Chapter 47: Heartbeats

Eric

Sookie and I waited for the rapid pregnancy test to be done. The nurse had told us with a simple blood draw, they’d know in a matter of minutes if Sookie was definitely pregnant. It was a formality for her medical records. Sookie listed all of the symptoms she’d been having for the last couple of weeks, and the nurse nodded along as she wrote things down. After she took all of the vital information down, she left us alone in the exam room to wait for the doctor to appear.

I forgot how little of a woman Dr. Ludwig was until she walked into the room fifteen minutes later. “Sookie Stackhouse, it’s good to see you more conscious.”

“It’s good to be more conscious.” Sookie smiled, and reached for my hand.

“So, my nurse tells me you think you’re pregnant.”

“Well, three positive home pregnancy tests and about three weeks worth of morning sickness seem like pretty good evidence to support my claim.” Sookie nodded and added, “Not to mention I haven’t had my period since before the accident.”

“All good indicators. We should have the results back any minute. In the meantime, why don’t you lay back, and we’ll get to the fun part.” Dr. Ludwig snickered as she reached for a pair of gloves.

One glimpse at the tray of instruments Dr. Ludwig brought closer to the far end of the table was enough to have my eyes fixed on Sookie’s for the duration of the exam. There was a knock at the door from the nurse before she slipped into the room. With a very Juno-like flair (Pam had insisted we watch the movie because of her crush on Jennifer Garner), the nurse prounounced, “Thundercats are go.”

I took that to mean Sookie was, in fact, pregnant. She squeezed my hand and smiled up at me. My heart sped up and I couldn’t recall ever being so excited and nervous at the same time. Finally, after being poked, prodded, measured and whatever else Dr. Ludwig did, she told Sookie she could get dressed, but leave her pants unzipped and her shirt pulled up. Sookie disappeared behind a little screened portion of the room to put her clothes back on, and then hopped up on the same exam table she’d been resting on for just about the last hour.

“So, we’re going to take a quick look inside to see what we’re dealing with, and I’ll have a better idea of how far along you are.” Dr. Ludwig explained as the nurse wheeled over a larger machine.

Clear goo was squirted onto Sookie’s stomach and then spread around with a plastic wand connected to the machine I assumed was one of those sonogram/ultrasound deals. The screen came to life, and after sliding the wand around to find what she was looking for, Dr. Ludwig’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the screen. I didn’t know what the hell she was seeing, but from the way she was pointing, clicking and tapping away at her keyboard, she must have seen something that interested her.

“Okay, kids, here’s what we’ve got.” She turned the monitor so Sookie and I could see it better.

She pointed on the screen to show where Sookie’s uterus was, and then the placenta attached to the side. I couldn’t see it, but I took Dr. Ludwig’s word for it that it was there. She pointed out the baby, which appeared to be little more than a bean. And then, there in the center of that bean was what looked like a flickering white light.

“That’s the heartbeat.” She tapped the screen right over the flicker.

“That’s it?” Sookie squeaked out, her voice clogged with emotion.

“Yep, that’s it. From all I can tell, you appear to be nine weeks in.” Dr. Ludwig nodded before pushing a bunch of keys on the controls.

“Nine weeks?” Sookie was about as surprised as I was. We looked at each other with total shock on our faces.

“Is that a problem?”

“No.” Sookie and I said simultaneously.

“It’s just that… well, I thought I got pregnant because of the medication I was on after the accident, but that was only seven weeks ago.”

“Were you two sexually involved prior to the accident?” Dr. Ludwig asked in a completely clinical way that didn’t stop Sookie from blushing one bit.

“Yes.” Sookie admitted.

“Well, there you go. It’s rare, but it’s possible to get pregnant on the pill. It’s one one hundred percent effective, and if you’re not using an alternate form of birth control, the likelihood is just a little bit higher.” Dr. Ludwig explained.

Neither Sookie or I had given that much thought, although it seems we probably should have. Not that this changed anything as far as I was concerned. I was still excited about the baby. The doctor pushed another button, and all of a sudden the sound of galloping horses filled the room. Sookie gasped next to me, and it took a second to figure out it was the heartbeat I was hearing. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard. I fell into the chair that was behind me, which, by the way Dr. Ludwig grinned, I gathered was a common reaction for most fathers.

