A/N:

I was feeling kind of bored at work one day, and bits of this one-shot popped into my head. I let it fester a while until a story formed, and then it all came pouring out. I ended up having some pre-readers for this, and I thank all of you for your thoughts, encouragement, and insight.

A big, huge thank you to my beta FarDareisMai2, who edited this beast for me without complaint, and who always manages to make me feel like a better writer than I am. I love you, FDM, and I love that I made you cry again ;)

A_Redhead_Thing made an amazing playlist for this story, and I will include a link to it in my profile along with a list that explains what parts of the story the songs represent. Check it out!


For The One I Love

Eric sat there on the end of the bed he used to share with her, which was hard for him because even after two weeks the pillows still held the faint scent of her unique perfume. His eyes welled and spilled silently as she delivered her practiced speech over the phone. He realized in those few minutes just how big his mistake was. The consequences of his decision would now reach into the future, through their child.

"So that's all I had to say," Sookie told him in a cracking voice. "I'll give you some time to think about it, but I'd like to know your decision soon."

With that, she hung up, and the phone slipped out of Eric's hand. It fell to the floor with a tiny thud as his silent tears escalated into the sobs of a broken man.

~o0o~

Three weeks earlier…

"Dude, you're so stupid for getting tied down," Bill, Eric's drinking buddy, told him at their favorite bar.

"I'm not tied down, we just live together," Eric said in defense of his relationship.

"Whatever man, she'll be bugging you about marriage and babies soon enough, and you'll be another man with his balls in a woman's purse."

Eric shook his head and threw back the rest of his beer. He loved Sookie, had loved her since they were sixteen. They had been together for five years, been each other's firsts in everything; high school sweethearts.

It was true that lately he'd been wondering if he was settling by moving in with Sookie. It wasn't that they didn't have chemistry anymore, or that he wasn't in love with her anymore, because they did and he was, it was more that he had to watch his buddies have a different woman every weekend, a different experience. Was he missing out on something by being monogamous? What if there was something more out there for him, and he wouldn't get it because he felt he owed it to Sookie to stay, simply because they'd been together so long?

He would go home and she would be there, dinner fixed, someone to watch his favorite shows with him, someone warm to snuggle up to in bed, and all those thoughts would leave him. Since he'd been having them though, he'd begun to find himself annoyed with little things, like the way she'd just clean up after him with no complaint. Weren't couples supposed to fight about stuff like that when they lived together? Fact was, things felt too perfect for him, and it made him nervous. He was only twenty-one. That was too soon to find the person you're supposed to be with forever, wasn't it?

When he went home that night, Sookie was already in bed. She never gave him shit when he stayed out too late, though he always regretted not getting to make love to her before they fell asleep. He found a note on the kitchen counter from her.

Eric,

I had a hard night at work, so I'm heading to bed. Please wake me up when you get home so I know you're okay. I made spaghetti, and there's some in the fridge to re-heat, and some garlic bread too.

Love,

Sookie.

Eric smiled at the note, and made his way to their bedroom. She was on her side, her hand resting on the spot where he slept. He watched her for a moment, wondering if he was really willing to give her up to experience a different kind of life. Eric was worried that he would end up resenting her. At that moment though, all he could do was see the woman he loved sleeping peacefully, and he crawled in the bed next to her.

"Sookie," Eric whispered, tucking her hair behind her ear.

Sookie's eyes fluttered open, and focused on the man in front of her. She smiled and brought her hand up to his cheek.

"Hey."

"I'm home, and okay," Eric told her.

"Thank you for waking me up. Did you eat yet?"

"Not yet, but I will. Thanks for cooking again."

She smiled, and closed her eyes as he placed a sweet kiss on her lips. She could smell the beer on his breath, and taste it on his lips. Sookie didn't like that he had to drink every weekend, but that was the only time he did it, and she trusted him. Everyone needed time with their friends, and she wouldn't deny Eric that just because she'd like to spend more time with him on weekends.

"Go back to sleep," he whispered. "I'll be in soon."

"I love you," she said as he rolled out of bed.

"Love you too," he replied.

Eric quietly shut the door to the bedroom and went to the kitchen to reheat his supper. It was delicious, even though it wasn't fresh. Sookie was a fantastic cook. She learned from her Gran, and kept Eric well-fed. He would be willing to bet that his friends were eating fast food or cold cereal from a box. Maybe domesticity wasn't such a bad thing.

After he finished eating, he took a shower and brushed his teeth before crawling into bed and curling up behind Sookie. He buried his face into her golden waves and inhaled the scent of her shampoo. Eric pulled her tightly against his body, relishing in the feel of her warm body, and soft skin. She only wore a pair of boyshorts and a tank top to bed, which he loved. It was moments like this that he felt guiltiest for thinking he was settling.

He had it all, right?

By the end of that week, thanks to Eric's overactive imagination, and his friends' playful jarring, he found himself picking fights with Sookie over small things, and every night Sookie went to bed alone and Eric listened to her crying herself to sleep from the couch.

Sookie didn't understand why Eric was picking so many fights with her, but every night, as she lay in bed alone, she convinced herself that he was cheating on her. To her, it was the only explanation for him not wanting to sleep with her in their room. Then came the night that he came home and went right for the beer in the fridge, which he never did.

"What's wrong?" she asked, concerned that he'd had a bad day.

"Maybe I just want a beer," he answered with a sigh.

"That's it," Sookie said. "I'm done with this crap. What the hell did I do? Why do you keep picking fights with me? Why won't you sleep in our bed? Are you… Are you cheating on me?"

Eric was surprised at her outburst, and shocked at her asking if he was cheating.

"Are you kidding me? You really think I would cheat on you?"

"A week ago, no, I wouldn't have, but now? I don't know anymore. You don't even kiss me, and your attitude change is a bit too sudden, so something must have happened."

Eric paused at her explanation and took a deep breath. It hurt him, but he finally made his decision. He wanted to experience being single for a while.

"I think we need to talk," he said, and Sookie swayed on her feet.

"You really cheated on me, didn't you?"

"No. Jesus, Sookie, I wouldn't do that. I just… I think we need to be apart. This is all happening so fast. I'm not ready. I don't… I'm not in love with you anymore, not like I used to be." It was a half-truth, he was still in love with her, but it had changed from the innocent love it used to be, grown into a mature love he wasn't ready for.

Sookie's eyes welled up and her heart broke at his words. She was nothing if not practical, and if he wasn't in love with her anymore, there really wasn't anything she could do.

"Are you being serious?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered.

She turned as the tears spilled from her eyes, and calmly walked into the bedroom, shutting the door quietly behind her. Eric was at a loss for what to do. He had expected yelling, fighting, maybe a vase thrown at his head, but this? Not at all what he thought would happen. He went to the living room and sat in his chair, dropping his head into his hands as he waited for Sookie to come out again.

