“Sookie, join us,” Pam said excitedly. “I can practice with the both of you.”
Sookie sat beside Pam after finding herself smiling automatically to his boyish grin at the sight of her. Pam, meanwhile, tried relentlessly to get the delivery right. The only time she appeared successful was with the delivery of a cloyingly, sweet version that expressed ‘you’re an idiot’. She found that one useless as she mastered that particular line in a multitude of languages with ease and saw little need to change it up.
“Don’t worry, Raven, we’ll make a Southern Belle out of you yet,” Sookie encouraged with a snicker.
“I think I’m going to stick with ‘Bless your FUCKING heart’,” Pam huffed to the loud cackle of Russell.
“I have to say the two of you look especially radiant today,” Russell noted. Pam simply looked pleased to confirm something she already knew.
“That’s very kind of you to say, Russell, Bless your heart,” Sookie demonstrated with a demure sweetness to Pam who just looked confused.
“Is there a Google translate for this?” Pam asked with a sarcasm that was hard to miss and seemed to creep in heavier with her own inability to deliver the line as intended.
“Sookie told me very politely that my compliment was an utter falsehood,” Russell said with a discerning eyebrow. “Which, frankly, is a little disconcerting,”
In a secondary demonstration Sookie gave him an exaggerated batting of her lashes when she uttered the infamous words with a sickly sweetness while patting his shoulder like a small child, subtly expressing he must be especially dense if he believed that. Russell released a little mock gasp with the insinuation.
“Ms. Stackhouse, I am a gay man on his deathbed. If I’m not the authority for recognising beauty, then I don’t know who is.”
“Well, Bless your little pea pickin’ heart,” she returned that showered her with his laughs of delight.
Her face blank except for the hostile malcontent that radiated from her with her inability to grasp what was playing out before her, Pam grumbled, “I’m going to need to find an app for this.”
“How have you resolved things with Mr. Compton?” Russell asked of Sookie when they were left alone in the room.
“We had a good little chat,” she said while pointing at her temple. “He won’t be bothering me anymore.”
“What I wouldn’t give to have been a witness to that,” Russell sighed longingly.
“Well, what would you give?” she asked with a naïve excitement.
Russell recognised it instantly when a carrot was being dangled in front of him, a calculated look taking over his previously carefree face. “I’ll answer another of your impertinent questions,” he offered.
“I want more than that,” she returned.
“One million dollars,” he bellowed out regally with a dramatic sweep of his arms, causing Sookie to giggle at the sight.
“I don’t want your money. I’ll settle for a decent story from your life, subject of my choosing.”
“One bedtime story for Ms. Stackhouse,” he dictated out loud while filling out an imaginary check with the words. “Deal,” he said handing it over while she accepted the fake currency of their little play. “Now are you going to project it in my mind?” he asked excitedly.
“You really do enjoy getting your heart blessed, don’t ya?” she laughed heartily. “I’ll be right back with the video.”
“Oh, well that is a little disappointing,” he drawled good-humouredly.
“Aren’t you glad I didn’t take your money now?” she sassed.
“You’re still a bargain, darling. You can pull anything you want from me for free.”
“Wasn’t it more fun this way?” she asked before she closed the door to leave and fetch the evidence.
“Utterly fascinating,” Russell exclaimed as he watched the video play in front of him, evidence of the fraud’s wheeling and dealings.
“Why did Bill refer to Eric as Little Prince?” Sookie asked when she heard Bill say the words that had confused her then from the speakers.
“That’s my fault,” Russell explained as he paused the video. “He latched on to that book ‘The Little Prince’ so fiercely when he first came into my care. They call me the Mississippi King you know?” Sookie shook her head indicating it was the first she had heard the moniker.
“I thought it was a suitable pet name for him, though at the time I didn’t realise he’d grow up to be such a giant of a man,” he chuckled. “The name stuck much to his distaste.”
