After enduring the insulting manner of the hospital staff with as pleasant a demeanor as I could muster, and having to gain the 'approval' of her boss, Manny Diaz, to see my own wife, we waited on the roof for the Medevac helicopter. I seriously had almost gotten to the point where I felt like glamouring everyone we encountered if they caused us any more trouble. When she was carried out on the stretcher, and placed on the gurney it was a sight to behold. She was extremely ashen, had multiple IV lines, was on a portable respirator, a portable pacemaker, and looked half dead, frankly. The small, weary, very bruised, dark haired woman who came out after her was clearly her friend Alla but I was quite surprised by the tall man who walked next to the stretcher, who called out to me. Ahmed was very different from what I had envisioned. Somehow, I had mistakenly envisioned another Rasul. The man holding onto to my wife's hand was almost as tall as I was, dark, slender, moved elegantly and was more than good looking enough to be in films even though he had a bruise on his cheek and a healing cut on his lip. This was her best friend? My mind flashed back to an overheard conversation in June.
"Good night, sweet prince," said with a chuckle.
"Gag me, Sasha."
"Oh, you'll have to get someone else to do that. Sounds kinky, and I'm not even your type."
"Good night for real," she'd said.
He smiled at me when he saw us and extended his hand.
"You must be Eric," he said nodding, while looking me over with an appraising eye.
I stared at him, at his hand, and then nodded. He looked at me awkwardly and then let go of her hand as they wheeled her ahead of us. We walked inside, toward the elevators. Alla turned to him, after giving me an curious and slightly disapproving look, and said in a low tone of voice,
"They don't shake hands. Remember, Ahmed? She told us that."
He glanced over at me, then at Andor and Markus. "Of course. Forgive the lack of polish," he said with a cool British accent that bespoke privilege. He nodded again at me with a curious smile, and also at Andor and Markus, though he had not been introduced. I remembered Sookie having told me he was the one who got her into reading real literature. That he'd gone to Eton, Oxford, and Harvard. I didn't know who he really was, but he was not just some FBI guy from the look of him.
Once she was in a room, the powers that be graciously let me see my wife, under a watchful eye. Looking at her pallor, I knew I couldn't risk giving her as much blood as she'd need. They had already hung a bag of whole blood. She would need much more before I could do anything to help her, and I clearly couldn't just spirit her away to Ludwig. We'd have to wait it out.
It was almost dawn and I could hear Andor and Markus getting agitated. After kissing her hand, I went back outside to see Ahmed and her boss chatting. His arms were bandaged and in the harsher light of the halls he looked pretty banged up. Very bad body language between the two, I noted. Alla was sitting in a chair and speaking to someone from a landline phone. They all turned to look at me.
"I am going to have to leave. I'll be back after sunset. I expect I will be able to stay in the room with her, yes?" I asked looking directly at her boss, Manny Diaz.
He met my eyes warily then glanced away but nodded. Evidently word of my powers of glamouring had preceded my arrival.
"With either of my men. Andor Fetsen or Markus Kam," I said further.
He nodded cautiously. So I just nodded to them and the three of us practically vanished in order to get back to our resting place in time. I was pleased that Andor did not utter a single word of complaint.
When I came back to the hospital the following evening, Ahmed was there with her. I paused, silently in the doorway and watched him. A nurse had just done something with her IV line and adjusted an oxygen line around her nose. At least the respirator and the pacemaker were gone. I watched as he gently lifted her head and rearranged her hair, then placed her head back on the pillow. I watched him pick up her hand in his, kiss it, and then he sat back down next to her, picked up a book on the side of the bed and began to read aloud from what I was very sure was Austen. It sounded like Mansfield Park, I thought to myself. She hadn't read that one yet, I knew.
She shifted in the bed slightly, as if she was uncomfortable, even though she was still unconscious. He rose, put down the book and leaned over her, adjusting her IV line around her arm and then shifting the pillow slightly. After glancing up at the IV bags, he sat down, took up the book and resumed reading aloud.
He loves her, I thought to myself, stunned.
Turning back to Andor and Markus, I just nodded and gestured that they could wait back in the waiting area.
I walked into the room and sat down across from him.
"Eric, when I move back, would you mind if I lived on my own?" she said quietly.
What? What? I simply stared at her. She wanted to move back, but not live with me? I snapped my fingers and signaled to Markus to leave and waited until he did so.
"Why would you suggest such a thing to me? Especially in front of Markus?"
"You just discussed asking me to marry you in front of Markus. You asked me about reading you. In front of Markus. That's all okay but my asking a question isn't? What's the deal?"
I just felt my anger boil over. Almost losing her, being here all these days, a risk in and of itself to my position, enduring the disdain of the hospital staff and the FBI, the pain in the ass supposedly gay friend and now she was saying she would not even live with me? What was she playing at? Hinting before she left that everything was working out as I wished and now this? Did it look to her as if that was what I would wish? Did she have any idea how it had looked that she had been missing for more than three years, had come back, wouldn't stay with me, finally did stay with me and then proceeded to go back to her life, month after month, all as if it was nothing? How difficult it was in the eyes of vampires to think that I had married a human that would proceed to behave this way? No matter how accepting I was of it, my life was much more public now. I was judged and measured by what I tolerated. And now she said this in front of Markus? I was at the end of my patience.
