Chapter 7 – With Ferengis like these…
SB Electrical – Stock holding area.
Hadley checked and double checked she had her props positioned right before waiting for that moment, the moment when everything could be put into action. It came sooner than she expected, but Eric was a good salesman. The radio call came through from Arlene; Hadley responded and asked for Eric to come back to the stock room to make sure she had the right product.
Then she waited.
Her senses were in overdrive as she heard the door open and … two sets of footsteps? That wasn’t right; Eric was supposed to come back there alone. Hadley panicked, and stepped out from her hiding place.
“Eric! I wanted to double check …”
Eric stopped her by holding up his hand. “Hadley, I know – you just wanted to double check if I was stupid enough to come back here alone so you could throw yourself at me again. Wrong. I brought Pam with me to …”
Just then, Pam squealed in fright before crying out in pain. Eric ran over to where she was lying on the floor, the banding that Hadley had fished out of the garbage tangled around her ankles.
“Oh fuck it hurts, Eric!”
Eric didn’t need to ask where it hurt, the way Pam was cradling her arm made it obvious. “What the hell is this mess doing all over the floor?”
Terry, watching from between the racking, pressed the button on his radio. “We’re gonna need a first aider back here.”
SB Electrical – Security Office
Adele watched the footage one more time, just to make sure, but still couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Hadley sat in the chair next to her, biting her nails, knowing she had been caught. The video played again, Hadley taking the banding out of the garbage and placing it on the floor, Hadley moving her feet through the banding and changing the position so it would catch her ankle, Hadley pretending to fall over and over again.
“You set the whole thing up, Hadley, and now Pam has a broken wrist. Why, Hadley?”
She shrank under her Grandmother’s scrutiny. “I was going to pretend to fall so Eric would help me up.”
Adele sighed and rubbed at her temples. “You created a major health and safety risk so you could try to get laid?”
Hadley nodded, looking suitably chastened.
“I’m so sorry, honey, I can’t let this go. I’ve overlooked so many of your hare-brained schemes to be the centre of everyone’s universe – but someone got hurt. Someone got hurt because of you. You’re a danger to the store, Hadley, I’m sorry but you have to leave.”
“Okay.” Hadley nodded and stood up. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“No, Hadley, you won’t. When I say ‘you need to leave’ I mean this job. I can’t have you working here making trouble. I don’t want to fire you, because that would tarnish your employment record, but you need to resign.”
“I see.” Hadley held her head high. “Fine, I resign – effective immediately. Not just from this job, but as your Granddaughter. I’m sick of you always putting Sookie first, I’ll be better off without all of you!”
Adele rolled her eyes and watched as Hadley stormed out of the office. Sure as eggs were eggs, Hadley would call up when she needed money. Sookie tapped lightly on the door and poked her head round the opening.
“Hey Gran. How did it go?”
“As well as can be expected, she’s run off and resigned from the family again.”
“I’ll call Amelia and tell her to expect a visit from Hadley then.”
The Compton Mansion – Bon Temps
Bill smiled a genuinely happy smile as Sookie walked into his living room. She had been very supportive during his time of grief. Of course, Jason, Adele and the Bellefleurs had been supportive too. But Sookie’s support meant more to him.
“Hi Sook, how was the store today?”
“Urgh! It was crazy busy and then Hadley screwed up and Pam had to go to the hospital …”
“The Hospital? What is it?”
“It’s a big building full of sick people, but that’s not important right now. Hadley set up some elaborate tripping over scene to try and snag some touchy-feely time with Eric but Pam fell into it and broke her wrist.”
Bill shook his head ruefully. “That’s worse than the time she paid Catfish to feel her up so Sam would come to her rescue.”
The two friends chatted about simple things; Jesse wasn’t mentioned by either of them. Sookie was in the kitchen making tea when she spotted a sheet of paper sticking out from a drawer. She wasn’t a nosy person, but she didn’t like things sticking out of drawers. A frown graced her features as she opened the drawer to straighten the paper and it deepened when she saw what was printed on it.
