Chapter 5: The Interview, Part 1
“Then I have a proposal for you.”
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. Oh—it wasn’t that I didn’t want Eric Northman to “claim” me. With every second I was in his company, I found myself wanting that more and more—and not just because it was convenient or smart.
No—I felt pause because I knew that my proposal would surely endanger him, and the truth was that I didn’t want to jeopardize him—not in any way.
Yes—it was safe to say that I liked him—very much.
There was a kind of openness about Eric—a playfulness that would have attracted me whether he was a human, Were, fairy, demon, vampire, or any combination thereof. His eyes sparkled as he spoke with me, crackling with his various emotions. I could tell that he was a vampire who didn’t enjoy playing petty games, though I imagined he could strategize with the best of them. There was a kind of vulnerability about him too—an openness that I intuited not very many had seen. That directness and sincerity made me want to open up to him in return. He wasn’t reticent about letting his guard down in front of me—or, by extension, Mr. C—and I found that fact extremely appealing. He was certain of himself, unapologetic about who he was or what he wanted.
And he wanted me. His mind had told me that very clearly! However, the many ways in which he wanted me floored me. The strength of his passion had seemed immediate and almost lethal. And I had no doubt that Eric could be quite deadly when he wanted to be. After all, the snake attacked when something fucked with it.
And—added to all of my other concerns—it was becoming more and more difficult for me to ignore Eric’s inquiries about my sex life, as well as the way that his desire-laden thoughts had moved into my mind like molten lava.
In short—I wanted him too. Badly.
In the sexual experience department, he and I couldn’t have been more different. I had seen the memories of a cross-section of the humans—women and men—that he’d had sex with and fed from.
In their minds, Eric was idealized. But I could see more than they let themselves see. There had been a kind of cold, perfunctory staccato to Eric’s movements during his sexual encounters with the humans in the bar. The subtle and almost unbearably tender movements of the vampire who had stroked my fingers with his own were nothing like the behavior the fangbangers recalled. Moreover—in their memories—Eric’s eyes were devoid of passion. There had been pleasure in his eyes, but no burning. Even as he’d fed from them, his eyes hadn’t conveyed “hunger”—not the kind that I was witnessing even now as he looked at me with questions in his eyes—so many questions that I didn’t think I could ever answer them all.
Maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part, but I couldn’t help but to theorize that the myriad of humans in the buffet that was Fangtasia bored Eric.
Yes—when it came to sexual experience, I knew that I was the complete opposite of Eric Northman. I hadn’t been exaggerating when I’d told him that the men I’d been interested in pursuing intimate relationships with had all turned me off with their thoughts. Hell—I’d had only three proper kisses. And I’d only been able to tolerate even the innocuous JB du Rone’s thoughts long enough to get my boob touched once.
Tara had suggested that I get drunk and pick up a nameless man in a bar in another town—someone that I could screw and then never see again. Tara thought that I should just “get my first time over with”—so that sex wouldn’t seem like such a big deal to me.
But what was wrong with my making it a big deal?
In truth, I wanted to have sex—badly. However, it was the intimacy of the act that I truly craved—the touching of body, mind, and spirit. Maybe I wanted too much, but Gran and Fintan hadn’t raised someone who was afraid of asking for the stars—even when she saw only clouds.
Though I didn’t generally dwell in anyone’s thoughts about their sexual acts—I knew that most people had never found what I craved, at least not in an act of sex. Most people had sex because they were looking for intimacy. Gran had told me once that I should consider waiting to have sex until after I’d already found intimacy.
So I’d chosen to wait.
I suppose—in the end—I liked the “feeling” of Gran’s memories about the intimacy she’d shared with Grandpa Mitchell and Fintan a lot more than the “feeling” of other people’s ultimate disappointment after most of their sexual encounters. And that’s why I had become quite adept at bringing myself physical pleasure—thank you very much!
However, as I looked at Eric, I couldn’t help but to want to trade in my hand and my vibrator for something else—him. All of him!
Perhaps I was just star-struck because I’d been lusting for “calendar Eric” for months, but I couldn’t help but to think that Eric was just the kind of man with whom I would like to try to build a relationship. He was astonishingly clever and devilishly funny. He was successful and driven, direct and playful. And—dear God in heaven—was he beautiful!
And he seemed as attracted to me as I was to him—maybe even more so. Of course, part of that probably had to do with the fact that Mr. C had given me a potion so that my scent would be amped up and, therefore, hide Bill’s scent so that no other vampire would smell Bill’s blood in me.
