I left London with a heavy heart and a full mind, as well as a full belly due to the meal that Pam insisted we sit down to, all together, and the pie that Sookie insisted on helping back for my departure. Things between Sookie and I weren’t as strained as they had been in the days after her return, since she had come clean and told me how she was feeling – as much as it hurt – things felt a little lighter, in the air around us both. She was still healing, physically and no doubt mentally would take that much longer, but I knew she was still in there, and eventually when she was ready, she would come back to me.
She walked me to my platform, all wrapped up in a blue coat she had borrowed from Pam.
“I still don’t think you should be outside, it’s too soon -”
“You’re letting me see you off and that’s that.” She smiled, holding my hand as we walked as I held my luggage in my free hand. “Besides, while I do need some space, not just from you, but from it all, it does not mean that I am not sorry to see you go.”
“Women, you are so complicated.” I sighed with a smile, she grinned too.
“Yes, yes we are. And don’t you ever forget it. Or how worth it we are either.”
I was glad it seemed as if her humour was returning, if nothing else.
“I will telephone when I get in.”
“Please do. Or I will worry.”
“I don’t want you worrying about me, not when you have to take this time for yourself.” I added as we reached my platform, the train was boarding but not yet full.
“I still feel so selfish though, pushing you like this…” She sighed.
“I don’t see it as selfish, I see it as you knowing what you need right now, better than I or anyone else ever could. That’s how I see it, Sookie.”
She smiled, leaning up against me on her tip-toes, planting a soft kiss to my lips.
“Thank you, for being you, Eric Northman. Thank you for not thinking I’m some crazy old bat who doesn’t know which way is up.” She smiled making me laugh, even if the topic at hand was a serious one, I liked that she wanted to end our time face to face on a good note.
“You’re not an old bat…” I mumbled.
“Oh but I am crazy? Thank you very much.” She teased as I just put my two small cases on the ground.
“No, but I think everyone has a little crazy in them, I think if we were all to be ‘sane’ we’d just not have lived a life, nor survived it.”
Her smiled faltered then, but she did come closer to hug me.
“I love you.” She said and I saw the pain that still lived in her through her eyes just then. I knew she had a lot of problems to work out within herself, I just hoped that when she did that I was still part of her life. I held her close with both arms as she did the same to me. I inhaled her smell that Sookie smell, now of soap and something floral, and stepped back as the final whistle went for us to board.
“Take care of yourself okay?” I asked.
“I will, you too.”
I nodded squeezing her hand once more for reassurance.
“I’ll telephone, I love you.”
She smiled bright at that as I picked up my things and entered the train.
I missed her already but I hoped that time apart to heal was what she needed and when the time came for her to come back to me, to us, that she would.
After Eric’s departure I felt as if something had been lifted from my shoulders, and when I got back to Pam’s empty home, I realised what that was. I didn’t have to please anyone anymore, I didn’t have to put on the brave face and pretend with him just so he would think I was okay and not worry about me. I could go up to my room, alone and cry if I needed to, I could get angry and annoyed and sob and hate myself and Bill and the whole damn situation – and I didn’t have to pretend. I cried myself to sleep that afternoon, only woken by Pam and a small cup of coffee she held in her hand for me. Apparently she and Claude had reconnected after his few days of visiting friends since Eric had arrived, and he was back now. They had a wedding to plan.
“I am really happy for you, both.” I managed, sipping the hot coffee in the hopes of it giving me life.
“Honey, you know we’re not really in love, right?” She asked hopping on the bed next to me, wrapping the blanket around us both. “We’re just doing this for the money, on both sides. I still can’t thank you enough for putting this on my path.”
“I think it’s I that should be thanking you, Pam. Everything you’ve done for me, since we met… and now here… like this.”
“Think nothing of it. I love both of you, and you know I value my real friendships more than my luggage.”
I snorted my drink for it was true, if Pam loved you more than her luggage it meant the world. I smiled.
“Well, thank you anyway, and I’ll do whatever needs doing so this goes off without a hitch.”
“I was hoping you would say that. I want a big wedding, huge even, with my mother and his footing the bill it’s not like they can’t afford it. And, after the war and all the horrid things we’ve had to witness, I think we all deserve a party, don’t you?” She grinned.
“I’ve seen your parties darling, do we think the mothers will approve such things for a wedding?”
She rolled her eyes.
“We’ll tone down the …sharing then, how’s that?”
“Sounds good. We can focus on that, it might actually help my mood.”
“Ah yes. How did Eric take his basinsihment?”
“I haven’t banished him! He has to check on Niall anyway, and I just need some space, I would never banish him.”
