Chapter 15: Chapter 15
Everything had changed in some ways, and in others, it was like nothing had changed at all. Instead of mental prison, I was now in a physical one as well. It was all a blur in places, and as clear as day in others, but my arrest, and my subsequent questioning resulted in many things.
Firstly, I saw no point in lying. I’d been caught, and I hadn’t fought that hard against being found out, either, what was the point? My job was done, he was dead, he had seen what he was responsible for, and he’d paid for it with his life, just like I had paid for his behaviour with my life. It was a fair trade in my opinion. Though, then the arrest happened, and I confessed, despite the lawyer and his highly paid opinions that I should just keep my mouth shut. I saw no point in that either, I didn’t even really want a lawyer, but Eric had made sure I got one, and from all accounts he was one of the best, too. Still I didn’t care for his expensive thoughts on my life. I’d done what I had said I would do, and I had been caught. I was kept in prison until a trial date could be set, I guess twelve murders and one of them being the state judge of Louisiana, they didn’t exactly feel fine with me just roaming the streets. I was held in custody at a woman’s prison not too far from the city, and all in all, it was minimum security until I’d be convicted, but still full of harass happy guards and scary women. The questioning went as well as I expected, Bill was the one to do it, as much as I had wanted Eric there with me, I knew why he couldn’t be there. And I also knew that he would be questioned himself, extensively about his involvement with me. I hated that fact, I hated that I’d put him in his position, because now his career would be in jeopardy, his reputation questioned, and all because of me.
I didn’t see or hear from him in all that time, I had thought he might come and see me, but I understood why he didn’t. I had seen Bill a lot though. He could have been a total jackass to me during questioning, but he wasn’t, and shockingly neither was Pam – who I assumed was the boss and friend that Eric talked a lot about. She was colder than Bill, but she seemed concerned for Eric and that was important, that showed me that her priorities and her heart, if she had one beating under that cold exterior – were in the right place, at least. I needed to know that he had people out there that cared about him, and I knew that he would. The guys on the force seemed to have a hell of a lot of respect for him, a big bumbling guy named Andy was responsible for me during that forty eight hour questioning period, and he could have been a total asshole to me, I’d murdered a judge after all, but, he wasn’t. And his reasoning? I was Eric’s girl, and that still counted for something among them and their code of honour I guess.
My cell mate was a girl called Amelia, she had been arrested around the same time as me, only this had been her third offence. She was in the same position as me, awaiting trial. She’d killed her boyfriend during a jealous row that broke out over her having a girlfriend…. Allegedly. She was sweet though all things considered, compared to most of the women in there, she was the one that I thought myself lucky to be roomed with. The cell, that was the hard part. I’d never imagined myself to be claustrophobic, but after years of white washed hospital wards, tiny rooms with too many people, all nuts might I add, sharing a tiny cell was something that took a lot of adjusting. I knew one day I’d end up in one of them, I just hadn’t factored in the reality of the situation. Twenty three hours a day in that tiny space? It gave a girl a lot of time to think about things, her future for one thing. In another life I’d like to think that Eric and I would have met, under different circumstances, happier ones. And we could have made a real go at it, but that was just a fantasy now, not that it was ever really going to be anything else. Not in this lifetime, anyways.
The trial in itself was rather horrific, certain witnesses came forward to speak against me, and for the character of the men that I had ended. Not many mind you, and not enough to sway the judge. They had a long wait for my trial, six months it took them just to gather the evidence and to find a jury for my case. Apparently I’d made the news, I’d made the news all over the world and my case was attracting a hell of a lot of attention because of that, the media and the public had been responding and giving their opinions for weeks in the papers. It was odd to read that most people – most women saw no wrong in what I was doing. But, because it was so well publicised they had a hard time finding people to sit on the jury to judge me, most of them had failed when a hint of what case they’d be trying got out to them, and some even backed out. Evidence was brought forward, Bill took the stand, photos of the ‘victims’ and what I’d done to them were passed around, and every day I would see Eric there, in the back of the court room of course, but he was there. He had gotten thinner, and a lot paler than the last time I had talked to him, he looked tired and sad. I wanted nothing more than to go to him, hug him and reassure him that he would get over me, and what I had done, eventually. But of course I couldn’t. The small matter of being in the cuffs the second the judge would slam her little wooden hammer on her desk.
More than anything I wanted to talk to him, just to make sure he was okay, that he was coping with what had happened. I had asked Bill on more than one occasion, I got the standard ‘he’s fine’ and he left it at that.
I knew he was going to be called as a witness, I mean how could he not… he had been the only person of all those so-called witnesses to actually SEE me commit the crime, well, just about to exit my crime scene, but I don’t think they’d be splitting hairs over that. I watched him walk in this day, in his charcoal suit, and grey tie, his hair was pushed back and he was with a woman, one who had striking resemblance to him, I assumed this was the mother that I never got around to meeting. She looked sombre too, thought she looked healthy and well, compared to her son. My heart sank as he walked through those tiny little doors that led to the two tables, prosecution and me. He looked at me, and I swear in that moment I wanted to die. The sheer amount of pain I felt through his eyes alone… it hurt more than I thought it would.
He took his oath that he’d tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so help him God. Not that that oath meant anything to most people, I mean look at Bartlett, I was sure he’d taken the oath many times, and taken one to serve and protect people, when in reality he was perverted predator, who got away with his actions for far too long. Eric on the other hand, he was a good man and he didn’t deserve the pain my actions had obviously been putting him through. I hated myself for that.
“And how long where you and the defendant … dating?” The state lawyer asked, her tone clipped and as tight as I’m sure her ass felt, what with that large stick constantly up it and all.
He coughed to clear his throat, he was nervous. My heart started to beat faster just watching him.
“Um… all in all almost six months.”
