Rasul started breaking open box after box and even though I was beginning to feel even more rundown, my aching muscles were soon forgotten about because I found myself helping him without being asked.
Wanting to touch everything inside that I could get my hands on, hoping to find something else that was inexplicably familiar to me.
Sophie had always made a big deal about the need for gun control and let me know in no uncertain terms that there would never be any guns in our house.
Which – if all of this wasn’t a dream – was ironic, considering what I saw her pull from the small of her back on the night Sookie had sped off with me on the bike.
I had never really cared one way or the other about having one, but knew it was the last thing any schizophrenic should have access to. So I’d just nodded my head every time she started in on one of her rants.
“Find something you like?” I heard Sookie’s voice ask from behind and turned to see her smiling softly back at me.
It was confusing seeing Dream Sookie’s expression on Real Sookie’s face. And while I absolutely found something I liked – sonnets should be written about that smile – I hadn’t forgotten about everything else she’d said to me that day.
So I glared at her suspiciously in return and replied sarcastically, “Well it’s no home cooked meal from wifey-poo and won’t help me win any couch potato awards, but…yeah.”
The softness in her eyes disappeared and in my peripheral I saw both Rasul and Alcide make a beeline out the door, while Sookie’s eyes continued to harden back at me when she spat out, “Get the fuck over it Eric. Everything I’ve done is for your own fucking good. If I had found you first – if you never came up on the bureau’s radar – I would’ve grabbed you and disappeared. We could’ve taken all the time in the world to get you back to being you and if you never remembered a goddamned thing, well…then at least you would’ve been free of them. I don’t give a single fuck about that virus or what de Castro is up to anymore, but now that they know you’re alive I don’t have the time to coddle you. Finding it is the key to your freedom, so when everything is said and done and that goddamn thing is in the FBI’s hands, you’ll be free to go back to wifey-poo.”
Her angry face faltered a bit at the mention of Sophie, but she quickly righted herself and snarled out with pure venom, “If you’re lucky she’ll get sent to Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. She’s already missed out on bunking with Martha Stewart, so she won’t be getting any new dinner recipes out of the deal, but you can still go and hold her hand for four whole hours every month.”
With that, she turned on her heels and started stomping away, but I was right the fuck behind her and grabbed onto her arm without thinking, spinning her around to face me and yelled, “What is your fucking problem? You act like whatever the fuck happened to me is my fucking fault!”
She looked shocked but still angry enough that I knew I should back off and she only watched me while I let go of her to run my hands through my hair, sounding completely frustrated when I asked, “Is that why you’re pissed? Is it my fault?”
It made sense considering she was now a wanted fugitive right along with me and she’d basically given up her freedom in order to help me, so I didn’t wait for her answer and sighed, “Fuck…maybe it is. If what you’ve told me is true, then I must have fucked up for them to have had me for so long. But dial it back for fuck’s sake. At least you know what in the fuck is going on, but I don’t.”
She at least had the grace to look a little chagrined, but considering my reaction to Herveaux and her own to Sophie, I found myself asking, “If we were just partners, then why are you so ate up over Sophie? If everything you’ve told me is true, then she’s not really my wife. But even if I had just married her a month ago, instead of nearly eight years ago, what’s it to you?”
I could see the struggle going on behind her eyes, but I refused to even blink, already knowing she was too crafty of an opponent to give her even that much time to escape.
So after a long moment she finally said, “Because you didn’t know who you were. You were unable to give consent to that bitch and she played a role in that. So it pisses me the hell off that you’re pining for a woman who’s basically raped you, but you’re right. It’s not fair. I shouldn’t be taking out my frustrations on you and I’m sorry.”
I was already having a difficult time remembering when the last time was that I’d had sex with Sophie, but I knew it had been long before we’d ever moved to Shreveport. Those details seemed even hazier than the dreams I’d had of Sookie before she’d suddenly become real, but even without my memories of her, I knew Sookie wasn’t telling me the whole truth.
My bullshit meter was maxed out in the red.
But it wasn’t until then that I realized it had been a long time since I’d felt that way. My mind was slowly starting to clear from the near constant haze I’d been walking around with ever since I’d first been treated for my schizophrenia.
A haze I’d been told was a side-effect from my medication.
But before I could tell her that I wasn’t pining for Sophie or call her on what I suspected were half-truths, Herveaux’s voice broke into our little bubble as he said, “If you two are done kissing and making up…”
Two sets of angry eyes turned towards him – mine for his interruption, but Sookie’s I had no clue – and his expression turned into uncertainty as he hesitantly offered, “I’ll probably end up regretting this because putting a loaded weapon into either one of your hands seems like a bad fucking idea right now, but Rasul and I set up a mock firing range out back. Since Eric seemed to know how to handle a gun, we wanted to see what else he remembers, even if he can’t remember.”
