A/N: So after reading the amazing works of the writers here in the Sookieverse, I've been inspired to write my own. Please be kind; I used to write fanfics during high school, this is my first fictional writing in nearly 8 years and my first time using these characters. Gotta love that Sookie/Eric nookie. This is my first attempt at an AH/AU story. The concept popped into my head last night and kept me up until I promised my psyche I would write this chapter today. It's unbeta'd so all mistakes are mine. Expect swearing and lemons in the future. I might be allergic to citrus in real life, but I think it's safe to play with it online.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, that's Charlaine Harris' job. Like Alan Ball, I'm just taking them and making them do whatever I want.
The cursor was mocking him. He was convinced the electronics in his home were against him as he stared at the blank document, cursor blinking away. The internet and cable were down, he couldn't find his iPod to save his life, and had read every book that lined the shelves of his New York apartment so he was left on his laptop. One can only play so many hands of solitaire before you contemplate taking your own life. That left him with his last resort, get back to writing.
He'd barely written anything in three years. Three years is a long time when you're a world known author with a New York Times best selling series of detective novels. The fans wrote to him, begging for the next adventure of Alexander Danger, a Dick Tracy-esque Private Investigator for hire and noted ladies' man. He remembered the reviews fondly, looking along the walls of his study at the framed articles.
"Northman blazes his way onto the crime drama scene…"
"This is one sequel that won't disappoint; Northman's second attempt even better than the first…"
"Third time is the charm for Northman; A Destiny of Danger contains his best work yet…"
"Sex scenes will ignite the loins of every reader, regardless of gender… "
He smiled at the last one in particular. He was always complimented on his ability to write a passionate coupling. Too bad he hadn't had his own romantic tryst since that fateful night those three long years ago.
His mind began to wander down that awful path again. The phone call that changed his entire life; his love, his wife, his muse, the sole reason he left his homeland of Sweden for New York, his Felicia had been struck by a drunk driver while walking home from a night out with her girlfriends. Waiting patiently, expectantly at her bedside while monitors beeped around him. The rush of doctors that forced him out of the room as they tried in vain to once again resuscitate her. The spiraling depression, the loneliness, the agoraphobia, the mind numbing guilt, the multiple suicide attempts. If he hadn't been so absorbed in writing the third book, she wouldn't have been bored at home looking to her girlfriends for a night of fun. He should have gone with her; he would have told her to take a taxi. He could have protected her.
He frowned, trying to shake himself out of this pity party for one. His editor and only remaining friend, Pam, would be coming over in less than an hour to read what he had written. She had contacted him a month ago to urge him to get back to his writing. She had barely been able to convince him to finish the third novel, told him it would be a great way to channel his grief. She thought that would be the best therapy to getting his life back on track. It was too bad his only inspiration was six feet under. He heard the snoring of his constant companion, his golden retriever Clancy. Looking down underneath the desk, Clancy's feet were twitching, At least one of us can have good dreams, he thought.
Maybe I'll write about Danger getting a dog. There has to be a plot in there somewhere. Probably not. God, can't I just kill him off and be done with this torture. Can't do that, Pam would probably just assume I want to kill myself again and hire another of those insipid home nurses to babysit me 24/7.
He was snapped out of his reverie by a knock at the door. Clancy jumped up, running to the offending noise that dared to wake him from his nap, barking at the potential intruder. Eric stretched his long frame and followed suit to allow Pam entrance to his Fortress of Solitude. He was stiff, his legs nearly cramping as he walked the length of the living room. He peered through the peep hole; of course it was Pam, who else would it be? He opened all three locks before stepping back to let her in. Clancy immediately quieted down, excited to see his only other human friend. Besides, whatever was in her arms smelled delicious.
Thankfully she had brought dinner, Chinese takeout. That was one of his major flaws, he would get trapped in his mind and forget to eat. Pam came by with food several times a week just to be sure he ate something. He was thankful for her friendship even if she was a pain in the ass at times. He got the feeling from the smirk on her face that tonight would be one of those times.
"Evening Eric. Should I even bother asking to see what you have written for the fourth book?"
"Hey Pam. Asking would be a total waste of time. Once again, the only thing on my screen is a blank page. Pass the duck sauce."
They ate dinner in comfortable silence. Pam would occasionally bring up some trivial topic that popped in her head, trying to lure Eric into a conversation but his one word answers put a stop to that. As they finished eating, she began to dig in her briefcase as if looking for something. He prayed it wasn't a contract. If he was contractually obligated to write something, he would feel terrible at missing deadlines. She pulled out a few forms and a plastic card and passed them to him over the table.
"You signed me up for a gym membership?"
He gave his friend a glance while directing her gaze to the treadmill that was next to the wall of windows that overlooked Central Park. He ran there for an hour or more every morning in addition to Clancy's daily walks through the park. He had no use for this.
"You need to get out of the house. You need to interact with human beings. Besides, you'll need to put some meat back on your skinny bones for the book tour when you eventually get this fourth novel written."
He shot her a look that could kill in other circumstances. He looked down at his body noting he had lost a great deal of weight, most of it muscle mass, over the last few years. He got up silently and walked over to the mirror near the front door. He glanced at his reflection, barely recognizing himself. His once short cropped blonde hair and smooth face had transformed into straw strands that grew way past his shoulders and scruff covered his jaw.
When was the last time I shaved? Better yet, when was the last time I had a hair cut?
Could Pam be right? Was it actually time to leave the apartment and get back to real life? Everything he needed for the past three years was ordered online and delivered to him; he only left the apartment for Clancy's sake. That's probably why Pam adopted him for Eric when Felicia died. She had said something about unconditional love and companionship. Had she also implied getting your lazy mourning ass out of bed?
