LATE Chapter 075

 

Music and Shadows

 

“Mamee!”

Sookie felt a pudgy little finger on her eyelid, like it was trying to open her eye. She managed to grab Alex’s little hand before he really poked her and laughed as she opened her eyes to see big blue eyes and a toothless grin right next to her face, whispering, “Mamee!”

“Good morning, Pookie.”

“Ah, Mamee,” he giggled.

Sookie pulled him into her arms and kissed him all over his face, making loud smacking noises, as he giggled. “Are you ready to eat, Sweet Boy?”

“Omba, Mamee, ee,” he giggled as she helped him get situated at her nipple.

“Ahem.” Bjorn cleared his throat to let Sookie know he was in the room.

“Hey, Bjorn! You’re here early!”

“Actually, you’re just up late. Amelia came in and gave him a bottle about an hour and a half ago.”

“You mean Alicia?”

“No, Amelia. She changed his diaper, too.”

“She did? Why?”

“We all decided you need more sleep, and Alicia had an errand to run, and Bobbie wasn’t up yet so Amelia took over.”

“She didn’t need to do that! I’m going to do nothing but sleep when we get back to Shreveport, I thought?”

“Yeah, but you’re frayed around the edges, so they wanted to give you a little extra now. That’s why he was whispering – she told him “shhh- don’t wake Mommy” and he whispered to her as she put him down. When he woke up this time, I just let him wake you but he remembered to be quiet. He’s a smart little monkey.”

“Yeah, he is. Does it bother you when I feed him? You want me to throw a blanket over so you can’t see?”

“No, don’t be silly – you’re in your own bed. Just relax and feed your baby. You can’t offend me doing what Nature intended.”

“I didn’t think it bothered you, but I wanted to offer. I know some people can’t handle it.”

“I don’t mind it –. I think the way you feed him in the mornings is why he’s such a happy baby.”

“Why? I just do what any mommy does, right?”

“You always give him a big smile and you have him in your arms the minute he wakes up, and then you look in his eyes like he’s the most precious thing on earth and play with his little fingers and talk to him. Maybe all mommies do that, I don’t know, I just know he’s a lucky baby and you’re the reason he’s as happy as he is.”

“Oh, thank you, Bjorn – that’s so sweet of you to say!”

“It’s not a compliment, it’s just a fact. You’ve never been cross with him. You might get a little overwhelmed, but you always look at him with love in your eyes. That’s the luckiest kid in the world as far as I’m concerned. Between you and Eric, he’s got a perfect life.”

The baby pulled away from Sookie’s breast just long enough to say “Omba, Borhd!” and then went right back to feeding enthusiastically.

“See, Sookie? He agrees with me,” Bjorn laughed. “He knows he’s got it good.”

“Aww – you’re both sweet. Alex is my sweet boy!” Sookie teased him, then let out a huge yawn. “So what time is it?”

“A little after 10. You’ve got lots of time to sleep. You don’t need to get up until one o’clock – the only reason for you to move at all is to feed Alex.”

“OK, well, he’s taking a break, but when he’s done, we’ll try to sleep a while longer… but first, “let’s twist again, like we did last summer, let’s twist again, like we did last year”….” She started to sing and tickle the baby, bringing him up to sit on her ribcage as she helped him dance. Alex was cracking up, and she even said “whoosh” a few times and flew him through the air.

“Fyid, Mamee!”

‘Yeah, flying! I can’t do much of that, though – I don’t have strong arms that never get tired like Daddy.” She was hugging, tickling, kissing the baby as she played with him.

“Dadee Fy!”

“Yeah, Daddy can fly! Daddy is like Super Man! He’s big and strong and fast and he can fly!”

“Dadee seepeen,” the baby pointed to the box.

“Yeah, Daddy has to sleep in the daytime. I miss him SO MUCH, but at least I’ve got you to keep me company. Yeah, I’ve got my Sweet Alex – my Sweet Alex- Mommy’s baby!”

“Mamee beebee!” he giggled, trying to imitate Sookie.

“Yeah, you’re Mommy’s baby! Mommy’s baby Alex! I love my little Alex!” She wrestled him over to Eric’s side of the bed and blew raspberries on his tummy, which sent him into a huge giggling fit. He couldn’t tell her that that was his favorite thing that she did to him, but she could tell he loved it.

“So much for trying to sleep,” Bjorn laughed.

“We’ll sleep but first we’re having some fun. I feel like I waited so long to be able to play with him and cuddle him and I’m so glad he’s here now-ow-Oh-my-goodness!” She yawned again.

“Sookie – go to sleep.” Bjorn was half joking, but half serious, too.

“OK, we’ll try, won’t we, Pookie?”

The baby giggled as she snuggled him close and he hugged her back, his little hand in her hair. Sookie softly said “shhhh” and stroked his cheek, then kissed his forehead. He was still giggling a little, but he got quiet quickly and once the two of them settled a bit, they fell asleep within a minute of each other. Bjorn was keeping a close eye on the baby since Sookie hadn’t put him back in his co-sleeper, but he wasn’t near the edge of the bed.

Bobbie came in at a quarter ’til eleven and she and Bjorn played cards until Alicia came in and told them she had big sandwiches for everyone downstairs once they got Sookie up and ready for her day. It was nearly one and Sookie woke up as they talked quietly about the plans for the rest of the afternoon.

“Hey – what are you all whispering about?” Sookie asked with a yawn and a stretch.

“We were talking about what we needed to do to get ready to head back to Shreveport. If you’re awake now, you should jump in the shower,” Alicia suggested, “then I’ve got big sandwiches for everyone downstairs and by the time you finish that, the decorator should be here.”

“OK – how much packing do I still have to do?”

“I have most of it done – once you take your shower, I can close up your train case and you’ll be set. I left out one of your nursing dresses and some panties, your Birkies and some jewelry, and other than that, it’s all packed. I figured by the time you get done with the decorator, Mr. Northman will be up and we’ll be heading out.”

