These characters belong to Charlaine Harris, except for Robert. He's mine.

Thank you ashmo2000 for convincing me there was a little more of this story to tell. You were right. This epilogue is one of my favorite chapters.

My deepest gratitude to my beta BonTempsCutie. Thank you. Any remaining mistakes are mine.

Dedicated to all the lovers on Valentine's Day.


Epilogue

Sookie turned the page, taking care the book didn't fall apart in her hands. Twenty five years of working with Eric's artifacts had taught her to use a light touch. She reached down and pulled the thin piece of plastic out from between the pages of the album. Her first Merlotte's name tag. Age had faded the green plastic to a dull almost-gray, and the pin had broken off. All so long ago, she thought as she opened the binding wider to look at the pictures.

Jason had taken her picture with Sam on her first day of work. She barely remembered what it was like working there, so much had changed since then. Sookie ran her finger across the nametag on the picture, the same one she held in her hand. Merlotte's. She hadn't thought of that place or Sam in years. At one time in her life, she'd thought she'd still be working there, but she had given Eric a second chance, and he'd kept every promise to her. Their years together had been happy ones. So many nights spent laughing and talking and working together. A smile crossed her lips.

Strong arms reached around from behind her, snuggling her into his embrace. She felt his fangs tracing a path starting just behind her ear, teasing all the places that made her shiver with delight. When he soothed the skin with his tongue, she clutched his arms. "Eric—"

"What are you doing out here lover?" He playfully nipped her throat. "What is that you're looking at?"

"An old photo album. I found a few boxes in the back of the closet from when I moved here from Bon Temps. I'd forgotten I had them."

He raised his eyebrows at her. Without a sound and making it look effortless, Eric vaulted over the back of the couch into the seat next to her, making her giggle. "You're really nothing but a big kid, aren't you?"

"Of course, lover, it's why you've stayed with me all these years. Now let's see these pictures." He took one look at the page. "Ah, the shifter. I did enjoy scaring the patrons of his bar from time to time. Whatever happened to him? I've forgotten." He nuzzled her neck again, coaxing that warm feeling she had inside into something more. It took her a few minutes to answer.

"The restaurant burned down while you were in Oklahoma. He never recovered from that, and he left Bon Temps. Someone said he moved to Florida, but I never heard from him again." No way was she telling him Sam wanted her to go with him.

"The shifter wanted you."

Sookie sighed. She found out long ago that she didn't have to tell him things. He could read her through the bond as easily as she could read humans. And she could feel him too. When she finally accepted that special connection between them after they re-bonded, it became a comfort to her. She reached up and cupped his cheek. "That may be true, but I chose you." The lips he brought to hers still made her toes curl. They paused at a picture of a young Jason in front of Merlotte's.

Eric pushed Sookie's hair back over her shoulder. "You haven't seen your brother for some time," he said, his tone careful and quiet.

"No, I haven't." Jason could never understand why she forgave Eric for marrying Freyda, but she suspected their falling out was really about the fact she had been gifted with the essential spark, instead of him. They kept their distance and over the years, they'd drifted apart as siblings often do, seeing each other only on holidays or special events.

"We can go to Bon Temps for a visit if you would like. Our twenty-fifth anniversary is in a few weeks. We could go to that restaurant you like between Shreveport and Bon Temps. I could stop in and check on Pam and Robert while you visit with your brother."

"I do miss seeing my niece and nephew, and Jason. The kids are grown up now, and it would be nice to see what he's done with Gran's house. Maybe I could spend the day and you could pick me up after sunset for dinner."

"Splendid plan. Let me know what day so I can make reservations. The silver may present somewhat of a challenge, but I'm up for it. Twenty five years of marriage is a momentous occasion, is it not?"

She pushed back an errant strand of hair that had fallen across his brow, smiled and looked up at him. "Every night is a momentous occasion with you, Eric."

He ran his thumb across her bottom lip and followed with a brush of his lips. "Careful Sookie, I might think you are buttering me up for something," he said as he turned his attention back to the next page of the photo album. "Now there's someone I should have done more than just scare."

Eric pointed to a faded picture of Arlene and her two children, Coby and Lisa. The two toddlers held onto Arlene's legs as she posed between Merlotte's and Sam's trailer. Back then, Sookie had been her friend, but that was before the existence of vampires, shifters and fairies conflicted with Arlene's religious viewpoint.

"You'll find this amusing. Tara told me Coby is dating a shifter and works at the Casino."

Eric shook his head. "Perfect. Just desserts, as they say."

"Yes and no one knows what happened to Lisa after she had a falling out with her mother. As for Arlene, I don't care where she is or what she is doing as long as she leaves us alone."

"I'd be hard pressed to control my anger around her, lover, should she return to this area."

Sookie couldn't blame Eric for feeling the way he did, and she might just turn her head if Eric and Arlene were to meet on a dark road some night. But all that happened so long ago, it was hard to bring up the anger over it.

"I heard Tara's daughter turned Tara's Togs into a trendy little coffee shop, and her son enlisted in the armed forces. I don't remember what branch."

"And Tara is all right with this? Her son going off to war?"

"She didn't really have a choice. I don't think she liked it, no mother would."

Eric's eyes watched Sookie. After all their years together, Sookie had never brought up children and neither had he. What was the point? But he often wondered if she had any regrets. He did. It was the one thing he regretted about being a vampire. It was the one thing he could never give her, and she could never give him. The thought of Sookie, heavy with his child filled him with a touch of sadness.

"What are you thinking about Eric? I'm feeling the strangest sensation from you. What's wrong?"

"I wish I could have given you children, Sookie."

