LATE Chapter 092

The Tiger Kitten

 

Aubie was having the time of his life in his first family bath. He was used to being in a little pan of warm water all by himself and only for a few minutes at a time. Mama and Dada and Bumby were all in this bath with him and there was a soft pillow wrapped around him and funny little brightly colored things – rubber duckies – floating in front of him. Mama gently washed his head with her soft hands and rubbed that white thing – a bar of soap – all over him and it was fantastic. It was OK when the other Mommy did that, but not fun like this! She and Dada were talking the whole time and he liked to hear Dada talk because it made him feel safe. He might not know the word “safe” yet, but everything about Dada, from his size to his voice to the hard way his arms and chest felt when he held Aubie up next to him said everything was all right and always would be. He never felt that before Mama brought him here.

Bumby was talking, too, and that was something Aubie wanted to do. Every time Bumby spoke to him, Aubie did his very best to say the same thing back to him and he wanted to get as good at it as Bumby.

“Ah, Obee!”

“Ah!” he answered back with a big smile and a giggle.

“Wada, Obee. WADA,” Alex said and splashed him a little.

“Wa-wa” Aubie tried hard and thought he did pretty well.

“That’s good, Aubie! Water!” Mama said, glowing all over him, pink and yellow. Nobody else in Aubie’s world shined bright the way she did and he could tell it meant SHE was special. Anybody could see that.

“NnnDada!” Aubie pointed at Eric and made them all laugh.

“Very good, my son! I am Aubie and Alex’s Daddy.” Eric loved to hear the boys talk.

“Bumby!” He mumbled a little as he said that word, but it was clear enough for Sookie to understand since he was pointing at Alex and she had heard him say it several times.

“Buddy! Good, Aubie, that’s your Buddy! Yeah, that’s your Buddy, Alex! You’re so smart!”

“Mmamma!” Aubie giggled and smacked and splashed the surface of the water.

“Obee dokkeen!”

“Yeah, Aubie’s talking. That’s because Alex has been a good boy and teaching him to talk,” Sookie said, wanting to encourage Alex to keep prompting Aubie to speak.

OK, this was fun, but now Aubie wanted a hug from Mama so he could lay his head on her shoulder, so he tried to twist around and reach for her. Sookie could tell he wanted to be picked up, so she pulled him out of the support and hugged him to her and he yawned and put his head on her shoulder.

“Uh-oh! Aubie is getting sleepy!” She teased him a little and he snuggled up to her shoulder and just enjoyed the feeling. He yawned again, and this time Alex yawned in response.

“Now that they’re clean, they’re getting tired,” Eric smiled. “Should we finish our bath, or should I dry them off, tuck them in and come back?”

“Hmm – decisions, decisions. They need diapers, too, you know?”

“Yes, they do. I think you should relax and I will take the boys and diaper them, tuck them into our bed, then I will come back and we will have our time together.”

“Would you rather wait for me to do that?” Sookie offered

“No, Sweetheart, you relax. I can do it very quickly and be back much sooner. Let me take Aubie from you, and you hang onto Alex until I get back.” Eric got out of the tub and quickly dried and wrapped a towel around his waist, then gently took Aubie from her, wrapping him in a soft towel. Aubie rubbed his little nose and was content to put his head on Eric’s shoulder and was undisturbed as Eric zipped into the nursery and diapered him, then spoke softly to him as he put him up to his shoulder. Eric pulled down the covers on the bed and settled Aubie down on Sookie’s pillow, which felt wonderful to him because it had her sweet scent on it. Eric went back to where Sookie was snuggling Alex and letting him play with the “duggiesth” and Sookie held him up so he could wrap a towel around him. Once Alex was quickly diapered and tucked into bed on Eric’s pillow, he came back into the bathroom, lit some candles, hit the lights and slipped into the tub, which Sookie was warming with more water since the level had been low for the boys.

Eric and Sookie snuggled together in the warm water, relaxing for a minute and just getting in tune with each other, even to the point that Eric was pretending to breathe in time with Sookie. The air around the tub gently sparkled with pink energy as love and contentment swirled around them.

“Eric, do you see that?” Sookie asked quietly.

“The little sparkles? Yes, I do.”

“Have we ever generated that when we weren’t having sex?”

“I think we’ve generated purple swirls a couple of times when we’ve been in the tub together.”

“What do you think it is?”

“Love.”

Sookie laughed softly. “Love? From me, or you, or both of us?”

“If I had to give it a source, I’d say it comes from you, but you give it off when we are together. I think it is you projecting happiness and contentment all around us.”

“Have you ever seen anything like that before?”

“No, not really. I have felt whirlwinds of energy from Freyja, and I felt a magickal “aura” of sorts from Titania and maybe one or two others, but these sparkles and explosions are unique to you, my Angel. You are the only one who has taken me to alternate dimensions and fucked me in the air,” he laughed softly, “unless Fólkvangr counts as another dimension.”

“That’s where Her great hall is, right?”

“Yes. I sheltered there, I don’t know how long. Nights seemed to last for weeks sometimes.”

“Pretty wild, huh?”

“Not as wild as you can be at times, especially when you were in bloodlust the other night. That was the most intense sexual experience of my life.”

“Yeah, you passed out,” Sookie giggled.

“No one ever did that to me before, yet you have done it twice.”

“I saw you get knocked out with a rock…”

“From a hit, yes, but not from an orgasm,” he laughed. “You are the only woman, Divine or otherwise, who has ever fucked me unconscious.”

Sookie giggled and stretched up to kiss him, and he stretched it out the way he liked to do. She reached between them and began to stroke his cock, which was as hard as she’d ever felt, and she knew he was nearly there. He moved slowly so she could continue her attentions as he sat on the edge of the tub with his back against the wall. Sookie got up on her knees and took him in her mouth, ignoring the slightly    .soapy taste and really focusing all of her energy into her hand and her mouth. Eric felt the most amazing tingle that began in his cock and then spread upward into the rest of his body. Every muscle came alive in a way he’d never felt as it spread through his abs, his chest, his nipples, down his legs and arms, up into his face and head. It was as if his entire body was being caressed by tiny tongues. with just a hint of spark, all at once. He laughed with delight when it moved into his earlobes and eyelids and he knew Sookie was laughing, too, but she was still concentrating on her hand and mouth. Her tongue was warm velvet, and waves of warmth and ecstasy followed the tingles in a wave outward from the center of his being, which at the moment was sheathed in Sookie’s soft, warm kiss. Eric didn’t know whether to laugh with delight or weep from the comfort and romance of the feelings that were moving through his body. The waves became throbs, hot and red and deep beneath his skin, massaging his whole body as he seized up, howling, and came. And came. And came. It was the longest release he could remember in his long life. When he finally slid back down into the water, he was panting as if he were out of breath.

“Min Gudinna, Sookie, you are getting so good at that. I could feel that in my whole body – every part of me felt so alive!”

Sookie giggled as she snuggled up to his chest and asked, “do you want to know a secret?”

“Yes?” He really, really did.

“I’m not going to try it tonight, but I have a feeling that I can make you come without touching you.” She had an air of such wickedness and daring about her that was just delicious.

“Why do you think that?” He teased back, thinking she was probably over-estimating her new abilities, but who knew until she tried?

“Because I was controlling all those waves. I could start them, stop them, make them morph into something else completely. Sometime, when you least expect it, I’m going to make you come without even touching you.”

“You are more than welcome to try, min Vackra Gudinna.”

“Oh, yeah? You just never know when I might do it… there might be people around,” she teased. “I might wait until you’re in a whole crowd of people,” she giggled. “Or at the dinner table. Or maybe I won’t even be in the same room with you.”

“You are becoming very confident, my Angel, but you’ll need to put your powers where your mouth was, so to speak,” he cracked himself up with that little joke and feigned indignance and stuck her tongue out at him, making him laugh even harder.

“Laugh all you want, my darling husband, but when you least expect it – expect it!”

He loved it when she got sassy. “In the mean time, I’m afraid my only option is to make you come the more traditional way.” He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her to him, taking her breath with a long, hard kiss, then impaling her on his lap. He let her wrap her legs around him and moved her up and down with his hands as she bore down rhythmically with all of her attention. He noticed that she was getting very good at that, too, which was wonderful because it would enable her to do magick very effectively. Actually, as he felt another orgasm building, he laughed to himself that it was making her pretty effective at this, too.

She pulled her hair to the side and stretched her neck out to him, saying his favorite words, “mark me!” He bit her hard and she came instantly, bringing him over the edge with her. They were both peaking when he tore his wrist and gave it to her, and that sent them both into a frenzy. They didn’t soak the floor this time, but they were both exhausted by the extended ending. He began to recover himself first, and pulled her around in front of him so he could wash her hair. She was utterly spent, so he worked gently but quickly, knowing she’d fall asleep if he let her. She leaned on the edge of the tub as he washed his own hair and they managed to wash each other off without disturbing the mood. Eric let the water out of the tub and then gently rubbed some Chanel No. 5 lotion into her moist skin. He got a big, fluffy towel to wrap around her when she stepped out of the tub and he gently dried her and combed out her hair, then his own and he led her to the bed, where the boys were sleeping soundly. He moved Aubie to the little co-sleeper and put Alex next to him, then let Sookie get into bed and he crawled in next to her, spooning up behind her as she lay facing the babies.

