17. It Was a Lifetime Ago

"It is time," she heard, as if from a distance. "He is ready for you."

Golden eyes floated in front of her. Sky reached for them. "I never got to know you," she whispered, inexplicably saddened.

"Not in this life," the golden eyes answered. "Are you ready? It will hurt."

"I guess," Sky answered. "Ready for what?"

"To go back. To return to Alcide-Marrok, and all that goes with that," answered the golden eyes.

"Yes," Sky answered. It seemed like kind of a silly question.

"They are expecting you," came the disembodied voice as pain sheered across her skin suddenly.

She felt like she was being stretched, ripped, and twisted. She screamed as she was hurtled through space and across time and landed inside-out on something cold and hard.

She woke up screaming and flailing on the cold tile floor of the dungeon. People stood around her and the first thing she noticed was that she had legs again and they didn't hurt. Then she realized she was naked.

Eric said, "Alcide, you dog!" and her eyes met Alcide's shocked brown ones.

"I'm naked," she said, confused. "Why am I naked?"

She looked down and gasped, scrambling to her feet and backing up as if she could get away from... from the belly that protruded from her and followed her everywhere she went. The baby inside leaped and she ran into someone.

"How did I get pregnant?" she demanded in a near shriek.

Someone snickered and Alcide's coat wrapped around her. She glared at Sookie, who was trying to cover her mouth and quit giggling.

"Welcome back," the blond said.

Alcide pulled her against him and she realized something else. The building was fixed.

She frowned. "What happened? Why am I here? I was burned..."

Her eyes met Alcide's again.

"She told us you would be confused. That no time at all would have passed for you. It's been seven months since you were burned, Sky." He was holding her so tightly against him that it almost hurt.

"Sev- She who? I don't understand." Sky realized she was being whiny and stupid, but she just couldn't get her mind around lying on the floor dying one minute and then the next being naked and pregnant and the whole world being different.

"I love you, Sky," Alcide said, turning her face to his. "I love you and everything's going to be okay." He kissed her on the forehead. "I missed you so much."

"But I was just here a minute ago!" she protested. She felt the baby move again and confusion and fear warred in her.

"You didn't want children," she said, pulling away from him. "I wasn't sure until we went to Memphis. I was going to tell you-"

He laid his finger on her lips. "I know it's only been about a minute for you, Sky. But I spent seven long months without you while you healed. There were so many times when I thought I'd never see you again, much less ever get to hold you, and I never dared dream I would hold our babies. I thought being a werewolf was a curse until I met you. Our baby's going to be the luckiest kid alive with you for a mom."

Vaguely, Sky realized they were now alone in the basement. The others had left them to talk, and she stepped back to look at the protruding stomach. "How can that be?" she ran her hand across her belly. "I was just here. I was dying..."

"You were saved by a wolf. Wherever they wait to come to Earth to be with their human counterparts. She came, and she held your place in this world while you healed in hers." He ran a finger down her cheek. "Just as you gave your life up to save them, they came to save you."

"She asked me if I was ready, and I said I was ready, but I'm not ready!" Panic welled up in her. "I meant to tell you. I-"

He kissed her. It was no gentle, sweet kiss, either. It was the deep kiss of a man long deprived. It was the kiss of a man who had spent seven months missing her and longing for her and believing he had lost her. He stopped then, laying his forehead against hers.

"Come with me," he told her. "I forgot to bring you any clothes. I didn't think that you'd be naked when you came back."

He picked her up and carried her from the dungeon and out the front door, keeping her tightly wrapped in his coat. She realized that she had missed summer. She laid her head against his chest and listened to his heartbeat. It was like gentle thunder and she treasured it.

He put in the front seat of a work van and she chuckled. "At least it's not a rental car," she said as he got in and fired up the engine.

He smiled at her and tweaked her chin before turning to back out. They drove for a bit and she was surprised when they pulled up in front of her house. The first one, the one she'd wanted to put a fireplace in.

And as if the thought of a fire place conjured it, she smelled burning wood in the air and sighed. Now she had a child on the way and she wouldn't have time to fuss with things like fireplaces. Her hand went back to her stomach. She'd only had a few days to come to terms with the idea and now she was due probably very soon.

She was picked up and taken into the house. "I... I don't think anything will fit me anymore," she said.

"I'll get you a robe," he said. "Why don't you sit down in the living room?"

"Okay," she agreed, and started in, glad that he had thought to leave the fake fireplace burning for her. The house was toasty and she was pleased. As she rounded the corner, she stopped dead in her tracks. It wasn't the fake fireplace at all.

A real fire roared in a real fireplace made of exquisite gray marble and stone. Sitting on top of it was a tiny black box and her heart fluttered. She walked over to reach up and take it down. She turned to see Marrok sitting beside the sofa, staring at her.

She opened the box, her heart pounding. Inside it nestled a small engagement ring.

Marrok shimmered and Alcide walked up to her, naked and gleaming in the light from the fire. "Will you marry us?" he asked, clarifying, "Marrok and me?"

"You're not angry that I'm pregnant?" A tear tracked down her cheek.

"I think I had at least a little something to do with that," he told her with a smile.

"But I pressured you-"

He took the ring out of the box and sat the box down. "I didn't do anything I hadn't been wanting to do since before you even knew what I was, Sky. I'm not sorry you talked me into the best night of my life."

He slid the ring onto her finger, where it dangled slightly. "I didn't know your size," he apologized. "So will you?"

"Of course," she said, the tears flowing freely now.

On another plane, Marrok laid down beside his mate, the portal between worlds now held open by the woman who had changed everything for him. He reached over and licked her cheek, and she nipped playfully at his leg. She had not gotten to come with them this time, and she had missed her beloved.

But it had all been worth it.

Alcide and Sky made their way to the bedroom while Marrok and Avalon ran through fields of dandelions and lotus blossoms under a full moon on the Plane of Life.