I thought there was nothing in the world that could top the look on my parents’ faces when they told Johan and I that Annika died. I was wrong. That moment was easily replaced when I saw Sookie trapped in that damn car. The terror in her eyes was something I’ll never forget. Not being able to just reach into the car and pull her out was horrible. I hated feeling helpless. There was so much adrenaline running through me that I was shaking the entire time I was trying to rescue her. When I finally got into the car I was so relieved to hear her talking and to know that she could feel me wherever I touched her that I almost forgot the car was on fire.
Thank God it didn’t take long for the emergency workers to arrive. Tray’s a pretty big dude and even with Johan’s help, moving him wasn’t easy. With all the blood on the window I was worried about the possibility of a neck injury and didn’t want to move him without being able to stabilize it first. There was no way to do that, so it was best to wait for help. As soon as the firemen and paramedics took over I went to where Pam had Sookie situated on the side of the road. There was broken glass all over the street.
When Tray’s car had been hit, he was facing north, maybe slightly northwest. The impact of the crash had spun the car around so that it was facing southwest instead. I stood in front of Sookie. Being able to look at me seemed to calm her, though I wasn’t convinced she was really seeing me. She seemed to be looking through me, trying to recall all the details she possibly could for the officer who was taking her statement.
A medic knelt down beside her and started treating her smaller cuts and she didn’t even notice it was happening. She got lost in her own little world and I was pulled away to be checked out. I had a few cuts on my hands from the broken glass and I was wheezing a little from breathing in so much smoke. The firemen were able to put the fire out before the car exploded. I watched as Amelia was extracted from her seat. They had to use the jaws of life to get her out of the car. I marveled at the fact that I had been able to pull Sookie from the back seat of the car so easily.
I wanted to tell the paramedics to fuck off and let me get back to my girl. She needed their attention way more than I did but I also knew I was no good to Sookie if I was injured so I stayed right where I was and got the treatment they said I needed. I kept an eye on her as she talked to the police. She was so calm about it all. Her poise was most likely due to shock. The full weight of what had happened to her would hit her later. Still, I was impressed. The only woman I knew who might have handled it better was Pam.
When I saw that Sookie was being put on a gurnee I whipped off the oxygen mask I’d been wearing. No way in hell was I hanging back while my girl went to the hospital alone. I’d pulled Sookie’s purse from the back of the car before the paramedics had shown up and given it to Pam to hold. She handed it back to me when I announced to the paramedic I was riding along with Sookie. It wasn’t up for debate, regardless of what he might have thought. Their protocol didn’t matter much to me right about then.
When we got stuck by a train, I was floored. Fucking trains. We sat there for a good ten minutes before we were able to cross the tracks that were cleverly situated right next to the emergency entrance for the hospital. I wondered who’s brilliant idea it was to put it there. Sookie rolled her eyes, obviously wondering the same thing as me. Letting go of her hand when we got to the emergency room just completely sucked. I hated the idea of her being alone but I also knew there was nothing for me to do but wait. If I went back there I would just be in the way. I would distract Sookie and her doctors would need her to focus on their questions instead of me.
I leaned against a wall since there weren’t any open seats in the waiting room. I was approached by a couple of police officers that had come to ask Sookie a few more questions about what she’d seen. I gave them what information I could.
“You know, now that I mention it, I didn’t hear brakes screeching or anything like that before the accident. It was like the other car came out of nowhere.” I told officer Dearborn, who was making notes on his pad as I talked.
He asked a few other questions about what we’d been up to earlier in the evening. I told him that Pam and I co-owned the bar. I also told him about Bill and Red Menace’s appearance at the bar. I explained the bit of back story I knew as far as Bill’s obsession with Sookie and the fight he’d gotten into with Johan. Officer Dearborn quirked an eyebrow at me like I was making the whole thing up. I offered up copies of the security tapes from the bar to back up my story. There was evidence on film of Bill attacking Johan. Pam just hadn’t turned it over because Johan didn’t feel the need to press charges.
Although, if it came out that Bill was somehow responsible for the accident, there was no doubt Johan would be adding to the list of charges against him. I didn’t know what to think when it came to the possibility that Bill might be responsible for the accident. Yes, he was obsessed with Sookie, no doubt about that. But was he so obsessed with her that he would kill her if he couldn’t have her? Was he really that far gone?
