Author’s Note: Thank you Breathesgirl but your quick turnaround and thank you Ms Buffy, for taking the time to teach me more.
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.
“You lied to me!” Eric’s fangs descended and he leaned over her.
“I did not lie!” and Sookie smacked the vampire in the chest to make him take a step back, “I just didn’t tell you about that! What’s the big deal? It’s over!”
Sookie turned to walk away, but Eric grabbed her arm, “Don’t you walk away from me! We are not finished!”
“We are now!” she raged, jerking her arm from his grasp, “You don’t manhandle me! No one will ever manhandle me again!” and her eyes were blazing.
“You think to distract me? I would never hurt you! You dishonor me by even saying it!” but her words caused him to drop his hand and rock back a little on his heels. He stood taller instead and crossed his arms. He retracted his fangs and looked down on her using his ‘I’m so superior’ look, the one she really hated. “Perhaps you feel I am not worthy of your trust? After all, I am a vampire, not a human. Perhaps you feel my uses are limited.” He was so angry he could hear his slight accent.
Sookie exhaled and looked away, “That’s not it, Eric. I was sick. You were sick…”
“You did not know that! Neither of us realized what was happening. You chose to hide what happened in Denver. You chose to withhold information from me!” and just like that, his anger dissipated. The arch to his eyebrow lowered and his swagger melted as his eyes turned thoughtful, “Why, Sookie? Why would you not wish to share your life with me?”
“I didn’t want you to worry,” and she bit her lip. “It was scary, but then it was over. There was no reason to go over it again,” and then she shrugged, “Besides, what could you do about it? It can’t be fixed.”
Eric’s eyebrows came together, “Why? Why would it need to be fixed?” He could see her struggling, the confusion and conflict humming through their bond. Her emotions made him uneasy, “Please, Lover, please let me see what you are thinking. You are in turmoil. Perhaps I can help.”
“No!” It sprang from her. “No,” she said again, her voice more modulated. She could see she had hurt him, so she stepped in and wrapped her arms around his waist. When he left his arms at his sides, she sighed, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, Eric. It’s that I don’t trust myself.”
Now his arms did rise to wrap around her, pulling her to him. He made her feel safe through his embrace and through their bond. “What did you think you could have done that would have changed things?” he asked. “This was not your doing. Weres are emotional creatures. They fight and snarl with each other. It is their nature. They envy what vampires have achieved, but they don’t have our discipline, our desire for order.”
Sookie let out a quick huff, “You mean your need to control everything!”
“You call us high-handed? Yes, we prefer to understand our surroundings. Most of my kind do not appreciate surprises.” Eric made no move to shift or turn her. He could feel the comfort she was taking from standing within his embrace, her ear against his silent chest. It puzzled him. “Do you believe you were at fault for the conference, Sookie?” He waited. She didn’t say anything, but she made a small sound. “How, Lover? How was any of it your fault?” He did turn her now. There was something here, something she wasn’t saying, but he could feel it ran deep. Moving slowly, he lowered himself onto their bed and drew her to him. He wrapped his arms around her, “Tell me, Sookie.”
She wrapped her arms around his head, so that she held him against her. She spoke over his head, looking out into the room, “It’s not any one thing. I can’t put my finger on it and I keep trying. I turn it over and over and I still can’t figure out how I messed up this time, but I know I did.”
“You are taking on things that are not yours. You blame yourself too much, I think.”
“You’re saying that because you love me,” Sookie sighed.
“Perhaps you feel I am foolish?” and Eric chuckled.
He stopped when Sookie said, “I keep waiting for you to figure that out.” Eric pushed back from her, tilting his head to look into her face. She shrugged, “I keep waiting for you to figure out I’m a fraud. I remember a time when I was sassy and fiery and I stepped into each day like I owned it. But so many things have happened. Sometimes I think about that woman who didn’t take shit from anyone and I wonder where she went.”
