Title: A Friend for Death

Beta: moxiemollymo

Disclaimer: Any characters you recognize belong to Charlaine Harris/Alan Ball. Any plotlines you recognize are from Godfather Death by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

If you don't know the fairy tale "Godfather Death," I'd suggest reading this quick summary:

Out of God, the Devil, and Death a man decided death would be the best godfather for his new son, and Death agreed to the job. He and his godson acted as a medical team—if Death stood at the head of a patient, the godson could give him healing herbs (or Vamp blood, if you will =p). If Death stood at the feet, the godson could do nothing but let the patient die.

Eventually, the king fell sick, and Death was standing at his feet. But the godson, being clever, turned the man around so Death was standing at his head and so could be healed. Death was not happy, but let it go this one time.

Eventually, the godson fell in love, but when she grew sick and Death was standing at her feet, he pulled the same stunt as with the king. So Death took him to his cave of candles. Everyone has a candle that symbolizes their life force. The bigger, thicker, and stronger the candle, the healthier you are. When the godson saw his candle, it was tiny and on the verge of going out. Despite pleading, Death took the physician for his own.

Death is something you understand all too well. You know his greed, feel his hunger. Each time you rise, the only thing you feel is the urge to satisfy Death's impulse.

You, yourself, are a soldier of Death. And for the past however many centuries, your nights have been nothing but endless strings of repetition. You mark the passage of time only with the advance of technology; each new invention makes it more difficult for you to conceal what you are from the rest of the world.

It is not until Niall Brigant walks into your tiny corner of the world that some excitement finds its way back to long nights overflowing with drones and feeble companions, all of who taste like rusty metal. Until that moment, they were all faceless, nothing more than containers for the blood that kept you rising night after night, sunset after sunset. But Niall and his special favor had you questioning everything from that moment on.

"I need your help," he says. His voice is like a sparrow's song. "My granddaughter is in danger."

"Who are you?" You look your visitor up and down as he stands before you. His figure is slight and his stature not threatening, but he is strong. It is evident in his eyes.

"Niall Brigant." He inclines his head—a sign of respect. "My granddaughter is Sookie Stackhouse."

Sookie Stackhouse.

The name is sweet, though you have yet to taste it on your lips. You return the nod but not the introduction.

"So what can I do for you?" you ask, your interest piqued too high to send him away just yet.

It is only when he switches his cane—long and black with a silver handle—from one hand to the other that you notice he has one at all. "My granddaughter is . . . special. Gifted, if you will, with certain abilities that could make her a target. I've recently learned that another like you has set his sights on her. I was hoping you would be willing to assist. I'm not asking much, really. Just an hour or two a few times a week."

Skeptical is an understatement. Surely there are others who he can go to with the same request, which is little more than a babysitting assignment. The only possible explanation is that he has ulterior motives, something hiding beneath the surface of his words. You should be cautious, proceed slowly, but the name "Sookie Stackhouse" is still ringing in your head like a forgotten melody. You cannot help but be intrigued.

"You know I do nothing for free."

"I understand," he replies. "I would be in your debt."

The deliberation process is much shorter than what it seems, your decision made a second after Niall asked for help, no later. Yet you pretend to consider for several minutes. He stands patiently the entire time, a soft smile pulling at his mouth.

"Where is she?" you ask.

"She lives alone a half hour to the north. Just outside Bon Temps."

You nod as if the information is crucial enough to affect your decision. Niall has yet to stop smiling.

"For how long?

"That I cannot say. For as long as she needs you."

He does not react as you lean forward, long yellow hair spilling down, covering half your face. "I will agree on one condition."

"But of course," he says, inclining his head.

"You know there are hundreds like me in the area. Why come here?" It isn't a question you would normally ask when you find yourself in a position of power, but a great deal hangs on Niall's response nevertheless.

He doesn't flinch. Instead, his gaze grabs onto yours and holds onto it with both hands. "Because she is as much your destiny as you are hers."

It's an interesting answer. You lean back after a moment, turning his response over in your head while the old clock behind you ticks off a baker's dozen. The entire situation is too interesting for you to brush aside, but only after the pendulum begins its thirteenth journey do you respond. "I'll do it."

"Excellent! Here is her information." He smiles even wider, his teeth almost as sharp as yours, and hands over a small envelope. You move to take it from him, but his fingers remain clamped around the thick paper. "She does not know who I am nor of anything I've told you tonight. I'd appreciate it if things stay that way."

You nod your agreement, seeing no reason not to honor his request, and he goes to leave. His leather shoes make no noise against the floorboards as he glides across the room, but before shutting the door behind him, he turns back, one last message to deliver.

"One more thing. Sookie lost someone very dear to her recently. She's going to need someone to talk to. Soon."

A second later, he disappears through the doorway, and you are along again, the wrinkled envelope in your hand the only proof he was there at all.

Niall didn't lie when he said that she lived a few minutes from your isolated cabin in the woods. Exactly thirty minutes after leaving, you find yourself lingering just outside the yard belonging to one, Sookie Stackhouse.

The house is old. It smells of dust and ancient wood even from several meters away. You remain in the shadows of the dense trees surrounding her property, comfortable with the dark companions, and study the woman sitting on the porch steps. She seems tiny, open—completely vulnerable. Her knees are pulled tight into her body and you can hear sobs.

Save for the occasional rustling of leaves in the wind, the only sounds are choking breaths and tears. Her rhythm is mesmerizing, unpredictable in its swells and sudden retreats. Just when you think she has exhausted herself, a fresh round of sadness bursts out of her, stronger than the last. It goes on for several minutes before you remember why you are there and begin to approach.

She doesn't seem to notice your presence until you are close enough to count her freckles, her sobs coming to an abrupt halt the instant she realizes she is no longer alone. She jumps up and takes a step back, turning away from you as if it would hide the fact she is troubled.

You say nothing, giving her time to collect herself as well as taking the opportunity to study her from a closer perspective. Her skin is brown from sunlight—you can smell it on her—and her hair is painted with gold from its rays. Her arms and legs are slender, but like her grandfather, you detect an underlying strength. She is the sun—your total opposite. Your mortal enemy. And she is upset.

The first words she says to you are muffled by dainty hands brushing the salt water from her cheeks. "Can I help you?"

"Why are you crying?" You are genuinely curious, it seems, for the first time in centuries.

She sniffs once then uses the back of her hand to wipe her nose, warily looking down at you, arms folded. "That's none of your damn business!"

Her outburst surprises you and your response is to laugh and fold your arms, mirroring the girl's own stance. It has been ages since someone spoke to you so casually. Even your child, willful as she was up until she met the final end, had never been so bold as to refuse to answer a direct question. If you weren't intrigued before she opened her mouth, you most certainly are now.

