All good things come to an end and so does this “Holiday Tale”. We hope you enjoyed your present AlisonActually, and many, many, thanks once more to Natsgirl for providing us with this delightful tale.
Day 4: A GIFT FOR ALISONACTUALLY FROM NATSGIRL PART II
A HOLIDAY TALE
Chapter 3- A Beautiful Sight, We’re Happy Tonight
It was almost noon when Sookie woke up. Her mouth felt like cotton and she could tell her breath stunk. She stretched, rolled out of bed, and padded her way to the bathroom. The curtains ran from floor to ceiling across the length of the bedroom and Sookie eyed them as she walked past.
The bathroom walls were lined in the same marble as the lobby downstairs and everything had a soft shine. Sookie tested the water in the stand-up shower. There was a large, round shower-head, and she figured she wouldn’t have to turn around even once to be able to rinse off both her front and back. It was the prettiest shower she’d ever seen.
When she walked back into the bedroom, she saw the pulls for the drapes. As soon as they started to open, light flooded the room. Sookie pulled until she couldn’t pull any more and then she took a few steps forward. The windows were floor to ceiling, too, and Sookie realized she wouldn’t want to get too close to them. Then Sookie looked out. Laid out before her was what looked like a small forest. She could see some roofs poking through. There were lots of bare branches and what looked like patches of snow in some places. There were stretches of evergreens and across the way, the city returned with tall buildings that seemed to go on forever. Sookie felt as if she was in a movie. The view in front of her was so spectacular, it was hard to believe it could be real.
There was noise coming from outside her door, so Sookie started moving. She grabbed her jeans, a t-shirt, and then a sweater she’d brought from home. The shower was every bit as wonderful as it looked, and Sookie was tempted to spend lots of extra minutes, but then her stomach growled. There was a hair dryer on the counter, which was a good thing. Sookie hadn’t thought to pack hers. As she walked toward the door she thought about how this really wasn’t a hotel, and she turned around and made her bed.
Mr. Cataliades was in the formal living room waiting for her. “How did you sleep?” he asked as he set down his newspaper.
“Good,” she replied, “real good.” Sookie turned to stare out the windows that also showed views of the park. “It sure is beautiful!” Sookie sighed again.
“New York is one of the most vibrant cities in the world,” the attorney agreed, moving to stand next to her. “And we are privileged to see it from one of the best vantage points in the city.”
“Who owns this place?” Sookie asked.
“A vampire who is very powerful,” Mr. Cataliades told her. “She controls many businesses and has connections all over the world.”
“Any idea what I’m going to be doing for her?” Sookie asked. The demon gestured toward another open door, and Sookie started walking.
“No,” he told her. “By the time Mr. Northman returned last night I had retired. I’m sure we’ll get all the details tonight.” There was something in the way he said it, some hint of annoyance, that caught Sookie’s attention.
“You don’t like Eric, do you?” Sookie asked. She didn’t know Mr. Cataliades well, but he’d never done her wrong. In fact, if anything, he seemed to go out of his way to explain things or help her in some way.
“I have no particular problem with Mr. Northman,” the attorney said smoothly. They walked into the kitchen and the first thing Sookie saw was a charming breakfast table set up near more windows. There was a balcony with large flower pots just beyond the window, but everything looked cold outside, the furniture covered in canvas. Mr. Cataliades pulled out a chair for Sookie, and then walked around to take a seat on the other side of the table.
Basil approached them from the bank of appliances and counters that ran across the back of the kitchen. He was wearing a white bib apron and poured them both coffee. It smelled heavenly and Sookie didn’t wait, adding milk and sugar before taking a sip. When she set her cup down, a plate of pancakes studded with berries and a separate plate of bacon appeared in front of her. “If you’d prefer,” Basil said in his clipped accent, “I could prepare an omelet.”
“Oh, no!” Sookie sighed. “This is just perfect!” She flashed her best and brightest smile at the butler, “Thank you so much for doing this for me!”
“It is my job,” Basil said politely, but Sookie could tell he was both flattered and pleased.
As Sookie dug into the pancakes, the attorney started preparing his own plate with more ceremony. He dipped into the butter, scraping it just so across the surface of the cakes. He used both fork and knife to re-position things so he could scrape butter on the pancake below as well, moving his knife in short, choppy motions. When he took extra time to make certain the cakes were perfectly re-aligned along the edges, Sookie stopped shoveling her food to watch. It was funny and, at the same time, mesmerizing, each movement by the demon so measured and precise.
He must have sensed her because he looked up, catching her watching. With a quick smile and an adjustment of his napkin, he said, “Well, what shall we do today? What did you decide were those things you had to see while you’re here?”
“Statue of Liberty,” It was out of her mouth before she even thought.
“It will be a cold trip across the harbor,” the attorney warned her. “There will be a boat ride and even though it’s protected, there can be waves.”
