Tears streamed from Sookie’s eyes, as she felt Eric’s anguish sweep through their bond, while he was lost in his grief over her death and she could only hope and pray that he’d feel the guilt coursing through her for causing him so much pain. She’d known the moment she arrived in this ether world; her luck had finally run out. She was dead, or at least her body was dead. You’d think that fact would be what shocked her the most, but it wasn’t. The fact that she could still feel Eric through their bond, despite the fact she had died, shocked her to no end and the only thing she could be thankful for was being able to tell Eric she loved him one last time before taking her final breath.
She couldn’t help but shudder as she felt his every emotion; his pain and anguish over her death; his overwhelming anger at what seemed like any and every thing; his never ending longing for her; and his undeniable love for her. Sookie no longer had any doubts as to how Eric truly felt about her, but like the saying goes that realization came a day late and a dollar short.
The feelings she’d felt through their bond seemed to replay on a continuous loop with periods of quiet in between. Sookie had no concept of time where she was, but she did try, at first, to keep track of the cycles of grief and quiet until it no longer held any meaning for her. She had no need for sleep, nor any feelings of hunger. There was no light at the end of a tunnel, nor any pearly gates beckoning her to walk through, but there was an undeniable pull from her very core constantly urging her forward into the unknown.
She was able to resist its pull, however, and resist it she did. Instead, once the initial shock wore off, Sookie took the time to explore her surroundings when she’d first arrived, but the lack of anything more visual than the shimmering gown she now wore and a constant state of fog had her exploring with her inner senses rather than using her eyes. It didn’t take long for her to realize that the farther along she moved towards where her instincts were telling her to go, that direction was pulling her away from where she could feel Eric and their shared bond the most. Remaining true to her stubborn ways, Sookie refused to move forward.
In the moments when the bond quieted, when she’d assumed Eric was in his daytime rest, although she could still sense his presence in the bond like a comforting hum, Sookie would take the time to contemplate not only her present circumstances, but the circumstances that brought her to be here to begin with and the ramifications of the stupidly stubborn choices she’d made.
Eric had made it clear; he wanted her to live with him. She’d thought him high-handed and controlling, but she now understood it was his fear for her safety that motivated him along with his love for her; wanting her with him always. If only she’d listened to him with her heart instead of her ears, really listened to him, she would more than likely be in his arms at that very moment.
And again, a day late and a dollar short, she now wished she would have let him turn her as he’d wanted to. Not because she’d wanted to be a vampire necessarily, but she would have done it without question if she’d known what kind of pain Eric would be suffering with her death. While she obviously held no prejudices against vampires, she’d always assumed an air of righteousness when she would vehemently declare her decision to remain human. She’d used her friends and what little remaining family she’d had left as her excuses saying she didn’t want to watch them all grow old and die, but wasn’t that exactly what life was anyway whether or not her heart still beat? Even though she was the one to pass on before them, it could very well have been that she would be the one to watch them die. She’d spouted off about missing the sunlight and her tanned skin; Vanity, thy name is Sookie Stackhouse.
But her biggest regret by far was her beloved Viking. How often had he come to her rescue? How often had he both said and shown her through his actions that he was willing to do anything she’d ask of him? Eric had shown her a side of himself that she knew very few had seen in his thousand years all because he felt she was worth it. She knew it wasn’t because of her telepathy or her Fae-tinged blood. Eric wanted her for her.
Until she’d arrived in this place in between death and whatever existed beyond, she’d never thought to pose the question to herself of ‘If the situation had been reversed, would Eric have willingly sacrificed his humanity to remain with her for all of eternity?’ Sookie knew, unequivocally, the answer was ‘Yes’. He wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Not because it would have made him immortal, but because he loved her enough he would want an eternity together with her. He would have wanted to spare her the pain of watching him grow old and knowing that their time together on earth was limited. She’d been so selfish, never considering what it would be like for him when she eventually died and now that it had happened, she could feel the consequences of her choices through their bond.
In the quiet times, she would remember his sense of humor; the spark in his eyes; his passion for her and for life, no matter if his was an undead life or not; his tough guy Viking vampire sheriff attitude. Now her guilt ate away at her, knowing he no longer had those feelings. Through their bond she knew Eric felt nothing but pain in one form or another whenever he wasn’t in his daytime rest. Sookie had condemned him to an eternity of pain and misery and she knew the fault lay directly at her feet so she stayed where she was, out of the love she had for her vampire and to pay her penance for what she’d put him through. Sookie had decided if Eric was condemned to an eternity of grief then it was only fair for her to condemn them both.
