I groaned, finding his hand with mine and lacing our fingers together. “Yeah, Beb?”
“You alright?” He sounded, felt worried.
“Yeah. I’m fine… except I’m trying to remember the last time you woke me up.”
“Sookie, the bed is wet.”
Confusion hit me and I even looked around to see if one of the dogs had climbed into bed with us and drooled… When I sat up, I felt like I was weighed down… another gush of water…
“Sookie, your water broke.” Alcide was in full panic now.
My water? I looked down and my previously contented rest was over… I was right back to looking and feeling as pregnant as I was just a couple of miserable weeks ago, but I wasn’t in Alcide’s bed with him and Pam… “Alcide, where are we?”
The way his face contorted… He reached up and cradled my face in his hands. “Sookie, you’re scaring me. We’re at Margaux’s. We’ve been here for 3 days. Are you alright?”
I closed my eyes, shaking my head. Last night, Fangtasia, we had a case, we came home, Eric went to share blood… I went to bed with Alcide and Pam. “Alcide, I don’t…” I was interrupted with the sudden, intense pain of a contraction that I didn’t remember from having the girls… If the girls had waited, we’d have been in Seattle… not San Francisco. I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on…
Without looking behind him, he fumbled for his phone on the nightstand and he was dialing Ludwig…
“This better be good, Wolf. I’ll seriously order a sedative…”
“Sookie’s water broke. She’s… She’s not with it. She doesn’t know where we are.”
“Where’s the vampire?”
“In Shreveport. We’re still at court in Frisco.” I was still trying to figure out why everyone seemed alright with the idea that I’m not where I’m supposed to be… and still pregnant.
“Is there any blood in the water?”
Alcide pulled back the sheets and moved away, leaving my back with a sudden chill. “Negative, just water.”
“Get her in a cab and get her to the hospital. You’re going to have to monitor her somehow. I don’t know of any Supe doctors out there, you’ll have to spread word on your own.”
Alcide snapped his phone shut as he barked a ‘fuck me’… “Sookie, can you get up? I need to dress you.”
I sat up completely but slowly, in spite of another really hard contraction. “Alcide, I… I’m scared. I don’t understand what’s going on.”
He’d bounced from the bed as soon as the contraction was over and started yanking on a pair of jeans from the floor. “That’s not cool… You’re supposed to keep me calm, remember?”
“I… I got in bed with you because Eric was dealing with Keva and… Whoa!”
“Shit! Another one!?” He was on his knees in front of me, holding me up…
“Alcide, I already had the girls! A week ago! What’s going on?”
“A week ago? Sookie, Erika and Dagny are… Shug, they’re walking… We just had their birthday party last month.”
All we could do is stare… He was sure I had gone crazy and I couldn’t understand how I missed it. Missed it all… This must be the boys then… But how?…
I was suddenly praying that I wasn’t under some horrible spell… suddenly all too sympathetic to Eric’s amnesia after the fact… I had the horrible feeling that something was affecting my memory…
I was already crying when I was hit with another contraction… and Alcide’s phone rang…
Even with 1500 miles between us… Eric knew something was dreadfully wrong.
I gripped Alcide’s shoulders like a vice through two more contractions while he explained what was going on to Eric in a panic… all as he tried to dress me.
I did my best to walk out of the room, but we were only halfway to the door when my knees buckled… another hard one… and this time… this time there was an undeniable pressure…
Panic was setting in. Not just fear and confusion… I was going to have to have to… oh hell. “Alcide… Alcide… I can’t…”
“Shug, we have to get you to a hospital.”
“There isn’t time.”
His eyes said it all. There wasn’t any way for either of us to be more scared…
“The mess… Shit. We’re in a vampire’s house… Get me to the tub?”
Everything about him stopped for a minute before he nodded and we changed our course…
I watched the water fill the tub… holding Alcide’s watch as he went for help… hoping to find someone with any kind of medical training… he’d have been happy to find a guard who’d seen an episode of Rescue Me or ER…
By the time he got back alone… the water was up to my belly button and the pressure was getting worse… 4 contractions later… only a minute in between…
“The day girl called 9-1-1… and they’re… one of the neighbors is a… A fucking vet…”
The look on his face… I started laughing… I couldn’t help it… at least he had experience with mammals…
“How are you doing?”
I shook my head. “Alcide, why did we come? Why would we travel? When is my due date?”
He looked worried again. I still had no idea what was going on. “You’re due in two weeks… We saw Ludwig before we left to make sure… you weren’t dilated at all… no reason to think you’d go early… Margaux was going to have it at the Round Table, but she had that coup… the docket was jammed. It was easier to come here.”
I started laughing in spite of a biting pain… “The first of October? We should have known better.”
I barely nodded… bracing my feet against the other end of the tub… “Alcide?”
“Oh fuck. Now!?”
All I could do is nod… anything else would’ve hurt.
He let go of my hand and reached between my legs, cringing at the idea of hurting me. “Holy shit! Shug! His head! His head is right there!”
There was no denying that, but before I had the chance to snap at him with ‘no shit, Sherlock’, I was feeling it again… the urge to push…
Without a word, Alcide kicked his shoes off and got into the tub facing me… on his knees… resting my feet on his thighs then taking both of my hands…
I felt like I was pushing forever… completely unprepared… something told me that we’d been planning on another c-section…
I watched the white’s of Alcide’s eyes turn red as his tears fell. He let go of my hands and reached into the water, pulling out the most beautiful little man…
Little rolls of pudge on his legs and neck… thick dark curls… Alcide stretched over to the counter for a washrag and cleaned his mouth out and then wiped his face…
He hovered, setting the baby on my chest, kissing us both on the cheek. “Kerrick?”