“I’m sorry I’m falling asleep, Sweetie.”

“Don’t be sorry, Sookie, you need your rest. Let yourself go. When the boys awake, I’ll give them their bottles and tuck them back in with you.”

“We need a bigger co-sleeper.”

“I’ll see about having one made that’s twin-sized, alright?”

“We’ll need a bunch of them.”

“Would you rather have special ones made or simply have a crib in our room. The boys are secure enough to sleep in a crib.”

“Not yet, OK? I like having them in bed with me when you’re not here.”

“Alright – I know they’d prefer that, too.”

“Actually maybe we’ll get rid of the co-sleepers and put them in a crib while you’re up, then you move them to the bed, when you go to rest. Being next to each other is comforting, right?”

Eric laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“It’s getting hard to keep a secret from you. It was going to be a surprise, but we’ve already ordered new co-sleepers that will hold both boys and they’ll have room to grow.”

“Really?”

“Yes. They aren’t as pretty as this one, but they’ll hold the boys for quite a while and can be used as a play yard and a stand alone… what is that word? It’s not basket, it’s…”

“Bassinet?”

“Yes, bassinet.”

“Oh, thank you! It never occurred to me to look for a special one for twins.”

“You’ll like these. The babies lay perpendicular to you so they’re equally close. It’s about half-again as wide as that one and a bit longer. They look very comfy.”

“Comfy?” Sookie laughed.

“Yes – isn’t that the word?”

“Yeah, I just never heard you use it before.”

“I probably picked it up from you. I caught myself saying “lookie” to Alex the other day.”

Sookie cracked up at that and he laughed at himself. “You’re definitely a daddy! You’ll be baby talking with the best of them by the time they learn to walk.”

“I would never have believed it, but you might be right. I enjoy hearing them try to speak so much. Alex fascinates me with the way he interprets words, and I am so proud of Auberon when he tries to respond to Alex. Watching Alex teach him is inspiring.”

“I know! I love that. I almost wonder if Aubie won’t catch up to Alex at some point because of it.”

“It’s possible. I hope it doesn’t go the other way…”

“What – you mean Alex acting younger because Aubie does?”

“I’ve heard that can be a problem with siblings, where one regresses because the younger gets more attention.”

“Not with Alex. He’s hungry for new words. Watch the way he pays attention when people are talking. It’s like he wants to take the words right out of their mouths and make them his own.”

“True. I think that’s part of the reason he’s so well behaved around strangers. He’s listening to what they say, trying to discern the meaning.”

“So when are we getting this new co-sleeper?”

“Any day now. Alicia ordered it Tuesday, today is Thursday, so theoretically we might have it before the weekend.”

“Good, it will make our lives easier and be safer for them and I know they love being next to each other. Are we going to take it with us as we travel?”

“There will be one in each of our clubs and homes, but we’ll have one in the plane to use plus one in case we stay somewhere without one.”

“Wow – big sale for that company, huh?” she laughed.

“Yes, and they will benefit many families when we no longer need them.”

“Yep, but I hope we need them a long time.”

“What do you mean?”

“I hope they don’t grow as fast as they’re developing speech and stuff. I want my babies to be babies.”

“Don’t worry, Sookie, they aren’t growing at unusual rates, and you always have the girl to look forward to.”

“That’s hard to imagine right now.”

“Not for me. I’m very anxious to have a daughter.”

“Uh-huh – let’s see how crazy you are about it when she hits puberty and goes boy crazy.”

“Our daughter will not be “boy-crazy.” She will be a lady, like her mother.”

“So you’re OK with the idea of your daughter doing what we just did some day?”

“It will never happen. No one would dare.”

“You dare…”

“That’s different.”

“And you’ve talked about Alex hooking up when he’s older…”

“A daughter, particularly a royal daughter, is different.”

“Not necessarily – what if she’s a warrior?”

“So much the better.”

“Or a skank.”

“Don’t be crude, Sookie, it will never happen.”

“OK, you’ve got a few years to get this through your head – you can’t behead every boy that looks twice at her.”

“I wouldn’t kill anyone for looking…”

“Eric…”

“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Sookie cracked up, but her laughs ended in a big yawn.

“You must sleep, my lovely wife,” he said softly and nudged her from behind.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she laughed softly, but she was fading and let herself sink into it this time.

Eric lay there watching his family sleep for a good 45 minutes, then he went into his office and handled some online banking. He pulled the specs on the airplane up on his computer and considered whether it would be more cost effective to own it or lease it as they would be these next few months. It would mean keeping at least two flight crews on his payroll, and assuming all the repair and maintenance costs on it, where as if they rented, they could continually have a newer model. On the other hand, if they owned the plane, they’d have a better chance of keeping it from being bugged, and that was no small thing. They’d also be assured of its availability at a moment’s notice and in their current situation, that was no small thing. The more he thought about it, the more he realized they needed to own it.

It suddenly occurred to Eric that Sophie Ann had owned her own plane. Where was it? He couldn’t imagine a regent as acquisitive as de Castro deciding to sell a private plane he already owned. It was too big an ego boost. Eric pulled out his phone and dialed.

“Eric?”

“Yes, Bill. Something just occurred to me. What happened to Sophie Ann’s plane?”

Bill was stunned for a minute. “That’s a very good question.”

“I haven’t found any record of it in de Castro’s holdings, have you?”

“No, and he would definitely keep a status symbol like that.”

“Sandy has never mentioned it, has she?”

“No, she hasn’t and her books were in excellent shape when we went over them. Any ideas?”

“Madden either had it hidden, or he sold it and pocketed the money. Somewhere, there is an airplane or a huge chunk of unaccounted for cash.”

“Let me talk to some of the people remaining from the old regime and see if I can get a line on it.”

“Alright, keep me apprised of any developments.”

“Will do.”

“Good night, Bill.”

“Good night.”

Eric had to think about this. On one hand, it could be a simple theft on Madden’s part, which would be easy to believe. On the other hand, Eric could think of several uses for a plane kept off the kingdom’s books and they were all risky and illegal, which would also be par for Madden’s course. Even if they found it, though, it was much too small for their current needs.

In the mean time, Anubis had sent pictures of the private plane they would use and he laughed to himself that Sookie would be blown away by it. She would also swallow her tongue if she saw the costs associated with it. So far, it had only required a few modifications to suit their needs – a California king-sized bed plus a co-sleeper in the master bedroom; a spare travel box, just in case, would be stored underneath; they created more room for the guards to lounge in, and added some couches and tables at the back, where there was still seating for 30 after 22 seats were removed; wifi and satellite TV were added; and they upgraded to a 65 inch TV in the forward lounge. The dining table seated 12 and would double as a conference room and the upper level of the Boeing 747-VIP would be quarters for the flight crew so they could stay with the plane if necessary. The galley they used to prepare meals was also upstairs and there was even a small wet bar with three stools in the forward lounge.

The first class seating for 12 was larger and “overstuffed” compared to the coach seats, though they were plenty roomy, and all were done in nice light blue leather. The overall décor of the plane was shades of light and bright blue with mahogany or dark cherry woodwork. There was light blue carpeting throughout and there were three ¾ baths and two lavatories. He was even arranging for Sookie’s favorite items to be ready for her in the Master Bath, which also housed a changing table for the babies.

This was the height of luxury and the plane was guaranteed in good shape though it had originally belonged to a Las Vegas-type singer who had used it for various tours. Everything that needed refreshing had been and it was being serviced from nose to tail. The plane was so large they would be restricted to using major airports, but that would be fine because the clubs were all adjacent to large ones. He had made special arrangements to have it housed and maintained in Shreveport when not in use and he would keep enough crew to work 24 hours on retainer. Because of their travel requirements, he considered it a need, rather than a luxury and the kingdom would pay for it, so there were ways to offset most of the costs. There was simply no other way to move this many people from point A to point B on the schedule they had using commercial flights and this way, the crew worked for him, not an airlines, so he could have proper background checks done.

The background checks were no small thing. He was still expecting a mole to try and move into his employ and was having everyone investigated thoroughly. He was wondering if a more direct approach to Garner would help anything when Aubie woke up and said, “Mmama!”

Eric zipped back into the bedroom to find Aubie sucking his thumb, his big eyes looking Eric up and down they way they always did, waiting patiently for someone to pick him up. Eric scooped him up and said, “Shhh, Auberon, don’t wake Mommy. We’ll go have a bottle, alright?”

Aubie wrapped his arms around Eric’s neck as he put him up to his shoulder, stroking his back gently and speaking to him the whole time. He took a bottle from the refrigerator and took him into the nursery. As he put the bottle into the warmer, Aubie looked up to see what he was doing.

