LATE Chapter 088

Father & Sons

 

“You all waitin’ for me?” Octavia came in smiling.

“Good evening, Octavia,” Eric said.

“Hey, Octavia!” Bjorn said, “I was just telling Eric you were doing some vresearch about the kitten.”

“Uh-huh, I did quite a bit about our new family member. Eric, how do you feel about cats?” She took a place at the end of the table, opposite Eric.

“I don’t dislike them, but I have never shared my nest with one.” He was teasing the baby, holding him up, forehead-to-forehead, smiling and making him giggle as he patted Dadee’s cheeks with his little hands.

“It will help if you can develop some affection for that one. She’s going to be important for your son.”

“As a …?” he looked at Sookie, not remembering the word.

“Familiar,” Sookie finished his sentence.

“Yes, or at least a protector at some sort. I got some information that I couldn’t quite decipher… Eric, what do you know about your mother?”

“My mother?” Eric wasn’t sure he wanted everyone to know about Erin. “She was from Ireland. I barely remember her.”

“Did she look like Sookie, by any chance?”

“Yes, very much.”

“She had something else in common with Sookie, didn’t she?” Octavia looked right at him, sure he knew that his mother was Fae. That was the only thing that made sense with what she had seen in the cards.

“Yes.” Eric laughed a little because he knew he was busted about his Fae heritage.

“She was full blood?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re half?”

“Yes.”

“That explains a lot. Have you ever been told that you two might have had a baby even without Niall’s intervention?”

“Yes,” Sookie interjected. “Dr. Ludwig said it might have happened anyway.”

“I know you don’t see it this way, Eric, but it’s a powerful advantage, especially where the other one is concerned.”

That surprised him, “how so?”

“I think you ought to try to go with Sookie tonight.”

“With her? To…?”

“Yes. I think if she holds your hand while she does her circle, you’ll both go. You need to see him, so he’s real to you.”

“What has this to do with the kitten?”

“She’s a part of Alex’s magick, and she has something to do with your mother, but that’s all I have so far. You need to keep her around, and expect her to want to be wherever Alex is.”

“I thought cats hated Fae?”

“Not this one. I’m not sure she isn’t Fae.”

“There are Fae cats?” Eric had never heard of this.

“There are Fae that take the form of cats and live that way most, if not all, of the time. That cat does things no other cat would do.”

“Such as?”

“Swimming in the pool. Paying attention to the baby. Letting him follow her around and pet her.”

“You should see them play together,” Bjorn told them.

“It’s unusual?” Eric was trying to accept all of this.

“Yes, and it’s funny as hell,” Sookie told him.

“The cat is crying,” Eric said.

“Do this – take the baby in there and put him in the ball pit then sit back and watch,” Sookie suggested.

Eric stood up and took the baby into the den. Octavia followed and sat in the recliner, wanting to see what happened. She smiled to herself the whole time, loving to see them have so much fun.

As soon as Alex was in the ball pit, the kitty “meowed” and Alex threw his arm toward it and said, “giddy!” The cat was instantly in the pit with him, scrambling, and the balls went everywhere. The kitten chased balls and Alex chased the kitten, giggling like crazy. Eric laughed in spite of himself, watching Alex zip around at Vampire speed after the cat. At one point, Alex changed and he and the kitten wrestled, tumbling over each other until they were exhausted, then the real kitten licked the baby’s/kitten’s head. Even Eric couldn’t deny that they were crazy about each other. After a few minutes, Alex changed back into a seated position and the kitty gently head-butted him in the chest again, prompting Alex to pet him, making him giggle.

“Alright, my son, you have a new kitten.”

“Ma giddy?”

“Yes, your kitty.”

“ODAY!” Alex hugged the kitty and it rubbed its cheek against his. “Undwy, Dadee.”

“Sookie, what is Alex saying?” Eric called to the kitchen.

“UNDWY, MAMEE!”

“He’s hungry. Bring him in for dinner.”

“You’re hungry?”

“Eeah, an giddnen undwy.”

“The kitten is hungry?” Eric thought he got that part.

“Eeah. Ee dinder!”

Eric laughed and scooped him up, putting his diaper back on him and heading for the kitchen. The kitten followed at Eric’s heels and Octavia walked behind them all.

“Do we have something for the cat to eat?” Eric asked as they came in.

“Yes, I’ve got some milk and some tuna and a bowl of water. I’ll have some proper food and dishes for her tomorrow,” Margaret said, glad the kitten was staying because Alex really loved it. “We’ll set up a litter box for her in the pantry and keep after it, too.” Margaret shook the little bowl of tuna and the kitten pounced on it.

“I’m sorry it’s more work, Margaret,” Sookie said apologetically.

“Not at all, Missus. I think it’s sweet the baby has a little friend to play with.” Margaret said as she put a big crock of shrimp Étouffée on the table.

“Ah ava giddy, Mahdwid!” Alex reached for her to get her attention.

“Yes, I see that, Master Alex. She’s a very pretty kitty.” She smoothed the baby’s hair and gave him a little kiss on his head as Eric held him to her.

“Eeah, pwiddy an SOPF!” Alex told her as Eric put him in his highchair.

“So, I guess we need a lot of stuff for the cat, huh?” Sookie said.

“Yes,” Alicia said as she came in, “we’ll get her a little stretchy collar and all the litter box items and a few toys. We’d better go ahead and get a carrier so she can travel with you. I’m pretty sure they make one to match your luggage.”

“She’ll need a scratching post. I hope she doesn’t ruin the furniture,” Sookie said, a little afraid that might turn Eric against the cat. She knew he wasn’t thrilled with the whole situation, but she hoped he’d grow fond of it in time.

“You’ll have to teach her not to,” Octavia said, “You don’t dare fix or declaw that one.”

“Yeah, I guess not, huh?” Sookie didn’t know a lot about familiars, but she was pretty sure they’d want all their faculties.

“On the plus side, I think that one will be easier to train than a regular cat,” Octavia added

“That would be a very welcome thing,” Eric said. He didn’t dislike cats, but having one in the house was a bit much. Still, it was adorable watching Alex chase it around, and Alex was obviously wild about the little fur ball. He was surprised Alex didn’t think it was a snack, though, as most Vampires would. “Alex never tried to bite it?”

“No, we watched for that, but he’s never offered to hurt it in any way. He seems to know not to be rough with it,” Bjorn explained.

“Yes,” Eric agreed, “when he wanted to wrestle with it just now, he changed so they were two kittens.”

“Wasn’t it the cutest thing you ever saw?” Sookie teased him.

“It was very cute,” Eric admitted grudgingly as Margaret handed him Alex’s dinner. “Where will it sleep?”

“We’ll get her a little bed for down here and one for the bedroom?” Sookie looked at Alicia who nodded.

“Good idea,” she agreed. “Do you want me to go to the pet store at the mall tomorrow or do you want to do it yourself?” Alicia asked.

“I think I’d better rest. Just know that my first choice for everything is pink since it’s a girl.”

“Will do,” Alicia laughed – she knew that, anyway.

“Where are Bobbie and Amelia?” Eric asked, noticing for the first time that the table seemed emptier than usual.

“Jerry and Amelia drove Bobbie to the airport,” Bjorn told him, “Bobbie’s mom is really sick. She thinks she’ll be back in just 2 or 3 days.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Sookie will you be able to manage without her?” Eric’s priority was always Sookie, though he was concerned for Bobbie, too.

“Oh, yeah, Alicia and Amelia said they’ll fill in where they need to.”

“Do I need to put Amelia on the payroll?” Eric asked as he took a drink of his blood.

