I felt like I was drowning, only instead of water it was memories. They flooded into my consciousness like a tsunami starting with my parents. Childhood Christmases and birthdays flickered through my mind like a video on fast forward. I saw my father beam with pride as he read my acceptance letter into the Naval Academy and my mother’s eyes fill with tears when they left me there at the start of my first semester.
I remembered when I had decided to try out to be a Navy SEAL and how quickly I’d come to love the competitiveness of it. I wanted to succeed and I did in spades. The career path I had chosen would have been difficult, but it would definitely be rewarding.
And then everything changed. When my parents were executed by that terrorist scum, it changed me. The fundamental core of who I was changed from playfully exuberant to lethally focused. I became cold and hardened inside with my only want to be the one to avenge my parents’ deaths so I pushed myself beyond the limits settling for nothing less than perfection in whatever it was I did. And when I was approached by the Lex Talionis Alliance it was like my prayers had been answered.
Killing. It was what I did best and for years I felt okay with my life. I was helping to rid the world of the vile and evil creatures that had been held unaccountable for their actions until their paths crossed with mine. But after I was able to exact my own personal revenge on the coward that killed my parents my enthusiasm lessened. It wasn’t that it suddenly felt wrong to kill the bad guys, but my cold and hardened interior was starting to just feel hollow.
When I’d gone to kill de Castro, finding his young daughter lying asleep on top of him and hesitated from killing the target for the very first time, I knew then that the end of my career was in sight.
The mental barrage of memories was beginning to be too much and I felt restless as I heard voices quietly talking in the background. My head was pounding so I couldn’t quite make out what was being said or by whom, but I felt a feather light caress across my forehead and opened my eyes to see the most beautiful pair of blue eyes staring back at me.
God how I loved this woman. I had no idea of what happened after I blacked out, but she didn’t seem any worse for wear. If anything she looked happy to see me. Me, the one that almost got her killed.
“Do you feel okay?” she asked brushing away the stray hairs I’d felt move across my forehead a moment earlier.
I tried to tell her I was sorry, but my throat was too dry to speak and after she handed me a bottle of water I took my time drinking it down as I made the decision on what I had to do. It would, without a doubt, be the hardest thing I’d ever have to do.
“Thanks,” I said as I handed her the now empty bottle while steeling my nerves for what had to be done, knowing I’d have to give the performance of a lifetime.
I narrowed my eyes at her, like I had on that fateful night when I first awoke and saw her beautiful face, repeating the same words I’d spoken then. “Who are you?”
She threw her head back in laughter and when her eyes met mine again they danced as she said, “That is SO not funny.” It almost broke my resolve, seeing her so full of joy and life, but it was those traits that forced me to stay on course. It was too dangerous for her to stay with me; she didn’t ask for this lifestyle and even though I’d been out of it for the last several months I knew I was going to be drawn right back in. If I tried to push her away in any other way she would never let me go, but if I made her believe that I didn’t remember her she’d have nothing left of me to hold onto.
“Aren’t you the girl from the boat shop? You had pink and purple and blue streaks in your hair, right?” You were sweet, sassy, and sexy but I had no idea then that you would become my whole world.
The smile slowly left her face as she tried to discern whether or not I was serious and being the spitfire that she is, she let me have it.
“After everything that’s happened in the last 24 hours I don’t find this funny at all Eric. Quit playing around.”
I couldn’t keep looking at her even though I only wanted to see her. If I didn’t break my gaze she’d be able to see the truth in my eyes no matter what my voice was telling her so I looked over and saw Pam staring down at me. I’d known Pam for years now, from the time she’d come with that prick Compton to recruit me at the Academy. She knew me better than anyone else. At least she did before Sookie, but I couldn’t think about that now.
“What’s going on? Why is she here?” I asked Pam. Looking around the room I added, “Where is here, exactly?” I was sure we were in one of the agency’s numerous safe houses, but I had a role to play.
Before Pam could respond I heard Sookie say, “Eric, stop!” Her voice broke and I quickly glanced at her to see that she was crying, but I couldn’t take witnessing the pain I was causing her and looked back at Pam. I couldn’t relent. I fought my instincts to gather her up in my arms and soothe away her hurts, but I couldn’t. It was what was best for her.
“What do you remember last?” Pam asked.
The sound of Sookie’s breath hitching in her throat as she fought to quell her tears made my eyes flicker back to her before I looked back at Pam raising my eyebrow at her to say, ‘Can’t you wrap an arm around her or something? A tissue perhaps?’
