He’s Not There, Chapter 2: Home

Chapter 2: Home

I looked doubtfully at Sookie’s small yellow car.  “Do you think I’ll even fit?”

“You did before,” Sookie replied drily.  I could tell by the way she pursed her lips when she said it that on whatever occasion I had been in her car previously, something had happened.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what.  She bent inside the passenger side and fiddled with something beneath the front seat, sliding it back.  “There ya go, you shouldn’t have any problem now.”

“Thank you,” I said politely before trying to fold myself into the compartment.  Again, there was that little sensation of surprise from her.  Jesus, how rude was I normally?

“Here.  Have a tissue for your nose.”  She pulled a small packet out of the dashboard and tossed it into my lap.  “You have some blood – here.”  She pointed out on her own face the mirror to where blood was trickling on my own upper lip.

“Thank you,” I said again.  This time there was no startle from Sookie, but she did smile a little as if she found my respectful demeanor amusing.  I didn’t like to think it was a shock to her every time I was courteous.  What did that say about my normal manner? Maybe if I persisted in show good manners, she’d get over reacting so strongly every time I did so.

I was quiet while she started the car.  Interestingly enough, I definitely understood what she was doing as she started the engine and pulled out onto the road, and I was pretty sure I could have driven the car if she had wanted me to.  Whatever had happened to me didn’t seem to have impacted my general knowledge or my skills.

Just my self-understanding.

Once I had understood I was a vampire, I realized I actually knew a lot about vampires – in the general sense, that is. I still had no clues about me.

“You called me Eric,” I said after we had been silent for a few minutes.

Sookie glanced sideways at me.  “Yes…” she answered cautiously.  “You’re Eric Northman.”

Eric Northman.  It didn’t sound familiar, but I liked the sound of it.  “And you’re Sookie – what?”

“Stackhouse.”

Sookie Stackhouse.  I liked that, too.

“How do you know me?” I asked hesitantly.

Sookie was silent for a few moments, as if weighing her answer.  “You know my ex-boyfriend.  He’s a vampire.  You and I met when he took me to your club.”

I had a club?  I raised an eyebrow.  “I have a club?”

“It’s a vampire bar called Fangtasia.  In Shreveport,” Sookie answered.

“Fangtasia?” I repeated and then smiled.  “Very punny.”  I must normally have a sense of humor.  That pleased me.

She shot me another strange look and my grin dimmed a little.  Maybe she didn’t have the same sense of humor.

Sookie directed the car out onto the highway. “We are leaving Shreveport?” I asked, carefully. For all that I had wanted to get out of the city, it made me a little nervous to be passively riding along to an unknown place.  I shifted a little in the seat.  Very little, as I couldn’t move all that much without my knees bumping into something.

“I was plannin’ to, yes. I wanted to go home.”  For some reason, saying this caused her some emotional pain.

“Good.”  She evidently misunderstood my meaning because she frowned.  “I mean to say that I was…not having a good night in Shreveport,” I explained mildly.  “I thought I would be safer outside the city. In my…condition. So it is good to be leaving there.”

She grunted an assent.

We drove a mile or two more before I asked, “So, we are going to your home?”

I don’t know what I had said, but anger and frustration did a little dance in the bond between us.  “Yes, we are,” she answered snappishly.

Maybe there was some problem with her house? She seemed very sensitive about it.

“Where is it?” a

Another silent moment from Sookie.  I wondered if she was always so guarded in what she told me, even on such simple questions.  “I live in a little town to the east of here,” she finally said.  “Bon Temps.”

She had mixed feelings about Bon Temps: affection tempered by frustration and some sadness.  “Does it live up to its name?” I asked with a little smile.  When she looked a little confused I added, “‘Good times’?”

She snorted a little at that.  “No, not really.”  When I waited for an explanation, she responded, “Too many strange, scary things for a little town like that.” She shook her head as if not wanting to go into detail.

Strange, scary things?

“Like vampires?” I pressed her.

“Not many vampires, no.  Just –” She spoke as if she was about to say something but changed her mind.  “Just one or two of ‘em. Not like Shreveport. Y’all got a bunch of them over there.”

I nodded.  “Good place for a vamp bar, then.”  I must have some business sense when I was fully myself.  I frowned, suddenly wondering if I had been at Fangtasia when whatever happened to me had happened.  “Sookie.  Is Fangtasia lit with many candles?” I gestured with my hand, bumping it accidently against the dashboard in my agitation.  “Many, many candles? All around?”

“Only some on the table tops. Not a lot of ‘em, no.”  Sookie frowned back at me.  “Why?”

“I think I remember many candles.”  I paused. “Or maybe fire.”  I shrugged it off.  Nothing more was coming to me.

