Okay, so very last chapter.
Thank you again to all those who have taken the time to read it. And thanks to each and every one of you who reviewed - over a thousand reviews! I'm completely thrilled!
"There you go."
I handed Sookie a glass of ice water as she sat under the shade of an umbrella in our garden. Lucie was bouncing continuously on the trampoline we'd bought her the summer before, the safety enclosure making sure that she didn't bounce off every time she got too close to the edge. I couldn't help but have a minor heart attack every time she bounced off the wall, and I'd made sure that I'd heavily weighted it into the ground.
"You doing alright?" I couldn't help but worry about her.
"I think that's the millionth time you've asked me that so far this week. But yes, apart from feeling and looking like a beached whale, I'm fine."
The subconsciously ran her spare arm over her round, full belly as I slipped onto the bench to sit behind her. Though she complained often that I was too hard to lean against and I was fairly sure she was trying to fatten me up.
"I just worry about you Sook. All three of you."
She elbowed me gently in the ribs before nuzzling her head into my shoulder as I kissed her hair. We watched Lucie climb off the trampoline and over to the climbing frame we'd also installed in the garden.
It had been a huge change for both of us in the eighteen months that we'd had Lucie living with us, and it took all of us some to get used to it. Lucie seemed initially fine, but after a few weeks started to develop some strange behaviour towards Sookie and I, and we established that Felicia had managed to fuck her over more than we originally anticipated.
But we called in a child psychologist who had sessions with the three of us, and after six months of therapy, she seemed much better. We moved her into a private school that was nearby our home, and she seemed to be excelling.
Sookie and I were also coping okay after the initial shock of having a five-year-old move in with us. Pam and Amelia had done a great job in decorating her room and buying some essentials for her, but there was a lot to get and we wanted to completely start afresh rather than taking anything that Lucie had before.
One of the first things we did was to change her name back to Northman – which was on her birth certificate – and get Sookie to legally adopt her. It was a complex process, but since Felicia was looking at a very lengthy sentence it was the right thing to do, and her neglect of her daughter meant that she was highly unlikely to ever regain custody of Lucie.
Sookie and I had also both spent time setting up our own businesses. Sookie restarted the interior design company she'd had when living in New York and was doing incredibly well in the year or so that she'd been running it. She'd also provided the initial capital for a club that Pam and I established. Pam, who had chosen to move to Boston with Amelia, was to run the club with me, and it had quickly become one of the most popular clubs in the city. So much so, that we were a few months away from opening a sister club.
I liked that it was something I had done myself, and although Sookie had provided the initial cash I was still intent on paying her back no matter how many times she told me that it was our money rather than hers. The fact was that it was Compton's money, and really, neither one of us wanted anything to do with that.
His estate was complex, with many debts against it, which Sookie was more than happy to pay. She also encouraged claims against the estate for those who had been wronged by him as I had, and mine was one of the claims that would look to be settled before his estate was finalised. It made me feel very proud of her that she was so willing to look after those who had been wronged by her ex-husband, and all those involved were also hugely grateful to her.
But then I always knew what an incredible woman she was.
Sookie and I sat comfortably watching Lucie as she bounded around the garden, enjoying the space and warm July sunshine. After a while, Lucie came over to us and I handed her a glass of juice to drink.
"When do I see my brothers?" she asked, placing a small hand on Sookie's belly and looking expectantly up at us. We'd explained as best as we could that Sookie was pregnant and that she would be having twin sons. Neither one of us quite knew how much to tell Lucie, but she seemed to accept our explanation okay.
"Soon, sweetie," Sookie told her, placing her hand over Lucie's hand on her belly.
"How soon? I want to meet them." Sookie was just over eight months pregnant, and since she was expecting twins, she was due any day.
"Only a couple of weeks at the most and then you'll be a big sister."
Lucie had a conflicted look on her face and was gently chewing on her bottom lip, a habit she did when she was nervous.
"What is it hon?" I asked her looking into her blue eyes that matched my own. Sookie had always said how much she looked like me, and although I hadn't seen it at first, I could see it now.
"Will Sookie be my mommy as well?" Her eyes were on me as she asked her question.
I heard Sookie let out a slight sob at Lucie's question. It was something we had discussed between us, and Sookie was very keen for her to be a mother to Lucie. But she was old enough to remember Felicia, and we didn't want to take that away from her. No matter how much of a complete bitch her mother was.
"Yes, of course. If that's what you want."
"I want Sookie to be my mommy."
Sookie leaned forward and pulled Lucie into her arms as best as she could, and Lucie through her arms tightly around her neck. "You can call me mommy whenever you want, sweetie. It's up to you."
