Thanks to Charlaine Harris for creating most of the characters in this story.
I've often heard "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger". Well, I'm no philosopher and I didn't go to college, so I don't know who said that, but he should try my life. I felt as weak as a kitten, and boy, had a lot of people been trying to kill me lately. Of course, I might say they weren't really people, but does that really make a difference? Okay, I hadn't invited anybody else to this pity party, so I was only entertaining myself here. I should just get myself out of bed and get on with it. I couldn't let Amelia down, and I owed it to Trey.
I hadn't been out of the house since the fairy war, not even to the grocery store. My face had been too bruised to show in town. Amelia had spread the story that I'd been in a car accident, and when a few visitors had come by to see how I was doing, she had put them off, saying I was napping.
Eric, or somebody, had driven my car into a tree or something to give it a big old dent to back up my story. My poor old Malibu had been a gift from my friend Tara. She had sold it to me for a dollar. I don't know what Eric had been thinking I would do for a car now. Maybe that he would buy me a new one? I was going to need to deal with that situation soon. As it was, when I had looked at my poor dead car outside the window, that had just made me burst into tears. My life had pretty much fallen into pieces. Well, Amelia would just have to drive today.
The funeral was scheduled for the afternoon, and I really had no idea what I would wear. The last funeral I'd attended had been for the Shreveport pack leader, Colonel Flood. His service had been an important event in the politics of the local were pack, so I'd borrowed an outfit from Tara so I would be dressed appropriately. I didn't think that was an option for today, since I couldn't very well borrow something I might bleed on, or that would fit too tightly. Just thinking about wearing a bra or underwear against all my stitches and healing cuts was more than I could imagine.
Not sure what to do, I figured I'd better enlist Amelia's help. I could hear her stomping around upstairs, probably cleaning something, to better handle the stress of the day. That's what she does when things get to her. She cleans. I might have tried that myself if I could do more than hobble around at a snail's pace. With that thought, I hauled my damaged body out of bed and headed to the bathroom.
When I finished washing up as well as I could, I took a good look at myself in the mirror. The circles under my eyes were finally going away, and the yellowing bruises were fading. I thought I might not frighten small children if I put on some make up and fixed up my hair. My eyes looked dull and listless, but I didn't know what anyone could do about that. I guess the darkness that had seeped into my soul was showing there.
"Snap out of it, Sookie!" I said out loud to myself, and walked out to the bottom of the stairs to call up to Amelia.
"Amelia? I really don't know what to do about clothes for today. Can you help me go through my closet and see what I can wear?"
Amelia's head popped over the railing and she looked down at me. "Are you sure you are up for this, hon?" she asked. "Maybe you should just let me send your regrets and you can stay in bed. I'm sure Jason would come sit with you. No one will think less of you for not being there."
"Amelia, I can't stand the thought that I wouldn't be there to say good-bye to Trey after all he went through for me. I don't want you to deal with this all on your own, either. I wouldn't feel right not to be there."
"Well, let's see what we can do about finding you something to wear", she said as she headed downstairs. "Everyone will have to just be understanding if you aren't at your best. They know you're healing, Sook."
Amelia had taken Trey's death hard, and I had worried she would decide to go back to New Orleans and I would be left alone again. But a few days after the whole ordeal, she'd become whirlwind Amelia again and had made me her project. I think she was just trying to get her mind off her grief, but I was sure glad to have her here to help me.
Jason wasn't much of a nurse, although he had been a better brother in the last week than he'd been in years. I guess he'd decided that he'd lost enough, and he didn't want to lose that last bit of family he had. I still didn't know how I felt about him or if I was still mad at my brother, but he was all I had in the way of family now, and I guess I would just have to put up with his ways.
Amelia found a charcoal gray tunic style top and some loose black flowing slacks that she thought would work for me, and not put too much pressure on my thighs and tummy, where the worst of the bites were still painful. The clothes were loose enough to hide the bandages. If I just wore a tank underneath, I could get away without a bra, although with my figure, I rarely left the house without one. I settled for some soft cotton panties, panty lines being the least of my problems.
