I carried my cup of coffee out onto the deck and leaned against the railing as I watched the sun rising over the horizon. I listened to the waves lap against the hull below. No matter which direction I turned, all I could see was the vast Indian Ocean water for miles. I couldn’t believe how differently my life had turned out than what I had always imagined it would be when I was a young girl.
I grew up in a small town in northern Louisiana and had never had any thoughts about leaving it. I imagined I would grow up, get married, and have a house full of children with a white picket fence. I met my best friend when I was seven years old. I was walking home from school one September afternoon, my new home now that I was living with Gran. My parents had died the previous summer in a freak storm that carried their car into the river in a flash flood. I had become very quiet and withdrawn after their death and some of the other kids exploited my weakness by picking one me whenever they got the chance knowing I wouldn’t fight back. I was a less than a mile away from the farmhouse when I heard them taunting me from behind.
“HEY! There’s Crazy Sookie! Where are you going Crazy Sookie? It’s not like you have parents waiting for you at home!”
I turned my head slightly and saw three older boys from school all laughing their heads off. I felt the tears well up in my eyes and I quickened my step to try and put more distance between us. I could hear their footsteps falling faster behind me and I broke into a run to get away from them when I was suddenly being pulled to the ground. The leader of the group had grabbed onto the backpack that was strapped to my shoulders causing me fall into the sandy gravel road. I felt the rocks tear into my knees and the sting of the blood seeping out of my new wounds, tears falling down my face as I began to sob in earnest.
As he began to tug harder at my backpack I instinctively gripped the straps harder in an attempt to keep it away from him. When he became frustrated I watched as he pulled his foot back behind him and I closed my eyes and curled my arms and legs into my body to protect myself from the oncoming kick. He never got the chance. I felt when he had let go of my backpack and heard his body hit the ground. I opened my eyes to see him lying on his back with my savior straddling him beating his face into a bloody mess, the other two boys frozen in the spot they were standing on.
I recognized my savior as the new boy that had just moved to town a month earlier. I had seen him in church with his parents. They had become the talk of the town, their notoriety due only to the fact that the town was so small and the last time anyone had moved to Bon Temps without any family ties to the area was in the 1940’s.
I watched as he got up off the bully and dusted himself off. Looking first at the two frozen statues and then back down at the crying bully he said, “You WILL leave her alone from now on or else you’re going to have to deal with me.” They looked back at him, nodding their heads and then the three of them took off running back the way they came.
He walked over to me and knelt down asking, “Are you okay?” I nodded and he helped me stand up. I cried out at the unexpected pain in my knee as I tried to put my weight on it, not realizing I had twisted it in my fall. He studied me for a second before holding out his hand. “Give me your backpack.” I let it slide down my arms and handed it over to him. He then turned his back to me and squatted down. Looking back over his shoulder he said, “Jump on.” He carried me piggy back all the way to the farmhouse and we were inseparable from then on.
Eric Northman was my first and only true love. He was two years older than me, but it didn’t matter to either one of us. His family had moved to Bon Temps when his father retired from the Navy. They had lived all over the world and his mother wanted him to finally have roots and figured living in a small town would give him that. He had issues with his father who seemed like a tough disciplinarian and had high expectations for Eric when it came to his schoolwork and athletic abilities. Over time I had learned that Eric’s father was gone for the majority of his life before retiring and moving to Bon Temps having been away at sea. Now that he was back Eric wanted to please his father so he studied hard never getting anything but straight A’s every marking period and trained his body with daily runs, weight lifting and swimming.
We were best friends until the summer before I started high school when he asked me to be his girlfriend. I was overjoyed. I always knew he wanted to join the Navy, like his father, but I guess I had never thought about what that would mean for us. Eric graduated from high school as the valedictorian and had already enlisted in the Navy that spring. He was leaving for basic training at the end of August and we spent every day of the summer before my junior year of high school together. The week before he was due to leave he told me that he thought it would be best for us to not be a couple any more once he was gone. We both cried a lot during that conversation but I understood his reasoning. He knew firsthand what family life was like for those in the Navy. He also knew of my dream of the house full of kids and a white picket fence and thought he couldn’t give that to me while he was in the military. He wanted me to have a chance to fulfill that dream, even if it couldn’t be with him. The night before he left for good I snuck out and met him down by the lake. Regardless of whether or not we would ever find our way back to each other we each wanted the other to be our ‘first’. We made love on a blanket underneath the stars and it was perfect.
