Title: "Florence Nightingale at Your Service, Viking"

Summary: When Eric succumbs to a rare vampire illness, he must rely on Sookie to care for him.

Rating: M (though mostly for last chapter)

Pairing: Eric & Sookie

Disclaimer: The talented Charlaine Harris is the rightful owner and creator of this fabulous world of hers. I'm just traipsing through her backyard for a while...

Chapter 2

I felt excitement, anticipation, happiness, and ..anxiety? coming through the bond stronger than I have felt in the last few weeks and I knew my assessment was right. The Viking was here.

Just as I came to that conclusion, I heard a loud knock at the door, followed by a confident voice taunting me. "It is Eric! ….Come let me in, my lover!"

Oh hell.

I grumbled to myself about having to jump out of the cooling tub in such an ungraceful way, but at the same time I couldn't deny my excitement to see him again. I tossed the book on the floor and carefully stepped out. I quickly toweled myself off and wrapped the fluffy white towel around me, trying to secure the top of the towel together as best I could. Knowing my hair would not be detangled in any short amount of time, I threw the whole wet, tangled mess up into another fluffy white towel wrapped around my head like a turban. At the very least, I still had my tan thanks to the tanning bed in the back of the video rental store which was set off nicely by the stark white of the towels. Oh well. He's seen it all before, I reminded myself, and padded out to the front door to let Eric in.

When I opened the door, Eric's eyes widened as he scanned me appreciatively from head to wet toe. A strong wave of lust nearly bowled me over in that instant. "Ohhh, my LOVER. You look positively delicious… I obviously have been blessed by the gods with good timing this evening to catch you as you are wet and naked." he waggled his eyebrows and smiled, showing the teensiest bit of fang.

I automatically secured my towel closed a bit tighter in response to his words as I feared the surge of heat in my body in response to seeing his lovely face and his lust-laced words may very well steam the cloth off of me. I had such conflicting emotions in me that I had no idea which to act on. I was annoyed at Eric's assuming attitude (though why I was surprised, I couldn't tell you), I was angry at his prolonged absence, I was grudgingly happy to see him, and, infuriatingly, I couldn't truly tell you if all of these feelings belonged to me! Worst of all, his presence, voice, and words together had just caused my overall being to calm and, conversely, the region between my legs to ignite in flames of lust.

I settled for my typical exasperation. I scowled at him. "Oh, just come in, Eric." I stood aside with one hand across my chest, allowing him to gracefully glide past me, keeping his eyes locked on me as he entered.

I turned and closed the door and when I turned back to the living room I found that Eric had silently approached and now had his chest about 6 inches from my face. I gasped and jumped a little in surprise at his sudden proximity. I craned my neck up at his face and took a step backwards, my back hitting the front door. "Jesus, Eric! Could you just try to make a little noise when you move so you don't scare this human to death, please?"

He laughed and gave me a bright smile, leaned in, putting his hands on my shoulders and placing a tender kiss on my cheek. "I am very sorry to have startled you, dear one. What ever can I do to make it up to you?" He winked. My heart thumped loudly against my rib cage as I was caught in his gaze for a minute, still clutching my towel to my body, like a deer in headlights. Eric's hair was free flowing over his shoulders and he was wearing a sea green figure-hugging sweater that displayed the cut of every muscle and charcoal pants that showcased my very favorite of his assets. He looked every bit the sex god that I knew from personal experience that he was. I knew if I was going to have the resolve to refrain from dropping my towel on the floor right here and jumping this vampire, I had to extricate myself from this position. Immediately.

I wriggled free from his grasp and ducked under his arm, heading towards the kitchen. I turned, crossing my arms across my chest and attempted to look cross while at the same time not forgetting my manners. "Eric, can I get you a blood? I have to run back into the bedroom and put something on."

"You know," he smirked, "it is not necessary to clothe yourself, but I will take you up on your offer of Trueblood, thank you."

I turned into the kitchen and grabbed a True Blood out of the refrigerator, popping it into the microwave and waiting impatiently for it to heat so I could go clothe myself. At least with clothes on, I thought to myself, I'll be less tempted to jump him as he sits on my couch to talk about whatever he's here to talk about. I willed myself not to think of the insignificant barrier that clothing in reality posed when matched to vampire strength. I personally have lost many a good bra to the likes of impatient and "in the mood" vampires and I'd like to keep my pajamas intact. The microwave dinged and I extracted the warmed blood, shaking it and popping the top off the bottle to bring to Eric.

He stood by my fireplace, which now had a small fire going in it, much to my delight. I looked up at him and handed him the bottle.

"Thank you, Sookie," he said, taking a swig.