About five minutes later the bedroom door opened again, and Sookie walked out of it carrying a duffel bag. Eric was surprised at how much the sight hurt him.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm not staying here. If you're not in love with me anymore, and you don't want to try to fall back in love with me, then there's no point in me being here, is there? I love you, Eric. I'm still in love with you, and I'm not sure if that will ever go away. But I won't make you hate me because I can't let you go, so I'm going. I'll get the rest of my stuff later."

Eric didn't know what to say, so he sat there as she gave him a small, heartbroken smile, and then walked out the door.

~o0o~

It took one week for Eric to get up the courage to sleep with someone else. It happened the night he came home to find all of Sookie's things gone and her key on the kitchen counter. There wasn't a note, and he hadn't known she was going to do it. It was a shock to be in their apartment without her stuff, and all he wanted was to dull the pain with some alcohol.

Bill and Quinn encouraged him to go home with the skinny little brunette that was flirting with him all night. He didn't find himself particularly attracted to her, though she was pretty. He found her too thin, and dressed like a slut, but he knew what it really was; she wasn't Sookie.

"You have to get her out of your system, man. Fuck her out of it," Quinn said before pushing him towards the woman.

Eric never found out her name, even after she took him back to her place. The sex was… not good. It turned out that his sex god skills with Sookie only applied with Sookie. What she liked didn't work on the brunette, and when it was all over he wasn't satisfied, he felt empty, dirty, and guilty, and it pissed him off.

Two nights later he tried again, this time with a curvier redhead, and got the same results. Just as he didn't know what these women liked, they didn't know what he liked either. Sookie knew not to use her teeth while blowing him and Red seemed to think he loved it. He could only take about ten seconds of that before he just gave up and fucked her.

After one more try, with a blonde that he couldn't get it up for because all he could think of was Sookie, he decided that fucking her out of his system wasn't the way to go. He left the blonde's apartment and went back to his own, and after having a bowl of cold cereal, he went into the bedroom and sat on the bed for the first time since Sookie had left.

~o0o~

Sookie sat on the porch at her Gran's house with the phone in one hand, and the blood test results in the other. She had to do it. She had to call him and tell him because he had every right to know. Her speech played over again in her head once more, and then she dialed his number.

"Hello?" he answered hesitantly after a couple of rings.

"I have something to tell you, and I don't want you to talk while I say it. In fact, as soon as I'm done, I'm going to hang up, okay?"

"Okay," he said. She missed the sound of his voice.

"Just before we started fighting I suspected I might be pregnant. I was okay with that because even though it wasn't planned and even though it was way too soon to get married, I knew that we loved each other, and we would love our baby.

"After I left I went to the doctor's office and got a blood test. I'm five weeks pregnant."

He tried to interrupt her, but she shut him down.

"You don't talk," she said firmly. "I've considered my options, and I'm still not sure I want to risk having a baby that will grow up with only one loving parent, but I can't bring myself to end it, so I'm having this baby. I will love it enough for both of us if I have to, but like it or not, you were a part of this. I will not use this pregnancy to make you be with me, and I do not want it to be the reason we are together.

"I'm giving you a choice. You can be in this baby's life, or you can't. If you want in I will help you any way I can. You can come to all the doctor's appointments, and we'll work out a custody agreement. If you don't want in, then you'll never hear another word from me again. In or out, it's up to you, but it's one or the other. You're either a father, or you're not.

"So that's all I had to say. I'll give you some time to think about it, but I'd like to know your decision soon."

With that, she hung up, went to her bedroom, and cried herself to sleep.

~o0o~

"I'm in," Eric said as she opened the front door.

"It's six in the morning, Eric," Sookie complained, though she couldn't stop the happy feelings from seeing him, and hearing him say he wanted to be a father.

"I couldn't sleep. I'm in. I want to be a part of my child's life."

"You could have told me this over the phone and I would have given you the date of the next doctor's appointment. There was no need to come here."

Eric wanted to tell her that he'd made a mistake, that he wanted her to come back, that it could be like it used to, but he knew it wouldn't. He had to earn her trust back. He had to show her how much he still loved her, how much he wanted her back. Just coming out and saying it would mean admitting that he'd ruined their relationship over something stupid, and he would also have to admit to sleeping with other women. He knew if he did that she wouldn't take him back.

"I know, but I wanted you to see that I'm serious about it," he told her. "You could even move back in if you…"

"No," Sookie cut him off. "I can't be pregnant and emotional in the apartment you and I used to be happy in together while you're off having one night stands with bar sluts."

Eric's jaw dropped in shock. He wasn't sure if she knew, or if she was just saying things in anger. She settled that for him.

"Yes, I know about them. All three of them. I do have friends that go to that bar."

"Just two," he murmured.

"Excuse me?"

Eric took a deep breath. "Just two and I regret them. Nothing happened with the third. I'm not doing that anymore, Sookie. I didn't like how it made me feel."

Sookie stared at him for a full minute before replying. How dare he tell her that he didn't like how it made him feel? What about how that news absolutely crushed her?

"The next appointment is in two weeks, I'll text you the date and time," she said, and then shut the door in his face, her hands trembling.

~o0o~

"Did you hear about the cat that swallowed a ball of yarn?"

"Excuse me?" Sookie asked the customer at her table. She'd just asked him for his order.

"Did you hear about the cat that swallowed a ball of yarn?" he repeated.

Perhaps it was the stranger's handsome face, or his enchanting green eyes, but she decided to play along.

"No, I didn't."

"She had mittens," he said, flashing her a perfect, goofy smile.

First a little giggle came out, and it escalated into more giggles until Sookie was full on laughing. It was the first time she'd had a genuine smile and laugh since before her break-up with Eric.

"That… is perhaps both the stupidest, and funniest joke I've ever had the pleasure of hearing," she said after she could breathe properly again.

"Good, because I was dying to see a real smile on your face," the man said.

She didn't know how to respond to that, so she smiled through her blush, and asked him what she could get for him. He ordered the chicken fried steak, and then Sookie left his table to collect her wits. What was happening? A gorgeous man was flirting with her, and she was almost ten weeks pregnant.

Sookie managed to avoid staying at his table long enough for him to continue to flirt with her, but he didn't leave when he finished eating. He kept ordering drinks until Sookie began to do her side work, then he left the cash for his meal and a good tip on the table and left.

Sookie left work shortly after that, and was surprised to find the man outside, leaning against the side of the building. He was tall, as tall as Eric, perhaps even taller. The man had a muscular physique, and filled out his plaid button up shirt like it was made to fit him.

"What are you doing out here?" she asked.

"Hi," he held out his hand to her. "My name is Alcide Herveaux, and I'd like to ask you out on a date."

"I'm pregnant," she blurted out.

Alcide chuckled nervously. "Um, this suddenly turned awkward. If you don't want to go on a date with me, just say no. You don't have to…"

"No! It's not that. You seem like a really sweet guy, and you're very handsome. I'm just actually pregnant."

"Oh. Well, your boyfriend in a lucky man," he said with a nod, and started to turn away.

