Sookie’s Learnings. Let me show you them.

This post was born after I considered yet another fic wherein Sookie sacrificed her own life, happiness, self esteem and free will to get Eric to stay with her post Dead Reckoning. That’s the general flavour for fic, but I’ve yet to read one that starts off with Sookie being strong and ends up with Sookie being strong. It’s a pity, but that seems the way fanfic rolls. Hopefully someone will write a fic wherein Sookie has dignity and pride all the way through the fic, with Eric or without him. It could happen, right? *sotto voce PMR is such a fucking optimist…it’s not as if I didn’t fucking predict this stupidity*

But it lead me to thinking about the progression of relationship learning of Sookie in the books. Namely, the same sorts of scenarios that we’ve seen pop up in Sookie’s relationships with both vampires so far. I’m going to set them out – how she reacted to them, and what differences there are. I’m finding the parallels interesting, and I’ve been sort of skirting around the issue via a PM discussion with a writer I love – Ooshka – who has been sparking ideas and giving me her thoughts on stuff. I reference her because she’s given me a couple of really good points, and her understanding of the characters is excellent, as you would know from reading her fic.

But some of the issues that Sookie has with Eric in Dead Reckoning have popped up before. Sookie’s response has been different, and I think these are echoes in which Sookie has learned lessons. It seems that much of the fanfic is to rob Sookie of all she’s learned about things, and send her back to repeat past mistakes she made with Bill. Of course, this time it’s for Eric’s benefit, so that makes it automatically a good thing to do. Most of it is to put her back in the Club Dead type scenario – send Sookie in to do all the hard work of making sure she gets Eric back, and then she follows his rules and they go as well as Bill and Sookie did…wait…

The first scenario – the one I’ve been discussing with Ooshka is the idea of competition with another woman.

Bill – Obviously, the scenario was he’d taken off with Lorena, and Sookie was given the choice to go and fight to get her man back. It was Ooshka pointing out that Sookie did go and fight for Bill, only to get hurt immeasurably, and learn that while she fought for Bill, it was all for nothing, because Bill didn’t fight for her. Bill was only too willing to ditch Sookie for Lorena, and Sookie’s fight was really for nothing.

I thought that it is the reflection of the very childish belief – and I’ve seen it written in fanfic by grown arse women – that if you “fight for your man”, you’ll eventually win. It reminds me of this woman I knew whose boyfriend was cheating on her with a variety of women. I asked her once what she was thinking being with him, making him breakfast while he was screwing all variety of women. She told me that she would “win” eventually – that he would return to her. I privately thought that if she won and got that guy back, then the prize was absolutely crap and she would be better served competing for something actually worth having like I dunno…some Pokemon trading cards or something. But it occurred to me that her victory wasn’t over him, it was over the other women – she wanted to prove she was better. By the way – after a protracted period of him fucking every woman who would have him, and even impregnating one twice, she “won”. Yay?

But Sookie learned during her sojourn to Bill that it doesn’t matter if you “fight for your man” – if he willingly leaves you, then that’s that. You have officially lost – and whatever happens afterwards, you’ll always be mindful of the fact that he didn’t think you were better than the other woman, who is long gone, or in this case, turned to ash.  He might return to you by default, if you say kill the other woman, but the fact that he carelessly left in the first place speaks to his regard for Sookie. Sookie very much learnt that even though Bill had to obey his maker, he still didn’t have to damn well lie to her about it.

Bill willingly lied and pushed Sookie away before he left – and he didn’t consult her at all. If his plan had gone correctly, he hoped to be back, and Sookie none the wiser. Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way, but what matters is Bill’s intent. He wasn’t torn bodily from Sookie’s arms by the call of his maker – he had time to stash the database and tell Sookie he was leaving town. This was a choice that Bill made – deciding that if he wanted to go to Lorena, Sookie would await his return. That meant that on the hierarchy of needs, it was Lorena who came first, and not Sookie. Lorena got a say and first priority over the human Bill professed to love.

As Ooshka pointed out, this scenario shows that you can “fight for your man”, kill the “vampire ho” who took him in the first place, but that doesn’t stop the fact that Bill didn’t fight to be with Sookie at all. No, he kept her in a holding pattern to return to as he saw fit. Bill didn’t fight for Sookie in the face of another female vampire, and as Ooshka says, hopefully she’s learned something from that.