"You're welcome, Eric. Thanks for building a fire! It is starting to get cold out…" I stopped talking as I noticed that he was gazing me up and down. I tugged at the bottom of the towel and I felt a little self-conscious under his gaze.

He licked his lips. "Lover, go get comfortable in your sleep clothes. I have good news to share with you this evening. I will wait in here by the fire."

"Okey dokey, Eric." I said, briskly walking into my bedroom, closing the door, and sitting on my bed. I breathed deeply to regain some semblance of control and got up to pull on a blue lace bra and underwear and that new sleep set from Claudine that she had procured from her job at Dillard's. It was a pretty, soft cotton wide leg lounge pant with a midnight blue and white floral decoration and a matching midnight laced blue cami that was quite comfortable and looked good on me, if I do say so myself.

I hesitantly took the towel off my head, grabbed my hairbrush, and tried to get as many tangles as I could out in a short amount of time. I winced as I inadvertently pulled a few hairs out at the root and decided Eric was just going to have to talk to me as I slowly brushed out my hair. Tough luck.

I thrust my feet into my fluffy blue slippers and joined Eric in the living room. Eric appeared to be in "downtime" staring at the fire, motionless and unblinking. As soon as I approached he snapped back into the present and stood.

"So what was this good news you had for me?" I asked as I took a seat in the opposite corner of the same couch he stood near and continued to brush my hair.

"Yes, indeed I do." He sat down on the couch facing me in the opposite corner of the couch, with one ankle resting on the knee of the other leg and an arm slung over the back of the couch. He watched the movements of my hand brushing my hair. I thought he might ask for the brush to take up the job he had seen Bill do on previous occasions, but he resisted. Although having your hair brushed is a wonderful pleasure, I was glad he didn't because I still associated the act with Bill, and thinking of him just made me melancholy.

"Felipe de Castro has decided to honor the late Queen's debt to you, including interest for the time that the payment remained in limbo." Eric drew an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to me.

My heart sang—this will give me that cushion I've so desired as of late—to allow me to pay my property taxes and my food bill and my car and house insurance and anything else that comes along. I was so grateful. When I opened the envelope and looked at the $30,000 figure in the line to the right, I almost choked. He had doubled my negotiated price! I glowed at the check, looked up to Eric, and in my happiness, my self control flew out the window and I threw my arms around his neck, kissing the stunned vampire's lips.

I pulled my head back, instantly blushing after realizing my sudden movement. "Thank you for getting this for me. I'm sure it put you in an awkward position with the king to feel like you had to ask him for my money."

Eric paused, possibly working out phrasing of his answer. "Awkward or not, you are in my retinue and I am therefore responsible to ensure that the contracts that involve you are fulfilled to the terms of the agreement. Felipe owes you his life and many other vampires owe their lives to you as well for your service in Rhodes. The least we can do is paying you the promised amount for the service you rendered. I believe this is also why Felipe chose to include such a…generous… interest sum."

I shifted back to my corner of the couch and looked at him. "You know how I feel when you go on about your retinue and what have you," I said, frowning slightly.

"Ah yes, lover. You are an 'independent woman'." He started, chuckling. I crossed my arms and huffed at his patronizing tone. "However, I was just explaining my role in the transaction. If, however, you wanted to show me your appreciation in other ways," he leered at me, "I would be more than willing to accept any shows of gratitude you deem appropriate…" He looked me up and down and grinned, again showing a little fang, which left nothing ambiguous about his intended message.

I unfolded my arms, blushing again. "Ahh, no Eric. I think I've expressed my appreciation enough for the moment."

He slowly moved his body closer to mine on the couch. I leaned back against the arm of the couch to try to maintain some distance.

"Very well. Then perhaps in lieu of any said 'shows of gratitude' at this point in time, you would consider joining me for dinner tomorrow night? Around 8 o'clock? Pam informs me that human women desire to go on dates when men pursue them…" Eric said the word "dates" with an air of amusement.

I thought for a moment about whether I wanted to make that step, and sighed. For all the game I talked about being an 'independent woman' and not needing any 'stupid vampire' to call me, I knew deep down that it hurt to have been seemingly cast aside by this very vampire so completely for the last few weeks, and to have been on the receiving end of a foul-tempered Viking for the last few months before he recalled our time together himself.

Trying to put this calmly into words, I instead, neither eloquently nor calmly, blurted out, "Where have you been? It's been weeks! I haven't heard from you since the takeover! Nothing! What do you think I am, Eric? Some whore you can just pick up when you're bored?" I ended my short tirade, shaking slightly, instantly regretting my raising my voice after seeing the frosty look on Eric's face.