Why would Bill have some blog post on the women who emptied their wallets because Eric flirted with them?
Sookie wasn’t interested in what, or who, Eric had done before he came to work with them. The same as she wasn’t interested in those details with anyone else in the store. She was already surprised that her initial impression of Eric had been wrong; whatever he was like when he worked at Buy Everything certainly wasn’t what he was like at SB.
She put the paper in the drawer, print down, and directly in the centre before closing the drawer and vowing to forget she’d ever seen it there. She couldn’t have things like Eric Northman and his sketchy past preying on her mind, she had to help Bill with his Dad’s funeral and support him.
Restful Home Cemetery – Bon Temps
Sookie looked at the crowd that had gathered to pay their respects to Jesse Compton. She was glad that almost the entire town had shown up. Tray Dawson had closed the garage for the day; he had seemed almost as lost as Bill when Sookie spoke to him. Jesse had been his mentor and employer for the last ten years. Adele had closed SB Electrical for three hours to allow the staff to support their colleague.
Not all of the staff from SB were there, both Eric and Pam had told Sookie that they had never met the man and weren’t very close to Bill, so they would feel uncomfortable at the funeral. Quinn stayed at the store to prevent any looting. Sookie found his excuse ridiculous but didn’t question it.
As the Pastor asked everyone to be seated, Sookie saw someone she hoped she would never see again. Fortunately, Adele had also noticed him.
“Ignore him Sookie.”
“Who invited Baron Harkkonen anyway?” Sookie hissed in return.
“Bartlett was Jesse’s best friend through school. He might be wicked and poisonous, but Bartlett is human and entitled to pay his respects.”
Sookie nodded but narrowed her eyes at her Uncle Bartlett. She wasn’t letting him out of her sight, she wanted to make sure she could see him if he approached her. The one saving grace, in Sookie’s opinion, was that Hadley had already left town. Sookie had been to counselling for the things Bartlett did to her but Hadley hadn’t been so lucky and had suffered for longer than Sookie while Bartlett was a part of the family. She let her mind wander, albeit unwillingly, to the day she told her Gran what was going on.
Bartlett can’t hurt me now but Gran will always be my Ripley.
Adele looked down as Sookie grasped her hand, squeezing back but quickly setting her gaze back on her brother. When the service was over and people started to flock back to the Compton house, Sookie made her excuses and went back to work. Adele understood why as she saw Jason slapping Bartlett on the back and shaking his hand.
As much as it pained her that Jason would never know what his Uncle did to her girls, she knew he missed having a man around the family.
Apartment 2b – Chloe Street, New Orleans
Amelia was waiting at the door when Hadley trudged up the stairs with more bags than usual. She didn’t particularly like Hadley, but she liked Hadley’s money. In Amelia’s opinion, Hadley could be a snotty bitch all she wanted, as long as the dough rolled into her bank account every month.
“The place is pretty much how you left it; I cleaned up a little though and washed the dirty towels you left.”
Hadley nodded and waited for Amelia to step out of the way so she could get inside. It had been a long drive in such an emotional state.
“Well, you’re the landlady and custodian so I should expect you have. If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get settled.”
Amelia refrained from rolling her eyes and sneering, instead opting for a cheery smile.
SB Electrical – Geek Clique Helpdesk
Sookie sighed as her customer walked away happily. It had been a hell of a day with the funeral and Bartlett and she was looking forward to going home and relaxing in the bath. Eric watched as she kneaded the muscles in her shoulders and stepped closer, replacing his hands with hers.
“You’re doing it all wrong, where are you most tense?”
Sookie turned her head to look at him and frowned slightly. “At the join between my neck and shoulders.”
Eric nodded and started gently pressing his fingers into the base of her skull. Sookie sagged against him and groaned, feeling the tension wash away after only a minute or so.
“Hell of a day, isn’t it?”
She opened her eyes and snorted before stiffening under Eric’s hands. “And it’s just about to get worse.”
