The characters are not mine. They belong to Charlaine Harris.

Many thanks and hugs to my lovely beta, Kristin Elizabeth. She has stuck with me through this entire story, and I love her for it.

Any remaining mistakes in this are all mine.


Epilogue

Six Months Later

Sookie POV

The bar that Queen Sophie-Ann gave me was a dump in a city in northern Louisiana—in other words, it was just like the old Silver Dollar Bar, only in a larger city. It took a while to get the place in shape for business, but three months after we arrived in Louisiana, the first advertised vampire bar in the nation opened in Shreveport, Louisiana.

We called it Fangtasia.

Red, black and gothic, described the décor at Fangtasia—although garish was another word that came to mind. It had been Eric's idea to go over the top and decorate the bar in the image of what the humans imagined a vampire bar would look like. Instead of an establishment that would blend in among all the other bars, Eric and I set up a vampire tourist attraction. He said we could make more money that way, and he was right. After only three months of operation, the bar was showing a tidy little profit. We would have to hire more staff soon, and we spent most nights laughing over the human clientele that patronized the bar in droves, hoping to catch a glimpse of fang.

Even though the queen had given the bar to me, Eric and I considered it "ours." He sat by my side at every decision, consulting and discussing whenever I needed help. He didn't get angry if I didn't ask him, since he knew I was an experienced bar owner, but I found myself taking his counsel often. He knew the ways of the southern people, and he helped me understand their different view of the world. It was all so new to me here, after years in the Nevada desert.

When it came time to hire staff, he felt my sadness, and although he never said a word, he knew the cause of it. We had not heard from Bill and Pam since the night of the bombing, nor had I heard from Clancy since we left Battle Mountain. They would have loved the place we put together. Eric held me when I missed my friends, and reassured me that Pam and Bill might still be alive, even though I had serious doubts they still walked the earth.

Now that vampires were out in the open, thanks to Felipe de Castro and unnamed others, there was no reason to hide, and promoting our bar as a vampire bar actually offered us more protection. Since the bombing in Nevada, the kings and queens and their lawyers continued their no-hate-crimes rhetoric, and human law enforcement treated us with kid gloves. No town wanted to be the next one accused on television of crimes against vampires, even if many humans believed vampires didn't deserve any rights at all. The vampire hierarchy twisted and shaped a new view of diversity and tolerance, while exploiting political correctness in modern society.

Not everyone embraced the presence of vampires in their back yard, though. But just as I did in Battle Mountain, I quickly let my fellow business owners and neighbors know that I believed in not bothering anyone who wasn't bothering me. When Shreveport Municipal Waste Removal kept forgetting to pick up the bar trash, a few "contributions" to their personal funds, along with a little glamour, had them putting us on their pickup route, permanently. The people of Shreveport left us in relative peace, although the religious fanatics posed a different sort of problem, picketing the bar. Their actions gave us some good publicity, but with their money, organization and their good versus evil rhetoric, I worried about their long-range plans. I would be keeping my eye on them.

Eric and I did all the work to get the bar ready to open, preferring to maintain a polite distance with the humans. Eric tackled most of the construction work required to bring the building up to code, and with his telepathy, he could easily identify the humans least likely to give us trouble. Our blood bond allowed us to communicate with each other without speaking, and we honed that skill as we negotiated for building materials and other goods. He also took care of any of our daytime obligations, such as meeting with inspectors and delivery persons, and others unwilling or unable to meet at night.

I rose every night in Eric's arms, his smile the first thing I saw. It was lovely waking up next to him, his warm body wrapped around mine. He had given himself to me in a way I hadn't thought a human man could, but he proved my thinking wrong—he trusted me, and loved me. After many years of loneliness, I was content, maybe more. I hadn't thought I was capable of this sort of happiness, and I didn't take a single moment of it for granted.

The bond between us matured and thrived, connecting us in a manner I knew other supernatural beings would find threatening. We were very careful about how we behaved in front of other vampires, not wanting anyone to know how tightly we were bound, or what Eric could do with his mind. Even though I knew he hated it, he played subservient to me when we were around other vampires. It only made me love him more, and I enjoyed healing his bruised ego later, when we were alone.

