I’ve been wanting to write a post on Bill for a while – mainly because in this section of the fandom, he doesn’t get much discussion. Sure – he’s always jacking it in the bushes and inventing new ways to abduct and rape Sookie in fanfic; or being sworn about loudly in discussions and A/Ns, but not much on actual Bill. I did try going to pro-Bill places for a little feedback, but they’re often as bad as the Eric places – St. Bill the romantic hair brusher can do no wrong and Sookie should just let him talk about the time he raped her, dammit! She owes him that at least, the ungrateful bitch! There are occasional pockets where Bill and Eric are dealt with fairly, but usually it’s by aiming 1039 different kinds of vitriol at Sookie for not conforming enough to either men. And well, we all know how I feel on that front. So, on the subject of Bill, it’s really a fandom-wide paucity of actual balanced discussion. I think I might have to make my own LJ so I can discuss it logically…..wait…..oh yay!
Firstly, I want to set out my position on Bill’s “sins”. I never hated Bill for what happened in the trunk scene – the fact that he raped and drained Sookie. As I’ve discussed before, I don’t believe a coherent Bill would have done that, and nor do I believe that Eric would have acted any differently – although it might have taken him two weeks of torture to get to that point, rather than one week, based on age. For that scene alone, I don’t think that Bill and Sookie will ever be together again. While I don’t like it, and I’m on Sookie’s side on that one, it doesn’t really speak to me of what an evil bastard Bill is…under the condition of being tortured for a week.
Nor do I hate Bill for the Queen’s orders. He followed orders like a good vampire, and there’s really not that much culpability in that. One only needs to look at how squished Eric is by Victor, Freyda and Appius to see how easy it is for a vampire to follow his own wishes in the vampire hierarchy. There’s no autonomy in that world – not for anyone anywhere but at the very top. You get an order, you follow the order, and no one asks if you like it. Surprisingly, no one gives a shit. You’re not made vampire as part of a way to get your own personal fulfilment. The Queen’s plan was all on the Queen – it’s not Bill’s responsibility to tell the Queen how to suck eggs.
But that’s not to say that I don’t understand why Sookie feels such betrayal – I do. She has every right in the world not to be able to forgive Bill instantly, just as she doesn’t get over the shit Eric’s done in a heartbeat. It’s something usually kinda absent from a lot of bad-to-average fanfic – Sookie has none of her own emotional integrity, and her feelings tend to hinge on Bill/Eric’s feelings about stuff. I need a better characterisation of Sookie than a weak reflection of her boyfriend though, so I’m fine if she’s absolutely pissed right off at them.
In the case of the trunk, I think Sookie’s pretty much as over that as she can get. When it comes to the Queen’s plan though, I think it’s a little tougher. Bill seemed to be intrigued by Sookie soon after enacting the plan. I don’t think his interest was conscious, and he was as blindsided by it as Eric is. I always thought that Bill started wanting Sookie for himself apart from the plan the moment he realised she was trying to protect him from being accused of murder. This little passage right here:
“You – don’t need protection?” he guessed softly. “You are protecting – me?”
I didn’t say anything. I can do that.
But he took the back of my skull in his hand. He turned my head to him as
though I were a puppet. (This was getting to be an annoying habit of his.)
He looked so hard into my eyes that I thought I had tunnels burned into my brain.
Dead Until Dark, p. 110
For Bill, I can’t imagine he’s been around people in a good long while who are concerned with his welfare to the point that they’d put themselves out for him – and it’s after this that Bill doesn’t just let Sookie make all the first moves, but actively goes after her. Before that, it was Sookie who kissed him, Sookie who asked him out, Sookie who reached out to Bill. He even tried to palm her off to other vampires at the bar. After that, Bill makes sure to kiss Sookie first and pursue her a little more. He’s not great shakes at it, what with being an old fashioned vampire, but that’s okay, cause he’s a damn sight better than Eric – who doesn’t even take Sookie out on a damn date before he marries her. Bill does take Sookie out to movies and concerts and such.
