I’m telling you right up front – this is an outtake. It is a total rehash of the last two chapters from EPOV. It doesn’t move the story forward at all. I struggled writing, it was really difficult, but in the long run, it just doesn’t fit. SO – if you want to read it, please do. If not, you’re not missing anything.
A little musical inspiration – Driving home the other night, a song came on my i-pod, and I thought, this is perfect for the chapter I’m writing! Helplessly Hoping by Crosby Stills Nash and Young.
I added it to the playlist, here’s the part that caught me, I thought, this is how Eric feels.
He waits by the window
At the empty place inside
Heartlessly helping himself to her bad dreams
Did he hear a good-bye?
Or even hello?
They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other
Waking in the morning, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. Yesterdays events and revelations had weighed heavy on my mind; my sleep had been fitful and not particularly restful. I went through the motions of showering and shaving on autopilot, and dragged my ass to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.
“Please drink another cup for me,” Pam mumbled.
“You can have one, right?”
“I already did. Now I’m drinking apple juice. They better hook me up to a caffeine I.V. as soon as this baby is born, or I’m gonna kill someone.”
“Pam, I think you’ll have other things to worry about.”
She shot me an evil look and cringed as she sipped her juice.
“I have one black outfit that’s appropriate, fingers crossed that I don’t look like a transvestite hooker with these boobs,” she said as she went back to her room.
I finished my coffee and went into the living room to do some last minute pressing and polishing of my Dress Blues. Going back to my room, I dug around and packed some clothes in my garment bag, figuring I’d want to change at some point later in the day at Gran’s house. I guessed we would still call it Gran’s house, Pam and I still called our place Aunt O’s place.
Pam rode with me to the funeral home. I had to help her out of the car though, and she cursed me, saying that one day I’d have to grow up and get rid of my toys. She was still pissed that Andre had bought her a minivan for the baby.
The service was sad, as expected, and Claudine read a poem that induced a few sobs. I tried to catch Sookie’s eye, but she was already in the front of the room when we arrived, and I could only see the top of her head from our seats. She was sitting between Tara and Claude; and I was glad that they were there for her.
We were one of the last cars in the procession over to Hummingbird Lane, since Pam had to use the bathroom before we left. When we parked on the lawn, people were already walking to the small cemetery between Gran’s house and Uncle Bill’s old property. It was a small cemetery, with plots for only a few families in the parish. It struck me that no one had probably been buried back there since my uncle.
I saw Mrs. Fortenberry in Gran’s kitchen, so I knew the house was open. I ran my garment bag into the house and hung it in Sookie’s closet. Coming down the steps I saw Pam waiting for me at the tree line.
“Hurry up!” she hissed. “I can’t walk in the grass with these heels on. My belly has fucked up my center of gravity. Get over here and help me!”
Taking the arm of my Weeble-Wobble for a sister, we slowly made our way to the cemetery for the internment.
A collective hush fell over the mourners and the pastor began to speak. After a few minutes, he ended with a reading of the twenty-third Psalm. Tara walked Sookie to the casket so she could lay a rose on top of it. As they returned to their seats, I could see Sookie taking in the range of people in attendance. The DGD ladies, the postman, the librarian, and some teachers from the school had all come out to pay their respects.
Then her eyes met mine and I saw them widen, like she was shocked to see me. Did she think I wasn’t coming? She continued to back to her chair, her eyes staying on mine just long enough for me to realize that it hadn’t been surprise in her eyes; she was enjoying the view of me in my Dress Blues. Damn. She was going to give me a hard-on at Gran’s funeral.
After the service, I helped Pam waddle back to the house, willing my dick to relax. We chatted with old friends while waiting to make our way up the steps to give condolences to Tara, Jason, and Sookie. When it was our turn, Pam spoke to each of them, but I was so distracted that I didn’t hear her.
After telling Jason and Tara how sorry I was for their loss, I moved to stand in front of Sookie. I wanted to take her in my arms and hold her, to take away her pain. She looked sad and tired, which were totally understandable, but it broke my heart just the same.
