A Step Forward

Hours later, Sookie finds herself outside the building spilling her guts to one of her office mates. Charlsie Tooten is a woman in her fifties that is completely happy with every aspect of her life. She married her high school sweetheart a week after they graduated high school. Within five years, she’d bore three children. Once her kids had grown, she’d entered the work force to give herself something to do. She worked hard but wasn’t married to her job. Charlsie had been making noises about quitting when her daughter gave birth in a few months so she could care for her first grandchild.

Sookie viewed Charlsie as the mother she never got to have and Charlsie in return treated her like one of her own. So when Charlsie asked her what was wrong, Sookie couldn’t hold back. What surprised Sookie was how calm she’d managed to stay while relating the events of the last twenty-four hours. The only time she teared up was when admitting Bill’s infidelity.

“Are you OK?” Charlsie steps back from the bear hug and looks at Sookie with concern all over her face.

“I will be OK,” Sookie says with a timid smile. Her words were meant to placate Charlsie so the older woman won’t worry. But the strange thing is the feeling of conviction that settles over Sookie after saying them. Yes she will be OK; it will not be an overnight outcome, but eventually, she will be OK. The smile Sookie bestows on Charlsie is the first genuine one she feels she has given to anyone in a long time. It feels good to know that she will survive this. There will be bad days; there will be set backs. However, Sookie is a strong, beautiful woman who has her whole life in front of her. Life does not end because her no-good, cheating spouse wants out of their marriage. As the saying goes, one door closes and another opens.

This is Sookie’s chance to walk through that new door. It’s scary as hell, but strangely exciting too.

“Hey gals,” Halleigh says apologetically as she sticks her head outside. “Mr. Northman came lookin’ for you Sook. He asked that you meet him in his office ASAP.” Halleigh’s look turns to worry; she knows nothing of Sookie’s marital woes, nor does she know why the boss is seeking out her coworker. Eric Northman doesn’t seek anyone out; people go to him. If he is actively looking for someone, it usually spells disaster for the other person.

“Why don’t you take a minute to compose yourself Sook. He can wait another damn minute,” Charlsie suggests.

“No, I’d better go see what he wants. Knowing him, it’s something he doesn’t like in one of my reports and he wants to prove his superiority,” Sookie finishes with a roll of her eyes.

The three women make their way back inside; Charlsie and Halleigh head to the shared office while Sookie marched down the hallway to the corner office of the vice-president. Because she was raised to respect her superiors, which is technically what Eric Northman is even if she thinks he’s an ass, she knocks politely on his open door and waits for him to grant her permission to enter.

Eric looks up from his computer when he hears the knock on his door. He gestures for her to enter his office. “Close the door please.”

Sookie spins on her heel and shuts the door behind her, pausing with her hand on the door frame as she collects herself. She closes her eyes and exhales softly before turning to face the Vice-President of her department. “You wanted to see me?”

Eric rises from his chair and extends his hand towards one of the sofas in his office. “Have a seat please.”

Sookie stares at him uneasily. Never in all the years she’s worked here and dealt with Eric Northman has he invited her to sit on one of the sofas in his office. He’s usually insisted on sitting at his desk across from her, using the desk to reinforce his position of power at this company. And the door has always remained open. He only closes the door when he’s on the phone with one of his women or fighting with Pam. Sookie’s boss can be quite vocal when she’s displeased and she’s not afraid to let anyone know it. She stands up for those that work for her, and she often goes toe to toe with Eric. More than once over the years, it’s sounded like a world heavyweight prize fight was going on behind his closed door when Pam was facing off against Eric. If anyone else had spoken to Eric Northman that way, they would have been fired. Pam is the only one allowed to speak to him anyway she wanted. Sookie never understood how their relationship worked; office gossip said that Pam and Eric were sleeping with each other. Sookie didn’t buy into that theory since she knew Pam preferred her partners to have more padding in the breast and hips than what Eric offered.

Lowering herself to one of the couches, Sookie sits stiffly on the edge of the cushion. Her back is completely straight, her head is held high, and her hands are clasped tightly in her lap. She fears the worst. It’s already a shitty week; might as well pile on top of it.