Sookie looked at me then said, “Eric, I know you weren’t at Fangtasia tonight because I just left there, so whatever happened to you didn’t happen there—”

“You were at my club?” I blurted. “Tonight? Why?” Sookie didn’t look like the kind of girl who hung around in vampire clubs. (Although how I knew what they typically looked like, I couldn’t tell you. Did she go there often? Did she go there to see me?) “Did you go there to see me?”

I felt that little twinge of anger, frustration rear up again just briefly and then settle back down. I guess if she had been looking for me, it hadn’t been for a good reason. I was disappointed.

“Yes,” she answered.  “But it isn’t important right now.  We can talk about it when you are…back to yourself again.”

“Okay,” I answered.

I suddenly thought of something else and turned towards Sookie awkwardly in the small confines of the front seat. “Sookie, if Fangtasia is mine, why not take me there?”

She snorted again and muttered under her breath. “Been asking myself that saaaaaame question.” She finally let out a sigh. “I didn’t think it would be a good idea to take you to Fangtasia with you … like this.”  She shot a glance at me sideways.  “The bar was being picketed by anti-vampire protestors.  I don’t think leading you through a picket line full of vampire haters might be the best idea just now. ‘Specially if you are not in control of yourself.” She looked a little nervously at me as if expecting my fangs to be out at the very mention of “vampire haters.”

If the vampire haters outside my bar were anything like the ones who had attacked me, I had to admit that she probably had good reason to worry.  I was not interested in being caught off guard and harassed a second time and would be willing to experiment to see what else I could do now that I knew I was a vampire.  Maybe try my fangs out.

I was daydreaming about would it would have been like to have bitten the thugs in the back alley when I noticed a little tingle through the bond with Sookie.  I looked over to find her glancing down at my bare chest.  When she saw me look her way, her eyes quickly averted back to the road.

The feeling had been quickly suppressed, but I could have sworn it felt like lust.

“Eric…” Sookie cleared her throat a little.  “Are you cold?”

I frowned.  “I don’t think vampires feel the cold much,” I concluded thoughtfully.  “Why?”

She glanced at my chest again. “Well, you…look a little cold.” A hot blush crept up into her cheeks and I could feel her embarrassment.

Puzzled, I looked down at my own chest.  I guess at least part of me was cold. My nipples had pebbled like pale pink pencil erasers.  I felt awkward at having caused her discomfort and crossed my arms in front of my chest to hide the offending bits from view. “Uh, sorry.”

“I’d turn the heat on if I thought it was working right,” Sookie said briskly.  “But it wasn’t working last year and I – I haven’t had time yet to get it checked out.  I’m going to have to ask Jason to look at it.”

I wrinkled my brow, puzzled at what I was feeling from Sookie.  Worry. Caution. A small, residual echo of fear. Still that smidgen of lust.

The tingle of lust had distracted me enough that it took me a beat to register what she had said.

Jason?

“You are married?” I asked carefully.  I don’t know why I had not thought of that. Of course a woman like this would have a man who had claimed her already.  My buoyancy at her lust deflated.  I had assumed she was free.

“What? No!” she said with a faint astonishment.  “No, Jason is my brother.  He’s –” again, she stopped whatever she meant to say as if she had thought better of it.  “He lives in a different house in Bon Temps. Not with me.”

I felt an out-of-proportion sense of relief.

She flipped the switch on the car heater a couple of times as if trying to get it to work despite her assertion that it was broken.  “Shoot,” she finally muttered, snapping it back to its normal position.

“Tell you what,” Sookie said.  “We’re almost there.  I’ve got a blanket in my trunk and when we get to the house, you can wrap yourself up in that.  That should help.”  She kept her eyes focused on the road.

“That is very kind of you,” I said after a moment, careful to keep my arms blocking her view of my chest.  Not that I didn’t want her to see it – because the truth was, I liked the idea that she liked what she saw – but I didn’t want her to feel so awkward about it.

We had left I-20 behind and were taking a smaller rural highway to the south now.  As we passed through what a large sign identified as Bon Temps (Population: 2,712), I instinctively tried to slump down a little in the small seat, in case we saw anyone.   Fortunately, it didn’t seem many of the 2,711 other people of Bon Temps were out and about that night.  By the time we had passed through the town center – a collection of small stores and offices, except for the Wal-Mart – I had begun to relax again.

As we made a turn to the left and drove past a brightly lit roadhouse (Merlotte’s, according to a glowing neon sign), I felt Sookie’s anxiety escalate.  She didn’t say anything, but I studied the building as we passed by, noting several cars parked outside.   It looked harmless enough.  And almost faintly familiar, although I had to wonder if it simply reminded me of my own bar.

“Sookie?”

We had both been silent since the discussion about my chilled chest and I think Sookie had half-forgotten I was there with her as the car rolled quietly through the dark.

“Am I friends with the bar owner of Merlotte’s?”  Our businesses were far enough apart that I didn’t imagine we were necessarily head-to-head competitors.  Maybe we were collegial since we shared the same occupation? And if we were friends, maybe there would be help from that quarter.  Or maybe he was a competitor who had done this to me.  Hmm.