When we weren't at the house we shared in the suburbs, I managed the bar, and Eric was my bartender. We hired an area vampire as a bouncer, and with a couple of human barmaids, we managed. About a month after the opening of Fangtasia, Eric called me to the front, I was surprised to see Clancy and Bill at the bar, drinking V-Juice, the new synthetic blood Felipe de Castro talked about the night of the great revelation. I wrapped my arms around them both, so relieved to know that Bill had made it out the night of the bombing. They had been lying low, waiting for the dust to settle. No one had heard from Pam, and that made us all sad.

Clancy and Bill stayed on to help with the bar. Bill took over as bartender, with Eric providing backup when we got busy. With more help at Fangtasia, I started performing my Sheriff duties, and I collected a tidy sum for my queen, all within our first six months. Queen Sophie-Ann was pleased, and she allowed us to live in peace, refraining from requesting Eric's services. Eric and I rarely talked about our obligation to the queen, but with the bond, we didn't have to—the apprehension only began to describe our feelings about Eric playing telepath to vampire royalty. We decided it was best not to worry about it until it happened, and I knew it was only a matter of time before she called us back to New Orleans. Until then, we would do our best to keep her happy.

About a month later, we were surprised to open the newspaper to see a large advertisement for a new bar and restaurant opening in Bon Temps, a nearby small town. Merlotte's was a cozy little hometown place. Proprietor Sam Merlotte had sold his mining business in Nevada, moved to Louisiana and became a fellow bar owner. Eric and I surprised him one night, and we stayed up until almost dawn, talking about the events that brought us together. It was good to know my friend Sam was close by, and Eric appreciated the male companionship, visiting him whenever he was in the area.

I looked over at Eric, laughing with Bill at the bar. I smiled as I thought of the night he walked into the Silver Dollar Bar in Battle Mountain. Dressed in a dark green button down shirt, black jeans, and boots, he was just as beautiful now as he was back then. Most of the time, I thought our female clientele came to the bar just to see him. His blond hair was long now, and he wore it pulled back in a smooth ponytail. I loved how it fell around my face when he was on top of me, the silky tips brushing against my neck and shoulders. He looked over at me then, feeling my lustful thoughts, and he smiled back, sending a tingle through me.

As I walked across the bar toward him, he opened his arms and pulled me into his embrace. His gorgeous hands caressed my back, while he gave me a toe-curling kiss. I heard Bill mutter, "Get a room" as he walked toward the far end of the bar, giving us some privacy. Both Bill and Clancy enjoyed teasing us, and their easy acceptance of Eric as my bonded cemented my trust. I knew they would not only protect me, but they would protect him as well.

When there were Sheriff duties to handle, Clancy acted as my bodyguard, and Bill and Eric would be in charge on the floor.

I fiddled with the collar on Eric's shirt. "You two all set out here?"

"Yes, I think so. How long will you be tonight?" Eric asked, as he stroked my back.

"A couple hours, I suppose." I pushed a stray hair behind his ear, before running my hands down his strong arms. I let my feelings for him flow through the bond, and he leaned down and nuzzled my neck.

"Stop that, Sookie. You'll be canceling those appointments so I can take you in your office, if you keep doing that." Eric whispered in my ear as he pressed me close to him.

I laughed. "And wouldn't you just love that, Eric. Call me if you need me." He released me from his embrace, although he grabbed my hand as I turned away.

"I need you."

I returned to him, and kissed his lips softly. "I'll be done soon, and we can go home early tonight." I said quietly.

Eric leaned toward me for another kiss, when Clancy interrupted. "Okay lovebirds, you'll have to save that for later. Your first appointment is here, Sookie." Clancy said.

"Go." Eric said, after he gave me another quick kiss. I took a final look at him before leaving for my office with Clancy, and I sent him my love, mentally calculating how long it would be before I could take him home to our bed.

