I’m on my way out of the bar, heading back to Sookie when I spot Alcide, a regular that I haven’t seen in a few weeks. I walk behind the bar, open a PBR and slide it in front of him.
“Where the hell have you been?” I ask. “We’ve missed you around this joint.”
“The ex and I tried to give it another go, but that bitch is off her fuckin’ nut,” he says. “But the crazy ones are the best in bed.”
I chuckle and say, “Don’t I know it. Have you thought about giving that twat up and trying a nice, sweet girl?”
“You mean like the piece you landed?” he smirks.
“Ahh, they’ve been talking I see,” I snort. “But yes, like the angel I’m leaving here to be with.”
“The hot blond with great tits and screams in bed?”
“Have you been listening at the office door, or have you met her?” I inquire.
“I’m a charmer, Northman, and Felicia over there is talkative.”
“You’re not that much of a charmer,” I chuckle. “You’re actually quite insulting on a good day.”
“Says the guy that had to shave his head because he couldn’t close the deal.”
“I closed the deal, it just took an hour instead of thirty minutes,” I smirk. “And I used real charm. I didn’t once tell her how nice her tits looked until I got her shirt off.”
“Now you know why it took an hour,” he chuckles.
“It was worth the wait. You should know, I heard you got my sloppy seconds.”
“They weren’t sloppy for me,” he shrugs. “She used her teeth too much though.”
“The second she went down and didn’t cover them with her lips I pulled her head away from my cock,” I chuckle. “My Sookie, however,” I smile. “Might be the best blowjob I’ve ever gotten.”
“With the volume you do, that’s saying something.”
“Mmhmm,” I agree and grab a bottle of water. “She’s a good girl though. She’s a nurse, and her tits are real. Pretty much perfect.”
“Not this one. I’m greedy with her and even if I did it wouldn’t be with your alcoholic ass,” I snort.
“Careful, buddy. If she’s a nurse that means she’s attracted to wounded things,” he smirks again.
“Must be why she likes me. She knows more than Nora did and we’ve only been together a few weeks.” Nora and I were together almost a year and she didn’t know half the shit Sookie does. She never asked. If I tried to share she shrugged it off.
“Well it’s not your good looks,” he snorts.
“I’m a sexy motherfucker and you know it. Just ask your mom.” Alcide’s mother is a sweet lady. I have no idea how she raised this asshole.
“I’m sure she’d send her love, fuckface.”
I wink and take a swig of my water. “I should go; I have a sick girl to get home to. Do me a favor and if Debbie shows up, kick her in the nuts for me. She owes me seven hundred bucks for the table she broke the last time she came searching for your ass.”
He says they’re over, but he’s been saying that for the last eight years.
“If she comes in here I’ll make you a necklace of her teeth,” he snickers.
“The five real teeth she has left, or of her dentures?” I ask. His ‘ex’ is probably still doing meth.
“It’s seven, you pretentious douche,” he deadpans.
“You sure it’s still seven? I think one fell out in a glass of jack last time you two were here together. I bet she doesn’t use too much teeth.”
“You’d be surprised. I told you she’s crazy.”
“I’m fine not learning about her kind of crazy.” I had my share of wild drug addict sex. Fuck, I’m surprised my dick is still clean and intact.
“Bring the girl around when she’s feeling better,” he says.
“I will. She’ll hate you, they all do,” I laugh.
“You never know.”
He’s right. She likes me for more than my body.
“I’ll see you around,” I say. “That one’s on me,” I finish, nodding at the beer.
“You’re not bad for an asshole,” he smiles.
“It’s the least expensive beer I carry. I’m terrible,” I laugh and slide him one more before I leave the bar.
On the way back to Sookie’s I stop to get myself a large pizza. I eat half of it in the car on the way there. Before I walk in I put my mask back on and go into the house. I don’t want to get sick, but I don’t want to leave her alone in this shape. I just hope the mask works.
When I walk in I put the rest of the pizza in the fridge and go back to the room to check on Sookie. Her eyes blink open so I walk over and take a seat next to her.
“How are you doing?” I ask quietly, rubbing her back.
“Crappy,” she croaks.
“Yeah, you look it,” I sigh. She looks like hell, but she’s still beautiful.
