The Talk

Okay, firstly, it’s never coming. Not what you think is a talk. It’s already been had people – it’s just been had by people who don’t talk about feelings, who understand each other, and actually don’t need stuff spelled out to them.

So, how do two people who don’t like talking about their feelings deal with things, uh? Luckily, PMR is in just such a relationship, so I get it. Despite what Cosmopolitan and Dr. Phil tell people, communication is not the only key to a great relationship. Don’t tell me it can’t possibly work – it’s been working for Mr. Minty and I for sixteen years now – so put aside your assumptions. We don’t do “communication by chatter” – we do it in the same way Sookie and Eric do it, and I can assure you we don’t have a problem with it. Anyone who tells you “communication by chatter” is the only way things work is a dirty rotten liar.

One of the important things in my relationship with Mr. Minty is the fact that it’s a shared experience. I don’t need to wonder how the hell he felt when we first kissed, because I was there with him and went through it too. It happened to the both of us, not one of us. Same with most everything else too – I don’t need to have it spelled out – I was there, I care about him and think about what he feels.  That’s part of “getting” someone for me – understanding them without having to have it spelled out really clearly. I’m going to show you how a talk works in the text, with non-talking people who don’t expose their feelings in plain words. You my friends, have been witnessing Eric and Sookie talking about feelings and missed them.

Firstly, I think it’s my duty to point out just how much shit they’d have to cover if they had the much vaunted talk. Stuff that they have to cover about the time both before they had a relationship and during the intervening time between Dead to the World and From Dead to Worse. I know that the common thing to take it back to is the most recent time Sookie didn’t fall into line with Eric’s desires in most fanfic “talks”, but let’s have a look at shit Eric should never have said and done in the first place if he wanted a trouble free relationship.

One of them is the fact that he sent her to Dallas and Mississippi. Now, I know that with the True Blood confusion, people think Sookie went there at her own instigation. Wrong.

“Since Bill has been appointed investigator of Area 5, we have not had a lot of mysteries. But Area 6, in Texas, has need of your special asset.
So we have loaned you out.”
Living Dead in Dallas, p. 47

Let me note that there is no asking – there is telling. Sookie’s services as an “asset” are needed by Texas. There was never any option not to go. Eric had already struck a bargain, and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. Maybe some readers would be silly enough to think it’s an option, but it’s really not. I know that some believe that’s undercut by the fact that Eric went with her, ostensibly to protect her, but come on. You can’t believe that. Sookie didn’t work at night – it wasn’t intended that she would work only at night. Even if he only anticipated problems at night with vampires, then why the fuck did he send her in the first place if he cared about making her safe? Huh? Safe people do not go and do jobs for vampires – Eric would think that sending her to work for killers was safe? If you believe that, I have this wonderful bridge for sale…..

So the total shitstorm that was Dallas was all on Eric. He cared more about making money than he did from keeping Sookie from getting hurt at all. But let’s just say he was a total dumbarse, and thought that working for vampires was safe. But, well then, he surely wouldn’t do it again, right? Except he did:

“If Pam hadn’t hinted to you about Bill, his safe return would have been enough
and you would have jumped at the chance to help,” Eric reminded me.
“But now I know about Lorena.”
“And knowing, do you agree to do this for us?”
Club Dead, p. 52

Any argument that Eric is trying to keep Sookie “safe” is demolished with this incident. People who want to keep you safe don’t repeatedly send you into danger. Particularly if they also want to fuck you before you die through misadventure. Readers lay it all at Sookie’s door – but the truth is that it isn’t. It’s go, or stay in Bon Temps and wait for the Queen to get there, torture Eric and torture Bill’s girlfriend to find the database (remember neither Eric or Sookie know about the Queen’s plan at that point). All the crap that happened in Mississippi is on Eric – he sent her there. Bill told her to go to Eric for protection – what a laugh. Eric wasn’t protecting anyone – not if he put himself at risk – he was chucking Sookie into the shark pool when the necessity rose.

