A/n: Yup. Here we go…again. So, here's the deal (I am going to be completely straight with you): I got this idea and decided to run with it because, well, I can; I have no idea where this is going or how far it's going to go; and I don't know if I'll update regularly, so I won't promise to do so, but I will promise to finish this story.

This is an AU fic everyone has thought about (at least once, if fleeting) but no one has written about in quite the same way, so I'm rollin' up my sleeves and digging my heels in. It's going to be a stretch of fantasy and logic, so try and go with the flow if for no other reason than the fact that this is sure to be a fun, if bumpy, ride.

IMPORTANT: The story takes place directly after season 3 in the same time frame as season 4, but with a very, very different take on what happened in Faery and Sookie's return. Also, I'm sure many readers are concerned with how exactly this is going to be achieved and are having horrible, nightmarish Twilight flashbacks right now. Don't worry. It'll be a stretch, but way less of a stretch than Stephanie Meyer came up with – Alan Ball has given me more to work with though, in fairness.

Thanks, welcome, and enjoy!

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

The Return

Sookie shrieked as she fell from the dusky sky to the ground, her arms stretching out to brace against her fall. It helped less than she would have liked. Her eyes watered and closed of their own accord, trying to adjust to the light. The adrenaline rush of jumping into the ravine gave her a pleasant buzz, though the change in temperature and, she suspected, time gave her a headache. Her eyes opened once more, having adjusted to the human world once more. Her nose was filled with the scent of the sultry bayou and humid air, and the scent of iron, too. She had never noticed that one before, though she supposed she was more in tune with nature, coming back from Faery.

She stood uncertainly, leaning on a tombstone for support, and glanced around to get her bearings. Sookie slipped off her shoes, desiring to feel grass under her feet again. It had been too long. Still a little unsteady, Sookie took her time walking home – savoring every sight and smell, and the warmth of the sun on her face. She had gone without sunlight for too long. She had gone without everything for too long. Though she did not regret her year in Faery, she knew everyone must have been worried sick about her. But she couldn't tell them the truth. No one could know what happened while she was in Faery. She would not endanger them thus, no more than she already had.

When her eyes came to rest on her home, Sookie began to sway. It was…different. The entire house had been repainted, the porch redone, and the front door replaced. Sookie felt her heart warm just a little – Jason had stepped up to the plate, after all. It looked as though he had taken good care of their childhood home, even restored it to its former glory. The lawn looked manicured, with every blade of grass no more than two inches high. Looking at the house, Sookie couldn't stop wondering why he couldn't have done this much before she left or Gran died. She winced and felt guilty immediately. She could have done this much to the house too, if she'd put her mind to it, and it wasn't any kind of family that thought such nasty things. No, she would put such thoughts out of her mind and be grateful.

Her hand glided up the railing of her porch, which had been sanded down to the bare bones and was now a deep, gleaming cherry colored wood, undoubtedly the color it had been before it was painted white. She slid her key into the lock; briefly worrying that Jason had the locks changed, but was relieved when the lock could be heard clicking out of place. The porch door swung open silently, the rusty hinges having been replaced with brand new stainless steel, and revealed to Sookie a sight she hadn't seen in a year. Some of the furniture had been replaced, but the vast majority had simply been repaired.

All of the side tables had been sanded down and repainted, the sofa and chairs had been reupholstered, and the wood floors gleamed from fresh wax. Everything was…perfect. Feeling overwhelmed, Sookie sat on her couch and relaxed, and was suddenly assaulted by tears. It felt like home – like it had before the Maenad had come in and destroyed everything, like the Maenad had never come at all. She could hear an air conditioner whirring quietly through out the house, and felt a chill travel her arms. Air conditioner? Sookie bit her lip, looking at the improvements in a different light. Where had Jason gotten the money to do all of this?

Sookie sat up and began to take stock of the all the improvements. All of this work had to have cost a fortune, a fortune she knew Jason didn't have. Her anxiety had begun building itself again, and now Sookie wasn't able to hold back any disparaging thoughts about Jason. Was he in trouble again? Though she didn't know how trouble could land Jason in a windfall of cash, the windfall itself was sure to bring trouble if it wasn't brought by it. Regrettably, Sookie knew she wasn't going to be able to relax at all until she got this all sorted out. She allowed herself to sulk for a moment or two, giving herself a few minutes to feel annoyed so she wouldn't take it out on Jason. Night was approaching rapidly, and Sookie knew what it would mean if she went outside. Feeling all the hurt begin to manifest again, Sookie beat it down. She didn't have time for this nonsense. She had one year to mourn the loss of her first love, and so she had done. It was time to move on.

She was a responsible, mature woman from a good family in the twenty-first century – she had no reason to fear Bill Compton's reaction, or care about his reaction for that matter, or let him have anymore tears. She was done with that. The Sookie that left for Faery, and the Sookie that returned, were very different. She was stronger now, less naïve, and one hundred percent ready to face Bill if she had to. She would never again put herself in a position of weakness or vulnerability, because she certainly couldn't afford it. Now was the time to prove that. Night had officially fallen, and Sookie took a deep breath before opening the porch door; Show time.

