Happy Enough After

I’m probably going to end up doing another one of these sorts of posts closer to the time of the new book, but now I’m thinking on it, so I’m going to do it now. No one can say I’m completely organised here. It’s whatever is bothering me this week that gets trotted out. And often, I end up answering a lot more about what I think in the comments – enough to make a few posts about in and of itself. But this post is born from the comments, because I want to come at this from a more strict approach, rather than merely replying.

Now, we’ve been discussing – and I make it my business to discuss – Eric’s failings as far as HEA guy. No one without serious brain injury could argue that I think Eric is the HEA guy cause I think he’s the “best” of all the suitors. I just happen to believe Sookie when she says she loves him. I know readers take all she does, and end up demanding her to show her love – but hey, she’s just doing insignificant things to show that, like trying to respect and tolerate a 2000 year old rapist Eric respects; lying to police to keep him out of trouble; and still speaking to him after he hurts her and makes her cry. Clearly she should be doing more, amirite? Because these are the sorts of things you expect out of women – they don’t just give them freely out of love – they’re damn well obligated to tow the party line. Those acts aren’t really going out of your way to support the man you love, right? I mean just because they could end up getting you endangered and killed, they mean almost nothing in the face of doing more.

As far as I am concerned though, all of these things are ways Sookie shows she loves Eric. If some readers can’t see that no one forced her to rush over, but that she jumped to go see Eric, putting herself in the way of a 2000 year old vampire who could have used Eric to attack her and had previously expressed the desire to feed on her, then clearly, there’s going to be no meeting of the minds here. But as to what love is – and how Sookie or Eric define it – that’s up to them. They say they feel it, then they feel it. It seems Sookie shows it by doing things that are definitely not safe nor in her interests, but she does them because of love.

Eric is pretty crap at expressing it – or rather he subscribes to the fine art of arse backwards. One minute he’s doing the right thing – waiting for her to get over torture and being gentle with her, next minute it’s him who’s biting her to hurt her, like Lochlan and Neave. He really deserves a whole heap of posts pointing out his epic fail considering how often he gets a pass to do whatever shit he can think of in the name of “love” to Sookie everywhere else in the fandom. Out there, he bit her out of love and helping – and to teach her a lesson. In here, he’s just a dick who bit his wife hard. And I can assure you – I’ll get back to you if Sookie ever hurts him and makes him cry for no other reason than she’s pissed off with his behaviour. You just wait right here, and I’m sure it’ll come soon, right?

But the discussion has veered onto whether it’s genuinely better for Sookie to be alone, or whether Eric is a viable prospect at all. I argue that he is the only viable prospect, and that while he has some serious drawbacks, he’s the one person that she not only loves, but needs. I know that when Eric doesn’t match up to desires, usually his *snort* loyal fangirls jump ship and suggest someone else. Let me put paid to the idea that anyone else is an option – you know, apart from that pesky love she says she feels for Eric. To Bill:

“I need you now, my friend.”
Deadlocked, p. 263

and Sam:

“You’re the best friend I’ve got.”
Deadlocked, p. 127

Sookie didn’t even want Quinn to come to town, so I’m not bothering to cover him and she doesn’t like Alcide any more (thank God). In my mind, if she calls them “friend” to their faces, when Eric isn’t there, that makes it clear to me that she’s not trying to skirt around her attraction to either of them. And you know, I kinda think that they’d give up hope at that point, being called “friend” to their faces. You’re supposed to spend time with your friends, so I don’t see a problem – and it’s not as if calling them “friend” to their faces gives them hope it could be secret romantic love.

Many of the arguments for other suitors I think take the wrong approach. Those arguments are all about not what Sookie wants, but again, like comparing insurance companies, what they can give to her. The conviction that Sam is HEA guy is all about how Sookie needs children and a white picket fence. Because Sam apparently wouldn’t see straight through that – he’d jump at the chance to play second fiddle for his entire life. Those arguments aren’t really about Sookie – they’re about the men. That’s not what should motivate any HEA speculations – what’s going on with the men. That’s a nominal tip of the hat to discuss the same-old same-old fucking suitor wars and ignore words out of Sookie’s mouth….like always.

So do some of the arguments against Eric. This is not Eric’s story. When Sookie dies in twenty years – I express my absolutely sincere doubt she’ll make it to old age what with fighting off attacks requiring luck, fitness and quick reflexes – then her story will be over. The minute she slows down, that’s curtains for her, and you slow down as you age – not to mention, she’s already got issues with a knee that aches and her wrists not quite working properly. Sookie’s been lucky, but no one is lucky forever. When she dies, whether Eric lives and goes on is immaterial. The idea that Eric’s need to have an eternal companion is one of the key criteria for HEA? Too bad – this story isn’t written to serve his needs. Sookie is not his piece of wish fulfilment personified. The story is all about making Sookie happy, not about fulfilling every single desire that Eric might have. And like Sookie, he can have some and not all.  You know – come to think of it – like the fucking rest of the human race.

