A/N: I just wanted to explain a little about the POV’s in this chapter. I usually write from an Eric/Sookie POV, with the third person narration leaning toward the perspective of one or the other as dictated by the scene, so that’s what Eric/Sookie POV means to me. We’ll also hear from another person’s POV too. Many of you wanted more Pam, so you’ll get her. 😉
Chapter 51: Dinner Guests
“Poor, darling fellow—he died of food. He was killed by the dinner table.”—Diana Vreeland
“Do you need more wine?” Eric asked, a smirk on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes.
“You aren’t helping,” Sookie chided, wagging her finger at him and then pointing to the vegetables he was supposed to be chopping.
He grinned boyishly and made an obvious show of “helping” by getting back to slicing the carrots Sookie was planning to steam with some broccoli. Meanwhile, she was marinating the salmon that she was going to bake.
“I am helping—see?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
She couldn’t stop her own grin. “Yes. I see. But I’m not planning to get drunk tonight, especially since it’s the night we ‘out’ ourselves to Pam.”
Eric’s expression sobered as he stepped over to take Sookie into his arms. “It’s going to be okay,” he assured, kissing her forehead.
“She already doesn’t like me,” Sookie pointed out in a strangled tone. “She told Sam last January that she would rather fire me than have to hear one more complaint about me. And now I’m shacking up with her brother.”
Eric smiled comfortingly. “Pam hasn’t mentioned you in months. And, the last time she did mention you, she told me that she hadn’t fired you because you are the best copy editor she’s ever seen, so you shouldn’t worry so much.”
“Eric,” she sighed, resting her cheek against his chest, “she thinks I’m weird.”
“She thinks I’m weird too,” Eric said sincerely. “She’s called me antisocial and commitment-phobic more times than I can count. Trust me—in Pam’s book—I’ll always be just as weird as you could ever be.”
“Are you trying to make me feel better?”
“I don’t know. Is my telling you the truth making you feel better?”
“Then yes,” he grinned.
After soaking in the refuge of his embrace for a few more minutes, Sookie looked around the kitchen apprehensively. The food was pretty much prepped. Given the fact that Pam was most certainly weight-conscious, Sookie had planned a simple menu of foods that would be both tasty and low-fat. She and Eric had gotten the salmon at the neighborhood fish monger, who was well-known for having the freshest products on the Upper West Side, and the vegetables had come from the stand on the corner. In lieu of a sweet dessert, Sookie had cut up some fresh fruit and whipped up some homemade whipping cream for those who wanted it. She’d also already made up a salad and had opted to keep the homemade vinaigrette on the side so that people could add the amount they wanted.
Eric got a funny look on his face as he leaned away from her a little.
“What?” she asked.
“It’s just that I love seeing you working in this kitchen?” he sighed, kissing her again on the forehead.
“If I didn’t know you better, I might take that as a sexist remark,” Sookie said, trying to expel her anxiety with a little levity.
He chuckled and pulled her closer for another hug.
“Finish the vegetables while I set the table?” she asked after another long minute in his arms.
“Sure,” he said, just before stealing a quick kiss from her lips.
Sookie was gathering up the silverware needed when the buzzer sounded. She glanced up at the clock, which read 6:45.
“I’m sure it’s just Bobby. Pam is never early,” Eric smiled, walking over to the intercom system in the kitchen. There was a similar set-up in most of the rooms in the house.
“Yes?” Eric asked into the speaker.
Henry’s voice projected through the intercom. “Good evening, Eric. Bobby’s down here. Okay to send him up?”
“Sure. Thanks,” Eric answered, drying his hands off with a dishtowel.
Sookie exhaled deeply, her relief clear.
“I’ll be right back, min kära,” Eric said in a gentle tone as he kissed her cheek.
Sookie nodded and continued to set the table. Unfortunately, the “gray side” contained the only table fit for more than two people, so they would have to utilize that space. Sookie had opted to use the nicer dishes and the fancier silverware for the little dinner party—if it could even be called a party. Undoubtedly, meeting Pam in this context made her even more nervous than throwing a large party would.
