So we've come to the end of the road. I hope you've enjoyed this twisty journey as much as I've enjoyed writing it, and that you'll check out my blog (seastarr08 dot wordpress dot com) for my writing in the future. I think I'm done on FF dot net for a while, but I have some shorts that I'll be posting there. Probably not of the fanfic variety though. I think I've written every story I could possibly write with Eric and Sookie, and I figure it's better to leave on a high note than keep writing until I hate every word I do. I've really enjoyed giving these characters a little more story.
Anyway, I hope you'll let me know what you think, even if you're reading once the story is complete. I hope that you all realize what a great source of encouragement your reviews are, not only to me, but to new writers getting started here. I think the validation is a really important part of the process, and one of the really neat things about writing fanfic. Believe me, it's taken a bit of getting used to, not getting the little supportive emails when I finish a chapter of an original story.
So I'll end this A/N, which is long for me, with one last thank you, for all your support, not only on this story, but on all the others I've written. I feel so blessed to have such a loyal group of readers. I think I've written over a hundred chapters of these guys, and you've stuck it out for all of them! That's amazing to me! Amazing!
I knew Stella was holding back when we talked early in the morning about her mom. She'd been too upset about a father she didn't talk to dating someone else eight years later. Stella was normally very rational.
Elie though. That was something to be upset about. It was a bit of a betrayal, your mother's best friend being involved with your father.
Your non-biological father. That you didn't talk to.
I knew Elie too, but I hadn't seen her since I was maybe twenty two. Before she'd started marrying men thirty years her senior and outliving them.
I really felt for Stella in all of this. I was separated enough from it not to have the emotional reaction to her dad being involved with such an awful person. There was no doubt that she'd played a part in the demise of those husbands. The only thing between her and jail time was a very good lawyer.
And for the ties between the way husband number three and the way Stel's mom died to be so clear too. Yea, that was the kind of thing you drive hours to get some reassurance on. Her showing up this morning made more sense.
And she'd come to me.
I didn't want to feel great about that, since it was such a terrible thing for her to be processing right before such an important day, but I felt like I was going to earn my keep as her father a bit.
"I can't sit there and be nice to her. I did it two nights ago, but it nearly killed me, and this is my day, well, our day. Mine and Johan's," she said, the pain in her eyes evident. She was such a tough cookie, my daughter. I really had no idea how she'd mourned her mother. I felt like this was probably bringing back a lot of memories for her, planning this day and not having her Mom here.
I couldn't even wrap my head around what it would have been like to have Ingrid there.
Sookie and I exchanged a quick look. "We could call it off, but you'd still have to see her at the wedding, and you're not really a call it off girl," Sookie said, with a smile and a shrug.
"I can't call it off. Everyone's going to be there," she slumped in the seat. "You know her, Dad. She's just such an awful person."
"At least your dad isn't wealthy, so she's got nothing to gain on that front," I said, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. "So she's probably not going to pull a black widow on your big day."
She smiled at that. "If anything, he's gaining from her on the financial end. Maybe Gus is smarter than I gave him credit for."
I shrugged. "Maybe. And, darling daughter, the beauty of being an adult is that you have your own life, and the goings on of the other people outside your daily bubble really become less and less important."
And, as I looked at Sookie, I knew that that was the most important lesson of all for anyone getting married. Make your family your priority. It had taken me a long time to really and truly understand that, but I got it now.
Sookie looked at Stella. "So just to make sure then, you don't think this black widow whacked your mom or anything, there's nothing like that going on here?"
Stel shook her head and smiled. "No, no. So over dramatic, Sookie. That's not her MO. I just, well, I don't want her to be here. I want..." And then she stopped herself. "I really can't wait for this all to be over so Johan and I can go back to our tiny apartment and just be, you know?"
A look exchanged between Sookie and me, and I knew we both knew what she couldn't say. But there was no response we could give, nothing we could tell her that would make the pain of not having the person who should have been the one constant in her life here. I hadn't been that, Gus hadn't been that.
