“Pam! You left Eric!” I shouted as she peeled rubber and got on the highway. She didn’t listen. She was on the phone, in a most unsafe manner, calling Dr. Ein. Meanwhile I was more concerned about Eric than the baby coming early. A brand new pain made me realign my priorities.
“Is it contractions?” Pam asked me. She already had the doctor on the line.
“I don’t know. I feel the pain really low and sort of inside,” I answered. It could have been simple pain from my tailbone hitting the asphalt and breaking my fall, but I felt the pain a little bit farther in the front. All in all… not good!
Pam repeated my answers to Dr. Ein and they hung up soon thereafter. “The doctor says to go straight to the labor and delivery unit and she will be waiting for us to make sure they take you in right away,” Pam said, the stress rolling off her in waves, but she was keeping it together.
“What about Eric?” I asked, and reached to grab her cell phone out of her hand before she could call. I called Glad and told her to bring Eric. She said she would and disconnected.
“Where did everybody go?” I asked as she settled on a comfortable pace on the highway. I think it was close to eighty miles per hour.
“The fairies left after making sure the Queen and Andre were well on their way. The Ancient Pythoness left soon thereafter. Ocella didn’t want to leave yet, even as Mr. Cataliades tried to convince him otherwise,” she paused and shook her head, a look of disdain coloring her face. “That fucker and his demon child! I could kill Alexei for what he did to you and Eric if he wasn’t finally dead. Ocella was a piece of work. It makes you wonder how come Eric came out normal.”
Eric wasn’t exactly “normal” by my standards, but he was sure close enough. He was a good maker to Pam, a good husband to me, and a good leader and sheriff. Obviously his character had been shaped well before Ocella entered into his life, and Eric had remained himself. I didn’t wonder how come he’d come out normal. I knew: Eric was stronger than his environment.
Pam’s cell phone rang in my hand. It was Eric, so I answered. “Honey?”
“I’m on my way,” he said. Through the bond I could feel his fear, even as I was mostly calm. I think that Pam taking over my situation with such speed and overall self-possession helped me to keep it together too. “I’m sorry, Sookie.”
“It’s okay, Eric,” I said. I knew his emotions had been all over the map after witnessing his maker’s death. I wasn’t going to hold that against him. “Don’t worry too much and don’t you drive like a maniac! Dr. Ein will be there when I get there and everything will be fine.”
“How can you be so sure?” he asked, his voice going higher in pitch like it did when he was really upset and scared for me.
I answered him with the truth. “Because I’m with Pam.”
Pam smiled smugly. She could hear the whole conversation.
At the hospital I made Pam park in a regular parking spot. I told her I hadn’t had any more pain, even though I still felt a general malaise, like something wasn’t right. One thing Dr. Ein had told me was to never ignore feelings like that. More times than not I would be correct about not feeling right, she’d said. Thankfully I’d never had any weird feelings that would alert me to something being wrong, not until now. We walked to the main desk of the hospital and told the people handing out the badges that my doctor had told me to go straight to Labor & Delivery. They gave Pam a badge and told us where to go. On our way up to the fourth floor, Pam texted Eric instructions on how to come see me. She was scared that he would storm through the front doors demanding to be led to me, when all he had to do was ask politely to go see his wife in L&D, get a badge, and they would even show him where to go.
Dr. Ein was indeed waiting for me and got me checked in immediately. She even put me in a wheelchair and pushed it herself. She asked me about the pain and contractions, all while I was made to strip and put on a gown. As soon as I was ready, Dr. Ein settled me on the bed and went to work. She had a nurse help her set up two monitors over my belly, one to see if I was having contractions, one to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Then she checked my cervix. When she emerged, the expression on her face didn’t inspire much confidence.
“You’re dilated about three centimeters, but it doesn’t seem like you are having any contractions. We’ll make the preparations just in case you have the baby early, but for now I’m ordering complete bed rest,” she said, taking off her glove as the nurse helped me rearrange my position in bed. “You are thirty weeks along, which is very good. If the baby comes now the chances of her being healthy are very high. It’s not ideal, though. We want that baby baking for a lot longer.”
