A/N- This is a sequel to Dead Wrong/Dead Certain and Snapshots. You'll be pretty much lost if you have not read those three stories.

The Southern Vampire Mysteries and Sookie Stackhouse Series are the creation of Charlaine Harris. I hope she doesn't mind if I play with her characters for a while.

Dedicated to the very sweet Kalomira! Sorry it took so long. :-)

They sat talking in Norse, in a quiet tone of voice.

"You're not serious?"

"I gave her my word."

Andor glanced across the room, at the three women and frowned.

"Then Pam or I could do it instead. You can trust that I would not touch her. Though, perhaps you would be more comfortable with Pam. It might even be better since you can easily manage her through Pam."

Eric turned to him and said,

"What don't you understand? I gave her my word." He followed Andor's gaze, back over at her laughing and chatting with Pam and Amelia and then he looked back at Andor.

Andor turned to him, looking at him blankly, as if in disbelief.

"You are right, I do not understand. You can't be serious. You are marrying her, and she will just age and die? When she is obviously very worthwhile to you to keep? We all enjoy her. More importantly, you are very attached to her. Consider her a child. She doesn't know any better. There are some decisions that are better left to those who do know better. And if there was ever a time to be made vampire and have a good existence, this is it. She isn't seventeen, or even twenty-four. She's thirty and she's going to start to age and then what? Even if your blood keeps her looking fairly young, she will die, Eric. It would be a great waste. And it will make you extremely unhappy. What is the point of that? What can you be thinking?"

Eric shook his head and looked at him coldly.

"I'm thinking that I gave her my word, Andor."

"You say you 'love' her, you have risked so much to get her and all for what? Twenty or thirty declining years? What are you going to do when she is sixty? What is the plan? Even if you think you could still love her when she is old, what would it be like for her to be old when you are still as you are? How hard would that be for her? She doesn't have the strength, or the self-assurance, for that. Who would? She'll just leave you and then you'll both be unhappy. And even if she doesn't, there will come a point when you will regret not having turned her. No, you should turn her as soon as possible. Especially since she is a magnet for trouble given what I can see. It would make her better able to defend herself. And if you truly don't care that she's a telepath and what that offers you, what matter then if she ends up like your friend in Texas? You always say you take care of what is yours. She is yours. How is this taking care of her?"

"It's taking care of her by honoring her trust and her wishes." His eyes began to glow slightly with his anger over the discussion but this was neither the time or the place for a serious argument.

"She loves you. Anyone can see it. She will forgive you."

Eric rose and looked down at Andor with hard eyes.

"I'm not intending to do anything requiring her forgiveness. I don't need her to be like me. Especially not if she does not want to be. And while I'm not happy about it, the fact is that controlling her would change everything about her. I enjoy her as she is. And that's the last I'll say on it. You had better be clear on that point. Everyone had better be clear on that point. Pam would never turn her against Sookie's will. Even if she is still too proud to admit the depth of her attachment to her, she would never do anything to harm her. And I would never ask her to do such a thing. It would harm them both. You forget your early years. No one among us will be turned without the desire to be turned. That is my will and you have sworn to me that you will honor my will. Remember it. Because I hold you to your word, Andor."

He walked toward them and tried to shake off the tone of the conversation. Dark thoughts weighed on him but he tried, as always, to bury them away so she would not sense them.

"Lover, are we going to start or not? Stefan cannot make it. We'll just fill him in on the specifics. I have to meet with someone at 11 pm and it will take at least half an hour to get back." His voice sounded light and easy, unlike his mind.

She turned to him nodding with that radiant smile, and took his arm. The smile faded slightly as she met his eyes and he saw her recognition that he was troubled by something, but she just squeezed his arm. He steeled himself as he looked into her eyes. He would never betray her trust. Until death do we part… they had had to rewrite the vows the other day. They hadn't even spoken of what it really meant after she agreed marry in late September. They had never discussed how it would all work. She didn't appear to be ready to discuss it, even now. Even trying to broach the subject indirectly made her skittish. So he'd take her commitment as it was offered. He doubted she would ever change her mind and be turned. He knew her too well to kid himself on that point. He pushed the thought aside and glanced back at Andor with a dark look. Perhaps he would never understand. He didn't have to understand their choices. He just had to honor them.

Andor rose to follow him soberly. This business with the rehearsal took on a bitter note in Andor's eyes.

What was the point of a commitment to almost certain loss?

Scenes from a Marriage


December 26, 2009

You could definitely say that Eric and I are firm believers in the idea that, no matter how rocky the start or bumpy the ride, if you both want things to work, they will work.

The first part of our wedding night was pretty much as expected. We danced, we laughed and celebrated with friends. We weren't leaving for the mystery honeymoon for several days. We'd gone back to the compound after only a few hours at the reception, leaving everyone happily partying. I was tired and happy to have some quiet and just be alone with Eric. We'd gone back home and he'd enjoyed very carefully and really, far, far too slowly, getting me out of my dress. Clear revenge, as his laughter indicated, for my frequent complaints that he could get me undressed impossibly fast. After a bit of frolicking, I was resting in his arms. It was about 5 am and I was basically almost dozing. My mind was wide open, happy, relaxed. Strains of the Righteous Brothers' Unchained Melody, Patti Page singing You Belong to Me and Lenny Kravitz singing I Belong to You floated through my mind as I thought about dancing with Eric and the way he looked at me in my red wedding dress. But gradually there were other thoughts that echoed across my mind… thoughts that were not mine.

She loves you. Anyone can see it. She will forgive you.

When I caught that one I was jolted out of my drowsy state of mind. What? Forgive what?

She'll just leave you. And even if she doesn't, there will come a point when you'll regret not having turned her. No, you should turn her as soon as possible.

My eyes flew open as I held my breath and my heart started pounding. His arm tightened around me as I tried to sit up in the bed.

"What's wrong?" he asked coolly.

"Let me up," I said, in a shuddering whisper. His long fingers gripped my shoulder a little too firmly. His arm was also across my chest, so I couldn't rise. I tried to sit up again and he gripped harder.

"But what's wrong?" he repeated.

"You're hurting me. Let go of my shoulder, Eric."

He loosened his grip but did not let go of me. His arm was still heavy across my breasts and he stroked my shoulder where he had gripped it too firmly.

"I'm sorry, but… what is it, Sookie? What's wrong? You're… upset."

He knew I was afraid. I was silent, just trying to breathe. My mind spun rapidly as I processed what I had 'heard'. I felt panicked. What could I say about that? I didn't know. I didn't…

Finally, he simply said,

"So it happened again? You heard what I was thinking? We agreed you were staying out of my head, Lover."

