AN: A thousand thanks to my Beta All About Eric for all the hard work. I know you've waited long for this, so I'll save the full author's note for the end of the chapter. Enjoy.
The story so far…
Chapter 1: While hunting for the fairy Fintan in the woods of Bon Temps, Sheriff Eric Northman has a chance encounter with six-year-old Sookie Stackhouse. His attempt to glamour the child fails and he is forced to flee the scene.
Chapter 2: Eric returns to Bon Temps. He learns that Sookie is a telepath who is being molested by her uncle. Eric gains the child's trust by offering his protection.
Chapter 3: Over in Faerun (the fairy realm) the powerful Prince Niall -Fintan's father - learns of Sookie's existence and talents and immediately begins to covet her for his own purposes. Niall travels to Bon Temps to make contact with his great-granddaughter but surprises her with Eric and is deterred.
Chapter 4: Over the next 14 months Eric and Sookie develop a strong friendship. A couple of nights after Sookie loses her parents in an accident, she is abducted.
Chapter 5: Sookie has been abducted to Faerun on the orders of Niall, who plans to use her as a political pawn to stop the civil war that threatens to engulf Faerun. After several months in captivity, Sookie has to be returned to the human realm when she becomes sick. Upon her return, Eric feeds the child his blood, which has the beneficial effect of strengthening Sookie's telepathy and helping her develop mental shields.
Chapter 6: With the help of Eric's mentoring, Sookie grows into a confident and popular young girl. Around the time of her 13th birthday, Eric receives an unpleasant visit from Bill Compton, a procurer for Queen Sophie-Anne. Eric realizes that his association with Sookie is putting her in danger and decides to cool off their relationship. His resolve is only strengthened by his discovery that Sookie has begun menstruating and is now affected by his blood in a sexual manner. To save her from embarrassment and confusion at this critical stage of her development, Eric cuts all ties with her.
Chapter 7: At Sookie's 16th birthday party, she receives a gift from Eric, who has not been in contact with her for years. Frustrated and upset, she destroys the present and initiates a disastrous sexual encounter with her boyfriend J.B. DuRone.
Chapter 8: 17-year-old Sookie graduates from High School with a University scholarship and moves to Shreveport to live with her brother Jason. That night, she receives an unexpected visit from Eric. The reunion is tense and emotional, but the two eventually reconnect.
Chapter 9: Eric offers Sookie a summer job as his unofficial telepath, which she accepts. One night, Sookie telepathically kills an enemy of Eric who was attempting to stake him -a skill she accidentally developed years before. In the aftermath of the attack, Sookie impulsively kisses Eric.
Chapter 10: Eric resumes feeding Sookie his blood and the two work on repairing their friendship. Despite an ever-present romantic tension, Sookie and Eric's relationship remains platonic. After two months, Eric invites Sookie out for a date.
Chapter 11: During the date, Sookie openly confesses her feelings for Eric, who is pleased but conflicted by her advances as he feels she is too young and too innocent to be involved with a Vampire.
Chapter 12: Eric asks Sookie to be his girlfriend and agrees to an exclusive relationship. Gran demands to meet her granddaughter's new boyfriend.
Chapter 13: Eric agrees to meet Gran, and offers to look for Sookie's wayward cousin Hadley, who has escaped a rehab facility. Eric and Sookie have their first blood exchange, which Sookie later discovers enhances her Fae spark. When Eric and Gran meet, it is revealed that Gran is aware of Eric's Vampiric nature, but after making him promise not to have sex with Sookie until she is 18, she gives him her blessing. Back in Shreveport, Eric receives a surprise visit from Niall, who encourages Eric to keep Sookie safe but forbids him to form a permanent Bond with her. Eric defies Niall's edict, which was the fairy's plan all along. Niall has been informed by Sookie's cousin Claudine (who has become her Fairy Godmother) of the effect the blood-bond is having on Sookie's fae essence, and he plans on re-claiming his great-granddaughter as soon as her spark is fully expressed.
Chapter 14: Sookie is upset when she learns of Eric's deal with Gran but ends up accepting her grandmother's conditions. Eric and Sookie then discuss Niall's visit and agree to keep on strengthening the blood-bond. Hadley is found in New Orleans.
