**A/N: Considering the usual size of my chapters here lately this one seems like a shortie…but it’s not. It is, however, meant as a “slice of life” for our Eric, Sookie, Sevrin and Willa gang, but I hope you like it. We’re within “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel” distance of the end of this story but I wanted to give you guys a bit of fluff first. Hope you enjoy!**
“We haven’t really decided on any names yet,” Sookie replied with a serene if slightly evasive smile. That she and Eric hadn’t been able to really discuss the issue of names because of everything else going on wasn’t disclosed…and neither was the fact that she’d been privately considering a couple names of her own.
Some things just needed to be decided by the couple involved.
According to what Dr. Ludwig had said, there wasn’t much of a hurry yet, anyway, which was supremely aggravating on a whole new level. Sookie had given up on ever greeting her feet and ankles again unless she had her feet up, but at least some of the worst food-combo cravings seemed to have eased.
In direct contradiction to that thought, she quickly added “licorice”, “canned mackerel”, “culinary lavender”, and “fresh jalapeno” to her list.
And “cinnamon dental floss”.
Toilet paper definitely wasn’t an issue, she thought wryly. For whatever reason – crossed lines of communication, indecision about preferred brands, or maybe just honest concern – the bathroom she shared with Eric contained eight 12-roll packs of the stuff. The upstairs bathroom closest to the general living areas? It had twelve 4-roll packs. Every possible American brand name of “sanitary tissue” was fully represented in her newest abode. The bathroom in the bedroom set aside for her to rest in while upstairs? Another six 4-packs.
Sookie had been astounded to discover that a fully furnished bedroom had been set aside for her use on the main floor of the house. Her part-Dae guards had explained to her she needed her own space where she could rest without being disturbed by the rest of the house. At least, she thought that’s what they’d said.
Come to find out, the bathroom in that bedroom was stocked much the same as the one she shared with Eric. Both came complete with five different toothbrushes for her (and several apparently for Eric in the lower one), four types of toothpaste in the lower facility and a different set of four types in the upper one, and between the two bathrooms she was now the proud user of five different types of three different brands of mouthwash and four different types of floss.
Unfortunately all the floss was mint. Mint mouthwash was fine but for some reason she had never liked mint floss.
Her enthusiastic shoppers had also provided quite the selection of bath, shower, and “face cleaning” supplies, although there had been absolutely no bath or shower supplies in the lower bathroom. It had the usual large selection of facial cleansers, face cloths, and hand towels, but as far as anything meant for her to use to clean her body? Nada.
Everyone’s desire for her to only bathe or shower upstairs with all the help she could ever need had been slowly…very, very slowly for them…explained to her by the Dae sisters.
At least she’d thought that’s what they’d said.
Still and all, getting used to the new place had taken a very small but noticeable toll on her nerves – waking up in the new location earlier that afternoon hadn’t been on Sookie’s list of favorite activities and though things had worked out fine thanks in large part to Diantha and Gladiola, she was still adjusting…hence the list of things needed to make the place more of a home.
Lists…her life was all about the lists now. One for food, one for things for the house, one for things for the baby, one for questions to ask whatever doctor she saw next…and a list to keep all the other lists straight.
She was sure there would be more lists to come.
With a sigh she flexed what she could see of her toes and scratched her elbow before she looked back down at her pen.
“Oh, just a minute…”
After quickly adding “quart size resealable storage bags” and “gallon size resealable freezer bags” to the growing catalog of things the new house needed, she set her notebook and pen to the side
A glance back at Willa revealed the young vampire’s barely contained desire to pet her ludicrously expanded abdomen. Her BFF’s fascination with touching her belly didn’t make a lot of sense to the telepath who hadn’t grown up being able to arbitrarily touch…well, anyone, but then, until vampires had come into her life, random hugs just for the sake of the hug had also seemed kind of strange to her.
Recently Willa had started at least trying to wait for an invite, and Sookie did appreciate the courtesy although it wasn’t exactly necessary. She had been glad to read that part in several of her pregnancy books. People really shouldn’t go around touching pregnant women’s bellies without asking first – but honestly…
“Go ahead,” she permitted with a grin. “You’re my best friend and her honorary aunt; you don’t count.”
