NOTE: This chapter picks up approximately 3 years after the previous.
Baghdad, Iraq • January 25, 2008
Pretty much, I’d been on constant deployment for so long that I’d actually slipped up and called Iraq “home” once when I’d been on the phone with Pam. Oh—it wasn’t that I wanted to stay there—not necessarily. It was just that I’d managed to keep the same room for almost a year now. And—since I didn’t have a place Stateside, that room was really the closest thing I had to “home.”
Pam, now seventeen and very particular about everything, especially fashion, didn’t understand how an undecorated tiny room could be anyone’s home. But, then again, she was used to a mansion and stables. I was proud of her; she was now competing in Equestrian events and winning pretty much any contest she entered.
In fact, according to Edward Ravenscroft, she was likely on a path to the Olympics; I couldn’t help but to think it was ironic that my father, Appius, had wanted me to be on that path, though with my swimming.
It was also ironic that Baghdad was about as far away from the water as I could get. I’d not even been in a pool for more than three years!
On my last leave, I’d gone to London and had been able to catch one of Pam’s Equestrian events. She really did look regal when she was riding a horse. And, other than the usual angst and “growing pains,” she seemed really happy, too—though she didn’t have a lot of time for her big brother. That was okay with me; I was just glad I’d had a bit of time with her.
And she had a better family now—after all. Edward Ravenscroft had married a woman named Felicia, and Pam loved her. Felicia had a daughter from a previous marriage, who was close to Pam’s age, and the two got along really well. In addition, Felicia had given Pam a brother two years before, one that would be able to stay in her life.
I had to admit that I’d had moments of jealousy. And I’d been initially quite upset when Pam told me that she’d decided to change her last name from Northman to Ravenscroft, but I didn’t let her hear my disappointment. After all, that disappointment was pretty fucking irrational of me. Pam wasn’t really a Northman—since Appius wasn’t her biological father. And her memories of both of our parents had become hazy.
At her request, we’d cut our weekly phone calls down to bimonthly. I got the feeling that even those were chores to her sometimes. Oh—I knew that she loved me, but she really did have a different life than the one we’d shared in California. She even spoke with a British accent now, having developed it over time. Truth be told, I think that Edward was the one who made sure that Pam kept me as a part of her life. Every time I had leave, in fact, he made sure to let me know that I was welcome for a visit. And Pam and I did have some fun times together during those visits, too. But she was growing up—almost grown up—and I often wondered how long she’d really have room for a brother she hardly ever saw. Still, I knew I’d keep up the communication on my end for as long as possible.
I had so few people in my life that I refused to give up one of them.
To be truthful—I actually did have a lot of people in my life—a lot of people I was responsible for. But most of them were under my command. I’d somehow made Captain, thanks mostly to my willingness to stay in Iraq past the time when my Platoon was sent home. In fact, the Marines had made Baghdad my official duty station, and I worked to train each new Platoon that arrived in-country. In addition, I helped to oversee the training of Iraqi soldiers so that—theoretically—the Coalition forces would be able to completely withdraw and leave the Iraqis to govern themselves sooner rather than later.
Of course, I knew that would be easier said than done. There was still a lot of unrest in the area as various groups tried to fill the power vacuums left behind by years of dictatorship followed by years of conflict. Regardless, I liked my current position, and I excelled in it—thus the promotion.
I looked at my wall, which was now full of colorings and drawings from Jase, to whom I still wrote twice a month and phoned once a week (when possible). He was doing really well in school. At eight, he already had a huge vocabulary, and his writing was quite advanced. Since he tended to write notes on the pictures his sent, I could easily see how his handwriting was changing as quickly as he was growing.
Being his uncle truly was the most important role I’d ever been given. And I appreciated Sookie for never taking away that connection, despite the fact that she’d moved on to have a serious relationship with another man, a contractor named Alcide Herveaux. I rarely spoke with Sookie, though she wrote me an occasional note included with one of Jase’s letters, usually just telling me to be safe. From speaking with Jase, however, I knew that he was beginning to see Alcide as his new father figure.
In my more selfish moments, that thought troubled me, for I wondered how long it would be before Jase realized that—with a “new dad” around all the time with whom to do more tangible things than talk on the phone or exchange letters—he no longer needed an “Uncle Eric.”
As with Pam, though, I had determined to take advantage of whatever connection I could get with Jase.
