THE Eric Northman?
Did my reputation really travel all the fucking way to Bon Temps?
I’d never even been to this town until today and up until I’d met Sookie, my only other connection to here had been Corbett.
And…apparently, Hoyt Fortenberry.
His apartment was directly across from mine and while we’d never exchanged more than a polite nod hello to one another, his mother was another story entirely. I remembered the day he’d moved in three years earlier and how she’d wept loudly at his door while he carried his moving boxes inside. She kept saying over and over again that he was too young to move out of his family home and, while he looked about my age, I only knew how old he really was when I’d made the mistake of leaving my apartment mid-weep and she’d grabbed onto my shoulders, saying, “Tell him! He’s only twenty-eight! That’s much too young to move away from home, don’t you think? How old are you?”
She quit talking to me and went back to weeping when I mumbled twenty-seven.
Over the years I’d interacted with her more than I had Hoyt since she stopped by on a daily basis making sure he had food to eat and even to do his laundry. Since she tended to stop by during the day, while he was at work, and I didn’t leave for work until later in the day, I tended to run into her a lot. Every time, she would quiz me like she was writing a thesis on my life and I’d found out early on it was just easier to answer her questions. She’d invited herself into my apartment more times than I could count and she didn’t even stop quizzing me after catching me ‘talking to myself’ down in the laundry room when I’d run into the former maintenance man.
He’d died two years earlier and the upkeep on the building had suffered ever since.
And even though she looked at me funny for it, it seemed her quest for information about my nonexistent love life and estranged parents superseded it, but it wasn’t until I found her in the hallway in a panic that she realized just how different I was.
Because she was dead and I could still see her.
After she got over her initial shock (and told me she always knew I was special) she was so frantic about not wanting Hoyt to be the one to find her dead in his living room that I ended up having to go into his apartment and loosen the gas line attached to his stove. I knew my other neighbors were out at work (which was why I was the only one to bear the brunt of her visits) and I called the fire department complaining that I could smell gas coming from the door. They were the ones to find her instead of Hoyt and he’d been guilt ridden until her autopsy results came back with her cause of death being a heart attack.
An autopsy I couldn’t finish quickly enough thanks to her yelling at me that she wanted a female pathologist and for me to quit staring at her naked body.
I was still haunted by the images from that day and it wasn’t from her ghostly image either.
“Eric? Can I speak to you for a moment in private please?” Sookie asked timidly.
It felt like a punch to my gut knowing she couldn’t even bear the thought of getting through dinner before giving me the heave ho, but I really couldn’t blame her and tried to look unaffected as I agreed, “Sure.”
We’d already eaten a fair portion of our meals before everything went to shit and I stood up when Sookie did, but as I followed her out of the room Corbett got right up next to me whispering, which would have made me laugh if I wasn’t about to be crushed by his daughter, at the absurdity of it since I was the only one that could hear him. “Tell her you have to go to the bathroom first.”
Fuck him. It was all HIS fault that she couldn’t stand to be around me anymore.
After the performance he’d put on making me look like an insane asshole, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with him and I was sure my look said exactly that because he added, “If you don’t, I’ll sing The Star Spangled Banner the whole time and you won’t hear a word she says. The. Whole. Time.”
If only I could punch him…
I didn’t doubt him either. It had been one of his torture techniques that made me eventually agree to talk to Flood after he’d been murdered, so I stopped walking and said, “Sookie? Do you mind if I use the restroom first?”
I really just wanted to get it over with; all of it. I wanted to go back home and sulk in private, but I knew I had to hear them both out before I’d get to do that and when she turned to me looking more nervous than I’d ever seen her before, I guessed she wanted me to be gone too, but was too nice to say so and agreed, “Sure. It’s through that door,” gesturing to a door on the right, adding, “I’ll just wait for you out on the porch.”
Sookie turned on her heels and practically ran out the front door while I walked into the bathroom. Corbett walked in through the closed door as soon I’d shut it, saying, “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry?” I whispered harshly. “What in the fuck were you doing? Why would you do that to me when all you’ve talked about for years was how good she’d be for me? How good I’d be for her?”
He ran his hands through his hair, saying, “I know and I still think that, but momma was about to spill something that you should hear from Sookie.”
“What?” I asked a little louder than I’d meant to. “What are you talking about? All she’s about to tell me is that I’m a weird fucker and to get the hell out thanks to you.”
Maybe Hoyt had heard from his mother how strange I was and he’d told Mrs. Stackhouse who then told her grandchildren and Sookie had forgotten about it until she’d heard Hoyt’s name mentioned…
“No she’s not!” he practically shouted. “I know my baby girl and I guaran-damn-tee you that she’s out there chewing through her bottom lip over what she’s about to say to you. All’s I’m asking is that you hear her out. I know you see dead people and all, but I want you to keep in mind that everybody grieves differently when they lose someone they loved, so I don’t want you to think badly of her. She’s a good girl.” His eyes were both apologetic and stern at the same time, but I couldn’t make sense of anything he’d just said.
“What are you talking about?” I asked more confused than ever. I had no idea of what she could possibly tell me that could make me think any differently of her.
Had she been born a male?
“That’s for her to tell you,” he said in a much softer tone. “Now get on out there before she loses her nerve.”
Corbett left before I could argue anymore with him, so I had no choice but to do what he’d said and I hesitantly stepped out onto the porch a minute later. Sookie was sitting on the porch swing doing just what Corbett said she’d be doing; chewing through her bottom lip, but when she saw me, she tried to smile and patted the space next to her on the swing.
It appeared, for once, that we were completely alone and I took the seat next to her and forced myself to not look away when she began, “I have a confession to make.”
