Allen Wrenches, or A Handful of Norsemen
Dedicated to LindsayK and Zigster
Inspired by the powerful words of singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton
He knocked on the door at a little past seven. I knew it was him. He popped by around the same time every night that he came to the old farmhouse, and those nights seemed to be getting more and more frequent. I'm not complaining, but I am losing track of some important things on my to-do list. It's posted on the refrigerator, right next to the grocery list which is also getting quite long. Argh. The problem with having a boyfriend (one of the few problems) is that you get so caught up in all the awesome sex that you never think about that laundry that needs folding or the fact that your library books are overdue or that you've run out of condoms. I don't ever run out of condoms because my boyfriend is a vampire, but I'm sure other people have those problems.
"Hey Sook? You going to answer the door or do you want me to get it?" I could hear Amelia's voice drifting down the hallway. I was still in the bedroom, making sure I had everything.
"Yeah, could you?" I called back to her, sticking my head around the door frame.
"Yeah yeah, get the door Cinderelly," Amelia muttered, somewhat loudly. I heard her open the door, and I heard Eric's grumbly voice float into the house.
"Okay: measurements, check. Tape measure, check. Fabric squares, check." I put little checks next to each thing on my list, checked that they were in fact in my purse, and skipped out to meet my Viking. As always, he was dressed casually. His jeans were fashionably distressed and his black tee shirt made all of his muscles look more, you know, muscle-y. Yum. I could just take him right there on the floor. Or up against the wall. Or on the… I turned around and looked at the hideous floral sofa. Back on track, Sookie. Time to get back on track.
"You look as though you are ready to leave. Are we going out?" Eric raised an eyebrow at me. I could feel him peeling off my clothes already. I'd gone casual, not fancy, not dressy. Denim Capri pants and a blue v-neck with a white camisole underneath. And I'd made sure to wear comfortable shoes. The floors were going to be cement or concrete or whatever and I knew we'd probably be in there for awhile.
"Yep," I nodded, grabbing him by the hand.
"Bring me back some of that chocolate, Sook! Don't forget!" Amelia practically screamed at me from the living room. She was cleaning the floor around the sofa.
"I won't forget!" I yelled back at her. The other eyebrow on Eric's forehead rose to meet the first.
"The chocolate, my lover?" He looked confused.
"We better get going, Eric. They close at ten."
"Going?" He followed me, but I could tell that he was getting a little irritated about being kept in the dark. "Where are we going, Sookie?"
I got him in the car before I told him where we needed to go. I'd borrowed Sam's truck for the night so that we could get whatever it was I found home in a reasonable amount of time. Delivery times to Bon Temps were outrageous from what I'd heard. That sofa was leaving tonight, if I had anything to say about it. And I did.
"We're going to the Ikea in Shreveport," I informed Eric as I drove up the road and turned left toward the highway.
"The furniture store?" He asked incredulously.
"I thought you might like it. They have Swedish meatballs, and other…Swedish…things." I ran out of juice. I'd really brought him because he could carry the sofa and also, maybe, put it together. Of course, it didn't dawn on me until that moment that Eric probably didn't know what Swedish meatballs tasted like (and of course, he didn't eat Swedish meatballs), and furthermore, he'd never, ever, EVER use an Allen wrench.
"I LOVE that place!" Eric giggled. I swear to you, if I hadn't been driving up the onramp onto the highway, I would have screeched to a halt and stared with my mouth open. He sounded like some sort of giddy fanboy.
"What?" I asked, looking from him to the road and back again.
"Have you heard the song? The song about Ikea? It is genius."
"There's a song about Ikea?" I coughed. My mouth felt dry, like sandpaper. Weirdest conversation of my life, and it had only just begun.
"Yes! Pam played it for me on the computer. I cannot remember all of the lyrics, but I like the chorus. Hm. Let me see if I can remember the tune."
And that's when my Viking vampire boyfriend began to hum, merrily, in Sam's truck, on the way to Shreveport. Then, as if this wasn't strange enough, he began to sing.
