“Thalia, listen to me,” I said calmly. “Ξέρω ότι φοβάσαι να βλάπτουν τους, αλλά δεν θα σας.” [“I know you fear harming them, but you will not.”]
“I’m listening,” she said stiffly.
“Adilyn—the resident empath, I remind you—is certain that you won’t hurt her or her sisters. And Danika is the leader among the girls, so she has elected herself to conduct the experiment. Sookie and I will bring her out to meet with you after the doctor has left,” I informed. “Precautions will be taken. The wards should remove you from the property if you lose yourself, and Danika will teleport back inside if you make a move toward her.”
Thalia contemplated for a moment. “And Brady and Tray will have their weapons trained on me. And you will kill me before I touch her, or I will not agree to meet face-to-face with her—or any of them,” Thalia said stubbornly.
“Done,” I said. I’d been planning on it anyway.
I turned back to Brady. “When Thalia, Ian, and I go hunting later, I want you to stay here. Maria-Star will accompany us so that I can assess her skills, and Tray will be going too. I’ve never known a better Were tracker,” I observed. “Do you have anything else to report?”
In that moment, Sookie came out onto the front porch.
“Did y’all get enough to eat?” she asked Brady and Thalia. Needless to say, she didn’t need to ask me if I was sated.
Come to think of it, I wasn’t.
But—then again—with my bonded, I never was.
“Yes. Thank you,” Thalia answered Sookie in her formal way, even as Brady nodded and complimented the food.
Sookie looked at me. “Dr. Ludwig is examining the girls now, and then she’ll do me. She’s gonna do the examination in the boys’ room, but I want to show it to you first—if you’re done out here.”
“We’ve got things covered out here,” Brady confirmed, though I’d already begun moving toward the door.
In truth, I was anxious to see my sons’ room.
Sookie was brimming with excitement as we made our way through our guests and up the stairs. I could hear that Dr. Ludwig was in Sookie’s old room with the girls. She was complaining that it was a waste of time to check them over since they were in perfect health—for Halflings. Braelyn thanked her for “pretending” since it made their father feel a lot better. Dr. Ludwig scoffed in her gruff way and said that she would be using the examinations of Braelyn and Danika as a training session for Adilyn so that they wouldn’t be completely pointless. I could hear Adilyn’s excited squeal at the prospect of training and smirked when Dr. Ludwig instructed her new student to never make such a noise in her presence again.
Holly had been right. Adilyn seemed destined to be a healer, and—despite her gruffness—Dr. Ludwig would be the perfect mentor for the young empath. I was confident that the trollish doctor would prevent the generous girl from trying to use her light gift on all of her patients. Adilyn would wear herself out if she did, just as she had when she’d healed Braelyn after Warlow’s attack.
I pushed aside that thought for the moment, however, as Sookie turned to me and smiled brightly before opening the door of the room which would house our sons once they’d outgrown their cradle.
“I’m gonna kiss Pam the next time I see her!” Sookie exclaimed as we stepped inside. I concurred with a nod, for the room was perfect.
I closed the door behind Sookie and me—in order to make sure that no one disturbed the moment which I wanted to spend with only my wife and sons.
I squeezed my bonded’s hand and drew her back to me. She leaned against my body—her back against my front—and I wrapped my arms around her before resting my hands on her belly and my chin upon her shoulder. Immediately, her hands found the tops of mine and she sighed contentedly.
“I’d expected cribs,” I remarked as I took in the two twin-sized beds on either side of the room. Thankfully, both seemed to have been constructed properly, and I would have to thank Jason and Andy for their help in putting the furniture together.
“The beds have rails we can use,” she said. “And we’re gonna use the cradle in our room anyway.” She turned in my arms. “Did you know that Pam found one that’s big enough for two babies?”
I nodded. “Yes. Where is it?” I asked curiously.
She bit her lower lip. “Um—it’s not put together yet. I wanted to save it in case you wanted to do it, but Jason or Andy will do put it together if you don’t want to.”
I bent down to kiss her lightly on the lips. “Thank you. I will do it.” Until that moment, I’d refused to acknowledge that I felt a little “cheated” because I’d not been a part of putting together the boys’ room. My wife’s gesture regarding the cradle merely reinforced that she knew me better than I knew myself at times.
