Close to Dead

Chapter 31: The Last Chapter is Full of Surprises

I was standing outside Eric's house and I asked, "Are you inviting me in?" just as he pulled me into his arms. As we stood under the glow of his porch light, he asked me, "Can I rescind my invitation later?"

I wanted to correct HIS grammar for a change and say, "I don't know, CAN you?" because the correct word should have been, 'may' not 'can' but I was in too good of a mood to be a wise-ass, so I merely smiled at him and assured him breathlessly, "Never. You may never rescind my invitation." And I meant it this time. I really did. I felt so happy and resolute. I felt like I had come full circle. I felt like all of this was finally over, and I was at the end of my road, and I liked it here at the end.

He reached for the doorknob, said, "Good," and then unlocked the door. He pushed it open and said, "Welcome home, Sookie. Welcome home."

I have to admit, if the house wasn't what I expected on the outside, then I was really thrown by the inside. It wasn't just a house … it was truly a home. A real home. A very nice home, with expensive furniture, and tasteful paintings and decorations, but still a home just the same.

He must have been able to tell that I was in awe, because he actually came up to me and closed my mouth by putting his finger on my chin and pushing upwards. "What were you expecting? Oh, let me guess," he said, his hands behind his back, his smile a mile long, "since you said you thought I lived in a castle—"

"Or a crypt," I interrupted.

"Or a crypt," he corrected, "then you expected chains on the walls, coffins instead of couches, medieval torture devices throughout the house, and what else?"

"You could still have those things," I remarked, not answering his question. "I haven't seen beyond the foyer and the living room. For all I know, your bedroom is painted black and there's an iron maiden in the corner."

He grabbed my hand and pulled me toward him. "I keep the iron maiden in the bathroom with the sabers."

"Ah," I replied. I placed my head on his chest. "This seems so surreal, but really nice. Give me the grand tour."

He walked me around the rest of the house. It was one of the nicest houses I had ever been in that wasn't a museum or something, but it looked like Eric. Each room had a bit of him in it, whether it was a book or a painting, or even something simple, like a picture of me.

We were in his master bedroom, with its big mahogany four-poster bed, large furniture, warm golden walls and burgundy bedspread, and I noticed a black and white photo of me in a small black wooden frame by his bed. I was in my Merlotte's t-shirt, my hair was in a ponytail, and I was looking over to the side. I picked it up and sat down on the bed. He stood beside me.

I looked up. "When was this taken?"

"I'm not sure," he shrugged. "It was when you were seeing Compton. I was having you investigated, and the investigator took it." He placed it back on the bedside table.

I looked up at him and I wanted to be angry, but he was truthful, and so what if he once had me investigated. It was a very smart thing to do, he was a smart man, and it was a very 'Eric' thing to do. I said simply, "I'll get you a better picture."

"I like this one. You look innocent and unaware. It's before, you know?" He picked it back up, looked at it for a moment, and then placed it back.

The thing was, I did know. I leaned back on his bed, kicked off my shoes, and placed my arms behind my head. "So, this is a very nice house, Eric. Four bedrooms, four bathrooms, although why you need four baths is beyond me, a kitchen, a dining room, a living room and a what, a den?"

"I suppose you can call it a den," he replied. He moved my legs slightly to sit facing me. He placed a hand on my knee, partly under the skirt of my dress.

"Why such a big house for just one person? You don't live in a nest do you?" I was slightly worried suddenly. I hadn't thought of that. I knew Pam didn't live with him, because I had been to her house before, but still, one never knew about these things.

"No, I live alone. I like to be alone. I need my solitude sometimes, and the same could be said for you, Miss Stackhouse," he began. His hand was rubbing little circles on my thigh and was driving me wild. "Your house is too big for you. You have four bedrooms, two baths, which you can only use one at a time."

"But it's where I've always lived, it's my home, and it's been in my family for generations," I explained.

