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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chapter 52 ~ Sookie Takes a Stand

‘Deathly silent. Maybe deadly silent.’  Alcide held back a grin at his mental stab at humor as he ruminated on the room’s stillness. With the vamps present, ‘deadly’ certainly applied. With Eric’s temper, ‘deathly’ also was good because if the Viking caught even a glimpse of the corners of his mouth turned up, he’d turn that anger on him with no uncertainty. He gritted his teeth and balled his fists behind his back, willing himself to stay stoic. This was not the time to bring any attention to himself.

That Eric could treat his mate in such a manner chilled him; Weres bonded for life and the idea of subjugating a mate was abhorrent. His thoughts ran to Sookie, to that lovely human who put everyone first, who was so giving and loving to all. Why in the world would she have chosen a mate so diametrically opposed to her? He let out the breath he hadn’t even been aware he was holding.

No one spoke as Sookie mounted the stairs and disappeared from their view. All eyes turned to Eric. The Viking could feel the weight of their disapproval on his person, and refused to be influenced. He had done what he needed to do. His authority had been threatened and he had proven his dominance. He would simply have to get Sookie to understand that the supernatural world was about appearances, and, now that he had to unite all the species under his rule, he could not afford to appear weak. He was sure once he sat her down, and explained the logic of his actions, she would come to understand. For now, though, he had to focus on the matter at hand.

Clasping his hands behind his back, he addressed the Weres. “As you know, the Pythoness and Niall Brigant came to visit Sookie and I concerning a matter of great importance. As the two of you are such an integral part of her daytime security, I will reveal to you—“

“Han and Ivan filled us in on the prophecy,” Alcide interrupted evenly. “We know about you and Sookie, and we’re ready to do whatever we need to in order to protect her. Her and her child.”

Eric looked over his shoulder at the two vampire enforcers and arched a brow. They nodded their heads in confirmation. He focused back on the Weres. “Very well. I am calling in the werepanther pack from Hotshot, and they will be under your command during the day. I want the surrounding land cleared and a perimeter marked off by an electric fence. I want security posts and extensive surveillance systems, in addition to the one Sookie already has up, covering every square inch of this property. No one gets in during the day, and no one gets out. Sookie does not leave the safety of the barrier during daylight hours.”

“Sookie won’t want to be locked up during the day,” Quinn countered.

Eyes narrowing, Eric growled, “Sookie is mine, and her safety supersedes her comfort. I decide what is best for her, and I have decided, for now, she is not to leave the barrier during the day. Do not question my commands, tiger.”

Quinn’s gaze was hot and fierce, “The way I understand it, is that you’re hers. According to this prophecy, you were made for her. So maybe she should be the one calling the shots around here.”

‘Oh my God,’ Alcide closed his eyes and fought not to groan. ‘Not good. SO not good. Quinn, man, you’re crazy to go up against him.’

Another silence, and this one was not only uncomfortable, but carried with it the underlying electric tension of barely suppressed violence as well. It was obvious Eric was only just controlling his rage, his need for physical retaliation, and it took all of Quinn’s self control to keep from shifting under the penetrating glare of the large vampire before him. Alcide’s eyes were large and concerned as he glanced back and forth between his employer and his weretiger friend. Han and Ivan waited calmly for Eric’s response.

Eric let the silence drag out for several more beats before he hissed, “Careful, cat, or you’ll find yourself as a rug on my floor. As to me belonging to Sookie? Never. She is mine! If she were not, the Pythoness and Niall would not have given me free rein to do with her as I will. They have appointed me High King. They told me to unite the supernatural world under my rule. I am king, and Sookie is my mate. She belongs to me in all ways.”

Still staring hard at the fool before him, Eric continued, “I will not tolerate any question of my authority from this moment on. I have a war to fight, and an enemy to defeat more powerful than all others. You either accept my rule or you do not. If you are loyal to me, I require you to kneel and give me your pledges. If you are not, you will leave and never come back. From now on, there are only two sides. Mine, and my enemies'. Choose where you stand.”

Eric heard Han and Ivan kneel behind him, proving their loyalty yet again. He looked back and forth between Alcide and Quinn and asked, “What is your decision?”

Alcide glanced at Quinn next to him before sinking to one knee. Bowing his head, his tousled curls falling across his eyes, he vowed, “You are my king. I follow you above all others, even my pack. I will fight and die for you and your mate, and your children that will come.”

Nodding his head, Eric focused on the weretiger and pressed, “And you, tiger? What is your decision?”

Quinn held Eric’s gaze for long moments before finally sinking to the floor. He hated having to pledge his loyalty to the Viking, but he recognized what was going on was beyond him and his own wants. The world was literally at stake, and as much as he hurt for Sookie’s situation, he knew he had to swear allegiance to Eric. “You are my High King. Where you lead, I will follow. I will fight and die to protect you, your mate, and the child she carries … and those that follow. I swear.”

“Good.” Eric moved to sit in one of the chairs, his commanding demeanor not affected in the least by its flower upholstery as he continued, “I will continue to outline the increased security measures I want for Sookie, the surrounding property, and her escort when she is allowed to leave the barrier. From this point forward ….”

While Eric continued to speak with the guards about security issues, Sookie sat on her bed upstairs with Thor. Her hand stroked the length of her sleeping puppy while her gaze fixed on the photo of her star on the far wall that Eric had bought for her months ago. She hurt. Everything hurt. The very air she breathed hurt. She struggled with her thoughts over what had just happened.

‘That bastard. How could he do that? How could he humiliate me like that? He PROMISED. At the cabin, he promised not to lash out at me for the actions of others. He swore to work things out with me. How could he do that? How could he force me to my knees in front of everyone like that? How could he hurt me like that after everything we’ve shared? Damn him.’

Her train of thought was interrupted by a wet swipe on her hand. Thor licked her fingers, staring up at her, tail wagging, and promptly rolled over on his stomach, anxious for more languorous ministrations. She smiled absently, using her nails now to sink deep into his thick fur to scratch. She replayed the events that had happened downstairs. The words and actions of this evening played in slow motion in her mind and she relived it all with the same sense of bitter betrayal and horror. She felt stricken to her core by what Eric had done to her. She couldn’t believe he had demeaned her in such a way in a room full of people, in front of her friends, after what they had shared. After this evening’s intimacies!

She closed her eyes trying to will away the images of their satisfaction. She had held nothing back. Now she felt chilled, violated, used callously. She couldn’t believe Eric could hurt her after they’d been so close just moments before. She’d given him her heart, and he’d shared parts of himself he’d never given anyone, and yet he had so easily taken back up the mantle of cold, ruthless, and unyielding sheriff/king. It hurt her. It hurt her because she knew why he’d done it, and she knew why he would probably do it again.

‘I get that his world is different, and I get that appearances are really important to supes, but he doesn’t have the right to do things like that to me. No matter what he says, we are equals. We’re in this together and he doesn’t have the right to treat me like this. He can’t be my mate one minute, and the same ruthless bastard I hated in the beginning the next. He just can’t.’

Sookie understood that Eric had felt cornered downstairs, she understood that he had been humiliated by Tara, but in her mind that didn’t give him the right to shame her. She knew he had to unite the supernatural world, and she knew it operated by different rules and standards, but it was also obvious that it was time for things to change. Part of that change, she felt, should be the way humans were treated by supernaturals. In her mind, there was no way that Eric could eventually bring all the species together if they all didn’t have the same rights. She was conflicted and hurt by what had happened and knowing the whys didn’t make her feel any better.

‘We just found out about the prophecy. We just found out about Sargon. We just got back from Sweden where he swore to not take his frustrations out on me, or to punish me for the actions of others, and now he’s broken those promises. He’s broken my trust in him.’

That, more than anything else, hurt her. Eric had given her promises, and broken them. ‘So what does that say for the future? He’s promised he will never tire of me, he’s promised that I mean more to him than anyone else, but if he broke those promises, what’s the value of the rest? What’s to say he won’t break the other promises?’

She lay down on her side and cuddled Thor against her chest. Tears slipped down her cheeks. ‘Why did he have to throw away what we had?’

An hour later, Eric had finished outlining his plans for the increased security Sookie would need. He’d given detailed specifications and ordered that everything he’d insisted upon be up and running within a week. By tomorrow night, he expected the werepanther guards from Hotshot to be organized and briefed, and he wanted the forest around Sookie’s home leveled and prepped for the installation of the electric fence. In short, he had set a rigorous schedule. When he was done, his commands given, he stood from his chair and said, “You have your orders. Get started on them.” Turning to Han and Ivan, he added, “Guard the house. No one is to come inside.” He didn’t wait to see if the Weres or enforcers followed his commands. He knew they would.

Now his thoughts turned to Sookie. He had kept the bond pushed back while he’d given his orders so Sookie’s emotions wouldn’t affect him. Apparently, he could no longer close it off completely, however, and had felt the faint throb of Sookie’s heartbreak and pain throughout the briefing. They were so closely linked, the bond was a living thing between them now that could no longer be entirely closed. It both worried and pleased him; pleased him because it only further bound Sookie to his side, proving that she could not be taken from him; worried him because he never wanted Sookie to be able to feel him when the darkness consumed him. The battles to come, he knew, would be waged in darkness and he never wanted her exposed to how much he delighted in killing; it was the one part of himself he was determined to keep from her. He would have to test the bond now to see what its parameters truly were.

Coming to the closed bedroom door, he prepared himself for the confrontation about to take place. It had been a long night and there were only about two hours left before dawn, but he would not go to ground with this shadow between them. He had done what he had to do earlier by proving his dominance and authority, and now it was time for him to make Sookie understand why his actions were necessary. Pushing the door open, he stepped inside, his shoulders squaring, and began, “Sookie, we must—“

“Go away, Eric.”

Closing the door behind him, he made his way to the side of the bed and crouched down to Sookie’s eye level. “We must discuss what happened downstairs. I know you are upset by what happened, but—“

Sookie laughed coldly. “That’s the understatement of the century.” Sitting up, she wiped the tears from her eyes and continued, “I know why you did what you did, Eric, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok. I get that you felt humiliated, I get that Tara challenged your authority, so you responded by proving just how in control of everything you are. There’s nothing for you to explain.”

Her voice was hard as stone; her eyes glittered, equally cold. Eric had never seen this side of Sookie. He rested his arms atop his knees, perfectly comfortable in his crouched position, and asked, “So you understand I had no choice?”

