LATE Chapter 032

“Last of the Belles”

Eric was at her side instantly. Sookie was doubled over and crying, and the only thing Eric could think to do was bite his wrist and put it to her lips. She drank as she sobbed, and in a minute, the cramp faded. She was still upset and she crawled up on the couch into Baby Eric position and put her hands over him. He was OK, she could feel that. Once she was on the couch and quiet, Eric put his pants on, pulling his cell phone out of the pocket. He hit the speed dial for Dr. Ludwig.

“Dr. Ludwig – Yes, this is Eric Northman” Sookie heard him say as he walked thru the kitchen into the living room. She knew he didn’t want her to hear what he was saying, but she was too out of it to say anything. The cramp was gone but she felt sore and tender and all she wanted to do was go to sleep, so she did.

Sookie was vaguely aware that she was being carried, and she knew where she was as Eric gently put her on their bed. She thought he left the room, but then he was kneeling next to her, trying to get her to take some pills. She couldn’t really push herself up, so he pulled her up so she could take the pills and drink. She started to go straight back but Eric told her to turn on her side and had her pull her knees up. He covered her up and stroked her hair for a few minutes, then he went around to his side of the bed and got in behind her. She felt him spoon up against her back and when he placed his hand over her belly, and she put hers on top.

“He’s OK.”

“What, Sookie?” Eric knew she had spoken but his mind was far away and he missed it.

“He’s OK, Eric. I know he’s OK.”

“Yes, my lover, I can feel that, too. How are you, my angel?” He never called her that before.

“I’m really tired, but I’m not in pain right now.”
“That is very good, dear one. I was very worried about you.”

“What did Dr. Ludwig say?”

“She said I did the right thing giving you my blood. She says this is probably normal pain from the growth of the baby, but she’s coming tomorrow night at 9 to have a look at you. She told me to call back if you have any more cramps tonight, but she thinks that the ibuprofen will help you. You’re going to have to take regular doses of that for a while.”

“Did you make sure I’m not bleeding?”

“Yes, I did. I checked closely though I knew I didn’t smell any blood.”

“I’m sorry, Eric.”

“Why are you sorry, my lover? You did nothing wrong.”

“I’m sorry I scared you.”

“Do not worry about that, Sookie. I am here for you, for whatever you need. We knew this might be difficult at times. When you hold our son in your arms, it will all be worth it. Think of that day, my lover and we will get there sooner than you think.”

“I hope I don’t mess up the party or the wedding.”

“Do not put more pressure on yourself, Sookie. Things will unfold as they need to. Dr. Ludwig will be there for the party and the ceremony.”

“She will?”

“Yes, de Castro invited her. She said she accepted the invitation so she could keep an eye on you. If anything goes wrong, she’ll be right there.”

“That’s good. I feel better knowing that.”

“The doctor said you could drink some red wine if you wanted to. Would you like me to get you some? It might help you sleep.”

“Where would you get that?”

“There’s a climate controlled wine cellar in the pantry.”

“Of course there is,” she laughed weakly. “What’s a castle without a wine cellar?”

She tried to look back at him and smile, but…

“Shhhh – Sookie.” He stroked her cheek. “It would be good if you could eat something.”

“What was that strawberry thing I drank?”

“That was a supplement that contains vitamins and minerals. Could you drink one of those?”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Wait here.” He zipped out at vampire speed and was back almost instantly with a can and a straw. He knelt in front of her and held it to her lips.

“That’s pretty good,” she said quietly between sips.

“It would be good if you can drink it all. It can be used to replace meals, but we were hoping it would just be an extra source of calories if you needed them. We had to look very hard to find one that didn’t contain iron.”

“I’m glad you remembered about that.”

“The Dr. was adamant about that. Until we know for sure, you can’t have any iron that doesn’t occur naturally in food, and she doesn’t want you eating liver or raisins.”

“Raisins have iron?”

“Apparently, quite a lot.”

“Good to know.”

“Margaret was told not to use cast iron cookware, either.”

“I never would have thought of that.”