“And in six months with the defendant you – praised and in charge detective, didn’t think once that maybe there was something … off about Ms Stackhouse. Like say, her last name, or the fact that she kills people.”
“Objection!” my lawyer shouted and the judge told Stick up her ass to reign it in and get to a point. She had one, one that made Eric look like an idiot for not realizing sooner who I really was.
“I had suspicions that she wasn’t being totally truthful with me, on certain things in her life, yes, but did I suspect anything like you’ve suggested? No, of course not.”
“In the six months you had both been seeing each other did you know in that time she killed two more men before making Judge Bartlett Stackhouse her third?”
“Obviously I know that now, then, I didn’t.”
“And when did you realize Ms … Sanderson was in fact Ms Stackhouse, detective.”
He looked at me and I looked at him the intensity in his eyes was almost too much to deal with.
“We were due to meet, on a personal matter and she didn’t show.”
“Highly out of character for her?”
“No, not exactly.” he smiled then, but stopped himself, “she was always late or ditching me for some reason…. But this time was different and after I realized why, I did a little digging because I was pissed and wanted to know what her deal was.
“”And what prompted this so called, digging?”
“When she told me that she’d shown up at the courthouse that day for lunch, but never made it to our table, and I realized why. Because of him.”
“Be more specific, detective.” The judge spoke to him.
“Because of Bartlett Stackhouse, her great uncle, and the man who raped her.”
The opposing council objected of course, how dare he say such a thing, it didn’t matter that there was proof.
“Your honour with all due respect, the objections are insane, there are medical records, proving the rape.
“She was looking over items on her desk and reading, I guess it was my medical history. They’d also gotten a hold of my psyche records, and some of the videos from my therapy sessions from the early days. Oh, those were such fun to sit through again.
“Continue, ” the judge said basically putting the verbal bitch slap on the other lawyer as Eric continued to talk.
“I figured he must have been the reason for her weirdness that day, why, I had no idea really. But I knew she was suffering from something, I knew there was a fear there, with intimacy, with sex, it was as if there was something holding her back, at first. I accepted it though, I just thought it was a personal flaw, we all have our issues, right? But that day something clicked and I wanted to know more so I looked him up and found his family and … her.”
“And putting two and two together you assumed rape?”
“No. But I knew he’d screwed her up, there were times when it felt normal, felt great even, those last few days were nothing like the normal we’d had for months. So yes, I was worried for her and I have had experience dealing with the victims of sexual abuse so I knew the signs, I just didn’t think to look for them in my girlfriend, that’s all”
“Funny, don’t you think? It took you so long to see those signs. When it was clear by listening to her co-workers and her lack of real friends that she was a little ‘off’ as you say, about a lot of things.”
He looked at her then, and if looks could kill, she’d be laying on the floor.
“Yeah, well, no one is perfect.”
“No, they’re not Mr Northman, but it does raise the question does it not…” she spoke to the jury, “that maybe you didn’t see these obvious signs, because you didn’t want to see them. You were the one to catch her in the act, as it where you not?”
“I was.” he choked and I closed my eyes at that horrific memory.
“Talk us through that day detective.”
As Eric talked the jury, the audience, the press, and myself through that day I felt more and more sorry for him as the facts of who I was came out bit by bit to him, he didn’t take his eyes off me the entire time and I didn’t know it until I felt the tears drip down my face that his words had made me cry. He described how I had been acting days before, then the sudden break up that was the last straw in terms of his hold off on investigating my past, and what his nose found when he began to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It was purely heartbreaking to hear how he was feeling during that time, and as much as I had taken into account his feelings, I realized then that this was just as devastating for him as it had been for me. He had loved me, and I turned out to be a fraud, no matter how true my feelings for him turned out to be, I still tainted that with the lies. It was a circle of sadness in a way. No matter what I did wouldn’t fix things now, and no matter what I did then, I was determined to kill Bartlett.
Either way he and I and our relationship got fucked up. And I just didn’t know how to fix that, not if I was going to prison for the rest of my life.
When they arrested her, I don’t think I’d ever realized that the term ‘broken hearted’ could actually be a physical thing, but in those few moments, watching Bill and the guys on the force, lead her blood covered self out of our apartment building, I knew that it was a physical thing. I stood there, and looked around her now empty apartment, the smell of half cooked pies wafted through the place, there was blood just about everywhere. On her walls, on her counter tops, her finger prints of blood in various places around the apartment.
What did I do now? It felt like everything had gone wrong in a very fast very short period of time, three days ago we were happy, we were in love and the prospect of a future wasn’t that hard to imagine with her. In
fact If I’m honest, I imagined it a lot. She and I would explore our relationship, it would grow, we would fall more and more in love and face whatever problems we had head on. Maybe we’d have kids, maybe we’d move out of the city… maybe, what if, would have. All things that wouldn’t be happening now. Bill took over the case, as Pam had to formally caution me, into the bargain she forced me into taking leave. Since I was under investigation anyway, she knew it wouldn’t look right to have me still working cases. I understood her stance on the matter, and really I didn’t harbour any bitterness to her for it. I was a fucking mess, inside and out, there was no way I’d do any other cases justice. Not at this point. The investigation into my involvement with Sookie, or should I say Susannah? Well, either way, it was short. They assigned Hoyt Fortenberry to my case, he was a newbie, but he still held enough professional respect for me that he got things done quickly. I was in no mood to be fucked around anymore than I already had. So, I gave my statements, of what I knew, and what I didn’t, what I saw, and what I didn’t see.