You remain silent for the moment curious as to how Sookie will respond, not expecting her face to implode. Her nose wrinkles until it almost disappears and her eyes clench shut, obviously wracked with pain. "My Gran died yesterday, okay?" she sputters. "I miss her."

Ah, Death. A figure you know well.

"This upsets you?"

"Of course it does!" She returns to her original position on the step from when you approached and sits down. "She was the only one who got me.

"I remember one time when I was little, I was running up these steps and I fell—right here." She places her hand on the spot. "Gran came running out and just let me cry. She never tried to calm me when I was upset, never lied and said 'everything was going to be fine,' but she always managed to make me feel better."

You listen as words tumble out of her mouth so quickly that even you struggle to keep up. When put together, they form memories and then complete stories until you begin to picture this Gran as if she were an actual figment of your past.

Sookie's passion interests you more than her words; you could practically see the emotions burning within her. How many of your victims have been like her? Young. Vivacious. Engorged on the life you crave. How many beg you to stop, plead for the chance to continue living? More times than not, you choose not to listen. You block out their cries with a hand pressed against their mouth. Their blood—all of it—is the only way you can continue to thrive. Those pleas serve only as distractions.

In the middle of Sookie's tale, you move to sit beside her on the porch step, a waning distance between you. "How did she die?" you ask once she falls silent.

She sniffs. "In her sleep. She just . . . didn't wake up in the morning."

Knowing that the old woman died a Death envied by many brought you some comfort. After all it could have come by the hand of another . . . or by the teeth.

"I, just . . . why didn't I know? You know?" she continues, the tears beginning anew. "I could have done something. Called 9-1-1—"

"Do not blame yourself," you interrupt, pinning her down with your stare. It is the first time you really look at her, and her beauty is astonishing. It rips the thoughts from your head and plunges them deep into your gut, making it difficult to hold onto your train of thought. You eventually manage to continue but only after a slight pause. "Once Death sets its sights on someone, that's it. Nothing could have saved her." You would know better than most.

Her eyes widen, and for a moment, you are afraid that she knows who you are—what you are.

"Why can't I hear you?"

"What are you talking about?"

This time she claps a hand across her mouth when her eyes widen, her head turning to face the yard. Obviously that last comment was not something she intended for you to hear.

"I mean . . . nothing. Who are you, anyway?" she asks, redirecting the conversation. Her tone is accusatory, but you have a feeling it's more defensive than outright hostile.

"You can call me Eric."

"Eric . . ." She says your name softly, all traces of aggression gone. Hearing it from her lips is unsettling, but you cannot pinpoint why. "Sorry to unload on you like I did. I'm not usually like that with strangers. With anyone, actually."

"It's alright," you reply, and you mean it.

"So why are you sitting on my porch?"

She is looking at you again, her gaze neither afraid nor suspicious.

"I wanted to meet you."

She sends a peculiar look in your direction and rubs her hands up and down her bent legs. You wonder whether she is cold. "Well, I've never seen you around. Are you new here?"

"Something like that."

Her only response is to nod as a comfortable silence descends on the porch, hanging there for several minutes. When she begins to shiver in earnest, you stand to leave.

"Are you going?" she asks.


She stands as you descend the steps. "Can I see you again?"

"If you like." Better not to tell her that she has no choice in the matter at this point. Even if you hadn't given Niall your word to watch over her, you can't resist the opportunity to engrain yourself deeper into her life.

She smiles and you can't help but do the same. "Good. You really made me feel better tonight for some reason. Like I'm not alone. I know it's weird—"

"I'm glad," you cut her off. "Until next time, Sookie."

You have to fight the urge to touch her in some way, afraid of how you might react to the smooth, tan skin against your own. The urge to taste her, to take her light inside of you, is strong—almost overpowering. So you settle instead for a slight nod before disappearing in the same direction you came from.

Despite Niall's comment that you only had to stop by a few times a week, you go to see Sookie again the next night. And the one after. And the one after that. Until finally it becomes part of your routine. Hours every night are dedicated to soaking in the rays of her warmth, and it does not take long before you find yourself addicted. As soon as the sun disappears and the daylight curse is lifted, you rise to feed your body, then leave to feed your new obsession.

Being with her is exciting. Being with her is soothing. Being with her is complete chaos and utterly simple at the same time. Weeks disappear and you continue to visit every night without fail. The more you learn about her, the more you want to know everything else.

But one night when you go to her, for the first time, she is not alone. You can hear her inside speaking to someone else, moving from the kitchen into the living room. The other smells old, used, and you are certain this is the one Niall warned you about.

The darkness within you swells and burns, but you keep it contained for fear of pushing Sookie away. In these past few weeks, you have learned that she is quite . . . touchy when it comes to violence. Best to lay low for now. Gather intelligence. Assess. Then make your move.

"So what brings you all the way out to Bon Temps from New Orleans?" she asks, playing the gracious host.

His voice is low and smooth, intentionally seductive, when he speaks. "I was close with your cousin Hadley. She loved this place so much that I had to see it for myself."

"Hadley's in New Orleans?" She sounds surprised. "I haven't heard from her in years."

"She had nothing but wonderful things to say about you," he says. "I felt like I had no choice but to come and introduce myself the night I arrived." He intends for it to be a joke, but you can hear the nervousness in Sookie's laugh.

"Well . . . it was nice meeting you, too." She is lying. You hear it in her hesitation and in the way her voice gets higher at the end of the sentence.

"Yes, well. I better get going, Don't want to overstay my welcome," he says, and a moment later the kitchen chairs are being pushed against the linoleum. "Let me know if you need anything. I'm just on the other side of the cemetery."

They both begin to head for the front door. Not wanting Sookie to know you are listening in, you move to the other side of the house until he leaves. Close enough to intervene if he tries something, but far enough that she can't see you.

"It was nice of you to drop by," Sookie says.

"Yes. It was wonderful to finally meet you." The other pauses and you assume it is because he touches her in some kind of embrace. Your skin crawls at the thought of another's hands on her body. "May I call on you again?"

"Um . . . okay. Yeah." Her hesitance is a minute measure of comfort, though you wish she'd been impolite enough to tell him he wasn't welcome. Now that he'd been allowed inside once, he can come whenever he pleases.

They continue to exchange some more idle words until the other finally slinks away into the darkness and Sookie returns inside.

Curiosity chooses to rear its inquisitive head the moment the front door is shut. Without speaking to Sookie first, you decide to meet the other, see if you can get any more information that way. You glance at her quickly through the porch window, see that she is busy by the stove, and then head into the woods.

The other seems to be waiting for you, standing awkwardly in the cemetery a few minutes walk from Sookie's house. He is very . . . unremarkable looking, dressed in muted, boring colors with a nondescript hairstyle. You note that he is shorter than you, his eyes beadier, his nose shaped like a beak. The most notable aspect of his appearance is the scowl set on his face, which only sets in deeper when he sees you.

