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Friday, November 9, 2012

Chapter 47 ~ Jason's Turn

Sookie's knees buckled. She found herself hauled up against Eric's side as he supported her with his arm around her waist. This could not be. This could not happen! No. NO. NO! Bile corrosively backwashed into her throat; lancing pain shot through her heart. She mentally reeled backward.
 
She was afraid to watch. Afraid not to watch.
She looked on in utter devastation as he brother, her vampire brother, walked past her and Eric, and knelt before Sophie-Anne. The queen's eyes were hard with a reptilian cast as she smiled down at her new child. Tears began pouring down Sookie's cheeks as she saw her brother kiss the queen's outstretched hand. She heard a sob, fragile and quavering, and dimly realized it was her own.

She moaned, "J … Jason …."

Eric's fangs descended as he heard Han and Ivan's slide out behind him. All three men were fighting off the call to battle as best they could. Eric could feel Sookie's all consuming horror, her soundless pain and unmeasured loss, threatening to overtake him and unleash his beast. The darkness in him was clawing to get out. This was a direct assault on his bonded! Sophie-Anne had known she couldn't attack him outright and had used Sookie to hurt him. He would not tolerate it!

Sophie-Anne was finally starting to have fun. As Jason moved to stand on her right, Andre reclaimed his position on her left. She giggled, "Isn't my new child just the prettiest thing you've ever seen? I've spent the past two weeks bonding him to me during our own little getaway before finally turning him a few nights ago. Just like your Sookie, Northman, my Jason will never leave me either. Furthermore, should anything ever happen to me, anything at all, he will seek out the one responsible until vengeance is exacted before meeting the sun to join me in final death. For as you know, my sheriff, a bonded child cannot live without their Maker, and if their Maker is taken from them, the madness will consume them. A wonderful addition to my family, is he not?" She rasped her long nails down Jason's biceps as he looked adoringly at her.

Sookie's gaze shifted to the queen, her voice the merest wisp of sound, "Why? Why would you do this?"

Gazing at the telepath that would be hers soon enough with calculated planning, Sophie-Anne explained, "I felt it only appropriate, child. Northman took you from me, so I decided it only fair I take your brother from you. Besides, it would be a shame to break up a set don't you think? Giving immortality to one and not the other? That would be true cruelty, wouldn't you say?" Her smile was both victorious and vindictive. Her words razor sharp weapons as she used them to strike the crying human before her.

Eric's rage tore at him, primal and pounding to the point of pain. Next to him, his bonded, his Sookie, stood shattered, staring helplessly at her brother who stood silent and stoic beside his queen, his Maker, and Eric knew that Sophie-Anne had outplayed him. Game, Set, Match. She had ensured the only way he could kill her would be by killing Sookie's brother. He should have seen this coming; he should have had the boy put under guard to protect him from becoming a pawn in the queen's game. He was a fool! He was too enraged to say anything, but he swore to himself on all he held sacred he would find a way to make Sophie-Anne pay for this.

Sookie was crying freely now. She was fighting to keep from breaking down in hysterical sobs, but it was torture to stand there, impossible to keep up a pretense of complacency, before the murderer of her brother. Her brother! The last of her family. Her only family. The last of the Stackhouses. All his dreams, his future, his LIFE snuffed out by this insane vampire queen.

Her mind called up images of their childhood, the shared moments growing up under Gran's roof together. Jason with his pals eating burgers at Merlotte's. Jason with his myriad of girlfriends. Jason coming to her rescue at the Fellowship church. Jason wanting so much to be a good brother and a good man. Beautiful Jason. Her beautiful, boyish brother that had loved life more than she. All to end like this? Pointlessly?

A thousand memories flashed through her mind in the blink of an eye, and she felt fathomless loss pulling at her, threatening to drown her in its undertow, with the savage and cold realization that they would be her last. There would be no more Sunday dinners. No more long talks between them as she laid out in the sun and chided him about his player ways. No more joking in the bar on weeknights as he tried to weasel a round of free drinks for him and his friends while she laughed at his charm that didn't work on her. No more sitting around the kitchen table and arguing over the last piece of pie. No more Christmas mornings, the one day out of the year he got up before dawn and dragged her with him, so he could tear into his presents while she admonished him for not caring how much effort she'd given to wrapping them so beautifully. None of it. All of it. All those precious moments they shared were gone. Dust in the wind.

Eric was the only thing keeping her standing on legs too weak to support her. She looked helplessly at her brother. He was even more beautiful in death; the pale sheen of his skin glowing with the magic of his immortality, just as it did with Eric. The flush of life was gone from his skin, but in its stead, his muscular torso, his sculpted arms, his chiseled face took on the look of a Grecian statue. The flame of his mortality lost, in its place something dark and coarse … and cunning. "Jason … oh my God!"

Jason swiveled his attention to his sister, his eyes distant and hard. He took pleasure in letting his fangs run out and watching the expression of distress cross Sookie's face. His queen had given him her orders in the limo earlier and he knew what he was supposed to do. She had been clear that he was not to make any overt threats, but he was to hurt his sister in any way he could.

"Stop crying, Sookie, really, it's pathetic. Look at me! I'm immortal now!" He slapped his chest expansively, his pride and satisfaction apparent as he continued, "I'm the child of a queen, and my love and loyalty belong only to her."

Letting his gaze flick to Eric before reclaiming hers, he hissed, "Her words are law to me. Her enemies are my enemies. Her goals are my goals." Again, a pointed glance to Eric. His continued tonelessly. "I live only to please her. She is my world now. You? You are nothing to me unless she says you should be. Save your tears. I don't want or need them."

Sookie gasped in torment, her hand visibly trembling as it crept up to clutch her throat. The warmth, reassurance, and support Eric sent her didn't reach the pain in her heart. "Jason! How can you say this? You're my brother! You … you never wanted this! You never wanted to be a vampire!"

Jason scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. His gaze did not waver. "That was before I knew how great it is. And I'm not your brother anymore. The only way I'll ever be your brother again is if you become my queen's child, like me. As of now? Now, you mean nothing to me."

Shaking her head as fresh sobs tore from her chest, Sookie begged, "Jason, no! In Dallas you swore we'd stick together! We promised to always be there for each other! We talked about Gran, and you said—"

"Enough!" Jason warned, his face suddenly feral with menace. Sophie-Anne lounged on Eric's throne with an amused and triumphant expression. "That was another lifetime for me. You and that old woman are nothing to me anymore. She's dead and food for the maggots, and you're all that's keeping us from being family."

"What do you mean? I want you to come back! I want you to be my brother!"

His eyes were knowing and crystalline. "If you love me like you say you do, you'll want to be with me. If family means as much to you as you say it does, you'll do what you need to for us to be together again. I can't come to you, Sookie, my place is set, but you can come to me. You can make us family again. You just need to choose your Maker wisely."

"Oh God, Jason!"