When the video was finished Russell asked many questions as to how it worked and Sookie answered as much as she could. When she noticed his eyes started to droop despite the excitement of the tale, she helped him get comfortable, and then went in search of Talbot per Russell’s wishes. After that she set off to find Eric once again, who had taken to retreating more and more with the arrival with another family member. When she didn’t find him, Sookie sent him a text asking where he was. Without an answer she started pacing before deciding to check their hideout. When she looked up to their apartment she didn’t see any lights on, but ventured in to check regardless.
She found him fast asleep on the bed with a book lying on his chest and, after carefully removing the book, she slipped out of her clothes, pulled a blanket over the two of them, and snuggled into his side.
“Sookie,” he whispered softly while he gently nudged her. “Älskling, wake up.”
“It’s not even light yet. Go back to sleep, Eric,” she murmured through half open slits.
“We have to get back to the mansion before someone realises we’re missing,” he said softly trying to rouse her.
“I don’t wanna move,” she pouted like a petulant child.
“Please?” he asked hoping to appeal to her appreciation of manners.
“Fine,” she grumbled. “Why were you hiding out here anyway?” She moved her head up on to his chest, hoping to trap him inside the warm bed.
“Apparently without your presence I’m free game to be taunted, mostly about you, by Aunt Jill, Adonia, and the rest of the Angelis clan,” Eric answered while he moved his hand down her back over the blanket.
“Mmm,” she replied while languishing in the soft caresses. “Five more minutes, please? I promise we’ll leave after that.”
“OK,” he whispered softly. He allowed her longer than five minutes, but inevitably his lids fell closed too, and it was well past sunrise when they were both woken by the incessant ringing coming from the living room.
“Pam?” Eric answered groggily.
“No, it’s Jill. Where are you? Adonia has everyone looking for you,” the shrill voice of his aunt bellowed out so loudly Sookie could hear it in the bedroom. She motioned incessantly to hand over the phone to her knowing Jill would chew him up in seconds.
“Sookie wants to talk to you,” he diverted when he happily thrust the phone in her hands.
“I’m sorry, Jill, we should have left a note. Eric was feeling ill so I got him out of the house as soon as possible,” she lied while Eric was intently looking at her face in worry. “He seems to be doing better, I’m taking him to a doctor to make sure, and then we’ll be back.”
Sookie looked apologetically at Eric while Jill ranted over the events caused; the worry they had caused with their sudden disappearance that had every one of the Angelis relatives scouring the island. She finally was able to hang up with a sigh of relief with an assurance they were safe. It was only then that Eric noticed she was kneeling up on the bed with nothing on but her set of coral coloured underwear.
“Shit,” he muttered before quickly turning around to move into the living room.
“Eric, it’ll be fine. We just need to pass by a doctor who will give you a note for Jill stating you’re in perfect health,” she yelled after him. “She asked for evidence that you won’t endanger Russell’s health!”
Eric wasn’t responding to her, and he seemed to be reciting a string of numbers just like when she had found him lounging on her bed back in Bon Temps. She jumped out of bed and moved in front of him.
“What’s wrong? I did the best I could that wouldn’t raise suspicion.”
He couldn’t look at her so he just stared at a blank spot on the wall when he answered, “You did fine. Just get dressed.”
“Tell me what I did wrong!” she demanded, blood flushing her body with her rise in temper.
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” he spoke with clenched teeth, still avoiding eye contact and only making her doubt the truth of his statement. “Please, get dressed.”
“Look me in the face and tell me damn it!” she exclaimed as her skin sported almost the same colour of her underwear.
He pushed her against the wall, his body caging hers before hungrily descending his lips on hers. She resisted for a moment, still angry, until his talented mouth convinced her to participate. She whimpered with loss when he moved his mouth away. He looked her intently in the eye and with a hoarse voice, “If you don’t get dressed soon I don’t know how I’ll contain myself.”
