New chapter as promised! As always thank you muchly for the reviews on here and on FF, and even on my tumblr too! Let me know what you think! 🙂
I woke up groggy, having spent the rest of the night before dancing and drinking with Eric well into the wee hours of that morning. I checked my watch and it was just before noon, I felt lazy, but I also felt like death so that feeling won out.
“Morning sleepy girl,” Eric called from across the room; he sat at the same table for two, pot of what smelled like coffee in front of him, newspaper in hand.
“How long have you been up?” I asked grabbing my slip and sliding it on to join him at the table.
“About an hour, maybe less, I ordered us breakfast,” he nodded, to the silver hooded tray that sat in the middle of the small table, I opened it to find two places of bacon, eggs, toast and grilled tomato. Just what I needed, that and the aroma of the coffee were serving well in bringing me back to life.
“I don’t drink a lot…” I groaned as he poured me the hot black stuff, adding a little sugar, and a little cream.
“I know, you kept saying it last night after every drink, it was rather funny.”
“But I don’t. I never did, so this feeling –“
“A good old fashioned hangover?” He smiled, taking his plate closer to start eating.
“Yes, I don’t like it.”
“No one likes it, but, good times were had last night right?” With that, he cocked a brow at me, knowing fine well that good times were had. Twice.
I moved from my seat to where he sat, and perched myself right on his lap, a place I’d spent most of the night when we weren’t dancing. He leaned up and kissed me.
“Hello.” He said as we pulled back.
“Hello yourself, and yes many good times were had. Unexpected good times, I feel unexpected good times about sums you up, Eric Northman.”
“Is that so?”
“Mm, I never imagined that brooding, reclusive man I first met was hiding such a fun side.”
“I have many sides, most of them fun.”
“I’m beginning to see that, love.”
“Your sides are fun too… this side for example…” He whispered peeking down my slip, eying up my breasts, again. “That side is very fun.”
I poked him, making him laugh again.
“Men.” I huffed getting off him but going nowhere as he yanked me back in place.
“Women.” He imitated. “This woman in particular,” he huffed matching my tone again, this time kissing me on the cheek. “All your sides are good sides, Sookie, you know that’s what I think.”
“Hmm. Just the sides with breasts to ogle.”
“You have to admit the breasts are fun to –“
I poked him again, knowing that this was our playful mood but still letting him know I wasn’t so into being just his boob woman.
“Okay, okay…” He smiled rocking me from side to side, humming for a second as if he was deep in thought. “All your sides, that side of the woman I first met, scared but stubborn, that was a good side to see. The side of the woman who came into my life when I least expected to take notice of anyone, or anything thing and who pulled me out of this seemingly endless cycle of self-pity, that was a good side. The side of the woman who stood up for herself to everyone who would look down on her, who worked hard for her living, and who genuinely cared about people she wasn’t even sure liked her back. That side was also a great side. The side to the woman who opened up my life again, opened up my heart…”
I stopped him then with a kiss, our playfulness long forgotten, taken over now by just sheer appreciation. I liked that he noticed those things, I liked that he remembered all of those changes we’d gone through.
“Good answer.” I smiled when I pulled back.
“I do that sometimes.” He shrugged bashfully.
“You do it a lot more than I think you realise. And just so we’re on the record here… you opened my heart again too. In the non-literal sense, of course,” I nodded.
I hopped off his knee and returned to my chair, and my bacon.
By the middle of that afternoon, we had both been through our final measurements for our attire for Pamela’s wedding, all of us thankful that the fussy couple with the measuring tape were now but a distant memory.
“She kept complimenting on my chest… no not complimenting, complaining!” I laughed as we got back to Pam’s place, Eric’s bags were waiting in the hallway, and I knew that meant Bobby was nearby. I had somehow managed to avoid him since they had arrived. I knew I would not be able to much longer.
As Eric disappeared upstairs I took a seat in the drawing room, contemplating if I should call for tea or just go down and make it myself. I was still not at all comfortable having Mary do the serving when just weeks ago I was in her job.
