Summary: Sookie returns from Fairy Land with a dash of reality, and handles her dangerous situation with more awareness. Watch the pretty ripples...AU Season Four. Eventual Eric/Sookie.

Much from the first few episodes is left unchanged since huge changes in personality don't happen overnight, and our Sookie is a stubborn one.

This is my first True Blood fanfic, and I'm looking for a beta with an eye for the characters. SOS?

Sookie stood on her porch, watching the two vampires with tired brown eyes. It had been a long day for her. Almost being drained by Eric and Russel Edgington, saving Eric from being burned into ashes, finding out about Bill's deception, the sheer heartbreaking pain that had pushed her into Fairy land, and yet another horrific realization - her people were a bunch of kidnappers, and they would be coming for her.

Thinking about how much time she'd missed was painful. Looking at Bill made her feel like such an idiot; how could she have fallen for him so deeply? How could she have missed it? It was painful and humiliating.

As weary and pained as she was, Sookie was relieved that Eric was there, too. She didn't trust Eric anymore, she couldn't, not after everything, and she had to take care of herself now because she knew the Fairies would come after her, and the vampires wouldn't be far behind - but if Bill was staying, she needed him.

Sookie knew if it came down to it, Eric would stop Bill from forcing his blood on her, if only because he wanted something from her himself.

Maybe she did trust Eric a little, far more than she should. Either way, she trusted Bill far less than Eric.

And now Bill was ordering Eric to leave.

"Don't you have an obligation to Fangtasia?"

"No, Pam can handle it - " Eric said dismissively, looking up at her from her front yard with highly focused eyes, drinking the sight of her in as hungrily as he had drunk her blood.

"I specifically wanted you - "

"While I appreciate your concern, we're fine, thank you." Eric's icy blue eyes did not flicker from her.

Bill lost his patience. "ERIC, GO!"


The two vampires looked at her, startled by her blurted protest. Recovering quickly, Eric smirked, looking unfairly boyish with his shorter, softer hair. Bill looked older than he had the last time Sookie had seen him. She wondered bitterly if that was another side effect of her blood, or if she was finally seeing him clearly.

"No," she repeated, trying to sound firmer.

"Sookie - " Bill tried, looking dismayed.

"He - " Abruptly realizing she was being rude, Sookie took in a deep breath and looked to Eric with slight pleading. "You can stay. If you aren't busy, I'd like you to stay." Please.

Eric grinned, baring his white human teeth and long, sharp fangs. Within a second, the tall Viking had zipped to her side on the porch. "Apparently, I will be staying."

Sookie glanced down at the floor in relief, thankful she would not be alone with the man who had broken her heart and gotten other people to break her body, before quickly returning her gaze to Bill.

Bill was trying to recover but he looked mostly taken aback and hurt.

A slow but hot anger burned through Sookie. He didn't have the right to feel hurt. He had betrayed her, he had fucked his skanky whore of a Maker, he had been planning to sell her to the highest bidder while preaching how much he loved her, how he would never let anyone hurt her.

"Sookie, we have things to discuss," said Bill, glancing pointedly at Eric, silently urging him to take a hike. Still smirking, Eric ignored it. "In private."

"Ms. Stackhouse doesn't seem to agree." Eric noted, a hidden taunt in his cordial voice.

"I don't," said Sookie, crossing her arms over her chest, more defensive than self-assured. She looked Bill directly in the eye, biting down on a twinge of regret and an ocean of pain. "I'm not yours anymore, Bill."

Bill flinched, eyes darting to her side, to Eric. "Sookie, we should - "

"I don't trust you," Sookie cut him off, almost adverting her eyes at the look of pain that washed over Bill's face. It had been hours since she'd found out, and the part of her that loved him wanted to forgive him, but she made herself harden. "I don't want to look at you, and I don't ever want to be alone with you again."

Bill stared up at her, anguished. "I love you."

