Disclaimer: The Sookie Stackhouse Series is the creation of Charlaine Harris. Don't sue me Charlaine! I love your books.

A/N- This story follows "The Gamble" and "Gambit". If you haven't read those two, it won't make much sense. Those two stories follow "From the Beginning" and "Sookie's Revelation". This story begins a more marked departure from Charlaine Harris's story line.



The last week of August had come to a close. Pam was resting well in Bill's house. Life had seemed to fall back into a normal rhythm. I had started my fall classes, my first full semester, at LSUS. I was taking three classes, in an ambitious attempt, considering my work schedule. But with classes being shorter during the regular semester, I figured I could do two classes, Political Theory and another English Lit class in the mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays and one, German, on Monday and Wednesday night. I'd struggled over the choice of a language class. Everybody had been giving me advice on which language to take but in the end I chose German because Eric spoke German fluently and I figured I could practice and get help at home if I needed it.

I was keeping busy with work, with my new classes, with fussing, along with Amelia and Felicia, over Pam. But part of me was dwelling heavily on the events that took place in Memphis. I can say that unfortunately I wasn't feeling too guilty over getting rid of Rasul. Between what he'd done to Pam, not done to help Sophie-Anne, and his plans for Eric and me, I really was not feeling too generous on the Rasul front. And I knew what I'd done to him was far more merciful than what Eric, Felipe and Bill would have done to him. No, I was ruminating a lot about my ability to basically maul someone's brain in order to get what I wanted, when I wanted it. I had found something in myself those days. Ugly emotions and thoughts that shook my sense of myself. It was something that saved my lovely friend, and something that appeared to send a clear message to anyone who would threaten the safety of me or of anyone I loved. But the role of "avenging angel Sookie" was not sitting well with me. I wasn't sure that I liked what I'd found in myself, or that I trusted it wouldn't alter me in ways I did not wish to be changed.

As I reflected back over the past three years, I could see that my growing involvement in supernatural politics had put me into a position of having to occasionally squander my principles in order to survive or help someone I loved. I was troubled not so much by choices I had made, but by the ones I might have to make in the future. Where would the line be drawn? How far was too far? Would there come a point where my attempts to justify my actions would just become rationalizations for doing whatever the hell I wanted?

Part of me wanted to disengage for a time.

I told Felipe that I needed the rest of August off and maybe part of September. He was still reeling from the revelation that Rasul had been working for Russell all along, had taken out Sandy, was planning to take out Eric and Victor, overthrow him in Louisiana and Arkansas for Russell and takeover me. He said he could see why I needed a rest. He was quite amazed on the last night of the conference, when I'd 'fessed up, at Eric's prompting and with no absolutely apologies, that I had staked Rasul while he slept, had rescued Pam, and that Russell Edgington was a threat to keep a very close eye on. Keeping Victor's involvement out of that situation was deft work on my part, since Felipe appeared to tread down that path about Sigebert and Rasul surviving in the Baton Rouge attack.

My staking Rasul had definitely protected Victor. Now Rasul could tell no tales... I'm sure Victor was relieved that Rasul couldn't spill the beans under the usual vampire methods. I had to ask myself why I even cared about keeping Victor's brief involvement in Russell and Rasul's plot quiet. By any stretch, I had ample evidence that Victor was rather unpredictable. But part of me felt firm in the belief that he had chosen which side he was on. Plus, I had this nagging feeling somewhere inside, a sense of connectedness being the only way I could describe it. In spite of everything, I realized that even when I'd tried to avoid Victor, actively distrusted Victor, some part of me still saw something I liked in Victor. I felt connected to him somehow. I had to remember, when I finally sat down again with Niall, to ask him about Victor and how he knew him.

Thoughts of Niall took me to another deep well of thought. We had spoken several times after I was home from Memphis. I was not keen to see him, and told him I needed space. It seemed that Eric and Victor had filled him in on the Ancient Pythoness's decree that I was hers (in addition to her generous recognition that I was also Eric's). Niall had tried to broach the subject several times with me by phone but I just deflected traveling down that avenue of conversation. In fact the whole subject of who I was, really, and what I was supposed to be capable of and all that stuff was just a subject that overloaded my sensibilities, currently. Niall had mentioned, when I had last spoken to him, that he was investigating my heritage. He even mentioned that he might be sending Dr. Ludwig to get a blood sample for genetic testing. I told him I'd have to think about that one. Part of me thought that who and what I was didn't matter, that it was completely irrelevant. What mattered were the choices I made. Those choices came, in no small measure, with responsibilities. What if I wasn't up to them?

Of all the things that weighed on me though, none compared to the way things were with Eric. Eric had been rather distant in the weeks following Memphis. While part of him loved this vision of me as some sort of Amazon, I wondered if another part of him was apprehensive about what he'd gotten himself into. Eric had always pretty much let me be myself but I think he had always assumed that if he really needed to control me, he could. The events surrounding his argument with Niall that evening in Bon Temps, and the results when he actually did try to control me, trying to prevent my talking to Felipe, had pretty much disabused him of the fact that he was totally in charge of me. Even if it was subtle, I'd felt a change in our dynamic. I was still a bit haunted by the angry look in his eyes when he had tried to silence me and after a few moments of that I'd just bucked him out of my mind. I remembered, and know he did as well, the Pythoness's comment to him, that I belonged to myself. He knew me so well, and knew that the tension with the whole vampire mine concept and my independence lay at the crux of a compromise in our entire relationship. I was his and was more than willing to admit that. But I still needed to be extant within our relationship. We were so bound to one another that sometimes I felt as if Eric had tried to just absorb me into himself. Only I couldn't be totally absorbed. I wouldn't let myself.

While I knew that things were, or at least would be okay, with Eric and me, I felt the loss of something that had been less complicated, easier in feel. Sometimes, I was angry at myself for holding on to the illusion that our relationship ever had many uncomplicated moments. We were two very complicated people. My lack of experience in relationships really limited me at times. I felt like I wanted to reach out to him, to tell him how much I loved him but that I wanted to feel like I was more of an equal. I didn't know how I could to do that. Eric certainly wasn't speaking his mind either. At least we had our blood bond keeping us in tune with one another. It reassured me that we were fine, even if we were having growing pains. It was ironic that what almost a year ago seemed like such an invasion of my life now was the one thing that provided the greatest comfort. The comfort of being close to him, the reassurance of it. It was like sustenance to me.

I sighed. I looked back on the events surrounding the Memphis summit and about the best thing I could say was that at least there were no bombs.