She should have been here. I really couldn't imagine it though.
"I'll tell her you don't want her there." Sookie said, and I could hear the same protective tone she got with our kids when things didn't go their way at school. "I don't care what she thinks of me."
"You don't have to do that. I don't want to make a scene. I just want to get this over with." She stood up and came back a minute later with a beer.
"Northman family wedding rehearsal?" Sookie grinned, going for the corked bottle of wine we'd started with dinner the night before. "I'll drink to that."
Twenty minutes later, I glanced between them and realized something.
Not only was I the father of the bride, I was also the designated driver.
"Do you think, Stel, maybe you've had enough?" I asked, carefully, as Sookie zipped her into a navy dress that had Pam written all over it. I hoped she'd let Stella pick out her own wedding dress at least. She'd really played a huge part in this wedding. I got the bills for lots of things, but she was covering quite a lot of the incidental costs.
She snorted at me. "I'm fine. More than fine."
Her sense of balance in a pair of not so high heels made me question that. "It's just, tomorrow is a long day. And we still have to get through dinner."
"Eric, the wedding isn't until two. She can sleep until at least nine."
I sighed, looking at the two of them, and knew I was in for a long night. "I'm going to get the kids put together. We need to leave in about twenty minutes."
"And then we'll be one step to having this almost be over," Stella said, a gleam in her eye before she clamped her hand over her mouth. "I guess I shouldn't say that."
"Darlin'," Sookie said, her faded accent making a full blown return, "It'll all be over tomorrow, and then you'll get to be just the two of you."
"I'm so glad you're here, Sookie," Stella said, a slur in her voice that didn't bode well for the rest of the evening, "and I can't wait to just be back in our little apartment, just me and Johan, with all our family gone. Except you guys. You're never really gone."
Sookie laughed. "Having gone through this dog and pony show twice, I certainly know exactly what you mean. And you'll get to do that tomorrow night, and it'll be amazing."
Stella wrinkled up her nose. "Ew, Sookie. Your wedding night was with my dad. And it's just another night."
Sookie gave me a knowing grin, and I just shook my head. The drunken loosely veiled innuendo was a little much, even for me. This was going to be an interesting night. "On that note, twenty minutes."
Max was up in his room reading when I poked my head in the door and jumped up as soon as I gave him a time limit, but Ceci was out like a light, her arms wrapped tightly around a sleeping Lily. They really had a love/hate relationship, but most of the time it was all love.
"Baby, we have to go for dinner," I whispered, nudging her a bit until she rolled onto her back, her bangs stuck to her forehead as a result of the warm afternoon sun shining in her window.
She blinked a little, before sitting up and rubbing her eyes with her tiny fists. "Can I wear the blue dress today?"
Her flower girl dress. "Tomorrow Ce. But you can wear another dress today. Whatever you want." I didn't care what she wore to this. "Let's get you dressed."
"And you'll braid my hair," she said, a smile on her face. I'd mastered the braid when Sookie and I were apart. It was never a skill I thought I'd have on my resume, but I was pretty damn good at it. That was one thing that had shifted during our separation. The kids didn't really depend on one of us for things over the other anymore. Either would do.
"Sure. We have to get moving though. Let's pick something out."
We settled on a flashy purple number with a pair of black shiny shoes and Max poked his head as I finished braiding Ce's hair in dressed in a pair of khakis and a polo shirt, which was good enough for me.
Of course, hustling the kids along meant I didn't have much time for me, so I practically threw my silly daughter and sillier wife out of our room while I found something to wear, and they kept drinking.
Dinner was, simply put, hell. I was so pleased that Johan's people were covering it, as was the American tradition, because the food was terrible, and from the amount of booze that seemed to be put away, Stella, Sookie, and I weren't the only ones doing the awkward turtle.
I also realized that I was watching way too many children's television programs.