“Ummuhmuh!” was all he could say as he pointed at the bottle and looked at Eric.

“That’s the warmer.” Eric said softly, “It’s going to make the blood warm so it tastes good, then you and I will sit in the glider and drink some blood, alright?”

Aubie just looked at Eric and giggled. Whatever he said was fine with him and before long he was happily curled up in Daddy’s arm sucking on a warm bottle. Eric talked to him the whole time, and sometimes Aubie would giggle and smile, then go back to suckling. About three-quarters of the way through the bottle, Aubie took a big breath and shook his head to indicate he didn’t want the nipple anymore.

“Are you done eating? Did you have enough?” Eric spoke softly with a big smile on his face. “Would you like to read a book?”

“nnDada!”

“Let’s read a book, alright, my son? Let’s see – here’s a new one. It’s called Dr. Seuss’s Wet Pet, Dry Pet, Your Pet, My pet, a book of pettable pets. Does that sound good?”

Aubie giggled and grinned, mostly because Eric was talking, and he watched closely as Eric opened the book and showed him a yellow string that was one of the illustrated critters’ hair.

He read aloud:

From there to here, 

From here to there, 

Funny things 

Are everywhere.

These yellow pets are called the Zeds.

They have one hair up on their heads.

Their hair grows fast… so fast they say,

They need a haircut every day.”

“See the Zed’s hair, Auberon? It’s a long yellow hair,” Eric lead the baby to stroke the yellow string, “He has yellow hair like you.” Eric smiled and stroked Aubie’s hair, which prompted him to rub his little head and Eric said, “hair.”

“Ah!” Aubie reached up and stroked a long strand of Eric’s hair.

“Yes, that’s my hair. You and I both have yellow hair, don’t we?”

Aubie wasn’t sure what he was saying, but he liked the way he said it so he giggled and kicked and reached for Eric’s face. Eric took his little hand and kissed his palm, then said, “Shall we read some more, my son?”

“Ah!”

Eric laughed. “I’ll take that as a yes.

This one, I think, is called a Yink.

He likes to wink, he likes to drink,

And drink,

And drink!

The thing he likes to drink is ink.

The ink he likes to drink is pink.

He likes to wink and drink pink ink.”

“Look, Aubie, the Yink is drinking the pink ink, watch,” he pulled a little tab that made the level of ink in the illustrated bottle go down,” see, he’s drinking it up. All Gone!”

Aubie giggled, kicked and clapped his hands like he’d seen Bumby do. Daddy was talking just to him and it was AWESOME! Eric turned to the next page and Aubie said “Ahhh!” when he saw a big patch of light blue fuzzy feathers on the next pet. Eric helped him stroke the feathers and Aubie loved the sensation. Eric read:

Brush! Brush! Brush! Brush! 

Comb! Comb! Comb! Comb!

Blue hair is fun to brush and comb.

All girls who like to brush and comb

Should have a pet like this at home.”

He let Aubie pull a bit more at the feathers then said, “shall we continue?”

Aubie said “Ah!”

Eric turned the page and read:

Who is this pet?

Say! He is wet.

You never yet met a pet, I bet,

As wet as they let this wet pet get.”

Eric turned to the next set of pages, which had a drawing of an animal with antlers with a real red satin ribbons stretched across them and three paper rings hanging on it.

“Ahhhh!”

“Yes, look at that. It’s like a game.”

Aubie was pulling at them roughly, so Eric pulled his hands back just a little and read to take his attention away from the book,

At our house we play out back.

We play a game called Ring the Gack.

Would you like to play this game?

Come down! We have the only Gack in town.”

Aubie giggled and drooled a bit, so Eric wiped it with a little towel that was laying folded on the table. They turned the next page and Eric showed Aubie where to pet the little sheep with some cotton stuck in the page and showed him a little panel that lifted to up show two kids looking out the window. Aubie tried to pull the panel off the page, but Eric distracted him by reading again,

The moon was out and we saw some sheep.

We saw some sheep take a walk in their sleep.

By the light of the moon, by the light of a star,

They walked all night from near to far.”

Eric turned to the last pages and Aubie loved it because there was a big cat-like creature with yellow synthetic fur that he was actually able to grab a hold of. Eric was laughing as he read.

And now good night.

It is time to sleep.

So we will sleep with our pet Zeep.

Today is gone. Today was fun.

Tomorrow is another one.

Every day from here to there,

Funny things are everywhere!”

“That’s all of the story, Auberon. Did you like it?” Eric looked him in the eye and smiled, giving him a little tickle, and he said “Ah!” Eric laughed and put the book back on the side table and pulled Aubie up to his shoulder, patting his little back. Mmm – Aubie liked this best, leaning on Daddy’s solid shoulder. He discovered this time that if he put his face in the crook of Daddy’s neck that he could really smell that Daddy smell he was beginning to love almost as much as Mommy’s smell. Mommy’s smell was sweet like peaches, but Daddy’s smell, like everything else about Daddy, made Aubie feel safe.

Eric enjoyed rocking Auberon for the little bit it took for him to fall asleep. He tried hard to distinguish the smell of Faerie on him but he just couldn’t. All he smelled was “his son” not “a Faerie.” Despite not being able to discern the Fae in him, he was quite sure he would be able to track Auberon should the need ever arise, even without the bond. When he was sleeping soundly, Eric took Aubie back into the bedroom and tucked him back into the co-sleeper with a soft kiss.

“Ah, Dadee!” Alex was waiting patiently for his last bottle, so Eric took him and a bottle back into the nursery and went through the process of warming the bottle, feeding him, and reading the book to him, though Alex was more interested in the fact that the string at the beginning and the fur at the end were “ewwo.” Eric laughed to himself as he went to sleep that day that he was surprised he got through that book twice without it being destroyed because of all the “moving parts” it had in it. He enjoyed reading it to both of his sons, and seeing their different reactions. Aubie was more interested in hearing Eric’s voice than anything in the book, but Alex was very interested in the book itself, wanting to look at each page very closely, looking for words or letters that he knew. The kitten came bouncing into the room as Eric tucked Alex back in, curling up at his feet as he was snuggled on Eric’s pillow.

Before he went to ground, Eric had given Sookie her dose of Ambrosia and she practically licked the inside of the cup. As she went back to sleep, she was licking her lips for the last drops, feeling her mouth tingle everywhere the blue liquid had touched.

“Read, Sookie, Quickly!”

Sookie opened her eyes and she was in front of the big Book of Shadows, wearing the black ritual dress again. The hourglass was sitting next to her, and she instinctively knew to turn it over and begin to read. She flipped directly to the back of the book, looking for the drawing of Eric. The page was written in the most delicate script, obviously done with a quill pen, and she began to read Titania’s last entries:

At last, he is come. He is called Erik the Norseman and Our Lady, Freyja, She Who Shines upon the Sea, has confirmed it is he and forbidden me to speak of Her in his presence. I was stricken with terror to realize that he was Vampire as well as Fae, but it was the Fae in him that saved me, I am sure. He was as incapable of harming the True Heir as any Fae would be, or should be. My husband has obviously found a way to overcome his Fae nature, and I shudder to think what horrible price he has paid to do so. 

As the glorious Goddess, Queen of Heaven, Star of the Sea had foretold, I found him in the woods at the edge of dark, and, shaking in the chill air, I revealed myself to him and took him to my bed where he still lies. He has sworn to protect me every night of my life, so I must keep to my chambers in daylight for as long as I can. I have told my chambermaid to say I am at prayer but that excuse will protect me but a cycle of the moon at most. 

I have performed the great Rite of Return, and have through divination arrived at the name of my Successor. The next True Heir shall be Sookie Stackhouse. The name is strange to me, but I am assured it is the Will of the Goddess and I have sealed the document with mine own blood and delivered it unto the Council. I can die in peace now if I must, knowing that the H’Eloise line will continue to the 13th generation in spite of my husband’s treachery. If only my children would find their way home, but alas, I am told I shall never see them again while I live. I pray Erik will know me upon my Return, for I Love him now more than my own life and knowing we will be together in time is my only source of comfort now.

With tears in her eyes, Sookie turned the page.

My Dearest Sookie, 

If You have found these words, You already know I have named You True Heir of Elfyria. I pray Our royal line has survived the march of time, and that there is still a Queendom for You to rule. If Niall Brigant survives, I beg of You, kill him, or he will certainly kill You. He will know that We are One, You and I, and he will see that You never attain Your throne. May the Goddess bless and protect You and Your children from him.

Love Erik with all of Our heart, Sookie. It could not be My destiny, but by the Goddess and all the Magick I could muster, it shall be Yours.

Ever After, Dear Child,

Titania H’Eloise

Sookie was crying when she heard Freyja’s voice: “Time to go home now, My Angel.”

An impulse hit Sookie like a tidal wave, and she wrapped her arms around the Book as she said, “Trygg i min säng, trygg i min säng, trygg i min säng!”