“No, she’s from a wealthy family – she wouldn’t take it. The only thing she wants right now is to move into a chalet as soon as it’s available,” Sookie told him.

Eric nodded, “Bjorn, what kind of progress are they making?” Alex was devouring whatever this stuff in his dish was, making Eric smile.

“Well, they’ve been working on them both at the same time, but if you’re in a hurry, the contractor said he could have all the workers focus on one of them at a time.”

“Let’s do that so we can get Amelia situated.”

“I think that’s a good idea. She was even wondering about getting a guard at the Bon Temps house until she could move. I think she’s really scared to live there,” Bjorn told him.

“Has something happened I don’t know about?” Eric was wondering why she was in such a hurry.

“She heard some rumblings at Merlotte’s that the FOTS is going to get more aggressive, and Sookie is well-known for her connections to Vampires,” Bjorn reminded him.

“Oh, no!” Sookie would feel awful if anything happened to Amelia at her house.

“Is there a specific threat or just general danger?” Eric didn’t like the sound of this either way.

“No one has threatened her directly that I know of,” Bjorn said.

“Alright. Alicia, did you order a rollaway bed?” Eric was trying to scrape what turned out to be shrimp mousse off Alex’s chin and get it into his mouth.

“Yes, it’s in the meditation room up on the fourth floor.”

“Alright, Bjorn, you and Vincent had located a security firm for Sookie’s and Bill’s houses, had you not?”

“Yes, they’re engaged to begin August third.”

“See if we can move that up. Have Jerry help Amelia move her things here and we’ll make her a room on the fourth floor for a week or so. I don’t want her to feel unprotected. Tell her she can quit Merlotte’s and move here any time. We’ll adapt as we need to.”

“OK, I’ll talk to the foreman tomorrow and I’ll tell Jerry before he goes home tonight.”

“And I will confirm this with Vincent when I speak to him tonight. This is not a time to take risks. Let’s get the whole family inside the gates as soon as we can,” Eric said with determination. He sat up and looked toward the back door. “I hear them coming in the back now.”

Just as Eric said, Amelia and Jerry came through the door in the den. “Hey, everybody!” Amelia seemed in a good mood.

“Amelia we were just talking about you,” Eric told her, “I think you should move here now. You can make a room on the fourth floor for the week and I’ll have them rush the finishing of one of the chalets.”

“Are you sure you want me to do that?” Amelia said hopefully

“Yes, I am. If you don’t feel safe there, you should be here. Tell Merlotte you won’t be back and Jerry, you see that her things are brought here.”

“Yes, your majesty.” Jerry would be very happy when Amelia was safely moved here. He knew that Amelia was simply too afraid to stay at the Bon Temps house much longer.

“You all sit down and eat – we’ve got Étouffée!” Sookie told them, patting on the table.

“That sounds good,” Jerry smiled at her. He thought Sookie was the sweetest thing in the world and he was very happy to be on her security team.

“Good. Eat up,” Sookie said. She liked seeing them together so much! Amelia was much happier these days, not that she’d been unhappy before, but she kind of glowed around Jerry.

Jerry and Amelia sat down as Margaret brought them bowls of rice and utensils.

“So, Bobbie’s on her way?” Bjorn asked. He told himself that he refused to feel guilty.

“Yes,” Amelia told him, “they had a flight available today, so she just took it and went on. They don’t think her mom is going to come out of this.”

“Poor kid. I would have gone with her, but I have too much to do here,” Bjorn said.

“Bjorn, you could have gone with her!” Sookie felt awful if he stayed because of them.

“No, Sookie, I really need to be here with all this construction. I know you’d let me go, but I wouldn’t ask. I have too many responsibilities that I won’t trust to anyone else.” Truth be told, Bjorn didn’t want to go. He loved Bobbie more than anything, but he was not equipped to deal with “family” things. He’d only say something stupid or fail her in some other way. He had no experience with these things where women were concerned, nor did he want any.

Sookie started to say something, but Eric caught her gaze and gave her a subtle frown and shake of the head to let her know not to interfere. Eric knew why Bjorn didn’t go, and he’d explain it to Sookie later, but for right now, he didn’t want her to lay a guilt-trip on him.

“So, Sookie, are you making your special visit tonight?” Amelia changed the subject.

“Yes, and Eric is going with me!”

“Sookie…” Eric started, but Sookie interrupted.

“Don’t even try it, Eric. If it doesn’t work, we’ve lost nothing. If it does, you’ve gained more than you can imagine.” Sookie was adamant. “You’re going to meet him sooner or later and I say sooner is better.”

“That’s amazing! You think it will work?” Amelia thought it was a great idea.

“You’ll never know until you try,” Octavia added, knowing Eric was wanting out of this.

“Ah gahn, Daddee?”

“Yes, Alex, it’s all gone.”

“Undwy!”

“Alright. Margaret, do you have anything else for Alex?”

“I’ve got more pureed broccoli and more of that shrimp mousse, then there’s peach puree for dessert,” she said as she took Alex’s plate to refill it.

“Alright, Alex?”

“Eeah, mo bwoggy, pweez!”

“I can’t believe he’ll eat broccoli,” Bjorn laughed.

“Is that unusual?” Eric didn’t know much about what kids liked to eat.

“It’s very unusual, but it’s good that he likes it. It’s really good for him,” Sookie told him.

“It’s very green,” Eric observed as he continued to feed Alex from the refilled bowl.

“Only if it’s cooked well. If you over do it, it turns grey,” Bjorn laughed.

“Margaret makes it just right, doesn’t she, Pookie?” Sookie stroked his cheek as he gummed his dinner.

“Madwid dood!”

Eric laughed. He loved to hear Alex talk. He was so definite about everything and so smart about getting what he wanted. He never would have believed it was possible to admire a baby this way. He was dreading the idea of going to Faery with Sookie. She would feel that he didn’t feel what he should for the other baby, wouldn’t she?

“Not to change the subject, but you say that bed is here now?” Amelia asked

“Yes, it is, Miss Amelia. Would you like me to make it up for you?” Alicia offered.

“I’d really like to stay the night if you all don’t mind.”

“I’ll get it set up for you. Margaret, can you spare me right now?”

“Yes, I think I’ve got it under control, thanks.”

“Sorry – thank you!” Amelia said a little sheepishly.

Alex finished everything in his bowl and remembered to ask for “beejez, Dadee!”

Margaret already had the peaches in a little dish so she swapped them out and Eric continued to feed Alex.

“MMmmm!” Alex hummed loudly. “Ah wyg beejez, Dadee!”

“I see that! Now if you could just keep them in your mouth, we’d be flying,” Eric laughed.

“Fyeen, Dadee!”

“Did you fly today, Alex?”

“Oh, yes,” Sookie answered, “and scared everyone to death!”

“What did he do?” Eric knew they weren’t happy about whatever it was, but he loved hearing about what Alex got into in the daytime.

“Alicia went up to feed him this morning, and he wasn’t in his little crib,” Bjorn said.

Eric didn’t like the sound of that. “Where was he?”

“He was in the gym, crawling around the rafters like a bat,” he answered.

“He went up to the gym by himself?” Eric was amazed he could find it.

“Yes, he did. We were panicked for a bit, but we found him pretty quickly.”

“What are we going to do about this?” Eric didn’t want Alex wandering around alone, either.

“Octavia put one of those little Faerie crosses in a leather bag,” Sookie told him. “You’ll have to hang it on the end of his co-sleeper when you go to rest in the mornings to keep him there until Alicia can get to him.”

“Alright, I’ll do that when I give you your Ambrosia.”

“Good,” Sookie said.

“Fyeen eye-er and eye-er, Dadee!”