I tried to push it from my brain because if I thought about it too much I would end up leaving the hospital to go hunt him down myself. The best course of action was to let the police handle it. As much as I wanted to kick his ass personally for the shit he’d already pulled, it wasn’t worth going to prison over. Sookie was more important to me than vengeance.
When I was finally allowed back to see Sookie I heard her doctors talking in her little curtained off area. I didn’t hear much other than something about head trauma and needing to keep her overnight for observation. I knew Sookie wasn’t going to be happy about that, but there wasn’t much to be done. If the doctors wanted her to stay, she would stay. I’d make sure of it. Sookie was asleep when I got to her room. I was still holding her bag. She’d said she would wait to call her parents, but I figured a familiar face couldn’t hurt. So I fished through her purse and found her cell phone.
I’d never spoken to either of her parents and I didn’t even know if they knew about me. I’d told my parents about Sookie and hoped she’d done the same. Still, I felt a little awkward over the fact that the first conversation I’d ever have with either of her parents was one in which I’d have to tell them their daughter was unconscious in the hospital. I pushed the send button and waited for someone to pick up on the other end of the line.
“Hello?” A sleepy woman answered the phone.
“Is this Mrs. Stackhouse?” I asked nervously.
“It is. Who’s this?”
“My name is Eric Northman,” I started.
“Eric. Sookie’s Eric?” There was a hint of panic in her voice. I felt a bit of relief at knowing she knew who I was.
“Yes, ma’am, Sookie’s Eric.” I smiled as I looked at Sookie, sound asleep in the hospital bed. My hand reached out and covered hers.
“What happened? Is she okay?”
“There was an accident, Mrs. Stackhouse. She’s in the hospital, but she’s going to be fine.”
“How bad is it?”
“Her doctors won’t tell me much since I’m not family, but I was the one who pulled her out of the car. She was awake pretty much the whole time. I think she’s got a concussion. There was a cut on her head, but it looks like that’s all stitched up. She’s got a few other cuts on her face and arm from the broken glass. She told me before that he side hurt but there didn’t seem to be anything broken and she wasn’t feeling any pain in her neck or back.” I relayed everything I could to her mother.
“Can I talk to her?”
“She’s sleeping now, but I can have her call you when she wakes up.” I offered.
“No, don’t. I’ll be on the first flight out. What hospital is it again?” I ran through all the details I could give her, including my cell phone. She thanked me for calling. “I’m sorry our first conversation had to be like this, Eric. Sookie’s told me a lot about you. I’m looking forward to meeting you.”
“Likewise, Mrs. Stackhouse. Call me if you need anything.”
“Will do. See you soon. Give my baby a kiss for me.”
“I will.” I promised and then we hung up.
I put Sookie’s phone back in her purse and moved my chair a bit closer to her bed. I was relieved that when I squeezed her hand she squeezed back. I put my head down and just watched her breathe as she slept. Her eyelids moved in her dreams and I wondered what she was seeing in her head. I hoped she wasn’t reliving the crash over and over again. I wouldn’t let my mind go to the place that considered what I would do if I lost her.
“Her friend’s in bad shape. Docs don’t think she’s gonna make it.” A nurse said outside of Sookie’s little area.
“This one was lucky. From what I heard the entire passenger’s side of the car was smashed in. There but for the grace of God, huh?” Another woman suggested.
Shit. Amelia. I braced myself for the possibility that Amelia hadn’t made it. I’d seen how bad she was when she was finally pulled from the car. I knew she was in rough condition but I didn’t think it was so bad she might not make it. My heart sank for Sookie. I liked Amelia, but she was Sookie’s best friend. I squeezed Sookie’s hand again and decided the best thing to do was to try and get some sleep. I was exhausted. Between the adrenaline rush, pacing and talking to the police I was just wiped out. I wanted to crawl into bed but I wouldn’t let that happen until Sookie could be laying next to me. I was staying in the hospital whether the staff liked it or not.
I rested my head on Sookie’s hip, concentrating on the slight movement that came with each breath she took. I could hear the little noises her body made and it was enough to soothe me to sleep. Sometime later I thought I felt fingers running through my hair but I convinced myself it was just a dream. I thought I heard Sookie call my name, but I wasn’t sure if it was real or not. Again, chalking it up to a dream, I went back to sleep. I was just too tired to sit up yet.
