Author's note: This is it. The end of my fairytale. Thanks for going on the ride with me. It's been a blast writing about my favorite vampires and their soul mates. And even though it violates canon, it fills me with glee to knock off Niall (creepy bugger). Or did I succeed?
Oddly, Bill continues to put words in my head, so from time to time, I may post a one-off here under the title "Never Enough." These won't be stories, but impressions of Sookie and Bill, and perhaps Rio and Eric, and maybe even Rio's visits with Sook—I don't know how that will shape up. Thanks for reading and may all our spirits hook up in between the pages of Book Nine!
I answered the phone. "Hey Mab," Rio's low voice came through.
"You're home safe," I sighed happily.
"Yup. Eric's gone to check on things. It makes me feel antsy that he's away."
"Why didn't you go with him?"
Rio snickered a bit, "I wanted to give him room to be the big, bad vampire for awhile."
"I see," I said. "What's his house like?"
"You weren't ever here?" Rio sounded surprised.
"No, we weren't ever that close." Rio chuckled, taking my meaning. Eric didn't open up his personal life to very many beings. I found myself glad to think he was no longer so alone.
"Well, it's… big. Very clean. Sparse. Huge, very comfortable bed. Immense shower. Tub like a swimming pool. No kitchen to speak of. There's a tiny half-bath with the only toilet. And he has a lot of clothes." I was laughing by the time she stopped describing—it was exactly as I'd imagined. "Fireplace?" I gurgled. "Oh yeah…" Rio sighed.
Then she spoke a bit more seriously, "Eric wanted me to check about shipping his sword."
I was somehow not surprised that he'd had her call about his weapon right away. "Corin got it all boxed up and Tegen took it to the airport to see it off; it's coming express, so I'd guess you'll have it in two days."
"Ah," Rio said. "He'll be pleased."
"Yeah. Boys and their toys." I paused before asking, "How do you feel?" I could remember how wonderful and scary it was to have vamp blood in me—that is, before that's all I had in me.
"Well, Mab, it's strange. I thought I was already at the top of the magic heap. But vampires may just be more magical than even the fae."
That surprised me. "You think?"
"I wouldn't be surprised. I mean, how does everything run right off the blood?"
"I'll have to think about that one." I could feel a research project in the making.
"I gotta say, I'm really feeling the love," Rio admitted.
"You seem surprised."
"Well, one hears stuff about vampires. I mean, what you and Bill have…"
"Isn't as unusual as it once was," I interjected. "I'm only a recent turn, so what do I know of the ways before the Great Revelation? But when we had to be secretive and vigilant at all costs, revealing ourselves or loving anyone—much less bonding—was dangerous. And watching all your loved ones die? Seeing all you knew disappear and having to reinvent yourself every few decades? Learn new customs, gadgets, clothes, ways of travel, ways of being? It's exhausting and daunting.
"Some of us, who spent centuries as killers and haters of men, can't make the switch. Those of us who are recent turns are easier to, well… tame. I don't have nearly the troubles mainstreaming as many vamps I've known.
"The things I hear in my practice would break your heart, Rio."
"No doubt," she said. "But every little thing I learn about him makes me wonder why he chose me…"
"He thinks you chose him."
"No, Mab, I really had no choice. I felt him coming from a long way off. Before I ever saw him, I knew I'd met my match."
"I think he's met his match." Then I laughed, "Niall must be spinning in his grave at those words."
"I hope so. If he's dead."
I gasped at that. "You think he could have survived?"
"I don't think about it at all, Mab." There was a long silence, then Rio said, "I'm sorry I didn't get to grow up with you."
"Ah," I said, hoping the tears would hold off. "If that had been the case, you wouldn't be in Louisiana, bonded to Eric. And that would make all of us sad."
"Except we wouldn't know. I might've had brothers, or… or children of my own." Rio's voice was a little ragged.
"Mmmm," was all I could think of to say.
"Well. Tell Bill I said 'hi.' And Corin and Tegen, too. And go easy with Pen: it worries Bill."
"I will. Give Eric a kiss for me?"
There was a smile in her voice as she said, "Which kind?"
"I'll let you decide," I teased back, just to hear her sweet laugh.
"Okay if I pop in from time to time?"
"You come anytime you want. The door is always open for you."
"Quite literally," my golden daughter said, and then—but just for a while—she was gone.