So looking at Bill’s courtship of Sookie, it seems to me that early on, the lines blurred for him. Sookie might see it as a concerted campaign to follow the Queen’s orders at times, but I think that passage above was when Bill decided he wanted Sookie for herself, and took the time to really consider the unusual woman herself. But whether Bill would care to tease out those strands, and whether Sookie would believe that that was the moment things became serious for him – I don’t think that matters too much. It undermined their relationship and that’s the end of that.
What I do think was one of Bill’s principle “sins” though, was the incident with Selah. Or rather, the long drawn-out torture of two women in a tactic that was doomed for failure. For me, the shit he did with Selah was damn well callous and pretty unforgivable. I understand why Bill thought it would work – he’d seen Sookie’s jealousy over his dating of Portia Bellefleur. It worked in the past to bridge the gap between them. He probably thought Sookie would eventually come running back to his arms and bitchslap Selah into next week to have him. But it didn’t work that way, and Sookie, lovely strong woman she is, didn’t fall for that one again.
I always thought that not only was it absolutely disrespectful of Selah, to keep dragging her in front of Sookie, using her to get some orgasms in the interim and make Sookie jealous; but it also would have been awful for Sookie to be a telepath in the same room as Bill’s new girlfriend. I’m sure that what Bill and Selah did behind closed doors was inadvertently there for Sookie to share in. While we don’t have details on what Sookie read from Selah, or if she read anything at all, Bill should have known better. Bringing your new fuckbuddy in front of your telepathic ex-girlfriend is cruel and unusual punishment. Bill’s not privy to Selah’s thoughts, so he doesn’t know what the hell is going on in there. But he still saw fit to subject Sookie to that night after night.
Moreover, what made the tactic so distasteful is that when Bill saw it wasn’t working, he didn’t change what he did. He didn’t stop bringing Selah around. He kept bringing her around, despite the fact that it wasn’t working. Bill really should have given it up and stopped stooping so low after a week or hell, even a month. The fact that Sookie had to tell him to stop coming to Merlotte’s, well, that makes me want to kick Bill squarely in the nuts for such a cruel tactic.
Apart from the fact that Bill always called Sookie’s telepathy a “gift” – that shows me that he didn’t even vaguely empathise with Sookie on just how difficult that would be. Bill might have taught Sookie all kinds of techniques and trained her on using her telepathy better, but he never looked on it for what a big disadvantage it could be when you’re not using it for vampire dealings. Or the worst case scenario – he hoped Sookie was getting the full cinematic experience of his sexual escapades with Selah, and that it would work to make her jealous and drive her back into his arms. I tend to err more towards the idea that he was not thinking about the difficulty of Sookie’s life, because he does call telepathy a “gift”.
It’s one of the things that makes me think that Eric is HEA guy – he is the only suitor not to have called telepathy a “gift”. He uses “talent” or “ability” – which is far more neutral than “gift” – leading me to think that Mr. Eric Northman has put a little bit more thought into what it’s like to be Sookie, not just be with her. It leads to an understanding on a more fundamental level if Eric can see that telepathy is not all upsides. (And before you ask – Sam called it a “gift” in Dracula Night, which was the moment I personally ruled him out as a suitor). It’s a pretty defining thing in seeking to actually understand what it’s like to be Sookie – without empathy and understanding, any relationship is doomed to failure.
So I think that the nastiest thing Bill ever did to Sookie that was all of his own making – and that’s the one thing I hold against him. It wasn’t kind to Selah, and it definitely didn’t show he loved Sookie or thought about her in the slightest. Bill was too busy about trying the same old tactic again and again, seeing if he could torture Sookie enough with his happiness and drive her back to him. But I’m not one of those vindictive types that sees the need to see cruel things done to him in fanfic to make me feel better.
