A Special Occasion
Three weeks later…
After a month with my houseguests, it was safe to say I was obscenely, yet pleasantly attached to them.
I might’ve found the chance to nitpick about some aspect of their ‘invasion’ of my life if I wasn’t having more fun with them than I could ever remember.
I’d long since given up reading the journals for clues about My Sookie, but I’d been reading to entertain myself… The reluctance the other Erics had to admitting their feelings for their respective Sookies was as comical to me as it was Pam. When I gave her the chance to make fun of me, she ignored it and called Sookie a ‘force of nature’.
I’d had plenty of time to read when I wasn’t being propositioned by Milne and his pets. As it turned out, convincing the King of Texas to marry the Queen of Louisiana was easier than thinking of reasons to call home for the four nights I was gone. I’d been lucky enough that Paulette was in place before I had to leave and Pam was staying at the house with Sookie and the girls, but being able to rely on them relieved me of reasons to call. And after much discussion, Sookie and I couldn’t decide if it was a good thing that Merlotte’s thoughts were just as hostile when Pam had been Sookie’s company for that single Sunday dinner. Something good did come of it though… She’d called me. Even though I was returning the next night, she called me to talk about it.
I hadn’t needed to miss Halloween or the first Princess Day either. Again, luck was on my side.
The Bon Temps Methodist Church’s Annual Halloween Party had been an obligation for Sookie. She was in charge of organizing the games and arranging for the volunteers as she had been for 3 years. Somehow she managed to run Fangtasia and plan for more than 20 games from Shreveport. Not that we knew much of anything about Halloween as children celebrated it, other than to avoid being at a house that would have the doorbell rung constantly, but Pam and I had assumed that staying in my neighborhood would’ve offered a better haul in the candy-from-strangers department. We learned the reason the church organized an event was because small children couldn’t withstand walking the distance between houses in rural areas… and that ‘Trunk or Treating’ provided enough ‘safe’ candy to make children move like rabid midget Vampires.
Tina and Shelly managed to evade Grandaddy Cal and Uncle Felton in the Maize Maze… Pam and I laughed hysterically when a ‘Vampire’ startled Sookie into my arms in the Haunted House… Sookie did cruel things to my imagination with a cone of cotton candy, a caramel apple and the peppermint stick that came with her hot chocolate… Beth was there with friends from school, but made time to hug ‘Big City Kin’… Pam was caught spitting Pumpkin seeds at people and had a semantic argument about how she could be thrown ‘out’ when she was already outside… And the girls both won prizes for the costumes Sookie and Pam made…
When they announced that they wanted to be Vampires, Pam talked Tina into something that wouldn’t piss their father off (as much). Tina was a Calavera Catrina, complete with mantilla and ornate, bustled dress. Pam spent the full drive painting Tina’s face. Shelly opted for a cloak and sickle to be a Grim Reaper. Her skull makeup work made her unrecognizable. They might as well have just dressed as cliché Vampires, but there was no shortage of ‘Vampires’ at the party. An Tina had fun explaining Dia De Los Muertos as much as Shelly had fun jumping out at people to scare the shit out of them.
Since we were already in Bon Temps, and we were taking that bizarre ‘high road’, we surprised the Shifter by visiting his rancid little dive. His first reaction to seeing us walk in was to storm over to say I wasn’t welcome and make a scene in front of the few customers he had… but by the time I calmly explained that Sookie thought he’d like to see the girls in their costumes, Sookie was being mauled affectionately by the bar’s regulars and staff. After a short visit, he followed us out to the parking lot… and actually thanked Sookie for bringing them.
Paulette had proven to be invaluable to me as an assistant, as well as an integral piece of Princess Days. The girls were fond of her immediately, horning into my first meeting with her to very seriously explain the numerous facets of Princess Day before she was given the chance to introduce herself. Paulette, being the cordial woman she was, humored them by taking notes… and was given ‘Cool Points’ for already knowing some sign language because her nephew had been a ‘sign baby’.
