a/n: Thanks so much for the reviews! I'm thinking this might wrap up to be about 15 chapters right now. But we'll see.

CHAPTER 11

Sookie's POV

"Sookie! Sookie! Sook!" My eyes flew open and I tried to get my bearings. Where was I? Who was yelling my name? "Sook! What the hell…. Where is this girl…" I heard Jason mumbling on the first floor of the barn. I tried to get up but there was an arm around my shoulders. Crap. I looked up slightly at Eric who was fast asleep. I pushed the blanket off of us and sat up.

My movement already had him waking up but I jostled him a bit more. "Eric! Eric wake up!" I tried to keep quiet so Jason would not hear us. I could tell by the dim light in the barn it was very early in the morning. Hopefully my parents had not been freaking out too long.

"What?" Eric looked like he was going to roll over and lay down.

"Eric! Get up, we fell asleep in the barn!" He finally seemed to realize where he was and just how bad that was. Nothing happened but my parents would not see it that way.

"Shit, okay well they won't be that mad right? Once I explain?" Eric stood up and started grabbing his things. He pulled his sweatshirt on and found his backpack.

"I don't know. They're going to be really mad though." I nervously moved to the ladder. I did not want to face the music. Eric reached out, grabbing my hand to stop me.

"I'm sorry ahead of time if I get you into a lot of trouble." He frowned.

"It's okay, you needed me." I tried to smile but it didn't quite reach my eyes. I was worried about the screaming about to start.

"Worst case scenario we get yelled at and grounded right? It's not the end of the world." Eric tried to reason and gave my hand one last squeeze before we headed down the ladder. I tried to think positive but when my sneakers hit the barn floor I heard Jason.

"What the hell Sook? Where have you been? Mom and Dad woke me up this morning to look for you—" Jason paused when he noticed Eric coming down the ladder behind me. "You gotta be kidding me! What do you think you're doing with my sister you little jackass!" The second Eric's feet hit the floor Jason grabbed him by the collar of his shirt then shoved him roughly against the wall.

"Jason get off of him! He just needed somewhere to stay!" I tried to pull Jason off of him but he shoved me back. I was no match for my brother. Neither was Eric. He was already as tall as Jason but nowhere near as muscular. Jason wasted lots of time working out for football season.

"You buy that crap Sook? I was 15 not too long ago, I know what's going through his head." I wanted to slap my brother. Not every boy was a jerk like him.

Eric finally pushed Jason back some and spoke up. "I didn't do anything. I wouldn't treat Sookie like that. I'm nothing like you, I actually treat girls with respect." He glared at my brother. I saw Eric's fingers curling into a fist. Was he crazy? They both looked like they were ready to start beating each other when my parents came running in. They must have heard the yelling.

"Sookie! Oh my god are you okay? Where were you?" My mother was hugging me and checking me for injuries.

"I'm fine Mom. Eric just needed somewhere to stay last night. I met him up in the loft and we fell asleep by accident." Now that she was done assessing my health she looked mad. Really mad. My father was inspecting Eric from head to toe. I was pretty sure he was seeing if all of his clothes were in place. I was sure all of them were crazy. Did they really think I would have sex in the barn with Eric? I blushed just saying the word out loud in front of anyone besides my girlfriends.

"Really? Eric aren't you supposed to be in Boston?" My mom started questioning while my father dragged Jason off to one side, so he could avoid him punching Eric.

"Yes but something happened last night so I had to get away. I didn't know who else to go to." Eric seemed uncomfortable talking to my mother about this. But he had to tell the truth. Otherwise it would seem like we were just up to no good, like plenty of teenagers were.

"You should have called your Mom for a ride if you didn't want to stay." Mom was not having any of this.

"I know but… I didn't want to talk to her about it yet." Eric was staring at the floor now. That's when I decided to jump in and save him from having to explain more.

"Mom, listen, Eric said his Dad was freaking out on him last night. He was yelling and he even grabbed him by his neck! He couldn't stay there after that." She had to listen to me and know I was not lying. Everyone knew I was a terrible liar.

