“That I am paying for everything has been making you uncomfortable?” he asked though the answer had already been spoken. “This is why you are so insistent on doing my laundry, keeping the apartment clean and buying the groceries?” She merely nodded in affirmation.
“Under normal circumstances I would be paying for your aide and skills. You were so hesitant accepting the money from the Long Shadow assignment I didn’t want to push you unnecessarily again. I thought you were fine with the way things were,” he sighed as he pushed a lock of hair from her face that was obscuring her eyes from view. “If anything considering how our relationship has progressed I thought you would be more insulted if I offered you a salary as if I was buying your company. That I was no better than Bill.” His last sentence was spoken with a severe distaste that was palpable to them both. She reached out to his hands again, now for both their comfort. He let a small smile slip out with her touch.
“I considered your clothing a business expense. I should have considered the implications, I’m sorry that I didn’t.”
“Thank you,” she returned softly, thankful that he had come to understand. “It’s something that was bothering me for a while and to be honest it still does a little. You just handing me over your credit card so carelessly made something unspoken come to the forefront, something I was trying so hard to ignore. Ignoring things got me into this mess in the first place.” With the pain that caused to inflame in his eyes she quickly added, “Not that I consider being with you a mess, it’s probably the best outcome that I could ever have come across even without the circumstances. It just felt like you were throwing it in my face where we stand unequal and I have no hope to ever match, exerting your control over me. Raven made me see you’re coming from a good place. I’m sorry I reacted the way I did.”
“We’re in this together, so let’s compromise,” he proposed. “We split the costs where necessary.”
“I can live with that,” she replied sporting her first genuine smile that day.
Sookie briefly reconsidered her stance on paying for the necessary clothing when she took in the total at the cash register. Those pesky kroners made any number seem exceptionally large but Sookie begrudgingly assured herself that she was fine with paying half of the extortionate amount. She actually liked what she bought. It wasn’t that different from what she normally wore the only difference being the cut, fit and material were of a more superior quality. Luckily most of it was on sale and the damage really wasn’t as bad as she thought it could be.
When she handed over the receipt to Eric to reimburse her for his half she was met with a questioning look accompanied by the all too familiar sight of his cocked eyebrow. To him the amount seemed far too little and at his continued concern she showed him what she bought and he was actually very pleased. Mostly for the parade of items that were put on display along with her beaming smile.
“You’re going to need a handbag and some shoes,” he remarked when she packed away the final items. “Will you allow me to pay for them?”
It was still a sore subject, their latest grocery run earlier that day had proven just how much when Sookie had attempted to contest sharing the cost of items intended for her sole use. After a final battle of wills and a long line of impatient customers Sookie had finally agreed to simply split the cost down the middle. After the previous evenings events she had decided to pick her battles as they came and consider them accordingly. Sookie knew she would never have purchased these types of accessories that were necessary for the trip and would probably find little use for them afterwards, reluctantly she agreed declaring them business expenses.
Eric had been thinking a lot about Sookie’s finances since their fight and Bill’s careless spending of her inheritance had made him all the more determined to get it back to her. He knew that simply handing back the money to would probably not sit well her. That’s if she even believed it to be the money Bill was holding onto and not Eric giving her the exact amount.
After trying on every appropriate pairs of shoes and handbags in the store Sookie found herself on somewhat of a shopping high as he carried away the full shopping bags. Eric decided during that cheer it was an appropriate time to broach the subject of Bill and his thieving ways.
“Sookie, I would like to recover the money from Bill that’s yours,” he started cautiously.
“How?” she simply asked after giving it some thought. Sookie agreed that it was her money and rightfully belonged to her but didn’t want it at the cost of being discovered. She was, however, deeply motivated by the thought to have access to her own money again.
“I know of a hacker who can probably make it happen. I doubt Bill has an intricate setup of bank accounts.”
“All right, but I’m paying for the hacker’s expenses,” she said thoughtfully. “Won’t the amount be too obvious?”