Sookie leaned into my embrace as close as her belly would allow as I continued to study the room. Pam had done very well. The theme was trains of various eras. The linens were various combinations of primary colors that would likely appeal to both smaller and somewhat older children. It seemed—from the doctor’s previous explanation—that our sons would be “children” for about ten days, and I could see this room suiting them for most of that time.
When they became “teens,” we could either redo this space and/or refurbish Sookie’s old bedroom—depending on if the boys wanted their own rooms. And—once they reached their “adult” stage and stopped aging rapidly, we’d go from there.
“We’re really gonna be parents,” Sookie said with a sigh. I could feel her nervousness growing in the bond.
“You are just arriving at that conclusion?” I asked playfully, trying to quell her nerves.
She smacked my arm. “Don’t make fun. It’s just that it’s getting more and more real, and I’m not sure I’m ready. I mean—I love them so much already, and I don’t wanna screw up. You know?”
“I do,” I responded softly as I brought my forehead to rest upon hers. “Remember—though—you won’t be alone. And—between the two of us—we will do fine.”
“I know,” she sighed, accepting my comfort and confidence through our bond. “I’m glad that it’s you I’m doing this with, Eric. I love you,” she said fervently, looking up into my eyes.
“It is I who am grateful, min kära,” I whispered, trying to help her to comprehend the depths of my feelings for her and our sons through the bond—even while allowing her to feel that I was nervous about becoming a father, just as she was nervous about becoming a mother. But I did have confidence that we’d do well—as long as we did it together.
Sadly, our moment was interrupted as Jason came into the room without knocking or waiting for an invitation.
Eventually, if he didn’t learn better, he’d walk in on his sister screaming my name.
Plus, I wasn’t going to stand for too much Jason-interruptus before I turned the young man over to Pam to “school.” Or—better yet—I would speak to Braelyn about the matter. I had a feeling that she’d be extensively “training” Jason during their “courtship” anyway. Perhaps, she could teach him to knock and then wait for an invitation into a room.
“Oh—uh—hey,” Jason said somewhat sheepishly as he wheeled in a cumbersome machine. “Sorry if I—uh—interrupted y’all, but the doctor told me to bring this in so y’all can see the baby. It’s a supersonic thingy,” he added as if proud that he’d remembered the word for the machine.
That is—until I corrected him. “Ultrasonic,” I said. “And—yes—you did interrupt something.”
“It’s okay, Jase,” Sookie said, chiding me with a look. “I was just showing Eric the boys’ room,” she added as we were joined by the doctor. Danika and Adilyn were trailing her.
“I wanna see my Northman,” Danika said firmly, her tone reminding me that she’d recently been a child.
“Oh—uh—can I see my nephews too?” Jason asked anxiously, his eyes lighting up.
Ludwig turned around and glared at Jason and then Danika. “Mrs. Northman is not a fucking zoo exhibit. You two—out!” she said, her tone brooking no argument. “If the king and queen decide to invite you in after they’ve seen their children for the first time, I will send Adilyn for you.”
“Why does Addy get to stay?” Danika pouted.
“Do you want to become a doctor too, little miss?” Dr. Ludwig asked Danika with a raised eyebrow.
“Hell no!” Danika scoffed. “I was thinking I might be a cop like Daddy.”
“Really?” Jason asked curiously.
“Why not?” Danika asked with a shrug, as she pulled Jason out of the room.
“I’m not the queen,” Sookie said with a frown.
The doctor rolled her eyes and began to order Sookie around, beginning with the instruction to “strip.” At least, that was an instruction I could support. Meanwhile, Adilyn looked at me apologetically—as if she was worried Sookie and I would be offended by the doctor’s lack of bedside manner.
It wasn’t long before a clean sheet was draped over one of the beds—so that it wouldn’t get “messed up”; another sheet was placed over Sookie’s body—for “modesty’s sake.”
Of course, moments later, the doctor was basically rooting around under the sheet, looking at every part that my wife would have preferred to keep covered. I reached out and took Sookie’s hand, pushing comfort into the bond. I didn’t like others looking at or touching my bonded, but I recognized the necessity of such exams for the benefit of our boys.
