Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
“I can’t believe you’re being so selfish about this! All I’m asking…”
“Is to remove me from my office, which took me a great deal of time and inconvenience to assemble,” Eric was more than annoyed. The first time Sookie told him she would be ‘taking’ his office at Bon Temps for a baby nursery, he quickly set her straight. He pointed at all the empty bedrooms on the floor just below them. He spelled out how inconvenient it would be for both of them to have an infant too close. He reminded her that it was a bad idea to allow a child to disrupt one’s life. Children were extensions of their parents, not the other way around.
Sookie huffed and sighed. She crossed her arms and called him “Buster” several times. She gave up, but it wasn’t the end of it. “By my count, Lover, this is the thirteenth time you have introduced this subject. Is there some new argument or fact you wish to present? Is there some reason you believe my answer would be different this time?”
“But, what if something happens?” she stomped her foot. Her arms crossed under her breasts, emphasizing their size, but Eric knew better than to reach out to cup one. She was cross, not exactly angry, but she would swat at him all the same.
“What could happen?” Eric scoffed. “Pam wants to put a surveillance system in the room. I am awake all night and can hear better than any listening device. When I am not here, Bubba or one of the others will be. Having a child in our chambers will be noisy and disruptive.”
“Don’t start with the smell thing again,” Sookie huffed.
“You understand the issue. It is better a child has quiet when it wishes to sleep. There is no reason for a child to be disturbed by the noises you make,” and Eric smirked at Sookie before turning to walk downstairs.
“If you keep this up, Buddy, there won’t be any noises coming from this room ever again!” Sookie threatened. It wasn’t the first time she’d said it, but they both knew it was a lie. If anything, Sookie’s libido was in overdrive. These spats only seemed to fuel her hunger and it annoyed the telepath no end that Eric knew it.
Still, Eric found he was not willing to let it go, and so he turned back and in a flash was very, very close to her flushed face.
“What makes you think I was talking about those noises, Lover? I was talking about your snoring,” and with a smirk he knew would piss her off, he stole a kiss and flashed down the stairs before she could say another word. He could hear her roaring her frustration upstairs and Eric couldn’t help chuckling.
“Baiting pregnant women is either brave or suicidal,” Charles shook his head. “She’s like a dog with a bone. You’d do better finding something that will aim her somewhere else.”
Eric could hear Sookie stomping down the stairs, “What did you have in mind?” he asked, watching for his wife.
“Have the nursery room decorated while you’re both away. Have someone she likes do it, someone she won’t want to offend. Maybe have them throw her a surprise nursery party or something.”
“You are very smart,” Eric grinned.
“Three kids and I still have all my body parts,” Charles winked.
“Don’t think just because we have company that this is over, Eric Northman!” Sookie announced as she walked into the kitchen, but when she turned to Charles her smile was pleasant and Eric could feel her mood had shifted again. “It’s nice to see you, Charles. I was happy to hear you’d be going with Eric to Minnesota. As least someone is!”
That had been one of the other fights they’d had this week. Sookie was feeling fine and she saw no reason she couldn’t accompany Eric on his upcoming trip to Maude’s palace. Sure, Jane and Dr. Ludwig had both cautioned against any long distance travel for the telepath during her first trimester, but she would officially enter her second trimester in days. Still, Eric held firm. Sookie was hoping that when they visited the clinic for their ultrasound in two nights the verdict would change. For now, the telepath was hardly housebound. She continued to work with her human friends at Maxine’s, although she cut back to three times a week. Tamsin was also starting to come less frequently. The Fairy’s explanation was that she had pressing business in the land of the Fae.
Mr. Cataliades remained their constant. They settled on a schedule of every Monday evening and he would appear, always dapper, with papers and information regardless of where they were located. It was Monday, so they expected the demon shortly. Tomorrow they would travel into Shreveport for the monthly Assizes and then back to Shreveport the following night for the clinic. Eric would leave later that night for Minnesota and be gone for two nights before rejoining Sookie in New Orleans. It was a busy schedule and a third fight was over whether Sookie should have a day man. Of course, this person would not really be a day man, or even a man, but Eric was insisting that she have someone who would travel with her, organizing schedules and doing housework, including cooking, when Sookie was in a house, like Bon Temps, where there were no regular servants.
Sookie countered that she could just as easily make arrangements with Maxine’s to provide prepared food (and she had), and as for organizing calendars, she didn’t need someone up her ass telling her where she needed to be, thank you very much. “That’s pretty much your job, isn’t it?” she’d snarled at Eric.