Sookie had yet to slow down, in spite of being 8 days past her due date. Norris had told me to picture Tina, all of her cleverness and energy, if I ever wanted to wonder what Sookie was like as a child. He also told me to watch out because she was a ‘real go-getter’ when she wasn’t burdened with her usual late-pregnancy woes. I honestly couldn’t imagine how Sookie could be more energetic… It might’ve been lending to the recent rumors among the Fangtasia staff that Sookie was taking my blood regularly just to make them look lazy. Morons.
As much as I’d always prided myself on being able to tolerate change, I never would’ve thought that I’d let myself suffer having housemates. I loathed spending a few days in a safehouse with my own child. Suddenly, after so many years relishing living alone, I was rising to a quiet house and eager to bring Sookie and the girls home to fill the house with their liveliness.
Since my phone had been my first thought Tuesday through Sunday, I might as well have just died with it in my hand.
I scrolled past anything business or Vampire related, checking for messages of the unprecedented personal variety…
There was the reminder that we’d be going out for dinner. “Asshole advisory: Torrential shit-fits are likely until 21:30 CST. Happy pants are suggested.” Funny.
And just 3 minutes later, there was a call from Sookie’s phone…
Her pregnancy had been the topic of enough conversations that she’d invited me and Pam to attend the birth. Not that we would’ve left her at the hospital alone, but we hadn’t been invited to be in the waiting room. Her offer was for us to be in the room with her when she delivered. It wasn’t because she had plans to let the girls stand witness to their sister’s birth and wanted us there to help care for them. It wasn’t that she was afraid to be alone. It wasn’t because she wanted her ‘backrub bank’ on hand because I was assured that Lafayette was the best Human masseuse ever. Her reason was if she kept her track record of long labors, she wanted ‘the best company money couldn’t buy’… even if we wanted or needed to leave because of ‘inevitable biological atrocities’ she still wanted as much of our company as sunlight and our senses of smell would allow. Pam, of course, jumped on the opportunity while I remained undecided. I managed to go my whole life without seeing the ‘miracle’ of childbirth and wasn’t sure if I wanted to end that history by watching Sookie suffer for hours on end without being able to help in any way.
Since Sookie was so far past her due date, I was just as hopeful as I was concerned, skipping over 4 other voicemails to finally get to the one left at the right time to be her. Sookie and the girls yelled, “HAPPY STANDARD TIME!” While the girls continued to cheer and clap, Sookie said, “I didn’t realize it until I texted you… the clocks were set back this morning. We’re having a little party. See you soon.”
I chuckled and went about my normal routine of getting business out of my way.
When I went to the bathroom to take my shower, I realized I was still grinning… an hour later.
Who the fuck needed happy pants?
Since Merlotte wasn’t waiting behind Fangtasia like he’d been making a habit of, I only assumed that the ‘holiday’ slipped his mind.
When I walked into the back door, I didn’t hear my usual chorus of footsteps rushing towards me, but I could still hear them snickering…
As soon as I reached the entrance to the bar, I was hit in the face with fistfuls of confetti while Sookie sat on a barstool and took a picture with her phone… she took another picture of me spitting out what ended up in my mouth.
Instead of insisting on being lifted, the girls ran back to their booth so I took the chance to greet Sookie.
I kissed her cheek, still being more respectful than I thought I was capable of… Fuck. For that matter, I took fewer liberties than Lafayette unless one counted the suggestive jokes we passed back and forth. “How are you feeling?”
“So so… You should’ve seen the look on their faces when I explained Daylight Savings Time… They still don’t get it other than knowing they get more face time with you.”
“It should make them feel better to know that I don’t ‘get’ Daylight Savings Time either. It’s organized fuckery. I’m convinced it only still exists so that people can laugh at the poor fools who didn’t know the ‘secret’ day to change their clocks… But I’ll stop complaining now that I have a reason to appreciate the extra hour… No surprises today?”
“Not bar related.”
“Something I should know about?”
“Not yet. We’ll talk about it later… Nice choice of happy pants. Do those inflate in case of a Why-Me-Tsunami?”