“Nor would I. If the baby is sensitive, we will have to remove it all from the house. The wrought iron fences might have to go, too.”

“I’m sorry, Eric.”

“Stop apologizing, Sookie. I am exactly where I want to be, doing what I want to do for my beloved. Fences mean nothing to me. You mean everything and so does our baby. Your comfort and safety are the only things that matter to me.”

“What about your comfort?”

“My comfort comes from being with you. The only comfort in the world for me is to be with you, my lover. I will pay any price for that. I wish you understood that.”

“I love you, Eric.”

“I love you, too, dear one.”

“I think maybe I could sleep now.”

“Good. I’ll turn off the light and hold you until dawn. Alicia comes in very early so you won’t be alone long. I put your cell phone on your nightstand there and there are numbers for Alicia, Margaret and Dr. Ludwig in it now. Alicia and Margaret know not to call an ambulance if anything happens. They have Ludwig’s number and some arrangement will be made for a caretaker who appears human if necessary.”

He turned the lights off and got back in bed, spooning her again and putting his hand back over the baby. She put her hands back over his and went back to sleep.

****

“Good Morning, Miss”

“Huh? Oh, hi, Alicia”

“How are you feeling, dear? I hear you had a rough night.”

“I had a great night until I got this evil cramp that knocked me out.”

“I know you had steak for dinner last night, but Mr. Northman said the doctor wanted you to have rare meat twice a day for a few days. Do you think you can handle that?”

“If that’s what the doctor ordered, yeah, I can.” Sookie was slowly sitting up.

Alicia  put the tray over Sookie’s lap.

“This looks good. Those home fries look really good.”

“I hope you can keep this all down. There’s also toast and jelly and I peeled a couple of Clementine oranges for you.”

“Thank you. Do you know what time it is?

“It’s just after 2 pm.”

“Wow, I haven’t slept this late in a while.”

“That’s true, but you don’t have your session with Ms. James until 5:00 and I thought some extra sleep might do you good.”

“Thank you. I’m still really tired.”

“Do the best you can with your breakfast, and then you can sleep a while longer if you want.”

“OK. That actually sounds like a good idea. I’m hungry, too.”

Sookie dug in, which was easy because Alicia had cut her steak up already. She was glad because she honestly wasn’t sure she could fight with a knife and fork right now. Alicia came out of the bathroom with the laundry.

“Alicia – is there any milk?”

“Actually, there is some very good organic whole milk in the fridge. Would you like some cereal?”

“No, but I would love a couple of glasses of good cold milk.”

“A couple of glasses?”

“Yeah, it’s like I really want milk and I know one glass won’t be enough. Could you bring a whole quart?”

“Of course, Miss. I’ll be right back with it.”

Sookie was nearly done with her breakfast when Alicia got back with a carton of milk and a big glass. Alicia didn’t say anything, but she couldn’t believe Sookie ate all that food that fast. She started to wonder if Sookie was getting enough to eat. She opened the carton and poured a glass. Sookie drank it down without stopping to breathe. Alicia filled the glass again and handed Sookie two ibuprofen along with it. Sookie drank it a little slower this time, but she still went through it pretty quickly. Alicia filled it a third time and that was gone in three minutes or so.

As she was filling it for the fourth time, she asked “have you been drinking any milk lately, Miss?”

“No, I don’t usually. I mostly drink juice or ginger ale these days. I hardly ever just have a glass of milk.”

“You know, not drinking milk can give some people leg cramps.”

“Do you think my cramps might be because I need milk?”

“Well, you’d have to ask your doctor about that, but I think maybe we’ll start including milk with your meals and see how you do.”

“This milk tastes better than any milk I’ve ever had.”

“Well, that’s particularly good milk – being organic, it lasts a lot longer than regular milk and it’s whole milk so there’s more cream in it.”

“Yeah, cream” Sookie said as she held the empty glass up for more, “that’s what I’m tasting that’s so good. It’s really rich.” Alicia emptied the carton into her glass and she drank it down.

“Would you like more, Miss? I can get another carton.” Alicia said cautiously. She couldn’t believe what she just saw.