She’d just set the last fork in place when she heard Bobby’s voice.
“Hey, doll!” he greeted. “How’s my favorite lip reader today?”
She smiled at him in return. “Fine. How’s my favorite stalker?”
Bobby and Eric both chuckled.
“I’ll have you know that I have my license to practice law,” Bobby said jokingly.
“And that makes you less of a stalker—how?” Sookie returned.
“Touché,” he answered, holding up two bottles of wine: one white and one red. “I figured we could use alcohol tonight.”
Sookie nodded and smiled as Eric walked to her side and put his arm around her. He kissed the top of her head and then went back to the kitchen, where he continued chopping the vegetables.
“I see you’ve domesticated him,” Bobby grinned as he leaned over in an exaggerated way to peek into the kitchen.
Sookie chuckled. “He uses the toilet now and everything,” she joked, surprising herself that she felt so comfortable around Bobby.
He laughed and held up the wine again. “White or red?”
“We have a bottle open already. It’s a Sauvignon Blanc; let’s finish that one first—okay?”
Bobby nodded as Sookie took the bottles he brought to the kitchen and got him a glass. She passed by Eric and couldn’t resist running her hand along his back as he put the vegetables into a special pot for steaming things. Of course, Eric hadn’t really known what that particular pot was for, despite the fact that it had been in the kitchen since he moved in.
“You two disgust me,” Bobby said as he leaned against the counter and stole a carrot.
“That’s just because you don’t have your own girl right now,” Eric said, grinning at his friend. In truth, he’d been extremely pleased that Bobby and Sookie had reached a kind of understanding not long after meeting each other. Eric had been worried because Bobby could come off as gruff; however, Sookie hadn’t been bothered by his demeanor.
Bobby was the only one in New York―other than Amelia, Claudine, and himself―who knew of Sookie’s lip-reading ability. Given the fact that he’d been investigating her, he also knew quite a bit about her past, but Eric trusted Bobby to keep quiet about what he knew.
“Well—Claudine told me something interesting on Tuesday,” Sookie said with a grin, still trying to distract herself from her anxiety over Pam coming over.
“What’s that?” Bobby asked.
“She said that you were her favorite cousin,” Sookie responded as she put the fish into the oven.
Bobby chuckled. “I’m her only cousin.”
“She said that too,” Sookie giggled.
“Plus,” Bobby added, stealing another carrot that had been left out of the pot, “We aren’t exactly cousins. Her grandfather and my grandmother, Mary Brigant, were siblings. Mary married Robert Burnham, and they had my dad, Godric. So our fathers were cousins. I guess that makes us second cousins or first cousins, once removed or something. Who knows?”
Eric shrugged. “I have no idea how the cousin thing works, so don’t ask me.”
“So Claudine and you have different grandparents?” Sookie asked.
“Yeah,” Bobby confirmed. “My dad’s parents died before I was born though, so I always thought of Niall as my grandfather. But he’s actually my great-uncle.”
“I can’t believe Claudine’s a triplet,” Sookie commented.
Bobby chuckled. “Hearing Aunt Mary tell it—uh that’s what I call Niall’s daughter, whom he named after my grandmother, actually—she still can’t believe she carried three kids in her at the same time. And—let me tell you—she still goes on about it at almost every family function. Actually, we place bets on how long it will take her to mention it.”
“And God only knows how she and Uncle Jasper decided on their names.” He shook his head. “Claudine, Claudette, and Claude? How unoriginal!”
“Not really diverse,” Eric agreed.
“The name Niall Brigant sounds kind of familiar,” Sookie observed.
“Niall was big in pharmaceuticals until he retired and let Aunt Mary and her husband, Jasper Crane, take over,” Bobby informed. “If Niall didn’t continuously donate money for medical research, he’d be as rich as Bill Gates! He’s still loaded though; most of his investments have paid off big time. He has an eye for recognizing potential.”