“She is here,” Eric told her, “She is standing in my arms.” When she looked skeptical, Eric smiled at her, “You don’t see it, but I do. You have had a disappointment. You wished this thing to succeed. You wished to be the one to help it come to pass. You believed in it and gave it everything.” When she twisted in his arms, an animal trying to escape, he held her tightly until she looked back at him. “Only those who are brave take those chances, Sookie. It took courage. Now, you will need time to recover. You will learn from the experience.”
“And what did I learn, Eric? That I should stick to my own? And who would that be? Vampires? Humans? I don’t really fit in anywhere.”
Eric was no longer smiling, “I am your own, as you put it, and you are mine. What I have learned is that sometimes the lessons to be gained take time to be found. Until you stop wallowing in your own self-pity, you will not find them.”
She nodded, and leaned over to kiss him, then pushed him back on the bed to find comfort in other ways, but later as she lay sleeping in his arms, Eric thought about her words. “I see you,” he said out loud and then smiled. Sookie had made him watch the movie, “Avatar,” several times. He wondered how he could help her see who he saw, his warrior, his Queen.
The appointment was set. Sookie had gone into Shreveport for initial testing. So far it was blood work and an ultrasound. Tomorrow night they would both meet with Jane and her team. They would discuss the protocol for the fertility drugs Sookie would be self-injecting and reviewing side effects and timelines. Eric could feel her before he rose, her tension intruding on his twilight. It was as if he was in bed with a live wire. He barely opened his eyes before she pounced on him. The excitement of starting this new thing seemed to overshadow her earlier doubts, and she was expressing it through rather aggressive lovemaking. Not that he was complaining. She was inventive and vocal, all of which added to the experience.
She must have started without him, because he slipped into her easily, and she was riding him, her tits bouncing in that wonderful way that had him growling. He lifted his hands to hold them, twisting and pulling her nipples, causing her to moan and her pussy to twitch around him. Her hand went between her legs and she rubbed her clit. Within minutes her walls were pulsing and she was cumming. When her head fell back, he flipped her over, dragging her until her legs and ass hung over the edge of the bed. He rolled her knees up and entered her swiftly, using the leverage of the floor to go deep, rotating enough to drag past that place within her that pushed her hardest. Her hands grabbed his upper arms and her nails pressed into him as she sought to pull herself closer. He watched how she stretched to fit him, her moans and cries sweet music to his ears. When he felt his balls pull close and his muscles tighten, he pulled her up so he could sink his fangs into her as he released. “My wife!” he sighed, “Jag älskar dig, Sookie!”
”I love you too,” she sighed.
He fell forward, rolling to bring her over him again. He slipped from her and she laughed,” I don’t know how we’re going to not do that for a whole month.”
Sookie had told Eric that after the embryo transfer, she wouldn’t be able to have sex. ”No orgasms until they can confirm I’m pregnant,” she’d said with a contrite face, ”But once it’s all confirmed, Jane said we’d be good to go.” When Eric grimaced, she’d laughed, saying, ”Doesn’t mean that I can’t take care of you! Just means I need to keep things all calm down there,” and she’d pointed at her pussy.
Eric had followed her gaze with his hand, his fingers stroking lightly, ”It will be a hardship for you, I am thinking. How will you go without?”
”No pain, no gain, right?” she’d laughed, and then pushed his hand harder against her. ”So I guess we’ll need to have extra now. That way I can have plenty in my orgasm jar for later.”
She was making good on her promise.
For all her bravado though, Eric still worried. Most days she seemed better, more confident, but he could feel the thread of uncertainty from her at odd moments.
Once they dressed, Sookie announced she was going over to see Tara. She spent time with Michele, but Tara DuRone seemed to be the larger part of their lives. Eric pulled Sookie to him and kissed her forehead. His eyes flicked to Owen, who was waiting by the door. He nodded and the Were nodded back. They understood each other. Eric knew he was going to have to have the talk about the guards with Sookie again. Once they started this process, Sookie would not be able to leave Bon Temps for a period of time, perhaps months. She needed to be close to the clinic for monitoring. There would be blood tests and ultrasounds. Eric would need to return to New Orleans periodically. It would place an even greater burden on their guards.
