Sorry for the delay in updating. Hope you enjoy this one, and that it isn't a major disappointment. Hope it also isn't too crazy, with Sookie's dilemma thats comes with being a fairy each month lol :)

Chapter Fourteen

Arriving home from work, I feel a lot happier than I have felt in a while, after arranging plans with the vampire Bill for him to escort me to Fangtasia, the bar where hopefully my good pal Eric is. I can't help grinning to myself and jumping and whooping as I climb up the porch to get into the house.

Eric Northman, my special childhood friend, here I come to see you again at last!

I can hardly wipe the smile off my face as I get inside the house, I'm so excited. I find Gran sitting at the table, reading one of her favorite romance novels and in her comfy nightgown, and all. She returns my smile and I know she's wondering and intrigued on what has gotten me so cheerful the way I am.

"You look happy," she observes with some glee as I kiss her hello on her cheek. "Did something exciting happen tonight?"

I can't exactly tell her why it is that I'm so happy the way I am, so I have to give her a little few minor falsehoods. "Something did happen tonight, Gran. Something good and very, very exciting."

"Oh, what?" she asks me with interest, closing up her book and giving me her full attention. "Does my Granddaughter finally have herself a date?"

I feel some of the happiness wane out of my expression a fair bit over that. I haven't gone out with anyone, and I haven't dated at all. I think Gran was fearing for a while there that something was wrong with me, because I haven't been interested in many guys. "You could call it that, maybe," I tell her. "But a vampire came into work tonight and we got plans tomorrow evening."

"Oh, wow. A vampire? What was he like?" Gran thinks he's the only vampire I've ever met, so I can't really blame her. But Vampire Bill has nothing on Eric.

"He was nice enough. He's agreed to take me out tomorrow night. He's driving me to Shreveport."

"What's in Shreveport, honey?"

"A bar called Fangtasia. It's a... vampire bar, Gran. I'm real excited to go."

"Hmm, well I guess that doesn't surprise me in the slightest that you're interested in going to a vampire bar," Gran says after a moment of thoughtfulness. "You have always liked different things, haven't you, dear? But you make sure you're safe, won't you?"

"Of course, Gran. I'll look after myself."

"And who is this vampire that's taking you? What is his name?"

"His name is Bill."

She raises her eyebrows at me. "Well, I can't say I was expecting that," she laughs shakily. "Such a normal name."

"I think most of 'em have normal names though, Gran. They used to be like us, after all."

"I suppose you're right on that."

"Well, Gran, it's been a long day. I'm beat. I'll see you tomorrow morning."

"Night, dear." I kiss her goodnight and off I go, skipping upstairs, probably far too excited than I ought to be.

I have no idea what Eric will think once he sees me again. Will he be happy? Pleased? Will he still look as I remembered? I know vampires don't age physically, but I can't help wonder if he has changed any. I know I've certainly changed. I'm not the same girl I used to be, the one he knew who was shorter than him and figureless. Since going through puberty, naturally I've grown taller a good deal, and I got more of a shape now. Breasts and hips, and all that other stuff. I hope he'll still remember me. What if he doesn't recognize me? God, even thinking that depresses me. How can he not possibly recognize me as that girl he trained? That girl that considered him her best bud once? I'm still her, just an older (and hopefully more mature) and less naive version of her. I hope he'll remember me.

I can't seem to stop stressing, even as I get into my night-clothes and climb into bed. It takes me a very long time to go to sleep, because all I can seem to do is think. My mind doesn't want to switch off for the night and give me some decent rest. I'm excited about going out to Fangtasia and hopefully seeing Eric. But I'm scared, too. Real scared.

I have never seen how Eric operates in the real world. I figure that when I was little, he kind of almost... put on a different front around me, one more suitable for the age I was. I'm not sure the real him was the one I knew as a little girl, but I'm hoping he hasn't changed much. Still, it'll be interesting to see how he is out in the real world, while running his bar.

After what seems like hours and hours, my restless mind finally goes drowsy and I start to doze off, dreaming about long stretches of green land and Eric's face.

By late afternoon next day, I'm fretting over what to wear tonight to Fangtasia.

I don't want to appear overdressed, but I also don't want to seem as if I haven't put any effort in with looking my best. I go through my closet, scrutinize the dresses I have in there, deliberating over which one would be suitable to wear out tonight to a vampire bar. I think I'm mostly excited to what Eric's reaction will be upon seeing me again. I want to knock his socks off and I want him to be surprised by how much I've changed, if any.