“No, I think I finally had enough,” Sookie laughed, “Whew! That was so good.”

Alicia took the tray away and Sookie snuggled back down in her bed and was asleep before Alicia was out of the room. Once down in the kitchenette, Alicia called Eric’s service and left a message about what just happened, and suggested maybe she needed to drink more milk – many pregnant women did – so he might want to talk to the doctor about that. She let Sookie sleep until about 4:30, then woke her up so she could get ready for her treatment. She might have suggested cancelling it, but she thought the massage was particularly important right now.

“Whoa-“ Sookie tried to get up out of bed and fell back on it. Alicia reached for her, so she didn’t fall the whole way, and then she insisted Sookie go very slowly into the bathroom. She didn’t want Sookie to take a shower – she was getting in the pool anyway, and she didn’t tell her but she was afraid Sookie might fall. She seemed shaky. Sookie realized that she had to go to the bathroom badly, and wondered what might have happened if Alicia hadn’t awakened her when she did. She didn’t want to ruin Eric’s bed.

She got a plain black bikini out of Sookie’s drawer because it would be easier for Sookie to put on than a one-piece. Sookie was moving slowly as she came out of the bathroom, and Alicia helped her get into the bathing suit and put on the cover-up. She insisted Sookie take the elevator to the first floor, and had her sit down in the den until Bobbie arrived. Margaret was keeping an eye on Sookie and Alicia waited for Bobbie at the front door. When she arrived, she quickly told her about Sookie’s cramps, dizziness and the fact that she drank all that milk.

Bobbie stuck close to Sookie to make sure she didn’t fall. The exercises they did involved floating more than balance or strength and Sookie got through them fine. When it was time for Sookie to get on the massage table, Bobbie had her lie on her side for half of it, then switch to the other end of the table to work on the other side. She worked on Sookie very slowly and for a long time, so Sookie was still on the table, naked under a sheet, when Eric came out.

“Hi, Sweetie,” Sookie called to him as she saw him walk over.

“Hello, dear one,” he bent to kiss her, “how are you feeling?”

“OK at the moment – this is Bobbie James.”

“Hello, Ms. James.”

“Please, call me Bobbie. I’d shake your hand but I have oil all over mine.”

“Well, Bobbie, it is nice to meet you. I assume you know about Sookie’s problem last night.”

“Yes, I hear she gave you quite a scare.”

“Yes, she did. Don’t people normally lie face down, or face up on a massage table?”

“Well, we do things a little differently for pregnant women. There would be a point where she wouldn’t be able to lie on her stomach without a special table, and very late in the pregnancy she won’t be able to lie on her back. I’m going to start doing her treatments on her side like this from now on, just to be safe. At some point, we might want to get a special sort of massage chair that will be easier for her in several ways. She won’t have to get up on a table with that, and she’ll be leaning forward without putting pressure on her tummy.”

“Do you need that now?” he asked.

“Well, we can use it any time, it just depends on whether you want to buy one or not.”

“Have Alicia go ahead and buy what you need. Better to have it when you need it.”

“OK, would you like to learn some techniques now?”

“Yes, I would.”

Bobbie showed him a few spots that should never be massaged, like the back of the ankle and a couple of spots on the feet, though foot rubs in general were a good idea because her feet would swell. She showed him how to very gently rub Sookie’s belly so that it wouldn’t hurt her or the baby, but would be soothing and help her relax. She showed him some techniques for the back and found out he already had some knowledge of Swedish massage techniques.

“Of course he does,” Sookie laughed, “Eric has always given great back rubs. Must be a Swedish thing.”

Eric laughed, and said “Of course – we invented massage, you know” which wasn’t really completely true but Bobbie laughed anyway.

Bobbie went over a few more points, like scents and oils to use, and some to avoid, and she explained a few sex positions that would work best as Sookie progressed in the pregnancy. When they were done, they helped Sookie sit up on the table and Bobbie wrapped a sheet around her toga-style. She didn’t want to go upstairs to change, so Eric carried her into the kitchen and sat her at the table. Bobbie sat opposite Sookie and Eric sat at the head of the table. Margaret served a meal of rare steak, baked potatoes and green beans and the meal was very pleasant. Eric dismissed Margaret and she left a cake out on the counter for dessert before she left for the day.