I practically hissed at her as I said,
"I have been here for five nights watching over you and you're telling me that you want to move back to Louisiana to live on your own? You are trying my patience and tolerance to an extreme. I let you have your way, the freedom to do your horrible job, take all the crap you have put me, put us, through while you try to figure things out. I have turned my life inside out for you for years now, while you slapped me with attitude and coldness time and again. I thought we finally were past that. And now you'll try it in front of subordinates? Well, there is a limit to what I'll take from you and you're rapidly approaching it."
Her eyes wide, she looked at me as if shocked, as if I didn't understand what she'd meant at all and now she didn't understand me. And she felt… anguish? She was silent, didn't reply. Then, looking at her, feeling her, I just pulled back from being so angry. She'd almost died. She had been in much pain and had been on a lot of drugs. Perhaps I was blaming her unfairly, even if I was very angry at the thought that I could hear Markus telling Andor, out in the hall, what she'd said. Andor's response was very noncommittal but then he'd finally completely reversed his take on Sookie after her little rooftop jaunt in Pakistan, hearing from Pam about how she had saved us in Rhodes, and about her saving me from Sigebert. If there were two things Andor could be relied upon to admire, they were bravery and loyalty. So I swallowed my anger. And yet again, my pride.
"We shouldn't even be having this discussion now. You haven't been well. Just forget it. But no more discussion in front of Markus or even in front of Andor." Set my jaw and continued to try to tamp down my anger.
She looked as if she would cry at any minute. She said, "Eric, I don't mean it the way you think I mean it. It came out wrong. I just… I need the daylight, okay? To look out the windows and see the blue sky or the sunsets. I'll come back home. I'll marry you, if you want to get married. I will. I do see what you've done to be with me. And what you've been through because of me, some of which is so God awful that I still can't stomach it. But how much am I supposed to concede to in order to be with you? Do you ever think about what I'm giving up? Is it even on the radar for you? I'll never be able to talk to you except during the nighttime when there are already all these other demands on your attention and time. Nighttime for other people is family time but it's never going to be that way for me. Ever. There's a whole long list of things that I grew up thinking were just part of a normal everyday relationship that I'm never going to have if I'm with you. That's fine. I can accept it. All the political bullshit that I always just hated, that I'm even afraid of, fine. It's you and it's what you want and who you are. Well, this is me: I want daylight. And I want Rosie. And I have to work. Or I'll literally go insane. I need to live somewhere where I can have those things. I'll give up all the rest. But not those."
She started to cry. I rose and came to sit on the bed. I just couldn't believe we were arguing, if we even really even were arguing, over sunlight, a cat, and her desire to keep working. I sighed heavily into my hand, shaking my head.
"Honestly Sookie, sometimes your communication skills just leave me in disbelief. Had it ever occurred to you to tell me any of this, other than the job issue, before? Of course, I took it the wrong way. I thought it was just more of the usual. In front of Markus, no less. Sunlight? Your problem is sunlight? I can provide sunlight for Pam's orchids but not for you? And how much of my time would you have if you lived elsewhere? I don't even understand how you think of this stuff sometimes."
She completely broke down, crying on me.
"I thought you'd hate me for going back… And I was so worried you could feel it."
Well, I was not very fond of her going back, without question. I just let her cry. Living on her own? How had she even came up with this stuff, I thought to myself? As Pam would say, humans could be completely irrational. Nonsensical, even. How could she even think she would be safe living on her own? Why would we want to be apart? Well, it didn't matter. Because it wasn't happening. But I could be soft and cajoling about it, just as she liked.
"It will all be fine, Lover. I understand your need to work. But remember, if they don't fire you, you promised me you would quit. Whatever the work is, it will be a different job, a safe job and in New Orleans. As for the rest, we'll find a way to make it work. You will have your sunlight, and the cat. Just…" I sighed, heavily, "rest."
After a while she finally calmed down.
Andor came in and leaned against the wall where Markus had been standing. She looked up at him and he smiled and nodded in greeting.
"Be careful fighting with the brave girl," Andor said to me in an amused tone in Swedish.
"Fuck off," I replied in Swedish, shaking my head.
She raised her head off my shoulder, clearly recognizing that we were bickering even though it was in Swedish. Why was Andor speaking even Swedish, anyway? I wondered, looking at him narrow eyed. Did he actually think she knew enough now to understand his little insults?
"What exactly was his comment?"
"Andor's just looking for his one way ticket to Svalbard, Lover."
Andor crossed his arms over his chest. He nodded and, looking extremely full of himself said,
"I told him to be careful fighting with the brave girl," with a snort. "He could get injured." He smirked at me.
She stifled a laugh.
"Asshole," was my reply in Swedish. Andor looked entirely too satisfied with himself. But the tension of the moment with her was dissolved, eased by his joking around.
