He was gone from her life the next day, just like before, and Sookie was set to move forward like she’d told Landon she would, like she promised herself she would. Gone before, gone now, the brief interlude wouldn’t make a difference to where she stood in life today. She hoped.
Landon had returned and she was quick to confess the incident of the accidental kiss. While not exactly thrilled over the occurrence, Landon hadn’t let it bother him too much. What had bothered him was her reaction whenever he had pressed her on what exactly happened all those years ago. She remained purposely mute, almost hostile at any attempt he made to untangle the details. It was a past she wished not to revisit and stated that quite matter-of-fact. At some point it had worried him, wondering if something traumatic had happened involving force or abuse, and when he expressed this worry, she only denied anything of the kind had happened because it hadn’t. It had, however, put a strain between them briefly, but just as Eric had, it came and went and things were settling in, becoming as close to being exactly as they were before as possible.
Her relationship with Jason was mended easily enough, a homemade pie was presented and he barely heard the words of apology that came with it. Aside from the town’s excitement of the money coming into the impoverished community, there was little that reminded her of Eric. Sookie finally managed to revert to a state that once had her perfectly content. It was in that moment that Pam called.
“How much, Stackhouse?”
Sookie stared at the receiver in confusion, wondering if she had called the wrong Stackhouse. She wouldn’t put it past Jason to try to renegotiate his finder’s fee. However, she called out her first name with her lack of response, disproving her theory. “How much for what, Pam?”
“To get your ass over here on a plane to Sweden.”
“Pam, those babies can’t be giving you that much trouble,” Sookie replied. “There are far better nannies out there than me.”
“I’m not asking for me,” she retorted with a hint of annoyance. In tandem, two sets of infant cries had the mother cry out in an even louder frustration. “It’s for Erik. Hold on, my boobs are about to explode.”
“Eric?” Sookie squeaked out involuntarily. Thankfully the noise was lost on Pam as she saw to her children, or more accurately, yelled at them indignantly for their untimely interruption.
“Where was I? Oh yes, I need you here.”
“Pam, I don’t really see what you’d need me for,” Sookie sighed. “I have a life here.”
“Yes, yes, it’s all very exciting, however, will you find time in your busy schedule of cleaning and working at that filthy diner?”
“Pam,” she warned.
“He’s been out of sorts, you know?” Pam explained in a suspiciously soothing voice, hoping to elicit some sympathy.
“He has amnesia,” Sookie pointed out. “I’m hardly an expert on the subject.”
“It’s hard on him. He has no sense of who we are now, how things work, and he ends up frustrated and angry. Or worse, his moods turn dark, and I don’t like seeing him like this.”
“I don’t see how me coming for a visit is going to change that,” Sookie replied with a clipped tone.
“I’ve been watching him for a while now, in between the piles of dirty diapers and throw up that’s expelled here on a regular basis-”
“Get to the point, Pam!”
“He only seems to be happy when he talks about you, and I can sense some of his old self emerging when he does. He keeps asking me stuff about you, but beyond the basics I don’t have the answers he’s seeking.”
Sookie sighed. She felt badly about the situation, but at the same time she didn’t want to be sucked into it either. No good could come of it. “I’m not coming over, Pam-”
“Be the godmother to my babies, Sookie! You can pick out any pair of shoes from my closet! You know that’s a rare offer! Well, you can’t have my limited edition Pradas or the Chloés for that matter, or the-”
“Pam, you’re an atheist,” Sookie pointed out. “Furthermore, I have no interest in your shoes.”
“Ask for anything and you shall receive,” she purred seductively. “There must be something little ol’ Sookie Stackhouse wants. I can make you richer than your brother is going to be…”
“Pam,” Sookie warned with an admonishing shake of her head.
“Please?” she whined in return, making the request all the more grating.
“Give him my number,” she finally conceded. “If he has questions, just have him call.”
“I liked my plan better,” Pam pouted. “I guess it’ll have to do, for now. Whatever happened between my brother and you anyhow?”