As he watched his wife sail out the door, all bright energy and enthusiasm, he knew the talk must be sooner as opposed to later.
Eric was expected at Fangtasia tonight. Indira had returned from Rubio Hermosa’s Area and there were things they needed to discuss. The Viking checked his watch again. It was early. He found his eyes returning to the door that Sookie had exited. With a growl, he picked up the phone and hit his speed dial and the number ’6.’ The phone rang twice before it was picked up. ”How is my Granddaughter?” Niall asked.
”It explains much,” the Prince sighed. ”She does well in advising, but I had expected her to grow my assets at a faster rate. If she doubts herself, she will not take the risks she should. What are you doing about this?”
”I am calling you,” Eric grumbled.
The Prince laughed, and Eric found the sound of it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. ”So, the Viking sex god must come to the Fae for advice about women!” and he laughed again.
”Surely you are not holding yourself out as a marriage counselor, Niall,” Eric snarled.
”I am not,” Niall’s voice was cold and then turned silky as he asked, ”Is it a favor you seek?” Eric felt his fangs descend. He had wanted help from the Prince. Instead Niall was talking of trading favors, always a tricky proposition with the Fae.
”I am asking you to consider the well-being of your Granddaughter. I would help her if I had the opportunity, but those things she does that would benefit her most come through your agents and occur during my rest.”
”Her training and her business meetings,” Niall still sounded as if he had a stick up his ass, and it was everything Eric could do to not tell him to go fuck himself.
Eric grit his teeth, put a smile on his face, and said, ”If some part of those activities could be arranged while I am available, I could assist. Perhaps I could continue exercises that would help build her skills.”
”You aren’t Fae. No amount of wishing will allow you to take one step closer to our state,” the Fairy sneered.
”No, I can’t practice magic with her, but some part of her day is weapons training. That is something where I could assist. And were Mr. Cataliades available to consult on my business as well as your own, we might both benefit.”
”You have not earned your way to any of the wealth I have settled on Sookie,” the Fae snapped.
”I don’t wish any part of it,” Eric snapped back, ”but were we in the same conversations, Sookie could observe how I approach risk propositions, and I could ask the right questions to help her do the same.”
”I understand you will be headed to the clinic tomorrow,” the Prince abruptly changed the subject.
”You are well informed,” Eric replied. ”Will you consider my request?”
”It would be best if my Granddaughter were to become pregnant soon,” the Fae persisted.
”There is no reason that should be delayed beyond what we can’t control,” Eric replied and then added, ”Do we have an accord?”
”I will call the demon,” Niall huffed. ”He will time his meetings for after sunset. As for Tamsin? She is a free creature. I can ask, but I don’t speak for her.”
”Thank you, Papa-in-law,” Eric said in his most charming voice. There was a feral sound on the other end of the phone and the connection was terminated. Eric grinned. This was a good outcome. This would force Sookie to interact with him in a way that was not just social or sex. If he could show her he viewed her on an equal footing with him, encourage her to make suggestions, and watch his joy in maneuvering his businesses, her competitive nature should kick in to do the rest. Eric checked his watch and then headed outside. His car was running in the driveway, ready for his trip to the club.
”How many have received demands?” Eric asked. He was seated behind the desk in his old office at Fangtasia. Indira wasn’t required to give up her desk chair, but she had insisted. Sitting here, looking around the room with its filing cabinets and long, low couch brought happy memories to mind. There had been harsh things that had happened here too. He had divorced Sookie in the exact place Karin’s chair now sat, but that was past, and Eric had no time for looking back. ’Absorb what you need to move forward, discard the rest’ was a motto he embraced.
”Twenty that we know of so far. Max and I spoke earlier, and he asked me to let you know he is sending out word to all the Areas. He says those in the City seem especially hard hit. He’s sending you a report.”