Sookie burst out in a choking laugh.  “Errrr, no, Eric. I’m sorry, but you are not friends with the owner of Merlotte’s.”

“Oh.”

“But that is where I work,” Sookie added begrudgingly.

“You…waitress?” I looked at her shirt, making the connection between the bar’s signage and the green “Merlotte’s” logo on her bosom.  My gaze might have lingered a lingered a little long on her curves; I felt her self-consciousness and quickly turned my eyes back towards the car window.  I could still see her reflection in the glass.  I tried not to stare, but it was hard to drag my eyes away.  She was truly beautiful.

“Yes.” Sookie turned down a dark country road.  “We’re almost there.”

The long tree-lined driveway ended at an old but well-maintained farmhouse.  Even from inside the car with the windows closed I could smell that the yellow exterior paint was new and still curing.  Flowers surrounded a wrap-around porch and made the night air fragrant.  It looked like a home that was loved.

“You must like yellow,” I observed, glancing from the freshly painted house to Sookie behind the wheel of her yellow car. “It’s like sunshine.  It fits you.”  I smiled at her, thinking of how she herself smelled of sunlight.

For some reason, Sookie shook her head as if bemused as she flipped off the engine.  “Let me get that blanket for you,” she said quickly.  She hurried around to the trunk and popped it open, pulling out a blanket striped in various shades of brown.  “Here,” she said, shaking it out and handing it to me as I got out of the car.  When I went to place it around my shoulders somewhat awkwardly, she tentatively reached out a hand to twitch the edges into a better position. I noticed she was careful not to brush against my skin as she did it.  I was acutely aware of how much I wanted her to.

“You are filthy, Eric Northman,” Sookie groused, taking in the extent of the dirt on my leather jeans and my bare feet.  “When we go inside, you can go into the living room, but stay away from the carpet until I find something to put some water in so we can start cleaning you up.  I don’t want you tracking mud through my nice clean house.” As she moved towards the porch, I could hear her mutter under her breath, “I do not want to have to clean up after you again.”

She bounded up the steps to her front door, keys out and ready, while I followed behind.

As Sookie opened the door, she called back over her shoulder, “I’m hoping I might be able to find a pair of Jason’s old work boots.  They’ll probably be too small for you, but –” She hastily started up a staircase to the upper level as I paused at the threshold in my bare feet.  When she realized I was not following her, she turned back and began casually, “It’s okay, you can come in, it’s your –” She stopped, as if realizing something.

I stood patiently outside the door, looking up at Sookie as I waited to be invited. I knew that as a vampire, I couldn’t cross the threshold of a human’s house without an invitation.

“As it’s your first time in my house, obviously you need an invitation.”  She smiled sweetly and said in a fulsomely gracious tone, “Eric, won’t you please come in?” But I noticed that the smile did not reach her eyes.

As I stepped through the doorway, I looked around curiously at Sookie’s home. It was decorated in an old-fashioned way but looked very clean and comfortable.  The air was redolent with the smell of new paints, various cleaners and polishes and, only lightly, Sookie herself.

“Don’t step on the rug!” Sookie squealed anxiously from her perch on the stairs, throwing out her hand in warning as I entered the foyer.

I looked down and was embarrassed to see that my mud-caked feet were, indeed, dirtying the immaculate rug that took up the center of the hallway floor.

“Sorry,” I murmured before stepping back onto the hardwood area of the floor and trying to edge around the still-open door without contacting the braided material.  It challenged my balance, but I was pleased when I reached safe footing.

Sookie had watched my awkward efforts, before shaking her head in as if both bewildered and amused and starting again up the stairs.

I picked my way carefully into the living room as I heard a cabinet upstairs open and close and water begin to run.  A couch and two large chairs were gathered beside what looked to be the house’s original fireplace mantle.  Scattered here and there were knick-knacks and pictures that reinforced my impression that this was an ancestral home, filled with memories of Sookie’s family.  And yet the room was not left entirely in the past; just inside the door was a large flat-screen TV, right beside an antique upright piano.

I liked it. It seemed … homey.

“Eric, here’s some water so we can at least get your feet cleaned up,” Sookie said from behind me, moving slowly into the room with a large basin of heated water.  It took a bit of careful contortion, but thanks to my long legs I was able to sit on one end of the couch and still leave my muddy appendages to one side of the living room rug.  Sookie carefully set the water basin down in front of me and after she had helped me roll up the legs of my leather jeans, I gratefully immersed my feet into the warm water.

“Oh, sugar! I forgot a washcloth.  Eric, I’ll be right back with one.  You just stay here, okay?” Sookie picked up a cell phone from the edge of a coffee table set in the midst of the furniture arrangement and dashed back upstairs again.