“Is that what you were doing in the gym?” Eric asked the baby

Alex blinked at him.

“The room with the swords, Alex.”

“Sthordsth por FIDEEN!”

“Yes, but you don’t go in that room without Daddy, Alex. Do you understand me?” Eric was being very stern. “Only with Daddy.”

“Nah nah!” Alex shook his head.

“Eric Alexander, you know what I am saying. You don’t go in the room with the swords without Daddy. You could get hurt. You stay with Mommy in the daytime.”

“Mamee seepeen,” Alex said emphatically. He was almost being sassy.

“If Mommy is asleep, you should be in bed with her.”

Alex stuck his bottom lip out. He knew what Eric was telling him and he didn’t like it. “Wostha seepeen,” he pouted.

“I know Mommy is sleeping a lot. You stay with her anyway.”

“MO FYEEN!”

“Daddy will fly with you more at night if you will stay with Mommy in the daytime, alright?”

“Eeah, Fyeen wif Dadee!” Alex reached for Eric with one hand and pointed to the back door with the other.

“Why don’t you take him out for a bit, Eric. If you wear him out, he’ll probably sleep while you and Sookie do your visit later,” Octavia suggested.

“Jerry and I will stay with him later while you guys are there. Bjorn will need to watch the door, right?”

“Yes, and it’s late to ask Alicia or Margaret to do it. We’d appreciate your help, Amelia,” Eric said, knowing Sookie was not going to let him out of this.

“When we get back, let’s all go for a night time swim. I want to show everybody my new thing, you know…” Sookie looked at Eric and he knew she wanted to show them she could shift shapes.

“Alright, then, Alex, are you done eating? Eat more?” Eric asked him

“Nah.”

“Let’s go flying.” Eric took him out of the highchair and he was beside himself, waving his little arms, yelling “FYEEN, DADEE, FYEEN.”

Eric and Alex headed out the back door and Sookie and the others, Margaret included, followed to watch.

As soon as Eric reached the side of the pool he said “go, Alex” and the baby took off, straight up. Eric followed him to see how high he was going to try to go.

“Wow, look at them go!” Amelia said.

“I hope he doesn’t over-do it. I don’t know how high is too high,” Sookie said.

“Why don’t you fly a bit, too, Sookie?” Octavia asked.

“I’ve got something to show everybody that takes a lot of energy.”

“I won’t be up later, so you’ll have to just tell me,” Octavia reminded her.

“Oh, yeah. Can I tell you tomorrow? I want everybody to be surprised.”

“Sure, you can. Just don’t forget. I need to know these things.”

“Yeah, I won’t.”

Eric guided Alex back downward so the rest of them could see them again. They flew all around the property and Eric gradually got Alex to go lower and slow down a little. Alex was having a blast. This was his favorite thing of all, flying with Daddy, showing everybody what he could do. Alex turned some loops over the pool and Eric floated nearby to see what he would do. Alex showed no signs of stopping, so Eric went down to the cement, kicked his boots off, took stuff out of his pockets and went back up with Alex. Margaret went over and picked up Eric’s things, and she and Alicia, who had just come out, held them for him. The kitty padded through the yard over to a bush beside the servant’s quarters and did her “business”, then sauntered back over to the patio door, waiting for someone to let her back in.

Sookie was trying to enjoy watching her boys fly, but she knew Eric expected Alex to dive into the pool, so it was hard to relax. She reminded herself that she was still in her bathing suit, so she could always go in, too, if need be.

Sure enough, at one point, Alex floated right above the middle of the water about ten feet, then just let go. He fell like a bomb into the water. Eric was right above the water when he came up giggling and paddling like a dog, his diaper floating behind him.

“Sthimmeen, Dadee!”

“Yes, I see you swimming. Are you ready to come out of the water?”

“Nah, me sthimmeen,” Alex giggled and paddled away at Vampire speed, leaving his diaper behind him. Eric just laughed, but Sookie couldn’t stand it, so she jumped in the pool, just to be close, just in case.

“Hey, Sookie,” Bjorn called, “why don’t you go ahead and show us what you wanted to show us?”

“Eric, grab the baby and I’ll just do it,” she said.

“Alright,” Eric laughed and scooped Alex up out of the water, He landed beside the pool, kneeling, and held Alex up, saying, “look, Alex. Watch Mommy!”

“OK, everybody, watch closely!” Sookie yelled then dove deep. She swam to the deep end near the house, to the other end, then back to the deep end, moving very quickly, and as she took the second turn at the deep end she splashed Eric and Alex with her tail.

“Holy shit!” “WOW!” “What in the world?” and other exclamations rang out as Sookie tail-walked in the middle of the pool and flipped her hair back, not bothering to notice that her swimsuit was now at the bottom of the pool.

“MAMEE PISH!” Alex was standing up with Eric’s help, waving his little arms, naked as a jaybird, almost jumping up and down.

“Yes, Mommy is a mermaid, isn’t she?”

“Muh-made!” Alex clapped his hands and was obviously tickled to death.

Octavia was laughing with delight, Amelia was jumping up and down clapping, Alicia and Margaret were looking at each other with amazement, and Bjorn was in a little shock and Jerry’s mouth was hanging open. Bjorn didn’t think Sookie could surprise him, but she most definitely had. Sookie dived deep again and came up at the side of the pool where the others were, resting her arms on the cement, her breasts below the side so she was covered a little.

“So, what do y’all think? Pretty neat, huh?”

Bjorn spoke first, “Sookie, is that the only form you can take?”

“No, but it’s the easiest. I can do other aquatic animals, too, and once I’ve had some practice, I can become anything I want. I’m supposed to practice at night, when the moon is out, and get good at it.”

“When did you learn this?” Octavia was proud of the girl. This was very advanced.

“When I disappeared from Fangtasia. Freyja took me out to meet some real Mers, too.”

“Real ones? They still exist?” Amelia was just amazed by this.

“Yeah, I met a whole colony of them. They didn’t know I was a shift, either, they thought I was just from a different area. I was able to speak their language and everything!” Sookie swished her tail a few times just for fun and Alex couldn’t take it. Next thing they knew, he was out of Eric’s hands and swimming toward Mommy, tail and all.

Everyone cracked up at Alex turning into a little merbaby. Sookie turned, scooped him up and kissed him, then held him as she tail-walked with him, making him scream with laughter. She spun and sunk back down in the water, noticing that Eric was retrieving the diaper Alex had left behind.

“It’s OK, Sookie, he needed a new one anyway,” Eric laughed as the diaper dripped.

“There’s just one problem,” Sookie laughed, “if I turn back I’ll be naked.”

Everybody laughed as Eric took Alex from her, his little tail waving in the wind, and told him “turn back, my son” as he walked over to the towel rack with him. Once he had Alex wrapped up, he handed him to Bjorn, who was still blown away, and got another towel for Sookie. She dived to the bottom of the pool and got the pieces of her suit, then transformed as she came out of the shallow end of the pool and rushed into the towel Eric held for her, her hands behind her, shielding her backside from view.

Everyone applauded as she walked back toward the house.

“Pretty impressive, Queenie,” Octavia teased her. “You still gonna try to make your visit?”

“Yeah, definitely. I can do both.”

“Perhaps I should not try to go…” Eric thought he could get out of it.

“Nice try, but no, you’re going. Alex will be asleep soon and Amelia and Jerry will watch him, right guys?”

“Right,” Amelia assured her.

“Well, I’m going to turn in early,” Octavia said as she got up. “Sookie, you be careful you don’t stay too long, and you get straight to bed after.”

“Yes, ma’am, I will.”