So what exactly is Eric supposed to say about that to Sookie? That he shouldn’t have sent her if he cared about her? But he did. Eric knew he cared if she lived or died, and still sent her. I can’t see any benefit in Eric making out like he was really doing favours for Sookie – maybe under the auspices that he knew she really loved beatings. One of the things that I always liked about Eric is his honesty – and that includes being honest about himself – rather than being an apologist and a revisionist. Eric sent her to Dallas and Mississippi, he doesn’t bother to apologise – he knew what he was doing – TWICE – and any apology is absolute horseshit. If he was really sorry about it, he wouldn’t have done it the second time – he would have taken the torture, wouldn’t he? He didn’t, he wasn’t, so too bad. Eric doesn’t get to lie and minimise it as if Sookie really doesn’t get it. Sookie gets it – she doesn’t make an apology for his behaviour either. She calls it what it is:

I tried to get past being sure that at any second he’d grin down at me
and explain everything and laugh, embroiling me in some trouble
that would end in me…getting beaten up.
Dead to the World, p. 17

All of it is there – that Eric got her into trouble – not Sookie – Eric. As you can see from above, Sookie’s right. It’s all on Eric. Now, she has to decide if she can get past that and help him, or whether she can’t. Obviously, the fact that she didn’t leave him on the side of the road says something about the fact that she apparently can get over it, even if she doesn’t make out that the problem doesn’t exist in the first place.

But some of the most hurtful stuff comes after Eric loses his memories of the time they spent together. The physical stuff goes away – the emotional torture Eric put her through, of his own design, just doesn’t. For example, when Eric finds out that he and Sookie slept together, Eric goes so far as to infer that Sookie is really a slut:

“I’d been to visit Calvin Norris,” I said, and Eric looked displeased.
“So you had his smell on you.”
“Well I gave him a hug good-bye, so yeah.”
Eric eyed me skeptically. “Had Alcide Herveaux been there?”
“He came by the house site,” I said.
“Did he hug you, too?”
“I don’t remember,” I said. “It’s no big deal.”
“It is for someone looking for shifters and Weres to shoot.
And you are hugging too many people.”
“Maybe it was Claude’s smell,” I said thoughtfully. “Gosh, I didn’t think of that.
No, wait, Claude hugged me after the shooting. So I guess the fairy smell didn’t matter.”
“A fairy,” Eric said, the pupils of his eyes actually dilating. “Come here, Sookie.”
Ah-oh. I might have overplayed my hand out of sheer irritation.

Dead as a Doornail,
p. 219

Now, there’s a whole heap of subtext in that paragraph, and I’m not surprised that some readers have either not understood it, or not seen it. The question they really should have asked is why is Eric looking so sceptical, and why is it that Sookie’s irritated. But le sigh we cannot expect people to read what is there and think, only what they see announced in plain English, maybe caps. This paragraph for them is really Eric being annoyed she’s not protecting herself (which he of course tells her by osmosis – rather than out loud – and he was so concerned with her protection he tried telling her she was in his retinue for Rhodes) and a lot of nonsensical stuff that they didn’t understand why it was put in.

Eric is saying something appalling – he’s inferring that Sookie is a slut, who would sleep with any supe that came her way. Eric does this sort of thing because he wants to degrade the time he had with Sookie – make it not matter, and be pointless. Eric isn’t in a good place at that point – he’s just found out that the position that he’s worked for was dangling in the balance over a week’s worth of time, and that Sookie had complete power over him. After Appius, well, how else would he act at the idea of being powerless to control his life? Of course he’s going to be a little bitch over it. Instead of being stoic about it, he has the emotional maturity of a toddler, and uses Sookie to make himself feel better.

Both of them knew what he was saying there – they got it, even if readers didn’t. So how the hell is Eric going to make up for that? By saying he didn’t mean it? Oh but he certainly did at the time, otherwise he wouldn’t have said it. By saying he didn’t know it would hurt her? Duh, that was the point, and Sookie knew it too. Eric is trying rather clearly to degrade what they had together, and in so doing, Sookie’s feelings are a casualty that he’s willing to sacrifice. He knows it’s hurting her – he can feel her in his blood, remember? Sookie know that’s what he’s doing, so she goes along with it, and then heaps more misery on him, since he is actually being a callous bastard.

