Dust Bunnies and Christmas Presents: Chapter 4

A/N:

You guys make me smile with your great comments to this story. Yes, Eric is not a perfect hero in this story. Not at all. But I hope he`s a credible one. Because who`s ever met a man without flaws, right? And yet we love them

If Rascalthemutant flunks it`s all my fault for sending her both a chapter of this story and a chapter of Dead without a Work Permit at the same time. I`m very grateful for her hard work on my stories!


EPOV

“What the hell was that all about, Pam?” I asked my sister when we were standing on the busy sidewalk. New Yorkers walking by us made sure we knew what they thought of us stopping their straight way from A to B. “This is testosterone and this is not“, I said in a pretend-female voice.

“She needed a laugh,” Pam answered as if that explained anything.

“At me?” My voice got a little louder.

Pam stopped and I stopped too. “You`re not the center of the universe, Eric. Grow up! You`re freaking 26 years old and you`re acting like a kid. Sookie`s been through hell and all you can think of is that she laughed at you.”

“Yeah, but…” I wasn`t sure how to finish my sentence – only that I was mad at my sister.

“You need to make a choice, Eric,” she continued.

“What kind of choice do I have to make? Whether I want to disown you or not?” Yeah, I was pissed.

Pam shook her head like a mother shakes her head at a child who asks for cookies just before dinner.

“Jesus, Eric. Were you even present in that apartment up there? Did you look at Sookie?” she asked.

“Yes, of course I looked at her. It was awful what happened to her,” I said. What the hell did Pam want?

“Did you even ask her what happened to her?”

What was wrong with Pam? Of course, I didn`t ask her because… because… “I figured she would have told me if she`d wanted me to know,” I said. Yeah, that was why I hadn`t asked her. It had nothing to do with me being angry at Sookie. No way.

“She probably didn`t want you to know just as she didn`t want you to see her like that. That doesn`t mean you couldn`t have shown some concern.”

“I was concerned. I felt like shit seeing her like that. I mean, she`s…” I stopped. I wasn`t sure what she was to me. Of course, Pam picked up on that like a shark smelled a drop of blood.

“She`s what? The love of your life? The mother of your future babies? The one and only?” Pam said, her mouth turned into a lopsided smile.

“Yeah,” I said without even convincing myself.

“Or was she a great fuck and you hoped for some more smooth sex with a woman who would never demand that you walk her down the aisle and give her pretty babies?”

I wanted to stomp my feet or shout at Pam but I was pretty sure that would only be interpreted as childish behavior. So I pretended to listen to her and to give her words some thought, as ludicrous as they were.

Of course Sookie wasn`t just an easy fuck for me. I`d traveled over the Atlantic for her, for Christ’s sake. If I wanted an easy fuck, I could have picked one of the pretty nurses in my class. They were willing enough.

Maybe marriage had never been on my mind when I thought of Sookie but so what? That wasn`t proof of anything. I was only 26. What 26-year-old thinks of marriage?

I liked Sookie for who she was and because the Christmas we`d had together had been one of the best of my life. I hadn`t really thought much about the future for Sookie and me but if she`d felt like putting a turkey in the oven for Thanksgiving, I would have booked a ticket immediately. It was an American tradition I`d always been curious about.

And sure I`d wanted to fuck Sookie from now ’til kingdom come. That was a good thing, wasn`t it? I mean, fucking was off the table. I wasn`t stupid. Sookie was traumatized and I wasn`t about to jump her bones now.

I doubted she would have wanted me to anyway. She hadn`t looked at me twice when I was in her apartment. Pam had been the center of her attention. Not me.

“What does it matter what she was to me? It`s all gone anyway,” I said, making my voice sad to stop Pam`s attacks. I never went down the road of self-pity but right now I would do anything to stop Pam and her angry green eyes.

But apparently Pam had her sneakers aimed at a nice kick to the groin. My groin.

“You little piss-ant. A woman you had no problems charming into your bed has had her life turned upside down by some fuck who decided to rearrange her face and break her skull too.” Pam took a deep breath and what I felt now was close to fear. My own sister would have killed me on the spot if there hadn`t been a law against it. “And you whine over the fact that a woman you`ve known for a week can`t satisfy your needs anymore?” she shouted.

“Fuck you, Pam,” I shouted back and was happy my long legs could bring me away from her fast and efficiently.

What was wrong with her? Couldn`t she see it from my perspective? Sookie had been special. She`d been the first woman that saw me for who I was. Who`d treated me like more than just a handsome guy she could brag about or a great lay she could make her best friends jealous over never having had (well, they`d probably had me too, but that was besides the point).