“Oh you had a choice, Eric. You chose to take the easy road.”

Arching a brow, Eric pressed, “How so?”

“You had a choice between taking a stand and setting a new precedent on how you would treat me, your bonded, in the supernatural community, the one you will remake evidently, or following everyone else’s expectations and treating me like dirt.”

“Sookie, I—“

“I’m not finished!” Her voice cut into him with the sure, quick stroke of a butcher deboning a chicken. She fisted her hands in her lap and glared at Eric. Thor looked up sharply at the raised voice and stood up, quickly jumping off the bed and away from the hostility between them.

“It was made perfectly clear to both of us earlier that it is time for things to change. Time for everything to change. It was made clear to us both that this change isn’t going to be easy, and it’s going to take a lot of work. In my eyes, you failed to act like my king down there. You failed to take the first step towards true change. My King wouldn’t give a damn what others thought of him as long as he was doing what he knew to be right. For my King, my opinion would be the one that mattered the most. My King wouldn’t have hurt me to make himself look better to others. My King wouldn’t be afraid of appearing weak, because he’d be secure enough in his own strength, and the strength of our bond, to know he didn’t have to put on airs. My King would know that just being himself, just being my mate, would be all he needs to do. My King would not betray me! And betray the promises we’ve given each other!”

Eric steeled himself to remain calm. He reminded himself that Sookie was upset, and that responding in kind would only make things worse. “Sookie, I understand you feel betrayed, but you were not. I broke no promises to you, nor will I.”

Looking at him as though he’d grown a second head, Sookie asked, “How can you say that to me? How can you sit here with a straight face and tell me that you haven’t betrayed me or broken your promises to me?”

“Because I have not.”

“Yes you have! You promised to work things out with me! You promised not to make me suffer for the actions of others! You lied!”

“I did not force you to kneel to punish your friend. I forced you to kneel to solidify my rule. My authority and ownership of you was called into question. That is something I cannot allow. I did what was necessary to prove I am a capable and strong king. I realize you don’t see it this way, but it is true. The supernatural world is about appearances, and had I allowed the remarks your friend made to go unaddressed I would have appeared weak. I did what was necessary.”

She shook her head, a look of revulsion on her face. “You know what’s scary, Eric? I can’t tell if you really believe the crap coming out of your mouth right now, or if you’re just this damn good of a liar.”

“Sookie, watch your words.”

“Or what? You’ll punish me? I think that ship has sailed. What’s the point of me ‘being good’, huh? If I do what you want, you hurt me, and if I don’t you hurt me! So I might as well at least have my say!”

Anger and frustration warred in his chest as he countered, “My actions downstairs were not intended to cause you pain. The intent was to protect you. If I am perceived weak, then others will think to attack me. I must show that I tolerate no threat to me or mine. I am sorry you allowed yourself to be hurt emotionally by my actions. You yourself admitted that you understood why I had to do what I did, and I am willing to make amends to soothe your heart, if you require it.”

“Do you hear yourself? You’re sorry I ‘allowed myself to be hurt’? You make it sound like it was a choice I made! You’re the one that spit on our bond and chose to humiliate and strike out at me in a room full of people! In front of my friends! And now here you are talking as though the fact I’m hurting is all my fault! You’re unbelievable!”

“I warned you I would always do what I felt I needed to do to keep us safe.”

“You’re so full of shit! And what’s really scary, Eric, is I think you are happy with this self delusion. You didn’t do that to me to protect us. You say that’s why you did it: to make yourself feel better about it, but I know the truth, and deep down you know it too. You hurt me in order to hurt Tara so you’d feel better. She mouthed off to you, you wanted to hurt her in revenge, and you used me to do it! You were petty and cruel, and it disgusts me. You can lie to yourself all you want about your reasons for doing what you did, but I’m not fooled, and neither was anyone else down there.”

Before Eric could respond, Sookie continued, “Your promises to me in Sweden were lies.” Tears filled her eyes; she let out a humorless laugh, cold and desolate. “In a way, I’m kind of glad this happened tonight. It’s good to know where I stand with you. It’s good to know that I can’t trust you. It’s better for me to find out now that I can’t depend on you, rather than find that out later. Apparently I’m in this on my own. I can depend on you to keep me physically safe, but I guess it’s up to me to make sure my heart and soul aren’t broken. You proved I’m just an afterthought to you and what you want for yourself. Despite all your pretty words in Sweden I am truly nothing more than a toy for you. You play with and neglect me at your leisure. So, at least now I know where I stand.”

Eric felt fury rising, coiled and serpentine, inside him, and it took everything he had not to strike out. He despised Sookie’s words. To hear her talk about their bond in such a way, to hear her talk about his affection and esteem for her as she was, actually hurt him. He did not like the unfamiliar emotions it brought forth, and pushed them back to embrace what he could understand—his anger.

“You will not say such things to me! You will not belittle what we have, and spout off nonsense about my lack of regard for you or your place at my side! You will not make false claims!”

“No, that’s your job.”

Silence.

Looking hard into Eric’s eyes, Sookie finished, “When you’re ready to pull your head out of your ass and start being my King, then we’ll talk. Right now? Right now, I want you to leave me the hell alone! In case you haven’t noticed, my world has gone to shit over the past two days, and my King, who I was supposed to be able to lean on for strength, support, and comfort, just kicked me while I was down! So, right now, I’m going to find my own damn strength to get me through this horrible night, and those that are coming. I obviously can’t truly depend on you. You offer support and comfort when it’s convenient for you to do so. That’s not good enough. I’ll find a way to stand on my own, since you’re so selective about when you want to stand by me, and when you want me to kneel at your feet like a dog!”

Were Eric anyone else, his eyes would have widened at the words coming out of Sookie’s mouth. He would have been shocked into speechlessness by the strength, anger, and determination he saw in Sookie’s gaze, but he was Eric Northman, and he would not back down from a challenge.

Surging to his feet, he crossed his arms over his chest and argued, “You are making no sense! If you understand why I had to take the actions I did, if you understand how the supernatural world operates, why are you upset with me? If you understand my reasoning, you should know my intention was not to hurt you, but to solidify my rule, and thus protect you and our child! We both agreed to do whatever we must to protect our son!”

Shaking her head, Sookie replied, “Just because I understand your reasoning, doesn’t make it right. You weren’t solidifying your rule, you were proving to everyone that you think you can do whatever you want, and you were striking out at Tara. This wasn’t about our baby, and you damn well know that! This was about you! It’s always about you because you make it about you! When are you going to see that? A good king makes the right choices, regardless of the fallout from those choices. I understand you think you can’t show any weakness, but being just isn’t being weak. You don’t seem to understand that.”

“You are wrong. Leniency is weakness.”

“Showing me the respect I deserve not only as your bonded and the mother of your child, but as a person, is not leniency, it is just. The supernatural world is wrong in the way it treats not only humans, but one another. I think that is one of the things we’re supposed to change.”

Waving his hand dismissively, Eric countered, “That is an argument for another time, now I wish to know how you can say you understand why I had to do what I did, and yet here you are telling me you want nothing to do with me.”

Her neck ached from looking up at him, and she felt it put her at a psychological disadvantage. She would not be cowed. Not this time. Sookie stood from the bed. Crossing her own arms over her chest she shook her head and sighed, “Eric, first of all, I didn’t say I don’t want anything to do with you. You’re twisting my words. I said I want you to leave me alone until you’re ready to quit being an ass. I want you to leave me alone until you can admit you were wrong and prove to me that you can be my King!”

“It is the same thing, and do not call me an ass.”

“No, it is not, and I’ll stop calling you an ass when you stop acting like one! I want my Eric back—the one that talked things out with me, the one that tried to see my side, the one that promised not to strike out at me for the actions of others. Until you can be that Eric again, I want you to leave me alone!”

“They are all one in the same. I warned you that there would be times when I had to act the part of king. We discussed this several times in Sweden and you assured me you understood and accepted it.”

“I said I understood that the supernatural world wouldn’t see me as an equal and that I’d have to behave a certain way while in public, however, you vowed you’d never treat me like an object. You just broke that promise. You swore to me you’d never take your aggravation out on me when others pushed you. You lied. What happened down there wasn’t you proving you are strong and a capable king. What happened down there proves quite the opposite in my opinion. You showed you care too much for how others see you, and nothing for how I see you. You’re letting the opinions and judgments of others rule your actions. You were upset, and so you hurt me to make yourself feel better. Just like Sophie-Anne.”

Eric flinched in shock. He felt a flair of pain rip across his chest before anger surged forward. His eyes narrowed as he hissed, “You will not compare me to that woman! She and I are nothing alike!”

“Oh really? Let’s break it down, Eric. Things didn’t go Sophie-Anne’s way. You took something she wanted. She sees you as a threat. So what did she do? She hurt me to get back at you. Things didn’t go your way downstairs, Tara mouthed off to you, so what did you do? You hurt me to get back at her. To prove to her you’re top dog, just like Sophie-Anne did the other night. The truth hurts, Viking, but it’s the truth just the same. What you did downstairs was the same low blow Sophie-Anne dealt me.”

Eric held Sookie’s gaze for several moments. Neither looking away. He didn’t like the parallel she’d drawn between him and Sophie-Anne, and what he liked even less was that, at present, he could think of no logical refutation to it. He didn’t like the uncomfortable feeling building in his chest as her words rang true within him. The idea that he’d struck out at Sookie in the same manner Sophie-Anne had, made his skin crawl. Before he’d come into the bedroom, he’d been firm in the belief that his actions had been right, but now he wasn’t so sure. Having no rebuttal at the moment, and his mind whirling from the accusations Sookie had hurled at him, he stated, “You are upset. Perhaps you are right and you need time to cool down. We will discuss this tomorrow night.”

When Eric turned to leave the room, Sookie whispered, “I don’t want to talk to you on a personal level again at all until you apologize. Until you admit you were wrong, and apologize for hurting me to make yourself feel better, don’t say anything to me. We can talk about the baby and what needs to be done to protect ourselves, but things between us are not ok, and won’t be until you admit you were wrong. I’ve had to back down a lot in our relationship, Eric, but I’m not going to anymore. You can’t treat me however you want. I deserve respect and fair treatment, not only as your bonded and mate, but as a human being. If you can’t give me those things, then this isn’t going to work out between us.”

