Eric and I were stretched out on the floor next to one another, watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” with Hadley, Aunt Linda and Crystal. To say I felt like I was having a food baby would be the understatement of a lifetime. I felt like I was having an entire litter. Eric was snuggled up behind me, spooning me as if we were alone in bed. His arm was draped over my stomach and the pressure was killing me.
“Eric, you gotta move your hand.” I whispered and slid his hand over to my hip instead.
“Stomach bothering you?” He whispered back.
“The food babies are kicking.” I joked, making him snicker behind me.
“Maybe a piece of pie will settle it.” He teased.
My head twisted as far as it would go and I glared up at him. “If I wasn’t working on my best beached whale impersonation, you’d be in big trouble.”
He dipped down to kiss me and I had almost talked my body into rolling over when Crystal suddenly bolted from the room. I’d done by best to be polite to her. It’s not that she was a bad person, so much as I didn’t really like the way she treated my brother. I knew he was happy and he loved her, but she could be so snappy and demanding. She expected to get everything she wanted and didn’t care what Jason thought or felt. She would just steamroll right over him like he didn’t even exist. Granted, my brother could be darn selfish when he wanted to be but he at least tried to be more considerate where Crystal was concerned.
I pushed myself up off the floor with Eric sitting up right behind me. “Where are you going?” Eric asked.
“I’m gonna go check on Crystal. Jason said she’s been under the weather.” I started off.
“Sookie, you should just let Jason deal with her.” Eric hopped up off the floor almost like he was an alternate for the Jesse White Tumblers.
“Jason deal with a sick woman?” I snorted at the idea. “Eric, it’s fine.”
“No, Sookie, really… you should get Jason.” Eric insisted.
I looked at him suspiciously, my eyes searching him for answers. “What’s going on, Eric? Is this payback for dinner?”
“No, it’s not.” The sincerity in his eyes told me he was being honest.
We could hear Crystal retching and gagging in the bathroom. “I’ll go get Jason.” I agreed and Eric breathed a sigh of relief.
In the dining room I found Mom, Daddy, Jason, Remy, Hunter and Gran playing poker. Hunter was perched on Gran’s lap while she taught him how to play. He had more tells than he did years of his life, but he looked adorable with his little green visor and the bubble gum cigar Daddy had given him. Aunt Linda appeared from the kitchen with a glass of wine and leaned in the archway that connected the two rooms.
I walked up behind Jason and bent down to whisper in his ear, figuring Crystal didn’t need the whole family getting in her business. “Jason, Crystal’s throwing up again.”
“Ah, hell.” He muttered and handed me his cards. “Take my hand, will ya?”
“Sure.” I muttered, clutching his cards to my chest. I looked over my shoulder to see a look pass between my brother and my boyfriend. Well, what the hell was that about?
The two of them hadn’t even known each other for twelve hours and already they were sharing secrets? Stupid He-Man Woman Hater’s Club. I moved to take Jason’s seat, but Eric put his hand on my shoulder, pulling me out of the way. He took the seat instead and then pulled me down on his lap.
I leaned close to his ear and asked, “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
“It’s not my place, lover.” He kissed my jaw and then looked at the hand Jason had given me.
I was a pretty good bluffer. The problem was that I had a rather terrible hand to play, so I folded before I lost too much of Jason’s “money.” They were betting with candy and snack foods. I was just getting started on my fourth hand when Jason came back from the bathroom looking a little ragged. He dragged his hand through his hair and asked Mom if she had a shirt Crystal could borrow.
“Jason, honey, are you sure it’s the flu? Crystal’s been just fine the rest of the day.” Mom pushed back from the table to get him a shirt.
Crystal appeared from out of nowhere. “It’s not the flu. I’m pregnant.”
Well knock me over with a playing card. I looked to Eric who was looking at Jason. Jason stood there looking guilty like he’d done something wrong. Crystal burst into tears behind him and they weren’t happy tears. I was confused. A baby was a good thing, wasn’t it? Yet no one seemed to be rejoicing any of this.
“Does that mean I get to be brother?” Hunter broke the silence with his question and the look of confusion on his little chocolate streaked face.
“No, sweet boy, you’ll be the baby’s big cousin.” Gran patted the boy’s head through his disappointment.
“I want to be a brother.” Hunter looked sadly at the stack of treats in front of him.
All of the good mood in the house had suddenly been sucked out. In attempts to bring it back, I got off Eric’s lap and went to hug my brother. “Congratulations, Jason. A baby is wonderful news.”