After a long two weeks they finally ruled that at least in a professional capacity my integrity hadn’t been compromised and after the ‘encouraged’ leave was over, I’d be free to return to work. The thing was, I didn’t care if I went back to work or not. In fact I didn’t care about a lot of things in those first few weeks, that spilled into months. I just didn’t care. I felt numb to the world, in a way I’d never experienced before. My mother had stepped in as Sookie trial started, she knew I didn’t need her, not really, I mean I was a grown ass man, but in the end I was happy that she’d come to stay for a few weeks as it was. The look on her face when she saw me, said it all. I knew I hadn’t been eating and I sure as hell hadn’t been sleeping. And Cash, well she was just as depressed as I was. She waited by the door for Sookie to come back to her every night for a month. No matter what I did, said, or fed her could get her away from the door, her big brown eyes just looking up at me with a “Hey’d where’d she go?” look in them. I kept telling her that she wasn’t coming back and we just had to get used to it, but in the end she was a dog, and a broken-hearted one at that. I hoped she’d get over it eventually, hell, I hoped I would too because I understood only too well how she felt. But as it stood, the month long trial made me realize that it was something I might never get over.
Not just losing the woman I loved to her choices, wrong choices that led to her facing the rest of her life in prison My mother forced me to eat, forced me out into the sunshine with the dog. I knew I needed motivation, but finding it was the hardest thing to find.
Seeing her in the courtroom took the breath from me, she looked well, really well, sad… but well. Watching them take the cuffs off her as she was led into the room, with her lawyer that I’d forced her to take on, it was a sad sight. She was such a beautiful woman, and I knew, better than anyone what a good heart she had in her, it’s just she had a fucked up mind and a fucked up sense of justice in her too, and for that, I guess she would have to be punished, no matter who had been responsible for making her that way.
She’d confessed, to all of it. All the murders, in great detail. She’d told Bill she just wanted to confess and go and pay for her crimes, even if she didn’t see them as such. Bill had been baffled, he would come by my apartment after every meeting, after every briefing she’d have with her lawyer that’d he be present for. He didn’t understand how she didn’t at least want to try and get away with it.
But I understood it, she’d served out her own form of justice, and now it was time to face the justice upon herself. It was an incredibly brave thing to do, and something that I wish she wasn’t doing. She didn’t deserve life in prison, she was too young and had too much she could achieve in her life to be stuck behind bars. I wanted them to help her now, help her now in a way that they had failed to do in the past. She needed therapy, and a shit ton of it, she needed understanding and care, she needed love. Not to be slammed behind the bars of a cell and left to rot.
I had fought hard for her, I’d gotten her the best lawyer I knew in the city, and yet I’m been told there was ‘no fight in her’ from Claudine, the lawyer. I had hoped she would be able to empathise with Sookie, maybe get her to open up and see that she could still fight the case. But apparently to no avail. She had given up, and I hated that fact.
The questioning continued, they wanted to know how we’d met, when we’d started dating exactly, what the dates where like, where we went, how her behaviour was. Then, mercifully they broke for lunch. I’d never been more relieved, because I knew the cross examine would be just as bad, it was on Sookie’s side, sure, but it was still more details of our love life together, more details of how things were between us, and of course how things ended between us. It was gruelling to say the least.
During the trial, I knew Bill was her minder of sorts, he’d been called by the courthouse to do that duty of escorting the prisoner back and forth. So, I had asked Bill to do me a favour, and as I stood on the roof of the court house, in between the large H for the landing pad they’d just built a few months prior, looking out onto the city, I hoped he’d come through for me. I’d hope she’d agree to see me, and I knew I was pushing, since she’d been in the same place for six months and I hadn’t made the effort to go see her… or so it seemed. I had made the effort. More than once I’d gotten my shit together to at the very least shower and aim to go see her, but as soon as my car met the prison gates, I chickened out. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see her behind the hard plastic, I couldn’t talk to her on the phone, not being able to touch her or smell her hair. No, for some reason I knew that wouldn’t be enough.
It would never be enough.
The door opened and there they were. She looked surprised, shocked even, and Bill just looked nervous.
“Eric I could get into so much shi-”
“You won’t and if you do, you were just following an order… I’ll take the heat.”
He shook his head, “You have ten minutes, then I have to get her back.”
She nodded and so did I. But I noticed she was still in her cuffs.
I didn’t intend on talking to her as a prisoner. No, that I couldn’t do.
“Eric, no. I can’t.”
She looked at me, then to Bill, still she said nothing.
“Bill. Un-cuff her. What the fuck is she going to do? Sprout wings and fly off the roof? Come on, man.”
He looked to me, then to her, then back to me, his internal debate clearly in progress.
“Fuck,” he said taking her two hand and clicking his little key in them, letting her free.
“Thank you, Bill.” she said calmly, hugging him un-expectantly. “You’re a good cop and a kind friend, those are good things to be.”
He just nodded, making himself scarce.
“I’ll wait outside the door, yell if you need anything.”
And it left us alone. Six months apart, longer than we’d even been together, and a world of unsaid things just floating in the air.
“Hi.” she said, smoothing down her hair, and tucking it behind her ear.
“Hi.” I responded. I had so many things to say I just didn’t know where the hell to begin.
“Why did you want to see me here, Eric?”
“I missed you.” was all that came out and a tear came to her eye.
“Please don’t do this, I can’t hear this, not today…”
“Sookie, I want you to take the insanity plea, please.”She shook her head.
“I’ve been over this with Claudine, Eric, it’s not something I want. I don’t want to go back there. To a hospital, with white walls and tests and drugs and padded cells and other crazy people… no. I spent most of like in a place like that, it’s not fun.”
“And you think a woman’s state prison will be a fucking picnic? Sookie be realistic here. If you take the plea you could get your sentence halved maybe. Ten years is a whole lot less of a life time than twenty. You could get out, you would still be in your thirties for fuck sake, you’d still have a life ahead of you.”