About halfway through the main course, I really found myself wondering why Gus had bothered to come. I tried to think of it objectively, how hard it must have been finding out that he was a patsy for all those years, in love with a woman that wasn't honest with him for even one day of their marriage, which he thought was pretty damn good.
And then to have everything fall apart from there. Ing's death, finding out that Stella wasn't his daughter, having her leave him and really never look back. Maybe he came out of obligation to her two siblings, who looked rather pleased to be here, or maybe he felt some obligation born out of eighteen years of fatherhood. I wasn't sure, but he was having a hard time even appearing enthusiastic about being here.
And then there was Elie, who looked thrilled to be here. Her and Gus were certainly an odd couple, him in a low quality suit and her in something that Pam would have worn to fashion week. It was red, and very sparkly.
And she had had her eyes done, and a chin implant if I had to guess.
Somehow by the grace of someone, we'd ended up at the opposite side of the table from them, with Johan's family acting as a buffer. His Dad seemed nice, kind of the strong, silent type like him, and his mom was very cordial to Stella. Reserved, but genuinely excited.
Sookie cut herself off eventually, but the two of them, her and Stel, were kind of cute, a little chattier than usual, and I smiled at Stella, who was far more affectionate towards her husband to be than I'd ever seen her.
And then came the somewhat awkward wedding rehearsal part, which involved everyone coming to our place. Everything was being delivered the next day, so we had to fake it a lot, and Gus' leer at me walking Stella down to Johan's dad, who was standing in for the officiant was a little much.
But tonight wasn't the time for overreacting and punching him, even though I really wanted to. Tonight was a night for Stella.
Which quickly evolved into a night of raiding my liquor cabinet for everyone involved. Except for me, since someone had to be the sober one with the kids around.
It was after ten when Sookie tugged at my arm. "Help me put the kids to bed."
I looked around at everyone in the living room, Stella's siblings laughing and smiling with her, and I decided that was reason enough to do this. It was good that they were here.
"Sure, Lover," I said, scooping up a near sleeping Ceci off the couch and giving Max five minutes to say his goodnights.
Ce went easy, and Max was right behind her. I started back downstairs, when Sookie pulled me into the bathroom and kissed me amorously.
"You're drunk," I whispered, when we finally broke. "And I kind of wish no one was here so I could take advantage of you."
"Me too," she whisper-giggled, hopping up on the bathroom counter and pulling me to her. "You're being so nice with Gus, even though he's being an a-hole." She wrinkled up her nose and wrapped her legs around me, pulling me flush with the counter.
"God, you're adorable," I said, kissing her again. "But we should get back to our guests."
She sighed and adjusted the front of her dress, which didn't do much to disguise her cleavage.
She smiled, hopping off the counter and holding herself against me as she stared into my eyes with an intensity that made me want to take her on the bathroom floor. "They're all yours, later. The kids will sleep like the dead tonight."
We were good again. And nothing had ever meant more to me than knowing that.
"If you fall asleep, I'm going to be very disappointed."
"Well then, Dr. Northman, you'll just have to keep me awake," she murmured, slinking out the door, with me behind her.
I glanced down the staircase to see Elie looking around, before finally settling on me, a pleasant smile on her face.
Sookie grabbed my arm and leered up at me, a smirk on her flushed face. "Eric Northman, you didn't sleep with that woman, did you?"
I shook my head. "No."
She snickered. "Why not? She's pretty."
I narrowed my eyes at her, and her attempt to mock my whorish past. "She's not supposed to look like that," I whispered, moving Sookie away from the crowd, since her indoor voice wasn't exactly working. "I can't believe how much work she's had done."
"She's been looking at you all night. I think she wants to talk. Or maybe jump your bones." Sookie waggled her eyebrows at me.
"You're so silly when you're drunk. No one wants me anymore. I'm ancient. I'm going to be a grandfather, well, sometime." That was the next step, wasn't it? I didn't even want to think about that.