"I don't have one," she blurted out before he walked away. There was something about him that made her want to tell him. He faced her again with an amused smirk. "Oh! I don't mean to sound like a hussy or something. I had one when it happened, he just… dumped me before I found out." She paused as her face turned red with embarrassment. She couldn't believe she was sharing these details with a complete stranger. "I'm sorry. I'm new to this. No one's asked me out since I was sixteen."

"It's okay. It seems that you keep things interesting," he said, smiling at her.

Sookie and Alcide talked on a bench outside Merlotte's for almost two hours. Alcide asked her about her relationship with Eric, and she explained it as best she could. Before they went their separate ways he told her that he still wanted to take her on a date, that he really liked her.

"You still want to date me? Knowing that I'm carrying another man's child?" she asked him in disbelief.

"Yes, I do. It's probably a bit surprising how much I'm not bothered by it, but there is a reason for that."

"What reason?"

"I can't have kids," he said with a small, sheepish shrug.

"What do you mean?"

"I had the mumps as a kid, and now I'm sterile. But I've always wanted kids, and I feel a connection to you. I never stop in here, and on the day I do I get you as my waitress? I believe in fate. Maybe this is all fate. I'm just saying that maybe this could be something great. I'm willing to find out."

~o0o~

Sookie met Eric outside the doctor's office like they always did. He looked very handsome in his black sweater and dark wash jeans. He greeted her with a kiss on the cheek.

"How is everything?" he asked.

"It's going well. I think the morning sickness is done now, and my bump is getting bigger. You'll see in there."

They went in the office together and Eric found a seat while Sookie signed in and then joined him.

"What are you doing after this?" Sookie asked him when she sat down.

Eric looked surprised, and hope flared in him.

"I have no plans, why?"

"Would you come to lunch with me? I have some news for you."

"Of course. Good news?"

"Don't push it."

They were called back to an exam room shortly after that, where they went through the routine check-up, checking the baby's development, listening to the heartbeat, making sure everything was still normal. After making another appointment, they left and drove to a diner for lunch.

"So, what's this news you have?" Eric asked nervously.

"I'm dating someone," she said, and Eric's mood went from hopeful to pissed off in a matter of seconds.

"What?"

"We met about a month ago at Merlotte's. His name is Alcide Herveaux and…"

"The construction guy? You're dating him? Doesn't he know you're pregnant?"

"Yes, the construction guy. He knows about the pregnancy, and you. He's known since the day we met." She paused and reached across the table to grasp his hand. "He also knows that you are the baby's father, and the only one the baby will be calling daddy. He's okay with that."

"I'm not buying it, Sookie," he said in a slightly raised voice. "What kind of guy is okay with dating a woman who's pregnant with another man's child?"

Now it was Sookie's turn to be pissed.

"The kind that believes in fate. The kind that can't have kids of his own. The kind that wonders what kind of guy gives up a five year relationship for anonymous sex," she whisper-yelled at him, and then slid out of the booth.

"Sookie, wait," Eric pleaded. "I'm sorry. Please sit down."

"Fine, but I'm not putting up with that crap, Eric. You gave me up, you gave us up. You don't get a say in who I date."

"You're right, and I know that, but please don't hold those one-night stands over my head forever though, okay? It hasn't happened since then, and I feel guilty enough for it."

"I'm not promising anything."

"Can I at least meet this guy?"

"If you want to. He's coming to the house for dinner tomorrow if you'd like to join us."

"Has he already met Gran?"

"Yes, he has."

"Does she like him?"

"Yes, she does."

"Does she still like me?"

"You'll have to ask her that."

~o0o~

The first thing Eric saw when he pulled up to Gran's house was a very new, heavy-duty pickup truck with Herveaux Construction printed on the side. He got out of his older, smaller truck and hoped like hell this guy was compensating. As he walked up the porch steps he heard laughter coming from inside, and a man talking, like he was telling a funny story.

Eric took a deep breath and knocked on the door when the laughter had settled. He heard footsteps that he somehow recognized as Sookie's, and then the door opened.

"Hi, Eric. Come on in," she said with a smile.

He followed her into the living room where he finally laid eyes on the man Sookie had told him about. Eric noticed that he was tall first, as tall as, if not taller than him. He had dark hair, and rugged good looks and muscles. In short, Eric knew he was fucked, especially if this guy was actually genuine.

"Eric, this is Alcide Herveaux," Sookie said. "Alcide, this is Eric Northman."

The two men firmly shook hands, and nodded at each other. Alcide was the first to say something.

"Sookie, Adele, would you two mind if Eric and I went outside for a few minutes?"

"Why?" Sookie asked him.

He picked up her hand and squeezed it, giving her a warm smile.

"Just to talk," he said. "Promise."

Sookie nodded, and then shot Eric a warning look. He held his hands up as if to say he was innocent, and not going to do anything.

"Alright, but dinner will be done in fifteen, so whatever it is needs to be said before then," Sookie said, and then she and Gran went into the kitchen.

The two men went outside and stood in the driveway, Alcide's hands in his pockets, Eric's folded across his broad chest.

"What is it you think you need to say to me?" Eric asked.

"You still love her don't you?" Alcide asked, and Eric narrowed his eyes.

"What's your point?"

"I've only known Sookie for a month, and I'm already in love with her. She's an amazing woman."

"Again, what's your point?"

"I feel like if I have the chance to be with her for five years or more, that love will only grow."

"You know what, I made a mistake. A big fucking mistake, and now I don't get to sleep next to her at night. I don't get to watch my child grow inside of her every day. I won't be there every night to help when Sookie needs rest. My kid isn't going to be able to come to me every time it gets hurt or scared. That's more than enough punishment for what I did, so back off."

"I know all that, and it's exactly my point. I'm not going to make this harder on you than it already is. I won't try to be that child's father, and I won't rub my relationship with Sookie in your face. I am selfish enough not to give her up, but that's also because I saw how broken she was, and still is, over you. What it comes down to is this; I'm in this for the long haul, with Sookie, and with the baby. I'm going to be a father figure in that child's life, and I think it would be best for everyone if you and I attempted to get along."

Eric stared at Alcide for a moment, unsure if he was being played like a fool.

"I promise you, I only want what's best for Sookie," Alcide said.

"Don't you think what's best for her is to be with the father of her child and the man she loves?" Eric asked.

"No, I don't. She doesn't trust you anymore, and she's still hurt by what you did. I know it sucks that you have to go through this, but, as much as I hate to say it, you made your bed."

Eric's heart sunk. He knew that Alcide was right, and as much as he hated it, he did have respect for the man for being upfront with him. Eric wondered if he loved Sookie enough to let her be happy without him. If she was with someone else, at least it was a worthy guy, not some scumbag.

"I can't promise I'm not going to be rude to you ever, but I suppose we can all be in this. What matters most now is that child, so I think we can all put aside our issues to make sure the baby has a happy life. But I expect you to uphold your side of this. I am that kid's father. It's only father."

