So… I was so anxious to hear your thoughts about it and YAY! I'm so glad you've enjoyed last chapter's over-4000-words-of lemons. :) And thank you for your reviews. All of them meant a lot to me…! I can clearly see a positive evolution since the first time I posted to these last chapters, and I owe that progress to all the feedback I got. And I sure hope that you've enjoyed this "ride". I certainly did. Besides, I want to thank Charhamblin again for her AWESOME help – she rocks!

Anyway, this is it. This is the last chapter – well, it's more of an epilogue of sorts. In fact, chapter 45 was really the "last" official chapter. But because whenever I read something or whenever I watch a movie or a TV-show, I always want to know what would happen "next", I wrote these four tiny-peeps into their future. So, without further ado, here's the last chapter of "These Days". Hugs from Portugal, Célia


Eric

Sookie woke me up before sunset. She smelled particularly nice, and of all those women's products and I knew that she had taken her time with her hair and make-up even before I opened my eyes. I felt her body half on top of mine, and half on the bed. And I could also feel her lips on my cheek, giving it silent, small kisses.

I then mumbled something that was probably no more that "humnpf" while I moved my hand to her lower back, and I started trying to kiss her neck. The day's stupor wasn't allowing me much freedom of movement, so I wasn't probably doing much yet, but I could feel Sookie's body temperature slightly rising with each of my kisses.

"I just wanted to tell you that I'm leaving now," she whispered in my ear.

"Hum?"

"I'm leaving. Tonight is Jason's future wife's bachelorette's party. Remember? We talked about it?" she said while she started taking my hands of her back and trying to get out of the bed.

Right… Her brother was getting married again in a week. And because he hadn't discarded his right to a bachelor's party (his sixth), his bride-to-be had decided that she had the same right. And so, she had invited some women to a dinner party. Sookie included, obviously. "Humm-hum…" I nodded, smiling against her neck, before I licked it from bellow her chin to her ear.

"Eric," she said, still trying to get away from my hold, "stop it! I gotta go now. I have to drive all the way to Bon Temps, and I still have to go and pick out her lingerie present at Tara's." Sookie sort of giggled and then she added, whispering "I'll make it up to you tomorrow night."

But I didn't want to wait, so I just kept hugging and kissing her, while I tried to bring her body on top of mine. A few minutes later, though, my efforts hadn't yet convinced her to skip the damn bachelorette's party and she said, "I'm not sure if I'll spend the night at Jason's or if I'll drive back tonight. I guess it depends on how late the dinner party will end."

"One more reason for you to stay right here for a little longer," I said, keeping my hold on her. Sookie's movements trying to leave my embrace were having the exact opposite reaction from me that she had wanted. And I was much more awake now, because of it. Especially my lower half. I was very much awake there. Not to mention, less willing to let her go.

She then moved her mouth to my face, and she kissed me. And I really thought that I'd get lucky when she started melting against me and biting my lips. But, sneaky as she was, that was only a ploy to distract me. And it worked, because suddenly, she was still on the bed, but we were no longer touching, because she had moved to her side. I guess that there would be no "adult time", as Sookie used to call it, for us that night.

I slightly got up, and kind of sat with my back to the headboard.

"I really have got to go, now," she said. And that was when I really looked at her for the first time that night. She had her hair down, but she had straightened it, and as I had smelled before, she had used some make-up on her eyes. She was dressed in some dark-blue trousers and a lovely white shirt and there was a light-grey and blue scarf in her lap (I guess that she had taken it off from her neck to wake me up and I smiled inside at that detail). But the best part of her whole outfit was her smile at me.

"You're gorgeous," I told her and I received an even bigger smile in appreciation of my compliment.

Sookie then looked at my naked chest, and after a wink, she said, "So are you." And then she proceeded to give me another quick kiss on my lips. "But I really must leave now. Lizzie's in the living room, watching TV. I left lasagna in the oven for her, and you guys will just have to warm it for 10 minutes, max. Okay?"

"Sure. Go and have fun at the party," I said. "But not too much fun, okay?" I added smiling, a second later, as an afterthought.

She smiled back at me and then she said, "The sun sets in almost an hour. You'll be okay here with Liz, right?"

I nodded and she smiled again. It was a Friday night. And Fridays were always big nights at the bars. But, one of the perks of being the owner was that I didn't have to work if I didn't want to. And staying at home, with Liz, was much better than dealing with the bars' problems or having to put up with vampire-excitement-starved humans.

Actually, for the past five years, since Natércia had come back for a… last time, I had taken much more time off. First of all, after Sookie and I finally bonded again, we then decided to go away, and we spent a whole week alone, just the two of us, in Los Angeles (Liz stayed with Pam then). And thank God we did it. Because we truly needed it.

Natércia's comeback had been dreadful to me. I had weakly kissed her and Sookie had almost left me then. And soon after it, Nat had told me that I had drunk from her when I was still a human. And, let me tell you, that was one hell of a blow to me. It made me question every-fucking-thing in my life. And that, added to the physical and psychological pain of her death, made me fucking lose my mind for a while. But, luckily, Sookie was able to both bring me back from my own personal hell, and forgive me for those out-of-mind moments. And even more than that, she finally accepted our marriage and we bonded again, at last.

