London October 1597
Lamplight and the chattering crowd enveloped me in a cocoon of familiarity. Sure, lamplight’s not common anymore, but a pub in the 17th century seemed very much like a bar in the 21st; groups of boisterous patrons argued, couples leaned towards each other in the dim light, the waitresses avoided groping hands, and the music made everyone smile and tap their toes. In every century, people were people: some good, some bad, but they gathered, and they made friends; they lived, loved, and carried on the best they knew how. I sipped the pint, enough to keep curious vampires from asking questions, but not too much.
I still had no idea how to tell him. Leaning over to him and saying Hey! Remember when you knocked me up a thousand years ago? Surprise! Guess who’s gonna be a vampire daddy? Jazz hands included.
Probably not the best idea.
I needed to set aside the debate for this evening. I didn’t know much, but I knew that this was not the time or place for that conversation. I needed to pull myself out of this haze before—
Eric’s glacial eyes studied me. His slight questioning head tilt made me reach for him, happiness surfacing with a brush of fingers. I smiled in reassurance, and focused back on the completely ridiculous group of people engaged in conversation. Shakespeare invented dirty limericks, in between bouts of scribbling, and rants about love. The Doctor and Rose encouraged him, and Eric eventually loosened up. At times, I would catch Shakespeare eyeing Eric and I with a kind of intense scrutiny. We bounced snarky comments off one another, while sneaking kisses and glances, nothing out of the ordinary. I’m not sure why he stared, but I chalked it up to the writer in him.
So when he asked me to tell him our story, I didn’t know why, but I obliged him. How does one say no to Shakespeare anyway? Is it even possible? He listened, glancing up from his scribbling occasionally, which was the only way I knew he actually paid attention. I told him about the witch who cursed Eric, and Eric filled him in our how we fought our way through our attraction to one another.
“Beatrice and Benedick,” Shakespeare commented under his breath when we finished relating our story—minus the time travel, of course—his eyes dancing with excitement. He snickered, “Bickering their way into love. Yes, definitely, they will do perfectly.”
Had we? Were we? I turned my widened eyes on The Doctor and then Eric, both of whom just laughed. Apparently we served as inspiration for one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. So flipping cool.
When the time came to leave for the theater, Shakespeare insisted on walking with us. He parted ways just before the theater, kissing the hands of both Rose and I, and then hurried ahead to join up with the actors. We were swept along with the other theater-goers.
“Doctor,” Eric began, “I didn’t happen to include the correct currency for this time period when we left with you, and I don’t imagine you carry money, so do you have a plan as to the four of us attending the play?”
“A plan? Why, no! Not ever. I tend not to plan too far in advance, takes away the fun of it all.” He winked at Rose, and she tucked her hand into his pocket. Her smile at him warmed me. Knowing that I shared in their reunion, one they thought lost to them was a memory I wouldn’t soon forget.
They’d hardly stopped touching; the lingering of a hand on a cheek, an intertwining of fingers; a quick kiss when they thought no one was looking. I’d only heard ecstatic thoughts of joy, so loud they practically screamed their love to a listening universe. I rebuilt my mental walls not wanting to pry into their privacy.
Approaching the white plaster building, the oak beams outlining the frame, I reveled in the beauty of the The Globe’s simplicity. Lights gleamed up through the open roof, illuminating the clouds above. Warmth emanated from the center of the theater’s heart, and the babbling crowd enveloped us.
We passed through the wrought iron gates, open wide with welcome. The courtyard filled with palpable excitement. Eric and I followed the Doctor and Rose as they headed into the theater proper. Rose flashed The Doctor’s physic paper, and the usher escorted us down to seats just to the left of the stage. The seats were lined with deep red cushions, and relatively comfortable. Thanks to The Doctor’s magic paper, we had some of the best seats in the house.
“I can’t believe I’m actually gonna see Romeo and Juliet, during Shakespeare’s lifetime, after I just met the man himself.” I tried to play it cool. I didn’t have much success in that endeavor.
Eric slipped his fingers through mine, and the flickering flames illuminated the stark lines of his face that softened when he looked at me. “This is a dream come true for me as well.”
I tilted my chin upwards and caught his eyes, “But you’ve been before, haven’t you?”