Of course, in recent books, Bill seems to be trying a different tactic. Mostly, he keeps taking a run at it every so often, seeing if he can trick Sookie into hopping into bed with him again. I think that was one of my first Bill-related laughs – the bit where he told her he’d heal if she had sex with him in Dead in the Family. It was so transparently manipulative, that I think it shows what a corner Bill has turned on all of the shit he heaped on Sookie.
I thought one of the best things about Bill’s storyline was the fact that he saved her from Lochlan and Neave – and was willing to stand up and die for her in Dead and Gone. Finally, I felt that Bill had a way to prove to Sookie that it wasn’t just all some big plan – that he did in fact care for her – because I don’t think Bill thought he would survive, let alone that he didn’t seem to have a big drive to survive. He was a little fatalistic at that point. I thought that proof was really important. So much that Bill had done had cheapened what they had, and that seemed a pity for both of them.
Of course, Bill keeps trying to get Sookie back, but I don’t think that will ever happen. There is just too much gone between the two of them to ever resurrect a relationship on Sookie’s behalf. Even if Eric takes off with Freyda, I don’t believe that they can go back to being boyfriend and girlfriend – for me, that ship has long since sailed. It sailed right about when Sookie realised that she was like the Alcide in the Alcide/Debbie clusterfuck. That the bouncing back and forth wasn’t good – that she kept coming back to a bad place for her.
To be honest, I don’t think that would make Bill as happy as he thinks it will. Bill seems to be suffering, from what I see, of that failing that he’s looking back on his relationship with Sookie with a whole heap of rose coloured glasses on. Bill’s really sure he adores Sookie, and that if she would just give him a chance, they could be what they once were. Except I’m not sure if Bill is remembering what I read. I’d like to offer a quote from Mr. Minty as he was reading Living Dead in Dallas preceding the trip to Dallas:
Is he going to buy her an ice cream or a lime spider?
He sounds like Dad taking her on a business trip.
I googled – and apparently a lime spider seems an Australian thing. Very popular treat for kids. 😀 But that was one of my primary problems with Bill as a boyfriend – and why I think he wears rose coloured glasses nowadays – that he treated her like he was her Dad. I might not be able to make a case for why Sookie would be happy to spend the rest of her life with Bill, but I can’t even make a case that it would make Bill happy. Cause I don’t think ultimately he would be.
Bill seemed to have a lot of problems with who Sookie was – their differences showed a whole heap between them – stuff that seemed to frustrate the ever-loving shit out of Bill. He wanted to be with a different version of Sookie than the one he happened to be dating, and that doesn’t bode well for their relationship. Sure, he loved her caring about him, he loved her acceptance, but there was a whole swathe of shit that Bill didn’t like.
Part of that I think extends from the fact that Sookie was an assignment at first. I don’t think Bill would have been terribly attracted to the woman that she is in the first place. As far as I can see, Bill thought Sookie had far too many things wrong with her when they were together, big old incompatibilities that he wasn’t willing to put up with. We know Bill didn’t like them, because he set about trying to browbeat her to his way of thinking.
Many of them are seemingly little things, but they don’t add up to HEA – not if all that multitude of little things pisses you off. As a woman who’s been married for sixteen and a half years – very happily – if your time spent with the one you love is a constant aggravation, there’s not much love going on. You’ll spend your time fighting. And in six months, they had six big fights – that’s about one a month – which to me sounds like living hell, not a successful relationship. Since Bill couldn’t seem to let it go, I’d say that he was pretty aggravated about the small details.
One of the things that seemed to annoy Bill was the way Sookie dressed. He spent time choosing her clothes for her on the way to Fangtasia. It’s not like it was professional clothing either – he chose jeans that laced up the side. As Sookie observed, he seemed to want to dress her up and flaunt her in front of other vampires. Not only that, but he gave her advice on choosing clothes for the trip to Dallas. Someone once said to me that this was a favour Bill did her – so that she wouldn’t be embarrassed, all this dressing of her. Except that doesn’t explain why Sookie’s less than thankful:
To my mind, I looked like a professional, all right – a professional
funeral home attendant – but Bill seemed to approve.