And so, since then, we had gone away, just the two of us, at least once a year, for a whole week. But, of course, Liz then "demanded" a vacation away with her too; and that was why, we had also spent away, just the three of us, a couple of weeks each Easter and each summer.

And there, on my bed, with Sookie beside me, I smiled at myself, thinking about how everything had changed in my life since Sookie had come back to Shreveport almost eight years before. I had a woman that I loved by my side, and I was a father again. I was a family man now.

"Sure, we'll be alright," I answered.

"Even if I stay the night in Bon Temps, I'll be here tomorrow before lunch time."

"Okay. Don't worry. And now go, before I don't let you leave," I finally said, with a nice smile that was the total opposite of my predacious glare at her.

Sookie then kissed me again, and she left. And even though it was still day time, I got up all the same. I quickly showered and then I dressed. And as soon as the sun was setting, I was entering the living room where I saw a completely absorbed-in-the-TV Liz.

"Sugared Strawberries". Obviously. Recently, Liz had been obsessed with a TV show about a group of high school kids, who ran a small bar next to their school, where they served a very successful beverage made of… any guess? You're right: strawberries. Yeah. I know. Sixteen, seventeen-year-old kids running a bar? But, no matter how crazy and stupid the plot was, kids all around the country were fanatical about it.

In fact, the kid's craziness with the show was so great that last May, an outbreak of the so-dubbed "Sugared Strawberries' Virus" was reported in schools all over the country. Over 3000 students at 140 schools reported similar symptoms to those experienced by the characters in a then recent episode where a life-threatening virus affected the school depicted in the show. Symptoms of the "virus" included rashes, difficulty breathing, and dizziness. The perceived outbreak forced some schools to temporarily close. The National Institute for Medical Emergency eventually dismissed the illness as mass hysteria. And that outbreak raised the concern of many parents, Sookie and I included, regarding the major influence the series had on the kids and teens that watched it. The story was reported in newspapers and magazines everywhere for a while, but eventually, it lost its strength. But anyway, kids all around the country were really passionate about the show.

And so was Liz.

We had had to buy "Sugared Strawberries" t-shirts, "Sugared Strawberries" mugs, "Sugared Strawberries" pens and notebooks, and every other single piece of merchandising that was available. And so had most parents across the country. It made me appreciate Pam's idea of merchandising our Fangtasia, Deadliest and Bloodbath's brands much more. Pam had truly been brilliant when she first suggested it. It was our main income fountain these days.

"How was school today?" I asked when I sat next to her on the couch.

"Yes," she mumbled.

Yes. Liz hadn't even heard what I had asked. I decided to try again. "So, did they tell you the swimming competition's schedule at last? At what time are you swimming?" Liz was a superb swimmer (unlike me; because yes, despite the fact that I didn't need to breath, I was a lousy swimmer). And we had asked her coach to put her in the latest time-table possible. That way, I'd be able to watch her, because it would be night already.

"Yeah," she said.

Yeah. She hadn't heard it any more that my "how was school" question. So I just kissed her forehead, and I left her alone for the next 25 minutes because I knew that I'd only have my daughter back after those dreadful "Sugared Strawberries" TV-show would end for the day.

And so I went to my office and I checked both my personal and my professional emails for a while. The bars were now an "oiled machine" and we had finally found the right people for each position. Besides, with Pam's supervision, I now basically only needed to make sure that old-vampires turned out to each establishment more or less frequently. And that was it.

On the other hand, de Castro was visiting Louisiana less and less each year. And so, most vampires there truly regarded me as their King. And I had a somewhat considerable paperwork to deal with because of it. But because of my age, and the competent Sheriffs that I worked with, there were hardly any problems at all. And, luckily, I still managed to avoid most "upper levels" vampire interstate reunions.

I was engrossed in reading a news paper online about NY's new runner for Mayor: he was the first and most important vampire involved in human politics, when Nike and Reb (short of Reebok, our second, and I hoped last, dog) entered the room with Liz right behind them.

"Hey dad," she said as if we hadn't talked that night yet. And, well, I guess that a mumbled "yes" followed by a mumbled "yeah" couldn't really count as a tête-à-tête…

"Hey sweetheart," I answered her, and then I proceeded to have the conversation that I had failed to have before, "how was school today?"

She then told me about her teacher and her friends, and everything that had happened that day. I also asked about her swimming competition (she was indeed allowed to swim just after dark). And later, she told me how her ballet teacher, Ms Charlene, had told the class that they would start doing "en pointe" exercises soon. Because serious foot deformities could result from starting pointe too early, Ms Charlene had told both the kids and their parents that they wouldn't begin dancing that way until after the age of twelve or thirteen; even though all the girls had been dying to try it for a while. But anyway, apparently, they'd start doing it soon and Liz was telling me how we'd have to buy her some particular type of ballet-shoes or ballet slippers, or whatever, that Liz kept talking about during the whole dinner time.

