LATE Chapter 099

The Copper Goddesses

 

 

“WHAT?”

“Sookie, you have been missing for over 24 hours. We knew where you were, but we were still scared to death.”

“But the boys…?”

“…Have been drinking the milk you sent for them and they slept the whole time.”

“What milk?”

“Dr. Ludwig brought us 6 bottles of your milk and said to give one to boys every 8 hours, with blood halfway in between, and that they would sleep while you were gone, which they did. They’ve been fed every four hours.”

“Did I miss my Ambrosia?”

“I didn’t give you any last night, but Ludwig said you’d have it at Freyja’s summit. She told me to give you a cup the minute you got back, which I am, and you’re to take it twice a day now.”

“How’d I get back?”

“You appeared there with a loud “pop” just a minute ago.”

Sookie finished her drink and dropped back down on the mattress, staring at the ceiling. “Where was I?” she said to no one in particular.

“You don’t remember?”

“No – the last thing I remember, I was asking you to stay with the boys and I walked out the door and the next thing I remember is you trying to get me to drink just now.” She rolled over facing the co-sleeper and caressed each baby’s face gently as they lay there looking like Angels. “I’m so glad they’re OK! When will they wake up?”

“They had their last bottle about an hour ago. It’s almost 6 now, so probably around 9 o’clock, as usual.”

“And they haven’t made a sound?”

“I wouldn’t say that – Alex chattered a little when he fed and Aubie asked for “Mama” a few times, but he was soothed by your milk. Ludwig assured me that everything would be back to normal today.”

“It’s Wednesday?”

“Yes, it is. You should sleep now, Sookie – you have a lot to do today. We’re having company tonight, remember?”

“The chalet! Did anything get done?”

“Yes, it’s nearly ready. Alicia said they’re expecting fresh flowers this morning, then they’ll fill the vases and do a final dust and sweep, then you can inspect it and see if it’s up to your standards.”

“Your majesty?” Jerry called from the stairway.

“Yes, Jerry, come in. I’m just getting ready to go to ground.”

Jerry came into the room quietly, very pleased to see Sookie back where she belonged. “Welcome back, your majesty,” he said with a big smile as he pet the kitten in its usual spot on the foot of the bed.

“Hey, Jerry. Eric is just filling me in. I don’t remember anything.”

“It was really quiet around here without you and the boys. I hope things will be back to normal today.”

“Dr. Ludwig assured me they would be,” Eric told him. “Sookie will sleep now and she and the boys will hopefully get back on schedule.” He lifted Sookie gently and she pulled back the covers, all the while he wondered where she got the beautiful pink gown she was wearing, but he didn’t mention it. Once she was tucked in, he gave Sookie another lingering kiss, then went around the bed and kissed each baby, leaving Jerry in charge.

As Eric lay waiting for sleep, Freyja showed him where Sookie had been and why. A bloody tear leaked from his eye as he proudly watched her sitting at Freyja’s table in such esteemed company, smiling, talking and fitting right in.

As confused as Sookie was, it was surprisingly easy for her to just let go and sleep. She wondered if she had been very active in her absence, because she was bone tired as she rolled on her side and said ‘good night’ to Jerry.

Don’t worry, Sookie – you’ll remember before the Wiccaning,” Freyja whispered.

“Mama!”

Sookie was instantly up, scooping Aubie out of the co-sleeper and putting him to her breast.

“Good morning!” Bjorn said, happy to have her home.

“Hey, Bjorn,” she gave him a big smile. “Did you miss me?”

“We all did. I’m just glad the boys slept through it. We were worried about what Aubie might do if you weren’t here.”

“Yeah, he definitely needs me here,” she said with a smile. She gazed into his eyes as they twinkled at her, and she kissed his little palm three times when he reached for her face. “Aubie’s glad I’m back, too! Aren’t you, Precious? Yeah, you’re glad Mommy’s home!”

“Where were you, Sookie?” Bjorn was dying to hear the details, though he knew she’d go over it with Octavia later. He told himself he needed to know as head of her security, but it was really just plain curiosity eating at him.

“Well, I can’t exactly remember, but I’m getting little flashes of being at a huge celebration at Freyja’s home. She just told me I’ll remember before the Wiccaning. This sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure I was there for a week.”

“Is time different there than it is here?”

“I do know that much – yes, it is, and I can sort of control it now. I can go there for as long as I need to go, and come back here in a reasonable amount of time because time as we know it doesn’t really exist – it’s a construct. It won’t take a whole day anymore. It did this time because I needed more juice.”

“Juice?”

“Yeah, that’s what They call Ambrosia.”

“Who’s “They?””

“The other Goddesses. I was at a… summit, I guess is the word Eric used. They prepared me for the Wiccaning.”

“Prepared you how?”

“We did some… training, I guess – We talked, We partied, We did ritual – I can’t remember it all but I will. The main thing is that I went, and I know better than to question Freyja now.”

“You didn’t?”

“I did – I was pretty steamed when I called my circle and that’s definitely not a good idea. I had to fight my way through some nasty shit to get there. Keep asking questions – it’s helping me remember!” She grinned as she settled on her side looking at Bjorn, Aubie still feeding. She felt fantastic today! The kitten woke up, stretching and padding over to settle in the vacant spot next to Alex.

“Did you go to Her or did She come to you?”

“Well, first, there’s no “there” there… it’s all HERE. Anyway, when I started my circle She called me – you know, the way I can call the kids and bombs and things – and it was a good thing because I was drawing negative energies. I had to go through a sort of black hole of negative energy. I’m going to have to smudge my room downstairs really well because I could have let any damned thing in there.”

“What did you say to Her?”

“I told Her there was no way I was going to be away from my husband and kids. When She got done laughing, She told me I’d do what She wants me to do because I am She and I should know enough to trust Her by now.”

“She could have really come down on you, Sookie…”

“Yeah, but She wouldn’t because She’s me. She just shook me up a little to get my attention and then She taught me how to pretzel time a bit.”

“Could you, like, time travel?” Bjorn wanted to know if he understood all of this. Sookie seemed a little bit giddy so he was a little wary of her descriptions just now.

“I just did! It will take time before I really grok it all, but yeah, it’s a kind of time travel. Time doesn’t exist, so if you really get that, you can manipulate it.”

“It doesn’t exist?”

“Not the way we experience it, anyway. Imagine that time/space is a tapestry – we just follow one thread our whole lives and never see the whole picture. If you have enough juice, you can skip around from thread to thread and come back pretty close to where you started. Have you ever seen The Matrix?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen them all.”

“OK, in the first movie, remember when Neo takes a big breath in and out and the background contracts and expands with him? Then their bullets don’t work because he can slow things down and just pick them out of the air?”

“Yeah.”

“Like that, but I have to practice to get really good at it.”

Bjorn just looked at her. He had no doubt this was true, but it was still a lot to take in. “Eric and I have been talking about possible uses for your gifts.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ve been thinking about it, too.”

“Any ideas?”

“Well, except for emergencies, like when we’re under attack, I need to use my gifts thoughtfully. I need to think about the repercussions before I use my powers on others. Karma still applies to an extent, and there’s that 7th generation thing.”

“Seventh generation thing?”

“Yeah, people think the Native Americans invented that, but they’re just the last humans to remember it and practice what is a Universal law. When you do an act of big magick, you should stop to consider how it might affect the next 7 generations, though the Pantheon is considering shortening it to 3 generations now that human technology is so advanced again.”

“Again?”

“Yeah, humans have risen to great technological advancement at least 3 times now. The pyramids and Sphinx are remnants of the Second or Third Era, but Christians destroyed all the records of it when they trashed the Library at Alexandria and carried stuff off to Constantinople. That’s hard to say. Anyway, we’re in the Third or Fourth Era now. History is nowhere near as linear as we’re taught it is. We’ve got a long way to go before we discover anything that hasn’t been known before. There’s evidence of it all over the place but people who write about it are labeled crackpots.”

“What happened before?”

“Weapons of mass destruction. Did you know there’s evidence in India of a nuclear explosion that probably happened 10 – 12, 000 years before the common era? Even if humans manage to resist using nukes or something comparable, natural disasters can set them off – volcanoes, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods. There’s no way to really secure them. Humans have to get smart enough not to allow the creation of technologies that can destroy the world, because eventually, they will. Look at the stupid stuff we do right now – we’ve got no way to deal with the waste from nuclear energy, but we’re still creating it when there are better alternatives. That kind of stupidity has destroyed greater civilizations than ours. People need to wake up.”

“Who told you all this stuff, Sookie?”

“This woman named Hypatia…”

“Hypatia?” Bobbie came in the door with two little bottles of blood. “Did you read something about Hypatia, Sookie? Welcome back, by the way.”

“Hey, Bobbie – no, I met her at Freyja’s castle or whatever. She’s really smart.”

“THE Hypatia?”

“Maybe – she was murdered by a bunch of Christians in Egypt in the 5th century.”

“That’s the one – was it her ghost or something?”

“No, the gods made her an immortal because she was such a great spirit and intellectual. She could have reincarnated, but they decided the humans didn’t deserve her after they treated her so horribly. I don’t know the gory details, but Freyja assured me they were extremely gory.”

“I’ll say – they flayed her flesh from her bones with abalone shells and burned the pieces, all while she was still alive.”

“EWWW! Why would anyone do that to another person?”

“Because she was an intelligent woman in the way of the patriarchy. That was the beginning of the end of the old world. The all-male hierarchy of the Church went on a killing spree directed at women and “heretics” that lasted from the 5th century up though at least the 1700’s – though actual Witch hunts still go on in Africa and parts of the Middle East today. In the mean time, once the library was raided and destroyed, most of the true intellectuals flocked to Constantinople where the remnants were stashed and left a complete “brain drain” in the West. Arab culture flourished for a while because of it but Western culture went from the “Golden Age” into the Dark Ages in a hurry.”

“So, she didn’t commit a crime or anything…?”

“No, she dared to presume to teach men, which was not illegal in Alexandria, though some believe it was also because she was Pagan. There’s no record that tells for sure what her religion was. Some preacher got his flock all riled up and they found her in the streets and slaughtered her, so it’s probable she was a Pagan.”

“I don’t know what it was then, but now, she’s a Goddess worshiper.”

“I’ll bet – so you were actually at Freyja’s great hall?”

“Yeah, for about a week.”

“But it only took you a day? Did She teach you to shift time or something?”

“Yep, but I need more juice and more practice to get good at it.”

“Juice is apparently what the Goddesses call Ambrosia,” Bjorn explained.

“I thought it was “nectar?”” Bobbie asked

“That’s what it is, but amongst themselves, the Goddesses call it “juice.” I had a lot of it there, I think. I remember drinking it out of a golden goblet.”

“Real gold?”

“Oh, yeah – there’s nothing fake in Freyja’s realm. It’s beautiful there, too. Is it possible I remember sheets embroidered with actual gold thread?”

“Yeah, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. It wouldn’t be possible here, but there, I’m sure it would be,” Bobbie confirmed. “Have you written any of this down?”

“No, I just woke up and Bjorn was asking me questions and that was helping me remember.”

“Here’s your book, Hon, make notes while we talk!” Bobbie gave her the black journal from her tote bag.

“OK, thanks. Let’s see, now there were 13 of us at the table…”

“Thirteen Goddesses?”

“No, there were 8 Goddesses including me, then there were 5 elders from the council for a total of 13. I hope I can remember them all.”

“Ok, so it was you, Freyja, Hypatia…”

“Right – she’s an elder. There was a British Witch lady named Sybil…”

“Sybil Leek?”

“Yeah, that’s her! And another English woman called Violet, but she was known as Dion, something…”

“Dion Fortune?”

“Yeah, exactly! And Penelope, who was in Las Vegas that time…”

“She was a Vestal, right?” Bobbie was eating this up – it was SO COOL!

“Yeah, and Tonantzîn was there, again, too. The rest of it is fuzzy right now, but She promised I’d remember before the Wiccaning.”

“Make a list of 8 and 5 in your book and fill them in as you remember.”

“OK, one, two…” Sookie counted out loud as she made the chart Bobbie suggested.

“So, Alicia said we’re expecting Egyptian royalty this weekend?”

“Yeah, Prince Badru Bast and his wife Amunet, who is so cool, I can’t begin to tell you. OH! That reminds me, Bastet was there!”

“For real? Did She have the head of a cat?”

“Sometimes, and there’s a cat headdress that She sometimes wears, but mostly She had this really beautiful face with golden cat’s eyes. There were a lot of cats there – I remember that much. They had the run of the place and were lots of fun.”

“Freyja has cats, too, right?”

“Yeah, big ones with heavy fur for living in the snow. She loves the cold.”

“Was there snow there?”

“No, it was summer time – no, that’s’ not right… SUMMERLAND is what They called it!”

“That’s where Pagans believe we go when we die,” Bobbie said with surprise.

“Well, yeah, it’s where Freyja takes Her pick of the fallen warriors, so that makes sense, right?”

“Yeah, I just didn’t know you could go there when you’re alive…”

“You can’t. I’m not technically alive anymore, but I’m not dead or immortal yet, either. I’m in transition.”

“When will you finish?”

“She said probably in three years, because I need to breast feed the babies.”

“The two you’ve got or the girl, too?”

“Her, too. Freyja definitely wants a daughter out of this deal. She asked me once if it was so much to ask for all the gifts I’ve been given. When you put it that way, I guess I do kind of owe it to Her.”

“But you’d like that, too, right, Sookie?” Bobbie couldn’t believe Sookie would take it as an obligation.

“Of course I would. I just hope they aren’t all real close together. I don’t think I could juggle feeding three babies and I don’t want to wean the boys too early.”

“She’ll work it out, Sookie,” Bjorn said with absolute certainty, “it will all happen in perfect time.”

“Yeah, and you know Eric will be beside himself whenever it does happen,” Bobbie laughed.

“Ain’t that the truth. He’d love it if I was pregnant right now!” Sookie laughed

Alex sat up rubbing his eyes. “Ah, Mamee!”

“Hi, Sweetie! Do you want to eat?”

“Ahm undwy por bwepuss. As’ Mahdwid, pweezth!”

“You don’t want Mommy eat?” Sookie was surprised at that.

“Nah, wan bwepuss an Borhd!”

“OK, then,” Sookie reached for the button and called the kitchen.

“Yes, Mrs. Northman?”

“Good morning! Alex is asking for breakfast and I’d like something to eat, too, please?”

“We’ve been working on it – Alicia will be up with it directly.”

“Thanks! OK, Pookie, it’s on its way!”

“Dayoo!” Alex said with a smile as he zipped out of his crib and flew over to Bjorn. “Ah, Borhd!”

“Hey, Buddy. Are you ready for breakfast?”

Alex put a palm against each of Bjorn’s cheeks so he had to look him right in the eye. “Eeah – wiwoo peed me bwepuss, pweezth?”

“Yep, just as soon as Alicia brings it.”

“Oday. Ah, Babee!”

