Chapter 07: Kicking
Sookie first became aware of something beeping.
Then she felt a pressure on her upper arm and a whirring sound. The noise was vaguely familiar to her—like one of those free blood pressure machines in a pharmacy chain. The sound helped to explain the pressure on her arm, so she put her focus into trying to regain control of her other senses even as her mind slowly woke up.
Her eyes, at first, had trouble opening, and when they did, she was certain that she was dreaming. Or maybe she’d died. Her hand—at least the one that seemed free—immediately went to her belly, finding it as rounded as it had been before. However, there was also something weighty on her wrist—a splint? She couldn’t quite figure out why she would have one of those, but she was grateful that her fingers could still feel the swell of her belly.
She blinked a few times in surprise and then closed her eyes tightly before opening them again.
The sight she’d seen before was still there; Eric was sleeping in the bed next to her. He was facing her, and though she could tell that there would be shadows under his eyes when he opened them, he was still the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
She tried to turn her body toward him, but quickly realized that she was being prevented by something. She glanced at her right arm and saw that two tubes were connected to her body—in addition to the blood pressure cup. Indeed, her right wrist did have a splint on it. She cringed a little and then looked over at her left hand, held safely in Eric’s grip.
In the next moment, she found herself breathing a sigh of relief even as there was a slight kick against the fingers of her right hand, which were still resting over her son. Without thought, she pulled Eric’s hand with her left one and placed it over the movement.
She kept her eyes on Eric’s closed lids as his hand opened over her distended abdomen.
Eric became slowly aware of an odd feeling against his palm—a kind of fluttering and then something a little more firm like a tap. He had been sleeping lightly, falling in and out of awareness since Indira had made good on her promise and had rolled in a bed matching Sookie’s. It had then been placed flush against Sookie’s so that he could rest beside her. As soon as he’d lain down, he had decided to file away the name “Indira” for when Sookie and he had a girl.
His thought about his children with Sookie made something click in his mind, and suddenly, he knew exactly what he was feeling. His eyes popped open to see Sookie’s beautiful blues looking back at him.
“Hi,” she said, somewhat weakly.
“Hi,” he responded, pressing his hand a little more firmly against her belly, though he was careful not to press too hard.
Their eyes stayed locked for several minutes, neither of them speaking—as they reconnected with each other and connected with their kicking son.
“I started to feel little kicks last week,” Sookie said softly. “I’m sorry you weren’t there,” she paused as a tear fell down her cheek, “for any of it.”
“Shhh,” he soothed. “None of that matters now. Nothing matters but you and our son.”
She smiled. “Johan.”
“Johan?” he asked.
“After Morfar,” she clarified. “And after your grandfather John, too. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve already sort of named him. Dr. Ludwig confirmed that he was a boy only this morning—or, at least, I think it was this morning—but I knew he was a boy all along, and I’ve been calling him Johan in my head since the day I found out about him.”
Eric smiled. “Thank you, Sookie. Thank you,” he said again, trying to express his gratitude for a lot more than the thought she’d put into naming their son.
“I left the middle name for you to pick, though I thought you might want to choose Godric.”
“Johan Godric Northman,” he said aloud, testing the name on his lips.
She sighed. “I think it sounds good too.”
Eric gasped a little as he felt little Johan moving again. “He’s amazing,” Eric said.
Sookie’s eyes filled with tears. “I’m so sorry I kept him from you.”
“Shhh,” he sounded again. “You have nothing to be sorry for. Nothing. I should have found a way to keep you with me.”
Sookie shook her head. “There was nothing either of us could have done.”
“I won’t let you go again,” Eric vowed. “Even if Appius unleashes hell itself, I can’t let you go—not again. Never again. I can’t let you go!” he repeated with desperation in his tone. “I can’t let Johan go.” He scooted a little closer to her, and she noticed for the first time that they were actually on two different hospital beds and that the beds had been pushed flush together.
He continued speaking, “Before—I could imagine you safe and building a new life, looking up at the North Star with me every night—but moving on every day.”
“I was looking up at the North Star every night,” she said.
“But you spent your days trying to help me—instead of moving on with a new life for yourself,” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell me that you wouldn’t have tried to stop me.”
“I can’t do that,” he said.
“Then you know why I didn’t tell you.”
