“What just happened?” Merlotte asked insistently.
Sookie sighed. “What happened was that I have finally started to really listen to the people around me—to find out who’s on my side and who isn’t. I called Alcide earlier because I thought he would be willing to help those precious girls inside—even if he was disappointed at the way things turned out between us. I asked him if he could bring others who could help, but he brought people whom he knew were scrubs!”
“Scrubs?” Thalia asked with amusement.
“Second-string players—or worse,” Jason Stackhouse said, striding toward us from the house. “Hey, what’d I miss?” he asked.
“Is Andy okay?” Sookie asked. “What about the girls.”
Jason’s eyes got a starry look in his eyes. “Those girls have grown up!” he said excitedly. “And they’re beautiful, especially Braelyn!” He frowned. “But as soon as I mentioned that, Andy told me to get the hell out of there—even though I was just there to check on him.” He shrugged. “I can’t help it that I like pretty things! Can I?” he defended.
“Oh you do?” Brady asked suggestively. “I’ve been called pretty.”
Jason—still clueless to the fact that Brady was flirting with him—looked at the Were. “Nope—sorry. You ain’t pretty.”
“Handsome then,” Brady grinned.
“Well—uh—sure,” Jason said.
I was about to tell my brother-in-law not to encourage Brady when Merlotte cleared his throat.
“Cher?” he said, getting her attention again.
I was just about done with the shifter using that endearment with my bonded. Sookie, seeming to sense my frustration, put our joined hands onto her belly.
Dammit! The women knew how to calm me every time! But my boys were sure kicking—vigorously!
Obviously, they wanted to kick Merlotte’s ass too!
Sookie spoke. “Sam, Alcide didn’t really come here tonight to help. He was lookin’ for a way to try to undermine my relationship with Eric, and—when he saw my belly—he initially thought all kinds of horrible things about what he’d like to do with the so-called ‘abominations’ I’m carrying,” she growled. “Now—I haven’t shot you because you aren’t quite as bad as him—as far as your thoughts go, but I’m not really a fan of what you’re thinkin’ either, so cut it out!”
Thalia smiled maliciously. “Perhaps I could kill this one? Or at least glamour it to chase its own tail for a while?”
Sookie shook her head—though somewhat fondly—in Thalia’s direction.
“Not right now. But thanks, Thalia,” my wife said. She looked back at Sam and tightened her grip on my hand. Our boys were still kicking.
“These are our boys, Sam,” she said. “You’ve been my friend for a long time, and—from finally listening to your thoughts like I probably should have been all along—I’m starting to learn why you dislike vampires so much.”
“Sookie?” I asked her.
“Without divulging too many of Sam’s secrets, let’s just say that vampires fucked him over in the past. However,” she said, focusing on Sam, “you have to admit that you knew they were crooked before you worked with them.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. “But so is Northman.”
“Only sometimes,” I grinned.
“Not helping!” Sookie said, zapping me a little.
“Ouch!” I exclaimed, though her little “love zap” didn’t really hurt.
Sookie ignored my complaint. “Sam, I’m married to Eric now. I love him. He loves me. We are having two sons together—soon! It’s time for you to decide what’s more important to you: being my friend or holding onto your grudge against vampires.”
“It’s not that simple,” the shifter said, shifting from foot to foot—but thankfully not into a newt or something. “I have feelings for you.”
I growled and got another zap from my wife for my troubles.
“Ouch!” I complained.
“Tamed!” Brady, Tray, and Thalia coughed at the same time.
I glared at all of them, challenging them to take on a pregnant fairy.
Jason just looked confused. “Huh? Y’all gotta cold or somethin’?”
“Sam, why didn’t you ask me out before Bill came to town?” Sookie asked, ignoring the peanut gallery.
Merlotte frowned. “Because you seemed to be against dating someone you worked with.”
“And?” she asked.
“Because I figured I didn’t need to hurry,” he admitted.
“Since no one else seemed to want me,” Sookie sighed. “And?” she pushed.
“I figured that—if we got closer—you’d figure out that I was a shifter.”
In a rare moment of immense wisdom, Jason Stackhouse stepped forward and hit the shifter with a very nice right hook.
