I listened to my baby inside Sookie, his heart beating fast and steady. Sookie was caressing my hair, and her peace during this moment was a gift in itself. I pressed my ear a little more into her abdomen. We had seen the doctor just the day before for a twelve-week checkup and to do some measurements of the baby. We got to see him again on the monitor, with the doctor pointing at what could now be seen: tiny hands, feet, the head, even a tiny nose. The doctor measured some area around his neck, to check for some disease. I barely heard a word she said, and hoped that Sookie had been listening. I know I interrupted to ask for the sex of my child, and the doctor said it was too early still, but that on the twentieth week she would check and we would know for sure.
“Maybe we should get ready for work,” Sookie whispered but didn’t make any attempt to move me from my spot.
Work. That was something we would need to talk about. I could hear the baby if there were no distractions. Soon I would be able to hear both heartbeats inside her, and then she would have to stay home. Only my most trusted employees knew that Sookie was pregnant, but they thought the means had been artificial insemination. Indira seemed to have been as excited as Pam, Thalia was indifferent but I knew different, and Maxwell congratulated me profusely. He had been turned in the mid-eighties, so he understood about a man’s sensibilities in being a new father.
“Alright, my love. My son and I can spend some more quality time later,” I said, knowing I would make her mad.
And so I did. “I told you the baby is a girl. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Maybe next time you will get your boy,” she said, accepting my hand for help getting off the bed. She wasn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination. Her abdomen had enlarged somewhat, but it looked evenly spread from the bottom of her ribs to her hips. This was good. She did not look pregnant yet, and if the trend continued, she would be able to disguise her figure for much longer than others could.
“You have no way of knowing that the baby is a girl any more than I have a way of knowing it is a boy,” I said, teasing. I liked our banter. In truth, I did not care what sex our child would be.
I looked at the miracle of my pregnant wife, pregnant with my baby: I had always thought Sookie was magnificent, but I had never realized the true extent of it. She was naked and moving to the bathroom to take a shower. Her breasts were fuller and the pink areolas had darkened. Her belly was rounder. Her skin was softer and her hair shinier with the extra vitamins. She whined a little about having a stuffy nose and gums that bled whenever she brushed her teeth. After that confession I started to wait nearby whenever she finished brushing her teeth. She let me lick her bloody gums, enjoying the taste of her sweet blood while I kissed her and healed her at the same time. Sookie was grateful and I was satisfied that her blood had not gone to waste.
At work that night I got the worst news: there was to be a summit in Chicago at the end of May. Sookie was expected to be there for a very simple reason: there was to be a trial over the murder of Peter Threadgill, and the Queen was the person who was going to be tried. Sookie’s talent would be put to use to search the minds of humans to see what the vampires were saying.
I slammed my fist so hard when I got the Queen’s message that I broke my desk clean in two and all the papers and the computer crashed unto the floor. Both Pam and Sookie came to see what had caused the noise. I explained, and they both adopted identical worried expressions.
Pam’s face cleared faster than Sookie’s. “We can get a guard for Sookie, someone to be with her during the day.” She was thinking like me. I knew Sookie had not exactly understood what had made me so mad. But now she did, and she was scared.
“Like who, Pam? A shifter?” I asked, raising my voice unnecessarily. It wasn’t her fault that they had chosen the summit for May, or that the Queen would not be satisfied with only my presence and required Sookie’s as well.
“I was thinking somewhere along the lines of a demon or a Britlingen,” she said, eyeing me carefully.
I thought about it, switching my gaze to Sookie who was looking at me wide-eyed, scared but waiting for information. “A demon I can do. I cannot afford a Britlingen, not with the baby coming in September.” I was thinking that I might have to summon the inter-dimensional bodyguard after the birth of our child, and had been saving for such a purpose. I could not pay to do it twice.
“What’s a… Brit-whatever?” Sookie asked in a shy voice, like she had not wanted to interrupt but could not wait anymore.
Pam explained while I called Mr. Cataliades. He could help me hire a demon, and I better do it soon. I had less than two months to settle on an agreement.
“Who do you need protected?” the attorney asked.
“My wife. She cannot remain unprotected during the day while at the summit in Chicago,” I answered.
