Chapter Nine: Stay
“Sookie,” Eric’s voice murmured in her ear, “time to get up.”
Sookie groaned at the voice and tried to swat away the tickling breath of his rumble against her ear. “Don’t wanna,” she grumbled.
“You wanted to run with the girls before work this morning,” he reminded amusedly.
Pouting, Sookie rolled onto her side with less pain than the previous day. “What… Where… Oh crap! It’s Monday! I spent the night again! Oh no, Mags, Junes-”
“Are here,” he reminded softly. “I went and got them around 1 A.M.”
“I don’t remember.”
“You were crying quite persistently last night. You cried yourself to sleep around eight, I woke you up to eat something. We talked some more. You cried some more. You fell asleep again around midnight, and I held you for a while before going back to your apartment and getting your dogs and some clothes for you. They slept in here with you while I did some work. I kicked them out as dawn drew closer, though.”
“I don’t remember much of any of that,” she admitted, trying to to recall shreds of the previous night.
“You were quite distraught. During one of your breakdowns, you kept asking ‘why’, a lot of ‘it’s not fair’ comments, and many ‘what do I do’s.”
Sookie played with the duvet self-consciously as Eric relayed information on the previous night. “Thanks for taking care of me.”
Eric pushed a tendril of hair from her face. “I will always take care of you,” he promised.
“How are you still conscious?” she asked abruptly after a long silence.
“I am quite old, Sookie. I can remain aware several hours past dawn. However, you expressed, sleepily, last night that you wanted to go running with your dogs before work, so I thought I should raise you at dawn so you could do that if you still wished.”
“I think a run would be good for all three of us,” she agreed.
“Well, remember your keys, and do not get lost,” he suggested. “I will have to succumb to the sun soon,” he warned.
“Okay. Sleep or… whatever it is you do. Do it well.” She leaned in and kissed his smiling lips. “I’ll come back tonight,” she promised.
“Perhaps you should swing by your apartment and get some more clothes. You may hang them in my closet. There is no need to live out of a duffle bag,” he pointed out.
“I’ll do that.” Sookie paused before getting out of bed. Blanching at him in an apologetic manner she asked, “You didn’t happen to grab some sweats when you grabbed my work clothes, did you?”
“It just so happens that I did,” Eric replied with a smirk.
Giving him another quick kiss, she murmured, “You’re the best boyfriend,” before hopping out of bed.
“You are certainly spry for a woman so battered.”
Sookie shrugged off his observation. “After the first day, you get used to the pain. I can lie on my sides just fine now. Lying on my back isn’t too bad, just so long as I don’t sleep like that. Obviously, pressure on the bruises hurts, but it doesn’t take my breath away anymore… Well, I guess it would if you intentionally pressed directly on one of them, but I know you wouldn’t do that.”
“I would not,” he agreed.
Going over to her duffle, Sookie found the sweats that Eric had packed, and quickly threw on a sports bra and t-shirt before tugging the pants on. Lacing up her running shoes, Sookie turned back to the bed and lunged towards the reclined vampire one last time, kissing his mouth slow and languidly. “I’ll see you tonight,” she murmured against his mouth.
“Tonight,” he agreed.
“How are you doing, Stackhouse?” Captain Kleinman asked carefully as Sookie arrived at her desk.
Giving him a sad smile, she replied, “I could definitely be better… I uh… I guess I should let you know that I’ll need some time off in the near future.” Her Captain frowned, deep lines of worry etching into his brow. “My Gran was diagnosed with liver cancer. She told me yesterday, and… It’s already pretty far along. The Doc told her she might have a couple months left, but it could be less….”
Her captain’s face seemed to reflect the breaking of Sookie’s own heart. “I am so sorry, Stackhouse,” he tried to pat her back sympathetically, but he paused, not quite certain where her injuries were. “Just let me know when you need time. If you want to take some time off now and spend it with your grandmother, everyone would understand.”
“No… I’m not really ready to do that,” she whispered quietly. It would feel too real for her to start spending time saying goodbye. “Maybe after the news isn’t so… Fresh.”
“She’s the one who raised you and your brother after your parents passed, right?” Kleinman asked gently.
