She moved her body so she was facing his chest, her head resting on his bicep, to keep some distance between them.
“Your cousin?” he asked his eyes still closed.
“Yeah,” she acknowledged with a small yawn.
“She’s a cunt. Go to sleep.”
“Eric!” she gasped.
“Something, something, spade. Sleep.” She chuckled at his failure to grasp or memorise common English expressions.
Aware she still wasn’t sleeping, he softly sang her a Swedish lullaby that his mormor used to sing to him. Somewhere in the back of his mind he hoped that the many thousands of goodnights he was wishing upon her would be spent by his side.
As Sookie finally succumbed to sleep she couldn’t help but wonder if she shouldn’t be more concerned at the comfort she found in the arms of a killer.
Sookie was staring down the black bin liner in a prolonged moment of silence. She hated waste, an ingrained trait from her grandmother’s upbringing. Every scrap had a purpose, be it a piece of cloth or a half-eaten biscuit.
The perfectly good fresh produce that was filling up the garbage bag was bristling against her sensibilities. It was however, the untouched breakfast that sat firmly atop it all that had her unnerved and immobile. Glistening with the grease it was cooked in, it sat taunting her with its unspoken message.
The empty plate and cutlery were still firmly clutched in her hands bearing the pressure she couldn’t vocalise. She was glad she didn’t possess any superhuman strengths otherwise the plate would have come raining down in pieces over the offending items she seemed to be staring down with vehemence. Her foot weighed down heavy on the pedal of the garbage can as she continued to avoid confronting the issue aloud.
“See something you like?” a voice spoke from behind her, stirring her from the stupor forcing her foot to finally release its hold on the pedal.
“I hate waste,” she murmured as the lid banged down with the sudden release of her foot.
“Perhaps having a staring contest with it is counterproductive then,” Eric remarked dryly.
She looked up at him finally releasing her intense stare on the offending garbage can.
“My mind is elsewhere right now,” she offered as some form of explanation and the way in which she spoke made it wholly believable.
He nodded in acknowledgement as he was gathering their luggage out the front door. Sookie started putting the last of the dishes into the dishwasher and started wiping down all the kitchen’s surfaces.
Satisfied everything was clean she sought to tackle the garbage can and its contents once more. Removing the liner from its hold she was forced to confront the thing that had been causing her stomach to churn all morning again. As she was gathering the ends and closing the black plastic upon itself she hoped eradicating the sight of said breakfast would alleviate her feelings about it.
It was an attempt in vain of course. Out of sight out of mind didn’t apply here. When he had politely refused to eat the breakfast she had cooked for him it wasn’t in offence to her hospitality. Sookie had understood the significance of it all too well. He was starting on a fast. He was going out on a job. The chance of another dud saving that person’s life were nil.
They were leaving today to Ithaca. She hadn’t given the destination much thought when Eric informed her he had some loose ends to tie up there. His lack of understanding common day expressions now gave her more pause to examine them whenever he used them. She didn’t want to be caught unaware like this again.
The cars were safely parked in the building’s underground garage. Eric had been loading up the familiar rental car he had arranged for his last mission before they would depart for Sweden. Sookie dropped the offending garbage bag in the dumpster, her stomach remained recoiled.
She slipped into the passenger seat as it was now a given Eric would drive. She placed her head against the doorpost as soon as she had buckled herself in and stared out the window ready to take in the passing scenery. Anything to keep her mind off of what was to come. She could deal with departing to another country, there was no doubt in her mind that Eric deserved to know why he and his family were targeted. It was the rest she had trouble digesting.
It wasn’t until they had passed Harrisburg that the uncomfortable silence that had existed between them since departing was interrupted.
“Would you like to stop for something to eat?” Eric asked as they passed a road sign announcing a rest stop with an assortment of restaurants at the upcoming exit.
“I rather not eat by myself,” she answered to the window causing it to fog up with her warm breath.
“I’ll come with you,” he offered as his hand reached out to pat her knee. Eric had simply put her absent mind down to her having to deal with another change in her life. It was his only frame of reference for such introvert behaviour in himself.
