My first book is on sale! It is called Reclaimed Love and it is under the pen name Austin Southerly. You can buy it on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Smashwords, and some other places. If you go to my blog there are links you can click on. For some reason if you go to Amazon you have to click on "Books" first in order to find it. I don't know why that happens.

I've got a lot of updates coming over the next few days so keep an eye out. All the MA updates will be on the blog spot as soon as NYC gets a chance to put them up. And yes! NEGOTIATIONS is going to be updated. This next update is the longest Negotiations chapter to date, so you guys will be especially happy about it. I won't give you any spoilers as to what happens other than you will be very happy with me!

No beta or proofing. As is.

Chapter 3

"Sookie, this is madness! You cannot be seriously considering this!"

"Eric, this is the chance we've been waiting for."

"No! This is a suicide mission! The kind of risk we have walked away from more than once since that night!"

Sookie watched Eric pacing in front of her from the boulder she was sitting on. She could feel his emotions beating at her through their bond: his worry, his fear, his driving need to protect her. She knew he was in love with her, and she loved him just as much, but this wasn't about them. It was about saving the world, and she had to get him to see that.

Standing and moving in front of Eric to stop his relentless pacing that was literally creating a crater in the ground, Sookie insisted, "Eric, I have to do this."


"Eric, I—"


Stepping closer so that they were only inches apart, Eric cupped her cheeks in his palms and pleaded, "Sookie, please, you have to understand. You can't—I can't—I …"

As his words trailed off Sookie looked up into the stormy blue eyes she had gazed into so many times in the past. She had come to be able to read Eric Northman better than anyone, and in his eyes she could see what he was having such difficulty expressing. He loved her. He loved her and he didn't know if he could go on without her. He didn't want her to go because he wouldn't be able to stand her loss. Her feelings mirrored his own. If he were to die she was certain it would break the last of her will. They depended on each other so much. Needed one another on a vital level. She knew why he was terrified of her agreeing to Miles request, but this was the opportunity they were waiting for. They had to take the risk.

Reaching up her hand Sookie let her fingertips trail over the troubled ridge of Eric's brow. Her eyes gentled, and her voice turned soft as she urged, "We have to do this, Eric. We can't run forever. I can't run forever. You know that."

He did know it. He'd known it for a while now. Each night he'd seen the wariness and despair growing in her. He knew her strength was great, but he also knew she had her limits and was steadily approaching them. With every passing night Bill's forces had grown stronger and more numerous, further destroying Sookie's hope that things could be good again. Eric knew that Sookie didn't have it in her to run forever, to watch her friends and brother suffer more and more, falling victim to these dangerous times. But that knowledge did nothing to stop him wanting to take Sookie in his arms and fly far away. Take her somewhere safe where he could protect her; hide her away from Bill's relentless searching. He did not want to let her do this.

Sookie stood silent in front of Eric, watching his emotions warring within his eyes as he tried to stare her down. He obviously knew she was right, but in this instance the always pragmatic Eric Northman's heart was overriding his mind. The vampire that had been willing to use her as bait in order to achieve a goal no longer existed. This vampire, this Eric, would do anything to keep her out of harms way. Sookie, while touched and warmed by Eric's love for her, knew that she had to get him to agree.

Stepping close, she tilted her head back to keep hold of his gaze, and pressed, "Eric, this could be the only chance we get. We have to take it."

Taking hold of her hips to pull her further into him, Eric argued, "And what if it is a trap? What if this is all a set up? What then?"

"It's a chance we'll have to take."

"It is madness."

"Name the last time anything about our lives resembled sanity?"

Looking down into Sookie's dark eyes, Eric knew there was no point in arguing with her. She'd made up her mind to do this, and nothing he said or did would dissuade her. He could try to force her not to go, but he knew that would only have her trying to sneak off during the daytime and he hated the thought of her out there alone far too much to put them at odds over this. He did not like this plan. He did not think it was going to work, even if it wasn't a trap. Even if what this Miles had told them was true, Eric doubted the plan he'd presented was feasible, but Sookie was right. It was the best chance they'd been offered yet. Eric simply hated that it revolved around Sookie offering herself up like a sacrificial lamb.

Finally, Eric offered, "Alright. We'll go, but you have to promise me if we sense anything off we'll run."


