Chapter 23 – Healing Hands
Sookie woke up to the sound of harsh whisperings.
“Mildred, what are you doing in here? We have orders from Ludwig to not disturb her tonight.”
“Listen to me, Patsy, I am the head nurse and no doctor will tell me how to run my floor.”
“Mildred, you’re making a mistake; leave her alone. She is a high profile patient; you don’t want anyone complaining about her treatment.”
“That high profile slut brought this on herself. From what I hear, she flirted with Bill for years when they lived down here. Now she’s got her actor boyfriend, she starts ignoring Bill who’s looked after her since her husband passed away. Damn hussy got what she deserved.”
Sookie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Was this woman for real? She gasped at the last statement from this Mildred. Mildred turned to her with a wicked smile, not caring that she was caught with her comments. Mildred spoke to Sookie, still whispering “Ms. Merlotte, you’re awake. Let’s get your vitals, shall we?”
“Oh Ms. Merlotte, you aren’t going to let me do my job?”
“Don’t make me wake him.”
Patsy knew an ‘awake’ Eric would be a problem so she yanked at Mildred to get her out of the room. Sookie could hear them arguing in the hall, but she didn’t care. Trying to sleep seemed fruitless as memories of the past few days plagued her, so she was surprised when she woke up to the beginnings of daylight coming in the window. Eric was awake, just holding her hand and watching her expectantly.
“Good morning.” she said.
“Good morning to you. How are you feeling?”
“Actually, I need to pee. Can you help me?”
Eric’s response was a concerned look so she continued. “I know it’s going to hurt, but I have to go.”
“I can call a nurse for a bedpan.”
“DON”T YOU DARE! I haven’t had a toilet for a few days; I want to feel normal, well as much as I can. Sorry hon, it’s not romantic but I need your help.”
Eric agreed and helped her turn over so he could pick her up. He helped her with her business and was just returning her to bed when Mildred made an appearance.
“What do you think you’re doing with her?”
“He helped me use the bathroom.”
“I’ll have Mr. Northman removed; he is preventing the nursing staff from doing their jobs.”
Eric gently placed Sookie back in the bed on her stomach. He then grabbed Mildred’s arm and removed her from the room. Turning to the private guard he had on duty, he said, “She is not permitted in the room. Other nurses can come in as needed.”
Mildred threatened to call the hospital administration and Eric simply said, “Go ahead. Sookie has been through enough the past few days. I won’t have a nurse bully her while she is recovering. Now, get out my sight.”
When he returned to the room, he started applying the salve to Sookie’s back. She still winced at his touch, but at least this time they both knew it was worth it.
While he treated her back, they discussed Sookie’s desire to be home. Sookie also informed him of Mildred’s visit during the night. “I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep after I woke up, but that sleeping juice in my IV must have knocked me back out. I don’t care for her. I just want to get out of here and try to heal at home.”
“I agree Sookie. I’ll ensure you have all the assistance you need at home. Will you be OK with Jesus helping you move around until you’re better?”
Sookie looked up at Eric questioningly.
“Just for the times I’m not around my Love. I won’t be leaving you for long.”
“Yes, I trust Jesus.”
Once Sookie’s back was numb from the salve, he closed the gown and helped her turn around at Sookie’s request. “I’m tired of being on my stomach for now. I want to take advantage of the numbness.”
“Ok my Love. It’ll be easier for you to eat this way.”
“Eat? Yes. I guess I can eat something light.”
“Sookie, you want to go home, but I know you won’t be released until you start eating. What can I get you that you will eat?”
As if on cue, Patsy came into the room with Dr. Ludwig and a breakfast tray. Sookie scowled when she saw the food: overcooked eggs, pale toast and some kind of fruit that had lived in a can for far too long. “I know you want me to eat, but that is not happening. Please take that tray away.”
“Sookie let me call Pam and have her stop for something. How about some yogurt?”
“Ok. So Dr. Ludwig, when I can leave?”
“Let me see you eat your yogurt and something for lunch. Normally I would keep you due to the travel required to get you home, but I understand Mr. Northman has been working on transportation that should work with your injuries. If you really want to get out of here, I can see no reason to keep you – AFTER YOU EAT.”
“Great. When can I shower?”
“Let me get a quick exam in while we wait for your yogurt. I’ll remove your IV after you’ve kept down your food; then you can take a supervised shower.”
Dr. Ludwig examined Sookie’s injuries quickly and made some notes. “I’ll have all your information ready for you before you leave and I’ll call your doctor at home. Your salve prescription has already been called into your local pharmacy.”