He continued to look uncomfortable under our harsh glares and chuckled nervously when he added, “Eh…you know what in the fuck I mean.”
I still wanted answers from Sookie, but I didn’t want to get them with an audience, especially since I still didn’t know what her relationship was to Herveaux. The thought of them being a couple quite literally made my insides clench and I tried to breathe through the pain it caused because I didn’t have the readymade excuse of claiming it was because she wasn’t in her right mind and couldn’t give consent.
And I involuntarily winced, picturing her naked body underneath him, with her yelling, “Yes!”
Maybe he was right and I shouldn’t hold a loaded weapon right now because Sookie would likely be pissed if I put a bullet into her boyfriend.
But as I started to follow them outside my insides suddenly felt like they really were twisting in on themselves. While the fog surrounding my head had become clearer and clearer as I spent time in this world, my body had been feeling heavier and heavier. I’d brushed it off to the grueling workouts I’d been put through, and my slowly twisting insides to thoughts of Sookie fucking anyone but me.
But now I couldn’t deny something definitely felt wrong and my body broke out into a cold sweat as I dropped to my knees with a grunt while I clutched at my stomach.
Sookie’s panicked voice was in my ear a second later shouting, “Eric?” while two tree trunks that couldn’t be anything other than Herveaux’s arms hoisted me up off of the concrete floor.
But that was only a guess since my eyes were squeezed shut.
I wanted to push him off so I could maintain what little dignity I had left, but it was no use. Violent tremors rocked through my body and my teeth chattered, feeling as though I’d been dropped into an icy fiord, and all I could do was curl into a ball as soon as I felt the mattress beneath me. Everything after that was nothing more than a blur of sounds and sensations until I willingly went into the darkness behind my closed eyes.
I don’t know how long I’d laid there or what was real or imagined, but every time my eyes managed to flutter open, Sookie had been there to wipe the sweat from my brow or just to hold my hand. I had no idea if Herveaux or Rasul were in the room with us, but I didn’t care. I’d been too afraid to look anywhere but at her, fearful this was the end of my dream and I would eventually wake up in a hospital room – again – with Sophie at my side telling me I’d had another episode. Even with Sookie being as angry as she had been at me as of late, I still didn’t want to leave this world. I didn’t want to go back to living Andre Paul’s life or being Sophie’s husband.
I wanted to stay there with Sookie.
“Don’t leave,” I managed to mutter out as my eyes fluttered shut again, with my hand squeezing hers, not quite sure if I was asking her to stay or telling her I didn’t want to go.
I fought the blackness trying to surround me once more until I finally succumbed, only feeling better about letting go when I could’ve sworn I felt her hand squeeze mine in return and heard her whisper back, “Never again.”
My eyes opened with a start and I sat up just as quickly, afraid of where I’d find myself, but I settled down again when I realized I wasn’t strapped down to the bed and was still in Sookie’s world. Everything was exactly as I’d remembered it before I’d passed out and as my eyes traveled around the large cavernous room, the only thing I could tell that was different was that I was completely alone.
My body felt as though I’d been put through the ringer and everything ached, but I no longer felt like my internal organs were trying to eat each other and my blood didn’t feel like it was burning up inside of my veins.
My bladder, however, was demanding to be emptied, so I swung my legs over the side of the bed and only then realized an IV had been put into my arm when my leg got caught on the line.
I probably should’ve been leery of whatever they might have been pumping into my system, but considering I felt a hell of a lot better, I didn’t really care. The fact was, no matter how big of a bitch she could be at times, I did trust Sookie and didn’t think she’d do anything to hurt me. And since I did feel better, and the IV bag was nearly empty, I didn’t feel like I needed it any longer and slid the needle out of my arm, so I could go to the bathroom unhindered.
But I really should’ve paid better attention to my surroundings.
I’d been too busy concentrating on getting my still heavy limbs to move across the floor to realize I wasn’t truly alone, so it wasn’t until I opened the bathroom door that I knew the fortress of solitude I was in wasn’t so solitary.
The cooler air brought in with my opening the door alerted Sookie I’d entered the room and I had just enough time to see her nipples harden before she covered her still wet body with the towel she’d held as she screeched, “Eric!”
She was hot.
And it had nothing to do with the steamy room or her anger.
