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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chapter 60 ~ Momentary Doubt

Sookie was alone in the living room sitting pensively, flipping idly through a magazine when Eric and Pam finally reappeared. They had spent some time talking strategies after the tumultuous conversation about Sookie and the baby had taken place, but now it was time for them to get to work. There was much to do. Orders to give. An army to build. An enemy to defeat.

Eric's expression was sober, Pam's grave as they descended the stairs and came to stand in the entryway, and Sookie wondered what all they had spoken of while alone upstairs, but felt it would be wrong for her to ask. She had heard parts of the conversation due to their raised voices, and what she had heard only made her more determined to draw Pam aside at some point and have a heart-to-undead-heart with the vampiress. Now, however, it was apparent that Eric and Pam were ready to head out and begin seeing to the many duties and responsibilities that her Viking could not afford to put off any longer.

Standing from the couch, Sookie let the magazine drop to the table and asked hesitantly, “Everything ok?” Her eyes darted worriedly between the two, searching Eric's face for an answer, as it was obvious whatever had taken place upstairs after the screaming died down had been momentous. She had also felt a wide array of emotions coming from her Viking through their bond. She'd felt his anger, his shock, his love for Pam, and a number of other emotions that had her wishing she had been a fly on the wall. Her curiosity was killing her, but her respect for her two vampires was greater and she knew that they would tell her if they felt the need to share.

Pam's own eyes traveled back and forth between her Master and his bonded as she picked up on the underlying tension between them. 'Odd, but usually Eric goes to Sookie's side immediately when they are in the room together, or summons her to him, yet now they stand at a distance from one another, and there seems to be some type of discord between them. I wonder at the cause? At the bar when they first got back from Sweden they seemed to be joined at the hip. Could Sookie be blaming Eric for not protecting her brother?'

Eric gestured to Pam so that she would know he wished a moment alone with Sookie, and once she was gone, his footsteps were silent on the rug as he crossed the few feet between them to stand in front of her. He was still greatly unsettled by what had taken place between them upstairs earlier and uneasy with the torrent of emotions raging inside him that threatened his control. Too much had happened over the last few days. There were too many variables, too many unknowns, too many threats to his greatest weakness, his Sookie. He could feel the uncertainty of his position in every aspect of his life, and it weighed heavily on him. By far and large, however, his strained relationship with Sookie was what hurt him the most.

Even now, standing before her, ready to leave her side so he could begin making the world safe for her and their unborn son, he felt an overwhelming urge to take her in his arms and never let go. He wanted to pull her body into the shelter of his, provide a barrier between her and the world. He wanted to feel her warmth against him. He wanted to feel her soft breath whispering against his neck when she burrowed into his shoulder as she had so many times in the past. He wanted to bask in her love for him as he had at the cabin, but he knew he couldn't.

Not only did he have much to do tonight to begin preparing for the battles ahead, but Sookie's posture proved she would not welcome his embrace. As she had stated upstairs, she was not backing down. Everything about her now as she stood before him screamed determination. While he appreciated the strength she had found within herself, he did not like that she was using it against him. Hated it in fact.

'But there is nothing I can do about it right this minute. I have far too much to do tonight. Besides, I need time and space to find a way to counter Sookie's arguments. She claims I am abusing her, but that is untrue. I would no more abuse Sookie than I would Pam. She is simply refusing to acknowledge that human ideals have no place in the world she has become a part of. I can agree that it is time for the supernatural world to change, but it will never be a fair place as she wishes it to be. 'Fair' has no hope against survival, and that's what supernaturals are. Survivors.'

Deciding to put his thoughts off until later, until he was ready to readdress the issue with Sookie, Eric hesitated for only a moment, tamping down his emotion as he took another step towards her and clasped his hands behind his back. Holding her gaze, he began, “Pam has been informed, and now we must head to Fangtasia. Ahmose is there and has sent word. Some of his guards should arrive here shortly to deliver the statues of his gods to protect our sanctuary from Sargon's sight.”

Falling into business mode just like her Viking, Sookie asked, “What do you need done here?”

“Fill in your friends on their purpose here, make sure they understand what is expected of them. The security procedures they must follow.”

“Do you want me to tell them about the baby?”

“Not yet, we need to keep my son a secret for as long as possible. The more people that know, the greater danger he is in.”

Sookie understood his reasoning, but countered, “They're going to have to know sooner or later. They chose to stay and fight, Eric, I think they deserve to know what they are fighting for. Besides, didn't you say that soon supes were going to know that I'm pregnant just from my scent? Sam's going to know regardless.”

Nodding his head, Eric replied, “Your scent will alter soon, subtle differences are already occurring, and the truth will be undeniable, but for now I wish to err on the side of caution.” Wishing to begin healing the wounds between them, he added, “I do find it admirable that your friends have chosen to stay and fight for reasons unknown to them. Their loyalty to you is commendable, but the time to tell them of my son is not now.”

Delighted by his praise for her friends, Sookie continued, “So what else do you want done while you are gone?”

“After you finish filling your friends in on their roles here, I need you to make detailed profiles of all your guards. All contact information, histories, acquaintances and family members, and any issues they might have. I also want a detailed and outlined schedule for their shifts, and any places they might go when not on duty. We have been loose with security before now, but I will tolerate it no longer. The guards that are going to live within the barrier are not such a problem, but your were guards are not here all the time. I want to know where they are going and what they are doing when they are not watching over you.”

“What do you mean by 'issues'? What do you want me to look for?”

Pleased by her desire to be thorough, Eric explained, “I want to know who is better at tracking, who is not. I want to know who is the best shot, who has the most martial arts training, and any other areas of expertise or lack of skill. I also need to know their weaknesses. Family members or friends that could be used against them to betray us. I do not trust their words.  Many men claim to be better warriors than they are. Many claim a willingness to sacrifice their lives for a greater cause and yet in truth would not. I want you to tell me exactly what each man is capable of.”

His voice was coldly matter-of-fact as Eric doggedly pursued, “Dig, Sookie. Dig deep. Deeper than you ever have before. I know that makes you uncomfortable, but this must be done. Search through their memories, find their weaknesses, and make up a report for me. Do this for every single one. I need to know just how far each is willing to go, how much they will sacrifice, to keep you and my son safe.”

“I'm not sure how comfortable I am with going that deep into the heads of my guards, Eric. They're already risking their lives just by being here. Doesn't that prove they're trustworthy?”

Reaching forward to take Sookie's hand, Eric added, “I know this seems like an intrusion on their rights, but each of your guards has sworn you their loyalty and that gives you the right to monitor them for betrayal. As for trusting them? Sookie, you need to start thinking several moves ahead. They are on our side now, but what happens if one of your Were guard's sister or mother is taken by Sargon? Would they betray our secrets to free them?”

Distress pulled at her lips as Eric continued, “I need to know who would take a bullet for you. I need to know who is truly willing to die in your stead if a Fellowship assassin somehow gets close. I need to know exactly how much each and every one of your guards will sacrifice to keep you and my son safe. I need to know their weaknesses so I can prepare to circumvent them. I need detailed profiles only you can provide, Sookie.”

Worrying her lower lip, Sookie considered the situation. Her guards had sworn to protect them, and that did give her the right to use her telepathy to make sure their loyalty was absolute. Eric was right: she had a right to protect her home, and more importantly, her family, in any way she could. While she didn't like the idea that one of her guards might have a family member or friend used against them by Sargon, that didn't mean she was willing to risk her own baby or Eric by not knowing about what people could be used against them.

Nodding her head, Sookie affirmed, “Ok, Eric, I'll start on the profiles after speaking with Lafayette and Sam. I'll get as many done tonight as possible, and I'll be as detailed as I can.”

“Good. Your fairy cousins are scheduled to come by tomorrow to begin your lessons on magic, yes?”

“Yeah. Niall called today and confirmed it. Their names are Claudine and Claude. They're twins who've chosen to live in this world, and will be able to work their schedules around mine.”

Pleased by this news, Eric added, “I am happy they will be available to you, but I do not want you to overtax yourself. The use of magic can be very stressful on the body, especially during the learning process, and I do not want you harming yourself or my son. Work slowly, and do not try to push yourself.”

Crossing her arms under her chest, Sookie rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Niall said pretty much the same thing. He told me that I probably won't even notice how much energy I'm using or how tired I'm getting during the lesson, and said it's when I stop using my magic that the crash hits. He told me I have to monitor myself, and listen to Claude and Claudine when they tell me it's time to stop. Not to get too excited by using my powers. He said it's similar to an adrenaline rush, and that the crash afterwards could knock me out for hours if I'm not careful.”

“He is right. I have not seen many fairies suffer such effects, but I have seen many witches overtax themselves in such a manner. I will monitor you through the bond as well. Have your phone with you, if I feel you are depleting your energy too much I shall call and tell you.”

Annoyed, Sookie objected, “I don't need babysitting, Eric. I'm excited about learning how to use my magic, but I'm not going to overdo it. I won't do anything that might harm our baby. You should know that.”

Eric held her gaze, his expression intent. “I am not 'babysitting' you. I am offering aid. Magic affects its wielder. You might not even notice that you are tiring because of the rush it gives you. I will monitor your physical condition through the bond, something your fairy relatives cannot do, and if you approach a point that you're jeopardizing yourself, I will call you.”

Feeling somewhat mollified, Sookie asked, “So you don't think I can't take care of myself? You're not second guessing me?”

Wanting to tell her that it was his right to take care of her, his right, his privilege, and his responsibility as her mate, Eric forced himself to hold his tongue. He knew that she would not take kindly to such words, and since their relationship was so strained, he decided to forgo reminding her of her place. Instead, he answered, “I know you are capable of taking care of yourself, but you have never used magic like this before. It will physically affect you, and you might not notice you are approaching a danger point. I can monitor your physical status through our bond and alert you if such a thing happens. That is all I meant.”

He wished to speak more with her, but now was not the time. He had rushed to her side the night before and left things up in the air with his newly acquired kingdom. He had much to do tonight to make sure his takeover ran smoothly. He would make sure he had time later to speak to his bonded-not only to speak to her but get her to see reason, and then they would make up in a physical way. Moving forward, Eric kissed Sookie's troubled brow before she could rebuff him, and whispered gently, “I must go, but we will speak soon.”


He turned and left before Sookie could remind him of her desire for personal space. Pam was already seated in her BMW and he slid into the passenger seat as she started the car. Pam glanced at her Master from the corner of her eye, noticing his tense features, she asked bluntly, “What is wrong between you and Sookie? There is distance between the two of you that was not there when you first returned from Sweden. Does she blame you for her brother?”

Shaking his head, Eric replied, “No, Sookie was surprisingly mature about what happened to the boy after she calmed down. I, too, worried she would blame me, or perhaps herself for her involvement with vampires at all, but she does not. She recognizes the blame belongs to Sophie-Anne.”

“Then what is wrong?”

“Leave it be, Pamela.” Eric was in no mood for this conversation. He'd already had two extremely taxing and uncomfortable conversations tonight, and he was not looking to engage in another one.

Pam was silent only a moment before continuing, “Eric, now is not the time for strife between the two of you. You yourself pointed out the dangers we now face, and any problems between the two of you affect us all. I have proven my dedication to Sookie and … and the child, so I think I deserve to know what problems there might be between the two individuals that are supposed to lead me in this war.”