Eric had had enough. Pushing Sookie behind him so Han and Ivan would flank her and give support, he moved to stand directly in front of his bonded so she wouldn't have to look at her former brother a moment more. "My queen, I hope your child is not trying to provoke my bonded to rebellion? You are responsible for the actions and behavior of your new child, and will have to pay the price for his indiscretions. His words are dangerously close to cause for formal complaint on my part. If he addresses my bonded in such a way again, I will bring up charges before the magistrate."

Sophie-Anne veritably cackled. Sookie's pain was delicious and she drank deeply from the wounds. She knew it was time for her to bring closure to her evening. She had done what she wished to do. She'd hurt the girl, and ensured that Northman wouldn't move against her anytime soon. If he truly cared for the girl, and she was sure he did, then he would not be so eager to kill the telepath's beloved brother.

Waving her hand dismissively, she laughed. "Oh Northman! You know how newborns are! Always running off at the mouth. Forgive my child his rashness. I'm sure he'd just like to have his sister truly be his sister again, but, alas, you have claimed her. Apparently they will be separated for eternity. It really is such a pity to break up the set."

Executing the final blow against Northman through his telepath that should have been hers, Sophie-Anne, eyes glittering with malice, taunted Sookie one more time. "Jason, tell your sister who it was I let you drink from first. Share with her your first experience feeding."

Jason's smile was manic. He would not disappoint his queen. She'd made it clear to him that she wanted Sookie broken by the end of the night and he would not fail his beloved Maker. He couldn't see Sookie, but he knew she could hear him, and hear him she would!

"I was the one to kill Hadley," he crowed.

He heard Sookie moan and he turned to quickly grin to his queen. "She screamed, Sookie," he pursued. "She begged me not to kill her, and I laughed at her. I'd bite her, and then let her run so she'd think that she might be able to escape. Then I'd catch her again, smack her around a bit, bite her again, and do our little dance all over again. It was fun!" He stopped to laugh, a sound that scrabbled to get out of a chest past lungs no longer functional.

"You should have heard her crying, and screaming, calling out to God and her dead Momma for help! She begged me to remember Gran and what she would think of what I was doing. That only made me laugh harder. I spent hours hurting her before I finally drained her dry, and then I dumped her body in the bayou for the gators to finish her off. It was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. I wish you could have been there. By the end of the night, I was covered in her blood."

Sookie felt Han's iron grip around her waist and glanced up to meet his eyes that were grim with sorrow. She fisted her hands in the back of Eric's shirt and buried her face against him. Horror and despair stabbed at her as she pitched and swayed in surging grief. Anguish so deep she was falling, liquid in her grief, into darkness. She began to openly sob against Eric's back. Her heart was breaking as she listened to the vicious words spewing from her brother's mouth. Each one slashed and hacked her to her very soul, and she wanted, needed so desperately to run away from all of this. She wanted to be back in Sweden, back in the cabin where it was just she and Eric and the outside world couldn't touch them. 'Oh God! Jason! What has she done to you? How could you do these things?!'

Sophie-Anne couldn't help herself. She decided it was time to weigh in. Using her vampire talent of communicating with her children's minds, she ordered Jason to his knees beside her. She stroked her manicured nails along his cheek. She chose her words carefully as if she were deciding on the proper knife to fillet a fish. She wanted to hurt the girl, but she couldn't overstep her bounds since this was Northman's bonded she was dealing with. Finally, she cooed, "He's such a darling thing, isn't he, Miss Stackhouse? So loyal and kind. Even now, even when I have bound him to me and replaced all others in his heart, he still reaches out to you. He still wants to be a brother to you. How very touching."

The queen's eyes were contemptuous and appraising towards Eric who shielded the girl she so desperately wanted for a child. Her lips twisted up in a perversion of a smile. "It is a shame you choose to keep yourself from him when he obviously wants you to be with him for eternity. That is a lovely thought isn't it? True brother and sister, siblings in every way, standing together through time. Eternally bound. Poetic, don't you think?"

Sookie felt anger rising up her spine, cold as sheet metal. It coiled around her pain with a serpentine consciousness, slaking its thirst on her sorrow and feeding on her heartbreak. Understanding blazed in her eyes. The queen had come here tonight to destroy her. To break down all that Sookie Stackhouse was in an attempt to hurt Eric Northman. She would not let the bitch win! All her knowledge of protocol, all her warnings about the supernatural world dissolved in the fists she now clenched at her side. The threat of retribution, the punishment it might incur, meant absolutely nothing. She pulled away from Han's hold and stepped out from behind Eric. She glared at the woman in red that had shattered her world, not once, but twice.

"You call yourself a queen? You think yourself so great?"

Sophie-Anne had expected the girl to crumble in a sobbing mass on the ground. She had not expected to see the little chit rally and stand before her, every bit the warrior Northman was, but she refused to let her amazement show. Arching a brow, she replied coolly, "I am great."

Everyone in the bar was riveted to the two women facing off. Bill's heart was breaking for the girl he loved, and he swore if she launched herself at the queen, he would fight right alongside her. They would both die, but at least he could redeem himself through action. Pam was astounded at the inner strength she watched come to life in the girl her Master had claimed. She'd watched her cry, and plead with her brother, and she'd been certain that this moment would break Sookie, but she'd been wrong. Finally, at long last, Pam saw what her Maker saw in the mortal girl standing before a vampire queen; the spirit of a warrior and a survivor. Sookie might be down, but she certainly wasn't out. Pam readied herself as well. She decided that if Sookie attacked, so would she. She'd go for Andre first. He was the biggest threat.

Eric watched Sookie step away from him, he watched her harness her pain and use her cold enmity to make a stand. He watched her hold her head high, set her shoulders back and face Sophie-Anne with courage and conviction despite her tears, and he had never been more proud of her. He was tempted to intervene before escalation, but he refused to take this moment from her. If she decided to fight, he would take up arms with her.

Han and Ivan felt pride as well as they gazed at Sookie. She was so small, and so fragile in many ways, but right now she was every bit the warrior her mate was. Her back was straight, her stance unwavering. She would not be broken by what Sophie-Anne had done. The queen had dealt a vicious blow, of that there was no doubt, but the enforcers knew that Sookie would survive it, and given time she would overcome it.

Sookie's attention was solely on the queen. She forced herself to ignore the sight of Jason kneeling at Sophie-Anne's side like an obedient pet. She would deal with her loss and devastation later. Right now, she had words for the bitch before her. "You think yourself great? You lied and schemed and sent a fake suitor to manipulate me, and still you lost. You wanted me so bad, and Eric snatched me up right under your nose without even trying to out maneuver you. You're still after me, but you know you can't take him. You fear Eric Northman. You knew he was stronger than you before he gained control of the godlike powers inside him, and now he has you running scared. So what do you do? You strike out at his only weakness: me. You're trying to break me to get at him."