“Well, I must be terrible at it, because you refuse to do as you’re told!” Eric had snarled back. Thinking about that fight made Eric smile. She’d struck him, he’d grabbed her, and they’d ended up embarrassing the Were guard who came to see what broke.
Sookie moved to the refrigerator and pulled out the aluminum containers. Each was labeled with the temperature and the time. Holly Fortenberry was thorough. Eric knew he probably should have helped, but it was too much fun to watch her watching him, knowing it was getting under her skin. Charles looked from one to the other and said, “I’m going to take a patrol. I’ll be back later.” When Sookie’s back was turned, he shook his head at Eric. It made Eric smile more.
When Eric sensed her annoyance crossing to anger, he rose from the stool and retrieved silverware. The demon attorney and Sookie would eat dinner while Eric sipped blood. Maxwell Lee had sent prospectives on the events planning business, Fangtasia Ltd. Sookie was a part owner and there was a proposal to expand further. Their meetings usually ran several hours. Eric finished setting the table and then took the extra step of pouring Sookie a large glass of water with ice. Not drinking sweet tea was a hardship for her, but she worried about the effects of caffeine and he was pleased to see her smile at him when he handed her the glass.
The business portion of the meeting tonight ran a little longer than usual. Sookie’s holdings in trust for her Grandfather were doing well. Sookie had decided against making an investment in a pill that promised to roll back aging. Others had jumped on the idea and for a while it looked like the competition had chosen wisely, but now there were reports of people having serious side effects and at least one lawsuit had been filed. Mr. Cataliades chuckled that with Sookie’s instincts it would be a foolish attorney who ever bet against her.
“Well,” Sookie smiled, “That’s real kind of you to say. I have chocolate cake for dessert and some of that ginger tea you like. It’s a pretty night and we could sit out in the screen porch.”
“It’s a kind offer,” the attorney bowed, “But I have pressing matters.” He looked at Sookie and it was in the way he said it that stopped her, “You look beautiful. I don’t believe I have ever seen you happier.”
“Why do I get the feeling there’s something going on that folks aren’t telling me?” Sookie tilted her head, “First Tamsin and now you. When do you ever turn down cake? Is there something I should know?”
“Of course not!” the attorney laughed, “There is nothing to worry about! Forgive an old friend who is feeling nostalgic. May I?” and he stepped close, his hand extended.
Sookie glanced at Eric, and then shrugged, “Sure, guess I’ll have to get used to it. The way he’s growing, he’ll be the first thing people see for a while.”
Mr. Cataliades stepped forward and, with a slight smile, laid his hand on the swell of Sookie’s stomach. He closed his eyes for a moment and his smile dropped. “You will have your ultrasound soon?” he asked.
“In two nights,” Eric was watching the lawyer closely. He trusted Desmond, but the sight of anyone touching Sookie made his skin itch.
“That’s good,” the attorney smiled now. “Give Amy my best, but now I must be going.” He gathered his papers and, in a most uncharacteristic move, he leaned over and hugged Sookie. “Take care of yourself,” he told her and bowed to Eric.
“What do you think that’s all about?” Sookie asked Eric as the demon walked out to his waiting vehicle, but Eric had no answer.
The Assizes were the next night and this month they were being held in Fangtasia. Indira had closed the club for regular business and signs were posted. Sookie was masking her pregnancy. It was tricky, this business of only altering certain aspects of her appearance. She found it took long hours of practice to get it exactly right. It was harder still when she decided to allow her Fae features to be seen, but still hide both her scent and the body changes specific to her pregnancy. “It feels like threading a needle,” she told Eric. “I have to pay such close attention. It’s getting easier, but it still leaves me all tired out.”
Both knew there was no question of Sookie not attending. She had fought hard to earn her place next to Eric for these events. If she missed one there would be speculation. “Pace yourself,” he kissed her head. “I have asked that thrones be placed on the podium. If we are both sitting there will be no wondering.”
“You complain about humans being sensitive, but you vampires are downright twitchy!” Sookie fussed. “If I stand but you don’t, that could be disrespectful. If you stand but I don’t, I’m not taking my rightful place. If I speak before you do, I’m being rude, but if you speak and I don’t, then I’m viewed as being ineffective.”
“We are very old, Lover. What do we have to do but come up with rules and protocol?” and he sympathized when the telepath rolled her eyes.
Sookie decided that rather than try to reveal her Fae features later, she’d start the evening with them in place. It was always a jolt when she caught sight of her hand and saw the long, sharp claws that tipped each of her elongated fingers. Her skin was pale and slightly glowing. Her hair looked more white than gold and her eyes slanted over sharp cheekbones. Eric handed her into her throne before sitting on his own. He sat back, his arms draped over the arms and his legs spread, making his already impressive presence appear even larger. “Who is first?” he asked.
