Last time on War at Heart :
“Isn’t it ironic, at least a little.”
“We want to get married and can’t, the last thing Pam wants in life is get married and she has to do it.” He chuckled as he stole a grape.
“I suppose it is, I just feel so bad for her, Eric.”
“I do too. But, Pam is like a cat, she lands on her feet, time after time.”
“You know, that myth isn’t actually true… When I was little one of the boys that lived on the farm next to ours decided to test it out, the cat landing on its feet theory.”
He smiled, feeding me a grape.
“And the result?”
“The poor thing had to be put to sleep, he cracked it’s back.” I grimaced at the memory of that cruel boy and that poor animal. “It was horrid.”
“I can imagine.” He kissed me on the cheek, bringing me out of my horrible memory. I liked that aspect of us here, the little touches, the hand holding, the bigger kisses, and yes, the sex too. I knew that once we left there, and we would have to, everything would be different until I got hold of Bill Compton and got him playing the game we wanted him to play, a thought I dreaded more than anything. Instead, I snuggled up to my new beau, shutting out all thoughts of uppity party guests, ex husbands and a friend in crisis.
“Let’s worry later, for now… I think I should draw you and I a bath. Pam’s looked appealing.”
“She did say we could be late. You do that and hop in, I’ll get her ready and be back in about ten minutes.”
“So, a half hour then?” He chuckled, clearing my plate from the bed as I got up kissing him from his nose to his cheeks and down to his lips playfully.
“Yes, so a half hour then. Add the salts in your cupboard, they’re life changing.” I wiggled my brows before I fixed my skirt and bodice, straightening myself up. I still had a job to do after all.
The party could wait, Pam couldn’t.
Pam’s parties were always a riot, and back in the day I loved nothing more than losing myself for hours, sometimes for days, in the debauchery of it all. But then, I changed or things changed but I mostly think I changed for better or worse. And now, it all seemed so sad. There was no real feeling, just sex. Drunken, or drug addled sex, the kind that you love at the time, it feels wonderful, until you wake up in the harsh light of day next to a stranger, filled with nothing but regret.
It worked for Pam; she liked her life. But with her mother’s news that she had to marry by the new year or she was cut off from a substantial fortune, I wonder how much longer she could hide away inside her bohemian lifestyle with little consequence.
“Eric Northman, as I live and breathe. I never expected to see you here again.” Nora said, sauntering to me, taking a glass of wine from the table as she did, I nursed my whiskey.
“Nora. Nice to see you again.” I offered as she air kissed my cheek, grinning.
“Nice to see you too, old friend.”
We were never friends. Lovers, yes. But never friends, and the look in her eye told me she remembered that just fine.
“How have you been?” I asked, taking in the room around me. Pam’s home now filled with music, and three waiters waiting at the drop of a hat to refill glasses or offer new drinks. Her guests had arrived and were mingling nicely so far.
“I have been well enough. This war is dragging on, all of it so dreadful for the soul, don’t you agree?”
“Yes. I agree. It’s not something we want to carry on any longer than it has to. Hopefully there will be a resolution one way or another soon.”
“Yes. It is so very tiresome. Cut off from what we were all so used to. Those freedoms. The perfection of those long summer days when we’d just spend our time without a care, do you remember?”
I sipped my drink.
“I had thought you had forgotten about me. When I heard you got married, I have to say I was the most surprised out of anyone. I remember you telling me you weren’t the… how did you put it? The ‘marrying kind?’.
I cringed. I had said that, and at the time, with her, I had meant every word.
“It was true then. I just… met someone that changed my mind.”
“I see.” She sipped her drink, I think I must have offended her. But, like the Nora I knew, she took it on the chin, smiling when she swallowed her sip.
“I was sorry to hear that she passed away. That must have been devastating for you.”
“You could say that.” I offered that and nothing more in way of explanation.
“But as they say, life goes on. And I’m so pleased you’ve come to play with us tonight, Eric. We’ve missed you terribly.” Her dainty Surrey accent, helped with years of elocution lessons pipped up; as she linked her arm with mine as led me further into the room. I was mingling maybe minutes more when Nora nudged me.
“Do we know her?” She aimed her eyes to the door. I knew who she meant right away, but said nothing until I looked. There Sookie stood in a soft baby blue dress, her hair curled and neatly piled, much like Pam’s who stood next to her, whispering in her ear. No doubt telling her who was who inside the dining room.
I couldn’t help but smile, and a disgruntled Nora noticed.
