After the defining dick moment at the studio’s holiday party (defining how much more Sookie preferred mine over that pussy Quinn’s) something shifted inside of her. Had I not known her as well as I did beforehand, I might not have noticed, but whereas she used to be self-conscious of her perceived flaws, after their confrontation she seemed more confident in herself. I had yet to hear one negative thing come out of her mouth about her body or the changes it was going through since that night, so while I may have hated running into that asshole and hearing about them together in bed (actually, I enjoyed Sookie’s take on the whole thing) I was actually glad it happened since her being able to tell him exactly what she thought about it all seemed to be the catalyst for the change. She was surer of herself, despite the added circus of the baby news becoming public knowledge, and I was glad for it. She should be confident because she was perfect.
However, we could both do without the added paparazzi presence the news evoked. When I heard the talking heads speculating on the pregnancy being the reason for us marrying at all, I internally scoffed and stopped watching the news altogether after that day. Knowing how well that choice turned out for my own parents, it was something I never would’ve done.
But apparently tequila was a much more powerful motivator than a positive pregnancy test.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been excited about Christmas. Usually I tried to go away somewhere for the holidays only so I wouldn’t have to be reminded that only normal people got to celebrate with their families, but this year I was normal and I was anxious for it to start. Sookie had transformed the house into something out of a Norman Rockwell painting and I had to keep reassuring her that I didn’t mind every time she apologized for wanting to pick up just one more thing. I loved coming home and finding something new that she’d gotten, whether it was a snowman, a reindeer, or Santa Claus himself, but I didn’t want to give voice to my inner pussy and gush over just how giddy I felt inside seeing them. I remembered the feeling back when I’d first gotten out of the hospital, but it was even truer now; Sookie had made the house a home and I loved her for it.
My father had never been one to do much for Christmas. I’d get the odd gift on Christmas morning when I was younger, but it was never really anything special. Celebrating in my household just meant he’d get to the bottom of whatever bottle was in his hand, but all of that was in the past. Now I had a real family; one I wanted to spend the holidays with and no longer had to worry about whatever fucked up mood he’d be in.
Now I even had a real Christmas tree.
Sookie had fought with me over it when we went shopping for one the weekend before Gran and Jason would be flying out, saying the one I wanted was way too big, but she was at least gracious enough to admit I was right once we got it home. The rooms in our home were much bigger than the ones in the farmhouse she’d grown up in, so it didn’t look like it belonged in Paul Bunyan’s house like she’d snarked at the Christmas tree lot while eying me from head to toe.
I wasn’t THAT fucking tall.
And while I was looking forward to having Gran and Jason visit over the holidays, the only downside was that I couldn’t arbitrarily strip Sookie of her clothes and have my way with her whenever and wherever I wanted to. I still couldn’t get enough of her and the two of us having sex was almost a natural state of being anymore. We’d even managed to train Pam to actually fucking wait for someone to let her into the house instead of just barging in like she normally did. I considered it good practice for parenting for when the Bean got here because if we could train Pam then how hard could a kid be?
Maybe I’d make an okay dad after all.
I’d managed to set up a couple of surprises for Gran and Jason, but I wasn’t too sure how Sookie would react to them so I decided to go with the mantra that it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission and didn’t tell her. If anything I figured the high of having her family visit would outweigh the need she might feel to do me bodily harm when she found out and she wouldn’t prematurely make herself a widow.
One could hope.
We would need to leave for the airport as soon as she got home and I’d made sure to clean up after myself all day long after she’d spent the night before in a tizzy cleaning the house. I knew now when Hormonal Sookie was in charge of my normally sweet and loving wife just by looking at her, so I knew better than to suggest a cleaning service again, but that was one of the things I was hoping Gran would help me convince her of when she got here and actually saw the size of the house. However I’d also noticed how she always seemed to be in a better mood after smelling the lemon scented cleaner she seemed to prefer, so I’d made sure to spray a few strategic spots she’d have to pass by on her way through the house when I saw her coming up the driveway.
