Chapter 20 – Nurse Northman
December 29, 2003
Sookie moved to get out of the bed and her head was swimming. She persisted since she needed to use the bathroom, but when she tried to stand, she fell back onto the bed. She had no idea what was wrong, but she knew she needed the bathroom. “Potts!”
She waited hoping she was in the house. Nothing. “POTTS!” She realized that shouting hurt, badly. She gave up and crawled to the bathroom, took care of business, with difficulty and crawled back to bed. A few hours later, she woke to Potts’ knocking on the door. “Come in.” She said weakly.
“Sookie. I’m just checking on….Oh my god. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. I feel like I was hit by a truck.”
“Can I get you anything?”
“Ginger ale? Water?”
“Coming right up.” By the time she got back up to the bedroom, Sookie was asleep again. She left the beverages on her nightstand, and left.
When Eric left his daychamber looking for Sookie, he found a very concerned Potts in the kitchen. “What’s wrong?”
“She never left the room all day. She’s sick. I don’t think she had anything to drink all day.”
“Is she in danger?”
Before Potts could answer, his phone rang: it was Ginger. “Master, apparently the staff that called out sick last night were contagious and now all the human staff at Fangtasia is sick. I’m calling from home, and just about everyone else has called out sick tonight.”
“I’ll have Pam go over and post a closed sign. What’s wrong with everyone?”
“Some are saying flu, everyone has the same symptoms, but they vary in severity.”
“What are the symptoms?”
“Fever, aches, vomiting, dizziness.”
“Very well, call me with updates.” With that, he ended the call.
He reported the information to Potts and added that Sookie was likely contagious. “I know the daybed is small out there, but you should to move to her cottage.”
“Who is going to care for Sookie?”
“I can’t get sick, I’ll stay with her.”
“But at dawn.”
“We will be fine. Go, so I don’t have two of you sick at once.”
Potts reluctantly agreed and went up to pack a bag. “There is some food in the kitchen, but Bobby will need to shop. I’ll make a list and email it to him. I’ll have him shop tonight so he can drop it off while you’re here. I’ll take Tina with me so you don’t have to worry about her.”
After calling Pam about Fangtasia, he ran upstairs to check on Sookie and found she was trying to get up. “Sookie, let me help you.”
“I don’t know what my problem is. I can’t wake up, I’m dizzy.”
“You caught something at Fangtasia. I just got a call, all the human staff is sick.”
“What are you going to do? Do you have any vampire staff that can fill it?”
“I’m going to stay home and take care of you. Pam is going to close Fangtasia until further notice.”
“Oh, OK. Can you help me into the bathroom?”
“Are you comfortable with that?”
“I had to crawl in earlier today; I’m beyond being embarrassed at this point.”
Eric hated that she was sick, but he couldn’t help be thrilled that she needed him. He vowed to be the best nurse he could be until she was well. “You’ve got a nightshirt on, maybe you can just take your panties off and it will make it easier once we are in there.”
“Ok.” He turned while she took care of that and told him she was ready. He carried and placed her in position then left her. Sookie was grateful he left while she took care of her human needs and that he had the idea to help make it easier. When she was done, she said she was ready and when he came into the bathroom she asked him to help her stand at the sink so she could wash and brush her teeth. “Take me back to bed, I need to lie down.”
“Do you want anything to eat or drink?”
“No. Can you put in a movie?”
“Sure, what do you want; I’ll get some from downstairs.”
“Just get a selection.”
He was back quickly and started a movie. When she noticed he was just standing there she asked, “You can’t get sick right?”
“So, do you need to do something? I kinda thought you were going to stay with me. Are you going to get in bed with me?”
He smiled. “I’ve waited a long time for you to ask that, I just never envisioned it would be under these circumstances.” He smiled at her and climbed into bed. When she fell asleep again about 20 minutes later he grew concerned. ‘I don’t know anything about human illnesses. What if this is serious? She hasn’t eaten since a yogurt at about 2AM. I’m pretty sure it’s even worse that she hasn’t had any liquids. I’m calling Gran.’
