Summary: Written for the 2013 Sookie’s Secret Santa Fic Swap. Eric overhears Sookie gossiping to Pam about Merlotte’s annual Secret Santa. Not one to be outdone, he decides Fangtasia should host a holiday party as well. But what to get Sookie?
Chapters: 1/1 [COMPLETE]
The club had long closed and Eric was thankful to at least be relieved of the revolting beats of Miley Cyrus. The heavy stack of tax documents spread before him, on the other hand, was about to give him one supernatural-sized headache. Eric ran a hand through his flaxen hair and let his mind wander. Sookie had stayed behind after helping read his tax man and was presently leaning over the bar chatting giddily with Pam. She was entirely unconscious of how enticing her bottom appeared from his vantage point in the VIP booth.
“I do not understand this Secret Santa concept, Sookie,” Pam smirked. “Why would people wish to limit the amount they spend? It seems less than ideal if you wish to please your boss.”
Eric had tuned out the women’s incessant babble but this caught his attention. Pam saw his jaw flex at the mention of Merlotte and in a blur he materialized on a barstool next to Sookie.
“You wish to please me, lover? I can think of several ways…”
“Not you, Eric! And you’re not even my boss. I’m an independent consultant for Fangtasia,” she retorted. “I drew Sam for our Secret Santa and I haven’t the first clue what to get him. And no, you absolutely may not tell him.”
“Dog collar?” Eric smirked, raising an eyebrow.
“Oh shush. I’m serious.”
“As am I. But tell me, does everyone at Merlotte’s Grill participate?”
“Oh yeah. We even do a little party, too. Everyone wears silly sweaters and gets tipsy on spiked egg nog. We had to stop doing the gift swap though – you know where people trade what they get? Last year Arlene tried to scratch Lafayette’s eyes out over a salon gift certificate.”
“Sounds…festive. Pamela, why have we not tried a Yule celebration here? It seems profitable.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. Why did everything boil down to money with vampires? One wonders what they did before the invention of currency.
“Probably because no one has celebrated your idea of Yule since the dark ages,” she snorted.
“Tone, Pamela,” Eric warned sharply.
“Oh, and it’s all about welcoming the light. Not really our thing.”
“You have a point,” Eric pursed his lips. The wheels began turning in his head. It displeased him that Merlotte had found a way to gain Sookie’s attention. He could only assume the sneaky shifter had somehow rigged it so she would have to buy him a gift. Bastard.
“Ya’ll should do something for the holidays. It would be nice change. Brighten things up here, ya know?” Sookie chirped enthusiastically. “The Victorians practically invented modern Christmas, right Pam? You probably have lots of neat ideas!”
“Sure. Krampus was always fun. He steals naughty children.” A devious smile snaked across her perfectly rouged lips.
“Good lord!” Sookie cried. “I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the Vikings were just as creepy.”
“What?!” Eric exclaimed defensively, feigning innocence. “The old customs were nice. We brought evergreen bowers inside and feasted and made offerings of mead and meat to Odin…Oh, and evil elves ate bad children.”
“Eric!” she swatted at him playfully.
“I’ll make you a deal, Sookie. Help plan a holiday party here for the humans and I will put you into our own Secret Santa. I promise your Fangtasia gift will top anything those pathetic mortals will offer you at Merlotte’s.”
“Nuh uh. You do not do a Secret Santa here.”
“Of course we do.”
“Who’s in it?” she challenged in disbelief.
“Pam and I.”
“It’s not secret if there’s only two people, you dork! You’re just making things up.”
Eric smiled slyly at the little bubbly mortal’s insolence. “You’re right. That’s why you have to be in it. Otherwise you’ll ruin the element of surprise. You don’t want to ruin our Christmas, do you?”
“Dang,” her smile faltered, realizing he’d trapped her perfectly, using her own generosity against her. “Okay, but no crazy expensive vampire gifts. Can we cap it at, say, $20?” She chewed her cheek nervously, afraid they wouldn’t agree to limit their typical – and way out of her budget – ostentation. After all, the last thing Eric had bought her was a driveway for crying out loud.
Her nervous tick was not lost on Eric. He improvised recklessly. “Even better. It has to be something that you make.”
“Okay,” she said tentatively. “Just as long as you don’t use your super vampy skills to weld me a car or something. The snipes about my Honda are getting old. Or my wardrobe. No whipping up a whole new wardrobe, Pammy.”
Pam smirked, unimpressed, while Eric held his hands up in acquiescence.