“Boats don’t bother me!” Sookie declared. “And Pam, Eric’s progeny, loaned me her warm coat.”
“Then, the Statue it is,” and Mr. Cataliades lightly touched his silverware to have it more precisely lined up with the plate before picking up his fork.
“And the Empire State Building,” Sookie added.
Mr. Cataliades’ eyebrows rose, “That is quite a bit for one day,” he said mildly.
“If I may,” Basil interrupted from his place near the sink. “If you were to restrict your visit to Liberty Island to three hours, you would have time to see the top of the Empire State Building just as the sun sets. I would recommend you consider the subway. The streets in the afternoon are crowded, so traveling on the streets takes longer.”
“Thanks!” Sookie beamed.
“Yes, thanks,” Mr. Cataliades echoed, but Sookie could tell the attorney wasn’t exactly thrilled. When he looked at her, she couldn’t see any sign of pouting, and he said, “Well, Miss Stackhouse, if that’s really what you’d like to accomplish today, you had better finish your breakfast and get ready.”
The subway ride to Battery Park was an adventure. Their fellow passengers seemed to represent every part of the world and every walk of life. It was everything Sookie could do not to openly stare. For his part, Mr. Cataliades refused to sit down on any open seat, holding onto a metal bar and swaying with the motion of the car. Sookie figured it had to do with the suit he was wearing. He buttoned and unbuttoned the suit jacket a couple times, smoothing any wrinkles that formed with his hand.
As they walked up the steps from the underground and onto the street, the bright cold of the day took Sookie’s breath away. She forced herself to breath shallow breaths, the sharp air hurting her throat. She’d never felt anything like it. Around her there was a sea of people walking on crowded sidewalks. Mr. Cataliades took her hand and linked it through his arm. It was old fashioned, her being escorted, and seemed out of place, but there was something about it that made Sookie feel as if she was traveling in a safe bubble all her own.
The closer they got to the water, the colder and sharper the breeze became. There were patches of ice in places where puddles had frozen on the sidewalks, but Sookie could see there was nothing frozen about the harbor. Mr. Cataliades knew where they were going and he steered them toward a squat building that sold admission tickets and vouchers for the ferry ride that would take them over to Liberty Island and the Statue.
The ferry was sitting only a short distance away, and Sookie walked down the gang plank and then into the cabin. The area already held a few other sight-seers on board. There was a bar at one end that was selling coffee and other beverages, decorated with artificial wreaths and playing Christmas carols. It struck Sookie how for the first time she was in a place that actually resembled all the Christmas cards she’d ever seen. It was cold and people were bundled up. She hadn’t really seen snow yet, but she was sure if there was ice on the street, there was snow somewhere. She found herself listening to the Christmas music and a smile crept over her face.
The ride seemed too short and before she knew it, they were stepping back out into the cold. The Statue of the lady herself stood unbelievably large in front of her and Sookie had to stare up and then up again to see her. Mr. Cataliades hustled them into the checkpoint building and he took care of the locker where they secured her purse. From there it was through metal detectors. “They sure are careful,” Sookie whispered.
“This is New York,” Mr. Cataliades replied. Sookie wasn’t sure exactly what the demon meant, but figured it probably had something to do with the terrorist attacks in the city.
They spent well over an hour walking through the museum. There was a large carving of the face of the Statue and visitors were encouraged to touch it. Sookie leaned against the nose while Mr. Cataliades took a picture of her with his cell phone. Sookie figured he could send it to Bill’s computer since she didn’t have a cell phone herself. It made her think about how Bill hadn’t called before she left and she felt some part of her Christmas spirit slip away.
As they finished watching another short film about how the Statue had been built, Mr. Cataliades glanced at his watch. “We should think about heading back if you want to see the Empire State Building before nightfall. While the view from the top is always spectacular, seeing it in daylight allows you to recognize the buildings.”
Sookie glanced at the stairs that would have taken them up into the statue. They hadn’t purchased tickets to climb up to the crown, but there weren’t many people here today. Sookie thought they could probably get tickets if they tried when the attorney interrupted her. “You’ll have a lovely view of the city from the pavement below,” Mr. Cataliades said, and Sookie figured that would be enough.
Sookie did stop at the museum gift shop after she recovered her purse from the locker area. There were knickknacks and souvenirs. Sookie bought a shot glass for Jason. Her hand was hovering over a tie she thought Bill Compton might like, but then she pulled back. With his connection to the South, she wasn’t sure what Bill would think of a tie from up North. She hovered in front of the display, and then turned over the price tag and that made up her mind to move on. She was at the register when the display of Christmas ornaments caught her eye. The sign said the design was the special ornament that was made only for this year and it featured the Statue. Sookie grabbed one and added it to her purchase.
Once they exited the building, it was only a short walk to the end of the Island and the railing that lined the far end. Sookie looked over the edge and she could see that they were standing on a rock that jutted up out the water. It was then she looked up and her mouth fell open as she saw the skyline. “It looks like the Emerald City,” she sighed. When Mr. Cataliades didn’t say anything, she turned to him and added, “From the Wizard of Oz.”
