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The characters of the Southern Vampire Mysteries belong to Miss Charlaine Harris. No infringement on my part is intended. The characters on True Blood belong to Mr. Alan Ball. No infringement on my part is intended.

I have no BETA, editor, or other such charming person. All mistakes are my own.

 This story is rated M.

 Chapter 31—Epilogue

 

Sookie knew the moment they stepped off the plane that they were home. There was no mistaking that cold, piney smell, anywhere!

“Better,” Eric said as he stepped off and into the brisk, clean, air.

The dogs echoed his sentiment.

As they walked to the helicopter Sookie admired the scenery. “Purple mountains majesty,” she said softly. “Did you know?” she asked Eric. “Did you know this country would be your home whenever you moved here?”

“Yes,” he nodded, “I knew. I was tired of Europe and its wars and petty differences. I was tired of the Old World Empire dictating the terms of my undead life. I was tired, Sookie. So I went looking for something fresh and new and untainted. Something that I could carve out and make my own. When I woke that first dark that I landed, here, I was happy. Genuinely happy. The last hundred years I had spent in Europe, I could not say that.

This land reminded me a great deal of my human life. Old growth forests, unpolluted streams, beautiful lakes. If you wanted to survive here, you had to work. This was not so different from the way I was raised. Nothing was handed to you except, if you were lucky, your father gave you an already sharpened axe before you set out for your day’s task.

Often, you had returned the day before from clearing timber and you were so tired, you fell asleep in front of the fire before you sharpened it for the next day.

The smallest things that made your life a bit easier was always a blessing. That is why I loved my good boys,” he grinned at the dogs. “I could shoot an animal with my bow and they would bring it down. If it was not a clean kill, I did not have to chase it all over the woods to find it. Plus, they could and did hunt. They would bring back the small game for me to skin out. I would give them their share and I would have a meal as well.”

“I want Josiah raised with those values,” she said as they entered the helicopter.

“He will be,” Eric grinned. “Samuel does not abide freeloaders.”

 

The days on Peak 8 passed. They were neither hurried or slowed. The town adjusted to the new owners of the mushing company. It was not unusual to see the Mr. and his Mrs. in town, picking up the meat scraps from the local restaurants that were more than happy to help feed the dogs.

Sookie went daily for her walks. She had turned into something of a mountain goat as she picked her way up and down the trail, always in the company of her good boys and one exceptional blond good boy in particular. Often accompanied by a shorter but just as handsome Jewish good boy.

As her tummy got rounder, the smile on Eric’s face got bigger. And even the household staff had taken to nudging each other and counting down the days until their baby arrived!

“January,” they would all whisper and wiggle their eyebrows! “Our Mr. Josiah will be here tout de suite!”

 

When she was seven months pregnant, one morning they got a call from Mr. Ed.

“You would not have happened to have seen about ten little huskies milling around somewhere? Would you?”

Sookie went over and opened the door. “Oo-oooO,” little tiny howls started as they invited themselves inside. Jumping up in her chair they waited for her to sit back down. “Mr. Ed,” she laughed, “we know where they are. After they have had some lovin’, we’ll put them in the wagon and bring them on home.” Hanging up she looked down at all the tiny faces that were happily wagging their tails and leaving little bits of their hair in her chair.

“You are gonna’ have to scoot over, or I need a bigger chair,” she chuckled. “Eric, if you would please. Take one or two, I’ll take one or two and then they can all sit in my lap and talk to Josiah.

None of you good boys are foolin’ me for a minute,” she chuckled, as she loved on each one. “You are here to visit with our boy. Once he gets here, the only thing you will come searchin’ for me for is to hand out the treats.

Eric,” she looked over at her husband, as puppy kisses rained down on her. “Maybe I should just find myself a job at the kennels. Be there for a couple of hours everyday. I think that would keep our little fellas at home. Especially once the snow moves back in.

Besides, I like havin’ something useful to do. And I like being with people who like their jobs. You married a blue-collar worker,” she smiled.

“I love being married to a blue-collar worker,” he grinned. “When the baby arrives…”

“I know, I know…” she nodded her head in agreement. “I figure we’ll just move ourselves to the kennels. Save Mr. Ed time lookin’ for the dogs. But for right now, we should just make this easier,” she smiled. “We can have an early breakfast, check on the dogs, do something useful while we are there and then come home.”

That became part of their morning routine. They drove down to greet the new day with the dogs.

Sookie was there to help with their breakfast and check their weights. Logging everything in, she and Eric would then ride down to the main building. Say good morning, was there anything that was needed and then be on their way back to the house.

 

Her being at the kennels and letting the dogs sing to Josiah seemed to help. But the closer she got to delivering, that was not enough. The dogs coming to visit were getting just a bit out of hand. You never knew who was going to be waiting to be let in. One afternoon there was the polite scratching. Rosta and Gramr went with her to the door. Which she thought was a bit odd. When she opened it, there sat a wolf!

The wolf rolled over on his back and stayed there until Gramr gave the okay. Sitting up, “Ooo-OOO-o,” the original canine sang softly and then bounded out of the yard.

“Woof,” was all she could think of as she scratched Rosta and Gramr on the head and went to tell the story.

 

Sookie did not think she would ever see a white Christmas and here she was, smack-dab in the middle of one! It was the first of December and it was going to snow some everyday! Her tummy now proudly preceded her wherever she went. Round, Eric would tell her. Her tummy was perfectly round and Josiah’s song was stronger! When they went into town every dog they passed would yodel at her in greeting!

