Sookie POV, continued
I shook my head and tried to speak. But something was stopping me. I fought against it.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Herveaux,” the voice—Eric—said. Despite my continued fog, I noticed that he’d gone from addressing me as ‘Sookie’ back to a more formal naming. “You have a tube in your throat that’s been helping you to breathe.”
My eyes widened in surprise.
“Let me get the nurse,” he said, dropping my hand. Immediately, I missed it. And then I missed his face as he left. And his voice.
I felt myself drifting back towards sleep, rudderless now that he was gone.
Only the questions swirling in my head kept me awake. Why was Captain Northman here? What had happened to me? Where was Jase? Where was Alcide? Where was Gran? Where was Hunter? Where was Jackson? And then I felt my throat constrict as a harsh memory slammed into my mind: I was sitting in the middle row of Alcide’s SUV, which was the only vehicle we had that could fit six people comfortably. Gran and I were talking about building a greenhouse, as we’d just watched a documentary about them; we were excited about having a garden and fresh vegetables all year-round. Hunter and Jase were behind me, discussing fish bait. I’d been amused since they were basically parroting a disagreement that I’d heard between Alcide and Jackson earlier that day. Kids really were little sponges.
Jackson and Alcide were in front of me, having a low-volume conversation about Janice, Alcide’s kid sister. They were both a little worried about her. She’d recently opened a hair salon and was working over sixty hours a week—trying to get her new business to take off. They both thought that she’d married too young and didn’t think her new husband was offering enough support, and they were frustrated that she’d been too prideful to take any monetary help from them.
I’d just been wondering how I might build a bridge between the Herveaux men and Janice when I felt it. A grinding crash behind me. I felt my head try to jerk back—as I relived my memory—but something stopped me. I fought to turn around—to make sure Jase was okay. The crash was on his side! My boy! My sweet boy!
I fought to see him.
“Mrs. Herveaux! Sookie!” a firm voice said above me. That voice pulled me from my memory and caused my eyes to reopen.
“There you are,” the voice—Captain Northman—said. “Don’t fight the tube, and try to stay still. The nurse is going to get the doctor, and once she gives the okay, they’ll take the tube out. Okay?”
Focusing on Eric’s blue eyes, I nodded as much as I could, wondering how a tube could keep me so immobilized.
“There’s also a neck brace, making it hard for you to move too much,” Eric explained as if he’d read my mind.
I flexed my fingers, missing his hand.
But—wait! Where was Alcide’s hand? Where was my husband? His warmth always made me feel protected. I moved my eyes around the room a little.
But I didn’t see anyone else, so I looked again at Captain Northman—Eric.
Were we even on a first-name basis? He seemed confused about that as well.
He was looking back at me—looking a little unsure and a little frightened. Before that moment, I would have doubted that he was capable of looking like that.
He’d always seemed to project such strength and confidence—when I’d seen him through Skype.
“Mrs. Herveaux,” came a female voice from the other side of Eric. I shifted my eyes and saw the top of a woman’s head before I heard a scraping sound against the floor. Then the woman suddenly got a little higher.
“I’m Doctor Ludwig,” the woman said curtly. “And you’re lucky that I had a surgery that kept me here late tonight. I’m one of your doctors here at Shreveport General.”
One of them?! My eyes widened in my surprise.
“I’m Dr. Claudine Crane, and I’m always here late,” said another woman with a bell-like voice who stepped behind Dr. Ludwig. My mind told me that the scraping noise must have been a stepping stool scooted into place for Dr. Ludwig to stand on. Yet Dr. Crane was still taller than Dr. Ludwig—by at least a foot!
“I haven’t met you,” came Captain Northman’s voice.
“I’m the head of our psychology department,” she explained.
“Oh,” Captain Northman said, the short interjection seeming to hold so much meaning.
I wondered why I would need a psychologist.
“Mrs. Herveaux, your vitals are strong enough for me to take this tube out of your throat. Blink if you understand,” Dr. Ludwig said, her voice terse. Even in my still-groggy state, I could tell the woman was as no-nonsense as they came.
