Eric didn’t expect it to be easy trying to talk to Sookie, but he didn’t expect her to be so childish as to give him the silent treatment during the short drive back to her house. Nor had he expected her to thumb her nose at the car he’d purchased for her. It irritates him to find her yellow rust bucket sitting in the employee parking lot. When Eric tried to question Sookie about it, she merely shrugged her shoulders insolently before climbing inside the death trap. Eric fumed as he contorted his body to fit inside the cramped quarters of the passenger seat. His fangs had threatened to come out when he learned the mechanism that moved the seat back was broken. Sookie’s smirk of triumph as she turned the key in the ignition had Eric vowing to tear the yellow tin can apart the minute he had extracted himself from its rickety frame. Maybe he’d tear the top off as one would use a can opener.
Better yet, maybe he would drop it out of the sky on the dilapidated antebellum structure across the cemetery from the Stackhouse homestead. Eric remembered the day he’d sent Lorena and her sniveling progeny William Compton to their True Deaths. He had raised an eyebrow when Pam informed him that there had been a headstone for a William T. Compton in the Bon Temps cemetery. Further digging revealed that the vacant home closest to the Stackhouse family belonged to the Compton family. Property records indicated that at one time, the home had belonged to William Compton.
It’s too small of a world and Eric Northman doesn’t believe in coincidences. He shudders to think how things would have turned out if Compton were still walking among the undead. The pompous fool had been stuck in the Civil War forty years after its conclusion. If he’d been around for the Great Revelation, Eric knows Compton would have attempted to reclaim his ancestral home, which would have put him right in Sookie Stackhouse’s path. What if Sophie-Anne had sent Compton to claim the Stackhouses instead of him?
The idea makes Eric want to resurrect Compton just so he can rip his head from his body. The image of Sookie in the place of the prostitute Compton and Lorena had been draining in Pam’s brothel haunts Eric. It reminds him of how precarious their situation is, that he needs to do all he can to protect his fairy.
The jingling of Sookie’s keys as she removes the key from the ignition jars Eric out of his dark musings. Neither of them moves to exit the vehicle and the silence hangs heavy between them.
“Look, I need to thank you for what you did earlier,” Sookie begins begrudgingly. The mulish expression on her face shows her disgust at having to express her gratitude to the vampire beside her. “I coulda handled them myself or Sam woulda intervened before it got too outta hand. You made a bad situation worse. They’ll just retaliate some other evenin’,” Sookie ends with a sigh.
“Why do you stay there?” Eric’s question though spoken quietly is full of heat. “You’re better than everyone in that shit hole!”
“And you can cast judgment because your bar has so much class and dignity,” Sookie retorts scornfully before exiting the car. She slams the driver’s side door and stomps angrily towards the house. Eric is in front of her in a flash, not trusting her to stay outside so they can talk, and Eric isn’t willing to have this conversation inside the house. He wouldn’t put it past Sookie to rescind his invitation out of spite.
“I hate when y’all do that!” Sookie mumbles as she skids to a stop. Eric grabs her upper arms to help steady her. When he touches Sookie, Eric feels a sharp stab of desire but he chooses to ignore it.
“It has nothing to do with Fangtasia. There is a reason Pam and I call the patrons ‘vermin’. In truth, there’s only ever been one person to enter my bar that I thought was too good to be in a place like that,” Eric admits.
“Let me guess, your maker.” Sookie tries unsuccessfully to twist out of Eric’s grasp, but it only makes his fingers press harder into the soft flesh of her upper arms.
“It was you actually,” Eric answers softly. “You walked into Fangtasia and it was as if I could see the sun again for the first time in a millennium. There is a light inside you; it’s beautiful, pure, and good. It makes me hope for an end to the darkness; to be able to walk in the light again.” His words are uttered as if he is confessing his deepest, darkest secret.
Sookie stills in Eric’s grasp. She hates him in that moment, and it burns brightly inside her. How dare he admit something like that to her after ignoring her all these weeks?!?! She’d trusted him and he broke that trust. Eric had been the first person that Sookie felt completely at ease with. He’d not judged her in any way, and accepted her exactly as she was. He didn’t care about her telepathy nor had he tried to exploit it as others would. Sookie had believed Eric would always be there for her and then he’d vanished. Oh his presence was everywhere she turned, but the man himself was nowhere to be found. She’d not seen or heard from him since Dallas. It hurt; it felt like the ultimate betrayal.