It was on the tip of his tongue to ask, ’Why didn’t he call me himself?’ but Eric wouldn’t ask that question in front of his Sheriff. Besides, he already knew the answer. Maxwell would have his head down, working hard, and expecting Eric to trust that when his job was complete, he would communicate. For a strategist, like Eric, this was not a good solution. To be effective at planning, Eric needed everything. He needed rumors and whispers, preliminary numbers and hunches. If he waited for a boiled down, wrapped up report, he would never get ahead of this thing. It was something Max just didn’t understand. Eric found himself glancing at Karin, considering Thalia’s suggestion that she be made his war chief.
With a sinking feeling, Eric knew what he must do. ”I will be leaving for New Orleans in the next forty-eight hours. I suspect this threat started there. I intend to investigate for myself.”
”It may have started there, Majesty, but it is spreading,” Indira’s expression didn’t change. Her ability to deliver the worst news while maintaining the calm of a summer night was something Eric appreciated about her.
”You do not believe that finding the serpent’s head and destroying it will end the threat?” he asked.
Indira picked at the sari that lay across her knee, “No, Majesty. Not now. Whoever is behind this is able to translate the skill to others. Whether it is something that can be taught or is attached to a charm is unknown.”
This was disturbing. Eric had assumed this threat was controlled by one coven who was coordinating attacks, but if these witches could teach this ability to others, it was far more dangerous. He thought about calling Bartlett Crowe and then dismissed the idea. He realized in that moment that he had lost confidence in his Clan Chief. ’How fleeting is the trust that comes with power,’ he thought, then tucked that thought away for another day. Instead, he picked up his phone and called Stan Davis. Their states lay side by side. If this problem was spreading beyond his kingdom, Stan would know.
”Northman!” the King’s voice sounded pleased.
”King Davis!” Eric returned, ”I assume this is a secure line?” and he signaled those in the office with him to leave. When the door shut, he asked, ”How is Bubba? Is he tiring of pinball and Dance Revolution?”
”If you are ready to entertain him, I believe he would be ready to leave. He has started traveling again.” Both vampires knew that when their once-famous guest began taking unsanctioned trips out and about his host city it meant he was becoming bored and needed a change.
”He is always welcome here. In fact, I have a place that could be his home base, should he wish it.” Of all the vampires, Bubba was one of Sookie’s favorites.
Recently, Sookie had begun the process of mastering her ability to alter appearances. She had demonstrated her new-found skill in a rather delightful way for Eric and then in a not so delightful way by altering the appearance of Owen. If Bubba were to come to them, she would have a worthy subject for practice. If she were able to place a glamour on his face, hiding it from humans, it would grant Bubba greater freedom to roam. In return, there would be a guard at the Bon Temps house that Eric could trust at night when he wasn’t there, a guard Sookie would welcome.
”I’ll inform him. You can expect him tomorrow,” Stan sounded so pleased, Eric figured Bubba must have been making a nuisance of himself.
”I will inform my Queen.” Eric glanced again at the door, ”I was calling on another matter. We are receiving reports of blackmail involving witches…”
”You too?” Stan growled. ”I just found out about it this week. It took awhile because the vampires they are targeting are small businesspeople, functionaries. The news worked its way to one of my Sheriffs when the vampire was unable to pay his tithes. Once we found one, we found more. We’ve tried torturing the information out of one of them…” Eric knew Stan meant a local witch, ”but she’d been spelled not to tell.”
”My reports tell me that there are many vampires in my kingdoms who have been targeted.” Eric confirmed. ”I am heading to New Orleans to conduct my own investigations.”
”You do know we aren’t alone…” Stan said, and Eric could hear the question behind his statement.
Deciding to bite, Eric asked, ”What do you mean?”
”It’s turning up all over the Eastern coast, and trailing into western cities like Dallas and Las Vegas. There is a special meeting of Clan Chiefs called for Moshup Summit in two weeks. I figured since you and Bartlett were so close, you would know,” and then he added, ”Have you heard from Bartlett lately?”
”Bartlett is doing well,” Eric said automatically. In reality, Eric hadn’t heard from him in several weeks. During settled times, that wasn’t unusual, but this was not settled times. There were problems with rogue vampires, Amun Summit was scheduled in four months, and now this. Were things well with Bartlett, there would have been regular conference calls with all the monarchs, maybe even a meeting or two, but instead there was only silence. Eric decided that Bartlett and Russell should be his next call.