I put my hand over his and tried to peel his fingers off my shoulder. He finally let go and I sat up and took a deep breath, as if I had been underwater. He propped himself up on his elbow and draped his other arm loosely across my thighs and caressed my hip. It didn't matter. It wasn't like I was going anywhere. As if I could get out of this bed or this room or this building if Eric didn't want me to?

This just can't be happening, I thought to myself. What in God's name was he thinking? And what had I been thinking, or more aptly not thinking by not having looked more clearly at what we were doing.

In the months following my return to New Orleans several things had become clear. I could indeed occasionally catch Eric's actual thoughts. Entire thoughts, not just images or emotions. The bond had worked in 'unexpected ways', he'd told me. Yes, it sure had. Because really, I didn't want to hear Eric's thoughts. First, there was the fact that it was different from reading other people, because with Eric I really felt what I heard. I guess that was why it had been so confusing for a time. But then there was that little fact that I had, after all, liked the quiet of a vampire mind in a partner. It was pretty damn ironic that I'd ended up loving a vampire and catching his thoughts, anyway. Most of the time, he remained inscrutable to me. Both because I think he tried to be and because I really didn't want to read him and tried to avoid it. I liked it just fine that way. I'd only really read his thoughts a few times, anyway. Maybe a dozen or so? Or maybe more. In a way I wasn't even sure. Looking back from the October night when I started responding to a question he'd thought and not asked, he said he realized it had been happening since June, really maybe even since the first night in June when we were together and sharing blood again.

Unlike that first time I'd read his thoughts long ago at Fangtasia, my reading him now mostly seemed to happen when we were alone together, if we were very relaxed or if we were very emotionally engaged and intense. In moments where all our filters, or boundaries, were down. For instance when we argued, I occasionally now 'heard' as well as felt how angry Eric got. I really didn't like that much. Sometimes though, it would happen when we were making love and then I could literally happily get lost in his head. And sometimes, I'd just be relaxed like now and his thoughts would just filter into my mind. Okay, so it was way more than a dozen times. I would usually just tune it out. I mean, I really didn't want this little telepathic dividend.

The upshot was that here we were tonight, very relaxed after the flurry of activity for the wedding, after promising to love, honor and cherish. And as we lay there relaxing, Eric was thinking about turning me! I basically felt like bolting from the room and running for my life.

His cool fingers ran down my spine gently, as if to soothe me.

"I know what your wishes are, Sookie. I was reflecting on a conversation with someone else. Just relax," he said calmly. "Lie back next to me, min älskade" he said softly, brushing his lips on my arm.

He sounded so calm.

I took stock of my situation. It was 5 am in the morning, I was stark naked in our bed, he was at least fifty times stronger than I was and there was no way I was ever getting away from him if didn't he want me to. I was 'his' in just about every conceivable way now. He could do anything he wanted with me, I thought to myself, as fear seemed to seep farther and farther into my mind. He was thinking about turning me? As I breathed in, I tried not to gasp. I remembered back in May I'd briefly thought Eric would kill me for revenge. Over the course of seven months, Eric had convinced me quite otherwise. He loved me, wanted me with him, wanted me to marry him. Well, turning me could accomplish all those goals, now couldn't it?

My heart pounded harder and harder and I suddenly felt trapped. What had I done? What had I agreed to? What did Eric really think my wishes were? Did my wishes even matter to him?

Eric sighed.

"Just relax. Would you lie back with me again? I gave you my word, Sookie."

Yes, indeedy, he'd given me his word. Just like I'd given my word, only a few hours before, to love, honor and cherish him and all that jazz, forever. And if I happened to get drained, and ingest some of his blood along the way, I was going to get stuck with that archaic 'obey' thing after all. And forever could take on a whole new meaning. It suddenly began to occur to me that all my friends might have had a point wondering how this was ever going to work. They thought it, even if they didn't say it, and I had promptly ignored it. Only Amelia had tried to ask me about it, not once but twice, and I'd cut her off harshly both times. Since August I had turned off that eternally paranoid voice in my mind. I simply didn't want to deal with the issues of how this was supposed to work. I just wanted it to work. I wanted to be with Eric. I loved him. He said he loved me and wanted to marry me? Well, fine. Why not be with the only man I'd really loved?

Was he just telling me, all along, what I wanted to hear?

Now that we were married, I guessed that Louisiana law was pretty much going to be on his side for just about anything. It was not exactly a state known for women's rights. Human woman verus male vampire King? Wow, what a toss-up. Because right now even turning someone vampire against their will was like a special class of not really exactly killing someone as of a Louisiana appellate court ruling back in November that was headed to the Louisiana Supreme Court. It was still a very contentious legal issue. You could still 'enjoy yourself' and do plenty of things if you were undead, after all, according to the American Vampire League. Of course you were supposed to get permission to turn someone, from your Area's Sheriff or from your Ruler. But accidents happen. In theory. In practice, you had to prove real malice even to get a vampire sire arrested for turning you against your wishes. And how could you do that if the person was your sire and compelled you not to complain? Or threatened your family and loved ones if they complained?

So I sat there with my heart pounding. I might love one, but I did not want to be a vampire.


Really, I couldn't even speak.

Eric finally sat up next to me with a heavy sigh and pulled me close, wrapping his arms around my waist. He pressed his chin against my temple, rubbing gently, all while his arms were locked around my waist. I knew it wasn't his intent but all I could think was that he was so very big, so very strong and I was so… human. It was one of those moments when I thought to myself that surely I must be utterly crazy to be here, living in a building with more than a dozen vampires.

Finally, he turned my face up to his in the dark and said,

"I gave you my word I would not turn you. I didn't say that I wouldn't ever think about the subject. If you think I wouldn't be happy to have you wake up next to me some evening and say you've changed your mind, you're kidding yourself. But I love you as you are. And I'm honest enough to tell you that it could change fundamental things about you, and about us, if you were turned. I gave you my word and I will follow your wishes. Even if you really appear to have very little idea of what you are asking of me, or asking of yourself. I'll abide by your wish in the matter. Just don't tell me what to think about, Sookie. Or what to feel. You can't expect to tell me what I can and can't ruminate on. In return, I won't tell you what to think or feel, either."

This idea, this conversation had come from someone else? Who? Whose brilliant idea was it that I had no rights? Eric had promised me that not only would he not turn me, but that he wouldn't get, or let, anyone else to do so either. The latter thought was especially terrifying to me. Being in someone else's power or susceptible to someone's compulsion? Who thought that Eric needed another plan for me.