Sophie-Anne's fangs distended as she gripped the arms of Eric's throne with clawed hands. She opened her mouth to object to the girl's insolence when she saw the glow from Eric's eyes behind her. She was afraid of him, the telepath was right. She wanted desperately to lash out at the girl, or demand that the Viking punish the human for her words, but the stance of the legendary enforcer's body, the power radiating out from him in this moment, assured her if she pushed him any further he would attack. Sophie-Anne pursed her lips and swallowed her royal right to speak. Her time for retribution would come, right now she had to proceed carefully. She'd known coming into this that she would be prodding Eric in a dangerous way, and she couldn't afford to overplay her hand now.

Sookie held the queen's angry stare and lifted her chin defiantly, "Do I look broken?"

There was dead silence in the room. Tension ratcheted up explosively as all looked back and forth between the queen and the telepath.
Sookie was the one to break the silence. She leveled a final withering glance of disgust at the queen before focusing on her brother. "I won't give up on you, Jason. If there's a way to save you, I'll find it. I promise."

Jason stood and set his hand on the back of the queen's chair as he spat, "Your vow means nothing to me … human."

Fixing her gaze, Sookie whispered, "Maybe so, but it means something to me." His denial, his rejection hurt her. Her heart ached for the loss of the man she knew as her brother, and she hoped there was some spark left inside him of who she remembered him to be, some tiny part of her brother that she could save. In this moment, her hope and her indomitable spirit were all she had to stave back the foul blackness threatening to close in on her. She knew she would break down and sob soon enough, but she would not do it in front of Sophie-Anne.

Eric could feel Sookie's pain flame fiercely across the bond, despite outward appearances, and he wanted to console her. He wanted to take her in his arms and make the world go away for her, to bring back her joy and light, but he had to stay strong until they were alone. As soon as the queen was gone, he would do his best to heal this hurt inside his bonded, but he knew, just as Godric's passing had forever scarred him, Jason's loss would forever mark his Sookie's soul. He hated that the violence of his world had been hurled at her with no regard for who she was or what she was to him. 

Tonight was supposed to be a night of joy for her. He was supposed to have taken her home and told her she was pregnant with his son. Their son. He was supposed to help her get over her shock, and share her excitement that one of her dreams was coming true. Now he would have to try and stitch her heart back together from the knifing cuts his villainous queen had dealt.

Eyes still glowing with his new preternatural power, his fists, too, clenched at his sides, Eric set his jaw and stepped forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with his mate, and gritted, "Is there anything else you'd like, my queen? We just returned from our trip and Sookie needs to rest."

Sophie-Anne was shaking with barely controlled rage. Much of the night had gone according to plan. She'd dealt a vicious blow to the girl she was planning to turn, and she'd hurt Northman in doing so. However, the girl had not broken, as she'd intended. She'd been shocked, hurt, and brutalized by the ugly truth of what had been done to her brother and what he was now, but despite Sophie-Anne's attack the girl was still standing … side by side with Northman as both held fire in their eyes.

No. Things were certainly not going according to plan anymore. Centuries of craft taught her when to retreat. She'd done enough tonight. She knew demanding retribution for Sookie's words would be pushing the Viking farther than he would tolerate. She would suffice in the knowledge she had neatly bought herself the time and options she needed to get rid of Northman. Just as the telepath had said, she knew it would be suicide to go after him herself with his new ability, hell, even before he was able to move things with his mind, he had been far too deadly for her to take on alone, but now she had her trump card: Jason. The brother of the girl that her sheriff cared so much about. He would be able to get far closer than she could. She would have to work it just right, but she'd have her opportunity to rid the world of the Viking, bond the girl to herself, and make the useful little fae-human her new child. Then she'd dispose of the annoying brother, and punish the girl for her words tonight. 'Brilliantly played,' she thought gleefully to herself.

Standing up from the throne, Sophie-Anne took a feline stretch, and, tossing her coiffed hair over her shoulder, announced exultantly, "I came to introduce you to my new child. Compton will remain here full time now to work with you as an area investigator, and I'll be using Jason as my little messenger boy. He'll be traveling between here and New Orleans often to monitor the progress you make with regard to handling this Fellowship problem. So you'll be seeing him often. Play nice!"

Eric took hold of Sookie's wrist as she stood fragile and shaking beside him. He sent wave after wave of comfort and affection to her through the bond while the queen and her entourage swept past them and out of the bar. As soon as they were gone, he swept Sookie up into his arms in one smooth motion to head for his office. He heard Pam tell his vampire underlings it was time for them to go home as he put on a burst of speed to have himself and Sookie in his office as quickly as he could.

Thor was wagging his tail as they came in but immediately sensed their agitation. He looked up with fearful eyes, his tail tucking, and moved to lie down out of the way, ever watchful.

Sookie was shaking violently in Eric's arms as he set her down on the couch and kneeled down in front of her. "Sookie … Sookie, I …"


He didn't have words. He didn't know what to say. Looking into the raw agony in her eyes as he felt her abject sense of desolation through the bond, he wished for the first time that he was not a vampire and that he was just a man. He wished he were a simple man living a simple life with this woman so that nothing like this would happen to her … but he was not. He was not normal, and neither was she. They would always be targets for their enemies, and those that stood against them would always use their weaknesses in any way they could. Sookie had just been forced to face that fact in the most cruel of ways. Cupping her face in his hands he leaned forward to lick her tears away as he whispered, "I'm so sorry, my älskade. I'm so, so sorry."

Their eyes met. Sookie lost the tiny shred of control she'd had and sobbed, "How could he … how could he do that, Eric? How could he kill Hadley? How could my brother do that?"
"He's not your brother anymore, Sookie. He is little more than a slave now. He was lost to you the moment Sophie-Anne blood bonded him to her. He is nothing but her puppet now."

"But … but why? Why is he … how could he be like that? I didn't turn into a monster after we bonded!"

Moving to sit on the couch, he pulled her into his lap and tucked her against his chest, wrapping his arms comfortingly around her.

"Everything about you is different, little one. You resisted my complete control. The moment I bonded you to me, your only thought should have been of me and how to please me, but whatever power is inside you kept that from happening. You truly have free will where none has ever had it before. When a vampire bonds a human, they literally become a slave and are obsessed with the vampire they're bonded to. A turned bonded human lives only for their Maker. Their Maker's will is not only their law, but also their wish and desire. Jason lives only to please Sophie-Anne now. I hate to say this to you, but I will not lie to you; your brother is no more. What you saw out there was a new creation of Sophie-Anne's. He is, quite frankly, whatever she orders him to be. If she orders him to be a monster, he will be. If she orders him to be a saint and live a pious and just life, he will do so."

Her eyes were imploring. "Then kill her! Kill her and free him from her hold!"

Shaking his head, Eric pressed his lips to her forehead. His voice was gentle. "It doesn't work that way, Sookie."

"Why? You told me that children are only free of their Maker's control when the Maker is dead. Fine. Kill her and free him!"