Ultimately it was the sound of Sookie arguing with another woman that woke me. My eyes opened to hear her on the verge of having a breakdown and I sat up quickly. I grimaced to see the swelling, cuts and bruises on Sookie’s beautiful face. She was flushed with anger and even though she was weak from the accident, I could tell she was moments away from losing her temper. I squeezed her hand to get her attention and she explained to me what was going on. When I asked the nurse for a minute alone with Sookie, she was more than willing to oblige and left the room quickly.
I told Sookie what I knew of her condition and talked her into following the doctor’s orders when she insisted she wanted me to take her home. I got into the hospital bed and let her snuggle up to me. We both relaxed after that, feeling the same sense of relief just to be close to one another. The smell of smoke hadn’t really gotten into her hair thanks to the wig she’d been wearing and being able to breathe in her smell was comforting. I couldn’t stop myself from humming the tune to ‘Mayonaise,’ the song that had been playing that first night at her house. I felt her relax a bit more beside me and then she drifted back into sleep. I fell asleep myself soon after.
When Dr. Ludwig came in to break down her injuries for us, I braced myself to hear the worst. Fortunately, none of the injuries she had were life threatening. As long as swelling didn’t start in her brain, she would be fine. She had no broken bones, though she had sprained her wrist. She seemed surprised by that. I figured she hadn’t felt the pain of it since her body was pumped full of adrenaline at the time of the accident. Hearing that Tray and Amelia were battling much more than Sookie was hard to hear. I didn’t know them very well, but they had become friends. Sookie was very disturbed by the update given to her by Dr. Ludwig but there wasn’t much either of us could do.
I contemplated telling Sookie that I had called her parents but decided that since her mother was coming up from Louisiana, it might be best to let it be a surprise. I went with her when she was moved upstairs and did my best to get her to eat something more than the oatmeal and banana that was on her breakfast tray.
“Eric, I can’t really eat knowing that two of my best friends in the whole world are so hurt. I’ll be fine, I promise.” Sookie assured me as she sipped her apple juice. She pushed the scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes at me that were on her tray.
I got her to take a few mouthfuls of everything that was on the tray, but she left most of it for me. I helped her to the bathroom since she said her legs felt a bit shaky from the medications they’d put her on. The last thing either of us needed was for her to fall because she was too stubborn to ask for help. Her hair was a bit matted around the area where her cut was and she looked at herself with a hint of disgust when she saw her reflection.
“God, look at me! I look like an extra from a horror movie.” Sookie whined, leaning closer to the sink to get a better look at herself. She moved the wrong way and froze.
“My side. It hurts.” Tears welled in her eyes.
“Come on, let me help you get back to bed.” I held a hand out to her.
“You should go home and take a shower. You smell like smoke.” Sookie said as we walked back to her bed.
“I know you are, but that’s not the point. I need a change of clothes since they cut everything off of me, including my underwear. My keys are in my purse. Just grab me some yoga pants and a t-shirt. Maybe a few extra things so I can stay with you?” She looked at me nervously, like she was afraid I was going to turn her away.
“Lover, there’s no way you’re going home alone. Whether you stay with me, or I stay with you, we’ll be together.” I kissed the back of her hand.
A tear rolled down her cheek and she smiled. “Thank you for saving me.”
My heart stopped for a second and all those thoughts about what I’d do if I lost her hit me at once. “Sookie, it was either save you or die trying.”
She nodded and tilted her face up to kiss me. It was gentle and sweet since I didn’t want to disturb any of the bruises on her face. I got her tucked back into bed and reached into her purse to get her house keys. I was about to kiss her goodbye when I realized I wasn’t going anywhere. My car was still in the parking lot at the bar. So instead I reached into my pocket and called Johan.
“Lillebror, how’s Sookie?” Johan asked immediately, sounding awfully alert considering how late it must have been whenever he finally got to sleep.
“She’s stable. She’s got a concussion, a couple of cracked ribs, a sprained wrist and a lot of cuts and bruises, but the docs think she’s going to be fine.” I told my brother, who breathed a sigh of relief.
“Man, that’s good to hear. Is she awake?”
