Chapter Three: Mr. Northman
Sookie sat at her desk the next day rummaging through paperwork. She needed to go to the hospital to interview Marla about her husband’s attempt on her life, and she was not looking forward to it. Aside from the fact that she would have to inform Mrs. Jacobs that they had not yet apprehended her husband for his attempt at murdering her, there was the added bonus of having to relive Marla’s terrified recounting of her experience, complete with mental pictures and genuine emotions potent enough to nauseate her.
It was a tossup as to whether interviewing criminals or victims was worse. On one hand, the victims sent her into a depression while they relived their traumas, inadvertently subjecting Sookie to them. On the other hand, criminals made her feel as if her faith in humanity was being reduced to ashes on a pyre while they delightedly recounted the harm they inflicted upon others.
Either way, her soul suffered even if Sookie had yet to realize this.
A shrill ringing brought Sookie out of her dark thoughts, and she robotically reached for the phone. “Detective Stackhouse,” she barked.
“Sookie Stackhouse?” a timid voice asked.
“What can I do for you?”
“My name is Bobby Burnham. I was instructed by Mr. Northman to contact you,” Sookie’s body tensed. “He wanted me to leave you his cell phone number.”
“I suppose that he was hoping you might be compelled to call him. It’s really none of my business; I’m just following his instruction. You can do whatever you wish with the number, just let me recite it.”
Sookie sighed, grabbing her pen. She did not know what obliged her to even take the number down, but she quickly scrawled it out as Bobby spoke it.
“Have a nice day, Detective.”
Sookie hung up the phone and shoved the post-it into a folder while she returned to her paperwork. Periodically, without willing her eyes to do so they would drift to the folder before snapping back to her work.
Eventually it was time to go to the hospital and interview Marla, and Sookie belatedly realized that she had stuck the post-it in the file. Throughout the interview, Sookie was distracted and her eyes would linger on her untidy handwriting, memorizing the numbers she had written, rather than be attentive and focused on Marla’s recounting. Mechanically, Sookie took notes, but mostly let the tape recorder do the work for her.
“Are you all right, Detective Stackhouse?” Marla asked gently, making the other woman look up at her, stunned. “You seem preoccupied.”
Sookie shook her head, “No, I’m right here with you, Marla.” The telepath berated herself for her lack of sensitivity.
“Hey, if I could, I would daydream about being somewhere other than here,” Marla said, gesturing to the walls of the hospital. “You looked like you were having a good daydream.”
“I’m sorry, Marla, for being unprofessional.”
“It’s okay,” she smiled distantly. “Sometimes I need to go to my happy place to get away from thinking about that tree…”
Sookie maintained her focus for the remainder of the interview, and just like the fire extinguisher to the head that Marla had received, Sookie’s head felt as though it was splitting too. The telepath had seen the graphic recounting of Marla’s experience several times while she helped the injured woman out of the drooping willow the previous afternoon.
“You’re really strong, you know, Marla,” Sookie commented as she packed up.
“Not strong enough,” Marla snorted.
“No, even stronger,” Sookie argued. “I’m not talking about surviving in the bayou for nearly a week. I mean right now, in this moment… Anyone else would be a catatonic mess. You’re very calm, and… Listen, just take care of yourself, and remember that you’re strong.”
Marla smiled a bit more genuinely and nodded.
“Hey, Stackhouse,” Trent smiled as he leaned against Sookie’s desk, “what have you been staring at for the last hour?” He tried to surreptitiously sneak a peek, but Sookie quickly closed the file with the post-it in it.
“Just going over Marla’s statement,” she dismissed his suspicions.
“I guess this case would be a bit more personal to you seeing as you’re the one who found her… Wait! Did you just call her ‘Marla’?” Trent was shocked. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you call anyone by their first name!”
Sookie shrugged. “Like you said, it got a bit personal.”
“I guess,” She could hear in his head that he was unconvinced by her excuse. However, he mercifully changed the subject. “Hey, you want to hit the bar with me and the guys?” he asked, standing up straighter.
“No thanks. I gotta get home to the girls,” she declined.
Trent rolled his eyes. “Those shepherds are like your daughters.”
Sookie shrugged again, picking up the file and discretely removing the post-it to tuck into her pocket before placing the file in her drawer. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she gave him a wan smile before grabbing her gun from her locked drawer and holstering it.