“Wow – thanks for doing all of that. Did you get your errands done this morning?”

“Yes, I did. I found a Best Buy and I think Mr. Northman will be pleased with what I got for him.”

“You bought something for Eric?”

“Yes, he didn’t want to wait until we got back or until something could be shipped, so I got him a very nice video camera and a tripod. He felt he was missing out on time with the baby during the daytime. I got a digital camera for you, too.”

“Oh, cool! He said he ordered one for me but I guess it never came?”

“Yes, and he wants you to be able to take pictures now since the baby is growing so quickly.”

“That’s a good idea – he learns so fast, it’s like he changes every day. I do want Eric to get to see what happens when he has to sleep.”

“You want me to help you with the baby in the shower, Sookie?” Bobbie asked as she brought Sookie her robe.

“Yeah, Pookie’s awake – you want to take a shower, Pookie?”

“Shtowa! OM-ba!”

Everybody laughed at that and Bobbie helped Sookie into her robe, then carried the baby behind her as she went into the bathroom.

Sookie got started and Bobbie got Alex out of his diaper. The baby pointed to the shower and said “Mamee wada!”

“Yeah, Mommy’s in the water. You want to go in the water with Mommy?”

“Omba!”

“Sookie are you ready for him?”

“Almost – give me one minute… OK, I can take him now! Come on, Pookie!”

Bobby handed the baby to her and he made his “haaa!” sound as she brought him under the gentle spray. He held his hands up, closing his eyes and smiling. “Wada!”

“Yeah, water feels good, doesn’t it? Here, let’s wash your pretty hair.” She lathered up his hair and rinsed it, the baby just closing his eyes and letting Sookie gently rub and rinse and then he pointed to some suds on his arm and ran his fingers through it. “Suds, Pookie – that’s soap suds.” She dabbed a little bit of suds on his nose and he giggled. “You like bubbles?”

“Ba-ba?”

“Yeah, bubbles – I’ll have to get a bottle of bubbles for you to play with. Hey, Bobbie – remind me to get some bubbles for the baby.”

“Good idea – he’d love that!”

Sookie scooped up some more suds and blew them gently toward Alex and he made his happy sound again. Sookie laughed and kissed him, then picked up his baby soap and cleaned the rest of him well. She rocked him in and out of the shower spray a few times, making him laugh. “Got a towel, Bobbie?”

“Yep, all ready for him,”

“Here you go,” Sookie opened the door and Bobbie took the baby into the big towel, drying and snuggling him, making him laugh. She powdered and diapered the baby as Sookie wrapped a towel around herself and combed out her hair. The baby reached for the powder puff and said “Mamee!”

“Whatcha want, Pookie?” Sookie bent over and looked him in the eye and Bobbie, helped the baby pat Sookie on the nose with the puff. Sookie laughed and said “A-Choo!” and the baby giggled like crazy.

“Tchoo!” Alex tried to imitate Sookie, making the girls crack up. Bobbie put the baby on the bed and took Sookie’s dress and undies back in to her. The minute she put the baby down, he flipped on his tummy and got up on his knees, looking at Bjorn.

“Ah, Borhd!”

“Hi, Alex – are you all clean now?” Bjorn laughed and picked him up.

“Omba! Shthowa!”

“Here, Bjorn, you want to put this on him?” Alicia handed him a little tank/shorts style onesie with bright orange, white, and green stripes on it.

“Uh – how does it work? I don’t know anything about baby clothes.”

“You just put his feet in here, make sure there’s a leg in each leg hole and pull it up.”

“OK…” Bjorn held the baby on one knee and pulled the little suit up over his feet. The baby was giggling and kicking a little, but Bjorn managed to get his feet in the holes and pull it up to his waist over the bulky diaper. It took a little work but he got the straps up over his arms then turned him around and held him up to look at him. “I think I got it – this looks like something you’d wear in jail,” he laughed.

“It’s supposed to be summery, I think,” Alicia laughed as she was gathering up Sookie’s things.

“If you say so. What do you think, Alex? You like this outfit?”

“Nah.”

Bjorn laughed. “You think it makes you look like a jailbird, too, don’t you?”

“Omba!” he giggled.

Sookie and Bobbie came out of the bathroom laughing.

“Hey, Pookie! What are you wearing? You look so cute!”

“Alex and I aren’t sure we like this thing he’s wearing.” Bjorn said. “It makes him look like a jailbird.”

All the women laughed, which made the baby laugh.

“Yeah, I can see that, but it’s a cute little thing he can move easily in but still be dressed enough for company or traveling. Think of it as an old-fashioned men’s bathing suit.”

“OK, but I want to be there when Eric sees him in it.” Bjorn laughed.

“Oh – it’s not that bad. I think it’s cute, don’t you, Pookie?”

“Nah-nah, Mamee,” Alex giggled.

Sookie cracked up, “Yes. you do!”

“Nah!” Alex giggled, sort-of standing on Bjorn’s leg as he held him up facing Sookie.

“Yes,” She tickled him.

“Nah!” Alex was very pleased with himself giving Mommy a hard time.

“Yes!”

“Nah!” He squealed with laughter.

“Daddy will like it…”

“Nah-nah, Mamee!”

“I’m with him, Mamee. Daddy won’t like it,” Bjorn teased her.

“If Eric hates it, we’ll put a t-shirt on him to travel, but for now, he’s fine.”

“Nah!” He giggled

Sookie was still laughing at him – “Listen you, Mommy says you look cute and I’m the boss!”

Alex stuck his tongue out and made a raspberry sound at her.

“Hey – when did you learn to do that?” Sookie was surprised he knew how to do that already and that he seemed to know what it meant.

Alex made the sound again, drooling on Bjorn’s hand in the process. Bjorn was cracking up as he wiped his hand with the diaper Bobbie threw to him.

“OK, be ornery if you insist, but you better not make that sound at Daddy.” Sookie was kidding, but she’d never tell Eric he did that, just in case. “Alicia, did you pack the little red pouch and the little manila envelope that were in Alex’s crib?”