“Good morning, Pookie! How are you today?”

“Dood! Wandoo doe sthimmeen!”

“You have to ask Mommy about that. You’re having company tonight for your party.”

“Wadiz pahdy?”

“A party is when you have cake and ice cream and get presents!”

“Ah wyg dayt and pweznan!” he said brightly. He was definitely up for dompamy!

“You’ll like ice cream, too. You just wait!” Bobbie teased him

“Ee dayt por bwepuss?”

“No, Sweetie,” Sookie said, “we have cake after dinner and Papaw will be here and Dr. Ludwig and Bill and Pam.”

“Oday. Doo nap-pee, Babee!” Alex patted his bottom to show he wanted to be changed.

“New nappy? You want a fresh diaper?”

“Eeah, pweezth.”

Bobbie laughed and took him from Bjorn, giving him a kiss and a tickle and making him squeal with laughter as they went into the nursery. Aubie looked around to see where Alex went.

“You want to go with Buddy, Aubie?”

“Nah! Mama!”

“You want to stay with Mommy?”

“Ah!”

“Want Mommy to take you for a new nappy?”

“Ah!”

Sookie noticed what she was wearing for the first time as she started to get up – a filmy chiffon gown of delicate pink. “Wow – where’d this come from?”

“What?”

“This gown… did Eric dress me in it?”

“No, that’s what you came back in, according to Jerry, Eric just put you under the covers as you were. Your blue dress was still in the circle after you disappeared.”

“It was?”

“Yep. Eric was a little freaked out by that in particular. He hoped you were clothed wherever you were.”

Sookie closed her eyes and tried to remember. “Yeah, I see myself in gowns, I think. Some of them were really gorgeous. I remember this really ornate gold and white bedroom with a huge canopy bed, and there was a rack of gorgeous gowns that all fit me perfectly. There’s no such thing as casual wear in that world,” Sookie laughed, “we all wore gowns all the time we were there, except I slept naked because the sheets were so soft…”

“You actually slept while you were there?”

“Yep, everyone did, but they didn’t have to. It’s another way to indulge yourself, like drinking goblets of juice and feasting and lounging in the Roman baths or tepidarium.”

“What’s a tepidarium?”

“It’s sort of like a sauna, but dry. We’d all lie around in there for a bit and then we’d go to the caldarium then back to the tepedarium, then on to the frigidarium.”

“The what?”

“The caldarium is a hot bath – you dunk in it and rub perfumed oil on yourself and scrape it off, then you mellow out in the tepidarium, then you go to the frigidarium, which is basically just a swimming pool. We’d stay in there for hours just chatting and talking, wearing nothing but a sheet or a towel if anything at all – it was all women so no one really worried about it. It was awesome,” Sookie laughed as she managed to get up and take Aubie into the nursery.

Bjorn was just shaking his head. She was acting like this was all no big deal, like it was the most natural thing in the world to disappear for a day and spend a week with a bunch of Goddesses. He wondered what new skills she learned in her absence, because he was pretty sure that was the reason for her visit.

By the time the boys had fresh diapers, Alicia was there with breakfast. Sookie noticed they were sending quite a bit of food for Alex now and she had a small dish of apples for Aubie, which he ate happily as long as Sookie fed them to him. She held him up to her shoulder with her left arm while she ate with her right. She knew he just needed a little reassurance today, and since they didn’t know how he would react to seeing Niall, she decided to keep him right with her all day so he’d feel safe and loved. He wrapped his little arms around her neck and lay his head on her shoulder, pouring love and happiness into the bond.

“So, I guess the boys didn’t have a bath yesterday?” Sookie asked as she shifted Aubie so he could eat. Bobbie leaned over and cut Sookie’s waffles up for her so she could eat one-handed, and Sookie smiled and thanked her.

“No, we just left them in bed except when they were feeding,” Bobbie told her, “I fed Aubie every time since he seems more comfortable with me.”

“Thanks, Bobbie – he does like you a lot, don’t you, Cookie?”

“Ah!” Aubie said as he sat on Sookie’s lap. He was pretty sure she was talking about Bobbie but whatever she meant, Mama had him so all was right in Aubie’s world.

“Sthimmeen, Mamee,” Alex said with his mouth full, not wanting Sookie to forget about that.

“What’s it like outside today?” Sookie asked, considering it.

“It’s pretty nice out,” Bobbie told her. “I was thinking maybe we should play in the pool early, then you can take the boys in for showers and dressing around four o’clock, then they’ll nap until dinner time.”

“That’s not a bad idea. I’ll need to check the chalet at some point…”

“They’ll nap around lunch time, so do it then. You aren’t going to find any problems out there, Hon, Alicia worked like a fiend yesterday to get it the way you wanted it.”

“What about the TVs and clocks and such?”

“Eric, Jerry and I took care of that last night,” Bjorn told her. “Eric is crazy fast with all that cable/satellite stuff so everything is hooked up and each bedroom has a small stereo in it, too, and satellite radio.”

“So everybody stayed busy, huh?”

“It kept them from freaking out about you being gone,” Bobbie explained, “Eric knew you were in good hands, but he was still freaked because you’d been so angry when you went downstairs.”

“Yeah, I can see that. I’m sorry I scared everybody.”

“Don’t be sorry, Sookie, just learn from it and don’t question Freyja again,” Bjorn told her. He had been nearly as crazed as Eric while she was gone, but he wouldn’t tell her that.

“I won’t. I got to really know Her while I was there and I trust Her. One afternoon we just lay in Her huge bed and napped and talked. I know She has all our best interests at heart. In a way, this is Her dream come true, too.”

“It is?” Bobbie asked

“Yeah – She loved Eric so much and She wanted to always be with him and to be able to give him babies and just be a wife to him, but it just wasn’t possible for a lot of reasons. This way, She gets to do all of that without abdicating any power and she enjoys it just as much. She particularly likes it when we all play in the pool. She said She had no concept of how much fun I would have with the babies during the day, or how wonderful it would be when it was just me and Eric in the pool at night. She’s happier right now than She has been in several millennia.”

“Wow – that’s great!” Bobbie was thrilled for Sookie. If Freyja was happy, Sookie was more likely to keep all the blessings that she had.

“Octavia will want a full briefing on all this stuff, Sookie. Make sure you’ve got all this in your book there, and let’s get going downstairs. I think some time in the pool would do everybody good,” Bjorn said. He’d be very happy indeed to see everybody in the pool having fun where he could keep an eye on them. He loved watching the girls all play with the babies and splash around. It made him feel “at home” in a way nothing ever had before. This was the first time in his life that he ever considered himself to be part of a family. Sookie caught that last thought and smiled to herself. She was glad to know Bjorn considered this home.

“Make sure you take a terry cover-up so you can run up to the chalet later, Sookie,” Bobbie suggested.

“Good idea. There are a lot of new guards around.” Sookie remembered that Rafael might be around and he made her skin crawl. She could definitely live without him seeing her in a bikini.

“Hey, Aubie! You know what time it is?”

“Ah!” he said, already giggling. Alex flew back to Sookie and they had their time “dantheen” as Sookie sang “Rock Around the Clock,” then ended with tickles and kisses all around.

Alicia came back in and helped the girls get everything ready to migrate downstairs, and they all took the elevator down to the kitchen.

“Hey, Margaret! Great breakfast!” Sookie said cheerfully as she bopped through the kitchen with Aubie in her arms, Bjorn with Alex, Bobbie and Alicia following behind with Sookie’s tray and totebag.

“I’m glad you enjoyed it, Missus. It’s nice to have you back!”

“Thanks!” Sookie called back as she headed out the back door. It was a glorious day and Sookie and the boys were all very relieved to be in the water. Aubie didn’t want to get into a float by himself but he was tickled beyond belief when Sookie put him into one behind Alex. “Hold on to Buddy, Aubie, here we go!” Sookie urged him as she pulled them around in the water. The bond was singing with happiness, Aubie being thrilled to ride with Bumby and Alex feeling proud understanding Aubie looked up to him as he did. Sookie was beside herself with happiness and actually had to wipe away tears, she loved them so much, but then she got the oddest feeling that Eric could see them and was happy, too.

“Eh, Dadee?”

“DADA!”

Sookie looked around – no, Eric wasn’t up. Was he dreaming about them playing in the sun again?

“Hey, guys, can you say, “we love you, Daddy?”

“We wuvoo, Dadee!”

“Ee uhba, nDada!”

“That’s really good! I think Daddy heard us.”

“Eeah!”

“Ah!”

Sookie wrapped her arms around them both and kissed them on the heads, making them giggle, then she pulled them around some more until Alex said, “sthimmeen, Mamee.”

“Point him in this direction, Sookie,” Amelia laughed, rolling off her mattress to catch Alex. Sookie took him out of the float and pointed Alex in her direction and he was off like a shot.

“Whoo!” Sookie shouted playfully, and Aubie tried to copy her, “ooh!” and cracked everybody up. “That was really good, Aubie. You want to swim like Buddy?”

“Ah!” he said with a bounce, so she took him out of the float and put him in the water in front of her, backing up and saying, “come to Mommy!” He paddled his little heart out, catching up to her every time, getting better and better as he swam. When she thought he was tiring, she scooped him up with hugs and kisses and he giggled like crazy and threw his little arms around her neck. She snuggled him for a minute and he yawned, and she looked at Amelia, “Aubie’s getting sleepy. How’s Alex?”

“He’s trying not to yawn, but he’s about played out, too.”

“OK, let’s take them out and dry them off and I’ll feed them and they’ll nap for a bit.”

“Naah!”

“Are you saying ‘no,’ Aubie?” Sookie teased him as they headed for the steps out of the pool.

“Nah, naah!”

“Nap – are you saying nap?”

“Ah!” he said with an enthusiastic bounce.

Bjorn handed her a towel as they came out of the pool and she wrapped it around him as she talked to him. “Do you like naps, Sweetie?”

“Ah! Bumby naah!”

“You and Buddy want to take a nap?”

“Ah!” Aubie pointed to the playpen inside the sliding doors.

“Yeah, that’s where you take your naps, isn’t it?”

“Ah!”

“Do you want to eat first?”

“Ah, ee!” Aubie said in a playful, high-pitched voice as he clapped his hands and Sookie kissed him.

Amelia brought Alex out and Bjorn helped her wrap him in a towel, taking him from her so she could go in and make a phone call. Bobbie came out with two cold bottles of apple juice that were a big hit with the babies, though they wanted to feed from Sookie, too. Bobbie helped her get settled with them on her lap, and sat in the back chair at the table between Sookie and Bjorn, staying close to help Sookie as she needed.

They all chatted quietly and in no time at all, Aubie was out. Alex lasted another ten minutes, but he was sleeping very deeply when Sookie tucked the two boys into the playpen with the kitten, then ran up to the chalet to look around. Alicia was finishing the last two flower arrangements when she got there, having bunches of blue, yellow, purple and pink flowers of several kinds and a lot of baby’s breath stems spread out on paper on the kitchen counter.

“Wow – nice flowers!” Sookie said appreciatively as she looked at what Alicia was doing in a gorgeous crystal vase.

“Thanks. This will go in the dining area. I’ve already put flowers in every bedroom and then this bunch in the black vase will go in the living room.”

“Will there be any flowers left for my house?”

“You’ve got fresh pink roses in your living room, dining room and bedroom and there are small arrangements in everyone’s bedrooms and the den. We did all that while you were in the pool.”

“Thank you so much, Alicia. You guys are the best!” Sookie hugged her shoulders a little and Alicia patted her hand.

“Why don’t you run through and look at everything. I think you’ll be very pleased,” Alicia encouraged her.

That sounded like a great idea to Sookie so she headed up the stairs in the middle of the living area and checked out each bedroom up top. The bathroom sparkled and had some basic toiletries in it – Olay soap, Pantene shampoos and conditioners in the shower, the medicine cabinet stocked with bars of Olay soap, a package of razors for men, one for women, spray deodorant for men, a roll-on deodorant for women, aspirin, ibuprofen, Nyquil, hairspray, Pepto-Bismol, Olay Regenerist cleansers and moisturizers for the face, a small can of baby powder, a box of assorted band-aids, Neosporin, Rembrandt tooth paste, a compact with powder foundation in a neutral color, a small jar of Carmex lip balm, a really neat little makeup kit that folded out and had about anything a girl could want in it – Sookie made a note to ask where Alicia got that because it was really cool – a little mug with tweezers, nail clippers for fingers and toes, cuticle nippers and pushers, and even an eyelash curler, plus a wide-toothed comb, a hairbrush and a little clear plastic box of bobby pins. Sookie opened a little pink case and found a nice assortment of cosmetic brushes. A person could literally show up here with no luggage at all and be quite comfortable and polished, and Sookie knew that was the idea. If they ever had an emergency, Pam or whoever could shelter here and need nothing but the clothes on their back. Sookie laughed to herself about the Regenerist products – was that a joke? She knew they were good products, but she wondered if that wasn’t a little pun on Alicia or Margaret’s part since Vampires do regenerate. Sookie was going to ask for some of that stuff in her bathroom, too!

She went into each bedroom and found more interesting items – each armoire had a men’s jogging suit size large, and two simple pull-over knit dresses, one in navy and one in black, size medium, plus a cream cashmere sweater with pearl buttons and blue his and hers cashmere robes. The dressers had a pair of panty hose and black leggings, a package of bikini panties size medium and a pink terry wrap-around for after the shower in the top left drawers, the top right drawers had men’s socks, a package of briefs, a roll of duct tape and a small electric razor. Each dresser had a basket on top that had sock-type slippers, a new kind of slipper made for women to keep in their bag so they could change out of stiletto heels – another thing Sookie wanted – plus all the usual amenities, like baby powder, a small bottle of baby lotion, shower “puffs”, new tooth brushes, combs, brushes, razors, safety pins, a sewing kit, a roll of clear tape, a pair of scissors, a package of hair barrettes, a tin of breath mints, a package of condoms and a package of double A batteries.

The nightstands had candles, matches, a flashlight and a disposable cell phone in the top drawers. Sookie realized that they were prepared for war. She didn’t want to think about the boxes she’d seen the guards sneaking into the old servants’ quarters, and she knew better than to ask Eric or Bjorn about them. All of this did remind her, though, that she needed to see the file on Jubal Garner. She headed back out to the house and found Bjorn in the den watching the boys.

“Bjorn – I need to see the file on the head of New Centurion.”

“You want it now?”

“Yes, I want to know what we’re up against.”

“Stay with the boys and I’ll go get it. Jerry is in the kitchen if you need him.”

“Thanks.” She sat in the recliner and watched the boys sleep while she waited. Bjorn had moved the playpen in front of the recliner away from the glass doors when they came in so they were right in front of her. They looked so sweet lying there, with their delicate white skin and whitish blonde hair. It had been more golden when they were born but now it was becoming white, though Sookie wondered if it was being lightened by spending so much time outside. They didn’t really tan, but they did get a little color from their time outside. Eric could always tell when they’d been out, she smiled to herself, and she mused on the fact that she was pretty sure that he’d been able to see them out there earlier. What would you call that? It’s not really telepathy. She knew she could always see Bjorn come in from the kitchen so she went in there to see if any of her Witches were around. Sure enough, Octavia was sitting there having a cup of coffee.

