I spent 3 very long weeks in bed after the shooting; two because Ludwig wanted it, the other was because it made Eric and Alcide feel better. To get me out of the house, Alcide would take me shopping and made me ride around on a motorized wheel chair, Pam was taking me to the spa and Eric would go out to the stables and saddle my horse and lead her to the back door (Almond Joy and I were getting very used to each other by the time I was allowed to move around freely).
I was allowed very few liberties but I sensed how shaken the shooting had left my nest mates, so I humored them. One of my liberties was the madhouse called a grand opening. Everything went smoothly. So smoothly that we were paranoid the next night, but nothing happened. Nothing except for the ‘Fangtasia Edition’ of the Shreveport Times. Seriously. Eric made the cover page for his measures towards peace, Fangtasia took the front of the business section for grossing 7 figures on opening weekend, the Entertainment section had a list of A-List artists who were slated to play and, of course, having huge names on opening night, and the Style section was covered with red carpet photos from the opening with everyone proudly wearing ‘Due North’ designs. Donna had given Eric a very obvious and appreciative nod when she named her line.
The trip to New York for Nicki and Josh’s wedding was a blast and Eric and I even won for best costume at the rehearsal party, further adding to Donna’s clientele.
Mardi Gras was just as much fun. As much as it was crazy busy and the house bustled morning, noon and night, the dozens of people in the house all got along famously. It was almost like a co-ed dorm considering the new found joy between Bart and Russell and their fondness for pranks. Manen and Hunter became instant Diantha fans when she showed them how to skateboard.
The biggest part of things over the past few months… The wedding, my wedding… OUR wedding. It was beautiful… not strong enough a word… transcendent. That works. Everything was perfect. Russell and Bart arrived a week early to be sure of it. They hemmed and hawed and fussed over my wedding more than a Mom-zilla. They nearly had kittens when the delivery truck showed up with the wrong color of roses. Eric and I were too excited to care. The string quartet that Russell had hired was a waste. Jason surprised us by playing acoustic guitar and Angela sang The Story by Brandi Carlisle as I walked down the aisle and she sounded like an angel. Jason played the melody while we made our vows and then she started the lyrics again as we walked back down the aisle together. Then the two of them sang Nothing Else Matters as a duet for our first dance.
As we stood in the receiving line, every king and queen of North America bowed and swore fealty to Eric just as Coppersmith had done months before. It was confusing at first but when Russell and Bart went through the line last, Russell bowed and swore his fealty and called Eric ‘Emperor Northman’. With all that was going on politically, everyone had decided that Eric should be the poor stiff to lead the way for the Vampire contingent.
Our Honeymoon was marvelous. Hilarious? Exciting? All of the above, really. I had left it up to Eric. I told him that I wanted him to surprise me. He bought me a private jet as a wedding gift. That should have been a clue. Even if banning me from my own packing wasn’t. We went straight to the airport from the reception. He had my dress off of me before the doors were closed and we made love all the way to Sweden. Yes, Sweden. We spent the days in front of the fireplace in the chateau he rented and then he taught me to ski under the stars for 4 nights. One day he took me shopping and instead of taking me back to the chateau, he took me to the airport to whisk me away to Greece for the last 4 days. He’d gotten a house on the beach and we saw no one but our maid and did nothing but enjoy each other before coming home to our very anxious family, both of us very well rested and tanned. It was magical and romantic and after all of the craziness, it was exactly what we needed to get centered.
Disney world was just what we needed as a family. The whole big family. Joss was worried about missing the girls, but alone time with Tray was nothing to shake a stick at. Alcide, Tray and Tobin spent the week before the trip setting up the surprise. Tray had bought a 4 bedroom house with a big back yard and when he took her out one night, he had a picnic set out on the floor of the living room and an engagement ring waiting. She said yes, of course.
As the top of the Supernatural food chain Eric and I had been spending a lot of time in DC to have our diplomacy discussions over the new laws regarding vampires and soon to be Weres. We get strange looks from the white house staff when we insist with vagueness that the new laws be written to say ‘Supernatural being’ without specifying Were or Vampire, making sure not to drag the others out of the closet, but making sure we weren’t right back in the same bland room next year doing this for another group of Supes.
With all of the goings on and company and being that the kitchen was the heart of the house, I managed to talk Eric into taking out the wall between the kitchen and the pool and filling it in. We added a fireplace and comfortable furniture to turn the kitchen into a lounge and when we got back from our honeymoon, we had the new pool started to include a bigger whirlpool, waterfall, and a shallow end with a beach entry for the kids. Eric even bought a monstrosity of a playhouse for the kids for poolside. Alcide learned how to curse in 12 different languages while the two of them put it together.
Disney had been so much fun, Alcide and I decided that our 3 days in Honolulu in June should become 12 and we all went. We climbed a volcano and took a helicopter ride and snorkeled in tidal pools with the kids. We all tried surfing and hula dancing. Eric and Pam took the kids shopping for the 2 days that Alcide and I worked and it took our porters 20 minutes longer to load our things into the plane than it took them to unload because of all the new stuff.
