**A/N: This WP-only (final season fix-it) one-shot takes place the night after Sookie staked Bill. While this is NOT intended as a song-fic, the inspiration came WHILE I was working on a WIP (or two) in the form of a scene of Eric sitting in the pouring rain in a brand new SUV in front of Sookie’s old, dark farmhouse. He’s fiddling with the sat. radio and, appropriately enough, In Too Deep (Genesis) comes over the airway. As I’m sure you can tell, it’s a wee bit moody at first (“it’s a dark and rainy night”…) but Eric demanded that it have an HEA. That was not where I originally intended to go with this, but you know Eric – he saved the night, lol. I hope you enjoy.**
Eric Northman, now a vampire free from the Yakuza, free from Hep V, free from all other obligations except to his Children, sat in his newly acquired SUV outside Sookie’s aging house. The warm, dry interior provided a temporary shelter from the rain pelting down on this dismal night, but that wasn’t the only reason he was loathe to exit the vehicle. The darkened interior of the aging Stackhouse homestead didn’t beckon with welcoming arms.
It rarely ever did.
He didn’t understand why he felt the urge to leave a final note for her, something simply stating that he had left the area and wanted to wish her “goodbye”, but he did.
In the dark he idly flipped through the multitude of satellite stations he’d already programmed, and settled for one specializing in the more depressing older classics.
It wasn’t a night for anything upbeat.
Thanks to the tender auspices of Jessica, he knew that Sookie had let herself be manipulated into staking Bill fucking Compton the night before. With a grimace, he wondered just how gullible, how stupid, the love of his unlife could sometimes be. Of course, with calculating assholes like Compton in the picture, her good nature would get her in trouble far more often than not.
She almost didn’t stand a chance against fuckers like him, but damn, it looked like she’d learn at some point. Compton, of course, was a craven coward at the best of times and couldn’t be bothered to do the sane, decent thing and just walk his ass out into the sun on his own two feet.
Eric shook his head sadly. He doubted even now that Sookie would ever learn, ever grow the fuck up and see what was right before her eyes.
He lowered his head to the steering wheel in defeat as the one song that defined his relationship, if that’s what it could be called, with her came over the air.
Listen, you know I love you, but I just can’t take this…
You know I love you, but I’m playing for keeps…
Maybe she never knew that he was playing for keeps? Perhaps if he’d been clearer? He thought he’d been clear enough, though, but maybe not.
Maybe she feared that he was playing for keeps? Perhaps he hadn’t given her enough choice? In retrospect time had always been at a premium…maybe they’d never had a chance to begin with, not really.
It didn’t matter now, of course. He’d been waiting too long, and it was time to go in more ways than one.
He had a future to build for himself, for himself and his progeny, even and especially for Willa. He had an obligation to his newest daughter, and he was determined to see it through…whether she liked it or not.
It wasn’t as though he’d know – she still wasn’t speaking to him unless she had to.
Although I need you, I’m not gonna make this…
With a sigh he jerked the SUV into reverse, but before he could hit the gas, he heard then saw the lights of a truck coming down Sookie’s long driveway.
You know I want to, but I’m in too deep.
No clean get-away tonight, he guessed.
He returned the gearshift to park, flipped the lights on, and waited.
The man’s truck slowed down and instead of going around the house to let Sookie out where she’d normally enter her home, the driver pulled up and parked beside him. A glance through the windshield had shown the drive to be her brother Jason.
The pleased surprise on Sookie’s drawn, tired face when she looked over at him was nice, but he knew from experience that such things didn’t last too long.
She must have guessed that he intended to open his door because she held up her hand and said too quietly for a human to hear behind rolled-up windows, two vehicle engines, and the pouring rain, that she would come around and to be sure the door was unlocked.
Eric shrugged and reached behind his seat to grab a roll of paper towels. She’d be drenched by the time she made it. He kicked up the heat since the night was too cool for human comfort, and waited while she earnestly hugged her brother for a surprisingly long time.
What was up with that?
A few minutes later she, along with a duffel bag, a plastic bag stuffed to the brim and knotted, and a large purse, noisily entered the SUV. After a wave to her brother, the truck slowly reversed, turned around, and rolled noisily down the driveway. In the brief view he once again had of Jason’s face, he could see that her brother’s cheeks looked wet, but he hadn’t been out in the rain.
Refusing to be curious, he handed her the roll of paper towels, and turned off the station.
“Wow, it’s really comin’ down out there,” she said, her voice more cheerful than he’d have thought considering the tears leaking from her eyes and her over-all fatigued appearance.
Eric nodded briefly then smiled a little at the sight of her trying to dry her face and arms, then her hair, with gobs of paper toweling. Finally she gave up on her hair and settled for blotting her ample chest.
He had to look away. The resilient bouncing was far too tempting.
“All right, I think I’m as dry as I’m going to get for now,” she announced as she tossed the damp white pile over her shoulder into the back seat with a dramatic flourish. “So, what’s up?”