Eric turned to look at his child for a moment, before releasing an unnecessary sigh. “You do deserve to know. Perhaps you can help me to get Sookie to see reason. She refuses to accept that she has become a part of the supernatural world and believes it's time for our world to become more like her human one.”

“I'll slow down a bit so you can fill me in before we get to Fangtasia. Start at the beginning. What happened to make Sookie look at you with such weariness?”

Leaning back in his seat, Eric recited what had taken place at Sookie's house two nights prior that led to the current animosity between him and his bonded. He explained how Tara had verbally and physically assaulted him, and then he went into detail about everything that had happened after. Including his reasoning behind forcing Sookie to kneel. He then described his subsequent conversations with Sookie about what had transpired, and pointed out continually how his bonded refused to see reason, refused to understand that he'd had no other choice but to force her to kneel.

To her credit, Pam remained silent through it all. When her Maker was finally done with his tale, she remarked, “So let me get this straight, a human defied you in your own home, in front of those that have sworn loyalty to you, those that know who and what you are, those that know your importance to us all, and because this human challenged you, instead of simply ordering her thrown out, or punishing her in a number of other ways, you punished Sookie?”

Ignoring the growl her Maker was beginning to emit, Pam continued, “You forced Sookie to her knees like a slave? You really forced her to her knees and made her pay for a crime she didn't commit in front of a room full of her friends and subordinates?”

Anger building defiantly in his chest, Eric insisted through clenched teeth, “You are siding with Sookie?”

“I'm siding with reason.” Glancing at Eric before looking back at the road, Pam asked, “Answer me this, Eric, do you still think or view Sookie as you did initially? In the beginning you wanted her as a pet, and, later, child. Do you still think of her like this?”

He scowled, clearly aghast. “Of course not! Sookie is no pet! She is my bonded mate! She is the mother of my son!”

“Then why did you treat her as a pet? Why did you treat her as less than she is?” she demanded evenly.

When her Master said nothing, Pam continued, “Eric, I'll be the first to admit I'm not completely happy with Sookie's place in your life. I'm jealous of the affection, loyalty, and love you have for her. I—“

“I do not love, Sookie. I need her. There's a difference.”

Pam shot him a deadpan a comic would envy as she scoffed, “Justify your feelings however you like, pretend your love for her is only need if it makes you feel better, but the point here is that while I might not like that Sookie holds such an important role in your life, in your heart, I understand that she is a part of you now. She is an important part of you. As you said, she is your bonded mate. You should not have forced her to kneel like that. Pets are forced to kneel at all times, children are thus punished when they disobey their makers. Mates stand together.”

Pushing on before Eric could interrupt, Pam said, “I understand why you think you were right, but you are forgetting the fact that Sookie is not human. She is not a pet, and she is far more than a bonded. She is a mate. Your mate.

“Pam, you yourself stated tonight that she is my subordinate, mate or not. You spoke of me allowing her to show me disrespect, and told me I should have punished her for it, and yet now you are singing a completely different tune.”

Pam shrugged. “My words were spoken in anger, as you know. As I said, I may not be happy with Sookie's place in your life, the importance she holds, but that doesn't mean I don't acknowledge the fact she is a part of you now. It doesn't mean that I don't recognize that Sookie deserves respect for who and what she is. The importance she holds to you and the world. I am jealous of her on a personal level for her connection to you. Publically, she deserves my respect and loyalty. Just as she deserves yours.”

“Pam, I do not—“

“Eric, I ask you to let me finish. As your child, I ask you to hear what I have to say.”

Eric's fists clenched tightly in his lap as emotion once again rose up in him. He wanted to stop his child's words he didn't want to hear but could not: she had given him more than any child had ever given their Maker. This night she had proven her loyalty to him beyond any shadow of a doubt. She deserved to be heard in this moment. “Continue, my child.”

Nodding her head in appreciation, Pam continued, “You taught me to respect the bonds between true Makers and their children. You taught me the meaning of trust, affection, and loyalty and the meaning of fairness between Maker and child. You once told me that our world is unfair, dangerous, and painful, so here, between us, between Maker and child, there should be more. Our relationship, our treatment of each other should be better.”

Switching lanes to dodge a slow moving car that was following the speed limit too conservatively, Pam insisted, “You have always treated me fairly, Eric. You have always listened to any complaint I've had, and treated me with the utmost respect in front of others. You have punished me when I've stepped out of line, but only for my own misdeeds. I can't help but wonder why it is you would treat Sookie so poorly, why you would abuse the trust and bond between the two of you, when she is so much more to you than I am? When her place in your life is more important than mine. I am your child, and she is your mate, so why would you strip her of her respect in front of others for a crime not her own? Your actions belie everything you ever taught me.”

Eric was silent in the moments he took to gather his thoughts. Pam's words, much like Sookie's, gave him pause. For the second time that night he was unsure and unnamed emotions pushed at his control. Just as with his Sookie, Pam's words rang of truth, and he hated that they put him in the wrong. Hated it because it meant he had abused his mate, and that thought struck him to his core. His mind raced for some point to contend. Some way to prove he had done what was necessary for him to protect his mate and son.

Finally, he argued, “You've gone to your knees before me many times, was it wrong? Was it wrong when I went to my knees before Godric? Of course not. It is simply the way things are. The way they must be.”

Shaking her head, Pam argued, “Eric, I am your child, just as you were Godric's. It is a child's honor to kneel before their Master, but you are not Sookie's Master. You are her mate. The two of you should stand side by side. Sookie is right to be angry with you.”

“Just because we are mates does not make us equal. I am a thousand years old; it is natural that I should lead and she follow. My experience is what kept her safe from Sophie-Anne, and it is what will keep her safe from Sargon. Sookie is not my equal. She can never be my equal.”

“In experience and knowledge, no. Privately I would guess she does and should defer to your experience, but, when in public, you are mates and should stand together. A united front for those you are now responsible for, those you now lead, the world you are to remake.”

Glancing at her Maker and seeing his uneasiness, Pam pressed on. “Eric, Sookie might never have as much battle experience, political know-how, or supernatural knowledge, but that doesn't mean she isn't bringing her own assets to the table. You do have a thousand years of living to help you out-maneuver your enemies, but Sookie isn't without talents either. As loathe as I am to admit it, her telepathy has saved us in the past. We would not have found out about the Fellowship terrorist site or cells without her. Sookie gave you immunity to the sun, and it's your bond with this girl that allows you to be telekinetic. Sookie has done just as much, if not more, for you than you have for her since your bonding. You bring experience to the table, Sookie brings life and power to the table. In more ways than one. Does that not deserve respect?”

Switching lanes again, Pam added, “You made her appear weak when you forced her to kneel. You made it appear as though you are a poor mate by abusing your bonded as you did. There are few mates in our world, Eric, even one so young as I knows this, but it is also known that when mates find each other the incredible bond they share is to be respected. You disrespected and abused that bond.”

Eric's fangs dropped down as he growled, “I do not abuse Sookie! You are wrong. My ability to lead was called into question and I proved my authority. You have seen me do this many times before, and I do not wish to speak of this anymore. I need to focus my mind on what needs to be done at Fangtasia.”

“Very well, Master, but I stand by what I said.”

“Stand wherever you want as long as you are silent.”

“As you wish … and if you tell Sookie a word of what I said, I'll deny every bit of it. Don't think I don't know you showed her those awful pictures of me at Woodstock.”

Eric's lips quirked in a brief smile as they both fell silent.

...
...
...


Back at the house, Sookie had just taken a seat in the chair in the living room with Lafayette and Sam taking up seats on the couch. She smiled at her friends and began, “Well I guess I need to fill you guys in on what I can fill you in on.”

“Shoot, Sook,” Lafayette said as he placed his water on the table. Quickly moving it to one of the doilies coasters when Sookie shot him an angry glare. She really was picky about manners, and he'd been the recipient of enough lectures by her about the rings drinks made on wood.

Sookie scratched Thor on the top of the head as her puppy put his feet on her chair, looking for attention, and offered, “First, I want you guys to know how unbelievably grateful I am that you stuck around despite the fact that I can't tell you everything that is going on. I can say that within a few weeks Eric and I won't be able to keep the secret from you anymore anyway, so you will know what's up.”

“Does any of this have to do with whatever's happening to your scent?” Sam asked.

Eyes widening in shock, Sookie mumbled, “You can smell it?” She wasn't sure if he knew what it meant or not, and didn't want to give anything away.

Lafayette, just as shocked, asked, “You can … uh … you can smell her? Like a dog or something?”

“Yeah,” Sam acknowledged. “I can scent her better than any blood hound.” Focusing back on Sookie, he continued, “You're scent is stronger, more fragrant maybe, sweeter. It's familiar to me somehow, but I can't completely place it. You've never smelled completely human before and your scent has been going through a variety of changes over the last year since you met Bill and first had some vampire blood, and especially around the time MaryAnn showed up, and certainly after you bonded to Eric, but there's something new there. I just can't seem to place it.”

Forcing aside the distress she felt at Sam's percolating awareness, Sookie thought about it for a moment, and finally stated, “I can't tell you yet, but I promise you'll know soon.”

“You'll tell us what we need to know when you can, Cher,” Sam interjected. “We know you're only keeping secrets because you have to. We trust you.”

When Lafayette nodded as well, tears filled Sookie's eyes. “You both don't know how much that means to me. You've both sacrificed so much for me, and you don't even know why, and I feel humbled by you.”

There was a moment of silence as Sookie collected herself, before she started again. “Well, Eric is going crazy about security as you can see. So for now, please don't leave the property without permission or escort. We need to guard against kidnapping attempts. Is that ok?”

While Sam nodded his head, Lafayette exclaimed, “Hell yeah it is! I am totally on board with bunking down at Fort Stackhouse until all this blows over!”

They all shared a laugh before Sookie added, “Ok, well Lafayette, if you don't mind, Eric wants to hire you as a full time cook here. There are a lot of mouths to feed. He'll pay you $150,000 a year and you get full healthcare coverage, including dental and vision. You'll also get an SVU to replace the Lexus since you'll be doing any grocery shopping at the all-natural store in Shreveport.”

“Damn, Sook! That's a lot of money for a cook!” Lafayette declared.

Shrugging, Sookie answered, “Well I think it's fair, and Eric agreed to it when I suggested it. Not to mention that, since we're going all-natural now, you're going to have to rework all of Gran's old recipes so that only natural ingredients are used. And let's not forget instead of cooking for three or four people at a time you're going to need to cook three meals a day for at least 30. I need to check and see which guards will be eating what meals here. We're going to remodel the kitchen over the next few days. I just have to go online and pick out what I want, and since most of Alcide's guys are construction workers, they'll double between remodelers and guards.”

Sam and Lafayette exchanged a look before Lafayette asked hesitantly, “Sook, why are you only eating all-natural foods now? You've always been mindful of what you're eating, but you've never gone this overboard before. Is Eric making you eat this way?”

Sookie worried her lip between her teeth for a second, before whispering, “I can't discuss this yet. You'll find out soon enough. All I can say is that it is really important right now that I only eat all-natural foods. And all-natural foods are all that's going to be consumed in this house from now on. Eric even ordered an industrial sized greenhouse built on the land he purchased next to mine. We're going to be growing a lot of what we eat now. That's also why I have the chickens and cows. But until all that food grows, Lafayette, you'll be escorted to Shreveport once a week with guards to do whatever shopping you need to at the all-natural store there.”