“As a matter of fact they do. I just can’t remember where to connect the pump. Maybe you can help.”
“I’ll do what I can.”
“You did another deep cleaning. Did Pam and I not leave the bar tidy enough for your liking last night?”
“It was fine, but the place needed some TLC.”
“Then it’s a good thing I have you. TLC isn’t what I would give it.”
She giggled, “You can’t keep fantasizing about burning the place down like September did.”
“Burn, explode, whatever. You’re not allowed to put me out of a job.”
“Since Merlotte repaid you for his rampage, you can afford to stay at home for a while. It could be my Christmas present.”
“A housewife or a book of matches?”
I made a joke of not being able to decide until the girls were standing at my feet, thrusting their drawings at me. There was no dilemma though…
I could find another way to burn the bar down.
The first drawing on the stack was of me flying with the girls.
Then pony rides…
Then a movie theater…
Then a box with a bow on it…
Picture after picture, of things we’d done, things we’d discussed doing and a few things that gave me some ideas…
As I looked through them, I was being studied. Closely. Like they were counting my eyelashes.
Sookie waited until I was halfway through the collection before she asked, “Have you caught on to the fact that you’re being tested yet?” They were feeling around my mind for a reaction to one of the pictures.
“I’m starting to get that impression.”
“They’re a little excited about the surprise you have planned.”
“Excited enough to spoil the surprise by testing me?”
Tina scoffed, “We just wanna hint.”
“A hint? When you only have to wait until after dinner?”
“Why didn’t you tell Mommy or Paulette?”
“Because you’d be able to spoil your surprise that way… And I think it’s funny that your Mommy is mad at me for surprising you so close to Christmas.”
“You like it when Mommy is mad?”
“I like it when I know she’s worried based on an incorrect assumption about the nature of the surprise. I’ll have fun when she apologizes for misjudging me.”
Sookie gasped, looking completely appalled, “Excuse me! You made Booby dress up like a cowboy to lead the girls around your yard on a pony. You have a track record of spoiling.”
I sighed, “And assuring you that my surprise won’t ruin Christmas plans means nothing to you? I’m hurt, Sookie.”
“No. You’re laughing your sneaky, narrow butt off inside that head of yours.” And?
The girls whined, “Christmas?” in unison and trudged back to their booth to discuss how to get spoilers for their holiday gifts.
For the next half hour Tina and Shelly plotted and tried to guess their gifts, sticking their tongues out at me when I interrupted to remind them that they were skipping Thanksgiving and ask stupid questions about those holiday traditions. They did their best to pretend to be annoyed when I asked them what kind of tree the Thanksgiving Turkey would be leaving eggs under. Their feigned seriousness didn’t last long though…
- Why would the Easter Bunny leave eggs? No. Turkeys laid eggs. They must’ve been mistaken.
- If the Thanksgiving Turkey wasn’t a messenger with gifts, but a menu item, did they eat Easter Bunnies for Easter dinner? I remembered rabbit tasting gamey.
- If Santa and the Easter Bunny left candies and the Tooth Fairy had a preoccupation with teeth, was it because they were feuding? Or had they sold out and started working in collusion with Hershey and Colgate respectively?
- If there was a Tooth Fairy, why weren’t there Hair and Fingernail Fairies too? Why were teeth more worthy of trade?
- What would happen if they lost a tooth on Christmas? Would Santa cover that by leaving an extra gift? Would the Tooth Fairy leave more cash than usual?
- If I sat on Santa’s lap would I get whatever I asked for? Would I have to leave special instructions for him so that I wouldn’t have to figure out how to get a Corvette out of my den?
- Did the Tooth Fairy keep a limited amount of money with her like the pizza delivery guy?
- Does Santa know about Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas and Father Christmas? Was there a rivalry or territorial boundaries? Were they related?
- Elves didn’t get enough credit. They deserved more press if they worked all year. It sounded like Santa was just their delivery guy.
- Who was Baby New Year and why didn’t his mother dress him? Even in Louisiana, January was too cold to leave him naked.