In the time that Eric was missing from her life, she’d finally admitted to herself that it hurt so much because she had fallen in love with the Viking vampire, the one being she knew she could never have. After all, they’d agreed they couldn’t engage in a romantic relationship. How stupid of her to fall in love with someone that didn’t want to be with her! Well she knew Eric desired her, or at least he had in the beginning. Maybe that’s why he’d disappeared; he’d lost interest since they’d agreed not to be anything more than friends.
Sookie tried to move on. Barry is attractive, smart, successful, and most importantly, he understands Sookie’s ability. They’ve had countless conversations about their telepathy and have compared notes on how it works for each of them. Barry, though he has been trained to use his telepathy, does not have nearly the range that Sookie does. However, Barry is far better at shielding his mind from others, something he’s been helping Sookie become better at. It is a relief to Sookie to finally be in charge of her telepathy and not have her telepathy be in charge of her. During all of their training, Sookie and Barry found they can combine their abilities when they are touching each other.
And therein lays the problem.
Touch amplifies their ability, making it possible to hear every thought in each other’s head. Sookie can tell that Barry desires her; his actions and thoughts have made that abundantly clear. His thoughts have never been lewd as others have been when they desire her body. Barry’s admiration isn’t pure to say the least, but it doesn’t make Sookie feel the need to scrub her body clean with bleach. It’s a nice boost for Sookie’s self-esteem to be wanted by another exactly as she is, but there is one huge problem.
Sookie doesn’t want Barry that way; she wants Eric.
In Dallas, Sookie had been attracted to Barry and returned his advances. When he’d asked her to be his girlfriend before she’d returned to Bon Temps, Sookie was thrilled. After all, she’d never been someone’s girlfriend before. But as time has passed, she’s realized she doesn’t have those deep feelings for Barry; he doesn’t inspire an overwhelming feeling of passion in her. The thought of Barry doesn’t give her butterflies in her stomach, set her heart pounding, or arouse her.
She knows that Barry is probably her best chance of having a normal relationship. Hell, she’d even seen in Barry’s mind that he had the same idea. It’s something the blonde telepath had always secretly hoped for but never dreamed of being possible. Now that she is confronted with it being a very real possibility, she realizes that she doesn’t want it.
Sookie doesn’t want the house with the white picket fence and the average 1.9 children per family. She knows she isn’t against the idea of marriage, but it has to be with the right person.
Unfortunately, Barry isn’t the right person for her.
It’s why she’s been putting Barry off about coming to visit. She should have been overjoyed when he called to tell her he wanted to come see her; after all, it’s been several weeks since they last saw each other. You’d think she would be anxious to see him, hungry to feel his touch, and desperate for his kiss. Instead all Sookie feels is dread. She never meant to lead Barry on; that’s the last thing she wanted to do. She has firsthand knowledge of how much it hurts to have someone deceive her. It’s a feeling she’s known many times throughout her life.
She can’t help it that all she wants is the aggravating vampire in front of her.
“Why are you here, Eric? Why now after all these weeks? You said we were friends, and then you disappear. In case you weren’t aware, friends are supposed to be there for each other. They don’t ignore you when you call, email, or text.” Sookie sounds exhausted as she questions Eric, as if the emotional debate inside her has finally worn her out.
“I was attending to Drew Marshall,” Eric begins as he walks towards the steps. It’s a weak excuse; Eric knows it and he knows Sookie knows it too.
“Whatever,” Sookie mumbles before shrugging out of Eric’s grasp to walk to the porch steps. She sits down tiredly, staring up at Eric with eyes that are struggling to stay open. She’d worked a double today because the new waitress Sam hired to replace her never showed up. Sookie made the decision shortly after returning from Dallas to quit Merlotte’s, but she’d be damned if she’d tell Eric earlier that she was quitting the bar. It rubbed her the wrong way that he belittled the place and the people inside it. She wasn’t a huge fan of most of the people in there, but there were some that didn’t deserve his disregard. The only reason Sookie continued to work there is because she refuses to leave a friend in the lurch. However, she doesn’t know how much longer she can continue to help Sam out. She plans to go to college, and wants to devote all her attention to that. Plus, ever since the townsfolk learned that she is under the protection of a vampire, their treatment of her has gotten worse if possible. Instead of just being seen as crazy, now they view her as a fangbanging whore. Not once has anyone seen a bite mark on her, but to the gossips, it merely means she lets the vamps bite her somewhere that’s covered by clothes. Jason and Gran have also benefitted from Eric’s generosity, but no one has a nasty word or thought to say about them. The people of Bon Temps blame everything on Sookie. She’s tried to hold her head up high and act as if the vicious gossip doesn’t affect her. Gran is a big advocate of the moral high ground and taking the high road. Sookie has tried to follow the teachings of the Stackhouse matriarch, but the high road is a lonely place.
