Right away, I knew something was wrong.
The smell in my room was rank.
The disgusting, long avoided scent of Compton made me wish I could kill him another time just because he managed to touch my life again.
Rather than being snuggled against my side as she usually was, even when she’d belonged to Alcide, Sookie was curled up in the fetal position on the other side of my bed. There was an accumulation of bite marks on her exposed hip and shoulder. Her tan had faded, or perhaps she was just that pale from being drained… either way, Sookie looked like any other used up fangbanger.
I left the bed carefully to avoid waking her. As per the usual, I had no idea of what to expect, but given how Compton’s vile stench was wafting from her, I was sure that I’d be the last Vampire she’d want to see, let alone naked.
Even though everything in my room seemed normal, I didn’t want to take anything for granted. As soon as I opened my door, Hunter smiled up from his drawing.
He pushed everything from his lap and pushed himself off of his sofa. “You’re not going to be happy.”
I closed the door behind myself and stooped down since he wasn’t fond of our height difference. “There’s a Sookie in there. Have you heard from ours?”
He huffed. “She called.”
“She’s on her way home then?”
He cringed, “Ummm, yeah….but… It’s gonna be a while.”
“She’s… Our Sookie woke up in Holland.”
He nodded, unfazed by my outburst. “She woke up with an Eric, but he doesn’t have a Sookie.”
“I think the Sookie in my bed belongs to Bill Compton.”
He pulled a disgusted expression. “Another one?”
“Unfortunately. What is her Eric’s history?”
“He was Sheriff here for a while, but went back to Europe instead of renewing his contract. He’s been gone since 80-something. Someone named Gwen Roth was Sheriff last time he knew.” Fuck me.
“Wonderful… Gwen and Lorena shared a maker.”
“So… The Sheriff is Bill’s aunt?” He would be going upstairs to add Gwen to Compton’s family tree. His hobby was adorable even if he was still bitter that I wouldn’t tell him about my Maker. He’d asked for Family Tree Maker for his birthday and an Ancestry.com membership for Christmas.
“So it seems. I’m going to go wake her up, explain what’s happening… Go help Adele with supper.”
He nodded and turned to leave, but he paused. “Alcide’s here. Should I listen in case you need backup?”
I chuckled at him. “I’ll be fine.”
I went to our closet, pulling out jeans and a sweater, wondering what Sookie was doing for clothing in Holland, hoping he’d taken the news better than other versions of me had.
With a pile of fresh clothing in hand, I sat on the edge of the bed next to her… stunned by the markings and bruises. Bill was unnecessarily cruel to Sookie… I couldn’t help but wonder why she’d allow it.
Before trying to stir her, I pulled the sheet to cover her body so that she wouldn’t feel awkward. If I’d been in Holland since she was a child, she’d be startled… even though she wouldn’t automatically think of me as a shitheel, she wouldn’t want to be exposed with a stranger.
She grunted quietly, but didn’t stir.
“Sookie, you need to wake up.”
She whimpered, “I can’t… please… I just need some rest.” She wasn’t awake yet.
“Sookie. Wake up.”
Her eyes finally opened and when they did, she sat bolt upright, gasping and pushing herself against the headboard and taking in her surroundings… staring blindly into the darkness of my room.
I left the bed to turn the light in the bathroom on and when I sat on the bed, further away from her with her comfort in mind, she gasped, “Where am I?” Not ‘who are you?’
“You’re in Shreveport. I’m Eric Northman…”
“I don’t know. He could be…”
Before I could finish, she lunged for me, wrapping her arms around my neck and sobbing violently against my shoulder.
“Are you alright?”
She shook her head. “I… I went to sleep hoping I’d find a way out… How did you get me away from him?” Oh fuck.
As much as I wanted to comfort her, I offered, “You don’t know that you’re safe yet.”
She sat back enough to look at me. She was horrified, but still clinging to me. Her chin trembled as she sniveled, “Did he… did he like… give me to you?”
“No. I won’t hurt you, but you’ll have to go back…”
She screamed, “NO! I can’t… I… Just… we’ll say you were distracted… I can just run.”
“I didn’t mean… Sookie you need to calm down so that I can explain.”
She shook her head and yanked the clothing from the bed… She was less than shy about dressing in front of me and as soon as the sheet was out of the way, I realized that the damage I’d seen was only a fraction of what he’d done to her. “No… no… no… I won’t. I can’t. I won’t. I’m not going to…”
“Bill did that to you?”
“Bill. Lorena. Gwen… Bastard’s been passing me around… feeding me to his Maker… I’m just delicious. I’ve been sitting in on business meetings and helping them make a bank… Do y’all really have to obey your Makers like that or…”
“Yes.” I doubted that Bill was operating under command though.