"If you're looking for dinner for your ego, it's not coming from me," Sookie giggled. "Let's get these people out of our house so we can fuck."
Yep, we were back to us.
Inevitably, I did get cornered by Elie, about a half hour later.
"Eric, I'm so glad you finally know. It was so hard for Ing, keeping it from everyone from all those years. It caused her a lot of heartache."
"You knew," I said, feeling irrationally angry at her casual delivery of such a life changing line.
"Of course I knew. We were best friends," she glanced at Stella. "And she's a spitting image of your sister."
"And you didn't think to suggest she tell me? Or Gus?"
She shrugged. "What would have been the point of that? It's not like you two were ever going to be together, and she loved him. Even if she enjoyed certain things you had to offer," she winked.
Fucking women and their friends. Elie and Ing had been thick as thieves too. I was sure she knew far more than I was comfortable with.
"Well it seems like it's all worked out. I'm glad you and Gus are happy," I said dryly.
"He's still angry. I think he'll always be angry," she said, nonchalantly. "But we all have parts of our life we think we'd like to change, but when given the option, for real, I doubt many of us would really do things differently. You take the good with the bad, you know?"
I nodded, "Yea, I suppose so."
"Imagine you, saddled with a part time child in your twenties. You never would have been the man you are now. You would have been the angry one." She made a facial movement that looked like raising her eyebrows on muscle relaxants. I guess they kind of were, in a way. "You had your time to be happy and free, they had their time to be happy and a family. I think wherever she is, Ing's probably happy she didn't live to see the fallout when she came clean. She was never one for dramatics."
"So she was really going to come clean?"
She nodded. "When Stel was eighteen, so fairly soon after she was hit. We talked about it at lunch two weeks before she died. I hate to think that maybe she got hit because she was distracted, thinking about how all of you would react. I'm sure it was far worse in her imagination."
"I loved her, you know. In my own way." I wasn't sure why it was important that she know that, but in that moment, it was.
"She knew that, and she knew that someday you'd be a man worthy of your child. I just don't think she expected you to take so long getting there."
I chuckled. "Elie, I wasn't sure I'd get here at all. I'm still surprised to be here sometimes. Happy, but surprised."
She patted my arm. "Well she was sure you'd figure it out. And look at you and Stel now. Thick as thieves. And you with your own beautiful family. She would have loved that."
I thought back to every spat we had, every harsh word said. "She was just so fucking difficult."
"As were you, if you'll recall. A man in bed and a boy in every other way."
I snorted at that, because I knew it was Ingrid verbatim. "My wife would probably still agree with that statement, all these years later."
Her eyes twinkled, although they didn't crease much when she smiled. "She always said you'd make wonderful second husband material."
"Well hopefully I've made someone a good second husband," I said, smiling at Sookie, who was trying to hustle a passing out Stella upstairs into her room.
"She's a pretty girl. And your kids are stunning." She looked past me and over to Gus, who was saying his goodnights to Stella. I was pleased to hear they were cordial at least. "I'm glad to be a part of this day, even if it's not in the way I would have liked. It would have been nice to see you and Ing, trying to be cordial, with all your sexual tension."
"And I'm glad you're making him happy, because he's a really miserable old geezer." I patted her arm. "And I think he's waiting for you."
"Until tomorrow then," She said, gathering up her purse.
"Elie?" I said, a smile on her face.
She looked back and stared at me curiously. "Yes?"
"Don't kill him. Four is too many."
She looked at me deadpan for a long moment, before she flashed me the most genuine smile possible. "He's not worth the trouble. And that's a good thing. Goodnight, Eric."
Sookie linked arms with me, as we shuffled the last of Johan's people out the door. "So only one more night of that."
"Tomorrow, they'll be in a tent, and I'm locking the liquor cabinet."
We stood there, enjoying the quiet for a minute. I could hear Stella in the bathroom running water, Lily snoring on the couch.
