Crap, I have to call Eric.

I awoke sitting bolt upright in bed that morning, staring at the clock on the wall. 11:28am. It was exactly two weeks since the end of the Fairy War and a single thought consumed my mind: My life was going to change. A lot. Starting right now.

I had known since I was in hospital after Bill and Niall rescued me, that I would never again be the same person I was before my time with Lochlan and Neave. Help had been too slow to arrive and I had experienced things no human should. Well, no-one of any species should. I had wanted desperately to die, just so it would stop. I knew that I couldn't just smooth over it and keep living my life as though nothing had happened.

That morning, for the first time, I felt like that might be OK. It was as though my mind had put together all the pieces of a puzzle that night, and I had awoken with an answer that might actually work.

I was fed up with feeling scared and lonely. I had been through so much in the previous three years that I simply couldn't take any more... but unlike the last couple of weeks when I'd wanted to give up entirely, now I had another idea. It was time for me to do something different. The way I had been living my life hadn't worked, at least not since Bill walked into Merlotte's to acquire me for his Queen and dragged me into the world of Supes.

Gran always said that everything happens for a reason, and that God would never send us a challenge that's too big for us to handle. If she was right, I knew the only reason God would allow me to be tortured would be to make me change the way I was living. I was part of the supernatural world now, whether I liked it or not, and I had to find some way to survive it... or maybe even make the best of it. I knew I could do more with my telepathy than I currently did - I had known that since Rene Lenier tried to kill me and I used it to help me fight back - but I had chosen not to use it. Perhaps that was my mistake? I had tried so hard to keep living a normal life, but pretending I was in the pleasant human world of a 50s sitcom hadn't made it so.

I couldn't stop trouble coming my way, but I could fight it head on. I would learn to defend myself, so Sookie Stackhouse would not be a helpless victim ever again. People could try to hurt me, but never again would I let them succeed.

I made a similar New Year's resolution the year before last when I told my workmates, too honestly, that I didn't want to get beaten up that year. It didn't work; Debbie Pelt tried to kill me barely two weeks later. But this time, I had something I didn't have then: this time, I had a plan. This time, I wasn't going to sit around hoping no more trouble came my way. This time, I was going to learn to tackle trouble head on, and send it right back where it came from.

Unfortunately, to put my plan into action I had to talk to Eric. I hadn't seen him since he dropped me home from Dr Ludwig's clinic, and I knew through the bond that something was worrying him. I ached for him but I had been too scared to contact him. Would he still want me, damaged as I was? If I didn't know the answer, I could still hope that he did.

Before I could give myself time to worry, I swung my legs to the floor, stepped out of bed and wandered into the kitchen in my pajamas. I had Eric's day man Bobby Burnham's phone number, so I called to leave a message before I changed my mind.

"Hello," Bobby answered on the first ring.

"Uh, hi Bobby, it's Sookie Stackhouse here," I murmured nervously.

"Hi Sookie, what can I do for you?" Bobby replied, sounding almost pleased.

That was weird. Eric had ordered him to be polite to me, but he had never sounded glad to hear from me before.

"Could you pass on a message to Eric for me?"

"Sure, what should I tell him?"

"Just let him know that I need to speak to him. Ideally in person, although I guess a phone call would do if he's too busy. I mean, I'd come see him but I'm still not really well enough..." I trailed off, unsure what else to say.

"Sure, I'll let him know you've summoned him." He sounded positively happy now. Very weird.

"Uh, thanks Bobby." I hadn't really 'summoned' Eric. "Just let him know I asked to see him, if he's got time and..." And he still wants to see me. OK, I wasn't going to say that out loud. "Thanks Bobby. Bye."

"Bye Sookie." He hung up.

Amelia came into the kitchen and gave me a funny look, but didn't say anything. Since Tray died, she said very little. I kept out of her thoughts; lately, they had been almost as dark as my own.