"What do you want?" he asks.

You approach him slowly, each step calculated. He is going to learn a lesson tonight, one that will be difficult for him to forget. "I want you to leave Sookie alone."

The warmth in his voice when he spoke to Sookie has cooled considerably. Now he sounds like he pinches his nose before opening his mouth. "I'm afraid that is not for you to decide."

"Perhaps you'd allow me to persuade you." Moving quickly, before he has time to react, you grab an arm and pin it behind him, breaking his collarbone and a few ribs in the process. The other grunts and moans, his teeth bared. "I am older than you, I am faster than you, and I very much doubt that you could ever get the upper hand over me. I am telling you to leave Ms. Stackhouse alone. Forever. She does not need or want your company. So stay away."

Rules being what they are, you cannot kill the pathetic creature without facing consequences yourself. Not unless he attacks you—his superior—first. So you settle for breaking one of his legs and leave him writhing on the ground, determined to get back before it is too late to visit Sookie.

You feel much better after seeing how weak and useless the otheris. He is no match for you or for anyone else, really. So when he calls after you, swearing that he will make you suffer after he bathes in Sookie's blood, you only chuckle quietly to yourself and retrace your path through the woods.

Soon after you introduced yourself, Sookie had made it clear that her home is open to you, so you knock once on the back door then let yourself inside to find her sitting in the kitchen, a mug with some kind of steaming liquid pressed between her hands. You detect herbs—a blend of chamomile and ginger.

"You're late."

"I know, I'm sorry." You join her at the table, sitting across from her. "I was detained."

She nods, your excuse accepted, and takes a sip of her drink. "I have a new neighbor. "He bought the house across the cemetery."

Of course he did.

"Is he a friend of yours?" The question sounds more like a growl.

"Why, Eric," she smirks from behind her mug and swallows another sip. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were jealous."

"No," you don't return her grin. "I just don't think you should be opening your home up to strange men."

"I let you in," she counters, setting her cup onto the table.

"That was different."

"Oh, really?" She leans forward slightly. "How?"

No one speaks for the next few seconds; instead you are both caught in a staring contest, neither of you blinking or looking away. But now is not the time for games; she needs to take this seriously.

"Never mind." you lean back in the chair and cross your legs at the ankle. "But you should know that I don't trust Bill and I don't like the way he talks to you."

She snorts into her mug before taking another sip. "And how do you know how he talks to me—or know his name, for that matter? Were you eavesdropping or something?"

The gruff sound of you clearing your throat coupled with a hard stare is your only response, but it speaks volumes.

"Oh, my God!" she shrieks. "You were, weren't you?"

Seeing no point in denying the obvious, you confess. "I may have . . . overheard a few pieces of your conversation, yes."

Tension floods the room as you wait for her to respond. Her eyes are hard as diamonds when the staring contest returns in full force—no one moving or blinking. If anyone else had dared to treat you like this, you would rip his throat out and not think twice, but with Sookie, you feel the urge to apologize. You feel shame and remorse; you want to atone.

Just as your mouth opens, an apology on the verge of spilling out, her face cracks open into a smile and all tension immediately evaporates. "Got you."

"Excuse me?" You blink, struggling to figure out what just happened.

She pushes her chair away from the table and carries her cup to the sink. "You've shown up here every night for the past month at exactly ten o'clock. When you didn't come waltzing through my back door tonight I figured you were around somewhere—or hoped you were. To be honest, I got the heebie jeebies from that guy, too."

The relief you felt at escaping her anger is quickly replaced by confusion. The woman was speaking in tongues. "Heebie jeebies?"

"You know . . . he creeped me out. Made me uncomfortable."

"Oh," You are comforted enough by her admission that any lingering resentment from her mockery disappears. "Good."

"Yeah. Just . . . something about him. Weird." She shrugs and then rinses her cup. "I'm definitely not going out of my way to see him again."

Even better news. Though one fact about the meeting still concerns you.

"Then why let him in at all?" It irritates you that one of her only protections against creatures like Bill was rendered useless so easily.

She turns away from the sink, leaning against it as she regards you. You can see in her eyes that she is struggling to come to some kind of decision. One she seem to reach a second or two later.

"We're friends, right?"

"I'd like to think so."

"Me too," she says. "So that means we can trust each other with stuff, right? Confide and all that?"

"Yes. I believe that is the way with such relationships."

"Good." She worries her lip between her teeth, still unsure of what she wanted to say. "If I tell you something . . . promise you won't think I'm crazy?"

"That depends," you tease—after all, she'd done it to you. "Are you crazy?"

She smiles and sits in the chair next to yours. "I don't think so."

"Then, yes." Your nod is heavily exaggerated. "I promise."

"Good," she giggles and her face flares the most delicious shade of pink. "I've never told anyone else . . . well, except for Gran."

You nod slowly, your eye contact unwavering, and wait for her to continue.

"But ever since I can remember, I've been able to hear people's thoughts. They just come at me from all over the place. I can't block them out, and believe me, I would if I could. You wouldn't believe what people like to fixate on all day—it's exhausting."

"Can you hear my thoughts?" The question is sharp, but she doesn't flinch. You can see the honesty in her eyes when she answers.

"No—that's the point. You're the first person I've met that I couldn't hear. Bill's the same way. Do you have any idea why that is?"

Your lie comes quickly and easily, and you tell yourself that hiding your true nature is more to protect Sookie than it is to keep her from learning about who—what—you are. "No, but I'm glad you can relax around me."

The resulting smile coaxed out by your words is shy and hopeful. "So . . . does that mean you believe me?"

"It does," you tell her. "I've been around long enough to know that there are many kinds of things in this world. Your secret only makes you more special."

"I'm glad I told you," she admits after a minute or two of silence. "You have no idea how much it wears me down."

As if to demonstrate, she lays her head on the table and shuts her eyes, which you take as your cue to leave. After all, it was a later night that normal. You stand and place a heavy hand on her shoulder, then exit through the back door.

When you go to visit Sookie one night a few weeks later, she is sitting hunched on the porch steps, knees pulled into her body and her arms wrapped around them. The sadness and vulnerability coming from her bring you back to the night you met, except this time you are concerned—a far cry from the clinical, distant standpoint of the first time.

You mind immediately jumps to the other and his possible involvement. Neither you nor Sookie had heard anything from him since the first night he appeared, but you assumed he wouldn't cooperate so easily. There had to be a reason Niall acted so concerned when he came to you.

Once you sit down next to her on the top step, she doesn't give you time to ask what is wrong before throwing herself into your arms, her face buried in the center of your chest. You can feel the electricity firing through her body, a bolt of lightning caught in human form. This is the closest you have ever been to her, the closest to anyone who wasn't a victim. The experience is pleasant, addicting.