Bobbie was looking forward to the trip to Vegas and Sookie was pleased that Eric seemed to be friendly to Bobbie. Eric even offered to buy her clothing if she needed for the trip, but she said she’d be fine, even for the wedding and the cocktail party.

Eric very cautiously explained the situation with Felipe without really using the word “king” but Bobbie asked if he wasn’t the King of the area. Eric was surprised to hear that Bobbie actually knew a bit about vampire politics, and it turned out Bobbie had dated a few vampires, one when she was very young, even before vampires came out of the coffin, so to speak. Bobbie had been around.

She had figured out the whole deal with the trip to Las Vegas before Eric even said anything, because she knew about the take over from some of her vamp friends. She had known all along that Eric was the Sheriff in that area because she recognized his name when they told her about the job. Bobbie was turning out to be even more perfect for this job than Sookie had realized and she could tell Eric was very pleased to know all of this.

Bobbie even asked if Sookie didn’t have a non-human doctor because she knew something was up about the pregnancy and Eric confirmed that and told her the doctor would be present in Las Vegas. Bobbie was very pleased about that because it would give her a chance to find out if there were any particulars she needed to know about Sookie’s condition. Sookie even wondered to herself if Niall hadn’t done some kind of spell to bring perfect care to Sookie while she was pregnant. She’d have to ask him about that when she saw him.

Sookie asked if there was anything unusual about her so far that Bobbie had noticed and she said she was surprised that Sookie’s breasts weren’t more sensitive. Sookie explained that they were more sensitive in that they seemed to feel more when they were touched but that there was no pain from it – just the opposite, probably. Bobbie said that would be a great advantage if that continued through the end of the pregnancy, but warned her that it might not.

They talked so long that it was approaching 9 o’clock and Eric reminded Sookie that Dr. Ludwig was due. Bobbie asked if she could stay and talk to the doctor about Sookie’s cramps. Eric thought that might be a good idea, so he mentioned that the doctor didn’t really appear human, and Bobbie had no problem with that. She had met other Supes before, including a couple of fairies, so Eric and Sookie looked at each other to silently confirm what they were both thinking so Eric said that there was Fae magick involved in the pregnancy but didn’t give more detail than that.

Bobbie said that made sense, since she knew vamps couldn’t impregnate, and she asked if they knew what the baby would be yet. Eric explained that they weren’t sure, but they suspected he would be Fae but have some vampiric tendencies. Bobbie asked if that was the reason for the rare steak Sookie had and they confirmed that she had been told to eat a lot of rare meat. She said that was probably a good idea, since the baby probably needed blood.

She asked if Sookie had been taking True Blood at all, and Sookie said that the doctor had mentioned it but she hadn’t tried it yet. Bobbie suggested that might help with the cramps, too, and told her it was easier for humans to drink cold. Most couldn’t take the taste if it was warmed as the vampires drank it. Eric went to the refrigerator and got Sookie a Type B because he said it had the mildest taste, and Sookie tried it.

It wasn’t great, but she could take it if she drank it fast and didn’t think about what it was. Bobbie suggested she have a bottle every night after the maids left so they wouldn’t know she was taking blood and Eric agreed that would be best. He wouldn’t have to worry about disposing of the bottles because they’d just assume Eric was the one drinking it.

At 9 o’clock Dr. Ludwig popped into the kitchen and Eric introduced Bobbie as Sookie’s masseuse. Ludwig was happy to meet her and asked about her training and experience. Bobbie included a few tasty details that she hadn’t mentioned when Sookie interviewed her in front of the human staff. Ludwig was very impressed to find a human with such credentials and told Sookie she made an excellent choice in her. Eric smiled at Sookie, knowing that she had worried a bit about making the right choice.

“I told you her instincts were strong, Northman. This one’s got a strong maternal instinct. That bodes well for the baby,” Ludwig assured him. Eric loved hearing that. He knew she was basically healthy, and knowing her instincts were good made him feel more comfortable about the whole thing.