“Yes, they’re in the diaper bag – I remember you saying they were important.”

“OK, cool. Let’s go down and eat, y’all, I’m hungry!”

Bjorn stood up and the baby looked at him, saying “doh-ee, Borhd.”

“Do-hee?” Bjorn asked

“Nah, nah, DOH-EE” and he pointed to his little crib, where the purple dragon was half-covered by his blanket.

“OH, TOY – is that what you want?” Bjorn picked it up and the baby said “OMBA!” as he hugged the dragon to him, making everyone laugh.

Everybody headed downstairs and Alicia already had a platter with some wrapped po’ boys on it and plates for them all to use. Amelia and Octavia were serving them up, asking what kind everyone wanted. Jerry came in to join them, and they all dug in. Sookie wanted a piece of shrimp po’ boy and a piece of an oyster one.

“I got them “dressed,” so if you don’t want lettuce and tomato, you’ll have to take it off yourself.” Alicia told them. “They’ve all got mayo – I hope that’s alright.”

“This is fine with me!” Sookie said.

“Me, too!” Bobbie agreed.

“I’m glad we’ll be in Shreveport tonight and I can use the gym!” Bjorn laughed as he put the baby into his high chair. Alicia brought the baby a bottle of RM and a small box of Cheerios, which she opened and sprinkled about 10 on his little tray. Alex looked at the bottle but was fascinated with the bits of cereal.

“Cheerios?” Sookie asked as she watched Alex try to pick one up.

“Yes, it’s used for teething babies. They can pick it up with their little fingers and it will just melt in his mouth if he doesn’t swallow it. We’ll keep a close eye on him and see how he does, unless you want to wait?”

“No, I want to see how he does with them. I know he’s way ahead of most babies anyway. I can’t believe how well he can talk already.” Alex was putting one in his mouth and gnawing on it with his gums.

“It’s amazing, but I guess that’s Mr. Northman’s contribution?”

“Yeah, it must be – babies in my family were just normal as far as I know. I don’t remember Gran ever saying anything about us being different, except for my dis…” Sookie caught herself, realizing Alicia didn’t know about her telepathy. Everybody who did know froze for a second.

“Your what, dear?”

“My dislike for bananas. I hated them from birth – if you fed them to me when I was a baby, I’d spit them on you.” Sookie was telling the truth, so she hoped Alicia wouldn’t realize she had started to say something else.

“I know that was on your list of things not to buy – I didn’t realize it went that far back.”

“Oh, yeah – the smell of them makes me nauseous. I hope Alex doesn’t like them because I can’t handle it.”

“Good to know! Anyone want more sweet tea? I’m going to make another pitcher when we finish this up.”

Bjorn and Octavia let Aiicia fill their glasses with what was left so she could take the pitcher back into the kitchen.

“Nice save, kid,” Amelia told Sookie and laughed. “Are you ever going to tell her?”

“Eventually, but there’s so much other weirdness happening around this baby that I think I should put it off to a time when things are calmer. I don’t want to overwhelm her.”

“Ee, Mamee.” Alex was holding a Cheerio out to Sookie.

“Are you eating Cheerios, Pookie?”

He looked at the Cheerio then showed it to Sookie again.

“That’s a Cheerio. Do you like Cheerios, Alex?”

“Omba, Dee-wos,” he said as he put that one in his mouth and gnawed on it as he bounced his leg up and down and played with the ones left on his tray with both hands.

Sookie laughed then turned her attention back to her sandwich and her friends. “Octavia, are you all packed or do you need help or anything?”

“Nope, I’m all set. Alicia helped me earlier.”

“Oh, good. Are you going to miss New Orleans?”

“Nah –we won’t be gone that long. I was wondering though, would you mind if I stayed at your house while Amelia goes to Bon Temps this week?”

“Of course, we’d love it if you stay, Octavia! Consider it your home, too, and don’t hesitate to let us know if you need anything.”

“Well, good, I like being around the little Vampire.”

“Omba, Ayvbee!” Alex laughed as he gummed another Cheerio.

Everybody laughed.

“I think he’s saying he likes you to be around, too, Octavia,” Sookie laughed.

“That’s a smart little boy there. You say Niall and Dr. Ludwig are coming to dinner tomorrow night?”

“Yeah, that’s what Eric said. I guess they want to see how he’s progressing.”

“They’re going to be dumbfounded,” Amelia laughed.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what his reaction is to Niall,” Bobbie said.

“Why?” Sookie didn’t anticipate any problems, but she hadn’t really thought about it.

“It’s just a feeling I have. It has something to do with the number 2 – I think it’s a Fae thing that Niall will be involved with or aware of or something.”

“They did move this up awfully fast.” Octavia agreed.

“You all will be there, right? Octavia?” Sookie didn’t want to be alone with Niall and Ludwig, though she knew Eric would be there no matter what.

“If you want me there,” Octavia was asking permission, but knew the answer before Sookie spoke.

“Yeah, of course. Bobbie, Bjorn?”

“If you want us there, sure,” Bobbie assured her.

“Amelia?”

“I might have to work, Sweetie. Sam has been pretty cool about letting me take time off when you need me, so I probably shouldn’t push him any further in case something else comes up. He’s probably going to have to replace me anyway, but in the mean time, I like working there.”

“OK – if you don’t have to work, though?”

“I’ll be there.”

“OK, I’ll feel a lot better if you all are there. You might think of something that I don’t know enough to ask. Jerry, what about you?”

“No, ma’am, starting tomorrow I’ll be back on my regular day schedule.”

“Oh, OK… You’ll still eat dinner with us, though, right?”

Jerry smiled, “sometimes, if you want.”

Alicia came back with a full pitcher of tea. “It’s after 2:30 – Ms. Antoine-de Broux will be here at 3.”

“Oh, OK – I want to eat one more piece of sandwich. Is there any of the shrimp left?”