After dinner, we then went back to the living room, and we were both watching a game-show program when she suddenly said, "Dad…" And after my nod for her to continue, she then bluntly asked, "Do you and mom have sex?"

Hah? What? Liz was still twelve years old. She had no business asking about sex. Hell, she had no business knowing about sex. I wanted her to be just like her mother: a 25-year-old virgin. Though I sure didn't want her to be with a vampire on her first time. Actually, ever. I didn't want her to be with a vampire ever. Or a were. Or a shifter. Or any man who didn't deserve her. Or some stupid teenager boy. Or… hell.

"What… who did… I mean, why are you asking about sex?"

"Helen and Ava were talking about it today at school. Helen's brother told her that their mom is having sex with her new boyfriend every night." Helen's parents had gotten divorced four or five years before.

"Oh…" I said, completely unsure of what to add after that un-intelligent sound. Why the hell would they be talking about sex? Helen's brother… The kid was three or four years older than the girls. It was expected that he'd know about sex by now. Damn him.

"So?" Liz said.

"So what?"

"Do you and mom have sex?" she asked again, and then added, "Every night?"

Uuhhh…

Nothing.

I couldn't thing of a bloody thing to answer her. I couldn't lie and tell her that we didn't. But I couldn't fucking tell Liz that we did it either. I… Uuhhh… Blank. There was a total blank in my mind at that moment. And where the fuck was Sookie? She should be the one having that conversation with Liz. I… Uuhhh…

"And do you bite mom?" she asked when she figured that I wouldn't immediately answer her previous question.

I swallowed. And I swear that I was sweating. Yes, I knew that I was a vampire and that our body did not do that. But I tell you: I was sweating. "Why… why do you ask that?"

"Helen's brother said that you did it every night. And that you and mom are probably very kinky in the bedroom," she answered me at easy. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. "Dad?" she said just a few seconds later.

"Yes?" I told her back, dreading, dreading, her next question.

"What's kinky in the bedroom?"

Oh, for fuck's sake! I'd fucking scare the shit out of Helen's brother for that. The kid would start pissing in his bed at night again in fright after I'd be done with him. But, at least, he hadn't been too explicit. Otherwise, Liz would know what "kinky in the bed" was already.

"It's…" And then it hit me. I'd do what Sookie had done sometimes in the past. And what most parents across America would do. I would run away from my daughter's questions, change her focus into something else, and just… hope for the best; while, at the same time, praying that she'd turn out to be a responsible adult, and keep being a nice person. "It's a grown-ups matter," I answered proudly of my 'we-won't-talk-about-it-now' answer. And then I quickly added, "And did you know that "Sugary Strawberries" will be playing in Dallas next month?" Yes, the damned teenagers of the TV show had also recorded an album (that we had had to buy, obviously) and they would start a national tour in a couple of weeks.

Liz looked at me with a strange face, clearly displeased that I hadn't answered her query. But the eminent concert was a too-important issue for her to not alter her center of attention. "They will?"

"Yes, and mom and I have been talking that we could go there, the three of us, and that it could be your birthday's present? Would you like it?" Liz would be thirteen years old in a month and the concert in Dallas would be just a couple of days after her birthday.

She immediately smiled, and jumped on the couch, moving towards me, and hugging me in delight. "For real? Oh dad, for real-real? That's so great! That's… that's… Thank you dad! Thank you!"

"Yes, for real," I answered her.

"And can Ava and Helen go with us? Can they? Can we take them with us dad?" And… hell… It hadn't been the plan. And I sure didn't want to drive all the way to Dallas with those three in the back seat giggling and talking nonstop (and probably about "Sugared Strawberries"). But I was at a point where I would basically say "yes" to her any request, if that kept her away from asking me about sex.

"Of course they can. In fact, I think that you should go and call them both right now to tell them that," I said.

And when Liz left to call her friends, I knew that I was off the hook. Recently she and her friends had started spending more and more time on the phone with each other. I guess that her teenager years where really just around the corner.

I shivered in fear of those.

-x-

Pam

All's well that ends well. Shakespeare wrote the play, and he was damn right. And even though I was pretty sure that our end was still far away, everything had been going pretty well for the last ten years since Eric had killed that bitch Natércia. Her maker's reparation fee had been extremely expensive. But hell… money's made to be spent, right? So, as I was saying, things had been going pretty well since that bitch Natércia had died.

For one thing, Eric and Sookie had finally blood bonded again. Okay, it's true. The first time she drank his blood was not under the ideal circumstances. Or, from what I heard when I was at their front door of their former house, maybe it was. Hell, I don't know and I don't fucking care either. And, one way or the other, they soon moved away from that place, and they easily forgot that entire episode; and, since that first time, they started swapping blood regularly. And in… well, better circumstances, I suppose. Eric, of course, loved their bond immediately. But, right from the start, Sookie loved it as well. And now, ten years later, their blood bond was stronger than ever and they both felt very well about it and the feelings that flow between them.