”Well, then I’m surprised you didn’t know about the meeting in Boston. Sandy Seacrest told me you would be the one representing Amun,” and Stan paused, waiting for Eric to respond.
”You know how these rumors start,” Eric tried to sound nonchalant. ”Doesn’t mean I won’t get the call. Bartlett knows he can count on me, so in the list of things he has to arrange, I’m probably far down the list.” Eric hoped he had given Stan the impression that things were well. As he disconnected, there was a knock on the door. ”Enter,” Eric called.
Charles’ head appeared, ”Your Queen is here.” Eric glanced at his phone, then tucked it back in his pocket. The call to Jackson could wait a few hours.
Eric passed out into the hallway. Neither Indira nor Karin were waiting for him, but he hadn’t expected them to be. As he passed into the main part of the club, he could see heads swivel and phones come up at the ready. He knew he was being filmed, every step, every gesture caught and uploaded to be posted to site after site. There were groups dedicated to him, Thalia, Karin, Sookie, and combinations of each.
Eric thought that once he and Sookie showed their faces a couple of times, things would calm down, but he had to admit, that didn’t seem to be the case. If anything, the crowds were increasing. A few times, Eric had to slow for Charles to move ahead and clear a path. Sookie was in the corner booth, her face turned toward the phone in her hand. Tara and Karin were seated beside her. Sookie looked calm, but Eric could feel her tension vibrating through him. He sent her his calm and strength, knowing it helped her to mute the mental voices. She looked up at him right away and her smile made him feel warmed. Tara looked between them and he could hear her whisper, ”I don’t think I’d like being hard wired the way you are. Too much sharing.”
Sookie turned to Tara, arched an eyebrow, and said, ”Don’t knock it until you try it.” It was a loyal thing to say, especially knowing how his Sookie struggled with the depth of their bond, and Eric was warmed more.
”Turn this way!” a man shouted. Faces turned toward the interloper, vampire and Were faces. Eric schooled his face so he appeared not to notice. This human was carrying an oversized camera. Bouncers moved in on him. He struggled a little but gave up quickly enough.
”Dance with me,” Eric purred, as he approached their booth. He held out his hand to Sookie and his Queen smiled. They started to unwind on the dance floor, but soon found themselves in an open circle, their amateur paparazzi pushing back the other dancers so they could film the couple.
It was too much for Sookie, ”Let’s go,” she sighed. He could feel her disappointment as they walked back to the table.
Tara had her coat on and made her farewells. ”Good luck tomorrow,” she said earnestly. She drew Sookie into a hug and started toward Eric. To be hugged by another female around family was one thing. To have any other but his Queen touch him in public was a blood offense. Eric pulled himself up to his full height and stared at her as coldly as he could, but it was Sookie’s hand on her friend’s arm that stopped Tara.
”Don’t touch him!” Sookie even sounded a little angry. When Tara’s eyebrows pulled together, Sookie added, ”He’s mine!”
Eric could see the minute Mrs. DuRone put the pieces together. She smiled easily and kissed Sookie’s cheek, ”Pass that along for me later,” she said with a sassy smile. Eric noticed the humans photographed Tara, too.
Karin stood a little to the side, ”Yes, good luck,” she echoed.
”You have not come to us,” Eric chided. ”It would please me, daughter, to see you tomorrow night.”
”Please, Karin,” Sookie added, and Karin quickly nodded. Eric and Karin spoke when he came here, but his daughter steered the conversation away from personal things, talking of business and observations. He knew she communicated with Thalia and she mentioned Thierry. It was the vampire she didn’t mention that made Eric wonder if all was truly well with her.
”Come,” Eric wrapped his hand around Sookie’s upper arm and together they headed toward the back door. Charles and Owen fell into step, one in front and one behind and soon they were on the highway, the Corvette eating the miles between the club and home.
”I will need to return to New Orleans for a bit,” Eric said, his eyes forward.