Chapter 15: Sookie confronts Claudine and is disappointed to learn that her cousin has been feeding information about her to Niall. The whole family reunites in New Orleans and each member is told about the Supernatural world. Eric recognizes the signs of advanced cancer on Sookie's Aunt Linda.
Chapter 16: Sophie-Anne summons Sookie and Eric. The Queen tricks Sookie into revealing her telepathy then attempts to curry her favor. Sookie politely declines the Queen's offer of protection, as well as Bill Compton's overtures. Sookie meets another of Eric's maker Ocella's children, the powerful sorcerer Kato.
Chapter 17: Kato visits Sookie and offers to tutor her in the magical arts while fanning her doubts about her relationship with Eric. That night, Sookie has a vivid nightmare about Eric cheating on her.
Chapter 18: Gran frees Eric from his promise regarding Sookie then flies to New Orleans to support Linda. Eric is worried by Kato's interest in Sookie. Sookie meets a witch she recognizes from her nightmare. Convinced that Eric has betrayed her, she has a meltdown. The next night, Sookie tricks Kato into admitting he had been manipulating her mood and dreams in order to engineer a fallout between her and Eric.
Chapter 19: Sookie and Eric reconcile and make love. Eric confesses his feelings.
Chapter 20: Sookie discovers that Jason's girlfriend, Tatiana, is related to Catriona. Eric begins to suspect the Queen is planning to have him tried for treason in order to acquire Sookie.
Chapter 21: Eric and Sookie return to New Orleans so that Eric can meet with the head of a witch coven. During his meeting, he senses Sookie's distress and returns to his home to find it burning up, with Sookie still inside.
And without further ado…
Chapter 22: Seeing Red
(This is SPOV of the events of the previous chapter)
Soon after Eric left for his meeting with the Queen, Gran rose and gestured for me to follow her out of the kitchen. Once we were comfortably settled on a sofa in the drawing room, she began: "I'm assuming Eric informed you about the modifications he intends to make to our home, am I right?"
"Yes," I replied. "He told me you gave him your blessing."
"Yes indeed," she confirmed. "Anything that can make you safer is most welcome. Eric told me that he had arranged for the express service but the work will take three weeks to complete. Where will you live in the meantime?"
"Well… probably Eric's house in Shreveport," I replied.
Gran hummed dubiously, which surprised me. "You're against us co-habiting?" I asked. "But I thought you gave Eric your blessing about us, err… getting more serious."
"That's not my present concern, Sookie. I was more thinking about the fact that your aunt Linda has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and yet you don't seem to be willing to make much effort to spend time with her."
I lowered my eyes with embarrassment. What Gran was saying was the absolute truth. I had nothing keeping me in Shreveport, since I wouldn't start my course at LSU for several weeks, so there was no justification for my behavior.
"At first I thought you were keeping your distance to deal with the shock of the news in your own way, but it's been a week… I feel it's time for you to show some family spirit. Your aunt needs you."
"I'm really sorry, Gran. I know I've been neglectful," I apologized.
Gran took my hands and said in a sympathetic tone: "Now, now. I understand that you're very much in love, and that it can blur perspectives, but family must come first."
"This is not about Eric," I protested. "The truth is… I've been trying to avoid Hadley."
"Hadley?" Gran startled. "Are you still cross with her? Come on, Sookie. She's been through a lot. She deserves to be cut some slack."
I didn't know how to explain to Gran that I was not angry but uncomfortable and abashed around my cousin. I'd long thought of Hadley as spoilt and reckless but seeing her so broken and remorseful, I'd realized how unfairly I'd judged her. As I had said to Eric, it could have been me.
I got to thinking about Bartlett and the abuse I had endured at his hands.
By the time Eric found me, Bartlett's molestation had been going on for about three months. Before that, our encounters had been sporadic. My parents didn't particularly care for him; or rather I should that say that my mother was so jealous of my father's attention that she had purposely isolated him from his own family after their wedding.
