If I were a lesser man, I might have passed out hearing my dead mother’s voice over the phone and even though I had to stop myself from correcting her by saying my name wasn’t Eric, I was still overjoyed hearing her voice again.
She’d slowly been fading from what memory I did have of her, but hearing her again brought some of it back because I recognized her immediately and choked out, “Mom?”
She started sobbing uncontrollably, which broke what little hold I’d managed to have, with a few tears falling from my own eyes hearing her again.
But they were happy ones.
Even if this was just a dream, I was content just hearing her voice – happy that she was so emotional just knowing I was on the other end of the line – because for so long I’d been left feeling nothing but the pain from her suicide.
Her death – that I could no longer be sure had even happened.
There hadn’t been any note left behind to explain why she did it or telling me goodbye. I had wanted to hate her – a large part of me had never let go of the hurt she’d caused by leaving me all alone – but what had gotten me through it all at the time was Sophie.
We’d just started dating right before my world fell apart from my mother’s death and she’d been there for me. I relied on her a lot in the aftermath and it was what ultimately became the foundation of our relationship.
Me depending on her.
A relationship – that I could no longer be sure had even happened.
I watched Sookie wipe away a few stray tears from her own eyes, witnessing my little meltdown. But when she turned to walk away – I assumed to give me privacy – I grabbed onto her hand and held her there.
Real or not – it was thanks to her I got to hear my mother’s voice again.
I laced my fingers through hers, needing her there to keep me grounded, now feeling terrified I might actually wake up and lose my mother all over again. I only knew Sookie from my dreams, so if that was what this was, then I hoped she’d be able to keep me there long enough for me to be able to talk to my mom again.
I tried to stifle my own growing need to sob and said, “It’s okay mom, I’m here.”
“Oh Eric,” she croaked out and continued to bawl, but eventually she sputtered, “We knew you were alive and we’re so happy Sookie got you out of there.”
Everything felt so strange. Here I was talking to my dead mother about a woman I only ever knew in my dreams. A woman I had no real memories of but who knew my mother.
My mother, whose memories I had of her I could no longer be sure were real because in my mind she had died thirteen years earlier.
Talk about a mind fuck.
Even so, I couldn’t help but agree, “Me too.”
I’d take the consequences of the mind fuck because if nothing else I was grateful to dream girl for giving me this moment with her whether it was real or not.
We spoke for a while, with her telling me things about me that didn’t sound familiar at all, but I didn’t care so long as I got to hear her voice. That, at least, was familiar to me so it didn’t really matter what she was saying and the more she spoke, the more her face became clearer in my mind.
The way her eyes lit up when she was happy.
I only wished I could see her now.
I was so lost in the moment just listening to her that I forgot all about the part where I had another parent until she said, “Dad is about to jump out of his skin if he doesn’t get to hear your voice, so I’m going to put him on now, okay?”
I didn’t want to let her go just yet, afraid I wouldn’t get another chance to speak with her again. But I also didn’t want to argue with her – not after losing her once already – and I was curious about him too, so I agreed, “Okay,” but quickly added, “I…I love you mom.”
That had always bothered me the most – what had eaten me up inside whenever I thought about her – wondering what was going through her head in her final moments. I’d blamed myself, thinking it was in some way my fault – that I hadn’t told her I loved her enough – because surely she wouldn’t have killed herself if she’d known.
So it only fucked with my head even more when she sniffled out, “I know Eric. I love you too.”
Before I could get too lost in my own head I heard an unfamiliar voice ask, “Son?”
So I automatically replied, “Dad?”
So fucking weird…
“Remember that, do you?” he chuckled.
But before I could answer he said, “Don’t worry about it, you will. Sook already called us when you all were making your way out of Dodge, so we know you’re a little confused right now. You just listen to her – trust her – and it’ll come back to you eventually.”
Everything felt so Twilight Zone. My dream girlfriend rescues/kidnaps me and knows my parents so well that she dialed their number from memory. After making suggestive remarks to, I assume, my mother, I not only get to talk to her after believing she’d been dead for almost half of my lifetime, but I get a father out of the deal who I can’t remember at all. And he’s telling me to trust Sookie, even though I could walk by him on the street and not know who he was.