Funnily enough, I don’t feel sorry for Eric, because he started this shit, but more for Sookie – she didn’t imply he was a slut and that sleeping with him is meaningless – she may not have told him, but that’s not the same as acting as if it meant nothing. But that’s because maybe I don’t like women being thought of as sluts by men who’ve slept with them (or even men who haven’t). Other women seem to feel differently based on ‘worth’, and think she should be grateful, and just get over it because widdle Ewic’s feewings are hurt, the poor manbaby. But let’s not suck each others’ dicks here – he meant to hurt her, and bravo, he hurt her.

So, telling Eric he hurt her isn’t going to do anything. Eric is smart enough to figure that he hurt Sookie – it was his intention. It was his intention to send her to the other states. It was his intention to degrade their relationship. If Eric hasn’t seen how he’s acted, examine it and think about how she feels, then explaining it to him isn’t going to let him know. He’s either smart enough to get it, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, he isn’t going to change – he’ll just keep doing it because he can’t figure it out. Sookie for her part needs to decide if she can get over it, or if she can’t. It’s either one or the other. Eric lying to her isn’t going to help jackshit. It’ll just be Eric lying to her about hurting her for his own self – not for Sookie.

That’s what non-talkers do – they deal with stuff internally, and make their own decisions. Sookie even roundabout mentions it later:

My emotional and physical state had been sliced and gouged
and pinched and bitten to a rough raw surface. I didn’t know if
I could spackle myself back into my pre-kidnap smoothness.

Dead and Gone,
p. 283

It’s not about not being hurt – it’s about taking yourself to the place where everything is okay. People who don’t talk don’t need anyone else to fix them – they do it themselves, without reliance on someone else as an emotional crutch. Being a woman who has dealt with some pretty tough stuff, I can tell you that from a real life perspective, it’s entirely possible. For example, in the years 1995-1996, I had my mother die of long term cancer, and gave birth to a son, who has a serious disability. I spackled myself back together – no one else did it for me. I didn’t need them to – that’s what being strong is – it’s not using other people to prop you up and fix it with lies. Bad shit happens, and you either deal or you don’t. I’ve never talked either of those issues out, and I don’t need someone to tell me it hurt – ah…duurr shit – of course it hurt. It’s supposed to hurt – those are hurtful things. Those who love me, have an understanding it hurt, and those who love me most, like Mr. Minty, understand deeply how it hurt me – and he gets the same from me (when it comes to our son – he never met my mother).

So where do I see this understanding in the books? Everyone’s most hated book, Dead and Gone. That’s right – they talked about their feelings the most in that book. But it was filled with deep implications, not put out in caps for people. I’m going to break down a couple of them, so that you can see it, clearly and simply. I freaking loved it myself.

Do you really think that Eric wouldn’t know how it felt for Sookie during those months he treated her so badly? Of course he knew exactly what it would have felt like – that’s part of the reason he did it – to hurt her feelings, and spread some of his pain around. Eric was upset, and not content with acting like a man about it, he just made sure that he mistreated Sookie. I’m betting that I can make a good guess at how lonely, hurt and worthless she felt at times, thanks to the way that Eric treated her. I can sit there, think about how I would have felt if I went from “almost love” to being lower than toad crap as far as Eric is concerned. And I haven’t even had her blood. When Eric got his memories back, unlike his fangirls, I can’t see him making apologies for how shabbily he treated Sookie. Eric is not the type to lie about who he is underneath it all – he’s not going to try and change that into the way he was helping her. He hurt Sookie, he knows it, she knows it. If he’s a bit clueless, well Sookie gives him an insight:

“Yeah, yeah, I know, loved a mere human, made all those promises, was as sweet as pie and wanted to stay with me forever,” I muttered.
Surely there was a shortcut we could take through this scene.
From Dead to Worse, p. 182

So much implication is put into this – if you’re actually thinking about how Sookie feels, rather than self centred thinking based on what you want to happen. Sookie has just told Eric that she never thought he would care – not one single bit. That instead of sitting there, feeling worthless yet again that she wanted to get his latest round of ragging on it over with. We all know that they admitted that they felt something close to love for each other during Dead to the World. Considering that Eric in the intervening time has ignored Sookie, implied she’s a slut and done more and more hurtful things, what could he possibly say to that? “I’m sorry” seems kinda inadequate. It doesn’t take away from those months of pain, nor does it take away the expectation that Sookie never thought it would matter.

