The red corvette threw gravel in the air as it sped into the parking lot at Merlotte's. Eric was out of the car and searching the lot the second the tires stopped turning. Her car wasn't there. He closed his eyes and knew from the bond that she was nearby, so he went into the bar, which would be closing soon. He heard Sam Merlotte call "last call" as he entered the run down bar and scanned the room. There she was, clearing tables. His bonded was performing menial tasks for very little money in this fucking dump. He closed his eyes and tried to get his anger under control. This situation had continued for too long and this night it would be resolved to his satisfaction once and for all, but anger would not get him what he most wanted.

She had seen him – he could feel the surprise and the delight in the bond, though he had no illusions that she would give any outward show of her excitement at seeing him. He looked at her, unblinking, knowing she was aware he was watching her because her hands were shaking as she tried to fill the saltshakers. He could hear her coworkers whispering about him and his relationship to Sookie, neither of them wanting to offer him a table. That was of no consequence. He wasn't looking for hospitality. He was here for Sookie.

He strode across the bar, 6'5" of gorgeous deadly wrapped in tight black jeans and a Fangtasia t-shirt. All eyes were on him, but his eyes were fixed on Sookie as he walked up to her.

Sookie swallowed hard, and looked up, trying to be casual about the situation because she knew why he was probably here and she wasn't ready for this by any stretch of the imagination. "Eric, " her emergency smile snapped into place, "this is a surprise."

"Is it? I would think you would have expected to see me before now." It had been two months since they'd spoken about their bond and he had had enough of her evasion tactics. He would not be put off any longer.

"I'm going to be a while here, I have a lot of work to do." The little… she was trying to blow him off?

"Waitresses – I have 500 dollars for anyone who will finish Sookie's work tonight so she may leave with me now."

"We'll take it," Arlene said, answering for the other waitress and herself, who would split the 500 between them. Sookie thought what a hypocrite Arlene was – she hated vampires, but she would take his money. Bitch.

Eric put 5 hundred dollar bills on the bar. "Get your things, Sookie and we will go."

"Eric, you didn't ask me if I wanted to go with you…"

"No, I did not. Get your things. Where is your car?"

"It's in the shop. Amelia drove me to work. Sam was going to drive me home."

"Yeah, that's right, Northman, Sookie is going to leave with me." Sam could not have picked a worse moment to get on Eric's bad side.

Eric's tone was low, menacing, and left no doubt as to his seriousness in anyone within earshot. "By the gods, Shifter, if you interfere in this tonight, I will end you." His fangs popped out and he gave a sinister growl.

"This is my bar, and you.."

"SAM! Please, it's all right. Here, let me into your office so I can get my purse and we'll go."

"Sookie, you don't have to take orders from that fucking vampire."

"I know, I'm not, Eric and I need to talk, so just let me get my purse and we'll head out. Honestly, it's fine, come on."

They went into Sam's office and he unlocked the drawer so she could get her purse. "Sookie, you don't have to leave with that guy if you don't want to. I can…"

"Sam, really, it's fine, Eric just wants to talk to me and we haven't been able to get together for a while. OK? Good night."

Sookie rushed out of the office clutching her purse. "Ok, Eric," she said as she walked quickly past him and he followed her. Once out front, he zipped to open his car door for her, and she thanked him as she got in in spite of herself. She didn't intend to be nice to him, it was just a habit to say thank you.

He folded himself into the car and sped out of the lot and onto the road heading toward Sookie's house. Neither of them spoke for a long time. As they turned on the road to the cemetery, Eric said "You have been well?"

Sookie was unsure about talking to him, but she said, "Yes, I'm fine I guess."

"You have not called me."

"I was just thinking the same thing about you." She was getting a little irritated now. "Why didn't you let me know you were coming here tonight. You embarrassed me back there."

Eric shook his head and laughed a little. "I embarrassed YOU? My bonded is acting as barwench in a hick roadhouse and I have embarrassed you?"

"Wait a minute – are you saying you're embarrassed by my job?"

"I am saying that you having any job is unnecessary and that one specifically shames me. It looks as if I do not provide for my woman."

"Your woman? Since when?"

