I’m watching Frankenfood on my DVR when there’s a knock on the door. I pause the episode and get up to go see who it is. I have my very own Mr. Heckles living downstairs so I won’t be surprised if it’s him coming to complain about my breathing.
I throw the door open, prepared to tell him to fuck off, but my brain short circuits when I see Eric standing there instead.
“Hi,” he says quietly.
“Uh hi. What are you doing here?”
“Truthfully, I don’t know,” he admits. “I was trying to go home and I ended up here.”
“Oh. Uhhh… I don’t know if I should invite you in,” I tell him. There’s something in his eyes that tells me it would be like striking a match next to a powder keg if I let him in.
“Right. Okay.” He nods curtly and turns to walk away.
“It’s not necessarily that I don’t want to. It’s just… I don’t know what will happen.” I can feel the energy rolling off him in waves. He’s all keyed up about something.
“I don’t know either,” he says as he looks over his shoulder at me. “For some godforsaken reason, I want to find out.”
For reasons I don’t know, I open the door wider and step back to let him in. Eric slowly turns and steps into my apartment. His chest is nearly touching mine as he looks down the couple inches into my eyes.
“Thank you,” he whispers.
“For what?” I can’t get my voice above a whisper either and my heart is pounding in my chest.
“I don’t know yet,” he replies with a small smile. He closes the door behind him without moving away so we’re still chest to chest looking at each other.
“Then I guess you’re welcome.” I’m trying to figure out what’s going on in his head. There’s an electric charge building between us.
His eyes roam around my face and he says in a low voice, “You look really, really good, Sookie.”
“Thank you,” I whisper back. I’ve put my hair up since I saw him at the coffee shop.
He starts to lift his hand to touch my face but thinks better of it at the last second and drops his arm down again.
“I shouldn’t have come here,” he tells me as he shifts a little closer to me.
“I’m trouble,” I agree. I know I’ve said that to him before.
“So?” he whispers as his face gets slightly closer to mine.
“We’re not kids anymore,” I reply with absolutely zero conviction. One kiss. Just one kiss can’t hurt, right?
“I know.” A small smile hits his lips just before they press to mine in a soft kiss. His hands are still at his sides, but he doesn’t pull back. He continues to give me sweet pecks until he decides to suck my bottom lip between his.
I expect to hear alarm bells going off in my head or my therapist’s voice screaming at me to quit it, but I don’t. My heart may very well explode before anything more happens anyway.
My hands end up on his chest and when I part my lips for him, his tongue touches mine. Eric’s an even better kisser now than when we were kids, and he was pretty good back then. My tongue duels with his and I feel his hands working the elastic from my hair. He’s always been big on playing with my hair. Those long fingers tangle in it and the sweet, tentative Eric disappears, leaving the confident, dominant Eric in his place. Without even realizing I was moving, my back hits the wall and my hands start roaming his torso. Fuck, he feels incredible.
“Sorry,” he whispers as he pulls back. His hands are still in my hair. His hips are slowly moving against me as he rests his forehead on mine. He gives me another lingering peck and adds, “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“What was supposed to happen?” My voice is all breathy.
“I don’t know.” He kisses me again, this time without closing his eyes.
“Maybe you should go now before things get out of control,” I suggest, although I don’t really want to.
“Is that what you want?” His head drops to my neck and I feel his tongue swirling slowly over my skin.
No. God, what I want right now is to rip my clothes off and fuck his brains out. I don’t think I should though.
“No,” I whisper. There has to be some kind of happy medium, right?
“Good,” he purrs against my neck as he starts to kiss and lick to the other side. “I can slow down if you want…” Eric’s hands drop down to my hips and I feel his thick fingers run along my waist under my shirt.
I want him to touch me, I really do, but I know I can’t have a onetime thing with him. We have too much history and I’m not sure if I want us to have a future. I’m finally on solid ground for the first time in years. I don’t want to ruin that.
“Eric, wait,” I breathe and gently push him back.
“Okay.” He moves back with ease, settling his hands on my hips.
“I’m sorry. I can’t do this.”
“I shouldn’t have… shit,” he sighs as he drops his hands. “I didn’t intend to come over here, Sookie… sorry…”
“It’s okay. I’m not mad that you did. I just don’t think this is a good idea,” I explain. “I don’t know where your life is at but I know mine and I’m better, but not ready for casual sex with an ex-boyfriend better.”