I'm definitely not a 'Little Fairy' anymore; Something I know he liked to used to call me, kind of affectionately.

I settle on one of my favorite dresses that I feel most comfortable in. It's a simple white dress, knee-length, and on the side it has pretty red flowers on it to give it a touch of color. It isn't a dress that screams you are trying too hard to impress, it's fairly understated, so I figure it's a good choice for the evening.

Deciding to freshen myself up, I take a long hot shower, hoping to ease out some of the nerves I feel, and shave and spray on some pretty perfume to hopefully conceal my Fairy odor. I don't know how many vampires will be in the bar tonight, but considering its a vampire bar, I'm assuming there will be quite a lot. Covering myself up in a towel, I head back into my room after my relaxing shower to make myself decent. I hum to myself absent-mindedly as I turn and close the door securely on myself, and then I hear it.

"I don't like him," a male's throaty voice suddenly says by my bed.

I shriek, cover myself up decently with my towel, and whirl in the direction the voice comes from in one move. I feel all the fear and caution leave my body almost immediately the instance I lay eyes on my Grandpa Niall, who has somehow materialized in my room and is sitting comfortably on the edge of my bed.

My Grandpa Niall looks every bit how I remembered from last seeing him when he sat out with me on the porch straight after Eric left, which has to have been over six or seven years ago, aside from the change of outfit. His stark white hair is combed and neat, and he's wearing a fancy unbuttoned vest, and a white shirt which is neatly tucked into moss-green trousers. He doesn't have his walking stick with him, which is weird.

Mighty glad as I am to see him and know that he's still alive and doing well, it's a rude drop-in. Any relative seeing you near naked makes for an awkward encounter.

"Grandpa Niall, what the hell?" I get out in alarm, wrapping the towel more securely under my armpits. "I haven't seen you in over seven years and now you decide to just materialize randomly back into my life again without even so much as a pleasant 'It's good to see you', or 'Glad your still alive, Granddaughter of mine'?"

"I don't like him," he says fiercely, repeating his words of before, screwing up his face like even saying the mere words to me alone leave a foul and nasty taste lingering in his mouth.

"You don't like who, Grandpa? I thought you always liked Eric?"

"I'm not talking about the vampire Eric, my dear. I'm talking about the other vampire you intend to go out with tonight. Reminds me of the bastard Warlow."

It occurs to me belatedly that its vampire Bill Grandpa Niall doesn't like. But Bill reminds him of Warlow? How on earth could he possibly? I think Bill is alright, little I do know of him personally myself. He seems like a decent person. Of course, although I feel slightly bad to admit to it, it wasn't a matter of liking Bill any that spurred me to ask him to take me to Fangtasia tonight. It was having the possible chance of seeing my old friend again that did it. But Bill reminding Niall of Warlow? Honestly, I can see no resemblance between the two whatsoever.

"How do you know I'm going out with Bill tonight?" I ask him suspiciously. "I haven't seen you in ages, so how can you possibly know that?"

"I told you that I'm always watching and looking out for my Granddaughter."

"Right. And you just decided to randomly pop in now and give me your unfavorable opinion on the vampire I'm heading out with tonight? Is that just why you came here?" I can't say I understand. At all.

"Just whatever you do, do not let the bastard know what you are and what your heritage is." Grandpa Niall looks quite severe as he looks me over solemnly. I think I'm starting to understand how people can consider him powerful. "Keep it to yourself. I don't know about you but I don't trust him. Something about him just isn't... right."

"I wasn't planning on telling him about my fairy heritage, believe me," I assure Grandpa. "I'm used to keeping it to myself all the time. So why would I start telling people now? I haven't even told Gran or one of my closest friends Tara about what I am. You really think I'm that foolish, Grandpa?"

"Of course not." Grandpa Niall sighs loudly, looking and searching around my room for some reason. "If he tries anything funny on you tonight, you know what to do. Use your light or if all else fails, put your knee hard into his crotch. Or better yet, use your light rather than your knee. That'll fix him up good."

Why does it feel like Grandpa Niall is trying to give me some fatherly advice on how to protect myself?

"Um, where are you going with this, Grandpa? Have you seen something bad that's gonna happen to me tonight with the vampire Bill?"

"Just be careful. Always be prepared."

