I didn’t have my phone. I’d put it in my purse back at the stilt house.
Eric paced between two trees, his phone jammed in his ear as he tried unsuccessfully to talk over Pam’s yelling. She was in rare form, I could hear her even at ten feet away.
It was cold. Very cold. I was still only in my gauzy, beige dress that Eric had given me a week and a half ago. I crossed my arms, rubbing them on either side, my jaw tightening, my teeth starting to chatter.
I bounced on the balls of my feet as I waited impatiently for him to finish getting ear raped so I could use his cell to call Jason and Hadley. They must have assumed I was dead again. Alcide, too. Lord, with Eric and I inexplicably missing, he’d probably hot-glued himself to Hadley and Hunter, convinced something horrible had happened to us and was coming for them next.
Eric finally got an entire sentence in edgewise. “As your maker, I command you to shut the fuck up.”
The other end went dead.
Satisfied, he quietly began explaining what had happened. Without breaking stride, he shouldered out of his leather jacket. Standing in his dark t-shirt, he walked over to me and without looking at me, draped the coat over my shoulders. It swamped me. His palm cupped my cheek, warming it instantly. It was so unfair that not only was he not vampirically cold, he was warm as toast despite the chill in the air. My stupid Radia obviously had a favorite person. It had never been so charitable to me when I’d hauled its stowaway ass around for twenty-six winters. I always froze my tits off. But for Eric, it was suddenly a portable campfire. Little orby jerk.
I slid my arms through the half acre of sleeves, barely feeling the cuff at my fingertips.
Eric gave his abridged version of what happened to us, then told Pam we would get home immediately. Once he hung up, I lunged at him and grabbed the phone, stabbing Jason’s number into the keys. Amused, Eric held his arms out wide, allowing the theft. I began my own frantic pacing as the phone rang three impossibly slow times.
“Sook! Jee-sus Ca-rist, tell me that’s you! Where the fuck you been at? I thought you were dead in a haunted castle or some shit! People’ve been worried sick! Y’allright? Where are ya?!”
I blew out a huge breath. “Hey, no it’s me. I’m all right, I swear. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to leave without callin’. Nuthin’s happened, I promise. Nuthin’ bad, anyway. I just wanted to call and let you know I’m okay.”
“They didn’t have fuckin’ phones where you went? I hear it’s nice in 1842 this time a year.”
I huffed. I wanted to defend myself, but he was right to be annoyed. I hadn’t told him about Faery before. It had taken a lot of time to get him into a space where he accepted that I was okay without me going into much detail of where I’d been for all those months. Now I’d done it again. I wasn’t allowed to get mad at the ignorance I forced him to live in. “I know, you’re right. I’m a terrible sister and you’ve got a right to be pissed at me. When I get back to Bon Temps, I’ll buy you a beer and explain everything.”
“At the rate you’re jerking me around, that beer better have gold leaf in it and be served between Jenna Jameson’s ass cheeks.”
I rolled my eyes.
“I’ll call her agent. Meanwhile, try to remember you love me.”
“Shit, you know I do. Call me tomorrow. I mean it, goddammit.”
“I will. Call Hadley and tell her I’m okay? And I’ll talk to her soon?”
“Sure. See ya.”
I hung up and began dialing again.
“Who are you calling?” Eric asked.
I didn’t look up. “Alcide’s work. I think this is his number. The one downfall of cellphones these days is that I can’t remember anyone’s number by heart anymore. It used to be easy, you know? My house was 0-9-3-1. Tara’s was 7-7-5-8, when Lettie Mae remembered to pay the bill and not the liquor store. Gran’s house was 2-6-”
Eric gently reached out and took his phone from me, stopping my ramble in the process. “Hey! I need to call him! He needs to know we’re ok-”
“He will,” he replied, popping the phone in his back pocket. He took me by the shoulders, his head craning down. “Look at me.”
“I am looking at you,” I said, trying to reach around to his butt to get his phone again.
He stilled me. “Quiet,” he rasped. “Look at me.”
“I am looking at you!” I yelled. “Eric, what are going to do? We’ve been gone for nine days! Oh, my God, the Authority are going to kill you, aren’t they? I’m so sorry, I never should have asked Claudine to help us. I should have known Mab wouldn’t come here willingly. What can we possibly tell the Auth-”
I bit my tongue and glared at him.
His eyes darted around the small circumference of my face, taking in the features he’d seen a thousand times. Our bond was surprisingly silent. He wasn’t allowing me to read him.
What? I projected to him.
His hands moved to cup my throat. He moved in closer, bringing his face near mine.
“I want to look at the mother of my child.”
I wanted that phone. I wanted to throw myself into a phonecall. Any phonecall. I wanted to assure people, accept their yelling and swearing about what a furtive, inconsiderate friend I was. I wanted to figure out where we were. I wanted to invent our cover story for the Authority and everyone else who wasn’t in the loop.
I did NOT want to process what Mab had just told me.
