A/N: This chapter follows “INNER-Lude 7—Nora” and “INNER-Lude 8—Amelia.” Also, please note that I’m bringing Colonel John Flood into this narrative. I am aware that a character of this name appeared in one True Blood episode in Season 3 when Alcide and Sookie informed him about Russell giving Weres V; however, I’m going to pretend that this scene didn’t happen. Not only was the scene forgettable (I had to look it up), but also it presented Flood as a coward and an ineffective leader (similar to the Calvin Norris portrayal in the show). Why the TB creators took the two most “honorable” Weres from the books and portrayed them as negative is beyond me! So—we will be pretending that the brief Flood scene in S3 didn’t happen.
My hearing was my sharpest sense, so it was generally the first one that activated when I rose.
Laughter—a lot of it—filled my ears from the floor above where I lay: Jason’s old room, which was positioned directly above the master bedroom where Adele Stackhouse had spent much of her life.
The room now belonged to Sookie and me. In truth, I didn’t mind sharing the space with the “ghosts” of Sookie’s ancestors. After all, I was from a culture where families were honored reverently—if they deserved it. And—from everything Sookie had told me—her paternal grandmother and grandfather deserved our respect and exultation. Her own mother and father? Not so much, but they’d never inhabited the room Sookie and I had made our own.
Moreover, in my culture, family members all lived in the same large, open room.
Sex, arguments, hugs, tears, laughter—little had been “private” in the longhouse my family had occupied. Of course, nowadays, I enjoyed all the privacy I could get with my bonded. Selfishly, I coveted her attentions; moreover, she was entrenched in modern notions of modesty.
I refocused on the sounds from the room which would soon house my sons.
Sookie was giggling with the three Bellefleur girls and four other women—mostly “Claudes” from the sounds of them. Andy Bellefleur was muttering about Jason Stackhouse being “an idiot.”
Meanwhile, Jason was trying to explain why using instructions to put furniture together was a waste of time.
Apparently, he’d just “proven” that point.
I barely held back a chuckle, as I wondered if the boys’ room was full of splintered furnishings.
Though hearing might have been my best sense, scent was undoubtedly more accurate for determining a precise picture of a situation, so I inhaled deeply.
In Jason’s old room, there were currently twelve distinct scents: Sookie, my two sons, Andy, Jason, Braelyn, Adilyn, Danika, three of the “Claudes” (though I didn’t know them well enough to distinguish which of Claude’s five sisters they were), and one other female—a witch.
I smiled, wondering how so many people could fit into the bedroom; I’m sure that they were packed in like the fangbangers in Fangtasia—even though all of the bedrooms in the farmhouse were generously apportioned.
After finding my bonded well and happy, I used a combination of my hearing and scent to determine the other workings within the house and upon the property. The television in the living room was on, and I could smell that two Weres—Tray and Mustapha—were watching it, though they were talking about how glad they were that they’d not gotten roped into “helping” put together the nursery.
Another inhalation told me that the witch, Holly Cleary, and the other two “Claudes” were in the kitchen, obviously putting together a meal of some kind.
It smelled hearty—like the stews my mother used to make after my father had brought home a deer. I licked my lips, wishing that I could taste food again, but then reminding myself that nothing could ever match the flavor of my bonded’s blood.
I could also smell that Brady and Maria-Star were right outside of the house, probably on the porch. They were speaking about the new Weres in our little “army,” comparing notes about their strengths and weaknesses. Thankfully, according to the two discerning Weres, our new arrivals all seemed to be much more gifted and trustworthy than Herveaux and his “friends” had been.
Clearly, Brady had already begun to trust Maria-Star’s judgment and had made her his de facto “second,” despite the fact that he’d known Mustapha longer; in addition, I’d already indicated my preference for Tray to have the leadership role. Though I would withhold my own judgment until I knew Maria-Star better, I couldn’t help but to look forward to Brady’s explanation as to why she was the worthiest—though I had no doubt that his reasoning would be sound. Of all the Weres I’d known, Brady was the one I trusted—and liked—the most. It had been a pity that he’d been working for his packmaster, Colonel John Flood, when I’d needed a Were to escort Sookie to Jackson.
I sneered as I thought about the local “pack” of Weres. Alcide Herveaux had once had potential in my mind, but he wouldn’t make a good leader for the Longtooths. Oh—Alcide was strong enough to be the pack’s Alpha—but he didn’t seem to “like” being a Were. And he lacked the ambition and imagination required to transform the pack from the trailer park V-users they’d become to an organized group that could be counted on for security and construction work, which were the hallmarks of Were employment. Admittedly—vampires benefitted from packs that behaved in “conventional” ways, but the Weres did too. In fact, the best Were-vampire relationships were symbiotic.