I was normally great with puzzles, but even I got lost in that maze.
“Yes sir,” I replied, figuring even if this was just a dream, Sookie had never steered me wrong in them before.
And if it wasn’t a dream, well…I would just have to hope that trait would still hold true.
I was able to speak to him for a little while too, but it was more of a one sided conversation since I had no memory of him whatsoever. The questions I had always wanted answers to growing up couldn’t be asked.
Because if any of this was real then it would hardly seem fair to accuse him of being a deadbeat or asking why he never gave a shit about my mom or me, if they were still living together in my childhood home after raising me there – even though I couldn’t remember any of it.
Total. Mind. Fuck.
Sookie took the phone back from me when we were through and wandered away to a far off corner to have a whispered conversation, but I was too shell-shocked to be bothered by her secrecy. She apparently knew them better than I did anyway and my aching body and heavy eyes had me lying down on the same bed I’d first woken up on.
I couldn’t ever recall being so tired in any of my dreams and as I closed my eyes, I tried not to feel guilty for hoping when I ‘woke up’ I would still be lying there instead of back home.
Because no matter how odd everything was – no matter how confused I felt – the fact was I had never felt more alive.
The first thing to register to my consciousness as I came to was the sound of muffled thumps, followed by grunts. But instead of slowly opening my eyes like I had the day before, they shot open with me looking around, frantically trying to assess my surroundings and my heart rate only started to calm down when I saw I was still in the warehouse. While I was glad I was still there, it only made me more perplexed for feeling that way because of my dream from the night before.
For the first time I’d dreamt of Sophie as I knew her – my wife – instead of her playing the role of the evil villain like she usually did. But the crystal clear clarity my previous dreams held were replaced with a haziness – like I was seeing everything through a sheer curtain. Normally everything about my dreams were always so vibrant and real – every other dream I’d ever had always felt like I was there living it. I felt present for every physical detail, be it pain or pleasure, with the worst of the former coming during one of my ‘episodes’. But this one felt completely different in that I didn’t feel anything at all.
I’d dreamt of our wedding day of all things, but I hadn’t felt one ounce of the affection or love for her that should have been there – the love that I thought I remembered feeling – and now I couldn’t be sure if any of it had been real. In my dream I’d gone through the motions of being with her – said all of the things I’d remembered saying – and yet I hadn’t felt any of the emotions that should’ve gone along with them.
Instead I’d felt a disconnection, as if I’d read a story of the life I thought I remembered and had filled in the images in my head. It scared the hell out of me because the longer I remained in this world the more I had to question how real the other one was, but I could only hope that time would tell.
I’d either get Eric Northman’s life back or I’d wake up strapped to a hospital bed.
And to add to my confusion, I sure as hell couldn’t understand the guilt I felt towards Sookie for anything that had to do with me being married to Sophie, if she was just my partner. That guilt had been carrying over to my waking hours more and more over the last few weeks and weighed on me a hell of a lot more than whatever guilt I’d felt for Sophie, seeing her lying next to me in bed each morning when I’d woken up.
The only explanation I could come up with for the remorse I felt now was that it must be for the dream version of Sookie I knew, since that was the only tangible memory of her I had. In my dreams we were more than just lovers – she’d been my everything – and perhaps now that I was seeing her face to face, while I was hopefully awake, I was just confusing my feelings.
I found it telling that I wasn’t longing to go back to Sophie, but that could be for a whole host of reasons that had nothing to do with Sookie, regardless of the fact that I’d always preferred my dream girlfriend over my wife. I’d felt disconnected from her long before my dream the night before.
But just like in my dreams, I’d been going through the motions of living our life together – saying all of the things that I thought I should say – because it was all that I knew.
It was comfortable and safe.
But now I wouldn’t have to feel any guilt for leaving her because if this world was the real one then I supposed our wedding and the night that followed couldn’t have happened, if I’d only been ‘missing’ for a year.
I couldn’t trust any of the memories I had now and only hoped the longer I remained here that something besides Sookie’s fondness for fried foods would come back to me. Real Sookie seemed confident that they would, so I decided I would have to take a leap of faith and trust my partner for now.
As for all of those other dreams I’d had of Sookie – before she was suddenly no longer a dream and no longer my girlfriend – she’d been right.
