LATE Chapter 087

Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!

 

Eric had to zip back upstairs because he realized he forgot to give Sookie the cup of Ambrosia. He had been so preoccupied by the idea that she was changing that he completely forgot what the change required. He wrote himself a note to put on the lid of his cache in case he forgot again. The doctor had emphasized that they were not to skip a dose. Sookie drank it in her sleep and didn’t remember him coming back at all the next day.

At 8:30 Alicia came in with today’s laundry and two bottles of RM, planning to feed Alex a couple of times and let Sookie sleep as late as possible, but when she got to the bedroom Alex wasn’t in his co-sleeper. She looked in the bed with Sookie, but she was alone and sound asleep. Knowing Alex was becoming very active, Alicia looked all around the room, top to bottom, under the bed, in the closet and in the bathroom, but still no Alex. She went into the nursery, then she even looked in Mr. Northman’s office – still no Alex. She was trying not to panic, sure that Bobbie or maybe Amelia or Octavia had him, so she went downstairs to check with all of them.

Bobbie and Amelia were sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea and talking about the upcoming return to New Orleans.

“Have either of you seen Alex?” Alicia asked anxiously

“No – isn’t he upstairs with Sookie?” Bobbie said with surprise

“No, and I can’t find him. I searched the entire third floor.”

“I’ll check with Bjorn,” Bobbie jumped up and went out back.

“I’ll go see if Octavia has seen him,” Amelia said, heading upstairs.

Alicia looked in the den, finding no one there, then went into the pantry to see if Margaret had seen him.

Bjorn came rushing in as Amelia and Octavia came out of the elevator and through the pantry, Octavia still in her robe.

“Nobody has seen him?” Bjorn asked, his voice deep and serious, in full “security mode.”

“No, apparently not,” Amelia said

“Sookie could call him…” Octavia reminded them.

“It’s early to wake her. Let’s sweep through the house before we do that. He has to be here – no one has been near the house. I’ve got double the men on this shift because of the construction and the house is being watched very carefully. It can’t be a kidnapping – he’s just wandering around the house somewhere,” Bjorn stated, pretty sure of what he was saying, but also trying to calm the women.

Jerry came in then and they talked about where to start. As they finished one floor, they wanted to leave someone there in case he showed up after they were done. Alex could teleport from room to room so it would be easy for him to avoid them if that’s what he wanted to do. Octavia would take the 2nd floor, Amelia the third, Bobbie the fourth. Alicia would take the basement and Margaret would watch the first floor. The women dispersed, then Jerry and Bjorn headed for the basement, quickly sweeping through it, then the first floor.

Octavia went up to the second floor and looked in every room, then she put a couple of pop tarts in the toaster and sat down in the little kitchen, figuring if he came flying through, she was most likely to see him from there. She wasn’t very worried because she knew Sookie could get him back instantly.

Amelia went up to the third floor and looked through all the rooms again. Sookie hadn’t stirred, and Alex was still not in his crib. Bobbie had taken the stairs so it took her a minute to reach the fourth floor. She checked in the meditation room, the sauna, her room, then headed for the big room. She looked around and didn’t see anything, but she thought she heard giggling.

“Alex? Where are you?”

More giggling. Bobbie could hear Jerry and Bjorn coming up to the second floor, so she called down the stairs.

“Bjorn?”

“Find him, Bobbie?”

“Maybe. I think I can hear him giggling up here, but I can’t see him.”

“Hang on!” Bjorn and Jerry ran up the steps to the 4th floor, which Jerry had never seen before.

“Wow!”

“Yeah, it’s nice up here, isn’t it? Bobbie, where’d you hear him?”

“In the gym.”

“OK, stay here near the stairs. C’mon, Jerry.” The two men rushed into the room and looked all around. There wasn’t a lot in this room to hide behind, but the ceiling had little cubbyholes at the end of each rafter.

“Alex?” Bjorn called for him. Giggles.

“Alex, want to go swimming in the pool?” Bjorn knew that would get him.

“EEAH!”

“Come here, buddy, let’s get ready to swim!”

It wasn’t hard to spot the big white diaper as it wiggled out from one of the cubbies where the wall met the ceiling and scrambled across the roof between the rafters.

“I’ll go tell everybody we found him.” Jerry headed for the stairs.

“Hey, Buddy, whatcha doing up there?” Bjorn was trying not to let Alex know he was upset.

“Nah fyeen!”

“Alex, you know Mommy counts that as flying. Now come down here.”

“Ah wyg fyeen, Borhd.”

“Yeah, I know you do, but you need to do that when Mommy or Daddy can be with you. We need to know where you are. Come eat and we’ll go swimming.”

Alex did a few loop-de-loops in the air and teased Bjorn a few times, staying just out of his reach, then he got distracted looking in the big mirror.

“Alex, Daddy will be angry if he knows you didn’t do as you were told.”

“Dadee seepeen.”

“Daddy will wake up tonight and then he will be angry. Now come here,” Bjorn was being firm with him now.

“Oday!” Alex landed in Bjorn’s arms, extremely pleased with himself that he had teased Bjorn.

Bjorn held onto him for dear life as he took him down to Sookie’s room. “You scared Alicia, Alex, and you had the whole house worried. You need to stay in bed in the mornings until somebody feeds you, understand? You stay in bed until you eat.”

“Mamee seepeen!”

“Yes, Mommy’s asleep, but Alicia brought you a bottle of blood and you weren’t here. You wait for Mommy, Alicia or Bobbie before you get out of bed, OK?”

“Oday.”

“Well, I see we found our little Vampire!” Alicia said as she and Octavia, now dressed, came into the room. “He was in the gym?”

“Up in the rafters, just like a bat!” Bjorn could laugh about it now, but this was not a pleasant development.

“It might be time to break out those Faerie crosses Sookie has stored away,” Octavia suggested as she sat down in the chair opposite Bjorn, who hadn’t let go of the baby yet.

“Yeah, I’d say so – either that or start looking for him in the gym first thing. I think he likes it up there because of the swords and there’s lots of room to fly around. He likes that big mirror up there, too, and the room smells of Eric,” Bjorn explained.

“I’ve never been up there,” Octavia explained.

“I’ve only been up there a couple of times,” Alicia told them as she handed Bjorn a bottle of RM. “I’ve never seen the sword collection. There’s an upstairs maid that usually does the third and fourth floors.”

“Yeah, I’ve run into her a few times since I moved in,” Bjorn recalled, “I’m surprised she’s still working here. She seems out of place.”

“Mr. Northman talked about changing that arrangement, but hasn’t made a decision yet. It’s possible he’ll put Carrie in charge of these floors and give her a raise and more hours. She’s been very loyal and doesn’t seem to be put off by the unique circumstances. Mrs. Chin was fine when it was just Eric, or even Eric and Sookie alone, but she’s been nervous ever since the guards were hired.”

‘Yeah, she seems a little skittish around us,” Bjorn agreed.

“She said something a while ago about retiring, so I think Mr. Northman is waiting for her to do that, then he’ll just not hire a replacement. I’m pretty sure he’s already talked to Carrie about taking the position – that’s why she and Lena were hired to clean the gym the other day. He wanted her to get an idea of what was involved.”