“Yes, I have. But never with you.” He bent down and kissed me, his lips gentle against mine. “The theater is always better experienced with people you love.”
I swooned. How could I not? He never failed to send butterflies flurrying inside of me. He made it hard to look away.
Why I finally pulled my gaze from his, I looked around at the torches that lit the space, and complemented nicely with the clear, star-filled sky. The circular area allowed for a feeling of inclusion, and there seemed to be less of a definite line between the actors and the audience. I watched as people leaned forward onto the edge of the stage, chins resting on folded arms.
A hush fell over the room, but the lights did not dim as I was used to. The crowd quieted and Shakespeare walked to center stage.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome!” He bowed extravagantly to the enthusiastic multitude. “Tonight’s performance of Romeo and Juliet is about to begin.” He paused, letting the people settle, “Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”
He continued and I fell into the rhythm of the play. Having only ever seen Shakespeare performed by high schools, this production became a revelation. The first difficulty meant getting past the fact that all the roles were acted by men. Not too big of a deal really, but disconcerting at first. Setting that aside, the tide of the play swept me along in its wake.
The difficulty in reading the text disappeared in performance. Sure, the lines followed a specific rhythm, but this wasn’t a second language, rather it was simply an extension of their every day speech.
I watched as The Doctor and Rose leaned forward, elbows on the railing in front of them. His eyes twinkled with merriment as Rose fell under the rapture of the story. They laughed along with the audience, which was a bit livelier than I was expecting. Even Eric let out a chuckle or two, though he, as usual, acted with more reserve. Rose and I enjoyed ourselves fully while the boys delighted in our responses.
The audience might have been my favorite part. Watching them, sharing in the experience of this night and this play. It wasn’t like theater nowadays, all stuffy and prim: the audience laughed and cried, responding to each roller coaster of emotions the play evoked; they didn’t hide their reactions. During the intermission, I mentioned as much to The Doctor.
“Well Sookie, if we’d gone to one of the indoor theaters, you would find the audience much as you expected. It costs more to attend a theater that you won’t possibly get rained on. But I like this crowd better, it’s more honest.” The Doctor contemplated the mingling crowd. “These are the normal people, the working class. The other theaters are frequented much more by the upper crust, and they expect a bit more decorum in their productions.”
I thought about it. “I like this better.” I felt like we were part of something bigger, more connected to the people around us.
The second half of the show broke my heart; it always did. Romeo and Juliet should have just run away together, they might have survived that way. But they were teenagers, overwhelmed by first love. Maybe they never expected to find it. Once they found their other half, they threw themselves wholeheartedly into the other.
Eric handed me a handkerchief when I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore, and when the entire audience leapt to their feet and burst into applause, our motley group did as well. Rose dabbed at her own tears, and The Doctor and Eric’s faces lit with amazement. The audience held nothing back. They roared and stomped out their approval, the night alive with crackling energy.
As we filed out of the theater, tears changed to happy babbling. Shakespeare joined up with us, asking if we enjoyed the show. We assured him that we did and he invited us to be his guest any time we felt like it. The Doctor and Eric thanked him for his kindness and we parted as friends, friends with one of the most famous writers in all of human history. Sometimes the turns my life had taken amazed me.
Rose and I chatted as if we’d been best friends for life. The Doctor and Eric followed closely behind us as we meandered back to the TARDIS, taking more time to peruse the stalls that lined the sides of the road.
“How lucky are we?” Rose asked as she linked her arm in mine, and with her free hand fingered a lovely blue fabric.
We moved away from the stand and continued walking. “I was just thinking that. We really are two of the luckiest women living, I reckon. Who else gets to go back in time and meet Shakespeare? Nobody else I know.” I glanced back at the two men behind us. “And we get to be in love with two pretty great men. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s.”
Eric moved to my side as The Doctor moved to Rose’s.
“You ladies are very lucky, I figure, seeing as though traveling through time and space is pretty awesome in my book.” The Doctor’s giddiness bounded out of him and his absolute delight ricocheted around us. “Nine hundred years and I never tire of the adventure.”
