A/N- This story follows "Dead and Gone, With the Wind", "Dead Accord", "Dead Reckoning" and the Pam POVs "My Telepathic Friend", "Dead Set" and "So Hard". You'll be kind of lost if you haven't read those first. Also, there are a few spoilers for the short story "Tacky". Sorry it took so long to put this one up. I've been so busy lately and hadn't set aside time to edit this one. I have a story that follows this one. It is about twice this length, just about ready for final edits and then to put up. Maybe by next week. I'll try to be faster on that one. I'm calling it my protest story. You'll read why at the end of this one.

The characters of the Sookieverse are Charlaine Harris's amazing creation. I hope she doesn't mind my playing with them a little bit since, after all, it promotes the love of her books.

His black eyes just bore into me and the snarling teeth were so close to my face. His hand at my throat burned. I was just powerless. Powerless. His other hand started to rip my shirt. No, no, no! I didn't want to whimper. I wanted to scream, to fight… And suddenly, I was

"Sookie! Sookie! Wake up… you're safe."

Thalia gripped my wrists and pinned me to her. There was a faint echo in my ears of my voice, my screams.

"It was just a dream, Sookie. A bad dream," she whispered.

Once I was awake her tight grip relaxed and she just held me, soothing me.



It was just after midnight on the first Thursday night in early May and I was on day five of Thalia's domineering occupation of my house. I had little idea what was actually going on, other than the fact that, reportedly, Roberto Garcia was now King of at least Nevada. Eric had been gone for five days but I hadn't really seen him in a week. I was getting really tired of being escorted by Tray Dawson to work, even though I really like him. Actually Tray went with me anywhere and everywhere, during the day. If I left the house I was supposed to let him know so he could accompany me. I was shadowed by Thalia at night, because she claimed that Bubba was useless and Bill wasn't adequately up to the task. Thalia was now in charge of Area 5 security. Armed with her Blackberry and her well-manicured nails, she was keeping tabs on everything from wherever she was watching me. Thankfully, she trusted Sam to take care of me at Merlotte's for short stretches of time, although I'd caught her threatening him grave harm, more than once, if anything happened to me when she occasionally left the building. Sam was taking it in stride, unlike some of my other friends.

Octavia had moved to her niece's place in Shreveport because she was too afraid to stay in her room with Thalia in the hidey-hole. Even though Octavia's room was not light-safe like mine was now, Thalia had relished telling Octavia that sometimes she awoke as early as two hours before sunset, because she was hungry. Thalia had frightened her, even though I'd pointed out to Octavia that if Thalia really came out of that hidey-hole at 4:30 pm, she'd end up charred. Octavia said she be back whenever things settled down again. Amelia was not as easily put off but was on edge because Thalia was just so rude. She was just in the habit of being rude and snarling with most humans. But she had been calling my friends 'disgusting humans' or 'blood bags' to their faces. I was aghast and asked her to please stop, but to no avail. When Amelia had pointed out to Thalia that I was, in fact, also a human, she had actually spat back to Amelia that I was only part human. I apologized to Amelia, and said I was so appreciative of her patience. But on the third day, Amelia made gestures behind Thalia's back and Thalia wheeled around and got all in her face, fangs run down and snarling. So Amelia went to stay with Tray. She said she hoped I'd be okay, since I'd been having trouble sleeping lately. But I told her I'd be fine. Thus, I was left alone in the house with Thalia at night after work. It was kind of telling to me that even Bubba was afraid of Thalia. She was always nice to me, but it left a bad taste in my mouth that she was so rude to my friends. There was nothing I could do about it, though.

Since I had been having trouble sleeping, Thalia and I spent a lot of time talking. I'd learned about her life in Greece, her peripatetic (April 29, and a great word if you know any older vampires) existence over the centuries all throughout Europe. Thalia believed that she was about 1120 years old, which was probably just a couple of decades older than Eric. She wasn't sure because there was some confusion about her actual human age at her turning in her mind. She was pretty much on her own after moving to the US about a hundred years ago. All four of her children she had turned had died. One had been killed by Dieter Jaeger in a battle near Prague in 1720. She hadn't turned anyone in three centuries because she said it just wasn't worth the heartache. I was actually rather surprised to find that she could be so attached to anyone. This was after all the woman who staked Rasul a few short days after she'd been cavorting with him, and had killed an innocent Were to make a cover story. Thalia had been pretty lonely and unhappy until just recently. She made reference to having had many bad experiences with working for other Sheriffs prior to moving to Shreveport. Like Felicia, she'd done her homework and sought out a reasonable employer. But she'd shown up with few references, a bad attitude and had ended up just working in the bar. Things had improved for her after my being taken by Dieter. She had an opportunity and seized it. Now she was much happier. I could tell she really had come to like Pam quite a bit from the happy tone of her voice whenever she touched base with Pam in the evenings. (Pam, though, still had reservations about her.) And Thalia really adored Eric because he had never mistreated her and further more had given her a really serious job. I think she was delighted that Eric didn't care that she was a woman, and didn't care that she was so tiny. All Eric cared about was that Thalia was absolutely ruthless and could get her job done perfectly without having to ask a lot of questions. When she was put in charge of Area 5 security after only a month and a half handling Shreveport, she was plainly thrilled.