“Morning, Octavia! Hey, Jerry!”

“Good morning, Queenie. I see you’ve already been in the pool?”

“Yeah, and I looked over the chalet, so we’re good to go. When the boys get up, I’ll take them for showers and have them dressed before Eric gets up.”

“What time is your company getting here?”

“Bill will get here any time now, and Niall and Dr. Ludwig are coming at 7:30. I’m not sure if Pam is coming yet or not…”

“She’s planning on it,” Jerry told them.

“Oh, good!” Sookie was glad to hear that. She wanted Pam to know the boys well since she was so important to Eric. “Octavia, is there a word for being able to see something happening somewhere else?”

“You mean through scrying or just seeing it in your mind?”

“In your mind.”

“Yeah, that’s called clairvoyance. That word means ‘clear vision.'”

“OK, cool…”

“That happen to you?”

“No, but I think it’s happening to Eric. When we were outside, I could swear he was watching us play in the pool, just like his dream…”

“So you think when he’s resting he can actually see you and the boys playing in the pool?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Did you do anything we can test that with? Something he’d only know if he actually did see you?”

“Yeah, I had the boys try to say “we love you, Daddy,” and I swear I felt him react in the bond.”

“OK, so you tell him nothing about today when he gets up later and we’ll see if he actually remembers that. That would be a mighty big advantage for him to have, even if it only works where you and the boys are concerned.”

“Have you ever heard of a Vampire with that?”

“Clairvoyance? No, I never have, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some. You need to ask Dr. Ludwig about that. Vamps guard their secrets pretty closely, but she’d definitely know. She needs to know about all this stuff happening with you two. When can you go over what happened to you yesterday?”

“As soon as I read this file Bjorn went to get me.”

“A security file?”

“Yeah, about Jubal Garner.”

Octavia nodded, “good idea. The more you know, the better.”

“That’s what I thought,” Sookie said as Bjorn came in the back door and handed her the file. Bjorn went over to the coffee pot and got himself a cup.

“I’ll be in with the boys, Sookie. Let me know when you’re done with that so I can make sure it’s secure,” Bjorn told her as he passed back to the den.

“OK, thanks,” Sookie said as she began to read. Garner’s military background was extensive, going back to Desert Storm where he was involved with some shady stuff that was investigated by congress, but they never did anything about it. From that point forward, he seemed to be on the fringes of a lot of questionable situations in the Middle East, Haiti and South America, which all culminated in the formation of New Centurion and their subsequent involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Pakistan?”

Jerry nodded, “Pakistan.”

“I thought they were just using drones there?”

“That’s the official story. Garner’s people are considered contractors, not military, so they can be involved without any acknowledgement of military activity.”

“Who do they answer to?”

“Nobody.”

“Huh?”

“That’s the thing,” Jerry explained, “they’re just paid contractors. No one in our government or any other really has jurisdiction over them. They get involved with a massacre or get caught smuggling, they transfer them out of country and nothing ever happens to them.”

“That’s why congress is investigating them, right?”

“Yeah, but until somebody comes to an agreement, nothing is likely to happen.”

“What kind of agreement?”

“Whether they’re subject to our laws or theirs. If the US would join the International Criminal Court, they’d have jurisdiction, but our government won’t agree to cooperate with them.”

“Why not?”

“We like being in control of things, basically, and we won’t allow them to hold our people accountable to international law.”

“Why not?”

“We’ve got several former officials who could be tried for war crimes if they did.”

“War crimes?”

“Yeah, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, at least, probably a few others. Charges have been filed in other countries once or twice, but so far they haven’t stuck. If we belonged to the ICC, they’d have already been charged. This administration is doing all kinds of acrobatics to try and keep that from happening.”

“If they’re wrong, why not let them be tried for it?”

“That’s the question a lot of people have. We aren’t policing ourselves the way we should be.”

“Is it ever possible that another country could go after them?”

“Yeah, it’s been tried andl it’s not going away. There’s some speculation that they’re waiting for Cheney’s heart to give out, then they’ll pin it all on him posthumously so they can keep the others from standing trial over it.”

“Do people know about this stuff?”

“Some, but not enough. Most people have no concept of how deep or ugly things have been over there for the last decade or so. If people really understood the situation, I have to believe they’d be sick over it. I can’t accept that we’re so uncaring in this culture that we’d be OK with torturing and killing people under any circumstance, but especially when we know some of them were detained improperly and had nothing to do with the war. Some of it is just sick – stuff they did to old women, under-aged boys – stuff you don’t even want to imagine.”

“Is there proof of it?”

“Yeah, Sy Hersh of the New Yorker and some other journalists have reported on it and seen the photographs and all, and congress has seen them, but they haven’t done anything.”

“I can’t believe it!”

“Believe it,” Octavia said, “People stop thinking when they’re scared. Get people scared enough and they’ll let you get away with murder, literally, if they think you’ll keep them safe, even if you failed to do it before. Never underestimate the power of fear, Sookie. It will drive normal people to do unspeakable things. Have you done any reading on the Inquisitions yet?”

“Not really.”

“It might be time for that, and for a little Mary Daly, too. Daly will seem very extreme to you, but you need a little streak of anger about what women have been through over the years to keep you moving forward. Too many women these days got it a little better than they did a few decades ago and figure that’s enough – they think there is no patriarchy anymore. That’s dangerous thinking, because we’ve still got a long way to go. Too many of the Third Wave practice what I call “white chick feminism.”

Sookie laughed at that. “White chick feminism?”

“Yeah, you see it mostly in white girls of the middle to upper classes. They’ve never experienced in-your-face discrimination, so they think it doesn’t exist. They think feminism is about who picks up the check or who opens the door, or whether they should work or stay home with their kids. It doesn’t occur to them that feminism is about making sure a woman can get a job when she doesn’t have a choice and that she can get paid a fair wage for it. It’s about providing care for her kids when she’s raising them alone. Patriarchy wants women to be dependent on their husbands, then it turns around and abandons a woman when the husband walks out on her and the kids. It keeps them enslaved and dependent. Feminism is about social justice at its core. Think of it this way – women are always more than 50% of the population, and they usually have primary care, if not custody, of the kids, right?”

“Right?”

“So if the women are impoverished, or mistreated, that’s more than 2/3 of the population living in misery. The state of the women in a culture IS the state of the culture. The media wants you to think it’s how high the highest in the social structure can go, but it’s not – it’s about how low the lowest part of the social hierarchy falls. We’re the richest nation in history – why are people dying for lack of health care? Why do we have the infant mortality rate of a Third World country? Why are we the only industrialized nation where you can die for no other reason than lack of insurance?”

“It’s greed, right? Because things are run based on greed rather than what’s fair or good…”

“Or even functional. The simplest things in this country – things like the food you eat, for example – are tainted with greed.”

“So with a guy like Garner,” Sookie looked at the file in front of her, “is it his greed or the greed of others…?”

“He and a few other people make money from war. Companies like KBR – Halliburton – make millions of dollars doing shoddy work that really ought to be done by soldiers making a fraction of the money they do, but the owners of the companies are the ones who give big political contributions. Your man there, I guarantee, is putting a lot of money into just the right pockets in Washington. Nobody that should stop him will. A few will try, but they’re outnumbered and don’t have the financial resources it would take to fight the big money interests backing him.”

“Nobody that should stop him will…” Sookie said, almost to herself, still looking through the files. “He’s got kids.”

“How many and how old?”

“One is 25 and in Afghanistan, and there’s one that’s 16 an in military school.”

“Both training to be just like their daddy, no doubt.”

“Exactly,” Jerry said. “Garner is in this for the long haul. He fully intends to make sure his kids carry on his work after he’s gone, but he’s not planning to go anywhere any time soon. Look at the section on his personal security, Sookie. Nobody gets near the guy. Even when he testifies before congress, the room is full of his soldiers, whether they know it or not. His houses are like fortresses.”

“Yeah. I see the diagram here. They’ve got radar, so even a flier couldn’t get in there undetected,” Sookie said, obviously thinking that it would be too risky for Eric to try to get in there. It was becoming clear to Sookie that the only one that might get near Garner was she. “He’s got heavy duty military training himself, right?”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t want to face him. Eric could probably take him but I don’t know who would win if it was him against Bjorn. Bjorn is a little bigger but their training is pretty evenly matched.”

“I don’t see a page on Garner’s wife here…”

“She died ten years ago under mysterious circumstances,” Jerry said as he turned to the page that had the information for Sookie.

“Found dead in their pool. She was barely 30?”

“Yep. She was his second wife. The first one died of cancer when the boys were 5 and 14.”

“Well, we know he didn’t cause that…” Sookie caught a glance between Octavia and Jerry. “OK, what…”

“It’s just a theory…” Jerry said.

“What theory?”

“Have you ever seen JFK, Sookie?” Octavia asked her.

“Yeah, I have – why?”

“Well, there have been four basic ways people who know things they shouldn’t tend to die – car accidents, plane crashes, lone assassins and cancer.”

“So, you’re telling me that there’s a conspiracy theory that there’s some way to kill people with cancer?”

“Or something like it, yes,” Jerry confirmed.

“Jerry, you really think this is possible?”

“More importantly, Sookie, Bjorn thinks it’s possible, and Bjorn might actually know for sure and not be able to tell us.”

“Because it would be classified if he did know?”

“Right.”

Sookie looked through the folder a bit more then gave it to Bjorn when he came back in and sat down. She was being very quiet, and the others just let her think about things because they knew she was putting it all together.

“OK, one more question,” she finally spoke, “why only Garner? If he’s stopped, won’t some other contractor fill in where he is now?”

“In the wars, yes, where Vampires are concerned, not necessarily. It’s his fanaticism that puts him into conflict with us,” Bjorn explained. “His effect on the rest of the world is secondary to us. He has set himself against us by targeting us. We’ve been lucky with them so far, Sookie – that was a fluke in Dallas, you figuring out what was up in time to put a stop to it, and having the ability to do it. There are too many variables to account for every possibility every time, everywhere we go. We’re only getting the people following orders – we’ve got to stop the orders at their source.”

“OK, let me think about this and talk to Freyja about it.”

“OK, Hon,” Bjorn smiled and patted her shoulder as he stood up and took the file back out to their safe in the headquarters. “The boys are awake,” he called back to Sookie as he went out the back.

Sookie went into the den as both boys came floating up out of the playpen. “There are my baby boys!” She wrapped her arms around them and each snuggled up to her shoulders, still sleepy. She took them into the kitchen as Amelia and Bobbie came in from the back and they all spent about an hour talking about the bits Sookie could remember about her trip. Bobbie took Alex from her so Sookie could call her journal down and show Octavia the list she had started of the 8 Goddesses and 5 elders.

“You say answering questions was helping you remember?” Octavia asked as she looked at the incomplete list.

“Yeah.”

“OK, were there any black Goddesses there?”

“Well, yeah, Yemaja is black…”

“YEMAJA?” Octavia was shocked

“Yeah, you know Her?”

“Yes, Honey, I do. That’s big power right there, girl, have no doubt! She’s one of the Orishas in Voudon – the Seven African Powers.”

“OK, and then there were Inanna, who was very dark but not really black and Benten was Japanese and OH, YEAH – she said you’d know her – Marie Laveau, the first, she said, not her daughter.”

“Marie Laveau was there? Holy Goddess!”

“Yeah, she’s sort of in charge of HooDoo and Voudoo and stuff here in the South. She says you’re doing a great work.”

“A great work, or just great work?”

“She specifically said “A great work” and she said you’d know what she was talking about.”

“OK, good to know. So we’ve got 5 elders – Penelope, Hypatia, Violet, Sybil and Marie?

“Right.”

“And 8 Goddesses – Freyja, Tonantzîn, Yemaja, Inanna, Bastet, Benten and?”

“Aphrodite!”

“OK, that’s 7. Who’s number 8?”

“Me,” Sookie said then she blanched a little at saying such a thing about herself.

“Don’t wilt, Child. That’s exactly right – you were number 8. Did Freyja have a name for this group?”

“She said it was a summit.”

“Good word for it,” Octavia laughed, “did you do ritual?”

“Yeah, but I can’t remember anything except drinking from a copper chalice.”

“What were you drinking?”

“Uh…” it was right on the tip of her tongue but she couldn’t remember. “I don’t know. It’s right there, but it won’t come out!” Sookie laughed.

“She told you that you’ll remember before the Sabbat, though, yes?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t worry about it, then.”

“Excuse me, Mrs. Northman?” Alicia came in from Sookie’s office.

“Yeah?”

“It’s almost 5 o’clock. If you’re going to shower and bathe the boys…”

“Yeah, I better get moving.”

“Need help in the shower with them, Sookie?”

“Yeah, Bobbie, please? I’ve never done this with two of them,” she laughed and they took the elevator up to the third floor. Amelia went to do a very quick shower and Octavia decided to rest a bit before she got dressed for dinner.

“Are you guys ready to get cleaned up so we’re ready for your party?” Sookie teased the boys as she and Bobbie took them in the elevator. “Yeah, you’re having a party tonight! So we’re going to take a shower…”

“Sthowa!” Alex liked the sound of that. Aubie’s eyes got big because Bumby obviously thought whatever it was was a good idea , so he looked at Sookie with big eyes to see what was next. He was definitely happy when Mama took them into the nursery and dropped their diapers off, but didn’t put them back on.

“Wawa!” Aubie said hopefully, trying to remember the word for bath.

“Yeah, water, but we’re going to take a shower this time! Yeah, we’ll have a nice shower!” Sookie teased him and kissed him.

When they got into the bathroom, Sookie and Bobbie decided the smart thing to do was to put a couple of towels in the bathtub to cushion it, and sit the boys there, then Bobbie would hand them in to Sookie one at a time for their showers. Sookie got into the shower and the boys reacted to the noise of the water.

“Wada! Sthowa!”

“Yep, hang on, Alex, Mommy needs just a minute, then you go in the shower with her first, OK?” Bobbie chatted with them.

Aubie was waving his little arms around furiously so Bobbie offered her hands and let him use them to pull himself up to a sitting position like Bumby. “Yay, Aubie! Good job!”

“What’s he doing, Bobbie?”

“He’s sitting up with just a little help from me.”

“Good job, Aubie!”

“Sthowa, Mamee!”

“Hang on, Alex, just let me wash my hair, OK?”

“Dadee nah wath id?”

“No, today we need to be dressed before Daddy wakes up, OK?”

“Oday!”

Bobbie folded up another towel and put it behind Aubie in case he fell back while she was handling Alex.

“OK, Bobbie, I’m ready for Alex.”

“OK, Alex, here we go.”