"And you won't leave my sight unless absolutely necessary."

"If it will make you feel better."

"And most importantly you will not agree to a suicide mission. If we follow Miles back to this base of operations his people have, if we hear them out and learn that their plan involves you sacrificing yourself, we'll walk. Taking part in a plan that has little chance of success is one thing, signing up for certain death is another."

Offering him a tentative smile, Sookie agreed, "I may be tired, Eric, but I'm not suicidal. I want to win this fight against Bill, and make a life for myself."

"A life with me?"

When her eyes widened in shock at his question and she tried to step out of his hold, Eric tightened his hands on her hips to keep her pressed to him as he continued, "Sookie, I have never once pressed you on what we are since this all began. I've taken what you could give me and never complained about the distance you've purposefully kept between us."

"Eric, I—"

"Let me finish."

Sookie's mouth snapped shut as she gazed up at Eric. She didn't want to talk about this. They didn't talk about this. They loved each other. They could feel their love for one another in their bond. They could see it in one another's eyes. They could feel it in every stolen touch or kiss, every embrace … but they never talked about it.

"You know how I feel about you, Sookie. You know I love you, and I know you love me. I understand why you've kept your distance from me. I understand why you had to protect your heart, but I need to know that if by some miracle we are able to take Bill down you won't run from me anymore. I want you to promise me if we make it through this war with Bill you'll be mine. I want forever with you, Sookie, and I need you to promise that if we don't die I'll have it."

Standing silent, Sookie stared up at Eric as she tried to find the words to explain to him why this was so hard for her. Finally, she whispered, "You don't understand."

"That's bullshit, Sookie. I understand perfectly. I'm over a thousand years old. You think I don't know about loss and pain? You think I don't know what it is to harden your heart to protect it? To push people away and keep them at a distance so no one can hurt you? You know what I was like when we first met, what I'm still like with everyone but you. I guard myself against others and the pain they can inflict just as fiercely as you do. I just don't guard myself with you. I can't have barriers with you, Sookie. You know anything I have, and everything I am is yours. It has been that way for years now, and I've allowed you to take comfort in me when you needed it only for you to walk away from me every fucking time. No matter how much it pains me not to be with you every night, I've let you put your barriers up with me. I know it is how you are coping with everything."

Letting his emotions shine in his eyes, Eric continued, "But I can't do it anymore. If we're going to make a stand against Bill, I need you beside me. If you can stop running from him, you can damn well stop running from me."

They stared off. Long moments passed with the only sound between them being Sookie's steady breathing as she gazed up at Eric. Finally she offered, "I never meant to hurt you, Eric. I—I just …"

"I know, Sookie, I know why you've refused to be with me through all of this, but I can't do it anymore. If we go with Miles we are more than likely signing up to die. Our chances of winning are nearly nonexistent. So if we're going to stop running and make a stand, than I need for you to be with me. If these are our last days together I want to spend them with you. And should we win? If somehow we manage to survive? Then I want a life with you. I'm asking you now to tell me if you want these things too."

She did want them. Oh how she wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of her life living and loving with Eric Northman. In her weakest moments, she'd allowed herself to dream of the impossible. Sometimes, when she was all alone she'd fantasize about living a life where Bill didn't exist, and she and Eric were free to love one another without someone trying to kill them. She'd dream about making love to him all night, of lying in his arms as he died for the day. She dreamed of being there when he rose for the night, greeting him with a smile and a kiss. She had many dreams, but the crushing weight of reality had always banished them quickly. She'd never allowed herself to believe she and Eric could be happy, because she honestly didn't think she could take the disappointment and pain when it didn't happen. But now?

Now she was asking him to walk into almost certain death or enslavement. She was asking him to risk everything on the word of a stranger, and she knew he would follow her no matter what. She knew even if she refused to give him the promise he was asking from her now Eric would still accompany her to meet up with The Opposition Miles was supposedly a part of. Knowing this could she deny him? Could she deny herself? If these truly were to be her last few days didn't she deserve to be with Eric? Hadn't she earned that happiness? Hadn't she at least earned the right to die happy?

Making her decision Sookie reached up to pull Eric's face down to hers. She kissed him softly before promising, "If this is it for us then we deserve to spend it together."