We wrote letters back and forth for a while, but over time his letters came further and further apart until they just stopped coming all together. I think he knew I would never really let him go so he pulled himself away. His parents ended up getting divorced a year after he was gone and they both moved away so I had no idea how his life progressed after that.
That was almost twenty years ago. I ended up going to Tulane University and getting my undergraduate degree in Community Health Sciences. I earned my Master’s through the Master’s International Program with the Peace Corps. After completing three semesters of course work I travelled to Mozambique in Africa where I finished my degree in the form of writing a thesis on my volunteer work there.
After I returned to the States I ended up working for the World Health Organization out of their New York office. I’ve been all over the world helping the impoverished and sick citizens of many third world countries. I never did get my house full of kids or a white picket fence, although I came thisclose to getting married once. Bill worked for the WHO as well and we held many of the same beliefs. I had gone home to visit Gran about a month before the wedding and after a long discussion with her I came to the conclusion that while I loved Bill, I wasn’t in love with him. We’d been together for two years and I knew deep down I was only with him because he was ‘safe’. I went back to New York and after another long discussion with Bill we called off the wedding. He ended up marrying another WHO employee, Judith, and they have two kids now. Seeing them together I knew that’s who he was meant to be with, not me. My soul mate was somewhere out there in the world, more than likely on a battleship or a submarine.
And now, here I am, on a cargo ship sailing around the Horn of Africa on our way to Mozambique bringing much needed medical supplies and humanitarian aid. I’ve been on a few of these missions and always got such joy when I was helping someone firsthand that I always volunteered when I could. I was making my way back to the galley when I heard the first burst of gunfire.
God it was hot out today. We had a much needed day off after running training drills for the last fourteen days straight here in Manda Bay, Kenya. The rest of my team was scattered all around me. We’re officially the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group commonly known as the DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six, the US Navy’s secretive tier-one Counter Terrorism and Special Mission Unit. Because of the nature of our missions we need to be able to blend in with civilians. We don’t maintain the military haircuts and can grow our hair and beards long and rarely put on a uniform. We don’t salute or address each other by rank, using first names or nicknames instead. They call me ‘Viking’ because they claim I look like Thor with my tall frame and blond hair that’s long enough the brush against my shoulders.
I’ve been on a SEAL Team for the majority of my naval career. Going through all of the training to become a SEAL was daunting, to say the least, but it definitely weeded out the ones that couldn’t survive the things we needed to do. Especially hell week where we trained for five days straight with less than four hours of sleep the entire time. Seventy to eighty percent fail the initial course and it only gets harder from there. We train continuously and are away for months at a time.
None of the men in my platoon, myself included, have much of a personal life. The ones that had been married aren’t any longer which only cements my decision all of those years ago to let Sookie go. I haven’t been in a relationship since then. I haven’t necessarily been celibate, but I doubted anyone could live up to my ‘Sookie Standards’. She ruined me for all other women. I often wondered how she was doing, how many kids she had. I’d heard a few years ago that she was getting married, and while it hurt like hell, I was still happy for her that her dreams were becoming a reality. She deserved having all of her dreams coming true.
My thoughts were interrupted by my approaching AOIC (Assistant Officer in Charge). He proceeded to tell us that two days ago an American cargo ship had been attacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean on the Horn of Africa. The crew managed to fight them off, but the pirates managed to get away with one of the American civilians on the ship’s 25 foot covered lifeboat and were demanding a ransom.
The USS Bainbridge responded to the scene from over 300 miles away, but the pirates weren’t cooperating. We packed our gear and scrambled to a waiting plane at a nearby private airstrip. We flew to within 10 miles of the scene and parachuted down into the ocean where we were picked up by the USS Halyburton which was on its way to join the Bainbridge. Under the cover of darkness we left the Halyburton and boarded the Bainbridge which had managed to talk the three pirates into allowing them to attach a line to the lifeboat which had run out of fuel and was low on food and water. The hostage had been with them for three days by then. We got the okay from the President to use deadly force if it appeared the hostage’s life was in eminent danger. All I knew was that it was an American female civilian. I never wanted the particulars in this type of situation because I found it to be too distracting. I didn’t want to think of them as someone’s daughter or sister because the odds were that this wasn’t going to turn out well for them and it would be all that much harder to move on mentally to the next mission.
Three of our team had camouflaged themselves and their sniper rifles in the same gray color of the Bainbridge’s deck and belly-crawled to the fantail where they took up their positions. They could see through one of the port holes of the lifeboat with their scope that the hostage had been blindfolded with her arms tied behind her. One of the pirates held an AK47 pointed at her back. We took that as ’eminent danger’ and put our plan to get her back in motion.