Pam called me every night to touch base but gave me no information about what was going on other than confirming that she knew Roberto was in charge of at least Nevada. She apologized after the third day and said part of it was that even she wasn't exactly sure what all was going on. She wasn't sharing any information about what she did know, however. She was in charge of Area 5 in Eric's absence and sounded stressed and busy. She said the volume of business email alone was overwhelming, let alone dealing with the people. Maxwell was helping her keep tabs on all of Eric's businesses, Clancy was in charge at the club. I tried to cheer her up and make plans for getting together to do something fun when Eric returned but she was oddly evasive about making any firm plan. The whole situation was odd and it was so different from Felipe's takeover of the state, when Eric just stayed here and Felipe came to check out his new territory. I was sure that Eric was safe because Roberto knew about Niall. But still, I hadn't spoken to Eric in three days, hadn't had even had so much as a text message in two. I was actually getting pretty demoralized. Pam seemed to sense it and tried to be consoling, telling me not to worry about anything. She even told me she hadn't heard from him other than by email the day before, which was kind of surprising. She said he was really busy and reiterated that everything would be fine.

Sam was softly trying to cajole me into a better frame of mind at work, but to no avail. Even some of the regulars in the bar commented to me that I seemed like I was distant or down. I'd been pretty somber for the past few days. Even though Eric and I had been apart for months after our bond was made, it felt really different now to be apart. I really didn't think it was the bond at all, actually, even though I knew he'd say it was. I just missed him.

Tonight Jason sat chatting with Sam at the bar, slowly nursing a beer while I was waiting my last two tables for the night. Amelia and Tray came in for a late drink and sat with them. Sam snagged me and sat me down at the bar next to Jason, putting a hamburger a la Sookie (medium well, lettuce, extra tomato slice, no pickles, no onions) in front of me. He pointed at it, then at me.

"You better eat it, Sookie, because if you don't I'll have to tell that little harpy who's keeping an eye on you," he said with a chuckle.

I glanced up at the clock. 12:15 am. Thalia would probably arrive shortly. She'd gone to some "friend's" house in Shreveport around 11 pm. According to her text message to Sam, in which she threatened him with injury if anything happened to me on his watch, she was on her way back and would be there by 12:30 am. She'd gone for 'dinner', I surmised. As for my dinner, I really wasn't hungry. It was pretty easy to fall out of the habit of eating properly when you're a human among vampires. Without Amelia and Octavia in the house it just seemed like a lot of effort to cook for myself. Claudine had been over the other evening, but stayed less than five minutes because Thalia worried her, as she later explained to me by phone. We made plans to meet on the weekend during the day when I was off. We ate some brownies (Claudine has a real sweet tooth) from the batch I'd baked for Tray two days before, but clearly that was not a meal. I looked at my burger and sighed.

Tray seemed interested in talking about whatever was going on with the whole vampire takeover. News of the newest vampire takeover had started spreading through the supe community, it seemed.

"So Sookie, do you know this guy Roberto Garcia?" he asked, sounding rather curious. They all actually looked interested, in fact.

"Um, well, sure I've met him."

Amelia jumped in quickly, "He looks really good looking in a photo I saw online. Is he that good looking in person?"

I thought about it. Eric kind of set a pretty high standard where good looking is concerned in my mind but sure, Roberto was certainly easy on the eyes as they say. "Well, sure, I guess. You know that guy in the Buckaroo Banzai movie? Perfect Tommy? He looks sort of like Perfect Tommy. He has bleached blonde hair, almost white. Really dark eyes. And he's tall and slender like that, maybe a couples of inches shorter than Eric." We'd watched Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eight Dimension about two weeks before. Amelia and I were heavily into 80's cult films in April. "But mostly what I'd have to say about Roberto is that he seems very… modern and smart. I got the impression when I talked to him that he's a very sharp guy."

Tray nodded his head and said with a chuckle, "Well I guess he's definitely modern if he just married a Were."

I turned to him and said, "What?" That was pretty unexpected.

Tray nodded and said, "Yes, it seems like his partner for years has been a Austrian Were by the name of Liesel Schall. She's an investment banker or something. She had been living in Los Angeles. I heard he married her in Vegas less than a day after Felipe de Castro was gone. Word spread through the Were community like wildfire, because it makes such a big statement about broader relations, right?"

