Sookie woke up sad that morning, lying on her back, watching the rain fall on the glass dome of the loft. She was very quiet, not wanting to talk yet, knowing Bjorn was probably over in the chair. She could hear the babies laughing and playing downstairs where she could hear Bobbie and Alicia feeding them. She let out a big sigh and rolled over on her side, looking out into gray nothing for as far as the eye could see. It was disorienting, and scary, but thrilling in a way and she knew that was the point. It was like flying up here and felt just as wild and dangerous.
“Dancing,” she said softly.
“What did you say, Sookie?” Bjorn asked from his position across the room.
“Dancing. The boys don’t get to dance in the mornings here.”
“You can dance with them downstairs can’t you?”
“Yeah, but it’s not the same. This place isn’t set up to cuddle or eat breakfast in bed. It’s made for fooling around.”
“That’s not a bad thing, is it?” He could tell she wasn’t happy about something and wanted to joke her out of it a bit.
“Not if you’re fooling around. If you’re in the mood to cuddle your babies, it’s less than ideal.”
“Yeah, I can see that, I guess.”
“Do we have anything we have to do today?”
“Alicia hasn’t mentioned anything.”
“OK, I’m not getting up today. Bring the boys up here with me and ask Alicia to make me something easy to eat…” before Sookie could finish her thought, Aubie came flying up to her calling “Mama!”
Sookie caught him and kissed him, saying, “there’s my sweet boy!” and tucking him in next to her just as she’d been wishing she could. Alex flew up shortly after, two fists full of turkey sausage and traces of pureed peaches on his chin and his little t-shirt. “Oops! Towel!” she called a hand towel from the bathroom and tried to keep Alex from getting grease on the expensive sheets, but he was faster than she, and there was sausage grease smeared on the top sheet as Alex landed between Sookie and Aubie, giggling and stuffing sausage in his mouth. “Alex, you’re such a messy eater,” she said teasing him and he cracked up. “Aubie, do you see Buddy munching on that sausage?” Aubie giggled more because she was speaking to him than because he understood her. All he knew was Mama was smiling and Bumby was laughing and that made him happy in the new way anything around Mama always did. Sookie figured the sheets were no big deal and just focused on the boys, tickling and kissing them and finally having Bjorn throw her a blue gown from her open suitcase, then he helped her get the boys in position to dance. Alicia heard the giggling and came up to see what Sookie wanted for breakfast since she’d have to order it from the kitchen.
“Well, we’re having fun this morning!” Alicia laughed.
“Yeah, I was a little sad when I woke up but my buddies here cheered me up, didn’t you, boys?”
“EEAH!” Alex squealed
“Ah!” Aubie copied Bumby as best he could.
“There’s nothing I need to do today, right, Alicia?”
“No, you have a whole day to do nothing.”
“I need to check on Puff, though…”
“Not really. He’s lying on a rug inside the sliding doors. I was afraid for him to stay out in case there was lightning.”
“Good point. Are we in danger of that up here?”
“You can always close the shutter system,” Alicia said casually.
“What shutter system?”
“Watch this,” Alicia laughed and walked over to the bed, picking up a little remote from the glass nightstand on Eric’s side. She pointed it toward a red thing that looked like a head light up on the wall between the tub and the bathroom, and there was a sound of machinery creaking into motion. Some kind of covering that seemed to be metal, but was moving like liquid, was slipping over the glass and in just a minute, they were all in a perfectly light safe room.
“Hey! I didn’t know that was there!” Sookie said, liking this much better than being out in the open.
“I think Eric was going to surprise you,” Bjorn laughed, “but you had to know he wouldn’t build a bedroom he couldn’t rest in, right?”
“You mean he could stay in the bed with me here?”
“Of course, Dear,” Alicia laughed. “He didn’t want to tell you so soon that you’d want it down all the time, but it’s here for safety. We would have closed it if there was a sign of lightening, but we thought you’d be coming downstairs.”
“I can’t believe he could have been staying in bed with us and didn’t!”
“He could stay with you every day, Sookie, he just doesn’t for safety,” Bjorn reminded her.
“We’re up here all alone in the world, how much safer is life going to get?” Sookie wondered aloud as she scooted down in the bed and put her arm across the two boys. The babies were getting quiet since they’d had some breakfast and dancing and Sookie knew they’d doze off again soon if she was quiet. “Alicia, is there something easy to eat on the menu that I wouldn’t have to sit at the table for?”
“We can arrange that.”
“Are you feeling alright, Dear?” Alicia knew Sookie was sad for some reason.
“Just hormonal, I guess. I feel like staying hidden.”
“Alright, is there anything else I can get for you?”
“When my buddies here doze off, I’d like to work in my book. I have a lot of things to write down.”
“You’ve got all those new art supplies to test out, too.”
“Yes, the box that came for you day before yesterday had some very nice art supplies in it and a note that said, ‘For your Book, Precious.’
“It said “Precious?” Sookie brightened at that, “then they’re from Nivian! Where are they?”