He lessened the tightness of his hold around my waist, kissed my temple and turned away slightly with a sigh.

"I can't believe you still think I would knowingly hurt you. It's rather disturbing, frankly."

"I'm afraid," I said in a whisper, finally. "What if I was hurt again or something. What if you just couldn't resist the temptation. That maybe you believe what you were thinking, that I would just forgive you."

He just looked at me and shook his head as if in disbelief.

"Well," he said with a snort, "that was someone else's thought, Lover. I guess you couldn't see that? I really don't think you're all that forgiving. And remember that I didn't give you blood when you were at Walter Reed until I wasn't sure it was safe even though you really needed it?"

"You said it was someone else's thought… Whose? You promised me I would be safe here. Safe with you. Who was it?"

"You are safe here. Let's not get into the business of who the discussion was with. It's not even the point. You're safe here. And I assure you, even if someone else did turn you, which isn't ever going to happen, you will never have any other sire while I exist. You will never have anyone controlling or compelling you, Sookie. I promise you. You are mine. No one will touch you. You're not going to be turned against your will. I give you my word. Again."

Even if someone else… I shuddered. Just the thought of being turned at all was frightening. Was he really going to be spending decades thinking about turning me or about how he should have turned me while I was still relatively young and attractive? What were we going to do when I was forty, fifty, sixty? Exactly how stupid and in denial could I be? Now I'd finally allow myself to wonder how was this ever going to work? I'd married him! But what were we really doing? How was it really going to work? And what in heaven's name was wrong with me? I waited until now to think about this shit?

Even if I aged slowly because of his blood, which he'd alluded to several times, Eric would forever be in his early twenties and I was already thirty. Maybe we'd just get to a point where the relationship ran its course, I thought to myself. It wasn't how I liked to think of marriage but… I wondered about vampires and divorce. It didn't exactly seem like a concept that vampires, especially my vampire would cotton to.

Eric seemed to pick up on my sudden ambivalence. He grabbed my left wrist with its slowly healing cut and turned it toward my face, as if reminding me of the obvious while he twirled the rings on my finger with his other hand. I'd willingly renewed the bond, married him in both his world and mine, by choice. With a voice like steel he said,

"Just you remember that you took a vow to stay with me. A vow in your world, as well as one in mine. I'm holding you to that vow. No matter what you are or how old you are, we are wed. I'm not deluding myself or you as to the fact that I would be quite happy to have you make a different choice about how long you'll be with me." With that he dropped my arm back into my lap. He was clearly getting mad.

Well a different choice was totally not happening. My vow, his vow? What did they really represent to him? Was he really saying it was okay with him for me to be his and grow old? Eric, the man who always wanted things his way was going to accede to my wishes on this one rather major point? I felt this inner chill. I really hadn't thought this through, hadn't thought at all. But… How long would we really last, anyway? I still, after all this time, and probably abundant evidence to the contrary, couldn't help thinking somewhere deep inside myself that he'd get tired of me, of us. Or maybe, since I was always almost getting myself killed anyway…

Eric leaned into me, pushing me back down onto the bed. He was heavy on top of me, his hands gripping my shoulders firmly.

"Listen to me, Sookie," he said with a cold edge to his voice. "We haven't come through all this for you to start questioning what we're doing here. You haven't survived everything you have for this not to work. It will work because we'll make it work, do you hear me? And I'm not letting you go. You made a vow. You're mine. Mine."

His eyes bore into me and I didn't need more light to know that his fangs had run down again in an almost predatory fashion. And I could feel it… that sense of possession. Something in me just rebelled at the idea. In his mind, I was sure he really did think of me as his. Whether he said it or not, I know he felt that he'd invested a lot in me. A lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of blood and had endured no small amount of silent censure from other vampires because of me. He'd invested too much in me, in us, to consider not having it work out to be an acceptable outcome. But… what if it didn't? What then? Chills ran up my spine. It would be so easy to just turn me and get me to do whatever he wanted.

Seeing my eyes widen and feeling me tense up even more, he instantly let go, pulled back and glanced away for a moment. He looked back at me.

"I'm sorry. I… I didn't mean to scare you, Sookie" he said more gently, his eyes softening. "We love each other and this will work. We'll make it work."

"What if we stop loving each other, Eric? What then?"

"What? What? What the fuck is it with you?" he said, shaking his head looking down at me. "Enough!" he said forcefully.

He looked away from me and sank back hard into his pillows. I was silent. Finally, after a few minutes he said,

"When you get into one of these states of mind, sometimes I just don't even want to deal with you," he said in a tight and angry voice. "You wait three months, asking hardly anything at all about how this would work, seemingly content to just marry me and leave the details for later and now you start asking questions? Tonight, when we should just be happy? Underbar. Just wonderful, Sookie. I guess I should be glad that you didn't start with this last night or you would have just left me standing there like a fool. But frankly, it's not any better to feel your ambivalence now."

Okay, he was right. It was bad timing having this conversation now or any time other than well before now. Maybe it was selfish to start thinking about it, or talking about it, just now. But I would never have just left him standing at the altar. It would be unthinkable.

After several more minutes of silence, he was calmer. Finally he said,

"What are you thinking about?"

"About me. About how totally messed up I be not to have thought about any of this before now. I kept it simple. I wanted to be with you and I'm old-fashioned enough to want to get married to do that. And now I feel so stupid about still being in my usual state of denial. Maybe I still can't believe you're really serious or that I'll even be alive long enough for any of it to matter anyway. After all if I keep almost getting myself killed sooner or later my luck has to run out. Maybe that will just solve the problem for both of us."

"That I'm really serious about what?" he asked turning to me after taking a moment to absorb what I'd said. That edge was back in his voice already.

I let out my breath heavily.

"About wanting to be with me, Eric. For the long term. Sometimes I just still don't get it, okay? I mean, I love you. And I feel loved by you. But I guess part of me still just doesn't understand why you love me or why you would continue to love me. Or why I'd even be worth it. Why love someone who's going to grow old and die? And who doesn't want to be like you. Why bother? Especially if you're you. I mean really, I don't get it. I know it makes you mad when I tell you that. But I feel like you could tell me a million times and I still wouldn't get it. And then there's the whole thing about how selfish it makes me that even if I love you, I won't ever want to be a vampire to stay with you if that's what you want. I don't know which sucks more. Being you, loving me, or being me, thinking of how much I must be ruining your enjoyment of your life potentially for decades. If I look at it from your point of view, I think I'm like one of the worst things that's ever happened to you. And you've had some seriously shitty things happen to you."

