She sank into his body for comfort only to sigh with the prospect. “I had hoped to have seen the last of him. I think an interrogation and a little mind wash is in order.”
“I admire your strength, min älskling,” he said kissing the tip of her nose, causing her to giggle with the ticklish feel of it. She gave him a chaste kiss in return for the rare smile that graced his lips. Without a word exchanged between them evidence was given for this little Spartan bubble they could retreat to, even if it was a consequence of both Russell and Bill’s actions.
“Right back at ya, nugget,” she spoke against his lips. He grimaced a little at which she quirked her brow, a habit she seemed to be picking up from him.
“I feel like a piece of chicken,” he griped, which only released a delighted laugh from her.
She gave him a conciliatory kiss before she offered, “I didn’t think of that. I was just going on gold nugget.”
“Mmm, in Sweden that is a term of endearment, lilla gullebit. It means small gold nugget but it’s mostly spoken to children.”
“I’ll keep that in the vault,” she said absentmindedly. “Goldilocks?”
“I prefer goldicocks,” he retorted.
“Always with your mind in the gutter,” she sighed, yet unable to suppress the smile caused by the mischief in his eyes.
“As long as I’m just right,” he smirked, moving his hands round her backside to pull her closer for an extended kiss.
“You’re more than just right,” she smiled at him when he released her from the kiss. “You’re the best.”
Eric purred contentedly, “I knew this place would pay off.”
“Well, that explains the curtains then,” she giggled before jumping out of his grasp and running for the door. “Let’s go, I have gumbo to make.”
Adonia proved to be quite the backseat driver as she observed Sookie cooking in what she considered her kitchen. Sookie tried her best to ignore her disapproving looks and blissfully ignored the running commentary in Greek. Eric had to step in when she was darkening her roux to what her Sookie’s Gran considered perfection. Adonia’s reaction was akin to though she was in the process of burning down the house when bounding in with a small extinguisher.
It wasn’t until she stuck her finger cautiously in a tasting spoon from the simmering broth that she realised dinner was not a lost cause after all. When Sookie pulled her Gran’s cornbread from the oven leaving it to cool a bit, Adonia eyed it suspiciously and asked Eric why she would be serving cake with dinner. When Eric explained they were to eat it with dinner, Adonia departed, confused, to the small kitchen in her own little house at the end of the garden. She later returned with a fully roasted leg of lamb and all the required accompaniments.
When all the components came together, Sookie assembled a simple green salad and set to fix a plate for Russell while Eric called everyone else down for dinner. Everyone politely ate from both dinners served side by side under Adonia’s wary eyes. No one dared compliment one in favour of the other, although everyone made it a point to tell Sookie privately how delicious it was. Having kept Russell’s serving warm while they ate, she left the others to clean the kitchen while she brought her gumbo up for inspection with Russell.
“Ah, Ms. Stackhouse,” he greeted, lifting his eyes from the book he was reading. “It has been quite a while since I had a true Louisiana gumbo.”
“Well, as Louisiana as it gets with Greek ingredients,” she offered good-humouredly when she sat down the tray on the bedside table. She helped him sit up comfortably with a few pillows before moving the extended table top in front of him.
“Ms Stackhouse, this is probably one of the best gumbos I have ever tasted,” he commended her honestly. “Please stay and sit with me.” Never one to deny a request and having become more comfortable in his presence, she sat down by his instructions.
“You seem awfully attached to my last name,” she said with a glazed sweetness.
“Well, it’s quite unique, isn’t it?” he said, blowing on his spoon. “I don’t think I’ve ever met a Stackhouse outside of Bon Temps.”
“May I be frank?” Sookie asked, not warming to his revival of layered speak.
“By all means, Sookie,” he replied, amusement sparking his eyes.
“I never enjoyed the veiled speech of the old biddies around town. So if you wish to ask me something, just ask,” she spoke with confidence. “Let’s not waste our time with unnecessary niceties.”
“You’re quite the pistol, aren’t you?” he chuckled when he reached for a piece of cornbread. “Let’s speak of your eventful day then. I heard you had quite the run in.”
“They don’t keep you out of the loop, do they?” Sookie noted dryly to which he cackled with delight. “Tell you what; I answer one of your questions, you answer one of mine.”
“Alright, who goes first?” he relished at what was to come.
“I’ll answer your earlier question if you tell me who told you,” she offered.
“Let’s just say a little birdy told me,” he smiled like the cat that ate the canary.
“That bird seems to chirp an awful lot,” Sookie exhaled, annoyed assuming they were speaking of Pam’s loose lips. It only seemed to fuel Russell’s pleasure. “In answer to your question; yes, Bill Compton seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. I guess we’ll find out soon enough how he found me.”
“You’re going to ask him nicely?” Russell chuckled.