After a brief hug, Lucie bounded off back down the garden to play with Dante the Springer Spaniel we'd bought her shortly after she moved in with us. It was a pretentious name for a dog, but strangely fitting in Dante's case, as he seemed to have an air of superiority about him. Sookie swore blindly that he was named after Dante from Clerks rather than poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti or Dante from The Divine Comedy, but I knew she was lying. The fact that she refused for us to name our cat Randall was proof enough.
"You okay?" I asked her as she laid back into my arms and wiped a tear off her cheek.
"Just overly emotional. Eight months pregnant, you know?"
I smiled into her hair. "I do know that. But it's okay to be emotional."
"I'm just really happy she asked. I want to be a mom to her."
"You are already, Sook. You've been a much better mom to her than Felicia ever was."
"I really want to be. She's a great kid."
"She is," I agreed. "As will these two boys be when we get to meet them. You're going to do great, don't worry."
I knew that Sookie had lingering fears about giving birth as well as fears of how she would cope as a mother to our twin boys.
"I'm scared, Eric. What if I can't do it?" She turned to face me, fear evident on her face. I gave her a small smile and held her face in my hands.
"Sook, you're going to be okay. We're both going to be okay. Having a child is a learning experience, and even having one already isn't going to make it that much easier for me. We can do this, okay?"
"Okay," she agreed as she moved in to kiss me softly on the lips. "I love you."
"I love you more."
I held her in my arms closely until the sound of the doorbell ringing disturbed us. It couldn't be Pam or Amelia as they both had a tendency to walk in unannounced using the keys we'd stupidly allowed them to have. Sookie leaned forward to allow me to get out from behind her and I gave her a kiss on the nose before going to answer the door.
When I opened it, I was greeted by a blonde woman and man who looked in their fifties along with a blond man of about my age.
"Can I help you?" I asked since I didn't recognise them, despite the strange familiarity.
"Is Sookie in?" The blonde female asked.
"Can I ask who is calling?" I didn't want to give too much away by answering that question.
"I'm her mom, Michelle Stackhouse. This is her dad, Corbett, and brother Jason."
I clenched my jaw firmly shut. Sookie's family had some cheek turning up here like this. She hadn't heard a peep from them in the almost two years since she left New York to come looking for me in Dallas. When I didn't answer, Michelle continued.
"I take it you must be Eric."
I raised an eyebrow and crossed my arms defensively across my chest. "I don't even want to ask how you know that." I was aware my tone was clipped, but these people did not deserve the time of day let alone Sookie's forgiveness.
"The trial of the Compton's was all over the media. We knew them well and the police contacted us since there was evidence Bill wanted to have us killed."
She had a point. And it did seem that they would have been innocents in Bill's plans had he been able to go ahead with everything.
"I understand your reluctance," she continued when I hadn't responded. "And I know that it's a lot to ask to see Sookie again considering what we've put her through, but we genuinely want to make things right and all of us will do anything possible."
I couldn't say that I particularly trusted her words, but this was Sookie's call not mine. "Let me talk to her and see if she wishes to see you."
That earned a smile out of all three of them until I shut the door in their faces. I wasn't about to leave them stood in our open doorway while I went to the back of the house.
I took a deep breath and approached Sookie, who was still sat in the same position as before.
"Who was it?" she asked as I approached and knelt down by her.
There was to be no beating about the bush with this. "Your parents and brother."
"You're kidding, right?" She looked at me expecting me to tell her I was lying. Unfortunately, I was not able to. "Seriously? My fucking parents decide to turn up on my doorstep now? How the fuck do they even know where I live?" I was glad that Lucie was the other end of the garden so she didn't get to hear Sookie's colourful language. It was usually me that swore.
"That, I don't know. But they are here now and evidently want to play happy families."
"Do they know I'm pregnant?"
"No idea," I admitted. "But they seemed fairly genuine."
"No offense, Eric, but you're not always the best judge of character. You trusted Bill after all."
"You married him." I countered.
"Good point, but I never liked him."
"Neither did I! Look, Sook, it's up to you. If you want to speak to them, do so. Or tell them you'll contact them. Or tell them to piss off, whatever."
She looked thoughtful as she pondered her decision. Lucie was coming back up the garden looking exhausted from the two hours she'd spend bouncing on the trampoline. Dante was hot on her heels as she reached me.
"Okay baby?" I asked her as she came to climb up me.
"I'm thirsty," she announced.