“Sure, there is.” Alicia smiled and opened another sandwich and poured Sookie more tea. Bjorn accepted another glass and so did Bobbie and Octavia, but Amelia said she had had enough for a while. Bjorn was happy to take half of Sookie’s shrimp sandwich, too.

“Are you excited to see what she came up with, Sookie?” Bobbie was more excited than Sookie was.

“The decorator? Yeah, I am. I mean, I love this place as it is, but it’s going to rock when if feels more like it’s really mine.”

“Well, I’m ready for a nap – it’s going to be a late night tonight,” Octavia said as she got up from the table.

“And I’ve got packing to do.” Amelia said.

“Do you need help, Miss Amelia?” Alicia asked her.

“No, thanks – you did my laundry yesterday so all I have to do is put my stuff in the suitcase. Thanks for your help, though.”

“I need to talk to the guys outside about the travel plans tonight. Thanks for lunch!” Jerry excused himself and went out front.

“I’m going to stay with the baby while you women work with the decorator.” Bjorn said.

“You are?” Sookie was surprised.

“Yeah, you women all have something she’s working on for you, but Alex won’t have the patience to sit that long and look at swatches. I thought we’d go out back and he can play in that little yellow thing with all the toys on it.”

“Are you sure, Sweetie? I’ll sit with him if you have things to do,” Bobbie offered.

“I’m sure – you want to see what she’s going to do with the little apartment upstairs, Alicia wants to see about the apartment on the third floor, so this will free you up to do that and Alex and I will have some guy time, right, Alex? Víg!”

“VBEE ! ” Alex threw his arm up and cracked up, “Omba, Borhd!”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you just want to play with the baby,” Sookie teased him.

“I just don’t want him around all that girly stuff at such an impressionable age. Eric would agree with me.” Bjorn laughed because he was kidding. He really did mostly just want to play with the baby, but he wouldn’t admit that to the girls. And, truth be told, he knew Eric would prefer that to looking at swatches, too.

“Uh-huh,” Sookie wasn’t buying it. “Alright, you two he-men have fun.”

Bjorn took the baby out of the high chair, dragon and all, and held him down toward Sookie. “Give Mommy a kiss, Alex.”

Sookie looked up and kissed the baby on the lips. “Have fun, Pookie. You be a good boy for Bjorn, OK?”

“Oday.”

Bjorn picked up the yellow bouncy seat with his free hand and headed out back to the iron tables with Alex. Once they got out there, he put the little seat down next to the chair he would sit in, and put the baby in it. Alex made his happy sound, and Bjorn set the dragon on a chair right where he could see it. Alex found the piano buttons immediately and squealed with delight. He was jumping up and down, having a fine time when Alicia came out and gave Bjorn the bottle of RM in case he needed it.

“You boys don’t stay in the sun too long – move into the shade in a little bit.”

“Ok, Alicia, thanks,” Bjorn laughed.

“Oday, Eesh!” Alex giggled and pressed another button, squealing and jumping when it played music.

Alicia came back into the dining room. “Those two are just alike. It must be a Swedish men thing,” she laughed.

“It has to be,” Sookie agreed. “Eric will like that he’s spending time with Bjorn. He’s counting on Bjorn helping him grow up to be a fighter.”

“All he needs to do is grow,” Bobbie laughed, “he’s completely ready to fight right now. What did Octavia say? “That nut didn’t fall far from that big old tree?”

Sookie and Alicia cracked up and the three of them were still laughing when Jerry led Ms. Antoine-de Broux into the room. The table had already been cleared, so he set the big Las Vegas inventory catalog in front of Sookie and excused himself.

“Hi, Giselle! How are you today? Can we get you something to drink?” Sookie put her best manners on.

“No, thank you, Mrs. Northman, I’m fine.”

“Please, call me Sookie.”

“Alright, well, I know you’re getting ready to leave so I just wanted to show you some sketches and give you the list of what I think you should bring here.”

“OK, great! I can’t wait to see what you’ve got!”

Giselle opened the cream leather case and took out a large sketchbook and a zippered pouch of fabric and carpet samples. She was a really good artist, and Sookie was amazed at how accurate the drawings of the rooms and the furniture were.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I stopped by the offices earlier, too, and Emily showed me the two office rooms you’d chosen. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get the painters in there this week, and order the furnishings and window treatments. Here’s what I had for that.”

The office sketches for each room were awesome – pink walls, dark cherry desks, computer armoire, file cabinets, barrister’s shelves and chairs with dark wine colored leather upholstery. The window treatments would be a deep rose color and the lights for the office were slightly old-fashioned in a good way. Sookie approved those, then they got down to the house.

The sketch for Sookie’s bedroom showed a HUGE bed.

“How big is that?”

“12 x 15.”

“They make beds that big?” Sookie had never heard of anything bigger than a California king until she stayed at the residence.

“Yes, they do.” Giselle assured her. “The box spring comes in two pieces so you can get it in the house. It’s a special order item, of course and the sheets and blankets are expensive, but they’re top quality. Given Mr. Northman’s size and the idea that you wanted an “oasis” and the fact that the baby sometimes sleeps with you, I thought you might want to consider something extreme. It wouldn’t be for everyone, of course, but you have a unique situation.”

“I love it – I’ll want to check with Eric, of course, but I think it would be cool having a bed that size.”

“Wonderful. I was planning to have two spreads custom made – a satin one for summer and a velvet one for winter, both in black with the pink trim that will match the walls. I found this beautiful floral print for the windows and accent pillows.” She showed Sookie a large swatch of fabric with large pink roses on a black background.

“I love that – what is that material?”

“It’s a kind of rayon, silk blend. Now I have two possibilities for your furniture. One, we could use the dark cherry in the bedroom, but honestly, I think you’d like black lacquer in the bedroom. There are some lovely chests I can get like these,” she pulled out a picture of some Asian style nightstands and dressers, “that would go much better with the wooden base for the bed than the dark cherry.”

“I like those better, too. Are we doing carpet in that room?”

“I would in the bedroom. I thought you might like this.” She produced a luxurious carpet sample in a gorgeous rose color.