Pam, Russell, Jesus, Eleanor, and Maura ran into the room. Eric helped the girls onto the bed for gentle hugs, and they wound up lying there, one under each of Sookie’s arms.
Concerned that the girls could be hurting her, Eric asked, “Sookie, are your arms OK?”
“They are much better and I’ll be fine like this for a few moments. We all need it.” Eric nodded in understanding. Sookie turned to Dr. Ludwig. “At what time will you get back to discharge me today?”
She looked at Eric. “Is she always like this?”
“Good, that fire may get her over this quickly. I’ll be back at 1PM. You should be out of here by 2PM.”
“Eric, can you find flights?”
“All taken care of, Love. I booked a private plane so you can lay down for the flight. We also have a nurse traveling with us so you can have an IV with your sleeping juice.”
The look of relief on Sookie’s face was clear to everyone in the room. “Thank you. Wait, not Mildred, right?”
“No, not Mildred. We’ll both thank Alcide when we see him. Based on his texts, he’s been running ragged making the arrangements.”
Clearing her throat loudly, Dr. Ludwig got Sookie’s attention and reminded her it was time to eat her yogurt. Her arms were much better but not fully recovered so she needed help with the spoon. Sensing that Sookie was self conscious about her lack of eating ability, Eric made it a game for the girls to help her. That did the trick, she ate while they spoon fed her.
While Sookie ate, Dr. Ludwig asked about the Mildred comments. Eric explained her actions and she committed to reporting her to the hospital administration. Sookie looked at Eric curiously; then realized he was in protective mode. ‘He can’t get Bill, so anyone who hurts me is a target.’
Satisfied once Sookie finished a yogurt, Dr. Ludwig removed her IV then left saying she would be back at about 1PM to start the discharge.
While Sookie visited with the girls, Eric pulled Pam, Jesus and Russell aside to plan the morning. He had some business to complete before they could fly out and he needed help from all of them. “Russell, I have to do a press conference this morning. Can you join me?” Russell agreed. “Great, let’s get the girls dropped off at the inn, they can stay with Alcide.”
Pam cut in, “Hoyt can stay with them. He is already at the inn helping with the packing, and Alcide can concentrate on the final arrangements.”
“OK. Pam and Jesus, can you stay with Sookie or do you need to pack? She needs help with a shower and then will need her salve put on after.”
“I can stay. Alcide asked us to be ready to go at a moment’s notice last night. I’ve already packed for Sookie and you; I only need about 30 minutes to complete a run-through at the inn for anything else. I left a clean outfit out for you. We have everything from Jason’s thanks to Hoyt.”
At the sound of Jason’s name, Eric practically growled. Since he was already upset, Pam decided she might as well tell him something else Jason-related. “Eric, Jason wants to see Sookie.”
“Fuck Jason. His actions are a good part of the reason why she’s in this situation.”
“Eric, I agree but does Sookie have anything she wants to say?”
“I’ll ask her. Pam, Jesus, there is one more thing that I want to prep you for, let’s step into the hall.”
He went on to explain Sookie’s injuries so she would not be shocked when she first saw her in the shower. Pam swallowed hard at Eric’s description so he pulled her into a hug; something that calmed both of them. “Jesus, I would like you to be available to help Pam with Sookie if needed. Sookie and I already discussed the situation and we both trust you with helping her move around until she is better.”
“I’m honored by your trust and will care for Sookie as gently as possible.”
They returned to the room and signaled to Russell that it was time for him and the girls to leave. When the girls started getting upset at leaving, Eric quickly explained that Mama needed a few hours at the hospital and then they would all be flying home in the afternoon. Suddenly, Eleanor and Maura were excited to leave so they could get everything ready to go. They wanted Mama home.
The final task before Eric left the hospital was to discuss Jason’s request to see Sookie. To both Eric and Pam’s surprise Sookie said she would like to see Jason for about 15 minutes before they left. “He’s my brother; I’ll give him the opportunity to see that I survived and to apologize. I also want to give him some hell. That’s all, but I feel the time with him is needed.”
“Very well, Sookie. I’ll call Hoyt and arrange it for 1PM, before we leave.” Pam replied.
“My Love, I need to go. I wish I could stay, but I need to attend to a few things before we can leave today. I’m going to get you into the shower so Pam can start, and then Jesus can help you back into bed.”