“No thank you,” she spoke softly moving his hand carefully of her leg. Sookie didn’t mean to offend him but she had. It caused Eric to push down on the gas pedal hard as they passed the exit sign when he finally came to understand her apathetic behaviour towards him.
Unnerved by the increasing speed of the car she moved her head to look at him for the first time since she entered the car. His jaw was set hard his teeth firmly clenched and his grip on the steering was turning his knuckles blindingly white.
“Eric, please slow down you’re scaring me,” she all but sobbed out finding it hard to reign in her turbulent emotional state with the added distress.
Rather than slow down he increased his speed further weaving the car through traffic to the next exit. Once off the interstate he pulled over breaking hard and abrupt causing their bodies to dig into the seatbelts that had up to that point been loosely restraining them. They sat silently side by side gazing out onto a green Pennsylvania field, a red barn stood in the distance reminiscent of the ones that graced the countryside of his homeland.
Neither one of them spoke a word as Eric released the hold of his seatbelt and left the car to pace back and forth on the dewy grass and unloaded himself of a substantially audible F-bomb. The string of foreign curse words she now understood to be Swedish followed soon after.
Finding some semblance of calm and control he plonked himself back in the seat resting his forearms and head on the steering wheel. The intermittent stop had done nothing to slow down her heart rate as it audibly echoed through the car. After some more of the heavy silence had ensued he offered, “I’m sorry.”
“It was my fault,” she responded tentatively. Sookie yearned to touch him and soothe him but she was too scared to further add to the volatility of the situation.
“No it wasn’t,” he gritted out, “I shouldn’t have put you in danger like that.”
She really didn’t have anything to counter that. He was right he had been reckless with both their lives by driving like a maniac.
“I don’t get it,” Eric said, his voice was almost deflated, void of intonation. “You know what I do.”
“I do know,” she returned softly. “There’s just a difference between knowing and knowing.” Sookie sighed nervously pulling at her sweaty hands in her lap, “Gosh that doesn’t even make sense to me.”
“No. I get it,” he spoke, enunciating each individual word to emphasize his understanding. It was the first time he dared look at her again. He stared at her fumbling hands and he couldn’t help but marvel at their innocence in comparison to his own, which held the blood of so many.
“I don’t kill innocents,” he whispered in the hope that that would make the burden of knowledge bearable. It had for him in all these years.
“What the fuck does that make me?” she fumed in outrage at his admission. “Guilty by association? Fuck you Eric! And fuck what you do.”
Her hands flew at the door handle desperate to get out of the car. Desperate to get away from him. She needed to breathe and expel the acid that was building up inside her.
“Please,” he pleaded, as he latched onto her closest arm while her feet were already moving out the door but his hold on her circumvented any further movement out of the vehicle.
“Let. Go. Of. Me.”
He reluctantly released his hold acknowledging the mistake he made she didn’t stay to stand witness to the guilt and sadness that descended into the orbs of his eyes. He stared after her retreating form sprinting from the car for but a moment before he too sprang from the claustrophobic confines of the car in pursuit of her screaming after her, “I would never hurt you!”
His lengthy stride allowed him to catch up with her quickly and only just in time to catch her collapsing form into his arms as grief overtook her physical being. She didn’t want to fight, with him or anybody else but this had been growing inside her since he announced he wasn’t eating anything that morning.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated over and over again holding her in his arms rocking them back and forth.
“It’s not enough,” she spoke after the worst of her tears had passed.
“It never will be,” he answered knowingly.
They had departed from the lush fields of the Pennsylvania Dutch country to arrive in Ithaca several hours later. Neither one of them spoke about food again or much else for that matter. They had checked into a hotel where Sookie had discretely slipped away to eat a small meal at the diner across the parking lot. She had chicken soup with crackers unsure of how much she could really stomach at this point despite the growling hunger inside of her.
When she returned to the room she noticed the grass stained jeans lying on the bed and overheard Eric in the bathroom. Next to his jeans lay a manila file reminiscent of the one that carried her name. She traced her fingers over the scripture, Franklin Mott, continuing to graze the pads of her fingers lightly over the thick card material.
