When the end isn’t the end, a story about the ones you leave behind. Slightly sappy and sentimental but it’s Christmas so I’m allowing for it just the once. (Despite mentions of Christmas, not holiday themed)
Inspired by a comment by estrella75 and since it’s her birthday today it feels even more appropriate to gift to her – AU
I never wanted a brother, but one Christmas morning, I got one anyway, and was suddenly no longer the only child and sole focus of my mother’s undivided attention. I hated everyone and everything, and most especially, Eric. Luckily my passions were always coming and going, and it didn’t take long for him to crack that carefully built-up impenetrable shell. It turned out Eric enjoyed a challenge as much as I did and we roared with laughter when our antics caused the Christmas tree to come crashing down. Who cared about presents when you had a brother to play with? For the first time, I came to understand the joys of having one, to have someone to join forces with against the sudden collective block that was our parents. We had both become rather accustomed to getting everything and anything our little hearts desired after all.
Somewhere along the way in my feeble teenage years, my heart desired him, images of me and him walking down an aisle just like our parents. Oh, the joy of teenage hormones. Fortunately, that particular passion only lasted a day, if even that, and I discovered that without a doubt, the female of the species was by far the superior choice. Eric was the first person I told about Miriam. Then Winnifred, Amelia, Saoirse, Britta… well, you get the gist. More importantly, he was there when I told our parents and comforted me when my mother burst into tears. Later, it turned out she was simply mourning the life she thought I would have, not what I was, and Eric had been the one to help me understand that. He always did have an antenna for that kind of thing.
We both liked Sookie, that should have been a problem, but it wasn’t. The problem was Bill, a cretin we both despised, who thought having a great-grandfather defending the right to own slaves was a thing of which one should boast. That was the first time Bill and Sookie broke up. Eric had smelled of her that night, but I’d never made the connection, not even when a guilt-ridden Sookie had returned to Bill for reasons I couldn’t understand, and apologised to him. I didn’t catch on when Eric crashed his beloved Corvette after downing far more than the legal limit. I only got it when the first words he uttered in the Emergency Room were ‘I love you’ with the knowledge that those words clearly weren’t meant for me when that sentence ended in her name.
I was what we’d call posh back home in England. Eric would have been called, well, something Swedish. The point being; we were rich, and even if we weren’t, we had a pedigree that entitled us more than most. It was everything Bill aspired to be and no matter how grand his family fortune would become, the social climber would never arrive, no matter how hard he tried. Sookie wasn’t interested in any of that in the least, and it was probably why Eric liked her so much. Sometimes I wished he didn’t, things would have been so much easier for him. He was beyond handsome, he had everything and everyone at his disposal, but her.
She wasn’t like the other scholarship kids, she pushed herself because she wanted to, not because she had to. Her brother never had, all he did was a toss a dead piece of pig skin perfectly and all was well with the world. Their grandmother, Adele, was the head librarian and allowed them access to a world they’d otherwise never know. I wasn’t even aware Eric liked her until that accident and I had been convinced she hated him. To say they didn’t get along had been an understatement.
Part of me wished it had simply always stayed that way, a sentiment my parents soon shared. Then again, I would never have known. I prefer having known, because their story was something else. Not that knowing was easy, with Eric’s confession of love I became a part of their story. Sookie and I had always been friendly, but we were both too independent to need anything as frivolous as a BFF. I was too wrapped up in all things fashion and she was wrapped up in higher learning. Dad liked her a lot, for her sharp wit and quick mind, and with her constant presence in our house he became very disappointed that Sookie was just a friend to me and nothing more. I sincerely shared that sentiment.
They enjoyed sparring about anything, mostly politics, and Dad had high hopes to vote Sookie in as the first female president. He always neglected to remember he couldn’t vote since neither he nor Mum ever became Americans. Whenever Sookie pointed that out, he vowed to hand over his beloved Swedish passport the moment she’d run her first campaign. Too bad it didn’t last.
While she spent a lot of time in my bedroom, I didn’t. Though rearranging Eric’s room in that time had its merits, watching him frantically put everything back in its proper place was just too much fun, always had been! Too bad he never exercised that same method of madness to our shared bathroom, which he used as a dumping ground for mostly mouldy towels and half eaten dishes, which, of course, was all par for the course of getting back at me. As if, mostly, it annoyed the maid.