"Wait until we get inside." He pulled around behind her house and opened her car door. The back door was open and the light on, so Amelia was home, and Sookie walked up the back steps with Eric right behind her.

"Hey, girl, you're early…?" Amelia said until she saw Eric, which answered her question.

"Hi, Amelia, I…."

"Amelia, I will give you a thousand dollars to go to a hotel tonight."

"ERIC! What has gotten into you."

"It's OK, Sookie. Nice to see you, too, Eric. How about if you keep your money and I'll go to a friend's house?"

"That would suffice."

"Eric, you can't order Amelia out of my home."

"He's not ordering, Sookie, he just made me an offer he didn't think I would refuse. I don't mind giving you kids some privacy as long as you tell me you aren't afraid to be left here with him."

Eric glared at her for implying he might be a danger to Sookie.

"I'm not afraid, Amelia, Eric would never hurt me."

Now his expression was smug. At least Sookie defended him. That was progress.

"Let me call my friend," Amelia said, going into the living room.

"Is all of this really necessary, Eric?"

"Apparently. Nothing else has worked."

"Worked? What does that mean? You haven't done anything. I haven't seen you. You haven't called me. If I weren't afraid you would kill my friend…."

"I have never offered to harm Amelia…"

"I mean SAM, Eric."

"He is your employer, not your friend, and he desires you. It is my right to threaten him to keep away from you."

"Your RIGHT? What gives you that kind of right in my life?"

"Our bond gives me the right, and your Shifter well knows that."

"Some bond – I haven't seen or heard from you in months!" Sookie sobbed a little as she yelled at him – what was that about? Was she going to cry?

Eric caught that – "Have you missed me, then?"

"We're bonded – shouldn't you already know that?"

"I feel such turmoil from you most of the time I can't tell how you really feel."

"That's what I feel – turmoil. I don't know…" Sookie slumped down to the floor and cried.

Eric was shocked for a second, then he scooped her up and took her to her bedroom, dropping her on the bed and turning on the light.

"What are you doing? Eric Northman if you think you can waltz in here and just have sex with me after what you've put me through, you are out of your mi..." His lips stopped her from finishing her sentence. She started to give in, then remembered herself and swung her fist at him, but he caught it, grabbing both her wrists and pinning her on the bed. They stared at each other, unblinking, both of them shaking.

Neither one of them could sort out what was happening in the bond. Sookie's breath was shaky and difficult, and Eric couldn't tell if she was more aroused or afraid. He shifted his weight forward onto her a little, gently but definitely grinding his crotch against hers. She responded and her scent was giving clear signs of sexual interest. The emotions on her face and in her eyes were changing so quickly he could barely follow them – love, fear, anger, lust, danger, affection, One minute they seemed to beg him to take her, the next she looked as if she'd kill him if he tried.

"Sookie, everything OK?" Amelia was in the hall, but not at the door in case they were… busy.

Eric arched an eyebrow at Sookie. Is everything OK? He wondered.

"Yes, Amelia, everything is fine." Her voice was unsure, but he was pleased with the words.

"OK, Sweetie, I'm going over to Tray's house if you don't need me."

They were still staring at each other and shaking. Sookie swallowed hard. "No, I'm fine – go have fun."

"OK, hon, good night, Good night, Eric."

"Good Night," Eric called to her, never taking his eyes off Sookie.

They both reacted as they heard the screen door close and Amelia's car drive off.

"OK, Eric, we're alone now."

"So it would seem."

"What are you going to do to me?"

"Do to you? I'm not going to do anything TO you." Shock washed over his face and he stood back from the bed. "You can't possibly think I would… did you think I was going to rape you?" He was visibly shaken and hurt.

"NO, I mean, I don't know – you've got this… sense of entitlement about me. I don't know what you think I owe you. I don't know what you expect."

"THAT is why I am here. We both need to clarify our expectations. Sookie, you must know that I would never harm you? Do you feel unsafe with me?" He was horrified and she felt awful.

"No, Eric, I can honestly say that I've never been afraid you would hurt me on purpose. I just don't understand what being bonded means. I don't know if you consider it rape or not if we're bonded." He sat in the chair next to her bed, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, hands clasped, looking at the floor. He couldn't look at her.