I was never just Eric. Eric, the dedicated nurse. Eric, the fun guy who would buy Christmas ornaments the day before Christmas because he wanted to give his lover a real Christmas. Eric, the guy who would open his home to a stranger and treat her like a close friend just after having met her. Eric, the…

Eric, the man. I was never just Eric, the man, to anyone. Not until I`d met Sookie.

But what was I to her?

I hadn`t given it much thought when she visited me. I`d thought we`d have time. We would see each other again and could go from there. And then she`d stopped writing back and that was easy too. Anger is very easy. You don`t have to question yourself when you’re angry.

But now I was embarrassed. Yes, that was the feeling I had deep inside and I hated it.

I had been so angry with Sookie and she`d been fighting for her life. That was so… And now I felt pity, which definitely wasn`t what I wanted to feel towards her.

Fuck, this was complicated.

I wanted fun. Did that make me a bad person? I never wanted to hurt Sookie. On the contrary. I wanted her to have fun too. I wanted her to be happy and that wasn`t something I cared about when it came to many people.

I`d sat down in one of the many diners in New York and had ordered a huge stack of pancakes without even realizing it. So what if it wasn`t breakfast-time? That was the good thing here – you could get what you wanted, when you wanted it. Not like at home where people would look at you funny if you ordered breakfast in the afternoon.

I tried to sort out my thoughts and when I pressed that rewind-button on my inner iPod I kept coming back to the thought that I wanted Sookie to be happy. I really did. And maybe my frustration came from the fact that I didn`t have a clue to how I was going to make that happen.

Or maybe I was just an asshole who couldn`t accept facts as they were. Yeah, that was definitely an option.

I shoved a few more pancakes into my mouth. They didn`t taste as good as the ones Pam and I had had yesterday, but they filled my stomach. Not in that good way a full dinner would have, but at least I wasn`t hungry anymore.

And maybe that was how I`d been with girls? Yeah, I was getting deep on myself. Maybe I`d always just satisfied my basic needs for something soft and sweet and now I needed to chew on a steak instead?

Oh, bad metaphor. Sookie wasn`t a freaking steak. But she was more than a pancake – even the great American ones.

I wasn`t shallow. I`d lived a shallow life, yes, but I wasn`t a shallow person. I`d had pain in my life and I`d dealt with it. Not many guys my age had had to bury their parents. Or had become nurses. I had a heart. I`d just never used it that much.

A lot of thoughts started roaming my brain. Some of them gave me hope. Some made me want to run all the way to JFK, screaming, and beg for a seat on the first flight home. But the main thought was that I wanted to do something for Sookie. Be something for her. And I was pretty sure that I was altruistic about it.

Pretty sure.

I dialed Pam`s number. She didn`t answer it first and I wasn`t sure if it was because she was looking through that stupid handbag of hers after the cell phone or if she didn`t want to talk to her little brother.

But after the seventh ring, she finally answered her phone. “Did you grow up?”

“Yeah, and hello to you too, Pam,” I answered in a wry tone.

“So what`s your answer?” she asked.

“To what?” I had no idea what she was talking about.

“Meet me at the hotel, Eric. This is serious business.”

Twenty minutes later we were facing each other, Pam on her own bed and me on the other one.

Pam took my hands, which is never a good sign. You just don`t want your sister to touch you. Not because it`s creepy or incestuous, because it isn`t – not with Pam. But because if your sister touches you, really touches you, then it`s because she has something bad to say to you. Or because she`s drunk. You don`t want either. Right now I would have settled for a drunk Pam, but she was sober as a nun without altar wine.

“What do want with Sookie, Eric?” she asked, her face very serious.

I gave it a few seconds` thought. “I want to help her,” I said. “I`m just not sure how.” I hadn`t planned on saying that last thing out loud but my sister was holding my hands and somehow that made me want to be honest with her.

“Why?” she asked.

I chewed on it a bit. Then I said the only thing that was true. “I`m not sure. I just know I want to help her.”

Pam gave me a thin-lipped smile. “Good. If you`d said you wanted to help her because you loved her or something like that, I would have gotten you on the first plane home.”

“Why?” Sometimes I didn`t get my sister at all.

“If you`d said you loved Sookie you would either be lying to me or to yourself and she would be the one paying the price.”

“Why would it be so impossible for me to love her?”

“Because you`re just not one of those guys who falls in love instantaneously. Which is a good thing. Love that grows slowly is stronger,” she explained. “But you do like her?”