“What about me, Sookie?” Sam asked.

Turning her gaze on Sam, Sookie explained, “Sam, Eric wants you to keep working at Merlotte's every day.”

Sam, well versed in the supernatural word, rightly concluded, “Eric wants me to be the eyes and ears in town, huh? I'm common enough he'll figure I'll hear about anything that needs to be heard.”

Smiling, Sookie affirmed, “In a nutshell. Eric thinks that sooner or later some Fellowship people are going to show up. He wants you to keep an eye out for them. Alert him to anything going on, and monitor the people in town. Eric doesn't want them gossiping about me. Especially since I'm not going to be leaving the barrier much. Certainly not without Eric or a whole bunch of guards. So anything you see or hear about, alert Eric. Any new faces, any whispers of trouble you report immediately to Eric.”

“You got it,” Sam agreed. 

Pleased that her friends were so accommodating with how things were changing, Sookie continued, “Just like Lafayette, you'll be escorted to and from the bar by guards. Eric and I discussed it, and we decided it would be best if you both moved into the guesthouse where you'll be safer until everything blows over. I hope you guys don't mind. Eric is having several other guest facilities built on all the land he bought, and Frannie, Quinn's little sister, is going to be moving in here tomorrow. Since she's so young she's going to stay here with me. Eric doesn't know that part yet. Quinn is going to be bunking down with you two in the guesthouse. The rest of my were guards can choose to stay in the barracks Eric is having built, or they can return to their packs when their shifts are over.”

“What about those drop dead sexy fairies running around here?” Lafayette asked with a lick to his lips.

Shaking her head, Sookie laughed, “Lafayette! Can't you ever think of anything else?”

Lafayette sat back into the couch stretching his arms wide along its frame and teased, “How do you think about anything else with all these sexy men walking around? I can admit your man is hella hot, but those fairies can certainly give him a run for his money. You can keep the guesthouse! Bunk me down with them!”

Sam and Sookie both laughed before Sookie explained, “The fairies are staying here. Eric is having living arrangements made for them and the other supernatural guards that will be staying with me or in the barrier at all times.”

“Any of those fairies single?” Lafayette asked, clearly determined to ferret out whatever information on his current targets he could.

Sookie snorted, shaking her head playfully. “Lafayette, you can ask them those questions yourself. I'm not playing love doctor with you and my fairy guards. Right now I need to talk to you two about—“

Sookie's words cut off abruptly and her face paled before she jumped up and ran from the room. Lafayette and Sam exchanged a worried look and then raced after her only to find her in the downstairs hall bathroom paying homage to the toilet as she retched up whatever food had been in her stomach. Thor nudged into the doorway curiously. As Lafayette fell to his knees beside her to hold her hair back for her, Sam's eyes widened in shock as the truth suddenly clicked in his head. He was so shocked he didn't check his language and gasped, “Holy fucking shit! You're pregnant!”

Lafayette looked up at Sam in surprise before muttering, “Don't be stupid, you idiot! She's been with Eric for months and it's obvious that man don't share. She can't be pregnant. It's just her nerves. Things are obviously getting to her.” Lafayette patted Sookie's back and encouraged, “Don't you worry, Sook. That vamp of yours will take care of everything. You don't need to get all worked up like this.”

Shaking his head, Sam insisted, “I'm not wrong, Lafayette! She is pregnant! That's what's different about her scent! Her pheromones! She's … fuck! She's having Eric's baby! She's having a vamp baby!”

Sookie had finally finished vomiting, her morning sickness having the worst timing, and sat back on her heels to look at her friends after flushing the toilet. Sam's expression was electric with shock while Lafayette's was skeptical. Within moments her mind had raced through all the possible scenarios, the different conversations she could have with her friends, and all her available options. She and Eric had agreed not to tell her friends about the baby yet, but the cat was pretty much out of the bag. She found she couldn't lie to her friends now that they suspected the truth.

As Sam stood silent, stupefied and bewildered, Lafayette looked curiously at Sookie. “Is he right, Sook? Are you … uh … ya know? With Eric?”

Sookie released a tired sigh and bleakly pushed herself up from the floor. She stepped gingerly around Lafayette who was still kneeling on the floor, and moved stiffly to the sink so she could wash her mouth out and get rid of the taste of bile. After spitting out the water, she dried her mouth and hands with the hand towel before turning around. Lafayette stood as she leaned back against the sink, her lips tightened with resolve as she faced her friends. She felt the intensity of their need to know even before she noticed the furrowed lines of concern on their brows coupled with the questioning lines around their mouths. What a sad irony that Tara had left largely because she hadn't told her. Just hours later, now she was forced to divulge the truth. If only … She shook her head slowly, Tara's choice was the only one that would have satisfied Eggs. Still, if she had told Tara about the baby, would her decision have been any different? It was time to tell them the truth.

Her voice was small, hesitant, as she declared, “I … I'm pregnant.” Her words pulsed between them. When her friends' eyes widened she added, “And yes, it's Eric's. My baby is a vampire.”


Before she could say anything more the house phone rang. “Excuse me. I bet that's Eric, and I shouldn't ignore his call. I can feel him reaching for me in the bond. He must have felt me get sick.”

Sookie pushed past her friends and rushed towards the house phone, and answered, “Hello?”

“Sookie, what's wrong? I felt something through the bond. Do you need me to return?”

There was no missing the worry in her Viking's tone, and if she weren't so upset with him she would find his concern for her adorable. “I just got a little sick is all. I'm fine.”

“Sick? You were fine when I left you. Is something wrong with the baby? Do you need Ludwig? … sit down and rest, I'm on my way back now.”

“Eric! You are totally overreacting! I just had a little morning sickness is all. It's perfectly natural.” She watched Sam and Lafayette move to stand in front of her. Both were clearly still shaken up by the remarkable revelation she had just made.

“You should have told me you were ill before now. I do not know what this 'morning sickness' is but I will find a cure for it immediately. Sit down and rest and I shall be there soon. I'm calling Ludwig now.”

Rolling her eyes, Sookie insisted, “Eric, morning sickness is something all pregnant women go through.”

“It is night time.”

She couldn't help it. She really couldn't. She burst out laughing. “Oh Lord, Eric! I swear for someone who's been around so dang long you really do miss the obvious. It's just called morning sickness, but it can happen anytime during the day. Women's bodies change during pregnancy and sometimes our stomach's get a little upset.”

“I felt distress, physical distress, from you through the bond. This worries me.”

Holding her hand up to halt Lafayette from asking her something, wanting to get off the phone with Eric first, Sookie continued, “Well I imagine you would. You threw up the other night, did that feel good? No, it didn't, and it didn't feel good for me either when I just did it, but it's over and I'm fine.”

There was a moment of silence before Eric declared, “I'm on my way now. Ludwig will be there soon.”

Frustrated now, Sookie practically growled, “Eric, I'm telling you that it's nothing. I'm better now. I'll eat a little something to settle my stomach and I'll be good as new. There's no reason for you to come home when there is much more important stuff for you to be doing at Fangtasia. Stop worrying.”

“Sookie, you are my primary concern. You are sick, and, as your mate, it is my right to see to your health. I'm coming home. Lie down and rest until I get there. I will give you some more of my blood to make you stronger until Ludwig can find a cure for this 'morning sickness'. I will make you well soon.”

Pinching the bridge of her nose as she prayed for patience, Sookie asked, “Eric, what do you feel from me through the bond right now?”

“Annoyance.”

“Oh yeah, I'm getting annoyed, but I meant physically. What do you feel from me physically?”

There was another moment of silence before Eric grudgingly admitted, “You are not hurt.”

Satisfied that she was making progress, Sookie declared, “So that means you don't need to come back. You have a job to do, Eric, and you can't come running back here every time you feel a little blip in our bond. Come home for big stuff, let me handle the little things.”

“But you just said you are sick. That's a big thing.”

“Obviously I need to pick my words more carefully. I'm not sick, as in fever, disability, broken arm sort of thing, Eric, it was just a natural thing that I'm going to be going through a lot because I'm pregnant. Google it on your phone. You'll see that it's perfectly normal. Now you handle your business at Fangtasia and I'll handle my business here.”

There was another moment of silence before Eric relented, but not without having the last word. “I shall not return if you promise you are well, but I'm still calling Ludwig. She was to come by later to check on you per my orders, but I will call her and tell her to come now to examine you. I will expect a call from her soon telling me that all is well with you, and that this 'morning sickness' is indeed nothing to worry over.”

“I promise I'm fine, and if it will make you feel better, Ludwig can come now. I'm sure she'll tell you exactly what I'm telling you.”

“I will speak with you soon, lover.”

Her reaction was immediate. Frowning, Sookie said, “You haven't earned the right to call me that again.” She hung up before he could reply. Looking at her friends, she said, “I guess I have some explaining to do, huh?”


At Fangtasia, Pam had just pulled into her parking place as Eric glared at his phone while trying to suppress a growl. He hated it when Sookie reminded him that things were not right between them. Turning to look at his child, he asked, “What is 'morning sickness'?”
Shrugging Pam replied, “Apparently it's something all breeding women get.” With her vampire hearing she had picked up the entire conversation, and added, “Though it does seem strange that they'd call it morning sickness if it can take place anytime during the day.”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

Pam watched as her Master's fingers flew across the touchscreen keyboard of his iPhone. “Googling it?”

“Of course.” Eric selected the American Pregnancy link and read, “More than half of all pregnant women experience morning sickness. Morning sickness is the nauseated feeling you get during pregnancy. Morning sickness can be, but is not always, accompanied with vomiting. The nausea is often a result of the increased hormones in your body. Many healthcare providers think morning sickness is a good sign because it means the placenta is developing well.”

“Isn't that good then? Shouldn't you encourage her to have this morning sickness more often then? You should be trying to get her to throw up as much as she can.”

Eric's brow furrowed as he looked at Pam and remarked, “That doesn't make sense to me. From what I know of humans, vomiting means they are either emotionally distressed, or physically something is wrong with them. Why would it be so different for pregnant women?”

“I don't know. I've never understood the point of them vomiting to begin with. Humans are strange. Apparently pregnant human women are worse.”

“Wait, there's more. It says, 'Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and sometimes electrolyte disturbance. Mild cases are often treated with dietary measures, rest and antacids. Severe cases often require a stay in the hospital so that the mother can receive fluid and nutrition through an intravenous line. DO NOT take any medications to solve this problem without consulting your healthcare provider first. Contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing excessive nausea and vomiting that prevents you from keeping any food down, if vomiting is accompanied by pain or fever, if nausea and vomiting persists well into the second trimester (after 13th week)'.”

Looking up from his phone, Eric remarked, “Now that's just confusing. First it says that the vomiting is a good thing, then it says it's a bad thing. How do I tell the difference? When am I supposed to know when to make Sookie rest because she is vomiting too much, and when to be joyous over her vomiting because it means my son is growing strong and healthy? And what the hell are antacids?”

Shrugging, Pam offered, “Perhaps you tell by how many weeks Sookie is. It's only been a few, and the cut-off is 13, so she should be good, and this is the first time she has been sick, isn't it?”

“I don't think we can judge by that. We were told that this baby and the next few would develop faster in order to aid me with the coming war against humanity. So, just because Sookie is only a few weeks pregnant, doesn't mean my child hasn't grown faster.”