The explosion was like ball lightning in the middle of Sookie’s bedroom. Bjorn saw it as it knocked him unconscious. The babies were shrieking and there was panic in the house as Alicia, Octavia, Bobbie, and Amelia came running up and down stairs to see what had happened. Jerry heard the explosion from the chalet and tried to raise Bjorn on the radio, then threw his pants on and ran to the house, calling all stations to be on alert until he found out what happened.

Bobbie got to the room first and went to help Bjorn up. Octavia got there next and she and Bobbie were trying to calm the babies and decide what to do about the glowing book in Sookie’s arms. Sookie looked dead, but Octavia was hoping she was just out of her body for a bit.

“What is that thing?” Bobbie asked as Alicia and Amelia made it upstairs.

“I’m not sure,” Octavia said, “but I’ve got a strong feeling it’s not supposed to be here.”

Bobbie picked up Aubie and Alicia picked up Alex and they were making some progress in getting the boys to calm down.

“What the fuck?” Jerry said as he got to the door. The glow from the book was shining out into the hallway. “Is anybody hurt?”

“Bjorn might be,” Octavia said. “I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on with Sookie. On the plus side, I don’t think we got hit with a bomb.”

Jerry went around the bed to check on Bjorn, who was holding his head. His face and forearms looked sunburned, but other than that, he seemed unharmed.

“OK, everybody listen up,” Octavia was taking charge. “Jerry, take a chair out in the hallway and let Bjorn get his head together. Bobbie and Alicia, I want you to take the babies downstairs and get them some breakfast. That will make them feel more grounded. Amelia, you and me got a problem to sort out.”

“Octavia, do you want me to come back once we get the babies situated?” Bobbie offered.

“Yeah, good idea. It might take all of us to handle this.”

“Be right back.” She and Alicia went to the elevator and as soon as Bobbie got Aubie situated in his highchair she went back up and let Alicia and Margaret tend to the boys.

Octavia was sitting at the side table, shaking her head, and Amelia was moving around the bed trying to see what kind of book it was.

“Well?” Octavia asked as Bobbie came back in.

“I think it’s a Book of Shadows,” Amelia said.

“That would make sense. Any idea where she got it?”

“None. It has to be from Freyja, though, right?”

“I’m sure She’s connected to it, but there’s some kind of heavy-duty spell on that book. I’m thinking it’s not supposed to leave its designated spot. Has she mentioned any books to either of you?”

“No, but we haven’t had much time to talk,” Bobbie said, “because of things with the boys, then the Wiccaning and travel…”

“H. E. L. O… that’s all I can see of the text on the front,” Amelia said, still trying to figure out the source of the book.

“Amelia?” Bjorn called from the hallway.

“Yes?”

“Is there an apostrophe after the H on the book?”

“Yes, I think there is,” she said with some surprise.

“H’Eloise. It says “H’Eloise” on it.”

“Did you see it?” Amelia asked

“No, but I could tell from the spelling. It’s H’E-L-O-I-S-E, right?”

“Yeah, OK, I can see that now.”

“OK, so the book belongs in Fae country, probably Elfyria, and we can reason that it’s Fae magick protecting it,” Octavia said.

Bjorn and Jerry came into the room, Bjorn beginning to shake off the blast.

“Bjorn, do you remember what happened?” Octavia asked him

“Yes, it was like a ball of lightning that exploded. It actually burned my face and arms a bit.”

“I see that. See if there aren’t some wooden hangers in the closet there.”

Jerry looked in the closet and found two large wooden hangers that were used for Eric’s suits.

“Alright, I want you men to each take one of those, and see if you can move Sookie’s arms away from the book.”

Bjorn took a hanger and walked around to the other side of the bed and Jerry moved toward Eric’s side of the bed. Bjorn moved the co-sleeper away from the side of the bed so he could get to Sookie more easily.

“Now be sure you don’t touch that metal hook, or let it touch Sookie. Just lift her hands and pull her arms away from the book.”

It wasn’t easy but Jerry managed to slip the end of the hanger under Sookie’s fingers and with a couple of good pulls he managed to get her right arm away from the book. Bjorn tried not to show that he was a bit scared of messing with the force around that book, but he pulled first at her inner elbow to move her left arm out a bit and with some effort got her hand away from the book. It was still laying on top of her glowing, and she was still dead to the world.

“Alright, I know it won’t be easy because it’s a big book, but I want you two to lift the book with the hangers. It doesn’t have to go very high, just lift it enough that it’s not physically touching her.”

Bjorn and Jerry tried, but the two hangers just weren’t enough to lift it. Amelia took two of Eric’s suits off of their wooden hangers and gave one to Bobbie, then they got next to the guys and with the four of them working together, they managed to lift the book off of Sookie’s chest. The second it was no longer touching her, there was a loud POP and a flash of light and the book was gone.

“Alright, now see if you can wake Sookie up,” Octavia directed.

Bjorn checked her pulse, which was on the slow side, then sat next to her and checked the pulse in her throat. “Look at her arms and face – and her chest. It’s like she’s sunburned.”

“That was some strong magick protecting that book. I wonder how she came to have a hold of it?” Octavia wondered

Bjorn patted Sookie’s cheek gently and called her name, “Sookie? Hey, Sookie, can you wake up?”

“Hm?” She shook her head and stretched, “What’s going on?”

“Sookie, do you remember anything?” Octavia asked her

“About what?”

“About the book you turned up with that created an explosion.”

“The Book! Where is it?” Sookie pushed up on her elbows, excited.

“Back where it’s supposed to be, I hope. You almost killed your bodyguard, you know, and you couldn’t wake up until we got it off of you. That book has some serious magick protecting it. We’re lucky the babies weren’t hurt.”

“Are they OK? Where are they?”

“They’re down having breakfast with Alicia. Have you noticed that you’re burned yet? Look at Bjorn’s face.”

“The Book did that?”

“Yes, it did. Now put some clothes on and go check on your children. I’ll be very surprised if they don’t have some burned spots on them. They were wailing like banshees when we got up here.”

“Bjorn, are they OK?”

“I was unconscious. Bobbie, did you look them over?”

“I didn’t notice any burns, but we were more concerned with getting them calmed down and putting them in their high chairs so I could get back up here. It took four of us to lift the book off of you, Sookie, and we had to use wooden hangers to touch it.”

Sookie dropped her head back on her pillow. “Damn it, I was hoping I’d be able to read through more of it.”

“Whose book is it, Sookie?” Amelia was excited at the whole prospect now that everyone was safe.

“It’s mine. It was Titania’s, but I’m Titania so it’s mine and Freyja said it was mine, too, come down to me from 13 generations. I don’t see why I have to leave it there.”

“Get up and get dressed and we’ll talk about it. There might be a way to bring it home, but you got to be smart about it. What did you do this time?”

“I just got this impulse to wrap my arms around it as I said my spell to come home.”

“What spell to come home? I haven’t heard about this.”

“I’m supposed to say “trygg i min säng” three times and it will bring me home to my bed no matter where I am.”

“OK, get dressed. We got a lot to talk about. Bobbie and Amelia you might want to get your journals. Sookie, bring yours, and we’ll see you down stairs.”

“Are we going to swim?” Sookie asked

“Yeah, put your suit on and Bobbie, you bring the plastic pants for the boys. Get movin’, Queenie, I need to know what’s going on with you.”

“OK.”

Everybody filed out of the room, but Bjorn just grabbed the chair from the hallway and brought it back in to its normal spot next to the table and Amelia remembered to come back and put Eric’s suits back on the hangers before she went down to the kitchen.

“Are you hurt, Bjorn? I’m so sorry.”

“I’m OK, Hon, I just worry about you. I don’t know what we’d have done if Octavia hadn’t been here. We couldn’t get near you. That thing had some kind of electric charge to it. It was like a ball of lightning exploded right over your bed.”

“Shit, I better get moving and check on the boys.”

“Good idea,” he said as she scrambled out of the bed and headed for the bathroom naked, then came back out to the dresser to get her swim suit. Bjorn was busy putting the co-sleeper back into place and tried not to think about the instant hard-on he got around Sookie these days, though he was laughing at himself over it, too, and shaking his head.

Sookie came out and grabbed a cover-up and her tote bag that was hanging on one of the chairs, checking inside it to see if her journal was there, but it wasn’t so she had to get it out of her bottom drawer. Bjorn walked down the stairs in front of Sookie and they went into the kitchen where everyone except Octavia was gathered drinking coffee. Alex was eating with his fingers and Aubie was fascinated with the first Cheerios he had ever seen.

“Hey, Pookie, wouldn’t anybody feed you?” Sookie laughed.

“I tried, but he wouldn’t let me. He said it had to be “Bhord an Dadee,”” Bobbie explained.

“Alex, why wouldn’t you let Bobbie feed you?”

“Bhord ee dinder.”

“This is breakfast, not dinner, Sweetie. Say “Bjorn will feed me breakfast, thank you.””

“Bhord wiw peed me bwepuss, dayoo.”