“For now, but she needs rest. She wants me to get her a change of clothes but my car is at the bar.” I told him.
“Shit, that’s right. I’m still with Pam, so we’ll get pick up your car and we’ll meet you at the hospital. What room is she in?”
I told Johan where to find me and where the spare key was for the Corvette. He promised to be there as soon as possible. Pam was yelling in the background about something but I couldn’t quite understand what she was saying. I hung up and sat on the edge of Sookie’s bed. Her hand found mine and squeezed. Her eyes stayed closed. True to his word, Johan and Pam arrived a short time later. Sookie was out cold and gripping my hand tightly. I gently disentangled my hand from hers and then got up.
Johan pulled me into one of those big bear hugs of his while Pam hung back, trying not to look too uncomfortable with the situation. I knew she really liked Sookie a great deal and that didn’t happen often. There were few people in the world Pam took an honest liking to and she’d never been good at dealing with the loss of loved ones. I could tell she’d been thinking about how things might have gone differently and I wanted to tell her to stop. Sookie was going to be fine.
“Look, I uh, I called Sookie’s parents earlier while she was asleep. Her mother was planning to fly up to see her. She might get here while I’m gone, so just be nice to her.” I was saying this more for Pam than for Johan but then I turned to my brother. “I don’t know if she knows we’re identical twins or not, so don’t be surprised if she thinks you’re me.”
Johan laughed and said, “Don’t worry, bror, I’ll set her straight. You want me to call if she comes in before you get back?”
“Yeah, that’d be good. If you hear anything about Amelia or Tray, could you let me know? I don’t want Sookie to have to tell me when I get back.”
“We’ll take good care of her, Eric. Go take a shower and get something to eat. You look like shit.” Pam gave me a playful punch in the arm. That Pam.
I left Johan with Sookie while Pam walked me out to show me where the car was parked. “What were you yelling about before when I was on the phone with Johan?” I asked Pam while we were walking to the garage.
“The police interviewed Johan and me after you left with Sookie. We told them about what happened with Bill and I turned over the surveillance tapes. They know that Bill and Sophie-Anne were thrown out of the bar and told not to come back. I think they consider the two of them to be suspects.” Pam confessed to me.
“I think they’re the most obvious choices for people who would intentionally do something like this.” I agreed.
“What kind of car does your neighbor drive? I asked Johan but he couldn’t remember.”
I had to think about it for a moment. I knew she drove a Lexus but I was having trouble picturing it in my mind. “I think it’s a dark red? I can’t really remember. I try to ignore her.”
“Well, think about it. Do a little research and get back to the cops. My security cameras caught Bill getting into his car and it was a light colored SUV. Sophie-Anne didn’t get into the car with him, so I don’t know where she went. Just look into it.” Pam instructed.
“I will.” I wanted to catch whomever caused the accident as bad as anyone else. Then, shock of all shocks, Pam stepped up and hugged me.
“I’m glad Sookie is okay.” She pulled back before I could see any real emotion in her face, but the hug was enough to let me know she’d been troubled by it.
“Me, too, Pam. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” I promised her.
“Don’t worry, if there’s any change we’ll call.” Pam waved to me as I backed out of the parking space and then headed for Sookie’s house.
Since it was closer to the hospital, I stopped at my place first. I looked outside for Red Menace’s car but didn’t see it. I went inside and I showered, changed clothes and let Jeter outside. I stripped the bed and put fresh sheets on it, thinking it would be a nice touch if Sookie came back to my house when she was released from the hospital. It dawned on me that it was my brother’s last night in town before he headed west to go see our parents. As if I didn’t already hate the person who had caused the accident in the first place, I was really pissed off that I wouldn’t be able to spend my brother’s last night in town with him. I knew he understood and wouldn’t hold it against me but it didn’t make it suck any less.
After I got Jeter back in the house I headed over to Sookie’s place. I packed a bag for her with enough clothes for a week away from home. I grabbed her tooth brush, hair brush and a bunch of books from her ‘to be read’ pile. I found her laptop and added that to the things I was taking back with me. I was just about to walk out when I remembered her iPod. I found it connected to her dock on the entertainment center and put it in my pocket before leaving her house.