Once seated in the shower, Eric gently hugged Sookie to say goodbye. She started crying. “I’m sorry Eric, I’m not trying to make you feel bad by crying, honest. I’ll be fine with Pam. Go, do your stuff.”
“I love you.”
“I love you to.”
After Eric left, Pam started the water to warm it then helped Sookie out of her gown. Even with Eric’s warning, she was shocked at the bruises and welts. The shower stall was made to provide assistance easily, so Pam was able to help Sookie from the side. “Pam, having my hair washed feels like heaven. Thank you so much.”
“My pleasure Sookie.”
Pam finished washing Sookie quickly, only pausing twice at Sookie’s winces before she told Pam to just keep going because being clean felt better than any of the pressure on the bruises hurt. Finally dry and in a new hospital gown, they called for Jesus and he carried her back into bed. Preparing herself mentally before she saw the welts again, Pam took a deep breath and then untied the gown to expose Sookie’s back for the salve. By the time she was done, Pam and Jesus had shed tears together at their friend’s torturous ordeal and Sookie was asleep.
Eric and Russell barely made the news conference on time. He had agreed to the conference to thank the local people for their help, and to get the identity and picture out of Sookie’s abductor. Bill Compton was still running free and Eric wanted blood. He hadn’t told Sookie about the news conference; there was no need. Sookie’s focus needed to be on healing. He did receive a few questions about her health and Dr. Ludwig answered with a brief statement that she was injured during her abduction and would make a full recovery. He and Russell met with Alcide after the conference. With Alcide’s help, they discovered several appropriate ways to thank the city of Bon Temps. The library was out of funds for books and staff to stay open; the school was lacking in computer equipment, and the police force was in need of bullet proof vests. Eric approved the funds for all the ideas and Alcide began the purchases and donations, working directly with the town mayor. From Eric’s perspective, this was a personal thank you from him, not a news conference event.
Having addressed all those concerns, Eric had one thing left: the capture of Bill Fucking Compton. Mustapha Kahn, the private investigator that assisted in finding Sookie, was hired to work on tracking down Bill. Having Bill’s conversation with Sookie recorded, Sookie’s testimony and other physical evidence, the only part of putting Bill away was his capture. Special Agent Lattesta met ‘off the record’ with the PI and Eric to discuss their work. Lattesta agreed to play Sookie’s recordings for the PI and Maxwell. He suggested that Eric leave the room since the information was upsetting. Eric refused. If he was going to help Sookie, he was convinced that he needed to know about her time with Bill. After they silently listened to the recording, they continued their discussion. The PI agreed to turn all information over directly to Lattesta since his role was to aid them, not impede them. When Bill was cornered, the PI would call Eric and discuss his need for personal involvement before the FBI was called. Agent Lattesta could not condone this part of the conversation. Having heard the recording though, he could not judge Eric’s desire for personal vengeance. The recording was horrific, hearing Bill talk about his plans for Sookie and the murders he committed was disturbing, but Eric hadn’t realized that Tara had also captured the sounds of Sookie being beaten. Eric wanted blood, and while Agent Lattesta could not approve, Tom Lattesta would offer to hold Bill down while Eric beat him.
Back at the hospital, Hoyt was visiting Sookie with his mother, Mrs. Fortenberry. Normally, Sookie would not be up for a visit from Mrs. Fortenberry, but today, she brought homemade chicken soup. It was exactly what she felt like eating and she gushed over the smell.
“Pam, you must try some, Mrs. Fortenberry uses the same recipe as my Gran’s. Mrs. Fortenberry I can’t thank you enough for this. It’s just what the doctor ordered.”
“That’s why I made it. Hoyt here always felt right as rain after a bowl.”
“Pam, can you help me?” Sookie asked as she pointed to her bowl. “Hoyt, where are the girls?”
“They stayed with Alcide to make sure everything got done for the plane. They didn’t want any delays.” Sookie nodded.
Pam started feeding Sookie the soup and Mrs. Fortenberry exclaimed “Well bless your heart Sookie. What happened to your arms?”
“Ma, I told ya on the way over, Sookie ain’t gonna to talk about her injuries.”
“Hush Hoyt, this is just girl talk.”
“It’s fine Hoyt. Bill had my arms bound Mrs. Fortenberry. They are much better but I can’t use a spoon yet.”
“Well, you’re a strong one, you’ll be fine.”
Midway through her bowl, Eric returned with Dr. Ludwig. Sookie was eating, her hair had been washed and braided; in general she appeared much better. A smile grew on Eric’s face. “You ready to get out of here?”