Eric's eyes shot open and he felt something strange happen to his body. He hadn't needed to breathe for years, but just then he felt himself inhale deeply. Sookie. The bond that had disappeared and taken a piece of him with it had returned. Though Eric didn't know the time, he could sense that nightfall was approaching and decided to remain awake. It was an inherently strange sensation, feeling the absence of something only to have it come back in the blink of an eye. For the first time in twelve months, fourteen days, and nineteen hours, he felt whole. Gently, Eric reached inside himself and touched the bond cautiously, unsure of it's strength after a year of no contact. The bond had dwindled to a thread, but it was strong regardless. In a moment of perverse pleasure, Eric felt his entire body shudder at being overwhelmed by her presence.

She was happy, but also with withdrawn and anxious. Through the bond he could sense the difference in her, could sense that something was not as it was before; her blood. Her blood was different. It sang to him through their bond, tempted him, taunted him… This was not the blood that Sookie Stackhouse had before her disappearance. No, this was stronger, and less human. With a whimsical smile, Eric wondered what his Faerie had been up to the past year. Almost immediately, the smile disappeared as he recalled the reason for her disappearance. That bastard Compton had driven her from this land. After the bond disappeared, both he and Compton had spent countless hours searching for her. Compton was all too ready to believe that she was dead, and had set to mourning her for the better part of the year.

Eric was not nearly so weak or sentimental. Or faithless. Compton's strongest theory was that Sookie had killed herself, as she had felt no fear before the bond disappeared – only peace. Eric dismissed the notion immediately; Sookie would never be so weak. Unlike Bill, Eric had faith in Sookie and knew that she was far too strong to allow someone as pathetic as Bill Compton to destroy her. He couldn't explain how or why the bond was gone, or why he didn't believe that Sookie was dead, but he hardly felt the need. He was over one thousand years old – the likes of Bill Compton could not question him. The Queen was most displeased when she learned that Sookie had disappeared, but she, like everyone else, let it go. Eric did not.

He returned to his duties at Fangtasia and was as aloof as ever, catering to the humans who came into his bar, but he took no pleasure in it. Seeing humans in such a state of pathetic despair and worship used to amuse him, but no longer. He had not felt amused since Sookie had disappeared. Pam had been planning on taking a long, well earned vacation after coming to dig him out of the cement, but canceled all of her plans when Sookie disappeared. Though she cared little for the girl herself, she felt the bond be ripped from her Maker and knew she could not leave him when he was thus. He never showed how much the lack of the bond had affected him, but he didn't have to. Pam knew. But all of that hardly mattered now. She was back and free. He could feel her strength emanating from the bond, could feel that she had healed from her emotional distress.

He had been forced to be sneaky with his attention to Sookie before, when she belonged to Bill, but that would be unnecessary now. She had renounced Bill and had broken the title of ownership and was now completely fair game. She should never have belonged to the traitorous bastard in the first place, but that was all in the past. She belonged to him now, and he would settle for nothing less than all of her. He was capable of many things, most dark in nature and deed, but he was now able to freely express that which he could not before – generosity and kindness, and he fully intended to lavish both on her. Sookie, to his delight, was wise to his personality and game. So, accordingly rolling with the punches, he changed the rules.

His long fingers began to tap on the headboard of his bed, an unconscious gesture of impatience. Had the sun always taken this long to set? Eric felt his body snap into place and slipped out of the cool Egyptian cotton sheets, dressing hurriedly. He paused on his way out the door, glancing at the nightstand by his bed. Should he bring it with him, or leave it for another time? He decided to leave it. It would hardly work in his favor at the moment. As he left his home, he contemplated whether to drive or fly and decided that time was of the essence. Compton had been forced to return with the Queen to New Orleans, but Eric was hardly going to take the chance that he wouldn't go to her the moment he felt the connection return. It was absolutely imperative that he arrive there first, before Compton had a chance to.

Sookie let out an unwanted sigh of relief. No one was there. Perhaps Bill had decided to let her have her peace for the night. Eric likely hadn't given her another thought since she left – it was all a game to him, and he was likely very busy at Fangtasia. She let her shoulders sag for a moment in relief before heading back inside. She could deal with everyone tomorrow. Right now, all she wanted was a shower – A hot shower in her own home with her own clothes to slip into.

Eric arrived at the Stackhouse home almost immediately after the sun went down, taking only a moment to contact Pam and let her know that he would not be returning to Fangtasia tonight. To his pleasure, Bill Compton was nowhere near the home and hadn't been for some time. Eric inhaled as he walked up the stairs of the porch. Sookie's scent was all over the home, now. She had stood on the porch only a few minutes ago, as a matter of fact. He opened the door and noted with some irritation that she hadn't bothered to lock it. That would have to be rectified. He could hear the shower running in the bathroom of the master bedroom, and felt his fangs twitch. He could interrupt her shower, maybe even catch a glimpse of that which enticed him in his waking and subconscious, but that would hardly go over well.

