A/N: This is the very last chapter for Sookie Ever After. I was not going to publish this until later this week, but "After Dead" came out today (I'd forgotten about it) and made me grouchy all over again. Thanks to everyone who has read, reviewed, followed, and favorited. I've really appreciated your kind words, especially as writing this story has helped me through a difficult time in my life.
A list of possible side stories appears at the end; let me know if you have a preference - I won't guarantee that I'll do any of them, they're just some ideas I've jotted down as I worked.
In this chapter, Sookie finally sees both Niall and Eric again. Prompted by a review, I will note that this is the *one* time I will give Eric a pass for having been out of touch, since Sookie explicitly told him not to call her up until he figured out what he wanted and had his King business under control.
Disclaimer: everything belongs to Charlaine Harris, I'm just not giving anybody gonorrhea
I had the day off work, and was surprised while making breakfast to get a delivery at the front door. The small package had a note attached. "Dearest Sookie - Enclosed is the birthday present I failed to give you many weeks ago. I would like to see you if you will permit me. -E"
I untied the ribbon and opened the blue box, pulling out a silver necklace complete with a yellow enamel and silver lemon charm. I shook my head, laughing appreciatively, and closed it back up. Although I'd meant it when I told Eric I didn't think starting back up as we were was a good idea, I couldn't deny that I missed him. A lot of things had gone really wrong with us, and they had changed me. Maybe they'd changed him too.
After grabbing a few ripe tomatoes from the yard, I headed back inside to make some tomato pies and think - baking always seems to help me focus. I still had a lot of bad feelings about my time with Eric, even aside from the Freyda thing. His lack of openness had been especially hard since I couldn't rely on my extra sense to fill me in. I never found out what he meant when he said he hadn't "fucked" any "women" since we'd married - and probably didn't want to know. He kept things from me that affected my safety and plans and feelings. Maybe it was like that for everybody, but the vampires were the only ones who could completely hide it from me.
I tried to shake myself out of these thoughts. I couldn't go down this road of second-guessing everything anymore. I finally decided that I'd just give him a call later tonight and see what happened. I didn't even know for sure what he'd decided after our talk in New Orleans, so I really didn't need to spend all day fretting over it.
After the pies finished, I distracted myself with more work in my wild garden, and for the first time I was really looking forward to the end of summer. After sweating and grunting in the high humidity for a few hours, I showered, then made what were becoming my usual rounds of the church soup kitchen and graveyard with the overly abundant tomatoes and flowers. I dropped a tomato pie off with JB for him and Tara, and took another one to Michele and Jason.
When I got back home, Amelia and I video chatted and I talked through some of my issues, and she told me little bits about her witchy work. It seemed Amelia was progressing rapidly now that she'd committed to really being mentored appropriately. I laughed so hard my sides ached as she finally told me what had happened when Bob became a cat, and it was good for me. I wasn't sure Amelia and I would ever be best friends, but I was glad we were working on repairing our relationship.
When darkness fell, I stared at my phone and my new necklace for a while, working up the nerve to call Eric. I finally dialed, and he answered after two rings.
"Sookie, I am glad you called. You received my package, I trust?"
I smiled while fingering the silver chain. "I did, that's why I called. Thank you, Eric. It's beautiful, and funny too."
"I hoped it would make you laugh. I also hoped it would encourage you to say yes to going on a date with me, now that my kingdom is well under control."
"Are you asking me out, Eric?" I hadn't actually heard a question in there.
"I am. Perhaps you would see a movie with me tomorrow night?" Those words sounded completely bizarre coming out of a thousand year old Viking vampire King, but I had already decided how I would respond.
"I'd love to. You want to pick me up about an hour after it gets dark?"
"I will see you then, Miss Stackhouse."
The rest of my evening went by quickly. I pulled a meatloaf I'd made out of the oven, fried up some of the greener tomatoes I'd picked earlier, ate, cleaned up, and snuggled into my bed to finish the paperback I'd bought on a whim at the grocery store. I finally fell asleep, although I had a fitful dream about being trapped in a ball pit; it was filled with tomatoes, and I just kept sinking.
When I woke up the next morning, I made coffee then did some much-needed house cleaning. I was determined to keep myself occupied throughout the day so I wouldn't worry too much about tonight. I went to the library for the first time in weeks. I worked an early afternoon shift at Merlotte's, splitting my time between office duties and waiting tables. Sam seemed to be doing much better, and I found I was a lot more comfortable working with him now that we could fully relax into our friendship. Being on more equal footing helped a lot, too.
When I was all done at work, I returned home, showered, and got dressed for my date in a simple red skirt and white blouse. While I was puttering around getting ready, I heard a knock on the door. It was early for Eric, since it had only been dark for a little bit. I checked with my extra sense, looked through the peephole, and opened the door.