He didn't reply. No, instead he was clearly struggling to stay calm.

"Unbelievable," he said shaking his head. He looked at me as if in disbelief. "You make me happy, Sookie. Usually, anyway," he said with a snort. "Right now, not so much. But in general, I'm happy that you are with me. Can you really think that I made the decision to go to Virginia and pursue getting you to come back here, to marry you, not having thought things through? Does that seem like my style? It's not like I don't know what it's like to lose someone I'm in a relationship with. After all, even if you were a vampire I could still lose you, right? We're only a stake away from being gone. I've already lost one wife. It's not like I don't know what that's like, even if it was a thousand years ago. So I asked you, with my eyes wide open, to marry me. I may not like all the terms of my being with you, but clearly I was willing to accept them. No relationship is perfect. But ours works. It is right. Clearly, I've spent a lot longer thinking about it, about us, than you ever have and probably than you ever will, since I will no doubt live on long after you. In fact, I thought about your mortality long before I ever even laid a hand on you. And when I pledged myself to you I had already made my decision that it was still worth it. I dealt with it all over again, before I set foot in your apartment in Virginia. I don't live in a bubble of denial."

Well, that last bit was probably much-deserved. I lay very still next to him. I couldn't fathom my own poor timing in having this conversation at this particular moment. But it was like a runaway train. I couldn't stop it.

"I won't ever want to give up my human life, Eric. I'm sorry, but I just won't."

He shook his head while it was pressed hard into the pillows and let out a frustrated huff.

"Well, then it's a good thing that's not what I was asking for then, now isn't it?"

"There are so many things that I just couldn't deal with."

"Yes, I recall clearly. Daylight. You need daylight. I will not forget that one any time soon," he said in a mordant tone.

He was getting angrier but I still couldn't stop myself. Wasn't he the man who valued 'talking it out' so much? And in the past six months he had gotten me used to talking it out. Maybe too used to it…

"Eric, it's more than losing daylight. It's more like all the violence that seems to just be taken for granted by vampires. It seems like it's such brutal existence. And vampires act like they never want to love or have feelings for others. You told me that yourself. Well, I'd never be able to do it. I wouldn't want to live that way. And seeing everyone you know who's human age and die, adjusting again and again to everything around you changing? No. And for what? I really can't see that we'd be staying together for eternity no matter what you say. I have enough trouble imagining holding your interest for five or ten years. I'm not giving up my life for a short term arrangement of being yours or more accurately, being 'with you' as some sexualized 'child' for a time and then getting cut loose because you get bored or want someone warm again. And being controlled by you? I mean come on, you know how I am and we both know how you are. I'd hate it. Maybe I'd end up hating you."

He pulled his hand away from mine.

"Are you done? Got that off your chest, have you?" he asked, in an acid tone.

He sat up. I looked at him in the dark, out of the corner of my eye, and, almost apprehensively, I nodded slowly. I wasn't sure whether it was the comments about his controlling me or the extent of his commitment, but I'd really upset him. I'd shot my mouth off, completely uncensored and unfiltered. My hand had flown to my lips when I'd finished. But there was no taking any of it back.

"Lover," he said sharply, looking down at me in the bed, "wonderful insights. Perfect for the occasion."

In a flash he was out of the bed and in the bathroom. I heard him turn the shower on. After a few minutes I rose and looked at him in the glass-walled shower. He was leaning into the water with both hands against the wall, on either side of the stream of water, which flowed over his head. I started to step inside the bathroom doorway.

"Not yet," he said, loud enough to be heard over the running water.

I stood watching him for several minutes more from the doorway. Finally, he turned off the water and opened the shower door. He got out and toweled off without even looking at me. He combed through his wet hair with a wide-tooth comb. He put the comb down and then shook his head as he looked at my reflection in the mirror with hard eyes. His fangs were still down. He must have been pretty damn angry.

"You are so lucky that really I love you. And that I know you really love me and are just hopelessly insecure, Sookie. Because the bullshit that comes out of you when you're like this is simply unbelievable. And let me tell you, if I just listened to the crap that you say to me sometimes, without the benefit of knowing how you really feel about me, this would be over so fast your head would spin."

In spite of the fact that he was still obviously mad, I moved closer and put my arms around his waist. I instantly felt him relax a bit. I pressed my face into his upper arm.

"I got scared, Eric," I whispered.

"Stay out of my head, Lover," he hissed. "We'll both be happier if you stay out of my head. You don't even know what I was thinking about that conversation. You get only half the information and are in a panic over nothing. And you really believe the crap you said. It fell too easily from your lips for you not to believe it. You can't believe I'm serious? I turn my entire life and world upside down and you are not sure I'm serious? I married you and you aren't sure I'm serious? I don't even know what it takes to get through to you. The only way I can deal with it is probably to just ignore this and continue as we have been and hope time itself wears you down," he said bitterly.

With my forehead still pressed against his arm, I bit my lip hard.

"I just got scared. Think about how it sounded to me to hear that, Eric… And you know, it's not like I try to read you. I don't even want to. Weeks go by sometimes and I don't. I was just lying there and suddenly I heard you thinking about turning me? I mean, what was I supposed to think…"

Cutting me off he said, "You're supposed to think that I promised you I would never turn you unless you wanted it, Sookie. That's what you're supposed to think. You're supposed to think I'm a man of my word."

I looked up at him, in to his cerulean blue eyes, which looked at me coldly. The fangs were gone and really I could see he wasn't angry. He was hurt. I couldn't feel much of anything from him, but looking at his expression I could tell I'd hurt him.

"I know you're a man of your word. I just got totally freaked out. I mean really, Eric. Think about it from my point of view. I live with an almost 1100 hundred year old vampire in a building with all these other vampires who will do anything to keep him pleased with them and suddenly I hear you thinking about turning me or that someone else was. What would anyone in their right mind think?"

"I understand you're being afraid. What I don't understand is your not telling me outright that you heard my thoughts, or asking me about what I was thinking about it. Or how about the fact that you evidently still don't think my commitment to you is serious? That one I really have a problem with, Lover."

"Look, I know I'm a mess. I really do know that I am, okay? And you know that I am. I'm trying so hard to be the new and improved Sookie, Eric. Up until about an hour ago I was doing so well. Before I drove us off the cliff pressing the accelerator to the floor the whole time as we forged ahead. But it's not like there's a manual I can refer to about how to be 'us' successfully, you know? I have no frame of reference. And really neither do you, right?"