The potion, which would wear off in a couple of hours, was also working to “muddle” Bill’s tie to me so that he couldn’t easily track me. To make sure that Bill didn’t try to use coercion to try to find me, Jason and Gran were currently hiding out with one of Mr. C’s demon friends in Shreveport. And, to ensure that Bill didn’t contact the queen once he realized he couldn’t get to me, Mr. C and I had decided to give Eric a temptation he couldn’t resist: the prospect of “having some fun” with Bill. I figured that Bill would be getting acquainted with Pam quite soon. And—though I didn’t know her personally—it was easy to tell that she’d be up for the challenge of keeping Bill “subdued” or screaming; I didn’t really care which at this point.
I sighed. If things didn’t go well with Eric, Plan B was to ask the Viking to let Bill go after he’d given Bill a brief “lesson” in the rules of Area 5. Then Bill would follow the tie to me, and—with help from Mr. C and his friends—I’d kill him. I felt a little bad about that, but Bill had made his own bed, and a witch’s spell was just as likely to kill me as to break the tie. I just wasn’t willing to risk that for someone like Bill.
It had been Fintan’s teaching that had helped me to understand that I would have to operate according to Supe standards of “justice” if I ever found myself in the Supe world. My fairy grandfather had grinned at me as he’d told me that I had four options when it came to dealing with “Supe shit”: 1.) I could follow the rules and give myself a better chance of living; 2.) I could break the rules without forethought and likely be killed; 3.) I could hide the fact that I was breaking the rules by staying under the radar; or 4.) I could try to change the rules—though that meant I’d have to put myself into the vulnerable position of being able to effect change.
I couldn’t help but to wonder if Fintan had tried to do the fourth so that he would no longer have to do the third. I couldn’t help but to wonder if that’s why he’d been killed.
“I think that there are many thoughts swirling in your mind, Sookie, and I am no mind-reader,” Eric said, breaking me from those thoughts. He was looking at me with intense contemplation, and he sat forward a little. “But from your eyes, I can tell that you are questioning something,” he added. “Is it me?”
I shook my head. “No,” I answered quickly. “As I said, I have a proposal for you, but I’m finding that I like you a little too much to want to broach it.”
Eric nodded and sat back. “I believe I like you a little too much too, considering that I know very few facts about you,” he said, emphasizing the word “facts.”
I gasped. Eric’s implication wasn’t difficult for me to pick up on. He was suggesting that he “knew” some things about me instinctively. I felt the same way about him, which was why his snarly, snaky mind hadn’t frightened me. After all, I’d grown up in the country, and I knew that snakes were good for the land and the ecosystem. For example, they helped get rid of the vermin. Most snakes weren’t even poisonous! And the ones that were acted in self-defense or in defense of their territories, usually striking only those whom they perceived as threats or those who had foolishly riled them.
In fact, I still sometimes wondered about the water moccasin in the Voodoo witch’s aquarium. Oh—it didn’t matter if it had any real magical powers or not. It didn’t even matter to me that it had “pronounced” that I was cursed beyond help. What mattered to me was that it was trapped in that tiny glass cage. Even when I was a child, I’d wanted to let it out.
“You’re getting lost in your thoughts again,” Eric observed.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked.
I smirked. “Snakes.”
He chuckled. “What do you think about them? Do you finding them sneaky and dangerous?”
“Not really,” I answered. “I think they’re graceful and clever.”
He smiled, and I could tell that it was genuine. “When I was about ten years old, I was picking björnbärs for my mother.”
“Björnbärs?” I asked, trying to copy his pronunciation—and failing miserably.
“Blackberries,” he smiled. “My favorite.”
“Mine too,” I responded with a frown.
“Why does that make you sad, Sookie?” he asked.
“You can no longer eat them.”
His smile turned warmer—somehow more significant. “I no longer need them for nourishment, and my ability to take in their flavor through their scent grew exponentially when I became a vampire. I still enjoy them—now more than ever. Just—in a different way.”
As I let his words sink in, I realized that the smile had returned to my lips. “So—uh—what happened when you were picking blackberries for your mother?”
“I came across a vipera berus—known as the common European adder now. It was the only poisonous snake native to the area I was from.”
“What did you do?” I asked.
“I went about my work, though I kept an eye out for it. My mother had taught me not to antagonize such snakes; she had told me that I needed to respect their domain.”
“A good lesson,” I said.
“Yes. Unfortunately, a group of older boys had not learned that lesson. They were what you might call bullies. When they came to pick on me, they saw the snake and turned their interest to it.”
I sat forward, enthralled by Eric’s story. “What did they do?”
“They picked up sticks and moved to kill the snake.” Eric shook his head. “I knew better; I knew that the snake might be there to test their honor—and mine.”
“Test your honor?” I asked.
He nodded. “Yes. To disrespect and threaten such a creature was foolhardy and showed a weakness of character. The bullies demonstrated their lack of deference for a creature that was simply taking in the sun and coexisting in peace.”