Karin kept things moving. There were the usual petty things; vampires poaching in each other’s territory, claims of theft. Things were going smoothly and Sookie wondered if they would have time to watch a movie together later when there was a murmur and Octavia Fant stepped forward. Sookie could feel Eric’s sudden interest. He sat up and Sookie did the same.
“Welcome, Octavia,” Eric said, not waiting for the witch to present herself. “It is always a pleasure to see you. Perhaps I can have a chair brought and you can rest until the business of my Court is concluded?” Sookie could tell that Eric was worried. It was in the way he dropped his contractions.
“I won’t say no to the chair,” the witch replied, “but I’m here on business.” The older woman looked right at Sookie and her face wrinkled, “Sookie? Is that you?”
“It’s been a long time,” Sookie said, the syllables slightly slurred as she spoke around her teeth.
Eric stood then and turning to Sookie, said, “I will speak with our friend. Join us when things are concluded,” and he stepped off the podium.
Sookie watched the Viking walk away with Octavia toward the offices in back and she couldn’t stop the quick feeling of panic. She knew he was sending her calm, but it seemed like a pea in the ocean of her emotions. Sookie turned to see Karin staring at her and so she stood up, walked with deliberate steps to Eric’s throne, sat, settled herself, and only then snarled, “Continue.”
Eric gestured toward the couch when they entered the office. He turned to the small refrigerator and opened a soft drink, pouring it into a glass. ‘Sookie has ruined me,’ he thought as he turned to find Octavia sitting in the chair across from the desk instead of on the couch.
When Eric looked surprised, the older witch smirked, “I know what goes on over there on that couch. I’m not setting any part of me on any part of that surface.” She accepted the beverage and smiled some more, “Mighty nice of you, Majesty. Must have had some nice person teach you manners because it’s not anything I’ve come to expect from vampires.”
Eric walked to sit behind the desk. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“I’ve come to register our complaints,” Octavia nodded. “We were assured that the killing would stop. That’s happened with some of you, but not all. That bastard right to your North…”
“Isaiah?” Eric asked and when Octavia nodded, he gestured for her to continue.
“That Isaiah, for example, he just lies to our people. He tells us he’s turned over his prisoners, but then we found out that he used our asking as an excuse to hurry their executions. He denies it, but you know we have ways of knowing what happens.”
“I will speak with him. Give me the names of those he was holding. You understand he is a fellow King, but I am Clan Chief. I can bring him forward before the others for endangering our peace.”
Octavia sipped her drink and then carefully set it on the desk between them, “I believe you would. Do you know how different that is from other vampires?”
Eric smiled and shrugged, “I can’t believe that I am the only one who understands the benefits of a good deal,” he replied.
“It’s not about deals,” Octavia retorted, “It’s about treating others, witches, like equals. You respect us. I can count the vampires who do on one hand, and those are not always your rulers. Most vampires see us the way they see humans, like dirt. Of course, for us, it depends on whether or not we’re doing something for them. If we provide a service the vampire wants, then we’re almost valuable dirt. You’re different, Northman. You were before, but you are definitely different now.”
“You barely know me,” the Viking pointed out.
“You offered me a cold drink,” Octavia looked at him as though she was seeing right through him. “That tells me more than you think.” When Eric looked skeptical, Octavia said, “If there is one thing this experience has shown us, it is the importance of our coming together for protection.”
“It’s not easy, organizing,” Eric observed.
“I heard Sookie was involved with the Weres,” Octavia gave Eric a direct look. It hadn’t occurred to the Viking that witches kept track of those things and he made a mental note not to underestimate them again. “That’s the problem with Weres though, they can’t put their instincts aside long enough. They fight to become Alpha without realizing that their behavior keeps them at the bottom of the food chain,” and the witch laughed. “Witches are smarter. We’re using the Internet to connect and we’ve begun to talk about how to police our own. That’s not easy, but you probably know that.”
“You see how we do it,” Eric jerked his chin toward the door. “You’re right. It’s not easy, but there are established rules and we all understand the consequences of not following them.”
“Did you know that even vamps who don’t like you admire you, Mr. Northman?” Octavia asked, her eyes bright.
“That is pleasant to hear,” Eric shrugged, “But I suspect you have something you want, so why don’t you tell me what it is?”