“I love that.” Sookie was really pleased with what she was seeing.

Time flew as the women looked at all the sketches. Alicia was pleased with the cool blue and cream palette she had chosen for the apartment she was to share with Margaret, and Bobbie loved the black leather/purple velvets for the small apartment she and Bjorn would share. The spread would be done in clean, tailored lines and the couch would be a conservative style to offset the exotic fabrics and keep Bjorn from feeling like he was in a gypsy camp. They would spend most of their time in the rest of the house, so their room just had to be comfortable and cozy and have enough splash to keep Bobbie from feeling it was too institutional. Giselle even had dinette sets and dishes to recommend for the little apartments that would set them apart from the main house. Alicia approved the designs for her rooms, then excused herself to direct the men in bringing the luggage out of the rooms. Once Bobbie was done, she went upstairs to check on their luggage.

Giselle and Sookie were going through the list of things Giselle would like to have brought from the Las Vegas residence when Eric came in.

“Good evening, ladies!”

“Hey, Sweetie!” Sookie popped up and gave him a hug and a kiss.

“Are we having fun, my Angel?”

“Yes, we were just looking at what Giselle would like to use here from the Vegas residence. Can we use all this stuff?”

“Use all you want. What’s left we will sell, unless you want to store it for future use if we find a suitable compound. It’s up to you, Lover.”

“Good. Also, how would you feel about having a giant bed?”

“A giant bed? How big?”

“12 x 15” Giselle told him.

“Wouldn’t that be cool? Show him the sketch, please?”

“Interesting. Where is my box going to go?”

“Well, there are two options, both of which are included. First, you can simply stay in the bed since the house is always surrounded by guards, or you can stay in a box that I’ve designed into the closet.” Giselle pulled out a sketch for the closet renovation, showing how the box would be hidden among the drawers. “I was under the impression that it was a good idea to have something hard to find?”

“Yes, that’s a very good idea. We can have the inside of that upholstered, I assume?”

“Yes, of course, and I’ll have the work done in pieces by different contractors so only we know how the individual pieces are intended to work together.”

“Excellent. Yes, I’m very pleased with this. And the bed is fine, if that’s what Sookie wants.”

“OH, I forgot to ask – can we get pink sheets for it?”

“Yes, ma’am, we can. I’ll arrange for matching towels for the bathroom as well and I already ordered the larger tub. They can put it in next week, and then I’ll have the painting and tile started right after.”

“Fantastic!” Sookie was stoked!

“Alright, now you are coordinating everything with Alicia, yes?”

“Yes,”

“She has all of the financial information to order anything you need. Don’t cut corners or skimp on quality. I want Sookie to have the very best.”

“Wonderful! My meeting with the curator isn’t until Wednesday, but I listed all of the better artwork in the things to be brought here, then I’ll have it set up for the museum to take what we don’t use here or have suitable storage arranged.”

“Excellent. Alicia?” He called into the living room.

“Yes, Mr. Northman?”

“Did you have the keys copied for Giselle?”

“Yes, sir, I did. Here you go, Miss.” Alicia handed her the keys as Bjorn came through the kitchen with Alex asleep in his arms.

“Thank you. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

“Alright. Our tentative plan is to return August 10, but that is subject to change. Can you work around that?” Eric took the baby from Bjorn, kissing him and snuggling him up under his chin, still asleep.

“Yes, Mr. Northman, no problem at all.”

“Wonderful. Sookie, do you need me anymore?”

“No, thanks, honey, I just wanted to be sure about the bed.”

Eric kissed her sweetly, “alright, you ladies will excuse me?”

“Of course. So nice to see you again.” Giselle said a little breathlessly. What a beautiful man!

“You, too.” Eric nodded and went to the living room where Bjorn was standing. Bill came down then and quickly wished them all a safe trip, wanting to get straight to the office because he had a meeting with one of the contractors for the work in the Quarter. He waved at Sookie as he headed out the front door and she waved back.

“Alright, is there anything else we need to go over?” Sookie asked.

“No, I think that’s everything. I’ll do my very best to have this looking like Sookie Northman lives here by the time you get back.”

“Thank you so much for your help. I really appreciate it.”

“Oh, it’s my pleasure. I’ll see you in August then.”

“Great. Drive safely going home.”

“You travel safely, too. Night driving is a little tricky.”

“Oh, our driver is really good at seeing in the dark.”

“May I show you to your car, Miss?” Bjorn offered, taking the large catalog for her.

They went out the front door and Sookie went in to Eric and the baby.

“How are my two boys doing?” She asked, snuggling up to both of them. Eric put his free arm around her, purple dragon in hand, kissing her head and holding her and the baby close and quiet for a few minutes as the guards were moving luggage out to the vehicles. Octavia and Amelia came from the elevator as Alicia came down the stairs from taking one last look around to be sure they didn’t forget anything.

“How are we doing?” Eric asked Alicia.

“I think we’re all ready.”

Bjorn came in. “Almost ready, your majesty, I just want to grab the little yellow seat for Alex.”

“We’re taking that with us?” Sookie asked.

“Yeah, I know we were going to leave it here, but he LOVES that thing. He had a blast out there today,” Bjorn laughed.

“Good – if he likes it, he should have it,” Eric said, kissing Alex on the forehead.

Bobbie came down the stairs with a big box in her hands and her bag over her shoulder.

“What’s that?” Sookie asked her.

“Eric’s new video camera. I’m going to learn how to use it as we travel so we can start documenting Pookie’s days tomorrow.”

“Oh, cool!”

“Yeah, you want to make sure you get video of him in that yellow bouncy seat. He goes crazy in that,” Bjorn said.

“When was this?” Eric asked.

“I took him out by the pool while the girls were looking at swatches. I didn’t think he’d enjoy all that girly stuff.”

“Good thinking. And why is he wearing prison garb?”

Bjorn cracked up, then caught himself because he didn’t want to wake the baby. “I told Sookie it made him look like a jailbird. He agreed with me, too.”

