A/N: Those of you familiar with my work know that I take a lot of inspiration from music. This is just a short one-shot from Eric's POV during the bonding in Rhodes (book 7 – All Together Dead). It's inspired by the song "Black Balloon" by the Goo Goo Dolls. Definitely give it a listen/read the lyrics. The last line of the story is also the last line of the song. Hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or stories from The Southern Vampire series. I can only hope that Ms. Harris does not mind me taking them out to play with.

___________________________________________________________________________________

He watched, still leaning against the wall, as Sookie marched off down the hallway and out of sight. Already keen to the new intensity of their bond, every step she took away from him left him colder. A low, snarling sound was coming from the tiger, but for once, Eric wasn't reveling in reducing another man into a sniveling, jealous fool. They were all just place-holders in Sookie's life, helping her to grow and mature, until the day she would finally be his. That's what he'd always believed, anyway.

It wasn't often that the Viking's confidence waned, and why should it? This was not a vampire used to losing at anything; be it battle, political intrigues, or women. His mind was like a machine, able to calculate variables for every situation with lightning speed, and solve problems with the finesse of a chess master during endgame. But, when he had encountered Andre attempting to force his blood on Sookie, he felt a twinge of fear and uncertainty like he hadn't experienced since the day of his first clan battle, when he was mortal.

How was it this human girl, this... simpering, whiny child... could cause him to crumble with one look in her eyes. He was a monolith of age and power, never distracted from whatever goals he set. Why should he care if she was in Andre's thrall, other than the loss of his own asset? If the Queen demanded it, there was nothing Eric could do without putting himself on the line, and self-preservation would always trump any other matters.

But... those eyes had captured his, silently begging him to save her. The plan had formulated in his mind, and the words were escaping his lips before he could stop himself. What he was offering to do... the solution he was proposing... would alter his existence for eternity. Eric Northman, the vampire impervious to the suffering of others, was about to turn his world upside down for a mere human girl.

He had wrapped the cloak around her, needing to shield and protect her from the eyes of others. He despised doing this out in the open, and resolved to shove a stake through Andre's chest, should the chance ever arise. He recalled, with some small amount of loathing, how matters concerning Sookie had often driven him into a murderous rage. Bill, Herveaux, and now the tiger... she was like a magnet for the supernatural, and Eric was smack dab in the middle of her web. At first he'd wanted nothing more than to possess her, another thing he could flaunt in the faces of other vampires, fuel for his face of superiority. His downtime had been filled with thoughts of her at his side, doing his will, yielding to him.

But, something had changed after the maenad attacked her, the first time he got to taste her. Even tainted by poison, Sookie's blood was pure... bliss. There were no words capable of describing it. It wasn't just the taste, although she was certainly on par with a vintage wine. He'd tried to attribute it to her ancestry, once he'd learned about the fae running through her veins, but he knew it was more than that, too. In the simplest of terms, her blood made him... feel. There were depths of emotion she stirred inside of him that he hadn't known in centuries. If his heart were capable of it, her blood would make it beat.

Since that night he'd willingly thrown himself into the line of fire for her more times than he could count. For a human! And the real 'kicker', as the mortals would put it, was that he didn't use her debt against her. Not once had he considered trying to extract payment for his deeds. When it came to Sookie, he could barely recognize himself.

It had all led up to this. Not only was Andre forcing the most sacred of acts to take place in such a disgusting manner, but he, and subsequently Eric, were taking her free will... her choice. That he couldn't glamour her, or make her heel... those were the very things that intrigued him. She had no idea what she was about to submit to, and he had no way of explaining it. By trying to save her, he was also damning her. He could only hope that he wasn't about to extinguish that light, that shone so brilliantly from her eyes, and had enraptured him from the moment he first saw her.

He tried to bite her as gently as possible, not wanting to cause her any more pain than she might already be experiencing. She didn't want this, he would not delude himself about that. The warmth of her blood danced across his tongue, and he closed his eyes in reverence to the gift she was giving him, even though she had no understanding of it. His hands caressed the small of her back, cherishing the angel in his arms. She was... so beautiful. He was beginning to believe he could have spoken the words she told him of when his memory was gone... and that he may, indeed, have meant them. He could... love her.

The commitment to her was what would drive him from this moment on, and he was making it without her knowledge. The ceremonial knife had significance more powerful than she could comprehend. He was binding himself to her, laying his life at her feet. He would protect her from anyone and anything, or meet the sun. For the sacrifice she was making to him, he would reciprocate. There now existed someone more important than himself. The Viking warrior finally had his muse, but still... she had walked away. She felt nothing of the power between them, the experience having been more nightmare than dream for her.

He stood there for a long time, lost in his thoughts and the upheaval of emotion. This night would be his rebirth, having a new found purpose. She was now his bonded, something he had avoided his entire vampiric existence. He had always found those that took that step to be weak, unable to function in an ever changing world without the help of a mortal. She was indeed his weakness, but one Eric would never regret. Even now, as she ran from him yet again, there wasn't a shred of anger... only hope. He would eventually swim back to the surface of his mind, securing himself into his place of confidence and pragmatism... but not before making one last silent vow...

I'll become what you became to me.