“I like that about you, too,” Octavia nodded, “You don’t beat around the bush. I have witches who have lost friends to the kind of stupidity your Isaiah is committing. They are not thinking that money is enough. They want revenge. If you will give me your word you will bring those who would break the peace before a Court, like you have out there, I think I can get ahead of this before our peace is blown to pieces.”
“I can try,” Eric nodded, “at least for Amun Clan I can give you some assurances. I am not so certain I can speak for the other Clans. I will bring it to the Chiefs.” He looked away before saying, “Normally I would refer something like this to our Ancient Pythoness. She is the oldest among us. She organized the kingdoms here and named many of us to our places.”
“I know who you’re talking about,” Octavia nodded, “But from what I hear she’s not likely to get involved.”
Eric could barely keep the surprise from his face. It was an evening of revelations. He had not expected the witch to know of Were politics and now it appeared she knew of vampire politics, too. Despite his annoyance, he smiled and said, “I would be grateful to hear what you know.”
“She is old,” Octavia told him. “She’s been in touch with the Fae and she’s been in touch with a few of my sisters. She’s seen something that bothers her. We don’t know what it is because she won’t share it. She asked my sisters to interpret parts of a dream, but it didn’t make sense. I don’t know what she plans, but she told them she’s on a spiritual pilgrimage. She said she will not venture out into the world.”
Eric nodded. He had no reason not to believe what Octavia was telling him, but it was disturbing. As long as he could remember, there had been the assurance that if things became too contentious, the Pythoness could be called as arbiter. Now it appeared this safety valve might be lost to the vampires. “I don’t know if we are ready for that,” he said out loud.
The door opened and Sookie walked in with Karin right behind her, “Ready for what?” his wife asked.
Eric jerked his chin and when the door was shut, he explained, “A world where the Pythoness no longer walks among us.”
“Don’t you think Mr. Cataliades would have said something if that was the case?” Sookie asked while at the same time she stepped forward to greet Octavia Fant.
It wasn’t until the witch hugged her that Sookie’s shielding of her pregnancy dropped. “Oh my!” the witch exclaimed and laid her hand on Sookie’s belly. “Well, there are more things here than meet the eye!”
“We’re pretty excited,” Sookie agreed. “We get our first real ultrasound tomorrow night, so it’s a big deal.”
“All went well?” Eric asked.
“Right as rain,” Sookie shrugged.
“There were some who thought they could bully her, but she handled it well,” Karin was smiling.
“Oh!” Sookie waved her hand, “Wasn’t anything! They figured with the King out of the way they should test the waters, but I think everyone understands things now.”
Octavia stood, “I must be going,” she announced before turning to Eric and saying, “I will wait for your email. Don’t delay. It would be best to have assurances I can pass along soon.”
Eric nodded, “I leave for Minnesota tomorrow night. There will be many of the Amun rulers there and we will talk of this. I will email you to let you know what is decided. You have my pledge.”
The witch hugged Sookie once more and leaning in, said, “You were always wonderful to me, even when you didn’t have to be. You never complained and I asked a lot. You should know that you can count on me as your friend. The King knows how to get ahold of me. You call anytime you need anything. If it’s in my power, I’ll get it for you.”
When Octavia had gone, Karin turned to Eric, “So, when was someone going to tell me that Nabila was invited to move into Arkansas?”
Sookie looked at Karin and without missing a beat said, “There’s plenty of room up there. I figured Thomas wouldn’t mind the company.”
Eric could feel the quick play of emotions through his daughter, her surprise, followed by a stab of what was probably jealousy, followed by more surprise. Karin’s normally placid exterior was anything but and she seemed to have forgotten her mouth was open.
“It seemed the only Christian thing to do, under the circumstances, and we couldn’t very well have her with us. She needs someplace she can settle and collect herself,” and Sookie plastered her Crazy Sookie smile in place and sat back. When Karin didn’t say anything, Sookie glanced at her fingernails, then added, “Under the circumstances, it wouldn’t have been right to have Thierry involved and Thomas is the only other friendly face she’d know.”
That did earn Sookie a hiss and Karin stood up, hastily excused herself, and left with a bang of the door.
“Was that necessary?” Eric asked.
“Oh, come on!” Sookie smirked, “Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy it!”
“I am pleased you are my wife,” the Viking got up and walked around the desk. “If you were not, and you teased me as you did Karin, I would be very jealous.”
Sookie smiled her Cheshire Cat smile and, her eyes darkening, sent him a feeling through the bond letting him know she had gone from zero to a hundred, “And what do jealous vampires do, Eric?” she asked him, her voice low and seductive.