“Adele, it’s Eric.”
“Oh, hello Eric, how are you? How is Sookie?”
“Sookie is why I am calling you, she is very sick.” He proceeded to relay what symptoms he knew about, the situation at Fangtasia and his concerns.
“Eric, rest is fine, don’t worry that she is sleeping too much. When she does wake up again, get her to drink something. That is very important. When she feels up to it, give her the BRAT diet: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast, that’s best for an upset stomach. Oh and sports drinks, chicken noodle soup and yogurt when she can tolerate them, that is.”
“Ibuprofen for the fever. How high is her temperature?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’ll need to get Bobby on some errands then. Tell him to get a digital thermometer, they’re easier to read. Have him get liquid Ibuprofen and pills. I’ll leave you to calling Bobby. Can you call me and tell me how she’s doing?’
“Yes, thank you Adele.” He hung up and dialed Bobby.
“Yes Master, Potts already called me.”
“Good, I just want to make sure you’re getting Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, that chicken noodle soup from the gourmet food store you’ve gotten before, sports drinks yogurts and a digital thermometer.”
“I only had some of those items on my list. I’ve already left the store. I’ll get the rest tomorrow.”
“YOU WILL GO BACK AND GET EVERYTHING NOW!”
“Master, forgive me, but it’s just a cold. I’m afraid she’s making you concerned when it isn’t warranted. I’m just trying to help you understand.”
He was so mad now he grimaced out the next sentences. “Let me help you understand. If you don’t have those items here tonight, I will personally see to your torture in the basement of Fangtasia. You’ve purchased some of the supplies and tools for that room, haven’t you? Can you imagine what I can do with all those?”
“Ye … Yes Master. Right away Master.”
Shortly after Bobby dropped off his deliveries, Sookie started to stir. And so the nursing started. For the next few hours, Eric stayed with Sookie, feeding her sips of liquid and Ibuprofen when she did wake, holding her hair and cleaning up her vomit. He couldn’t understand how someone who had eaten nothing could still vomit that much. He called Adele at about 10PM to report Sookie’s temperature was 104 and she suggested cooling her down.
“A tepid bath would work, cool compresses, anything slightly cooler than she is – but not ice or alcohol. You want to do it gradually and without alcohol poisoning. Have Bobby get one of those thermometers for the bathtub, they sell them with baby goods. Has she taken any liquid?”
“Just sips.” He paused before he continued. “You know Adele, vampires have no body temperature.”
“Are you asking permission to snuggle with my baby girl?” She chuckled.
“No, well yes, I mean I was asking if you thought it would help.”
“Maybe combined with some cold compresses. She really only took a few sips?”
“Yes, that’s the most I could get in her, then she would put her head back on the pillow and fall asleep again.”
Adele remained silent for a few minutes, long enough for Eric to worry. “Adele, your silence is scaring me.”
“It must be one hell of a bug; Sookie really never gets sick at all.”
“I’m calling the doctor.”
“Call me back, please.”
He called Ludwig. “Northman, is she really sick or are you just worried that she cried today?”
He went on to describe Sookie’s symptoms then explained what he’d been doing so far. “Her Gran was very concerned, I’m thinking of giving her blood.”
“NO don’t do that! Your blood can cause cells to grow – it could just expand the virus.”
“I didn’t think of that.”
“What you’ve been doing is the right stuff, except now adding something to get the temperature down. You could put her in a tepid bath if the compresses don’t work – not cold, you could put her into shock.”
“What are you going to do during the day?
“She will stay in my daychamber with me.”
“I take it I can’t convince you to take her to the hospital?”
“Don’t suggest that again. I will care for her myself. Before dawn, I will bring her to my chamber; I can force myself to stay awake for a while, and can rise as early as about 3:30 – 4. Should I try to keep her awake as dawn approaches so she sleeps most of that time?”
She shook his head at his stubbornness. “That could work. Will you wake if she is in bad pain or something? How strong is your bond?”
