A/N: Thank you for your feedback! Hope you enjoy this!
Two days after Gran was out of surgery we were able to finally take her home. Eric had work to finish up at the office and had called me that morning apologizing for his not being there. I told him that he already did more than enough, and I meant it. He had somehow become my rock during all the hospital madness, and I could never thank him enough for it.
Sam came to the hospital to help Jason and I with Gran, and he was all jokes and teasing as we wheeled Gran out. It was exactly what Gran needed, because she was embarrassed that she'd caused such a fuss. If Gran hated anything, it was making a fuss.
I glanced down at her and watched her gingerly touch the brightly colored scarf wrapped around her head. They'd had to shave her head for the surgery, and I fetched the scarf from her room to help her get over the shock a bit. I could tell from her demeanor that it hadn't helped much.
"You know, all the nurses were talking about you," Sam said, leaning down conspiringly as he wheeled Gran out of the hospital.
"I can't imagine why," Gran said in her soft voice. "Unless, of course, you mean about my having my head cut open."
I couldn't tell if she was joking or upset. Sam seemed to go with the first and said, "Well, besides that, they all were wanting that scarf on your head. I heard one of 'em – the one with the crazy eye – say she wanted to snatch it right off your head."
Gran smirked, and I was grateful Sam was there. "Over my dead body. Which I think we've established will not happen for some time."
We got to the car and I leaned down, pressing a kiss to her cheek. She always smelled like powder, even when she'd been cooped in the hospital for days. Sam and Jason did much of the work of getting Gran in the car while I held the door open. I was happy to see that Gran wasn't too weak. She was a little wobbly on her feet from being horizontal for so long, but she had no problem swinging her legs in and buckling her seatbelt. I climbed in next to her, letting Jason sit up front with Sam.
We drove past The Firefly on the way home and it held my gaze, my head turning as I watched it pass out the window. I sighed without meaning too and Gran reached over and took my hand.
"Don't let this ruin what you did," Gran told me. She'd heard all about The Firefly being saved the day before, and she was correctly reading my thoughts. "You did a fine thing, Sookie. Don't let anything take that away from you."
"I'm just glad you're okay," I said, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
"Me too," she said. "I would have hated to have missed Mayor Newton's scrunched up face when he admits that you beat him."
I laughed lightly. "I didn't just beat him, Gran. We all did."
"No, sweetheart, this was you. This was all you."
I guess in a way she was right. While the desire to keep The Firefly was there before, it was my giving it a voice that had gone and done the job. I wasn't someone used to accepting praise, but I took this one moment to bask in it.
We got back to the house and Jason and Sam took out the wheelchair on loan from the hospital, unfolding it before helping deposit Gran in it. She insisted on doing much of the moving herself, and as she gracefully lowered herself into the chair I thought to myself that Gran looked pretty dignified in that colored headscarf. It wasn't the same as the coil of braids she'd worn at The Firefly event, but Gran was the sort of woman who could look dignified in a burlap sack.
We got her inside and then set to getting her settled in her bedroom. I'd amassed a whole variety of books and magazines the day before, and painstakingly went through them with Gran just so she knew exactly what she had to look through. I pulled out the US Weekly I'd picked up the day before and told her, "If you're interested, there a whole lot of shirtless men in one of the articles. I bookmarked it for you."
Gran grinned wide and I was pleased to see she hadn't lost her spark. "Dear, you know how to treat a sick woman."
I leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead before heading out to make me some tea in the kitchen. My phone rang and I pulled it out of my pocket, smiling to myself when I saw Eric's name flashing on the screen.
"Hey," I said, wedging the phone between my shoulder and cheek as I set on making the tea.
"Did you get Gran home okay?"
I nodded, and then verbalized the response. "Yeah, we just got her settled in now."
"Did she like all those magazines you made me come with you to pick out?"
I laughed. "She loved them. Thank you for coming with me, by the way. Your US Weekly suggestion went over wonderfully."
"I'm glad," he said. I could hear the grin in his voice. "So, I was going to stop by after lunch. Does that work for you guys?"
"You're welcome here any time, Eric," I said honestly. "But lunch should be fine."
"Alright, good. I still have some work left here to finish up, but I should be able to make it there by mid afternoon."
"Okie dokie," I said, feeling a sort of thrill run through me. Gran was safe in her bed. Eric was coming over after lunch. Everything seemed right in the world. "I'll see you then."
I clicked out of the call, slipping my phone back into my pocket. I reached over for a tea bag and hear Sam walk into the kitchen behind me. He came and stood next to me, watching me steep the tea bag.
