Secret Santa Fic Exchange

Title: Grandma Got Ran Over By a Vampire?

Written for Team Jane. This is mostly sweet, but not exactly what I originally had planned. I hope you enjoyed it all the same! You deserve something much more brilliant than what's written below.

EtheHunter beta'd.

Summary: Sookie's convinced she has her own personal guardian angel that follows her throughout her childhood. It's not until she's a young woman that she figures out he's no angel.

Sookie's POV

The first time I saw him, I was no more than six years old. And though it was the first time I remember encountering him, his face was so familiar that I knew I must have seen him before.

It was right after my parents had died. Gran had sat with me throughout the service, swiping at tears that rolled down her cheeks. Grandpa's hands were resting calmly on her shoulders as he stood behind us. Two tiny hands were fitted into Gran's, one on each side. Jason, my older brother, understood a lot more than I did.

"But why do they have to go in the dirt?" I'd asked her, frowning as the big boxes were lowered into the ground.

Gran had squeezed my hand and smiled. She'd tried to put on a brave face, but I could still see the tears glistening in her eyes. I remember crying, too, because I didn't know what was happening, but also because I hated seeing my Grandma sad.

"That's just so we have a place to go visit them, sweetheart." She smiled again, glancing between Jason and I. Grandpa patted her shoulders. I think even then I knew she drew a lot of her strength from him.

"They're not in there anymore," she continued to explain and pointed to the sky. "Your Mom and Dad? They're up there, always looking down on you, watching out for you." She ruffled Jason's hair, smiling between us both. I giggled. "Making sure you're not getting into any trouble."

I frowned again and looked at the dirt holes. "But when can I see them again?"

Gran's face softened and I heard Grandpa sniff behind me. "Not for a long time, baby girl." That made me so sad, and I remember wanting to argue. But she kept talking, so I listened. "But when you wanna talk to them, when you need to tell them something, you can always come here and they'll hear you."

So that's what I'd done.

Later that evening, Gran's house was full of people. People from the town and from the church, some strangers and some faces I'd seen often, were in and out of Gran's, always bringing food and saying how sorry they were.

Jason and his friends were all in his room playing some game or another, but I didn't have many friends. They didn't like it so much when I answered questions they'd never asked aloud.

So, I snuck out of the house by myself, walked through the trees and along the path that led to the place where they'd put Mom and Dad. I talked and talked and talked, just like Gran had said I could. It made me feel lots better.

I heard someone come up behind me. Assuming it was just Gran or Grandpa, even though I couldn't hear what they were thinking like usual, I figured I'd get in a lot less trouble for sneaking off if I didn't run away. I peeked over my shoulder, guilty and nervous, expecting to be fussed at.

But it wasn't Gran or Grandpa. Or anyone else I knew for that matter. I scrambled back a little and fell on my bottom, quickly standing to dust off my dress, hoping it wasn't ruined. Gran would be so mad at me if it was.

"Did I scare you, little one?" A cool, deep voice asked.

I stopped messing with my dress to look up at the man. "No. I slipped." The man smiled and it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. "Are you an angel?" I blurted, completely in awe.

He chuckled and shook his head. "Not hardly." Then he grinned and winked at me. "Are you?"

I shook my head, giggling and grinning hugely even though my front tooth was missing. "You look like an angel." I stepped forward and touched his hand, so much bigger than mine, before looking back up to meet his sparkling eyes. "You're so pretty. Like Christmas lights."

He made a funny face but didn't move his hand from mine. "I'm not an angel," was all he said.

I stared at where my fingers were on his hand, before a thought struck me like lightening. "Are you here for my Mom and Dad? Can you take me to see them?"

"No, little one," he said, dropping my hand as he reached to brush the hair from my face. "I'm not here for that."

"What are you here for then?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest. I felt sad all over again. What good was an angel if he couldn't take me to see my parents? Why couldn't he just let them come here? "I miss them. I want them back."

"You'll lose a lot of people, sweet girl, and you won't be able to get them back." I was so angered by that, my little fists clenched and my chin jutted out, even as tears fell down my cheeks. The idea horrified me. Why would an angel say something like that to a little girl? "But you will never be alone. I am here."

He disappeared then and I stomped my feet all the way back to Gran's. I thought he must not have been a very nice angel at all. And even though I was pretty sure it was a sin, I wished I could have my parents back instead of him.

There were too many times to count that I saw him as I grew older, but only a few stuck out in my memory.

Once, when I was about eight and I'd had the whim to take ballet. Gran, of course, had encouraged me, saying that I would make a beautiful ballerina. I was a wonderful dancer and took to it like a shark to water.

The problem was, most of the other girls in my class thought I was weird. They didn't understand me, Gran had said, and she made it seem okay that I was different. None of the other kids could hear what I did, but Gran just said that made me special.

I danced and twirled in our first live performance, smiling like only the young can. I felt so free and happy and alive when I was dancing. It was the most fantastic night of my life.

Until Samantha Green, who was two years older than me, stuck her leg out, tripping me and making me fall flat on my face.