Wrapping his arms fully around her waist to pull her up against his chest, Eric nuzzled Sookie's cheek and pressed, "And if we manage to survive?"

"Then you'll never get rid of me. Eric, I love you. I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you, and if we live through all of this I want us to start over somewhere and remind each other of what happiness is."

"Good," Eric said before he slanted his mouth over hers. He felt her fingers delve into his hair as he tilted her back. Their embrace was fierce and hungry, desperate, and Eric opened his end of the bond wide to send his feelings of love and elation to Sookie. He'd often opened their bond to share strength with her, but she rarely opened hers. Now? Now he felt Sookie lower her barriers and embrace their bond fully. He could feel her light and love, her warmth filling him completely as his lips ravaged hers.

When Eric finally pulled back to allow her to breathe Sookie tucked her face into his neck and panted, "I want you to know it was never easy to stay away from you. I wanted you just as much as you wanted me."

"I sincerely doubt that, but it's nice to know I always made your heart race."

They shared a smile before Sookie suggested, "I guess we'd better go tell the others of our decision."

"Indeed. You are aware it won't go over well?"

"I know."

"You're brother will not agree. He will try to stop us."

"I won't let him."

Taking Sookie's hand and leading her towards their camp, Eric said, "We won't let him. You made a promise, Sookie, and I mean to hold you to it."

As Eric led her towards the camp where their group was waiting, Sookie wondered just how she was going to break it to their group that she and Eric were going with Miles to take part in a less than brilliant plan to take down Bill. She could only imagine the reactions their announcement was going to garner.

"Are you out of your fucking minds!"

Jason stood before his sister and Eric with his fists clenched at his sides. When he'd heard their decision to go with Miles he'd flipped, and there was no way in hell he was going to let his sister go off to God knows where with God knows who to do God knows what in order to take down a vampire god.

"Sookie, you can't do this! And you!" Turning an accusing finger towards Eric, Jason hissed, "How the hell could you be ok with this? I thought you cared about my sister? Why would you be encouraging this shit!"

While Eric had certainly become accustomed to Sookie's brother, and had gained a high level of tolerance for the boy, that didn't mean he was going to put up with that kind of disrespect. Sookie was the only one allowed to speak to him in such a way. Not her brother.

Letting his fangs snap down, Eric hissed, "Get that finger out of my face or I'll rip it off."

"I'm not letting you get my sister killed!" Jason was far too gone to care if he angered Eric or not.

Before an altercation could break out between Eric and her brother, Sookie stepped between them and said, "Jason, Eric doesn't like this idea either. I talked him into it. I know it's dangerous, and I know you don't like my decision to go, but I have to. We may never get another chance again. Eric and I are going."

Jason wasn't given a chance to respond when Nora drew everyone's attention when she sneered, "Of course you talked him into it. You're too stupid to see a trap when it's right in front of you, and you use my brother's affection for you to get him killed right along with you."

"Nora!" Eric barked, his anger clear. "I have warned you before of speaking about Sookie in such a way. Watch your words."

"Yeah! Don't call my sister stupid!" Jason chimed in.

Nora ignored him, as well as the stares of everyone else in their group as she moved to stand in front of Eric. "Brother, you can't be seriously considering doing this? We have no idea who these people are, or if they are trustworthy."

"Sookie read Miles mind, there was no deception in his thoughts," Eric offered in reply. He knew that even with the incredible boon Sookie's telepathy offered them, it was not fool proof. Just because in Miles mind every word out of his mouth about The Opposition, and their plan to take down Bill had been true, didn't mean they were. They could very well head towards this Opposition base only to find themselves in a trap. Hopefully that was not the case.

Nora, who wasn't about to let her brother walk into certain death, argued, "Even if what this human has told was true, that doesn't mean it is true any longer. He said he's been searching for us for two months. What if Bill and his army have destroyed the Opposition since he's been gone? What if you get there and there is no one waiting to help? What if you get there and Bill's army has set up camp? This plan is a fool's plan, and your infatuation for this girl is going to get you killed!"

"It is not your concern," Eric maintained. "We have made our decision. Sookie and I are going with Miles to join The Opposition."

"Not my concern? Not my concern! We are blood! You are my brother! We share a maker, and have fucked, fought, and loved together for over seven centuries! The fuck it isn't my concern!"

