LATE Chapter 082

Better Late Than Never

 

Sookie settled back onto her wedge pillow as the news played on the TV. Eric was watching the news emotionless, just waiting to see if there were any suspicions about the origin of the fire in the Newlin home.

“Did he actually have bomb building equipment in his house?”

“Yes, he did. It made things rather convenient. I was afraid I’d have to stage an electrical fire. He had a virtual arsenal in his basement, too. The fireworks were quite spectacular.”

“People know you weren’t here tonight…”

“People saw me at Fangtasia, I logged in on my computer, logged out later, Pam and Vincent will state I worked on the bills all night. Everyone who dined with us will be able to say I could not possibly have gotten to Dallas early enough to have had a hand in it – and that’s only if anyone makes the connection.”

“Because they don’t know you can fly, right? Flying is super fast and the police won’t have any idea?”

“Right. If anyone even suggests such a thing, he’ll be laughed off the force. We’ve done a good job of ridiculing any reports of such things.”

“How will the Dallas Vamps feel about you being on their turf?”

“They’ll all have alibis because none of them knew it was going to happen. I set the scene very carefully. It cannot be traced back to me.”

“Why do this now?”

“Those arrows in New Orleans came from Newlin – our spies traced them directly to him, and I found at least thirty just like them in the basement of his house.”

“OK….”

“I promise you, my Angel, there is no sign I was ever there. Newlin was killed assembling a bomb and his wife was overcome by smoke trying to get back up the stairs. That is what the forensics will show.”

“I hope you’re right…”

“I am, there’s only…” Eric’s phone rang then and he picked it up from his nightstand. “Hello, Bill?”

“Eric, we’ve had a call from the press. They want a statement from you about Steve Newlin since it was rumored he was behind the attack on the parade in the Quarter.”

“Interesting. Tell them I said that loss of life is always regrettable, and that though he was certainly no friend to the Vampire community, our sympathies are with his family, friends and church. I only hope that in the future our communities can come together in friendship and cooperation as equal citizens of this great country.”

“Very diplomatic. I’ll release this statement now. I think we’re going to get a lot of calls about this tonight.”

“Is there anything else going on I need to know about?”

“No, it’s very quiet other than this. There’s a party going on in the Quarter among our kind and our friends, but I hope they won’t be too blatant about things.”

“Yes, we don’t want to seem unsympathetic or celebratory. Let it be known that I expect my subjects to use tact and grace in addressing the situation. We are not the ones who create this conflict, we are merely the chosen targets of a type of prejudice that has plagued Western Civilization for hundreds of years. We are no more deserving of their wrath than were the African-American community, the Jewish community, the women and healers of the Old World or the ethnic minorities of today. All people should strive to live cooperatively for the good of all.”

“Got it. I’ll let you know if we hear anything else.”

“Good. When you’ve typed that all up, send a fax of it here to the house so we’ll have it to refer to if we are contacted. Best to fax a copy to Sandy in Las Vegas and Pam at Fangtasia, too.”

“Will do. Good night.”

“Good night, Bill.”

“What was that all about,” Sookie asked, even more concerned now.

“The press in New Orleans asked for a statement from me because of the rumors that Newlin was behind the attack on the parade in the Quarter. So, I gave them a statement.”

“A very carefully worded statement – I notice you didn’t say we didn’t wish him any harm.”

“There is no need to lie about the situation. I meant everything I said.”

“You really want to work cooperatively with humans?”

“My first choice would be to simply be left alone by them, but I’d certainly choose cooperation over war with them. The whole point of our coming out was that we don’t have to kill anymore – we don’t need to prey on them and they don’t need to hate or fear us.”

“Well, sort of…”

“As far as they know, anyway. Are you upset with me?”

“No, I’m worried about you. I don’t want you getting into trouble.”

“I’m a Vampire King, my Angel, trouble will be my constant companion.” He rolled on his side facing her.

“I know that,” she said as she turned on her side facing him. “I just… I can’t just feel nothing about something like this, you know? I want to keep the human part of me that feels bad when someone dies, even if he did try to kill us.”

“You will never lose that, Sookie. Your empathy is too much a part of who you are. If Newlin had been willing to let us live in peace, he would still be alive.”

“True, and I don’t want anybody threatening you or Alex.”

“Or YOU, Sookie, he has harmed you directly more than once.”

“Yes, he has.”

“I don’t expect you to rejoice, Sweetheart, I just need to know that you don’t fear or resent me…”

“I’ll never be afraid of you, Eric. I love you and I want you to be safe and happy. And I know and trust that you will do everything in your power to keep Alex safe and that means more to me than anything.”

“So we are OK?”

“We are perfect, my husband,” she smiled at him and stroked his cheek, but there was sadness in the smile and he understood that.

They lay facing each other and whispering about nothing in particular until Sookie fell asleep. Eric turned the monitor on and took it with him so he’d hear Alex when he awoke. He went to his office on that floor and called Sandy, who told him she had received the fax from Bill but they hadn’t had any inquiries yet. Eric was pleased to hear that and to know that he was going to receive the paperwork the next day to close the sale of the residence. He got a call from the front gate that Vincent had arrived for a meeting with him and Bjorn so he went downstairs where Bjorn was waiting for them both in the living room. Eric wasn’t sure the baby monitor would work if they went out to the servant’s quarters, so they went into the dining room and closed both doors, hoping Amelia couldn’t hear them if they kept their voices down.

“What did you find out?” Eric asked Bjorn as the three of them sat at the end of the table.

“I might have a bite. I got word that a guy I knew in Intel is dating a female Vampire. I sent a coded email to him and he might be interested. He’s located in New York right now and he said you probably know their Queen?”

“Carolina, yes, I do.”

“He said he has worked for her, and you should talk to her before you hire him. He’s willing to relocate temporarily to do what we need done. He knows it could take months or even years, but he says he and his lady have lots of time and he hates Jubal Garner. Garner is getting a bad rep among the Intel community and that definitely works in our favor. This guy has stayed under the radar and I don’t think a background check would turn up his Vamp contacts – the one I did on him didn’t, and I go pretty deep. Garner will hire him in an instant when he sees his resume. He’s exactly what he’s looking for.”

Eric nodded and so did Vincent. “Alright, I’ll call Carolina to confirm and if I leave instructions with Sookie, you go ahead and set up his accounts and ID. You think he’ll be able to meet with us in New Orleans?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he can. There’s a place there, Crowley’s, that’s out of the way enough, I think.”

“Alright. He’ll be moving to Georgia then – you’ll have to set up ways to contact him that can’t be traced. Vincent, you’re going to keep your contacts active, correct?”

“Yes, I’ve spread enough cash around to keep the information flowing. We probably won’t have enough to act on for quite a while, but we’ll be pretty sure what they’re doing in the mean time.”

“Alright, we want to be particularly aware of how his forces respond to the news about Newlin, and about what direction the FOTS takes from here. Vincent, you are going to New Orleans this week to interview soldiers, yes?”

“Yes, your majesty. I’ll be gone Monday through Thursday so I can see what we’re working with.”

“You’ve got someone in place at Fangtasia?”

“Yes, and I’ll be in contact with him to be sure there’s no trouble. Pam can stand in for me, too, if need be.”

Eric liked hearing that. “Good to know. Alright, we all know what we’re doing?”

“Yes, your majesty, and the extra guard will be continuing through the week due to the construction and the Newlin thing, just in case.”

“Alright, Compton is expecting you, and you’ll report back to me Friday about the state of the training camp and how many new hires.”

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Alright, Bjorn, I…”

“Dadee!”

“As I was saying, I’m going to check on Alex. I will talk to you both tomorrow night and see where we are, Good night.” Eric quickly went back upstairs and Bjorn walked Vincent out to his car.

“You anticipating trouble, Vincent?”

“I’m not sure. It depends on how the fringe element of the FOTS takes the news. I’m sure there’ll be no forensic evidence but that won’t stop the conspiracy theories from flying. Best case scenario is that there’s no leader to step into Newlin’s place and they fall apart.”

“You don’t expect that, though?”

“No, there’s always some greedy bastard willing to manipulate people’s hate for a profit. Odds are, there will be a skirmish within their ranks and some new asshole will pick up where Newlin left off. Seems like there’s an unending supply of those assholes these days.”

“True. OK, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Right – good night.”

Eric zipped into the room where Alex was waiting patiently, smiling up at him and making his “come here” motion that Eric just loved. Eric picked him up and kissed him, taking a bottle from the little fridge and heading into the nursery with him.

“Daddy needs to make a phone call, Alex. Will you be a good boy and be quiet while I talk for a minute?”

“Ee-ah.”

“OK, that’s Daddy’s good boy,” he said as he took out his phone and dialed Carolina’s number.

“Northman, how nice to hear from you. I hear you may be hiring our Jack to help you?”

“Yes, if you tell me he can be trusted.”

“I’ve trusted him with my life on more than one occasion. He’s loyal, and he’s very, very skilled in the arts of war. You’ll be very pleased with him and we’ll all be happy to back you up in this.”

“Good. What can I offer you for your kindness, Carolina? I’d like to express my gratitude.”

“No need, my Dear. You just take care of your end, and all we regents will be in YOUR debt. If you have need of anything, all you have to do is ask.”

“Thank you for your support and generosity, My Lady. I will keep you informed.”

“Lovely. Good night, Eric.”

Eric ended the call and then turned his attention back to Alex. “That was very good, my boy. You were very polite, letting Daddy do important business. I am a King, and Kings have a great responsibility to take care of their subjects. Someday, you will be King and you will understand. I’m going to be a good King, and I’m going to teach you to be a great King.” He put the bottle into the warmer, then gave Alex a kiss.

“Keeg!”

“Yes, King! Now you are a Prince, you know. You are Prince Eric Alexander Northman, the very first Vampire Prince!”

“Pwinze?”

“Yes, Prince Alex.”

“Pwinze Awegs”

“Very good, Alex!”

“Do-ee!” Alex said and was instantly holding his dragon.

“Going to snuggle with your dragon tonight, eh, my boy?”

“Ma PUPO dwadon!”

“Yes, he’s purple, isn’t he?”

“Do-ee!” and he was holding the bear, dropping the dragon.

“Ma BOO tay baya.”

“Yes, he is blue.”

“Woogie, Dadee!” Alex pointed to the toy shelf. Eric understood that Alex wanted to look at the toys, so he took him over and Alex knew exactly what he wanted.

“Wed, Dadee?” Alex pointed to a red toy still in its package.

“I don’t know what that is supposed to be.” He read the packaging, “”Sesame Street Plush Elmo.” This is an Elmo, apparently, but I don’t know what an Elmo is.”

“Wed Ehmo?”

“Yes, I suppose that’s right. It’s a red Elmo. Maybe Mommy can tell you what an Elmo is. Mommy knows more about toys than Daddy does. Do you want me to take it out of the box?

“OMBA, Dadee!” Alex was making his “come here” motion frantically.

“Alright,” Eric laughed, easily snapping the little ties holding the toy in the package and giving it to Alex, who hugged it and made his happy sound. “There, now you can show it to Mommy and ask her what an Elmo is,” Eric laughed. He got a kick out of seeing how much Alex loved these soft toys. He was so much like Sookie at these moments that it made him even more dear to Eric, if that was possible.

Eric took the bottle from the warmer and he, Alex and Elmo got settled into the glider so Alex could drink. Alex was stroking Elmo’s tummy, the doll being almost as big as he was, and Eric could tell he was enjoying the soft feel of the fur, or whatever it was. It occurred to Eric that Alex was very sensual – he liked the taste of food and blood, he liked bright colors and soft toys – and that made Eric proud because it was a very “Vampire” trait. He laughed, though, because he realized it was also a very Sookie trait. “Your Mommy always says she wants her child to have a whole plushy jungle to roll around in, and I can see you doing exactly that. Before long, this room will be filled with soft toys for you to snuggle.”

“OMba! Do-eesth!”

“You like your toys, don’t you, my son?”

“Ah WUV ma do-eeths.”

“Oh, you do? What else do you love?”

“Ah wuv ma Mamee an ah wuv ma Dadee and I wuv Babee an Eesh an Bhord an Ameeah an Ayvbee!”

Eric laughed a little too loud but he couldn’t help it. Alex was too cute and too smart. “That’s a lot of love, my boy.”

“OMba!” Alex giggled. They were both still giggling and Eric was tickling Alex when Sookie appeared at the door in Eric’s t-shirt.

“Hey, what are you guys up to?” She said, pleased to see them having fun together.

“OOPS, Alex, we woke Mommy up!” Eric laughed.

“Yes, you did!” She tickled Alex as Eric held him. “I see you discovered Elmo! Isn’t he sweet?”

“What is an Elmo?” Eric asked, really wanting to know since it was apparently so familiar to Sookie.

“He’s a Muppet. You’ve heard of the Muppets, right?”

“I’m picturing a singing frog…?”

“Right, that’s Kermit, and there’s Miss Piggy and a bunch of others. The guy who created the Muppets started a TV show for kids called Sesame Street.”

