Summary: In a world where Uncle Bartlett went too far, Sookie Stackhouse decides to embrace herself rather than bend to the townfolk's perception of normal. Years later, she saves a dense vampire from two drainers. Slowburn Sookie/Eric.

Yes, the Sookie/Eric takes time but I detest random fix-it fics where they jump into bed, and are mindlessly declaring their love within seconds of meeting each other.

This fanfic won't have the fastest update rate, as my other S/E fanfic Bullshit Ban is first on my hit-list, but it will be updated.

When the vampires had come out of the coffin two years ago, Sookie hadn't been surprised. Bon Temps was a small podunk town for sure but Sookie had been to New Orlenes once while following a dead-end lead about her cousin, Hadley.

As the telepath had discovered while scanning the mind of a hostal manager that had seen Hadley's missing person's flyter and called her Aunt Lydia, New Orlenes was the vampire capital in America.

After that, Sookie had started wondering what else was out there. Two weeks later, she ran across a genuine witch, who knew a little something about werewolves.

Werewolves. It sounded crazy but Sookie could hardly throw stones. Especially since it looked like there was something other in her blood. Being able to read-minds was not a human trait.

After recieving an incredibly disturbing play-by-play description of the day she'd been born from Jason, Sookie could safely say that she wasn't adopted. Though immensely reassuring, that left her no closer to finding out who she was.

What she was.

Sookie knew perfectly well what kind of person she was. A stubborn one who refused to bend to her fellow townsfolk's idea of a normal, respectable Southern woman. It was the desire to please others that had lead to...

A twinge of pain hit Sookie square between the eyes, and she winced. Lifting a hand to ruffle her blonde hair, the telepath watched her reflection mimic the movement. She puckered her pink lips at the mirror, bracing her hands on the counter.

Sookie stared her reflection in the eyes, breathing in deeply. She was twenty-four-years old, now. It was over, had been for a long time, but damnit, it still made her want to curl up in bed and cry.

Rape was such an ugly, brutal word. One that should never be applied to a seven-year-old and her Uncle but that was the cold, harsh reality of it.

Life sucks and then you die, someone had said. It wasn't Sookie's preferred motto.

That honor fell to a piece of advice a newly-outed Lafayette had given her while drunk. "The problem with people in this town, honey-child, they is all wantin' a piece of your fine ass. You, me and Tara; we got a choice - bend, break or don't."

The three of them were doomed to be outcasts, what a price to be able to look themselves in the mirror.

Sookie went to work, breezing through her tables with a smile plastered across her face. It was a slow night, but not an awful one, despite Tara having lost another job, until Dawn told her, "The Rattarys are in your section."

Sookie looked over her shoulder, praying that Dawn was screwing with her, but clear as day, tacky as ever, there was Mac Rattary smacking his wife, Denise, on the butt. "Oh, Lord," Sookie grumbled, tilting her head back. "Why is it always me?"

"Don't let it get to you, Cher," Sam advised.

It wasn't the Rattarys slimy, cheap thoughts that got under Sookie's skin or their words. She couldn't understand how they could possibly fit the image of normal that most people had, while she, Tara and Lala were degraded on a daily basis. Wasn't she supposed to be the crazy one?

It was hard to believe that most days, especially if Lafayette was right about all men being scared of what was between a woman's legs.

After dumping the pitcher of bud and onion rings with mustard at the Rattray's table then making sure that everyone else had what they needed, thus improving her tips, Sookie spotted Tara at the bar and headed over to see her recently fired friend.

"Tara, hey, honey." Sookie greeted, planting an affectionate kiss on her friend's cheek.

"My life sucks," Tara stated bluntly, staring grimly at the shining bar top.

Sookie blinked at her friend, taken off guard by the cynical response. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Ms Bodehouse. I thought you were my friend Tara."

Close enough to overhear, Sam snorted but didn't look up from polishing a glass. Sparing a dour look for Sam, Tara slumped, looking at Sookie with a sigh. "Okay, point taken. I'm a moody bitch. But, damnit, how come I can't hold a job?"

"Because you can't hold your mouth?"

"Bitch, who asked you?" Tara winked at her playfully.

Sam came over, and Sookie tried not to react to his flirting. Sam was a good boss, the only one she could stand and who could stand her, but, damn...

A chill stroke down her spine, cold and sharp like a knife's edge. Sookie stiffened instinctively, sensing something strange in the air. For a moment, she felt dizzy, like the rug had been snatched out from under her, and almost against her will, her head turned towards the door.