“You bet. What do you say Dr. Ludwig?”
“Oh, you aren’t pinning me down to an answer before I get a chance to check you out. Why don’t you finish your soup while I check your chart?”
Sookie’s guests left the room while Dr. Ludwig examined her. Pam and Hoyt chatted. “Hoyt, thank you so much for all your help these past few days, we all owe you a debt.”
“Nah, I said it the other day, Sookie’s family. I’m glad she has you and Eric. The girls really love you; you were their rock durin’ all this.”
“Thank you Hoyt.”
“So y’all are flyin’ home today?”
“Yes, Eric has booked a private plane so Sookie can sleep comfortably.”
“Well, I declare! A private plate! Y’all are living in high cotton!”
“Pam, you probably shouldn’t have told her that. It’ll be all over the parish before the day is out.”
They continued to talk while Dr. Ludwig examined Sookie. Before the doctor was finished, they saw Jason coming around the corner and Pam stiffened. Hoyt touched her arm and said, “He ain’t’ gonna start anythin’. He knows he did wrong.”
“I’m more afraid of Eric’s reaction. He so wants to hurt someone over this whole issue and Jason is right here.”
“Well Pam, I’m afraid I won’t be able to help Jason. Not only does Jason deserve a good beatin’ for what he did but your brother is significantly larger than me, I’m just not that dumb.”
They giggled together as Jason approached. He reached Sookie’s door just as Dr. Ludwig was exiting the room. Pam walked in to prepare Eric for Jason’s arrival, but they were in the bathroom at the moment. When they emerged, Sookie was in Eric’s arms and smiling. Sookie’s smile was a sign to Pam that her friend would recover. “Sookie, you’re the most resilient woman I have ever known. I’m truly proud to call you my friend.”
“That’s sweet Pam.”
“Don’t tell anyone I said that.”
“Pam, it’s too late. I know several people have already witnessed your love for me.”
“Hush Sookie.” Turning to Eric she said, “Jason is here.”
Eric’s face turned dangerous at the mention of his name. “Sookie, are you ready for Jason?”
Eric opened the door for Jason and when he came in, his face fell. He had been told about Sookie’s injuries but seeing them was too much. Eric sat on the side of the bed, protectively holding her hand. Jason sat in the chair next to the bed, looked up at Sookie and started his apology.
“Sookie, I really believed Bill when he said Eric would hurt ya. I can see now that ain’t true. When we were young and Mama and Daddy died, I took bein’ your older brother real serious. That’s why nobody dated ya, they were afraid of me. Bill and I talked bout that before, even when y’all were living here – how scared ev’rybody was so they didn’t even try to date you in case they hurt you. I guess he remembered and convinced me that Eric would just move on. That he was the perfect guy, how he wanted to be daddy to your girls. I believed him over you and I’m sorry Sook.”
Jason had broken into tears as he spoke while Sookie had remained quiet, listening to the full apology. When he was done, Sookie paused for a moment; she believed Jason’s apology was genuine but she was still angry. “Before I respond to your apology, I need to tell you some things that Bill told me while I was with him.” She took a breath. “Jase, Bill killed Gran and Sam.”
“It’s true. He arranged for Sam’s accident by cutting his brakes and he caused Gran’s fall.” She took a break to get a drink; then continued. “Jason, you’re my brother, my kin. Some day, I may forgive you, but it’s gonna be a while. Until then, I’ll allow you to talk to the girls monthly as you have been. I won’t tell them ’bout how you’re involved and I won’t influence their feelin’s. Please respect my wishes and for now, speak only with the girls when you call. I hope someday this will change Jason. But for now, I cain’t have you as part of my life.”
Jason nodded in understanding and stood to leave the room.
He stopped and looked at Sookie. “Yeah Sook.”
“You aren’t done apologizing.”
When Jason looked puzzled, Sookie nodded to Eric. “Your actions impacted Eric as well.”
He took a moment; then responded. “Ah, I know you’re right. Shoot Sook, I only came prepared to ‘pologize to you.”
“I know that Jase, I know you worked hard on your apology. That doesn’t dismiss the need to say something to Eric.”
“I’m waiting Jase.”
Even Eric was uncomfortable waiting, but this was Sookie’s show. He didn’t budge from his place by her side.
