At least I knew who brought me flowers. I drifted in the vibrating haze of lips and tongues and searing fire.
I dragged myself from the drug of Eric’s kiss. My hands trailing over the skin of his back, I fought against the urge to claim Eric as mine. But there were much more pressing matters at hand. And here I was distracted by the thought of my hands around a pressing matter…FOCUS SOOKIE!
“Eric!” I forced my hands to his face. “Stop choking The Doctor this instant! I insist.”
My insistence dissipated under the hot wrath blazing from the Viking standing in front of me. Fire burned away everything else. He possessed the strength of a 1000-year-old vampire, to be sure, but the protective rage that threatened to demolish the house? That was all Viking. In that instant, Eric reverted to the very same warrior who protected me against a vampire attack in a glade in Sweden over a thousand years ago.
I startled at the recognition. For this reason alone, despite every crazy thing that happened—even the ten months missing—it was all worth it. I would relive every second, all for the discovery of Eric’s past lives.
Something he saw in my eyes brought Eric around long enough for me to reason with him.
“Eric, he’s a friend. Please, let him go.” Eric glared. I compromised. “Okay. I’ll make you a deal. You let him go, and then let us explain. If you don’t like what we have to say, you can kill him. Deal?”
Eric’s grip eased a fraction; his fangs receded.
The Doctor scrunched up his eyebrows, and projected mentally, “Seriously?” His voice echoed snarkily in my head.
I tried to give him a reassuring look. But if Eric decided he didn’t believe us, I doubted I could to stop him from killing The Doctor. The gamble, though risky, provided our only option. Eric’s expression raged murderous; his fangs prepared to rend and shred The Doctor without warning. It wouldn’t take much to launch him over the edge.
Now that I thought about it, our story seemed downright outlandish, even ludicrous, to anyone who hadn’t experienced it. No person in their right mind would believe my story without some kind of proof. How was I ever gonna convince Eric when he remembered nothing of our time together?
Oh crap. This could all go horribly, horribly wrong.
My eyes pleaded with his, “Please Eric.” My fingertips traced his cheekbones, the bridge of his nose. My fingers flurried over his lips, a bare breath away.
Eric released The Doctor, who crumpled unceremoniously to the ground, gasping for air. Eric’s now free hand came immediately to my face. His thumb stroked the edge of my jaw, his fingers winding into my hair.
“You are unharmed?” He asked, pulling back slightly as his eyes raked over me, his hands gliding over my body searching for injury. His eyes brimmed with unvoiced emotion, sending ill-timed shivers into every nerve ending. His arms curled around me again. Holding me close, breathing in the very essence of me. He tensed in response to some unknown stimuli, but I rushed to reassure him.
“I’m fine, Eric. I promise.” His eyes met mine in question. I had no idea what he sensed. I wanted to ask, but I worried about The Doctor.
I fought against my body’s natural inclination, and pushed softly away from his chest. He reluctantly released me, his fingers brushing down my arms. I wanted to drown in the lingering sensations of Eric’s touch, but instead made a beeline for The Doctor.
“Are you okay?” He was sitting up, but still gathering his breath.
“Yes,” He croaked out. He waved off my worry. “Yes, I’m fine, Sookie.”
I slipped my shoulder under his, wrapped my arm around his waist, and helped him to stand. He beamed at me; eyes alight with the adventure of it all. I just shook my head and decided introductions—Eric obviously didn’t remember The Doctor—were in order.
“Eric, this is The Doctor. Doctor, this is Eric—“
The Doctor chimed in, enthusiastic, “The thousand year old Viking Vampire, defender of…” I shot The Doctor a glare that practically screamed HEY! Tone it down over there! “uh…you know…things,” he finished weakly, scrubbing his fingers through his already messy hair.
Eric gritted out, “You know…things?” His eyes whipped to mine in betrayal.
Things were not going well. To say the least. Eric leaned against the doorjamb, arms crossed over his shirtless chest, jeans slung low on his hips, feigning calm despite the turmoil that roiled inside him. My fingers itched to trace the line of his hipbone that disappeared into his…Focus, Sookie. Seriously.
“Eric. This is going to be very hard for you to believe, but I’m asking you to believe it anyway. The Doctor,” I took a very deep breath. “is a Time Lord—a kind of time traveler—and he’s been taking me on a trip through history. Well, through your history, your timeline to be specific.”
His gaze saddened, then turned to ice as it honed in on The Doctor. “What have you done to her? I have no idea how you altered her memory, but know this, I will rip you apart and scatter your pieces for the crows if you don’t answer my question. Where. Is. Your. Partner. Hidden?” He enunciated, every syllable a staccato threat.
“What?” The Doctor and I asked in unison.
I continued, “I don’t understand.”
“There are three sets of heartbeats.” Eric answered, his tone brusque. “The scent might be covered, but the heartbeat never lies.”