For the first five years of my life, my extended family only convened at religious holidays, and even then only because of Gran's relentless insistence. As painful as it was for her to see her own son so little when he lived so close to her, she'd given my mother space and time in the hope that, once she was settled and secure in her marriage, she would stop interfering between him and his kin. Ironically, my mother's pathological jealousy most likely delayed the inevitable, as Bartlett had very little access to me in the beginning.
But when I turned six, everything changed. Gran decided she had waited enough. It was now clear my mother would never come to her senses, and she simply refused to become a mere acquaintance to her own son and grandchildren. She started using all sorts of excuses to make impromptu visits to my parents' cottage, and invitations to dine at her home became frequent. My mother resisted at first, but Gran simply refused to take no for an answer, and since she also offered to babysit Jason and me – thus giving my mother more alone time with the husband she so desperately loved - my mother eventually relented.
At first, I was delighted. I was quite neglected at home but Gran was warm, loving and always spoiled Jason and me with our favorite foods. More importantly, she accepted my little 'oddity' without judgment, unlike my parents who thought me mentally ill and were scared of me. Unfortunately, after a month or so of bliss, Uncle Bartlett became a fixture at Gran's. He now had plenty of opportunities to grow closer to me and, more critically, to isolate me. His modus operandi was to wait until everybody else in the house was otherwise occupied then insist I sit on his knee while he read me a story or watched a cartoon with me.
It began innocently enough, only to escalate with each visit. In the beginning he would stroke my hair and tell me what a pretty girl I was. Then his hands would trail up and down my arms, in an oddly insistent way. Then he grew bolder and began caressing my legs… and then my thighs, first over my clothes, then under them. His gestures were always accompanied by wet kisses to my face and whispered sweet words. More damaging than his touch, however, were his depraved thoughts.
I vividly remember the first time he dared touch me between my thighs… his dry, callused fingertips… the tentative appraisal of my anatomy… I remember the texture of his thoughts, how they vibrated with excitement and delight. I remember trying my hardest to shut down the flow of filth pouring from his mind in order to escape in my imagination… and failing miserably. I remember the flashes of Hadley, leaving me in no doubt that he had done to her what he was doing to me… and worse. Much worse.
And after it was over, there was the shame, and the guilt, and the fear, clinging to my skin like a bad smell. I remember his passive-aggressive threats about keeping 'our secret', his offering of sweets as a reward for my 'good behavior'.
I know now that he was grooming me: progressively getting me used me to his touch, building up my fear and guilt to ensure my silence, 'teaching' me the correct responses that were expected of me… and just plain enjoying the crescendo to the climax.
Eric came into my life two weeks after that atrocious Sunday afternoon, and that had been the end of my ordeal. But while the damage Bartlett had inflicted upon me had faded over time, my cousin had been left shattered.
Unlike with her, Bartlett had stopped short of breaching my flesh. Maybe it shouldn't have made a difference (abuse is abuse, after all), but it did somehow. There was also the fact that my molestation had been spread over a matter of months and not over many years. And maybe I was blessed with a stronger survival instinct to begin with. All those reasons could explain why I had thrived, essentially growing up like an ordinary, happy girl, when my cousin had lost herself in drugs, alcohol, indiscriminate promiscuity and God knows what else; but that would be under-estimating the incredible influence Eric had had on me.
He'd not only believed and saved me, but he'd also provided me with a strong positive male figure to rely on and look up to (my father was far too distracted to be that figure). As we'd grown closer, he'd taught me that physical affection between a man and a child didn't have to be sexual or dirty; that it was OK to trust; that emotional intimacy was a beautiful thing and that I didn't have to live in fear. He'd gradually healed every mental and emotional bruise Bartlett had left behind. It's probably why, when the time came for me to make my first foray into the world of sexuality, I had displayed no hang-ups whatsoever. I doubt Hadley had ever had anyone like that in her difficult life.
Gran put an end to my ruminations. "Sookie?"
"Sorry… I was thinking about the past. I'm not angry with Hadley, Gran. In fact, I feel extremely sorry for her, and a bit… I guess I feel kind of guilty, for some reason."
Gran nodded understandingly. "Survivor guilt," she stated.