”Are you up to it?” his wife asked. He knew she was referring to the lingering effects of their bonding sickness.
”I will not stay long.” In fact, Eric wasn’t sure how long he would last away from Sookie. Proximity and the magic captured in the earth of Bon Temps had healed them faster than Doctor Ludwig had anticipated, but who was to say what part these same factors played in preventing relapses? Eric could easily travel alone to Fangtasia. This would be the first time they would be separated by so many miles and so many hours.
Sookie sighed. ”Be careful, Eric. You know what it feels like now when we start to have problems. Don’t make me come after you!”
”And you would, Lover. I know this!” Eric retrieved her hand so he could hold it. Even this small contact gave him comfort, although there was a part of him that thought it was probably his emotions and not his biological needs that were in play.
As they turned on to Hummingbird Lane, Eric slowed. There were humans here, standing on the road in the middle of the night. ”That’s them!” someone shouted and there were suddenly several humans standing up and running toward the road. There were professional photographers with large cameras standing across their driveway. They did not move and Eric was tempted to accelerate.
”Don’t!” Sookie punched his upper arm. ”Think, Eric! Stop the car and wait for Charles and Owen to handle them.”
”Who are they?” but Eric knew. These were people who were looking for a story. These were the stalkers Twy, their former publicist, had warned them would come, looking for the snippets and gossip that Eric and Sookie had stopped feeding them. The gravel crunched in back of them as the chase car caught up. Their Were guards quickly cleared the space in front of them, but to their horror, they found more photographers closer to the house.
”I don’t understand,” Sookie gasped. ”How did they get past the wards?”
”The wards will protect us from those who mean us harm,” Eric told her. ”These are curiosity seekers. There is no malice in them, so the wards don’t bar them.” Eric pulled past them and down the long driveway. Thankfully these people did not appear to have come further toward the house. Eric opened the garage door and they drove right in. He waited for the door to close almost completely before turning off the car. When his wife exhaled in the seat next to him, he turned to her, ”We are done with talking, Sookie. I am calling Mustapha. James, Charles, and Owen deserve lives with their families. They will come with us for travel, but we will start using local Weres for daytime. I will contact Indira and there will be vampires here at night.”
”This is my home…” Sookie started to wind up.
”And mine,” Eric replied hotly. ”Think! We will need patrols for our borders at all times. Would you stretch your guards so thin? Of course there are more at the Palace you know, Titus and others, but where would we house them? Would you have me build until this place is a city surrounding its castle? Where would your woods go? Or your birds or flowers? Local guards go to their own homes. At most, we would be expected to house and feed a supervisor, but our guest house would be preserved for guests.”
”But it’s strangers, Eric!” He knew Sookie’s concern. She would feel vulnerable if she were to become pregnant and be here in the home without him. There would be new thoughts to filter and unknown challenges.
Eric took her hand and pulled her toward the stairs, ”You are the friendliest human I know! You will be caught up in making friends with each of them. You will feed them cookies and sweet tea, or my private stock of Royalty, and you will learn all about their families and lineage. You will bore me for hours with stories of their lives and you will open your heart to each of them, although you should not. It will not be different people every day. Mustapha and Indira will pick their best. In time you will know them as well as you know Owen.”
”You’re just trying to butter me up!” she huffed.
Eric waggled his eyebrows and leered, ”Is it working?”
Sookie giggled, ”Well, I don’t know, Buster. This may take some world class convincing.”
Eric laughed and easily lifted Sookie, throwing her over his shoulder, ”Well, then I should get started!” and he headed up the stairs at a more rapid pace.
”From where I’m sitting, you’ve made a good start,” his wife laughed and using her position, she slipped her hands into the back of his pants, ”World class ass!” she giggled, and Eric knew he had won.
”So, do you have any questions?” Jane, Eric, and Sookie were seated in an area that didn’t resemble a doctor’s office.