"No," Sookie snapped, a harsh bite to her voice. "If you'd loved me, you would have told me - "

"I had no choice!" Bill replied, raising his voice, desperation in his face, and Sookie felt another hard jolt of relief that she'd asked Eric to stay. "My Queen ordered me - "

"To bring me to her!" Sookie raised her own voice, glaring tearfully down at Bill. "How dare you claim to love me, when you were planning on handing me over to that - that bitch?"

Bill looked away, jaw tight. "I would not have allowed her to take you. I would have given my life - "

"How sweet," Eric pitched in, his voice was both disgusted and darkly amused. "Sweet but entirely irrelevant."

Bill's eyes snapped to Eric, and a sudden look of frenzy crossed his face. "You say you cannot trust me, and yet, you are trusting him? Eric Northman, who has - "

Eric stared at Bill starkly, but Sookie spoke first. "As far as I know, Eric has never let anyone to beat me halfway to death just to get his blood in me."

Sookie's quiet statement hit the air like bomb, leaving complete silence in its wake.

In front of her, Bill had a look of agony plastered across his face. Beside her, Eric observed the other vampire's pain with an unreadable look on his face. So far, he seemed to approve of her actions.

Taking in a deep breath, Sookie directed one last sentence to her former lover. "I want you to leave now, Bill."

"I - " Bill swallowed, turning away from her. "I'm sorry, Sookie." Without another word, he zipped off into the woods.

Sookie watched him leave with her heart in her throat and her eyes full of tears. Mindful of Eric's presence, she did not let them fall. She wanted to call after Bill, to forgive him because it was easier than moving on, but she pulled herself together sharply. Her gran hadn't raised a coward.

Opening her eyes, she turned to face Eric - and flinched in surprise. He was standing directly in front of her, staring down at her with intense blue eyes. "Am I to assume you are truly done with Bill?" his voice was too netural.

Sookie raised her chin, staring boldly up into his eyes. "Yes."

"There's something different about you," Eric stated in his low, naturally gritty voice. His eyes flickered down, appraising what laid beneath her blue-with-yellow-dots dress. An arrogant smirk curved his lips, and his eyes darkened suggestively. "I like it."

Against her will, Sookie found herself reliving their one kiss; recalling perfectly how he had swept down on her, and taken what he wanted with a ruthless hunger. A wave of heat burst into being in her lower stomach, simmering hotly, urging her to step closer and let him take it all.

It was a bad idea for so many reasons, and Sookie's feet stayed planted firmly on the floor.

"I'm not in the mood for games tonight, Eric," she said, turning towards the door.

Sookie managed two steps before Eric zipped in front of her, blocking her path with his broad chest. Her nose came an inch shy of colliding with him, and she flinched back in surprise, hissing, "Eric, move!"

"Not yet, Ms. Stackhouse. We have important business to discuss."

"Like what?" Sookie demanded impatiently. Her heart had been stomped on, her sprit had been spat on, and her happy delusions had been shattered. She wanted to crawl into bed and pick up the pieces tomorrow, starting with her house. "I'm none of your concern, Eric."

"I beg to differ," Eric hissed fiercely. His blue eyes blazed with a sudden fury that almost made Sookie recoil and recant. "Despite your wishes, you are too deeply immersed in the supernatural world to bow out quite so easily."

Sookie scoffed angrily at him. "You think I don't know that?" she demanded, tilting her head back and glaring heatedly at him. His low opinion of her intelligence outraged her. "I know what my blood is to your people! I know that it won't be long until some day, some vampire rips me into a dozen pieces because of what I am!"

Eric snarled, a loud, wild, animal sound of fury. "I will not allow it!"

"Neither will I," Sookie snapped. "And that's why I have to stay away."