"Normal children are thus freed, Sookie. Not turned bondeds. Turned bondeds literally become a part of their Maker. A Maker can, and will, go on if a bonded child is killed, but the child cannot suffer the Maker's loss. If I kill Sophie-Anne, Jason will come after us both again and again until he either kills us, or I kill him in our defense. If Sophie-Anne is killed, he will literally go insane from her loss, as all her bonded children will. They will be consumed with the need to avenge her death, and will live only to gain that vengeance. Should they obtain it, they will then meet the sun to join their Maker in final death. I cannot simply kill Sophie-Anne to free Jason. There is no saving Jason … your brother is gone, Sookie."

"No! Eric! Please! There has to be something we can do! I can't lose him! Please! I'll do anything you want if you get him back for me! He's a vampire, but he can be a good vampire! We just have to get him away from her!"

Pulling Sookie back against his chest, Eric's voice burned with guilt, "I'm sorry, my Sookie, I'm sorry I didn't anticipate this action before Sophie-Anne could carry it out. I'm sorry I couldn't save your brother for you, but, my älskade, I can't fix this for you. I can't undo what the queen did. I can't make this right for you. Your brother is gone, Sookie."

Sookie's response was cut off by a knock at the door. Eric hissed. He knew it was his child and barked, "Do not disturb us, Pamela!"

"Compton is demanding to speak with Sookie, he is the area investigator and I can't hold him off much longer," Pam announced from the other side of the door.

"Tell him to fuck off!" Eric roared. He was beyond civility at the moment.

However, Sookie was not so ready to dismiss her former emotions were a tangled mess of frayed nerve endings. She leapt from Eric's lap to throw the door open and stormed past Pam, her body language clearly combative and her scent hostile. Barging into the main bar area where only Bill, Han and Ivan remained now, she marched right up to her ex fiancé as Eric and Pam followed behind her.

She shrieked, "Did you know? Did you and your bitch queen laugh and joke about how badly this would destroy me? Did you smile and gloat about getting one up on Eric by hurting me again? Did you, Bill Compton? I swear, if you knew anything about this, I'll stake you myself!"

Bill flinched back from the heat of her words. Her rage was rolling off her in scalding waves and he felt his undead heart break again for the woman he loved. "Sookie! I … no! I swear! I didn't know! The queen just told me she was planning some welcome back surprise. I swear, I swear, Sookie, if I had known, I would have stopped it! I would have done anything I had to in order to save your brother! I love you, Sookie! I would never—"

SLAP!

She didn't want to hear any of his excuses or professions of love. "Look at what your love has done to my family, Bill Compton! My Gran is dead and my brother is a monster because of your love! Go to hell, Bill! I hate you!"

Whirling around, she spat her wrath on all the vampires in attendance, fury in every syllable. "I hate all of you! Ever since I've met you, I've only been hurt! All any of you can do is hurt people! Every time I'm around you someone is being kidnapped, or tortured, drained or abused, killed and disposed of like garbage! You're all monsters and I'm tired of living in your world! I want all of you to go away, and leave me the hell alone!"

She turned and ran. She tore out of the building, running without heading. She couldn't see anything beyond the blur of her hot tears. She ran, stumbled, scrambled to her feet, and ran again. She ran careening across the streets, cars honking and swerving angrily around her, but she ignored them and just kept running. People hollered at her, waving rude hand gestures; she couldn't even begin to care. She was sobbing. Great, wracking, gasping sobs ripping from her chest.

'How could he say those things? How could he stand there and gloat about killing our cousin? How could he be so happy about being covered in her blood? And Gran? How could he say she meant nothing to him? Say she was just food for maggots? I … I can't believe that was my brother. This is a nightmare! It has to be! That couldn't have been my Jason. That wasn't him! He would never do that! He would never say those things! He would never speak that way about Gran!'

She ran until her legs gave out, ran until she couldn't breathe, ran and cried until she choked and gagged and vomited. A maelstrom of thoughts ripped through her mind and threatened her very sanity. She couldn't comprehend what had just happened. She couldn't believe her brother could stand before her, and yet not be the Jason she knew. She couldn't understand how two weeks, two weeks that had only hours before symbolized the greatest time in her life, could foster the loss of her brother. Two short weeks and Jason could be lost and become what he'd been back in that bar. None of it made sense.

Time spun out. She had passed through the business area of Shreveport and then on into the suburbs. The highway gave way to four lane and then two and then forked off into residential areas and Sookie had found herself running alongside quiet homes where sensible people were asleep, where life was predictable and safe and brothers didn't become vampires. 

A muscle spasm in her leg, an agonized scream, and she came down hard on her bottom, clutching her calf. She was still crying when she felt strong arms gather her up against a hard chest. She buried herself into Eric, and she knew it was her Eric, as he launched them in the air.

He'd watched all of it, of course. She'd never been alone. First the confrontation with Bill, then the fuming rant to everyone in the bar. Her words of rejection and disgust had not hurt him, because he knew it was her pain speaking. When she had bolted, he had followed without thought, shadowing her every step, and, as she dashed headlong through multiple lanes of traffic, mentally shoving cars out of her pathway with his new power before they could harm her. He would let her wear herself out. She needed the outlet, and he would not deny her of it.

As she ran he felt her cry of desperation, the seething pain in her heart as though they were his own. He kept the bond wide open between them and embraced her misery and mourning. He refused to let her go through this alone. 'It's my fault. I swore to protect her from all enemies. I vowed to shelter her and guard her heart, and I have failed her. I knew Sophie-Anne was vindictive and would come after us. The Ancient Pythoness even told me she would. I should have foreseen this happening. I should have kept it from happening! I have failed my bonded this night, and I don't know if I can make it right.'

When she finally collapsed, he took her up in his arms and shot into the sky. He knew she wasn't ready to talk. So he simply continued to fly through the night sky as she cried herself out against his chest, and let the wind carry away her pain and heartache. Her tears soaked his shirt, and the ache in her heart pierced his own unbeating one. He swore he'd find a way to make Sophie-Anne pay for this. He would contact every witch, sorcerer, and being capable of wielding magic, and put them on the task of finding a way to save Sookie's brother. He was doubtful it could be done, but, for her, for his Sookie, he would attempt the impossible.

He headed them towards her home when she finally stilled. He knew Han and Ivan would have returned there with their luggage and Thor, but he hoped the enforcers were astute enough to know Sookie and he would need privacy for the rest of the night. Landing effortlessly in her front yard, he made his way up the old wooden steps and into the house with Sookie tucked in his arms, her own arms drawn up around his neck. As soon as he was standing in the foyer, his gaze was drawn to the living room … there sat the Ancient Pythoness and Niall Brigant. Han and Ivan, both with clearly unhappy expressions on their faces, stood across the room by the fireplace. 'You've got to be fucking kidding me!' Eric thought darkly. He had no intention of allowing either of the two unwelcome guests to speak with Sookie tonight. She didn't need any more surprises.

