Eric recalled enough of his human drinking sprees to bring one of his least favourite cars to Lafayette Reynolds' home. His red corvette was the finishing touch to his image, risking an encounter with the contents of his tiny human's stomach was unacceptable.

Walking along beside him with a loose grip on his arm, Sookie made a kittenish noise of approval and twisted her head to flash him a glowing grin. "Very pretty."

"I'm glad you approve," Eric said with an arch sarcasm. Her smile was a powerful thing, an unashamed flash of white teeth and brutal honesty that occasionally taunted his hackles.

Genuine tended to be the death of many baby vampires. Pam had been refreshingly free of human sentiment before he had turned her, perhaps more so than even he had been some years after Godric turned him. He had chosen well with her. In a thousand years, there had only been one other worthy of their blood.

Sookie Stackhouse was such a colorful creature. It would be a waste for her to live only a human's life span. Or perhaps those like her lived longer. So far, she was too young to show signs of a prolonged youth - especially considering the difference in how twenty four had looked in his time and how it looked this century.

"Aww," she sighed, looking up at him. Her dark eyes sparkled wickedly. "Why so grumpy?" she pouted dramatically at him. "You didn't have t'come semi-kidnap me, my darling vampire."

"I hardly kidnapped you," Eric replied, arching his eyebrows. When she breathed in, her tank top strained against the curves of her breasts. Her top was tiny, exposing her neck, her shoulders and a distracting amount of her chest. "As I recall, you came willingly."

"Eric," Sookie said, a breathless urgency in her voice that tightened her tank top again and violently redirected his blood flow. "Eric, I'm . . . I'm epically drunk right now." Something dark slivered through her eyes, faltering her smile. "My consent's not what it should be. Never what it should be."

Her tone was so far removed from her previous cheer that the sentence could be unrelated. Her words struck through his mind like a blade, burning themselves vividly into his memory. The implications were damning. A slow cold-burn of anger started from the deepest pits of his stomach and began to expand rapidly until it turned sickly hot and thunderous, murderous.

It was a hypocritical anger, he knew. Over a thousand years, he had bedded several less than sober women. But the idea of someone taking advantage of his tiny human in such a state enraged him, and not purely from a possessive standpoint.

There was something not unlike respect for Sookie within him and the incident had clearly harmed her deeply.

"While I have the greatest of respect for your consent," Eric told her, steel under his falsely amused voice. "If you are sober enough to defend yourself from a serial killer, you are clearly capable of controlling yourself."

Sookie looked at him for a moment, and then she cracked a grin, like nothing had happened. "Oh, baby, I'm always up for a little violence," she cheered, voice bubbling with glee. "Which kinda explains a lot, you know?" she mused. "No wonder people keep tryin' to whack me."

Eric narrowed his eyes at her last comment, and Sookie caught the gesture, "Yeah," she shrugged. "It happens waaaay more than you would think. Well, no, because I'mma bad person, and this is the South, but still. Sucks."

He felt his lip curl. Idiot humans. "I presume you mean the vampire drainers from several nights ago."


Sookie flashed an enigmatic smile at him. There was something wildly reckless about the gesture. "I've known about werewolves since I was fourteen," she told him. "Some of the big bad wolves didn't like Red Riding Hood and her pretty mouth."

As if to clue him in, she pouted her own red lips at him.

Eric felt his mood darkening further at her honesty though he kept the sheer depth of it from his face with centuries of practice. He recalled the edge of tension fizzling between Seers and Sookie, the hard mocking in his spitfire's smile. He had dismissed it as a petty disagreement or a grudge against his girl's sense of humor. Now, there was only one conclusion he could come to, and he felt far from favourable about it.

"Dawson fought for you," he assumed.

Sookie looked at him, a primal heat in her eyes that forced him to fight the responding growl clawing up his throat. This girl, so soft and small but hardened and powerful. It was driving him to the brink of insanity, this desire to possess her spirit and her body and her blood and her utterly honest grins, to break anyone else who saw even a hint of them.

And obliterate the slightest threat to them. Like Seers, and Dawson, who was fucking irresponsible enough to let this happen - to let this girl within a mile of any werewolves.

"I fought for me," she told him, smiling in that way at him, forgiving the frankly idiotic assumption that she couldn't do so. "Puppies ain't so strong in people form, fast though, mind. I have . . ." Her hand moved unsteadily in the air before clumsily poking the side of her head as she drunkenly fumbled for the words. "A cheat."