You don't push her for an explanation and she doesn't offer any. By now, you know that Sookie will tell you what is on her mind when she is ready to do so. Not a moment sooner. In the meantime, you try not to think about how wonderful she feels in your arms, the little puffs of breath brushing your neck, her strong heartbeat pulsing through your entire body.

After a few minutes like this, her heart rate slows and she pulls away. You move quickly, instinct dictating everything, and only when she is back in your arms molded to your chest do you realize that you have pulled her back into you.

If she finds the gesture odd, she doesn't mention it.

"I'm glad you're here," She whispers.

So are you, but you don't say so. "What happened?"

"It's my brother," she sniffs and you find yourself brushing away the one tear that falls with one hand. "I've been at the hospital all day . . . he was attacked last night walking home from Merlotte's, and the doctors don't know if he's going to be okay."

She trails off, her words giving way to more tears. It bothers you a great deal that you don't know how to ease her suffering, the right words to say to take away her pain.

"He's all I've got in the world," she says, clinging tighter. "Except for you. I don't think I could ever get over losing you."

Her cheek is pressed where your heart should be beating and her arms are wrapped around your back, with most of her body settled on top of your legs. Outside of Sookie's soft breathing, the only other sound is the swaying branches of the trees beneath an orchestra of insects. The noise is like a cushion, a barrier surrounding both of you and keeping everything else out.

Perhaps that is why you let the question that is sitting on top of your mind slip through you lips.

"Am I really that important to you?"

She pulls away to look into your face. "How can you even ask that?" Her eyes flit back and forth between your own before she lowers her head back to your shoulder. "Of course you mean a lot to me. Seeing you is the best part of my day. It's the only time I can be myself."


The top of her head rubs against your jaw as she nods.

"I look forward to seeing you more than anything else," you admit. "My life was so . . . empty before I met you."

It is a powerful confession, one you are not sure you should have made, but feeling her smile against your skin and her arms tighten around your neck are reassuring.

"Don't ever get hurt," she whispers. "Don't break your neck, or get shot, or fall off a ladder. I won't be able to handle it if you leave me, too."

For some reason, in that moment, you want more than ever to tell her what you are, what you do every night before coming to see her. You want to open yourself up as much as she does for you. It is a quality you envy more than anything else—her innocence, her willingness to trust even though she knows next to nothing about you. But the fear of being rejected keeps that part of you silent.

"You don't have to worry about anything like that happening to me," you tell her, glad that you can at least give her that much reassurance. "To be honest, I'm more worried about something happening to you."

Actually, it terrifies you. To live in a world without her, knowing exactly what you are missing each time you rise—that would be hell.

"My life is as boring as they come," she says after a few seconds. "I work behind a desk all day, I'm in the car less than twenty minutes. My doctor says I'm completely healthy, and I live in the most boring town this side of the Equator. I know you should never say never, but barring some freak accident, I'll be fine."

Sometimes it is easy for you to forget just how naïve she is.

As she is talking, you recall the other as well as Niall's warning. Whether or not she is aware of it, Sookie is not safe. It is very likely that he is the one responsible for her brother's injuries. The realization makes you hold onto her just a little bit tighter.

"You know I will always protect you."

You wait for a response, but her face comes up to meet yours instead. Before you can understand what is happening, her warm lips are wrapped around yours. Her arms bind tighter and her mouth moulds your lips with the careful skill of an artist. Almost immediately, a deep warmth flows from her into you, pooling in your chest before spreading into your extremities.

One of your hands cups her cheek while the other is lost inside her blonde tangles, their softness tantalizing. Briefly, you consider telling her about the other, how you were warned against him, but ultimately decide against it. Really, he is a minor threat. Someone you can—and have—handled easily. Telling her will only make her worry, cause more problems than anything else, so you stay silent.

After a minute or two, she pulls away and smiles. Her cheeks have that pink tinge you love and now her eyes are sparkling with happiness—not tears.

"I know," she says, breathless.

You cup her face yet again, your thumb tracing her cheekbone. "Tell me what happened to your brother."

She pulls in a large breath of air that shakes as she lets it out.

"I didn't understand everything they told me, but I guess he was drunk and walking home when some asshole jumped him." She closes her eyes then grabs your hand and holds it tightly, comforted by the contact. "If someone driving by hadn't scared off the attacker, who knows what could have happened . . ."

Tears reappear in her eyes and she squeezes your hand tighter.

"The doctors talked a lot about shattered vertebrae, spine compression, internal bleeding . . . nothing that sounded like good news. He's on life support right now." Her next words are muddled by sobs that make you regret bringing up the subject at all. "They don't know if he's going to wake up. Even if he does, he'll probably never walk again."

After she relays the details of what happened, you are more certain than ever that the other is involved somehow; he is probably responsible for everything.

But you will deal with him later. Right now, Sookie is upset, and not knowing what else could relieve her worry, you kiss her again because you can see how much she enjoys it and because you can't stop yourself. You need to see her happy. She has smiled at you before, but it never looks so beautiful as it does just after your lips break apart.

This time when you separate, there is still some sadness lingering in her eyes. So you kiss her yet again, but the melancholy refuses to dissipate.

Nothing you do returns Sookie to her previous state of bliss, going so far as to lay down on the old wood of the porch with her body on top of yours. Heat radiates back and forth between you, the urge to taste her blood in your mouth greater than ever. You shove the instinct into the farthest corner of your brain and focus your attention on pulling more of those little sounds of pleasure from her lips. Those you devour with a hunger that has yet to be matched.

But Sookie will not be distracted. Concern for her brother still lingers at the forefront of her mind.

Her misery is unnerving, and the fact that nothing you do seems to help bothers you enough to break every rule you set for yourself simply because you know you can make her happy.

"I think I can help your brother," you say.

Your words register a second later when her lips separate from your neck and she sits up, one leg on either side of your hips. "What are you talking about?"

"I can fix him. Make him walk again."

The breeze picks up strands of her hair and tosses them in front of her face, making her expression even more difficult to unravel. " . . . how?"

"I'll need an empty container."

She looks as if she wants to ask more questions but decides against it. Instead, she climbs off you and disappears inside to find what you asked for. A minute or so later, she returns with a small plastic box and a lid.

"Will Tupperware work?"

"That's fine." You inspect the container, satisfied with the vacuum seal. "I'll need a spoon or something to stir with as well."

"Sure." She disappears back into her house and you immediately bite deep into your wrist, allowing the blood to trickle into the container. The spoon isn't really necessary, just an excuse to keep her from seeing you attack your own arm. When you hear her sneakers step onto the porch, you hide your arm behind you back. It should heal within the next few minutes, but you do not want Sookie to see the bite.