“Yes, we know her very well.” I removed Nora’s hand from my arm and went to Sookie. She looked nervous, as she fidgeted with her hands.
“Sookie, come in, let me introduce you to some people!” I said, proud to see how beautiful she looked.
“Eric let’s not. I’d rather just take a seat for dinner.”
“Please?” I asked quietly as her eyes darted around the room. “Don’t be scared. We can leave after dinner, I promise.”
She took a deep breath.
She gripped my arm as if her life depended on it, I hated that she was so nervous, but I also hoped to put her nerves at ease.
That was until Nora found us again, just as we were taking our seats for dinner. Sitting herself in between Sookie and I. Sookie looked at me, curiously, but far too well mannered to call out Nora and her lack there of. We took our seat as Pam began to speak. She talked of all her old friends, and some new, how she was glad we had all survived another year to be able to meet up again. Not that that applied to me since it had been many a year since I had last attended one of her parties. But, I listened anyway, before Nora leaned over to whisper something to me.
“Do I get you tonight, Eric? It has been too long since you and I… had fun. Together.”
Sookie must have heard her because she noticeably bristled in her seat.
“Not not, Nora.” I said, nodding to a still speaking Pam.
By the middle of dinner, she was making her case to me as to why we needed to ‘reconnect’, while Sookie and I barely got a word to each other, her attentions taken by a man to her left, he was handsome, and flirting too. I didn’t like it one little bit.
“Eric, I was just telling Thomas here that we have plans for the rest of the week, don’t we?” Sookie spoke up then, looking past Nora, much to Nora’s chagrin.
“Uh, yes. We do. Lots of plans. Sorry, Thomas.”
Thomas just shrugged and went back to eating. I would have to find out what that was about, later.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are?” Nora directed at Sookie. “And I usually know everyone that Pamela knows, rather intimately.” She said, sneaking a look back at me as if to really make her point. I gripped my fork tighter, fighting the urge to slap her with it.
“Are you family? Or just some little lost cause. Eric loves his lost causes, and with that old dress on you certainly look like one.”
Before I could reprimand Nora for her ill manners, Sookie smiled.
“Oh, that’s explains why you and he are friends then doesn’t it? Or rather it explains why he looks like he’d rather hell swallow him whole than have you touch him again. For a woman that tells to know so much, you’ve missed some serious detail there, haven’t you.”
Nora’s mouth went agape, and she closed it again, looking from Sookie back to me.
“Eric are you going to let her talk to me like -”
“She can talk to you however she pleases.” I said taking a bite of my potato. “Sookie meet Nora, Nora meet Sookie.”
“And just who is this … Sookie.” She spat her name as if it left a bad taste in her mouth, as I’m sure it did.
“I’m his lover.” Sookie spoke up before she took a rather large gulp of her wine, but she held a rather smug look in her eye. “You know, that title you’re so desperately trying to grasp? I’m that.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. A thing that further enraged Nora.
“Is that so? And what do you do, exactly?”
With that Sookie raised her eyebrows.
“What do I do? Hmm. Lots of things, by trade I’m a baker for example, but lately, mostly I just do Eric. Thoroughly. And what do you do?”
Nora’s face, it was a picture. And judging by the others at the table they’d overheard too. Pam looked proud as punch.
“I’m an heiress to my father’s diamond mining business, if you must know.”
“So, you do nothing then. You spend your father’s money until it’s time to find a husband and then proceed to spend his money. How nice for you.” Sookie deadpanned, and I could do nothing but watch in sheer awe as my little shy love just took on the room with her wit and sarcasm and won. Nora was left speechless.
“Pam, darling.” She said before she finished off her drink, “I want to thank you for dinner, but I’m simply exhausted. I shall retire for the night if that’s okay with my gracious hostess?”
Pam nodded, a smug smile etched across her face.
“Of course my dear, of course. The party will not be the same without you, but I understand.”
Nora let out a breath, as if relieved that Sookie was leaving. But turned to me surprised when I stood up also.
“Where are you going? Just because she is leaving doesn’t mean -”
“That’s exactly what it means, Nora. I don’t play well with other’s anymore, and Sookie doesn’t like to share her things.”
She huffed. Clearly not happy at all.
I leaned to kiss her quickly on the cheek as Sookie waited for me by the door.
“Good seeing you again Nora.”
By the time Sookie and got to the staircase, her hands were shaking.
“Did I really saw those things? God… I’m so embarassed.”
“Don’t ever be. It was fantastic. You really put her in her place.”