Pam thought it over for a moment, and finally concluded, “Then I would say trust in your bond with Sookie. If she feels sick or weak to you through the bond, then is the time to worry. If she feels safe and strong like she does now, then be glad she is vomiting.”

Seeing the rightness in his child's words, Eric agreed, “I guess that's all we can do for now.” His fingers moving over the keys, Eric began reading, “Antacids are substances that neutralize stomach acidity.”

“Does that mean it stops vomiting?”

“Does stomach acidity cause vomiting?”

“Vomit certainly smells acidic. Remember when Ginger threw up all over the floor when Sookie first came to read our humans? It might as well have been acid.”

Eric laughed as his fingers once again began to fly over the keyboard. Pam arched a brow and asked, “What are you doing?”

Without looking up, Eric replied, “Ordering some books. The top recommended ones are 'What to Expect When You're Expecting', and 'The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth', and 'The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas and All Other Labor Companions'. The last book apparently seems to be best for me, but I'm ordering all three. I need to start preparing myself for helping Sookie through all this. She has made it clear I am to be a father by today's standards, and that means far more involvement then fathers back in my days as a human.”

“Oh this is too good! Imagine, the mighty Eric Northman sitting on his throne each night, the adoring masses at his feet, reading a book on how to change diapers! I'll never forget my camera again.” Her eyes slanted mercilessly as she pushed the envelope further. “You are so totally whipped.”

Daggers were shooting out of his eyes. Literally. Daggers and stakes, as Eric threatened, “You know, I think I should arrange a diaper changing demonstration for them.”

“That would be perfect.” Pam was nearly foaming at the mouth at the ammunition her Maker would give her with such an act. She could torment him for centuries!

“Glad you volunteered.”

She might as well have been staked. Pam's eyes widened in shock and horror. “I did no such thing!”

“Funny, not what I heard. I can see it now, you standing there in your leather dominatrix outfit changing a baby's diaper in front of my 'adoring fans'. Now that's definitely photo material. Maybe we should start an email newsletter for all the fangbangers. I think that shot should definitely be the first issue.”

“You wouldn't dare!”

Eric's eyes were hard as stone as he countered, “Oh I wouldn't? Are you so sure? Though I think perhaps I might allow you to wear your real clothing instead of your Fangtasia uniforms. They would certainly pull off the 'Nanny' look much better.”

“Eric, this stopped being funny awhile ago.”

Arching his own brow, Eric questioned, “What were you saying about me being whipped?”

“I said no such thing! Eric Northman is not whipped! Not even a bit!”

“That's better.” His eyes fell back to his phone as he read, “Did you know that pregnancy can increase a woman's sex drive? Now that's a definite perk.”

“Really? I never heard of that.”

Dismay overtook Eric's features a beat later as he added, “Or it can completely kill their sex drive entirely. That is most definitely not a perk.”

Shaking his head as he put his phone in his pocket, Eric said, “Apparently I have much to read up on. I forgot how complicated human bodies could be.”

Opening her door as Eric got out and headed into the bar, Pam laughed, “Well we have only been interested in their blood until now … and their vaginas. We never had much need for anything else.”

Holding the back door open for his child, Eric teased, “Don't forget the breasts Pam. Never those.”

Smiling devilishly, Pam pressed, “You know one thing I remember from my human days is that breeding women's breasts get huge … think it will happen to your Sookie?”

A definite smirk appearing on his face, Eric replied, “I certainly hope so.”

Both dropped their smiles and donned serious expressions as they made their way inside Fangtasia. The bar was now surrounded by large statues of Norse gods, thus protecting the structure from Sargon's prying eyes. The statues certainly looked out of place, but Eric didn't care. He wasn't even sure if he was going to open the bar again. He had far more important matters to attend to than allowing hordes of humans to pay to gawk at him. In the bar, Ahmose was seated quite casually at the bar with about 30 of his most trusted vampires and Weres surrounding him. The former pharaoh was dressed in black dress slacks and a dark purple shirt. The king looked entirely unassuming, but the seriousness of the situation was apparent when all in attendance dropped to their knees with bowed heads.

“Hail to the High King,” they said in a sonorous united voice.

Quirking a brow at Ahmose, Eric asked, “They have been informed?”

Nodding, the former pharaoh replied, “Yes. I assure you their loyalty is absolute. These are my most trusted soldiers. They have been informed my absolute loyalty is to you. They know I have given you my vow, and they each will give you theirs.”

Waving his hand at a group of humans kneeling near the stage, he continued, “These are my witches. The seer and Council will be sending more, but, for now, they shall begin working on Sookie's brother as you ordered. They also have some ideas on magical protections for when members leave your bonded's sanctuary that I think you should hear, and have already begun to work on a talisman to hide your mate's condition from human eyes. All here are ready and willing to serve.” Gesturing to his day man, Ahmose added, “Edwin has all pertinent information you might require on each of them.”

Pleased by the announcement, Eric strode toward his office and announced, “First I shall speak to you privately in my office. Pam, speak with Ahmose's day man and see what he has in way of personnel files, then phone Sookie and relay the information to her on the human and Were help, and set up a schedule for her to interview each one for more detailed profiles. Afterwards, speak with each of the vampires here and make sure the profiles Edwin has lists their skills, makers, siblings, and children. Check with the Council and make sure all the information concurs.”

Eric spared no one a glance as he headed back to his office with Ahmose a step behind him. He took a seat in his chair, his gaze perusing Sookie's rose petal covered body on his wall, wishing that halcyon time was not so distant as he waited for Ahmose to take a seat on the couch. When he finally managed to tear his eyes away from the beautiful sight of his lover, he asked Ahmose bluntly, “Who is your Maker?”

Ahmose smiled softly, and questioned, “You question my loyalty?”

“I trust no one but Sookie and my child. Everyone is capable of betraying me, and I will not endanger my family any more than I absolutely have to. I trust you to a certain degree, but I will never trust you fully. I cannot afford to.”

Pleased by his king's words, Ahmose answered, “You are right to suspect everyone. You are a fine mate and king. I am not offended by your inquiry.”

“I don't care if you're offended or not. I care only for protecting my mate and son.”

“As you should. My maker is the Ancient Pythoness. Though I must warn you that you will find no documentation of this. She made me in secret, and it is a secret she and I have kept from the night I rose vampire. I never truly traveled with her, and met with her only occasionally throughout the centuries. She told me it was paramount that no one know I was her child. She has no other children as far as I know.”

His disclosure earned him a raised eyebrow and Eric's eyes widened. “Yet you are telling me now.”

“You are my king, and I have sworn my oath to you. When you ask a question, I will always give you the truth. It is your right to accept my words or doubt them to protect what is yours.”

“Did she ever tell you not to inform me she was your Maker?”

Ahmose shook his head, “No. She has not reminded me to keep our relationship a secret for over a thousand years. She told me the first night I rose, and reminded me a few times over the first millennia of my life, but has not mentioned it since. It was a matter simply understood.”

Eric thought it over for a moment, nodding absently. “Do you know why she asked you to keep it a secret?”

“We never discussed it.”

His mind worked quickly as he processed this news, before asking, “Has she released you?”

“No. I am still at her command.”

Sitting back in his chair, Eric pressed, “If I order her to release you, would you object?”

“No. My loyalty, just like hers, is yours.”

Eric did not respond to Ahmose's declaration, and instead continued with his questioning. “Do you know who her Maker is?”

Shaking his head, the King of New York replied, “I do not. She never spoke to me of her Maker, nor do I know if she has been released. I'm assuming you wish to ensure that no vampire under your command can be ordered by their Maker to betray you?”

Eric nodded quickly in affirmation. “Indeed. I know Ivan is released, and I know that Han's Maker is dead: he found a way to kill him himself, though I don't know the reason why. No vampire shall be near Sookie that has not sworn allegiance to me in every way, and that is not free of their Maker's control.”

Seeing the rightness in Eric's words, Ahmose said, “Most of the vampires I brought with me have either been released, or their Makers have met their final death, the few that are still under the command of their makers can easily be released. I know each of the Makers, but will do nothing to stop you from arranging them to be released if it is your wish.”

“Good.” Moving on to the next item of business, Eric asked, “How far can I trust you? Trust the Pythoness, Niall, and the Council?”

“I would and will sacrifice everything I am or have for you and the Chosen One. I have summoned Caesar and he is coming with his own army. He knows not why I have summoned him, and the choice to tell him is yours to make. He knows only that I am about to take part in a war that could lead to my final death. He has vowed to follow me unto final death if need be. He assures me he is bringing only his most trustworthy underlings. He is also bringing his own Weres. He has command of several packs of Weres. A pack of werewolves and a pack of werelions. They have sworn allegiance to him and served him for several hundred years.”

“It has been a few centuries since I have been in Caesar's court, but I have heard that he has command of these Weres. I have heard that their loyalty is absolute. I shall meet with Caesar when he arrives and determine whether to explain the full situation to him. Regardless, his soldiers are legendary. The addition of him and his men to my forces will be most welcome. And the Pythoness and Niall?”

Sitting back in the couch, Ahmose explained, “My Maker always has several agendas. Her sight assures this, but I honestly believe her loyalty to you is beyond suspect. If you fall, we all fall. I see no alternate agenda she might have that could lead her to betray you. As for Niall? I cannot speculate on him with as much certainty, but as the survival of his race as a whole depends upon these children, I would trust him less. He needs only the blood of Vampire Gods. They do not necessarily have to be your vampire god children.”

Eric's face darkened at the implication. He speculated, “You think that if my defeat at Sargon's hands is expected, Niall and the Fae will switch sides?”

Nodding, Ahmose clarified, “His race can only survive with the blood of vampire gods. He will do whatever he has to in order to protect his people. I think if he and his father, High Lord Oberon, doubt your ability to conquer Sargon, they will switch their allegiances. I'm sure Sargon is planning to offer them a deal, if he has not already. I would be far more concerned that betrayal lies with them, than with myself or my Maker.”

“And how can I trust this?” Eric asked. “I'm sure there are going to be quite a few vampires that will side with Sargon if they believe me and mine will be unable to defeat him. They will do all they can to ensure their survival. How do I know that you and the Pythoness aren't working for him even now? How do I know you're not simply waiting for an order from him to stake me in the back and take Sookie from me?”

“Because my Maker and I both know that Sargon will not tolerate the existence of any vampire once he secures Sookie. I do not doubt he will have many siding with him, many fighting for him in order to bring you down, but the fact remains they will not live long. Sargon will not risk that another vampire would find a way to take Sookie and bind her to them as he's planning to take her from you. He is too paranoid for that. Sargon does not tolerate threats. No vampire is truly safe from him, and it is why we must side with you if we wish to survive.”

Eric had already come to the same conclusion, but he had wanted to see what Ahmose's response would be. If he had spouted off some nonsense about honor, oaths, or some sense of responsibility to do right by him in memory of Godric, then Eric would have known he was lying. He very seriously doubted that the Pythoness or Ahmose would betray him to Sargon unless they felt they had no other alternative. He would just have to ensure that he always gave them reason to remain loyal. With this in mind, he said, “And yet you think Niall and the Fae are suspect? Surely they will have come to the same conclusion that Sargon does not share power, that he would do away with them at the first opportunity as well?”