I frowned, wishing that I had a Colonel Flood clone to lead the local pack. He’d deal with any miscreants by the first full moon! Hell—a man like Flood would probably be able to get a handle on the inbred werepanthers in Area 5 too!
Flood’s title of Colonel was anything but honorary. He’d been a career military man—serving in the U.S. Army Special Forces, where many Weres ended up due to their physicality. In fact, since the 1880s, there had been Weres in high places in the military. Hell—the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was a Were! The Weres at or near the top of the command chain worked hard to make sure that all two-natured soldiers were in particular squadrons so that they could run during full moons while—at the same time—protecting their secret.
Flood had led such a squadron, one which was so highly decorated that it might as well have been a fucking parade float!
The Colonel had been forced to retire seven years before—after a landmine had gravely injured him. A human sustaining the same injuries would have been a quadriplegic, and the fact that Flood made a full recovery within months because of his Were genes would have raised a lot of “uncomfortable” questions.
Unsurprisingly—after his forced retirement, it hadn’t taken Flood long to form his own pack. To say that it was composed of elite Weres would have been an understatement. The core of the 150ish-member pack was a group of ex-soldiers who had served under Flood—and their families, of course. In fact, Brady had honed his computer skills while under the Colonel’s command.
I contemplated what it might take to entice Flood to relocate his pack even as I continued assessing the scents in my home.
In addition to the fairies and Weres and witches, I could smell the faint scent of Lafayette Reynolds (another witch, if one wanted to get technical), who’d clearly been in the house at some point that day. I could also smell Thalia under the porch area—where she’d been able to tunnel and go to ground without needing an invitation to the house. In fact, I could hear her moving around a little in the dirt; of course, I knew that—like me—she could awaken early. I felt a little bad that—unlike me—she was literally stuck in the mud.
All of this information about my surroundings processed through my mind very quickly, within seconds of my first conscience thought, and a second later, I felt Sookie’s happiness in the bond and then the sound of her bare feet as she left the chaos in the boys’ room and raced down the stairs toward me. Quickly, she entered the code to get into our bedroom.
The first thing my eyes took in as I opened them was her beaming face. She closed the door with a slam and practically launched herself onto the bed next to me.
Not that I was complaining.
“I had wanted to be here when you woke up,” she giggled, “but I lost track of time watching Jason and Andy put together the boys’ beds. Since there are two beds and they’re identical, Jason thought it would be fun to race Andy. And—of course—my brother’s been tryin’ to impress Braelyn ever since he got here after his shift was over. But Andy stopped him for takin’ off his shirt! Thank God!”
Sookie had spoken quickly and excitedly, and her face was a little flush from her ongoing laughter and the exertion of running down the stairs to me.
With our sons weighing her down more than ever.
In other words, she was exquisite.
In that moment, she seemed so human as she panted to take a breath. Her heart was beating faster than normal, though not too quickly to be of concern. I looked down and saw that one of my hands had already found one of hers, and my other hand was on its way to her belly where I immediately felt a kick. And then another. My sons had grown inside of my wife as she’d slept, and they were greeting me.
I laughed out loud because of the enthusiasm of the three most significant people in my life—and because of my own enthusiasm as well.
Some emotions simply couldn’t be contained.
Sookie’s smile softened as she placed her free hand alongside mine over her belly. “You know—they aren’t thinking in words yet—obviously. But they know you. And they’re beginning to make their feelings known about other people too.”
“How so?” I asked curiously, even as I stifled my immediate urge to strip Sookie of her clothing and ravage her until she wasn’t able to speak coherently—let alone answer questions.
“Well—more and more their minds sort of buzz when I encounter someone. It’s especially noticeable when I’m meeting someone new—like Amelia today. I was curious about her. And it was as if the boys took their cue from me and became curious too.”
“Amazing!” I whispered, as I caressed her belly.
We shared the next few moments in a comfortable silence, both in awe of our sons. Clearly, they were telepathic, but not necessarily like their mother. One or both of them had likely already enabled Sookie to hear my thoughts. And they were both already instinctive enough to use their mother’s judgment as a model for their own.
I shook my head. Fairies were, indeed, very fascinating creatures.
“What is the new witch like?” I asked finally. “I assume Miss Broadway is trustworthy if she’s in the house,” I commented as my hand began to wander, moving from Sookie’s belly toward her more swollen breasts.