Eric – In this parallel, Sookie has decided to leave it all in Eric’s hands. Not to “fight for her man” and it seems she’ll take Bill’s advice and not do anything rash. I don’t think she’ll be going and facing off against Freyda at all. I would be a little sad if she sought her out to do that, honestly.  After all – the person with the least amount of power of this whole dealie is Sookie. Eric has power to fight the contract and Freyda has power to enforce the contract, but human wives are there to be put aside or treated as if they do their husband’s bidding. That’s it – they don’t have any power to affect change. Sookie didn’t even have any power over how and when she’d get married – and from the way Eric tells it, she has no power to protest the ending of the marriage – or Eric would have played that card already.

I don’t preclude Sookie helping Eric if he asks for it, but with contracts, there’s only so much you can do. And the power is not with the human in vampire law. It’s with vampires. This will be Eric’s fight to fight, not Sookie’s. If he doesn’t fight, then he’s not that different to Bill, now, is he? If, as Ooshka suggested, she finds out a way past it just by having full disclosure, then it’s still Eric’s job to actually do something about it – not Sookie’s. Sookie can only offer her ability to think outside the box for a solution – she can’t then enact that solution on Eric’s behalf – that’s his job.

So this time, Sookie’s leaving it in the man’s hands. He either fights to be with her, or he doesn’t. She can’t really change stuff by going up to Freyda and “claiming” him. The likely outcome of that is said vampire Queen either killing her outright or ignoring the little human telepath who’s telling her how the vampire world works. She could just laugh in her face, or ignore the little gnat – and I don’t believe that Freyda would let Sookie enter her court with a stake upraised.

At the heart of this, there is a common truth that Sookie should be wary of. One that struck her with Bill, and one that may yet hit her with Eric. There was some truth in what Lorena said to Sookie:

“You must be his little human bitch whore,” she said. “He was fucking me, all this
time, you understand. The minute he saw me, he forgot about you, except for pity.”

Club Dead,
p. 206

Bill did forget her the moment he heard about Lorena wanting him back. Bill started ignoring Sookie, being distracted, paying no attention to Sookie and sending her home. Now Eric has started being distant with Sookie, paying her attention less frequently than he did, and not spending time with her – just like last time. Like Lorena, Freyda has the backup of the vampire political system – she owns Eric with that contract. It’s up to Eric to fight Freyda like Bill fought Lorena (by not telling Lorena Sookie’s name under torture). However, this time, unlike last time, Sookie won’t be doing most of the job for him, propping him up until he decides that the flaking corpse of Freyda isn’t worth fucking.

At the heart, most of what Sookie wants from Eric is to know that he truly wants her – not that it’s convenient, that it’s not just because of the bond, or the fairy blood or anything else. Eric so far hasn’t gotten that distinction – and Sookie has asked him for clarification – which yet again, he shrugged off:

“Would you be wanting me to live with you if we didn’t have the bond?
If you didn’t feel it every time I was in danger? Or angry? Or afraid?”

“What difference does that make?” he said, more than a trace of
impatience in his voice. “If I want you with me, I want you.
The circumstances don’t matter.”

Dead Reckoning, p. 150

Well, if Sookie goes out and kills Freyda, she’ll never have any indication that Eric wants her for herself. Most of the time, Sookie is exhorted to look at Eric’s actions – that he doesn’t have to not kill her, and that’s therefore an indication that he likes her. But there are plenty of men in the world that haven’t attacked me in the world – I do not believe that they are in love with me. There are plenty of men in Sookie’s life that haven’t attacked her, or even have helped her – Terry Bellefleur, Greg Aubert, Sam Merlotte, Catfish Hennessey – all of these men haven’t attacked her, and have helped her. Moreover, none of those men have told her outright she’ s an obligation:

“Leave me alone, okay? You don’t have a claim on me. Or a responsibility to me.”
“But I do.” He had the gall to look surprised. “We have a bond.”

Definitely Dead,
p. 181

For all the crap about the bond supposedly being about pure vampire love, it’s also a source of obligation for Eric. Truly the stuff of romance – to be told that your husband considers himself obligated to care for you. Not that he wants to care for you – just it’s in his rules of honour and makes him a good boss/owner. To think that maybe he doesn’t want to be there at all, but just sees it as what one does wouldn’t make for a particular vote of confidence in the relationship with him.

If Sookie “fights for her man” with Freyda and gets Eric back, she’ll always wonder just like she did with Bill, if he ever wanted her at all or if she was just politically advantageous and a way to power now that Freyda’s off the table. Freyda offers Eric a way to get power and beauty easily – his own bailiwick, out from under a King and a hot rich wife to boot. Sookie doesn’t offer him any of that in comparison. If Eric chooses Sookie, it’s because he wants her more than he wants power and beauty.  I don’t think Sookie is going to be that silly this time – and “fight for her man” – she’ll help him if he wants it, but she’s not going to try to make decisions for him when he’d just as soon leave her for another woman because she has something that attracts him.