“Terror, fear of annihilation clouds one's judgment. If they believe all hope is lost in fighting against Sargon, their desire to live on will sway their logic, making them believe a deal is possible with him.

Eric contemplated the older vampire's words, weighing them against his own doubts as to Niall's and the Fae's trustworthiness, before stating, “Niall is sending two of Sookie's cousins to teach her how to use her magic. She is supposed to study with them several times a week during the day. Not to mention her royal fae guard. Any one of them could be spying on us for Sargon, or plotting against us. And yet I cannot afford to send them away if their protection is genuine. Sargon is too great a threat, his magic too powerful. I need Fae magic to counter it.”

Eric then proceeded to tell Ahmose all that had happened the night before with Sargon's sudden and unexpected appearance at Sookie's. He told the King of New York about the freezing spell that had been used, the talismans their enemy had provided to thwart this spell in the future, the scroll on bonded children, and everything the ancient vampire had said to his bonded. By the time he was finished Eric took in the thoughtful expression on Ahmose's face, and pressed, “What do you think?”

“I think you are walking through a minefield without any of your senses to aid you. You might as well be a human fumbling around in the dark.”

Eric laughed, “I was thinking much the same thing.” Templing his fingers, he continued, “I have given consideration to the thought that he told me he has two spies simply to try and distract me, or perhaps to make me focus on the number two—the quantity, I mean—so that I miss the obvious fact that there are more. Yet his desire to aid Sookie, his feelings for her, make me think the information is genuine. Especially since he gave her the scroll and talisman. I do not know if he is trying to distract me, or if he is trying to gain some sliver of Sookie's affection. Of course he could be doing both.”

Ahmose was silent as he ruminated on the situation. Just as Eric had, he rolled every piece of information around in his mind, and tried to find each and every problem that could arise. There were so many possibilities, so many agendas Sargon could be using by employing such tactics. The problems and benefits presented were mind boggling Finally, he offered, “I do believe his words. They were not to you, but to Sookie, and I genuinely believe he loves her. I doubt he would give her information to use against her. I think you can trust any information he gives to her directly, and would suggest letting her talk to him again if he phones.”

Eric certainly didn't like hearing that and stood to lean over his desk and glower at Ahmose. His hatred of anything and everything that threatened his relationship with Sookie was all consuming. His fangs snapped down as he leaned forward on his desk and hissed, “You would have me allow my enemy, who wishes to steal my mate and son, to speak with my Sookie?!”

Remaining calm, knowing full well that the Northman could rarely think clearly when it came to his mate, Ahmose explained, “If Sargon loves her, and again, I truly believe he does, he will not want to lie to her directly. He might lie to you, or plant spies, but I believe any information he gives Sookie will be genuine.”

“Why?” Eric did not see the reasoning behind this. He couldn't understand why Ahmose would trust Sargon's words, when Sargon had made it apparent he was going to do whatever he had to do to win. To rule all.

“It is simple really, the same reason you hate lying to Sookie … because you love her. Because seeing her sad or disappointed pains you.”

As Eric's eyes darkened with resentment, Ahmose continued, “I believe, much like you, Sookie has become a need for Sargon. For thousands of years he has focused solely on her. Putting all of his hopes and dreams, and quite literally all of his heart and emotions, on her alone. I think for him, he is desperate for her love. Just as you are. Her love rules your actions.”

“Sookie does not rule me,” Eric scoffed. The mere idea was ludicrous. He ruled her. It had been that way from the moment they bonded, and it would remain that way for eternity. He walked around his desk only to sit on it, towering over the diminutive pharaoh who sat placidly looking up at him.

“Of course she doesn't,” Ahmose replied with a small smile. Giving his king no time to respond, he added, “Regardless, I think Sargon wants to try and build a rapport with Sookie. He wants her to trust him, and begin thinking of him as someone she can turn to, and because of that, I think any information he gives directly to her is truth. I believe he truly does have two spies, but there could always be more. Just because he only has two spies close to Sookie, doesn't mean he won't have more spies close to you and your army. Sargon will not want to endanger Sookie. I would doubt those closest to you.”

Eric mulled Ahmose's words over, and saw the rightness of them. He discarded the older vampire's words about loving Sookie or her ruling him, but the rest made sense. The more he had come to care for Sookie, the more she became a part of him, the more he hated lying to her. At the cabin, when she had given all of herself to him, he had sworn he would lie to her no more. That there would be trust and truth between them always. He might not tell her everything, and planned to hide ugly truths from her, but he would not lie to her, so he could understand how Ahmose believed the same of Sargon.

With this in mind, Eric confided, “I must make plans to defeat Sargon, and yet every time I start to lay out a tactical stratagem I find myself rejecting it. Every player I have at my disposal is a possible liability, their loyalty suspect. I am at a loss.”

While Eric did not trust Ahmose completely, the former pharaoh was as close as he could get to the guidance Godric would have given him. Eric had never felt the loss of his maker more than he did now. He wished his father were here to help guide him, to back his plays as he always had in the past. He desperately wished that Godric were here to discuss war tactics, evasive maneuvers, and different scenarios and possibilities with, but he was not. Godric was gone, and would not be coming back. Eric had only himself, his mate, and his child, to depend on.

Understanding Eric's situation completely, Ahmose mulled the matter over for a moment, and finally offered, “I have an idea.”

“Tell me.”

“My knowledge of Faeries is not absolute, but I know of a ceremony they can perform. It is a binding ceremony much like the way vampires bond humans to them. Or bind themselves with the oath, and yet it is a thousand times stronger. Unbreakable, as far as I know.”

Arching a brow, Eric said, “Continue.”

“This ceremony ties a Faerie's life to an individual … or task. From what I know, royals are forbidden from taking part in this ceremony, as are fairy females due to their breeding problems.”

“Why?”

“Because, it is my understanding that if they break their word, betray the one or task they are bonded to, they will die, immediately. Supposedly once the ceremony is completed, as soon as the Fairy mentally makes the decision to betray the person or task they have bound themselves to, they drop dead where they stand. Because of this, royals and females are forbidden from partaking of the oath. Faeries are so low in number that they certainly cannot risk any of their females dying for whatever reason, and their royals must first and foremost be loyal their people as a whole.”

A smile appeared on Eric's face as he finished, “But Sookie's Fae guard are not royals or females.”

“No, they are not. Have them perform the binding ceremony, have them bound to the task of aiding you to defeat Sargon, then their loyalty would be absolute. It would not be to Niall, or Oberon, or even to the survival of fairies as a whole. It would be to you. I would not trust Niall or any other fairy any more than you absolutely have to. Just as we would and are, they will do whatever they must to survive.”

Nodding his head, Eric concluded, “And if they refuse we know they cannot be trusted.”

“And if Niall refuses to allow them, or denies such a ceremony exists, then you know he is already in Sargon's pocket … or at least preparing for it.”

“I think this will work, then I can trust Sookie's Fae guard to protect her to the best of their ability, and will only have to worry about the cousins who are to teach her magic. One is a female, and the other is of the royal line. Neither capable of taking the oath. I'm wondering if Niall planned it that way.”

Eyes alighting with understanding, Ahmose speculated, “You think perhaps Niall knew you would have the Fae guards bound to aiding you, but he would have a back up plan in using the cousins?”

“Exactly,” Eric affirmed. “Think about it, the guards will keep Sookie safe, which is paramount to all of us no matter who wins, and the cousins would provide a route to kidnapping Sookie and delivering her to Sargon if the Fae believe I cannot defeat him. They are to be invited into the barrier, and they have no intention to harm her so the barrier would not expel them if they do decide to take her. It is a perfect plan. Even if Niall and the Fairies aren't already siding with Sargon, I do not doubt they are making back up plans. Just as we are.”

Seeing the rightness of Eric's words, Ahmose said, “Then you must find a way to use this knowledge against them. Find a way to use the cousins to your gain, and most certainly warn Sookie that they could be her enemies as well as allies.”

“I will. I have several ideas, but I need to think on them more before putting anything into play.” Tapping his fingers on the arm of his chair, Eric questioned, “Who do you think the spies are?”

“Everyone.” Leaning forward, Ahmose said, “You are right, my king; you can trust no one. You must make every action, every decision, every plan or preparation, as though you stand only with your child and Sookie. Plan for betrayal at every turn. It does not matter who the spies are. Every single one of us is a weakness, and ultimately a threat, and you should view each of us as such. Only Sookie matters. Only your bond with her. Only your child growing inside her and the ones that follow. See us all as threats, and you will better protect your family.”

“I like the way you think, it reminds me of Godric and all he taught me of survival.”

Pain flashed through Ahmose's eyes, and his gaze dropped to the floor. He had sworn to himself that he would not broach this subject. He had told himself he should not distract Eric from the task at hand, but he couldn't help it. Forcing himself to meet the gaze of the man his child had loved above all else, he said, “I know I have no right to ask this, but … in his journal, did he … did he say anything of me? Did—did he resent me making him vampire?”

Ahmose had told Eric and Sookie the truth in New York, he knew exactly how miserable his child had been in the end. He knew that Godric had simply been done, and wanted it all to be over, but he still had questions. Questions that Godric had not answered, nor tried to. Godric had left answers only for his beloved child, and while Ahmose knew he had no right to the words Godric had left for Eric in his journal, he couldn't help but wonder if his child had resented him for dooming him to such misery by turning him. He wanted to know if Godric had wished for another life. A life unconnected to him. Ahmose had kept his word to Godric, and had not attempted to read the journal not meant for him, but now, he couldn't keep himself from asking. He'd loved Godric dearly, and still mourned his loss. Would always mourn his loss.

Eric's fists clenched. His gut twisted and he felt Sookie reaching for him through the bond. The absence of his Maker was a wound inside him that would never be made right. Just as Sookie would forever mourn the loss of her Gran and brother, if he could not be saved, so would he always burn at the memory of Godric meeting the sun. Emotion again threatened to overwhelm him. Threatened his control in every way. There was a buzzing in his pocket and he pulled out his phone to read:

SOOKIE: Are you ok?

His fingers flew across the keys as he sent back:

ERIC: Ahmose and I are speaking of Godric. Is Ludwig there?

Her reply was immediate.

SOOKIE: Yes, she just arrived and is running some tests now … you know you can call me if you need me, right?

ERIC: I always need you.


He couldn't help the small smile that twitched at the corners of his full mouth. The fact that she was so upset with him, and yet reached out to him at the slightest hint of unease pleased him greatly. He was also ecstatic that their bond seemed to be strengthening by the day. Though they hadn't discussed it, he remembered her reaching to him through the bond the night before, he remembered Sookie speaking to him in his mind, and he remembered answering back in her mind. It was something they were going to have to explore later. Being able to communicate with each other telepathically was a boon they could not afford to waste.

After putting his phone back in his pocket, Eric answered Ahmose's question. “I have not read much of the journal. It … it is hard for me to read his words. Some of them bring me joy, but many bring me pain. However I can tell you that from what I've read so far he has said nothing of you, and I assure you that if he does I will tell you.”

Seeing how hard it was on his king to discuss the journal, Ahmose was simple in his reply. “I thank you for that.”

Eric resolutely shook off his feelings of loss and desolation and continued. “We have plans to make. I need to outline how to effectively finish my takeover of Louisiana and secure my regime, build my army, and yet keep the secret of what is truly going on from the masses. I was hoping you could aid me with that. I am much better at destroying monarchies than building them.”

