Valentine’s Night, Chapter 2
**A/N (continued at bottom of story): Your incredibly nice response to my mental meanderings in this story have been amazing and I have taken delight in every single review. Srsly, thank you! And, to all my lovely “guest” reviewers who I can’t thank personally: Thank you for your fantastic support! About the story: Just keep in mind that this is ANTI-CANON… where anything is possible up to and including Sookie loosening up a bit in her thinking *and* in her letters. I just hope I came somewhere/anywhere close to capturing Eric and Sookie’s “voices.” Please see the rest of this painfully majestically long A/N at the bottom of the chapter if you’re still reading at that point. Unbeta’d as always, and thank you for reading.**
My Dear One,
In reply to your letter, for which I am more thankful to receive than I can even begin to express:
Of course I wish to be friends with you, and it is completely up to you as to which kind of friends we are: friends with benefits, friends who are lovers, betrothed friends who are lovers, eternal friends who are lovers – whichever one is your choice, of course.
In retrospect, I freely admit that the loss of your friendship has cut deeper and sharper than any blade ever could. With you, and only with you, I could be myself.
When we first met, I had to be Eric Northman, Sheriff of Area 5, but very quickly I found that I could, sometimes, let parts of Eric Northman, the 1000 year old Viking, leak through. With my title and responsibilities, however, I had to be very careful about how much of my true self I could allow anyone, even you, to know, and at the time it bothered me greatly that I wanted…you…any part of you, my love.
Continuing on, the fact that I wanted you to know anything about “the real me” caused me a great deal of unease, but I felt a growing need for you to see beyond the Sheriff’s imaginary badge. What I did not understand during that time was that I was falling in love with you, so my desire to know you, and to have you know me, made no sense to me.
During my amnesia, when all the years of necessary posturing and responsibilities were magically gone, you and I were both allowed to finally become acquainted, in my case reacquainted, with the man I used to be. To this day I envy that man; together you and I were simply “Sookie and Eric.” While I was still vampire, there was no need for posturing. There were no responsibilities beyond protecting you and myself. And when I remember those hours spent simply talking with you in front of your fireplace, and those other hours spent in your arms, I know I have lived the best nights of my life. Many are the times that those memories, and the mere possibility of having that with you once again, are all that have kept me from meeting the sun.
How can I say this? I miss laughing with you. Our senses of humor got along quite well, don’t you agree? I miss seeing your eyes light up and sparkle during a shared joke. I miss watching you sleep. I miss knowing you watched over me during my day rest. I miss your scent, your warmth, your smile, and yes, even your temper, Fairy Sookie.
Speaking of which, I never told you the silly, slightly atrocious, little ditty that often weaves through my mind during particularly difficult times:
When Fairy Sookie comes to play
My darkest night turns bright as day.
My Pledged beside me come what may
My inner doldrums she does allay,
When Fairy Sookie comes to play.
But I digress. You have that effect on me to this night.
You are the sunshine that banishes the darkness of my eternal night, and I miss…you.
I will apologize once again, and will continue do to so until you accept my apology, for lacking the courage and the intelligence to speak with you about the impending marriage. You are correct; in my pride and shortsightedness, I truly believed that I could not only prevent it from occurring, but I also believed I could, and should, shield you from knowing of such things in the first place. Obviously none of that happened, and I apologize for not being more open and honest with you. You deserved to know, and I failed you.
You have every right to your bitterness, anger, and frustration not only regarding everything to do with my Maker’s arrangement, but with the implementation and dissolution of OUR pledge, as well. I will NEVER regret pledging to you, Sookie. Never. My only regret is that the actual event didn’t receive a ceremony with the solemnity and respect it deserved. I would gladly pledge to you again on any night of your choosing.
You also have every right to the bitterness, anger and distrust caused by my behavior to you during our last encounters. I will strive until my final death to make that up to you in any way I can.