“As long as he knows that.”
“He does, trust me. He’s going to telephone when he gets in, so I don’t worry for him. I hate that journey, it’s always so long and tiresome.”
“Scotland is tiresome, it is a beauty, and the people are wonderful… but the cold is so tiresome.” She sighed.
“Eric says I complain because I was raised in Lousiana, that I’m just not built for the cold.”
“Says him, he was practically raised on an iceberg.” She giggled fixing my hair for me. “Darling I don’t want to see you cry over Bill Compton anymore, he can’t hurt you now, or ever again.”
“I know I do. It’s just hard to forget it all so fast, that’s all.”
“I am not asking that you forget; just do not let it ruin the rest of your life. You deserve to be happy, Sookie, I just want you to remember that.”
“I’ll try. I will.”
Pam and I spent the next couple of days discussing what she wanted her dress to be, what Claude would be wearing, the flowers, and most importantly, where the after party would take place. It was a welcome distraction I must admit, but the fact that Eric kept his word and telephoned when he said he would also helped to put my mind at ease. He was home and Niall was okay, so far, and that he missed me but hoped that I was doing okay. I couldn’t ask for more than that, now could I. I was dealing with my feelings as best as I knew how, and things had been relatively calm. That is until Andy Bellefleur came to the door one Thursday afternoon.
“Susannah Compton?” He asked when Mary had answered the door and let him into the parlour where Pam and I sat, sketching out her dress ideas. I stood to greet him, even if my knees felt weak.
“Uh, who’s asking?” I asked, my eyes jotting to Pam and back to him.
“I’m detective Andy Bellefleur, Ma’am, and I’m here with some news.”
I sat, as did Pam, and eventually so did Andy.
“Ma’am I’m a … well a friend of sorts to Mr Eric Northman.” He began and I took a deep breath, was this good or bad news?
“What that has to do with why I’m here, I’m not entirely sure. Are you Mrs Compton?”
“I… am. In name only, yes.”
“Are you also known as Sookie?”
“Shall I leave you both alone?” Pam offered but I declined her offer, I wanted the moral support if nothing else. I also knew she could keep a secret better than any priest, and whatever was said would go no further, she knew all my secrets as it stood anyway.
“The Sookie I’ve been looking for, for some time now? At Mr Northman’s request…” He sighed. “I found something of yours at a crime scene Ma’am.”
“Oh?” I asked.
“These documents, papers… identifications?”
He held in his hand my birth certificate, and my travelling papers and other things, things I had left behind when I had fled from Bill the first time.
“Ma’am your husband, William Compton… is dead.”
“Though I imagine this doesn’t come as a shock to you… Were you aware of his –“
“Mr Compton and I had a very strained history Mr Belle-“
“Call me Andy, Please.”
“Andy. He and I had been… separated for over a year when he … when he –“
“When he took her against her will from her place of employment, in Scotland,” Pam interjected and Andy nodded.
“I had pieced together as much from what Eric had told me, and then finding this. Susannah, can I ask where you were on the morning of the twelfth of November this year?”
“I can tell you where she was, Sir.” Pam offered and he then looked to her.
“She was here, beaten within an inch of her life, struggling to even breathe.”
At her confession it suddenly became hard to breathe again, I inhaled slowly as to stop myself from panicking.
“Is that true, Mrs Comp-“
“Sookie, Please.” I offered, “And yes it is true. I escaped from my ex-husbands… custody and made my way here.” I held up my hand as to show him my bandages that were freshly replaced this morning; my rips too were freshly wrapped. “I can show you more of my injuries if it would satisfy your curiosity, Sir, but I do so hope you do not put me through the humiliation of such a thing.”
He pursed his lips together, and nodded.
“No, Sookie, I can see from that…and the bruises you are attempting to hide on your face –“
I touched my face then, the cosmetics Pam had let me borrow clearly weren’t thick enough.
“There are witnesses?” He asked.
“Yes, myself, my maid, and Eric himself though he has gone back to Scotland now to see about a man’s health.” Pam answered for me. “Oh, and my doctor that came to attend to Sookie’s needs.”
“And they were all here, at the time she came and afterward, yes?”
Pam and I looked at each other, and she nodded to him then.
“Yes, we were all too concerned with her well-being to want to leave her anyway, but yes we were all here.”
He nodded again as he jotted things down in his little book that he had pulled out of his breast pocket. I was getting nervous and nauseated at the thought of Eric getting associated with this in anyway.
“Sir may I ask why you need to know that?”
“The circumstances in which your husband, excuse me, ex-husband died are not of the norm.”
