Since bar ownership had given her a bit more freedom with money, she was able to afford decent clothes (not Wal–mart) as Eric always grumbled about and she picked a dress she was sure he’d love. It was white with red flowers but the style was very different than the dress she’d been wearing when they first met. This dress had thin spaghetti straps and was full skirted – there were even some extra layers under the skirt to give it the maximum fullness. She thought it would be perfect for dancing – and flirting with her man.
After she pulled out the rest of her outfit she made a sandwich and sat on her living room couch. She could hardly believe it. After all this time, Eric was back and alive, well undead alive. It was exciting and scary all at once. She questioned if she was really ready to be with Eric. It only took a second for her to answer yes; she wanted him, she wanted to live again. The past year was more difficult than she cared to think about. She looked around the house and for the first time in months she realized just how low she’d sunk. Grime covered all the surfaces, there were dust dinosaurs in every corner (they were too big to be bunnies), and in the doorways were cobwebs that were large enough to be in the Guinness book of world records. That was going to change and NOW. So before showering and dressing for her date, she pulled out the vacuum and started sucking away all the dirt and with it, the months of pain and grieving. Gone were the cobwebs, the dust, her sadness, and even her anger. It was cathartic. Once she started, she found she couldn’t stop. And that’s why she was in ripped sweatpants, a high, messy ponytail, and socks when Eric rang the doorbell to pick her up.
With a gasp, Sookie ran from the room at first thinking she could throw on her dress but one look in the mirror proved that wasn’t an option. Her hair was sweaty and what wasn’t in the pony tail was sticking to her face and neck. Cobweb bits had taken up residence in her arms and to match, she sported a light tan coating of dust on her sweaty face. Fixing herself would take a while. Reluctantly, she walked back to the front door and opened it.
“Lover? Did you forget we had a date?”
“I didn’t forget the date, I lost track of the time.” She started crying as she took in his beautiful and pristine appearance. “I haven’t cl . . . cleaned in a while and I su . . . suddenly felt li . . . like it today.”
Without concern for his suit, Eric pulled Sookie into his embrace and let her cry it out. Truthfully, he’d noticed how unkempt the house was the night before but he kept quiet. Obviously Sookie had been struggling with life for a while but last night was not the time to get into everything. This mini-breakthrough was probably good; even if their date was suddenly changed. He carried her to the couch and sat rocking her until she calmed. When she was finished, he took the handkerchief from his pocket and cleaned her face.
She looked up at him with red puffy eyes, tear stained flushed cheeks, and hair sticking up from rubbing her head to his chest. His undead heart clenched. Right now, she was more beautiful than ever. “I’ll go get ready.”
When she stood, he got up with her. “I have another idea Lover.” He removed his coat, rolled up his sleeves and took hold of the vacuum. “Show me where to start.” When she stared at him in shock, rather than answering, he added. “It’s 8:00 PM, I don’t need to meet Pam until 2:00 AM. I think this is the best use of my time right now.”
She didn’t hide her shock as she asked, “You want to clean my house?”
“No. I want to hire a maid, but since you won’t let that happen anytime soon, this is satisfactory for now.” He pulled his phone out. “I’ll move our reservations. When is the next night you’re available?”
“Not until Sunday. Jason and I both work the bar on the weekends. It’s too busy.”
“Good to know. I’ll ensure my staff knows that I’ll be working weekends so I can sync our schedules better.”
“You’re not going to tell me to quit? You aren’t going to pout that you have to wait two nights for our date?”
“Those were mistakes I made before, yes?” She nodded. “Then no. And you’re going to tell me where to start cleaning, right?”
“Because not letting you care for me was a mistake I made before. So start in my bedroom please. I’ll work on the bathroom.”
It was midnight before they’d finished the whole house. Eric was able to work at vamp speed and literally run circles around Sookie. After taking separate showers, they met in the living room and sat together on the sofa. Eric hit play on the DVD after she was snuggled into his side. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome Lover. I noticed yesterday that the house wasn’t in it’s typical spotless condition. I’m glad you felt up to doing something today.”