“Nothing,” Sookie bit out. “Nothing happened.”
“Funny,” Pam cackled, “he says the exact same thing.”
“Tell you what?” she queried.
“What’s going on in that mind of yours? Talk to me.”
She smiled apologetically, only becoming aware that she’d been holding the same plate mid-air for a good fifteen minutes. “It’s nothing,” she shrugged, wondering if this would be the moment it would set him off, but as ever Landon was sweet and understanding. Regardless, her insistence to keep the past in the past was slowly becoming a point of contention since Pam’s call. She had a hard enough time preparing herself to relive the details with Eric himself, and somewhere, stubbornly, she felt he was to be the first to hear them if he asked. For weeks she had broken out in a nervous sweat every time the phone rang, only to be somewhat deflated when it wasn’t him. It was something Landon hadn’t failed to notice.
“It’s always nothing,” he grumbled under his breath. “I’m going out for a drink with Jason and the boys.”
Sookie set down the plate in the drying rack before turning around. “What about-” she said, finding him gone with the last echo of a closing door, finishing the sentence in a whisper, “dinner?” She was about to run after him, apologise, explain, or something that a good girlfriend would do knowing she was the cause of this, only to be interrupted by the sound of the phone.
“Hi, it’s Erik.”
A heavy breath travelled down the line from her end, conflicted to where to turn her eyes, only to see the red brake lights of Landon’s car disappear from sight through the kitchen window.
“Yeah, umm, hi.”
“It’s been awhile,” he offered, sounding as nervous as she was in that moment.
“How’ve you been?” she replied, her quickened voice nearly swallowing half the words as she went.
He was silent for a moment before he spoke again, “Confused.”
“I can imagine,” she whispered, strangling the telephone cord, desperately squeezing her eyes to restrain the tears that had threatened to surface with Landon’s sudden departure, in all their time together she’d never witnessed him quite like that. “Isn’t it good to be home?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “It’s cold, and I miss the heat.”
“You love the cold!” she exclaimed, momentarily forgetting her previous concerns. “You always complained how you missed the cold and the snow.”
“Yeah, I remember once,” she replied, softening with the memory of it as she did. “You were a bit of a klutz, goofing around on the dock, and you fell into the icy water below and ended up pulling me into the water with you. You were having the time of your life, relishing in the cool sensations while I was chattering my teeth, panicking and terrified.” Until you kissed me for the very first time, and I completely forgot that I couldn’t feel the extremities of my body.
“You were afraid of the water,” he suddenly supplied, awakening her from those long lost memories.
“Still am,” she replied. “Did you just remember that?”
“It was just there. I don’t really know how.”
“That’s good, right? Has it happened before?”
“Sometimes, little things, but not much,” he replied as if unwilling to divulge that. The subject was changed quickly, “A woman came by the other day.”
“Oh,” she replied, in a pitch slightly higher than normal as she desperately tried to bury the stab of jealousy that emerged with that notification, that she felt no right to possess. He wasn’t hers after all.
“She claimed to be the love of my life,” he continued, not having sensed Sookie’s reaction at all, “and the mother of my child.”
“Was she?” Sookie managed to pronounce without the wobble she was feeling in the back of her throat and travelling down to her knees that now threatened to give way.
He laughed with the memory before sharing, “Pam knocked her out!”
“What?” Sookie replied, aghast.
“Some gold digger from my past apparently,” he explained. “Never mind that I was officially missing or dead when that baby was conceived. You’re not hiding our love child, are you?”
“No,” she replied tersely, remembering that moment where she prodded and stared at her belly for days, naively hoping that something that was theirs had grown despite the appropriate measures taken when she was first told that he was most likely gone forever. How she had cried quietly on the cold tile floor of the bathroom when she had spotted the first signs of her timely period that rationally she knew was coming, crushing the hope of something of his to hold on to beyond a box of memories. Later, when the worst of her grief had settled, she was thankful that she hadn’t ended up miraculously pregnant at such a young age, but over the years the idea of it, something of him living on with her, something that couldn’t be taken away, had played out in various fantasies.
