Sookie took a deep breath and smoothed down the front of her work shirt. Eric waited at the bottom of the steps. It had taken all of her eloquence to convince him to wait outside, he didn't trust Bill as far as he could spit, but she needed to do this on her own. Maybe Eric was right and she was a stupid bleeding heart? With a slightly trembling hand she knocked on the door and when there was no answer, she shouldered it open and went in.

"Bill...?" She called softly. He didn't answer, but she could see him sitting on the couch with a true blood bottle dangling from his fingers. "Bill, are you OK?"

"Define 'Okay'." He mumbled.

"You jus'... I dunno, no one's seen you for a while an'... I wonted to make sure you were OK. Explain..."

"Explain what, Sookie?" He knew he sounded testy, but he couldn't help it.

"Why I can't see you any more..." She said softly. "I jus' can't Bill. I need to start thinkin' about how I'm gonna get by now. I'm never really gonna be safe again, am I? I gotta,"

"I would keep you safe." He interrupted her.

"Like you kept me safe with Russell? Jesus Bill! I am not gonna live my life in service to some crazy-ass vampire! Not ever!"

"But you'll serve Eric." Bill said bitterly.

"I don' 'serve' him, or Godric. They're my friend's Bill, and they're a lot more honest with me than you've been!" She was almost yelling by the end and had to take a deep breath to calm herself. "Look, I jus' didn' wonna leave it like it was, OK. I... I did love you. I do love you, if I'm honest, but I can't trust that feeling. You made sure'a that."

"And Godric's human? Controlling both of you ensures Godric and Eric can rule the world, you realise that?"

Sookie shook her head at him. "You don't understand Bill, they don't control me, and they certainly don't control Cassandra. No one's gonna be controlling her ever again..."

"What do you mean?" He raised his head and frowned at her.

"Far as I can tell, she's kinda like a God now... her an' Hoyt. I didn' really follow all of it, but from what I gather, Hoyt is like, the reincarnation of Cassandra's older brother. Somethin' like that anyway, so when she told him who she was, he couldn' hurt her. Even with the curse tearing him apart, somethin' inside him remembered... that forced what was left of Apollo to try to make him kill her, only Godric's Goddess stopped him first. Anyway, bein' the 'last worldly vessels of the Gods' or some such, somethin' got left behind. Now, as long as they have at least one person left to love them, they can' die..." She smiled somewhat wistfully. "So Godric an' Cassandra, and Hoyt an' Jessica get to be together forever... isn' that great?"

"And you and Eric as well, I suppose."

"Bill, you cut that out!" Sookie yelled and stamped her foot. "Don' you dare try to make it out like I'm leavin' you for someone else! I'm not leavin' you for Eric, I'm leavin' you for me. You violated me Bill... an' you don't even see it. I don' believe you wonted to hurt me, I know you loved me in your own way, but anythin' we could'ave had, you destroyed... IF I end up with anyone from now on, it's gonna be on my terms."

She sighed and got herself back under control. "I didn' want this to turn into a fight... I'm jus' gonna go, this was a bad idea."

"He's waiting outside for you," it wasn't a question. "I can smell his smug satisfaction from here."

"Yeah well in fairness he doesn' like you either," she pulled the door open to leave, only to find Bill standing close behind her.

"Stay..." his voice sounded in her ear and for just a moment she felt the compulsion to obey.

"No Bill... I told Eric before we came not to let me stay here. If you try to make me, he'll make sure you fail..." She said softly.

"You think I'd hurt you?" Bill sounded hurt.

"I don' think you'd hit me, but that's not the same thing..." She sighed and stepped through the doorway. "I'm sorry you're hurtin' Bill, I am, but I gotta start bein' smart... I loved you like a little girl, all stary-eyed an' stupid. I wont be doin' that again."

At the bottom of the steps, Eric was waiting for her with his arms folded across his chest and a cool frown firmly fixed on his face. Bill stood in the doorway and glared down at them, the true blood bottle still dangling from his fingers like a long-neck beer.

"Ready?" Eric asked.

"Don' be like that, I know you heard every word." She looked up at him defiantly.

"Do you regret it?" He asked.

"Not yet..."

Shaking his head slightly, Eric held out his hand to her. She took it and stepped up onto his feet, letting him wrap his arms around her and hold her close to his chest. "It will get easier." He said to the top of her head.

"You're rubbing this in aren't you?"

"Perhaps. A man must have some pleasure in life, even if he's dead."

"You're a real Ass sometimes, you know that?"

"It's been suggested a time or two, perhaps." He looked down at her with a raised eyebrow. "I ask you this, however... if sparing Bill's feelings was so high on your list, why didn't you ask to walk out of sight before allowing me to carry you?"

They floated at a far more leisurely pace than usual, as Eric knew the break-neck speed he usually preferred made her nervous. As such there was no roaring wind to provide Sookie an excuse not to answer.

"It wasn't to hurt him!" She insisted. "I just..." she looked away over the tops of the tree's beneath them and marvelled at how unafraid she was. "Bill just does stupid stuff sometimes when it comes to me and... I felt safer knowin' you were there, alright? I knew if I tried to just walk off on my own he'd chase me, this way..."

"Shhh..." Eric put his cheek on her hair with a contented smile, and while holding her to him with one arm, used the other hand to cover her mouth gently. "That's enough."

"You don't want me to explain?" She asked in slight irritation. "You did ask."

"I don't want you to say anything else. I stopped listening after 'I felt safer knowing you were there'... it'd be impolite of me to let you continue when I'm not listening."

"Tool." she mumbled, making Eric chuckle softly above her.

"I can live with that, as long as I'm the one who's holding you."

"Eric," Sookie said warningly, "you're not 'holding' me. We're going somewhere, there's a difference. I'm not with you Eric, not..." She paused.

"Not yet?"

"Shut up."

"As you wish, beloved." Eric waited, but she said nothing more. Didn't hit him. Didn't pull away. He chose to believe that this was an indication more of her acquiescence than their altitude.