Notes: This skips the final episode of True Blood. It never happened. Sookie never mysteriously appeared preggers. Instead, the day after she killed Bill, she left Bon Temps for Shreveport, and has neither seen nor heard from Eric.**
It was 9:50 pm, and Eric Northman, elegantly clad in his favorite suit, leaned nonchalantly against the high bar in the back of his club. Although no onlookers would realize it, his impatience was almost impossible to subdue.
His club, aptly named Waiting for the Night, was entirely different from that old, gaudy fiasco he had long since given to Pam. That both clubs were dark, highly successful, and catered to supernatural clientele were their only similarities.
He and Pam had argued for months about whether the place should be called a supper club, since a limited menu of appropriately expensive foods were available, or a dance club, since they often hosted small live bands and encouraged patrons to use the dance floors. In the end both decided it didn’t matter as the place was highly profitable either way – it seemed there was a large, untapped market for an upscale place where Shreveport’s elite could meet, see, and be seen.
The drinks were classy and expensive; the foods small and garlic-free. The atmosphere was elegantly refined with its polished brass and shining glass, and the live music on certain nights meant full capacity was always reached.
The best Were bouncers on the market grimly enforced the few but broad rules: dress appropriately, don’t disrespect any other patron, and don’t feed in public (certain private rooms were always available for such activities).
Elegance was encouraged; drama was not.
Eric surveyed his newest territory proudly as he fought to keep from needlessly straightening his already immaculate suit…yet again, and drained his highball of the best O-Neg Argentina had to offer before glancing at his watch.
An endless three minutes had passed since the last time he’d checked it.
The waiting was killing him.
It was an ordinary Saturday night, but after five very long years…
Of course, he’d kept tabs on her during all this time. Shortly after they had parted ways – he after ending the Yakuza and she after being manipulated into killing Compton – he had briefly considered seeking her out, but was still too emotionally raw, too bruised to risk it.
That didn’t mean he couldn’t see to her welfare, however, no matter what country he happened to be in at the time.
When she had immediately afterward put her house up for lease and moved to Shreveport, he had cheered for her…and, unbeknownst to her, had paid the Were couple he had chosen to rent her house an incentive to help keep the old place up to his standards. He had selected four couples he had deemed appropriate to apply to her for the lease, thus ensuring someone suitable would occupy the place. She would have rolled her eyes at the smug satisfaction he’d felt when she had chosen the one couple he’d thought most worthy of the honor.
He had been so proud for her when she had, shockingly, not only accepted the guilt money Compton had left for her in an entirely unofficial will, but had then used it to enter college full time. Several newly-created student grants had suddenly come about for which she was highly, almost suspiciously, qualified during those studious years.
Upon the successful completion of her education (a double major in Accounting and Business Management) a little over four years later, he had been elated on her behalf.
When she had almost immediately opened her own small interior design company in Shreveport, he had been…very confused.
Not long after, when word reached him of a local telepath running a small office under the name “Adele’s Home Solutions” reached his ears, however, he had understood…and had immediately secured her services under the auspices of one of his untraceable companies. Very quickly he became her biggest client, and his multitude of Louisiana businesses, sans the club of course, had never operated more smoothly.
His Sookie was especially talented at discovering “creative” accounting practices.
In all the time that had passed, his Sookie also hadn’t visibly aged a day. Her Fae heritage was serving her well.
Many, many times over the past five years he had come so very close to approaching her, but something always stopped him.
At first he had known that she wasn’t ready for him, or anyone else for that matter, to be in her life. As much as Eric despised Compton, he despised even more that Compton’s overly-dramatic exit scene had most likely affected the tender-hearted hybrid more than probably even she would realize. The love of his unlife would need time to “heal and deal”, as Pam would say.
Also, as usual where she was concerned, he wasn’t sure of his own place in her heart. Sometimes she had acted as though she truly cared, but often she hadn’t. When push came to shove, he had to admit that she had never truly given him a fair chance, and that in some ways it was his own fault. To that end, during the intervening years more attempts simply weren’t worth it to Eric. He had too much to do to waste time on something almost guaranteed not to go anywhere…no matter how much he ached for it.