“You know, I know to you that that makes sense.” She said as we began walking, the pressure of standing there looking at each other obviously proving too much for her, and for me both if I’m honest.
“And it doesn’t to you?”
“Not really. Eric I could have had a life, free of him and all that he did, but I chose not to, I chose to focus on that pain so intently that it ruined what life I had, once I got free from that place. I’m been in a mental prison since I was eight years old, sweetheart, bars or none, it doesn’t change that.”
I hated that I knew what she was saying to be the truth.
She took a deep breathe as a cold breeze crossed us both as we walked closer and closer to the side of the building, and then to the front. The view of the city from ten stories up was just beautiful, if a little cold.
“You could get help in there, therapy, I could -”
“They tried, I think I’m just fucked up, irreversibly fucked up. And that’s not your fault, or Alcide’s fault, or hell, even the doctors that kept me there, or my Gran, or maybe even Bartlett’s.”
“How can you say that he destroyed you when you were too young to even defend yourself!”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think in there, Eric, and I’ve seen women survive what happened to me, they adjusted and the dealt with it, in a normal way. Hell, most of them managed to go on and have kids and get married and not have this huge stigma attached to them, they chose a different path. Maybe I could have done the same, if I hadn’t been so closed off to letting people near me. I realised that with you, I was capable of feeling love, who knows what life might have been like if I’d allowed myself a friend in those early days, but I guess we’ll never know, not now.” she sighed again as we both looked out on to the view in front of us.
“Did you do it?” She asked me without looking at me, and I knew exactly what she meant.
“Yeah, I did it.” she nodded before turning to me with tear soaked eyes and a wibbling lip, “why?””He deserved to die, for what he did. And I’ll tell them that, if it gets you a lower sentence. I will.””No, you won’t.””But I -“”NO. You understand me? No. You’re a good person and what you did… you did it for me… and thank you for that, really… but you aren’t getting into trouble for this. As far as they know, I killed him, he was dead when you go there… that’s it. I’ll take the blame, it was my task to finish, let them think I did.” She gripped my hand then and her skin felt cold.
“You know if you don’t take the plea it’s twenty five to life, at least three times over, in maximum security prisons, Sookie I’m begging you here. That’s not what you want. Trust me.””I know,” she looked at me again, this time touching my face, and as if she couldn’t help it, the minute she touched me another tear fell, but she went in for a kiss and I wasn’t going to stop her.
It felt amazing. Her lips, how she tasted, how good she smelled, how soft her hair felt, all of it as I just got lost in her touch. Those few minutes were precious to me, even more so because of what she did next.
“It’s not what I want, Eric, what I want was to be normal, for you. So we could have that life, that amazing life that we could have had together, the white picket fence life, the whole thing. But I’m not, and I never will be. I can’t find peace, Eric. I never could. Not with him in my head like he was, and I thought that I could do it, when he was gone I thought I’d have peace in my head… that the nightmares would stop.””But it hasn’t?” I asked, still holding her in my arms, still loving her enough though we were all but doomed.
“No, it hasn’t and I… have to face that fact. Twenty, thirty years… of nothing but those thoughts with nothing to look forward too…” she sighed, stepping out of my embrace.
“I can’t do that, either.”
She stepped past me, and onto the edge of the roof, she looked down.
“SOOKIE. THE FUCK?”
“I can’t, Eric, I just, can’t.”
She shook her head furiously wiping away her tears.
With that, Bill came through the doors, gun in hand, shit shocked look on his face, too.
“Susannah, step DOWN.” he said.
“I can’t, and I can’t go back there, Eric. I won’t.”
“Susannah, step down or I will shoot.”
“Bill, no.” I said putting an arm out to warn him to stay where he was, the panic that rose in me was crazy levels of fear and adrenaline, but mostly flat out fear.
“Sook, please don’t do this okay, don’t jump.”
“I can’t go back there… I can’t live with him in my head, Eric, it’s too much. I thought he’d leave, it would die with him, but it hasn’t. If anything now it’s like he’s haunting me…I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry for hurting you…” She took a tiny step forward and my heart stopped, she was right on the edge now. “I do love you, but I can’t be there knowing you’re here, and I can’t live with all that, so… I can’t live.”
“If you do this.” I looked at her as I edged closer, “what am I meant to do then, huh? Just forget about you? Move on? What if I can’t do that?”
“You can, you’re a hell of a lot stronger than me… you will.”
Just at that, six guards burst through the door, and I looked back and them to try and keep them back.
When I turned back, she was gone.
A/N: Oh my GOD you have no idea how nervous I am about this chapter! I’d say ‘dying’ to know what you’re thinking but is that pun a little too soon? I love you all for your reviews and guesses and thoughts so far, it’s really made this story amazing to me because it felt like we were all solving the puzzle together, and even though still hasn’t seen fit to unfuck itself and let me reply to the reviews, just know that I read and loved them all, thank you SO, so much! xoxo Just the epil. to go and that’s us done folks! 😀
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
They say good things should happen to good people, don’t they? Well, I’d like to agree with that… I would. But I can’t. I mean who’s to say what makes a person truly good? If they donate to charity, that makes them a good person, but if they also donate to a charity and kick their pets, or beat their wives, or smack their kids? Does that take away the good deed and make them a bad person? Should bad things happen to them because they’ve done bad things? And who decides what amount of bad things gets punished, and what amount of good gets rewarded?
Life, it’s confusing.
Or should I say it was… confusing.
I remember falling, or jumping, or giving into the act of gravity, however you want to see it. I remember seeing his face, seeing his pain, and not really knowing what to do with it. All I knew was I didn’t want him to feel like that, but I had no idea how to fix it. That was what I realized, nothing I did or said, could have fixed what was done to me, or what I had done to try and right the wrongs done to me. And in righting those wrongs, I dragged this innocent man into my mess. I knew of all the things I’d done, that was one of the main things I’d never forgive myself for. And I knew, standing on that roof, that I couldn’t go back and undo it, and I couldn’t go back to jail, so, I jumped. I remember the fear, the sound of my heart in my ears, and then… nothing at all. No sound, no vision, no white light, no hand of God. Just…peace.