Ahmose's eyes sparkled with his laughter. “I have heard much of your exploits, and, of course, your Maker bragged about you continuously. I know of the many kingdoms you destroyed in your youth, but fear not, I have just as much experience building as you have destroying.”

Eric's own brilliant smile graced his features, as he laughed, “Then it works out perfectly.”

Together they got down to the business of building Eric two kingdoms. One that everyone would know of, and one that would not be revealed for some time yet.





Back at Sookie's, she was sitting in her bedroom as Dr. Ludwig continued running her various tests. Ahmose's men had just arrived with the statues he was gifting them and most of her guards were busy with arranging them all along the perimeter of the barrier to protect her sanctuary from Sargon's spies. It was an odd sight, these ancient statues and statuettes, ripped from their temples and altars now perched amidst Sookie's very Southern feeling landscape with her chickens, milk cows and horses. At the moment, she was lying on her back on the bed, her shirt drawn up and shorts pushed down, as Ludwig spread KY jelly on her stomach so that she could perform a sonogram.

As the tiny woman worked, Sookie asked, “Will you even be able to see anything? I mean, I'm barely two weeks pregnant.”

Powering up the 3D sonogram machine, Ludwig explained, “You might be two weeks, but as this is such a special pregnancy, and since you are already experiencing morning sickness, the child could be developing faster.”

She smeared the jelly over Sookie's stomach with the transducer probe before addressing her patient. “Now, this will obviously not be like most sonograms, I can't exactly look for the heartbeat like most doctors would, though it should be far too early for something like that anyway. I just want to see how developed the fetus is to better gauge just how fast he is going to grow.”

“I'm not sure about this. I think Eric should be here for this. I thought you were just going to come and tell me that everything was fine, but the first sonogram should be experienced by the both of us, don't you think?”

“Your mate ordered me to run all tests. This is one of them, and I'm not going to disobey him. Besides, I'm sure he'll be present for the rest of them.” Dr. Ludwig's eyes studied the screen intently as she moved the transducer probe around on Sookie's stomach, finally announcing, “Ah, and there is the prince himself. Do you want to see him?”

Sookie's eyes widened and her mouth opened and closed a few times. Finally she answered hoarsely, “Yes … yes I want to see him.”

Pushing the machine around so the screen was visible to Sookie, Ludwig pointed her little finger and said, “There he is, my dear.”

Tears filled her eyes as Sookie whispered, “He's so small. He looks like a peanut.”

“That's because he's only developed about 7 or 8 weeks from what I can tell, but he's still growing quickly. Whether he'll continue to grow at this rate is unknown, but, from what I can see, he seems to be doing fine. He's even shifted around in there a few times since I've been watching, which is very good. Usually babies don't start moving around that early. No doubt the sickness is because he is developing so fast, and since you felt fine right afterward, I wouldn't be too concerned about it.”

“Can I have a picture?”

“Absolutely,” Ludwig replied. Her fingers began moving over the machine as she said, “I love these new machines, not only can I print these images on paper, but I can put them on a CD and email them. How do you want your photos?”

“All three. Print me one for right now, put some on a CD, and email them to my phone. That way I can email them to Eric.”

“As you wish. Now, were there any questions you had?”

“Not really, most of my big questions were answered by my Gra—uh, you know what? Nevermind. I'm guessing most of this will be pretty much about figuring it out as we go, right?”

Ludwig eyed Sookie skeptically for a moment. Obviously the girl had been about to say something, but had thought better of it. Finally she said, “I guess it will.”

As she set about printing several of the views of the baby, saving them to a disk, and emailing them to Sookie's phone, Ludwig asked, “Did you eat anything after you got sick?”

Nodding her head, Sookie assured, “Yeah, I had half a sandwich, and with all-natural ingredients just like you said.”

“Anything to drink?”

“Some milk, and whole milk straight from a cow is so totally gross by the way.”

Ludwig couldn't help but laugh. “It does take some getting used to, that's for sure. Especially if you've lived off that pasteurized crap from the stores for so long. It is better for you, though.”

“I thought pasteurization made milk healthier?”

Ludwig thought about it for a second, before explaining, “In some ways, but on the whole I find it more detrimental.”

“How so?”

“Well just as with a mother's milk, raw milk has good bacteria in it. I'm sure you've heard about yogurt and milk manufacturers adding this bacteria back into their products after the pasteurization process, right?”

“I remember something about it on the news awhile back, yeah.”

Continuing, Ludwig explained, “Well, pasteurization takes it all out, not to mention all the good fat in the milk.”

Not understanding, Sookie asked, “Isn't fat bad for you?”

“Oh no, dear, you need fat to stay healthy. Healthy fats help prevent inflammation, it's basically fuel for your brain, they are necessary for blood cell health, over 60% of the heart's energy comes from burning fats, they help your sight and so much more. The important thing is to eat good fats. Like fat from milk, cheese, eggs, fish, chicken, nuts—basically fat that comes naturally. The bad fats you want to stay away from are manufactured from chemicals and sugar. Those are what cause your body more problems than benefits. The truth is that you need fat in your diet to stay healthy. That's why all those 'no-fat' diets proved disastrous. The real trick to staying healthy is eating whole grains, good meat and proteins, and staying away from processed foods. And portion control of course, but really, if Americans stopped eating fast and easy food, and cooked their own food, not boxed or frozen dinners, they would be a whole lot healthier.”

“Wow, I never knew all that.”

Shrugging, Ludwig said, “Americans are more worried about being comfortable than healthy, and the government promotes this attitude.  They do not enforce strict FDA regulations to keep food processing safe and healthy.  They allow fast food chains to produce that garbage that is killing the population all in the name of profit.  It is disgraceful.  Most other developed countries have much stricter regulations, and yet America is supposed to be the world leader. Hopefully, things really are starting to change. Americans finally seem to be understanding that they can't keep going the way they have been if they want to live longer. Hopefully they are coming to realize they're killing themselves.”

“So what were you saying about milk?”

“Raw milk has so many health benefits that pasteurization takes away. Pasteurization was brought about so that big corporate milk farms could run substandard operations with sick cows and dirty facilities and still mass produce their product. Small, family owned dairy farms that take good care of their stock are the ones that suffered. Pasteurization does make all milk safe, but it can't compare with good quality raw milk.”

Before Sookie could ask another question, Ludwig announced, “And here are your photos.”

Completely forgetting about milk, Sookie reached out for the first picture of her baby. Her hand shook as she took the small square of paper from her doctor. Her breath caught as she looked down at her son and whispered in awe, “My baby.”


Ludwig watched as Sookie traced the outline of her tiny son with her fingertip. The unadulterated love and joy on Sookie's face was undeniable, and the doctor asked, “Any ideas on names yet? That is a future king you've got there. He needs a good name.”

“Eric and I are still thinking about it, but for now I'm calling him 'Peanut'.”

Ludwig threw her head back and laughed. “Oh, I bet your Viking will just love that!”

Sookie smiled softly as she looked back down at her baby's picture and murmured, “I can't believe I'm having a baby. I can't believe I'm having Eric's baby. This is all so surreal.”

“Well believe it, and if he's anything like his father, you're going to be beating the girls back with a stick soon enough.”

Sookie laughed. She'd never heard a truer statement. “Well I'm sure Eric will do just as much beating back once he has a few little girls running around his feet.”

“He needs the worry. He needs to start seeing what it's like on the other side of the fence for once. He's done enough skirt-chasing over the years, though he seems to be chasing after one particular one now.”

A determined look came into Sookie's eyes as she said, “Well he can stop chasing me because I'm not going anywhere, he just needs to dig his head out of his ass. Things would be fine then.”

“Are you going to say that to him?” Ludwig asked with a hopeful expression. “If you are, call me first so I can be here, for an appointment of course—that way I can see his face and truly appreciate the moment.”

Sookie smiled brightly and teased, “I think you and I are going to get along great!”

“Here's hoping,” Ludwig replied. “Now, let's run a few more tests so that your Viking can't say I didn't do my job. When I'm done you can send a picture to your Viking so he can see his son as well.”


By the time Ludwig was finally finished with all her tests and was ready to deliver her report to Eric, Sookie was fighting to remain calm. Every time she looked at the small picture of her baby, her heart felt like it was going to beat right out of her chest. She'd known for several days that she was pregnant, had been told by everyone she was, but this was different. With her own two eyes she'd seen the proof of her and Eric's love. With her own two eyes she'd seen the life they'd created inside her, and it left her speechless. Speechless, hopefully, joyous, nervous, and so many other emotions she could barely think straight. All she could comprehend was that she was really sitting on her bed with Eric's baby inside her, and that knowledge made her want to cry she was so happy.

Sudden movement at her door had her gaze finally lifting from the tiny body of her baby to see Lafayette and Sam standing at the door. Both men were looking at her strangely and she asked, “What?”

Lafayette and Sam shared a look, before Sam said, “We've been waiting on you for almost twenty minutes. The Doctor left a while ago and you said you'd talk to us as soon as she left. Is everything ok?”

Both men could see the tears in Sookie's eyes and it worried them. The fact she hadn't come down stairs with the doctor, and had remained up in her room for so long had left them wondering if something was wrong with her baby.

Sookie's smile was so bright it practically lit the room. “Everything is perfect! I'm having a baby!”

Pointing at the picture in Sookie's hand, Lafayette asked, “Can we see?”

“No!” Sookie stashed the picture behind her back and announced, “No one else sees until Eric. It's bad enough Ludwig saw, but you guys can't until I show Eric. In fact, go back downstairs. I have to call him. Go, shoo! I'll come down and talk to you when I'm ready.”

“Sook, why don't—“

 “No!” Sookie jumped up from her bed clutching her picture to her chest, and insisted, “Most everything about my life is abnormal, and I doubt most new mothers have to worry about fighting a war before their baby is even born, so I'll be damned if I don't get some baby moments with my mate! Now shoo! I'm having a mommy moment, damnit!”

Both men recognized that Stackhouse determination when they saw it, and backed out of the room as Sookie reached for her phone. She had so much she wanted to say to Eric, but right now all of it was good. She'd decided that just because she was a queen and some mythic savior of the universe, she was damn well going to have her mommy time too. She wanted to have some normal moments as well, and, with that in mind, she called her mate.

“Sookie? What is wrong?” Eric's strong voice filled her ear, and she had to fight not to squeal. Still clutching the picture to her chest, she said, “I'm so happy right now, and I had to share it with you. Right now I don't care if I'm mad, and that you are so in the dog house.”

At Fangtasia, Eric smiled as well. He could feel Sookie's emotions clearly, and had been feeling them for quite some time. Ludwig had called him and told him that everything was fine and her full report would be waiting for him when he got home.

While Eric had much to do, and was currently in a very important conversation with Ahmose and Pam, he would not hamper Sookie's enthusiasm or happiness in any way. So he asked, “Tell me, Lover.”

“I should point out you aren't supposed to call me that until you earn the right again, but I'm too happy to care what you call me.”

“This pleases me, now tell me what is causing you to share such joy with me in the bond.”

A smile never leaving her face, Sookie said, “Hold on, I'm sending you an email.”

Back in his office, Eric asked, “Why don't you just tell me? We're on the phone so what is the point of an email?”