I stood up red-faced with tears in my eyes, balled my little hands into fists and laid into her like she wasn't a whole foot taller than me. I remember feeling a little bad about it as I punched her over and over again, and even worse when the teacher had to pull me off her and I caught sight of Gran's face.

She looked so sad and disappointed in me, and I felt awful for losing control of my temper like that. But Bully Samantha had been so mean to me since I started classes, and I felt like I couldn't take it anymore. I just exploded.

I sniffled and tried to hide my face, ashamed of myself. But not before I'd caught a glimpse of the tall, blond man standing at the back of the gymnasium. I stopped breathing and stared, wondering if he was just a dream.

He shook his head and waggled a finger at me, but his lips were turned up in a smile. Maybe it was wrong, but I felt a little relief that my guardian angel at least approved somewhat of my irrational behavior.

Beating up on that girl was wrong, but it had made me feel a little better, as wrong as that may have been.

I turned to watch the teacher help Samantha off the stage. When the music continued and the show went on, I danced like I'd never danced before, keeping my eyes on the glowing man in the back.

Of course Gran and Grandpa had grounded me, telling me I couldn't take anymore dance lessons until I learned to act like a lady. I was heartbroken, but I knew what I'd done was wrong, even if it had made me feel good.

Kids still talked about me behind my back, thinking I couldn't hear their whispered words. But no one ever picked on me again. Although I did go from just "The Weird Girl" to "Crazy Sookie Stackhouse" after that.

At least they all knew my name, I figured. Didn't matter what they said aloud, any how, I always heard what they were thinking.

When I was eleven and Steve Shaw asked me to the Spring Dance, only to stare at Tammy Huffington all night long, my angel was waiting for me outside.

I'd told Pretty Boy Steve he should've asked her to the dance, punched him in the groin, and stomped out to the office to call Grandpa to come get me. When I walked out to wait by the picnic tables, my guardian stepped out of the shadows.

He never stopped denying he wasn't an angel, but I knew he was something. I'd learned enough listening in to people's thoughts to know there were things out there that weren't completely normal. Matter of fact, I was pretty sure the man that owned the bar down the street, Sam something or other, was some kind of dog. Or he just really liked dogs, because he sure thought about them an awful lot.

Either way, I knew he wasn't normal. I'd met several other people that seemed... different, even if I wasn't sure exactly what made them different.

"What are you doing here?" I'd huffed and shrugged past him.

He walked up silently behind me and sat down with his back to mine. Still as cold as I remembered, but the slight contact was comforting to me. I let my head hang, resting it in my palms. "I'm always here."

"Yeah, yeah, my guardian angel."

"I told you I'm no angel," he answered with a chuckle.

The sound rumbled in my back and I scooted away a bit, turning to look over my shoulder at him. "Well, you're certainly not my Fairy Godmother."

He laughed and I couldn't help but return his smile. It was brilliant and vibrant, and I blushed as I realized I was staring at him. "No, I'm not, but you're getting warmer."

I frowned, definitely not understanding what that meant. He stood and I called out, finally having the nerve to ask what I'd wanted to know for years. "Hey, Mister?" His long blond hair swished in the wind as he turned back to face me. "What's your name, anyhow?"

His mouth turned up sightly at the edges. "Northman. Just call me Northman."

In the blink of an eye, he was gone, and my Grandpa pulled into the parking lot a second later.

For months I tried to figure out if that was his real name. If it was North Man or Northman? I tried to figure out why he would lie to me if it wasn't his name, or why he wouldn't give me all of it if it was his name. Then I worried that I was thinking about him too much and fretted over that.

I spent a lot of time thinking about my angel, somehow knowing I should never, ever mention him to anyone. He was, and would always be, my little secret.

One year on Christmas Eve, we sat out in the wood, a small fire burning next to us, and exchanged our gifts just as we'd done for as long as I could remember.

And just like he did every year before, Northman gave me a wooden figurine that looked to be hand-carved with a single red ribbon tied around its neck.

Only that year I couldn't hold my tongue. "What are these anyway? I must have a dozen of them by now, and I still don't know what it is."

He chuckled as he unwrapped his gift, slipping the navy and grey toboggan on his head. Too small, dang it. At first I'd hand-made his gifts because I didn't have the money to buy them, but it became a tradition of sorts. "Thirteen now," he corrected. He took the tiny figure from my hand and fingered it gently, something akin to awe making his eyes shine. "This, my sweet girl, is Loki. Trickster, giant, and some call him the God of Mischief."

I snickered and took the little guy away from him. "Why would you give me this? I'm not mischievous at all."

"Oh yeah?" He winked. "Do your Grandparents know where you are right now?"

No, they definitely did not. In fact, they thought I was already in bed asleep. "I'm hardly up to any mischief," I defended.

"You wanna be?" he asked, his eyes sparkling deviously. "The Shaw boy doesn't live too far away. We could go... spoon his yard."

I cackled loudly, covering my mouth when a few birds scattered in fright. "Fork. Fork his yard. Not spoon it." He just shrugged off my correction. "No, I don't want to do that." I paused, curious. "What about the others? Do you make them all? Who are they? What are they?"