Sookie responded with a slow nod, resisting the urge to wrap her arms around herself in a faux hug. She could not bear to show that much weakness after yesterday. “That’s right.”
The captain hesitantly patted her shoulder, wanting to show her comfort, but knowing that Stackhouse did not like being touched, and he still could not quite remember where all her injuries were. “I’m sorry that you’re going to experience the loss of a parent for a third time,” he murmured.
Sookie shrugged, grateful when Kleinman took his hand from her shoulder. “I guess there are some things I’m not meant to have for very long.”
With a heavy exhale, Kleinman looked at Sookie’s desk, “Well, I guess I made you feel awkward enough for one morning. Get to work on your incident report from Saturday, and I set up an appointment for you with the shrink.” Sookie groaned, making Kleinman give her a ghost of a grin. “1:30. Don’t be late.”
Sitting down at her desk, Sookie booted up her computer, and started stacking her files related to the Jacobs case while she waited for the monitor to compile. Once she had her office document opened, Sookie went to work finishing her incident report, as well as writing the remainder of her case file on the entire Jacobs fiasco.
It was barely noon when Sookie finished her papers, and she eyed the clock warily, not looking forward to her one-thirty appointment with Dr. Silva, the department psychologist. Reaching for her phone, she called the hospital, requesting to speak with Marla Jacobs.
“Hello, Marla, it’s Detective Stackhouse,” Sookie tried to say brightly.
“Detective! I’m so happy to hear from you! The officer that’s been watching my door told me what happened the other day. Are you all right? I heard Daniel hit you, but the officer showed me pictures of what you did back to him. I laughed! I can’t believe it, but I fucking laughed! And you killed his girlfriend-” Sookie blanched at the blatant remark, “-and now I won’t even have to worry about her coming after me! You are an angel! A fucking angel!”
“I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling better, Marla. I just wanted to check in, and make certain that you knew you weren’t in danger anymore-”
“All thanks to you, Detective!”
“Well,” Sookie wanted to cut the conversation short, “I have paperwork to finish up. Take good care of yourself.”
Sookie hung up the phone quickly after that and stared in bewilderment. “And you killed his girlfriend-”
A cold shiver ran down her spine, and Sookie snapped back from her desk. She needed to be moving, she needed to work out. Anything to warm her body back up.
“Hey, Stackhouse,” Trent stopped the woman on her way out of the department.
“Hey, Trent,” Sookie replied, heading towards the station’s gym.
“Yup,” she nodded.
Trent turned around and followed her towards the workout room, splitting up to go their own locker rooms. When Sookie emerged moments later, hair pulled up, tank top and loose shorts replacing her button down and slacks, Trent looked her over.
“Shit, that’s some impressive bruising,” he commented when she walked in front of him, exposing the purple and black discoloration that was creeping up her left shoulder blade.
“It doesn’t hurt too bad now,” she assured.
“One of the veteran officers said you get used to it after a bit. They still hurt, but you just stop noticing the pain.”
“That’s about the best I could describe it,” she agreed.
“Oh, one of my buddies in the Sheriff’s Department called and told me they started investigating Saturday’s shooting this morning. He assured me it’s pretty cut and dry. You should be cleared by next Monday.”
“That’s good to know,” Sookie murmured.
“You doing okay?” Trent asked softly as he went to the free weights. Sookie followed him, stretching as he dove right into his workout.
“I’m dealing with it. I’d much rather her be dead and me alive than the other way around.” Her tone told Trent to drop the conversation, and he quickly obliged.
They exercised in relative silence until Sookie had a half hour to shower, change back into her office clothes, and get to the department shrink.
She took her time in the shower, and then fussed uncharacteristically over her hair, taking her time to dry it when she would normally throw it into a tight, wet bun. Arriving in front of Dr. Silva’s office door, Sookie paused briefly before knocking.
Dr. Silva answered as though he had been waiting on the other side, hand poised over the handle, waiting for her knock.
He was in his mid-forties. His brown hair was flecked with gray that graduated to solid silver chunks near his sideburns. His eyes were a dull brown, and his mouth wore a seemingly permanent scowl.