- I offered to hire Santa to be a messenger since he seemed to be unable to pass FedEx and UPS’s security screenings…
- I claimed to know Cupid… and argued his last name was Hallmark.
It was all very illuminating. They laughed as they humored me while Sookie concentrated on her computer, amused but much quieter than usual. It wasn’t like her to not take part.
The girls had even been the ones to point out Merlotte’s arrival.
The girls didn’t have to force a smile for him when he joined them at their table. His behavior and thoughts had finally started to calm down. It helped that Sookie had been diligent in explaining their father’s need for time to adjust to all the changes that came from their move.
I joined Sookie at the bar, watching over her shoulder while she seemed to be browsing for clothes of the short/low-cut/snug/tempting variety.
I whispered, “Reverse nesting?”
She laughed through her nose. “Yes sir. I’m burning my maternity clothes when I get home from the hospital.”
“Bonfire of the Maternities? You could start a movement.”
She didn’t answer… she only shifted uncomfortably, arching her back and rolling her shoulders so I began massaging across the back of her hips.
“You’re not yourself. Is this some sort of fashion-lust?”
She shook her head.
“If this isn’t related to your cart full of tiny red cocktail dresses and pumps that would make you nearly my height, is it that you don’t want to talk about it or just because of present company?”
“Present company… mmmmm… you have no idea how good that feels.”
“Should we go back to my office?”
She shook her head. “What kind of time frame are we looking at for this Uber Surprise?”
“I don’t expect it to take long. Half an hour to an hour… You’re tired?” She’d been asleep when I came home from the bar the night before, but she hadn’t been sleeping well. Comfort had become unattainable for her.
“Not really… Just trying to map out the evening. Your plans aren’t outside are they? We’re supposed to get scattered showers tonight.”
“Indoors. Are you trying to get your own clues?”
“Maybe. Nothing wrong with a little curiosity.”
“I’ll tell you if you really want to know.”
“No. It’s fun to try to figure it out… Is it wrong that I want to skip dinner so I can just hog your hands all night?” Yes. Yes it was. My hands had made the rest of me jealous for weeks.
“Not at all. I’ll bring massage oil. We can make it a threesome.”
Merlotte might have been ‘behaving’, but when he overheard me mention a threesome we had his attention.
“Sook, have the doctors mentioned induction yet?” At least he’d used a ‘bucket of ice water’ subject like delivery to intrude on our conversation instead of a jealous tirade.
She was quiet for a moment before she answered, “We’ll talk about it next week if nothing happens by then.”
He snorted, “Lemme guess, the chicken shit stripped your membranes again and told you to be patient like your old doctor did.”
“You forgot that I should ‘let nature take its course’, but yeah. I still don’t get it. I’ve had an ultrasound. I’m fit as a fiddle. I have a history of needing to be induced. Why would it have been so hard to induce me on my due date?”
“Did you threaten to sue this one for chiropractor fees like you did with your old one?”
“No. I told him that I’d scoop his eyes out with a hot speculum if my Vampire managed to get carpal tunnel from my protracted therapy requirements. At this rate, it’s possible.”
“I really don’t miss the over-creative murder fantasies you have at the end.” That was a start.
I glanced over my shoulder. “Are you sure? I’ve been writing them down.” It wasn’t just murder ideals… Sookie was getting belligerent about her condition. She was annoyed enough to slap an old woman’s hand from her belly… My favorite had been when we’d gone out to dinner with her father. A child stopped next to our table just to tell her she was fat. Sookie told him that if his mother loved him, she wouldn’t dress him like an idiot.
“You only think it’s cute because you can’t have nightmares.”
Sookie barely said a handful of words between the bar and the Mexican restaurant Shelly chose. What Sookie was preoccupied with was pushing my patience. She might’ve had shopping and a massage as an excuse at Fangtasia, but that wouldn’t hold water any longer.