“She’s woken me from crying jags.”
“Ok, she could probably rouse you then if she’s feeling worse. Call me if the fever goes any higher, or just take her to the hospital. Make sure she has a full dose of Ibuprofen before you die, then call me when you rise.”
“Thank you Ludwig.”
Ludwig ended the call and laughed out loud. Sure, she was concerned about Sookie, but she would see her tomorrow night if she got worse. She laughed because she could hear the absolute panic in Eric’s voice. She laughed because he called Sookie’s Gran for help, he was cleaning up after her, and he said thank you. She laughed because badass Eric Northman was obviously in love.
After he called Bobby for the bath thermometer, Eric updated Sookie’s Gran then returned to Sookie with some washcloths and a bowl for water. He worked to get her temperature down with cold compresses and holding her close. Sookie mumbled in her fevered haze and what he heard concerned him. Crying and begging to this Uncle Bartlett and her Mama. She repeated phrases like ‘don’t Uncle Bartlett’ and ‘Mama, I promise to be good, I won’t say things anymore’. He was sure these were memories, not something she was making up from her fever and he grew angry as his thoughts on the causes ran rampant. Still, he didn’t try to pry anything from her as she was talking. Instead he shushed her and calmed her through the episodes, while he changed out the wash cloths continually for cooler ones.
After two hours her temperature was below 100 and he finally relaxed a little. He wondered if vampires could get headaches from stress. His phone rang: Pam.
“What have you been doing? I didn’t even dare call while you were raging with anger, worry and panic. This is the first time in hours that you’ve calmed.”
“Sookie has been very ill.”
Ignoring the opportunity to tease her maker with his emotions, Pam panicked all on her own. “You didn’t tell me she was sick when you called earlier! Does she have the same thing as the rest of the Fangtasia staff?”
“Do you need help?”
“I think things are calmer now, her temperature finally dropped. I have to go; I need to get my resting area prepared.”
“She…she’s spending the day with you? Is that safe?”
“She can’t hurt me Pam; she wouldn’t even if she could.”
“Not safe for you, I mean her. I know she would never hurt you.”
“I won’t leave her to another’s care. I spoke to Ludwig, I have a plan.”
“Very well, call me before you die.”
He quickly packed food and drinks from the kitchen, as well as the toaster for his chamber. To ensure her comfort, he prepped a movie in his DVD player, added the remote and a few books on her nightstand (noting that he called it hers) placed a lined trashcan on the floor right next to the bed (since he was not sure how sick she would be during the day) and filled his small refrigerator with Sookie food. He continued to run back and forth between his chamber and Sookie’s room to ensure she was ok.
He watched her sleep for a while longer then decided to move her to his chamber. She woke as he was placing her in his bed.
Sookie opened her eyes and saw Eric staring down at her. “How are you?” He asked.
A glass with a straw was presented to her lips immediately and he was pleased when she took more than a few sips. “Do you want something to eat?” She shook her head. “Another movie?”
“I don’t even remember what we were watching before.”
“Finding Nemo, and you fell asleep before we even met Dory.”
“What I really want is a shower.”
“You can’t stand yet. I can help you get into a bath if you want, but I won’t leave you alone for now.”
She thought about it for a moment. “I think it will make me feel better, I’ll just be embarrassed tomorrow.”
“A bath will work well; I want you to stay up from now until I die, then you will hopefully be asleep until I rise.” He moved to fill his tub.
“Don’t say that you die, please. And I’m staying HERE while you rest?”
“Yes, I will resist the call to REST (he said with emphasis at her request) for as long as possible and can rise as early as 3:30 in the winter.” He thought of something. “Do you want me to grab a swimsuit? You can wear that in the bath.”
“You’d need to help me put it on so my quest for modesty would be over then anyway.”
“The tub is ready.”
“Let’s get this over with.”
He used a clip to put up her hair while chuckling. “You know, I’ve dreamed of you in my tub, and you saying ‘let’s get this over with’ was never part of the dream.”