“Carrie’s a nice girl – she did good work in the downstairs room,” Octavia recalled.

“Yes, and Lena said she’s willing to take more hours, too. I think she liked the fact that Mr. Northman pays top dollar. I gather she doesn’t make much at her day job.”

“I’d say not. There aren’t many places that would pay as well as Eric does,” Octavia agreed.

Alex didn’t want to sit still with Bjorn, who was trying to give him a bottle. “Ayvbee me baddow!”

“You want Octavia to give you your bottle?” Bjorn was trying to be sure he understood Alex.

“EEah, Ayvbee!”

“Are you up to it, Octavia?”

“Sure, pass him on over. Come here, little Vampire!” Bjorn got up and helped Octavia get settled with Alex, who took the bottle enthusiastically once he was happy.

“Does it taste better if Octavia gives it to you, Alex?” Alicia teased him.

“Daysth dood, Ayvbee!”

“I think that’s a yes,” Bjorn quipped. “You know, I left my book on the kitchen table. I’ll be right back.”

“OK, we’ll be here.” Alicia assured him.

Bjorn went down to the kitchen for the big book he had been carrying with him. He hoped no one had looked at it. He opened it to be sure the gun was still in the hollowed out space inside it, and still loaded. It didn’t appear anyone had touched it, so he closed it back up and took it back upstairs with him.

Alex was finishing his little bottle and yawning when Bjorn got back upstairs, so he set the book on the table and took him from Octavia. He cuddled Alex on his shoulder a few minutes, which Alex liked, even though he didn’t have long hair to play with like Daddy, and in no time, Alex was asleep. Bjorn tucked him into the co-sleeper and sat back down.

“Either of you got any idea what Sookie did with those Faerie crosses?” Bjorn didn’t want to forget about this.

“I don’t know what they are,” Alicia said.

“I know she found a little plastic bowl in the kitchen to hold them in salt, but that was the night she got them. I haven’t seen any sign of them since,” Octavia said, leaning back with her arms crossed.

“A plastic bowl from the kitchen? Where did I see that?” Alicia considered for a minute as she put Sookie’s clothing in the dresser. “Bjorn, look in her bottom drawer there.”

Bjorn pulled a little red margarine bowl with salt and the odd little stones in it out of Sookie’s nightstand.

“Alright, she’s only supposed to use one at a time and only when it’s really necessary. She needs a leather bag to put it in,” Octavia said as she got up. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got one in my room that will work, so I’ll be right back.”

As Octavia went downstairs, Alicia asked Bjorn to carry a big black case in from the hallway. “Put it in the corner there next to where Octavia was sitting, please?”

“Sure,” he put it down, “what is this thing?”

“It’s Sookie’s new vanity table. It folds up to travel.”

“Oh, OK…”

“You could go ahead and set it up for me if you wanted to, hint, hint,” she laughed.

“OK, no problem.” Bjorn busied himself with opening the case and figuring out how the telescoping legs worked. Octavia came back with a little red leather bag, and slipped around Bjorn, sitting where he would normally sit. While he wrestled with the vanity, she opened the butter bowl and took out one of the cross shaped crystals. Shaking the salt off of it, she put it into the leather bag and tied a knot in the top so the baby wouldn’t get into it. When she was done, she put the bowl of salt back in Sookie’s night stand and laid the little bag on the side table.

“Now, we only use this when no one is in the room with them.” Octavia explained to Bjorn and Alicia. “If something happens and they’re going to be alone, tie this to the bottom of the crib right here.”

“What will it do?” Alicia hadn’t been there when these were given to Sookie.

“It dampens his ability to fly temporarily. The thing is, if it’s overused, the effect can become long term and we don’t want that. It can affect Sookie, too. It shouldn’t hurt anything over here, though, so we’ll keep it here so when any of us leaves the two of them alone, we can hang it on the crib and he’ll stay put.”

“I’ll ask Eric to put it on the crib when he leaves them in the mornings. I can’t take many days like this,” Bjorn laughed.

“I know I certainly can’t. I can’t tell you how frightened I was when I realized he wasn’t here,” Alicia shuddered.

“What’s everybody talking about?” Sookie mumbled.

“You’ve got lots of time to sleep, dear. We’ll talk about it when you get up.” Alicia told her.

Sookie raised her head, “wait – what happened? I know you guys are trying not to worry me!”

The other three exchanged looks, wondering who would tell her first.

“Alex wasn’t in his bed when I came up to feed him earlier. It was a little tense around here for a bit, but we found him and he’s fine.”

Sookie sat up now, alarmed, “where was he?”

“He was up in the gym, Sookie, it only took a minute for us to find him,” Bjorn assured her.

“I put one of those Faerie crosses in this pouch here,” Octavia showed it to her. “We’ll ask Daddy to put this on the end of his little crib there in the mornings until someone gets up here to watch him, alright?”

“Yeah, I guess we’ll have to if he’s going to do things like that. What was he doing up there?” Sookie was near panic.

“Flying around, being a kid. He hid from Bobbie when she went up there but she could hear him giggle, then I went up and asked him if he wanted to go swimming and he came out.”

“Out of where? Where is there to hide in the gym?” Sookie knew there was only some weight equipment up there.

“The rafters, over at the sides of the room,” Bjorn explained.

“Ewww!” Sookie was aghast. “There could be spiders or anything else up there! Is he clean? Did you look him over?”

“We didn’t really get a chance…” Bjorn said cautiously.

Sookie took the sleeping baby from the co-sleeper and looked him over. “I guess he looks OK. He’s got a little dust on his knees and little streak on his diaper, but he needs to be changed, anyway. Has he been fed?”

Everybody knew Sookie was in Mommy mode because she was scared so she’d look for every little problem. They all exchanged looks knowing they needed to let her work through it. It wasn’t unreasonable for her to be scared, of course, but the crisis had passed.

“Octavia just gave him a bottle, then I held him as he went to sleep. He’s only been down about 5 minutes,” Bjorn told her.

“OK, Alicia, throw me a gown from the drawer there, OK?”

“I’ll change him for you, if you like…”

“That’s OK, I want to do it myself, OK? I just want to make sure he’s OK,” Sookie was hugging Alex tightly, still looking him over.

Alicia threw Sookie her favorite pink gown and Sookie just put it on where she was because Bjorn was working with his back to her. She picked Alex up and backed off the bed on Eric’s side and took him into the nursery. The others looked at each other wondering if they should do anything, and Alicia finally said, “let me see if she needs anything.”

Sookie had Alex completely stripped, looking him over good, when Alicia came in. “Anything I can do to help, dear?”

“No, I know I’m over-reacting a little, I just need to see for myself that he’s OK.”

“He scared all of us, Hon, don’t beat yourself up. We’ve got those little stones or whatever they are and Octavia seems to think they’ll keep him from flying off when we aren’t watching you two. If you want, I can start earlier – it’s only about two and a half hours between Mr. Northman leaving and my giving him his first bottle. I can just start when he leaves in the morning.”