I knew exactly how so, but I wasn’t about to incriminate myself, not for Bill Compton.
“He was found in abandoned housing, there had been a fire.”
“What’s so out of the norm about that?” Pam asked, crossing her legs.
“Well Ma’am, the doctors have ran tests of his… remains and it turns out he was dead before the fire took place.”
“I see…” I began. “Do you think that I had something to –“
“Ma’am with all due respect, from what I can tell with what’s left of him… the size of him compared to the size of you… and the fact that there are witnesses that say you were here – If I question them is that what they’ll say?” He aimed at Pam then.
“Of course, telephone Mr Northman if you wish, I’ll fetch my maid…”
“No… No… that won’t be… Sookie I haven’t shown those documents to anyone on my team …yet.”
That surprised me.
“Because… Eric had hired me off the books to find you, or help find you at least. I just regret that I was not the one that did so, before you went through such pains.”
“And is that why you’re here now?”
“It is, in a way… I know I should turn this in to the team investigating the suspicious death of this man, but at the same time… I think you’d rather stay out of any involvement in this, am I right?”
“Bill Compton ruined my life for a long time, Sir. You are correct in assuming that I do not wish for that to continue even in the wake of his death.”
“I trust Eric, or at least… I did. I just… Sookie this can go one of two ways. I can disregard protocol and hand over your items now, walk out and Bill’s death is ruled an accident. Or I keep these, the information that I know of your time there, and take you in for questioning.”
“Something tells me you have made your choice already, otherwise you wouldn’t have told me of your choices.”
“I’m risking a lot by doing this…for you… for Eric.”
“I assume he paid you handsomely for working off the books though, didn’t he Andy?” Pam asked and it was something that hadn’t even occurred to me.
He said nothing. Instead he just handed me the documents.
“They were inside a tin, inside another tin, we also found drugs and needles. Call on this is that he took a drug… possibly an over dose of it and the fire started from the stove. The small stove in the room, do you remember that?”
“It began from there, or so they’re saying.”
“So are you going to rule this an accident and forget you know about what you handed Sookie?” Pam asked again having more courage to speak up than I did in that moment.
“As you say Ma’am, Mr Northman did pay me handsomely to make this go away. I’m making this go away.”
Pam smiled and stood up.
“Excellent, good choice there, Andy, good choice,” With that she started to lead him out of the room. I stood.
I looked to my documents, my real name – my family’s name – my world.
“Thank you, for this. Truly, it means the world to me.”
With that he formed a slight smile on his face, a face that I was sure saw little in the way of smiles.
“You’re welcome, Sookie. I shall be in touch with Mr Northman. I bid you Ladies good day.”
After he left Pam broke out her emergency whiskey, and we got very, very drunk.
Upon returning to the Estate, I found a number of things that disturbed me. One was how gravely ill Niall now looked, he had gone from having some colour in his skin, to an ashy grey in its place, his eyes too looked like those of a man long since past and not of the man I knew. The other was the servants and how they reacted around me, strange but more so strange than usual. There was constant whisperings, and Amelia always looked like she wanted to ask me something and yet never worked up the courage to do so. The doctors had departed, their stay now over, they were to be replaced by a new team that would arrive soon to take over the duties of monitoring Niall from his own fire side, rather than in a hospital like a normal person. No, far be it for Niall to make things easy on anyone, I thought. After Sookie’s phone call, telling me of what had transpired between her and Andy, and the documents that she received, it made my mind up for me once and for all. While Niall and I had discussed at length Sookie coming back here, with me, as mine, to be my wife, I had discussed it with no one else. That day changed things for me, and as I made my way below stairs a little while before luncheon was due to start I found myself a little nervous. When I entered they all stood up, shocked to see me there evident by their faces.
“Mr Northman, is there something the matter?” Mrs Fortenberry exclaimed rising from her seat faster than a hare on the run.
“No, no… Please. Everyone take your seats again, please.”
They did, one by one, all but Mrs Fortenberry, Bobby, and Mr Dearborn. Amelia looked pleased if curious, and Dawn, well, Dawn’s face never changed much. The others, the cooks and kitchen staff, I wasn’t too familiar with.
“I wanted to… speak to you all on a few matters, without annoying his Lordship I mean.”
“Of course, Sir, feel free to speak as freely as you must.” Mrs Fortenberry added, standing by her chair.
“I’m sure there has been a lot of talk as to why I took leave to London, I am also sure there has been a lot of talk as to what has happened to Sookie –“
“We were told she was found safe, is that not true, Sir?” Amelia asked, earning her the stink eye from Maxine. I knew she was curious.