“Thanks,” she says without humor.
“Do you need me to get you anything?” I ask.
“A new body would be great. Maybe one without a uterus or bowling balls fixed to the front. You’d still love me if I was a dude, right?” Her eyes close and she stretches out.
“Maybe not quite the same,” I chuckle. I move my hand to her belly and rub light circles.
Her lips twitch up into a small smile.
“You’re better than you think you are, Eric. Don’t forget it,” she says.
“Hmm, at what?” I ask.
“Life.” She rests her hot little hand on mine.
“Thank you,” I reply, with a half-smile. “I’m starting to figure some things out.”
“Mmm… like what?” Sookie snuggles into her pillow and laces her fingers with mine.
“That I can’t get shit done when I have my sick girl at home.” I spent two hours staring at my computer before I decided to go home.
“Sorry,” she mumbles and squeezes my hand weakly.
“I ran into my buddy Alcide,” I tell her.
“Did you hurt him?”
“Not too bad,” I chuckle. “He’s like a fluffy brick wall. He’s giant and used to have muscles before he started drinking more than working out.”
Sookie smiles a little. “Is he cuter than you?”
“Nope. He does have dimples, but they’re covered by his beard and he smells like tar and beer. Not a pretty combination.”
“Mmm… too bad. I like dimples,” she whispers. Clearly the fever is cooking her brain.
“He looks kinda like the Brawny paper towel man,” I tell her. “And he has clear instructions that he needs to keep his hands off of my angel, or else.”
“Sounds like Pam’s type.”
“Yeah, but she scares him,” I laugh. Grams jokingly… maybe… came on to Alcide once. She leaned over to whisper something in his ear and he refuses to look at her still to this day. I don’t want to know what was said.
“Mmm…” Sookie mumbles something else but I can’t understand it.
I keep my hand on her belly until I know she’s in a deep sleep. I gently extract my hand and go out to the kitchen to finish my pizza and take out the box. I check on her one more time before I close the door all the way. I open up the house to make sure the germs aren’t incubating in her apartment and then I lie down on the couch, flipping the TV on. I put it on the Discovery channel and end up falling asleep before I know it.
I wake up with the sun the next morning. I get up to stretch and take a piss. I slide on my mask before I go into the room to check on Sookie. She’s stretched out under a pile of wet covers. Her hair is matted to her forehead and her cheeks are a rosy red color. I go to get her a new bottle of Gatorade before I go back to wake her up.
I take a seat and gently extract the covers from her sweaty body.
“Hey,” I say quietly, shaking her lightly.
“Hmmm…” she grunts.
“Wake up and drink something, sweatball.”
She moans again and rolls onto her back. Her damp nightgown clings to her chest like a second skin.
“What time is it? Why am I all wet?” Sookie asks.
“Six-thirty,” I answer. “I think your fever and the seventy-five pounds of quilts are the reason you’re all wet. You sweat a lot last night.”
Sookie’s eyes finally open. They’re a little red. She stretches and then slowly sits up.
“I’ll shower and change the sheets,” she says.
“Drink something and shower, that’s all you have to do.” I twist the lid off of the Gatorade and hand it to her. “You’re looking better.”
“Thanks. Seems I have a good nurse,” she winks and sips the Gatorade.
“I do what I can,” I smile. “I prefer to be called Dr. Northman, thank you very much.”
“Sorry. Doctor,” she corrects and takes another drink. Her voice still sounds like shit. “When I’m feeling better you can give me a sponge bath.”
“I’d be happy to,” I smile. “Do you think you’re still contagious?”
“Damn. I miss kissing you,” I sigh. “Want me to get the shower going?”
“Sure. Thank you.”
I leave her with her Gatorade and get up to go into the bathroom and turn on the water. I don’t make the water too hot and as it’s heating I grab the thermometer and go back to the room.
“Here, let’s check,” I say handing it to Sookie.
She removes the cap and sticks the thermometer under her tongue. She lies back and pulls her covers back over her.
“You know I’m going to make you eat after you shower, right?”
She nods. “Oatmeal,” she mumbles around the thermometer.
“Plain or flavored?”
“I’ll get it.”
“What is your temperature?” I ask when the thermometer beeps.