Reaching out to give her a hug, she stopped me, pushing on my chest with her dainty hands. Oh fuck, maybe I totally misread her look at the cemetery.
“I can’t,” she said, tears filling her eyes. “If I let you hug me I’m done for, and there are more people to come through.”
Oh, thank God. I wiped the tears from under her eyes and nodded. “I’ll be here when you need me,” I said and went into the house.
A little while later, I heard a car in the driveway and saw Amelia rush onto the porch and give Sookie frightened look. What the fuck? It was a black Escalade with Georgia plates, the door opened and…Who the fuck is that?
Sookie walked out to meet him, muttering as she went, and they exchanged what looked like uncomfortable pleasantries.
Amelia was muttering to herself, “I cannot believe he has the balls to show up here. Fucking Alcide.”
With a name like that, I realized that it must be the guy Tara mentioned, the Cajun that proposed to Sookie.
Alcide noticed me on the porch and I watched his demeanor change. Standing with my hip against the porch rail, I hid my own tension as I sensed his anger.
I heard Sookie tell him my name, and he stalked towards me, growling like a mutt, swearing in Cajun. What the fuck? He was dark and angry, what had she seen in him?
Alcide yelled over his shoulder, “This fils de putan, it’s him, no?”
What does he mean am I’m the son of a bitch? How the Hell did he even know who I was?
Sookie made a squeaking sound and slapped her hand over her mouth. Then he walked back and got in her face. Wrong move, mother fucker, I thought as I jumped the porch rail to get to him.
It all happened so quickly, Alcide got in her face, screaming, calling her a bitch and saying he thought she had made something up. I had no idea what he was talking about. In a heartbeat, he turned and stalked away. He was too far out in the yard for me to catch without a running tackle, and I was seriously fucking considering it. But as he moved, I could see that Sookie was falling apart.
When I heard a sob escape Sookie’s chest, I knew who was more important. Alcide spun the tires on the Escalade, spitting gravel as he sped down the driveway, and was gone. Her sobs continued, and were caused my heart to splinter apart. She looked like she was collapsing in on herself, and I scooped her up before her legs gave out.
I carried her into the house, past Amelia and Tara and about twenty other mourners who looked completely shocked. I didn’t see Jason anywhere and wondered if he even knew what the fuck had just happened. Without stopping to talk with anyone, I carried Sookie straight to her room.
We sat in the rocking chair and I held her, waiting for her sobs to subside. She blew her nose with a honk, it was ridiculous, but damn, I had missed that sound over the years.
“Thank you,” she said, “For finding me some privacy.”
I had no idea what that scene on the lawn had to do with me. I had just found out about this guy last night, but he clearly knew about me. Fuck. I had to ask.
“Sookie, I know I said you could tell me when you were ready, but what just happened?”
“That,” she said, “Was the Cajun Tara mentioned last night.”
I told her that I remembered, I mean, how could I forget that fucking detail? Christ. Then I nicely asked how he knew who I was and why he cared. I did one hell of a job editing in my head, because my thoughts were pretty ugly. What the Hell was he doing here? What did you see in him? Please tell me you never let that bastard touch you. Fuck. I couldn’t even think about that.
She put her arms around me to hide her face and I let her, only because I knew that it was the fastest way to get the information from her.
“He knows who you are because I accidently called him Eric when he proposed to me.”
.Fuck? She called him my name? Jesus Christ. Why? She was killing me, twisting the knife that I had stuck in my own heart seven years ago.
I pulled her back so we could see each other, “Sookie…”
She was teary eyed, but trying not to laugh, which had always been her way of dealing with things, claiming that it had been an accident. Hiding her face again, she continued, telling me how he put an engagement ring on top of her dessert.How fucking cliché, I thought. She paused, then finished by telling me that she saw the ring, gasped in surprise, and said my name.
She called him my God damn name. It was doing crazy things to my brain. I felt like a complete jackass for screwing her up so bad that five years after I left, she called someone my name, and I felt like a fucking caveman because I was so glad to know that a part of her was still mine. But why did she do it?
“Oh, Sookie, why?”