The mother of our sons.
How could I resist her when she looked so fucking beautiful?!
Sookie stifled a moan and gave me a look that told me that I should behave, even as she bit her lip in a way that told me that I shouldn’t.
“So Miss Broadway?” I asked with a smirk, even as my wife rolled her eyes at my obvious groping.
“Amelia,” she corrected. “She’s nice. But her thoughts are loud with a capital ‘L’! That was good though. Danny was able to practice making shields with her. And the boys were practicing with the girls too.”
I stilled my more amorous movements as my curiosity rose again.
“Our sons’ minds seem to ping against those of the people around them, especially the girls. Brae and Danny have no sense of their thoughts, though they can feel them ‘visiting.’ Addy gets a sense of them though.” She chuckled. “She’s been bringing me water or food all day—before I can ask for it. Before I’m even craving it! But she’s right every time.”
“Oh—and your sons definitely know you!”
I smiled. “Because I’m a vampire and my mind is so different? Because I’m quieter?” I asked.
“Yes. But there’s something more when it comes to you,” she added excitedly. “Something they haven’t done with anyone else yet!”
“What’s that?” I asked, feeling breathless for the first time in a thousand years as Sookie told me more about the miracles she was growing.
“Well—like I said, the boys don’t seem to have a concept of words, and they sort of ping in and out of people’s minds to get impressions of them. But, when you woke up a little while ago, they stopped pinging and focused on you—only you. Heck, they knew you were awake before I did!” she laughed. “It was as if they were waiting for you. Right now, my shields are lowered, and they’re looking at you through my eyes.” She wiped a tear from her cheek as love overwhelmed our bond. “They both have your image in their minds—even now—even though they aren’t quite sure how to process that image fully. But they are looking at you.” She smiled. “And, as sure as you’re my favorite person in the whole wide world, you’re also theirs.”
I gasped with awe and brought my hand back down to cover my sons. They’d grown enough that I could distinguish one “bump” from the other, and their heartbeats were slightly different.
Sookie’s eyes moved from my hands to my face. “Right now, they’re connecting your touch and your brain signature with your image,” she whispered, wiping away another tear and then fanning herself as if to stave off others. “Eric, they don’t just like you or your silent mind; they know that you’re their daddy.”
A bit overcome with my own emotions—with my love for my family—I caressed Sookie’s belly before bending down to kiss it. Not feeling adequate contact through her long maxi-dress, I maneuvered the garment upward, and Sookie lifted her body so that I could get the dress above my target. Then, she took it the rest of the way off, leaving her in only her undergarments.
“So beautiful,” I whispered of my wife’s burgeoning body.
Sookie placed her hands into my hair and caressed lightly as I bent down to kiss and caress the areas where our sons lay without the distraction of the cotton between us.
“Mina söner, jag är din far. Jag vet redan att du är både stark, som din mor. Och jag älskar er båda—precis som jag älskar henne,” I whispered as I felt them kicking against my hands. [“My sons, I am your father. I know already that you are both strong, like your mother. And I love you both-just as I love her.”]
“They like that—when you touch them. When you talk to them,” Sookie sighed, still stroking my hair. As I looked up into her eyes, I saw that they were shining with tears of joy.
“They are growing strong,” I whispered up at her. “Thank you for taking such good care of them.”
Her fingers moved from my hair to my neck and continued their light touches as she smiled at me, but her smile dimmed after a moment.
“What is wrong?” I asked her.
“You’re going to hunt for Warlow tonight,” she said with trepidation.
“Later. Ian is coming, and I will wait for him to arrive. He is younger than Thalia and I, but his instincts for the hunt are second to none.”
Sookie nodded, but still looked a little nervous.
I looked back down at her belly, “What will we call them, min kära? Since they know you and me—and are beginning to know others—we should determine names for them.”
I knew that I’d effectively distracted my bonded from her worries when she grinned.
“You mean you aren’t like George Foreman? Wanting to name all your kids after yourself?” she teased.
I chuckled. “No. I am not quite that vain,” I winked. “However, in my time, children were often named for relatives. And many people cling to a similar tradition nowadays. Such a practice has always been meant as a tribute, but we need not follow the tradition—unless there is a name in your family that you prefer.” I looked up at Sookie curiously from where I was now basically lying on her lap. I enjoyed being close to the boys as we were speaking about them. Plus—as a bonus—Sookie continued her light stroking of my face and hair as she contemplated. In truth, I felt like a large, contented cat in that moment, and my chest let out the purring sound that only Sookie had ever drawn from me.