“But I had no right -”
“You had every right. You didn’t lie, she was trying it on with me, everyone could see that, even when they knew you and I were together. I’m proud of you, Sookie.” I said as we rounded the corner to my bedroom, our bedroom.
“I’m not. Everyone probably thinks me some -”
“They’ll think you the life of the party, unafraid to say what’s on her mind. Most in that room admire that. Not Nora of course, she’s rather… sneaky in her attacks. Or she tries to be.”
“She was a cow.”
“You really… were with her?”
“For a time. If it helps the majority of that time I was on a serious amount of opium.”
Her eyes widened.
“It’s times like these I realise how sheltered I’ve been in life.”
“Not for much longer. Soon we’ll be free to do as we please. I promise.”
“Still want to marry me even though I’m a loud mouthed ill-bred mess?”
I laughed at her sad face as she sat on the bed, slipping off her shoes.
“If it’s possible I want to marry you even more.”
She finally smiled, and it was a wonderful ending to such a stressful evening. If all my stressful days ended with her and her smiles, I could be a happy man, that’s for sure.
“Your dress is getting all dirty.” He said, fluffing some dirt off the hem.
“I don’t even mind. This is too nice.” I said leaning against him again. We found a park, and the sun was still warm in the sky even though it was almost six in the evening. We’d bought some snacks and decided to take our time, lounging in the grass without a care in the world. Or at least that how we wanted it to be desperately. But we had a two more days of this, and then we had to return to Scotland, and on our return, everything that we were here couldn’t be. It broke my heart.
“When we marry…” He began and I laughed. “What?” He asked, poking my arm.
“A little presumptuous aren’t we?” I giggled.
“Well… we will marry.”
“Oh, will we now?”
He scoffed. “You love me. How could you refuse me.”
“Perhaps I will. Perhaps it’s my plan to leave a trail of broken hearted handsome men in my wake. Perhaps.”
“Let me ask you properly then.”
I shook my head.
“You know why. I don’t want it asked when there is still a chance that it may never happen. You may ask when I am a free woman, like you are a free man. You may ask then and I will have a delightful answer for you.” I smiled, turning to face him then. He planted a soft kiss on my lips.
“Then I will happily wait for that answer, my love.”
My heart soared. I was his love. It was still a new and wonderful feeling.
“When you are my wife, will you still indulge my ramblings on my books?”
“Only if I’m still allowed to ramble also…”
“Will we still take our walks, together, even when we are both married and boring?”
“I shall like very much to be boring with you, though I doubt we ever would be.”
“And will we have children?”
With that a streak of panic ran through me. I wasn’t sure it was possible for me bear children. I hoped it was just with Bill that those problems lay.
“God willing, I would like that very much.”
“I will not risk you if we are told not to. I will not risk losing you for something we may never be allowed to have. There are lots of other ways to have a family, if it is not possible the old fashioned way, we can always look into newer ways.”
I felt the tears threaten to spill at his words.
“Really? Most men would think their wives… broken. If they were unable -”
“Sookie. I lost Sophie in childbirth, I never want to lose you to anything, least of all putting yourself through something you may not be strong enough for. I would never force that option on you. Never.”
I kissed him sweetly at that. I found the more time I spent with him the more I fell in love with him. It was a little bit frightening how deeply I cared for him, how fast, how so very completely.
“The idea of going back… even though he is family now… it is just not appealing to me in the slightest. I still think your plan is crazy.”
A plan we had discussed to death the night he telephoned.
“I cannot walk in there as your lover, out in the open. I just could not do it. Eric, I may not have much anymore, but I still have my pride. A group of strangers I may never see again is one thing, this and them is entirely another. I won’t have them talk about me as your whore.”
“You are NOT my -”
“I know that, but you know that’s how they’ll spin it. I’ll be a money grabbing, conniving whore only after your money and the security you can give me. No. I don’t want anyone to know of us, until I am properly divorced and I can walk through those doors as your wife. Alright?”
“Yes. I understand it. I do not like it. But, I understand.”
“You’re a very understanding Gentleman.” I giggled.
“Yes, and you are a very contrary Lady, anyone ever tell you that?”
With a full on laugh, I pulled myself to my feet.
“All the time, darling. All the time.”
By the time we got back to Pam’s the house was thankfully empty, some of her ‘guests’ had lingered behind from the party a couple of nights before, now though there wasn’t a soul.