She heard the water in the shower die down forcing her to lift her wondering limbs from their exploration. Sookie moved around the bed to the armchair near the window where she sat vacantly staring at the television that was still turned off.
Eric emerged completely dressed in black. Just like the first night she had met him. He placed his feet back into the familiar boots tying the shoelaces into a strangling hold round his ankles. Standing up he put on his leather jacket after folding the file in half lengthways before placing it into the jacket’s interior pocket.
“I’ll be back in a couple of hours,” he spoke as he departed from the hotel room. “Will you be here when I get back?”
The question was spoken with hesitation and the weight of it was palpable in the room. He was giving her another out. Eric had never forced her to come along, instead she had offered him her help instead. Even though she knew what his daily job entailed, she could expose him at any moment. He had enough trust in her not to do just that. Eric wanted to see her when he returned but he would never hold her to him like Russell had with him.
She simply nodded her affirmation in his direction before resuming her stare to the blackened screen. The door fell heavy on the room interjecting it with another stillness, one cultivated by the absence of company.
For once Sookie didn’t utilise her solitude for wallowing over Bill. Nor did she seek to cry over her confrontation with Eric that afternoon. There was nothing left to cry about. She came to accept this was what her life was like now. She had chosen to walk down this particular path and now she knew this would not deter her from that.
She spent a few hours practicing with her Swedish language course trying desperately to enunciate the confusing vowels correctly. For the life of her she didn’t understand why the Swedes would torture themselves with all these extra letters. Eric had yet to convince her with a compelling argument.
She smiled wistfully at the memory as he was trying to help her shape Sookie’s mouth with his oversized paws to get her to pronounce the different letters properly. So far her Southern accent had been impending her proper enunciation of the new language. It had left Eric completely enamoured with her struggling attempts.
Eric did return within a couple of hours as promised and he was carefully pleased to find her there. Sookie was still awake but had been lying in the dark for some time staring at the drawn curtains. Neither of them spoke a word as he got into his own bed. Just like the first time that they had shared a hotel room his bed was on the left whilst hers was on the right. He sighed into the synthetic filling of the pillow mourning the loss of the warm body that used to engulf his senses with the promise of peaches.
Sookie woke the next day to an empty room and a note on her bedside table.
Will be back by midnight. Be ready to leave tomorrow morning.
Unsure of what to do with herself she got showered and dressed and ate breakfast in the room. After getting some advice from the reception staff she took a cab downtown where she walked around the Cornell campus and followed a trail past the waterfalls the town was known for. She lingered in the bookshops inhaling the unique scent only books seem to acquire as they are preserved over so many lifetimes. She found a leather bound copy of Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen she couldn’t leave behind.
She convinced herself it was the author’s Scandinavian heritage that had made her buy it in preparation for her overseas trip. Sookie denied to herself that it wasn’t the theme of an entrapped woman in a gilt cage that had her dispensing with her money with such ease. Nor did she want to contemplate that the story’s heroine eventually shoots herself in the head when she realises another’s control over her could not be fought.
As the sun seemed to be setting she found herself some dinner in a cosy cafe. Every mouthful she inhaled could not distract her from the churnings that had moved from her stomach to her mind. For the first time in a long time she felt truly alone with herself. She was convinced that feeling so low about herself was had a stranger offering to buy her a drink but she politely declined. It was an exact echo of how she had met Bill, she had been in the same state of mind then and know she understood she had all but offered herself up like prey.
Sookie returned to the hotel room and set about to read her newly acquired book. Engrossed in a world where the protagonist gravitates to the French windows that seem to be beckoning her to venture out whilst forcing her inside at the same time. Momentarily distracted her head turned towards the door when she heard the tell-tale sign of a key card unlocking it.
They regarded one another unsure of what to say, so neither one said a thing. She returned to her book as he disappeared into the bathroom with his sleep attire. When he returned he crouched beside her in the armchair.
“Sookie,” he tried whilst seeking out her eyes. They barely lifted up from the words she had been trying to absorb. “I really am sorry.”