I leaned in to whisper to Rose. “I’m so glad he found you. He seems whole again. I didn’t realize it when we were traveling, but now that you’re with him,” I looked over at his wide, beaming smile, “he seems lighter. It makes me happy to think I won’t be leaving him alone when Eric and I return to Bon Temps.”
“Bon Temps?” Rose asked.
We turned the corner into the alley where the TARDIS waited. “Oh, sorry! That’s where I live. It’s in the US, in Louisiana. Just a tiny town, but it is home to me.”
“I can’t wait to see your home, but it’s really too bad you two can’t travel with us a little longer.”
The Doctor went before us and unlocked the door to let us in. “You know you’re more than welcome to make your home in the TARDIS as long as you wish it. We could explore space next time, not just the history of one planet.”
I knew his offer was heartfelt, but I needed to get back home. “I wish we could, Doctor, I really do.” I reached out and touched his arm as I passed him. “But I’ve been missing for far too long already. I really need to let people know that I’m safe.”
“And that I didn’t kill you.” Eric added.
“What?!?” My shocked response echoed through the TARDIS.
“We were too busy reuniting before, so I forgot to mention it. But there are some who believe me responsible for your death.” Anger flashed across his face. “When you disappeared, they found it easy to place the blame on my shoulders though they never had a shred of evidence otherwise. They never charged me, but condemnation came easy to those who wanted to believe I could ever harm you.”
“Who?” I was getting angry now too. “Why in the world would they think you killed me?”
“Because I’m a vampire. They surmised that you must’ve spurned my advances,” he waggled his eyebrows at me, lightening the situation. “And the who does not matter now that I can hold you in my arms again.”
He pulled me into his embrace and I tucked my head under his chin. I wrapped my arms around him, my hold on him tight for the fear he might disappear if I let go. I hated that people thought that of him. The four of us fell silent on this last trip home. When we got back to Bon Temps, I would make sure everybody knew how much I loved Eric, how much I trusted him. And if they had a problem with it, well they could just go suck eggs.
Before I knew it, we were landing again in my backyard. I let the three of them go on ahead into the house, and I took a minute to say a silent goodbye to the TARDIS. I’d come to love her, and would miss traveling through time. I placed my hand on the console and let her know I would never forget the time I’d spent with her and The Doctor.
“Goodbye, Sookie,” she whispered in my brain, “come back anytime.”
“Bring them by again soon,” I replied silently.
I left the TARDIS behind and I heard her engines whirr in parting, heading into the house to join the others. The four of us sat down for tea before it was time for Rose and The Doctor to continue on their adventures.
“So what’s next for you two?” I asked.
“Who knows! Maybe I’ll take Rose to witness the Curiosity Rover landing on Mars. Or to Mesisanger Five, the planet of waterfalls and a sky full of rainbows. Maybe we’ll go surf the shockwaves on the edge of a supernova. Where would you like to go, Rose?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe we’ll just let the TARDIS decide. She did a bang-up job taking us to meet Shakespeare, I imagine she’ll find somewhere we’re needed. It doesn’t matter to me where so as long as we’re together.” She leaned towards The Doctor and pulled him in for a kiss holding all the sweetness of the promise of their life together.
When the kiss ended, The Doctor turned to us again. “Are you sure you don’t want to come with? There’s a great big universe out there to explore.”
I stood up, reluctant to let them leave, but no more emergencies existed; The Doctor found Rose again, and Eric sat happily at my kitchen table. I was just making excuses. It’d be so easy just to travel with The Doctor and Rose, forgetting about the rest of my responsibilities. But what about Jason? Tara? Sam? They were my family. I couldn’t just leave them thinking I died. Pam, on the other hand, well we could probably take Pam with us. I tried to imagine her in the TARDIS. Imagined her shopping on a planet fifty-seven light years, and millions of years away from Shreveport and Fangtasia. Oh the shoes she would buy.
I stifled the sadness I felt at our parting and took The Doctor’s hands in mine. “Oh Doctor, how I wish we could. But say you’ll come and visit us again. Please? Is there any way I can get ahold of you?”
“Gimme your phone, Sookie.” I retrieved it from my pocket and handed it over. He waved his whizzing sonic screwdriver around it, and then entered what I figured must be his phone number. Did Time Lords have phone numbers? He handed mine back and held his hand out to Eric. “Yours too. This will call me no matter where we are in a time or space. If you ever need anything, just ring us up. We’ll come running.”