“So how is the love of your live?” he posed conversationally.
“I don’t have a love of my life,” she answered automatically. It had become a default answer because Eric had been it, and then he was no more, and that was a title you only awarded out once as far as she was concerned. Landon was her friend, probably her best friend, and their relationship had never been one of high passion and grand romance. It had been a steady love that grew from something small, something safe, and reliable. “Oh, you mean Landon,” she supplied apologetically. “Pam tell you about him?”
He hummed in affirmation, “Does he know we kissed?”
“Yeah, it was an accident, he’s fine with it.”
A snort travelled irritatingly in her ear before he pointed out, smugly, “That wasn’t an accident.”
“Yes, it was!” she denied.
“It may have started as such, but you made it something more, something of old. You kissed me, and there was nothing friendly about it.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t call me anymore,” she spoke evenly in threat, a nerve firmly struck.
“Sookie?” he tried once more when she refused to reply. “I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Goodbye, Eric,” she announced, unable to hear his last reply, swiftly disconnecting the line.
“I’m sorry, baby,” Landon whispered when he crawled into bed with her, booze heavy on his breath. “Shouldn’t have left like that. Forgive me?”
“I’m sorry, too,” she offered while crawling into his embrace, happy to find that a hug and a kiss had so easily restored a lost equilibrium between them. “Honey, I was thinking.”
“Mmm,” he replied, half asleep. “What about?”
“I was thinking maybe it’s time.”
“Time to go to sleep?” he chuckled.
“No,” she said with a shake of her head. “Time to try for a baby.”
He remained strangely silent, confusing her since it had always been his insistence where she was still somewhat hesitant, “Let’s talk about it in the morning, okay?”
“Okay,” she agreed, though the dread it had stirred in her kept her up for hours before she finally manage to succumb to sleep.
She had her speech prepared and thoughts sorted out rationally while she made an elaborate breakfast that would surely appeal to his slightly hungover mind. He smiled at the sight of it and they ate in silence, something they both enjoyed perhaps a little too much, making small talk about the town’s happenings while they finished the dishes together. With a final sweep over the table, she opened her mouth to reopen the discussion of the previous night, only to be silenced by a stack of papers that were dropped on the still slightly damp surface.
“What is this?” she asked in confusion, drying her hands on the back of her pants before picking them up and examining the pages of print.
“Nothing,” Landon replied, eagerly awaiting her response while her eyes flew over the information before her. “I cleared it with Sam, you’re good to go.”
She barely knew how to respond as she took in the text in bold; times and dates charting an open return ticket to Stockholm booked in her name, and only her name. “What is this?” she asked again.
“Like I said, ‘nothing’.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Next time I ask you what’s going on with you, I don’t want to hear ‘nothing’,” he explained gently, devoid of the accusation for which she was bracing herself. “Figure it out, whatever it is that’s holding you back, what you think having a baby with me will solve,” he took a deep breath, “even if that means you’re saying goodbye to me. Just know what you want.”
“I want you,” she replied in a tiny voice that betrayed her lack of security in that statement, tears prickling at the corners of her eyes with the inability to control or make sense of the situation.
“Yeah,” he whispered, caressing her cheek before kissing her forehead tenderly, “but you’re not ready to say goodbye to him yet. You never have, and the only difference now is if you want to.”
Tears fell in earnest then, unable to deny what he so accurately spelled out as her internal struggle. Landon held her tightly as she sobbed into his chest, uttering words of gratitude and apologies. “I’m the worst girlfriend ever,” Sookie sighed when she’d somewhat composed herself.
“No,” he denied consolingly, “you’re just human.”
A/N: See I told you Landon was a good guy… maybe a little too good. At this point I was all for shipping a HEA with Landon and Eric frolicking off into the sunset… So still hate me for sending Eric to Sweden? I blame Pam…
Much thanks to msbuffy once more!
Oh yes, do do the commenting thingy below…