And you know me: I was absolutely against feelings, and bondings, and… shit like that. But not for Eric and Sookie. She had once told me they were soul mates. And she was married to her bear when she said it. But you know what? I think she was right! They are soul-mates. And no matter how "theoretically perfect" Nat was for Eric (because they were both very old vampires and with similar natures) or how "good on paper" the bear was for Sookie (because he'd be able to get old with her, and play in the sun and… whatever); yes, that didn't matter, because the truth was that my maker and his part-fairy really are soul-mates.

And speaking about the bear… Elizabeth's father used to appear once or twice a month at the beginning. But he died ten or eleven years ago in some stupid were dispute and since then Eric has definitely taken the "father role". And that is so, so, so funny.

I used to tease Eric about Sookie like… twenty years ago, way before the whole "marriage by knife" fiasco that had freaked Sookie out and made her run away and blah, blah, blah… So, I used to tease him about Sookie; and it was great.

But teasing him about Liz?

Way, way better!

I mean: can you imagine? Eric collecting awful drawings of a 5-year old? And saying (and believing) that they were the ultimate art form? Or Eric teaching geography to an 11-year old? And discussing with her history teacher about what it was like in the middle ages? And what about Eric driving Lizzie and a couple more 14-year old girls to the mall? And waiting there so he could drive them back? Priceless!

And now, recently, I've been teasing him about his fatherly worries. And what does Eric worry about? Well, he worries about Lizzie's 18-year-old boyfriend.

"He's 18!" He screamed when he found out that they were dating six or seven months ago. "She's only 17! He's too old for her. No. No. I won't allow it," he kept saying, and saying, and saying. And wasn't it funny? Well, it was ironic, at least. Eric was more than ten hundred years older than Sookie but he was freaking out because Lizzie was dating a ten months older boy. It was precious. It was teasing material as never before.

Eric, Sookie and I were in their living room. But despite the fact that I really wanted to give them one of my "pearls of wisdom", as Eric called it, I just kept my mouth shut. Eric looked too pissed off at that moment.

Lizzie (who both Eric and I could hear crying upstairs in her bedroom) had just told us about some Samuel kid. And she had said that he was her boyfriend, and so she wanted him to go to their house and have dinner with her parents, so they'd meet him. And Eric just… he freaked out, and then he just screamed at her to go to her bedroom, after he told her that she wouldn't be allowed to even see that Samuelagain. Ever again. Sookie, on the other hand, was behaving better to the news, and she tried to calm him. Though she wasn't being successful at it.

"Boys that age…. They… they have ideas," Eric said, "And they want things from nice girls like Liz. And I won't allow it. I just… won't. She's barely seventeen years old."

"Exactly," Sookie answered him, "she's seventeen. She's already a young woman, Eric."

And then Eric almost shivered. "He's still too old for her," he told her.

"Are you too old for me?"

"That has absolutely nothing to do with Liz. The boy is too old. He'll… he'll… I won't allow it. I know what boys that age think."

"And here I was, thinking that I was the telepath," Sookie answered him, crossing her arms at her chest before she told him to sit by her side. Up until then, Eric had been walking from one side of the living room to the other. But then he sat next to Sookie. She then grabbed one of his hands between hers, and then she added, "Listen, it confuses me too. The idea that Liz is growing up… But she is. And we must let her grow. Besides, I've checked her mind, she thinks that she's not ready to have sex yet and she has even decided that she'll wait until…"

Eric immediately got up again from the couch and he started walking from side to side again. The words "Liz" and "sex" in the same sentence were too much for him.

"Sookie, I do not care. The boy… he'll want to… do things with Liz. I won't allow it."

But, of course, no matter how much he had yelled that he wouldn't allow Liz to date her boyfriend, he had to consent to it. Because, in fact, there was nothing he could do to prevent the kids from dating. Yes, he could have told her that she was only allowed to be at home or at school; but they would have found a way to be together, nonetheless. And that "solution" would only make Liz resent him, and I'm sure that Eric wouldn't want that! And, of course, there was also the other "route": threatening Samuel. And believe me; Eric did threaten the boy as much as he could. But it didn't work because Samuel hadn't been afraid enough to run. And so they kept dating.

And why didn't he run? Well, Samuel's father was a strong warlock and he knew a lot about the supernatural's world. And Samuel, besides studying Economics and Business, was also his father's apprentice. And so he knew a little about the supernatural world too. And he knew about Eric's reputation as a sane and conscious sheriff. And Samuel trusted that Eric wouldn't hurt or kill him unless he was to cause Liz any harm.

Besides, the kids loved each other.

And you know what? Elizabeth had even been accepted to Samuel's college. And so, come September, they'd be studying at the same place. I wondered if Eric would let them be room-mates? Probably not!

So… what had been happening for the last months at Eric's? Well, it was always the same routine: the kids would kiss each other on the lips, Eric would see them kissing, and then Eric would almost scream for them to stop doing that, but then Liz would kiss Samuel even harder while Sookie would try to make Liz stop and Eric stay calm. And I would laugh. And it was really so funny.

