A/N: Unbetad as MsBuffy is on a much deserved break so mind the small messes, they’re totally mine.
The reply was simple. Succinct. Annoyingly like the man himself. The thick letter was shoved right back across the desk in the same neat line it had initially travelled.
She blinked. More than once at the unexpected response, spoken so harshly without viewing its contents. Truly stunned and lost for words for the first time in her life she simply took the contested object in her hand and returned to her desk. Where she sat staring at a blank document on her computer screen till it turned dark with disuse.
The wound had yet to heal, perhaps that was why.
A multitude of similar thoughts continually played on repeat in her mind till she was startled by the feel of a large hand on her shoulder and the calling of her name. She glanced up at him in surprise, till it dawned on her it was lunchtime. It was strange to see him out of his own office and in her personal space for a change. In a panic she bolted out of the high-rise building, wallet in hand, before he could even finish the sentence he had started.
With panted breath she put in their regular order, specified to his wishes and only for that care did she repeat it every day with minute detail to ensure the order came out right. Sookie chatted idly with the Deli owner, who with an identical scrutiny made sure her order was prepared to exact specification.
“How was your Christmas, Belllissima?”
She blushed profusely, not on account of the silver haired man with the seductive Italian accent accolades of her supposed beauty. No, instead the flush of red that crept over her face had come at the memories of that unexpected Christmas.
“That good, huh?” he grinned in return to which she could only nod before grasping the proffered bag of food forcing her to run out of the deli at the same speeds she had entered it. Her haste only diminished at the confrontation with the kerb where she wondered what had her so embarrassed. She’d asked him to stay, he hadn’t given a reply but her front door had remained closed until the following morning. He had simply moved back towards his previously vacated spot on the sofa while she had remained behind holding his coat pondering what she had just asked.
Her hands had held onto the leather for an exceptionally long time while she mentally debated whether to send him on his way again. Eventually she did enter the living room again with a heavy load in her arms, blankets and a pillow, and a set determination only to find him already placing the throw pillows in a neat little pile.
She carried a shy smile, a lingering gaze found one another incidentally as they did their best to tuck in the sheet as neatly as possible around the sofa cushions. His hand lingered atop of hers when she handed over the pillow and in the only uncoordinated moment of the night both hands relinquished their hold at the same time allowing the cloth full of feathers to fall between him. A thumb dragged over her cheek before, with permission, his lips pressed against hers.
“Good night,” she had whispered when her briefly closed eyes opened again before retreating to her room with a lingering look from the bedroom door where he repeated the same words.
“FUCK!” she yelled out into nearly empty office space when the door banged in on itself as she entered in with too much force before apologising profusely to her unoffended co-workers.
It had been fucking perfect, until the next day, when it all came crashing down. She thought her morning had started off badly when she woke in a bed moist with cat pee but that opinion was soon amended when she heard the cries and snarls that were erupting from her living room. The morning was subsequently spent in the emergency room when it turned out her limited first aid kit couldn’t keep up with the profuse amount of blood that gushed from Bill the cat’s inflicted wounds to her boss’ previously flawless face.
Her tirade against her neighbour had been cut short when she noticed Eric was looking particularly pale in the passenger seat while threatening to rip the balls of the cat herself if Lorena didn’t get it done by the time she got back. Eric had, however, looked even more pained whenever she gripped the clutch on the manual gearbox mid-shift a little forcefully causing the car to whine with the abuse than during all the stitches that were carefully being placed by a young surgical intern who regarded Eric with far too dreamy eyes to Sookie’s liking.
He had cracked a joke to ease her mortification that failed to produce a laugh from anyone but the intern while Sookie could only utter words of apologies. Her nervous energy only seemed to ease when he accepted her insistent offer to drive him to his hotel room to recuperate as far away from the menacing cat.
“Sorry,” she whispered when entering his office while he waved her in simulating he was on the phone. Sookie set out the usual lunch order in front of him while his back was turned from the desk to the window behind. His voice was soft and gentle, something she had only come to truly know the tone of in those few days between Christmas and New Year. Once again she placed the thick envelope with his name on it in plain sight beside his lunch, feeling the need for it even more necessary than before.
Sookie retreated as fast as she was able, leaving him to his conversation with Pam, who by the sound of it was having a hard go of it in her mother’s sole presence. She had never had much privy into his personal life, the circulation of the signed divorce papers were the first true insight into it. Her secondary insight had come when they settled in his hotel room after she had carefully examined and nursed the inflicted wounds.
They were just about to tuck into a satisfyingly tall stack of pancakes when an unexpected knock on the door interrupted the moment. Her intended table mate was soon exchanged for a blonde little girl who stared at Sookie with her arms crossed and a scowl so deep one would assume she were from a different planet while her parents argued in hushed whispers in the bedroom of the large suite. The only word that was spoken at an audible level and with a particularly venomous hiss was ‘her’.