He saw Sookie lift her head from his chest to glance at their guests, but her only reaction was to dismiss them and press closer to him. She obviously had no desire to speak with anyone else either. Looking hard at the newcomers, he growled, "Stay here."

Sweeping up the stairs and into the master bedroom, he laid Sookie down on her side atop the bed. Thor had bounded up the stairs after them and Eric patted the bed so Thor would jump up and keep her company on it. He bent to kiss Sookie's cheek and whispered, "I'll be back."

"Don't leave me."

Her voice was small, weak. He hated it. Stroking her hair back, he soothed, "I'm going to get rid of them, and I'll be right back. I promise. Wait here." He stroked the tears that slid down her cheek away with his fingers and kissed her lips before standing and striding back out of the bedroom. He closed the door behind him and was in the living room in a moment addressing their guests. "Outside … now."

He didn't wait to see if his words were accepted and merely led the way out of the house. He didn't ask how the two newcomers had gotten past the barrier without an invite from Sookie, or how the Pythoness, a vampire, had gotten into the house at all. Frankly, at the moment, he didn't care. When all five of them were outside on the lawn, he faced the Pythoness and Brigant and ordered, "Go away. You will not say whatever it is you have to say tonight. I will call you when Sookie and I are ready to hear your words."

Niall glared at the vampire that was many millennia younger than him and replied, "Han and Ivan have told us of the upset you and my great granddaughter have suffered this night, and, because of this, we will forgive you your words now. However, what we have come to say is of the upmost importance. We must tell you of—"

"Enough! I have told you to go, and I will tell you one last time. Leave! Or be made to do so!"

The Pythoness stepped forward, a wizened ancient with a shock of wild white hair. She cocked her head towards Eric with her glazed eyes and demanded, "You would dare to order this one? You would dare to deny the truths we bring?"

"I protect my bonded, as is my right."

"This one is burdened by what has happened. This one is saddened by these events. This one wishes the dark magic blocking my sight had not prevented me from seeing this so it could be stopped, but there is more at work here than the pettiness of your queen. Our true enemy is much greater, and you and the Chosen One must be warned of what is coming," the Pythoness pressed in her heavily accented English.

"Pettiness?! She took Sookie's brother! I might not have cared for the fool, but Sookie loved him. Sookie has been hurt enough tonight, and she doesn't need to be burdened by anything else you wish to heap upon her. Now go!"

Niall was quickly losing his patience. He understood Eric's position, and he understood that Sookie was hurting, but, as the seer said, there was more at stake here than Sookie's feelings. "Vampire, do not presume that because you are part of the prophecy that you can order us. You were given two weeks undisturbed to spend with your bonded. Now it is time for you and Sookie to learn the full truth of what it is you face, and what it is you must do. You both must put aside your personal feelings for the greater good."

Ripping his shirt off to bare his chest, Eric slapped his hand over his mark as his fangs ran down and hissed, "Sword!" With a flash of light, Odin's sword appeared in his hand and he leveled it at the Pythoness, whose word was once law to him, and the Fairy Prince he once feared as an enemy. Now they were both threats to his Sookie, and he would not tolerate it. His eyes began to glow as his markings hummed with power. "Leave! Now!"

The Pythoness could see the waves of power despite her blindness, and ordered, "Han, Ivan, detain him while we speak with the Chosen One."

Han and Ivan shared a look before moving to align themselves with Eric. Han's voice was deadly grave as he said, "We know our place. It is you and Brigant who forget yours. The High King has spoken. He has ordered that the Chosen One, his mate and bonded, be left alone for the time being. Your continued presence here is treason. Treason against the Chosen Mother, treason against her King, and treason against the vessels of The One. Leave … or be made to."

Niall looked as if to argue, but the Pythoness silenced him as she set her hand atop his arm. She seemed to finally accept that there would be no getting to Sookie tonight, and trying to do so could quite possibly lead to bloodshed.

"Do not allow your bonded to leave the confines of the barrier until we have spoken. You should not venture beyond it either until we have revealed all we must to you both. We shall depart."

Eric did not lower his sword until after Brigant teleported them both from the area. He kept the sword in his hand and turned to face Han and Ivan. "Guard the house. Let no one in."

Both enforcers bowed low as Ivan agreed, "We guard. You go heal your mate."

Eric made no response as he headed back into the house after holding his sword to his mark so it would vanish back inside him. He made his way silently up to Sookie's bedroom and walked inside. A quick glance around the room found her lying just as he left her. Thor was curled up next to her body, his head resting on her chest. A liquid motion beyond, Eric saw his namesake swimming in his bowl on Sookie's bedside table. It seemed ages ago since he'd won her that little fish. Ages that had leveled mountains between them and opened her heart to him. A heart now broken. He could see the silent tears slipping down her cheeks.

He strode to the bathroom to the large tub he'd had installed there so many months ago and turned on the faucets to begin filling it. Reaching for two bath towels in her linen closet, he dropped them next to the tub. He found her shampoo and conditioner and put those bottles alongside the tub as well. In her vanity cabinet, he found her lighter and used it to light several of the candles she'd decorated the room with. The warm scents of cantaloupe and pear spiraled up with the flame.

He went back to her bed and swept her up in his arms and carried her into the bathroom. Setting her down on the tub rim, he pulled her sweater up quickly over her head and began undressing her. When she was bare, he lifted her into the tub before quickly shedding his own clothes and slipping in behind her. He held her closely, savoring the moment of intimacy he'd wanted from her for so long here, his mouth lightly skimming a soft kiss across her shoulder. He shifted her body so she was straddling him and bent her backwards in his arms so he could wet her hair. She made no move to help or hinder him. She simply stared up at him despondently as he soaked her hair, watching as he tilted the bottle of shampoo into his palm to work it through her scalp.

There were no words spoken as he gently washed her hair, his long fingers digging into her scalp and massaging her head. He listened to her soft sighs and knew she was enjoying his ministrations. He repeated the process with her conditioner, combing his fingers through her length of her hair. With the same tender care, he slowly washed down the length of her body. He added warm water to the tub as it cooled. Eric smiled gently when she slid back, wanting him to douse his hair so she could reciprocate.

Gently, they bathed each other, working in an understood silence. When they were both washed, Eric pulled Sookie back against his chest. He stroked his hands slowly, sweetly, along her arms, her back, tracing the line of her spine and then down over her hips as he waited for her to speak.

They watched the light flicker over the softening candles for a time. Eric was thinking she might have fallen asleep in the tranquility when he suddenly heard her whisper, "I don't hate you. I didn't mean what I said earlier."

"I know."

"Are you mad at me?"

He kissed the top of her head, and soothed, "No, lover. You were hurting, and that was the reason for your words. I will not, and do not, hold them against you."

He again added more warm water to the bath. Silence stretched between them again, and Sookie took comfort in Eric's fingers trailing softly over her skin. More tears slipped down her cheeks as she remembered what Jason had said to her at the bar. "He left a message that he went on a trip. He was supposed to be off having a good time like me."