The three snipers held their position through the night and kept watch with night vision gear as the Bainbridge slowly towed the lifeboat closer closing the distance to within 40 yards. Myself, and two others of my platoon slipped into the water in our scuba gear and silently made our way to the lifeboat. When I was close enough I emerged high enough out of the water to toss a bottle cap onto the lid of the hatch and heard it bounce off of the door and scatter down to the deck. I submerged underneath the water again as the hatch door opened and two of the pirates looked out to see what the cause of the noise was. It created the opportunity we were hoping for when the three snipers volleyed three shots simultaneously, killing all three pirates.
I heard the hostage scream out as I pulled myself into the lifeboat seconds later. The bodies of all three pirates were sprawled out and I had just enough room to get inside. The pirate that had been holding the AK47 at the hostage’s back had fallen forward and had her pinned beneath his body as she struggled to right herself. I pulled him off while saying, “It’s okay. You’re safe now. We’re here to rescue you.”
She was crying and shaking like a leaf. Her clothing was ripped and covered in the pirate’s blood. I squatted down in front of her saying, “I’m going to remove your blindfold.” Hooking my fingers underneath the dirty fabric I slid it up and over her head and what I saw stopped my heart. My Sookie.
I heard the others boarding the lifeboat and the sound of the approaching motor boat but all I could do was stare at her with my mouth gaping open.
She had a look of disbelief on her face. “Eric?” As the realization hit her that she was going to be okay she started sobbing.
Oh my God. I wrapped my arms around her and held her tight as she cried into my chest. I cut her wrists free and her arms automatically wrapped themselves around me. We stayed like that for what felt like forever until I heard, “Viking. The boat’s waiting. Let’s get her outta here.”
She started chuckling into my chest. “Viking?” She looked up at me and my heart stopped again. She was even more beautiful than I remembered. The years had been kind to her and while I knew she was 35 she could’ve easily passed for her mid-twenties.
I put on my lopsided grin that she always loved and said, “Yeah, Viking. Come on, let’s get out of here.” I helped her out of the hatch and into the waiting rigid-hulled inflatable raft. We got back to the Bainbridge where she was greeted by the commander and the ship’s doctor. She refused to let go of my hand and I had no problem with that at all. I followed her to sick-bay and waited in a little sitting area while the doctor examined her privately. He came up to me when he was through saying he was going to go brief the commander but that she was asking for me.
I walked to the open doorway and found the room she had been in was empty. I could hear the shower running in the attached bathroom and I shut the door to her room and sat down in a chair to wait. I had slipped out of my scuba gear while I was waiting earlier and was now wearing only an Under Armor shirt and shorts. After a while I heard the water shut off and within a few minutes she walked out wearing the Navy PT t-shirt and shorts. Both were a little big for her but I’m sure she preferred it to what she had been wearing before. Her blonde hair was wet and dripping down her shoulders and her legs were long and tan. I could still see the scar on her knee that marked the beginning of ‘us’. She had a sad smile on her lips and her eyes were filled with tears as she walked towards me. I pulled her into my arms and she curled up into my lap with her head tucked under my chin just like she used to do.
I rocked her back and forth rubbing small circles on her back. I had been debating asking her the one question that superseded the other million questions I had for her, but I just had to know. Whispering so softly I wasn’t sure she’d hear me I asked, “Did they hurt you?”
I couldn’t bring myself to say the word ‘rape’ but she must have caught my meaning when she responded, “No, they didn’t touch me.” I breathed a sigh of relief. She pulled back to look at me. “What are the odds?” I knew what she was talking about. We hadn’t seen each other in nearly twenty years. How many people get abducted and held hostage by pirates thousands of miles away from home and are rescued by their first boyfriend?
I chuckled answering, “Pretty slim. What were you doing on a cargo ship in the Indian Ocean?”
She smiled saying, “I work for the World Health Organization out of New York. We were transporting medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to Mozambique. I hadn’t been back there since my Graduate studies and volunteered to go.”
I had no idea. I couldn’t help but look down at the ring finger of her left hand. She wasn’t wearing a ring, but that didn’t necessarily mean she wasn’t still married. I also noted there wasn’t a tan line there either. I had no right to ask, but I had to know.
“So, other than the last few days, how have you been? I heard a few years back that you were getting married. Did you get your white picket fence and house full of kids?”
