I braced myself as I carried Sookie upstairs.
Experience told me that Sookie was likely to have a heart-wrenching reaction to seeing Adele. Knowing that she was going to be face to face with both of her brutally murdered family members, I was sure I was going to need some form of escape from her agony caused by seeing them again.
Sookie waved as we entered the kitchen. Adele tried to greet Sookie as warmly as she always did, but Adele’s face fell at the sight of a Sookie that was too weak to walk…
It seemed adrenaline had been the only fuel for her dressing. As it was, every muscle she tried to use trembled.
Alcide pulled the chair out so I could place Sookie at the table and even though she was hungry enough that I felt the pangs that the sight of her meal caused, she still patiently waited for Adele to say grace.
My Sookie would’ve teasingly held a forkful of food to her mouth and warned Adele that she was ‘about to sin’ to encourage Adele to say an abridged blessing.
The emotional reaction I expected was seemingly dammed up under the surface. She felt every bit as wrought as the other Sookies who’d reunited with Adele, but she showed nothing.
The longer it went on the more confused we all became.
The skips had been happening for months and if we’d learned nothing else, there wasn’t a single Sookie that we’d found who spared us from her reaction to seeing Adele.
But that Sookie took everything in stride as far as anyone could see, while fear and grief and pain rolled beneath her surface.
Adele, Hunter, Alcide, Jason and I watched Sookie savor every bite of her dinner… and talk to Jason and Adele as though she were catching up with high school acquaintances… She ate a second steak and potato when Adele offered and seconds of pie too…
Several glasses of sweet tea later, she asked if she could go to the bathroom. I had to force myself to believe she was asking where she could find it, but when I gave directions to her, I was met with a confused look as she left the dining room.
Hunter, impertinent as he was, only waited long enough for Sookie to turn the corner before he asked, “Why is she surprised that you didn’t go with her?”
Adele and Jason were appalled enough to gasp while I wished the skip had gone the other way. If I had skipped to visit her, Compton would’ve been begging to be ended already.
“Because this Sookie is Compton’s prisoner. I’m sure she’s not allowed to use a restroom by herself because she could try to escape.”
The vein in Jason’s temple throbbed. “What the hell… prisoner?”
“She tried to end the relationship with him and he abducted her. He’s using her ability for profit and treating her like a buffet… he’s letting Gwen and Lorena feed from her.”
Adele shook her head. “That Bill Compton can’t die enough. Do you think the You coming back with our Sookie will help her?”
“I can’t be sure…”
Hunter interrupted, “Eric, why is she looking for pills…”
Oh. Fuck me.
That wasn’t the kind of escape I’d meant… but thinking about it on my way to the bathroom, I realized that there was something eerie about the way Sookie ate her meal. Like it was her last.
Since Adele called after me to let me know there wasn’t anything she could hurt herself with in the medicine cabinet and Alcide made sure all the steak knives were still on the table, I knocked instead of barging in.
“Sookie, you aren’t going to find anything.”
She became perfectly still other than her racing heart, even holding her breath for a moment before saying, “I can’t go back. This is my only chance. Gwen healed me the last time I tried.” The last time?
“You don’t want to give up just yet. If nothing else, we’ll find a way for you to get to the Queen.”
“Why do you care? If you won’t let me go, then let me end it. I can’t go back… They’re going to kill me slowly anyway.”
“I care because I love my Sookie enough that it carries over to our skips. Sookie has the same attachment to the Erics she meets. The foundation is there…”
She sniveled against the door. “Eric, my life is nothing. Just… drain me. Please.” There was no way to ignore that. Whether it was My Sookie or not, Sookie was asking, begging to die.
“I’m going to discuss options with the other Me…”
She hit her side of the door. “What good will that do!? He’s never met me. He won’t give a shit anymore than anyone else…”
“Killing yourself isn’t going to fix your problem. You could still come out of this…”
“Dammit Eric! Gran and Jason are dead. Bill burned my house down around me when I uninvited him. Even if I was allowed to be alone long enough to call the Queen, I’m not allowed access to a phone. And night after night, I try to push my thoughts to others, but I can’t even call for help that way.”
“You’re here now. We’re limited as to what we can do, but we will be able to help. Promise me that you won’t hurt yourself. We’ll think of something.”
“Promise me that you’ll kill me.”
“I’m not going to kill you.”
“When you realize that you can’t help me…”
“Eric, if I go back, Bill’s going to make me wish I was dead more than I already do because I smell like you.”
“I can’t kill you. Maybe the other Me could because he isn’t in love with you already. You’re going to have to live long enough to find out.”
Sookie was just coming from the bathroom when Alcide whistled for me and shouted that my ‘old lady’ was calling…
I’d never wanted to hear her voice more… It was going to be therapeutic just to hear it not ask me to kill her.
“Hey sweetie. I miss you.” I took the phone to the study, knowing it was quiet enough that I’d hear every note in her voice.
“I miss you too. Where are you?”
“I’m standing in a very short line at Subway while the plane tops off the tank at Logan. I should be home soon.” Still not close enough.
“How was shopping? You’re spending too much time with Pam if you wake up in a strange place, with a strange Vampire and your instincts take you to a mall.”
She laughed, exactly like I hoped she would, and said, “I found a very cute sweater dress. The other Eric already stretched it out groping me though. He’s cagey and on edge.”
“He isn’t lucky enough to have You. Has he been behaving otherwise?”
“Other than trying to convince me that fucking him isn’t really cheating, you mean?” At least he wasn’t so edgy that he skipped trying to convince her.