“Excellent. And even when this tube is out, you won’t be able to move much, so I don’t want you trying. We have your neck immobilized for now. Got it?”
I blinked again.
“Good. Now—I’m going to count to three and then pull the tube. When I do, you need to blow out. Understand?”
I blinked, even as I felt a warm, comforting hand take mine.
“1 – 2 – 3,” Dr. Ludwig counted before pulling.
I blew as much as I could, which wasn’t much. Somehow, though, the hand holding mine—applying just the right amount of pressure—inspired me to keep blowing. The tube exiting my throat was unpleasant to say the least. It didn’t exactly hurt, but my body seemed to hate the foreign object’s presence all the same.
As soon as the tube was gone, I couldn’t control my coughing. Immediately, a straw appeared. “Have a drink,” came Captain Northman’s voice.
I did. The cool water helped.
“Mrs. Herveaux, may I call you Sookie?” Dr. Crane asked.
I nodded, but only slightly, as I focused on her.
She smiled at me. “Thank you. Dr. Ludwig is going to tell you about your condition. And then I’m going to give you some information about your family members. Okay?”
Though I felt tremendous dread, I nodded—again only slightly due to the neck brace. “Okay,” I managed to get out, my voice rough and low as if I hadn’t used it in years.
Dr. Ludwig spoke. “You were in an automobile accident, Sookie,” she began. “Your injuries were severe. Your neck is being stabilized because you suffered a broken back.”
My eyes widened, and I gripped the hand I was holding—Captain Northman’s hand.
“We’ll run more tests soon, but your back injury isn’t the kind that leads to any major loss of movement or feeling, so you were lucky. However, it will need time to heal. In addition to your back, you also broke your right leg.”
I shifted my focus downward and saw that it was, indeed, in traction.
“The break was bad, but the repairs look good. You’ll be mostly off your feet for about four months, however. You also had a severe head injury, which has kept you unconscious for a little more than a week.”
I could feel my eyes widening in surprise again.
“You had some internal injuries as well, but we think you’ll make an almost-full recovery, Sookie,” Dr. Ludwig finished.
“Almost?” she croaked out.
“You will likely suffer some level of chronic pain,” the doctor. stated. “We can talk more about the details of your therapy and recovery once you are feeling a bit better. And another doctor—Dr. Lee—will be starting your rehab program as soon as you are able.”
“Jase? Alcide? Gran? Others?” I managed to ask the questions that had been plaguing me since I’d become more aware of my situation.
The hand gripping mine held onto me just a touch firmer. I was grateful for the hand in that moment, as Dr. Crane stepped forward.
“Sookie, what I need to tell you isn’t going to be easy to hear. But we are here for you—okay?”
I found the strength to blink in understanding, for my throat was too tight to speak.
“Nurse? Are you ready with the sedative—just in case?” Dr. Crane asked someone I couldn’t see.
“Sedative?” I managed to squeak out.
“It’s just in case you start to move too much, Sookie. I need you to try to stay still for me—okay? Can you do that?” Dr. Crane asked, her voice warm and concerned.
“Try,” I managed.
Dr. Crane’s eyes filled with a mixture of sorrow and resolve. I braced myself. “Sookie, the car accident was extremely bad. You husband and father-in-law were killed on impact.”
I felt hot tears welling into and then spilling from my eyes right away. My sore throat seemed to close on me.
“Breathe through your nose, little girl,” came Dr. Ludwig’s commanding voice.
Somehow, I managed to obey.
“Gran died too,” I managed to say, having a flash of a memory. She was slumped over, twisted in a way she couldn’t have managed in her older age. Her yellow dress was stained—with blood that would never come out.
“Yes,” Dr. Crane confirmed. “She died on the scene.”
I let out some sobs. “Suffer?” I asked, praying that the woman who had raised me did not languish in agony before her death.
“No!” Dr. Ludwig said firmly. “According to the driver of the truck that hit your vehicle and the paramedics, your grandmother was unconscious until she passed.”
