Epilogue: Final Goodbyes
“Um, excuse me?” a sweet voice called at the door, a brisk knock its precursor. “Hello? Is anybody home?”
“Can I help you?” the vampire opened the door curiously.
“Hi,” a beautiful creature in her mid-twenties beamed at the unsuspecting vampiress. Her blonde hair framed her face, her big blue eyes innocent and soft, “I heard you might be able to help me. My name’s Sookie Stackhouse, and I’m looking for my great aunt.”
Emily blinked in surprise at the eerily familiar face and then laughed, “Sookie Stackhouse, you say? Please, come in!”
“Emily,” Godric called from the study, already leaving it to see who was at the door, “who is it?”
“Sookie,” Emily laughed.
“Sookie? Is Eric not with her?” Godric peered around the corner and frowned at the young, living lady in his foyer.
“I heard there’s a woman named Emily Gahl here? She’s supposed to be the best of the best at finding lost people,” Sookie explained.
“That would be me,” Emily chuckled. “And you are looking for your great aunt?”
“Yeah, my Granddaddy’s sister,” Sookie nodded. “His name’s Jason Stackhouse. His sister has the same exact name as me. Sookie Stackhouse,” she explained.
“I see!” Godric laughed. “Why are you looking for her?”
Sookie bit her lip and cast her eyes down sadly, “My granddaddy had a stroke a couple of months ago,” she whispered. “He’s been unable to speak ever since, and can’t even get out of bed anymore.”
Emily frowned at the explanation and ushered the young Stackhouse into the sitting room. “So what is your desire with your great aunt?” she asked nervously.
“Well, my daddy and aunt Hadley used to tell me how much Granddaddy used to talk about his sister. How she was this really badass police officer, and how she got shot on the job and turned into a vampire. He told them how he had let his bad attitude push her away, and he never saw her again… Daddy said he knows Granddaddy really wants to apologize to his sister, but all he’s got is a P.O. box number that he doesn’t even know works anymore.”
“So you want to find your great aunt so your grandfather can apologize to her?” Godric asked.
“Well, sort of. He can’t talk or anything, but I think if I could just get her to see him, she’d just know… You know? Like, she’d see him all sick and just know he’s really, really sorry,” Sookie’s eyes began to water. “He’s the best granddaddy in the world, and he’s got this one terrible mistake he can’t take back! Doesn’t he deserve to take it back?” she sobbed helplessly.
“Shh, shh,” Emily crooned. “Don’t worry, little one. I’m certain Sookie wants that just as much as he does. It just so happens that you came to the perfect person to help you. I know exactly where your great aunt is.”
“R-really? You’re tha-that good?” Sookie hiccupped.
Emily chuckled and patted the young woman’s hand, “Well, I am, but it just so happens that your great aunt is married to my husband’s Child,” she pointed to Godric.
“Are you… Serious?” Sookie asked in surprise.
“Absolutely,” Emily nodded. “Where is your grandfather? Is he still in Louisiana?”
“He’s still in the old farmhouse he grew up in with his sister and Gran,” Sookie explained.
Godric smiled, “I will call Sookie right now and tell her to catch the first plane to Shreveport. You should do the same.”
Sookie rose and nodded, “Thank you. Oh! How much do I owe you? Even though this was an easy case, you still did what I was gonna hire you for.”
Emily laughed, “Oh, little Sookie, believe me. If our Sookie is finally going to see her brother again, you have more than paid for our services.”
“Hey, Gran,” the vampire folded her legs neatly before the headstone, having not sat before it in over fifty years. She placed a bouquet of roses before it. “It’s me, Sookie. I guess I don’t look any different than the last time I was here, but it’s been a long time. Hey! I actually remembered your flowers this time! Isn’t that a miracle? I’m sorry I pulled a Jimmy Hoffa on you, but I had to give Jason some space.”
Sookie sat like that a few minutes, talking candidly with her grandmother’s grave before rising and looking back at her Bonded bemusedly, “Sorry, it’s still so easy to talk to her.”
Eric smiled at her, “It is fine, Sookie. Do you want me to wait here with the girls while you see your brother?” he asked.
Nibbling her lip thoughtfully, Sookie asked, “Can you hang here unless you feel me pulling for you? I want some privacy, but depending on how this all goes….”
“I understand,” Eric nodded. “I will wait here for now.”
