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

A/N- This one shot story follows "Understanding", "Reconciliation" and "The Weave of Time". If you haven't read them, this one won't make any sense. This story is a departure from the Sookie Canon.


It was Saturday, the 13th of October. I'd been back in Shreveport for over a week after spending about 6 weeks with Eithne. It was now more than a year since my first arrival at Cúl Dín. When I looked back on the past year, I was amazed by the changes that had occurred in my life. I was the same person inside, but it seemed as if so much had changed about me. Actually, the past two years had been dizzying. But I was feeling as if my life was finally back on track, though. At last.

I'd returned late on the night of the October 3rd through Monroe to Eric's open arms. I had just been relaxing. Well, relaxing before Claudine gave me the fae version of uisce beatha, or the water of life. Having been a barmaid for long enough, I was used to the Irish or Scottish idea of the water of life, which was simply good whiskey. Evidently Irish and the Scots were hoodwinked by the Fae into thinking they'd gotten a bit of the real stuff. The shimmering iridescent liquid that Claudine had me drink the afternoon of the 5th was definitely not whisky but had been, as Declan anticipated, strengthening. It appeared to strengthen that trace of fae blood somewhere deep in me, which I guessed was probably great for health, physical strength, general attractiveness and maybe even longevity, but which was something of a gamble when you lived with a vampire. Eric had been practically insatiable for the past week, to the point that I had noted that if I ended up anemic, it wasn't going to be really quite the tonic everyone had in mind. He said I could sleep in my room, but I was not taking that seriously after being away for months. Anyway, he was still going into work a good fraction of those nights and I had the daytime to rest.

Things were settling down by the evening of the 13th, though. I was headed to Fangtasia, at Eric's request. I hadn't even been to the club since my return. Pam and I had gone out shopping on the 7th. She had informed me quite seriously that I smelled absolutely irresistible and it was a good thing she was both my friend and afraid of Eric. She said if I'd only been her friend, with no Eric, that she'd be all over me. She cut short our whole outing saying she just couldn't take it and I went home pouting. Based on that experience, it seemed like a wise idea to avoid the club for a while. Eric concurred. I really didn't want to go tossing people around or pinning them down if they got carried away because I smelled a bit like one of my cousins. It would look bad and be hard to explain to the non-supe clientele. We'd actually talked about the fact that it was safer for everyone if I'd just stick to looking like an exotic human when out and about.

So I spent time resting at home, reading, catching up on correspondence with Pythia, who, through Zelda, was very evasive about my family history with respect to Niall. Eithne had told me to ask Niall and offered no further information. Well, asking Niall wasn't going well. He was away according to Claudine and I didn't have a way to contact him. His answering service said he would just be away for a while. No return date. Claudine seemed very diffident about the whole history with Fintan and told me she couldn't talk about it. I thought about asking Claude but figured that he wouldn't tell me either. I wish Eric knew more about Fintan. He knew of Fintan, but when I asked, he was evasive. I couldn't quite read him on the issue. Maybe Victor knew. He had to have known Dermot, who was his grandfather. Maybe he knew his great uncle? I'd have to ask him the next time I talked to him. Victor kept nagging me to visit him in his palatial compound in Jackson. Maybe I'd take him up on it and see what he knew about Fintan, Dermot and Niall.

Meanwhile, on the immediate family front, earlier in the week I'd talked to Jason, who told me there'd been trouble with Crystal over Ava. He was worried Social Services was going to get involved with Ava because Crystal kept leaving the baby in the car at night when she went out. Andy Bellefleur had personally cited her for leaving the baby unattended in her locked car, outside a bar. Of course, I knew Jason was probably at a different bar at the time. I worried about Ava. Neither Crystal nor Jason appeared to be up to parenting.