Aubie watched with his mouth open as Bobbie handed Alex in to Sookie who he could see was standing under a bunch of wawa! He was transfixed, trying to figure out what was going on, but Bumby was sending fun vibes into the bond so he knew this was a good thing. Sookie washed Alex quickly, starting with his hair, then the rest of his body, then she handed him back to Bobbie who was waiting for him with a dry towel. Bobbie wrapped Alex up tight and laid him back on the towels in the tub, then picked Aubie up.

“OK, Aubie, your turn now! Ready, Mama?”

“Ready!” Sookie reached out for him with a big smile and Aubie went to her happily, fascinated with the wawa falling from above them. Sookie swung him in and out of the water a little bit, which thrilled and surprised him, then she washed his head with her soft hands just like he liked and she rubbed that white thing all over him and rinsed him in the warm water and then before he knew it he was wrapped in a soft towel, lying next to Bumby, feeling fantastic. He saw Mama get out of the wawa and wrap a big white thing around her self and watched fascinated as she combed out her hair. When she picked him up and did that same thing to his head he wasn’t even scared because he’d seen her do it and it didn’t seem to hurt.

Mama carried him into the room with the diapers and he got a soft, clean one then she put him in something he’d never seen before, which turned out to be a bodysuit with a crown on it that said “My Dad is My Hero.” He wasn’t sure how he felt about this thing until he saw Bobbie put one on Alex so they looked just alike. Sookie had Bobbie stand close in case she needed to catch one of them, and she sat the boys side by side on the changing table so she could snap a picture of them. Aubie was looking at Alex more than at Sookie, but the picture came out really cute. Aubie was looking at the writing on the little suit, trying to pull the letters off.

“Are you trying to read your shirt, Aubie? That says “My Dad is My Hero!” and you and Alex are dressed just alike. See? Just like Buddy!”

“Dada?”

“Yeah, that says Daddy is your hero!”

Aubie giggled and gurgled a little. Dada was OK by Aubie, so he guessed that was fine, and his suit was just like Bumby’s so that had to be good. If Aubie could talk he’d tell Sookie that Alex was more of a hero to him right now than Daddy. He didn’t know what Daddy could do, though he did make him feel safe, but Bumby could do all kinds of things Aubie wanted to do, too. Then again, when you came down to it, Sookie was the whole world in Aubie’s eyes and “hero” didn’t come close to describing how he felt about her. Aubie associated everything wonderful in the world with Sookie. Even if she weren’t an actual Goddess, and she was, she was a Goddess to Aubie because she enveloped him and everything around him in her warmth.

“Alex, can you say “My Dad is My Hero?”

“Ma Dadee ith ma earoh!”

“Yeah, when you see Daddy, you read that to him, OK?”

“Oday!” Alex liked that – he’d get to show off for Dadee. He knew he’d get to show off for dompamy tonight, too, so he was psyched about that. He was very content as he and Aubie lay side by side on Mamee’s bed, Bobbie rubbing their legs with lotion as Alicia did Mommy’s hair and makeup.

“They love that, Bobbie!” Sookie laughed as Alicia put big Velcro rollers in her freshly dried hair, “you should feel the happy vibes they’re sending out. Don’t be surprised if they doze off.”

“It would be fine if they did, wouldn’t it?’

“Yes, it would. Now that they’re nice and clean, they could sleep right up until dinner.”

“Good, because I think Alex is already out, and Aubie is fading fast. You can always tell when Aubie is about to go because his thumb goes in his mouth,” Bobbie laughed softly.

“Yeah, Alex does that now and then, but Aubie almost always does. I think it comforts him.”

“Yeah, it does. He likes the pacifier a lot, too, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, and you know, it’s funny, but he’s not as into food as Alex is. I don’t know if it’s because he’s younger in a way or if he’s just more of a breast baby.”

“He’s definitely a breast baby. I almost think Alex will wean himself, but Aubie will put it off as long as you’ll let him.”

“You might be right. Alex didn’t even want to feed from me this morning, he just wanted Bjorn to feed him “bwepuss,” Sookie said with a laugh and the other two women joined her as quietly as they could. They did a very simple make-up job since this was a party at home, but it WAS a party, so Sookie slipped into a gorgeous “liquid” sequined party dress with short sleeves and a scoop neck in shades of purple on top, then light blue, then a deep aqua, then smoke around the hem.

“Sookie – you look like a mermaid in that!” Bobbie laughed.

“Yeah, I do. I know sequins are a lot for a kids’ birthday party, but the cut of it makes it a little more casual, right?”

“If you say so,” Bobbie laughed.

“I do!”

“What do you do, my Angel?” Eric asked as he walked into the room in jeans and a t-shirt, barefoot and smoothing his long hair back from his face. He stopped when he got a look at her. “Sookie, you look marvelous!”

“Thanks – you don’t think it’s too much?”

“I think it is lovely!”

“Good, because I love it, so I’m wearing it,” she giggled and bounced toward him, stretching up to kiss him. “Are you going to take a shower?”

“Yes, and I thought I’d dress up a little – that darker blue color is very like the dress you wore for the parade in the Quarter. I wonder if I still have that satin shirt?”

“Yes, Mr. Northman, it’s in your closet. Would you like to see if it matches?” Alicia offered.

“Yes, I would. I’ll want a pair of black jeans with it and we won’t bother with a tie. I do like the idea of matching Sookie, though,” he teased Sookie and kissed her on the nose.

Alicia pulled the satin shirt from his closet and took it out of its protective cover. It did, indeed, match the darker blue in Sookie’s dress so Alicia steamed it while Eric took a quick shower. Bobbie and Sookie took the babies on downstairs, though they were still asleep, and tucked them into the playpen, which was sitting in the living room in front of the fireplace. There were already some wrapped presents stacked on the coffee table in front of it

Margaret had been hard at work and the whole downstairs smelled like her amazing fried chicken.

“Mmm – Margaret, it all smells so good!”

“I hope you’ll enjoy it, Mrs. Northman. I know little Alex likes chicken and potatoes a lot, and we’ll see if little Aubie likes it, too. I’ll put some in the food processor for them, and I made broccoli since that’s a favorite, too.”

“Did we get cakes and ice cream?”

“Yes, I got two small cakes , one for each of the boys and the family, then there’s a sheet cake out in the guard’s headquarters so they can celebrate, too. Some of them dropped off a little present and Alicia said there were some gifts in the mail, as well.”

“Really – for one month?”

“I think they were belated and the office in Las Vegas just held them until now. You could have opened them when you’re there next, but when they heard you were having a small gathering tonight they decided to just send them on.”

“Oh, that’s cool. I like that they’ll have some little things to open.”

“They’ve got little gifts from you and Mr. Northman, too, of course.”

“What did we get them?”

“Mr. Northman said not to tell you so you’d be surprised, too.”

Sookie laughed at that. She was excited, too, and Eric knew she would be. “No hints?”

“It’s nothing very expensive, but he thinks these babies in particular will enjoy them.”

“Oh, goodie. I can’t wait to see what it is!” Sookie was practically jumping up and down and Margaret was just beaming at her. She loved to see Sookie so excited about things around the babies and she thought Sookie was a wonderful young mommy.

“Hey, Sookie, did you know Bill is here?” Bjorn asked as he came in from the back.

“No – when did he get here?”

“About an hour ago. They set his box in one of the upstairs bedrooms, but he’s up. He’s talking to the guards out back. Is Bobbie in here?”

“Yeah, she’s in the living room with the kids. I just came in here to see what Margaret was cooking.”

“OK, are your guests coming for dinner or just cake?”

“Just cake. They’ll be here at 7:30, so as soon as we’re all together, we should eat. Hey, Margaret, where are the cakes?”

“They’re back in the cooler, but that’s part of the surprise so you have to wait until after dinner to see them,” Margaret teased her.

“You mean they’re not just plain cakes?”

“Oh, no, Missus, these cakes were made by the finest bakery in Shreveport.”

“Are they really fancy?”

“Not fancy – more special.”

“But they’ll taste good, right?”

“As good as any chocolate cake with butter cream frosting and vanilla ice cream on top.”

“Ooh, yummy!”

Bjorn tried not to laugh out loud at Sookie, but you’d think it was her birthday, she was so excited. He had seen the cakes when Margaret brought them in and he knew at least Sookie and Alex would go wild when they saw them, too, and he was shocked at himself being so anxious to see their faces. The design was Eric’s idea, and it was perfect. That guy really did know the right thing to do, all the time.

“Hello?” Bill called in from the back door.

“Hey, Bill! Come on in!” Sookie was glad to see him because it seemed like forever since they left New Orleans.

“Good evening, everyone!” Bill came in with a big smile. Was it possible he was glad to be back at this house? ERIC’s house? “Am I too early?”

“Nope, you’re right on time. Eric will be down in a minute, Bobbie’s in the living room and…” She looked to Bjorn to finish the list.

“Jerry and Amelia are on their way in now,” Margaret nodded toward the back door, “Miss Octavia will be down directly, and as soon as the boys wake up, we’ll be ready to eat.”

“Hey, where’s Alicia?” Sookie just noticed she wasn’t around.

“Oh, she’s out in my chalet, I’m afraid,” Bill told her. “She was helping me get settled.”

“Oh, good. Was everything OK out there? Do you like it?”

“Yes, it’s very nice. This place has been through quite a transformation in such a short time.”

Bjorn tapped the earpiece he was wearing. “Yes? OK, show her around to the garage. She’s in the chalet closest to the garage in the north bedroom.”

“Pam is here?” Bill said brightly.

“Yes, they’re letting her through the gate now,” Bjorn told him, wondering what the hell a dish like Pam would want with the likes of Bill. Women were funny that way.

“Will you excuse me? We’ll be in as soon as I get her settled.” Bill nodded and left quickly. He was really looking forward to seeing Pam. She’d been down the weekend before, but he still missed her this week while they were apart. Bill was trying very hard to remember that Pam was not the romantic type, but he was falling in love with her in spite of himself. He was very glad Eric didn’t disapprove, at least openly, because once he was with her, he couldn’t get her out of his mind.

Eric came down looking amazing, though his hair was damp, and he threw his arms around Sookie’s waist and swung her around the way he did when they danced together, making her giggle.

“Wow, you’re in a good mood!” she laughed as he nuzzled her neck and growled playfully deep in his chest.

“I had very good dreams today and I’m very happy to be celebrating the most wonderful and eventful month of my life.”

“What did you dream?” Sookie was so anxious to hear if he had heard them.

“I dreamed of watching you and the boys play in the pool and at one point you had them say “we love you, Daddy.” Even Auberon nearly said it!”

“We did do that, Eric. You weren’t dreaming – you actually saw us. We all felt it.”

“What? Is that possible?”

“Octavia said it’s called ‘clairvoyance.’ She’s never known a Vampire who had that ability, but she suggested asking Dr. Ludwig if she’s ever known one.”

“It was real?” Eric said, almost to himself, thanking Freyja silently for letting him see his family enjoy the sunshine. “Yes, I’d say I certainly should talk to Ludwig about it, but we’ll do it when Niall is not around. He doesn’t need to know about all of my abilities, or yours either.”

“I agree.”

“The boys are up!” Eric said as he zipped into the living room, returning almost instantly with a baby in each arm. “Here are our birthday boys!” he beamed as he kissed each boy on the cheek. The babies were still a bit sleepy so they were clinging to him a little, but they both had big smiles and were sort of mirroring each other – Alex was chewing on his forefinger, Aubie sucking his thumb – and Sookie was just overwhelmed with love for all three of them. She smoothed each boy’s hair and stroked their cheeks.

“Did you notice what their little suits say, Daddy? Alex – read that to Daddy!”

“Ma Dadee ith ma earoh!” Alex pointed as he tried to read it upside down, trying to spread the shirt out on his tummy to show Eric.

“nDADA!” Aubie said playfully and bounced for emphasis, patting Eric’s cheek. Eric was about to burst from it all when Pam and Bill came in from the back.

“Look, there’s your sister, Pam!” Eric said to the boys, meeting Pam in the middle of the kitchen with them.

“Hello, Master.” Pam hesitated as he approached, but noticed she felt no compulsion to taste either of them and eventually leaned in and kissed each baby hello. “Has something changed?” she asked with surprise, looking at the boys very closely as she handed two wrapped presents to Sookie.

“See the little necklace Auberon is wearing? It protects him from our kind,” Eric explained as Pam touched the charm gingerly, causing it to glow gently.

“Well – that’s useful! Where did you get it?” Pam didn’t even know such things were possible. She had no interest whatsoever in Witches or spell work or other such things.

“Sookie created it. She’s becoming quite the magician,” Eric said proudly.

“My, my, things are certainly changing around here,” Pam said with amusement, especially at Eric being proud of Sookie doing magick. “The fountains out front are spectacular and the chalet is very cozy. The compound is really taking shape.”

“I haven’t seen the fountains yet – did they finish?” Sookie asked with great enthusiasm.

“Yes, they’re gorgeous, especially with the turquoise and pink lights shining on the statuary. You should go out front and see them. You’ll be very pleased with them, I’m sure,” Pam purred at her. Was it her imagination, or was Sookie even more attractive now? She certainly smelled better than anything Pam could remember, and everything about her seemed ripe and juicy. Pam’s mouth was watering just looking at her. It was all she could do to keep her fangs from coming down.

“We should all be seated,” Eric suggested as Amelia and Jerry came in the back door and Bjorn carried the highchairs out of the pantry. Bobbie was helping Margaret and Carrie by getting drinks for everyone and Alicia came in from the chalet to lend a hand with dinner and the party after. Bill showed Pam to a chair at the back of the table next to Octavia and Sookie was tickled to see that there was room for everyone at the long metal table, though you’d be hard pressed to squeeze anyone else in. Bobbie put warm RMs in front of Pam, Bill and Eric, then Carrie handed her little bottles of it for the babies. Margaret was grinding food in the food processor for the babies, which made Alex pop his fangs for an instant, but Eric reminded him it was Margaret making his dinner and he retracted them with a little snarl.

Alex was able to hold his own bottle, but Eric held Aubie’s bottle up so he could drink and Aubie reached for him, so he took him out of his chair and held him on his lap for a bit. Sookie noticed Aubie seemed happy and relaxed even though there were people new to him at the table, so she hoped he’d stay that way when Niall and Ludwig arrived. She also noticed that Pam was watching Eric with the boys, fascinated at seeing her Master play with babies as he was. Sookie realized this must seem very strange to Pam because she’d known Eric for so long and had never seen him be “domestic” in any way before. Dinner conversation was mostly Bill answering Eric’s questions about New Orleans, and a little discussion about the upcoming Wiccaning.

Alicia put small, but very full, dishes on each boy’s tray, and Alex grabbed his spoon and dug in with gusto.

“Mmm, Dadee, ah aba dwayvbe!”

“You have gravy? Yes, that’s one of your favorites, isn’t it?”

“Eeah, ah wyg dwayvbe, an Obee.”

“Yes, Aubie likes it too, doesn’t he?”