Sookie indicated to a natural, sugar-free drink that was in the table and I handed it to her. The girl did not need any more energy from sugar or artificial sweeteners.
"I'll see them."
I smiled over at Sookie and lifted Lucie up so that she was confined under my right arm, squealing and wriggling as I held her there. I held out my spare hand to Sookie to help her up.
"Where are they?"
"On the doorstep still. I didn't want to let them in if it wasn't what you wanted."
She rolled her eyes at me and slowly began waddling inside to the front door. "I'll be down in a minute; I'll just deposit this one upstairs."
She smiled her consent and headed towards the front door while I ran up the stairs with Lucie still screeching under my arm. She always loved it when I carried her like that.
"Mommy has some visitors at the moment," I told her, using the 'mommy' word for the first time. "Do you want to play in your room?"
"Please!" she had many toys in her room having been thoroughly spoilt by aunts Pam and Amelia, so was always happy to amuse herself in her room.
"Call if you need anything."
I smiled before tightly closing the door and running back down the stairs to Sookie who was stood in the open doorway. I went to stand behind her so she could lean on me and I wrapped a protective arm around her.
"How far along are you?" Michelle asked, her eyes firmly fixed on Sookie's full belly.
"Just over eight months. I'm having twins."
"Twins?" Her mom's eyes lit up at the prospect of two grandchildren. "That's going to be a lot of work."
"I know, mom," she said bitingly. "Though I'm not planning on leaving them with a child-minder the whole time." Her stressing the 'I'm' made it abundantly clear what she thought of her mother's skills as a parent. Sookie had already told me that she planned on raising the children herself rather than rely on the skills of a third party. And anyway, Pam and Amelia were always going to be more than willing to babysit whenever we wanted or needed any time off.
Michelle took a deep sigh and hung her head, not meeting Sookie's angry gaze. Corbett and Jason both looked a little uncomfortable.
"Sookie," she began after a few moments, "I know I was never a good mother to you and Jason." She turned to look at her son and squeezed his hand. "And I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry for everything I put you through. I'm sorry I pushed you to marry Bill Compton and I'm sorry I didn't realise how bad he was for you. I'm sure you know that I was blinded by his family's money, but after seeing what was unearthed …"
I watched as a tear trickled from Michelle's eye and Sookie tensed in my arms. She was either an Oscar-winning actress or completely genuine. I had a feeling it was option two.
"I know mom."
Sookie stepped forward towards her mom and held out a hand to her. Michelle met her in the middle and the two of them had a rather awkward hug around Sookie's stomach.
"I'm sorry, I didn't plan on breaking down like this." I grabbed a tissue from the box off the table in the hallway and handed one to Michelle and one to Sookie who I knew would also be crying.
"I'm sorry too." Corbett said, extending a hand to his daughter somewhat formally. It was evident he wasn't a man that did emotion well.
"Yeah, and me Sooks." Jason interrupted, springing out from behind his father.
"Can we get you a drink?" Sookie asked them. Her 'we' essentially meaning me since she was unable to reach anything in the kitchen any more.
"We'd love one, thank you."
Sookie led her family into the living room while I took the drink orders and made them. Once I'd finished playing waiter, I went upstairs to check on Lucie in order to give them all some space. It was certainly going to take time for all of them to become friends, let alone family, but Sookie had often expressed a wish that wanted her mom to be there when she had her own children.
I was pottering around my office when I heard the sound of Sookie screaming out my name. I immediately feared the worst and tore down the stairs, fearing that her family were doing something to hurt her in some way.
But when I got there, I saw Sookie doubled over in pain, her mom rubbing her back and the distinctive wetness below her. It was something we'd been expecting, and we were both as prepared as we could be, but that didn't help the panic that was rising in me.
"I think I need to go to the hospital."
I went over and gave Sookie a supportive hug. "You're going to be okay, got it? Let me call Pam and Amelia to come over and look after Lucie and then we'll head off." I gave her a kiss and then did as I said, Amelia squealing down the phone when I told her Sookie's labour had started.
Within five minutes, Amelia and Pam were in the house and Lucie came running out of her room to see her aunts. She was upset by seeing Sookie in such distress, however.
"Is mommy okay?" she asked me as she clung to my jeans.
"She is, but the babies are coming now so we need to take her to the hospital. Pam and Amelia are going to stay here with you." We'd all decided that it would be best for Lucie to stay at home.
"This is your daughter?" Michelle asked me, and I confirmed she was.
"Who is that?" Lucie asked quietly.
I looked over to Sookie who nodded me permission. "That's Sookie's mom, dad and brother."
