Spoilers: through Dead and Gone

Beta: SabaceanBabe

Disclaimer: This is a transformative work, based on the characters and world created by Charlaine Harris. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's note: I didn't join one of the comms at LiveJournal in time to participate in the Halloween fic challenge, but this 'verse has inspired me to dabble in fic again so I thought I would give it a whirl. It's been years (I mean YEARS--go see my list: it's short and OLD) since I've written any fan fiction at all, so I figured I would borrow some prompts to flex my writing muscles again. This was written *purely* for practice and because I was struck with an idea that seemed to work. The story requirements were 1. snarky, sexy banter, 2. a hay ride, 3. Sookie rescues Eric from something (something serious or something embarrassing, either is fine) and will never let him live it down. Here goes nothing!

"This will do," Eric said as we stepped out of his car and into the driveway of a very dilapidated home. The paint had long since chipped off the old two-story farm house and the glass in the windows was cracked where not completely shattered. Bricks lay tumbled on the ground around the crumbling chimney on the right wall of the house, and the weeds and grass were so overgrown, I could only imagine what was laying in wait for us as we moved closer to the house and I could imagine quite a bit. If the moon had not been working its way toward full, I'm sure I would have been far more creeped out and a smidge more clingy.

"It's a real fixer-upper," I said.

Eric gave a quick snort and motioned me to his side. "Yes, well, that is the point."

"Tell me again why you are doing this?"

"I'm not doing it," he said. "It's a PR stunt concocted by Felipe and the area packmasters. They figure a little community service would help assuage people's fears of all of us and open some doors for more business dealings with the local humans. So we are going to put together a haunted house for the Halloween season."

"Right. Because you people aren't frightening enough on a normal day. They really think it's a good idea to host something scary to keep people from being afraid?" I shook my head. Obviously incompetency was a cross-species failure. "They certainly have the pulse of the community don't they?"

"Ha ha."

Eric took my hand and we began walking around the property we could readily see so he could get an idea of what resources they were starting with. The farm was surrounded on three sides by woods and when we were still, I could just make out the faint rush of a stream that ran behind the house somewhere. Not too far from the home was a good-sized barn that probably boarded a few horses and maybe a couple of cows or some sheep once upon a time. To one side of the barn was an unruly cornfield with some trees growing here and there. I suspected that somewhere on the land was probably an old family graveyard too but I had no plans to seek it out any time soon.

"And why did you need me?" I asked. He could have done a fly-by just as easily and I could have stayed home reading. I shivered in the early October breeze wishing again that I knew a whole lot less of what could be out there. Of course, Eric could be far more deadly than most other creatures of the night. But still. This place was obviously on Spooksville's historical register.

"For company, mostly." Eric looked down at me and raised his eyebrow and the corner of his mouth. "And to give me some ideas."

I reached over and squeezed that amazing ass of his. "Got any ideas now?" I asked, flippantly.

"I'm not some piece of meat, woman," Eric groused for effect and then he laughed. "Well, maybe I am. Do that again."

"It's no fun if you ask for it."

"I'll remember that," he practically purred at me. Eric picked me up and planted an amused kiss on my lips. "Do you think there's a bed in there?"

My first reaction was to flush from my head to my deep-red painted toenails, but instead I pushed against his chest to look him in the eyes. "We can't have sex here. We'll die. Haven't you ever watched a slasher movie? The couples having sex always die. Always. And this place? So has a serial killer roaming around."

"I can think of worse things than final death while having sex with you..." he mused. But then my words seemed to take on a different meaning for him. Eric looked at me blankly for a moment. "Or do you mean you can sense someone out here?" he asked, easing me to the ground. I could see him scanning the corn field near the barn. (Maybe he was looking for Malachai from Children of the Corn? Yikes.) The moonlight made his face look like it was carved from the finest marble. He was nothing if not beautiful.

I chuckled a little. "Eric, I'm kidding. There's no one--" Just when I started to say that, something caught my eye in the house and practically stopped my heart. Just a trick of the moonlight and wispy clouds riding by on the breeze. Had me there for a sec. "There's no one here."

We continued to wander around the yard talking about how the barn could be used to stage hay rides that would run on the outskirts of the property as well as the post-haunting party and activity area for the kids. I mentioned that the corn field would be perfect for a maze complete with real dead ends if you wanted to throw some vamps in there to frighten people into taking another direction.

I turned to Eric and asked, "So what's the deal with this place?"