“We’re going to finish in the kitchen, then I’ll be turning in,” Alicia said. “Very impressive, Mrs. Northman,” Alicia beamed at her.

“Yes, indeed!” Margaret was bursting with pride for her.

“Thanks!”

“I’ll be turning in, too. Good night, everyone.”

“Good night, Margaret! Good night, Alicia,” everyone called to them in their own way.

“I don’t want to go in just yet. I want to enjoy the night air a bit,” Sookie said.

“My thoughts exactly,” Eric said, “it’s very nice out here tonight. I’ll be back. Alex needs a diaper, and I’m pretty sure there’s a stack in the den. Sookie, you relax a bit.”

“You guys want us to clear out?” Amelia offered.

“No, not unless you want to. Everyone feel free to relax with us a while. We all rarely take time to just sit and talk,” Eric said, to everyone’s surprise.

“Yeah, it stays pretty busy around here,” Bjorn agreed, settling into a lounge chair next to Jerry and Amelia.

“Sookie, how do you like being able to change?” Jerry asked her

“It’s amazing. I love that buzzing feeling you get all over when it happens,” she laughed as she sat in a chair next to Amelia.

“Yeah, that’s fun if you’re not in a hurry,” Bjorn said and Jerry laughed with him.

“What if you are?” Sookie wondered.

“If you’re in a hurry, it can be a little disorienting,” Jerry told her. “In a battle situation, it can knock you off center until you learn to compensate for it.”

“That comes with practice. I want to see you out here every night possible, Sookie. That’s a powerful advantage once you learn to control it. It will make it easier for us to keep you safe.” Bjorn wasn’t going to let her skimp on the practice. This was a valuable weapon.

“Yes, definitely. You want to work at least up to a mountain lion or a wolf,” Jerry said.

“Is there anything harder than that?”

“Based on what some Shifters have told me, the hardest are birds, but they’re also some of the best in terms of escape. Really big animals are hard – elephants, for example, or really small ones. If need be, you could become a mouse and hide in our pockets if you get good enough.” Bjorn told her.

“Wow, I never thought of that.”

“We’ll teach you to think of it. You’ll want to teach Alex to do it on cue, too, though I think he’ll do whatever you do,” Bjorn was already thinking of how to use this for their security.

“Yes, it’s one of the most powerful abilities you can have,” Jerry agreed, “and if you can get Alex to do it, too, that’s even better.”

“What does it feel like being a mermaid, Sookie?” Amelia was just fascinated with that idea.

“It’s so much fun! Don’t tell Eric, but I actually like it a lot more than flying. You feel so powerful and connected to everything when you slip through the water. It’s no wonder people associate the Goddess with the ocean. There’s a power in live water like nothing else in the world.”

“Live water?”

“Yeah, like an ocean or a real lake instead of a pool or man-made lake. The feeling is very different. Being here in the pool is fun, but being out in the sea with other creatures is so intense! Dolphins are even cooler than people think they are, and whales are so much bigger than I imagined and very spiritual in their own way.”

“Hey, have you ever tried to teleport? Alex can, can’t he?” Amelia remembered them saying something about it.

“Yeah, he definitely can,” Bjorn laughed, “you should have been here for the birth!”

“I heard about that – is it true?” Jerry asked.

“Yep, he went right out of her vagina up to their bed. If Eric hadn’t heard him, it would have been pandemonium.”

“Yeah,” Sookie laughed, “one second it hurt like everything, then suddenly it stopped. Even Dr. Ludwig was surprised.”

    0
    They all laughed at that. Eric came back as they were laughing, making a sleeping gesture to tell Sookie he had put Alex down for a bit.

    “You should have seen him on the bed,” Eric laughed, “squirming and bloody, his cord still attached to the placenta. I think Margaret just threw that bedspread out.”

    “I wondered what ever happened to that,” Sookie laughed. “I tried to teleport, Amelia, but She said it’s harder than shifting. Shifting is just rearranging your cells, but teleportation is moving all your cells at once from one place to another. I’ll be able to do it eventually, though, probably. It depends on how much I practice.”

    They all laughed and chatted for a while, laughing about shifting and different things Alex had done.

    “Sookie, it’s getting late. What do you need to do to make your visit?” Eric asked her.

    “We’re going to take a quick shower, I’m going to put on my ritual dress and then we’ll meet in the basement. Bjorn, meet us down there in about half an hour.”

    “Alex is asleep in the playpen with his kitten,” Eric told Amelia and Jerry, “so just watch TV or something until we come up. Thank you for watching him.”

    “No problem.” Amelia never minded watching Alex. Just being around him made her feel good. She suspected that was part of his magick because she noticed everyone seemed to feel it.

    Eric and Sookie headed upstairs as Bjorn went to tell the guard he’d be occupied. Sookie insisted that they shower very quickly, so there was only a little making out, and in no time, they were in the basement, Eric in a black tank top and jeans, Sookie in her black dress, kohl on her eyes, both of them barefoot. Sookie checked the Witch’s Mirror quickly and saw the baby in his bed alone.

    Eric stood in the center of the circle as she instructed him, then Sookie took her athame and traced the circle three times, deosil, creating a glowing ring on the floor around them, seriously impressing Eric. She came back to him and wrapped him in her arms.

    “Close your eyes,” she told him, and he did. “Freyja, if you like the time, take me to that boy of mine.” In less than a heartbeat she said “we’re here, Eric.”

    He opened his eyes as he and Sookie stepped apart. He couldn’t believe it! They were in a little yellow nursery with a very low ceiling, obviously not of “this” world because it smelled strongly of Faerie. He looked around, barely able to stand without hitting his head, as Sookie picked Aubie up from his crib. Eric was overwhelmed as she put the infant in his arms. He held the baby close, kissing his forehead, a bloody tear falling from his eyes. He was shocked at himself. He was not only able to love this child, he felt sorry for him, mourned for him. He let Sookie take him and sit in the rocker, and she put him to her breast as Eric knelt beside them so he could watch the baby feed. He kept his hand on Aubie’s little back the whole time, and couldn’t take his eyes off of him.

    Eric marveled that he looked like Alex, only smaller, but he had a very different energy about him. Alex projected confidence and boldness, and was very robust, but this baby reminded him more of Sookie – a gentler soul that reminded him of her kindness and her soft-spoken manner. Aubie looked at Sookie with love in his eyes, and Eric knew that he knew she was his mother – it was an overwhelming feeling that flowed between the two of them and Eric was awash in it. He stroked his little head, and when he was done feeding, Sookie let Eric sit back on his feet and hold the baby as she stroked his long hair, her head resting gently against his, the air around them shimmering pink and gold.

    “Time to come home now, my Darlings,” Freyja’s voice blew softly through the room, so Eric kissed the baby and gave him to Sookie, who kissed him again and put him in his crib. Eric stepped behind her and wrapped his arms around her, and at once they were standing in the circle in their basement. Neither of them moved or spoke for several minutes. Eric held her tightly to him, trying not to dissolve into tears. Sookie was sending comfort to him in the bond, but both of them were consumed with grief. Eric understood now why Sookie was so unrelenting about making these visits. He would never ask her to skip one or discourage her in any way again.

    Sookie wasn’t allowed to have sex on these nights, and she was very tired, so he simply held her and whispered to her as she drifted off early. He brought Alex up to the bedroom, the kitten padding up the steps behind them and jumping onto the bed so it could snuggle in with Alex once Eric put him down. Eric actually took a second to pet the little fur ball. He had to admit that it really was a very pretty little thing with its silky black fur and golden eyes. He went to work in his office, though his mind was on the Fae twin. Sookie was right – that baby belonged with them.