She looked down and when her eyes met mine again I could see the sadness behind them. “No, no white picket fence or house full of kids. No husband either. We called it off a month before the wedding. I’ve been single ever since”
Seeing how sad she was I instantly felt like shit. Not getting married had obviously hurt her and I felt even worse for being happy that she was single. “I’m sorry. He was a fool to let you get away.” I looked her right in the eye before adding, “Trust me. He’ll regret it. I should know.”
“Actually it was my decision to end things. I realized he wasn’t the one for me.” She took a deep breath and then asked, “How about you? Wife? Girlfriend? Kids?” I watched as she squared her shoulders bracing herself for whatever answer I was going to give her. I felt absurdly happy inside thinking she might actually still have feelings for me.
I let a small grin cross my face answering, “No. No wife. No girlfriend. No kids.”
I looked at him still having a hard time believing he was actually here with me. I don’t know how it was allowed in the military but his hair had grown out and was secured in an elastic tie at the base of his neck. He’d gotten a little taller than I remembered and his chest and back were broader as well, but his body was still lean. I could see the cut lines framing every muscle in his chest and abs thanks to the skin tight Under Armor shirt he was wearing. His skin was golden brown indicating how much time he spent outdoors and his face had a day or two of scruffy whiskers. He was better looking than I thought was humanly possible. I don’t know if it was seeing him again after spending all of these years still pining away for him. I don’t know if it was living through the last few days thinking I was about to die. I don’t know if it was because he was hotter than two rabbits making babies in a sock and I hadn’t had sex in a few years but I closed the distance between us brushing my lips across his. His arms automatically tightened around me and when I slipped my tongue into his mouth he moaned back into mine.
Our kiss had started off tender and unhurried but as I felt his growing arousal underneath me I turned my body to straddle his lap and held his face to mine by weaving my fingers through his beautiful long locks of hair at the back of his head. I rubbed my heated center up and down his growing length as he broke our kiss and chewed his way down my jaw line to the spot behind my ear that he had discovered back in high school. It apparently still had the same effect now as it did then because I moaned while grinding down on him harder. I felt him smile against my neck as he continued to nip and lick his way down to my collarbone before pulling back to look at me.
He furrowed his eyebrows and asked, “Are you sure you want to do this? You’ve been through a lot in the last few days and I don’t want you to have any regrets later.”
I leaned further away from him saying, “I’ll regret it if we don’t do this” and pulled my t-shirt up and over my head. The doctor only had a t-shirt and shorts to give me so I wasn’t wearing a bra or underwear. I don’t know how it was even possible but I felt him grow even harder underneath me and he let out a small growl as his hands and mouth made their way to my breasts. As he swirled his tongue around one nipple he mimicked his actions with his fingers on the other. I slipped my hand down between us and pulled his erection free from the straining waistband of his shorts, pumping him with my hand. I’d never felt such heat before, either in my hand, or between my legs.
I could vaguely hear noises through the closed door farther down the hall and knew we didn’t have much time before someone would be coming to check on me. Since I had already taken matters into my own hand, so to speak, I merely pulled the crotch of my too big shorts to the side and placed him at my entrance before slowly lowering myself onto him. His breath hitched in his throat at my unexpected move and when he was fully sheathed inside of me I paused allowing us both to enjoy the sensations and feelings coursing through our bodies. He moved his hands to my hips and helped guide me up and down while his mouth took turns at each of my breasts. Our steady rhythm picked up speed and I could feel the pulling sensation in the pit of my stomach and knew I was close. I pulled his lips back to mine kissing him with the longing of every emotion that had built up over the last twenty years before smiling against his lips whispering, “I’m close Viking.”
He moved one of his hands from my hip and placed the pad of his thumb on my clit rubbing it in circles in time with our thrusts and my back arched as my orgasm ripped through my body. I made no sound as I had stopped breathing apparently unable to climax and breathe at the same time. Eric held onto my hips and lifted me up and down in two more hard thrusts and buried his face in between my breasts as he spilled deep inside of me. We stayed like that, wrapped up in each other, until the final twitches in our bodies had stopped.
My head had been resting on his shoulder in the crook of his neck enjoying the smell of his skin again. I had been missing it all of these years. I had been missing HIM all of these years. I finally sat up and we readjusted our clothing in case anyone came in. He pulled me back into my original spot on his lap. He used his finger to pull my face up to look at him. “I really missed you,” he said. I smiled thinking he must have been reading my mind.