Sookie added water to the vegetables and put them on the stove.
Bobby continued, “My branch of the family, on the other hand, was always just kind of wealthy.” He laughed a little. “Of course their definition of ‘kind of wealthy’ is still pretty goddamned rich!”
“Brigant Pharmaceuticals,” Sookie said in recognition. “I thought I recognized the name.”
Bobby smiled. “Niall was—is—actually kind of brilliant. So is Aunt Mary. Claudine decided to become a psychologist—as you know. But Claudette works for Niall’s business too, though Aunt Mary and Uncle Jasper run it now. Claude, the youngest of the triplets, is sort of the black sheep of the family—except for me,” he chuckled.
“Why?” Sookie asked. “What does Claude do?”
Bobby grinned. “He’s owns a strip club in the Village called Hooligans. And he’s the main attraction.”
“Oh,” Sookie said as she shook the salad dressing, just to give herself something to do.
Just then the buzzer sounded again. This time when Eric answered it, Pam was speaking.
“Dammit, Eric, the damn elevator won’t let me into your place? What the fuck? The stupid key pad’s not working!”
“Um,” Eric stammered, “I’m sure it’s just a glitch.”
“Well,” Pam said impatiently, “don’t make me stand in this elevator all night!”
Eric chuckled. “I’m unlocking it now, Pam. Just come on through to the kitchen.”
Sookie heard a huffing noise as the intercom went dead.
“Shit,” Sookie said to herself, although both of the men in the room could hear her.
Eric walked over to her and gave her a quick kiss, as the sound of Pam’s heals could be heard even against the carpet of the “gray area.”
Bobby gave Sookie a wink and then stepped out into the dining room area so that Pam would see him first.
“Why Bobby Burnham. What the hell are you doing here?” Pam said with snark as Sookie stayed pressed nervously against Eric’s side.
“I was invited to dinner—just like you, Pammy.”
Eric looked down at Sookie to make sure she was okay. “Remember—those two will keep each other busy,” he whispered.
She nodded. It was Eric’s description of Bobby and Pam’s love-hate relationship that had ensured that Bobby made the invitation list for the dinner. Eric had told Sookie that the two had “hooked up” on occasion—but only when Pam was in the mood for the male gender, which wasn’t that often. Bobby had become her go-to guy of sorts.
Eric took a firm hold of Sookie’s hand and led her out into the dining room.
“Hey,” Eric said, by way of greeting as Pam looked at Sookie and tried to process what she was seeing.
“Why is that in your house?” she asked pointing at Sookie. “And why isn’t she wearing shoes?” Pam demanded, looking down at Sookie’s bare feet.
“Sookie is no that, Pam,” Eric growling warningly. “And you are in our home because I wanted to officially introduce you to my girlfriend—to the woman who’s going to be living with me as of tomorrow,” Eric continued in a clipped tone.
Sookie had turned pale and was biting her lip nervously, even as Pam was looking back and forth between Eric and Sookie in disbelief.
Pulling herself out of her apparent shock, Pam walked over to Bobby and took his wine, downing the half a glass that was left in one long gulp.
“Explain!” Pam ordered just as the oven timer dinged to signal that it was time to turn the salmon.
“Um—hi, Ms. Northman,” Sookie stammered as she pulled her hand from Eric’s. “I’ll just—uh—check dinner,” she said, practically running back into the kitchen. Eric was right on her heels.
Before he even saw her face, he knew that tears were gathering in her eyes.
“Sookie?” he said gently, as he watched her open the oven and tend to the fish. After closing the oven door, she stayed still in front of the appliance, not able to turn around to face him.
“Please,” she whispered. “Just give me a second.”
She heard Eric’s own bare feet going back to the dining room and then heard him ask Bobby to keep an eye on the food before he came back into the kitchen and gently took Sookie’s hand. He quickly led her to the utility room and through the hidden door to the foyer before walking with her to their bedroom and then out onto the terrace, which he knew was her favorite place. The night was warm and still—quiet for Manhattan.
