Hope Is the Thing With Feathers

A Let Love in side story

By Terri Botta

Disclaimer: I don't own the Southern Vampires. Sole copyright belongs to Charlaine Harris. I'm poor so don't sue.

Rating: M for later chapters.

Timeframe: Post-From Dead to Worse, Ten years after LLI

Pairing: Eric/Sookie

Summary: Eric gives Sookie a gift.

A/N: Taking a break from L&DiNOLA to write this. One of my readers challenged me to write a Sookie pregnancy fic that did not involve magic or the intervention of Niall. Here is what I came up with. We will return to our regularly scheduled L&DiNOLA soon.

The title comes from the Emily Dickenson poem of the same name.



Chapter One

January 2016

"So… please explain this process to me," he asks, trying to be patient, but finding it difficult.

The older of the two doctors is afraid of him, and the scent of his fear is distracting. He has come here by request to hear their proposal, but so far he is not impressed. The office he is seated in is plain and sterile, decorated in tones of beige and white. The two doctors are also dressed in white lab coats, and he wonders if he shoved one of them into the wall, would anyone be able to tell. He doesn't know their names, and he does not care to ask.

"Well, you see, it's like this," the young one, the enthusiastic one, explains. "We have discovered through our extensive study of vampire physiology – volunteers only!" He sees that the man is hasty to add that, which is good because there have been rumors of secret labs full of unwilling Supes undergoing any number of horrors in the name of science. "We have discovered that a condition exists in male vampires that is similar to the situation with females."

Four years ago, a team of scientists (the very team on which these two doctors were members) discovered a way to resurrect eggs harvested from a female vampire's ovaries. As it turns out, whatever eggs a woman has prior to when she is turned remain in a type of suspended animation, and now, with the miracle of modern medical science, it is possible to take those eggs and give them new life by inserting their genetic material into a donor human egg that has had its contents removed. The new egg can then be artificially fertilized and implanted into a donor womb and voila! a female vampire can raise her own biological child.

Wonders will never cease. One of his minions has undergone the process and two others are discussing it.

There are nights when he hates that his mate spends so much time among the undead (himself excluded of course) because she has been cooing and bubbling over babies far too much these days, and he has heard the loud ticking of her biological clock resounding in his own ears. She is turning thirty-seven this year, but his blood has kept her looking no older than twenty-five, but then she always did look young for her age. Still, he knows she feels the years even if she is not showing them.

She will never speak to him of her pain or her secret desires, but he knows them anyway. He reads them in her longing looks when she sees her niece and nephew, and in her sad silences after. That is why he is here now in this research facility in Boulder, CO when his wife thinks he is in Denver on business. His bonded has a need, and he wants to fulfill her wishes. He will do anything for her, and he admits that the idea presented to him by the doctors is intriguing.

"Go on," he prompts. He knows he is one of the first male vampires to answer their call for test subjects, and he is by far the oldest.

"Well, while they are alive, normally fertile men continually produce sperm in the testes. These sperm are released when he ejaculates…" the young one goes on.

"I am familiar with the concept," he interrupts drolly.

"Well, our theory is that… if there were any sperm still in a man's testicles at the time of his turning, they might still be there," the older one interjects.

"I can assure you that my balls were quite empty when I was turned. My Queen was most…. insistent on enjoying my attentions repeatedly on the nights before she killed me."

"That's okay, because you're sure to have immature sperm still there, sperm that weren't quite ready to go so to speak," the young one assures him.

He feels tag-teamed.

"I'm 1000 years old, don't you think they've gone a bit stale by now?" he presses. He must admit, the idea seems… interesting.

"No! No. That's the beauty of it," the young one says, his eyes wide with excitement. This one loves his job. "Our theory is that the immature sperm would be in the same stasis that the female vampire ova are. If we can harvest some genetically viable sperm that were almost ready but – say hadn't developed flagella yet, we can take those sperm cells and extract the genetic material. Then we can implant that material into donor cells and grow active, viable sperm in the lab."

"Which could then be used to fertilize my wife's eggs," he offers.

"In theory, yes," the older one confirms.

"What do you need from me?"