“I haven’t for a while.”
“I know that now and I’m sorry.”
She shook her head and placed a hand on his cheek. “No looking back Eric. Only forward.” She pointed to the TV. “What’s the movie you put in? So far all we’ve seen is previews.”
“I thought we’d watch White Christmas in honor of the holidays.”
“How do you even know about this movie?”
“I spent a great deal of time awake but inactive while I was recovering from my silver poisoning. The internet was a great friend. I researched about women and the things women ‘usually’ like. Christmas and by extension, Christmas movies came up.”
“Smart man. You know though, I won’t be able to help myself from singing along to the movie you chose.”
“I figured. I brought earplugs.”
She gasped at his comment and proceeded to beat him with her throw pillow. What followed was a pillow fight that lasted for so long that Sookie was out of breath from laughing so hard. They sat while she caught her breath and she finally moved to hug him. “Thank you. I haven’t laughed like that in a very long time.”
“Me either Lover. Me either.” Together, they straightened the pillows and couch cushions from their playtime then settled in together. Once they were quiet, Eric suddenly realized something and looked around. “You don’t have any Christmas decorations?”
She shrugged. “I haven’t gotten around to it yet.” Given her state of mind the day before, he wasn’t surprised when he thought about it. It gave him an idea though, but he kept it to himself.
They turned and watched the movie and Sookie did sing (horribly) for most of the songs. When it was over, Sookie knew it was almost time for Eric to leave and her mood deflated. “I won’t see you again until Sunday, will I?”
It warmed his heart to hear her asking about seeing him. He moved her to his lap to speak. “After working on a Saturday, do you have any energy?”
She smirked at him. “What are you getting at, Mr. Northman?”
“Well, I won’t have a full staff in place already so this Saturday, I could meet you after work. Maybe we can watch a movie?”
“As it turns out, I usually do need some time between coming home and going to bed. I won’t promise to be full of energy though. I like to decompress but I’d be very happy to have company while doing that.”
“I’ll meet you at your bar at 2:30AM? Is that enough time for closing?”
“That will work. We can tell Jason together that you’re still around.”
“You haven’t told him yet?”
“I woke up, got my flowers – thank you very much – picked out my outfit and was struck by the cleaning bug. I’ll wait. It’s Jason; it’ll be easier with you showing up in person.”
“Do I get a goodnight kiss?”
He acted like he was thinking the question through at first. “Well, this wasn’t officially a date so I am unsure.”
“You dressed up, you arrived here at a designated time, and we spent time together. A date doesn’t have to mean dinner and dancing.”
“Ah yes, but you weren’t dressed up. In fact, I saw the dress you had planned to wear and I can’t wait until Sunday night to see it on you.”
“Somehow you’ve gone off the topic of kissing. Unheard of for you.”
“You mentioned dressed up, I was stating that you hadn’t. I want to ensure we do things right.”
“Then kiss me goof.”
“Yes Lover.” Figuring he’d kept their parting the night before to only a kiss, he took advantage of the fact that she’d dressed in a pajama set for the movie and hadn’t worn a bra. He missed Sookie, of that there was no doubt, but her breasts were something that he couldn’t wait to get his hands on – so he didn’t – wait that is. Starting at the back hem of her shirt, he slowly moved his hands to touch her skin and when she didn’t resist, he moved them to the front.
When Sookie started moving, he thought she was backing away from him, but she wasn’t. Instead of sitting sideways, she adjusted herself to straddle his lap. “Oh God Eric. It’s been too long for me.”
“Let me help you.” He started to move one hand down to her pants, but she pushed it back up and shook her head slightly. Instead, she pushed down to grind against him as hard as she could. What she didn’t know was that for Eric, it had also been a very long time. He hadn’t been lying when he said she didn’t need to be jealous of any donors. Except for the forced consummation and continued sex with his wife, Eric hadn’t been with another woman since Sookie. “Move faster Lover.” He groaned out while she was taking a breath. She complied and he moved one hand to her hip so he could press up against her movements. He longed to have more of her, more skin contact and fewer clothes but after a few moments they both came from the humping.