“How was your honor tested?” I asked.
“I could have run; I could have celebrated the fact that the boys had chosen the snake as the target of their aggression, instead of me.”
“But you didn’t,” I stated, knowing that to be true already.
The next thing I knew, Eric’s large boot was up on the arm of my chair, and he was pulling up his left jean leg. He twisted his leg until I could see a small pair of marks. I reached out to run my fingers over them. The scars themselves felt like two tiny dimples in his skin, which was otherwise smooth and cool. I let my fingers appreciate the softness of the fine blonde hairs covering his flesh before I pulled my hand away. When I looked up at him, his fangs were down—looking quite ready to leave little scars of their own.
Unconcerned, Mr. C seemed to be pondering the file cabinets.
“Your touch has a very immediate effect upon me, Sookie,” Eric said in a gruff tone.
My eyes—seemingly of their own accord—shifted to Eric’s crotch area to look for any other effects my touch might have had. The bulge I saw made me gulp.
I heard Eric’s fangs retract as he chuckled again. He lowered his jeans leg and retook his seat before I could register that he was moving.
“So the snake struck you,” I said with a little stammer.
He nodded. “I stepped between the boys and the snake; I was intent to fight them so that they would leave the snake alone.”
“But it struck you instead,” I observed.
“Yes. A final test for them and for me.”
“They ran away when I went down. They neither helped me, nor did they tell others what had happened.”
“Did you tell on them?”
He shook his head. “No. But I remembered. It wasn’t long before I overtook them in strength, and I shamed them many times in the sparring ring. Later, when I became king, I showed them no favor or trust, for they had demonstrated that they deserved neither.”
“What was your final test—with the snake?” I asked.
He smiled and shrugged a little. “I survived. I slowed the venom by tying a strip of my tunic above the wound. Then, I rubbed the fang marks with the juice of a healing herb my grandmother had taught me about. Then, I made my way home—about two miles. Doctored by my mother, my grandmother, and the wise woman in the village, I lived through the fever caused by the venom.”
“Wise woman?” I asked.
“Women of her ilk have been called many things over the years: healers, nurses, witches.” His eyes were sparkling with life. “In my village, we called her wise—fróðr.”
I smiled. “I like that.”
Eric sat forward a little. “When I recovered from the venom, I went back to the place where I was bitten and saw the snake again.”
“How do you know it was the same one?” I asked.
“The same way I know every snake that lives within my head.”
We looked at each other in silence for a moment before we both laughed.
“Why did you go see the snake again?” I asked.
“I wanted to tell it that I bore it no ill will and that I understood its reason for striking at me—and not the other boys.”
My heart jumped a little at his words, and I looked at Mr. C with uncertainty. He was looking at me knowingly.
“You no longer wish to tell me your proposal,” Eric said perceptively.
“No—what I propose would be dangerous for you,” I said, looking back at him.
“You are afraid that if you ask me to protect you from the bully, I may be struck by the snake?” he queried.
“Yes. Something like that,” I said.
“Make your proposal to me, Sookie Stackhouse,” he said quietly—gently. “I should, at least, be presented with the test—should I not?”
I took a deep breath and nodded in affirmation. “First you should know that my name is actually Sookie Brigant, but it would be best if that name doesn’t get out.”
Eric’s eyes narrowed. “I knew a Brigant once.”
“Fintan is her grandfather,” Mr. C said.
“Fintan, the son of Niall?” Eric asked to clarify.
“Yes,” Mr. C said.
“Fintan saved my maker’s life—and more. Whatever you need, I will give you,” Eric said to me passionately.
“I don’t want you helping me out of obligation,” I breathed.
He leaned forward a little. “Why do you think I should be helping you?”
“Mutual benefit,” I said, even as Mr. C pulled the contract out of his briefcase and slid it toward Eric.
A/N: Hello! I continue to be floored and tickled pink that you all like this story. A couple of readers have wondered if Eric is being a little too OOC since he’s letting his true feelings show (in front of Sookie and Mr. C). I can explain the things I had in mind as I wrote. First, with this more “open” Sookie, Eric is more “open.” Second, I think back to Sookie and Eric’s first meeting on the show. Bill’s influence was there too, but Eric was NOT shy about his interest in Sookie—not in any way. Third, I think this Eric trusts Mr. C b/c of his reputation and connection to Fintan (who was connected to Godric). And, finally, I wanted to create the feeling that there is a particular kind of “understanding” between Eric and Sookie from the first. I don’t want to call it “love at first sight.” I want to think of it as “mutual understanding at first sight.”
I hope that you will keep the comments coming!
Again—many thanks for your support of this story!
P.S. Some of you greedy readers will be happy to hear that this story is now 8 chapters (and an epilogue) rather than 7. 🙂