“This time next year,” she kissed Eric lightly on the lips as the lights twinkled on the tree, “Josiah will be almost a year old and I figure we will not be able to walk in here for all the dogs,” she chuckled.

“Well then,” Eric wiggled his eyebrows at her, “did I hear you say you were a bit warm with your jammies on? Here, let me help you take them off!”

Sookie giggled. “Your sweet talkin’ makes babies.”

“Well then,” he swept her up into his arms. “I speak about forty different languages. Let the sweet talking, begin!”

 

Lafayette and Tara were coming for Christmas! The house was full of excitement and secrets and surprises!

“You guys just come on,” Sookie was doing Face Time with the NO family. “Samuel is sending the plane. We have plenty of room and I’ve given Cook a list of your favorite foods…especially holiday ones,” Sookie grinned.

“Sookie, this here is Tara Mae,” she pointed to herself. “I am enrolled in Tulane, living with La La and starting classes and did you know,” her voice got louder, “La La has a dragon for a guardian angel?”

“I did,” she nodded.

“Do you have one for a guardian angel? This here is Tara. Tell me true.”

“No,” she shook her head. “No dragons. I have dogs. Actually two dogs that are angels and two that are well, just dogs. But they are just as special.”

“Dogs,” Tara nodded, sounding a little lost. “Did you ever want a dragon?” she asked.

“Well, I really did not know dragons were an option,” Sookie replied, matter of fact. “And dogs are a lot easier to explain. I mean, they go with me everywhere. Not that OI does not go with Lafayette everywhere.”

“You think I can get a guardian angel?” she asked. “I mean, I can hear La La and OI talkin’ about stuff and cookin’ in the kitchen what a great study buddy he is.”

“Ah-h-h-h,” Sookie was at a loss for words. “The dogs were Eric’s when he was human. They went to Heaven and now they are back with us.

OI…I really can’t explain him. But he is a charming purple-eyed rascal. I am just not for real sure how you make that happen. Why don’t you ask OI? What?” Sookie asked. “I can see it on your face?”

“I…I…” she stammered. “I don’t think I am worthy.”

“Stop it,” Sookie eyed her friend. “I mean it. You just stop it right now. You are better than most. You have been a good and true friend. You are my sister. You just ask OI…see what he says.”

“I’m still afraid to do that,” she whispered.

“Well okay then,” Sookie smiled at her. “We’ll just see how it rolls around.”

 

Christmas was wonderful and special. Having all the money in the world meant nothing to Sookie. Her family was here with her. That is all that mattered. They played team Scrabble, Old Maid, and Spoons!

Cook was the only one allowed in his kitchen but some nights, when it was late, (and Cook had gone to bed) and the snow was flying, they would stay up and talk and tell ghost stories and make hot chocolate and rice krispie bars and sit in front of the fire and talk about the future.

Tara was so excited about school, the baby, just everything good that was happening that she actually burst into tears! Sookie wrapped her arms around her and they sat that way until Tara told Sookie to go to bed. She was fine. Sookie passed OI on her way out. Nodding at her, she knew that OI had this.

OI fluttered in and joined Tara in front of the fire.

“Tell me a secret, Tara Mae,” OI smiled at her. “Something that you have never told anyone else.”

“I believe in Santa Claus,” she replied instantly. “That someone so inherently good would work all year to bring presents to the good boys and good girls of the world. And it would not matter what your parents said or did to you. Santa would know what was in your heart.

I…I think I saw him once. It was Christmas Eve…Momma was drunk and I was sleepin’ out on the porch. I heard the sleigh bells and looked up and there he was. In a sleigh being pulled by reindeer.”

OI nodded. “You went over to Sookie’s for Christmas. You took off just as soon as it was light outside. Wrapped in the blanket you were sleeping in. You could not get back inside to get your coat because your mother had locked the door on you.”

Tara sat in stunned silence.

“You were twelve.”

“And I was sad and miserable,” Tara added.

“Yes,” OI nodded his head. “Your mother was drunk and she had a loaded pistol. And she did not lock the door, I did. To keep her from shooting you when you came inside. And you can only see Santa if you have a heart that believes,” he added softly. “What a wonderful gift. What did you find on your way over to Sookie’s?” he asked.

“Mrs. Hardy’s dog. Just as ugly as the day was long, but she loved him.

When I returned him to her, she gave me…”

“A ten dollar bill, one of her daughter’s coats and a job walking her dog,” OI finished for her.

“That’s right,” Tara nodded. “After that, she paid me a dollar a day to walk her dog. And it had to be more than just around the block. I would stop by after school and take him for a walk and she would help me with my homework and fix me dinner.

She was there to watch me graduate from high school, cheering me on! She gave me this watch that I wear, as a graduation present.”

“So what did Santa bring you for Christmas that year Tara?” OI asked.

She was very quiet. Lost in her memories. “Someone who believed in me and was willing to make sure that I got a chance.”

OI nodded his head. “Between her and Gran, you turned out to be a fine woman.”

Tara stared at him for a long time before she finally said, “I am not that fine.”

“Depends on who you ask,” OI replied. “Gran was very proud of what you had overcome. You are Sookie’s sister, always believing in her. Sookie is proud to say she loves you.  You and Lafayette and her Gran, that was all she had.