Willa eagerly placed her palm over the area her senses told her the baby was most likely to be, and as if on cue both women silently stilled for a minute.
Finally “doctor” Willa gave her “diagnosis” in a hushed, serious voice, “Her heart is beating a tiny bit stronger and louder, and I think she’s just a wee tiny bit bigger, too.”
“Thank you for that observation Dr. Burrell,” Eric teased as he entered the room. “So you’ll be curing common human diseases tomorrow night, yes?”
“Oh lose a fang why don’t you,” she volleyed right back at him with an ease that wouldn’t have occurred to her even a week ago. “Unnamed Baby,” she said as she glared at both Eric and Sookie in turn, “really is slightly bigger now than she was night before last.”
Unnamed Baby decided to make her own opinions known and Willa’s eyes widened at the force behind the kick.
Eric raised a brow while Sookie smiled indulgently.
“She’s playing soccer again.”
Sevrin wandered into the room just then while mumbling on the phone in yet another language Sookie didn’t know. He and Eric had been holed up in what was now their new office and The Flowers, as she had begun thinking of them, were once again (and still) messing about in the kitchen.
Those two meany-tutu-pants were how she had finally ended up ensconced on the sofa with a pillow behind her back, her feet up on the footrest portion of that end of the sofa, a drink and a bowl of diced fruits on the end table and the notebook that had been in her lap. Sookie’s offer to help with the late dinner preparations had been met with run-on sentences she couldn’t half decipher and inhumanly strong but kindly hands gently shoving her back into the den.
Diantha and Gladiola had been a surprise, albeit a very pleasant one. She couldn’t hear a single thing from either one of them – the most she could pick up was some sort of staticky background noise – so their mental silence was a joy. For better or for worse, however, that silence didn’t extend to their voices.
When they chatted among themselves, they used a language Sookie didn’t understand – in fact she wasn’t sure it even was a language since it sounded so strange – but she was positive they spoke it with their usual mile-a-minute fervor.
Despite their mostly human appearance, their otherness had become supremely apparent not long after Sookie had come upstairs earlier that afternoon. The little she had been around them the night before had shown her that they were caring and concerned in a general way – she wasn’t sure if it was because “she” was pregnant or if they would have been so solicitous of any pregnant woman, but it didn’t matter. They’d seemed genuinely nice as far as she could tell, and Eric and Sevrin both seemed to trust them, so she’d made a mental note to wonder about it later.
“Later” had provided more answers than she’d been expecting, but that was fine…from what she could decipher. Diantha, she was coming to learn, was always hard to understand but Gladiola at least tried to break up her words into phrases. Thus it was with many stops, starts, and repeats that she found out more. Most of what they said she’d unfortunately already discovered the hard way but it was nice that they were trying to educate her.
Although it was obvious that neither sister was accustomed to discussing their species’ intricacies with “outsiders”, both warmed quickly to their mission to educate Sookie with each sometimes finishing the other’s sentence or interrupting to add more information.
They verified that the Dae in general had a very difficult time becoming pregnant and, after that now almost mythical feat occurred, staying pregnant. Full- and half-blooded Dae actually had far fewer problems when trying to procreate with other full- and half-blooded Dae, but outside of those narrow and narrowing parameters, it was all hit and miss…usually miss.
So, once a female became pregnant, all but the extreme lowest of the low in the Dae population treated the breeding female, and Sookie had cringed at that description, as if she were the most fragile thing in any of the realms. Thankfully, Diantha and Gladiola gladly, vocally, and solicitously extended that consideration to Sookie.
They told her more about how “breeding females” were treated in their realm, how their society worked as a whole to keep the mother-to-be as happy, healthy, and calm as possible. If the female held a job, she was free, and Sookie read the undercurrents to mean that the woman would be subtly encouraged, to quit at any time while receiving her full salary until the offspring was two years old. If the woman chose to continue working, and Sookie detected an undercurrent suggesting that the woman would be subtly discouraged from doing so since working would interfere with the woman’s ability to remain calm and rested, so long as the job was deemed “safe” she could keep working as long as she wanted – with an assistant whose job was to do everything physical up to and including picking up dropped papers, fetching meals, opening doors, and if needed, trailing after the “breeding female” if she went to the bathroom.
