******************** The Vampire Job *****************************

***************** Chapter 3 ***************************

Leaving Fangtasia in a hurry, Hardison drove quickly to escape what he had deemed to be the creepiest situation he had ever encountered. Noticing Eliot's sudden ease with the Vampire-friendly woman, Alec figured it would only be appropriate to better make her acquaintance too, especially since she would be staying with them for the foreseeable future.

Figuring her good side was the safest place to be with all these vampire admirers around, he asked, "So Sookie, are you just extra brave or something? How do their fangs not make you want to run away and hide in the nearest church?" Hardison rapidly rattled off his questions as soon as he checked the rearview mirror and saw they weren't being followed by any members of the undead, much to Eliot's amusement.

"Well, bravery is truly subjective, so I don't know how to determine that about myself. But to answer your other question, their fangs in general don't bother me unless they are trespassing in my neck without invitation. And for the sake of being well-informed, vampires have no issue with going into churches. I can guarantee that."

"How can you be sure? Some superstition is based in truth, you know?" he countered.

"Well," Sookie started awkwardly, "Eric and I were recently held captive by the Fellowship of the Sun. He didn't burst into flames or anything and they had him strapped to their altar. So I think I can assure you with some certainty that that one is untrue."

Hardison's eyes looked like they might pop out of his head as he glanced between the dark road in front of them and the strange woman sitting between him and the Hitter on the bench seat in the front of their van "Lucille". "Yeah, you're not brave at all," Hardison muttered sarcastically. "Most regular people are best friends with vampires and held hostage by religious zealots, not to mention whatever the pretty vampire lady was talking about that shredded your clothes."

"First of all, I am a regular person – mostly. And the clawed creature was a Maenad who attacked me on the side of the road one night. But you don't have to worry about that black-hearted bitch because she is very dead." Upon hearing Sookie's cold tone, Hardison inched a little closer to the windows, welcoming the extra inch of space between them. "Hey, Mister, don't look act like that. In addition to attacking me with her nasty poisoned claws, she zombified my entire town into having a massive orgy on my front lawn before trying to sacrifice my boss for the second coming of her God. I don't want you to get the wrong idea though because I normally don't condone murder, but that bitch had it coming."

Eliot laughed and politely responded to Sookie's reignited irritation with him. "I'm truly sorry for laughing, but even with our bad introduction I can tell that you and I are going to get along very well."

"Not too well, I hope, El. Her 'friends' don't seem like the types who would take too kindly to that."

"No, it's not like that, Hardison," Sookie said insistently, wanting to quell those rumors before they found their way to Bill. It wouldn't due for her boyfriend/almost-fiancé to think she had been sleeping with Eric during his kidnapping. "Eric is… oh, I don't know how to explain him… That man infuriates me. He makes me want to slap his face every time I see him, but there is something else there, something more undefinable. Even after everything we went through together in Dallas, I know he is still a bastard but I like to think it's because he has to be. Well that and I think he enjoys it too."

"How did those crazy religious nuts manage to get him subdued like that? Sophie said he was extremely powerful even by normal vampire standards," Eliot asked with interest, assessing what measures he could employ for himself if need be when dealing with ancient vampires.

"Sophie is right. Eric is very strong and fast, more so than most because he's over a thousand years old. He was a Viking warrior actually, so fighting is just in his nature. They were really only able to get him bound with silver because he allowed it."

"Why the hell would he do that?" Eliot responded quickly out of complete shock.

"He traded himself for his Maker… and for me to go free," Sookie answered fluidly. "That's what I meant when I said he's an asshole, but he's an asshole with integrity - nasty dungeon torture chamber aside."

"Holy shit, he was serious about that. Good lord what have I gotten myself into with all of this supernatural hocus pocus!" Hardison exclaimed while Sookie and Eliot chuckled, both knowing he had only just touched the tip of what the human world perceived as the dangers around them. Vampires were certainly not the only scary things lurking in the darkness of the night.