Sookie, once again you are entirely correct – trust is indeed a major issue between us, one that must be resolved before we can hope to move forward, as Pam insists the daytime television pseudo-therapists claim.
Honestly, my love, I do not know how to go about regaining your trust. In the past, I would never have cared enough to even bother trying. As is usual with us, dealing with our relationship is, once again, proving to be a unique dilemma.
Unfortunately, I can think of only two ways to prove to you that I am worthy of your trust. One way is unacceptable to me, and the other way would, I’m sure, be unacceptable to you.
But…what are your thoughts on this? How do you think I may regain your trust? What must I do? Tell me, and if it is within my power, it will be done.
Moving on to better things, I regret absolutely nothing that I have done to help you, and I wish to once again make it clear to you that until I no longer exist, should you ever need anything, it is yours no matter the cost or reason.
Your friend with every benefit you may desire,
PS: The daisies are a product of a system of conservatories established by an associate of mine, a former bartender you may remember by the name of Felicia. That marriage not only turned my entire world upside-down, it also disrupted the lives of all those who owe me fealty. Several vampires chose to leave the area rather than suffer the fallout of my situation, but those most loyal to me chose to stay nearby in case they could be of assistance. Consequently, many were forced to discover other, safer, occupations. It seems that long ago Felicia’s family had enjoyed what you call a ‘green thumb’. When I gave her a choice of occupations in return for her proven loyalty, she chose to set up a botanical garden of sorts, and included several large greenhouses dedicated to preserving and enhancing local flora. I am certain she would appreciate a visit if you should happen to be in the area; the gardens and greenhouses are adjacent to the royal grounds. You may recognize several varieties of plants native to your own grandmother’s garden.
Eyes and nose red and swollen from squalling like a heartbroken toddler, Sookie smoothed out Eric’s latest letter, then gently placed it on the end table as she headed to the bathroom to wash her face.
She’d been shocked to receive his reply to her letter, and of course another huge bouquet of daisies, the very next day after she’d mailed her letter to him. The older male Were who had made the delivery had looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t immediately place him. She’d politely accepted his delivery and gone back inside.
After carefully depositing this newest letter on the table in front of the sofa, she’d replaced the older floral arrangement on her desk with the new one. She fed the kitty, made herself a hot cup of coffee, then sat down to read.
And laugh. She just shook her head at Eric’s little ditty.
And read more.
At first she’d been stunned at the length of the letter, and a small smile had graced her lips as she perceived his joy in being able to write her back – even if her permission to do so had been implied rather than expressed. She’d tried to feel insulted at his nasty talk at the start of the letter, but the attempt wasn’t even half-hearted. Before long, however, all humor left her face.
The more she read, the more she felt. Small but startlingly fierce bouts of angry bitterness still came and went, but were more and more often replaced with a lingering sorrow she hadn’t wanted to feel.
Melancholia, a word from the last “Word of the Day” calendar she’d bothered to buy herself a while back, was a stronger and deeper feeling than she’d thought, and she didn’t like it one little bit.
Coffee forgotten, she read his letter straight through four times in a row.
As she now gazed at her weepy reflection in the bathroom mirror, she tried to calm herself down by remembering comfy, boring things, since that usually worked in situations like this. After a few minutes she realized that the only boring thing that kept coming to mind was her relationship with Sam – her entire time with the Shifter had been mind-numbing. Staid. It had been comfortable, true, but in a bad way, like shoes that were too worn out rather than comfy like soft, flannel pajamas. Comfortable like being in a rut but the rut was so deep the sides were the only thing visible. The kind of “comfortable” made her miss a certain red ‘Vette.
She’d been comfortable with Eric, too, she realized, but comfortable in that “held close to his chest” way, in the “beautiful new coat” and “smooth driveway” and “arms that held her while they fought off the enemies” ways. Comfortable in the way that he “got” her…in the way that she’d thought she understood him, too.