The situation was even better, or worse depending on one’s viewpoint, for the upper classes whose “breeding females” enjoyed private chefs, private doctors, private medical facilities, private…everything. Sookie was astonished to learn that some even had private food tasters for special events.
She’d cringed at the thought. She could understand ensuring that the pregnant woman was safe, healthy, happy, well-rested, comfortable…and all the other descriptiveness she was sure the duo had used at various points, but for two cents the whole thing sounded a bit overwhelming.
Her expression must have given away her inner thoughts because suddenly the duo laughed.
“Thisallstrikesyou asbeing overkill,” Gladiola had stated after catching her breath.
Diantha had to add, “Itreallydoesgetkindacrazy.” She nodded rapidly to emphasize her point. “It’sforagoodcausebuttheycangooverboard.”
Sookie mimicked the rapid nodding to both their amusement. Almost as though to emphasize the point, the sisters then jumped up and brought several already-prepared light dishes and several different drinks to tempt Sookie “toeatand tobewellwatered”, according to Gladiola.
Evidently dehydration was a concern in their home realm, she concluded. The sisters weren’t too sold on the orange liquid, and Diantha had even bravely tasted it before handing it over to her sister to sniff again, but they reluctantly allowed Sookie to drain her first jar of the day. They had never been around a pregnant woman, and Sookie silently thanked Diantha for that distinction, in the Earth realm before and so had never encountered the “weirdorangefluid” before. A conversation was planned with Dr. Ludwig at the first opportunity.
It was obvious that both sisters were taking their duty to Sookie very seriously.
In an odd way, she felt as though she now had new kin, of a sort, for that was the way they acted toward her. There was something about the way they treated her, the way they not just said the right things, from what she could understand, but actively did them, in ways she couldn’t fail to understand, that made her feel at ease with the uniquely-dressed duo.
When the conversation had eventually extended to how she had ended up in her current condition, The Flowers had revealed their…other side. Their uncle had told them the basics but hearing the story from the pregnant woman herself had been an entirely different matter. In their fury on her behalf and their desire to protect both her and “their future sister”, their faces had subtly sharpened and their hands had clenched with their fingernails transforming into hard, sharp claws. Even their teeth seemed to become far sharper than any found on a human. Although lithe to the point of thinness, from what Sookie could see even their muscles seemed to tighten and bunch up a little.
The previous conversation quickly evolved into an enthusiastic discussion between the duo of all the ways they would make the relevant parties pay for their sins – both committed and planned. For her part, Sookie realized that while in the past she might have been a “mercy weenie”, she thought with a mental eye roll, nowadays she felt a little…less nice. It was bad enough that the bastard had played her and gotten her pregnant under false pretenses, but knowing that his handlers planned to kidnap her baby and force both her and, when she was older, her baby to breed… Sookie’s own blood began to boil and no amount of planned torture seemed to be enough.
Diantha and Gladiola were ecstatically pleased with Sookie’s reaction with their preferred less-human appearance…and their plans for the bastards responsible for the situation…and proceeded to amaze her with fireballs grown in the palms of their slightly elongated hands. One of Gladiola’s now-empty soda cans placed on the stove-top bore proof of their accurate aim. Sets of quick movements that would be quite useful in a skirmish soon followed.
It struck her that they truly were the perfect fighting machines.
As she now sat on the new sofa watching Willa concentrate on her belly with a soft smile on her permanently-young face, Sookie was glad that her unborn child would have so much powerful love – powerful in more ways than one – from so many.
After a few more seconds of intense focus, Willa patted Sookie’s belly as she leaned over to whisper to the little girl she had already claimed as her niece. When she was finished she thoughtfully moved to another chair so that her Maker could take her seat beside Sookie.
Although he and Sevrin had only been in their office for less than two hours, Eric still ran a sharp eye over his Sookie’s features and general body parts.
“Your ankles seem less swollen tonight,” he commented softly as he eased down beside her.
Sookie glared at those particular body parts. “If you say so,” she hedged, not truly believing him. She was certain they would never truly deflate again. “What have you guys figured out? Do you think anyone knows we’re here?”