“Detective Stackhouse,” he attempted to give her a smile that made the lines in his face protest the unfamiliar movement, “come in and have a seat.” He gestured loosely to the leather chair and couch. Sookie sat in the chair while Silva sat behind his desk. “How are you feeling?”
“Tired. Workouts make too much blood flow to my injuries,” she admitted sheepishly.
“And how are you feeling emotionally?” Silva asked.
“Drained,” Sookie wanted to be forthcoming and get through the interview. “On top of killing a teenage girl on Saturday, I just found out my Gran has terminal cancer.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve read in your file that your grandmother raised you from the age of seven. Is that correct?” he asked, his voice sympathetic.
“Yeah. She raised me and my brother after our parents were killed in a flash flood,” Sookie told him.
“Your brother was under arrest last week, as well,” Silva commented. “How does that affect you? Having all of these hardships thrust on you all at once?”
Sookie thought for a moment. “Well, my brother’s always in some sort of trouble. It was stressful not being able to help him, but I took it in stride. As far as all of this… Well, my boyfriend definitely got to see me at some of my worst over the weekend.”
This is not the Detective Stackhouse I expected. She’s usually so guarded. Why isn’t she fighting this? Where is her sarcasm? Where are all of her walls?
“You have a boyfriend now?” Silva asked conversationally.
Sookie nodded. “Yeah, we started dating a few days ago, but we’ve known each other about two weeks now.”
“How long ago was your last relationship?” Silva asked.
There are those walls!
“Er… You won’t put my answer in the file, will you?”
What a strange question.
“No, this is just me feeling you out. Your romantic life has no business in this report. I am just trying to understand where you are mentally,” Silva assured her.
Sookie bit her lip self-consciously. “Well… This is my first relationship… Ever… Of any kind.”
The Detective had to give Silva credit. Despite the disbelief running through his head, his face remained perfectly composed. Ever!? Of any kind? Is she a virgin, too? Wait, everyone’s been talking that she finally ‘got some’… Hmm, she slept with him after only two weeks of knowing him?
“Are you in a potentially long term relationship with your boyfriend?” Silva asked.
“We’re hoping so. Eric has told me he wants us to be long term. Currently, that’s what I want, too. He knows I have no idea how to have a relationship, and he’s trying to make it as easy on me as possible. He makes me happy.”
“Were you unhappy before him?”
“No. I don’t think I was much of anything before him. I had little that I wanted. My job, my family and my dogs were all I cared about. To be frank, I think I’d be a lot worse off emotionally after all of this if Eric weren’t in my life.”
“How does that bode with your independent streak?” Silva asked.
Brow furrowing as she considered the question, Sookie admitted, “I don’t know that ‘independent’ is the word I would use to describe myself. I mean, I obviously am. I pay my own way for everything I have, but the way you’re using that word doesn’t have the same context as opposed to the definition.”
Silva’s confusion showed on his face, “How do you believe I meant it?”
“Before Eric, I was independent in the truest form of the word, not just because I believe in being able to take care of myself, but because I was extremely isolated. I kept people at a distance, not because I was an introvert, but because trusting someone, letting someone in was terrifying. Giving someone the power to hurt me, to abandon me…”
“Would you say you have abandonment issues?” Silva asked gently.
“There’s no way to deny it. I’ve run away from people my whole adult life.”
“Where do you think those fears came from?”
“You’ve read my personal file,” Sookie pointed out. “My parents both died when I was seven. My cousin, who was like a sister to me, ran away when I was eleven. My aunt committed suicide when I was fourteen. My best friend washed her hands of me when I became a cop. My own home town calls me a freak for my hyper-observation. My brother doesn’t talk to me anymore because I didn’t get him out of a DUI… Now my Gran, who has been the only one to stand with me, is going to die in a matter of months.”
“Are you concerned that you might be forcing your new boyfriend to fill all of the roles you’ve lost over the years?”
“Like a surrogate?” Sookie asked.
She shook her head. “In a way, I think he takes on roles that he feels I need him to. He knows that I’m cautious, distrusting even. He’s patient and tries to protect me from things he thinks I’m not aware of.”
“How painful being a cop can be. He thinks I don’t know how stressed I really am.”
“How stressed are you?”