He brought one shoulder up in a half-hearted shrug. "I'm just saying."

"You're not saying anything, Eric, but you don't have to explain. I really like this house a lot."

"Did you like that room across the hall?" he asked, almost as if it was an afterthought. His hand was still rubbing my thigh, higher now. His head was bent, and he was looking down at my chest.

I closed my eyes slightly, hummed, and said, "A … sure, yeah, it was nice, which room was that again?"

"The one with the light pine furniture, and the green bedspread. The one painted that strange, I don't know, salmon color. Did you like that room?" He was now leaning closer to me, and he was kissing my neck and shoulder between words. The hand that was under my skirt was still doing wicked, wicked things under there, and his other hand was pulling and pushing at the top of my dress, so that he could get to my breasts.

I hummed again, like a hummingbird. "I think I liked that room fine. I recall it was nice," and this was nice, too. Whoa, this was really nice.

He placed both hands on my waist and pulled me down so that I was on my back. He leaned over me, and kissed me hard on the mouth, and then he placed small kisses on my chest and breasts (HEY! When did the top of my dress get pushed down to my waist?) and he asked, again, between kisses, "Did you notice the large closet in that room, and one of the four bathrooms was a private bath to that room. You noticed that, didn't you?" He bent his head, placed his lips on my right nipple, and sucked.

I almost came up off his bed. My hands clutched his shoulders; I sighed, a ragged breath and moaned, "What?" Were we still having a conversation about one of his spare bedrooms?

He moved his face to the other breast, his hair tickling the valley between my breasts as he did so and he rained small kisses around that nipple. His voice was low and pitched, "That room, it can be painted, and I can buy new furniture, if you'd rather. Or, you can share this room with me, but I rather assumed you would want your own room, and this one is rather dark, and I sleep mostly during the day." He licked that nipple back and forth until it almost burned and then he nibbled his way down to my stomach, ripping my dress right off me as he went.

He was licking the spans of skin above my lacy underwear when he looked up, his chin on my hipbone, and he said, "Well, did you like that room?"

"What?" I asked again. NO, I'm not dense. NO, I'm not ignorant. What I was was horny as hell and this man took this moment to ask me to move in with him, and frankly, it wasn't going to fly. Once again, he had terrible timing, just like the time he asked me to marry him, and this time, I wasn't going to give in to him.

Therefore, I played the dumb, blonde, southern hick. I pulled at his shoulders, brought his face back to mine, kissed him as hard as I could, and then I said, "I don't know what you're trying to ask me, but yeah, it was a nice room, just like the rest of the house." So there. If he wanted to ask me to move in with him, he could ask me AFTER sex.

I tried to push him to his back, so that I could straddle his waist, but he pushed me to my back instead, straddling me, and though I was now completely naked, (I remember the bra going, but not the panties) he was still fully dressed. He took my wrists in his hands, placed them by my head, and placed his nose next to mine.

"Sookie, dearest, beloved, lover, this may be unconventional, and I know it may be too serious for you, and I know you would rather commence with the sex, and one of the things you like best about me it that I'm straightforward, henceforth—"

"OH MY GOD!" I shouted. "JUST SHUT UP and ask me already!"

He let go of my wrists and rocked back slightly. He looked amused, not angry. He smiled and said, "I'm not really asking you to move in, but when you do come to visit, or stay, would you like it if we made the room across from mine your own room? That way, you could put your own things in the closet and the drawers, your books and things on the shelves, my picture in a frame on the bedside table, and your shampoo and soap in the bathroom. You would have your own little haven. Only if you want."

"You big, bad vampire, you," I answered.

"What the hell does that mean?" He fell off me and sighed.