Five years, however, was by far long enough.
Surely she had grown up in the meantime.
At 9:59 pm, his wait was over.
Her scent reached him first, softly fragrant, slightly musky with hints of flowers and sunshine.
Finally, he saw her, his lady in red, the crimson silk encasing her luscious body, shimmering with her movements in the low lights…making his mouth water.
Still holding his engraved invitation in her hand, she followed Verity, a vampire he had entrusted to watch for and escort this beloved guest, as she lead her to a table reserved near one of the more intimate dance areas.
He watched as she was gracefully seated, then watched as one of the wait staff immediately approached and took her drink order. He watched as she spoke with innate courtesy to the waitress, her eyes sparkling with curious excitement. Her hair was styled into an elegant chignon that he ached to loosen, to dive into with his hands as his tongue dove between her sweet pink lips.
He watched as one of those hands trembled slightly as he straightened his perfectly fine cuffs.
The invitation now resting on the table reminded him of one of the night’s several objectives – possibly revealing himself as her largest client, but definitely revealing to the keeper of his heart that she still owned the damn thing if she seemed at all amenable.
Why he had waited so long was somewhat of a mystery even to himself, but his gut instincts had told him to wait, to give her time, to…to give them both time, and his gut instincts were always right.
He straightened his broad shoulders, and proceeded to make the night, to make her, his own. It was time to stop hiding behind cold company names, behind fear, behind doubt and time.
It was time to stop waiting for the night.
“Is this seat taken?”
Opting for the element of surprise, he had blurred to stand behind the only other chair at her table, and carefully studied her reaction to his presence.
Her shocked yet immediately pleased expression was everything he could have wanted.
Joyful amazement flooded her system as she realized that she knew that voice!
So that’s who had sent the strange invitation she’d received three days ago…
Of course she would know that voice anywhere – not a day went by where she didn’t think of him. Sometimes the memories weren’t so good, sometimes they were really nice…and sometimes they were really nice…, but through the years she had thought of him often.
After all the crap with Bill and the way she had let the tall blond Viking leave her life, she hadn’t bothered trying to contact Eric, no matter how much she may have wanted to. She knew that he could have found her anytime he wanted – it wasn’t as though she had a common name, so she had long ago decided to respect his privacy and let him live his own life.
But if he had decided to contact her now, maybe he had forgiven her for being so stupid in the past? Maybe he only wanted to talk to her, to see how she was doing…but maybe he wanted more?
She sure as hell knew what she wanted…
“Eric?” The broad smile that instantly brightened her features soothed a doubt he hadn’t wanted to acknowledge.
He bowed from the waist, and grinned.
“At your service,” he quipped, then gestured to the chair.
“Oh I’m sorry! Of course, have a seat,” she said, still smiling but blushing a little at the minute faux pas…and, he hoped, in pleasure at seeing him. “What are you doing here?”
He was pleased to note that her smile seemed to widen even more when he took his seat. He gestured to the invitation on the table. “I’m glad you could come.”
As was his intention, whatever her response would have been was interrupted by the arrival of her drink. He took the opportunity to study the love of his unlife as she listened to the server relay the night’s small menu options, and couldn’t move his gaze from her soft pink lips as she gave her choices. When the waitress turned to take his blood-products order, he shook his head and ordered her away with a careless wave of his hand.
“It’s been forever, Eric, how’ve you been doing? I know the New Blood business must be keeping you pretty busy,” Sookie commented once they were alone.
His smile a bit more relaxed now, he replied, “Quite well, thank you.” Opting to ignore the New Blood business for the moment, he gestured again to the elegantly hand-written card on the table. “I’m glad you could come,” he now repeated.
“You were the one who invited me? That’s great, but why? It’s been so long…” Her smile, while still genuine, was overtaken by a blend of confusion and, thankfully, curiosity.
As she traced the rim of her glass, he realized that he wanted to get straight to the heart of the matter.
His own smile remained intact as he stated quite firmly, “Exactly because it has been so long. Too long.”