Eric was sure he’s turned into a fifteen year old boy.
Still heaving from their activity, Sookie breathed out, “I know we said we’d go slowly, but LORD! I needed that.”
Eric chuckled with her. “I couldn’t agree more.”
After they enjoyed some snuggling, Eric moved to stand, still holding her, and walked to the door. “I’ll see you on Saturday – well early Sunday morning. Can you call me after you get in tomorrow night?”
“Of course. Goodnight Eric.”
“Sweet dreams Lover.”
Close to 1:30AM on Saturday, Sookie received a text from Eric.
E: I’m in the parking lot.
S: I thought I wasn’t going to see you until tomorrow?
E: I’ll explain. Should I walk in the front?
S: NO! Come to the back.
She walked to the office and opened the door, greeting him with a wide smile. After taking his hand to guide him in she asked him to explain how he was able to see her a day early. “As regent I set my schedule. I planned my meetings to give me an extended break.”
“I’m not going to complain since I get to see you.” She put her hands up around his neck and tilted her head to face him.
“Sweet talker.” He kissed her as she’d obviously wanted. “That’s my job.” He pulled her closer and whispered. “Did you tell Jason to come back right away?”
“Nope, we have a few moments. What do you have in mind?”
“A proper greeting.” He deepened the kiss this time while he held her close. After a moment, he changed his intent from romantic to playful and started tickling her neck and waist. Greeting Jason while they were both panting wouldn’t help the conversation. She giggled so he knew his plan to calm her down worked. Calming down himself was a lost cause; he’d already decided to sport the perpetual hard-on he seemed to have around her now.
“That was a proper greeting. I should get Jason.” She opened the office door and called to her brother. “Jase, finish what you’re doing and meet me in the office.”
Jason looked at Hoyt. “Wonder what she wants?”
“I don’t know but she seems happy today.”
“I know Hoyt. ‘Sbeen a long time since I seen that.” Instead of finishing his task, he threw the money he was counting back into the cash register and headed to his office. “’Sup Sook?” His eyes bugged out when he saw Eric. “What the fuck?! Sook buried you. I was there!”
“Jason, calm down and we’ll explain.” Sookie offered in a soothing voice.
“No Sookie ain’t no explanation. He’s dead dead and if he ain’t it was all a sumptin hidden from you. Sook, he already broke yer heart. I’m not standin’ by so he can do it again.” Showing no fear, Jason approached Eric as if to challenge him.
Sookie put a hand to her brother’s chest. “Jason! Stop. You’re going to get hurt.” Eric was standing still for the moment but she knew if her brother continued, Eric would react. “Sit your ass down so we can explain.”
Though Jason huffed and mumbled for a moment, he did give them the time to explain and even started to settle down after a while. Kennedy, the bartender, knocked on the door and asked if one of them was coming out to close. Sookie volunteered so Eric could finish with Jason. While she was gone, Eric quickly changed the topic so he could pick Jason’s brain. “Jason, Sookie has been having a difficult time lately. I wanted to do something nice for her but need your help.”
Jason had calmed, but he still wanted to go off on Eric on his sister’s behalf. He wasn’t completely convinced about Sookie and Eric getting back together but he couldn’t deny that his sister loved the vampire in front of him. For now though, he’d give Eric the benefit of the doubt. “A’right. Whatcha need?”
Sookie joined them a few minutes later but Eric could hear her approach, so he cut of Jason mid sentence and wrapped up their impromptu meeting. Since Eric did need to get back to his office, he said a quick goodbye reminding Sookie that he’d meet her again the next night.
“Close your eyes Lover.”
“I’ll get carsick.” She tried to sound serious but it didn’t work.
“Liar. You don’t get carsick. You don’t want to be surprised. Damn telepath never gets surprised, you’re spoiled.” He glanced her way. “Eyes. Closed.”
“Yes Sir.” She playfully saluted him and shut her eyes – even covering them with her hands.