Bobbie filled Ludwig in on Sookie’s cramps, her treatment, and talked about the milk and True Blood. Ludwig agreed with a nightly bottle of blood, preferably near the time the baby would wake and feed normally after he was born. Eric said that made perfect sense, and was surprised he hadn’t thought of that before. The baby would need to feed when he did, more or less.

When it was time for the exam, Eric carried Sookie into the den, and Bobbie helped her lie on the couch and get out of the sheet, which she then spread over her. Ludwig did her exam and showed Bobbie and Eric a couple of moves they could do on Sookie that wouldn’t normally be done on a human woman, including one kind of internal massage Eric could do to her that was similar to the exam Ludwig did to check on the development of the uterus.

Sookie was a little embarrassed when that demonstration took place, but Bobbie held her hand and gave her a comforting smile while Ludwig instructed Eric and she got through it. Bobbie told her to just consider it practice for the birth, and Sookie smiled – she was right, giving birth would be much worse than this.

Ludwig wanted Sookie to take ibuprofen every 4 hours during the day, have 2 glasses of organic milk- she emphasized organic so Sookie wouldn’t be taking in artificial hormones – and one bottle of True Blood every day, minimum, to eat meat as rare as she could stand it – she suspected they were cooking the steaks too long. Ludwig said to tell them just to take the chill off of it. She wanted Sookie to sleep later in the day, too. She’d have to be a night owl for a bit. Sookie mentioned she could feel the baby’s feelings sometimes and so could Eric. Bobbie was amazed – she had heard of a blood bond, but she had never met a bonded couple.

She asked if there were other Sheriffs with a bond to a human and Eric said he didn’t know of any. She commented that the wedding might make history, at least in the US, and Eric acknowledged that it would probably be the first of its kind, not to mention the birth.

Bobbie thought to herself that she had lucked into an amazing situation. She’d have to thank her friend Claude for telling her about the job. This was going to be an amazing experience, and it was going to look great on her resume in the cases where she could use it. She couldn’t wait to get to Las Vegas. The prospect of a room full of powerful, gorgeous vamps was huge bonus, too. Maybe she’d hook up while she was there.

Ludwig took a syringe and an alcohol swab out of the ubiquitous carpetbag and took a large vial of Sookie’s blood before she left, then she was gone. Bobby thanked Eric profusely for allowing her to stay and said her goodbyes, telling Sookie she’d see her at 4 o’clock the next day since Ludwig wanted her to sleep later. Eric saw her to the door, then joined Sookie on the couch in the den. He wrapped his arms around her and she could tell the way he squeezed kind of tight for a long time that he was worried.

“Eric – do we have any plans tonight?” she asked – maybe she could get his mind off of things.

“No, not tonight. I did forget to tell you that we are going out tomorrow, though.”

“You usually have Mondays off…”

“We’re having dinner with Niall tomorrow night, dear one. We’re going to meet him at the same restaurant where you first met him. I know you wanted to thank him and I thought it best to talk to him before we are wed. He might take offense if we don’t tell him. He might choose to be there.”

“Is that a possibility? With vamps?”

“Yes, Niall can cloak himself easily if he wants to.”

“I didn’t know that was possible – do you think he will?” Sookie asked hopefully.

Eric knew she would want Niall there, but he didn’t know if he would do that for her so he wanted to urge her not to get her hopes up.

“I don’t know, my lover, but we will give him the opportunity. I knew it would please you to see him and tell him yourself about our wedding. He’ll want to see your ring, as well.”

“He will?”

“Oh, yes – Fae care very much about treasure. He’ll take that as proof you will be properly cared for. He might object to the union if you were not properly honored.”

“He couldn’t keep us from being married, though, right?”

“No, but he could make life more difficult than it has to be. He has apparently accepted our bond, since he arranged your pregnancy, but I still have to show him that I offer you proper respect if you are to be my wife. He would kill me before he would allow me to dishonor you. After we are wed you can be sure he will come here to see your home.”