“I’m sorry I’m so much trouble.”
“You’re not trouble. I’m not happy you are sick, but I AM happy to show you I can be a worthy mate.”
She smiled shyly as he removed her nightshirt and walked her to the bathroom. There was nothing sexual about it, he made no comments or faces and Sookie was grateful. When he lowered her into the tub, she squealed since it felt cold. “It took a while for me to get your temperature down, I’m not taking any chances now; it’s not really cold, just a bit warmer than tepid.”
“Even my skin hurts,” Sookie commented as she ran the washcloth over herself. “I’ve never felt this sick before.”
“Your Gran said the same thing.”
She spent a few minutes washing. “I’m ready to get out.”
He returned from the bedroom where he had spread a large bath towel out for her. As soon as he lifted her from the tub, she started to shiver so he dried her at vampire speed. A clean nightgown was on and she was tucked under the blankets before she knew it. He was situating himself on his side of the bed when she asked him about the dawn. “Are you really going to fight the dawn?”
“I can normally stay up for about another hour after sunrise anyway; it’s after that hour that I’ll need to fight it as long as I can.”
“Eric, I have another question.”
“Why do you have a rubber ducky in your tub?”
“It’s a thermometer for the water. I had Bobby get it so I could be sure I was making a tepid bath.”
“Good, cause I was really worried there for a minute.” He laughed and snuggled in with her under the covers.
Eric spent his last hours before dawn catering to Sookie’s needs. They watched some television, he convinced her to drink more sports drink, and he helped her with her human needs one last time before he would start weakening from his need to rest. By this time, Sookie could also barely keep her eyes open, so as soon as he made his promised calls to Ludwig and Pam’s voicemail, they both succumbed.
Sookie woke in the late afternoon feeling a bit better, but certainly not well. As it was late afternoon, she decided to stay in bed waiting for Eric to rise. The book she removed from the nightstand didn’t hold her interest so she returned it and grabbed her phone. Having heard Eric call Gran the night before, she called her with an update. At the time Eric called Gran she was kind of out of it, so she didn’t hear the conversations fully. She was shocked when Gran explained how concerned Eric was and that he had called her three times! Not just the one she heard earliest in the evening. Gran also explained that Eric called Dr. Ludwig as well. “You should expect a visit from Ludwig just after dark Sookie. She actually called me today to get some history from me and mentioned she would be stopping by.”
“Ok Gran, I’m still pretty tired so I’m going to hang up now. One of us will call you after the doctor leaves.”
After hanging up, she spent some time thinking about the past 24 hours. She didn’t remember much but what she did recall was Eric’s concern for her. Every time she needed anything, he was right there. He even held her hair while she repeatedly lost the contents of her stomach, which must have been difficult for him considering the acute sense of smell vampires had. Nobody but Gran had ever been so caring and she found her heart warming even more towards the vampire resting next to her. He was on his back, Sookie having fallen asleep while lying with her head on his chest. He’d wanted to spoon but was concerned she would be too weak to move from his arms if she needed to. She moved back into position after replacing the phone onto the nightstand and started stroking through his long mane.
Eric rose with Sookie still on his chest and her hand in his hair. He couldn’t figure out if she had gotten up or not. Waking her was a necessity, since he needed to check her temperature and hopefully get some food in her. He reached his hand to her back and softly stroked her. “Sookie, you need to get up.” He repeated his words a few times until she finally opened her eyes and gave him a small smile. “Did you wake up at all today?”
“Only for about 20 minutes a short while ago. I called Gran, then resettled on top of you and fell asleep again.”
“Well, I need to take your temperature then we need to get some food in you.”
“Nurse Northman is in da house.”
He smiled wide that she was feeling better. “Nurse Northman will get you if you don’t follow instructions you know.”
After the sun had set, they were upstairs in the den, Sookie having eaten some toast and applesauce and Dr. Ludwig was just arriving.
“Well little girl, you gave your vampire quite a scare last night.”