Eric had met Sookie at the bar and they were headed to her home. Since Eric flew from Shreveport, he was driving her car. Rather than continuing around to the back of the house as Sookie normally did, he parked out front when he pulled up to the house. “Keep those eyes covered!” He yelled as he ran around to help her out of the car. After she was in the spot he wanted, he pulled her hands away from her eyes and revealed his surprise.
She gasped. “ERIC! You did all this?”
“Do you like it?”
“I do! The house has never had this many lights for Christmas. Did you buy out a whole store’s worth?” She moved to walk around the house. “I mean, every window, every peak has lights!”
He smiled at her enthusiasm. “I’m glad you like it.” They completed the walk around the entire house before he added, “I also cut down a tree from the back of your property and pulled your Christmas ornaments from the attic. Would you like to ‘trim the tree’ now?”
“I would love too! I hadn’t planned on putting up the tree this year.” She ran to the door. “Let’s start hanging ornaments.”
“You have a lot more energy for three in the morning than I would’ve thought.”
She smiled and walked into the house while answering. “I slept extra late today so that’s part of it. The other reason for my vigor . . . well, I’m excited to see you and my surprise.”
“Still doing my job as sweet talker I see.”
“You’ve been remiss since you returned. Somebody has to pick up the slack.”
He helped her with her coat while he answered. “I’ll be sure to up my game then.”
Eric opened the first box of ornaments he’d gotten from the attic but Sookie stopped him before he put anything on the tree. “Oh Eric, we need to do the lights first.”
“I guess that does make sense. I’ve never done this before.”
“I know and that makes it mean even more to me.” Her comment paused their activity for a quick kiss before they turned their attention back to the tree.
They wound the lights onto the tree quickly and started on the boxes. They came across a felt drum and Eric asked about it, since it appeared to be homemade. “What’s this Lover?”
“I made that in school when I was in second Grade. The inside is a half of a toilet paper roll and the drumsticks are cotton swabs.”
“Someone’s teacher was resourceful.” He reached into the box for another. “And this one?” He held an ornament with a cat on it.
“Gran bought that for me when we got Tina. Actually, there’s an ornament for Jason and me for each Christmas. Always something special that happened that year.” Sookie suddenly looked down, her mood had turned. “There haven’t been any new ornaments since Gran . . . since she died.”
“Well, that just makes all these ornaments extra special. Memories to cherish.”
Helping someone through a loss like this wasn’t something Eric knew how to do. Given the watery smile she offered before she hung the ornament in her hand told him he’d done something right. She returned to him. “You’re right.”
“Tell me about this one. . .”
Sookie hadn’t enjoyed decorating the tree like they were for years. Eric took the time to listen to her tell the story of each ornament. She started to think that the separation, while difficult, had been good for their relationship. Being apart perhaps, gave them the appreciation for what they’d had. Already things between them were different. In the past, they’d rarely spent time talking like they were now. While decorating, Eric even opened up about his human celebrations and family – something he rarely did.
It was close to dawn when they finished so Eric made plans to spend the day in the cubby at Sookie’s house. They were standing near the closet opening of the cubby when they parting for the day.
“So, I guess Jason helped you out?”
“Yes, and with his permission, I glamoured him to not think about it around you.”
“Did I say thank you for all the lights, the tree, and mostly for sharing this with me?” Taking his face in her hands, she gently pulled him to her level and gave him a kiss.
When they parted he said. “No, you haven’t thanked me, but it was worth the wait.” He leaned down to kiss her again and when he pulled back his face was serious. “Just like you Lover, will be worth the wait. I know we’re dating first but I want you to know something. I love you Sookie.”
“I love you too, I never stopped.” He smiled and waggled his eyebrow. “Don’t get ahead of yourself buster. We’re still taking it slowly.”
Two years later
“Are you ready, Lover?”
“I am.” She leaned forward and turned on the radio to listen to Christmas music. He didn’t bother to comment, he knew how much Sookie loved the holiday music as they approached Christmas day.
“Eric, we’ve talked this through, we’ve planned for it. We both want to do this.”
“I know, but after tonight, we can’t go back to how it is now.”
“I know I know.” She paused for a moment. “Are you having reservations?”