“Can’t you close it?” I asked. In all the reading I’d done about pregnancies, I’d read that some women got a cerclage, where they stitched the cervix closed so the baby would stay in.
“The amniotic sac is bulging a little. I don’t want to push against it and have it pop, because then that baby is coming out for sure. Right now she’s breech, so we’ll just wait and see what she’s up to in there. I’m sure at some point she’ll turn around. I’m ordering steroids to make her lungs develop faster and help her if she does come early, some antibiotics for you… and you were due for a shot of Rhogam this week, so let’s do that too, since we don’t know Eric’s blood type and you’re Rh-negative,” Dr. Ein was talking and writing at the same time.
Eric came in, giving the pretty nurse something to get distracted about. I frowned. Couldn’t she keep it professional? But Eric’s eyes didn’t roam and he didn’t stop until he was by my bedside. Pam was on my right, Eric on my left. He could feel my worry, and Dr. Ein could see she would have to explain everything all over again. I wasn’t listening to her anymore. I was more distracted about the nurse being so rude, preening, and thinking of all the things she would like to do to my husband. Sure Eric looked good. He’d changed so he could come into the hospital looking decent, and the only thing he had in his closet at Raven’s Den was a black button-up shirt and black slacks. The nurse’s thoughts got too out of control and I was already in enough stress.
“Dr. Ein, excuse me,” I interrupted. “Can you ask her to leave and get someone different?” I pointed at the nurse, and I didn’t care that she’d heard me. Dr. Ein looked at me confused. “She’s being very vulgar,” I said, pointing to my temple. Dr. Ein understood immediately and took the nurse aside, dismissing her with an angry whisper.
“Do you want me to bite her?” Pam asked me, eyeing the departing nurse.
“Only if you want to,” I answered. “I would never asked you to do something you didn’t want to do.”
Pam laughed but didn’t leave my side. She was nervous about the baby too, even though she wasn’t listening to the doctor either. Instead she started fingering the gown they’d given me. It could have been worse. Embarrassing openings aside, the gown was soft. “Can’t I bring you something different?” Pam asked, not knowing the exact protocol.
“They’ll ask me not to wear it because in an emergency they might need to rip it. This is okay,” I said to her in a hushed voice because Dr. Ein and Eric were still talking.
Just then, Claudine walked in, stopping dead in her tracks when she found herself in front of not one, but two vampires. “Can I come in?” she asked, looking nervous.
Eric turned to me. “Pam and I need some blood. Will you be okay for a few minutes?” he asked, running his fingers tenderly over my face. I was thankful that Dr. Ein had explained everything and he wasn’t a nervous wreck like I knew he could be. I arched an eyebrow. That was very unlike him. Usually he was the most vocal with his worries… or at least the one that growled the most when he was worried.
I had a sneaky suspicion that he knew something I didn’t. “What did the AP tell you?” I asked, ignoring Claudine for a moment.
Eric answered me with a wide smile. “She’s called the Ancient Pythoness, Sookie,” he bent to kiss me softly on the lips. “We’ll be back soon,” he turned to Claudine. “You may come in.”
We all froze when we saw the nurse that came to take over helping Dr. Ein. She was… she wasn’t human. Her long red hair was tied into a ponytail, her eyes were very large and green. She looked like an angel and I gasped.
“My guardian angel,” I whispered.
“Eír,” whispered Eric.
Claudine turned towards the nurse, who smiled widely at all of us. Her whole being screamed HEALER. I don’t even know how to describe it. All I knew at the time was that I was very happy to see her, and very confused.
“Erin!” Claudine exclaimed and hugged the nurse who hugged her back. “Long time, no see! I’m so happy you could come and take care of Sookie.”
“You are Eír,” Eric said again, this time his voice came out a bit stronger.