With a sigh she returned to the living room and added another log to the fireplace. As she curled up on her soft, old, comfy sofa, TinaTwo, her young cat who looked remarkably like the first Tina, hopped up for a snuggle. She had no idea exactly how old the little cat was or even where she’d come from; T2 had just appeared one day about three… months… ago…
She gave the purring cat a sidelong glance, then scritched her head as she begged for a petting. After the kitten’s mysterious appearance, she’d taken her to the vet for a good check-up, and discovered she was thought to be approximately twelve weeks old…just the right age, she now theorized, to have been thoroughly weaned from her mother and deposited on a suspiciously handy front porch.
Sookie leaned her head back against the back of the sofa with a thump.
“Oh, Eric,” she whispered aloud, “what are you doing?”
Neither expecting nor, thankfully, receiving a reply, she absentmindedly continued petting the now not-so-mysteriously-appearing cat as she listened to the non-existent sounds in her home. With the television and other noise makers off, all she could hear were the nighttime sounds of the house settling.
The silence was no longer quite so comforting as she recalled feeling more alone in Sam’s company than when she had actually been alone.
That was a problem she certainly never had with Eric around, she thought wryly. Even when he’d been asleep for the day (she’d never thought of him as being dead), his presence was still noticeable, and when he was awake? She laughed out loud – there was no way to ignore Eric freakin’ Northman. Even during nights long past when she’d dared to attempt such a thing, it just hadn’t been possible to pay him no mind no matter how hard she’d tried.
For the first time since a couple of months after Sam’s attack, Sookie cast her mental net out over the yard, then the woods surrounding her house, and listened. She wasn’t the least bit surprised to feel the thought signatures of two stationary vampires at the edge of the woods.
While she knew she should feel protected, and she did to an extent, suddenly the house seemed too quiet.
She went to her desk and automatically stroked the newest delivery of lovely fresh daisies. They truly brightened up the old desk, and she found that she didn’t mind them at all. After a last lingering glance at all the vases of flowers placed around the room, she withdrew the pretty new stationery set that she’d just happened to find when she’d gone to the mall in Shreveport the previous afternoon.
That she’d bought it at an exclusive stationers emporium wasn’t to be discussed.
I don’t know about being friends with you again, and no talking nasty, either, but if we WERE going to be friends, then I’d need to get some things off my chest, and I’d need some answers.
I’m still unsettled, I guess you’d call it, about that pledge-marriage thing you did with me. I know now why you did it, and I appreciate it, Eric, I do. But I would like to at least have had some say in it. I would like to have at least been asked first! I get why you didn’t, but still. That’s always bugged me. And I know it’s a vampire thing, but just handing some knife over to somebody does not constitute a marriage ceremony to me. It was just too, I don’t know, cold. Plain. As much as vampires love their rituals, you’d think y’all would have a huge ceremony full of pomp and pageantry for something as important as a pledge-marriage thing!
And Eric? Married people talk. They talk to each other about their day, or in your case, your night. They talk about their pasts and they talk about what they want for the future, and then they make plans together for that future. Neither one of them makes decisions for the other, or for the both of them, especially not without talking about it first.
In a true marriage, both people make decisions together, and then they work together to make it happen. TOGETHER. Not you making all the decisions and not even telling me what you’re doing. That’s not fair, Eric, and it’s not right.
Although I can’t say that in any marriage the responsibilities and the decision-making will always be shared 50/50, but you’re supposed try your best to make it equal. And if something big comes up, you TALK to the other one, you talk and you figure it out together.
I get that your first priority is always going to be about any and every aspect of safety. And I know that you have over a thousand years’ worth of knowledge and experience in pretty much everything, but especially when it comes to not only safety, but vampire safety, too. I get that – I do. But when you don’t tell me about things, when you don’t talk to me before making big plans, it makes me feel left out. Undervalued. Like you just don’t care about how I feel.