Color me utterly confused. “There’s no one else here, Eric.”
The Doctor spoke up. “Um, that would be me. I’ve got two hearts.” He added quickly, “In my chest. Not in my pockets or anything. Though my pockets are bigger on the inside, it would be squishy, but I could fit—“
The Doctor swallowed his ramble when Eric vamped over and froze in front of him.
Huh. Wow. Who knew? The Doctor has two hearts.
Eric listened. Emotions flickered over his features too quickly to unravel. The seconds ticked by. Suspicious acceptance eventually won out, and he sauntered back to lean against the doorjamb.
At least one piece of the puzzle cleared up easily.
“Hold up! Eric, you’ve met The Doctor before,” Eric raised one eyebrow in disbelief, “whether or not you believe me. How come you didn’t notice the two heart thing? I mean, maybe it didn’t come up in the natural flow of conversation, but let’s face it, you’re a pretty suspicious guy by nature, Eric. So what gives?”
Eric scoffed, “Do you honestly believe I haven’t learned to filter out the human heartbeat unless I desire to hear it?”
Oh. Of course.
“Not human,” The Doctor piped up.
“Not helping Doctor,” I shot at him, offering him another patented Sookie look, and turned back to Eric. “Well, that makes total sense. Unlike anything else in this situation. It would be so much freaking easier if you just remembered the past.”
I turned and stared out the window, lost. I was beginning to fray around the edges; the few hours of rest I’d gotten earlier wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what to say or to do. I just wanted to crawl into Eric’s arms, and stay there. For at least a week. Maybe two. But right now, I’d consider making it out of this situation without bloodshed an adequate alternative.
“The existence of two hearts proves nothing.” I tensed as he continued in clipped tones, “And I remember nothing. My patience wears thin. I need answers, Sookie.”
I heard his stride as he crossed the room, and stopped just behind me. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. Eric was too close, and yet not close enough.
His words came out harsh and pleading, “You’ve been gone for 264 nights, Sookie. I searched everywhere for you. There was no trail to follow. No one for me to battle. Nothing! It was as if you never existed. You were just gone.” A strangled sound escaped him, but he still didn’t reach for me. “Do you have any idea what that was like?”
I felt the weight of all of it. I spun to face him, fist clenched to my chest, the pain in his words, overwhelming. I scanned the room looking for The Doctor, looking for help to explain the inexplicable, but he must’ve slipped out.
We were alone.
While Sookie and Eric reunited, The Doctor snuck away from the room, and took to the stars. They wouldn’t miss him, requiring time to sort out every thing they’d experienced. No doubt existed in his mind that the two of them would work it out. But right now, he needed the rumbling hum of the TARDIS. Her comforting heartbeat.
As the TARDIS danced along the cosmic wave of space, he punched in the series of codes that unlocked the files of Rose Tyler in the mainframe. Her heart-shaped face peered at him from the screen. Still missing her every day, he selected the file that held her timeline; video of their time together began as he met her for the first time in his previous body.
She placed her hand into his, and they ran.
Across galaxies and throughout time, they entwined their hands as well as their hearts. Her craving for adventure matched his own, fueling their friendship, until The Doctor found himself falling stars over planets in love with Rose Tyler.
Seeing the truth of the love Eric and Sookie shared, watching as it transcended time and space, stripped away The Doctor’s strength, and the full loss of Rose cut sharply into both his hearts. Yes, he would find other companions to travel with, but none of them would ever replace her.
His finger traced Rose’s timeline as it continued, stripping the video until all that remained was an analog map of where her life headed after he left her on the beach in Norway; where his memories of the two of them, and their travels, ended. Uncoupled from its images, the stark strength of the line moved forward unhindered by the threshold of the parallel universe.
An idea began to germinate in the back of his mind.
Could he? Was it even possible?
Both of his hearts sped up. Following a strand of DNA led The Doctor and Sookie throughout Eric’s many lives. Why couldn’t the same be done with Rose? He focused again on the timeline of her life displayed on the screen. There was only one thing he required…
I couldn’t look at Eric, but the weight of his nearness pressed in on me. I moved to slip away, and Eric’s arms raised and landed on either side of the window, barring any escape.
My words poured out of me, “I do know, Eric. Maybe not ten months worth, but I know. I lost you the night you remembered who you were. I fell in love with you the week we spent together. But then you went back to being Sheriff, and you weren’t the same. And I didn’t blame you, not one bit. I knew you had business stuff to deal with, but I missed you. So much. You just dropped out of my life.” I stifled a sob. I still couldn’t look at him, but I went on the best I could. “So when The Doctor offered to take me to meet you. Not just now, but meet you in the lives you lived in the centuries before we met, I had to take the chance. I wanted to understand the man I’d learned to love; you seemed so human when you stayed with me.”
My head whipped up, and I searched his face.