Eric paused at the door, debating with himself over giving a response, and decided to leave Sookie be for the moment. As he left the bedroom and headed for the underground lair so he could begin making further arrangements on his laptop, he thought, ‘Is she right? Am I letting the opinions of others sway me? Did I take the easy path?’

Eric had lived in the supernatural world a long time, and he knew how important the appearance of strength was. He knew how others would take the first sign of weakness and use it against him. He didn’t know how he felt about Sookie telling him it was time for things to change in his world. He was abjectly offended and taunted by the comparison of himself to Sophie-Anne. That didn’t sit well with him at all.

In the bedroom, Sookie collapsed back on the bed. She was physically and emotionally exhausted from her night. So much had happened, and she was struggling to process it all. What the Ancient Pythoness and Niall had revealed had been beyond huge, and she could still barely believe it. The battles coming were going to be hard, and she worried about the losses that would inevitably happen. Feeling fear clutch at her, she decided she was having her Scarlett O’Hara moment and would think about it all tomorrow. Tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow she’d begin trying to piece her world back together. Right now she was just too damned tired.

Too worn to even take the time to change clothes, she simply crawled under the covers and tapped the bed to call Thor over. When he curled up against her belly she stroked him softly and murmured, “At least you’re never mean to me, Thor. So far, you’re the only male in my life that is always constant. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” She smiled softly when her puppy, who was getting pretty big to still be called a puppy, licked her face before nuzzling against her with a contented huff. They were both apparently exhausted, and sleep came quickly.

Downstairs, Eric decided he didn’t want to see anyone. He’d given all the orders he had needed to give to those within the barrier. For now, he would retire to the underground chamber and make the necessary phone calls to his day man, Pam, and the Council to get the ball rolling on all the changes he wanted made within the next few days. He would call Dr. Ludwig and have her come to Sookie’s house tomorrow during the day so that she could examine his bonded and give them some pointers on how Sookie should be caring for herself in her condition. He also did some research online regarding what pregnant females should consume and sent a list to Bobby so his day man could procure the necessary items and deliver them to Sookie’s kitchen first thing in the morning. It did not take him long to deliver his orders, and when all his tasks were done, he felt the pull of the dawn approaching. Moving to the panic room control center he quickly accessed the security surveillance system he’d had installed at Sookie’s months prior and brought up the image of her bedroom, their bedroom.

Sookie was lying on her side with Thor tucked against her. He could see the gentle rise and fall of her chest as she slept, and the sight of her warmed his cold body. He had felt the pain, devastation, betrayal and anger Sookie experienced through their bond when he’d forced her to her knees in front of everyone. He’d been surprised at how hard it was to maintain his unaffected façade as his mate’s emotions stormed their bond, and had tried to shut it down so he would not be emotionally affected. That was when he’d been truly surprised. Before Sweden, he’d been able to open and close the bond between him and Sookie at will, and had at times, when her emotions interfered with his work, but that had not happened tonight. He’d tried to close the bond tonight and it simply hadn’t worked. He had been able to only dim the ferocity of Sookie’s emotions, but not shut them off entirely.

At the time, he hadn’t shown his surprise, but now he wondered at the phenomenon. As with everything else pertaining to Sookie and their connection, apparently there was nothing normal about their blood bond.

‘It appears we are truly so thoroughly connected that we cannot separate in any way. It is obvious that our joining in Sweden has strengthened our connection.’

Eric turned his thoughts to tonight’s events. He knew Sookie was upset and hurt by what he’d done, and he understood that some amends on his part would have to be made to soothe his bonded’s sense of betrayal, but he did not think she was right. Her words tonight had stung him, and while he could see her reasoning behind them, he believed her to be wrong. He’d done what he needed to do to protect them, and he would not apologize for it. He had a thousand years of survival skill compared to her twenty-five, so of course he was right tonight. His proving his dominance had been necessary. It hadn’t been a choice as Sookie claimed. He was not wrong.

Even as he assured that fact to himself, he couldn’t get Sookie’s accusations out of his head. He did not like her comparing him to Sophie-Anne. He thought briefly about arranging for Bobby to bring her some type of peace offering tomorrow, but realized that would only further aggravate her. Sookie could not be bought with gifts, and was only angered at the attempt. He knew that first hand.

He pondered the problem for a while longer, before deciding for now the best he could do was give her time to calm down, and then try to speak with her again tomorrow night. ‘Her anger will have lessened enough by then in order for us to have a rational conversation. I will get her to see that my actions tonight were necessary for her and our son’s safety, and then we will have some rigorous make-up sex.’

Eric settled himself on the bed. Sookie’s scent was still heavy in the bedding and brought him no comfort since she was not here to accompany it. He turned his head into her pillow and inhaled deeply, letting her fragrance fill his mouth and nose. He felt the loss of her, and, if he’d been any other, would have realized his heart ached. It was much earlier than he normally died for the day, but he found himself exhausted from today’s events. He decided to let death take him. His last thought was full of affirmations. ‘Tomorrow will be better. I’ll get Sookie to understand my actions were necessary to protect her and our son, she will apologize for likening me to Sophie-Anne, and we will move past this. That look of betrayal will leave her eyes and they will shine for me again. Yes, tomorrow will be better.’

The sun was already streaming into her bedroom window by the time Sookie woke the next day. Looking at her clock, she saw that it was almost 11am. Her stomach growled almost painfully. Realizing she really hadn’t had that much to eat in the last 24 hours, having barely touched the food she took to the panic room yesterday, and not eating anything at all last night, she mentally chastised herself and hurried to get up. ‘I’m pregnant! I can’t be skipping meals. I need to start making sure I’m eating. From now on, I’m going to make a point of eating at least three full meals a day. I don’t know what carrying this baby is going to take out of me.’

She smiled as Thor yawned widely beside her. He was lying on his back with his paws up in the air and she couldn’t resist rubbing his tummy. “Morning puppy! My little Thor. Did you sleep well?”

Thor wriggled around under her hand and stretched his legs before flipping onto his stomach and crawling towards her to lick at her chin. She played with him for a moment but knew it was time to get up when he jumped off the bed and went to scratch at the bedroom door. That meant he needed to go outside. Since she hadn’t undressed last night, she was clothed enough to go down stairs. She decided she’d let Thor out and then take a shower to start her day.

She quickly uncapped the fish food canister and shook a few flakes into Eric’s bowl, watching the crimson Beta move to the surface to skim the food into its mouth and then she approached the in-wall aquarium and fed those fish too. Heading downstairs, she heard movement in the living room and kitchen and found Quinn, Alcide, Tray, and a few other weres she didn’t recognize moving about. All eyes turned to her as she appeared in the entryway at the base of the stairs. Running a hand through her hair nervously, Sookie greeted, “Morning, y’all.”

Various hellos and other greetings were made by the men and Sookie continued, “I’m just going to let Thor out real quick and then head upstairs to take a shower. If you guys haven’t eaten yet, go ahead and make use of the kitchen.”

She was feeling awkward in a room of men all of whom had to have been aware or been informed of what had gone on the previous night. Uncomfortable, too, realizing she had foregone a bra and could sense their appreciative stares. The sooner she could get upstairs and away, the better. She knew it was rude not to introduce herself to her new guards right away, but the looks Alcide and Quinn had been giving her, the pity she saw in their eyes over last night’s events, were just too much to deal with first thing in the morning. She’d only just woken up and she wasn’t ready to slap her “crazy Sookie” smile on yet and pretend everything was fine. So she let Thor out and hightailed it back upstairs to put herself together as fast as she could. She took a longer shower than normal, but managed to make it back downstairs for breakfast in less than an hour. By then, her stomach was practically roaring.

She padded into the kitchen with Thor at her feet wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. She was planning to go see Freya and Balder after her brunch. As soon as she stepped into the kitchen, she came up short. At the table sat Sam, Lafayette, and Tara. Taking a quick peek into her friends’ minds she saw that Eggs had refused to come into the house. Apparently he was “done with Sookie’s crazy vampire shit”, but the rest of her friends were here for either answers (Tara), or to offer their support (Sam and Lafayette). Having found what she needed, she stopped monitoring her friends’ thoughts and looked to Quinn and Alcide. Both of her Were guards were leaning against the kitchen counter, arms crossed over their chests, glaring openly at Tara. She didn’t need to read their thoughts to know they were mad at her hotheaded friend.

Sookie thought about how best to approach the situation. She knew she had to speak to her friends about what was going on, an edited version, of course, and she knew it was better to get it over with now rather than let things brew. She had enough problems coming her way, and she didn’t need to walk around with yet another issue hanging over her head. It would be best to just get this over with, however things might fall. She looked at her Were guards and asked firmly, “Would you guys step out for awhile? And take the other guards with you? I need to talk to my friends for a bit.”

As the Weres shared a look that obviously indicated they were going to argue about leaving her alone with her friends, Sookie added, “I’ll be fine. I think I need to clear a few things up.”

As head of daytime security, Quinn had the final say. He thought it over for a moment, nodded his head, and replied, “Ok, babe. We’ll walk the perimeter while you talk to your friends.” Looking pointedly at Tara, he continued, “But we don’t want things getting out of hand like they did last night.”

Sookie decided to ignore that comment. “Thanks. It’s appreciated. You guys head outside. Take some drinks with you, if you like. There were some Cokes and bottles of water in there last night.”

There were a few moments of uncomfortable quiet as Alcide and Quinn grabbed enough drinks for themselves and the other guards waiting in the living room before departing. She heard a quick bellowing order from the living room and then they were all up and leaving at once. When they were gone and she heard the sound of the front door shutting, Sookie faced her three friends and asked, “Have y’all had breakfast yet?”

Sam nodded his head and said, “Yeah. Lafayette cooked some pancakes earlier.”

Moving to the fridge, Sookie replied, “I’m sorry I missed those. Well I’m starving and I’m going to cook while we talk.” Pulling open the door to her fridge as Thor shadowed her movements, obviously hungry as well, she couldn’t help but smile to see all the food inside. She didn’t know who’d stocked the fridge since yesterday, but she’d find out later and thank them profusely. Seeing wrapped meat, she sorted through it and dug out a steak. Steak and eggs sounded really good to her right now. Gathering her supplies in her hands she moved to the counter to set the meat, eggs, and an onion out so she could ready her pan. When Thor started yipping at her feet she said, “I’m making breakfast, puppy, hold on.” She set the pan on the stove to let it warm up and moved to get Thor one of the DentaStix she’d bought to help keep his teeth clean. He could gnaw on it while she cooked. Once he was settled by his bowls and chewing happily, she returned to the stove.