"You can start by trusting that this works instead of worrying about how long it will work."

"You're asking me to change long established habits in less than six months. You're kidding yourself. Look at what you're dealing with Eric. It's me. Get real. You're expecting me to adjust to this whole situation in six months time and trust that we'll be happy and everything will be hunky-dory for all time? 'They got married and lived happily ever after' thoughts from me? Hello? If that's the case then it appears that I am not the only one with denial issues, after all."

He stared down at me with a raised eyebrow and a very dissatisfied expression.

"So let me get this straight. You think you have me beat on the adjustment issues? A vampire over a thousand years old loves and marries a human, a human who can't be glamoured, who is incredibly willful and who occasionally is literally reading his mind. And you think you've had a hard time? Tell me about it. You just tell me about it, Sookie." He shook his head as I could see him running his tongue over his teeth. I wondered if the fangs were back.

"Eric, you're the hardened professional when it comes to adapting. Cut me some slack. I've had less than eight months since the day you broke into my apartment in Virginia. I mean really. What more do you want from me? You've gotten just about everything that you said you wanted, right?"

"I was invited into your apartment. By a representative with access to your dwelling. Fair and square. I could not break in."

"Okay, so you had a really slick way to break in. How long were you planning your little adventure to get me back?"

He made a face, since he could clearly see where I was going.

"For three and a half years, my two favorite topics of thought in my abundant free time were getting you back and torching the de Castro regime."

"See, you have to cut me some slack, then. Lead time. You've had a lot more lead time to get used to this whole idea."

"I'm not ever going to get used to your inability to make a timely apology."

I squirmed where I stood.

He leaned against the wall and looked at me, tilting his head expectantly.

"You can stall as long as you want but I'm still waiting, Lover," he said almost wearily.

I glanced down and sighed, then looked up at him.

"Okay. I'm sorry I messed up our wedding night by getting a bit… irrational," I said clearly. "Of course, the fact that you were busy scaring the shit out of me also kind of spoiled the mood," I whispered.

He shook his head. "Your apologies continue to be extremely flawed." He tipped my chin up and looked at me intently. "Focus, so you take this in. I'm sorry if I frightened you. Either with my thoughts or with my reaction to your being so upset." He paused, for effect. "No qualifying statements. I hope you noticed that? It's a style of apology that conveys the idea, 'I really mean it'. I'm sure you can master it one of these days." Then he hesitated and said in a quieter voice, "I know that you do not like it when I overemphasize your being…" he paused a moment then looked me in the eyes. "I do not own you. I know that and did not mean that. You are mine by your choice. I only meant that you had made that choice. And very publicly so. The thought that you felt ambivalent about it so soon afterward was… upsetting. I'm assuming that you do want me to be able to trust you, and your word?"

The look he gave me… I had really hurt him. I could feel it. Now, he let me feel it, though clearly he still wasn't going to admit it openly. I reached up and stroked his cheek.

"I did make that choice, Eric. And I am not changing my mind," I said softly. "I was only scared. I'm sorry if I've hurt you. I'm really sorry."

"Perhaps you can get the hang of apologizing after all."

He bent down and kissed me, then with his arm around my shoulders he tried to steer me back toward the bedroom. I didn't budge.

"So we're just accepting each other's apologies? That's it? We're square just like that?"

"I'm going to try very hard to forget the whole thing. Distraction might work pretty well. It is after all, our wedding night..."

He looked me up and down like a cat looks at a mouse and smiled.

"Sometimes I think you and I are built of totally different stuff, Eric."

He raised an eyebrow. "In what sense?"

"In the 'if you're mad or upset, how can you possibly be thinking about sex' sense?" And it was abundantly obvious that he was thinking about sex.

"I'm being quite magnanimous. I admit there might be a measure of self-interest. But I'm sure my plan will work for both of us. In fact, I have ample evidence from prior experience that it will. Let's forget the entire past hour, expunging it from our recollection of our wedding night. If I wasn't distracted, I could give Pam the short version of it all and you'd never hear the end of it," he said playfully.

"You wouldn't dare…" I said wide-eyed, though resisting leaving the bathroom. He'd tell Pam we argued on our wedding night? He had to be teasing me. He swung his hip over into me to emphasize that he was.

"Are you agreeing to the plan, then? Or I can always go the Pam route if you prefer? I know how much you love your little chats with her about how much we argue," he said with an amused smile. He followed my gaze and laughed at me. "Although, it looks like you're already getting distracted."

I was getting a bit distracted, it was true.

He swept me off my feet and kissed me, then carried me back into the bedroom. He put me back in bed, and pulled the comforter over me so I could stay warm while he relit the candles he'd blown out earlier. Then he stood at the side of the bed, picked up the corner of the comforter and peered underneath at me playfully, giving me a merry appraising look. His eyes sparkled as he smiled at me and then he cast his eyes around the room and out the doorway to the library, as if considering at options.

Beyond the library there was my dayroom, the kitchen, the other bathroom. And within the library itself, there was the armchair and oh, no… I thought to myself, not his desk. I hated his desk… It always made a mess, we ended up knocking things all over the place because the desk was always a mess. Not the desk. But that's just where he was looking. He knew I hated the desk. He grabbed a pillow giving me a very wicked look that had desk written all over it. But as he glanced back down at me, I stuck out my tongue at him. He replied with mock outrage, tossed the pillow aside and jumped on the bed to go after me as I squealed and tried, very half-heartedly, to get away. He caught my ankle and slid me back toward him on the bed. Before he could even try something like tickling me, I grabbed him gingerly, in a manner sure to get his full attention. He laughed and started to say something but I reached up and pulled his mouth to mine. Then I took my mouth elsewhere. When I stopped to catch my breath, he sighed as he rolled onto his back and pulled me on top of him and slowly pushed himself into me. I sat back up a bit and he brushed my hair back with his hand and looked up at me with glowing eyes.

"You should stay on top," he said softly taking one of my hands in his.

Afterwards, I lay in his arms, against pillows that were slightly damp from his hair. They smelled faintly like lavender. I said quietly,

"Really, how will this work for us, for you, Eric?"

"It's already working for me, Lover. Like I said, I think it's really something that we're just going to have to live. However, since you're still in the mood to talk, in the remaining darkness I think I'd prefer to discuss a conversation that I've had with Ahmed. About you and some nightmares."

I stiffened and in response his arm stiffened around me.