“Oh, come on, you guys, it’s cute!”

“Nah nah, Mamee,” Alex giggled, now awake.

“Go back to sleep, you!” Sookie teased him, giving him a kiss as Eric held him.

“Ah, Dadee,” Alex hugged Eric and pressed his lips to his cheek.

“Hello, my son,” Eric kissed his lips. “Did you have fun with Bjorn?”

“Omba, mudik.”

“You played music for him?” Eric remembered him using that word before.

“Omba.”

“And you were in the sun? You look a bit tanned.”

“VBEE!” Alex threw up his arm and yelled because he didn’t really understand what Eric said to him.

“Víg!” Eric and Bjorn both responded and cracked up as Bjorn started back through the kitchen. Alex squealed and hugged Eric, then laid his head on his shoulder because he was still tired. “Are you sleepy, Alex?” Eric asked him.

“Nah seepy.”

“I think maybe you are, my son. Well, that’s alright. You’ll sleep in the car as we go back to Shreveport.” Eric spoke softly to him and rubbed his little back.

“Yeah, the car usually puts him right to sleep,” Sookie agreed as she stroked the back of Alex’s head, her arm around Eric’s waist and her head on his free shoulder. She and Alex were in the same mood – the mood to just crawl inside Eric and hide there.

Eric could feel that from both of them and it was gratifying to know they both missed him so much during the day and that being with him again was such a relief.

Bjorn came back through the house with the yellow seat and as he walked toward the front door, Alex pointed and said, “mudik, Dadee!”

“Yes, that’s where you play music. When we get home or maybe sometime tomorrow evening, you can play music for me, OK?”

“Oday.”

Jerry came in and escorted Alicia, Octavia, Amelia and Bobbie out to their cars, and after a few minutes, Bjorn came back in from putting the yellow seat in the van with their luggage.

“We’re all set, your majesty.” Bjorn told him.

“Alright, then, my beautiful family, let’s load up.”

Bjorn locked the house up and then and Jerry got the three of them situated in the back of Sookie’s car and then took their seats, Bjorn driving and Jerry almost literally riding shotgun. Bjorn and Jerry were both wearing headsets so they could communicate with the other guards.

Once they were on the road, Alex didn’t want to stay in his little seat. “Dadee!” He was making his “come here” gesture with his hands and wouldn’t stop. Sookie and Eric both talked to him, trying to get him to stay put, but when he started to cry, Eric gave in and took him out of it so he could hold him.

“Are you happy now, my son?” Eric whispered to him as he snuggled him and the baby snuffled and said, “omba, Dadee.”

“Bjorn, will we be stopping anywhere?”

“I was thinking we might stop and get gas somewhere along the way. Why?”

“I think we should dispense with this car seat for this trip back. We can put it back in when we get to Shreveport in case Sookie wants to take the baby out, but I don’t see the point in having it back here – he’d rather be held and I’d rather hold him.”

“Do you know how to take it out?”

“Yes, I installed it – it’s easily unlatched. Can we throw it in the van with the luggage?”

“I don’t see why not. There’s a shopping center before we get out of town – why don’t I pull the caravan in there and we’ll get rid of it so you’ll all be more comfortable.”

“Is it safe to do that?” Sookie asked.

“It should be fine. Eric is all the protection he really needs,” Bjorn assured her.

“OK, as long as he’s safe. What if the police stop us?”

“If the police stop us… they won’t get far enough to notice a baby not in a car seat,” Bjorn and Jerry laughed.

“He’ll be fine, Sookie. I wouldn’t do anything to endanger him,” Eric marveled that sometimes Sookie still didn’t understand the difference in humans and Vampires, or even Weres. The baby was much safer in Eric’s arms than in that silly plastic seat.

The shopping center was only 10 minutes away and on the way to the highway, so Bjorn told the other guards what they were going to do, and in almost no time at all, the seat was stowed in the van and Eric and Sookie were able to snuggle with each other and the baby, who was tickled to get so much time with Mommy’s and Daddy’s undivided attention.

“Do-ee, Dadee.” Alex was sitting on Eric’s knee looking up at him.

“Do-ee?”

“He’s saying ‘toy’ – he means that purple dragon.” Bjorn told him.

“Oh, here, I stuck it in top of the diaper bag when we were wrestling with the car seat,” Sookie said, pulling it out and handing it to Eric.

Alex made his happy sound when he was able to hug it to him, making Eric laugh. Alex held the dragon up, showing it to Eric, pulling up one of the shiny wings for him to see.

“That is a very nice dragon, my son. Does he have a name?”

“Do-ee.”

“His name is toy?”

“That’s the only word he knows for it. What if we give him a name, too, Alex?” Sookie suggested.

“Nah – do-ee.”

“OK, we’ll just call him ‘toy,'” she laughed. “He’s a toy dragon, though – can you say dragon, Alex?”

“dwadon?”

“Yeah, he’s a dragon, and he’s got big shiny wings. See, shiny wings?”

“Weensth?”

“Yeah, see, this is a wing he can use for flying.”

“Fyid!”

“Yeah, dragons can fly – though maybe this one is too little to fly yet.”

“Dadee fy!” Alex looked up at Eric with those big blue eyes, and showed him the wings.

“Yes, you and I will go flying soon, won’t we, Alex?”

“Omba, fyid!”

Sookie reached over and petted the dragon and said, “ooh, he’s soft! See, Alex?” She brushed his cheek gently with the dragon, “soft.”

“sthop?”

“Yeah, soft. You’re gonna have lots of soft toys if I have anything to say about it,” Sookie laughed and Eric did, too. Bjorn snickered a little, as well and shook his head. “You’ve got lots of toys to explore in Shreveport, too! Wait ’til you get to look around your room! Yeah, wait ’til you see your room!” She was teasing the baby and he was loving it. She took the dragon and said “my toy!”

“Nah nah, Mamee.” He reached for the dragon.

“Yeah, this is my toy…” she said as she pulled it back.