My eyes widened in surprise. I hadn't thought about my feelings in these terms, but I guess it made sense.
"You have nothing to blame yourself for, my dear. You were a fraction luckier than Hadley, and that changed your circumstances. That's all it was: dumb, blind luck. You can't torture yourself about what might have been. What is done is done, and all that matter now are the choices you make today."
I acquiesced. "You're absolutely right, Gran. I've got to pull myself together. I'll stick around here for a while longer."
"I'm really glad to hear that," she smiled.
"I'll just have to discuss logistics with Eric, but I'm certain that won't be a problem."
"Speaking of the Big Bad Vampire," Gran smoothly transitioned, "is everything as fine as ever between you two lovebirds?"
An image of the shattered kitchen table crossed my mind right this moment and I must have blushed three shades of crimson. Gran didn't miss a thing, unsurprisingly.
"Well, well," she said drolly, "when the cat's away…"
I couldn't help snorting a laugh. Gran let out a chuckle of her own then asked more seriously: "Are you happy, dear?"
"Yes. I really am," I replied. "Eric is wonderful."
"That all I want for you."
"So you're… cool with everything?" I inquired.
Gran shrugged slightly. "Well, I am as 'cool' as you can expect a lady my age to be in these circumstances."
I gave her a perplexed look.
"Understand me, Sookie; I am in a very peculiar position. Ever since your parents left us, I have had to be mother, father, and grandmother to you and Jason. I have had to love you, care for you, discipline you, educate you, guide you, and be a trusted friend and a respected authority figure all at once. Do not get me wrong, raising my two grandbabies has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my entire life, and I would not change a single thing that has happened since that fateful day when you came into my care. But it has also been a great challenge, one I could not have faced by sticking stubbornly to my old ways. I've had to adapt, to… modernize. For example, it cost me much to approve of your relationship with a much older man."
I opened my mouth to come to Eric's defense but Gran raised her hand to stop me. "A good, honorable man I have come to deeply like and respect, yes, but an experienced adult all the same… and you are still so young. Yet, I can see how deep your love for him runs, and how much trust you have in him."
She paused for a moment. "In all honesty, I wish you'd waited." She had not made an explicit mention of sex, but it was pretty clear that it was what she was referring to. "In a perfect world, you would have been a married woman and not a young lady in the throes of first love, but I know how things are nowadays and I am not in the habit of putting my head in the sand and pretending it's still 1950. I knew when I issued my ukase to Eric that I was stalling the inevitable, not preventing it."
"Eric would have respected the terms of your agreement," I said immediately.
"That might be so, but would you have?" she asked shrewdly.
I blushed. "If I am honest with myself, probably not." All through our courtship, I had been the aggressive one. Eric had only lost his cool once, the night he had barged into Jason's apartment, and with hindsight, he was probably high on Niall's Fairy scent then. Otherwise, he'd been hell bent on taking it slow.
"Do not think I judge you or your choices," Gran continued. "Unlike many girls your age, you gave yourself to a man you loved and who loved you back, and I am proud of you for that. It may not have been ideal in my eyes, but it was ideal in yours, and that is what truly matters. I don't want you to be in a position where you think you cannot be open and honest with me about the things that happen in your life. I only want you safe and happy."
"Oh, I am happy Gran," I said, hugging her.
Eric came into the room just as we were breaking off, and Gran invited him to join in on our little conclave. She then proceeded, to my utter mortification, to quiz us about condoms! After Eric had reassured her that Vampires had no need for such apparel, I slithered out of the room.
I found Hadley alone in the kitchen. "Where's your mom?" I asked her.
"She was feeling a bit tired so she went to lie down for a bit."
I sat down before declaring: "I want to apologize for not having been around to support you this past week."
"It's nothing, Sookie. I know I haven't been the best cousin to you. And you've got your relationship with that hunky vampire to keep you busy, now."
I shook my head no. "That's really not an excuse. I want you to know that I'm going to be there for you from now on. I'm planning on staying in NOLA until University starts."
Hadley gave me a warm smile, then, after a few moment of silence, she asked unexpectedly: "Is it weird, with a Vampire?"