Eric leaned against a stone hitching post just outside the low stone wall framing the yard and pulled me to him, rubbing my arms and making me shiver more. "The property has been empty for years--longer than I've been in the area even. There's always been tales of the place being haunted and no one has ever claimed it or tried to purchase it. The city of Shreveport is letting us use it for the occasion and we are paying them for the 'privilege.'" I could practically hear him roll his eyes a la Pam at the thought."Felipe instructed me to come out and make sure the structure was sound enough to hold the event. Whatever repairs or construction that needs to be done will be taken care of by the weres and shifters during the day. We will take care of providing ambience."

No doubt Martha Stewart would be proud, and the division of labor should keep them out of each other's hair, so to speak. The barn definitely had seen better days but it was built to last and other than providing shelter to area cats and rodents, it seemed sturdy enough for a few nights of partying. The house seemed to be pretty much in the same state. Sturdy, but needing some attention.

"Haunted, huh?" I leaned back in his arms and he rested his chin lightly on the top of my head.

"So the locals say. I'm not inclined to believe such nonsense. Humans can be so gullible."

"Says the dead guy."

Eric turned me around to face him. "Sookie, in all the time I have walked this world I have seen many, many things. Not once have I seen a ghost."

I raised my chin defiantly. "Doesn't mean they aren't there."

"Yes it does," he grinned at me. "Are you afraid now to go in the house?"

I looked over my shoulder at the house that looked harmless enough on the outside but held who knew what inside. It's not like I hadn't been deceived by looks before. Still, the hair on the back of my neck rose and if it weren't for the waves of calm rolling off Eric, I may have hightailed it back to the car and gunned it back to my house. Eric could just catch up.

I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction though. "Not at all," I said and gave him a tight smile.

"Then shall we get this over with?" Eric asked and gave me his elbow which I gratefully wrapped my hands around.

"Lead the way."

We climbed the porch skipping over one step that was definitely broken. There were a few more broken boards along the covered wrap-around porch and a few missing spindles beneath the railing that could easily accommodate a child-sized head in there. Luckily with vampires and their super strength on hand, the jaws of life or Crisco aren't generally needed for such rescues. The wooden screen door was hanging at a steep angle from its top hinge but the heavy inner wooden door was amazingly still on its hinges although the glass had been knocked out. Eric pulled the screen door out of the way as gently as he could given the years of rust caked on. The creak the inner door let out was more like a shriek in the quiet night and I fully expected to see bats come flying out of door as Eric continued to push it in. I may have ducked just in case. Eric looked back at me inquisitively. I shrugged.

Eric stood in front of the door expectantly, leaning forward a bit and I waited behind him. What was taking him so long? He cleared his throat and stepped aside with a flourish.

"Looks like it's ladies first."

"You have got to be kidding. You go in first, you're already dead."

"Sookie, I just tried and I can't."

I sighed and shook my head. Of course. Stupid Vampire rules. I guess this would be the other reason I came along. I reached out with my mind to just make sure there was nothing going on in there before I stepped over the threshold. Empty. Good. I wasn't even through the doorway before I told Eric in a voice that I hoped didn't sound too anxious to "Please come in."

We stood together in the entrance way to the house getting our bearings since it was darker inside than out. There were stairs going up to the second floor in front of us, with a hallway to the right leading to what I could see was a big old kitchen. The doorway to the right opened up to a good-sized living room that had some remnants of long-broken furniture and some random pictures on the walls. The air was somewhat stale but I'm sure it would have been worse if so many windows hadn't been missing. I could see the dust motes in the moonlight after we stirred them up as we walked in. The knotted wide-board pine floor looked fine, but we walked gingerly into the living room in case there were soft spots. I had no desire to fall into the basement and get eaten by whatever mutant animal most likely lived down there.

A large fireplace was the focal point of the room much like at my own house, and to either side of the mantle were crooked pictures. I was drawn to one of them and moved slowly toward it. A heaviness began to settle in my stomach as I got closer. A man and woman with their two young boys stared out from the dirty glass. It wasn't the same proud family I had focused on that day of the living nightmare with Neave and Lochlan, but it could have been just as easily. Same time period, same Sunday Best, same serious faces. I wiped a tear from my eye and Eric was close behind me in an instant. He lightly touched my shoulder but I flinched. I could feel how much he wanted to move closer but instead backed away a few inches.

"Sookie?" he said so softly as if I might shatter if he spoke too loudly.

I shook my head and gave a rueful smile—not that he could probably see it since he kept his distance and was absolutely still. "There was a picture so much like this one when Lochlan and Neave..." I sighed. "Focusing on it was one of the things I did to try to forget where I was and what was happening. Sorry there for the Bad Faery Flashback."