Smiling proudly, she began to veer to the side. Just before she was out of arm's reach, Eric grasped the edge of her tank-top and tugged her closer to him. With a noise, she tripped over herself and bumped into his side. She was soft and curvy, burning unexpectedly hot through his clothes. She felt like fire, wild and painfully bright.

It was fitting, Eric decided.

He curved his arm around her full waist, palming her curved hip with ease. He could snap the bone with a sudden burst of pressure, and he had done so many times before, but he felt a certain smugness at touching her like this.

As a claim, the gesture held no water but she was accepting his touch. In fact, Sookie always accepted his touch, though she had been close to striking Compton for the same crime. She had allowed him to superficially claim her before another vampire the night of her grandmother's murder.

It gave him more than enough ground to act if his suspicions about her were proven to be correct.

"You know," Sookie began in a vague voice. Her tiny fingers curled around one of his belt-loops, holding onto him and tugging lightly yet insistently. "Only person to ever be okay with that." Her tone was unexpectedly tender, meaningful, and it left an imprint on his memory, even as surprise ghosted over her face.

As they reached his BMW convertible, she added flippantly, "Think that means we should get married or somethin'."

Opening the door for her, Eric arched an eyebrow, dry and carelessly. He tried not to picture fucking her in their marriage bed since the risk of flinging her down on the blue hood and making her scream loud enough for everyone to hear was already dangerously high. "Indeed."

"Rasp," she muttered nonsensically.

Twisting her gracefully around in his arms, feeling her scent rubbing off on him, Eric piled his tiny human into the car and there was the sudden soft warmth of her lips on his cheek. His eyes snapped to hers, and she gave a little lazy shrug.

After some deliberation, Eric took Sookie to his home in Monroe. It was a smaller place than he usually went for but he assumed she would be more comfortable here. His tiny human was a talkative drunk, rambling on breathlessly, eyes bright and entranced by every word she was saying. It was unexpectedly easy to listen to her voice. She was not dull or repetitive like the few drunks he had encountered.

She was amusing and curious enough to ask many questions, all about him.

When he pulled into the gravel driveway to his home, she was laughing at some memory locked away in her head. Her laughter filled the car, drifting freely up to the night sky. There was nothing controlled or elegant about it, just a raw amusement that swayed his opinion strangely.

"Aren't you . . . Vikings supposed t' all have nicknames?" she wondered as he killed the BMW's engine.

Eric arched his eyebrow in amused disbelief at the colloquialism. "In that time, many men shared forenames. A distinguishing attribute was required for clarification."

His tone was clipped and curt with disinterest, warning her away from the subject. His human life was irrelevant to him now, and certainly none of her business.

At vampire speed, Eric shot out of the car and around to help Sookie stumble out of the vehicle without tasting concrete. That would hardly be hospitable of him, now, would it?

When she had steadied herself, closed her door, and drifted vaguely in the direction of his front door, she started speaking again. "What's yours?" her voice was slurred and dreamy as though she had no attention left to spare on sounding focused.

His warning seemed to have flown over her head. Or perhaps she simply ignored it. Eric had difficulty deciding how to react to Sookie. Between his advanced age, his impressive form and a myriad of other sensible reasons, it was rare to encounter someone truly unafraid of him. It was a near unprecedented situation. He had yet to puzzle out a reasonable response.

The truth was out of the question. His past was not a game for a drunken woman of only twenty-four. He owed her nothing, certainly not secrets only Godric knew.

Sharply, Eric pressed the lock button on his car keys, swept an arm behind her, and pushed her just shy of roughly in the direction of his home. His enhanced hearing picked up the hitch in her breath, the stutter of her heart, and he felt her muscle shift under his hand, a small stiffening that would cloak her intentions but add muscle to her attack.

In the back of his mind, under the rushed roar of anger crashing over his mind with the force of the North Sea, he noticed an expert touch to the movement. His tiny human had been trained. The detail made it difficult to control his fangs. Had she learned to fight too late, or had someone beaten her down before she could use it?

Eric's mind worked fast but it was hastened by fury, by the blood-hungry demand for revenge. His spitfire was clever. If she had felt threatened, she would not have been moral in her search. She would use her telepathy.