I'd touched base with Sam by phone but he sounded odd. Strained and a bit distant. He wasn't unfriendly, but just had an odd manner when we spoke. A message to Amelia went unanswered. I'd probably go to Bon Temps on Sunday, tomorrow, I thought to myself. I felt a bit disconnected from family and friends still. I'd been home a week but really hadn't seen anyone except Eric and a bit of Pam. I was living on Eric's schedule, though, and not likely to be driving around Bon Temps to visit people at 4 am.

On Saturday evening, after a solid hour of lovemaking, my quick dinner and a shower, I was just thinking about what to wear when Eric requested that I wear a skirt and a sexy top. Making requests for a skirt sounded like he had a plan. I usually wore slacks to the club. The request for the high heels merely confirmed my suspicions. Still horny? I asked. The response was a toothy smile. I should have known…

I put on a bit of makeup and then selected a black pencil skirt and a ruby red deep cowl-necked stretchy top with three quarter length sleeves. The effect was very form-fitted coverage. A tasteful compromise. The black thigh highs in place, I tried to sneak by the one and a half inch heeled sandals only to find he already had a pair of my best black pumps, with three inch heels, dangling from one of those long fingers as he sat on my bed watching my every move with a smile on his face. I sat down and sighed as he slipped them on my feet and then he pulled me up to standing. After months walking on moors I felt like was going to have to learn to walk in high heels all over again. Eric was wearing black leather pants, a deep red silk shirt and a perfectly cut black leather jacket. I stared at our reflection in the mirror and thought there had to be a mistake. I was basically six feet tall in the heels now and only about four or five inches shorter than Eric. It looked so weird to my eyes. It was hard to believe it was me in the mirror. But we looked... beautiful.

"You are so beautiful, Lover," he whispered softly with his arm around me, while looking at our reflection. He leaned over and kissed my temple, then my ear, then my neck…

"Don't think I don't know what you're up to, Eric."

"Well, you're being very accommodating if you're protesting," he said with a merry laugh.

I just sighed and shook my head. The office. What was it with the office? There had been discussion of the office as a neglected location for mischief for several nights now. I sincerely hoped that the lock was working well on that office door.

I went to the dresser and gathered up the shawl that I had made for Felicia and one wrapped in tissue paper that was for Thalia. Thalia's shawl was special and Eithne had helped make it. It was emerald green with fine golden threads woven into it. It had been woven with healing thoughts from Eithne and was designed to do it's work without Thalia's active acceptance. The more she wore it, the better its effect, was Eithne's plan. Pam's, which I'd given her the week before, was in two delicate shades of mauve woven together, while Felicia's was in shades of amber with flecks of red. I'd made simple scarves for Indira and Kira, who I didn't know as well. With one last glance at the mirror (Is that really me?), I turned off the light and headed downstairs.

We arrived at Fangtasia about a half hour before opening. Pam made some remarks about my tasty fae scent and Eric having thoughtfully brought her take out. I laughed but Eric gave her 'the look", making both of us laugh even more. She whispered to me that the fae scent had actually abated quite a bit, which was a relief. After I quickly gave Felicia her wrap and the scarves to Indira and Kira, I went back to the office, since Thalia wasn't in yet. They all seemed to get an interested whiff of me, in spite of what Pam said. The office seemed like a safer place to hang out. What was it like the week before, I wondered, if I was still turning heads now? Should I be fearful of lemons and iron now?

While we sat in the office for a few minutes, Pam got into even more trouble with Eric for mentioning that I seemed to be 'taking tonight really well'. After one long hard look from him, she abruptly left the room.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Later. You and I have plans for the present."

Later, as a response when queried for information, was now a buzz word for trouble as far as I was concerned. "Eric, the last time you told me later it turned out you had killed someone. How about now?"

"He didn't die exactly. He was recovered. Declan told you, remember? So later. You really haven't been kissed enough tonight. Trust me."