Dr. Ein turned to see the nurse. She was a witch and understood perfectly well our commotion. Pam looked confused. I was still speechless about seeing my guardian angel actually made of flesh and blood.
The doctor left after giving some instructions to Eír/Erin, and the nurse turned to us with an unbelievably happy grin. “Hi, Sookie! It’s been a long time. And look at you! About to have a baby thanks to my sister! You look beautiful all grown up and about to be a mother.”
“You’re my guardian angel,” I said, even though she had already confirmed all of my suspicions.
“I used to be your guardian, but I’m not an angel. Eric can tell you better what I am. In the meantime I’m going to give you your shot of steroids,” she said and made a motion for me to turn and give her my butt.
Eric helped me turn as he explained. “Eír is Freyja’s sister and goddess of healing.”
“In the human world you can call me Erin. I also make sure the Brigant family is healthy. You are royalty, my princess,” she said, rubbing a pad with alcohol on the area of my butt where she was going to inject the steroids to develop my baby’s lungs. I closed my eyes feeling the sting of the needle and the cold feeling of the liquid entering my muscle. “Alright, Daddy,” Erin said. “Go get something to drink so we can have some family time,” she patted Eric’s shoulder. She looked like a regular human, but I could feel the power emanating from her. Her mind was a lot like Claudine’s.
Eric turned to me, and his feelings of relief were overwhelming. He smiled again. After the horrible night we’d had those smiles were worth millions. I smiled back and mouthed I love you. He wasn’t content with that, choosing to sit next to me. He ran his hands over my face, his glacial blue eyes roaming over my every feature. He leaned down and kissed me. I once again wasn’t embarrassed by our audience.
“Eep!” we heard Claudine exclaim from where she was standing, still very close to the door.
“Pam!” Eric admonished her. She had moved closer to Claudine, probably on her way out of the room.
“I didn’t do anything!” Pam said like she was shocked that Eric thought she’d been misbehaving, when we all knew she had.
“I’ll be back my love. Do you want anything?” he asked, willing to get me food.
I turned to Erin. “Can I eat?” I asked because my stomach was very angry with me.
“The doctor will say no, but I won’t tell her. Something simple though, no greasy cheeseburger,” Erin answered and turned to Eric. “Get her a chicken noodle soup with crackers and a couple of chocolate chip cookies with a sweet tea. You can get it at the cafeteria downstairs. They’ll also have your True Blood.”
I giggled. Eric was taking mental notes. I knew he wouldn’t forget anything. He squeezed my hand and left. Claudine came over quickly and gave me the hug I knew she’d been itching to give me.
“I haven’t told Niall and Fintan because I wasn’t sure what was going on and they’re already back in Fairy,” she said. She saw my confused expression. I was wondering how she knew something was wrong. “I felt a commotion, but it didn’t seem like you were in direct danger. I went ahead and called Glad and she told me what happened. The sisters are downstairs waiting impatiently.”
“I’ll tell Eric to give them news,” I said. Hopefully he’d think about it without my having to say anything.
Erin turned to me with a very serious expression on her face. “Sookie, I can help you carry your baby to term, if you will allow it. I can make your cervix close up without disturbing the amniotic sac, but I would have to touch it. Would you allow me to do that?” she asked.
I wanted to say “duh!” but I didn’t think that was a very smart thing to say to a goddess that was offering help. So I said, “Yes, please, anything for Idony,” instead.
She got ready and had me open my legs one more time. Amazing that what Eric did to me and made feel so good, was an otherwise very uncomfortable procedure. Claudine read my mind and sat beside me in a way that she couldn’t see anything. She held my hand, and that was nice. Having her near was always nice.
“Claudine, what about your baby? How far along are you now?” I asked because I had finally mustered up the courage. I hadn’t been able to do it earlier.
“Eleven weeks. If they survive I’m having twins,” she said with a sad smile.