“No reservations.” He picked up her hand to kiss it. “I love you and this is something we both decided to do. It’s part of our plan.”
“Then hush up and drive. I’m so excited I want to jump out of my skin.”
They rode in silence with the excitement bouncing between them in the bond. There was a change in Eric’s mood as he remembered what happened next though. Sookie felt it immediately. “What’s wrong?”
He sighed in frustration and answered her. “I still don’t understand why we had to have a party for this.”
“I guess how we’re doing it is a little unusual, but it works for us.”
“Pam did all the work anyway – she always wanted to throw one of these.”
He chuckled. “I know – it was almost an obsession.”
“Here we are.”
Eric went around the car to help Sookie out and guided her into the Shreveport office building he used for his regency. Fangtasia had closed when Pam left the state and neither of them had any interest in re-opening. Pam was positively beaming as she led them into the large meeting room she’d prepared for the occasion. Sookie took in the decorations and large pile of presents – unnecessary presents – but Pam had insisted. Eric smiled at her when he felt her excitement spike through the bond. His Sookie was literally ready to jump out of her skin as she’d said and he could feel it. Of course, since they shared a bond again, she could also feel his excitement and the twinge of nervousness. She squeezed his hand to offer comfort.
After they greeted their guests, including King Edgington, Pam ushered them to the front of the room. “You guys stand here.”
“Really Pam, is all this pageantry necessary?”
“No, but it’s more fun this way.”
“Smile, you’re about to have another child.”
“That I’m excited about – you’re over the top celebration I am not. And she’s not like you and Karin.”
“I know.” Pam actually clapped her hands when the last guest arrived and moved to stand in front of Sookie and Eric.
“Tonight I’m pleased to welcome you to my first ever baby shower. It’s a little out of order since these are typically done before the baby is born, but you’ll have to forgive me since my maker wouldn’t allow one ahead of time.” The guests chuckled when she scowled at Eric. “Before we get onto the festivities,” She nodded at the door before continuing. “We need to make a very important introduction.” She paused for impact. “Eric and Sookie, I’d like to present you with your little girl, Sonja Elsa Northman, born three days ago. She’s the first baby legally adopted by a human/vampire couple in the United States. Congratulations!” The nurse from their adoption agency held out the tiny bundle.
Sookie put her arms out to receive the child as she tried unsuccessfully to hold back her tears. Two years ago she was ready to give up on life; then she got one hell of a surprise. Several months of courting followed, then their human and vampire weddings, and finally lots of lots of work to help pass the ‘right to adopt legislation’ for vampire/human couples. Now here they stood with a three day old infant, surrounded by family and friends and she had plenty to live for. “Mr. and Mrs. Northman, I’ll need you to sign the final paperwork.” The court representative called from the side of the room.
Eric put a hand on her back and guided her over. Eric signed first and Sookie handed him the baby so she could sign next. They’d actually spent time with Jason and Michelle’s newborn to prepare and Eric looked happy – not nervous – holding his baby girl. With the vampires in the room, he didn’t make any fuss over her. Fussing would happen when they were home as a family. For now he stared at the little one as she slept in his arms. He realized Sookie was done signing and looked at her. Her face showed only love as she watched him holding their Sonja.
Of course, Pam broke into their moment. “Since the little angel is asleep, you should open presents now. Then we can play the games.”
“No games.” Eric was firm while Sookie giggled at the idea of Russell Edgington diapering a doll in a contest.
“Not even tinkle in the pot, sloppy diaper relay?”
“Bobbing for nipples?”
Eric raised one eyebrow and asked, “What’s that one?”
Sookie interjected quickly. “It’s not what you think Eric. It’s bottle nipples.”
“Shame.” The devilish twinkle appeared in his eyes as he leaned in to Sookie’s ear. Then I’ll bob for your nipples later Lover.”
“Behave, I’m holding Sonja here.”
“She’ll get accustomed to it.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Vikings live in one room – everybody saw everything. I know.”