“No, that’s not necessary. Like you said, we’ve got those rocks, or whatever, and he’ll be OK for just a couple of hours. Besides, you all will know where to look next time. I think he likes the gym because he associates it with Eric.” Sookie took a baby wipe and was washing Alex all over, just in case, because his hands and knees were a little dusty.

“I’m sure you’re right. It’s also a big space and he likes to fly around. If you think about it, he’s relatively safe up there as long as he doesn’t touch the swords.”

“Shit! I forgot about the swords! Bjorn!”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“What does Alex do when he sees the swords up there? He won’t touch them will he?”

“No, Sookie, when Eric and I were up there with him he knew to stop short of touching them. He looked at them, but he wasn’t close to them, even as excited as he was. He didn’t pay any attention to them this morning that I know of – it was more about flying loops in the air and he was staring at the big mirror.”

“The mirror…” Sookie said to herself. Was Alex looking for Aubie? “Alicia, do babies like to look at their own reflections?”

“Yes, they do. Remember that little mirror on Alex’s play seat, how much fun he had with that when you showed him that he could see himself?”

“Yeah, I do. OK, yeah, that’s all it is. He just woke up early and wanted to play and he knew he could fly really high up there.”

“Right. It’s a little boy’s dream, you know, being able to do the things he can do.”

“Yeah, that’s true. I just don’t want him to get hurt,” Sookie said as she put a fresh diaper on Alex. She didn’t bother with any other clothes because they’d be taking a shower in a bit anyway. She picked him up and hugged him close and kissed him, but he was still sleeping soundly. Sookie laughed, “this kid can sleep through anything.”

They went back into the bedroom, Sookie feeling a bit better now that she knew he didn’t have any bites or scratches. She walked across the bed on her knees then settled in her spot, holding Alex on her lap, not quite ready to let him go.

“Hey, Alicia, this might sound crazy, but do we have any caviar?” Sookie asked completely out of the blue.

“Actually, yes, we got a shipment yesterday so you can have some any time. You want that for breakfast?”

“Yeah, I kind of have a craving for it.”

“Want some salmon with it? They’re often served together, though usually with toast points instead of bagels and crème fraiche instead of cream cheese.”

“I think that’s what we had in Las Vegas – crème whatever. I really liked that. Hey, where’s Bobbie today?”

“She’s taking the day off – she has something personal she has to do. Something about her mom, but I really didn’t understand what she was talking about,” Bjorn explained.

“Oh, yeah – she said her mom hasn’t been feeling well. She told me she might even need to go see her,” Sookie remembered. “I hope everything is OK.”

“Whatever it was, Amelia was helping her with part of it. She’ll probably be up when she gets Bobbie squared away,” Octavia reported.

“Good.”

“Alright,” Alicia said as she closed the closet, “I’m going to grab the laundry in the bathroom, and I’ll bring your breakfast back in a bit.”

“Thanks, Alicia!” Sookie was smoothing Alex’s hair and stroking his cheek, still a bit agitated, though she could feel in the bond that he was perfectly content. “Do you think it would help if we keep the door in here closed?” She looked at Octavia.

“No, because he can teleport. Your best bet is the Faerie crosses.”

“I just hope they don’t have any lasting effect.”

“I don’t think they will. I think Ludwig was just making sure you took them seriously and didn’t over-use them.”

“I hope not. I hate that he has to be restrained in any way, but it’s for his own good, right?”

“Right,” Bjorn said, arranging the vanity table so it was kitty-cornered in the room between the side table and the bathroom wall. That way there was plenty of room to open Sookie’s jewelry box. “This time he just went to the gym – next time he could go to the pool.”

“Oh, my Goddess! I can’t believe this is already a problem!” Sookie was feeling overwhelmed again.

“Sookie, get a grip,” Octavia was speaking softly but firmly, “he’s got extra strengths as well as extra powers. He’s not vulnerable to the kind of injuries other kids are. Even if he did head for the pool, he’d probably be fine.”

“Probably, but not definitely. We don’t know for sure, and I don’t want to find out.”

“That’s understandable, but he’s going to stretch his powers until he learns to temper his use of them. I’m not even sure he can understand that you might not want him to right now,” Octavia reminded her.

“He understands, alright, he laughs at me when I get upset over it.”

“He understands that you’re upset, not necessarily why you’re upset,” Octavia thought Sookie attributed too much ability to Alex at this early stage. He was advanced, but probably not as advanced as he would need to be to deliberately be trying to freak people out. He was just doing what came naturally and taking delight in the reactions he was getting.

“Yeah, maybe. He just gets this wicked twinkle in his eye when he knows he’s being bad that is SO much like Eric that it’s hard for me to believe he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing.”

“When did he start doing it?” Octavia asked

“The day he learned to roll over. He was so pleased with himself, you wouldn’t believe it.”

“Ah, Mamee!” Alex was awake and reaching up to pat Sookie’s face, which always made her smile.

“Hi, Pookie. I hear you went flying this morning?”

“Eeah, fyeen eye-er and eye-er.”

“You’re not supposed to do that without Daddy, Alex!”

“Dadee seepeen.”

“Right, so you wait until Daddy wakes up and he’ll take you flying. You don’t leave this room by yourself, you understand me?”

Alex just blinked at her.

“I know you know what I’m saying, Alex.”

“Nah nah, Mamee.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Nah nah,” Alex giggled.

“See what I mean? He laughs at me.”

“Ee, Mamee!”

“He just ate less than half an hour ago,” Bjorn told her.

“Nah nah, Bhord, EE!”

“Relax, Alex,” Sookie told him as she put him in position to feed. He extended his fangs immediately and bit down hard, surprising Sookie. “Ouch! Ease up, Alex.”

“Did he?” Octavia asked.

“Yeah, he did,” Sookie assured her.

“He’s eating a lot,” Octavia observed.

“Yeah, and he’s putting on weight like crazy. If he keeps growing at this rate, he and you know who won’t look so much alike anymore.”

“They’re identical now?”

“Right down to the sharp little fangs, except I think you-know is warm and Alex is cold. It’s hard to tell because his room is always so warm when I’m there.”

“Fae don’t like winter, unless they’re born to it like mountain sprites or snow devils.”

“Snow devils?”

“Little snow Fairies – nothing sinister about them, except they love the cold and like to play tricks. They’re a type of brownie,” Octavia explained. “You can see them whirling around in the snow sometimes.”

“Were they on the list Claudine gave me?”

“She was only hitting the high points.”

“I can’t believe there are so many!”

“Think of how many different races and cultures of humans there are and have been,” Octavia pointed out, “it’s the same thing, but Fae live a lot longer so their groups don’t die out as quickly as human cultures do.”

“Are there ever different cultures within other groups, like Weres or Vampires?”

“Well, Weres and Shifters are clannish, so they divide up more as families and different large families might take on different characteristics or practices. Vamps have a sort of aristocracy, but they aren’t strictly divided except for official offices like Sheriffs and royals.”

“I met some European royals at the Sheriff’s Ball,” Sookie recalled, “and they were obviously high class, like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Really?” Octavia and Bjorn spoke at once.