She adjusted the heat vents and turned to face him.
Eric inhaled, and in with the mouthwatering fragrance of a rain-wet fairy hybrid he caught the unmistakable odor of old items stored too long in damp, dusty places. He could barely meet the expectant look in her eyes.
“I came to say goodbye,” he finally said, his voice thickened as the enormity of his planned actions weighed down on his heart.
“Goodbye? Where ya goin’?” Her voice held an unexpected tone that niggled at his brain, but he didn’t try to understand.
His nights of trying to figure Sookie out were over.
“I’m not sure,” he hedged, wanting…no, needing to cut his losses completely. He knew that if he told her where he was going, he would spend the next sixty-odd years holding his breath, waiting to see her pop up out of the blue one night or waiting to hear from her if she managed to find trouble yet again, and he couldn’t take that. That waiting would be the end of him. Clean cuts heal fastest and so on…
To his shock, she snorted.
“That’s exactly where I’m going, too,” she said with a wry grin.
Curious beyond any desire to be so, he turned to face her more fully and quirked his brow. “What do you mean?”
Soft, warm brown eyes, still glistening with shed tears, looked him over as if savoring the memory of his face, then finally, boldly, met his eyes.
“I mean I’m getting out of here, Eric. There’s too much… too much everything here.” She swept her hand across the dash, clearly indicating not just the old farmhouse, but the area itself, too.
Sookie tore off another paper towel and blotted her face, then with a giggle gave into nature and blew her nose with satisfaction.
“Sorry, it’s been a long day.”
Stunned with her declaration, he couldn’t stop himself from inquiring, “Why?”
“I’m finally goin’ to do something smart for myself for a change. Here, this place, this whole county, is filled with sorrow and sadness, with bad decisions made for good reasons, but they were still bad decisions. People who I thought were my friends, well, I found out that they really weren’t, or that they were friends with me only when I would do things for them, and I don’t need that. There’s too much stuff that happened that I still to this day don’t understand, but it doesn’t matter anymore,” she said, her voice filled with steely yet vulnerable determination.
She wiped at her eyes with her hands, the used paper towel now tucked into the pocket of her jeans, and cleared her throat. “I don’t know where I’m goin’ yet, maybe to Houston or Dallas or maybe New Orleans now that it’s safer for tasty fae hybrids, but it’s time for me to go. It’s time for me to be any place but here.”
Eric gripped the steering wheel so strongly that it warped before he realized what was happening.
All the best-laid plans…
His mind working at vampire speed, he rushed through a thousand thoughts a second. At this late date, maybe Sookie was realizing a few home truths, maybe she was growing up, maybe she was tired of being so fucking stupid at every possible chance…
Maybe the real Sookie was finally, fucking finally, coming out to play?
But even so, she was still being fucking stupid…
“So, you’ve decided to leave, but you don’t even know where you’re going? Where you’re going to stay? How you’re going to support yourself? What the fuck, Sookie? Are you asking for trouble?” He could no more stop the torrent of words than he could stop the sun’s rising.
Instead of firing back at him, after her initial shock over his tone of voice faded, she beamed at him. To Eric it seemed as though she had seen beyond his harsh tone and glimpsed the desire so deeply ingrained into his soul to protect her. Slowly her smile softened and she gazed into his face, her new maturity obvious.
“No, I have a little money saved, and Jason gave me what he had saved up, too. Lala wrote down some places in New Orleans that would be safer for what he called a “borin’ white chick”, and gave me some names of people who might be able to help me get a job waitressin’.” At the look of disgust on his face, she added, “It’s not what I want to do, but it’s what I can do until I find something better. He also told me that there are grants or somethin’ for people who need financial assistance to go to college, too, and after I get settled wherever, I’m going to look into that.”
She looked down at her hands as she considered her words.
“I want better than what I had, Eric. I’ve lied to myself for years trying to justify stayin’ here and havin’ nothin’, but I can’t do that anymore. This,” she looked up and again swept her hand in an arc, her accent deepening with the force of her emotions, “might have been ok for Gran, but it’s not ok for me. Maybe she felt that this was all she deserved after cheating on my Granpa, but that’s no reason for me to be stuck here, workin’ hard to do without. I talked to Jason and told him what I was goin’ to do, and you know what, Eric? He agreed with me. He actually agreed with me that I can do a lot better than all this. He’s goin’ to stay here and keep workin’ steady and send me what money he can until I get on my feet, and then he might just join me.” She looked up at him and the quiet joy on her face pricked the back of his eyes. “My bags are already packed in my car ’round back. I’d meant to leave a lot earlier today but me and Jason got talkin’ as I looked through some old stuff at his house, and time flew by. But yeah, there’s a whole ‘nother life for me out there and I’m goin’ to go find it.”