She looked down upon herself to take in the sight of her dress, or rather undress. The bulge that was straining through his pants didn’t go unnoticed either. She bit the left corner of her bottom lip pensively before her eyes travelled up again. “Then don’t.”
He growled in frustration while he pulled himself away from her and ran out the front door slamming it loudly. It felt like the aftermath of Long Shadow all over again, Sookie’s body lost the support of her knees and her back slowly sank along the wall while tears overtook her shaking form.
Eric didn’t answer his phone, and when Sookie’s stomach started grumbling she decided to get back to the mansion. She sighed in disappointment when she didn’t find him at the breakfast table either, not that she had expected him, but she had clung to a sliver of hope. She maintained polite conversation, and lied through her teeth at Jill blaming food poisoning on Eric’s mysterious illness and that he stayed at the hotel out of precaution after the doctor had cleared him. She sent Eric a text to inform him of the narrative so they wouldn’t get caught up in a web of lies.
He only texted back an ‘OK’ causing her spirits to plummet further. She offered to take Russell his breakfast, her need to be useful kicking in again. Sookie also figured she’d cash in her story check with Eric missing in action.
“Ms. Stackhouse, everyone has been in quite a tiff searching for you and your beau,” Russell greeted when she came in.
“Well, no mysteries. Eric’s fine now and I’m back with your breakfast,” Sookie replied without her usual cheery spirit.
“I see the clothes haven’t changed since last night,” he said with a suggestive smirk, “I told everyone you two were just seeking a bit of lovers alone time, but Adonia convinced them all you were in grave danger.”
“It’s nice to know everyone cares for our safety so much, but I assure you it was in concern of your health that we left for the hotel,” Sookie replied tight-lipped. She sighed only wishing that Russell’s suggestion had been the reason they had sneaked off. “I thought I’d cash in my check,” she said changing the subject when pullng it from her back pocket.
“All right. Subject of your choosing I recall,” Russell agreed while he took possession of the imaginary item again.
“Olle Lindquist,” she spoke carefully while watching Russell’s face for a reaction of recognition. It was a minor twitch, but it was there regardless causing her eyes to narrow in threat.
“I have met the man twice,” Russell admitted knowing it was useless lying to her. “The first time was very long ago, I was nineteen so… 1975. We met in Portofino in an ordinary bar. He told me he was sailing on a boat with his mother and an old friend of hers. I never met them.
“He was a gentle soul, generous and kind. Too kind for me at the time, I was on my last liras and I saw him as a good benefactor. We spent a week travelling down the Ligurian coast past the towns of Cinque Terre. It was a blissful time, we stayed in the finest hotels and ate at the best restaurants. I still have one of those cartoon portraits made by a street artist somewhere of the two of us. No matter how carefree we were, he always retained his reserve though. I asked him if something was plaguing him, but he never opened up to me about it. At the end of the week he joined his mother again and left me behind with an envelope full of cash.
“I thought that our time spent together was more than a business transaction. It was rather sad that it was money that drew me to him, but left me feeling cheap in the end. He either took pity on me, or it was the outset from the beginning and I took feigned affection for the real thing, having never gone looking for it going in.” Sookie smiled a generous smile, squeezing the very weak and delicate hand of a once killer who had dealt out death to so many, but now appeared just as fragile as she in all things love.
“He told me when I came across him in Philadelphia three years or so ago,” he continued. “We bumped into each other at the train station. I just finished a job, and he was on his way home returning from business somewhere. We had dinner together and spent the night at a hotel reliving old times.
“It was over breakfast that he confessed I was the first lover he ever had. I had assumed at the time it was his first time responding to a male’s touch, but it turned out it was more than that.
“Apparently I wasn’t as good as I thought at covering my threadbare clothing and my lack of funds. The cash was because he thought I needed it, he never considered a different implication. The envelope had his information written on it, but I never looked at the envelope after seeing the cash inside.