    It occurred to Eric that Sookie still did not know that it was Alex who kept Aubie from crossing over. Alex would learn to adapt, he was sure of it. It was normal for a baby to be selfish, but presented with a smaller sibling, most children learned to love them. Alex was exceptional, so Eric was sure he would eventually understand what it meant to share and would appreciate having a brother. Part of being a warrior was adapting to hardened conditions and still being able to fight. Having a baby brother at this stage was nothing compared to what Alex would face when he was grown, and as much as Alex loved the kitten, maybe he’d love having another baby with him, too? Their development was vastly different, so it’s not as if there would be direct competition. Eric Auberon would be less like a twin and more like a younger brother. Alex would be concerned with running and playing when Aubie was learning to speak and crawl.

    Eric knew Sookie’s heart was breaking all over again every time she went to see Eric Auberon. He admired her for bearing it as well as she did. Every three days, she was having to say goodbye to him, leaving that sweet little thing there looking up at her as she disappeared, knowing a stranger was raising him. The woman’s strength never ceased to amaze him.

    It was getting late, so Eric went back into the bedroom, finding Sookie lying there awake.

    “Hey,” she said softly.

    “Hey. Ready for your Ambrosia?”

    “Yeah. It was Alex, wasn’t it?”

    “What?” He acted like he didn’t know what she meant as he went to the small refrigerator.

    “Alex is the reason Aubie couldn’t cross over.”

    “That seems to be the case, yes.” He stood up with the bottle and cup, bringing them back to his side of the bed.

    “How long have you known?” She asked as he sat next to her, facing the wall.

    “A day or two. I was going to tell you, but we’ve been very busy.” He filled the cup carefully so as not to spill the precious liquid.

    “Yeah, it’s not something you could just drop into the conversation,” she said as she took the cup and drank it like a shot.

    “Are you angry with me?”

    “No, I’m just sad about the situation.”

    “Yes, it is… heart-rending.” He looked directly at her. Octavia was right – she was handling it better than he was.

    “You get it now, though, don’t you?” she observed calmly.

    “Yes, I do. I don’t know how you do it. It’s so hard to leave him…”

    “I’m his mother. I’ll do whatever I have to do. My magick is getting stronger every day, Eric. I’m going to make Dr. Ludwig let me try to call him to me soon.”

    “Yes, I’d expect that. I must confess, I’m much more open to the idea now.”

    “I knew you’d feel that way once you saw him. It’s blood, Eric. We all share DNA – we’re programmed at the Goddess level to care for one another. I know that Fae woman probably loves him very much, but she’s not his mother. Even if he was never inside me, he’s mine.” She let out a huge yawn. “I’m going to fight for my baby, and Freyja knows it, so don’t be afraid.”

    “Do you think Alex can adapt?”

    “Yes, I do. Kids are resilient. I adapted to not having parents, and that’s much worse than this. Look at all the people we have around here. Having another baby is not going to make Alex lack for any love or attention. When Alex is out running around in the yard, pulling away from me, Aubie will still need me. Alex will be wanting his independence right when Aubie is trying to talk and crawl.”

    “This might sound crazy,” Eric said, “but I was thinking, if Alex enjoys the kitten so much, maybe he would enjoy a brother, too. Someone else to play with, you know?”

    “Yes, I do. Look at it this way – it might keep Alex from getting spoiled. He’s well on his way to that, you know?”

    “Yes, he is very willful. He’s too young to discipline, but we need to be aware that his natural tendency is to do what he wants, even when he knows we would not approve.”

    Especially when he knows we would not approve. He does stuff to mess with me, Eric, I know he does. He thinks it’s funny when Mommy flips out.”

    “Most little boys are that way…”

    “Not this early and not so deliberately. He gets this wicked twinkle in his eye that, I swear, looks just like you when you’re being a badass, and I can just see the wheels spinning in his head, thinking he’s going to pull one over on Mommy.”

    Eric laughed. “Yes, I know the look. I’ve seen him do it, and I know I should scold him, but he’s so cute when he’s being mischievous I cannot bring myself to stop him.”

    “May I remind you that YOU were the one that said we’d better not let bad behavior take root?”

    “You are right, of course, but I enjoy his spirit so much – I never want him to lose that.”

    “He won’t, but you know better than anybody, he needs discipline as well as attitude.”

    “Of course, you are right. Speaking of which, you know what I forgot to do?”

    “What?”

    “Where is the bag with the Faerie cross in it?”

    “On the table over there. It’s red leather – you can’t miss it.”

    Eric got up and retrieved the bag and tied it to the end of the co-sleeper.

    “I hope this works,” he told her, “because I know the gym is going to be a continual temptation for him.”

    “Yeah, that’s boy heaven up there, especially since he can fly and hide in the little cubby holes at the top,” Sookie laughed.

    “He likes to fly very high, too. I could not believe how high he went earlier tonight.”

    “I don’t even want to think about that. Is it possible he could go so high he would fall?”

    “No, he’d just not be able to go any higher.”

    “So he can’t, like, pass out from the altitude and fall?”

    “No, that cannot happen. The extreme cold would cause him to turn back as it did tonight.”

    “Well, that’s a relief. He’s wanting to fly more and more, you know?” She let out another huge yawn.

    “Yes, well, I’ll start taking him out regularly in the evenings. Maybe if I wear him out at night, he will sleep later in the mornings?”

    “Dadee?”

    “I’m here, Alex.” Eric reached across Sookie and brought Alex up to his shoulder.

    “Boog, Dadee?”

    “Yes, we’ll go read a book and let Mommy sleep. Kiss Mommy good night.” He held Alex over to her and she kissed his lips as he patted her face.

    “Na-na, Mamee!”

    Eric and Sookie both laughed at how cute he was, and Eric got a bottle from the little fridge. Just as they started out of the room, “meow!” the shiny black kitten stretched and jumped up, bouncing off the bed to follow them.

    Sookie laughed, “good thing I bought a glider instead of a rocker.”

    Eric cracked up as they went into the other room. There was an insulated bag sitting on the chest of drawers that Eric found had a covered plate of food for Alex and a bottle of breast milk. Alicia and Margaret had thought of everything as usual. Eric and Alex settled into the glider as the kitty lay on the rug in front of them, licking its paws. There was a stack of new books on a new little side table next to the chair and Eric picked up the one on top.

    “”Dr. Seuss’s ABC, An Amazing Alphabet Book, a Bright and Early board book”” Eric read. He started to put it back and look at a different book, but Alex objected.

    “Dat, Dadee!”

    “I don’t know if you will understand that one, my son.”

    “Nah, nah, dat!” Alex reached toward the little book and Eric brought it back.

    “Alright, we will read a little and see if you like it:

    “Big A,

    Little a,

    What begins with A?

    Aunt Annie’s alligator.

    A…a….A”

    “Woogie, Dadee!” Alex pointed to the “A” at the top of the page then turned the pages back and pointed to the “A” on the cover.

    “Yes, that is an “A.” A is for alligator.”

    “A ith por awidayduh!” Alex repeated, then pointed out the “A’s” in An, Amazing, and Alphabet at the bottom of the cover.

    Alex pointed to the next big letter on the cover, “wadiz dat?”

    “That is a “B.”” Eric turned back into the second page and read:

    “Big B ,

    Little b,

    What begins with B?

    Barber, baby, bubbles and a bumble bee.”

    “Wadiz dat?”

    “That’s a big bubble.”

    “Bee bubbuh.”

    “Right.”

    “Babee bee.”

    “Bobbie?”

    “Eeah, Babee bee.”

    “Bobbie has a “B” in it?”

    “Eeah, Babee ath a bee inid.”