“Why, they claim, Min Hustru. They claim,” and Eric brought his mouth down on hers. He ripped her shirt open, and brought both hands up to her breasts. They were not quite as sensitive as they had been a few weeks ago and he took advantage of it to lightly pull at her distended nipples. It shouldn’t have been so hot, but Eric loved the feel of them, the weight that overspilled his hand. Sookie leaned back, making access easier, and Eric took advantage of her extended neck to lick and then bite. He didn’t take much, but then again, the taste of her was so much more potent. She knew the effect she was having on him and her hands worked his pants open, pulling them down over his hips so his cock could spring free. Sookie reached around him to pull apart his tight butt cheeks, all the while flexing up and down, allowing his hardening cock to pull and catch on her clothing. “Sookie!” he hissed.
When the Viking reached for her pants, Sookie pushed his hands away, “Stop! I need these to get home! Besides, I’m not sure you’ve earned the privilege. You fight with me. You give me trouble…”
“But I am doing the claiming, Lover!” Eric used his most reasonable tone and when he reached for her pants again, Sookie smirked and stepped back. She turned to face away from him, and then lowered her pants with a wiggle of her hips. She looked over her shoulder, and smiled. “You are very good at this,” Eric hissed and then moved with all speed.
“Jesus Christ, Sweet Shepherd of Judea!” the telepath exclaimed when she found herself positioned on the edge of the desk, her face level with Eric’s chest and her legs held open while her very interested vampire leaning over her. Her belly wasn’t large enough to get in the way yet, but Eric was careful not to place pressure there.
“I wonder if you are wet enough for me?” Eric mused, and then squatted low enough to lick her exposed sex. It was amazing, the taste of her now and he found himself getting lost in it. He came to himself when she pulled at his hair and he realized she had been crying out for some time. Her face was flushed and she was dripping onto the desk. “You are mine!” he hissed and stepping toward her, entered her in one, swift movement. Sookie’s back arched and she made the most wonderful sound. He stopped, allowing her to catch her breath, and he marveled again at the change. She was warmer now, and her walls seemed to be thicker somehow, more welcoming. It was hard to believe she could be softer and at the same time tighter around him, and yet, that was the case. He had always enjoyed their lovemaking, she was the best bed companion he had ever had, but this change made the experience sublime and he understood now why there had been some in his village who had kept their wives pregnant.
“Come to me!” Sookie called out and Eric understood what she wished. Using his nail, he cut his chest and then helped her lean forward. As she drank from him, pulling at his blood with lips and teeth, he felt the bond between them spark and warm. Each stroke within her, each movement she made to meet him, reminded Eric of the depth of their bond. He felt the first flutter within her and he felt himself swelling in answer. In the moment she gave herself over, her walls pulling at him, his release pulsing within her, he entered her mind. She was not thinking. She was feeling with him, lost in the sensations that took her and Eric basked in it. This sense of one-ness with her completed some part of him. He knew by dipping into her thoughts he was breaking trust with her, but it was only during these times. It was in these moments that he knew, beyond any shadow of doubt, that she was his and his alone. It was everything. It was enough.
“So, are you ready to have a good look?” Jane asked. She was in a white jacket and was in charge of running the ultrasound. Dr. Ludwig had stepped out of the room having taken Sookie’s blood. Eric wrinkled his nose at the jelly the researcher squirted on Sookie’s small belly, but his expression changed when the wand made contact and the heartbeat he had been hearing for weeks came through the speaker. Almost without thinking, he leaned over and speaking close to Sookie’s belly said, “Good evening, min son.” The sound shifted and Jane moved the wand to capture the same steady sound again.
“He recognizes your voice,” Jane acknowledged and Eric found himself absurdly pleased.
Sookie was watching the screen, and she reached over and took his hand. Eric smiled at her, then, following her gaze, turned to look at the screen, too. The ultrasound was one of the newer designs and the resolution allowed them to see the baby’s face. Eric found himself captured by the image. He saw eyes and a nose. There were lips that already looked like Sookie’s. A hand was curled toward his face and as they watched, he moved, his hand twitching and bumping. Sookie squeezed Eric’s hand and he lifted hers, kissing her palm, his eyes never leaving the screen.
“Looks like you have a healthy boy,” Jane was smiling, “Congratulations.”
Doctor Ludwig walked back into the room and stepping next to Jane, took the wand. “Just be a couple more minutes,” she said.
“Take your time,” Sookie voice sounded dreamlike and Eric understood. It did not seem real, that they could see what was hidden within her so well.