I stopped for coffee on the way back to the hospital. I figured Sookie could probably use some. I knew I certainly could. I parked my car in the same lot as the one I’d found it in and headed back into the hospital. The place was a maze. How anyone easily found their way around, even with the posted signs was completely beyond me. I got lost twice while looking for the elevators but ultimately found them. A petite blonde woman about the same height as Sookie was standing to my right, her foot tapping anxiously as she waited for the elevator doors to open in front of us.
When they finally did, I gestured for her to go first. “After you.”
“Thank you.” Her southern accent was identical to Sookie’s and I couldn’t help but smile. The woman had to be Sookie’s mother.
“You’re welcome, Mrs. Stackhouse.” I said when I stepped in behind her.
Her head whipped up and she looked at me curiously. “Oh my stars! You’re Eric?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I nodded to her.
“My goodness you’re tall.” She giggled, much the same as Sookie would have.
“Yes.” I agreed with her.
“I’m sorry, forgive me,” She shook her head as if she were trying to clear it. “Sookie emailed me a picture of the two of you but it just didn’t click in my head. It’s very nice to meet you, Eric.”
“Likewise, Mrs. Stackhouse.” I was a bit taken aback when she stepped over and gave me a hug.
“Thank you for calling me. My stubborn mule of a daughter would have waited until she was released from the hospital. She gets that from her father.” Mrs. Stackhouse explained.
I laughed and said, “I like that she’s stubborn. It’s a challenge but one I enjoy.”
“Either you’re her soulmate or glutton for punishment.” Mrs. Stackhouse laughed.
“How was your flight?” I asked as the doors opened on the fourth floor.
“I was able to get a few more hours of sleep. We hit a little turbulence but nothing too horrible. How’s my Sookie doing?”
“When I left she was resting. My brother and business partner should be in with her.”
“Ah, yes, Sookie mentioned your brother was visiting. Is he older or younger?”
“Older by about twelve minutes.”
“Twins?” She looked me up and down. “Your poor mother.”
I laughed loudly at that. “My poor mother, indeed.”
I showed Mrs. Stackhouse the way to Sookie’s room. Pam was sitting in the chair I’d vacated, filing her nails and Johan was perched on the big vent watching something on Animal Planet. Mrs. Stackhouse set her bag down near the door and slowly made her way over to Sookie’s bed. Johan and Pam both looked up at the same time. No one said a word as Mrs. Stackhouse leaned over Sookie’s bed and gently brushed some hair away from Sookie’s face.
“Sookie, sweetheart?” She spoke softly but got no reaction. “Sookie?” She tried again, a little louder.
It took another minute but Sookie finally opened her eyes. “Mommy?” She whimpered and then started crying.
Sookie raised her arms and Mrs. Stackhouse carefully hugged her daughter. I gestured for Johan and Pam to follow me out in the hall to give them a few minutes alone. They didn’t need an audience for their reunion. I knew it had been a few months since Sookie had seen her family. She’d said the last time she’d been home was for her brother’s wedding over the summer. She was excited about going home for Thanksgiving. I had a feeling it would mean even more to her after the accident.
“Did you see that bitch’s car outside your house?” Pam asked once we were out in the hall.
“No, she wasn’t home.” It was probably for the best that she wasn’t. If I saw so much as a ding on her car I’d have no problem turning her in to the police.
I didn’t want to focus so much on who had caused the accident as I did making sure Sookie recovered from it. I apologized to Johan for not being able to hang out like I’d wanted to on his last night in town. We’d planned to go out to dinner with Sookie and Pam on what would arguably be one of the strangest double date type situations ever and then Sookie would be spending the night at her place.
“Bror, don’t apologize. If I were in your place, I’d be doing the same thing. Besides, if I got to Cali and told Mom you ditched Sookie to hang out with me, she’d kick your ass when you got there for Christmas.” Johan pointed out. He was right.
“I just feel like we haven’t had the chance to spend too much time together since you’ve been here.” I’d had a few things I’d wanted to do with him and there just hadn’t been enough time for it all.
“It’s okay, bror. Bring Sookie with you when you come to visit in the spring. Assuming she hasn’t dumped your ass by then.” Johan teased.
“I bet they’ll be engaged by then.” Pam was still filing her nails and not looking at either of us when she spoke.
I had just opened my mouth to say something when Mrs. Stackhouse appeared in the doorway. “She’s more awake now, if you y’all wanna come back inside?”