They had been in the center for hours. Most of that time was spent talking. First there had been the earnest-looking doctors and researchers who paraded through Jane’s office, describing each stage of the process and the science that allowed this ’miracle’ to happen. They were followed by introductions to the care team that would be most closely involved in monitoring Sookie and the progress. There were two humans and a Were. All were female and had either nurse or nurse practitioner titles. They all seemed pleasant. They gave Eric and Sookie paperwork that included their phone numbers, email addresses and hours, allowing twenty-four hour, seven-day a week access to at least one of them. ”This is the most important thing that has ever happened!” one woman gushed.
”Oh, I don’t know,” Sookie teased, ”Curing cancer and saving babies might be ahead of this!” The nurse blushed a little and Sookie smiled in that way she had that made everyone feel more comfortable.
Jane was disappointed when Eric point blank refused to allow any filming of the pregnancy and its progress. ”Find another couple,” he snarled when she persisted, ”I am not some test subject to be traded about, and neither is my wife!”
Doctor Ludwig had chosen that moment to stroll in, ”Put away the fangs, Dead Man!” she chuckled, ”Won’t matter whether it’s recorded for posterity or not. Everyone is going to know you’re creating human mastodons, so you better start getting used to the idea.”
”How will they know?” Sookie challenged. She glanced at Eric before saying, ”We could always say that we chose traditional in vitro and screened for a donor that looked like Eric. We could say that Eric decided to give me this experience.”
”Like anyone would believe that!” the Doctor chuckled, but Eric took Sookie’s hand.
”We could make it work,” he said directly to Sookie. ”The child might resemble me, but it would be my human self,” and then he turned back to Jane, ”right? Isn’t that what you said? That the DNA you harvested was preserved from my human days? There is no reason to assume any part of this is directly tied to me. It is not as if the pregnancy will carry any hint of vampire.” Eric felt a thread of unease from Sookie, so he concluded, ”It would reduce the attention this will garner, make it appear less special…” and Eric’s voice trailed off.
”It won’t be less special to me!” Sookie burst out. She glanced at him, swallowed, and he could feel something within her settle. She said the next words with that quiet voice that told him she had made up her mind, ”Truth is, even if this wasn’t part you, and we did choose to become parents using a donor, or even if we had chosen to adopt, it would still be ours and that’s plenty special. It’s the choosing that’s important, Eric. I believe that!”
Eric nodded. He could feel his fangs threatening to descend at the thought of her bearing another’s child, but then he thought of Aude. Their first child had been his brother’s and it had made no difference to him. She was his child as were all the others that followed. ’She meant no less to me,” and then he realized, ’and she meant no more.’ Eric remembered in that moment that he had not been a particularly involved parent. Aude had cared for the children. He had done what was expected.
He thought about Jason and the Stackhouse boys. They were entertaining, testing their muscles and challenging their world. Eric looked forward to spending time with Jason’s progeny. They acted in a way that let him know they looked forward to spending time with him. It made him feel better about the son that was coming and he was able to smile at his wife’s cool stare and say, ”What I meant was that this story will allow us to reduce the attention this would attract. If we provide a conventional explanation, our son will have that normal life you like to talk about.”
”Son?” Ludwig chuckled. ”Sound pretty sure of yourself, Viking.” She turned to Jane, ”Did they ask for gender screening?”
”No, we did not!” Sookie scolded, ”Nor would I want to!” She turned to Eric, ”Right?”
”Of course, Lover,” Eric chuckled, but they both knew what Sookie’s vision told them. Their first child would be male.
Dr. Ludwig walked closer to Sookie. She leaned over and peered into the telepath’s eyes, then grabbed her hand. Sookie half-heartedly pulled against the smaller woman, but she could swear the doctor turned on the jets to pull her whole body closer. As before, the doctor licked Sookie’s palm, then rocked back on her heels. ”Not more than a trace of the bonding thing now,” she said to Jane and then turned back to Sookie, ”You could start injections tomorrow if you like.”