"Is what weird?" I inquired, though I had an inkling as to what she was referring to.
"You know," she gestured. "Everything. What kind of boyfriends are they? How are they in bed? Are they into kinky stuff? Or do they just —"
"Hadley!" I interrupted, livid. "That's really none of your business! I can't believe you'd even ask that."
She gave me a disappointed look but didn't pursue her line of questioning. With a faraway look she said, as if to herself. "He treats you like you're something precious. I wonder if that's because you're his dinner…"
I was about to give her a piece of my mind but her tone gave me pause: it was a mixture of bitterness and wistfulness. I gave my cousin an appraising look. I had noticed the flirtatious looks she gave Eric but I had not given much thought to her behavior because, well, that was the kind of effect Eric had on women. But now I was starting to think that there was more than mere lust to her interest in my boyfriend. Based on what I knew, and what I'd guessed, Hadley had had less than positive experiences with men. I really couldn't fault her for wanting to know if the grass was greener in Fang Country.
"Eric is… very considerate and protective," I carefully explained. "But I believe that it has little to do with his Vampiric nature. I believe that he was already that way as a human. The way I understand it, being turned kind of exaggerates all your personality traits while changing the way you relate to the world. Vampires in general don't abide by human codes of ethics or morality, and they're not big on feelings. Not to say that they don't feel, but they are very selective about what and who they allow to affect them. What I'm trying to say is that whether a Vampire is good to you depends a lot on what kind of person he was as a human and on how you affect him. Eric would never hurt me, and while he's capable of extreme violence, he isn't cruel or sadistic; but there are Vampires who would happily torture and drain any human who crosses their path and toss away the bones. In that sense, they are as diverse as human beings. Have I answered your question?"
She nodded silently, seemingly lost in her thoughts. I couldn't resist the temptation of dropping my shields to see if my words had had the intended effect but I was startled as I caught the image of a dark-haired Vampire. "Hadley!" I gasped. "Where did you meet Bill Compton?"
She shot me an annoyed look. "Stay out of my head, Sookie!"
"Hadley, please answer me," I pleaded. "That man is very dangerous. He's the one that sold me out to the Queen. The nurse who betrayed you was working for him."
She narrowed her eyes and whined: "So what? The Queen didn't hurt you, did she? Bill's been very nice to me..."
Goddamn it! I didn't want to waste any time trying to coerce information from her so I dug directly into her mind to get the answers to my questions.
As it turned out, Hadley and Compton had had a 'chance' meeting at the clinic three days ago, and they'd already gone on a date. Compton had approached her in the cafeteria under the cover of visiting a sick friend. Hadley had figured out what he was when he showed a clear distaste for food but hadn't been deterred.
Compton had really turned on the charm with his southern gentleman routine. He'd gone as far as asking Hadley to introduce him to Gran so he could officially ask her permission to court my cousin. Unsurprisingly, Hadley had been dazzled. A man who treated her like a lady and didn't expect sexual favors from her on the first date? She thought she never had it so good. I felt terribly sad that Hadley had had such bad luck with men that a con-artist like Compton seemed like a Prince among men to her. Regardless, I would sooner become Andre's Fairy buffet than allow that rat bastard to weasel his way into my family. I didn't know if his interest was in Hadley as such, if maybe he was trying to determine whether the telepath's cousin had some hidden talent of her own that could have a market value for him, or if he was using her to get to me, but his motivations were completely irrelevant to me.
Hadley, who had surmised what I was doing from my prolonged silence and unfocused gaze, sprang from her chair and yelled: "I told you to stay the hell out of my head!"
My mobile phone vibrated with an incoming text: it was Eric, inquiring about my sudden foul mood. I quickly responded that I would explain the situation later and went after Hadley.
All of a sudden, I sensed an odd tingling spreading all over my skin. Seconds later, I felt a mysterious pull towards one of the guest rooms on the first floor and involuntarily went up the stairs. The closer I came to the door, the stronger the smell of pepper and cinnamon was. I knew I'd smelled that particular mélange before, but I couldn't place it. I tried to go back, but the guest room exerted an irresistible attraction on me. Once I reached the door, I opened it and was shocked to see Eric seating on a chair in the middle of the room, seemingly waiting for me.