“Probably because, the night you left…What made that night even worse for me, Eric, I thought you were going to propose.”
I felt like I had been sucker punched. She thought I was going to propose? And I ripped her heart out and handed it back to her. How could I have been so blind? I really was a jackass.
I apologized again, squeezing her and calling her Bird, but I knew it wouldn’t do anything to take away the hurt she had felt, or her embarrassment. Shit.
Sookie made a joke to lighten the mood, saying something about associating me with engagement rings, and I wanted to kick my own ass for everything she had been through. We had talked about getting married, but it was always when we were both finished with college. She still had two years to go when I left.
Damn it. I was the world’s biggest dick. This was all my fault. Me and my fucking need to honor my uncle and our Country.
I had never regretted joining the Marines, although I had regretted leaving her for years. But this weekend, it became crystal clear just how wrong I had been to break up with her. It was like dominos; so many tiles had toppled over because I tried to protect her.
“Sookie, I had no idea that’s what you were thinking that night.”
There were tears running down her face and anger flickered in her eyes just before she let me have it.
“Eric, what did you expect me to think? You had just graduated and you took me to a fancy restaurant. I was ready for us to take the next step and plan for the future, together. I certainly didn’t expect you to say you were leaving.”
“God. I am so sorry,” I said, closing my eyes. I deserved everything she said and more. Putting my hands on either side of her face, I told her the truth. I honestly had no idea that she thought I would propose, and I could neverapologize enough for what I had done to her.
She blew her nose, creating that wounded duck noise that only she could make, before she spoke again, I could tell she was preparing for the worst, waiting, no challenging me, to walk away.
“Well, now you know,” she said. “And you know that I am a train wreck that never got over you. I feel like a complete idiot and you probably just want to get as far away from me as possible.”
I wasn’t going to let her push me away. She was going to have to deal with me; with what we both felt, then and now.
“What are you talking about? You’re not an idiot. You’re not a train wreck, and I’m not going anywhere. Okay? You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
She didn’t look like she believed me. I smoothed my hand over her hair and slowly leaned forward to kiss her. As soon as our lips touched, I felt the buzz of electricity that always came from kissing Sookie. It was mild this time, humming through my body, promising that the connection between us was still there; that our lives and our futures could be intertwined if we had the patience of this kiss. I wished that it could be that simple.
I pulled away, resting my forehead on hers. Looking into her eyes, wanting to see a reflection of hope, but what does that look like? I could only imagine that it was there.
There was a knock at the door and I knew it was Tara. She couldn’t leave Sookie alone in a time of crisis if she was trapped under the rubble in a bomb blast. The two of them were closer than sisters, and sometimes it was annoying as Hell. Tara didn’t know what the word “boundaries” meant.
Before Sookie could say, “Come in!” Tara and Lafayette wandered in with pecan pie and cocktails. Well, Hell. They even brought me a beer, or somebody was getting two drinks.
Lafayette told Sookie that she made the right choice to hide out. Apparently Mrs. Fortenberry was being obnoxious, but anyone from Bon Temps would tell you that was nothing new.
Nudging Sookie off my lap so I could stand, I explained that I needed to change out of my Dress Blue’s to drink. When I grabbed my garment bag from her closet Sookie looked at me like I was an ax murderer or something.
What? I explained that I had figured I would stay for dinner, maybe she didn’t want me to. Maybe I was misreading everything, again.
With a smile, she said that she just couldn’t figure out when I had snuck my clothes into her room, and I knew she wasn’t upset.
I waggled my eyebrows to tease her. “I’m a Recon Marine. We’re sneaky,” I said, going to change.
Shaking my head as I walked down the hall, I had to laugh. I loved that she thought I “snuck” my things into her room. It was such an elementary term for all of the skills that were ingrained in me now. I was a stealth fucking operative that could be in and out without a trace and Sookie thought it was “sneaky.” It was so cute it was hot.
Jason pulled me aside when he saw me in the hallway, telling me that he’d been out in the backyard with Hoyt when Alcide put on his little show. Putting a hand on my shoulder, he thanked me for being there for Sookie, and then he wandered away down the hall.