I might’ve gone mad waiting for an opportunity to ask if we hadn’t been seated so close to the restrooms. The dead-end hallway was a safe place to send the girls so that Sookie could explain…
Waiting as long as it took to get Tina’s attention was too long by that point. I signed for her to ask to go to the bathroom, and ‘let’ Merlotte take them since I had a perfect view of the hallway.
I barely waited for them to reach the door before I asked, “What’s wrong?”
Sookie sighed, “I’m being quiet because I’m concentrating on listening while shielding my own thoughts.”
“Because I don’t want the girls to flip out about me being in labor.”
“Why would they… What!?”
“I’m having contractions.”
“All this time? Since… Since when?”
“Since early this morning.”
“Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Eric, it’s not like I’m holding her in or anything…”
“You’ve been having contractions since this morning and you still went to work. Shouldn’t you be in a hospital so that you can be monitored?”
She snorted, “Women have been having babies without hospitals for a loooong…”
I couldn’t help it. I laughed that she was telling me that. “Why are you waiting?”
“This is kind of cool.”
“How is being in labor at La Azteca cool?”
“I was induced with Tina and Shelly. I felt like a damn science experiment. Those damn movies and TV shows are all bullshit. I laid there for hours. I was told how to lay. I wasn’t allowed to eat, pace, use the rocking chair, shower, bathe… nothing. It was like watching paint dry. I’ve been moving around all day. I’m only uncomfortable for the actual contraction.”
“Do you intend to walk around until she falls out?”
She giggled, “They’re about 5 minutes apart and starting to get stronger finally. What I intend to do is eat my dinner, see the girls enjoy their uber surprise and go home where I’m comfortable until my water breaks or I get to hard labor.”
“So that you can deliver in the car on the way to the hospital like some urban legend cliché… You’re scaring the hell out of me right now.”
“Don’t be like that. I’m excited. My hospital bag and the car seat have been in the back of the SUV for ages. I’ve already drafted texts for Lafayette and Sam. I made one for Pam too, but I figured that you’d want to call her yourself to toy with her…”
“And you’re already planning your flat-stomach wardrobe.” Seriously scaring the hell out of me.
“I’m fine. It doesn’t even hurt yet. It’s just sore for a minute before it passes.”
I growled and pulled out my phone.
“What are you doing? You better not call Pam now. She’ll…”
I knew exactly what Pam would do, so I finished, “She’ll arrive and abduct you to the hospital, no questions asked. I’m at a disadvantage on the subject of childbirth so I’m using my phone to research. If what I find isn’t in your favor… Then our plans for the evening get put on hold.”
She smiled and scooted closer, wrapping her arms around me for a hug.
“I’m not, in any way, conceding.”
“You’re not going off half-cocked and being a jerk about anything either. Thank you.”
While everyone ate, I researched.
Nearly every bit of information I found was based on home birth… I couldn’t find any articles online about laboring while eating a Burrito Loco, a mushroom quesadilla and baskets of chips with dip.
‘The Magic of Home Birthing’ was safe apparently. Controversial, but not dangerous as long as the mother didn’t have any ‘risk factors’… As long as the list was, nothing Sookie had ever mentioned was on it. The only complaint Sookie had brought up was not going into labor without medication to encourage it.
Without a significant number of sources that denounced home births, I found myself scanning pages that over-endorsed the idea that home births were the ‘natural way’.
If home birth was ‘safe’ then I wasn’t going to allow myself a full panic over Sookie’s hopes for unmanaged labor.
I was going to watch her like a hawk and practically rattle apart, but I wasn’t going to ignore that Sookie wanted to avoid discomfort. And if nothing else, Sookie wasn’t showing any signs that she was in pain. If I didn’t know that she was usually much more talkative, I wouldn’t know anything was happening.
After Sookie shoved her plate away and emptied the once full pitcher of sweet tea into her glass, she leaned over to glance at my phone and whisper, “Dorothy Gale went to Oz on a calmer storm than the one in your head. What’s going on up there?”
“Did I mention that you’re scaring the hell out of me?”
“Yes.” She offered a sympathetic look with her answer.
“I have my arguments…”
She frowned. “Waiting to blast me until the girls go to the bathroom again?”