He could see, could feel, that she meant every word, and if her worthless, shiftless brother was even willing to help, which he would believe when he actually saw it, then that was even better.
But in the end he could tell she meant it. He exhaled gustily, and fiddled with some of the buttons on the dash.
“New Orleans,” he stated out of the blue minutes later. The silence and the rain were deafening. “That’s where I’m headed. I’m starting a new blood substitute business and that’s where my home base will be. My genius contacts in a certain Swedish lab have already created a way to incorporate a synthesized cure to Hep V into the fake blood, and I have a number of warehouses and potential factories available down there. Pam is a silent partner, and Willa is, too, whether she cares or not.” He closely examined a non-existent piece of lint on his denim-clad thigh. “With the way things are in the vampire world, this is going to take off fast.” He paused for a long moment. “I could use your help…”
He glanced at his silent companion out of the corner of his eye, and turned to face her fully when he saw tears falling past trembling lips.
She nodded vigorously, then scrubbed at her face with trembling hands before almost shouting, “Yes!”
He felt what must have been thousands of tiny shards of ice fall from his heart, and then her faced turned serious.
“But Eric, um, I know we’ll always be friends, at least I hope so, but, well, I…shit,” she cursed uncharacteristically. She took a huge breath, held it for a moment, then exhaled. “I’ll be blunt, then, cause I just can’t think of another way to ask this. Will we be going together as friends, or as…as more than friends? I need to know.”
At the surprise on his face, she chuckled wryly. “I know, right? I used to be so scared to know anything for sure that I’d never dare to ask, but those days are over. So, I need to know what we’re goin’ to be to each other. Regardless of whatever, I’ll always want you in my life even if it has to be just as a friend, but if you wanted more, if you would be willing to give us another chance, that’d… that’d be even better,” she said in a rush as she very daringly met his eyes.
Eric held her gaze for an endless moment while sorely wishing not for the first time that he could read her damn mind. On the one hand, this all held a mature logic he hadn’t thought her capable of, but on the other, it seemed too good to be true.
Dare he trust it?
As if sensing his doubts, Sookie added with a sad smile, “Like I said, I’m ready to leave right now. I’d already be gone if Jason hadn’t stopped by for lunch after I’d called him, then he made me promise to wait for him to get off work so we could talk some more. We went back to his house so I could look through some old family things and collect some of my clothes I’d left over there off and on. I don’t like the “me” I was here,” she suddenly clarified to his shock. “I want a do-over with my life, and that includes you, Eric, whether as friends or…more.”
As he stared at her, his eyes narrowed, and his mouth started talking before his mind could over-think.
“If you go as Mine, you’ll stay Mine.” His eyes flicked to the dash, then back to her. “I’m playing for keeps, Sookie, except this isn’t a game. This is my life. I need to know that you’re in this for forev…for always.” His voice was strong, his words almost harsh, but the look in his eyes, the vulnerability vying with hope for a last stand, revealed the state of his heart.
Sookie kept her eyes locked with his, the quiet joy on her face growing broader and brighter. She took his face between her hands, and spoke.
He swallowed almost convulsively, but kept silent as he sensed she had more to say.
“I can’t say it’ll be easy between us, but how about we do things a little differently this time,” she suggested with a slightly wry but loving smile curving her lips.
He raised a brow in query. Despite her obvious exhaustion, her new, deeply buoyant attitude was not only evident, but was somehow contagious, too. Truthfully he couldn’t wait to hear what might come out of her mouth next.
“How about we try talking more this time around? Let’s ask honest questions and give honest answers and make actual time for each other. I think we both deserve that. Neither one of us is perfect – no, not even you Mr. Sexy Vampire Britches,” she snarked with a huge grin at his faux affronted expression. “But we deserve to fight for each other and for what we can be together. So, if we have to, let’s fight, let’s argue and butt heads and have heated debates over whatever we have to, but let’s stay together because the “we” of us is worth it.”
Eric stared into her eyes as if searching for a sign, nodded, and took her hands in his to kiss her palms. After placing them in her lap, he started the engine, and drove around to park beside her car.
Momentarily at a loss but then realizing his intention, Sookie quickly dug her keys out of her purse and handed them over.
At vamp speed he emptied her old car and trunk of all the bags, boxes, and suitcases she had stored in there, and loaded them into the back seat and trunk compartment of his vehicle. He handed her back her keys along with the small bag of travel snacks and the “car drink” she had ready for her trip, and in comfortable silence they drove away.
Sookie fell into a deep sleep within ten minutes, a peaceful smile gracing her lips. With one hand on the slightly warped steering wheel, Eric reached the other to the now loaded back seat, grabbed the ugly old afghan left purposefully atop the pile, and draped it across her sleeping form.
She was his, and he’d be damned if he was going to let her catch a chill…
**A/N: So, what did you think? Reviews feed the muse… I hope it was worth veering off from the WIP (or two) I was working on when the notion struck?**