“Yeah, imagine the slickest, most refined humans you’ve ever seen and then multiply it by a hundred. I couldn’t believe they’d even speak to me,” Sookie laughed.

“Did they make you feel uncomfortable?” Octavia was really curious about this since Sookie had never mentioned it.

“No, actually, they were very kind. They were all excited about the baby and they all invited us to visit them. The Queen of… Austria, I think?… invited us to bring Alex when he learned to walk. I think she wants to have him running through the halls of her castle or whatever.”

“Is her name Giselle? The one they call Mama?” Octavia asked.

“Yes, that’s her. Isn’t that weird I know two people named Giselle?”

Bjorn laughed, “that is kind of strange. Except for that model, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the name before.”

Octavia just laughed and nodded. She vaguely knew of the model from TV commercials but she had certainly heard of the Vampire Queen Giselle. She was nearly as old as Eric and her money was even older. There were rumors she was connected to the House of Borgia before Rodrigo became Pope Alexander VI in the late 1400’s, but she knew Sookie wouldn’t know who the Borgias were so she’d save that conversation for another time.

“Tatosth, Mamee.”

“Are you still hungry, Alex?”

“EEAh! Undwy!”

“OK, Sweetie, hang on…” Sookie reached for the monitor and pressed the button, “Alicia?”

“Yes, Mrs. Northman?”

“Are you bringing something for Alex, too? He says he’s still hungry, though he’s had blood and milk both.”

“Yes, Margaret is making him some breakfast. Is he asking for anything specific?”

“Potatoes,”

“Tatosths, Eesh!”

Alicia laughed, “Alright, Baby E, I’ll be there in a few minutes!”

“Thanks!” Sookie laughed, too and scooted down a little, putting Alex up on her tummy. “OK, Boy-a-mine, what time is it?”

“DANTHEEN!”

“Come on, baby! Let’s do the Twist! Come on, Baaah-beh, let’s do the Twist, take me by the little hand, and go like this! Yeah, twist, baby twist!” Sookie sang and Alex cracked up as he always did. Octavia hadn’t seen them do this before and she thought it was funny Sookie would sing such an old song to the baby. She wondered if Sookie ever really heard of Chubby Checker, but she also knew it didn’t matter what she sang because Alex was obviously in heaven. Glancing to the side, she noticed Bjorn was enjoying himself, too. That was interesting, but she wasn’t sure why.

“Bjorn, what time is it?” Octavia couldn’t quite make out the clock on Eric’s nightstand from where she was.

“It’s going on eleven…”

“OK, I’ve got a phone call I need to make and then I’ve got some stuff I want to finish before lunch. I’ll see you all downstairs,” she explained as she walked toward the door.

“OK, thanks, Octavia!” Sookie said for nothing in particular but she liked Octavia being around when there was a problem with Alex.

As Octavia went down the stairs, Alex floated up over the bed. “Ahm fyeen, Mamee!”

“Yeah, yeah, I see ya!” Sookie teased him. “You only fly with Mommy or Daddy from now on, right? You can fly in here in the mornings and at night you can fly with Daddy and that’s it.”

Alex turned over and over in the air, pretty much ignoring Sookie and just enjoying his time in the air. He was scampering across the ceiling when Alicia brought in the breakfast tray. “Ah, Eesh!”

“Hi, Baby E. Are you going to come down and eat breakfast?”

“Ee!” Alex flew down straight to Bjorn because he was used to him doing the morning feeding of solid food.

“Hey, Buddy. Let’s see what we’ve got this morning,” Bjorn was happy he’d be still for a bit and let Sookie relax and eat, too. “Say, ‘what have I got, Alicia'”

“Wodava dod, Eesha!” Alex giggled, deliberately being cute.

“You’ve got a yummy breakfast of mashed potatoes, gravy, shredded beef and pureed green beans.”

“That sounds more like dinner than breakfast!” Sookie laughed.

“Not a lot of breakfast foods go with mashed potatoes,” she laughed, “it’s sort of a deconstructed Salisbury steak with beans on the side.”

Bjorn gave Alex a bite and he hummed loudly. “dat dwavby?”

“Yeah, that’s gravy.”

“Ah wyg dwavby!”

“Yeah, gravy is good on potatoes.”

“Eeah, dood!” Alex held his mouth open wide for another bite and everybody laughed out how cute he was. “Mamee?” he asked with his mouth full.

“Whatcha want, Pookie?”

“Sthimmeen?” he was making a mess trying to eat and talk at the same time.

“You want to go swimming?” Sookie thought that was a fine idea.

“Eeah! Wondoo do sthimmeen.”

“OK, eat all your breakfast and we’ll go down to the pool.”

“ODAY!” Alex accepted another bite of beef happily. “Bhord ina poo?”

“Not today, Alex, I have to work.” He was scraping the little food gently around Alex’s mouth, trying to get all the food in there. Alex was a sloppy eater, like any baby his age. “Maybe later tonight when Daddy is up. There are lots of strangers on the property today. We’re only going downstairs because I have lots of extra men working.”

Alex didn’t know what Bjorn was saying, but he watched his mouth carefully, trying to learn more words. Alex wanted all the words he could get.

Sookie was humming as she ate her caviar. The tray Alicia brought had little bowls of garnishes – shallots, chopped egg, capers – a generous bowl of crème fraiche, some soft butter, and lovely pieces of smoked salmon cut to fit on the little “toast points,” which were little rounds of French bread toasted with butter. “Mmmm. Want some caviar, Bjorn?”

“No, thanks, that’s not a big favorite with me.”

“It sure is with me. I love this stuff.”

“Ee, Mamee!” Alex reached toward Sookie, pointing at her plate.

“You’ve got food right there, Alex!” Sookie was amazed.

“Ah gahn. Ee!”

“All gone? He ate all that already?”

“Yep, he did,” Bjorn tried to hold on to Alex, but he was too fast. Before he or Sookie could react he was on the bed with a handful of fish eggs, giggling his little head off.

“Alex!”

“DOOD, Mamee! Dat?”

“Alex, say “what is that?”” Bjorn coached him.

“Wadiz dat?”

“It’s caviar. I can’t believe you like caviar!”

“Who likes caviar?” Alicia came back in

“Alex!” Sookie and Bjorn both exclaimed.

“Oh, dear! Well, I’ll make sure we’ve got plenty of the salmon roe. It’s pretty cheap. We’ll save the better stuff for mommy, but he’ll still get a taste when you have it.”

Alex was leaning on Sookie with one hand and looking at the mix of tiny black and big translucent red berries on his hand. “Eh, Mamee!” Alex held his hand out to her, offering her some.

“That’s OK, Sweetie, you can eat it now,” Sookie teased him and he shoved his hand in his mouth, sucking and licking, then he yelped.

“Aeehh!”

“Oops! What happened, Sweetie,” Sookie was alarmed again.

Alex held his hand up and she could see puncture marks that were rapidly healing.

“Ouch! You bit yourself!”