I felt myself breathing a sigh of relief for that small mercy.
“Jase?” I asked, my voice trembling with fear.
“He was hurt pretty bad, but we believe he will recover as well,” Dr. Crane said.
More tears fell, these from relief.
“Where is he?” I managed.
“In the ICU—on this floor,” Dr. Crane said.
“He’s due to be moved in here with you in a few hours,” came Captain Northman’s voice. I looked over at him.
“You’ve seen him?” I asked him.
“Every moment I’ve been able to—since I got here from Afghanistan,” he assured.
“How is he?” I coughed out.
Eric’s hand that wasn’t holding mine put the water back up for me to drink.
Once he was satisfied that I had taken what I could, he spoke. “Jason has a broken left femur, which has already been repaired with pins. He had a bad concussion that caused some swelling in his brain, but Dr. Ludwig took care of that. His body was beat up in the accident, Ma’am, and his heart was bruised. He had some problems with a valve in it, and it was touch and go for a while, but another doctor, Dr. Niall Brigant, patched up his heart. That’ll be fine too. His lung collapsed from all the trauma, but they got that re-inflated, and he’s better now.”
He paused, his eyes narrowing a bit, his lips tracing downward into a deep frown.
“What else?” I asked.
“His right leg, Ma’am. It couldn’t be saved. It’s been amputated from right below the knee.”
I gasped and cried some more—for my losses and for my child.
“How will I take care of him . . . like this?” I asked desperately, choking out the last part of my question. The water was there immediately.
“I’m here for you, Ma’am,” Captain Northman vowed. “For as long as you and Jase need me, I’ll be here.”
His words made me feel surprised, but immeasurably better—made me feel able to let myself go in my grief. And so I did—crying for several minutes. Or maybe several hours. I had no idea. All I knew was that my throat was so raw that it hurt to breathe.
When I composed myself again, the straw and water were waiting for me.
“Hunter?” I asked, ashamed I’d fallen apart before I knew what happened to that sweet boy.
“He’s already been discharged,” Dr. Crane said. I looked back over in her direction to see that Dr. Ludwig was gone. In her place, I saw an Indian woman dressed in scrubs with puppies on them.
“I’m Nurse Indira,” she said kindly, when she saw that I was looking at her.
“Was Hunter hurt?” I asked.
“He had a broken arm as well as a concussion and some minor abrasions. But he’ll be fine,” Dr. Crane assured. “Sookie, I’m on your case because my expertise is in grief counselling. I’ll be seeing you once a day, five days a week until you are discharged, but you can ask the nurse to call me whenever you need—24-7. Okay?”
I nodded. And then my grief caught me again. And then it sent me into a nightmare of crushing metal and shattering glass. “Jase!” I yelled, trying to turn to look at him after I felt the initial collision.
I closed my eyes tightly.
“Fuck! Hang on!” Alcide called out, even as I felt the SUV start to spin.
“Mom!” Jase yelled, even as Hunter screamed. I looked at Gran; her eyes were full of terror as she looked forward. I was angled by then so that I couldn’t see well out of the windshield. But I could see Jackson. His eyes were targeted toward the front of the car, as Gran’s were.
He said nothing before I felt the crash from the front. But I saw him all but disappear into whatever had hit us. “Alcide!” I yelled as hot, searing pain ripped into me. “Alcide!” He didn’t answer. I looked toward Gran; she was slumped both forward and to the side—impossibly twisted. “Gran!” I yelled. “Jase! Alcide!” I heard cries from behind me, but I couldn’t move. Pain—crippling pain—beat suddenly from my head. And then the world went blank.
“Where’s Alcide?” my addled brain compelled me to ask, even as I imagined that he was still in the SUV, trapped on the interstate—somewhere inside of a coffin of twisted metal. “Alcide!” I yelled again.
“Sookie, you need to be still,” Captain Northman said, his voice close to my head.
“Alcide!” I yelled again, my throat constricting against what I was doing to it. “Jase! Gran! Oh God! No!”