My wife smiled softly and moved one hand to stroke my chest, but didn’t comment about the sound. I knew, however, that she loved it when I made the noise.
“Are there any family names you want to use?” she countered.
I considered for a moment. “My childhood wasn’t always easy. I was unnaturally tall, and it took me a long time to become accustomed to my body so that I could become a fighter. My father was a hard man, and my first teacher was cruel; to be honest, neither of their names would be my preference. But there was an elder in the village, Ulf, who eventually took over my training after my first teacher injured me. Ulf is the only one I would consider naming one of our sons after.
“Ulf?” Sookie asked, skeptically. Immediately, it was clear that she didn’t like the name. In truth, I didn’t either. Even when I was a human, I thought the name sounded very much like the barking of a dog.
“I know it isn’t a modern sounding name,” I mused, somehow keeping my mirth from entering the bond. “But it is a strong name, and my mentor meant the world to me.”
“Ulf,” she repeated before biting her lower lip in order to prevent herself from telling me of her dislike for the name.
“Yes,” I replied seriously.
“Ulf,” she said for a third time; this time the name sounded like a gag.
I nodded. “Yes. What about you?” I re-asked. “Do you have any family names you might consider for our boys?”
Probably trying to clear “Ulf” from her mind, she shook her head and then sighed. “Well, my daddy’s name was Corbett, but—honestly—Jason was always closer to him than I was.” She shrugged. “Daddy’s thoughts weren’t as negative toward me as my mother’s were, but they still weren’t great. And then there was my Grandpa Earl,” she said slowly. Through the bond, I could feel her love for the man, but her dislike of the name was also apparent.
However, in order to continue teasing her, I jumped at the opportunity I’d been presented with.
“Earl and Ulf! Perfect!” I enthused.
“Um—what?” she asked, her eyes wide with a look of horror.
I snuggled my face against her belly—both to kiss it and to hide my smirk. Hopefully, she would think I was smiling against her flesh. “What do you think boys? Shall you be Earl and Ulf?”
“Um—Eric?” Sookie said, even as I continued to nuzzle against her body.
“You,” I said, placing my mouth over the child with the slightly faster heartbeat, “shall be Ulf.” I kissed over where he lay and received a kick in payment. “And you,” I grinned, kissing over my other son, “will be Earl.”
“Um—Eric!” my wife said more forcefully.
“What is it my love?” I asked, looking up at her innocently. “Do you not think it’s a good idea to name our sons after two such important men in our lives?”
She bit her lip. “It’s—uh—not that. But . . . .”
I interrupted. “Then it’s settled. Now, we need only decide if we wish our boys to have middle names.”
Because of the sour look on her face, I could barely hold in my laughter. Thankfully, she misinterpreted my smile as glee over the names “we’d” chosen.
Knowing that I couldn’t keep my mischief out of the bond unless the subject was changed, I kissed upward on my bonded’s body until I was nipping at her breasts over her bra. Clearly the bra was meant to be more functional than sexy, and I was glad that Sookie had chosen a comfortable garment which would support her fuller breasts. However, as my wife moaned out my name, I could no longer bear to have the item in my way, so I slipped my hands behind her back and unclasped the utilitarian garment before drawing it from her body.
“Thanks for not ripping that one,” Sookie sighed with content as I lay her down and then gently explored her breasts as if for the first time. I’d learned that pregnancy could make them overly-sensitive at times, so I carefully listened for signs of pleasure versus discomfort from my wife, even as I monitored our bond.
She gripped my hair and pulled me closer to her as I gently suckled her nipple. I growled as I thought about how Sookie would soon be producing nourishment for our boys, even as I moved to take the other nipple into my mouth.
“Eric,” she moaned as I gloried in the fact that this woman—my woman—was making me a father. As a vampire, I was not unfamiliar with primal urges, but the need to protect and love the mother of my children seemed older and more important than any other instinct I’d ever felt.
Not wanting for my attentions to her breasts to go on for too long and, therefore, cause her discomfort, I worked my kissed up toward her collarbone, nipping along it before placing open-mouthed kisses along her neck.
“Wait!” my bonded cried out, suddenly overcome with worry.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, immediately feeling worry to match hers. Was there a nearby threat that she’d sensed before me? Was it Warlow?
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this return to Eric’s POV in the INNER-Verse. We’ll be sticking with him for 5 more chapters as we follow him through this night.
The “back” button will take you to INNER-Verse 8–Amelia. If you want to return to Chapter 29, click HERE.