“That was on the box…?”

“Right. Elmo is a baby Muppet character they created because babies can relate to him. He’s crazy popular. They make Elmo dolls that giggle when you tickle them and dance and do all kinds of things, but I bought this one because it’s so soft.”

“Sthop!” Alex said emphatically. He agreed with Mamee.

“So he’s not supposed to be a particular animal?”

“No, he’s just a baby Muppet.”

“Mupped!” Alex liked that word.

“I’ll have to get some video of the Muppet Show and Sesame Street for you two. You kind of need to know who the Muppets are to raise a kid these days,” Sookie laughed.

“If you say so. I told him Mommy knows more about toys than I do,” Eric laughed.

“Yeah, remember that, Alex, that’s the only time you’ll ever hear Daddy say I know more about something than he does,” Sookie cracked up.

“I am sorry we woke you, my Angel,” Eric really meant it – he wanted Sookie to rest.

“Don’t be sorry – I’m glad you did. I love seeing you two having fun and I love that you gave him Elmo.”

“Actually, he asked for him. He was very smart about it, too.”

“What did he do?”

“He showed me purple dragon, blue teddy bear, then pointed at the toy shelf and said “red” so I knew what he wanted.”

“Wow – that is pretty smart. You’re a smart little fella, aren’t you, Pookie!”

Eric had never noticed Sookie calling Alex that before. “What did you call him?”

“Pookie. I call him that when we play in the mornings. We dance and sing and have fun when he wakes up, don’t we, Sweetie?”

“Omba, dantheen.”

“Show me?”

“What?” Sookie thought she heard him wrong.

“Show me. I’ve never seen it. Show me how you play with him when you wake up.”

“Well, you’ll have to come back to bed.”

“Let’s go. He’s finished this bottle.” Eric stood up and they went back into the bedroom. Sookie shucked the t-shirt and climbed into bed, followed by Eric as he gave Alex to her.

“OK, so it’s morning, and this little rascal has just done something to wake me up…”

“What does he do?”

“This morning, he scratched me with one of those sharp little nails as he tried to crawl on top of me to eat. Once he stuck his finger in my ear, once I heard “uh oh” as a lamp hit the floor – it’s something different every day.”

Eric laughed in sheer delight.

“So then I feed him, then I sit him up like this,” she sat Alex up on her tummy, “and we sing and dance – show him, Pookie! “Let’s Twist Again, Like We Did Last Summer, let’s twist again, like we did last year…”” She started singing and jiggling Alex, who cracked up as he did every time.

Eric was completely enchanted. “You do this every morning?”

“Yeah, it’s kind of our thing, when we first wake up, we have some fun, just me and Pookie, right, Pookie?”

“Wyd! Poogie an Mamee!”

“Bjorn swears it’s why Alex is such a happy baby, because we wake up that way,” Sookie laughed.

“I’d be a happy baby, too, if I had such a beautiful Mommy that would sing to me and tickle me every morning,” Eric agreed. “My son is very lucky, indeed,” he said as he reached over and kissed her and Alex giggled.

“Aw – Sweet Daddy, huh?”

“Su-eed Dadee!” Alex giggled, as Eric leaned over and kissed him, too. Alex motioned for Elmo, which Eric gave him and he held Elmo out to Eric expectantly.

“Uh – I think he wants you to kiss Elmo, too, Daddy,” Sookie was trying not to bust out laughing.

“Do I have to?”

“You’ll disappoint him if you don’t,” she teased him.

“Alex, Daddy’s kisses are only for you and Mommy, alright?” Eric tried to reason with him.

“Nah, Dadee,” Alex shook the toy at him and Eric gave in and kissed it on the head, which made Alex squeal and hug the toy to him.

Sookie cracked up, but the laugh turned into a yawn and then Alex yawned, too. “It is time for my beautiful family to sleep,” Eric suggested.

“Will you stay with us until we fall asleep?” Sookie asked hopefully

“Yes, my Angel, I will. Here, put Alex between us, and we’ll turn the lights off and the two of you just let go. I’ll stay until dawn.”

Alex and Sookie were asleep in no time, but Eric stayed until almost dawn, anyway. He kissed them both gently, wrote Sookie a note and went to rest with a smile on his face, thinking of Sookie waking up in a few hours and singing to his son with that glorious smile on her face.

The next thing Sookie knew, a little hand was patting her cheek and she heard Alex whispering “Mamee! Mamee!”

“Hey, Pookie! What’s up?”

“Ee, Mamee.”

“OK, Darlin’, here you go.” She slid him down so he could reach her breast and she stroked the back of his head while she dozed. She heard the rumble of thunder and looked back toward the window, which was not surrounded by sunlight as she’d expect. The clock read 10:33 so she figured it must be cloudy or raining. Her suspicions were confirmed by a huge clap of thunder, which scared Alex but she calmed him down quickly. “It’s OK, Sweetie, it’s just a thunderstorm. We’re safe, so just relax.”

“Sthape?”

“Yeah, safe. Bjorn is here and we’ve got guards outside – we’re all safe in the house.”

“Knock, Knock” Bjorn called softly from the hallway. Sookie pulled the covers up and said, “Come in, Bjorn.”

He looked in the door. “Good morning. I wanted to see if you were OK. I didn’t know how Alex is in thunder.”

“It scared him a bit, but I told him we’re safe. See, Alex, Bjorn is here to take care of us, so we’re completely safe.”

“Bhord?” Alex said with tears in his eyes as he tried to turn back and look at him and Sookie helped him turn toward him.

Bjorn walked to Eric’s side of the bed, and sat down, “Hey, Alex! Don’t be scared, I’m right here so you and Mommy are perfectly safe, OK?”

“Oday,” Alex reached for Bjorn so he picked him up and hugged him. “It’s OK, buddy, it’s just thunder. Come here,” he stood up and carried Alex to the window, pulling the heavy curtains back, “see the rain?”

“Wada?”

“Yeah, water is falling from the sky and that’s called rain. Sometimes when it rains, there’s thunder and lightning. Listen!” There was thunder rumbling in the distance and Alex tensed up, then there was a flash of lightning and Alex jumped and his eyes grew wide and mouth dropped open. He was too surprised to cry when the loud crack of thunder broke. He grabbed Bjorn around the neck and Bjorn patted his back. “It’s OK, Alex, it can’t hurt you. You’re OK, Buddy. It’s safe in here.”

Alex whined a little then said “Mamee!” and reached toward Sookie so Bjorn gave him back to her. “I’ll be right here, Alex, so you and Mommy are safe, OK?”

“Oday.” Alex moved downward and Sookie could tell he wanted to eat, so she helped him get settled. She could tell he was trying to burrow under the covers, too, so she turned on her side toward Bjorn and pulled the covers up so Alex was against her and completely covered. She could feel it when he relaxed, and told Bjorn, “he’s OK now, he’s relaxing now, and he’s eating well.”

“OK, good. Storms are rough on the little ones. They’re too small to understand and their instincts tell them there’s danger. The safer we can make him feel, the better.”

“Thank you for talking to him. He felt better the minute he saw you.”

“That’s what I’m here for, ma’am,” Bjorn teased her, knowing she hated it when he called her ma’am, and she answered him by sticking her tongue out at him. He was hoping she wasn’t listening to his thoughts because that created a rather inappropriate reaction in him. He was starting to think that Sookie Syndrome was incurable. He loved Bobbie with all his heart but Sookie was simply too damned hot not to react to, especially when he knew she was naked under the covers.

“Hey, Bjorn is there a note from Eric over there?”

“Yeah, there is,” he got up to get it for her.

She opened it and said, “he says I should tell you to proceed.”

“Will do.”

“I don’t want to know, do I?” she said wryly.

“You do not,” Bjorn said, imitating Eric and making Sookie laugh.

“That was pretty good,” she giggled.

“Don’t you EVER tell him I did that,” Bjorn said, not kidding at all. “I couldn’t help myself. I’ve heard him say it too many times,” he laughed.

“Sounds like everyone in here is in a good mood!” Alicia came in with the laundry. “Are you ready for some breakfast, Dear?”

“Yes, I am, but I want something kind of light. Would oatmeal be out of the question? With lots of sugar and butter?”

“We can do oatmeal. That won’t take long at all, so I’ll go work on it now,” Alicia left the pile of laundry on the dresser. Sookie knew it would all get put away while she was eating. She loved the fact that she never had to think about this stuff.

“You OK, Sookie? You got really quiet all at once,” Bjorn observed.

“Yeah, I just got to thinking how much I love having people to think about things like laundry and breakfast. My life would be so much harder if Eric wasn’t looking out for me. I need to tell him I’m grateful more often.”

“Buy him something special.”

“Huh? What’s special to a guy like Eric?”

“Honestly, Sookie, he’d be thrilled with anything. What you buy doesn’t matter, he’ll be excited that you were thinking about him.”

“You know, you’re right. I focus on the baby all the time, but I’ve never bought him anything. Is it weird if I buy him something with his money, though?”

“Sookie, you crack me up. It’s your money, too.”

“I never think of it that way.”

“I know you don’t, but he wants you to. He really does consider half of everything he owns to be yours. He’s told me more than once that he’d give you everything he has, because all of it together is nothing compared to what you mean to him.”

“OK, you’re a guy – what could a woman buy for you that would really knock your socks off.”

“Buy him some of those silk boxer shorts you like so much. Buy a new perfume and wear it for him. He loves clothes – buy him some designer something that you’d like to see him wear. Any little thing that lets him know you’re thinking about him will make him happy.”

“How do you know so much about this?”

“Think about it – he bends over backwards to buy you presents, right?”

“Right.”

“So how much would he love something that shows you went to trouble to please him. He’ll tell you that you shouldn’t have and that you’re the greatest gift he could ever have, but deep down, he’ll be beside himself.”

“Is Bobbie coming up?”

“Yeah, she said she’d come up when she’s done eating and placing an order for some oils she wants for you.”

“Cool. She can help me shop on the web since it’s too bad to go out today.”

Bjorn stood up and looked around, then retrieved Sookie’s laptop without her even asking. “Here, do a Google search and get started. It will mean more to him if he knows you were doing it on your own.” He took Alex back to his seat with him, Alex holding onto him tight because he was still a little afraid.

“Yeah, you’re right. So, I just search for silk boxers, right?”

“Right.”

Sookie did that and she found a couple of places she checked out. She settled pretty quickly on a site called Royal Silk because they had a good selection in some unusual patterns and colors. They weren’t very expensive, though, and she wanted to give Eric something special. “Hey, Bjorn, how would a whole box of silk things be? Like a bunch of boxers and maybe a scarf and some ties and pocket squares?”

“He’ll like it if you like it. That’s the whole key. He’ll want to know you chose them because you want to see him in them.”

“That’s no problem at all. Some of these are mad sexy.”

“Am I in the right room? Did I just hear Sookie say the phrase, “mad sexy,”” Bobbie laughed.

“Yeah, because I’m talking about silk boxer shorts.”

“Ooh, yummy. Buying a gift for Eric?”

“Yeah, trying to. They have 45 different colors. How would it be if I got him one of each?”

“Wow – that would be kind of cool – a whole box of sexy undies. What’s the occasion?”

“I just want to do something special for him. Something he won’t expect.”

“Good idea. Do you know what size he wears?”

“No, but I figured Alicia will.”

“I’d have her order them, if I were you.”

“Is that fair though? Shouldn’t I do it myself?”

“You chose them, hon. It will be easier for her to just call them up and say I want one in each color. When you get them, put them in a nice box and surprise him. He’ll love it.”

“They have ties and pocket squares and scarves. Should I get some other stuff, too?”

“It’s up to you, but I think just the boxers is plenty. They’re really sexy – the other stuff doesn’t really say “sex,” ya know?”

“True. I just… Oh, hey, Alicia!”

“I’ve got your breakfast, Hon. I made toast and there’s some strawberry preserves and I brought you some grape juice with your oatmeal.”

“Great, thanks!” Sookie handed the computer to Bobbie so Alicia could put her tray in place. We were just looking at this website – you know what size boxers Eric wears, right?”

“Yes, were you going to buy some for him?” Bobbie showed Alicia the laptop.

“Yeah, I want one pair in each color.”

“Oh, my – those are very nice! How many are there?”

“45. I want to give him a big box of them, and it’s a surprise, so don’t tell him.”

“I think he’ll like that very much. Did you want me to order them?”

“Would you? It might be easier by phone, to just tell them we want one of each.”

“Alright, I’ll do this right now. I’ll make sure we’ve got a nice gift box and wrapping paper, too so you can make it look really nice for him.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I want. It’ll be cool, right, this big box of sexy silk undies?”

“Yes, he’ll love it, especially because he knows you like them so much. Let me go do this now, and I’ll ask them to expedite the shipping.”

“Thank you so much, Alicia!” Sookie dug into her breakfast, happy she was going to do something to surprise Eric with something he’d like. “You know, it just occurred to me, I need to do some thinking in the next month or so about a Christmas present for him. I’ll want to do something special – like a piece of jewelry or something to commemorate our first Christmas together.”