It will be the icing on the fucking cake if he is going to fire me.

“Can I offer you something to drink?” Eric hovers by the sideboard, his hand poised over the top of a glass.

“No thank you,” she says stiffly. Sookie watches warily as Eric comes to sit in a chair beside the sofa. He leans back in his chair, his elbows resting on the sides with his fingers steepled in front of his face. They stare at each other in silence.

“What?” Sookie breaks the silence to ask her question in a slightly hostile tone. “Mr. Northman, is there a reason you called me in here? I’m having a bad enough week, so if you’re gonna fire me or discipline me can you please just do it already?”

Eric looks surprised by her outburst and drops his hands to lean forward in his chair. “Why would I fire you? Pam says you’re the best one in her department. Your productivity is nearly double that of anyone else in the group. As for disciplining you, is there something you’ve done that I’m not aware of? Honestly, the rules you break are the same rules that everyone else breaks. Why would I punish you if I’m not willing to punish everyone else?”

“So then why am I here?” Sookie begins to feel a sense of panic inside her. She’d admitted to him earlier that she is getting a divorce. Does he know think that means she’s on the market? Is he looking to fish off the company pier?

“Because I have something I believe you need,” he says while rising to his feet.

Oh hell no! Sookie is about to start shouting when Eric hands her a business card from his pocket. “Here; take it.”

Sookie takes the card warily. She turns it over, expecting to see Eric’s personal number or something more lewd on it. It catches her off guard when she sees the name of an attorney on it; an attorney that specializes in family law.

“What is this?”

“It’s the number for an attorney. You said you’re getting a divorce; you’ll need a good lawyer to represent you,” Eric states matter-of-factly as he settles in his chair.

“Oh.” That isn’t what she expected at all. She turns the card over in her hands, unsure of what to say. “Bill said he wants to try to do this amicably,” she mumbles.

Eric rolls his eyes. “There is no such thing as an amicable divorce; they all turn messy. Even if you don’t end up needing the lawyer, you should still give him a call. It’s a free consultation. Plus it prevents your ex-husband from being able to use him as a lawyer. Trust me; Cataliades is the best in the state when it comes to marital law.”

Sookie looks at Eric shrewdly. “You were married?” Eric nods his head. “Huh. I never knew that.”

Eric smiles faintly. “I’m surprised; it was the hot topic around the office for months, years really. But it was years ago; you hadn’t been with the company very long. My divorce was . . . a shit storm. I’d hate to see you go through the same thing.”

“Thanks,” Sookie replies with uncertainty. She’s not used to Eric Northman being nice to her. It’s unsettling. She rises to her feet. “Well, I have work I need to take care of. There’s a report that needs to get out by the end of the week. Thanks again for this,” she says gesturing with the business card. “I’ll give him a call later.”

“Good luck with everything,” Eric says softly. Sookie walks across his office towards the door. Before she can open it, Eric calls her name softly. “If you need anything – time off, work from home, loan – please don’t hesitate to ask. I know how hard all of this can be,” Eric offers with compassion.

Sookie nods her head as tears spring to her eyes. She quickly exits the office, leaving the door wide open as she walks rapidly down the hallway to the women’s lavatory. How strange is it that the one person Sookie is afraid to lean on is the first one to offer help?

***

Eric never thought in a million years that Sookie Stackhouse (He had refused to acknowledge her last name as Compton; that bastard never deserved her.) would tell him she is getting a divorce. Eric has fantasized about her for years, and wanted her even before his divorce was finalized. She is like sunshine personified, drawing everyone in with her warmth. Sookie is an amazing woman: intelligent, beautiful, funny, compassionate, and dedicated. He remembers the day he met her like it was yesterday…

***

“What the hell is all that racket?” Eric Northman storms out of his office in search of who is disturbing his ability to work. He’s already in a foul mood given the latest call from his divorce attorney. His bitch of a soon-to-be ex-wife is seeking alimony as well as sixty percent of his assets. No fucking way is that bitch getting it. She doesn’t deserve it since Eric had walked in to find her fucking the gardener in their bed.