He smiled at my rapid fire questions, looking both indulgent and nostalgic as he answered. "I make them, yes. It is a tradition of my families. Most are Gods and Goddesses, some are other. Like your Loki there."

"Will you tell me? Will you tell me about them?"

"I will tell you their names," he rustled my hair and grinned down at me. I sighed, wondering if he'd ever look at me the way a man looked at a woman, and not like I was a child. "But you're smart enough to figure everything else out on your own."

After he filled me in on each of their names, I spent hours upon hours studying Norse Mythology in the library. It told me so much about him, my mysterious guardian angel, but only left me wanting for more. Who was he? Where was he from? How old was he?

I was half in love with him as it was by the time I was fourteen. When he let me cry on his shoulder that summer after my Grandpa died, that pretty much sealed it for me. Maybe it was just a childhood crush, but I didn't think so.

"She's not going to know what to do without him," I'd said. I missed my Grandpa, yes, but I was more worried for Gran than anything else. "He was everything to her. They were everything to each other."

He'd soothed my hair down my back and held me tight. It was just what I needed. "They had a rare and wonderful love, sweet girl, the kind few are lucky enough to find. But your Gran? She'll be fine. She's a stubborn one and won't let this get her down."

"Yeah?" I felt him nod behind me and took my solace in his confidence. He was right, Gran would be fine. "How old are you anyway?" I asked, my curiosity having got the better of me.

"Old," he said simply. I'm pretty sure I could hear a smile in his answer.

"You never change. You always look the same." I toyed with his hands, tracing the line of his long fingers. Strong and cool to the touch, the slight glow beneath his skin made my hands look dull in contrast.

He stiffened ever so slightly. "I know."

"Are you too old to be my boyfriend?" I knew my face brightened when I blushed and was thankful he couldn't see it.

He chuckled and kissed the top of my head. "Oh, yes."

I was hurt by his complete dismissal, of course, and jumped away from him. I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at him. "Well, am I at least old enough to know your real name?"

He shook his head and stood. I knew in my bones he was about to leave. The moon caught his blue eyes and they sparkled brilliantly. As mad as I was at him, I still thought he was beautiful, which only made me angrier. "Soon."

When I was fifteen years and three-quarters, and had just experienced my first break-up, he told me there wasn't a man in the world that deserved my tears.

He said, "Some day you'll find someone you want to give your whole heart to, and even he won't be worthy of it."

And though his kind words had made me feel better, I couldn't help but thinking I'd already found that person. I just couldn't expect him to ever return those feelings.

"Do you have a family?" I'd asked, thinking of how lonely he looked sometimes when he thought I wasn't watching. Gran had always said that everyone needed a family, even if it was made up of people who weren't any kin to you. "Good friends are as much family as a brother or sister," she'd said.

He shook his head slowly. "Not for a long time."

"But you did at one time?" I wondered how long ago it was, and if he ever missed them. I thought he must've from the way his eyes suddenly darted away from me.

"Yes."

"I'm sorry," I said.

"Don't be. I know I'm not." His eyes glowed when he smiled at me. The butterflies in my stomach went wild. "Now, I have you."

He disappeared that night, melting into the darkness too fast for my eyes to follow.

One particularly hot summer night, after I'd just got my drivers license, I got a call from him. "Your Grandmother was in an accident."

I'd sped, shaking and crying and worrying the whole way. They were standing on the side of the road, just where he'd said, right before the big bridge where my parents had died too. It was a complete nightmare.

The front of Gran's car was smashed in completely, though I didn't see what it was she'd hit. I jumped out of the car, not bothering to turn it off, and ran over to check her. Other than a few scrapes on her hands from the broken windshield, she hadn't been hurt at all.

"What happened?" I touched every bit of her skin I could get to, fussing through Gran's hair to check for any bump that might be hiding. "What did you hit? Are you sure you don't need to go to the hospital?" I didn't even try to hide my worry.

My blond angel stood silently to the side with his arms crossed over his chest. I noticed absently there were cuts on his hands and face as well. Had he been in the car with Gran? How had he gotten hurt? I didn't even know he could be hurt.

"No, no, sweetheart, I'm just fine. If it weren't for this young man running into me I wouldn't be here to say that right now. Would've drove right off that bridge, yes sir." Gran looked at the tall figure, and though she hid it well, I could see the lingering fear in her eyes. "Thank you so much. What's your name, darlin', so I can thank you properly?"

He stared at her for a long moment before her thoughts went all fuzzy and he looked at me. "Take your Grandmother home, Sookie, it's been a long night."

"Long night," she repeated, and my stare flickered back and forth between the two of them. What was he up to? What had he done?

Looking back at my Gran, he said, "I was never here," and disappeared into the night as usual.

Even though I was madder than I'd ever been in my entire life, so angry I could spit bullets, I'd done as he said and took Gran home. She didn't remember a thing. I helped get her settled into bed before I climbed up to my room and pushed open the window.