“I hate packing. So much folding.” Eric whined as he dragged his empty luggage from underneath the bed. He and I were planning on going back to Scotland, out of necessity more than want. A phone call the day before had put paid to our little vacation from real life.
Nial was ill and he was requesting that Eric come home and settle up the estate. He was scared and had moved in a couple of doctors and a nurse to take care of him full time, along with the staff. He also ‘requested’ that I come back and fulfill my contract, with Eric so at least I wasn’t travelling alone. I questioned the sincerity of Eric’s message to me from Niall, since I knew he couldn’t give two pennies if I returned safely or not, given the conversation I overheard with him and Pam before I left.
“Ha. Try being a maid, Mister. It is not fun and games.”
“I know, I’m ungrateful. I’m sorry.” He pouted slightly as he tried and failed to fold his collarless shirt. I took it from him to fix it.
“You’re not ungrateful, you’re just… privileged. I was the same before I had to start over. You learn, fast when you have to.”
My first few jobs were a joke, I was awful, nervous and uncoordinated – and very fired, very fast.
“Eric, I have to deliver some of my baking, it’s just a few blocks from here. If there aren’t any checkpoints or anything I should be back in less than a half an hour, you okay here until I return?” Getting around the city had been a bit of a struggle in recent weeks. Soldiers were deployed now on every street, or at least that’s how it felt sometimes.
“Of course. But if you come back to a suitcase full of shirts in a ball, don’t judge me.”
I smiled and grabbed my coat from the foot of his bed, it was a couple of weeks until October now, and you could certainly feel the chill creep into the air in the evenings. As I predicted there were patrols, but no one was being stopped or questioned, no trouble was brewing, at least for the time being. I walked up the steps to Claude’s home, a townhouse not too dissimilar to Pam’s, and was let in my Irene, his housekeeper. I had not wanted to stay long, but with Claude, a friend of Pam’s that I had met at one of her less-crazy parties, it was hard to say no. He was always so welcoming and so upbeat about live, even though he had lost his brother to the war, and his sister had married a ‘commoner’ and thus almost ruined his family’s reputation. He loved my banana bread and muffins, and would make me tea and force me have something as he regaled me of his tales of woe, when he came to dating women, when he had ‘little use’ for them besides admiring their dress and accessories. He always made me laugh, that was another thing I loved.
“I just do want marriage. It is so final. Like death. Death with a woman, for life. You know?” He gestured with his hand, his French-English heavily accented and adorable. I just could do nothing more than giggle.
“But it’s not for certain that you must, surely. You’re just a young man.”
“You flatter me, Sookie. I almost thirty. I have a pushy mother and father and just all this pressure that is just doing nothing but give me wrinkles. You see them? All under my eyes!” He got up close, making me laugh even harder at his high jinx.
“I find no woman acceptable, I just… no like.”
Something clicked. I mean, I knew the answer to my question before I asked it, but I felt I had better be on the safe side and ask anyway.
“Claude, since you no like women.” I said, using his accent a little, because I loved it. “Do you like… the men?”
“Maybe a little. But shh.” He indicated with his index finger and thumb just how ‘little’ he liked them.
I had the best idea since I decided to take some of the bones out of my corset for comfort. Claude needed a woman… Pam needed a man. Neither of them needed each other for anything else.
My god, it was brilliant.
Twenty minutes later I was leading Claude into Pam’s home by the hand. He was apprehensive, but he was willing to at least talk it through with Pam. As I kept reminding him, it couldn’t hurt to talk.
Eric looked oddly as I led Claude past his room, what became ‘our’ room, and soon peeked out from the doorway.
“Sookie,” he began softly, looking from Claude to myself. “What’s going on?”
“Oh, Eric. This is Claude, he’s a casual acquaintance of Pam’s, we met at a party here, it was him I was leaving the baked goods with.”
“Uh-huh… so why is he…here?”
“Oh, he’s here to marry Pam. Is she home?”
He blinked, confused, but I didn’t give him a chance to respond. Instead I walked into Pam’s bedroom, where I found her at her dressing table, letting down her hair from the afternoon.
“Pam.” I said and she looked around, shocked to see we had company.
“Claude? What the hell are you doing here?” She asked him.
He just shrugged.
“Pam, we have a proposition for you. Hear us out?”
She looked at us funny, as if I had suddenly grown two heads, but she nodded, got up and closed the door. Poor Eric being left on the other side, probably with the same look on his face.
I really hoped my idea worked!
A/N: Anyone still with this story? Love to hear from you, as always! 🙂