Eric looked at the two of us calmly as he blew one of our bigger secrets right there in front of Ludwig, the extra liquor cases, and his shabby pieces of assorted furniture.
Without thinking, my hands shot to my stomach, shielding Mo from the monsters that heard his declaration and were going to come bashing through the walls to destroy him like so much sinister Kool Aid.
The doctor looked at Eric for a very long time before she said, “I didn’t know you were funny.”
“You need to get over your incredulity and just factor it into your examination. You also need to reread your Galen texts for any information pertaining to hybrid children. He will be one quarter human, one quarter fairy, and half vampire. I want to know what that will mean for Sookie’s pregnancy, for his delivery, and for his life afterward.” Eric spoke ahelluva lot smoother than either of us felt.
I gripped my stomach tighter as Ludwig’s hands dropped away from me and she turned to face Eric fully.
“There’s nothing to check. Vampires don’t breed.” Her eyes flickered to me nervously. “I’m not here to get your companion into trouble, but you’ve been misinformed if you believe you’re capable of normal procreation.”
From my stance above her, I could almost feel the doctor’s fear that she was exposing a lie that I’d fed to Eric to shield myself from his wrath at my supposed infidelity. It was kind of her to worry, but Eric was right. We simply didn’t have time to ease her into this. I dropped to one knee at her side and put a daughterly arm around her shoulder. Being this close, I could smell the sterility of her lab in her coat, punctuated by the occasional, guilty cigarette in her skin.
“Ma’am, it’s true. My fairy kin have already confirmed it. This baby is Eric’s, as much as they hate to admit it. Surely Galen mentioned something about fairy physiology?” I had no idea who these Custos of the Keep people were that these two seemed so familiar with, but I could follow the plot easily enough. I’d have to ask Eric about them later, though.
The old woman nodded. Good.
“And did he note that fairies Chose each other when they mated? Exchanged their Light?”
She expressed surprise. “Yes. Just like swans. Mating for life, flying everywhere together, buying little swan groceries.”
I gave a small chuckle, then pressed. “Yeah, and I’ve Chosen Eric. He may not have the Light to Choose me back, but I’ve bonded to him in blood. In the eyes of our two people, I’m his and he’s mine. My Light inside him has made this baby possible. I understand your thinkin’ that I’m pullin’ the wool over his eyes, but I’m not. I can’t. The blood bond would tell him if I was lying. For whatever reason, our union has caused this pregnancy. Real as the nose on your face.”
She hadn’t responded to my arm around her, so I retracted it slowly. As I sat back on my haunches, I watched her carefully process what I’d said. Her train of thought was so clear, I didn’t even have to listen to her mind to know her thoughts. She didn’t believe us. Wait, maybe she did. No, she didn’t. What I’d just said was insane. But maybe it was possible. Her books spoke of equally weird occurrences. She needed to think. She needed more information. No, she didn’t want any. Eric and I were nuts and she should just collect her fee and get the hell out of here before our strand of crazy went viral. But she was a scientist. She need to know. She needed time. She needed…
“I want a sperm sample, Northman,” she spoke aloud.
“Sure,” I cut Eric off. “We’ll have it for you at the ultrasound appointment.”
“His blood, too. And I want your family history records, Miss Stackhouse. I want everything you know about your tie to your king. I want to visit you on a daily basis to access your progress. This is going to move faster than any of us can predict. I won’t keep notes. I’ll reexamine Galen’s work for any information that might help explain this. And I also want the name of the fairy who insists this baby is his,” she jabbed her thumb at Eric.
Each demand worried me. So much was being laid bare. I looked at Eric, silently asking if her demands were acceptable.
He looked forbidding, coiled tightly behind his desk, getting angrier with each passing second. She was asking a lot, but what she wanted was fair. If we insisted on playing music, the woman was gonna dance. Plus, as nervous as this whole conversation made me, I was glad she was so insisting. I was glad she could think on her feet and wanted as much information as possible. We wanted the same thing. All three of us wanted this to turn out okay. Hopefully.