My ploy worked because while she barked, “Eric! Why is there a limo out front?” her face was back to being serene as soon as she inhaled.
Did they make lemon scented men’s cologne?
“Why aren’t you dressed?” she asked without waiting for a reply to her first question.
I wasn’t sure my lemon scented blitzkrieg would work once she saw the limo, so I’d made sure to be standing in nothing more than my low rise jeans and an unbuttoned shirt knowing how much the sight of my bare chest sidetracked her. I’d had to up my workouts with Tray at the gym for the upcoming movie and while I wasn’t adding much more mass, the muscles I had were becoming more defined and, according to my Sookie Sensor, much more distracting, so I put a little swagger into my gait as I walked towards her slowly buttoning up my shirt and answered, “The limo is so we don’t have to wait for parking at the airport.” I omitted the other reasons why and probably could’ve recited the phone book and Sookie would’ve never known, just like she didn’t know I was smirking at her since she couldn’t take her eyes off of my chest. I wished we had more time so I could strip for her instead, but one look at the clock told me we needed to go, so as soon as the last button was done I tilted her chin up and put my lips against hers, saying, “We should go.”
My ploy worked a little too well because Sookie’s hands snaked up my front and started undoing the buttons of my shirt as she said, “They won’t be landing for a couple of hours,” while kissing every new inch of skin she uncovered.
She was distracting in her own right and I grabbed onto her hands while backing away, saying, “Umm…I changed their flight, so they’re arriving sooner.” It seemed like a good fucking idea at the time, but now I wanted to kick my own ass. You’d think I’d have built up some sort of tolerance where Sookie was concerned. We’d had sex more times than I could count, but it seemed no amount was enough. The more I had her, the more I craved her.
What the fuck was I going to do when I had to go away on location and be without her for weeks?
I didn’t want to think about that now, so I quickly re-buttoned my shirt and grabbed her hand, leading her out of the house and into the waiting limo, before she could get her wits about her again and on the way to the airport I explained that I’d gotten them a direct flight to L.A. from Shreveport so Gran wouldn’t have to travel for as long, while omitting the details that may or may not turn Sookie into the subject of a future Dateline special:
When Pregnant Wives Lose Their Shit and Kill Their Well-Meaning Husbands.
Since I didn’t want to tempt either one of us by distracting her further with any nakedness, I used the holiday instead and asked her if she was sure she had everything she’d wanted to get. She’d been making list after list for weeks and my plan worked with her verbally ticking off item after item all the way until we pulled up to the airport.
When the car came to a stop and the driver opened our door for us, Sookie finally took a look around and asked, “Why are we getting out here?”
We weren’t pulled up outside of the Arrivals section and instead were in another part of the airport where the private planes landed, so after we got out of the car, I answered, “Because this is where Gran and Jason are coming in.” There were no direct flights from Shreveport to L.A., unless of course you flew on a private jet, and I knew the hours spent on a plane along with getting to a connecting flight would take a toll on Gran, so I’d made a few calls. It also helped that we would be able to avoid the paparazzi circus this way, so while the expense of chartering the jet was a tad more expensive than two first class tickets, it was worth it.
Sookie was no dummy and of course noticed the private plane pulling up right away, so she turned to me and glared, “Eric Northman! What did you do?”
I knew she’d be upset over it with what she would consider something like this as being too extravagant, which was why I didn’t tell her about it beforehand. And I tried to keep that in mind, but even knowing my actions were likely to anger her, a part of me was slightly pissed off as well. It was bad enough she wouldn’t let me replace that ridiculous car of hers yet, but I was getting tired of having to justify my every action and I really fucking hoped she didn’t pull that shit when she found out what I’d gotten her for Christmas. It took me forever to finally come up with the one thing I could remember her saying she wanted and I was excited about giving it to her, but seeing her glaring up at me now had me worried what her reaction was going to be, so my tone was a little harsher than I’d meant it to be when I answered, “I chartered a private flight so Gran wouldn’t be stuck on two different planes for hours on end. Now she won’t be stuck trying to get through a throng of cameramen at the public terminals. Now we can just collect their bags in peace and be on our way back home. She’s my family too!”