My Mom seemed to believe me and her face softened some. She felt bad for Eric but at the same time she was still upset we both did not handle this better. "Eric I'm sorry about your Dad. But you should have called your Mom or even us. We would have picked you up. Taking the train alone isn't safe and we don't appreciate thinking our daughter was kidnapped either. Corbett found her empty bed this morning and we were all worried sick. Come on inside, we'll call your mother. I'm sure she's having a heart attack."

As we were led inside I peered over at Eric. We both knew we were in for some serious grounding. But at least my parents believed us. Jason finally shut up too. Once we were in the house we sat at the kitchen table in silence. My mother called Eric's mom and she was on her way. I could hear how worried she was over the phone since she was yelling and hysterical. Eric's father must have called last night. She probably did not think to call us since Eric was supposed to be in Boston.

After all was said and done I ended up grounded for two weeks and Eric was grounded for a month. His mother was really upset he went off alone for the second time in the city and didn't call her first when his father gave him trouble. But she also called Jack Northman up and screamed at him. As far as I knew Eric did not have to go there on the weekends anymore. He only went if he chose to. I think his Dad finally felt guilty enough to realize he needed to back off and change his ways.

Since I couldn't see Eric or Tara I spent a lot of time with Jupiter. It would be after Thanksgiving before I saw Eric outside of school again. It felt like eternity. I also was not allowed on the computer so I could not instant message him. It sucked.

Then one afternoon I walked out to get the mail after school. I had nothing else to do, so might as well. I crossed the street and opened the metal mailbox and pulled out the flyers, bills, and… a letter. I looked at the handwriting and smiled. Eric had gotten creative. He wrote me a letter since we could not use the computer. Did I say how amazing my boyfriend was yet?

I ran back to the house and tucked the envelope into my pocket. I dumped the rest of the mail on the counter and ran up to my room. Once I was sitting on my bed I tore open the white envelope. Inside there was a package of my favorite Orbit gum and a folded letter. I smiled and unfolded the paper.

Hey Sookie,

Again I'm sooo sorry I got you grounded. But thanks for being there for me, it means a lot. I figured since you can't IM me that I would write you a letter. This feels kind of cool since no one really writes these anymore. It's also strange that you won't get this for another two days or so. Anyway make sure you chew that gum! I'm sure you'll bring it school and share it with your favorite person (that better be me!).

Hmmm… I saw Pam and Amelia today in the hall. They were looking like best friends. Do you know if they're hanging out a lot? Seems like Pam is drifting from the plastic group. Eggs finally admitted to me in math that he was a jerk to Tara. I just said yeah, you were. Because he really was and I had nothing else to say.

I miss hanging out with you Sookie. I can't wait until after Thanksgiving so I can see you outside of school. Maybe if it snows by then we can go sledding. Didn't you say you sled in a creepy old cemetery? I'm telling you this town is weird. There is a hitchhiker ghost and you people sled in cemeteries! Okay well I dunno what else to say in my letter. But I will write you one tomorrow!

Later Smalls!

Sincerely, your Goofus! =P

I was giggling by the end and quickly grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. Then I started scribbling out a reply.

Eric,

I think this might be your coolest idea yet. Thanks for the gum! And stop apologizing for getting me in trouble! It was my choice and I wanted to be there for you! I hope you can read my handwriting since it's pretty crappy. By the time you get this I'll probably have two more of your letters, and have talked to you about it on the bus. Oh well!

I don't know about Pam and Ames. She did say they went to a movie last week. I guess they are becoming decent friends. Maybe it's good because now Pam will have a real friend. Nan was probably always fake and bitchy to her too. I'm glad Eggs realizes he was wrong. He really hurt Tara when he broke up with her.

Miss you too! Lots! And sledding at the cemetery is normal! It is the best hill in all of town! Plus there are no grave stones on the backside of the hill so you don't hit any of them going down. But look out for the stonewall! Last year I got so much speed I smashed into it. You'll have to borrow my ghost book, there are two more stories from our town in it! I didn't have gum for you… but I included something extra!

See you on the bus! –Smalls

Once I finished writing I folded up the letter and put it, along with a photo from Halloween into the envelope. It was the one Eric took of us sitting outside Bill's house. We were both smiling despite Eric's black eye. I kept the one of him kissing me on the cheek with his cracked glasses on. I loved that one and it was sitting on my nightstand.