“If I may, Sheriff, I will be traveling with my nieces, and I know that either of them can perform the job adequately. Of course, as part of our party, your wife’s security and safety are the Queen’s responsibility. So if you feel you need to hire someone other than Diantha or Gladiola, you may and charge it to the Queen’s security detail,” he offered.
I thought back to the night during Sophie-Anne’s engagement, when both demon sisters had fought so adeptly. Diantha had the ability to shoot fire from her hands with deathly accuracy, while Gladiola was an ace with her sword. They also knew Sookie, and, more importantly, Sookie knew them. She’d spoken of them often, so she obviously liked the girls.
“Thank you, Mr. Cataliades. Your offer is most generous. Sookie gets along with your nieces. I believe that is the most agreeable arrangement,” I said and it was settled. I felt infinitely better and could see that my relief had transferred to Sookie.
“Sookie, I must say… Your décolletage is looking lovelier every day,” Pam said, staring at Sookie’s bosom and breaking the tension once and for all.
“Jeez, Pam! Is that all you think about? Boobs?” Sookie asked, feigning exasperation.
“No. I like ass too. But yours looks the same,” she said, looking at Sookie’s curvy bottom and waggling her eyebrows. “Lovely as ever.”
Sookie rolled her eyes and left the office, going back to work. She was tending to tables, against my wishes, per usual. Pam looked at me. She was serious again. “We might have been able to get a Britlingen. I could have lent you the money.”
“No, Pam. We don’t know what is going to happen after the birth. I thank you for your generosity, but I rather make use of it when the need is real and dire,” I said and looked down at my desk. Destroyed. “I might as well go sit outside for the rest of the night,” I said, and moved to the closet in my office.
“I’ll take care of this. You know, Eric, I selected this desk with a lot of care. I will get you another but you may not break it. It is not proper to take out your frustrations on the furniture,” Pam lectured me, standing with her hands on her hips as I changed into something more interesting than my jeans and t-shirt.
“Alright, Pam,” I said, just to shut her up.
“Soon you will have a little one in your home and you will have to watch what you do. You have to lead by example,” she said, still treating me like a child.
I turned to her and let my fangs run down. “Stop it now or you will be sorry.”
“Yes, Master,” she said and lowered her eyes.
I strode out to the main floor and had Indira join me on the thrones. I did not need Pam to point out my shortcomings. I knew them well. I seethed all night, which I’m sure was exactly what the customers were expecting. Thankfully Indira was her usual charming self. I stared at my wife for most of the night, and eventually I calmed down. I could be good for her and our child. Breaking furniture in frustration was nothing to all the other sins I had been guilty of, starting with the most recent: the draining of the Were bitch that tried to kill Sookie and me. And Claudine for that matter, since the bullets had not stopped with the sudden appearance of the fairy. I didn’t need to drain her, I could have just killed her or left her to die, like she had done to the other three innocents she had shot.
Sookie shook her head at me very slightly from where she was standing. She was trying to tell me something, but I was confused. She showed me her canines and I understood. The memory of that night when I had killed the shifter had made my fangs lengthen. I self-corrected with effort, and motioned for the waitress closest to me to bring me a blood. My baser instincts were getting the better of me tonight and I could not allow it. I was the Sheriff, the law, and an example for all the others. Like Pam said, I had to lead by example.
I woke up from my daytime sleep feeling uneasy. I found out why quickly enough as Sookie emptied the contents of her stomach into the toilet. Or tried. It didn’t sound like anything was leaving her body. I rushed to her anyway and she held her hand up, telling me to stop.
“I’m okay, just morning sickness. And afternoon and night sickness,” she said, flushing the toilet and putting her cheek on the tiles.
“Tell me what to do,” I said, refusing to ask and simply commanding her to give me a task.
“I could use help getting up,” she said. Her voice was raw.
“Have you been sick all day?” I asked, helping her to stand and walking with her to the sink. I knew she would want to brush her teeth.
“Yes,” she said and took a deep breath, then another. It seemed like she was fighting another bout of nausea. I had read everything she had read, and I had an idea that perhaps she needed to eat something. “I haven’t been able to go get anything to help with this because every time I tried I ended up back where I started.”
“Do you mean in the kitchen or at the grocery store?” I asked, needing some clarification. Had she not eaten?