It was during one of the quiet times when Sookie was shocked to find that she was no longer alone in the fog. She could make out in the distance, others moving through the fog in the direction of where her instincts tried to make her go. The first few times she had attempted to approach them, but it was as if they couldn’t see or hear her and Sookie quickly realized that here at least, she no longer had her telepathy because their thoughts were their own. After a while she stopped acknowledging them at all and merely stayed wherever she could feel Eric the most, refusing to give in to her instincts to move on; refusing to leave him alone in his grief.
Sookie’s existence was a never ending cycle of grief, pain, and emptiness. She longed for it to end, but she longed for Eric more. She prayed, begged, and pleaded to whoever might be listening to give her another chance and let her return to Eric. Her only want was to end his pain, to heal his heart, to love him like he’d deserved without any hesitation or doubts. It was during one of those times when she was lost in her despair feeling Eric’s anguish yet again when she’d felt another presence within the fog nearby. She barely looked up having already dismissed them in her mind when her heart dropped at who she thought was walking towards her.
“Oh my God, Jason!” she cried as she flung herself at him, only to stop short when she realized it wasn’t her brother, but her Uncle Dermot.
“Sookie, what are you still doing here?” he asked.
“You can see me, hear me? Oh Uncle Dermot, please, please is there any way for me to go back? I can’t take it anymore, I just can’t take it!” Sookie sobbed out uncontrollably.
Dermot reached out and embraced his niece asking her, “Child, why haven’t you gone on to the Summerland?”
“What are you talking about?” she asked. “I don’t want to go to the Summerland. I want to go back to Eric. He’s in so much pain and it’s all my fault. I can’t leave him, I just can’t!”
Dermot’s sorrow was evident as he explained, “Sookie, you can’t go back. Your physical body died ten years ago, I’m sorry.”
Sookie’s sobs grew louder when she realized just how long Eric had been suffering her loss and grew more obstinate as her uncle tried to convince her to leave with him. She held fast refusing to leave and when Dermot could no longer resist the pull for him to move forward, he’d had no choice but to leave her behind.
When the bond quieted again she was overwhelmed by the guilt she’d felt knowing how long Eric had been missing her, grieving for her. She swore to herself that she would never leave him alone and resigned herself to an eternity of misery and pain. When the familiar pangs of longing signaled Eric’s daytime rest coming to an end the next evening Sookie was startled when she saw a warm glowing light appear in the distance. She couldn’t help but watch as it grew larger as it came closer to where she stood and gasped in disbelief when the light took on the form of someone she’d thought lost to her forever.
“Claudine?” she asked, not willing to trust her eyes. While Claudine had always been beautiful, she was a fairy after all, now she was ethereal.
“Cousin,” Claudine acknowledged as she wrapped Sookie in her embrace.
“What are you doing here?” Sookie asked.
“I’m an angel now, so I can go many more places than I used to,” she smiled. “But tonight I’m here as your Guardian Angel, one last time.”
“What do you mean?” Sookie asked, while tears silently flowed down her cheeks as Eric’s pain started to surface through their bond.
Sookie watched as Claudine took a deep, and apparently unnecessary, breath before saying, “Tonight, Grandfather is reopening the portal between the human and Fae realms to go and ask your bonded to meet the sun.”
“NOOOO!” Sookie screamed. “How DARE he? WHY would he want Eric dead?” Her entire being revolted at the idea of Eric ceasing to exist and she reached towards their bond sending him strength and resolve to withstand Niall’s request. She didn’t want to lose him forever.
Claudine knew what Sookie was doing and explained, “Sookie, Eric can no longer feel you in the bond. He hasn’t since your death.” She continued on telling Sookie everything that had been going on with her friends and her bonded since her funeral. It explained so much, but at the same time she was torn as to what was the right choice. The selfish side of her wanted Eric to exist no matter what, but she’d also been feeling his pain and sorrow for so long and so deeply that she didn’t want him to live that way either.