Sookie knew she had hurt him and couldn't think of anything else to do, so she stood up and pulled her t-shirt off and threw it to Eric. He looked at her with surprise as she threw her bra to him next. She kicked off her tennis shoes and peeled her panties and shorts off together. She walked over and stood in front of him, and he looked up at her in utter confusion.

"Eric, I'm not afraid of you."

"Well, that is something at least." He was looking up at her face.

"Take your clothes off and come to bed."

"What?"

"We need to talk, right? If we're lying in bed naked, there's no hiding. We have to be honest with each other." She was pulling the bottom of his t-shirt out of his pants and he let her pull his arms up and the shirt off. "Stand up." He did as she asked and she wrapped her arms around his waist, kissing his chest down to his stomach, then unbuttoning his jeans and pulling the zipper down.

"Sookie, are you sure about this?"

"Yes, I'm sure. We're not going to have sex until we talk, though, OK? We're going to lie in each other's arms and you're going to explain what a bond means to me." She pulled his jeans and underwear down and threw them to the side of the bed. She turned on the lamp by her bed and turned off the overhead light. She crawled into the big bed first, and pulled him in after her. They snuggled under the covers and lay facing each other.

"This is not how I expected this evening to go," Eric said.

"Is it better or worse."

"It looks promising." He smiled softly. She was so beautiful.

"OK, so we're bonded and you can always feel me."

"Yes."

"And the bond is permanent."

"Yes."

"If you had the option to undo it, would you?"

"No. I like it too much."

"You like the bond or you like me?"

"I like the bond because I … love you."

"Are you sure you do? For real?"

"Yes, I am sure. I cannot lie to you, Sookie."

"You can't? For real?"

"It's not that I am incapable of lying to you – it is that our bond requires that I be honest with you. I must honor our bond by being honest with you."

"OK, I'm going to make a confession here and you are not going to get smug about it, promise?"

"Promise."

"I like it, too."

He smiled at her. "Then why have you been fighting me so?"

"I wasn't sure you were happy about it. I thought it was forced on you and you'd start to resent me for it."

"That will never happen, Sookie."

"OK, so this gives you some kind of rights to me?"

"Yes, in my world it is a very big deal to be bonded. Vampires only bond once or twice in their long lives. It is a very special connection."

"Is it like being married?"

"It is much deeper and more profound than that. A marriage is only a promise. A bonding is a physical merging. We are no longer two separate people. We are one."

"That sounds like being married to me."

"We can marry if you want."

"What?"

"We can marry if you want."

"Do you want to marry me or are you offering it because you think I want it?"

"I bonded with you. Adding a marriage license to it is nothing to me. I am yours, you are mine, if it makes you happy, we will marry."

"But it won't mean anything to you…"

"Being bonded means everything to me. I already have what I want – I want you. If what you want includes marriage, then we will marry."

"So, it's not that you don't care…"

"It's that it is… redundant. We are already past that point, but if it is an important detail to you, I will do what I must to make you happy. I want to make you happy, Sookie – being with you makes me happy."

She smiled at him. "Being with you makes me happy, too. I just don't understand why you stayed away for so long."

"I thought you were rejecting me and I couldn't take it. I came here tonight because I was so frustrated and hurt that I wanted us to clear the air so I'd know where I stood with you. I had to have some relief. Being away from you is painful for me."

"Literally painful, or is that just how you feel?"

"Both. I have a physical attachment to you – I need to see you regularly."

"OK, I don't want you to suffer, so I guess we need to work out a schedule to see each other."

"When you work, I will come here as I did tonight. When you are off, you will come to my house and stay with me. That is what I would like. What are you willing to do?"

"I could do that – you're going to let me keep working?"

"For now. It reflects badly on me, but I understand that being independent is important to you, so do what you must until you trust that our bond is permanent."

"And when I do…?"

"I hope at some point you will come to live with me and let me take care of you. We should be together all the time."

"Can we start by just seeing each other regularly and see how that goes?"

"Of course – whatever you are comfortable with, as long as we are faithful to each other."

"So, what about the fang bangers at Fangtasia? Are you saying that you…"

"Have not had sex with anyone since I was last with you, and I will never have sex with anyone but you from this point onward."

"That's hard to believe."

