Author’s Note: I wrote this for Kinnik a fellow author as a gift during the 2015 SVM/TB story exchange. The prompt Kinnik provided was what if Eric and Sookie had moved in together right away, and then come to realize that all the little things (his possessiveness and control tendencies; her buying at Walmart and compulsively cleaning) were really grating on the other’s nerves? Having jumped into a relationship or two based on physical attraction, the prompt grabbed my interest and this is what happened. Alternate Universe and non-canon!
By the way: I love the banner by Sephrenia. The pink scrubbing glove? I laugh every time I see it!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Eric had arisen without Sookie… again. He knew she had been in their bed at some point, but her scent seemed faint.
There was a time when rising alone meant she had fallen asleep outside, soaking up sunshine for his entertainment, but that time seemed long past. They had had a disagreement over the pool boy and now she avoided the pool. It really wasn’t his fault. The service came once a week. All she had to do was find something else to keep her busy, but that had been too much to ask. He rose that particular evening to find a young, muscular human in his kitchen, drinking ice tea his mate had prepared herself. Sookie had some stupid story about the boy waiting for a ride since his truck wouldn’t start but that hadn’t explained the wet shirt or why they were laughing. In retrospect, if he was being totally honest, he may have over-reacted. There hadn’t been that much blood.
Eric had found another pool service, one that worked at night, but Sookie was still angry and so his sunny aphrodisiacs had stopped. He padded down the hallway sniffing for her scent. He knew he had found the right place when he stepped into the guest room and heard a funny sound. He walked to the bathroom and there she was on her knees, a brush in hand, scrubbing the floor. “What are you doing?” He knew it sounded mean the minute the words left his mouth, but they had talked about this. He wasn’t some hick and this wasn’t some trailer. He had a maid service. They came twice a week, and yet here was his pledged who seemed hell bent on destroying her manicure and smelling of cleaning solvents on a regular basis.
Sookie looked over her shoulder, her mouth pursed, “What does it look like I’m doing, Eric? I’m cleaning my house!”
“I pay someone to do this, Lover. You have other, more important things to do,” Eric’s exasperation was clear.
“Oh? And what would those important tasks be, Mr. Northman? It’s not working for a living. You don’t want me working at Fangtasia anymore because you think it makes you look weak. It’s not taking care of my house. You take every task I could do and you pay good money to someone else to do it. It’s not decorating or even buying my own wardrobe. What you don’t have some designer get you hand over to Pam,” and Sookie threw the brush hard enough to chip a tile, “So you tell me Mr. High and Mighty, just what do you expect me to do all day?”
Eric could feel his anger boiling over. She was kneeling there, her fingers red, her clothes rumpled. She smelled terrible and she hadn’t even showered. She wasn’t smiling. Oh no, she was snarling and after everything he had done, everything he had given her. “I expect you to take care of yourself!” he shouted at her. “I expect you to be in my bed when I rise and I expect you to take care of me, too!”
She stood up and he noticed for the first time she was wearing hard soled flip flops and they were dirty. She was wearing shoes in his house when she knew it was against the rules. He pointed at her feet but she had an expression he didn’t see often on her face. It was the same face he had seen in past just before she staked someone, “Is that all you think I’m good for? To be some kind of dress up doll who just lays around all day waiting to fuck you when you have a minute? Is that really what you want, Eric?”
She made a strangled noise and made to push past him, her chin high and her eyes blazing. He couldn’t help it, he yelled, “Shoes!” and she stopped mid-way from the bedroom. She brought her foot up and grabbed one of her flip flops off her foot and she turned and nailed him with it. She hopped and grabbed the other shoe off her foot, but this time he was ready and he caught it before it hit him. She was yelling and not saying any words. She was picking anything and everything up and he remembered that she used to play softball because when something did connect, he felt it. Finally when a framed picture of their pledging struck his forehead he rushed at her, grabbing her arms to her sides, “Enough!” he said right in her face, his fangs extended.
“It sure is!” Sookie yelled back, and then she looked like all the fight drained right out of her. She turned and shook his hands off her and walked back to their bedroom. She walked into the closet and pulled out her suitcase. She threw it on the bed and opened the first drawer in her dresser.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Eric asked. He was still angry but there was something about how quiet she had become that was making him nervous.
“I don’t think it really matters,” she replied without looking at him. She did look at all the beautiful baby doll nighties and sexy underwear sets he had Pam buy her and she turned around, slammed the empty suitcase shut and said, “There’s nothing here that’s mine.” She pulled her cell phone out of her back pocket and texted someone. “Jason is on his way from Bon Temps. I know you have work tonight. You should get going.”