I could feel a low burn of anger coming from Eric. Anger and my sadness reflected back at me. "I should not have brought you."

Turning to him, I shrugged. "I can't hide away, Eric. There will be things to remind me. It can't be helped. Besides, how would you have gotten in?"

He did finally reach out and wipe away the tear tracks on my cheeks with his thumb and followed up with the briefest of kisses. As he looked at me thoughtfully, I could swear I heard a few faint footsteps up above us. I tried to remember if there were any trees close to the house that might be knocking against it in the breeze. I was drawing a blank and wishing for the night to end already.

"Could we speed things up and get this done?" I asked.

"Certainly," Eric said. "You stay here and I'll go check the second floor."

"What?!" I practically yelled. "Seriously, Eric. The second rule of creepy places right after the no sex rule is don't split up! I really have to acquaint you with the horror genre."

"I'm a vampire. I live the horror genre. Or have you forgotten?" I had, apparently. "I don't want you to go up there in case the floor boards give way. I can fly and won't get hurt regardless. If you fall through and hurt yourself I will not be pleased."

"Neither will I."

"Then it's decided. You will go stand in the doorway and away from any ceilings. I will be as fast as I can be. I promise."

Eric ushered me over to the front hall doorway and I stood there feeling like an idiot while I watched him climb the stairs. I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to pretend I was small while I hummed to myself hoping not to hear anything weird. Eric didn't make any noise that I could discern and the bond was telling me he was fine. At least he was for a couple of minutes. Suddenly I was seized with a rush of surprise and what I could have sworn was panic. And then I heard a crack like something hitting wood and then a great thud. The floorboards were obviously ok because there was no crash following.

"Eric!" I yelled and got no response. "Oh, for fuck's sake! Eric!"

I bolted up the stairs taking two at a time and peered quickly into a couple of rooms until I finally found Eric passed out half in the hall and half in the front bedroom. He had a thin gash in his forehead that I could see was already closing up so I was not worried. I stopped dead in my tracks a second later. The glowing form of a woman hovered near him from inside the room. The temperature dropped several degrees in the hallway and I could see my breath coming out in quick puffs in front of me. The woman turned to me and I recognized her as an older version of the woman I saw in the picture downstairs. I can't say she made me feel terrified, but I was certainly wary. She never moved her mouth but as she focused on me, I could sense what she was thinking as if she were one of my customers at Merlotte's. This was new.

He is dead.

I nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

Will he stay with me? I am lonely here waiting for my boys to come home.

Having watched Ghost Hunters a few dozen times with Amelia, I got that this was what they called an "intelligent haunt." I tried to gather my thoughts quickly before she faded away. I really didn't want to find out what an intelligent and angry ghost could do while my great protecter was out cold.

"I'm sorry, ma'am. He's always dead and his spirit is not with him to leave behind. He is a vampire and I can promise you he is not always the best of company. You might want to get yourself a dog instead."

I could feel the loneliness radiating from her. She looked down at Eric, sadly. I could feel him starting to stir.

"Soon, ma'am you will have company. Might not be what you are hoping for, but this place will be hopping in a couple of weeks. You'll see."

She flickered out of view after giving me one last wistful glance as Eric opened his eyes and shut them tightly again. I bent down and helped him sit up.

"Hey, tough guy. Welcome back."

Eric just grunted and looked around the room. "I hit my head on the door frame."

"Sure you did. After you saw a ghost."

"No I didn't. There is no such thing."

"Then what do you think you saw?"

"A trick of the moonlight?"

"You don't sound very sure of yourself."

Eric pulled himself up off the floor to his full height which was a couple inches taller than the door jam. If he wasn't so quick to heal, he would have had a lovely crease right across his broad forehead. He looked at me quickly and looked away.

"It was a trick of the moonlight," he said to the room in general.

I laughed. "Saying it louder doesn't make it true."

He raised his eyebrow at me and wiped the dust from his jeans and coat.

"She wanted to know if you'd stay with her, you know."

Eric looked at me dubiously from under his lashes and paused mid swipe.

I sniggered. "I told her you were taken."

With a satisfied smirk, Eric grabbed my hand and before I knew it we were down the stairs and out of the house. Neither of us looked back.