“You'll see in a moment.” Sookie's fingers flew over the keyboard as she prepared to send her text and the message she wanted to send with it. When she hit the send button butterflies exploded in her stomach. She was so excited to se what Eric's response would be.



SOOKIE: Our little Peanut.

Eric felt a dizzy lightheadedness as the ground under his feet fell away and all conscious thought followed it. He drew a deep breath to try and settle himself and then expelled it, staring hard at the photo on his phone. If he had a heart, it would be thundering right out of his chest. A chest now heavy with entirely new emotions that provoked him and threatened his careful control. Up till this moment, knowing was thought only, emotion in absentia. Now, however, he could feel tears building in his eyes, and his voice broke as he tried to speak.

He caught the expression of concern from Pam and Ahmose and, horrified at his sudden vulnerability, he ordered roughly, “The two of you get out. I'll summon you when I wish to resume our meeting.”

Pam and Ahmose rose quickly, their eyes darting to one another in confusion. Whatever Sookie had sent Eric had been of great importance. It didn't take much to recognize Eric wished to speak to his bonded without prying ears. His office had a new silence spell on it so that whatever was spoken inside of it couldn't be heard by those outside if the door was closed. With that in mind they bowed their heads and left him to his mate.

As soon as they were gone he logged his computer on and accessed his email so that he could print a picture off. He'd need his phone to speak to Sookie, and he wanted a photo to hold in his hand as she was surely still holding to hers tightly.  He was surprised to see that his hands were shaking as they moved over the keyboard to log into his email account.

Back at the house, Sookie waited as patiently as she could. She had heard Eric's words and rightly concluded he was speaking to whomever was in his office with him. She tried to wait for as long as she thought it would take them to leave before asking, “Eric?”

'Say something!' his mind screamed. He cast about for dialog and reeled in an empty line.

“Sookie, I ….” His words died away. This simply wasn't possible. He was an intelligent, highly adaptive vampire who had lived more than a millennium. Confident, self-possessed, a warrior turned at the peak of his prowess, capable, cunning, knowing … so what were these feelings stirring inside him that he recognized but barely understood? He felt a sense of panic as he grasped for calm. He scoured his mind for a like-instance to place some handle on his feelings. 'Eric Northman is not a feeling creature,' he inwardly raged at himself. 'Get it fucking together, you ass!' But he was trembling and the words weren't there.  The world had shrunk.  Was pressing in on him, and all he could focus on was the photo of the tiny life he had helped create. He closed his eyes and mumbled, “I need a moment.”

His mind churned but the thoughts were thick with sediment and he found no reason so he went for rote. He had known for far longer than Sookie that she was carrying his child. He had come to terms with the knowledge. He had come to embrace it and even grown excited by it. He understood his destiny and those of the children who would follow his first. So why was he coming apart right now? What was this feeling gripping him by the throat? He felt frightened. The feeling terrified him.

He looked at the photo of Sookie on the wall. Her eyes so guileless, trusting, shy. His Sookie. His mate. If she disappeared tomorrow, he could not survive without her. He'd lost hope centuries ago of ever having a mate, a lifelong companion, of feeling that pull Godric had told him of. When had this little part fae creature become the half to his whole?

She pulled at him. She fitted into him like a key, unlocking a place he had held cold and dark though it had long been comfortable and secure and had served him well … but no more. At its portal, an exciting, vivacious creature stood, her blood singing to him. Her outstretched hands were warm as they took his and he could hear soft, sweet laughter as she pulled him through the darkness and brought him into her light.

His.

This small human had cleaved to him, loved him, given him everything she was. When he stepped into this dark room made bright by her presence, he realized the tinkling laughter wasn't hers. It was a child's.

Theirs.

For a moment he was no longer in his own office but in a lush meadow. A child was laughing wildly as he tossed him in the air. The blue-eyed boy had a mop of blond curls that bounced as he came down into his arms only to be launched higher into the air. The laughter was for him. The child was his. He knew, if he turned, he would see Sookie sitting on a blanket nearby, her belly swollen with another child.

Mine.

He was humbled and terrified. Here, now, in his very hands, he held a picture of his child. His son. His baby inside his mate's womb.

His miracle.

So many centuries walking alone and now this gift from the gods. A fertile woman, children born from his seed to stand by his side as he created a new world. A child growing even now. This child, in his hands.

His son.

He could not stop them. Bloody tears spilled down his cheeks while he gazed down at the picture as the reality of the situation hit him. 'My son. My mate. My family. This is mine. Mine to have and protect. I will die for them. I will conquer the world for them.'

A fierce, primal determination to do whatever he must to protect his family overcame him. The beast in him roared, hungered, demanded the blood of his enemies. A shrieking mantra booming in his head: 'MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE!'

And yet there was more. There was fire in his heart, the same fire he'd felt when Sookie told him she loved him that first time at the arena. The same fire he'd felt when she took him inside her body and loved him with all she had. The same fire he'd felt ignite in his body when she marked him with her love, proclaiming to all that her heart belonged to him, that she belonged to him. He couldn't identify what this feeling was, this consuming feeling that left him feeling so out of control and yet entirely focused on defending his family, but he welcomed it. It meant he had found his mate, that he was a father.

A thousand years had passed since he'd been a father and, there was no use trying, he couldn't truly identify with the man he was then. Had he been a good father? He remembered more the rigors of the time, the harsh cold of winter, the demands of his extended family circle that took him to sea each Spring raiding in search of goods and slaves necessary to work the fields, handle the livestock, and collect the wood needed to build fires.

He had had little to do with his children for most of their lives, he acknowledged not unruefully; it was Aude who had raised and nurtured them. The division of labor was clear in those times and that was her duty. Out of six children, only three, two boys and a girl, survived past their birthing. It was a different time, much more brutal. He mused; had he lived, he might have spent more time with his sons, instructing them in the art of the sword, training them to take their place alongside him when they came of age ….

Could he be a good father now?

The question clawed at him. His children with Aude grew up without him, perhaps even not remembering him. He'd left no footprint on their young lives. He had to do more and be more now.

He'd been a good Maker but Pam had not been a squalling infant when he turned her. What did he really know about fatherhood? How would he learn? The idea of failing his child was anathema, but realistically, what did he know about being a father? Since turning vampire, he'd tolerated the little teacup-sized children he occasionally ran into. They smelled terrible, they were always grimy and their high-pitched screams hurt his ears.  Sure, they were amusing from time to time, but for the most part, they were bothersome.

Yet now fate had dealt him a re-do and he was going to be a father again. He had another chance to get it right, to be a participant in the raising of his son and all those children that would follow and failure was not an option. Sargon, the ancient vampire, meant to take his place, raise his son for his own, and father more with his Sookie.

With everything he was, he raged at the thought of Sargon so much as touching his son. Sargon would not take his son, not while Eric could still stand. HE, Eric Northman, would raise his child and the boy would know him, love him, learn the old stories and wield a Viking sword. He would not lose a single moment in his son's upbringing. He would play in the snow with his son.  He would build snowmen and engage in snowball fights. He would teach him to hunt and track. Teach him to stand strong. He would live to see Sookie hold him, breastfeed him, laugh and play with him.  He would live to hold his son in his arms. He would live to see his son grow tall and strong. He would live to see his son play with his brothers and sisters. He would have all those things—and not Sargon, nor anything else in the whole fucked up world would take these things away from him.

For the sake of his son, for the future of this world, he had to succeed in destroying Sargon and all his followers. Fears be damned, this was his son! and no one would fuck with his son and live.

When he finally regained control of himself, when he finally found words to express how he was feeling, he said, “He is perfect.”

Sookie had felt every one of Eric's emotions as though they were her own. Eric was feeling pride, determination, joy, hope, fear, and love. Love was burning so bright and hot inside him he was near to bursting, but she knew there would be no point in telling him that. He'd only deny it, and she was to overcome with her own happiness to allow him to dampen it. Instead she replied, “Isn't he?”

“Without a doubt.”

“Are you upset you weren't here for the sonogram? That's usually something that parents do together, but Ludwig said you wanted all tests done and we didn't think you'd want her to wait until you came home.”

Still looking at the photo, Eric assured, “I am not angry. Did you get more photos?”

Sitting back on her bed staring at the hard copy she had in her head, Sookie laughed, “Oh yeah! I have a hard copy, and then I have a whole bunch of different angles on a CD, and then she emailed me the same ones on my phone.”

“Send them to me now.” He wanted to see as much of his child as he could. He needed to see him.

There was a moment of silence as Sookie took the phone away from her hand to retrieve the other pictures and send them to Eric, and when she was done she asked, “Did you get them?”

Seeing the new email in his inbox on his computer, Eric replied, “I just did. Give me a moment to look at them.”

They both lapsed into silence as Eric scrolled through each picture. His son was obviously not fully developed, but he was still there before his very eyes. Growing. He marveled at the possibilities modern technology provided. Back in his days as a human parents would never have even dreamed of seeing their children like this, and he was extremely grateful for the chance. With every photo he looked at, the emotions inside him grew stronger and stronger. When he was finally done and was once more staring at the picture he'd printed off, he said, “No wonder you were practically shouting at me through the bond. You were glowing like the sun through our connection.”

Her smile growing brighter, Sookie teased, “Well you're doing some heavy broadcasting of your own right now.”

“I know. I have never felt this way, and only you could do this to me. For me. Sookie, I … thank you. Thank you for calling me and sharing this with me. Thank you for giving me a son.”

“Well technically you were the one that did the giving. I'm doing the growing.”

Mirroring Sookie's previous actions, Eric traced the tiny outline of his son with his long finger, tracing gentle circles, and purred, “And believe me, I enjoyed every moment of my giving.”

“Perv.”

“Always,” he chuckled.

They both fell silent again, simply enjoying the feelings they were sharing with one another through the bond, before Eric finally declared, “We are not calling him Peanut.”

“I think it's cute.”

“My son will be a warrior and no one will run in fear from Peanut Northman.”

“I happen to think Peanut Northman has a nice ring to it.”

“No.” He knew she was teasing, and that it was probably a nickname she'd come up with due to their child's current size.  But he needed a way to lighten the mood to gain control of himself, and falling back into their teasing banter over names was perfect.

“Well I'm calling him Peanut.”

“Then I shall call him Egil.”

“And what does that mean?”

Smiling, already anticipating Sookie's reaction, Eric stated, “Sword.”

“Absolutely not! You're not naming my little Peanut after a weapon!”

Thoroughly enjoying their easy banter, Eric argued, “My Egil will be the best swordsman this world has ever seen. It is only appropriate.”

Back at the house, Sookie shook her head at her Viking's words. He was really too much sometimes. Shelving their naming debate for another time, she moved on to the next thing she wanted to talk to him about, and said, “I need you to do something for me before you come home.”

“Which is?”

“I need you to go by WalMart and—“

“Sookie, you're not even with me, why are you trying to torture me with that horrid game if you won't even be there to witness my humiliation?”

She giggled. “I'm not sending you there to play the game, though you should have to play it for hours, but that's not what I meant.”

“What did you mean?”

“I need you to pick me up some pregnancy tests.”

“Pregnancy tests? For what?”

“So I can take them.”

“Did Ludwig not run all the necessary tests when she was there? Do these tests tell us more about the baby's health?”

At the house Sookie patted the bed so Thor would hop up with her, and explained, “No. They simply tell a woman if she's pregnant or not.”