I was sure there would be tears or yelling or a combination of the two and only hoped it would be over with by the time Gran and Jason disembarked, but Sookie surprised me once again because instead she just stared back at me for another split second before cocking her eyebrow up and shoving her hand down the back of my jeans. I knew she liked my ass (but I didn’t believe for a second it was her favorite body part of mine no matter what she claimed) and before I could question her motives, she said, “Huh…you’re going commando and yet I could’ve sworn your panties were all kinds of twisted up in there.”
She flashed me a smile while I rolled my eyes and then she leaned up for a kiss, saying, “Thank you for being so sweet. I’m sure Jason loved it and you can just deal with Gran all by yourself when she gets off the plane while I hide behind the Bean.”
Sookie had to have taken after someone and on some level I knew the Gran-factor of this plan falling to shit existed, but surely she wouldn’t be that upset. Would she? I didn’t think taking off my shirt would work with her, so I just shrugged my shoulders in response and hoped if she was really that upset maybe Jason would do something really stupid and draw her ire away from me.
And if I got too desperate I could always ask him about Shitter.
Sookie had yet to remove her hand from the back of my pants and I had yet to spot a dark corner I could drag her off to while we were waiting, but it was only a moment later when our little bubble was invaded with an overenthusiastic Jason running up to us, exclaiming, “Hot damn brother! You sure don’t do nuthin’ small, do ya.”
Sookie gave my ass one final squeeze and withdrew her hand as she turned and hugged him, saying, “Nothing about Eric is small.”
I laughed at his ‘eww’ face, but my smile disappeared when I heard for the second time that night, “Eric Northman!”
Would it be a pussy move if I threw my pregnant wife into the path of her angry grandmother so I could make a swift getaway?
At first I thought Sookie had the same idea and was being a martyr only to frown when I realized she was just giving Gran a hug and not actually putting her life down for mine, so I squared my shoulders and waited for my whoopin’ from the elderly woman now in front of me. “You!” she barked with her finger poking me squarely in my chest, “put up way too much of a fuss for an old lady and her baggage, but I must say I’ve never felt more like royalty in my entire life.” She pulled my stunned face down closer to hers and placed a kiss on my cheek, adding, “Thank you.”
Yep. Sookie took after her Gran alright. Surprises and all.
The rest of the night passed by in a Sookie and Gran chatter filled blur with Jason and me as their spectators. Gran loved our house and my hopes got raised when after the tour ended she looked at Sookie incredulously, asking, “You clean this all by yourself?” I could tell Sookie wanted to get huffy, but wouldn’t dare do so with the woman that raised her, so I felt brave enough to throw in the idea of a cleaning service again before I hastily retreated. Jason’s only complaint that night was that there weren’t any paparazzi hanging around to take his picture since we’d been in a private hangar.
He’d bought new sunglasses ‘an e’erythang!’
Which was how I got roped into agreeing to take him to Joan’s On Third (aka Paparazzi Central) for brunch the following day. It used to be one of my favorite hangouts, but I hadn’t been there at all since I’d been with Sookie and hoped the fact it was Christmas Eve day would mean it wouldn’t be as crowded. When we got there I saw the exact opposite was true and any other time I would’ve left because it just wasn’t worth the hassle, but I decided I could stand it for a couple of hours to appease Jason’s curiosity figuring it was a hell of a lot better than introducing him to any of my former ‘lady friends‘ which was what he really wanted. I thought I’d be brooding and annoyed the entire time we were there, especially since Sookie and Gran stayed home not wanting any part in what Sookie called our ‘maiden excrement adventure’, but I’d forgotten how much fun I had with Jason. I found myself thoroughly entertained watching him preen in front of the cameras and didn’t even balk when he asked if we could sit at one of the tables outside. We caught up with each other’s lives and I thanked him again for his part in helping me with Sookie’s Christmas present, but the biggest laugh I had was on the drive back home.