“Waiting until we’re in the car to take me to the hospital?”
“We need to establish a few things.”
She nodded. “Ok. Shoot.”
“1- Do not, under any circumstances, think about delivering at home.”
Her eyes widened, but she nodded. “At no point was that a consideration. I just want to be able to make myself comfortable for as long as I can. Think about how edgy I’d be by now if I checked in as soon as they started this morning.”
“Good. That’s settled, 2- Unless something happens before then, we go to the hospital from the girls’ surprise. If you’ve been contracting for more than 12 hours then that could be putting stress on Maggie or you could be closer to delivering than you think. No chances.”
She shrugged. “If it’ll make you feel better, then that’s when my party’s over. Is there a 3?”
I nodded. “You won’t hold it against me that I’m concerned.”
“Absolutely not. I swear. You’re a champ for being as calm as you are. Four?”
She hugged my arm and rested her head on my shoulder. “You know you’re my hero, right?”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself. I’m completely prepared to be the biggest bastard you ever met. You’re just lucky that you haven’t asked for anything unreasonable yet.”
Even on the way to accomplish Tina and Shelly’s surprise, I was tempted by the sign pointing to the hospital… but knowing that we were going to be 3 miles away made me feel better, even if just slightly.
At 9:30, the parking lot of the shopping center was all but deserted, save a handful of cars. I watched in the rearview as Tina and Shelly’s eyes lit up at the sight of Toys R Us.
How lucky for me that the manager was easily convinced to stay open a little later than usual and out of our way.
As soon as I pulled into the parking space, Tina and Shelly shot out of their seats, bumping their heads to inquire, “What’re we getting?”
Sookie seemed just as eager as they were as I lifted my finger. “One LeapPad game… IF you win.”
All of them chimed, “Win what?”
Sookie might’ve been confused but as soon as she saw who was waiting inside, she started giggling. “Nice to see you again, Colonel Flood.” The girls greeted him and one of his companions with a wave, but ignored the other two.
He smiled at her. “Aww, Sweetness, you haven’t popped yet? How are you feeling?”
“I’m fabulous… Doing some early Christmas shopping?”
“Just window shopping for the grandkids while we wait.” He pointed to the companion that the girls had singled out. “I brought him because I thought you might miss him.”
She laughed and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Herveaux.” Suddenly, Tina and Shelly’s greeting made sense.
He raised an eyebrow and replied, “Am I missing something?”
Sookie nodded. “Your Packmaster thinks he’s funny. My soon-to-be ex-husband thought I had an affair with you because I called Herveaux & Son once. I called the Colonel to let him know to be on the lookout for a deranged Shifter.”
“Fun. Sounds like someone needs his ass beat.”
Colonel Flood chuckled, “Don’t worry, he’s been schooled… So, Sheriff… What are we doing here? I gotta say, this is the first time I’ve mustered anyone at a toy store.”
“You’re hunting.” The girls immediately began bouncing, clapping and squealing.
“We’re hunting what? This season’s Elmo?”
I pointed to the girls. “You’re hunting them.”
As his eyebrows went up, his jaw dropped. “You expect 4 Weres to… Can Vampires get high?”
“Tina and Shelly have been practicing…”
“You think a half-Shifter and a human… Seriously? You called me out here to play Hide and Seek?”
“They’ve gotten very good… Since their father is a jilted Shifter, I want their skills tested against his kind.”
He snorted and rolled his eyes. “Alcide, cover your eyes and count to a hundred.”
I chuckled, “Girls, you’ll have a 3 minute head start. If you haven’t been found in 10 minutes, you have to make your way back to me without being captured.”
Tina’s grin couldn’t have been wider. “Two against four!?”
“It only seems fair. I’m outnumbered at home.”
I nodded. “Whatever it takes to stay hidden. Ready?”
Their eyes twinkled as they gave a single nod.
As soon as I said, “Go!” Flood gave me a skeptical look, but as Tina held her sister back and ordered her to take her shoes off and leave their purses behind so that they’d make less noise, the four Weres in company traded impressed nods.