Living Dead in Dallas, p. 75
Bill liked to have the woman on his arm make a statement – every single time he went out with her. It wasn’t about having her look special for a special occasion – because if that’s the case, Bill thinks a lot of things are special. It wasn’t about buying her gifts either, because the clothes for Dallas, Bill told Sookie counted as a business expense, and the rest of the clothing Sookie owned herself.
One only needs to look at Selah and see how much Bill likes the perfectly made up woman with expensive clothes. There’s nothing wrong with it, but that’s not Sookie. She’s not particularly into glamour – and when Bill had her wear those jeans, she put her hair up in a ponytail in protest of the parading Bill would be doing with her. It aggravated her that he wanted to control what she wore, and it aggravated Bill to just let her be. I foresee a life of frustration therefore for Bill if he got Sookie back, cause she wears clothes every day.
Another thing Sookie did every day was eat – and not out of a bottle. That also annoyed Bill as well:
I was glad Bill wasn’t around to watch and make me feel uncomfortable.
He didn’t really like to see me eat, and he hated it if I ate garlic.
Living Dead in Dallas, p. 117
That’s Sookie’s beloved Crawfish Étouffée gone, because it has garlic in it. She can’t eat her favourite dish, because he doesn’t like it. I highly doubt that he’d be content with it being cooked in their house either. Sookie hasn’t really been confined with what she can and can’t eat, so I don’t see why she would just re-swallow that rule. Of course she might, but that would just generally add to the tension in the household, and they have plenty of stuff to fight about already.
Of course, that’s okay, because Sookie no longer has anyone to go out with. Bill expressed his jealousy about Sam over and over – telling Sookie once that she thought of Sam too often for his tastes. Bill made sure that Sookie didn’t feel like she could talk about Sam with him. Considering how things are going nowadays, that’s going to be tough. As Sam says:
Besides, you have your own financial interest in the bar now.
If I Had A Hammer, Home Improvement, p. 17
Sookie can’t really avoid and comparmentalise Sam and Bill any more – she’s no longer just a waitress – she has a financial interest in the bar. Bill might not have liked Sookie’s concern for Sam over the maenad, but now this is a real threat and I’m sure that’s just what Bill would see it as. I’m sure there’d be one big throw down fight over how Bill would give her the money back she gave Sam, and they’d end up breaking up for a couple of months. Bill can hardly shut Sookie and Sam down if they have a financial arrangement with the man she works for. And if he thought she considered Sam way too much before, well, they’re so much closer nowadays – best friends and such.
That’s not the only thing that will cause rifts – just under half of their fights were about how Bill thought he had a right to go out and kill people cause he felt like it. Sookie didn’t react too badly to him feeding from other humans – just asked him not to do it to people she knew. But he didn’t give a shit about humans to the point that they fought over the deaths of Uncle Bartlett and the Fellowship attacks, and it’s not something Bill seems to think should bother Sookie:
Bill obviously didn’t want to debate me on this now. His face shut down.
“Sookie, you have to go to sleep now. We’ll talk about it when you get up.”
“But by then he may be dead.”
“Why should you care?”
“Because that was the deal….”
Living Dead in Dallas, p. 192
Bill doesn’t give two shits about humans to the point that he actually tries to counteract Sookie’s deals. Bill doesn’t really care about them – not only not caring about the dead humans, but not caring about Sookie’s deals. When she sought assurance from Stan Davis that her deals would be stuck to, Bill heaved a sigh about it. As I’ve discussed before, Sookie has a lot of racial loyalty, which Bill found apparently tiresome.