I nodded, getting a good, long look at his face… “Definitely a Herveaux. He’s beautiful.”
Alcide climbed out of the tub long enough to grab a towel to wrap him in.
“Shug, do you remember anything? Is anything coming back to you?”
I shook my head, still weepy from the culmination of one hell of a half hour. “No. The last thing I remember is laying down with you and Pam… It must’ve been last year.”
He stared at me blankly for a minute before he tried to shake how worried he was. “How are you doing? Any more contractions?”
“Yeah, but not so bad. We might have a little bit. I don’t know… Have I gotten any hints about this?”
He shook his head and looked completely defeated.
“Alcide, I’m sorry…”
He shook his head again. “Don’t Shug, we’ll figure this out.”
I was pushing again by the time Margaux’s ‘day girl’ showed the paramedics into the bathroom.
The first one knelt next to the tub, gently taking Kerrick from my chest and passing him to his partner… He immediately slipped a blood pressure cuff onto my arm and started asking Alcide a barrage of questions…
The pushing seemed easier this time… it didn’t seem to go on as long…
Our tears started all over again as Alcide lifted Rhys out of the water and laid him on my chest.
Identically plump and healthy… a robust squall as soon as the EMT suctioned his mouth clear… His brother hadn’t made a peep at Alcide’s washrag technique. A daddy’s boy already…
The paramedic held out another towel after a moment so I lifted Rhys so that he could be looked over and his cord could be taken care of… I was more concerned with my ‘health’. The boys were healthy as horses… I was worried about explaining why I was already healing…
I reached out… Hoping that one of the EMTs might possibly be some fraction supernatural…
They both seemed to notice…
Their eyes met mine…
The one closer to us seemed disappointed… “Sorry, majesty. Niall’s orders.”
They both popped… and took the boys with them.
Alcide and I both woke up clutching each other… still crying, covered in sweat…
Eric and Pam were wearing matching looks of concern from their perches on the other side of the bed… Pam and Alcide’s bed…
It had been a dream… All of it…
I opened my mouth, unsure of whether to laugh or cry and had the sudden urge to be sick…
I bolted over Alcide to get to the bathroom, barely making it to the toilet in time…
I was still crying when I got back to the room. Alcide was sitting on the side of the bed with his head in his hands, answering most of the questions I had… he’d seen it all too.
All it took was my hand on his shoulder and he pulled me down to his lap and swallowed me in his arms.
Eric and Pam were faking patience and it seemed like every time we might be ready to say something we let ourselves get scared all over again…
We were still trying to separate our reality from our ‘dream’, but Alcide finally pulled his face away from my neck enough to speak. “Niall’s ass is mine.”
Eric suddenly felt like he was on a warpath. His end of the bond might as well have been a river of blood and Faerie dust. … “We’ve been trying to wake you for an hour. What’s happened? Have you seen a preview?”
I didn’t move. “Beb, was I confused in yours?”
“No, I was.”
Eric was doing his best to seem gentle… “Not to push, but…”
Not wanting to put Alcide through seeing it all again, I slowly inched out of his lap and sat clear of him. I took a hand from Pam and Eric… never planning on watching ‘it’ again if I didn’t have to…
By the time the preview had played out… in living color and more vividly than any other preview we’d gotten so far… I was worried that my hands wouldn’t work again anytime soon from the iron grip I was getting from both sides…
I climbed right back into Alcide’s lap while Eric and Pam seemed to be wrestling with the same horrified mood.
There might as well have been a funeral happening…
“We need a plan.”
Eric agreed with Alcide with a nod. “Without a doubt.”
None of us had left the bed. Our only change was that when Pam started to comfort Alcide, I moved to Eric’s lap… They were feeling as helpless as we were, but it hadn’t been as real for either of them because they had known what they were seeing wasn’t ‘live’.
“Shug, was that what your Madden preview was like? That real?”
I shook my head. “No. That wasn’t a preview… I think that was… A warning… I think it was Claudine.”
Eric started stroking my back. “Neither of us have had a preview that was so realistic… and you both… you saw it from your own perspectives…”
I finished. “If I had been projecting it to you, you’d have seen it the same way I did.”
Alcide started to nod gradually. “Like when I saw the other stuff… I saw myself, but not you.”
Pam was trying her damnedest to stay calm, but she’d even cried a terrified tear or two. “Why the boys? Why wait for the boys? He could try to take the girls… the triplets… What the fuck could he be planning?”
Eric seemed to be the only one of us willing to answer her, willing to voice the answer. “If Claudine is warning us now, then he has insight about them. A plan… he’d be willing to wait a year… the boys could start fathering Fae in as soon as 15 years and could impregnate every female Sky Fae every year for… perpetually… in 50 years he would have an army of hundreds of Sookie’s grandchildren. Even if each one only inherited one of her powers…”
Pam sounded like she was going to be sick. “…the question isn’t what he would do; it would be what he would do first.”
“What time is it? Where are the kids?”
“Lover, it’s only now 8 o’clock. They aren’t awake yet… When you and Alcide started panicking in your sleep, Pam worried and sent for me.”
“Hunter was communicating with Claudine before.”
Alcide started shaking his head. “Should we even talk to him though? This could get ugly and if Niall finds out that Claudine is working against him… She could end up ascending ahead of schedule.” He’d blame himself if anything happened to her.
I suddenly got a hard lump in my throat. Claudine’s faerie-godmother jokes had always made me laugh. She’d never granted a wish or anything… but she had always been more of a guardian angel… and she did the job well. She’d been watching out for me and warning me for a while now… And Niall would kill her if he found out about this.