Eric slithered out of his strike posture and leaned in to make his anger very clear. “You can have these things. You will be glamored to forget this entire conversation, and will only remember it again when you see us. And you’ll swear to me that you’ll protect our secret, glamor be damned. Mention this to a soul and-,”
“You’ll kill my grandbabies, yeah yeah. I remember, you sadistic asshole. I swear to protect Sookie, just as I do all of my patients. As part of your glamor, you’ll also instruct me to remember every last detail en lieu of a file. Now what is the fairy’s name?”
“What do you want with her?”
“Is she family?”
“The one who initially noticed Sookie’s pregnancy, yes. Sookie’s fairy godmother. She said she could see his Light.” Eric paused. I felt him hesitating on how much to tell her about Mo’s “specialness”. After looking at the doctor and seeing her righteous glare, he continued carefully. “She…consulted her library. And spoke with her queen. They confirmed it.” Another hesitation. “Afterwards, I could smell the truth of their words.”
Her spindly brow arched. “The child smells like you?”
“He doesn’t smell like me. His smell is a very private and precious memory of mine. That and Sookie swore she’s been with no one else. That settles it.”
She gave me a skeptical look. “Weren’t you Compton’s before?”
A scrunched my nose. “Last year, yeah. But I haven’t been with him since. Only Eric.”
I sighed in resignation. “Claudine.”
She gave no sign that the name meant anything to her.
“Why is Claudine important to you? Are you going to talk to her? Is that even possible?” I asked.
She didn’t answer. Instead, she cast a glance at my chest. “You may dress now.”
I’d felt Eric’s anxiety at my belly on display and I’d shared it. I was more than happy to retrieve my dress and hide it once again. As I slid back into my clothes and stepped into my shoes, I listened to the woman’s thoughts.
…Can it be possible? A vampire-fairy child Absolutely ridiculous Possible No Maybe Must consult the books again Go to the vault and read about it What about Claudine? Two of them in one conversation? It can’t be a coincidence Galen wouldn’t have known Medical expert Claudine would know How do I find her? Fairies don’t answer to our medical community I have to try to contact them Claudine? The same Claudine? How many can there be? The Stackhouse girl knows her Cannot be a coincidence…
I listened for a few seconds more, pausing as I fixed my hair. I heard her final thoughts on Claudine before she looked right at me, then pointedly began thinking about an old love song that she knew well enough to replay without including her own mental voice. The voice of the singer, complete with instrumental backup, took up the whole of her mind.
Hold me! Hold me! Never let me go until you’ve told me, told me, what I want to know and then just hold me. Hold me…
Clearly, her Galen texts had taught her a thing or two about fairy mind reading.
I smiled innocently at her. I already got what I was after anyway.
Eric was checking his phone. I remembered it had beeped earlier.
The doctor stood, grabbing her bag from the back of the chair. “Tomorrow afternoon. Two o’clock. Come to my practice and we’ll perform the ultrasound. Remember to bring his blood and semen samples.”
Eric growled quietly. I shared the sentiment. I put my hands on my hips. “Any special reason the two of us can’t come to you tomorrow night?”
“My regular office is housed in a day clinic. There are no after hours. Security is tight and I won’t risk smuggling a vampire and fairy into the ultrasound room at midnight. A single mother in broad daylight is a dime a dozen. No one will think twice about your presence. I’ll forge the appropriate paperwork. Your names and information will never be used. Are we clear?”
She bent forward, snatching an envelope out of Eric’s stack of correspondance, and flipped it over. She grabbed a pen and scribbled quickly on the back. “The address. You have my number. Two o’clock. Don’t be late.”
Eric leaned into her bend and quickly glamored her, insisting she remember all the details, then erasing it all until she saw me the next day. He dismissed her.
She tossed the envelope back onto the pile and without a second glance, walked out.