Niall. I hadn't given him much thought in quite a while, but seeing him now, I had a few things I wouldn't mind getting off my chest. Vampires weren't the only supernatural beings who needed to be set straight about me.
I regarded him skeptically, and asked, "What are you doing here, Niall?"
My beautiful fairy great grandfather looked at me strangely, then asked, "Are you not pleased to see me great granddaughter?" I stepped out on the porch, closing the door behind me. Niall could talk to me on the porch.
"No, I'm not too pleased with you right now, to be honest."
Niall asked me neutrally, "And why might that be?" I asked him if he really wanted to know, and he simply nodded.
"I told you early on that all I wanted was for you to come around once in a while like a normal grandfather. I know you're not normal - neither am I - but I just wanted to have dinner and talk. Now, I love my flowers and tomatoes - they're beautiful - but you never once considered that I might not appreciate the extra work you created for me. It seems like that's what you do - interfere in a way that ends up doing me as much harm as good."
I figured I was in for a penny, in for a pound, so I continued, "You let Claude come back knowing he might have a grudge against me. Hell, you might have anticipated that Colman would come for me, now that I think about it. You told Eric about the cluviel dor, made him think it was a test of my love, and created trouble where there didn't need to be any. And I am so incredibly glad you turned up with Bill when I was being tortured, but it never would have happened in the first place if it weren't for your fairy drama."
Eric himself had pulled up in his red Corvette just before I mentioned Claude, and had leaned his long body against the car to listen to the last bit of our conversation with interest. I ignored him and continued to address Niall.
"I don't know why you're here, or what you want from me, but I have a lot on my plate right now. Please do not interfere in my life, or with the people - or vampires - in my life. If you have other fairy gifts or magic you want to give me, you need to ask me first. Anybody else who wants me to be some fairy princess or make fairy babies or serve some other fae agenda needs to stay away from me. I won't tolerate it."
I wondered what Gran would think if she could hear me. Then I saw an expression I never thought to see on Niall - shame.
"You are correct, child. My influence has brought you much harm. Fintan was right to hide you from me. I hope you will forgive me. I wished only to congratulate you, as I have heard about your new standing. I hope the arrangement will serve you well."
I nodded sadly, but before I could say anything else, Niall was gone.
Eric watched me silently for a moment, then approached cautiously and asked, "Shall we? Or would you prefer to stay home, following this confrontation?"
Heh. I'd noticed when Eric asked me that he'd been careful not to say we were going out for a movie. He looked amazing in his dark jeans and black dress shirt, but I was not going to tempt myself just now. I just wanted to figure out if I could still enjoy Eric's company, and where my feelings stood about him. We'd be better off doing that in public.
"Sure, let me just grab my things from the house." I stepped back in and found my purse and keys, and tugged on my red cowboy boots. Eric watched and waited politely from the doorway. He watched me intently as I emerged from the house and turned to lock the door. We were definitely not going to stay in. Nope.
"Sookie, a question." Oh, boy. I just glanced at him as I started across the porch toward the driveway. He zipped in front of me and halted my progress down the steps, standing on the lawn so we could face each other at about the same height. "I have heard you reject your option to become vampire, and tonight reject your fairy kin. Yet we both know you are more than human, and can no longer claim to be just 'a waitress.' What will you be now, lover?"
While I thought of a response, everything I'd become flashed through my mind: Merlotte's co-owner, consultant to the supes, lover, wife then divorcée, sister-in-law, honorary aunt, shaman, rescuer, planner, hostage and peace negotiator, friend of the pack, councilwoman, fighter, murderer, survivor...and hero with fans in multiple dimensions. I had a hard time believing all those things represented me, after so many years of trying to hide who and what I was, of trying to be as normal and unnoticeable as possible. I took a deep breath and gave Eric a relaxed grin, then reached down and firmly took his hand. I planted a kiss on Eric's cheek before responding: "I'm Sookie Stackhouse, and I belong here."
A/N: Again, many thanks for your support and encouragement. I have very much enjoyed receiving your reviews and messages.
A few ideas I have for side stories, mostly one-shots I think:
-What really happened when Amelia turned Bob into a cat? (humor)
-Breaking of the bond between Karin and Sookie, including Eric finding out about it
-Sookie and Eric's movie date
-Karin and Sookie have fighting lessons, and Sookie teaches them how to fire a shotgun (requires a knowledgeable beta)
-Did anything ever come of Sookie keeping the knife?
-What really happened to get Sookie cleared so quickly of Arlene's murder? Who was working all weekend to make that happen?
-What was the story behind the dress, and the witch who runs the dress shop?
-What happened when the council told Eric and Freda about the contract?
-Eric POV from the night before he's declared King and dances with Sookie through roughly the end of the story
I don't necessarily have a sequel in mind, but that could change as I mull things over.