“I am aware of the book,” and the attorney smiled indulgently.
“I didn’t know if you took notice of those things,” Sookie shrugged. “Being a Supe and all.”
“Human literature is an indulgence of mine,” Mr. Cataliades replied, and he swept his arm toward the boat launch area, indicating it was time to go.
Sookie could see one of the ferry shuttles pulling up to the dock. As she stepped forward, shoving her hands deeper in her pockets, she observed, “You and Eric Northman, huh? Book fans?”
Since he was behind her, Sookie didn’t see the attorney’s eyes become sharper, “I wasn’t aware that Mr. Northman was a reader. It seems somewhat out of character.”
“I guess,” Sookie shrugged. There was another sharp breeze and she hustled into the boat. Sookie walked around until she found the place where the heat was blowing out of a vent and she stood next to it. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold!” she grinned. “They sure don’t tell you about that when you watch all those Christmas movies! Like in “White Christmas” when they’re all singing and they open up the back doors of the barn and it’s snowing to beat the band? They’re just wearing those backless dresses and suits. They must have been freezing their asses off!”
The attorney laughed. Sookie didn’t hear him do it often, but she couldn’t help but admire how good it sounded. “I think they were on a Hollywood sound stage, Sookie,” Mr. Cataliades chuckled and wiped his eyes.
“Well, good!” Sookie told him. “Because I don’t think you could have paid me to stand there for that! They would have had to nail my feet to the floor and slathered me with Ben-Gay!”
When they got back to Battery Park, Mr. Cataliades walked them to the nearest street and hailed a cab. “Not interested in trying the subway again?” Sookie asked.
“No need at this time of day,” he replied, not looking at her. Sookie didn’t need to be a mind reader. She’d seen how uncomfortable the demon was riding the train. To tell the truth, Sookie was relieved, too. While she could screen out folks pretty well now, being near so many souls was making her tired. She sat back against the taxi seat and watched the stores and buildings they passed. She could see glass-fronted lobbies with huge Christmas trees inside. There were decorations hanging from lampposts and everything seemed festive.
Sookie found herself counting the streets they passed. There didn’t seem to be a lot, but it still seemed to take a long time before their driver said, “Okay, we’re here.”
Sookie waited while Mr. Cataliades paid, and when he was done, she stepped out and looked straight up. She knew the building was right in front of them, but Sookie couldn’t get the right angle to see the top. “Come on!” she called to the attorney and started walking briskly down the sidewalk.
“Where are we going?” the attorney asked.
“I want to see the building the way Deborah Kerr saw it,” Sookie told him. “You know, in the movie, “An Affair to Remember.” The one where she’s going to meet Cary Grant and he’s waiting up there,” and she glanced up again.
“Do you believe your Cary Grant is waiting for you?” the attorney was laughing at her, but Sookie didn’t care. She walked another block away, and then glanced up again, and she could finally see it, the distinct shape of the top of the building.
“There it is!” she sighed, and she pointed out the view to Mr. Cataliades. The attorney took up his place beside her and there they stood, two still people like rocks in a stream as people walked around them, staring up until Sookie lowered her eyes. “Why are you here?” she asked him.
“How do things stand between yourself and Mr. Compton?” Mr. Cataliades asked in return.
“I don’t really know,” Sookie answered and taking a breath, she took her arm and said, “Guess we should go up if we’re going to.”
Mr. Cataliades knew what to do when they walked inside, and soon they were in the special elevator that would take them to the observation deck. When they walked outside, Mr. Cataliades made a point of walking her all the way around the platform, pointing out landmarks and telling her bits and pieces about some of the buildings. He told her a story about the Brooklyn Bridge that had her looking twice. The way he told it, Sookie was pretty sure he must have been there during the building of it, and she wondered just how old the attorney really was.
When they were riding down the elevator, Sookie decided to stop wondering and just ask, “I know this is rude, but just how old are you?”
Mr. Cataliades didn’t seem insulted by the question, “I remember when this City was nothing more than a trading colony,” he replied. It gave Sookie pause. She knew that time passed differently for vampires. She’d heard that for Weres, time actually passed more swiftly, their transformation burning out their bodies. She’d never thought about demons before, but she found his answer didn’t surprise her either.
“Does it ever make you sad?” she asked, “Seeing everything and everyone you know passing away around you?”
The attorney pulled her outside and to the curbside, and then he signaled. A cab almost magically appeared at the curb in front of them and Sookie noticed that there were other people shooting them looks. She had the impression they wanted cabs, too and had been waiting longer. The demon ignored them though, and held the door until she got in. “No,” he told her as he settled in beside her, “It is the way of things. Wanting that to change is like wanting the sun to stop rising or the waves to stop. I am who and what I am, and I find great peace in that.”
