We’re all very pleased to see your excitement for the return of the Advent Calendar. Of course there will be gifts, and there will be stories but we’d like to take this moment to acknowledge this year’s recipients first. Last year we surprised the contributors of the blog who help create our bi-weekly blog postings of story recommendations, this year it’ll be the very deserving and somewhat more hidden little helpers that help us tremendously in a somewhat unofficial manner with figuring out all those missing stories for our Story Locator. It should come as no surprise that these wonderful helpers are some of the most longest and most loyal of readers and we couldn’t think of anyone more deserving to be put in the spotlight for once. We hope you enjoy your treat AlisonActually!
Day 2: A Gift for AlisonActually from Natsgirl
A Holiday Tale
Chapter 1 – Sleigh Bells Ring
Something had changed between her and Bill Compton. Sookie Stackhouse couldn’t exactly put her finger on it, but she knew it was there, hanging above her, just out of reach. It started after Dallas when they fought. She railed at him and threw him out. The next thing she knew, her brother was telling her that Bill had already moved on. Jason saw Bill squiring Portia Bellefleur around to dinners and museums. It had stung that Bill had given up on them so fast.
The thing that brought them back together was the orgy. Sookie took Eric Northman with her as both cover and bodyguard. She knew the folks involved in the sex party out on the lake had something to do with the death of Lafayette, her friend. Andy Bellefleur was arrested for the murder and Sookie just knew he was innocent. The idea of using her telepathy to solve Lafayette’s murder would never have occurred to her if she hadn’t talked with Eric.
Eric Northman hired her to go to Dallas. There was money involved and for the first time, Sookie saw her disability in a different light. She could use her telepathy to help people, and that was new.
Sookie also knew there was no way in hell she was going to a sex party without protection. She didn’t know who else to call since she and Bill weren’t speaking, so she called Eric. She figured since he understood business, it was a language she could use. He was a little too flirty about it, but he agreed, and, all in all, he held to his word. He pretended to be bisexual, which for all she knew he probably was, and kept his hands to himself until she needed him to get her out of there. Of course, there had been that moment when Sookie found herself kissing him and it had been nice, which gave her pause.
Thank goodness, Bill showed up. He was not too happy about what he saw, but she explained herself. Then, the maenad showed up and things got really weird. When she got home, Bill was waiting for her.
Bill became downright attentive. He told her that Portia Bellefleur was nothing to him. He told her he knew Portia didn’t really like him. She was just trying to use him for information to clear her brother. Bill told her that although he had taken her out, nothing sexual had happened between him and Portia Bellefleur.
Sookie told him she believed him, but when Sookie was being really honest with herself, she’d find herself thinking back to when the nest of vampires had visited with Bill, back when they’d first met. She knew Bill had sex with all of them. He never said it, but she just knew. When she asked him about Portia, he cut his eyes away, just for a second, and Sookie knew in her heart he’d slept with Portia and lied about it.
Bill also told her he was not happy that she smelled like Eric. He growled and handled her in a pretty dominant way, which was different and frankly, exciting. He showed up at the house two nights in a row and was aggressively attentive until Sookie fell asleep, too exhausted to continue. Sookie made a point of wearing the topaz earrings he’d given her and Bill commented on how nice they looked.
Then, on the third night, Bill didn’t come by. There was no message, no phone call. Then, on the fourth night, it was the same. Sookie sat on the couch, her legs curled under her, looking at the phone. She had purposely changed her schedule at Merlotte’s, so she was on days. It cut into her income, but there was something about having your boyfriend at the door, all loving and demanding that made a girl ready to skip a few meals. ‘He’s going to call,’ Sookie thought. ‘It’s Friday. It’s date night!’
But, when eight o’clock chimed, Sookie knew in her heart Bill wasn’t calling. Sookie didn’t have a cell phone. She just didn’t have the money. She did have a voice mail machine attached to the wall phone, and she stared at the steady glow that confirmed no messages. She thought about calling Bill and leaving a message, but she remembered what her Gran told her. She said ladies never chased. If the man is really interested in her, he’d be the one chasing.
Still, Sookie’s hand hovered over the phone more than once before she decided to pull her pride together and let it go.