He had already shifted things on the desk to one side methodically. He smiled his most roguish smile and raised one eyebrow as he locked the door to the office. I sighed and shook my head. He looked so happy…

Afterwards, he said "I've really missed light-hearted office sex." Eric chuckled while carefully pulling the sleeves right-side out on my red top. It was exceedingly annoying that he already dressed again. If this was some kind of fangbanger fantasy of his, it must be working because I was a mess. After retrieving my panties, I sat brushing my hair. Stronger. I was supposed to have been made stronger. Well, I sure look strong, elegant and powerful now, don't I? I laughed to myself. And now I was really sore…

"I don't think I can walk right anymore," was my only remark out loud. It had been a long eight days. And I was actually supposed to be walking around here later, and in high heels no less, I thought to myself. Any future doses of 'water of life' were going to be mere drops, over a long, long period of time.

As if reading my mind, Eric said, "It's not just the fae stuff. You've been gone so long. It's just… Okay, part of it's the fae stuff. But not all of it. We've been apart for months and I can't help it. Plus you look especially beautiful…" He smiled and handed me my top, then kissed me softly on my bare shoulder.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm so gorgeous, vaguely fae scented and broken. So now will you please tell me about what Pam was talking about."

Eric gave me a concerned look about the broken part. He was always worried he was going to hurt me, the past week in particular.

"You didn't hurt me, don't worry. My bad, not yours. But I really want to know what Pam was talking about, about my 'taking tonight so well'. What am I taking well? Maybe I'm taking it well because I don't know what I'm taking? What's going on Eric? Tell me."

He looked as if he'd rather do anything else. He picked up my foot and massaged it then put my shoe back on. Stalling… but it was good stalling. Other foot. Then he glanced at something on the desk. Now he was making me mad.

"Eric, what is it? What is going on?" I insisted. I was trying to root around in his head and the only clear thoughts I got were that I wasn't going to like it, and that I had better not make him look bad by making a fuss. He was getting so damn good at blocking me at times. He'd just keep what was okay for me to hear foremost in his mind and shift the rest elsewhere, making me dig for it.

Pam knocked on the door. Eric fastened my bra and I slipped the top back on and got my skirt smoothed back into place, and he nodded to me that I was in presentable shape.

Eric opened the door but didn't let Pam inside.

"Dawson brought Calvin Norris as a second," Pam said in a low voice.

"Stay in here with Sookie," Eric replied, frowning and looking annoyed.

Pam entered and sat down on the couch with me. She looked tense.

"Pam, will you please tell me what's going on?"

"I'm forbidden to. If it's any consolation, you'll know soon. But Sookie, what I can tell you is, this is going to be one of those times in which you'll just have to accept our way of doing things."

I tried to scan her. I couldn't help myself.

"Sookie! I feel it remember? Cut it out!"

"Okay fine, not you. I'll scan the damn club… Why the heck is Betty Jo Pickard here? And why are so many vampires out there on the club floor?" I stopped counting after sixteen. I thought I felt another were or Were besides Tray and Calvin. But Pam was affecting my concentration, interrupting my silent assessment by distracting me.

She shook my arm. "Sookie, you'd better stop it. I'm not kidding." She looked determined to distract me. "Listen, Thalia just got here. If you want I'll call her and you can give her the wrap." She pointed at the wrap, inside the tissue paper, on the edge of the desk.

"I can go out and give it to her," I said starting to rise.

"No, you can't right now. We just have to wait here. Please?"

She grabbed my wrist with a very firm grip to try to keep me from rising easily. Well, that was amusing. I looked at her, amazed. I really loved the fact that Pam's relationship with me had not changed when I changed.

I made an angry face but she ignored it. She knew me too well for that. She inhaled a bit and seemed to sigh.

"What is this stuff that Claudine gave you, anyway? Geez, I don't know what they were thinking. It's really made you smell sort of fae. It's a wonder there's anything left of you. It's a testament to Eric's self-control. I really hope it's safe for you to be here." She looked a bit worried at that thought.

"Pam, I really don't think that anyone… Well, let's just say that I'm rather well prepared to defend myself and leave it at that," I said with a chuckle. She has to be kidding, I thought.