“For ending Franklin Mott?” she asked with a venom that was difficult to disguise.
“No. For agreeing to kill you.” He held his hand up to prevent her from protesting she reluctantly held her tongue to hear him out. “It was against my principles. I don’t kill anyone that doesn’t deserve to die. You didn’t deserve to die and I will do everything in my might to prevent that from happening if you’ll let me.”
“Who made you the authority on who deserves to die?” she hissed at him as all the anger and hurt from that previous afternoon resurfaced to a roaring boil.
He sighed dejectedly running his hands through his hair. He got up to remove the file from the inner pocket of his jacket.
“I may not believe in a God but it doesn’t mean I lack morality. Here,” he said placing the file in her hands, “tell me the world isn’t better off without him in it.”
Sookie looked at the contents of the file sitting in her lap as she nervously thumbed through it. Tears stained her cheeks as she read page after page accounting the horrendous acts, the cruelty and the suffering. She lifted her glistening eyes up to him for the first time latching on to his in earnest.
“Why wasn’t he in jail?” she asked as the anger flushed out of her system to be replaced with anguish over the violent acts she was a vicarious witness to.
“He traded information for his freedom.”
“The person he ratted out is your client,” Sookie deduced as her eyes had difficulty averting themselves from the photographs in front of her despite their horrific content.
Eric nodded his assent. It was the first time she took a good look at him and only then did she notice he was bleeding from a large gash on his forearm.
“You’re hurt,” she said with shock.
“I don’t hurt,” he lied. It was a superficial wound and the pain from that wound had long subsided but he had been carrying around a pain inside him no band aid could hope to heal. The wound she had inflicted on him and further allowed to fester with her withholding of her words and familiarity.
“Hush,” she spoke with the same warmth her Gran had bestowed on her in identical situations. She traced the outer edges of the wound carefully to which he flinched slightly. “You big faker.”
She got out of the chair leaving the words of the book behind for another time and called down to reception for some first aid tools. She wet a soft towel with warm water, which she carefully used to clean the wound. When the supplies arrived at their door she set about to disinfect and bandage him up. As she placed the fastening clip she admired her handiwork and sealed it with a kiss just like her grandmother had always done for her.
“Thank you,” Eric said carefully, unsure of what was appropriate to be said between them now.
“You’re welcome.” He warmed at the sight of her accompanying smile.
“Sleep beside me,” Eric requested in a whisper she almost didn’t hear.
“Ok,” she said with a little more volume than his appeal. She pulled him along to his bed where they lay side by side. Wordlessly and without necessity for discourse the lights of the room were extinguished as they situated themselves in their now familiar sleeping positions.
“I only took the job from Russell to get to Sweden faster,” he spoke into the darkness of the room. “I went against my own principles and I shouldn’t have done it,”
She turned her body towards his as she whispered back, “Eric if it hadn’t been you I would be dead right now. You may not believe in God but I do and if it’s his plan for me to be here lying beside you, why bother fighting it at every turn.”
“Always fight a cause that’s worthy Sookie, even if it’s against me,” he returned as his lips lingered over her forehead. He planted a soft kiss against her hairline and neither one spoke more that night.
A/N: A reviewer asked me through a PM conversation why Eric has not just killed Russell already seeing that the verdict is already out on his guilt and if Russell was just doing a job how much did he really know about the assignment. Seeing that perhaps others might wonder that too this is my reasoning:
It has already been mentioned that Eric tried to fight Russell and escape his grasp when he was younger and came to understand the reach of his power. This Eric is methodical and highly rational, he knows he has to save Russell till last, because that death won’t go without repercussions. Before meeting Sookie, Eric probably wouldn’t have cared that his death would come right after Russell’s as long as his revenge was completed. There’s probably a bit of symbolism in it too, hence a silver bullet, that it ends with the one who started it.
In this chapter you also see that Eric investigates every job he has meticulously. It is part of the process that allows him to pull the trigger, Sookie was the only one he couldn’t reconcile the action with but his own need for vengeance sidestepped that.