**A/N: Apologies for not replying to those who’d kindly left comments and reviews on the last part, but I figured you fantastic humans (oh, say, any vampires in the mix? I have…questions) would enjoy the STC chapter instead. I adore receiving good reviews and comments – hell yeah I do!, and replying to them is, to me at least, part of the fun (you people are awesome and hilarious and clever and insightful and inspiring and did I mention hilarious?) in participating in the fanfic world.
I gotta say that I’m thrilled – and floored – by how well this fic has been received. This started out as an exercise in expanding my writing style and was initially meant to be a one-shot that kind of…grew…during the writing phase.
Finally: Eric and Sookie meet in the next part (YES!!), but you guys need to know this part first… I hope it doesn’t disappoint?**
Suddenly aware of the three pairs of eyes watching and documenting his every move, Eric commanded Misty to stay put then rapidly glamoured the onlookers to forget his visit and to return to their work. He then blurred from the room carrying the human who bore his Sookie’s scent over his shoulder.
The second door he tried revealed an empty meeting room, so he placed his burden and source of hope into a chair and locked the door. He grabbed another chair and moved to sit directly in front of her.
“Where is Sookie,” he demanded as his eyes bored into the woman’s dazed gaze.
“At the catering kitchen most likely,” came her monotone response.
“Where is the catering kitchen,” he demanded, but as he heard and memorized the location, he evaluated and discarded half a dozen ill-formed plans. Finally he decided it would be in his best interests to discover what he could about Sookie from this woman who knew her well enough to wear one of her hairs.
Speaking of…he leaned forward and impatiently acquired that loose hair, and held it gently to his nose.
“Why do you smell like Sookie and how did you come to have her hair on your person?” He ignored the growling undertone to his voice.
Eric fought to temper the rising tide of “mine” and “how dare you touch her” as he knew them to have no basis.
“I don’t know,” Misty replied, then thought, her dazed expression barely changing. “It could have been when I hugged her earlier.”
“And why did she need this hug,” he demanded harshly.
“Tonight’s crew is excellent but we have some divas who act up sometimes. She was frustrated and I wanted to stop her from firing them all again.”
“Why would she fire them?”
He thought quickly. He had to make the best use of his time with this woman as he wasn’t sure how long it would be until her absence was discovered. As each micro-second passed, the impatience in his blood pulsed faster, harder. Sookie was so close…
“She’s the co-owner with me.”
It flashed briefly through his mind how literal glamoured humans could be.
“How long have you known Sookie?”
Misty mentally calculated. “Around nine years or so.”
Eric felt as though a fist had landed a hard shot to his gut. In all the ways that counted, this woman had known his Sookie longer than he had.
He cleared his throat.
“How did you meet her?”
“My dad hired her to waitress in his restaurant.”
“How did she go from waitressing for your father to co-owning a catering company with you?”
“We became friends, sort of. Slowly.”
Something about the way the woman said her glamoured words pricked Eric’s attention.
“What do you mean by “sort of”?”
“Sookie isn’t close friends with anyone, not really.”
Sometimes open-ended questions led to curious answers.
“I don’t know. She’s very private, very reserved. I don’t really know anything about her that’s not somehow related to work.”
“Who are her closest friends?”
“She doesn’t have any, really, so I guess that would be me.”
Sookie didn’t have any close friends? This wasn’t the Sookie he had once known. That Sookie…she had valued her friendships in the past, had sometimes valued them too strongly and definitely to her own detriment.
If she had no one here, he couldn’t imagine how lonely she must have been. Surely she was still in contact with the Bon Temps Idiot Brigade, but they were in Louisiana, not here in Arizona, so wouldn’t she have made friends here? Especially after having been here approximately nine years…
What the fuck was going on?
“Tell me everything you know about Sookie, everything, no matter how insignificant,” he ordered this woman who knew his Sookie longer now than he had back then.
This fact bothered him on a fundamental level but he couldn’t explain exactly why, even in thought. He had no claim on Sookie. He couldn’t even call her “friend” – from any logical viewpoint she was an acquaintance at best.