He leaned back surveying me, the grin on his face gone, replaced by a cold vampire stare. He put the tips of his fingers steepled together briefly. The silence was finally broken by Eric who appeared to give in to whatever mental battle was ensuing in his brain, sighing as he put his hands down. "I have been busy convincing the King of Nevada, now our king, that I can be trusted enough to allow me to live and retain my sheriff position. I have also been in a state of constant concern for the lives and positions of those in my contingency, including you. I have not wanted to call attention to our bond because, as I recall, you prefer to stay on the periphery of the vampire world and I'd like to keep you there for as long as I possibly can. It was a necessary inconvenience. I can assure you, I have been… frustrated… with being unable to contact you as well."

Well, that wasn't exactly an apology, I huffed. But then I thought of my mood for the last few weeks, and realized that this may at the root of it. If that's the case, then I already knew from personal experience, all too personal experience, that his disposition has been less than favorable recently.

"Eric," I said tentatively, "Why on earth did I throw a book at Amelia last week?"

At this Eric's stern face broke and he actually chuckled a little bit. "I am sorry, lover. I have been trying to suppress the bond temporarily while I have been under such stress, but apparently after a particularly tense evening with Victor making thinly veiled threats at me, my hold on the bond slipped and you felt my… displeasure."

I crossed my arms. "Yeah, well, Amelia's head almost felt your displeasure, too." I said with a grim expression, though the corner of my mouth may have twitched.

The twitch was not lost on Eric. "Well then, please convey my apologies to your housemate and remind me to pay my respects to her for having to put up with my mood channeled through you," and looked up through his lashes to give me a small smile.

"You can tell her yourself, and you'll just have to remember." I said stubbornly, though unsure where this conversation was going to go from here.

"Very well. Now, back to much more important issues. Will you allow me to take you out to dinner tomorrow evening? As a way to begin to make up to you my prolonged but necessary absence?"

I tried to come up with a counterargument, but I came up empty. Looking into his eyes, I knew I could not deny that I had some kind of feelings for this person sharing the couch with me. I just had to hold my nose, close my eyes and take the plunge.

"Alright, Eric. Fine. It's a date. What should I wear?" I said, giving him a small smile.

He was pleased, and his happiness flowed through our bond and filled me down to my toes. I couldn't help but smile a bigger smile in response to his happiness. "Excellent! Wear something beautiful and sexy for me, lover, and I shall do the same for you."

I rolled my eyes. "Eric, you know what I mean. What's the dress code of the place you're takin' me?"

"The restaurant I will be taking you to is a very elegant establishment and its patrons typically dress accordingly. A gown is not necessary, though."

I took that to mean to wear a dress of some kind that came to the knee. I thought about what I had at my disposal but decided I'd figure that out at a later point. Most of my nice clothes were destroyed in Rhodes, I thought dismally, so I hoped it wouldn't be a problem. All of a sudden I was hit with the feeling of exhaustion that I had escaped from during my brief respite in the bath and in Eric's company. I couldn't suppress the gigantic yawn that overtook me as I looked at the clock. 2:40 am. No wonder I was so tired. And I had to work tomorrow morning. Damn.

He turned to follow my gaze and promptly stood up. "You are tired, dear Sookie. I will leave you to sleep and I shall see you tomorrow." I followed suit and walked with him to the door and opened it for him. I glanced outside, saw his gleaming red corvette sitting in the driveway in front of the house and looked back to him, expecting him to leave. Suddenly he had my face in both his hands and kissed me deeply, catching me completely off guard. He employed all of his centuries of kissing experience, the result of which making me weak in the knees. The throbbing in my core started again despite my exhaustion and he pulled back from me, looking me in the eyes and smiling knowingly at me as I trembled. He was thoroughly pleased with himself in his ability to so influence my desire. Stupid, cocky Viking.

Without another word, he smiled at me and was out the door and gone, his car peeling out down the driveway. I huffed, thinking such driving would ruin the beautiful gravel of my driveway and then laughed at the thought. Since Eric had been the one to give me said beautiful driveway, if he wanted to ruin it, I guess he could. I knew if he did he'd just replace it again anyhow.

I closed and locked the door and drifted into my bedroom. The fire was mostly out and I crawled under the covers of my high, old bed, feeling as if a weight had been lifted off my chest that I never knew was there. Before I had time to consider this, I had drifted off to sleep.

A/N— As I said in my intro, this is my first crack at fanfiction! Please leave reviews if you like it along the way, and please be kind if you don't! I appreciate it! I've been working on this for a while and it's now or never to release it since Dead and Gone comes out May 5th! (Yippee!)