“Wow.” Was all Sookie could muster, which was more than I could say. “Are you okay?” Her voice pulled me from the trance I was in.

I turned toward Sookie with what I was sure was a dumbstruck expression on my face and said, “I love you so much.”

She nodded vigorously as tears slid down her face. She mouthed the same words right back to me, unable to find her own voice. While Dr. Ludwig printed the first pictures of our baby, we listened to the steady thundering of that teeny tiny heart working inside of Sookie. I decided right then and there that the next time I felt like asking her to marry me, that was exactly what I was going to do. I wasn’t going to go through some elaborate set up to surprise her, and I wasn’t going to pick some cheesy holiday. I was just going to wait for the moment when it felt right, and I was going to do it.

I kissed each of her knuckles, and shortly after that, the galloping sound disappeared. Dr. Ludwig handed Sookie the pictures she’d printed, and looking at anything else was next to impossible. I vaguely heard something about scheduling another appointment for the next month, and Sookie needed to start taking prenatal vitamins and be careful about her eating habits to make sure she gained weight.

“Don’t worry, she’ll eat.” I said suddenly, getting a laugh out of the three women in the room.

Sookie glared at me and said, “I can take care of myself very well, thank you.”

“Yes, and everyone loves a chubby baby.” I smirked at her, earning me a small growl.

“I also wanted to remind you that stress should be kept to a minimum. I know about the problems you’ve had as a result of the accident since the whole thing was pretty big news in this area. I also know the police are looking for the man who killed the woman who caused your accident. Do yourselves a favor and lay low. There’s a baby in there that needs you to put it first.” Dr. Ludwig advised.

“Thank you, Dr. Ludwig.” Sookie nodded her agreement.

From that moment on, it was my mission to make sure Sookie was as stress free as possible, and I would do whatever I had to to make sure it stayed that way. Dr. Ludwig and the nurse left the room so Sookie could finish getting dressed. She slipped on her little black flats, and then her coat before grabbing her purse. I took her hand as she hopped off the exam table, and we walked out to the receptionist area together so Sookie could make her next doctor’s appointment.

“I think we need to call our parents.” Sookie said once we were in the car.

“I think you’re right.” I agreed. “How are you feeling?”

“I feel great.” Sookie stared down at the pictures in her hand, and trailed her fingers over the little bean floating inside her.

“Good.”

Sookie inhaled sharply and said, “Oh, I have an idea! We could make copies of these pictures, frame them and then overnight them to our parents with notes to call us before they open them.” The look I gave her must have been one she didn’t approve of. “Eric, you know they’re going to want to see pictures when they find out we have some. Hell, if what you’ve been saying about your Mom is true, we should just prep the guest room right now for her.”

“Um, no. I love my mother, but no way in hell is she moving in with us. And trust me, she’s going to get on your nerves. Just give it time.” I warned her.

I already knew I was going to have to talk to Mom about limiting the number of times a day she called to check in. To some extent, I understood Sookie’s point of view. Yes, it was nice that Mom got so enthused over things, and that she was so invested in making sure her kids were happy. On the other hand, it was bizarre how I could feel smothered from two thousand miles away.

“Well, I know it’s early, but do you want to know what we’re having? I feel like we’ve had enough surprises already. For once, it would be nice to plan something.”

“I agree.” I laced her fingers with mine when she reached for my hand. Just to tease her I said, “We can be surprised with the next one.”

“Oh, very funny.” She laughed before looking down at that picture again. “I might be biased, but I’m pretty sure this is the cutest bean ever.”


I let Sookie have her way when it came to telling our parents we were pregnant. She overnighted them copies of the sonogram pictures in frames that said, “Our first grandchild.” Technically for Sookie’s parents, our baby would be the second born on her side of the family. Jason and Crystal were expecting their baby, in May. Ours was expected to make its grand entrance by the end of July. It was on my mind, but I didn’t bring up the subject of marriage.

I wanted to talk to her about it again, but I figured it was better if we slowed down a little bit. Things were still hectic, and if Pam was really going to Sweden, they were only going to get crazier. Sookie was going back to work starting Monday morning. Pam and I were going to need to work out things for the bar. We were moving into Sookie’s house. Not to mention, there was the small matter of Bill Compton still being on the loose.