A dark-haired stranger walked into Merlotte's. He was a few inches taller than her and pale like chalk, like a corpse. The knowledge of what he was came to her within the space of one look, one moment. Vampire, the first to visit Bon Temps. Sookie had never met a vampire before but his skin seemed to hold a light glow, calling to her, though every instinct in her body protested such a thing.

As he took an empty booth in her section, he lifted his head and stared at her, face shadowed by the dim light. It looked creepy as hell.

"Sookie?" said Tara, sounding concerned.

Sookie turned back to her friends, a strange calm settling over her, like she was bracing herself for something without knowing it. "Looks like Merlotte's has its first vampire," she noted, voice politely detached. "We have any of that True Blood stuff?"

Less than fifteen minutes later, Sookie found herself crouched down in Merlotte's parking lot, sneaking up on Mac Rattary while he ranted at his wife, who was kneeling beside the vampire, with a big chain held gingerly in her hands. She dragged her Nikes across the floor, making as little sound as possible, heart pounding fearfully in her chest.

It wasn't every day she tackled a vampire drainer with no back up, but what choice did she have? Sam didn't care, Tara didn't care, and Andy Bellefluer wouldn't believe her if she told him the sky was blue. Sookie couldn't stand by without doing a single thing to help the vampire, even if he did kind of creep her out.

One more step, and Sookie brought the chain down ruthlessly of Mac's shoulder. He went down with a loud squeal of pain, and Denise's head shot up.

"Crazy bitch!" Mac cried, reaching back - and pulling a knife from his back. Gonna cut that little - the hell does she think she is - teach her some respect -

Without hesitation, Sookie flung the chain at his face - and the chain wrapped itself around his neck, squeezing until he choked, dropping to his knees. The knife fell to the floor, and Denise moved, but Sookie was quicker, snatching the blade and putting it to the other woman's throat.

"Don't even think about it, you backwards piece of trash!" Sookie spat.

Denise froze, fear in her eyes. She swallowed nervously. "Now, Sookie..."

"Don't," she snapped. She didn't enjoy the other woman's fear but she felt more confident now, with the knife in her hands and not theirs. Mac wheezed pathetically on the floor. "Grab him and get the hell out of here, or I swear, things will get ugly..."

Wary of the look in the younger woman's eyes and the knife held in her hands, Denise hurried to obey, grabbing Mac roughly by the back of his shirt, and her eyes darted to the IV bag beside the vampire.

Sookie stared at her fiercely, and Denise looked angry, but she started dragging the choking Mac across the floor, berating him loudly. As she watched them leave, Sookie muttered, "Consider yourself rescued," from the corner of her mouth to the vampire.

"You stupid cunt!" Denise called back to her, bravado returning with the distance. "Come on, Mac! You don't know who you're messing with! You don't wanna be on my bad side!"

Sookie's eyes widened in shock. "You have a good side?" she made a show of peering at Denise's face. "Could be the lighting but I'm not seeing it, sweetheart!"

Dismissing Denise's crude suggestion as the two staggered out of her sight, Sookie moved over to the vampire, putting the knife down as she crouched beside him. "Hey, are you..."

For the first time, Sookie looked at the vampire. He was staring up at her, fangs out, white and pointy, a look of absolute astonishment on his face. There were thin silver chains over his arms, his white shirt was torn, and if she looked close enough, she could see a thin stream of smoke pouring off his skin. Swallowing, Sookie faintly remembered hearing something about vamps having an issue with silver from Tray Dawson.

"That'll be a no, then." Sookie peeled the chain slowly off his skin, grimacing at the resistance, and the sticky, red blood dripping... "Sweet Jesus." She held the silver chain up, horrorstruck to see bits and pieces of skin stuck to it.

From her side, there was the loud rumble of an engine firing up, and glancing back to see the approaching headlights, Sookie shoved the chain into her pocket, darting under the vampire's arm, sliding her arms under his elbows and ordered him, "Push with your feet!"

With some assistance from the vamp, Sookie was able to get them both out of the way just as the car zoomed by. She propped him up against a tree, and went to undo the belt around his arm. He flinched back from her, glaring, and she straightened up, looking down at him.

"Which is it?" Sookie asked, arching an eyebrow. Better safe than sorry, she pulled the bloodied chain out from her pocket and wrapped it around her neck.

"Excuse me?"

"Are you angry about being saved by a woman or by a human?"