“I’m intending it to be. He’ll know it’s me from our last conversation.” In fact Eric had already thought of the perfect name for the charity donation they had discussed where Bill could donate Sookie’s money to alleviate him of the guilt, The Eric Northman Foundation for Whiny Bitches. It would be considered due payment for the harassment of Eric and Pam.
“You never did tell me what transpired between the two of you.” It had niggled Sookie somewhat in the back of her mind and the telling sign of the swell on Eric’s knuckles had not been lost on her either. The other part of her thought it was probably best not to know any details at all. Ignorance had, however, brought her far too much trouble to her literal doorstep and it was a comfort she no longer felt she could afford.
“I didn’t think you wanted to know,” he responded absent minded. In truth he didn’t want Bill’s idiocy to hurt her any more than it already had. Her heart was fragile enough as it was, he vowed to protect her from any further hurt if possible.
She shrugged as they took their seats in the subway. “Should I want to know?”
“It depends. Do you want to know no matter the cost?”
Sookie considered it momentarily as she released her fingers from their leather gloves. “Did you do something that you shouldn’t?” she asked carefully. It was a strange realisation to her that at this point it would be Eric’s actions that gave her a possibility for distress.
“I punched him in the face but it was well deserved.” Her discerning gaze made him utter in supplementation, “I may have kicked him when he was down.”
“Ok. Tell me,” she said after he confirmed the worst of what she had secretly suspected.
With carefully chosen words he retold her of his conversation with Bill only finishing up the tale when they had arrived back at the apartment. She had been unusually quiet throughout, only offering an affirming noise intermittently. He looked upon her cautiously when she remained mute wondering if perhaps it had been the wrong choice to tell her the truth after all.
“Call the hacker, I don’t care if it costs as much to retrieve it as what’s owed to me. Let him deal with the crippling debt of his actions,” she spoke coolly before closing the door on their shared bedroom. Eric released a sigh against the physical barrier she had erected between them, he considered going in after her, instead he grabbed his coat again making his way to the hacker.
Sookie was wrong. Eric hurting Bill physically was not what would have caused her the most pain even if he had confessed to killing her ex. Nor was Bill’s ridiculous notion of her body keeping them afloat financially or his squandering of her modest inheritance. What distressed her the most was that without Eric’s intervention she would probably have gone along with it or at the very least a long way down the destructive path. Right now she’d be shedding her clothes for the delight of men who disgusted her. All for a man she thought she loved.
She looked at the soft hand puppet that sat on her bedside table and held the accompanying card in her hands. Sookie repeated Eric’s carefully written words, Never a Lamb, over and over again in her head. She turned the card over on itself between her hands in a rhythmic motion, flashing the words to her, it was the only thing that stopped her from falling to pieces in that moment.
Eric returned home from his visit with Lina the hacker to find Sookie still sequestered in the bedroom. He considered going into his investigation room to continue to sort through the safe’s contents, since yesterday’s events he had hardly spent the amount of time in there that he would usually allot. Eric remembered how Sookie would always pull him from his seclusion to make sure he at least ate and felt he owed her the same care.
“Sookie,” he spoke softly through the door. When she didn’t respond he tentatively opened the door and called out her name again. She was still turning the thick piece of card in her hands, the sharp corners now rounded off by her thumbs and index fingers. He kneeled in front of her, pulling the card from her absent mind and placed it back in its place on the side table. Only then did she take notice of his presence.
“Eric,” she sighed as the tears that she had been desperately trying to contain for hours swelled and finally travelled down her cheeks. He pulled her into his embrace allowing her to sob into the crook of his neck. When her heaving ceased he used his thumbs to remove the remaining tears from her face. He laid a soft kiss on each lid of her eyes in an offering of comfort. She moved her lips towards his but he pulled away when he caught on to her intentions.
“Let’s get you something to eat first,” he proposed, her grumbling not having gone unnoticed to him. He pulled her up on her shaky legs, supporting her weight as she found a semblance of balance again.
She looked at the clock for the first time since coming back. “I’m so sorry Eric, it was my turn to cook.”
“It’s fine we’ll go out or I’ll pick something up,” he soothed.
“Ok. Let me freshen up I could use some fresh air.”
