“Has he moved from the room at all?” I asked without preamble, coming through the front door and dropping my things onto the floor. It was late and I was tired.
“Does going to the bathroom count?” Godric asked, managing to echo my worry in the sound of his voice.
“Not really,” I sighed, both out of concern and from the heavenly feel of the circulation returning to my toes as I slid off my high heels.
The price of beauty was paid for by the foot. Both of them.
But ever since Colonel Flood had dropped the werewolf bomb on us a month earlier, Eric had been paying the price of getting very little sleep and not much else for his sacrifice.
He worked. Nonstop.
He toiled the day and night away. Nonstop.
He railed and raged, sat and meditated, all for naught. At least, for now. Nonstop.
And while the fantastical – if not dangerous – puzzle he was trying to unravel was undoubtedly important, I couldn’t say it was worth his health.
Or his sanity.
“Has he made any progress?” I asked, letting my hope shine through in my voice. One that dissipated just as quickly with his negative response.
Something – anything – that would at least make him feel like he was making some headway would go a long way to getting him to take a break.
Something he hadn’t had in much too long.
A month to be exact.
While Eric didn’t like playing grown up, he was still responsible enough to oversee his business. It was something he took pride in, but his interest in nearly everything that didn’t involve Operation Werewolf had fallen by the wayside. I just didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until the department head for accounting had stopped by my – Eric’s – office earlier, near the end of the workday. Apparently Eric had been ignoring Bruce’s emails. Otherwise he would’ve known several of Northman Inc.’s accounts had been drained to the tune of three hundred thousand dollars – give or take – over the last month or so. It was a drop in the bucket compared to Eric’s overall wealth, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was that the company had a rat who was apparently taking it upon themselves to play while the king of the pride was away.
Away in his lab for the last month.
And it once again pissed me off for him. Bruce explained he checked and rechecked the ledgers, but couldn’t figure out where the money was disappearing to, so I took it upon myself to hire an outside forensic accounting firm to audit the company.
I’d find that rat and wring their goddamn neck.
But it was just one more sign Eric was slipping away from the human world. Even when he was at his most manic – for lack of a better word – he still took the time to go over the company’s business dealings. He may have blown off going to board meetings, but in reality there was nothing they could tell him that he wouldn’t already know going into it. He usually kept an eye on everything concerning Northman Inc., so his physical presence was more of a dog and pony show.
And Eric was neither a dog nor a pony. He was a stallion. Thoroughbred, of course.
He’d even forsaken his occasional takeout – a record drought so far as I could tell – but I’d be willing to traipse the entire line of Radio City Rockettes through the house if I thought it would do him any good.
The truth was something between us had changed. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it happened not so long after Flood had dropped the pile of wolf shit in Eric’s lap. In the last month, I’d been Eric’s only contact with the outside world and even though his mind was always on his work, we seemed to somehow grow closer in spite of it. He still chuckled at my jokes and flirted here and there, but when he looked at me it was…different.
Different but nice just the same.
I didn’t know what to think about that.
So I set it aside – again – and grabbed the other takeout I had no qualms bringing to him.
Making my ritualistic trek down the stairs to his lab, I nearly called out to him when I stopped myself in the nick of time.
Eric sat at his desk, his chin in one hand, while a pen precariously hovered over a piece of paper in the other. The floor surrounding him was littered with the crumpled up pieces of his self-proclaimed failures – just like his desk was littered with a hodgepodge of everything he’d been working on – but it was his eyes I was drawn to. More over the fact they were clearly nearing the end of fighting a losing battle with the Sandman.
Maybe next week Flood would stop by to tell us he was real too.
Just as his head nodded off to the side, he jerked upright again and his eyes sprang wide open. But seeing him reach for his stash of Red Bull, I finally made myself – and my worries – known, by entering the room and saying, “Uh uh. You need to go to bed and you’re going. Right now, mister.”
His lips quirked into a small smile, broken up by the yawn he couldn’t contain, until he eventually sighed out, “But mmooom, can’t I stay up for just a little longer?”