I don’t think she realized I could hear her. As I sat wiggling my toes in the warm water, I heard her find the washcloth in an upstairs linen closet and begin moving back down the staircase.  She was nearly to the landing when I heard her dial the phone.  I couldn’t make out what the person on the other end of the line was saying, but I could hear Sookie’s part of the conversation clearly.

“Hey, Pam, it’s Sookie. I thought you should know that Eric is here.”  There was a murmur from the other person and she replied, “He doesn’t seem to remember that. Or much else.”

I was actually enjoying the feel of the water against my bare feet, although it had begun to cool rather quickly.  I loved the way the liquid flowed against my skin whenever I made the smallest movement.  I may not remember anything about who I was, but I had decided I liked water.

Sookie now stood in front of the open entry to the living room, phone still pressed to her ear. “Pam? Hello?” I could feel her confusion, but it seemed mild.  She finally shrugged and hung up the phone.

“Okay, let’s see if we can get that mountain of dirt off of you so I don’t have to make you stay in one spot all evening,” Sookie said firmly, kneeling down by the basin of water.  Gently she began to wash the mud off of my feet and scrub carefully at small bits of gravel that seemed to be working their way out of my skin.  “Sorry the water got cold,” she apologized.

“Doesn’t bother me,” I answered as she continued to work the cloth against my skin.  She was trying to scrub grit out from beneath my big toe (why did scrubbing like that seem familiar?) when I jumped, pulling my foot out of her grasp with a gasped laugh.  “It-it tickles,” I explained with a shy grin.

Her smile was so fleeting I might easily have missed it, and I realized it was the first time I had seen Sookie genuinely smile.  She was stunning even when solemn or angry, but seeing her smile was like seeing the sun again.

I couldn’t help but lean forward, studying her more closely. Until we had entered the house, I had only seen her in the dark; here in the light of the living room, and less than a yard away, I could really see the details of her appearance.  Her eyes were a warm hazel and I was able to tell that the variegated blonde strands of her hair were the result of time spent in the sun rather than from a bottle.  “You are…really beautiful,” I finally said.

I felt not only surprise but some doubt from Sookie at my words.  “Ummmm… thanks?” she  replied, as if uncertain how to take such a compliment.

I wondered what kind of idiots had surrounded her that she was evidently not aware of her beauty.

Tuning into Sookie’s emotions made me realize that one of the other mysterious bonds inside me had begun to hum with a sudden intensity: fear and worry prevailed, along with periodic waves of irritation.

And Fear/Worry/Irritation was heading this way.

I had barely had time to register what was happening when Sookie’s door blew open with a bang and a tall blonde woman, dressed in a red, sequined, one-shouldered minidress flew into the living room.

Jolted by the woman’s sudden appearance in combination with the flood of emotions through the unexplained bond, I blurted out as a single word, “Whothefuckisshe?” as I shot to my feet, throwing the blanket off my shoulder to prepare for attack.

The woman –vampire, I could tell, not just by the supernaturally fast way she moved but by the smear of blood on her lips — stopped and stared at me in horror that I could feel.  “Fuck!

Sookie, who had scrambled to her feet as the woman entered, was also staring at me with shock.  I suddenly realized I had cursed at a guest in Sookie’s home. Evidently, a guest who had been to Sookie’s home before, since she had entered without Sookie’s invitation.  She must a friend of Sookie’s.

“Sorry. Sorry, that was rude of me.” I apologized to Sookie and then to her guest.  “I’m sorry.” Jesus, no wonder Sookie seemed to react every time I tried to be polite.  I evidently had no self-control in my natural state. God only knows what kind of things I normally said without thinking.

“What do you know about what happened to you?” the female vampire demanded anxiously.  I could feel fear and dread from her.

Sookie turned to look at me and I found myself reluctant to tell the stranger what I had told Sookie. Obviously, there was some kind of connection between myself and the blonde vampire, but until I understood the meaning of these bonds, I didn’t want to share too much.  I seemed to remember a blonde woman among the circle members, but I couldn’t tell for sure that it was a different woman from this one. At least not yet.

I swallowed and glanced at Sookie, the only person I could trust at the moment, looking for some guidance from her.  Unfortunately, she was also staring at me in dismay.

When I didn’t answer, I could feel the escalation in panic from the vampire.  “You have to hide him,” she blurted out to Sookie.

“No way!” Sookie was facing away from me, so I couldn’t see her expression, but I felt her rush of alarm.  The intense emotions bouncing around the bonds between myself and the two women were starting to make me dizzy and I looked away for a moment, trying to keep my emotional balance.

“He’s in danger!” the vampire burst out.

“And I’m sure you’ll be able to protect him much better than I could!” Sookie fired back.

The blonde vampire couldn’t hide her distress.  “Sookie, I’ll be the first place they’ll look.”

“They who?” Sookie asked in confusion.