Looking back, I admit that I was horrible at listening to you the few times you did try to talk to me about important things. I was terrible at taking your advice for what it was and maybe even learning something from you when it came to safety or vampire politics. I’m sure I made bad times even worse, even more stressful for you by not listening, and by not asking the questions I should have asked, and I’m sorry for that. I can’t sit here and write out a list of your faults without including my own, can I?
You know how I said something about how we’re bad for each other? Well, I think this whole communication thing is where we kept going wrong. Times have changed since you’ve tried to have a relationship with someone, Eric. Men and women are equal now, and have equal power and input when it comes to relationships. I get that you may not be used to that, but that is a problem. I tend to be somewhat hardheaded sometimes, well, according to Gran I used to be, and I doubt I grew out of it. So…there’s that.
Anyway, you’re wrong. You didn’t fail me with the marriage. That was all your a’hole Maker’s fault. The part where you chose to not tell me about it, yes, that was on you, but the rest of it was his fault, not yours, so stop blaming yourself. Now that I think back, and now that you’re actually telling me about it, I can see that you worked and thought as hard as you possibly could to find a way out of it, and I’m really sorry that it didn’t work. I can’t imagine what all of that was like for you. You didn’t deserve to be treated like that by any of them.
I don’t know if telling me about it would have helped at all, but it surely wouldn’t have hurt. As you most likely know, Mr. Cataliades handled my divorce. Well, during one of my meetings with him, I’d asked him if anything could be done about your situation. He said no, that there wasn’t anything (legal) that could have been done to prevent it unless you had invaded someone else’s territory and became a king yourself so that you could have voided the contract as your own king, and that nothing could be done once the marriage took effect. I’m just glad that you’re finally out of that whole deal.
You didn’t deserve that. We didn’t deserve that.
Now, I have a question I need for you to answer, and be completely honest with me.
Why did you threaten to turn me when you knew, and know, that being turned against my will is the last thing I’d ever want? What was that all about? You have to have known that I would hate you forever, literally for forever, if you ever did that to me. So, what was going on with you?
PS: Stop sending daisies. I love them but it looks like there’s greenhouse in here already. If you have to send something, send firewood. It’s cold. What other kinds of flowers does she have, anyway?
King Eric Northman kicked back on one of the new matching leather sofas in his private office in the Palace. Upon rising, he had been overjoyed, and indescribably relieved, to find another letter from his Sookie waiting on his desk. Having one of his most trusted Weres, a cousin of Tray Dawson’s, in fact, stalk her mailbox for outgoing mail addressed to him had paid off handsomely. He had not had to endure a nerve-wracking wait for her reply to be delivered by the local postal service. Postal employees worked very hard but in this instance, days mattered more than his patience could bear.
He had already tolerated his evening’s repast…had already responded to the most pressing missives and emails selected and handed over to him by his highly-qualified second…now all that was left was the staring at the letter.
Unlike last time, he wasn’t afraid to read Sookie’s letter. Instead of giving into the temptation, however, he chose to savor the delicious temptation…the glorious anticipation.
Finally, with fingers shaking from excitement and hope instead of dread and despair, he took the letter in hand and raised it to his nose. An arrogantly self-satisfied grin curled his lips when he realized that the envelope and the contents within smelled new.
Years of storage in her grandmother’s desk had saturated the other stationery with the soft, older scent of wood, dust, and slightly sweet vanillin. This new set held the brasher, harsher chemical odors of paper manufactured much more recently.
Eagerly but with carefully controlled movements he used his bejeweled, sword-shaped letter opener – naturally a gift from Pam – to slice open the letter, and was joyfully amazed at its length.
Good – he’d gotten her started talking…that was half the battle. His Sookie was fierce when it was necessary, but when it came to affairs of the heart, her courage inevitably failed her when she needed it the most.