She moved quickly and proficiently, grabbing butter from the fridge, and putting a pat in the pan before returning the dish. Coffee was blessedly still hot and she grabbed a mug and poured herself a cup, reaching in to the refrigerator once more to grab some milk to add to it.

Sam, Lafayette, and Tara all exchanged glances with each other as Sookie studiously ignored them while working. Tara knew she needed to apologize for what she’d said to and about Sookie last night. She hadn’t meant most of it, and had said what she had out of anger and fear. She was still mad that Sookie was keeping so much from them, but she’d only implied that her friend was a whore and a vampire toy because, once again, she’d let her anger get away from her and control her mouth. She knew she’d damaged her relationship with Sookie, but, to be fair, Sookie wasn’t exactly being the best friend to her either. Well, at least that’s how Tara felt about it anyway.

Lafayette was overwrought, his eyes luminous with worry. He had a childlike face with wide brown eyes that held no secrets, every emotion broadcasting like a TV screen. He knew Sookie was obviously in some really deep shit, and while he was terrified about how things were going to go down, he wasn’t going to abandon her to it. Sookie was one of his only true good friends. One of the only people that had ever accepted him and never judged him for the way he lived his life. The least he could do was stand by her when she needed him to.

Sam was undoubtedly the most patient of the three. He didn’t know everything that was going on, but was at least fortified by his own roots in the supernatural community, he understood there were some things that Sookie would not be able to reveal to him, and he was okay with it. He would do what he could for her, when he could. Hopefully, it would be enough. As the stillness stretching between them became more uncomfortable while Sookie began to fry up her steak, Sam cleared his throat and asked, “So, cher, you going to talk?”

Sookie offered Sam a small smile before focusing back on her food. She was cooking a huge steak so that she would be able to share some of it with Thor. He was, after all, the only man in her life that hadn’t disappointed her. Sure, he peed on the rug from time to time, and chewed on her favorite sneakers, but at least he didn’t stomp all over her heart and feelings. Remembering the sting of Eric’s betrayal the previous night, she thought, ‘Ok, he gets his own steak.’ She moved to the fridge to take out another steak so Thor could have a small one of his own, and said, “I’m going to talk a whole lot, Sam, and you all are going to listen.”

“Sookie,” Tara began but stopped short when her blond friend turned a dark glare her way.

Sookie looked hard at Tara and continued, “I said that I’m going to talk, and you guys are going to listen. Everyone clear?”

There was a definite coldness in Sookie’s eyes that the three friends had never seen before and all of them drew back, a little unnerved. Never one to back down from a challenge, however, even if she should, Tara insisted, “I’ve got some things to say, Sookie! I—“

“I’m sure you have plenty to say, Tara, and when I’m done saying my piece, I’ll hear yours. For now? For now, you’re going to shut your mouth and listen for once. And if you can’t do that, you can get the hell out of my house and stay in the guesthouse until it is safe for you to go home.”

“Sookie, I—“

“Leave or stay, Tara. If you stay, you listen first and speak when I say it’s your turn. If you go, then we both know where we stand from now on.”

Inseparable friends almost their entire lives, Sookie and Tara’s rancorous volley was incomprehensible to witness. Sam and Lafayette’s eyes ping-ponged between them. The women were now in a staring contest and the tension in the room had just risen up past palpable to painful. Tara backed down behind a nod. “I’ll listen.”

“Good.” Sookie turned back to the stove and carried on, “First I want to talk about my life. I told you guys before that there is stuff going on with me and around me that I can’t tell you about. That fact hasn’t changed. I can’t tell you everything about what is going on. With time, I will let you in on more; I promise that. But for now, all I can say is that being around me is going to be dangerous for the foreseeable future. I’m telling you this so each of you can make the choice to stay or make a run for it. If you stay, Eric has promised to do everything he can to protect you from what’s happening, but if you go, you’re on your own. And, on your own, you don’t stand much chance.”

Before Sam or Lafayette could say anything, Tara exclaimed, “Damnit, Sook! This is exactly what I’m talking about! Being around these damn vampires is tearing your life apart! Let’s just pack up and go! The hell with Eric! No matter what he says or does to you, he doesn’t own you!”

Sookie spun around to level an icy glare at Tara that would have impressed Eric in its viciousness. Clenching the carving fork she was using to turn the steaks in her hand, her hold on the utensil was tight, her knuckles white, her voice strained and full of anger. “This isn’t about Eric! What’s going on is so far beyond him or me! Eric is a part of my life now, yes, that’s true, but he’s not the reason I’ve decided to make a stand and fight. This is my life. The choice to stay here and do what I need to do is mine! I’m sick and tired of hearing about Eric and your thoughts about his place in my life. What is between Eric and I is just that, between us! That’s not what I’m talking about right now.”         

Looking in each of her friend’s eyes, Sookie declared, “Eric and I have problems, and we’ll sort those out ourselves. You aren’t a part of that, and I assure you that I’m not staying here solely for him. Do I love him? Yes. Am I mad as hell at him? Absolutely. Am I sure things are going to work out between us? I have no idea, but none of that is any of y’all's business. I’m here to talk to you about what I’ve decided to do.”

Her attention was riveted to Tara, her eyes stormily staring straight into the other girl's, though her words were intended for all three of them. “I made the choice to enter into a romantic relationship with Eric. I made it of my own free will, despite what any of you might think. That choice had consequences and I’m willing to accept them. I understand that Eric’s world is different than mine and I’m trying to learn to fit in, and hopefully get some things changed in the future. But, right now? Right now, I’m focusing on the problems that are coming towards me simply because I am who and what I am.”

When it looked like Tara was going to interrupt, Sookie held her hand up to stop her. “I’m not finished.” Her voice rolled over her oldest friend, intractably potent. Tara’s mouth snapped shut, gasping, like a small animal caught in the jaws of a steel trap.

“As bad as things are right now, despite everything that has gone wrong, I wouldn’t go back and change things so that I never met Eric and wasn’t with him. You can’t understand why I feel that way because none of you has the full picture. I can’t tell you everything that is going on, but, I assure you, this is the way I want my life to go. Are there more complications than I want? Yes, but show me anyone whose life goes exactly the way they want. I made the choice to be here, for good or bad, and I haven’t changed my mind. This is my life, and I mean to fight for it.”

Taking a deep breath, still looking at Tara since she was the one that needed the most convincing, Sookie stated indomitably, “This isn’t about Eric or me anymore. This isn’t about me being free from his control. This isn’t about me trying to regain my old life. This is about me. This is about me making my own decisions. Something is happening to me, something great is going on in my life despite everything that is wrong, and I will do whatever I have to in order to protect this new development. I will make any sacrifice, any concession, and fight to my last breath if I have to. This decision is mine alone. I wasn’t forced to make it, and it’s the one I’ve made after learning all the facts. I’m choosing to walk away from my old life from here on out. I’m choosing to embrace the new path I’m on and hopefully grow into a better and stronger person. I’m choosing to stand by Eric and see this through to the end. These are my choices, and mine alone. The fact that Eric has made the same choices doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change the fact that I’ve made my decision about my future.”

Turning back to the stove to tend to the steaks she was frying, Sookie continued, “If you can’t accept that, if you aren’t prepared to stand by me, then you need to wait for Eric to tell you that he’s handled the queen, and then you need to make a run for it on your own. Because, I assure you, that as big a threat as Sophie-Anne is, as much as she wants to hurt me and already has, she’s small potatoes compared to what’s coming.” She turned back to face them.

“So if you’re in, you’re in.” Her words were arid and unaffected. “If you stay, you need to be ready for a shit storm the likes of which none of us have ever seen, because it’s coming. If you’re out, then leave knowing I love you and hope to see you again one day. Leave, knowing I don’t blame you for wanting out, and that I wish you all the best. Leave knowing you may not stay alive. The threat to all of you is very real.”

Silence.

The sound of grease popping in the pan and Thor gnawing on his bone were the only aural realities in the oppressive quiet that followed Sookie’s pronouncement. Her words had been colored with determination and conviction, and all three friends were shocked at the finality of them. Sookie had clearly made a stand and wasn’t going to be swayed from it.

Sookie moved the steaks from the pan and cracked the eggs to fry. Unbelievably, Tara still had the temerity to argue. “Sookie, how can you say this? These aren’t your choices! Eric is making you think they are! You don’t want this! Sookie, think about what you’re say—“

“Enough!” Cutting up the steaks harshly while the eggs fried, Sookie hissed, “Who the hell do you think you are, Tara? Who are you to tell me my own mind? Just because you don’t agree with my choices, doesn’t make them any less mine! This is my life, and I’ll live it how I please!”

Thor stopped chewing on his bone and began to growl low in the back of his throat as he sensed the angry energy between the two women. For some reason, his mistress was mad at the other female, and he didn’t like it. The thick black fur on his back raised in spikes as he growled at the other female glaring at his mistress and he slowly stood.

Sookie saw Thor moving and bent to talk to him. “It’s ok, Thor. Eat your bone. I have some meat for you. It’s ok, puppy, you can lay down.”

He wagged his tail briefly before returning to his bone, still warily watching Tara. This female with her angry, shrill voice continued, unabated. “How can you tell me you’re happy? How can you tell me you want to be in this situation? Are you forgetting what happened last night?”

Now Sookie was really angry. “What happened last night was as much your fault as it was Eric’s! You had no right saying any of those things when you don’t have the full story! You overstepped your bounds big time last night, and I expect an apology from you for it! As for Eric? Believe me, he’s in a whole world of trouble too! I made that damn good and clear to him! Right now, you stop using him as an excuse!”

“I’m not—“

“The hell you’re not!” Sookie struggled to control her breathing.

Both Sam and Lafayette felt like they were in the middle of a lightning storm. The air was just as charged and angry as though a violent storm was thundering down on them. Neither had the courage to say anything and possibly draw the wrath of either woman, and simply continued to sit mutely watching, hoping it would all blow over soon enough.