“Sedative,” ordered Dr. Crane.
Immediately, my body felt warm, but I continued to fight. I needed to see them. They were in the car with me, trapped with me!
Dying with me!
“Alcide!” I sputtered, my body feeling so heavy. “Jase. Gran.”
“Sleep, Sookie. I’m here with you and Jason,” Eric said.
My eyes locked onto his, though my mind seemed unable to lock onto anything tangible. “Save them,” I begged him—thinking hazily about Gran and Alcide. “Don’t let them die. Why did you let Bill die?” I added mindlessly.
I saw tears falling down his cheeks as my own eyes closed.
Nothing had been more difficult for me than watching Sookie have to deal with a lifetime’s worth of grief in only a few minutes, even as her own body was almost immobile and taxed with physical injury.
“Captain Northman?” Dr. Crane asked me.
I looked at her and then took the Kleenex she held out to me. I wiped Sookie’s cheeks before wiping my own.
“Who’s Bill?” she asked.
I looked around and noted that Nurse Indira had left the room.
“Mrs. Herveaux’s first husband.”
“Oh—your brother?” she asked.
I sighed deeply. “No, Ma’am,” I said, “not by blood—at least. We met in the Marines. He was my friend—my best friend. And when he died in combat, he asked me to watch over Jason—and Mrs. Herveaux if she needed it. I’m not Jason’s real uncle, Ma’am. I’m sorry I’ve been breaking the rules, but I needed to be with Jason. And with Mrs. Herveaux.”
Dr. Crane smiled softly. “I believe you do need to be with them. Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me,” she whispered conspiratorially. “And—if your actual relationship with Jason and Sookie comes out, I’ll run interference with my Grandfather.”
“Grandfather?” I asked.
“Niall Brigant is one hell of a doctor,” she responded with a little chuckle. “Medicine runs in his blood. My mother, Raena, and her much younger half-brother, Fintan, both followed in Niall’s footsteps. My mom stopped practicing medicine only long enough to have me and my twin, Claude, who is the only one in the family who is not a doctor of some sort. He’s a stripper—believe it or not. My grandpa has a joke though.”
“Oh?” I asked, picking up on the fact that Dr. Crane was stalling by using her story in order to allow me to get myself back together. I was grateful to her.
“He says that Claude’s routine is enough to cause heart attacks, so he makes sure that the club he owns has his number on speed dial. Meanwhile, Claude claims to be a healer, too—just of an unusual kind,” she said with a little chuckle. “My mother and my father, who’s also a doctor, moved to New York several years ago in order to run Bellevue Hospital’s emergency department. But Finn and I like working here with Grandpa.”
“It’s nice to have family close,” I said.
“It is,” Dr. Crane returned. “Captain Northman, are you okay?”
I found myself shaking my head, even as Dr. Crane handed me another Kleenex. My tears seemed unable to stop flowing.
“No. I’m not okay. I know that Mrs. Herveaux is not in her right mind, but she’s right about Bill. I didn’t protect him like I should have,” I found myself confessing to the virtual stranger.
“He died in combat?” she asked.
“Yes. Sniper. It was my job in our platoon to deal with sniper threats, but I didn’t do it in time,” I shared, speaking aloud the guilty thought that had plagued me for years.
“Does Sookie blame you for her first husband’s death?” Dr. Crane asked.
“I didn’t think so,” I said somewhat meekly.
“Was it truly your fault?” she asked. “Did you do anything wrong the day he died?”
I thought back. I’d yet to look at Dr. Crane, keeping my eyes on Sookie’s now-sleeping form. I let my mind drift back to that horrible day when Bill was killed, almost eight years before. It was still so vivid to me. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I knew that in my head. I’d discussed it with other therapists.
“I didn’t do more,” I finally told Dr. Crane.
“Have you talked to anyone about all this?” she asked gently.
“Yeah,” I informed. “Ever since Bill died, I’ve been cognizant that I needed help with the mental things. So I’ve sought it out.”