And Mrs. Hardy…before you were born, her daughter died in car accident with her husband. Her daughter’s bedroom was a shrine. That coat she gave you, that was the first thing in twenty years that had left that room. With you Tara, she started healing. You gave her something to look forward, too. To feel useful again. She thanks God daily for the fine person that you are. She is not for real sure what she is going to do with you gone. Don’t get me wrong, she is very pleased you are going to school. But she misses you.”

“Mrs. Hardy,” Lafayette came in looking for his shoes and nodded his head. “That woman is spry and her mind is sharp as a tack. She did the books for Sam up until a couple of months ago. She did not want to drive anymore so she gave up the job. Just lives on her Social Security now.” Lafayette was lifting the cushions on the couch. The dogs loved to hide his things. “You think she’d come on and manage the house for us?” he said looking up from under the couch where he pulled out one shoe. “Could use someone to over see what all goes on around and what comes into that house. Especially with us always in school.”

“You think she wants to come and live with us?” she asked OI, hope in her voice.

“I think nothing would please her more,” he replied.

 

It was going to be grand Christmas on Peak 8! Being very pregnant Sookie kept her off the slopes. But Tara tried the winter sports. She loved dog mushing, downhill tubbing, snowmobiling, and agreed with Sookie; ice fishing was just like regular fishing except it was COLD!

“Just somethin’ wrong about having to drill through twenty- eight inches of ice to fish,” Tara said through shivering teeth. “I don’t care how warm and toasty today the locals think it is at ten degrees. Cook does magical things with fish that comes from the store. That salmon we had last night, I just about beat my brains out with my tongue it was so delicious.”

 

Christmas break passed much to quickly.  Tara and Sookie had their arms wrapped around each other as they walked out to the helipad.

“You call me as soon as Josiah gets here. I mean it,” Tara whispered to Sookie as she hugged her goodbye. “I would be here, but I can tell, these classes are gonna’ kick my ass. We’ll be back Spring break to spoil him rotten.”

 

Sookie knew her time for birthing was coming on. There were always four dogs wherever she went. If she sat, their noses were at her tummy, if she was standing still, their noses were at her tummy. If she was lying down….well, there they were with their noses at her tummy.

When she went into labor, the midwife was called.

When Midwife Joanie arrived in the bedroom she looked around and said, “Those dogs should not be in here,” which brought forth four low, threatening growls from the dogs.

“It is just fine,” Sookie patted her hand. “They have been practicing with me and Eric with my breathin’. Just wait, you will see.”

“Who…who…he-e-e-e,” Sookie panted through the contraction with Eric coaching her. On the floor around her were four noses resting on the edge of the bed. The huskies also going, “Whooooo, whooooo, heeeeee…” and they would lift their heads on the last note and howl.

For forty-five minutes Eric labored with his wife and the dogs kept pace with Eric’s coaching as Josiah’s song got stronger.

 

Sookie felt the burning, knowing that was Josiah pushing out. At that moment, the dogs shifted and began the sweetest lullaby she thought she had ever heard! With one last push her son was born and his umbilical cord, cut. She watched as their Josiah was wrapped in a warm blanket by his father. His back being rubbed and stimulated by Eric until he breathed out and then in and when his first cry sounded, the dogs sang along. Which startled Josiah so much, he jerked his head in that direction. A baby hand came out of the blanket and tried reaching for the dogs as they all scooted closer to him, their noses reaching for him as he was cuddled in Eric’s arms.

In regards to after giving birth, there were multiple things to do. Sookie and Eric both knew what to expect. It was interesting to watch. The Midwife was going to take Josiah from Eric and  hand him to Sookie for a few moments and then do his APGAR testing.

What they had not planned on was that there were four sets of eyes watching Midwife Joanie’s every move. Their good boys were standing right there, their heads on the bed as she checked Josiah’s palms, the soles of his feet, his breathing, his auditory response. Listened to his heart. Wrapping him back up, then her attention was on Sookie. Giving her the baby to nurse, the placenta was delivered as she continued to massage Sookie’s tummy to help with the uterus. At this time, all four dogs were up on the bed, monitoring everything she did.

When she had finished and stepped back, the dogs continued to lie perfectly still on the bed, watching her.

“It all looks good,” Midwife Joanie said as she finished the birth certificate. “I have never had dogs in attendance before, but, you were right. They were very good coaches.”

Samuel showed her to the door and walked her to the car.

At that moment, howls sounded all across the mountains and valley.

“Clifford must have let the dogs out,” he smiled. “They are celebrating Josiah’s birth.”

“Of course,” she smiled as she got in and closed the door. “Of course they are,” she mumbled. Then odd just continued to happen. As she drove out of the driveway, there were wolves, coyotes and foxes, sitting along side the rode, and back in the trees, singing along. She glanced back at the house. For sure, rich folks lived there. And something else. The wolf that was trotting along beside her car lifted his voice and sang! Winking at her, he bounded over the car and took off toward the house.

On the 12th of January, Josiah Ericsson Northman was born at 5:00 A.M on Peak 8. The small, exact replica of his father was born under a beautiful star lite sky that blazed like diamonds across the heavens. Taking his first breath he greeted the new day listening to a chorus of howls singing in joy and announcing his arrival!

“Five,” Sookie smiled at their son. “Early riser,” she shook her head in wonder as she watched him nurse while she placed little tiny kisses on his head.

“Good boys have got to be fed,” Eric said in Josiah’s little three year old voice. Chuckling he held Sookie and his son in his arms.

Laughing along with him she then rubbed her nose against Eric’s. “Thank you,” she looked up at her husband. “I don’t think I say that enough.”