“Are you going to hold me down and feed from me too?”
I shook my head, wishing there was a way to end every version of Compton in one fell swoop. “No, Sookie. I’m not going to feed from you… Before you go upstairs, we need to talk.”
“First of all, I’d like to heal your wounds.”
“If you aren’t going to let me go then why do you care…?”
“Because seeing you like that bothers me… and it will definitely upset Hunter and Adele.”
“Who the hell are they?”
“Hunter is your cousin and Adele is your grandmother.”
“I don’t have any cousins. The only one I had disappeared. My Gran died in August. She… she was killed… Bill had her killed.” Another version of Sookie’s life where Bill was sent to meet her… and promptly began isolating her so that he could trap her.
“You know for sure that he was part of that?”
She sniffled as she nodded. “He glamoured a guy to do it. My grandmother, my cat, my brother… He fucking bragged about it. I tried to break up with him and he told me I was his and there wasn’t anyone I could go to for help… no one to turn to… he threatened to kill Sam if I tried to go to him.”
“Why haven’t you gone to the Queen?”
“The Queen is the bitch who sent him to ‘get’ me.”
“Do you know why?”
“Because I’m a telepath.”
“No. She sent him to Bon Temps because he was supposed to find out how your family felt about Vampires. Hadley has been a Vampire for 5 years now. Sophie-Ann is her Maker.”
“My… my cousin is the Queen’s child and I’ve been in hell for months!?”
“I doubt they know. I could call to ask if you like.”
She covered her face with her hands, taking several deep breaths before answering, “Ok.”
“I’ll heal you and then while you look through that album, I’ll call her. Do we have a deal?”
“Why do you care?”
“I think that conversation should come later, but I do care. I’ll do my best to think of how to help you though. I promise.”
I watched her bruises and markings fade to nothing and it irritated me to no end that she was lightheaded from her sudden change in health. On top of being shared and manhandled, she was suffering from malnutrition.
And it only got worse… as soon as my wrist closed, she inched closer to me and pulled her hair away from her neck…
I wanted to kill Bill more than ever… Fucker that he was, he could’ve had Sookie’s love and loyalty just by playing nicely. I’d seen it with my own eyes.
Instead… he’d broken her.
She seemed confused when I left the bed and put the album on her lap… rather than looking through it, she watched me take my phone from the nightstand and dial the Queen…
“Lieutenant, what can I do for you on this fine evening?”
“You’re more chipper than usual. Are diamonds involved?”
“Emeralds actually. Wallace certainly puts on a proper façade. He sent a few souvenirs from his vacation. What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if you’d had a ‘crossing’ where Gwen Roth is Sheriff of Area 5.”
“I have, but only once. I suggested that she be fired and You were given whatever You wanted to resume your post. The Area was a shambles… Do you have company?”
“I do… in that version, you sent Bill to Bon Temps…”
“I did. The usual trend, of course. As per the account I received, Sookie was the only surviving Stackhouse and wasn’t interested in reuniting with Hadley. Compton reported that he left her in peace and opted to stay in Area 5 to freeload from Gwen with that cow Maker of his.”
“You might want to make a notation in your journal then. That was a deliberate fabrication…”
She interrupted with a sigh. “Why am I not surprised? What actually happened?”
“Compton took her as a slave. She’s been reading minds for Gwen and Lorena. Compton admitted to his part in Adele and Jason’s deaths and threatened Sookie’s Shifter friend…”
“That ignoramus! I’ll have his head, one of Me will… Is she bonded to him?”
“No. She’s been shared and overworked…”
“Why would he do her the justice of just pretending to love her? That fool could ruin anything. I’ll hope for that crossing soon then. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do until then since the other Me is oblivious to the situation. Is there another You though?”
“Yes ma’am. My Sookie woke with him in Amsterdam.”
“You might try to convince Him to clean up the mess Gwen created. He could claim Sookie and resume his post.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“I’m sure you will. For what it’s worth, give Sookie my regards. I’m sure the other Me wouldn’t tolerate her exploitation. She’d have offered to give her shelter as a minimum.”
“I assumed as much. I’ll call if there’s a need and send our notes when we’ve straightened things out.”
“Tell Adele I send my love.”
When I hung up, the abused Sookie was wearing the same confused expression as she was when I sat down.
I offered, “The Queen was lied to. She was told that you had no interest in reconnecting with Hadley. As far as she knew, you were left alone.”
Her chin began to tremble. “You’re… you’re serious? All this time…”
“Bill Compton will be punished eventually. Once you’ve returned, all you need to do is contact her…”
She shook her head. “I can’t… I’m kept in a room without any access to the outside world. The only time I’m alone is when I’m there.”