"I know that – I know what you think of me. I will prove to you that I can be faithful but you must prove that to me. Our bond means that no one should touch one of us unless the other has given permission."

"So if I say you're never to touch another fang banger in any way…"

"… then I must not – but I have to feed. You must allow me to feed from you if I cannot feed on them."

"So you have exclusive feeding rights to me?"

"Yes, and you must not let anyone else feed from you or touch you. I don't want to see you hugging, kissing or dancing with anyone else. I am yours. You are mine. It is a great insult to me if anyone else touches you."

"So when I went with Quinn…"

"You shamed us both."

Sookie's eyes welled with tears. "I didn't… I mean… I didn't understand that it had anything to do with you."

"Everyone knows that you were unfaithful to me. It showed weakness that I let him touch you and live."

"I'm sorry…"

"You will never do that to me again, Sookie – you must promise me."

"I promise. I was being defiant, but I never intended to embarrass you. I felt like you were acting like you owned me…"

"I do, Sookie, and you own me. We each have a right to be possessive of the other. No Supe would expect any less. If Quinn had any honor, he would not have gone with you knowing I had a claim on you. I knew in time he would betray you."

"Yeah, he sure did – and almost got everyone I know killed." Sookie was just beginning to understand what she had done to Eric and it was painful. She never meant to disgrace him. She was angry with him, but she would never want to hurt him that way.

"I will never betray you, Sookie. I know what my reputation is, but I have honor – I will never betray my bonded. I would die before I would let harm come to you."

"You said you wouldn't die for me…"

"I couldn't tell Madden that I would die for you, Sookie. That would make him too likely to use you against me. It was foolish of Bill to say that to him. If he ever wants to force Bill to do his bidding, he will use you to get to him. He put you in danger by saying that just to score a few brownie points with you. He also let Madden know that there is a dispute between him and me, and that is something he could use against us."

"It's going to take me some time…"

"As long as you are faithful, I will give you all the time you need. We have plenty of time."

"Do we? I'm going to get old, you know…"

"As long as you are feeding from me regularly, you will stay young as you are now for 50 or 60 years."

"Then what?"

"It is your choice, but I would hope by that time you would come over."

"Eric, I don't see myself ever wanting to be a vampire."

"I would never force that on you Sookie, but it will always be an option if you want it."

"So if I die…"

"I will feel great loss and sadness. I will suffer. That is unavoidable at this point."

Sookie stretched forward and kissed him, stroking his hair. "So it's you and me now, huh?"

"Forever." He kissed her and moved forward, rolling her on her back and moving on top of her then off to the side a little. Their tongues met as their lips melded together, and Eric ran his hand over Sookie's breast and hips, running it down her thigh and then back up between her legs. He smiled and let out a soft "mmmm" when he found how wet she was – apparently he wasn't the only one that was ready to stop talking and communicate in a more direct way. He probed her, stroked her, slipped his fingers into her as she moaned gently into his mouth.

He zeroed in on her clit for a minute or so, making small circles, knowing she was almost, but not quite ready. Perfect. He had a point to make and wanted to make sure he had her attention. He didn't want to hurt her but he wanted to make it clear that he was claiming her so without warning he shifted and entered her, making her cry out in surprise. He took a couple of deep strokes as she whimpered a little, letting him know it hurt just a little in a good way. He pinned both her wrists above her head and looked straight into her eyes and said, "You are MINE" as he pushed into her hard and deep.

"Ye- yes," she said breathlessly, as she closed her eyes and focused all of her attention on the way he was filling her. In the back of her mind – way back, because she wasn't really thinking at this point – she knew that he was letting her know that he really did own her now, and that this was his and his alone now. Something modern in the front of her mind wanted to revolt against this, but something ancient in her told her she WAS HIS and he had every right to claim her this way.

She couldn't fight it so she opened herself up to him in every way – physically, mentally, spiritually – and he filled her in every way, the very essence of him flowing through her. She had the oddest sensation that this was new – even though they had been together before, this was new and different and she knew that this was how sex with him would be from now on – this intensity, this heat, this sense of claiming, belonging, him owning her and her being owned and she surrendered to it. This was real in a way nothing ever had been before. If you had told her she was born just for this moment, she would have believed you… and you would have been right.