Sookie used the spatula to put her eggs on the plate with her steak, and moved to collect Thor’s food bowl. He immediately began hopping around at her feet in excitement since he knew it was time to be fed. She swept the chunks of steak into his bowl and poured in a cup of his kibble and all the steak juices, swishing them around before placing the bowl down. She filled his water bowl and set it beside his food. She set her own plate down on the kitchen table next to her cooling mug of coffee.

She sat, and her eyes, dark with resentment, met Tara’s. Her voice was filled with exasperation. “You forget, Tara, I know what you’re thinking. I know you’re using Eric as an excuse for everything. The fact is that I’m in the situation I’m in because of choices I made. Did Eric manipulate me to get me bonded to him? Yes, but that no longer matters. He made the choice to make me a part of his world and maneuvered me into position so other supernaturals would view me as his property so that no one would take me from him. That was his decision, but it was my decision to give him my heart, and to try and make a life with him! I chose this. I chose to set out on this path, and I’m choosing not to look back.”

“And those choices cost Jason his life.”

Dead silence.


Sookie held Tara’s gaze. Sam and Lafayette shared a worried glance, but again, neither one wanted to get between the two women. When she spoke, Sookie's voice was grim and taut. 

“You’re right Tara, Jason is dead, but that’s not my fault. It’s not Eric’s fault either. It’s Sophie-Anne’s. She would have taken me and made me a slave in the truest sense of the word, breaking down everything I am as she is breaking Jason, if Eric hadn’t bonded me to him. I’m sorry Jason is dead and a vampire, and I hope Eric can find a way to free him from Sophie-Anne, but I’m not going to take the blame for it.”

Sookie rose suddenly, the chair protesting as it spun back furiously. Taking a step closer to her friend, her fists clenched at her sides, she could barely contain her rage. She hissed, “And that is the last time you will throw Jason’s death in my face. I love you like a sister, Tara Thorton, but I’m not taking shit from you over this. Not today, not ever. I’m sick and tired of people playing psychological warfare with my heart to try and break me down to do what they want me to do. It’s bad enough I have to put up with it from my enemies, but I’ll be damned if I put up with it from my friends! What happened to Jason breaks my heart, and I’m going to fight to get him back, but you will stop using him and what happened to him as a weapon to strike out at me and Eric. Do you understand?”

Her own fists clenching, Tara glared up at Sookie and bit back, “So we either have to accept that there are bad things going on in your life that you won’t tell us about, bad things that could get us killed, or we have to leave and never come back? Your way or the highway?”

Sookie stopped herself from setting a hand protectively over her belly, possibly giving away her pregnant status. She closed her eyes momentarily frowned, paused to regain control and then brought her chair back to the table to sit down on. Her words were measured and careful. “Not everything that is going on is bad, some of it is actually wonderful, but, yes, if you’re going to stay you have to accept that bad things are coming. If you’re going to stay, you’re going to have to accept that you will only be told what you need to know, and much more will be kept from you. If you’re going to stay, you’re going to have to accept that sometimes you’ll have to take orders from Eric. I know it sucks, but he’s our best chance at coming out of this alive. If you can’t accept those things, then you need to go. For your sake, as well as mine. It’s safer for you guys here, but you can’t stay here causing problems either. I’ve got enough already.”

“Are you staying with Eric just to stay safe?” Tara pressed.

Shaking her head, Sookie answered, “Absolutely not. I’m staying with Eric because I love him. None of you know him the way I do, and you never will. I’m not saying what he and I have is perfect, but I do think it’s worth fighting for. I mean to try. I have reason to believe he can and will change, and I mean to see him through that change. He and I have plenty of problems to work out, but again, that is none of your business. Right now, you need to decide if you’re willing to see this through to the end with me.”

Tears filling her eyes, Tara stammered, “You—you’re really willing to throw our friendship away over that vamp? You’re willing to kick us all out of your life just to keep Eric?”

Here it was then, finally, the defining moment in her and her friends' lives. Sookie stared down at her plate of food, fighting back her own tears, and replied deliberately, “I said it before, and I’ll say it again, this isn’t about Eric anymore. This is about me. This is about me, my life, where it is headed, and the choices and decisions I’m making concerning my future. Eric is a part of my life and future, yes, but he’s not all of it. I love you guys, you know that,” and here she looked up again. “But I have other things in my life now that are more important to me than anything else. I love Eric, but the new development I told you all about, the development I can’t explain yet, is more important than Eric or me. This is what I’m choosing. I love you all so much, but if it comes down between my future and our friendship ….”

Sookie’s words trailed off, and another uncomfortable silence ensued. She took the moment to cut into her steak and put a chunk into her mouth. The taste was so good she almost moaned. Instead, she quickly swallowed that one and followed it immediately with another.

It was Tara who interrupted the silence again. “So you want us all to just walk blindly into this? You want us to just ignore the fact we’re in serious danger around you, danger brought on by your choices, and just follow along after Eric? You won’t tell us what is going on?”

“I can’t tell you right now. You’ll know when it is time for you to know, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to keep it a secret for long. I’m saying that if you’re going to stay, you’re going to have to accept the fact that I’m changing, my life is changing, and there will be some new people and things in my life. I’m saying if you’re going to stay, that even if you don’t like Eric, you have to accept the fact I’m with him. You have to accept the fact he’s not going anywhere, and when it comes to security and safety issues, we can’t argue with him.”

“So you’re just going to roll over and take his abuse?” Tara exclaimed.

Sookie steeled herself not to rise to the bait. “No. I’m saying that I know Eric is better equipped to handle some situations than I am. I’m 25 years old, 26 in July, but Eric is over a thousand. He’s fought more wars and battles, taken down more enemies, than any of us can imagine. So yeah, when it comes to safety and security I’m going to look to him for leadership. The rest of it? You can damn well bet he’ll be getting an ear full and the cold shoulder until he realizes that we’re partners in this. I don’t give a damn about how the supernatural world operates and views humans. Not anymore. I tried following the rules, and it didn’t work. In my opinion, it’s time for a new way of doing things. That will take time, and I plan to fight my battles smart. I’ll take on Eric first, everyone else afterwards.”

She popped another piece of steak into her mouth and chewed quickly, following it with a swig of coffee.

“Sook, let me get you some fresh coffee, that has to be cold as ice,” Lafayette acknowledged kindly and stood, grabbing her mug. Sookie smiled up at him gratefully. She heard him dumping the contents into the sink and, from the sounds behind her, knew he was refilling it and adding additional milk from the refrigerator. He returned immediately with her cup and sat back down.

“So are you guys in, or are you out?”

They looked amongst themselves quickly. Sookie’s words, her overall demeanor, was markedly different this morning. Honestly, each of them had expected her to come downstairs with red rimmed eyes from crying all night. They had expected her to be ashamed of what had happened last night and be railing about how evil Eric was for humiliating her like he had. They had not expected to see this iron maiden holding their gaze. They had not expected her to lay down the law on what would be allowed from now on, nor to declare that she was sticking with Eric and apparently readying for some huge showdown in the supe community. None of it had been expected, and they mentally reeled, each trying to process all the information and get past the continuing mysteries while Sookie calmly cut one bite of steak and eggs after another. Eating quietly, she waited for their answers.

Tara was the first one to respond, yet again, and stood up from the table. “I can’t make a decision on this right now. I feel like I don’t even know you anymore. The things you’re saying … Sook, you never ... I ….” Shaking her head bitterly, Tara turned and headed from the kitchen. She’d had so much she wanted to say to Sookie this morning, but now she couldn’t find the words. She couldn’t think through the morass of her own frustration. The sound of the back door opened and closed, signaling her departure.

When she was gone, Sookie closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. It hurt her to think that Tara might choose not to stand beside her, but that would be Tara’s choice. Sookie had made hers. Opening her eyes, she looked at a stupefied Sam and Lafayette. “I want you to know I won’t blame you if you decide to follow her. I’m scared and I, at least, know what’s going on. I know it’s worse for you guys, and I’m sorry I’m putting you in a position to choose. I really am, but I have no choice.”

Sam ran a hand over his face. “Sook, we’ve been friends for years now. You were the first person I told about being a shifter, and the first person that showed me I didn’t have to hide. I’m not saying I’m happy with what’s going on. I can’t say that I agree with your choice to be with Eric romantically, but I can say I’m not going anywhere. I trust you and know you’re only keeping things from us because you have no other choice. You said we’ll know when it is time for us to know, and I’m ok with that. I’m staying, Sookie. I’ll stay and fight whatever is coming with you. Tell me what you need from me and I’ll do it.”

Sam’s declaration touched her heart and her eyes welled with happy tears. “Oh, Sam! You don’t know what that means to me! Thank you so much!”

Sam returned the smile and added, “I couldn’t leave you to this mess if I wanted to, Sook. You’d do your best to help me. I’m just returning the favor.”

Sookie reached across the table to take hold of Sam’s hand and said, “I love you like a brother, Sam Merlotte, and I’ll always be here to help you if you need it.”

Sam and Sookie shared a look that spoke of the years between them of indefatigable friendship whose strength was fierce loyalty. They took a moment to speak without words, and then both turned to look at Lafayette, waiting for his answer. Lafayette looked back and forth between Sookie and Sam, before focusing on his boss and asking, “Sam, could you give Sookie and I a minute? I want to talk to her alone.”

Sam glanced at Sookie first, and, when she nodded her head, he patted her hand and stood from the table. “Sure. I’ll just go check on Tara. See if she’s calmed down any.”

When Sam was gone, Lafayette began, “First, I want to say that I’m staying. I wouldn’t run out on you, Sook. You’ve never run out on a friend, and while I’m scared shitless right now, I ain’t going anywhere. But I have some questions I’d like to ask you.”

“I’ll answer them if I can, Lafayette.”

“Fair enough. First, are you sure you love Eric?”

“Yes. Never been more sure of anything.”

Shaking his head, Lafayette replied, “I just can’t understand that! I mean he’s—and you’re—and well, just shit, Sook! I don’t understand it!”

Smiling softly, Sookie murmured, “I can’t explain it to you, Lafayette. The private moments Eric and I share are for us alone. What I can tell you is that there is a side to him that no one else sees. Not even Pam. Eric has only been truly close to two people, his maker and me. He’s different with me, Lafayette. Really different.”

“But, Sook, last night ….”