As I suspected Bobby had been lurking around, and he saw that I was sitting alone and used that as an excuse to say hello. Never one to be pointedly rude, I of course reciprocated.
“You look so different.” He stated, taking me all in.
“How so?” I asked.
“Just… out of the uniform, without the tray in your hand. You’d never have thought to look at you before that you were such a Lady in the making.” He smirked, I hated him in that moment.
“Well a uniform like a Valent’s outfit is just clothes after all.”
“But don’t they say that clothes make the man?” He countered pointedly.
“Perhaps they make the man, but in my case they did not make the woman.” I bit back and he seemed to like that he was seemingly getting under my skin.
“If Mrs Fortenberry could see you now, eh? Surrounded by the rich, one of them even, in the parlour waiting to be waited on, hand and foot… You’ve rose quickly that’s for sure.”
I sighed wishing that Eric would hurry up.
He nodded coming further into the room from the doorway where he had stood.
“Yes, and as you well know, people … they talk. There has been a lot of talk, back home, of just how you’ve gone from house maid to …” he spied my ring, and for a tiny second I felt the urge to hide it from him. “Fiancée of a man soon to be a Lord, my, my you have done very well for yourself.”
I felt beyond uncomfortable under his judgmental gaze and yet he continued to stand there knowing it and making it worse.
“They can talk all they like, it won’t change anything.” I stood then, anything to shift the focus.
“I am sure that’s true, Mr Northman was very concerned for you when your… husband… took you here, that’s for sure. So it comes as no real surprise that something was going on between you secretly, I am just surprised you’ve convinced him so quickly to make it all official.”
I just glared at him, and he continued.
“There must be something so special about you, Sookie. Something a lot more special than that polyester uniform and apron let on.”
I clenched my jaw in order to stop myself from telling him where he and his creepy commenting could go, but just at that Pam sauntered in, letters in hand.
“Sookie, great you’re back, I have some other things I need to discuss with you about the wedding, my mother’s arrival for one thing.” She sighed, not really even acknowledging Bobby until she sat down.
“Oh, you’re here too. Hello.” She said and he nodded respectfully, yes, respectfully to her!
“Eric is upstairs getting the last of his things for his hand luggage.” I admitted as Bobby finally excused himself and I finally took a deep breath. Fuck.
“You look tense, what’s wrong? There was nothing wrong at the fittings I hope?”
“Oh, no, no that all went swimmingly.”
“Good, great.” She smiled big and wide, handing me a letter with several pages to it. “My mother is coming in a few days. I have given her a list of hotels that she would like in the hopes that she chooses one, but knowing her, she may want to stay here. She’s bringing my aunt and cousins too, they will most definitely be staying elsewhere.” She sighed. “I never knew these things were so stressful to plan! I always just showed up and had a good time; I assumed everyone else did too.”
I knew we would figure something out for her soon enough, but as things stood I wanted to talk to Eric before he left, as he was insisting that I say inside because of the heavy snow that was falling again.
I excused myself and made my way to our room, I found him under the bed, or at least half way under it.
“Are you okay?”
He slid out, a sheepish smile on his face.
“I lost my cufflink, and it went all the way under.”
He popped it in a little bag, which he then put it in a bigger bag that he closed up tight.
We both took a seat on the bed.
“I wish I could stay, but Niall really does need me and I feel guilty just –“
“I know, I know, it’s completely understandable.”
He took my hand and kissed it sweetly.
“You could always come with me…”
That made my bones tense up and he sensed it.
“But I’m guessing you want to put of that reality for as long as possible huh?” He asked looking me right in the eye.
“No, I mean, yes… no. I want us to be together to start … the rest of our lives you know that. However, with Pam… and the wedding… it just does not make much sense for me to leave her now when she needs my help. She’s been so good to me, to us…”
“I know…” He nodded slowly. “I know, I think I just want to be selfish… wanting you to myself.” He smiled, and it was as always infectious.
“It’s not selfish, Eric. It is a lovely thing… a normal thing to want.”
