Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters.

This is an alternate universe of Season 4.

"Keep the fuck away!"

Eric didn't know who this screaming girl was, but his protective instinct responded instantly to her aggression, and his pride to her absurd waving of that fireplace poker. She didn't actually think she could intimidate him, did she? And he was not about to let a weapon of any kind get within range of his precious Sookie – this strange, fierce, fragile, and beautiful girl who had protected and sheltered him, this girl for whom he had only the most tender and gentle feelings.

"Keep away!" Tara screamed, still waving the poker.

He grabbed the poker and dropped it, taking a protective stance in front of Sookie, his face twisting into a snarl.

"What the hell is he doing here?"

"I live here." He growled. Why did this girl seem so familiar?

"What? You told me he was missing." The girl's body was rocking left to right in a fighter's crouch. Eric readied to spring – if she made the slightest move toward Sookie, he'd open her throat.

"It's not what you think," Sookie pleaded. The situation was deteriorating rapidly and she wasn't sure how, or even if, she could keep it from getting worse. Oh God, please don't let my best friend get eaten by a amnesiac vampire in my brother's gym shorts. This week has been about as bad as I can take.

Tara inched toward the door, shadowed by Eric, still ready to protect Sookie from this hostile, infuriatingly familiar girl.

"I just poured out my heart to you, and you talked about telling the truth an' being honest, an' meanwhile you got somebody who wants to kill me in your basement? You're a fucking hypocrite!" The girl dodged toward the door. Panic and rage rolled off her.

"Tara, wait!" Sookie was almost as scared as Tara – She'd been back for what, a couple of days? And here she was about to lose her best friend for a second –and no doubt the final- time. "Something happened. He's different. He's not going to hurt you!"

"He's a psycho-murdering asshole!"

"No, he's not."

Tara's natural temperament – fury – overtook her panic as she turned on Sookie. "You got a short goddamn memory," she spat. "This is the fucker who sold you out to Russell Edgington. He tricked you into drinking his blood! He locked Lafayette in the dungeon, and tortured him! You hate Eric Northman!"

Sookie said something in a soft voice, and the girl screamed back and ran from the house. But Eric didn't hear it. Russell Edgington. Russell Edgington… A face wavered in his memory, a dim stirring of anger. He'd been ready to trade his life for vengeance… a vampire who'd butchered his family… his father. Suddenly he saw it all like glass. Tricking Sookie into drinking his blood? Oh, he remembered that, it was too delicious. The bullets she'd so heroically sucked from his chest, the sweet satisfaction he'd felt, knowing exactly the dreams that would follow. Locking Lafayette in the dungeon – yes, that too - that weasely, sniveling dope-dealer– and the dungeon, the dungeon below Fangtasia, the club he ran with Pam. Pam… Where was Pam?

It all came back to him.

Those goddamn witches had cast some kind of spell on him. He'd drain them all, and finish them through a paper shredder. They'd be gurgling blood and begging for death before he was done.

But Sookie. With dawning horror, he realized how completely unmanned he'd been in front of this girl he'd lusted after for so long. Lost in the road, like a dog. Coddled in her lap, crying. Drunk. Put to bed like an invalid. Like a fucking child.

It was more than his vanity could bear. He was a monster, goddamn it. A predator. He had never required -nor indeed, allowed himself to ask- the aid of anyone for his personal safety, much less a human. And this human, of all people. It made him sick. It was intolerable.

His stomach rolled as his mind raced. There had to be a way to turn the situation to his advantage, of salvaging his pride, of claiming this girl as his own, and forever - and not as some effeminate, pathetic crybaby, but as the bloodsucking, cunning, and merciless Viking he had been for the last thousand years. His pride demanded it.

She would have to come to him. It was the only way: later, when he possessed her, body and soul, she would have to remember it was she who had broken down. She would have to know he had tricked her, only pretended to be so weak, and still want him desperately despite it.

Or failing that, at the very least wonder for how long he'd had his memory back.

All of which meant he was going to have to play the invalid a little longer. He didn't like it, but it was a small comfort to know that it was a lie.

He looked down, glanced shamefaced at Sookie – oh, it killed him to act so pathetic– and sank down onto the couch, trying to look defeated. She frowned, clearly disturbed that he seemed pained, and sat down beside him.

"Did I really do all those terrible things your friend said I did?" He kept his voice soft, and studied her with fresh fascination, placing her against all his memories again. His gaze traced the fine bone structure of her cheekbones, the gold streaking through her hair. So close. Finally, so close.

"Yes," Her eyes were soft and trusting. Her guard was down – really down, and it made him positively ache. Had she ever allowed herself to be this vulnerable to him before? He didn't think so. Goddamn, but she smelled like heaven on a spring day.

"Then your pain is my fault. Why are you letting me stay with you?"

"Because there's more to you than your worst self. I always knew there was decency in you – even when you were a smug, sarcastic ass – I still knew it."

A smug, sarcastic ass, is it? He was beginning to feel pretty fucking smug, as a matter of fact. He almost let a smirk slip before answering her. He was really warming to this work. He couldn't remember the last time he'd enjoyed himself so much. But then, as flooding and fresh as all the memories of his life were at the moment, he didn't care to try.

"Whether decency is in me is irrelevant. I'm clearly capable of extreme cruelty." He hoped he wasn't overdoing the beaten-puppy look, and fought down contempt for this feigned weakness.

"You were. But I wouldn't be here with you now – I swear it – if I didn't know in my heart you could change… I've seen you change, and I like it… I like you."

Something suddenly twisted inside him. Was it guilt? Affection? It was surely pain of some kind. It couldn't be guilt. Eric Northman did not ever burden himself with guilt. It wasn't a rule. It was a natural law. And love – that was simply absurd. It was only the pain of playing the fool, and it would end soon enough. Time to go in for the kill – bring her to him, against her better judgment or no.

"There's a light in you… it's beautiful. I couldn't bear it if I snuffed it out." He gave her one last long, love-pained look, and shoved away the alarming sensation that he was no longer sure whether he was lying. He stood up and walked out. He hadn't even crossed the porch before he heard her rise from the couch and move toward the door. He kept walking, kept his head down. He would have her. He could almost taste it.

"Eric!" He wheeled, his blood heating at the urgency in her tone. "Please don't go."

How long had he waited to hear that sound in her voice? He crossed back toward the house slowly, relishing his regained memories of her: the kiss in his office, when he thought he was doomed; drinking that liquid light that was her blood with Russell Edgington; every conflicted, charged look she'd ever given him. He almost forgot the humiliation he felt at being rendered helpless and driveling in her care as she raised her arms to embrace him. And then the kiss… the press of those sweet, wet lips, the willingness of her soft body rocking against him, her very need for him – for a moment he was back to remembering nothing at all. Nothing but her, and sweet intoxication.

Lovely as it was, it didn't last. As he gently lifted her off her feet and carried her toward the house, covering her mouth with his, his right hand tangled in her golden hair and his left arm wrapped around her thighs, fingers twisting in the lace of her panties at her hip, he was already plotting. Would he tell her casually after they'd made love? …Maybe after the third or fourth time? Or would he wait another few days, and draw this out? She was too consumed to notice as he finally allowed his lips to curl into an old characteristic smirk of satisfaction.