"Well, we'd need to go in and harvest some samples from the seminiferous tubules in your testicles at the very least. From there, we can try to extract the immature sperm and get their nuclei," the young one answers.

"You want to cut into my balls," he sums up.

"It's laparoscopic surgery. The incision would be no longer than a millimeter!" the young one assures him hurriedly.

"Would I be conscious for this?"

"Well… we could do it during the daytime. The daylight stupor is a natural anesthetic in vampires."

"If you're going to be getting anywhere near my crotch with a knife – any knife – you had damn well better believe I want to be conscious for it," he deadpans, showing just a hint of fang.

"Well, that is your choice, of course," the young one agrees, getting nervous, as he rightfully should. He is talking to a millennia-old killer. A bit of fear and a healthy dose of respect will ensure that this one remains among the living long enough to perform his task.

"It is. What else do you need from me?"

"Well, funding is always an issue…" the older one begins.

"Money is no object. If you can get me what I want, I will reward you handsomely for it," he says abruptly.

"Donations are always accepted and deeply appreciated," the older one replies with a nod.

"When can we begin?"

"We can schedule you for the preliminary surgery as early as tomorrow evening," the young one answers.

"My flight back to Louisiana leaves at ten o'clock. Can you do it before then?"

"Oh, yes, of course. The entire procedure shouldn't take more than thirty minutes."

He nods and whips out his checkbook, writing out a check and handing it to the older man. He has used an account that he keeps for himself, away from his wife's oversight. It is his "mad money" account; the one he uses for toys and impulse purchases. His mate has such an account of her own, and they have each agreed not to criticize or argue about any item bought from a mad money account. It helps them to feel as if they are each their own person with the ability to spend money as they please. It's one of the ways they keep each other happy.

He smirks when he sees the man's eyes open wide as he counts the number of zeros.

"I assume that will suffice for a down payment?" he asks.

"D-down payment? Uh, oh, yes, of course," the older one stammers.

"You will let me know if there are any additional costs involved, and I will be happy to… donate again," he says with a sly smile. He knows how to play this game very well.

He rises, his eyes sweeping over the drab office and the drab human men again. They are peons, but they might just get him something that his wife desperately wants.

"I will see you tomorrow evening. I will be here at seven o'clock."

"We'll have everything ready for you, Mr. Northman. And thank you for your willingness to participate in our research," the young one says, bowing.

"We shall see if your theories produce satisfactory results," he states as he walks out without a backward glance.

He turns his cell phone back on as he exits the research facility and gets into his rental car. The trip back to Denver is a mere 25 miles, and he knows he will be back in plenty of time to attend his meeting with the Sheriff of Colorado Area Two to continue their trade negotiations. Boring, but necessary, and he's good at it. He hated leaving his mate at home, but he didn't want to get her hopes up by telling her his secondary reason for wanting to be the Louisiana representative on the Denver trip.

His phone vibrates to tell him that he has a voicemail, and he activates his wireless headset to listen.

"Hello, lover. I'm guessing that you are still stuck in those boring meetings so I thought I'd leave you a little message to perk you up," his wife's voice purrs.

Oh, he's perking up all right, but it's not the kind of perking he wants or needs when his mate is hundreds of miles away.

"Pam got a new shipment of lingerie in tonight. I'm modeling the leather corset right now. I had her take a picture. Be sure to check your text messages."

He opens his inbox and is rewarded by a vision of his bonded in a leather bustier that leaves her breasts exposed. Her dusky nipples are hard and erect, and she is sporting that secret, sexy smile that always makes his fangs run out in lust. He groans. He loves her, but she is tormenting him. He wants to call her back and make her as hot and bothered as she has made him, but he has three hours of meetings to get through, and he won't be able to stand it if he is hard and aching. He'll call her afterwards and engage in unsatisfying phone sex, but it'll make her happy, and he needs to hear her voice anyway. Being apart from her is agony.

Ten years and he still needs her like a flower needs sunlight. His contemporaries and rivals all marvel at his Bond for very few have ever witnessed one as strong and powerful as theirs. All the more incredible is the love that has bound them more deeply than the blood they share. Like the Song of Solomon singing the praises of his Beloved, as she is his, so he is hers, completely, and he would not have it any other way.