"Ikea! Just some oak and some pine and a handful of Norsemen. Ikea! Selling furniture for college kids and divorced men. Everyone has a home. But if you don't have a home you can buy one there."
He continued humming for a minute or so and then looked at me, his eyes bouncing and glittering and…stuff. For a minute there, I'd forgotten I was driving.
"I like the part about the handful of Norsemen, personally."
"Uh huh," I said, because that was all I could think of to say.
"What are you buying? Maybe I will get a new chair for my desk at work."
"I need a sofa, to replace the floral one." I felt like an automaton. I thought I would be dragging him in there kicking and screaming, or that, at least, he'd have never heard of the place.
"Yes, I agree. That thing is awful."
What? WHAT? Since when did Eric Northman notice or comment on the appearance of my furniture? EVER? I didn't feel like I could go on. In a minute he was going to start, I don't know, sparkling or something. Or maybe he would tell me that he was also a closet ABBA fan and went on tour with them in the 70s. Or that he liked to dress in drag and do the hula.
"Ikea…" he was humming again. "My lover?"
"What?" I asked, dragged out of the daze of my own thoughts.
"You are holding the steering wheel rather tightly."
"I wonder if they play the Ikea song on the radio."
"They don't." If he turned on the radio and it turned out that they did, in fact, play the "Ikea" song on the radio, I was sure I'd lose it.
"Hm, unfortunate." He looked out the window, still humming to himself.
We arrived at the massive Ikea complex at 7:45 and parked in a zoned lot that resembled the color pink but was called Karlstad. I expected Eric to tell me something about Karlstad. I don't know what I expected him to say, but the expectation was definitely there. Maybe Karlstad was his father's name or his favorite soccer team or the name of somebody famous. Instead, he said:
"I have the chaise in my living room. Korndal red. It isn't right for your house, but my home is more modern."
"Uh…" was my only reply.
"You might like the Ektorp."
"It's another style of sofa, a more traditional style, similar to the sofa you have now."
"How do you know the styles?" Inquiring minds are dying to know.
"I get their catalog. Pam dog-ears the pages of the ones she thinks I would like, but sometimes I just browse through it. I like to keep my options open. Karlstad is very nice, but sometimes I think about replacing all of it with Poäng chairs."
"Eric, I…" I tried to think of something to say. Anything. Anything at all that I could think to say would be better than listening to him go on and on about his obsession with the Swedish nightmare we'd just entered. "I feel like I know you better than I ever knew you before."
No. I take it back. That wasn't better. He blinked at me, and smiled in that weird way of his. It's the smile that says "I'm going to eat you" in so many ways, most of them sexy, some of them scary. But I couldn't feel horny right now. I couldn't even get close to horny. I was so mind-boggled about my Viking's fanboy excitement that I couldn't see his usually sexy smile as anything other than a shit-eating grin. Ick.
"Have you ever been through this place before, my lover?" He looked at me and waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
"No…" I replied slowly. "Amelia just said that this would be the cheapest place to get a new couch."
"My lover," he said frankly. "There are many reasons to like Ikea. There is the song, of course. There are the wonderful sofas. And then, there are the showrooms. Come."
Eric took me by the hand and led me up the escalator to the top floor. Amelia had told me about the maze-like quality of the store. It was like a carnival ride, she'd said, thinking about the place for several minutes. You start at one end and they give you a bag and a cart. You walk through hundreds of aisles where everything is put together and beautiful, and then you get to the end where they've mysteriously loaded it all into tiny boxes of cheap plywood that breaks as soon as you get it home. And then there are meatballs, and chocolate that makes you want to go back to the beginning and start all over.
The store didn't start off with showrooms, and Eric got sidetracked looking at all the kitchenware in the first couple of rooms through which we passed. Even at eight o'clock at night, the store was packed with people. There were families with little children, babies in strollers, and elderly people. There were lots of college students too. The Shreveport Ikea was the only one around for miles and miles on the Louisiana side. If you went over to Dallas or Fort Worth, there were two, one in each city.