She was hot.
So it was no wonder she was the star of them.
An award winning porn star…
It felt way too early for my brain to be spinning every which way, since I was only managing to confuse myself even more. And finding a single strand of long blond hair caught in between my fingers only threatened to set me off all over again, but hearing another thump followed by Sookie’s laughter drew me out of it, with me looking towards the sound where I saw her and Rasul standing on the mats in the corner.
She was wearing a skintight tank top and matching pants that ended at her calves, showcasing every curve of her body, and from the looks of it they’d been sparring. Since Rasul was now hunched over, holding onto his stomach and sucking air into his lungs like his last name could be Hoover, while Sookie continued to smile and dance around him on the balls of her feet, I surmised that she’d won.
At least SHE was no slouch.
After working out with him the day before, I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn he was a cyborg because he had definitely seemed inhuman to me. His strength alone was impressive enough, but it was his stamina that had astonished me the most, with him seemingly incapable of becoming winded. So I felt a wave of childish glee sweep through me seeing Sookie had taken him down a peg.
The bastard deserved it and she looked hot as hell doing it.
As Rasul lifted his head, while trying to get his breathing under control, he saw my eyes on them and looked relieved when he panted out, “Your partner is awake. I will take my revenge out on him.”
My ass puckered at the thought, while she just laughed at him and grabbed a towel to wipe the sweat from her face before throwing it over her shoulder. She waited for him to slowly straighten up, but as they began walking towards me her eyes met mine and hardened. Her smile disappeared completely and had apparently taken her good mood with it, since she only looked mad now, as she told him, “Go right ahead. He can use a good ass kicking.”
“What did I do?” I asked before I could stop myself.
Rasul just grinned at me in anticipation, while she refused to acknowledge me by looking straight at him and saying, “Up his cardio.”
And when her eyes looked down at me again, she added, “Too many home cooked meals from wifey-poo made him fat and lazy.”
I did my best to hide the hurt I felt over her words, which was easy enough since my growing anger was quickly replacing it, when she finally decided to address me – now that she was done dressing me down – and ordered, “Get up already. The sun’s been up for over an hour and you’ve had enough sweet dreams for now.”
What the fuck? Was she telepathic?
The combination of her being pissed and bringing my dreams into her bitchy tirade made me wonder. But I didn’t think and automatically reacted by snarling back, “Just because someone pissed in your Wheaties this morning doesn’t mean I’ll be your stand-in bitch.”
I kept my surprise to myself since I didn’t usually talk to people that way – much less people I couldn’t know for sure were real and would likely be able to beat my ass – but her lips twitched like she wanted to smile before she rolled her eyes and spouted off the universal female equivalent of ‘fuck you’ by saying, “Whatever.”
The sound of Rasul clearing his voice drew both of our attentions back to him, only for me to see his eyes were trained on her chest.
And I bit back another snarl seeing him staring at her there.
Only instead of getting mad, Sookie just glanced down and quickly covered herself with the towel she had draped over her shoulder before making a beeline for the bathroom without another word.
“What in the hell was that about?” I asked, not sure if I was asking about his inappropriate looks or her attitude.
But he just looked down at me and shrugged with a smile, saying, “Show me a man who claims to understand women and I will gut him myself to look for his womb.”
Uh huh…he should write for Hallmark.
From the nearest hospital for the criminally insane.
“Let’s go,” he laughed when he saw me grimacing from the mental image he’d given me and then added with more zeal than I would’ve thought possible, since his breathing still wasn’t back to normal, “It is time for you to get your ass kicked. The boss has given me permission.”
He took her permission seriously because over the next few hours that criminally insane mother fucker ran me ragged. And the only thing that kept me going was the thought of being able to kick his ass one day, if he didn’t end up killing me first.
Sookie had disappeared for a little while after coming out of the bathroom freshly showered, but I no longer held her bitchiness against her when she returned with bags of food and brought my torture session to a close. I wanted to ask her what had crawled up her ass earlier, but she beat me to the punch by tossing another file at me and her voice held all of the warmth of an Ice Queen when she said, “These are all of your notes from when you were undercover with Madden and de Castro. Read them and see if anything comes back to you.”