Alicia went into a large case sitting next to the closet and brought Sookie her new book and the box of supplies she’d packed with it. It was a deceptively heavy wooden box, but it had heavy black silk glued on it and a little shell toggle to keep it closed. It was the size of a big cigar box and Sookie was excited to find some rosewood-handled paint brushes, a glass wand that she figured out was a “dip” pen that you use with bottled ink or paint, and brilliantly colored paints in what she assumed was a gold-plated (it was actually solid gold) paint box inside. Sookie loved to paint when she was a little girl but she’d never had anything you’d call actual, professional quality art supplies. This box was lined with heavy porcelain and she counted 28 little pans of color that made her mouth water. She forgot how much she loved bright colors and juicy paint. There was even an inscription on the the folding palette that said, “May you never lack for inspiration, Titania.” That took Sookie’s breath away – were these Titania’s paints? Or were they meant for her, since she’s Titania? They were still a little wet, so they couldn’t be Titania’s, right? Either way, she loved them and just prayed to Freyja that she be able to use them well and not ruin the wonderful Book of Shadows Nivian had gifted her.
The boys were asleep by now, so she gently put them over in their co-sleeper and Alicia brought Sookie a lap desk she found in the closet as she threw the fur cover off the bed, which she’d been wanting to do since she laid eyes on it, but she didn’t know why. Folding the top sheet back and smoothing it, Sookie was able to sit “Indian style” with the book in front of her on the desk and the box of paints above it, next to a slim, cylindrical jar of water – marked with a strangely familiar symbol of overlapping circles in a larger circle divided by a vertical bar – which was also in the box, as was a small bottle of super black ink she put next to it. She opened the jar and smelled it, and for minute she thought she smelled roses, but decided it was just water and was clear enough to use for right now. She ran her finger over the round painted symbol. Where had she seen that before? It made her think of King Arthur, but she didn’t know why. She spent some time looking through her new Book, reading what she’d written, looking at the rosary prayer from Sookie 2006, and several entries in Titania’s handwriting. The words on the page where Titania wrote about meeting Eric looked sad and lonely, so Sookie dipped a small, soft brush in the water and tapped it on the rim, then dipped it in in a deep rose pan and slowly stroked the edge of the right-hand page. She dipped the glass pen in the black ink and before she knew it a lovely pink rose bower ran across both pages. When the boys woke up about 45 minutes later, Bjorn noticed Sookie didn’t respond when Alex spoke to her, so he silently picked them up and carried them downstairs.
“Hey, you!” Bobbie laughed as he came down the stairs. “I was just getting ready to join you.” She was finishing breakfast and drinking a cup of green tea at the long dinner table facing the door.
“Sookie is so focused on that book, I thought it might be better for the boys to stay down here with you.” He let Alex down first, then put Aubie down on the bottom of the playpen as Alex stood holding onto the side.
“Ah, Babee!” Alex waved at her.
“Hi, Alex! Were they bothering her?”
“No, but she didn’t react when they called her. It’s like she’s in a trance or something.”
“Alicia said she’s painting?”
“Yes, with some paints the Lady of the Lake sent her.”
“Wow – they must be magickal paints.”
“I don’t know what they are, but I never saw Sookie show any interest in art before, did you?”
“No,” Bobbie said as she bent over the playpen to tickle Alex and check his diaper, “but she was already pregnant when she hired me, so she’s been struggling just to react to what’s going on in her and around her.” Aubie reached up to her and she picked him up.
“Yeah, that’s true.”
“Did you see what she’s painting?”
“You’ve seen what they call “illuminated manuscripts?””
“Yeah, of course.”
“What I saw looked like that – flowers on the edge of the page, different symbols, at one point she turned the book sideways and painted a Viking ship on it.”
“Does she paint well?”
“Yeah, really well. You’d think she’d been doing it her whole life. Now that you mention it, they have to be magick because I saw her dip the brush in the water and the paint disappeared.”
“Yeah, when you rinse a paint brush, you know how it swirls into the water, then disperses and the whole jar would be that color? Hers is swirling around and disappearing.”
“Where is she sitting? Is she painting on the bed?”
“Alicia found a lap desk in her closet, so she’s got that in front of her.”
“It wasn’t there earlier.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yes. I’ve been up there for hours and could see the part of the closet she pulled it out of. There was nothing but wall there earlier.”
“She’s manifesting what she needs when she needs it.”
“Apparently. Will you be OK here with the boys?”
“Yeah, we’ll be fine, won’t we, guys?”
“Eeah! Doo nappee, Babee.”
“OK, Alex, wait here with Bjorn and I’ll be right back, OK? Aubie needs one first.”
“Oday, Obee fuhss,” Alex bounced a little, proud of himself because he could stand up. “Undwy, Borhd.”
“OK, I wonder where Alicia is?”
“Nah nah, Eesha.”
“Alicia’s not here?”
“OK, when Bobbie gets back, she’ll change your diaper then we’ll see about getting some food, OK?”
“Oday.” Alex turned his attention to the dragon which was laying on a carpet in front of the sliding door, watching them and trying to figure out who these people were. Did the Goddess know they had her whelps? He thought to just wait and watch, since he was there, too, and he’d seen these humans before. “Ah, Pup!”