He hugged me back loosely, which wasn’t Jason at all. He was a bear hugger like Daddy. “Thanks, Sook.” He mumbled quietly.
“Sookie’s right, this is a good thing. I’m going to be a great-grandmother.” Gran beamed from the end of the table.
“And I’m gonna be a cousin.” Hunter smiled up at her.
Slowly, very slowly, the mood started to turn again except for everyone but Crystal and Jason. There was a hint of somber on Eric’s face that told me he knew what was really going on. I wanted to ask what all the drama was about but it didn’t seem like the right time. Still, something had to be up because otherwise Jason would be bragging about what a man he was.
Mom got Crystal a shirt to wear. I drifted back to Eric and perched myself on his lap while Jason and Crystal went go get her cleaned up. “You knew?”
“He told me on the porch this morning right before Hurricane Hunter showed up.” Eric’s arm snaked around me waist, holding me a little closer to him. “He asked me not to tell you.”
Jason keeping a secret… that was new. Usually he was the king of loose lips. Something was definitely up. Remarkably, Crystal came back with an entirely different attitude, ready to talk about all sorts of pregnancy and baby related things. We learned the baby was due somewhere around the middle of May and she’d been battling some pretty serious morning sickness with the baby. It still didn’t explain all the sadness that she was fighting, but I figured the truth would come out in due time.
Hunter walked right over to Crystal and stared at her stomach. “Is the baby in your tummy like I was in Mama’s? I can’t see it.”
There were quiet chuckles around the room. Considering Crystal worked with small children on a regular basis, she seemed a bit uncomfortable with Hunter. She had never really struck me as someone who would be working with little kids. They needed someone much warmer and more nurturing than she was. Still, she did her best to explain pregnancy to a child of Hunter’s age. Hunter nodded along like he was understanding everything but it was obvious he was still unclear on why Crystal’s tummy wasn’t bigger.
Crystal looked extremely uncomfortable with Hunter’s line of questioning, which I found strange, but then I’d always thought Crystal was a little on the strange side. Mom and Gran stepped in to distract the boy. Not long after that, Crystal made the announcement that she was tired and ready to go home. Jason didn’t seem to want to go just yet, but I promised him we’d see him once more before we left. It was funny to watch Jason and Eric swap cell numbers like they were pre-teen girls who couldn’t wait to gossip over which of the Jonas brothers was the cutest.
I never would have thought my brother and boyfriend would end up in a bromance.
Not long after that Hunter fell asleep on Gran’s lap. Eric and Remy packed up the card table and chairs while Hadley bagged up the leftovers Mom was sending her home with. While Remy, Jason and Eric had definitely done their fair share of damage to the ridiculous amount of food that had been cooked, there was still plenty left over. No way could Mom and Dad eat it all on their own in just a few days. Eric and I walked Hadley, Remy and Hunter out to their truck. I kissed Hunter’s cheek before Remy put him in the car and then gave Hadley a hug.
“I’m gonna miss you, you pain in the ass.” I muttered to her.
“And I’m gonna miss you, too, you preppy bitch.” We really did have the oddest way of showing our love for one another, but she was one of my favorite people. She shoved me away and grabbed onto Eric. “And you… you be good to her or I’ll shoot out your knees.”
Eric laughed while he squeezed Hadley, lifting her up off the ground. “You know, it’s freaky how similar you and Jason are.”
“You ain’t telling me anything I haven’t been hearing all my life, sugar. Now put me down before I leave my husband for you.” Hadley slapped at his shoulders with a smile on her face.
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. Remy had the patience of a saint, and thank God for it or there’s no way he and Hadley would work as a couple. Eric and Remy shook hands like men do and then I got a kiss on the cheek from him. I snuggled into Eric’s side while Hadley and Remy got in the truck. I closed my eyes for a moment, thinking about the football game earlier in the afternoon. Hunter had scored a touchdown and came running over to me with the biggest smile on his face, all excited about his achievement. He’d jumped up on my lap and threw his little arms around my neck. I’d hugged him back and when I’d looked over at Eric, he had a look on his face I couldn’t quite place but I knew it would stick with me.
“You ready to head in?” Eric asked after Remy and Hadley were gone.
I nodded against him and looked up into his face. “You were good with Hunter today. Thank you for that.” I pushed up on my toes to kiss his chin.