Markus entered the room with a six pack of True Blood that he'd been graciously permitted to heat in a microwave near the nurses station, in lieu of having us feed on the hospital employees and all the patients. We each drank two and traded insults in Swedish and German as we commented on the wonderful and obliging hospital staff. Markus, normally so reserved, offered suggestions as to who might be most expendable at the nurses station. I stayed sitting on the bed with Sookie, with my arm around her shoulders. A nurse came to check on her and pursed her lips as if she thought about asking one of us to leave. I offered her a dark look and she appeared to think better of it. Eventually, while the three of us chatted and reminisced about old battles and adventures, Sookie fell asleep.
Another full day and she was discharged. We flew home after gathering enough of her things for a longer stay and, of course, her cat. When we arrived back at the compound several hours before dawn, Pam was so relieved that she almost forgot to be sarcastic. She briefly hugged Sookie then promptly asked me if I had enjoyed my vacation. She and Stefan, she explained, had been buried in work while Andor, Markus and I had been off 'having fun' in Maryland. Cadel had kept them safe she allowed, but was too bossy, acting like he was left in charge. She asked if, the next time Sookie went and made trouble, I'd take Cadel and leave her Markus. I looked at her and shook my head silently, while she grinned like Lewis Carroll's cat, complete with fangs. She was obviously quite pleased that Sookie was moving back home.
Lying in the dark bedroom just before dawn, she reached out and took my hand and sighed a heavy sigh. The cat jumped up on the bed and purring loudly, walked over to her and sat down, leaning against her leg. That would take getting used to, I thought to myself.
"So do you still want to?" she asked quietly.
"Want to what?"
"You know what. Do you?"
"I thought you already said yes, the other day. If you're saying you're changing your mind, I really need a break, Sookie. Just let it rest for a while."
She stretched in the bed and then raised my hand in hers to her lips.
"Well, I don't think it's very nice to accept a proposal of marriage in the middle of an argument. And I was planning to tell you when I visited that I'd already decided to tell them I was quitting, with November 30th as my last day. I was just making plans about how to do it sort of gracefully, or more accurately, in a fashion that they couldn't argue with. But they solved my problem for me. Anyway, I was going to tell you when I came home for the visit that I was quitting. I don't want you to think I quit and that I'm saying yes because of what happened. Because I wasn't. That's what I wanted to talk to you about, what I was referring to, when we spoke before I left. I just didn't know how you'd feel about the thought that I might want to live here in New Orleans but on my own. Though, I guess you don't like that plan very well."
I could have made quite a few remarks about the 'niceness' of some of her prior refusals and the completely unacceptable nature of her 'plan', but I decided it wasn't very expedient to do so. I focused on her acceptance, ignored all the rest of what she was saying and felt a swell of pleasure.
"So your answer is yes?"
She turned on her side, propped her head on her hand and smiled at me.
"Ja, min älskade. Ja."
"Oh, so now you're accepting my proposal in Swedish?" I said with a chuckle.
"I can say it in a number of languages. Wanna hear it in Arabic? How about Pashto? Or Farsi? A guy in the embassy tried to teach me some Russian. Spanish? Maybe French? German? I might be able to swing Dutch, but the last time I was at The Hague and tried to say the simplest thing in Dutch they laughed at me. But Stefan said I sounded fine in Swedish. I don't think he knew what I needed to know for, though."
"So this is what you wanted to tell me in person, then. Yes, and your list of terms?"
"Mostly, I wanted to get a good look at your face, so I could take in the full impact of you, getting what you want, as usual. It's always a vision of unparalleled happiness when you get your way with me."
"Can you see me well enough in the dark? How does it look?" I crossed my eyes and laughed.
She laughed too, then yawned and sank back into her pillows and rubbed the healing area on her side. She had mentioned during the flight home that the healing tissue inside bothered her a bit. The outer area had healed very well, though. The skin was almost completely unblemished.
"For once, I'd have to say it doesn't look bad at all, you getting your way. But then, I guess it's because we want the same thing."
"You also want to admit I was so very right? Lover, I'm quite surprised," I said with an eyebrow raised. "That's very generous of you, all things considered. I really thought you'd try to avoid admitting that. It's very mature to admit I was right and you were so spectacularly wrong," I said as I turned on my side and draped my leg over hers, pulling her closer. "Can you make a formal declaration of it, then? Like 'Eric, you've proved me wrong' or maybe just 'Eric, you are so very right about everything'?"
She groaned. "Honestly, Eric, you're so obnoxious at times. Really. Sometimes I think you are the most obnoxious person I have ever met," she said sleepily.
"You're still very young. You haven't met that many people in such a short life. I'm sure there's worse to be had. Somewhere." I chuckled, leaned over and kissed her lips. "Rest, min älskade. Rest and then enjoy waking up at home."
"Whoever said 'home is where your heart is' was really onto something," she murmured with her eyes closed.
"Good thing you gave me your heart, then. To think at the time I thought you were just trying to avoid admitting you're totally mine."
She made a dissatisfied grumble with some rather bad language that I didn't quite get but then shifted closer to me, resting her head on my shoulder and draping her arm around my waist. I rested my chin on her head. She murmured as if soothed and quickly seemed to drift off to sleep.
It was true that I like getting what I want so very much. But I'd long since learned that I really enjoyed it best when what I got was freely given.