Sookie stared at the box in her lap. She knew it contained many small hypodermic needles. It had been explained to her that she would need to inject herself, in either in her stomach or her thigh, three times a day. In two weeks, she would need help to inject a different solution into her backside. ”Now when we get to the three-week mark, one of the care team will call you and that’s when you’ll use the larger, purple hypo,” Jane was all smiles. ”That is going to get things moving. You should be prepared. Once we reach that point, you need to be close to the clinic,” Jane explained. ”We will be drawing blood and doing ultrasounds every day. We are pretty good at figuring out when your eggs will be ready to be released. When it’s time, we’ll put you under and harvest as many eggs as possible, so you will need someone to drive you on those days.”
”My friend Tara will come with me,” Sookie was all smiles.
”Will this procedure hurt her?” Eric asked. He was not easy with the idea that she would be doing these things during the day. He would not know if this had happened until after he rose.
”She won’t feel it,” Jane shrugged.
”She will need to take it easy for a couple days after, though,” Amy Ludwig added. ”It may be a good idea to get a hotel room in town, because once we harvest, she’ll need to come back in three days to have the embryo implanted.”
Sookie bit her lips, ”So, in about a month, I could be pregnant?” No one said anything, but they didn’t have to. Sookie’s eyes were shining, and she reached out to Eric who took her hand in his.
“You’ll need daily injections for a couple weeks after that, until we can confirm you’re pregnant,” Jane continued. ”Those need to be in your behind, so it’s easier if you have someone give them to you.”
Eric started to say something teasing when Sookie said, ”Don’t worry! I’ve already asked Tara.”
In that moment, the uneasiness Eric felt became something else.
Sookie would be coming here. She would be given tests. She would be prodded, poked, and violated. He had given four teeth over a year ago, and now his part was done. Sookie had arranged things so that she had no further need for him to contribute. Even the injections she needed would be given by another. Eric realized he had far less to do with this offspring than with any other child he had produced, either biologically or as a vampire. He could be in another country and be of the same use in this thing.
Not for the first time, he noticed the sterile look of the room. He smelled the faint whiff of something unpleasant from the box his wife clutched. He realized Sookie was staring at him, ”I am happy to start,” he said, figuring that was a good, all-purpose answer.
”Good!” Dr. Ludwig replied, but the way she was looking at him suggested she wasn’t fooled. ”Go home, relax, and have fun. Then, when you get up in the morning, Missy,” and she gave Sookie the stare, ”You can get started. Try to move the injection sites around. You don’t want to get too sore.”
”Should I heal her injections sites?” Eric asked, working hard to keep the hopeful tone from his voice.
”No!” Jane shook her head. ”You don’t want to be exposed to the hormones.”
”That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to exchange blood regularly. In fact, that will probably help move everything along. Sex is good, too.”
”But I’ll have to see if you should continue after that second one!” Jane exclaimed, ”The purple one. Best not to get too excited. We want to make sure you are at peak while you’re here so we don’t lose the opportunity. Once the eggs travel from your ovaries into the fallopian tubes, game over for another month! And, of course, once we implant, there’s no sex until we’re sure the egg has implanted in your womb and you’re officially pregnant.”
”You going to be okay with that?” the Doctor chuckled, staring at Eric.
”Ask my wife,” he said evenly, managing to smile, ”She’s been saving extra orgasms in her jar.”
Sookie blushed bright red, ”It’s a private joke!” she explained quickly, swatting Eric, and then hissing, ”Not funny!” at him.
On the ride home, Eric found his eyes wandering to the box of needles Sookie insisted on holding. Every so often she would run her hand over it, and once, she rested her hand over her abdomen, as if feeling for a pregnancy. ”We’re really doing this” her voice was dreamy and she seemed unable to stop smiling.
”Yes, Lover, this adventure begins,” Eric answered, but what he was really thinking was that he doubted he would ever feel more for this child than he had for Aude’s children. He thought of Jason and Michele Stackhouse, the proprietary look Jason gave his mate when she was large with his child. She had smelled of herself, but Jason as well. And then, there were the boys. They walked like Stackhouse, smiled like him. The baby smelled of him.
This thing they would make would have less of him than Aude’s children, or even Pam and Karin who were made of his blood. He remembered Sookie’s description of her vision. In it, she was standing alone with this child. It was a sobering thought.