“What are you doing, Sookie?” It occurred to Eric that this fight might be different. They had been fighting a lot lately, enough that he stopped taking her out of the house. You never knew when a representative from the King might show up and these days she was likely to say anything.
“I don’t really know what I ever saw in you,” she said quietly enough that he could ignore it if he chose. He was going to say something hurtful in return but he could smell she was crying. He couldn’t see the tears but she had gotten pretty good at hiding them. Eric realized that she seemed to cry quite often now and it made feel uncomfortable to think about it.
“You know I have to entertain visiting vampires tonight or I would stay home,” he said carefully. “It occurs to me that it has been a while since we have been out together. I will come home early. We can talk. We could make plans to do something together, a date?” Eric watched her closely. He could see when her eyes widened as they used to when he did something that made her happy, but it was only a moment, and that made him feel uncomfortable too. Perhaps he had been going about this the wrong way. “Please, Sookie,” he said, stepping close enough to tuck the strand of hair behind her ear.
She looked up at him, her arms crossed over her chest, “I’ll see you tonight then?” she said and there was a hint of a smile on her sweet lips.
“Tonight,” he said, and he smiled broadly. He leaned down to kiss her even though she smelled terrible and he hurried to get on his way so he wouldn’t be late.
Of course, one thing led to another and he didn’t make it back early. In fact, he barely made it back before dawn. When he walked into the house he found her curled up on the couch in the living room. He picked her up and carried her into their room. If it hadn’t have been so close to dawn he would have made it up to her by giving her a ride but since it was so late he undressed her and curled himself around her so that she would be there when he rose. They would play then and all would be well. After all, she was a woman and women were always trying to get a piece of him. It made them happy and it used to make Sookie happy too. He would put some real effort into it. ‘All will be well,’ he told himself as he felt dawn pull him under.
When Eric rose the next night he was alone in bed. ‘Where is she?” he thought. He got out of bed and rushed around the house determined to find her. He had to make up last night to her and she should have been there so he could get started. He looked everywhere and it occurred to him that the house was strangely quiet. Even when she was sleeping he could usually sense her. It was annoying really, the breathing and slight gargling noises she made, but tonight he could hear none of that. He walked outside to see the pool service. “Have you seen Mrs. Northman?” he called out. The men were looking at him oddly and Eric shook his head. Humans were so strange about nudity. He waited until they acknowledged they hadn’t seen her before he headed back into the house.
Next he headed into the garage. Maybe she had taken her car somewhere, although there was really no need for her to go anywhere. He opened the door and could see all the cars were there. Where was she? Eric walked back through the house and into the kitchen. It was starting to dawn on him that it was dark but there were no lights on in the house. He turned the light on in the kitchen even though he didn’t need it and looked around. Everything was in place, perfectly neat. His eyes swept the room and then he saw the keys on the counter. He recognized her keyring right away. He had had it made for her. It had their initials in platinum. He picked it up and mentally flicked through keys. Every key to his houses, his cars and even Fangtasia was there. There were only two keys missing, the key to her wreck of a house in Bon Temps and the key to her brother, Jason’s house. Eric looked around but there was no note, no explanation, but somehow he didn’t need one. He knew. She had left him.
Four months later….
Eric sat on the deck chair looking at the patterns the lights made in the dark pool water. He couldn’t explain it, but lately being in the house made him restless. It was too quiet, too empty. He had been doing pretty well at Fangtasia earlier. It had been a couple days since he’d been in the bar. It just didn’t make him happy like it used to. He couldn’t explain it, but the sight of the humans and vampires circling each other, flirting and dancing, irritated him. Pam had asked him not to sit on the throne anymore and that suited him just fine. And then tonight, for some reason, he’d been more content than he had felt in a while. He was in the office and getting work done when one of the new bartenders had come in to tell him that Tara Thornton was in the bar.
Eric knew that Tara and Sookie were friends. When Sookie had first left him, he was pretty sure she had moved in with Tara and her family until the Bon Temps house was ready for her again. “What’s she doing?” he asked.
“Nothing much. Buying souvenirs from the gift shop. Mistress Pam said to let you know,” and the bartender left.
“Pam!” Eric called. He knew he didn’t have to shout. She was probably waiting his summons. Sure enough she was his office door almost immediately.
His child was dressed in her Fangtasia costume. He knew she hated it but she really did look spectacular. He gave her his best withering look to let her know that he was seriously displeased. Rather than apologize, though, she waited for a bit, watching him. When he growled at her and looked to return to his work she stalked into his office and propped herself on the edge of his desk. “Aren’t you going to go out there and say hello?” she asked him, examining her nails all the while.