“Eeah, peed Obee dwayvbe, Dadee!”

“Alright, Alex, I’ll give him some when he finishes his blood.”

“Oday,” Alex said with a drizzle as he spoke with his mouth full. Eric laughed and reached for the spoon, scraping some of the food off Alex’s chin and putting it back in his mouth.

Bill was trying to focus on Pam, but he was seething with jealousy and Eric was basking in it. Knowing he had everything Bill ever wanted made having it that much sweeter to him. Sookie wolfed down two big pieces of chicken, potatoes, gravy, broccoli, two biscuits thickly covered with butter and was about to pop when she was able to turn her attention back to the boys, though she stayed engaged with the whole table and made a deliberate effort to keep everyone included in the conversation. She held Aubie on her lap while Eric fed him, and he seemed to enjoy his dinner very much, though he didn’t eat nearly as much as Alex.

“Alex, you and Aubie leave room for cake and ice cream!” Sookie teased them.

“Wadiz ith dweem?”

“Oh, wait ’til you taste it, Alex – it’s cold and sweet and delicious.”

“Dewithsusth,” Alex tried to repeat what Sookie said as Eric helped him scrape the last of his food from his bowl and slurp it up.

The doorbell rang and Margaret rushed to answer it as Alicia and Carrie quickly cleared the last of the dishes, and Carrie left for the day. The kitten, who had been napping on the living room couch, ran to hide upstairs at the sound of the bell. Eric and Sookie stood up, Sookie taking Aubie and Eric pulling Alex up out of his seat, and they went in to greet their guests.

“You all just relax,” Sookie said as they got up, “we’ll bring them back here for cake and ice cream.”

Sookie held Aubie tightly as they went into the living room behind Eric and Alex. Dr. Ludwig and Niall were just entering, Niall giving his cane and overcoat to Margaret, who hung them up inside the door of Sookie’s office.

“Dr. Ludwig, Niall, welcome!” Eric was being Lord of the Manor, covering the very obvious tension in the room with perfect protocol.

“Hello, Vampire,” Niall said, obviously a bit apprehensive.

“Hi, Doctor, Hi, Niall,” Sookie said as she came up beside Eric. Aubie saw Niall and began to cry. Sookie pulled him up into and embrace and tried to soothe him as he cried “nah, Papaw! Mmmama!”

“Shh, Aubie, it’s OK. Papaw is just here for a visit, OK? You’re staying with Mommy. Mommy loves you and I’m not going to let you go for anything, OK?”

Aubie seemed to relax a little but he burrowed his little face into Sookie’s neck as she cooed at him and rubbed his little back.

“Well,” Dr. Ludwig said with disgust, shooting daggers out her eyes at Niall, “I suppose that reaction was to be expected. I hope the child isn’t damaged by this.”

“No, he’s OK, aren’t you, Aubie? Yeah, Mommy’s got you and you’re OK. Mommy’s got her sweet boy. Yeah, Aubie is my sweet boy!”

Alex popped his fangs as Niall stepped toward him. “Obee nah wyg id!”

“Aubie doesn’t like HIM, Alex, but he’ll be alright. Say hello to Papaw,” Eric urged him.

“Ewwo!” Alex said, looking at Niall suspiciously.

“These children change more every day it seems,” the doctor said, taking Sookie’s cue to try not to make a big deal of it all. “Very healthy and robust, I see.”

“Yeah, they’re getting along really well,” Sookie bragged, “Alex sort of looks out for his little Buddy, don’t you, Sweetie?”

“Obee ma buggy,” Alex said directly to them as he pointed at Aubie. Aubie was calm now, sucking his thumb, his head resting on Sookie’s chest as she swung him a little and whispered to him.

“Why don’t we all go into the kitchen and have some cake and ice cream?” Sookie suggested. She could feel in the bond that Aubie knew he was safe with her, so she’d get this party back on track and get it over with. She knew the boys would forget about any discomfort as soon as they tasted ice cream.

Bobbie had pulled out the video camera and had it on the tripod when they came back in and everyone made room for Niall and Ludwig to sit at the table, Bjorn and Jerry standing in the background. Sookie noticed a Daemon guard lurking in the doorway to the pantry, too, which she figured was necessary.

Amelia took a post at the table opposite the boys and had Sookie’s camera. “OK, is everybody settled enough to bring the cakes to the table?” Alicia asked, directing the party as needed.

“Yep, we’re good,” Sookie said as she looked around to be sure and she and Eric got the boys back into their chairs, but Sookie never let go of Aubie’s hand once he was seated.

“OK, here we come,” Alicia said playfully as she and Margaret came forward with green mounds of cake with colorful sugar figures arranged around them and each sat one on each boy’s tray.

Sookie’s expression was Eric’s favorite part of the night. She was delighted as she and Alex said in unison, “Dewedumbeesth!” “Teletubbies!” The cakes were replicas of the little grassy mound they lived in and the little creatures themselves had been created out of sugar and were exactly as they looked on TV.

“Wow, look at that, guys! You got Teletubbies on your cakes! See, there’s Dipsy, and Po, and Tinky Winky and look at LaLa peeking out of the roof of their little house.”

“Doeesth, Mamee?”

“No, Sweetie, these aren’t toys, they’re cakes.”

“Let’s start them off with these,” Alicia suggested as she handed Sookie two 7-inch plush Teletubby dolls.

“Oh, sweet!” Sookie was giddy as she gave the yellow LaLa to Alex and the red Po to Aubie. “See, Alex, these are toys. This is cake to eat.”

“Ee?”

“Yep, you’ll see. First we have to sing and blow out the candles!”

“Gando?” Alex loved candles!

“Yeah, candles,” Sookie confirmed as Alicia stuck a small candle shaped like a 1 on each cake and gave Sookie a box of matches. Sookie and Eric stayed ready to stop them if the boys moved to touch the flames but all they did was pop their eyes and their mouths dropped open as Sookie lit each candle.

“OK, everybody, happy birthday to you!” and everyone in the room except Pam, who didn’t know the song, sang Happy Birthday to the boys to their utter amazement and delight, both of them squealing and waving their arms and legs in response, then Sookie said “Make a wish – Goddess please keep us safe and happy! Now blow out your candles! One, two, three!” and she and Eric each blew at the candles and they went out, which also delighted the boys.

Alicia came back with the cake server to cut the cakes and Sookie asked, “wait! Bobbie and Amelia, did you get the cakes really well? I don’t ever want to forget this!”

“I took a bunch of pictures back in the pantry, Hon, we’ve got you covered,” Amelia assured her. Alicia cut a piece out of Alex’s cake and he watched mesmerized as she put the hunk of cake on a little paper plate and Margaret added a scoop of ice cream.

“Eric…” Sookie started, but he said, “yes, I’ll help him, Mommy.” Eric decided it must not be possible to die from happiness or he would be finally dead at this moment. It was lost on no one at the table that Eric had to wipe his eyes several times to keep from leaking bloody tears. Even Niall could not doubt Eric’s love for these children.

“OK, Bobbie, get Alex’s face when he tastes ice cream for the first time,” Sookie urged. Eric was laughing with delight, taking a big spoonful of ice cream and putting it in Alex’s mouth. Alex was registering new levels of shock and delight – what was this?

“Do you like it, Alex? That’s ice cream!” Sookie told him.

“Mo ith dweem, Dadee, mo!” Alex pounded his tray and wanted Eric to get on with feeding him more of that good, cold stuff!

“OK, now get Aubie’s face!”

Sookie gave a bite to Aubie and got a similar reaction, though Aubie was a little more shocked than Alex because he’d never had anything so cold before. The coldest thing Aubie had ever encountered was a bottle of apple juice. Aubie touched his mouth and gums with fingers of both hands, trying to process the sensation, then he opened his mouth wide to Sookie, wanting another bite. This time, Sookie mashed up some cake and icing along with the ice cream and Aubie made an “ooohhhh!” sound no one had ever heard from him before. This was another impossibly wonderful thing Mommy had introduced him to. He didn’t know the word “magick” yet, but he knew the meaning and Mama was IT!

Alicia and Margaret quickly distributed plates of cake and ice cream to everyone in the kitchen, which was awash in good feelings and soft conversation as the flash from the camera went off over and over. Even Niall and Ludwig ate cake and ice cream, and Eric had a bite of Alex’s at his insistence. Bill was positively green when he saw Alex feed a bite of ice cream to Eric, the lucky bastard, but even he had to admire the way Eric doted on those boys. He especially admired the fact that Eric seemed to make no difference in them, which he never would have believed. To see him be so loving to a Fae child was more than extraordinary – it was surreal. This whole situation defied any form of logic. Only magick could account for these circumstances, Bill decided, so he’d better steel himself to accepting and supporting Eric’s relationship with Sookie and those adorable boys of hers, and even he had to admit that those were two of the most adorable children he had ever seen. There was so much of Sookie in them, he had to love them. They looked like perfect little cherubs with those impossibly blue eyes and pink lips shaped just like hers.

Everyone cracked up when Eric became too engrossed with answering a question from Dr. Ludwig and Alex picked up a big hunk of cake with his hand and jammed it in his mouth.

“Alexander!” Eric laughed, wanting to scold him but unable to because it was so cute he couldn’t stop laughing.

“Alex, Sweetie, use a spoon!” Sookie laughed. “Did you see what Buddy did, Aubie? Yeah, look at Alex with cake all over his face! We’ll have to give him another shower, won’t we?”

“Wawa!” Aubie reached toward Eric and said it again, pointing at Sookie, “wawa!”

“What is he saying?” Eric asked with a big smile.

“Me an Obee an Mamee ina sthowa!” Alex interpreted

“Yeah, we took showers today, didn’t we?” Sookie interpreted next.

“How did you manage with two of them, Sookie?” Eric wanted to be able to picture this.

“Bobbie set them in the tub, then handed me one at a time. Aubie loved it, didn’t you Sweetie?”

“Mama wawa!” he said playfully, knowing Eric knew exactly what he meant – he had fun in the water with Mommy.

“You lucky boy!” Eric beamed at him and tickled him.

“Ah!” Aubie said happily, sticking his finger in his ice cream. Aubie liked to test things out with his own finger and this cold stuff was fascinating. It reminded him of the way Mommy tasted, but she was really warm. He tried to pick some up but it ran through his fingers. It was pretty clear the boys were playing more than eating at this point, so Alicia brought warm, wet wash cloths to Eric and Sookie and they wiped the boys down as Sookie asked them, “you know what we do now, guys?”

Both babies looked at her with big eyes and she said, “we open presents!”

“Pwezthnan!” That sounded like a great idea to Alex! Aubie was psyched because Alex thought this was a good thing, whatever it was, and Bumby always knew what was good stuff. Alicia came back with a stack of presents, setting some on the two high chair trays and Margaret deposited some larger boxes on the table in front of Sookie and Eric. Alex and Aubie both looked things over, looking at the pretty colors and ribbons. Now that they were clean, Sookie gave them each back their plush Teletubby to hold next to them in their chairs, and helped them start opening packages. The first packages were from Bill and Pam and Alex had the paper on his in shreds in seconds because he knew how this pwezthnan thing worked now. Aubie caught on pretty quickly when Sookie helped him start tearing the paper. Alicia was standing behind Sookie with a steno pad so they could keep track of who brought what. Eric helped Alex get his box open and found an adorable Stieff teddy bear in a light brown color. Sookie got Aubie’s box open and it had the same style bear in blue.

“Dadee, dares boo!”

“Yes, Aubie’s bear is blue, isn’t it?”

“Eeah, wadiz dat golor?” He pointed to his own bear.

“That color is brown.”

“Bwowd! Oday, ah wuv id!” he said happily as he hugged his bear tight.

“Pam, these are adorable!” Sookie gushed. Aubie was obviously delighted with his bear, too, feeling its “fur” and looking it over with big eyes as he pulled at a tag on its ear. Sookie started to move the bear away to make room for another package but Aubie pointed next to him where the Teletubby was and she managed to squeeze the bear in next to him, too.

The next package was from the table and it turned out to be from some of the Daemon guards. It was a set of four maraca-type toys and the babies went wild when Sookie and Eric showed them how they made sounds if you shook them.

“Sookie, the yellow and orange packages are from Bobbie and me,” Amelia told her.

“Oh, cool – you guys didn’t have to do that!”

“We saw these and thought they were too cute, so we thought we’d add them to your plushy jungle,” Amelia laughed and everyone else did, too. Sookie and Eric each helped a baby tear the paper and they found two Greenzys brand stuffed toys – Willow, the elephant and Violet, the Giraffe, both in the signature green color.

“These are so sweet!”

“There’s a certificate for each one,” Bobbie explained, “to commemorate the fact that a tree is planted for each purchase. We already printed them out for you and thought you might want to put them in your baby books.”

“Oh, my Goddess! I just realized I don’t have a baby book for Aubie!” Sookie said with a little panic.

“Don’t panic, Sookie – open my present,” Octavia told her as she pointed out a box with blue paper with turtles on it. Sookie opened it and there were two brand new books that were identical except each was personalized with one of the boys’ names. “We figured it’s only been a month, so you can start them off even,” Octavia told her.

“Oh, this is so thoughtful! Thank you so much!” Sookie said sincerely, hugging the books to her for a second before Alicia gave her the next boxes. Bjorn brought in a bigger box, saying, “The guards chipped in for this, Sookie. They figured the boys would both use it.”

“Oh, that’s so sweet! Thank everybody for us, OK?”

“Will do,” he told her, he and Jerry both grinning as she let the boys tear the paper then finished it up.

“VTech Winnie the Pooh Explore and Learn Table!” Sookie read. “Oh, cool!” she was bouncing in her seat as she pulled the tabletop out of the box. “Lookie, guys, it’s got lots of neat toys on it, and numbers and letters!” She pushed a button and it made a noise, then she pushed another and they boys were excited and reaching for it. “Maybe if we ask nicely, Bjorn will put it together for us?” Sookie hinted. “say, “please, Bjorn?””

“Pweezth, Bhord?”

“Can you say it, Aubie? “Please, Bjorn?”‘

“Bee, Bah?”

“Good job, Aubie!” Sookie beamed at him and everyone clapped their hands and Aubie squealed and clapped, too, because he knew that was for him. Bjorn laughed and came around the table, taking the box and the tabletop from Sookie and bending down behind her to assemble it.

“This is just a little something from me and Margaret,” Alicia said as she handed Sookie a little cube with a ribbon around it.

“Oh, this is nice!” Sookie said as she pulled little clothes out of the cube. “Wow – 24 pieces! It’s a whole wardrobe! Thank you!”

“It’s got some of those little creepers that you like, some little shirts and pants, and most importantly, some bibs,” Alicia laughed and showed her.

“Yeah, we definitely needed some bibs for Alex – he’s so messy when he eats, aren’t you, Alex?”

“Eeah!” Alex laughed, understanding what she said. Alex liked getting down and dirty with his dinder.