Her gaze, which had naturally fallen to his lips as he spoke, flew to meet his dark blue stare.
Eric watched as she held his gaze far more steadily than she would have when he last knew her.
“Five years,” she whispered a bit sadly. “It’s been five years.”
He held out his hand atop the table. “I know.”
His heart soared when she took it without hesitation. As he softly caressed the back of her hand with his thumb, he watched a myriad of expressions briefly cross her face with melancholy being the most predominant.
Finally, she said the words he had longed to hear. “I’ve missed you, Eric. I’ve missed you a lot. Have…” She glanced away, apparently afraid to say more.
He didn’t allow her unspoken question to linger as the sounds of muted conversations surrounded them.
She looked back at him instantly, her eyes beaming with surprised delight.
The rising blush on her cheeks was pleasing to his eye.
“Without fail,” he elaborated, his voice strong and serious.
She searched his unwavering gaze for a moment before asking, “Then why…why didn’t you call or stop by?”
The hint of hurt in her eyes bit sharply, but he would make sure she knew his reasons. He tightened his comforting hold on her hand.
“You needed time to heal and grow. We both did. You had your life to take back, your education to gain, and I had my own things to deal with.”
“You knew about that?”
“You would be surprised at just how much I know.” His eyes gleamed wickedly with both arrogance and pride.
“Like what?” He was pleased to note curiosity rather than animosity in her voice and in her grin.
The sweetly growing heat in her gaze fueled his own.
Eric had been curious as to how Sookie would react to his keeping tabs on her for the past five years. The old Sookie would have been irritated and angry, but this new version seemed much more laid-back.
He was truly enjoying this new version so far, but wondered how long it would last, how much she had grown.
“Like how you graduated at the top of your class with not one but two degrees, and how your business is thriving even though you’ve yet to design one single interior?”
He almost laughed at her shocked expression.
Now, he thought, comes the hard part.
“I am very proud of you, Sookie. I have always known that you are an intelligent woman, only, you had never been able to do anything with that intelligence.” He stopped to meet her gaze directly. “And I am sorry for not realizing this myself back while I had the chance to do something about it. You deserved better from me. You deserved more time, more consideration, and better protection from the more difficult aspects of my world, from the Supe world…”
“No,” she interrupted him softly but firmly. “I don’t know about the first part, but you know as well as I do that I didn’t want to know any more than I had to about any of that stuff. The problem, though, was that I was entirely wrong about what qualified as ‘had‘ to know. I used to be so stubborn!” She laughed ruefully then sipped at her drink, and briefly squeezed his hand when he started to speak again.
“I thought that if I kept my head down and ignored the parts I didn’t like, they’d somehow magically all go away. That kind of thinking might work in fairy tales, but not in real life. Plus, I wasn’t yours to raise, Eric. There was so much that I didn’t know, but if I’d taken the time to listen to you, to ask questions in such a way that you had to answer them, I would have been much better prepared for many of the things that happened. In a lot of ways we could have gotten along better,” she sent him a speaking glare, but then ruined it with a smile, “but that’s just the way it goes.”
Eric smirked back at her for a moment, then focused on her fingertips as he trailed a long finger over them. Her level of self-knowledge, and her willingness to admit her faults, stunned him.
The bratty, insecure, bullheaded version of Sookie – the arrogant little anti-snot determined to be obstinate at every opportunity – seemed to have morphed into a calmly gracious, genuinely confident, strong young woman whose presence he was determined to know better.
Sookie had grown up, and the effect of her attitude made his fangs ache.
Still, she had to know…
“Sookie, you were always far more than a mere asset to me, only, I failed to realize it in time, and I failed to meet your needs even if you didn’t see it that way.”
His voice clearly expressed his sorrow and regret, as did the look in his eyes. This time Sookie tightened her hold on his hand, and he couldn’t believe what she did next.
She raised his hand to her lips, turned it over, and kissed his knuckles.