And that was it. About two weeks later, Janice and I started slowing down. I traded in my jogging for swimming and an exercise bike because gravity wasn’t my friend. It broke my heart to lose my new figure to the baby bump. Alcide had been right about my six pack, but the bump was more fun, especially when it moved like puppies in a pillowcase.
Over the last two weeks, I must have called the doctor a dozen times, begging for her to move up my date. I was sick of being so inactive.
Wednesday, September 1st…
I opened my eyes slowly, and looked at Eric. I was in the usual snuggle position with my head on his shoulder and my arm draped over his chest and leg over his thigh. The major difference now being that his daughters were propped up against his ribs and when they wake up to let me know I’m hungry, they kick like Bruce Lee. He chuckled and slid his hand over to rest on them. “Pam and I both know that it hurts, how do you sleep through it.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “What choice do I have?”
“I suppose you’re right, but we only have a week left. Are you as ready as I am?” He had been flooding the bond with excitement for weeks now.
“I imagine. I have our bag packed. Y’all have the nursery ready. Pam is the one I’m worried about.”
I cleared my throat. “Yeah, she’s a twist of nerves and excitement right now. Alcide says she hasn’t been sleeping because the babies have been keeping her up.”
Eric laughed from his belly. “She asked for it.”
“She’s not miserable. She just doesn’t know what to do with herself. I think I’m going to sleep with her tonight. Maybe she needs the closeness to the babies.”
“That’s not a bad idea. I’m more worried about Alcide.”
“The quiet thing?” Eric nodded. “He just needs extra handling until they’re born. He’s freaking out about being the only one not hurting. I should kick you for telling him.”
“But you won’t because you know you should have told me that you were keeping it from him.”
I stuck my tongue out at him.
“So what are you going to do with yourself once they’re born? Do you remember what you did before you were fat and fragile?”
I slapped him in the chest and he laughed. “No, I don’t think I do remember what it was like before some big ass Viking planted his seed in me, causing me to swell to gargantuan proportions… I’ll probably have to work out for months to get back into my clothes.”
He rolled over and kissed my forehead before he settled and looked me in the eye. “You and I both know better. The only ounce you’ve gained has been the girls. You will look like a swim suit model again in no time at all.”
I smiled at him. “Oh, you poor man, what will you do with yourself when my keg is replaced with my old 6 pack and my Ds get upgraded to Es?”
He started tracing my side with his fingertips. “I’m sure that I will manage to think of something.” He had that look in his eyes that told me that if I didn’t get out of the bed immediately, I’d be there for a long time.
“Oh no you don’t. I have to go make breakfast. Janice will be here any minute.”
“Jason can manage settling her. Of all people, they can understand not wanting to get out of bed.”
I giggled. “Not being able to get out of bed, maybe. But my poor brother deserves a reward. She’s too miserable to even think about sex and with the empathy, she’s beating herself up about it.”
“So, you are going to make me go without because Jason has to?”
I laughed and kissed his throat. “You and I barely slept last night. I have been in the mood for months. Your complaint of timing is nothing compared to Jason’s cross to bear. You will do just fine to wait Mr. Northman.”
I started the slow process of rolling over to get out of bed. “Sookie, you have to know by now that I can’t get enough of you.”
I hoisted myself off of the bed and started my slow waddle across the room to shower, stopping to grab a pair of panties and a sundress on my way. “Well then, how advantageous that you managed to lock me into a long term contract.”
“Hmmm, Indeed.” He blurred past me and started the water in the shower. When I finally got to the bathroom, he was standing under the stream of water.
“Eric! You jerk. I need to get in there.”
He peeked out from behind the shower door, wearing nothing but his shit eating grin. “I was here first, but I’m willing to share.”
I stepped into the tub. “There isn’t as much room in here as there used to be.”
“I think we’ll manage.” He stepped out of the way to let me stand under the water. He shampooed and conditioned my hair for me and then thoughtfully washed every inch of me.
“It’s all your fault that I can barely move, you know.”
“How so today, Lover?”
I giggled at him. “I’ve gotten lazy from all of the pampering you do.”
He smiled at me. “I’ll have to enjoy it while I can. I’ve always enjoyed taking care of you. Under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t let me do this.”
“Maybe, I’ll have to yield to your wants more often.”
“That would be nice.”
I giggled at him as I stepped out of the tub and started drying off. By the time I was starting to dress, Eric had finished washing and was stepping out. See what I mean about slowing down? It was driving me nuts to plan every movement. My only saving grace was that I could pop from one end of the house to the other. That definitely made putting away laundry easier. Eric dried himself and helped me with my dress before he blurred into his closet and back out within seconds, fully dressed.
