Elephant In The Room
I wasn’t thinking about anything but reaching Sookie…
Racing from the car as soon as I dug the wheels into the gravel driveway…
Darting through the house because it was too quiet for her to be upstairs…
And the only reason I stopped at the base of the stairs was that my legs stopped moving…
I was terrified to turn around…
Chills shot up my spine while I listened to the sounds of a body tumbling down the stairs…
I couldn’t decide if the body sounded so large because it wasn’t Sookie or if I was dying at the thought it was…
As fast as I was going, as hard as I shoved the door… I could have killed her and listening for a heartbeat or breathing didn’t give me any reason to turn around.
All I knew for sure was that I smelled her blood.
And the closer the other Sookie’s footsteps got, the sooner I was going to know…
The hammering of Her heels stopped at the top of the stairs and She gasped, “Sweet Jesus, Eric!”
Asking who my victim was as Sookie ran down the steps went unanswered.
I needed to turn around…
I needed to tend to her…
It was the only way I’d keep Her…
Sookie sniffled, “You crushed His skull,” finally giving me the information I needed…
Fuck Him. He’d heal on His own…
Droplets of Sookie’s blood on the pillowcase and sheet…
Quiet, calm breathing coming from the bathroom…
I scanned the room quickly, only becoming more furious when she wasn’t in plain sight…
She was in the corner of the shower… the fetal position… cold marble… her gown was pushed up and panties pushed down… bloody smears and rubs from the door, the sink, the toilet, the corner she was lying in like discarded garbage…
She looked like she’d been punched. Like He’d hit her… perhaps He’d shoved her out of the bed… The last straw was seeing the marking on her neck…
I was going to kill him…
I took the stake from the otherwise unused medicine cabinet and returned to the hall…
Sookie jumped and yelped, “Jesus! Don’t sneak up on me… How long should it take Him to heal?”
“He won’t heal. Get out of my way.”
She shook her head, probing the back of his head as though He was worth the effort. “What? Why?”
“Saying He’s ‘a jerk’ was an understatement… Stand clear of Him. I don’t want to harm you…”
“What happened? Where’s Sookie?”
“She’s in a bloody heap in His shower…”
“Yes… a bloody heap with a battered face and bite marks…”
When I offered my hand to help her up, she smacked it away. “NO! I won’t let you end him! She probably offered! When You smell Us, You feel hungry even if You just fed!”
“You haven’t been feeding Him. If she offered, His reaction would have given Him away…”
When I offered my hand for a second time, she smacked it away again and spun around quickly to sit on His back.
“DON’T YOU DARE!”
He began to stir, lifting His head and turning it slowly. There was a glazed look to His eyes.
“I’d be doing you a favor!” If He was so wild He’d abuse any Sookie, She needed to be saved from suffering His existence.
Sookie shouted, “They’re both unconscious. We don’t know what the fuck happened! You’re going to have to hurt Me to get to Him before We hear details… Go see to Her.”
“Go! Look at what He did to Her… He bit her. Her nose is broken! If you’d been feeding Him, He’d have an excuse for the bite… Will you still defend Him if you hear He thought that was you!?”
When He pushed against the floor, trying to stand, she moved from His back, turning enough to take His hand to help and still keep an eye on me.
He was unstable, swaying and ashen, leaning enough for Sookie to be doing most of the work of keeping Him upright.
He grunted, “I did think it was My Sookie when I bit her… I thought she was trying to manipulate me… When Yours realized I’m not You, She ran away and tripped…”
Sookie turned to snarl, “I fucking told you… He wouldn’t have done that…”
“How the fuck would you know!? You said He’d been rough.”
“I also told you it hadn’t been anything I couldn’t handle and I can tell when You’re lying. Besides, I stabbed My Eric last night at dinner and all He did was grab my arm… Go see to your Sookie.”
“If She wakes and tells a different story, you won’t have the chance to say goodbye.”
That wasn’t a threat, it was a promise…
On my way back to My Sookie, I kicked aside several pairs of jeans, sending a scattering of receipts and even cash and credit cards onto the floor…
“What the fuck is wrong with you? Is this some sort of depression induced adolescence? Instead of fast-food wrappers, are there exsanguinated bodies under this debris? Fucking child… No… children are neater. I have proof. Hunter separates his laundry. He’s four. FOUR… Burn it down, the whole fucking castle. Having the ashes bulldozed into the river will be easier than cleaning this pigsty…”
I didn’t have any luck waking Sookie…
Not knowing if she was knocked out or if she had panicked until she collapsed again…
The deep gash across her eyebrow and broken nose were all the excuse I needed to risk her feelings about being treated without consent.