Eric brought over his other hand to cover hers. “Sookie,” he said softly as if her name were a prayer.
“I see you’re awake,” came the jarring voice of Dr. Ludwig.
Both Sookie and Eric were startled out of their focus on each other.
“Oh—hi. Yes,” Sookie stammered, turning to look at the short woman now standing next to the bed and suddenly seeming quite a bit taller than usual.
“Well,” Dr. Ludwig said. “It’s nice to see your eyes open. Are you experiencing any cramping at all? Or pain in your abdomen?”
Sookie shook her head. “No. Uh—my right arm hurts a little. And my head, but nothing else. What happened? Did I faint?”
Dr. Ludwig nodded. “Yes—and a lot more than that too, missy. Your blood pressure became elevated and you blacked out for a while. You lost quite a bit of blood, but I think that the worst of the episode is past you.”
“The baby?” Sookie asked fearfully. “I feel him, but is he okay?”
“He’s fine. He’s strong,” Eric assured quickly.
“Yes. He’s a little fighter,” Dr. Ludwig confirmed.
“What happened?” Sookie asked.
“You tell me,” Dr. Ludwig requested.
“Well,” Sookie started, “it seemed like the world started spinning and then I blacked out.”
“Any headaches before that? Any nausea? Any blood loss or spotting during the last few days?” the doctor asked, though she’d asked the same questions the morning before as well.
Sookie shook her head. “No spotting. But right before it happened, my head started hurting, but that might have been because . . . . ”
Her voice trailed off, and then she looked over at Eric—still lying beside her. “Oh my God! I have to talk to Niall!”
Niall stared at the piece of crumpled paper in his hands. The sheet was somewhat yellowed with age, and it was obvious that several different people had written on it over the years.
The piece of paper had been next to Sookie when he’d found her unconscious on the floor, and he’d picked it up and put it into his pocket, not knowing what it was and caring a lot more about Sookie than the piece of paper at that moment.
After that, he’d simply forgotten about it.
He’d brought it with him to the hospital that morning in error. In his hurry to visit Sookie, he had put on the sweater he’d been wearing the day before, instead of sending it to the cleaners as he’d intended since he’d gotten a little of Sookie’s blood on the sleeve.
Niall had made a point to arrive at the hospital right when visiting hours began. He hadn’t left the hospital the night before until Sookie was stable; however, he had wanted to check on Sookie’s progress himself.
He had walked into her room only ten minutes before, and she had greeted him with a nervous smile. As Niall had expected, Eric Northman was still with her. And though Sookie looked tired and still a bit pale, her eyes were alit with something that Niall had been hoping to see for a while—happiness. The elderly man understood well that her expression was only possible because she’d been reunited with her beloved. Similarly, Eric’s eyes were shining as well—his with hope. Seeing Sookie and Eric together had made Niall understand just what they had been missing before.
As soon as he’d arrived, Sookie had asked him about the piece of paper she’d had when she’d collapsed, and he’d been able to produce it right away. Then she had asked him to read it. In truth, he could hardly believe the words on the paper, but those words sang true to his heart, even as he felt a tear slip from his eye.
“It all fits—even the dates,” Niall remarked as Eric, Sookie, and Bobby looked at the elderly man expectantly.
“I wasn’t sure,” Bobby shared, smiling down at Sookie. “When Sookie and Eric told me about this earlier, it seemed like the timeline was off—that the turn of the 20th century might be too early for your father to have been Sookie’s great-great grandfather’s brother.” Bobby was still trying to absorb the knowledge he’d received that morning. If it were true, then Sookie really was his family—not just by affection, but by blood.
“My father was fifty-four when your grandmother Mary was born,” Niall told Bobby. “He was widowered by his first wife, and they were childless. He didn’t marry again until he was much older. His second wife, Victoria, was only twenty-five when they married. I was born in 1937 when my father was fifty-seven.”
Sookie shook her head in disbelief. “I still can’t believe I might be related to you!”
“There is no might,” Niall said confidently. “I told you of the photograph that my father’s brother sent to him—the one of him, Ruby, and their children.” He smiled. “Now I know why you were so familiar to me when we met! I never put it together before, even though the names were the same. However, now I recall! I’ve seen that picture only a few times, but the woman in it looks very much like you, especially before your hair faded back to blonde.”