“I love you,” bending his head, he kissed her as she snuggled deeper into his arms.

Samuel stuck his head in. “Our boy is so handsome! Looks just like his proud poppa,” he grinned, figuring that would get him whatever he wanted. Just keep telling Eric that and his brother would burst at the seams and then Samuel could hold him for longer than just mere seconds.

Well rats! Eric smiled in acknowledgement of his grand review but then gave him that flinty, steely-eyed stare.

“My nephew needs to be burped. I am here to do the job. And do not give me the pout, Eric. I know you have burped him already. Now it is my turn. I got to hold him for mere seconds after he was born. You have nuzzled on him non-stop since then. The rest of us want a turn.”

“Oh,” Eric arched an eyebrow. “So that would include Clifford and Cook and…”

“Of course not,” he shook his head in disdain. “They can guilt you into their own sweet time with him. This is about me.”

“Come sit on the bed, Samuel,” Sookie smiled. “This way Eric, who is an expert at burping, can watch you and critique you.”

“Better believe it,” Eric replied. “Nothing gets past these baby blues.”

“Thank you Miss Sookie,” Samuel said graciously as she handed him Josiah.

“Support his neck!” Eric growled.

“I have this,” Samuel smiled. “I have read all the books, watched all the videos and even have been practicing on the new born baby-like doll.”

Samuel had Josiah leaning against his chest while he rubbed his back. A resounding belch sounded in the room.

Both men smiled.

“Really?” Sookie looked from one to the other.

“Bodily functions are very important,” Samuel and Eric both said together.

Shaking her head, Sookie lay back against Eric’s shoulder. “Samuel, if you would like to take him for a walk around the house, I think that would be just fine. But not far and not fast,” she added.

“Cook said he wanted to see him, again. There was not enough time spent introducing him to the staff. Believe me, I heard about that…and got a little chewed on…” Samuel sighed and looked very sad and then gave Sookie his very best smile. “Very good then,” Samuel stood, “my nephew and I are off. We shall return after the appropriate hugs and kisses have been dispensed.”

Sookie kissed Eric on the chin. “How long were you going to make him suffer before you let him show him off?”

“Well, I thought about until tomorrow morning. But it is supposed to snow, tonight. I will need to take Josiah out side for his blessing. The staff will be in attendance. I thought we could possibly wait until later this afternoon, right before I took him outside. But now is good.”

“Now is good,” she grinned. “I am a little bit hungry. Is there something to eat?”

“What do you want?” Eric asked as he ran his fingers through her hair. “Cook has been preparing for days. Say it and it shall be yours. Of course, if he is holding the baby, I can always fix you a pb&j.”

 

When two o’clock in the afternoon rolled around, Sookie woke up from her nap and went looking for her guys. There, in front of the fire, lay Rosta and Gramr. Eric had his head resting on Rosta, his butt on the floor and his legs bent at the knees and resting on Gramr, sleeping. Just like she had seen Josiah do countless times with his good boys. Only this was different. Josiah was lying on his daddy’s chest, snuggled in a blanket with Eric’s big hand holding him in place.

Samuel came in and stood beside her. “This pleases me,” he whispered, giving her a kiss on the cheek and then disappeared back into his office.

“Pleases me too,” she grinned as she went to the door and let Michael and Gabriel back in.

 

It was decided that Samuel would hold the baby while Eric and Sookie ate. Well, Samuel did the deciding and offered to arm wrestle any who thought he should not.

So the proud parents were sitting in front of the fire having their soup as they watched it snow.

“See,” Samuel kept smiling at Josiah and kissing his nose as he cradled him on his legs. “Hot soup and babies do not mix,” he kissed the little tiny nose, again. “That is why there is an Uncle Samuel.

Do you need me to hold him while you say the blessing over him, tonight?” Samuel asked innocently.

Eric eyed his brother. “Thank you dearest brother,” he bowed his head, “but no!” he stressed. “That is the job of the father.”

“I thought the Viking law also stated that the oldest living relative also pronounced a blessing over the child,” Samuel’s voice was one of virtuousness.

Eric eyed his brother. “I see you have been studying,” he harrumphed. “Yes, but that is normally said at sunrise after the first full day of life.”

“So,” Samuel kissed on the baby again, “I can say one tonight and one tomorrow morning.”

“Pick one,” was all Eric said as he finished his soup, put down his spoon and was vamp speed to his brother. Taking his son, he headed back to his place on the floor with the dogs. When they were both settled in, Josiah went back to sleep. Reaching over, he touched Sookie’s leg. “Watch him,” he said with a nod of his head toward Samuel and, “do not sign any paperwork. Or we will all have the last name of Da’vid. That would make him the patriarch. It would just get ugly. I do not think he is old enough to be a patriarch. We are saving Samuel from himself.”

“Yes dear,” she smiled.

“Samuel,” she addressed her brother, “if you would not mind. The sun has set and the wind and snow have picked up a bit. We are going to need that bear skin. Would you mind?”

“Of course not,” he grinned, “it is the patriarch’s job to have all things need for the ceremonies!”

“Sign nothing,” Eric said, his eyes closed. “And agree to nothing. Do you see how he tried to get you to agree to him being patriarch? There is a reason Samuel always gets his way,” Eric huffed.

“I learned from the best,” Samuel grinned. “I was just a sweet, innocent, Jewish boy until The Viking entered my life.”

“By the time I had met you, you already owned the world,” Eric hooted.