Odd, and unknown, but I knew I was safe. I felt safe for the first time in my life, and it was after that life had stopped. Only it hadn’t, not really, because I was still me, wherever I was. I still felt like me and thought like me, but there was no more pain in what I thought, or what I felt. Forgiveness, love, and contentment washed over me so strongly, it was amazing.
What wasn’t amazing was what I caught glimpses off. I saw him, on the roof, his skin as white as the shirt he was wearing, shock and sadness etched across his beautiful face. I saw Bill pull him back, as he fell to his knees, looking to where I had just gone. I watched as they took him out of the courthouse, Pam and Bill and the other cops, I saw them try their hardest to fix what I had so selfishly broken in him. I was continuing the circle of hell in doing what I did to him, no matter how sorry I was, or how much I wished it hadn’t come to pass, it still did, and he was still there, trying to live through it. There was little I could have done from a prison cell, but there was even less I could do from wherever I currently was. The sheer lack of fear struck me as odd at first, but soon it was like that’s how I’d always felt. I still held love though, and I think through that love, I was allowed to see all that I saw.
Sometimes it was hard not to want to turn my head and ignore it, but I knew I couldn’t. I knew I had to see it. All of it, so I watched.
“Get him out of here, Jesus Christ, what a fucking mess,” Pam said, hands on hips, tears in here eyes, as Bill and two other cops led a clearly distraught Eric, now trying his best to be stoic, out of the building. They’d take him to the hospital, because he demanded to go, he wanted to go with me in the ambulance, but everyone decided against that, and for good reason. He was traumatized enough as it was, no need to just add another layer, they thought. And so they brought him there, and had his blood pressure checked up while my body was brought into the morgue. It was gruesome, that’s for sure. I’d smashed almost every bone in my body when I landed on that cold tar outside the courthouse that day, the back of my skull was smashed in and well, it just wasn’t the pretty sight I’d been used to seeing when I looked in the mirror when I used to breathe. Things went dark for a while, and yet I still didn’t feel the fear that I thought I should be feeling. Again, there was nothing but peace, then suddenly I saw him again, this time, it was a funeral. My funeral. And so, helpless to say or do anything, I simply watched over them all.
“Family, friends, and loved ones, we are here today to mourn the passing and to celebrate the life of Susannah Stackhouse, who was taken from this earth so tragically,” the pastor said at my grave.
Prayers were said, and tears where shed. I was surprised to see so many of the women that I had attempted to help, be there together, for me. They stood there for me, and they shed their tears for me, after all I had done. It was unexpected, to say the least. Then I saw Bill, and even Pam, and the service continued, and then I saw him, he was in the back away from all the people. He was dressed in that charcoal suit that fit him so well, he wore a navy tie and sunglasses to shade his eyes from the sun – or to shade his eyes from giving his true feelings away, or both. He held Cash by her leash, and walked up to the front of the crowd with a red rose in his hand. He had been in mourning, that much was clear, and what little weight he had gained I noticed that it was now long gone. He was back to being skinny and pale and sad. I hated myself for being the reason for that. I watched as he stood at the podium, and spoke of me using words so touching, it broke my heart all over again.
“Many people have opinions on Sookie Stackhouse, her story is one that has made its way all over the world by now, sparking debate and controversy wherever they talk about her. They focus on what she did, and what was done to her, and how it made her what she was. Sookie Stackhouse murdered men, men who did unspeakable things to innocent children, repeatedly. She took their lives in vengeance against the innocent lives that they ruined. Does that make what she did, right? No, of course not. Murder is wrong, no matter what the reasons behind it. But it was also wrong of us, the police, and society as whole, to have failed her when she needed us most. We’re here to protect and serve. Why weren’t we there to protect her? To serve her when she needed that help? It’s a question full of answers – but just unappealing answers that no one wants to talk about. No, they’d rather focus on her acts, and her final acts during the last days of her life. I don’t want to focus on those things. Instead, I want to focus on the Sookie that I knew, and loved, very much,” he said, shuffling his paper nervously as Cash looked up at him, that forever curious look on her little face, still evident.
He took a deep breath and began again, “When she smiled, it felt like all the wrongs in the world were somehow righted. She didn’t let many people into her heart, but I knew she let me in there, and it made me feel so special for a short time, to know that this woman would take a chance on me, when she didn’t give anyone else the time of day. She was hard to know, closed off in so many ways because of what she had been though her whole life, and for that, it’s not like anyone could blame her.
She had been hurt and betrayed by those she had loved in the past, I knew if I were in her shoes, I’d be the same way. I’d also be in heels, and look ridiculous,” he smiled, and it got a laugh. “Once she let you in, she was fiercely loyal to you, and she loved with her whole heart, and she genuinely wanted to help women who’d gone through the same thing she had, and she did. I see many of you standing here today, showing your last respects for this woman, and I’m sure wherever she is, she’s both surprised and happy with that little fact. You see, her life as I know it, wasn’t like most, and so when she got the chance to love someone, and have that someone love her back, it was like a new world.
And while I had loved before her, I doubt I will ever have the same feelings for someone else in the way I felt for her… six months, that’s all it took, but she turned my little world upside down a few times over, some for the good, and some, for the bad.” He choked, and took another deep breath.