I quickly addressed the envelope, slapped a stamp on it, and put it in the mail. Mom never said no letters so I did not count this as breaking the rules or lying.

A few days later I had two more letters from Eric in my room and I had sent him one in reply each time. It was finally Friday and it was the end of my second week of being grounded. That meant two more weeks for Eric. I walked up to my locker and found Nan blocking the way. She had her top locker open was checking her hair in the tiny mirror she had stuck to the inside of the door.

"Excuse me Nan, I need to get my books." I was being polite when really I ought to spit in her face. She had treated Eric like crap. But I tried to live by the mantra 'two wrongs don't make a right'. If I smacked Nan it would not erase what she had done to Eric. I also did not need anymore drama with her.

"You can wait." She said without even looking at me.

I thought about just walking away but then I thought about how much of a bitch she was. She did not just tease me, she hurt Eric. She physically hurt him by running off to her brother and having Stan beat him up. I gathered up all the courage I had and held on tight to the anger I felt churning in my stomach.

"No I can't." I said through gritted teeth. I was sick of her crap. I wasn't taking it anymore. Plus Stan wasn't here for her to call on. It was just the two of us. No Pam or Isabelle either to laugh at the dumb remarks she made to me. She was all alone without her pack of plastic barbies.

Nan turned to face me and looked slightly surprised before putting on her bitch mask again. "And what are you going to do about it Tomboy? You probably don't even know what a mirror is by the way you dress."

That was it. I couldn't take it anymore. I stepped forward and got right in her face. "Nan get the hell out of my way! You're such a stuck up Barbie and I've never been mean to you, but you treat me like crap. I'm sick of it!" I reached out with and pushed her aside by her shoulder. Nan easily stumbled to the side in shock. I swear her jaw was on the floor.

In a rage I opened my locker and furiously started shoving books into my bag. "And you know what?" I guess my rant was not over. "I can't believe you did that to Eric. Just because one boy in this damn school doesn't flirt with you, you get to him beat up? Do you have zero self esteem?" I zipped my backpack and stood up. Nan was speechless.

"And if you ever think about hurting Eric again, don't forget I'm a tomboy. So I'd forget the bitch slap and just punch you in the face." I spit at her then stormed off down the hall. Once I was sitting in my next class I could not believe what I had just done. My heat was racing and I could barely keep still. It was like some adrenaline high from finally getting that off my chest. Part of me was nervous she would really try to do something to Eric, but I meant what I said. I would punch her plastic face.

When I made it to health in the afternoon I was dying to tell Eric. But Bill stole his seat next to me. I think Eric had heard about it already though because he gave me a thumbs up and kept glancing over during class. The bell needed to ring! The health teacher droned on and I tried to pay attention. Tara passed me a few notes about Eggs being her friend again. I hoped they avoided dating though. It seemed like a bad idea for now.

Finally! The bell rang and I jumped up. Then Bill stopped me. "Sookie! Wait up!"

I wanted to talk to Eric who was literally five feet away waiting for me at the door.

"Yeah Bill?" I had no reason to be mean to him. He was socially awkward but he was not a bad person.

"Um, I was wondering if you were busy tonight? That new Spiderman movie just came out. I was wondering if you wanted to go?" Bill was glaring at Eric whenever he thought I wasn't looking. Hadn't he heard I was going out with Eric? I thought it was obvious.

"I can't Bill. Sorry. I'm grounded and I'm going out with Eric anyway. I thought you knew…" I frowned slightly, honestly feeling sympathy for him.

"Oh… I didn't know you were more than friends…" He eyed Eric like he didn't believe it.

Then Eric had to go all 'typical man' on me and he walked over, threw his arm around my shoulders and smirked down at Bill. "We are. Sookie's my girlfriend so why don't you stop asking her out?"

Bill did not seem to have a reply to that. So he just mumbled something like 'whatever' and left. I was little annoyed with Eric. I knew Bill could be a pest but he had never done anything mean. He was probably really nervous to ask me that and then Eric had to be a jerk about it.

"Why did you do that?" I asked as we walked out of the room and towards our lockers.

"Because I don't need him asking you out. You're my girlfriend, he can go ask out Tara. She's single." He was not getting the point.