“You didn’t tell me you were trying. I didn’t even know you had a mate…” I said drifting off when her face lost the smile altogether.
“With the rate of infant mortality for us, it doesn’t make sense to declare a mate until the children are born safely. The father lives in Fairy full time, so I would have to move there when the time comes. It’s not ideal, but it’s necessary. That’s why Idony is so important to Niall. Even if she’s barely fae, she’s still his blood, just like you. Eric made it happen, and even though he used to not like Eric all that much, he now accepts him and trusts him.”
“How did they know each other?” I asked, my mind going off on a tangent.
“I don’t remember. It was when Niall was still young, I know that. It must have been in the late Middle Ages,” she giggled and I had to smile too. I still had a hard time wrapping my mind around how old my husband was.
I got my thoughts back to the subject. “Why do fairies have a high infant mortality rate?” I asked and winced. Erin was still working “down there.” I tried to ignore it.
“A little bit of iron poisoning, we suspect. Anybody that’s been on this side of things has it. Although some others say that it has always been that way and that it’s due to our propensity to give birth to multiples. Our own mom almost died giving birth to us three,” she explained of her and her siblings. I’d never heard her talk about her mom.
Claudine answered my thoughts. “Mom’s in Fairy, driving us crazy because she wants us to live there close to her. She loves the money we send her, though,” she laughed.
“All done!” exclaimed Erin from the foot of the bed. I thanked God silently and made Claudine giggle again. “Dr. Ein will check you and find that everything is as it should be. She will probably keep you here for a little bit to make sure you really are keeping that baby in, and then she’ll send you home.”
“Really?” I asked, beyond happy. I was so relieved.
“Yes, really. You won’t have to see me again until it’s the right time,” Erin said and got up. She was getting ready to leave.
“Erin!” I called. She turned to me with a smile. “Thank you so much for being there for me.”
“You’re welcome. It’s always been my pleasure, little one,” she smiled wider, and left.
I shook my head.
“Honey? Are you okay?” I asked Eric. He was lying in the tiny hospital bed with me. Dr. Ein had done exactly what Erin said she would do: she was keeping me in the hospital to make sure my cervix remained closed. In the meantime I was still on absolute bed rest. That didn’t mean I couldn’t have company.
“Never better,” he answered looking into my eyes, making sure I knew he meant it.
“Aren’t you sad that Ocella is gone?” I was trying to be tactful, but I really wanted to make sure he was alright.
“I miss the connection I had with my maker, but I’m not sad. I’m free for the first time in a very long time. He was about to take me away from the ones I cannot live without, and I would have never forgiven him for it.” He kissed my lips very softly, and I felt loved and cherished. “I love you, Svanmeyja,” he whispered. His hand was caressing our baby between us.
“Will you tell me how you met Niall?” I asked, changing the subject to another that was also nagging at my brain.
“I will tell you, another day,” he said and kissed my nose. Eric had also been relieved when I told him what Erin had done to make sure Idony wasn’t born before she was due. After I ate the food he’d brought me he lay next to me on the bed and had begun a kissing campaign. Not that I was complaining.
“You sleep during the day,” I whined a little. He silenced me with a toe-curling kiss to my lips.
“What did the AP tell you?” I asked again when he let me up for air.
“I will tell you, another day,” he said again. I was getting nowhere fast.
“It’s just… you were so happy and I really want to know,” I whined… again.
“I was happy because it’s good news,” he said and ducked his head to kiss my neck. I felt his fangs lengthen against the sensitive skin at my throat at the same time that he let out a quiet growl. “I wish we could make love,” it was his turn to whine.
“Not here. They’re watching me like a hawk here. But we can when we get home,” I said, running one of my hands over his neck as well. “I wish we could make love too,” I confessed, wanting him as much as he wanted me.
We were lying on our sides facing each other. His wandering hand found my waist and pulled me closer against his hard body, only to have a little protester kick him in the stomach. He laughed, and it was like listening to a choir of angels.