“Yeah, have a good night,” he called as she retreated from the department.
“You too,” she responded in kind.
Sookie quickly left the precinct, fumbling for her phone. She could not begin to fathom why the need to call Eric Northman was so strong, but there was no refuting the urge within her ever since receiving his number.
“Northman,” Eric’s voice was like hot silk despite the brevity of his greeting.
“Hi, it’s Detective Stackhouse,” Sookie wanted to face-palm at being so formal.
“Detective or Miss?” Eric asked amusedly.
“Well, I just left the precinct, so I guess it’s Miss at the moment.”
“Good evening, Miss Stackhouse. I am surprised you called.”
Sookie bit her lip, “Well, I didn’t want you to think Mr. Burnham failed to deliver the message.”
“Is that what this is? A courtesy call?” he sounded playfully wounded.
“Umm,” she floundered for a reply.
“So tentative!” Eric laughed. “And you were so quick to quip the other night.”
“I guess I don’t know what to say this time around,” she replied.
“You have nothing you wish to say to me this evening?”
That was a loaded question. Her words ranged from ‘how soon can you be in my bed?’ to ‘have you heard anything in Bon Temps?’
Deciding that work was always a topic she felt strong in discussing, she said, “I was wondering if you heard anything in regard to the homicides in Bon Temps.”
Eric sighed in what seemed to be amusement. “I will be making a visit out there tomorrow actually.”
“Oh. I didn’t realize you would go to such lengths.”
“Well, as you are responsible for the safety of humans, I am responsible for the safety of vampires in this Area. If too much whirlwind gets wrapped around the fact that both women were fangbangers, we will have a publicity scandal on our hands, despite the fact that vampires did not commit the murders. That could lead to public outcry and attacks on our kind.”
“I understand what you mean. It’s like when a gang member gets killed and there’s trace amounts of evidence affiliated with a rival gang. We have to solve it quickly so there aren’t any turf wars or retributions.”
“Precisely,” Eric paused a moment before asking, “What are you doing now that you are done with work?”
“Oh, just going home to feed and walk my dogs,” she said conversationally as she got into her car. “I’m about to turn on my car, so the phone might hiccup when the Bluetooth kicks in,” she warned him. “Just don’t think I hung up on you.”
“I will temper my anxiety.”
Sookie laughed as she turned over her ignition. After a few moments, the in-car speaker kicked in and she chatted with Eric while she drove toward her apartment.
“Do you know Bill Compton?” she asked as she remembered her encounter with him the previous night and how Pam seemingly knew him.
“I am aware of him, seeing as he resides in my Area. I did not know that you knew him…?”
“Oh, I thought Pam would have told you. She ran into us talking last night.”
“What were you discussing with Compton?”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “He’s been forward with me, and I was shooting him down for the umpteenth time.”
“I could make him leave you alone if you wished.”
“That would be spectacular.”
“Consider it done.”
“What are you doing after your run?”
“Probably going over some case files, and then going to bed. What are you doing tonight?”
“Sitting in my office, going over my club’s books.”
“Not nearly as exciting as attempted murder and mayhem,” he agreed.
Sookie pondered briefly how easy Eric was to talk with. It felt like forever since she had such a quaint conversation, even talks with Gran were never this lighthearted.
“If you like, I could keep you company on your run,” Eric offered after she had remained silent for a moment.
“No, that’s okay. I don’t know that my dogs like you very much,” she admitted with mild embarrassment.
“Perhaps they just need to get to know me,” he suggested.
“You don’t have to come all the way down here. It’s nearly ten miles from the club.”
“I am not at the club. I am at my house. It probably would not be much of a detour on my way to Fangtasia.”
“I don’t want to keep you from your work.”
There was a momentary pause before Eric murmured, “If I am being too forward, you could just say you do not wish for my company this evening.”
“No, you’re not being forward; I just don’t want to inconvenience you,” How could such a beautiful man want to spend time with her? How could a vampire wish to run alongside a mortal?
“If it was an inconvenience, I would not have suggested it,” He hesitated a moment before offering again, “May I come keep you company on your run?”
Tentatively, Sookie accepted, “If you like, I would enjoy that,” She gave him her address after that, and then held her breath, awaiting his response.
“I will see you shortly, then. Goodbye for now, Miss Stackhouse.”