"Well, I guess we should get some sleep," Sookie said a few minutes later, the sarcasm in her voice evident. "What did Elie have to say?"
"Not much. She knew the whole time, about Stella."
Sookie snorted. "If she knew you, then of course she did. She looks just like a tall Pam."
"I guess so." I smiled, reaching for the drapey neck on her dress and sneaking a peek. "Shall we?"
She reached down, hooked her thumb in my belt, and pulled me towards the bathroom. "I thought you'd never ask."
The next morning came early, and I managed to avoid a lot of the wedding chaos by taking the kids out for breakfast while everyone primped and while Pam ran around like some sort of crazed fascist bitch, making sure everything was perfect.
I really felt for Gaby, when her time came. It wasn't going to be pretty.
So as Max, Ce, and Gaby and I sat in a plastic booth a McDonald's, enjoying the best of what Ronald had to offer, I thanked my lucky stars that I had at least one child who wouldn't give a shit about his wedding.
"Weddings are stupid," Max said, thoughtfully as he ate his hash brown. "It's a lot of fuss."
"I couldn't have said it better, my boy," I said with a sigh. "One day, and it's all over."
"Good. Then we can get back to summer. I didn't even get to go to the beach this week, except when Pammy made us go and gather sand for the table things. With the candles."
"I'm going to have a bunch of weddings, Daddy. I think they're fun." Ce said, clapping her hands.
"Well, that's all well and good, but I'm only footing the bill for the first one. Remember that." I said, patting her hand.
She scrunched up her face. "What's footing the bill?"
"Paying for. Weddings are expensive."
Max looked at me alarmed. "You didn't have to take money out of our college fund, did you?" He was very concerned about his college fund. He liked to look at the monthly statements.
"No. Your college fund is intact, and I'll still be teaching somewhere when you go, so if you go there, you'll get an even better deal."
He wiped his brow, and laughed as he finished his OJ. "Phew."
"Phew indeed," I winked. Sookie had spent ten years paying off student loans, and as soon as she'd finished that, she'd started putting her monthly loan payment into the kid's fund. I matched it, and Pam usually cut us a check on their birthdays as well. It was actually growing quite quickly. "You have a lot of years before you have to worry about that."
"Dad, I have to get my hair done," Ce said, kicking her foot against the booth impatiently. "And the baby does too."
"I not a baby," Gaby said, punching her cousin in the arm.
And that signalled that it was time to go.
When we got home, I grabbed my tux and Max and hightailed it for his room upstairs, away from the chaos that had engulfed the downstairs. I could hear Pam and Stella arguing in Swedish outside, while her sister looked bored at the kitchen table, twisting her cheek piercing.
Sookie ducked into Max's room about ten minutes later, slamming the door behind her. "Thank God we didn't give Pam the chance to plan our wedding."
"She tried, remember?"
"Right. We put her in charge of the booze at our party. And only the booze."
"She's best with small tasks. That booze was good. What's she doing?"
"The flowers aren't the right shade of blue to match the flower girls dresses. It's going to ruin the whole day. According to Pam. Stella doesn't care."
"Of course she doesn't care. She's sane."
Max watched our back and forth, an amused smile on his face. "We just have to show up, right Dad?"
"I hope so, Max. I don't think Aunt Pam knows we're here."
"She'll be focused on Ce and Gaby now. I think you're safe." Sookie sat down on Max's bed. "And I won't give you away, if you let me hide out for a few minutes."
Max shrugged. "Sure. What's for dinner?"
"We picked the chicken for you. Is that okay?"
"Sure," He nodded. "How much longer?"
"Two hours," Sookie groaned, burying her face in her hands. "I still have to have my hair done and critiqued by Pam. Although the dress she picked out for me is lovely. You'll like it, Eric." She gave me a smirk. "I think you'll like it a lot."
That meant one of two things. It was a boob dress, or a very short leg dress. "Excellent."