“For the record, it wouldn’t be casual sex for me. It never has been with you,” he says, reaching up to tuck my hair behind my ear. “Can we try this getting to know each other thing again?”
The sex may not be casual, but it wouldn’t be about love either and I think right now that’s what I need to wait for. I’ve used sex as a distraction so many times and as a conduit to feel some sort of affection, even if it’s fleeting, and I can’t keep doing that.
“Yes, we can try,” I agree. I’d like to be his friend. I was once.
“Thank you,” he smiles. His hands fall away from me and he takes a step back to shake off whatever is going through his mind.
“Are you thirsty or hungry?” I fix my shirt and try to get my heart to slow down.
“Yeah, I could use a refreshment,” he chuckles. “Can I use your restroom…”
“Of course. It’s the second door on the left in the hallway,” I tell him. “Strawberry lemonade okay?”
“Yeah, thanks.” He smiles before turning to go to the bathroom.
I turn and go to the kitchen to get us drinks. I know my face is flushed and I’m sure my neck is splotchy from his kisses. They felt good but that’s not the issue. Chemistry has never been a problem for Eric and me. Not that we didn’t have normal fights that all couples have, but we had a good relationship back in the day. I used to be able to tell him anything. I trusted him with every part of me and every dark secret I carried. Well, almost everything. I’ve been keeping something to myself since three weeks after he left. Dad convinced me not to tell Eric and in hindsight, I know it was the right decision. I just hope Eric sees it that way.
I’m sitting on my couch; DVR still paused on Tony Luke’s face when Eric strolls in. He takes a seat beside me but not too close. I sip my lemonade and set my glass on the end table. His is on the coffee table.
I clear my throat and say, “I have something to tell you in the spirit of getting to know each other again. I didn’t tell you about this when it happened because Dad convinced me it was a bad idea and it would just make you feel obligated to come back to me.”
His face goes pale as he searches mine. “Okay…”
“Three weeks after you left I had a miscarriage. I didn’t know I was pregnant until I lost it,” I tell him.
He keeps his eyes on mine for a moment before he leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees.
“I’m sorry, Sookie,” he whispers. “Corbett’s right. I would’ve come back… I wish I’d… I’m sorry.”
I reach out and rub his back.
“You don’t need to be sorry, Eric. I got through it and if you would have come back it would have just made you resent me. It was more of a shock than a trauma. We were careful so I didn’t have any idea. If I had known I would have told you,” I assure him.
“I believe that,” he says with a strained smile. “Thank you for telling me. I uh… I don’t really know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything. I just wanted you to know.”
“Thanks.” He reaches over to squeeze my hand a moment before letting go. “When Callie got pregnant with EJ, we discussed abortion or adoption. I wasn’t ready but she convinced me it would be an adventure,” he chuckles. “I don’t regret him for a second, but if I had my way he wouldn’t be here,” he admits. “I’ve never told anyone that.”
“Sometimes nature knows better than us,” I smile. “I have no doubt that we would have loved the shit out of our kid but I don’t know if we would have been happy or ready for the responsibility.”
“Definitely not,” he chuckles. “You know you’re the only girl I ever wanted a kid with; when we were ready, of course.”
“And of course now I’m pretty sure I’d be a terrible mother,” I snort. I have way too many issues.
“I don’t believe that for a second. You’re probably not ready but when or if you are I think you’ll be a fantastic mother. You’ll probably smother your kids,” he laughs.
“Eric, I have no idea how to be a mom. I didn’t have one, remember? I don’t know how to change a diaper or what to do if it doesn’t stop crying. I’m just… I’m not cut out for it.”
I can barely take care of myself, for fuck’s sake.
“Do you want children?” he asks curiously.
“Honestly, I don’t know but I’ve learned that I shouldn’t have everything I want.” Just because I want it doesn’t mean it’s good for me. Or I’m good for it.
“I can see that,” he nods. “It’s an eye opener, that’s for sure. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. When Mom got sick and Cal decided she wasn’t happy with me anymore she left me for six or so months with a toddler. I wasn’t in any position to raise a child on my own. Dad was useless too with Mom passing. I’m honestly surprised my son survived.”