“I hate that she did what she did, taking her own life like she did. And I’ve thought I hated her for it, but I don’t, I did, but I don’t anymore. I realized it was her only way out, out of her head. She said something to me once… That it didn’t matter where you ran to, or for how long, because no matter what you just keep bumping into yourself, and ultimately she was trapped with herself. I think it had gotten to the point where she was just tired of herself. She wanted peace from the rage, and the pain inside her, and even though I know there was nothing I could have done or said to have stopped her from doing what she did that day, I just wish…” his took another breath, shaking his head. “I just wish that I knew she was okay now, wherever she is. And, I hope she’s finally gotten the peace that she so yearned for in her final days here.”
With that he stepped down, and watched as they buried my body in a pretty brown coffin, in the ground. And there he stood, for a very long time. He outlasted everyone until it was just himself and Cash, standing there, watching over my grave. I wanted nothing more than to reach for him and tell him that I finally was okay, that finally, nothing hurt anymore, nothing but seeing him so sad and broken. But of course, I couldn’t, all I could do was be, and watch.
The time passed quickly from my perspective, but I had a feeling that’s not how it was where Eric was. Instead, I saw him grieve, I saw him begin to process what had happened. I saw him quit his job to save Bill from being fired, I saw him argue with Pam about it all the time before and after. She cared for him, she was trying to do what was best for him, that much I knew.
“I’ve told you,” he said to her from his favourite spot on his couch, Cash sitting next to him she was never allowed on the furniture when he was home, but I spoiled her and allowed it, I guess he did too.
“Eric, it’s probation, that’s it. A year at best, and you’re back to your position again, you know I’ll fight for it. We need you,” she said, hands on hips, but a worrisome look where her usual smirk would have been.
“Pam, they’re going to drag my behaviour through the system, all those questions… No, I’m not having it, and if I quit, if I take the full blame, Bill gets to keep his job.”
She rolled her eyes at him, “Eric, you can’t throw your life away because of this, it’s not fair!”
“You think I don’t know that? But you know what Pam, I’ve had a lot of time to think since she died, since you put me on that leave, it’s been a fucking long seven months, so long and looking longer by the day. I just know I can’t go back there, I can’t keep doing what I did to those guys, knowing that ‘hey maybe this is another Sookie, maybe we failed them just like we failed her,’ and in that case, who the fuck are we to judge them?”
“Eric, you know that’s wrong, you know it! Jesus, Sookie’s case was a really special case, one out of… fuck I don’t know how many are like hers. You’re a good cop, and an even better detective, my force needs you. I need you there.”
He got up and hugged her, tight and fast, before placing a very sweet kiss on her forehead.
“You don’t need me, Pam, you never did, but thank you for saying so.”
She sighed then, resigned. She knew as well as anyone that Eric Northman was a stubborn son of a bitch when he wanted to be. And this was clearly one of those instances.
“I know you miss her.”
“Everyday,” he said as they both took their seats again, Cash instantly going to Pam to investigate her smells.
“It’s natural, you know? To grieve for her, but I want you to know that it will get better, eventually. You can still miss her, Eric, but she was adamant that she wanted you to be happy. This…” she gestured around his fucked up apartment, one that once was so clean and neat you would be afraid to sit down in case things got messy, was now like a tornado had hit it, full force. “Isn’t what she’d want for you.”
Smart Pam, was smart.
“It’s stupid right? I mean, sometimes I think it’s stupid. How sad I feel, for someone that I knew for such a short time.”
“But you loved her, and she loved you, and you’re not just mourning for her, you’re morning for the you, you were when you were with her, and the future you two could have had. It’s natural.”
“When will it stop? When will I stop wanting her to come through that door and rag on my cooking skills before she’d playfully wink at me, but still fix my fucked up dish? Or wish it was her calling me on the phone just so I could hear her voice one more time?”
She shed a tear then, and hugged him tightly, not letting go until he fell asleep against her. He hadn’t slept in days, and she knew that. So she gently laid his head on one end of the couch, and did her best to lift his mountain man legs up on the other end. Covering him with a blanket and leaving the dog some water before she left him for the night. She was afraid for him, afraid that if he lost himself so deeply into his grief that she might never get him back.
I watched, from time to time as the time down there seemed to pass, each time I’d check in, things would be different than they were before. It took me a while, but I finally realized why that was. Wherever I was, it was as if I stayed still, and they moved on. It made me sad for a while, but ultimately that sadness faded and I just gave into my situation, and looked over him as he moved onward with his life. It was hard for him, at first, for a very long time I noted that he had closed himself off to other people, in a very similar way to how I had closed myself off to people when I got free of the hospital. I didn’t want that for him, but it seemed to be his way, just his own way of dealing with what he’d been through.
True to his word, he did quit his job, and for almost a year he did nothing. Nothing that is, except visit his spare room on occasion, that room you see, was filled with my things. He had kept my apartment for a while, unable to bring himself to pack away my life into tiny boxes like I’d been packed away and boxed off from the world. He had put it off for months and months until the landlord had decided to step in, and even though he was paying my rent, she knew it was wrong for him to be doing it, if the apartment was being kept as a shrine as such. So he did, he boxed up my things but he didn’t have the heart to throw them away. They sat, boxes and boxes, and a few bags, neatly piled against the walls of his unused bedroom. He found my diaries on one visit. They were in the trunk that I’d kept under my bed, and there he found my thoughts. All of them. The first few were from I was a kid, in the hospital, I wrote a lot, and all those thoughts and fears made it onto the pages he held in his hands. He read them all, over and over, until he came to my last journal. The one that contained, for the most part, my thoughts on him, and my life and how different it was while I was with him. He had sobbed quietly to himself as he read those passages, he cried and it made me want to cry – if only I could, but I knew wherever I was, there were no more tears.