“Depends on the day… He may or may not realize that he’s overreacting. That, despite my hyper-observation, I’m not much more worse for wear than anyone else.”
“Are you certain of that?”
“It hasn’t broken me yet,” she answered candidly.
“It’s not the same thing,” he protested calmly.
“Maybe not, but being a cop is all I’ve ever wanted.”
“Do you want more now?”
Sookie smiled her secret smile. “Yes… I really think I do.”
“Well,” Silva rose from behind his desk, “I think that is a good place to stop for the day.”
Sookie froze in her chair. “You’re not giving me an all clear,” she accused.
Silva smiled at her sympathetically, “No, I’m not.”
“Because I truly don’t feel that you’re ready.” He sat down on the couch nearer her. “I would actually like to suggest that you take some time off. I want to recommend to your captain that we put you on paid administrative leave during the Shooting Team and Sheriff departments’ investigation.”
“What am I suppose to do for a week?”
“Or two,” Silva wanted to make the possibility known. Sookie’s heart dropped into her stomach. “Perhaps you can spend time with your new boyfriend? Your grandmother? Do not think of this as a punishment. Think of it as a mental wellness vacation.”
“What did I do wrong?” she asked desperately.
Absolutely nothing. That’s the problem. “Nothing, Sookie. I’m just concerned that you’ve reached this level of acceptance so quickly. I’ve known for a while that this job effects you a lot more than you let on.”
“You’ve never even spoken to me before,” she grumbled defensively.
“I’ve watched your interviews with IA.”
Sookie was well aware that Internal Affairs avidly watched her interrogations. At first, they believed she knew far too much information from observation alone, and were suspicious that she had actually been involved with similar crimes.
“So, you see,” Silva continued, “I do know a little bit about you.”
“Then, it’s either administrative leave or..?”
“There really isn’t an ‘or’.” Silva refused to let up.
“It really feels like a punishment,” Sookie whispered.
“I’m sure it does. I do regret that it feels this way to you.”
“What do I do now?”
Silva frowned, “I would suggest you finish up anything you do not believe can wait for your return. I will get the paperwork for your leave through the proper channels, and Captain Kleinman will call you to his office at the end of the day to hold your badge and service ID until the investigation is over.”
“That’s it, then?”
“Yes. I will call you in after a few days, and we will have another meeting like this one. I want you to know, though, despite how the meeting goes, it will not get you back to work any sooner,” he warned. “It is just a check-in.”
“Right,” Sookie mumbled, rising from her seat. “See ya in a few days.” She waved half-heartedly and left the room.
Going back to her desk, Sookie sat motionless for a while, staring at her blank screen and the clutter of files strewn across the table. Eventually she went through the robotic actions of clearing her desk and finishing her reports. By the end of the day she was clicking her pen anxiously and earning glares from Murphy for the obnoxious expression of nervous energy.
Finally, Captain Kleinman called her to his office, and Sookie let out a suffering sigh.
“I know you already know what’s going on,” Kleinman grumbled. “I was hoping Silva wouldn’t take this route with you, but he’s the shrink, and I’m going to trust his judgement.”
“I know you’re worried about me,” Sookie murmured. “You’ve always had my back.”
Kleinman smiled. “Always will.”
“I’m not going to pitch a fit, you know. You can just give me the papers to sign. I hand over my badge and I.D… Let’s not draw this out.”
Kleinman sighed as he pushed the paperwork towards her. She read through it quickly and then signed her name at the bottom. Next, she took out her wallet, removed her badge and I.D, and handed them over to her captain.
“I’m gonna call and check up on you,” Kleinman warned. “You take care of yourself.”
“Yes, Sir.” Sookie gave him a weak smile, turned, and left his office.
After grabbing anything she would need from her desk, throwing it into her duffle, and retrieving her necessities from her gym locker, Sookie finally went to her car. She drove to her apartment without calling Eric. She knew he would be thrilled to hear that she had been put on administrative leave, and she was unsure if her temper could handle his smugness.
Instead, she arrived at her building, went up the three flights of stairs to her apartment, and began packing several days worth of clothes as well as more dog food. When she was certain she had everything she needed, Sookie went back to her car and stopped at a grocery store. She was tired of eating out every meal when she stayed at his place.