“Do you have someone here yet? Maybe at Bailey?” she asked.
I shook my head. “I’m not officially stationed there yet. I’m on leave. I’m sure I’ll see the company shrink when I start there though. No offense, Ma’am,” I said as I realized my wording could have been better chosen.
“None taken,” she said with a little laugh. “Until you can begin with someone at Bailey, would you like to speak with me sometimes?”
I finally looked at her, my eyes—no doubt—registering my surprise.
“Why?” I asked.
“I’m good at reading people, Captain. It doesn’t matter that Sookie didn’t mean to blame you for Bill’s death. And it doesn’t matter that she was clearly comforted that you are here with her. What struck me was the way your body shook when she did blame you. And you cannot be suffering from that guilt while you need to be strong for Sookie and Jase. Nor should you suppress that guilt. That would do nobody any good.”
I gave her a little nod.
“From what my uncle, Fintan, has told me, you are going to be the one helping Sookie to pick up the pieces of her life and get through her and Jase’s rehabilitation. Don’t neglect yourself, Captain.”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” I said after a few moments. “I would be grateful to see you until I can make arrangements at Bailey.”
“Good. I’ll have Nurse Indira arrange for the paperwork, but I’ve consulted with the ‘shrink’ on Bailey before,” Dr. Crane said with a wink, “so it shouldn’t be a problem. I will also, of course, be counseling Jase, too. There are many changes happening in all of your lives right now. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you see Jase or Sookie teetering.”
“I won’t,” I promised.
“Or if you are in trouble,” she added.
I nodded in agreement.
Dr. Crane nodded in return and then looked at Sookie. “The shock of all of this will wear off. When it does, it will make the physical impact of the accident seem like child’s play. She’ll have a lot to deal with then. She’ll have a lot of questions—many of them related to how she is going to help her son and what has become of her loved ones. She’ll need your help with the first of those concerns. Do you know about the details surrounding the funeral arrangements made for her family members?”
I nodded. “Her friends Tara and Amelia would know more though. Amelia will be here at 0900 tomorrow morning.”
“Good,” Dr. Crane sighed. “Call me if you need, but Sookie will likely wish to hear about things from her friends—including you—whenever possible. And she won’t want her counsellor around when she has her initial reaction to them either. The nurse will, of course, keep a sedative at the standby—in case she needs another.”
Again, I nodded. She handed me another Kleenex before telling me that our first appointment together would be the next day at 1500 hours (3:00 p.m.) and reminding me to call her if I needed anything. And then she left the room.
I kept hold of Sookie’s hand, though I knew that the sedative would keep her out for a while.
I’d heard everything that Dr. Crane had said. Indeed, 90% of me no longer blamed myself for Bill’s death. But hearing Sookie do it had shaken me. And—of course—both she and Jason were in injured states, despite the fact that Bill had asked me to watch over them.
As irrational as it may have seemed, I felt guilty for their conditions. I’d failed to keep them safe.
I heard my father’s voice in my head, telling me that I was a failure whenever I wasn’t perfect. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize that no one could be perfect. As an adult, I knew better; however, that didn’t stop me from doing all that I could to be perfect.
In my job, if I wasn’t perfect, then people died.
In my personal life, if I wasn’t perfect, I knew I might alienate Pam. And, of course, I’d been walking a tightrope with the woman whose hand I was currently holding. Always, I worried that Sookie might tell me that I was no longer a positive addition in Jason’s life.
Now, Sookie and Jason lay broken, and they had only me to help them through it.
Not how they wanted.
Not who they wanted.
A/N: Hello all! I hope that you liked this chapter. Again, this subject matter was difficult to bring to life, but I hope I did a serviceable job. I imagined what it would be like for someone coming out of heavy sedation and having to experience all the news about her own condition and the status of her family. I hope I pulled it off.
Please leave a comment if you have the time and inclination. And thanks for all the well-wishes for me personally. This are still pretty stressful for me, but at least there are no headaches today (knock on wood).