“I guess,” Sookie bit her lip.
“Does your close contact with vampires make you question your own mortality?” the demon asked. His tone was mild, but Sookie got the impression it was an important question.
“Not really,” she assured the attorney. “I know I don’t want to be like them, only living in darkness and having to drink blood.”
Mr. Cataliades was watching her closely, “And Mr. Compton has never mentioned it?”
“What?” Sookie asked, and then it struck her, “You mean like turning me? No! No, he has not.”
“Interesting,” Mr. Cataliades was nodding.
“I’m sure he knows I just wouldn’t be interested,” Sookie felt the need to defend Bill since he wasn’t here and technically he was still her boyfriend. “He’s not like Eric,” Sookie added, but somewhere in the back of her head a renegade thought took root. ‘Why hasn’t he asked you?’ the thought taunted her. ‘Doesn’t he love you? Doesn’t he want you to stay with him?’
“In what way?” the demon asked, and then “Sookie?” and it shocked her out of her reverie.
“In what way what?” she stuttered, trying to remember what she’d said.
“In what way is Mr. Northman not like Mr. Compton?” Mr. Cataliades persisted.
“Oh, I just mean that Eric takes the time to explain things to me,” Sookie told the attorney. “Bill? Well, Bill’s always so busy,” and Sookie realized that Bill wasn’t much of a talker. When they did have time together, Bill was either dressing her or washing her or having sex with her.
Mr. Cataliades leaned forward and asked the driver to stop. He paid and they exited the taxi. Sookie looked around, but she didn’t see any building that looked familiar. Mr. Cataliades tucked her arm in his and he walked her through a metal gate and into Central Park. “Where are we going?” Sookie asked.
“I want to show you something,” the attorney told her, and he was smiling.
They walked a short distance and there, in front of them, was an Egyptian obelisk. Sookie’s mouth fell open. “Is it real?” she asked.
“You mean, is it from Ancient Egypt? Yes, Sookie. Yes, it is. It was brought here a long time ago as a gift from a wealthy benefactor. That obelisk was made over two thousand years ago. Once upon a time, that obelisk sat in front of a temple looking out across the great sands of the desert.”
“Eric told me most deserts are really rock,” Sookie shared.
“Did he?” and the attorney stared at her. “You seem to mention the Sheriff quite often.”
“The what?” Sookie asked.
“Mr. Northman, I mean. You seem to mention him often,” and Mr. Cataliades waited.
“Well, I am here with him, and we have seen each other more often,” and Sookie felt inexplicably guilty, “For work!” she added. “I worked for him in Dallas. He helped me out with a little job I had in Bon Temps, and now we’re here and I’m getting paid for this, too.”
“And, he hasn’t tried to pressure you into…anything else?” and now the attorney’s eyes were watching her again.
“You mean does he tease and flirt?” Sookie huffed, “Well, sure! He’s a guy. I expect it, but it’s nothing more than that!” but Sookie knew she wasn’t exactly telling the truth. She remembered how flustered she felt when Eric got close to her and how she’d felt downright enthusiastic when he’d kissed her. That wasn’t exactly business, but then she reminded herself that getting surprised into things didn’t mean she was ready to start cheating on her boyfriend. “Besides,” she concluded, “I am a one-man woman and that man, or vampire, is Bill Compton.”
“Of course,” Mr. Cataliades assured her, “You are a good girl, and I never doubted it. I will admit that I might have been a little worried at you going away all alone with Mr. Northman.” He looked at the obelisk, “Mr. Northman is not as old as this object, but he has still seen more of human nature than almost any other creature that walks. There are few vampires remaining who are older than him, but not many. There is his Maker…” and the attorney stilled.
“Eric’s Maker is still around?” This was news and something Eric hadn’t mentioned. For some reason, it made Sookie wonder about Bill, but she dismissed it. If Bill’s Maker was still among them she was sure he would have mentioned it. After all, a Maker was kind of like a Mommy or Daddy, and since Sookie was Bill’s girlfriend, of course he would have told her if his was still around.
“He hasn’t been seen in many years,” the attorney was saying. He looked around, “I suppose we should be getting back. The sun is setting and by the time we get back to the apartment, Mr. Northman will have risen.”
“Seems kind of early,” Sookie glanced at the darkening sky.
“Mr. Northman’s age gives him certain privileges. He rests for fewer hours than younger vampires,” Mr. Cataliades told her.
It didn’t take long to walk to the gate located across the street from the apartment building. The entrance was positioned in the middle of the block, so Sookie and Mr. Cataliades had to walk all the way to the corner so they could cross with the streetlight. By the time they walked back to the building lobby, the streetlights were beginning to glow.
Basil opened the door as they walked off the elevator. Sookie figured the doorman downstairs called him, and she wondered what it would be like to live this way all the time, with people always watching you. “Good evening, Miss Stackhouse,” he said formally, and then, “Good evening, Mr. Cataliades.”