Unless it was someone she trusted. Jason Stackhouse had mentioned an old flame, JB DuRone . . .

"Is it embarrassing?" Sookie said teasingly, slicing through his thoughts. Eric recognized the attempted distraction, and he allowed it. He directed the brutal energy of his rage toward how to create a situation where she would feel obliged to answer his questions honestly. "My nickname was," she added.

Eric glanced at her but she simply grinned at him as they walked to his front door. He unlocked the door, stowing the key away when he felt her move, clothes shifting, then a brush of hot air against his neck. Arousal shot down his spine, hitting his dick hard and fast and distracting.

"Sookie Stacked," she provided in an overly grim tone that cracked with humor toward the end.

The sharp contrast of amusement and lust startled Eric enough that he very nearly laughed at the juvenile play on words. He vividly recalled his first sight of her - small and tanned and curved beautifully within the tight confines of her red and white dress, like the beam of the Aurora Borealis against a blackened night. Her lush figure was an extremely welcome change from the rake-thin look many women seemed to favor.

"Charming," he deadpanned, unimpressed.

He stepped inside his home, flattening a smirk between his lips before turning his head to see Sookie Stackhouse enter his home. She kicked off her shoes in an automatic movement, clinging to his walls for balance, and closed the door behind her.

His tiny human didn't glance around or compliment his nest. Her dark eyes locked on him, focused in a more familiar way. She had a goal, and intensity burned within her gaze, wanting answers.

Those eyes kept burning even when she smiled at him and entered a little deeper into his home, feet silent on the sitting room's thick carpet, a willing guest to a thousand-year-old vampire. Another string of giggles tumbled from Sookie's mouth, and she twisted her body around in a pirouette, golden blonde hair spinning around with her. When she stopped, she grinned wildly at him, big and bright.

"C'mon, Eric," she drawled out, a provocative dance in her voice. Her head was slightly bowed, leaving her to look starkly at him under her eyelashes. Those eyes were cinders, and her voice a playful purr, "I'll fight you for it."

Eric's first response was a searingly hot flood of arousal, the challenge boiled his blood, and he felt his expression darkening with it. His fangs went down hard, and he didn't care to stop them. Especially when her scent hit the air, cutting deeply into his nerves like blood in the water.

Her lust was a vivid burst in the air, something rough and maddeningly alluring, and it belonged to him. No other would cause this in her or smell her lust, least they misunderstand it as an invitation. An animal snarl rumbled in his chest at the idea, bone-deep and instinctively furious with the idea.

But it was discarded fast. Sookie wanted to play.

Fight and fuck had always triggered his hindbrain - only Eric wanted her to be sharp-tongued and fire-eyed when he took her, not shiny-eyed from drink and half unaware. He wanted to hear her gasp and moan and sob his name, scream it as she came around his cock, but most of all, he wanted that to be her choice.

Any other course of action would be to betray the faith she showed in coming with him and trusting him not to hurt her like another had.

(Eric would start by slowly roasting his dick to mere ashes.)

"Will you now?" he asked, hearing the deepened rumble of his own voice only distantly. His head lowered, mirroring her wolfish stance with far more menace. He could destroy her so easily.

"No vamp speed," she said, smile curving wickedly. "No hyped-up muscle man stuff either. No teeth, serious injuries or hits to certain spots that tend to make people hulk out in a blind rage, and the first one on the floor unable to get up loses."

Wrestling rather than fighting, then.

Even without vampire speed or strength, Eric could have her on the floor pinned hopelessly under him within seconds but he wanted to play along before claiming his dubious victory.

"And the prize is information," he said lowly. "No lies."

Her eyes narrowed in calculation and amusement as she swayed from the balls of her feet to her toes. "No lies," she echoed, a split second before she acted swiftly, drawing her leg up fast and lashing out in a roundhouse kick almost high enough to reach his head.

Eric dodged at human speed, coming down hard on his instinctive reaction to grab her leg and twist until it broke. Instead he grabbed her behind the knee and pulled hard enough to jolt her balance beyond salvation, dropping the limb to avoid a break. Without trying to regain her balance, Sookie went down with a yelp but she kicked up with her other leg, and this time, she hit her mark - the little cluster of nerves below his hipbone.