"Are you going to stand out there all night, or are you going to come in here and tell me what the heck just happened?"

He appeared out of nowhere, hovering at my window like there wasn't eight feet of air between his shoes and the ground. I gaped for a minute, looking at his feet and the flower bed below him, back and forth. Whatever, he kept saying he wasn't an angel, but it sure looked like he was flying to me.

"Well, come in," I said as I stepped back.

"You knew I was here?" He observed, but I just shrugged, watching as he squeezed himself into my window. He stood there smiling, as gorgeous as ever. One day, I swore to myself, I'd not be affected by his beauty. "Your Gran is well?"

Despite my anger, I couldn't help but feel weird about having him in my room. It was so surreal. Like a dream come true. "She's fine. Thanks to you, I guess. What happened?"

"She fell asleep. I woke her up." I ignored that he was walking around my room and nosing through my stuff. Or I tried to at least. "It's not her time."

I ignored the last part, wondering if he knew when everyone's "time" was. "By running her over?" I whisper-screeched. He gave a slight nod. "With what? I didn't see another car." He shrugged and turned back to face me. It was then I remembered the cuts I'd seen on him earlier. "With yourself? Are you crazy?"

"Some would say that I am," he responded with a grin.

I shook my head to clear the fuzz and stomped to the bathroom and wet a washcloth. "You're bleeding. Come here."

He touched a particularly nasty looking cut on his forehead. "I'm fine."

"Let me see," I nagged, walking over to push him down on my vanity stool. He sat, looking amused, but allowed me to fuss over him. "You were... I saw it, but now..." I wiped away at the blood, only to reveal smooth skin.

He looked up at me and met my stare. I tried not to get lost in it. "I said I was fine."

"But you were hurt?" He just shrugged in response. "I didn't know you could be hurt."

"I can."

"Can you be killed?" I asked, horrified that the answer would be yes. I'd always just knew he was invincible and eternal. He'd never die, never grow old, he'd just always be. And when I died, he'd be someone else's guardian angel. As much as that hurt, it wasn't nearly as bad as thinking he could die.

"Yes, I can be killed." He smiled full on then, and I stepped back, suddenly realizing how close I was. "But it would be very difficult, and I would take whomever tried to the grave with me."

"I thought you'd be here forever."

There was a moment where our gazes locked, and all traces of humor fled his face. I fought not to fidget, but there was something... something in his eyes I couldn't quite put my finger on, and it shook me to my core.

"For you, I will," he nearly whispered.

He crossed the room to stand in front of me. My feet were glued to the floor. I couldn't have moved even if I'd wanted to. He touched my face and leaned down. I stopped breathing. This couldn't be real, I thought, there was no way my angel was about to kiss me. I just dared to hope, though, and closed my eyes in anticipation.

"You can call me Eric now," he said softly. Then, ever so gently, his lips touched my cheek.

I tried not to sigh in disappointment, but I did. "Eric," I breathed, knowing without opening my eyes again that he was gone.

The year I turned eighteen, I finally got the nerve to ask him what I'd wanted to ask him since I was old enough to want such things. I remember it being especially cold that year, and there had just been a huge ice storm hit town.

Gran was asleep in her bed already, so I slid my window open and peered outside. I couldn't see him, but I knew he was there. "It's freezing out there. You can come in here, you know."

He slid into my window a second later, but by then I'd grown used to the way he moved. So fast and fluid and graceful, somehow still seeming like a predator. Eric gave me a bemused grin, slightly crooked and totally adorable. "How do you always know when I'm here?"

I snorted and walked over to my vanity and began brushing my hair. "You're always here."

"That's true," he allowed.

"Besides," I smiled over my shoulder at him and tapped my head, "I can hear you."

His face grew serious and I stiffened. "I thought you couldn't read my mind?" Eric looked equal parts horrified and embarrassed by the thought. I couldn't help but think he looked particularly gorgeous in that moment. Maybe it was just the unusual vibrancy in his skin that night.

"I can't hear your thoughts," I clarified, "but I can hear where they should be. If that makes sense." He looked even more confused, so I tried to explain it better. "It's like I feel the buzz, the signal your brain puts off, but not the specific sounds or thoughts."

That really wasn't much better, but Eric's shoulders seemed to sag with relief. What was in his thoughts that he didn't want me to hear? What would he want to hide from me? I thought we shared almost everything.

"You should be wary of people who get too curious about your gift."

"Curse is more like it," I mumbled and yanked the brush through my hair.

Eric's hands on mine stilled my movements. He caught my eyes in the mirror as he gently took the brush from me and began long, smooth strokes through my hair.

It wasn't the first time he'd brushed my hair, but I was getting older, and it seemed to be becoming more significant to me each time he did it. Only I always felt a pang of disappointment, knowing it meant something entirely different to me than it did him.

"Your telepathy is a gift. A gift to be cherished and used for good." He frowned as he continued to brush, and I tried desperately to relax. Useless, it was like every nerve in my body came alive when he was so close. "Some would use you for your gift, hurt you even, for their own personal gain. You mustn't allow this to happen."