“Are you going to decorate and everything?”

“Yeah, of course! I want Alex to have fabulous Christmases, or Yuletides or whatever. Ours were a little spare growing up. Mama and Daddy never had a lot of money and Gran certainly didn’t. We were able to make it with those gas leases my family inherited, but they aren’t worth much. I mean, we always had a nice dinner and a few presents, but I want Alex’s to be really special. I even want to hire somebody to play Santa on Christmas Eve.”

“You know, Yuletide and Christmas are slightly different days. Yule is normally on the 21st or 22nd.”

“Yeah, I know, and I already thought about that. We’re going to celebrate Yule with a big dinner and small gifts, Christmas with big gifts, then we’ll do the Three Kings gifts on January 6th, too.”

“That’s a lot of celebrating!” Bobbie laughed.

“Yeah, they don’t all three need to be huge, but just to mark the days and stretch it out, you know? I love the holidays! People are so much nicer then! Oh, and I want Alex to see all the kiddie Christmas movies – Charlie Brown, and Miracle on 34th st., but the old one not the new one, and Rudolph, of course – it’ll be so much fun. Did you see he found Elmo last night?” Sookie nodded to the doll at the bottom of the bed.

“He found him?” Bobbie asked as she sat down.

“Yeah, he saw him on the shelf and asked Eric for him. He likes Elmo, don’t you, Pookie?”

“Ah WUV ma Ehmo,” he said emphatically, making them all laugh.

“Maybe you should get him a Tickle Me Elmo – you’ve already got a Tickle Me Alex!” Bobbie joked as she jumped around the side table and tickled Alex, making him giggle and squeal.

“Babee god me!” he said to Sookie, still giggling.

“Yeah, Bobbie got you! She’s sneaky!” Sookie kidded him. She finished her breakfast and took him back from Bjorn as Bobbie put her tray on the dresser.

“Hey, do you know what today is, Alex?” Sookie asked him

“Nah,” he shook his head.

“It’s your birthday! You’re two weeks old today!” She hugged and tickled and kissed him. “Happy birthday, Pookie! Alright now, Pookie, you know what time it is?”

“Dantheen!”

“Right – time to dance! Well, shake it up baby, now, shake it up baby, Twist and Shout, twist and shout, come on, come on, come on, come on baby, now, come on, baby, come on and work it on out, work it on out whoooo!” Alex was in heaven. Mommy was smiling at him, singing to him, jiggling and tickling him just like he liked.

Bobbie was cracking up, “do you even remember the Beatles, Sookie?”

“No, but they were always on the radio when I’d lie out in the sun and I just love all that old 60s music about dancing and surfing and summer. Sometimes we dance to “let’s twist again, like we did last summer… let’s twist again, like we did last year,” she was shaking Alex again and he was giggling and drooling. Bjorn and Bobbie were just laughing and enjoying the “floor show,” when Alicia came back in, stopping in the doorway to watch Sookie and Alex play.

Sookie lifted Alex up, head down toward her, and she dropped and kissed him a few times, then when she stopped to rest for a minute he floated back up on his own.

“Alex – you’re only supposed to do that with Daddy!” Sookie wasn’t aware that Alicia had already seen him fly.

“Dadee seepeen!” Alex said, then turned a complete flip in the air, giggling wildly. “Ahm fyeen!”

“You rotten little critter, come back down here!”

“Nah, nah, Mamee, fyeen!”

“Eric Alexander, you come to Mommy right now!” Sookie reached up for him, holding the blankets with one arm but giving Bjorn a quick view of her tush as she tried to catch Alex by the arm or leg, whichever was closer as he tumbled in the air. Alex bobbed up and down, staying just out of Sookie’s reach, then he shocked everyone by landing on the ceiling.

“What the hell?” Bjorn said, as the others were speechless. Alex giggled and crawled on his hands and knees along the ceiling like a spider. He sped along to the corner at almost Vampire speed, then headed down the wall, but went right back up when he thought Sookie was going to reach for him again.

“Alex, you know you’re only supposed to fly with Daddy!” Sookie was trying to be stern, but she wasn’t good at it.

“Nah fyeen, Mamee,” he said as he crawled along the ceiling.

“Don’t get technical – you know you shouldn’t be doing that! You get down here or Daddy will be angry!”

“Dadee WUVS fyeen!”

“Yes, he does, but he knows when to fly and when not to. You can’t just fly like that whenever you feel like it. Daddy won’t want people to know what you can do!”

“Nah, nah, Mamee.”

“ALEX, COME TO ME!” Sookie commanded without thinking and suddenly, Alex was in her arms.

“Oh, my!” Alicia had seen Alex fly but she’d never seen this before. She didn’t know Sookie had that kind of power.

Alex was cracking up as Sookie scolded him. “Now, listen, squirt – when Mommy says stop, you stop! Daddy will be very upset that you didn’t mind me! It’s very important for you to do what Daddy and I tell you! Our lives could depend on it!”

“Oday, Mamee,” Alex giggled and Sookie just knew he didn’t mean it. Eric needed to draw the line with this kid soon and she knew it.

“Alright, now, I’m going to take a shower…”

“Sthowa!”

“You want to take a shower with Mommy?”

“OMBA! Wada!”

“Alright, let’s do that before we get into anything else.” Sookie threw the covers back and carried Alex into the bathroom, while everyone else froze. Alicia, Bjorn and Bobbie were all biting their lips, no one wanting to point out that Sookie had just walked across the room naked.

“I’ll help her with Alex,” Bobbie finally said and walked into the bathroom, trying not to laugh. Alicia continued with putting Sookie and Eric’s clothing away. Bjorn prayed he wouldn’t need to stand up any time soon. Damn, she was HOT!

It never did occur to Sookie that she had flashed everyone. She was too focused on Alex and getting Eric to talk to him. She hoped if they were ever in danger that she’d remember that she could call him to her. The natural tendency was to try to get him to cooperate, and that takes time. She needed to remember that she had the power to control him if need be.

She did manage to lighten up enough to play with Alex some in the water. He was just too cute to stay mad at for very long. Besides, Sookie reasoned, she wasn’t really mad at him, she was afraid for him. She was afraid he’d get hurt if he didn’t learn to do what she and Eric told him.

“Sookie, are you OK?”

“Yeah, Bobbie – why?”

“You’ve hardly spoken since you got in there.”

“I’m just worried about Alex. He’s got to learn to listen to us. I’m pretty sure he’d listen to Eric, but if he’s out with me in the daytime and something goes wrong, he’s got to listen to me.”

“I think he would, though, Sookie. He knows what’s going on. He knows he’s in the room with all of us who love him and take care of him, so he cuts up. If there were an attack or something, he’d stick close to you or Bjorn, I’m sure of it.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah, I do. Think about it – he’s quiet when we’re out in public. He never interrupts important conversations. He’s always attentive when others are around. He knows when it’s OK to cut up and when it’s not.”

“I hope you’re right, Bobbie. I just don’t want him to get hurt, or get someone else hurt. There’s something big going on, and I need to know he’ll do what I tell him.”

Bobbie pulled the curtain to the side for a minute. “Do you know what is going on?”

“No, I don’t, but I do know it’s worse than the FOTS crazies. Why? What do you know?”

“Nothing except I’m pretty sure Bjorn is trying to recruit some old military buddies for something.”

“Really? You think it’s some sort of military group?”

“Yes, but I’m not sure why I think that. It’s just a feeling I have.”

“That makes sense. Whatever it is, Eric’s taking it seriously.”

“That’s good. Hey, you heard about the Newlins, right?”

“Oh, yes. I heard that last night.”

“Goddess or somebody saved Eric a lot of trouble.”

“Yeah, that’s one way to look at it.” Sookie knew that Bobbie didn’t know but she was sure Bjorn did, and she didn’t see any reason to tell Bobbie if he hadn’t. She might rather not know. Sookie almost wished she didn’t know. She didn’t question Eric’s decision, but she did wonder about the timing. She almost thought this was Eric getting rid of a minor annoyance so he could focus on the real problem. If that’s the case, she figured, then the real problem is serious.

Sookie swung Alex in and out of the water, laughing when he made his “haaaa” sound, and deciding to just enjoy this time with him. She picked up a bottle of baby shampoo, and said, “what am I going to do now, Pookie.”

“Wath mah ayr!”

“Right, I’m going to wash your hair.”

Alex closed his eyes, smiling, not only to keep suds out of his eyes, but because he enjoyed the sensation of Sookie gently washing and rinsing his hair. When that was done, Sookie washed him with baby soap. She finished rinsing him off, gave him a big kiss, and asked “are you ready for him, Bobbie?”

“Yep, fluffy towel at the ready,” she laughed.

“Here he comes!” Sookie handed Alex to Bobbie who wrapped him up and dried him, then headed to the nursery for a new diaper. Sookie washed her hair, stepped out and wrapped a towel around herself. She walked over to the bathroom door, and stood in front of the full-length mirror. On a whim, she stared at her reflection for a moment, and it began to shimmer. She blinked and shook her head, but she was sure if she persisted that Freyja would appear. She wasn’t mentally ready for that just now, but she decided that she needed a mirror she could sit in front of to talk to Her.

She thought about it as she combed out her hair. She could bring a chair into the bathroom, but it occurred to her that she’d rather have a vanity table. Then she could put some small tokens on it for Freya and she could do make-up there, too. It might even make it easier on Alicia to help her with hair and make-up. She looked out the door, “is Alicia still here?”

“Right here, dear. I’ve got a little tank dress for you, unless you’d prefer shorts?”

“No, that dress will be fine.” She stepped back so Alicia could come in with the dress and a thong. “Do you think there’s room in the bedroom for a vanity table?”

“That’s funny that you mention it. I was just looking at a portable vanity that I thought might be useful for you because we could take it with us when we travel. It opens into a full vanity table but then folds up into a travel case. Would something like that work for you?”

“Yeah, maybe. Where did you see it?”

“On line, at a cosmetics site called Sephora. I was looking for some other things for you and I happened to see it. I think it would be very nice for you. Once you got used to it, it would be like taking a little bit of home with you and you’d always be comfortable and know where your cosmetics are. Would you like me to pull it up on the laptop for you?”

“Yeah, might as well. It sounds great.” Sookie liked the idea that it could travel with her. It would be like taking an altar with her wherever she went and she and Freyja could consult in the same place most of the time.

Sookie wiggled into the bright pink dress. It was a soft t-shirt-style knit with spaghetti straps and only went to mid-thigh. It wasn’t much bigger than a nightgown, but Sookie liked that because it was really comfy. It would be easy to pull down to feed Alex, too, and she could probably get away with sitting on the floor in it if she stretched it over her knees. Her chest was a little big for this style, but only family was going to see her so she didn’t worry about that. She put on some mascara and lip gloss and went back out to the room, where Alicia had the laptop open.

“This is what I was looking at for you,” Alicia held the laptop up for her.

“Ooh – that’s cool! It looks like something a movie star would use!” It was black with telescoping legs and lights around the mirror. Marilyn Monroe would look right at home sitting in front of it.

“It does have sort of an old Hollywood glamour to it, doesn’t it? It looks like it would hold a good amount of stuff in it, too.”

“Yikes! It’s expensive!”

“Not really, not for what it is.”

“OK, well, could you return it if we don’t like it?”

“Yes, this site is very good about returns.”

“OK, then, order it and we’ll try it out. Is Bobbie still diapering Alex? They’ve been gone a while.”

“I thought I heard them giggling a minute ago. Maybe they’re playing?”

“I’m going to go see. I’ll be taking him down to the den in a few minutes. I thought he’d like to play with his dino.” Sookie headed for the nursery and Alicia packed up some things to take downstairs for her. Bjorn got ready to head downstairs, too, still carrying that big book.

“Oh, that’s nice – he’ll love that.”

Sookie found Bobbie and Alex in front of the toy shelf. Alex was looking at everything with big eyes, pointing and touching things as he noticed them.

“Hey, Pookie, whatcha doin’?” Sookie teased him.

“Woogie, Mamee! Do-eesth!” Alex reached for Sookie and Bobbie handed him over.

“Yeah, you’ve got lots of toys!”

“Ma do-eesth?

“Yeah, your toys!”

“Ware di Ehmo doe?”

“Elmo is in the bedroom. You want to go get him before we go downstairs?”

“Omba! Ah wuv Ehmo!”

“Oh, you do, do you?” Sookie laughed.

“Omba! Tatosth, Mamee.”

“Tatos? You mean potatoes?”

“Eeah, Madwid tatosth.”

“What’s he saying?” Bobbie asked

“I think he wants to ask Margaret for potatoes?”

“Omba, Madwid, tatosth.”

“Let’s go downstairs and see.” They grabbed Elmo and the three of them made their way to the kitchen. Alex got excited as they got there, yelling, “Madwid! Madwid!”

“Who’s that I hear?” Margaret greeted them with a big smile and a tickle for Alex.

He put his little hands on each side of Margaret’s face to make sure she was listening to him. “Madwid! Tatosth?”