For as long as I could get it.
I guess a big part of me really did believe that I was just destined to lose those whom I loved. And I found myself wondering if there would ever be more for me.
Since Bill’s death, I had been seeing a psychologist who’d been stationed in Baghdad. Mainly, he helped soldiers to deal with milder forms of PTSD. And I know I dealt with that too; indeed, I often woke up from nightmares in which I was trying to put Bill back together again so that his family could open the fucking casket at his funeral! I never succeeded.
Nightmares about Rasul had been added as well. He’d been seriously injured in Afghanistan—two tours ago. I’d been happy to be serving with him again—as I’d not served with anyone from my old Platoon for a long time. But then we’d gotten the assignment to clear a particularly complex cave system. He’d lost one of his legs and had spent a long time at Walter Reed. I closed my eyes, trying to shut out the image of him bleeding out from a land mine explosion. I was using anything I could to make tourniquets to slow down the bleeding while we waited for helicopter evac. And—when he stopped breathing—I gave him CPR. My C.O. later told me that I’d saved his life. But I knew that any Marine would have done what I did for his brother.
So—yes—there was plenty to fuel my nightmares.
In addition to my mild PTSD, I also found myself dealing more and more with issues of abandonment—issues I’m sure I first developed as a child. It wasn’t even so much my parents’ deaths that had screwed me up either. It was that they’d never seemed to love me at all. It was losing my sister. And it was losing Bill.
It was the fear of losing Pam yet again—and irrevocably. It was the fear of Jase no longer wanting me in his life.
In therapy, I’d learned that a lot of my insecurities stemmed from my knowledge that my parents left me to no one when they died.
Knowing that I was saved from an orphanage only because I’d turned eighteen only days before my parents’ death—because there was literally no one in the whole fucking world who would have wanted me—had fucked me up. And, of course, it was hard for me to trust anyone because I knew that a simple letter could yank a person away—just as the letter my mother had left for me took Pam away.
A letter could, ironically, give me a lot too—as Bill’s letter had “given” me Jase in a way.
And a letter could offer a lot of comfort too—as did Jase’s letters to me. He didn’t write twice a month, as I did, but I could count on a new letter at least once every other month. The phone calls were made once a week though, and—as it was Saturday at the “usual time”—I set up my computer for Skyping.
“Hi, Uncle Eric!” Jase said excitedly as soon as the call connected.
“Hey, big man,” I smiled. “What’s been happening this week?” I asked. It was my usual opening, and Jase generally took the question and ran with it.
That day was no exception. His biggest topics related to a fishing trip he’d taken with Alcide and Alcide’s dad Jackson, his cats’ antics, and Jessica’s attempt to kiss him—with her “cooties on her mouth and everything!”
He’d outrun her, apparently. And she’d promised not to try it again.
As usual, I let him do most of the talking, only asking questions to get more details about his life. Plus, I figured Jase would like getting asked questions; they showed him that I was really listening—really valuing what he had to say.
My own father had not been an emotionally available person. But I remembered vividly one occasion when he actually asked me about things I liked. And he seemed to do so sincerely. As I looked back, I couldn’t recall getting any real outward affection from my father, but that one conversation—I’d been about twelve when we’d had it—was the best memory I had of Appius Livius Ocella-Northman. Sadly, nothing had really come out of it. By the time I was twelve, it had been drilled and beaten into me that my priorities were swimming and studying. Everything else was superfluous and punishable. So I’d had nothing to tell my father about what I liked, other than liking when I met my swimming goals and that I hoped to teach Pam how to swim one day.
Despite not having much to tell my father, I had longed for more such talks, but they’d never occurred, nor would they now. It made my heart ache to know that Jase wouldn’t get to have that kind of thing with his daddy—not even once. So I tried my best to help him know that someone was listening.
Eventually, Jase asked me how my own week had been.
I always told him child-appropriate versions of the things I’d done—focusing on little tidbits about the training I was helping to conduct or the language that I was learning. Though Jase had never met Pam, of course, I would also share stories about what she’d been up to since I really didn’t have much of a personal life of my own.
And, finally, I would always tell him a story about his father. Often, I would spend the entire week thinking of the perfect one to relay.
Jase was just getting ready to end the call when he seemed to remember something.
“Hey, Uncle Eric! Momma said that she wanted to talk to you real quick.”
