Close to Dead

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Chapter 25: There’s no Place like Home

Eric and I talked until dawn. He answered almost every single question I bombarded him with, and I believe he did so truthfully, though one can never really tell with Eric. By pre-dawn’s early light, he made love to me once more, and then he fell into his daytime sleep.

Although I was more tired than I could remember being in a long time, I had one more person I needed to speak to before I could rest. I crawled from our bed, showered again, dressed, and then I went down to the lobby, up to the front desk, and I asked, “Can you tell me the room number of Alcide Herveaux, please.”

I took the elevator up to the third floor, went to room 310, and I knocked. It was very early, and I knew he could still be asleep, but I had to talk to him. After everything Eric told me, I just had to.

He answered the door while I was raising my hand to knock the third time. It was apparent he had just gotten out of the shower. His hair was wet, and he was pulling a black t-shirt over his chest. Even though I wasn’t supposed to know he was there, he didn’t seem very surprised to see me. He also didn’t seem very happy. He was always very hard for me to read, and he always had very ambiguous feelings for me, anyway. There was always a part of him that wanted us to be together, more than he wanted us to be together, if that made sense.

“Alcide,” I greeted.

He looked out the door, down each part of the long hallway, and then he opened his door wider. “Come in, Sookie.”

I walked in his room, a replica of mine, only opposite. He motioned to the only chair in the room. I shook my head no. I really preferred to stand, and I didn’t intend to be there very long.

“What do you want?” he asked, already perturbed with me, and I didn’t know why.

I grimaced, “Gee, nice to see you, too.”

“I’m sorry, Sookie, but it’s really early, and I have to testify at Eric and de Castro's tribunal tonight, in front of the National Vampire League, and I’m a bit on edge. Also, I don’t think we should be seen together.” He sat on the edge of the bed, crossed one leg over the other and then motioned with his hands for me to speak next.

Instead, I walked up to him and replied, “I’m sorry I bothered you.” I didn’t say it sarcastically. I actually meant it from the bottom of my heart. I stepped closer to him, leaned down, and kissed his cheek. “Eric told me that you helped him and I wanted to say thank you. I thought that you had betrayed him, and in a sense, betrayed me, and even though you didn't know I thought that, I had very bad feelings toward you, and for that, I apologize.”

I plastered a real smile on my face. I started to walk toward the door, but he was quick to grab my wrist. He pulled me back slightly. “I didn’t help him, Sookie, let’s make that clear. I did it for you, because you’ll always be a friend of the pack and more than that, you'll always be a friend of mine.”

I still smiled, and I leaned down and kissed his other cheek. My free hand was on his shoulder as I straightened back up. “And you’ll always be a friend of mine, Alcide. No matter what. I don’t care why you did it, but Eric said that you convinced the Nevada Weres who work for de Castro that you wanted Eric gone, and you helped them to kidnap him and you also helped to bring him here, and if you hadn’t done that, he might have come into real danger when they brought him here. So, no matter what the reason, thank you.”

He still had my wrist in his large hand. His hand was warm. He was warm. He smelled familiar, he smiled at me in a friendly manner and that overwhelmed me. He was warm and friendly, and I was tired of feeling cold, but still, I didn’t envy his warmth. I didn’t covet it, or desire it one bit. For the first time since I had met him, I didn’t feel anything but fondness for him. I didn’t feel any of those uncertain feelings that I usually felt around him … feelings of want, feelings of desire, feelings of contempt, feelings of disappointment, and I really think he finally felt the same.

He stood up, hugged me tightly, and said in my ear, “Don’t you ever worry about a thing, Sookie.” I nodded, started toward the door, looked back only once, nodded again, and then left his room. I went to the lobby, had a blueberry muffin and some coffee (continental breakfast, don’t you know), and then I finally went up to bed.

Eric was right where I left him, but of course. I slipped out of my clothes, placed them neatly on the chair by the bed so that I could slip them back on later this evening when we woke, and I pulled back the covers. Climbing in beside him, I studied his face closely.

He really was a lovely man, or vampire, at least on the outside. That thought made me smile. My fingertips fanned over his face. I gently touched his eyebrows, and the slope of his nose. I leaned down and kissed his slightly opened mouth. Even though I knew short of beating him senseless, he would never wake up from my ministrations, I was still cautious, and I touched him as lightly as I could.

My hand went to his hair, and then down his jaw. I looked at him differently, and I liked what I saw, not only because of his physical beauty, but also because of something else, which I couldn’t express. Something was filling me up, filling me up whole, closing around my heart, and it wasn’t an unpleasant feeling. It was a good feeling, a righteousness, which filled up my ‘holy’ tabernacle with love and understanding. I was in awe that I had finally had this epiphany. I was also alone, and I couldn’t share it with anyone. Maybe that's how it was supposed to be.

My hand began to drift over the taut skin of his body, over his chest, ribs, abdomen. I slipped my hand under the sheet. I felt a bit perverted, but I even slipped my hand around his glorious penis, and under his testicles. They didn’t move an inch. That was a first.

I smiled again and my hand continued its trek down his legs, long, lean and all muscle. Even though he was dead to the world, I leaned over him, brushed my hands back up his chest, down his arms, and then over his face again, ever so lightly. I ended my exploration with a kiss to his cold lips. Even though he would never hear me, I leaned my body over his and said, “Eric, I’m finally ready to commit myself to you, so you better come home with me.” I wrapped my arms around him, placed my head on his chest, and I thought about home until I finally slept.