"But you shouldn't do that stuff here at the club. You're supposed to let us protect you here, remember? We agreed on that. It's safer that way."

"Pam, really, you can just trust me on this. No one's going to drain me. I promise you." She didn't know about the time weaving. It was the fastest way to avoid a fight I'd found. I smiled to myself. If someone went after me, I could weave back to someplace else and then simply walk away.

She was poised to make a sarcastic reply when Eric walked back in and said "We're ready." He extended his hand to me. I stood up a bit shakily and he looked me over. He straightened the top a bit more and settled the deep cowl so that just a bit of cleavage showed. He kissed my forehead. Then he nodded to Pam, who preceded us out the door.

"Just follow my lead. No arguing. Please," He whispered, looking me in the eye with an intensity that showed he really meant it.

We walked out into the club and I found most of the Area 5 vampires I knew, Betty Jo Pickard, Alcide Herveaux, Tray Dawson and seated off to the side Calvin Norris. Maxwell had gathered all the vamps in a semicircle at Alcide and Tray's backs. Bill smiled slightly and nodded to me. Then all the vamps bowed slightly to Eric, and to me, I guess since I was his and Pythia's. I felt uncomfortable looking at the two Weres surrounded by vamps. I would have been offering my usual nervous smile, except for the fact that everyone else looked deadly serious.

Eric stood beside me, with his arms crossed over his chest. He stared at Tray and Alcide with ice cold eyes. That look could have frozen boiling water, I thought to myself.

"Dawson, Herveaux. I think you both have something to say to my wife."

Alcide looked at me with something approaching fear. I could see him taking me in, and puzzling over what he saw. The traces of thoughts I could glean were first that he thought that I must have been turned from the slightly odd look of me and then deciding that no, I looked like something quite different from a vampire, actually. I was taller, thinner, smelled more fae but didn't really look fae. What was I? Not quite human. He knew of my new role in the supe world but hadn't really seen me and how changed I was in the past year. He was very afraid of Eric, and now, even of me a bit. He had been… unwise. He had… Jesus Christ, Shepherd of Judea... The man had badmouthed me directly to Eric while I was staying in Monroe and traveling around with Ciarán! I thought back to my conversation with Pam in Madison, and thought of my brief flashes into Eric when he had been ranting in Madison. I had ignored most of it because Eric was upset and rambling. I'd tried to stay out of his head unless he was really in my face with it. Had he mentioned Alcide? It had been Alcide who told Eric that he thought I was with Ciarán in more than just a friendly sense? Oh, this was not going to be pretty.

I glanced at Tray. Why on earth was Tray here? An inner gasp of recollection. In Madison, Pam had mentioned Tray as the source of the Weres getting the information about Ciarán. In a few seconds I saw that he had made the mistake of telling Alcide what Amelia had told him that Octavia had told her. What had he been thinking? He didn't even belong to Alcide's pack? Why would he have even mentioned it? Maybe he knew that Alcide had been interested in me at one time. Then I thought about what Pam had said about Calvin being Tray's second. But you only needed a second in a duel… A chill ran up my spine.

I thought that Eric had put the whole thing behind him. Clearly not. I trembled internally and Eric felt it. I heard him thinking that I had damn well better not start…

"Well?" said Eric in a booming voice. "I'm waiting." He clenched his teeth in anger.

Tray looked me in the eye and said "Sookie, I am very sorry if information that I conveyed to anyone has harmed you in any way. You know that Amelia and I would never wish you harm. I regret my actions." He bowed his head.

I felt myself blushing. Tray was always so straightforward. I couldn't even look at him. He had always been so nice to me. I tried not to shake or bite my lip. I was embarrassed for him, even if he had told something to Alcide that was shameful about me. It wasn't true, so to me it didn't matter. But, of course, it mattered to Eric.