“Yes, I like her,” I said. Was she being stupid on purpose?

“As a person, I mean. She`s got a hot body and I can see how you could be attracted to her.”

“I freaking like her, OK? Yes, I would love nothing more than to be able to fuck her from here to next Sunday but that`s not going to happen, now is it? And I still want to help her.”

“You want to be with her? Not just to help her out? You want to be in her company?” Pam asked.

“What the hell is with the twenty questions? I like Sookie. I liked her back at Christmas and I like her now. It`s a load of shit that she has to go through what she`s going through, but I want to help her. Because I like her.”

“Good. Just checking to see that there wasn`t some kind of Floyd Nightingale syndrome going on here. You are a nurse, you know. Maybe you felt you had to help her.”

“Pam. You know me well enough to realize that I`m not the sort of guy you can guilt into helping you. I`ve had enough girls trying, you know. I help if I like someone. If I don`t like a person, then why help?”

“That`s nice from a future nurse,” Pam deadpanned.

“Yeah, like you play doctor with all the `my wife doesn`t understand me` alcoholics you run across.”

“Fair enough.” Pam nodded and finally let go of my hands.

This was how Pam started talking to me like an adult. No, like a fellow practitioner in healthcare. She told me about Sookie`s injuries, from what she could see. And more importantly, she told me about the psychological side of the trauma Sookie had been through. I swallowed hard a few times and also felt like a moron for treating Sookie the way I`d treated her, but then I figured it was time to look forwards.

I wasn`t going to be Sookie`s knight in shining armor. No, I was going to be her friend. I`d never really been a friend like that to anyone before, but I would certainly do my best.

Why? Because I liked Sookie. I hung on to that as if it was the last truth in the world. I liked Sookie.

The next morning Doctor Ravenscroft and Nurse Northman rang the doorbell to Sookie`s apartment. But it was Pam and Eric who walked in. Yes, we looked for ways we could help Sookie physically but it turned out American doctors and nurses had done their job and done it well.

Time was the only thing that could help Sookie heal physically. But mentally, time worked against her. And I could understand why when she finally told us what had happened. That little prick Bill who I`d seen buy a Christmas tree with his lover, had not accepted the fact that Sookie could live without him – even if he could live without her.

Something very primal came up in me and I wanted to throw him off the roof or bury him with the fish, but apparently he was being taken care of by the judicial system. And apparently he wouldn`t just get the slap on the wrist like our courts would have given him. We were talking years of imprisonment.

He hadn`t been sentenced yet but Sookie`s lawyers had assured her that her ex-husband would be seeing the inside of a prison cell for a very long time.

I`d never been a believer in long prison sentences but now I did a silent cheer for the American system where they basically locked people up and threw away the key. I didn`t want Bill out in the streets any time soon. Or outside Sookie`s door.

Pam was being her efficient and very charming self. She made Sookie laugh – which I failed miserably at. I just couldn`t find anything funny to say.

So I stayed quiet and watched The Pam Ravenscroft-show. It was a fun show and I was glad she was there to cheer Sookie up because I was the most boring person on this planet. I spent most of the first hour staring at Sookie, wishing I could swing my magic wand (no not that magic wand) over her and heal her.

To be honest – I felt like a fool. I was entirely useless and had begun to wonder what I was even doing there when Pam suddenly got up.

“I`m meeting Bella, you know,” she told me as if she had a friend in New York by that name. The only Bella I`d ever come across was the dog we had when I was a kid. I`d brought it home and Pam had ended up being the one who`d had to walk it. “Maybe you could cook something for Sookie?”

“Uhm, sure,” I said. I couldn`t meet Sookie`s eyes for fear that she would tell me she could do her own cooking. I wanted to do something. Be useful.

I went to the kitchen as soon as I heard the door close behind Pam, glad that Sookie didn`t seem to object. We`d bought plenty of ingredients and I immediately began to cut the salmon we`d bought and pour cream and milk in a kettle. I was the one who`d thought about the salmon. I wanted to bring Scandinavia to New York. To Sookie.

I was so busy cutting the carrots and leeks and didn`t hear Sookie entering the kitchen. This was why I dropped the knife on the floor when she coughed behind me. It made Sookie laugh and even if I would much rather have her laugh at my incredibly funny jokes, I would gladly have thrown all her cutlery on the floor if that could cheer her up.

“I think it`s enough to have one person injured here,” she said between giggles.

“Yeah,” I said. I couldn`t come up with any smart replies.

“So you`ve decided to cook for me?” she asked.

“Yeah.” I mentally kicked myself. Two “Yeahs” in a row?