“He will?”

“No doubt. While you were single, he would not interfere with your choices in how you lived, but in marriage, it is my responsibility to see that you are cared for. He won’t accept anything less than he thinks you deserve.”

“Did you do all of this for him?”

“Not at all, my lover – every choice I have made, I made for you and only you. I simply understand the political ramifications of our union. Fae look after their own. I suspect Niall knew long ago that I was half-Fae. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason I am still alive. I had wondered before why he did not kill me when he learned of our bond.”

“He asked me if I wanted him to kill you.”

“I suspected that he might – thank you for saying no.”

“How do you know what I said?”

“I am still alive, so you obviously had him spare me. I’m glad you thought enough of me to stand for me.”

“Even when I was giving you a hard time, Eric, I always cared for you and I would have missed you even if we weren’t together. Even when I was angry and confused, I never wanted any harm to come to you. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I think I always knew I was yours. I knew it was inevitable that we would be together the minute I met you. That’s part of what scared me so much. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand about Supes and magick and destiny. I thought that was all fairy tales.”

He looked at her “That’s exactly what they are, Sookie – stories of the Fae.”

“I didn’t know what that meant then.”

“Well, my lover,” he leaned over and kissed her “I am glad you do now.”

“Boy do I know now! You do too, don’t you, Baby E?” She laughed and put her hands on her tummy. They both felt a sense of happiness in the bond, and Eric placed his hand over hers.”

“My son is very smart,” he said.

“I hope he’s a big sexy Viking like his daddy,” she teased.

“Oh, but he will be. I knew that the minute I understood that he was really mine. I saw him just as clearly as if I had a photograph.”

“You did?”

“I did. He will be as large as I am or larger. He will be blond, he will have blue eyes and he will be very pale. No one will doubt that he is my son. Niall has seen to that.”

“Why would Niall care if he looked like you?”

“Because if anyone doubted I was his father, that might imply that you had been unfaithful to me, and he would never want that disgrace to fall on his granddaughter.”

“I never thought about it that way – not since I knew what had happened. I was afraid when I first told you…”

“That I would think you were unfaithful? For a few awful seconds, I did. Thank the gods your Fae cousin popped into my office in time…”

“What would you have done?”

“Honestly, my lover, I have no idea.”

“Well, let’s not think about it. Everything has worked out for the very best, right?”

“Right.”

So let’s watch a movie and snuggle on the couch.”

“Fine but no sex tonight.”

“What?!”

“Nothing strenuous, anyway. We are going to be quiet this evening.”

“The doctor didn’t say sex was causing the problem – it’s the fact that the baby is growing so fast.”

“We are taking it easy tonight, my lover. I insist.”

She stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed. “Maybe later. Are there any other movies with that brunette woman in them? She was very feminine and I liked her accent.”

“I don’t know, let me look.”

She walked over to the cabinet naked and Eric watched her with love in his eyes. She was so perfect, right down to the little bump that was so cute on her. Her body was filling out a bit and he loved it. She wasn’t getting fat, but there was a round-ness to her now she didn’t have before that was so feminine and beautiful that it would make him weep if he thought about it too long. He wondered if she would let him photograph her – or better, commission a painting of her – while she was so voluptuous. He wanted to remember this always.

“Ooh,” she said, “You’ve got Suddenly, Last Summer in here!”

“What is that?”

“It’s an old black and white movie she made with Katherine Hepburn. It’s based on a play, too and it’s creepy weird.”

“Creepy weird?”

“Uh-huh. Can we watch it?”

“Of course” he said as he held his hands up so she could throw him the movie. He opened it and took it to the player while she spread the sheet over the couch. He came back with their special quilt. He started to sit but she said

“You’re over dressed, dear one.”

He laughed at hearing her use his usual endearment for her and complied by removing his shirt and pants. Commando again.

‘Ever-Ready’ she thought and she almost laughed out loud but caught herself. He picked her up, then sat down holding her on his lap and reached for the quilt.

“Hey, we could go swimming,” she said.