Hidden in that is the “mere human” statement – Sookie’s letting Eric know that she knows he’s always seen her as lacking – unworthy of his grand affection as the magnificent vampire. All of the Dallas, Mississippi and other crap has finally come back and bitten Eric in the arse. The fact that he used her, saw her as lesser, and treated her like crap is all out there. I can see it, so I’m sure that Eric can see it. CH wrote it that way for a reason, ya know. Eric has only himself to blame for it – for treating Sookie like she didn’t matter. He can hardly come back and cry about how she did him wrong – he created this problem.

So how does Eric respond to her? He can’t make out like she was a crazy bitch for feeling like she was lesser – what would be the point? He treated her like she was lesser, and sometimes he ground it in deliberately. No point in outright lying to her, and putting it all back on her. That works for Eric fangirls, but it doesn’t work so well for Eric, who actually cares about Sookie and can’t hide the fact he’s been a giant arsehole. So he says:

“I can’t believe I felt something so strongly and was so happy for
the first time in hundreds of years,” Eric said with some dignity.
“Give me some credit for that too.”
From Dead to Worse, p. 182

That’s how he makes up for it – showing that he didn’t really feel like it was worthless. He doesn’t bother to apologise for being a dick – he was a dick. No hiding that from either of them. Anything he offers on the subject is going to be empty platitudes to make Eric feel like he’s “solved” the issue, when he hasn’t. But he has now told Sookie what he thought was worth it. Consider for a moment the enormity that he’s given her – that in the span of hundreds of years, he was the happiest. That’s a really huge concept for someone who’s actually lived that time. That goes some way to making up for it – that it wasn’t some worthless fuck with a slut who wanted to rob him of his position, but that it actually mattered to him in a very real and profound way.

Now, luckily enough, Eric doesn’t try to bully Sookie to deal with it all on his timetable, when he’s finally finished being a dick because he remembers why he shouldn’t be one. Sookie has had quite enough bullying from Eric – that’s part of her problem with him – he doesn’t force her to be okay with it because he’s okay with it. He understands the enormity of what he did – and anything he has to say on the subject is empty chatter and worthless platitudes designed to get things going his way again. He bullied her into Dallas and Mississippi and made her feel like she didn’t matter. The only thing Eric gets to tide himself over is some reassurance that Sookie still cares about him:

“It would hurt you if I died.”
“Yeah, we’re blood bound, yadda yadda yadda.”
“Not because of the bond.”
“Okay, you’re right. It would hurt me if you died.”

Dead and Gone,
p. 183

One of the absolute worst things that Eric could have done is bullying Sookie more than this. It’s something that I see often in fanfic – Eric bullying Sookie until she fits his specifications on how she should be feeling. I think he’s bullied her quite enough. Let me also tell you – it’s crap tactic when someone doesn’t talk about their feelings, and works on it internally. It’s a way to rush the plot, and it’s a really crap way to rush a plot, because it misses the depth of feelings, but completely ignores them. This didn’t happen to someone else – it happened to Sookie and Eric – and it actually mattered to them. Nor does it work when friends bullying the stubborn person. If I had a friend who told me I needed to get laid, or screw a particular person, or admit my love etc., then I would have one less friend. I don’t take kindly to being told what to do or what to feel. I don’t talk it out, and that includes by surprise. No matter how good a “friend” someone believes they are. I don’t solicit advice unless I need it. So too with Sookie:

“I’ve done a stupid thing, and I don’t know how I feel about it,” I said.
Dead and Gone,
p. 103