“Why?”

I turned around to see her facial expression. Was she accusing me of something? No, Sookie`s face was neutral.

“I guess I felt you needed a decent meal,” I said, though that wasn`t the whole reason. But how could I explain that I wanted a magic wand and salmon soup was the only alternative I could think of?

“You know what I mean, Eric.”

“Yeah,” I said. Three “yeahs” in two minutes – there had to be a prize for that.

“And…” she prompted.

I put down the knife I`d just picked up and looked at her. “I can`t explain it, Sookie. I just want to cook you some salmon soup and be here while you eat it.”

Sookie nodded as if she understood. If that was the case she should explain it to me because I sure as hell didn`t.

After having eaten the soup we sat down in her living room. I wasn`t sure if she wanted me to leave but figured she would tell me if she did, so I sat down and poured her some of the coffee I`d made.

Since Sookie`s eyesight left a bit to be desired, we couldn`t watch TV. I felt a certain responsibility to, no, I wanted to entertain her so I searched my brain for something I could talk about. This was why I ended up telling her Scandinavian fairytales.

I started out with Asbjørnsen and Moe but soon I was telling her about The Little Mermaid – in the original version by Hans Christian Andersen. She didn`t know that Disney had changed the ending of and liked the original one much better. Well, I didn`t exactly leave her much choice. I had wanted to dig up Mr. Disney from his grave and slap him ever since Pam had forced me to watch the crappy version he`d made.

“Disney completely missed the point,” I explained. Sookie smiled. It might have been because she thought I was slightly weird, being so agitated over The Little Mermaid but at least I got her to smile. “In the original version the prince hardly noticed the mermaid because she couldn`t talk. He didn`t want another beauty who just smiled and batted her eyes.”

“The mermaid ended up dying?” Sookie asked.

“She became foam on the waves,” I explained.

“And you like this fairytale?”

“I like the original,” I said. “The movie can burn for all I care. But I like the moral in the original.”

“That a woman becomes foam on the waves if a man does not want her?”

“What? No.” I hadn`t looked at it that way. “No, that you can`t find love just by being beautiful. You have to have something else to offer.”

“Like what?” she wondered.

“I don`t know. I mean, what do you want from a man? Is it enough that he`s sexy?” I regretted asking the question just after it had left my mouth. It was a little too close to home – or so I realized when I heard it myself.

Sookie`s face rarely told me what she was thinking or feeling but for a moment a shadow of sadness glided over it. It was gone so quickly that I wasn`t sure I`d seen it, but my body reacted before I did. I went to her couch and sat next to her. Then I pulled her into my chest, turned and lay back, with her on top of me. I managed to get my long legs up on the couch and pulled hers with me.

It was just me and Sookie, her on top of me and me comforting her. I liked it.

I held her there for a long time and had started to wonder if she`d fallen asleep when I felt something wet on my chest.

I came from a culture where even men were expected to have a good cry from time to time, but I lacked the Scandinavian crying-gene. I hated crying and I certainly never did it myself. So when I heard Sookie sob into my shirt, I had to restrain myself so I didn`t squirm under her. Or run out the door.

Instead I stroked her hair.

After a few more sobs, she got up and looked miserable. Well, she looked miserable even before she`d been crying but now she looked worse.

“Thank you for cooking me dinner, Eric. That was very sweet of you.” She tried to smile.

My heart swelled. I`d done something good for Sookie and she was thanking me for it. She even thought I was sweet.

Then it hit me and it hit me hard. I`d wanted Sookie to like me again. I`d wanted her gratitude. Maybe even her admiration. And now I felt like an ass. I should have been there for her, not me.

“Yeah,” I said. Apparently that was all I could say to Sookie today. Then I gave myself a kick in the butt. “Can I come back tomorrow?”

She looked down for what seemed like hours. Then she nodded and I felt 20 kilos lighter.

Tomorrow I would do better. Well, I would try anyway. It wasn`t like I could grow perfect overnight.


A/N:

Yes, Eric is no knight in shining armor. But he`s trying.

I hope you liked this chapter!

I also hope I can convince some of you to write a story, using the SVM characters but placing them in your country/home town. I`m co-hosting the Home Sweet Home contest with Suki59and we are looking forward to your story! http://www.fanfiction u/2623209/HomeSweetHome

Do you want to talk to me about my story Dead in Denmark (or anything else, really) you`re always welcome to send me a PM or tweet me. But you could also go here Fangreaders.blogspot.com on March 16th because they have invited me in to talk about my very first story. I`m very flattered!

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