It doesn't get more ominous than that. Now I feel a little scared, and Niall's warning has taken the excitement of finally heading to Eric's bar and finally seeing him again out a notch.

"There is also something else I've been meaning to tell you," Grandpa continues, finally looking me dead in the eyes. His severe mood is a little worrying.

"Yep, go on. I'm listening, Grandpa."

"You see, I couldn't tell you about it back then because no doubt I knew it would have been uncomfortable, on both of us to have such a conversation," he explains, grimacing a little. "But you're of age now, and I don't feel its fair for you to suffer through it without full understanding of what it means and what you'll be experiencing come the end of the week."

I stare at him, my face and body tense. I feel like some bad news is approaching. I can tell by how he's being.

"You see, when a fairy comes of age, they go through certain... periods of wanting to copulate. It's known as the Ancient Curse of the Fairies. Or, well, in layman's terms... mating season. Or mating week, if you will. It usually comes for a few days at the end of each month, then leaves on its own. So don't be surprised if, urm, at the end of the month you find yourself craving to copulate with the nearest person of the opposite sex you find."

I stare Grandpa down while trying to process his words and make full sense of them. Somehow I get the feeling he's playing some cruel, dirty joke on me. At least I'm hoping he is. "Wait a sec. Copulate means... sex, right? Are you saying that by the end of this month I'll be horny and craving sex like a... a madwoman?" I don't know whether to laugh out loud or to cry.

"Yes, that is exactly what I am trying to say, my dear. What I haven't told you is that with what we are, we are extremely.. fertile creatures. I was going through it myself when I came across your Grandmother, which was how I impregnated her so quickly with your father, it seemed." Having to hear about my Gran and fairy Grandpa having sex, it's... a little gross to have to think about, but I guess he has no other way to explain it more thoroughly for me. "I suppose what I am trying to say here, is that you make sure you find the right person to copulate with, when it gets too unbearable for you to practice your restraint any longer. Since you are a woman, you don't want to copulate with somebody that can impregnate you easily, so I suggest you go for someone who can't reproduce and give you child."

My God. This is too much. Too much for me to deal with right now. Why can't I just be like any other normal person, and not one that has to go through weird crap like an apparent mating week monthly?

"Since vampires cannot reproduce, I suggest you, erm, go to Eric when it gets difficult, your sexual urges. Unless you wouldn't mind getting pregnant at the age you are now, of course."

Grandpa telling me that is an even harder mouthful to swallow. So he's practically giving me the green light to have sex with Eric? What if I don't want to though, and I can't see Eric in that way? Doesn't anything I want or am feeling come into consideration? Grandpa's pimping me out.

"Well, this sucks. I mean, isn't it enough that I have to go through the normal things every other young gal goes through? Now I have to deal with this fairy part of me as well? No wonder I constantly am feeling abnormal or as if I don't fit in in the world."

"Well, sometimes you've just got to accept the cards you've been dealt with sadly. There's nothing else you can do to change it. It just is."

Now everything Grandpa Niall has enlightened me with makes me feel like I don't want to go out tonight. I hardly feel in the mood anymore. But I know I've got to; I know I'll be that much happier if I see my old special friend again from my younger years.

"Grandpa, glad as I am to see you again, you've got to git," I tell him. "I need to get changed. Sorry to be rude for kicking you out like this, but I don't exactly wanna have to get changed in front of you."

"I understand, my dear," he says gently. "I'm already gone."

And, with a pop, he truly is.

I stand around for a bit, staring at the place my Grandpa just practically disappeared from out of thin air. Then forcing myself out of my funk, I get changed, though feeling sadder and more frustrated than I ever thought I could feel. Being a fairy had its perks, in some ways. I could do awesome stuff, like protecting myself by shooting light out of my fingers and abolishing everything in my path. But this new thing Niall has told me about? Fairy mating season? Well, it is definitely something I feel I could do without. I don't want to wear risky heels to walk in, so I choose a safe selection in white sandals with a small one-inch heel, some simple few pieces of jewellery (including my silver butterfly bracelet, which I always wear), and to finish off the look I wear my long hair out down my back in its natural waves, a light touching of make-up, and hold a red clutch to complete the look.

I have no idea what to wear to a vampire bar, or any bar in general no less, but I hope I look good enough.

I'm just concealing the knife Eric gave me as a present in my bag, as well as my I.D, when I hear a car pull up into our yard that no doubt belongs to Vampire Bill.