"That was Eric," he said. I didn't know if it was meant as a question or a statement.
"Yep," I said, figuring that answer worked well with both.
"You know, that guy surprised me," Sam said. "First there was all that weird stuff with you. And then Dawn. I can't say my opinion of him was very high."
"I can't blame you," I returned. My opinion hadn't been too high, either.
"But he's really been here for you through all of this."
"He has," I said, opening the cabinet to my right and pulling out the honey. Gran liked her tea sweet, and I gave the honey bear a hearty squeeze.
"But he'll be leaving soon, won't he?"
That was something I'd been trying to not think about. I knew from the beginning that Eric had an expiration date. In the beginning, that had been a blessing. Every time he pissed me off, I reminded myself that he wouldn't be here forever. When he went from pissing me off to confusing me to no end, I reminded myself that in due time the confusion would be over. Now, with everything that had happened, I was conflicted at best about his leaving.
"That's how it goes," I said, trying to make my words sound light. "It's the nature of his business."
"You're okay with that?" Sam asked. I glanced up from the tea and saw that he had his serious face on.
"Why should I not be?" I asked him.
"Because you clearly have feelings for him."
I shook my head, opening the silverware drawer and taking out a spoon. "Sam, stop."
"I just don't want to see you get hurt. After all this with your Gran, I don't want to see you in pain."
I knew that he meant well, but I didn't need to add his concern on top of everything else that I was dealing with.
"Well, there's not much you can do about that," I told him softly. "There isn't much I can even do about that. He's leaving and that's that."
"That's that, huh?"
I nodded firmly. "And there's no use dwelling on it. You want to bring this tea to my Gran? I think I'll fix her some toast, too. I don't know how much she had to eat this morning."
He took the tea, but not before giving me one of those pitiful looks that made me want to stomp on his foot. He turned away before I could do any such thing and I leaned against the counter heavily.
Around lunchtime, the town began steadily appearing at my front door. All of them came with warm wishes and some sort of food straight from their kitchen. I hadn't expected this outpouring of support, and neither did my refrigerator.
"Maybe if you move Caroline Bellefleur's chocolate cake," I suggested, standing behind Tara as she tried to find a place for Bitty Tarrington's pan of chicken and rice.
"Does that cake even need to be in the refrigerator?"
I shrugged. "She said it did. I don't really see why it does."
"Alright, well, it's your house so you decide what goes in the rerfrigerator," Tara said, twisting around to hand me the casserole. She pulled out the cake and set it on the counter. "Now, let's see if this fits."
The pan ended up fitting perfectly where the cake was, and Tara stepped back to admire her handiwork. We both felt pretty good about ourselves until the doorbell rang and even more food arrived. This time it was Arlene and her infamous tuna casserole. Arlene made it for every potluck, and people avoided it like the plague. It had too much tuna, too much cream, and too much of just about everything else.
"You want me to leave this out and you can give your Gran some for lunch?" Arlene asked, beaming at the prospect of Adele Stackhouse feasting on her tuna casserole.
"Oh, that's so thoughtful of you," I said slowly, trying to drum up a good enough excuse to not serve it. "But, um-"
"Gran's requested a sandwich," Tara interjected, already pulling the bread and cold cuts from the refrigerator. I let out a tiny breath of relief. Good old, Tara.
"Oh, well, alright," Arlene said, visibly deflating. "Well, maybe she'd like some for dinner."
"I'm sure she would," I said, lying through my teeth. That casserole would be in the garbage the minute Arlene left. "Would you like to visit her now?"
"Yes, I would," Arlene said, nodding. "Her bedroom is…"
"Up ahead to your right," I explained quickly. "You may have to share her with a few people, though. She's a very popular woman today."
Arlene smiled. "I bet. Alright, I'll be back later."
I nodded, smile plastered on my face until she was out of sight. I turned to Tara, who was in actuality making herself a sandwich, and said, "Thank you for the save there."
"No problem," Tara said, taking a bite of the sandwich. "I figured Gran landing in the hospital once this month was enough."
I snorted, reaching forward and plucking one of Ruby Forrester's muffins from the basket she brought. They were blueberry, and when I took a bite the sweetness filled my mouth. I heard the jingle of the front door opening, and after a few moments Eric walked into the kitchen. I had an overwhelming urge to throw myself at him, but I kept to my side of the kitchen like a good girl.
"You've got quite the spread here," he noted, glancing around at the assorted baked goods on the kitchen counter. He offered Tara a small greeting and she raised her sandwich in acknowledgment.
"You should see the refrigerator," I said.
Eric smirked. "This town really does care."