“Eric, I don’t hold you responsible, ok? It has taken me a while to get it, but I finally realized that neither one of us was ready for, well, for whatever it was that we had. Hell, half the time I was,” she paused to laugh, and the seductive tones made Eric’s spine tingle, “I have a phrase for it: Bill-blinded. Just about the entire time I knew you back then I was either blinded by his bullshit or blinded by his blood, but I didn’t know it. No wonder he pitched such a fit when he found out about your blood in Dallas – he was terrified of losing his blood hold over me, the little creep.”
A sip of her drink helped remove the look of disgust marring her beautiful face.
“I’d like to think that if I’d met you first, things would have been different, but honestly, I have to wonder if either one of us would have been ready for something real back then. Plus, we never even had the time to actually get to know each other, you know? Well, not while you have all your memories intact at least.”
She looked down at their hands still joined on the table, and stifled a shiver in memory of what his hands could do. She hoped he’d enjoyed those memories as much as she has over the years.
Her emotional growth blew him away, and as she looked at his hand, he saw the faint shiver and somehow knew she was remembering the best time period in his unlife.
“I know, and I plan to rectify that if you’ll give me the chance.”
“Chance?” She raised her eyes to glance at him from beneath her lashes. “Oh, no, there’s no chance, Eric.”
Just as he felt his heart plummet despite the seductive look she was giving him, she continued.
“You are a sure thing, and this time around, so am I.”
His thousand-odd year old fangs clicked down at the strong, sensual assurance in her voice.
At that moment her food arrived, and Eric reluctantly released her hand to allow her to eat, and instantly became jealous of her fork.
Because of his heated gaze, the comfortable lack of conversation, and the deliciousness of the food, Sookie quickly finished with her light supper, and leaned back in her chair. Immediately the waitress returned to clear her place and replace her drink.
As if waiting for some prearranged cue, soft music perfect for dancing filtered through the air, and Eric rose.
He closed the slight distance between them and held out his hand.
“Shall we dance?”
The timbre of his voice reminded her of other dances, ancient dances older than time, the ones requiring neither clothing nor audience… Immediately her memories of showers and beds in wintry glades vigorously resurfaced.
That reminded her…she wondered if he could still sense her at all, or if the vague bond was now completely gone. Sadly, it had to be after so much time had passed.
She wondered then if he would be interested in forming a new bond with her. The look in his eyes said he might…the heat between her thighs said she hoped she was reading him right.
Without yet rising, she turned in her seat, accepted his hand, and looked up.
Sookie met and held his intense gaze for a moment, then slowly nodded her head…and picked up her purse.
Before she rose, she stated seriously, “It’s been a little over five years since I chose to…dance with anyone, Eric. I’ve concentrated on my studies, and then on opening my business, but I’ve also taken the time to find out about myself. Since then my tastes have vastly improved. While I’m not perfect, I like me just fine, and now, I want the best.”
Smiling softly, she boldly held his gaze as she stated, “And that would be you.”
Dozens, nay, hundreds of thoughts flew through Eric’s mind as he considered her actions, her words, and all their implications.
Five years since… Ah fuck…
He firmly reined himself in and took a deep breath, which helped distressingly little. She would need him to go slow and easy…and he would…many times…
“I will be gentle,” he promised them both in a voice gruff with lust and love. “Never again will I harm you in any way, Sookie. I love you too much to…I would hurt myself first.” He took a deep breath, then exhaled gustily. “I have dreamed of this night for years, of being with you again. Just know that if you leave here with me tonight, you will be mine.”
A shiver ran down her spine as she grasped all the intentions behind his words…and the fire burning in his fierce blue eyes.
Sookie rose, tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow, and beamed up at him.
“Then what are we waiting for?”
**A/N: I didn’t name the food she ate or that I envisioned her drinking a gin and tonic because, really, who cares? But if you’re curious, I “saw” her eating from small tasting plates of “glorified tapas”: potato-and-mozzarella croquettes, artichokes with clams, prawn croquettes, open-faced crab empanadas, and maybe sausage-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon – all prepared without garlic, naturally. Because of his age Eric may be immune to the scent of food (and garlic) by now, but younger vampires do frequent his establishment. Ok, so, what did you think?**