I bit the bullet and dialed my less heavenly cousin…
“Do you have any idea how early it is for me?”
“I wouldn’t call if it weren’t important. I need to talk to Claudine.”
He grunted quietly, more than likely shaking the cobwebs off. He was still while he processed what I’d said. “You and me both.”
“Not just because I miss her, Claude… I’m pretty sure she sent me a message. I need to talk to her without Niall finding out. She may very well get herself killed trying to help us.”
“What do you mean a message?… Popping over in 10. Great room?”
“Thank you, Claude.”
Alcide and I didn’t even bother showering. None of us did. We made ourselves decent and headed for the kitchen.
Tobin and Jordie were ‘in their office’ and had already started a pot of coffee and set out the continental breakfast spread we were supposed to eat on our way to the airport. They could both tell something was ‘wrong’, but stayed watchful rather than asking…
By the time I’d collected myself enough to remember that we’d planned to go to DC to look at the house we wanted, Eric was on the phone to the pilot, letting him know about the change of plans and reminding him about his flight to California tomorrow… then the Clark’s to tell them that he’d wire the money for asking price to them as long as the stained glass fixtures were included and they allowed an inspection of the house… We’d just worry about the rest of the details later.
Claude popped in pajama pants and a tank top that he probably had to dig for. Something made me sure he wasn’t much for nightclothes considering he wasn’t much for clothes in general.
“I planned on fighting with you the next time I saw you, Cousin.”
I snorted, barely in the mood for him at all. “Why is that?”
“Because I’m not sure I think it’s ok to laugh that you’re selling Fae blood at your club… so I figured I’d pretend to be indignant about it. Nice profit you’re turning.”
I actually cracked a smile with the rest of my family. “It’s even funnier when you think that I use an ability Niall provided to brew it.”
He started chuckling quietly. “Yes, it is… Now, family business; you think you got a message from Sister. What’s happened?”
“Alcide and I were asleep and got a very detailed vision. It was more than a standard precognition. We were both seeing the same event from our own viewpoint and it was real, detailed. A normal preview for me is more like an edited memory. Scenes put together… this was like it was happening and neither of us were conscious of what was going on in our own version…”
“What was it of?”
“A year from now, we’re expecting… confirmed by other previews we’ve had… another set of twins. Alcide and I saw the birth, lived through the birth, felt everything down to the water in the tub… and then the babies were taken by the ‘ambulance workers’… They only said ‘sorry majesty, Niall’s orders’.”
He gave a sarcastic nod. “Mazel tov… What’s different about them… compared to the princesses?”
“They’re boys and they’re going to be…”
“Because they’re Fae males, their powers will be physically stronger. That prick…” He’d put it all together quickly. “…It’s bad enough to use us as pawns in his ridiculous power game… stealing infants on their birthday… I’m in.”
All six of us stared at him. That was the last thing any of us expected to hear from him. Eric seemed to ‘check his hearing’. “You’re in?”
Claude nodded. “I’m done. As much as I hate the idea of taking part in this queer political sham… he’s lost his shit, so it seems… Claudine IS risking her life to intervene. If it isn’t this birth he hijacks, he could wait for them to increase. That underhanded bastard could lay in wait indefinitely…”
He started pulling on his bottom lip, pacing the floor slowly. He seemed to be deep in thought and finally turned to Eric.
“Would you be willing to care for Claudine? She’s anointed herself as your family’s keeper and if things don’t go well, I might not be able to.”
Eric’s eyebrows went up, nearly disappearing into his hairline. ‘Surprised’ didn’t cover it. “Sookie has to glamour me so that your scent isn’t a problem.”
“Sookie can cloak though, yes? She could bestow that gift to Claudine.”
“She would be in constant company of vampire though. Would she have the stamina to maintain the cloak for her safety?”
Claude went back to pacing and pulling his lip, shaking his head… “You have guest houses.”
Eric nodded. “We do. She’d be in relative seclusion and we could have a witch bind her unit so that she is safe from vampire within it. If something happens to you, she has a home here.”
Claude smiled his wide stripper grin and slapped Eric’s shoulder. “Perfect! Are the four of you comfortable following my lead?”
Alcide spoke up finally. “We want Niall. He plans to exploit, abuse and fuck over our family.”
Claude was still smiling, but now it was more sinister. “Fucking gift wrapped, but I want a seat… And just a tip… Country Time.”
Alcide’s head tilted. “Lemonade?”
“The powdered drink mix… Burns like a mother fucker but doesn’t kill us. It contains a chemical facsimile to lemon… not actual lemon.”He followed his little household tip with a wink.
Alcide and Eric started chuckling like Lucifer himself. Eric was still smirking… “So what do you have in mind?”
“First, we call Ripley’s, Believe It Or Not…”
We all agreed that it was most likely a universal ‘first’ that Fae, Vampire and Were would be working together towards any goal in our own ways.
“…We need to get your kids out of Dodge so that we can have a meeting. I need to summon Ardea, Kai and Varun and let them know that I’m declaring myself King of the clan and intend to end the realm and treaty a peace.”
Holy shit. “How? You realize that you’d end up on the council, right?”
He nodded. “It won’t be difficult. The other clans haven’t warred with each other in so long that their metaphorical doors are rusted open. As for the council, the job will be less tedious for me since I don’t have a family to leave behind and it’s better than seeing him ruin the rest of us.”
Claude went home to put on his ‘insurrection’ outfit, silly prima-donna that he is.
I called Jason to fill him in and he planned on being ‘right over’.
Eric called Joss about taking the kids to her house for the day and we all heard Gamma say that now wasn’t soon enough.