He had long considered that the death of her parents at such an early age had somewhat damaged her ability to trust people. In her young life, the two people she was supposed to be able to depend on the most had, to all intents and purposes and through no fault of their own, “abandoned” her. She was then left with a loving but elderly grandmother who was mostly out of touch with her granddaughter’s reality, a somewhat caring but flighty older brother, and the “gift” of being able to see all the deceptions that should have been hidden from such a young girl. That her mother had disparaged her gift so painfully, and that her great uncle had been a pedophile, didn’t help.
Eric rose and began pacing as he considered all the trials and emotional upheavals Sookie had suffered before he had even met her. Even though Adele had loved her granddaughter, the fact remained that she’d lied by omission to Sookie every day of her young life. He could only imagine how much easier things might have been for her if Adele had simply told her about her fairy heritage. Instead, Adele had been prideful, choosing to hide her perceived shame instead of being loving enough to help Sookie understand just how very special she actually is.
His hands fisting in impotent fury as he paced, Eric angrily considered the disrespect shown to Sookie not only by the barely sentient “good citizens” of Bon Temps but by her own moronic brother and useless fairy relatives as well. Once again it pissed him off that there was little to nothing he could do about how she’d been treated in the past, but her future?
His face hardened in determination.
If she could find it in her heart to forgive him and to give him a fair chance, not only would all those who owed him fealty bow low before her, but he would place her by his side for as long as she wished.
He may be King, but she would be his Queen.
But, his shoulders drooped, how to make it so?
How could he prove his honesty, his sorrow, and his all-consuming regret at his ill-chosen words?
Was there even a way to go about proving to her that while he had, shamefully, meant the words when he spoke them, the inclination behind them was no longer there?
How could he possibly convince her that his threat to make her worst nightmare come true was no longer valid?
What should he tell her? What could he tell her?
He sighed. The truth, of course; he could give only the truth to Sookie.
He thought back to those disastrous final encounters and cringed yet again. He couldn’t believe he’d said those things to her. Of all the words he could have chosen to say, he had to threaten to take away her sun – the one thing she feared above all.
In his heart of hearts, he knew he’d been pushing her away, punishing her for not using that damn cluviel dor to solve their problems, but in retrospect, even if she had used it, even if she had gotten them out of the forced marriage, he knew their relationship would never have lasted. It had been too unstable, and there were too many issues still festering between them.
He had negated her strengths and often her right to know and decide for herself, and had considered his love for her a weakness. She had devalued his strengths and more often than not distrusted his motives, and had considered her own love for him untrue.
But still…they had loved, and loved well.
And now, miracle of all miracles – he had escaped from the enforced separation from his Sookie during her lifetime! And she was, however reluctantly, still speaking to him, metaphorically at least.
But now he had to face the music. She had the right to know.
Somehow, he had to accept his full blame; he had to put all of his remorse, his shameful dishonor, and his fear and his sorrow, down on a mere piece of paper, and hope and pray to Freya that the one who held his heart would read it…that she would read it, heed it, understand it, and forgive him.
Freya help him, he silently keened. His true penance was about to begin.
This night when he rose, he had risen to something sadly lacking during the majority of his undeath: hope. His Sookie had responded yet again to his contact, and with more grace and honor than he’d have expected if he’d allowed himself to hope for such a thing.
His shoulders bowed, though, as he realized that he had no right to expect her understanding, much less her forgiveness, not after his threats and debasements to her.
But he was not a quitter.
Drawing on the strength of his need, his faith, and his ancestry, he took a deep, unnecessary breath, picked up his pen, and began the most soul-wracking exposition of his undeath.
My cowardly threat to you was seated in the deepest, darkest, most terrifying fear I had ever known.
I was losing you, inch by inch, night by night, and something in me, some instinct, rose up screaming, fiercely demanding that I keep you to me at any cost.
You are the one, Sookie. You are my life. My heart. My light.
Losing you meant that I lost everything worthy about myself. Anything that was good or kind or warm would be lost without you, and I knew that. My survival instincts knew that, and the beast that resides within me desperately wanted, needed, to rise up and take you, keep you, keep you with me forever.