"They will find you anyway," Eric told her harshly, moving closer to her, almost nose-to-nose with her. Then the rage drained out of him, replaced by something stronger and just as dangerous; lust, longing, and solid intent. "Sookie, I want - "

Like a sign from the angels, his phone took this moment to ring, breaking the thick air of boiling anger between them. The sound hit Sookie like ice water, and she abruptly stepped back from Eric, realizing how deep they were in each other's personal space - a hair's breath away from kissing. Her face flushed.

Letting out a growl of frustration, Eric tore his blazing blue eyes from her heated brown, and yanked his cell out of his jean pocket.

"Pam," he barked into the speaker. "I'm busy."

"You should go," Sookie murmured, wide-eyed.

She pretended not to feel a painful fizzle of heat under her dress when his nostrils flared, catching her scent as she brushed past him and slipped inside her house, closing the door with an equel mixture of relief and cold disappointment.

"Sook?" Jason said, causing Sookie to open her eyes. He was staring at her, still holding their granddaddy's watch in his hands, hovering like he expected her to disappear...again. A twinge of pain hit Sookie hard. "You alright?"

"Yeah, Jason," she said, pulling on her crazy smile. "I'm fine."

Believing her, Jason flashed her a slightly dopey smile. "Good, 'cause I just called Andy Bellefleur..."

After seeing Jason and Andy out, Sookie locked every door and every window in the house, then going straight upstairs to bed. With her body still weakened by blood loss, her heart suffering from a constant aching, and her mind a knot of stress and fear, Sookie was able to drop off instantly. Her mood had not improved by morning but she forced herself to go through the motions, settling downstairs to call Sam.

"Fairies," Sam said, sounding flummoxed. "I believe you," the shifter hurried to reassure her. "But...Fairies?" Sam let out a low whistle. "That's..."

Sookie let out a short laugh. "Crazy?" she suggested.

"No crazier than the story Andy Bellefleur was spreading around last night about my model employee running off to search for her cousin for a whole year without telling any body," her boss sounded wryly amused.

"Hey!" Sookie giggled, relieved for his acceptance. She tried not to wonder about Hadley and Hunter, if they had been caught by the Fairies. "It was Hadley or an alien abduction."

"You know - "

"Some people call Fairies aliens?" Sookie guessed. "Yeah, I know."

Sam sighed, and the mood grew serious. "I've missed you, Sookie. We all thought you were dead."

Sookie's smile faded. Standing up from the couch, she made her way into the kitchen, peering out into her back yard. "I'm sorry, Sam. I promise I won't ever disappear like that again."

"What if they come after you again, Sookie?" Sam asked tiredly.

"Then they'll come but I'm not going anywhere."

"You sound pretty confident about that," noted Sam.

Sookie stared out into her yard, looking at the beaming sunlight and the grass. Because of her so-called family, twelve months of her life had gone down the drain. Her brother and her friends had suffered, thinking her dead in a ditch somewhere, drained of all her blood.

This time it had turned out to be a false alarm, but would she be so lucky next time? Bill had almost torn her throat out after she'd rescued him, and she could recall the agony of Russel Edgington's fangs in her arm, and Eric, who had stroked her hair soothingly as he drank her. All of that, in one damn week.

Sookie grimly accepted that dodging fangs and balls of light were in her future, and that there was nothing she could do about that except survive. She had a power; it was time to use it and save herself instead of waiting around for the normal life she was never meant to have. It had been stupid of her to ever hope for one in the first place: she was telepath!

It was a bitter pill to swallow but swallow, she did.

In that split second, Sookie grew up, and like Eric, she liked the difference in herself. She was her own woman now, not a frightened girl clinging to her first lover, and burying her head in the sand. The hardest part would be sticking to this change.

"Sookie?" Sam questioned, sounding concerned.

"I am," she said strongly. "I am confident."

After a few more exchanges of words, Sam was called away, back to work. Before he hung up, Sam asked her to come in for the lunch shift - offering her job back. After agreeing, Sookie found herself with an hour or two to herself. With her new convictions fresh in her mind, Sookie went out into her back yard.