"And that will never change," Alcide said with a nod.

~o0o~

When Sookie was five months pregnant, Gran passed away of a stroke. She was devastated, and even though Alcide tried to comfort her, the only comfort she found was when Eric was around. She had come to love Alcide, and she knew she couldn't be with Eric anymore, but he was still the only one that understood the depth of her despair.

He got her through the visitation and funeral, and the days after when she went through Gran's things. After that, Sookie asked him if he'd stay away for a few days to give her some time with Alcide, but the truth was that she was becoming used to his constant presence again, and that made her miss him.

Alcide stepped up and helped Sookie after that. They moved Sookie into Gran's bedroom, and started stripping the wallpaper from Sookie's old room, which would be the nursery. It took a long time to get it done, but they did it in a day, and while Alcide took the steamer back to the store they rented it from, Sookie showered.

She had a good, long cry under the hot spray, but also let the water wash away the past. Sookie was ready to move on, with Alcide. When she got out of the shower, she heard Alcide moving around in the bedroom. She wrapped a large towel around her body, and joined him. He was setting up a television set for her.

"What are you doing?" she asked. "Whose TV is that?"

Alcide stood with a smile, which disappeared when he saw that Sookie was only in a towel. They had yet to make love, and he was okay with that, but it was like she was tempting a starving man with a ripe piece of fruit.

"You can't be mad because it's my old set. I just thought you'd like to have something in here when you can't be on your feet much in a few months," he explained, trying not to stare at her moist body.

Sookie closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around his waist.

"I love you," she told him. It was the first time she'd said it. She looked up into his eyes, unspoken words there as she said, "Stay tonight. Please?"

"Are you sure?" he asked, barely able to contain his excitement.

"Only if you are."

"I've never been surer of anything in my life," he said.

Sookie reached up and pulled his head down to hers so she could kiss him, while her hands opened the buttons of his shirt. Alcide pulled her against his body, but didn't remove her towel yet. He wanted her to take that step, and when she did a moment later, he knew he was the luckiest man in the world. She was beautiful, even with the swelling baby bump. He was thankful that it was still small enough that he could face her while they made love.

When they were both naked, they climbed onto the bed and held each other as they continued to kiss.

"Are you really sure you're okay with this?" Sookie asked him.

She knew she could have killed the mood with her question, but she had to know.

"I don't think you get it, Sookie. I love you. I don't care that you're pregnant."

"That's not what I mean."

"I've always known I'd want kids, and I can't make them. Any woman I ended up with would have to have wanted kids too, and if that woman was okay with it, I would have wanted to do artificial insemination. So, I've always known that if my woman was pregnant, it would be with another man's child. I'm totally okay with this."

Sookie had tears in her eyes as she kissed him, and then they made love. It was practically a religious experience for him, but for Sookie it marked the moment that she knew she had to completely give her heart to Alcide.

She did just that two months later when he asked her to marry him.

~o0o~

Eric was wrecked when Sookie and Alcide told him they were getting married, and he didn't hide it from them. He rushed them out of his apartment and didn't talk to them for days on end. Not out of anger or spite, but out of pure devastation. The woman he loved, the mother of his child, was marrying another man. It wasn't as though he could hate the man for his character; he could only hate Alcide for having what he wanted; what he willingly gave up.

His self-imposed seclusion from Sookie and Alcide ended after a week when he got a phone call.

"What?" he answered when he saw Alcide's name on his cell.

"I know you're pissed off about the engagement, but this isn't about that. Sookie started bleeding last night."

"What the fuck? Why didn't anyone call me? Is she okay? The baby?" Eric asked frantically as he started searching for his shoes.

"The baby is fine, and so is Sookie. We were out when it happened so I took her straight to the hospital. Sookie was pretty out of it, and I was so worried about her that I didn't think about it. I'm sorry about that. I should have called you first thing."

"Damn straight you should have! Where are you now?"

"We're at home. Sookie is on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy."

"I'll be there in fifteen," Eric said, and hung up the phone.

He was feeling a lot of things at that moment. Hurt, scared, pissed off. The thought of losing the baby devastated him. Sookie only had a month and a half left until her due date, and Eric decided that he would spend it with her. After throwing some clothes in a bag, he got in his truck and drove to Sookie's house.

Sookie was lying in Gran's old bed, big pillows all around her to make her comfortable, watching soap operas on a TV perched on the dresser. She burst into tears when she saw Eric.

"Eric," she sobbed.

He shot Alcide a look before walking over to Sookie and pulling her into a hug. Alcide took the hint and left them alone.

"I'm so sorry we didn't call you," Sookie cried into his chest.

"Shh, it's okay," Eric soothed, rubbing her back.

"No it's not. I made you a promise, and I broke it. You should have been called before we even got to the hospital."

"Sook, I don't care anymore. You and the baby are okay, that's all that matters. But I did bring a bag of clothes with me, and I plan to stay here until after the baby is born. I don't care if you like it or not, but it would be helpful if you didn't argue with me."

Sookie was a bit shocked that Eric planned to stay with her and Alcide, but when she looked into his eyes she understood completely. He was scared.

"Okay, but please take a shower," she smiled. "You smell like road kill."

Eric chuckled and stood. "Yeah, I haven't really been digging the personal hygiene thing this week."

"For what it's worth, I am sorry that you're hurting. I didn't mean for things between us to get so screwed up."

"That's my fault, Sook, not yours. I have no one to blame but myself for the way things are," he said, and offered her a small smile before he left the room.

~o0o~

Luckily enough, Eric and Alcide's work schedules worked out so that someone was always at home with Sookie. Alcide was still in the process of moving in, and as much as Eric hated doing so, he did help him out a bit with that. It killed him to know that the two of them were sleeping in the same bed at night, but he immersed himself in all things baby.

When Eric wasn't cooking or cleaning for Sookie, he was in the nursery, organizing and adding items the baby books said to have. He hadn't told Sookie yet, but he had a full nursery at the apartment too. It was his side project, and it looked even better than the one at Sookie's house.

Eric was at work when the call came. He heard Alcide telling him to get to the hospital, and Sookie screaming at Alcide to drive faster. Eric was out the door of his mechanic garage in two seconds, and managed to arrive at the hospital at the same time as them.

"Eric!" Sookie screamed when she saw him. "Eric, my water broke, and the contractions are really freaking close, and if I'm still in labor in forty-eight hours I will hate you forever."

"It'll all be worth it when we see our baby," he grinned excitedly.

"Stop smiling before I slap it off your face," she seethed.

Nineteen hours later, the doctor finally told them Sookie was ready to push. Per their pre-arranged agreement, Alcide went out to the waiting room while Eric stayed with Sookie through the delivery.