The Three Musketeers were laughing when I came back into Sookie’s room. I hung my things, and Sookie just smiled, saying that I missed the joke, but they waited for me to eat pie. Lafayette even offered to feed me; but I’d known him too long to let his flirting affect me.
We talked and laughed while we ate and then Lafayette stretched out on the bed. I knew that we should go back out and face the others, but I wasn’t going to force Sookie. It was her day, her grief, and she would deal with it her own way.
When Lafayette eventually started to snore, Tara slapped him awake and it seemed to jar Sookie as well. She let out a deep breath and squared her shoulders, asking if she looked alright. Taking Lafayette’s arm, she headed out to speak with the remaining guests. Tara gave me a look that said she was just tolerating me, and we followed behind them.
I was surprised to see that the house had mostly cleared out, and I worried that Sookie was going to shut down again, feeling guilty. She began to apologize to Jason immediately, but he stopped her. He was being a standup guy today, and it was nice to see. Jason signaled, and both Hoyt and Sam got out of their chairs to help him clean up. Tara and Lafayette headed to the kitchen to help as well. The only other person that seemed to be around was Bud Dearborn, and he was sawing logs in the other room.
Drawing Sookie into my arms, I breathed in her scent and felt her body mold against mine. Time seemed to stand still when I held her, I could have stood there with her for hours, but I knew she was exhausted.
After a few minutes, I tugged her hand as I sat on the couch, saying, “Let’s sit.”
She surprised me, settling on my lap instead of the seat next to me. Her arms curled around my neck and she snuggled in, nuzzling my chest. She had loved to cuddle like this to take a nap on particularly bad days, so I asked if she was going to fall asleep and lauged when she said she might. Might, my ass, she’d be asleep in minutes.
“I’ll be here when you wake up,” I said softly.
“I know. That’s why I sat on you.”
Well, she didn’t want me to leave; that was good. I let myself relax, and she did the same. She was asleep in minutes just like I knew she would be, and I found that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Holding her took all of the horrible shit out of my head, at least for a while, and I fell asleep with her in my arms.
Something woke me up. My neck was at a horrible angle and my dick was standing at attention. Fuck. There it was again. What the Hell? Oh Christ. Sookie was sitting on my lap, but she wasn’t sitting still.
“Please stop moving your ass Sookie, you’re killing me.”
“I’m hungry,” she whispered.
Jesus Christ. She did not just say that. I opened one eye and she slapped my arm with a smirk.
“For food,” she said.
Rubbing my hand over my face I tried to wake up. I was hungry too, for food and for Sookie, but it looked like she was more interested in food. I suggested a kitchen raid and she grinned knowingly.
We found a note from Amelia and the cousins in the kitchen saying they were at Merlotte’s. I’d go with her if she wanted, but I would just as soon be alone with Sookie. She said she didn’t feel like it, and I beamed on the inside. I wanted to thump my chest; she wanted to stay here, with me.
We dug around in the kitchen, there was a shitload of food from the women in town, and made ourselves a couple of plates. Sitting there like old times, shoes off, pitcher of sweet tea on the table and crickets chirping outside, we ate in peaceful silence.
Suddenly, ACDC Thunderstruck was blasting through the room and there was something vibrating in my pocket.
“Shit! It’s my phone,” I said. Fumbling to get it out of my pocket, I didn’t check the caller ID, but flipped it open, answering with my usual, “Northman.”
“So, you didn’t think that I was worried about whether or not you made it there alright?” Sophie Anne asked. “You left more than two days ago.”
I had to smile. This was the mother-hen version of my friend Sophie Anne, “Yes, I made it home safely. I know. I’m sorry I didn’t call.”
Sookie looked a little distracted, or maybe uncomfortable, but I was listening to Soph carry on about how I had better have done a lot of thinking during my drive because I had a big decision to make. I wanted to laugh. Whether I had thought about it or not, the decision was made the second Sookie bumped into me in the produce section. Sophie Anne said something about my needing to make up my damn mind and get my ass to Atlanta if I wanted to find Sookie.