The thought was considerably unsettling.
“She doesn’t get frustrated easily but when she does, she goes ballistic,” she started, obviously recalling the events of earlier that evening for some reason. “Sometimes she seems a thousand miles away, and sometimes she’ll fall into a bad mood for a while and you can tell she isn’t sleeping again, but then you can tell she’s coming out of it when she wears her blue nail polish. Those are her happier times. She’s…she’s a good person but she’s complicated.”
A thousand miles away? A bad mood? Not sleeping again? Blue nail polish? Misty’s tone implied the words carried more weight than he could immediately detect. The Sookie of his past wouldn’t wear…or would she?
It galled that he wasn’t certain – it felt like something he should know.
She’s complicated…he knew that phrase would repeat on a loop in his mind later, but refocused his attention as the glamoured woman began speaking again.
“She doesn’t like being out after dark, and she loves baking in the sun on her rooftop.”
That made a sad sort of sense to Eric as he listened to this woman’s prattling without interrupting. In the way of the glamoured, the woman’s speech was somewhat slow but continued in halting bursts.
“Sookie is a wonderful cook and can bake the best pies but she would rather sit behind her desk.”
“What does she do on her time off?”
Eric was concerned about the amount of time that was passing and made an effort to keep the woman chattering as much as possible.
Maybe if he could learn about what she did for fun…that information could come in quite useful.
“Sometimes she drives around for hours on her rare days off and I don’t think she goes anywhere specific. She just drives.”
“What else does she do?”
Misty began rambling again.
“It’s been a long while now but I’ve found her crying in the corner of the catering kitchen twice but she wouldn’t say why.”
Sookie cries? Why? The thought of his Sookie curled up crying in a corner of some room meant for cooking broke his heart more than a little.
“She didn’t say why? What do you think was going on?”
“I don’t know. She’s very good at leaving the room before I can ask her questions but even if I do ask, she’s even better at dodging the questions.”
Eric figured that was Sookie’s telepathy at work.
Then Misty continued in the manner of the glamoured.
“She doesn’t date very often and breaks up with them if they try to get too close or ask too many questions or want more from her than just sex and some laughs.”
Eric stoically pretended a rusty blade hadn’t just pierced his already sore heart. He knew he had no room to talk, none at all, but that didn’t stop the sharp ache. Being glad she had found at least some small comfort was well nigh impossible, but he would try.
Maybe it would work then.
“She works hard and she’s never sick, even when a bad flu made its rounds a few years back. She’s why we started this catering business anyway, because she’s such a good cook.”
Irritated that the woman’s speech seemed to wind down at the wrong time, he ordered, “Explain.”
“When Sookie was still a waitress, one of my dad’s breakfast cooks had to quit suddenly and left dad in a bind, so she stepped up and saved the day. She was a cook from then until we opened up shop. She’s the one who named the business.”
Eric’s eyes dropped down to look at the woman’s name-tag, and it hit him.
Lorena fucking Krasiki.
No wonder Sookie preferred to avoid the night.
As Eric concentrated on piecing together this new information, he came to the conclusion that he didn’t honestly have all that much from back then to compare anything to…he hadn’t actually known her, or all that much about her, then, either.
But he’d known what was most important, and felt it to still be true.
For a brief moment in time Sookie had been his, and would be again soon if… He cleared his throat.
Misty had gone quiet again so he prompted, “How did she end up in Yuma, Arizona of all places?”
“I don’t know,” was her sole reply, so with frustration he acknowledged that she truly had no idea.
“Do you think she is happy?”
It didn’t sound as though she was and he didn’t want to ask, wasn’t sure what he would do if the woman said she was – leaving her alone wasn’t tenable, but he had to know.
“No. I don’t think she is.”
Ashamed of his relief and determined to make it up to Sookie somehow, he nodded as though her glamoured eyes would pick up the social nicety.
“What is her home address? Her number?”
Once he committed that information to the infallible part of his memory, he asked, “What is her schedule for the next five nights?”
When he heard that she would be coming in at noon the next day and working until her regular quitting time at five, he nodded and commanded Misty to proceed. Sookie would be working the next two days, off for the following two, then back to work again.