“I think he’s asking for potatoes?” Sookie guessed.

“Would you like me to make you some potatoes, Master Alex?”

“OMba, tatosth!”

“Alright, you go play for a bit and I’ll make you some potatoes.”

“Dayoo, Madwid!” Alex was happy as a clam knowing he was going to get what he wanted.

They took him into the den and Bjorn had already pulled Boss out into the middle of the floor. Alex squealed when he saw it and immediately flew out of Sookie’s arms, landing in the middle of the balls, cracking up. Sookie and Bobbie sat on the couch and watched him, laughing and just letting him enjoy himself. Sookie turned the TV on and Alex suddenly stopped and looked at it. He hadn’t been around TV much, and this was the first time he noticed it.

Alex was transfixed for a few minutes, then he crawled out of the ball pit and toward the TV. When he got to the wall, he floated up and looked at the big faces on the 65-inch screen and reached out to touch it. He floated up above it, looked behind it, then floated back down. Bobbie and Sookie were watching to see what he’d do. He floated down and touched the screen again, then flew to Sookie. “Woogie, Mamee?”

“Yeah, that’s the TV. You want to watch a cartoon?”

Alex just blinked at her, not knowing what a cartoon was yet, so Sookie turned to the kiddie channels and found Sponge Bob just coming on one of them. Alex made his happy sound when he heard the singing, and flew back up to the TV. He was fascinated with the bright colors and the music, and he would fly back to Sookie, and point, then he’d reach for Bobbie’s attention and point, then fly back, all the time waving his little arms. He did that three times until Margaret came in with a bowl of mashed potatoes for him.

“Ooh, Alex! Lookie what Margaret’s got for you!”

Alex zipped back and said “tatosth!” and stuck his hand in before they could react. “Alex, hang on. I’ve got a spoon,” Sookie laughed. Margaret hurried back into the kitchen for a paper towel.

“Nah, nah, Mamee, tatosth!” he said as he sucked the buttery potatoes off his hand.

“You need to learn to eat with a spoon, you little Heathen!” Sookie was cracking up. “Here,” she took the wet paper towel Margaret offered and cleaned his hand, then wiped it dry with a dry towel. “Now sit here with me and Bobbie and you can eat potatoes, OK?” She turned his back to her chest so he was sitting on her leg and her arms held the bowl and spoon on either side of him

“Oday, Mamee, ee!” Alex didn’t care about using a spoon or not, as long as the potatoes were going into his mouth. He hummed happily as Sookie shoveled the creamy stuff into his mouth. Between the cartoon and the snack, Alex was a happy boy. When he finished the potatoes, Sookie said, “all gone!” and Alex said, “ap-po?”

“Apples? You want apples?”

“Omba, Mamee.”

“Here, I’ll take his dish and see if there are any apples,” Bobbie took the dish into the kitchen. “Hey, Margaret, are there any of those baby food jars of apples in here?”

“Oh, yes, I’ve got a pantry full of baby food, just in case,” she said happily as she went into the pantry and came back with a little jar of apples.

“Here you go, Alex!” Bobbie came back into the den, twisting the lid off the jar.

Alex waved his arms, “Ap-po!” and eagerly ate the apples as Bobbie spooned them into his mouth while he sat on Sookie’s lap.

“Wow – can he possibly be that hungry?” Sookie asked.

“He sure seems to be. Maybe you need to plan on feeding him some solid food in the mornings along with breast feeding?”

“Yeah, we’ll try that. I’ll tell Alicia to plan on bringing him something every morning. Apples and potatoes – that’s all carbs. Should we give him some protein, too?” Sookie asked.

“As long as he gets some sometime today, I think you’re fine. He already had milk. Are you still hungry, Alex?”

Alex blinked at her.

“Eat more, Alex?”

“Nah, nah, Bosth!”

Sookie and Bobbie cracked up, knowing he wanted to play now. “OK, Pookie, go for it!” Sookie let him go and he sped back to the dino on the floor, sitting in the middle of the ball pit and kicking balls all over the place, but also watching the cartoon.

“Ehmo!” Alex called the doll and it was suddenly in the pit with him, then he crawled out, put Elmo face down on it then made him float up in the air and let him fall into it as he liked to do.

“Uh – did you know he could levitate things like that?” Bobbie asked.

“Nope, never seen him do it before. I swear, Bobbie, it’s like he comes up with something new every day!”

“Yeah, no kidding. Is it just because he’s never been taught to think he couldn’t do it? Maybe you can do that, too?”

“Maybe. Let’s see – DRAGON!” Sookie called up Alex’s purple dragon. “OK, now float!” she concentrated on the dragon and it began to rise up over her lap. It hovered a few inches above, then dropped back onto her legs.

“Looks to me like you just need practice, hon. We need to work your magickal muscles. Hey, see if you can levitate Alex!”

Sookie laughed, but she focused on Alex and pictured him floating and up he went into the air, making his happy sound and turning to look at her.

“Mamee fyeen me!”

“How do you like that, Pookie?” Sookie laughed and then she let him fall on top of Elmo, which tickled him to no end. He was kicking and squealing, “Fyeen, Mamee!”

Sookie did it again and Alex was beside himself giggling. She did it one more time, then laughed, “I’d better stop. I’m going to wear us both out.”

“He enjoys everything so much,” Bobbie laughed. “He’s so intense!”

“Yeah, that’s a Vampire thing, I think. He gets it from Eric.”

Alex crawled out of the ball pit and back toward Sookie. “What’s the matter, Pookie,” she said as she picked him up, “are you too tired to fly?”

“Nah nah,” he said, but it was obvious he was getting tired and he wanted to be cuddled.

“He’s been playing pretty hard since we got down here. It’s almost 2 and a half hours.”

“Wow – have we been in here that long?”

“Yep. He’s already had a full day.”

“Hey, I just realized – where are Amelia and Octavia?”

“They went to your Bon Temps house to get some things.”

“In a thunder storm?”

“It wasn’t storming when they left. I called Amelia and she said they were going to hang out there until the weather cleared then they’d be back. Jerry went with them, and I think they were going to fix lunch and clean out the fridge.”

“OK, that’s probably a good idea,” she laughed, “they haven’t been there much lately. It could be getting pretty hairy.”

“Yeah, and you know how picky Amelia is about things like that.”

“She’s a perfect room mate, that’s for sure!”

Sookie and Bobbie talked quietly as she gently rocked Alex and he was asleep very quickly. Sookie tucked him into the Bouncer and they moved into the kitchen so he could nap.

“Would you girls like a glass of sweet tea?” Margaret asked as they sat at the kitchen table.

“I’d love some!” Sookie said

“So would I,” Bobbie agreed.

“Did you make lunch today, Margaret? I didn’t smell any cooking…” Sookie could eat a little something if it was available, so she was hinting.

“I made huge roast beef sandwiches for everyone. There’s plenty left if you’d like one, Missus.”

“If it’s not too much trouble…”

“No trouble at all, Missus. Bobbie, would you like one, too?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind. Can I help you?”

“No, just relax and chat and they’ll be ready in no time.”

“Bobbie, I always meant to ask you – why aren’t you a vegetarian?”

“I have been at different times, but I become anemic if I don’t eat a little beef now and then. Most people do fine on a vegetarian diet, of course, it just doesn’t work for me. It would be easier to keep my weight down if I could, but I just do more exercises.”

“When do you work out?”

“Late at night, usually, or really early. A lot of times I work out while Bjorn is dealing with things for Eric. Other times I get up with him and work out at the same time.”

“When does Bjorn sleep?”

“He doesn’t sleep much. Maybe 5 or 6 hours at the most, but most of the time, it’s more like 4 hours. He says he doesn’t need as much sleep because he stays in shape, but I never heard of that before.”

“Neither did I. What do they call that when people are always hyper and don’t sleep?”

“Manic?”

“Yeah.”

“He’s not manic, I’m sure of that. He’s pretty steady, emotionally. He can be intense, but never excessively so, and I’ve never seen him lose his temper. He gets angry, of course, but he gets quiet when he’s upset. A manic individual would be flying off the handle or bouncing off the walls at least occasionally.”

“Some people don’t need much sleep, though, right?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of a few rare individuals that didn’t sleep at all. I remember hearing about a girl in college who swam for 2 hours every night instead of sleeping. They say Martha Stewart only sleeps 4 ½ hours every night, but she leans toward manic, in my opinion.”

“I think I tend to sleep a full eight hours.”

“Yeah, or even a little more. It’s good that you do. It’s better for you and Alex both for you to be well-rested.”

“Hey, ladies.” Bjorn came in from the den, leaving his rain poncho outside the door.

“Hey, Bjorn. Anything going on?”

“No, everything is quiet. Do you happen to know if the VCR in the den works?”

“I guess so – there are blank tapes in the cabinet, I think,” Sookie recalled.

“Good, I want to record the announcement tonight.”

“Announcement?” Bobbie asked.

“OH, IS IT TONIGHT?” Sookie was really happy for the Weres if it was what she was thinking.

“Yep, it is. We’re going to have extra guards on here and at all your houses, plus extra at Fangtasia. You never know how the public is going to react to these things.”

“I’m sorry you all have to work. You probably want to celebrate, right?”

“No, not really. I’m not crazy about the whole idea. It will take away part of our advantage.”

“It will be really good for Weres in the military and police force, right?”

“Yeah, it will and it will probably mean that they get more money for their services, too. I just think the element of surprise was always useful.”

“Do you think there will be any uprisings like when the Vampires came out?” Bobbie was a little concerned.

“Well, it’s possible, but I doubt it. We’re very well-integrated in society. Almost everyone will find that they know a Were or Shifter already and we aren’t driven to feed on humans as Vampires are. Not that it doesn’t happen, but our survival isn’t dependent on it.”

“Do you think there will be trouble here?” Sookie knew they’d be a target if people knew there were non-humans at their place.

“I don’t know that anyone knows this is a Vampire residence. As far as I know, the official story is that the place is owned by a wealthy eccentric. I don’t think anyone knows the owner is a Vampire.”

“That’s good,” Sookie liked hearing that.

“Yeah, but we’ll still be on alert. There is one group that knows who we are, and they could take the opportunity to strike and make it look like it was a group of local yahoos.”

“Do you think they will?” Bobbie was worried about all of this. She wondered if that’s why Bjorn hadn’t mentioned it before now.

“No, but we need to be careful, just in case.”

“Isn’t it a perfect opportunity?” Sookie couldn’t see what would stop anyone.

“That’s just it. They’ll expect us to be ready for trouble. They want to strike when we aren’t ready.”

“So how do you defend against that?”

“We stay ready, no matter what and we don’t let our guard down.”

“Is that really possible?” Sookie asked

“As long as we all do our jobs, it is. We’ve got a good team here. Don’t worry about anything, just live your life and we’ll keep you covered, your majesty.”

“Why are you calling me that when we’re at home?”

“Just to remind you that we’re here for a reason, and we take it seriously. You’re very sweet and friendly with us, but I promise you, none of us ever forgets why we’re here. We’re professionals, every one of us. Nobody is getting past us.”

“Good,” Sookie said as Margaret served her and Bobbie their sandwiches.

“Would you like another sandwich, Bjorn?”

“A small one, yes, thanks.”

“Coming right up,” Margaret was always happy to be able to feed the guards, and Bjorn especially, because she knew how important they were to keeping everyone safe. Margaret understood the situation a lot more clearly than anyone realized, maybe even more than Sookie did.

“Have either of you heard from Amelia?” Bjorn asked

“Yeah, she said they were going to stay at Sookie’s until the storm passed, then they’d be on home,” Bobbie reported.

“OK, I won’t worry about them yet. I’ll feel better when the three of them are back here. I want everybody inside these fences by 7. The announcement is at 8. Pam will be sheltering here tonight, too.”

“Oh, cool. It seems like forever since I’ve seen her!” Sookie was always happy to have Pam around. “Is that for safety?”

“Yes, I don’t think her nest is safe enough. She doesn’t have anyone to watch her in the daytime so she’s safer here. The plan is for her to come here after she closes Fangtasia, assuming nothing goes wrong.”

“Are you expecting trouble there?”

“I think it’s more likely there than anywhere else that concerns us. They’ll be ready, though. We expect that there may be some FOTS-types protesting or causing trouble.”

“Does the rule about no protesters apply there, too?”

“Not necessarily. We’ll see how obnoxious they get. We have Were contacts on the police force who will be nearby, just in case. The police know that Fangtasia is a potential target.”

“Do the police know about the announcement?” Bobbie didn’t think anyone but Weres knew about it.

“They’ve been advised that there’s going to be an announcement and that there may be a negative reaction in some parts. There are enough Weres on the force to see that they’re ready, even if they don’t know exactly what they’re preparing for.”

“What if…” Sookie started to ask a question but Bjorn got a call on his phone saying he was needed to help oversee a delivery Margaret was expecting from a local market. He excused himself and went out to the guard shack, then he and one of the other guards headed out front.

“What are you expecting, Margaret?”

“Some produce and some seafood. Catfish alright for dinner tonight, Missus?”