“Kids are resilient. I guess EJ and I are proof of that. The thing is, if I had a kid, I wouldn’t want it to come out of the womb with the attitude of a survivor. I don’t want my kids growing up like me.” I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“I’m not trying to talk you into having a baby,” he smiles, reaching to squeeze my hand again. “It’s okay if you want to talk about something else.”
“I know you’re not trying to talk me into it. It’s a good thing too, since I’m not sleeping with anyone. I’m… I’ve been… I need to not do that for a while. Keep working on me,” I explain.
“That’s good,” he nods. “It’s a better reason than I have,” he finishes with a grin.
“What’s your reason?”
“Busy,” he shrugs, “And the girl I was seeing would rather watch reality shows than be with me.”
My heart seizes.
“You’re seeing someone?”
“I ah… I’m pretty sure it’s over with her. I’m going to call her later to see where we stand.”
“If I hadn’t backed off would you have…” I can’t finish the sentence for some reason.
“I would’ve wanted to, but we aren’t ready for anything that… involved. I would’ve stopped,” he assures me.
I’d like to believe that’s true but I’m not too sure. We used to have a way of losing our heads around each other. One minute we’d be at each other’s throats and the next we’d be ripping each other’s clothes off. Our relationship was intense.
“Do you love her?” I’m a masochist. I don’t know if I really want an answer to that but I’m going to be pissed if he almost just ruined a serious relationship.
“No. I barely know her,” he admits. “We’ve been seeing each other a few weeks but haven’t done much in the way of couply things.”
“Well in her defense I’d rather watch reality TV too,” I joke. “You’re not that interesting.”
“Jerk,” he laughs. “I can’t win with you, can I? Ugly kid and I’m boring.”
“I’ve seen what happens when that ego inflates,” I shrug. He’s a cocky fucker.
“Should I leave and never come back?” he asks with a sad puppy dog look.
“I think you tried that before. Didn’t take.” He tried dumping me senior year for Maudette. That lasted for a week.
“Clearly I was an idiot then,” he shrugs.
“Well I mean JB was cuter than you so I understand why you were jealous.” We were assigned to a history project together. Eric didn’t like the way JB was looking at me.
“He’s a hell of a lot dumber though,” he snorts.
“You know he and Tara have demons together now, right?”
“I heard. She’s been into the bar a few times over the last few months.”
“Those kids are awful. Her son took a leak on Mrs. Fortenberry’s rose bushes.”
“Oh lord,” Eric laughs. “She told me about your shoes.”
“She was stunned when I told her she owes me almost $400 for them, by the way.” Tara was livid when she realized I was serious.
“That’s what she gets for raising little assholes.”
“It was like an episode of Sex and the City. She was going on about how silly it is for me to spend so much on shoes, but that’s none of her business. To me it’s more absurd that she thinks I should be on the hook for the damage her children did to my property. If Robbie had done that in a store she would be liable. Why should I have to pay for the shoes twice because she doesn’t discipline her kids? Maxine almost whooped Robbie’s ass before Tara got there and I wish she would have, even though Tara probably would have had her arrested. In fact, extra win! Robbie gets his ass beat and Maxine goes to jail. Everyone wins,” I laugh.
Eric is looking at me like he can’t decide if I’m nuts or awesome, but I don’t care. I’m actually used to that look. I’ve seen it plenty. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with us but clearly the chemistry is still here between. For now I just want to be friends. I’m pretty sure that’s all I can handle.
“I don’t know if you’re insane or amazing,” I chuckle. “I’m leaning toward amazing.” As I’m look at her my chest starts to feel tight. She’s always had a beautiful smile and seeing her look so happy, especially after the last time we saw each other, feels good.
“It’s both,” she laughs again.
“Your crazy ideas has always been one of my favorite things about you,” I smile.
“I do have some crazy ideas,” Sookie agrees.
“I see not much has changed in that regard,” I chuckle. “You seem a little tamer now.”
“It was time to grow up.” She smiles but there’s sadness in her eyes.
I thread my fingers through hers and say, “Growing up isn’t a bad thing, Sookie.”
“I should have done it years ago,” she explains.
“I don’t think there’s a time limit on getting yourself together. All that matters now is that you are getting the help you need, ya know? Over this last year I’ve had a few days when I thought about you and thought that maybe if… maybe if I never went to Europe we would’ve stayed together and all those shitty relationships you were in could’ve been avoided,” I admit. The way she explained what happened and the things Jason told me made feel extremely guilty. I feel like I abandoned her even though we were already broken up when I left.