When the bond, which up until then had only radiated Eric’s pain, shifted to now include acceptance and relief as well, she knew he’d made his choice. She sent him every ounce of her love hoping something would get through no matter how small, until the bond finally fell silent and she was once again all alone inside of herself for the first time since that fateful night in Rhodes; she collapsed in her own grief.
Claudine knelt down and gathered Sookie into her arms doing what she could to soothe her, but knowing their time was limited, she began to speak once more.
“Sookie, I’m sorry, but there’s still more you must know before you move on.”
She was so lost, no longer feeling Eric inside of her that she paid no attention to what Claudine had said and instead asked, “Where will his soul go? And please don’t say he doesn’t have one because he’s a vampire, I know he does!”
Claudine smiled softly answering, “Of course he does, but that is what we must talk about.” Seeing she now had Sookie’s full attention she continued, “You, my dear, are very special. Because of your heritage, Fae and human, you have the choice of where you want to spend your afterlife. You can go on to your Christian Heaven and be reunited with your parents and grandparents, who have passed on before you, for all of eternity, or you can choose to go on to the Summerland. But before you decide you should know that at this very moment your Eric is being presented his own choices as well. He can choose to go on to Valhalla and spend eternity feasting at the Warrior’s table, reuniting with the family he hasn’t seen in a millennia. But, because he was pledged and fully bonded by blood to you, he can choose to go on to the Summerland as well.”
If her heart still beat, Sookie’s would have been pounding out of her chest as she asked, “How can he go to the Summerland? He’s a vampire!”
Claudine shook her head smiling as she answered, “His being was that of a vampire, but his soul has always been that of the man he was born as; he is no longer vampire, so your supernatural connection on earth can bind you together only in the supernatural afterlife. Now, before you decide where you’ll be spending your afterlife you should know that once you’ve chosen, there is no going back and neither of you will know what the other has chosen, until both of you have made your decisions.”
Trying to grasp what Claudine was telling her Sookie asked, “So, if I choose the Summerland and he chooses Valhalla we’ll be apart forever, but I won’t know until after I’ve chosen?”
Claudine nodded saying, “Yes and the same can be said if you choose Heaven and he chooses the Summerland. His blood bond with you will allow him entrance there without you, but neither one of you will know where the other exists until your choices have been made.”
Sookie retreated into herself, torn over the idea of being able to see her parents and her Gran again. How often had she prayed for that very thing? But could she choose to spend all of eternity without Eric? Would he choose her over the human wife and children that were lost to him so many lifetimes ago? She wasn’t so sure. And now that Claudine was an angel she wouldn’t know anyone in the Summerland except Dermot and the biological grandfather that she’d never met.
Not knowing what to do she looked up at Claudine and said that very thing. Claudine looked back at her with love in her eyes and the irony wasn’t lost on Sookie as she said, “How often in your human life did you declare that you wanted things to be your choice? That you should have been given the opportunity to choose? Well cousin, the choice is finally yours.”
Eric was surprised that the pain of burning in the sun was really nothing more than a flash across his consciousness. One moment he was seeing the sun rise in the sky for the first time in a thousand years and the next he was somewhere, he just didn’t know where. It was as if he were standing in a void of nothing, surrounded by fog on all sides and when he looked down he saw that he was wearing the clothing he wore as a Viking made of animal pelts and tanned hides. He’d always believed in the stories of the Valkyries and Valhalla as a human, but he wasn’t sure what to believe would become of him once he met his true death as a vampire. The religious zealots would have everyone believe that vampires would be banished to hell for all of eternity and with everything Eric had done in his one thousand years, he wasn’t too sure that wasn’t exactly what would happen.
He was only alone for a few moments when he sensed someone’s approach and out of habit he turned towards the source prepared to defend himself with his hands curved as claws, but faltered when he realized he no longer had fangs. His fingertips went into his mouth without thought as he traced the edges of where his fangs should be, but he only felt the blunt tips of the teeth in their place.
“You are no longer vampire, Norseman,” came a melodic voice from the fog in front of him, giving way to the figure of what he knew was a shield maiden of Valhalla.
In disbelief, Eric asked, “Odin sent a Valkyrie for me? After a thousand years?”
“You have been a great warrior in your millennia in the Midgard and are deserving,” she replied.