After forty-two minutes of pushing, Sookie gave birth to a beautiful, screaming baby girl, and neither she, nor Eric had dry eyes. From the moment he saw his little girl, Eric was totally in love, and completely wrapped around her tiny fingers. He watched in awe as they laid her on Sookie's chest, before taking her away to clean her up, and when they did, he followed. As the nurses did their thing, the baby stared up at Eric with big, blue eyes that Eric hoped she would keep. She looked just like him, he thought. Sure, he could see Sookie in her too, but when he thought of his baby pictures he could swear he was looking at himself.

"Eric?" Sookie croaked from the bed, her voice hoarse.

"Ten and ten," he replied. He'd already counted three times.

"I want to hold her."

"The nurses are almost done," he said, not taking his eyes off his daughter. They finished a moment later and let Eric carry her back to Sookie, who was shaking from the shock to her body.

"You did so good, Sookie," he said as he placed the baby in her arms. "I'm so proud of you."

"She's gorgeous," Sookie said.

"What are we going to name her?" Eric asked. "After your Gran?"

"Charlotte Adele," Sookie said.

"Are you sure?" Eric asked, shocked that she would consider it.

"Your mother was a wonderful, strong woman, and she meant a lot to you. I loved her, and she was always kind to me. Those are all things I want our daughter to be. What better gift could we give her than naming her after the two strongest women we've ever known?"

"I love you," Eric said without thinking.

"I know," Sookie replied. "Will you go get Alcide?"

Eric nodded, and left the room. He stopped in the hall to take a moment to collect himself before heading out to get Alcide.

"How are they?" Alcide asked him as soon as he saw him.

"They're both doing great. It's a girl, and we named her Charlotte Adele Stackhouse Northman. She's seven pounds, eight ounces, and twenty-one inches long," Eric said, his smile growing with every bit of information he relayed.

"Congratulations, Eric," Alcide said, giving him a quick hug and pat on the back. "Can I go in?"

"Yeah, come on."

~o0o~

Eric stayed at the house with them until Charlotte was almost three months old, and had begun sleeping through most of the night. His first night away was tough, and he couldn't sleep at all. The first thing he did the next day was ask to take her overnight. Sookie had a hard time saying yes, not because she didn't trust Eric to take care of her, but because she was having her own separation issues. Eventually she conceded, but demanded that Eric have her back by ten in the morning.

Though his apartment was only ten minutes away, it took twenty with how slow he drove. He knew he would get over the extra-careful stuff eventually, but in the meantime he was taking no chances with his baby girl. Armed with a night's worth of Sookie's expressed milk, Eric spent every moment with his daughter, enjoying being able to feed her. He didn't even put her in the crib he'd bought; he kept her in his bed with him all night.

Sookie enjoyed watching both of the men she loved with her daughter. Eric would often fall asleep on the couch with her resting on his chest. The sight always made her smile, and then want to cry. Alcide was fantastic with her too, and treated her like she was his without ever overstepping his boundaries with Eric. Sookie was surprised how well they dealt with the whole situation.

It was actually Alcide that convinced Sookie to let Eric take Charlotte home for the first time. He said that they both needed a full night's sleep, and it would give them some "alone time" which they hadn't had since before the baby was born. Sookie agreed because she knew Eric had turned his spare room into a nursery, and she knew he could handle Charlotte by himself.

Charlotte became Eric's entire world and sole focus. When he wasn't working, he was with her. She was a welcome distraction from Sookie and Alcide's wedding plans, and they loved being able to get things done without constantly watching a newborn. Though Eric was still heartbroken over Sookie, his daughter helped ease that pain a lot. He hadn't screwed up with her, and he saw it as a new opportunity to do something right in his life.

When Charlotte was six months old, Sookie and Alcide got married. Eric attended and got through it solely because of his baby girl. He tried not to focus on how beautiful Sookie looked in a wedding dress, tried not to feel crushed when she said 'I do.' Instead, he held Charlotte and told himself that Sookie was happy, and this was what she deserved.

He kept Charlotte for two weeks while Sookie and Alcide were on their honeymoon, and in that time he got to see a lot of her firsts. She sat up on her own, was rolling over without help, trying to pull herself up on all fours, and finally said 'dada.' Those were things he would never forget.

~o0o~

Five years later…

"Alcide!" Charlotte screamed from her room, causing the man to shoot out of bed and run up the stairs.

"What is it, Charlie?" he asked, breathless. Charlie was Alcide's nickname for her, and he was the only one that used it.

"I had a bad dream, and I think one of the scaries is in my closet," she said, holding her arms out so he would come hug her, which he did. "Will you check for scaries?"

He pulled back and looked at her seriously. "Where did you put my weapon?"

"It's behind the door," she whispered.

Alcide put a finger to his lips to tell her to keep quiet, and then crept quietly to the door and grabbed his weapon. It was a long, pink, frilly, sequined princess wand with a shiny star on top. It was the only thing that possessed the power to kill the scaries. Charlotte watched with the blanket pulled up just underneath her eyes as Alcide slowly advanced on the closet with the wand held out in front of him.

He reached out and slowly opened the door before pouncing into the closet.

"I got it," he yelled. He knew that he couldn't just check and tell Charlie there were no scaries, because she would be convinced that they were just hiding, so he always caught one. He pretended to struggle for a few seconds and then made a loud popping sound with his mouth that marked the destruction of the monster.

"Was that the only one?" Charlotte asked him.

Alcide pretended to look around the closet a bit more, and then nodded at her before he held his finger to his lips again so she'd be quiet, while he checked for more. He methodically looked under the bed, in the toy box, in her princess castle, and even behind the dresser for the 'really, really skinny ones.'

"All clear," he said as he replaced the wand.

"Were you scared?" she asked him with wide eyes.

"Of course I was scared," he said, sitting on the bed. "I just told my fear to take a hike and tried to be brave."

"Thank you for getting rid of it."

"Anytime, Charlie," he smiled, and tucked the blankets back around her. "Want me to stay until you fall asleep?"

She nodded and held his big hand with her tiny one and closed her eyes. Alcide smiled down at the little angel, the girl he thought of as his own. He never overstepped his bounds with Eric, but he couldn't help thinking of her as his daughter. It was true that while Eric was around, he was her number one, as it should be, but Alcide knew that she loved him and saw him as her number two. He was the big man that loved and protected her mommy, so he was who she ran to when she was scared and daddy wasn't there.

After she was out and snoring softly, Alcide turned on her night light and went back down to his bedroom and curled up behind Sookie.

"How many this time?" she asked as she rolled to face him.

"Just one, but she had a bad dream so I stayed until she was asleep."

"I could just yell at that kid for telling her scary stories in school. Maybe she'll grow out of it and you won't have to use a pink princess wand as a weapon anymore."

"I don't know, I kind of like it. Not the pink wand, or that she's scared, but I like being able to help her with it. Makes me feel like a real dad," he smiled.

"Alcide, you are a real dad. You've never been anything but a dad to Charlotte. I know she can't call you that, but it's what you are. Don't ever think you're not," she told him.