“He’s a cute kid.” Eric smiled, his voice suggesting it was no big thing that he’d made an effort to get along with Hunter.
“Yeah, he is, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to be his friend.” I wrapped my arms around his waist as we started back toward the house.
“Well, I want kids someday, so I better get used to it.” Eric confessed. It wasn’t really a surprise to hear him say that. He was a teacher, after all, and based on his relationship with his brother I had to assume family was important to him on some level.
“You do, huh?” I opted to play dumb anyway just to keep conversation going.
“A few years ago if you would have asked me, I would have said no.” Eric admitted.
“Well that’s reasonable. We change as we get older.”
“Do you want kids?”
“Always have. I can’t speak for all women, of course, but I think it’s different for us. As much as things have changed, there are still things that are ingrained in little girls. And being that I’m from the south, marriage and babies are especially important. In a lot of circles here, I’d be considered an old maid.”
“Instead you’re just living in sin?” Eric squeezed me. I stopped then and pulled away from him. “What? Did I say something wrong?”
I folded my arms over my chest and said, “Is that all you see for us, Eric?”
“What?” He looked surprised and I really couldn’t blame him. I hadn’t walked Hadley and Remy out with the intention of having this particular conversation, but we were having it.
It dawned on me that we hadn’t even hit our three month anniversary and we were already talking marriage and babies. Could so little time really have gone by? It seemed like I’d known him so much longer than that. Things had happened so fast with us that it didn’t seem inappropriate to be broaching this subject but maybe it was too soon.
“Never mind.” I shook my head. I didn’t want to push for something and corner him into saying something he didn’t mean.
“No, it’s okay. You know what? Let’s table this. We’ll talk about it when we’re ready.” I smiled at him and reached for his hand.
When he didn’t say anything further on the subject, I was pretty sure I had my answer.
The next morning I was up before Eric. Daddy was off hunting with Jason. Mom, Gran and Aunt Linda were Christmas shopping, hitting every sale imaginable from Shreveport of Baton Rouge and would be gone for most of the day. The house was silent. I started a pot of coffee and then went back upstairs. We had plans to go visit Amelia. She was still in a coma and being ‘treated’ at a nursing home in Monroe. My heart broke for her, knowing how badly Tray was missing her. I was certain that wherever Amelia was, trapped in the ether, she was missing him, too. I was convinced that if Copely had been thinking of Amelia’s well-being instead of his own ego, Amelia would have come out of her coma much sooner with regular visits from Tray.
I hated the idea of her being left in a bed somewhere indefinitely, spending day after day alone, a shell of the dynamic woman I’d always known. Okay, so Tray and Amelia weren’t legally married but she’d been his from the moment they met. Maybe even before that. They were perfect for each other. Amelia said it was love at first sight. As I slid back into bed beside Eric, I wondered if it had been the same for us and we just hadn’t known it.
I snuggled closer to him and his arm moved around me, pulling me closer. I loved how even in his sleep he couldn’t get close enough to me. I looked up at his face and stroked his cheek gently with my fingertips. It bordered on disgusting how much I loved him. After Quinn, there was a part of me that thought that was it. I was going to end up alone. I’d put so much of myself into that relationship and I’d held onto the belief that if I just held on long enough, I would get what I wanted. I loved Quinn enough to sacrifice some of my own happiness to keep him. But where had it gotten me?
I shook myself from those thoughts. Eric wasn’t Quinn and I couldn’t start comparing them based on the conversation we’d had the night before. It wasn’t fair to hold him responsible for the things Quinn had done. Eric had already proven his love for me several times over. I didn’t want some silly wedge to form between us so I set about making sure that any bricks that had started to pile up were knocked out of place.
I traced a finger down the side of his face and tickled him under his ear. He twitched but that was it. I smiled at the way the corner of his mouth lifted when I grazed the shell of his ear. My hand sank further down his body until it was underneath the t-shirt he was wearing. I scratched at his stomach lightly and traced the V of his hips. He grunted and his arm tightened around me. I untied the drawstrings of his pants and let my hand slip into them. I tilted my face up toward his ear and whispered to him.
“Eric, wake up.” I kissed his neck and he groaned again. “Eric…”
I went back to feathering kissing along his neck and jaw while I stroked him gently. His breathing became a bit labored. His brows furrowed briefly before his eyes opened. They were hooded with lust and sleep.
“Good morning.” I purred and nibbled on his ear.
“Morning.” He kissed my forehead.