Sookie tried to distract the little girl by offering her some pancakes which she politely declined with waggling pig tails informing that she wasn’t allowed to eat carbs. Pam had just agreed to a glass of juice when her mother stormed by in a whirlwind screaming, “You fucking deal with her!”
The ‘her’ in question instantly jumped into her father’s arms when the door slammed shut telling him all about her day at great detail while he regaled his war stories of surviving the attack by Bill the Constipated Cat. Pam bravely vowed to kill the beast on sight causing her father to chuckle with delight. In a subsequent tender moment Pam did what Sookie had wanted to all morning but no longer dared and pecked the wounds softly while Eric hissed for dramatics sake. Apologetically the toddler pulled her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder, pulling him into a hug with limited strength.
“I should go,” Sookie had whispered when within seconds the little girl had fallen fast asleep in his comforting hold. Up until that moment Pam had petulantly refused any night’s rest until her father had read her a story driving her mother to the brink of insanity in the process.
“Stay?” he pleaded mostly with his eyes. When she threatened to protest again the plea became firm, before falling to a familiar command. “Stay.”
With the assurance of an affirming nod he got up to place Pam under the covers of the untouched bed where Sookie watched from the doorway to see a now familiar finger creep down her rosy cheek before a kiss was placed on her forehead and he stared momentarily as a smile swept over his daughter’s face through the soft snores.
The room was darkened and Eric couldn’t help but smile at the woman standing like a shadow engulfed by light from behind her. He treaded towards her lightly causing her to anticipate for what was to come. It never came, and only later did she realise the man was a father first who didn’t want his daughter to accidentally wake up to him kissing anyone else than her mother when the ink on their divorce had only dried a day ago.
Sookie’s lunch had gone cold when she was lost in those thoughts again for an extended period of time. She wasn’t the only one, the door to the microwave was hindered by the large form of the man Sookie was now desperately trying to avoid. A storm was brewing all over his face when it finally met hers, however, it soon settled into calm waters with the sudden sighting of her.
“Close the door,” he requested when her hand lingered on the handle in her failed attempt to leave unnoticed. Eric didn’t utter another word settling the small kitchen in silence until the ding of the microwave thundered into the room while she nervously held her breath. He took the items from her hand and programmed the microwave precisely to the second before they silently waited for both their lunches to be warm again.
“Come?” he requested while holding her lunch hostage, gesturing to their usual spot to eat inside his office where they soon fell into their old routine and ate in a comfortable silence that was only interrupted by talk of pressing work matters. He cleared the table, as always, the waste ensconced in the plastic bag it came in before being firmly knotted closed. He didn’t disappear from his office to dispose of it as per the usual routine, instead he sat like Rodin’s Thinker, elbows on knees, in deep thought.
She whispered his name in question when for the first time since they had met, the silence had become awkward between them rather than familiar.
“Pam says hi,” he eventually revealed in that same unfamiliar soft tone. The worried frown on Sookie’s face literally turned upside down as a smile reminiscent of his daughter’s crept up her face at the mention of the little girl that had worn them both out with her enthusiasm.
Eric was indulgent with her, appeasing her every wishes that included hauling in a Christmas tree at twelve feet high that tested the ceiling height and was subsequently decorated in a garish pink. Under her strict instructions the concierge acquiesced to give Santa access to their room when he showed up at the front desk after she ascertained there was a severe lack of chimneys in the hotel and expected her gifts to arrive in good order nonetheless.
“She’s not really mine,” Eric had confessed when they were stealthily placing the presents he had kept on a high shelf for her under the tree.
“But she’s yours,” Sookie supplemented knowingly from the limited time she had witnessed the very close father-daughter bond between them. A simple ‘yes’ had been enough to confirm he was her father in every way that mattered even if she hadn’t come forth from his seed.
A very enthusiastic Pam had roused her exceptionally early from her bed the next morning, a cot in the living area Eric insisted he take before she pointed out Pam would be more at ease sleeping with her father than a relative stranger. He easily agreed after that since it had been quite the discussion to keep her with them and only with the argument that her own bed was now a cat urinal did she finally see sense.
Pam babbled on how her father made her wait impossibly long but the girl simply couldn’t contain her excitement any longer and dove into the mountain of presents mid sentence. Sookie took a seat beside Eric where he held out a rather large mug of caffeine induced goodness in apology while his daughter viciously tore into wrapping paper in order to take possession of its contents. She kissed him, taking Eric completely by surprise and with a quick glance to the preoccupied toddler he returned the touch of her lips eagerly, be it for brief seconds.