He smiled and nodded, and then kissed his wife. She always made him feel whole, especially when it came to being a father to her little girl. The kissing quickly turned heated, and even though he had to be up early the next morning, he made love to his wife slowly, sweetly, and passionately.

~o0o~

"Daddy!" Charlotte yelled as she ran down the stairs and launched herself into Eric's arms.

"Hey munchkin! Are you all packed up?" he asked.

"I am! My pink case is full!" she told him excitedly as she bounced on her feet. She absolutely loved the weeks in the summer that she got to spend with her dad. He would take her on 'adventures,' as he called them. To the zoo, on a train ride, to the movies.

"Great! Go get it and we can go," he said, and she turned around and bolted back up the stairs.

"Hey Sook," Eric said, smiling at her as she walked into the room.

He still loved her, even after all these years. He hadn't moved on with anyone since those two mistakes in the beginning. Charlotte was his only concern, and dating didn't factor into that.

"I don't think I have to tell you about the sugar thing again," she warned.

"I promise not to feed her gelato before bringing her back," he swore with a smile.

Things were very good between them now. Eric had come to respect Alcide a great deal. Alcide never called himself Charlotte's father, and never pretended to be. She didn't fully understand the situation, but she knew who her dad was. Alcide also kept Sookie happy, which made Eric happy.

"Good, because I swear she's still bouncing off the walls from that," Sookie laughed.

"I'm coming, daddy!" Charlotte hollered as she struggled to carry her suitcase down the stairs, her ponytail bobbing and swaying with each step.

"Hold on, baby. Let daddy help you," Eric said, and started up the stairs to help her. He heard a knock at the door, and saw Sookie head that way. Just as he got Charlotte to the bottom he saw who it was. He was puzzled at first, but figured out what they were there for just as Sookie swayed on her feet. He turned to his daughter and quickly said, "Charlotte, I need you to go to your room and turn on your TV. I'll come get you in a few minutes."

"Why, daddy?" she asked.

"Just do it baby," he said and picked her up, placing her on a stair halfway up the staircase. As soon as she was in her room, Eric rushed to Sookie.

"What happened?" he asked Sherriff Dearborne as he wrapped a sobbing Sookie in his arms.

"Alcide was hit by a drunk driver this morning. He was killed on impact," Bud told him.

"Fuck," Eric said, and held Sookie tighter as her sobs got louder. "What do we need to do, Bud?"

"His wallet was in his pocket, so there's no need to identify the body. The funeral home will be contacting you later today."

"Thanks, Bud," Eric said, nodding at him as he shut the door and carried Sookie to the couch.

"It isn't true," Sookie sobbed into Eric's chest. "It can't be true. He left early this morning so we could go out tonight. We were going dancing. I bought a new dress."

Eric didn't know what to say, so he held her a little tighter while he rubbed her back, hoping she would find some kind of comfort in it. He wasn't sure how long they were on the couch before he heard his daughter yell from the top of the stairs.

"Daddy! I want to come out of my room now!"

"Shit. Sookie, I need to get…"

"I can't tell her, Eric. I don't know what to say." Sookie seemed to have run out of tears, but she was hiccupping now from the crying.

"I'll do it," he told her. One of them had to be strong. "Will you be alright here?"

She nodded absently, so Eric got up and went to their daughter.

"Can we go now, daddy?" she asked him as he picked her up.

"Daddy needs to talk to you, sweetie."

Eric took Charlotte into her room and did his best to explain life and death to a five-year-old. She didn't understand why Alcide wouldn't be around anymore. Eric hoped he could further explain the death part at the funeral when she saw what happens when a person dies.

He hated that he was thinking of the funeral when Alcide probably wasn't even cold yet. It all made him sick to his stomach. Truth was, he could hardly believe it was true. Though it hurt to think it, Eric felt that if anyone deserved to be killed that way it was himself. Alcide would have made a wonderful dad to Charlotte, and he made a great husband for Sookie. He would have loved and treated the two most important women in Eric's life the way they deserved.

"But who's going to destroy the scaries?" Charlotte asked. Eric had forgotten about that. He knew that Alcide did it, but not how often.

"Your mommy or I can," he said.

"But Mommy isn't big and strong, and you don't do it right. You always forget to look behind the dresser!"

Eric's heart sunk. Charlotte would always come to him if she was scared or hurt and he was there, but she preferred Alcide for the monsters. As she once told him, Alcide was good with scaries, and he was good with owies. He did a fair job when she stayed with him, but she said he didn't do it right. He didn't mind that Alcide did it better, but it didn't exactly make him feel great either. It was just more proof that Alcide loved Charlotte very much, and his little girl had just lost a daddy.

"Why are you crying daddy?" Charlotte asked, her tiny hands cupping Eric's face.

"Daddy's sad, baby."

"Is Mommy sad too?"

"Yes, she is. Let's go see her," he said.

Eric carried his daughter to her mother, who wrapped the little girl in her arms tightly.

"It's okay Mama, Alcide didn't like you cryin'," she told her mother.

"I know, baby."

Three days later there was a visitation, and the day after that, a funeral. Eric and Sookie both took Charlotte to the grave the day after the burial to have a talk with her about life and death. They knew she still didn't fully grasp it, but they felt it helped a bit more to see where Alcide was.

The next day Sookie and Eric met with Alcide's lawyer to go over his will. Sookie knew he had one, but they hadn't done one together yet, so she wasn't sure what was in it, nor was she sure why Eric had to be there as well.

"Mrs. Herveaux, it seems that your husband had quite a bit of money."

"He was very successful with his company," Sookie said. "We were quite comfortable."

"This paper has the amount of money your husband had in CD's, trusts, and savings," the lawyer said as he handed a sheet of paper to Sookie. "He's left it all to you with no limiting stipulations."

"Jesus, Shepard of Jeuda. I had no idea…" Sookie said, one hand covering her mouth.

"All of his possessions are in your name as well. He asks that you sell his portion of the company back to his father, and stipulates a minimum price his father should pay."

The laywer handed Sookie another piece of paper, and she almost passed out when she saw that number and mentally added it to the total on the other paper.

"Mr. Northman, you are here because Mr. Herveaux left you, Mrs. Herveaux, and one Charlotte Adele Stackhouse Northman letters to be opened at your discretion."

He handed Eric an envelope, then he handed Sookie two, one of which was Charlotte's. The lawyer then read the will aloud, had Sookie and Eric sign a document, and then they went back to Sookie's house where they relieved Alcide's mother of babysitting duties. While Sookie talked with her, Eric sat on the porch with his letter, wondering what it was Alcide had to say, and trying to decide whether or not to open the envelope. In the end, he decided to wait until he talked to Sookie.

About an hour later, Alcide's mother left, and Eric made Sookie and Charlotte some supper. They all ate together, and then set Charlotte up with a movie in the living room so they could talk.

"Do you think we should do it at the same time?" Eric asked.

"Yeah, I think so," Sookie agreed.