“What are you in the mood for?” Eric asked when she re-emerged from the bathroom looking slightly better.
“Gran’s cooking,” she said wistfully. “But really anything’s fine right now as long as I’m paying.”
“That’s good because you‘re wealthy woman again,” he informed while handing over a thick envelope full of documents. She looked inside and saw that all the money Bill had spent on his Euro trip was now safely tucked away in a variation of Swiss bank accounts in her name.
“Thank you,” she whispered in awe. “What about the hacker’s fee?”
“Lina waived it when I told her an abridged version of your story. Although I can’t be held responsible for what she may or may not do with Bill’s information. Lina can be quite vindictive when she wants to be,” he smirked.
She smiled at him even if it was still somewhat strained by her earlier emotional outpour. At this point she really couldn’t give a care about Bill anymore, she was well past that now.
Sookie woke the next morning still feeling slightly melancholic. ‘Never a Lamb,’ she reminded herself at the sight of the worn card on the nightstand. Vowing not to let it bother her anymore she made a mental inventory of what still needed to be done that day. They were departing to Monte Carlo later that day and all the emotional turmoil had prevented her from packing. Eric had pulled out some fancy luggage for her to use and it had been standing idly in the hallway for days now.
Unlike the previous days Eric hadn’t left her side in the early morning hours, his warm body and arm still surrounding her. Upon waking earlier that morning he had decided to remain as he was and to leave the cave until they returned from Monaco, at this point it was grasping for clues rather than finding anything solid. He stroked the innocent parts of her body softly as she sighed contentedly with his attentions.
“You always know how to make me feel better,” Sookie whispered into the cold air as she snuggled her body further back into his.
“It’s part of my training you know,” he deadpanned.
She giggled. “Tell me, where is this school of yours? I should send them a thank you note.”
“I think they only take donations.”
She turned her body round, her back nestled into his side so that she could take in his face, the tips of her fingers traced the disarming smile she found there. She cocked her eyebrow in a mimic of his signature expression as she enquired playfully, “What type of donations?”
“Kisses of course,” he smirked, his lips quickly found their target where he paused while awaiting further permission.
“I’m sure I have a couple spare ones lying about,” she spoke softly against his lips as mirth sparkled her eyes. “Care to take a donation?”
Their lips locked upon one another as they moved their faces exploring the edges of their mouths. Sighs of content escaped between them as their hands roamed along each other’s bodies. There was no urgency in their actions they simply basked in the feel of the new sensation of contact. They only pulled apart when their lips were threatening to burst from the sting of their strain. Wide smiles grazed them both as they looked upon each other in the morning sun, harsh but honest all at once. It was simply a kiss that belonged to early days, to new beginnings.
He nuzzled his nose along the side of her soft face before placing a soft kiss by her earlobe.
“I think I’m in love with you Sookie Stackhouse,” he whispered into her ear. She exhaled a small gasp as her body engulfed with a new sensation of warmth far from heat. One that sought to fill her entire being.
“You really do know how to make a girl feel better,” she smiled at him and initiated another caress of their lips.
“Wait, I forgot I have something for you,” Eric exclaimed as he rushed into his cave.
“Hurry,” she yelled after him knowing their taxi was due to be waiting any moment now. She studied her appearance in the mirror as the haste of the day that seemed at an end as their extended make out session had left them little time. She admitted happily that her appearance didn’t disappoint in her new clothes. The hairdresser she had visited the day before had worked miracles on her hair. Being properly blonde again gave her a recognition of her former self, though she had to admit she no longer was that girl she left behind in Bon Temps.
Sookie took in her total appearance and was glad to see she bared no resemblance to a gold digger or a trophy wife. She was elegant with an old world feel that she had observed on some of the more discerning ladies in Stockholm, she now felt validated by the admiring glance had tossed her way when he first saw her in full regalia.
Eric looked dashingly handsome despite his frazzled state as he bound down the narrow stairs. He wore what he had dubbed the ‘rich prick’ uniform, as if he had disembarked a yacht mere moments ago. Eric despised the costume but Sookie really appreciated the lighter tones in his wardrobe. He almost looked innocent. Almost.