It was fucking hilarious.

And, like I said, ironic too.

The thing is: Sookie had always said that she wanted the "white picket fence" normal life. And that was ultimately what made her run away in the first place. She had run away from us, vampires, because she had wanted to be "normal" and have a conventional family life. But then… Look at her now. She was living it. She was living her "white picket fence" normal life. And with a vampire! Yes, she was living it alright. Why? Because that sort of arguments and "father's reaction when he meets the daughter's first boyfriend" was as normal and as "white-picket-fenced" as it could be.

And so, the kids kept dating and Eric and Sookie kept trying to come to terms with the fact that their child wasn't a child anymore.

That was probably the reason why they had been talking about it, you know? The "Sookie becoming a vampire" issue. Last that I heard, was "when Liz graduates and gets a job" but what did I know? They'd probably postpone for as long as they could… And why wouldn't they? Sookie was aging, yes. But much slower than a regular human.

And now you are wondering: why was she aging slower? Who the fuck knew? It might have been because of her 1/8th fairy blood. Or her strong essential spark. "Perfect", Niall used to call it. Or Eric's blood. Or none of the above. Or all of it. Or maybe she was just a freaking fluke of nature. We didn't know. We just knew that she was indeed aging slower. As a matter of fact, since she had come back to Louisiana again, she really hadn't aged much at all.

She was what? 47? 48 now? And I couldn't tell what she looked like (too many years as a vampire would do that to you) but Liz used to tell me that her mom looked like a 32 or 33-year-old woman. Either way, I didn't care. And I would bet Eric didn't care either so… They'd do it when they felt up for it.

"You ready auntie?" Liz asked from the stairs.

"I've been waiting for you for ages, Liz," I answered her when she kissed my cheek.

"Sorry, sorry! I was talking in the phone with Samuel about his brother's party and he said that DeeAnn will meet us there with the cake and…"

"Pam is driving you there right now Elizabeth," Eric interrupted. Ouch! "Elizabeth" and not Liz or Lizzie meant only one thing: Eric was not happy. He then continued: "I'd think you could spend thirty minutes without talking to that boyfriend of yours, young lady!"

"Yes daddy," she said while she sat in his lap and kissed his cheek. He melted in one second.

"Okay, then. Go on. And Lizzie: you know the drill – be safe and be smart. I don't want you in a car if the driver has been drinking. I don't care if it was only one beer. You call home and we'll get you. I know it's his brother's birthday and you are all meeting your friends and having a good time, but Lizzie…"

"I know dad: be safe and be smart," she said interrupting him. And after a smile and a sigh, she added, "Can I go now, please? Poor auntie Pam has been waiting for me…"

"Yes, poor auntie Pam," Eric said with sarcasm dripping as a fountain. "And yes, you can go after you give me another kiss and you say goodnight to your mom. She's in her office."

"Okay, okay, okay…." She said when she kissed him again. She then ran upstairs to talk to Sookie and then we left.

When we arrived, there were already two mini-vans full of kids waiting. And one of the kids, a very short, 5'1, dark-haired girl, probably the DeeAnn that Liz had talked about, was indeed there, with a humongous cake. And then, after another round of "be safe, drive slowly, take care" from me and Gustav, Samuel's dad, they left.

"So… pretty vamp," Gustav said while grabbing me, or, more specifically, my ass. "Will you wait for Lizzie here? Their curfew tonight it at 4 am. You know… being Joe's birthday and all…" He then proceeded to kiss me and I answered him with my kiss and my arms around his neck.

Of course I would stay.

That night was our anniversary too. Four months.

My last relationship that had lasted for four months had been in the 1990's. And my last relationship that had lasted four months with a man had been in the 1950's. But Gustav was great. And I was happy with him. I had met Gustav half a year before, when Lizzie had asked me to drive her to her boyfriend's house. "Dad's completely mad. He says that I can only see Samuel at our place. And that sucks. I want to be with my boyfriend in a room without my father in it, Aunt Pam…" Liz told me one night.

Trying to not smile at Lizzie's predicament, I then asked: "Why don't you drive there yourself?" She had had her driver's license for almost a year then, since she was 16.

"Dad checks the miles in my car. Please Aunt Pam, please," she answered.

Eric checked the miles in her car. Eric. Checked. The miles. In her car. Oh, my God! Eric checked the miles in her car! Precious! That was amazing. He was really crazy with that entire "Liz has a boyfriend" situation.

But, either way, who could say "no" to Liz when her request was so reasonable? She just wanted to be with her boyfriend without her 1000-year-old father there. And so I started driving her to Samuel's house. And that was how I met Gustav. And now, we were "an item", as Liz and Samuel used to call us. And you know what? I was really happy with that.