He looked forlorn, his words trailing off, but Sookie didn’t need for him to finish. “I know. Last night Eric hurt me. Hurt me badly. I’m not excusing his actions, but I can say that he was under considerable stress before last night’s fight. We both are. Tara provoked him when he was already on edge, and I think he just lashed out. I told him he was wrong for it, and I told him things between us are not ok right now, and that he has to make it up to me. He knows that. I doubt everything will ever be perfect between Eric and I, but I can honestly say that I love him.”

“Even after he treated you like that? Sook, I’ve known you for a long time and you’ve never let anyone put you down like that. You’re my girl and all, but I don’t know if I can support you being with Eric if he’s going to abuse you, and that’s what it was, Sook, abuse.”

“I know he abused me last night. I’m not ok with it, and I’m not going to put up with it anymore. I told that to Eric last night after you guys all left. The reason I’m willing to fight for a better life with him is because I know he is a good man. Beneath it all, I know he loves me. I know he wants a life with me just as much as I want a life with him.”

Cutting up another bite of steak, Sookie brought it up to her mouth and chewed slowly. “I can’t explain it to you, Lafayette, but if you knew some of the sacrifices Eric is making, the fights he’s taking on, just to keep me safe, you’d realize there is more to him than he shows people. His world is different than ours, Lafayette, very different. He’s lived a thousand years in a world where love, devotion, kindness, and things like that are considered weakness. He’s lived in a world where only the hardest, meanest, and most vicious survive. Being with me is completely alien to him. He’s out of his element, and, because of that, I’m willing to give him the time and the chance to change. He’s a good man, Lafayette, but right now he’s making a lot of mistakes when it comes to me.”

“But there are times he does treat you right?”

Sookie smiled. “Lafayette, there are times he treats me like the most beautiful and special woman in the world. Most of the time when we’re together he makes me feel like I’m on top of the world. He thinks I’m smart. Like, really smart. He wants me to go to school so I can better myself. He got me self defense lessons so that I can protect myself if he’s ever not there. He wants me to be all that I can be.” Her eyes glistened, her smile radiant. “He wants me to dream, Lafayette, he wants me to dream for him and with him. He wants me to want the world so that he can give it to me. Eric makes a lot of mistakes with me, but he does right by me a lot more. That’s why I’m willing to fight for a better life with him.”


Lafayette smiled, he knew if anyone deserved a true love it was Sookie; she had such a good heart. “Well, I can’t see it, Sook. I can’t see Eric being a good man, but if you say he’s capable of being good enough for you, then I’ll trust you. I still think you could do better, though.”

“Eric is becoming a better man by the day, and I hope I’m becoming a better woman. I think we’ll grow and change together. Things aren’t right between us now, and he definitely has some serious groveling to do, but I love him and want to be with him.”

Nodding his head, Lafayette continued, “Ok then. That question is answered, so now I gotta ask … uh … are you some kind of supernatural like Sam is? I mean I’ve always known you could hear people’s thoughts and everything, but I never thought … but after what Sam showed us last night … well, I just gotta ask.”

“I lived my whole life believing I was human Lafayette, and I only just recently found out I’m only mostly human.”

“Mostly human?”

“Mostly.”

“Doesn’t explain a whole lot, Sook.”

“I know, but to be fair I just found out that I’m not completely human, and even I don’t know what that means.”

“Can you … uh … you know, do stuff? Like more than read minds?”

Shrugging, Sookie cut another bite of steak and replied, “I’ve been told I can, but I haven’t been able to yet. Some people are supposed to come in the next few days and help me tap into the supernatural blood I have to see if I can do more than read minds.”

“What are you going to be able to do?”

Sookie chewed the meat in her mouth for a minute. She swallowed, a frown crossing her features. “I’m not sure if I can tell you that. Eric is worried about our enemies finding out about our strengths. He wants them knowing as little as possible. I’m not sure if I can tell you. Let me talk to Eric about it tonight.”

“Sook, I’d never rat you to an enemy!”

She smiled sadly. “I know, but you could be captured, Lafayette. You could be captured by someone who wants to hurt me. They could be a vampire and might glamour any and all information they want out of you about me and Eric, or it could be a human that will torture you for information. That’s why Eric said we have to be careful about people knowing our secrets, and I agree with him.”

Lafayette sat back in his chair, dumbfounded at the edge of the curtain he was now getting a glimpse under. “Holy shit! You … you’re serious about trouble heading our way aren’t you? There really is some major shit about to go down isn’t there?”

Sookie was silent, pushing her fork against the food on her plate thoughtfully. Finally she set her knife and fork down and looked up to capture Lafayette’s gaze. “I’m going to be straight with you, Lafayette. I’m pretty sure that Sam knows enough about the supernatural world to grasp the severity of the situation, but I want to make sure you understand.”

Lafayette nodded encouragingly, Sookie continued, “People are going to die, Lafayette. A lot of people are going to die. What is coming after me is so big and bad, so far beyond your imagining, that you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I’m still having trouble believing it. From here on out, it’s going to be like Fort Knox around here and Eric is going to be bringing in more and more guards. Supernatural guards. There are going to be big battles ahead, and as much as I hate to think about it, people are going to die.”

Continuing to look into Lafayette’s eyes, Sookie finished, “So if you’re serious about wanting to stay, you need to brace yourself, because bad things are going to happen.”

“Do you want us to go, Sookie?” Lafayette asked.

“No. I want you to stay, and not for my own sake either. Honestly, the best shot any of you have of not becoming pawns for Sophie-Anne or my other enemies to use against me is for you to stay here so Eric can protect you. If you go, you’re on your own and you’d probably be picked off pretty quickly.”

“So you’re just going to let Tara go then?”

“I’m going to talk to her again. Alone. Tara always needs time to think things over if she’s going to make a good decision. I’ve planted the idea of staying or going. I’ve made it clear both choices have consequences. What she decides to do will ultimately be up to her, but I’ll try one more time to make her see reason. This morning, I just had to make it clear to you all that Eric isn’t forcing me to be here. That I am making my own decisions in all of this.”

Leaning over the table, Lafayette asked, “Do you have a plan?”

“Eric does. Right now I’m just trying to make it one day at a time. Eric’s got the security part down though. So as long as you’re here, you’re as safe as can be. And he said he’s going to get you some guards to watch you during the day also. You’ll be safe as possible, Lafayette, I promise.”

“As possible?”

Wincing, Sookie confirmed, “As possible. That’s all any of us can hope for right now.”

“Sookie, why is this happening to you?”

She smiled ruefully and sighed. “I—god, what can I tell you? It’s not just happening to me, but it concerns me. Concerns my future. More than just my future, really. And there are supernatural forces that don’t want that future to come about.”

“You make it sound like this is going to be an all out war, Sook,” he fixedly stared at her, trying to understand.

She spoke guardedly. “You will have all your answers in time, Lafayette. Please trust me that I want to do everything I can to make sure you all stay safe.”

They sat in silence for a long moment, Lafayette trying to come to terms with exactly how much his world had just changed, and Sookie trying to give him the time to do so. Finally she asked, “So? Any other questions?”

“Just one.”

“Ask away?”

“How good is Eric in bed?”

Sookie nearly spit out the coffee she’d just taken another sip of. “Lafayette!” she protested.

Lafayette grinned. “He’s a top isn’t he? I bet he is. Or maybe he’s one of those big bad boys in public and in private he likes to be spanked. Have you spanked him?”

Sookie’s face was beet red and she was sputtering. “I … how can you … I’m not going to … I thought you hated Eric?”

“I do. He’s a real bastard, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a nice ass when I see one. So? Spill girlfriend! On a scale of 1 to 10, how good is that hunk of yours?”

Sookie shook her head, her cheeks blistering with heat. She and Lafayette had just been discussing how dangerous things were, how any or all of them might die in the near future, and his question was how good was Eric in bed? ‘Lafayette will never change,’ she thought in bemusement. ‘And that’s a damn good thing. He can always make me laugh, even when things aren’t so great.’

Cutting into another piece of steak, Sookie bit her lip to hide her smile and nonchalantly replied, “He does have a nice ass, doesn’t he?”

“Only redeeming quality that I can see, and you haven’t answered the question. How good is he, Sook? As much as I hate that bastard, I’m dying to know.”

Sookie leaned forward to whisper conspiratorially, “You know I’ve been inside your head, right? You know I’ve seen all your memories? Even your most memorable nights?” He laughed, his eyes dancing merrily. She continued, “Well roll together every good time you’ve ever had, every orgasm, every touch, caress, or kiss, and you’ll have a fraction of an idea of how good Eric is. You give me a scale of 1 to 10 to adequately judge a man that has lived for a thousand years and spent quite a bit of that millennia perfecting the art of lovemaking? Really, Lafayette, that’s just not fair. I need more numbers, a LOT more numbers.”

Lafayette’s mouth dropped open in shock as he watched Sookie lean back in her seat to pop another bite of steak into her mouth. She had a smirk on her face as she chewed happily, and he muttered, “Hot damn, Sook! … How big is he? Eight inches? Nine? Ten? Is he thick?”

That time she nearly did choke.

Outside, the Weres had observed Tara run out of the house followed by Sam a few moments later, but decided not to approach them since they were headed to the guesthouse. Quinn and Alcide had been showing the new werepanther guards around the property and filling them in on some of the increased security measures that Northman wanted installed by the end of the week. Now they wanted the werepanthers to spread out and start making note of the blind spots in the property and to get a more personal feel for the area. Weres thought best when in animal form, especially when it came to protection. It was one thing to walk the land on two feet, and another on four. So Quinn and Alcide left the werepanthers to strip in the tree line (that wouldn’t be standing much longer as Eric had ordered the woods cleared) and headed back towards the front of the house. They would sit on the porch and wait for Sookie to tell them it was ok for them to come back inside.

When the werewolf and weretiger had both taken a seat in the rockers on Sookie’s front porch, Alcide asked bluntly, “What do you make of all this?”

“Honestly?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m freaked the fuck out.”

Alcide let out a short bark of laughter, his green eyes glinting, as he confirmed, “Right there with you. This shit is crazy. I mean you hear about great battles and how the supernatural community fought to change the world in the old days, but they were just stories, ya know? And now ….”

“We’re about to be part of our own story,” Quinn finished. “It’s crazy to think that in our lifetime the whole world is going to change.”