"She probably forced him to leave the message or glamoured him into doing so. That way, no one would get wind of what she was doing and I wouldn't have the chance to stop her."

She sighed heavily, still more tears falling as she whispered, "He … he was so different … he … the things he said … how could he do that?"

"That was not your brother, Sookie. I hate to have to keep saying this to you, but it's not a truth I can let you hide from; you have to accept that your brother is gone. What you saw tonight was a shell that Sophie-Anne has control of. Jason is no more."

"He was my only family … everyone's dead now. Everyone."

"You have me, Sookie. I'm your family now."

"It's not the same, Eric. He was my brother. I was supposed to watch him grow old and die. I was supposed to watch him finally grow up, settle down, get married, and have children. I was … supposed to have more time."

He tightened his arms around her, stroking her comfortingly. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry he's lost to you."

She nuzzled his chest, giving in to the physical comfort his hands were providing as well as the warmth and affection Eric was sending through the bond. She closed her eyes wanting to believe when she opened them this would all be some terrible dream. A pair of concerned cerulean eyes met hers when she opened them again. She asked, "She's going to use him against us, isn't she? She's going to send him to kill you, isn't she?"

"Yes. It is the only logical move. She knows I care for you. She knows you love Jason. She will send him and hope your affection for him will allow him close enough access to see the deed done. She views him as a route to my demise and thus a way for her to obtain you."

Wincing, Sookie begged, "Please … please don't kill him, Eric. I … you can't … you can't kill him … I can't take that."

"Sookie, I can only promise to do my best not to kill him. I do not want to send him to his final death. I do not want to hurt you, but if he threatens you or me to the point where I have no choice, I will do what I must to keep us both safe."

Looking up at him, pain glistened in her eyes. "Is there no way to save him? Isn't there any magic or some way to get him away from her?"

Cupping her face sympathetically, Eric replied, "I will try everything, Sookie. I will exhaust every avenue and call on every favor or debt owed me. I will do anything and everything I can to bring Jason out from under Sophie-Anne's control, but I will not raise your hopes. No blood bond has ever been severed before. The magic of a vampire's blood has never been broken. I will do all I can, but you must prepare yourself for my failure in this issue. I hate to admit there is anything I cannot do, but this is probably beyond my ability to rectify."

"But you'll try?"

"For you, I will try." He kissed her forehead. 

"Sookie, I am also going to have you move your friends here until the issue with the queen is resolved. They will have guards to escort them to and from work, and then they will return here. I do not want them here, infringing on our time together, but I will not allow them to be used against you as your brother was."

Sookie nodded. Tucking her head under his chin, she pleaded, "What about Sophie-Anne? I won't see that bitch again. I won't dress up and be paraded around her again. I … I can't go near her again, Eric."

"I know. You will not. I am done tolerating her. Her reign as queen is done. She should not have angered me like this. She should not have struck out at you to hurt me. She has gone too far."

"What will you do?"

"I will order her dethroned and banished. That will remove her from the area and give me time to find some way to save Jason."

Tracing her fingers over his Mjolnir, she felt the soothing waves of energy he was sending to her across their bond easing her pain."How are you going to do that? Aren't you under her control since she is queen?"

Lacing his fingers with hers atop his chest, he replied, "I'm going to start making our status with the Council work for us. If we are so important to them, if I am truly this High King they call me, then I have the power to give this order. The Council has removed monarchs from power before, though the last time was some 250 years ago in South America. It can be done. I will tell the Council to dethrone her, and banish her from the United States to never return under threat of final death."

"Will she obey that?"

"She will leave, but she will continue to plot against us. Sophie-Anne is obsessive, she will never stop coming after you, or me. However, as I said, banishing her will give me the time and space to try and save your brother. I will also have her monitored, and I'm sure the Council will as well. Hopefully we will see any attacks before she can carry them out."

Sookie kissed his chest. She reached up for his neck as Eric leaned down to her waiting mouth and kissed her with a drowsy sensuality. He tightened his arms around her and held her. He poured his desire, his desperate need for her, and his conviction to make her world right again into their embrace. When she pulled back, she saw his eyes were full of longing. He vowed, "I will do all I can to make this right for you, Sookie. I will defy vampire law and interfere between Maker and child. I will break the supernatural edict and learn to wield magic despite that I am vampire to make this better for you. I will do everything … but I cannot promise victory in this fight to save your brother."

Nuzzling his hand, Sookie whispered, "We'll fight together, and if it comes to it, we'll lose together. It means everything to me you're willing to risk the wrath of your world to help me fight a losing battle." Holding his gaze she asked, "Eric, you know how you said that if Lorena wouldn't return Bill you'd crash her accounts and leave her with nothing?"

"Yes."

"Can you do that with Sophie-Anne? Can you kick her out of the country with nothing? Can you make her leave with nothing but the clothes on her back, and make it difficult for her in other countries like you did with Lorena?"

"Yes. I will do this. I will order her dethroned, and I will humiliate her in public, as her pride is the only thing she truly cares about. I will have all of her accounts emptied, and do my best to bring her low. I will let every monarch in every country know that any who befriends her makes an enemy of me. She will not be welcomed anywhere, but you should know this will drive her to find ways to hurt us both even worse."

Another tear slipped down her cheek as Sookie whispered, "She's already taken Jason from me. I don't have anything else to lose, and you said you're bringing my friends here to protect them until she's gone."

Eric sighed. Such a human gesture. This was not how he wished to speak with her of what he'd learned from Odin. He had wanted this discussion to be a joyous occasion for her, but she had to understand exactly what was on the line. Moving Sookie to once again straddle his lap, Eric set his hands on her hips and stared directly into her eyes. His voice was strained, guarded. "What if you did have something else to lose? What if there was more than just you or I? More than your friends?"

"Eric, I don't have anything else to lose, but you. And you've promised me that you can protect yourself. She's scared of you. That's why she did this, isn't it? She knew she couldn't get to you, so she wants to use my heart and love for my brother. She wants to send him after you and she's hoping you'll hesitate since he is my brother."

"Yes. That is why she did it. I was dangerous to her before I gained my new power, now she cannot hope to defeat me through strength. She is hoping my affection for you will outweigh my instinct for survival. That is why she took your brother … but, Sookie, what if you had more to lose than me or your friends?"

Shaking her head, she protested, "Eric, I don't understand. What more do I have to lose? You, my brother, and my friends were all I had to lose. I have nothing else."

"Yes, Sookie, you do." His hands tightened on her hips, but they were so large they spanned the width of her and his thumbs were pressed over her belly. Rubbing soothing circles over the area his son now grew in, he continued, "I told you I would share with you the information Odin gave me. This is not the way I wished to tell you, but you need to know what it is you have to lose, what we both have to lose. My instincts tell me to kill Sophie-Anne and all her children now. I will deny these instincts if you demand it of me, but you need to understand exactly what is at stake here."

"Eric, just tell me already."

"You're pregnant, my älskade, with my son."