“Is Mr. Northman up?” Mr. Cataliades asked.
“He is, Sir,” Basil was taking their coats. “He is in the living room.”
When they walked into the living room, Eric was standing at the window. His eyes seemed to light up when he saw Sookie and he asked, “Did you enjoy your adventures in the big city?”
“I did!” Sookie couldn’t help feeling happy just to see him, and she started to tell him about what she’d seen when Mr. Cataliades interrupted.
“How did your visit with our patron go last night? Was she fully satisfied?” Sookie couldn’t help staring at the attorney. He said the words in a particular way that made it seem like there was something more than business involved.
“I performed as expected,” Eric replied, which pretty much made it clear, but the Viking didn’t look happy about it. One minute he had been the funny, amused Eric that Sookie was starting to know, but in a heartbeat that vampire disappeared. Now the vampire who stood in front of her was the tall, forbidding Eric who said in his all-business voice, “I also received the specifics for our assignment.”
They would be expected to attend a party tomorrow night. Sookie would be pretending to be Eric’s companion for the night. It was formal and Sookie would need a gown. She would be expected to dance and talk with as many people as possible and catalogue what she heard. There were business colleagues attending, and most were human. The vampire they were there to serve had a major deal that would be closing and she was nervous that someone was trying to sabotage her.
“And, if you would be so kind as to confirm exactly what your role in on this trip? I think Miss Stackhouse has a right to know,” the attorney asked the vampire rather pointedly.
“I am here to service our client,” Eric replied. He said the words as if they were nothing, but Sookie was certain he didn’t like it. It was in the way his eyes tightened and the slight twitch in his jaw.
“I’m sure you’ll do your usual, thorough job,” the attorney said and, in that moment, Sookie didn’t like Mr. Cataliades one bit.
All day long Mr. Cataliades had been poking and prying, trying to determine whether Sookie was forming some sort of attachment to Eric Northman. He hadn’t been especially subtle about it either, reminding her of her relationship with Bill Compton and planting doubts about Eric’s sincerity. Hell, Sookie knew Eric was a scoundrel! He’d told her himself! He’d promised she would be his Lover, and he’d explained that he was an opportunist. He had been sneaky that once, in Dallas, when he tricked her into drinking his blood, but since then he’d been a straight shooter, telling her what he was doing, even if he thought she wouldn’t like it. Now, the attorney was putting Eric on the spot, making sure Sookie was clear about what was going on between the vampire and this mystery woman. She knew the attorney wanted it to warn her off Eric, but all it was doing was pissing her off.
Sookie knew she shouldn’t have cared that Eric was sleeping with whomever this female vampire was, but somehow as she looked at his cool, indifferent glare, she couldn’t stop thinking that what Mr. Cataliades was forcing Eric to admit was unnecessarily cruel.
Basil chose that moment to enter, “A message for you,” he said and advanced to Mr. Cataliades. The attorney opened the note and then stared coldly at Eric.
“Did you have something to do with this?” he asked.
“I don’t know what it is,” Eric replied neutrally.
Mr. Cataliades didn’t look convinced, but he managed to put a smile on his face and told Sookie, “I’ve been summoned back to New Orleans. It seems there is some emergency that requires my immediate attention.” He glanced at Basil, “If you could arrange for a taxi to take me to the airport?” He turned back to Sookie, “Perhaps you would come and chat with me while I pack?”
Sookie didn’t think she could politely decline, so she followed him to the bedroom. She couldn’t help noticing the door right across from the attorney and knew it was Eric’s, and just knowing that made her blush.
If Mr. Cataliades noticed her reaction, he didn’t say anything. Instead he pulled out a small black leather case and then removed items from the closet, folding them quickly but precisely before placing them in the bag. “You thought I was being rude to Mr. Northman,” he said out loud.
“It didn’t seem very nice,” Sookie confirmed.
“Mr. Northman has many obligations. He has the reputation of the quintessential vampire, and it’s a reputation he’s earned. He’s ruthless and pragmatic. He will do and say whatever is necessary to survive. It’s the key to survival for vampires, and he has survived longer than any.” Just like that, Mr. Cataliades seemed to be finished packing because he was pulling the zipper. “You are a lovely young woman and I consider it my duty to protect you from obvious dangers.”
“And you think Eric Northman is an obvious danger?” Sookie shook her head, “I’m not stupid. I’ve done my own share of surviving, and I can assure you I’m no silly damsel in distress who’s going to fall for the first good line that comes along. Besides, I already have a boyfriend. Bill and I don’t always see eye to eye…” and Sookie heard that renegade thought add, ‘in fact, you don’t hardly see each other at all!’ She continued, “But we have an understanding and I’m not going to throw that away because some handsome man throws a couple compliments my way.”
“You are a good girl!” the attorney told her. “I’ll see you in two days. Try and enjoy yourself and I’m happy we got to see the sights you wanted today.”