Though there was a flicker of fear in my gut over his warning, I chuckled in response. "That's what I have you for," I winked, surprised there was no accompanying blush. "You're my guardian angel, right?"

He shook his head and laughed. "How many times do I have to tell you – "

"I know, I know, you're no angel," I finished and waved a dismissive hand. "Are you ever going to tell me what you are?"

"Yes. Very soon." He looked almost frightened, so I decided to change the subject.

Only my nerves got the better of me, and I was nowhere near as smooth as what I'd been when I planned it in my head. "Will you teach me how to kiss?" I blurted.

My voice was so loud I startled the brush out of his hand. It tangled in my hair for a second before it fell to the floor with a soft thump. Then he just stared at me, not blinking, through the mirror.

I grew anxious and fidgety in the silence before finally standing and breaking his stare. I couldn't believe I'd been so foolish. I completely horrified him by the idea, stunned him into silence.

"It's just there's this guy – his name is Hoyt – and he's been thinking about asking me out." I paced across the room, not meeting his piercing eyes and rambled on. "He's a really nice guy, like in a genuine way, you know, and I was thinking I'd say yes if he finally did ask me."

I chanced a peek over my shoulder and through my hair at him, but he was still standing as stoically as before. "I mean, I've tried with other guys before, but my telepathy makes it hard. Anyways, I've never... well, you know, I've never even kissed a guy, and I was thinking... I just..."

I wanted him to be my first kiss. I wanted Eric's lips to be the first mine had ever tasted in that way. I wanted it to be special, and with Eric I knew it would be magical. Even though I thought it, I'd never say it. I might have been seriously considering saying yes to dating Hoyt, however, I knew my heart wouldn't be in it. It belonged to someone else. Something else.

"It's silly. Forget I said anything." I walked over to my bed and pulled the covers back, then went to brush my teeth. When I came back into the room, Eric had moved and was staring at me. I couldn't decipher the expression on his face for the life of me. "I'm going to bed now."

I sat down and pulled the blankets over my feet, waiting for him to leave so I could release the tears that wanted so badly to fall. My whole life. My whole life I'd loved him, and it was so stupid. So stupid. I felt wretched inside and out and wanted nothing more than to be alone in my misery.

Then something shifted, a slight electrical pulse charged the air, and as I watched him walk over to me, my heart stuttered into a totally different rhythm. He sat down on the edge of my bed, too close for it not to mean something.

It was so close, in fact, that it felt like each tiny hair on my body stood on its end and reached out to him.

"My sweet Sookie," he whispered and reached up to caress my cheek.

This is it, I thought, this has to be it.

My eyes shuttered closed just as he leaned forward. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. All I could do was feel. Everything. The air from the vent in the corner, my slightly worn flannel sheets as they rustled beneath me, my skin prickled in awareness and I could feel it all.

And then it happened. Soft, cool and sweet, like moist cherries but only more decadent, his lips touched mine. I sat frozen as Eric's lips ghosted briefly over mine. It was... perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. And I never wanted it to end.

But it did end, and my skin felt feverish when he pulled back and slid wordlessly off my bed. "Sweet dreams, my angel," he said, the soft click of my window closing followed a moment later.

My second kiss didn't come close. Hoyt and I dated for a few months after that, but there was just something missing. There was no... spark, no lightening in a bottle, no crazy butterflies or fluttering pulses with Hoyt and I.

Sure, he was about as sweet as they come, and he almost never had an inappropriate thought about me, but I knew my heart belonged to someone else. Probably always would, even if the feelings weren't reciprocated.

The second time Eric kissed me, though, I think it was as much of a shock to him as it was to me.

The day after I turned twenty-one, I started working for Sam at Merlotte's. I'd only been working there for a few months when a man, whose mind was as blissfully silent as Eric's, came in and sat in my section. Aside from the slight glow to his skin and the lack of thoughts to read, I saw no other similarities.

His dark hair and darker eyes made him look creepy, but other than giving him my name and taking his order, I avoided speaking to him as much as possible.

He ordered a glass of water and the fish basket, but he didn't eat a bite or even drink a sip. There was something that unsettled me about him, and I tried to keep my distance. He sat there for hours, and I couldn't help but notice that his eyes followed my every move.

I was grateful when he finally walked out without an incident, but wary as I left an hour later when my shift ended. I nearly cried in relief when I saw Eric standing in the shadows just beyond my car.

As soon as he saw me, he sped over and placed his hands on my face. "You're okay?"

As distracted as I still was by his touch, his demeanor was frightening. I'd never seen him so shaken up, and was that blood?

"I'm fine. Are you hurt? What happened to you? What's going on?" Eric ushered me into the car, leaving me gaping in silence when he scooted in beside me. He never rode in the car, and he most certainly never drove one. "You're scaring me. Do you even know how to drive?"

"How was work?" he asked, but his heart wasn't in it. I could tell he was still distracted by something, or someone considering his eyes kept darting left and right.

"Work was fine. What's going on, Eric?" I crossed my arms and turned to face him as much as my seat belt would allow. Eric was not a very good driver, and he wasn't very good at following speed limits either.