“Oh—uh—sure, Jase,” I said, a little surprised. Sookie rarely appeared during Jase and my phone calls. She did so right when we were first beginning to Skype, so that she could make sure all the technical things were working right. And she would sometimes “pop by” around holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas to wish me well. She and Jase still sent me a birthday card as well.
I always enjoyed seeing her. But it was a surprise when she sat down a couple of minutes later with Jase not in sight.
“Hello Lieutenant Northman,” she greeted with a courteous smile.
“It’s Captain now, Ma’am,” I said with a little nod of my head.
“Congratulations,” she said, her smile widening until there were little crinkles next to her eyes. Having studied facial expressions so that I’d be a better interrogator when called upon, I’d learned that those crinkles meant that she was truly happy for me.
“Thank you,” I smiled back.
She was silent for a moment, her smile fading as she looked at me more closely than I think she ever had before. Though as beautiful as always, she looked apprehensive and sad. I couldn’t help but to wonder if seeing me reminded her of the husband she’d lost.
I felt my worry growing as she still didn’t speak.
“Jase said you needed to speak with me, Ma’am?” I prompted.
“Yeah,” she sighed. “I—uh—well, I’ve become engaged.”
I smiled and nodded. “Congratulations, Ma’am. Jase likes Mr. Herveaux very much. I hope you and he will be very happy together.”
“That’s nice of you to say. Moving on—after Bill—well, it’s been hard. I hope you don’t think this means I love Bill any less,” she stammered a little.
“Of course not,” I assured. “He would have wanted you to be happy.”
“I am,” she said, her face conveying that happiness for a moment. “Alcide’s a good man—stable and kind. And he thinks the world of Jase. He knows he can’t replace Bill in his life, but—uh—he does want Jase to—uh—count on him for things. To come to him with his issues. And—uh . . . .” Her voice caught a bit. “I feel horrible for doing this,” she said almost to herself, looking down. “I mean—you’re the reason why Jase had an easier time after Bill died,” she added softly, “but—uh . . . .” This time, when her voice caught, she stopped talking.
I hated seeing her so unsure of herself—so sad when moments earlier her happiness had been shining through.
Bill had asked me to help her with whatever she needed. So I would help her get through what she was doing, and then I’d let myself feel the pain of it.
“Ma’am, do you need me to back off of my contact, or stop altogether? I would prefer not doing the latter—since it might hurt Jase. But I understand that you need for Mr. Herveaux to step into the father role,” I said, not being able to prevent the emotion of loss seeping into my tone just a little.
“I can’t help but to think it’s not fair to ask you to do either, but Alcide really wants Jase to look at him like he’s a,” she paused, “dad. And right now, that’s how Jase looks at you.”
“Jase is a good kid. He deserves a good dad, and I’m sure Mr. Herveaux will be one.”
Sookie shook her head. “I really can’t thank you enough for understanding. If it were up to just me, I’d let things go on as they are. But Alcide doesn’t want things to get weird—like a competition between you two. And I don’t want Jase to get confused.”
“Understood, Ma’am,” I said assuredly. “Just let me know what you need and the logistics.” I paused for a moment. “I’ll need to know how often I can write to him and/or call him. If at all, Ma’am.”
“I don’t think it’d be good for either of you to cut ties completely; I’m not sayin’ that,” Sookie declared quickly. “Jase is going to his grandparents’ house in Annapolis for a couple of weeks, and that might be a good reason for y’all not to Skype then. I don’t want Jase to feel like you’ve abandoned him or anything, but maybe try to taper off until you are Skyping only once a month or so? And—maybe do the same with the letters? I told Alcide I thought that a little less over time would be best, and he’s agreed with that. And—uh—I know you won’t mention the ‘why’ of things.”
“No, Ma’am,” I assured. “Mr. Herveaux’s request is only natural, and I wouldn’t want Jase being upset with him at all. I’ll tell Jase that my duties have increased.” I tried to give her a reassuring smile. “They have since I’ve been promoted, after all.”
Sookie looked at me, her eyes showing both concern and pity.
“Ma’am, I’ll start cutting back a little at a time until everyone’s comfortable with the situation.”
“What about you?” Sookie asked, her eyes brimming with what must have been tears.
I didn’t want to see her cry.