Sookie looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. “I’m a that, Eric,” she whispered.
“No,” he said forcefully. “You are Sookie Stackhouse, and you are smart and funny and amazing and brave. You are also the woman that I want to be with. You make me feel good—happy. And Pam will either come to recognize that, or she won’t be able to be around us.”
“What if she tells Appius?” Sookie asked fearfully. “What if she thinks I’m so beneath you that she tells?”
“She won’t if she wants to keep her brother,” Eric answered soberly. “And she wouldn’t. I know Pam. She’s just surprised. And she’s a snob. I’m sure that Bobby’s putting her in her place even as we speak.”
“Eric,” she whispered as she buried her face into his chest. “I should put shoes on.”
He chuckled. “We never wear shoes in the house, min kära.”
“I know,” she said. “Still—I think I want them tonight.”
“We’ll both wear them,” he whispered, leading them into the house and then into the walk-in closet. He pulled out a pair of casual sandals to put on, even as she grabbed her ballet flats. She had dressed up a little and was wearing a patterned maxi dress in a variety of shades of blue. She looked into the mirror.
“Have I told you that you look beautiful?” he asked.
“Not tonight,” she said with a little smile.
“Well you do,” Eric assured as he took her hand. “Sookie?” he said speaking more forcefully than he usually did.
“Pam is the guest here. This is our home. It’s mine and it’s yours.”
She squared her shoulders a little. “Okay.”
They walked hand in hand back into the dining room, where Pam was working her way through another glass of wine. Bobby emerged from the kitchen with a triumphant look.
“Nothing’s burning yet!” he proclaimed.
Sookie couldn’t help but to laugh a little.
“Sorry if leaving you in charge of a pot for five minutes gave you too much stress,” Eric said lightly. “However, Sookie’s feet were a bit cold, so we grabbed shoes.” He gave Pam a scolding look, even as Bobby moved behind her and nudged her a little.
Pam looked at Sookie and sighed. “I’m sorry if I offended you, Susanna. I was just,” she paused, “surprised to see you. That’s all,” she said stiffly as if she’d been given a script.
Eric nodded at Pam. He had come to know his sister well, which meant that he knew just how rarely she apologized; he just wished that it had sounded more sincere.
“Um—it’s okay, Ms. Northman,” Sookie said a little meekly.
Pam sighed. “Bobby told me that you and Eric wanted to keep your relationship a secret—though I don’t understand why,” she said a little haughtily.
Bobby nudged her again.
Pam glared at him for a moment before looking back at Sookie. “Anyway, I suppose I will have to remain Ms. Northman if you address me at work—which you never have, so it’s probably a moot point. In private, however, you may call me Pam.”
“Thanks,” Sookie said. “I’d like that. I like to be called Sookie—if you don’t mind.”
Pam gave Sookie the slightest of nods and then looked at Eric. She spoke cautiously. “I really don’t understand why you felt the need to keep this relationship a secret from me. I know that Father will disapprove—no offense Sookie,” she added, trying the unfamiliar name for the first time, “but it’s not like he cares about what you do, Eric.”
“Caring about me and caring about what I do are two very different things,” Eric said enigmatically.
“What do you mean?” Pam asked.
Eric glanced at Sookie nervously, and it was her turn to offer comfort. He’d decided earlier in the week that it was time to tell Pam some hard truths about his relationship with Appius and about their mother.
“We’ll talk after dinner—okay?” he asked somewhat nervously as Sookie squeezed his hand.
Despite her curiosity, Pam nodded in agreement. Given the nervous, beseeching look Eric was shooting her, she didn’t have the heart to ask all of the questions that were currently swirling in her head. Most of all, she wanted to ask her brother what the fuck he was doing playing house with the mousy—and fucking peculiar—copy editor? How in the fuck did she—of all people—get her hooks into him?
Pam felt Bobby’s hand on her shoulder. His grip managed to be both a warning and a comfort to her. When Eric and Sookie had disappeared for a while, he’d read her the riot act, telling her that she needed to be nice to Susanna—or Sookie, as she apparently wanted to be called now.