Now Eric was really stumped, and said as much. “Sookie, we already know you're pregnant.”

“I know, but I still want them.”

“For what?”

Running her fingers through Thor's fur, Sookie explained, “I'm trying to rectify a cheat,” she paused. “I've been cheated, Eric. I was supposed to be the one to tell you I was pregnant. I was supposed to start getting sick and see other symptoms and get all worried. I was supposed to get to call up Tara and Lafayette and have them take me to the store so I could buy the tests, and I was supposed to get to take them and find out I was pregnant, and I was supposed to tell you! None of that happened. Hell, you were the one that told me! So I should at least get this.”

Not understanding in the least, Eric pressed, “I do not understand. Why do you need tests to tell you what you already know?”

“Because it's a mommy moment and I'm not letting you or anyone else take it away from me. I deserve it. You're going to buy them for me and I'm going to take them.”

“And then what?” He honestly couldn't understand what she hoped to accomplish with such an endeavor.

Rolling her eyes, Sookie replied, “Then I'm going to get to watch them tell me I'm pregnant, and I'm going to tell you. Then you're going to be happy, and we're going to have our Mommy and Daddy moment. One without bad tears or bad news, and we're going to do something to celebrate. We're going to pretend hell isn't descending on us, and that we're just two normal parents celebrating the fact we're having a baby.”

“Sookie, why—“

“ERIC!" she shouted, "don't you come home without those tests!”

Recognizing that tone, and feeling her determination and need through the bond, Eric relented, “Very well. How many do you want or need?”

“Three. Tara thought she was pregnant one time and she had me and Lafayette buy her three tests so she could be sure. I want the same.”

“As you wish.” He didn't understand the purpose of buying tests that would only confirm what they already knew, but if it would make his bonded happy, he would do it. “Anything else?”

“Yes, I looked up some baby books online last night and today, and the Barnes and Noble by you has them in stock. They should already have them set aside for me. I want you to pick them up.”

Eric didn't see a problem with that. He had ordered himself some books earlier tonight, but if the local bookstore had them he would be able to begin reading all the sooner. “I will go there before going to WalMart on my way home. Anything else?”

“Bobby left a message today that he had been by the all-natural store and that they did have all-natural ice cream but were out of any kind that had chocolate in it. Do you think you can find me some and bring it home with you? I ordered an ice cream maker online yesterday, but I'd love to have some tonight.”

That was definitely a task Eric had no problem carrying out. If there was a way to get his mate some ice cream he would most certainly do it. Ice cream stopped tears, and he was definitely on board with that. “I will bring you ice cream.”

Pleased, Sookie added, “You might luck out and the all-natural store will carry pregnancy tests too, but I'm not sure. I've never been there.”

“Where would they be in the store?”

“Near the medicine, and by the condoms. I take it you remember where those items are located in a store?”

Grimacing, Eric growled, “I doubt I'll ever be able to forget.” He listened to Sookie giggle, and reluctantly announced, “I hate having to cut our conversation short, especially since it has to do with my son, but—“

“You have to get back to work. I know, and thank you for taking time to speak with me.”

“Sookie, I will always take your calls unless something absolutely prevents me from doing so. You and my son are my main priority.”

Her heart warmed at his words, and she said, “Well then, I'll let you get back to protecting us … and Eric?”

“Yes.”

“Even though you're an ass far too much of the time, I still love you.”

She hung up before he could say anything, and he was left to simply stare at his phone. He could have done without the “ass” part, but the fact that she had told him she loved him was definitely progress. Putting his phone in his pocket, he pulled out his wallet before getting a pair of scissors out of his desk. He quickly trimmed down the picture of his son to wallet size, and slid it carefully into the photo sleeve. He now had two pictures in his wallet. His picture of Sookie and Thor in the roses, and his first photo of his son. 'I'll need to get one of Pam to make it complete,' he thought idly. Realizing where his thoughts were going he groaned inwardly, 'I really am whipped … but no one else has to know that. No one knows what's in my wallet but me so it doesn't really count anyway.'

With that final thought, he returned his wallet to his back pocket and summoned Pam through their bond, knowing she would bring Ahmose with him. He had much to do tonight. Especially since he had several stops to make before he went home. There was no way in Hell that he was going home without ice cream and pregnancy tests.





Three hours later, Eric stood beside Pam in the middle of a WalMart. Sadly, the all-natural store had not carried pregnancy tests and he was once again inside his least favorite place on earth.

“Which ones do I get?” he asked his child.

“How should I know?” Pam replied drolly.

Glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, Eric said impatiently, “Well you are a woman.”

Pam crossed her arms angrily over her chest and growled, “I'd like to see you try and hold that against me!” She watched a grossly overweight woman start to waddle down the aisle wearing an ugly banana yellow jumpsuit and groaned. The woman took in Pam's immaculate sheath and coiffed hair and smiled a toothless grin approvingly. Pam had to bite back her repulsion for the human and tapped a foot impatiently at Eric.

“Eric, hurry up and decide!”

She would never forgive him for dragging her into this Godforsaken place! She had never even been in a store where they sold clothes, food, cleaning products, and children's toys all at once. As her maker continued to scan the unnecessary tests his mate seemed so determined to take. “This is worse than the time you took me to India for that stupid celebration with the paint.”

Eric laughed. “You didn't enjoy the cuisine? You seemed particularly fond of that one girl. What was her name?”

“Njara.” Pam licked her lips in remembrance of the spicy sweet girl she had thoroughly enjoyed in India. “She did make the trip worthwhile … but you could have warned me about the paint.”

“And ruin the surprise?”

Watching another horridly dressed human pass her by, Pam snarked, “You remember that in the future, Eric. I'm definitely going to owe you for dragging me into this hellhole. Now get your damn test so we can get out of here. I don't want to risk the bad taste of these humans infecting me.”

He huffed and returned to eyeing the tests. “They all say they are the most accurate, but that can't be true. And why the hell are they only 99.9% effective? Why aren't they 100% effective?”

“Who cares? You already know what it's going to say. I don't see the point of this any way. What the fuck do you need with a test that will only tell you what you already know?”

“Sookie said she has to have it. Something about getting her 'mommy moment' and some nonsense like that.”

Eyeing all the boxes, Pam suggested, “Just grab three and let's go. Since they will only tell you what you already know what's the difference?”

“Sookie is the difference. She is very adamant about this. It is important to her.”

Looking at her phone when it beeped, Pam informed him, “Well you'd better hurry. Ahmose said that her ice cream is melting, and you seemed particularly worried about that.”

“Ice cream stops tears. It is very important.”

Eyes widening, Pam asked, “Are you serious? I've never heard of that before.”

Nodding his head with all seriousness, Eric assured staunchly, “It's true. I've seen it. If you give a crying woman ice cream she'll stop crying.   If she is crying especially hard you have to add fudge sauce and cherries.  Apparently, chocolate helps as well.”

“I'll be damned. To think, we could have avoided all those horribly emotional displays by women over the years when you got bored with them if we had simply tossed ice cream and chocolate at them.”

“I would have never guessed it either. Women always seem so determined to never eat in front of anyone, trying to pretend they are never hungry, and yet ice cream keeps them from becoming overly emotional. Personally, I think they should all carry chocolate with them for emergencies.”

Falling silent, they stood together for a moment as they continued to look at all the pregnancy tests before them. Finally Eric said, “I think I'll get one of each of the three most expensive brands.”

“Do you think they're the best just because they're the most expensive?”

Reaching forward to pick up the boxes, Eric scoffed, “Well according to my monthly credit card bill, you sure as hell seem to think so.”

Pam's smile was sickeningly sweet as she taunted, “Well since Sookie seems so opposed to spending your money, I simply must make up for it.”

Eric watched his child turn and walk away, her stiletto heels clicking on the floors of the WalMart store she never would have stepped foot in if he hadn't dragged her. As they made their way to the checkout he fell in step beside her. “Perhaps I should have Sookie spend more time around you. Maybe you could get her out of her bargain-hunting habit.”

Eyes alighting, Pam quickly agreed, “I have no problem taking her shopping, and I can assure you that there will be absolutely no bargain-hunting done. I'm not even familiar with the concept.”

“I'm aware.”

Once they had finished purchasing Sookie's must have pregnancy tests, and were headed back to the car, Pam asked, “I have to ask, why did we drive all the way over here to go to this WalMart instead of hitting one of the two on the way back to Sookie's? These were farther out of the way and risks your precious ice cream melting sooner.”

Eric's expression hardened as he replied gruffly, “I do not step foot in those two WalMarts. Once was enough.”

Realizing there was a delicious story there, Pam pressed, “I sense ammunition! What happened? And why do I get the feeling Sookie is at the root of it?”

“Leave it be, Pam.” Eric had absolutely no intention of sharing that particular story. Not at all. His horrifying experiences at WalMart were between him and Sookie, and them alone. No one else could know of his shame. Not a soul. Beside him, Pam swore she'd corner Sookie for the full details at the first available opportunity. 


5 comments:

  1. "we need to keep my son a secret " & "but the time to tell them of my son is not now.” & "I do not want you harming yourself or my son" Anyone notice his continual use of the singular possesion of THEIR son...... WOW Pam the voice of reason!!!!! Men never seem to be able to admit they are wrong. Pam and Eric teasing each other is so cute. Sounds like lots of cool guards coming. ROFL for the morning sickness part. Ludwig is hilarious. Niall isnt to be trusted I think. ah the oath thing is interesting. Peanut...ROFL. Awww Mommy Moment. Glad she sent him the pic. Prego test??? she is a bit wierd. Hee hee for Eric taking Pam with him. Ice cream...wonder if Pam will try it? Hopefully Frannie can fill in a little as a female to confide with for girlie stuff that isnt secret.

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  2. Amazing! And go Pam;)

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  3. Random thought/question...since Eric made Pam and he is/was a demigod will Pam inherit anything interesting? Be more powerful than the average vamp?

    ~Chelle

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  4. ohh the ending in Wal-mart with Eric and Pam is priceless...... Kristie

    BTW it is up t you if you cahnage any or all of these and the ones prior. To me the Capitalization of the words is needed especially Were but that is up to you.


    oops
    1-CAPS "They are on our side now, but what happens if one of your were guard's sister or mother is taken by Sargon" "youe Were guard's sister or mother"
    2-"I won't hurt do anything to hurt our baby. You should know that.” take out hurt "I won't do anything to hurt our baby."
    3-Caps "bar with about 30 of his most trusted vampires and weres surrounding him" "most trusted Vampires and Weres surrounding him"
    4- Caps "then phone Sookie and relay the information to her on the human and were help, and set up a" "on the human and Were help,"
    5-Caps its a title "You are my king, and I have sworn my oath to you" "You are my King,"
    6-Caps "He is also bringing his own weres. He has command of several packs of weres." "his own Weres. He has command of several Packs of Weres."
    7- caps " but I have heard that he has command of these weres. I have heard that their loyalty is absolute" "he had command of these Weres. I have heard"
    8- caps "You are right, my king, you can trust no" "right, my King, you"

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  5. First off, go Pam! If the child he raised and taught sees what he did as wrong, and was damn logical about her argument you'd think that he would quit being so stubborn. It is hard as hell to admit that you're wrong, though, especially when you've hurt someone. Guilt is a heavy thing. Also, Peanut Northman? I laughed so hard when I read that!

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