Alcide looked at me nervously. His green eyes were wide. "Sookie," he said, at first in a kind of choked voice. "I regret any remarks that I have made in reference to…" He had boxed himself into a bad corner with that phrasing. "I have made remarks that gave offense, about things that turned out not to be true. I regret any harm that I have caused to you, your reputation, or to your husband. You're a friend of my pack. You deserved better." He bowed his head as well. He looked more afraid than really penitent to me, but whatever. He said he was sorry, so it was fine.

I nervously glanced over at Calvin, who frowned, though not at me. A bad business, I could hear him saying to himself. What was Herveaux thinking, taunting my husband by asking such a thing? What a fool, he thought, and he's going to be so lucky if he gets out of this jam. He felt bad for Tray, though, and thought he'd just shown bad judgment. Calvin didn't think that I seemed like the kind of woman to run around with another man anyway, and he wondered why they would have gone talking such ideas let alone asking Eric about it. Calvin had always been pretty much a gentleman.

I twisted my fingers fretfully. Eric was sending me 'hold it together' feelings through our bond, while thinking to himself that I had damn well better. Basically, I was praying that whatever came next did not require Calvin's services. They'd apologized to me, but the whole point here was that Eric felt they had acted against him. Eric was far less forgiving than I was. Of course, after years of filtering spoken or unspoken insults from the world, I really wasn't phased by someone starting a nasty rumor about me. If I'd gone after everyone in Bon Temps that thought something nasty or mean about me, there'd be only a handful of people left in that town.

Well, Eric was dressed awfully nicely to get into a big fight, I thought to myself, but on the other hand there were about 15 vampires standing at Tray and Alcide's backs. The inner trembling continued. Please don't try do anything to hurt them, Eric, I thought to myself. I thought about Amelia. She and Tray had been engaged for four months. Please?

I wondered how mad it would make Eric if things did get violent and I just froze everything in order to try to talk him out of it. There were at least 25 people in the room. It would be messy. Very messy. But you can't kill someone for basically calling your wife a slut when she isn't. You just can't. Well, at least you shouldn't. I could do more radical things but then people would still get hurt and that wouldn't be right either. No, freezing everything would be the only option. I knew that it would make Eric hopping mad if I did it, though. This was his issue. His demand for retribution. Alcide had insulted him. He'd asked Eric if it was true that his wife was now with another man, a fairy. What I could see of it from Eric's end was frothing anger. And it was more than two months later… Pam's words echoed in my mind. 'One of those times in which you'll just have to accept our way of doing things'. I'd seen the vampire way of doing things and sometimes it was not easy to accept. Trust. I have promised myself I will trust him more, not less. Eric knows me and he's not going to kill them. He just won't.

Eric opened a manila envelope that Pam handed him, and removed a series of documents. Then, he was joined by Betty Jo, who nodded to me soberly, and handed him a clear plastic envelope with further documents.

Eric glanced through everything and then announced in a booming slightly accented voice, which indicated, to at least me, that he was still really considering something more aggressive,

"I own your businesses. And I'm taking twenty-five percent of your gross until further notice. Your books will be reviewed regularly. You will work for all of my people for free. You can hope I don't borrow extensively against both of you and leave you with the debt when I'm done with you. And you should just be glad that I wouldn't want to further upset my wife by killing you. Now, get out of my bar."

Eric looked at them with contempt. I was wide eyed in amazement.

Tray and Alcide bowed to us and then turned to walk out. They moved cautiously as if they thought that at any moment the sword would drop or maybe a few vampires would bite. Calvin grimaced a bit but then nodded to me as he walked after them. He seemed to think it was fair.

No bloodshed. Prospects of financial ruin. Hmmm. On the face of it, pretty fair. Slander was not a blood offense and the punishment had not been physical harm.

Eric handed all the documents to Pam and announced a free round for all the vampires on the house. Then he took my hand to lead me to his usual booth. I was still kind of shaky. He guided me into the booth and then sat next to me. We were followed by Betty Jo. She sat opposite us in the booth.