“Is it working?”
“Of course not. He got his hopes up when I had to give him a taste. Cicely came with Wally’s plane. She’d have…”
“She’d have thought something of the fact that We didn’t smell like Us. Smart. What do you know about that Me?”
“He retired when his contract was up. He went back to Amsterdam… He hasn’t talked to Pam since the Gaucho Curse joke.”
“Did he Make another child?”
“I don’t think so. Why do you ask?”
“Because I probably would’ve gone mad if I was living in seclusion. After more than 300 years with Pam, I’m used to being social.”
“He’s pretty bad. Really rough around the edges. Really rude. What about Sookie though? She doesn’t have a Sexy Swede in her life, but Mine is doing weird things to our bond. You’re miserable, Sweetie, what’s wrong?” What wasn’t?
“When he retired, Gwen Roth replaced him. Gwen and Lorena just so happen to share a Maker…”
“Fuck. I don’t like where this is going.”
“Neither do I… Sophie-Ann still sent Bill to find Sookie, but since he had the shelter of Auntie Gwen, he isolated her by sending Rene after Adele and Jason and Sookie’s been kept a prisoner since early September.”
Sookie gasped, “Oh my God.”
“I’m currently on suicide watch. She ate dinner with the family and excused herself to use the restroom… Hunter overheard her searching for pills.”
She sniffled, “I’ve never… Eric… even the other one who lost Gran and Jason. None of Me have been suicidal.”
“Bill’s passing her around. She’s tried before but she was healed… She was begging me to drain her just before you called.”
“Do you think there’s anything we can do for her?” Not a single thing. Her fate hinged on what the other Me was willing to do for a stranger.
“I’m thinking about it, but since I can’t go back with her, the most hope she has is her Sophie-Ann or Us skipping to her eventually. Since you’re about to have IUI, I’m not hoping that it’s Us. There’s no telling how Compton would react to his slave smelling like me. I’ve already informed Sophie-Ann in the case that she meets that version.”
She sniffled again. “I’ll talk to this Eric. He’s been out of touch for a while, but he might be willing to at least call Sophie-Ann and clue her in when they go back.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. Sophie-Ann has skipped to a version where Roth was Sheriff. Bill lied and said Sookie wasn’t interested in meeting Hadley. That version was sympathetic enough to leave her alone.”
“Ok. I can’t talk to him until we land though. We’ll get a cab from the airport and maybe we’ll have some brainstorming done by the time I’m home.”
“At least we have a plan.” More specifically, we had plans to make a plan.
“Hang in there. I love you.”
“I love you too. Hurry home.”
I remembered My Sookie’s laugh, replaying it in my mind a few times to steel myself… preparing to get closer to the source of my depression.
I found her on the patio with Adele, sharing a blanket and sipping a cup of hot chocolate with a peppermint stick. I could smell traces of My Sookie in the yard… She spared me from knowing she’d wasted her sunshine on another Eric. That might explain why he so was edgy.
I sat on the end of the lounge Sookie was sharing with Adele. “Sorry to intrude, but I’ve talked to Sookie.” I never interrupted when a Sookie was visiting with Adele, but the usual reason for giving them some privacy was Sookie’s grief and guilt. Knowing about her suicidal wishes, I regretted interrupting Adele’s chance to talk some sense into her.
Adele grinned, “She’d better come home. I don’t care how pretty Amsterdam is.”
“You’ll be happy to know she’s at Logan. She’ll be home in just a few hours.”
She reached out to rub my shoulder. “Not soon enough, huh?”
“Never… She had an idea. Barring something unforeseen happening, the Me traveling with My Sookie worked for Sophie-Ann. He’ll be able to contact her and explain what Compton and Roth are doing to you.”
“How do I go back? I don’t want to…”
“You and the other Me are visiting. You’ll go downstairs… Fuck.”
Adele shook her head. “What? Did you think of something?”
“A problem. We always go to bed here… and We always return here. September does the same. The Merlottes went to bed in their house and…”
Adele nodded. “Fuck is right.”
I couldn’t help it, I laughed. Sookie drew away from her Gran from the shock of hearing Adele say fuck. “Gran!”
“If ever there was a perfect time to say it… I’m assuming that you bought this house after the other You retired.”
“This house was built in ’97. Worse still, I was the one who had the saferoom installed. I have no idea… They could return underground…”
“But if they laid down in my bed…”
“They could return with the people that bought the house instead.”
Adele squinted while she tried to think of alternatives. “That would be better than… Eric, what about your house on the lake?” I loved that woman.
“Providing He didn’t sell it when He pulled up stakes…” Adele snickered at the accidental pun and broke my train of thought. I narrowed my eyes at her. “Grow up.”
“I’m sorry. This is serious… You said stake.”
“Damn it, woman…” That was all I could manage to say with a straight face. “I’m going to send you to your room if you can’t behave.”
She snickered quietly for a minute or two with her finger in the air. She finally calmed down and cleared her throat. “All we really have to do is make sure that there is one building in all of Shreveport that is standing in both versions. It’s not that bad…”
Sookie interrupted, “Wait! If that other Eric and Me ‘go back’ in one building, we’ll still be in that building in our version?”
I nodded. “As far as we know. We’ve never had it happen differently.”
The smile that started to spread across her face was strange… it slowly took over her face… creepy was the only way to describe it accurately.
Adele and I reached our curiosity ceilings at the same time and asked, “What?”
“As long as I don’t ‘go back’ to Gwen’s house, then I’m… I’m out… I’m free.”