They strolled the room introducing Sonja to all the guests. She finally woke about an hour into the party and Eric had to contain his laugh when ‘Auntie Pam’ helped Sookie get a bottle together. Sookie fed Sonja but he sat with them and kept his emotions to himself. He cursed Pam for the party. The first time they were meeting their baby girl and they had an audience preventing him from fawning. He settled for putting an arm around Sookie and enjoying her cooing.
When Sonja was finished her bottle, Pam and Sookie went to an office to change the baby’s diaper and didn’t return for almost thirty minutes. While Eric was socializing with the guests as he waited, he kept a bead on his girls. Pam’s mood was a combination of excitement and what he could best describe as ‘awww’. His wife though, was a torrent of emotions. He could feel her love already aimed at the baby, her worry about something, and her nervousness at being a new mother. At one point Eric felt her mood turn to panic and Pam’s shock so he ran to them. Sookie was holding Sonja close at her shoulder and crying, Pam failing miserably at comforting her. “What’s wrong Lover?”
“What if someone takes her?” She was adding to her own panic as she spoke. Her voice became more of a wail as she spoke. “What if one of the religious groups wins the appeal on the adoption legislation? I can’t fall in love with her to lose her.”
He nodded to Pam to give them the office. With the door closed, they would have complete privacy since he’d had all the separate rooms warded for silence. When she left, he picked up Sookie and sat with her and the baby on his lap. “I won’t let that happen Sookie. If I have to glamour the entire world, I’ll keep you and Sonja together.” He guided Sookie’s hands so she was cradling their baby girl; he wanted to see her face. In the privacy of Pam’s office, he was able to do some fussing. “Isn’t that right Sonja? Daddy will make sure you stay with us.”
He got nothing more than a blink in return but it was Sookie’s reaction – and sudden mood shift – that surprised him. She started balling again, but this time not from fear but because her heart swelled at her husband. “I was hoping you were holding back.”
“I told you I would need to control my emotions in front of other vampires. You were worried about my lack of reaction to the baby?” She nodded. “Even though we discussed it?”
“I figured if you were feeling anything like I was, there wouldn’t be a way to hide that.”
“You couldn’t feel my reaction to seeing her? You didn’t feel my almost need to take her when you were feeding her so I could do the same?”
After wiping her tears she replied. “No. I was having too much trouble keeping myself under control; I’ve been shielding all thoughts and blocking your emotions.”
“And now?” He waited a moment before he saw her react to the love he was sending to her. “I love you Sookie and I’m ready to be a father to Sonja. I can already feel you love her; let me spend time with her at home and soon enough we’ll be fighting for her attention.”
“Thank you. I shouldn’t have blocked you or doubted you.”
“I’m sorry you worried.” He took a breath as a realization came to him. “Your panic wasn’t about the legislation, it was that I wouldn’t fight for her wasn’t it?”
“They dove-tailed together honestly.” Since Sookie had been rocking Sonja gently as they spoke she’d fallen asleep again. “Can we pack up and go home? I mean, Pam had everyone come out two days before Christmas for this. I know she couldn’t exactly plan the date since we were waiting for the birth. I’m pretty sure that people want to get home. Well, the folks who celebrate Christmas.”
“And I know you want to be home too.”
“I do. We have a baby’s first Christmas to plan.”
“We do Lover.” He stood and helped his wife to her feet. “We should stop on the way home and pick up a baby’s first Christmas ornament. We’ll get one every year like you Gran bought for you.
Sookie smiled and held back more tears. “I’d like that Eric.”
Later, as they hung Sonja’s First Christmas Ornament on the tree, he took Sonja’s hand while she was cradled by Sookie, but it didn’t distract his baby from the lights on the tree – at least that’s what he gathered she was looking at. “She likes the decorations.”
“She does.” She smiled at Sonja, “Dontcha baby girl?”
Eric noticed Sookie was humming with happiness. “You look very happy, Lover.”
“I am Happy Eric, truly happy.” She hugged him with her free arm. “There is something that would make me even happier.”
“Well, your princess needs a clean diaper.” She swiveled to hand him Sonja. “I’m pretty sure it’s your turn.”