As Sookie blushed and took deep breaths, Dr. Ludwig taught Adilyn how to do a pelvic exam and explained why such tests were performed on pregnant humans and Weres. She also clarified that fairies wouldn’t generally need pelvic exams, but—since Sookie was a hybrid—she’d opted to do one just in case. Then the doctor relayed a seemingly endless string of information about how fairies and humans were different when it came to pregnancies and why Sookie’s case was a unique one, especially since she’d chosen to share her light with a vampire.
Adilyn was clearly listening attentively as Ludwig worked.
Meanwhile, I’d taken a seat next to Sookie on the bed so that I could better hold her as she endured what seemed to be an uncomfortable examination for her.
In addition to how exposed she was, I could tell that being “poked” and “prodded” were unpleasant experiences for my bonded. Luckily, the pelvic exam was over five minutes after it had begun, and the doctor declared that everything seemed “normal” before instructing Adilyn on how to set up the ultrasound machine and record the images.
While that occurred, Sookie was allowed to re-dress in the skirt and blouse she’d put on after our shower, though the blouse was pushed up and the skirt was pushed down a bit so that all of Sookie’s belly was left exposed.
The doctor quickly hooked up Sookie to a baby monitor and began explaining the technicalities of what she was doing to Adilyn. However, frankly, neither Sookie nor I paid the doctor any mind as we heard the amplified beats of our sons’ hearts. Of course, I’d heard them before—though not in this way—but this was Sookie’s first time.
She gripped my hand even tighter than she had during her pelvic exam.
“Our babies,” she whispered as I bent down to kiss her forehead.
We were lost in our own little world for a moment until Sookie gasped.
“Dammit! That’s cold!” she cried out.
I saw that Ludwig was putting a jelly-like substance on Sookie’s belly. She acknowledged my wife’s complaint with a roll of the eyes.
“I did warn you,” she said gruffly. “It’s not my fault that you weren’t paying attention.”
Adilyn smiled sheepishly as she handed the doctor a wand-like object. Ludwig used the wand to smear the “jelly” and then stared at the machine’s monitor. Unfortunately, the monitor was turned away from Sookie and me.
“I’m guessing that you’ll be ready to deliver in three days—as long as you keep getting the sleep you need,” she said after about sixty seconds of silent study.
“Um—can you—uh—do anything to make sure they come at night so that Eric won’t miss them? I mean—Claude could maybe give him some blood and sometimes my light and blood have kept him awake past dawn, but I don’t want to risk him not being awake for it.”
Ludwig rolled her eyes. “These boys will be born when then want to be born—like all fairies,” she remarked sarcastically. “And I doubt they’ll come until both of their biggest fans are in attendance.” She looked at Adilyn. “Fairies like adoration from the start,” she winked.
The young fairy giggled.
It was the most “human” interaction I’d ever seen the doctor participate in.
“So—are you ready to see your children, or would you like to wait?” Ludwig asked.
“See them!” Sookie and I said loudly at the same time, our excitement rebounding in our bond.
Ludwig scoffed. “See the little ones kicking against the wand?” she asked Adilyn.
The young fairy looked at the monitor in amazement and nodded.
“I told you the Fae like attention,” the doctor smirked as she—finally—had Adilyn turn to monitor toward us.
I gasped, a sound echoed immediately by Sookie’s whimper and then her sniffles.
The image was 3-D, rather than the more common type of ultrasound image, and our children looked like—well—children.
As the doctor moved the wand around it became clear that both boys were currently very awake and active. And neither one was modest. Hell—if we’d not known that they were boys before, we would have now.
I was pretty sure my sons were already “showing off” their own gracious plenties to a potential mate as Adilyn looked on.
I chuckled. I couldn’t have been prouder of them!
Sookie was clearly just as amazed by our sons as I was—though probably for different reasons—and we sat just looking at them for several minutes, again becoming lost in our own little world.
I would have been quite happy to stay there as the doctor focused her machine on first one boy and then the other. And then back again. My sons were as beautiful as their mother.