Pam wasn’t a dense woman and she knew all of my tells. In the past we’d had entire conversations consisting of nothing more than facial expressions, so I knew she was deliberately yanking my metaphorical chain when she said, “You can talk in front of her. She knows everything.” She was fucking with the wrong person. I knew where she stored her collection of many years’ worth of ‘yet to comeback designer clothes’ that she’d been saving. If she kept this up, I had a match with her name on it.
While plotting equally devious ways to pay her back, I clinically recited everything I now remembered of the time I’d spent in St. Thomas. Everything with the exception of my time with Sookie. I raised my eyebrow at her once more hoping she’d do something to comfort Sookie now.
“She found you,” Pam motioned towards Sookie, “floating in the ocean with a bullet in your back. She saved you; helped you escape the island. She went with you to NY to try to figure out who you were and when someone tried to kill you she took you home with her where you’ve been ever since.”
Her shoe collection. That was going up in flames too.
Sookie did so much more than Pam’s thirty second synopsis. She had saved more than just my life; she’d saved my soul. My cold, hardened, hollow shell was filled with her warmth, her suppleness and made my life truly meaningful for the very first time.
I quickly reflected on Sookie’s personality traits and picked the one I thought would help end both of our immediate suffering. Her pride wouldn’t be able to handle me wanting to pay her for her ‘services’ as if she was nothing more than a hired hand.
I remained resolute, staying on course and turned to her saying, “Thank you for your services. There’s a discretionary fund that we can use to pay you for your troubles. Would you mind waiting in another room so I can speak to Pam?”
Her tears streaked down her face and I nearly reached out for her hand, but she turned and ran through the door with a quiet sob. I felt tears forming in my own eyes so I blinked them back before glancing up at Pam and gesturing for her to close the door.
Once she returned to her seat I watched her pull a linen and lace handkerchief from her pocket and throw it on the bed next to me.
“I’m not crying,” I mumbled. At least I was trying not to.
She cocked her brow at me saying, “You are too, but that’s not for your tears you pussy, that’s me throwing down the bullshit flag.”
“Just tell me what’s been going on,” I said feeling completely defeated.
Her eyes narrowed letting me know this would be a quid pro quo session before she said, “When you failed to report back within the allotted time frame following your mission and de Castro surfaced on the island alive and well I sent Rasul to St. Thomas to find out what happened. He used the GPS chip that had been attached to your gear bag and found it in a boat docked next to Merlotte’s shack along with his dead body inside. He had two gunshots to the back of his head and he’d been roughed up pretty good beforehand.
He located the boat’s owners through the registration, but when he went to check it out the shop was burned to the ground along with the owners’ home. They had paid Sookie under the table and she’d apparently kept herself to just them so with everything up in flames we had no idea she even existed. I had Rasul pay off the local police to rule their deaths a murder-suicide just in case you had a hand in it.
Next Rasul checked the flight logs with the air traffic control tower for Merlotte’s plane. He was gone longer than what his flight plans indicated he should have been. Long enough to get close to the US shoreline and a background check on him turned up his relationship to one Thomas Mickens, but by the time Rasul arrived the police were already on the scene and you had somehow been named a suspect in his murder by an anonymous tip. I suspect Merlotte gave that much up before they killed him, but we still don’t know if it was Compton’s or de Castro’s people that did the deed.”
She paused as though she was done talking, but I wasn’t ready to start talking about Sookie yet so I asked, “And how did Compton figure into all of this?”
“When you disappeared his first reaction was that you had gone rogue. You of all people! He was quick to pull your financials and shoved your Swiss Bank statements into my face saying, ‘You see? Ten million dollars was just wired into his account! You are wrong about Eric Northman. He can’t be trusted!’ I know you and I know that money doesn’t motivate you.
Then other operatives were found murdered; operatives who were at home; operatives that you have personally met and he was right back in my face, ‘He’s sold us out to the highest bidder!’ I, of course, didn’t believe him, but I let him do his thing and quietly kept tabs on him waiting for him to hang himself. I wanted to put my foot up his ass when you called after killing Chow and he wouldn’t hand me his phone, but I didn’t want to ruin my black peep toe Louboutins. Chow’s orders were to bring you in, not kill you, but even so I couldn’t fault you for killing him. He always got on my nerves anyway.