Eric POV

I had spent years hiding from the world, and in the end, it turned out that I was just in the wrong one. Somehow, I found a place in her world, or maybe I had just found her, and that was all that was missing in my life. When I become the bonded human telepath of a vampire Sheriff, somehow everything in my life felt right. Whatever the case, it was the first time I could remember feeling truly comfortable with my life, and with myself.

It wasn't as if her world was very different from the human world—in the end, the strongest survived, and the weak did not. That was not so different from the human world. There just wasn't all the bullshit. I spent a lot of time those first few months in Louisiana, trying to show her that it didn't matter to me that she was a vampire, as long as we were honest with each other. It wasn't as if the blood bond let us lie to each other, since we couldn't hide our feelings from each other. She worried that I would think we were bound too tightly, but I liked being connected to her. Our commitment to each other was much more than mere words.

My eyes followed her as she walked back to her office with Clancy. Her black v-neck sweater accentuated her beautiful breasts, and I fantasized about taking off the black lace bra I knew she wore under it. She turned around and looked at me, her eyes sparkling with desire. Yes, the blood bond came in handy for letting her know just what she did to me, and I took advantage of it often. She would be working through her appointments quickly tonight.

The bar had been open for a couple of hours and we had settled into the nightly routine. Sookie met with the area vampires in her office, when I heard Bill scream at the door. Well, it was more like a squeal, actually, and I could see him embracing a red-haired woman at the door. Someone from his past, I assumed. They talked for quite some time, and I took a closer look at her from my spot behind the bar. She was quite over-dressed for Fangtasia, wearing what looked to be designer clothes and matching shoes. When Bill nodded his head and she turned toward me, I didn't recognize her…at first. After all, it had been six months since I had last seen her.

I stepped out from behind the bar, keeping one eye on the doorway to Sookie's office. She had to be feeling my surprise through the bond, and would be wondering what was going on. I took the redhead's elbow and steered her toward Sookie's office.

"She is going to be so happy to see you." I said to her as we stood outside Sookie's office. I raised my finger to my lips for a moment, and knocked on Sookie's door.

"Come in."

I entered her office and gave a nod to Clancy for him to leave.

"Sookie, there is someone here to see you."

"I am finishing my last appointment, Eric. Can they come another time? I thought we would get home early tonight." She shuffled the papers on her desk while she talked, not looking up at me.

"Well, I supposed I could come another time—"

At the sound of the redhead's voice, Sookie stood up from her desk, and said one word before she ran straight into the woman's arms. "Pam."

A squeal much like the one I heard from Bill filled the room.

After many moments, and lots of hugging, Sookie finally pulled away from her friend. Pink tears streaked her face, and she touched Pam's hair. "I like the color, Pam. Where have you been?"

As Pam started telling Sookie all the details of where she had been for the last six months, I left the office, closing the door to give the girls some privacy. They would be there for a while, I was certain. Six months was a long time to think your best friend was dead.

I looked around Fangtasia, and realized it must have been close to closing. There were just a few patrons around, and the barmaids were cleaning their stations. I sat down at the bar with Clancy, and Bill served us drinks as the three of us celebrated Pam's return.

As I drank my beer with my friends, and felt the flood of joy in the blood bond I shared with my Sookie, I realized how lucky I had been to stop in the cold, dusty town of Battle Mountain six months ago. I said a silent thank you to the fates, and turned back to my new family, waiting for my sweet Sookie to take me home.


It's a little bittersweet to end this story. I will miss Sheriff Sookie and human Eric, but I've left the door open for more, if they should call to me again in the future.

Great big hugs to everyone that has read, favorited, and alerted this story, and double hugs to those taking a minute to leave a review. You'll never know how much you influenced this story. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I'm going to be taking a bit of a break from Eric and Sookie to write some Night Huntress fanfic under the penname OTD4500. This is a collaborative effort between myself and fellow fanfic author, Bontempscutie. If you haven't read the Night Huntress series and the Night Huntress World stories by Jeaniene Frost, you really should. So if you like action, adventure and angst, look for our story, Choices, coming soon.

Happy New Year to everyone… remember, leaving a review really does make a difference. *hugs* tm