I sat on the floor of the shower and pulled her up to lean against me…
Reaching to turn the showerhead on and doing my best to clean her face…
Healing Sookie’s wounds was the easy part…
A dab of my blood on the punctures and over the wound on her face took no effort.
But even though she didn’t respond, straightening her nose felt as though I was breaking my own…
Knowing I caused her pain, even when she couldn’t feel it, caused its own horrible sensation.
I was just happy to have thought to do it before she woke, but I was still going to have to give her my blood eventually to heal that completely.
A lot of effort went into washing her… holding her limp body up, rinsing the blood from her hair, keeping her head from falling back so she couldn’t drown…
And ignoring how caringly the other Sookie washed the blood from Her pathetic excuse for a Me.
I actually hoped My Sookie wouldn’t wake in the process of the shower… I didn’t want her to remember the ‘help’ she used to have while she bathed.
By the time I was done, the other Sookie had sent Her Eric away and She was waiting… holding out a towel, crying sympathetic tears…
She wrapped the towel around My Sookie and held her so I could replace my soaked robe with my own towel.
She offered quietly, “The bed’s clean so you can lay her down.”
I nodded as I lifted My Sookie. “Thank you.”
“I’m sorry, but I wasn’t going to let you do anything until we heard both sides.” Hence giving Him babysitting duty and sending Him on an errand.
“I was serious when I said I’d end Him if He did this.”
As She followed me, she sighed, “I know… but He didn’t… Eric, we need to talk.”
I placed My Sookie on clean sheets and sat next to her… the other Sookie put her hands on my shoulders from behind and gave a gentle squeeze. That didn’t bode well.
“What do we need to talk about?” I searched my memory for anything I might have forgotten to tell her before we left her hotel room, anything she needed to be warned about. “Wait… Did I mention Appius made another child?”
She sighed and let go of my shoulders to begin tossing Her Eric’s rubble towards the door.
“You didn’t, but he’s in the journal. That bastard turned Alexei Romanov and the poor thing went insane. My first Eric had to end the boy because he liked feeding from children, talk about twisted symbolism, anyway we know to be on the lookout.”
“I heard about him because of a skip as well. He’s been killing children for years and leaving his messes in public. He killed a boy in Tandel recently… Less than two hours away.”
“Damn. That’s not far enough.”
“No… It would be wise for you to keep the children close to you until he’s found. It won’t be difficult to find him once Gawain sends the word out. There were plenty of photos of the boy before he was brought over.”
“God bless Google… I haven’t heard of Gawain. Who’s he?”
“Lord Constable. Long time friend.”
“I don’t think My Eric has any of those left. Selma begged me not to get involved with Him. She said she used to trust Eric… It isn’t like I could tell her I came here to bond with a stranger so he could see his dead child, even if I thought it would make her feel better. She thinks I’m here for peace and quiet.” Why not? That’s why I chose Eijsden.
“She’s the Lord of Hamburg for Us… How do you know her?” I had to ask since she’d moved to Baton Rouge and taken the name ‘Salome’ in all of the versions mentioned in our journal. I hadn’t called her Selma in years.
“She’s my publicist. She bought a publishing house ages ago. When I sent in my manuscript for my first book, it got her attention because certain details were too accurate… The books were what I meant when I said your Sookie could get some therapy from a cause. If she had a panic attack over the idea of someone else having to go through what she did… Eric, I’ve published young adult novels about a telepathic crime fighter. Hundreds of people, all ages, have contacted me trying to feel me out. She could help them. She could tell them what happened to her so they know to steer clear.”
It would probably do wonders for her… to have control… to help inform and protect others… as ardent as she’d been about protecting as many as We could… Brandon, Julie, Hunter- they could all help her.
“Have you put a list on your Journal?”
She walked over, nodding as she pulled a long chain out of her sweater to reveal a USB drive and offering it to me. “Names, ages, homes, schools, jobs. Selma did a family tree and connected some that never knew about each other. And the books are here. Since you’re the King, I’m sure you could pull some strings to see they’re published. You might find more. We can share notes through skips. I’ll tell you what though, Daan Klompenhower lives on the other side of town and he’d probably be ecstatic to meet another telepath. He cried when he met me last night.”