"But you were kind of a jerk Eric. If he didn't know, that's not his fault." I know I was too nice for my own good.

"But he did know and he still did it. In math class I told Eggs I asked you out, like two days after it happened. That was weeks ago, and Bill was sitting right next to us and heard the entire conversation." Eric explained and was obviously annoyed with Bill.

I kneeled down at my locker and started tossing in books I didn't need to bring home. "Oh…. Sorry for assuming the worst then…. I didn't mean to take Bill's side."

Eric shrugged. "Whatever, you didn't know. If you had started screaming at me, then maybe I'd be mad. You just try to be nice to everyone Smalls, that's your problem." He smirked and then Nan came down the hall. The second she spotted me she turned away.

"What was that about?" Eric asked with a knowing grin, grabbing my hand as we walked down the hall to the bus.

"Oh man, I have a good story for you on the bus ride home."

I told Eric the entire story on the bus. But it was one of those conversations you wanted to talk about for hours. This was a huge moment in my life. Nan had been annoying me since kindergarten. When I got home I stormed into the house and raided the kitchen. The second I was my mother I asked if I could use the computer.

"Technically you're still grounded today."

"Please mom? It's been almost two weeks and I haven't done anything wrong since then. And I never get into trouble you know that." It was true, Jason was always the one stirring up trouble for my parents.

Thankfully she caved. "Alright but only because you're my favorite daughter."

"I'm you're only daughter!" I smiled and grabbed a can of soda, and a box of Cheez-Its. Then I headed to the small office and turned the computer on.

I signed onto the computer and cracked open the can of soda. The computer tended to be slow so I impatiently waited. Finally everything finished loading and my AIM sign-in window popped up. I logged in and hoped Eric was online. This would be a much better form of communication than letters. Although I would always have a soft spot for those handwritten letters he sent. I kept them all.

ENorthsox51: You're on the computer?!

Sook1e: Finally!

ENorthsox51: Are you not grounded anymore?

Sook1e: Well technically I can't go anywhere until tomorrow, but I convinced my mom to let me go on the computer today at least.

ENorthsox51: Lucky! I still have 2 more weeks =(

ENorthsox51: At least we can IM now tho.

Sook1e: Yea, I might miss your letters though =p

ENorthsox51: I thought that was a pretty epic idea, I might have stolen it from that cheesy notebook movie tho

Sook1e: Doesn't that guy write like 365 letters?! You only wrote me 4!

ENorthsox51: That boy prolly didn't have AIM!

Sook1e: ok maybe not

ENorthsox51: So I talked to my mom about being ungrounded for one night

Sook1e: What for?

ENorthsoz51: Well... I wanted to ask you in person but obviously that isn't happening.

ENorthsox51: Do you want to go to homecoming? Idk if dances are your thing... but it seems like it could be fun.

Sook1e: I've never been to one, my middle school didn't have them. But yea I'd go with you! =)

ENorthsox51: Cool, I bugged my mom enough and she said I can go to just that. But I have to tack on an extra day to being grounded right after Thanksgiving. I'd say it's worth it.

Sook1e: Are you gonna wear your Clark Kent tie?!

ENorthsox51: ummmmmm, maaaybe.

Sook1e: With the glasses.

ENorthsox51: Then I'd just look nerdy. Maybe you like nerds then.

Sook1e: Nah you're plenty cute just the way you are.

ENorthsox51: Aw Smalls you're making me blush over here

Sook1e: shut up!

ENorthsox51: =P

After another half hour of chatting about absolutely nothing Eric had to sign off and help his mom with something around the house. I was nervous but excited for the homecoming dance. Since we were both freshman we had never been. I probably would never have gone if it wasn't for Eric. I wasn't into dressing up for fun, if anything I kind of hated it. But I could suffer dress shopping with my mother so I could go to the dance with Eric. I'm sure he would look handsome in his shirt and tie. Although he probably had to go shopping with his mother too, I don't think Eric owned a tie except for the one he wore for Halloween.

The next week went by slowly. Eric didn't even get to come over for dinner until he was free from being grounded. So Tuesday nights were eerily quiet at my house.