Alex looked at his hand then stuck fingers from both hands in his mouth. He felt his bottom gums, and he felt his extended fangs for a second, then made a little snarling sound and retracted them. Sookie, Alicia and Bjorn sat there watching Alex figure out how his fangs worked, and how it felt when he bit his own fingers. It was a fascinating process to watch, and they were barely breathing. It was so intense to see the wheels turning in Alex’s head, and nobody wanted to interrupt him or distract him. After a few minutes, he started looking at his belly button, which was still a little shriveled remnant of the umbilical, and everyone laughed with him.

Alicia went to the nursery for a box of wipes. “I think we’d better start keeping a box of these in here now that he’s getting bolder with his food,” she laughed.

“Yeah, he’s a mess, aren’t you, Pookie? Yeah, you’re a messy boy! Messy boy!” Sookie hugged him and nuzzled his neck and made animal sounds, sending Alex into a fit of giggles. Alicia handed her a wipe and she cleaned Alex up, then he reminded her, “ina poo, Mamee!”

“OK, Alicia, can you get his plastic pants while I get my suit on?”

“Yep, which suit do you want?”

“There are men working outside, right?”

“Right…”

“Something that won’t give Eric a heart attack, please?” Sookie laughed.

Alicia laughed, “How about a one-piece just for today?”

“Actually, do I have one with more coverage lower, you know?”

“Hmm – there’s this new white one that is kind of old-fashioned – the waist comes up higher and the bottom has a flap over the front, not quite a skirt, and it’s got a very pretty halter. It’s very “old Hollywood.”

“OK, that sounds good. I know he doesn’t like skimpy bottoms with other men around.”

“You can’t blame him for that, Sookie…” Bjorn defended Eric.

“No, I don’t blame him, exactly, I’m just aware that he feels that way. I wouldn’t even think twice about wearing a regular bikini if I didn’t know it bothered him.”

“I think it’s sweet that he cares about things like that. It shows that he values and respects your relationship,’ Alicia said.

“Are you sure you aren’t just saying that because he’s paying you to?”

“No, I’m not. It’s really just another way to take care of you.”

“Huh – I never thought of it that way. That does make it kind of sweet.”

Bjorn shook his head and laughed to himself. He knew it was a purely possessive thing on Eric’s part, but if thinking of it this way made Sookie more likely to do as Eric wanted, so much the better.

Alicia threw Sookie the suit and took the baby into the nursery while Bjorn went to stand outside the door, holding his book as he waited. Sookie wiggled into the bikini, not thrilled to be so covered-up, but knowing Eric would be pleased if she was still in it when he arose for the evening. She had to admit, it did look really cute on her. She thought she’d leave her hair down because it went better with the feel of the suit than a ponytail did. Finally she zipped into the bathroom to run some waterproof kohl around the inside of her eyes. She was really enjoying the way that looked these days and considering this was her night to see Aubie, she wanted to feel Witchy.

Bjorn could barely hang onto Alex as they walked through the house. He couldn’t wait to get into the water. It was a gorgeous bright day and Sookie threw her cover off and dropped her bag as soon as she hit the concrete, then ran and jumped in the pool.

“Come to Mommy, Pookie!” She laughed and Alex flew from Bjorn’s arms straight to her. Bjorn was surprised she let him fly in the middle of the day with construction going on outside, but then Sookie didn’t necessarily make sense all the time. She forgot about propriety when she was really having fun, and this was her idea of fun – sun, water, baby and even Bjorn because she loved their talks while she floated. Nobody else had come out of the house yet, so it was kind of like when Bjorn first started.

As soon as she had a hold of Alex, she went “Whoo!” and dunked him, making him crack up. She noticed a stack of his pool toys on the cement beside the pool and she picked up a little red plastic starfish and threw it a few feet away. As she hoped, it floated there and she said, “Alex, see the red toy? Go get it!”

Alex hesitated, not sure what she meant.

“Bring the red toy to Mommy!”

Alex was off like a shot, paddling at Vampire speed to the toy and grabbing it, then coming back more slowly because he had it in his hand and wasn’t sure how to hang onto it and swim at the same time. He managed, though, smiling and laughing as Sookie scooped him up.

“Wow – did you see that, Bjorn?” Sookie was tickled that Alex did it so well on his first try.

“Yeah, he swims like a fish!” Bjorn was really proud of the little guy.

“Hey, speaking of which, are you doing anything tonight?” Sookie was swinging Alex in circles through the water.

“No, why?”

“I’ve got something I want to show you after all the workers go home.”

“You can’t show me now?”

“Nope, it has to be at night. Maybe we’ll all swim together like we did before. Hey, throw me a mattress, please?”

“Does Eric know whatever this is?” Bjorn pulled her favorite pink air mattress off the rack and threw it into the water in front of them.

“Yeah, of course, but you need to know, too, but I want to show you and there can’t be humans around.”

“OK…” Bjorn figured it was some new ability she had, but the curiosity was really going to eat at him. Damn, she looked sexy in that new suit.

“I’ll be going… you know… tonight and we can all swim after if that’s OK – you don’t have to if you don’t want to, of course.”

“I want to – I want to see what you’re up to.”

“You won’t believe it until you see it – it’s so cool!”

“You’re busting to tell me, so why don’t you just say it.”

“Nope, I want to see your face.”

“Nothing you do will surprise me that much, Sookie.”

“Want to bet?”

“Not with you, Hon – I know I’d lose,” he laughed.

“Hey, Bjorn?” Jerry called out to him as he walked from the construction of the two houses up toward the pool.

“Yeah, Jer?”

“What should I do with this?” he was holding something black and furry cradled in his arm and petting it with his other hand.

“Hey, what’s that?” Sookie asked, excited because she was sure what it was.

“It’s a kitten. He wondered onto the property and we’re afraid he’ll get hurt. I thought the baby might want to see him. If you want we’ll take him to the pound.”

“OOH, lookie, Alex! A kitty kat!” Sookie held Alex forward so he could pet the little thing as Jerry held it.

Alex was beside himself – it was like a do-ee that moved! He stroked it with his little hand and said “sopf, Mamee!”

“Yeah, he’s soft. He’s a sweet baby, isn’t he?”

“Beebee?”

“Yeah, he’s a little baby cat. Baby cats are called kittens.”

“Giddnens”

“Yeah, kitten.”

“Ma giddnen?”

“Your kitten? Um –I guess we’d have to ask Daddy about that.”

“As’ Dadee?”

“Yeah, we’ll see what Dadee says when he wakes up.”

“How does Eric feel about cats?” Bjorn asked her. He was sitting forward with this elbows on his knees so he could watch Alex and the kitten, not only because they were cute, but because he didn’t want either of them to get hurt. Any kid could hurt a little animal like that, but Alex could really hurt it without understanding what he was doing. There was also the possibility that Alex might think it was food.

“I don’t know – we’ve never talked about it. I always had cats growing up so I love them. I know that it’s a little dangerous having them around human babies – do you think he’d be a danger to Alex?” she asked Bjorn.

“More likely Alex would be a danger to him. If you want to keep him around, we’ll have to watch them very carefully. He might not understand not to be rough with it or he might think it’s lunch.”