Of course, Pam had tried to argue with Bobby, demanding to know why her brother was shacking up with “the help”—someone who probably just wanted his money.
At that, Bobby had growled at her in a way that was almost feral. Pam had considered both jumping him and running from him in that moment. However, she’d opted for trying to get answers about how her brother could be serious enough about someone to let her move in—all without Pam knowing a damned thing about the relationship.
Bobby had told her something that she was having a very hard time believing: that Sookie Stackhouse was the best thing that had ever happened to Eric.
Pam couldn’t help but to stare at her brother and Sookie with curiosity. They were looking at each other, almost as if they were in a bubble. Pam had seen Eric with women before—usually those whom he’d escorted to one function or another. Except for Isabel Edgington, they’d seemed interchangeable in Pam’s eyes: flavors of the moment. Pam understood that kind of “relationship” well. In fact, her longest relationship was with the man who now gripped her shoulder—that is, if a recurring “booty call” could be called a relationship.
She and Bobby had first gotten together after Eric’s gradation from Harvard Business School. In fact, as Eric had given his speech, Pam had snuck her hand under the coat in Bobby’s lap in order to “check out the goods,” so to speak. Of course, Pam preferred women—both then and now. However, she enjoyed the diversity that an occasional dalliance with a man could bring her. And Bobby was exceptional in that he was the only man she’d fucked more than once. Truth be told, Pam enjoyed Bobby’s company as much as the sex, and the sex was pretty damned phenomenal. She’d rarely found a man who knew how to properly go down on a woman, a fact which she’d told Bobby right before he did it to her for the first time. He’d taken her words as a challenge, and in his “thoroughness,” he’d stayed between her legs for so long that he should have needed a scuba mask and a snorkel. But he’d more than proven his prowess. In fact, Pam now judged all of her lovers’ oral skills against Bobby’s.
Despite Bobby being pretty much the perfect man for her, Pam just couldn’t see herself committing to him beyond their occasion nights together. He’d hinted that he wanted something more serious a few times, and she’d really considered it. Despite his slightly unkempt appearance and his ridiculously under-furnished home, Bobby was quite a catch. If she’d been surprised to learn that he was from “old” money, she’d been floored when he told her that he was related to Niall Brigant. Even her father would have been forced to give his approval!
However, maybe she liked Bobby so much because he seemed anything but wealthy! He didn’t behave at all like the men in Pam’s usual circle, who thought that they were entitled to anything—or anyone—that they wanted. Indeed, Bobby acted more like a detective from some cop movie than a trust fund kid. But, more importantly, Pam genuinely liked him; she enjoyed both his wit and his refusal to take shit from her. And she trusted him. So she’d carefully pondered his offer to commit. She’d even gone so far as to contemplate what it would be like to have a family with him.
However, Pam knew herself. She would have eventually cheated on him with a woman, and she didn’t want to hurt him. Pam had no illusions when it came to her own shortcomings. She’d always had a short attention span when it came to lovers.
She’d thought that her eldest brother was the same way.
Hell—the office rumor mill used to buzz constantly about her brother’s sex ’em and leave ’em reputation. In fact, a couple of women in her own department had ridden on the Eric Northman Express. But they’d only ridden once.
Only recently had the gossip about Eric’s promiscuity tapered off. But that was because he had been seeing Isabel—or so Pam thought.
However, Pam had never seen Eric looking at Isabel or any other woman the way he was looking at Sookie. And she’d never seen him hold hands with one. But there Eric was—holding both of Sookie’s hands and having some kind of silent conversation with her. Mesmerized, Pam watched as Sookie smiled up at Eric. The height difference between them was almost laughable as Sookie rose up onto her toes and he leaned down so that she could kiss his cheek. However, immediately after that kiss was given, the tension seemed to leave Eric’s shoulders.
“I should go check the salmon,” Sookie said, still looking at Eric only.