Finally, Sookie brushed away some tears and told Adilyn that she could get Danika and Jason.
From the way they toppled into the room, it was pretty clear that they’d been leaning against the door, trying to hear anything they could.
Sookie didn’t seem to mind at all, and she called her brother over, even as Danika moved to stand next to Adilyn. I shifted a little so that Jason and Sookie could share a moment, but I didn’t take my eyes from my sons.
They were too amazing to stop looking at.
“You’re gonna be an uncle soon,” Sookie said with a huge smile on her face and tears in her eyes.
“Gran would be so proud of you,” Jason said after a couple of silent moments. His voice sounded rattled—awestruck. And I found myself glad that Sookie still had him in her life.
My wife had been “collecting” extra family members and friends lately—between her fairy relatives, our Weres guards, and Amelia Broadway. Plus, there was the fact that our lives now seemed inexplicably—but irrevocably—tied to the Bellefleurs. However, I knew that it would have broken Sookie’s heart if she and Jason would have remained estranged.
Despite his interrupting tendencies.
The tears had begun pouring from Sookie’s eyes, and her emotions were going to cause my own emotions to spill over as well—in the form of red tears.
Call me an un-evolved male, but I wasn’t prepared to cry in front of anyone except my bonded, so I pointed to the screen that was still showing my boys.
“Ulf and Earl!” I announced proudly.
“Barf and hurl?” Jason Stackhouse asked, too distracted by the image on the screen to have heard me correctly. Of course, I’d said the names with an Old Norse lilt to my voice for effect, so that might have been one of the causes of his confusion.
Sookie snorted and her emotions changed to a mixture of amusement and concern. She was amused by her brother’s reaction and concerned that I really did want to name our sons two of the most disconcerting onomatopoeic names I’d ever heard—at least now that I’d listened to Jason trying to say them.
“Ulf and Earl,” I repeated, this time saying the names like an American would. “Those are to be the boys’ names.”
Every single person in the room had an amusing reaction to my proclamation, even as I did my best to hide my own amusement, especially from my bonded.
Danika began to argue decisively that she would not stand for “her” mate to have a name she didn’t like.
Adilyn tried to calm her sister even as she looked at me disapprovingly.
Jason looked about ready to hurl and barf.
Meanwhile, Sookie was trying to build up the courage to put her “foot down” and stomp out my supposed preferences.
“Um—man—we need to talk!” my brother-in-law said, pulling on my arm and literally dragging me to my feet.
Oh course, I “let” him. There was no way Jason would have been able to move me otherwise.
I didn’t want to leave the image of my boys, and I wouldn’t have—except I knew that Adilyn had been recording the imagines and capturing pictures of the boys which could be printed out right away.
Sookie looked mildly concerned as I glanced over my shoulder to give her an apologetic shrug as I left the boys’ room.
“Yes?” I asked innocently as Jason stopped in the hallway and turned to me.
He took a deep breath. “First off, let me make one thing clear: I loved my Grandpa Earl!” he declared.
“Ah—so you approve of one of my sons being his namesake,” I said quickly. “You know, Ulf was the name of my teacher when I was a human. I would not have lived long enough for my maker to find and turn me if it hadn’t been for him. Other than Godric, he was the most important man in my life.”
After hearing that, Jason’s eyes widened, and he opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water for several moments before he marched down the stairs, muttering about how he hoped that his nephews were tough because they would be getting made fun of for their “barfy” names.
After a chuckle, I put on my “innocent” face again and returned to join the women.
It seemed that I’d let my amusement slip into the bond, however—because Sookie was glaring at me as Adilyn wiped the muck off of her belly with one of the boys’ baby wipes.
“You have been messing with me!” she accused.
I couldn’t have kept myself from laughing if I’d wanted to. “Maybe,” I admitted.
“Thank God!” Danika said as she walked toward the door. The brave little fairy stopped and looked up at me. “You will run their names by me and Addy first.”
I chuckled and bent down to kiss her cheek. “No. Sookie and I will not. But I promise we won’t saddle the boys with names that do not work in today’s world either.”
She glared at me before seeming to accept my words as a compromise. “Good enough,” she responded.