“The witches who did this,” the vampire said darkly.

Witches?”   Sookie sounded as if the idea that witches were the source of my problem was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.  Thinking back to the circle of intimidating people I had awakened to – the witches – I didn’t think it was so ludicrous.  Something inside me sank.  “Oh, great, now I have to deal with witches?” Sookie continued.  “No!” she asserted fiercely.  “Not my problem!”

No, but it was my problem.  And having faced the source of my problem earlier in the night, I was, frankly, a little scared.  I sank to the couch, dazed by the thought that even here, miles away from Shreveport, the powerful, intimidating group of magic workers might still seek to do me harm.  In a flash, all my anxiety from earlier in the night was back and I felt sick.  Not only was I at risk, but now I was also worried about what they could do to Sookie.  And I would have brought it on her.

“Actually you’re living his house, so it is your problem,” snarled the vampire, one hand on a hip in her annoyance.

That broke me from my revery.  “Uh—” I burst out in surprise.  “It’s my house?” I looked at Sookie in confusion.

She shot me a look (and feelings) of exasperation before turning back to the taller blonde.  “Thanks a lot, Pam. I’ll just – go to Bill.” She said the last as if that was her ace in the hole, the solution to whatever problems she would face.  Bill would evidently solve everything.

In a flash, Pam was looming over Sookie.  “Tell Bill and I will rip you to pieces,” she said menacingly.

Whoever Pam was, I didn’t like her threatening Sookie.  And I could feel that she meant her threat quite literally.

With one hand, I pushed her away from Sookie and she went flying into the foyer, pleating the rug on the floor as her body landed, piling it up in the doorway to the dining room.  I could sense that she had not expected this reaction from me and that she was emotionally as well as physically stunned for a moment.

I wish I had known about my super strength earlier in the evening when I dealt with the three thugs who had stolen my clothes.

When Pam re-entered the living room a moment later, straightening her disheveled dress, I warned her firmly, “Be nice to her.”

Pam’s smile was forced, but her tone with Sookie was more civil than it had been moments before.  “Sookie,” she began persuasively, “I believe Bill set Eric up, then sent him into that coven in Shreveport knowing it was a trap.”  I listened intently to Pam’s theory. I had no idea who Bill was, but clearly, he was someone all three of us knew well.  “It wouldn’t be the first time he tried to get rid of Eric.”  Pam raised an eyebrow at me knowingly.

Evidently, Bill was my enemy. I wondered what I had done to make him feel that away towards me?

“Yeah, because Eric tasted me,” Sookie snapped, as if that made Bill’s attempts to ensnare me completely understandable.

That derailed my train of thought.  “Oh, I did?” I couldn’t hide my delight at the thought that I had been permitted to taste her blood.  If Sookie tasted even a fraction of how good she smelled, she had to be amazing.  And if she let me taste her in the past, maybe –

Sookie pursed her lips, looking back at me. “Yes. Against my will.  So, technically, you fang-raped me,” she said drily.

Well. Fuck.

I didn’t know what to say to that. “Oh,” I finally murmured in embarrassment. “Sorry.”

Sookie blinked in surprise (again) at my apology, while Pam ignored the entire conversation, focusing only on my human hostess.

“Promise me you won’t go to Bill,” Pam pleaded with Sookie, her desperation evident in her voice and through my connection with her. “I’m sure he would use this as an excuse to get the AVL to sign off on assassinating Eric. I know he wants to.”

Assassinate me? This Bill wanted to kill me? Sookie seemed to view Bill as an ally and while I’d just met her, I’d already concluded that she seemed to be a good person. What did that say about me, that she was friendly with someone who wished me dead? My spirits sank lower.

“Eric has to stay here with you and no one can know,” Pam finished imploringly.

This much I had learned about Pam in the last few minutes; she was genuinely frightened for me.

There was a long silence as Sookie pondered how to respond to the blonde vampire’s plea.  She glanced at me and I looked back at her steadily, hoping she would be willing to protect me.  From all that I had just learned, I couldn’t have blamed her if she said no. No wonder she didn’t want me touching or biting her. And here I’d worried that she just thought I was rude.

I was relieved when she finally said, “Okay.”  My relief turned to humiliation as she stepped closer to Pam and continued, “But you are going to have to pay me for babysitting him.  If y’all are going to keep messing with my life, I ought to at least get something out of it, goddammit.”

I must be a total asshole.

Strangely, I could feel that Pam respected Sookie for asking for compensation and I felt her relax now that Sookie had promised to watch over me.

“How much do you want?” Pam asked Sookie matter-of-factly.

Sookie raised her chin before answering resolutely.  “Enough to buy my house back.  When Eric is…back to himself, I want to know exactly how much I owe him for what he paid for the house itself, the repairs and the renovations.  And that is how much I want.”

Pam raised an eyebrow. “And if Eric doesn’t want to sell the house to you?”