Puff raised his head to a tilt and looked at the whelp in the cage. It was making that noise Puff liked and waving it’s paw, so Puff slowly moved over to say hello. He sat up on his hind legs and was just a little taller than the play pen so he could put his hand on the rim like the whelp did. He held his face down so the whelp could pet it and he let him press his mouth to his snout like he’d done before. He remembered seeing the Goddess do the mouth-pressing, too, and he thought that must be a good thing. The female came back with the smaller whelp and put him in the cage, taking the bigger one away. This little one was younger, Puff thought, because it couldn’t stand like the other, but they looked and smelled almost the same except this one had more magick, like the Goddess. The male picked it up and held it down to Puff so he could sniff it and nuzzle his hand. Bjorn held Aubie’s hand and showed him how to gently pet Puff on the nose.
“There you go, Aubie. Good dragon, Puff!” Bjorn said softly, letting Aubie and the dragon scope each other out, Aubie giggling as the dragon flicked his tongue in his ear and his hands. Eric was still wary of the dragon, but Bjorn wasn’t. He had seen the dragon follow Sookie around enough already to know he would defend her and her kids if he needed to. The dragon was a lot like the cat in a certain way. They were both quiet, gentle and observant, and you just knew more was going on in their heads than a normal animal would have – you just knew they could think.
Bobbie came back with Alex, kitten at their heels, and it jumped up on the side of the playpen and in as Bobbie put Alex next to Aubie. Bobbie caught Bjorn’s eye and nodded toward the dragon, which was watching the kitten with great curiosity and delight. This was the first Faerie animal he’d seen in this place, and it made him feel more at home. He wondered briefly why the Goddess and her whelps were surrounded by all these humans and Weres, but then he remembered She pressed Her mouth to the tall Vampire’s very often, so She was quite an unusual Deity. Puff thought maybe the Vampire had sired these whelps, because the bigger one had his earthy scent, too, which mingled with the sweetness in a comforting way. The Goddess had Faerie magick, or Puff knew he wouldn’t be here, so he was content just to let life unfold and serve the Goddess as necessary, just like he did at home. He liked these little creatures and the sounds that they made and he was glad they wanted to be friends. Alex wanted down on the floor to play with Puff, so Bobbie sat on the floor next to him with Aubie on her knee and she could tell that Puff was very pleased with the attention.
“OK, I called Cody and he’ll be here in a minute to sit with you and the boys,” Bjorn told her as she got settled with the babies and their big scaly pet, then he headed back upstairs, expecting to find Sookie still painting in her book. The bed was empty except for the lap desk. No book, no paints, no Sookie. Damn. “Hey, Sookie, are you in the bathroom?” There was no answer so he knocked on the door then went in. Nope, she was gone. Goddammit. Now what does he do? He figured she probably went to Elfyria, but there was no way to be sure, and she normally went while she was asleep. Why would her whole body go this time and not the others?
Bjorn looked at his watch, realizing he was gone for almost an hour messing around with the boys and their dragon. If Sookie didn’t show up before Eric rose for the night… shit! Bjorn didn’t even want to think about that. He couldn’t even give him an idea of when it happened except to say within a 45 minute window. He paced around the room a little, then looked all around the bed for some sign of where Sookie had gone, but there was nothing. He was trying to think of what to do when Bobbie came upstairs.
“Hey, Sweetie… where’s Sookie?”
“I don’t know – she’s gone.”
“What do I tell Eric if she doesn’t make it back before he rises? I can’t even tell him when she disappeared.”
“Well, logically, wouldn’t she be in Elfyria?”
“I don’t know – she usually goes in her sleep, and her book and paints are gone, too. I don’t even know how to go about looking for her.”
“Call Sir Robert.”
“Who’s Sir Robert?” Bjorn’s mind was blank at the moment.
“You know, the tall Bill-looking guy who takes care of the Queendom for her. Her Minister of Days.”
“Do you have any idea how to do that?”
“Yeah, actually – he has a cell phone.”
“Her Faerie helper has a cellphone?”
“Yeah, why not? Ludwig does, right?”
“Yeah. I could call her, I guess, but man, I hate to admit I lost her when I was supposed to be watching her.”
“So let me call. But let me order food first, that’s why I came up here. The babies are hungry and so is Cody, so I was going to ask you what you wanted for lunch since Alicia isn’t here.”
“Where is she?”
“I think she went to the dry cleaners with a bunch of Sookie’s dresses. She said she’d be back before dinner.”
“OK, order me some grilled fish, rice, steamed vegetables. No bread, as little fat as possible, OK?”
“Will do. I’ll be back in a minute.” Bobbie went back downstairs and called their order into the kitchen while Bjorn looked around the room again. The Fae helper had a cellphone, so Sookie had to have his number, right? Where would Sookie stash something like that? She’d either have Alicia put it away or… her purse. Bjorn looked around the room anxiously, looking for the little red clutch she had with her yesterday. It wasn’t in the suitcase, and it wasn’t in the bathroom, so where – then it hit him – look in her vanity case which was sitting open next to the chairs in the corner. He looked it over, opening little drawers and boxes here and there, and found that one of the little drawers had some candles, a bottle of water, a box of salt, some kind of oil he’d never heard of, a big quartz crystal and underneath it all, there was a card – Sir Robert of Swansea, 1.555.123.4567 – or was that a 9 and a 1? Maybe Bobbie would know.