"Mmmmmm. Yeah, sure..." Oh, I was going to give Ahmed a serious piece of my mind when I saw him later! I'd thought we had a clear understanding.

"Well, I can see it's a topic that definitely seems to get a reaction from you, now isn't it?"

"When did you have this conversation, may I ask?"

"The other night when you were dancing with Sammy. Ahmed was kind enough to distract me with something much more upsetting than all of my vampires wondering why I was not getting angry at my future wife's dance partner having his hands all over her" he said sarcastically. "So, you have been having trouble sleeping because you keep having nightmares about what happened in Islamabad? He said that you call him frequently because you wake up in the middle of the morning and can't fall back asleep. He seems to think that some days you sleep only a few hours in a day."

"It's better than it was. Much better." Ahmed had told Eric several days ago and hadn't told me that he had? I was really miffed now.

"Oh yes. Much better. Only three or four times a week, now, according to Ahmed. And are you still having the nightmares about the fairies? I haven't asked you in a while."

"Um, no, not so… often."

"Hmmm. Not so often as three or four times a week? Excellent."

"No, that's not what I meant. I don't have them all that often."

"I wonder what that really means. But you do still have them, then? Is there anything else?"

I hesitated, for just the slightest instant and he leaned closer.

"Not really."

He was silent for a minute as if analyzing something and then said, tapping my nose,

"You're such a lousy liar, Mrs. Northman. The bullshit answer won't work with me. So I'll ask you again… Anything else?"

"I am so going to tell Ahmed off," I muttered mostly to myself. Ahmed didn't know about all my nightmares but the fact that he'd told Eric I was having problems with any nightmares was like opening a can of worms. I sighed heavily. I glanced at the clock and saw it was at least another twenty minutes until dawn. After a pause of another few seconds I realized there was probably absolutely no way around it, I said sullenly, "Once in a while I have bad dreams about what happened to you and Bill because of me."

He was quiet for a moment and then said,

"Once in a while… I wonder what that really means?" he snorted as if he didn't believe that one either. "Why didn't you tell me you were still having trouble sleeping? You knew I was concerned about it when you first told me about it in June."

"Because it happens when you're asleep. So to me it was just something that would make you feel bad because you can't help me with it, which is why I told Ahmed I didn't want to tell you about it in the first place. And now I'm totally pissed off at him."

"I'd want to know. Even if I couldn't 'help you with it', I'd still want to know, Sookie."

I was busy muttering to myself. "I am so going to tell him off. And badly. I've always been so closed-mouthed about him, but is he that way about me? Oh no. Too much to hope for..."

"He's worried about you, Sookie," Eric said cutting me off.

"Well, he ought to be more worried about pissing me off!"

"Oh, he knew you'd be mad," said Eric with a smile. "He told me that he has PTSD, too. But he said he thought yours was far worse than his. He said he's seen a doctor but that you won't. I gathered he doesn't know anything for certain about what happened to you before, however, and why you might be reluctant to see a doctor about it."

Since I didn't say anything else because I was still stewing, Eric pressed on.

"What is it that you dream about from the thing in Islamabad? What happens in your nightmares?"

I looked at the shadows and light on the wall from the flickering candles. I scowled. I knew there was absolutely no way Eric would let it slide. With some things Eric was incapable of letting it slide, as I knew quite well. He wanted to know? Fine.

"I die. We all die. I realize I should have quit the FBI sooner and that this time I'm really going to die and I won't ever see you again. You know, the usual 'I'm a total fuckup and get myself killed' kind of dream? Plus, I'm killing people on top of it. And parts of the dreams are surreal, like the time on my watch just seems to move so much faster than it should. We run out of time so quickly but then dying takes so very long. Never enough time to survive. And it's loud. Very loud. The machine guns are loud. The helicopters are loud. The missiles are even louder. When I wake up and it's like my ears are almost ringing with the sounds still. In the dream my heart is pounding so hard and every beat just makes me lose more blood and that's bad because it's partly your blood and I'm wasting it. Wasting everything you tried to give me. Wasting the chance of really getting my life back, a chance at a life with you... I'm one big waste. Even though I'm still asleep, it's like I'm in a dream within a dream and I wake up thinking I was trying to do the right thing and be brave and strong but realize that I'm really all wrong. That everything about me is wrong. It's kind of like a repeating theme for me in all the nightmares. I'm all wrong. It's the central theme in all my nightmares. I'm wrong and clueless about what I'm really doing, and especially who it affects. I think about Claudine, Tray and Clancy, or you and Bill. Or... whatever. I always realize I'm all wrong when it's too late to fix." I paused and drew a deep breath. "If one of the purposes of dreaming is your mind is trying to resolve problems, then I really am just a fucking disaster. Because it doesn't work for me at all. Sometimes, I wake up thinking that you should really be sorry you ever laid eyes on me."

He looked sad as he stroked my cheek. He propped himself up next to me with a sigh and brushed his fingers through my hair. He waited to see if I'd say anything else, before he spoke. After a minute or two he picked up my hand and kissed the back of it.

"It sounds awful. You seem to feel so… guilty about so many things, Sookie. Claudine and the others from the fight with the fairies… And I couldn't believe it last month when you told me you still think about that Pelt woman. But this? You were caught in a war. You made choices that you felt you had to make. You were true to yourself and your beliefs. You were very brave to go back at all. Especially because you knew, from your work, exactly what you were possibly going back to, right? If there is a war, you shouldn't feel guilty about shooting people who attacked you, attacked your people, or your government's building. I can assure you they didn't give you a second thought."

"We don't really know what they were thinking or what they were told, Eric. That's the thing that haunts me. After years of interrogating some of them, you really can't blame them for what someone else indoctrinated into them. We only know what we've been taught and what we've lived. It's very sad."

"Sookie, I've fought in many, many battles. I know exactly what they were thinking when they were fighting. They wanted to survive, plain and simple. In those situations you're merely an obstacle in their path to that end. And if you're going to waste time thinking about who's right or misguided, you really will get yourself killed one of these days because you'll hesitate at the wrong moment. You have every right to just fight to survive. So, stop overanalyzing the choices that you made that day. You made the right choices because you're here, now. You did your job. You fought with honor. Even if it haunts you. That is the best you can ever hope for when you fight in a war. There is nothing to be gained by feeling so guilty over any of it when you did nothing wrong. Welling things up inside will not achieve anything. As you can see from having tried it."

"I'm sorry if my not telling you upset you. If you were upset that Ahmed told you. That I told him and not you. You get what I mean. I'm sorry. I just felt like it was sort of futile to dump on you when…" I stopped and with a gasp really took in what he'd just said. I closed my eyes and the tears poured forth. I fought with honor. Even if it haunts me.