The trade meetings are every bit as excruciatingly boring as he had feared, but he gets a text message in the middle of them confirming his seven o'clock appointment in Boulder the following night, and that brightens his mood. He is afraid to tell Sookie about his plans because he does not want to give her false hope, but he knows she suspects that he is hiding something from her. He wonders how long he can keep the secret until he will have to come clean. He hopes he can hold it in until the doctors can discover if their theory is correct. Once viable sperm is created, her participation will be required to move on to the next step, of course.

He calls his wife as planned, and gets her all excited and horny for him, then talks her through getting herself off while he strokes his own erection. Masturbating is no fun, but it takes off the edge. He sings a little Norse lullaby to her as they hang up, sending his love across the bond. They can feel each other, even when they are this far apart, because are so close now that they are almost one being, but they have managed to be able to maintain some semblance of separation.

Over the years, they have developed enough skill within their bond to keep some thoughts private, although feelings always transmit across the bond to some varying degree. The small distance is best for maintaining their balance. No one really wants to know everything their lover is thinking, and they are no exception. When it is necessary, however, they can, and have, acted as one entity, a formidable force favored by the gods themselves, and their enemies have trembled before them.

He goes to bed missing her and full of dreams for an impossible future. What will he do if the procedure doesn't work? Does he tell her anyway? What will he do if it does work? What kind of a life would a child of theirs have? Would Sookie even take the chance if it is given to her?

There are too many questions and no answers for any of them. He curls up in the coffin he uses for travel, wrapping himself in a blanket that has both his and his mate's scents. He will have some answers tomorrow, but they may very well lead to more questions. He will have to see.

The two doctors he met with are there the following night, along with two others he has not met before. One is a woman of Asian descent and the other is an African American man. All four are practically vibrating with excitement.

"Mr. Northman, welcome back. This is Dr. Xian. She will be performing the laparoscopy on you tonight," the young one from yesterday tells him.

He gives Dr. Xian a winning smile. "I'll have you know that I am very particular about what women I let handle my testicles."

She laughs nervously and blushes. It is a very enticing sight.

"Well, I've been told I have a very light touch," she says.

"Oh, I do hope so. I'll be needing them later tonight after I get home. My wife will be very disappointed if I cannot perform for her."

She laughs again, but this time there is a spark of jealousy in her eyes.

"Shall we begin, then? I have a plane to catch in three hours," he reminds.

The four doctors snap to attention.

"Yes, of course. Right this way, Mr. Northman," Dr. Xian tells him and leads the way down a white, sterile hallway, to another white, sterile room with a long reclining table. What is it with doctors and their fear of color? Would it be so bad to add some blue or green in here? It looks like his old home on a winter morning.

"If you'll just disrobe from the waist down, Mr. Northman, and lay down on the table, we can begin," she instructs, offering him a paper sheet. "You may cover yourself with this if you wish."

He gives her a tolerant look and drops his pants, kicking them off. "You obviously haven't spent much time around my kind, woman. We have almost no modesty."

He settles himself down on the reclining table and puts his hands under his head.

"You may proceed whenever you are ready," he says.

With the other three doctors in attendance, Dr. Xian positions lights and equipment into place, and begins preparing for the surgery. It is much easier to work on a vampire because infection and bleeding issues are not a problem, so he finds it amusing when she sterilizes her instruments.

"Do you mind if we video tape your surgery for research documentation?" the young one asks.

"You may, and I'll even let you keep the tape," he answers with a smirk.

The procedure takes only twenty minutes, and the worst part of it was when Dr. Xian had to shave his scrotum where the laparoscope had to be inserted. That was a very odd sensation. He never knew he was ticklish down there, but he thinks he surprised the good doctor when she made the small cut. He didn't even twitch.

"I have a very high tolerance for pain," he'd told her.

A special retractor clamp has to be used to keep the incision from healing over before the doctor is finished her work, and the hair has already regrown by the time she is done. When the retractor is removed, the little cut closes within three minutes, and he experiences only minor discomfort in his crotch for about ten minutes before that fades completely as well.