Pam went to wake up the ‘Dae-teens’ and shoo them off to the mall, or the movies, wherever they wanted to go as long as it wasn’t home.
Diantha refused to leave at first. She wanted to help and it took Eric to make her realize that he needed her to take care of Daveigh and Desmond.
While Pam and Eric woke Manen and Hunter, Alcide and I found ourselves in the nursery, tending to the princesses and packing their diaper bag. The two of us worked silently for a while before he said anything.
We were each holding one… both of them lighter than their brothers had felt. “It makes me wonder if we should even have them.”
My tears were instant. “We can’t think like that. We’ve been through a lot. We have to be positive. We know… we saw them…”
“But we can’t be sure that we’re doing things right.”
“Granted, but things have worked out so far.”
“I felt them.”
My tears started falling a little faster. “Me too.”
“Smelled them…” He cleared the lump in his throat. “…This isn’t fair.”
“I know. 40 weeks was long enough…”
“…55 is going to seem like forever.”
I managed to laugh a little. “Then one day we’ll look back and wonder where the year went.”
His eyebrows twitched. “Hopefully it isn’t like it was this morning… I know he’s your grandfather and all…”
“No. We both know what a real grandparent is. I tried. I gave him a chance. All he’s ever cared about is my powers. You and Eric were right about him all along and missing Gran was the only reason… I never should have trusted him.”
“You don’t blame Eric for the introduction, do you?”
“Not in a million years. Think about it. What would I have done when Niall eventually came to me on his own? He’d have told me that Eric refused him. I’d have gone nuts, pushed Eric further away. Eric told me that night that he didn’t trust Fae. He only allowed the introduction because he knew how I felt about Gran, how much I missed her.”
Alcide nodded slowly. “And it would have undone everything. All of this, all of us.”
“Without Niall’s curiosity, he wouldn’t have unbound my powers… we… the kids wouldn’t exist.”
“I can’t say that it really matters, Shug. He won’t be popping home tonight.”
Having overheard our conversation with Claude, Jordie and Tobin disappeared only saying that they’d be back in a couple of hours and to call them if we needed anything. As nicely as he could, Eric told them that we’d rather they weren’t part of the fray… But when Jordie reminded us that he could sap the powers away from specific Supes Pam hugged him and kissed the top of his head.
The sight of our Semi-Dae blushing gave us all a little grin.
Once the kids had left with Joss and Gamma, and Angela went to help Janice with the triplets, nerves took me to the kitchen. After the ‘breakfast’ was put away (only the kids had eaten) I started cooking nervously.
By the time I’d put together baked apples, brownies, and a cake, Eric came over to me. He pulled me away from my busy work gently and wrapped his arms around me.
…And popped us to our room.
“Lover, you haven’t said a word or had a single feeling in more than two hours. Not since you left the nursery. You and Alcide have yet to eat or drink the first thing.”
I stared at him, not knowing where to start. I couldn’t pick which thing needed to be said or felt first.
“Everything is going to be fine.”
This wasn’t any time for empty promises. “How? Eric, Niall is…”
“I know everything is going to be fine.”
I shook my head out of pure uncertainty.
“You know it too.”
“We’re summoning a Faerie prince to kill him in our home. Too many things could go wrong.”
“Even if we set aside our pleasant flashes of this Christmas, the boys first runs and baptisms, a holiday gathering several decades away… you have to understand that Alcide and I won’t let anything happen to our children.”
“Those previews could be undone. Eric, with the exception of the holy-shit distant future preview, all of them were had before Niall left his realm. There have been 3 days since that precognition. Claudine wouldn’t have sat on that information for any length of time.”
“Neither will we. This will all be taken care of tonight.”
I started crying all over again. This was hitting me so much harder than any other threat had. This wasn’t anything like the other times when a friend was a target or even me. This was my children. My own blood had planned to take our children from us. To use them. To keep them from us. Niall was so heartless and cruel… that he would take them on the day they were born. No wonder Fintan bound us. He had to know how powerful we would be. He had to know how much Niall would want us. “Eric, I’m just so sick of this. Why the hell can’t we get any peace?”
“Lover, we will. Niall is the only one who refuses to play nice. After tonight, there is no resistance to the peace we all want… the peace you deserve. We won’t let Niall last long enough to hurt our boys.”
“You know how I worry. It’s going to go on until it’s over.”
He nodded, knowing that I don’t worry over little things anymore. He wasn’t going to be able to talk me out of panicking over this. “Before everyone gets here, I need to know. Will you resent me? Alcide and I have no intention of letting him leave.”
I shook my head. “No. I want it done. I need it to be done. He can’t be left to plot and scheme. He can’t be left to make his power-mongering plans for our grandchildren… Not a one of our children end up with human spouses… all of our grandchildren will be strong enough to be a temptation for him.”
“You won’t be angry or remorseful?”
“Eric, you and Alcide need to understand that is the last thing I’ll be feeling.”
Claude and Jason were waiting in the lounge by the time I was done with showering and getting dressed. I was still so distracted that Eric had to point out that I was still in my pajamas at 7 o’clock.
Alcide was fresh from his shower and Eric was setting sandwiches and beer out for both of us, reminding us that being weakened by hunger didn’t fit into our plans.
Claude spent more than a little amount of time congratulating Jason on fatherhood, but by the time Alcide and I were done eating, Jordie and Tobin had come in with fistfuls of bags.
With nothing more than a nod the pair started quietly unloading the bags onto the kitchen counter and pulling out mixing bowls.
Jordie only spoke once and that was to suggest that Claude ignore his curiosity enough to stand back when he pulled a sack of lemons from one of the grocery bags.