    “That’s right, it does.” This baby never ceased to amaze his Daddy.

    “Wee mo, pweez?”

    “Read more, please?”

    “Eeah, wee mo.”

    Eric turned the page.

    “Big C,

    Little c,

    What begins with C?

    Camel on the ceiling.

    C…c…C”

    Alex cracked up. “Nah fyeen, Dadee!”

    “The camel is not flying?”

    “Nah. Mamee, “NAH NAH.”” He giggled like crazy, making fun of Mommy.

    “Alex, in the daytime, you must do what Mommy tells you to do.”

    “Nah.” Alex wasn’t having it.

    “Yes, Alex. When I am asleep, Mommy is in charge.”

    “Mamee pundy.” Alex shook his head at Eric.

    “Yes, Mommy is funny, but if she says ‘no,’ you stop.”

    “Nah.”

    “Alex, I mean it. You do what Mommy tells you to do.”

    “NNNAH!”

    “ALEX!”

    “Meow!” the cat reached up Eric’s leg trying to reach the baby.

    “HEY, guys,” Sookie came into the room, “let’s all relax.”

    “He is being very defiant,” Eric said, not pleased at all.

    “Yeah, so what do we do? Like you said, he’s too young to punish. Octavia thinks he wouldn’t understand it if we did,” Sookie took the baby from Eric. She knew he wouldn’t hurt Alex, but she wanted them both to chill out so Alex would go to sleep.

    “What do people do to train young children?” Eric had no idea what to do at this stage of the game.

    “Well, when he’s a little older, we’ll use time-outs. I don’t think that would work yet, though.”

    “I don’t know, Sookie. Watch this…” Eric held up the book so she and Alex could see it.” Alex, what is this?”

    “”A” ith por awidayduh.”

    Sookie looked at Eric.

    “He said, “”A” is for alligator.””

    “He knows what an “A” is?” Sookie couldn’t believe it.

    “Mamee, Babee ath a bee inid,” Alex pointed at the “B” on the book.

    “Bobbie has a “B” in it.” Eric interpreted.

    “An buhbuh!”

    “And bubbles.”

    Before Sookie could respond, Alex said, “Ah ava undwy!”

    “No, Alex, you say “I’m hungry,” Sookie corrected him.

    “Ahm undwy.”

    “Here, Sookie, I will feed him.” Eric stood up and took him back. “You go back to bed. You and Octavia can talk about this tomorrow.” Sookie stepped over to help him open the green insulated bag. “We have to do something, but I don’t know what we can do. Where I am from, punishment was physical. I know we do not want that.”

    “Yeah, my parents tended to spank and stuff, too.” Sookie helped him get situated with Alex, his spoon, and his dinner.

    “I think we need to figure out where Alex is developmentally. Is he the equivalent of a one year old, or two or three…” Eric was thinking out loud.

    “That makes sense, but I know at one point Octavia said his development was all over the chart. She also said some parts of the brain develop before the others do.”

    “It would be helpful to know which does what.”

    “Yeah. I almost…” she stopped herself.

    “What, Sookie? Follow your instincts,” Eric encouraged her.

    “I almost think he’s in his “terrible two’s” now.”

    “What is that?”

    “Babies go through this stage when they’re about two years old where they’re just monsters. They say ‘no’ to everything, even if they don’t mean ‘no.’ Octavia could probably explain it better, but it’s one of those things almost every parent knows. I think it has something to do with declaring their independence or testing boundaries or something like that.”

    Eric nodded as he scooped up turkey and gravy and held the little spoon so Alex could slurp it up. “The part about boundaries makes sense. He wants to see what we will let him get away with.”

    “I just hope his magick doesn’t develop any more for a while. I’m having these Twilight Zone nightmares…”

    “Twilight Zone?” Alex had already finished that small plate of food so Sookie handed Eric a double-size jar of applesauce from the bag.

    “Yeah – it’s a TV show…”

    “I know the show, but how does it apply to Alex?”

    “There was an episode I saw once where this little boy of about four or five would wish people away and erase their mouths and things like that and just terrorized everyone around him. They couldn’t punish him or teach him anything – he was too powerful.”

    “I see what you mean. He was able to impose his childish will on everyone around him…”

    “Right, and make any crazy fantasy come true. He turned one guy who bugged him into a jack-in-the-box. It was gruesome!”

    “Yes, I can see how it could be. I’m wondering if there’s some way to use the Faerie crosses to help with that.”

    “How?”

    “Well, if you put him in a time-out, the problem is getting him to stay put, yes?”

    “Yeah.”

    “A Faerie cross might make him stay put for a few minutes while he was restricted. It would only be a few minutes at a time, yes?”

    “Yeah, it’s just one minute for each year of age when they’re really small.”

    “So, if you are correct, it would only be two minutes for Alex right now. That seems very short to be effective.”

    “Yeah, but to a kid, it crawls by. All they can think about is getting out of it.”

    Eric had gone through half the double-size jar of apples. “Alex, are you still hungry?”

    “Eeah, mo appo.”

    “He ate that whole plate-full and half of that jar and he’s still hungry?” Sookie asked.

    “Yes, he is eating a lot,” Eric was as surprised as Sookie.

    “See if you can see his teeth coming in,” Sookie suggested.

    “There are edges of two little ones on the bottom, but nothing on the top yet.”

    “Let me see,” Sookie bent down to look in Alex’s mouth, which Alex held open for her without even being told. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I hope the top ones come in soon, too.”

    “Why?”

    “I’m starting to think we can’t puree enough to fill him up. He might need things he can chew.”

    “Would that matter?”

    “I don’t know. That’s a nutrition question. We’ll have to ask Bobbie or Bjorn about it, or maybe the others who have raised kids. He’s eating food several times a day now. He has a big breakfast every morning. Bjorn feeds him – you should see it, it’s so cute.”

    “Bjorn is cute?” He was teasing her.

    “No, Eric, it’s cute seeing that big guy feeding a little baby.”

    “Do you think it’s cute when I do it?”

    “Even cuter, of course. Don’t be jealous.”

    “I am not jealous of Bjorn, my Angel, have no fear.”

    “Good, I’m glad. You have no reason to be.”

    Eric laughed, more to himself than anything, and Sookie didn’t think anything more about it.

    Alex finished the jar of apples and finally yawned, so Eric took them both back to bed, kitten at their heels. Eric and Sookie snuggled the baby in between them until he fell asleep and the cat sat on the bed below him, between them.

    “She’s very attached to Alex already,” Sookie said. “A normal kitten wouldn’t act that way.”

    “Stop selling, Sookie, you can keep the cat,” Eric teased her and stroked her cheek as she laughed softly.

    “Come on, Eric, you like her, too.”

    “She’s very cute,” he admitted, “especially when she plays with Alex. I was trying very hard not to laugh earlier but I couldn’t do it. They were too funny, especially when Alex shifted and they went tumbling together in a little black ball.”

    “I knew you’d like her.” BIG YAWN!

    “You need to let go and sleep, Sookie.”

    “Yeah, I do.” So she did. When Sookie was sleeping soundly, Eric moved Alex to the co-sleeper and the kitten moved with him. Eric scratched it behind the ears then turned the light out and went to rest.

    Sookie felt as if she was floating. Was this a dream? She felt like she was in a field of yellow, then she realized it was the yellow wallpaper on the walls in Aubie’s room. Sookie was watching, but she wasn’t actually there. The morning sun was streaming in Aubie’s window, and a petite Fae woman, who had pointed ears and short auburn hair, came in and took him out of his crib for a bottle. Sookie thought this must be a dream, because Aubie was sensitive to sunlight, wasn’t he?