She pulls it out of her mouth and says, “102 even.”
“Alright, get in the shower. It’s not too hot,” I tell her, taking the thermometer.
“Okay.” Sookie sits up and her teeth are chattering before she even stands up. She walks on wobbly legs to the bathroom and leaves the door open.
I give her some privacy and get up to strip her bed. I keep an ear on her while I find new sheets to make the bed. I hear the toilet flush before the rings of the shower curtain slide open, then closed. When I’m done with the bed I go to find the oatmeal and she only has plain so I get that going and pop some zinc tablets to help fight off anything trying to attack me. I get some fresh berries from the fridge and put them in a bowl. As soon as the oatmeal is done I pull it off the stove and go to her dresser to get some fresh panties and a T-shirt and sweats.
“You have clothes on the toilet. Do you want to eat in the kitchen or in bed?” I ask through the curtain.
“Bed,” she answers.
“Tea or OJ?”
I leave her alone in the bathroom and go out to pour a big glass of juice. I get her two zinc tablets and carry everything into her room on a tray. Sookie comes out of the bathroom as I walk in.
“Do you want to stick with NyQuil or try to stay awake today?” I ask, pulling her new sheets back for her.
“I don’t know. Sleeping it off is kinda nice,” she says as she climbs into bed.
“I’ll leave them both in here,” I say and pick up the zinc to give it to her with the juice.
“You’re welcome. Do you feel any better after your shower?”
“Not so scummy, but I’m still freezing.”
“You want some socks?”
“No, that’s okay. I’ll be fine once I get myself all wrapped up like a burrito.” She swallows the zinc with half of the juice.
“I’ll stop smothering you at some point,” I promise. “I just want you to get better and it’s nice to be taken care of sometimes.”
“I know. I appreciate it,” she smiles.
“Eat your oatmeal and I’ll let you sleep.”
Sookie digs into her oatmeal while I get up to give her some space and clean up the little mess I made in the kitchen. When I’m done I go back and flop on what I consider my side of the bed to wait for her to finish so I can take the bowls to the kitchen.
Eric has taken very good care of me, much better than I would expect from someone who can be so negative about himself. The fever has persisted until this morning. It looked pretty bad there for the first three days, but thanks to Eric making sure I was eating and drinking there were no trips to the emergency room. Going to work wasn’t an option either. I refuse to get near children with already extremely weak immune systems. A cold like the one I’ve had could kill them. No thanks.
I slip out of bed, already aware that the fever has broken. No more sweats, no more shaking or feeling like I don’t belong in my own body. I’m less congested and dizzy. Even my throat feels better.
Once the thermometer is cleaned with a little alcohol swabbie and rinsed under cool water, I put it under my tongue while I do my business. The appetite that blew town when the cold came to visit has planted its flag in my belly and is demanding my attention by kicking and screaming inside me.
98.9, I can live with that.
I wash my hands and then go out to the living room to find my boy asleep on my couch. I’m particularly grateful it’s a very comfy couch right about now, but I know he would prefer to be sleeping in my bed with me– I would prefer it, too. He looks peaceful lying there and I don’t want to wake him, but I can’t stop myself from leaning over to kiss his head. I don’t linger, though.
I go to the kitchen and try to make as little noise as possible while I search my refrigerator for food. I locate some peach yogurt and my vanilla almond milk. Yogurt I can handle in small doses because the bacteria cultures in it have already broken down the lactose in it. I slice up a banana to put in it, along with a little cinnamon granola. I make myself some toast and spread peanut butter on it.
It’s just after eight in the morning when I take a seat at the kitchen table and dig into my yogurt. It feels good to eat something again and actually taste it. I’m halfway through it when I hear Eric moving around in the living room. He looks understandably surprised to see me sitting at the kitchen table, eating a ‘meal’ I made myself.
“Morning, Dr. Northman,” I smile at him.
“Morning, patient Stackhouse,” he smiles back and bends to kiss my forehead. “I see you feel alive again.”
“Mmhmmm,” I nod. “I’m starving. I’m considering making eggs in a minute.”
“Good. Do you want me to make them? I’m getting pretty comfortable in your kitchen.”
“If you want to,” I shrug.