While Tobin mixed together a thick paste of Country Time and water…
Jordie squeezed the lemons and used MoonSand to make his concoction…
They both dug into the bags again to pull out boxes of Christmas ornaments, then they found the sandwich bags and loaded them to start filling the ornaments as though they were piping icing onto a cake and replacing the little caps. Tobin’s mix went into red ornaments, Jordie’s went into gold.
Claude finally asked.
“What are those?”
Tobin barely glanced up from his task. “Grenades.”
“Anti Faerie grenades?”
Jordie nodded. “The powder could be inhaled. The juice could splatter. That’s why we’re stabilizing them. If they’re needed, there is less risk for the other Faeries in the room.”
“Why not just cut a lemon?”
“Because if he tried to bolt…”
Alcide finally said something, growled rather. “Not tonight he won’t.”
We didn’t waste any time, but we did thank our ‘Day Guys’ for their inspired ideas…
With only a few minutes left before Ardea, Kai and Varun were due to arrive, Claude and I went into the back yard alone. Alcide and Eric nervously paced at the back door as I expected they would.
“Have you not used your summoning ability before?”
I shook my head. “I didn’t realize I could. Why haven’t you? I mean, you know what Claudine has been going through.”
“She wants to please Niall. She wants to be more than just Faerie. I’ve never done anything to interfere, but if she’s sending you a warning, she’s given up on being ‘the good one’.”
I nodded, trying to ignore the worried knot in my stomach. “How do we do this?”
“It’s very simple. Focus on her and pull as you would use your telepathy. It won’t be as passive as saving a search for your TV remote though.”
“You’re making jokes?”
“Only to keep me from thinking about what we’re doing.”
“Are you having second thoughts about killing him?”
“No second thoughts. I’m not killing anyone. Your husbands are. I’m looking out for Sister.”
I snorted at him. “My husbands? Don’t be a jerk.”
“Both of them love you and their children enough to die. Call it what you want, Cousin, but you’ve got two of them… Are you ready?”
I nodded, unwilling to have a semantic argument. “Yeah. We need to hurry. We have 4 vampires in the guesthouses. I want to get her inside before they rise.”
He smiled and took my hands to hold them out like we were about to dance a ‘ring around the rosie’.
When Claude cued me to focus on her, the first thought I had was the sound she made, popping into the front seat of my car to save me from dozing off behind the wheel. Startled as I was at the time, her help wasn’t escaping me. Claudine had been keeping me alive for a while and to know that all this time I could have pulled her out of ‘the realm’ made me disappointed in myself. Just thinking about what she’s put herself through…
It didn’t seem like we’d been ‘pulling’ for long before the pop we’d been waiting for opened our eyes in an instant to gaze on the sad sight between us. She must’ve aged a decade since January. Her eyes were missing the sparkle they once had. Her cheeks seemed to be sunken and her hair didn’t look like it had gotten any attention in days. Once envious of her beauty, I found myself only piteous for her at that moment.
She looked confused for a bit before she lunged at Claude, giddy and telling him how much she missed him.
And when she turned to me, she started crying as she clutched me to her. “I was so afraid that you would think it was just a dream. I was so afraid that you’d wait or be stubborn like Rhodes.”
“I’m not as stupid anymore. I finally did a little growing up.”
She was smiling as she stepped back, wiping her relieved tears away. “So I’ve heard… Does anyone know? Have any decisions been made yet?”
I gave Claude a nod to let him take over. “I’m declaring myself king and Northman and Herveaux are going to end Grandfather.”
“Sister, there’s no other way.”
“Yes there is…”
“The other clans, they’ll kill the Sky. We’ll be extinct.”
He shook his head. “Sister, Sookie has been working with Ardea, Kai and Varun for months now. There are no battles. There are no conflicts. She’s forged friendships with them all and with Grandfather gone, there will be no more wars between the races. There have only been disputes between individuals in months.”
“That’s a lie. None of them get along.”
“Proof to the contrary is just inside.”
“They won’t hurt you. Sookie has seen to my safety three times this week. Her vampire wife has danced at my club.”
I put my hand on her arm in an attempt to reassure her. “I cloaked your scent once before, held Eric off. You’ll be fine.”
Claude took her hand and started leading her to the house, giving her a gentle tug each time anxiety interrupted her gait.
Eric slid the door open for us. His nod to Claudine was practically a bow. “Claudine.”
She shied away from him. “Vampire.”
“You have no reason to fear me. We are all grateful for what you’ve done for our family.”
She looked surprised. “You aren’t… I thought you’d resent my interfering.”
He smiled, but let Alcide take over. “We suspected it, but we knew you’ve always been looking after Sookie… The kids miss you. They were upset when we told them that you had to go away.”
Her eyes lit up. “Manen and Hunter?”
I nodded. “More powerful by the day it seems. They’ll be excited to see you again.”
“Are they here? What about the babies? Is everyone alright?”
“They’re with friends. We’ll have them brought home as soon as we’re done.”
“Grandfather… He… He planned on taking the girls. I talked him into waiting for the boys.”
The rest of us shared a round of looks. “Why?”
“So that I’d have a year to get it through your thick head that he was up to something. Niall just thinks it’s because the boys can reproduce faster and younger.”
Eric nodded thoughtfully. “That was very shrewd of you. We’ve been troubled about his intentions since he arrived after the birth.”
“His first idea was to take Sookie.”
“We suspected as much. What did that plan include?”
“Harvesting her eggs. Any of his labs and… The only way to get him out of that line of thinking was to make him question the results. He doesn’t know much. I didn’t tell him.”
“Much in regards to…?”