Eric's eyes softened for a moment. He knew that Nora had always had a stronger love for him than he'd had for her. While he did love her, it was not the kind of love he had for Sookie. Nora had always been very attached to him, almost as much as she had been to Godric, and he knew the fact that he was so hopelessly and completely in love with Sookie hurt his sister, but there was nothing he could do. Sookie owned his heart, and he would follow where she led, even unto death.

Switching to Old Norse so that the humans in the group wouldn't understand, Eric said, "Little sister, I know you don't like my decision to go, but it is my decision. I appreciate your concern, but I am doing this."

"And what about me?" Nora asked in Old Norse, "what am I supposed to do without you? You are the only family I have left! Godric is gone, and you are supposed to be with me! He made me for you! To be your companion!"

"Godric made you to be my sister, and I love you as a brother, but my place is with Sookie now, and we must do this. It could be our only chance to take Bill down."

"She is going to get you killed!"

"I would rather die by her side than live a single night without her," Eric said firmly in his native tongue.

Nora's expression showed her shock. She couldn't believe her brother was saying these things. Eric had always been a survivor, always had a plan to make it through whatever shit storm was coming down on them. Never, never would she have believed there would come a time he would willingly walk into the claws of death so easily.

Nora's eyes were hard and angry as they turned to Sookie. She hated that this nothing of a girl had taken her brother from her. She hated that Eric cared more for Sookie, a girl he'd only known for a blink of an eye in comparison the many centuries they'd spent together, held more way with Eric than she did. She just hated Sookie fucking Stackhouse!

Her voice was fierce as she hissed, "I can't believe you are talking him into this! I can't believe you are going to allow your stupidity to kill Eric! I thought you loved him!"

Sookie had been silent before now, but couldn't help replying, "I do love him, and it's why I'm willing to fight for a future with him!"

"There is only death waiting for him if he goes with you!"

"It is our only chance!"

Sookie let her eyes scan their group as she explained, "This is the chance we've been waiting for you guys. If we let it pass us by we might not get another one. Bill and his army are growing stronger by the night. Bill's forces are slowly spreading across the globe. We're running to the ends of the Earth now as it is, but what happens when he catches up with us? What happens when it's just our little group against him and his vast army? What happens if we run and cower for so long that there is nowhere left for us to hide? No one else left to fight with us? Then what?"

Meeting the gazes of those she had lived with day in and day out since fleeing Louisiana, Sookie beseeched, "Believe it or not, but I don't want to do this. I want to run and hide every bit as much as you guys do. I don't want to be a slave, I don't want to die, and I definitely don't want anything to happen to Eric or any of you, but I have to take this chance. I'm taking it so that maybe we can all know peace one day, so that maybe we can have a chance to rebuild our lives and start over. I have to go."

Reaching out to take Sookie's hand, Eric added, "And I am going with her."

There was a moment of silence before Pam stood up from where she and Tara had been watching the fight unfold, and declared, "And I'm going with you two."

"So am I," Tara added as she moved to stand beside her Maker.

"You're not going anywhere without me," Jessica insisted as she moved to stand on the other side of Pam.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Jason insisted, "I'm sure as hell not staying behind. If you're going, Sook, so am I."

"Me too," Alcide offered as he stood up while much of his pack followed suit. Sookie had earned the love and respect of everyone in the group over the years, and they would not let her fight alone.

Sookie shook her head violently, and shouted, "No! God no! You guys can't come! You have to stick to the plan and keep heading for South America. Get to the jungle and hide as long as you can!"

"Like hell, Sook," Jason countered. "If you're going to fight then so are we. We're in this together. I'm not letting you run off to face this fight alone."

"Jason, you can't come." Looking around the group, she insisted, "None of you can. It's not safe!"

"No shit, Tinkerbell," Pam snarked. "It hasn't been safe for any of us for a long time, but I'm sure as hell not letting Eric go off alone with only you to watch his back. You two are going to need help if Miles is leading you into a trap. I'm coming."

Looking up at Eric, Sookie said, "They can't come with us."

"Not all of them," Eric replied. Personally, he was of the mind that back up would improve their odds, but he wasn't going to order anyone to follow.