“Well, then I’ll keep the money and move the hell away from here,” Sookie said confidently. “And he can keep the house. Without me in it.”

Pam nodded as if this was a proposal that made sense to her.  The vampire then addressed me deferentially.  “Eric…do I have permission to accept this deal on your behalf? If you disagree with it when you are back to yourself, I will pay you every dime out of my own money. But I think staying here with Sookie is your safest option.” I could feel her sincerity and anxiety for me.

I couldn’t meet Sookie’s eyes as I said quietly. “I agree.”

I had followed the negotiation carefully but I still couldn’t figure out what interest Sookie had in my house. Somehow, I felt that asking the question would be asking to start something.

“Well, that’s decided then,” Sookie said briskly. “Pam, I’m gonna need some clothes for him.  All he has left are those filthy leather jeans and I will not have him staying in this house with nothing but those on. Can you bring some of his clothes over?”

I was as surprised as Sookie when Pam answered unwaveringly, “No.

“What do you mean, no?” Sookie asked in disbelief.

“I will not bring any of Eric’s clothes here,” Pam said firmly.  She held up her hand and began to tick off her points on her fingers.  “Witches have ways of putting spells on personal belongings to track people.  Any clothing he wears here shouldn’t be anything he currently owns. He should have all new things.”  She touched a second finger.  “Not that I want you taking him anywhere where he can be seen, but if Eric is accidently spotted here, he is not exactly going to blend into Bon Temps life in his normal clothing.  He needs to be dressed like a local.”

I looked down at my black leather pants and thought back to the reaction of the drunken men in Shreveport.  I had a sense that Bon Temps, small town or not, had more in common with the city I had fled than I had realized.

I could also tell from Pam’s tone and feelings that dressing like a local was not something she would normally approve of.

“Fair enough,” Sookie nodded.  “I will find him something for tonight, but I want you to send over some new outfits tomorrow.  Oh, and don’t forget the shoes.  The man has big feet.”

Pam’s pursed her lips before drawling, “What can I say? He’s proportional all over.”

Sookie rolled her eyes. “Eric, let’s finish getting you cleaned up.”

“First, let me have your pendant,” Pam said, holding out her hand towards me.

My hand grasped at the chain around my neck.  I had barely been aware of it, but now that Pam wanted to take it from me, it felt precious. That and my jeans were the only things of the unknown me that I had left.

“Why?” Sookie was puzzled.

It was Pam’s turn to roll her eyes. “Witches can use jewelry for spells as well.  It’s better if I take it from him, in case they try to track him with it.”

I guess I wasn’t that sentimental.

I pulled the chain over my head and let it pool in Pam’s outstretched palm.

“And the pants.” Pam ordered.

I had already started undoing my jeans when Sookie yelped, “What? What do you want his pants for?”

Pam shook her head. “They’re as much a potential tracking device for him as that piece of jewelry is.  I’m dumping them in a swamp on the way back to Shreveport so they can’t be traced.  They’ve been destroyed by that mud, anyhow.”  She wrinkled her nose in disgust.  She waved her fingers at me, encouraging me to make it snappy in stripping down.

Before Sookie could protest again, I had dropped the jeans and carefully peeled them free of my long legs.

Apparently, I didn’t wear underwear.

I heard Sookie’s heart skip a beat and felt that little twist of lust that I had sensed earlier, mixed with a healthy dose of embarrassment as she quickly averted her eyes with a sharp intake of breath.  “Jesus Christ, Shepherd of Judea,” she muttered sotte voce.

Despite the serious cause for my disrobing, Pam was extremely amused by Sookie’s reaction.

I didn’t feel any self-consciousness about my nudity on my own behalf, but given how shitty I was feeling about myself (house-buying, biting asshole), I actually felt a little awkward about causing Sookie yet more discomfort.

I picked up the blanket from the couch where I had dropped it and discreetly arranged it around my waist.

“It’s okay to look now,” I said humbly to Sookie.

Pam snorted and folded my jeans up.  “Well, I guess I have some shopping to do,” she said smartly.  She shot one last look at Sookie before saying civilly to her, “Thank you for agreeing to watch over him, Sookie.  I consider it a fair deal.”  And then she was gone.

She’d left the front door open.  Sookie pursed her lips and hurried over to close it.

“Well.”  She cleared her throat as she turned back to me.  “Would you like a shower? I’ll see what I can find for you to wear tonight.  I’m pretty sure Jason has some old gym clothes up in the attic that might fit you.  He’s smaller than you, but they always seemed pretty loose and stretchy to me.”

She was rattling on.  I think she was unnerved to be left alone with me in nothing but the brown blanket.

I wish I had been able to enjoy her being flustered, but all I could think was that she was being too kind, given what I was beginning to understand was a strained history between us.