“Don’t you dare go down that road Eric Andrew Northman. You are not responsible for my bad decisions,” Sookie says firmly.
“I know that. It doesn’t make me feel less guilty. It was more so the conversation I had with Jason when he told me to forget I ever met yo–”
“Did you go along with that?” Sookie glares at me.
I sigh and say, “I told him I could never forget you, but if it was for your own good I’d make sure to stay away… He thought I did something to make you flip out… I guess you told Corbett you saw me again and that’s why you were going through whatever it was you were going through then.” I’ve never kept anything from Sookie even if it upset her or hurt her and I don’t intend to start now.
“Thanks, Dad,” Sookie mutters. She pulls her knees up to her chest and puts her head down so I can’t see her face.
“I’m sorry.” I want to hug her. “Can I ask you something?”
“Yeah.” Her answer is muffled.
“Do you think it would’ve been better if I tried to contact you?” I scoot close to her rub her back lightly.
“I don’t think about it. I can’t think that way, Eric. My actual history is bad enough and even if you had contacted me there’s no way to know how it would have worked.”
I nod, even though she doesn’t see me. “Don’t be mad at them. They thought they were doing the right thing.” It’s probably the wrong thing to say but I’m at a loss. I want to hold her but I don’t know if that’s right either.
Sookie lifts her head and there are tears on her cheeks. Her face is flushed and she looks angry and embarrassed at the same time.
“I’m not mad at them. I’m mad at myself for putting them in a position where they feel like they have to protect me like that. I’m not a victim,” Sookie says.
“I know, you’re a survivor and that’s a hard life to live, Sookie,” I say quietly. I pull my hand back and reach up to wipe the tears off her right cheek.
“It’s the hand I was dealt. I don’t like it, but I’ve accepted it,” she sniffles. “You know I figured out why I let so many awful things happen to me.”
“Why’s that?” I wipe the tears from her left cheek, which are quickly replaced with fresh tears. I’ve always hated to see her cry.
“Because I trained myself to think I don’t deserve to be happy,” she confesses. “It’s weird, you know? I had this hole in my chest that I was tryin’ so hard to fill but anyone who offered me anything real I pushed away or found a way to destroy it. Even you.”
“Do you feel like you deserve to be happy now?” My chest is tight again. I’ve never wanted to hold someone so fuckin’ bad.
Sookie nods. “Yeah, I do. I’m working on getting there. I try to find one thing every day that makes me happy. Yesterday it was a customer’s baby laughing until she couldn’t breathe and her little face was almost purple. The day before that it was the big maple leaf on the coffee table that landed right at my feet in the park.”
“What makes you happy today?” I ask. Selfishly I want her to say me, but I won’t hold my breath. I’m sure she’s had several things that could’ve made her happy today. I’m sitting here making her cry.
Sookie shifts herself so she’s sitting sideways across my lap. She wraps my arms around her like I used to do and she rests her head on my shoulder so I can feel her breath on my neck.
“This,” she whispers. “This used to make me feel like the world wasn’t so scary, like I wasn’t alone after all.”
“I’ll always be here to hold you like this,” I whisper. “As long as you let me, I promise to keep you safe… even if we never move past friendship.” The longer I sit here with her, the more I want to be with her again. I don’t think it’s the nostalgia talking. Sookie Stackhouse was my future at one point. We fucked that off but we have a second chance now.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Eric,” she says softly. “I need to make myself feel safe. That’s my job and nobody else’s.”
I wrap my arms a little tighter and say, “I have every intention of keeping that promise this time.” I get what’s she’s saying about making herself feel safe. That doesn’t mean I can’t add a little extra protection.
“You should save that promise for someone on your level.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I pull back, but drag her with me so she’s sitting on my lap.
“It means I don’t know what I want and I can tell by the way you’re looking at me what you’re thinking right now and I know I can’t give it to you right now. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready,” she says.
“How about you let me so worry about my feelings? Of course there’s that part that says it’s a good idea for us to try to work this out when you’re ready. I’m also well aware of the fact that that may never happen.” She needs to focus on her. I can be a selfish ass but I know my selfishness isn’t what she needs to focus on.