Sookie wouldn't have it. She wasn't going to let everyone she cared about risk their lives this way. It was bad enough she and Eric had to endanger themselves. Trying to get everyone to see reason, Sookie argued, "Jason, guys, think about this."

"We are, Sookie," Alcide assured. "You've put your life on the line for us more than once, and we're not going to let you go meet this Opposition without anyone to watch your back."

"Damn straight," Lafayette added as he moved to sling an arm over Sookie's shoulders. "If you're going, we're going. You are our fearless leader after all."

Sookie pointed out, "And what about the children? Are we supposed to take them with us?" Nodding towards the rest of the group, the part of their group that was more women and children, Sookie insisted, "They can't come, and you can't leave them alone!"

That brought all the humans up short. Sookie was right. Not everyone in their group was cut out to fight. Sookie exchanged intense looks with Jason, Lafayette, Alcide, and several other members of their group as she maintained, "I appreciate the fact you all want to come and help, I really do, but you just can't. One, the larger our party is the harder it will be for us to sneak past enemy lines to meet up with The Opposition Miles is a part of. Second, you guys have to get the women and children to safety. The trip is too dangerous for them to make it on their own."

While he agreed with his sister, Jason still wasn't about to let her go alone. "Then the only thing to do is divide into two groups. Some of us will stay, and some of us will go, but we aren't letting you go alone."

"He's right, Sook, we can't let you go alone," Lafayette added.

Eric drew Sookie's attention when he offered, "It is the best plan, lover. If what Miles has told us is untrue, if it is a trap, we will need all the help we can get in order to get out. And if what he said is true? Then I would still prefer to have some of our own people watching our backs. I do not like the idea of us facing Bill with strangers we don't know and have no reason to trust."

Sookie wanted to argue. She wanted to tell her brother and friends there was no way in hell she was going to let them come along and risk their lives in such a way, but she realized it would be hypocritical of her. Not to mention wrong. She was asking Eric to risk his life to accompany her on this mission, and having Pam, Tara, Jessica, and some weres at their back would most certainly increase their odds of surviving.

Finally, she nodded her head, and asked, "Ok, so how do we decide who stays and who goes? All of the weres and vampires can't come. The group needs daytime and nighttime protection as they make their way to South America."

Eric suggested, "I say half and half. Isabelle, Pam and Tara come with us, but Jessica and Ricky will stay behind. Then half the weres come with us and the other half remain."

"Are you forgetting about me," Nora asked her brother. "Do you think I will let you go alone?"

"Whether you stay or go is up to you, Nora, but know that I will tolerate no dissention in the group once we head out. Sookie and I call the shots, and you will not undermine her authority, or do anything to jeopardize our mission. Is that clear?"

Nora held her brother's gaze. She detested his dedication to Sookie, but she knew trying to get him to see reason over the girl was pointless. She'd argued with him for months when they'd all first started traveling together after Bill consumed all of Lillith's blood. She'd tried to get him to see that the way Sookie treated him, keeping him at a distance for weeks or months on end only to spend a sporadic night with him here or there, was disrespectful, and that the silly human girl was not worth his time, but Eric would not be swayed. For some reason he fancied himself in love with the girl, but Nora was certain it had to be Sookie's fairy blood that had bound her brother so closely to the foolish human. She just didn't believe he loved Sookie Stackhouse more than he did her!

Finally, Nora agreed, "I will go with you, and I will do my best to keep you from getting yourself killed."

"Well I'm definitely going," Jason chimed in.

"No!" Grabbing her brother's arm as she looked at Eric, Sookie asked, "Will you work with the group to divide everyone up? I need to talk to Jason alone."

"Very well."

Sookie heard Eric order everyone to split into two groups; those who wanted to go, and those who wanted to stay. From there he'd make sure the groups were even so that the women and children would be protected on their way to South America. Keeping a firm hold on her brother's arm Sookie dragged him into one of their armored SWAT vans and once the door was slammed shut she said, "You aren't going, Jason."

Sitting on one side of the armored van while Sookie sat on the other side, Jason crossed his arms over his chest and insisted, "I am too going. You're my baby sister, Sook, and I'm not going to let you do this yourself!"

"Jason, you can't come!"

"The hell I can't!"

Raking her fingers through her hair, Sookie began, "Jason, please! You have to listen to me!"