Happiness isn’t some state of perfection wherein we’re totally fulfilled and have everything we desire. Happiness is when we want what we have. And Sookie’s list of needs is so specific and weird that she needs someone like Eric – even with his faults. And if you doubt he has any, read round hereabouts. He has plenty. Not only does the rest of the fandom make mealy mouth apologies for them, but I also think it puts a roadblock in figuring out what Sookie’s HEA will look like. It will not be perfect, and wonderful, and end with a frothy white wedding – it’ll be something that leaves her happy and meets her requirements.

So, what are Sookie’s requirements?

One of the first ones is that Sookie has often complained about being alone and lonely. It’s not quite enough for her just to have no boyfriend. Sookie has always felt lonely – and she still feels that now on occasion:

…there was a knock at the front door. I sighed, reminding myself to
remember days like this the next time I felt lonely. 

Deadlocked, pp. 32-33

There’s a perfect balance somewhere in there – in between having no one around, and having everyone around. The loneliness thing is my primary reason as to why I think Sookie’s HEA will involve moving in with someone. Because as she’s said a couple of times, one of the things she values most is being able to share the little stuff that doesn’t mean much to most people:

This was the real treat, or at least one of the real treats –
having someone with whom to share the day’s events.

Dead and Gone, p. 173

She can share with Eric if they’re not living together, but he’s often so busy that he doesn’t see her from day-to-day. It really doesn’t need to be more than 10 minutes with whoever the guy is. And you don’t get that if you’re alone, and without someone. One of the things that puts Eric far above any shifter – and even to a certain extent Bill – is that she can share everything with him. Sookie can share vampire concerns with Eric, but she wouldn’t be able to have a commensurate sharing time with Bill. Eric has said quite plainly that he trusts only two people – Pam and Sookie. Since Sookie will always be tied into Eric, unless he leaves for Oklahoma, that makes sharing anything with Bill almost impossible. Even if they weren’t together, it could hurt Eric to reveal his secrets in a casual way. If Sookie can keep schtum about Hunter, I’m sure she’d keep schtum about Eric. As it stands at this point, Sookie is in a position to know a lot more about Eric’s secrets. She can’t discuss them with Sam, that’s for damn sure:

“You’re in trouble,” he said.
I could only keep silent.

Dead in the Family, p. 108

Even any dealings with Pam – which is who she’s on the phone to at that point, she has to keep from other people. I’m not so sure she would tell anyone who’s not there. To my knowledge, Bill doesn’t know about Debbie Pelt either. There’s a whole bunch of her life she’d have to keep quiet about if she were to go with Bill, or any other vampire but Pam. And we all know I’m on board with the Pam/Sookie shipping, but enough of my “Pam – best suitor ever” talk. 😀

So having someone to share with is a critical requirement. But that doesn’t mean that she wants someone always on her all the time. In fact, it caused quite a bit of friction between her and Bill – and she had to tell him to go away so she could try to have a normal life:

We’d fought before, Bill and I. I’d gotten fed up before, tired of the vampirey
stuff I had to learn to accommodate, frightened of getting in deeper.
Sometimes, I just wanted to see humans for a while.

Living Dead in Dallas, p. 217

Now I know, there are readers who want her to accept her “supeness” and just forgo this human stuff. Except that last time I checked the books, vampires don’t go out for dinner, have parties, have meetings that don’t devolve into “vampirey stuff” – ie. fighting. There’s always some blood involved. So for example, if she stuck like glue to Eric’s side, there’d be meetings with Felipe, then some working at Fangtasia, then sitting off to the side while he feeds on someone, then home, and possibly more work. And then to pass out for possibly 14 hours while he’s dead for the day. And then, once a month, to break the monotony, a good old shoot out with the FotS, or a massacre of some kind. Pam carries a knife at all times – a silver knife – she’s not having tea parties. Vampires don’t hold fucking box socials every night of their lives – their lives are relatively repetitive and boring. It’s work, feed, sleep and never going on a holiday – name me when Eric went on a rostered, voluntary holiday. Well, you can’t. Doesn’t exist. You work, or your King kills you for someone who doesn’t want to take holidays. Vampires aren’t unionised.