Eric stared thoughtfully at the information she’d inconsiderately written all over a letter addressed to “His Majesty/Current Resident” at Fangtasia. I assumed it was yet another tongue-in-cheek congratulations from another colleague. One with a decent sense of humor. I picked up the letter, glanced at the doctor’s address on the back, memorized it, then put it back where it lay.
His gaze didn’t waver.
“So,” I said softly. “Who texted you?”
I waited another second or two before repeating my question.
He didn’t seem to hear me right away, only blinking suddenly and looking up after another few moments had passed.
“Do you still love Bill?”
It was my turn to blink quickly. “Huh?”
“Bill. You told Jessica you didn’t miss him. But do you still harbor feelings for him?”
I didn’t even think. “No.”
“He was your first.”
“Everybody’s got one. He was mine. I’ve told you before that I wished it’d been you and I meant it. I don’t harbor feelings for Bill anymore than I do for my first cat, Tina. I think of them both fondly from time to time. I wish they hadn’t died. I loved them, but I moved on. Tina and Bill are gone. I have you and Kitty Eric now.”
A burst of panic hit me. “Kitty Eric! Oh, my God! I completely forgot about him and he’s been at your house for ten whole days!”
With scary speed, I launched myself at Eric’s car keys on top of his desk. Poor kitty Eric! God, I was such a selfish bitch! My poor kitty was all alone and probably starving in that mansion! I had to get to the house and put out some food, if he was even strong enough to eat. I ached, remembering how he’d looked when I’d picked him out of the line-up at the pound. He’d been too skinny, his fur too matted, and his canine teeth protruding from his overbite in an eerily familiar heart shape. That had sealed it. He was meant to be mine.
Now, his horrible owner had probably killed him with her lack of pet responsibility.
The keys were inches away from my hand on the corner, then they were gone, clenched in Eric’s fist as he stopped me from grabbing them.
“I gotta git home!”
He held a single finger up, shushing me. “Your animal is fine. Pam went looking for us at my house when we were gone. She captured him and dropped him off at Hadley’s new home. She assumed I wouldn’t want him stinking up our home with shit and eventually a carcass.”
My heart was pounding. “Hadley’s got him? She hadn’t told me in her texts.”
“I can only assume she was more worried about your disappearence and screwing her guard then mentioning she had your pet.” He smiled. “Herveaux said that the boy enjoys him. Apparently he is not allowed pets at his father’s.”
Still shaking with adrenaline, I sank into the doctor’s now vacant seat. “Hunter? He’s been over to the house you bought for Hadley?”
“Under state supervision and under the wolf’s watchful eye, but yes. Twice.”
I closed my eyes. “That’s so wonderful.”
“She’s doing well, according to his reports. I read three of them while you dressed. Herveaux states the supervisor is impressed with her progress. That longer, weekend visits might soon follow.”
“God bless you and that sweet, furry man.”
“Our intervention is selfish, I assure you. A man would run through hell and back for the love of a Stackhouse woman.”
“That’s a new development, make no mistake.”
I tapped our bond before I spoke again. “You don’t really think I’m carrying a torch for Bill, do you? After all we’ve shared? After everything you feel in me?”
I wasn’t as angry as I could have been. I understood that jealousy was a psychotic bitch and ate every rational argument that your significant other was loving and faithful. I guess I was more surprised than anything. Knowing that she’d gotten under Eric’s skin was incredible, if not comforting. That he was human(ish) after all.
Our bond strained slightly, the rope twisting as his mind tugged mine closer, his insecurity plucking at me. It broke my heart. He needed me so much. Without thinking, I gently lifted my right hand and sent a burst of Light flying across the desk. Our vampiric bond was in distress. Our fairy bond came to the rescue.
My Light hit him square in the chest. He was thrown back fully into his chair, gasping loudly as it connected to my Radia. Love, tenderness, loyalty, devotion, all detonated deep in his body. His eyes rounded with shock, then slammed shut as he endured the ride.