"I am grateful for your assistance," the vamp said stiffly, undoing the belt himself.

"Really?" Sookie arched an eyebrow. "Cause you don't look it." Abruptly remembering herself, she shook her head. Pain tended to make her cranky, too. "Forget I said that, are you okay?"

"Yes," the vamp answered stiffly, retracting his fangs. "My wounds have healed."

Huh. So they had, like those nasty burns had never been there. "That's useful," Sookie noted, sitting down on a log a few feet from the vampire. She crossed her legs primly. In an impossibly fast blur, the vampire knelt down in front of her, face inches from hers.

"What are you?" he asked lowly.

Sookie was not unnerved by his speed or unphased with his proximity. After seeing a Were transform, it took a lot to alarm her. "Oh, honey," she grinned at him, gap-toothed and secretively. "Ain't that just the question of the decade?" When he frowned at her, she added, "Call me Sookie Stackhouse, and what's your name?"

He stared at her starkly, dramatically, the darkness clinging to his face, and he uttered..."Bill."

Sookie burst out laughing right in his face. "Bill?" she shrieked. "Your name is Bill?" Bill looked taken aback by her reaction, turning his head away from her to huff, a prissy look crossing his face. "The mailman is called Bill, one of my classmates was called Bill, but vampire Bill?"

Laughter bubbled uncontrollably out of her mouth, and she wrapped an arm around her stomach. "I'm sorry," she giggled, amusement increasing at his incredibly put-out expression. "I'm real sorry, I swear mocking injured vampires isn't a hobby of mine. Uh, do you want me to leave?"

"No," Bill said grudgingly, looking like he really disagreed with what he was saying. "I'm still weakened, and they might come back."

"I can hang around for another couple of minutes, but then my friends will probably start getting worried..." Sookie snickered, ignoring his dark look. "Bill."

"I am not a goddamned psychic!" Sookie turned sharply on her heel, barely noticing Dawn's uncomfortable expression, and stormed away to confront Rene, Hoyt and Arlene.

After turning away from them, Sookie caught sight of Bill, standing by a table. The man - vampire - whatever had a real talent for finding the creepest lighting to stand in and stare at her from.

Sookie had never been able to block others thoughts completely, only able to muffle them until it was all background noise, and the sheer, stunning bliss of silence she'd discovered last night was more tempting than her Gran's cooking. But his disturbing offer of his blood last night had soured any fascination she may have felt towards him, leaving her in no mood to talk to him but Gran had looked so excited at the thought of Bill remembering the Civil War.

She walked over to him, ignoring the townfolk's reactions with practiced ease.

"Call on me?" Sookie repeated, stiffening.

As a pretty blonde waitress with curves, Sookie had perfected the better as friends speech. Bill seemed like the obsessive type. Usually, she would borrow Tara's lie about a mercanary boyfriend but he was a vampire.

"It means - "

"I know what it means," Sookie said sharply. "Look, Bill, I'm sure you're a nice guy but I don't date. At all. Ever."

She had in high school, trying to find a man who's mind and touch didn't make her shy away, and of course, she'd failed. The closest she had ever gotten was with JB, Jason's friend, but he was as dumb as a box of rocks.

"But I'd like us to be friends."

"Friends," Bill repeated quietly. He nodded slightly, smiling at her. "I would like that also."

Sookie smiled at him, batting away the scandalized thoughts hammering at her shields. "Can I ask you a favour after work? Not for me," she hurried to add. "But for my Gran?"

After asking if it would make her happy, Bill agreed to meet her after work at half one. "Do you realize every person in this establishment is staring at us?"

"Small town," Sookie explained, standing up, ignoring the thoughts of slut, whore, pathetic fang-banger. It was hardly anything new, no different from freak, retard, Crazy Sookie. "You'll get used to it."

Quirking her eyebrow amusingly at Bill, Sookie tried to go back to her tables, inwardly trying to guessing how long it would be before - two steps, and Sam was on her, hand curling tightly around her arm and hauling her into his office with Tara hot on his heels. Joy, an intervention.

"Sam, if you wanted a sexual harassment lawsuit, all you had to do was ask!" Sookie said sarcastically, wiggling out if his grip, flashing him a glare with burning brown eyes.

Used to her unique sense of humor by now, Sam was undeterred in his fury. "Damnit, Sookie! Do you have a death wish? Mac could have seriously cut you last night, and now you're setting up a date with a vampire?"

Filling away Sam's knowledge about last night, Sookie shook her head. "I'm not dating him, Sam."