The next parallel is an interesting one – that of following your maker’s wishes.

Bill: In Club Dead, Bill makes a unanimous decision. It’s better to go along with his maker’s wishes than it is to treat Sookie as his equal. Before I get anyone naysaying that, that’s the reason Sookie is angry with him later and doesn’t want to make a go of their relationship, quite apart from the rape – it was the idea that her desires would be trumped by someone else:

“She ordered me to leave you,” he said. His dark eyes were peering into mine.
“She said she would kill you if I didn’t.”
I was losing my temper. I bit the inside of my cheek,
real hard,to make myself focus.
“So, without explanation or discussion with me,
you decided what was best for me and for you.”

Dead to the World, p. 5

It’s not just Lorena’s wishes trumping Sookie’s – this is the last time that Bill decides his wishes should trump Sookie’s. But it’s not as if Bill didn’t have an indication of what Lorena wanted him to do – he’d been distant with Sookie before he left, and shut her out, rather than sharing with her. It’s all very well to say that Sookie should take into consideration a vampire’s maker – but when that maker trumps her say in her own relationship, well, that’s a problem. When the maker puts their wishes at the top of the hierarchy and the lowly human companion doesn’t even get a heads up on what’s going down, then that makes it clear who matters. First Lorena, and then Bill, and then whatever’s left is for Sookie to have, and she should abide by Bill’s ruling on how much that is. No discussion – Bill decides.

Bill didn’t lay it all out for Sookie to understand before he left – and maybe it would have gone differently for him if he had that modicum of respect for his girlfriend. Bill asks Sookie to be practical about orders received – but only after he follows orders. Not before. Only after he no longer has to follow orders, and he decides he really does want Sookie, and Lorena is a flaking pool corpse.

Bill gets zero trim from Sookie because his maker’s wishes and threats trumped the woman he’s supposed to love – she doesn’t even get a say until the woman in question is dead, and Bill tries to backpedal an explanation. It doesn’t work to say, as he did in the above quote that really, he was doing what was best. If it was so damn sensible and “best” then Bill shouldn’t have just ditched Sookie – she would have been able to see that before he left. If Sookie hadn’t killed Lorena, she’d be the loser in that situation, and Bill still wouldn’t have told her why he decided to leave town and never return. If Lorena hadn’t betrayed Bill, he’d have gone over and screwed her for a couple of weeks, and come back to Sookie – telling her nothing.

Eric: Same thing with Eric – but unfortunately, Bill doesn’t have a Pam to pull his arse from the fire. He should get himself a Pam. 😀 Like with Bill, Eric has hidden this whole marriage dealio from Sookie for weeks – and he’s not too sure his maker’s will shouldn’t trump what Sookie wants:

“I can’t ignore a signed document,” he said, almost angrily. “He made an agreement for me, and I was his to order. He created me.”
What could I say in the face of such conviction?

Dead Reckoning, pp. 260-261

I know in fanfic, it’s as simple as Eric just plain old hating Appius Livius Ocella, but it’s not that simple. Appius made Eric very dependent on him, and traumatised the shit out of him, didn’t let him get away until he resigned himself to the right of his maker (read abuser) to do whatever he liked. There’s a whole bunch of complexity in the relationship that goes beyond just hating Appius – Eric still firmly believes that Appius has rights over him – as you can see in the above statement. Otherwise, why would Eric bother to take any account of what the now dead Appius wanted? If he did just hate him, then why not reference it above? Or hell – why reference Appius’ rights at all? He did actually share a bond with him for over a thousand years…you know, the same sort of bond that readers think is a good thing for Sookie and Eric’s relationship because it encourages both of them to be together. That sort.

Quite apart from what is going on with the marriage, Eric isn’t sure that Appius isn’t right to order the marriage and remove him from the lowly human wife. Tying that in with the idea of “fighting for your man” – that’s a recipe for hurt and heartbreak. After all, this maker is already dead – so killing him wouldn’t make any difference as to whether Sookie will be the one whose needs trump his. It makes it easy for Eric as well – because this is a choice he can make – Bill couldn’t. Eric can choose not to fight very hard if he thinks Appius is right to order him around from beyond the grave.