I followed Eric, pushing my cart, through the children's bedroom furniture and into the regular bedroom furniture. As Eric had assured me, the showrooms were enviable. I loved the bedrooms; every one of the displays made me ache to give up my life as a waitress and become an interior designer instead. I didn't know anything about paint swatches or feng shui, but these people did. I stopped in front of one room that was simply breathtaking. I even stopped in my tracks, still holding Eric's hand. He stopped too and waited for me.
The walls were green, but not an annoying sort of green. It was bright but not too bright, not watery, not like a hotel room or a hospital room. A black-framed mirror sat on the wall across from the bed, but it wasn't meant to be distasteful. According to a little sign beside it, the mirror (which had a name: Hemnes) was meant to bring light into the room from the window behind the frame. And the frame was really interesting. It was a simple box on the floor, soft and plushy. It was called Germin, and the bed had been made with a cute landscape-style bedspread and pillow covers with clouds on them. The design was called Glasört Kule and I wanted it immediately.
"It's so cute!" I gasped at Eric, and he laughed. I stuck out my tongue at him and he moved to wrap his large hands around my waist. We were on the bed immediately and making out on the incredibly comfortable Sultan Hjartdal pillowtop mattress. Though people passed us (hundreds of people), no one seemed to mind that we were "trying out" the furniture. We seemed to just blend into the showroom, like "show people" or something.
Eric's hand flipped open the button on my Capri pants and pulled down the zipper. I looked over his shoulder in the mirror which, while not meant to be dirty, was definitely dirty. And cool. I thought about how unfortunate it was that my bed faced windows instead of mirrors. His long hair fell over his back in gorgeous waves and I watched him as he bent his head to kiss my throat. His fingers were cool against my rapidly warming skin. I parted my thighs and he dove between them, rubbing his thumb against my best pressure point until I was panting heavily into his shoulder. We really broke in that pretty duvet cover, and you know what the really funny thing is about it?
The only thought I heard in passing was from a man in his mid-forties. He looked across at us, and I swear I caught his eye, and he stood there and watched us for a good minute. And in his head he thought, What a gorgeous duvet. What is that, a Glasört Kule? I'll have to tell Denise.
And then I came in my lover's arms.
He looked at me and said: "I remembered my favorite part of the song."
"Okay," I said, giggling. I couldn't help giggling. I'd just been molested on a showroom floor in the middle of a modern Viking palace. We started walking again, hand in hand, because we were still on a mission to find a sofa. Eric wanted to try out the Poäng chairs too.
"Long ago in days of yore," he sang, melodiously. "It all began with a god named Thor. There were Vikings and boats and some plans for a furniture store."
"Is that historically accurate?" I asked him. Next to me, a girl of about nineteen looked at us and waved. She was humming, and in her head, I heard her sing So rent a car or take a bus. Lay your cash down and put your trust in the land where the furniture folds to a much smaller size.
"No, but I wish I had thought of it sooner. I could have been a millionaire."
"You are a millionaire, Eric," I smirked.
"Yes, but I would be one several times over if I owned Ikea. Perhaps I should buy some of their stock."
We found the sofa section just as Eric was bursting into song again, and I tried out all the sofas. Eric wanted to try out all the sofas by throwing me over the back and pounding me from behind, but the sofas weren't in showrooms and I didn't want it to be that obvious. I picked out the Ektorp with the floral pattern because it reminded me of Gran and because Eric suggestively pointed out that it looked "comfortable." He winked at me when he said it, as if that were necessary.
"So, Amelia said something about finding it in a box," I started, looking at Eric.
"That is downstairs. I have mine delivered and put together for me."
"Of course you do," I frowned. I couldn't afford that. I was going to put this sofa together myself. Actually, I was going to get Eric to put it together for me. He was the boyfriend. That was his job.
"I can purchase it and have it delivered for you, my lover," he suggested thoughtfully.
"Nope," I said firmly. "I'll take care of it. It's my sofa."
"Sookie, consider it a gift."