"Nothing for you to worry about," he answered, but I knew he was lying.

We pulled into my driveway, stirring up dust and probably ruining my brand new brake pads. Eric wasn't patient enough to let me walk either, which only added to my fear. I was bordering on a complete freak out.

He scooped me into his arms, skipped the front door, and flew straight up and through my bedroom window, only setting me down once he'd closed and locked it behind us.

"Eric, I swear on all that's holy, if you don't tell me what the heck is going on, I'm going to find a way to strangle the life – "

His kiss kept my lips from moving anymore, stealing my breath in the same instant. There was no holding back that time, nothing gentle at all in the way his mouth pressed against mine.

Eric's large palms covered my cheeks and tilted my head. I gripped his biceps to keep from falling over when I felt is tongue smooth over my bottom lip. His taste was honey and oak, delicious, and I went in for more, stumbling with the force of it when he broke away.

His eyes were wide and dilated, and I'd never in my life witnessed him as breathless as I. His chest heaved with each inhale, and for a moment I was pretty sure he was as eager to do it again as I was.

But then he shook his head, his long hair falling into his eyes, and took another step back. "Stay here, my angel. Stay here until I return."

"No! Eric – "

"Promise me," he half growled, his eyes pleading. All I could do was nod.

Needless to say, I never got the answers I'd sought that night. Never even got an explanation for his strange behavior. But I was fairly certain it'd had something to do with the dark-haired stranger, even though I never saw or heard from him again.

I had a gut feeling I didn't want to know what had happened to him, and I think that's what kept me from asking Eric for any further details from that night.

One subject I had wanted to talk about was that kiss. I just never could figure out a way to broach it without fear I'd scare Eric off. That kiss had been... something else, really. There'd been too much passion, too much feeling in that kiss for it to be purely platonic.

Eric had definitely felt something, I just didn't know how to go about getting him to admit to it. I pondered and fretted and worried over it for so long, I was sure I'd lost the opportunity. So I never said anything else to him about it.

Years passed by, and with each one, Eric seemed to be growing more and more distant. He was still there, always there, but I got the feeling he was holding more and more of himself back.

The kiss, I thought, the kiss hadn't meant anything to him and he knew it'd meant something to me. I'd convinced myself he was giving me the chance to get over him, a subtle message that what I wanted from him could never be.

I tried, and tried and tried, to do just that, but I still loved him no matter what.

Even when yet another Eric mystery had been revealed, that didn't change. And if finding out my guardian angel, the man who'd been a constant confidant in my life, was really a vampire couldn't shake that, I was certain nothing ever would.

"So...vampire, huh?" I sat huddled by the fire, Eric's gift hidden behind me as I stared at the stars and peeked at him from the corner of my eye. I saw him shrug. "And your governing... er... people? They decided that revealing your existence to the entire world on Christmas Eve was smart?"

Eric chuckled and tossed a bit of grass at me playfully. I flicked it off my pants and faced him. "Something like that. Humans are generally in a better mood during the holidays," he offered.

"I suppose," I allowed. "But some of us are crazier. Robbing toys-for-tots trucks, beating people up for the newest Elmo toy, breaking into homes and stealing gifts. Just going shopping could be dangerous."

"Nothing's happened."

"Yet!"

"Yet," he agreed, smiling.

I frowned and scooted closer, pretending I needed to warm my hands in the fire. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Would it have made a difference?"

"No," I admitted after a brief pause, knowing it was true in my heart of hearts. "Have you ever killed anyone?"

"Yes."

"Many?"

He looked at the sky, then back at me. "Many. And I will kill many more."

I still couldn't find the will to hate him, or even be disgusted by him. "Why? If they've created this synthetic blood that can sustain you, why do you need to kill people?"

"To protect. To survive." Eric moved a little closer and grabbed my hands, warming them between his own. I hid my smile behind my hair. I didn't care that his hands were cold. "I don't kill to feed without good reason."

"Oh," I whispered and looked at the flecks of fire as they floated toward the sky. Like I said before, nothing he did would change how I felt. I'd probably love him even if he killed every time he fed. "I can't believe I never figured it out."

He snorted a little, still holding onto my hands. I tried to stay as still as possible, hoping that if I didn't move he'd hold them all night. "Yeah? You imagined your world was filled with monsters and no one ever knew it."

I shoved at him with my shoulder. "Shut up. Besides, my boss, Sam, he's something else too. He changes into a dog, and I'm pretty sure I met a real life Werewolf once. You forget sometimes I can read minds. Maybe I can't read yours, but I can read everyone else's."

"Never?" he looked skeptical.

I shook my head. "Oh, well, there was that one guy that came into the bar a couple years ago. But I'm pretty sure you killed him." Eric just looked away, clearing his throat awkwardly. "You did, didn't you? He was a vampire too?"

"Yes, and I killed the one who sent him, too." He turned to face me again, and I could easily read the seriousness in his eyes. "Never trust a vampire, Sookie. They all want something from you."