“I don’t remember much.”
“I would guess not.” She turned to Eric. “Did she have a fever when you rose tonight?”
“Not as high, only 101.”
“Ok, that’s better. You need to keep the same protocols in place until we see it staying lower. I don’t want to see it going over 103 for an extended period again. I’m going to take some blood to see if I can match this flu strain. Your Gran told me you don’t really get sick, so I want to see what was strong enough to knock you down.”
“Ok. Am I still contagious? Potts is staying in the cottage.”
“Best to give it one more day.”
Ludwig finished her examination quickly and Sookie was asleep before she even left the house.
Sookie woke again a few hours later, she looked up and caught Eric’s gaze. “Hey.” She stretched a bit. “What time is it?”
“Almost 10PM.” Unconsciously, he scooted closer, picked up her feet and started rubbing. “How about some scrambled eggs?”
Sookie stared at him for a while before she asked about his comment. “Do you even know what a scrambled egg is?”
“Ludwig thought they might be good if you feel like eating, so I called Gran and she talked me through it.”
“YOU made eggs?”
“You wound me Sookie.” He tried to keep a hurt look on his face until he broke a smile. “I went through a dozen eggs trying. Bobby had to run out for more.”
The whole conversation gave her pause. “Where is the vampire that tried to take my scalp off when I talked about Lala?”
Stunned, Eric was stunned that she mentioned the incident, something he wished they could put behind them, but that she had mentioned it in jest. Still, he felt he needed to apologize. “Sookie, I know I’ve said it before, but I’m sorry. I was upset..”
“Eric, I didn’t bring that up for an apology. I was just noting that to me, you are completely different.” She smiled and looked up. “And I mean that is a good way. I like this Eric.”
“So, do you want to try my eggs?”
While she ate and praised his cooking, Eric explained that he had done some internet searches for a few signs.
“Is there where I brace myself, are you going to teach me how to sign nipples?”
“I CAN teach you that, but I found a sign that I think will work. It’s not perfect, but I needed to find a sign that we could both do subtly and it would have some meaning for us.”
“Ok, whatcha come up with?”
“Wish. Just the one word, wish, meaning you and I wish we weren’t in front of vampires or in some other situation where I have to be Sheriff Eric.”
“Ok, show it.” He took his right hand and placed it just above his heart, fingers slightly bent into his chest. He moved it down about 5 inches, ending over his stomach. She tried it. “That’s easy enough to do. I hope I don’t flake out on you the next time something like this happens.”
“We could do something else about this too.” In for a penny, he thought.
“Like move to a remote island without vampire politics?”
“Ok, you call Adele, I’ll pack.” When she just stared at him, he proceeded as planned. “Yeah, I thought so.” She stuck her tongue out and he returned the sentiment. “Back to the serious discussion. We could Blood Bond.”
“What does that mean, how do you do that?”
“It means several things, mostly; you would be mine, permanently.”
“Not exactly, human marriage is insignificant in comparison. A human marriage can be ended. A bond cannot.”
“How does it help?”
“A blood bond is where I can send you emotions; you remember we talked about that?”
“Oh yeah.” She was quiet for a moment and he gave her time to think. “Eric, you would choose to blood bond with me, for, well forever?”
“I’m not ready for something like that, I’m not even sure I’m ready to hear the reasons why you would willingly do that. Can I use my flu as a pass to continue this some other time?”
“Yes. Just know there is another option and we can discuss it when you are ready. I’ll only bring it back up again if I feel you are not dealing well with some situations or I feel it’s needed for safety.”
They settled into the couch together, Eric unconsciously rubbing Sookie’s legs as they read for an hour or so. When Sookie finished a chapter, she stood and announced that she wanted a shower.
“Ok, I’ll help you get set up, but will just stay in your bedroom for safety.”
“That’ll work, I’m feeling strong enough to take care of myself.”
“You ARE much better.”
“You were really worried, weren’t you?”