"I don't want to consider it a gift, Eric. It's my sofa. I want to buy it and put it together."
"Well, we had better hurry then. I would like to get a Swedish meatball platter."
I took a step back and stared at my Viking vampire boyfriend, one eyebrow raised up under my hairline. I had my hands on my hips too, just to make sure I was looking at him quizzically enough.
"You don't eat Swedish meatballs, Eric."
"I like how they smell. They remind me of my home."
"Did Vikings eat Swedish meatballs?"
"Köttbullar," Eric said.
"They are called köttbullar in Sweden. And no, we did not."
"Then why…?" I blinked at him.
"It is the same reason Texans eat boudain."
"Because it's disgusting?"
"It reminds them of where they have come from. Just because they do not eat them does not mean they are not delicious."
"Uh…" I started again. But there was no point. I tried to remind myself of what Eric was like when he'd lost his marbles and had to be sort of…coddled. Maybe the part of Eric that went all giddy about Ikea was also the part of Eric that missed Sweden and big balls of meat with cream sauce. Blood was probably boring in comparison.
"Let us go and get your Ektorp."
Eric led me through the rest of the store to the warehouse at the end. We found the Ektorp Byvik multicolor on a high shelf that made me thank my lucky stars I'd brought a Norseman. He lifted the box down from the shelf with ease and stuck it in my cart. We wheeled it to the front, picked up six bars of chocolate for Amelia, and checked out. Eric bought three helpings of Swedish meatballs to-go. On the drive home, Eric got sort of restless. I guess Ikea was just too much for him.
"Pull over, my lover," he growled at me, his hand reaching between my thighs again.
"Here?" I asked, not really questioning his motives. We'd accomplished half of our mission. We'd purchased a sofa. We had all night to put it together. I pulled off to the shoulder and Eric dragged me into his lap.
I wished I'd worn a skirt.
It was after nine when we finally got the sofa into the house and set it down in the middle of the floor. I opened the box with a pair of cutters and some dull scissors. Eric grabbed the direction booklet and turned it over in his hands. I leaned over his shoulder. The directions were written, conveniently, in six languages.
"Let's see…English translation, English translation…" I hummed as he flipped through the book. We got to the end of it without luck.
"It does not appear to have one," Eric said.
"You've got to be kidding me! It's a Louisiana store!"
"They have it in French."
"What about Swedish? You know how to speak and read Swedish."
"Yes," Eric nodded thoughtfully. He looked through the book again. "German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Portugese, and um…"
"What is that? Gibberish?" I looked at the last translation. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it was ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
"Tagalog." Eric said with finality.
"Really?" Amelia asked skeptically, looking over our shoulders.
"It's an Austronesian language spoken in the Philippines. It's the official language."
"Okay. So. We can't read the directions. That's fine. There are pictures, right?"
We looked through the pictures and set to identifying all of the pieces in the kit. Eric sorted them into helpful piles while I sifted through the contents of the box. I picked up the last two available bits, both of them made of plastic.
"What are we missing?" I asked him, trying to see the picture over his big arm.
"An allen wrench," he answered thoughtfully.
"What's it look like?" I pushed the pieces out of the way and tried to find the missing item.
"Well, if you take this piece and put it together with this piece, it looks like this," Eric said, taking the two pieces I'd found and holding them together to form a shape like an "L."
"Well, what is it for? Maybe we don't need it."
"It's the thingy that fits into all the screws, Sook," Amelia said.
"What?" I blinked.
"Hey, have you guys ever heard that song? About Ikea? Who's it by…hm… but you know the one I'm talking about? Ikea! Just some oak and some pine and a handful of Norsemen!"
"I love that song!" Eric squealed, getting to his feet. "Do you have a computer? We can play it for Sookie!"
I stared at the parts of the sofa that I could not put together. The one part that I needed in order to fit them together was broken. I would have to drive back to Ikea tomorrow to get another one, and I could already sense that I would be driving with Eric and Amelia and that damned Ikea song.
Damn you Ikea. You and your allen wrenches.