“I only need two, but I’m sure you need more than that.” I need to go grocery shopping today.
“Of course I need more,” he chuckles as he goes to open the fridge. “Scrambled, right?”
“Yes please. The good news is I’m pretty sure you’re done playing nursemaid for me. My fever broke, so kissing can probably safely resume.” I’ve missed kissing him too. A lot.
“Mmm, good. I’ve missed kissing you. I also miss sleeping in a bed,” he laughs.
“I think you’ll be safe going home tonight,” I tell him.
“I went home and took a nap on my bed yesterday before I went to the bar,” Eric admits.
“I don’t blame you. I’m sure you miss it.” He’ll sleep over here but I know he prefers his bed… where his legs don’t hang off the end so much.
“Of course I do, but I’ll miss you when I go. Don’t be surprised if I crawl into bed with you at three in the morning.”
I chuckle and ask, “Did you make a copy of my key, or are you going to start sneaking in my windows?”
“Definitely sneak in. I’ll feel like I’m sixteen again. I have your keys on my key ring and I was going to ‘forget’ to give them back,” he winks.
Without really thinking about it I say, “Keep them. I have another set.”
Eric stops what he’s doing to look at me. He continues to look at me for at least thirty seconds before he asks, “Really?”
“Okay,” he nods and goes quiet while he turns back to the eggs.
“Is it too soon for that?” I ask and take the last bite of my yogurt.
“No. It’s just… no one that knows about my past has ever trusted me with their house key…” he says without turning around.
I get up from the table and go over to him. My hands grab his and I turn him to look at me.
“That Eric I never met is long gone. I’m giving those keys to the sweet, trustworthy man I’m looking at right now and I know he would never hurt me like the old Eric would,” I tell him.
He nods and dips his head to give me a soft kiss on the lips. “Thank you, Sookie,” he whispers.
“You’re welcome. Thank you for taking such good care of me,” I reply and kiss him back.
“You deserve nothing less,” he smiles and gives me a tight hug.
I wrap my arms around his waist and hold on just as tight as he is. Those keys were going to end up with him eventually, I know it. Why hold off on it?
“Do you need any help here?” I offer after a few minutes.
“Unless you want anything else, no. I have the eggs under control.”
“Okay. Do you want some toast or something?”
“Sure, I’ll take some toast, light butter please.” I can tell he just wants to make me feel useful.
“Are you working tonight?” I put two slices of bread in the toaster.
“Nope. I’m all caught up on paperwork and Chow knows he’s head honcho tonight.”
“Will you be here for dinner? I have a taste for spaghetti and meatballs,” I tell him.
“I can be here if you want me to be. I wasn’t sure if you’d be sick of me yet.”
“Of course I’m not sick of you. If you have other things to do, though, I won’t be offended.” I know he’s sort of put his life on hold the last few days so I’m sure he has other things to do.
“Hmm, I hope you don’t mind I did my laundry here, but I do need to do a few things. I can be back by dinner though,” he says.
“I don’t mind at all. Since you have the keys you can come and go as you please. For dinner, to do more laundry… to sneak up on me in the shower…” I know that’s crossed his mind already.
“Duly noted,” he winks. “Eggs are done.”
His toast pops up and I smear a little bit of butter on it for him. We sit down at the table to eat together and it feels domestic, but natural, like I could do this again and again for many years to come.
“Don’t worry, Gran, I’m feeling a million times better. Eric took very good care of me. I’ve got meatballs cooking in sauce for supper and I’ve eaten two meals today,” I tell her later that afternoon.
“Good, I’ve always liked that boy and I’m glad you two met.”
“Me too. He’s got some dodgy things in his past, but nothing that makes me want to run. I’m sure you’ve heard about some of it from Pam.” I have no doubt Pam warned Gran up one side and down the other when she found out we’re seeing each other.
“Pam did tell me about his past drug use, and that he’s a ladies man. You know I don’t judge people on other people’s word. The kid I know is polite and well mannered. If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me.”
“He’s very good to me, Gran,” I assure her. “I uh… I gave him keys to my apartment.”
“Oh… Trust your instincts, Sookie. If it feels right… so be it,” she says. “What did he say?”
“He was shocked. No one that knows about his past has ever trusted him with the keys to their kingdom.”
