First of all, hi! Long time no see. How are we all doing after book 13? Yeah, same here.

Second, if part of this sounds familiar, it's because I borrowed and adapted the first scene from my fic "Back from the Dead." This is how I pictured the conversation going, and I didn't want to change it much.

He had intended to meet Sookie just after sunset, but killing Victor had its complications. There were calls to make, excuses to dole out like dog treats to people only too willing to believe them, and clean-up workers who still had work to finish. He left Fangtasia shortly before midnight and landed on Sookie's porch with a decidedly ungraceful thump.

A few lights were on inside, so he knew she was still awake. He combed his fingers through his wind-tangled hair and knocked.

The door opened and revealed his frustrating, delicious wife in thin pajama shorts and a t-shirt. She looked cross, as she usually did in recent weeks. "What are you doing here?" she asked, folding her arms over her chest.

"I said we would talk tonight."

"Yeah, but I figured you'd call. And well before this hour."

He pictured her curled on her sofa, her cell phone at her side, waiting for his call, and he softened. "I wanted to talk to you in person, and I couldn't be here in person until now," he said. He reached out and tucked some hair behind her ear, and his eyes landed on the mark left from his bite the night before. Her pulse beat steadily near his fingertips. "Will you let me in?"

She didn't reply, but she moved aside to let him in. He strode in calmly, clasping his hands behind his back, and watched her shut the door. She flipped off the porch light – another sign that she had been waiting for him. It was reassuring, that small movement.

His eyes fell again on her neck before meeting her gaze. She was watching him, waiting for him to speak. Waiting for an apology.

"You know why I did it," he said. It wasn't a question. She always had an uncanny ability to see through him. They understood each other, blood-bonded or not.

"No," she said coldly. "Why don't you explain that to me?"

"When the truth makes you uncomfortable, you try to forget it. You run from it. One minute you help us plot Victor's death, and the next you abhor my presence because I accomplished it. You claim to love me, a vampire, but you recoil from the blood I spilled to protect myself, my subjects, and you. I wanted to force you to confront the truth about what I am."

"Just because I help to plan horrible things, it doesn't mean I want to see people die! You vampires are used to all that, but I'm human, remember?"

"You can't plan to kill people and then look the other way when it's done. If you don't like death and killing, then don't participate in the planning of it. If you don't like what I am, then you don't really love me." He closed the distance between them and traced his fingers lightly over her neck. "I do regret hurting you. Shall I heal it?"

He raised his fingertip to his mouth to pierce it, but Sookie laid a hand on his arm to stop him. "No, don't. You're right."

"I didn't mean that you should never let me heal you, or that my bites are meant to hurt you. I wanted you to see—"

"No, I get it," she said. "I know why you did it. And you stopped the moment I told you to."

"Why didn't you stop me sooner?"

"Same reason I don't want you to heal it, maybe." She shrugged, and her eyes shone. "It felt like a punishment I deserved. All this killing, and I'm partly to blame for it…"

"Punishment?" he repeated in disbelief. He pulled her to him, cradling her head to his chest like a child's. "Why should you be punished when we did what was right? You deserve recognition, not punishment."

She was stiff at first, but he felt her body relax against his as he stroked her hair. He despised the fact that her upbringing, her strict adherence to human codes of conduct, made her ashamed of some of the very qualities that made her magnificent.

"When do you have to leave?" she asked, her voice slightly muffled against him.

"I can stay the night," he said.

"No, I meant when do you have to leave for Oklahoma."

Eric put his hands on her arms and pushed her back from him slightly, his eyes focused on hers. "My lover, I am not going to Oklahoma. I will fight this. I have already spoken to associates about the possibility of getting rid of Freyda, and as soon as I hear from Felipe, I—"

"No! No more killing, Eric, please. It seems like people are just dropping like flies all over the place."

He paused a moment to swallow his impatience, then said, "What would you have me do, then? There is no magic wand to wave and make this go away."

There was something indecipherable in her eyes for a split-second, so briefly that he thought he might have imagined it. "You're clever," she said. "Pam is clever. I'm not so bad. We can think about other options, can't we? That's all I'm asking."

"Thinking about options is all I've been doing lately," he said grimly, folding her against him once again.

The phone call from Niall Brigant came a few nights later. It was a name he had never expected to see again on his phone's illuminated screen.

"Hello?" Eric said, snapping his fingers to get Pam's attention and motioning for her to leave the office. With a hugely put-upon expression, Pam sauntered out and shut the door. The person on the phone still hadn't replied. "Hello?" he repeated, louder this time.

"Do you know what a cluviel dor is, vampire?" asked the unmistakable voice of Sookie's fairy kin.

"I know the legends," he said. "Why?"

"Tell me what legends you know."

"Fairy magic. Something of the fairy equivalent of Aladdin's lamp."

Niall chuckled. "Something like that. Only quite real. And capable of granting one wish requested on behalf of a loved one."

"Why are you—"

"Sookie Stackhouse is in possession of a cluviel dor, Mr. Northman, and she knows of its great power."

There is no magic wand to wave and make this go away… only there was. And Sookie knew it. Eric closed his fingers into a fist and then relaxed them again.

"Why are you telling me this?"

"You and I are leaders, Eric, and that means being pragmatic and using all the resources at our disposal. I know of your situation, and I thought you might like to know that Sookie can make all this unpleasantness disappear if she chooses to do so. Good night."

Eric's mouth had been opened to ask "Why?" yet again, but the call had ended. One thing he knew with certainty: Niall hadn't provided this information from the goodness of his heart, leader to leader. It had to be a test of some sort. Would he pressure Sookie to use the magical device – perhaps even steal it from her?

No, he wouldn't. And he wouldn't have to. Sookie had spoken of "other options," and this was clearly what she had in mind. Where once his future seemed like a thunderstorm rolling in against all his might to stop it, light pierced the darkness, radiating from Sookie's open palm.