He looked to Pam, whose eyes had not left him since he abandoned the dinner table. He gave her a weak smile; it was all he could muster. Eric walked back over to the table and looked at the paperwork. It was for a gym located around the corner from his building. He could manage that walk right, a few hundred feet? He wouldn't even have to cross the street. First things first however, he would have to fix his hobo-like appearance to something that resembled a human being.
He was determined at that moment to start tomorrow a new man and rejoin society. If the decision was so simple why did it scare the crap out of him?
He woke the next morning to the sun pouring into his window. He began his routine just like every other day before it; bathroom, coffee, breakfast for him and Clancy, treadmill? He glanced at the treadmill as if climbing on it would be the most farfetched concept ever.
Not today, he thought, today I'm going to the gym.
He showered, shaved the offending hairs from his face, dressed comfortably, and attached the leash around Clancy's collar to start their daily stroll through the park. Typically, Eric avoided eye contact with everyone he encountered but today he was starting over. He made a point to maintain eye contact with a few different people, especially those with dogs. Dog owners could look at other dog owners without it being weird, right? He had nearly forgotten all his social norms after living a hermit's existence. After a successful jog, he went to a nearby barber shop. He knew the owner from years past, and hoped they wouldn't mind his furry companion in the place of business. Thankfully, when they walked through the doors just after 10 a.m. it was fairly quiet. The pre-work rush had ended and those seeking a quick cut during lunch wouldn't start coming in for a few hours.
The barber, excuse me, stylist, told him to grab a seat and lead Clancy to an open space in the waiting area. A lot of people must bring their dogs with them nowadays since they had a jar of dog treats waiting on the counter. The stylist, who identified himself as Claude, came over and looked at Eric through the mirror barely hiding the disgust in his eyes.
I used to think I was handsome. Fans told me they thought I was hot all the time. What have I let happen to myself?
"What can I give you today Mr…"
"Northman, Eric Northman. Um, I guess something modern. I'm not looking for a crew cut, but I'd like to cut most of this off. A fresh start, so to speak."
"I know just what you need. Just trust me and let me work my magic. You know, this looks long enough to make a donation. Would you be interested in donating your hair to Locks of Love, where it will be used to make wigs for children with cancer?"
"I'd love to! Take however much you need to."
That made Eric feel better about himself. A fresh start, indeed, for more than one person. Claude tied the long hair in a rubber band and cut it off in a few snips of the scissors. Eric could feel the weight lifted, metaphorically and physically. He and Claude spoke sparsely during the cut.
"I used to come here often," Eric began, "and the shop was owned by a man, I think his name was Niall. Does he still work here?"
"I'm actually Niall's grandson. He sold the shop to me when he was ready to move back home. I transformed it into a proper salon, not that archaic barber shop he used to run. Speaking of transformations…"
He turned Eric's chair to face the mirror. For the second time in as many days, Eric could barely recognize himself. Claude had cut a great deal of hair off, leaving behind pieces that were slicked back with some type of product and ended at the top of his neck. He truly was a new person.
"Claude, this is amazing! What do I owe you?"
"Nothing actually. When you donate your hair, the cut is free."
Well today most certainly had an excellent start. To compliment the work Claude had done, Eric left him a sizable tip that most certainly made the stylist's day. Eric crossed over back to his building walking through the lobby attracting the stares of everyone there. The staff all complimented him on the new look while some of the other residents stared with slack jaws at the once again attractive Swede. He reached the elevators and rode up the 10 flights with a smile on his face. He felt untouchable, some of his old personality shining through the shell of the past few years.
He dropped Clancy off, making sure he had enough water in his bowl. He grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and there sitting on the counter was his once missing iPod.
Why is this sitting here and why couldn't I find it yesterday? Would you look at that, it even has a full charge. Today is going to be a good day.
He rode back down, crossed the lobby once again and headed down the street. Upon entering the gym, he swiped his new membership card through the reader at the front door and shot the young girl sitting there a big smile.
"It's my first time here, would you mind telling me where I could find everything?"
"Of course not, Mr. Northman," his name must have appeared when he scanned his card.
After a brief overview of the layout, he was climbing the stairs to the cardio room. He found an empty treadmill and began to run. He flipped through the albums on his iPod trying to find good workout music. He gave up when he realized he would never drown out the volume of the televisions without blowing out his ear drums.
Note to self, choose a machine far away from the TVs.
He ran for nearly an hour starting brief conversations with those around him.
Start life over, check. Restart human contact, check.
Then his whole world, his amazingly perfect day came to a peak. It started with the bobbing of a long blonde ponytail. He followed the flaxen hair to a beautifully round face with piercing blue eyes. She was wearing tight spandex workout clothes, black with pink highlights running down the sides. They most certainly hugged every curve of her body, and by God were there curves of her body. She chose a machine a few rows ahead of his and began to work out. He could barely take his eyes off the swell of her ass as her muscles contracted and relaxed under the motions of the elliptical runner she used.
I most certainly have forgotten how to act like a human.
As if his fascination couldn't be greater, she began to sing while she ran, apparently along with the tunes of whatever played in her iPod. He didn't recognize it; even before his isolation he never liked modern music. He preferred songs written before he was born. The one exception to that rule was ABBA. Every Swede has a tender spot in their hearts for the pop sounds of their nation's most well known band.
If his day couldn't get any better, he finally recognized the lyrics of the next song that spilled from her sweet lips. They were the opening lines of Dancing Queen.
Well shit, he thought, I'm most certainly fucked.