And Liz and Samuel were also happy that we had been together, obviously. Since I had started dating Gustav and I got to know Samuel's dad better, Eric had bombarded me with questions about Samuel and his family. And after a few huge questionnaires, Eric started to trust the boy and calmed down a little bit. Do you want to know what I thought? I thought that Eric actually liked Samuel. And common… It was way better to be dating a warlock's apprentice (but human boy) than a were. Or a fairy. Or even a vampire. Eric was just… you know: Lizzie's dad. He was only playing the part.

And so, like both William Shakespeare and I had said: all's well that ends well. Eric and Sookie were still strong, Lizzie was with her first boyfriend, and even I was dating a new guy. There was drama; there were problems; there were arguments. But we all managed to deal with everything and still be happy.

Oh, and I almost forgot: guess who was dating as well? Bill! Oh, and he was still one of Sookie's best friends. And that still bothered Eric to no end (and that meant even more laughing for me). But… What was I saying? Oh, yeah, right: Bill was dating. And you just won't believe with whom. Any ideas? Thalia! Yeah, no bullshit. Seriously! Thalia. Who'd guess that? But apparently, when she gave him his blood almost 20 years ago when he was recovering from silver poisoning after the Fae attack, they started fucking. But just as fuck-buddies. Until they've decided to give it a go. And so they've been dating. Two years now. And counting…

Anyway, I went to my car and I took my bag with my shampoo, creams and other stuff, from the back seat because I knew that I'd spend the night there and I'd want to shower before I'd drive Liz back home later that night. And I had just closed the house's front door when I heard his t-shirt and his zipper. I immediately ran to his bedroom upstairs. I knew that Gustav was already almost naked and… well, you know… there were things to be done.

And a little over an hour later, when Gustav told me, for the first time ever, that he loved me, even without thinking about it, I told him that I loved him to. And you know what? I did.

-x-

Sookie

Eric had decided that he'd take the next month (the whole month) off work. That is, starting the next night, he wouldn't go to the bars nor deal with any Louisiana business. For four weeks, it would be just the two of us. And so, for the last few nights he had been working overtime so he wouldn't be bothered later. And I had used that "free time" (free from Eric, that is) to spend some time with my older friends.

I had woken up a little after eight in the morning, on the previous day, and after a quick shower, I had immediately driven to Bon Temps. I went to Merlotte's and there I was able to be with most of my friends because I stayed there for a few hours, and I even had lunch there (the one and only, and forever my favorite, Lafayette Burger; Lafayette Reynolds had died almost thirty years before, but Sam's cooks still had the old recipe, and I'd always loved that sauce).

Anyway, later that day, I arrived at Gran's when it wasn't 5 pm yet. Tom, Jason's oldest son, had been living at Gran's, with his wife and his three daughters, since the youngest girl had been born, a couple of years before. But no matter what he had changed in the property, it would always be Gran's to me.

I quickly kissed the whole family, and then I left to the lawn. Tom had already left a garden-chair there for me, similar to a chaise lounge, and so, after I took Gran's old quilt from the trunk of my car, I sat in the same place where I had spent hundreds of afternoons tanning in my teenager and early twenties years. And I watched, alone, the sun-set from my favorite place in the whole world. And it was beautiful.

The season cast an orange haze above the horizon, lighting up the sky as if lit by fire, yet the haze was so crisp and clear. The sun, like a large, grandeur orange fireball in the distance was partially cloaked by the hanging clouds, which were all splashed with the random colours of hot pinks, reds and even hints of purples and blues. The sun which had had it's time to shine for the time it was given, seemed to whisper "farewell" to the world as it sunk lower and lower in a lazy manner; almost as if it never wanted to leave. And I could not stop myself from thinking how the very thing that gave warmth, life, light and happiness to so many could just as easily cause utter destruction. That fact reminded her of Eric and how just a single sun ray would burn him. However, it was still beautiful.

And a couple of hours after I had sat there, I left my garden-chair and I went inside the house. Jason (who had just become a divorcee again) and Alex (Jason's younger son) were already there, and we had a huge dinner as a family. And during that whole night, I missed Liz. She was family too, of course, and seeing Jason with his kids and grand-kids, made me miss her even more. But I knew that she was in New York with Samuel, and that they both loved to live there and their jobs. Besides, both Eric and I had spent a few days in Manhattan on the previous month, and I had talked to Liz extensively about everything. And it had taken a while, but I had finally understood that Liz, at 25 years old, was already an adult. And much more mature than I had been at her age. Jeez! I really was just a kid when I first met Bill. How I even managed to survive with my ingenuity in the middle of all those cunning vampires, was only testament to my lucky-star.

And then, after we had had our desert, I left my family and I walked the short distance to Bill's. He was already expecting me, and it was great to spend almost an hour there, with him and Thalia, talking about old times. On my way back to Gran's, I stopped at the cemetery and I spoke to the rest of my family there. And later that night, I went back to Jason's and I slept there. Now that the boys were already adults with their own houses, Jason had an extra bedroom that I used.

I spent the next morning at Tara's Togs, and I bought a very sexy outfit there. I wanted to be in my best later that night. We had lunch together and then I drove back. I arrived at Shreveport just a little after 3pm and I immediately went to my hairdresser's salon. I first had a wonderful massage, whose point was to moisturize my skin, and then I did my nails and my toes. And almost two hours later, I was finally in Immanuel's chair.