"You better not be dating him!" Tara exploded. "And what the hell was that about Mac Rattary?"

"The slimeball went for me, I handled it like a big girl without any help from Daddy over there - oh, and, by the way, if you two were so worried about me last night, then maybe you should've helped me!"

"We're trying to help you now!" Sam screamed. "The next time you think somebody's about to be attacked in the damn parking lot, pick up the phone and call the police, do not go charging out there like some goddamn vigilante!"

"I had no time!" Sookie shot back, raising her voice, firmly convinced she was in the right. "They were already draining him by the time I'd got there, if I'd have waited any longer, it would've been too late!"

"He's already dead, Sookie!" Tara shrieked furiously.

Don't you look at me like that when all I wanna do is protect you - love you, Sookie - could never - if something ever - I never noticed how she and Jason have the same eyes, brown and sweet - he could never kill any body.

Sam's thoughts were drowned out by Tara's but she caught enough to know that Sam felt deeply about her, more than she'd thought, and it was all too much for her.

"Stop!" Sookie shrieked. "Stop it! I know you're worried about me, and I'm real sorry I scared you last night but I am a grown woman! I am not dating Bill, I have no plans to date Bill! It would have been wrong to just let them drain him if I could've done something, and that isn't how my Gran raised me!"

Outburst over, Sookie pushed them out of her way and stormed out. Lala called her into the kitchen and hugged her. He was solid and warm against her, and Sookie slumped into his chest, tears burning her eyes.

"Don't pay them no mind, Sook," Lafayette told her. "They worried about you, is all."

"I don't need it today," she said, breathing his perfume in. "What with Jason..." she sighed, reluctantly pulling back to look up at him. "They're acting like I'm about to jump Bill just because I saved his life. I couldn't just let them drain him."

"Tall, dark and dead is a hot piece, Sook, but I know you better than that. I know you ain't interested. This Hello Kitty got claws, ain't no vampire gonna change that." Lafayette slapped her ass playfully, shocking a laugh out of her. "Now get your beautiful ass back out there."

Glancing around empty the parking lot, Sookie sighed and started to climb into her yellow car. Fuck Bill. If he wasn't about to show up on time, she wasn't waiting around for him like his mama. Before Sookie could get into her car, a hand twisted brutally in her hair and yanked her backwards.

"Ah!" Sookie cried out, sparks of white-hot pain flying across her scalp.

"I told you, you stupid bitch!" Denise shrieked, just before Sookie jerked her elbow violently back into the other woman's ribs. Denise's grip slacked with a grunt, and Sookie twisted herself away, back slamming into the side of her yellow car.

Her breath was harsh, and her brown eyes were wide with shock, trying to take everything in. Her heart thumped frantically in her chest as she saw Mac bursting out of the bushes into the lot, and Denise straightening up with hatred in her eyes, ugly things in her thoughts.

Okay, so they out-numbered her. Sookie's face hardened. Like hell was she going to lay down and take it. Thrusting her shoulders back into the car, Sookie lunged forward and sucker-punched Denise in the gut, just as Mac yelled, "Hold her, baby!"

Knocking Denise's legs out from under her, Sookie managed to quip, "Sorry, honey," before Mac swung his fist at her. Having read the intent in his mind, Sookie was able to duck under his swing, getting behind him, clumsily twisting Mac's hand behind his back, and jerking it sharply up - until a sickening pop!

Mac screamed loudly in pain as his shoulder was dislocated, and Sookie shoved him to the floor, backing off, breathing heavily. She couldn't believe that had worked; a waitress against two drug dealers, and she hadn't been beaten down. Now, what did she do? Get in her car and drive away, then get ambushed tomorrow?

"Sookie!" Bill cried, bursting out of the trees in a blur. He stopped abruptly, looking stunned at Denise, who was gasping on the floor, and then at Mac, who was screaming piercely in pain.

Sam's trailer door flew open, and Sam hurried outside, looking at the scene in shock. "Sookie! You okay?"

"Peachy! Told you I can take care of myself," Sookie gasped, feeling herself beginning to tremble. Her teeth chattered. Was it adrenaline or shock? Both? Either way, she hated feeling so vulnerable and weak. Reaching into her pocket, she tossed her phone to Bill. Though still shocked, he caught it easily, finally looking at her. "Call the police."

Aw, Sookie, the biggest threat to the male ego since Xena.

Readers, you have a choice; skip to Eric or linger with Sookie for a while?