Eric was just silent while I cried but reached out and stroked my cheek and brushed my hair away from my face.

"You were brave to go back. So very brave," he said softly. "I'm proud of how brave you are. I just hope it doesn't get you killed one of these days. But I'm proud of it, of you."

"You didn't hate me for it? For what I put you through, I mean," I asked glancing over at him. Now there was a source of justifiable guilt. I'd never asked him about how he felt, watching it all play out that night, after I had mentioned it in the hospital in September. Having to enduring watching it, in front of other people, even if those people cared for him, and some for me. I didn't want to ask before. Only Pam had talked to me about it and only from her perspective and only in her playful Pam way of saying she was annoyed to care so much about a human and that it had been really hard on her and gave her rights to make ridiculous demands of silly things to compensate her for caring so much about a human, a human who wasn't even hers by rights. Something in the way she described it- something in her not teasing about how Eric was that night and the days that followed, made me wonder how bad it had really been for him. I guessed that it had been pretty bad.

"Sookie, don't be absurd. Of course not. I hated your job. I understood your going back. Honestly, had I been in your shoes, I would have made the same choices."

I was silent for a minute and then said,

"Until the moment I actually knew I was going back and standing on that tarmac in Risalpur... It was only when I was going to get on that helicopter and I sent you the text message that I really thought about what I was doing in terms of the impact on you. I can't stop thinking about that flight to the embassy and my realizing that I might never come home and that I'd made that decision so… easily."

"You did what you thought was right, Sookie. You were doing your job, focusing on people you thought were your responsibility. This is something I understand completely. But I don't understand why you would not tell me about it. Why wouldn't you tell me about the nightmares? Sometimes I still feel as if you really don't trust me."

"I felt bad telling you I had problems sleeping because you would not be able to help me when I have them. And… I guess, when it came to those specific dreams, I didn't want to admit I felt guilty," I whispered. "Because I made decisions without even considering how they would affect you. I told you back in June that I'd try to stop doing that and when it came right down to it… I didn't. And I didn't think you'd understand about how badly I felt about killing those people…" My voice trailed off. I didn't want to finish the thought. I didn't want to sound judgmental or have him mistake it for taking a shot at vampires.

"Because I'm a vampire and sometimes vampires kill people?"

After a second or so I just nodded silently. Eric might be the man I loved but I'd seen him kill people. And not just already dead people. I'd never noticed that he felt particularly bad about it, either.

He shifted positions in the bed, sitting up more.

"You know, I do actually have the ability to realize that killing someone might mean something very different to you than it would to me. I can feel how very much it upsets you."

I could feel him looking at me intently but he didn't say anything further for a while. I didn't look up to meet his eyes. I just held his hand. We just sat there silently, leaning back against the headboard. Rosie jumped up on the bed and curled up at my feet.

"Sookie," he finally said quietly, "I would never even have encouraged you to come back if I didn't think we would be happy together. By the time you visited in June, I knew that 'second thing' was right. Maybe you can try to have a little more faith that it will work out, since we've gone to so much effort to get to this point? And maybe you can actually tell me if you have problems instead of covering them up or telling other people."

Even though I knew a good part of it might be my own doing, I thought to myself with amazement And this is just our wedding night.

"I should have told you about the dreams. You're right," I said hastily. "Before you fall sleep I want to be very clear that I'm happy I married you. Really… just focus on the fact that I clearly wanted this to work. I wanted it badly enough to ignore any fears or questions a reasonable person would have. I wanted you. And I'm determined to make it work, because I love you."

He leaned over and kissed me gently on the lips then sank down into his pillows.

"You'll see," he whispered. "We will be happy." After a weary sigh he added, "I'll never forget the sight of you in that dress. I was so surprised you wore red. You were so beautiful in it."

"I know you think I chose red for you. I was really just intent on creating a scandal," I said with a smile, poking at him with my elbow.

"Actually, now that you mention it, I did notice gasps. But I thought it was because of Jason. He was wearing a tux after all. And I don't think I've ever seen him in anything other than jeans and boots. So I'm so glad you set me straight because I really would have sworn you wore red for me. Creating a scandal, eh? A bold move, Lover."

I laughed as I sat there, still leaning back against the headboard while I gingerly rubbed my foot.

"Mrs. Northman, what is wrong with your foot?"

With one leg crossed over the other, I pointed to the large blister on my heel.

"I've got a bad blister and a bunch of sore spots. The shoes were really bothering me. I'd only worn them for short periods when I tried on the dress. After a couple of hours of standing around, dancing in them and everything, it was pretty painful."

He abruptly sat straight up, rubbed his face, took my foot into his hands and examined the heel by the candlelight.

"You know, this is all because you were dancing with other men, right? You never get blisters when you dance with me."

"Yeah, right. You know, I'm generally barefoot when I dance with you, Eric. And a lot of the time I end up stark naked. So really, I think considering the company, we should be quite glad I kept my clothes on because I mostly danced with you."

"Well, Cadel was certainly satisfied to finally get to dance with you. How many times was it? Three? I was beginning to think there was a misunderstanding about who you'd married for a while since he didn't seem to want to give you back. At least Stefan kept it to once. And Bill, Sam, Jason and Ahmed? I'll let them all slide because your dance card is pretty full from now on. Your friend Sammy seemed quite reserved tonight I noticed. So deferential. I wonder why? What happened?"

I made a face. Sammy was treading very carefully around Eric after the other night. We only danced twice and it was good old-fashioned ballroom dancing with quite a distance between the two of us.

"Eric, just leave Sammy alone. I really think it's funny that Andor won't dance at all. Cadel's really a good dancer. And he was very polite, none of his usual teasing. I was so surprised that Pam danced with him so much, though she danced much more with Stefan. She really looked like she was enjoying dancing with him, don't you th… Ouch! Geez Eric! Some warning would have been nice!" He had basically opened up the blister on my heel. About the best I could say was that he did it really fast but it was now stinging like all get out. I was pretty sure he'd taken the entire top of the blister off.

"I had to open it, okay? The blood's not going to get to the wound if I don't. And you can't have blisters where we're going. You're going to want to do a lot of walking."

He rubbed blood into the open blister and, after a moment of stinging and itching, it felt better.

"Will you please tell me where we're going?"

He smiled to himself as he shook his head. After checking a couple of other spots, none of which appeared to require such dire treatment, he kissed my foot and picked up my other foot, massaged it a bit and then set to work on it.