“No,” Samuel shook his head. “No Miss Sookie I did not. That is still a work in progress.”

 

Sookie was dressed in her Viking clothes. Eric was sitting on the couch, dressed in his Viking clothing, sitting on the bear skin.

Their little man had a small blue linen tunic that was embroidered with longboats. Tiny linen trousers and on went socks and small soft leather boots. On his head was a linen cap, tied under his chin.

Eric slipped the soft woolie hat onto his head and wrapped him in a wool cloak. He was dressed exactly like his father.

“You don’t think the wool is scratching his skin, do you?” Samuel asked. “I purchased the softest spun available. But baby skin is so soft and delicate.”

Eric was taking a closer look. “No, all looks to be good. I see no redness. There is linen covering him before anything else comes in contact with his skin. The hat,” he eyed it like maybe it might betray him, “I think that little linen cap covering his head will protect him from the itching. We will not be out long.”

Samuel started to say something and Sookie shook her head, no. Eric’s face was set. She could see it, he was doing his best not to cry.

“When I did this with Josiah the first time,” his voice was soft. “I thought I would never be so blessed. To have my child to say a blessing over. I did not care that he was three. My heart sang with joy.

Now,” tears slipped from his eyes. “I sit here with our son,” he looked at Sookie, “and I am responsible for this small being that I helped to create. My time as Viking, the winter months are what we feared most. For we did not know what waited for us. So we defied the Frost King.

I know he shall live a good life,” he kissed Josiah and held him close, “but I want him to grow to be a good man. Someone better than his father.”

Sookie kneeled down in front of him, her eyes holding his. “Eric, you are my husband. The father of our son. You are the best man I know. I am honored to call you mine. Our son will be honored to call you Father.

This is your son.” She leaned forward and kissed him on the nose. “He is mine as well. I trust you to keep him warm and fed and safe. Just as I trust you to do this for me.” Standing, she wrapped Eric and her son in the bearskin.

Standing, Eric went to the door and walked out into the night, the snowflakes falling. The dogs being his escort, sniffing the wind and calling to the night. For what seemed like forever, he stood there, watching the bits of heaven chase each other across the dark. Turning to Sookie and Samuel, he motioned for them to join him.

When they reached them, he opened the robe and they both wrapped their arms around him.

The doors were opened and the household stood there and watched as Eric began the centuries old blessing.

“The Frost King may blow his spirit upon us

But my spirit is strong,” he looked into Josiah’s eyes. His little hand came out and touched Eric’s face.

I will learn the ways of my father—and my mother—and my uncle.

And my people shall fight the Frost King with warmth—“

And fight with a warm heart,” Eric smiled as he echoed Josiah’s previous words, and then he became very serious.

“And stave the death he brings to the land with our table set with plenty.

My Son,” Eric addressed his young man. “I hear your song. It says those we love, they can come and eat with us and they will be safe in our house. And so they shall, all of our days.”

The dogs started soft and low and after a few measures a chorus of howls echoed up and down the valley. Looking out into the night, Eric could see several sets of eyes staring back at them before they disappeared into the dark.

When they went back in, there were drinking horns and a bottle of mead.

“To our Josiah,” Samuel said as he passed a horn to everyone in the house.

“To our Josiah!” was echoed back.

“May his days be long and prosperous,” Sookie smiled out to the crowd. “Just like his father’s.”

 

The face time call went out to NO.

“Put that baby on!” Lafayette, OI and Tara and Mrs. Hardy were all yelling. “We want to see Josiah!”

 

Then Eric made the call to Pamela.

“He is so beautiful, Eric,” she sobbed as her hand touched the screen. “My little brother looks just like our father.”

“I can see the resemblance,” Eric smiled at her. “I would love to ask you how things are going in NO, but frankly,” the tears started, “I would rather just sit and hold my son.”

 

There was not much that changed to the morning routine. Dogs had to be feed, watered and let outside, then back in. Josiah now accompanied them to the kennels each morning. Each dog came over for his baby kiss and then trotted off for breakfast and then waited to be weighed or groomed. Josiah was either in a Snuglie with Eric or Sookie as they went about their daily tasks. Then it was back into the snow mobile and home in time for second breakfast.

 

When Josiah was one month old, the family was down on the floor, with the baby on his back. There was a grunt, another grunt and then their little man was on his tummy.

Eric eyed the dogs. “You four know anything about this?”

“Ooo—o!” Gramr answered, as he rolled over, to be followed by the other three dogs.

There was another grunt from Josiah and then he rolled onto his back. The four dogs did the same thing, with their four appendages sticking in the air, just like Josiah.

“When we start brushing Josiah’s teeth,” Sookie sighed and shook her head, “just might have to do his four older brothers as well.”

Spring break La La and Tara come to visit…having been using Face Time…they wanted up close and personal.

The baby was three months and a charmer! Smiles, coo’s, kisses…and well, four brothers who you had to compete with for sweet baby time.

“The only time I gots to hold him,” Lafayette grumped the last night they were there, “was when we were out mushing. Those four would not let anyone else be the lead or rear dogs so that gave us humans a chance to snuggle with him.”

“La La,” Tara smiled. “If you would have got down on the floor with them, you could hold him all you wanted. As long as his brothers were right there with him.”

Eric started laughing. “That is the truth. We spend all of our time now down here helping our little man, along. He just rolls sideways wherever he wants to go. Of course, he has learned, if you grab hold of one the dogs, they will pull you wherever you want to go.”