Why they snuck around like they did remained a mystery I was determined to pick at. Sookie wasn’t the type to cheat, especially in such an elaborate manner, and Eric never was one to hide anything. Bill had something on her that much I knew, she always refused to tell me, assuring I was better off not knowing. I knew Eric knew, but even he wouldn’t tell me, and to this day I never got to know. It didn’t matter, part of me enjoyed being part of their secret, connecting to them both in a way no one else ever would. They loved each other, that much I knew and at some point, that became enough.
Despite all that remained unspoken, the three of us were happy to carry on as we were, but there was always a hint of sadness that surrounded them both. At some point, that sadness turned into actual tears, and it dawned on all of us that the situation was no longer containable. He pushed her, something for which she wasn’t prepared. It ended badly.
For a second time, Eric woke up in the hospital, and this time not because of his own reckless driving. No, not Bill either, that bastard would never end the victor in any tale, especially this one. He’d overdosed and it scared the living crap out of me. In their private time in my room, I assumed they were fucking like rabbits, if they knew what was good for them, but seeing Eric nearly die for a second time, I couldn’t hold my tongue. Thinking he would be the kinder of the two, I told Dad everything I knew, which wasn’t much. God, how I missed my brother by my side in that moment.
It was, however, enough for my parents to deem Sookie the source of the problem, which she was, just not in the sense they presumed. Sookie wouldn’t touch drugs, she was too damn good for that, but her actions had made Eric reach for it in an ill-advised alcoholic combination that nearly turned fatal.
The verdict was harsh, Sookie was considered a bad influence, and we weren’t allowed anywhere near her, not that she wanted to be anywhere near us anymore. She had the decency to call when Eric was hospitalised, asking how he was.
I was cruel, telling her he was anything but okay and that it was all her fault. She surprised me by agreeing and apologising over and over again between the sobs. It wasn’t enough for me, so it wouldn’t be enough for Eric. My brother, lovesick fool that he was, thought differently, and their meetings became all the more clandestine without my involvement.
It took Eric a long time to forgive me for outing Sookie and him to our parents. He seemed to hold a genuine fear that didn’t look as if it might die down until he was assured that our parents wouldn’t do anything against Sookie or her grandmother. It cost him dearly, attending a university and pursuing the profession he’d resisted at every turn up until then.
‘Fuck ‘em,’ had been our collective mantra whenever our parents expressed their wishes for our bright futures by their design that felt less like a suggestion and more like law. We had many ambitions, though none that matched our parents’. If all else failed, we decided we’d open a vampire-themed club, I’d man the door, fuck if I ever let anything that sparkled in, and he’d tend the bar.
Caving to our parents as he did, suddenly I stood alone in that fight, our plastic fangs a ridiculous memento that once expressed our future. To add insult to injury, he’d be gone in faraway Sweden when all we ever wanted to do was stay near, and perhaps that was what pushed me into the bright pink hair and studded collar look that Fall, though more likely it was Hazel with her split tongue.
My mother didn’t like it, or Hazel for that matter, but I stood my ground, sweeping the entire breakfast table with my protest, porcelain and food crashing to the floor. I would go to design school to study fashion and there was nothing she could do about it! Of all the people unlikely to receive a scholarship, I did. Somehow that display of subordination had earned my father’s esteem and my mother soon let me be, finally agreeing to pay for my school of choice. An excuse was made that such a prestigious scholarship shouldn’t be wasted on a girl whose parents could clearly afford the tuition and then some, but I knew, secretly, they approved. Eric never said a word about it. He’d ask me where I’d get that courage from sometimes and all I could do was shrug. When he pushed for a more concrete answer, all I could offer was, “You gotta fight for what you believe in, why else bother doing anything at all?”
He’d nodded, his forehead scrunching to that point of deep concentration where he could no longer be reached, contemplating as if I’d just shared the secret of the universe with him. He’d grown quieter and more determined, partied less, grades improving as he went to appease his father and achieve his set goals. I knew, though, something was brewing, and that he was building up to something.
“Are you still seeing her?” I’d asked very cautiously once, it was only because we were sharing a bottle of booze that I had the gumption to ask. He merely shook his head, whispering, “We’re not meant to be.”