Without the hawk eyes of her mother Pam happily ate her stack of pancakes that Christmas morning before becoming distracted with the plethora of toys that now littered the floor. The gift, however, she was enamoured with most was the small silver bracelet with a ballerina pendant that Sookie had bought her from the hotel gift shop.
“Do you have some place to be?” Eric had asked tentatively when she was clasping the small eyelet, locking the bracelet on Pam’s slim wrist. She had simply shaken her head when Pam looked aghast at the idea. There was an open invitation with friends who had eagerly offered her a place at their dinner table with the news that Jason would be spending Christmas with his in-laws in Alaska the first year after their Gran’s passing. She hadn’t truly decided on whether to take them up on that offer till that moment and she felt completely content in refusing the invitation now.
“Stay!” Pam commanded in much the same tone as her father and at Sookie’s laughter the little girl had asked with a wobble to her voice, “Please, stay?”
And she did.
“How is she?”
Eric shrugged with pain in his eyes at the thought of the conversation he had just engaged in. Pam was anything but happy to leave the bubble of domestic bliss they had been in for those few days where her every wish had been granted and she hadn’t been shy about making her discontent known on the phone. Something Sookie had witnessed first hand as every possible future home for Eric had been rejected for one reason or another in a multitude of properties that Sookie would have willingly given up a limb for.
By New Year’s eve they had yet to find anything to suit Pam’s discerning tastes and they had simply collapsed on the sofa hours before midnight. Startled by the sudden intimacy of waking on his chest without the protective barrier of a young girl between them in the early hours of the morning, the tv still on in the background; images of balls dropping and people kissing in a seemingly endless loop, Sookie briefly considered leaving without a trace of her presence, as if she had never truly been there, that these past few days were a vague haze conjured up by fantasy, because that was what it had felt like. The scars on his face, however, would reveal the truth as it was. So instead she left a note in explanation of her absence. She needed time, to process. Sookie hoped he would understand, thankful for having already said goodbye to Pam the previous evening when her mother had come to collect her, to spare him the explanation of her sudden absence.
“I’m sorry,” Sookie whispered once more while resting her hand atop his.
The familiar sight of a thick white envelope fell on the table between them. She sighed in resignation, which somehow seemed fitting since the letter inside stated her intent of doing exactly that.
“You’re going back to her,” Sookie surmised knowing that the ‘her’ in question was his daughter, who had hated every possible home because it wasn’t hers. The ‘her’ for which he would endure the company of her mother, and it wouldn’t be the first time.
Sookie had no desire to quit her job, however, in the day away from Eric she had come to the conclusion that she wanted ‘more’ with him but not with her boss. In her mind the letter of resignation was like a responding love letter to his divorce contract that he would instantly understand the meaning of. His callous dismissal of it spoke volumes in their collective silence.
She had hurt him. Badly.
In offering an identical envelope covered hers, instead of it reading Mr Northman it said Ms Stackhouse in his neat script.
“What is this?” she whispered, the sharp corners digging into her hands, while she remained scared to reveal its contents.
The word stung, causing tears to prick at the corner of her eyes. In her mind she was convinced he had decided to quit her before she could, for her to simply be an interlude in his complicated life, with a nice severance package to sweeten the deal by the estimation of the weight of it. However, the papers in her hand revealed a different truth.
“You want me to be a partner?” Sookie whispered with sudden awe when she took in the contract that stated as much, dated December twenty-first.
A sly smile dominated his face with the true look of surprise on her face, “You earned it with the devotion to this job Sookie, Happy New Year Ms Stackhouse.”
A/N: When I sent this to MsBuffy and Charity to read to gage reactions I accompanied the email with the following comment: I don’t think I’ll post it in fear of the smutterati who will chase me down with their dildos. So please don’t hurt me for a lack of duelling tongues or an exercise maze consisting of Eric’s previously silent tongue speaking in a whole different manner. I have an alternative offering for that in this chapter from 6 Months to Live for those really wishing to read of an intimate encounter, it works with a squint for these two.
It’s called a companion piece for a reason and I feel these two deserve something more than a quick fuck against the hall closet, which the 6MTL piece isn’t but that level of intimacy took many chapters to achieve and isn’t conjured up out of thin air. I will consider picking this story up at a later date and who knows maybe something like the 6MTL chapter will emerge but even if it doesn’t this story sits contently next to Merry Christmas Mr Northman as is. In the meantime these two pieces will be archived as the Ms/Mr series. I hope you all liked it as much as the first piece, I certainly do, and I hope you will leave your thoughts behind and have a Happy New Year!
I couldn’t resist casting Pam and yeah she’s totally contemplating chopping Bill’s head off….