There was no way I was going to try walking around in heels at this point, so I put on some black flats, a pretty necklace that had been my Gran's, and matching earrings. Amelia helped me get the top on; I still couldn't comfortably raise my arms over my head. She brushed out my hair and I left it down. I wasn't going to wow anyone, but no one would call the fashion police. I guess I was as put together as I was going to be. I tucked some tissues into my little black purse and sat down at the kitchen table to wait for Amelia to put on her finishing touches. I was worn out just getting dressed.
When we walked out of the door, the sun almost blinded me; I had been holed up in my bedroom so long. Usually I was so glad to be out in the sun, but leaving the house now made me fearful. I looked around the yard, focusing first on the tree line into my woods. That's where the fairies would be skulking, if they were still around. I guess they were all gone now, or most of them, the ones my great grandfather hadn't killed. Since the Brigants had won the war, I should be safe now, but I sure didn't feel safe. Amelia gave me her arm walking down the porch steps, and then helped me get settled into her car. I sighed and gave my crumpled up car a forlorn look as we headed out my gravel driveway.
The drive to Shreveport seemed to take forever, and if I hadn't been feeling a little dizzy and nauseous, I probably would have slept all the way there. Amelia was being awfully quiet although the thoughts in her brain were going a mile a minute. She was thinking maybe I should have stayed home in bed, and it would be all her fault if something happened to me while we were out and whether she shouldn't call Octavia and see if she could come and help at the house when she went to New Orleans to deal with the work on her house. She was wondering if Bob had found his family and whether she would ever hear from him again. She was trying hard not to think about Trey and how much she missed him. I pulled my attention away from Amelia and watched the trees go by along the highway. It was better not to think too much.
Members of the local were pack were milling around on the sidewalk outside of the church in Shreveport where the service was being held. Amelia pulled out front, got out of the car, and waved for Alcide to come help me get out of the car. I was embarrassed at the attention this drew, but I guess it would have been worse if I had fallen on my face getting myself out. I just had to suck it up and let people help me.
"You okay, Sookie?" Alcide asked. "We didn't expect to see you today. You've been through enough, you should be home in bed."
Alcide was the leader of the Shreveport wolf pack, and we had a history of sorts. Alcide looked great today, in a well-tailored gray suit and a crisp white shirt. Concern was plainly written on his face when he offered me his arm.
"I'm fine, Alcide, just a little tired from the drive. If I could just go in and sit down, I'll be just fine."
I wasn't sure that I was, really. I felt so dizzy and tired. I also didn't want to start crying out here in front of the church with everyone watching. The sorrow and grief I was feeling was almost overwhelming. I think Alcide must have sensed that I wasn't doing so well, so he took my arm, signaled Amelia that he had it under control, and steered me inside the church to a pew by the aisle. It was almost time for the service to start, so he made sure I was settled and went to sit up front right behind the family.
Amelia came in a few minutes later, and sat next to me. Tension was just humming through her. She took my hand, and maybe held it a little bit too tightly. We both focused our attention on the front of the church, the wooden coffin draped with flowers, and the whole Shreveport pack sitting respectfully waiting for the priest to start the service.
If you've ever been in a Catholic church, one of the first things you see is usually a big crucifix. Crosses are in just about every church of course, and I think they are supposed to represent a sacrifice made for mankind. In a strange way, it was a symbol of hope. Now, looking at the crucifix, I couldn't help but think about the death poor Crystal and Jason's baby. I thought about Arlene wanting God to strike the weres down. I thought about Claudine trying to become an angel. I didn't know if I could stand up to all the hate in the world but I would stand up where I could. I had been to a place where I had given up all hope and I didn't want to feel like that ever again.
I didn't take in much of the service. The priest got up and said some nice words about Trey, then asked if anyone would like to come up and speak. Alcide got up and talked about what a strong, brave and good man Trey had been, and how so many would miss him. I could see Trey's son up in the front, with his head down, and it made me think of myself at Gran's funeral, how numb I had been at the time, not really absorbing that she was really gone. I thought about Claudine and her unborn child, in the Summerland, wherever that was, with no service at all. I would miss her so much.