“So,” I asked him, “was it everything you thought it would be?”
“That shit is fan-fucking-tastic!” he smiled. “I don’t know what you and Sook are bitchin’ about. It’s kinda nice bein’ popular like that.”
“Can you imagine having that follow you everywhere you go? People making up stories based on what they see and nothing more, no matter what the actual truth is?” I knew it could look glamorous, but it really fucking wasn’t.
Jason made a ‘pfft’ noise and waved his hand, saying, “Nah…who the hell cares what people think. I don’t!”
“That’s good,” I smiled, adding, “because it won’t be long before pictures of us get put on the internet. They’ll probably speculate that you’re my secret lover since you kept leaning over and whispering in my ear and then grinning like a fool.” He had been too, but I was actually fucking thankful at the time since he kept whisper asking me if I’d ‘slept with her too’ whenever another female passed within ten feet of us, until I finally snapped at him that rumors of my sexual heyday were greatly exaggerated and I hadn’t actually slept with every woman in the greater Los Angeles area.
It was more likely the number was probably closer to half.
Jason just looked horrified and I arranged a mock pout on my face and placed my hand on his knee, giving it a gentle squeeze as I said, “And then we fought.”
“Fuck you man!” he said, pushing my hand away while I laughed at him. “Gran didn’t raise no intolerant fuckers and I ain’t got nuthin’ against nobody, but if I lose out on gettin’ me a starlet piece a ass because e’erybody thinks I want a piece a yours, I’m a gonna be pissed!”
We were pulling up to the gate by that point and, by chance, Sookie happened to be directly in front of us. Gran wasn’t with her, so I assumed she’d just run out for something, but I gestured to the bane of my garage ahead of us saying, “I don’t know why you’d be pissed. Your sister has no complaints about my ass. In fact, she claims it’s her favorite part.”
Sookie must have noticed us behind her because she turned and waved at us while Jason just cringed and stuck his fingers in his ears chanting, “La la la la la la,” over and over all the way until we pulled up to the house.
I was still laughing when Sookie came up to me, greeting me with a kiss and saying, “I had to run to the store to pick up some stuff Gran wanted to go with dinner tomorrow night.” Seeing his sister had automatically tucked her hand into the back pocket of my jeans just made Jason avert his eyes and his ‘la la la’ volume increase making Sookie ask, “What’s his problem?”
I was about to launch into the story of how all Stackhouses were in love with my ass when I noticed the car parked in front of the house. Sookie’s eyes were drawn to it too and since her hand was in my back pocket she got dragged along with me as I made a beeline for the front door, making her trot a little, asking, “What’s wrong? Whose car is that?”
I was already throwing open the front door about to answer her when Gran’s voice called out, “Sookie? Eric? Is that you?”
She didn’t sound particularly distressed, but I still practically ran into the kitchen with Sookie hot on my heels where we both skidded to a halt. I heard Sookie gasp next to me and my glare remained on the back of the head seated at the kitchen table across from Gran when she warmly said, “There you two are! I was just saying you all would be back any minute and once we were properly introduced I insisted he should just have a seat and wait. We’ve just been talking about how excited we are about the baby.”
Jason came into the room with his fingers still in his ears, but I assumed everyone could sense the tension coming from me and Sookie because he just looked from us to our new guest and when no one said anything, his patience reached an end with him walking forward and thrusting his hand out, saying, “Hey there. I’m Jason Stackhouse, Sookie’s brother. And you are?”
“My father,” I answered curtly. “He’s my father.”
No matter how many times either one of us had wished it wasn’t true.
Jason’s grin just got wider as did Gran’s, but that was only because they didn’t know what a special brand of asshole was sitting there. Sookie had kept my childhood secrets between her and I and I’d just been vague about my parents when Gran had asked before, not wanting to get into it all. It was done. Over. There was no reason to dwell on it now, especially since he was no longer a part of my life, but I should’ve known better. The news of Sookie’s pregnancy was surely his reason for being here if only so he could berate me for not learning from his mistakes.