"Okay," she accepted before being distracted by Dante sauntering into the room.
"I think we need to go." Sookie said as I grasped Sookie's hand as I supported her out of the room. She turned to her mom as we passed. "Give Eric your cell number, we'll call you when they're born and I feel up to visitors."
Michelle smiled widely as I programmed her cell number into my phone and the three of them followed us out of the house, each hugging Sookie before leaving to get into their own car. We both gave Amelia, Pam and Lucie huge hugs before I strapped a panting Sookie into the car and placed her bags on the back seat of the SUV.
I was fully intending on getting the car valeted once the babies were born.
"I'll be glad when these boys are out," she hissed as a contraction hit her. It worried me how fast things were moving, but I was determined to stay calm and not drive as fast to the hospital as I wanted to.
"I meant about your family. I already know how much you want them out!" I gave her hand a squeeze.
"I feel surprisingly good. I didn't think I would. I always thought if I saw them again I'd tell them where to go. Maybe it's having children myself. I'd hate if I couldn't see them, even if we didn't get along that well. You're okay with it?"
"Sook, I'll do whatever you want. It's up to you how you deal with them. Pam's my only family, but I would do anything to have my parents back right now. I wish they could have gotten to know their grandchildren."
She wrapped her arms around her belly and laid back with her eyes shut as I drove to the hospital. Once inside we were escorted to our room and the doctors started to congregate around her. As she was having twins she was considered to be higher risk, and at only just over eight months, she was a little early.
I held her hand as the painkillers kicked in, though with the strength in which she was squeezing said hand, I wished that I had some myself.
"You do realise we're never having sex again, right?"
I smiled and leaned down to kiss her damp forehead. "As if you could resist me!"
"Can it, Northman!"
"Let's wait for a while before making such rash decisions. I know that you don't mean it."
"You're not the one about to push two human beings out of a hole that is by no means wide enough."
I had expected this kind of abuse from her, and had sat through similar when Felicia had Lucie. I just agreed with her and continued to support her as the nurses and doctors helped her and guided her through the final stages of her pregnancy.
I wanted to be able to relax, but I was so scared that something would happen to Sookie or one of the boys. I was constantly watching the doctors and nurses for any signs that things weren't as they should be and I absolutely hated it that I was so powerless to help her.
It was eighteen hours later that Alexander Johan Northman was born weighing a healthy six pounds and four ounces. His younger brother Matthew Elliot Northman was born ten minutes later.
It was incredibly emotional for both of us as they were born, both of us in tears as each boy arrived. And I was so proud of Sookie. She did such a great job without (too much) complaining despite the pain she must have been in.
Once our sons were cleaned up and wrapped up in identical blue blankets they were handed to Sookie and I, me with Matthew and Sookie holding Alexander.
"I'm so proud of you," I told her and I pulled her close to me. "I love you so fucking much."
She giggled and slapped my arm. "Language, Eric."
"I think they're a little young to know what we're saying just yet. You doing okay?"
"Sore and exhausted, but I'm so happy. Thank you, Eric."
"Thank me? You're the one that did all the hard work. I was just the sperm donor thirty-seven weeks ago!"
"You're more than a sperm donor," she scolded. "You're my husband and their father, and I couldn't have done this without your support. I love you."
"I love you so fucking much more than you can ever realise. You saved me and I thank you." I leaned down and placed a kiss on her lips. "Do you want some sleep?"
"I could certainly do with a nap. Try and get some yourself."
"Okay, I'll let Amelia and Pam know all's okay and I'll ask them to bring Lucie in this evening. Want me to call your mom?"
"Yeah, but tell her to come by tomorrow. I think I need more rest before I see them again."
"Sleep well, love."
I placed Matthew in the cot by her bed before taking Alexander from her arms and placing him next to his brother. It was cute how attuned to each other the two of them seemed to be.
I left Sookie alone to try and get some rest while I made the appropriate phone calls and went back to sleep on the cot that had been placed in Sookie's room for me to sleep on.
I couldn't keep the smile off my face as I looked over to my wife and sons. To think that two years earlier I was just getting out of jail with plans on kidnapping Bill Compton's wife, and now I was married to her with a great life and three fantastic children.
I was truly blessed by Sookie, and I would do everything I could to keep her smiling as long as we were both in this world.
Thanks for reading.
No plans for another multi-chapter just yet, but I do intend to write a one-shot SVM/Twilight crossover:
What would a now grown-up Bella do if seven years after the Cullens left, the vampires come out of the coffin? Only these vampires are different. What would they all make of each other?
If you're interested, stick me on author alert.