“I had to give him something. I gave him that you’re all together. I told him that Sookie is stronger with your blood. He may very well have gotten more since he left a few days ago, but I didn’t tell him that you’re all invulnerable. I tried to keep as much as I could from him without inviting any suspicions.”
Eric gave her another deep nod. “And for that, we are forever in your debt.”
Her mouth literally fell open. She’d never been in the company of a vampire that wasn’t preoccupied with her scent. Having one practically bow to her in gratitude wasn’t something she could have prepared herself for.
As we greeted Ardea, Kai and Varun at 8 o’clock on the nose, Claudine watched in awe as they all smiled and shook hands with the vampires in the room as comfortably as they would another Fae. Since Ardea was the only one who wasn’t normally threatened by vampire, Claudine didn’t seem terribly surprised to see her offer a friendly peck on Eric’s cheek and then turn to Jordie to socialize since he was the only other Dae in the room. I nearly laughed when she asked him why the house seemed more chocked full of ‘daemony goodness’ than usual.
We all pretended to relax into our seats so that the queen and princes could be fully informed of Claude’s plan to seize control over his clan and then gave me a nod as my cue to explain why.
I did my best to keep myself from getting upset all over again, but a few tears escaped while I explained the history I had with Niall. His feigned propriety by going to Eric for our introduction since we were bonded. His offers of help and gifts that led into his insistence that I could have children with a ‘donor’ since my choice was to be with a vampire. His plotting when it came to Preston. His attempt to bring Dr. Ludwig into his scheme. The explanation went right up through the horrible scene that played out for Alcide and me this morning.
Kai cleared his throat and sat forward. “You said that Ludwig did a family tree for you? Do you still have it?”
Before I could nod, Pam was gone in a blur and back again with the file for him.
We quietly sat and waited while he leafed through the pedigree charts. Ardea looked up from reading over his shoulder smiling for a moment and a few minutes later Varun did the same.
When they’d gotten to the end of the file, Kai took a deep breath. “That settles a lot of curiosity we’ve had for months now.”
I wasn’t sure that I was in the mood for Fae vagueness, even if he was a very sweet man. “Meaning?”
“Meaning, the three of us have just as much right to you as Niall does, my dear. While I’m happy to hear that the Sky clan will be politically sound in the future, this isn’t a political problem. It’s a family matter.”
Jason and I shared a confused look before he jumped in. “We’re related to all of you?”
Varun nodded. “Ardea and Kai are only a distant aunt and uncle, but it seems… Your shifter grandmother was my daughter.”
Eric and Alcide stiffened against my sides and I could hear Alcide’s mind spinning. He was worried that we’d just given all of the clans a reason to want to steal the kids. I couldn’t say that I wasn’t thinking about it too.
Kai looked up to him though. “Herveaux, you’re not looking at a threat. Niall is a warmonger. Always has been. Northman can tell you that. Every dispute in my life that has involved Fae has been at his feet. The rest of us are quite content to live in peace. We have no lofty aspirations to take over the world. The only con Sookie will find now is that I’m going to have to insist on being called Uncle Kai.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or hide. “Uncle Kai?”
Ardea laughed. “And Aunt Ardea. Don’t forget ‘Aunt Ardea’.”
I cringed looking over to Varun. “And I guess you’d like to be called ‘Grandfather’.”
“No. I prefer Varun, especially since every time you say that word you look cheerless.” He slid his hands down his long legs to straighten his pants as he stood. “Let’s get this moving along, shall we? I have great, great grandchildren to meet… Jason, if it’s early enough, would your wife be willing to bring the triplets over?”
“I don’t see why not. She has Angela helping her… So you know the family tree and all. Do we, you know, have a lot of cousins like Claude and Claudine?”
“Dozens. In fact you are most likely to be related, albeit distantly, to most Fae and Dae. Not to mention…” He picked up the family tree file and started to chuckle as he looked at it again. “…Sookie, it isn’t listed here. Did you know that Lillia had a Were half-brother? A full Were.”
I shook my head. “Why?”
“I thought you might know since you spend so much time with him.”
I looked over to Alcide, terrified that I was about to find out that we’re cousins and he was already starting to feel as sick as I was at the idea. “No. Who?”
“Lillia’s stepfather was Buster Stilling’s. Damon is… If I remember right, about 20 years younger than she would be.”
“Does he know? Does he Remember Nana Lil?”
“He knows, but Lillia was married and moved by the time he was born.”
Alcide nudged my arm. “Have you ever talked genealogy with him? I haven’t, other than in passing.”
I was more than a little shocked. “No. Never. Everybody knows I’m everything. That’s why he calls me ‘Caboodle’.”
Ardea laughed. “As in ‘kit and caboodle’? That’s perfect!”
“Yeah, well, Alcide thought he was flirting with me.”
He growled, “He was flirting with you and when he gets here, I’m going to tell him y’all are related.”
Tobin and Jordie set out their homemade grenades and waited on the side lines while Alcide, Pam and Eric moved the furniture out of the way.
They rattled on about plans…
As soon as he appeared, Jordie was going to negate Niall’s abilities.
Claude was going to declare himself prince with his royal witnesses.
Claudine insisted that she wanted a moment to speak to him.
We were sure that he’d want to argue and they decided that it would be better to let him say his peace.
And then Eric and Alcide were going to murder a Faerie prince with the approval of the Faerie Court.
Pam noticed that I was standing off to the side, watching quietly and she came over to me. “Sugar, what’s wrong? Is there something about the plan?”
“Yeah. Yeah, there is.”
Eric and Alcide turned to me; both worried that I might have some instinct that we should do things differently.
I shook my head to answer their unvoiced concern. “If I had my way… Summon. Disarm. Lemons. The End.”