Again, sighing for a vampire was such a forced thing … so human … and so useless, since they didn't breathe. I got up on my elbow, began to unbutton his shirt, and said, "What that means is that you are such a sweetie pie, although I think you would rather I not call you that. I think that would be a mighty fine thing, and something not many lovers would consider, you know, a space of my own. Goodness knows, Bill hated me even to touch most of his things, afraid I would place a book that started with a P with the G's or something. Or maybe I might break one of his precious pieces of electronics. I like that room and would be thrilled to call it my own, so thank you, Eric."

He closed his eyes and said, "Was that so hard?"

"No, but this is," I purred, reaching down to pat his penis through his pants. He opened one eye first, then the other, and he grinned, a wicked, wicked grin.

"He's always hard," he grinned.

"He's a he?" I asked.

"He's certainly not a she," he laughed. He finished undressing, very quickly, and then he pushed down the covers of his bed. I reached down for him again. He was long and hard and all mine! Sometimes I felt so empty, and it seemed only Eric could fill me up, in many ways, not just the naughty ways. He filled my endless ache, if that made sense. I continued to stroke him and I told him as much.

He told me I was a sweetie pie, too. Whatever.

I continued to stroke him, to show him just how 'sweet' I could be, and his eyes closed, and the muscle in his jaw clenched tightly. I caressed his length slowly, an inch at a time, with both hands, almost mesmerized by the length but also the basic beauty of the man. He reached for me, his fingertips digging into my hips, and he brought me closer to him.

I bent my knees, straddled his body, and continued to work his shaft with my hands. I leaned over so that the tips of my breasts brushed against his thighs. I finally rose up and took him inside me, deep as I could, and I squeezed my inner walls as tightly as I could.

His eyes popped back open. I guess he liked that. He said something in a language I didn't understand, and with his hands back on my hips, he began to move me to the rhythm that he liked best. I let him take control. My hands went to my own breasts. He once told me he liked it when I did that, and, I have to admit, I rather liked it, too.

He flipped us over and slammed into me harder, his mouth suctioned onto one of my breasts, drawing blood, ensuring pleasure, bringing on a climax that was sure to be exploding! The next thing I knew, I was racked with a whirling orgasm just as he was sinking his fangs deeply into my throat, his mouth fastened on tight, sucking with all his might.

I tried to hold on … to the mind-blowing orgasm, to the powerful feeling of need and lust that was emitting from him to me from the taking of blood, and also to the fact that I loved this man more than I ever loved anything, but I couldn't hold on … I let go.

I woke with a wet cloth on my head and Eric beside me, saying gentle things. I had never passed out during sex before. How weird. I opened my eyes from the blackness and looked up at his concerned face. "What happened?"

"I fucked your brains out," he said, perfectly seriously.

I stared at him for a moment; he didn't even smile, but still, I started to laugh. I knocked his hand and the wet cloth away from my forehead and I continued to laugh. He joined me. He threw the cloth on the ground, bundled me into his arms, pulled the covers over the both of us and kissed the top of my head.

I was on the verge of sleep, after a great laugh and the great sex (did I mention the word 'mind-blowing'?) when Eric decided he wanted to talk.

"Do you see yourself moving in here, or merely staying once in a while?" he asked.

If I didn't know better, I would say that 'Eric the Sheriff of Area Five' seemed a bit unsure of himself. I rested my head on his chest, clasped his hand in mine, and said, "I'm not ready to give up my house, but now that I know it's important to you that I come here sometimes, and now that I know I'm welcome, and that it's a nice house, I'll feel more inclined to come." I looked up at him and said, "Especially since I have my own bedroom and bathroom. That's really nice."

"Hmm," he said. I didn't know what he meant by that. "Do you want to start wearing the ring I gave you anytime soon?"

"Oh," I managed. I looked up at him again. I sat up in the bed, pulling the sheet under my breasts. "You mean, now that Vampires and Humans can marry in Louisiana, and since you did basically already ask me, you want us to … what?"

He rolled his eyes. "Never mind, Sookie. You played dumb earlier, with the room incident. Don't play dumb now. It's unbecoming and insulting to us both. We'll discuss it at another time. I won't ruin tonight." He turned so that his back was facing me and he punched the pillow twice and let out a growl.