Her heart fluttered when she looked up and saw Eric's red-rimmed eyes. Now she knew what she had felt from him. Regret. "Stop that Eric." She took his hand. "You would have been a wonderful father, if you weren't a vampire and all," she said with a broad smile, in a poor attempt to lighten things up. "We both agreed there would be no regrets when I moved in here. I knew what you would give me when I decided to stay with you. I don't regret that decision, not one bit. So stop worrying. Besides, we may not have children together, but we do have a family. We have each other. And there's Hunter. He adores you, and you love him. And don't forget Pam and Robert." Sookie stopped for a moment, a wicked thought forming in her head. "I could ask Pam to call me Mom. Would you like that?" She winked at him.

His laughter made her smile. She loved it when he was happy. The bond flooded with joy.

"That, I would like to see, lover." Eric leaned down and kissed her lips, sending desire rippling across their connection. The soft, sweet kiss had her closing the photo album in her lap. Sookie wrapped her arms around his neck and he pulled her onto his lap, tossing the book of old memories on the end table next to him. She worked the buttons of his shirt as their kiss deepened.

"Hunter is coming for the weekend," she said.

"And—"

"You'll be playing chess all weekend." She couldn't stop the moan that formed in her throat as she ran her hand across his cool, flawless skin. He still had the body of a twenty five year old, and she planned to enjoy every single thing he could do with it. His fangs, so big and sharp, looked both scary and exciting, and his blue eyes so dark, she trembled with need.

"Hunter told me an interesting story the last time he was here," Eric said as he unbuttoned her blouse.

"Oh, is that why you lost to him?" She brushed a kiss across his lips.

"That teasing will get you in trouble, Sookie," he said as her hand dipped lower. She bit her bottom lip to keep from smiling when she felt him buck in her hand.

"Sorry, you know I can't resist your gracious plenty, my darling." She stroked him through his jeans, feeling her own heat rising with every reaction. "Are you going to tell me what Hunter said? I promise to be good and stop teasing."

"Hmm, I'm not sure I like that part about stopping." She touched him again. "He told me you gave him the cluviel dor."

Sookie stopped, leaning away from him so she could see his face. "I did, after I used it to save Sam. I didn't see the harm of it. Why?"

"He told me he made a wish and it glowed for him, just like it did for you."

Sookie shook her head. "Are you sure? He's mistaken, it could only be used once. Did he say what did he wished for?"

"Yes, but that he needs to tell you. Ask him about it this weekend."

"Okay. But now you've got my interest. Maybe I could...tease it out of you?" She stretched her neck just the way he liked it. From his growl, they weren't going to be talking about Hunter much longer. He stood up and flung Sookie over his shoulder, ignoring her giggling protests as he took her to bed.

Later, the full moon shone into their bedroom through her skylight as Eric healed the marks of their passion. She had lost track of how many times he had used his fangs on her. This was her favorite part of their afterglow—the magic touch of his hands and their commingled blood. She stroked the spot on his shoulder where she had bit him, more than once. There weren't any marks, but her fingers were drawn there as he soothed her.

"I enjoyed that very much, Sookie," he purred into her ear. "You've gotten very skilled at teasing."

"Why thank you, Eric. I was thinking...look at the moon out there. Take me flying tonight? We haven't done that in years."

"I don't know what's gotten into you, but I like it." He swung his legs off the bed. "Dress warm."

"Can I ask you something?"

"Anything. You know that."

"Why do you need to see Pam and Robert?" Her face tightened. It was the one fear she always had, that somehow he would be punished for de Castro. The thought of that made her heart squeeze in her chest.

His fingers touched her cheek. "Nothing is wrong. Pam wants to ask my permission to make a child of her own. Or maybe it's Robert that wants permission. You know those two. They want to talk to me. Evidently they've found a third for their menage."

"Ok, that's too-much-information. To be honest, I never thought they would last this long, but I'm glad for them. I'm glad you turned Robert." She became serious again. "It's just that you know I worry that you're going to get sucked back into that life, even now, twenty five years after you've been out of it." Sookie sat up and wrapped her arms around her bent knees. "Is it safe for you to go to Shreveport?"

"Oh, I won't be meeting with Pam in Shreveport. We'll meet at Cataliades' offices in Bon Temps."

"And where is that?" Twenty five years ago he had used Bill's place but that was only temporary, or so the demon lawyer had told her.

A smirk crossed Eric's face before he smoothed it into a smile. "Compton's place. He sold the place to the demon. Our Regent is quite busy in New Orleans, and I'm sure Bon Temps is too pedestrian for him. Not only that, but it turns out that as a condition to be Regent of Louisiana, Bill had to agree to cut all ties with Bon Temps, the penalty being the business end of a stake if he returned or uttered a certain Viking's name."

"Twenty five years and I'm just hearing about this now." Sookie rolled her eyes at him.

"As for Cataliades, there are some that say he watches over the fairy portal in your woods." He sat down on the bed beside her. "I will be safe, Sookie. I promise you. Now enough of this talk." He tossed her clothes to her. "We only have two hours until sunrise, and I'll want to ravish you at least once, maybe twice when we get back."

Sookie jumped out of bed, grabbed the clothes and walked to the bathroom. "Meet you at the front door in a few minutes, okay?

She dressed in layers and added a third warm sweater over that. Her eyes opened wide when she saw what he wore as he waited for her at the door.

"Where did you find that?"

He stalked around, showing off the long, black cape lined in purple silk. It was a cape fit for a King. "You like?"

"It's gorgeous, and it looks familiar. Where have I seen it?"

"It's the cape I wore to all my Dracula night parties. I thought since we were walking down memory lane, you would find this humorous."

She walked around him, checking him out as he watched her. "Humorous and sexy." She took his hand. "We better get out there, or we aren't going to make it out of this house."

He snatched her off her feet and before she knew it, she was flying in his arms in the light of the full moon.