Gnawing on her lip, Sookie headed to her bedroom and changed out of the pretty dress she’d put on. It was a little chilly to be showing her legs, but she knew Bill liked her clothes to be on the more feminine side. She held back, hoping against hope, but, finally, Sookie pulled out her pajamas. She had her Gran’s warm robe and that’s what she wore over her sleep pants and t-shirt. She pulled on her thickest socks and padded back toward the living room.
Halfway down the hall, her stomach growled. Sookie stopped for a moment, then turned toward the kitchen instead.
She wasn’t surprised at how empty the shelves were when she opened the refrigerator door. She glanced over at the counter next to the sink where the pans were all stacked in the dryer rack. There weren’t even any leftovers. Bill didn’t like cooking smells, so on nights she thought she’d see him, Sookie tended to eat at Merlotte’s. Bill always made a point of mentioning if he noticed any lingering food odors either in the house or on her. It made her feel kind of bad about herself, but Sookie told herself that as his girlfriend, it was really a small accommodation. After all, Bill couldn’t help who he was. He told her often that he hadn’t asked to be made a vampire. Sookie could understand how the smells of food might remind him of how much he lost, even if it was a long time ago.
Her stomach growled again. Today, Sam let her off right after the lunch rush. It had been slow for a Friday, so she didn’t get a chance to eat. Her only meal had been a couple chicken fingers and some spare fries she’d grabbed on the go. “Well, I have to have something!” she said out loud.
Truth was, there wasn’t much. The check from Dallas hadn’t come in and with her working days, Sookie had to do some fancy dancing to stretch her bank account far enough to meet her bills. She hadn’t gone grocery shopping last week, and aside from a half-gallon of milk and a loaf of bread she’d picked up at the Kwickie Mart, she hadn’t done any real shopping this week either.
Digging into the back of her cabinet, Sookie found an open jar of peanut butter. It wasn’t moldy, but she did have to use the knife to stir the oils back into it. She put her sandwich on a plate and put the kettle on for hot tea. There wasn’t anything for the side, no chips or celery or carrots. Sookie caught a glimpse of herself in the kitchen window’s reflection. She saw a thin face surrounded by messy hair and a frumpy bathrobe. ‘Is this really my future?’ she thought.
Sookie’s eye caught on her Word a Day calendar. The word of the day was ‘Lamentable.’ Sookie read the synonyms, which included ‘pitiable,’ ‘wretched,’ and ‘pathetic,’ and Sookie felt all those things.
She probably should have sat at the kitchen table, but she felt so low she took her plate into the living room and set it on the coffee table in front of the sofa. Picking up the remote, she turned on the television. There was a sports game on, so she flicked to the next channel. It was “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the one with the animated puppets. “Why not?” Sookie sighed.
It was close to Christmas, just past Thanksgiving. Sookie glanced around. Even when Gran was alive they hadn’t done much beyond bringing evergreens inside to decorate for the holidays. When she and Jason were little, Gran had made a point of setting up a tree and they’d decorated, using their few ornaments and making more out of paper. Once Jason grew up, Sookie and Gran just fell out of the habit.
Still, when the snowman sang, ”Holly Jolly Christmas,” Sookie found herself singing along. She almost didn’t hear the knock at the door.
‘Oh, my God!’ she thought, knowing it had to be Bill. She was just starting to run to the bedroom to change back into her nice dress, but something stopped her.
Sookie looked down at her old, battered bathrobe and fuzzy socks. She thought about how Bill had come to her, all demanding, and then just stopped showing up without a word. She had a right feeling in her chest that said that wasn’t how real boyfriends behaved, and then she was mad!
‘Well,’ she thought, ‘I don’t care how ugly I look. This is plenty good enough for you! You show up and then you just disappear! You’re lucky I let you in at all!’ and Sookie practically ran to the door and threw it open, all set to give Bill Compton a piece of her mind.
But it wasn’t Bill Compton standing on her dark front porch. It was Eric Northman.
“Oh!” Sookie felt her face flush. She had been so sure.
“I can see I’m not interrupting anything,” Eric rocked back on his heels and his lip and eyebrow lifted in a mocking sneer.
It was too much. Sookie squared her shoulders and tilted up her chin. “Well, not everyone goes out every night,” she snapped. “I can stay home if I want to!” Eric didn’t say anything, but Sookie was pretty sure he wasn’t buying what she was shoveling. Taking a breath, she crossed her arms and said, “So, just why are you here?”