Nodding, Alcide added, “Yeah. I mean, I guess we should have expected it, seen it coming or something, with the Great Reveal and all, but I never dreamed anything like this would happen.”

“Sargon’s nothing to laugh at. That’s for damn sure.” Quinn became quiet and they rocked their chairs, each deep in contemplation. He spoke aloud before he was even aware he was voicing his thoughts. “He shouldn’t have done that to her. She didn’t deserve it, and she doesn’t need it at a time like this. We should have said something, stopped him somehow.”

Alcide shook his head sadly. “She didn’t deserve it, and it wasn’t right, but you know us trying to stop him only would have made matters worse. After what that bitchy friend of Sookie’s said, I’m surprised he didn’t just take her head off. The Viking shouldn’t have hurt Sookie like that, but you know why he did. I ain’t saying he’s right, but I am saying it’s none of our business. Quinn, you’ve got to start being objective when it comes to Sookie. Whatever’s going on between her and the new king, is up to them. We’re here to follow orders. Sookie needs to stay safe, and that’s all any of us should be concerned about.”

“It wasn’t right, Alcide. It just wasn’t right.”

“I know, but for now, that’s how it is. You leave Eric to Sookie. I’m thinking if anyone can straighten him out, it’s her. Let’s just worry about the security part, ok?”

Quinn ran a hand over his face and muttered, “This shit is fucked, man.”

“Tell me about it.”

The sun was starting its descent and Quinn glanced at his watch: 1pm. His head dropped back to the headrest on the rocker and he sighed. “It’s fucking Sargon, Alcide. The big nasty of all big nasties. If he’s really been lying in wait for six thousand years what chance do we really stand? Legend says he was damn near invincible back then, and now we find out he orchestrated his death? That doesn’t bode well for any of our chances.”

“No it doesn’t, but Eric’s nothing to sneeze at either. He was pretty dangerous before he connected with Sookie, and now he’s pretty strong too. I think we have a good chance. The Pythoness will rally all the supes around Eric and Sookie, and he’s famed for leading battles. I heard that kings and queens in Europe used to hire him to lead their wars back when he still traveled as an enforcer. I think he knows a thing or two about winning.”

“He’s never faced Sargon.”

That was an undeniable truth. No one living had faced Sargon before. All of the ancients that had walked the earth at the time of Sargon’s supposed demise were all gone. No one truly knew who or where Sargon was. No one knew what he was capable of. No one even knew what he looked like. He was a dark shadow casting a large cloak of fetid, choking darkness over all their subconscious. He was death and Armageddon, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Antichrist, End of Days.

Quinn suddenly announced, “I’m going to ask Sookie if Frannie can come stay here. I don’t want … I need her to be safe in all of this.”

Alcide nodded; when he’d gone home last night, home to where his pack lived, and seen all his family and friends milling about their front yards, seen them all talking and laughing together as a pack should, he’d wanted to warn them all of what was coming. He’d wanted to hide every last one of them from the battles and war they were about to face, but he knew he couldn’t. For the safety of all, he couldn’t spill the epic secret of what Sookie and Eric truly were, what they were going to accomplish, until The Pythoness said it was time for all the supe world to know. It wouldn’t be safe for Sookie and her baby. It would only make them more of a target.

Empathizing, Alcide offered, “Northman won’t like that.”

“I know, and that’s why I’m going to ask Sookie today, before he can come up with any more rules for her. If she says yes, I doubt he’ll make her take it back later. Whether he admits it or not, that dead man is in the doghouse big time. I’m betting it’s a month of Sundays before Sookie forgives him.”

“Amen to that.” Alcide took a sip of his Coke and asked, “What do you think our chances are?”

Quinn looked out over the land around Sookie’s house. In his mind, he could already envision all the cleared land, the fence, the security posts, the additional security personnel Northman was bringing in, and he weighed it against what he imagined Sargon’s forces to be like. Finally he answered, “Right now? I say we got a 50/50 shot of us making it out of this alive.”

“I can take those odds.”

The men sat sipping their drinks as they brooded inwardly about the rocky future ahead of them. Quinn’s leg shook restlessly. He cleared his throat. “I need a favor from you.”

Alcide looked at the weretiger next to him. He had great respect for Quinn. Any Were that could last in the pits against vampires as long as he had deserved respect. “What do you need?”

Quinn sat forward, snaring Alcide’s gaze. “I have a lot of respect for you, Alcide. We’ve hung out several times over the months, and you invited Frannie and me to a barbecue that night with your pack. So what I’m going to ask of you shows how much I respect you as a man and fellow Were.”

“Just spit it out, Quinn.”

“If I don’t make it, I want you to look after Frannie for me. She’ll have no one else. I’m seeing a lawyer in a few days to get my affairs in order, and I need to have someone to leave her to if things don’t work out. I … I was hoping I could leave you as her guardian.”

Alcide’s eyes widened in shock. “You want … uh, I … shit, man!”

Rolling his can of Coke between his massive hands, Quinn continued, “You and Frannie get along real well. All of her friends are girls in your pack, and she likes hanging out over there. She’s turning 16 soon, so she can pretty much take care of herself, and I’ve got more than enough money to leave to her to see to her care. The Council made de Castro give me a pretty big severance package when they bought out my debt from him, so you wouldn’t have to worry about money to look after her. I … I have no one else to ask, and I need to know she’s got someone to look after her if I don’t pull through this time.”

Alcide scratched the back of his head searching for comforting words. “You’re going to be fine, Quinn. If anyone is going to fall in this shit, it’s going to be me. You’re a much better fighter than I am.”

Holding Alcide’s gaze, Quinn argued, “I don’t know man. I’ve got this feeling in my gut, this cold ache in my bones … I don’t think I’m going to make it through this one. I’ve survived some pretty amazing odds in the pits over the years. I went in there a boy fighting vamps, and I came out with my fair share of scars, lessons, and skills, but this fight?” Quinn swallowed heavily, “I get the feeling this is the end for me, and I’ve never felt that way. Never. For my own peace of mind I need you to say yes to this.”

Alcide heard the cold note of finality in his friend’s voice, and it worried him. Quinn could very well die; they could all very well die, and Alcide, realizing a Were as tough and mighty as Quinn was, vocalizing his fear to the extreme of discussing last wills and the fate of his sister, terrified the hell out of him. He let out a long shivery sigh and reached to pat his friend’s knee.

“I’ll look after Frannie. I’ll look after her as though she were my own sister.”

“Thanks. You don’t know what this means to me.” Quinn took another sip of Coke before adding, “I don’t want her to know. I don’t want anyone else to know. This stays between us. Frannie doesn’t need to be worrying about this, and I don’t want anyone’s morale dropping any more than it has.”

“I won’t say a word to anyone, Quinn. This is between us, and if that time ever comes, I’ll tell Frannie that she was all you could think about, that her safety and welfare meant everything to you … but it won’t come to that, Quinn. We’re going to get through this. We’re all going to stick together, and then we’re going to live to be old men.”

Quinn offered a lopsided grin and closed his eyes, sitting back in his rocking chair. “Here’s hoping.”







Back at the guesthouse, Sam was sitting next to Tara and trying to talk some sense into her. He’d found her sitting on the small porch of the guesthouse after he’d left Sookie. He’d debated about attempting to speak to the volatile girl, but he felt he owed it to both Tara and Sookie to try and help them through this mess. He’d simply sat beside her in silence for a moment before saying, “She’s doing the best she can, Tara. She’s not doing any of this to hurt us. You know that.”

“She’s being selfish, Sam! She’s putting us all at risk so she can be with Eric.”

“First, she made it clear this isn’t about Eric anymore. Something else is going on with her, and that is what she’s willing to fight to the death for. She may love Eric and want to be with him, but she’s here, making a stand, willing to sacrifice it all for something else. I don’t know what that something else is, but it’s big. As for being selfish? Maybe she is, but Tara, maybe she deserves to get to be selfish. All her life, she’s sacrificed for others. All her life, she’s put up with hatred, bigotry, and plain ol’ spite. If she’s found something worth fighting for, is it really right for us to judge her for that?”

Tara turned to him, lips compressing to hold back her pain. “He’s dead, Sam, Jason’s dead. We’ll never get him back.”

“I know, Tara, and Sookie knows it too. She’s hurting just as much as you are, Tara, but she’s got other problems to face, too. Something really big, and really bad is going on around here, and from what I can see, Sookie is trying to make it through whatever is coming. I don’t think she should have to fight us as well as her enemies.”

Shaking her head, Tara argued, “This is all those damn vamps’ fault! If they’d just stayed out of Sookie’s life, none of this would have ever happened! Why can’t they just leave her alone?”

Sam wrapped an arm around Tara’s shoulders and countered, “I don’t think what is going on is entirely the fault of Sookie’s involvement with vamps. I don’t like them any more than you do, but, you have to admit, Sookie has never been normal. She’s always been special, and as much as I hate to admit it, I think maybe all of this is supposed to be happening. The Pythoness wouldn’t have been here otherwise.”

Tara asked, “Who is that Pythoness woman? Really? Why is she so special? You looked like you were going to have a heart attack when you saw her the other night.”

Expelling a small self-conscious laugh, Sam replied, “I thought I was. I was serious before when I said she was one of the original oracles at Delphi. She made predictions for the God Apollo, and actually told Alexander the Great his future. She’s a major figure in the supernatural world. Heavily guarded, widely respected, and her word is considered law. She usually only leaves her cave to preside over trials or conflicts between vampire monarchy and leaders in the supe world. She never travels alone like this, and the fact she was taking orders from Eric is huge. Without precedent, Tara. Her presence shows just how big a deal all of this is.”

Tara gaped at Sam. “She really sees the future?”

“Same way Sookie can really read minds. If the Pythoness is here, something big is going down. I’m telling you, Tara, I don’t think Sookie could walk away from all of this even if she wanted to.”

“I can’t just let this go, Sam. Ancient vampire oracles or not! I don’t agree with anything Sookie is doing, and I can’t if she won’t explain it to me! She’s never hid anything from me before, and she shouldn’t be doing it now! Why won’t she tell me what is going on?”

“She can’t, sometimes secrets are beyond us. Maybe it’s not her secret to tell, ever thought of that? Have you ever thought that maybe Sookie isn’t protecting herself by keeping the secrets she is? Did you stop to think that maybe she’s protecting you or others by keeping her secrets?”