I laughed, smiling at Sookie, and told Sophie Anne that I didn’t need to go to Atlanta.
Sookie cocked her head in confusion. “What?” she mouthed.
I held up a finger telling her to wait and told Soph that I was going to put her on speaker phone.
Quickly, I said with my hand over the mouthpiece, “Sookie, this is my best friend’s wife. She’s going to flip out when she finds out I’m here with you. Just play along, I’ll explain later.”
With the push of a button, I put the phone down and said, “Okay, Soph. You’re on speaker phone.”
She professed her hatred for speaker phone, telling me to quit dicking around and do my ‘assignment’ when I told her to say hi to Sookie.
Sookie laughed out loud, trying to cover her mouth, but she couldn’t stop herself.
Sophie Anne snapped at me, asking who was laughing.
I motioned for Sookie to talk because I was trying so hard not to laugh. Soph was so obsessed with my working this, out one way or another, she was going to flip.
Sookie introduced her self, saying hello, and thanked Sophie Anne for calling to check on me. She had such good southern manners.
The next thing I knew Cal was on the other end of the phone asking me why his wife looked like she was having a stroke. I knew that look. Her eyes got kind of far away and she cocked her head trying to figure out what the Hell was going on.
I told Cal that I hadn’t said anything, but let Sookie say hello, and then I remembered to tell him we were on speaker phone before he said something totally inappropriate or lewd. He laughed because Sook’s presence explained Sophie Anne’s reaction.
I knew she had gone into her room and was trying to figure out how the Hell she knew to send me home with an order that involved Sookie. It was kind of Standard Operating Procedure when Sophie had one of her premonitions; she’d lock herself in her room for a few hours and then we wouldn’t talk about it ever again.
Asking Cal to tell Soph I was doing my homework, I cut the call short. I knew Sookie was going to have questions, and she didn’t let me down.
She busted out the Ricky Ricardo joke, saying, “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.”
The realization that I was going to have to spill my guts hit me. Everything that I had been holding in was boiling to the surface and I had no idea where to start. The laughter and light mood were gone in an instant.
I explained that Cal and Sophie Anne were my family away from home, but got tripped up with where to go from there. Trying to figure out where the beginning of the story was, I found myself telling Sookie that I’d had bad luck dating since her and that I really hadn’t even tried.
Running my hands through my hair, I wanted to pull on it a little. I was frustrated, and emotions weren’t my thing, so this was going to be tough.
To Hell with it, I thought, just tell her, so I did.
“Anyway, long story, short; Sophie Anne told me before I headed home that I needed to decide if I wanted to find you and beg for another chance, or I had to get over you and get my head out of my ass. That was my homework assignment.”
“Wow,” she said.
I don’t know what kind of response I was hoping for, but “Wow,” wasn’t a ringing vote of confidence.
“Yeah. When I saw you at the store, it took me a minute to figure out that I wasn’t seeing things; that you were really there.”
She smiled, saying, “I felt that way too,” and I felt the grip on my heart start to ease.
The longer I looked at her though, the more I felt compelled to keep talking. Again, I don’t do emotions, this weekend had been chock full of them and it was stressing me out. My inability to deal with shit was the reason I needed Sophie Anne to stick a fork in me to face anything, but shit, I needed to get things out in the open with Sookie, and I knew it.
She needed to know what had happened. If she agreed with me, if she thought what happened to Hadley was my fault, I didn’t know if she could forgive me. She was fidgeting, gathering the dishes, and I put my hand on hers, stopping her.
“Sookie, I have to tell you something else.”
Trying to brush it off, she said that it had been seven years and we didn’t need to tell each other everything. But she didn’t understand that I had to tell her this; it was burning a hole me, dragging me under, and all of that other shit that baggage does to you.
It was too much, holding on to it all, so I just launched into it, telling her how guilty I felt and that everything this weekend had just made it worse; explaining that I wondered if I had known the truth about Sookie, if it never would have happened.