This is one of the things that I think is why they’re not so suited. Sookie and Bill would probably be able to deal with it if they just disagreed – after all, she disagrees with Eric over the worth of humans. But Bill isn’t content with just disagreeing – he wants to undermine Sookie’s deals about it. Those two fights they had about Bill’s autonomous killing was also accompanied with other behaviour that didn’t bode so well for their relationship.
Bill is intensely interested in taking vengeance against Gabe for his attempted rape of Sookie – to the point that he wishes he was alive so that he could torture him. Now, Sookie has toughened up a lot since they dated, but the one thing she isn’t is someone who is fine with torture. It would take more for her now to be that way, because she has been tortured. Even with Victor – she wasn’t interested in prolonging the death. But Bill seems to want to share that with Sookie – he’s not content to keep his thoughts to himself about that. I can see that yet again coming up as an issue between them – it’s the history of shit they’ve already fought about.
It’s not as if they can spend some time away from each other to stop the whole aggravation thing either. Bill was – to be kind – an attentive boyfriend, and to be unkind a suffocating one. When your constant companion cares about her boss, dresses herself and eats what she wants, that just maximises your chances of having a fight about stuff. Bill seemed to like to be on site for things – taking even Sookie staying back a little late after work as something needing constant attendance:
It was a measure of how much he worried about me that Bill was at my
house about fifteen minutes after I should have been at his.
Dead Until Dark, p. 190
Bill spent a lot of time with Sookie – he worked from home and rarely went on business trips – and some of those were working trips where he took Sookie. Not only that, but Sookie tells us that every third night, Bill didn’t take her blood (after their first break up) which means that they spent every single night together. While that’s nice, that just builds on the aggravation going on – because it becomes a habit – and there’s no break Bill can have from this eating human who thinks of Sam too much.
Usually the solution in Bill-as-Eric fic is just have Sookie submit to everything – she breaks all contact with all other men, she dresses and eats and behaves as Bill-as-Eric wants. But CH is not prone to writing a Stepford fucktoy, so that’s not likely happen in the books themselves. After all – that’s not really a HEA – that’s a lazy shortcut to please the guy, but so that we experience Sookie tearing down her own psyche and needs for a guy and taking a backseat in her own life so that someone will deign to put up with her. Thank goodness Sookie isn’t that girl.
Of course, all of these little fights are going to be amplified over time – because they have vastly different ideas about what should happen in their lives:
I should have been enjoying my break from waiting tables at Merlotte’s,
but I would gladly have dressed in my uniform and taken orders.
I wasn’t used to big changes in my routine.
Living Dead in Dallas, p. 207
For all the contempt it draws, Sookie likes her life – she likes the bar, she likes the routine. She doesn’t really mind if she works at Merlotte’s. Since it’s her life, and a whole heap of people appreciate being served at bars, and she likes it, I don’t see a problem with it. But on the contrary Bill doesn’t like routine and staying home – he likes the opposite:
But tonight, exited by the trip, by the imminent excursion, Bill’s speed had greatly accelerated.
Living Dead in Dallas, p. 64
Bill loves travelling – he’s bored after being in Bon Temps for a while. During the books, he goes to Peru – and really, six months staying in one place is a short period of time to get bored. At this point, he’s probably been in Bon Temps for four months or less. And just a little trip to Dallas is enough to excite him – the very opposite of routine. It’s not just the travel that he likes – during the time Sookie’s happy to sit on the couch, Bill is excitedly chatting to other vampires. Bill might not be political, but he definitely likes socialising with other vampires.
On top of the obviously rosy view Bill has of their previous relationship and how incompatible they are, Sookie has changed since he was first with her. As I mentioned above, and Mr. Minty noticed, Bill had a definite Dad vibe. And Sookie doesn’t need that – and doesn’t expect to see that in Sookie either – which would lead to more fights on top of their existing issues:
Bill couldn’t seem to grasp this. Maybe he didn’t think I’d learnedanything since I’d met him.