“We’re alone.” I told him when he tensed up.
“Yep. No one will be here for hours and the only one with a spare key has gone hunting, so there won’t be any surprise visitors.” I kissed his jawline.
I sometimes wondered if maybe I was addicted to him. I wanted to be with him all the time. I never got bored or annoyed. I worried if it was normal to be as drawn to someone as I was to Eric. Going back to work was going to be difficult, if for no reason other than it was going to cut our time together. I had my Poms squad and basketball season was about to start. I intended to make the most of our time together.
Eric seemed to catch my sense of urgency. He rolled me onto my back and settled himself between my open legs. We kissed deeply in an almost frenzied manner. His mouth moved down my neck while his hands moved the front of my nightgown up. My hips rocked against him while my hands sought purchase in his hair. God, I loved that hair. I’d never been into guys with long hair until Eric came along. There was something almost Kurt Cobain about it that I found incredibly sexy. His mouth on my breasts made me tremble just a little bit and I felt him smile against my skin.
I was so ready to be done with the foreplay. I’d had a good fifteen minutes before he woke up to think all sorts of nasty thoughts and it had done wonders. In hopes that he would get the hint, I used my feet to push down his pajama bottoms. God bless the inventor of the drawstring. My hands left his hair long enough to divest him of his shirt and run my nails up and down his chest a few times.
“I’m overdressed.” I rasped.
Eric gave me one of those smirks that would have soaked my panties if they weren’t already, and I lifted my hips so he could take off my nightgown. Instead he moved to take off my panties. I adjusted my legs and bit my bottom lip as he slid them off. I reached up to kiss him and pull him back to me. Long fingers found their way between us and teased me for a few seconds before plunging into my core.
Eric nuzzled my neck while my fingers threaded through his hair. “So wet,” he murmured against my skin.
My hips rose to meet the thrusts of his fingers. I moved his mouth to mine and kissed him hard. His tongue slid against mine in a familiar way, but as usual, it made my toes curl a little. I decided then and there that when we got home, I wanted a good old fashioned make out session on the couch. I could kiss him for hours and not get bored.
I moaned in his mouth with the first pulses of my impending orgasm. My hand drifted down his torso to stroke him some more. The paradox of soft and hard never ceased to amaze me. I pumped my hand a few times, earning me one of his warning growls that made me shiver. I let go of him when he pressed his thumb to my clit and started to rub. My vision got a little blurry and I was almost gasping for air. His lips crashed down on mine and when his fingers curled inside me, I went over the edge.
I had to break the kiss to breathe. My heart hammered in my chest while my cored pulsed around his fingers. But of course, Eric wasn’t finished with me yet. He withdrew his fingers and licked them clean while I guided his very hard length to my entrance. He nudged against me a few times, teasing me as he liked to do. It took a little more writhing on my part and a few dirty words before he buried himself inside me.
He moved slowly at first, both of us savoring the feeling of being so closely connected to one another, but it wasn’t long before the pace picked up. My legs wrapped around him, my feet pushing him deeper inside me with every thrust of his hips. I looked down to see where we were joined and I moaned as I watched him slide in and out of me. His mouth dropped close to my ear and whispered dirty things that made me shiver and never want to leave the bed.
We rolled so I was on top of him and to pay him back for his dirty talk I let my fingers do some walking. The settled between my thighs as my orgasm got closer. Eric’s eyes left mine to watch my fingers move in time with his thrusts as I pushed myself over the edge. I screamed his name when I came with him holding onto my hips and thrusting up into me. My body shook and my head flew back. My hair grazed his bare thighs and he took the fingers I’d used to pleasure myself and licked them clean.
I bent forward to kiss him quickly, tasting myself on his lips before moving down to his chest. I drew one of his nipples in between my teeth and flicked it the way he would do if he were me. Three hard thrusts later Eric was shouting out with his own release. His grip on my hips was probably strong enough to leave bruises but I didn’t care. I pressed myself against Eric’s chest, not wanting to break our connection just yet.
“You amaze me.” He muttered with a dazed expression after a few minutes of lazy kisses and remembering how to breathe normally.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry if I freaked you out last night with the talk about kids.” I traced shapes over his heart.
“Why would you think that?” Eric tucked some of my hair behind my ears, a more thoughtful expression replacing the blissed out one.
“You just seemed a little…skittish.”
“Sookie, watching you with Hunter yesterday just made me realize what a great mother you were going to make some day. I want kids. And I do want them with you, I just didn’t know if it was too soon to say that.” Eric explained to me.
