Epilogue: Giving Thanks
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.”-Henry David Thoreau
THANKSGIVING, 12 MONTHS AND 3 WEEKS LATER
“You got that?” Eric asked his wife and bonded as she took some bread out of the oven.
“Yep,” she said as he turned his attention back to the blood fountain he was assembling.
But not without glancing at his wife’s left hand.
There was now an extra ring next to Sookie’s engagement ring, marking their human wedding. He was pretty sure that no one else in the wide world was bonded in two ways, plus married in two ways, plus pledged.
Her baked item dealt with, Sookie smiled and leaned upward to kiss her mate’s cheek.
During the year since Russell had been out of their lives, Eric’s and Sookie’s lives had calmed. After a quick stop in Bon Temps, they had taken a vacation to Fort Stockton and then to Sweden. But they’d returned to Louisiana soil the previous February. They’d settled in their home in Slidell, the place where “they” had begun in so many significant ways. It was nothing fancy, but it suited Sookie well, and Eric was mostly ambivalent about where they settled—just as long as it had a large bathtub.
The quilt that Sookie had taken from Slidell so many months before—the one that had traveled with them throughout their time evading Russell and their “vacation” after that—had re-found its home.
It looked “right” on their bed in the Slidell house. And the couple felt “right” settling in the New Orleans suburb—at least for the time being.
Pam had—indeed—taken the position as the Sheriff of Area 1, and she’d thrived in it and in her business life, opening “her” version of Fangtasia on the Mississippi River. Needless to say—there was gambling, fangbangers, and sex aplenty.
Eric and Sookie had been there only once.
They didn’t feel the need to gamble after all they’d been through. Fangbangers were unwelcome. And they got plenty of sex at home.
Peter Threadgill had proven to be a good king thus far. Moreover, he was quite crafty at inspiring affection from Pam.
Sookie suspected that it was because Peter let Pam participate anytime he had a foe to torture. But she knew better than to confirm that.
“What’s up, pussycat?” Brady asked as he walked into the restaurant, carrying a large box.
“Nothing much,” Sookie returned with a smile. “What’s that?”
Brady rolled his eyes. “Leonie has confused Christmas and Thanksgiving again,” he said, showing Sookie that the huge box was full of gifts.
Leonie slugged his shoulder as she walked in behind him. “Of course I didn’t. I just might not see you for Christmas this year, so I wanted to bring our gifts early.”
“Our,” Brady muttered. “As if I had a hand in them.”
“Don’t make me spank you, vampire,” Leonie warned, even as the new vamp’s fangs came down.
Leonie and Brady looked at each other as if they were about to attack or fuck—or both.
It was a common look between the two.
“I don’t need to see this, Mom!” Sookie yelled, using the title she’d been calling Leonie for many months. The two were closer than many mothers and daughters that Eric knew of, so he wasn’t about to discourage the relationship. On the contrary, he’d known that Sookie craved family, especially since her own brother was still “lukewarm” when it came to accepting him, which was why Sookie hadn’t given him an invitation to the first annual Thanksgiving gathering at Seguro, a restaurant by day and a club by night that Eric and Sookie had opened in New Orleans.
Eric knew that Jason would be missed by his bonded. But there were plenty of others on the guest list.
“Brother! Sister!” Duncan’s voice boomed as he entered the establishment. He had a case of Royalty blended on his shoulder, which was to fill the fountain for the vampires.
Eric smiled and went to greet his bror. “Well met,” the Viking said even as Klymene entered the room.
The vampiress and elder fairy quickly embraced.
“So—how is the job as Magister?” Leonie asked.
Klymene grinned. Agnes had asked her to be Magister even before Duncan’s two weeks had been up, but—unlike him—she actually wanted the position, so she’d said yes.
“Don’t get me started!” Duncan said crankily, though fondly. He pointed to his mate. “This one loves to be judge, jury, and executioner. And I’m back to being an enforcer—guarding the Magister.” He rolled his eyes. “I’ll give Agnes some credit. She managed to find a way to keep me around,” he growled, though no one thought he was truly perturbed.
Next to arrive were Tara and Alcide, who had decided to move back South to help to reestablish the Were population in Mississippi. The two had married a month after Eric and Sookie had exchanged human vows in California. They’d settled in Jackson and were expecting a child the next year, though no one was “supposed” to know. Supernatural scenting had taken away the mystery, but Sookie had been stern in making sure that no one would say a thing. Of course, the telepath knew that her friend was anxious and wanted to wait until after her first trimester before telling anyone else.
Alcide had indulged his wife’s request.
And he hadn’t told her that everyone would already know based upon her scent.
Alcide had certainly learned how to “handle” the fiery woman!
Also on the guest list were Pam and King Peter, though he was “incognito” for the night—meaning that he was there as a friend and not a king. Octavio and Jasper Fant had sent their regrets, as they had other family responsibilities. But Amelia would be joining them.
“Hunter!” Sookie exclaimed, seeing her cousin running into the room with his father and his demon nanny. Sookie had celebrated getting to know the young boy, and Eric didn’t mind him either. Since his telepathy was “fairy” in nature, Hunter was quite well-adjusted. And he seemed quite happy to have family around. Plus, Remy was tolerant of those of other races, so that made things easier.
“Let me get that,” Eric said of the large cooked bird, which Sookie was about to take out of the oven. “Go see Hunter,” he added with a wink.
