“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.
They left in the early hours of the morning driving up to Toronto to board their flight to Stockholm later that night. They had returned to some semblance of normal after what had transpired between them. The tensions that had caused them to strain had dissipated when they woke again in their familiar spots beside each other.
Eric ate an unusually large breakfast but Sookie didn’t comment on it. She had accepted not everything was black and white in the reality she was now living and there would be bitter pills to swallow. It would never alleviate the taste of bile residing in her mouth but she could see it for what it was now. She chose to leave judgement to a higher power.
Bill or rather Hadley had inadvertently thrust her into this world and at the end of the day she was glad for Eric to be her guide in it. As ridiculous as it seemed to her sometimes it felt right despite the many wrongs surrounding her. She still could not accept what Eric did but she could understand it. Sookie also realised Eric had been forced into this world by fate just as she had and he had simply done his best to survive in harsher climates than the arctic cold they were headed towards.
Eric had purposely chosen to depart from Canada. For one the set of fake documents he had procured for Sookie would be checked at border patrol. While he was relatively certain they would not be flagged, he had never encountered a problem with them before, he preferred to be caught aware on familiar territory rather than upon arrival in Europe.
One of her many passports was scanned through the machine and no problems were found. Eric’s passport also went through without a hitch. They had some hours to kill before needing to be at the airport and chose to explore the city centre. Toronto was a gulf of grey shrouded in sleet and wet snow. Whilst Sookie had never ventured past Dallas and a singular trip to Washington D.C. before meeting Eric she longed for a bit of sunshine in their wanderlust.
They didn’t bother with visiting the CN tower; the weather wouldn’t offer much of a view, choosing instead to wander around downtown ending up at the shore of Lake Ontario. The forefront was frozen over and beyond that was an endless mist of grey. The cold was assaulting Sookie’s body to unaccustomed shivers and Eric quickly brought her indoors for some warmth.
Deciding she did not want to be kept in the dark any longer she asked what was up next for them. For all she knew Eric would tuck her in some safe house for the next five months.
“What’s your plan for Sweden?” she asked.
“My initial plan was to follow up every old lead I had hoping to find something new. A new perspective.”
“Your presence has altered it to an extent. Your ability will hopefully help me uncover information previously inaccessible to me. Are you still willing to help me after…” he sighed with a strangled breath, “everything?”
“Yes, no matter what I’ll help you.” She had become more determined about this than ever. Whatever transpired between the two of them became irrelevant to the fact that she would help him with this because he deserved to know what had happened to his family. There had not been a moment since Eric had entered her life that she wasn’t thankful for him exposing her former fiancé’s deceit.
“Good,” he smiled at her appreciatively.
She sported an equally wide smile as she drank in her giant cup of hot chocolate. When she sat it down a dollop of whipped cream had remained on the tip of her noise. He laughed at the sight of it as she remained unaware of the cause. It only set to make her more indignant as he informed her of his amusement. He beat her to her attempt at removing it by licking it off her nose sucking the offending remains between his lips. She giggled at the feel of it but it had unnerved her immensely as shivers of excitement had run along her spine with the feel of his soft mouth.
Their faces hung in close proximity to each other as she inhaled a nervous breath.
“Please don’t,” she spoke ever so softly as her eyes fell to the ground scared of what would happen if she continued to look at his hungry gaze.
He pulled away, his face masking the rejection that stung his insides.
“I’m sorry,” she spoke but before she was able to finish her sentence he interrupted her with his own.
“You have nothing to be sorry for. I shouldn’t have done that.”
She shook her head not wanting to accept his apologies. “In another lifetime I would want nothing more,” she spoke earnestly looking into his blue orbs. “Right now I know I should hate him for everything he’s done, the damage inflicted.” A traitorous tear trickled down her cheek with the mention of Bill. “I’m just scared for my heart.”
In truth he felt exactly the same when it came to his heart.
Sookie was a frazzle of nerves on the plane. Never having flown before and the realisation she would be cooped up in the aircraft for the next seven hours had her clamouring for the tiny bottles of liquor she had been avoiding her entire life. Eric tried to temper down her appetite and found drawing tiny circles with his thumb on the back of her hand proved the most effective. He never let go of her hand during the entire duration of the flight bar a bathroom visit.
Sookie was overly eager to get off the plane in Amsterdam ready to experience Europe for the first time. She had loved looking down upon the green fields systematically portioned up along the many waterways. She was disappointed not to have seen any windmills or tulip fields from the air but was nonetheless enticed by the congregations of town centres and the absolute clarity of the blue sky.
Their layover would last no more than three and a half hours much to Sookie’s disappointment a too short period of time to leave the airport and explore. Upon leaving the gate she looked out past the runway at the flatness of it all. Her part of Louisiana had an equally wide terrain but it was so much different here to everything she knew. The sky seemed so close as if one could almost touch the bulbous white clouds shrouding it in the morning sun. She marvelled that something so universal could be so different on account of geographical location.