“I think it’s more likely he’ll think it’s a toy. Well, let’s keep him ’til Eric can see him and we’ll talk about it. By that time we should have some idea if Alex is safe to be around him.”

“Alright,” Bjorn agreed reluctantly.

“He’s probably hungry,” Jerry observed.

“Yeah, I’ll bet he is. Go ask Margaret if she’s got some tuna or something for him, Please?” Sookie asked apologetically

“Sure thing, your majesty,” Kerik smiled at Sookie.

“You can leave him for Alex until you get back, OK?” Sookie offered, not fooling anyone.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Jerry laughed and Bjorn just shook his head. Sookie wanted the kitten more than Alex did and both men knew it.

Octavia came through the kitchen as Jerry was asking for tuna for the cat.

“You found a kitten in the yard? Inside the fence?” Octavia asked as she poured herself a cup of coffee.

“Yeah, he’s small enough to fit through the bars. He’s barely big enough to be weaned, if he is.”

“I wonder where he came from?” Margaret asked as she opened a can of tuna and put it in a plastic margarine bowl.

“This far out, someone might have set him out of a car. You know how people are with unwanted litters,” Jerry speculated.

“Is he out there by the pool?” Octavia wanted to see the cat, just in case there was something amiss.

“Yeah, Sookie and Alex are playing with it.”

Octavia took her coffee and the puzzle book she was going to use while she relaxed by the pool and headed out for Bjorn’s usual table. She smiled as she approached them, seeing how Alex was enjoying petting it and how tickled he was when the kitten licked his fingers. “Ayvbe! Woogie – giddnen!”

“That’s a pretty black cat,” Octavia commented. “you know they’re really good luck if they’re pure black.”

“I thought they were bad luck?” Sookie made a curious face.

“Not originally, especially not for Witches. We favor the black ones , which is why Christians consider them bad luck. You know Freyja favors cats, too.”

“Yeah, she does.” Sookie looked the kitten over. “She doesn’t have any white on her, but her paw pads are pink.”

“I don’t think that counts. I’d say that’s a lucky one,” Octavia laughed as she sat opposite Bjorn. “You sure it’s a she?”

“Yeah, I know how to tell the difference. I’ve always had girl cats and I could always tell the girls from the boys when they had kittens.”

“Girl cats are easier to keep around, especially indoors.”

“Yeah, definitely. I hope we get to keep her,” Sookie said wistfully.

“Waiting for the King to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay?'” Octavia laughed

“Yep. If it’s up to me, we keep her.”

“Ma giddnen, Mamee.”

“Alex, I told you we have to ask Daddy.”

“Here you go, Your Majesty. I’ve got a big bowl of tuna for it,” Jerry came back with a little blue dish.

“Oh, good. Thanks so much, Jerry. Here kitty, are you hungry?”

The kitten dived into the bowl with a little “yowl,” tipping it sideways as she devoured the chunks of fish.

“Giddnen ee!”

“Yeah, the kitty has to eat. She’s hungry – look at her go!”

“Eeah, giddy ee mo!”

“Eats more? You mean eats a lot?” Sookie thought that was what he was trying to say.

“Giddy ee tha wodt.”

“OK, that’s pretty close,” Sookie laughed.

Bjorn spread a towel on the ground next to the kitten and her bowl and lifted Alex up to the side, letting him drip off a bit, and sat him next to the cat. Sookie kept Alex from bothering it while it ate, afraid it might take a swipe at him, and she enjoyed seeing Alex so fascinated by the cute little thing.

“Wadiz dat?” Alex pointed.

“That’s her tail.”

The cat licked the bowl clean, then sat back on its haunches, its tongue darting out licking what it could off of its little face.

“Wadiz dat, Mamee?”

“That’s her tongue. See, tongue?” Sookie stuck her tongue out at Alex and made a silly face.

Alex laughed and said “pundy Mamee!” then he touched his mouth, looking for his own tongue. The kitten walked between Alex’s legs and butted her little head into Alex’s tummy, making Alex giggle. He petted the cat’s back, Sookie guiding him, “gently, Alex, so you don’t hurt her.”

Meow,” the kitty made a little sound and sniffed at Alex’s face, then it rubbed up against him, making him giggle again and blink his eyes when it turned around and lightly tapped near his eye with its tail.

“Eh, mow?” Alex asked

“That’s how kitties talk, Alex, they say “meow,” Sookie told him.

Suddenly, something quickly hopped near the pool where they were all congregated.

“Oh, look – a grasshopper!” Sookie said, but it hopped twice and landed in the grass before the words were out and the kitten followed it. Before anyone could react, there was a second black cat chasing the kitten – and no Alex sitting on the towel.

“Holy shit!” Bjorn said and went after them both. Octavia yelled “hey!” and Sookie shrieked, unable to go after them from the pool. The noise from the construction scared the cats back in the direction of the pool, but they went right as Bjorn went left. “Call him, Sookie!” Bjorn reminded her, and Sookie yelled, “Alex, come to me!”

Instantly Sookie was holding one kitten dangling in the water and the other was running from Bjorn and dived into the water, paddling over toward Sookie where the bowl sat empty. Sookie scooped it up, too and handed it to Octavia, who had a towel in her hands, and Bjorn helped Sookie get her “kitten” into a towel.

“Alex, you turn back right now!” Sookie was frantic.

“Meow!”

“Alex! You turn back this instant!”

Sookie nearly dropped him as he changed and suddenly gained weight, surprising her. Fortunately, Bjorn was still near her and helped her catch him. Alex was giggling like mad, and Bjorn was trying not to laugh because Sookie was nigh unto a heart attack. She was sort of huffing, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

“Sookie,” Octavia said softly, “try to slow down your breathing. He’s alright, and so are you.” She knew it wouldn’t take much for Sookie to be hysterical. “It’s just another new ability, girl, he comes up with one every day, right?”

“Right,” Sookie was trying to calm down.

Bjorn put his arm around her and said “shhh, Sookie, it’s OK. Just breathe slowly.”

“Don’t worry, Queenie, nobody saw what happened,” Octavia assured her. “We’re the only three who know, but you’re going to have to tell the others so they aren’t shocked when he does it on them.”

“When did he learn to do that?” Sookie wasn’t connecting the fact that she had just learned to shape shift. Octavia and Bjorn didn’t know, so they couldn’t point it out to her.

“He’s never encountered an animal before, Sookie, so he never tried. He just wanted to play with the kitten. It’s just a lot easier for him than for most kids,” Octavia explained. “At least that way, they won’t hurt each other.”

“True.” Sookie was calming a bit.

“Plus, you know, having the cat around gives you the opportunity to teach him when not to shift.”

“Ee, Mamee!”

“Good idea, Alex. Here, Sookie sit in my chair,” Bjorn guided her to the table. “Just feed the baby and relax. It’ll be lunchtime soon, so you don’t want people to know what’s going on, right?”

“Right. Right. Everyone will be coming up here…”

“Is the playpen still in the den?” Octavia asked.

“Yeah, it is,” Bjorn confirmed.

“Here’s what we’ll do, Sookie, you come into the den and lean back and feed your baby. We’ll put the kitten in the play pen, then when Alex dozes off, you can put him in with it,” Octavia suggested.