“There’s a telepath in Eijsden?”
“He was born near Rotterdam, but he was sent to live with family in Eijsden when his mother died.”
“He could still be in Rotterdam for us.”
She winced. “Good point… His aunt’s name is Bennis if you want to look him up.”
“Are you sure you don’t mind that she’d publish your work?”
She shook her head. “I’m just pissed that I didn’t think about it until after my last skip was over. It’s for a good cause. Maybe other Sookie’s can do some ghostwriting and we can swap stories back and forth. The more publicity there is, the more of us come forward. Strength in numbers and all that. The book signings are the big thing though. A lot of them are too timid to make contact any other way.”
Beautiful. My Sookie needed something to do… A purpose.
I nodded and took the memory card from her. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Do you think she’d mind if I wrote one about a Vampire who kidnapped the telepath? I’d have to church it up so it would be suitable for kids, but given what happened to her, I think it would be irresponsible to not mention the dangers… I’d have her rescued by a beautiful and magnanimous Vampire though.” She grinned and winked as she made her promise.
“I don’t think she’d mind… Thank you… You should tell Your Eric to use His connections to find Compton, Ball and Roth. He’ll probably have fun ending them with or without the principle attached.”
She snorted, “I was thinking about taking advantage of being stronger once We’re bonded to do that myself.” Cute.
She was carefully placing the contents from Her Eric’s pockets on the dresser… One pair after another. It was needling my nerves to see her tidying up after him.
Just one night ago, My Sookie told me We needed to make sure actual children had some sense of responsibility.
“Don’t do that. Fuck Him. Don’t clean up His mess.”
She snorted as she used the old sheet to bundle the mass of laundry to drag it to the hall. “Ohhhhh, trust me… This is payback. That shit thought I was trying to work him… I can’t think of a better way to get back at him than invading his space… And the best part is that he’ll think I was being nice, so he’ll swallow how annoyed he is.” So perfect.
More of the tenacity I followed to Shreveport. If anything could turn Him around, it would be Sookie.
“Were your books what we needed to talk about?” I wanted to wake My Sookie, reset, get on with Our night, put this skip behind us.
Her eyes shifted to the floor and she slowly made her way over to sit on the opposite side of the bed. She cleared her throat and practically whispered, “Um… How often does Sookie get sick?”
“Not often. She feels nauseated from time to time, but she’s only vomited when she’s overwhelmed that I know about.”
She nodded slowly and cleared her throat again. “I’ve only thrown up a handful of times myself. I don’t have much of a gag reflex.” Small talk about vomit was certainly a first for me.
“I’ve only thrown up twice when I wasn’t pregnant. Both times alcohol was a factor…”
“I’m still not seeing your point… She was probably scared that I’d be upset with her for feeding Him.”
She shook her head. “Eric, I think you should consider she could be pregnant.”
“What? How? She’s only been with Vampires.”
Her throat clenched as she shook her head again…
I was beginning to feel as though I was going to be ill…
“Eric, she was… a woman, was punishing them… Sookie and Bill… because Bill couldn’t control her… Sookie tried to escape… I think drugs were involved… She’s been thinking about it while I’ve been here… nightmares.”
She nodded, not making eye contact.
“Lorena? She gave Sookie to a Human to punish Bill?”
She shrugged, breaking the surface tension to spill a few tears. “She made him watch… I’m pretty sure they aren’t just dreams. They’re too real. I could feel it when I tried to listen earlier…”
I thought she’d been eating so much just because she’d been starved.
I thought she’d been vomiting just because she couldn’t tolerate surprises or stress.
Perfectly reasonable assumptions…
Knowing Sookie wasn’t prone to gagging unless she was pregnant…
But… It could have been a coincidence… It could… Sookie wouldn’t know. How could she? She’d never been through what Mine had.
She patted the bed to get my attention.
“You should probably wait until you reset to talk to her about it… For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what? That We see another reason every-fucking-night to make Us wish We hadn’t ended them so quickly.”
She sniffled, “Yeah… I guess so…” She wiped her tears and cleared her throat again. “I’m all locked up so she can’t get any hints from me if you want to try to wake her up…”
“WOULDN’T SHE KNOW!?”
She still wasn’t looking at me when she cringed. “I… I didn’t feel Lindy move until I was four months along… And… all kinds of things can make a girl miss periods. Stress, malnutrition… I’m going to guess you don’t know what it smells or tastes like, huh?”