“I just don’t want you to get your hopes up or waste your time on me,” she explains. “You deserve to be happy too.”
“I know. I’m not saying I’m going to squash my limited social life and pine over you,” I chuckle. “I’m ready to be friends again. Hell, I don’t even know what’s going on with the girl I’ve been dating.” I really need to talk to her.
“I think if you want to keep seeing her I should get off your lap,” Sookie replies.
“I’m pretty sure we’re over, so I’ll keep you here,” I smile.
“You’re a little too happy to be done with her. I’m guessing your feelings for her were iffy?”
“She’s young,” I explain. “She’s cute and sweet, but not really my normal type. I like her but she’s a little boring.”
“Since when are you interesting?”
“Shit, I forgot I’m boring and ugly. I should go back to her place and grovel so she keeps me and whines about her hair being too thin,” I finish with a dramatic sigh.
“There’s really only one question you need to answer to know if you should try to make it work.”
“Does she like Sabbath?”
“No,” I reply, shaking my head. “She likes hip hop.”
Sookie sneers. “Her shelf life has expired.”
“So you can stay here on my lap?” She’s always been comfortable to snuggle with. Surprisingly I don’t even have a hard-on.
“I don’t think so.” Sookie frees herself from my grasp. She climbs off my lap and adds, “We can revisit the snuggling thing when you’re officially single again.”
“I can make the call now,” I chuckle.
Freyda’s ears must be burning because before Sookie can respond my phone is ringing. It’s her. I look at the screen and ask Sookie if I can go into the spare room to take the call. She nods and as I walk down the hall I answer the call.
“How’s the jog going? Must be good. I’ve been ringing your doorbell for ten minutes.”
“I’m not home,” I say, stating the obvious.
“So the whole going for a jog on your treadmill promise was bullshit,” she sighs.
“No. When I left I had every intention of going home to jog. I just happened to make an unplanned detour.”
“Oh I’m sure you did.”
“What do you want me to say? I didn’t lie to you. When I left I was going home.”
“But it’s not where you ended up! Gee, Officer, I meant to go home but I shot two people instead. But I intended to go home so you can’t charge me,” she says. “Your intentions don’t count, Eric.”
At this point she’s assuming I’m at Sookie’s. I am, but I could easily lie. I won’t. It’s not something I’ve ever been good at.
“You know, I am at her house, Freyda. I’m here and we’re talking. I have a lot of history with her and when we saw each other last it didn’t go well. I wanted to clear the air,” I tell her. I know it’s not an excuse and she’s more than likely going to either yell or hang up.
“Do you want her back?”
That’s a tough question to answer. I don’t know the new Sookie well enough to say yes. I also can’t seem to say no.
“I want to be friends with her,” is what I end up saying.
“That’s it? Nothing else?”
“I honestly don’t know right now.”
“Right,” she sighs. “Well, I’ll make this easy for you. Goodbye, Eric.”
What do I say? I’m going to sound like a dick either way.
“Goodbye, Freyda,” I reply quietly and hear a click.
That wasn’t supposed to happen that way. It’s definitely not how I planned on breaking up with her even though it was inevitable.
I hear the door creak and I turn to see Sookie standing there.
“Well… I’m officially back on the market,” I sigh.
She frowns. “I’m sorry, Eric.”
“Thanks. It was bound to happen. I just didn’t want it to go like this.”
“There’s never a good way to break up with someone, at least not in my experience,” she says. “I was just going to run to the market to get some stuff for supper. Are you staying?”
“Would you like me to?” I don’t want to overstay my welcome and make her uncomfortable.
“It’s up to you. I have a taste for beef stew and Gran’s butter biscuits.”
“I would never turn down Gran’s biscuits,” I smile.
“Okay. Then are you coming with me or staying here to snoop? I won’t be long.”
“I can come with,” I shrug. “I’ll even drive if you want.”
“I’m not sure I want to see my life flash before my eyes,” she teases.
“Take a nap like you did last time,” I wink as I walk toward her.
“That wasn’t a nap,” Sookie laughs. “I was praying.”
“Uh huh,” I smile as I follow her out of the room.
When we get out to the living room Sookie turns to give me a tight, friendly, hug. We have a long way to go. Even if we do just stay friends Sookie is worth it. I just hope she truly starts to feel that way.