"No. But I have the feeling you'll have figured it out by the time we land. There are several strong visual points of reference. An official warning- I'm opening this one, too," he said tapping my other heel.

I hissed before he even did anything to it and tried not to pull my foot away. "So six days in total? How long does it take to get there?" I said grimacing as he sliced into it a bit with a nail. I tried unsuccessfully not to squirm. I would be thinking twice about complaining about blisters again.

"Six nights. Nights. You need to think about dealing in nights. It takes… a bit of time. Clearly a plane is involved," he said with a very amused smile. "You know for a person who gets shot and then runs all over the place with gaping bullet wounds, you're pretty damn fussy about your feet and a couple of blisters."

I made a face at him. "It still hurts, Eric. And there's nothing distracting me from the fact that" I sucked in my breath as he rubbed his blood into the raw blister, "it hurts. Anyway, so you really promise that it's safe for Pam to be on her own here for a week, right? I mean if Andor and Markus come with us, she'll be safe here if everyone knows you're away?"

"I guess humans are a lot tougher than I thought, because I've always thought getting shot hurts a lot. So you were distracted when you were shot? Which clearly means being naked in bed with me isn't as distracting as I thought. And here just a short while ago I really thought I had you distracted. What a blow to my self-esteem…" he said with a wink and a chuckle. "Stefan and Cadel will make sure things are safe here Lover, just as they did at the end of September. We haven't announced the specific dates I'll be gone and Maxwell will also be here for three of those days working on several things with Stefan and Pam. Cadel is really sharp. Nothing will get by him if he's in charge of the security those days. That's why I'll send him with you to Tunica, if you go. Everyone in Salome's camp will focus on Andor. She doesn't know Cadel at all. They won't be prepared for how stealthy he is."

"You actually sound like you're feeling better about my going."

"I really don't like the idea of your going. It's a bad idea. She'll rob you blind and you'll get very upset. But if you want to go, I'll make it safe for you to go and get yourself robbed, Lover." He let go of my foot, turned onto his side, propping himself up and, pulling my left leg closer to him.

"And you'll be safe here without Andor? Pam seemed very surprised that you would send Andor with me."

"I'll be fine, Mrs. Northman. And it's really rather amusing that you're so concerned about our safety when you're the one that can die."

"As you so eloquently pointed out earlier, even vampires get killed, Eric. I don't want any of my vampires getting killed, okay?"

"Your vampires? Possessive pronouns and adjectives at last? To think it only took marrying you… Is Pam also yours now? She's going to be very pleased with this development. You have no idea. But there will be well-defined rules and limitations to her 'yourness', however. And you're not entitled to any other 'your' male vampires, okay? Only me," he said smiling and squeezing my foot.

"She's my friend. Not mine," I said playfully pushing on his shoulder. "You're really sure you'll be safe if Andor and Cadel go to Tunica with me, right? I just think about those Area 2 people this fall and get nervous. I get scared it could happen again or something similar could happen. I mean think about it: three vampire rulers in five years in this state. Stefan took so long to recover from just a single wound with a silver blade. Geez Eric, did you realize it was dawn like about ten minutes ago? Why aren't you already getting your beauty sleep?"

He snorted with laughter at the beauty sleep comment. "I was enjoying your feet. I will be fine. I have a very good track record of being fine. Longer even than Andor's." He sank back into the pillows, pulling me onto my side and my thigh across his hips. After a moment he picked up my hand with his free hand and with his eyes already closed said softly, "So, tell me again?"

"I am forever yours," I whispered.

He sighed. "And I am forever yours. This is a good plan. I like it. And I'm not letting you out of it, either," he murmured as if he'd known just how haywire my thinking was earlier. "You promised me this before quite a few witnesses. I will not be forgetting your promise, min älskade." And then he was gone, his lips almost caught in the middle of speaking. His gentle hold on my thigh loosened slightly.

The abrupt absence sometimes made me ache inside. I looked at his profile as I stroked my fingers through his still slightly damp hair. I tried again to imagine that he was really mine. Eric really liked it when I was possessive of him. He told me it made him feel valued. It was still quite hard for me to say that he was really mine. When I had moved all my things back from Virginia he told me just that… he was mine, mine alone, he'd said. That he had been mine for quite some time. I still didn't understand why. But then when he'd ask me why I loved him, I could never even put it into words. Sometimes I felt as if, for all the fact that he was a supposedly cold vampire, that Eric had a much better handle on things involving emotions than I did.

I looked at his pale, still face and touched his cheek softly.

I trusted him. Call me crazy but I did. I picked up his hand again and held it in mine as I relaxed further into in the pillows. After a minute I moved closer to him and rested my cheek on his cool shoulder and sighed, closing my eyes, finally allowing myself to think about it.

Andor... I thought, with puzzlement. How could Andor have told Eric to just turn me anyway? He'd acted as if he genuinely liked me, especially after Islamabad. He liked me because I was brave. He'd as much as told me so on several occasions. Liked me even if he seemed at times to think that I was too independent or not deferential enough with Eric. But he had been annoyed with me recently and I couldn't figure out why. Now, maybe I knew. On the one hand I was incredibly grateful for the care with which he watched over Eric. But clearly, my wishes didn't count for much with Andor.

And what about the others, even Pam? Did they all think it was okay to turn me whether I wanted to be or not? Didn't the American Vampire League have a policy of consent? No, not Pam, I thought to myself. Pam had always liked me however I wished to be, as long as I wasn't bad to Eric. I sighed. I thought probably Cadel and Stefan were safe. Stefan was always pretty kind with me. He liked philosophy and law. I trusted him. And for all his brashness, Cadel was really a kind person. If I went to Tunica, I was glad that Cadel would go if Eric really insisted that Andor go to protect me. Frankly, I'd have been scared to go now, with just Andor.

What was Andor's thinking, I wondered? Was I just like a child just to be directed or controlled? Someone whose wishes could conveniently be ignored, an inferior because I was human? When Eric had refused to tell me who had told him and I was still able to see that it was Andor, it was really chilling. The strongest and oldest here other than Eric? Eric had known Andor for what, more than a thousand years longer than he'd known me? It had to be hard to disagree with a friend who had known you that long. A friend who was, for all intents and purposes, really like your brother. I shuddered a bit as I thought to myself, sure I have Eric's word. He'd never broken his word to me. But I didn't have Andor's word. I felt uneasy with the whole thing. But there was not much I could do about any of it.

I sighed and eventually fell asleep.