Back to Compton. He laid low for a few months, but recently he’d begun taking unscheduled trips. I went through backdoor channels with the CIA to keep him out of the loop and got their best techie to help me out by planting an undetectable bug and tracking device in his phone while we were all sitting in on a Level 5 Restricted meeting at the Pentagon. All electronic devices are left outside those doors and picked up once the meeting is over. My techie played hat check girl for the Pentagon that day. I played with her later on.”
She licked her lips and got a faraway look in her eyes when I said, “Focus Pam.”
“So when Bill flew to Las Vegas, I knew where he was. He was actually dumb enough to stay in a suite at de Castro’s casino and we placed one of our assets in his path at the roulette table. Now that I think about it, she looked a lot like Sookie.”
I glared down at her adding her stupid fucking hat collection to the list of shit I would be setting fire to. She wore them every year for the Kentucky Derby even though she had never attended one race because ‘Horses smell like horseshit.’ She just smiled back at me before continuing.
“So once my gal left his room she’d gotten from him that he would be flying into New Orleans the next morning. I was waiting and followed him to Shreveport, but I backed off once he got to that little backwater you’ve been hiding out in worried that he’d spot me in a one horse town. We knew he had a relative in the area so I didn’t think too much of it and met up with Rasul back here in Shreveport while Indira took over the surveillance.
Once he got to the warehouse, Rasul and I were waiting here at the safe house when Indira called and we headed right over. When we arrived she told us that she’d seen Siegbert taking what turned out to be Sookie inside a few moments earlier and we arrived in time to see Sookie throw a dagger into Compton’s heart and another into Siegbert’s throat. Rasul was able to take out Wybert before he could shoot Sookie, but that coward Madden escaped out the back door just before we came into the room.”
She cocked her eyebrow at me and said, “Your turn.”
I stared down at my hands and admitted, “Of course I remember her, but as long as she is with me then she’ll be in danger. You know what our lives are like. I can’t put her through all of that. She’s better off without me.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Yeah, Pam wasn’t the comforting type.
“No, I’m not fucking kidding you,” I lashed out. “I wish I’d never gotten my fucking memories back so I could still be with her, but that ship has sailed. If I had known who I was when she first saved me, she wouldn’t be hurting right now. Her life wouldn’t have been turned upside down because I would have never allowed it to happen. If I had known better, like I do now, there never would have been a ‘me and Sookie’.”
“And why can’t you be together anymore?”
“Because it’s too dangerous! I can’t risk her safety for my own selfish reasons.”
I watched as she reached into the carry-on luggage she called a purse sitting next to her feet and pulled out a pair of black rimmed glasses that were nothing more than another accessory for her because she had eyes like a hawk. After placing them over her eyes she pulled a file from the same bag and flipped it open before looking back at me, letting the glasses slide to the tip of her nose, and saying, “Let’s review shall we?”
I had no idea what she was getting at so I said nothing and waited for her to continue.
“This fragile girl you’re talking about, Sookie Stackhouse was living in St. Thomas when you arrived there on your mission. You rented a boat from her place of employment and when you failed to return it the next day she went looking for you. She found your sniper rifle in the boat you’d rented and then found you floating in the ocean miles from the shore with a bullet hole in your back, at death’s door,” I rolled my eyes at her dramatic style as she continued, “and she helped bring you back to shore; refused to call the proper authorities; bullied her employer who was once a doctor into performing surgery on you on their dining room table.”
She glanced up from the file saying, “Stop me if I’m wrong. No? Good. When you woke up without your memories, a virtual stranger who had been armed to the teeth, she took you into her apartment; made you a sandwich. When you escaped her apartment ahead of the killer…”
“It was Wybert,” I interrupted. Siegbert and Wybert had been well known as Madden’s bodyguards.
Pam merely looked annoyed that I’d interrupted her stroll down my memory lane and acted like I hadn’t said a word.
“You went back to her place of employment where she was confronted with the knowledge that the only two people she had in her life at the time were both dead and yet she was still able to come up with the idea to go to that shithole Merlotte’s to beg your way off the island. She traveled with you across the US stealing cars and watching a UFC death match in your living room, but did she run? NO! She brought you home on the off the wall chance that her gazillion year old neighbor was related to that douche bag Compton.”
“Don’t you get it?” I asked trying to keep my voice down so Sookie wouldn’t hear me yell. “That’s why I did what I did! She has piss poor judgment where I’m concerned and it could get her killed. Look at what she did last night! I told her to stay in the car. I told her it wouldn’t be safe and yet she still ended up with a gun to her head. Compton fired a bullet at her!”