Immanuel was a young man, maybe twenty-one, and thin to the point of emaciation. His hair was dyed blue and cut in an extremely geometric way, rather as if he'd put a box on his head, knocked it sideways, then trimmed around the edges. What didn't fit inside the lines had been shaved. But no matter how he looked, he was a great hairdresser. And that was the important thing.

And after he had washed my hair, he asked me what I wanted to do that day. And I just answered him that I wanted to keep it as long as possible and just cut the split ends.

"You know what? You should cut a fringe here…" he suggested, "It's very fashionable this year. And it'll grow by next year, if you don't like to see yourself that way."

But there wouldn't be next year. Or, better yet, there would, but my hair wouldn't have grown by then. In fact, it would stay pretty much as I'd have it that exact day. And even though I might like the fringe, I wasn't willing to use it forever.

"No. Let's keep somewhat the same hairstyle, but I want a side-part instead of a center part. I think that my husband will like that."

"Are you sure? He might like the fringe too…" he said.

I smiled at the mirror and I saw the happiness in my mirrored face that I felt inside of me. And then I answered Immanuel the exactly three sentences that I would, later that night, answer Eric when he'd ask me again if I really wanted to become a vampire that night.

"I've really thought about this. I really want it. And I am absolutely sure of it," I said with as much certainty in my voice as it was possible.

And you know what? I really was. And an even-more-nervous-than-me Eric would really make me a vampire that night. And I couldn't be happier about it. And, I'm sure, he couldn't either. And the best part of all that was that we had both thought about it for a long time (20 years long time), and we had talked to everyone who mattered about it. And there were no more worries or doubts. Or, maybe, I still had one worry, in that moment. But my only fear was that Eric wouldn't love my side-part haircut. Though I was almost sure that he would at least like it, I wanted him to love my hairstyle. Because it would stay that way. Always and forever.

-x-

Elizabeth

I had never thought that I'd marry. In fact, it never meant a thing to me. Mom and dad had never actually married and they had been happy together for 25 years, whereas she had married my biological father, and they had divorced a few years later. So, no, a wedding had never been something critical for me. Not to Samuel. And so, you can't even imagine my surprise when on my 30th birthday, my boyfriend for the last 13 years asked me to marry him. And he had organized a romantic dinner, and he dropped on his knee, and he had the ring and everything else. And, somehow, he managed to make me answer him "yes". And I came to regret that answer as nothing else in my life. And why? Because it nearly ended my until-then-perfect relationship with Samuel.

Well, I had always known how people planning weddings were stressed out. I just never knew why. Not how much. But I was about to find out. And between money (though dad insisted that he wanted to pay for everything, I still tried to keep it under the same budget that I'd have if we were paying for our own wedding), time (between my job and Samuel's, we had very little free time; and then, from one moment to another, we had all our free time occupied with choosing the flowers, the food, the color of the chairs, and so on, and so on), and general expectations, Samuel and I were soon ready to pull out our hair at one point or another. And exactly two months before our wedding ceremony, I freaked out and I left my house without uttering a single word to my fiancé. Fiancé. Don't you just hate that word?

And two hours later, I was at La Gardia, catching a flight to Shreveport with a stop at Memphis International. And luckily, we landed right before sun set. And so, as soon as the taxi driver parked the car in front of my parent's driveway, I saw both mom and dad immediately showing up right next to me, with him paying the guy and taking my bag from the back seat of the car, and mom immediately hugging me and asking me what was wrong. And despite mom's cold touch (that I wasn't yet used to despite the fact that she had been a vampire for the past five years), I suddenly felt that I was finally at home and that I could let everything fall to pieces, because they'd both be there for me no matter what. And that was when I started crying.

"What happened Liz? What happened? Are you okay sweetheart?" mom asked and I felt like crying even more. I loved when she called me sweetheart; it reminded me of when I was a kid and my only worries were my toys and my friends.

I then felt dad's arms around as both and I heard his voice saying that we should go inside. And so, I walked the short driveway distance and the three of us were soon sitting on the big couch, with mom at my right and dad at my left side. And that was when mom asked again what had happened.

"It's Samuel," I mumbled.

"Did he hurt you somehow? What the hell did he do?" dad asked immediately.

"Eric!" mom reprimanded him. I had lost count of how many times I'd heard her use that tone with him. Especially regarding Samuel, though I knew that deep down, dad liked him.

"I don't want to marry him," I whispered.

"Why? Tell me Liz. What the hell did he do? I'll tear him apart if he laid one finger to you."

"Eric! Let her speak," mom said to him before she touched my face, cleaning my tears with her now always cold fingers, while asking, "What is it sweetheart? Why don't you want to marry him anymore? Has something happened? Does Samuel know that you're here?"