In a home blessed with a baby, when the baby first starts to crawl, some folks will make a pallet on the floor for their wee one and build a pillow fort around it. This creates a safe place to scoot about and explore and if your head ran into something, it was soft and cuddly. The pillows were not so high that with a little effort and practice, you could, by rocking back and forth on your hands and knees, hurdle yourself to the top and look about and perhaps roll yourself down and after making your escape, roll sideways wherever you wanted to go and look about.

Sookie put down blankets on the floor for her son in front of the fire and Josiah had four dogs to keep him boxed in. Well, up to a point. Because unlike pillows, the dogs kissed him back. Would give him a lick or two just in case something was lingering on his face. When Josiah would grab a handful of their hair to help pull himself up so he could peek over the edge, a nose would come around and give him a little boost to help him along. It was not unusual, once he was on top of a dog, to stretch out and go to sleep.

When he started to crawl in real time, making his way across the floors and down the halls, the dogs would low crawl right behind him.

“A commando raid,” Eric chuckled one day as he watched. “Obviously Josiah is the point man, his squad patrolling behind him.”

“Looks like us going through Paris,” Samuel laughed out loud. Eric stopped for a moment and admired Josiah crawling along on the floor at top speed, with the dogs scooting along on their tummies right behind him. “Samuel,” he laughed, “you are right. Paris,” he grinned, “good times.”

At eight months Josiah started pulling up…and holding onto a dog on either side of him, he went merrily about the house. If he started to loose his balance, there was always a dog to balance him back out. At times he would toddle around with the dogs and then just sit down. Everyone sat down with him until he was ready to get up and go again.

“He is goin’ be walkin’ by nine months,” Sookie sighed. “Our baby is growin’ up. We are gonna have to fence things off and make sure all those baby plugs are in the sockets.”

“Samuel said not to worry about the sockets,” Eric remarked as he sat on the floor and he and his son rolled the ball back and forth, switching off between the dogs. “Someone is coming in to change out the outlets. The kind where you have to use the plug to physically move the covering out of the way to be able to get to the socket.”

“Eric,” she sat down on the floor and Josiah giggled with delight as he pushed the ball to his momma. “Are we a burden…here…I mean…there are dog gates and baby gates and that rug in front of the fire had to be cleaned because Josiah peed all over it…Samuel walks the floor with him sometimes at night…the other day he feed him lunch and ended up wearing the mashed potatoes and gravy. The dogs loved that. Gave Samuel a bath while he was still sitting there. They followed Samuel around the rest of the day. You know, just in case Josiah finger painted all over him again with food.”

“Why don’t you ask him,” Eric smiled at her.

“Ask him what?” Samuel stepped into the room, over a dog, another dog and sat down on the floor. There was a lot more giggling as Josiah pushed the ball to his Uncle.

“Are we in your way?” she asked.

“In my way?” he asked, confusion on his face.

“Samuel, we have taken your lovely home and turned it into a three ring circus. Josiah is trying to figure out a way to hook the dogs up to that chariot. I am sure it is not a knock off. Something from one of the pharaoh’s I am thinkin’. The way that boy climbs all over it…the dogs nudging it with their noses, to see if they can get it to go, it is going to be firewood.”

“Pharaoh,” Samuel made a gagging sound which Josiah found hilarious and was laughing as he crawled over to his Uncle and sat in his lap. “I keep that as a reminder of tyrants. For me not to become one. And to be careful around those that would like to be one. It pleases me that Josiah thinks on it as something to conqueror.

So, to answer your question,” he began carefully, “before you came to live with me, this was a very lovely house. It was not a lovely home until there were baby gates and dogs to step over and my family to wish me good morning and to hug me at the end of the day. Now Sookie, it is filled with life. Before, it was just a building waiting to be.”

“So, you really secretly don’t want us to move out?”

“Well,” he replied, “if you and Eric would like to go, I would cry and wail and beg you to stay, but you are not taking my nephew.”

“I’m pregnant, Samuel,” she said. “We are going to over run you.”

Tears rolled down his cheeks. “I am so pleased and over joyed!” he sobbed as leaned over with Josiah tucked into his arm as he hugged Eric and then Sookie.

“You say that now,” she smiled at him.

“I am the patriarch of this family,” he grinned as he wiped his tears. “That means I need lots of family to show then how wise and prudent I am. That I am that sage; the elder that sits on the mountain but I am always accessible and easy to find. Especially if one of the babies needs something.”

“Oh Samuel,” she smiled at him and leaning over kissed his cheek, “Thank….”

“No,” Eric screeched, “do not my wife. Sign nothing, agree to nothing.”

Samuel grinned. “I think we can name the next baby after me.”

“It’s a girl,” Sookie’s grin got bigger. “We can hear her song.”

“My mother’s name was Sara,” Samuel’s voice became reverent.

“Sara it is,” Eric smiled at his brother.

“Really?” Tears started again from Samuel’s eyes.

Eric nodded. “We have always called her Sara. Since the first time we heard her song. In honor of your mother.”

“Thank you, my brother, I am deeply honored. Now, you have named two of the children after my immediate relatives. That makes me patriarch.”

Eric rolled his eyes. “Josiah?”

“My Uncle Josiah. My father’s brother. Now,” Samuel smiled, “what is our baby girl Sara going to need?”

 

 

Three Years Later

 Sookie sat up and checked around her. No dogs, no kiddos. Checking the time she understood why. “I am sleeping through snack time,” she yawned as she got out of bed and headed toward the bathroom. Finishing there, she went in search of the family.