Pam watched as Eric leaned down to kiss Sookie’s forehead. And that’s when she noticed how truly different Eric looked. Usually, his jaw was set tightly and his expression controlled. Pam had always interpreted that as “Eric being Eric.” And she’d assumed that it was just his personality to be serious all the time. However, in that moment, his face was relaxed—serene even. There was a lightness in his expression and in his eyes as he smiled softly at the woman in front of him as if there were no one else in the room.
“I’ll go with you and open more wine,” Eric said as they walked together into the kitchen, still hand-in-hand.
Pam tilted her head a little as they went out of sight.
“I told you,” Bobby whispered from behind her.
She brushed his hand off her shoulder and turned around to face her on-and-off-again lover. “What?” she asked, still having mixed feelings about the whole situation.
“She’s good for him,” Bobby said, still in a low tone so that Eric and Sookie wouldn’t hear. “And he’s happy. So don’t.”
“Don’t what?” she asked.
“Don’t do anything to offend Sookie.”
Pam frowned. “I wouldn’t,” she started.
His eyes full of skepticism, Bobby interrupted her. “Oh—yes you would. But—just this once—don’t say the first thing that pops into your head—okay.” He sighed. “Just wait and then listen to what Eric has to say after dinner. And—in the meantime—be nice.” He smirked. “In other words, don’t be yourself.”
Pam scoffed and pushed his shoulder a little. “I am nice,” she insisted quietly.
“When?” he questioned, his smirk even more pronounced.
“I recall being very nice to you about three weeks ago,” she returned, her hands finding his hips.
He licked his lips and leered at her. “That you were, Pammy. That you were. Would you like to be nice to me again later?”
She rolled her eyes. “You wish.”
He just laughed as she pushed herself away from him.
In the kitchen, Sookie went about checking both the salmon and the vegetables as Eric uncorked both of the bottles Bobby had brought since the already-opened bottle had been drained. Without asking her, he poured Sookie another glass, knowing that she had been suffering from both nerves and menstrual cramps all day. This time, she took it gratefully.
“Just make sure I don’t get drunk?” she whispered to him.
“I promise,” he whispered back before pouring a glass for himself.
“And you shouldn’t get drunk either,” she said with a little grin.
“I promise,” he repeated with a wink.
Chuckling, Sookie pulled the salmon out of the oven and then moved the pieces to a fancy serving dish, even as Eric got the salad from the refrigerator.
“Ready?” he whispered.
Sookie nodded, took a deep breath, and followed Eric into the dining room.
“You can have a seat anywhere at the table,” Eric said to Bobby and Pam.
Bobby pulled a chair out for Pam. “Do you two need any help?” he asked.
“Um—no thanks,” Sookie responded as she put the platter of fish on the table. Eric placed the salad down next to the platter. “We just need to get the vegetables and bring in the wine,” she added before retreating back into the kitchen.
Again, Pam couldn’t help but to notice the sense of closeness and—for lack of a better term—”domesticity” between Eric and his apparent roommate. She still couldn’t quite understand how Eric was suddenly living with Susanna Stackhouse—of all people! What had happened to Isabel? Pam had thought that they were contemplating marriage!
“What’s he doing?” she asked Bobby in a low voice.
“For the first time in his life, he’s trying to be happy,” Bobby returned, even as he glanced toward the kitchen to make sure neither Eric nor Sookie was in earshot.
“Eric’s always been happy,” Pam insisted, even though—for the first time—she took a moment to wonder if that were true.
A/N 2: Thanks for your patience for me posting this chapter. The good news is that I have finished my story for the Secret Santa fiction exchange. I’ll let you know when all the stories go up so that you can read them and try to figure out which one’s mine. 😉
Meanwhile, thanks to all of you who commented on the last chapter! Many of you enjoyed Sookie’s musings, and I appreciated that many of you thought that she’s healing in a realistic way.
My goal is to have the next chapter to you Wednesday or Thursday. It will be from Bobby’s POV.