I blamed the wine for loosening my tongue. "Yeah? What is it you want from me, Eric?" He stared at me for a long silent moment, his eyes speaking much more than I knew how to decipher. I couldn't stand the tension. "So, do you have fangs?"

He looked relieved by the diversion. "I do." He waggled his eyebrows, and I rolled my eyes, thankful he wasn't running away because I'd gotten too personal. "Want to see them?"

"Heck yeah." I spun and bounced in place, taking a sip of my wine before setting it to the side. "Show me what you've got." Eric grinned, his eyes twinkling and not just because of the clear sky. I gasped when they slid downward, protruding far past the others. "They're so big."

"Aww, shucks, ma'am. You say that to every man you meet?"

I snickered. "You're so stupid." I had the sudden urge to touch them and reached out to do just that. "Can I?"

Again, I blamed the wine for my forwardness, but I didn't wait for his permission. In fact, Eric looked somewhat terrified. Stiff as a board, he didn't even breathe when I pressed two fingers to his teeth, sliding them down to brush gently against the sharp tips.

"Sookie," he groaned, and I jerked my hand back, afraid I'd hurt him.

"Sorry," I whispered and scooted back a bit. Something else nagged at me then, and though I was more than certain the answer would be no, I still had to ask it. "Have you ever... I mean, did you ever bite me?"

Eric seemed to be struggling to gather himself, and I hoped I hadn't caused him too much pain because I was being nosy. "No, sweet girl, I've never bitten you." He closed his eyes briefly, then fixed his stare on me. "Though I'd be lying if I said there weren't times when I wanted to."

"Jerk," I laughed and slapped at his leg. "Are you going to give me my present sometime tonight?"

"I did something different this year. I hope you don't mind." He kind of looked nervous, if I was reading him right, and it was completely adorable.

"Me too," I said, reaching behind me and then passing him his gift. "Hope you like it."

I'd practiced and practiced over the previous six years, struggling to perfect my technique. That was the first year I'd made something I hadn't thrown in the trash, something worthy of gifting. Perhaps the knowledge that I was making it for Eric made my standards a little higher, but I wanted it to be perfect.

His long finger traces the symbol I'd carved on the bottom. "Heimdellr," he whispered, awe coloring his words. I blushed and averted my eyes. "Oh, Sookie. You made this?" He lifted it to his nose and then kissed it. I'd hoped for a good reaction, but what I got was so much better. "I love it."

"Yeah?" I couldn't help but to beam with pride. "I messed up his arm there," I pointed to the slightly indented shoulder and bit my lip. "But it was better than the – "

"It's perfect," he interrupted, placing his hands over mine and squeezing them. "I love it. Thank you."

I cleared my throat, uncomfortable with his praise. "Heimdellr," I began, "Guardian of the Gods, also called the White God. It's been said that he could see all the way to the end of the world. I'm no God, but I sure am glad I have my very own Heimdellr to watch over me."

Eric leaned in close and placed his hands on my cheeks, then kissed the tip of my nose. "You're far too kind."

Kissing him right then was a barely resistible urge. I squirmed a little on my seat, hoping desperately he couldn't read the desire so easily in my eyes. "So, are you gonna give me mine now?" I tried to grin playfully, but I'm not sure how successful I was.

Nevertheless, Eric leaned back, letting go of my face to dig in the duffel bag he'd brought with him. He pulled out a large book, and large isn't even the right word to describe it. It was mammoth and looked very old, stuffed with all sorts of papers.

"What's this?" I asked as he placed it in my lap. "It's heavy, wow."

"Open it," he said, looking both eager and resigned, like he expected me to react badly to it.

How could he ever think I'd hate anything he gave me?

I began flipping through the pages, leafing through picture after picture, typed letters, and items that look older than time itself. And for a moment, I couldn't speak. "What? Eric? What is all this?"

He looked very serious and proud when he answered. "This, Sookie, is your heritage. Your birthright."

My birthright? Heritage? I noticed familiar faces, and some I'd never seen in my entire life, reading words like family and royal, and I struggled to make sense of what I was reading so I would know which question to ask first.

A lot of the images were of my late Grandfather, and I couldn't help noticing all the ones that featured Eric as well. So many.

"Your Grandfather and I have been together for many years," Eric explained as I traced the edges of his unchanged face. "That is only one of his many lives."

"What?" I didn't bother looking up, my eyes riveted on each newly revealed page before me. "What are you talking about? Make this make sense," I pleaded, tears already rolling down my cheeks.

He reached forward and flipped through a few pages, pointing out a middle-aged man with long, brown hair. "This is Niall, your Grandfather, in his natural form." I blinked, silent and confused. "This is him as a human."

"But my Grandfather's name was Earl," I replied dumbly.

"That was his name in this human life," he went on. "When he met Adele, your grandmother, and fell in love with her, he took on a role as a human so that he could live and grow old with her."

"Eric – "

"I met your Grandfather, Niall, ruler of the Fae, over a thousand years ago. Our history is long, but every word of it is recorded in there."