A real, actual growl.

I touched his shoulder hesitantly. "I'm sorry I played dumb," I apologized. "I'll think about the marriage thing, I promise you. I have a lot to consider."

He turned to face me. I scrunched back down in the bed, under the covers, and faced him. "Like what? I am sincerely curious. Tell me one of your main concerns, and I shall try to alleviate it."

"Okay," I said brightly. That seemed fair, since he said it so calmly. I reached over for his hand to lace it with mine. "There's the whole me being a human, mortal and all, you being a vampire. I don't want that to change."

"I told you that I would never, ever change you without your consent, and I won't let anyone else do it either, just to make that clear," he said. He looked so serious, suddenly.

"That's not what I meant," I whined. I took a deep breath. How was I going to say this?

"What, Sookie?" he urged.

"Well, someday, I'll be old. Old and grey. And ugly. And wrinkly. And flabby. And have illnesses and aches and pains and swollen joints and you'll still be Eric, young, handsome, with a great butt. You won't still want me, and by that time, even if I would change my mind and want to become a vampire, you wouldn't want an old, unattractive me. In addition, I'm human, so I could get sick. What if I got cancer, or something? Or a heart attack?"

He let out a little laugh, leaned over, and kissed my nose. He stroked my hair from the crown of my head to my shoulder and said, "Sookie, these are concerns that I wish you had told me before, and I could have alleviated a long time ago." He seemed to stop, so that he could think of what to say next.

"Sookie, you've had a great deal of my blood, as well as Bill's blood," he explained. He had my attention. I sat up in the bed again. He did as well. "You know that our blood makes you stronger."

"Yeah, well, I know it's healed me before, and made my hair shinier, and my reflexes faster, and so?" I stumbled over my words. What was he trying to say? "I'm not going to turn into a vampire by accident, am I? I'm not going to turn into you, am I? One day, I'm plain old Sookie and the next day I wake up with an aversion to garlic, sunshine, and all things polyester?"

He laughed. "I do hate polyester. It doesn't breathe. What I am trying to say is that it makes you stronger, it makes you healthier, and it even improves your looks to a certain degree. That, along with your fae heritage, which also brings with it a longer lifespan, well, I suppose we have many, many years before it looks as if you are robbing the cradle with me."

"You mean, I'm not aging the way I should?" I asked. I know as a vain, southern girl, that fact should make me happy, but I was, in essence, shocked.

"No, you're not aging the way you should," he repeated. "Physiologically, you are probably ten years younger than you are chronologically, and I think your aging will slow even more as you get older. This is somewhat uncharted territory, but I imagine that you will appear to be about thirty years of age when you reach about fifty-five or so."

"But how will I explain that to people?" I asked, appalled.

He shrugged and answered, "Good genes, good plastic surgeon, why bother saying anything at all? As I said, most of this is speculation, but I discussed this with your great-grandfather Niall before he went to the other realm, and he agreed with me. You know that Larkin and Iain are much older than they appear, don't you?"

"Well, yes, but they're vampires, and they have more fairy blood then I do, because their father was my grandfather," I said, trying to work it all out in my mind.

"Being a vampire didn't cause them to appear as young as they did, although it did stop their aging," he explained.

"How old are, I mean, was, I mean," I sighed, "how old IS Iain and how old WOULD Larkin be, if he was still with us?"

"About eighty, I think. They were born during or before the great depression, I believe, in about 1929." He puffed up his pillow, so he wasn't paying attention to me when I whacked him upside the head. "OUCH!" he exclaimed, though I doubted it hurt. "Why did you hit me?"

"EIGHTY?" I shouted. "They looked thirty!"

"Hence my assessment that you might look about thirty at sixty," he said.

"You said fifty earlier!" I countered.