I answered honestly, though I was hoping to make her feel better with my words. “I began to contact Jase because Bill asked it of me. However, despite that obligation and duty to Bill, I really do love your son as if he were my true nephew. I want what’s best for him. And it has been an honor to be a part of his life—his uncle. As I understand your and Mr. Herveaux’s wishes, Ma’am, I will get to retain that role, which I am extremely grateful for. However, Mr. Herveaux is right. Jase will no longer need for me to have such a prominent place in his world since he’ll have a father-figure with him all the time. That will be better for Jase anyway—since letters and Skyping are the only things I can give. I just hope it’s made a difference for Jase.”
“It has,” Sookie assured. “And I know that—because of you—he’s been able to deal with a lot of his grief about Bill. You’ve also helped him with a lot of little things too. He’s a good kid, Captain Northman, and some of what made him that way was talking things out with you. I’m sorry that’s got to change.”
“Don’t be sorry that you’ve found happiness, Ma’am. It’ll make Jase happier too,” I said confidently. After all, I did believe my words. As much as they pained me, I knew they were true.
“I still feel really bad about all this,” Sookie apologized.
“Don’t feel bad,” I said, mustering a little smile. “It’s never been a burden for me to be involved in Jase’s life, and I appreciate the opportunity to continue, even if it is in a smaller role.”
Just then, the door opened and Jase poked his head in. “You done, Momma? Gran says we need to get goin’ if we’re gonna get to Merlotte’s in time to meet Alcide at noon.”
“Yeah, baby. I’ll be right there,” she said, looking back at me.
“Goodbye, Captain Northman. Stay safe—okay?” she said.
“Goodbye, Ma’am,” I returned before hanging up the call.
I logged out of Skype and was glad that I’d invested in my own computer so that I could spend the next few moments in private. I got up and opened my window. It was a nice night, and—since the day had been so damned hot—everyone else was outside enjoying a bit of desert breeze. I could hear many of the men playing soccer. It sounded like they were having a good game.
I sat down heavily onto my rack and looked at the wall that boasted the only tangible signs that I had any family.
In truth, I’d always expected this kind of thing to happen. Sookie was young, after all. And no man would want to compete with her dead husband’s best friend when it came to being Jase’s father-figure.
I took out my phone and sent a quick text to the psychologist I’d been seeing. I knew I’d need an appointment before expected.
Going once more to my window, I watched the men and women in my Company playing. When Bill was alive, I would have joined in. Even after his death, I’d done similar things occasionally—when my old Platoon was still in Iraq. But—I didn’t really know any of the men and women I served with on a personal level anymore. When there had been more troops stationed in Iraq, there would have been opportunities to meet up with others of my rank. But there was now only one Company where I was located, and I was its only Captain. That separated me from the others already.
And, of course, I held them all at arm’s length, too.
I lay back on my rack, knowing that I needed to get some sleep while I could. It would be a long day of training the next day, and it would start at 0400. And—to protect those in my command as well as the Iraqis I worked with—I needed to be at my best.
Despite the huge lump I felt in my chest.
Being whatever I’d been to Jase for so long had been extremely important to me. My shrink had warned that allowing myself to “play a father’s role” with Jase could come back to bite me. Like me, he’d also worried that I might be taken out of that role at any time.
Still, it had been worth it.
Three Hours Later
“I can’t help but to feel bad, Alcide,” I sighed, even as he took me in his arms.
“I know. And I feel bad that you did it for me,” he returned.
“You have every right not to want to compete with Captain Northman,” I said. “It’s just a tough situation all the way around. Jase loves the captain. But he loves you, too,” I said, smiling up at him. “Bill died when Jase was so young that his memories of him are now mostly from things Captain Northman’s told him.”
“And you’re stuck between wanting to make sure that Jase knows about his father and wanting him to have a new one,” Alcide said perceptively.
His perceptiveness was one of the many reasons I loved him.
I’d met Alcide only a few months after Bill had died. The roof had started leaking—on a Friday night no less! I’d gotten Alcide’s dad’s name from my father-in-law, William, ironically enough. Of course, nothing had happened with Alcide for a long time. I’d been beaten up about Bill—mourning him at night when Jase was asleep and I didn’t have to be so strong.
Herveaux and Son Contracting Company—with Alcide leading the team—had fixed the roof quickly. In truth, I hadn’t even been in the frame of mind to notice how attractive Alcide was at the time.
It wasn’t until a pipe burst in the upstairs bathroom a year later that I noticed. And boy did I notice! It was as if he had turned back on my heart—and my smile.