Sookie's mouth dropped open as her tear filled eyes went wide. Her body went rigid and she sputtered, "W … what? That … I … no! I mean you're a vampire! You can't … so I—you're joking right?"

He had already decided for now to keep from her the fact the child was Odin reborn, and that she would be a mother to many more gods over the unending millennia stretching before them. He knew she could not take many more shocks tonight. He would tell her the full truth of their son, and the children that would follow, when she had had a chance to come to terms with the loss of her brother, and the fact she was pregnant with a vampire baby.

"No. Whatever power is inside you, the power that will be explained to us both when we are ready to listen, has enabled you to give life to my seed. You are carrying my son inside you right now. You became pregnant the night we both received our new marks in the cabin. I was told the child is a vampire, just as I am. I do not understand it any more than you do, but I do know one thing."

When Sookie continued to gape at him, he said, "You and my son are my only priority now, Sookie. This is no longer about a prophecy for me. This is no longer about saving the world or remaking it, or anything to do with anyone else. None of that matters to me anymore. You and this child are all I care about. I will sacrifice everyone and everything in the world if it means keeping the two of you safe. I do not want to kill your brother, but if he threatens your life, or the life of my child inside you, I will strike him down."

Stroking his hands over her smooth stomach, that would not be flat much longer, Eric looked intently into Sookie's eyes. "You have a family with me now, Sookie. I am your mate. This," he said, as thumbs pressed gently against her womb to make his point before continuing, "is our son. He is our gift, and our responsibility. This child has to be our priority now. I know you love your brother, and I know you cannot simply let him go, but I need your word that if you must ever make the choice between our child and your brother, our child will come first."

"Eric … I … I don't know what to say. I can't make any promises right now, because I don't think my mind is processing any of this."

Nodding, Eric replied, "Very well, but you need to understand that I will do what I must to keep you and my son safe. I do not want to send your brother to his final death, but if I must to keep you and our child protected, I will."

Sookie's mind was on overload as she looked down at herself. She watched Eric's large, battle worn hands caress her belly as she set hers atop them. She had so many emotions running through her she couldn't make sense of any of them. "Are … are you sure? Am I really …?"

"Yes. Your scent will alter within the next few weeks with your hormonal changes and any supe you come into contact with will be able to tell as well. You will smell even stronger of me, and there will be no doubt the child is mine. Odin assured me that the Pythoness will rally the supernatural world around us to keep you safe. You will be protected above all things. I will have Sophie-Anne gone within a week, and, if the Council refuses to dethrone and banish her, I will attack her on my own and lay waste to her sanctuary. I will chain her and all her children in silver until the problem of separating her and Jason has been thoroughly researched if the Council denies me."

"I thought you said you wouldn't attack first? Your honor and all."

"Tonight has shown me I can no longer wait for her to make the first move. I cannot allow her to continue on as queen when it is revealed you carry my son. I will not allow such a close threat to you and my child."

Sookie could not factor the equation. Child. Pregnant. Eric. Queen. Jason. Danger. She sat in silence for a moment as she looked down at her stomach. It was too much too fast. Eric had had two days to work this out in his head. She had been given minutes. There was, however, one thing she needed to know. Now. She needed to understand that this wasn't an obligation to him. That this wasn't something he felt he had to do. She needed to know how he felt about having a baby.

"Eric, I—how … how do you feel about having a baby?"

He could feel her need for reassurance. This moment was why he'd been so determined to come to an understanding inside himself before rejoining her in the cabin. "I was confused at first. It is not something I have considered in over a thousand years. I was unsure if I could be a father in the way you would expect me to be, but as I thought on it, I realized this is something I want. I want to watch you grow heavy with my child. I want to watch you bring my son into the world. I want to watch you feed him at your breast. I want to watch you love him. I want to see him grow tall and strong under your care and mine. I want to teach him to be a mighty warrior and an honorable vampire. I want this child. I want this son that will have both my blood and yours running in his veins. I want a family with you, Sookie."

Pulling her close, he looked down at her with eyes that were intense and lips that were tightened with resolution. "I cannot promise I will not make mistakes. I know nothing of child rearing. I cannot promise I will not anger you or disappoint you in my approach to being a father at times, but I can promise you that I'm happy about this. I promise to try and learn from my mistakes as I go. I promise you, I want this with you more than anything, and I will fight for it. I want to be a father to my son inside you. I promise to dedicate my life to keeping you both safe and happy, and I vow, with all that I am, to be a better father than you or I ever had."

His words dashed any fear she had that this was mere obligation to him. She felt the heat of his emotions in his vow, and it heartened her. "I don't know how to be a mom."

Stroking a lock of her damp hair back, Eric promised, "We'll learn to parent together then."

"I don't know what to think about this. I mean with Jason, and you being a vampire, and now a baby? I … I just don't know what to think about any of it."

"Sookie, I am not asking or expecting you to understand, accept, or be comfortable with any of this right now. I needed time to comprehend what this baby meant to me, for us, and I will give you all the time you need to adjust. I understand you feel loss and anger over your brother, and I understand right now that is forefront in your mind. I did not tell you of our child to take your thoughts away from Jason, to make you forget about him, I told you so you can have the full picture. There will be few secrets between us now, and this is not one I'm willing to have. You wish to fight for your brother? Very well, but I need you to know what we stand to lose by not eliminating the threat he poses."

Fresh tears slipped down her cheeks. "It's hard to think of him as a threat. He's always been more of a liability, and I can't wrap my head around the fact he might actually try to kill one or both of us. That he could kill one of us."

Leaning forward to lick her tears away, Eric said, "I'm sorry you are being forced to learn just how brutal and vicious my world is. I had hoped to shield you from these things."

Sookie continued to lie against Eric in silence. He stroked her skin and hair with soft fingers, and occasionally kissed her temple or brow, but for the most part they simply took comfort in each other. When he went to add more hot water to the tub she told him she was ready to get out. They stood up from the water together and dried one another off. Eric picked her up to carry her back into the bedroom. Thor was asleep at the foot of the bed as Eric settled Sookie beneath the covers. He crossed back into the bathroom to blow out all but one candle that he brought back into the bedroom to set on her dresser before joining her. They were lying on their sides facing each other as they looked into one another's eyes.

Her thoughts were cyclonic, tossing the events of the day around in her head in numbing speed and confusion . Finally she blurted, "We're going to have a baby."

"Yes. We are."

"I don't know how to have a baby."

"I think it is a fairly natural endeavor."

Neither of them were being humorous at the moment. They were simply stating truths that boggled the mind. Sookie looked down at her stomach before meeting his gaze and clarified, "I don't know how to have a vampire baby … your baby."

His hands moved to cradle her face, caress her cheek, encircle her waist and pull her body closer. Reaching out to stroke a hand over her belly, Eric assured her, "No one knows how to do this, but you will do fine. He'll grow strong and healthy inside you, and when he is born, we shall raise him together."

"What if he bites me?"