His system lit up brightly, shocking the feeling out of his legs, and Eric crashed down with her, landing above her, just catching himself before they could collide. He felt torn between fury and the urge to laugh in delight at her. The first strike had been a feint, and unused to fighting like this, he had overlooked it. It had been a lucky shot.

Like a vice, her legs clamped around him, hips thrusting violently upwards, and she threw her rather inconsiderable body weight up into him. However, it worked, and the rules forced him to allow himself to be flipped, and then Sookie was above him. She half fell forward to kiss his forehead, a warm open affection in the small gesture, before settling on his body.

Her legs were forced wide open around his hips, which left his erection pressed directly between her thighs. She jerked against him in shock, thighs squeezing briefly, mouth parting beautifully, and within her next heartbeat, he had her on back again.

However, she twisted a leg around his, slamming her heel into the back of his knee. Her reward was a snarled grunt, and he settled his weight down on her limbs, locking them under him. If it had been anyone else, he would have torn their throat out or headbutted them but he had no desire to harm her, and she was hardly a threat.

Sookie was laughing under him, even as she struggled clumsily against her trappings. Eric intercepted a blow to his kidneys easily, recognized the feint this time, and caught her other hand before it could prod the nerve cluster under his cheek. Then her hips jerked against his dick, rolling herself over that area, a tease of heat, the scent of their arousal, intertwining together, and just as she attempted to push him away, his patience fractured.

Her back had risen a mere inch off the floor before Sookie was promptly slammed back down, a small grunt escaping her mouth at the force, her arms pinned above her head, and Eric felt his fangs snapping down, a territorial growl trying to claw its way out of his throat.

"Oh crap," stated Sookie, staring up at him with unafraid eyes. "Your subconscious hasn't decided it wants t' eat me, has it? 'Cause I gotta say, not down with that plan."

"I have no intentions of eating you." His lust-dark eyes became lidded and openly hungry. "Tonight."

Her heart stuttered in his ears, and her expression matched it, faintly alarmed, faintly interested. A slow satisfaction climbed up his spine, even as she murmured, "'S a bad idea."

"You never know, my tiny human," Eric said lowly. "You might enjoy it."

Because this was still Sookie Stackhouse, she arched a brow, smiling a little drunkenly up at him. "You'll enjoy it more." Before he could reply, perhaps to promise her otherwise, she shifted under him, a sexy grunt jerking from her mouth.

"You cheated."

Eric didn't blink. "So did you."

"Hardly cheatin' to use what genetics gave me," she protested cheerfully.

Sookie dragged her hands down her body, caressing her lush curves and presenting them to his searing gaze. He could take and claim and own and ravage this girl for days without pause until he knew every single inch of her body, and her elusive mind. It wasn't simply her body anymore or her baffling wit, but her mind too.

Eric was a greedy vampire. He wanted everything.

"But then I suppose," she continued, dropping sexy for fair, "You ain't used to bein' all playful with somebody?"

"Vampires do not play," Eric informed her.

Sookie blinked. "Well, that sucks, though I guess it does explain Bill Compton's general . . . existence."

It was nothing compared to her usual witty quips, but something about her expression added charm to the remark, and his lips quirked. Sookie's face softened affectionately, and the change caught him off guard.

She stared up at him, nothing shy or coquettish in her, just simple fact and drunken truth. "Love that look on your face."

Her words felt like binds, a trap that tempted him to accept it and take a look at the truth before his eyes. He did not keep fangbangers or desire to violently avenge useful assets. Sookie was different, fascinating, but he did not feel deeply for any other not of his blood.

Eric was too pragmatic to entertain denial for long.

He wanted to keep her and avenge her and watch her fight fiercely for herself, to protect her if she was unable to handle a threat. He wanted to feel the werewolves' skin breaking under his hands, coating his hands with blood, bones crunching until nothing remained. It would be a suitable punishment.

Tomorrow night, he would escort Compton and his former nest to trial, and Sookie would be out of his reach. He had seen her fight sober, knocking down a werewolf and nearly driving back Long Shadow, but the idea filled him with an ugly red agitation. There was only one rational solution.

Eric straightened up slowly above her, lifting his wrist to his mouth.

"For the record," Sookie interjected. "I'm not one of those girls who find self-harm sexy."

Eric paused, faintly amused by her view of this. His gaze swept back down to her. "You find me sexy."