“Then you look at Bjorn and say, “Bjorn, will you feed me breakfast, please?”

“Bhord, wiwoo peed me bwepuss, pweezth?”

“Sure I will, Buddy,” Bjorn laughed and moved down to Eric’s chair to feed him.

“Ah!” Aubie pointed at Bjorn and giggled and Bjorn said, “Hey, Aubie. Are you eating Cheerios?”

Aubie held a Cheerio up to Bjorn, brought it back and looked at it, then put it in his mouth. Alicia put a plate with salmon, bagels and cream cheese in front of Sookie and she dug in as Octavia came in carrying a big black book.

“Wow, what’s that?” Sookie asked as Octavia sat down.

“This is my book. I got a feeling I’m going to have some things to add to it once you start talking. Now, when did you first see Titania’s book?”

“Yesterday morning, Freyja took me there and I said it was Niall’s place but She said it’s my place – he’s only a “caretaker who presumes too much,” and She put me in front of that book and made this hourglass full of golden sand appear and turned it and told me to read as much as I could then say “trygg i min säng” three times and that would always take me home no matter where I am.”

“OK, does anyone else know about this?”

“Eric. I told him last night.”

“Alright. What were you able to read?”

“Yesterday I flipped through it to see what all was there, and when I got to the end I found an ink drawing of Eric but then it was time to come home, so I didn’t get to read about it.”

“And today?”

“I woke up sitting in front of the book and I flipped the hourglass and then went to the back of the book and read as fast as I could.”

“How much did you get through?”

“Titania’s last two entries. One about meeting Eric, and one directed to me.”

“OK, let’s hear it if it’s something you can share.”

“Well…”

“Alright, write it in your book, then slide it down the table to me and I’ll read it. Put as much detail as you can in your book.”

“OK,” Sookie nodded, took a big bite of bagel and fish, then opened her book and quickly wrote everything she could remember. She stopped for another bite, saying, “sorry, I’m starving,” and Octavia said “yeah, I’ll bet you are. Keep eating, but keep writing, too. I’m afraid you’ll lose details if you don’t get it all down now.”

Bjorn was still feeding Alex, but Alex began to reach for the spoon and after guiding it into his mouth a few times, he said, “Nah, me, Bhord!” so Bjorn let him take the spoon and he tried to feed himself. He did pretty well with it. Bjorn occasionally had to show him to hold it flat, or scrape a bit of food back into his mouth, but basically, Alex was able to feed himself.

“Woogie, Mamee!” Alex said proudly as he put a big spoonful of apples in his mouth.

“Wow! Good job, Alex! What a big boy!” Sookie was thrilled with him, but went back to writing because she knew Octavia was waiting on her. Aubie giggled because he knew something good happened, even though he wasn’t sure what it was. He knew it was something Bumby had done, so that was always a good thing. These things on his tray were good things, too, he decided as he put another one in his mouth.

Since Alex was feeding himself, Bjorn fed Aubie some cereal and apples. Aubie got a huge kick out of that process and he’d clap his little hands every time Bjorn gave him a bite of apples.

“Obee wyg ap-poh!”

“Yeah, Aubie likes apples, just like Alex likes apples, ” Bjorn said to him with a big smile.

“Abuh!” Aubie said as best he could.

“Apples? Are you saying “apples,” buddy?” Bjorn teased him

“Abuh!” Aubie pointed to the dish, sticking his finger in it, tasting it and saying “abuh,” again.

“Aubie, that’s so good!” Sookie said as she slid the book down to Octavia for her to read.

“Mmamma,” Aubie reached for Sookie and she took him out of the highchair. She bounced him on her knee for a minute, but he obviously wanted to be fed, so she helped him turn and she cuddled him and cooed at him while Octavia passed the book over to Amelia.

“Mahdwid, Mahdwid?”

“What do you want, Baby E?” she teased him

“Taytosth, pweezth.”

“Alright, Darlin,’ give me just a minute and I’ll make you some potatoes.’

“Dayoo! Dee-wee-osth?”

“I’ll get them,” Alicia laughed, reaching into the cupboard and taking the box of cereal down and putting some on Alex’s tray, much to his delight.

“Dayoo, Eesh!”

“Wow,” was all Amelia could say as she passed the book to Bobbie. “Sookie, what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to think about it for a while, and I’m going to read everything I can every chance I get with that book.”

“That’s why you tried to bring it with you?” Octavia asked

“Yeah, I figured the more I know, and the sooner I know, the better.”

“Well, you’re right about that, you just didn’t go about it the right way. Don’t you think if it was as easy as taking it with you, Freyja would have suggested that?”

“I didn’t think about it, I just did it.”

“There’s a time to act on impulse, and that’s when you’re in danger and the impulse can save your life. The impulse you acted on today was driven by want, not by survival. What you need and what you want are very different things. The sooner you learn to tell them apart, the sooner you stop making mistakes like this. Do you think you’re smarter than Freyja?”

“No, but sometimes I think I must be as smart AS Freyja if I’m supposed to be, you know…?”

“You have the potential to be, but that potential isn’t manifest just yet. You’ve still got a lot of hard work to do.”

“May I interject?” Bjorn asked

“Sure, Bjorn, what did you want to say?” Octavia asked him

“Jerry and I have been talking. We want to start drilling Sookie every day to develop her powers. Her ability to shift is a crucial tool in our arsenal and so is her ability to call things and to teleport. We also need to know if she can materialize anything and whether she can make anything invisible.”

“Good point. We do need to exercise her powers,” Octavia agreed. “You got a plan?”

“Yes. We want to practice with her every day after breakfast. I want her in the pool every night after dinner shifting. I know she needs rest, but she needs practice more. She might be able to cause the boys to shift, too. We don’t know if Aubie can shift or not, either, by the way.”

“I’ll be very surprised if he can’t, but we need to find a way to be sure. Our best bet with that is probably the kitten. Speaking of which, where is she?”

“She’s outside,” Margaret said. “She was at the back door wailing to get out. The last time I saw her she was laying on the patio in the sun.”

Octavia looked at the babies, “Alex, where’s your kitty cat?”

“GIDDY!” The cat was suddenly scrambling not to fall off Alex’s highchair tray, so Bjorn helped it catch its footing.

Aubie squealed with delight and clapped his hands, instinctively knowing his Bumby had made the cat appear.

“Oh, you like that, do ya, Cookie?” Sookie teased him

“Ah!” Aubie giggled. Alex was giggling, too, as the little cat was rubbing its cheek against his.

“Let’s put the three of them in the den together. I think that’s the best bet for getting Aubie to shift. If he sees Alex do it, he might try,” Bjorn suggested.

“Can’t we do it later? I want to get some pool time with them,” Sookie argued in between bites of salmon and bagel.

“Let’s just try it for half an hour, then we take them out to the pool,” Bobbie suggested a compromise, “I’ll get the video camera and we’ll get some fun stuff for Eric.

“Good idea! Alright, I’m ready,” Sookie finished up and took Aubie with her as Bjorn brought Alex and the cat.

“Bjorn, if you don’t need me anymore…” Jerry started.

“Oh, yeah, Jerry, go get some sleep. Thanks.”

“No problem. I already told everybody the crisis has passed, by the way.”

“Thanks, Jer.”

“Hey, Sookie,” Amelia said, “I’m going to go out with Jerry for a bit.”

“Sure, Sweetie, go ahead,” Sookie encouraged her as she sat on the couch with Aubie.

Bjorn had put Alex and the cat down and was pulling Boss out of the corner as Octavia came in and sat down in the recliner. Bobbie came back in from Sookie’s office where they had stored the video camera and got it set up pretty quickly, holding it so she could move it around as she needed to to capture the mayhem. Sookie scooted down on the floor and sat Aubie on her knee right in front of Alex, who was chewing on his finger waiting for Bjorn to unzip the back of the dragon.

“Obee, woogie – DWADON!” Alex tried to prompt Aubie to say dragon, but Aubie didn’t understand what he wanted, though he was tickled that Alex was speaking to him. Bobbie pushed an ottoman over under the TV so she was looking back toward Sookie with the camera. Alex flew up over the ball pit and dropped into it, making Aubie squeal with laughter. The kitten went chasing the balls that flew everywhere and Alex turned into a black kitty and chased it. Aubie’s eyes were huge as he watched them run after each other, then suddenly there was a yellow kitten chasing the other two.

Sookie shrieked with surprise, but Octavia and Bjorn were thrilled.

“Way to go, Aubie!” Bjorn was very excited. “Good boy!”

“Why is he yellow? Shouldn’t he be black like the other two?” Sookie asked

“That’s a good question, but focus on the fact that he can shift. This is a good thing,” Octavia replied. “Bjorn, have you got any idea why he might be a yellow tabby instead of a Bombay like the other two?”

“I’m wondering if he’s seen that kind of cat before. Sookie, were there any cats where he was living before?”