“Now that is something you do not see everyday,” she chuckled to herself.

“Sweet Boy,” she called to him as he let the dogs in. Pausing for only a moment, Josiah gave them the sign to go and they took off, Sookie was sure, for the family room.

“Momma,” he came running as fast as he could. “Those good boys were ready to come back in.”

“Ah-h-h-h, Sweet Boy,” she laughed as she picked him up. “Did I see that right? Did those good boys have spiked purple hair? And do you have spiked purple hair?” she asked taking a whiff. “Smells like grape jelly.”

“Oh yes,” he nodded the affirmative, “I helped Mr. Cook make pb&j for snack. Sister helped also.”

“And where is Miss Sara?” the Mommy asked. Miss Sara, Sookie sighed inwardly. Another little Eric look alike…only so feminine that it made your heart melt. Little tiny blonde curls all over her head. That dimpled chin. Those Northman come-on-over-here-and-let-me-glamour-you eyes.   Her Josiah was so sweet…the little missy was hell-on-wheels! Of course, Momma was the only one who told her no. The males in the house…she rolled her eyes, they were all wrapped around her little finger. Especially her brother….and her father….and her Uncle…and…

“In her high chair, having her snack.”

“In her high chair…” Sookie smiled as she headed toward the family room, right off the kitchen. “And where is Daddy?” she asked, kissing him on the nose.

“He’s helpin’ Sister have snack.”

“And your Uncle Samuel?”

“He’s helpin’ Sister have snack also,” he nodded.

“Mh, Mh, Mh!” Sara of the purple spiked hair clan started squealing when Sookie come in. Sitting on one side of her at the table was her daddy with purple spiked hair and on the other side was her Uncle Samuel with purple spiked hair.

“You know,” she eyed the two male adults, and the four dogs, “Mr. Cook made that grape jelly for us to eat, not to use as a hair product. We are gonna’ have to…”

At that time Cook walked out of the kitchen with a pitcher of chocolate milk.

“Et tu Cook?” Sookie asked when she saw his hair.

With a grin, he set the milk down on the table.

“Looks like little baby girl hands have been hard at work. I am glad you wiped her hands off. They are still purple, though.”

Sara grinned and held her hands up to be admired.  Yes, purple!

“Sweet Boy, when you are finished,” she set him down, “get a washcloth and let’s wipe down the those good boys’ heads. We don’t want sticky everywhere. No soap, just a clean rag. I am sure Uncle Samuel would be more than happy to help,” she smiled at him with an arched eyebrow.

“Yes ma’am,” Samuel nodded.

“Daddy, looks like we are going to need some hair washing.”

Eric nodded his head. “Bath time it is.”

“In the big shower, Daddy? ” Josiah clapped his hands in joy.

Sara began laughing and clapping her hands as she raised her arms to be picked up. “Da,” she wiggled all over as Eric reached for her. “Da,” she wrapped her arms around him.

Good, that took care of those who could leave purple sticky wherever they went. The tables and chairs would be a lot easier to handle. “I’ll help Mr. Clifford to wipe down in here. Now,” Sookie started pointing with her index finger, “dogs, kids, daddy and patriarch of the family,” she arched that eyebrow one more time, just to help make her point, “we all have jobs to do. How about clean babies and then clean babies in jammies. We’ll just wear a bib during dinner.”

“Can do,” Eric grinned as he picked Josiah up and out the door they went.

“Miss Sookie, what are you doing?” Clifford clucked in dismay as he entered the room carrying her snack tray, “I have this. Sit and get something to eat.”

“Et tu, Clifford?”

“The entire staff, Miss Sookie,” he grinned. “How are the twins this afternoon?” he asked as he set the fruit-filled tray before her.

“Sittin’ on my bladder,” she rolled her eyes. “All I do is pee. And crave pears,” she sighed as she reached for a dessert plate and picked out the pear slices and some cheese. “Sorry I slept through snack. Mighty good of you to see to me. I could have had a banana and a glass of milk and made it until dinner time.”

“Yes,” he nodded, “and Cook would be out here chasing me with a meat cleaver.”

They both grinned.

“Thank you,” she smiled at him. “I appreciate it. I appreciate all of it. With the kids here now, I really don’t say that enough. And with two more in six more months…”

“Thank you Miss Sookie,” Clifford replied. “Our days are filled with joy and laugher. And the occasional baby kiss…we live for those days.”

“Momma,” they heard Josiah call out, “we are droppin’ these clean good boys off with you! I am gonna go get in the big shower with Daddy and Sister! Uncle Samuel says he is gonna save his hair until bedtime. He will wash it then but for now he is enjoying it so much. And he will be careful about the sticky! But our good boys, we got all the sticky out!” he sang as he ran over to her for a kiss and then streaked away to their bathroom.

“M-m-m-m hm-m-m-m,” Sookie shook her head at the dogs. “See what happens when you listen to little Miss Sara. I hope they washed out your ears while they were at it. Who thought that was a good idea?”

“Oo-Oo,” Gramr replied as he sat down by her feet.

“That’s what I thought,” she nodded. “Sara tagged Gabriel first and then the rest of you just had to follow.”

“O,” Gabriel grinned and then laughed.