"An unfortunate side effect of having eyes." Sookie wiggled under him briefly before slumping back down, arching her eyebrows sardonically. "So unless that joke was so bad you felt the need to kill yourself, what the hell?"

Eric realized she was sobering up. The dazed glow of her eyes had dimmed, returning her usual fire, and she was speaking more coherently, ignoring her compliment. Despite his amusement with her drunken self, he was pleased. She would be more open to reason.

"You need my blood," Eric stated, his voice slightly hoarse at the idea.

He felt her go still beneath him, but her expression had simply paused, waiting for more information before she reacted. "And why is that?" she said, further arching her eyebrows. "I'd rather leave the blood-sucking to you."

Dismissing his initial reaction to ask if she was offering, Eric remained serious. "I will be out of town after tomorrow night," he stated. "I will be unable to . . . "

"Watch me kick ass?" Sookie quirked her head to the side. "Or step in if shit gets real?"

"The guards I hired have proven to be repeatedly incapable of protecting you, even from a vampire such as Bill Compton," Eric said, a note of hard disdain bleeding into his voice. Which was why he was seconds away from murdering her previous guards and considering some hopefully less ineffective ones. "It seems likely you will require outside assistance. If you take my blood, I will be able to sense your fear."

"If you're far enough away that I can't call you, that won't do much," she said, but it was a token protest. "The other effects . . . "

"If you take only a small amount, you will simply feel more aware of your existing sexual attraction to me," Eric told her, raising his eyebrow down at her. She made no move to deny the truth - so open - or explain her knowledge.

Instead Sookie considered. She gazed up at him, a slight reluctance furrowing her brow, breathing deeply yet evenly as she weighed everything up. Eric watched her back silently, making no move to roll off of her, and felt an unexpected eagerness. He wanted her to take his blood, to take him into her. It would be her first taste of vampire blood, and that would belong to him.

He watched Sookie shift, frown, and then her gaze sharpened with intensity. "Just a little," she said quietly, and triumph roared viciously through him. "Two or three drops from your thumb, okay?"

Without letting her reconsider, Eric lifted his thumb to his fang, and dragged it sharply across the tooth, feeling his callused skin parting with a minor jolt of pain. It was a small but deep cut. He moved it down, and he felt her abdominal muscles shifting as she sat up, grasping his wrist to pull him closer to her mouth - and then her lips sealed over the small wound.

Her mouth was hot and wet, tongue flicking out tentatively to lap up his blood, and Eric felt himself growling lowly at the sensation, mind darting to other things her mouth could do. He was harder than ever, straining against his jeans. His nerves sparked, a violent lust surging through every part of him, but his eyes were locked on her.

Her lips were parted around his thumb, sucking lightly, his blood dripping down on her tongue. Her eyes were closed, face set into a curious expression, not a sound escaping her, but he could smell her want, and he wanted too. He wanted to rip his thumb out of her mouth, to find out what she tasted like with his blood in her mouth, to kiss her hard enough that their blood mixed into a cocktail, to fuck her until she was entirely his in his bed.

And then Sookie swallowed.

Eric froze, save for the increasing growl rattling both of their bones like an earthquake.

Sookie exploded into his head, a bright flare of golden blazing fireworks, a reckless happiness, an ecstatic amusement, wild zest for life, and then a cold unrelenting darkness. It was hard and protective and violent, willing to do whatever without hesitation, almost simple-minded in that. She would kill and hurt and bleed others if needed be, and it was beautiful.

An obsession burned wildly under his skin. He wanted to drown in her with all of her contradictions, to tear open his wrist and bleed more into her, have her bleed with him and lock her to him forever. He wanted to keep and devour and treasure and break. To stow her away as much as he wanted her to be seen, to burn so fucking brightly with him.

Mine, he thought with an almost rabid possessiveness. No one else could understand these parts of her like he did. No human could handle her darkness, no vampire would handle her light, and he would bury any who tried.

With a small gasp, Sookie wrenched his thumb from her mouth, and Eric jerked like he had been stabbed, a snarl leaving his mouth. The connection throbbed between them, leading from her to him, and he could still feel her, feel how aroused and overwhelmed and dizzy with drink she was, but he wanted it to be stronger. He wanted more of her. Everything.