The sun was warm on her skin, and she tilted her face back, soaking up the rays. The grass tickled her bare feet.

"Okay," Sookie said to herself, opening her eyes and looking around uncertainly. She remembered the one time she'd tried to force her Light to work with Maryann, and how it had failed but she had used it a good few times since then, hopefully she would have more success.

She just had to eject a beaming white light out of her finger tips. "How hard could it be?" Sookie muttered sarcastically to herself.

She closed her eyes, concentrated on light pouring out of her fingertips, and spread her fingers. After a moment, she cracked her eyes open hopefully. Nothing. "Shoot."

Slumping, Sookie expelled a breath of air, and tried to think of ways to trigger the strange power which had saved her bacon more than once. After a few moments of thought, Sookie had an idea and rolled her shoulders back, recalling the few times she had used her light.

Against Marryann, urged on by her fury at the violation of her gran's memory; then, fear and anger as that werewolf lover of Debbie's taunted her, leering while Bill grappled with another vampire; my fear for Eric and hatred for Russell as they burned together in the sun, how his threats had lead to her blasting those handcuffs and saving Eric; finally, how she had discovered the Faries true form.

As she stood in the sunlight, Russell Edgington's voice drifted back to Sookie, filling her with cold fear and hot rage.

"I will not surrender to the true death! I will find a way to come back and kill your precious Viking - "

The rage burning through Sookie doubled in intensity, her mind coming up with a series of sickening images of Russell acting out on that promise, and then, the burning changed. It cooled and burned hotter at the same time. Her blood stopped boiling, but her bones seemed to rattle as an impossible forced raged through her, feeling like the golden rays of sunlight.

It was powerful. Too powerful.

Fear trickled in on Sookie, and with a startled gasp, her eyes flew open.

Her hand was glowing, a blue-white light had engulfed her entire hand, and as the first stab of fear hit her, her Light launched itself from her palm. Sookie sprang to her feet, watching in horror as the light smashed into a tree, turning it into splinters.

"Gosh," she gasped, flinching away from the flying...

Her shock and fear disappeared in a puff of smoke. Flying stakes. It was a weapon. Sookie had always hated weapons on principle, something the Fellowship of the Sun had done nothing to help with, and seeing part of herself creating such a weapon was terrifying and physically draining but good, too.

Not wanting to be a tasty treat or a brood mare, Sookie couldn't afford to be weak now, and this made her feel less helpless. Less Christian, too. Less human. Less like Sookie Stackhouse.

Distantly, dejectedly, Sookie wondered if Eric would like that, too.

Abruptly shaking her head, pretending that thought had never crossed her mind, Sookie directed her attention to a new problem; the broken pieces of wood scattered across her lawn.

As she began to tidy up, letting her mind drift, Sookie found herself muttering childishly, "He's not my anything."

Returning from her shift, Sookie slammed the door closed behind her and closed her eyes, reaching up to rub the back of her neck. Work had been a painful experience. It had been good to see Arlene, Terry and Laffayette again but finding out that Tara had skipped town...

Sookie could understand why. God, the amount of things that had happened to the poor girl since they were children; it made a whole lot of sense. She missed Tara already but if staying away from Bon Temps made her happy, then Sookie would be glad. Tara deserved happiness after everything.

As strong as her shields were, it had been difficult for Sookie to smile her way through the lunch shift. People had looked down on her before for spacing out or answering their thoughts, but today had been even worse. It wasn't easy to hold up her shields against the questions everyone mentally threw at her. The noise and effort had given Sookie one of the worst headaches of her life.

But she had gotten somewhere with her house situation, and heard some damn unsettling things in Portia Bellefleur's head about Bill in the progress. Sookie wasn't jealous of the other woman. She was too betrayed by Bill's actions to feel anything but anger, shame and hurt towards him.

If Portia liked condesencing, controlling men with no issues with delivering someone he 'loved' to a vampire queen, then she had met the perfect man for her.