"What is that?" she asks, gesturing to the Tupperware. "It looks like blood."

"Keep it in the icebox until you go see your brother tomorrow," you explain, intentionally avoiding her question. "He won't need much, only a few spoonfuls. Make sure no one sees you."

"Why not?" she asks, taking the blood from you. "It's not illegal, is it?"

"No. Nothing like that. Just promise me you won't say anything to anyone about this. Not even Jason when he wakes up."

She holds your blood in her hand, staring at it with a skeptical eyebrow pulled high on her forehead. "You're that sure this will work?"

"Promise me."

After another moment, she agrees. "Okay, yeah. I won't say anything."

"It will work," you say, standing to leave, but before you tower out of her reach, she pulls you back down into one last kiss, her tongue slipping into your mouth and bringing the experience to a higher plane.

"I believe you," she whispers, her lips still planted on your own.

It takes a few more minutes before you finally leave her porch. You would like nothing more than to stay with her, but she needs her rest and you need to find the other. Based on what happened to her brother, he's feeling better and looking to cause trouble, which is something you cannot have, especially not if it hurts Sookie.

After promising her that you will come by tomorrow, you wait until you hear her shut the heavy front door and slide the bolt in place before heading toward the cemetery.

Everything is silent, including your footsteps, as you pick your way through the shrubs and leaves and dirt, but the other still seems to know you are coming. About halfway through the woods, he emerges, a sharpened branch in his hand.

He leaps from behind a tree just as you pass, a sharp movement at the very edge of your vision. You manage to turn at the last second, sending the branch into your shoulder instead of your chest. The shockwave of agony wrenches nothing more than a grunt from your throat as you reach over with your good arm to remove the piece of timber. Your arm shrieks, but the noise is dulled by the heat of your fury.

Now the weapon belongs to you and he is defenseless. All in less than a few seconds.

The other, sensing the power shift, does not stay to see who would win the fight. He angered and provoked you; he has a better chance walking away from sunrise. His eyes meet yours for barely a second before he tears off through the woods, vanishing almost immediately. Even you have to admit he is fast.

Though watching him retreating into the woods with his tail tucked firmly between his legs is extremely pleasing, you are more concerned for Sookie than ever. He is planning something, first going after her brother and now you. You should pursue him, put an end to it once and for all, but dawn is only moments away.

For the first time since you started your nightly visits, you return to Sookie's house and wait on her porch in case the other tries to make another appearance before the sun stretches over the eastern horizon. Only when you feel its rays begin to peel off layers of skin do you go to ground outside her bedroom window. You will take no chances where she is concerned.

The next night when you rise, your shoulder is not quite healed and Sookie is nowhere to be found. Since it is still too early for the other to have tried anything, you assume she is missing simply because she has business elsewhere.

Never one to pass up an opportunity, you leave quickly to find something to consume, more to help your shoulder return to full strength than because you are hungry. Now that you have spent some time with Sookie, you are finding that you have less of a desire to kill, to destroy. She would not approve, which is something you are desperate to hold onto. So you will change.

When you return, she is pacing back and forth across the porch, clearly agitated. The instant you emerge from the woods, she is running down the steps and coming toward you, anger locking her arms to her sides.

You pause and wait for her to close the rest of the distance. It doesn't take long.

"What was that stuff you gave me?"

"Did it work?"

"You know it did." She crosses her arms, stopping a few feet away. "I gave it to him this morning, like you said, and the doctors just called. Apparently they took him off life support and he can wiggle his toes."

"I'm glad," you reply, though she seems to be more upset then ever. You brush past her, moving toward the porch, uncomfortable talking about such things in the open like this. Others could be listening. "Have you seen Bill recently?"

"Will you please stop changing the subject and answer my question?" She follows close behind you.

You are tempted to ignore her. Why can't she be happy that her brother is well and leave it alone? But instead, you stop and turn before she has time to react and walks into you, her face colliding with your chest. Leaning forward and gripping her shoulders, you annunciate every word. "Leave it alone."

Her eyes stretch for a second and you think you have finally gotten through, but then she shakes her head. "No! I'm tired of this."

"Of what?" It is clear that she is not going to let you slip this over her head—not again.

"Of this!" Her voice takes on a higher decibel. "Of knowing nothing about you!"

"You already know everything you need to about me."

It's a lie. You both know it. She stands there for a moment, running through her options before deciding that her patience has finally reached its limit.

"Fine. Then I guess this means we're done."

Not the answer you intended to hear. "Sookie, wait—"

"Thank you for helping my brother. I'm sorry you can't trust me more." She pushes past you and climbs onto her porch, vanishing inside before you can pull together a response.

You manage to hold out a full thirty seconds before following her, finding her in the living room. She is already running back and forth with a jar of chemicals in one hand and a dirty rag in the other, scrubbing whatever surface she comes into contact with. Her hair is tied back off her face.

Not wanting to upset her further, you decide that it would be better to focus on the more pressing issue deserving of your attention. "Has Bill been behaving?"

"I'm not speaking to you," she says, aiming her canister at the end table. A second later, the scent of lemon fills the room. "Not unless you want to tell me the truth."

"What truth?"

She slams the can onto the table she just cleaned and turns to face you, ticking off the items on her fingers. "Who are you? Where did you come from? Why did your blood fix my brother?"

You freeze, your expression becoming a stone wall. "What I gave you last night was not my blood."

"Oh, come on. Do you really think I'm that big of an idiot?"

You don't respond and she returns to scrubbing the layer of varnish off her furniture. If you tell her what you are, how you live, then she might push you away, lock you out of her life. Either that or she could accept you. You are not sure which is worse. Her innocence and purity are what make her special. Telling her anything about your life may take that away; it could result in blood spattering over her hands, tainting her.

"I wanted to keep you safe."

She stops cleaning again, a soft sheen of sweat glazed over her skin. It looks delicious. "And what gives you the right to make those decisions for me?"

"Because I would never intentionally hurt you." She rolls her eyes then turns back to dusting, so you continue. "You ask me to trust you enough to tell you certain things. Why can't you trust me enough to accept that I'm only keeping them from you because the truth is dangerous."

"Because, Eric. I care about you. I care a lot. And you keep so much of yourself locked away. If you feel anything for me at all, you'd trust me enough to accept you. All of you."

As she speaks, she comes toward you, taking you hand between her warm ones and leading you over to the couch, your eyes never breaking from hers.

"I do trust you."

You look down and see her warm hand enveloping your cold one, wishing you knew what her response would be to the truth. "Then tell me."

So you do.

Really, besides letting her go, what other option is there?