“Nah, Mamee, mmmy do-ee,” he said as he pulled it away from her and blew raspberries at her.

Eric tried not to laugh. He didn’t want to encourage bad behavior, but it was funny to see him giving such attitude. He was torn between wanting Alex to show respect for Sookie and just loving his spirit. He decided not to make an issue of it right now, since they were only playing and he was so small.

Alex started to stick the dragon’s wing in his mouth but Sookie said, “No, no, Sweetie! Here, chew on this.” She pulled the fish teether out of the diaper bag.

“Pish!” Alex said and grabbed the teether with both hands, putting it straight into his mouth because he knew he could chew on this toy. He was starting to drool, so Sookie took out a clean cloth and wiped his mouth and the toy. His dragon was still on his lap, but he leaned back against Eric and just chewed on the fish and it was obvious to Eric and Sookie both that he was beginning to fall asleep. Sookie pulled a small blue blanket out of the diaper bag and Eric wrapped it around the baby as Sookie took the teether, which Alex had dropped, and wiped it off. The baby’s hand was stroking the dragon in his sleep, so Eric tucked it under the blanket with him.

“Do you think he is comfortable?” Eric asked Sookie.

“I think he’s in heaven, snuggled up with his Dadee and his do-ee,” she laughed.

They were on Route 49 approaching Alexandria when Bjorn asked Jerry “Do you see them?”

“Yeah, I count two of them. They’ve been with us for quite a while.”

Bjorn tapped his headset. “Affirmative. Everybody be alert.”

“Problems?” Eric asked.

“Yes, your majesty, we are being followed by at least two vehicles. They haven’t tried anything or even gotten very close, but they’re definitely shadowing us.”

“Alright, keep me informed. Sookie, Sweetheart, sit up and buckle your seat belt. ”

“Yes, your majesty. Our man inside the state patrol is running their license plates now to see if they can identify them.”

“Sookie, did you like the plans the decorator showed you today?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, they’re great. She’s going to use that red velvet furniture I loved from the Vegas residence in the living room and she’s going to sell the pool table and that area will be a conversation pit and home theatre, plus there will be space for the baby to play. She’s going to get a special kind of rug that won’t have nasty chemicals he might be exposed to as he crawls around.”

“And we’re going to have a giant bed?” Eric was trying to distract her so she wouldn’t be scared. His intuition was telling him this was some form of reconnaissance, but he didn’t want to prejudice the guards so he didn’t say anything.

“Yeah – the bedroom will be black and pink – is that OK?”

“Yes, of course, if that’s what you want.”

“Yeah, and she’s going to recreate Alex’s nursery across the hall from our room. They already ordered the same furniture for it that he has at home. She’s going to turn the den into an office for both of us, with his and hers desks and computers,” Sookie laughed.

“That’s a pleasant idea that you and I can be together when we have work to do.”

“Yeah, it is. She’s got some cool ideas for the apartments for Bobbie and Bjorn and then Alicia and Margaret. Everybody will have their own special retreat. It should be pretty cool. You’ll have a pleasant place to rock the baby every night and read to him. He loves that.”

“Yes, he likes reading. We need to get some more books for him.”

“Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and get more Dr. Seuss and some other things. We’ve been so busy, I haven’t done little things like that – there were too many big things to do,” Sookie laughed.

“Now that he is here, you have a clearer picture of what he likes and needs. You two will have fun together, playing in the pool and reading books and collecting plushy toys,” he teased her

“I’ve even got some gift certificates for a big book seller on line – Amazon or something like that.”

“Buy a few for yourself, too. You love to read.” Eric smiled at her.

“Yeah, I’m going to get some Goddess books that Octavia and Bobbie told me about.”

“That’s a good idea, if it interests you.”

“It still scares me a little, but I figure it won’t hurt to learn about it. They’re so positive about it all that I think I should keep an open mind and check it out before I shut myself off to it.”

“Good idea.”

“Are you making fun of me?”

“What? No, of course not – I think it’s very important for you to learn about your connection to the Goddess, my Angel, I would never make fun of that.”

“Even though Norse men don’t do magick?”

“Norse women do, though, and you need to learn so you can guide Alex as he grows.”

“Yeah, it’s for Alex…”

“It’s for you, too, Sookie. You are growing, too, and study of the Goddess will help you embrace your powers and be proud of them. It will help you master your skills. You might even discover new ones.”

“Do I want any new ones, though?”

“Of course, Sookie, you want all the advantages Nature has given you. Bjorn, any new information?”

“The cars are registered in Texas to a corporation of some sort. They’re running down info on it now – it appears to be a front for something or someone else.”

“Are they still following us?” Eric was pretty sure they were.

“Yes, but we think they know they’ve been spotted because they’re hanging back,” Bjorn explained.

“How far are we from Shreveport?”

“About an hour and a half. If they follow us off the highway, Vincent will have two cars pick up their trail and keep an eye on them. I don’t think they’re an immediate threat. If they were going to attack, they’d have done it by now. The closer we get to Shreveport, the less likely, I’d say.”

“Vincent has been alerted?”

“Yes, and the guards on duty at your house. There will be extra tonight and tomorrow, just in case.”

“Why would somebody just follow us?” Sookie didn’t want to interrupt but she had to ask – it didn’t make any sense to her.

“Reconnaissance,” Eric told her, “they’re trying to scope us out – see how we operate, how many we are, how much force we can muster. They aren’t likely to be trouble tonight, but they could be very real trouble at some point in the future. That’s why we’re trying to figure out who they are.”

Bjorn tapped his headset. “Alright, I’ll tell him. They’re recommending we have a security meeting tonight once you’re all safely in the house, your majesty.”

“So they know who this is?” Eric knew the answer would be ‘yes.’

“Apparently, but they don’t want to say over the ‘com since they could be listening.”

“Alright. I still want everyone to stay alert. They might decide to do something illogical or high risk.”

“We will.”

Everyone was quiet for a while, then the baby stretched and yawned.