I narrowed my eyes at him. He raised his eyebrows and sympathetically shrugged. “It’s not fair that I haven’t gotten that one yet.”
He simply smiled at me and came over to scoop me up and fly me downstairs, saying hello to Tobin as we went by.
“Morning bosses. You got another letter from Marin’s lawyer asking you to ask for leniency at her sentencing.”
I chuckled. “What’s the temperature in hell sitting at these days?”
“I called the guy and told him as much. And you got an email from Lisa.”
“That’s weird. Why wouldn’t she just call me? What did it say?”
He took a minute to pull it back up on his screen. “Aunt Sookie,” Oh, that Lisa, I was thinking about Lisa Evans, one of our clerks. “I think my momma needs your help. At night I hear the someone sneaking around in the woods around the house and when me or Coby try to talk to her about it, she starts looking rabbitty and tells us its probably just the wind. But it ain’t true. She’s hiding something from us. I hear someone in the house sometimes talking to her but never seen who it is. And I heard her talking to Sam about taking some time off for a trip. If she got secrets, I’m fine with it. But if we got something to worry about then we got the right to know. luv, Lisa. Ps. I cant wait to see your babies. Hurry up already.”
Tobin turned and looked at me. “You’re gonna stick your nose in their beeswax, aren’t you.”
I stuck my tongue out at him as Eric chuckled at Tobin’s sassing.
“Start a reply for me, Mr. Know it all.” He narrowed his eyes at me and sat down to his computer. “Sweet Lisa, I’m sorry your momma has been worrying you with her secrets. But they are just secrets. I know what’s going on and I’m sure you will be finding out what it is soon. Love, Aunt Sookie. P.s. I’m doing my best to hurry the babies up but they are just as stubborn as their father.”
“I’m the stubborn one?! Lover, you know that you can go to hell for lying.”
“I might worry about it, if I planned on dying.” I reached up and gave him a kiss and he smiled into it.
I hadn’t lost my usefulness in the kitchen, thankfully. I had breakfast in the oven within 20 minutes.
“So what is her secret, Lover?”
“She’s got a beau and for once she isn’t throwing herself or her kids at him. The kids will find out soon. He’s going to ask her to marry him.”
“And how do you know this, Mrs. Northman?” 5 months later and I still loved the sound of it.
“Because the other night at Fangtasia, he asked me if I thought it was too soon.”
Eric went through his mental list of people that we had greeted the other night that might know Arlene. “TRUMAN!?”
I smiled up at him and nodded.
Tobin added his two cents. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” Eric looked at him and smiled in agreement.
“Hey kiddo! You are not allowed to be jaded by being surrounded by power and beauty all the time. She’s plain and simple but she has a good heart, even if it did lead her down a few dark roads. Besides, in my experience, vampires tend to like for there to be a little fight in their women.” I eyed Eric.
“Fight yes. But the total package is important too. YOU are beautiful and smart and know when to fight and when not to. If it was fight I was after without regard to sanity or intelligence, I could have settled for an Amazon centuries ago.”
“That’s true. You do have a type apparently.”
His eyebrows shot up with his amusement. “Meaning?”
“Pam and I are the same size and build. We both have blonde hair and blue eyes. And neither one of us are afraid of bombs, bullets or calling you on your bullshit.”
Eric chuckled. “I guess I do have a type, but I have great taste.”
Tobin laughed. “I guess that would mean Alcide does too.”
I was holding out his coffee cup when he came around the corner. He kissed my cheek and smiled as he took it. “I do what?”
Eric fielded it. “Have a type. You like blonds with a great rack and a fiery temper.”
“Sweetie, you alright?”
“Pam tossed and turned all night again?”
He nodded. “I tried to come down to the couch and she caught me escaping and we fought for more than an hour. Could you hurry up?” He nodded towards my bump.
I looked at him with sympathetic eyes. I felt sorry for him. He was dealing with the worst parts of the pregnancy and wasn’t even the ‘guilty party’.
Jordie walked in with his usual chipper grin on his face. “Beautiful morning all! I hear the temperature isn’t supposed to get above 90 today. Perfect pool day!” He looked at Alcide and pouted his lip. “This might cheer you up.” He handed Alcide a large envelope so he started pulling the papers out. It was the adoption papers for Manen and Hunter. Their new birth certificates listed me as the mother and him as the father (vampires are still not legally allowed to adopt) and their new last names were Herveaux-Northman. I watched a smile spread across his lips. The adoption was final and full legal custody of the children was shared by all four of us. Jordie announced with joy: “They are officially children of the round table now.”
He handed the bundle of papers over to Eric who looked them over quietly until I told him that Jason and Janice had arrived. He put the papers down and came over to me. “Lover, I told you that we had time.” Then he planted a long kiss on me before going out to help bring Janice in. Alcide grunted.
I went over to Alcide and took his hand, leading him back to the den. “Beb, what’s wrong?”