That could make things a bit more complicated but at least she was to remain in the area, he thought with a fangy grin that fell when he remembered her habit of driving around aimlessly on her days off.
His strongest desire, of course, was to rush over and claim his Sookie immediately, but the schemer in his head warned that the logistics needed to be hammered out before he struck.
A glance at his watch confirming how little time had actually passed since securing the glamoured human, he eased back into his chair, strengthened his hold on her mind, and spent another twenty minutes gathering what information he could.
After Eric was satisfied that he knew as much as Misty did about Sookie’s habits, known likes and dislikes, and anything else either could think of, he released his hold on the human’s mind after ensuring her future cooperation.
Once back in his suite guards and banquet be damned, Eric paced a track in the expensive carpeting.
Sookie…of all people and after all this time…
He hadn’t bothered trying to get over her, not after he had realized that there hadn’t been all that much to get over, not really, not there at the end.
They had shared a connection, sure, a deeper connection than he’d ever had with anyone else, but it hadn’t been strong enough on her part to survive all the bullshit going on during the brief time they’d been in each others’ spheres.
Their meetings had always been more like collisions, brief, for the most part, and always intense. The haven he had found in her arms during his amnesia episode had since muted into something of a dream.
He figured it was self-preservation.
Everything that had come afterward had happened so fast. It had been too much too often too…everything. Between having to deal with his cracked Queen, the Authority, Hep V, Nora’s death, the Yakuza, Steve Newlin’s psycho-wife, the cure…
It had been too much; he had been so tired. By the time she had chosen Compton yet again, he had been too numb to really care.
There hadn’t been enough of him left to care.
He couldn’t say he’d been searching for her, either. Days, sometimes weeks, even the occasional month, would pass between times she would rise to the surface of his mind, but he’d learned quickly how to put stray thoughts back into their appropriate boxes. Her’s had never stayed shut, thought – the lid didn’t fit for fuck.
Dwelling wasn’t his style but then neither was forgetting.
And now…now she was so close.
He withdrew that fine strand of long blonde hair from his pocket and rolled it between his thumb and forefinger. He was glad she hadn’t cut her hair short or dyed it.
It dawned on him then that she was also using her real name, too. It appeared that while she’d been running, she hadn’t been hiding.
But what had she been running from, and why?
To the best of his knowledge he’d neutralized all threats to her safety before he’d left. He’d certainly tried.
Maybe it was the memories?
Odin knew she’d been emotionally destroyed by Compton innumerable times…not that he’d been entirely beneficial to her himself.
Those times, however, had been for broad safety reasons, and he’d thought she’d known, that she’d understood later.
He could have, should have, explained better, more…something…
None of them had escaped unscathed from the chaos that had run rampant in Louisiana.
The hollow joy he’d felt upon learning of Compton’s inevitable death had been more than overshadowed by the knowledge that the cowardly bastard was sniffing around Sookie yet again and would probably succeed in manipulating her somehow. Eric knew for a fact that Compton would willingly break her soul to pander to his own need for dramatics.
The fuck-up’s overly-dramatic refusal to take the cure proved that.
And she would have let him. Time and time again she had almost eagerly succumbed to Compton’s malignant lure – it was almost as though the throw-back vamp had managed to glamour her somehow. That’s the only way her strange choices made any kind of “sense” to him.
Another two laps through his suite had him calling the “caretaker” underling again, this time to have him dismiss and remove the rest of the women in his entourage. He couldn’t stomach the thought of touching any of them, and even their blood had lost appeal. As he was ending that call, something tickled at the back of his mind.
Her behavior recently had been in no way out of the ordinary, very typical…too typical, in fact. That alone should have made him nervous. Queen or not, Pam was Pam.
There had been no need whatsoever for him to attend this particular conference in this particular location yet she – with Jessica’s help – had not only made his reservations and smoothed the way but ensured that his schedule was cleared, and in the end had virtually insisted he go.
Her guilt trips were quite the production.
A long while back she had given up nagging him about the growing length of his hair, but then she suddenly began harping on it again three weeks ago.