“Aw – look at the little bears on them. You guys will look so cute in these!” She held one of the little bibs up to Aubie to see it on him and he tried to pull the bear off of it.

“He always does that,” Eric laughed.

“Does what?” Sookie asked

“Tries to pull things off of other things. Watch him sometime – he tries to pull the fur off of bears and any kind of little tag or attachment on things gets pulled.”

“I never noticed that. I’ll pay closer attention. That might be a problem if he’s wearing something with buttons that he could get choked on.”

Alex said, “Fyeen, Dadee!”

“You have more presents to open, Alex,” Eric reminded him.

“Mo pwezthnan?”

“Yes, you each have one from Mommy and Daddy. Let’s open those, then we’ll go fly, alright?”

“Eeah! Mo pwezthnan!”

Eric picked up the last two little presents and gave one to Sookie, and they each helped a baby tear paper again.

“Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn… what are these? Story books?” Sookie read the packaging as the babies looked over the one they each had. Eric reached over and pressed a button on the one in Alex’s hands and it began to sing a song about counting, the button flashing lights, and Alex squealed with delight. Eric took the little book out of the box and gave it back to Alex as Sookie and Aubie watched. As soon as he gave it to him, Alex opened the book and it read the words inside it to him. When Aubie saw what Alex was doing, he pulled the page open on his as it was still in the box and it said, “Let’s go out to play. It’s a sunny day!”

“Ooohhh!” Aubie said, amazed by this thing in his hands. Alex was clapping as he watched Aubie, his own book on the tray in front of him.

“Oh, I see,” Sookie said, ” Alex’s is “Counting Animal Friends,” and Aubie’s is “Teddy’s Shapes and Colors,” so they’re the same, but different.” Sookie pushed the big button on Aubie’s book and it said “Hello there!” which thrilled him beyond belief. Eric reached over and removed the book from the open cardboard packaging and Aubie opened it again, squealing when it spoke. Alex opened his again and they were beside themselves, not knowing whether to look at their own book or watch Buddy’s.

Everyone enjoyed watching them explore the little books and then Alex said, “Fyeen, Dadee?”

“Alright, my son, let’s go flying,” Eric laughed as he pulled him out of the chair. Sookie pulled Aubie up and everyone moved out to the pool. “Go, Alex!” Eric said as soon as they were out the door and off he went, Dadee following close behind him. Everyone stood and watched them, chatting a bit, Sookie pointing at them saying, “Lookie, Aubie. See Buddy flying with Daddy?”

“Excuse me, Sookie?” Niall interrupted

“Yeah?”

“I brought this for Auberon to match the bracelet I gave Alex. I thought they should match.”

“Oh, thanks,” Sookie said as she took the box cautiously, opening it. It was the same small gold bracelet, but this one said “H’Eloise” on it and had two loopy triangle forms on the ends. “I’ve seen this before on that TV show, “Charmed.” What’s it called?”

“It’s a triquetra, my dear. It’s a symbol of the Trinity.”

Sookie looked around and Octavia, who was standing near by to listen in, said, “Maiden, Mother, Crone.”

“Oh, OK, cool. Thanks.”

“I assumed the boys would wear them at the Wiccaning?” Niall said, subtly letting her know that he expected it.

“Yes, of course, for an official event like that,” Sookie said.

“That’s good to know. A royal should have some form of seal or mark of his office. I’ve had a very nice time tonight, Sookie, thank you for inviting me. I think I should be going now.”

“Oh, OK, I guess. I’m glad you came.”

“So am I. I’ll see you at the ceremony, my dear.” Niall walked into the shadow of the house and disappeared.

Sookie started to speak to Dr. Ludwig, but Eric and Alex came back around the pool and did a loop and Aubie flew off after them, surprising her. “Oh! Aubie, be careful! ERIC!”

“Yes, Sweetheart?”

“Aubie is following you guys! Keep an eye on him, please?”

“Auberon! Good boy! Come to Daddy!” Eric was thrilled to see him in the air and hovered to let him catch up. He had no fear about Alex flying at this point, but he didn’t know yet what the extent of Aubie’s abilities might be. Aubie flew up to him and said, “um, Bumby?”

“He’s up higher, Auberon, come with me and we’ll go up a little, OK?”

“Ah!”

Eric led Aubie up a little more, but he could tell Aubie was a little hesitant. As far as Eric could see, Aubie could fly as well as Alex, but he didn’t love it as Alex did. He mostly wanted to follow Alex just because he looked up to him, and Eric was fine with that. He loved the way Alex and Aubie were getting along and he thought it was cute that Aubie wanted to be like Alex, while Alex wanted to be like Daddy.

“Dr. Ludwig, I had a couple of questions for you, if you don’t mind?” Sookie said once she was content that Eric was watching both boys.

“Of course, my dear. I’d like to give you, the King and the babies a once over while I’m here, just to see how you’re progressing.”

“OK, that’d be good. They won’t stay up too long. The boys will be getting sleepy soon.”

“Sookie?”

“Yeah, Bill?”

“Pam and I are going to go to the chalet for a bit. Tell Eric to call my cell when he wants to have our meeting.”

“OK, sure.”

Amelia and Jerry went to their chalet, too, since he had to get up early and Margaret and Alicia finished closing down the kitchen. Bjorn stayed close until Eric came out of the sky and Bobbie sat near Sookie in case she needed her. Sookie sat next to her so they could chat while they waited.

“Did you enjoy your party, Sookie?” Bobbie asked with a smile.

“Yeah, it was fun. I was so glad Aubie was able to relax and enjoy it.”

“I know you were worried about that, but I was pretty sure that he’d be OK as long as you stayed close to him. He trusts you. You should see the way he looks at you.”

“Why – is it unusual?”

“It’s sweet. It’s like he’s got stars in his eyes when he looks at you. He’s affectionate with other people but it’s obvious to everyone around him that you’re the center of the universe.”

“Is that bad?”

“No, it’s great, I just want you to be aware of it so you make sure you give him plenty of attention.”

“Don’t worry about that, Bobbie. Neither boy will ever lack for my attention, but Aubie especially won’t. I fought for him and I’ll fight every day from now on if I have to. He means as much to me as I mean to him.”

“What would you do if somebody called him a mama’s boy?”

“I’d tell them he’s absolutely Mama’s boy and they can kiss my ass if they don’t like it.”

Bobbie and Bjorn both cracked up at that and Bjorn was pretty sure he could hear Eric laughing up over the house, too. Before anyone could say anything else, Eric flew down to them with a baby under each arm.

“I think we’ve had enough for tonight, Mommy,” he said laughing, “we’re both yawning.”

“Good.” Sookie told him as she took Aubie from him, “why don’t we gather up our toys and head upstairs for some family time?” Sookie asked hopefully

“Actually, Sookie, their toys are already upstairs. Margaret and Alicia knew you’d be ready to go up soon, so they took them up for you,” Bobbie told her.

“Where’s the C-A-K-E?”

“In the big cooler in the pantry.”

“OK, I might want some later, and some more chicken.”

“Margaret made up a plate for you for later, and there’s more of everything in the fridge,” Bobbie assured her.

“Cool, can we go?” Sookie was being playful and cute now, knowing Eric was going to say ‘yes.’

“Is everything secure, Bjorn?”

“Yes, but Dr. Ludwig is waiting for you two inside.”

“Oh, I forgot! She wants to look us over since she’s here.”

“Let’s not keep her waiting, then,” Eric said happily, wanting to get everybody upstairs soon because he wanted time alone with them all. He felt wonderful and he wanted to just wallow in it.
They went into the den and the little doctor had some syringes and some vials laid out on the end table, and was writing on labels for each vial. “One small inconvenience this time around, I’m afraid,” Ludwig told them.

“You need to test my blood again?” Sookie asked

“Actually, I need a sample from each of you.”

“Oh, nooo” Sookie whined, “the babies, too?”

“I’m afraid so, little girl. Any baby at this stage would have to have shots or something similar, so it’s not a big deal. They’ll survive it.”

“But I like them to feel safe. Won’t that traumatize them?”

“They can handle it, Sookie, you’ll be here to soothe them,” Eric tried to get Sookie not to make a big deal out of it. “You need to act as if it’s no big deal.”

“Yeah, that’s right. If I get upset, they will, too.”

“Right,” the doctor agreed, “now, let’s get this over with.”

Sookie and Eric sat on the couch next to each other, each holding a baby. The doctor was unusually good at taking blood and Vampire veins were easy to find under white skin, so it only took a second to get Alex’s blood and he flinched a little and popped his fangs, but he didn’t cry. After she was done with him, Eric praised him, “that was very good, Alex. I know that hurt, but you were very strong and did not cry.”

Alex was pouting a little but Eric lifted him over his head and shook him a little and he snapped right out of it. It was Aubie’s turn and Sookie was trying to flood the bond with comfort, but she was dreading this. Eric sent comfort to both of them, and even Alex intuitively knew what was coming and held Aubie’s hand while Ludwig worked on his other arm. Aubie yelped a little when the needle went in and was panting as if he was going to cry, but the doctor finished and Sookie hugged him close and said, “It’s OK, Aubie, she’s all done. You’re OK, Mommy’s got you.” He clung to her tightly because he was a little freaked out, but he never did cry. He insisted on being held for quite a while, though, but Sookie didn’t mind. She even continued to hold him while the doctor took blood from her arm, and while she took a fourth vial from Eric.

“What will these tell you, Doctor?” Eric was curious about the whole process because it was so foreign to him.

“It will give me an idea of how the Ambrosia is affecting the four of you. You’re all taking it, though you boys are getting it indirectly. It will affect all of you in some ways, but we expect most of the side effects to be advantageous to you. You may develop some unusual abilities or tendencies.”

“Like clairvoyance?” Sookie asked.

“Have you been having that?” The doctor asked.

“Not me – Eric.”

“Clairvoyance in a Vampire?” she looked at him with surprise. “My, my. That is very rare, indeed.”

“But not unheard of?” Eric asked.

“It’s almost as rare as you fathering a child, though there are some very ancient legends that support it. You’ll need to keep that very quiet, Northman. You’ve already developed telepathy, yes?”

“Yes, at least where Sookie and the boys are concerned.”

“Sookie will likely be clairvoyant, too, if she isn’t already.”

“Could I have it and not know it?”

“I suspect you’ve had it all along, it just never occurred to you that you were seeing as well as hearing. It’s so natural to you that you never noticed it.”

Sookie thought for a minute and nodded, “yeah, you might be right. I do sometimes know what’s happening in another room, even more than hearing would tell me.”

“Can you fly yet?”

“Yes, I can, I just don’t like to, that much. I could if I needed to, though.”

“Good. I still want you to practice a few times a week to build your endurance. I’m also doubling your Ambrosia doses. I want you to drink a cup when you go up now and then every night at dinnertime and then your usual cup before Northman goes to rest. Did you enjoy your trip to Freyja’s house?” She was looking in Sookie’s eyes and ears as they spoke.

“Yeah, I did, what I remember of it. You were there at one point, weren’t you?”

“Yes, I was there for dinner one night. I checked you out then to see how you were adapting, and you expressed the milk I brought back for the babies.”

“Oh, I was wondering where that came from!”

“Directly from you, my dear. You needn’t worry about Freyja doing anything to compromise your care of those babies. At some point, you’ll all go for a spell, but not yet.”

“What are we waiting for?”

“For the four of you to reach certain levels of transformation. We’re taking everything very slowly because we have to allow room for the boys to grow, and for you to be able to feed them.”

“What about the girl?”

“She’ll be along before you know it, but concentrate on these two just now. You’ve heard of Irish twins? You’ll have Irish triplets,” Ludwig laughed and popped out of the room.

“What’s Irish twins?” she asked Eric.

“I have no idea – Margaret might know, she’s from Ireland, yes?”

“I don’t know – I always wondered about that…”

“Ask her in the morning, alright?”

“You better believe I will! Actually, let’s go up and I’ll see if I can find it on the Internet.”

“Good idea, my Angel. I’m very curious, too. I hope it’s a good thing.”

“So do I!” She said as she headed for the elevator. Eric had an idea what it meant, and he’d be very happy, indeed, if he was right about it.

“Sookie, I think Alex needs a new diaper…”

“Aubie does, too, but I want to look this up first,” she said as she fidgeted all the way up to the third floor.

“Give Aubie to me, Sookie,” he said as they got there and she did, running straight into the bedroom and to her laptop as Eric laughed and took the boys into the nursery. Their toys and clothes were already in baskets and on shelves and Alex saw his Teletubby first thing. “Ewwo Dewedumbeesth, Dadee!”

“Yes, that’s your yellow Teletubby, isn’t it?”

“Me, pweezth?”

“Alex, you say, “may I have it, please?”

“Mayh ah abid, pweezth.”

“Yes, you may,” Eric laughed as he put him in the rocking chair and put it on his lap, then took Aubie to the changing table and gave him a fresh diaper. These were relatively bad ones for both boys, but he did it without calling Sookie because he knew she was anxious and wouldn’t relax until she knew what the doctor had meant. He switched babies, leaving Aubie in the chair with the red Teletubby, and diapered Alex. He was nearly done when he heard Sookie say, “NO!” and he tried not to laugh out loud. Sookie was standing in the doorway as he closed the diaper pins on Alex, just staring because she was speechless.

Still trying not to laugh, Eric decided to break the ice. “Let me guess – Irish twins is having one baby right after another?”

“Yeah, like two babies in the same year. There is a thing called Irish triplets where a woman has 3 babies in three years. I guess in our case it would be three babies in one calendar year…”

“Don’t be upset, Sookie.”

“I’m actually not, I just want more time with the boys, you know?”

“You’ll have time with them all, Sookie, they’ll be small for many years.”

“I hope so.”

“It will all work out perfectly, Sookie. Have faith in the Goddess – have faith in yourself.”

“Yeah, I know you’re right. There are variables I can’t comprehend yet and it took so long to set it all up and blah, blah, blah,” she laughed a little. “It’s all in motion, anyway. There’s not much that could be changed at this stage of the game, anyway.”

“That’s probably true, my Angel.”

“I wonder if I’m pregnant now?”

“Do you feel pregnant?”

“No, honestly, I don’t, except for thooe fact that I still haven’t gotten my period.”

“It’s only one month ago today, though.”

“True, it is. What a crazy month this has been, Eric! Look at how our lives have changed!”

“Do you wish you could go back?”

“No, I don’t,” she said as she walked over to the changing table and put her arms around his waist. “I love our life and I love our boys. When it’s just us, here in this house, there’s not a thing I would change.”

He hugged her and kissed her on the head. “Neither would I. I don’t see any way things could be better.”

“Mama!”

“Hey, Sweetie! Look at you sitting in the chair like a big boy! And you’ve got Po! Alex, where’s your Lala?”

“Wadiz Lala?” Alex asked as Eric picked him up.

“If that’s the yellow one, it’s in the crib.” Eric told her.

“Here, Alex, this is Lala – that’s his name! Lala.”

“Wawa?”