I got another zap.
“Hey—what did I do?” I complained.
“Oh—sorry,” Sookie said as she looked up at me. “But I don’t know if Jason can take that kind of a shot without going nuts and seein’ our dead parents again.”
Jason nodded solemnly. “Good thinkin’, Sook.”
I just sighed.
“Well—thanks for hitting the shifter,” I told my brother-in-law.
“Oh! No worries! He deserved it for thinkin’ that Sookie would discriminate against him ’cause he’s a dog sometimes. Not that there’s anything wrong with bein’ a dog, though I’d pick an eagle or somethin’,” he added, directing that information toward Thalia—as if he were trying to impress her.
The vampiress rolled her eyes. “You are right. An eagle would be much better than a dog.”
“I know—right? I saw it on Lord of the Rings and everything,” Jason said even as he helped Sam to his feet. “Sorry about that, man. But better a punch from me than my bro-in-law—huh?”
Jason’s easy-going demeanor turned on a dime as he grabbed the collar of Merlotte’s plaid shirt and pulled him close to his suddenly deadly-looking face.
Maybe Jason was more fairy than we’d thought.
My “bro-in-law” snarled at the shifter. “Don’t fuckin’ mess with my sister and Eric? Got it? They’re happy! Sookie’s fuckin’ happy—really happy for the first fuckin’ time in her fuckin’ life! So don’t be a fuckin’ douche!”
“Stop sayin’ ‘fuck,'” my wife said, even as she brushed away a tear. “Gran wouldn’t like it.”
“Sorry, Gran,” Jason said automatically—as if Adele Stackhouse were standing with us. Of course, after the episode with Marnie, I spared a second to look around to see if she was.
“I’m going to go make sure that Herveaux gets his useless troop out of here,” Thalia said with exasperation, right before zipping into the woods.
“I think she likes me,” Jason smiled.
“Sure she does,” Tray said, slapping his back.
Meanwhile, the shifter was looking back and forth between Sookie and me.
I was gauging my wife’s emotions, for I knew that she was reading his thoughts.
Suddenly, she relaxed and moved to hug Sam.
“Thanks,” she whispered. “Your support means a lot to me,” she added.
Was I jealous? No. Was I pissed out that the shifter was touching what was mine? Yes.
Was I foolish enough to ruffle my pregnant part-fairy wife’s feathers by outwardly showing my displeasure?
Hell—no! I was no fool.
Soon enough, Sookie disengaged from the shifter, whom I could tell she felt only friendship toward. And—frankly—if he was feeling acceptance toward us, I had no problems with him. Sookie valued her friends, and I valued making sure she had what she needed.
Of course—don’t get me wrong. I would be more than happy to kill Merlotte if he did anything to hurt my wife and children—beyond being an asshole at times.
But Sookie liked him, and I was feeling trust from her regarding him—unlike what I had felt from her toward Herveaux. Therefore, the shifter was in and the Were was out.
Just call me Heidi Klum!
“What’s wrong?” Sookie asked, turning around to address me.
“Nothing. I just need to stop letting Pam influence my television-watching choices,” I sighed.
Sookie shrugged and then moved to where I liked her the most—into my arms.
“Sam,” I nodded, demonstrating to my wife that I knew her friend’s name and was willing to use it when he wasn’t being a douchebag.
“Eric,” he returned before walking toward his truck. “Call me if you need anything,” he said toward Sookie.
“How about some lunch tomorrow?” she asked. “Say for a group of twenty? A mix of stuff? I’ll send someone for it at 11:30 a.m.?”
Sam nodded. “It’ll be ready.”
My wife smiled at him and then up at me. “You behaved yourself—mostly,” she said almost accusingly.
“I know better than not to behave,” I said, bending down to steal her lips with an intense kiss.
“Take me to the cubby. Right. Now.” she growled into my ear.
I knew that growl. That growl meant business.
The best kind of business.
I looked at Brady. “Keep things safe,” I ordered.
He chuckled knowingly, but nodded.
I picked up Sookie and zipped us toward the house; the last thing I heard was Jason asking what was going on. If he needed an explanation, then—perhaps—Brady did stand a chance at being his new “teacher.”