Eric watched her trek up the hill, and patted Junes’ and Mags’ heads reassuringly before looking back at Adele Stackhouse’s headstone. He wondered if Sookie had even noticed the small marker next to it.
May 24th, 1983-∞
Beloved Daughter, Granddaughter and Sister Forever~
Sookie tentatively reached out and knocked upon the door of her childhood home. There was an abrupt quiet within the house, and Sookie found herself holding her breath. Before she could lose her nerve and run back into the darkness, the door opened, and a big pair of old blue eyes were gazing at her.
“Oh my goodness! You look just like your picture!” a woman in her late seventies beamed. “Please, come in! I’m Katy Stackhouse, your sister-in-law!” she told Sookie excitedly.
Sookie found herself in a whirlwind of blue eyes and blond hair as several young adults and middle aged people flocked her.
“This is your niece Adele and her husband Mark, your nephew Corbett and his wife Tammy, your other niece Michelle and her husband Taylor. This is your great niece-”
Finding herself flooded with names and faces, Sookie found the whole thing moderately overwhelming. After discovering the Stackhouse family tree was alive and thriving, Sookie balked as she was confronted with a face very reminiscent of her own.
“And this is Sookie, Corbett’s oldest. He named her after you,” Katy beamed happily. “I guess you could say Jason was very intent on using family names.”
Nodding numbly, Sookie asked in a tentative voice, “Where is my brother?”
“Just down the hall in the master bedroom,” Katy told him. “Would you like me to take you to him?” she asked kindly.
“I-I remember the way,” Sookie choked, taking a hesitant step in the right direction.
When she arrived at her Gran’s door, no, her brother’s door, Sookie slowly opened it and looked at the old man laid out beneath layer of blankets. Weak and frail.
“H-hi, Jason,” Sookie whispered.
Dull blue eyes lulled in her direction before widening. ‘Sookie!’
“Yeah, it’s me. Your Granddaughter found some friends of mine and asked them to send for me.” Sookie came and sat beside his bed, feeling distantly and darkly familiar with the scenario. Her last times with Gran had been very much like this. “How are you feeling?”
‘Oh, you know, trapped in my own head.’ His lips quirked in an effort to smile sardonically. ‘It’s good to be heard again after the last couple months.’ His thoughts felt radically different than she remembered; many words missing, but replaced by pictures. Sookie knew it was a result of his stroke.
“You were always a big talker. This must be rough.”
‘Yeah, but it won’t be for much longer. I can feel it, y’know? Dying’s really nasty, huh?’
“It really is,” Sookie agreed, remembering her own abrupt demise.
‘Probably even shittier when your own brother says he wishes you were dead,’ he thought guiltily.
“Hey, now,” Sookie felt a tear leaking from her eye and tried to catch it before it could scar her face, “you were hurting! We both were.”
‘It’s not an excuse, Sooks.’ Jason’s head wobbled awkwardly as if he were trying to shake his head. ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t tell them to keep you from coming. I didn’t want you to see me like this. You didn’t deserve to have to see another family member like this.’
“Oh, Jason, if I’d known you were like this, I woulda come myself!” she told him earnestly.
‘I know that. You never could abandon anybody. Not really. Only reason you came as close as you did with me was cause how I treated ya.’
“No, no, that wasn’t it,” Sookie insisted. “I left you like that because… Because I didn’t want to be your freak of a sister anymore. I didn’t want to make you choose me. I-I thought that if I left you alone, really left you alone, you could finally be normal. No more vampire disappointments, no more freaky weirdo sister to explain-”
‘Sookie, you shouldn’t’ve had to do that.’ Jason’s eyes began to leak with his own tears. ‘I was the freak. I was the disappointment. I pushed and pushed. That’s why I never wrote you. You deserved to have the last word. There wasn’t nothin’ I could say that could take back what I done.’ His head wobbled again sadly. ‘The last night you and I saw each other, you were right. You did deserve so much better than me.’
“You heard that?” Sookie whispered.
‘Course I heard ya. I just figured, you were making a family like you said in your letter, and I knew you couldn’t be happy trying to make me happy. I knew that if I kept you around, I’d never be the brother you deserved, so I just let you go.’
“I’d have come running back if you’d asked.”