Putting her feet up, she enjoyed the quiet. For the next fifteen minutes, peace would reign here in this small part of her world. Then it was going to start. Sara would escape from being dried off and off she would go, toddling along just as fast as she could! Her little naked butt for the world to see! As she made squealing you-can’t –catch-me noises and waiving her arms in the air, Josiah would be laughing so hard that all he could do was sit, wrapped up in his towel while his daddy dried off in a hurry, soap suds still in his hair, and was off in hot pursuit! With Sara leaving a trail of soap bubbles, giggles and tiny little footprints on the floor. One day she had made it all the way in to Sookie, with the dogs trotting beside her and championing her cause before Eric caught up with them.

“I love my family,” she whispered to the now still dark. “With all that I am.”

In the quiet, she could hear her own song. And that of two more. It was beginning to sound like an orchestra when they were all in the same room. “The most beautiful music I have ever heard,” she rubbed her tummy with contentment.

 

After dinner they were all on the couch. Josiah was sitting in Eric’s lap while they read a story. Sara would nurse, sit up and listen, nurse, sit up and listen until she finally stopped fighting sleep and closed her eyes. Her body warm and relaxed body pushed in against Sookie’s and her breathing pattern said she was fast asleep.

Josiah leaned over and kissed his baby sister. “Now I lay me down to sleep,” he rubbed his little nose against hers. “I pray the lord my soul to keep. Walk with me the brand new day, and by my side with me always stay.”

Standing up in Eric’s lap, he wrapped his arms around his daddy’s neck and laying his head down on Eric’s shoulder, went to sleep.

“Amen,” the three adults in the room whispered, “and Amen.”

 

 

Over all, in the following days, weeks, years, it was pretty quiet on Peak 8 and in NO. Bad guys came and went and songs were sung and dragons spit fire and things were brought back under control. Not in the way that it made the news, but the bad guys always ended up in Hell and Lafayette continued his 4.0 grade average, with Tara Mae right behind him.

In the Land of La La, graduations came and went and when he nailed his lawyerin’ shingle up, business was brisk.

Mrs. Hardy ran Lafayette’s house and Tara ran his lawyer business and OI saw to it that they got enough push-back-from-the-desk ice cream breaks to keep his La La fineness from burning out. There were a lot of poor folks in Louisiana and some embarrassingly rich ones as well.

Word got around.

Apparently they were not foolin’ when it said on their lawyer web site and on the radio commercials:

Reynolds’ & Reynolds’ Law Firm.

We will work for hand cranked ice cream. For you rich mo’ fo’ers, you will be writin’ us a big assed check.

Reynolds’ & Reynolds’ Law Firm.

 

For the folks who paid with the hand cranked, when they called, they always asked to speak to La La.

For those who wrote the big assed checks, they always asked to speak to Mr. Lafayette Reynolds.

 

“You been quiet, tonight,” Lafayette said as they sat out on the veranda after dinner and watched the moon. “What’s up?”

“Christmas is comin’ on.” Tara said, ticking off the months on her fingers. “ I am gonna start ice skatin’ lessons. I love how OI just stands out there on the ice and twirls.”

“What’s up?” Lafayette responded. “I hears the words but not followin’ the reasin’.”

“Well,” she began. “You know I love those babies,” she placed both hands over her heart. “We are Uncle and Auntie. Josiah is just as sweet as he wants to be. He wants to do whatever you are doin’. So helpful and kind and loves stories. You could read him books all day long.

Then there is the little tornado! Are you up to playin’ with Miss Sara non-stop until she just falls over at bedtime? As her Auntie, I should be able to do this, and I want to do this, but my energy level is not what it used to be. I am thinkin’ if we took her ice skatin’, that would help wear her out. So she would want to sleep. Say, in the middle of the day. Naps are a good thing. I love weekends just so I can nap. And I am on vacation…so I think I should be able to sneak in a nap and not feel guilty about it.”

Lafayette rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers. “Our Miss Sara, just the same as you, little missy,” he eyed her. “When you was new, I woulds watch you. You would go and go and go until you had nothin’ left.”

“Lafayette, you are only four years older than me. So when I was two, I had a six year old watchin’ over me?”

“When it came to you, I was the most responsible six year old you ever saw,” he replied. “Would watch you when I was five, as well. You just startin’ to walk and talk and bein’ your cute self. I could sure ‘nuff fix you a bottle. And did. Change your diaper. Nothin’ to it.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “Your momma would be drunk and drop you off and my momma would be hidin’ under the covers and howlin’.”

“La La…” in her voice was just a bit of anxiety for what had been. “How did we ever survive that and then end up here?”

“Said my prayers every night. Still do,” he nodded his head for emphasis. “Granny used to tell me, the human might belong to the world, but as long as your heart belonged to God, you was right as rain.”

“You have a favorite prayer?” she asked.

“Sure ‘nuffs. Granny taught it to me. Now I lay me down to sleep…”

 

 

Dear Readers,

Many thanks for hanging with me until the end. I am always surprised the paths these stories take. Seldom do I know the who or what or why until I get there.

That was so very true of this story.

The next one…The Diplomat’s Pouch…for the first time in my life I have a definite plot line, the who, what, why, when and where…lol…this is so weird…and I really don’t think I have a backstory for anything…even weirder…

It won’t be a one shot, but nor is it going to be a numerous multi-chapter, either. Yes, I know, famous last words.

I thank you for your many prayers and your very kind thoughts for my sister Sharon! Thank you, thank you, thank you…I don’t think I can say that enough…or convey to you just how much it means to me to know that you are so generous of heart…!

As always, thanks for reading!

Be blessed and be the blessing,

CES