They both slowly opened their letters, and started reading. Eric's was just a single sheet of paper with writing on the front, but he saw that Sookie's was at least three pieces, front and back.

Eric,

If you're reading this, then I'm dead and buried. I'll make this short and sweet. Marry Sookie. I swear to you that I'm okay with it. If she has to be with anyone but me, it should be you.

Sookie never stopped loving you. She'll never admit it to me, but she didn't. Sookie was my soul mate, but you are hers. Her true one at least. You made a mistake that you've more than paid for and now it's time to show Sookie and your beautiful daughter that you learned from it. Don't prove it to me, prove it to them. Prove it to yourself.

You're a great man, Eric. You've shown that by being a wonderful father. I'm sure Sookie will want to take some time to get over me, because, let's face it, I was awesome, but I'll be sure to tell her that it's not necessary when I write her letter.

I only ask a couple things of you. Be good to Sookie. She deserves to be treated like a Queen. And don't let Charlie forget about me. I really loved that little girl like she was my own. I never want her to not know that. And if she's scared of the scaries, always destroy one, never pretend there's none. And for the love of Pete, check behind the dresser. The skinny ones are back there.

This is your second chance, Eric. Don't fuck it up.

-Alcide

Eric folded the letter and put it back in the envelope, then turned his attention to Sookie, who was still reading hers and crying silently.

Dear Sookie,

If you're reading this, you know why. First of all I want you to know that I will always love you and wherever I am, I'm missing you like crazy. As cheesy as it is, you really completed me. I know that you're probably surprised and pissed off about my will, and I understand that. I probably should have told you, but then I would have had to explain why I did it, which I'll do now.

You already know that I believe in fate, in everything happening for a reason. I never went to Merlotte's before the day I met you. It was love at first smile for me, because when you smiled and laughed at my stupid joke, I was instantly head over heels for you.

After you had Charlie, and I saw how Eric was with her, I knew why I walked into the bar that day. I was always going to die when I died, so God let me fulfill my purpose in your life. Eric made a big mistake, we all know this, but if you hadn't met me, you two would likely have gotten back together quicker, and he may have made another mistake down the line. Because I was there, because you fell for me too, Eric has learned a hard lesson, and he won't screw up again.

What I'm trying to tell you is that you have to be with him again. I understand that you'll want to take some time to get over me, but you have to give him a second chance. He's not stupid enough to mess things up a second time. I know you'll be mad at me for this, but I did some poking around and let's just say even I couldn't have been as celibate as that guy. Charlie is his whole world, and he deserves another chance.

I promise you that it's no disrespect to my memory for you to move on with him, even if you do it quickly. I mean, I'd prefer it if you didn't invite him to move in right after I'm buried, but that's just my ego talking.

Sookie, I may have lived a short life, but it was a full one. I had a very comfortable life, I married my soul mate, and I was able to experience what being a parent was like. She wasn't my kid, but I loved her like she was. You gave me all of that, Sookie. You did. These last years have been the happiest I've had. I died a happy man, and that's all I ever hoped for.

I want you to keep me in your heart, but don't be afraid to move on. Don't be afraid to be happy again. Take chances. Live life. Don't let Charlie forget about me. I'd like for her to read her letter when she's a bit older so that she really understands what's in it, but it's up to you when you give it to her.

As for all the money I left you, it's up to you to use it how you want. I know it's a lot. Don't be afraid to use it either, okay? I left it to you for a reason. You could restore the house like you've talked about. You could get a new car. Put some away for Charlie's schooling. Buy property. Sell everything and join the circus. I really don't care, as long as you continue to be happy.

Remember what I always told you? If you're not happy, it's not worth it. Be happy for me, Sookie. All I've ever wanted is to see you smile.

I love you, always and forever.

Your Alcide

Sookie folded her letter and put it back in the envelope, then looked at Eric as she wiped her tears away with the backs of her hands.

"Would you mind leaving? I need some time alone right now."

Eric didn't look or feel hurt. All he wanted was to comfort her, but he knew that she might want some time to herself. He couldn't smother her.

"Do you want me to take Charlotte?"

"No, I need her here right now. Would you mind holding off on your week with her for a bit. Maybe have it later in the summer?"

"Of course not," he said, and reached across the table to take Sookie's hand. "I'm ten minutes away. If you need me to fix something, or to help out with Charlotte, or just want company, just call me, okay?"

Sookie smiled and nodded, and Eric stood, giving her a kiss on her temple as he went.

~o0o~

Four months later Eric was sitting on the couch in Sookie's house with his daughter, watching a movie with her. Sookie was in the kitchen, washing the dishes from supper, and crying silently. She felt a tremendous amount of guilt for wanting to be with Eric, and it prevented her from taking that step. Eric hadn't pressured her once, or implied that he wanted more. He was letting her do it, but she couldn't find it in herself to do.

Sookie was about to go into the living room and announce bedtime for her daughter, but when she heard Charlotte and Eric talking, she stopped and listened.

"Why don't you live with us, Daddy?"

"Because I have my apartment. Why do you ask?"

"Don't you love mommy? Mommies and daddies are supposed to live together."

"I love your mother very much, but we don't live together because we're not married," Eric explained.

"Why aren't you married?"

"Come here, baby," Eric said, pulling his daughter onto his lap. "When you do something you're not supposed to, something bad, what happens?"

"I have to say that I'm sorry and not do it again," she said.

"Right. A long time ago, before mommy and I knew you were in mommy's belly, daddy made a mistake. It was one so big that saying I was sorry wouldn't make it better."

"Did Mommy put you in time out? She puts me in time out when my bad things are really bad."

Eric chuckled, and Sookie did too from her hiding spot around the corner.

"In a way, I suppose she did. What I mean is that did something really bad, I lied to your mommy, and I let her believe it, and then I did some things that hurt Mommy's feelings. Because I lied, Mommy doesn't trust me like she used to. Then Mommy met Alcide and they fell in love."

"Could Mommy trust Alcide?"

"Yes, she could. She did, and they fell in love with each other and got married."

"Does Mommy still love you?"

Eric was silent for a moment, and Sookie held her breath while waiting for his answer.

"I hope so, baby," he finally answered. "I hope so."

"I'll love you forever, Daddy. Cross my heart."

"I know sweetie. We'll see if you're still saying that when you discover boys," Eric said, and began to tickle her.

"I know a boy, Daddy. His name is Justin." Charlotte giggled.

"Oh no. Don't tell Daddy that. You'll make me feel old," Eric said, and Sookie smiled.

The whole conversation warmed Sookie's heart and made her feel happy. She thought of Alcide, of his letter to her. He wanted her to be happy, and Eric had always made her happy.

"Alright you two," Sookie said as she emerged from around the corner. "Charlotte, go upstairs and put your jammies on. I'll be up in a few minutes to tuck you in."

"Okay Mommy," the little girl said, and hopped off Eric's lap after giving him a kiss on the cheek.