"Eric? What are you doing here? What is happening to me?"
As soon as I had crossed the threshold, the door closed behind me and two things happened simultaneously: a great ring of fire materialized from thin air and surrounded us, igniting the furniture and the walls, and Eric's skin began to melt like a wax candle. At this point, I was downright terrified but I had no choice but to come closer to the… creature in the center of the room and away from the fire that was intensifying by the second. I thought about Gran, Hadley and Linda and hoped they would be able to get out of the house safely.
I coughed as the smoke-filled air burned my lungs. The temperature was getting hotter and I had no idea what to do. The seated figure was shedding more skin and morphing into something else before my eyes. After a minute, I realized with horror that it was Kato! His brown eyes looked glassy and lifeless, but there was no doubt that he was the source of the powerful magic that had drawn me into this room and was now burning down Eric's home. Slowly, he rose from his seat and made a step in my direction. I instinctively scurried backwards and stumbled onto my knees. A jolt of fear tore through me when I saw I had fallen right into the flames, but to my consternation I felt no pain nor experienced any burns. Was the fire an illusion? Why was it not directly affecting me yet I was feeling its indirect effects? I attempted to cross the wall of flames but found I was physically incapable of doing so.
Kato was still making his slow advance towards me. In desperation, I adopted a fighting stance, even though I knew I stood no chance against a Vampire -even one that seemed drunk on magic. As Kato closed the distance between us, I heard a great crash seconds before part of the roof collapsed on the far side of the room. I turned to see what had caused the commotion and saw a fireman in full protective gear rising from the debris. I instinctively knew it was Eric.
Alas, Kato saw him too and in an instant a great ball of energy shot through his hand and blasted Eric straight into the inferno. I was absolutely stunned because I knew I'd just witnessed Fae magic, which should have been off-limits to a Vampire, but I didn't waste anytime pondering on the mystery. Eric's fireman suit would not protect him for long, I knew that. I launched myself towards him but Kato caught my arm and immobilized me. I felt that odd tingling again, but before Kato could cast his spell, Eric zoomed out of the blaze and attacked.
His appearance was horrific: his clothes, his hair and patches of his skin had been burned away, and his face was a mask of rage, pain, and sheer blood lust. He looked like a savage beast from hell.
The magic Kato was using was apparently completely crippling him because he couldn't react fast enough to prevent Eric from decapitating him with a faster-than-light hand chop. As Kato's body collapsed, I threw myself against Eric's scorched torso. His arms encircled me and we began rising above the ground.
Before he could transport us out of danger, the flames surged higher and stronger than ever, swallowing us all. The fire still didn't affect me, but I knew it was the end for Eric. I heard his bellow of agony and something broke in me. Holding onto him like a lifeline, I prayed for a miracle: torrential rain, a flood, a deluge, anything to extinguished the flames that were killing my love.
I did not realize I was dematerializing until cold water abruptly surrounded me. I couldn't see anything, my ears were hurting, and when I tried to take a breath, my airways filled with fool-tasting liquid.
My last thought as I lost consciousness was for Eric.
AN: So, first of all, THANK YOU!
I really don't know how to properly express my gratitude for the amazing response to my open letter in the last chapter. You guys were beyond supportive and encouraging, and you did this girl's self-esteem a world of wonder. Thank you for you patience and appreciation. I love you all.
Now, onto the story. I hope that this chapter was worth the wait. Know that all the questions raised (What was Kato trying to achieve? How did he acquire Fairy Magic? Etc.) will be answered in time. I know some of you will find Kato's demise a bit anti-climatic, but remember that Niall was always the Big Bad of this story.
In other Watcher news, I have rewritten parts of chapter 5 to smooth out inconsistencies. The main difference from the original draft is this: Sookie spends five months in Faerun instead of just 15 days.
Also, during my hiatus from the Watcher, I've written a one-shot called You Have A New Message and I've started a new True Blood story called Rewind. You can find both fics (as well as their respective banners) through my profile.