Of course, ME being the mistake.
But I had learned from his mistakes. I learned exactly what I shouldn’t do to be a good father, but on a positive note; at least I saw no signs of an over-processed bottle blond attached to his dick or an empty vodka bottle in his hand.
It was a truly Christmas miracle.
He finally turned to face me and the last thing I wanted was to cause a scene in front of Gran, so I quickly said, “Why don’t we step outside to talk?” The words were barely out of my mouth when I felt Sookie’s hand grip the back of my shirt. Given our past run ins I knew she was worried, but short of telling him to get the fuck out in front of her family, there was nothing else I could do to, well…get him the fuck out.
He looked just as apprehensive as me, which was an odd look for him, and he’d had yet to say a word, but I felt relieved when he nodded silently and stood up before turning and facing Gran, saying, “It was a pleasure to meet you Adele. I hope you enjoy your visit.”
If there was ever a time in my life when I’d worn a ‘What the fuck?’ look, it was certainly now. I’d seen my father turn on the charm before; I’d seen him blow up more times than I cared to remember; I’d seen him completely indifferent to everything and everyone around him, but if I didn’t know any better I’d say he was humble.
Maybe this was all just a dream and I was actually still in a coma?
I didn’t like that idea at all so I pinched myself and then just to be sure I reached behind me and pinched Sookie since she was closest. Her answering, “Oww!” along with a soft jab to my back told me I was awake.
Thank fuck for that.
Gran stood up and I stifled the urge to pull her back when she leaned over and hugged him, saying, “Don’t you talk to me like this is the only time we’ll be seeing each other. You’re coming for Christmas dinner tomorrow and that’s the end of it.”
He glanced at me quickly and then looked back at Gran and before I could protest he smiled at her and replied, “Well, I’ll talk to Eric and we’ll just play it by ear.”
Huh…I could’ve sworn this was the Hollywood Hills, but apparently I was smack dab in the middle of the fucking Twilight Zone.
I watched my father walk towards us while listening hard for Rod Serling’s voice, but heard only my father’s voice as he said softly to Sookie, “Congratulations on the baby,” as he moved passed her. When I turned around she looked just as shocked as I felt, so I kissed her forehead telling her I’d be right back and followed him outside.
I had no idea of what to say to him because while he looked just like my father it was obvious to me that he’d been taken over by alien body snatchers and after standing around in silence for several minutes, I finally took a seat next to him on the front steps and waited. After a few more minutes of silence he finally said, “You look happy.”
His tone of voice was missing the usual sneer that normally accompanied such a remark, instead sounding wistful, and I turned to him wondering what his end game was. My expression must have mirrored my wariness because he chuckled, adding, “Well, you don’t look happy right now, but I’ve seen pictures of you online and in the news over the last couple of months.” His eyes met mine as he said, “You look happy.”
“I am,” I answered.
I’m also very confused right now.
His piercing gaze was a little disconcerting. He rarely ever looked into my eyes, but now it was like he couldn’t look anywhere but them. It wasn’t until I finally blinked and looked away that he said, “She seems good for you,” making me look at him again. “Sookie,” he clarified.
I couldn’t help feeling like I was being set up for one of his tirades and I wasn’t about to listen to him bash my wife or my life, so I finally gritted out, “What do you want? Why are you here?”
Instead of answering my questions he looked away again and seemed to steel himself before admitting, “I loved her, you know… Your mother.”
No. No I didn’t fucking know because he never talked about her. Ever. And it only made me wonder more about where this conversation was headed when he continued, “I always loved her. From the moment I laid eyes on her I was hooked. I proposed to her on our second date and every date after that, but it wasn’t until she was pregnant with you that she finally said yes.”
His voice was so low now that I had to strain to hear him, but there was no mistaking it when he admitted, “We were happy too.”