“Maybe this is a good thing, Sookie. I know he still holds onto his past, maybe you’re helping him get over it.”
“Maybe. I know he gets this sad, haunted look sometimes. I know he regrets a lot of things. It’s hard to believe that the Eric I know was capable of doing the kinds of things he once did,” I tell her. “That person isn’t who he is now.”
“Drugs make people change, sweetheart. I suspect the Eric you know now is the real Eric. How long has he been sober?”
“Twelve years. He said he started drinking when he was thirteen. He was a full blown alcoholic before he graduated high school.”
Hell, the fact that he graduated is somewhat miraculous. I’m surprised he didn’t drop out.
“That so sad. I’m glad he was able to get help before it was too late,” she sighs.
“Me too. I will tell you that I understand now why Pam hates that he owns a bar. It makes me nervous that if we ever get in a bad fight he might consider turning to alcohol to cope with it. I hope that he wouldn’t, but it happens all the time. I’d hate for him to have to start all over again,” I say sincerely.
“If he hasn’t relapsed yet, Sookie, I’m sure he’ll be fine. From what Pam’s told me he’s more likely to turn to sex than alcohol these days.”
“That’s no good either,” I sigh.
“No. Let’s just hope he’s good at working things out instead of jumping in the first warm bed he runs across.”
“He better be. I don’t know if I could forgive him for cheating on me.” It’s a shame he has so many mistresses just waiting to get their hooks in him again. Alcohol, drugs, other women… none of it is good.
“Don’t focus on the negative, dear, and if you’re really that worried he might cheat, maybe you need to talk to him about it,” she suggests.
“No, I’m not. Deep down I know he’s committed to staying sober. It’s just those little voices in the back of my mind, you know?” I think it’s perfectly natural to be concerned, given his history, but it’s not like I’m sitting around waiting for him to let me down one way or another.
“I know,” Gran sighs. “Work on making your relationship with him as good as it can be, Sookie. That’s all you can do. If you get hung up on what ifs, it’s going to ruin what seems to be something really good.”
“I know.” I hear keys in the lock and add, “Speak of the devil, Eric’s back.”
“Oh, I’ll let you go. Tell him I said hello and thank him for taking such good care of my girl.”
“I will. I love you, Gran. I’ll come by in a few days once I’m sure I’m over this cold,” I tell her as Eric walks inside the apartment.
“Alright, I love you too,” she replies before she hangs up.
“Hey,” Eric says from behind me. “These are for you.” A small bouquet of lavender roses appear in front of my face.
“Aww, thank you,” I smile and inhale their scent. “They’re beautiful, Eric.”
“You’re welcome,” he smiles back and kisses my temple. “Dinner smells delicious.”
“It does there’s probably another hour to go before it’s ready. Gran says hello and thank you for taking care of me. You definitely have her in your corner now,” I tell him.
“Tell her hi back and she’s welcome,” he says, wrapping his arms around me from behind. “Thankfully I had a snack while I was out.”
“Of course you did,” I chuckle. “You know, I just realized that I’ll probably end up like Marie Barone. You can flirt with other women but if you eat their cooking behind my back…”
“You’ll divorce me?” he chuckles. “It’s a good thing you’re my favorite cook, next to Grams.”
“I’m happy to hear that because I plan on sending you home with a container of sauce and meatballs.” I make a ton of it and freeze it since I do it all from scratch while tomatoes are good in the summertime.
“There’s no point, I’m just going to sneak back over here when I can’t sleep without you.”
“You’re hopeless,” I giggle. I bet he’ll change his tune when he tries the sauce. It makes a badass meatball sub.
“Don’t judge me,” he growls, kissing my temple.
“It’s true. You’re a lost cause, Mr. Northman.”
“Some silly little blonde girl stole my heart one day when I was walking in the garden,” he whispers. “I’ve been lost ever since.”
“That wasn’t your heart as much as your dick,” I giggle, but give him a kiss.
“Hmm, maybe you’re right…”
I shake my head and pull away to put the roses in a vase. It’s nice to be able to smell things again.
“Do you have plans for the fourth of July, other than sneaking into my bed?” I ask.
“I’ll probably work. It’s one of our busiest nights of the year, next to New Years.”