We had a quiet dinner together before settling on the couch to watch a movie. Snow started falling right around the time Sookie’s eyes drifted shut. I sat there for a while watching the flurries dance in the wind with the sounds of The Departed barely registering in the background. On the screen Mr. French was throwing firecrackers to disguise the sounds of gunfire, and all I could think about was how my life had gotten to where it was. A year ago I was just getting settled into this house after spending some time in Sweden with Johan.

I’d felt a bit lost for once, and spending some time with my brother had helped clear my head. My saving grace had been Pam calling me for help with the bar. It wasn’t what I wanted, necessarily, so much as I would do anything to help her. I thought she had a great idea, and I needed something to focus my time on until I figured out my next step. When I heard that the local high school was looking for a new basketball coach, I figured I might as well throw my hat into the ring. I was positive my trump card was the March Madness win back in college. Without it, I probably would have been passed over for someone with more experience.

Truthfully, I wasn’t as upset as I thought I would be about losing the job. Teaching had always been a fall back for me. It wasn’t something I felt passionately about the way Sookie did. It was what she loved, and it wasn’t until I looked down at the woman sleeping next to me on the couch that I realized I found the thing I felt most passionately about. She was it, and as long as I had her, that was all I cared about. The rest of it was just the cherry on the sundae.

When I felt myself starting to get sleepy, I turned off the movie. I carefully lifted Sookie off the couch and carried her back to the bedroom. She curled onto her side, and I carefully spooned up behind her. I heard Jeter walking around the house. Aside from the occasional sound of the heat kicking on, the house was silent. I rested my hand on Sookie’s stomach, and her hand settled on mine, leading me to believe she wasn’t as deep asleep as I’d thought she was.

I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent of her hair, and then I drifted away. I slept so soundly that night I woke up in the same position I fell asleep, only Sookie was sitting up against the headboard. Her hair was piled up on her head, and her reading glasses were perched on her nose. She peered over the top of the book she was reading and smiled at me.

“Well good morning, sleepyhead.” She marked her page and set the book aside.

“What time is it?” I grumbled in a voice thick with sleep.

“Mmm, a little after ten. I was going to wake you sooner, but I figured you could probably use the sleep.”

“How long have you been up?”

“Since the Bean gave me my wakeup call.” Sookie scrunched up her face.

“You’re awfully chipper for someone who spent their first waking minutes with their face in a toilet bowl.”

Sookie shrugged and said, “It’s a small price to pay when I think of all the things I have to be thankful for, and the most important of those things is looking at me right now.”

“I didn’t know you cared about Jeter that much.” I teased, after glancing at the dog in the corner of the room.

She slapped playfully at my shoulder. “Well if that’s the way you feel, maybe I should go snuggle with him on the couch.” She started to move away, but I pulled her back.

“Oh, no you don’t. You’re staying right here.” I pulled her into the curve of my body, and she settled in easily. I loved that she fit so well right next to me, like she had been built for it.

“So how much of The Departed did I see before it was lights out?” Sookie turned her head toward mine as much as she could.

“Uh, I think you conked out right before Leo was sent to prison.” I kissed her shoulder.

“I’m such a lightweight these days.”

“You’re sleeping for two now.”

“I guess.” She sighed, and rolled onto her back. “I was going to make breakfast, but I was waiting for you to get up. Are you hungry?”

“Absolutely.” I smiled, and leaned over to kiss her.

She started to get up, but I disappeared under the comforter. “What are you-” Her question cut off when I got between her legs and tugged off her panties. “Eric.”

“You asked if I was hungry.” My voice seemed to echo under the blankets. Without warning, since she couldn’t see, my tongue darted out and licked up the slit of her folds.

She groaned loudly, and I could practically hear her eyes roll into the back of her head. “This wasn’t what I had in mind.”

“I can stop, if you want.” I said before I started teasing her with my tongue.

“Don’t you dare.” I felt her relax, and then her hands found their way under the blanket to grab onto my hair. Breakfast was most definitely served.


Sookie was just regaining the use of her legs when her cell phone rang. She’d set the packages up for ten AM delivery, and Sookie had asked her mom to wait to call until her dad came home for lunch. Sookie looked at me with a blissed out expression on her face and asked me to get her phone. Maybe her limbs weren’t functioning as well as I thought. I laughed, kissed her gently, and then leaned over her to retrieve her phone off the bedside table.

“Thank you.” She said before opening the phone to take the call. “Hi, Mom! You’re on speakerphone.”