I was really kind of surprised. "But a vampire marrying a Were? How common is that?"

Tray said, "Oh, I know of other couples. Taffy and Don Swinton, for instance. They're up in Rhodes and they've been married for a while. Don's the packleader in Rhodes. Then one of the vampire bridesmaids at that wedding married one of the Were groomsmen or something a year later. Rhodes is a real hotbed of intermarriage nowadays from what I hear."

I was still really surprised. "Well, that's interesting. Yeah, I guess having a vampire King marry a Were is a real statement, then." I had to say that if I went back to Vegas with Eric, I'd really be curious to meet this Liesel Schall. And I liked Roberto even more for having had a longterm relationship with a woman who most other vampires would have looked down on. Clearly he was someone who really looked at people as individuals. Given my experience with Weres and vampires, I'd have to say that I really thought it was quite remarkable on both their parts.

In the meantime, I sat looking at my plate, my mind in sort of a muddle at the mere mention of marriage. Exactly two weeks ago Eric had asked me to marry him. I hadn't told anyone. I told him I'd have to think about it. I was still mulling it over when he'd left without warning for Vegas. He didn't seem surprised by my response, which kind of surprised me. Eric usually just expected that people would do as he asked them. Sometimes he even seemed to expect that I'd just do what he asked me to do, no questions asked, which really ticked me off. But he'd taken my response right in stride, almost as if he'd expected what my answer would be. When I started to explain why I wanted to think about it, for instance the fact that dating someone for less than three months, even if you'd known them for several years, didn't really seem like a long enough period of time to make that kind of decision, etc., he just put up a hand and said, "Think about it, Sookie. Just take your time to think about it." Well, I'd been thinking and now I hadn't even heard from him for three whole days while he was off in Iniquityland, as I jokingly referred to Vegas.

Sam leaned over and said in a whisper, "Earth to Sookie…. You need to eat that thing before it gets cold and before Thalia arrives and I have to report to her your every moment in my bar. I was instructed to 'make her eat'. You're going to get me in trouble if you don't."

I looked up and met his merry eyes and wrinkled my nose. "I guess I'm really not hungry, Sam."

Jason elbowed me and said, "Come on, Sook, just eat it. It's not good to go skipping meals. Hey Sam, I'll get some fries and mayo. See, Sookie, I'll sit and eat with you, okay?" He started eating a few fries on my plate and elbowed me again.

I sighed and after glancing back at my two tables, I picked up the still warm burger and took a bite. It was actually good and once I started eating I realized I really was hungry. Sam plunked down a ginger ale for me and then went to go check on my tables for me. Soon, Jason and I were both eating and I was gibing him on the fact that having fries with mayo and ketchup mixed together was about the grossest thing I could think of and that I was thinking about finally disowning him. We were done eating but still gibing each other when Thalia arrived. Jason looked at Thalia flirtatiously and she snarled at him. He made a big show of pretending to act alarmed and then called her "pretty lady" to undermine his show of being afraid. She actually laughed at him, then took my seat when I went to go close out my tables. As I stood at the register ringing up the checks, Amelia and Tray rose to leave and Amelia came to hug me goodbye, wishing me luck with 'the ogress'.

"I can hear you witch," hissed Thalia.

"Oh, dear…" said Amelia, sarcastically.

I sighed. Amelia really enjoyed baiting her at this point. She and Tray left.

After chatting briefly with Thalia, Sam told me to go ahead and take off for the night, even though it was ten minutes before 1 am. There were only two tables left in Letty's station and Letty was still there chatting at one, since they were regulars. I said goodnight to Jason and kissed him on the cheek. We'd been getting along better in recent months. Actually, ever since the whole Magnolia business. Even though Jason hardly ever talked to Eric, and had never even really had acknowledged Eric's phone call to him, it seemed like he had taken Eric's admonishment about showing up more in my life to heart. We still hadn't talked about the whole Calvin and Crystal business and I still cringed whenever I thought of what I'd had to do to Calvin's hand. But Jason and I had gotten to a point that was a bit easier to just be with each other again. We were sort of back in a well-worn groove of relating in a family way. It was comforting right now.

So Thalia drove me home and after making myself a hot cocoa and taking some valerian capsules, I tried to avoid having a pity party for myself after seeing I still had no messages on my home phone or cell phone. I said goodnight to Thalia and went off to bed. Thalia was watching Buffy, Season 3 and Bubba patrolled outside. I climbed into bed, read for a while and finished my cocoa. After brushing my teeth, I climbed back under my covers, turned out the light and tried not to feel the full impact of how sad and lonely I really felt. I failed.

Slowly, I gave in to a heavy, valerian-induced, sleep…