So, let’s say that we replace that with a were or shifter. Well, they have whole nights when they’re away from home – on the night of the full moon, they’re out eating rabbits and stuff. Even Sam enjoyed that. On top of that, the shifters and weres have a whole boatload of ritual that humans aren’t involved with. If she were to choose a werewolf, it would have to be a lone wolf, because Pack issues are a nightmare. Although, with the Great Reveal, that seems to be changing for shifters and lone wolves. It’s now important to affiliate with a pack, and group up with other shifters. Which means that most of the time, there will be a whole social life like Calvin has – with rituals and such. Not even Quinn can claim he doesn’t have shifter politics and parties he has to deal with now – he’s all over the shifter website.

No matter what, Sookie is going to have to augment her life with any supernatural by having human contact. It can’t all be the occasional date, and then full on violence and politics the rest of the time. I’m not even getting into fairies – who have just as many political battles for supremacy. In the post Great-Reveal world, politics is a fact of every single supernatural. Maybe a rare one, but I’m working on what Sookie has to work with. In her world, she has Sam, who while not affiliated with a pack, seems to be involved in more of the shifter/networking thing; Eric who is vampire politics; Bill who is as little politics as possible, but who is also shut out of the Eric/Pam/Sookie inner circle; Quinn who now has tiger business and custody arrangements; Alcide who if he tries one more sneaky way to make her an honourary pack member may just wear his balls as a necklace.

There really isn’t a suitor who is free of supe incumbent structures, and Sookie has been lonely all of her life. Yes, she has friends – human friends – but she can’t exactly tell them things either:

“He’s pretty busy with work,” I said. I stopped there.
Talking about Eric’s business was always unwise.

Deadlocked, p. 7

This is why Sookie needs to have someone in the vampire world to chat to – but really, the only people she can freely talk to about stuff in the vampire world are Eric and Pam. She can’t just arbitrarily decide to let Bill into the inner circle – that wouldn’t be cool – she didn’t let Eric know about Bill’s database because it left Bill at risk. As I’ve made it clear before – Sookie can check out, but she’s not leaving the supe world. She tried before, and a vampire rather like a giant white rabbit ended up running to her house. They’ll never let her go.

Sookie’s next requirement is someone of course, who can deal with all the stuff in her life. Sometimes Sookie doesn’t just deal with vampires, she deals with other dangerous supes. Any were or shifter would deader than dog shit in that case – and at serious risk of harm. As shitty as Eric and Bill can be sometimes, they both have an enormous propensity to heal. Unlike the shifters. Apart from the fact that if she ended up with a shifter or were, she’d also be subject to the occasional vampire attacks, she’s attacked at random by errant fae, maenads, and other assassins. We’ve seen Tray die from fairy attack, Quinn get incapacitated by an arrow, and all manner of weres killing each other. When you want someone who is pretty fucking unassailable against attack, a vampire is the only way to go:

Eric’s fangs clamped into the Were’s shoulder. Despite his wound, Eric
was pulling the faux patrolman into the car inch by inch.

From Dead to Worse, p. 76

Now, Sam has fought off weres when he turned into a lion, but then he was captured relatively easily by Sigebert, who really ignored him. The fact of the matter is that only a vampire – or a fairy – can really stand up to the weres.

Why would that be important though? Because Sookie is lucky, but no one is lucky forever. Quinn and Sam have taken serious injury both – hey, Sam died from something that would have put Eric out of action for a minute or two – protecting Sookie. In a fight to the death, it’ll be both of their lives on the line. Sookie is already concerned about Sam getting hurt with the vampire business she’s involved in – and sometimes it’s not just one vampire, but a whole yard full:

I thought about Sam, wished I could call him and talk to him
for just a minute. But I wouldn’t drag him into this for the
world, because that would mean his sure death.

From Dead to Worse, p. 176

I order for Sookie to have some happiness for the appreciable future, you can’t think “And then the next day a bunch of vampires who are for the new Sheriff (since Eric left) came to Sookie’s house, killed Sam and forced Sookie to work for them for the rest of her life”. No one could think that Sam wouldn’t attempt to die valiantly in that fight – or that the vampires would be inclined to leave a witness behind. Just about the only shifter who could give one vampire a run for his money is Quinn – and there was a pack of them that night.

Bill and Eric can fight anything else, and when it comes to vampires Eric can negotiate. That’s what got them out of their problems in the Vegas takeover. As long as Eric is not one of those unionised holiday-taking vampires, he’s valuable. You can sell him to Oklahoma to dance on tables for a start. So no need to kill him when he can be of use. Bill can negotiate too, of course, but there’s a limit to his power – Bill has no Thalia or Pam to command. He has only himself, and his vulnerable human family.

Of course, one could argue that Sookie could go it alone – but then she’d have to rely on herself, or random drop-bys like Mr. Cataliades. Not only that, but she’d never be able to go anywhere with anyone – she’d get her friends killed. It wouldn’t be happy either, because we’re back to the scenario above with Sam, except some random person dies. Sookie can’t be the protector of her human friends, so she needs someone in the supe world to give her a heads-up on political goings-on. As we saw with the weres who abducted her last time, without the intervention of other supes, she’d be dead. And Alcide’s help can come at quite a high price.