Eric looked up and huffed in annoyance. Felipe was storming toward the desk, a determined look on his face and a bored Lafayette behind him. Eric greeted them both cordially, as did Sookie, but that was where the niceties ended.
“Cut the crap, Stackhouse. For too long I’ve let you act like you’re superior to me.” Felipe hissed while leaning into the desk in an effort to intimidate her. “This ends now.”
Sookie sighed and shook her head. “Is this about the php code you messed up and I fixed? Because that was three years ago. You need to let that shit go.”
“Tonight, 8pm, Goldshire. You and me, we’ll see who’s better then.”
“Goldshire?” Sookie snorted. “What are you? Level 2?”
Felipe narrowed his eyes. “Fine. Windrunner’s Overlook, same time … alone.”
“No way.” Eric stepped forward. “You’ll turn up with a posse. I’m coming too.”
Felipe laughed deeply and Lafayette was moments behind. Eric glared at Lafayette.
“Is there a problem gentlemen?”
“Eric, man, you expectin’ me ta believe you play WoW? Mr ‘Too cool for school’ salesman?” Lafayette shook his head. “I jus’ came here ta see Fifi make a damn fool o’ himself but now I’ll be there too.”
Felipe snapped his fingers and walked away. Lafayette followed after offering a hand out to Eric and requesting that there be ‘no hard feelings’ between them. When they were gone, Sookie turned to Eric and folded her arms.
“If you wanna back me up tonight, we need to pick complementary toons. My main is human rogue with Cadaverous Garb.”
“Dwarf Paladin with Doomplate Battlegear.”
Sookie nodded, you could never have too many tanks in grudge-match.
The Stackhouse Homestead – Bon Temps
[VikingLief joined SteelMagnolia’s group]
Eric was using one of Sookie’s many spare PCs that had been set up on a folding table next to Sookie’s bed. He huffed as his knees knocked against the tabletop as he hunched on the mattress.
“I can’t believe you don’t have a mic for team speak.”
“And I can’t believe you do.” Sookie snarked back. “Stand at my back so you can see them coming. I don’t know how many he’ll have with him; we’ll need to be ready for anything.”
Sookie kept her eyes glued to the screen. Wishing, not for the first time that night, that Bill was there with his fire Mage.
[JuanSheet says: Well lookee who showed up to get their asses kicked]
“Shit, he’s got an 85 Troll Warrior and an 83 Blood Elf Warlock. We’re screwed, Sookie.”
“We’re not in the ground yet.” Sookie grinned as her character flew toward Felipe’s with a fifteen second blade flurry in effect.
Eric blew out a breath and threw his Dwarf into the melee. The battle was fierce but with three against two, SteelMagnolia and VikingLief were soon on the ropes. Eric was gearing up to unleash another combo when the Troll was hit for 300 damage by a Pyroblast.
“Who the fuck is that?” Eric shouted at the screen while Sookie laughed evilly.
[Magester says: Looks like I happened upon something interesting.]
“It’s Bill! I sent him a text earlier to let him know this was going on but I really didn’t think he’d feel like joining in.”
[Magester has joined SteelMagnolia’s group]
“Alright! Now it’s three on three, that’s more like it!”
Their excitement was short lived as Magester was ganked by an Undead Rogue and a Taurean Druid. But Bill’s addition had eliminated the Troll Warrior, leaving SteelMagnolia battling Felipe’s Orc Warrior and VikingLief making mincemeat of the Warlock.
Eric cursed loudly and pushed the table away as his character’s health bar emptied, leaving Sookie to deal with Felipe on her own. He stood and hunkered down next to her, there was a sheen of sweat on her brow and her face was red with concentration as she battered the buttons on her keyboard.
Finally, with a combination of ‘Cheat Death’ and ‘Slice and Dice’, SteelMagnolia was the last man standing.
Sookie stood up so fast her chair scooted across the floor. Her hands raised high in the air she let out a yell of joy before fist-pumping and jumping up and down.