Eric doesn’t have far to walk to find the source of the disturbance; the sound of laughter and chatter comes from the office two doors down from his. When he sticks his head inside, it feels as if he’s been kicked in the stomach. The breath whooshed out of his chest.

“Oh Eric,” his right-hand woman, Pamela Ravenscroft says. “Sorry to bother you. I’d like you to meet our new intern: Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie this is vice-president of the department, Eric Northman.”

The woman named Sookie rises to her feet with her hand extended. There is a bright smile on her youthful face. It makes Eric think he is basking in the sun. “Hi I’m Sookie. Pleased to meet you.”

Eric takes her hand and feels a jolt of electricity up his arm. He fights to keep his cool expression, but inside he is unsettled. He isn’t used to a woman affecting him like this; it’s usually him causing this reaction in others. He tries to keep his staring to a minimum, but it’s hard not to admire the perfection of her skin and the curves of her figure.

“The pleasure, Miss Stackhouse, is all mine.”

***

Eric was caught hook, line, and sinker. Never before had he desired a woman the way he wanted Sookie; something about her grabbed hold of his soul and wouldn’t let go. He had bided his time before making a move; something told him she wouldn’t be receptive to dating a married man, even one waiting for his divorce to be finalized. Eric curses the fucking bitch he was married to every day for dragging out their divorce. She wanted to milk him for every penny she could and fought tooth and nail to sink her claws further into him. Eric should have just given her what she wanted instead of fighting her; maybe if he had he wouldn’t have been too late with Sookie. The day his divorce was finalized was the day he was going to finally ask her out on a date.

It was also the day she came in all bubbly announcing she was engaged to that douchebag.

Eric was devastated. He doesn’t remember much about the week after that other than he spent it in whatever bottle was close by. It was only Pam coming to the house and kicking his ass sober that brought him back to the land of the living. Eric had confessed everything to Pam during one of his drunken ramblings. Pam being Pam only had two things to say:

Get the fuck over it; my life wasn’t over.

Bide my time; the asshole would fuck up eventually.

So Eric did what she said. He tried to live his life the way he was expected to. He’s ashamed to say he took comfort in the arms of nameless women that meant nothing to him all while pining for the one he couldn’t have. The worst part was that Eric couldn’t let himself be nice to Sookie. If he did, he was afraid she would see how much he cared for her.

How much he loved her.

That he still loves her.

It’s been hard all these years watching her with someone else, but as long as she was happy then he could grit his teeth and deal with it. I’ve hated watching the light fade in her eyes, seeing the melancholia surround her like a cloak. She’s still friendly and compassionate, a dedicated worker with whom Eric has no complaints (though he has to needle her sometimes). But she’s lost that spark, the fire that made her the woman Eric fell in love with. He knew from conversations with Pam that her beloved grandmother suffered a massive heart attack. Eric had wanted to rush to Sookie’s side and comfort her; it killed him that he couldn’t. All he could fucking do was sign the card and give money to the goddamn floral arrangement Pam had sent to the hospital.

Eric felt fucking impotent! He had all the money in the goddamn world and couldn’t offer any to help ease Sookie’s burden. He wasn’t able to be her pillar of strength or a pair of arms to help console her.

So while his heart aches to see her so despondent today, it has rejoiced to know she will be free of the dead weight dragging her down. Eric doesn’t expect this to be an overnight transition in their relationship. Hell she has every reason to be wary of him. His behavior towards her for years has been that of a little boy pulling the pigtails of the girl he likes. The boy thinks he’s done the greatest thing in the world because he got the attention of the girl he likes, never realizing that she’s mad at him for hurting her.

Eric will be lucky if Sookie doesn’t give him a black eye or kick him in the balls before all is said and done. She’s feisty and Eric knows she will not be pleased to learn his behavior towards her had been an act.

He needs to look into buying a cup; she’ll definitely kick him in the balls when she finds out.