    1. She thought about this for a minute. How did she know he was sensitive to sunlight – because Niall said so? What about Ludwig? What if they were lying? Niall would most definitely lie about the situation if he thought it would benefit him in any way. Was this the same sun that shone in Sookie’s world, or did Elfyria have a different sun? Did the rules that applied there apply here? There was still so much she didn’t know!

    Sookie felt like a fly on the wall as she watched the woman change Aubie’s diaper and rock him. She had a little blue rag doll that Aubie seemed to like and she used it like a puppet to entertain him. Aubie giggled sweetly as she talked in a silly voice and tickled him with the little toy.

    There was a knock at the door and the woman put Aubie on a blanket on the floor with the doll, then rushed to answer it. Aubie turned over on his tummy immediately and pushed up with his little hands. He wasn’t able to get up on his knees yet, but he was trying. Sookie concluded that he wasn’t as advanced as Alex, but he was more advanced than a human baby would be. She wondered if her breastfeeding him had caused any of this, because he’d shown no extraordinary signs when she’d first seen him.
    The woman came back into the room with Niall, of all people, and picked the baby up. She handed him to Nail, who seemed used to handling him.

    “How is my little Prince today, Auberon?” Niall tickled the baby under his chin.

    “He’s just had his morning bottle and we were playing with his little friend.”

    “Has he shown any signs yet?”

    “I thought, perhaps, that things in the room seemed to have moved…”

    “Well, it’s still early. He should have essentially the same magick as the brother, though he’ll develop much more slowly for lack of Sookie’s milk. If I can hold off the opposition until he is old enough, he should be able to take the reins with no problem. You understand that we might have to move him a few times if his whereabouts become known? Continue to keep him out of sight.”

    Sookie didn’t like the sound of that. Was Aubie never going outside?

    “What about his parents? Do they know yet?” She asked Niall, obviously hoping the answer was ‘no.’

    “They know that he exists, but not that we’re keeping him for our own purposes.”

    WHAT THE HELL! Sookie paid particular attention now.

    “They believe he is unable to cross over,” Niall continued.

    “Isn’t he?”

    “Well, the brother kept him from making the initial crossing, but we have no reason to believe that he couldn’t make the trip now if we tried. I’d prefer to have him raised by Fae, however, so he’s not so sympathetic toward the Vampires. One child is more than enough for my granddaughter and her dead husband.” Niall sneered as he referred to Eric and Sookie was boiling mad now. “He’ll be a handful as it is, and since he was the one that put this situation in place, we’ll do it his way. He wants their exclusive attention and that suits our purposes very well. There are those among us who would never trust him as Prince if they knew he’d been raised by a Vampire King.”

    “If his mother knows…”

    “Hopefully, she’ll be too occupied with the Vampire child to worry about this one. I see you have the windows open – is light no longer a problem for the child?”

    “No, he actually seems to enjoy the sun now. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

    “With all the babies you’ve nursed?”

    “No. It’s quite extraordinary – I’ve never seen a child lose such a sensitivity, especially not so early on. We should probably test him for iron and silver again soon.”

    “I’ll ask his doctor about that if I feel it is appropriate. The less she knows about these developments the better. She’s a little too sympathetic toward Sookie’s maternal feelings in these matters for my purposes. I don’t want her getting the idea that it’s safe for him to cross over. She’s too apt to help Sookie take him.”

    pp”Wouldn’t he be safer there?”

    “Yes, but if we’re very careful, Liam’s assassins will never find him.”

    WTF!

    Sookie sat straight up to find Alex shrieking like a “banshee,” red faced and crying, fangs down, acting as if he was out of breath, he was screaming so long and so hard. The kitten was hissing and clawing at the red leather bag as Sookie quickly picked Alex up and tried to comfort him. Bjorn came bounding up the stairs as she was trying to sooth him, as scared as Sookie was.

    “What’s wrong?” Bjorn asked.

    “I don’t know – he woke me up screaming, but I don’t see anything wrong with him.”

    “What’s wrong with this cat?” The little animal was franticly clawing and biting at the red pouch. Bjorn untied the bag as the cat hissed at it and put it on the side table. All at once, Alex stopped screaming. The kitten bounced over to Eric’s side of the bed and stretched up to meow at Alex, who reached out to pet her as Sookie rocked him and talked to him. Alex was still shaking and Sookie could feel his little heart beating fast and hard as she held him, speaking softly to him and rubbing his little back.

    “Shhh, Pookie, it’s OK. Mommy’s got you, you’re OK. Look, kitty is checking on you.”

    “Ma g-giddy,” Alex snuffled.

    “Yeah, she’s your kitty. She wants to make sure you’re OK, too.” Sookie moved him around a little so the kitty could raise up and rub her cheek against his, giving him a little “meow,” making him smile through his tears. “Bjorn, hand me a tissue, please?”

    Bjorn gave her the box of pink Kleenex and Sookie dabbed at Alex’s pink tears and wiped his little nose. The kitty seemed content that Alex was OK now, then so fast only a Supe could have seen it, she bounced across the bed, onto the floor, up to the chair, the side table, and grabbed the red bag, then ran out the bedroom door with it.

    “What the hell?” Bjorn said and followed it, though it was moving like a shot.

    The cat zipped down the stairs to the first floor straight to the sliding doors and stood in front them wailing. Surprised, Margaret slid the door open for the thing, which ran out under a bush out of view of the house and started digging at the ground.

    “Margaret, did the cat…?”

    “It’s outside,” she said as Bjorn went out back in pursuit. He couldn’t see her and it was windy today, so by the time he picked up the scent, the kitten was trotting back up to the back door. She sat on her haunches looking up at Bjorn, waiting for him to open the door for her with a look of expectation that creeped Bjorn out a bit. This was definitely not a normal cat so what the hell was it? Bjorn opened the door and both of them went back inside, he figuring he’d look for the Faerie cross later. Actually, he was pretty sure from the scent of the kitten, fresh dirt and urine, that she’d pissed on it and buried it, so they’d just have to get another one out of the butter bowl. The cat ran ahead quickly, but not as fast as before.

    Sookie was still snuggling Alex when Bjorn got back into the room and the kitten was already curled up on the bed next to them.

    “So what happened?” Sookie asked

    “I think she peed on it and buried it. Maybe I’ll look for it later.”

    “Ewww – why would she do that?”

    “I don’t know, but you’ve got more of them, right?”

    “A couple, yeah.”

    Bjorn went to the drawer and took out the plastic bowl. When he opened the lid, the cat jumped up and spit, and Alex zipped to the bottom of the bed onto his hands and knees, dropped his fangs and hissed.

    “What’s wrong with them now?” Sookie said in absolute shock.

    “I think it’s the Faerie crosses,” Bjorn said, ” watch.” He took one out of the bowl and walked toward Alex, causing him to let out a piercing shriek until Bjorn put it back in the bowl under the salt and closed it.

    “You mean that’s what he was screaming about?” Sookie said, aghast. “Now what do we do?”

    “I don’t know, but I know Dr. Ludwig didn’t anticipate he’d have this kind of reaction to them.” Bjorn put the bowl on the table and picked the baby up, giving him back to Sookie as the cat settled in next to them once again.

    “Do you think I should call Dr. Ludwig?” She hugged Alex close and petted his back, calming him again.

    “Maybe. You want to put on a gown?” The covers had fallen early on so that only Sookie’s lower half was covered. There was so much going on she hadn’t noticed and Bjorn hadn’t had a chance to say anything.

    “Yeah, look in that top, right drawer, please?” Sookie pulled the covers up but she was pretty much past being embarrassed in front of Bjorn by now. This happened every day and she didn’t feel like getting uptight about it.