One Word Answer, A Touch of Dead, p. 112
Bill still thinks of Sookie as needing his help. That might have worked okay in their relationship the first time around, but that’s not going to work so well now that Sookie needs less guidance. She’s more aware (thanks to Pam in large part) of the vampire world and her own capabilities. She doesn’t need someone to guide her through etiquette and getting one over a vampire Queen – she’s no longer a student who needs Bill to learn from.
That’s one thing that Bill can’t seem to deal with – in fact, much of his discussion with her consists of trying to inform her. But when they were together, it wasn’t just specific stuff that she asked for help with – it was clothing, food, friends – everyday stuff that Bill felt compelled to give her input on. Not only that, but she now has contacts among the supe world – Bill hasn’t been her portal for that stuff in a long while. What Bill is hearkening back to no longer exists in the first place.
But I will say that even though they’re ultimately incompatible – even if they got back together it’s doomed for failure – that doesn’t mean that I think Eric would have made a better first boyfriend. Eric was way too cold in the first books to do anything but fuck it completely. Imagine snuggling up to this:
…Eric looked at me with the glacial blue eyes of a being
who hardly remembers what humanity was like.
Dead Until Dark, p. 202
Yeah, not going to happen. I know the classic in fanfic is that Sookie just can’t see how magnificent Eric because Bill told her he was a bad man, and he’s ready to wax lyrical to Sookie about his love and fealty, if only she could see beyond the cold stares and him scaring the ever loving shit out of her (as most old vampires give Sookie the heebie jeebies – Appius, Isabelle, Godfrey – the older they are the more they scare her). Apparently, Bill’s control supposedly went far enough to make Sookie see stuff that didn’t exist, like a cold stare from a thousand year old killer – making Bill the most amazing vampire that ever lived.
Bill’s value in being the first guy was that he genuinely loved Sookie – of that I have no doubt. He also doesn’t seem to believe in turning people. If beaten by the Rattrays when Eric was around, Sookie would have been turned or most likely left to die. Bill has no problem with giving his blood, rather than turning a human. After all, he never considered turning Sookie when she was beaten – he offered blood to a woman he barely knew – and whom he had no obligations to. Bill has issues with turning people against their will (unlike Eric who turned Pam without consent):
“Lorena didn’t ask me before she attacked Judith. Please believe this.
I would never condemn someone to our life unless she wanted it and told me so.”
Dead in the Family, p. 258
This makes him the far better option to send to Sookie first. After all, Eric seemed to get to know Sookie before giving her blood (meaning he’d be likely to let her die in the Merlotte’s parking lot) or he would have turned her . Bill is essential all around for that particular part of things. He never even considered turning Sookie – as we find out in Dead and Gone – it is unusual for a vampire to preserve a human’s life. After all, Bill tells us he’s been blood bonded to a human in the past as well – and he didn’t go against her wishes and turn her either.
I’m not surprised that after the terrible trauma of being loved obsessively by someone like Lorena that Bill did get put off the idea of bringing someone into that world without their consent. Of course, Bill’s way of doing things would lead to any of his children meeting the Sun in a couple of centuries – because the idea that you actively chose the world of murderers and the worst of the criminal element would psychologically cripple you after a while, unless you were a sociopath – and a sociopath with the power to kill at will would be bad news, and get staked in the mainstreaming vampire world.
Bill is pretty essential to being the first vampire Sookie ever loved. He provided her with love and security and gentleness even if it was at the behest of the Queen. For all of his faults and failings, it’s clear that Bill loved Sookie, even if he completely ballsed it up. But ultimately, I think at this point, for both of their sakes, it stands well as a friendship – a lifelong one like Eric has with his ex, Pam. To try to take it past the friend zone would only doom them to failure again – and I don’t think it would make Bill as he seems to think he would be. Despite his faults and his mistakes, that’s one thing I’d like for Bill – to be happy.