Sookie walked Mr. Cataliades to the elevator and they said their goodbyes. Sookie assured him she would take care of herself one last time, and then turned back down the hallway, but as she drew nearer, she was struck with the strangest feeling. When she and Eric had arrived, she hadn’t really thought of him as other than someone she saw as a sometime friend. Now? After talking with Mr. Cataliades, after hearing the attorney tell her he was sure the vampire was interested in trying to seduce her, Sookie found she was thinking about Eric differently. She thought about the size of his hands and the way his eyes smoldered. She thought about the way his full, lower lip curved and how beautiful his profile was when he turned his head to look at her, and it made her breath catch.
Mr. Cataliades may have been trying to warn her off, but it seemed his words had the opposite effect. Sookie was walking back into an apartment where it was really just her and Eric Northman, and the thought of it had her heart racing.
Sookie took a deep breath before she opened the door. She walked into the living room, suddenly nervous, but at the same time excited. “Well…” she said a little breathlessly.
“We should make arrangements to get your dress, Miss Stackhouse,” Eric answered. He was standing near the window. He was looking at her the same way he looked at fangbangers in Fangtasia.
“Eric?” Sookie couldn’t understand the change.
“It would be best if we left right away,” he continued, his face set in hard lines. “The stores are staying open later for the holiday season, but I would like to get this errand over,” and Sookie realized that the errand he was referring to was her.
“Did I do something to piss you off?” Sookie asked.
Eric’s expression became even less pleasant, “We are here on a job,” he said coldly. “We each have our part to play. It is best to keep that in mind.”
Sookie felt stunned by the vampire’s sudden shift toward her, and then, as he turned, she saw something and it made sense. Eric Northman was embarrassed. “I don’t think any less of you,” she stammered, “You don’t have to act this way with me!”
“I don’t need your sympathy!” and Eric was in her face, his fangs distended. “I do my duty!” and he straightened up and took a step back. “I do my duty,” he repeated a little more quietly, “and so should you.”
“Well, fine then!” Sookie bit back and she squared her shoulders. “We have a dress to buy? Well, I’ll grab my coat and we’ll just go do that thing!” She marched away, her head held high. She grabbed her coat from the closet near the door so hard, the hanger hit the back wall. She was pushing her arms into the sleeves and she struggled a little, and then Eric was there. He tried to take the coat from her, but she knocked his hands away. “I don’t need your help, either,” she hissed at him. “You think we’re all just in this for ourselves? Well, then that’s the way it’s going to be. I don’t need you either!”
Eric’s mouth tightened, and then he seemed to catch himself. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said softly.
“What’s that?” Sookie challenged him. Her arm was caught and she tried and tried and then threw the coat on the floor. She crossed her arms, lifted her chin, and said, “What did you say, Eric Northman?”
She could see the vampire was trying not to laugh. He leaned down, his long frame gracefully doubling over as he swept the coat from the floor. “Pam won’t be happy if you rip her favorite coat,” he said, his hand brushing non-existent lint from the arm. He straightened the jacket, and then held it out for her to put her arms into the sleeves.
“There was no need to bite at me,” Sookie told him as she accepted his help.
“When I do bite at you, I expect it to be a little different,” he agreed, and Sookie could tell that happy Eric, her Eric, was back. ‘My Eric?’ that renegade voice asked. ‘What about Bill?’
The lights of the city flashed all around them as the taxi drove down the city streets. Even now, with the work day over, there was traffic everywhere. Sookie’s eyes widened as she recognized the names of the stores they were passing. They were driving slowly enough that she could catch glimpses of the window decorations. There was Bergdorf’s and then Saks. She saw Lord and Taylor and then she saw the street sign as they turned onto 34th Street. “We’re going to Macy’s?” she asked.
Sookie hadn’t realized that Eric was watching her, but when she turned, he was smiling. “Yes, little Christmas Queen, we are going to Macy’s.”
“Did you ever see the movie? “Miracle on 34th Street?” The one about Santa Claus?” Sookie asked.
“You seem to watch a great number of movies,” Eric grinned. There was no sign of his earlier unhappiness, and Sookie couldn’t help herself. She reached across and squeezed his hand.
“I am so excited!” she told him. “This has been the best day of my life!”
“You seem to have low standards,” Eric teased. He was out of his door and he held out his hand to her. In a second, Sookie was standing on the sidewalk and she drifted forward, looking at the store window. She could see in the window’s reflection when Eric stepped up to stand behind her. The window was set up to look like Santa’s workshop. Every inch had something to see. There were toys and elves. Santa himself was in the middle, checking his list, and the entire display was so beautiful that Sookie sighed.
“It’s like I always thought Christmas would be,” she whispered. Eric’s hand rested on her shoulder. It didn’t feel like a romantic gesture. It just made Sookie feel good. She turned to him and said, “We stopped celebrating after awhile. It seemed like too much money. Gran thought it should really be about religion anyway, but I missed this,” and she turned back to the window, not bothering to hide the simple joy she felt just looking.