After watching the girls tear off for the back of the store, Flood shook his head in disbelief. “I’ve had a stroke.”
I chuckled at him. “Don’t underestimate them. At home they work as a team. They’ve had a month to hone their techniques. They don’t have a predictable pattern. They’ve learned ways to conceal their trails and mask their heartbeats. They’ve managed to evade me for more than an hour in a fraction of the square footage they’ve got to work with here. And they escaped Norris in the open air. I doubt that you’ll win, but don’t worry. We don’t plan to advertise your loss.”
“Ok… Is Merlotte still being a hemorrhoid?”
“He was actually very well behaved during his visitation tonight. He seems to be settling into his reality.”
“You being you though… Not taking any chances, huh?”
“Not a one.” Not with them.
“Home rules are what?”
“Home rules are that there are no rules when it comes to safety. You met Merlotte. He was squirrelly enough for a while that we had to think of every contingency. If he were to send an accomplice to abduct them, then they wouldn’t know who was hunting them or their habits.”
“Alright. Most impressive tactics so far. Hit me so we know what we’re dealing with.”
There was no shortage of brilliant maneuvers. I looked to Sookie since I couldn’t possibly choose.
She shrugged, “I think my favorite was when they locked you out.”
I couldn’t help but grin. “That was good… while I was searching upstairs, they opened the door to the patio and pushed a chair into the pool to get my attention… then circled around to the front of the house. They locked both doors and by the time I reentered the house, they’d sprayed Lysol in every room to mask their trails… I finally found them back in the pool after thoroughly searching the entire house. They’d had time to change into their swimsuits.” All of them looked like they’d shit in their pants.
“But… They’re babies!”
“They got their intellect from their mother.”
Herveaux cut him off by clearing his throat. “That’s 3. Let’s go.”
As soon as the Weres were out of sight, Sookie hugged me. “I wish you could feel how excited they are right now. You’re batting a thousand tonight.”
“It’ll be .750 before long. Pam isn’t going to be pleased that I let you wait. How are you feeling?”
“Would you mind elaborating? ‘Ok’ doesn’t seem fitting given what you’re facing.”
She sighed, still resting her head under my chin. “It’s hard to explain. Going by my track record, by the 14 hour mark I was halfway done, but I was already thinking about pain meds and looking for more crossword puzzles… I feel great, she’s still kicking between contractions and I’m not feeling any signs of transition… I think this time is going to take a while unless I get to the hospital and they decide to give me those nasty drugs to make things go faster.”
“Are you thinking about trying to convince me to go home for a while?”
She shook her head. “No. You made a fine point. I’ve been in labor for 14 hours now. It’s been long enough that I should be checked and Maggie should be monitored. As soon as the girls are done with their fun, we go to the hospital.”
She stepped back, grinning at me and taking my hands to put them on her stomach… “As sensitive as you are, you should be able to feel that. The contraction monitors at the hospital register the resistance of the muscle as it tightens. Lafayette said that he could feel the difference.”
“You’re contracting now?”
She nodded, not taking her eyes from mine, not seeming like she was at all pained. “It’ll go from feeling like an eggplant, firm with some give, to rigid like a watermelon… It’s just a flexing muscle.”
As I waited, I felt exactly what she’d described… suppleness to resistance and back again in less than a minute.
She raised her eyebrows at me, wearing a quirky grin. “All done…” She took my wrists and turned around to put her back against me, pulling one of my hands back to her stomach and bringing the other to her throat. “And you know that when a person is scared or in pain, their pulse gives them away. How am I doing?” Amazing…
“Other than checking my progress, this is what they’ll do at the hospital first. Heart rate, blood pressure and contractions… Would it make you feel better to be my monitors for a while? I don’t like that you’re so worried.”