I liked the idea that I had a way to get in touch with them, even if it just for a chat. It made their leaving seem a little less permanent. I tried to stifle the tears that surfaced, but one or two might have leaked out. Eric stood up behind me and touched my shoulder.
I opened my arms to pull The Doctor in for a hug. “Oh, I don’t know how to thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”
“Oh never mind that,” The Doctor just about squeezed the life outta me, “It was my pleasure. You always got us into the best jams. And you helped me find Rose again. There’s absolutely no way I can repay you for that. Well, I could. There’s a planet on the edge of the spiral arm of the Andromeda galaxy that has two suns that chase each other around the sky. And the sky is purple! PURPLE, Sookie!”
Trying once again to entice Eric and I to join him, I understood he would miss me as I much as I did him. “Come back for Christmas sometime. You two are always welcome.”
“You know, we might just take you up on that,” Rose said as she worked her way into our hug goodbye.
The Doctor smiled, “Besides, we’ll have to see how—” his eyes flicked down to my stomach and I knew that somehow he knew. But he must’ve seen something reflected on my face since he didn’t finish his thought, instead turning to say goodbye to Eric. “Well. I must say, meeting you has been one of the highlights of my very long life. It’s rare for me to meet someone older than me, and to share in his life.”
He held out his hand to Eric, and when he grasped The Doctor’s hand in return, The Doctor tugged him into a hug. The look on Eric’s face was priceless. To say he wasn’t much of a hugger was an understatement, but he let The Doctor wrap his bony arms around him anyway. Rose grabbed The Doctor’s free hand, and I knew it was time for them to leave.
Eric and I walked them to the door of the TARDIS, our feet marking a slow trod across the lawn, trying to make the moment last. Tears streamed down my face as well as Rose’s. The Doctor and Eric huffed, covering their emotion in half grunts. It made me laugh, which seemed fitting.
Rose opened the door to the TARDIS and The Doctor bowed to me one last time.
“Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow…” He lifted my hand to his lips, and I felt a tear trickle down onto it.
“That I shall say good night, ‘til it be morrow.” He released my hand. “Doctor, I really will miss you. Don’t be a stranger.”
“Come back any time, Time Lord. You’ve been incredibly entertaining.” Eric’s gruff goodbye made us all laugh.
Finally The Doctor turned, taking Rose’s hand once again, and they headed into the TARDIS. We stood as the door closed behind them and Eric wrapped his arm around me, pulling me close. I listened as the glorious blue police box faded in and out of this reality, the snow shovely sound I had come to love a lullaby of farewell.
I don’t know how long we stood there after The Doctor and Rose left, but eventually Eric led me back into the house and settled me onto the old worn couch.
“I’m really gonna miss him, Eric.”
No reply came from him, but I felt his support and love enfolding me. We sat in silence for a while, knowing that come tomorrow life would intrude again on our lives.
Eric finally broke the quiet. “I need to run back to my house for a moment. Will you be okay here alone? I don’t want to leave you, but this is important.”
I didn’t know what was so important he needed to leave now, but I’d learn to trust him on this trip through time.
“Of course, Eric, whatever you need. I’m not going anywhere.” I leaned forward and kissed him briefly. “I promise.”
“I’m going to hold you to that. Besides, you know if you try and leave, I’ll just come and find you again. I do have a Time Lord on speed dial now.”
While Eric did whatever he needed to at his house, I hopped in the shower. I’d forgotten just how lovely the hot water felt streaming down my skin. My hands lowered until they rested on my belly. The Doctor’s almost comment confirmed what I pretty much knew already, but the thought kept rattling around in my mind.
A child of our own. Not that I wouldn’t have considered adopting, but I had to admit, having a tiny person born of our shared blood was a wish I never considered making. I still had no idea how I was gonna tell Eric though.
I stepped out of the shower, changing into some comfy yoga pants and my old Fangtasia t-shirt. I walked around the house, thinking of the changes that would need to be made for Eric. I wondered if there was such a thing as glass that blocks UV rays like in Angel. Or maybe automatic shutters that blocked out the sun? I read a book that had those once. I guessed for now, we could expand the cubby so that it fit both of us. I wanted to fall asleep every sunrise next to the man I loved.