“Are you awake, Alex?” Eric asked him softly.

“Eh, Mamee?” He wiped his eyes sleepily.

“What?” Sookie had been staring out the window, “did he ask for me?”

“Yes, he did. See, Alex – there’s Mommy.”

“Ee, Mamee,” he reached for her.

“OK, Sweetie, eat. Here you go,” she put him to her breast, opening the top of her dress. He was sleepy, but very hungry, taking blood and milk both. “He’s completely off schedule now, I hope he can still spend his time with you tonight, Eric.”

“I hope so, too. I’m sure we’ll find some time together before the night is over.” Eric reached over and kissed her, “And so will we, my Angel. Everything will be alright.”

“Sit closer – why are you so far away?”

Eric didn’t say anything.

“He doesn’t want to endanger you, your majesty.” Bjorn thought she should know what was up. “If someone were to aim at him and you were too close together, you could be hurt.”

“Oh… I didn’t think about that.” Sookie was a little sad, but knowing what was up was much better than thinking Eric didn’t want to sit next to her.

“You know better than that, Sookie,” Eric whispered.

She looked at him, realizing he was responding to what she was thinking. She decided to try a test.

‘Can you hear me that clearly, Eric?’ she thought.

‘Yes. If you can hear me, squeeze my hand.’

She reached to the side and squeezed his hand, and they looked at each other.

‘How long?’ Sookie asked him in her mind.

‘You knew I could hear you occasionally, but now it’s been continuously for a week or so. You’ve been hearing me, too, you just didn’t realize it. I can picture what I want you to do and you do it.’

‘Can you hear Alex?’

‘Yes, but it’s pictures, not words.’

‘Same with me. Why can I hear you now, but not a minute ago?’

‘I didn’t want you to hear me then.’

‘You can control it that well?”

‘Yes. Don’t tell anyone. Let those who know continue to think it’s sporadic. Only the three of us should know the extent of our communication.”

‘Alright.’

“Your majesty?” Bjorn broke the silence.

“Yes, Bjorn?”

“They’re gone. We’ll keep an eye out and Vincent’s men will still pick up our trail at the exit, but they seem to have begged off for the night.”

“Good. It will give us time to figure out who they are. I don’t think we’ve encountered this group before.”

“You don’t think it was FOTS? Or another Vampire kingdom?”

“No. It’s someone else – someone who knows what they’re doing, but they have human limitations.”

“That would be my guess, too,” Bjorn agreed.

“Somebody with a military background, but not Vampires or Weres,” Jerry agreed.

“When we get home, I want these vehicles and the house gone over with a fine toothed comb. There have to be listening devices somewhere, or else we’ve got a mole.”

“I’d bet on electronic surveillance. I’m pretty confident in all the people we’ve got working with us,” Bjorn assured them.

“The guards, yes, but who knows what a maid or a decorator or someone like that might have let slip. They obviously knew when we were traveling.” Eric reminded him.

“That’s true – we didn’t tell anyone not to disclose our travel plans, did we?” Bjorn asked.

“No, we didn’t, but we will in the future.” Eric had thought the guard was enough to make that unnecessary, but if there was an unknown group actively watching them, they’d have to have tighter control of who knew what and when.

Finally, they reached the exit to Shreveport. Sookie was very relieved to see the Welcome sign at the city limits and even more relieved when Bjorn said, “Vincent’s men are with us now.”

The baby must have sensed something was up because he finished feeding and reached for “Dadee!” Eric took him in his arms, keeping his head below the window so he couldn’t be seen, and talked to him while Sookie packed up the diaper bag.

“Do-ee, Mamee,” the baby objected when he saw Sookie put the dragon in the bag, making Eric and Sookie both laugh.

“OK, Sweetie, hang on to it so you don’t lose it, OK?”

“Oday.” He hugged the little dragon to him and planted a kiss, sort of, on its head.

“You think he really knew what I meant?” Sookie laughed.

“Yes, I do. I haven’t figured out how yet, but he knows things he can’t have learned yet.” Eric laughed. “He’s more than smart – it’s much more than that, but I don’t know the word for it.”

“Does that seem weird to you that he knows some things but he doesn’t know others? Like he knew to say víg, or whatever, from birth but he has to learn to talk, and some letters he can say and some he can’t.”

“Well, part of that is that he has no teeth yet.” Eric laughed, “That’s a big part of speaking. He does pretty well if you take that into account. As for the rest of it, it has something to do with the magick and something to do with the actual growth of his physical body.”

“Yeah, nobody seems to know how that’s going to work,” Sookie laughed.

“But it is working, so that’s the main thing, right, Alex?” Eric laughed and tickled him.

“Omba!”

“He is getting bigger, isn’t he? Not a lot, but I mean, he’s put on a couple of pounds since we’ve been gone?”

“Yes, he’s definitely growing. Margaret will hardly recognize him,” Eric laughed. He was in a fairly good mood now that danger had passed for the moment. He was surprised to admit to himself that he was looking forward to getting back to the Shreveport house, almost as much as Sookie. It would be nice to be back in their bed, just the three of them, and for the three of them to take a bath in the big tub for the first time. It occurred to Eric that he could never bear to sell that house – there was too much of Sookie and Alex in it already. Sookie reached over and squeezed his hand then and he smiled at her, knowing she had been following his train of thought.

“Yay!” Sookie said as they turned down the street toward their house. She couldn’t wait to get home, and she especially couldn’t wait until the three of them were in their bed together. She couldn’t sit still, and Eric was laughing to himself at how excited she was. He was excited, too, but Sookie was like a little girl at Christmas.

All the lights were on in front of the house and the guards were on alert but even they seemed happy to see them. Margaret was standing on the front porch waiting for them and you could tell she was about to bust.

“Look! There’s Margaret! Wait ’til she sees you, Pookie – she’s never heard you talk!”

Eric was shocked to realize Sookie was near crying. He was hoping he had a message from Bobby Burnham waiting for him so he could tell Sookie about her surprise.

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