I was tired of being her designated whipping boy and was going to snap back, but a few sheets of paper had fallen out and the sight of my own handwriting caught my eye. Even as I reached for them I still glared at her, which only made her smirk in return and I suddenly had the overwhelming urge to just throw her down and fuck her.
Probably a throwback to Dream Sookie – it was the only way I knew to be around her.
My hand had barely touched the page when an alarm sounded over at the computer station and the two of them rushed over, with me coming up behind them as quickly as my aching body would allow.
Sookie hit a few keys and a surveillance camera came onto the screen, showing what I assumed was the area surrounding the building we were in because seeing the pickup truck flying down a dirt road and leaving a dust storm in its wake, Rasul asked, “You called Herveaux?”
She smiled for the first time since she’d first looked at me that morning and sounded damn near giddy saying, “I did.”
And I didn’t like it.
Her smiling or being giddy about whoever this Herveaux character was.
If she was still Dream Sookie I would definitely throw her down and fuck that shit right out of her. But since this was Real Sookie – maybe – I had to keep my newfound caveman urges to myself.
Which was really difficult when she ran over to the door and threw it open just in time for some lumberjack mother fucker, with his NFL linebacker build and a GQ worthy face, to come in.
She was positively beaming at him and as soon as he saw her, he scooped her up into his arms and spun them around, with Sookie fucking squealing in delight before he put her down and said, “It’s been too damn long, but damn if you don’t look good.”
I wanted to hit him.
When he finally noticed there was more than just her tits in the room, he looked over at me and laughed out, “And it’s been a hell of a lot longer since I laid eyes on your pretty face, but my God man…fuck that brainwash mojo they did on you. What in the fuck did they do? Fuck you up the ass with a case of Coors to give you that beer baby you’re sportin’?”
Really REALLY hard.
“Stop it Alcide,” Sookie frowned at him.
But not nearly as harshly as she’d glared at me, so I didn’t feel much better hearing her defend me.
Still, he listened to the boss and walked over, giving me what equated to a guy hug – no squealing involved – and said, “Seriously man, it’s good to see you.”
I doubted I would’ve returned the sentiment, even if I knew who in the fuck he was.
He returned my glare with a knowing smirk, but Sookie broke it up by asking, “You’re sure you weren’t being followed? Did you sweep your truck?”
He sighed and turned to her with a smile, playfully rolling his eyes and saying, “Yes mom. It’s not my first rodeo you know.”
“I know that you horse’s ass,” she smiled right back. “But give a girl a break. It’s not like you haven’t fucked up in the past. The last time I was hiking through the Ruby Mountains I could still hear Debbie’s voice echoing around Lamoille Canyon from when she caught us together at that club on the strip.”
Caught them together?
Were they TOGETHER together – as in a couple?
Now I really wanted to hit him – right in between his eyes with a bullet – but all he did was wince and rub his ears, laughing out with a shrug, “Her screeching from that night probably scared away the last of the Yetis in Tibet too. But you know she was on her way out the door long before that night.”
What in the fuck did THAT mean?
Had Sookie been his piece of ass on the side? His GIRLFRIEND?
It was probably hypocritical of me to get pissed off if she was, considering she’d been my dream girlfriend for so long.
But the territorial side of me wanted to gut him now that Rasul had already provided me the idea.
It was completely ridiculous for me to feel that way – of that I could be absolutely sure – considering I had no claim to on her and admittedly a hell of a lot bigger problems to worry about than who she was fucking. And while I knew the Ruby Mountains were in the northeastern corner of Nevada, instead of trying to get answers on where we were or why Mr. All-American was there, all I wanted to know was if they were together now.
And if they were, where I could hide his body.
Lamoille Canyon perhaps…
I suddenly didn’t feel nearly as wiped out anymore, but instead of giving me any clues on their personal relationship, he changed the topic by telling Sookie, “Barry’s demanding a video chat before he hooks you up.”
He handed her a slip of paper while she laughed and said, “Gee Agent Herveaux…I wonder why. Could it be because the last time you told him you needed his help to uncover ‘Shit that would make Bin Laden look like Mother fucking Theresa’ and convinced him the Secretary of Defense was the leader of an Al Qaeda sleeper cell, he found out the only reason he’d hacked into the Pentagon was so that you could win a bet?”