"Sook, I—"


Holding her brother's gaze for an intense moment, Sookie finally whispered, "One of us has to survive, Jason."

"You said it wasn't a suicide mission!"

"It's not! But it is dangerous!"

"And that's why I'm going with you!"

Shaking her head, Sookie begged, "Jason, I want you to listen to me, and I want you to listen good."

"I'm not an idiot, Sook."

"I know you're not, and that is why I'm trying to talk to you one on one like this instead of having Eric glamour you to stay here."

Eyes widening, Jason gasped, "You wouldn't!"

Giving her brother a sad smile, Sookie replied, "You'd be surprised what I'm capable of these days, Jason."

Sitting back with his arms crossed over his chest, Jason huffed, "Fine, go ahead and say whatever it is you need to say, but it won't matter. I'm still going with you."

Glad her brother was going to hear her out, Sookie explained, "Jason, I need you to lead the group now. With me and Eric gone they're going to be looking to you to lead. When I leave with Eric I need to know you guys are ok. I need to know that you're getting as far away from Bill and his madness as you can. Jason, I need to know that you are still alive. And I need you to stay here so you can help raise your child. I need to know that the Stackhouses will go on."

"What the fuck are you talking about? I don't have a baby!"

"You will soon."

There was a long moment of silence before Jason blurted out, "Huh?"

Giving her brother a hesitant smile, Sookie said, "Michelle is pregnant. She's missed her last two periods. She's going to have a baby, but she's afraid to tell you since you haven't given her any indication that you see her as anything more than a hook up."

Jason blushed brightly. Michelle was one of the women they'd rescued and had joined their group. She was a pretty girl, and he did like her a lot, but he didn't want to give her promises he couldn't keep. He had no idea what was going to happen any more than Sookie did, and because of that he'd tried to keep things casual between him and Michelle. Now, hearing Sookie tell him that Michelle was pregnant, his mind was reeling.

"A—are you sure?"

"Yes," Sookie confirmed. "I've been hearing her worried thoughts about missing her periods for a almost a month now, and I asked Eric about it last week. He told me her scent has shifted. She's pregnant."

"Fuck." Jason's mind was racing now. It wasn't that he didn't want children, it was that he was worried how he was going to support a child with things like they were. He hadn't been expecting this at all, and now he had a thousand new worries running through his head.

Moving to sit beside her brother Sookie took his hand and continued, "Jason, I love you so much. You are a wonderful brother, and the fact you want to protect me warms my heart, but you can't come with me. You're going to be a father soon, and the people here need you. And—and I need to know you are safe. If I'm walking into danger like this I need to know that you and my niece or nephew are far away from the danger."

"Everywhere is dangerous now, Sook."

"True, but South America is bound to be a hell of a lot more safe than anywhere near Bill."

"Sook, I—I can't let you go alone." He put the matter of the baby aside. Right now he needed to focus on the fact his baby sister wanted to walk into a war zone to face a vampire god.

"I won't be alone. I'll have Eric, and Pam, and Tara, and others to help watch my back."

Glaring at his sister, Jason argued, "It won't matter if you have an army at your back if your walking right into hell. If this is a trap, or Bill is stronger than we thought, not even Eric will be able to protect you."

"I know," Sookie whispered sadly. "I know there is little hope to win this, but I have to try. I have to try so that I might have my own future one day. I have to try so that you and everyone else here can have a chance at a better life."

"Sook, you don't have to sacrifice yourself for us."

"I don't plan on sacrificing myself at all. I want to live, Jason. I want to be happy again. I want us all to be safe and happy, and this might be the only way to do that. And I know you don't want me to go alone. You're a great brother, the best. You've always stuck up for me, always done your best to look out for me, but you can't help me this time."

Tears filling her eyes, Sookie continued, "This isn't like when you beat up the bullies on the playground for calling me a freak, and it's not like when you kicked the snot out of Bobby Winters for slapping my ass at Merlotte's when I first started. This is my fight, Jason, and you can't be a part of it. Your fight lies in getting your child, and these people to safety."

"Sook, I—I …"

Jason's voice cracked as tears filled his eyes. It felt like his heart was ripping in two. He wanted more than anything to protect Sookie. He didn't want her fighting this fight without him there to help, but with the news he was about to be a father he didn't want to leave Michelle either. He didn't know what to do.