It’s nearly seven at night; Eric has been at work over twelve hours. Insomnia is a bitch and he learned long ago not to use medication or alcohol to fix the problem. So he’d worked out for almost two hours before coming to work. You’d think after twelve hours working he would be tired, but he’s not. He’s hyper, filled with anticipation that he will now finally get a chance with Sookie. And he will have his chance; Eric is going to be there for her as her friend and when she’s ready he will try for something more. There is a lot of ground to make up with her, but she’s worth it. Eric knows in his heart that they are meant for each other; he doesn’t care how long it takes to convince her of that fact.

Eric can be very persuasive when he wants to be.

He closes his office door, pulling the blinds over the window. He’d shut the window coverings hours ago when darkness descended. The perks of being an executive include a bigger office. He has an area for lounging as well as a conference table for meetings. But his pride and joy is the sound system he’d installed with his own money. It is state of the art and rivals the sound of a live venue. He uses it when he needs to unwind or when he’s working out (another perk of his office, the hidden room of exercise equipment). But now, he feels like celebrating. His preferred way of celebrating would be to spend hours in bed with Sookie. Since that isn’t going to happen, he’ll settle for the next best thing.

Dancing.

Grabbing the remote for his sound system, Eric turns up the volume as loud as he wants and cues up the dance playlist on his iPod. Normally he prefers hard rock and alternative music, but something about 80s music makes him want to dance. Tom Cruise did it in Risky Business with Old Time Rock and Roll; Eric has a dance playlist on his iPod.

As the opening beat of Love Shack by The B-52s begins, Eric lets the music flow over him. He’s not a dancer by any stretch of the word. In fact, he sucks at it. When he’s on the dance floor in a crowded room, the most he will do is sway from side to side while holding his beer and nodding his head to the beat of the music.

He’s a typical white guy; sue him!

But in private, Eric likes to let loose. And he really loves all those cheesy dance moves from the eighties and nineties.

Cabbage patch; check.

Running man; absolutely.

The worm; damn straight.

He can Carlton with the best of them.

But his all-time favorites are the sprinkler, the shopping cart, and the lawn mower.

Eric gets lost in the music as he dances to his heart’s content. Happiness flows through him and for the first time in years, he has hope.

Sweat is pouring off him as he dances faster and faster to the music, switching from one song to the next seamlessly. He’d taken off his tie and dress shirt earlier leaving him in a singlet and dress pants. The shoes he’d kicked off earlier too. For his grand finale, Eric is doing the worm across the office floor. A man over six feet tall contorting his body into the worm is an impressive sight; Eric can curve his form multiple times while wiggling across the floor.

Suddenly Eric freezes as he sees a pair of shoes standing in his once closed office door. Eric hurriedly pulls the remote for the sound system out of his pocket and shuts the music off. He knows those fucking shoes; he’d paid for those fucking shoes when he’d accidentally thrown up on the previous pair during his drunken bender over losing Sookie. Eric looks up from his prone position to find Pam smirking with her phone held out in front of her. She’s been videotaping Eric!

“Don’t stop on my account,” she smirks.

“If you show that to anyone, I will kill you and dump the body at an alligator farm,” Eric warns her while rising to his feet. He’ll do it too.

She smirks again before pressing a button on her phone and lowering it to her side. “What’s it worth to you?”

“What do you want?” Christ, here we go again. Pam’s lucky Eric loves her like a sister; why else would he put up with her blackmail attempts? It’s all in good fun though. Neither one of them would do anything to hurt the other; they’ve been through too much over the years. Eric was there for her when she lost Miriam to cancer; she’s listened to him bitch and moan about the one that got away.

If a shark could smile, that is the exact look Pam is giving him. “I could use a girls’ weekend down in New Orleans, maybe a little retail therapy. It’s been ages since I’ve had a little fun.”

She’s full of shit; she was in New York City not two months ago for Fashion Week. Pam bought so much shit she had to have it sent back in steamer trunks!

“You said girls’ weekend,” Eric counters shrewdly. “Who else do you want to take?”