The images on the screen changed. The doctor remarked on the length of the legs and spent some time examining the spine. “My son will be tall,” Eric said, “He has long legs.”
“Hold on,” the Doctor said, and then she shifted the picture again.
When the doctor started laughing, Sookie asked, “What is it?”
“If I were you I wouldn’t put out the baby announcements just yet,” and she looked at Jane who seemed to understand because she smiled, too.
“What do you mean?” Sookie asked again.
“Well, there’s a certain part that we should be able to see by now, and this one doesn’t have it,” and Amy Ludwig smirked as she said, “Looks to me like you have another Valkyrie on your hands, Eric Northman.”
“A girl?” It stopped him. He had assumed. They had both assumed. He could see Sookie’s face, feel her shock, but in that instant Eric knew it was perfect. “Min dotter!” he smiled and then leaning over, regardless of the wand and jelly he kissed his wife’s belly. “Min krigare kvinna!” he whispered.
“You’re sure?” Sookie didn’t seem like she was so thrilled and Eric glanced at her.
“You are disappointed?” he asked. It didn’t seem likely, but the feelings he was receiving from her were not pleased.
“No,” she said, then more firmly, “No! It’s not that. It’s just that… well, everything I’ve seen… Well, you know!” and Sookie looked back at the screen and chewed her lip.
“Lover,” Eric squeezed her hand until she looked at him, “Sookie, it is possible that things can shift. Even your Grandfather has told you that not all visions come to pass as we see them. Perhaps the boy you saw was a second child. Perhaps some change has come that has moved our fates and this,” and he laid his hand over her belly, “is the outcome. A girl, a daughter.” He could see his wife was getting over her surprise. She laid her hand over his and her eyes warmed.
“Get dressed, we have some things we need to discuss,” the Doctor told them and then pulling Jane after her, they left the room.
“You are really happy about this, aren’t you?” Sookie swallowed, and he could feel with each passing moment her acceptance and then her joy.
“I do have a habit of favoring women,” Eric smiled, his eyebrow lifting in that way that said, ‘told you so.’ He helped her to sit forward and then handed her towels. “Yes, Älskade, I am very happy about this.” He leaned down to kiss her and he found himself wondering if the hard bed would make a suitable platform for lovemaking, but she pushed him back.
“None of that, Buster! You know Amy wouldn’t think twice about walking in here and I don’t need to be spending the rest of my pregnancy getting teased by her!”
Once Sookie was dressed, they walked down the hall and took seats in Amy’s small office. Jane was looking in a folder and her face was thoughtful. “I’m not happy about your blood pressure,” Amy said without any preamble. “Your cholesterol is too high and you appear to be retaining fluids. It’s too early for that. I’m not sure what you’re eating, but you need to change your diet. The fact that I’m seeing this in spite of your blood exchanges has me worried.”
Eric frowned and then said, “She prefers the fried food she gets from her friend’s restaurant.”
Sookie gave him a look that said ‘Traitor’ and explained, “I get too tired to cook in the afternoon so my friends at Maxine’s have been sending over food for all of us. Of course, when Tamsin comes, I end up making waffles and bacon most mornings.”
“You need more fruits and vegetables,” Jane told her.
“Fried pickles are not vegetables, Lover,” Eric joined in. Sookie looked around the room and Eric could feel it, the rush of emotion, and he leaned forward to try and stem the tide before it started, “I will help, Sookie. We will find someone you like. It can be just to cook meals; it doesn’t have to be someone who moves in. All will be well,” and he rubbed her hand, running his thumb over the heavy gold band that decorated her finger.
Sookie bit her lip, “I guess this means I can’t go to Minnesota then.”
“When were you thinking of doing that?” Doctor Ludwig asked.
“Tonight,” Sookie replied and one fat tear rolled down her cheek. It was everything Eric had not to lean forward and claim it.
“No, I don’t think traveling by air at the moment is the best idea. Let’s get your diet changed and I’ll come out next week and check your blood pressure. If it looks like there’s an improvement, I might be able to give you the all clear,” and Amy patted the telepath’s arm. “You’re not going to be away long, are you?” Dr. Ludwig went from sympathy to beady stare, but Eric had her number.
“No,” he chuckled, “only two nights including this one. I will rejoin my women before the third night,” and he gave Sookie a wink.
“Good,” Amy nodded. “Proximity is probably good for all of you. I’m not sure how your bond affects things.”
“I will be interested in asking you about it later,” Jane was taking notes, her eyes alight.
On their way home that night, Sookie groused, “That Jane! I feel like a test subject every time she opens her mouth!” When Eric only smiled, his wife turned to him, “I’m sorry about the way I acted earlier.”