Sookie pulled into a parking space near her apartment as he hung up, and she quickly jumped out of the car, locked it, and ran for her building. Tearing up three flights of steps, she was greeted by her dogs with whimpers and happy tongues.
“Hey, girls,” Sookie gave them their obligatory ear rubs as she walked to the kitchen to fill their food bowls. Seeing their water bowls empty, she filled them too, and then ran off to her bedroom to change into her running clothes. “Shoot, shoot, shoot,” she mumbled, tossing clothes all around, looking for one pair of sweats that would potentially flatter her figure. When her wardrobe failed to help her impress Eric, she threw on her least ratty pair of sweats and a somewhat fitted t-shirt. She pulled on a new pair of socks and her running shoes before going to the bathroom and fixing her hair into a wild, sloppy bun rather than the smooth, severe one she wore at the office.
Going back to the main room of her apartment, Sookie grabbed her dogs’ leashes and hooked them to her before opening her door and locking it behind her. As the door snapped shut, her heart gave a sudden lurch, and she reached for the handle and her chest simultaneously. She had forgotten to put her keys around her neck, and had now locked herself out of her apartment.
Sighing to herself, Sookie went down the three flights of stairs to find Northman leaning against the wall outside. Peeking her head out the front door, she waved at him embarrassedly.
“Sorry, I have to nix the run,” she mumbled.
“Why is that?” Eric asked, raising his eyebrows curiously.
“I just locked myself out of my apartment, and now I have to call the landlord to let me back in. That means I have to wait around for him near the building.”
“Or I could just let you back in when we return,” Eric offered.
Sookie’s face frowned at the suggestion, “How would you do that?”
Eric shrugged, “Pick the lock.”
“You can do that?”
“Quite easily,” he assured.
“Oh, okay. Let’s go then.”
“Would you like me to take one of your dogs?” Eric asked as he took pace next to Sookie’s brisk walk.
“I don’t know how either one would like that,” she confessed.
“Shall we find out?” Eric offered, holding out his hand.
Sookie thought for a moment before surrendering Junes’ lead to the vampire. Junes was the braver of her two dogs, and also the more aggressive. However, Eric was not some fragile human that would throw a lawsuit at her if Junes bit him.
“They seem much more amiable toward me this evening,” Eric commented as Junes let him control her without complaint.
“You must have taken them by surprise before,” Sookie shrugged, picking up her speed and feeling Eric do the same beside her. “Is it hard to move at this speed? Y’know, ’cause vamps can move so much faster?”
“It is something that we grow accustomed to rather quickly. Before we came out of the coffin, we could not move at our comfortable speeds. Over the past couple of years though it has become awkward to move at this pace again,” he explained. “It is easier running beside a human because they can keep me at pace.”
When Sookie’s speed increased again, Eric listened intently to her heart. “You are in marvelous shape,” he commented, and the woman’s pulse thrummed faster for a brief moment.
“E-excuse me?” she squeaked, glancing at him out of the side of her widened eyes.
“Your pulse is like a metronome. Even while running, it has barely accelerated, and been quite consistent the entire time,” Eric smiled at her flustered expression.
“Thanks,” she muttered. “I’ve never had anyone compliment my athleticism through my heartbeat.”
“Well, given your clothing choice, I could not compliment how toned your thighs or bottom are,” Eric chuckled.
“Bottom?” She turned her head slightly to raise her eyebrows.
“Rear, posterior?” he offered.
“You could just say ‘ass’. No need to be so proper.”
“I prefer to only diminish my propriety in the heat of the moment.”
“Oh,” was all she could say to that. She could not quite understand what he meant, but she reasoned that he did not like sounding crude in casual conversation. That thought made her smile to herself. A vampire with manners.
“Do you curse often?” Eric asked.
Sookie shrugged, “Not really. Mostly only during interrogations, or if I’m particularly angry. I don’t normally get that angry, though.”
“I am glad.”
She felt compelled to confess, “I did call my brother a stupid fucker the other night though. In my defense, I had just found out he’d been arrested for the murders of those girls. He’s always causing me grief.”
“Ah, well in that case, the jury will dismiss all allegations in respect to your manners,” Eric dead-panned. “It pleases me to know only such circumstances make curses like that pass your lips.”
“Women with vulgar language skills disappoint me. It is a wall of defense built around them in the form of off-putting comments.”