“I know it sounds insensitive, but Pam’s a pain in the ass. She’s got no hormones to make her this crazy and you’re the one who’s about to pop yet she’s the one driving me bat shit.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “You’re right. It does sound insensitive.”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “You asked.”
“I’m sleeping with y’all tonight. You’ll sleep better because of me and I think that if the girls are doing their thing against her, then it might help Pam too.”
“Thanks, but why do you think it’ll help her?”
I looked up at him with my eyebrows drawn together. “Ever hear of phantom limb syndrome?”
“When people think they still feel an arm after it was amputated, right?”
I nodded. “Imagine having a body part that you know doesn’t work and never can and then one day you feel it move.”
Alcide’s mood changed. His frustration dissolved to make room for pity. “Shit, I hadn’t thought about it that way. This has got to be hard on her.”
“I hadn’t thought about it either. If I had, we would have just kept the family bed thing going like after the shooting.”
“Oh, I’m sure Eric would have loved that.”
“He’d have understood as long as it wasn’t every night. Oh, speak of the devil.” Eric was on his way in carrying Janice. “Alcide, do you want a ‘wake up’ or do you want to nap with me?”
He had a pitiful look on his face. “Will you nap with me? The wake ups work and all, but I miss dreaming.”
I smiled at him. “Yeah. Come on. I’ll finish the breakfast shift and then we’ll settle into the couch and you can nap.”
We walked into the kitchen where Tommy was watching Tobin dish out Janice’s breakfast onto a tray so that he could take it to her. Tommy’s job every morning was to carry Janice’s juice to her and then he’d come back to eat his own breakfast, usually ‘dropping’ some on the floor for Barkley (he’d named him after the dog on sesame street).
I went ahead and started cleaning up the breakfast dishes and pulled Alcide’s hair back.
Jason came through and stood at the counter while he ate quickly. “Last night after her shower, her BP was 140 over 90. She was light headed again too.”
“Don’t worry Jas. We’ll watch her. The weather is supposed to stay below 90 so I’m going to put her in the pool again. That helps her back and shoulders.”
He smiled at me. “She sleeps better too.”
“Ludwig says swim, we swim.”
“She’s getting meaner about her diet. Watch out.”
I laughed. “I know. Yesterday she called me an ‘unfeeling bitch’ because I put my foot down about her Big Mac attack.”
“Oh God, I’m sorry Sook. You know she doesn’t mean it.”
I know that. Especially since she cried for 20 minutes afterwards. It’ll all be fine in a few weeks. We just have to wait to make fun of her. Now get to work. I’ll call you if we need you.”
He kissed my cheek and went to the den to say goodbye to his enormous and cranky wife before going to work.
I put his plate in the dishwasher and then took my Alcide by the hand and went to the den.
“Good morning, Mrs. Stackhouse. How are you feeling today?”
“Enough like the Titanic that I’m scared of ice. How about you.”
I chuckled. She still had a sense of humor. “I feel like if I stand up too fast they’ll fall out of my belly button, but no luck yet.”
She laughed. “Let me know if it works. I’ll have to try it. What are y’all doing?”
“Your brother and I sleep better together. So we’re going to snuggle and nap for a while since you’re settled.”
“When do we expect Manen and Hunter back?”
“When I talked to Angela last night she said that they’d be back by lunch.”
“Did they have fun?”
“Yeah. Who wouldn’t? Those brats got a tour of the national zoo and natural history museum from the president and played soccer on the white house lawn with secret service agents. Angela is excited to get home and start scrapbooking the trip.”
Janice laughed and then winced. “I bet Spark and Stella will be happy to see them.”
“Yeah, they’ve been cagey without them here. Jeremy said that Spark has been laying down on the job for the last 3 days. He isn’t even barking when he’s supposed to.”
I laid back down on the couch facing the back and Alcide spooned in behind me with his arm resting on my now much wider side. No sooner than we got comfortable, Erika shifted under the weight.
He spoke in barely a whisper. “Are you comfortable?”
“How about them?”
“As comfy as sardines can be. How about you?”
“You know I am. I haven’t been since we left Phillie. What’s it been, 2 weeks now?”
I put my hand over his. “Yeah, but it’ll be better soon. We have Seattle next week.”
“I’m just glad you’re sleeping with us tonight. That’ll help.”
“Just get some sleep, sweetie.”
He was snoring within minutes and I was right behind him.
As I found my way to consciousness, I heard laughter. Pam, Eric and Janice’s to be specific. Eric had gotten a wake up and Janice was prone to highs and lows right now. It was Pam’s good mood that surprised me.
Alcide’s brain hadn’t engaged yet so, I decided to just relax and wait so that I didn’t disturb him. It turned out that Eric and Pam were both enjoying Janice’s stories about Alcide when he was younger. It turns out my best friend was prone to trouble making and had even been brought home by the police one night for being so bold as to climb up a tree to help a friend’s girlfriend sneak out. The girl was half way through the window when her father entered her room and the friends on the ground all scattered. He had also been grounded for a month for getting drunk at a dinner party his parents threw. His mother went to the kitchen to get dessert and wine, but didn’t find the wine until she heard a 14 year old Alcide and friends throwing up in the back yard garbage bins.