Finally he said, “Eric. I know I dun ya wrong. I won’t ever be able to pay ya back for the time and money you spent trying to find Sookie. Hell, I already heard about the gifts ya givin’ to the town and I thank ya for that. I guess ya don’t care about any of that though. Sook was your priority and I see that now, I only wish I had seen it bafore.”
Eric sat silently for a few moments. Sookie let go of his hand and touched his arm so he turned to her. “Eric, don’t hold back for me. I know you want to say something. Now’s the time to say it.”
Taking Sookie at her word, he turned to Jason. “He NEVER would have gotten to her if you told someone he called you, if you hadn’t given him a time to show up when she was alone, if you hadn’t given him the fucking key to your house. Bill is insane and I will find him and he WILL be punished. Your actions? Your actions as her BROTHER were worse. You actually love her, she told you he already hit her; that she didn’t trust or want him and yet you STILL gave him the means to hurt her again. You allowed someone who killed your Gran and Sam to get to her. You broke her trust. She may eventually forgive you, and I suppose her forgiveness is what matters. But Jason, I will never forget what you did. You will NEVER have my trust. Now I need to get Sookie home, so get out.”
In the hallway, Hoyt and Pam noted his appearance but neither offered a word. Maxine did give Jason a short hug and said that time would heal. Jason walked off with his head down.
Since all the business at the hospital was completed, Pam left to finish her packing at the inn with plans to meet Eric at the airport with the rest of their gang. Maxwell and Eric worked through the arrangements for getting Sookie transferred to the airport. It only took a little over an hour and they were all on the plane. Sookie had to sit up for takeoff which was painful, but Eric and the nurse quickly settled her into the bedroom of the jet and had her hooked up to an IV with the sleeping juice. The girls were so excited about the private jet, there wouldn’t be trouble keeping them occupied for the flight, so Eric was able to relax with Sookie. The bed in the jet was king sized so he just enjoyed lying with her and holding her hand even though she was asleep. Shortly before landing, the nurse woke Eric to move Sookie. The sleeping juice was really working and she remained asleep while Eric moved her to a seat for the landing. Since the IV with the juice had been removed, she did wake when they changed to the cars taking them back to the B&B. Alcide had investigated travel options and found that an airport only 30 minutes from Morgantown was available for private plane landings, so they were back to the B&B quickly. They walked into the B&B to discover it was full of well wishers. Eric growled; he wanted to get her to bed so she could rest.
Russell and Jesus immediately thanked the folks in the room for their support of Sookie, but asked them to leave, with the exception of Bart who was staying to care for Sookie and Holly who was feeding everyone. Once the place cleared out, Eric relaxed and took Sookie to their bedroom. Joining them was Bart who started to review the care plan for the next few days which included a physical therapist to get Sookie up and around. Eric actually growled and barked at Bart, “Don’t you think it’s too soon for that?! She needs her rest.”
“Eric, she’ll get her rest but she needs to move.”
“She’s still in pain, Bart. You haven’t spent enough time with her to make that call.”
“Eric, I spoke to Dr. Ludwig, we believe this is the best plan for her. There’s no doubt Sookie’s recovery will be painful, but she needs to start.”
Sookie finally spoke up. “SHE is right here. Stop talking like I’m not in the room! Eric, I’m ready to start walking. I know you love to take care of me by carrying me; you can just find other ways to spoil me. Please, don’t argue.”
“Ok Sookie, Ok. We’ll start tomorrow with Physical Therapy (PT), but if it seems like it’s too much, we will revisit this decision.”
Pam had joined them in the room at this point. “Sookie, the girls are in bed. Should I plan to take them to school tomorrow?”
“What do you think Pam? You have been closest to them this whole time.”
“I think the normalcy will be good. Since they are already in bed and it’s early, they’ll have had enough sleep. We can get them ready and see how they feel. They may also want to be with you the whole day.”
“Ok, let’s do that. Now, I want to get cleaned up from the trip and into a new glorious hospital gown for bed.” The stack of hospital gown on the dresser had not escaped her notice.
Having caught the scowl on Sookie’s face, Bart explained. “Sookie, I know most folks hate them, but the gowns are easier.”
“Yeah yeah I know. I just wish they weren’t needed. Can I use the bathroom?”
Eric bent to help her when he heard some commotion downstairs. “Bart, can you and Pam move Sookie? I think I should check out the noise downstairs.”
Eric ran down the stairs and was headed to the foyer when he stopped dead in his tracks. Standing just inside the front door was Victor with his parents. Eric stiffened and addressed his parents. “Mor, Far, this is quite a surprise.”