“In what way?” Eric asked.
“About the baby,” Sookie explained. “I guess I was just surprised. I had been so sure…”
“Why does this bother you, Lover?” Eric asked. “I have no need for sons. Is there something you aren’t saying?”
Sookie laughed then, “No, I just need to get my head out of my ass. This is the best news, and did you see her? She’s so beautiful! She looks just like you!”
“No, my Lover, she doesn’t,” and Eric took Sookie’s hand, “She looks like her mother.”
The rest of the ride they were silent, lost in their thoughts. For Eric, they were happy ones filled with images of a laughing girl with her mother’s sweet eyes and his own defined chin. For Sookie, they were happy as well, but somewhere in the back of her mind she couldn’t escape the feeling that she was missing something, something important.
“How’d the trade talks go?” Russell asked Maude.
“Well. Northman’s Sheriff is smart. He pressed hard for better terms, but I’m not unhappy with the result. I’ll be his exclusive provider for silica sand next year and with their planned expansions, I will have plenty to fund my agri-research.” Maude had not attended the talks herself. The controversy over genetically manufactured seed was heating up and the Minnesota Queen was taking the time to engage herself directly in that conversation. Inger, her second, had overseen the negotiations with the Viking and Thierry. While Inger reported to her Queen that the work between the Amun Chief and his Sheriff had been smooth, she also reported the underlying tension at odd moments. “Any idea why he’s angry with his Sheriff?”
“The handsome and charming Thierry?” Russell asked, “I can think of a few ideas.”
“That’s because you won’t let things go,” Bartlett walked into the large kitchen and, with a quick bow to Maude, took the seat next to his mate. He turned to Maude and said, “You know the Sheriff was my guest once upon a time.”
“Do tell!” Maude gave Russell an arch look. There was some story here and it didn’t take any imagination to see that jealousy played a part. “He was charming and playful and a spy from Misha’s Court. I played, toyed, and then I broke him and sent him back.” Bartlett fixed Russell with an even stare, “End of story.”
“Well, it would appear that some things don’t change. Inger reports that the charming Thierry has managed to get himself on the bad side of the North Man. Nothing overt, but Northman rode him all meeting long.”
“Too bad!” Russell said with no conviction.
Bartlett’s mouth downturned, but before he could say anything, Maude asked, “So, are the famous and fabulous Kings going to the big movie event? I don’t think I can open any Internet account without seeing some promotion for it.”
“No,” Bartlett shook his head, “We have a benefit that night in Indianapolis. Our first vampires graduated the police academy. They all had perfect scores, by the way, and they’re being inducted with their class. There’s a second ceremony following, lots of town fathers and others making the most of this ‘historic event.’” and Bartlett used air quotes.
“I can’t imagine they wouldn’t do perfectly. Photographic memory and perfect muscle control. It’s a job that’s almost custom-made,” Maude shrugged.
“Our Weres would beg to differ,” Russell shrugged. “I’ve received protests from several of my contacts. They are worried that vampires will muscle in and take over their territory. They feel their instincts and larger muscle mass make them more natural fits to the law enforcement profession.”
“When are Weres not fighting about something?” Maude rolled her eyes. “Me, me, mine, mine.”
“I have a Packmaster who would take offense at that description. Two, in fact,” and Eric joined his peers.
“My point exactly,” Maude smiled. “It’s all they do, take offense. Harder to talk with than a bag of burrs.”
“But like burrs, once you have them engaged, you can’t get rid of them!” Bartlett laughed in return.
Russell looked sour, so Maude asked, “You giving your publicist a vacation? I thought she’d be traveling with your entourage.”
“She is wrapping up her association with Bill Compton,” Russell told the Minnesota Queen. “He was her client first, but with the premiere, she’ll be ending her contract with him. She’s decided we are a full-time job.”
“Thank you again for the recommendation,” Bartlett nodded to the Queen, “Twy has done everything we needed. She really is brilliant and very hard working.”
“She did a credible job for Sookie and myself,” Eric agreed. “Although there were times I thought my Sookie would end her. Twy is direct.”
“She is. She plays the ‘bad cop’ in our little traveling show, and she does it well.” Bartlett said with an eye roll. Maude had been teasing both Bartlett and Russell during this trip about their exaggerated wardrobe. Draping sweaters over their shoulders and wearing pink topsiders had produced the desired effect, but both Kings were happy to be back in their ‘street clothes’ if only for a few days.
“So, you’re heading back tonight?” Maude asked Eric.