As near as I could tell, he’d been up for nearly two and a half days by that point and the last time he’d slept for more than three hours at any one given time had been well before Colonel Flood had ever darkened his door. He’d never been one to need much sleep, but this was pushing it, even by Eric standards. So I had no problem sounding like the nagging mom he claimed me to be when I marched over and grabbed his hand out from under his chin, pulling on it and saying, “No. I can’t carry your big ass up the stairs by myself and I’m not leaving you to catnap on your desk – again. So come on, Sleeping Beauty, let’s go.”
He was surprisingly strong for someone who barely ate or slept anymore and I gasped out loud when he pulled me back and lifted me to sit on the desk in front of him.
And I thanked baby Jesus I’d chosen slacks over wearing a skirt that day.
Still grinning at me, he slowly lowered his head onto my lap as he said, “I think it can only be called a catnap if I’m allowed to rest on your…”
“Eric!” I admonished before he could finish his sentence.
Lifting only his eyes towards me, they were full of mirth – among other things – when he asked, “You named your pussy Eric? I’m flattered.”
“You shouldn’t be,” I lied. “Eric Dane can take my internal temperature any time he wants.”
The truth was Eric Northman was one of the leading men in the all-star cast of my spank bank material, so it wouldn’t be the first time either set of my lips had cried out for him.
But we weren’t going there.
But there was something about the way he talked dirty to me that always made my girly bits stand up and take notice. I blamed my parents. The drunken trucker and dirty stripper pair, not the ones that raised me. But it was why I’d tried to head him off at the pass when I realized where his words were taking him.
Because those kinds of words always threatened to take my panties down with them.
“Dane?” he scoffed. “Why keep the company of dogs when you could have me?” he added sleepily.
Because I could never really have you.
Shut up crack baby love child!
I shook my head – not wanting to go there either – and ignored his question in favor of asking one of my own. Running my hand through his barely damp locks, I asked, “You showered?”
He didn’t smell funky, so that was a plus.
His head nodded, putting the right amount of pressure and friction where he had no business putting them, and said, “I’d hoped it would wake me up, but it seems to be having the opposite effect.”
Speaking of effects…
The heat from his breath was intermingling with the moisture I could feel spreading in between my legs and causing an inner tingling sensation in me. One I hoped to hide from him, so I leaned back onto one hand, hoping – like milk – the distance would do a body good, while attempting to sweep my hair around to rest over the front of my shoulder with the other, so it wouldn’t land in any of the petri dishes set up around me. And in doing so, just as I felt my earring come loose, we both heard the ‘tink’ sound as it landed.
Followed by the sound of sizzling?
Before I knew what was happening, Eric jerked up and slid my ass across his desk, looking for the source, when he suddenly stood up and grabbed my face in both of his hands.
For some strange reason, I thought he was going to kiss me.
And for some strange reason, I was disappointed when all he did was tilt my head from side to side and ask, “What is that? Silver? Platinum? White gold?”
“What?” I asked with confusion. “Are you quoting Justin Bieber lyrics?”
Because if this was some weird way of telling me as long as I loved him/proposal for him to be my boyfriend, then he was definitely delirious and I’d call in a doctor to medically knock his ass out if I had to.
“Look!” he exclaimed and jerked my head to the side with his hands still attached to my face, so I could see what all of the hubbub was about. My poor earring – a cheap flea market purchase I’d made my freshman year in college – was now smoking in one of the petri dishes.
“What is that?” I asked, lamenting over my sentimental loss since it looked ruined. “Are you playing with acid again?”
It was hard to tell what he’d had in there, but the icky-poo-kah-ness of it told me even if it wiped clean, it would never be gracing my earlobe again.
We had a mutual habit of ignoring each other’s question because that’s exactly what he did when he clarified his earlier question with, “What kind of metal are your earrings made of?”
“Silver!” I answered exasperatedly. “Why? What is that?”
His eyes lit up just as his lips descended on mine, but before I could process either one of those things, he pulled back just as quickly and exclaimed, “That is a breakthrough!”
I had a feeling he wasn’t talking about our first kiss. Not that I’d imagined what that would be like.