“The grocery store. We have nothing here. I ate the last of the crackers yesterday, and everything else just makes me want to puke more.” She bent over the sink and splashed her face with cold water. Sookie shook her head over the sink, letting the water drip into it. “I don’t get it. There’s nothing left inside my stomach, and I can’t keep anything down, not even water. Maybe I’m sick, but I can’t even remember the last time I had a stomach virus.”
I thought about it briefly. She would dehydrate quickly if she kept vomiting everything she tried to eat or drink. “Take a little of my blood,” I offered.
She frowned into the mirror, but then her expression cleared. “You know what? I will. It cannot possibly be worse for the baby than what’s happening now.” She brushed her teeth quickly and I had my wrist ready for her when she finished.
I caressed her hair while she took the blood from my wrist. She didn’t suck on it greedily, and took only enough to coat her tongue. “Come, lay down with me for a few minutes and rest,” I said, and guided her back to bed.
The minute she curled up in bed she fell asleep. That was good news. She felt well enough to rest, since apparently she had not been able to do so all day. That left me with a dilemma. She would need the food that would not upset her stomach further, and I had seldom been to the grocery store, except to buy True Blood, and the one night she had asked me for apples. The apples had been easy to find simply by scent. The other things would not be as simple. I called Pam.
“Will you come with me to the grocery store?” I asked her, fully expecting her to say no immediately.
“Eric, you are a grown man and you have a wife…”
“Who is currently asleep after dealing with a whole day of morning sickness,” I interrupted. The least I could do for Sookie was get her food.
“All day? That’s very serious, Eric. She could dehydrate,” Pam advised me. No shit!
“Yes, I know, I read the same books you did. Now will you help me at the grocery store or not?” I asked, already getting up from bed and writing Sookie a quick note, in case she awoke before I returned, though I doubted it.
“Yes, I will help, but I am only doing this for Sookie and my nephew because I am still upset with you,” she said, and I could hear her picking up her keys.
“Fair enough,” I said and hung up. Without disturbing Sookie I left the note on my pillow and met Pam downstairs.
“I must say this is quite bizarre,” Pam said. I had to agree. We looked like a couple strolling through the grocery store buying things we would never eat. Some people could not tell what we were, others gave us wide berth. Pam did not have any problems finding what I asked for, the things I remembered that were missing from our kitchen.
“Pamela, how in the world do you know where the foodstuffs are?” I asked her, my curiosity needed satisfaction.
“I have been taking cooking classes,” she said without elaborating.
I shook my head to clear it, one of Sookie’s mannerisms that I had found myself copying. It never helped. “When do you find the time?”
Pam smiled smugly. “That’s easy. There’s this crazy chef from Scotland who was turned recently, but he still enjoys the smell of freshly cooked food. So he’s teaching classes at Bossier Parish Community College from three to five.”
“And why do you feel the need to learn how to cook?”
“Because your wife will soon give birth to a hungry little Northman that will take most of her time. I will cook meals for her, and it will be one less thing she will have to worry about and she can focus on breastfeeding your cambion,” she said and rolled her eyes, like I should have known the answer to my question.
I laughed heartily. Pam was sure as independent and headstrong as ever and now she had a new project: Operation Baby Northman. I told her and her eyes lit up. I knew she would stamp the name on everything she did from now on.
Pam and I parted ways at my house, and I unpacked all the groceries, putting them where I remembered seeing them. I grabbed an ice pop and headed upstairs. Sookie was still sleeping.
“My love,” I shook her softly. She needed to eat again.
Sookie stirred and stretched. “I fell asleep?”
“Yes you did. You were very tired. I brought you this,” I said, presenting her with the cold treat still in its wrapper.
Her eyes widened then she frowned. “Did you make Pam go grocery shopping?”
“I did,” I confessed, “but only because I needed help. She agreed to come with me.”
“You went grocery shopping?” she asked, her face astonished.
“I sure did,” I said, affecting a southern accent that sounded nothing like hers. Hers was prettier.
She looked at the ice pop and took it, peeling the wrapper and taking a bite. “This is so nice of you.” She sniffled. “Thank you.”
“Why are you crying over an ice pop?”
“Because you’ve been so good to me, and I didn’t even ask and you went and got things for me, and you let me sleep, and you love me, and you love our baby,” she started crying and shaking. It was a good thing I had read about the shifts in her mood or I would have never known what had made her cry.
I hugged her close, letting her eat and cry at the same time, and still feeling enormously lucky by her side.