“Come, Sookie,” Eric said after a few minutes, and together they walked into the store. Eric seemed to know where they needed to go. He led them up the escalators and then to the back of one of the floors. There was a saleswoman waiting for them, and Sookie found herself standing near several racks of dresses. When the selections were narrowed down, the saleswoman took her to an area that was set up as a changing area.
The first dress was pretty, lavender, and low in front and the saleswoman (“You can call me Ann, Miss Stackhouse”) left to get some different undergarments. While she waited, Eric called from the other side of the door, “Do you want me to come in there and help with that?”
“You know I’m not going to say yes, Eric, so why are you asking?” Sookie sassed.
“Because someday you might forget how much you don’t like me and invite me in,” he purred.
“I don’t not like you…” Sookie stammered. She was anxious to keep things happy between them.
“Does that mean you’d like me to come in?” he said, “I could be fast. We could lock the door…” and Sookie watched as the doorknob started to turn.
“You better stay on the other side of that door, Eric!” Sookie grabbed the door, giggling as he jiggled the knob and pressed a little against the door. They both knew he was playing, but it still left Sookie a little breathless and she was almost disappointed when Ann returned.
Sookie ended up modeling three gowns, and Eric lobbied for the red gown that was pretty well backless. It was designed with its own built-in bra, but Sookie could feel herself bouncing just a little too much. “I can’t dance in that!” she told Eric. “I’d end up popping out one side or the other, and then where would we be?”
“Perhaps where we left off on the hood of my car,” Eric said, his voice dropping and he smiled to show just a touch of fang. It shouldn’t have set Sookie’s lady parts twitching, but it did.
“We’ll take the blue gown,” Sookie told Ann and then rushed back into the dressing room to get her own clothes back on.
When she emerged, Eric was waiting. “Where’s the dress?” Sookie looked around.
“I’ve had them send it to the apartment,” Eric told her. “I was thinking, if you’re up to it, we might walk part of the way back, so you could enjoy the rest of the windows.”
“Really?” Sookie couldn’t hold back her enthusiasm. “You’d do that for me?”
“It would give me pleasure,” Eric bowed, and he offered his arm.
It was cold outside, but Sookie didn’t notice. They stopped at the Santa’s workshop window again, and then moved to the other windows along the street. Each was set up around the theme of Santa and his sleigh. Sookie stood still, taking in the details. Each scene appeared more magical than the last.
When, at last, she was satisfied with the last one, Sookie turned and sighed. “Your eyes are shining,” Eric told her.
“I feel like a fairy princess,” she told him.
“Would you like to see more fairy dust?” he asked. “We could walk a few blocks to Lord and Taylor and look at their windows.”
“You would?” Sookie asked. “You don’t have somewhere you need to be?”
“I’m where I wish to be,” he told her and then Eric offered his arm. Together, they strolled down Fifth Avenue. Sookie hummed along with the Christmas carols being piped onto the streets from the stores they passed. They could see the lights of Lord and Taylor from almost a block away.
The theme was ballerinas. Each window was a showcase of winter and fantasy. There were ballerinas in flowing white gowns and ballerinas with wings and wands. The windows were all dressed in ice blues and silvers, and Sookie breathed, “It’s like walking through an enchanted world.”
“Saks?” Eric asked.
His face was so animated that Sookie was thinking he was the kid in the candy shop instead of her, and when she said, “Sure!” he gathered her in his arms and the next thing she knew, they were in the air and flying over the street. “Cheese and rice!” she squealed, but before she could get upset, Eric was setting her down on the sidewalk. The people stepped aside from them, but in no time, Sookie couldn’t see where anyone took any more notice of them than they did anything else. ‘New York!’ she thought.
The windows of Saks were dreamy. The colors were also blues, but the themes featured landmarks from around the world, and stylized room settings. Mannequins were dressed to give a sense of the country they were representing. In one window, the mannequin was dressed as a mermaid, swimming down toward a seaweed palace. There were ancient gods and partying wraiths. The effect was other-worldly and Sookie found her imagination fired by what she saw. “These are my favorite,” Eric told her.
Sookie thought about each of the windows she’d seen. “I like Macy’s best,” she told him. “They’re more traditional. They make me think about how Christmas should be.”
Eric smiled. “I never celebrated Christmas,” he told her.
“Never?” Sookie repeated. When he smiled, she asked, “Don’t you believe in it?”
“Not in the way you do,” he told her. His gaze shifted and he seemed to move somewhere far away from her, even though he didn’t move at all. “We believed in the turn of the year. We would celebrate the return of the sun,” and then he glanced down at her, his smile making him look young. “Would you like to try something new?” he asked.