So I kept quiet, while I watched him pretend like his lips weren’t as soft as a cloud that made another set of my lips as volatile as a category 5 hurricane, but seeing him reenergize with this new discovery – whatever the fuck it was – made me put my foot down.
Both of them.
I slid off of the desk and onto my bare feet, saying, “No! Whatever it is you’re acting all giddy about can wait. You were falling asleep when I walked in here, so we’re going to follow through with that process first. You need your rest.”
“Sookie! I can’t sleep now! You don’t understand! That dish had a sample of werewolf blood in it. I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to think up different ways to test it because there’s nothing conventional about it. It’s reacted like any other blood would normally react, but its DNA is anything but normal. Part canine, part human, part something unidentifiable – except for the fact that it’s unidentifiable. And you – you genius girl – just gave me a something to go on!”
His high speed rambling left my head spinning, but in all honesty – I didn’t care. About werewolves or Tinkerbells or fucking bigfoot. All I cared about at the moment was that Eric was slowly but surely running himself into the ground. Thanks to his self-imposed solitude, his skin was paler than I’d ever seen before and I was done.
Showing him just how genius I was, I merely looked at him while calling out, “Godric?”
“Yes, Miss Stackhouse?” he replied.
Staring into Eric’s eyes with a challenging look, I declared, “Authentication code: Golf-Oscar-Oscar-Delta-November-India-Golf-Hotel-Tango. Operation Counting Sheep is now in effect.”
Eric looked confused and his confusion only grew when all of his electronic gadgets powered down. The lights dimmed, so we could still see enough to move around, but other than the central air and refrigeration units, for all intents and purposes the entire house was now suffering a Godric-made blackout.
“Sookie,” Eric hissed out warningly.
“Eric,” I hissed back, but it was sadly hindered by my victorious smile.
“Godric!” he yelled, choosing to ignore me instead. “Turn the power back on right now!”
Like Maker, like AI child, Godric ignored him and the sounds of a lullaby softly filtered into the room, making Eric look downright hostile when I snickered, but I didn’t care.
Or rather, I did care. Probably more than I should, but I wouldn’t let him continue to hurt himself – by not taking care of himself.
When he was done stomping around and tossing pens and paper around the room, he finally came to a stop right in front of me and calmly uttered, “You’re fired.”
“I’ll clean my desk out in the morning. After you’ve had a full night’s sleep,” I smirked.
After a five minute stare down, his shoulders eventually slumped in defeat, and he turned towards the stairs, pouting out, “I hate you.”
“That’s okay,” I chuckled, following along behind him. “Godric loves me.”
The melody to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star suddenly changed into Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, which I laughed nervously at, while thinking his choice in music was a really bad idea since we were heading into Eric’s bedroom by then. But Eric didn’t seem to notice and only said, “And that is why you’ll never be a real boy, Pinocchio. She’s mine.”
I silently watched Captain Caveman as he took off his t-shirt and stripped down to his boxers (with another thankful shout-out to baby Jesus from me that he was wearing them at all), but it was the fact he did it perfunctorily instead of like a striptease that told me he really was exhausted. I hadn’t yet been witness to the full monty, but I’d seen his bare ass on more than one occasion.
And what an ass it was.
While he crawled into his bed, I proceeded to pick up his dropped clothes as I teasingly reminded him, “You fired me, remember? So that means I’m up for grabby Godric hands.”
Perhaps taking my teasing a little too literally, he reached out and grabbed my arm as I made a grab for his t-shirt and said, “No. You’re mine, no matter what douchebaggery comes out of my mouth.”
The atmosphere in the room suddenly changed. It felt charged. Serious. More than I wanted to acknowledge, so I pretended I didn’t notice and smiled, admitting, “Well…you are a douchebag, so I guess it’s to be expected.”
Not even a lie.
He didn’t let go of me, nor did he smile. His only response was, “Stay.”
It was closing in on midnight, so I’d had no intention of driving home and informed him, “I am. I brought my bag in with me when I got here.”
I’d been staying over more often than not lately – worried about Eric – but this was the first time I’d actually managed to get him all the way into his room and into bed. It was why I’d come up with Operation Counting Sheep and convinced my invisible cohort to play along, no matter how mad Eric got.