“My turn,” she said curtly and detected mild annoyance from him.
“What did you really think when you first met me?”
He smirked, extremely self-satisfied, “I thought you were an adorable little girl with your little sundress and mop of tight little curls.”
“I…” she started to protest the description of her dress and her hair’s appearance before he interrupted her.
“My turn,” he said gleefully. “What are you?”
“I used to be a waitress, now I guess I’m a freelancer,” she supplied.
“A freelance waitress?” he asked.
“Yes, thanks to Bill Compton I’m on an extended sabbatical,” she sassed.
“My patience is running thin, Ms. Stackhouse,” he spoke with a slight agitation peering through.
“Why ask me a something you already know the answer to? It’s a bit of a waste of your questions.”
“I only have suspicions,” he replied setting the spoon down on his dinner.
“So the little bird hasn’t sung you a song about it then?”
“Little Raven? No she’s an awful singer, she knows the truth then?” Sookie didn’t bother to reply as he’d already answered his own question. “Will you tell me then?”
“What do you think I am?” she asked curiously as it appeared he really didn’t know the answer already. Some relief settled into Sookie with the knowledge that Pam had simply regaled what had happened that day, but nothing that revealed what her ability was.
He remained silent for a moment hoping she would supply it before he had to.
“A psychic or a mind reader,” he offered cautiously. She laughed a little at the thought of it. She briefly wondered if she should still tell him the truth or simply lie.
“Neither, I’m afraid,” Sookie said as she watched the disappointment run across his face. “I can force the truth out of you, like a human truth serum. Before I was capable of control, it was more involuntary on both accounts.”
“You spent your life unwillingly witness to other people’s inner secrets?” he marvelled. “I’m surprised you retained your sanity.”
“Some will question the truth of that statement,” she simply replied with a smile.
“Will you try it on me?” he asked excited at the prospect.
“Yes,” she said when she forcefully imposed her will on him. “You will not speak of my ability to anyone besides me.”
“What was that?” he tested slightly dazed.
“Insurance,” she shrugged. “I wouldn’t have told you this otherwise.”
“That was more than pulling the truth from me,” Russell protested.
“Side effect of the control,” Sookie shrugged before clarifying, “Hypnosis.”
“I was hoping for more of a confession,” he said his disappointment unveiled.
“Confessions are overrated,” she returned from experience, and it caused Russell to rediscover his amusement.
“They are meant to be cathartic. Cleanse the soul,” he said dreamily as if yearning for exactly that.
“You think confessions are cathartic?” Sookie spoke while shaking her head. “I can only speak from the experience of people pouring their hearts out to me involuntarily my whole life. It just makes someone dwell needlessly on something they’re probably better off forgetting. Nothing is going to wash you clean if you continue to believe you’re dirty.”
“How are you so certain?” Russell asked clearly shaken by her candour. Sookie didn’t enjoy upsetting the man who was so physically frail, but she needed for him to know she wasn’t the answer to his overworked conscious.
“The fact that most people could never look me in the eye again after. Or the fact that their lives don’t miraculously improve. Some got worse,” she spoke with regret, the guilt of that still compounding her. “Were you hoping for a telepath or psychic?”
“Interesting, I’d figure a psychic would be more interesting for someone so close to death.”
“I’m not interested in the future anymore, Ms. Stackhouse. All I have left is my past,” he replied.
“You don’t need me for that. If you need a confessor, I’ll find you a clergyman; otherwise you have a house full of people who love and care for you.”
“I don’t take defeat well,” he said feeling every ache in his ailing body. She nodded sympathetically and helped him shift to a more comfortable position.
“You wanted to confess without it being your choice. For it to be expelled without your involvement,” she observed, thinking what the appeal of a telepath would be to him. “Or my choice for that matter.”
“Yes,” he sighed.
“Surrender, in its place, is as honourable as resistance, especially if one has no choice.”
“Who said that?” Russell asked whilst committing it to memory.
“My Gran sprouted it whenever she could. I think she read it in one of Maya Angelou’s books.”
“Wise woman,” he observed. “Thank you for your insight, Sookie.”
She got up from her seat. “You’re welcome,” she said before she pulled an empty notebook from a bookshelf and a pen from the nearby desk. “Here,” she offered sincerely. “Write it down if you need it out of your system. I promise not to read it. I’ll remove it from here when you’re gone and destroy it if you wish. It’ll be our secret, and that’s one thing I’m very good at keeping.” He nodded obediently when he took the notebook from her.
“I’ll leave you to it,” she spoke softly, announcing her departure and intent to get back to Eric.
He gave her a genuine smile, one not born of amusement, before clasping onto her hands. “I meant it when I told Eric you are good for him. I dare say you are probably good for us all.”