“Fancy meeting you here, Detective Stackhouse.” Sookie’s spine straightened at the voice behind her as she strolled down the wine and beer aisle of the market.
“Ms. Ravenscroft,” Sookie answered, turning as well. “I was not aware that you were a Connoisseur.” She gestured to the aisle.
“I do not drink… Wine,” Pam replied in her best Bela Lugosi impersonation. At Sookie’s amused smirk, she offered, “I have a guest. Since she intends to offer me a beverage, I was inclined to return the favor.”
Sookie nodded. “I see.”
Shyly, Sookie shuffled her foot. “There’s no food at Eric’s place.”
“I would suppose not.” Pam eyed the human before her momentarily. “You realize, Eric will be at Fangtasia tonight, yes?”
“Oh,” Sookie scuffed her toe against the cheap tile, “I didn’t know that.”
“He has been neglecting his duties as Sheriff these past few evenings. There has been talk,” Pam offered.
“I’m sorry that I’ve distracted him.”
Pam shrugged. “Do not be. Though I can’t comprehend what it is you’ve done to him, I have seen such a thing before.”
“Have you?” Sookie asked quietly, sounding almost nervous. Had Eric been this way with another woman before? How long ago had that been? He had said he had tried monogamy before, and she wondered how deeply he had cared for the last woman for whom he had attempted it.
“Yes, with his Maker.”
Sookie looked up at Pam in surprise. “His Maker?”
“Godric,” Pam supplied a name.
“What happened to Godric?” Sookie pressed, wondering if this was the last one-on-one relationship Eric had been in.
Pam lifted her shoulders, her hands rising as if to say ‘things like these do happen’, “He fell in love. You know, for nearly one thousand years, Eric was his only progeny. Then, suddenly, around the time of the World’s Fair, Godric summoned us to Chicago. He had met a woman there. Her name is-”
“Is?” Sookie frowned. How old is this woman?
Pam huffed in annoyance at being interrupted. “I’m getting to that!” she snapped. “Her name is Emily. Absolutely gorgeous girl. A little younger than I’d prefer, but she fits Godric’s age range well enough. I think Godric has a type. Blonde hair, blue eyes.” Pam rolled her eyes. “Then again, I suppose it is the type of Godric’s bloodline.” She gestured to her own face and then Sookie’s. “Eric and I could not believe how suddenly Godric had changed. He had gone from melancholy and distant to vibrant and exuberant in a matter of weeks, according to Eric. He was sharing his emotions with Eric more frequently.”
“Godric Bonded to her by the time he summoned us to Chicago. He wanted to change Emily, and the timing was perfect. Holmes was disappearing women all over the city, and Emily would vanish nicely as well.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize you needed your bloodline present to make new vampires,” Sookie tried to reconcile this.
Pam snorted, “It is not a requirement. Merely a protective measure. When bringing over a Bonded Mate, the Master usually calls his own Maker or exceptional Child to bury him and his mate. Sometimes, like with Emily, the Master will command that the Child stay until he and his Mate have risen.”
“Did Emily know what Godric was? What he was going to turn her in to?”
“Yes, he made absolutely sure that she understood everything before they Bonded. Emily was quick to agree to becoming a vampire, especially after they were Bonded.”
“What’s Emily like?” Sookie asked.
Contemplating a moment, Pam replied, “Sweet, for a vampire. I thought she was a bit dim when I first met her, but she’s actually quite intelligent. More so now than she was then. Bonded Mates have a tendency to be much more… Innocent, I suppose is the word. They are also much more cautious in their youth than the rest of us.”
“Why, do you think?”
“They never know the loneliness of becoming a creature of the night. They are Bonded, and therefore, never alone. They are almost obsessively cautious, even from their first rising because they can feel their Mate, and it makes them careful to take care of themselves to protect their Mate,” Pam explained. “It is a rare thing, you know.”
“Finding the human you wish to Bond with.” Pam flipped her hair over her shoulder, her look pensive. “Mostly because vampires do not feel the compulsion until they reach the status of ‘Ancient’. Of course, Eric would be the youngest Bonded vampire in our history if you accepted him. He always needs to show up everyone else.” She rolled her eyes.