“She was found, well, rather she found us. Sookie was taken, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, what I’m not sure you’ve gathered is by whom.”
They all watched me as I debated on whether or not to continue. I decided I had to. If she was to walk into this house as my wife one day, they needed to know some things.
“Sookie was taken by her ex-husband, she was kept hostage with him for days on end, and she was… mistreated by him. Mistreated in ways I do not wish to repeat, and yet somehow she survived, she found her way to Miss Pamela’s home, and from there we were able to get her the care she needed.”
“But she told us she was a bloody widow; I knew she was a lying little pretender the moment I laid my eyes on her.” Dawn broke her silence; Maxine’s eyes went the size of saucepans as she hushed her.
“She did deem to be a widow, did you know of –“ Maxine began but I needed to say my piece.
“Yes I knew, I also knew she was separated from him for some time, due to his ill treatment of her. Now I know that some of you may not be fond of Sookie for whatever reasons you may have.” I aimed at Dawn. “But she worked hard here, and she deserves our respect, does she not?”
Mr Dearborn spoke up then.
“Aye she does. Good hard working Lass like that. I am sorry to hear her situation was so unseemly. No woman deserves that.”
“I agree Mr Dearborn, thank you.”
I took a deep breath and went for it. I could live with their disapproval, it didn’t mean that Sookie had to.
“Another matter I wished to discuss, though I probably should not… is the rumours surrounding the relationship I have had with Sookie.”
Maxine pursed her lips slightly, looking to Mr Dearborn.
“Sir? I don’t understand why this is –“
“It’s necessary because I want to stop the rumours, and the whispers and whatever else might be going on down here, about her. She doesn’t deserve it.”
Dawn laughed, but chastised herself by looking to the table.
“The long and short of things is this. I love her, I have loved her for some time now, and once things are settled we plan on marrying.”
There was a rustle at the table, a short intake of breath and a stumble from Maxine.
“Sir?” she asked, “Marry… Sookie?”
“Yes Maxine, marry her.”
Dawn’s face was like thunder, I didn’t like it one bit.
“I don’t understand, what about this husband?” Dawn asked, her rage evident in her voice.
“He’s no longer a factor.”
“So you’re marrying a divorcée? How nice.” She bit.
“I am marrying a widow.”
Maxine blinked then, rapidly.
“He’s dead, now, for sure this time.” I said realising how ridiculous it sounded.
“How?” She asked.
“When Sookie escaped, he became careless… a fire broke out hours after she made it to Miss Pamela’s where she was treated by her doctor for the injuries he inflicted upon her, and he passed.”
Maxine blessed herself.
“I am sorry to dump such horrific news on you all, but I felt you needed to know at least some of the story before she returns here…and she will, soon I hope.”
“As your wife,” Dawn clarified, sarcasm dripping from her words.
“Yes, perhaps before we are wed, but soon as my wife, yes.”
“And she is to be … Lady of this Estate, Sir?” Maxine asked, sheer and utter disbelief in her voice.
“Yes Maxine if I am to be Lord, as Niall wishes, then she has of course be my Lady.”
“But Sir, forgive me but titles… they are passed to –“
“People of well to do rank?” I finished for her, hating myself for even uttering the stupid words.
“Well, to be blunt, yes.”
“Susannah Compton was her married name, before that her own family name bares some standing in the upper class community, that won’t be an issue.”
“So she even made up her name?” Dawn asked.
“No. Sookie was name her grandmother used for her, so it is still hers to use… just not her birth name. And Stackhouse was her grandmother’s maiden name, anything else you’d like to nit-pick Dawn? While I’m here I mean, while you’re still here.” I jibbed making her sit back in her seat; the others looked on, shocked. Clearly she hadn’t told them she’d been told of her notice.
“I think this will take a little getting used to, Sir, if you don’t mind me saying so.” Mr Dearborn spoke up, and I glanced at Amelia, she was the only one with a smile on her face. That in itself gave me hope.
“Of course, I just ask that when she does return the respect she is due is shown to her, and that is all I ask.” I nodded to them all in acknowledgement.
“I’ll bid you all good day, thank you for listening.” I added before making my way back upstairs. I didn’t exhale a breath until I had reached the top of the seemingly never ending staircase. It was I thought, the first of many steps in getting Sookie accepted here as my wife, whether or not it worked, only time would tell.
A/N: Happy Weekend everyone. I hope everyone on the East Coast of the states are doing well in the wake of Sandy and her whorish ways! Have a great weekend and hit the little review button if you are so inclined!