“After you vanished, I lost myself. Kicked down your door. Demolished my office. All I could think about was bringing you back to me. I jumped into the Corvette a couple nights after you disappeared, and just started driving. I had no destination until I found myself at your house. I needed to be close to you.”
He fell silent, anguish evident. His eyes closed, pink tears trapped in his eyelashes unshed.
“Sitting in the chair, in your bedroom. Being surrounded by you, but unable to reach you, broke the hold of the witch’s curse. I remembered everything. About our time together, and what drew me to you. The witch’s curse meant I would be near my heart’s desire and never know it.”
He opened his eyes, blinking down at me, his eyes shining with confession. He cupped my face in his hands. I drank in the sight of him; I couldn’t look away now. No deceit, no manipulations, nothing existed except a fierce consuming love. It nearly knocked me over, and I would have fallen without Eric as my anchor.
“Sookie, there’s so much I’ve wanted to say to you. Every day for the last ten months. But the most important is I remembered how much I loved you as that man.” A flicker of sadness flashed on his face. Bending down, his forehead touched mine, and he whispered, “But I’m afraid, that man doesn’t exist anymore.”
My hands reached up to cover his.
“Look at me,” I asked softly, running my thumbs over the ridges of his eyebrows. “Please Eric.”
His gaze, the color of glaciers, met mine.
“You are that man. You just aren’t only that man.”
When I looked at Eric now, I saw my kilted highland warrior, as well as the tortured vampire progeny to a sadistic master. But most of all I saw my Viking, begging for my promise in a private glade.
I knew what I had to do then.
I lifted my wedding ring from where it lay hidden; pulling it over my head, and letting the long gold chain I’d switched it to that afternoon, puddle in my palm, fingers closing over the braided metal.
I reached up and untied the leather thong that held back his hair; the blond strands falling to drape around his face. I lifted his left hand, placing his palm against mine; the ring trapped in the space between. Over and under, I wrapped the leather around three times, binding our hands together as he had once done.
I hoped this would help. “We were in Sweden, back when you were human. We made love with only the moon as witness.”
The moonlight streamed in the window illuminating Eric’s struggle for understanding. His conscious mind wrestled with buried memories.
I repeated the words I had committed to memory, “I Sookie, pledge myself to you, Eric, from now until the end of time. May our souls find each other in every lifetime we are granted. We handfasted under the trees and stars. You became my husband, and I promised myself to you forever.”
I slowly unbound our hands, never breaking eye contact with Eric. When the last of the leather released us, I uncurled my fingers, revealing our wedding ring.
“Before I left, we stood on a beach on the edge of the Baltic Sea. You slipped this ring onto my finger and said Du är mitt hjärtas anskam.”
“You are my heart’s desire.”
The witch’s curse tumbled into Rasputin’s. Neither of them must have foreseen the power of three little words, linked intrinsically to a whispered confession next to the wind-whipped sea.
He remembered standing on the beach with her. Slipping the ring onto her finger had been the simplest decision he’d ever have the privilege to make.
He remembered Sookie reciting a bedtime story for Linnaea. Remembered her on her knees, digging in the dirt as they planted crops together; the reflection of the moonlight as it bathed her skin in alabaster; the feel of her as they came together under the trees.
He remembered rescuing her from the flames. How he fought with James’ guards, desperate to reach her before she disappeared from sight. Only Mac had been able to keep him from dropping his fangs, and rampaging through the court.
An image of Sookie standing in front of Mac’s unicorn tapestry flittered through his mind. In the lamplight of the darkened hallway, he saw her as clearly as ever. Neither the dungeon nor the fire had broken her spirit.
“I killed my maker for you.”
The recollection of Rasputin stripping Eric of the memory of Sookie floated to into consciousness.
“Rasputin had no idea. The words I said to you on the beach were the same he used to bind my knowledge of you. I remembered all our lifetimes together as your life drained away on the floor of a dungeon in Russia, despite my attempts to save you. It explains why the our tie feels stronger.” Sookie’s blood called to him. He knew then that he wanted to complete the bond. Eric wanted to be bound to this woman. Forever.
Sookie remained before him, confusion plain on her face. In her outstretched hand, the wedding ring he’d given her so long ago, waited.
His true wife in every way.
He’d never loved another, he realized. It had always been Sookie. Their lifetimes forged over days, and written in goodbyes. In every lifetime, he wanted to offer her the world. In every lifetime, he would trade his life for hers.
“Eric…” Her voice came out unsure. “Do you remember?
He swept the chain from her palm, unclasping it, and sliding the ring from its length.
“For 900 years, I loved you. I searched for you, even when I didn’t know it. I found you, though I remained unaware. I gave you my blood as you died in my arms, reinforcing our connection, until it fractured as Rasputin ripped my life from me. He took my most precious memory from me: the last century of this life meant nothing without the memory of the night I wed you in the privacy of that glade.”