“Why are you here, Eric? You must need something.” Sookie reiterates her earlier question as she closes her eyes and leans her head against the balustrade.
For a brief moment, there is a look of pure yearning on Eric’s face. He leans forward, his hand outstretched towards Sookie’s face. At his prolonged silence, Sookie’s eyes open, but she sees that he hasn’t moved from the spot at the bottom of the stairs and his expression is blank.
“The Queen has commanded your family’s presence in New Orleans. She is most anxious to meet all of you,” Eric responds in a business-like tone as if he hadn’t had his unguarded moment of emotion. He has no rebuttal for Sookie that wouldn’t be a lie. Angrily, he shoves his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, balling them in fists.
Sookie stares with narrowed eyes at Eric. “Of course, we have to jump when the Queen calls. When does she expect us?” It hurts to know she was right and that Eric is only here because he needs her family in New Orleans.
“Fine. I’m sure Pam will take care of making sure we have everything we need for the trip.” Sookie yawns hugely, not bothering to cover her mouth as her eyes water. She rises to her feet and tiredly stumbles towards the door. With her hand on the doorknob, she turns around to face Eric.
“Have someone send us an itinerary. I’ll tell Gran and Jason in the morning. I’m tired and going to bed. Good-night, Eric. It was good to see you,” Sookie ends softly before slipping inside the darkened house. The door closes with a soft click.
Eric stares at the white wood and glass as he hears Sookie’s footsteps move through the house to her bedroom. He is unsure of how to deal with the rioting emotions inside of him. For the umpteenth time since meeting Sookie Stackhouse, Eric bemoans having feelings.
A twig snaps near the tree across the yard followed by the striking of a match. The match moves through the dark night towards the end of a cigar, illuminating Tray Dawson’s grizzled face. Eric doesn’t turn to acknowledge the Were. He is in no mood for Tray’s digs about his behavior of late. It’s bad enough he has to listen to Pam’s. His ‘helpful’ progeny has even gone so far as to leave him ‘Dear Abby’ advice columns in his office, home, and car.
Eric takes off like a rocket in the night sky before Tray can say a word. The Were merely shakes his head in disgust as he clenches the cigar between his teeth.
“Keep digging that hole, Northman. You should be halfway to China by now. Can’t wait to see how you’re gonna get out of it. It looks like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew this time.”
“He is a fool,” Thalia sneers as she suddenly appears beside her boss. “He needs to regain control of the situation or else he will look weak in front of Sophie-Anne.”
“Sookie and Adele won’t do anything to undermine Northman in front of the Queen. They both know better,” Tray replies with confidence. “Jason on the other hand . . .”
Thalia snorts. “I don’t know who is in for a ruder awakening: Sophie-Anne and Andre or Jason.”
Tray laughs. “My money’s on Sophie-Anne and Andre; Jason tends to roll with the punches.”
Thalia grins evilly. “Care to make a wager?”
Tray grins before taunting the frightening vampire. “Looking to make a wager again, Thalia? I would have thought you’d given up on betting against me since you’ve lost the last two.”
Thalia’s fangs snap down in anger. “You and Pam cheated the last time. This time you will not be so lucky.”
Tray removes the cigar from his mouth and grins wolfishly. “I thoroughly enjoyed watching you pay up that night. Who knew you looked so pretty in pink?”
Thalia takes a menacing step towards the wolf, her hands flexing dangerously. “If you ever speak of that night again, I’ll rip out your tongue and shove it up your ass!”
Tray laughs again as he watches the Grecian vampire speed away. He pops the cigar back between his lips and inhales deeply. “She’ll shit a brick if she ever finds out Pam took pictures.”