We settled into our daily routine, sitting on the couch with the TV running. Sometimes she tried to teach me some spells I could use to protect myself, but most days we just sat. I knew Amelia needed to go back to work soon, but neither of us was willing to leave the other alone yet. It was 5pm before either of us spoke.

"Maybe we should get dressed," Amelia said out of the blue.

I looked down at my pajamas. I'd been wearing them a couple of days and they probably needed to be changed, but I'd been so lost in thought I hadn't dressed. Or eaten.

"OK," I agreed and left the room.

"Take a shower first," Amelia yelled after me. Neither of us had bathed in two or three days, either.

I showered quickly and pulled on tracksuit pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt. It was a warm day, but I would rather overheat than have to look at my battered limbs. Amelia insisted on looking at my scars two days ago and tried to convince me they weren't so bad, but I didn't want to see them. It was too soon. I secretly hoped Eric might give me some more blood to heal them, but I wasn't sure he could. Or would want to. I wasn't beautiful any more; I knew that.

I left my hair hanging wet around my face and went back into the living room.

Amelia looked me up and down and said sarcastically, "Way to make an effort, Sook."

I shrugged, but she wouldn't let it go.

"Sookie, Eric's gonna come over tonight. I heard you call Bobby."

"I asked him to come over Amelia, it's not like he actually will."

She gave me a funny look and dragged me into my bedroom. I sat on the bed and watched while she ransacked my wardrobe and drawers. She tried to get me to wear something pretty, but I refused anything that showed any skin at all. That ruled out roughly 99.9% of my closet; Louisiana heat made long sleeves seem a silly idea.

Eventually, we settled on a knee-length blue skirt with flowers on it, white knee-high socks to hide my legs and black ballet flats, topped with a plain white t-shirt and a lacy blue cardigan that covered my arms. It wasn't my prettiest outfit, but it did keep me covered, which was the main thing.

She retrieved my hairdryer from my bathroom and dried my hair while I sat on my bed, then added some curls to the ends. I stared into space and tried not to think of Eric.

Finally, she dragged me into the bathroom and insisted I put on mascara and lip gloss. I saw in the mirror that I looked OK, except for the too-covered-up outfit and the faraway look in my eye.

"You look great, Sook," she said, but I could hear in her thoughts that she meant almost normal. She was right; 'almost normal' was as close to 'great' as I'd look for a while.

I went back to the couch and sat down again while she went upstairs, showered, dressed and got ready. She came back in jeans and a t-shirt and I almost teased her, but the look on her face stopped me. Her grief was etched into her features; she had thought about Tray while she showered. It was no time to be hard on her.

"What do you want to talk to Eric about?" she asked.

"I, uh..." I trailed off. I hadn't really thought about how to put things into words, and I was suddenly thankful to have a trial run with Amelia before Eric got here. If he even came.

I sat thinking for a while, figuring out what to say. Amelia waited patiently.

"I need to make some changes in my life," I finally said. My voice was so soft and uneven that she moved closer to me. "I, uh... I can't keep pretending my life is normal. Or safe. I need to learn to take care of myself a lot better. I can't let myself be a victim ever again."

She sat next to me on the couch and put her arm around me. I flinched a little, but let her stay. I hadn't liked anyone touching me since my time with Lochlan and Neave. She waited for me to continue, and when I didn't, she finally spoke instead.

"I'm really glad to hear that, Sook," she squeezed my shoulder a little. "You've got a lot more power than you know about."

I looked at her quizzically.

"The magic I've been teaching you," she continued, "those times when you get frustrated and suddenly you can do what I was trying to teach you... each time it happens, I feel your whole energy change. It's like you have all this power and when you use it..." she trailed off again. She was having trouble explaining what she was thinking so I gave her time to think.

Five minutes later she said, "You've never once done anything the way I do, it's like you don't need all the stuff I have to use to power even really basic magic. It's like you have your own huge power source inside you and when you get frustrated enough, you can suddenly access it and things just happen. If you could just use that all the time-"

A knock on the door interrupted her and she stopped.