“I don’t know why you would think I would be interested in interrupting my night for some person I barely know,” Eric said moodily.
Pam fixed him with a steely eye and an arched eyebrow, “Cut the crap, Eric! You need to fix this and to do that you need to get some scoop on what your wife is doing, so get your ugly-mood ass out there and charm the news out of Ms. Thornton.”
Eric sat back in his chair, feeling pretty comfortable in his high ground, “You seem to forget who left. It’s not my job to get her. She left. She needs to apologize.”
“You are an ass hat!” Pam said, shaking her head. “I know what you were doing and how you were treating her. You’re lucky she didn’t stake you in your sleep.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about!” Eric protested. “I gave her everything! She wanted for nothing! She didn’t have to work or worry about anything. And what did I get for my troubles?” Eric couldn’t keep the misery from his face. He was miserable.
“You are so many kinds of wrong I don’t even know where to start,” Pam sighed. “You say she’s your wife but you don’t know anything about her.”
“I know everything about her!” Eric protested.
“Really?” Pam shot back, “Then how could you think that a woman who has worked for everything she ever had and who took pride in earning her own way would be happy when she was told she couldn’t work anymore?” Eric opened his mouth to crush his child, but he couldn’t really think of what to say. There was something in what Pam said that had a ring of truth about it.
“Well,” he finally huffed, “If that‘s not what she wanted she could have said it.”
Pam shrugged, “You’re right. She could have communicated better. So now she’s in Bon Temps working for the library and you’re here being miserable.”
“She’s working?” Eric hadn’t thought that she might actually make a different life. He had thought that she would come to her senses and realize she had no life without him. He found himself standing up and walking into the bar. He could see Tara Thornton at the cash register and he rushed over to stop the sale.
“Good evening, Miss Thornton,” he made sure his smile was pleasant but not too interested. He looked at the cashier, “Miss Thornton’s purchases are on the house,” he said pleasantly.
Tara didn’t look pleased or flattered. Instead her mouth went flat and she said, “I told Holly this was a bad idea!” She threw a stack of bills on the counter. “I don’t need any favors from you, Eric. We all know that your favors come with a price. I’ll pay for my stuff like everyone else.”
“I apologize if I’ve done anything to offend you,” Eric found himself stammering. He found himself upset by this female’s reaction. She was Sookie’s friend and if this was how she felt about him, she could be one of the reasons he hadn’t heard from his wife. “I simply meant it as a kind gesture for my wife’s friend,” he smiled.
Tara’s eyes opened wide and her eyebrows climbed up her face. She made a hooting sound that Eric realized was a kind of laugh, “Wife? You’re still trying to claim her? Damn, Eric. That ship done sailed.”
Tara took a step to the side and started walking toward the door so Eric moved to block her way. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“For someone as old as you, you sure don’t know much about women, do you? You haven’t called her or tried to talk to her in months. That’s abandonment in this state, and Sookie’s filing for divorce.” Eric found he was standing stock still. His mouth was open but nothing was coming out. “You had your chance, Eric. See ya!” and Tara stepped around him and walked out of the bar.
Eric turned and walked back to his office. He didn’t remember grabbing his things and he didn’t remember the drive home. Now, here he was, sitting by the pool, looking at the lights he had installed so they could swim together at night. He realized that in all the time she had lived with him, they never had.
Eric heard a noise and turned his head to see Pam walking toward him. She sank down in the matching deck chair. “How are you doing?” she asked.
“She is divorcing me,” he told her.
“Did she tell you that?” his child asked him.
“No,” he told her, “Tara told me.”
“Did you call Sookie? Ask her about it?” Pam looked at him, her head cocked to one side, her mouth smiling slightly.
Eric was about to tell her that it was Sookie’s responsibility to tell him these things, but instead he heard himself saying, “I haven’t talked with her in a long time. I’m not sure what I would say.”
Pam reached over and laid her hand on his. It was a strangely comforting gesture from his child. “So is that it? Are you going to let her go?”
“I don’t want to,” he told her. “I miss her.”
“Well,” Pam said, all business “That’s the first smart thing I’ve heard you say in a long time my Maker. If you do wish her back, you will have to make changes.”
“She is not perfect!” Eric exclaimed.
“No, she’s not,” Pam agreed, “But she is perfect for you. You both just need to figure that out again and you can get started right now.”