    Bjorn pulled lavender knit gown out of the drawer and once Sookie had it on, he handed her the iPhone, which had fallen between the nightstand and the co-sleeper again.

    “Is it really only 8:03?” she asked as she lit up the phone.

    “Yeah, that’s why I wasn’t up here yet.”

    “So, let me get this straight before I call – he slept fine with it, then woke up screaming, and the cat took it, peed on it and buried it?”

    “That seems to be the case, yes.”

    Sookie just shook her head in disbelief as she called Dr. Ludwig.

    “Sookie?”

    “Yes, Dr., sorry to call you so early…”

    “Why are you up at this hour? You should be sleeping!”

    “Yes, well, I was asleep, but Eric put a bag with a Faerie cross on the baby’s little crib, and he woke up shrieking like nothing you’ve ever heard, then his kitten…”

    “His kitten?”

    “Yeah, this little black cat he has now, grabbed the bag and took it to the back yard, and we think it peed on it and buried it.”

    “You’ve had quite an eventful morning, then.”

    “Yes, we have,” Sookie agreed. “So the Faerie crosses are a bad idea, I guess – is there anything else I can do to keep Alex in bed?”

    “I’m going to have to think about that one. I didn’t anticipate such a strong reaction in him.”

    “I need to talk to you, too, about the other one, you know…?”

    “Alright. I’ll be right there.”

    Instantly, the little doctor was standing there at the foot of the bed. She nodded to Bjorn, and he returned the nod.

    “Anderson, could you take the baby somewhere else while I talk to Sookie?”

    “Sure,” he said, reaching for Alex, “hey, buddy, let’s go see if Margaret has something for us to eat.”

    “Eeah! Ahm undwy!”

    “What a surprise,” Sookie said jokingly.

    “He’s speaking very well,” the doctor was amazed that he continued to progress so quickly. “Let me look him over before you go.” Bjorn sat at the bottom of the bed with the baby so the little doctor could see him. The kitten sat next to them as if supervising the exam.

    “Yeah, and he’s growing like crazy. He’s eating a lot of food now.” Sookie didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

    “Well, that’s because he’s growing so quickly. Has he shown any sign of teething?” Ludwig looked in the baby’s mouth as Bjorn held him and Alex held his mouth open for her.

    “Yes, he’s got two little slivers on the bottom gums, see?”

    “Any pain from that?”

    “A little. He’s got some little teething rings we keep in the freezer for him.”

    “Good. As soon as he gets a little tooth showing on top, start giving him medium soft foods. You’ll still need to shred meats for him and chop the harder stuff. Have your maid puree some raw carrot for him now – that might fill him up a little more, along with more cereals. Ice cream will be good on his gums, now and then, and let him have a little cake when you do.” She looked in Alex’s ears next, then put her hand on his sternum for a few seconds, glancing occasionally to the side to get a read on the cat, too.

    “I let him have some, but is that good for him?”

    “Fat and sugar won’t affect this one much, so anything with protein in it is good for him. No pork, though. Does he eat anything green yet?” The doctor looked at Alex’s scalp and nails on his hands and feet.

    “He loves broccoli.”

    “Really? That’s surprising. Since you’ve got the help, ask the maids to chop and puree fresh or lightly blanched foods for him. I’m not crazy about the stuff in the jars or frozen things, either. Things like cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage might work for him if it’s grated. He should be eating a wide variety of fruits – blueberries and strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, peaches, oranges…”

    “He hates orange juice.”

    “Hmm – and we want to avoid lemons so let’s just say no citrus and play it safe then.”

    “OK,”

    “Most babies wouldn’t, but see if he likes avocados. They’d be awfully good for this one. Cheeses and yogurts, too. You can take him on down now,” she patted Alex’s cheek and smiled at Bjorn.

    “Alright – I’ll tell Margaret what you said,” Bjorn assured her as he left the room with the baby, the cat following at his heels.

    “Now, you’ve seen the other one when?” She walked over to the co-sleeper and detached it so she could roll it away from the bed.

    “Well, Eric and I went last night…”x

    The doctor motioned for Sookie to sit on the side of the bed.

    “Stick your tongue out for me. You were able to take him with you?”

    “Yes.”

    “How did he interact with the child?” She guided her to turn her head to each side, looking in her ears.

    “He loved him instantly, just like I knew he would.”

    “He didn’t perceive him as food?”

    “Not at all. He held him twice with no problems.”

    “Interesting. Look up toward the ceiling.” She pulled down each of Sookie’s lower lids.

    “What I wanted to ask you about is a dream I was having when Alex woke me up.”

    “Freyja?”

    “No, Niall visiting Aubie.” Sookie saw a chill run through the little doctor. Sookie wanted to know what she knew and she wanted to know it now.

    “What happened in the dream?” The little doctor was pretty sure it was no dream. Freyja was laying things out pretty clearly for Sookie.

    “Niall was saying he didn’t want you to know that the baby liked sunlight because you’d be too likely to help me take him. You’re apparently too tolerant of my maternal instincts.” Sookie was clearly angry with Niall, even if she thought it was a dream.

    “Did he say anything else?” She placed her hand between Sookie’s breasts and concentrated on her energy.

    “Yes, he’s keeping him for his own purposes. He wants him to be Prince of something.”

    “Elfyria. That was always a possibility, of course, but I wonder that he’s thinking of that already. He couldn’t rule until he was at least 20, and probably much older than that.”

    “He said he didn’t want him raised by a Vampire.”

    “That’s typical of Niall…” She looked at Sookie’s fingernails. “He’s spent most of his life at war with the Vamps.”

    “…and that he would be safer here but he thought he could hide him from “Liam’s assassins.” That’s when Alex woke me, so I didn’t hear anything else. Are they keeping my baby hidden away indoors all the time? Is somebody trying to kill him?”

    She pulled the covers completely off Sookie’s legs so she could check them for swelling.

    “Niall has many enemies, the worst and most persistent of which is Liam Cullach. The good part is that we’re pretty sure he doesn’t know about the baby yet.”

    “So they are keeping him hidden?”

    “Yes, they are, until he’s stronger.”

    “He’d be much stronger if I could feed him a few times a day.”

    “Yes, but then you call attention to him. And how will you explain him to the kingdom?”

    “I don’t care about any of that. I want my child. Let people think whatever they want but that baby belongs with me and Eric.”

    “Does Eric agree?”

    “Yes, he does.”

    “How does he feel about the cat?”

    “Are you changing the subject?”

    “Not at all. You know it’s not a normal cat, yes?”

    “Yeah – we don’t know exactly how, yet.”

    “Well, I’m not sure who it is, but I may know the “what.” I thought at first it might be a Cat Sith…”

    “Huh? Like from Star Wars?”

    “They stole the word from us. It’s a type of Faerie cat, but they usually have a white spot on their chests and can be quite large.”

    “That one’s all black.”

    “So I saw – my money says it’s a Pooka.”

    “A Pooka?”

    “Yes, it’s a Shape Shifter, but some of them favor a particular form. That one is a cat most of the time, but she might choose other forms if she finds it convenient or necessary. Their most common form is a black horse with golden eyes.”

    “Well, the colors are right…”

    “Yes, and a horse couldn’t follow Alex through the house the way a kitty can.”

    “Yeah, she stays right with him.”

    “Pay attention to what Alex says about her. Sooner or later, he’ll tell you whom she is.”

    “OK, what about Aubie?”

    “All I can tell you is you’ll know when it’s time.”

    “Like it’s not time now?”

    “No, now you have a choice. When the time comes, it will be the only option.”

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