"Fae?" I mumbled. He was right, there were decades of information inside the giant scrap book. I could diligently study it for years and still not have a complete understanding of it. "Are you telling me my Grandpa is alive?"

He nodded. "But not as you knew him before. He's gone back to his true form."

"How is that possible?" I shook my head to slow the spinning. "I don't understand."

"You, my sweet girl, are royalty. Descended from Niall himself," he said. I lifted my eyes to search his face for any signs of deceit. There were none there, of course. "Everything you need to know is in there."

It was, too. From the very beginning. How Niall had brought the two species of Fae together, avoiding the war to end all worlds. How Eric and Niall had met and they'd struck a deal, making vampires the night watchmen and governing race of the human realm.

It explained how Eric had become a royal guardian, of sorts, and had the ability to exist in both worlds when his duties required. He was the only vampire to work directly with the royal family, which was seen by the many races as the highest honor.

The book explained all sorts of things, but it didn't make me understand any clearer. "What does this all mean, Eric? Why tell me this now? Why tell me at all?" I shook my head and closed the book. "What is this supposed to mean to me?"

His face grew grave, and I wanted to smooth away the slight crinkle in the corner of his suddenly sad eyes. "It means that, in a few months time, on your twenty-fifth birthday, you will return to The Summerlands to rule over your people. Your magic will be restored and you will reign, as is your right by birth, alongside your family."

"What?" I croaked. "What about my Gran? My brother? My family here? You can't just expect me to drop everything I love, everyone I love, and go play princess in some place I never even knew existed. What about you?" I cried, information overload making me even more emotional. "Why me? Why not Jason? Or my mother for that matter? What makes me so special?"

"No one knows for certain why the Spark of the Fae skipped down the line and chose you. But you were born, and will always be exceptional." He sat up straighter, squaring his shoulders before he continued.

"This is your duty, sweet girl," Eric whispered, wiping at the tears as they fell. "Your family here will be cared for, and you will be able to oversee their safety once your magic has been returned. As for me," he shrugged and looked away. "I will be assigned another task. With your powers, you'll not have a need for me."

"I'll always need you," I whispered. I knew about duty, and I also knew how important is was to Eric, so I knew I would do anything he expected of me. I would do it for him, because I loved him.

That wasn't what had bothered me. As much as the idea of letting go of Gran and Jason hurt, the idea of having to let go of Eric was infinitely worse. I couldn't fathom it. Just the thought made me sick and sent a stabbing pain through my chest.

Eric smiled, but it didn't come close to reaching his eyes. "My job will be complete, and – "

"Shut up," I choked, outraged. I stood and paced away from him. "That's all I ever was to you, isn't it? A job!" God, how could I have been so stupid? "I find out I'm royal fae, for Christ's sake, whatever the heck that really means, and still... I'm still not good enough for you."

I exhaled a shaky breath and tried to calm down, turning my back to Eric so he could no longer see my tears. "Anything?" I breathed. "Was there nothing I could have done to make you love me?" My body shook with the force of my sob. "Any way at all to make you love me the way that I love you?"

He appeared before me a heartbeat later, his eyes fathomless pits of emotion as he gripped my face in his hands. "Silly, silly girl. How can you be so blind?"

Hope made my heartbeat flutter, and expanded my chest to bursting. "What?"

Eric stepped closely, pressing his body against mine while still cupping my face in his hands. I had to crane my neck to look up at him. "I love you now as I loved you in the beginning, and will love you to the end."

"Yeah?" I stepped even closer, holding tightly to his arms. I had to touch him, I had to feel that he was real. That that moment was real.

"Yes."

"You love me?"

Eric gave me a brilliant smile and nodded. "Do you love me?"

I narrowed my eyes, though I couldn't wipe the smile from my face. Eric loved me. He loved me! "Don't be ridiculous. I've always loved you."

"And you wish to be mine?"

"I'd belong to you even if you didn't love me," I whispered.

I shivered when he spoke against my cheek. "As I will ever be yours."

"Would you kill for me?"

"I have."

"Would you steal for me?"

He chuckled and pulled me close, wrapping his arms tightly around my waist. "I would steal the sun for you."

"But that would kill you," I warned, the sentiment of what that meant not escaping my notice.

"It would."

"And when I die?" He'd still live.

"That will be a long time from now, my love. Though your kind do age, it is not at the rate you've grown accustomed to. You will be stuck with me for a very long time."

Well, okay then. "So, when all this goes down, when I'm... whisked away to this Summerlands, you'll come with me?"

"I cannot solely exist on that plane," he said with a frown. "But you are princess, most high and exalted one – " I smacked at his chest. He caught my hand and held it there with one of his. "We will figure something out. I would go to the ends of the universe for you."

As long as he was with me, I could do anything. We would figure it out. "Eric?"

"Yes, my heart."

"It's after one a.m."

"So it is."

"I think, for right now, I'd settle for a Christmas kiss." He leaned down, grinning. Under thousands of twinkling little stars, on that cool and silent night, we shared the first of many Christmas kisses.

The end. Is only the beginning...

Thanks for reading!