“That’s what you keep telling me,” I smirked, unable to not flirt with Naked Sookie since I had plenty memories of her, despite the fact I felt like I was covered in concrete, with my body feeling weighed down from being sick.
Well, most of me felt weighed down.
One part of me was definitely feeling up.
“You could’ve knocked,” she huffed, while wrapping the towel around her body, like I couldn’t just rip it off of her.
I took another step into the room, grinning back at her, and offered, “You could’ve locked the door if you didn’t want me to come in.”
But that towel was lock free…
Feeling wiped out or not, I still had to fight off the overwhelming inclination to snatch it from her body and wave it around like the spoils of war before claiming my prize underneath it.
And the look she was giving me wasn’t helping to tame my urges.
Nor was it helping to tame what was quickly coming to life in my shorts.
As if she’d read my mind, her eyes darted down to the now unmistakable tent in my shorts and she smiled briefly before wiping it from her face and rolling her eyes, while she said, “Well, at least one part of you is just the same as it ever was.”
I almost refuted her claim because I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I’d been able to get hard when it hadn’t been in a dream, but I caught myself just in time.
Not only did I not want to admit to that emasculation to the one woman I’d wanted above all others, it seemed too weird considering I still wasn’t sure what memories were real and what ones weren’t.
But the throbbing in my cock definitely felt real.
And as I tried to will my hard on away, my brain finally caught on to what she’d said and made me ask in return, “But I thought you said we were just partners?”
So how could she know how often my dick got hard?
If I was in fact Eric Northman and we were merely partners, I would’ve been abhorred over the idea I walked around with a case of perma-boner around her. It would be creepy as fuck and I couldn’t imagine she’d ever want to be around me at all.
I would never want to be THAT guy.
Her response trailed off cryptically and instead of elaborating on what that meant, she only shrugged and merely looked back at me with concern asking, “How are you feeling?”
Both aroused and disgusted with myself?
“Confused,” I finally answered.
About every fucking thing.
“So then that’s back to normal too,” she softly laughed. Sadly, that was true as well and before I could say anything else, she added, “Why don’t you take a shower and I’ll get us something to eat. You’re probably starving by now. You’ve been out of it for two whole days.”
“Two days?” I asked. “What? Why?”
I hated showing so much weakness in front of her. Being so dependent on her even though it was all I’d ever known in my relationship with Sophie.
Even though Sookie could clearly take care of herself, I still inexplicably felt like I should be the one taking care of her, but I didn’t know why.
So I was even more frustrated when she only brushed past me, with her hand rubbing my arm on her way by, as she said, “We’ll talk more when you’re done.”
If my bladder wasn’t threatening to embarrass me even further in her presence, I would’ve followed her out the door and demanded answers. But instead I did as they both bade me to do and relieved myself before stepping into the shower. Sookie had come in at some point and left me a fresh set of clothes to put on and when I was done, I found her back in the bat cave, sitting next to the computer station with a fresh cup of coffee and some bagels laid out on the desk.
Grabbing the cup, I took a sip and said, “Tell me.”
There were plenty of answers I wanted, most of which was why I felt so strongly that she was more than just my partner, but I would settle for anything right about then.
Sookie chose to answer the last question I’d asked by answering, “Rasul got the results of your blood work back. Whatever they were injecting you with for your made up schizophrenia isn’t any known drug. The best they can determine is that it was some sort of hallucinogenic compound because it has some of the same markers as LSD, but there’s nothing like it on the market, open or underground.”
It only confused me more and before I could think about any one thing in particular, she asked, “Had you been on it for very long?”
Her innocent question only made my frustrations rise up to the surface and I felt irrationally angry as I yelled back, “Who the fuck knows? How in the hell am I supposed to know what I thought I knew was real, if I don’t even know who in the fuck I am?”
My body stood up without my brain telling it to and I stormed out of the building, needing to get away, even though I knew I couldn’t get away from myself.
It wasn’t the first time I’d gone outside, but I hadn’t paid much attention to my surroundings before when I’d helped to unload Herveaux’s truck. Now, however, I could see that we were literally in the middle of nowhere and what I’d thought was a warehouse we’d been cooped up in was actually a hangar next to an abandoned airfield.
“Where are we?” I asked, having heard Sookie follow me outside.
She came up to stand alongside of me and answered with a shrug, “About two hours north of Las Vegas. Bumfuck Nowhere.”
There were a pile of weapons on a makeshift bench, made up of the crates they’d been stored in, and seeing the paper targets set up at progressively further distances down the landing strip made me recall Herveaux’s words from two days earlier, before I’d crumpled to the floor in pain.