It didn’t take Eric long to make it back, and I was just sitting down in the kitchen with a cup of green tea when he knocked on the front door.
“Eric, you know it isn’t necessary for you to knock. Just come on in.” I smiled when he joined me at the table, dropping a kiss on my lips before sitting.
“I went home to get this.” He placed an aged wooden box on the table between us. “For years I carried it with me, without knowing why. I haven’t opened it in a hundred years.”
I studied the box, but I didn’t have x-ray vision so I had no idea what was inside.
He pushed it closer to me, ”Open it.”
I touched the worn wood, soft from years of handling. The clasp on the front tarnished by time yet it slipped easily open. I held my breath, unsure of what I’d find inside.
“Sookie, I love you. I told you, I waited a thousand years for you, knowing you were my wife, without actually knowing you. You lived in my heart.”
I lifted the lid. Nestled inside sat his ring. The one he’d worn on the day I left Sweden. My hand rose to cover my lips and I sighed, picking it up from its place amongst the ancient green velvet.
“I want you to be my wife in truth. I know you must have dreamed of your wedding—”
“Eric, it’s not necessary, we’re already married in my eyes. We have been since that night in the glade.”
A smile hitched up, his face full of love. “I can’t give you a family, no matter how much I wish it, or anything a human man might. I’ve lived my life in darkness, but you are my light. You are the sunshine I can never feel against my skin.” He paused as if unsure of my reply. “If this isn’t something you want, I’ll understand. But at least I can give you a real wedding. But let me know now. If you can’t choose me, I’ll put this box away and leave it for the years to forget. But if you choose me, I’ll spend every lifetime we’re allowed making you the happiest woman alive. And if you don’t want to become a vampire, I will make our one life together as perfect as I can.”
“Eric, there is nothing more I want than to be your wife, forever. I want more than one lifetime with you.” His eyes lit up with happiness and he kissed me fiercely. I knew, it didn’t matter the words I said, Eric would have given me a family; he would give me anything. I reached for his hand and slipped the ring over his finger, then pulled his hand forward, laying it over my stomach. “But we might have to wait a few months. I’m not giving up anything, Eric.”
He nodded, but his face showed confusion mingled with something else—hope.
“Do you remember our time together when you were human?” My eyes met his; I wanted to see his face when I told him. “Eric, you’re going to be a father.”
He went vampire still. Unmoving, his hand still resting on my belly, unbelieving, I think, that such a gift was even possible.
“Are you sure?” That glimmer of hope burst out of him. “You are going to be the mother of my child?”
I smiled. “Yes, Eric. I am. We’re going to be parents.”
Eric jumped up and lifted me into the air, swinging me around, and kissing the life out of me. I felt the tears streaming down my face, and looked to see pink streaks on his as well.
He set me down quickly, as if worried that the spinning might injure me.
I laughed hysterically. “Eric, you’re fine. You aren’t going to hurt me.”
“Nonsense. You must be pampered.” His head swiveled around taking in the house. “I’ll make calls tomorrow. There are too many things that could go wrong. I won’t risk you.”
I knew then that I was in for it. I’d thought Eric protective before, now I’d be lucky if he let me leave the house. Oh, crap on a cracker—Pam. I couldn’t even begin to picture her response.
“Pam’s gonna have a field day with this. She won’t try and eat our baby will she?”
Eric chuckled, but then quickly sobered. “It may not seem like it, but she always wanted a child, Sookie. She will be beside herself with joy.” A twinkle came to his eyes. “I hope you don’t mind our child having a vampire godmother.”
I shrugged and winked at him, “I figure it’ll just give her another reason to shop.” Eric picked me up and carried me to the couch.
“The little one will be the best dressed child this side of the ocean. And probably the world if we let Pam have her way,” Eric said as he wrapped the old afghan and his arms around me. “Though you do realize she will insist on helping to plan the wedding, don’t you?”
I had no problem imagining my soon-to-be wedding planner. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
As our lips met in tangle of hope and possibility, the future stretched out before us, just waiting to be written.