She smiled politely before she returned, “I try my best, but I think Raven’s going to be a tough nut to crack.”
His amused smile returned with that, “Yes, she’s special but that’s what makes her so marvellous.” His smile of pride was contagious as it instantly swept over Sookie.
“I’m glad you got it right with her,” she offered before bidding him goodnight with a peck to his forehead. Sookie had yet to see him so content since he arrived home.
Bill woke with a shrill cry when a cold bucket of water splashed over his crumpled form, ricocheting against the thick stone walls. Eric was deeply impressed by Adonia’s damage on the pathetic creature and, had he not known better, he would think Pam had inherited her skill in torture by blood. Sookie sat waiting patiently in the small and messy office of the olive grove before Bill was fully conscious again. As Eric led her to the damp and dark room where the olive press was housed, she was informed he was sober now, but clearly in pain from his inebriation and bruising. Bill’s eyesight adjusted to the dim lighting after the door opened with a beam of harsh light, recognising the two forms in front of him instantly. A small tripod with a camera stood staring him down, the red light indicating it was recording.
Sookie bravely approached him with Eric beside her, positioning themselves behind the camera. Her face was a mask of cold indifference where she channelled the strong presence Pam had shown when interrogating Long Shadow. Not a breath of hesitance was exhaled, instead staring him down with all the might she could muster in that moment. She saw him now as Bill, the pathetic creature that had stunted her, no longer Connor, the fraudulent fiancé, who meant everything to her at one time.
“You have corrupted her,” he fumed at Eric, noticing the difference in her. Eric could only shake his head in amusement at the man’s gall. “She was mine, delicate, and demure. You stole her from me!”
“I assure you I’m still delicate and demure,” Sookie informed coolly. “I’m not some possession either. I’m with Eric by choice, and I assure you the only one corrupting me, was you.”
Bill’s eyes grew dark with her confidence, he yearned for the insecurity and innocence he prayed on. Clearly not skilled in many things, Bill did, however, know exactly where to plant a seed of doubt, where to fester a sore spot to an infection. “Do you enjoy being his whore? It’s easy, isn’t it? Once you spread those legs, there’s no stopping you,” he taunted. “You gave it up so easy for me, you little slut. No wonder he keeps you around.”
Eric lost all his restraint at that point, backhanding him hard across the face. The sound of the stinging slap resonated loudly through the empty building before toppling him to the ground, still tied to the chair.
“You know nothing,” Eric fumed pulling his shirt up tightly at the collar. “She is the purest creature walking this earth despite your taint.”
Out of view Sookie nearly slipped out of character with Eric’s words, but she soon let her face grow hard again as Bill began to laugh maniacally. “Isn’t that precious, you’re still under her spell. She’s not so nice after she gives it up, Little Prince.”
Sookie stopped Eric from assaulting him again by resting her hands on his shoulder to catch his attention. “He’s not worth it,” she whispered. “Let’s just get it over with.”
He nodded in agreement when he calmed down at her touch and let go of the restraining hold on his throat after pulling him and the chair back again.
“Pussy,” Bill spat with derision.
“I think you were the only pussy in that alley full of cats, Bill Compton,” Sookie spoke before she took a hold of his mind. “Now be a good little pet and tell me what you know.”
“Yes, Sookie,” he replied with his eyes stuck in stasis.
“Tell me how you found me,” she started.
Bill explained he had seen them at the airport together when his flight had been delayed. A moment of chance he had observed the Arrivals hall and caught sight of her blonde hair. He mused how it was so similar to hers, believing it almost to be her until she wrapped herself in Eric’s arms. That’s when he knew for sure. He had pawned everything he still owned to come here and try to save her from Eric’s grasp, because in Bill’s deluded mind that’s what their reunion had appeared as. Lina, the hacker, had done a real number on him, successfully barring him from boarding two flights, ruining his credit, and evicting him from his rented home. Lorena only gave him the funds that allowed him to travel in trade for his cooperation to procure the next girl. Lorena, however, was only aware the funds would be used for a down payment on a new rental.
This sickened Sookie and nearly had her falling out of her role again, successfully she managed to keep her face stoic and stopped the bile rising further up her throat. After noting down the name of the next victim, she delved into the details of his procurement of her.
Despite being a maniacal bitch, it turned out Lorena wasn’t the evil mastermind. Bill had pitched her to Lorena and she had reluctantly agreed, she had presumed Sookie might be too independent to recruit properly and a tad too old. Lorena had simply informed to appease her and gain her trust. It was Sophie Anne who had sent Bill to fetch her. He was to seduce her beyond Lorena’s wishes as Hadley had revealed the possible use of Sookie’s skills.