. “That’s close!” Sookie laughed and kissed him, then she took Aubie out of the glider and brought his Po as they all moved into their bedroom. “Can you say ‘Po,’ Aubie?”

“Ba?”

“PO!” She repeated, looking straight at him so he could see her mouth and he tried very hard to imitate her round mouth and managed, “Boh.”

“Good job, Aubie! Po!”

“mmBo!”

“Yes, this is Po!” she repeated as they went into the bedroom and she put him down on the bed so she could take off her nice dress. She nuzzled his neck with the toy’s face and said, “Po!”

Aubie giggled and said “Bo!” with much more confidence this time.

Eric was carrying Alex out as if he were flying and “flew” him over Aubie, teasing, “look, Alex, there’s little brother!”

“Ah, Obee!”

“Ah, Bumby!” Aubie called back, flailing his arms and legs, as Alex was held over him.

Eric moved Alex to the side and pretended to drop him on the bed several times, but caught him just before he touched the bed. Aubie kicked and giggled watching them, and Alex was giggling wildly and drooling on the bed. “Mamee, Dadee fyeen me!”

“I see that, Sweetie, and he’s letting you drool on the bedspread, too!” she laughed as she threw her underwear into the bathroom.

“It can be washed or replaced, Sookie, this…” he said as he “dropped” Alex again, “is irreplaceable.”

“Yeah, it is. Fly Aubie a little, too,” she said as she sat in one of the side chairs to watch.

“Of course!” he laughed as he “swooped” Alex through the air a few times and put him on his back, then picked Aubie up and “flew” him over Alex, making flying sounds as he did. Alex was still laughing hard and Aubie was tickled pink as Eric raised and lowered him, though he didn’t let go of him as he had Alex because Aubie was holding onto his hands. After a few “drops,” Alex reached his arms up and Aubie reached down to touch them so he spread out as if flying a little more. He enjoyed the sensation, which the other three could all feel, and Eric “swooped” him around a little, always bringing him back over Alex to the delight of both boys. After a few more passes, Eric said, “Uh oh, Alex, Aubie’s going to get you! Get him, Aubie!” and he dropped him just short, then let him down on top of Alex and tickled them both. Both boys were shrieking with laughter, rolling so they were face to face as Daddy tickled them and made noises like a little piggy. Alex yawned first, and Eric stopped tickling, bending down and giving each boy a big kiss. “Daddy loves his little boys,” he said as he nuzzled one and then the other several times. “Daddy loves Aubie. Daddy loves Alex.”

Both boys yawned and Sookie did, too, which made Eric laugh. “My family needs to get into bed! And Mommy needs to drink her drink!” He kissed each boy once more and headed for the mini-fridge. “Get into bed, Sookie and I’ll give you a cup, then we’ll tuck the boys in between us and snuggle a while.”

“That sounds good,” she said happily as she went back around the bed and moved the boys with a little bounce each so she could get to her spot in the bed. Eric came back with her cup, let her drink, then put the bottle away and moved the boys up next to Sookie, sliding under the covers after them.

“Finally!” Sookie said with mock exasperation, dropping her head back and laughing. Eric laughed, too, as did the babies, though Aubie yawned at the end. “Seriously, Eric, I can’t tell you how I wait for this moment all day!”

“I look forward to it, too, Sookie. There are no words for how much I long for this, even in my sleep. I dream of us all here, together.” He leaned forward and their lips met above the boys, who giggled with approval as they kissed. They both scooted down a little and propped their heads up with their hands, letting their other hands meet, his over hers, over the boys.

“Did you enjoy your party tonight, my lovely wife?”

“It wasn’t my party, Eric, it was theirs, but yeah, I loved it. Even Niall being here wasn’t so bad. He brought a bracelet like Alex’s for Aubie, though it’s a little different?”

“How does it differ?”

“It says “H’Eloise” on it instead of Northman, and it has two little symbols on it that he said are called triquetras. Octavia recognized them, apparently, and they stand for the Trinity of Maiden, Mother and Crone.”

“They can stand for other Trinities, too, Sookie. Those are Celt symbols that Christians use, too.”

“Niall wouldn’t use them for that, though, would he?”

“No, but I find it interesting that there are two of the symbols rather than one. Is there a set time for you to see Freyja again?”

“No, I can see Her whenever I want. She told me not to hesitate anymore, it’s only making me stronger when I do and there’s no strain to Her at all.”

“I want you to show the bracelet to Freyja before you let Auberon wear it.”

“What are you worried about?”

“That it might be enchanted for some purpose, or that those symbols mean more than you were led to believe. Freyja is your best source for finding out. I don’t know that Ludwig would know, even if we asked her. A Goddess would know if there were magick on it.”

“OK, I’ll ask Her in the morning, or tonight if you want…?”

“You can do it when you see Her. She’ll be around the next few days.”

“Yeah, She will – how did you know that?”

“There’s huge magick going on around us, around the boys, around the Sabbat. She’ll keep us close until after.”

“Eric, you seem so sure about that… what’s going on?”

“I’ve had other dreams I haven’t told you about yet, Sookie.”

“Are they horrible?”

“No, but they show near apocalyptic forces in conflict. I don’t believe we’ll be hurt out of it in any way, but there is always danger when the gods are involved.”

“Yeah, I know. Entire civilizations get swept away sometimes.”

“Yes, well, I don’t expect anything so dramatic, but I do think there may be conflict.”

“Don’t underestimate Her, Eric. She knows exactly what and who She’s up against.”

Eric looked at her with surprise. He never heard her be so definite about anything, except that she was going to bring Auberon home. “What are you not telling me, Sookie?”

“I’m telling you what I remember as I remember it, but there’s more we haven’t covered yet. I do know this, though – those Goddesses know what They… I mean, WE… are doing. This goes back even farther than you know Eric. You know what a dodecahedron is?”

“Yes, a 12 sided geometric figure.”

“Right – the Universe is basically a big dodecahedron of energy. We only see one plane of it, from the inside, which is 13.”

“What is happening on the other 11 sides of it?”

“Who knows? I’ll tell you something I haven’t told you yet – Octavia and the others know, but not this context.”

“What is that, Sookie?”

“There were 13 of us at Freyja’s – 8 Goddesses, one for each Sabbat, and 5 female elders. That’s 13, not 12, but 12 signs of the zodiac, but there used to be 13 and 13 is sacred to Witches and unlucky for Christians.”

“What are you saying, Sookie?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Are you afraid?”

“Yeah, but I’m hopeful, too.”

“Did you say there used to be 13 signs of the zodiac?”

“Yeah, Arachne was dropped to make the zodiac have 12 instead of 13 signs, and Arachne is the Spider and Ariadne- Aphrodite was hanged, and so was Dionysus and he saved her when her Lover abandoned her on an island and something, weavers and tapestry and ancient mariners… DAMN IT!”

“What Sookie?”

“I don’t know – it’s RIGHT THERE and I can’t pull it out of my head. The Universe is a tapestry and we only follow one string… but if you know that you can skip around…”

Eric didn’t say anything, but Sookie was practically babbling.

“I know I sound like I’m babbling, Eric, but believe me, at Freyja’s house it made perfect sense, I just hope…”

“Hope what?”

“That my human brain can translate it so I know it here. I still have human limitations and while I’m sure Freyja has our best interests at heart, there were a few times when I wondered if She really understood human limitations. They forget sometimes, you know…?”

Eric spoke gently and cautiously because he was becoming worried about her. “Who forgets what, Sookie?”

“The gods sometimes forget that humans have limitations. Like, they’ll mate with a human and forget to shield themselves and leave a woman nothing but cinders – that happened to Dionysus’ mother, I think – what was that again? The Sun and the Moon, Apollo and Dionysus, Tripartite and duality… It’s all so fucked up!”

“Sookie!” He didn’t want to scold her, but he did want her to calm down a little. She was suddenly very agitated, and Bjorn had told him how giddy she was that morning.

“I know, but something has to happen to make it better. We used to have peaceful matriarchal cultures that lived by the lunar calendar of 13 months a year, then the partriarchal religions violently imposed a solar calendar and actively suppressed these other cultures and religions. All these Goddesses were these amazing, Tripartite Creatrices, or Creatrixes or whatever that word is, and they were Maiden and Mother and Crone and then their civilizations were just crushed by war and torture and they rewrote the myths so that the Goddesses turn on each other and aren’t even Goddesses anymore…” Sookie was panting a little and Eric thought she was about to cry.

“Sookie, breathe, Sweetheart, you are getting very upset…”

“It’s so big and so long and just a handful of people even know it wasn’t always this way – that we don’t have to be at war all the time and we aren’t all going to burn in a lake of fire except for a chosen few – Eric it affects everything! The way people vote, the way they shop, the way they treat their neighbors and kids! The way they do almost everything. We have to pull the bits and pieces out of the dust and ashes of 6,000 years of hatred against the Goddess who only ever wanted to love us! Like, did you know that Jews and Christians and Muslims pray to the same god, the god of Abraham?”

“Yes, I did.”

“They all think they’re the chosen group and they’re supposed to stamp out the others. Christians want to make the whole world Christian and Muslims want to make the whole world Muslim and we’d all be so much better off if we’d relax and let the Holy Mother love us!”

“True,”

“OMBA, Mamee!”

“Ah!”

Sookie laughed when the boys piped up and Eric stroked her cheek and kissed her.

“Your sons agree with you, my Angel.”

“Yeah, they’re smarter than almost everybody,” Sookie laughed and relaxed a little. “Eric, what if it takes a big cataclysmic change to get us all back there?”

“Then it does – but I don’t think it will.”

“Why?”

“As long as communications remain as good as they are, the word can be spread very quickly. What took hundreds of years before might take only a few generations when you harness the power of the media.”

“Yeah, that’s why we’re in the tabloids all the time.”

“It is?”

“Yeah – all these little girls want to grow up to be Queen Sookie because when it comes out that Queen Sookie is a Goddess worshipper, they’ll already be softened up.”

“How will they find out?”

“I don’t know yet, and I don’t know when, but it’s going to happen. They think if our family is pop culture icons, it makes people more disposed to take the Goddess stuff seriously.”

“That makes sense.”

“Yeah, it does.”

“Sookie, I know what you are afraid of. The patriarchal religions are warlike by definition and they’re known to be vicious and cruel. We will be very careful, but we also have to be very brave.”

“Yes, we will. I just keep telling myself that as scary as it is, it’s better than having another great flood or volcano destroy half the world so we have to rebuild it again. There’s been enough death and suffering.”

“Yes, there has.”

Sookie suddenly relaxed as if someone flipped a switch and turned her off. She was asleep instantly, in an odd position, so Eric moved the sleeping babies to their co-sleeper and gently moved Sookie down in the bed. He was watching her sleep when the kitten bounced into the room and up onto the bed.

“Hello, Cat,” Eric said with a smile as he stroked its little head.

“Meow!”

“Your master is sleeping.”

“Merow-ow” The kitten said as she looked at the way the boys were situated and decided there was room to squeeze into the little crib next to Alex, walking over Sookie and settling against his back as he faced Aubie.

Eric turned out the lights and went to his office, going through the mail Alicia had left there for him. After he had seen what needed immediate attention, he called Bill’s cell and asked him to meet him in the dining room in 20 minutes. He knew Bill would need a few minutes to dress and say good night to Pam, who he was sure wouldn’t sit in on this meeting, but would be at the war council the following night.

He wrote out a few bills that couldn’t be paid by computer and looked at the cryptic notes he had made for what he needed to tell Bill.

Bill was just coming in the back door as Eric turned on the dining room lights and put his steno pad on the table. Bill had a briefcase full of paperwork they needed to go over, but Eric had to get him up to speed on the larger issues at hand first.

“Bill, what I am about to tell you must not be repeated to anyone – not Pam, not Sandy. Agreed?”

Bill was shocked at how serious Eric was being about all of this. “Yes, of course.”

“Alright, you know that Niall tried to keep Auberon from us, yes?”

“Yes.”

“What you don’t know is that Niall’s enemy, Liam Cullach, sent assassins to kill him, and Sookie saved him, killing two of them by calling down Freyja’s falcons, and she did it across time and space.”

“What?”

“She was sitting upstairs in front of her vanity watching them in her mirror, as they were in Elfyria talking about killing another baby since they didn’t have Auberon’s head to prove their success, and Sookie sent the falcons after them there. They were ripped to pieces.”

“Oh my god!”

“There’s more. Freyja told Sookie later that night that she needed to make Niall afraid of her, and that Cullach had committed a blood offense against the Goddess. Sookie took one of my swords, went to Cullach’s house and beheaded him…”

“Wha-!”

“…Carried the head to Niall’s house, threw it at his feet and told him if he didn’t stay away from her children, she’d have his head, too.”

Bill was even whiter than usual, and he was in shock. He knew Eric was capable of lying, but he wouldn’t invent a story that would put Sookie in danger. If she really did this… “Does anyone know?”

“Her security detail and her Witches. Dr. Ludwig, I believe, deduced the sequence of events. Niall told her he had the head, but he refused to speak of how it turned up at his house, but she came here and warned Sookie that no other heads should show up where they shouldn’t be for a while.”

“But he was here tonight…”

“They’ve reached a détente out of necessity. Bill, Sookie is the reincarnation of Titania, whom I am quite sure was murdered by Niall. She told him she knows whom she is, and that she’s going to give him until 2027 before she decides if she wants to rule Elfyria. She’s going to announce that she’s the True Heir at the Wiccaning, and name Auberon as her successor.”

“You are telling me that Sookie is Titania’s designated heir?” He needed to be sure he was hearing this correctly.

“Yes.”

“And you say she is Titania reincarnated?”

“Yes, I’ve known that for some time, but she remembers it now, as well.”

“You knew – did you know Titania?”

“Yes, I did. She and Sookie are nearly identical in appearance. The first time Sookie went to Elfyria, she saw a portrait on the wall that she thought was she, but it was a portrait of Titania.”

“They’re that much alike?”

“In every way, except I believe Sookie is far more powerful.”

“Titania was reputed to be a very gifted magician…”

“She was, but I don’t think she could do some of the things Sookie has already done. You saw the amulet Auberon is wearing that shields him from our kind?”

“Yes, Pam was playing with it.”

“Sookie materialized it and enchanted it.”

“Materialized, as in, from thin air?”

“Yes, and with remarkable ease, according to Bjorn and Octavia.”

“They saw her do it?”

“In front of them all, right at the kitchen table, in a matter of minutes and with very little effort.”

“Good lord!”

“Do you know about her absence yesterday?”

“No, I don’t.”

“She was missing for over 24 hours, during which time she spent a week at Freyja’s home in Folkvangr.”

Bill just sat back and looked at Eric. “Gone for a day, there for a week – magick makes such things possible?”

“Yes. Niall is a very powerful time-Shifter, too, so that might run in the family.”

“That’s quite a family. I never really connected that Titania would have to have been Sookie’s great grandmother. Have you thought about the implications of you being a Vampire King at the same time she might be a Faerie Queen?”