“Hi sweetheart. Who else is there?” Michelle asked.

“Just me, Michelle.”

“Hi Eric! How are you guys? How’d things go with the school board yesterday?”

Sookie and I looked at each other. “Uh, Mom, did you get the package I sent?”

“Yep, got it right at ten.”

“Did you open it?”

“Your instructions said to wait until your father got home. He should be here any minute. I just wanted to know about the school board meeting before we got to whatever is in this box you sent.”

Sookie gestured for me to talk. “Well, I was given a choice. I could sign a letter of resignation they drafted for me, or I could let them fire me.”

“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.” Michelle apologized.

“It’s what I expected, so I wasn’t too surprised about it.”

“So what did you do?”

“He should have kicked Stan Davis in the balls and told him he could crumple up that letter and shove it right up his-”

“Sookie!” Michelle cut her off.

“It’s bullshit, Mom!” Sookie was still pissed off on my behalf. It was adorable, but unnecessary.

“Eric, are you okay with this?” Michelle chose to ignore Sookie’s outburst, which was probably the best course of action.

“He’s fine with it! Didn’t fight it at all.” Sookie glared at me, all traces of her post-orgasmic haze completely gone.

“I don’t see much point in fighting it. I don’t want to be somewhere I’m not wanted, for starters. Pam is also thinking about moving to Sweden to live with my brother, and if that’s the case, someone’s going to have to take over the bar full-time.” I explained to Michelle.

Just then we could hear Corbett come into the house, and Michelle asked us to hold on while she caught Corbett up on the school board situation. “Those sonsofbitches!” Corbett cussed on the other end of the line, and there was a look of vindication on Sookie’s face.

I shook my head at her and flopped back onto my pillows. She rolled onto her side and rested her phone on my chest before cuddling up next to me, pulling the blanket up with her. Michelle and Corbett talked for a few more seconds before Michelle came back to the phone, and Corbett picked up an extension somewhere else in the house.

“Mom, we need to get you and Daddy a speakerphone so y’all can be in the same room when we call.” Sookie told her mother.

“This works just fine. I’m on the cordless, so I can go sit in the living room with your Dad.”

“Good, go do that. I want him to see what’s inside that box when you do.”

There was chatter on the other end of the line while Michelle opened the box we’d sent. “For Pete’s sake, Sookie did you have to wrap it?”

“It’s a present. Just open it.” Sookie laughed.

“Corbett, I need your knife. Your daughter taped the box to high heaven.” Michelle complained, getting a laugh out of everyone but her husband.

“She’s about as bad as Johan, isn’t she?” I looked down at Sookie, who just grinned.

“I heard that, Eric!” Michelle called out.

“He means it as a compliment, Mom.”

We heard the shredding of paper, and then Michelle’s scream of surprise and Corbett laughing. “Well, well, looks like my both of kids will have had shotgun weddings.”

“Daddy!” Sookie admonished.

“Sookie Stackhouse are you pregnant?” Michelle asked.

“No, Shell, I’m sure that’s just a lovely rendering of a stormy night.” Corbett quipped.

“Yes, Mom, I’m pregnant. And I know you and Daddy are probably not so happy about Eric and me not being married but-”

“Oh hush with that.” Corbett cut Sookie off. “We all know it’s just a matter of time, unless you snuck a wedding invitation in here, too.”

“No, we aren’t getting married yet.” I smiled down at Sookie, contemplating asking her right then and there with her parents on the phone, but decided against it.

“So when should we be expecting this little bundle?” Michelle asked.

“Doctor says by the end of July.” Sookie confessed.

“The end of July?” There was obvious shock in Michelle’s voice then, and it was obvious she was doing the math in her head.

To my knowledge, Michelle didn’t know the full story of how Sookie and I got together, and I was pretty sure whatever opinion of me they might have would plummet a little if they knew I scandalized their one and only daughter within hours of meeting her. Add to that the fact that I’d knocked her up less than two months later, and I could understand why they might not be too happy with me, or for our situation.

“Are you happy?” Corbett asked us.

Sookie and I smiled at each other and she said, “Yes, Daddy, we are.”

“Then that’s all that matters.” Michelle piped up, and it was obvious from the breaking in her voice that she was crying. Whether they were happy tears or not, I couldn’t say.