Sookie and I were in the cubby faster than Jason could become confused at the word, “jackalope.”
“You know those aren’t real—right?” Sookie asked dreamily as I let her take a breath between our kisses.
“What aren’t real?” I asked—though I wanted her so badly that I was barely holding onto coherency.
“Jackalopes,” she said.
Immediately, sobriety hit me.
“You heard my thought,” I said—not accusingly, just surprisingly.
Sookie’s eyes widened. “Fuck!”
I felt her fear. “Wait!” I said. “None of that. I have nothing in my head you cannot know. I just need you to tell me if this is the first time.”
She nodded. “Yeah. But I don’t wanna hear you!”
“Can you hear me now?” I asked, thinking that she was beautiful.
She shook her head. “No—but the babies kicked me.”
“Then they agree that you are beautiful,” I whispered.
“Do you think they will be able to hear vampires?” she asked worriedly.
“If they do, we will keep that fact a secret in order to keep the boys safe. But they have a vampire father. Perhaps, it was my human DNA that your magic grasped onto in order to make them, but maybe something of the creature I am now also flowed into them. And—perhaps—you didn’t hear me at all. Maybe you just heard one of the boys hearing me.”
“Yeah. Maybe,” she breathed. “But—wait! Does that mean that they can hear what we were about to do to each other?”
“They should be taking notes,” I growled as I took her lips with mine and proceeded to erase all thought or doubts from her mind. Hell—if my sons did learn something from me that night, it would be how to please the women—or men—who were meant to be their soulmates.
Step one: make your lover cry out in ecstasy using only your fingers.
Step two: make your lover cry out in ecstasy using only your tongue.
Step three: depending on mood, repeat steps one and/or two.
Step four: did you forget the breasts? If so, see to them immediately!
Step five: let one’s cock do the talking and one’s mate do the screaming.
Check and check.
I left Sookie sated and snoring.
I kissed her belly and received little kicks from my sons.
Perhaps, they’d learned their lessons.
With a chuckle, I went upstairs after covering my wife’s body. Yes—we were in the cubby, which was soundproof, but—if there was an emergency—I knew that company would “visit,” and I was familiar with my wife’s modesty all too well.
Indeed, I put on clothing as well. We did have company, after all.
As I walked into my living room, I was happy for each and every stitch on my body.
“Hello, Danika,” I said.
“You recognized me,” she smiled.
“By scent,” I confirmed. It certainly hadn’t been by sight. The brunette in front of me looked to be in her early 20’s.
“Claude said that we will stay like this, or—uh—at least we won’t have any more rapid growth spurts.” She shrugged. “I like me like this—though. It feels weird to be so much taller, but I like that we’re grown up and can learn how to fight now!” she said fiercely.
“Where are your sisters?” I asked.
“Still showering. We borrowed some of Sookie’s clothes. Hope that’s okay,” she said.
“Of course,” I nodded.
She looked me up and down. “You are handsome.”
“Thanks,” I responded, somewhat awkwardly.
She chuckled. “I’m just saying. My mate has good genes. I’m happy about that.”
I chuckled. “You are so certain that one of my sons will be your mate?”
“Yes,” she said matter-of-factly.
I shook my head. It was odd hearing that one of my boys—a child who’d not yet been born—had already been claimed by the “grown-up” girl in front of me.
“How do you know?” I asked, truly curious.
She shrugged. “Instinct, I guess. And his mind.”
“His mind?” I asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. He’s not exactly thinking real thoughts right now, but his mind seems to fit against mine like a puzzle piece, and I can tell he feels it too—even though he’s a baby.” She grinned. “Don’t worry. I’m sure that we’ll talk and stuff after he’s born and grows up. We’ll even date before we get married.” She rolled her eyes. “I doubt Daddy would have it any other way.”
I nodded. “How is your father? Your sisters?” I asked. Danika had seemed to be the girls’ “leader” before, and—given her poise—I figured that she still was.
“Braelyn is a sweet soul,” Danika said, “so she’s taking things the hardest. A part of her wishes that she’d been the one to get killed—instead of Charlaine. Adilyn has been good at making her feel better though; it’s probably because she’s a healer and can help to heal Brae’s heart too. Daddy’s a mess, but my sisters and I are takin’ care of him. Holly too.”