Eric stood up and watched his daughter run off and climb the stairs. He never thought he could feel the way he did about anyone like he did about Charlotte. He knew without a doubt that he would kill anyone that hurt her. She was, by far, the best thing he'd ever done.

"I guess I'd better head home," Eric said, and then he saw Sookie's face. "Have you been crying?"

"I'm fine," she said with an attempt to smile.

"No, you're not," he argued as he walked around the couch and stood in front of her. "I know it's probably weird for you to talk about Alcide to me, but you can if you need to."

She wanted to tell him that she knew all that, that she was ready to move on with him, that she loved him still… but she couldn't do it, and she hated herself for it.

"I know I can. I just have a lot on my mind right now. Now go up and kiss your daughter goodnight, and we'll see you tomorrow evening."

Eric looked concerned still, but he did as she said and left after giving her a kiss on the temple, which had become a normal thing for him to do. Sookie took a deep breath and went upstairs to tuck her daughter in for the night. She found her under the covers, holding her new favorite bedtime book.

"Teeth brushed?" Sookie asked.

"Yes, Mama," she replied.

Sookie sat on the bed next to her daughter and wrapped an arm around her.

"Mama?" Charlotte asked.

"Hmm?"

"Do you love Daddy?"

"Why do you ask, sweetie?"

"Daddy said he loves you. If you love him back, he can live here with us and I can get two bedtime stories every night," she explained, like it was that simple.

But wasn't it? Sookie thought. She loved Eric, and she knew Eric still loved her. The only thing holding her back was the thought of disgracing Alcide's memory by moving on with Eric. It felt too much like they were just waiting for Alcide to die so they could be together. The guilt was eating at her.

"Yes, baby. I love your daddy very much."

"Can he move in then? You can get married!" Charlotte suggested excitedly.

"It's not that simple sweetie."

"Yes it is! Daddy says that people get married when they love each other. Please marry daddy! I want him to live with us!"

Sookie looked into her daughter's hopeful eyes and found that her own hope mirrored Charlotte's. She wanted to marry Eric. She wanted him to live with them, to be a family with them. She wanted more children.

"It's not as simple as just going and getting married. Your daddy and I have things we need to talk about first, and…" She paused, unable to really come up with another good reason.

"And what?"

"Nothing. Let's just read the story you picked out, okay?"

Sookie barely slept that night, and she was a nervous wreck for the entirety of the next day. Eric had begun coming over for supper every night, and would stay until Charlotte went to bed, but Sookie wanted him to stay longer. She wanted him to wrap his arms around her in her bed and wake up next to him every morning.

Something was nagging at the back of her mind for her to get Alcide's letter and read it again. It was practically his dying wish that she be happy, and be with Eric. Alcide seemed to understand that she would always love Eric.

Sookie put the letter back in the envelope, kissed it, and tucked it away in her hope chest at the foot of her bed.

"I love you, Alcide. Always will," she whispered to nobody, but instantly felt better about her decision. He wanted her to be happy, so she would be happy, but she would never forget him.

~o0o~

Eric picked Charlotte up at her school and took her to the park since it was still nice out. She played with a few other kids until their mothers took them home, and then Eric pushed her on the swings until it was time to go. He loved taking her to the park, even if it was just to hear her giggle.

On the walk back to Eric's truck, Charlotte dropped a bomb on him.

"Mommy told me last night that she loves you. Will you marry her now so you can live with us?"

Eric stopped walking immediately and knelt in front of his daughter.

"What did Mommy say to you?"

"I asked her if she loves you, and she said she loves you a lot, and I think you should marry her so I can get two bedtime stories every night."

Eric smiled at the way his child's mind made everything so simple.

"What did she say then? About getting married."

Charlotte scrunched her nose as she thought, and then she squeezed her eyes shut, like she was trying to remember the exact words.

"Umm… she said you had to have a talk. Is that like a family meeting? Are you going to get into trouble?"

Eric chuckled and hugged his daughter to his chest tightly.

"No baby, I don't think I am. Let's go home," he said.

When they got home, Charlotte told Sookie all about her day and gave her a picture she drew in school, which Sookie promptly hung on the refrigerator. Eric fell right into the normal routine and started to help with supper. Sookie handed Charlotte the plates and silverware, so she could set the table.

Eric knew from Sookie's demeanor and from his new information that something was up. She was acting nervous, and wouldn't look him in the eye. Eric took it in stride, and pretended that it was just another normal night. They ate pork chops for supper, and then Eric took Charlotte to the living room to pick out a game to play.

She chose her favorite board game, and they all sat down to play for an hour before dessert. Sookie brought them all a piece of pie, which they ate while watching a movie, and when they were done, Sookie took the dishes into the kitchen to wash.

"I'm going to help mommy with the dishes, okay?" Eric told Charlotte. She nodded that she was fine, and Eric went into the kitchen.

"Mind if I help?" he asked Sookie, who jumped in surprise.

"You don't have to. You've worked all day," she said, continuing to gather dishes from the table.

"I want to," he insisted, and went to the sink to get the water running.

Sookie continued to gather the dishes without question, but had a smile on her face. Eric washed while Sookie rinsed, dried, and put them away, and as she did she found herself humming.

"It's good to hear you do that again," Eric said as he wiped out the sink.

"It has been a while," Sookie laughed. Eric dried his hands with the dishtowel, and leaned against the counter after handing it over to Sookie. She wiped off the counter and walked over to where Eric was standing, reaching around him to put the towel in its place. She was so close to him. She could see the definition of his muscles under his thin shirt, and she could smell that he still used the same soap and fabric softener that she used to use.

Eric gently brushed Sookie's hair behind her ear, and she looked up until she was staring him in the eyes. The moment their gazes connected, they knew. Eric knew she still loved him, and he knew she was accepting him back into her life.

He leaned down slowly, giving her every chance to pull away, but she didn't. She stretched up to meet him halfway, pressing her lips softly against his. Warmth spread all through Eric's body as he kissed Sookie for the first time in almost six years. He had forgotten how wonderful it was to kiss her lips while holding her warm body against his. She opened her mouth, and Eric immediately deepened the kiss as he pulled her tighter against him.

A moment later they were interrupted by giggling from their daughter and broke apart, their foreheads pressed together as they smiled.

"You guys are kissin'," Charlotte said with another giggle. "Mommy, don't you know about cooties?"

Sookie turned in Eric's arms and smiled at her daughter.

"What happened to your movie?" she asked.

"It's done. Can I watch one more?" she asked, batting her eyelashes.

Sookie was in a very good mood, so she agreed, but only to a short one, then it was bedtime. As soon as they had her set up Eric and Sookie wanted to sneak off to talk or kiss some more, but Charlotte insisted on them watching with her. They each sat on either side of her, and held hands on the back of the couch. Eric rubbed circles into the palm of Sookie's hand and found himself staring at her more than the movie. Sookie stared back, and when the movie hit a funny part and their daughter erupted in adorable giggles, they smiled at each other.

They were finally a family.


Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed it!