“Gotcha,” I nod. “Well then I’ll come visit you after I go watch the fireworks in Shreveport.”
“You’re more than welcome to. I don’t know if I’ll be able to talk to you very much,” he says, grabbing a glass of water.
“Well I can check out your competition, the Brawny guy,” I snicker.
“He’s disgusting,” Eric laughs. “He’ll spend the whole night trying to get you to leave me. He hasn’t even seen you and he asked if I’d share you.”
“Sounds like a class act to me,” I laugh.
“Yeah, if that’s what you want to call him,” Eric snorts.
“Have you two shared girls before?”
“Will you judge me if I say yes?”
“Judging people isn’t really my thing,” I answer, but I’m already assuming his answer is a yes.
“Did you do it a lot?”
“I would say more than most might,” he admits. “Are you sure you want to talk about this?”
I nod. “I would rather hear it from you than random people.”
“I’ll answer any questions you have.”
“Why did you do it?”
“Share? Or sleep with so many people in general?” he asks.
“Both, I guess.” I push myself up to sit on the counter.
“I like to experiment… and I like sex in general, whether it’s with one person or multiple people. I always have,” he shrugs. “I never had a specific reason. Women throw themselves at me; they were there so I said why not?”
“Do you want to share me?” I ask.
“No,” he replies without hesitation. “I’m greedy with you. I care about you.”
I nod again. I don’t really know what to say at the moment.
“How recently were you doing this?” I ask after a minute or so.
“It’s been a few years. The last time I had any kind of group sex was right after I opened the bar.”
“I’ve never done anything like that,” I admit.
“Is it something you’ve thought about?” he asks, leaning against the counter next to me.
“Not really. I’ve always thought of sex as a one on one thing,” I tell him.
He nods and says, “It’s not something I’ve even wanted to do in a long time. The last time was with a girlfriend. She thought it was something I wanted and afterwards she couldn’t stand to look at me. It was a threesome with another girl and she said she couldn’t get the image of me fucking her friend out of her head. I don’t want to be put in that position again.”
“I don’t think I could handle it either. I’d be worried you were wishing you were with someone else,” I admit. “I must seem pretty boring after all that.”
“You’re not boring at all,” he smiles, threading his fingers through mine. “I promise I don’t want to be with anyone but you.”
I nod my head but my emotions or insecurities get the better of me and I end up crying anyway. Maybe it’s just PMS, but the thought of losing him for any reason scares the shit out of me.
“Hey,” he whispers, turning to stand between my legs. “Why are you crying, Angel?”
“I don’t want to lose you.” I’m sure it makes no sense to him.
“I’m not going anywhere, Sookie.” Eric wraps his arms around me and kisses the tip of my nose. “You’re stuck with me now.”
I nod again and take a deep breath to calm myself down. “I’m sorry,” I apologize. “I’ll be fine in a minute.”
“Okay,” he says, rubbing my back. “And here I was scared you’d leave me for being so… loose with my affections.”
“No, I wouldn’t do that,” I sniffle. “But I have to ask… have you ever cheated before?”
“When I was a kid, yes. Not since I’ve been clean. It’s not something I can even fathom doing now.”
“Okay.” I sniffle again and reach for a napkin.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asks, wiping a tear with his thumb.
“Yeah. Hearing all of that made me think of something Gran said when we were talking and it just hit the wrong nerve,” I explain.
“Can you tell me what it was?”
“She said that according to Pam I should be more worried about you using sex to console yourself than by relapsing,” I answer honestly.
He thinks for a moment before he says, “She’s not completely wrong. I stopped drinking and doing drugs, but I always had women to fall back on. If something should happen between us that would upset me I can promise you that I won’t go out and search for another girl. I’ve learned to talk things through, Sookie. I don’t jump straight to a vice to get through bad shit now.”
Eric cups my face to give me a sweet kiss. “Still want to be my girlfriend?”
“Of course I do,” I reply.
“Good,” he smiles.
I get calmed down and then scoot off the counter to start cooking pasta. I’m sure this won’t be the last mini breakdown I have, but at least now he knows how I feel about him. I really don’t want to lose him. His past has made him who he is and I’m dangerously close to being in love with him.