“Mrs. Stackhouse, this is my business partner, Pam Ravenscroft.” I gestured to Pam who finally had the sense to stop filing her nails.
“It’s lovely to meet you, Pam.” Mrs. Stackhouse shook her hand.
“Same here. I don’t like many people, but your daughter is an exception.”
“Well, thank you.” Mrs. Stackhouse didn’t seem sure how to take that. I rolled my eyes and looked over to Johan.
“And this guy,” I jerked my thumb at Johan. “This is my brother, Johan.”
“Ah, the older brother.” Mrs. Stackhouse held out her hand to Johan but instead got a hug very similar to the one Sookie had received when they’d first met. “Oof! You’re a strong one, aren’t you?”
“I can see where Sookie got her beauty from.”
“Give it a rest, Johan, she’s Sookie’s mother.” Pam rolled her eyes.
“Don’t hate me because I said it first.” Johan set Mrs. Stackhouse down.
“It’s nice to meet all of you. Please call me Michelle.” She insisted and then turned to head back into Sookie’s room.
Sookie smiled when she saw me and she outright grinned when she saw I had two coffee cups in my hands. “Please tell me one of those is for me?” She pouted.
I handed one to her and said, “I wouldn’t be so cruel as to bring coffee into this room without expecting to share. I know better.”
Sookie gulped at the coffee and I decided it was a good thing we’d given her a few minutes with her Mom or she probably would have burned the hell out of herself. “I knew there was a reason I love you.”
“It’s certainly not for his pretty face.” Johan said from behind me.
“It’s a good thing you boys have different haircuts or I wouldn’t be able to tell you apart.” Michelle took a seat in the chair next to Sookie’s bed, while I sat on the edge of it.
Pam opened her mouth to say something but then closed it again. I assumed whatever she had planned to say was completely inappropriate and I was thankful her brain filters had kicked in for once. The five of us made small talk for a while before Pam had to excuse herself to get back to the bar in preparation for opening that night. Johan went along with her, leaving me alone with Sookie and her mother. Sookie filled Michelle in on what had happened the night before to land her in the hospital in the first place.
“I bet you it was that Bill you’ve been telling me about.” Michelle shook her head. “I told you to take a firmer line with him sooner, Sookie. I know you were just trying to be nice but there comes a point when you have to take a bull by the horns.”
“And I did, Mom. I told him I wasn’t interested.” Sookie insisted, leaving Michelle looking skeptical.
“She did. Johan and I were there.” I spoke up on Sookie’s behalf.
Michelle sighed and asked, “Does the school know what he’s been up to?”
“I didn’t see any reason to bring it up. His personal life is his own business and he’s never accosted me on school property. He’s approached me to go out to lunch or dinner but co-workers do that sort of thing all the time. And he’s left me alone since I told him to back off.”
For Bill’s sake, I hoped he was able to keep it that way or I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself from kicking his ass. Michelle went on to tell us that she would only be staying for a few days before she had to head back to Louisiana.
“Will you be okay on your own once I go home?” Michelle looked at Sookie with concern.
“I’m going to stay with Eric for a little while until I can move around better on my own. When I was transferred up here Dr. Ludwig told me I’d be off work for at least three weeks, so I might not get back to work before December. It just depends on how well my ribs heal. For now I have this pressure bandage on and I’m supposed to just kick back and take it easy. If I stay with Eric, there aren’t as many stairs in his house.” Sookie explained to her mother.
Sookie and I hadn’t had a chance to talk about how things were going to work once she was released from the hospital in the long-term. I’d figured she would stay with me for a week or so, but the idea of having her around for longer than that hadn’t entered my mind. I realized I liked the idea of it. It also dawned on me what I could give Sookie for the anniversary that was quickly approaching.
“Well, I’m starved. I’m going to hit the cafeteria. Can I bring you anything?” Michelle asked us.
“I have a taste for something sweet.” Sookie piped up with a big grin on her face.
“How about you, Eric?”
“No, thank you, I’m fine.”
“Alright, I’ll be back in a bit then.” Michelle smiled and then headed off in search of food.
No sooner was Michelle out the door than Sookie dropped somewhat of a bomb on me. “So, what do you think about us living together?”