As Danika left the room, I turned to Adilyn. “Now that your medical lesson is over, you and your sisters should shower. I think Thalia is anxious to meet Danika, and it would help if the fairy scent left behind by the Claudes were off of you and Braelyn too.”
Adilyn nodded and thanked Dr. Ludwig profusely before hurrying from the room.
Once she was gone, Sookie looked at the doctor as she fixed her clothing. “So—uh—everything’s okay? With the babies?”
“Yes,” Dr. Ludwig said sharply. “Otherwise I would have already told you. And—like I said before—three more of the sleep cycles you have been taking should do the trick. Not that a fairy needs help to give birth, but I’ll come back the day after tomorrow and stay until your children are born—unless I’m called sooner.”
“Thank you,” Sookie said sincerely.
“How is your research project going?” I asked Ludwig.
“I’ll likely have the first batch of Hep-V serum ready to test within the week,” she answered.
“And your test subject?” I asked.
“Sarah is currently behind silver bars in my lab. I had fun explaining what would happen to her if she didn’t cooperate, versus what would happen to her if she did,” Ludwig said, her voice conveying the fact that she wasn’t strictly a healer.
Indeed, the rumors about what would happen to those who tried to interfere with Ludwig’s patients were more than enough to have discouraged even vampires from fucking with her for centuries.
I could feel Sookie’s discomfort with the topic; however, she seemed to quickly remind herself of what Sarah had been planning for vampires. She looked at the doctor. “You’ll be as humane as possible as long as she cooperates?” Sookie asked.
“Yes,” Dr. Ludwig responded, though that idea obviously disappointed her to a certain extent. “And Mrs. Newlin’s maker has already issued her a command to obey my orders, so I don’t foresee any issues with discipline—unfortunately,” she added, showing her sharp teeth. “That bitch deserves worse than she’ll get.”
The room was silent for a moment as Sookie took a deep breath and placed her hands over our children.
“You’re right,” she said with a nod of her head, making it clear that “fairy Sookie” had won out over “human Sookie” in my wife’s internal debate about Sarah Newlin.
The doctor smirked and then popped away, taking her equipment with her.
“I get the feeling that she can kick ass like Yoda when she wants to,” Sookie commented.
I laughed out loud at the thought and the image it conjured. “I’m sure you’re right.”
Sookie looked up at me. “Am I a wimp for still hating the idea of anyone dying—even Sarah Newlin?”
“You would defend yourself, me, and our children from an enemy if we were in mortal danger—correct?”
Immediately, her eyes glistened with power. “Yes!”
I chuckled and took my fairy’s hand before drawing her to me. “You are a warrior, min kära. However, you are disturbed by the idea of a life being taken when the person is no longer a threat, and Sarah Newlin has been all but neutralized, so I understand your moral dilemma.”
“But you don’t share it—do you?” she asked.
“No,” I replied honestly. “I spent most of my existence seeking revenge against the being who killed my human family. And—even if I’d found out that Russell had reformed himself into some kind of saint during the past thousand years—I would have still wanted his life in exchange for theirs. Sarah Newlin intended to perpetrate horrible crimes against my kind, and the fact that she failed doesn’t alter my desire for revenge. Similarly—even if Warlow didn’t pose a threat to you and our sons—I would still want his head.”
“For Charl,” she said with a nod of agreement.
“Yes. This is how I am.”
Sookie rested her head against my chest. I love who you are, Eric Northman; you know that—right?”
“I know,” I whispered as I bent down to kiss her forehead. “I love who you are too, Sookie Northman. We need not always agree. And I don’t want you to adopt my philosophies on life; I want you to have and further develop your own. I like that we complement—rather than copy—each other.”
“Because it makes things more interesting,” she said, smirking up at me.
“Much more interesting,” I agreed with a chuckle.
A/N: Howdy! I hope that you all enjoyed this chapter. As you may have been able to tell, I’ve tried to keep the tone of this story a bit lighter than my others—thus chapters like this one. I have to say that after working in the horror-filled world of Time after Time, it was fun to review this chapter. I hope you liked my attempts at humor in the middle of this sweet moment for Sookie, Eric, and their boys.
Until next week,