“Do you think I should go there tonight and ask her to come back?” Eric clenched his hands. It would be awkward and he was sure it would involve begging, but he realized he was ready to do it. Things in his life weren’t right, they weren’t good, and it was because she was gone.
“I think showing up on her doorstep in the middle of the night after four months and asking her to return might not be the best strategy” Pam said gently. “Why don’t you start with flowers and a card telling her you’re thinking of her?”
“I sent her calla lilies once and she got a real kick out of them,” and Eric chuckled.
“Start with daisies, Eric. If you send her flowers that look like sex she might think that’s all you want her for.” Eric thought about what his child was telling him and he remembered things he had said and Sookie’s reaction.
“Daisies are her favorite,” he agreed.
Seven months later….
Eric stood on the porch of the house on Hummingbird Lane and rang the bell.
It had started as sending flowers. Then he found a book he thought she might like and he sent that. He sent her cards he took the time to buy himself because they reminded him of her and snippets of poetry that seemed to speak to what he wished for them. Then, about two months ago he started writing her letters. It was old fashioned but there was something about forming the letters on paper that allowed him to say things about himself he couldn’t say out loud. He had sent two letters and was wondering if she had received them when he checked his mailbox and found one in return.
After that he started writing every day, sometimes more. He would ask a question and explain why he was asking and what he hoped. She would answer him. Sometimes she would disagree with what he said, but she would explain it. Sometimes she asked questions of her own, and he would think long and hard, often writing pages and pages to explain himself. The correspondence flowed between them, the mailman serving as their link day after day.
With some pages he felt that he was meeting a woman he knew well, but then there would be other pages that revealed a woman he never knew existed. With each paragraph her read he realized he was falling more deeply in love with her than he had been before.
In all this time he had not heard her voice, and finally, on a whim, he picked up the phone and called her. She knew it was him when she answered, and her voice was so beautiful to his ear that he told her as much. They talked for hours. He asked her about things she had written and books she had mentioned. She answered his questions and asked some of her own. She told him about working in the library and volunteering her time with children. He asked her how it made her feel and he really listened to the answers she gave.
The next night Sookie called him. Like the night before they talked and talked for hours. They continued to write letters, but now it was the telephone that connected them as well. They would take turns initiating the call. Finally, after a discussion about how important it was to keep the fun in any relationship, Eric asked if she would be interested in going to dinner with him. She had hesitated and then refused.
That had thrown him. The next night Eric wrote to her about how her refusal made him feel and she wrote back explaining how afraid she was to ruin what they had developed and how his treatment of her in past had hurt her. It launched a whole new area of discussion between them, a discussion that started in letters and then found its way into their phone conversations.
A little over a week later, it was Sookie that asked Eric if he’d like to come by for dinner. He hadn’t refused. And now, here he stood, dressed in his best.
The light on the porch turned on and the door opened. When she smiled at him Eric felt absurdly happy. “Good evening, Sookie,” he said carefully. He didn’t know if she would appreciate his calling her by his name.
“Good evening Eric. You look very nice,” she replied.
He waited for her to invite him in and for one moment he was afraid she would refuse, but she opened the screen door and said, “Won’t you come inside?”
He took in everything. He saw her eyes and her gold hair so like his own. But now, he saw other things with new eyes. He saw the chipped paint on her fingernails and knew it showed her self-reliance and her ability to do things. He saw the messy way her hair floated around her head and realized it spoke of a woman who cared more for others than for her own appearance. When he smelled the faint traces of household cleaners he knew what he smelled was her pride of place. He saw furniture that was shabby but somehow said ‘home’ more eloquently than all the custom furniture he had ever purchased. He could see now that each thing was a testament to this person who stood before him, her eyes so hopeful, and he wondered that he had ever been so lucky as to call her ‘mine.’
He extended his hand and she placed her slightly calloused hand in his. He turned it palm up and he lightly ran his finger over each oval of hardened skin. When he saw her bite her lip he pulled her closed enough to lift her hand to his lips and kiss each callous, letting her know he accepted and respected that part of her.
“Thank you, Sookie,” he told her. “Thank you for giving me a second chance.”
Sookie pulled her hand from his and walked into the front room. She returned with a double stack of letters all tied in a blue ribbon. “No, Eric,” she said, “I didn’t give you anything. You see, I fell in love with the wonderful man who wrote these and earned that chance. Do you think he’s still here?”
“If you allow it, dearest one,” he told her, “he will be here with you forever.”
“Well,” she said, that familiar, teasing smile lighting her lips, “Why don’t we start with one night and see how it goes?”