I don’t think either of us would ever get over when that happened.
As his rigid muscles slowly softened and his reflexive breathing stopped, he bared his human teeth at me. My teddybear was grateful.
“Thank you,” he rasped.
“Don’t mention it.”
“I’ll never get used to being fucked by the sun.”
“I’ll never get tired of watching it.”
We sat quietly for a bit, letting our renewed vigor settle back down.
When he spoke, the grit hadn’t left his voice. “The text was from Pam. She says I have a visitor in the bar.”
I shot to my feet. “Massawa?” Oh, Christ.
“No,” he sent calm. “She would have named him and not made him wait. It’s someone else.”
“Oh,” I smoothed my crazy-pink dress. “Then I guess we should go receive then, huh?”
“Yes,” he sighed wistfully. “Though I’d rather reciprocate your sunburst.”
I giggled, tugging the bodice lower, making sure my bump didn’t show. “Wow. A man prefers sex to working. Excuse me while I faint.”
He smirked, then rose slowly, making a show of just how long it took for his frame to become upright. “Shall I catch you?”
“Shoo, fly,” I flapped my hands at his offer. “You said we needed to put in an appearance on the throne anyway. Now offer me your arm like a gentleman and let’s get this over with.”
He grinned outright and zipped to my side, whipping me up in his arms and kissing me soundly. “Sexy little fire angel,” he muttered into my mouth. “So fuckable in pink. My child in you drives me fucking crazy.”
I smiled against his mouth. “So what do you think about a baby girl?”
“How the fuck will I survive so much beauty? She’ll own me even more than you do.”
“Ha!” I chortled. “No way, buddy. You’re mine. Daddy’s little princess can take a damn number.”
He lifted and rubbed our fronts together. His belt buckle snagged the fabric of my dress as he massaged himself with my bump. “Fuck, yes,” he whispered. “Yours. Hers. Or his. All of you have all of me.”
I laughed again, slapping at him. “Turn me loose and let’s git. I wanna see who’s been waiting on you for the last twenty minutes.”
He grumbled, but complied, setting me gently on my feet. “I want Alcide to go with you tomorrow, by the way. I swear that cunt is being obtuse on purpose, keeping me from you when you see our child for the first time.”
I checked my dress for obvious tears and found none. “I don’t think so. She was imagining the cameras and shared computer usage that sends all information to the mainframe. The minute she performs the ultrasound, the machine will send the images to an HMO. She’s trying to make it look as normal as possible. A midnight medical caper would stick out. A lot. Trust me,” I patted his arm, “She’s hiding something for more interesting.”
I made for the door, he stopped me. “That being?”
I gave him a pert look over my shoulder and I continued to walk without him. “You’re gonna love this.”
“Get to the cum shot.”
“Claudine,” I whispered in a conspiratorial tone, “is a goddamn Custos.”
He led me to the throne. Our bond buzzed with the mutual insistence that we get Claudine on the horn pronto, the minute we were home. Just as I suspected, every last woman in the room brain fucked my man and hated every last strand of my DNA. Also, they couldn’t believe I didn’t understand Eric well enough to know he’d find my wardrobe glaringly inapproriate and pitifully naive. What else could he expect, fucking a honkey mud farmer’s daughter like me?
I blocked them out, smiling gratefully as he made a show of seating me first, kissing my knuckles a second too long, before throwing himself into his chair and sprawling out.
Our visitor came forward through the throng of emo patrons, dressed to kill.
Pam handed Eric a note as a singing telegram girl, dressed as Tinkerbell, gave a saucy little dance while warbling the old song Mother-In-Law. The audience was aghast at her audacity, shaking her sparkly ass at us and tossing silver glitter on the first five rows of black leather.
I peeked at the note in Eric’s large hand.
I hope you gave Mab my regards.
-Magister Okalo Massawa
Fatal, powerful vampire boss he may be, but you had to like his style.