"It's actually more that Bon Temps doesn't know what to do in a crisis besides cook and bake," I filled in. "It's like our version of nervous smoking."
He laughed. "So, what are you eating over there?"
"Ruby Forrester's famous blueberry muffins," I said. "They win at the county fair every year."
I nodded. "It's quite the controversy, actually, because Bon Temps is on the border of our county. Most people don't even consider us really part of it since we're so tiny. But every year Ruby shows up at the fair and takes all the prizes. I'm pretty sure there's a price on her head."
"You have such intrigue here," he teased. "I'm going to stop in and say hi to your Gran."
I nodded and he walked out toward her bedroom. Tara was tellingly quiet, and when I glanced at her I saw she was smirking.
"Shut up," I said.
"What? I didn't say anything."
"You didn't have to. Your face was saying a whole lot on its own."
Tara grinned. "I just think it's funny that a few weeks ago you wouldn't have thought twice about pushing him in front of a bus. Now he's hobnobbing with your Gran."
"Gran always liked him," I pointed out.
"Maybe she saw something we all didn't."
I laughed. "No, she didn't see a lot with him. Believe me. But he's been really great with all of this."
Eric came back into the kitchen and said, "Your Gran's room is overrun with people. That's one popular lady."
"That's because she's looked after about half the town."
He laughed. "Do you want to go for a walk? Get some fresh air?"
"Sure," I said, placing my half-eaten muffin on the counter. I looked back at Tara. "Can you take care of any other food that comes in?"
"And make sure Arlene doesn't try to sneak Gran some of that tuna casserole."
Tara sniggered. "Oh man, she would try to do that."
Eric and I walked outside, the slight chill in the air making me cross my arms over my chest. Eric noticed and shrugged out of his suit jacket, draping it over my shoulders. I smiled up at him gratefully.
"Busy few days," he said.
"You can say that again," I returned. "I'd be happy for some boring and normal in my future."
He laughed. "I don't blame you."
We walked in silence for a few minutes, the light breeze blowing my hair from my face. He cleared his throat and I glanced up at him.
"We're almost done wrapping up all The Firefly plans," he said.
All I could manage was, "Oh."
"Since the project was cancelled we'd had to deal with alerting all the potential buyers and closing out some deals."
"Sounds like a lot of work," I said, feeling just a bit sorry that I was the cause. Just a bit.
"It's all a part of it," Eric said. "Believe me, this isn't the first project that's fallen through."
I hadn't thought of that, and it made me feel better.
"So, how much longer are you all here?" I asked tentatively.
"Most are heading back to New Orleans this weekend," Eric said. My stomach dropped. This weekend was two days from now. Two days. In two days he would be gone.
"That fast, huh?" I murmured.
"They have other work to get back to."
I nodded, wrapping my arms around my torso despite his jacket covering my shoulders. There was a beat of silence and then he said, "Pam and I will be here a bit longer, though."
I stopped walking, my feet rooted in the ground. He stopped, too, and when I looked at his face he was smiling.
"You are? But why?"
"Your mayor offered me another project," Eric explained smoothly. "It's much smaller scale, so I don't need my entire team here like before. But, it should keep us here for a good three or four months."
"Three or four months," I murmured, so happy that I felt I might burst. "What's the project?"
"The Firefly's restoration," he said. His smile was wide, and he was clearly proud of the news he was telling me. "Mayor Newman saw real potential at your event, and he thought that potential would be even greater if we restored The Firefly to it's former glory."
"I thought that would take a lot of money."
"It won't be cheap," he agreed. "But Mayor Newman thinks it'll be worth it. He said something, too, about the town having to respect its roots."
I grinned. "Its roots, huh?"
"All those speeches you gave did some good," he said.
"So, you're really staying for three or four months?" I asked, wanting to hear him say it one more time. He nodded, stepping closer to me.
"Yes. I'm staying."
His hands found my waist and I stepped closer without really thinking, my hand resting on his chest. He dipped his head down toward mine and when our lips met I swear I saw fireworks. This was nothing like that kiss in the bar weeks back. We'd been at odds then, even as attraction crackled between us. Now, we were perfectly in tune. There was no rush or desperation in the kiss. He kissed me slowly, hands sliding around to my back to press me further against him. I didn't want the kiss to end, even as breathing became increasingly necessary. When the kiss did end we stayed close, my cheek pressed against his chest.
Against his shirt I murmured, "I'm really glad you're staying."
A/N: I'm planning on this being the final chapter besides a small epilogue that will be posted sometime later this week. Thank you all so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. I've loved every minute of writing and sharing this story with you all.