I didn’t want to look at him then, the sadness that enveloped him was too much to handle for my teenage self, and I never was one to fall for the angst trap. Well, unless it involved in seducing the young and the restless. Brooding lesbians had a certain quality about them. I couldn’t quite believe it was over between them, but Eric had sounded so certain. He’d even started dating another girl, however, it was so brief I wouldn’t even be able to tell you her name now, let alone what she looked like. All I remember was; she was no Sookie.
Sookie appeared just as miserable as him, though unless you really knew her you’d never be able to tell. Where Eric and I had always floundered about what we were to become, Sookie had her own future mapped out from the moment she was pulled out of the womb. Her grades never suffered, she was the bright star who organised all the relevant activities, and Bill never let a single moment pass where he showed her off like a trinket who could somehow make the turd that he was appear like something more. To the uninitiated he was certainly successful at that, something that became apparent the moment Sookie was gone.
Sookie disappeared, something about which Eric was strangely subdued. There were rumours everywhere, a long lost great-grandfather had declared her his single heir and she stood to inherit a great fortune, she’d gone to Las Vegas with an Elvis impersonator named Bubba to open up their own chapel of love where they married cats, she’d been an undercover cop all along looking to bust a drug ring, the more predictable pregnancy scenario and so on. I knew better, for I had bothered to actually get to know her. She’d simply graduated early because she was that smart, and was most likely interning with some pervy senator or the other before attending her freshman term at the best university in the country, saving her Gran a semester of tuition. It never struck me as odd until later, though in my defence I was rather tied up with a Marlene at the time, or rather she was tied up, it didn’t seem to help any with the fact that she was a boring fuck.
Only when I had adjusted my cap and gown to utter perfection did I notice anything amiss in the sudden silence. Sneaking into his bedroom all I could do was smile, not a single thing of his was in its assigned space. He’d left a note for me, “I’m off to fight.” It was pocketed and never shown to our parents. They were out of their minds despite his long letter explaining he couldn’t be what they wanted him to be, nor did he exactly know what it was he wanted himself and wouldn’t return until he did, that he was clean and would remain so. A travel itinerary across the world was attached and I told our parents to relax. I was assured he’d call us as soon as he ran out of cash and be back by Christmas, he’d never stand us up like that, it was our day, a thing he would always remind me of, and in turn, I would call him a sentimental sap. It was a Northman-Beaufort tradition, he wouldn’t just not show up.
Except that he did, every Christmas and the one after that. It should have angered me, but it hadn’t. That first Christmas morning, however, I was fuming from his absence, and while fuelling that anger with a healthy dose of retail therapy of all the people in the world to bump into that day, you’d figure Bill Compton was the last person I’d want to see, or smell for that matter. Bill, however, had something interesting to tell when he confessed Sookie never showed up at the university they were both supposed to attend, together, and that not even her grandmother knew where she’d gone. Her diploma had been sent to a P.O. box and she was never heard from again. The FBI had even been involved.
That put a smile on my face, one that angered Bill so much he’d called me a cold hearted bitch. It was a good enough excuse as any to prove that with a nice hard slap to his face. His foul mouth ran with another set of curse words but it certainly didn’t deter me from running off with a skip in my step. In that moment Eric’s note finally brought it all together for me, I’d assumed Eric had chosen to fight my parents and the future they had forced him to accept, but there was more to it. I could see that now, whether or not it happened, in my mind they’d found each other on their abandoned chartered paths, or carved a new one together all along, and that was that. There was always something about them, something that didn’t just end and I was happy for them because I knew Eric was.
And just when I thought that was the end, this Christmas many years later, a card arrived, no stamp, no return address, hand-delivered by a special courier. Inside; a beautiful smile staring back at me, one I’d recognise anywhere along with a set of piercing blue eyes. They’d named her Pam, for the girl who dared to walk a different path and helped them find theirs.
A/N: Enjoy your Christmas everybody. I know it’s a little unusual so I’d love to hear your thoughts! The comment estrella75 once left that inspired this fic was that she always liked the idea of Eric and Sookie just leaving all their troubles behind and disappearing from sight. Of course my first thought was, what about Pam? I liked it as an angle to work from and this was the result. Estrella75 I hope you have/had a wonderful birthday and please don’t yell at me for telling everyone 😉
Much love to the Beta Goddess that is msbuffy!
Happy Holidays everyone!