I didn’t answer her… I hadn’t needed to since I didn’t budge from the position she put us in while I let her completely restful heartbeat ease my anxiety, if not hypnotize me…
For the next four minutes I listened to the chatter between the Weres searching for Tina and Shelly…
One of Colonel Flood’s comrades said that it would scare the shit out of him if his kids were so good at hiding…
Another Were asked what the fuck ‘that cute blond’ was that she was divorcing a Shifter and living with a Vampire…
Herveaux sized them down by telling them to shut the fuck up and focus. “…If they’ve got a father they need to hide from, running your mouth and giving away your location isn’t doing them any favors…”
There hadn’t been much wonder to begin with since the journals were full of examples of why the Erics would’ve trusted their Sookies’ security to Herveauxs, but since he could recognize our concerns about safety, he’d be who I’d ask for if the need arose.
I might’ve noticed Sookie’s next contraction before she did. Her heart rate barely increased as her stomach tightened under my hand. She still barely had a reaction other than cooing ‘that’s better’, explaining it had been easy for her to sense how much monitoring her had pacified me.
Before the next contraction, I had Sookie let the girls know that time was up just before I let the Weres know they’d be on the move. As soon as I did, all four Weres ran to the front of the store, forming a wall with plans to intercept Tina and Shelly when they tried to reach base.
All of the hunters were watching the 2 main aisles while Sookie giggled at them because her sneaky little girls sauntered up to us proudly and turned to the Weres to shout, “WIN!”
They all spun around to gasp various expletives and the Colonel asked, “How’d you ladies get by us?”
Tina’s smile was so stretched I was surprised she could answer. “While you called us babies, we snuck back. We been behind the cart return.”
Herveaux’s jaw clenched before he demanded, “Rematch.”
Tina and Shelly were already jogging away when I called them back. “Hold on. Round 2 has different rules…”
Until 10:30, Tina and Shelly won round after round evading, escaping and fooling Colonel Flood and his packmates. Out of 8 exercises, they’d only lost one, but Tina argued the defeat because it was only a ‘half lose’.
During each and every exercise I monitored Sookie… It hadn’t taken long for her contractions to get harder for her since she was on her feet, but she didn’t want to sit down… she even encouraged us to give the girls a second chance at the round they’d lost so that they could try a different plan…
She explained that she’d been robbed of being able to walk during her other labors… And that both times she laid in a miserable hospital bed and planned the deaths of the bitches who continually paced by her door…
She’d been breathing more deeply and rocking from side to side to sooth herself and there was only 3 minutes between each contraction by the time we called it a night.
While I thanked Colonel Flood for embarrassing himself in such good spirits and paid for the girls’ LeapPad games, Sookie took Tina and Shelly to the bathroom… but as we walked to the car there was something off. Just off.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I wasn’t going to waste time trying to figure it out… but by the time I closed the door behind her and made my way to my side, she was already calling Norris. Taking my cue, I called Pam while the audience in the back seat caught on to the fact that Sookie was in labor.
Sookie impatiently reached over to turn the key in the ignition giving a slight grunt and closing her eyes with another contraction…
I had to hang up on Pam since she’d already started the expected berating.
“Did you already text Lafayette and Merlotte?” She’d only changed her mind about making Merlotte wait to meet the baby, not his presence in the delivery room, but she’d told him that even if the baby was born at dawn, he wasn’t welcome at the hospital until I was there. He’d taken the news much better than I expected. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought he was grateful.
She nodded. “I doubt they’ll make it in time.”
“Why? Is something wrong?”
“That depends on how you look at it. How far away is Pam?”
“Sookie, please don’t talk in riddles.”
“I think I got my wish. I think I avoided spending most of my labor in captivity because I might be getting to transition labor.”
“And that is which part exactly?”
“The last hour or so before pushing.”
“And why do you think…”
Before I could finish asking, Sookie held her hand out closer to me and it was trembling… “I’m starting to shiver.”
“Are you cold?”
“No. I’m actually close to sweating. I shook a lot the other times, but I never got sick. Both are perfectly normal… ok? Don’t worry.” Nevermind that she was telling me that she just said that Lafayette’s 45 minute drive could take longer than the delivery. No need to panic. FUCK!
“How much pain are you in?”