And all day long I dreamt of nothing but home. Just simple dreams. I know I dreamt a bit about Gran. In one snippet of a dream, I was eating pumpkin pie, on Thanksgiving day. I could smell sweet potatoes, stuffing, and turkey, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was on the television. I was sitting on the living room rug, eating my pie, in front of the television, and Gran walked in and told me that there was some whipped cream in the refrigerator if I wanted it on my pie. I told her no, but when I turned back toward the TV, I knocked over my glass of milk. I started to stand up, but she was right there with a dishrag, and she mopped it up, then cupped my cheek and told me to be careful. Then she told Eric, “You be careful, too, and you take good care of my Sookie, and don’t let her spill anymore milk.” I didn’t know Gran knew Eric, and I didn’t know Eric was in the room until she spoke to him.

I turned toward the rocking chair, and there he sat, with a grin on his face. He promised my grandmother that he would take good care of me, and she told him, “I hope you do,” and she kissed his cheek.

He said, "I will, Mrs. Stackhouse, I always will." She left the room. I looked back at the chair and again he grinned at me, and then he winked.

I also had a very vivid dream where I dreamt that I was outside, sunbathing, the sun caressing my skin with its warmth. It was hot, but I wasn’t the least bit put out because I had been so cold for so long, and the heat from the sun felt good on my skin. I had my eyes closed, but I could still sense that something was suddenly blocking the sun. I looked up, one hand coming to shade above my eyes, and I squinted, and then said happily, “Eric, it’s so good to see you in the sunshine.”

“Where else would I be, Sookie? If you’re in the sunshine, it makes sense that I would be, too. I’ll always be with you, no matter where you are,” he promised. He reached for my hand, and drew me up from the chair. Then he led me inside the house.

I know I dreamt at least one other dream that day. I dreamt I was stuck in an old-time black and white movie. I know I have never dreamt in black and white before. My brother Jason used to tell me that he always dreamt in black and white, and I thought that sounded weird, and perhaps made up, but there I was, dreaming in black and white. I didn’t like this black and white world. It felt alien, and uncomfortable, and cold and foreign. I knew I was in my own house, but it didn’t feel like home. I ran from room to room, looking for Gran, for Jason, even for my mother and father, whom I hadn’t dreamt of in years.

I couldn’t find any of them. I sat in the middle of the foyer, and I began to cry. I felt fingers on my face. Someone stroked my cheek, pulled me to a stand, and embraced me. “Why are you crying?”

“I’m scared and alone and I want to go home,” I said.

“You are home,” he said.

I had my eyes closed tightly, and I refused to open them, but I said, “This isn’t my home. It looks like my home, but it’s not. My home is in color, and its vibrant, and real, and warm, and alive. This place is cold and ugly and black and white, and its dead, Eric, it’s so dead.” I knew it was Eric speaking to me, even though I wouldn’t look at him, and I was still crying.

“I’m here,” he said. “I may not be warm, I may not be alive, so to speak, but I’m real, and I’m here, and you’ll always have a home with me, Sookie.”

In my dream, I looked up at him, and suddenly, the dream was alive with color, tremendous, vibrant colors, brighter than I had ever seen. The whole dream reminded me of the ‘Wizard of Oz’. When I was little, I hated the black and white part of that movie, and I would often avoid watching it until the color part started. Then I would watch it intently.

My favorite character was always the Tin Man. He appeared cold and hard on the outside, and people thought he didn’t have a heart, but he had a heart all along, and even though he was cold and hard, to Dorothy he was still precious, and alive, and caring, and loving. I realized, even while I was still in my dream, that Eric was my very own Tin Man.

That was when I woke up. I lifted my head from his chest, and it was soaked with my tears. I looked up at his face. He was awake. He was dragging his fingers up and down my back. His other arm was around the front of my body. He held me, and I realized that the words I thought were from my dream were real. He had really said them.

Before I could wipe away my tears, he placed his hand on my cheek and wiped away my tears with his thumb. I placed my face back on his chest. “What did I say?” I asked heavily.

“You were dreaming and you began to cry,” he began, in a soothing voice, the cadence and timbre even and smooth. His fingers continued to go up and down my back, softly and smoothly.

“Then what happened?” I was almost afraid to ask.

I could almost hear him smile. I lifted my face from his chest, and yes, he was smiling. “You said that you wanted to go home. You said you were tired, and cold, and lonely, and something about it being black and white. I told you that you would always have a home with me, even if I was cold and in color.”

I laughed. “There’s no place like home,” I said. I leaned forward, kissed the middle of his chest, and then his jaw and then his lips. “Just like the good witch told Dorothy, she had the power to go home the whole time; she just had to believe.”

“Who is this Dorothy and of what good witch are you referring?” he asked, quite seriously.

I started to laugh. I laughed, kissed him again, and climbed out of bed. “Come on, Tin Man, it’s time we got dressed. We have a trial to go to tonight, and before you say that I can’t go, I want you to know that I have the power to go anywhere that I want, if I just believe.”

I sashayed to the bathroom and had to laugh again when I heard him say, “Why did she call me Tin Man?”

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