Eric could feel the flow of her blood under her skin, pumping her exquisite blood through her veins, and if she had the slightest idea of what he planned for her, she wouldn't say his name like that - breathless and husky. It was a moment before his eyes focused on her.

Sookie was staring up at him, eyes darkened with lust but there was a clarity within them. His blood would heal her bruised knuckles, and she would sober faster.

The reminder of her drunken state washed over his mind like ice water, calming the fires brewing under his skin. Rationality returned. He had a question, and he had won the truth.

Only Eric felt a strange reluctance warring with the pressing need to spill the blood of her attacker. Right now, the idea was an abstract concept and despite his dislike of humans, he knew her reaction was likely to be unpleasant.

Eric finally moved, sitting beside her hips, long legs angled to stretch out beside her far shorter legs. "You must be tired," he observed, voice hard and uncaring.

Her smile widened into a grin. "Must I?" She sighed a little, closing her eyes. He felt a wave of weariness wash over her as if she had been holding it back by sheer force of will. She yawned, arching her spine upwards. Her tank top slipped over the muscular curve of her stomach, revealing a strip of tanned skin. "Well, okay, maybe I must."

Despite her words, Sookie made no move to stagger to her feet, continuing to sprawl beside him on the carpet. Her feet were several inches away from his glass coffee table, her unkempt blonde hair sprawled over the carpet, and he doubted she was truly aware of her surroundings.

Eric rose swiftly to his feet and said, in a tone that suggested impatience, "Stand up."

Sookie opened her eyes to glare at him. "No manners," she murmured ironically, rolling over to push herself up. Once her feet were under her, she staggered, bent at the waist, trying to regain her balance, laughing at herself.

She would never make the stairs like this.

Eric frowned. "Come."

"Play dead," Sookie told him.

His frown turned into a smirk. "I already am."

"That," she declared, moving closer, sparks in her eyes, "Is what makes it funny."

Pushing aside his feelings of amusement, Eric lowered himself to close the distance between their heights. "Allow me to carry you."

Despite the way it was phrased, it was clearly an order.

His tiny human's eyelids lowered, giving her an almost catlike air of amusement. "Since you asked so nicely," she said ironically. Reaching out, she placed her hands on his shoulders, pressed down and jumped up.

Eric felt her legs locking tightly around his waist, socked feet pressed into the small of his back, and his arms snapped around her, aiding her grip as he straightened up to his full height. Humor flared bright within Sookie, and he felt laughter travelling through her form in the tightening of her hips around him, the jerk of her body, and the exhales of hot air into the crook of his shoulder.

Deliberately turning his mind away from the touch, he began to walk. From the hallway through the kitchen to the top of the stairs, his tiny human was shaking softly with laughter. Eventually her amusement began to slowly die out, silent puffs of giggles giving away to slow weary breaths.

As he entered the doorway to his large bedroom, Sookie nuzzled the vulnerable skin on the back of his neck. Eric's stride faltered briefly as she wound her arms tighter around his shoulders, continuing to rub her cheek against his neck. Her cheek was soft and smooth and hot with pumping blood.

His instincts prickled uneasily at the touch, urging him to roughly throw her away, but an intense possessiveness and protectiveness unfurled through him, tightening his grip on the tiny woman in his grasp. He inhaled deeply, tasting their mingled scents in the air, so closely intertwined, and he wondered, half furiously, what the fuck she had done to him.

Carrying a human, taking a human to his home, indulging a human, protecting a human. He killed humans, fed and fucked then threw them away.

Eric moved swiftly across the room, putting her down on his king-sized bed, glad to be away from the dizzying haze of her scent. His growing anger took a hit when Sookie slumped back down on his bed, her tan contrasting nicely with the white silk sheets. His tiny human in his bed, golden hair a mess.

Eric lowered himself to the end of the bed. Ever the hunter, he watched as she curled up on her side, head bent to keep looking back at him.

"You owe me an answer," he stated, never allowing hesitance to color his tone.

Sookie gazed back at him. One simple quiet moment passed between them. She seemed almost grim, saddened, and Eric felt a crawl up his spine. He felt a vicious spike of desire for her sunny grin, but the desire warped quickly, heating up, hardening, with rage. Blackened ugly thoughts seethed violently through his mind, blood-soaked and enraged plans for the filth to cause this.