“How are you doing?” I asked her.
“I’m worried about my sisters,” she supplied. “And I want to kill the one who killed Charl,” she growled. “But I also know that we were lucky to survive, and I’m scared of him.” She shook her head. “He—Warlow—didn’t take us very seriously. That’s the only way we were able to get away. He wanted to play with his food,” she added bitterly.
I felt the vibrations in my chest as I growled.
“But at least Charl didn’t become fairy dust,” she sighed. “I don’t know what Daddy would have done if she’d just disappeared.”
I will admit that I didn’t understand all things “fairy,” but I—too—was glad that Charlaine hadn’t disintegrated like Claudine had. I still felt a stab of guilt regarding her death; however, she had been trying to take Sookie away—against her will. And, even memoryless, I’d needed to protect Sookie.
I heard footsteps on the stairs and saw Adilyn and Holly coming down them; Holly’s arm was around the younger woman’s shoulder. Unlike her sister, Adilyn looked very much like she had when she was younger, except that her eyes looked older.
I nodded toward the young woman. “Adilyn. Miss Cleary,” I said to her companion.
“Holly,” she said. “You’re shelterin’ us, so you get to call me Holly.”
“You have sons—correct?” I asked her. “They could stay here.”
“Thanks,” she smiled. “But they’re with their father this week. We trade off,” she said, looking sad.
I nodded in understanding. Human practices had become so odd to me in some ways. Divorce was one such practice. Though I certainly didn’t advocate people staying in harmful relationships, I often marveled at the high number of divorces. Had the people of my time been as discontent in their marriages? Did they just lack the mechanism to easily end them?
I couldn’t help but to hope not.
And I couldn’t imagine a situation that would make me want to sever my marriage to my own mate.
Looking very motherly indeed, Holly came over to Danika and took the young woman into her arms—even as she continued to hold onto Adilyn.
Moments later, Andy came down the stairs with Braelyn. Like her sisters, she looked to be in her early twenties. Her eyes gave away her identity—just as much as her scent did. They were much lighter than her sisters’ eyes. Plus, they had retained their shyness.
“Eric,” Andy greeted.
Truth be told, he looked to have aged as much as his girls had since the last time I’d seen him.
“I am sorry that I failed you,” I said to him—to all of them.
Andy looked at me confused. “You? Fail us?”
I nodded. “I should have seen to your protection immediately. I thought that—since there were no longer any vampires other than me in town—your girls would be safe.”
Andy frowned and discreetly brushed away a tear. “There ain’t no one responsible for my Charlaine’s death other than the monster that killed her,” he said firmly, even as he held Braelyn closely.
Jason chose that time to come in from the kitchen. His eyes fell immediately onto Braelyn, and I could hear him gasp and then shake his head in a cartoonish way as if he’d just seen an angel. I noted that she was looking at him with curiosity, too.
And with something else too.
In fact, she had the same look in her eyes as Danika had had—right before she’d “claimed” one of my sons.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to be horrified—for Andy’s benefit—even as Jason’s mouth gaped wide open.
A/N: So—yeah—almost as soon as I realized that Braelyn would survive the Warlow attack, I began thinking about her with Jason. Brae is sweet and shy, and I thought she’d be a wonderful complement to Jason. I’d initially thought that Willa would be a good match for him, but that didn’t quite “work” in my head as I was writing. I shouldn’t say this (because it’s mean), but Willa is too “academically” smart for Jason.
As for Sam? Sigh. I wrote a few versions before I settled on this one. This is post-Luna and pre-Nicole. And—during this point of the story—I genuinely had a lot of compassion for Sam. I liked Luna and was pissed off that they killed her for no apparent reason. It seemed like there was no lingering on her death either. So—yeah—I have presented Sam as a bit of an ass in this story, but I think he’s redeemable. We’ll see. But for now, he’s still grieving for a woman he truly loved. And he’s worried about his friend. 😉
Until the next time,
Many thanks to Kleannhouse and Sephrenia for their priceless contributions!