“I don’t remember seeing a cat, but I do remember seeing some little toys and a ball of yarn in a corner that I thought looked like cat toys. I thought cats didn’t like Fae?”

“They do if it’s a Fae cat like this one here.”

“Oh, yeah,” Sookie said as the yellow kitten came back to her and jumped in her lap. She petted it for a bit and then suddenly she had her baby in her arms again. “Did you have fun with the other kitties, Sweetheart?” she asked him affectionately.

“Ah!” He giggled and gave her a big hug. The other kitties were fun, but he’d rather be in Mmamma’s lap than anywhere else in the world he knew.

“That’s Mommy’s sweet boy! Yeah, Aubie’s a sweet boy!” she cooed at him and kissed and tickled him. He squealed with delight and one of the black kitties came bouncing over, reared up on its hind legs and became Alex standing up with his hands bracing him on the couch. “Wow – look at Alex standing up, Aubie!”

Aubie giggled and clapped his hands. “Bobbie, make sure you can see us,” Bjorn said as he knelt down between Sookie and the boys and the dino, clapping his hands and holding them open. “Hey, Alex, come here.”

Alex turned a little unsteadily and toddled over to Bjorn, only needing to catch himself with his hands once, but standing right back up and continuing to walk.

“Good boy, Alex!”

“His first steps! Bobbie, did you get that?” Sookie was beside herself.

“Yep, got it. See if he’ll walk back to you, Sookie.”

“Here, Aubie, sit here and watch Buddy,” she said as she sat the baby next to her leaning back on the couch. “Alex, come to Mommy!” she held her hands open and Alex toddled confidently back over to her, grinning from ear to ear, he was so proud of himself. Everybody was chiming in with praises for Alex, and Alicia and Margaret came in from the kitchen to watch. “Wow! Wait until Daddy sees this! Daddy will be so proud of you walking!” Sookie beamed at him.

“Wokkeen?”

“Yeah, you’re walking! Walk back to Bjorn and show him!”

Alex turned back toward Bjorn and practically ran back to him and everyone, even Aubie, applauded as Bjorn caught him and gave him a big hug and kiss. “What a big boy, Alex! Your Daddy is going to bust when he sees you walking!”

“Dadee wokkeen?”

“Yeah, you’ll show Daddy when he gets up, OK, buddy?”

“Eeah, chow Dadee ahm wokkeen!” Alex clapped his little hands as he leaned on Bjorn.

“Nobody tell Eric! We’ll bring him in here and let him to walk to him and surprise him,” Sookie suggested.

“That’s going to be a mighty proud papa,” Octavia bragged.

“Mahdwid, Eesha, ahm wokkeen!”

“Yes, you are!” Margaret beamed at him and Alicia said, “good job, Baby E!” as he turned and ran toward the couch, landing on it and giggling, though he almost trampled Aubie.

“Oops, Aubie, you’re in a dangerous spot!” Sookie teased him and picked him up so Alex could run back and forth between Bjorn and the couch a few times. The third time up and back, Alex climbed up on the couch and said “Woogie!”

“Wow, good job, Alex!” and other praises washed over him as he giggled and figured out how to back down off the couch and ran back over to Bjorn.

“Ahm a bee boh-ee!”

“Yeah, you’re a big boy!”

As he ran back to the couch, Alex noticed the pool outside. “Sthimmeen, Mamee!”

“Swimming? Are you ready to go swimming now, Pookie?”

“Eeah!” Alex squealed with excitement.

“You want to go swimming, Aubie?” Sookie gave him a big kiss and nuzzled him.

Aubie didn’t know what she meant, but he said “ah!” just to go along with the program.

Alicia put a plastic cover over Alex’s diaper and Sookie put one on Aubie. Bjorn took the camera from Bobbie and got the tripod from the closet in the den so he could set it up by the pool. Bobbie took Alex and followed Sookie and Aubie out to the pool.

“Babee! Ewwo duggie!”

“Yellow ducky? Let’s see if we can find your yellow ducky,” she chatted with him as she carried him over to the rack of pool toys. “OK, here it is, it fell over in the back.

Sookie waited until Bjorn had the camera set up before she waded into the water with Auberon. “Can you see us, Bjorn?”

“Dead center!”

“OK, are you ready to get dunked, Aubie?”

“Ah!”

Sookie bent her knees and said, “Woo!” as she took Aubie down to his chest. Aubie shrieked with delight and clapped his hands. Bjorn was looking at the display on the camera and cracking up. He never thought he’d see a baby that liked the water more than Alex, but Aubie might just beat him in that. That kid was having the time of his life.

Bobbie had Alex floating in his ducky and he wanted to paddle it a bit himself, so she stayed next to him but didn’t pull him around until he asked her to. When he got tired of that, he said “sthimmeen!” and she took him out and let him swim in the water unaided. “Woogie, Mamee!”

“Wow, look at you, Pookie! Good job!” she said as he approached her and she picked him up so she had a baby in each arm. “Did you see Buddy swim, Aubie?”

“Ah!” he giggled and clapped his hands then reached over to hug Alex and Alex hugged him back and kissed his cheek. “Aww, sweet boys! That’s good boys, being sweet to each other.” Both boys beamed as she bragged on them then Alex said, “eh, Babee!” and Sookie let him swim back to Bobbie as she held Aubie so he could see.

“You want to try to swim, Aubie?”

“Ah!”

“OK, come to Mommy!” She let him go and held her hands open and he managed to swim toward her a bit. “Good job! Can you do it again?”

“Ah!” He giggled, having the time of his life.

Sookie let him go again and backed up, then kept backing up as he swam to her, until she got a sense that he was tired and she picked him up and snuggled him. He yawned as she held him so she headed for the steps out of the pool, and Bjorn was waiting for her with a big towel to wrap him in. He moved as if he wanted to feed, so she said, “you want to eat, Darlin’?” and put him to her breast as she sat at Bjorn’s table and drank some sweet tea as Aubie fed for about half an hour then dozed off. She held him for a bit, then took him into the playpen in the den, which was just inside the sliding doors so he was still visible. By the time she got back outside, Alex was wanting to feed, so Bobbie handed him up to Sookie and she fed him at the table, chatting with Bjorn and cooing at Alex until he fell asleep, too. She settled him next to Aubie and the kitten wanted into the playpen, too, so she lifted her in and she curled up at the boys’ feet.

Bjorn had thrown some mattresses into the pool when she got back and she and Bobbie were able to float and talk for quite a while, then everyone had salad with grilled chicken for lunch and by the time that was done, the boys were up again and wanting to play as soon as they had fresh nappies. This time Alex was showing off swimming at Vampire speed, so Sookie put Aubie in the yellow ducky for a while and he was very happy to float for a bit while Bobbie pulled him around. Sookie was keeping an eye on Alex because she wasn’t sure how much is too much and she didn’t want him to suddenly give up and sink before they could get to him. At one point, though, Alex took to the sky and flew to Bjorn, who just luckily had a towel on the table to catch him in.

“Are you getting tired, Alex?”

“Nah, dokkeen wif Bhord.”

“You just want to talk to me a while?”

“Eeah.”

“OK, we can just sit and talk. Did you have fun swimming in the pool?”

“Eeah, an Obee.”

“Yeah, Aubie’s having fun in the pool, too, isn’t he?”

“Eeah, me sthimmeen dood.”

“Yeah, you were swimming good. Wait until Daddy sees you walking and swimming like a big boy.”

“Dadee sthimmeen ina poo.”

“You want Daddy to come swimming in the pool? He might do that if you ask him. When he wakes up and feeds you dinner, you ask him to swim in the pool, and I’ll bet he says ‘yes.'”

“Bjorn, is he bugging you?” Sookie didn’t want Alex to distract him if he needed to be focused.

“He’s fine, Sookie, we’re just having a little guy talk, right, Alex?”

“Eeah, me dokkeen wif Bhord.”

“What are you talking to Bjorn about?” Sookie teased him.

“Dadee sthimmeen ina poo.”

“I told him he should ask Daddy when he feeds him dinner.”

“Yeah, he’ll probably swim tonight once you guys are done with the tailor.”

“Oh, I forgot about that.”

“It won’t take long, that tailor is really quick. He handled Jason and Eric real quick when they got their wedding suits.”

“Really?”

“Yep, you’ll try on a couple of suits, he’ll make a mark or two on the cuffs and sleeves and you’ll be on your way.”

“If you say so,” Bjorn laughed.

Amelia came out from the chalet then, saying, “hey, everybody!”

“Hey!” Sookie said, and Bobbie replied, teasing, “it’s about time you got out of bed!”

“Mee-ah!” Alex was excited to see her.

“Hey, Alex. Aren’t you swimming?”

“Me sthimmeen dood!”

“You were? Well, come show me how good you can swim!” She bent over to take him from Bjorn.

“Oday!” He was waving his little arms with excitement, knowing he had a fresh audience.

“You won’t believe what you missed earlier,” Sookie laughed.

“What did he do?”

“Well, both of them, actually. Aubie turned into a little yellow tiger cat.”