‘OK, now what does Bobbie say? We can’t say she’s missing, right? So she’s… what? Visiting? That might work – she can ask if Sookie is visiting today and say she has to tell her something before she comes home. Sookie said he could pop in any minute, so he should be able to go right to her, right?’ He couldn’t come up with any other ideas, so they’d try this if she still wasn’t back when Bobbie came back. He paced a little more then went back down to the living room, praying this worked.
Sookie was painting a starlit night with Venus clearly visible as she’d seen it one time, but something was distracting her. What was that sound? She looked up from her book and rose from the little blue desk she’d been sitting at, stretching and yawning as if she’d been asleep. She walked to the large double doors and opened them outward, stepping out onto the balcony to see the ocean crashing against the rocks below. It was the sound of the ocean that distracted her, and she took a deep breath, enjoying the salt air and the slight mist she could feel all the way up here.
“Welcome home, Precious!” Nivian spoke softly as she walked up behind her. “We didn’t expect to see you so soon. Are you alright?” Nivian stroked her shoulders and kissed her cheek.
“Huh? I… I don’t know, I … I was sad. Where am I?” She couldn’t look away from the ocean, crashing blue and white, in a blue foggy day with a lovely pink sun setting on the horizon.
“You’re in Avalon, Sookie, remember?
“No, I don’t. Am I supposed to be here?”
“Well, we weren’t expecting you, but you know you are always welcome. Your room is just as you left it, Titania.”
“I am she and she is me and you are me and we are all together…” Sookie whispered, making Nivian laugh softly as she stroked Sookie’s blonde hair.
“That’s a pretty song, Precious.”
“I’m messing up the words, though, but it’s how I feel right now. I’m everyone and no one and I’m nowhere I’m ever supposed to be…” she said softly, still hypnotized by the sound and the movement of the sea below.
“That’s not true, Sookie, you’re supposed to be here whenever you want to be here.”
“How can I want to be here when I don’t even know where here is?”
“This is your true home, Sookie. You’re never far from Avalon, no matter where you are,” Nivian said gently, guiding Sookie back into the beautiful blue room where her book lay on the desk and the soft blue-covered bed in the middle of the roo was drawing Sookie toward it as she went in and lay down. Titania closed the paint box, the jar and the bottle of ink, then put them in the silk covered box. She checked the page that was open and found it dry enough to close the book and laid it on Sookie’s chest. Sookie was blinking slowly, falling to sleep as Titania wrapped her arm around the box and Nivian laid her other hand upon the book. Titania and Nivian bent to kiss Sookie, speaking at once, “Good night, my Angel.”
Bobbie was just off the phone when lightning struck the top of the building in a blinding flash that scared all of them nearly to death. Aubie cried for his Mama and flew up the stairs, Alex, Erin and Puff close behind. Bjorn and Bobbie brought up the rear as they followed the babies and their pets up the spiral stairs. Sookie was back, but seemed sound asleep and she was floating above the bed on a cloud of shimmering light. Alex and Aubie just stopped in the air about 3 feet in front of her, just watching her without a sound. The kitten paced frantically below Alex and the dragon sat on his haunches and watched to see what the Goddess would do. Bobbie and Bjorn stopped cold, trying to decide what to do next, but they were both afraid to move and frighten the babies or animals. Was it dangerous to let the babies touch Sookie in this state? Where did the lap desk go? Aubie started forward whimpering, “Mama” but Alex caught his hand and said, “Nah, Nah, Buggy,” and kept him from going forward.
“Aubie come here,” Bobbie went toward him but Alex said, “Nah, nah, Babee. Bhord,” and he held Aubie’s hand toward Bjorn, clearly wanting him to hold Aubie for a minute. Bjorn stepped forward and took Aubie’s hand saying, “hang on, Buddy, Mommy is busy.”
Aubie wouldn’t let Bjorn move him away, but he waited to see what Bumby would do. Alex went toward the ceiling so he could see Sookie’s face, and he saw the box and the book in her arms. Alex pointed at the box and said, “DAT!” and the box flew out of Sookie’s arm across the room toward the chairs, so Bobbie had to jump back and Bjorn had to duck. Alex floated upward again and pointed to the book, yelling. “DAT!” and the book followed the same trajectory, but Bjorn let go of Aubie and caught it. Once contact with the book was broken, Sookie silently, slowly sank down to the bed, then she threw her arms up in a luxurious stretch. Aubie was under one arm like a shot and Alex settled on Sookie’s other side. Sookie opened her eyes as they landed, saying, “There’s my sweet boys!” hugging them to her and instantly going back to sleep. Bobbie and Bjorn looked at each other.
“What do you think?” Bjorn asked her.