Eric couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm, whilst they were not in Sweden yet, the European soil beneath his feet always grounded him in a way his adopted homeland never did. He could relax here.
They manoeuvred their way along the motorised walkways to their connecting terminal. Whilst Canada was Sookie’s first foray out of the country it was only now that she felt truly abroad. The people, the environment and the smells it was all so vastly different. They passed through passport control without issue and they happily visited the Rijksmuseum’s exhibition at the airport.
One of the few large picture books her grandmother had owned was on the Dutch masters of the gilded age. She had marvelled at them as a child and now she stood in front of the real deal breathlessly taking it all in. Whilst she had not been able to see them from the air she now got to enjoy the windmills and the tulips as strokes of oil paint on canvas and board. She finally understood the depictions of that enchanting blue sky as she had only just earlier experienced its proximate presence.
Eric couldn’t help but notice Sookie would not stand out of place in a Vermeer painting as the exhibition lights lit up her face of wonder. The rich strokes of the paintings hardly captivated his gaze as the one who observed them so wondrously.
The food took some getting used to in all its unfamiliarity, as did the prices. Her wad of Euros were looking decidedly less impressive much to her chagrin.
Having already experienced one flight their next was less unnerving to Sookie despite the fact that the plane had decreased significantly in size and they were decidedly more cramped. Well mostly Eric and his freakishly long legs as Sookie had dubbed them. She couldn’t help but giggle at the accompanying scowl.
Their arrival into Stockholm Arlanda airport was less exciting to Sookie in comparison to the last but she marvelled at the cleanliness and efficiency of everything. It wasn’t long before they had gathered their bags from the conveyor belt and were waiting for the high speed train express into Stockholm.
While they had not ventured outdoors the underground tunnel did little to hide the chill of the outside air. Sookie had devoured the sight of all the snow from the sky; she loved the way the sun’s light danced across the virgin snow. Her native northern Louisiana never saw snow in such copious amounts and she relished the sight of it. Her hands were itching to come into contact with the illustrious powdered substance that lay there in abundance.
Despite Sookie’s enthusiasm for her surroundings her lids fell heavy on the short train ride and Eric had to rouse her from her slumber upon arrival at the train station. He expertly guided them to the taxis, had he been alone he would have taken the subway but the amount of bags they had brought with them inhibited this.
The taxi passed over bridges and tunnels past Gamla Stan, the old town, where the buildings looked out of something that Hans Christian Andersen wrote about. Eric pointed out the purpose and history of the more outspoken buildings that caught Sookie’s attention. She couldn’t wait to see it all up close.
They had arrived at their destination on the larger southern island of Södermalm in a street with tall houses with alternating dark rooflines. The exteriors were all painted in a different array of colours of strong pastels. Sookie got out of the cab and nearly slipped on the packed down snow on the pavement.
“We’ll have to get you some better shoes.” He said to her after he paid the chauffeur and helped steady her on the treacherous ground.
“Thanks,” she smiled at him as they entered a building that appeared to be an apartment block but looked more like a very tall house. Sookie had expected to be going to a hotel again so she looked around curiously at this new environment. They moved into the elevator that took them to the top floor.
“The penthouse?” Sookie gushed as Eric’s finger had pushed at the top button.
He smirked at her, “More like the attic with the rest of the servants.”
Eric’s apartment was hardly akin to servant quarters it was perfectly comfortable but it was decidedly different to an American version of a top floor apartment. Sookie took in the spaces nestled under the eaves of the building. It was spacious yet cosy and it stood in stark contrast to his apartment in Bethesda. The blonde wood of the floors were warming to the eye. The furnishings spoke of a comfort the sterility of his American home did not possess. He even had curtains in every room.
“Is this yours?” she asked at the unfamiliar sight before her.
“Yes,” he replied. “No one knows I own this place, you’re my first guest.”
She understood the significance. His house in Bethesda was simply a placeholder, a place to rest his eyes, this was his true home. The fact that he had invited her in was almost sacrosanct.
“Thank you for hosting me,” she said with her southern manners coming to the surface with guilt. “I feel like should have brought you something.”
“The presence of your company is more than enough,” he answered hoping to abate her concerns. He moved the bags into the bedroom as Sookie gravitated to the windows protruding from the slanted roof. She marvelled at the sight upon the old town across the expanse of water they had driven over earlier.
Pulling herself away from the enchanting view she followed on to the bedroom to explore the rest of the apartment. The bathroom was small barely containing a shower, a toilet and a sink. The bedroom was equally moderate fitting a bed and a wall of wardrobes. The smallest room turned out to be the central nervous system of Eric’s investigation. The walls were covered in photographs and documents with pieces of string connecting them together. Filing cabinets stood to the walls filled with files. As she was taking it in Eric entered the room from behind her.