“Is it safe?” Sookie liked the idea but wanted to be sure.

“It’s safe for Alex. We’ll have to watch and be sure it’s safe for the kitten,” Bjorn said, agreeing with Octavia – better to get them all into the house. Alex could teleport, so if they left the kitten outside, odds were he would come after it. “I’ll be right there, though, so let’s go in. I’ll bet Margaret has something great ready for lunch, right?”

“Right – she probably does,” Sookie agreed and let Bjorn guide her into the house as she held Alex to her chest, probably a little closer than was necessary. Octavia followed behind, softly talking to the kitten in the towel, which was much calmer than you’d expect a cat to be about water. Octavia had an idea that this might not be your average cat.

They got Sookie and Alex into the recliner in the den and put the kitten into the playpen.

“Sookie, I need to speak to Bjorn just a minute. You just relax. We’ll keep watch on you, so go ahead and doze off if you want to,” Octavia said, hoping Sookie’s adrenaline would burn off and she’d fall asleep.

“OK, we’ll be OK,” Sookie said, not quite sure of that, but nursing Alex was beginning to make her feel grounded, as was the fact that Alex was sending all kinds of love and comfort into the bond.

Octavia and Bjorn slipped into the kitchen. Margaret was busily preparing turkey and roast beef sandwiches for everyone, so they continued into the living room.

“Bjorn, would you know another Shifter if you met one?”

“Yeah, most likely. I’d smell it on them in pretty much any form.”

“OK, and that kitten smells normal to you?”

“Well, she doesn’t smell of Shifter, but she doesn’t smell exactly like cat, either.”

“How is it different?”

“A little sweeter – kind of floral, if that makes any sense.”

“Like roses?”

“Very faintly, but yeah, roses. What do you think it is?”

“I’m thinking Freyja sent the little one a Familiar. Or Sookie. It’s hard to tell them apart at this stage, but one of them is supposed to form a magickal bond with that cat.”

“You don’t think it’s just a stray?”

“Does it smell like a stray?”

“No, you’re right, it’s not.”

“There’s something else – you ever see a cat swim?”

“I have, actually, but it’s very rare. Most of them want nothing to do with water.”

“That one wasn’t a bit upset when Sookie brought it out. I also think it’s significant that she brought it out with the baby. Most mothers wouldn’t give a damn about a cat when they thought their baby was at risk.”

“Yeah, but Sookie is different…”

“Exactly – she might not know consciously that it’s different, but the Goddess in her knows if She sent a Familiar this way.”

“Right. That’s why you brought him in… I thought you were just afraid Alex would teleport after it.”

“There’s that, too, but mostly, I think she’s supposed to be here for one or both of them. You go back and keep an eye on them. I’m going to throw some cards and see what I can see.”

“Good idea. Thank you,” Bjorn said and made a beeline back to Sookie and the baby.

Octavia headed up the stairs, and met Alicia on the stairway. “Oh, there you are! Your room is all fresh and ready for you.”

“Thanks for doing that. I’m sorry to add to your workload,” Octavia was very grateful to have these things taken care of for her.

“Oh, don’t be silly. You’re part of the family, too, and family is no trouble.”

“Well, thanks. I know it’s a lot, but could I have my lunch up here?”

“Of course! Do you prefer turkey or roast beef, or would you like one of each?”

“One of each would be good and one of those blue cans of soda pop Sookie likes, too.”

“I’ll bring it up when it’s ready. You just relax.”

“Thanks,” Octavia wanted plenty of time alone to work some things out so she was ready to talk to Eric first thing. These were two huge developments. She just hoped he liked cats.

Sookie was dozing when Bjorn went back in, so he brought his book inside and put it on the end table by the couch. Alex was talking to Sookie, who wasn’t responding, and Bjorn could tell he wanted to switch to the other breast. Yeah, that wasn’t something Bjorn felt he should do, so he went in search of Alicia.

“Hey, ladies,” he said to Alicia and Margaret as he entered the kitchen. “I think Alex wants to move, you know, to the other… side.”

Both women laughed. “I’ll take care of it,” Alicia said affectionately. “You want your lunch in here or in there?”

“I should stick close to them, so I’d better take it in there, if it’s no trouble.”

“Not a bit. I’ll get a tray out of the closet for you.”

“Thanks.”

“OH, MY!”

Bjorn rushed to see if there was a problem.

“I’m sorry if I startled you. I didn’t expect that kitten to be here.”

“Yeah, Sookie wants to keep it for Alex, but they’re waiting for the OK from Eric.”

“Is it safe?”

“For the baby, yeah, I just hope it’s safe for the kitten, too,” Bjorn laughed.

“Good point. Did he seem to understand it was alive?”

“I think so – he saw it eat and he chased it around the yard…”

“Chased it?”

“It’s a long story. Trust me, we’ll fill you all in later. I need to talk to Eric first.”

“O… K…” at this point, nothing was going to surprise Alicia. She moved past being shocked when Alex landed on the ceiling the first time. Nothing that baby did was going to shock her. At this point, she just laughed about all his “talents,” as she and Margaret called them.

The workers and some of the guards came in for lunch and were served outside on the picnic tables. Margaret sent big sandwiches out to the guard huts and the servant’s quarters, too, and Alicia delivered sandwiches to Bjorn and to Octavia.

Bjorn had to take a break in the midst of his sandwich to put a sleeping Alex in the playpen, and he tried not to peek when he threw the baby blanket over Sookie’s chest, but DAMN! They were nice!

He was just finishing his sandwich when Alicia came in to ask if he wanted anything else.

“Is there any lettuce left?”

“Yes, what did you want?”

“Would it be OK if I took some meat and some lettuce and made myself a salad?”

“I’ll do that, Hon, what would you like on it?”

He asked for onions, green or red peppers if she had them, cucumber, beef and turkey with some vinegar and a little olive oil, and Sookie piped up, “that sounds really good.”

“Would you like one, too, Dear?”

“Yes, please? But I want blue cheese dressing.”

“Coming right up.”

“Blue cheese, huh?” Bjorn teased her.

“Hey, I’m breast-feeding, I need extra calories,” she looked back at him and stuck out her tongue.

“True, you do. Can I get you anything while you wait?”

“No, I’m just going to lie here a bit while I wake up. Did you put this blanket over me?”

“I tried not to peek.”

“You’ve seen them so many times, why bother,” Sookie laughed and he did, too. “I don’t even think Eric would mind.”

“Eric would mind very much if it wasn’t his idea.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Sookie said, almost to herself. What if is were Eric’s idea? Sookie almost wondered if they had talked about “it” but she couldn’t think of a diplomatic way to ask. She wasn’t really sure she wanted to know.

“Where’s the baby?”

“He’s in the playpen over here with his cat.”

“Oh, good. Are they doing alright?”

“They’re both asleep, but the cat’s not near his face.”

“What time is it?”

“Almost 2. He’ll be up wanting to play in a few minutes then he’ll be asleep again before dinner.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right. Is the remote over there?”

“Yeah, right here.” He handed her the TV control and before long they had settled on reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.