"You haven't asked a question," Sookie said, a flat note to her voice.

Against his will, Eric felt his expression darkening, turning grave. His eyes averted from her, lowering to the pine floorboards but all he could see was her face as though it had been burned into his mind. "Tell me about the man who hurt you."

The low dark tone of his voice almost rendered the words compassionate but it was not nearly enough. With his insight into her emotions, he felt the quick brutal crash of realization slamming down on her with the force of an atomic bomb. She had been unprepared for his question, vulnerable and unsuspecting, and the impact was enormous.

He felt pain piercing her as she struggled for calm, sharp and deep, like the frantic stabs of a blade, of a messy overkill. In his mind eyes, he pictured wild sprays of hot gushing blood and chunks of flesh being torn off with every brief withdrawal of the knife.

It was like a flood of nerve damage, misfires and shock and pain and a cold nauseating horror. Breathless, gasping panic. Near hysteria edged with a reckless self-destructive insanity. The desire to crash and burn out so spectacularly that no one could ever forget.

Eric felt a vice tightening around his stomach, crushing it bloodily as he felt her wild frantic emotions. The skin on his back prickled relentlessly. He did not look at her, allowing her the illusion of privacy. Or perhaps he simply did not wish to see her expression.

(To see what shame and panic and pain looked like on her face.)

He heard her exhale slowly, and then for a moment, she stopped breathing. The silence gnawed at him as it had not since his impatient boyhood. Sookie let out a sudden cackle of laughter, a howl that bounced off the four walls of his bedroom, and filled his head, wedging into his skull like a railroad spike.

He felt the sheets shifting with her, and instinctively, his eyes darted to her, tracking the movements. Sookie was rolling to face her other side, curling around her stomach protectively. Half gasping and half-sobbing sounds of hard laughter wrenched out of her throat, muffled into his pillow case, and he felt an unexpected sweep of horror at the fragile sound.

There were no tears but the twisted imitation of her usual ecstatic bursts of laughter felt infinitely worse. It was a violation of her spirit. One of many, Eric suspected darkly.

This truth should have repelled him, that there was something wrecked and human under her amusing quips and raging fire. The sight of her pain should not invoke a mirror response in him. Perhaps it was his blood that caused this but with Sookie Stackhouse, he could not be certain of anything.

Except that he wanted the sound to stop, craved it more than many things, and he had no idea how to accomplish that goal. His touch would hardly be a comfort. The lack of knowledge made him feel helpless and utterly, painfully human.

Eric was silent, forced to watch as her body was wrecked with feigned amusement to disguise flinches. One last attempt at veiling her vulnerability from him.

And then silence fell. Her laughter disappeared as abruptly as it had come. Sookie was half-hidden from him, face buried in the pillow, laying on her side. Her hand was wrapped around her mouth, and her body moved with inhales and exhales. In his blood, he sensed her emotions, a thick film of numbness and under that only the reckless madness remained.

"You wanna know?" Her voice was strange, torn between a pained rasp and an unearthly calm, muffled by her own wrist. There was no vivacious light and blazing amusement, just a lifeless drawl. It reminded him of her numb shock while standing in her grandmother's blood.

It had bothered him to see her like that then, but it felt intolerable now, and Eric almost went to dismiss the subject but he knew doing so would help nothing. He felt rage boiling through him, feral in its intensity, fangs pressing violently against his skin, desiring release. It was difficult to contain his temper, to keep it locked up for just a little while longer, just one more hour.

Tracking was one of him many talents, and it had been a thousand years since he had felt this sickly hot murderous rage. There was no calm here, just a howling craving for agony and revenge.

"I want to know," Eric stated, forcing the rage out of his voice. She could mistake it otherwise.

Sookie was still for a moment. Her breaths were even, and he sensed the darkness growing within her, cracks of it breaking through the calm. Slowly she rolled over to face him. Her eyes were blackened with a wrath, and he felt part of himself purr in delight at what he saw there.

A darkness not unlike his own, finally a glimpse of inhumanity in his girl beyond her outstanding capability for survival. Maybe his blood was bringing it out of her, simply subduing her humanity in favor of this wonderful rage, or perhaps this was simply Sookie without inhibitions.

"Well," Sookie said lowly, that bitter fury spawning beautifully in her eyes. As lovely as her light, as mad as her smile. "Why the hell not?"