Eric was looking over her shoulder and she realized he was waiting for her to ask him in. Rolling her eyes, she stepped back from the door. “Well, you might as well come in,” she grumbled. “No reason to let all the warm air out.”
Eric bowed with an exaggerated grace, and was smirking even more when he straightened up, “So kind of you, Miss Stackhouse! I would be happy to accept your kind invitation!”
Sookie’s hand itched to slap the sass right off Eric’s smug face, but she grit her teeth and forced her mouth up into a tight smile. As he strutted past her, Eric gave her that self-satisfied look that set her teeth on edge, and what made it worse, she knew that he knew what he was doing.
Eric walked into the living room and turned slowly, taking in the shabby furniture and the lived-in look. “Eating gourmet?” he asked, jerking his chin toward her sandwich.
“I wasn’t hungry,” Even Sookie could hear how defensive she sounded, and she moved quickly to pick up the plate and take it into the kitchen. She’d only had a couple bites and she wolfed one more before tipping the sandwich into the garbage.
“You don’t have to interrupt your dinner for me.” Eric was right behind her and she practically bumped her nose into his chest when she twirled around.
“Cheese and rice, Eric!” and this time she did slap his chest. “Don’t creep up on me! I hate that about you vamps!”
“You think we’re creepy?” Sookie looked up, prepared to fight back with her words, but she realized Eric was laughing. “I bet you have lots of other words you could use about me.”
“I might,” the telepath replied, “but I’m too much of a lady to say them.” Sookie stepped to the side so she could get around the vampire. “Well, come on and sit down. Might as well tell me why you’re not out on the town on a Friday,” and Sookie motioned toward the kitchen table.
“I’m here on business,” Eric lowered into the chair and folded his hands. Sookie pulled a cup from the dish drainer and put a teabag into it. She realized she was chilled and a hot cup of tea would make her feel better, but as she reached for the kettle, she remembered her role as hostess.
She pulled her hand back, “I wish I had some blood to offer you,” she said, and walked empty-handed toward the table. “I’m out.”
Eric was watching her. His eyes flicked to the refrigerator and then to the waste basket. When Sookie sat down, he stood up and whisked past her to open the refrigerator door. He looked at the pristine, empty shelves until Sookie almost squirmed in embarrassment. “Where’s your food?” he asked, closing the door and walking back.
“I haven’t had time to shop,” and Sookie pasted her Crazy Sookie smile in place.
“You are sitting in your house on a Friday night in your bathrobe,” Eric said reasonably. “Surely this would have been some of that time you were missing.” When Sookie didn’t answer, Eric sighed. “I expect you have taken the check to the bank,” he said, his eyes holding hers.
“I don’t have the check yet,” and Sookie’s eyebrows drew together.
“I handed the check to Bill Compton over a week ago,” Eric didn’t say it in an accusing way. He said it like a man stating the facts. “As your vampire, I was obligated to hand your fee to him.”
“Oh,” Sookie said. It felt as if she was saying that a lot tonight. “Bill didn’t mention it.”
Eric’s eyebrows drew together. “May I ask you a personal question?” he asked.
“Well, I guess,” Sookie mumbled. She felt off balance, and then she realized she’d just agreed to give personal information to Eric Northman without finding out what he wanted to know first, “I mean, as long as what you want to know isn’t too personal.”
“You are clever, even when you’re not at your best!” Eric laughed. He had a nice laugh. It didn’t make Sookie feel silly or stupid. “No, what I want to know is how much Bill told you you’d be paid for Dallas.”
“Almost two thousand dollars,” Sookie told the Viking.
“Oh,” Eric replied. Apparently, it was his turn to use the word. “I see,” and Eric looked away.
Sookie looked at Eric and then at her hands, “How much did you write the check for?” she asked.
“More than he told you,” Eric replied. He looked as if he’d say something more, but just then, Sookie’s stomach decided to growl again. Sookie blushed and Eric leaned forward, “Do you have enough to make another sandwich?” he asked.
“I guess,” Sookie blushed harder, “but it would be pretty rude for me to eat in front of you if I don’t have something to offer.”
Sookie didn’t have to look up to know that Eric had leaned further forward and that his eyes were drilling into her, “Well, you do have something you could offer.” His voice was a purr and Sookie swallowed hard.
“I couldn’t do that,” she told him. Her heart was pounding and she started to feel faint.
