**A/N: Caution: Beware the slight chance of mutual growth in this short but emotionally happenin’ chapter. Tissues not required.**
Still reeling from the emotional maelstrom with Eric, Sookie walked slowly toward the back door after popping her basket into her vehicle. When she entered the old farmhouse, she cast another jaundiced eye around the place. Naturally everything was the same as it had been the last time she was there, but for some reason she’d found herself hoping that things might – somehow – be a little different, that maybe this time when she stepped through the door it’d feel more like the home she had once considered it.
It wasn’t…and it didn’t.
She rolled her eyes at herself and decided that after almost being vampire lunch, not to mention all that had come afterward, it was no wonder her brain was acting weird.
Of course nothing was different. This was just the old, slightly less run-down house where her beloved grandmother had begrudgingly raised her and her brother so that her holier-than-thou church cronies wouldn’t think badly of her.
She ought to know – she’d read the thoughts straight from the woman’s brain often enough. Funny how often darling Adele had chosen to forget that her own granddaughter could do that sort of thing.
Resolutely Sookie ended that line of thought. There was no reason to keep hanging on to the same bitter old notions, and she’d had enough negativity in her life.
And then there was Eric.
The too-recent memory of him in her arms surprisingly made her own tears rise once again. She tried to convince herself that her current tears didn’t mean anything, that she also cried over “save the animals” commercials, but it didn’t work.
Oddly, however, she felt slightly vindicated. In the past she had in some way simply known that there was much more to him than met the eye, that he was much deeper emotionally than he wanted the world to know. But, her thoughts continued, he had destroyed every bit of affection or good opinion she’d had of him when he’d…
Sookie forced herself to stop thinking so strongly about all he had done to her during the Russell situation. She certainly couldn’t forgive him for it, but that didn’t mean she had to dwell on it, either.
Naturally unbidden memories of how he had been before then came to mind instead.
Sure he could be a coldly calculating monster who used her without her permission, but he was also the rascally frat-boy who had conned her into taking his blood the night of the bombing, the same confusing male who had made a point to include releasing her along with his beloved Maker in exchange for himself in that fake church. And while he could be the scary asshole she’d seen on other occasions, he could have a great sense of humor, and yeah, he seemed to have a brilliant and devious brain hiding behind those gorgeous blue eyes of his, too.
Except for pleading for his Maker’s life both in the fake church and on that rooftop in Dallas, all those other aspects of his personality hid the fact that he was capable of feeling deep, intense loyalty and adoration. Well, toward his Maker at least.
While the idea that Eric could be that intensely loving made her feel a little odd inside, she was glad to know that at least she wasn’t a fool – there really was more to him than met the eye. As she had suspected, Eric truly was capable of extremely powerful emotions above and beyond the scary, painful, and infuriating characteristics she now associated with him.
She would have to think more about this later.
And why had he been there waiting on her in the first place?
Eric approached the door to her, well, his house, and almost snorted at himself for automatically pausing instead of simply opening the door and entering.
After all, no matter how useless the ownership was to him now, it was still his house. He would have to return it to her as soon as possible.
He felt a bit of shame rise up at the mostly nefarious intentions behind his purchase of her mortgage in the first place. He’d meant to use the house against her if he felt he “had” to, and back then his conscious had only felt the barest of twinges when he’d been forming his plans.
No wonder she couldn’t stand him any longer. He didn’t like himself all that much, either.
Now, he decided, was his perfect opportunity to begin making amends.
He knocked on the door that he now technically but not morally owned, and waited for an invitation.
A moment later he heard her quietly invite, “Come in.”
When he entered the living room, he saw her standing behind the hideous couch that had been nearly impossible to replace.
Somehow the blonde telepath seemed different.
When she had first exited the portal, he hadn’t had time to closely examine her – his vampire instincts had easily overridden his logic as her enhanced fairy scent had assaulted his nose. Then when he had scented his deceased Maker, internally speaking, all hell had broken loose.
His reaction had been immediate, instinctive. While he was ashamed now that he had most likely frightened her, he was also glad that she was still standing.
A vampire Child’s inherent need for their Maker was indescribable. It was hardwired into their own survival and only death or the Maker could sever that Maker/Child bond. When the progeny genuinely adored the one who had Turned and raised them, that tie, that bond, was exponentially more fundamental.
The knowledge that somehow, somewhere, Godric yet lived threatened to overwhelm Eric once again, and he firmly decided to revel in this fact later.
For now, as he stood in her home, he chose to observe Sookie in hopes of pinpointing the change he sensed in her.
And then he realized that the change he was looking for was actually in himself.
He tucked Godric’s precious letter into his back pocket, and silently approached.
She turned around when she heard him coming closer, and gasped when he gently took her hands to lift her arms away from her body. Strong remorse clouded his features as he gazed at the bruises he had left.
He bowed his head and seemed to watch as he smoothed his thumbs over the backs of her hands. When he raised his head to meet her eyes, his face remained serious, and surprisingly miserable.
This was not what Sookie expected, and she wasn’t sure what to make of it. For once it didn’t feel as though he had a hidden agenda for making this apology.
“I…um, it’s ok. It’s not bad and I heal pretty fast these days anyway.”
“That’s not the point,” he replied sadly.
Feeling as though she was taking a huge risk, Sookie slid her arms out of his grasp until she could take his hands in her own.
“Eric, I understand. It’s Godric.” She squeezed his hands and let go. She truly wasn’t sure how to handle a sweet, honest Eric. “Now, go get cleaned up and read his letter. I know you’re dyin’ to.”
A brief smile crossed his lips. He very gently took her face in his hands, and was shocked that she let him. He leaned down and kissed her forehead.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated against her warm, scented skin before turning and going to the bathroom.
When he came out of the bathroom a few minutes later, face cleaned and resolve strengthened, he was sad but not surprised to see that Sookie had left.
What did surprise him was that she’d left her phone number scrawled on a notepad placed on the coffee table where he was sure to see it.
Wisely he recognized it for the boon it was – a monumental step in the right direction.
Heart and spirit both lighter, he withdrew his Maker’s letter, sat down on the horrendous sofa, and read.
**A/N: Ok, so, it was slow-ish growth… but hey, that counts, too, right? What did you think?**