Niall pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed. “Desmond,” he said into the phone. “I need you to come to the Hamptons as soon as possible.” He looked at Sookie and smiled. “And please bring my father’s old lockbox from the family’s safety deposit box—will you?” He listened for a moment. “Yes—this afternoon would be fine.” He hung up.
“There was an old picture of them with my Gran’s stuff too,” Sookie said quietly. “It’s in my room at your house.”
“So,” Niall said, “if those pictures match—which I know they will—then we’ll know for sure. You will be my first cousin, Sookie!”
“First cousin?” Sookie asked, obviously confused.
“Yes—though thrice removed,” Niall grinned. “And you will be Bobby and Claudine’s third cousin—once removed.”
“I never understood the removed part,” Sookie said honestly.
“Ah,” Niall said with a smile, “that part it easy. It’s the number of generations that separate the two cousins. Since I am of the equivalent generation to your great-grandfather, I am three generations ahead of you. But Bobby is actually the equivalent of your father—generation wise, though not age wise, so he’s once removed.”
“Oh,” Sookie said, as Niall moved to stand next to Bobby, who was gingerly holding Sookie’s right hand—since her wrist had been injured. Niall gestured, and though Bobby seemed reluctant to give up the hand of his new cousin, he did just that—after a look that was equal parts demanding and playful from Niall.
“I know that we are family, Sookie,” Niall said firmly, though gently, his eyes sparkling with joy. “Something inside of me has known from the first day we met. And when that is proven, then Appius will have no choice but to accept your marriage to Eric! It was your ancestor who was the eldest Brigant son those many, many years ago. You are a Brigant as much as I am!”
Sookie shook her head a little. “Even if we’re related, it doesn’t change who I am or what social class I belong to.”
“Oh—but it does!” Niall exclaimed with a twinkle in his eyes. “After receiving the letter from his brother, my father set aside half of the family fortune at the time. It was not to be touched by anyone on my side of the family. He told me that it was his brother Niall’s inheritance by right. And that money is still there, Sookie—though now it is an even larger amount given the fact that I have kept it invested. It is totally separate from my own wealth, my dear. So if you turn out to be my family, then it is yours, or at least yours to share with my uncle’s other descendants.”
Eric and Sookie looked at each other in shock.
Eric spoke, his voice shaking a little. “Sookie, you know that I don’t care about bloodlines and social class—right? You know I never did.”
“I know,” she answered. “Plus,” she smiled, “we’re already married in every way that really matters.”
They both looked down at the ring on her finger.
“That we are,” Eric agreed.
“But if Sookie is a Brigant,” Bobby said with a triumphant smirk, “then she will meet every goddamned one of those demands in your contract with that rat bastard!”
“So I won’t have to break the contract to marry you,” Eric said in awe.
“And if Appius tries to deny the worth of a Brigant, he’ll have me to deal with!” Niall said resolutely.
Sookie took a deep breath. “Let’s just make sure I’m a Brigant before getting carried away—okay?”
“You all are better than a Days of Our Lives episode,” came the sarcasm-laced voice of Dr. Ludwig from inside the room—where no one had noticed her. Indeed, she was capable of sneaking into places. “However, you don’t have to wait for a damned picture to know if you’re related. I’ve taken plenty of Sookie’s blood during the last day to do a DNA comparison. All I’ll need is a bit more of your blood and two hours,” she said, looking at Niall.
“Then lead the way, good doctor,” Niall said after giving Sookie a kiss on the forehead.
Dr. Ludwig glared in Bobby’s direction. “And you come with me too. I want Sookie to get some rest, especially given the soap opera that I just witnessed in here.”
“Is everything okay, Amy?” Eric asked, worry finding its way quickly into his eyes. “I’ve been staring at the monitors the whole time, and the numbers are the same.”
“Yes—so let’s keep it that way,” Dr. Ludwig said with a little wink in Eric’s direction as she moved toward the door.
“Amy? He gets to call you by your first name?” Niall asked indignantly as he followed her. “I’ve known you for almost thirty years, and . . . .”
As Niall’s voice faded with his and the doctor’s departure from the room, Eric and Sookie chuckled.
Bobby moved to the door as well, but turned around before leaving. “You know, I think that doctor has a crush on you,” he smirked at Eric.