She showed me to a bathroom on an upper floor and while I was in the shower scrubbing up, she must have had success in locating her brother’s clothes because when I stepped out of the steamy curtained space a little while later, a pair of basketball shorts and a sleeveless blue hoodie were lying in a neat pile on the sink.

When I had dressed myself, I ventured downstairs and found Sookie in the kitchen, cleaning.  She was just drying a large glass decanter and I was surprised to detect the scent of blood – a fair amount of it.  I frowned, puzzled, and then sat down at the kitchen table.

“I’m sorry I don’t have any TruBloods to offer you,” Sookie apologized as she set the glass decanter down to dry on the side of the sink.  I could feel that she felt almost guilty about something. “I don’t keep any in the house since I ended things with –”  She stopped.

With who? With me? With the vampire ex-boyfriend who had brought her to my bar?

I didn’t want to push her if she didn’t want to share.  I already felt like I was impinging on her personal space.

“Do I like TruBlood?” I asked curiously.  I couldn’t remember the taste of blood, but somehow, I had a vague sense that blood was at its best directly from a human source, still hot and fresh.

“I’ve never tasted it,” Sookie said with a shrug.  “I thought Bill was drinking it almost exclusively until recently, but I think he has changed his drinking patterns.”  She sounded bitter.  “In any case, that is the only blood you are going to get to drink in this house, so you are just going to have to learn to like it if you don’t care for it.” She pursed her lips and wiped the counter fiercely.

“Why would this Bill want to kill me for having tasted you?” I asked carefully.

She turned and leaned against the sink, her arms crossed in front of her, a sponge dangling from one hand.  “Well, I used to be His,” she replied. “He’s still protective over me although we are not together anymore.” There was something more she wasn’t telling me, but I couldn’t detect what it was since I could read only her feelings, not her thoughts.

“So, Bill is the ex-boyfriend who brought you to my bar?” I asked astutely.

“Yes,” she answered simply.

“What about Pam? Who is she?” I asked.  “I felt…it seemed like there was some connection between us.”

“Well, she’s your – I guess the word you vampires usually use is ‘progeny,’” Sookie said, pronouncing the word carefully.  “And you’re her Maker. So, I guess she’s sort of like your daughter?”

The only vampire a vampire can trust is a vampire he made.

I don’t know where the stray thought came from, but it sounded like a wise saying. “Can I trust her?” I asked, looking at the only person I had trusted up until this point.

Sookie hesitated only a moment before saying, “Yes.  I think you can.  She really seems to care about you. I don’t think she would ever hurt you.”  She seemed puzzled by this conclusion, but I could feel she genuinely believed it.  It confirmed what I had been feeling from Pam herself.

As I turned the information over in my mind, Sookie said, “Eric, I need to go to bed soon.  It’s been a long day and I need to work tomorrow.”

I stood up from the kitchen chair.  “I suppose I should go to bed soon, too,” I remarked.  Although it wasn’t close to dawn yet, I felt tired. It had been an emotionally exhausting night.  “Can I just go to ground in the back yard somewhere?”

Sookie’s brow wrinkled as she looked at me in confusion and (once again) surprise.  She seemed to be struggling with something, but she finally said, “You don’t have to sleep outside Eric. You have a cubby here in the house.”

It was my turn to be surprised.  “I do?”

“I haven’t been in it, so I can’t tell you what’s down there, but I know it exists.  And that you built it for yourself, so I’m sure it is safe.” Her voice was wry as she said the last bit. “Follow me to the living room.”

The entrance to the cubby was in a small ante-room off the back of the living room, a cubicle that appeared to host a variety of sewing tools and a large, ornately carved wardrobe.

Sookie opened the door on the cabinet and I was surprised to see a chute made of smooth metal walls, with a ladder leading down into the dark.  Towards the top was some sort of keypad, although Sookie did not touch it.

“Go head,” Sookie said gesturing towards the opening.

I looked down into the void and then back at her.

I didn’t want to go down there by myself.  It seemed dark and cold compared to the warmth of the rest of the house.

She could see the reluctance on my face and I heard her make a small noise of exasperation before muttering, “Oh, for Pete’s sake.”  She climbed carefully into the opening, placed her feet on the rungs of the ladder and started down into the darkness.

As Sookie moved further down the ladder, light suddenly filled the cavity from below.  I felt her start in fear but then the feeling faded almost instantly.  “It’s okay,” she called up to me.  “You can come down!”

I looked warily into the opening.

“Come on!” she said, patting a step on the ladder in encouragement.

I swung into the space and crawled carefully down the ladder in my bare feet. As I reached the bottom of the rungs, I was pleasantly surprised.  The room was a light-tight cubicle of cinder-block, but there were a series of embedded lights in the wall, and the room was dominated by a single-width quilted leather bed with fur coverings.

The room smelled like me.

For all that both Pam and Sookie had referred to the house as my house, this was the first sign I’d had that it might be true.