Eric and I were chatting each day online after school now. It was much better than just talking at school or on the bus. Things were going very well for us. I'm sure the popular kids in our school would say we were moving at a snail's pace but it was what I wanted. I just did not know how other 15 year old girls were already sleeping with guys and not thinking twice about it. Of course I only knew of two girls who were definitely like that in my grade: Nan and Isabelle. But the rest of the girls and guys liked to act like they had sex even if they had never been kissed. It was so stupid.

Eric and I were ignoring everyone else and just doing our own thing. Luckily it seemed like he was on the same page as me. He didn't seem to find a need to rush into anything physical and we were the same friends we had been before. Sometimes I wondered if it was because of everything he saw with his jerk Dad, maybe that's why he wasn't like other boys and trying to rush things along. If I saw something like that I know I'd be freaked out. Then I'd associate sex with ruining my family. So that definitely wasn't the most pleasant thing.

I was pulled from my thoughts when Jason came into the barn. It was still early afternoon for a school day. Usually he was out with friends so this was strange. I was tacking up Jupiter to go for a ride on the trails.

"Sook? What are you doing?" Jason paused in the aisle and patted Jupiter on the neck. He looked slightly uncomfortable.

"Um, tacking up the horse, what does it look like?" Sometimes I wondered if he could possibly be that stupid.

"Oh okay..." He continued standing there just watching me it was so weird.

"I was wondering how well you knew Jessica Hamby?" Ah-ha, I knew there had to be a point to this. Jason didn't just hang around me for the fun of it.

"I barely know her. She's in my health class I think." That was one of those classes you could take any year, like art. So that's why a sophomore girl was there. Jess was a year younger than Jason and last I knew she was with Hoyt.

"I need your help." Jason ran his fingers through his hair and started pacing the barn aisle. He had never asked me for advice in his life. To him I was his nerdy sister who was two years younger than him.

"What?" I didn't know how I could be of help.

"I really like Jess, and she just broke up with Hoyt yesterday. I wanna ask her out, but I don't know what to do." Wow, Jason had to really like her if he was putting his pride aside like this. Jessica already rejected him for Hoyt once.

"Didn't she already say no? What makes you think she's going to change her mind now?" In my mind Jason had not changed lately, so why would Jess' opinion change?

"Well yeah, but... I was kind of a jerk to her. I was all cocky and thought for sure she'd pick me over Hoyt. So I didn't really try to be nice or anything..." He muttered.

"Oh, so you were your usual self then. No surprise there Jay." I hoisted the saddle up onto the horse's back and started strapping on the girth.

"Hey!"

"You know it's true." I snapped back before he could argue.

"Fine" He huffed. "That's why I need your help. Jess is more like you, she's not into drama and being popular. She's smart and she definitely isn't impressed by me being on the football team." He seemed to be really stumped by that fact. Usually the star of the football team thing worked for him. I was glad a girl finally had him all twisted up like this.

"So you want my advice on how to get her interested?" I finished with the saddle and moved onto Jupiter's bridle.

"Obviously" I almost wanted to laugh and ride off. He acted like a jerk to me half the time so why not?

"Okay... well..." I started walking Jupiter out of the barn so I could get on. "Be nice to her, like really nice. Basically do the opposite of what you usually do. Maybe you should try being her friend first and really talking to her instead of just hitting on her with your sleazy comments."

Jason was staring up at me a little confused. I was already in the saddle and ready to go off on my trail ride. He still seemed to be trying to process everything. "Okay… but what do I talk about? She doesn't like football."

Gosh what a surprise there. "I dunno Jay, anything. Good luck." With that I kicked Jupiter up into a trot and headed of towards the tree line. Jason was left standing in the driveway to process all of that. I loved my brother but I did not have the patience to sit there and explain step by step, how to be nice to a girl. I would have told him to ask Eric but they weren't on the best of terms since the incident in the barn.

Eric never liked Jason and that made him practically hate him. Jason had not really cared about Eric before, now he didn't like Eric either. So those two having a chat was not going to happen soon. I spent most of my trail ride day dreaming about what homecoming would be like, and praying Nan did not cause more trouble.

a/n: type up a review will ya? =P And don't worry everyone will be ungrounded soon enough!