After escorting Sookie out, Eric was relieved to learn that Pam had actually drawn her own name and tactfully chosen not to mention it, ensuring that her maker and Sookie would be the only ones to exchange gifts. It also meant she got to cackle at Eric as they locked up the bar. The forlorn look that had fallen over his chiseled features while he packed up his paperwork was simply priceless.
“You have no idea what you’ll get her, do you?”
“Shut up, Pamela. I’m trying to think.”
“Yeah. You’re so screwed,” she gloated.
Eric ground his teeth, his mouth becoming a hard line. He had some serious plotting to do.
Little did he know that Sookie was wracked with the same anxious ball of panic. The drive back to Bon Temps did little to clear her mind. She’d asked Pam for advice about one problem gift and left with an even bigger one!
What did Eric truly need? Blood and daytime shelter, she reasoned. She quickly discounted giving him a vial of her blood. That was…eww. What did Eric want then? Blood, sex, money, and power. Again, nothing she was prepared to offer. What in the world do you get for the man who literally has everything? She turned the question over in her mind, repeating it almost like a mantra. The fine gravel of her long driveway was crunching under her tires when the idea struck her. She smiled broadly, mentally checking off the very large blond vampire on her Christmas list.
There was little time to plan the party. Eric insisted the celebration be held on December 21st, the evening of the winter solstice, giving them a meager week to organize it all. When it came to the theme, he had compromised with Sookie. She agreed to let him call it the “‘Naughty is Nice’ Yule Celebration,” complete with some very suggestive promo material, while he allowed her to integrate some disgustingly cheery decor. The fact that Sookie had drawn her inspiration from a bit of online research on Viking holiday traditions certainly helped. It delighted him far more than he cared to admit.
Sookie gasped when she entered the club on the appointed evening. Not only was it merry, the gothy bar was actually – dare she say it – pretty. The thick garlands swaying across the walls twinkled, full of glittery sprays and lights. The tables were covered in red sateen cloths and had tea light centerpieces with sprigs of holly. Eric sat in his throne, an enormous Christmas tree looming behind him. To her delight, he was dressed in a beautifully tailored grey suit, rather than the horrifying Krampus demon costume he’d threatened repeatedly. Throngs of beautiful young people crowded, clinging glasses and laughing. A jazz quartet played live music in the corner. Fangtasia, believe it or not, had transformed into a classy club.
Sookie shifted the lumpy package resting in the crook of her arm and set off to greet the Viking.
“Good evening, lover. You look ravishing, if I may say.” A faint blush spread across the human’s cheeks at the little endearment. Why she continued to deny her obvious attraction to him was quickly becoming one of the few true mysteries left in this world.
“Is this for me?” he asked, when it became apparent she had no ready reply to his simple compliment.
“We’re supposed to exchange them collectively. You know, so no one knows who brought what.”
“Bollocks. You’ve brought me…something lumpy. I wish to open my gift. I shall give you yours.”
Her forehead creased. “Wait..what!? Eric! Dangit, do you mean to tell me Pam picked herself and didn’t say so!?”
“Hmm. It seems to be the case. She was most pleased with her draw. There is no one Pam prefers to shop for more than herself. This, I believe, you know.”
“Oh poo, Eric. This is so not how these things are done.”
“Alas, I’ve never been good at following the rules. Come.” He stood abruptly, sprouting to his staggering height and swaggering down off the dias in several quick, jaunty steps. Eric parted the crowds with his massive frame, his adoring patrons parting before him like schooling fish. Sookie had no choice but to follow him towards his office, the bulky crinkling gift still in hand. It looked rather like an atomic bomb, with twisted, smooshed holiday paper awkwardly twisted and taped together.
Closing the heavy door, Eric settled behind his desk. He gave an expectant look, then held out his hands. Sookie set her gift down with a little dull thud. She saw Eric’s nostrils flare slightly.
“No cheating. You don’t get to use your super vamp senses. Just open the card and then you can open that. Sorry, it’s kind of the worst wrapping job I’ve ever done.” She shifted uncomfortably on her feet.
He pulled the taped card off the gift and popped the seal with his thumb. Some saccharine Christmas scene decorated the front cover.
For the man who has everything, it only seemed fitting to give him the ‘world.’
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.
Below, in a less confident hand, she had copied the Swedish phrase wishing him the same:
Eric smiled politely, warmed that she’d looked up a smattering of his preferred language but still uncertain as to what she had concocted. Of course, his senses had already told him many things about the parcel. She’d worn the expensive designer perfume she favored from Paris while wrapping it. The paper she’d used was older and bore traces of her home and her grandmother. The item had come into contact at some point with the ground and smelled of vegetation and earthiness, but not the soil from Sookie’s homestead.