“She seems OK…” Bobbie said cautiously, slowly approaching the bed and checking Sookie’s pulse, then Alex’s and Aubie’s. “They seem to be sleeping,” She stepped back and the dragon moved slowly up to the side of the bed and stood up as tall as he could. The Goddess and her whelps were just sleeping, so Puff lowered himself and stretched out next to the bed until she awoke. The male and the female seemed worried, so Puff would stay close, just in case.
“Don’t the boys need to eat?” Bjorn asked as he petted the kitten, who had jumped up on the bed at Sookie’s feet and lay down.
“Yeah, but my instinct says don’t wake them up,” Bobbie said, “they’ll let us know when they’re hungry. In the mean time, I’ll bring our lunch up here and we’ll be ready to feed them when they wake up. I have a feeling they’ll be up by the time Eric rises, and if not, we’ll let him try to wake them.”
“OK, I like that, it sounds like a plan.” As Bjorn spoke they heard the bell at the front door.
“I’ll go get the food. Just relax and keep an eye on them. At least she’s home.” Bobbie tried to reassure him as she hurried downstairs. “Cody, can you help me get this stuff upstairs?” Bobbie asked as the waiter left the whole cart of food.
“Sure, Miss Bobbie, I’ll be glad to.”
“Thanks,” Bobbie smiled, not wanting to let him know there was a problem because she wasn’t even sure there was a problem. As long as Sookie was here with them, she was pretty sure they could handle whatever was going on.
Once they had most of the food upstairs, Cody decided to eat his sandwich in his quarters since he wasn’t really needed at the moment. Bobbie sat in the far chair that faced the bed eating popcorn shrimp and Bjorn used the red ottoman as a table to hold his plate of grilled fish. They chatted about nothing in particular and at one point Bjorn told her he was sure the Northmans had had sex on his “table.” They both cracked up though they were trying to be quiet, but no one in the bed seemed to hear. Puff raised his head and looked at them briefly, but they were making the good noise, so he stayed put.
Alicia got home around 5 and decided to take a short nap until Eric “arrived” leaving dinner instructions with the kitchen for 7. She could tell from the way Bobbie acted that there was something up, but she wasn’t worried because Bobbie told her Sookie was upstairs asleep.
It rained pretty hard for an hour or so, and it was all Bobbie and Bjorn could do not to fall asleep. Bjorn walked around and did push ups to get his blood moving, fascinating the dragon, but Bobbie eventually succumbed to the weather and fell asleep in her chair. At almost 6:30, the latches on Eric’s box clicked open and Bjorn woke Bobbie and sent her downstairs, afraid Eric would be hungry and Bjorn knew he couldn’t stop him if he wasn’t in control of himself.
Eric could smell other people in the room, so he gathered himself before he opened the lid, then he slowly sat up, to find Bjorn waiting for him.
“Let me guess,” Eric smiled, “it’s been an eventful day?” he asked as he floated upward and landed on his feet.
“Anyone hurt or sick?”
“No, I don’t think so. Sookie was gone for a while, we don’t know where as of yet, and only opened her eyes for a second after the boys could get near her. Bobbie and I were thinking you might want to try to wake her. We know the boys will be hungry because they went to sleep before their food got here and we were afraid to try to wake them.
“After the boys could get near her?”
“Yeah, Alex seemed to know what to do and used his telekinesis – it’s a long story, so you might want to wake Sookie up first. Dinner will be here at 7.”
“Why is the dragon here?”
“Lightning scared Aubie and he flew up here crying for Mama, but Alex kept him from touching Sookie because she was floating above the bed glowing. The dragon followed them and he settled on the rug there when the boys went to sleep. I think he thinks he’s protecting them.
“Alright, then, wait for us downstairs. If I can’t wake her, I’ll come get more details.” Eric was getting used to having a crisis to deal with every day when he got up. As long as no one was injured, he’d take this in stride, too.
He went over to the bed, the dragon moving out of his way, and found Aubie awake. “Dada!”
“Hello, my little Elf!” Eric tickled him and he giggled, which woke Alex. “Ah, Dadee!”
“Hello, my little Vampire! At least the two of you are awake!”
“Me an Obee undwy, Dadee.”
“Alright, we’ll have dinner. Sookie? Sookie, can you wake up? Wake up, my beautiful wife!”
“Mmm?” Sookie responded a little.
“Sookie, wake up, Sweetheart.”
“Way dup, Mamee!”
“Mama! Mama!” Aubie patted her breast and her eyelids fluttered.
“Sookie, the babies are hungry.”
Sookie felt like she was in a hole and had to climb up out of it to get to her kids. She opened her eyes wide a couple of times, and managed to say, “help me, Eric!”
He could tell she was trying to wake up, so he sat Alex on the far side of her with Aubie and pulled Sookie up into a sitting position. “Sookie, wake up!” He patted her cheek gently and she blinked her eyes, looking up at him and trying to smile. “The babies need to eat, Sookie.”
“Where are they?” she said, struggling to wake up.
Before Eric could answer, Aubie started crying and Sookie jumped and looked around, picking him up and putting him to her breast. She was groggy but she knew she had to feed her baby, though she felt like she was moving through something thicker than water.