“Yeah, absolutely! Are you going to make hushpuppies, too?”

“Yes, and French fries and coleslaw, too.”

“Awesome!”

“Sookie?” Eric was coming into the kitchen.

“Hey, Sweetie! I guess the rain has you up, huh?”

“Apparently.” Eric bent down to kiss Sookie, his hair falling forward and brushing her cheek. “Where is Alex?”

“Sleeping in the den. He’ll wake up around dinner time.”

“Alright, then, I won’t disturb him, I can wait until he awakes, I suppose.”

“You sound like it’s going to be hard for you,” Sookie teased him.

“Yes, I must confess, I am always anxious to give him a hug and a kiss when I get up. It’s one of the best parts of my day.”

“Aww – that’s so sweet. He loves seeing his Daddy, too. He’ll be especially glad because the thunder had him a little spooked. Bjorn helped with him, though, and he felt safer.”

“Thank you for doing that, Bjorn. I am glad that you are here when I cannot be.”

“No problem. I took him to the window and showed him rain and lightening and told him he was safe and he calmed down and went back to Sookie.”

“Oh, guess what he did today?”

“What?” Eric loved hearing Sookie tell him about Alex’s day.

“We were getting dressed to come down stairs, and he said “Mahdwid tatosth.” He wanted to ask Margaret for potatoes! You should have seen him, he was already yelling for her when we were coming through the living room.”

“Margaret, was he polite?” Eric didn’t want Margaret to feel put upon.

“He was just adorable, and he said ‘thank you’ when I told him I’d make them for him.”

“Alright, good. I want him to be respectful.”

“He was respectful, but he was hungry, too. You should have seen the bowlful he ate, and then asked for apples,” Margaret told him proudly.

“He did?” Eric was amazed that Alex was asking for food that wasn’t in front of him.

“Yes, he did,” Margaret laughed. “With an appetite like that, he’ll grow like weed.”

“Yeah, he’s growing alright. He gets heavier every day!” Sookie laughed, and Eric beamed with pride.

“Mr. Northman, you’re here!” Alicia came into the room.

“Yes, Alicia, did you need me for something?”

“There are some faxes for you and Mrs. Northman in her office and there are three packages addressed to you, sir – I believe they were forwarded from the Las Vegas office.”

“Alright, I’ll attend to them in a bit. Thank you.”

“Eric, you know what today is?” Sookie asked him

“Yes, it is the big announcement for the Weres. We are prepared for this, are we not, Bjorn.”

“Yes, your majesty, everyone and everything is set. Pam will be staying here tonight through tomorrow, too.” Bjorn went to the front door to see to the delivery.

“Good. I’m glad she agreed to do that. I was worried about someone following her home. If anyone follows her here, the guards will handle it.”

“Have you mentioned the chalets to Pam, Eric? She could live here if she wanted to, right?”

“I have offered to let her live here and she is considering it, but she enjoys her independence. I think she’ll stay on occasion, but not permanently. She’ll keep room to enjoy her many playmates.”

“Oh, yeah, that would be kind of weird having a lot of different people around, huh?”

“Yes, and we want to make sure that anyone here is well known or well researched. I can’t have random people roaming in and out around you and Alex.”

“DADEE!”

“He hears you!” Bobbie said and everyone laughed.

Eric was up and into the den in a heartbeat, coming back with Alex snuggled up to he chest, kissing his head. “Look who woke up!” he said affectionately.

Sookie just beamed at them – they were so crazy about each other.

“He’s got a few new skills we discovered today,” Sookie told him.

“Really? What can he do?”

“He flew and landed on the ceiling and crawled across it and down the wall like a spider, then he was levitating his Elmo doll over the ball pit.”

“He made the doll float in the air?” Eric was delighted.

“Yep. I can do it a little bit, too, it turns out, but I need to practice. He just does it.”

Eric was beside himself. He held Alex up in front of him, sitting his bottom on the table and looking him right in the eye. “So you can crawl on the walls and make things float, my boy? Daddy is very proud of you.”

Alex giggled and squealed and kicked and chewed his finger. He loved it when Daddy said those words. He didn’t know what they meant, but he knew it was good because Daddy always smiled when he said it and sent that feeling he always sent before Alex was out in the world. He made a biting motion at Eric and pointed to his gums and mumbled.

“What is wrong, Alex?”

Alex tried to show him his gums, but he didn’t know a word for “hurt.” Eric looked closely and said, “a tooth! Sookie, this is a tooth, yes?”

“Already? Let me see, Sweetie,” she scooted around and looked at Alex’s gums and sure enough, there was a little sliver of a tooth peeking out of the bottom toward the middle. “Yep, that’s a tooth alright. Does is hurt, Alex?”

He made two biting motions at her then rubbed the gum with his finger. As he was doing that, Margaret took a little teething ring out of the freezer.

“Here you go, Master Alex. This will make it feel better.” She gave the little yellow ring to the baby and it went straight in his mouth, of course, but he took it out and looked at it a few times because he never felt anything so cold before.

“Oh, thanks, Margaret! I didn’t know we had one of these.” Sookie was glad Alicia and Margaret were on top of these things.

“There are three of them. Alicia picked them up a while back and we put them in the freezer since he started drooling so much. We knew he’d need them eventually.

“What exactly is this thing?” Eric asked. There were certain baby items he’d never really seen before and didn’t know what they were called.

“It’s a teether. When the teeth are breaking through the gums, it feels good for them to gnaw on something. It’s made to go in the freezer because the cold numbs the pain.

“Well, he seems to like it,” Eric observed as he touched it to see how cold it was.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t been crying if he’s got a tooth that far along. They tend to cry a lot when they’re teething and keep people up all night,” Sookie warned him.

“I don’t think Alex will cry that way. He cries very little.”

“That’s true, but if it hurts, it hurts.”

“Do you think it might affect him less because he’s a Vampire?” Bobbie asked.

“That would be my expectation,” Eric agreed. “He shows more and more Vampire abilities and traits. Crawling on walls and ceilings is distinctly Vampire behavior.”

“It is? That’s cool, because I never heard of such a thing before,” Sookie laughed, “I was a little freaked out when it happened. You need to talk to him, though, Eric, about minding me.”

“What did he fail to do?” Eric wasn’t going to let Alex get in the habit of disrespecting Sookie.

“I told him he was only supposed to fly when Daddy was with him, but he landed on the ceiling and said he wasn’t flying. I tried to reach for him and he avoided me. He just laughs at me when I tell him to do something.”

“I really think he won’t do that outside the house, though,” Bobbie reminded her.

“Do you think it’s only because he’s safe in the house, Bobbie?” Eric valued her opinion in this because she spent so much time with Alex and Sookie.

“Yes, I do. I think if there were real danger, or if they were out somewhere, not around family in their own room, he’d do exactly what she told him to do.”

“You have never taken him anywhere during the day, have you?”

“Only when he was first born and we were in Target in New Orleans, but he slept the whole time. I don’t know what he’d be like now if I took him out somewhere. For all I know, when we take him into a store, he might call everything he sees off the shelves.”

Eric considered that for a minute. “We need to practice that and see what happens. Tonight is not a good night, but maybe tomorrow or the next night we will take a trip to Walmart.”

“Walmart?”

“Yes. We’ll try it first when I can be with you so if he acts up, I can deal with it instantly. If he does well when I am with you, then I will have you take him somewhere during the day.”

“You know, since I’m on vacation and all, I would kind of enjoy going shopping and having lunch out somewhere. Maybe Bobbie and I could go out for a day – with Bjorn, of course.”

“Of course. You have been very isolated lately and I know you are not used to it yet. Let’s try the trip to Walmart, then you girls can have a day of shopping if that works out.”

“Cool. I thought maybe we’d go by Tara’s shop. Bobbie has never met her and I haven’t seen her in ages, and I always love the clothes she carries.”

“Good. Ask her about buying your panties wholesale,” he teased her.

“What?” Bjorn laughed as he came back into the kitchen, directing the guards carrying boxes of groceries.

“He always said he was going to have Tara order thongs for me wholesale because he destroys so many. I swear, I never had to replace clothes like I do since I’ve been around Vampires.” Everyone laughed at that.

“It seems the practical thing to do, my Angel,” Eric was only half kidding.

“Do you really want me to ask her that?”

“Yes, I do. You wear the same type most of the time. Have her buy a large wholesale quantity for you and pay her a fair fee over that.”

“OK, I’ll ask her,” Sookie said, rolling her eyes and shaking her head.

Bjorn thanked the guys for helping and sent them back to their posts.

“You had the guards carry things in?” Eric asked.

“Yes, they tipped the delivery service at the gate and two of them brought the boxes themselves. I don’t want unknowns on the compound without a background check.”

“Good, I’m pleased to hear that. Have we heard from the landscaper?”

“They said they’ll be here tomorrow to consult with Sookie and they’re going to measure off the lots for the chalets so the guys know where to dig for the plumbing Wednesday.”

“Do you know who will be working on that?”

“Yes, Stackhouse and his friend, Hoyt. I told the contractor we’d prefer them to do it because we know them well and they did a good job, so he made arrangements. They’re apparently taking another day off so they can do this.”

“Good. They did do good work and I know Sookie enjoys seeing her brother.”

“The fewer people we have in here, the better, too.”

“Yes, I agree.”

“Dee bee, Dadee!”

“What do you want, Alex?” Eric had no idea what he was saying.

Bobbie and Sookie laughed. “He discovered TV today. You should have seen him flying back and forth, looking behind it, pointing to it. He was absolutely mesmerized,” Sookie laughed.

“He was beside himself watching Sponge Bob,” Bobbie agreed.

“Do you want to watch TV, Alex?” Eric asked him

“Omba, Dadee, dee bee.”

“I suppose we should get out of Margaret’s way so she can fix dinner. Let’s go watch TV, my son.” Eric took Alex into the den and Sookie, Bjorn and Bobbie followed. The television was still on the cartoon channel when Eric turned it on, and Alex made his happy sound when he saw the bright colors. Sookie didn’t think that cartoon was appropriate, but there was an age-appropriate show on PBS. Alex got excited again and flew up to the screen, touching it and looking behind it again, then he flew back to Eric and said “woogie, Dadee!”

“Yes, I see that. Those are strange creatures – what show is this?” He looked at Sookie and Bobbie.

“Teletubbies. Remember when Jerry Falwell thought Tinky Winky was gay?” Sookie laughed.

“Tinky Winky?”

Bjorn was sitting in the recliner cracking up at the idea of Eric learning about Teletubbies.

“Yeah, see the purple one with the triangle on his head and the pink magic purse? His group or whatever was claiming he was gay. People just made fun of them for it.”

“Are they male?”

“They’re sort of genderless as far as I know. Let’s see – the red one is Po, the yellow one is Laa Laa, and the green one is Dipsy.”

“Children do not find them disturbing?” Eric couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“Kids love them! Look at Alex!” Sookie told him. Alex had flown back up to the TV and was floating in front of it, chewing on his teething ring and staring at the screen.

“What are they saying?”

“I’m not sure. The show is Japanese, but they have some English voiceovers. It doesn’t really matter though, because the kids who watch this show are mostly toddlers who can’t really talk yet.”

Just then one of the Teletubbies had a little snippet of live video showing on his tummy screen. Alex made his happy sound again and said “woogie, Dadee!”

“Alex, come sit with Daddy and watch the show, OK? I’m afraid you’re going to hurt your eyes,” Sookie said.

Eric smiled, knowing this wasn’t a problem, but he liked seeing Sookie act motherly. Alex flew back to him and settled on Eric’s lap, still reacting to what was on the screen. Eric was as amazed by Alex’s reaction as Alex was with the show. He loved how big his eyes were and how he’d be surprised by something new that he saw. When the show ended about 15 minutes later, Alex turn to Eric and asked, “Ware di dee bee doe?”

“That show was called Teletubbies and it is over now. A different show will come on now.”

“Dippin chow?”

“Yes, a different show.”

“Alex, honey, that show will be on again tomorrow, OK? When we wake up tomorrow, after we dance and get dressed, we can watch it again, alright?” Sookie hoped he understood.

“Dantheen an chow?”

“Right, we’ll do our dancing then the show will be on again.”

“Oday,” Alex forgot about the show and flew into the ball pit where Elmo was still laying. “Woogie, Dadee, Ehmo!”

“Yes, I see Elmo. Are you having fun with him?”

“Ee-ah, pun. Woogie!” Alex crawled to the side, made Elmo levitate over the pit, then dropped him right in the middle and giggled, “Ehmo ina bahs!”

Eric looked at Sookie, who interpreted: “Elmo is in the balls.”

“Yes, he is. Can you make Elmo fly again?” Eric wanted to see it again.

“Ee-ah,” Alex pointed at Elmo and he floated up in the air again.

“Very good, my son. Can you make Elmo fly here to me?”

“Oday,” Alex pointed at Eric and the doll floated through the air toward the couch.

“That’s excellent, Alex. Daddy is very proud of you. Were you flying today?”