“Wow!”

“And Alex was walking!”

“Walking! Can you walk, Alex?”

“Eeah, me wokkeen dood!”

“Take him over in the grass and let him show you, Amelia!” Bobbie suggested

“Do it over there so the camera will catch it,” Bjorn told her.

“Cool, let’s see this,” Amelia laughed. She set Alex down on a spot just out from Bjorn’s table toward the summer kitchen, then she walked down the side of the pool a bit and knelt down. “OK, Punkin’, come on!”

Alex pushed up on his hands and feet, stood and got his balance with a little effort, then ran straight to her. Everybody applauded and cheered for him and he was about to bust. Amelia picked him up under the arms and swung him in a circle, making him squeal with laughter.

“Mo thirco, Mee-ah!”

“Alex, tell her, “do it again!” Sookie coached him.

“Dooid uhden, pweezth!”

“OK, Punkin’, here we go!” She laughed and swung him around again.

Aubie was tickled pink with the happy vibes Alex was pouring into the bond and so was Sookie. “You like that, Cookie?”

“Ah!”

Sookie pulled him up out of the ducky and swung him around in the water, to his sheer delight, then she took him over to the steps and sat down, giving him some toys that Alicia had left there for them – brightly colored blocks in shades of light blue, green and yellow that stacked to make a tower and some little monsters that squirt water – and she showed Aubie how to fill up a block and pour water from one to the other. Aubie was fascinated by the process, and almost able to do it by himself if there wasn’t too much water in it. Amelia carried Alex into the pool and sat next to Sookie, letting the boys sit between them and play with their toys.

“So you’ve had an eventful day already,” Amelia teased her.

“Yeah, one of these days nothing new is going to happen and I’m not going to know how to handle it,” Sookie laughed. “I can’t believe they’re doing all this stuff so early on.”

“It makes them a lot safer, though, Hon. Jerry and Bjorn are very relieved that the boys are showing such abilities.”

“Yeah, I can see that. I just don’t want to miss out on the baby stuff.”

“You won’t. I honestly think you’re just going to get an extended toddler phase.”

“Alex is going to start reading early. Eric had an alphabet book out the other night and do you know Alex pointed at the B and said “Bobbie has a B in it?””

“Wow – Eric didn’t tell him that?”

“No, he read the first few pages and once Alex got the idea, he came up with that.”

“You’re a smart little monkey, aren’t you, Alex?” Amelia teased him.

“Ahm sthmard! An Dadee!”

“You’re smart? And Daddy what,” Sookie asked, “Daddy is smart?”

“Eeah, Dadee ith sthmard.”

“What about Mommy?” Sookie asked playfully.

“Mamee pundy!”

“Mommy is funny. I knew it – I swear Amelia, sometimes he thinks I’m the funniest thing in the world.”

“He gets that from his big hunky daddy,” she laughed.

“Yeah, I wonder if Aubie is going to be that way. Do you think Mommy is funny, Aubie?”

“Mmamma!” He reached up for her and she pulled him into a hug and gave him a big kiss on the cheek, then he pressed his mouth to her cheek.

“Aw – are you giving Mama sugar, Aubie? That’s a sweet boy!”

“Obee wyg kitheth!”

“Aubie likes kisses – don’t you like kisses, too, Alex?”

“Eeah, Obee wyg mo kitheth.”

“Aubie wants more or Aubie likes them more than Alex?”

“Obee wyg kitheth modan Awegs.”

“What do you like most, Alex?” Sookie teased him.

“VBEE!” Alex yelled, throwing his arm up and cackling wildly.

“Good boy, Alex, VíG!” Bjorn said behind them, making everybody laugh.

Aubie just looked at Alex and at Bjorn, and laid his head on Sookie’s shoulder. “You’re not going to yell “víg,” too, Aubie?” Sookie was surprised.

“Aubie says he’s a Lover, not a fighter,” Amelia laughed.

“I think you might be right about that. I hope Daddy’s OK with that,” Sookie said.

“He is, Sookie. He knows they’re different and he’s handling it,” Bjorn assured her.

“He says that now – let’s see if he says that when they’re 17,” Sookie said, none too sure about that.

“I’m not worried about that at all. I’m worried about how he handles it at the next Vampire function,” Bjorn said. “While you’re learning your magick, Sookie, you need to find a shield so it’s safe to take Aubie around Vamps.”

“You’re right. Next time I get a hold of the book, I’ll look in the spells section.”

“Too bad your attempt this morning didn’t work,” Amelia said.

“Tell me about it – we could be going through it right now.”

“Yeah, but then you wouldn’t be out here enjoying your kids, Sookie. There’s a time for everything, this is the time to play. You’ll probably see it again tomorrow morning,” Bobbie said from her mattress at the other end of the pool.

“I thought you were asleep!” Sookie laughed.

“I think I was for a minute, but mostly I’ve been thinking about your little buddies.”

“Come up with any new ideas?”

“Yeah, I think Freyja’s plan is right on schedule now.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because you’re learning magick now that you don’t have the original motivation anymore.”

“Huh?”

“You only decided to learn magick when you found out about Aubie. You’ve got him, but you’re still spoiling to get your hands on that Book of Shadows. She’s got you where She needs you to get you to learn your lessons, and She’s been pretty creative and entertaining in teaching them to you.”

“Such as?”

“The ladies’ room when you floated out of your panties,” Bjorn said and then cracked up.

“Yeah, and disappearing from Fangtasia…” Amelia added.

“And knocking your ass, and Bjorn’s too, out this morning,” Bobbie continued. “You’re getting big lessons, and that doesn’t even touch on the wild sex energy. Are you writing this stuff down?”

“Not really. Eric has written some things, but I only occasionally do.”

“Sookie, you have to get this stuff on paper. What if Titania hadn’t written everything down for you? What if there’s another Sookie some day who needs to know what you’ve been through? What if your own daughter has a baby some day, or your boys have wives who need to know how to raise a hybrid baby?”

“I never even thought about that. I was just always thinking I was writing things down so Ludwig and Niall could check up on me.”

“That’s not why you keep a Book of Shadows, Sookie,” Amelia told her. “You can pass on lessons you learn to someone else on down the line. Wouldn’t you like to spare your daughter from going through some of these things?”

“Yeah, I guess I would.”

“Think of how much easier your life would be if your Gran and your Mom had written down some things about raising you, Sookie,” Bobbie added. She and Amelia had talked about getting through to Sookie how important her Book could be, and they were going to stay on her to work on it.

Sookie realized Aubie was falling asleep. “My buddy here needs his nap before dinner time.”

“Yeah, Alex is slowing down, too,” Amelia confirmed.

“OK, fresh nappies and naps before dinner,” Sookie laughed and they brought the boys out of the pool. Bjorn helped them wrap the boys in towels and Bobbie rounded up the pool toys and put them on the rack. Bobbie took towels and dried Sookie and Amelia off while they held the boys and when everyone was at least drip-free, they moved into the den. Bobbie changed the boys while Amelia went upstairs to check on Octavia, who had gone to lie down after lunch. Sookie slipped a white terry cover-up over her head and helped Bobbie get the boys put down in the playpen with their kitten.

“Bobbie, do you think we should put a crib in here?”

“They do nap in here a lot. It would be easier to get them in and out of.”

“We could get one on wheels and probably slide it in and out of the closet…”

“I’d just stick it in the dining room and bring it in when you need it. We only use the dining room once in a blue moon.”

“Hey, what exactly is a blue moon?”

“It’s when you have a second full moon within one calendar month.”

“Does it have anything to do with magick?”

“Not that I know of. It’s just a really rare occurrence. I think it’s supposed to be a good time to make wishes, though,” Bobbie explained as they went into the kitchen.

They were just sitting down and Margaret was serving sweet tea when Amelia and Octavia came out from the elevator. Bjorn and Jerry came in through the sliding door, and Jerry had a couple of suits on hangers.

“Hey, Alicia, where are we going to see the tailor?” Jerry asked.

“I’m just going to close the living room curtains and have you guys set up in there. Do you want me to hang your suits up in the living room? I’ve got a rolling rack up in there.”

“Yes, please,” he said with a smile as Alicia took his suits into the front room.

“Bjorn, why don’t you run up and get your suits before we start dinner,” Alicia suggested.

“OK, I’ll be right back,” he said as he headed back to the elevator.

“Margaret, it smells fantastic in here! What are we having?”

“Well, I know it’s a bit warm for this, but I baked a turkey. I want you and the boys to eat some good protein. I know you have rare steak all the time, but I just think this will do you all some good.”

“Did you make dressing and potatoes and all?”

“Yes, and there’s even ambrosia salad.”

“YAY!”

“I hear my lovely wife!” Eric said as he came through the kitchen.

“Hey, Sweetie!” Sookie grabbed his face in both of her hands as he bent to kiss her and she kissed him back hard. “I’m so glad to see you!”

“Rough day?” He asked.

“Eventful, anyway. I’ve got some surprises for you after dinner.”