"I know the Viking's bad qualities outweigh the good, but there is decency in him. I've seen it. He means well, just in his own messed up way. I wouldn't have helped him at all if I thought he was as deplorable as some of the vampires I've met."

"He didn't put you down there to get you to agree to work for him, did he?" Eliot asked her angrily.

"No," Sookie said quietly while deep in thought. "Well not exactly. He might as well have though. He had a friend of mine down there for committing a crime against the vampires, which I will not be talking about so don't ask. Anyway, Eric bartered my service for my friend's freedom. Of course I cannot overlook his deplorable treatment of my friend considering the poor guy was shot, starved, and fed on like a Thanksgiving turkey for two weeks, but there were some extenuating circumstances that made our arrangement the best option for all of us."

"I can't imagine risking my life to help someone who seems so evil and manipulative. No offense to you, Sookie," Eliot admitted.

"To be honest, in the end I was happy to go to Dallas since I got to meet Eric's Maker. He was simply amazing and I am very grateful for the time I knew him."

"What happened with him?" Hardison asked.

"I really shouldn't say. I'm sorry, but that is between me and Eric. No offense to either of you."

"So we're almost there and we thought there are some things you need to know about Parker before we arrive. First of all, she means well, but some folks think she's weird because her comments sometimes come out of nowhere. Secondly, she's a bit hyper and has a hard time concentrating unless it's about something she needs to steal. Please just meet her with an open mind."

Hardison's comments left Sookie slightly annoyed at the Hacker, Eliot could tell by the way she clenched her tiny fist when he said the Thief was "weird". "In my hometown I am known as 'Crazy Sookie', so she won't get a lick of judgment from me for any quirky behaviors. Like I told your associate earlier, I am good with people that are a little different. I can assure you that I will not take offense to anything she might say that is out of place. I actually cannot wait to meet her for some reason. Ever since I saw her on the monitor you hooked up, I couldn't help but think she looks real familiar to me."

"Well that's good because we're here, and Parker is the skinny blonde woman jumping up and down right over there," Eliot pointed out as Hardison parked in the spot they had been assigned by the hotel earlier.

Parker ran up to the van door and pulled Eliot out of the front seat, much to Hardison's confusion. The thief extended her hand to the other woman who looked as baffled as she did relieved by Parker's unusual behavior.

As Sookie stood next to the van, Parker hugged her tightly, practically sobbing into the other woman's hair. Catching herself from committing an even greater faux pas, Parker stepped back and the ladies silently regarded each other.

Eliot and Hardison did not speak for fear they were intruding on some kind of secret female bonding ritual they had never seen before. Neither blonde woman had spoken yet, simply standing there as if they were talking but without words.

What the men did not know was that Parker and Sookie were communicating telepathically. Parker's unusual quirk which caused her to speak out of turn or in response to things that didn't make sense was that she had not developed her shield like Sookie had. She simply latched on to the fleeting thoughts of others and accidentally responded to them.

'I can't believe this. I knew you were like me as soon as I saw you. I couldn't wait to get you here. I would have popped over there and grabbed you, but too many vampires would not have been good for me since I can't mask my scent. I haven't met any other Fairies in decades. This is amazing. I can't…'

'Parker, hold on a second! What do you mean "Fairies"? I am a telepath, not Tinkerbell.'

'No, you have the Fairy spark just the same as I do. You are a hybrid like me, just to a lesser extent. I smell a little too edible to be around vampires with a weaker constitution. I guess you kind of got the best of both worlds since your spark is just as bright but you aren't vampire cat-nip. I wish I was like that cuz' I heard vampires are great in bed. Unfortunately I would never be able to find out unless I was suicidal, which I'm not no matter what you may have heard from my teammates on the way over here.'

'Holy moly, Parker, do you always talk so much? So fast? Having another telepath in my head is fairly new to me, so slow down a little please. Since I've only just recently met another telepath for the first time, I'll have to take your word on the Fairy factor… maybe you could answer some questions for me though… like the light that comes from my hands, what in the hell is that? And what did you mean by "popping" over to come to get me?'