Shaking herself from her angry thoughts, Sookie went into the kitchen. As she passed the fridge, she made a mental note to pick up a couple of things at the store. There were a few things in the fridge but not really enough. After quickly tossing back some asprin, Sookie went upstairs to take a long hot shower.

It relaxed her for what seemed to be the first time in days. Her head had stopped throbbing in union with her heartbeat by the time Sookie exited the bathroom in her light green bathrobe, drying her hair with a towel. Noticing something out of place, she tossed her towel onto the bed, and moved the bed back into its proper place.

Sweeping her eyes over the room, Sookie was pleased to notice that nothing else was out of place. As much as it rankled to know that some strangers owned her home, they had taken pretty good care of the place. It was nice to look around her home, and not be reminded of Maryann, then of the Dallas trip, what Godric had done and Eric's anguished reaction.

She had gone to him afterwards, of course, but nothing had happened. Bill had still been angry, unable to understand her actions.

Sookie selected a short pink dress from a box of her things and removed her robe, shivering slightly at a gust of cool air, flinging the robe over her shoulder. If not hearing the sound of a robe hitting the floor, the faint impression of another's intense lust and strong possessiveness would have clued Sookie in that something was wrong.

On instinct, she turned.

Eric Northman stood behind her, dressed in black, shockingly tall in her bedroom and, as always, extremely handsome. His large hands held her green robe, all but caressing it as he stood, and stared at her naked body. His blue eyes were dark and wildly hungry with lust. He liked what he saw very much.

Sookie did not share his reaction. With a gasp of shock, she grabbed her tiny pink dress and tried to cover herself with it, trying to maneuver the neckline down to cover her most intimate area without giving him more of a show.

"What the hell, Eric?" she demanded, more irritated than surprised.

Eric let out a rumbling, throaty growl. "Such a strange sensation when the reality matches what you pictured in your mind so percisely," he muttered, eyes fixed down south on the very area she was trying to hide.

Torn between feeling strangely flattered and pissed off, Sookie didn't notice right away.

"Hey!" the blonde telepath snapped indignantly when she realized his glacial blue eyes were resting on her...well, certainly not on her eyes! "My eyes are up here."

"Hmm." Eric purred, moving his gaze up her stomach, lingering on her breasts, dragging slowly up her neck until he met those eyes. "So they are."

The heat in his icy eyes, the blatant desire to push her into the nearest hard surface and have his way with her, made Sookie feel flush, heat flooding every inch of her body. She clamped her thighs together, and prayed that his sense of smell wasn't that well developed - abruptly, his head angled backwards, nostrils flaring, a look of rapt pleasure crossing his face, like she was the best thing he had ever smelled.

It was unmistakably sexual, and Sookie found her body reacting to it - she had eyes, damnit! It was not her fault!

"Snap out of it!" Sookie demanded, hating herself for how that expression made her feel.

Breathing in her scent, an arrogant smirk stretched across his face. "You want me."

"I want answers," she said instead. "I rescinded your invitation. So, unless that was all one big are you in here?"

"You don't own the house anymore," Eric said almost absently, lifting a pair of (pink, she almost laughed) keys from his belt loop. "I do."

Sookie closed her eyes, grimaced. Of course, her house couldn't have just been brought by a real estate owner. He wanted something. She had known that from day one. And she wasn't going to give it to him, no matter how much she changed. No matter how much he trapped her.

"Yes," Eric gloated, the floorboards creaking under his huge form. Sookie felt a brief hope that the floor would collapse that died with his next step. Closer and closer, until he was right in front of her, and Sookie just had to open her eyes. "I own the house; I own you." He took one final step closer, and no amount of determination could stop Sookie's grudging lust and anxiety from ratching up at the look on his face. "Sookie, you. Are. Mine."

With a snarl, Eric's fangs dropped down.

Sookie's reaction tore out of her mouth thoughtlessly. "Fuck you."