"Fifty, sixty, who cares, most women would be thrilled with this news, but not you, oh noooo, Sookie Stackhouse has to have drama wherever she goes," he complained. He hopped out of bed and said, "If we aren't going to have a nice discussion about our living arrangements, and you aren't going to have sex with me again right away, I'm getting a shower."

"Hold on, buddy," I exclaimed.

He turned slowly. "Buddy? I love it when you call me that. It's so … archaic and, how shall I say it, low class."

I reached over the bed, threw his boxers to him, and then threw his shirt over my naked body. I climbed on top of the bed and said, "Okay, let's talk some more. You say I'll live a bit longer than most humans. Fine, that's really a good thing, and not a problem, but I still don't think I can live here right now, and I'm still not one hundred percent sure I want to get married, and it has nothing to do with you being a vampire, or me not loving you enough, it's more because I'm not sure I would make a good wife!"

There! I said it, in a rambling, run-on sentence sort of way, but still, I got to the heart of the matter. I sat down on the bed and hung my head.

He slipped on his shorts and sat next to me. "Why do you say that?"

"Because to me … oh, never mind, you won't understand," I complained.

"You don't know that. Explain." He reached for my hand, brought it to his mouth, and kissed each finger once, then turned it over, kissed the open palm, then placed it on his lap.

"I made a decision tonight, before I came to see you, you know," I started.

"Go on, although what one thing has to do with the other, I'm not sure," he expressed.

I closed my eyes a moment, to give myself strength. I held his hand so tightly with both of mine, and brought it over to my lap. I was stalling, but I finally said, "I decided tonight that having kids wasn't the most important thing in the world to me, okay? But yet, somehow, in my mind, marriage and kids are still wrapped up together in a neat little package, and I'm not sure I need one, if I'm never going to have the other." There, I said it. Now I had to wait for his response.

"How does that make you not a good wife?"

"How can I be a good wife, if I can't give you a child?" I asked plaintively. I looked up at him, and I half expected him to laugh at me. He didn't laugh. He smiled a sweet, loving smile. A tear came to my eye, and he looked at me tenderly, cupped my cheek, leaned over to kiss the tear away, and I almost lost it completely.

"Dear Sookie, my lover, my friend, my wife in my heart," he began, "I want you by my side because I love you, because of the companionship you will give me, because of the endless nights of lovemaking, and because of the laughs we will share. I've had children, I've had marriages, I've had many things, and it's not that they are overrated, because they aren't, but they aren't you. I want you. Do you want me?"

"Yes," I said, though my voice broke.

"Then everything else will work out and find a way. I won't push you. You take your time and make the decision that's right for you, alright? For now, it's a good start that you know where I live, you know you have a bedroom of your own here, and you know that I still want to marry you someday. The rest will find a way." He brought an arm around me, held me, and let me cry.

I didn't even know why I was crying again. Hell … like I said before, I'm a woman, it was close to my time of the month, and he was being unbearably sweet and not at all like the asshole that he can sometimes be, so I was entitled to cry.

After my tears, we made love again. It was slow, tender, and unyielding. After that, we shared a shower, where we made love a third time. We dressed (he already had some clothes for me in my new closet, neat huh?), and we went down to his den to watch a movie before dawn.

He forced me to watch an old Marx Brothers movie called, "Duck Soup". He even laughed harder than I had ever heard him laugh. He reminded me a bit of Groucho … a bit naughty, a bit nice, talking a bit over my head, but I didn't tell him that. However, he did tell me that I reminded him of Harpo. I wasn't sure why that was. Maybe because he was blonde? It couldn't be because we were both silent. I sure as hell didn't play a harp.

Dawn was fast approaching and he and I were both tired. I put the DVD back in the box and he stood up and yawned.

"It was a good night, wasn't it, Sookie?"

"Yep, there's nothing like a good old, regular night at home," I agreed. He placed an arm around my shoulders and we walked down the hall toward the stairs to head upstairs when there was a knock at his door.