"Sookie, Victor sends you his warmest regards. He hopes that you enjoy the revenues from the Were's Jackson business. He wishes you to know that the doors in Jackson are always open to you and that he would be delighted to have his cousin as his guest." She looked at me as if hoping that I was very satisfied with both the message and how it was conveyed and that I'd be sure to tell Victor. Betty Jo had been afraid of me since Memphis but I noticed her nostrils flaring as if she was onto my scent.

"Please tell Victor I said thank you, Betty Jo. I appreciate your coming over from Jackson. Thank you."

She nodded and rose, giving me a poorly concealed hungry look as she nodded. She nodded to Eric and then went back to the bar.

I was quiet, not knowing what to say. Eric even had Victor going after Alcide? I was amazed at that. Well Victor already had practice bothering Alcide, whether Alcide knew it or not. He'd targeted Alcide's Jackson business a little over a year ago. So this was something Eric and Victor could agree on. What a rarity.

Eric just looked straight ahead and said quietly. "I was generous. I hope you realize that, Lover. Very generous."

In a low voice, I said "Eric, I…" I really just didn't know what to say. It was true that he hadn't killed anyone. I suppose I really had little right to complain. Alcide had repeated nasty gossip. And it was ill-advised, even stupidly risky to have done so directly to Eric. But Tray… Twenty-five percent of his gross profits? Indefinitely? Why on earth had he even told Alcide anything he'd heard from Amelia and Octavia? And what was this going to do to my friendship with Amelia? They were engaged. My mind just raced at the prospect. Did Amelia even know about this?

"Before you even try to defend Herveaux, just remember it's the second time he's told lies about you. He also lied to that Pelt woman about having slept with you back in Jackson. I just won't have it. He's lucky I didn't kill him in July. And now he'll be lucky if Victor doesn't. Victor is just waiting for the word, let me tell you. We're very much on the same page on this and he even offered to do it so you'd be upset with him instead of me."

Well, how sweet of Victor to offer to kill someone because they spread a nasty rumor about me. I could really see him doing it, too. And then trying to get mileage out of it as a big favor he'd done. Killing someone because they insulted you… Sometimes the world I live in just amazes me. But I guess stuff like that happens all the time, even among humans.

Did Alcide even know it wasn't true, I wondered? Octavia's mistaken impressions just seemed to have taken on a life of their own. But I knew that arguing with Eric about Alcide was just going to be a waste of energy. Alcide had insulted him. That much was true. No other way to see it. There was simply nothing that I could say that would change his mind on that point, and much that I could say that might just make him angrier and change it in the wrong direction. But Tray?

"Eric, why Tray? Why would you go after Tray? You'll be destroying his business. It's such a small business. It's just not worth it. And this could ruin my friendship with Amelia."

He frowned. He clearly thought I just didn't get it. "He was the source of the information, Sookie! He betrayed Amelia's trust and your trust in her and Octavia. He deserves it as much as Herveaux."

"How did you get their businesses, Eric?"

"I used shell companies to purchase their outstanding notes, buy out their leases and every identifiable debt. Tray's lease may go up. They can't even afford to move. I bought a good share in Herveaux's companies in Shreveport and Jackson through Victor's agent. We're investigating his books already. Frankly, it would be easy to ruin him. I could report him to the IRS, and then just divest myself. But with a cooler head prevailing, I'm just going to bleed his profits for a while and enjoy it. Let him squirm while he fixes his tax status. Let him wonder."

"But Tray, Eric. Tray? Amelia? Tray has always been nice to me, Eric. He didn't know it wasn't true. I don't think he intended to be malicious. I could see he didn't."

"We'll talk about it later. Right now, it stands. Saying anything about you is tantamount to saying it about me. I won't be forgetting it. People have treated you badly for years and it's not happening anymore. Period."