Amelia sat very still next to me. She was thinking she should have done something more to keep Trey and me safe and that her magic should have been able to save him somehow. The guilt and grief were tearing her up, and I had to put up my shields because I couldn't stand any more. If it weren't for me, we wouldn't be here now. But I guess really, I was a victim of the whole thing too. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty and I'd had enough of trying to analyze what I should have done differently. My guilt or Amelia's wasn't going to bring anyone back.
When the service was over, the mourners began to file out. Amelia and I stayed put, knowing that it would be slow walking for me to get back out to the car. As the pack members passed me, each one bowed his head in my direction. I could hear their thoughts; amazement that I had survived what Trey had not, shame that a "friend of the pack" had not been better protected, sorrow that one of their own, albeit a rogue, had met such a horrible and painful death. None of them blamed me for Trey's death, although I still blamed myself. Alcide bowed too, as he came to offer his arm to help me out of the church.
"Sookie, are you okay? You shouldn't have come today. It's too soon for you to be out of bed," Alcide said.
He seemed so distressed, as if he'd been somehow responsible for me being there. I had asked for the protection of the Shreveport pack and they had sent Trey. That hadn't been enough and maybe that was my fault for not telling Alcide what was really going on. Alcide felt guilty about it though. He thought if he had come himself, he could have kept me safe. I patted his hand. This wasn't his fault.
Alcide walked me out to the front of the church and waited with me while Amelia went to get the car.
"Thanks for your help," I told the were after he helped me get settled into the car, giving me a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'll call you soon," I said as he closed the car door.
Amelia started the car and headed down the highway back to Bon Temps.
"Are you comfortable, Sook? We'll be home soon," Amelia said.
I could hear the strain in her voice. I knew her concern for me was genuine, and it was all that was keeping her from falling apart over losing Trey. I wanted to tell her not to worry, that I was fine. I wanted to console her too, to say something comforting, but I really wasn't feeling good. All I could do was ask her to pull over. I needed to throw up!
Amelia pulled over and I barely made it out of the car in time.
"Oh God, Sookie, you are really ill," Amelia said. "We need to get you home and call Dr. Ludwig".
She handed me a tissue to wipe my mouth and helped me back into the car.
"Don't fuss, Amelia," I reassured her. "I feel better now. I've just been feeling nauseous all day, since I woke up. Maybe I should have eaten something, but I just couldn't. I'll be fine when we get home. I just need to sleep a bit."
Amelia got back in the driver's seat and sped home to Bon Temps as I leaned my head against the door. I had thought I was healing, that I would be back to work soon and all of this would be over, but this trip out had sure done me in. Maybe I was being optimistic about how soon I would be well.
By the time we got home and in the door, all I could think about was my bed. Amelia insisted that I get into one of my favorite softly worn flannel nightgowns and I lay down with a sigh.
"Do we have any ginger ale, Amelia? My stomach is sure not feeling good."
Amelia rushed to the kitchen and came back with a ginger ale and some crackers. I took a few sips and that seemed to settle my stomach a bit. Laying my head back against the pillow, I welcomed sleep.
When I woke up a few hours later, I barely made it to the bathroom in time to throw up again. I felt very dizzy so I sat down on the bathroom floor, afraid to get up. The world was just spinning. Amelia came running in, saw me on the floor and rushed out to the kitchen. I could hear her calling someone, but I didn't even care at that point. I just rested my head against the bathroom wall and closed my eyes. I wasn't going anywhere!
When I opened my eyes again, I was looking right into the face of Dr. Ludwig. She didn't have to look down very far to me on the floor; she was such a tiny little thing. I always thought of her as a hobbit and had wanted to get a look at her feet to see if I was right. You just can't ask your doctor to take off her shoes though, can you?
"Well, it looks like you're not feeling too well tonight," she said.
I didn't need to call a doctor to know that much, I thought.
"Let's get you into bed and see what is going on. Do you think you can make it that far with the witch's help?"
"Yes, I think so," I replied.