“Is that it, then?” Sookie asked quietly, plucking a random bottle of wine from the shelf just to have something else to look at. “He’s with me to break a vampire record?”
Pam let out a sigh of exasperation. “You are certainly one blind detective,” she scowled. “My comment was meant to point out that Eric is young to have the desire to Bond. You have influenced the motivation to do so. He has fucked plenty of damaged, pretty women like yourself, but did not fall in love with them!”
Sookie’s hands fumbled the wine bottle, and Pam quickly snatched the glass container from midair before it struck the ground. “H-he loves me?” she asked breathlessly.
Pam’s shoulder’s stiffened. “You know, that insecurity of yours gets more information out of Eric and I than your gift has ever gotten out of a human.” Eyeing the woman appraisingly, she asked, “You won’t tell him I told you, right?”
“Told me what?” Sookie asked distantly, considering all of the implications behind Pam’s reveal.
“Good girl,” Pam praised. “Now,” she handed the wine bottle back to Sookie, “finish your shopping. I can feel that Eric is frustrated that you have not returned to him.”
“W-wait!” Sookie called to the vampiress who was strolling away. When Pam turned around, the detective blurted, “When was the last time he tried being in a committed relationship?”
Pam snorted at the question. “Committed? Eric?” she actually laughed. “Ms. Stackhouse, the last time Eric promised to be with one woman and one woman alone, the arrangement lasted two nights. That was his idea of monogamy. Eric has not fucked a single woman since the night you first came into his club. That is how I know this is different.”
Nodding numbly, Sookie continued her shopping rather mechanically, grabbing random items and checking out. Her entire drive to Eric’s house, she was lost in deep thought.
Eric met her at her car door, opening it and looking down at Sookie expectantly. “I feared you would not arrive before I had to leave for Fangtasia.”
“Oh, sorry,” Sookie mumbled, grabbing her bag of clothes from the passenger’s seat before getting out of the car. She went around to the trunk and grabbed the few bags of food she managed to make herself buy. “I went to the grocery store so I wouldn’t have to keep going out for food,” she explained as Eric took the bags from her to carry inside.
“Ah, yes, that makes sense,” Eric replied casually. “Is there something else on your mind other than groceries?”
Sookie bit her lip as they walked into the house. Mags and Junes whined at their feet as Eric went to set her purchases on the kitchen counter.
“I’ve been put on administrative leave until the shooting investigation is over.”
Eric stood, surprised and staring at her.
“I… Had a bad session with the psychologist,” she told him.
“What did he say?”
“That I should take time to myself to… Come to terms with everything going on in my life. He said my level of acceptance over what happened is a bit too good, and it concerns him that it won’t last.”
“He expects you to snap?” Eric asked worriedly.
Shaking her head, Sookie explained, “He’s concerned that I might not have actually processed anything yet. He believes that I am just saying all the right things to get back on field duty faster.”
“I don’t think so, but my head’s a whirlwind of chaos right now… I don’t know that he’s wrong,” she admitted.
“What did he suggest?”
“Spending time with you and Gran… She wants to meet you by the way.”
“What have you told her about me?” Eric asked guardedly.
“She knows you’re a vampire. She doesn’t mind,” Sookie informed him.
“Is that so?”
Sookie nodded, “I think she’s happy that I’m finally in a relationship.” Her head bowed as she said, “Especially now.”
“Do you want to come with me to Fangtasia?” Eric asked quietly.
“No,” Sookie declined gently. “I think I’ll stay here with the girls, go for a run, and eat some dinner.”
Eric paused a moment, sizing her up. “When do you go back to work?”
“A week or two, depending on how long the investigation goes on, and when Dr. Silva gives me ‘the all clear’.”
Contemplating a moment, he asked, “May I ask you to take some of my blood? You will not have any coworkers to explain things to…”
“I’ll think about it.”
Eric sighed, “That will have to do. I must get going.” He leaned in and kissed her lips gently. “Call me if you change your mind and want to come to the club.”
Eric drew her into his arms, embracing her firmly before kissing the side of her head and leaving for Fangtasia. As he pulled his Corvette out of the garage, he considered the up and coming meetings he had that evening.