He shredded the paper off in an impatient motion, like an excited child on Christmas morning, a sparkle in his eyes. Then time seemed to stand still.
A millennium, was all he could think, almost stupidly, as his usual perfectly schooled features disintegrated into a swell of emotions. One thousand years of supernatural powers and nothing could prepare him for what rested beneath the sparkly paper with dancing snowmen.
Sookie began to explain when she saw he gave no readable reaction. If anything, he looked confused. Eric sat, torn paper crumpled in either of his big pale hands, frozen. “It’s a…”
“…An ash tree,” he murmured quietly.
The little sapling was less than a foot high, yet like him, its youthful looks were deceiving. It was not at all young. Over a great deal of time someone had carefully pruned and manicured and trained its branches, transforming it into a stunning bonsai tree.
“It’s from Miss Nancy, you know the old gal over by the Bon Temps post office with the big garden? I told her I’d help out this spring in her vegetable patch in exchange for it, so technically I didn’t buy it. Plus I repotted it just like she told me and well, I’ve got more care instructions here and all but it’s not supposed to really need much and…” she blathered on nervously. Eric took the sheets of instructions she’d printed out absentmindedly and set them to the side, never taking his eyes of the little green twisted miracle before him.
“You gave me Yggdrasil, Sookie.” Yggdrasil – the eternal ash tree holding the nine realms of the universe together.
“Is it okay? Do you like it?”
The unfamiliar clenching sensation at the back of his throat startled him. He blinked once. Then twice, willing the stinging liquid in his eyes back.
Eric came around his desk to where she stood and did something utterly un-vampire-like. Before Sookie could respond, he wrapped his lanky arms around her in a firm embrace, burying his nose in her hair.
“It is perfect. I will cherish it.” Always, he added silently.
The big Viking hugged her far longer than seemed appropriate – if a vampire hugging can really ever be said to be such a thing.
“Um, so you drew me then?” she asked. “Can I open mine?”
Yet another foreign feeling struck him, this one much more akin to self doubt.
“Yah, uh…” he pulled out a little black box with a white ribbon around it and pushed it across the desk with a single finger.
“Oh thank god,” Sookie gushed. “I figured you would wrap a bow around your wiener or something,” she blurted out before she could stop the words from coming.
“Ah, well, if you’d rather have such a present, I’d be happy to…”
“No, no no no! I’m good,” she blushed, picking up a box that looked suspiciously small and jewelry-like.
“Perhaps you would like to open it at home. I…I do not know whether it will please you, to be perfectly honest,” he said, uncharacteristically ill at ease. He gave her the accompanying card and before she could protest, invited her to rejoin the festivities in the main bar.
The rest of the evening, he caught her unconsciously touching the purse at her side, if only to confirm that the small present was still inside. Not long after Sookie made her polite rounds and headed out, Eric returned to his office. He shoved aside the trinkets and replica longships on the top shelf of his bookcase and gave his miniature Yggdrasil a place of honor. Whispering to it in old Norse, he bade the little verdant treasure good night and quickly took to the sky. Gambling as to where Sookie would open his own gift to her, he found a comfortable place in a tree not too far from her bedroom window. He was pleased when the light flickered on and she took a seat at the edge of her bed. He had the perfect view for what was to follow.
Sookie slowly unwound the bow and pushed up the taped ends of the box. She neatly folded the paper at set it down, turning her attention to the card. It was a handwritten note on Eric’s fine personal stationary.
I am told Dear Abby says to give gifts from the heart. This comes about as close as I could find. I kept this little memento so that I might always be reminded of the day we came to be joined. The circumstances surrounding that night are regrettable, to say the least, and I apologize for my part in deceiving you. But know this, Sookie Stackhouse. I will never regret your presence in my life. You may have pulled this from me, but you have left so much in its place.
Sookie didn’t dare breathe. She pulled off the box top to reveal a silver bullet attached to a thin silver chain. The significance was not lost on her. Vampires did most emphatically not give silver.
This wasn’t simply an admission that somewhere in that giant hunk of a Viking was an old sentimental softie. It was more than just an olive branch, an unprecedented apology from the man who admitted no faults. It was the admission of a sentiment. And somewhere, buried between the lines, was a request. Be independent, it said. Be your feisty, human self. And please, please be mine.