Claudine joined Claude and me in the middle of the room for another summoning ‘party’. The only thing holding me together anymore was the hope that it would all be over soon…
That without Niall’s interference, the four of us could be left to raise our children in peace.
Here’s to hope.
…As soon as we heard Niall’s quiet pop, we opened our eyes to see his face was glowing in anger. As frightened as I might have normally been, the furious look on his face actually made me sputter out a laugh. It only made him angrier that he wasn’t being taken seriously.
Claude grabbed his attention by calling him by name. “As heir to the royal seat of the Fae realm of Sky, I, Claude Crane, claim it as my own. Is there any Fae, full or part, who challenges my right?”
Niall was surrounded by a collective ‘Nay’ and started snarling. “AYE! I dispute your right. You were expelled for refusing to breed. I revoked your rights.”
“Since you only married to the royal lineage, you had no right to revoke my claim. I’m the rightful prince. You’re nothing more than an egocentric commoner who married for power.”
“How dare you! YOU are worthless to your kind since you WON’T breed.”
“Breeding isn’t everything, you old fool. You have no leg to stand on. I am prince now and you are nothing.”
Niall lunged for Claude but seemed to be stopped by an invisible wall. Claude didn’t flinch. “How did you? You aren’t stronger than me!”
“At the moment, Niall, we’re all stronger than you. Claudine has something she’d like to say. You’re going to shut up so that she can speak her mind.”
He turned to her, scowling as though he wanted to kill her. “You’ve turned out to be quite the disappointment too.”
As soon as he said it, she started crying not noticing that what he’d said had gotten to me. His back arched and he howled when I smashed an ornament against the back of his neck. I’d been tempted to use the actual lemon grenade, but I’d talked myself into wanting to see him suffer and used the Country Time instead. Even if there was no way to inflict the pain and emotional torment that he’d done to her for months, he’d earned some kind of comeuppance.
I pulled a few tiny shards of bulb from my hand and watched the cuts heal while he calmed down. Claudine carefully put her hands to the sides of his face and gave him a tender kiss that he didn’t deserve. “I know that I’ve defied you, Grandfather. I’ve only ever wanted to please you. I couldn’t stand by and let you take their children.”
“Stand by? Stand by!? It was your idea!”
“I didn’t want you to take the girls. I needed time to contact her so that you wouldn’t succeed.”
“Then I suppose congratulations are in order. You’ve martyred yourself for them. You’ll pay for this.”
She sniffled as her tears fell. “I already am paying. Wanting Sookie to breed is one thing, but I couldn’t wait for you to hurt them, make away with their children.”
“As many as she has, what difference does 2 make!?”
Claudine shuddered and took a step back from him, looking like she was going to be ill.
I cleared my throat and stepped up to him to tap his shoulder. When he turned around, he seemed like he was actually waiting for an answer…
“You horrible ass! If you had a heart, the capacity to love, you might understand that nothing compares to the pain of having a child taken from you. You have been systematically taking the joys of the few perks I’ve had out of my life since you came into it. After years of feeling alone, I found Eric and as soon as we met you made me question being with him by bringing up children. You sent Preston to me, knowing that Eric would rightfully abandon me for cheating on him. You appeared the day after our daughters were born and no sooner than you found out that Erika and Dagny aren’t Preston’s you managed to think of a way to remedy our excitement about the arrival of Rhys and Kerrick with your despicable political goals. Tell me, what did you have planned for our sons?”
“They are to be raised as Fae instead of like mutts as your other children will be. When they are old enough, they will begin breeding and when the time comes, their increase will dutifully rid us of vampires once and for all.” He talked about it as though he still planned on going through with it and I felt the logical rage coming from my nest as though I had my back to a bonfire.
“Vampires? You think vampires are the threat? Look at you. You’re willing to take newborns from their parents as soon as they’re out of their mother’s body.”
“The ends justify the means. Vampires are the reason for our endangered status.”
“No. Going to war with vampires every few centuries is responsible for that, you fucking asshole!”
“They are naturally our predators.”
“Yeah. So? They are naturally prone to dehydrating you guys. Here’s the thing, by going to war, YOU wasted the lives of thousands of Fae just to reduce Vampires by a few hundred. A Vampire can reproduce more Vampire every three nights. YOU are the reason. YOU. YOU sent Fae that could have been living and breeding off like lambs to the slaughter. Since we can pop we have a natural defense to their speed.”
“You can’t. You have no defense. You couldn’t get away from him.”
Eric snorted at him from behind me. “You have no idea what you’ve been doing towards your own extinction, do you? She’s the most powerful in the room.”
The smell of fresh lemon filled the room, making me smile. “Niall, do you deny that you intended to abduct the children of two Supernatural Court Justices and a Vampire King to use for your own gain?”
“No. I won’t deny that I intended to further our race at the expense of your ridiculous little family.”
“Prince Claude of the Sky race, what say you?”
“Prince Varun of the Water race, what say you?”
“That death is too good for him… Death.”
I smiled up at Niall. “As Supreme Mystical Justice, I observe the unanimous input of my fellow justices and sentence you to death for the crimes of Bond Interference, Ability Tampering, Attempted Rape by Deceit by Proxy, Treason, Conspiring to Commit Genocide, and two 2 counts of Conspiracy to Commit Kidnapping. The list would be longer, but that’s all the paperwork I’m willing to do… And Niall, if there was a way to kill Fae slowly, you’d live another thousand years in agony.”
Niall’s anger finally faded from his face to be replaced with panic as I felt Eric and Alcide closing in the space behind us. I reached up, unable to control the eager smile on my face, untying his tie and roughly yanking open his shirt.