"And you boys are going to look so handsome in your tuxes." She ruffled Max's hair. "I'll leave so you can get to it."
I watched, as she took a deep breath and headed back downstairs, into the belly of the wedding beast. She was brave, my wife.
"Max, you and Ce are going to Liz's tonight, so make sure you pack." We were lucky with Liz. She always left just around the time the kids started getting tired, and they adored her almost as much as she adored them.
"Can we go to the beach tomorrow? And not to gather sand?"
I smiled. "Yea, sure. We have to open presents in the morning, well, Stel and Johan have to, but then we're wide open. For the rest of the summer."
"Awesome," He grinned, before gathering his things into one of my old leather messenger bags that he'd commandeered. "I want to play golf with you sometime."
"Next time I go, you can come. Now let's get dressed so Pam can boss us around."
Ten minutes later, we descended the stairs, both of us wincing when we saw Pam at the bottom of the staircase, hands on hips. "No hiding. We have to start pictures now."
We both stuffed our hands in our pockets and kept our mouths shut, as we were shoved in one direction after the other, until finally, it was time.
Stella looked beautiful in a white one-shoulder gown that was elegant and tasteful, and a tiny little veil that was fitted over her face. It was very retro. Pam called it a birdcage or something. "You look gorgeous, Stel," I whispered, kissing her forehead.
"You don't clean up bad yourself," she said with a grin. "And Max looks like your tiny clone."
"Are you ready for this?" I said, linking my arm with hers.
"Ready as I'll ever be," she said, a hint of nerves in her voice.
It was, without a doubt, the fastest wedding I'd ever been to, and not just because things go by so quickly when there's so much hype building up to them. Stella and Johan had literally opted for the shortest vows allowable by law, which were all said and done in five minutes.
It was great, and reminiscent of our city hall wedding. The perfect beginning to a life already in progress.
Dinner was served promptly afterward, followed by dessert and drinks, and finally dancing.
Despite the short vows, Stella had opted to keep some of the traditional parts in, including throwing the bouquet and a dance with her old man.
"Dad, I'm so glad this is over," she whispered, laying her head on my shoulder. "I promise I won't make you a grandpa for a few years."
"And thank you, for that. Good day though, all and all?"
"It was perfect. Exactly what I wanted. But you know, it would have been perfect if it had rained, or if the tent had caught on fire. Because we both showed up, and we did this together."
"I think you've got it all figured out then. Just don't forget that."
"To show up, and do it together?" She smiled. "I think I can remember that."
Sookie cut in for the next song, and for the first time all night, really all day, it was just her and I.
"So I do like the dress," I smiled, glancing down at the coral silk number she was wearing. It fit like a glove. A very sexy glove.
"Pam said that I wasn't allowed to be the ugly stepmother, so she found the hottest dress she could." She glanced down at her rather ample cleavage. "It's a little much, I know, but it's Marc Jacobs. And if I could, I'd marry it and have its little dress babies."
I narrowed my eyes at her. "I'll tear it right off you before I allow that," I growled, wrapping an arm around her waist.
"It has a zipper, silly. No tearing required. And you know what? When we're back in the city, I want to go dancing."
"But of course," I whispered in her ear, as I glanced around, happy that the numbers were starting to diminish. The kids had checked out about twenty minutes earlier, both of them dead on their feet after spending the evening running around with Bill and Selah's kids. "Once the bride and groom make their exit, which I'm guessing will be very soon, let's just go inside and lock the door. I think I've had enough."
"Okay." Sookie peered over my shoulder. "You sure you don't want to bury the hatchet with Gus?"
I shook my head. "I don't think what I did is really a hatchet you bury. Me saying anything on that subject is just going to make him angry."
"So mature you are," Sookie said in her best Yoda voice. "Let's just go. I stashed a bottle of champagne. We can drink it naked in the bathtub while you pull the eight hundred bobby pins in my hair out." She locked eyes with me. "Before we fuck."
So we did just that.