“Some of us build our walls out of other things,” Sookie pointed out.
“What did you build your wall out of?”
Sookie frowned for a moment before replying, “Skepticism and isolation.” She glanced at him briefly as he laughed. “What about you?”
“Violence and indifference.”
“Are other vampires afraid of you?”
“Quite,” he admitted.
“Are you extremely violent? Do you suffer outbursts?” Sookie demanded.
Eric laughed at her questioning, “I am capable of extreme violence; of torture. There is nothing uncontrolled about it, however. I am quite ‘Zen’ during my moments of violence. After all, the truly dead cannot repay debts.” The vampire glanced at the detective to see her reaction. She appeared quite unmoved by his explanation. “In my thousand years, I have been an assassin and inquisitor on thousands of occasions. For me, violence is a tool, not a state of mind.”
“You’re a thousand years old?” she gasped, her pulse picking up once more.
“Give or take a few decades,” he qualified.
“Don’t you get bored? You must have done everything by now!”
“Many things are worth doing over and over again,” Eric shrugged. “Some centuries find me rather impatient and violent. Other centuries find me particularly gracious and accommodating. Of course, there are also the constant advancements in technology. The leaps and bounds you humans make at times are enough to keep me entertained for a few decades.”
“What are some things worth doing again?” Sookie whispered, ignoring the rest of his statement.
Eric thought about her question as well as the hopeful tone of voice she had while asking. Of course, it was obvious there was something she wanted from him. More than likely it was sexual in nature, given her bashfulness, but she seemed to think he would be unwilling to perform it with her.
“Many things,” he shrugged. “I have not done monogamy in quite a long time. A little over a century now, actually. A single lover can be even more satisfying than hundreds when they are given the proper amount of attention and patience.”
“Are you patient?” Sookie asked quietly.
Eric patted himself on the back for accurately navigating the detective’s subconscious. She wanted him, and was doubtful of her skills to please him. “Quite. Especially when dealing with someone eager to please and learn.”
“Hmm,” Sookie hummed to herself before picking up her speed another degree. Their conversation ended there as the woman ran as fast as she possibly could and was rendered incapable of holding a discussion and supplying enough oxygen to her limbs simultaneously.
When they arrived back at Sookie’s apartment complex, Eric followed her inside, up the three flights of stairs, and to her door. Taking a black leather case from the inside of his jacket, he extracted three spring metal tools and quickly picked the lock to her apartment door.
“Wow, that was quick,” Sookie mumbled in awe.
“Even difficult things can become quite simple with dedication, patience, and practice,” he pointed out.
“Do you enjoy practicing?” Sookie asked quietly, the blush that would have come at her comment was hidden by the rosiness left behind by her run.
Eric did not miss the innuendo, however, and his eyes dilated when he replied, “Very much.”
Sookie gripped her dogs’ leads tightly in her hand before giving her head a quick shake and saying in a slightly higher voice, “Well, you probably need to get back to your books. Thanks for the workout.. Er… Run… And… Thanks for opening me up,” she pointed to the door, and not even her run-flushed cheeks hid the blush that ran all the way down her neck. “And that’s my cue to run away,” Sookie ran into her apartment, shouting, “Goodnight, Eric!” as she slammed the door in the vampire’s face.
“Goodnight, Sookie,” she could hear Eric laughing softly to himself as she leaned against her door with horror-widened eyes. Never in her life had she strung together so many poor word choices in such quick succession.
Despite her mortification, however; Sookie had discovered that Eric might not be so resistant to the idea of sex with her, even though she was still a virgin. He definitely seemed to respond to her on a sexual level. There had been no short supply of innuendo and none-too-subtle hinting either. He had expressed his patience in relationships, and even commented about potential monogamy in the future.
Still, even if he seemed clued into her lack of experience, she doubted he could possibly know of its extent. Currently, Eric Northman might believe she just lacked self-assuredness in her sexuality. She seriously doubted that he could comprehend the possibility she had never before even allowed a man to kiss her.
The evening had managed to quell some of her doubts. She felt a bit more secure in her desire to ask Eric to take her to bed, but she had yet to build enough courage to ask. Maybe I can make a business meeting over it. Keep it formal when I ask. Like a request for department donations.
Even as Sookie showered, entertaining the thought of Eric’s face when she made her request, Sookie could not help but smirk. She doubted even he would see her approach coming.