“Shut up Janice. Or I’ll tell them all about your first Mardi Gras.”
He snuggled closer to me and nuzzled my neck.
“Beb, it’s only fair. You owe her one. Tell me about Mardi Gras anyway.”
She threw something at us. It turns out it was an empty water bottle. I heard one of the dogs playing with it once it hit the floor. “Don’t you dare! I’ll tell them where you got your name from.”
“Haha! They already know that our freak job parents named us after vinyl records pulled at random at a swap meet.”
“I’ll tell them about that fight you had with dad.”
“Go ahead. I’ll tell them about…”
I patted his arm. “Sweetie, I still wanna hear about Mardi Gras.” Pam and Eric agreed.
Alcide laughed. “Well, you know how everyone gets drunk and girls flash their tits for beads.” He laughed again. “Like you did.”
I giggled. I might have been a little wild at Mardi Gras this year. “Yeah. Go on.”
“Well Janice wanted to go to Mardi Gras with her friends but mom and dad wouldn’t let her ‘cause she was only 17. Somehow, I became part of the bargain and I was supposed to be her watchdog. So we go and I’m the only guy with 5 girls right. The first night there, one of her friends, Maggie?”
“Mandy, you whore.”
He chuckled as he continued. “Mandy… pulls a bottle of schnapps out of her bag and decides we should drink, which led to Truth or Dare, which led to me getting lucky.” Alcide laughed into my ear. “The next night, her other friend found a guy to buy her a bottle of skanky cheap vodka that led to spin the bottle and… me getting lucky.”
“Can you even try to remember her name?” Janice wasn’t even making a gesture at hiding her bitterness.
“Missy! Butt wad!”
Alcide was laughing hard enough to shake us both. “Ok, so the next night, her friend CRISTY, Ha I know that one, decided that she wanted to go get herself some beads. But Janice was too shy so she stayed back at the hotel and I took her four friends to the parade. We came back drunk and covered in beads and I was… with Christy in the bathroom when she came looking for a fight. So she took off. Well, I went after her…”
“After you and my friend were done… like an hour later!”
He was laughing again. “When I found her, she was hanging from some sailor with a Pascagoula rocker on his uniform. I went over and told him that she was underage and when we were walking away, she flashed her tits at the float going by and her falsies went flying! She was so embarrassed that she threw up the hurricane the sailor bought her all over her feet.”
“When he got me back to the hotel I went straight to bed and he went straight to knocking boots with Darleen!”
I giggled and rubbed his arm. “Man whore.”
“Its not funny. All four of my friends stopped talking to me after that.”
“Janie, they stopped talking to you because you kept ragging on them for asking after me. Trust me. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Pam chimed in, still chuckling. “No, he knows what he’s doing.”
“Ew. Enough. What about you Sookie. I wanna here an embarrassing story about you.”
“Most of my stuff is a matter of public record.”
Alcide nudged me. “Come on. Shed some light about before any of us met you. Before you were Saint Sookie.”
“Hmmmm. Well, y’all know that Jason and I never really got along when we were kids. Well I was… 16 I guess. Must’ve been because Jason was a senior. Well, Gran made him invite me out with him one night to go to ‘the banks’. It’s where everybody that age hangs out behind the baseball fields along the creek. I had been drinking port wine and goldschlager and I started feeling sick so I stumbled back to the water and threw up. A lot. Well Jason had this new friend. His name was Marcus and he stumbled back to the creek to pee and saw me there. He held my hair and then gave me a stick of big red and we sat and talked for a while because I was too embarrassed to go back after getting sick. Before too long, my shirt was off and he was on top of me and we were making out, hot and heavy like. But the booze had started to wear off so I was starting to hear his thoughts again. He was thinking that in the dark I looked a little like Jason and he might be able to ignore my boobs enough to get by. I laughed and he got indignant and stomped off and THAT was the closest I got to having sex until I met Bill. With a guy who had a crush on my brother. There, happy?”
The room was completely silent for a moment until Alcide started chuckling and then everyone else started laughing.
“If y’all are going to laugh at me, y’all have to share too.” I had directed it at the vampires who’d been carefully taking notes.
Eric was being a wise acre. “There was this one time that I dressed in pink to take someone to an orgy and then didn’t get my reward.”
I heard him chuckling. “Lover, I rarely get embarrassed.”
“You’re no fun. I hereby ban you from embarrassing anecdote sharing, damned interloper!”
He laughed. “I could tell the story about Jackson and Bubba-interuptus.”
“Oh, you mean how you were being opportunistic and I woke up high on morphine with you on top of me?”