“There’s my girl!” Eric praised her, helping her move to the side of the bed. He picked Alex up and brought him up next to Sookie. “Alex, do you want Mommy eat?” Eric asked him, holding him in his left arm while the right supported Sookie.
“Sowid pood, Dadee!”
“Alright, Alex, we’ll go down stairs.” he turned toward the stairs and called “Bjorn! Can you come up here, please?”
Bjorn was up the stairs instantly because he was waiting at the bottom just in case Eric called him. “Is she awake?”
“She’s getting there. Can you take Alex and I’ll carry her downstairs. I think I can manage her and Auberon both.”
Alex went to Bjorn but was watching Dadee because Mamee was acting strangely.
“Sookie, wrap your arms around Aubie and hold on to him,” Eric told her, raising his voice just a little to wake her a little more, then he lifted them together and they floated down the stairs following Bjorn and Aubie. He set Sookie on the couch, as upright as possible, and made sure Aubie was balanced in her lap so she couldn’t drop him as he fed. Sookie was obviously trying to wake up, rolling her head around and blinking her eyes, but they just wouldn’t stay open. The dragon, who had followed them downstairs, took his former place on the rug by the doors and waited to see what would happen.
Bjorn got the blood pressure cuff to see if that was the problem, and her blood pressure was very low. He called Dr. Ludwig while Bobbie and Alicia were setting the dinner table with the food that had just been delivered, and she was there instantly with her big carpet bag. She took Sookie’s blood pressure again, and it was still low, so she reached in her bag for a little jar with no label, opening it and waving it under her nose. Sookie jumped, blinking her eyes, crying “what is that?!”
“Smelling salts,” the little doctor laughed, “you need to wake up and eat your dinner.”
“I want to wake up but I can’t” she said as her head slumped to her chest. Ludwig frowned and raised each of Sookie’s eyelids to check her pupils. “Northman, has she had her Ambrosia yet?”
“Get it for her, please and let’s see if that helps.”
Eric zipped up to the loft to the little fridge where they kept the green bottle and gold cup, and was back in an instant pouring Sookie a dose. “Sookie, my Angel, you must drink!” he said, marveling that Auberon was still feeding with all this activity going on. Sookie managed to empty the cup and the change in her was immediate – she sat up straight, took a deep breath and opened her eyes.
“Why’s everybody looking at me?” She asked, surprised to see them all around her.
“Do you remember where you’ve been today, little girl?” The doctor obviously knew, and Eric was anxious to hear for himself.
“I dreamed I saw Nivian and Titania and they tucked me in bed.”
“That wasn’t a dream, Sookie, you’ve been to Avalon,” Ludwig told her as she checked her pulse and re-inflated the cuff on her arm.
“I was there?!”
“Oh, yes, you created quite a stir – no one expected you so soon. You also nearly drained yourself, which is why you couldn’t wake up. I’ll have to increase your Ambrosia if you’re going skip around this way. Anderson, you’re with her in the daytime, yes?”
“Yes, doctor,” Bjorn said, surprised she spoke to him.
“Alright, here’s what we do – she gets 1 cup when she wakes, one at dinner, one at midnight, one before Northman goes to rest. He can take the three night doses, but you’ll have to give her the first when she awakes – you and only you, understand? I’ll bring a single-dose container she can carry with her when she’s out so one of you can always dose her at the right times. Others should help you remember the medicine, but only you two men actually give her the drink, understand?”
“How come?” Sookie asked, trying to remember more about her dream.
“It’s complicated, but trust me – the person who gives it to you is nearly as important as the drink itself. We’re stretching things a bit, since ideally it would be your mate every time, but since Anderson is your daytime version of Northman, we’ll see how this works. Any objections?” She looked at Sookie, at Eric, then at Bjorn, who shrugged. Eric thought about objecting, but this concerned Sookie’s well-being so he thought better of it, no matter that it made him a bit jealous.
“Why can’t I just take it myself?” Sookie wondered aloud.
“Because you might not be able to stop yourself, and you’d be risking an overdose, which could be much more devastating than that little incident at the restaurant. You’re getting stronger now, Sookie, so any misfires you cause will be more powerful as time goes on. You levitated last time – what if everyone in the restaurant ended up kissing the ceiling? Or the building rose off its foundation? Or you knocked the electricity out for the entire city? You’re becoming a force of Nature, girl – take it seriously or there’ll be serious consequences,” and with that, she walked over to Puff, whom she’d met before, patted his head saying “good dragon! Remember, little girl, he’s a monotreme, not a lizard,” then disappeared without warning.
“What’s a monotreme? I’m starving!” Sookie said, just realizing she felt sick like her blood sugar was too low.
“Can you walk to the table, Sweetheart, or do you want me to carry you?” Eric offered his hand to help her stand up.
“We can walk, but let me lean on you, please?”
“Of course my Angel.” he kissed her hair and led her, still feeding Aubie, over to her usual seat at the table.