She did just that, as he secured the fowl from the cooking device.
“Domesticated, I see,” Duncan taunted.
“Shall I show you how much?” Eric returned asked with a mixture of playfulness and threat in his tone.
“Uncle Eric! Uncle Duncan! Can I fights too?” Hunter asked cutely. He’d seen the two brothers spar before—during the previous Fourth of July party—and was brimming with excitement that there might be another “show.”
“Of course, little warrior,” Duncan grinned, picking up the boy and spinning him in a quick, tight circle.
“Who are we missing?” Sookie asked, looking around.
“Us,” Amelia said, entering with Sam. The two had hit it off at Sookie and Eric’s wedding.
“And us,” Pam echoed, waltzing in with the King on her arm as if she owned the place—and the king. He didn’t seem to mind.
“Northman,” Peter said.
“Peter,” Eric returned with a slight bow.
“Hey, where’s Pythia?” Sookie asked.
“She said she’d be here at the right time,” Brady intoned, rolling his eyes.
“Of course she did,” everyone else said together.
Bill Compton had been waiting for this night—the night that he’d be fully healed, the night that he would finally kill Eric Northman, avenge his master’s death, and take back his property, for Sookie Stackhouse was truly his.
It didn’t matter that she called herself Sookie Northman now.
Not in the fucking least!
He would break her of that nonsense. And then he would turn her.
It had taken a long time for Bill to heal from his master’s punishment, but Jennifer Rigans had helped.
Glamouring had always been his special gift, and—even tortured to within an inch of his life—it had not let him down. Jennifer had arranged for the coffin that she’d hoped their master had survived in to be opened. But Bill had had Russell’s blood, and Russell had had his; Bill knew that his king had not lived through the night.
He’d certainly not died in the Rhodes blast, which had taken Talbot!
Bill closed his eyes and regained his control. He would need it.
After he’d glamoured Jennifer, she’d proven to be a very loyal human, making sure he had what he need and that his continued life had gone unrecorded.
He’d planned carefully, even ransacking Hallow’s lair to find potions that would conceal his scent. He had one on now as he exited the delivery truck, his face concealed behind a huge bouquet.
Eric had ordered a surprise for his “wife”—a lovely and large arrangement of orange, red, and yellow flowers.
He’d read the card: All that I am thankful for leads my thoughts back to one thing. You.
It had been signed as “your bonded, pledging, and devoted husband.”
Bill had been sickened by the note, but he had relished in the opportunity the flowers provided. A stake was concealed in the flowers, and the delivery boy had very particular instructions—to bring the flowers to the back door to give to Eric Northman at exactly 8:00 p.m.
Clearly, the bastard wanted to present the gift to his “wife” himself.
Bill was determined that he’d never get the chance.
I was old, and the world had placed its weight onto me in a way that it had never burdened another—as far as I knew.
But I’d grown used to seeing the future—though I doubted that a vampire should ever have had such a gift. But I was still in the world—many long years after I’d been turned. Thus, clearly, there was still a use for me in it.
I closed my eyes and waited. Knowing the future was often a curse. And, except on very rare occasions, I’d stayed out of the affairs of humans and Supernaturals alike. But—on occasion—I let myself have a smidgen of “fun” when I was positive my involvement would have no repercussions for those whom I cared about.
And—though I might have seemed distant at times—I did care. All the women that I’d chosen as handmaidens were dear to me. My child, Roman, had held my dead heart for many years. And my new child, Brady, amused me daily. My descendent and her mate were also among those for whom I cared—though I’d not told Sookie that she had my “human” blood tracing through her veins. It was not a fact she needed to have, and she and I were already friends.
When I experienced “well enough,” I knew to leave it alone.
However, some things were unacceptable. Oh, the whelp, Bill Compton, failed to kill Eric in all versions of the future I had seen when Bill had actually gotten to make his delivery. And Eric had always ripped his head off, too.
“Too fast,” I said to the prone vampire, whom I’d placed on the torture table I’d set up. “Way too easy of an end for you.”
I’d grabbed Bill up when he’d been at his most celebratory—right when he’d been visualizing his success.
“Really? One such as you doesn’t deserve to polish the boots of the Viking—let alone slay him,” I scoffed as I took another of Bill’s dead organs from his body. I’d already taken the obvious things: fingers, hands, toes, feet, dick, balls, tongue, eyes, ears, nose—anything that stuck out, actually.
The world had shown me how to be cruel, and I felt it owed me a little revenge. Killing Bill was the closest I would get to avenging Roman’s death. And the death of my new child’s mother. And I’d wanted so badly to fight against Russell, but I’d been side-lined by my visions.
“Not this time,” I smiled, pulling out intestines.
My phone rang, and I motioned to Batanya for a towel so that I could wipe my hands before I answered.
Bill was beyond noise—and, likely, beyond pain. But I was not quite done with him.
“Child,” I answered, knowing it was Brady.
“Mistress,” he said respectfully, “I can tell you are having fun, but you are greatly missed by your family.”
I smiled and sighed. “I shall be there soon, child.” I hung up the phone and looked at Compton.
His body was losing hold of its magic. I put my phone away and then thrust my hand through his chest, crushing his heart as I did.
I closed my eyes and smiled again. The future was a good one for those I cared about. And it was good for me too.
A time of peace had come.
It was deserved.
THE END OF THE UN-IVERSE SERIES
A/N: I hope you enjoyed it!