Rasul snorted while Sookie typed on the keyboard, as Dead Man Walking shrugged and said unrepentantly, “What? You’d think he’d be honored that I have so much faith in him.”
“Yeah,” she snorted. “That honor would’ve done him a whole lot of good in prison.”
While I tried to figure out if these people were for real – not real in the sense that they truly existed, but that the safety of our nation was actually in the hands of Monty Python’s Flying Circus – the sound of a new voice got my attention and I looked up seeing a kid on the screen. I doubted he was old enough to buy beer, seeing his baby face behind his thick black rimmed glasses, but he probably lived off of Red Bull anyway. I knew his type from my repair shop.
All of his friends were online avatars and together they battled Orcs and Trolls to complete their quests, while their mommies brought their dinners to them in the basement where they were surrounded by pizza boxes, empty soda cans, and half-eaten bags of Cheetos.
“Sookie,” he sighed with relief into the webcam as soon as he saw her face. “It’s really you.”
She smiled coyly back at him and said sweetly, “Hi Barry. Yes, it’s really me. Alcide wasn’t kidding around this time.”
At the mention of Alcide’s name Barry frowned, but all he said was, “You know I’ll do whatever I can to help you.” And then he smiled adding, “But Herveaux should keep a better eye on his credit report. All of those unpaid charges to the gay porn websites and male escort services are going to catch up to him eventually and really fuck him in the ass.”
Herveaux’s exclaimed, “FUCK!” echoed through the room, while I smiled and internally moved this Barry kid into my new best friend slot.
Barry grinned even wider hearing it for himself and Sookie just giggled as he said, “Give me twenty minutes and you’ll be in. I’ll bury your connection under a string of so many files it would take those losers in Quantico twenty years to find it.”
It would be nice to know what in the hell was going on, but it seemed I wouldn’t have the chance to find out just yet, when Herveaux kicked my foot, saying, “Come on. You’re gonna help me unload my truck, so I can go and unfuck my ass.”
Helping him consisted of me and Rasul unloading a fuck ton of heavy ass crates from the bed of his pickup and stacking them inside. My aching muscles were killing me, but considering the gay porn king with the shitty credit score wasn’t even breaking a sweat, I kept it to myself. However, as soon as we’d brought in the last of them, I couldn’t hide my reaction when my jaw dropped open watching Rasul break one open and I saw it was full of guns.
A lot of fucking guns.
The only gun I could remember ever holding was the one I’d taken off of the bank robber. But when Rasul picked one up and handed it to me, the weight and feel of it in my hand felt familiar. Without thinking I automatically discharged the clip, finding it empty, and then held it up checking the sights.
I hadn’t even realized I’d done it until I heard him ask, “You are familiar with this type of weapon?”
“No,” I said completely baffled.
It was just like when I’d reacted to those bank robbers.
I didn’t think – I just did.
“Don’t look so shocked,” Herveaux smirked. “You were always that fucker who made us all look bad at the range and I wouldn’t be surprised if you shot the wings off a housefly from a hundred yards out. In the dark.”
My chest puffed out a little bit now that I was getting praised instead of shit on for my flabby appearance. But since I couldn’t remember my supposed Rain Man like prowess with a gun – and I doubted my kickass scores in Call of Duty qualified me as an expert – I asked unconvinced, “Really?”
I just couldn’t picture it. I mean, I’d dreamt I was that guy many times, but hearing him saying it just didn’t compute. None of it really did, but I wanted it to.
I’d always wanted to be that guy.
Eric Northman seemed to be that guy.
But could I really be him?
Herveaux stared back at me with a mixture of sadness and anger in his eyes, replying, “Really,” before he clapped me on the back and squeezed my shoulder, saying, “Those fuckers really did a number on you, but trust me Eric, we’ll get to the bottom of it all.”
His expression turned scary a second later – scary enough that it explained his camaraderie to the criminally insane mother fucker who was watching our male bonding moment with an equally scary grin – when he added, “And we’ll make sure they pay for it.”
Well shit…I guess it was a good thing I was supposedly so skilled with a gun.
But my eyes dropped down, scanning the rest of the crates, hoping somewhere in the pile there were some bullet proof vests in one of them just in case.