“Mom, are you okay?”

“Fine, baby, just fine. Just caught off guard is all. That stomach bug you said you had when you were here, that was morning sickness, wasn’t it?”

“I didn’t know for sure then, but yes, it was.” Sookie admitted.

Just then my cell rang on the other side of the bed, and Sookie picked up her phone so I could get mine. “Hi Mom.”

“Honey, I just got the box you sent. Can I open it now?”

“Hang on a second, Sookie’s on the phone with her parents.” I told Mom, getting me an excited squeal that told me Mom had a pretty good idea she thought she knew what we were about to tell her.

We really needed to figure out a way to do conference calls. Sookie finished up her call with her Mom before we got into essentially the same conversation with my parents, only Mom did a hell of a lot more screaming than Michelle had done. I lost track of the number of times Dad told Mom to stifle herself while Jeter was barking excitedly in the corner.

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so happy for you both!” Mom said when she finally settled down.

She asked a whole host of questions in a rapid fire succession, wanting to know absolutely everything we knew about the pregnancy so far. We told her all there was to tell, and then she started offering Sookie tips on dealing with nausea and swelling until Dad shushed her again.

“Stell, don’t overwhelm the girl. How are you feeling, Toots? That son of mine taking good care of you?” Dad cut in.

“He’s doing a wonderful job of taking care of me, sir.” Sookie snuggled against me, and quietly kissed my chest. When she looked up at me, the expression on her face suggested she was also eluding to the activities just prior to the phone calls we’d received, and I had to bite back a laugh.

“So, when are you going to put a ring on this girl’s finger?” Dad’s question was more like a command, and it was issued to me.

“Oh, Tom, there’s no rush for that.” Mom said, which came as a shock to the system.

Everything went completely silent while all of us processed what had just come out of Mom’s mouth. I had assumed she would start planning a bridal shower for the week before the baby shower. After a minute or two of silence, Mom finally spoke again.

“Did everyone faint?” Mom chuckled.

“You’ve been hounding this boy to propose to Sookie since the minute you found out about her way back in September.” Dad reminded Mom as if we’d all forgotten, or maybe we’d made it all up in our own heads.

“They’re having a baby together, Tom, it’s not like they can get away from each other now. Rings or not, they’re tied for life.” Whoa. Whoa, this was not my mother, was it?

“I think I’d better take your Mom to the hospital. She may have had a stroke.” Dad joked.

“Oh, Tom!” Mom said in frustration.

Sookie and I stayed quiet on our end, letting my parents verbally duke it out. It was actually rather amusing to see how the two of them had flip-flopped on the issue. I never, in a million years, would have seen that coming. Sookie eventually climbed over me and ran to the bathroom, the door slamming shut behind her. Seconds later the shower was running, but I could hear her gagging all the same.

“Shit. Mom, Dad, Sookie’s not feeling well, so we’ll call you later.” I said quickly.

“Oh, you go take care of that girl. We love you, son.” Mom said just as quick.

“We love you, too. Bye.” I hung up and then bolted for the bathroom.

I knocked and opened the door to find Sookie perched on the vanity with a grin on her face. “I’m sorry. I just couldn’t take anymore.”

I slumped against the door jamb, my laughter joining in with Sookie’s. “You know, this pregnancy may just have more perks than we ever could have imagined.” I reached out a hand to her to help her down.

“The Bean is starving. Let’s go eat.” Sookie tugged me toward the kitchen when I tried to put us back in bed.

“The Bean, huh?”

“It’s better than calling the baby ‘it’ for the next seven months.”

“That’s true.” I watched as she pulled one of my t-shirts on.

She stopped to look in the mirror over the dresser and turned to the side. “You know what’s scary? Someday I’m going to be too big to wear your clothes.” She held the shirt away from her body in attempts to get an idea of what she might look like.

“You’ll look great, lover.”

Sookie made a disapproving moan. “Easy for you to say.”

“Ooh, don’t worry, Sookie. I’ll remind you every chance I get of how good you look to me.”

Sookie narrowed her eyes at me and shook her head slowly. “You’re incorrigible.”

“I prefer to think of it as passionate.” I grabbed her and kissed her, letting my hand rest over the steady thudding of her heart. I smiled against her lips when I felt it speed up just a little.

“Yeah, that, too.” She winked at me before pushing me out of our bedroom.

 

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