“Ee-ah, Mamee NAH NAH!” Alex was clearly mocking Sookie yelling at him earlier.

Eric knew he should reprimand Alex for making fun of Sookie, but it was too funny. He and Bjorn were cracking up. Bobbie was trying not to. Eric finally said, “Mommy yelled at you for flying?”

“Ea-ah!”

“You know Daddy wants you to do as Mommy says, Alex. When I am sleeping, you do what Mommy tells you to do, OK?”

“Oday.”

“Show me how you flew today.”

Alex stared at him. “Fly, Alex,” he simplified it for him. Alex flew up and turned a couple of flips in the air, giggling the whole time.

“Very good, Alex!”

“Woogie, Dadee!” Alex landed on the ceiling. “Nah fyeen, Dadee,” he laughed as he scurried across the ceiling.

“Alex, Mommy still considers that flying. When she says no flying she means that, too, OK?”

“Oday.”

“Alright, now come to Daddy, son.”

Alex floated down and into Eric’s arms. “Very good, Alex. You fly very well.”

“Ah fyeen dood?”

“Yes, you fly good,” Eric laughed and brought him up for a kiss. He held him up over his head and said, “You fly really good, my boy!”

“Ee-ah,” Alex agreed, cracking up. Alex picked up his teether, and frowned as he looked at it.

“Mamee – nah nah?”

“What’s the matter, Pookie?”

He held up the teether to her and said squeezed it with his fingers and said, “Nah nah.”

Sookie touched it and she realized what he was saying. “It’s not cold anymore. You want a cold one?”

“Gode?”

“Yeah, come with me,” She took him from Eric, but Eric followed her to see what Alex would do.

“Mahdwid!” Alex called her as they went into the kitchen. He held up the teether and said, “nah nah?”

“I think he wants one that’s cold,” Sookie explained.

“They’re right here, Missus,” she showed Sookie where they were stored and took the warm one to clean it and put it back in the freezer. “Is this what you want, Sweetheart?”

“OMba! Dayoo!”

“You’re quite welcome, sir.” Margaret thought he was the sweetest baby she ever saw and not a bit scary, fangs notwithstanding.

“Is that one cold, Alex?”

He held it up to Sookie and she touched it and said, “Cold!”

“Gode,” he repeated, then stuck it in his mouth.

“Amazing,” Eric said, almost to himself.

“Yeah, you can almost see the wheels turning, can’t you?” Sookie laughed.

“Yes, you can. He’s so bright and learns so quickly.”

“Yeah, and remembers everything.”

“He’s the most gifted child I’ve ever seen,” Margaret said, “and one of the most beautiful, too. He looks like an Angel with that white hair and those bright eyes.”

“Thank you, Margaret. I agree.” Eric said, taking Alex from Sookie. Alex held the new teether up to Eric and said, “Gode!”

Eric felt it and said, “Yes, that is cold. Does it feel good in your mouth?”

“Gode dood!”

“Yes, cold is good when your mouth hurts.” He kissed Alex’s forehead and snuggled him as he chewed on the teether. Margaret was setting the table and the others were migrating into the kitchen.

“I hear a car door?” Eric looked up.

“I hope it’s Amelia and Octavia,” Bjorn said, “I want them home before 7.”

The door to the garage opened and there was Octavia. “Yes, good, you are home!” Eric greeted Octavia, who was followed by Amelia. “We were hoping you’d get home soon.”

“Hey, Mister. We’d have been here sooner but we got caught in a storm so we stayed longer at Sookie’s place than we had planned.”

“As soon as the weather seemed to clear, I got us headed back this way. I had to pull twice to the side of the road, though, the rain was so heavy in spots,” Jerry reported.

“You took Sookie’s car, I hope?” Eric knew they were very safe if in that car.

“Yes, your majesty, we did. We didn’t expect to be gone long, so I thought it was best.”

“That’s very good, Jerry, I want all of my family kept safe.”

“Aw, thanks, Eric!” Amelia actually gave Eric a little hug and was surprised he sort of hugged her back.

“Octavia, guess what we’re having for dinner?” Sookie asked, knowing she’d love it.

“I don’t know, but it sure smells good.”

“Catfish!”

“Oh, boy, now that sounds mighty good.”

“Pish?”

“Yeah, Alex, we’re having fish for dinner.”

“Sthama?”

“No, not salmon, this is catfish. You haven’t had this yet.”

“Gapish?”

“Yep, catfish.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Northman?”

“Yes, Alicia?”

“I was mistaken earlier. These three packages are addressed to Alex, not you.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, I just noticed they say Eric A. Northman. That’s Alex, right – you don’t have a middle initial.”

“That’s right. Jerry, have you screened these?”

“No, let me take them out to the garage and check them before you touch them.” Jerry headed out the door with the little packages and the others got settled at the table. Octavia went on upstairs with the things she brought from Sookie’s house.

Margaret brought Eric a warm RM and Sookie a cold one, plus a bottle for Alex. By the time they were settled and Bobbie and Bjorn had glasses of sweet tea, Jerry was back with the open packages. “I opened them, your majesty, since they were for the Prince. I wanted to be very sure they were safe.”

“Thank you, Jerry, I appreciate that,” Eric said, “You are staying for dinner, I hope?”

“Yes. Thank you, your majesty.”

“Ooh, Lookie, Alex, you got presents!” Sookie loved this.

“Pesnan?”

“Yeah, somebody sent you presents. Let’s see what you got!” Sookie opened the largest one and said “Aw – how cute! It’s a little baby’s place setting that says “The Prince Eats!” and “The Prince Drinks!” This is so sweet!” She showed it to Eric then passed it around the table so the others could see.

“Who is that from?” Eric asked, as Sookie opened the card. “”Caroline Andrews.” She says she’s looking forward to interviewing me this fall once school begins?”

“Oh, CAROLINE!” Eric laughed, “She was the young blonde UNLV student who couldn’t take her eyes off of you at your seafood fest at the residence in Las Vegas. You said you’d have lunch with her and let her interview you for her college courses. I’m sure she’s looking forward to that very much,” he teased Sookie.

“Yeah, you would remember that.”

“Wait, what’d we miss?” Amelia asked.

“Eric claimed the girl had a crush on me and told me I could invite her to our room if I wanted to.” Everyone cracked up.

“She DID have a crush on you. I was just trying to be accommodating,” Eric laughed.

“Yeah, I’m sure that would have been a real stretch for you, Eric,” Bjorn laughed and Jerry, who sat at the back of the table next to Amelia, did, too, while all the girls groaned.

“Are you actually going to have lunch with her, Sookie?” Bobbie was intrigued by the whole idea.

“Yeah, I am, because I said I would. She’s specializing in the psychology of human/Vampire relationships.”

“Do you really qualify for that, Sookie?” Amelia didn’t think of Sookie as human.

“Well, I did when we got together, as far as I knew, so, yeah, I think so. I’ll write her a thank you note and tell her I’m looking forward to it.”

“Excellent idea, my Angel.” Eric teased and the guys laughed again.

“Dream on, my husband,” Sookie teased him. “Margaret, can we use this for Alex’s dinner? He’ll want some coleslaw and maybe a couple of soft French fries and we’ll mash up some fish and make sure there are no bones in it?”

“Of course, Missus.”

“Ee pish, Mahdwid.”

“Yes, of course, you’ll eat some fish, Sweetheart! I’ll bring it as soon as it’s ready,” Margaret smiled at him.

“Oday, dayoo,” he smiled and put his thumb in his mouth.

“He’s so precious,” Margaret gushed over him and Eric loved it. “I’ll get his high chair for him.”

“That’s alright, Margaret, I’ll do that,” Bjorn offered, “You’ve got your hands full.”

“Thank you, dear.”

Bjorn brought the chair from the pantry and set it next to Eric, then took the baby from him and put him in place. Alex liked sitting in his high chair because it made him feel like he was the center of attention. All the adults could see him this way, and they always gave him food or at least Cheerios when he was in it. Yep, here comes Eesh with some dee-wee-osth now!

“Here you go, Alex, munch on these until the fish is ready.”

“Dayoo, Eesh!”

“Very good, Alex. You are being very polite. Daddy likes that,” Eric stroked his cheek with the backs of his fingers several times and Alex giggled and bounced his leg as he did when he was happy.

Sookie opened the other two packages, one of which was a thousand dollar savings bond and a golden rattle, and the other a set of pacifiers with ribbons and clips to keep the baby from losing them and a check for 500 dollars.

“More money for him – he’s already loaded,” Sookie laughed as she put the rattle on the tray of Alex’s highchair. He looked it over and enjoyed the sound it made, but he really liked the pacifier she took out of the package of three and was fascinated with the clip she put on his little t-shirt and the ribbon that ran from it to the binky.

“I’m glad we finally got an account set up for him,” Eric commented.

“We did?” Sookie didn’t know about this.

“Yes, a part of his trust is a savings account for gifts like this check. He’ll get more and more presents as the holidays draw near and his birthday will be a spectacular celebration. I’m thinking we’ll hold a ball in his honor in Las Vegas.”

“For a baby?”

“For a Prince, absolutely.”

Margaret brought platters of fish, hush puppies and fries to the table, and a big bowl of coleslaw as a couple of the guards came in to take the dinners she had for them on the kitchen counter back out to the guard houses in front, back and the servant’s quarters. Everybody dug in and Alicia brought over the newly washed and dried dish and spoon Alex got with the food Sookie wanted him to try.

“Thank you, Alicia,” Eric said and he turned Alex’s chair to face him so he could feed him. “Alright, my boy, let’s try some of this catfish.” Alicia had already mashed it up so he picked some up with the spoon and held it so Alex could take a bite. Alex hummed happily.

“Do you like the fish, Sweetie? Is it good fish?” Sookie was watching as Eric fed him.

“Omba, dood pish!” Alex said and made everyone laugh which pleased him to no end.

Alex picked up a French fry from the plate and looked at it, then put it in his mouth and said “tatosth!”

“Yeah, French fries are potatoes!” Sookie was pleased to see him make a connection. “That’s called a French fry. Can you say that?”

“Pen pwy”

“OK, I guess that’s close enough,” Sookie laughed.

Alex finished that fry and grabbed another, humming as he ate it.

“Well, we know he’s a kid, Sookie, he likes fries.” Bobbie joked.

Eric looked at Sookie, not understanding the joke and Sookie explained, “most kids love French fries. That’s a bit of his human heritage, I guess,” Sookie laughed.

“Well, no one is perfect,” Eric joked, “but my son is very close, even if he does eat food.”

“I have a theory about that,” Bobbie said.

“What is that, Bobbie?” Eric wanted to hear this.

“I think he needs food to grow – that’s what will enable him to get bigger. He may not continue to eat when he’s grown.”

“Interesting. I can see that happening. His need for blood may eclipse his need for food as he matures. Why do you think this is the case?”

“Well, Dr. Ludwig says Fae don’t come into their full powers until they hit puberty. I’m thinking that because he needs to grow, and there’s Fae magick involved, that’s the way they resolved the problem of a Vampire baby that needs to change for a while.”

“That’s logical. I have no doubt he is Vampire, but as you say, Vampires don’t normally change.”

“It’s a fascinating concept. It’s going to be cool seeing how he develops. I mean, he does drink blood yet he is definitely growing.”

“You know,” Sookie interjected, “I should call Claudine sometime and ask her how this all works. She would probably know, wouldn’t she?”

“You’ve been wanting to go out for lunch, Sookie. Why don’t you have her meet you somewhere?” Bobbie suggested.

“You’ll go, too, though, right? You know her twin brother, Claude.”

“Oh, you mean that Claudine? I never put that together, but yeah, I guess I do. Sure, I’ll go if you want.”

“Amelia, you and Octavia will go, right? Where is Octavia, by the way?”

“She went to take her purse upstairs and some things she brought from your house, then she never came back down.”

“Miss Octavia decided to lie down a bit, and I’m going to send a plate up to her later,” Margaret said as she added more fish to the platter on the table.

“Oh, OK, thanks, Margaret. She must be tired,” Sookie reasoned.

“Yeah, she helped me clean today. I told her she didn’t have to, but she insisted,” Amelia told her.

“OK. So the announcement is at 8, right? Anything going on after that?” Sookie asked

“I need to work, so I’d prefer you go to sleep early and I’ll wake you later on, my Angel.”

“OK, I guess. You don’t think I should stay awake in case there’s trouble?”

“I don’t think there will be trouble, certainly none that we can’t handle. You and Alex can both usually sleep at 9, so do that and we’ll have our bath later on.”

“Bobbie, what are you going to do?”

“After the announcement I have some personal things I need to take care of. I need to call and check on my mom, and I need to pay some bills.”

“OK, and Amelia?”

“I thought I’d hang out with Jerry for a bit after he finishes his shift. He wants to stay around, just in case.”

“That’s good. Octavia is lying down, Eric will be working, Bjorn will be focused on security, Margaret will go to bed, Alicia will turn in. Yep. I guess sleep is my best option since I’ll be all alone. If I can’t sleep, I’ll read.”