“But… I have promised Pam.”
He looked sad, but he nodded in agreement anyway.
“But after… we’ll have all the time in the world for all manner of things.” I promised allowing him to take me under his arm and pull me in for a side hug of sorts.
“That is rather true.”
“Rather true indeed.” I smiled leaning up to kiss him on the cheek. “Your train leaves soon.” I stated noting the time. He would not get into the Estate until very late; there was talk of them just staying over in Glasgow ‘til morning, I liked that idea better. The road from there to the Estate was a rocky one at the best of times and if it was snowing in London, I could only imagine what Scotland looked like.
We parted a few minutes later, with kisses and promises of a telephone call the next day, I wished him a safe trip, kissed him yet again, and watched him and Bobby take the taxi to the train station.
I missed him that night, and the night after that until the third day of what Pam called ‘unnecessary moping’ when she handed me a train ticket and a bottle of scotch and told me to go find my wits.
Apparently, my wits were in Scotland.
Bobby was mostly silent on the train, neither of us really initiating any kind of real conversation outside of sports and politics; as usual with him all things personal were kept to a minimum. The man saw me naked every day, and yet I knew very little, of who he really was when he was not on the job. I respected his need for privacy for sure, but I always just found that barrier between the staff in big houses such as Niall’s a very strange way of being. We were all just people, after all.
Then he surprised me, as soon we reached Glasgow at almost midnight, we then decided to stay at one of the bed and breakfast’s close to the station, the B&B came with a bar downstairs both of us taking the opportunity to stretch our legs and unwind with several drinks before bed. It was then he became Mr Chatty.
“Grew up in south Yorkshire, family of seven originally,” he spoke with his third beer in hand.
“Hmm, my mother had nine of us in total, two didn’ make it beyond their third birthday.”
“Oh. I am sorry.”
“Probably for the best, she couldn’t really feed what she had anyway.”
I drank, he drank, and the conversation continued.
“My mother had two before me; one never took a breath – a girl, and a boy who lived until he was two. He died in his crib for no reason.” I admitted, sad suddenly though I could not have possibly had any memory of my siblings, as it was long before I was even born.
“Ah so you were the one that survived, I bet she doted on you.”
The memories made me smile. She did dote, they all did. I was very lucky.
“I think it’s all a mother wants, is to be able to dote on her children.” I added and he nodded.
“Do you want children, Bobby?”
He looked surprised.
“Are you offering?” He smirked.
“Hmmm perhaps not,” I laughed. “I don’t have the hips for birthing for one thing.” I rolled my eyes at his laughter then.
“But Sookie does.”
That stopped my laughter.
He took my silence and looked considerably silently chastised.
“I’m sorry, that was inappropriate.”
“Just a touch,” I said sharply. “I can understand there will be some… friction with the downstairs crew when we wed, Bobby.”
“No, I can understand that there will be, but I won’t have her disrespected. No matter what you may think, personally.”
“So you are set on marrying her then?” He asked and I wasn’t so sure I liked the tone in which he asked.
“I am. Yes.”
He shook his head.
“No. None at all, she’s a nice girl…”
“The tone and the headshaking tell me you think otherwise.”
“It is a matter of personal option, Sir. One you’ve made clear doesn’t matter.” He finished off his drink, leaving notes on the bar in payment before standing to take his leave.
“I’ve got these.” I stated handing him back his money, and he thought for a second before he accepted them back.
“Thank you.. I’ll bid you goodnight then, we’ll get the ten train back, yes?”
“Yes, at ten. Thank you.”
We both nodded, both ignored the unfinished conversation, both ignored his own personal opinions on my wife-to-be, ones I knew were not so positive in their nature. We both ignored it, and each other for two days afterward when we returned home too, since I wasn’t due anywhere, I made it known his service wasn’t needed. In truth, I worried for any man now that needed another man to help him dress. Things were changing, and fashionable garments were just one of the things that the world was trying to simplify, soon the idea of Valet’s and Ladies Maid’s would be outdated.