“I’m afraid it is too cold for you tonight, dear one. It is still early in the year. Spring nights are unpredictable. Plus, I think it is supposed to rain.”

He started the movie and they settled in. He was taken with Hepburn’s accent, but Sookie couldn’t remember where she was from or why she spoke that way. He thought the young doctor was kind of stiff and she agreed. He thought she was younger in this movie than in the other but Sookie didn’t know for sure. He laughed at the offensive behavior of the poor relations and she objected just a little when he called them “rednecks.”

“Alright, my lover, how would you describe them?”

“Well, I guess… yeah, ok, they’re red necks,” she laughed. “Is that what you’d call my brother?”

“No, my lover, I wouldn’t. He is not that bad.”

“That’s good to know.”

“Your brother is a little greedy and uneducated, but I think he has a good heart and he likes to have a good time – a VERY good time – but I don’t think he is a bad person. He doesn’t do right by you, in my opinion, so that is the source of my dislike for him.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, aside from striking you, which is unforgivable, he allowed you to work in Merlotte’s.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“I know what bar patrons are like, Sookie. I’m quite sure that you were harassed by the men who frequent that bar and I know you were paid very poorly. Your brother should have supported you until you married.”

“People don’t think that way in modern times.”

“Hmpf – There is nothing modern about leaving a beautiful young girl – especially one with your gift – to fend for herself in the world when she has a healthy male in her family who should be seeing that she is safe and provided for. He left you virtually unprotected. I am very grateful that if it wasn’t me, the first vampire you met was Bill Compton.”

“I never heard you say anything nice about Bill before.”

“I think Bill is a fool who didn’t deserve you, but as far as our kind goes, he’s a gentleman and didn’t physically harm you. If another vampire had walked into Merlotte’s that night, you might not have fared so well, my lover. We are both very lucky that we found each other when we did. There have been several occasions you might not have survived if I was not there.”

“Yeah, I know. You were always there to save me.”

“And I pray I always will be, my angel.” He kissed her hair, and she noticed he called her his angel again. That was new and she really liked it. She almost felt like it was a sign of a new closeness between them. Snuggling on this couch watching a movie was the second safest place in the world as far as she was concerned, second only to their bed on the third floor.

Eric was surprised at the end of the movie. “I didn’t know that they made such movies back then – cannibalism is very rare, and I thought it only came into the movies in the Hannibal series.”

“This was considered very shocking at the time. It still is, especially since it’s about a gay man.”

“The other movie was about gay men, too, was it not?”

“Yes, and I think the plays were written by the same man, Tennessee Williams.”

“A Southern man – no wonder my Southern Belle is so familiar with these old movies.”

“Absolutely – my Gran loved old movies, and particularly the ones about the South, like these we just saw or Toys in the Attic, or The Long Hot Summer. She was proud to be a Southern Belle and she taught me to be proud of it, too.”

“Well then, we will see those too, if you like. I love that about you…”

“What?”

“Your… Southern- ness. The whole Belle imagery is very feminine in a way few cultures ever achieved. Women have always been women, of course, but such strength and such femininity – they both seemed to be taken to new extremes in the American South. It’s one of the reasons I moved to Louisiana.”

“That’s part of the colonialism and the effect the War Between the States had on our culture, I guess. We tend to be kind of proud and defensive and ready for a fight.”

“The ready for a fight part, especially,” He teased.

“Yeah, well… is that really why you moved to Louisiana?”

“There was an opportunity here, but I only considered it because of the Southern Belles. I was very disappointed to find that so few of them exist in true form.”

“You said you never saw Gone With the Wind though…”

“I saw a movie on TV in the 70s called F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Last of the Belles. There was a character in it… I think her name was Ailie Calhoun… and she said “I don’t want to be understood. I want to be worshipped.” There was something in her attitude that captured my imagination. She was vulnerable and defiant at the same time. It was the same attitude you had, standing there in that red and white dress at Fangtasia. You were so feminine in that dress. I was sick of women in black. I tried to intimidate you and you stood up to me. Few women would do that, or they would do it with a kind of smirk that is so unbecoming I’d like to slap them and throw them out. You were unspoiled.”