"We'll reprimand him appropriately, let him know only I am allowed to bite you, and tell him not to do it again."

"What about school? He could bite other kids. He might not even be able to go out in sunlight."

"We'll hire tutors, and we'll face the sunlight issue if it arises."

Sookie bit her lip and asked, "What if he's too strong for me to take care of?"

"I will help you. You are not alone in any of this. You will love him and care for him, and I will train and guide him while teaching him discipline."

Sookie was silent a moment before whispering, "I always wanted a baby. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of growing up to find a man that would accept me, and having a baby with him. In my dreams he was never the son of a god turned vampire, and my baby didn't have fangs … but I guess I can adapt."

Eric smiled. "We'll adapt together. I never imagined finding my mate and perfect half in a stubborn southern belle that refused to let me lavish her with gifts and wouldn't do anything I said without some kind of argument, and yet here I am with you, ready to take on the world, human and supernatural, to keep you. Things change."

Taking Eric's hand in hers, Sookie whispered, "I'm glad I met you, Eric. Despite everything, despite Bill and … what happened tonight, I'm glad I met you. I'm glad you're in my life. I'm scared and worried, but you make me believe it will all be okay."

Eric tightened his fingers around hers and leaned in to kiss her lips. "As long as we have each other, my Sookie, we'll be ok. Everything else might hurt us, but together we'll get through it, and move on."

They fell silent again and Sookie's mind turned from the unreal and impossible prospect of having Eric's baby, to her brother. She couldn't help but shudder as she remembered how awful he'd been to her tonight, the things he'd said, the animalistic look in his eyes, and how he'd spat on their relationship. Then she began to remember what it had been like when they were young. Memories of their childhood growing up in their Gran's house warmed her heart.

Sookie smiled softly and murmured, "One time when I was about 13 and Jason had just turned 17, there was a school dance. Like normal, no one asked me to go, because everybody thought I was crazy. Tara and I decided to go together, but she got sick at the last minute. Gran had saved up every penny she could for a month to buy me a dress for the dance so I didn't feel right not going, and didn't tell her that Tara had called earlier that day, because I knew she wouldn't want me to go without a friend. Gran was so excited for me, and I couldn't hurt her feelings. She dropped me off at the school and I went in alone. I sat down on the bleachers and was there all by myself for about half an hour. Then a group of girls sat next to me and started making fun of me. They were the cheerleaders and the elite of the school."

Eric didn't like the story Sookie was telling him. He despised how lonely and isolated her childhood was, but he would listen to anything and everything she ever had to say to him. "What happened?"

A tear slipped down her cheek as Sookie continued, "Hoyt had been at the refreshment table and heard what they were saying. He went and got my brother, who was there with Bethany Toole, captain of the cheer squad, and he told Jason what those girls were saying about me. Bethany, who had tormented me all through school, said—"

"Wait. If she was one of your enemies, why did your brother take her to the dance?"

"She never said anything bad about me in front of him, and I never told him how mean she was to me. I could see in his mind how much he liked her, and I didn't want to ruin that for him. Anyway, when Hoyt told Jason about it, my brother asked if she knew about it. She said I should have been smart enough to realize I wasn't welcome around regular people. He dragged her over to me and told her she had to tell her friends to shut up, and that he wanted her to be friends with me so the other girls would stop picking on me."

"What did she say?"

Smiling sadly, Sookie replied, "She said she'd never let people see her being friends with a freak. She said I was a witch child and that my Gran should have sent me off to the crazy hospital a long time ago."

"I'll track her down and kill her."

"No, you won't. We ended up making peace after she tried to commit suicide, but, that night, my brother made her sorry she picked on me."

"What did he do?"

"He shouted for everyone to listen up. He was the star football player, so everyone always listened to him. When he had the attention of everyone in the gym—that's where the dance was—he told them all how easy Bethany was and that she was the biggest slut in school, and that he'd rather hang with me, his crazy sister, than a girl who stuffed her bra and whose only good attribute was how hard she sucked."

Eric grinned. "He said that?"

Smiling, Sookie affirmed, "He did. He grabbed my hand and he and Hoyt danced with me for the next hour. After that, they took me out to the county roads and Jason taught me how to drive the old Ford he'd bought the year before on his 16th birthday. It was one of my best nights, and I never forgot it."

"He was a good brother to you that night."

"He was a good brother to me many times." 

More tears swam in her eyes as she whimpered, "I don't know if I can stand to lose him, Eric."

Reaching out, Eric closed the slight distance between them, his arms wrapping tightly around her, her warm scent once again filling his nose and mouth. His kissed the bridge of her nose lightly and promised, "I will do all I can to save him. I swear it. For now you must hold tightly to the true memories you have of your brother. You must keep them close to your heart and remember that is who he was. The vampire that the queen has made is not your Jason, Sookie. As long as he is connected to her, he is not your brother. Remember that when he strikes out at you."

"I'm afraid."

"I know, but you'll have me. I will protect you as best I can. I will not allow something like this to happen again."

Sookie leaned back to capture Eric's gaze for minutes that seemed like eons. She saw the truth in his eyes and felt his determination and honesty flooding her through the bond. She decided she'd figure it all out tomorrow. Tomorrow would be better. Tonight she had lost her brother. Tonight she needed to be comforted. Tomorrow she would begin sorting everything out.

Burying herself into Eric's hard chest she asked softly, "Will you sing to me?"

Eric wrapped his arms tightly around Sookie and began to sing a mourning song of his people. It was the song he sang into the night when he stood alone before his human father's funeral pyre. It was a song of loss, and farewell, and hope for a better tomorrow. It was a song for fallen heroes, and mighty warriors. He sang for his Sookie because she asked him to. He sang to her, and he hoped for better tomorrows, for him, for her and for their son.

4 comments:

  1. OMG! It shouldn't be possible but this story just keeps getting better and better:) I really liked the Jason twist - though I feel bad for sookie. And who doesn't like Eric the protector and proud farther! Hope to see more soon:)

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  2. Poor Jason. Hadley....not sure I feel sorry for her or not. Ohhh at least until they revealed what they made Jason do. Dear Lord....how much did they glamour the boy first. Sookie needs to be the one to stake the biatch. I know she'll regret her words but I cant blame her for being mad and running a bit. Niall and the AP have some shitty timing. Glad someone put Niall and the AP in thier places. Woo hoo for Han and Ivan for standing with Eric. How pathetic that they wanted to hurt her more with thier "truths" that night. Good plans, short of death, for skanky anne. I dont see it as Eric making the first move....she did with the crap she's pulled. Glad he is being so supportive at this point. You have me misty eyed for this end section of the chapter.

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  3. I'm utterly amazed at your awesomeness. Your writing, imagination and ability to have me desperate to read new chapters is just phenomenal! I'm so hoping that when you finish this story, you'll pick up the other two again.

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  4. Sophie Ann is such as Bitch..... Eric is being so caring that you know he has to screw up soon..... Kristie

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