Amelia reached down and braced me under my arms, and Dr. Ludwig reached her hand down to take mine, pulling me up to my feet. She was sure stronger than she looked. It took a minute for the world to stop spinning, but then I knew I would be okay to walk to the bed. I lay down and waited while Amelia fetched a little stool for the doctor, so she could be at a good height to examine me.
"I think I am okay now, Doctor", I told her. "I just got a little dizzy. I was so upset today, about the funeral and all, and I didn't eat. My stomach has been upset, but I think that's just nerves. I'm not used to being out yet. You didn't need to come. Really. I'll be fine."
I didn't want to see the doctor. I knew she would be checking my stitches, and I just didn't want to see what was underneath the bandages after an already stressful day. I still hadn't gotten a bill for being in the supe hospital either, and I was a little concerned about more doctor bills.
"You let me decide if you are alright," said the doctor in her no-nonsense way. She put her hand on my forehead, looked into my eyes and touched the pulse on my neck. "Pull up your gown and let's take a look at those bites. Have you had any more vampire blood? Where is your mate tonight?"
"I think he's at Fangtasia tonight. He said it might not be safe to keep feeding me blood," I replied. "He thought he might be giving me too much. I don't want to be turned!" I whimpered.
The thought of being turned by accident was a constant worry to me now that Eric had given me so much of his blood, even though without it, I would be in even worse shape than I was.
"I doubt that you could be turned if he drained you dry," Dr. Ludwig stated confidently. "You are not human, you know. No one exactly knows what you are, but that telepathy didn't come from your fairy blood."
I dropped my jaw and gaped at her. "Catching flies" my gran would have said, so I instantly shut my mouth. What did she mean, no one knew what I was? I was human with a little bit of fairy, that was all! And was it true that I couldn't be turned? Was that because of the fairy blood (or whatever kind of blood I had)?
Eric obviously didn't know, and he was one of the oldest vampires around. Of course, I had no idea how old Dr. Ludwig was, or what she was, for that matter. She could have been older than Eric. I wasn't about to ask her either. She was intimidating for such a small person and she would just ignore any question she didn't want to answer anyways.
"Let's just take a look and see what's going on", she said as she began to poke and prod. "How is the pain?"
"It's getting better every day. Only a few of the bigger places really hurt anymore, although the bruising has made me very stiff and sore, sort of all over. I was just dizzy and nauseous, that's all, maybe from riding in the car. We went to Trey's funeral in Shreveport".
"Yes, the witch told me you went to the were's funeral. It's too bad we couldn't save him, but not many have survived Lachlan and Nieve. Have you been eating? You need to be eating well to get your strength back."
"I have been. My brother and Sam have been bringing me food, and Amelia has been cooking some. I just couldn't eat today. I was so upset about the funeral, and my stomach was all upside down. I'll be fine tomorrow."
While I assured her I was being taken care of, she kept up with her exam. I made a point not to watch what she was doing. She had finished looking at the wounds and was holding her hands over my tummy with light pressure. It didn't hurt, but she hadn't done that before and I wondered what was up. She had a funny look of concentration on her face and I could feel a strange buzzing sort of energy coming from her hands.
"Well!" she said in a brisk manner. "I think we have found the reason for your nausea and dizziness." She looked at me with a very pleased expression. "I can feel that the spark has kindled and taken root. You are going to have a baby," she said matter-of-factly.
I couldn't believe that I had heard her correctly.
"What did you say? Oh no, that's impossible!" I shouted and scooted back so fast that I whacked my head on the headboard.
I could feel the memory returning of that dank, dark cabin and the leer on the fairies' faces. NO. I wouldn't think about that. The terror began to close in on me and I tried to block it out. I was not going to think about that. "Oh my god, this couldn't be happening to me," I thought. "What did I do to ever deserve this? Would the nightmare of it never end?"
"No, it can't be true! How can you know? It's not possible!" I said adamantly. "Oh my god! What will Eric do! No, I won't believe it!" I cried out in denial. But I guess I knew that it could be the truth.
"What won't you believe, My Lover?" I heard as I looked up and saw my big blond Viking lover standing in the doorway.
I felt the blood rush to my face, felt hot all over, closed my eyes and then just let the darkness take me as I passed out.