“Caught that did you,” she smirks again. “Well, a dear friend of mine just learned she is getting divorced. I’m sure she could use a weekend away to distract herself. And if a certain someone just happened to be in the city while we were out for dinner and drinks, well…it’s a small world,” she finishes with a shrug.

“Tell me where and when; I’ll take care of all the arrangements,” Eric offers with a smile.

Pam steps into the office, placing her hand on his cheek in a warm gesture. “She needs time Eric, but I think you’ll be good for each other. But if you push her, you will lose her,” Pam cautions.

Eric nods in understanding and Pam turns to leave the office. She pauses at the door and looks back over her shoulder. “Don’t be chintzy with the rooms; Sookie and I need a suite. We’ll need lots of space to store our purchases.”

Eric is left shaking his head as Pam walks away. Leave it to her to ruin a tender moment.

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16 Responses to A Step Forward

  1. saldred75 says:

    oh that pam!!! so I take it we like her in this story? I do love how they tease each other. and the sound system and doing the worm and running man in his office? priceless!!!!

  2. men. they can be so clueless sometimes. it’s up to us women to educate them. 😉 right now Eric needs a crash curse on how-to-win-woman-i’ve-pissed-off-to no-end. hehehehehe

  3. Kittyinaz says:

    Love this!! And thanks for a view into Eric’s mind. It made all the difference in trying to understand his tipsy turvy emotional roller coaster!

  4. trubie35 says:

    I’m loving this story. Looking forward to the next chapter! Thanks!

  5. ashmo2000 says:

    Hm, Eric may win Sookie over with his dancing alone, LOL!

  6. shoegirl01 says:

    ohhh, Sookie should get to see the video – perhaps when Pam has consumed just a tad too much alcohol? 🙂

  7. mom2goalies says:

    Oh god, the visuals of him dancing…..Sigh
    So, glad Pam is on his side! I so knew someone was going to walk in on him but didn’t want to see who early so I had to cover the tablet with my hand so I wouldn’t peak before it happened! Lol

  8. Mindy781 says:

    I really liked learning about Eric’s background and the reason behind his actions. I hope Sookie can see the other side of Eric. This girls weekend is perfect. This is really good.

  9. Why was there not a Depends warning for this chapter? Not to mention a NSFW? I had to go home and change my pants When he started dancing. I love the way you wrote it. To fucking funny. Can’t wait for more!

  10. kleannhouse says:

    so ES did well they loved Eric’s pov and his dancing. it was a great chapter, snickered all the way through it. KY

  11. lostinspace33 says:

    Awww…I never expected him to be in love with her or pining for her from afar. Poor guy! I hope he takes Pam’s advice and gives her the time and space to heal from her divorce before he comes charging in on his white horse. Of course he still needs to make himself visible so she doesn’t end up being snatched up by another douchebag while Eric is getting his shit together! 😉

  12. Renee says:

    Hilarious laugh out loud chapter! I love the dancing scene, Pam, the writing…everything! I can’t wait to read the next chapter!

  13. Barb says:

    I just found this story and I enjoyed it thoroughly it so far!! Like the way the characters are developing! Funny scene with Eric dancing. I can just see Pam nudging them to enter the dance contest when the “run into each other”during the girls’ weekend😜. Can’t wait for more of this story!

  14. foxgoddess07 says:

    lmfao oh god! I would be dying right now if it wasn’t so late at night. I like this version of Eric. you gotta let sookie catch eric dancing like that. that would hilarious. update soon.

  15. anem72 says:

    The idea of Eric dancing round the office is hilarious, Pam HAS to show Sookie! So it was a classic case of pigtail pulling – and men can’t understand us! Great chapter, I always love the close Eric/Pam friendships.

  16. missron80 says:

    Now how did I not know this existed! Shame on me! I will catch up today to ensure I’m ready for any and all future updates!

    p.s. hope you don’t find this picky of me but you had a ‘person’ change in this chapter. 99% of the time you were going with he / she etc., but part of the way through, you threw in an I’ve instead of a “he’d”.

    I’ve hated watching the light fade in her eyes, seeing the melancholia surround her like a cloak.

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