“Here,” he said as he fastened a diamond tennis bracelet around her wrist after placing the leather jewellery case with a vintage patina inside his hand luggage.
“This better be a loan,” she informed without question while admiring the sparkling lustre of it.
“It’s from the safe, its Halina’s I think,” Eric shrugged as he pulled her hand and clumsily fumbled a demure diamond encrusted platinum ring on her right hand. “Now don’t go getting any ideas,” he smirked as an audible gasp was emitted with the sight of it. “It’s just a loan.” Before she could admonish him the intercom rang to announce the taxi’s arrival rushing them out the door with their luggage in tow.
Stockholm had been eye opening to Sookie in its efficiency, old world charm and cleanliness but Monte Carlo proved to be in a class by itself. Even in the tail of winter the Mediterranean sparkled stunningly blue beckoning visitors for a plunge into its cool depths. The small principality that crowded the shoreline truly was a world on its own. She had never seen public spaces that were so clean or well appointed. Expensive cars seemed to be the only thing littering them. She exhaled a small sigh of disappointment at the recurring sight of them.
“What’s wrong min älskling?” Eric enquired as he planted a soft kiss on her lips. Now that he had access to them he never let an opportunity pass to leave them bare.
“I was just thinking how my brother would know the names of all these cars and enjoy seeing them in real life.”
“I thought you and your brother were estranged.”
“Only on account of Bill,” she responded feebly. “Our relationship was difficult after my Gran’s passing but it always had been. He’s a little self-absorbed and clueless to his surroundings but Jason has always stood by me. He’d be at my defence whenever I needed it when my ability was more of a handicap than a tool.” She laughed a little with a long forgotten memory.
“He’d beat up anyone who picked on me. I’m pretty sure the whole town has been at the other end of his fists at some point by now. He’s the only one who ever told me that it was everyone else who wasn’t normal for spilling their guts out to me, not the other way round. He may be a bit of an idiot but sometimes his simple view of the world is refreshingly accurate.”
“It sounds like he has his heart in the right place,” Eric offered.
“Yeah, he does,” she smiled nostalgically. “I just miss him I guess.”
“Just because you’re separated now, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way in the future.”
“You’re probably right, I’ll eat some humble pie and we’d probably be ok again. Who am I kidding?” she chuckled at the thought. “I can just bake him a pie and we’d probably be ok again.”
“He’s that simple?” Eric asked disbelievingly. She only laughed when forced to admit that he was.
They were sitting on the balcony of their room drinking in the sun despite the cool temperatures. The entire hotel exuded a luxury Sookie had never experienced the likes of. She had been entranced by it all, although the ever presence of the attentive service had unnerved her a little. Eric said her aloof manner with the staff was a sign of good breeding rather than the rudeness she had taken it for. She didn’t think that was very nice but she just went with it regardless.
“So tell me again exactly what you want me to unfurl from the lawyer?”
“I want to know the contents of Halina’s trust, who acted as Halina’s introduction. I doubt he knows much else. Halina was tight lipped with him.”
“What kind of information could the trust hold?” she asked stifling a yawn as she sipped her fruity drink.
“Properties, holdings… anything really. What’s of interest is why Halina would specifically hide certain assets while she’s still alive.”
She hummed her understanding while taking another sip.
“Should we try our luck at the casino tonight?” Eric proposed.
She furled her brows a little at his suggestion. “That place was downright depressing, I don’t see what the attraction is.”
“That was the slots hall for the tourists, the interiors are really quite beautiful in the original building. There’s a good Asian restaurant in there too.”
“I’ll think about it. I only just got my money back and I think I’ve already pushed all the luck I have,” she said before planting a fruity kiss on his lips.
“This has nothing to do with luck,” Eric declared against her lips as he pulled her in by the small of her back. “This is all kismet.”
A/N: Admittedly this is a bit of a bridging chapter but there were a lot of little things in here that will come into play later on in the story that would be lost among the upcoming events, so I hope you at least enjoyed Eric’s little admission as they definitely needed a bit of reparations to their relationship with last chapter’s fight. You may resume hating all over Bill again 😉