The next requirement for Sookie is sex. She likes sex – she’s been eager to have that small experience for many years now – and she enjoys it. I don’t think anyone who’s had good, regular sex is willing to trade that for nothing. Sookie certainly isn’t:

Apparently, once you got used to regular and spectacular sex, your body
had a mind of its own (so to speak) when it was deprived of that
recreation; to say nothing of missing the hugging and cuddling part.

Club Dead, p. 77

Please, name me the man Sookie had casual sex with, that she clearly said she didn’t love, and who has now continued to pursue her? That would be Eric. Lots of guff is spoken about how “men and women are different” that men are just fine with a life of casual sex. Huh. Apparently not. Even Jason is settling down.

The crap about men being happy to be fuck-buddies for life is pure bullshit, tied to the rather sexist ideas of slut-shaming women, and praising men for sleeping with women who are called sluts. It’s a double standard. And I kinda hate them. If Sookie went for the idea of having Bill, Eric, Quinn, Alcide or Sam for fuck-buddies, you think the guys would be content with that? I’m thinking not. So any man she has sex with, is inevitably going to come to the conclusion he wants more. As a woman who’s had a couple of fuck-buddy relationships that I didn’t take seriously, I can tell you that the guy did – and declared he wanted more. This myth of the men who want casual sex for life is just that – a myth. There’s nothing special about the connection of love and sex for women vs. men. Men want to have a lasting connection as much as women. Sure, they pick and choose who they want to be with – but no less than women do.

None of Sookie’s suitors – including the man who never professed any kind of feelings for her but lust for a long, long time – have been content to fulfil her needs and move along to his own life. If Sookie was left alone at the end of the story, then she would have a difficult time having casual sex (because Sookie, like most modern women is into serial monogamy – so that’s one guy at a time, not a stable of different guys) and it wouldn’t lead to any kind of resolution for a writer who already knows that men who profess to be after just one night are often fooling themselves.

I think too it’s important to look at the stuff she missed when Bill left her. Because this is when it became firm in my mind that Sookie wanted to be happy with someone. You’ll notice there’s no grand love affair mentioned, and no frothy wedding:

I tried to pretend that all was well; that on his return from Seattle – or wherever –
Bill would be a passionate lover again, and Bill would treasure me and make
me feel valuable once more. I would again have that feeling of
belonging with someone, instead of being alone.
Of course, I had my brother, Jason. Though as far as intimacy
and companionship goes, I had to admit that he hardly counted.
But the pain in my middle was the unmistakable pain of rejection.
I knew the feeling so well, it was like a second skin.
I sure hated to crawl back inside it.

Club Dead, p. 10

Sookie simply wants to be valued, and not rejected by someone. She’s had a whole life of being rejected by humans as different, on top of being rejected by supes for not being supernatural enough and way too human – and a good tool to use to serve their purposes. Those who laud how ‘kind’ the supernatural world is – how often is it that she’s referred to herself as a piece of furniture to vampires? Or a tool? The fact is that they’ve had plans set up to do that to her, as have Alcide and the weres. Being a bit-part player in the supernatural world is not belonging or connecting with them.

It’s not about how much time she spends with someone. And how can we tell that she still wants to feel valued, and like she’s part of belonging? Well that would be this statement:

“Eric’s my team,” I said. “He loves me. He wants to stay here.”
Deadlocked, p. 193

At the end of the day, what it’s about for Sookie is really small. It’s the things I – and other humans like me – get without thinking. I’ve had more people encouraging me to belong than I have people rejecting me. And I think looking around at our husbands, boyfriends, friends, children – hell, this fandom – shows just how common it is to us, and how uncommon it is in Sookie’s life. I mean, I would count myself as having over ten good friends in this fandom alone, that I could chat to about anything I chose. And that compares to how many in Sookie’s life? A handful – and the only people who get full disclosure are Pam and Eric.

Yes – Eric can have serious downsides. But that feeling of comeraderie, the feeling of belonging that you’re enjoying right now is why Sookie would never be happier alone. This feeling that you get when you’re with people who love you and are on your side? This is something rare for Sookie – not something you can get by effortlessly moving on. The fact that people form these bonds is part of the human condition, and it’s always been something denied her. Leaving Sookie alone in the end wouldn’t make her magically more friends – it would leave her slightly less isolated than she was when she broke up with Bill. Without a guy to end up with, she’d feel that sting of rejection far more often, never having someone to offload onto on occasion. She doesn’t need to be completely happy ever after. Just happy enough after.