Soon I saw that he would sleep with that journal, under his pillow, right next to his gun, and Cash would snuggle up at his side, under her very own blanket. But he would actually sleep. It was as if that journal, of my rants and my raves and my wishes for him and I, it was as if it provided him some kind of mystery comfort. Whatever it was doing for him though, it was working. Because soon, he began to wake up before noon, and eat breakfast, and actually shower again. And then, one day he got up, and did what he always did, only this time there was an air in his step. It was almost two years since I’d died down there, and in that two years I’d seen him go through the emotional ringer. But that day? It was as if the circles of hell had stopped spinning in his mind, at least a little bit – for he put on his running shoes, grabbed a fattening Cash, and his bottle of water, and ran. He ran for miles, and right back again. Both he and Cash were seriously out of shape due to their activities over the previous two years. I felt that, had I been there then, I might even have beat them. But he did it, he took the first steps – literally into what he didn’t know then, but he would soon, something that resembled a new life for him.
He ran every day, his distance getting longer, and his time getting shorter every time they set off. I was proud, the Eric I knew and loved was finally started to look like himself again. Gone was the scary homeless man beard and the pasty pale skin, gone was his skinny arms and worrying gaunt cheeks. Instead, they were replaced by a healthy glow in his skin, muscles in their rightful place, and by the third year of my absence, the smile that belonged on his face made it’s way back. He began spending more time with the guys on the force again, just casually at first. Poker night resumed, golfing got started even though they all sucked at it, and three days a week he’d go down town and throw hoops with a few of his friends. Slowly but surely, Eric Northman was becoming a person of the world again, back amongst the land of the living.
Dating was out of the question though, even though it was obvious to anyone with a set of eyes and a pulse that this man was gorgeous and shouldn’t have to spend his nights in a lonely apartment, in a cold bed, with the sounds of his dog snoring beside him. No, he needed someone to love him, mainly because he had so much love to give that person, I felt he needed more than the nudge his buddies would try and give him. He needed an intervention, and before I knew it, I was able to perhaps help in that area.
“I miss you,” he said to me, as he rolled over from his left side to where I would have slept.
“I know you do. I miss you too,” I think I said to him, but how I said it, I’m still not sure.
“I want you to be here, I wanted to save you.”
I smiled, I knew that. I knew that very well. Instead, I touched his skin, his face, so worried for me, even now.
“I’m okay you know? Now. I’m not sure where I am, but I’m not in pain, or sad, or angry. I am worried though, for you.”
“Now who’s the liar?” I asked, and he smiled.
Instead of answering me, he kissed me, and it was like I could really feel it.
“You look better,” I said when he pulled away, smelling my hair that sat on my neck as he did so.
“Are you saying that I looked like shit before?”
“I loved you, you do know that, don’t you?”
“And I you. And I know you know that, it’s why you’re still holding on to me as tight as you are.”
He furrowed his brows, and I smoothed out his forehead like I would do as a joke. I used to tell him he’d be on botox by the time he hit forty if he kept frowning as much as he did. It made him smile again. God, I missed his smile.
“You know you have to let me go sometime, right?”
“I let you go once, and look what happened,” he said, running his hand down my arm.
“That wasn’t your fault and you know it, Northman.”
“It feels like it was. If I hadn’t taken my eyes off you, I might -”
“No, I was determined to do it. Not. Your. Fault.”
He rolled his eyes then.
“Don’t sass me, you know it’s the truth. And you know in your head and your heart that being happy again, and giving someone else a shot, doesn’t mean you have to forget about me. I know you better than that, and I know you want to love again, you’re just scared.”
“Can you blame me though? My track record with women hasn’t exactly been stellar.”
“I know, but you never know what might be around the corner for you.”
“No more serial killers, okay?”
“I was a special case, we both know that. You were my happy place. You proved to me that not all men where like him, now you just need to find the woman that will prove to you that not all women are like me.”
“You weren’t so bad…” he tucked my hair behind my ear, a gesture I longed for.
“Thank you, Eric.”
He nodded, “You’re welcome.”
With that, he woke up, and I, well I was back wherever I was – only this time it felt right. It felt like I was one of the pies I’d baked a thousand times, only this time, I felt like I was almost ready.
Ready for what though, I had no idea.
He was running his usual route, with Cash by his side when her leash snapped sending her into the park on the other side of the running trial. Sure enough there were other dogs there, I’d always told Eric he should have introduced her to other dogs, but he clearly never had, she was like a kid in a candy shop, sniffing and sniffing.
“I’m sorry,” he said to the short brunette yanking her larger dog away from Cash.
“No, it’s fine, he’s been doctored so there’s no reason to worry.”
“Wow, harsh,” Eric said, finally getting Cash under control.
“Why is it harsh? At least he won’t be running around fathering pups when I’m not looking.”
“Oh. Good point.”
“You should get her done too, it’s for her own good, if she’s not going to be suitable for breeding.”
“That sounds really clinical. If I doctor her, she might be less… herself.”
She smiled, “That’s true. Jasper got really down right after I had him done. But he’s okay now. Just a little less interested in the ladies, since there’s really no urge there anymore.”
“Yikes, sorry Jasper,” Eric said, patting the older dogs head as they both sat on the bench, leaving the dogs to play around.
“I know you,” she said, making Eric look at her quickly. “Well, not know you, know you,” she blushed. “But I’ve seen you run the trial. I usually run it too, around the same time.”
“Oh,” he said. “Right, of course. I can’t say I know you though, I’m usually in a world of my own when I run.”
“Me too, but it’s not often you see a guy your height with such a cute dog, I’m short, tall people fascinate me.”
“No,” she laughed. “I noticed your dog first though, well I should say, Jasper did. He dragged me for half a mile behind you once before I finally got him to turn back.” She smiled, Eric liked her smile, it was infectious since it made him smile too.
“Jasper seems to know what’s up.”