You tell her everything, even the parts that make it difficult to look her in the eye. How she can't hear your thoughts because you are really Death. Bill, too. You tell her how you kill to live, how you remember each and every one of your victims. How they beg for mercy, which you always deny. You tell her about the demon that emerges every time you hunt, the one that refuses to be satisfied until your victim is cold and lifeless beneath you. You even tell her how you are trying to change, trying not to kill. Every last thing comes forward. Except for Niall. You keep his secret because it is not yours to tell.

She listens without interrupting. Not once. Her face is completely neutral as she factors in each new piece of information, giving you no clues of how to react. All you can do is press forward until everything is laid out before her.

You are cut open and bleeding before her on the operating table, waiting to see if she will decide you are worth the effort to save.

Despite the pain and difficulty that comes with opening yourself up, you find each subsequent truth coming faster, taking some of the weight off your back as it drifts from your mouth. It's actually liberating to a small degree.

Finally, you run out of things to say. She knows everything you have been working so hard these past months to keep hidden, and now that it's over, you are relieved. You are glad she knows about you. And you tell her so.

"I'm glad you told me, too." Her voice is quiet, heavier than it was earlier that night. It's not a good sign.

"Do you want me to go?" What you really want to ask is whether she will ever want to see you again, but you don't know if it is an answer you can handle.

She nods after a moment. "I—it's just . . . it's a lot to process," she says. "I need some time."

Not an outright rejection, but definitely not acceptance. You extract your hand from hers and stand to leave, but Sookie pulls you back before you get too far.

"You can't help what you are any more than I can. I know that. I just . . ."

"—need some time," you finish for her.

"Yeah," she squeaks. "It's a lot to take in."

"I understand."

This time when you stand, Sookie follows suit and walks you out. You want to kiss her, to feel the kind of physical reassurance you experienced last night, but she gives you nothing.

"When can I see you again?" you ask. She is standing on the top of her porch and you one step below, putting you both at eye level.

"I don't know," her hand jumps to the railing, fingers playing with the cracked and peeling paint. "Is there some way I can get a hold of you?"

You shake your head. "Such ties make things . . . difficult for me."

Thin veils of tears encase her eyes when they return to meet yours. "I'm sorry." The salty drops slide down her cheeks. "I'm just . . . "

Not a second later, she is wrapped in your arms, clinging to your shirt. It is impossible to know whether she is there because you pulled her into you or because she reached for it, but seeing her upset and knowing you are the reason . . . it burns like sunlight.

"Don't apologize. You did nothing wrong."

"I'm scared." Her voice is muffled by your shirt. "I've always known you had secrets, but I didn't think they would be so . . . dark."

All you can do is hold her up while she works it out—whatever she decides.

"But at the same time, I don't want this to be the last time I see you."

"It won't be, Sookie. You know me better than anyone. What I told you inside? Those are just tiny pieces of what I am. This. You. Us. That's who I am. What I want to be." The impromptu speech surprises you, but it manages to convey everything you have wanted to say for the past few months. And she seems to understand.

As soon as you finish speaking, her hands reach up and pull your face down to hers. It takes no time at all before your lips are completely reacquainted with each other and making up for lost time.

"Don't go," she whispers. "Forget everything I just said. I don't care about any of it. I need you. Stay here with me tonight."

You attempt to pull back to see whether she really means it, but she clings to you. "Say yes."

Her plea is so desperate, so hopeful, that you cannot deny her. Not when it is exactly what you have wanted for such a long time.

"Yes." Your lips caress her ear in case she needs more proof that you want to be with her. The gesture earns you a soft sigh and another probing kiss, her tongue frantic against your own.

Her legs leave the safety of the steps, wrapping around your waist, and you gently press her back against the cool pillar that anchors the porch railing.

The need to be with her, to be a part of her is overwhelming. Somehow, being confronted with the possibility of losing her becomes terrifying. After all the empty centuries, you finally have something to lose. It's a weakness, yes, but it is one that you will meet your final end to protect.

"I love you," she gasps and her teeth clamp down on your earlobe. Suddenly you're soaring.

Life with Sookie is perfect. Glorious. Heaven. She spends most of her day as well as part of the night working and at the hospital with her brother, her schedule leaving you plenty of time to rest and feed before she returns. Then you spend as many hours as possible exploring Sookie as well as the new feelings that appear whenever you see her smile.

Neither of you ever bring up where you go or what you do when you aren't with her, but she is always very quiet when you return—reserved. You know that your way of life upsets her, but she keeps quiet about it. Seeing her so troubled affects you. You have tried to make an effort to leave your victims alive, to take less. But your hunger is great and they only have so much blood.

Regardless, you will teach yourself discipline.

Maybe at some time in the future, you will be able to focus more attention on feeding less, but that is not an option at the moment. The other is still out there, though you have seen no trace of him for weeks. Not since he fled in the woods. Every night, you dedicate some time to searching for his scent or his footprints, and every night, you find nothing but dirt, leaves, and small animals.

But you have no intention to stop looking, not until the other has met his end by your hand.

On this particular night, the stars are shining brightly when you return from your feeding. Wanting to keep that part of your life as far from Sookie as possible, you make sure to feed far from Bon Temps are the surrounding towns. It isn't much comfort, but it is better than wondering whether the person you just erased knew Sookie in any capacity.

You are away no more than an hour, plenty of time for Sookie to have returned from visiting her brother. He is home now, almost fully recovered, but she still insists on helping with his housework and preparing his supper every night. You understand that it is her nature to look after others, but it does make it difficult to look after her when she insists on running everywhere all hours of the day.

As you approach, you can hear heavy dragging noises coming from within her house and assume that she has finally decided to rearrange the living room, something she has been thinking about trying for the past few days. Your amusement turns to concern when the dragging is cut off by a large thud as you speed inside.

The first thing that grabs your attention is the couch overturned in the living room. Sookie is nowhere to be found. From the kitchen, you hear what sounds like chains being rattled and can smell her tears.

Blind rage overtakes your vision, coloring it red, as you sweep into the next room, ready to rip something limb from limb. But when you turn the corner, all you see is Sookie. She is tied to a chair with heavy chains—silver—with one chain brought up and across her mouth to act as a gag, salt water streaming down her face.

The threat of the silver on your skin does nothing to deter you as you race to free her. Who is doing this and why is secondary to keeping her safe, so you neglect checking the rest of the house in favor of helping Sookie. She is your only concern.

Removing the silver chains is difficult, your fingers only able to grasp the links for a few seconds. Already, almost all the skin on your fingers is burned away, but you press on, the pain barely registering.

She is sitting facing the back entrance of the house, her hands tied in her lap and wrapped around her body several times in complicated patterns that make it difficult for you to release her. The only sign you receive that something is about to happen is the choked noise in her throat and her eyes stretched so far that you can see white all the way around.

Then you feel the impact. A large stake plunges deep into your side, your muscles contracting immediately, and all you can do is crumple to the floor.