“These people are so funny,” Sookie said, “they’re supposed to be based on his real family, right?”

“I don’t know – are they?”

“I think so. That must be one crazy family. Imagine having a mother like that?”

“Not like yours, huh?”

“No, my mom was basically a country girl. She liked to fish with my dad and they watched a lot of sports together. She’d never have the idea of manipulating people the way they do here. She wasn’t devious in any way.”

“That’s good. You sound like you have good memories of her.”

“Yeah, the only bad ones are when they worried about money, which was a lot, or about my disability. She worried about that quite a bit. She was afraid of me.”

“That can’t be true, can it?” Bjorn spoke softly. This was a big thing she was telling him.

“Yeah, it was. Don’t get me wrong, she loved me a lot and really fought for me with teachers and stuff like that, but it scared her. It would scare anybody, I guess.”

“No one else in your family has your ability?”

“No. I was in my mid-twenties before I met another one.”

“But you have met others?”

“Yeah, one, anyway, the first time I went to Dallas with Bill. Barry the bellhop,” she laughed. “He’s a good guy.”

“Is he still a bellhop?”

“I don’t think so. Last time I saw him, he was working for Vamps the way I was, when the hotel was bombed.”

“The Pyramid of Gizeh, you mean?”

“Yeah, we worked for what seemed like days trying to find people.”

“OH, so he was the other telepath?”

“Yeah. I haven’t thought of him in a long time. We were pretty determined never to speak of it again, and hoped that the rescuers wouldn’t tell anyone, but word got out anyway.”

“You didn’t want people to know?”

“No way! We’d never see a minute’s peace! There’s always someone in need. I don’t mind helping when I can, but there’s a lot more need than I could ever meet. You ever hear of John Douglas?”

“The profiler? Yeah, I know his rep at Quantico.”

“Yeah, that’s him. I read one of his books and he was talking about how his job nearly killed him because he couldn’t say ‘no’ – every serial killer is horrible and every victim is precious and he almost literally worked himself to death.”

“Yeah, I can see where that’d be a problem.”

“No, you don’t. Even if I couldn’t hear your thoughts, Bjorn, I can hear it in your voice. I know you’re service oriented. You want to help people.”

“You do, too, Sookie.”

“Not to my own detriment, though. You’ve put your life on the line for others…”

“So have you.”

“For Eric. And for Bill.”

“Sookie, what you did at the Pyramid was heroic. You could have walked away.”

“I guess. I just… I can’t do it every day, you know?”

“Yeah, I get that. You deserve a little peace, considering what you’ve been through.”

“Thanks for understanding. Ooh, yummy!” Alicia handed her a big bowl of salad and put one in front of Bjorn, then gave them each forks.

“Dig in! Here, Sookie, I remembered your soda pop, too.”

“Thanks! This looks amazing!”

Sookie and Bjorn watched the show, ate salad and chatted about nothing heavy or important. About the time Sookie finished her salad, Alex woke up, and Sookie watched him looking at the kitty, which was cute. He was so curious about it, but he wasn’t threatening it in any way.

“Bosth, Mamee!”

“You want to play with Boss?”

“Eeah, an giddy.”

“I don’t know if kitty will like Boss but we can see when she wakes up.”

“Oday.” Alex sat and waited for Bjorn to pull the dino out of the corner and unzip it, then he sat Alex right in the middle. Alex wallowed into the pit and giggled and at one point the kitty “meowed” and Alex pointed at it and said “giddy!” and it was instantly in the pit with him. Balls went flying, the cat went scampering after them and Alex was completely enthralled, making his “hhaaahh!” sound and trying to follow it. Vampire speed was a definite advantage in crawling after the little animal, and they played together as if they’d been doing it forever.

Sookie and Bjorn just sat back and let them do their thing and they were happy as clams. Margaret and Alicia spent some time standing behind the couch watching, too, with big smiles on their faces. They played so hard that at one point, the kitten just fell over asleep. Alex was slowing down, too, so Sookie put them both into the playpen and he was almost instantly asleep.

Sookie insisted that Bjorn come into the kitchen with her and have a cup of coffee and they were sitting talking to Margaret when Eric came in.

“Hello, my Angel!” He bent to kiss her

“Hey!” She was really, really glad to see him.

“Where is the baby?”

“In the den in the playpen.”

Eric went into the den, and was back instantly. “Is this a joke? There are two black cats in there.”

“Tell Alex to change back,” Sookie said with a little bit of attitude.

“What?”

“Tell Alex to change back. There’s one cat and one baby in there, so tell Alex to change back.”

Eric went back into the den and looked at the two little kittens snuggled up together.

One of them was his son?

“Alex, wake up. Change back for Daddy.” Both little cats awoke and stretched, and one of them morphed into a crawling baby yelling “DADEE!”

Eric scooped Alex up and hugged him, a little bit disturbed at this development. Vampires looked down on Shifters as inferior. A Vampire who could shift… well, it was not unheard of, but it was very, very rare. So, he reminded himself, was Alex.

“Surprise!” Sookie said wryly as he came back into the kitchen with the baby.

“I can’t believe he can do it, too!”

“You coulda knocked me over with a feather. I nearly had a stroke.”

“Yeah, she was pretty stressed when he first did it,” Bjorn agreed.

“Where did the cat come from?”

“He wandered into the yard and the guards thought the baby would like to see him, and boy, did he! One minute, he’s petting him, the next minute two cats are dashing through the yard after a grasshopper. I’d give anything for video of Bjorn trying to catch them,” Sookie teased.

“Yeah, not on of my prouder moments. Sookie had to call Alex, and the cat evaded me by jumping in the pool,” Bjorn laughed.

Eric sat down, hugging Alex tightly, still trying to process this development.

“Dadee!”

Eric let him lean back and look him in the eye, “Yes, Alex?”

“Ah ava giddy!”

“Yes, I saw that you have a kitty. Why is kitty in the house?”

“You need to talk to Octavia about the cat. She thinks she’s supposed to be here for Sookie or Alex or both.”

“Did she say that?” Sookie perked up.

“Yeah, she went upstairs to read cards about it. She thinks Freyja might have sent her,” Bjorn explained.

“Her? The cat is a female?” Eric asked.

“Yes, it is. Cats are sacred to Freyja, you know?” Sookie added

“Yes, I’ve…” Eric stopped himself, realizing the maids were in the room, “I’m familiar with Freyja’s cats.”

“Yeah, Familiar. That’s what Octavia said,” Bjorn recalled.

“Like a Witch’s Familiar?” Sookie asked

“Yeah, exactly. She says it’s not a normal cat.”

“Why would she think so?” Eric asked

“Well, she didn’t mind swimming in the pool, and she’s very attentive to Alex in a way a normal cat wouldn’t be.”

“Cats don’t like Fae, though,” Eric was trying to make sense of this.

“They don’t?” Sookie asked

“No, they don’t. They try to kill them,” Eric told her.

“Well, I’m pretty sure she’s not a Shifter, Eric, so Familiar seems the most logical,” Bjorn told him. “Talk to Octavia about it. She’ll be down soon, I think.”

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