“Who is she protecting?”

“I don’t know, but I know Sookie well enough to know that she would never keep things from us unless she had a damn good reason to.” Giving Tara’s shoulder a squeeze, he added, “Tara, I know you’re mad, scared, and feel betrayed, but you owe Sookie the benefit of the doubt. As her friend, you should give her the time she needs to sort all of this out. She’s hurting, she’s scared, and she’s overwhelmed. Give her the time and support she needs to make her world right again.”

Tara turned to him disconsolately. “Sam, why didn’t you tell me about yourself? Why did you tell Sookie and not me?”

Sam let out a reluctant laugh and removed his arm from around Tara’s shoulders, resting his forearms on his knees. “I didn’t exactly tell her. I was in my dog form one night and she thought I was Dean from the bar. She brought me into Bill’s house with her one night when he was out of town and she was all alone and had me sleep on the foot of the bed with her. I fell asleep. Shifters can’t hold animal form in sleep so I reverted back to my human form. Sookie woke up and saw me … and, well, she just kind of found out.”

“So why didn’t you tell me after she found out? Didn’t you trust me enough?”

Shaking his head, Sam replied, “It wasn’t that, Tara. It’s … well … I spent so long hiding who I was, so long running from my past, that it was just hard for me to open up like that. Still is. First, the survival of supes has depended on secrecy for so long. Before the Great Reveal, allowing humans to know about us could have meant death. Hiding is kind of a supe instinct that we all have. Second, the way I grew up, well, it kind of makes it hard for me to be with people. I just … I was afraid. I’ve felt rejection before, and it hurts. I was afraid you all would reject me, and I didn’t want it.”

Looking at Tara, Sam asked, “Do you accept me? Do you accept what I am?”

Tara held his gaze. She saw the muscles in his jaw clench and realized how vulnerable he was, how apprehensive, and she was thrown back to her childhood when kids had made fun of her at school for her dirty and worn clothes. It reminded her of how she’d had to hold her head high even though she’d wanted to cry at their cruel barbs. She saw that same hurt in Sam’s eyes. “I’m still a little weirded out by the fact you turn into animals, but I’m certainly not going to stop being your friend because of it.”

Sam smiled, and wrapped his arm around Tara’s shoulders again. “Thanks. That means a lot to me. It really does.” He cleared his throat and added, “So do you think you can show a little of the same understanding to Sookie? I think she could really use it right about now.”

She avoided his eyes, staring ahead glumly. “She’s my best friend, Sam. She’s my best friend and it’s like she’s becoming this whole other person without me. One day, we’re both working at Merlotte’s, talking like we always do, and the next she’s shacking up with a thousand year old vampire, traveling the world, and is in some kind of trouble that has her being guarded by Werewolves! I mean, seriously! How am I supposed to be taking all of this? And now, Jason’s dead, we don’t know if he’s going to kill us all, and there’s even more trouble coming? I just … I just really wish Sookie would tell me what the hell is going on. I wish she could talk to me like she did before she got involved in all of this.”

“I know how you’re feeling, Tara. I wish I knew what was going on too, but sometimes people have to be kept in the dark for the greater good, and I think that’s the kind of situation we are in now. Sookie is changing, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Scary things are happening, and, the way I see it, it’s all the more reason for us to stick together. We need each other more now than we ever have before.”

Tears filled Tara’s eyes as she leaned against Sam. “It’s just all falling apart, Sam. Everything. It’s falling apart right in front of me and I can’t stop any of it. Gran’s gone, Jason’s gone, Sookie’s picked a side I’m not sure I can stand on, and … everything is just moving too far, too fast.”

Sam pressed his head against hers, and assured, “That’s why we need to stick together. That way, we can catch each other before we fall too far or too hard.”

Tara let out a snort of laughter. “Have you ever seen Sookie play baseball? She couldn’t catch the ball if someone walked up and handed it to her. Girl’s got one hell of a throwing arm, but can’t catch worth shit!”

Sam laughed as well. “Well I’m pretty sure Eric can throw and catch well enough for them both.”

“Like he gives a shit! If we were hurt, he wouldn’t do a damn thing to help us!”

Shaking his head, Sam argued, “You’re wrong there, Tara. Eric really cares about Sookie. The fact he didn’t kill you last night proves that.”

“Yeah right. We were in a room full of people. He couldn’t have laid a hand on me.”

“Oh, but he could. He could have torn you limb from limb and no one would have stopped him.”

“What do you mean?”

“Had you not been Sookie’s friend, he would have killed you for speaking to him like that.”

Shaking her head in denial, Tara argued, “He can’t just kill people because they piss him off.”

“Yes, he can.” Sam’s voice was deadly serious. “Tara, if Sookie didn’t care so much about you, Eric would have killed you last night. He would have, and not only would no one have been able to stop him, but nothing would have been done about it.”

“Sam, vampire or not, he can’t just kill whoever he wants.”

“Tell that to Lafayette, who spent a few weeks being tortured by Eric.” Realization slammed into her, she cringed in remembrance.  Sam continued, “Human law has very little effect on supes, Tara. In fact, human laws are considered annoying, not actual deterrents. If Eric decides to kill you, Sookie is pretty much the only one with a chance to stop him, and even then she could only do so if Eric let her stop him.

“You see, Sam! This is what I’m talking about! Sookie can’t live in a world where people are killed just for speaking their minds! Sookie can’t live in a world where no one is equal and everyone is under the rule of Eric!”

“I think those are choices for Sookie to make.”

Letting out a ragged breath, Tara replied, “Well she’s made that pretty damn obvious, but I still say that blond fanger wouldn’t lift a finger to help us if we were in trouble. We can’t trust him, and Sookie shouldn’t either. I have to find a way to get her to see reason when it comes to Eric.”

Sam paused, weighing his words before deciding Tara needed to be warned, “First, I think Eric is going to do his damnedest to protect us from what is coming. Not for our own sakes, but for Sookie’s. He can say whatever he wants in public, but, in private, I’m sure things are much different with them. You know Sookie and you know she’d never be with a man like that. He must be different when it’s just them. I think he truly loves her, and that’s why he’s going to protect us. The fact that he doesn’t like us, and yet has us under 24-hour watch to keep us safe right now says a lot. Hell, he got staff from his own bar to go in and run Merlotte’s for me today because he doesn’t want any of us leaving the barrier.”

“How can you defend him after what he did to Sookie last night?!”

“Because I understand about the supernatural world. He did what he did because you provoked him last night. He was wrong to do it, but he did have his reasons. Supernaturals are different, Tara. We have different rules, standards, and expectations. Most of the people in that room last night fully expected him to kill you for speaking to him the way you did, and, according to our laws, he would have been within his rights to do so. He stayed his hand for Sookie. He let you live because he cares for her.”

Running her hands through her hair, Tara exclaimed, “That’s crazy! You guys really kill people for just talking?”

“Yes.”

Tara sat in shocked disbelief. Fear started low in her chest and worked its way up to her throat. She could barely breathe past it. “That’s not fair!”

Shrugging, Sam replied, “Show me where life is fair. I’ll show you an illusion. Nothing is ever going to be perfect, Tara, and the supe world is dangerously unfair. What I’m trying to get across to you right now is that you need to keep in mind that Eric holds all the power here. His status and authority are without equal if the Supernatural Council is backing his moves. So the next time you speak to him, it needs to be with respect. Don’t make Sookie pay for your mistakes.”

She barely recognized her voice, so constricted was her throat. “I don’t know if I can do this, Sam. I don’t know if I can stick with Sookie through this.”

“That’s your decision to make. You need to talk to Sookie again. Either way, she won’t blame you, and neither will I. Supernatural affairs are not to be entered lightly.”

Tears slipped down Tara’s cheeks. “What the hell are we going to do, Sam?”

Sam hugged Tara’s body against his. “I don’t know, Tara. I don’t think any of us really knows what to do until it’s time to do it. You follow your heart, and Sookie will follow hers. That’s all either of you can do. It’s all any of us can do.”

“Do you think it will be enough?”

“It’s all we’ve got.”

2 comments:

  1. Hope she sticks with the decision to keep Eric out of the relationship until til give in. She caves way too easy. Glad Quinn at least tries to tell Eric the real truth. AP and Niall were pussys for giving him all the power in the beginning ("Pythoness and Niall would not have given me free rein to do with her as I will"). They are as much to blame for his attitude as being a vamp. River D"Nile again Eric. Stay strong Sookie. Truth hurts, huh Eric? Sucks that sookie has to deal with Tara and all her crap. Loved her speech except the choosing part. Nit pick I know. Tara does need to go along with Eggs. Lala is one of the best. Wow Quinn and Alcede bonding?? . Give it up Sam. Tara is a lost cause.

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  2. rough chapter so many emotions running and when Eric enters the picture BAM 10x worse.... Quinn still needs to back down and you gotta love Lala.... KY


    sorry the reasoning behind the capitalization of the word Were is because you are using it as a decriptive name so there for it should be capitalized...
    1- "he addressed the weres" "the Weres"
    2-"He focused back on the weres. “Very well" "on the Weres"
    3-i think both need capitalized here "see if the weres or enforcers followed " == "the Weres and Enforcers followed"
    4-this whole paragraph, “It was made perfectly clear to both of us earlier that you" list "my king" the words should both be capiatlized as a mark of possession "My King"
    5-"Looking hard into Eric’s eyes, Sookie finished, “When you’re ready to pull your head out of your ass and start being my king," the My King again is in this paragraph....
    6-"I want you to leave me alone until you can admit you were wrong and prove to me that you can be my king!” "My King"
    7-capitalization "Both of her were guards were leaning against the kitchen counter, arms"
    "her Were guards"
    8- again "She looked at her were guards and asked firmly" "Were guards"
    9-again "As the weres shared a look that obviously indicated they were" "the Weres shared a look"
    10-" This isn’t about Eric for me anymore." do you mean "This isn't about Eric or me anymore."
    11-"Outside, the weres had observed Tara run out of" caps ",the Weres had observed"
    12- "He had great respect for Quinn. Any were that could last in the pits against vampires" caps "Ant Were that could last"
    13- "much I respect you as a man and fellow were.” caps " and fellow Were."
    14-"and Alcide, realizing a were as tough and mighty as Quinn was," caps " realizing a Were as tough"


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