Tara talked about it with her, but she didn’t tell Sookie how to feel about stuff – she sorted it all out so that Sookie could figure out how she feels about it. She’s been around Sookie – her best friend – for a lot of years. She knows that Sookie doesn’t need to be bullied – she just needs to sort it out and think about it herself. Some would argue that she should go to Eric or Pam. Wrong. Part of the problem is that their relationship is a shared experience. Eric is surely going to have his own feelings about the pledging, and that doesn’t help to transplant his feelings into Sookie. If he didn’t want to pledge himself, he wouldn’t have done it. Asking Eric how to feel about it – well, why not just abdicate all thought to bloody Eric. Same goes for Pam – she’s on Eric’s side, and will only go with what will make Eric happy. When you deal with things internally, then you need to know how you feel about something – not how your partner feels about something. It’s not as if they don’t make it clear through their actions and speech anyway.

Sometimes the best way to do things is not hands on steering and forcing – and certainly for a stubborn person, that is doomed to failure. They’ll just stop talking to you instead of being bullied. In fact, for all the crap Sookie takes from readers from not being ready on Eric’s timetable, he’s actually done the right thing. In between the books, Sookie and Eric realign themselves from what they knew about their relationship, and they deal with it in downtime, when no one is actively trying to kill them. That’s how you can tell it’s not a fucking romance book, with endless discussions of feelings. It’s urban fantasy, and that means you need to use your brains instead of having it spoonfed. The clues are on the page – not the unnecessary exposition. Indeed, from the end of From Dead to Worse, Sookie doesn’t want to talk about  it, but she realigns herself to her new reality wherein Eric might actually want her:

We were way overdue for a chitchat about Eric’s newly recovered memories
of our strange and intense time together when he’d temporarily misplaced
his memory due to a spell.
Dead and Gone, p. 3

See? She’s all ready to talk about stuff. It just so happens that while life is going on, various assassination attempts and the Fae War, that gets pushed to the backburner – and they only deal with the core issues.

Now I know that readers think Eric is the one who wants to discuss things, and Sookie gets shit (when doesn’t she, seriously, it’s fucking insane) for avoiding the talks. Well, what do you know about Eric’s previous relationship that Eric’s told her? What about when he realised he cared about Sookie? What about why he implied she’s a slut? The truth is that Eric is not a sharer. Eric saying “we’ll talk about this later” really means “You’ll tell me fucking EVERYTHING about yourself and I will know it.” I must admit, I had a bit of schadenfreude about the whole zones discussion – I knew he wasn’t going to be ponying up with feelings – and I snorted when I realised he’d finally proved it to those who were sure based on what he said instead of what he did.

But, thanks to the crap life throws at them, they deal only with the important stuff. Neither of them is going back to revise their past and pick it apart with a fine tooth comb to apportion blame. Certainly, that isn’t going to be the way that Eric goes, because in the general scheme of things, he’s got way more to revise. She asked him to an orgy, he sold her services to another state. Balance is fucking uneven and not in Eric’s favour. He’s just not that selfless, and he tries to be honest to repair the fact he’s lied to her. The only real point to discussing anything is if they can work things out – if she wants to give him another chance.

One of the things that Eric valued most – and you can tell by its importance by the fact he mentioned it first – apart from the sex with Sookie, was just ordinary treatment:

“I lay in front of your fire and talked to you about your life,” he said.
From Dead to Worse,
p. 214

That’s what Eric wanted from her – just to be trusted and be included. Notice it’s all about hearing about her life. That’s Eric’s main literary purpose – getting Sookie to talk about herself, and begrudgingly giving information on his own character. It also happens to be the thing that Eric finds as most memorable and lovely. I find that to be far deeper than just coming out with it – it’s complex, and says what he appreciates – not Sookie in battle – but Sookie in privacy, just talking about what she thinks and not wanting anything from him. Eric checks that this important part that he wants isn’t missing from their new-born relationship:

“I think…I just wanted some company,” I said.
“No soul-shaking revelations.”
He smiled. “This is good.”