“He had wanted more that time we reunited so many years later, but although Talbot and I have never been monogamous outside the home, I couldn’t offer Olle anything involving my heart. That was already spoken for; I showed him pictures of Talbot, Eric, and Pam. My little nuclear family,” Russell smiled proudly looking at the slightly bizarre family portrait that stood by his bedside. Only Talbot and Russell smiled, Pam carried a scowl while Eric looked misplaced and distant. “He was very interested in Eric, he is a handsome boy after all, and Olle didn’t seem deterred at all that he was straight.” His finger lingered over his son’s face before he paused and beckoned for a glass of water before sending her a suggestive wink. “Sometimes that makes the fantasy sweeter after all.”
“We exchanged contact information but I never heard from him again. Now tell me how you know of Olle Lindquist. Have you been reading my notations?” he asked while finishing up his story. “Or was I reliving days of youth by murmuring in my sleep?”
“He’s Eric’s uncle,” Sookie answered and watched the surprise register on his face. “He died a couple of weeks ago. Accidental suicide, although Eric is pretty certain it wasn’t accidental though.”
A small tear fell from Russell’s eye for his former lover, Olle Lindquist. Sookie offered him a tissue, which he dabbed daintily at his eye. “Well, at least I’ll have a friendly face waiting for me when I get there,” he consoled himself while Sookie gave him a weak smile.
“Do you know the name of the man on the boat?” Sookie asked when he composed himself again.
“No, didn’t even get a glimpse of the man. He was from a very wealthy East Coast family. I thought they were hiding a Kennedy, but he assured me it wasn’t so. The boat they were travelling on had an unusual name though, Ad Fundum,” he remembered. “It’s Latin for until the bottom. It refers to downing your drink in one go.”
“Maybe the family wealth came from bootlegging,” Sookie offered.
“Very sharp, little miss. I see why Eric’s so taken with you,” Russell spoke in better spirits. She only smiled half-heartedly with the pang of pain that hit at the mention of Eric and her. “I assume I’m going to be receiving another jolt of insurance.”
“You almost sound excited at the prospect,” she admonished while shaking her head before she forced her will upon him to not speak of this to anyone but her and Eric.
“Well, I am quite excited being at the end of your mind control. Am I in good company?”
“It’s about 50/50 in terms of good and bad company, if you’re going to be black and white about it,” she answered.
“What side do I fall on?” he asked with intrigue.
“I don’t think in black and white,” she replied with a tiny shrug to her shoulders.
“Your ability makes you very non-judgemental,” Russell observed.
“I had to be. People didn’t tell me things by choice. How could I fault them for something they didn’t control?”
“I wonder if you would indulge me in an experiment of your ability,” he began while she motioned for him to continue. “As I understand it, the body registers pain in the brain. Do you think you could will me not to feel pain?”
She considered it remembering her straining session with Bill. “I think it’s possible with a localised pain, but I think morphine will be more effective on the entire body than I will theoretically be. I think it’s also important for you to know from where any pain is coming.”
“I have a continual stabbing pain in my lower back. The nurse thinks it might be a hernia. It would be of little use to do anything about it now, but I prefer to wait with the use of heavy pain medication until absolutely necessary.”
“OK, let’s try it,” Sookie offered, a little curious herself to see if it would work. She hypnotised him again, instructing him not to register the pain emanating from his lower spine and when he returned to himself a look of relief settled on his face.
“Fascinating,” he sighed. “It’s worked; I don’t feel the pain anymore.”
“Good to know I have a career in alternative medicine to fall back on,” Sookie said while a little beep registered from her phone indicating a text from Eric.
I’m sorry for this morning. Please meet me outside the house.
She left Russell to Jill’s overbearing care while he jokingly pleaded not to leave him in the care of his sister and went outside to find Eric who was sitting on the outer stonewall, his back resting against the iron gate. He held a small bouquet of flowers in his hands in apology.
“Hey,” she said while sitting down next to him at a respectable distance.
“Sookie, I’m…” he started before she interrupted.
“You already apologised,” she said holding up her phone. “Just tell me why.”