The other smiles down at you and discards a pair of latex gloves. You writhe and twist painfully, unable to reach the stake in your side. The longer it's inside you, the greater the pain becomes, like acid eating away a piece of metal.

Sookie is sobbing loudly through her chains, and you try to comfort her with a look, but the other decides then to kick you in the face, which only makes her more upset. He continues to watch you fight the agony and try to remove the stake, his expression nothing short of gleeful.

When the edges of your vision begin to grow blurry, you shake your head. Confusion sets in. Your movements begin to slow. But the pain only grows worse.

You look down and see the gloves crumpled on your chest and put the pieces together.

Silver. The stake is silver. It is the reason he pierced your side, not your chest. Now you can suffer and die slowly while he watches. And based on his cruel smile, he is enjoying himself immensely.

At some point, you look over at Sookie, who you can see is working her way free from the chains in her lap, the knots loose and rushed, though still too much for you to manage. The sight gives you enough strength to distract Bill in hopes that she might get away.

You roll your eyes and begin to moan audibly, much to his delight. To make the performance genuine, you lunge for his ankles, which he avoids easily and cackles, throwing in an extra kick for good measure.

A minute of such behavior goes by, and Sookie is nearly free. She has managed to keep the rattling of the silver links to a minimum, but the other is far too amused by your physical anguish to notice anything but the silver's subtle poison spreading through your system. Blood begins to leak from your ears and nose, thinning as a result of the silver eating away you from the inside out.

Your vision lasts long enough to see Sookie free herself, but rather than running out the door, she leaps onto the other's back, her fingers gouging his eyes and yanking his hair. He screams in surprise and scrambles to remove her, unable to secure a strong grip as a result of her impressive kicking and punching.

Finally, he reaches for the back of her neck and throws her on the ground beside you with a sickening crunch. Blood immediately gurgles in her throat as she tries to roll over and pull herself to safety.

The other does his best to glare, though one of his eyeballs is protruding from its socket thanks to Sookie's long fingernails. "Where do you think you're going, sweetheart?" he sneers.

He takes less than two steps before reaching her now broken body, and panic flares in your chest. Suddenly, your vision clears, the pain recedes ever so slightly, and you manage to reach over and grasp the stake still planted in your side.

He leans forward and places his mouth right next to her ear. "You know, your cousin told me some very interesting things about you."

"Go to hell."

"Oh, no. I'll leave that to your . . . friend over there." He jerks his head in your direction but doesn't turn to see how you are faring. Idiot.

After a few failed attempts, you manage to yank the silver-coated piece of wood from your side, choking back a groan. Exhaustion pulls at you, beckoning you to close your eyes and let the darkness take over, but you fight it. Sookie needs you. You can die afterward.

Using your forearms, you begin to drag yourself over to them, the stake clutched in your right hand.

"I know what you are," he continues. "What you can do."

"And I know what you are, you motherfucker," she replies, her spirit burning as brightly as ever despite the blood choking her speech.

"And what is that?"

Her response is caked with equal parts of pain and venom, each word pushing the other closer to the edge. "You're a monster. You live to cause pain. To hurt, to kill, to maim. Everything you are is unnatural and disgusting."

"I'm not much better than your lover over there," he counters, his body trembling with restraint. "I've done nothing that he hasn't tried dozens of times before me."

You hate that he is right.

"You're probably right," Sookie admits, rolling onto her back. "But he's capable of so much more. He's kind and thoughtful and cares about me. Nothing you could even begin to comprehend."

The other snarls, his anger mounting. You are just out of arms reach and double your effort to reach him before he attacks, rage clearly outweighing all sense of logic—for all parties present.

"You stupid girl!" He roars. "Everything I've done was to make you mine, to free you of all your ridiculous ties and bring you to where you've always belonged."

"Well, then you better kill me because I'd rather go to hell than be stuck with you."

He doesn't bother responding, his self-control completely eroded, instead choosing to plunge his long fangs deep into her neck. You hear her squeak of surprise followed by a quick kick of her legs and then only silence. He is brutal, biting her throat several times, and the subsequent fury is the only thing strong enough to pick you off the floor.

You wobble on your knees while he is hunched over her, drawing her sweet, succulent living blood into his dead mouth. Moans spew from his mouth as her blood dribbles down his chin and smears all over his face, bathing him in her essence. Each time he bites her, you feel it in your chest.

Taking the stake, you plunge it deep into his back, right behind his heart, and his last moan is cut off as he disintegrates a second later, allowing you to collapse beside Sookie, both of you covered in tissue and blood. Now that the other is gone, you want to rest, but she is still not well.

Pressing one hand to the hole in your side, you manage to pull yourself closer to her, taking score of her vast injuries. Her throat is completely mangled, blood flowing in steady streams from several locations. You can pick up a faint heartbeat, but it's slowing down, weakening with every pulse.

You failed. You cannot save her. Your blood is tainted with the silver, and even if it weren't, she has lost enough blood that giving her yours would only turn her. Make her like you. It is something you have considered several times over the past few months but always decided against. Sookie was a creature of light, of innocence and purity. She could never survive in a world where she had to kill to live—she wouldn't want to survive that way.

Still, you have to try.

Somehow, you manage to rip the shirt off your chest and find the strength to sit up, swaying lightly. You lean forward and carefully pull Sookie into your lap, needing to touch her one last time before you both move on.

The t-shirt is covered in blood, but it doesn't matter at this point. You carefully press it to the wounds on her neck, applying a gentle pressure in hopes that it would slow the blood flow enough to give the holes some time to clot. It doesn't take long before the clarity in your vision disappears again and your own body is drained of its strength.

Though her heart is still beating faintly, Sookie's tan skin has faded to gray. It almost looks dirty next to the few pieces of white linoleum of the floor that aren't covered in blood. You're losing her.

The frustration and guilt are too much. You snap, using the last of your strength to release all of your confusion and pain in a shattering cry that causes the panes of glass to rattle in their frames. But you might as well have been mute. Sookie continues to lie there unconscious and dying, ignorant of everything going on around her.

Two streaks of red begin to trail down your face, continuing past your chin and neck onto your chest as you pull her body even closer. Already, she is heavier, her limbs more stiff.

"I'm sorry," you whisper, then bury your face into her hair, breathing in her perfect scent one last time.

The silver nitrate on the stake did its job. Your energy is nonexistent, and Death cannot be more than a few minutes away. You close your eyes and wait, ready to embrace its dark abyss. But it holds off. You are caught dangling on the edge, unable to let go.

Sookie, too, it seems. Though your shirt is now drenched with her blood, the sound of her heartbeat still comes through. You haven't lost her yet.

Both of you continue to hang in those last moments, each still fighting the inevitable, when a familiar sparrow's song breaks you from your trance.