Sookie shows that she’s taken it into account – that no matter what she said to Bill he still wanted to follow his maker’s orders. Fighting the maker’s orders is a losing battle. So Sookie isn’t going to bother to do the same with Appius – she’s going to leave it up to Eric to rebel against them. If he can’t or won’t, there’s no point in fighting such conviction. Without Eric making that decision, Appius will hang heavy over Eric and Sookie’s relationship. The best thing has happened already – Appius is dead, and can issue no further orders. It’s now up to Eric to decide if he really wants to be free of those orders.

Trying to argue with Eric over whether to do what his maker wanted him to do doesn’t make any difference – it’s up to Eric whether the dead Appius continues to have “rights” to order him around, or if Eric can finally be his own man, and eschew his sadistic maker. Sookie’s right there, and Appius is dead, so really, that should trump what his maker wanted. Eric’s not too sure about it though – so Sookie leaves it up to him. Without Appius being around, Eric can’t physically be compelled to just obey – if he trundles along to Oklahoma of his own free will, without fighting it too hard, then that’s Eric choosing to follow the dead Appius’ wishes.

The third parallel is hurting Sookie physically – and her reaction.

Bill – Obviously, the incident in the trunk. Now, contrary to many other readers, I don’t think a non-tortured Bill would have done that. I have a beef with him over trying to be Sookie’s Dad, and for the Selah stuff – which was cruel to the telepathic girlfriend and the fangbanger. All of that, Bill did of his own free, un-tortured will.

What does Sookie do after she recovers from the violence? She walks away from Bill and gets a lift home with Eric. There’s not much that Bill can say to wipe it out, or do anything about it. I think it was sensible and helpful for Sookie – and she’s my primary concern.  No matter what Bill did or didn’t mean, Sookie was still a victim of that violence, and she gets priority over what Bill wants.

Eric – Obviously the hard bite designed to hurt Sookie. Eric is a prick for that. I don’t buy the argument that she deserved it. I wouldn’t buy that argument if I saw a man beating a woman and telling her she deserved it for not complying with his wishes. Nor would I accept the excuse that he’s under stress, or that she didn’t fight him. Nor would I accept that he’s teaching her a lesson – he’s supposed to be her lover, not her father – and he already has a child that doesn’t mind violence. None of those are excuses – or at the very least, they’re excuses the regular wifebeater makes, and they’re not fucking acceptable to the rest of humankind. It was cruel and completely unnecessary, and Eric did it anyway. Eric tends to be a giant arsehole when he feels rejected – last time he had a 3 book emo tantrum going on, as well as threats of violence.

What does Sookie do after that? She walks away from Eric and gets a lift home with Bill. Unlike the trunk incident, Eric can actually apologise and make amends for that – and for all the other stuff he did. Eric needs to pull his head out of his arse and actually apologise to Sookie for that one. At the very least, if he justifies it as her fault, Sookie should kick Eric in the balls hard, and send him to Freyda in separate boxes.

There were also little parallels too – outside of the main relationship – Pam spilling the beans on what was really going on, when Eric wanted her to keep schtum and getting Sookie to protect herself. To have full and complete knowledge, rather than being the hapless victim of Eric’s schemes. Bill was making plays for Sookie to be with him instead of Eric. Alcide on his way firmly out instead of in. Sandra Pelt trying to kill Sookie instead of Debbie Pelt.

So history is repeating – in a sublime way. This is a turning point in their relationship – but this time Sookie’s making different choices. In that she’s actually leaving some key choices up to Eric. CH has inserted enough differences in the scenario that Eric has a choice on whether he’s going to go the Bill route, or if he’s truly going to fight for her and make his own destiny. Eric has a chance to prove his love that Bill never had.

Not only that, but the different choices Sookie’s made, and allowed Eric to make haven’t lead to their breaking up. I know – the wailing that it’s imminent. Yeah, it was apparently imminent after Dead in the Family too and she was going to end up with Sam then – her and Eric were going to break up in the start of Dead Reckoning, and a good portion of the fandom was shitting their pants and lamenting “Sam! WRYYYYY!” Yeah, like Jannalynn wouldn’t rip Sookie’s head clean off her shoulders for that, and Sam would just magically break up with a woman he’s buying presents for (first time behaviour for Sam). Her best friend, and such – the one she didn’t kiss at all and told that she loved Eric and married Eric. I’ve dealt with the whole Sam thing before – nothing has changed there, except the Jannalynn decapitation, which is not a positive change.

I think that Sookie’s mistakes with Bill – the ones that fundamentally undermined her relationship – have been rectified this time around. Rather than repeating history and expecting a different outcome, Sookie’s boundaries are so much better this time. She’s not going to put up with endless shenanigans, and she’s not going to change so that the guy likes her better. Sookie has learned how to do this thing right.