Something was up.
But there was no way she could know about Sookie when even he hadn’t, not with his contacts. It wasn’t that he’d been actively looking for her since he didn’t think there would be any reason to, plus he figured she deserved to be free of the bullshit inherent in the supe world, but his far-reaching contacts would have mentioned to him if she’d been seen in their area…if she’d let them see her, that is.
The wildcard, though, was Willa. He knew that his two Daughters were somewhat friendly and were in irregular contact with each other.
The last he’d heard, Willa was in…
“Pamela,” he intoned when she answered his immediately placed call. “Speak.”
When he finally ended what turned out to be an extremely interesting and unusually long conversation with his child, he contacted the hotel’s concierge.
Ten minutes later he was in the chair receiving a hair cut from the hotel’s acclaimed barber on duty.
Sookie woke up the next morning with vague memories of soft dreams dancing in her head. She’d had good dreams that night…really, really good dreams.
Somehow she just knew in a way she couldn’t explain that those dreams about Eric had actually happened. Somehow she knew that some of the things she dreamed, the good things, the bad things, and the really, really good things…they had really, truly happened….
It pissed her off that she couldn’t touch and feel and know…and remember…that reality.
Confused, irate, and pissed off because of that blend of irritated confusion, Sookie stomped and banged around her home before shrugging on her bathing suit and hitting the lounge chair on her rooftop.
The strong dose of sexual frustration raging through her system didn’t help. Those dreams, combined with the string of increasingly mediocre lovers she’d had before giving up on that whole “friends with benefits” thing a while back, added no joy to her day.
She had less than an hour and a half to “baste and broil” as Misty called it before having to shower and appear by noon, but it was worth the effort. The sun, she had realized over the years, was her salvation when things were going nuts, when her memories became dreams and her dreams became memories and she couldn’t trust which was which.
It was telling, she thought, that everything had been fine before The Cowardly Asshole had shown up in her life. Hell, it was getting so that she couldn’t exactly recall what he even looked like, just what he’d said and done. She could remember everything normally from before then. Granted it was in bits and pieces as memories were naturally kept, but they were there and they were accessible and damn it, they were clear.
Other things were becoming clearer in her mind as time slowly ticked on, things seeming to return to the front as though they were no longer afraid to show their little memory faces now but had been before. She could remember working at that stupid smelly bar, could remember Maxine downing her Diet Coke with her tub of fries, could remember Hoyt and Jessica and some of her co-workers. She could remember the librarian at that dinky local library, could remember Lala and kind of missed him sometimes, could remember Arlene and Willa even though she didn’t really know her all that well.
She could even remember Pam and how the vampire had hated her, jealous she supposed over that connection she had with Eric.
She remembered Alcide, some things about him anyway, but for some reason they didn’t make a lot of sense, but her gut told her that he wasn’t all that important to the here and now.
Her gut never lied – she’d learned that along the way at some point.
Some things in her mind were still distorted, though, mostly things about Eric and The Cowardly Asshole now.. They would appear in and out of a bank of strange fog and smoke playing “catch me if you can”.
Things were distorted even after she’d left back there, but that made a weird sort of sense to her. She’d been in the middle of having a breakdown while driving down the Interstate for fuck’s sake, so of course things from then were foggy as hell.
She remembered buying her first bottle of blue nail polish, though. She remembered crying in some store’s parking lot and she remembered wanting some hot food, too, but those events were sometimes a bit hazy, but more like memories usually were. Wanting to buy that silly nail polish, though…
It was the first stark, clear, 3-D memory she could recall after having left…there.
She set the alarm on the battery-operated clock she’d started using instead of her phone with its unreliable battery, and proceeded to fall back into a nice, comforting sleep.
Work started at noon and while it was going to be a boring night, she still had to be there.
**A/N: And that’s where Eric and Sookie are, respectively and so to speak. Can you see now why it stopped being a “one shot”…? And before you ask (in case you skipped the initial A/N): first contact will be made…lemme check…ahh, here it is – the next part. So, what’d ja think about THIS part?**