Eric shook his head. “No, we were not followed.” He started to say more but Sevrin’s slightly raised voice caught his attention for a moment.
When things seemed to calm down – really, what language was he speaking? – she asked, “What’s that about?”
“He is in contact with his people to see if there have been any new developments,” he answered, and Sookie considered what hadn’t been said.
She adjusted her belly in a useless attempt to decrease the pressure on her bladder then stated with a sigh, “So the bad guys are still hiding out wherever bad guys usually hide out and the good guys and the neutral guys still have no idea where this particular set of bad guys is hiding out.”
Eric grinned, albeit a bit wryly, “That’s it in one of your nutshells.”
With another sigh Sookie leaned over to rest her head on his shoulder.
“I can’t help but wonder how long we’re going to have to stay here. I’m ok on the orange stuff for right now, but what about when I need more?”
“Ludwig will be able to pop over with more. She’ll need to assess your progress anyway,” he said as he softly placed a hand on her abdomen, “so she’ll bring it with her.”
“So I’ll be able to keep her as my doctor?” For all her lack of bedside manner, she found that she liked the gruff doctor’s odd personality.
“That will not be a problem,” he assured.
“We’ll have to stay here until they’re caught, right? What about when I go into labor? What will we do then?” Sookie hated that she couldn’t keep the worry and fear out of her voice, but…but what…and there was no way in hell should could possibly stay pregnant for another three and a half…or more…months.
Baby Dae or not, their little girl was simply too big to stay in there that much longer.
Eric sensed not just her anxiety but all the other emotions bombarding him through their bond and felt his gut clench. It galled him that he couldn’t keep her as comfortable as he wanted. He could, and would, keep her safe – there was no question about that, but he detested having to uproot her from everyone and everything that she loved just for that safety.
Surprisingly, it was Sevrin who answered her question before Eric could open his mouth to speak.
“You have baby here,” he stated as though that were the most reasonable thing ever. “Doctor come in time. Set up empty room with things to have baby with. You hurt, doctor come, you push, have baby here.”
Sookie had looked over to see him standing behind Willa’s chair with his hand on her shoulder so she saw his massive shoulders lifting in a shrug at the end of his version of a birthing narrative.
Eric obviously agreed with Sevrin’s painfully brief summation of future events but couched his plans a bit better.
“One of the empty rooms in this house will be made into what you would call a birthing unit in case you should go into labor here, but keep in mind that it is entirely possible we will be back home by then.”
Sookie doubted it but appreciated the thought.
“But…but how will you know what to get? And where would you get that kind of stuff anyway?”
“Ludwig is back from her vacation now, and has forwarded me a list of the things we might need to have on hand. She will locate and purchase these things and will contact Cataliades to have them forwarded here. Do not worry,” he ended with a soft pat to her swollen abdomen, “our daughter will arrive safely when she is ready.”
From previous experience Sookie could easily imagine the good doctor sending that bill. And then she thought of the care, the expense – the overwhelming care! – being shown to her by everyone involved…and with emotions in their normal chaotic state, she suddenly broke down.
Sevrin stared in horror as first her lower lip trembled…then almost immediately thereafter huge fat tears began streaming down her flushed face. She tried to hold back the first sob, but the next one broke through twice as loudly as though angry that the first one didn’t do its job right.
By the third sob Eric had fortunately drawn Sookie into his arms and was patting her back most ineffectively.
The crying continued.
Diantha and Gladiola burst into the room as though expecting some sort of enemy raid – their infuriated demands of “Whyisshecrying?” and “Whatdidyou dotoher?” easily heard over the sounds of Eric’s shushing and Sookie’s crying.
Willa floated a roll of paper towels – handily caught by her Maker – in Sookie’s general direction and made a mental note to add tissues to the list.
The young vampire then looked up at an aghast Sevrin and caught his horrified expression. Instead of laughing, she somehow managed to keep a straight face as she stood, took his hand, and towed him to their new quarters. A lesson on pregnancy hormones was sure to follow.
As quickly as it started, her crying jag was over. After mopping her face and blowing her nose, she assured everyone that she was fine – grateful, embarrassed, and overwhelmed…but fine.
“Do we have any pickled okra here?”
**A/N: So, how was that?**