"Fright Night" was a huge success, strangely enough. Between the vamps, weres, and shifters, the old farmhouse maintained it's creepy feel but was definitely safer to move about, and the "ambience" was damn-near nightmare inducing. Vamps don't do anything half-assed. The parents and children of Shreveport and surrounding areas were having a fantastically and terrifyingly fun night. The farm was hopping just like I told the woman it would. Shrieks and bouts of laughter rang out in waves and bursts and the few minds I peeked in on seemed to be surprised they were having as much fun as they were. Oil lamps, lanterns, and dozens of flickering carved jack o' lanterns dotted the property giving it a warm, cozy (and dare I say, safe?) feeling and the landscaping was perfect. It was still overgrown and wild in places, but there were now paths that made it easier to maneuver between activities. And I was right—there was an old cemetery not far from the back of the house. It was a stop along the hayride route and was lit just enough to make the shadows flicker across the broken and moss speckled headstones.

Eric was dressed like a circus barker (tight black pants...yum...) as he did his best to keep things running smoothly while not killing people (or any of the weres and shifters for that matter) with sharp glances or sharp fangs. He was otherwise engaged being the point person when I arrived, so I didn't bother interrupting him even though I'm sure he'd have loved any excuse to stop dealing with the public. I just wasn't that nice. I could tell he knew I was there by the onrush of lust that the blood bond alerted me to. I caught his eye and winked at him on my way to catch up with Pam. He could barely take his eyes off me to deal with some city council member who was trying to shake his hand and pat him on the back. No good deed goes unpunished.

Pam was dressed in old fashioned livery for her job as hay ride operator. I could tell it was an effort for her not to use her riding crop on her charges and I couldn't blame her. She was not a fan of the ankle biter set. No doubt Eric had to order her to have anything to do with this whole PR event. Her fangs seemed to be half down the whole time and I was sure her eyes were going to dislodge themselves from the sockets with how many times she rolled them. I caught her between rides standing outside of the barn. She gave me the once-over and cocked an eyebrow at me.

"Good thing it's unseasonably warm, huh Sookie?"

I was dressed as Lara Croft complete with tight, short-shorts, cropped shirt, combat boots, and a gun holster on each leg containing water pistols. I had my hair slicked-back and braided and I filled out the tight shirt quite well. I gave her a big grin.

I patted a holstered gun. "Well, you never know when Eric is going to need saving...again." I had filled her in on our little scouting expedition. Pam loved ammunition of any kind. And some things were just too good not to share.

"You know he refuses to go back into the house?" she said conspiratorially. "He finds any excuse to stay out and sends whatever minion is at hand instead. It's quite funny."

"Maybe he's afraid that poor woman will make him stay next time," I laughed.

"Sookie, my friend, I can't thank you enough for sharing the story with me. I have not had this much fun teasing Eric in decades. It is worth every stupid task he makes me do in return."

"Glad I could be of service," I said and gave her a mock salute.

I wished her a quick and painless rest of the evening and then took a walk around to see all the improvements. Eventually I ended up at that little cemetery and let myself in through the wrought-iron gate. There were a handful of headstones clustered under a large sheltering tree. I gathered the ghost's name had been Mary McHenry. She died in 1918. As did her boys, Neal and David. They perished during World War I and she died before she knew of their fate. My heart broke for her. She'd be waiting a long time.

After a couple of moments enjoying the relative silence between hay ride circuits, I made my way back to the house where Eric was waiting for me. Outside. He raised his megaphone and said for all the world to hear, "Good evening, my lover." Several parents turned their children away from us while others craned their necks to watch.

It was my turn to roll my eyes. I hugged him nonetheless because I was glad to see him in spite of (and because of) his Ericness.

"Hello, Eric. How goes the haunted house?"

He held me tight against him and kissed the area beneath my ear making me squirm in an all together good way. "Fine," he said noncommittally. Then he whispered in my ear, "Is that a gun in your pocket or am I just happy to see you?"

"Hmmm...a little from column A and a little from column B?" I teased.

"A little, huh? Maybe we should go someplace private and you can add up my column?"

"Sure. Why don't we just head on inside? It's got to be cleaner than it was last time we were here. Let's go."

Eric wasn't biting. "I was thinking someplace more...outdoorsy."

"Ah. Going native then, are we? Or are you just too scared to go back in?"

He scoffed. "Please. I just have no desire to crack my head on the door frame again."

"Right." I looked him squarely in his beautiful blue eyes. "Eric, what are you afraid of?"

He met my gaze evenly and I suspected if breathing weren't optional, he would have taken a deep breath just then. "The only thing I'm afraid of, my lover, is the day you leave me behind to wait."

I rested my hand on his cool face and stroked his cheek with my thumb. There was nothing to say. So I kissed him.