“Come on Thor, come on!” I said as we were about a half a mile from the house. We had taken our walks twice a day since I’d been back, I had missed him and knew as much as Mr Dearborn kept an eye, he wasn’t in the shape needed to give Thor his proper walks. We both happily trudged through the snow, even if I was slower than normal thanks to my five layers of clothing. I was beyond tired, and knew that Niall wanted to go over the workings of the Estate – again- with me that night. It was something he had been doing happily too since I got back, teaching me how to run things, even though having lived and watched him for years now, I knew what to do – I also knew what I wouldn’t be doing, though I knew better than to tell him that. His health wasn’t improving, the doctors had informed me that they were surprised his heart had held on as long as it had in his condition, but he was nothing if not a stubborn old mule, and I for one was glad of his stubbornness. I also understood his bond to me now, without her brother, without his wife, and me, without Sophie he was left alone. Alone on the Estate was never a happy time, it was so big and empty most of the time, and when you felt alone it just felt all the more big, all the more empty. Never a good thing at all really, it was a place that almost cried out to be filled with people, with laughter and chatter. Without it, the walls simply echoed off each other.
I got back, shrugging off a few layers as I reached the sitting room, having left my boots and my coat in the mud room below stairs where Thor happily fell into his bed near the hot burning range for heat.
“Mr Northman would you like some soup?” Millie asked, she was the new girl apparently. Niall sent Mrs Fortenberry on the hunt for another maid, even though it was silly to have so much staff for just two people, but my ways were not his ways either. She was young, maybe about seventeen, very green at the job, but sweet and kind natured from what I had seen. However, with Amelia on a few days leave a kind face around the place was not one that went unappreciated.
“I would Millie thank you,” I smiled, I wanted to befriend her but I did not want nor need another situation like the Dawn situation, so I kept my distance and then some. “And some tea if it’s not much trouble?”
“Of course, Sir. I’ll bring it up to your library if that’s –“
“That’s perfect thank you.”
She smiled and did her little curtsey before leaving the room. I hoped she was being welcomed more warmly downstairs than they had welcomed Sookie.
I took the steps two at a time ‘til I got to my room, my socks were wet, and there really wasn’t much worse a feeling in the world than cold wet feet. When I got to my room however, I damn near jumped out of my skin.
“Oh, good it’s you!” She said, slightly unsteady on her feet, she was flushed pink and her hair was out of place. She looked and sounded like she just woke up.
Had I fallen and hit my head? Was I imagining this?
“Sookie… what are you… how are you…” She pulled me inside the room and closed the door silently.
“No one else knows I’m here.” She stated putting a chair up to the door handle to keep it from being opened.
“Uh… I did not even know you were here. How are you here?”
She swayed again. My God, she was drunk!
“Sook… are you?”
“A little tipsy? Yeah… you could say that.” She held her head before she made her way over to the bed to sit down. “I got scared and so I had a few drinks before I left for the train and then on the trains there were lots of drinks and I drank those too and then I didn’t eat anything and now I just feel wretched.”
“You got … Okay…”
“I got scared. I wanted to come be with you but being with you … means being here and I hate here. Well I don’t hate it but the people… they hate me and I just ugh it’s just awful I’m sorry.” She expelled without taking so much as a breath to pause, no wonder she felt lightheaded.
“How did you get from the train to here?”
“I got a lift with Gordon Andrew’s wife Anya. They live –“
“What was she doing there?”
“She drives her own motor car now imagine that. She drives and she was dropping her son off, I lied and said the driver must have forgotten about me…and so she dropped me off outside the gates. I sneaked inside.” She shrugged as if it was no huge thing at all.
“You sneaked all the way inside…” I noticed her bags by the foot of my bed. She was certainly resourceful I will give her that, thought at this point in our history I do not know why I was even surprised anymore.
But, I was surprised and happy and confused and all other good things upon seeing her. I just knew though that her nerves and her fear would only get worse until we nipped it in the bud together. Easier said than done though when she could barely stand up straight!
Never a dull moment with Sookie Stackhouse, that is for sure!