred whatever being decided to fuck with her; wanted to scatter the pieces like chum over an anonymous bayou.
Try to get you home again…
Sookie’s heart raced with the man’s words. An icy calm descended over him. You will die before you take her anywhere.
Not much longer. Soon he would bathe in the slaughter of his enemies.
Awake. I’m awake. I stared at the ceiling. My ceiling. I turned my head to face my window, noticing the sun hovered just above the horizon. Almost sundown.
One thought propelled me from bed: Eric. I needed to go to Fangtasia. Needed to talk to him, to explain everything. I froze, the covers thrown back, my bare feet touching the cold floor. How would I ever explain this? I never intended to be gone this long, never thought he’d even notice I left, before I returned. But I’d been gone for months.
My bedroom door creaked when I open it and stepped out, wandering towards the coffee maker. I did a double take when I saw The Doctor, Converse propped up on top of the couch, head resting on the floor. Arms folded over his upside down chest, he wore a pair of those old 3-d glasses with the blue and red plastic lenses.
I pointed at the glasses. “Do I even want to know?”
“Sookie! You’re awake. Lovely.” He shoved the glasses in his pocket and started to drag me across the living room. “Allons-y!”
“Nowhere. I’m going nowhere without coffee.”
“Don’t bother. It’s broken. I tried to make coffee for you earlier, figuring it wouldn’t be very difficult, what with my sonic and all. But it wouldn’t sonic! Can you believe that? Everything sonics. Except for wood. No explaining that. But a coffee maker? That oughta sonic right up – ”
“Doctor…babbling.” I reached for the coffee pot to see what exactly the problem – “It’s not plugged in. Really Doctor?” I gave him an exasperated look then turned back and grabbed the cord. “Huh. Weird. That doesn’t make any sense. I mean Jason might take care of the house while I’m gone, but I can’t see him remembering to turn off a light, let alone unplug an appliance.”
Stumped, I started the coffee and waited. Maybe I could puzzle out the problem once I got some caffeine into my system.
The Doctor said nothing during those few short minutes.
When the pot finished brewing, I poured myself a cup and savored the first few sips. I poured a second one and placed it in front of The Doctor.
“Cream? Sugar?” I took another sip of mine. The Doctor shook his head.
I waved my empty hand in his direction. “Okay, you can start your wibbly-wobbly time talk now.”
“Let’s try again.”
I gave him my best confused face. “Try again, what?”
“Oh! Sorry, yeah, try to get you home again. I’m thinking, the TARDIS, she likes you. She might be able to find a loophole. Or a wormhole. Or a black hole. Well….preferably not a black hole. They can get a bit dangerous. And messy. Though…it could be fun. I wouldn’t mind visiting to find out if – ”
“Hold the phone! You think the TARDIS can get me home and we’re sitting here sipping coffee and listening to you chatter? At least I’m listening, sometimes I doubt you hear yourself at all, you hardly make any sense.”
“Oi! Watch it!”
“And listen to me, you really are rubbing off on me. But listen to me ramble! What are we waiting for? As you say,” I stretched my hand to meet his, “Allons-y!”
We jumped up and ran two steps towards the door when a splintering crash boomed out of my bedroom.
We skidded to a halt and the Doctor burst into action: shoved me behind him, whipped out his sonic screwdriver, and faced off against one incredibly handsome, but dangerously irate, vampire. My heart stopped just seeing my Eric again.
“Eric!” The Doctor called happily, oblivious to the fact that he stood ten feet from his almost immediate death. The Doctor released me, and stowed away his sonic.
Before I could react, Eric exploded. One hand pinned The Doctor against the plaster wall, little pieces breaking off around a Doctor shaped dent, and scattering across the floor. With the other, Eric seized me, crushing my body against his in the instant before his lips claimed mine in a bruising kiss. I stood in the rubble of a vampire fallout zone.