‘That’s no way to live,’ Jason told her. ‘Listen, since I got you here… Those people out there really want to know you. I never told them about your gift or nothin’, so don’t worry. I just want you to know, I was never the family you deserved, but they are. Of all my fuck ups and all my stupid bullshit, I did manage to do something right. Katy was amazing to me… For me. She helped me raise kids that Gran would have been proud of. My kids raised kids that Gran would be proud of too. They’re all loving, sweet people, and they’re your people, Sooks. Love them like you wanted to love me, and I promise you, they will love you right the way I was too stupid to.’
“Jason,” Sookie sobbed, “I don’t… I can’t… What are you asking me?”
‘I’m asking you to be happy, baby sis. You don’t gotta stand over their shoulders or nothin’. They’re Stackhouses. They take care of themselves just fine. Still, I just wanted you to know that they’re ready and willing to have you.’
“Thank you, Jason,” Sookie smiled down at him, “but I’m going to say goodbye to all of you tonight. I will always come running when they really need me, but I can’t be too entwined with their lives. They may accept me, they might even have loved me if I gave them the chance, but this world is full of meetings and partings… I bowed off your stage fifty-some years ago, and I just now decided to make my encore. But the show has to end. Do you really want me to be back here in another fifty years, holding another family members’ hand while they die? No,” she shook her head sadly, “you are the true end of my human life. It’s time I finally have my happily never ending.”
Another quirk of his lips signaled that Jason wanted to smile, ‘Cool, Sooks, but before you go and say your final goodbyes, I just want you to know that your brother loves you, always has, and always will. I might be dead soon, but my love is never ending too.’
“I love you, Jason. Goodbye.”
‘Goodbye, Sis. And, hey! Take those photos on my table. You’re the only one they’ll mean anything to soon.’
Glancing at the two frames on the end table, Sookie picked them up, recognizing the pictures she had sent with the deed to the farmhouse. Taking them from the frame, Sookie placed them carefully in her purse, leaned over, and kissed her brother’s damp cheek.
With that, Sookie turned out of the room and down the hallway once more. Again she was bombarded by relatives, but she gently hushed them, “It was really a pleasure to meet all of you. I’m glad to see my brother was able to keep the Stackhouse name going on strong, but I have to go.”
“But we have so much to talk about!” Adele protested.
Sookie shook her head, “No, we don’t. This was for Jason, not any of you. He and I are finally at peace, and that’s all that I can give to this family. He can pass peacefully now. I wish you all the best, but I am not your blood. I’m vampire, and that is where my blood truly is tied.”
I can’t believe she’s so selfish!
What about what we want!?
I would have liked to know you…
Well, that sucks… I wanted a vampire family member.
“Goodbye. Be well,” Sookie turned from the group and blocked their thoughts until she was safely down the hill and at the cusp of the graveyard.
“Are you alright, Sookie?” Eric asked as she immediately nestled into his side.
“Yeah,” she took in a shuddering breath, “I just had to make sure no one came looking for me again on a whim. Jason was the final cut I needed to make and finally move on. I can’t have a relationship with any of them. I can’t love them and watch them die. It would break my heart.”
“I know, Dear One.” Eric kissed the top of her head. “You were remarkably composed the entire time,” he commented.
Sookie shrugged minutely. “I wondered how long it would take me to not hurt thinking of my family. I guess fifty years was about right…”
Eric gazed down at the top of her blonde head and sighed, “You still ache.”
“Yes,” she agreed.
Herding the dogs into the rental car, Eric and Sookie made their way back to Shreveport and the airfield. It would be nice to return to Chicago and forget their abrupt visit to Bon Temps, returning to their lives once again.
“You want to get back pretty bad, huh?” Sookie murmured as she watched the speedometer breeching 80 MPH with now signs of stopping there.
“I do,” Eric answered sharply.
“Are you angry?” Sookie asked.
“You can feel me,” he pointed out.
“You are angry. I just wish I knew what about,” Sookie explained.
Eric took a hand from the steering wheel to run through his hair with agitation. “Your brother has never been a favorite of mine,” he finally admitted.
“I know,” Sookie whispered with a nod. “He made his peace, though, and I have to admit I feel better getting to say a real goodbye to him.”
“And this guilt?” Eric tested.
Another half-hearted shrug lifted the younger vampire’s shoulders. “I feel bad leaving his family like that.”
“Because you want to be near them, or you feel obligated to be near them?” Eric asked.
“Obligated,” Sookie confessed.
Eric remained silent as they drove into Shreveport, and the electro-rail immediately forced his car to slow to the allotted speed limit. Soon they were pulling up to the airport and Eric removed the dogs and their crates from the back of the SUV. When the girls were stowed away and being placed on a long bed trolley, Sookie patted the tops as she walked alongside them.