He hadn’t expected that question at all, but he was going to answer honestly. “Yes Sookie, I wasn’t just worried, I was scared for you.”
“Thank you, not just for worrying, but for being such a good nurse.”
“You’re welcome, but I’m not done. You’re staying one more day in my chamber with me.”
“ERIC, I feel much better!”
“Yes, and that’s precisely when you might push it and get worse again. Ludwig warned me that happens. This way you will be limited to how much you can do. You need to take it easy …. just rest until you are better.”
Her mouth opened a closed a few times but nothing came out. She finally turned and said, “I’m ready for my shower, let’s go.”
The shower was heavenly. Sookie got to shampoo her hair while in warm, not tepid water, and she luxuriated in it, even though she ended it quickly. She’d started to get dizzy from standing so long. When she stepped out of her bathroom, she could hear Eric on the phone with Pam; the topic was Fangtasia. Apparently, many of the staff were sure they could work on the 31st for the big New Year’s Eve party. The discussion was them wondering if they could still hold the party while missing 1/3 of the waitresses and a bartender. Longshadow would be swamped.
“I can tend bar.” Sookie offered. “I was learning at Merlotte’s.”
“No.” Eric’s reply was swift and meant to close the subject. Yet, it didn’t close the subject since Sookie continued.
“Eric, you need to hold this party, the staff are likely hoping for good tips, your clientele are looking forward to it.”
“We are holding the party, but you are not even going since you’ve been sick.”
“Your staff at Fangtasia have also been sick, they’re going.”
“Yes, but I don’t give a fuck about their health. The answer is NO.”
“You can’t decide when I feel well enough to do something Eric. Are you going to lock me in your chamber tomorrow?”
“Don’t give me any ideas.”
She gasped and pushed his chest. “Get out of my bedroom.”
“Pam, I’ll call you back.” He could hear Pam snickering as while he ended the call.
“You aren’t well enough to be left alone anywhere in the house right now.”
“I can call you from here if I need you.”
“God dammit Eric. Stop being a high handed prick.” She started to head out the door, stomping as much as she could.
‘I haven’t seen this Sookie in a while. I like a bit of feistiness, but she’s just being unreasonable.’ He closed his eyes to gather himself, shaking his head at her stubbornness. Still, he chased after his ‘girlfriend’ in his own house. “Sookie, stop.” He was too late. He heard the tumble and flew down the stairs, but she had already fallen and was crying. “What did you hurt?” He asked as he reached for her.
She batted his hands away. “Leave me alone.”
“No. How far did you fall?” She turned her head to ignore him, but continued crying. “Sookie, we can talk about Fangtasia later, but I really need to know if you’re OK right now.”
“I’m gonna hurt tomorrow, but I’m fine.” She added under her breath, “embarrassed as hell though.”
Once he had her on the couch, he asked what happened. She sheepishly explained that she got dizzy from standing too long and she lost her balance on the stairs. He wanted to gloat that he was right about her not being well enough, but he refrained. Instead she shocked him and said, “You were right, I probably won’t be well enough to spend that many hours at Fangtasia even as a guest, and certainly not as a bartender.” She clung to him. “But at home, can we talk it through at least instead of you just dictating?”
“I’ll try, but even at home, some things are going to be non negotiable.”
“Then tell me that and then we can talk out the others.”
“This is what couples do, right? They talk things through?”
“Yes.” She smiled at him then rubbed her cheek against his. “This is what couples do.”
“Have you really never dated, been part of a couple?”
“I dated a boy in high school. We only went out for a few weeks. Nothing physical occurred, well a few kisses, that’s all.”
“You were saving yourself for me.”
“Don’t get all cocky and ruin the moment.”
“Too late, I’m definitely all cocky.” He rubbed against her to be sure she knew he was speaking the truth.
“Too bad for you. My nurse has ordered me to take it easy and rest.”
“You lie back, I’ll take care of everything, it’ll be easy and you can rest.”
“I’m going to watch a movie. You, you’re just bad.”
“You have no idea.”