Being Godric’s favorite had its benefits.
Eric gave my arm a tug, reminding me he was stronger than he looked, as he spelled it out by saying, “No, stay here.”
“What?” I nervously laughed again, hoping Godric could read my side-eyed glare and realize it was time to ix-nay on the sexin’ song still softly playing in the background.
Apparently Eric hadn’t taught him to speak side-eyed pig Latin.
“You know I’m dying to go back downstairs and I’ll work by candlelight if I have to, but if you’re here in my bed, then I doubt anything short of a Godzilla attack would get me to leave it.”
That was what I was worried about.
The Godzilla I suspected was lurking underneath his H&M boxers attacking.
My poor Tokyo wouldn’t stand a chance.
“I’ll tie you down,” I offered before my brain had a chance to catch up. I’d meant it only so he couldn’t leave the room, but of course – this was Eric I was talking to.
Chuckling, I could see his eyes darken in the darkened room, when he replied, “I only meant for us to snuggle, but if you had other ideas, then by all means – share them. Use dirty words while you’re at it.”
Shit? Damn? Hell? Mother fucker?
Those were some of the dirty words currently flitting through my brain.
And genius or not, I doubted he would understand the context if I mentioned my Tokyo.
Finally latching onto something that wouldn’t be taken out of context, I asked, “Snuggle? Since when does Eric Northman snuggle?”
The image was the equivalent of seeing Genghis Khan in a tutu.
While I’d cajoled many of his morning-afters from the house, the one thing I’d never been witness to was him interacting with them in any way. Not once had I ever even seen him flirt with another woman in my presence and not once did I ever find him in the same room with any of his conquests. More than once I’d found him asleep in his own bed, after coming across one of his dick dipping dalliances somewhere else in the house. But he never stayed with them – that I knew of – once he was done with them.
It probably helped me to keep in context what they meant – or didn’t mean – to him. But it also probably helped my feelings for him to slowly change in ways that they had no business changing into.
Yet another thing I didn’t want to think about.
“I like snuggling,” he admitted. “I just haven’t found anyone worth snuggling with, but you were made for it.” Pulling me closer, he ran his other hand over my hip and added, “Among other things.”
“We’re not having sex Eric.”
And I meant it.
No. There would be no giant lizard invading my Tokyo.
“Come on Sookie,” he yawned out. “Just get your ass in bed and shut up already. I’m too tired to launch a full out assault, but I’m not too tired to go back downstairs and work. Take your pick.”
Well, he did look snuggable with his hair all pushed up on his pillow. And he did recently shower, so he didn’t smell like a hobo. And since he really did need to stay in bed, I shrugged my shoulders and shrugged away the thought that no other woman got to sleep in his bed, as I tried to pull my arm free from his grip saying, “Fine. I just need to go get my bag.”
“If you take one step out of this room, I’ll go back downstairs,” he warned. Shaking my arm, that was still holding onto his t-shirt, he offered, “Just wear this.”
And since his t-shirt was grey – just like the area surrounding our relationship – I chose to believe I wasn’t admitting defeat by agreeing.
Once I was changed, with my face now scrubbed free of makeup, I crawled into his bed beside him. Awkward had no chance to join us – despite the small island he used as a mattress – because no sooner had my ass hit the sheets than his arm snaked around my middle and pulled my back against the front of his body.
Dear Baby Jesus, please keep his other snake from tempting me with his apples.
“Relax,” he whispered into my ear and caused shivers to run down my ramrod spine. Noticeable shivers because he added, “I won’t bite, unless you shimmy your ass against me like that again.”
What was the appropriate response here?
I decided to pretend I was Godrica and – like my AI twin – I didn’t understand his side-eyed pig Latin. Allowing myself to do as he said and relax, I sank even further back into him, and we both sighed in unison.
He was a really good snuggler.
And my last thought before I fell asleep was that he must have been telepathic because he whisper returned my unspoken sentiment, saying, “See? Made for snuggling.”
So I was sure I must have dreamt the part when I thought I heard him whisper add, “Made for me.”