When it is over, he gets dressed and follows the older one to an observation room where he can watch Dr. Xian and the rest of the team of Super Friends analyze the samples they've just sucked out of his balls. He sees them take the bits of tissue and put a tiny portion on a slide to be viewed under a microscope. The scope is attached to a video screen so he can see for himself what the doctor is observing. The images on the screen make no sense to him, but whatever they are looking at seems to make the doctors happy because they give each other the "thumbs-up" sign.

"I take it that you were successful," he states.

"Yes," the older one confirms. "It appears that Dr. Xian was able to harvest a substantial sample of spermatids from the seminiferous tubule."

"And this is a good thing, I gather?"

The doctor nods. "Oh yes. It's a very good thing. Spermatids are one step away from mature spermatozoa. All they are lacking is the flagella to allow them to swim. You appear to have quite a number of them. It gives evidence to the steadily declining sperm counts among modern men. Men from your… era must have been very… virile."

"So glad I could add to your research data. What happens now?"

"Now we separate the spermatids and see if we can extract the haploid nuclei. Once we do that, we will attempt to insert the nuclei into recently harvested human spermatids that have had their nuclei removed. Then we will see if we can induce spermiogenesis to create viable sperm containing your genetic material."

Most of what the older one said made little sense, but he gets the basic idea. They are going to try sticking his sperm DNA into someone else's sperm cells. It's quite ingenious actually. Every time he is sure humans are nothing but useless blood sacks, one of them comes up with something brilliant like this.

"When will you know if you have been successful?" he asks, but the doctor does not answer because there is a bit of a commotion in the lab on the other side of the observation glass. The doctor's eyes are wide and staring, and he does not like being left out of the loop.

"What is it?" he demands.

"Dr. Xian has just found a group of mature spermatozoa. They must have been ready to be transported to the epididymis, but they hadn't been transferred yet when you were turned," the man replies.

His eyes snap to the monitor, and he is shocked to see the unmistakable shape of a tiny tadpole on the screen. Chills run down his spine as he realizes the possibilities for the first time.

'That… came from my loins…' "Oh."

"Pretty amazing, huh? 1000 year-old sperm," the older one comments.

He blinks, getting himself together. It is too early for hope or rejoicing, but now he believes that there might be cause for hope and rejoicing.

"Call me when you are able to determine if we can move on to the next step," he says, proud that he has kept his voice steady.

"We should know in three weeks," the doctor tells him.

"I will be waiting to hear from you," he replies and heads out. He can barely stand to stay there for another moment. His spirit is growing too big for his body.

As he walks to the rental car, he admits that he has not really given the idea the serious thought it deserves. Perhaps this is because he had convinced himself that such a notion was impossible. Now, of course, he is rethinking his position, but it is still too early to say anything, however, so he resolves to keep his mouth shut for the moment.

He makes it back to Denver in plenty of time to catch his plane, and he is back in his wife's arms by 2am. She is there waiting for him when he exits the Anubis flight, and he gives her his brightest smile.

"How was Denver?" she asks him after he kisses her breathless.

"Cold, boring and lonely," he replies, putting his arms around her and breathing deep. He loves her scent. He especially loves it when it is laced with arousal as it is now. Her smell is almost as intoxicating to him as fairy blood.

"Mmm. I'm sorry. I told you I would have gone with you."

He sighs and kisses her hair. "No, no. It was best for you stay here and oversee our interests."

She chuckles and steps away, sliding her arm in his as they walk side-by-side out to where she has parked the car. He drives and she drives him insane for the short trip back to their Shreveport nest. He would have liked to have gone to their Ruston nest, but he can't wait the extra twenty minutes it would take to get there. He is buried to the hilt inside of her by the end of the hour, engaging numerous times in the act that insured that his balls were completely empty of mature sperm at the time of his first death.

Afterwards, he holds his mate and hums softly to her as she sleeps. He doesn't know how he is going to tell her about what he has been up to, but he knows he'll have to say something eventually. He puts it, and all of his uncertainties, out of his mind as he beds down with his mate and sinks into her warmth and scent as the day takes him.