He frowned.

"What?" I asked. "You don't get many visitors, I take it?"

"In case you didn't notice last night, I do live in a gated community, and since the guard at the gate didn't call and tell me there was someone coming, then it has to be someone who has clearance," he said, still frowning.

Actually, I didn't really notice the gate when we entered his neighborhood, but, of course, he didn't stop for the gate. "You mean it's someone who should know better than to interrupt you right before dawn?" I asked.

"I mean, it's someone who should know better than to interrupt us on our first night at home together," he corrected.

Oh, well, that was sweet, too. He walked to the door and looked out the peephole. He placed his forehead on the door and groaned.

"What is it?" I asked, running up to him. I placed a hand on his back.

"It's Iain," he replied with exasperation.

"Open the door," I insisted. I moved him aside, and opened the door for him.

Iain stood there, in the predawn light, and the first words out of his mouth was, "Cousin, Pam told me that I could find you here. Eric, I'm sorry to interrupt you and Sookie, but I have rather grave news and as it concerns Sookie, I didn't want to wait."

I pushed Eric back to let Iain in, but then I said, "Do you need to be invited in?"

"No, I've been here before, although, may I come in?" He looked at Eric, unsure. Eric nodded.

"What is it?" I asked, taking his hand in both of mine. I felt Eric behind me. Eric must have been able to sense that it was bad news as well, because he closed the front door and then he braced me by placing both his hands on my shoulders.

"Hadley's ex-husband and his current wife were both found killed last night in their home. They were murdered, most viciously," he explained.

I sucked in a breath, looked back at Eric. "Oh no. What about Hunter? Is that little boy okay?"

Iain nodded. "Yes. Oddly enough, Larkin monitored the little boy, and he kept in touch with the boy's father. Larkin was listed, for some reason, as next of kin. When the police couldn't contact him, they contacted me. Hunter is in their custody. He's all alone now, Cousin. He's all alone."

That poor little, motherless boy, was now also fatherless. My heart ached for him. I leaned against Eric's chest. "What are you going to do?"

"I've been thinking about it for the last few hours. I've been alone for so long, and I've been resigned to being alone, but maybe that's not how my life is meant to be. I know it will be hard, being what I am, but I can pass as human, and my vampire status isn't known, so I'm thinking that I would like to try to petition, as the closest relative, to raise him myself," he reasoned.

I felt as if someone had hit me squarely in the chest, and had knocked all the wind right out of my body. My legs almost buckled. Eric reached his arms around my waist to hold me upright. "Oh … really?" I didn't know what else to say. I couldn't picture Iain raising that little boy, and I suddenly I had a flash of something different … a different future. A future that included me. Maybe this was meant to be. Maybe I was meant to take care of this little boy.

I think Eric could sense my thoughts, because he moved away from my back and faced me. He said carefully, "Sookie?" That was all he said. Just my name, formed as a question.

Iain looked at me confused and he asked, "Unless, of course, you would have designs on doing the same. Do you? You would be a closer relative than I am. Is this something you would contemplate, Sookie?"

I looked from Iain to Eric and then I moved to sit on a bench by the door. What in the world was I going to do now?


A/N: So a weird way to end things, but I really, really wanted to have an open ending because of the idea that I have for a sequel. I can't promise when I will start the sequel, because I have the need to write something original next, but I usually write many things at once, and my beta reminded me that I could still start the sequel and only write like a chapter every couple of weeks if I wanted.

By the way…I need help with the title for the next story. I would like to keep the continuity of the word "Dead" in the title, so any help with a title would be appreciated.

Thanks to everyone who supported me during the writing of this story. I have to admit, it took me longer to write this story than it's ever taken me to write any other story, but it's not because it wasn't important to me, it was more because it wasn't as familiar to me as my Dramione stories. Thanks to some of you who have jumped over from the SVM ship to read some of my HP stories. I appreciate it!