“Where are the boys?”

“Still napping. They’ll be up in a bit.”

“Alright, I’ll wait.”

Sookie laughed at him, “I know it pains you, Eric, but they’ll be up in a minute.”

“Seeing my sons is one of the two best parts of my day. The other is seeing my beautiful wife.”

“You’re in a good mood tonight,” Sookie said.

“I had very pleasant dreams today.”

“You did?”

“Yes, I dreamt my family was all playing in the sunshine, laughing and swimming.”

“We were. Maybe you were having a psychic vision of us.”

“That would be nice. I hope you were having as good a time as I saw in my dream.”

“The day had kind of a rough start, but it did end up with us all having fun in the pool. Bjorn and Bobbie took some great video today, so you’ll get to see some of it.”

“Wonderful! Now, why did the day have a rough beginning?”

“OK, you know the Book I told you about?”‘

“Yes.”

“I tried to bring it home with me and it didn’t work out too well…”

“Huh, that’s an understatement!” Bjorn said as he came through the kitchen with his suits, which he handed to Alicia.

“Yeah, sorry, Bjorn,” Sookie said sheepishly. “Does your head still hurt?”

“The headache is gone, but there’s still a knot on it.”

“What did you do to Bjorn?” Eric was concerned now.

“Well, when it was time to come home, I got this urge and I just wrapped my arms around the book and it kind of caused… an explosion.”

“An EXPLOSION?” Eric didn’t like the sound of that at all.

“Yeah, it knocked Bjorn out and left some minor burns on us all…”

“The boys were burned?”

“Just slightly, you can’t even see the marks since they’ve been in the sun.”

“They are not injured?’

“No, it mostly scared them, I guess. I don’t remember it because I couldn’t wake up.”

“Bjorn, explain?”

“She was lying there as if she was dead with this big book laying on her chest glowing. It had an electric charge to it. We wound up having to take wooden hangers to pull her arms away and lift it off of her and as soon as it wasn’t touching her anymore it disappeared with a loud “pop.””

“How did you know what to do?”

“Octavia directed us.”

“Thank you, Octavia, I’m so grateful you were here,” Eric said sincerely. “How did you know what to do?”

“Well, it was just common sense, really. It wasn’t going to let Sookie come all the way back, so we had to make it let go of her, or her let go of it, and nobody could get near it, so wood was the logical thing to try and touch it. We had a good talk about it after so I hope Sookie won’t follow an impulse like that again.”

“Yeah, I should have known there was a reason Freyja didn’t just give it to me. It’s apparently got heavy duty magick protecting it.”

“Did you learn anything new from it?”

“Yeah – anybody know where my journal is?”

“It’s in the den, Sweetie, I’ll get it for you,” Bobbie said as she got up. She was back in just a moment and handed it to Sookie, who turned to the pages about Eric and her and handed it to Eric to read.

Eric read a bit, then said, “excuse me for a minute,” and quickly went into the den so no one would see him cry. Sookie followed him, and sat on his lap, hugging him tightly as he continued to read, bloody tears staining her terry dress.

“She knew – the whole time I was with her, she knew she was going to die.”

“Yes, but she loved you, and I love you and Freyja loves you and it’s all finally coming true.”

“Yes, it finally is.”

“Dadee!”

“I’ve got something that will cheer you up,” Sookie laughed, “stay right here.” She popped up and went to the playpen. Aubie and the kitten were still asleep, so she picked Alex up and knelt in the middle of the room with him. “OK, Alex, go to Daddy!” Right on cue, Alex ran across the carpet to a thrilled Eric.

“Excellent, Alex! Very good, my son!” Eric kissed him and held him up above his head. He was beside himself with pride as he hugged him to his chest. “How long has he been doing that?”

“He just started this morning and we actually got his first steps on tape, I think.”

“This is wonderful! Is that the surprise you had for me?”

“That’s one of them…” as she spoke the black kitten jump up on the rim of the play pen then down on the floor, the yellow kitten following its movements exactly and bouncing over to Eric and Alex. It jumped up on Eric’s lap and became Aubie and only a Vampire could have moved quickly enough to catch him. Aubie was giggling wildly and Alex giggled and clapped his hands. “And that’s the other.”

“So he can shift, too?”

“Yep.”

“Alright…”

“It’s a good thing, Eric,” Bjorn said from the doorway.

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“Interesting that he turns into a yellow kitten, but being able to shift is a great advantage.”

“Any ideas about that?” Eric asked Bjorn

“He must have seen a yellow cat somewhere before, probably at his Fae home.”

“It would have to have been a Fae cat, like this one,” Sookie explained.

“We should probably eat now, Sookie, so we’ll be ready for the tailor, then I want you to practice shifting tonight,” Bjorn suggested.

“Good idea,” Eric agreed. “My boys must be very hungry!”

“Eeah, ee dinder!” Alex said enthusiastically.

“Ah!”

“Aubie agrees,” Sookie laughed.

Eric stood up with a baby in each arm and they all went into the kitchen. Bjorn brought the high chairs from the pantry and helped Eric get them situated. When everyone was seated, Alicia put plates of food in front of each baby. Before Eric could move, Alex had the spoon and was feeding himself turkey and gravy. “Mmm, dood dinder, Mahdwid!” he said with his mouthful. Eric was stunned.

“Yeah, he learned that today, too,” Sookie explained. “He’ll still need a little help keeping it in his mouth, but he does pretty well.”

“So I see. Auberon, can you read yet?” Eric joked, and Aubie giggled and opened his mouth wide so Eric could feed him some turkey and gravy puree, which he loved.

“He gets such a kick out of being fed. I don’t think he ever had solid food until he came here,” Sookie observed.

“He’s very small, so you are probably right. I think his life here is much more fun. He laughs even more than Alex,” Eric laughed.

“That’s because he’s got Alex to entertain him. He loves to see Alex do stuff, don’t you, Cookie?”

“Ah, Bumby!” Aubie pointed at Alex.

“Yeah, Buddy!” Sookie repeated, teasing him and stroking his cheek. “He was right there cheering Buddy on today when he learned to walk, weren’t you, Sweetheart?”

“Ah!”

Alex looked at his dish closely then asked, “Dadee, wadiz dat?”

“Ask Mommy, Alex, she knows more about food.”

“Mamee, wadiz dat?”

“Turkey and gravy, and that’s dressing, and cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes,” She pointed out each little pile of food.

“Ah wyg dwayvbie!”

“Yeah, you always like gravy when you get it, don’t you?”

“Eeah, dood. Obee wyg drayvbie?”

“I think he did. Give him a bite, Daddy and see if Aubie likes gravy.”

Eric gave Aubie a big bite of turkey and gravy puree and he giggled, kicked and clapped his hands.

“Obee wyg dat!”

“Yes, my son, I believe Auberon likes gravy. You both do.”

“Wadiz dat?”

“What is what, Alex?”

“Wadiz Bohf?”

“What is both? You and Aubie together. Alex and Aubie both.”

“Awegs an Obee bohf!”

“Very good, Alex. You and Obee both like gravy.”

“Me an Obee bohf wyg dwayvbe.”

“I just love watching the little wheels in his head turn when he learns things,” Octavia laughed.

“He’d take the words right out of our mouths if he could,” Sookie laughed.

“It’s very enjoyable to read to them both, but it’s a very different experience. Alex looks at pages and searches for things he knows – letters and colors,” Eric mused, “but Auberon listens to the sound of your voice. I think I could read the phone book to him and it would mean as much, but he’s very tactile.”

“Tactile?” Sookie asked.

“Yes, he’s very interested in touching things. Auberon likes to experience and he’s very open, but Alex wants to command, so he’s trying to acquire the skills to do that.”

“You can tell that already, Daddy?” Sookie teased him.

“They might change as they grow, of course, but that is how they seem to me right now. I find their similarities and their differences fascinating.”

“I’m just relieved they get along. Alex gave Aubie a hug and a kiss today, didn’t you, Pookie?”

“Obee wyg kisthesth.”

“He also said Aubie likes Kisses more than Alex does,” Sookie reported.

“Alex told you this?” Eric asked.

“Yep, when I asked Alex what he liked more than kisses he said…”

“VĺG!” Bjorn and Alex said together and everyone laughed, Aubie most of all.

“Aubie says he’s a Lover, not a fighter,” Amelia joked again and Eric particularly got a kick out of that.

“Mr. Northman, the tailor will be here soon,” Alicia reminded him as she came back into the kitchen.

“Good, good. I want him to check the fit on a couple of my suits. Let me run up and get them. We’re using the living room, yes?”

“Yes, and I was hoping Mrs. Northman would try on some dresses while you’re doing that?”

“Oh, sure, Alicia!”

“Can I watch? I want to see what you’re going to be wearing this season,” Bobbie teased her.

“Yeah, sure. I’ll need help with the boys.”

“Sookie, just remember, I want you back out in the pool after,” Bjorn reminded her because he wasn’t going to let her blow this off. It was too important.

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