Granted, there wasn’t much in “my” room, but there was a book lying on the bed, still open, as if I had put it down while reading.  More books were stacked on a bedside table.

It looked right. It felt right.  I liked it.

“Wow. This really is my house,” I said with relief. Somehow I had gone from wandering lost on the streets of Shreveport to my home.  How had I been so fortunate?

“Well, but not for long,” Sookie corrected me, her arms crossed in front of her.

You live here? In my house?” I was still trying to understand why I owned the house and yet Sookie lived in it. I couldn’t hide my pleasure at the idea that she lived here with me, whatever the reason.

“Yes,” Sookie answered tightly.

If I had tasted her, however unwillingly, maybe I had claimed her.  If she hadn’t been forthcoming about the house, maybe she wasn’t being candid about our real relationship. I couldn’t blame her since she was angry at me for some reason. It was actually very clever of her if she had some reason not to trust me. Hell, I was sure I trusted me at the moment.

“Are you mine?” I raised an eyebrow hopefully.

“No!” Sookie scoffed vehemently. I could feel that the discussion was making her angry.

“You belong to another vampire.”  It was a statement, not a question.  For someone as alluring as Sookie to live in my house and not to be mine, there had to be a serious impediment to my having claimed her, and the obvious one was that she already belonged to someone else. Vampires did not violate one another’s claims on humans, no matter how tempting the human.

Sookie hesitated.  “No,” she finally answered reluctantly.

Maybe she was angry with me because I had never asked her to be mine?

“Would you like to be mine?” I asked expectantly.

“Ummmm, not really,” Sookie snorted before adding sarcastically, “But thank you for asking.”

She moved as if to leave and I zipped in front of her, lightly touching her arm with my right hand, just to make her pause for a moment.

She stepped back from me anxiously and I felt the tight coil of true fear inside her.

“Eric,” she said evenly, “Let. Me. Go.

I spoke softly to put her at ease. “I just want to thank you for – for everything.  That’s all.” Standing so close to her, I was hit anew by the intoxicating nature of her scent. As I looked at her golden hair and her hazel eyes, I was almost dizzy with attraction towards her. I could feel my entire body reacting to her closeness.

She was still nervous. She said very lightly and quickly, “You’re welcome. Please let me go now.”

I wrinkled my brow in puzzlement, trying to figure out why she had such a powerful effect on me.  “What are you?” I said in a low voice.

“I’m really sick of being asked that question, is what I am,” she replied steadily.  “Let me go,” she said her voice verging on pleading.

Suddenly conscious that if I stood much closer to her, a more intimate part of me might inadvertently touch her, I edged back awkwardly.  “Of – of course.”

“Thanks,” she said.

Realizing just how badly I wanted to step forward rather than back and to press my body against hers made my fangs pop out, joining the other part of my body in arousal.

Sookie gasped in fear and her small hands flew up in balled fists as if to guard herself against me.

I was mortified that my excitement was so obvious. “Sorry,” I muttered, covering my fangs in embarrassment.

Sookie didn’t say anything more, but fled up the ladder to the house.

Left alone in my room, I moved to my bed.  The book I had apparently been reading was something about blood bonds.  As tired as I was, I spent a few minutes looking through it, thinking about my connections with both Sookie and Pam.  The information about the bond between Maker and Progeny was extensive, but I was more curious at the moment about what kind of bond I must have with Sookie.  I knew I could feel her, but I had seen no signs that she felt my feelings in return.  She wouldn’t be so frightened of me if she did, I reasoned.

As best as I could determine, the one-way connection meant Sookie had had my blood at some point.

I was excited at the thought.  And I don’t mean just emotionally.

At least until I wondered about the circumstances in which she had taken my blood. I wondered if it had happened at the time she said I had – and I winced as I thought of the phrase she had used to describe it — fang-raped her.

When I finally found the information about mutual blood exchanges, I was reasonably sure that she had not taken my blood at the same time I had taken hers, at least not in any of the special ways described.  Although, reading about the intense resulting bond of certain kinds of mutual exchanges, I was…intrigued.

As I lay down to take my rest, my thoughts were not on my vanished memories or the threat of the witches who had taken them, but on the fact that somewhere above me, I could feel Sookie as she drifted off to sleep.  I felt comforted that we were sleeping under the same roof.  I felt like I had come home.

A/N: Special thank you to reader MelodyAnderson, who pointed out that Eric’s necklace disappears and is not seen again while he is at Sookie’s.  Hope you like my fanwank on why that is.  J

And if you are wondering why Eric felt guilt from Sookie as she was apologizing for not having TruBlood, it was because she was kicking herself for having tossed that perfectly useful decanter of blood down the sink earlier in the day.  She’s still a good Southern hostess at heart. 😉

 

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One response to “He’s Not There, Chapter 2: Home

  1. Pingback: Update to He’s Not There | Eric Eric Eric

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