In a lot of ways, Alcide was my first “grown-up” relationship. Bill and I got together when we were quite young. We dreamed together, and we did live together as grown-ups for a while, but—with Bill being gone so often—it wasn’t the same as a “normal” couple. For example, I had always hidden some of the harder parts of life from Bill so that he didn’t have to worry while he was deployed. And—when he was home—the last thing I wanted to do was have a disagreement over something like the toilet seat being left up!
On the other hand, Alcide and I disagreed often, but not seriously. He made me feel safe and secure. And I knew he loved me. I loved him too—differently from Bill, to be sure, but it was love. In fact, my love for Alcide was more honest in some ways than my love for Bill had been.
I’d been surprised to realize that I could love two men at once on the day that I knew for certain that I loved Alcide and still loved Bill. But I’d gotten used to the feeling.
I guess Gran was right—as she was about so many things—about a heart always having room to love just one more person.
And Alcide was ready, willing, and excited to be Jase’s father. He was great with him, in fact! Of course, things were complicated a bit by the fact that Alcide couldn’t father children of his own, due to an accident he’d had as a child. I’d worried for a time that Alcide was so interested in me because he saw the situation as an opportunity to be a father.
Gran had been the one to set me straight about that insecurity. She’d told me that—given Alcide’s situation—he really was perfect for both me and Jase. She advised that his situation was actually a sign that he and I were meant to be together. Alcide would always appreciate Jase in a profound way. But that didn’t mean he didn’t love me. Jase and I were both lucky to have found him.
Of course, Jase had found a father-figure in Eric Northman long before I began dating Alcide. In truth, I’d been quite surprised when Lieutenant—I mean, Captain—Northman turned out to be so solid and dependable a presence in Jase’s life. In fact, though I’d never shared the thought out loud with anyone, Eric Northman had been a better communicator with Jase than Bill had ever been when he’d been deployed.
Eric’s letters came like clockwork, always thoughtfully written and seemingly just what Jase needed at any given time. At first, Jase had needed me to read them to him, but—after a while—Jase had pushed himself with his own reading skills, just so that he’d be able to read the letters himself.
Who was I to complain that an added bonus of Captain Northman’s contact was that my son dove headfirst into his schooling, outpacing his class members by leaps and bounds without any prodding from me?
Not long after I’d offered the captain my formal permission to contact Jase, he’d begun Skyping him, too—once a week, again like clockwork, unless he was on a mission of some kind. I mostly left them to what my son called “man talk,” but I’d heard them from time to time.
I knew, for example, that Captain Northman had been the one to encourage Jase not to complain about doing his chores when Jase had had one of his little “rebellions” about cleaning out the litter box. And Captain Northman had talked to my son in a crafty way too; he’d asked Jase to make a list of all the chores that I had and then to compare them to the list of chores that I’d asked for him to perform.
And then Captain had helped Jase to add things to my list, too. After that conversation, my little man rarely complained about raking leaves, drying dishes, or scooping out the litter box again.
On another occasion, Jase had been having trouble tying a special kind of knot for Boy Scouts. However—by the time a Skype session with Captain Northman was over—Jase had been an expert.
In so many ways, I’d counted on Captain Northman as almost a co-parent at times. And now I felt like I was dismissing him for an in-the-flesh man. No—it didn’t seem fair, but looking at Alcide as he concentrated on fixing a hinge that was damaged in a cabinet in the shed, I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to Alcide if Captain Northman remained such a dominant presence in Jase’s life. And it wouldn’t be fair to Jase either. Already, Jase seemed to be struggling with guilt over the fact that he was beginning to love Alcide like he loved Captain Northman. And I knew that guilt would grow stronger once Jase began to love Alcide more than Captain Northman, which I figured would inevitably happen. After all, Alcide was around all the time and could take Jase fishing or to the water park. He could throw a ball around with Jase.
Alcide finished up his task. “You know I’m jealous as hell of what Northman has with Jase. For all intents and purposes, he’s Jase’s father, which is a role I want,” he admitted with a sigh. “But you know I’m willing to keep things going like they are—right? In the end, I just want what’s best for Jase.”