Dead and Gone, p. 96

For Eric this is confirmation that Sookie can forgive him for being such a dick and let him in again. He doesn’t really need her to spell it out – he thinks about it, expounds why it is so, and then asks her about it. As long as he has that again, that’s what he wants. Why would he possibly want big declarations and big shifts? Eric loved the small stuff with Sookie the first time round, and now he wants that small stuff back. He’s getting it. Sookie in a round about way is telling him that due to Crystal’s death that day, she just wants to be with him – she doesn’t want to make any big shifts. The fact that they both abide by that means that they care about each other.

They also discuss the pledging and the bond in a roundabout way:

“You want to own your own life,” Eric said.
“As much as anyone can.”
“Just when I think you’re very simple, you say something complex,” Eric said.
“Are you complaining?” I tried to smile, failed.

Dead and Gone,
p. 92

It’s actually not a sin for Sookie to feel like she wants some control over her own life. She doesn’t have to be happy that a lot of big decisions have been made for her on the behalf of vampire royalty. I know some readers want her to be fine with it – happy even. It doesn’t work like that. Sookie is telling Eric that she doesn’t want to feel like her life isn’t her own. Eric gets that – he’s lost control of his life – he’s done things on their schedule as well. She asks him if it bothers him that she doesn’t just go along with everything and be happy – and Eric assures her that he likes her complex instead of simple. Eric’s not selfish enough to require Sookie to dumb herself down to make him happy – she’s allowed to feel that it’s not right. There’s the question and confirmation right there. Eric has reassured her.

Of course, some of the stuff that’s happened between them has left its little harbingers. They deal with that too:

“Do you really remember?” I asked him. “Do you really remember
staying with me before? Do you remember what it felt like?”
“Oh yes,” he said, “I remember.” He had my bra unhooked before
I’d even realized his hand was back there. “How could I forget these?” he said,
his hair falling around his face as his mouth fastened on my breast.

Dead and Gone,
p. 170

It’s not so easy for Sookie to feel like this isn’t another game that Eric-as-an-arse is playing with her. The last time she opened herself and was vulnerable to Eric, he hurt her deeply. The very last thing Sookie wants to think is that she’ll open up to Eric and he’ll treat her badly again. She’s letting him know that she wants to know that he remembers what it felt like, that he won’t mistreat her again. For his part, Eric doesn’t stand up and demand she trust him – he fucked that the first time round. No, he endeavours to prove himself – with a signature move on her nipple that he used while he’d lost his memory. He’s offering her something she didn’t tell him to reassure her that she’s not putting herself up for some emotional punishment.

They talked about all the essential issues that they had to. Going back and dwelling on it isn’t moving forward. It’s dwelling on hurt and pain, and it wouldn’t help their relationship. It would just put it back in the past. The idea that a couple of empty words would fix anything is a damn lie. They’ve both shown the other that they’re willing to work past it, what more can be said about the past that’s actually going to be practical relationship help? Sookie telling Eric not to imply she’s a slut, and for Eric to tell her to put herself out there again and again even if he’s a nasty bastard? How about Eric just not imply she’s a slut again? That’s an easy fix.

Now, what will happen with their pledging in the future? As I dealt with in a previous post, they know each other’s stance on stuff. Eric’s not going to do anything more than he needs to, and Sookie’s not accepting wife if the reason is “Felipe”. They don’t really need to talk about that and ask each other how it is – they’ve said what they need to. Now it’s a matter of realigning themselves, and figuring out a way past it. Since they haven’t actually figured out how to live together, and there’s still Victor to kill, there’s some time. No need to rush. They’re together, and these two stubborn people have to go forward – and in order to do that, they have to figure out the way forward.

So that’s how talking works out with two people who don’t share much about their feelings. I personally find it to be deeper than anything that could be put into words, and part of me feels like I haven’t given it due justice here setting it out. Words are rather inadequate for it, and reduce the depth of it. English isn’t made for it, and I can’t explain it to you on the internet via interpretative dance. It’s the best I can do without going in depth into philosophical underpinnings and fundamental beliefs and empathy. Readers have to find the empathy with the situation themselves, and I can’t do that (there’s so !little! in this community). How non-talking people do that is try to think about how the other person feels and really listen to what they’re saying, and think about that as well. You don’t need anything as pitiful as “communication by chatter” if you’re doing it other ways and sharing the experience.