“Unspoiled?”

“I can’t explain it, but I knew you – you were what I had been looking for. I waited all that time and the fates delivered you right to me, in my own bar.”

“Is that what attracted you to Dawn?”

“Who is Dawn?”

“I showed you a picture of two girls – you said you had tasted one of them. Her name was Dawn. Both of those girls slept with my brother and the authorities suspected him of killing them, so I was trying to find information to help him. Dawn was a Southern girl.”

“She was pretty, and she had an attractive accent, but she was only a meal and sex. I didn’t find her to be very deep or special.”

“I’m not deep.”

“You underestimate yourself. You are… unschooled… but you have substance and character. That is rare. Most people are disposable.”

“Eric – that’s not nice!”

“But it’s true, my lover. This is the age of mediocrity. I have lived a thousand years and I have seen many times and cultures. Most Americans are shallow, hollow people.”

“I … I don’t know how to feel about that. Part of me thinks you shouldn’t say things like that and part of me agrees with you.”

“You have been trained to be kind to others – another Southern trait. I have no such training.”

“But I’ve seen you be nice to people and you treat the people who work for you very well.”

“I was taught to behave honorably and have adapted over time. I am a good business man and I know that I get good work for decent pay and a certain amount of respect toward those I employ. I do not automatically assume people are good until they prove otherwise as you do. I assume people are dishonorable until they show me they have honor. Your good opinion is given freely. Mine must be earned.”

“Hmm. I need to think about that. Would you consider a soak in the tub with me?”

“I would like that very much, my lover.” He kissed her. “Let’s go.”

He turned everything off but left the quilt and sheet on the couch. He carried her up the three flights of steps. She started the tub and he went through the selections of bath oils and bubble baths he had in a basket. She noticed he was throwing some of them in the trash.

“Eric – what are you doing? Aren’t those new?”

“Some of them were on the list of things to avoid that Bobbie James gave us. This one is jasmine, that one contains clary sage.”

“I don’t even know what clary sage is…”

“Nor do I, but it is in this oil and your masseuse said they were not to be used by a pregnant woman.”

“You could always save them until after the baby.”

“Not worth the risk to you or the child. They go in the trash. We can always buy more in the future if we choose to.”

“You really think something like that could cause a problem?”

“I do not know but I will not experiment with your lives to save a few dollars.”

“Well, I guess if you put it that way…”

“That is the way it is, dear one.”

“Is there one there that’s safe?”

“I think the vanilla that we like should be safe – vanilla is edible, yes?”

“Yes…”

“And this is edible…”

“So it says on the label.”

“We will use that one. “

“Yes, we will. ”

“You are teasing me…?”

“Yes, I am.” She burst out laughing. “I’m just kidding, sweetie…”

“Sweetie…?”

“Yes, sweetie! I think it’s so sweet that you are taking care of us this way.”

“That is my purpose.” He was lighting candles now.

“What?”

“I am your mate – it is my job to keep you and the child safe. That means small things as well as big things.”

Sookie cracked up. Eric was confused.

“Why are you laughing?”

“Because I love you.”

“You are laughing because you love me…?”

“Yes, I love you so much it’s just stupid.”

“Stupid…”

“Not stupid to love you… just that it’s stupid to love anything or anybody as much as Iove you.”

“I know the feeling” he said with a completely straight face.

Sookie wailed at that, and Eric smiled.

He turned off the lights and settled them both into the tub, her with her back against his chest. They relaxed into each other and he washed her hair, then his own. They were quiet for a few minutes, very relaxed as he stroked her between her legs, and he realized she was asleep.

He was hoping he could get her to sleep without sex this night, just to give her a rest. He gently continued to wash her, and let the water out of the tub. She didn’t wake as he gently let her lie back so he could get out to the towels. She didn’t wake up as he gently dried her and combed out her hair. She stirred just enough to kiss him back when he said good night to her. He spooned her for a while, until he could tell she was dreaming, then he slipped out of the room to do some work. She slept straight through the night.

 

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