Instead, he used the time he had to thoroughly inspect the house. He had had a lot of work done to it in Sookie's absence, but hadn't the time to properly inspect everything. He was overall pleased with the renovations – the new appliances and upholstery, woodwork, etc,. Alcide had done a fantastic job on everything, as far as Eric could tell. But it didn't surprise him. Alcide was an excellent carpenter, but moreover, he was deeply infatuated with Sookie – any chance to pay her tribute was taken. Alcide, like Bill, believed Sookie to be dead and had done more to her house, better, than he had any other house he had worked on. Eric acknowledged that it was likely some psychological process that led Alcide to do so in the hopes that it would assuage his sorrow. Though he was grateful for the job being done so well, Eric decided that the werewolf would be kept in the dark of Sookie's return until Alcide had moved on or Sookie herself had succumbed to him.

He heard the shower turn off and paused for a moment before mounting the stairs. Why shouldn't he indulge himself in something that gave him pleasure? He took the stairs one by one, giving himself time to enjoy the suspense, and giving her the same amount of time to put some clothes on – it was all very fair, in his mind. The upstairs was warmer than the downstairs, the steam from her shower having dispensed through out the house already. Even from the hall, Eric could smell her shampoo and lavender scented soap. He pushed the door open so gently and slowly that it made no sound, and was rewarded for it. He had intended to make his presence known before she took off her robe, really, but he hesitated; his eyes spied the pink negligee she had yet to dawn. The robe slid from her shoulders and down her back, his eyes following the movement with rapt attention.

She tossed the robe backwards without looking, lost in the recesses of her mind, and Eric reached out to snatch it from the air. She froze, having been jarred from her reverie by the sound, and slowly turned to look behind her. She gasped and, much to Eric's regret, rushed to cover herself with the only thing she had – that damnable pink negligee.

"What the hell? Excuse me!"

Eric watched her fumble with the negligee for a moment, trying to get the tiny pink monstrosity to cover as much of her as possible. Her back straightened as much as it could, and she suppressed the shiver his eyes caught trying to travel up her spine; so charmingly defiant. He couldn't help the guttural growl that escaped him.

"Mm," His eyes traveled over her form slowly. "Such a strange sensation, when the reality matches what you've pictured in your mind so precisely."

Sookie had gotten her bearings now, and the negligee placed well enough to cover most of her. She looked concerned when she asked "Is this another dream? It's been a year. How much of your blood is left in me?"

Eric felt the corners of his mouth lift upward into a gentle, amused smile. Ah, the dream. It pleased him that she had dreamt of him as he had of her – of course, vampire blood certainly induces increased libido, but dreams…those were caused at the vampire's discretion. Eric had only ever sent her one dream on purpose, yet she had said another dream. She was dreaming of him of her own accord.

"It's not a dream," He chuckled, enjoying her embarrassment. "I assure you."

"Then how are you here? I rescinded your invitation."

Sharp little fairy had caught that, did she? "You don't own the house anymore," He paused for effect, reveling in her attention, and pulled a key out of his pocket, dangling it in front of her. "I do."

"Why would you do that? Why would you buy my house?"

"Because I always knew you were alive," Unlike her faithless former lover. "And if I owned the house… Well then I would own you." He had paid her bride price, after all. He gave her brother twice what he was asking for, in return for leaving everything in the house. He wanted Sookie to come back to her home. She would be less likely to leave again if she still had ties to the place.

Her jaw clenched and Eric noted the slight jerk her body made as it tried to move backward. Sookie was still being charmingly defiant, but her body had recognized him for what he was: a predator.

He tossed the robe on the bed and walked forward slowly. "Sookie," His voice was low and rough, barely above a whisper, and above all authoritative.

"You…" Five steps away from her. "Are…" Three steps away from her. "Mine." One step away from her, the final word came out almost guttural, and his fangs clicked.

She shuddered and gulped, showing her fear only for a moment, before whipping her hand back and slapping him soundly, storming past him to pull on her robe.

"Like hell I am!" She snapped.

Her hand had warmed his cheek, and Eric found himself struggling not to simultaneously laugh and kiss her senseless as she stormed out of the room. Oh yes, Eric smiled. He had truly missed her.

A/N: So...Yay? Nay? As charmingly fluffy as a story only about Sookie having Eric's baby would be, regrettably, my mind will not let me do that. While the story does rotate around Sookie and Eric's relationship + Baby, there are several underlying subplots and one major plotline. This story isn't going to be a fluff boat. Fair warning. :) So, reviews, pretty please? Even though the first chapter is more or less just a rehash of the first episode (with a few subtle differences to lead you into the changes I've made).

On another note, I'm looking for an overall Beta and someone who would be willing to write the lemons - I confess to not being very good at writing them, though they are passable.