Seeing the turmoil in her brother's eyes, hearing the pain in his voice, Sookie soothed, "Oh Jason!"

She wrapped her arms around him and they hugged each other tight. Burying her face into his shoulder, Sookie said, "I love you so much, Jason, so, so much, but you can't come with me. Your place is here now. Your place is with Michelle and your baby, and it's with these people. You need to look after them and get them to South America."

"I don't want you to do this, Sookie."

"I know, but I have to."

Tears slipped down Jason's cheeks as he finally accepted the fact he couldn't go with his sister. He had a baby to think of now, and those who weren't going to go really were going to need his help, but that knowledge didn't make it any easier. The thought of Sookie being in danger without him being there to help her made Jason's heart skip a beat. He didn't think it was fair that his sister had to shoulder so much responsibility.

The last few years had really changed Jason, and he knew he'd wasted most of his life. He knew he'd walked around in a self absorbed state for most of his days, and that he'd never fully appreciated the sacrifices his Gran and sister had made for him … but things had changed. Jason now realized how difficult life had been for Sookie growing up, and he certainly understood the strain her uniqueness had put on her ever since Bill Compton walked into their lives all those years ago. In his mind it wasn't fair that Sookie always had to be the one to put herself out there in order to save the day.

Hugging his sister tight, Jason sobbed, "Fuck, Sook! I hate this shit!"

Hearing her brother's thoughts, seeing his concern for her, knowing how this decision to go with her or stay to look after Michelle and his unborn child was tearing him apart, Sookie soothed, "It's going to be ok, Jason. No matter what happens know that I love you, and I'm proud of the man you've become. You're the best big brother that a girl could have, and you're going to be a wonderful father."

"Stop talking like you're not coming back, Sook. You promise me that you're going to come back. You promise me that we'll see each other again."

Pulling back from their embrace, Sookie replied, "I can't make that promise, Jason. I can only promise to try."

Brother and sister sat side by side in the SWAT van holding hands in silence for a moment before Jason finally said, "Remember when we were little and we used to play hide and seek with the other kids?"

Sookie smiled as she laughed, "I remember that you used to bet the other kids their lunch money that you could find them all in five minutes, and once they all hid you'd ask me to tell you where they were. You so totally cheated. You might not have understood my telepathy back then, but you sure as hell used it."

Jason grinned, and reminded, "Hey, I always split my take with you."

"No you didn't. You'd buy me one ice cream sandwich and keep the rest."

"Close enough."

Sookie shared her brother's grin before laying her head on his shoulder. "You certainly made things interesting growing up."

"What can I say? I liked excitement." Bringing his sister's hand up to his lips, Jason kissed their entwined fingers before adding, "I love you, Sookie. I'm sorry I spent so many years with my head up my ass and wasn't a proper brother to you, but I always wanted to do right by you."

"Oh Jason, I know, and you were a great big brother."

"Not always, and I'll always regret that, but you were always a great sister. Way better than I deserved. I want you to know I was always proud to be your brother. I never cared that you were different, and I'm sorry if you ever thought I didn't want you around."

Offering her brother a smile, Sookie said, "You are exactly the kind of brother I deserved, and I wouldn't trade you in for anything. Even if you did write a letter to Santa one year asking if you could trade me for a new puppy."

Jason let out a laugh. "Yeah well, I was really young then a puppy seemed like much more fun than a little sister that kept asking me to play tea party with her. If it makes you feel any better I'm really glad Santa didn't answer that wish."

"Me too."

They were silent a moment longer before Jason announced, "You're the bravest person I've ever met, Sook, the bravest, most loyal and caring person that has ever walked God's green earth. If Momma and Daddy could be here to see you they'd be so proud of you. So would Gran. I'm proud to be your brother, and I hope one day to be half as good as you are."

"Oh Jason, that's one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me."

"Well I should have been saying things like that to you all along, but better late than never, huh?"

Sookie kissed her brother's cheek and said, "You didn't have to say anything, Jason, I heard it all in your head every day."

"Watch your back, Sook, and be careful."

"Eric will watch my back just fine, Jason. I'm going to keep my eyes on the prize."

Sookie's eyes turned hard as she added, "Bill's going to die, Jason, and I'm going to be the one to kill him."