I shook my head. “I know. But you were right about it being wrong to put Jase in a position where he’ll be torn between you and Captain Northman. Did you know that he felt the need to hold back about how much fun he had with you at the football game—just because Captain Northman couldn’t go?” I sighed loudly. “I’ll never make Jase cut ties with the captain. After all, it’s what Bill wanted, and Captain Northman will make sure that Jase really gets to know about his father, but lowering the amount of contact will help Jase to not get confused.”
Alcide nodded in agreement. “I feel sorry for Northman,” he said. “From what I can see, he loves Jase.”
“That’s why I feel like crap,” I grumbled.
“Maybe this way, Northman will be more likely to start a family of his own?” Alcide suggested.
“I really hope so,” I said sincerely. “Of course, it seems like the captain might be one of those guys that’s really married to the Marine Corps.”
“It does seem like it—given the fact that he’s never left Iraq—not in all the time we’ve been together, at least.”
I shrugged. “I think he has left—to visit his sister in England. But I do know that he’s gone straight from one tour to the next, hardly ever taking leave. It’s kind of sad that he doesn’t have a life beyond the military,” I added.
“He doesn’t know what he’s missing,” Alcide smile softly before bending down to kiss me. It was a sweet kiss with just the right amount of passion promised in it.
When we broke apart, I turned the topic to Jase’s reaction to Alcide and me getting engaged.
“I’m so glad Jase is so into us getting married,” I grinned.
“Me too,” Alcide returned. “And I’m really happy he’s excited to be a groomsman.”
“It was sweet of you to ask him that,” I commented, rubbing his shoulder a bit.
“It’s what I wanted,” Alcide said sincerely.
As it was, Jase would be walking me down the aisle and then standing next to Alcide’s best man during the service. I thought the arrangement was perfect for us. And I was glad that we weren’t waiting long either.
I’d also been glad to have William and Sophie-Anne’s support. They were both happy for me, and they continued to be a big presence in Jase’s life, even traveling from Annapolis to Bon Temps every few months just to see him. This year would be the first that he would be spending several weeks without me in Maryland, and Jase was looking forward to having “just grandparents time” very much.
I’d been to Maryland only three times since Bill’s funeral; Jase and I had gone for about a week at a time so that he’d get plenty of time with the Comptons. Jase and I would always go to Bill’s grave to put flowers on it. And we’d also done a lot of sightseeing in Washington, D.C.—mostly with just Sophie-Anne since William was always working.
“What are you thinking?” Alcide asked when he noted the faraway look on my face.
“Just about William and Sophie-Anne—and how nice our phone call was. I was a little nervous telling them about our getting married, but they’re bein’ so supportive. Did I tell you that they really want to be here for it?”
“No,” Alcide smiled, “but I’m not surprised. They treated me like family almost as soon as they met me a few months ago. It was,” he paused, “unexpected. They could have resented me for stepping in to their son’s life.”
I sighed. “They know I’ll always love Bill. Nothing could replace him. I’m thankful you never felt the need to try.”
Alcide nodded and took me into his comforting arms. “I knew I couldn’t—even if I wanted to.”
As I nestled against Alcide’s strong frame, I found myself once again thinking of Captain Northman. Wasn’t I replacing him with Alcide—at least where Jase was concerned? Again, I felt immense guilt, but I didn’t know what to do about it—except to put one foot in front of the next.
Just as I’d done every day since Bill had been killed.
A/N: So—there was a 3-year time leap, and Sookie’s found a new love. I hope you all aren’t too mad at Sookie for her request to limit Eric and Jase’s contact to keep her son from being torn. I tried to put myself in her shoes. I also tried to put myself into Alcide’s shoes—already having to “compete” with the memory of Jase’s father and also this idealized solider whom Jase admires so much. Yeah—I imagine this would be a hard situation all the way around. Still—the character I found most empathy with as I wrote was Eric, and my heart was still breaking for him at this time. This story is going to have these long time leaps occasionally. For one, the narrative needs to advance. Also, there are things that I didn’t really feel the need to linger on for long—like Alcide and Sookie’s courtship or Eric’s continuous string of deployments. By the way, I don’t fault Sookie in the least for moving on. And Eric isn’t an immediate factor in her life at this time, so it’s not like he’s a viable choice for her. Alcide likely seems like a good partner for her. Of course, eventually this will be an E/S story. And there will be another time leap in the next chapter to get us closer to that occurrence. Anyway, thank you all so much for your support and comments on this story. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by all the positive reactions!
Please keep them coming if you have the time and inclination to do so.