“In your face Felipe! I win. I win.”
Eric stood up to congratulate Sookie but was taken aback when she threw her arms around him, laughing. He was even more taken aback when she clapped a hand either side of his face, screamed that she’d won for a third time, then kissed him deeply.
Sookie pulled back as she felt Eric’s hands work their way towards her chest. She blinked and stepped away, holding her arms out in front of her. Eric thought about grinning and making a lewd comment but stopped himself.
That was the old Eric, the Eric that only wanted to keep his reputation going. I’m new Eric now, Eric who kisses women because he likes them and doesn’t make sleazy comments.
He slowly backed away, giving Sookie the space he felt she needed.
“I’m sorry!” Sookie blurted out. “Uh … the rush of beating his ass … I got carried away.”
Eric nodded slowly, wondering how to let her know that he was more than okay with her actions while not scaring her away.
“I understand and I really don’t mind. I guess it’s a case of ‘right place, right time’?”
Sookie frowned and shook her head. “I don’t think so, Eric. If it had been Bill or Sam … I don’t think I would have done that.”
“Does that mean you’re attracted to me?”
Before Sookie could answer, the awkwardness was interrupted by pounding on the door. “Excuse me.”
Sookie rushed out of the room and towards the kitchen. She knew it was Bill at the door, there was no-one else that had timing quite like him. She beamed as she let him in the house and accepted his bear-hug gratefully. Bill was chuckling and congratulating her when he stiffened and his arms felt like a vice around her.
“Bill! Quit it, you’re crushing me!”
“Sorry, sweetheart.” Bill dropped Sookie like a hot potato and stepped away with a cold look in his eyes. “Eric. I wasn’t expecting Sookie to have company.”
Eric’s features were a mask as he quickly calculated that his presence was very unwelcome to Bill. “Sook doesn’t have team speak and we’ve never fought together before.”
“Eric is ‘VikingLief’; he was helping me out with Felipe.”
“I see.” Bill went over to the fridge and took out a bottle of Snapple. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
“Uh … no, we were just … talking.” Sookie replied slowly while nodding to Eric.
“Yeah.” Eric pulled out a chair next to Sookie. “Talking about … the fight … and how awesome Sookie was.”
Bill smiled and nodded, knowing full well something other than talking had gone on. No-one was that cagey when they’d been talking. “She is awesome. In every way – not everyone appreciates that about Sookie.”
Sookie closed her eyes; she couldn’t stand to watch their body-language. Listening to them posture in her kitchen was quite enough for her.
Don’t do this, Bill. Don’t make out that you were the best thing that ever happened to me when you taught me what it meant to have a broken heart.
“Sookie has been very awesome in helping me acclimatise to working at SB. I feel like part of the family!”
Sookie’s eyes snapped open. “Eric! That’s so sweet of you to say!”
She smiled at him and got up to get him another drink, thankful that Eric hadn’t made a jibe about how much he’d been appreciating her just ten minutes beforehand.
“Do you guys think Felipe will leave us alone now?”
Eric and Bill looked at each other with very serious expressions. They both started talking at the same time before Bill stopped and gestured for Eric to go ahead.
“I worked with Felipe for years, if anything this will probably make him angrier. But don’t worry – we’ve got your back.”
Bill nodded. “I’ll die before I let him hurt you, sweetheart. Can you say the same, Eric?”
Sookie smiled tightly, not wanting to point out that it was very unlikely to come to a scenario where death would be on the cards for anyone. She noticed Eric frowning slightly as he wondered how to respond to Bill’s challenge.
“If Felipe messes with Sookie, he messes with all of us. He’ll have no idea what hit him.”
Bill sneered, Sookie sighed – relieved that Eric didn’t take the bait. Eric sat back in his chair and crossed his arms, willing Bill to leave so he could speak to Sookie alone.
Unfortunately, the finale of the new Thundercats series that was programmed to start on his home theatre prompted Eric to leave before he had that chance.