“Then we’ll figure out something.” The only thing I could think of that could help is the Me that My Sookie woke with. If he’d be willing to end the lot of them, her troubles could be lightened. If nothing else, if I’d resumed my old habits once I’d left Shreveport, I could pay him to do it.
She nodded submissively. “Why didn’t you feed? When I… I offered…”
“Because I’m not hungry. You are though…” I went to sit next to her and opened the album. “The fact is that I’m bonded to a Sookie. Adele calls it skipping. The Queen does it too and they call it ‘crossing’. From time to time, we rise to find ourselves in different versions of our reality. A plane of our existence where our lives took a path separate from our own reality. I am the Sheriff of Area 5, but for you I retired from the post. My replacement was from the same Vampire lineage as Bill Compton…”
She still hadn’t looked at the album. “Great. I was rescued by a lunatic.”
I chuckled at her. “I’m rarely a lunatic. I have My Sookie and she awoke next to your version of Me.”
“I’ve never laid eyes on you though.”
“I’m sure… If he retired when My contract was up for renewal, Your parents were still alive when I left the States…” She shook her head to argue, but I continued, “I met My Sookie shortly after Bill Compton came into her life. My Sookie and Adele moved in with me shortly thereafter and Hunter came to live with us a few weeks later.”
I tapped on the picture on the first page of the album, bring her attention to a photo of ‘her’ with Me, someone she’d never met.
She gasped, letting go of the album. “No!”
“You can tell when Vampires are lying, Sookie…” I flipped the page to show a collection of the photos of the Ghost Walk we’d taken in New Orleans…
Not only was she seeing very healthy and happy adaptations of Adele and Jason, but she was with Me and Pam and Hadley…
Page after page, she wept uncontrollably while I narrated.
New Orleans, Dallas, Baltimore, Gettysburg, Gatlinburg, Jackson… Nearly 6 months worth of business trips mixed with recreational sightseeing as well as the few photos that had been appropriate for public presentation of our vacation in Longyearbyen.
“I’m not crazy. I know that your Gran died violently at the hands of Rene Lanier, but My Sookie’s Gran was spared the fate. She’s upstairs making supper. From the smell of it, she’s grilled beef of some kind.”
“You’re… You’re with a Me and Gran is ok?”
“Yes… If you’d like, I’ll call Jason. I’m sure that there will be time for you visit with him as well.”
“No, but there will be a point when this is over. When you go back to your own reality though…”
She shook her head. “Don’t make me. Please. I can’t… I don’t want to go back.”
“If I had any control over it, I’d keep you. If it makes you feel any better, in all the versions we’ve come across, I’ve done everything I could to keep you safe.”
“Bill’s going to kill me…”
“He won’t. You’re too valuable.”
“He’ll give me to Lorena then… she’ll… she’ll… Oh God!”
The knock on the door was the only thing to distract her from a full panic.
When Alcide walked in, he grimaced at the sight of Sookie hugging her knees. “She belongs to Compton?”
I nodded. “I had to heal her. He’s been less than kind.”
“You get through the explanation yet?”
I nodded. “I called Sophie-Ann. She’s crossed to this Sookie’s timeline. Compton is keeping her to himself.”
“Figures… the other You is coming back with Sookie. Maybe he’ll want to do something about it. Sookie says he’s being a ‘flirtatious jack-hole’. If he’s interested…” One could hope.
“Maybe. How far into their trip are they?”
“She called when she got on the plane at about 11:30 our time. She said she’d call when they stop for fuel at some airfield in Maine. Should be any time now.” Good.
“Is supper ready? She’s hungry enough that I could feel it while she was still healing.”
He sighed and shook his head. “Yeah… Gran sent me down. Says the salads aren’t getting colder and the steaks aren’t getting warmer.”
“Is Jason here?”
“Yeah… Sookie called him from Amsterdam. She was shopping…”
“She went shopping?”
He started chuckling, “She kinda didn’t have a choice… she woke up in a T and panties… and uh… your closet was full of knickerbockers and twill.”
I managed to laugh in spite of the circumstances. “I haven’t been there since… 1924. I’m allowed.”
“Yeah well, I’m still laughing my ass off thinking about it. I may or may not have photoshopped you into a few scenes from Chicago and emailed them to everyone I know…”
Sookie snorted, “He didn’t. He thought about it… but he couldn’t find good stills.”
He blew a raspberry at her for spoiling his joke. “That’s not how we operate around here… I’m Alcide, by the way. C’mon. You know Gran doesn’t like supper to get cold.”
She grinned and tried to get up, but her knees gave out. When I caught her, and scooped her up to carry her upstairs, she mumbled, “I’m sorry for the trouble. It’s just… when I don’t eat my blood tastes normal and they leave me alone for a while.”
“You’ve been starving yourself?”
She whimpered, “Sometimes it’s my only defense.”