'Yeah, I'll help you with whatever you need just as long as you have girl talk with me. I cannot tell you what a relief this is for me. These guys don't know what I am and I pretend that I don't know what they are in return, know what I mean?'

'I won't tell a soul about you or Eliot, though I haven't quite put my finger on what is different about Nate or Sophie yet.'

'Good, I'll let it be a surprise then. Since you know about Eliot though, care to help me have a little fun with him.'

"Yeah, I'd love to have fun with Eliot," Sookie said and slammed her hand over her mouth as if that would help capture the sentence which just escaped. Eliot and Hardison seemed to snap out of their trance at that moment, as the hacker turned to the hitter who was already blushing like a fool. Ignoring the awkwardness, the men went to unload the rest of their bags and Parker led Sookie into the hotel. Hardison smirked as the two blondes disappeared behind the sliding glass doors hand in hand, already becoming fast friends by the look of things.

Noticing the look of longing on the hitter's face as he followed with Sookie's vampire-packed overnight bag, he grumbled nonsensically to himself without realizing Eliot could hear him anyway due to his enhanced abilities. "Oh damn, those vamps are going to kill us all cuz' Eliot can't keep from staring at that girl's ass... That crazy ass Viking's gonna have Eliot down in his dungeon faster than Sophie can grift a wallet out of some dude's pocket… Can't believe I'm in hot-as-hell Louisiana marching off to certain death because some cute blonde lost her vampire boyfriend to a gang of drug addict were-wolves." Hardison, catching his reflection in the window of the van, stated with conviction, "Bet you never thought you'd say a sentence like that without a headset in your ear for a mutli-player online role-playing game, did you?"

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Back at Fangtasia*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Perhaps you know an associate of mine, Mr. Ford, Mr. Cataliades?"

"We don't all know each other, Mr. Northman, and please call me Nate."

"Very well, Nate. You may call me Eric. I did not mean to be presumptuous, but since he also deals with antiquity in addition to his other legal services I thought you would have made his acquaintance given your former profession. Now on to more pressing matters concerning Ms. Stackhouse, I would like to address the issue I had with the muscle on your team.

"You see, when I said Sookie was special, I meant it. She is a telepath, and as such she was privy to his thoughts. They were hardly complimentary to either me or her based on her reaction, and that needs to cease immediately. I am fine if he remains though since the issue was not relevant to our safety. If it had been then I know she would have informed me of his duplicitous intentions."

"You trust her then?"

"Though I do not trust easily, least of all humans, she has earned my gratitude and an amount of trust that exceeds most others. You do not need to know the finer points of our unique association, but I have a lot of faith in that woman and that is more than I would usually admit to someone I just met. I am only speaking to you now about this sensitive subject because I understand you are bound to your silence on this matter. Her relevance to me is not something I want advertised so it might be used by an enemy against me or my Child. Nevertheless, I require everyone regard Sookie with respect. She can be a handful, but she is to be treated well regardless."

"By your interaction I could tell you want to claim her even though she smells of another. I assume that would be this boyfriend, Bill Compton, who we are here to find? I am surprised you are trying to find him at all since it seems it would be better for you to leave him to manage with whatever hand his fate has dealt."

"My reasons are my own," Eric stated with an air of finality.

"If you are not going to be forthcoming, we will not be able to help you. I need to see the whole story from all the angles to work it effectively so we get the job done and no one on my team gets hurt."

"Very well, Nate, but we will need your wi… Sophie since I require her services specifically. Besides, she owes me dearly and I think I will find the entertainment value of the conversation we are about to have with her will be a good place for her to start my recompense for the debacle she created with my Child all those years ago."

"I was wondering what happened with you three. I had followed Sophie for years trying to catch her and she never crossed paths with you that I knew of. How many years ago was it that she wronged you?"

"Much longer than you would think," Eric said with a smirk, winking at Nate as they went to find Sophie and Pam. Eric was excited, knowing Sophie had kept herself a mystery from her team and outing her for what she was would be a great start to paying off her debt to him and all the trouble she caused between the Viking and Mussolini.