She tried to stop me again, asking me not to tell her if it would hurt her, and I realized that she was afraid that Hadley and I had been married or something.Fuck. That probably would have been easier to explain. On second thought, no, that would have been an entirely different level of Hell.
Gazing at me, she kept her hand on mine but moved to sit on my lap. What was it about us that made everything seem so much better, or easier, as long as we were touching? She had done the same thing when we were upstairs; curling around my body to tell me her story about Alcide. I silently thanked the Gods, or whoever, that she knew I needed her the same way. I opened my mouth and just let it all go.
I told her that after Soph gave up on getting me to find Sookie the first time, she’d tried to set me up with her friends, and I eventually met Hadley. Really, I’m not sure what all I told her, most of it just came out like I was in a trance. I explained that Hadley and I spent six weeks together before I shipped out and that she’d sent me some sweet care packages while I was gone. When I told her that we picked up where things had left off when I got home, she stopped me for the third time.
“Eric, really, you don’t have to tell me this,” she said, looking almost terrified.
I was so busy confessing my sins that I hadn’t felt her tense up.
In a whisper, she asked, “Did you love her?”
With a sigh, I nodded, saying that I should have. I had been thinking about it since Hadley died; that she deserved loving and I should have been able to give that to her. Admitting to Sookie that I didn’t love Hadley was almost as hard as it would have been to tell her that I did love someone else. Fuck, it made no sense.
Kissing her forehead I started talking again. I knew Sookie was afraid of what I had to say, but Christ, I couldn’t stop. I finally said what the whole point of this was, Hadley was dead, and it was my fault. I didn’t wait for her reaction; I just kept going, telling her about the night Hadley died.
“It was a couple nights before I was due to leave, and we’d gone to dinner with Cal and Soph. Then we were back at my place, just the two of us, and she was teasing me about writing letters, saying she would rather get e-mails because she couldn’t read my handwriting.”
Sookie laughed a little, and I knew why. There had been countless misunderstandings between us because of my shitty penmanship. But I didn’t stop; words flowed out of my mouth like water down a stream.
I told her everything. How I had told Hadley to move on if she met someone else, and how Hadley had gone off on me, saying the one thing that could get through to me.
How when Hadley told me that I was the only one waiting for my life to start while it was passing me by, I was staggered. It was like being struck by lightning; I suddenly knew that I had wasted years searching and waiting, when I had given up the only future I wanted when I left Sookie.
“I didn’t want my life to start with anyone but you. The look on my face must have been bad, because she knew. She just knew,” I said, shaking my head, “She flat out asked me if I left someone at home when I joined the Marines, and I couldn’t lie.”
When I reached the end of my sad story, I told Sookie the final details, the two sentences that made me sick to my stomach every time I said them.
“She left that night and got hit by a drunk driver. She was killed on impact.”
Sookie hugged me, telling me wasn’t my fault, but her touch overshadowed any words she could have said. Her small arms embraced me and her hands rubbed soothingly over my back.
When I continued to try to take responsibility for Hadley’s death, Sookie forced me to look at her, telling me I was wrong. She held my face in her hands, and repeated that it wasn’t my fault; sounding like Sophie Anne, telling me that I couldn’t have done anything to change the course of events.
I had heard it all before, but it meant so much coming from Sookie. It meant that she didn’t blame me. I don’t know what I thought Sookie would make of all of this. I had been terrified that she would just walk away from me, believing that it was my fault, just as in the back of my head I believed it. But she was adamant, she didn’t believe it was my fault and she wasn’t going to let me.
With a little bit of steel in her voice, Sookie told me that I wasn’t God. Then she asked what Hadley would want, if she would want me to be miserable.
One of the last things Hadley said to me was that she hoped I could be happy, and I told Sookie that.
She smiled at me, and it was like seeing a light at the end of a tunnel.
“Okay, then,” she said, “Let’s work on that.”
“Fuck,” I said, folding my arms around her and closing my eyes. Unreal, I thought. I did not deserve this woman, but I was going to do my damndest to keep her this time.
Thank you for reading the outtake. It was a struggle to write and I couldn’t delete it. (Although apparently FFnet could. BAHAHAHA)