“Not here,” he sighed. “I bought these for you.” She took receipt of the bouquet of dainty flowers with white petals and a pink hue radiating from the centre.
“Thank you, they’re beautiful.”
“They’re a native flower of the island,” he offered.
“Anemones,” Sookie said recognising them from her Gran’s teachings. “Do you know the symbolism behind them?”
He shook his head so she continued, “In Greek mythology it is said that the anemone sprang from Aphrodite’s tears as she mourned the death of her Adonis. It symbolises enduring love. Though it’s mostly known as the flower of anticipation, probably because the two lovers reunited when she discovered he was in the Underworld thinking he was lost to her forever.”
“I unknowingly chose well then,” he sighed.
“It is quite fitting with the morning we had,” she returned with a frugal smile. “Let me put these in some water and we’ll go somewhere to talk.”
Upon her return they went down to the beach, walking side by side at a distance foreign to them. They finally sat down in a secluded spot before either of them dared speak a word.
“I’m scared I’ll lose myself in you,” he admitted as they stared at the blue horizon in the distance. “You’re a great distraction, a distraction I love but a distraction, nonetheless.”
Sookie remained quiet; trying not to feel hurt by his words but they stung regardless, remaining silent in fear of further pain to come.
“I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for what we have, but I can’t lose focus, not now when I’m so close to getting what I want.”
“Except you did,” Sookie spoke softly. “You traded an anticipated moment between us for what you wanted.” She paused briefly, allowing a tear to escape with the pain. “And it wasn’t me.”
“Sookie, make no mistake. I want you. Desperately,” he enunciated sternly while he looked her deeply in the eyes, afraid to admit the weakness that reigned in his tightly held existence. “Too much.”
“I understand,” she sighed. “That doesn’t mean I’m not still hurt. I allowed myself to be vulnerable for the first time after all the things that happened, and you rejected me.”
“I never meant to reject you. I swear,” he offered while tentatively seeking out her hands to hold in his. “How can I make it up to you?”
“I don’t know, Eric,” she exhaled. “You can’t change what happened. You can’t take it back. I don’t even know how to behave around you anymore.”
“Nothing should change between us,” he offered.
“It already has changed. Every time I touch you now, I’ll be worried it’ll scare you away again. I can’t help but feel as if I’m walking on eggshells.”
“Please don’t,” he pleaded. “I promise you this, nothing you do, say, or wear will make me leave you. I love you, that is never going to change. I might momentarily step out to collect myself. I’ll never leave you behind.”
“I don’t think I can do this right now. I’ll help you with Russell and until you figure out who killed your family. Then…” she trailed off not quite sure to what exactly she was committing.
“Don’t leave me. I couldn’t bear it if you left,” he all but begged clutching her hands almost painfully.
“I don’t know how to be with you anymore, Eric,” she replied while pulling her hands from his grasp into her own lap, establishing a distance between them that no longer spoke of one but of two separate beings. “I have to protect myself.”
“From me?” he asked, the dejection crumpling his shoulders into an unsightly hunch.
“Yes,” she whispered softly before finding his eyes again. “Even from you.”
A/N: *kicks at stupid end of chapter*, yeah not the nicest place to leave you… I’m well aware, I also know where it’s headed so I can’t feel too bad about it, so you shouldn’t either. We’re just navigating the most fragile of both Eric and Sookie’s emotions in an already tumultuous environment and they both tend to clamp up in rough waters as they’re both rather inexperienced in an actual relationship. They’ll learn to truly lean on one another and find a healthy balance soon enough… so let the conspiracy theories about Russell and Olle commence and how it pertains to the death of Eric’s family… thoughts welcome as ever (even if just to settle my nerves on this chapter *sigh*) 🙂
Many thanks to msbuffy again for her editing skills on this.
Have you met Beehl the Constipated Cat yet? If not find him here (well the intro page… he comes with a bit of a warning, the evil clawing bastard…)