“Yes, this is all apparently a part of a grand plan on someone’s part to bring peace between the Vampire and the Fae.”

“By having the two of you in charge?”

“For a time, at least, and then Alexander and Auberon. Again, this is strictly confidential, and it may take a few hundred years to come to pass, but we believe that the end result intended is Auberon in Elfyria, Alex in my kingdom, me on the Council, Freyja, Sookie and our daughter in the Pantheon as a Tripartite entity.”

Bill had to blink back some tears and Eric gave him a minute to process it all. This was too big. It flashed through Bill’s mind that he didn’t know if he could do this. Sookie and her children would be in constant danger. This would make them targets for enemies from every direction, but it could also be a very real way to create peace. After a long while Bill asked “your daughter?”

“Yes, apparently there will be a girl in the not too distant future.”

“Is she…?”

“Not yet – not that we know of, anyway, but I expect it to be very soon. Everything else is happening so fast, I’ll be very surprised if she is not with child again before Yuletide.”

“Won’t you need Niall’s intervention to make this happen?”

“I don’t think so. Her physiology is changing – she’s taking regular doses of Ambrosia now to acclimate her to the change.”

“Is there such a thing? It’s not a myth?”

“Oh, yes, there’s a bottle of it up in our room. Starting tonight, she’ll be taking two doses a day. It’s the oddest shade of blue I’ve ever seen, and I believe the bottle replenishes itself because she’s had more than the bottle would realistically hold. Anyway, let’s talk about our war council.”

“Well, now that I know all the circumstances, I’m glad we decided to do it early. It’s far more important than I ever imagined.”

“The main thing will be keeping the peace until Sookie announces her heritage. After that, the Fae won’t follow Niall against us.”

“Yes, but he’ll know that, so he might try to strike early.”

“Freyja told Sookie that She’ll try to let them know whom she is before the Sabbat so they’ll already know. That could work in our favor. They won’t feel too kindly toward Niall if they know he’s tried to lead them against the True Heir.”

“Let’s hope She does. Even with our best defenses, including the Weres, Daemons and Witches, I’m not sure we can hold off that many Fae. At what point does she make the announcement?”

“When the vows are stated. Auberon will be named Eric Auberon H’Eloise Northman, and Sookie will name him her heir at the end of her life or a time of her choosing.”

“You are not giving the H’Eloise name to Alex?”

“No, we want to make it clear that Alex is my heir, Auberon is Sookie’s.”

“That’s something, I suppose. How do you think the other regents will take the news?”

“Well, I do have some support from the European group, Australia and Egypt if I need to call on them so that’s another resource we want to remember. I’m pretty confident Carolina will back me, as well.”

“There’s been talk of putting you above the North American regents, you know?”

“Yes, primarily because of the army.”

“It’s more than that, Eric, but I wonder if they’ll feel the same when your Fae connection becomes undeniable?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. They can all take it under advisement after the Wiccaning. Have you been coordinating with the others?”

“Yes, and they’re all coordinating with the commander at the camp. We’re getting good reports from there. They’ll be completely ready very soon.”

“Good. We’re still debating our best course of attack. There’s a possibility we’ll have Sookie make a preemptive strike.”

“Sookie?”

“She’s the only one of us with the potential to get past his defenses. Cullach never saw her coming.”

“I can’t believe you let her do that!”

“I didn’t know about it. She had seen Freyja and said she had to do something before dawn and asked me to stay with the boys. I had no idea what she had planned until she returned covered in Fae blood.”

“How did that affect you?”

“We went mad for a bit, but didn’t damage each other. Sex makes us both quite intoxicated at this point, but she was able to tell me what she did once we calmed down a bit.”

“Where are the children when you are “intoxicated?””

“Sleeping. Freyja protects them that way, so we can have them with us, but still have room to enjoy each other.”

“Have you given any thought to Sookie’s part in our defenses at the Wiccaning?”

Eric laughed, “her personal guards call her the Secret Weapon. Her abilities are becoming formidable, if she thinks to use them. I forgot to brief you on the incident at Dallas, now that I think about it.”

“Yes, I knew something happened, but you said you couldn’t cover it over the phone.”

“New Centurion found a hole in our defenses and managed to get into the club with bombs. A series of fortunate circumstances led Sookie to know there was a problem, and Bjorn had her call the bombs into the demo room before they exploded.”

“What do you mean “call?”

“I don’t really know what to call it. It’s like teleportation. She can call things, or even the boys, and they come to her or to a designated spot.”

“I had no idea she had such powers.”

“She can also fly and is learning to shape shift. She makes a marvelous mermaid, but she needs to work on land animals”

“Is there anything she can’t do?”

“We haven’t found anything yet, but we don’t know all of the possibilities. Do you know Badru Bast?”

“The Egyptian regent? I’ve seen him but we’ve never been introduced.”

“He and his wife, Amunet, will be sharing your chalet with you the day after the Wiccaning. She’s a very practiced Witch and an empath. She and Sookie are what you might call kindred spirits. They will spend time during the day seeing what the extent of Sookie’s abilities are.”

“Amunet? Petite, pale skin, black hair in a Cleopatra/flapper bob?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“Interesting. I’ve heard it whispered that she’s largely responsible for him getting and keeping his office.”

“I can easily believe it. She’s clever and quick, and from what I saw, she’s as fearless as Sookie. She and Sookie together are better than an army.”

“If Sookie has all of these abilities, what does she need Amunet for?”

“To learn to think like a Witch. Sookie still thinks of herself as human. It doesn’t occur to her to try certain things yet, though she’s getting better. She was fantastic when we had the spies in here Monday night.”

“Another incident you needed to brief me on?”

“Daemon spies sent by Niall to install bugs in the chalets. He wanted to listen in on our war council.”

“How did you catch them?”

“Auberon recognized one from the day of the assassination attempt and Sookie picked up on it. She can apparently hear Daemons now, too. She stunned one who tried to fly away with a jolt of some kind of energy from her hand, she kept one from teleporting out of Amelia’s chalet somehow and she “called” one who was outside the gates, whom she said she could hear like a radio.”

Bill rubbed his eyes and shook his head, “is  just she omnipotent? Is that possible?”

“Some can block her, some cannot. She’s not omnipotent, at least not yet, but she’s powerful. She needs training and practice. Her skills are still a bit unpredictable.”

“Unpredictable?”

“Yes, she took her Ambrosia at the wrong time early on and floated up out of her panties in a public restroom. Fortunately, Bjorn and her cousin Claudine were able to pull her down from the ceiling and get her home without any humans finding out.”

“Where was she?”

“Hannigan’s.”

“If that had happened in the restaurant…!”

“Yes, but we’ve been fortunate, or else Freyja has been vigilant. I suspect She’s letting Sookie learn her lessons in ways that will get her attention but not give her away.”

“I hope that continues to be the case. I don’t know how humans will react if they learn about magick and Fae.”

“Yes, it would be inconvenient, but I suspect it will happen once Sookie takes Elfyria.”

“Do you think she will?”

“I don’t think she’ll have a choice. I think Niall will push her and she’ll be forced to kill him. Titania left a message for Sookie urging her to do that before he can kill her. She warned Sookie he would never let her take the throne.”

“How did she do this?”

“There’s a Book of Shadows – a Witches’ spell book, or grimoire – that Niall cannot touch and which cannot leave Elfyria. Freyja has been taking Sookie to study it. It’s where she learned the spell for Auberon’s charm. The most miraculous thing is that when she needs something from that book, it appears in her book here. Her book is writing itself at times.”

“I’ve never heard of anything like that!”

“Neither have we – even Octavia is amazed by it. Octavia says she has never seen the kind of power it would take to do some of the things Sookie has been doing, especially not with such ease.”

“Is there any strain on her?”

“It can make her very tired, so we’re trying to make sure she gets enough sleep. They estimate about 3 years before that is no longer a problem.”

“Is there a reason for that?”

“It has something to do with her need to breastfeed the babies. There have been days when we’ve been told not to disturb her at all and she sleeps around the clock.”

“If she were to be harmed…”

“That’s the main issue just now – at some point, if she were to be killed, she would simply take on her full Goddess Nature, but she is not there yet and we don’t know when she might reach that point.”

“Will anything have to be done to cause the final transformation?”

“Yes, at some point, I’ll have to turn her. The process will be the same as if she were going to be Vampire, but the outcome will be different. In order to become immortal in any way, one has to die.”

“Does she know this?”

“Yes, though I’m not sure she really understands the whole process yet. She is thinking about what it would mean and what effects it might have on her.”

“What might those be?”

“We don’t know yet. At one point, we thought that she might lose her telepathy, but given the new powers she’s gaining, and the fact that she’s taking Ambrosia, I no longer think that is a danger. I think if anything it will extend her telepathy to all creatures.”

“To Vampires?”

“Again, no one else must know, but she’s beginning to develop it now. I also suspect that since she can hear Daemons, she might be able to hear Fae as well. We won’t know until the ceremony, because she’s never around them.”

“She can hear you and the boys?”

“Yes, and we can hear her, but that’s an effect of the bond. We don’t know how it will work around others at this point. Things are changing so rapidly that what she cannot do one day might be possible the next.”

“Have you ever known of a situation like this before?”

“No, I’ve never really heard of one. I’ve heard of people mating with the gods, but not being a direct incarnation. I think this is very, very rare. Most who manifest divine energy never know it, or they are “god-touched” but to become an actual Goddess is a completely new concept for me, though I don’t doubt it because she needs the Ambrosia now.”

“She drinks it, and you and the children drink from her – will that have any effect on you?”

“Yes, it will enhance our powers as well. I have apparently developed clairvoyance in the last week or so.”

“How do you know this?”

“The last few days, when I am at rest, I have seen Sookie and the boys playing in the swimming pool. Today they spoke to me because they sensed I was watching, and I remember it.”

“Did Ludwig have any comments about it?”

“She says it’s nearly as rare for a Vampire as having a child, but there is folklore that it has happened before.”

“Auberon can fly as well?”

“Yes, and he’s more advanced than a human child, but not as advanced as Alex.”

“I heard him cry when Niall arrived. Is that going to be a problem?”

“He’s very attached to Sookie at this stage, but we expect that will wane as he becomes more secure. He’s a very sweet-tempered child, though, and he adores Alex.”

“Does Alex adore him?”

“We were afraid Alex would react badly, but he has taken a very protective role with Auberon. He makes sure we know when he is hungry and he tries to teach him words that he knows.”

“That must be adorable,” Bill had to admit.

“Yes, it’s very sweet. Auberon tries very hard to copy Alex, then Sookie and I say the word correctly to reinforce it.”

They both laughed and then gradually turned to the paperwork Bill had regarding the reconstruction in New Orleans and the property sales in Las Vegas. By the time they got done, it was almost 2:00, so Eric zipped upstairs to find Sookie feeding both boys.

“That’s a very sweet picture, my Angel,” he beamed at them as he leaned in the doorway.

“Hey – we were just thinking about you. Come snuggle!”

Eric was undressed in a flash and the babies giggled as he zipped into bed with them all, giving everybody kisses. He wrapped his arm around Sookie and stroked the babies’ heads and backs as they fed. Both boys were asleep in another 15 minutes and Eric tucked them in gently then rapidly shifted gears, hovering over Sookie, emitting a low growl from his chest, fangs down, nipping at her neck.

Sookie was more than ready to go along and she dug her nails into his lower cheeks to spur him on a little. It was a quiet, silly night as they tickled and giggled and slammed together, both so relieved to be in each other’s arms that it wouldn’t take much for the laughter to turn to tears. Eric was so relieved to have Sookie home, and he hadn’t really had a chance to process it until now, that he poured all the accumulated stress and fear into his thrusts, doing everything he could to stretch it out and make it as long as possible. Sookie stretched beneath him, her feline movements fascinating him as he took her, very happy when she reached up and grabbed hold of the headboard, opening her legs as wide as she could now, whispering in his ear, “I missed you so much!”

He never slowed down, kissing her all over her face and neck, saying, “I’m so glad you’re home, Sookie, I was out of my mind. Please don’t ever leave me,” he choked back a sob. Sookie didn’t want him to dissolve into tears so she bit his shoulder as hard as she could, causing him to snarl and bite back. He struck so hard it made her laugh and he slipped his arms under her, floating them up, over and down on the floor. The thrall of their blood hit them both very quickly in a wave of heat and they stopped talking, fucking wildly on the floor. Eric came explosively, flipping Sookie around on her knees, holding her hips and taking her from behind. Sookie clasped her hands as if in prayer and put her weight on her forearms, her forehead on her wrist as she grunted with each deep stroke. She felt her lower half rising and soon her hands were braced on the floor, her legs held in the air as Eric took her in a standing position.

When she came to her senses later, she laughed that she didn’t even know that was possible, but they were both so strong at this point – not to mention being able to fly – that more was possible than might be for others, though Sookie was sure she’d seen this sort of wheelbarrow pose in a book somewhere. Maybe in a magazine she found under the couch cushions at Jason’s house once when she was waiting for him to get back with pizza? Anyway, she came like gangbusters, a loud roar escaping from her chest as she reveled in an extended orgasm that made her jerk her legs so hard that Eric nearly dropped her. He let her down and collapsed on the floor next to her, both of them cracking up. Gradually Eric lifted her back onto the bed and spooned behind her as they continued to chuckle until Sookie fell asleep.

Eric lay in the dark smiling and stroking her hair and shoulder until the boys woke up, then took them into the nursery for a book. Instead of reading, he used the little plastic book, opening the pages, showing Alex where the words it was reading were, asking them the shapes and colors shown, tickling them by letting them push the big button that made phrases or songs come out of it. At one point Alex said, “Obee undwy, Dadee!” So Eric opened the covered dishes left for the two of them and fed them a pretty good dinner, which was basically a repeat of their dinner earlier, but with apples for dessert. Aubie lost interest in the food pretty quickly and wanted to be held, so Eric held him in his lap while he fed Alex in one of the little carriers, mostly holding the bowl for him as he scooped up his own food. The kitten sat next to the carrier and watched as if she were supervising Alex’s meal. As Alex ate the last bits of food that Eric scraped out of the dish for him, Aubie said, “uh, Mama?” and looked at Eric with big soulful eyes.

“Mama is in bed asleep. I’m going to take you to her right now, alright?”

Aubie bounced his whole body and said, “Mama” happily, knowing he was going to see her. Eric took the boys back to bed, Alex falling asleep very quickly, but Aubie trying so hard to reach for Sookie that Eric brought him over and wrapped him in her arms until he fell asleep, then he tucked him in next to Alex and the kitten after.

Jerry came cautiously up the stairs as Eric was giving Sookie her second cup of Ambrosia, and Eric went to rest contented that his family was safe and would be well-tended while he was gone. He would think about war tomorrow – tonight he wanted to bask in the glow of love for his beautiful family, and when he closed his eyes he could see them in his mind, sleeping soundly as Jerry watched over them.

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