When Eric left her to go to the Anubis airline for return tickets for Chicago, Sookie crouched down and gazed at her dogs. “Well, Girls, this is it. You’re all I got left from my human years,” she murmured to them.
Mags let out a sympathetic whimper as Junes grumbled and laid down on her belly. Sookie smiled at them amusedly until Eric was back at her side.
“Our flight leaves in two hours,” he announced, handing her the ticket. “Shall we stow the girls?”
Sookie nodded and took his hand. Anubis was surprisingly accommodating about traveling with pets. Of course, Sookie noted bemusedly, she was certain Eric could have always glamoured an unsuspecting agent into allowing the dogs to fly without all the appropriate documents.
“You were very quiet the entire flight,” Eric murmured as he pushed the trolley of dogs into the parking area of O’Hare airport back in Chicago.
“I had a lot to think about,” Sookie told him, wrapping her arm around his and resting her head on his shoulder.
“Yes,” he agreed with a scowl.
“About work, Darlin’, not Jason.” Sookie nudged him playfully. “The trip was so abrupt!”
Thankfully, not too much time would be lost; not as much as a vampire her age would lose, at least. Since her consumption of honey allowed her the ability to resist the sun, Ludwig had compiled several UV tests before the final experiment of solar exposure. Though her flesh did not smolder, it did cause a severe onset of the bleeds. Sookie became incredibly weakened by direct exposure to the sun, but the couple was jubilant to find that they could wander indoors without needing more than to draw the blinds. A few automated motors later, and the Bonded pair had the entire home to use at their leisure during the daytime hours. They did find that Eric was required to drink his Mate’s blood from time to time to maintain the same immunity.
“Emily will understand.” Eric kissed the top of her head before untangling his arm from hers and going about letting the dogs out of the crates to jump into the rear of the car. Quickly he folded the carriers and slid them into the back of the vehicle. “Are you making any progress?”
Sookie shrugged, “The Chicago P.D. is being rather tight lipped, but you know that’s never been a problem for me.” She gave him an amused wink as he came and opened her door for her.
“The case is still relatively new,” Eric pointed out. “The police probably want to solve it without your help this time.”
“Oh, they solve plenty of crimes without me,” Sookie waved her hand dismissively. “Of course, they always wait so long to call me in for my consulting that it gives way too much time for the trails to go cold,” She scowled at a particularly foul memory.
Earlier that year a child had gone missing. After three weeks, the Chicago P.D. had finally asked her for assistance. Sookie had found the child’s body in a neighbor’s basement the same day she was brought in on the case. He had been dead for twelve hours at that point, and the telepath had been enraged that if they had called her in sooner, the boy could have been recovered alive.
“Calm, Dear One,” Eric took her hand and kissed it soothingly before firing the vehicle to life and programming their destination into the self-navigation system. Sookie raised her eyebrows in surprise. “What?” He laughed.
“You’re not going to drive manually?” Sookie asked, flabbergasted. Eric hated auto-drive. He had despised the technology since its inception and even considered buying out companies that worked on the tech just to shut them down.
“It is boring with the electro-rails,” Eric grumbled petulantly. “They override the car’s computer system and prevent breaking the speed limit.”
“Oh, my poor darlin’! Sookie laughed, leaned over his seat, grasped his face and kissed him out of consolation. “How about we go to the Hoosier side tomorrow night? If we skip down South a way, there’s plenty of country roads not set up for the electro-rails yet.”
Eric sighed happily. “That would be marvelous, Sookie.”
Eased by his contentment, Sookie leaned her head on his shoulder as the city zoomed by their windows.
“You gotta admit,” she began conversationally, “you don’t really need to speed when traffic isn’t piling up because of accidents.”
“True,” Eric shrugged noncommittally. After a short silence, the older vampire asked quietly, “Are you happy, Sookie?”
“What do you mean?” She frowned at the question, uncomprehending.
“With this existence. Consulting for police departments. Assisting Emily with her missing persons time to time… Are you happy?”
Smiling, she stated coyly, “You can feel me.”
“Yes,” Eric sighed. “You are happy.”
“I finally found the balance, Eric,” Sookie told him. “I get to help people and utilize my gift. I get to have my girls. Most importantly, I have you. The real creator of the balance I needed. My real Happily Never Ending.”