Everyone was finally seated, Eric feeding the two boys and eating a special “Vampyre Minestrone” as the others enjoyed grilled lobsters and a broccoli souffle. Eric ate a bite of lobster and the babies both giggled and clapped their hands at seeing Daddy eat.
“What was that word again? Monotreme?” Sookie tried to remember as she cracked the claws on her huge lobster, which had to weigh at least 3 pounds. Sookie was in heaven.
“I never heard that word before,” Eric said, looking at Bjorn.
“Me, either. Bobbie? Alicia?”
Alicia shook her head, focusing more on the fact that she was sure Alex would need more to eat than they brought him, and the fact that the dragon had finished the big hunks of beef the kitchen had sent up for him.
Bobbie had been thinking about it for a minute. “I’ve seen it before, but I can’t remember exactly what it is. I know it’s an unusual kind of animal, but I don’t know what’s unusual about it. We’ll look it up after dinner.”
“OK. Do I remember working on my book this morning?”
“Yes, you painted in it for quite a while,” Bjorn told her.
“Where is it?”
“It’s on the table between the two chairs in the loft. I caught it when Alex zapped it away from you.”
“Let’s go back and you can give me all the details of the day, Bjorn,” Eric suggested, so Bjorn gave them the run down of what happened all day as they all enjoyed their dinners and desserts.
Sookie didn’t remember most of what Bjorn told them, and she couldn’t wait to get her book and see what she’d done. After dinner, she ran up for the book, Bobbie got her computer to look up “monotremes” and Alicia showed Eric the story in the newspaper about Sookie confronting Jubal Garner at Antoine’s the day before.
“J’accuse! Vampire Queen accuses Private Contractor for Defense of Attempted Murder at local landmark restaurant,” Eric read aloud. “That’s quite a headline.”
“Yes, it is,” Alicia agreed, “especially since it’s in the society pages.”
“It’s a lovely picture of Sookie’s back as she looks up at Garner. Alex was right, he’s a big man.”
“He tried to intimidate her, bless her heart, but she didn’t back down. You’d have been proud of her.”
“I am proud of her. I love this picture of her with the boys, too. I can’t believe she confronted him and then went back to eat.”
“She was determined not to show any fear. You’d have been proud of your security, too. It could have been quite a showdown, but Bjorn and his guys stared Garner’s men down and Bjorn never took his eyes off them the rest of the lunch. You could tell he’d prepared the men ahead of time about what to do if there was any kind of incident.”
“He’s good at his job. It might be time to give Bjorn a bonus – he’s gone far beyond what anyone could expect from him for our family. He’s become so indispensable that we felt lost without him on the full moon.”
“It did feel strange not having him around. Are we still leaving at noon tomorrow?”
“Yes, that’s the plan and we’ll be back here by 1 am. I may invite Badru and Amunet Bast to come back with us for a night or two.”
“Sookie would love that. They barely got to visit after the Wiccaning.”
“What would I love?” Sookie asked as she bound down the steps with her new Book of Shadows. “Eric, wait ‘til you see what’s in here! It’s illustrated now!”
Eric was very pleased to see her so excited. “I was just telling Alicia I might invite Badru and Amunet to come back with us tomorrow night.”
“I thought you might like that,” he laughed. “I’m not sure they can, of course, but I thought we’d ask since we’re staying here a few days. We can always delay the move to Prytania St. a few days.”
“Neat!” Sookie reached up for a kiss and he bent so she was able to kiss him all over his face.
“You are in a very good mood since you woke up, my Angel!”
“Sit down here and look at these pictures!” She pulled him down on the couch next to her and was so proud and excited as she turned each page so he could see all the lovely illustrations. There were delicate flowers in the corners of some pages; an image of Freyja in Her raven’s cloak on one; Titania’s drawing of Eric had been delicately painted in and looked life-like; there was a gorgeous, detailed painting of a dragon ship in a primitive harbor; symbols Sookie couldn’t identify, even though she painted them; moonlit nights showing positions of the stars on certain occasions concerning Titania’s Rite of Return and meeting Eric.
There was a page with small paintings of various animals that told Sookie which to invoke to have certain powers – wolf to see in the dark, raven to fly between worlds, dolphins to swim powerfully, rabbit to be small and hide easily, Owl to evade capture if necessary at night, cat to move silently, lion to attack, dragons for huge, transformational force; then it listed some things only a Goddess can do – spread Herself on the wind, influence the tides, make rivers flow upstream in emergencies, transform others into animals for a few hours at a time, move undetected in and out of shadows, pass through solid objects and reach into a person’s body and squeeze their heart so it would look like they died of natural causes. That last one made her stomach churn, especially when she saw Eric’s expression as he read the text.
There was another list of “developing powers” she’d eventually have: being able to do miracles in bending time, bestowing “gifts” upon others, be two places at once, cause sweeping change among civilizations, but that these powers should be used judiciously, especially those of life and death, so as not to empower one who could turn on you, or cause the innocent to suffer. At the bottom of the page was a stern admonition: Ask Your Self if You are willing to pay the terrible price that may follow. Remember that unintended consequences may follow your best intentions.