They had brainstormed on a plan, the three of them, when Sookie was to arrive at Arlington Sophie Anne and Hadley would ‘save’ her from Bill’s clutches and ‘expose’ him in Lorena’s scheme. She would be indebted to them, and Sophie Anne had vowed to build out her power base with the use of Sookie’s ability, allowing Bill to leave Lorena’s grasp. It was to be fortuitous to all with little regard for Sookie’s wishes and wants.
When Bill fell in ‘love’ with her, apparently his subconscious was quite convinced of that along with the enduring belief that she too was still deeply in love with him as he continually spoke of a ‘we’, they had adapted the plan to keep Bill by her side as her handler instead. Sophie Anne had actually quite warmed to that alteration as it would keep Sookie in line through obligation where they prepared a strategy quite similar to Lorena’s, where Bill’s debts would be paid in goods. Instead of Sookie’s body it would be her skill.
Sookie left the room after hearing that, leaving Bill hanging in his hypnosis. She didn’t know if that was safe but she found she could not care. Eric followed her and quickly wrapped his arms around her as she heaved into his chest. He didn’t placate her with pretty words; he was just there for her, softly caressing her to calm.
“It was bad enough when it was just my virginity,” Sookie finally spoke with a sniff. “To enslave me as some tool to be used indiscriminately with Bill as my keeper? The gall of it all,” she spat as he pulled her closer rubbing large circles over her back.
“How do you wish to proceed?” he asked after they both had been silent for a while.
“I’ll make him think I’m finally dead and stop his pursuit of me.”
“You know everything you wish to know?” he asked carefully.
“Yes, he’s just a miserable man with delusions of grandeur. I’m just sad I never saw it coming,” she sighed dejected.
“Do you still think I saved you from a fate worse than death?” he asked needing to hear her affirmation.
She looked up to him with tear-glistened eyes. “The first scenario you projected to me would have robbed me of my body. I would have preferred death to that. This scenario would have robbed me of my choice and freedom over and over again. Plan A or plan B, he couldn’t’ care less about me.”
“Would you have preferred death to that?” Eric asked fearing her answer.
“Yes,” she whispered as she remembered the words of surrender she had spoken to Russell that previous evening. Surrender, in its place, is as honourable as resistance, especially if one has no choice. “You gave me choice Eric, you give me the truth without having to work for it. Thank you,” she finished with a soft kiss to his chin.
He pulled a small velvet box from his pocket. “I have something for you,” he said before he placed it in her hands. “I had hoped to give you this in Paris as an anniversary present.”
“Anniversary?” she questioned as her fingers lingered over the soft fabric casing.
“It would have been three months to the day, circumstances disrupted my plans,” he offered a little disappointed. “I think we were exhausted in that Athens hotel on a layover on the exact day.”
“I didn’t even think to remember,” she offered apologetically, at which he chuckled a little.
“Pam told me it was an important milestone to American women. She’s been hounding me for weeks over it. I don’t think I would have remembered otherwise,” he confessed, looking like a guilty child.
“We’ll do something special when it’s been three months since our first kiss,” she offered in consolation. “I’ll open it then.”
“No,” he encouraged. “I want you to have it now. It’s important.”
“Ok,” she said, feeling the weight of it. “That doesn’t mean you get to buy me another gift though,” she warned before opening it and looked at the bracelet inside. It was a string of small silver plated circles with small diamonds in the middle. When she pulled it closer for inspection she recognised the writing on the circles, they were nine bullet case heads. Apparently he was as sentimental as she when it came to jewellery, and she fondled the dented bullet he carried as a necklace underneath his shirt since she gave it to him in recognition.
“It’s beautiful. Thank you,” she said when she turned it over on itself where she noted each case head was numbered from two till ten. “What do these numbers mean?”
“This is the second bullet I didn’t fire at you,” he said while pointing at the number. “The third and so on. I had ten bullets loaded in my magazine.”
“Eric,” she sobbed with tears of joy, unable to exert another word.
“I know I can never make up for the first bullet but I wanted to show you I’m not like Russell. I take my precautions and I load more bullets than necessary,” he continued to explain even though she already understood the implication and started pecking every bare patch of skin as he tried to continue his explanation. “Fate didn’t burden me with something. It gave me a choice. I chose you.”
Her barrage of kisses stopped momentarily when she looked him in the eye with his last words, brushing his cheek softly with her fingertips if only to assure herself this was the reality she was living and not the one she had escaped into while living the horror Bill had described. Sookie smiled in return to his cautious look as he seemed to hold his breath.
“As I chose you.”
A/N: So I’m hoping you all enjoyed seeing Sookie channel some inner Pam while she confronted both Russell and Bill. I took the scene between Sookie and Russell in season three as inspiration point, always thought Denis O’Hare could bring out great acting performances like that on the show… and did you all like Eric’s gift?
Thanks to MsBuffy for editing this to perfection.