Alcide chuckled. “You never told me about that.”
“Oh yeah, that was a stellar couple of days. I turned you down, like an idiot. I turned Eric down, like an idiot and then Bill ended up with getting his way. I should have just played finger cuffs for y’all and let Bill rot. It woulda saved us all a lot of aggravation.”
“Lover, we still had another year before you’d get your head out of your ass.”
Alcide laughed and threw his leg over mine. “Run Eric! I’ve got her, but not for long!”
I laughed hard enough that it hurt my sides and it brought on another contraction. It sobered the mood quickly. Even though I was further along than a lot of moms get with twins, Erika was, indeed, low and breech. The scheduled c-section was going to be necessary.
“Guys, I’m fine. It was more of a cramp really. Calm down.”
Eric wasn’t buying it. He got up and came over to the couch we were on and leaned over the back. “Don’t lie. That one was no cramp. Are you ok?”
I smiled up at him. “The good thing about Braxton Hicks is that when they’re gone, everything is great. I should get a drink though.” Dr. Ludwig had said that staying hydrated would help. I was starting feel like I spent as much time peeing as drinking and both had become a large part of my day.
Alcide rolled off of the couch and helped me up. I started the long journey to the kitchen. I noticed that it was getting close to one o’clock now and decided to start making lunch. Eric, always watching for ways to help these days, started putting together a fruit salad after setting a pot of water on the stove for the pasta so that I wouldn’t have to lift it.
Alcide and Pam took a moment before joining us to make their apologies over their fight. I was happy to feel that she had ebbed her anger and frustration with him but Alcide is the good guy that always makes sure things are cleared up.
I had just pulled out my second water bottle and started chugging when the children stampeded through the garage door (yes 2 children can be considered a stampede when they bear that much energy and excitement). They rushed to me and gently hugged my belly and kissed both sides. Then moved on to great everyone else.
Manen looked up at me. “You’re fatter.”
I smiled at her while everyone got a laugh. “I missed you anyway, noodge.”
Angela came over and hugged my shoulders from behind. “Fun in the capitol, Poppet?”
“Oh yeah! It was very exciting. We learned all kinds of fun stuff. But watch out. Manen learned some new tricks at the zoo. I can see the headlines now: Panda Sighting in Shreveport!”
Hunter went out the back door without a word, calling the dogs as he slid it shut.
We were all catching up while Eric and I worked on putting together lunch when I had another sharp pain. He stopped cutting the apples and came over to me. He didn’t ask, he gently scooped me up and carried me back to the den to laid me on the couch. “Pam, stay with her.”
I didn’t even have the chance to argue, not that I would have. That one hurt like hell and it held on longer than usual. I was starting to think that Seattle wasn’t going to be happening. “Pam,” She gave me a dirty look. “Settle down. I just want my water.”
She frowned apologetically and got up to go get it for me, returning in seconds. Janice’s head was laid back from having dozed off and she was snoring fiercely. I motioned for Pam to lay down with me. Since I was here anyway, I figured that she might as well get to do the heartbeat pillow thing. For months now, that was a common past time for her, Alcide and Eric. During quiet moments, when I was resting, they would rest their heads on my belly and they could hear the girls’ hearts pumping. She had been laying there for several minutes when I had another pain. Pam looked up at me with panic in her eyes while I breathed through it. Eric rushed into the room.
“Lover, how are you dealing with this?”
I looked up at him with all seriousness. “I think it would be smart for us to start keeping track of them again. And do what Dr. Ludwig said.”
He kissed my forehead. “I’ll get a plate ready for you.” I smiled at him as he turned to go finish with making lunch.
Dr. Ludwig had told us, when contractions started, to change what I was doing. If they stopped, then it was false labor, if they kept up, then it was ‘go time’.
Another 11 minutes went by before I had another one. This one was pretty miserable as far as I could compare them. It made Pam clench her jaw and I heard Eric calling Dr. Ludwig in the kitchen. Alcide brought a plate and a beer to me and helped sit me up.
“How ya doing, Shug?”
I smiled at him. “You know what, I love that you ask. I’m ok. The cramps aren’t too bad. I’m just worried about the timing.”
He raised his eyebrow at me. “You lying because I can’t tell otherwise?”
I giggled. “No. That’ll come later.” I blew him a kiss and he smiled at me.
Eric came in and put his elbows on the back of the couch and watched me eat a few bites. “Dr. Ludwig informs me, we should keep an eye on things and when you have 6 in under an hour to call her and she’ll meet us at the hospital. We are to do our best to keep you sedate. She wants you to brew for as long as possible.”
“Ok, I can chill out.”
I felt worry hit the bond. “You aren’t going to argue? You aren’t going to demand I let you finish a list of chores?”
“Um. I guess you could consider this an inconvenience of convenience.” I shrugged. “I scrubbed the house top to bottom yesterday and got every stitch of laundry done. My big plan for today is tanning by and in the pool.”