“Yuck!” Sookie said when she read that last line. “What’s the point of being a Goddess if Karma can still kick your ass?”
Bobbie cracked up as she sat at the dining table with her laptop. “That reminds me of that Star Trek episode with Joan Collins in it.”
“I don’t know that one,” Sookie said, turning to see her.
“Kirk falls in love with a woman in pre-World War II America, but he has to let her die or the Nazis win the war.”
“I don’t think I ever saw that one!”
“I have seen it,” Eric said, “it was somewhat controversial at the time.”
“Yeah, a lot of what they did was controversial, though most of the shows seem kind of quaint and Chauvinistic now-a-days,” Bobbie laughed. “That one was a big deal because it questioned whether the good of the many is more important than the good of the individual. Anyway, I found the definition of a Monotreme.”
“Oh, cool – what is it?”
“It’s a mammal that lays eggs.”
“Yes, but they don’t have teats – they just ooze milk from glands in their skins and the babies lick it off of them. There are only two living known monotremes – the duckbill platypus and the echidna, or spiny anteater, both native to Australia.”
“So Puffy is a mammal?”
“Yep, he’s warm-blooded. That’s why he doesn’t act like a normal lizard. Monotremes can show some reptilian and bird-like qualities, but they’re more evolved than they look.”
“What does he do that a normal lizard wouldn’t?” Sookie looked at Puff, who raised his head and looked at her quizzically, knowing she was talking about him.
“He’s protective of you and the boys – that’s not a lizard quality. They abandon their young and don’t raise them. They’re territorial and don’t really have any kind of attachment to other beings. Wanting to protect you guys means he’s got a mammalian brain. Mammals will sacrifice themselves for the good of the group and they parent their young. If he were a lizard, he’d probably see the babies as food.”
“EWW! I’m glad he’s not a lizard then,” Sookie said as she walked over to Puff and petted him on the nose, then kissed his head, much to Puff’s delight.
“Mama, DABAN!” Aubie called from the play pen.
“Obee wyg Pup, Mamee!”
“Yeah, he’s a good dragon!”
“Ah wyg Pup, doo!”
“You guys want to come out and play some more?”
Sookie lifted Alex out of the pen and set him on his feet facing Puff, who was tickled to have attention from the Goddess and Her whelps. She put Aubie in a seated position, but he quickly turned on his hands and knees and crawled toward Puffy and Alex. Sookie looked in the closet while Puffy and the boys checked each other out and found exactly what she was hoping for – a Nerf-type ball that the boys could handle.
Eric turned to watch the interaction with the babies and the dragon, still a little leery but not as much as before their midnight swims. The babies loved the beast and it seemed genuinely fond of them. Sookie came back with the ball, saying, “Hey, guys!” and tossing the soft blue ball to Alex. Alex rolled it to Puff and he caught it in his forward claw, then rolled it back toward Aubie. Aubie rolled it to Alex and Alex rolled it back to Puff. The three of them entertained each other that way for nearly an hour while the adults gathered on the couches and chairs and talked about their travel plans for tomorrow. They had almost forgotten about the group playing on the floor until they heard a little dragon whine and realized Puff had two scaly little companions. Puff was delighted that the whelps could shape shift – this would be lots of fun when they get to play by the pond of bitter water. Puff and the boys tumbled around the floor for several minutes when the kitten came into the room and jumped up on the white chair closest to the sliding glass doors.
“Mow!” Erin voice her displeasure, then let out three “MAOW” sounds and each of the dragons became kittens.
“Oh, my!” Alicia exclaimed as Bobbie and Sookie cracked up. Eric was mildly amused by the scene as the four little cats – two black, one yellow and a hairless Sphynx kitten tumbled around the floor, flying through the room, down the back hall, back through the living area and up the spiral stairs. The mayhem continued about twenty minutes, then the Sphynx curled up on the rug inside the doors and a black and a yellow kitten snuggled up to it. The other black kitten licked the yellow and black ones, as they rolled around a bit then a black one floated upward becoming Alex sans diaper and the yellow one followed it becoming Aubie. The dragon was a dragon again, making his Wookie sound in delight at discovering the whelps could fly. The black kitten that was left jumped into the playpen and lay down for a nap.
Bobbie and Alicia took the babies for fresh diapers as Bjorn came in the door from the office. “Hey, Sookie, I need to speak to Eric privately for a minute. Can you spare him?”
“Sure, Bjorn. Want me to leave?”
“No, I need him to come to the office with me,” Bjorn nodded toward the door.
Eric knew this was something that he didn’t want to upset Sookie with, so he and Bjorn went back out and headed for the office on the floor below them. As the elevator door closed Eric asked “what is it?”
“Sookie received a special delivery.”
“Who knows Sookie is here?” Eric asked as the elevator opened on the lower floor.
“You’ll see.” Bjorn was obviously not happy about this, as they stepped through the office door. There on a desk, being guarded by two Weres who were examining it closely, was a large vase full of red roses. Bjorn took out the card and handed it to Eric.
Eric frowned and opened the note, which said:
Queen Sookie –
We’ll meet again.