It all seemed to happen too fast.
Alcide stopped to stand in front of Niall with half of a lemon in each hand while Eric knocked Niall to his knees from behind. Eric yanked Niall’s head back by his hair.
I watched Alcide lift his hands slightly before he balked, leaning back to take the last chance he’d have to kick Niall in his dethroned nuts. Eric chuckled that he was jealous.
No sooner than Alcide started squeezing the lemon halves over Niall’s face and chest, his skin began to crumble away slowly, drifting to the floor like some sort of glittery snow.
As my ‘grandfather’ flaked away, I felt Claudine’s hand on my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around her, still watching the dust fall to the floor while I comforted her.
When it was all over I closed my eyes, completely relieved.
I opened my eyes to find myself in bed with Eric snuggled up close behind me.
“Hey, good morning.”
“How are you feeling?”
I giggled at him. “I’m fine. How about you? What are you so tense about?”
He kissed the side of my neck. “I wouldn’t say I’m tense. I am paying close attention to the contractions you’ve been having though.”
“At least they didn’t wake me up this time.”
“Sookie, they’re only 6 minutes apart and getting stronger.”
I gasped and sat up, smiling like an idiot. “Really…?” I’d barely gotten that out before I felt the sudden gush of my water breaking.
Eric slid out of the bed, chuckling on the way to his closet. “You’d better send for Alcide. He’d never forgive us if he misses anything.”
“Where is he?”
“In his room. He stole the girls from me when they woke up a little while ago.”
“Are they ok?”
“They woke to play. Dagny had called their toys to the crib again.”
I laughed. “Hiding them didn’t work, huh?”
“It’s just something were going to have to deal with, I suppose. I locked them in the trunk of my car.”
I started to giggle, but was cut off by a contraction so as soon as it was over, I called for Alcide and Pam.
I was breathing through a contraction when I felt the four of them speeding towards our room. I could hear the girls laughing because they were enjoying the dash.
When they came into the room, Pam and Alcide were both wearing excited grins and sat on the edge of the bed while the girls puttered around the room.
As the contractions got stronger over the next hour, Alcide called Dr. Ludwig, Eric started filling the tub and Pam went down to wake Angela.
I had just closed my eyes for a minute, holding Alcide’s hands through a strong contraction and when I opened them, my arms were around Claudine again and my family was hovering around me waiting for an explanation.
Claudine wiped the happy tears away from my eyes with a bright smile. “It worked.”
I nodded and stepped back, not knowing how long I’d been distracted and looked over my nest. “Everything will be alright. I’ll show y’all when everything quiets down.”
…The next few hours were a blur. I was too happy to completely focus on the details going on around me.
Alcide took a lot of pleasure sweeping up Niall and putting the dust into freezer bags for the Bossier coven to use in spells for the Round Table.
Eric called to have the kids brought home and to let Diantha know it was safe to return.
Jason called Janice and invited her over so the kids could meet ‘some family’ and then introduced himself to Eric’s harem.
I gave my cousins the ability to mask their scent so that they could pop by any time without worrying and Eric added his approval to their invitation.
The greeting Claudine had gotten from Hunter and Manen was practically ultra sonic and the harem was elated when the 5 newborns were quickly met by their distant kin because that left them to fawn over the plethora of wee ones endlessly.
Keva came over to Eric and me and whispered in old welsh to ask if he’d mind if the four of them offered to stay with Jason and Janice a few nights each week to let the new parents get some rest.
Not only did he tell her that it was fine with him, but he told her that he was proud of her generous spirit.
When our Dae came home, Ardea was the first to greet them. She quickly pumped them for information about themselves and then began telling Daveigh and Desmond about their grandmother since they were close friends for centuries.
Damon’s arrival was announced, giving Alcide the chance to head him off in the foyer to have fun telling him that he’d been flirting with his own niece. The news might have been more weighty if he didn’t flirt with any and all females. He wasn’t a ‘dirty old man’ or anything; he was just more friendly with females.
Jason had been excited enough to interrupt the family tree briefing to introduce himself to his ‘new’ great uncle and they spent a while talking.
Since Claudine wanted to catch up with Claude, they were the first to leave, but our other visitors started going home soon after. Jason and Janice wanted to get some rest so that they could get to the mall first thing to get the girls’ ears pierced.
The Dae were tired from their day at the mall and retired to their rooms to watch some of the movies they bought.
Hunter and Manen were tired from their day of playing with Annabelle and Nadine so they practically dragged themselves to bed.
Damon was exhausted from his busy day that included 2 early meetings and a boring layover so he was more than happy to see the bed in the Earth Suite. He gave me a big hug goodnight and relieved me of calling him ‘Uncle Damon’ because it would just be weird now that we’ve known each other for a while.
Eric’s last order of business was telling Keva, Mischa, Liesl and Treza to get dressed and go to Fangtasia for ‘dinner’. His phone call to Clancy to arrange for their donors was made as the four of us went upstairs to lay the girls down.
I was barely with them though.
As everyone said goodnight to Erika and Dagny who had long since fallen asleep in the arms of Liesl and Mischa, I was still replaying my preview to myself. Over and over.
Before our bedroom door was closed I bounced into the middle of the bed and patted the mattress.
They all grinned and surrounded me, each of my guys took a hand and Pam’s hand rested on my leg so that I could show them the reason for the smile that had taken up residence on my face.
I couldn’t bring myself to care that someone had to be killed so that my preview could come to pass.
Not only was the sight of short term future blinding me to the idea that my great grandfather’s remains were in my freezer, but the smiles on Alcide, Eric and Pam’s faces were all the funeral Niall deserves.