Pam half smiled at me. “Are you sure swimming is a good idea?”
I put my hand on hers, giving it a pat. “Not swimming, Pammy. Floating. It’s no different, activity wise, than laying on the couch.” She smiled.
I had to make Alcide go get something to eat, but he brought it back to the den. I waited another hour and I still hadn’t had any more cramps. So I had Pam help me and Janice into our bathing suits.
Janice gave me several evil glares. Her bathing suit was a pair of yoga shorts and a tank top because she was too big for a bathing suit and too self conscious of her stretch marks for a bare belly. My bathing suit was a cute little pink camouflage string bikini. Sure I was huge, but I had escaped (probably thanks to the healing thing) stretch marks and while she dressed, she hissed at me.
Janice had developed a new appreciation for Eric. Over the last month she had started coming over to spend the day so that she could have help with Tommy and not be lonely. Dr. Ludwig had bed rested her. Jason and Alcide are plenty strong enough to carry her, but Eric was the only one strong enough to not let her ‘sag’. She had gotten to the point of waiting for him to be available to be moved around. She gave poor Alcide a complex when Eric went to DC for two days last week. She was snippy and short with him. “When Eric gets home, maybe he can show you how to do it right!”
It took Pam and I half an hour to convince him how great he is, once the dragon was sleeping, that is.
Of course it was no blow Eric’s ego that she preferred his technique to anyone else’s. Vain ass vampire.
The weather outside was miserable. The whole summer had been the same. It felt like it was 200% humidity and the temperature was through the roof. Thank God we had the pool put in. I’ve been floating for even tanning and swimming laps for exercise and I’d have gone crazy this summer without it.
Eric carried Janice, Alcide carried me and Pam held our floats still while the guys carefully placed us like they were handling dynamite. Huh, in Janice’s case, they kind of were.
Pam swam around Janice and I like a shark, making sure she wasn’t more than a couple of feet away at any time and Alcide and Eric played at the other end of the pool with the kids. Every half an hour Alcide’s watch alarm would go off to let me know to ‘FLIP’.
Eric swam under the dividing rope and popped up right in front of me, surprising me with a kiss. “It’s almost 6. What would you have us do about dinner, Lover?”
“I want seafood. How about we get Chinese? Then you don’t get stuck with the dinner shift to.”
He kissed me again. “You can eat dinner in the den and then watch a movie and retire early?”
“You’re the man with a plan… You still taking the kids ‘camping’?”
“Unless you prefer I don’t.”
“No, it’ll be fun for them. I don’t want them to start resenting the girls. This is probably nothing. If it turns into something, you’ll still be close enough that I can ‘call’ you.”
He smiled at me to mask that he was disappointed with my selflessness. He wanted me to ask him to stay in the house tonight. I would have been a bitch to do it though. When he takes the kids ‘camping’ they saddle up the horses and take the dogs and sleeping bags to the pond just to sleep under the stars. He’d be so close that he could be home in minutes if anything were to happen.
“Would you like to get down into the water?”
Of course I would. I felt like a swollen piece of sausage sizzling on a griddle. I rolled over and into the water and he hugged my back to him and lazily swam around the deep end carrying me in a lifeguard’s hold as I rested my head on his shoulder.
When Jason got back from work, he took his boots and shirt off and dove right in, jeans and all, taking a lap or two underwater before joining Janice to help her float around a little too.
He looked over at me and Eric and stopped swimming. “You’re contracting again?”
I nodded. “I had a few, so I’m taking it easy.”
“What’d the doc say?” He was staring at me with narrowed eyes.
“Why? What do you know?” I was starting to get frustrated with my precognition. I would get a flash of a phone call a moment before it happened or a random glimmer of 5 years from now. I’d gotten plenty of, random flashes that didn’t seem to be very helpful unless it pertained to other people. Getting shot, nothing. Going into labor, nothing. Total pisser, if you ask me.
“Uh, I don’t know anything. I just have a feeling you’re gonna go soon.”
Eric was still hoping for a reason to stay home. “How strong is your feeling? Any idea how soon?”
“I took tomorrow off.”
Pam and Eric both shared a look. I laughed. “Well, that settles it then.”
“What’s settled, Lover?”
“The when. You don’t have to be as patient as you thought.” I kissed his cheek and he gave me a nervous grin.
I had to stifle the panic attack that was trying to bubble up. Sure, I know that everything will work out. Sure, I know that women have babies all of the time. Sure, I know that according to Jason, it’ll all be over soon, but our ‘special circumstances’ were making me second guess having bonded with Pam. I knew this was going to be hard on me, but I was starting to feel like I would be her albatross. Eric had no choice in the matter. He’ll feel this just like he felt every bit of the bullet in my back. He must have apologized a million times for not being able to remove the bullet himself, but the pain of the bullet moving was too much of a distraction. I had to think about something else. “Who’s going to order dinner?”