“You mean besides seeing the Statue of Liberty and flying over New York?” Sookie laughed. “As things are I’m going to have to pull the red pen out and circle this date on the calendar. It’s been the best day of my life!” and somehow Sookie knew she’d say it at least once more before she went to bed.
“Come on!” Eric laughed and before she knew it, they were in the air again. They didn’t fly far, only a few more blocks and Sookie could see they were closer to the great dark she knew was Central Park. They drifted down toward a brightly lit area, and Sookie could see the lights of a great Christmas tree beneath them. She was about to ask when she heard the Christmas music and saw the ice skating rink.
You’re taking me skating?” she felt breathless. “Really?”
“Every Christmas princess should have a chance to glide,” Eric chuckled.
“I don’t know,” she stammered, “I’ve never done this before.”
“That’s what makes it so exciting,” and Eric laughed some more. He set her down on a bench near the skating area. “What shoe size are you?”
Sookie glanced around. She could tell people were waiting to be called. Many had waited for awhile to get their turn on the ice, “I’m not sure I can wait long enough,” she protested again. “I think it could take awhile.”
“If I promise you we won’t wait, will you give me your shoe size?” Eric persisted. He was grinning in a very mischievous way and Sookie couldn’t help herself. He was being bad and was so clearly enjoying it, it just made her happy, too.
“Fine!” she giggled, and told him what he wanted to know.
In no time, he was back with skates for the both of them and a pair of VIP passes. “You glamoured him, didn’t you?” Sookie hissed.
Eric shrugged, pulling off his shoes, and working on the skates. When she didn’t move, he glanced over, “You’d better get moving, Miss Stackhouse. They’ll be calling us shortly and we don’t get long on the ice. After all, there are people waiting,” and he waggled his eyebrows.
Sookie swatted him, “I can’t believe how bad you are!” she scolded, but in truth she wasn’t angry. She was flattered and giddy and having the time of her life. When she struggled with the laces, Eric knelt in front of her and finished the job. He helped her stand on the blades and he held her arm as she found her balance. There was an announcement, Eric half-lifted her, and Sookie found herself on the ice, her ankles wobbling a little as she glided forward. Eric was skating backward, both her hands in his, and he pulled her expertly in the great circle. This was obviously something he had done often, because he accelerated, expertly steering them around other groups, moving her forward until she felt weightless, the smooth feel of ice beneath the skate’s blades reminding her of flying again.
“This is wonderful!” she sighed, and then her blades crossed and, in spite of Eric’s hands holding hers, she tripped and ended up face down on the ice.
She pushed up onto her elbows. All she could hear was Eric’s booming laughter and Sookie knew that it somehow made tonight perfect. Eric’s large hand appeared in front of her face and she managed to get up on her knees, grabbed the offered hand, and found herself flying around the rink again. After a few more times around the circle, Sookie begged off and stood by the wall as Eric turned around and took a few solo turns around the ice.
He was beautiful. His blades moved effortlessly as he wove around the other skaters. Sookie was sure he was holding back, but he still looked amazing, his pale face framed by his flowing hair. Sookie imagined him skating in places where lakes froze and brilliant lights played in the skies overhead. She wondered again at this vampire, and when her day-dreaming started to turn to impure thoughts, she reminded herself of Bill Compton and the fact that she was a woman with a boyfriend and an understanding.
Still, when Eric was kneeling in front of her, patiently picking the stubborn knot in her lace, she didn’t stop him when he turned his face to hers and kissed her. His lips were frosty, and the sensation as they merged with her own made Sookie groan.
“Was it everything you wished?” he asked, smirking at her blushing face.
“It really was the best…”
“Day of your life,” Eric finished. “Well,” he smiled, standing and drawing her up with him. “There is only one thing to do when you’ve had the best day of your life, little Princess.”
“What’s that?” Sookie asked. She had a sneaking suspicion that opportunistic Eric was going to say something that would ruin everything, but he surprised her.
“We take you back, ask Basil to make you hot chocolate, and we watch one of those movies you are going on about. What’s the one about Macy’s?”
“Miracle on 34th Street,” Sookie murmured.
Eric Northman tucked her hand in his arm and together they walked the few blocks to the apartment building. Sookie saw snowflakes falling gently around them. They seemed to melt before they hit the ground, but they sat on her coat, a miracle from the sky. The words of a Christmas carol they’d been hearing all night played in her head, ‘Walking in a winter wonderland.’
The bliss she felt at this moment wouldn’t last. The assignment would be a crass affair with Sookie finally stomping out and calling a cab, using the card the doorman gave her. She would fight with Eric and return home to find that Bill had, indeed, abandoned her. In just a few weeks, she would be in Jackson, Mississippi, tracking down Bill who was being held by the Maker he never told her he had.
In other words, her life would return to the running series of unfortunate events that seemed to be her lot ever since vampires entered her life, but, for that one day, it was good to know Supernaturals, and even better to be Sookie Stackhouse.
*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.
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