"You did well, Viking." The voice pulls you out of your haze far enough to make out a slight figure in a suit standing at your feet. "You did well."

It's a Herculean effort for your eyes to drag themselves up to Niall's, but you manage it as well as a few choice words. "Don't mock me, Faerie."

"Oh, nonsense." Niall waves his hand as if to dismiss your last comment. "I mean it. You did well."

Sadly, you lack the strength to attack, but somewhere in you still lies the motivation to ignore the smiling bastard—the one who ruined your life—and so you close your eyes, your mind returning to its preparations for Death.

But he will not be deterred. "She would have gone with him, you know, if you hadn't come along," he says. "The other."

As if you need more clarification.

"He would have treated her fine for awhile, pretended to love her, but then he would have grown bored. She would have been trapped."

Your eyes open of their own accord and fix on Sookie, unconscious in your lap. Even dying, her beauty lingered.

"And you think this is a better alternative for her?" you whisper. "Death?"

"Well, which would you choose? Being taken from your home, chained to someone who could never love you, your body used instead of cherished, or Death?"

The images his words conjure are too disgusting for you to hold onto for very long. If things had come down to that, you would have killed her yourself to spare her the pain. "Would he have done all that to her?"

"And worse." He leans against the counter, his clothes and skin somehow still immaculate despite the carnage in the room. "If you hadn't come along, she would be chained to him by now, miserable."

Your strength has yet to run out, so you continue, "You could have just had the other removed. You have the power. Then she wouldn't have to die."

He laughs and shakes his head. "Weren't you listening when I came to you before? She needs you as much as you need her."

You want to argue that you didn't need her and that she absolutely did not rely on you, but you can't. Being together, talking, understanding—you weren't lying when you told her that your life was empty before you stepped onto her porch.

Though none of that changes the fact that she is dying right here in your arms.

"Needed," you say. "Past tense."

"Wrong again, my dear boy." You look up to see him wearing a smile wider than his face, holding two large columns in his hands, a faint light flickering on each.

"I'm not going to lie to you," he continues. "Sookie is dying. I've managed to keep her light from going out so far, but she is frail. Her human body can only handle so much. But it doesn't have to be that way."

Your gaze finds its way back to Sookie's face as he speaks, deciding it is more important for you to memorize the delicate arch of her brow and the graceful swells of her cheekbones while you still have the chance, but once again, Niall has other ideas.

"You see this?" he asks, forcing you to rip your eyes from Sookie's peaceful face so that he can show one of the large columns in better detail. Upon closer examination, you realize it is a candle—a thick, red, dying candle.

"What is it?" you ask, only slightly interested.

"This represents Sookie's life. Neat, huh?" he smiles and turns it over in his hands after setting the larger one on the counter behind him. "Everyone has one. This here is still a good size and has a nice, vibrant color. I'd say She's got a lot left in her. The problem is how easily the flame goes out."

You wait impatiently to see where he is going with this when he gingerly places the candle down on the stone countertop and retrieves the other, this one a metal of some sort, the wick seemingly untouched and the flame slightly stronger than its wax counterpart.

"This is yours." He tosses it back and forth between his hands, grinning. The flame flickers but doesn't go out. "That silver nitrate he used on that stake is already wearing off. You, my friend, are going to be around for a long, long time."

The biting words you were planning to release fall flat in your throat. If what he says is true, you have every intention of walking onto the porch and staying there long after sunrise. You cannot bring yourself to face eternity, bearing the burden of everything you lost.

"Give it to her," you say automatically. "I don't want it if she's not there."

"You would do that?" He cocks his head. "You would give up your life to save her?"

"Yes." The word floats out before you can process the question. "Happily."

Niall presses on, seeming to have not heard your response and comes at you with another question faster and harder than before. "Do you promise to always love her and look after her?"

"I don't understand . . ." When you look up, he is rubbing the candles back and forth between his palms. Given their size, the movement should have been awkward, but he makes it seem effortless.

"Answer the question."

It is difficult to put into words. In just a few months, this young girl has managed to change your life completely. All for the better. She gave you purpose, respect, happiness, love, trust. Whether Niall knows it or not, she brought you back to life.

"She is everything I value in this life, and I would look after her as such."

"Mhmm," Niall winks. "I thought as much."

As he continues to roll the candles, it becomes difficult to discern the two separate columns.

"Do you remember on the night we met when I promised to be in your debt if you agreed to watch over my granddaughter for me?" he asks.

You nod once slowly, struggling to remember everything you discussed that night. The entire time you have been with Sookie, calling in Niall's debt never once occurred to you; truthfully, you forgot about the moment you became attached to her.

"I do believe the time has come for me to return the favor," he says. "I will give her back to you."

Something in your chest lurches and your eyes shoot to his.

"But things would have to change. Your life forces would be merged. You'll have to life off each other. To keep your flame strong, you will have to take her blood—only hers—just as she will have to take yours. You will have to be honest with her. Trust her. No more secrets." He clucks his tongue.

The idea terrifies you. "I would kill her," you say.

But Niall just shakes his head. "Her blood is very strong. You won't need more than a few sips . . . You will control yourself." It is not a question.

All you can do is watch incredulously as the two candles in Niall's hand form one something that is blood red, hard, and shiny. A blood diamond—the rarest of gemstones. But its flame is still weak, little more than a blue flame starving for oxygen.

"She loves you, Eric. Remember that. Things with you two aren't going to be easy. Not by a long shot. Especially tonight. I'm sure she's going to want to have some words about what happened here. No such thing as a happily every after, I'm afraid." He shrugs, as if he were apologizing. "But just remember she wants to be with you, trust that she's not going to run."

"Why?" you ask. "Why are you doing this?"

His reply is simple and honest. "Because I love my granddaughter. I want her to be happy, and you, my friend, seem to do that for her. For better or for worse."

No more words are exchanged as Niall turns his full attention to the task at hand. As you watch the candles continue to merge, Sookie still lifeless in your lap, the strange lurch from before happens again inside your chest.

A thump. Then another. And again. A second later, it picks up a steady rhythm.

A heartbeat.

"What's happening?"

"Just as you give Sookie strength, she gives you life," he says. "You get to live again, Eric. Don't mess it up."

And with those last words, Niall breathes onto the weak blue glow of the newly made blood diamond and brings the flame roaring to life.

Thanks for reading! I know second person isn't the clearest POV to read, but I wanted Eric to be detached—see himself more as a "you" than an "I."

Anyways, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts, yes?

Be sure to check out all the other Fae Tale entries and vote for your favorites! There are some awesome stories and some very creative authors in the fandom!

And for those waiting on the long-awaited Meet the Moon update, the next chapter is FINALLY underway. Be on the lookout!