All I could do was stare back at her. The conversations from that evening, both among the living and the dead, were running riot in my mind and my hands gripped the cushion underneath me trying to keep myself from falling over from their dizzying pace.
When I didn’t say anything, Sookie took a deep breath and said, “I guess I should start at the beginning.” Her eyes finally found mine and she continued, “When we first met at the morgue earlier this week, it wasn’t the first time I’d ever seen you. I’ve known who you were for years.”
What? While I knew cops liked to gossip more than little old ladies at the beauty parlor and wasn’t all that surprised that she’d heard the rumors about me, I was positive I would’ve remembered seeing Sookie at any one of the crime scenes over the years before she’d become a detective.
Even now, she practically glowed in the dark. Or it was the way the moonlight was shining down on her, but that was just semantics.
My look must have begged the question because she asked, “Do you remember going to the memorial service they held for my father?”
Of course I remembered. It had been my first attempt at trying to talk to Flood, at Corbett’s insistence, to tell him where he could find the murder weapon. I’d gotten a couple of dirty looks when I’d been caught humming ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, but I never got the opportunity to catch him alone and gave up when the service was over.
I could feel my head nodding, so she softly admitted, “I saw you there.” Her head dropped down again and she spoke so low that I could barely hear her, as she whispered, “I was in a real bad way; we all were. We were a close knit family and daddy was my hero. I knew what he did for a living was dangerous, but I never once thought that we would lose him like that and my momma…well, none of us were coping very well. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to admit to myself that I would never see him again, so when they started eulogizing him, I tuned everything out and prayed. I prayed for God to send an angel down so daddy wouldn’t have to make the journey up to heaven alone and as I looked around taking in the crowd, that’s when I saw you. I knew every face there, but I didn’t know you. You were standing all alone and the sun was shining down on you almost making it look like you had a halo. You were so handsome; perfect like I imagined an angel would be and I questioned if you were real; that maybe I was imagining you, but I didn’t care. I stared at you through the entire service and it was because I believed you’d come there to help my father that I was able to get through the service without falling apart.”
I sat there in stunned silence. While I was certainly no angel, Sookie had no idea of how closely she’d hit the mark about my reason for being there that day. It was to help her father, but I was still confused. I’d never seen her that day, but I’d made it a point to not look over at his family. I didn’t want to witness their grief over losing him when I knew he was just fine and I couldn’t make the correlation of where Sookie’s confession was leading to, so in my silence, she continued, “Because of momma…” She shook her head before finally looking up at me, saying, “When it was over the colonel caught me staring at you and he told me who you were. He’d said that you were the one that did daddy’s autopsy, so even though I knew then that you weren’t really an angel, I was still grateful that you’d helped daddy in some way and from that day forward, you were always included in my nightly prayers. I thought about you a lot over the years; wondered about you and how you were doing, but it wasn’t until Mrs. Fortenberry mentioned your name to Gran one day that I really started thinking about you.” I could tell that she was uncomfortable, but she tried to smile, saying, “Google had nothing on that woman and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I’d developed a crush on you when I pumped her for information about you every time she came over. Gran and Jason caught on pretty quickly and I had to explain how I knew who you were. Jason has taken to teasing me about it over the years; every time I’d break up with a boyfriend he’d say, ‘Well he’s no Eric Northman‘ and I’m sure Gran thinks I’d already told you about it, so that’s why I freaked out when she brought up Hoyt’s name. It wasn’t like I’d planned on keeping it from you, but we haven’t really had the chance to talk much. I would’ve told you eventually. I haven’t been stalking you or anything. I just had a crush and when you seemed interested in me…well, I guess I just really wanted to see if it could lead anywhere.”
As soon as she was done speaking, her bottom lip was sucked back in between her teeth while I figuratively chewed over her confession.
Sookie had known about me for years.
She’d thought I was handsome; perfect.
Even after being told God knows what about me by Mrs. Fortenberry (weird; no love life; even my parents want nothing to do with me and I talk to myself) she STILL had a crush on me.
HAD a crush on me…
“Had a crush on me?” I asked timidly.
Her eyes dropped back down to her lap as she blew out with a sigh, “Have…”
Was that why Corbett had been so adamant that Sookie and I would be good for one another over the past few years? Was it because he’d known about Sookie’s crush on me? Or was it because he knew that I really was lonely in my self-made prison of solitude and he didn’t want me to live the rest of my life that way?
Did it really matter?
Even if I was normal; if I never had my curse, would I feel any differently? Didn’t regular people initially pursue new relationships based on a physical attraction to one another? Would it be any different had I seen Sookie years ago and had admired her from afar? Wouldn’t I have been interested in any information about her that was available to me?
I was drawn to her from the moment I saw her, so could I really think any less of her for feeling the same way?
I found myself left reeling once more. I’d already prepared myself for Sookie to tell me that she didn’t want to see me anymore, but instead I learned that she’s had a crush on me for years. She wasn’t telling me to leave. She wasn’t telling me I was a freak.
She was telling me that she liked me.
But, my silence must have told her something else entirely because she started twisting her hands in her lap, saying, “I’m sorry. This must be weird for you and I understand if you’re too uncomfortable to want to see me anymore.” Her eyes looked up at me, glassier than they had been a minute earlier and her shoulders dropped down as she forced a smile, saying, “You probably think I’m a freak or something, so…you know…no hard feelings.”
HER, a freak. As if…
I didn’t care if Corbett’s only reason for wanting me to meet Sookie was just to make his daughter happy. I didn’t care that Sookie had been getting second hand knowledge about me for years since I too knew more about her than I could let on. All I cared about at the moment was that Sookie liked me just as much as I liked her and nothing else mattered.
So I kissed her.