Desperation. Fear. Terror. Pain. Anger. Frustration. Panic.
The deepest, darkest, most possessively primal part of me almost took over during that time, and that is what you saw.
I was at my weakest, and you will never know how furiously I fought with myself to leave you with your life, your sun, knowing as I did that I would most likely never see you again.
You will never know the cold, black depths to which I descended when that shackle of a marriage was thrust upon my shoulders, and I realistically knew you to be lost to me forever.
That I rid myself of that prison DURING your lifetime…you cannot imagine the relief, the joy, and the incessant, desperate hope that I feel.
That you are still willing to communicate with me on any level? However unwarranted it may be, my heart soars.
I will do whatever it takes to prove to you beyond a shadow of any possible doubt that you can trust me implicitly.
Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before, I can think of only two ways to prove to you that I am worthy of your trust. One way is unacceptable to me, and the other way would, I’m sure, be unacceptable to you.
But make no mistake, my love. I still and will always want you by my side, and if for any reason you were to ASK to join me in eternity, I would not hesitate to “bite first and ask questions later,” so to speak.
It will not happen, however, until or unless you give me your express permission.
I want you by my side. I need you by my side.
But only by your own choice shall I have you.
I love you, Sookie. It seems I always have. I know I always will.
Yours any way you will have me,
Shaking her head while muttering about “that damn Viking”, yet completely failing to hide her smile, Sookie told the same older Were the location where she wanted him to dump the massive truck load of perfectly sized fire wood. While the two younger Weres who had arrived with him stacked the wood, he handed her a vase of different flowers, beautifully scented heirloom roses suspiciously like the ones her gran had planted in the yard eons ago, four packages, and a letter.
After extending a gracious invitation to the Weres to come in for some hot coffee, which they graciously declined, she went back inside and placed the four packages of different sizes on her dining room table.
Sookie ate lunch and cleaned her kitchen, and looked at the letter and the packages. She vacuumed her living room, and dusted, and looked at the letter and the packages. She started a load of laundry, cleaned her bathroom, and then opened the packages. She laughed at herself for her eagerness even as she eyeballed the letter with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation.
The new cranberry red coat, an exact copy of the one he’d given her so long ago, brought many tears to her eyes.
The next package revealed winter gloves, several pairs of thick socks, house slippers, a thick robe, and several pairs of thick woven pajama sets…all in cranberry red.
The third box revealed a winter weight silk cranberry red dress complete with matching sets of nowhere-near-winter-weight cranberry red lingerie.
The fourth box contained a thick wrap perfect for Louisiana winter evenings…in cranberry red.
Intrigued, perplexed, and just plain curious, Sookie quickly opened the letter without even making herself wait while she fixed herself a drink.
Later, shocked, confused, and distraught…with her anger and bitterness bluntly destroyed and fragile hope painfully resurfacing, Sookie did the only things she could think of at that moment.
She wrote Eric back, then politely got drunk off her ass.
What did you mean by this:
“Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before, I can think of only two ways to prove to you that I am worthy of your trust. One way is unacceptable to me, and the other way would, I’m sure, be unacceptable to you.“
Tell me more.
**A/N Pt. 2: I’m relieved that y’all seem to like having Eric and Sookie write letters to each other. I can just see that having them write letters will make them both stop and think (while writing) to avoid saying anything that might antagonize the other (I’m lookin’ at you, Sookie…) or just come out wrong (Eric? Yeah, you…). You know how impetuous those kids can be… And as for canon? *pffft* I’m just VERY thankful that y’all seem to be ok with me combining personality points and events from both TB and SVM into this one story. (And the part about the toothbrush in the last chapter? Yeah, I kinda did that to an ex…) Let me know what you think, and if you want the third and final chapter. If you do, I’m going to TRY to have it up by Valentine’s night, but no promises. Real life is rather hectic and isn’t playing well with my writing time.**