“The car will be here in two hours,” Eric nodded. “Thank you again for your offer to speak with Isaiah.”
“That old goat can’t hide from me!” Maude laughed. “Leave it to him to try and take a nickel and squeeze it into a quarter. I’ll get him to toe the line about the witches and to fork over an apology and some money. That should put an end to it.” She smiled, clearly looking forward to the encounter, “Idiot! I should rip something off him just on principal!”
“Well, if you can’t have fun…” Russell sniffed and they all smiled at each other. It was comfortable, being here. They agreed the peace with the witches was too important to allow a few to destroy it. Russell had called Stan and Eric called Sandy Seacrest. Stan would do what was expedient, but Sandy would see that now he’d given his word, he stuck to it. Stan could be slippery, but once he said he would do something, he could be a ruthless taskmaster. Eric was comfortable the Zeus rulers would toe the line.
Eric had called Felipe de Castro himself. The Narayana Chief agreed immediately, then kept Eric on the line for over an hour talking about the money he would make from their solar panel venture and the success of the first of his sex clubs. The sex club venture was a partnership the Nevada King had with Pam Ravenscroft. When Eric hung up, he told Maude that the conversation had been almost too easy. Felipe had said he wanted to let bygones be bygones, and it would seem that the vampire was being true to this word, as hard as that was to trust.
In the end, it was Maude who called Misha. “He’ll be more amendable to me,” Maude reasoned. “Pam is my friend and Pam has been spending more time there than anywhere else lately. She’ll be a voice of reason for him.”
The idea of his progeny being the New York King’s companion made Eric uneasy. He had warned Pam about him, counselled her to guard her heart. There was no indication his daughter wasn’t following his advice, but it would be difficult for any creature to remain neutral when spending every night with a person.
Misha agreed to reinforce the directive about the witches. He made a point of saying he would have particular challenges in working with the leaderless area of the Carolinas, then informed Maude that he had appointed an interim regent, ‘just to hold things together.’” All of them had half-expected a visit from one of the Pythoness’ handmaidens to address all the kingdom shifts, but none had come.
“So, back to New Orleans and then where, North Man?” Maude asked.
“I have agreed to appear at the premiere of Viking’s Bond,” Eric shrugged. “They want me to stand next to the actor. Everyone agrees it will be good publicity for the movie and vampires in general. Once that is done, I look forward to staying within my kingdom until Amun Summit.”
“Will Sookie be going with you?” Bartlett asked.
Eric shook his head, “No, my Queen has business in our kingdom. I will take care of this social obligation and then we will be making some decisions about how to handle our appearances in future.” Eric had not told the rulers about the child. He and Sookie had talked about it over many nights, the possibilities, and they both concluded it would be best to keep the pregnancy a secret for a while. Over time, the natural course of gossip would spread news and rumors, but neither saw any reason to promote things.
It was possible Maude already knew. Pam knew and her telling her friend was a logical conclusion, but the Queen had said nothing. Instead, she nodded and then Inger arrived to inform the Viking his ride was waiting.
Thierry was standing next to the black car when Eric emerged from Maude’s palace. Eric sat in the back and Thierry sat next to the driver. Things were slowly improving between them, but both understood the steps it would take to reinstate trust. Eric used the trip through the flat Minnesota landscape to think through the conversations over the past nights. It appeared Eric’s prediction about having to choose between human or supernatural rules was coming to pass. Vampires would impress the humans with their ability to see through the dark and their keen senses. There would be no need for DNA analysis except to confirm what vampires would already know through their noses and taste. A missing person case had been solved and several murders wrapped up by the rookie vampire police. Eric knew Thalia was involved. She was coaching these new officers, collecting information from them and tracking her own leads to try and solve the mystery of the rogues.
When they arrived at the airport, there were representatives from Anubis waiting to walk them through the terminal and out to the waiting shuttle. As they passed through the concourse, something caught Eric’s eye. It was a display of small, stuffed animals. The toy at the top of the rack was a bunny, all soft brown fur and long ears. He thought of his Sookie, drunk from anesthesia, giggling as she leaned against his office door talking about decorating. She had called it a ‘bunny boy.’ Now they knew it was a bunny girl instead. Eric diverted into the store. He could tell the cashier knew he was a vampire and she didn’t bother to hide her curiosity.
When he settled in this seat in the plane, Eric took out his cell and texted Sookie. ‘Let’s make a deal. I hire you a dayman. You get the office.’ He pulled the bunny from its paper bag and placed it in his lap. ‘Yes,” he thought. “Everything has changed.’