“You do have a lot of reading to catch up on. Maybe you should call Claudine and see if she wants to meet us Thursday or Friday for lunch?” Bobbie suggested

“Yeah, I should. I haven’t seen her since the day I told Eric about the baby.”

“One of the best days of my long life, as it turns out.” Eric smiled, feeding Alex a spoonful of coleslaw.

Alex picked up a French fry and held it up to Eric, “ee, Dadee, dood!”

“He says “eat, Daddy, they’re good!”” Sookie laughed and translated.

“Yes, I got that much, OK, my son,” Eric opened his mouth and let Alex feed him a French fry. “Hm, that is tasty, isn’t it? You want some more of those?”

“Mo pen pwy, Dadee,” Alex nodded deliberately and a little awkwardly.

“Sookie, when did he begin making gestures like that?” Eric asked

“I don’t know – that’s new, I think. I don’t remember him doing it before.”

“You’re a very smart boy, my son!” Eric tickled him as Margaret put more of the softer fries she picked out for him in his dish.

“Dayoo, Mahdwid!”

“You’re very welcome, Alex.”

“He gets that from Sookie,” Bjorn observed.

“What is that?” Eric wanted to know

“That bouncy “I know I’m adorable” attitude,” Bjorn laughed.

“I do not have an attitude like that!”

“Yes, you do,” Amelia agreed and everyone at the table cracked up as Sookie feigned resentment.

“Ah!”

“Come on, Sookie, he takes after you that way and you know it!” Bjorn teased her.

“He likes to show off, just like his Daddy,” Sookie protested.

“He likes to be adorable, just like his Mommy,” Eric laughed. “Hopefully, he’ll grow out of that and take pride in being a bad ass as I do.”

Everybody wailed at Eric making fun of himself. Alex didn’t know why they were laughing but he laughed, too.

“You think Daddy is funny, Alex?” Eric teased him,

“Pundy Dadee!” Alex laughed. Eric pulled him out of the high chair and hugged him and kissed him. “Are you done eating, my boy?”

“Ap-po, Dadee.”

“Apples,” Sookie interpreted.

“Coming right up, Mr. Northman,” Margaret said and was off like a shot to the pantry, and right back with another jar of apples.

“That’s twice today he’s asked for apples,” Sookie observed. “He must really like them!”

“It’s probably the sweetest thing he’s ever tasted.” Bobbie said, “He had cheesecake once, and watermelon, but he’s never had any other fruit or any candy at all. Apples is the only sweet food he knows the word for, I think.”

“Yeah, he did really like that cheesecake, and he ate quite a bit of watermelon when you were feeding it to him.”

“That’s pretty normal for a kid. Some of the books suggest introducing a kid to vegetables before they have anything sweet, because they’ll want something sweet all the time once they’ve had it. I’m not sure I agree with that, but it’s something to think about or be aware of,” Bobbie explained.

Eric was feeding the apples to Alex as he stood on his leg and had his arm around Eric’s neck. “Look what he is doing, Sookie.” Eric said softly but proudly.

‘Is he standing up by himself?” Sookie couldn’t believe it.

“He’s leaning on me a bit, but it’s mostly him. He’s getting very strong.”

“He’s growing, too. We should weigh him and measure him, since today is his two week birthday.”

“It is?” Eric hadn’t noticed the date.

“Yep, he was born two weeks ago today,” Sookie confirmed. “So much has happened, if feels like a year ago.”

“Have you done any work to figure out why time is so compressed around you, Sookie?” Amelia had talked to her about this before.

“No, but I was thinking about trying to talk to Freyja about it. It has to be something She’s doing.”

“Why do you say that?” Eric asked

“It’s the only thing that makes sense. She’s the one that has a specific idea about our futures or destinies or whatever. It just makes sense that She’s behind it and She has a reason for it and I want to know what it is.”

“You may ask Her, Sookie, but She may choose not to answer,” Amelia wanted her to be prepared for that.

“I think She will answer. She wants you to know what She knows, Sookie,” Eric assured her.

“Eric, are you sure about that?”

“Yes. I don’t know why I am sure of it, but I am. Freyja will be honest with you of all people, Sookie. She would not lie to…” he stopped and realized that Margaret, Alicia and Jerry didn’t know about Sookie’s divine origins, or whatever.

“Me, you mean?” Sookie was helping him out, knowing why he stopped short.

“Yes, you.”

“I’m going to try to talk to Her in the mirror before I go to sleep, I really need some answers about this whole situation.”

“Excellent idea, my Angel. You should try often so you develop your skills.”

“He’s right, Sookie, you need to hone your skills and that’s a great way to do it,” Amelia agreed.

“Yep, it’s simple and low stress,” Bobbie added. “Get good at it and you might be able to see her in a compact in an emergency.”

“Is that possible?”

“Theoretically, yeah,” Amelia confirmed. “She just said a mirror, right? My guess is any mirror or reflective surface will do. It’s an easy way to make Herself very accessible to you. All these gifts, Sookie – there’s a reason you have them. There will be a time when you need them, so practice all you can. You should work out those muscles just like you’re going to work out your abs. They’ll keep you alive, I’m sure of it.”

“Excuse me, but it’s after 7. We should get ready to watch the announcement,” Bjorn reminded everyone.

“Anybody want dessert?” Margaret asked as she began to clear dishes.

“I do!” Sookie said.

“Me, too,” Amelia agreed. Everyone else passed so they migrated into the den while Sookie and Amelia got big slices of German chocolate cake and big glasses of whole, organic milk. The den was full so Sookie sat on Eric’s lap and Amelia took the chair by the doors to the dining room and bathroom. Bobbie was perched on the arm of the recliner with Bjorn. Eric insisted that Margaret and Alicia join them before 8 and they sat on the couch with Eric and Sookie. Jerry stood in the doorway of the dining room. Alex was in the ball pit snuggling Elmo and looking at the TV occasionally.

The news conference began a little before 8, with reporters speculating on what the big announcement would be, since they had only been told it would, in a way, affect the course of history. The last time they heard those words, the world had learned about Vampires, and they kept reminding people of that. A couple of them joked that maybe there were Werewolves now, too, but none of them meant it seriously.

A man and a woman, named Mary and John Knox, were introduced and the man began to speak.

“Welcome, members of the press and those of you watching at home. We come tonight to share the news that there is more in the world than humans and Vampires. We are here among you, and mean no one any harm. Show them, Mary.”

Mary was wearing a lovely, loose purple satin caftan and she stepped to the side of the podium. She shimmered for a minute and suddenly there was a wolf where the woman had stood. John helped the creature out of the dress, and then returned to the microphone.

“Mary is a Were, or what most of you know as a Werewolf. Those of you in public places may have someone there with you who has transformed. Do not be alarmed. Some of us are known as Shifters and they can become any animal they choose. Others are specific animals, like were-panthers, or were-bears. We’ve lived among you for centuries, and odds are that everyone watching knows one of us. We are your neighbors, your friends, and often your protectors as policemen or soldiers. We do not prey on humans, so you have nothing to fear from us.

Our only wish is to live among you as we always have, as normal members of society who run wild on the night of the full moon, and at other times of our choosing, but live otherwise ordinary lives. Thank you.”

John petted the wolf, then slipped the caftan over its head and stood back. Before everyone’s eyes, the woman stood before them once more, adjusting the caftan as she filled it. Everyone was stunned.

The news people hesitated for a few minutes, as shocked as everyone else, then they began to wave their hands to ask questions. John put his arm around Mary as she stood beside him, and agreed to take a few questions, though no one asked anything he hadn’t already answered in his statement. He and Mary politely reinforced the idea that they had always been here, that they were not a danger to humans, that most could shift at will but had to shift on the full moon.

The presentation wrapped up after about 20 minutes, but the news people were droning on and on, repeating the information they’d been given. The feed switched to everyone’s local news teams, and the Louisiana crew was taking callers’ reactions to the news. About 60 per cent of the calls were positive, saying they’d accepted the Vampires, and this was far less scary than that.

Another 25 per cent were a little worried and mostly wanted to know how to tell if their neighbor, boss, or their kids’ teacher was a werewolf. It was obviously going to take a while for them to use the terms Were and Shifter, but it was early in the process. 5 per cent of the callers were actual Weres and Shifters who were mostly happy to be out, though one or two thought it was a mistake and that they’d be marginalized or be targets for discrimination.

The remaining 10 per cent were off the hook hysterics, claiming this was the end of the world and Satan was at work and these foul beasts were plotting to take over the government and enslave humans. They showed snippets of tape of what was happening on other stations and the hard-core religious channels were hyping up the fear so they could get more donations from the sheeple who watched them.

Prayer vigils were announced, either to show acceptance or to pray for their destruction, and two-thirds of the schools in the country were closed as the night went on so their administrators could debate how to handle this. Vampires were not an issue in most schools, but Weres and Shifters walked in daylight, so this was a whole new kettle of fish for the educational system.

It was all pretty predictable until they announced a shooting outside of Fangtasia.

“Shit.” Eric said, “Have everyone on alert. We do nothing until we hear from Pam or her second – who is helping her since Vincent is in New Orleans?”

“One of the guys from Alcide Herveux’s pack was supposed to be there with some of their group to provide extra security. Henderson was going to be reporting to Pam,” Jerry explained. “He’ll call me once they know what’s happening, though Pam will probably call you first. We made sure there was backup tonight.”

“Alright, keep it on the local news. If they switch to national, go to another local station and let me know if there’s any change. I’m going out to the Front Office. Bjorn, you and Jerry stay with my family, please.”

“Yes, your majesty,” they spoke in unison.

The news turned out to be just some random redneck driving by Fangtasia as they heard the announcement and he apparently shot into the air. No one was hurt, or even threatened, though later in the night one small group showed up trying to exorcise the club. They didn’t stay long because they approached the front door sprinkling holy water and Pam snarled at them. They dropped their crosses and ran like hell when she showed her fangs. Pam just considered that an amusing anecdote rather than real trouble. She talked about it for months.

The only incident at the compound was a couple of souped-up cars driven by local teenagers drove up to the gate on a dare and then sped off when they saw the guards and what they thought were guard dogs. Actually, some of the guards decided to work transformed to be prepared for anything, but nothing really happened.

By 9 pm Alex wanted “Mamee ee” so Sookie decided to take him to bed and feed him then they’d both sleep a while. Once Eric got the ‘all clear’ from Pam, he went to work, which entailed going over a lot of plans and figures over the phone with Bill.

Vincent called him at 12:30 to talk about new recruits he had interviewed, and Eric had to brief Sandy on the new plans for the chain of movie theatres and the elite Vampire brothels they were setting up in 13 major cities. Sandy mentioned that she was hearing rumblings from the California territories regarding the theatre chain, and Eric told her he’d check it out and asked her to confirm the Bellagio ballroom for Alex’s first birthday bash, which had to be reserved now. Then Eric called one of his best spies and offered him a lush month in California if he’d check out the rumors Sandy had related to him.

He called another contact that no one knew about and asked him to monitor the reaction from organized crime on the East Coast as the brothels were nearing completion. He expected trouble from that end, but he knew how to handle thugs – he’d been doing it for a millennium. A second call went to an equally clandestine contact in Miami, but he had a solid footing with the Vampire king in that territory and they had reached an understanding. That particular king wasn’t going to take shit from local drug dealers, so Eric expected any objections to be quelled quickly and quietly.

The Vampire community had been pretty good about seeing that their own organizations didn’t get polluted by human thugs and that human “organizations” didn’t get Vampire assistance. Justice was swift and cruel in cases where those lines were crossed, and Eric planned to keep that policy strictly enforced. If Felipe had followed it, Eric would be dead now. He made the mistake of sending a human into his bedroom after the wedding and Sookie was able to take him out all by herself and practically in her sleep. Luckily, he sent a sap to do a Supe’s job. Eric would make no such mistake.

If Eric needed to send enforcers into the areas with brothels, he’d send the best and leave no doubt as to the mistake it would be to interfere in his businesses. These weren’t going to be the skanky white slave cathouses such as the mob dealt in. These were going to be elite clubs for old, powerful, rich, Vampires from all over the world. No force or terrorism would be required to staff these clubs. People would line up to work there and they’d only hire the very best – the healthiest, the most polished, the most beautiful young men and women in every major city were already vying for positions in Sang Riche, memberships were being sold at 1 million dollars per year and only those with the right references were invited to apply.

Eric’s name was only associated with the clubs by innuendo, but that sold it to the Vampire crème de la crème. He didn’t want a direct connection to him because he hoped to keep these off Sookie’s radar. Her Christian upbringing would send her into fits if she understood what the clubs were about, and she wasn’t far enough along yet to accept the line that this was only business. Eric only needed 100 members to make the whole chain profitable, and he already had three times that sold. He would actually take Sookie with him to some of the club openings, but he’d make sure she never picked up on what the real business was. He’d just tell her that these were nightclubs he had invested in and keep her off the floors with the playrooms.