“No. I don’t spend any time with Humans, let alone pregnant Humans. Not until recently.” Klaasje. Klaasje would know in an instant. If she didn’t already know and assumed I knew too… FUCK!
“Selma knew… She’s the reason I took a test. She said I smelled sweeter than usual.”
“She doesn’t smell any sweeter than the first Sookie I met…”
I left my seat to meet her on her side of the bed, smelling her, burying my nose against her neck in an effort to prove her wrong.
“You smell Like Mine. You aren’t…”
She sniffled, “I was… Until last week. I miscarried and taking Eric’s blood last night healed me, but I’m still a little hormonal. I was 13 weeks along and I hadn’t felt the baby move. I wasn’t showing… My only symptoms were eating like a pig, getting sick from time to time, and smelling sweeter than usu-”
There was no fucking way to plan for this.
How the fuck was I supposed to go about explaining to Sookie she’s most likely pregnant.
Pregnant because she was raped…
There was no way to anticipate Sookie’s reaction… or what she’d want to do… or how much more broken she’d be…
What the fuck was this going to do to her?
I’d paced until I’d walked out of my towel, finally deciding there wasn’t much else to do until I knew for certain.
I refused to upset her without knowing for sure… I wasn’t going to remind her of her hell unless it was absolutely necessary.
Sitting next to Sookie again, doing my best to calm down…
This time, waking her was easy… After saying her name just a few times, she opened her eyes slowly.
Looking at me, scanning the room to see another Her…
Knitting her eyebrows together as she sat up slowly. “Which one are you?”
Her chin wrinkled. “I guess I should have asked that earlier. I’m soooooo sorry. I didn’t know…”
“How could you? We look the same.”
“His mind is different. Dark, scary… Like… like…” Like Bill Compton.
“He lost Pam…”
She gasped and clasped her hands over her mouth. “That poor man! Oh God!”
“I found you in a bloody bathroom and you’re concerned for His loss?”
She grabbed my wrists with widened eyes. “Is He alright? You didn’t hurt Him, did you? He didn’t hurt me… not even when He fed.” Only Sookie. Only She would defend Him…
I was at least marginally amused by the cocky smirk the other Sookie offered. I told you so.
“Your nose is broken.”
“I tripped over something trying to get to the bathroom… I did it to myself… God knows how long He sat on the bed confused.”
“Why did you lose consciousness? Did you panic again?”
The look on her face seemed pained as she thought about her answer…
“Maybe the knock I took… I was upset… I mean, I felt stupid for not knowing better. And… it was the first time, but it was the wrong Eric… I tried to stand up to wash my face, but I was too dizzy and seeing spots.”
Physical pain combined with disorientation… it sounded like a recipe for the flashbacks the other Sookie witnessed.
I growled, “He has no idea how lucky He is.”
The other Sookie nodded. “I’ll try to make sure He understands.”
My Sookie sighed, “How long have I been out? What’s different about this version other than Pam being gone?”
“I’d rather discuss it once we’re back in Our bed.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to see Sookie’s reaction to Lindy.
She nodded slowly as the other Sookie left the bed…
She grinned and walked towards the door. “I can take a hint… I’ve got cleaning to do anyway.”
My Sookie gave me a confused look as I stretched out next to her. “What are you both so worried about?”
The fragile psyche of a woman who’d already gone through too much.
“I was worried for you. She was worried for Him.” Vague enough, I thought.
“I’m sorry for being so much trouble.”
“You aren’t trouble.”
I wasn’t going to be able to stall for long. I was going to be lucky to make it long enough to have more finite information.
“This Eric… How did He lose Pam?”
“Halfdan ended her.”
She frowned sympathetically, feeling bizarrely curious. “I wonder if this is how Our first Sookie felt when She met me since I was the one who lost everyone I loved.”
I nodded, sure she was excusing my mood as morbid distress over a close call.
She rolled towards me, resting her hand on my chest as she closed her eyes. “I might just have to find a reason to give Pam an extra hug tonight.”
I couldn’t find a reason to argue with that.
“I think I will too.”
I wondered if it was possible for the spell to work for nine months.
I wondered if the pot she’d been smoking would harm the baby she may or may not want.
Why would she want it?
How much of a setback was this going to be?
While I stared at the ceiling, I made a list of chores that needed to be taken care of immediately…
Because there was no way in hell I was going to be able to hide the elephant in the room for long.