“Jasper was a horny old dog, it was so much trouble. I have enough hassle with my own love life, I didn’t want to worry about my dogs.”
“Troubled love life then?”
“No,” she sighed. “More, non-existent.”
“I know that feeling,” he said, watching the dogs play again.
“Right…” she said, clearly disbelieving. I mean who can blame her, guys that looked like Eric didn’t have trouble finding women willing to fuck. Thing was, that’s not all he wanted. Not now. It had been at one point, but now, it was different.
“How long have you been single, then?” she asked, a curious look on her porcelain face. She was my opposite looks wise. Long brown hair with gold highlights, emerald green eyes that sparkled with hope and humour, she was taller than me, but obviously still shorter than Eric – like most people.
“You win,” she said, blushing. “A year and a half, almost.”
“Bad break-up?” he asked her, drinking from his water bottle.
“Something like that, I moved here for work, and my boyfriend didn’t want to leave the little Podunk town where we’d spent our whole lives. I wanted out, so he got left behind.”
“Sounds like you’re better off without him, if he was holding you back.”
She nodded. “Took me a while to realize that I deserved someone better. What about you?”
He thought about it, it was almost as if you could see the wheels turning in his head. But, he decided that honesty was the best policy, after everything with me, how could he not.
“Um, yeah, do you remember the Sookie Stackhouse case?” he said, and seconds later the realization hit her and she just opened her mouth in a ‘O’ shape.
“Are you the cop…”
“Shit, I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks. Shit, I don’t know why I just told you -”
“Hey. It’s fine. Really… And it’s my gift.”
“Your gift?” he was confused, she just smiled.
“Holly Cleary, I’m one of the therapists for the New Orleans Woman’s Shelter. So I know Sookie’s case well. A lot of women came to us after it started to get press for the trial. You know, she’s responsible for possibly saving a lot of women’s lives. You should be sort of proud.”
He looked at her then, this stranger who seemed to know so much. It made him uncomfortable.
“What she did was wrong.”
“Of course it was, and I’m not saying we all go out and lop some guys balls off… but I’m sure she’s not the first woman who’s thought of revenge for what he did to her. We’re there to hopefully help them past that stage though, less stabby, more talky.”
“I wish she could have had someone like you.”
“I kind of wish that too.”
The air grew thick between them, that awkward kind of feeling you get when you’ve just over shared with a complete stranger.
“Um, Holly … I better go. It was… nice to meet you,” he said ineptly.
She smiled, but there was a longing in her eyes. You see Holly, for all her good deeds and huge heart, she was just as alone and lonely as Eric was. Since she moved to the city, she’d been alone. Not at work of course, that kept her more than busy, but like Eric she’d go home to her empty apartment and her dog, just longing to have someone there to lessen the sting of her loneliness. But instead of knowing that they were in the same boat, they both went their separate ways, only something was there, and I knew for sure they’d meet again.
Three months later, I proved myself right, as Eric quite literally ran into her, knocking her to the ground.
With wide eyes and a mouth full of sputtering apologies, he got her to her feet again, and as an apology he offered to buy her a lunch, to ease his conscience. He internally protested but he really knew it’s what he wanted – the company of another, but mostly he rationalized it being because he couldn’t face another meal time with just Cash, and her whining.
They talked openly, something I realized he and I did very little of. It was joyful to see him smile again, be animated again, about her, about himself, about life. One lunch turned into two, and lunch turned into dinner, and then, months, and much awkwardness later, dinner turned into breakfast. I wasn’t jealous, I wasn’t sad, the light was back in his eyes somehow, and it was as if his soul was healing, finally. It made me feel lighter to know that he was on his way.
To watch him try again, to watch him smile, and somehow I knew he’d be okay now. She was good people, and Eric was right, if only I had had a Holly, maybe things would have been a lot different. As it was, the last time I saw him he was walking into her workplace, with a spring in his step.
“Mr Northman, what can I do for you?” she asked when the receptionist pointed him in her direction. After many questions at both the front door, the inside door, and the office door – all of which he had to get cleared to go though, and show his ID, and state his reason for being there. They had serious protection there, I was glad for those women.
“I want to volunteer my services,” he said, and she didn’t get it.
“Eric, as much as I appreciate the gesture, isn’t it a little early for naughty banter?”
“Thank you, and it’s never too early, but no. That’s not what I mean. I mean, you have a certified and available Private detective at your service.”
She was stunned, but she knew his story, and she knew what a huge step he was taking by going there and wanting to help other women get their lives back on track, it was his way of making it up to me. She knew that too, and she also knew that a part of him still loved me, and us for what we used to be, but she was secure in the knowledge that he was beginning to love her too, and for now, that would be enough. She had what I didn’t, she had the time and the ability to love him the way he deserved to be loved. After that, I didn’t watch over him, I knew I didn’t need to, he was going to be fine, eventually. And me? Well, turns out where I was, was like a waiting room of sorts – waiting for me to make sure he was okay? Waiting for me to find peace with those I left behind, find peace with myself? I’d never really know, all I knew was shortly after I left Eric to his life, everything went bright, and that feeling of love and peace that I’d been experiencing for so long multiplied by a thousand, or so it felt. I didn’t know where I went, but wherever it was, I was happy.
A/N: And that was all she wrote. I was nervous about the direction this was going in, and some people tried to talk me out of it, but I felt wrong not giving Eric some peace too after all I dragged him through in this, so hopefully him finding someone else won’t have you all wanting to shank me! 😉 I must say a hugeeee thank you again to all of you for giving this a shot. I know it wasn’t the happiest of fics to read, but you came in and encouraged me and kept me positive about something so… different. And that, to me, is awesome! So, thank you thank you thankkkk yooou. And of course to Scribeninja and MsBennett for being my sounding boards that calmed the freak outs lol! xoxo