It was too big. It was ridiculous. One day ago, I’d been tentatively okay, even excited, by the idea of a baby. Now? After Mab’s doom and gloom? I was terrified. I wasn’t going to have a baby. I was going to have a monster.
On instinct, my hands slid to my belly. As if on cue, a small bump had appeared in the short time we’d been away. My eyes widened. My fingers splayed wide and pressed deep, confirming what I knew to be physically impossible.
I was already beginning to show.
Eric couldn’t see my body through the tent of his coat. Without looking away from his eyes, I took his hand and brought it to my stomach.
His expression became awed. “Mirakulösa,” he whispered. He rubbed over the swell reverently. I tried for his phone again. Again, he caught me.
I snorted. “That’s one way to see it. But what if Mab is right? What if he’s no miracle? What if he’s a curse?”
“I prefer to think Claudine is right. A child born of love cannot be a curse. Half of him is you, and you are the purest miracle I’ve ever witnessed.” He paused, Sookie-smiling. “And since when did you learn another Swedish word?”
“Are we allowed to take that risk for everyone? These aren’t just our chips on the table, they’re everyone’s. If Mo brings the end of the world with him, then we’re responsible for the deaths of billions! And I didn’t learn anything. You said ‘miraculous’. That’s English, professor.”
He cocked his head, his smile lessening. “I did not. I spoke in Swedish.”
I shook my head. “Sorry. It was English.”
He paused. “I love you, my angel. I’m nothing without you.”
I gave a puff of laughter. “Thanks. Ditto. And why is Mo bumpy all of a sudden? Is my pregnancy moving faster than others? Or did Faery speed it along somehow?”
At that, he lost his smile altogether. “Ancient Mandarin is a beautiful language, don’t you agree?”
I shooed his hands away and backed off a bit, annoyed by his inability to stay on topic. “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never heard it. Come on, baby, focus. I need you with me here. Did Ludwig text you while we were gone? I’d like to hear what she found.”
He backed away as well, taking a long, pained drag of air that sounded worrying on a man incapable of breathing. “And Syriac Aramaic? I not speak well, it is very difficult. Godric try to teaches me.”
I shoved my hands on either side of my head, clenching my hair. “Ack, what is wrong with you? Why are you talking about Mandarin and Aramaic and Swedish? And Godric? Babe, I don’t KNOW! Can we talk about little Mo now please?”
He took one more hard look at me before whispering. “Water Forget-Me-Nots.”
I gave a stuttering laugh of defeat and sat down in the wet, cold grass, suddenly feeling very tired. I hadn’t slept in 216 hours. “You said that in Faery,” I muttered as I arranged his coat under my butt to stop the chill from creeping in. “Is that what it smelled like to you? I smelled cookies again, but I doubt the smell of baked goods does much for you.”
I stared at the long length of his shins before he slowly knelt down to join me on the ground. A thin, icy blade of fear was working its way into our bond. It wasn’t mine, so I cautiously looked into his eyes, trying to understand why he’d become so screwy.
His arms carefully made their way into my space until they gathered me and brought into his body. He’d become still and deliberate in the way he always did when something shocked the shit out of him and made him wary. When he spoke, nothing could have heard the low pitch of his voice as he whispered into my ear.
“The Fae land smelled of you, my lover. I could have lived forever in that place, if only for that reason. The flower I mentioned is the smell of our child. He smells glorious. Of ice in the springtime. In your womb, I can smell home. And the words I’ve been speaking to you are not English. I think we can assume that you have developed another gift, Sookie. You understand languages. All languages.”
“Ha ha. You’re hilarious.”
“I’m perfectly serious. Mo has turned you into a universal translator.”
“Sweetie, you’re not speaking other languages. You’re just talkin’ in good ole ‘Merikin.”
“But I am,” his voice took on a slightly different accent, just as it had three times before now. “This is Russian. This is Congoese. This is Tok Pisin. If you understand me now, then believe me, you could name your price at the UN.”
I inched my way up onto his lap, away from the freezing grass, closer to the campfire. “That’s great,” I muttered with zero enthusiasm. “The one merciful thing about bein’ a telepath was occassionally hearing people think in foreign languages. It was all Greek to me. Now I’ll understand everyone.”
“You’ve been gifted with an ability that would take a thousand lifetimes to learn otherwise. Don’t whine.”
“I’ll whine if I want. I’m pregnant and omnilingual. Go buy me some Milk Duds dipped in wasabi.”
Aside from a deep rumble, he was silent. After a moment of listening to his brain knit, he asked me. “Can you answer me? In those tongues?”
“I doubt it.” I didn’t elaborate, or even try to think about the languages he’d supposedly spoken to me in. I was too engrossed in my own fears.
Eric must have felt it, because he didn’t press me. Instead, he arranged me so that I was wrapped around his waist, my expanding belly pressed into his abdomen. Once he felt the tight bump nestled between us, his mind went curiously soft and contented. It was right in front of me, so I dropped my head on his shoulder. I felt my worries about our absence and other people’s feelings slowly begin to drain away. Eric seemed more than happy to just sit here in the middle of nowhere and bask in his newfound parental status.