God, I loved him. Since I couldn’t think of a way to put that into words I rolled off of him only to pull him on top of me. Whoever said the best part of waking up was Folger’s in your cup clearly never had sex with Eric Northman.
It took a few hours and I lost track of how many orgasms but Eric and I finally got out of bed. He showered while I made us breakfast. He did the clean up while I went upstairs to shower. I had mixed feelings about going to see Amelia. It’s not that I didn’t want to so much as I knew it wasn’t going to be the same. I knew the image of her being alive thanks to machines was going to stick with me. It wasn’t really living. I would be going to see a body, not my friend.
Frankly, if it wasn’t for the promise that I’d made to Tray, I probably wouldn’t have gone at all. After checking in at the nurse’s station- we had to show picture I.D. per Copely’s orders- we were shown to Amelia’s room. It was a beautiful room painted in an almost mauvey shade of pink with Thomas Kinkade paintings on the wall. Amelia was going to hate it when she opened her eyes. It wasn’t her style at all. But then Copely had never cared much for what Amelia wanted.
I hung back for a moment, reluctant to look at Amelia for more than a few seconds. My throat closed up some and my eyes filled with tears. The woman on the bed looked like a poor imitation of my best friend. On the table next to her bed was a picture of her with her father when she was about twelve. It dawned on me then that Copely’s image of his little girl hadn’t changed much over the last decade and a half. I got the concept that she would always be his little girl since I knew my father felt the same way about me, but it was different with Cope. He was in denial.
“This is bullshit, Eric.” My voice cracked as my hand fluttered up to cover my mouth.
His hand rested on my shoulder and he dropped a kiss on the top of my head. “I’m sorry, lover.”
“You know, I can’t wait until she wakes up and tells Copely to fuck off. She will never forgive him for this.” I moved closer to the bed.
Machines were still breathing for her. Her bruises were long gone and her cuts had healed but that wasn’t enough to bring her back. I put my hand on hers and prayed she would grab it. Of course, that didn’t happen. Her eyes moved under her lips and there were slight twitches of her body that I’d been told while she was still up in Chicago were just reflexes. She wasn’t having any “purposeful” movements.
“Ame, I am so sorry you’re stuck here. I tried to talk Cope out of moving you, I swear. This room…well, it’s beautiful but it’s way obvious that you didn’t choose this. And Tray misses you. Ame, you have to wake up just because I’m not sure he’s going to be okay without you. I see him whenever I can but Eric and I moved in together a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think I told you that the last time I saw you.” I lost it then, completely breaking down.
Eric moved to stand behind me and I leaned into him. His arms circled my shoulders and I held onto his wrists. There was so much I wanted to say to Amelia but there was this sinking feeling in my chest like I was wasting my breath. For the first time since I found out she was in a coma, I felt completely hopeless. I drew in a few ragged breaths and gently parted myself from Eric.
“Can you give me a minute alone with her?” I asked without turning to face him.
“Yeah, of course. I’ll be right outside.” He kissed my head again before going out to the hall and closing the door behind himself.
I went to the edge of Amelia’s bed. I looked around at the room and realized there was a security camera installed up in the corner. I wondered why that was necessary. She was in a coma for fuck’s sake. Were they worried she was going to sneak out for a midnight pizza or something?
“Listen, Ame, you know I love you. You’re the best friend I ever had and I miss you so much I can’t even begin to explain it. The thing is, if you’re ready to let go then you should. I almost didn’t come here today because I wasn’t sure I could handle seeing you this way. But I promised Tray.” My voice broke again. “I don’t know if you can hear me wherever you are. I don’t know if you’re trapped somewhere in that body of yours trying to fight your way out or if you’re floating somewhere in the ether. All I know is that I want you to be happy. I want you to be free. So however it is you can have that, I want you to have it. Even if it means this is the last time I ever hold your hand.”
I squeezed her hand hard, hoping it would be enough to jostle her awake. When that didn’t happen I squeezed my eyes closed and let my tears fall silently down my cheeks. I stayed that way for a few minutes before I decided I’d had enough. I stepped closer to her bed and leaned down to kiss her forehead.
“Until we meet again, dearest friend.” I whispered and stroked her cheek gently.
Then before I had to stop myself from pulling the plug on every machine she was hooked up to, I left the room. I was pretty sure it was the last time I would ever see Amelia alive.