Eric slipped the ring over her finger. “For the past hundred years, I knew something was missing. It was always you.” He completed the ring’s journey home, and recited, “I Eric, pledge myself to you, Sookie, from now until the end of time. May our souls find each other in every lifetime we are granted.”
He bent down, kissing the tears from her cheeks. “I love you, Sookie. I always have, and I always will.”
She raised her lips to meet his. Gentle, Tentative. In between kisses, she whispered, “I love you, Eric. Forever.”
In her kiss, he tasted sunlight, and the promise of tomorrow. His arms came around her, tugging her into the contours of his body. He needed to feel the beat of her heart thumping against his chest as hers rose and fell with each shuddering intake of breath. He couldn’t get close enough. The kiss deepened and the whole of their shared history spilled out before him. He spun the two of them around, bracing her back on the dented wall, catching Sookie as her legs wound around his waist.
Their kisses created a shared universe, and his body vibrated with waves of pulsing energy. He captured her hands in one of his, trapping them above her head. With his other, he followed the swell of her breast and the valley nestled between. His buried his cock in the fabric barrier of her yoga pants, his hips grinding to the rhythm of her heartbeat. His thumb and forefinger closed around her nipple, hidden beneath the soft texture of her sweatshirt. His hand tugged the bottom hem. Eric lifted the sweatshirt over her head, feeling every inch of her skin on the path upward, and tossed it to the side. Her blond hair fell in waves over her naked shoulders.
He gasped out her name as her tongue blazed a path down his neck, her fingernails scraping against his back; her teeth nibbling at his carotid artery, her moan smothered into his skin. Eric let her feet fall to the floor long enough to leave her yoga pants in tatters. He fell to his knees, his mouth drawn to her center. She clutched at his hair as his lips traced the line of her panties. His fingers teased at the edges, replacing each bared inch of her with his lips; his tongue, his fangs, his fingers; tasting, biting, stroking her satin depths as he worshiped at her core.
I splintered and Eric drank in the explosion, ripples of passion flooding my entire body. I knew I couldn’t stand much more. I needed him inside of me, filling the aching, pulsing emptiness.
I pushed him down on the hardwood floor, dragging my nails down his chest. My fingers fumbled the button open on his jeans, and eased the zipper down over the hard ridge it concealed. He wore nothing underneath. A flood of desire rushed through me at the commanding sight of him. I tore off his jeans, I needed him naked beneath my hands, my lips wrapped around him.
As my tongue tasted him, our eyes caught and burned, Reveling in the feel of steel gliding through my fingers; my mouth, my tongue, caught in the rhythm, following the guttural roar of ancient Swedish.
Dragging me up the length of his body, I screamed out his name when he flipped us over, and thrust into me all at once. We lost control, our bodies crashing into one another.
His fangs edged against the hollow of my throat, and I knew I wanted to give myself to him fully, wanted my blood to sustain his life. After everything we’d gone through together, I wanted to be bonded to Eric. I tilted my head to the side, baring my neck to him. He kissed down my throat to my collarbone, and looked up at me with such wonder, it robbed me of what little breath I had left.
“Are you sure?” He asked, the words soft, yet full of hope. Such an expression of innocence, a bit of the man peeking out from under the vampire cloaked in centuries of survival. He slowed our pace, extending each cresting wave of our entwined bodies.
“I want to be yours, completely. You are everything to me, and I don’t care what the future holds, as long as it includes you.”
He reached for his discarded jeans, pulling out a small pocketknife. “Forever, Sookie?” Asking for my acceptance in the slice of his skin, a small trickle of blood rolling down. “Because I will never let you go.”
My acquiescence given as my mouth found his blood, savoring the coppery, hedonistic flavor of Eric. My lips pressed over the wound, drawing him into my body. His fangs pierced my vein, as our bodies became a pulsating quasar. The completed blood bond knitted our hearts into homes even as our universe shattered.
For so long, he dreamt of finding a way back to that beach in Norway. The place Rose waited for him on the edge of Bad Wolf Bay. The words, Bad Wolf distributed through time and space. The words, clues Rose left for the two of them to follow. Walking down the ramp to where Rose’s jean jacket rested, The Doctor picked up the last remaining tie to the love of his very long life.
Her warmth had long since faded, but he’d seen her in it hundreds of times. The image appeared clearly in his memory.
Her smile. Her laugh. Her absolute trust in him. Even at the end, she never gave up until the Void stole her away from him.
He ran back to the screen, searching her timeline for a clue. What would he risk to bring her back? The collapse of galaxies? Billions of lives?
Or was Bad Wolf Bay a fixed point, created out of a collapsing crack in time? Was it possible? Could Rose have left a permanent clue behind in the hopes that one day he would be desperate enough to search for it?
Could he follow her home one last time?