Sookie changed Alex’s diaper and put him on the bed while she took her clothes off. She got comfortable with the pink pillow and got him into position. Alex fed like he was starving, though he had eaten a lot of food that day. She figured that was because he was growing, and he was definitely doing just that. She figured he looked more like 2 months old than two weeks, and maybe more than that. She sang to him and talked to him while he fed, and she could tell by the twinkle in his eyes how much he loved this time with her. He had a way of looking at her that made her feel so much love it overwhelmed her sometimes. Margaret was right – he was a beautiful baby.

“Are you reading my thoughts, Pookie? Do you know Mommy thinks you’re beautiful? You are – you’re the most beautiful baby I ever saw. You’re beautiful just like your Daddy and you’ve got his sparkling blue eyes, just like I hoped you would. And you’re so smart and funny. I’ll bet you break a lot of hearts when you grow up because women will line up for a cute blonde boy with a good sense of humor. You’ve got Daddy’s genes on one side and sort of your Uncle Jason’s genes on the other, so you’ve got “chick magnet” in your DNA! I can see it now! All the little girls will follow you around and you’ll give them a twinkle from those blue eyes and they’ll just melt!”

Alex only understood bits of what she was saying, but he knew it meant she loved him and thought he was pretty and that was all he cared about. Mommy’s smiles were all his and all was right with the world. He held his hand up to her face and she kissed it and held it and played with his fingers. He knew what “sopf” was and that was how Mommy’s face felt when he touched it. Nothing in his whole world was as sopf as Mommy’s face and breasts. He knew Daddy liked her sopf parts, too, because Daddy was really smart.

Alex fed for a long time, then finally yawned and Sookie knew he’d be asleep in minutes. She stroked his little cheek and hummed Brahm’s Lullaby until Alex was completely out, then she put him in the co-sleeper, called up Elmo and tucked them in together under a light blue baby blanket.

Sookie knew Eric had work going on so she decided to lie back and see if she could call up Freyja. It occurred to her she could do it in a mirror if Eric put a mirror up on the ceiling. They hadn’t talked about that in a long time, and there were so many people around all the time, she figured that wasn’t going to happen now.

She tried to relax, from her toes, up her legs, through her lower body, her back, her ribcage and breasts, her arms and shoulders, her neck, her face and her scalp. She felt light and tingly, then she felt like she was floating. She never knew if she was or wasn’t, but it sure felt like she was floating in the air with nothing touching her. She began to feel that white energy that covered the whole compound and it contracted and expanded with every breath she took.

“Open your eyes, My Angel,” Freyja spoke to Sookie gently.

Sookie opened her eyes slowly and the two of them were face to face in the field of white energy.

“Where are we?”

“Everywhere and nowhere, but we are together, My Angel.”

“Why is everything around the baby happening so fast?”

“You are three years late, Sookie.”

“What do you mean?”

“I believed when you beheld Eric at Fangtasia, and felt his power, you would be together. When that failed, I sent him to you sick and in need. You yielded to him, but still you were not together. I arranged your blood bonding, yet still you resisted. When I could wait no longer for Eric Alexander to be born, we arranged it though you had yet to accept him completely. We are pleased and relieved that you are home at last, Darling Girl.”

“You mean I was supposed to just hook up with Eric the first time I saw him and get pregnant?”

“Yes, you were, but you know that. You knew it then.”

“Yeah, I did, but it scared me.”

“You must do what you know to be right, in spite of your fears. You are not like other people, Sookie. Follow your natural inclinations.”

“So why is it so important for Alex to grow up so fast – what are you preparing him for?”

“War.”

Ow! Sookie bumped her head a little on the headboard as she landed on the mattress – at least that was what she figured must have happened to make her hit her head. What the hell just happened? Did Freyja drop her? And, damned if she didn’t make another cryptic statement and disappear!

‘If I’m supposed to be Freyja, why do I keep pissing myself off?’ she thought as she lay looking at the ceiling. Alex. She rolled over and looked at Alex. ‘He was supposed to be born three years ago. That’s why he’s a year or more ahead in his development. They need him to a certain point by a certain date. Time is compressed because I fought against my natural instinct to be with Eric.’

“But how could I have known?” she said quietly as she rested her hand on Alex’s tummy. Sookie felt a profound sense of sadness envelop her. She didn’t have long to examine it, though, because Eric was in the room before she really fell into it.

“Sookie, are you alright? I felt sadness in you.”

“Yeah, I just… I just talked to Freyja. It’s all my fault.”

“What is your fault?”

“We were supposed to have Alex 3 years ago. It was supposed to happen when I first met you, but I fought it so long that now everything is happening so fast.” It wouldn’t take much for Sookie to become hysterical right now.

“Sookie, do not blame yourself for any of this. Everything happens when it must happen. Freyja told me Herself that everything happens when it must happen and not a second before. If Alex is here now, it’s because it must be so. These things happen for a reason.”

“Yeah, he must be here now because I was so damned stubborn that they couldn’t wait any longer!”

He took her face in his hands and kissed her forehead, then looked her in the eye. “Sookie, there is a reason for it all, I promise you. Don’t expend energy regretting the past. Look forward and know there is a reason.”

“I asked her what they were preparing Alex for and She said “war” then She disappeared.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You know what?”

“Alex will lead a war of some sort. I knew this when I knew him to be mine. Do not fear, Sookie – he will be ready when the time comes. I will see to that.”

“But he’s just a baby and it’s like his whole life is mapped out for him…”

“It is his destiny. He has an advantage most people do not – he knows why he was born and what he must do. That is a blessing, Sookie, he will never have to wonder why he is on this earth. He is a deliverer. This is why I am his father – he needs the skills only I can give him, and you are his mother so he’ll learn to use his magick well and for the good. Don’t you see, Sookie, we balance each other out perfectly. A father like me without a strong mother like you would make him too hard. A mother like you without a father like me might make him too soft to do what he must. Together we make him more complete, more perfect for leading or protecting his people. There is a reason for it all, Sookie, trust the Goddess.”

“I know it’s still early and you have work to do, but can you please come to bed for a while?”

“Early? Sookie, I worked for hours. You’ve been up here for at least 5 hours.”

“No, I fed Alex then just relaxed and saw Freya and then opened my eyes– that couldn’t even fill one hour. I’ll bet it’s not even 10:30 yet…”

“Sookie, it is after 2 am.”

“What? How can that be? I just came up here!”

“You must have slept, Sweetheart, and you don’t remember it.”

“I haven’t been asleep. I’ve been awake this whole time.”

“I think you need to talk to Octavia about this. You are missing time.”

“Isn’t that what happens in alien abductions?”

“Sookie, this is not a laughing matter…”

“Who the fuck is laughing?”

“Sookie!”

“Well, damn, Eric, what would you do if you suddenly lost 4 hours of your life and didn’t know what happened to it? Was Alex here alone? Was he in danger? Where was I – was I here?”

“Sookie, try to breathe normally, you are hyperventilating.”

“You know, Eric, sometimes I feel like I have all the power in the world and then other times I feel like I’m a leaf being blown around by the wind.”

“Remember last night?”

“Yeah, I fucked you unconscious,” she laughed, “I’ll never forget that, but that’s what I mean. I felt so powerful last night and tonight I feel like I’m a puppet or something.”

“Remember last night and forget about losing an hour or two. You were in the presence of the Goddess. She wouldn’t endanger Alex, Sookie, you know that.”

“Yeah, that’s true…”

“And this ability to speak to Her is new. You just need practice to learn how long it takes and how to control it. Every skill has a learning curve, and these are big skills.”

“Yeah, I never thought about it that way.”

He kissed her lips softly and asked “bath or straight to bed?”

“Straight to bed, please?”

“Of course, my Angel.” He kissed her again quickly and took his clothes off as she watched adoringly. Times like this she was so happy she was with him. No matter how overwhelmed she felt, he could talk her through it and get her grounded again.

She crawled under the covers and he slipped in after her, taking her in his arms.

As soon as she was snuggled up against him, she started crying.

“Sookie, why are you weeping?”

“I don’t know – I just… I just…”

“Shhhh, Darling Girl, cry it out and I’ll hold you. You need a release.”

“Why did you just call me that?”

“What?”

“Darling Girl?”

“I don’t know – I just said it, I didn’t think about it.”

“She called me that.”

“Who – Freyja?”

“Yes, and I thought it was strange because She never called me that before. I don’t think you have, either.”

“I’m sure I’ve called you that at some point, but it is interesting that Freyja and I would use the same words at nearly the same time.”

“You did that with My Angel, too.”

“Yes, we did. Freyja and I were always very in sync when we were together, so it is not surprising. Look how you and I can read each others minds now, and Alex’s.”

“Yeah, he reads me like a book. I can tell when I’m feeding him sometimes, he knows exactly what I’m thinking. He sort of thinks in pictures, and I can see what he sees sometimes, too.”

“Yes, I’ve done that a few times, now that you mention it.”

“You have? What did you see?”

“Your breasts, mostly. He thinks your breasts and your face…”

“…are softer than anything, even Elmo,” she laughed.

“Exactly, and he knows I am fond of your soft parts, too, so I must be really smart.”

The two of them were laughing now. “That’s so funny, Eric – he’s so smart!”

“And happy. He loves his life. He is constantly discovering new tastes and sensations and he loves them all.”

“Yes, he does, especially “tatosth” and “ap-po!””

“Don’t forget “pish,” Eric laughed. “and he was fascinated by the cold teething ring Margaret gave him.”

“Yeah, he was. I don’t think he ever felt anything that cold before and then when it stopped being cold, he wanted more cold. It was so cute!”

“And the sight of that big white diaper wiggling it’s way along the ceiling – I thought I would burst out laughing,” Eric recalled fondly. “I tried not to because I was afraid it would startle him. My favorite thing is when he does something that only Vampires do.”

“Vamps are the only ones that can crawl along the ceiling that way?”

“I have never encountered another creature with that ability, except a spider or a bat, of course. I suppose a god could do it, but I know Weres don’t and Fae don’t. A Shifter could in certain forms, but it’s not an ability normally associated with them.”

“Do they ever show Vamps doing that in the movies?”

“Oh, yes, there were Vampires in Bram Stoker’s Dracula that did so and one of the Vampires in Underworld did it. I’m sure there were others, too. I believe it’s one of the reasons we are associated with bats. There are many Vampiric animals and insects, but bats have both the taste for blood and that ability. Some lizards and frogs can do it, but they are not mammals as humans and bats are.”

“Humans would find it creepy, I think.”

“Meaning you find it creepy?”

“When I first saw it, it did creep me out a little, because I’ve never seen such a thing, but I’m cool with it now. Can you do it?”

“I can fly so I don’t need to. It’s a Vampire ability, but it’s not one of my Vampire abilities.”

“He can do something you can’t do?”

“He can do several things I can’t do. He gets things from you, too, like the magick and telepathy.”

“I can’t crawl on the ceiling, though.”

“Have you ever tried?”

“Huh? Of course not!”

“How do you know you can’t do it, then?”

“Humans can’t…”

“You are not human, Sweetheart.” He brushed her hair away from her face and smoothed it as he spoke. “You must remember that. Making the mental shift from human to Supe could save your life.”

“Because I might need to do something and my thinking like a human might keep me from even trying it, right?”

“Right. You have internalized limitations that do not apply to you. It’s important for you to try many things and see if you can do them. In an emergency, even if you have not practiced something, if a need arises and your instinct says do it, follow that instinct.”

“Freyja told me something similar. She said I must do what I know is right, even if I’m afraid, and that I’m not like other people so I should follow my natural inclinations.”

“Good. Repeat that to yourself, Sookie and learn to do without thinking.”

“Without thinking? That’s a bit extreme, isn’t it?”

“Not when you’re in danger. Even humans have instincts that kick in when they are in danger. For you, those survival instincts are vital.”

“When are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“All this new security and soldiers and talk of war. I know we’re at war and I know it’s bigger than the FOTS. You got rid of the Newlins like they were nothing but an annoyance, so I know you’ve got really big fish to fry now.”

“Have you ever heard of New Centurion, Ltd.?”

“Yeah, actually, I have. They’ve had to testify before Congress about defense contracts or something like that. They’re using them overseas, right?”

“Right. It’s a mercenary organization with soldiers for hire. They normally work for the highest bidder. The man who owns the company is a radical Christian…”

“And he hates Vampires.”

“Yes.”

“So these hard core Christian soldiers might be after us?”

“There’s no might be, Sookie. I killed two of them who were trying to establish surveillance here.”

“You’re sure that’s who they were?”

“Yes, and they were the cars that followed us from New Orleans.”

“That’s why you’re encouraging me so much with the magick now?”

“Yes. These are very skilled humans. It may take Supernatural powers to protect you from them. We need every weapon and defense we can muster. There is nothing more dangerous than a human who thinks they have “god” on their side. I’ve watched them for centuries, Sookie, and the carnage they’ve inflicted on the world is beyond imagining. These aren’t run of the mill zealots like the FOTS. These are trained, professional forces. I’m going to have to be every inch a Vampire king to ward them off.”

“So be prepared for it to get ugly?”

“Extremely.”

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