Alcide cut his eyes at me. He could tell that my mood was off but he swam for the side of the pool as he volunteered anyway, then climbed out to towel off. “Dragon Phoenix and Hunan scallops?”
I smiled just thinking about it. “A hundred egg rolls, crab Rangoon and dim sum.”
He laughed. “Nice to see your nerves aren’t affecting your appetite, lunch box.”
“LUNCH BOX!? You jerk! I’m eating for 3!”
“So before, you were… practicing?”
“Oh, you’re gonna get it! As soon as I get my speed back, you’re toast.” I was joking, of course.
He sat down after making a ‘ooh, I’m scared’ gesture and took a sip of his beer while he dialed his phone. I blew him a kiss and he returned it.
I turned to Eric to let him know that I was going to pop upstairs for a shower and then to the den. Then I did just that.
I took a long cool shower using my favorite relaxing body wash, then sat on the edge of the tub to moisturize before taking the few steps to my dresser to grab one of the many pajama sets that I got for a shower gift. I picked a pink knit cami and short set with a matching short robe. Then I popped down to the den where Jason was lowering Janice back onto her place on the couch. She was complaining that he was doing it wrong and called for Eric.
I laughed and she snapped at me. “It’s not funny. He doesn’t care enough to try!”
Eric and Alcide were both coming into the room to see what she’d wanted when I answered her. “Yes, he does care. He cares enough to keep trying in spite of how mean you’ve been to him. This isn’t his fault. Try to be more patient.”
She snorted at me as I strategically lowered myself to ‘chill position’. “This is his fault…”
“Stop… I’ve had enough. If you want to joke about getting indigestion after you eat food Jason doesn’t like being his fault, that’s fine. The bed rest and the swelling and everything else are no more his fault than global warming. He didn’t plan your complications. He didn’t plan any of this. Do you think he likes worrying about you and seeing how miserable you are?”
She retreated into weepy and apologetic. “I’m sorry Jason.” She was crying when he sat next to her and shot me a thankful look as he put his arm around her. I gave him a ‘you’re welcome’ wink.
Eric sat down at my feet and started giving me a foot rub. My eyes rolled back in my head. It almost felt as good as sex. We sat there like that for half an hour or so. The kids had joined us in the den to watch TV while we waited for dinner to arrive. Barkley, Spark and Stella were on the floor next to the couch. We were all relaxed and feeling fine, until I had another cramp, causing both Eric and I to grunt. I didn’t like the look in his eyes. I knew all too well what a punch in the stomach felt like, and this was close. Not the actual punch, mind you, just the ache left behind.
I grinned at him when it was over. “See, this is why a c-section is better for us. All better.”
He didn’t say anything, just stared at me like I remember he had when he brought me home from Jackson and I was beaten in an ambush. He had taken who knows how many bullets but he looked down at me and my bruises with sympathy. It made me wish that I could control the bond. I’d shut it down.
“Lover, don’t think that. I’m allowed to worry about you.”
We sat quietly with our angst until Alcide appeared with two plates of food for me. One was piled high with rice and seafood dishes and the other was full of appetizers. I plowed through it all in no time, washing it all down with several beers. An outsider would have thought they were watching me train for competitive eating. While I was still working through my dinner, like a combine works through a corn field, Dagny and Erika started boxing. It was Hunter’s favorite time of day. He put one hand on each of the girls and waited for them to act up. They were most active after dinner. It made me laugh that they were already night owls like us.
After they were done eating, Jason took Janice, Tommy and Barkley home. He kissed my cheek and told me to call him often tomorrow.
Eric looked at me with sad eyes as the kids started asking to go to their camping spot. “Eric, go. I’ll call you right away. I swear. I’m going to bed when you go.”
He leaned over and kissed my neck. “I’ll worry all night.”
I grinned a little. “You’d do that here.” He was frowning as he left the room to help the kids to pack their snack and some drinks for the night.
I was standing up to go upstairs when he came back to kiss me goodnight. Pam, Alcide and I said goodnight to everybody and then Alcide carried me up to their room.
I scooted over to where Pam was laying until the bump was right up against her stomach. Dagny gave a squirm almost instantly, making Pam smile. Alcide scooted into the bed behind me, groaning like he was laying his head on his favorite pillow. Let’s face it. I AM his favorite pillow. He says he looks forward to our court circuit because of how much better he sleeps when he’s with me. I don’t know what it is, but I feel the same way. It’s impossible to try to describe, we’ve both tried. Even without having sex, we feel that way. Eric chalks it up to ‘our special bond’ and has called me Alcide’s maker from time to time.
By 10pm we were laying there in the quiet, snuggled together. Alcide was the first to slip away; he was snoring within just a few minutes. I watched Pam fight the losing battle with her eyelids and slowly nod off with a blissful looking grin on her face. The white noise of Alcide’s snoring helped me drift off not long after that.