I couldn’t believe he was telling me all of this now when I’d spent my whole life knowing better than to ask any questions, afraid of his response. I wanted to ask questions now. Nothing he was saying made any sense. Those few short months I’d gotten to know my mother she’d said he was overbearing; a control freak, but ultimately even she’d admitted it was her own demons that drove her away from us.
As if he could read my mind, he said, “Your mother had issues. I knew that going in, but I always thought that I could somehow fix what was broken inside of her. I know now that I couldn’t, but I thought I could at the time. She got better for a while when she was pregnant with you, but once you were born she went back to that place inside of herself I could never seem to pull her out of. When she left us I was so fucking hurt that I didn’t know how to even fix myself, but I had you to take care of. She always dreamt of being a movie star and I thought that if I could get you into show business; get her to see that we were living the life she’d always wanted that she might come back to us. But she didn’t. Hell, maybe she couldn’t. But every time I look at you I see her eyes. I took a lot of my pain out on you because of it and for that, I’m sorry.”
I was too stunned to say anything. He’d never apologized to me before for anything and from everything he’d just said this was the mother of all apologies. Since all I could do was gape at him in return, he pulled his hand out of his pocket and placed two coins into my hand, saying, “I’ve been sober for two months now.”
I looked down and saw I was holding two 30 day sobriety medallions. It was another first from him. Claims of cleaning up his act were never part of his repertoire; that was my mother’s shtick, but I was still leery with part of me wondering if he’d ordered them off of the internet.
“I take it you’re up to step nine?” I asked, having been through my own twelve step program.
“Yeah, step nine,” he agreed. Both of us sat there for a while with nothing more said between us. My mind was reeling and while I wasn’t upset with the information he was giving me, I wished the timing would’ve been better. I didn’t want to be sitting outside knowing Sookie was inside worrying herself to death, but I couldn’t make myself tell him to leave.
Instead I asked, “Why now?” Why tell all of this to me now? Why get sober now? Why not do it back when it might’ve made a difference in my life?
He just shrugged saying, “It was time. You seemed to have gotten yourself straightened out and it made me want to straighten my own self out.” He stood up a moment later and looked down at me saying, “I don’t expect you to forgive me. You had a pretty shitty life thanks to me, so I don’t deserve it, but I just wanted you to know that I am sorry.”
I stood up too, still not knowing what I wanted to say. It was too much to process right now, but as he turned to leave he stopped again, reached towards his back underneath his jacket and pulled something out. When he handed it to me my jaw fell open.
The Whale’s Song book.
“You had it?” I asked, adding, “All this time?”
He just shrugged again, saying, “At the time, I didn’t want you getting your hopes up that she’d come back, so after a while I stored it away.”
He knew? He knew that whole fucking time?
My expression must have said as much because he smiled while shaking his head and said, “You don’t know how many rose bushes I had to replace for that old biddy that lived next door to us thanks to you and your nighttime botanical raids.”
Nope. Apparently there were a lot of things I didn’t know.
But I wanted to.
He was halfway to his car when I called out, “Dinner is at six tomorrow.”
He stopped in his tracks and looked back at me for a moment before nodding and getting into his car. As he drove away I heard the door open behind me and felt Sookie’s presence before her arms had a chance to hug me from behind.
“Are you okay?” she asked. I could only nod in reply and she moved to my side and saw the book in my hands making her ask, “Is that the book? He brought it back to you?”
I could only nod again and instead wrapped my arms around her breathing in her scent while wondering just how much my father and I were actually alike. While I couldn’t remember meeting Sookie, I must have felt something strongly enough to want to marry her within just hours no matter how much liquor I’d consumed that night. How would I feel if she left me to raise the Bean all by myself? A constant reminder of what I’d lost staring back at me every day. I would hope I’d be able to cope better, but hopefully I’d never know for sure because it wouldn’t happen if I had anything to say about it.
As we made our way back inside, I placed the book onto the table in the foyer and stacked the two sobriety medallions on top of it. That book had always been my source of hope that I might one day get my mother back, but looking at it now a small part of me wondered if maybe I’d had it wrong all along.
Maybe it just might get me my father back instead.