“I wouldn’t ask it,” Eric said suddenly, and just like that the tension was gone. “I am here to ask you to take another job,” and Eric the businessman was back. “Your work in Dallas has attracted attention and there is a request for your services in New York.”
“New York?!” and Sookie forgot how embarrassed she felt and how hungry she was. “New York City?” It was a kind of dream of Sookie’s to go to New York. She saw pictures of it on television. It seemed like another world, a wonderful world where anything was possible. “When would I have to go?”
“In a few days, if you could manage it.” Eric was looking at his hands. “It would be preferred if you would be willing to travel with me. If we need to involve Bill, I will have to observe the protocol about payment.” He waited until Sookie looked at him, “Your fee for this job would be over five thousand dollars.”
“That would take care of the taxes and repair the roof,” The words were out of her mouth before Sookie realized she’d said them out loud.
“Doesn’t Bill take care of you?” Eric asked.
Sookie realized what she’d done and she felt her temper flare, “I don’t need anyone to take care of me! I take care of myself and thank you very much!”
Eric smiled and Sookie could feel his approval and respect. “Of course you do, Miss Stackhouse. It is part of what makes you so intriguing. You are not like other humans. You aren’t looking for a meal ticket.”
Sookie thought about the fangbangers she saw at Fangtasia, and she thought about the women and men she’d seen with vampires. They all seemed so happy to take advantage of every privilege and opportunity being with a vampire offered. “I guess y’all have more money than most folks. That would be pretty tempting to some. It must be hard, not knowing who loves you for you and who just wants what you can offer.”
“Yes,” Eric nodded. “Money, blood, access. It is tempting for humans.”
“Well, not for me!” Sookie shrugged.
“I can see that,” Eric smirked. “And you are starving yourself to prove it.” Sookie could feel her mad coming forward when Eric raised his hand. “That was unkind,” he apologized. “I would like to offer you this job, and I think you should take it. It won’t take long, only a few days.”
Sookie looked around. “I guess… I guess I should let Bill know I’ll be going…” she said tentatively.
“The same way he let you know he wouldn’t be coming by tonight?” Eric asked in his too-knowing way.
Sookie made a decision, “You’re right. I have no obligation to tell him, but I will be telling my brother. If something happens, I want someone to know to come look for me.”
“I’ll be with you,” Eric assured her.
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?” Sookie sassed. “You’ll probably be the trouble I’m running from.”
“I do enjoy chasing,” Eric chuckled, and then he looked more serious, “You are not afraid of anything, are you, Sookie?”
“Not right, again,” Sookie shrugged. “I’m afraid of lots, but I can’t see how that will get me five thousand dollars.”
“Fair enough!” and Eric stood up, his height and broad shoulders suddenly making her kitchen feel small. “I’ll have Pam text you the details. You still have your clothes from Dallas?” When Sookie nodded, he said, “I’ll have Pam text you the address of a store in Shreveport. You’ll need to go there to use the account. You could use a few more things, including a warm coat.”
“My friend, Tara, has a shop that’s closer,” Sookie spoke up. “Tara’s Togs. She had dresses and suits and she’ll alter anything I need.”
Eric looked at her, his mouth drawing together as he obviously thought about what she said, and then he nodded. “I’ll arrange for the money to be placed in an account with her,” he agreed. Sookie was walking him to the door when he said, “You are loyal to those you love.”
“I expect I am,” Sookie answered.
“It is a rare quality,” Eric told her, and he turned just before he stepped onto the porch. He captured her eyes with his own and he lifted his hand. Sookie thought he was going to lay his palm alongside her cheek, but then he seemed to change his mind. Instead, he ran a finger along her cheekbone and then ended by brushing across her lips. “You will be my Lover someday,” he whispered.
“Don’t hold your breath!” Sookie snapped, and pushed the door shut.
“I never do,” Eric grinned. He skipped down to his car and drove back to Fangtasia. He pulled into the back and used his code to open the door. As he sat behind his desk, Pam walked into his office.
“What happened to you?” she hissed.
“Nothing,” Eric looked up, his eyebrows drawn together.
“Then stop grinning like that,” Pam snarled, “It’s bad for business!”
*A Special thanks to Natsgirl for gifting AlisonActually with this story. Do leave your likes and comments like you always would, they will end up with Natsgirl.
For those of you wondering, yes there is more to this story and subsequent chapters will be posted here!
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