Sookie giggled. “Yep—no doubt. I’ve only ever seen her be nice to you.”
“Too bad I’m already taken,” Eric grinned, looking down at Sookie.
“I’ll be back as soon as the little hobbit lets me,” Bobby chuckled.
“You know,” Eric mock-scolded, “calling her that will probably not endear you to her.”
Bobby shrugged and left the room.
Immediately, Eric rolled the second bed back to where it had been next to Sookie’s, locked its wheels, slipped off his shoes, and climbed in. He would have preferred just curling up with her in her own bed, but he’d been warned by their new nurse, Chow, that Sookie couldn’t really move around much because of the fetal heart monitor around her belly.
When he was lying down facing her, he took her left hand again, and they just stared at each other for a few minutes.
“Are you doing okay with all this?” Eric asked.
“I’m doing okay—so far,” she said. “I’m trying to take deep, calming breaths like Claudine taught me.”
Eric smiled and nodded. “Me too.”
“But I’ll probably freak out a little when the tests come back. I have to admit that I love the idea of being related by blood to Niall and Bobby and Claudine.” She smiled. “After all, they already feel like my family. But I definitely don’t know what to think about taking Niall’s money.”
Eric smiled. “You can talk with him about it later—when you’re stronger.”
“What about you? Are you doing okay with all this?” she responded, glancing down at their entwined hands which were resting together on her belly.
He nodded. “Okay doesn’t begin to cover how I feel. Yesterday morning I woke up with no hope for the future and only a life of unhappiness staring at me in the face. And I figured that was my fate—that it was the only way for my future to be—the only way to make sure you stayed safe. But now the only future I see is with you and Johan.” He smiled. “And like an answer to a prayer, it seems that you belong to a family that my father won’t be able to object to—a family that meets every stipulation in that fucking contract. So now,” he whispered, “I won’t even have to break the contract to be with you. And—if I don’t break the contract—then Appius will have no reason to do all the harm he’s threatened us with.” A tear flowed from his eye. “It’s like a miracle, Sookie. I had always thought that the fates had decided that I was unworthy of anything good, but now I find that they have brought me here to this place and this moment, where I see nothing but the good things that can happen. You and Johan are my miracle.”
A tear fell from Sookie’s eye too, and for a long time, they simply looked at each other as they rested their hands over their son.
“What are we gonna do about Appius?” Sookie asked when she felt herself starting to drift off to sleep. “Even if you don’t break the contract, he won’t like that you’re happy.”
“Right now—we’re not going to do anything about him. You’re going to get some rest, like the doctor said. And I’m going to lie here and watch over you.”
“What about your work today?” she asked sleepily.
“I called Clancy while you were asleep earlier and told him not to expect me in today. My cellphone—the one they have the tracker on—is still in our house. So—as far as they know—that’s where I am too. Hopefully, Appius will think that I’ve finally succumbed to depression.” Eric smiled a little, though it didn’t reach his eyes. “Maybe he’ll throw a party.”
“What if Debbie Pelt tries to determine whether you’re really there?”
“Shh,” Eric said, soothing her and moving as close to her as he could. “Henry has things covered. Let’s just rest for a while and get you and Johan a little stronger before we worry about things that aren’t really that important now.”
They both smiled sincerely as they felt a few kicks against their hands.
“See—my son agrees with me,” Eric grinned.
“Oh really? And how can you tell that?” she giggled.
“Because,” he answered with a shrug, “he kicked in agreement.”
She giggled. “Is he gonna kick me every time he agrees with you?”
“Yep, sorry,” Eric said with a wider grin. When Johan kicked again, Eric chuckled. “See?”
Sookie half-giggled and half-sighed as he leaned in to kiss her. Their smiles mirrored in their kiss.
A/N: Well—I hope you enjoyed this latest chapter! Many of you guessed that some of this would happen quite a while back—so well done!
Thanks for all the wonderful comments and reviews for the last chapter! I appreciate y’all sticking with me! Since someone asked for it, I’ve added a copy of Eric and Appius’s contract for reference. And I’ve also added a copy of the Brigant family tree below. (Just click the link you want.)
Up next: We’re going to do a several-day jump, but Eric will get us caught up on how they’ve tricked Appius to keep him at bay as Sookie’s been getting stronger.