And despite the fact that I didn't answer her, mom saw in my mind that I had left without telling him, and so she told me to at least text him so he wouldn't be worried about me. And after I turned on my cell phone and I saw Samuel's long list of missing calls and text messages, I did text him saying that I was okay and in Shreveport, and that I'd call him later, right before I turned the phone off again.

And then we talked. And I explained to them, especially dad, how Samuel hadn't done me any wrong. It was just the whole wedding-related stress, on top of all the work stress and the eminent change in our relationship status. Samuel had been my first boyfriend. And even though he wasn't my first kiss, he was my-first pretty much everything else. More than that: he was my first and only. And we had basically grown up together as boyfriend and girlfriend. And I was obviously scared of changing that.

And that was when mom told me something that had never even crossed my mind. I mean: until that night, and up to my knowledge, mom and dad had met and they had been friends when mom was young and single, way before she had met my biological father. And I had always thought that only after mom and daddy had gotten a divorce, did Eric come into the picture. But, apparently, I was wrong.

And so mom told me how they had been together before, but that she had freaked out and had run away from him. To Tennessee. Where she eventually married to another man and had me. And despite not regretting it because I had been born because of that "detour", as she called it, she assured me that she had never stopped loving dad, and that it had hurt them both those years apart.

Wow! Who would have thought of that? I was completely thunderstruck. But then, when I asked what had ultimately freaked her out, and then I found myself even more astounded and speechless when she said that it had been after their wedding.

Ah! What?

And they kept telling me their story. They told me how dad had tricked mom to drink his blood when she was dating Bill (mom had dated Bill? Thalia's Bill? Thalia's boring-as-death Bill?), and also how they had somehow gotten over their misconceptions about each other when mom took care of dad when he was amnesiac (hah? Dad lost him memories? He was weak and he had needed a human's help? Could it be?). And they told me about being the target of bombs, and other attacks, and how they had survived all that together. And finally, they told me about their… marriage.

And apparently, it had been a simple wedding ceremony, with just one other vampire there. Well, in fact, it hadn't even been a wedding ceremony per se. Mom had been regularly dressed, as well as dad, who had been wearing a green t-shirt so bright that made him look whiter than ever, or so mom said. And they only exchanged a valuable object and some words. And that was that. Well, at least that was what they told me that night.

And then it hit me. I could do the same. Samuel and I could avoid all the wedding-stress and just marry somewhere, with just our close friends and family. It didn't have to be the big thing that we had been planning for five months. It could be a small, intimate ceremony. And ultimately, the important thing there was us. I immediately left the couch, I grabbed my phone and I called Samuel. And after a few minutes, it was decided, we'd do it simple-small-style.

And so, two months later, we found ourselves, signing the official papers at Shreveport's City Hall before my parents, his father and Pam (who used to date more than a decade before, but who were only very good friends now), uncle Jason, Joe (Samuel's brother) and his wife, and four close friends from New York (who got very grossed and a little scared when they saw dad and auntie Pam's bloodied happy tears; they had both been teasing mom that she'd cry, but she showed them and she was actually the only vampire there that didn't cry).

And later that night, when everyone left mom and dad's (we had had a dinner-party there), and I left it too with my new husband (don't you just love that word?), I heard dad telling mom how happy he was for me, and that he loved her, right before she told him the same. And Samuel and I had just entered our car when I saw my parents through the window. With the dark night outside, and the lights inside turned-on, you could see everything perfectly, just like if it was a TV. I grabbed Samuel's hand and I made him look so he'd see them as well. And that was when I heard him whispering in my ear, "I want us to dance together and look at each other just like that, with that much love, for at least the next 50 years." I turned back from my parents, who were dancing and completely focused on each other, like they were the only two people on Earth, and I answered my husband, "Always."

~ The End ~


*sniff sniff* Almost crying here.

So, this is it folks! At least, for now. I really hope you've enjoyed reading this story. And please review one last time so I can know what you thought about it. Ohh, and I'm already trying to think of a new story (what can I say? I'm addicted now!). However, I'll be taking a few weeks off before I start writing it. Anyway, thanks for reading! Take care! Célia

Jon Bon Jovi has a song called "The End" and that would be the perfect title to my last chapter. But I couldn't resist to naming this "Always", which is, without a doubt, a great Bon Jovi song. It was released as a single from their 1994 album, Cross Road, and went on to become their best selling single, with 1.5 million copies sold in the U.S. and more than 3 million worldwide (I bought one!). The music video featured actors Jack Noseworthy and Jason Wiles and actresses Carla Gugino and Keri Russell.

It starts this way: "This Romeo is bleeding / But you can't see his blood / It's nothing but some feelings / That this old dog kicked up / It's been raining since you left me / Now I'm drowning in the flood / You see I've always been a fighter / But without you I give up / I can't sing a love song / Like the way it's meant to be / Well, I guess I'm not that good anymore / But baby, that's just me / And I will love you, baby - Always / And I'll be there forever and a day - Always / I'll be there till the stars don't shine / Till the heavens burst and the words don't rhyme / And I know when I die, you'll be on my mind / And I'll love you – Always"