Without waiting for her to say anything else, I walked over to the stockpile and chose the semi-automatic pistol I’d held then. After I checked the clip and found it was full, with one already in the chamber, I slid the safety off and pointed and fired at the closest target which was about fifty feet away.
With my bullet hitting the paper target’s outlined head dead center.
It oddly made me feel a little better inside. Everything being thrown at me lately left me feeling so confused – so out of control in whatever life of mine I was now in – but this made me feel like I was taking a little bit of that control back.
I may not have been able to remember when or how I’d learned to shoot a gun, but the fact remained I did know how.
And now knowing my stunt with the bank robbers wasn’t pure luck, I childishly gave the paper target another ‘eye’ with my next shot and a smile with my next five rounds.
Sookie had come to stand beside me and laughed at my antics when I was through, but I didn’t want to think about anything else just yet and picked up another weapon without ‘thinking’ about it either. I didn’t even know which one I’d grabbed and just let my mind wander to nothing in particular, as my hands automatically did what was needed to prepare it to fire before I held it up, shooting and hitting the next target further down the strip.
We stayed out there for hours, with me trying each type of gun available, and Sookie let me work off my frustrations without a word until she started putting me through drills. Since the targets themselves couldn’t move, she had me running near and far, zigzagging through the sandy terrain until she would arbitrarily call out, “NOW!” to which I would fall to the ground and shoot the agreed upon target.
And I never missed.
It was dark out by the time we made our way back inside and I took another much needed shower before joining her in the same spot we’d started out in earlier that day. She seemed to be giving me my space which I was thankful for, but I’d calmed down enough by then and without any prompting from her I said, “Two months.”
Seeing her questioning gaze, I explained, “From what I can remember, I’d only been getting those injections for the schizophrenia for two months. It started when we first moved to Shreveport and I started seeing Doctor Twining. The injections replaced the daily pills I used to have to take and didn’t make me feel as sick as the other medications had, so I only needed the one shot every two weeks. I was supposed to have gotten one the day of the bank robbery, but I missed my appointment – for obvious reasons – and again – for obvious reasons – I didn’t get to reschedule it.”
It looked as though she didn’t know whether to be angry or sad at my revelation. And I didn’t know how to feel about it either, so I kept talking and said, “But I can feel a difference now. Like a curtain has been lifted from in front of my eyes. I’ve been walking around in a fog for a long time, but things seem clearer now. It’s still weird though because I still don’t know what’s real. I can’t trust my memories of what I do remember.”
“And what do you remember, Eric?” she hesitantly asked when I didn’t say anything else.
She almost seemed to brace herself, resigned for whatever answer she was about to hear, and again it made me wonder if there was something more that she wasn’t telling me about our relationship to one another.
But instead of asking yet again, because I wasn’t sure I was ready to hear she was seeing Herveaux, I replied, “I don’t remember much about my childhood, but what I do remember, it was just my mother and me until I’d gone away to college where I met Sophie.”
Sookie’s eyes flashed with anger hearing her name, but I ignored it for now and continued on with, “We had just started dating when my mother committed suicide. She helped me get through it all and we eventually got married. We lived in Las Vegas until she got transferred to Shreveport where I opened up my own little computer repair shop.”
I leaned in closer to Sookie and held her gaze with my own as I said, “It’s all that I’ve known. Nothing about what you’ve told me is familiar at all and even though I can remember most of the details of my life with her, I can’t help but to think that life was nothing more than a dream.”
“Why is that?” she asked in barely more than a whisper.
“Because,” I replied, unable to stop myself from taking her hand in my own and admitting, “Even though I can only remember you from my dreams, I can remember them vividly. You’re just as real to me now as you were in my dreams. The only difference is that we haven’t had sex.”
I hoped and prayed she wasn’t about to tell me that she was with Herveaux because I’d much rather feel the smack of her hand across my face than to be slapped with that reality.
Instead of doing either one of those things, she dropped my hand and sat back to put even more distance between us as she asked, “Aren’t your memories of fucking your wife just as vivid?”
The jealousy in her tone was unmistakable, only instead of feeling any outrage over her presumptuous nerve, it made me feel better. It gave me hope there might actually be more to us than she was letting on, so I truthfully answered, “No.”
I knew Sophie and I hadn’t had sex at all since we’d moved to Shreveport – I’d felt guilty about it because it had been even longer than that. But in the time I’d come to spend with Sookie in this world, my memories from before our move were becoming hazier and hazier. Those memories of my life with Sophie felt more dream-like than any of the others, but Sookie didn’t look convinced I was telling the truth.
She just looked pissed.
So I kissed her.