“I see you have found my little cave.”
She didn’t turn around at the sound of his voice as she continued to take it all in. His presence behind her had long since stopped startling her.
“This is your sister? Your parents?” She asked placing her fingers on the photographs surrounding a younger picture of Eric. Despite his earlier claims Sookie decided Eric certainly did not look becoming with longer locks of hair. She liked his short hair better as it was.
“Yes, Ella,” he spoke as he pointed to his sister and then his parents, “Ulfrick and Astrid.”
“Why would anyone want the death of an infant?” she sighed out as she looked upon the innocent baby girl.
“It is something I have spent the largest part of my life wondering,” he spoke with the grief palpable in the air.
She turned towards him, not sure whether her embrace would offer any comfort but she offered it nonetheless. They stood holding each other for some time mourning the lives lost in their short life. A rumbling in her stomach broke them from their moment of bereavement.
“Let’s go find you something to eat,” he offered. She nodded and followed him out swaddling herself in her coat, scarf, gloves and hat. He chuckled a little at her appearance he hardly considered it cold outside.
They ate at a small café nearby and found Sookie two pairs of suitable boots and real woollen socks as they walked around town. Despite her joy of taking in the different sights, the early setting sun and the jet lag they found themselves retiring to bed early and neither one of them woke till the late morning.
While Sookie made use of the compact bathroom Eric had gone down the street to buy some bread and pastries from the bakery. Getting some essentials from the small supermarket next door. When he returned home he found a contented Sookie nursing a cup of coffee in his morning robe. He smiled at the sight of her, she was positively drowning in the sea of grey terrycloth and he did not refrain from telling her so.
“You really know how to make a girl feel self-conscious with your constant laughing at my appearance,” she spoke with a hint of sarcasm.
“There is nothing funny about your appearance,” he spoke so seriously she was almost scared to admonish him ever again. That was until he spoke his next sentence, “It’s what you ensconce yourself in that’s so hilarious.”
“Ass,” she grumbled as she threw a throw pillow from beside her on the couch. Of course he artfully dodged it to her great annoyance whilst continuing to laugh at her. Now specifically at her poor aim.
Her hands crossed across her chest as she released an annoyed huff whilst he set the table for breakfast. She joined him as he explained the workings of a typical Swedish breakfast. While she enjoyed it, especially the bread and pastries, she missed something warm. Eric promised to buy some more groceries with her later in the day and to make her his grandmother’s porridge with lingonberry jam the next day.
“Is your grandmother still alive?” she asked as she was clearing the last plates.
“Yes, but she has Alzheimer’s disease. She was already in a care home when Russell took me away but she is hardly ever lucid,” he replied whilst stowing away the last of the breakfast items. “I would like to go and visit her today. If you are up for it.”
“Sure. Does she remember you?” she asked not giving the request much thought.
“No it’s the only reason I’m able to visit her without rousing suspicion. Sometimes she thinks I’m my father sometimes her husband.”
“That must be weird.”
“Yes,” Eirc chuckled remembering his last visit with her. “She is especially vocal on her disapproval of me marrying her daughter.”
“Are you considered dead or missing? Or did you simply ‘disappear’ like I did?”
“As far as I can tell the authorities presumed me kidnapped but a lack of a ransom has left the case closed and I am presumed to be dead.”
“Do you have any other family in Sweden?”
“No my father was an only child and his parents were dead before I was born. My mother had an older brother, Olle,” he explained whilst absently writing a grocery list. “He emigrated to the states after finishing university. I met him as a child but I have no memory of him.”
“You never sought him out back home?” Her brows furrowed a little with the word ‘home’. It no longer seemed an accurate description of the apartment in Bethesda.
“No it’s best I retain my anonymity until I figure out why someone wanted my family dead. For all I know it may have been on his order” Sookie nodded in understanding as she lifted herself up on the kitchen counter.
“I’d really like you to talk with my grandmother,” Eric spoke to her more seriously as he finished off his list.
“You mean talk, talk?” He gave her affirmative noise. “I don’t know how helpful I’ll be and I’m not comfortable with the whole hypnosis thing on someone whose brain is already muddled. Besides if she was already incoherent when everything happened what will she know?”
“I wouldn’t want you to hypnotise her either,” he agreed. “The times she thought I was my grandfather she’d repeat the same phrase over and over again and she seems to express a genuine fear.”
“What does she say?”
“Don’t trust the American, it’s not him, he just looks like him.”
A/N: Today is my fanfic birthday (I signed up to the ff.net one year ago) and to celebrate I wrote a silly little one-shot. It’s called The Doctor is in, where Dr Ludwig sets to right all the wrongs of DEA….