While Eric felt honored to have been chosen to go onto Valhalla, his heart wept at the thought of spending eternity without his bonded by his side. As if she’d been reading his mind the Valkyrie said, “You miss your bonded.” It wasn’t a question but a statement and Eric could only nod, so she continued, “You have a choice in where you can spend your afterlife. When you met your true death, your bond was broken so that you and your bonded could choose your own paths with no interference. You can go onto Valhalla and train with your fellow Einherjar in Asgard preparing for Ragnarök or go onto Freyja’s Fólkvangr where you will reunite with your family, your wife and children from your human life, and spend eternity with them. But, because you were pledged and blood bonded to a Fae hybrid that held the essential spark, you can choose instead to go to the Summerland. Before you decide you should know that your bonded is being given the choice of spending eternity in the Summerland or her Christian Heaven, where her human family awaits her and neither of you will know the other’s decision, until you each have chosen.”
Eric stood there stunned at the thought that he could possibly spend eternity with his Sookie, when he’d only ever thought that possibility would exist with her as a vampire. He knew how much Sookie’s family had meant to her, especially her Gran, so he had no such expectations she would choose him, but for him there was no other choice to be made. For Eric, it had always been her. In every dealing they’d ever had with one another, his head always tried to steer him one way, while his heart lay firmly with her and so it would be for all of eternity, whether she was there to spend it with him or not.
“The Summerland,” Eric said, without hesitation.
In the next moment, their bond reopened and each could feel the other’s fear and hope give way to disbelief and love. Eric took off running towards the pull of his bonded, calling out her name and when he heard her voice calling out to him, his heart sang out in joy. He pushed himself to go faster and suddenly the fog dissipated as he finally saw her running towards him with her blond hair flying back and tears streaming down her face as they flew into each other’s arms.
Neither said anything at first, with their lips meeting in a furious clash and their hands touching everything within their reach in an effort of reassuring themselves that the other was really there, while enjoying the feel of the other in their arms once again. Eric was surprised that for him her wonderful scent remained unchanged while Sookie was surprised that Eric no longer felt cool to the touch and was now warm in her arms.
“I’m so sorry,” they each said at the same time when they finally pulled their lips apart, making them laugh through their tears. Sookie reached up placing her fingertips over Eric’s lips needing to say the words she’d wanted to tell him for the last ten years.
“I’m so sorry for putting you through that Eric and for being so stubborn. I should have listened to you and let you protect me. I should have loved you like you deserved to be loved.” She looked into Eric’s eyes with hers full of disbelief saying, “I can’t believe you chose me, after everything I put you through.”
Eric kissed the tips of her fingers before pulling her hand down and placed it on top of his heart saying, “There was no choice to be made. You were the light in my eternal darkness; the only warmth in my cold existence. It has always been and will always be you.”
“But what about your wife? Your children?” she asked, still unable to fathom the undeniable fact that he had chosen an eternity with her.
He leaned down and brushed his lips across hers saying, “You have always been my only wife in my heart.” Full of disbelief himself Eric looked into her eyes asking, “And what of your family? You’ve longed to see your Gran and your parents, but now…” he trailed off unable to finish his sentence.
The love she had for him shone clearly in her eyes as she smiled saying, “You are my husband. I chose you.”
Eric was left happily stunned hearing the words he’d always longed for her to not only say, but mean and he relished feeling the truth of them through their reawakened bond.
They each felt the pull to move on, and with nothing left to hold them in the ether, they did so, hand in hand, which is how they appeared before Claude that morning. Sookie asked that he give Pam, Bill and Amelia her thanks for watching over Eric for all of the years since she had been gone and Eric asked that he tell Pam where he was so she’d know he was okay. Once everything had been said, they left Claude and were drawn towards a light that, when they stepped through, brought them into a field of wildflowers surrounded by trees with the sun shining high in the sky. Sookie raised her face towards it, enjoying the warmth of the rays before peeking over to see Eric smiling down at her. Seeing him for the first time with the sunlight shining down on him brought back memories of when she thought in choosing to give her heart to Eric, she would have to sacrifice moments like this. It was a gift she never thought she would ever receive and knowing she had an eternity of moments in the sun to share with him nearly left her speechless.
Knowing he’d spent a thousand years of night, she asked, “Eric, don’t you want to see the sun?”
He cupped her cheek in his hand, brushing his thumb across her temple and replied, “I’m looking at it.”