Pam flipped her file closed and shoved it back into her bag before saying, “Really? Indira watched her go all ‘Matrix’ like on Siegbert, running up his body like there was a Nordstrom’s sale rack at the top of his head where she kicked him right in the face. If he was human it would’ve been enough to take him down. I personally witnessed her piss poor judgment at pulling the daggers from your unconscious body and throwing them with deadly accuracy, saving your ass. When we came into the room she threw herself on top of you like a shield and told you she loved you while thinking she was about to die. When Ludwig was done treating you Sookie was exhausted, but she spent over an hour washing the blood from your hair and body before getting herself clean. I checked on her every hour after she went to sleep because I was sure she would have nightmares, but she slept soundly curled up at your side. So YOU tell ME, does THAT sound like some fragile little girl to you?”
I looked down at my chest and ran my fingers through my hair feeling nothing of the blood that would have covered me the night before. I couldn’t believe Sookie had killed Compton and wounded Siegbert, but I didn’t question the fact that she would cover my body with her own trying to save me. She would always want to save me. Was it fair to push her away for her own good?
“And don’t kid yourself about your job being the reason for you pushing her away. We both know you haven’t had your heart in it ever since you avenged your parents’ deaths so it wouldn’t take much for you to just walk away from it all. I’d honestly thought that might have been the case when you first went missing.” Pam’s love of Dear Abby was coming into play now, I was sure of it.
“She really was spectacular when she killed Bill,” Pam mused. Her eyes brightened and she laughed saying, “Kill Bill! Get it? Oooh, I wonder how delectable Sookie would look in head to toe leather. Yellow would be a fabulous color on her.”
Pam made a point of looking down at the file in her bag before saying, “You know Eric, she really does seem to have a natural talent for what we do. I’m thinking of recruiting her, but there’s one thing missing from my notes that you might be able to help me with.” She looked back at me with a leer in her eye as she asked, “Does Sookie swing both ways because I wouldn’t mind recruiting her into my bed as well.”
The bitch cackled when I growled at her and said, “Well if you’re going to throw her away then I’d be more than happy to help her pick up the pieces. Does Sookie growl too because I could get into that.”
I watched her smirk and stand up smoothing the wrinkles from her pants before saying, “I’m going to go see how Rasul is doing with Siegbert in the basement. When you get your head out of your ass you would do well to go and grovel at Sookie’s feet begging for her forgiveness because if I do recruit her and you’re still on her bad side she just might make you her first target.”
I stayed in the bed for a few more minutes before going into the bathroom to take care of my full bladder. As I stood at the sink brushing my teeth I looked in the mirror seeing no sign of the blood from the night before anywhere on me, but when I glanced down into the tub I could see the basin Sookie must have used along with the blood stained towels. The guilt ate away at me knowing she was somewhere in the house devastated thinking that I didn’t remember her or our time together. It was hard to believe that it was just around this time the day before when I finally admitted to her that I was in love with her.
I hung my head in shame knowing what an ass I’d been so I quickly finished up and set off to find her. Almost two hours had passed, while I had been talking to Pam, since she’d left the room in tears so I checked all of the common areas first, like the kitchen and living room, but there was no sign of her. The door to the hallway bathroom was open and obviously empty and I highly doubted she was in the basement knowing what Pam and Rasul would be doing to get Siegbert to talk so I stood outside of the closed door leading to another bedroom and lightly knocked saying, “Sookie?”
I got no response, but I knew she was upset so I kept on talking. “Sookie, I’m sorry. I lied when I said I didn’t remember you because I was afraid of you getting hurt. My life is dangerous and my worst fear is you getting hurt because of me. I thought if I pretended to not remember you then you could go back to your life in Bon Temps and find somebody else. Someone who doesn’t kill other people for a living. Someone that isn’t wanted by God knows how many countries, warlords, and gangs. Someone that actually deserves your love, but I’m selfish enough to ask you to forgive me and to let me try to make it all up to you. I love you Sookie.”
I waited for another full minute or two before knocking again and saying, “Sookie?” and trying the door handle which I discovered was locked from the inside.
“Sookie? Will you please open the door so I can at least see that you’re okay?”
Not a sound.
I banged on the door a lot harder than before hoping to hear her jump at the sound, but again…nothing.
I got a paper clip from the kitchen and had the lock popped a few seconds later.
What I saw when I opened the door made my chest hurt as though the air had been sucked from my lungs. The window was open and Sookie was gone.