Thalia walked over to us, wearing her green wrap, which looked lovely on her, I thought to myself. Pam must have given it to her for me or maybe she just got it herself in the office. She nodded to Eric. She was actually smiling. Eithne was amazing.

"Sookie, this is beautiful. It makes me feel happy when I have it on. I think you have bewitched it. But I like it." She nodded to Eric, and then she ogled me, fangs down, nostrils flared. "Sookie… you smell fabulous."

Eric growled at her and she backed off, nodding to me, and walked away slowly.

"You have to stay with me or Pam, while we're here, alright? This stuff that Claudine gave you is simply ridiculous. Next time you're having it when you're in Ireland."

Next time indeed. We'd see about any next time. And could we stop pretending that I need protection, please? If he actually thought I would let him, or Pam, get hurt defending me, he was kidding himself.

""Fine, I will."

But I still had concerns about the situation with Tray and Amelia. And Octavia. They were the source of the rumor that got started.

"Eric, you won't do anything to Octavia or Amelia, right?"

He stared out into the bar and pursed his lips. "I told them I was very disappointed in them. They are warding all my businesses for free. Plus, all of our houses. They did Indira's the day before you returned. She's very pleased. They're done with Pam's and Maxwell's, too. Felicia's is next. Amelia is actually pleased because I am recommending her services to the other Areas, however. It will bring her a lot of business. She was not happy with Tray when Pam revealed the situation to her."

Amazing. While I'd been in Ireland for six weeks they'd all been quite busy. And I'd not even caught any of this when Eric was with me for a week. I hadn't been in Bon Temps since I was back, and now I was worried that Amelia and Tray's relationship was spoiled because of me. Maybe that was why she hadn't called back and why Sam sounded so strained. Sam counted Tray as a friend. Sam knew the rumor was untrue. But he was too late to stop Tray from spreading it. Poor Amelia.

Eric picked up on that emotion and shook his head saying, "Sookie, do you really think she wouldn't want to know that he would give out information like that? If they have problems, they'll either work it out or they won't. It isn't your problem. It's his problem."

Well, he had a point there.

"So is this going to be enough for you?" I asked softly.

He frowned. "Well, I'm sure you know I could have happily killed Herveaux, but I knew it would only upset you. I know you definitely don't consider slander or insults worth going after someone. You never have. He insulted both of us. So I have tried to find a compromise in keeping with your beliefs. If he does anything else, I make you no promises. But yes, I am satisfied for now, Sookie," he said turning to me with a slight smile as he put his arm around my shoulders. "I thought we could both live with this."

Well, I wouldn't make a decision to try to wreak financial ruin because of slander. My restitution would have been less extreme. The public apology would have done me just fine. But this wasn't my decision and we were not in some supe court. Anyway, perhaps I could soften Eric over time. I could tell he was really very relieved that I hadn't interfered or objected at present. For Eric, this was the endpoint of the whole saga with Clancy. I couldn't imagine how angry Eric must have been when Alcide asked him if it was true I had left him for another man and how I was now seen going about with some huge handsome fairy. I guess it really was amazing that Eric hadn't killed him at the time. The whole vampire thing aside, Eric was very possessive. I knew he had really been tormented by the thought of me with Ciarán, no matter what he said to the contrary about not having believed it. It had all been false rumor. But they were hurtful rumors. When I thought of it from his perspective, he had been generous. He was being that better version of a powerful vampire by far.

"I'm just glad it's over," I said. I rubbed my head against his shoulder a bit.

"Let me tell you, it was really hard not to act on my first inclinations… When we got back from Madison, I really…"


He laughed. He picked up my hand under the table and gave it a squeeze. He rubbed his cheek on my head, which was still on his shoulder. We'd made peace with this one...

Bill came over to say hello and he gave me a look as he sniffed the air. He took it in stride though, and kept quiet about it. Eric invited him to sit with us. Later Pam came and sat too. We chatted on into the night like old friends. The topic was mainstreaming and how hard it was. I have to say, I'm beginning to relate to that.