It was one of those things – one of the thousand things – that I hadn’t gotten around to asking him about. It fell under the huge heading of ‘What was your life/unlife like before you met me?’ I assumed it was newfound. Like a self-absorbed bitch, I’d never even considered otherwise.
I locked my elbows behind his neck, relaxing into him. “You said ‘firstborn’ to Mab. Is that true?”
He burrowed his face under his coat on my shoulders and kissed my bare skin. “You’re asking if I fathered children as a man?”
“Yes.” My voice sounded small. Like I might cry if he admitted to diddling women back when candles ranked in the top five of human inventions. God, I was lame.
And he responded to it. Instantly, there was pain on his side, like he felt guilty for diddling women instead of carrying a torch for a girl who’d be born when candles didn’t even rank in the top five hundred. (Unless we were talkin’ flameless candles. That was some pretty cool shit.)
He arranged his words carefully. “I… was not married. There were many women, but none were distined to be mine. I was young, and sex between young people was not considered inappropriate, so we used one another. For pleasure. For practice. Several of the girls I had been with became pregnant, but we all of us had multiple partners and the paternity of bastards wasn’t relevant. I might have impregnated a woman. But I’ve never had children.”
He emphasized the difference by squeezing me around my middle.
“Weren’t you a little old to be a spinster?” I asked.
He chuckled. “Gods, yes. I was already considered old for a single man when Russell killed my parents and baby sister. Before then, I’d been a fuck-up who wallowed between the tits of our servants. After, I took my father’s throne and threw myself into violent politics. I fought so recklessly, friends believed I had a death wish. Perhaps I did. And perhaps I got it. Were it not for Godric, I would have succeeded in my suicide by Dane.”
My arms tightened fractionally.
“Somehow, I managed to live and die without a good woman at my side,” he finished.
“Christ, I’m glad he found you,” I said against his ear. “To think you’d have been part of some archaeological discovery. They’d be digging up a new highway in Sweden and find your charred, skeletal ass in a pile of tinder with a sword in your hand.”
He smiled against me. “Instead I have you now. And Mo. And many more after him.”
“More? You’re crazy.” How many apocalypses was he interested in starting?
“We’re going to live forever. And I have many spinster years to make up for. And we’d barely agreed to our new ‘arrangement’ before I was busy putting a baby in you, so we have no trouble in the fertility department. He will not be the only, he will merely be the first.”
He squeezed me again, his hands snaking up under his coat, fingering dangerously along the exposed back of my halter dress. “Perhaps we should practice.”
I snorted into his ear. “You’ve already got a bullet in the chamber.”
“Then let’s fill the clip.”
“I don’t think sperm swims in a holding pattern. I think a new deposit is required each time.”
“We’ll fuck nonstop and cover both bases then.”
He got me with that and I laughed. “Can I call Alcide now?”
He held my face and pulled me back, his eyes dancing in the darkness. “In a minute. I’m not done marveling at my luck. I have a beautiful wife, swollen with child. In my day, my tribe would have celebrated for days. You would have been buried under gifts and happy wishes. Every warrior under my command would have mourned that I’d proven virile with such a coveted woman. Had I failed, you would have been within your rights to leave me. Imagine their disappointment.”
He was positively gloating at his long-dead entourage. I blushed, shy at their long-dead (and nonexistant) appraisal.
His smile widened at my embarrassment. “Surely you wouldn’t begrudge me a few moments to savour this.”
“Savour away,” I gave a watery smile. “Can I at least use your phone to check the time and GPS?”
He clucked his tongue, a rebuke for not wanting to party like it was 999. But he gave me his phone, using his free hand to grab my hip and smoosh me harder into him. I could almost hear him bragging to his Viking buddies about how his girl was preggo with his baby and didn’t they wish their girlfriends were hot like me.
He gave me back his Smart Phone. The cover he’d chosen for the back was black and read simply iPhang. Cute.
The time was 2:39am. The GPS app informed me that we were about thirty miles away from my house. Eric thumbed into his address book and hit Alcide’s number for me. I bore through my friend’s frantic questions just like I had with Jason. (Though to be fair, Alcide showed more concern and wasn’t so easily fobbed off with vague assurances. I had to promise him a lot to appease him.) Most of all, he wanted to know if Hadley and Hunter were in danger. I swore they were safe. He didn’t completely believe me, but he felt better than he had before I’d called. I ended the call, knowing my ballout wasn’t over until I saw him in person.
I sighed, really feeling it now. “So what do we do now?”
He stood, still holding me close. “Despite the date, I recommend the same action. We fly to the stilt house and wait out the day. Your purse and phone are there. We’ll check our messages, return the ones we can, and plan our stories for those that need one.” He dropped fang, startling me. “And you’ll feed me. I want to look for my son in your blood. And you’ll fuck me. I want your pregnant belly in my hands as you come for me.”
I kissed him. I agreed into his mouth.
He took off into the night sky.