Feeling ready and ecstatic to go, I waste no time in running downstairs to answer the door before my Grandmother does. I know Gran wouldn't mind meeting the man that is taking me out tonight, but I can't say I share her sentiments on that. Cruel as it is, I just don't want her meeting Vampire Bill, or for her to no less feel as if something is going on between us. I know Gran will only make a fuss, and consider it a special date between us. She'll think he's a potential boyfriend, or suitor, when its far from it. I had made it perfectly clear this was no date, after all. But as I open the front door to greet him, fake smile on my face and all, its clear to me that he missed the momento.

He's carrying a pretty bunch of white flowers in his hands for me as he stands outside the front door. No man has ever brought me flowers before. It's a sweet gesture.

"Evening," I say breathlessly. "Are those flowers for me?"

"Why yes, in fact, they are."

"Thank you," I say gratefully, accepting them. "They're real pretty. No man has ever brought me flowers before."

"Well, then. I am mighty pleased to be the first." His eyes take in my dress and sandals carefully and I see his face fall slightly. Not too sure what that's about, though. Have I overdone it or something?

The Vampire Bill looks a bit different from I remembered the night before meeting him at work. For one thing, I can tell he has gone to a lot of effort tonight with his appearance. It looks as if he has neatly trimmed his side-burns and he looks very neat and handsome in a blue dress shirt and trousers. I can't shake the feeling that he has mistaken this outing for an actual date, though, when it's truly far from it.

This wasn't about getting to know Bill at all, bad as it is to force him to drag me along. It's more so... a reunion with an old special friend.

"I wasn't sure what to wear," I tell him nervously. "As you already know, I've never been to this Fangtasia before. Is this alright to wear?"

"Yes, it's... fine." Although I can't hear his thoughts, I know a fake smile when I see one. "Shall we go now? Or would you like to invite me in first?"

If he was hoping for an invitation inside, he'd be sorry.

"Let's go, please."

I place the flowers he got me on the faded cushion of the swing set out on the porch and he shows me the way towards his car, which is a humble, beaten-down brown Volvo. I feel my smile falter at the sight of it; It certainly isn't impressive as Eric's convertible, but I know it isn't my place to say so. Obviously Vampire Bill is just like the rest of us, regardless of being dead; A simple man getting by modestly.

"I'm real excited," I tell him, no doubt stating the obvious, as he opens my door for me considerately. "I feel like I've been waiting forever for this moment to come." And really, I think I have.

He shuts the door on me gently once I'm seated, and he takes his slow time in walking around the front of the car to the drivers side.

Once Bill gets in and reminds me to put my seat belt on, he reverses out of the driveway and off we go. I'm so excited I feel as if I can't sit still. I'm at loss with what to do with my hands, so I resort to keeping them busy by picking the fabric off my purse with my fingernails. My face starts hurting by smiling so much, and I can't help knocking my knees together in the seat and wiggling around impatiently. Bill probably suspects I'm a drug addict, or something ridiculous like that. And, if he did, I couldn't even begin to blame him.

"You sure I'm dressed okay for this?" I ask him, just to make some pleasant conversation to hopefully speed up the time. "I couldn't help but noticing you didn't look too pleased first instance you saw me when I came to the front door?" I tilt my head sideways to look at him. He looks back, and gives me a slight smile.

"You look fine," he says, rather quietly and gently. "Beautiful, in fact. I just worry about my possibilities of getting you in and out of Fangtasia alive."

I feel myself flush with pleasure at his compliment. I don't get told I'm beautiful very often. "What makes you say that?" I ask him curiously. "Is Fangtasia a rather dangerous place?"

"You could call it dangerous, yes. Particularly dangerous for a young woman like you, who seems far too excited than she ought to be. You keep smiling like that and some vampires might take that up as an offer."

"An offer to do what?" I ask, not following.

"To feed from you, of course," he says, with something there in his tone. I see his eyes roam down the side of my throat and his nostrils flare a little. Maybe I hadn't put enough perfume on to hide my fairy scent after all? "You're different, aren't you? From others. I can tell."

"You can tell just by talking to me?" I ask him, forcing out a laugh. "We only just met last night. You don't know me, and I certainly don't know you. So how can you possibly say I'm different?"

"It's... hard to explain." My hands instinctively go to the opening of my purse when I see him lick his lips, in a somewhat hungry way, like I'm a juicy pork chop. "There's just... something about you. Something different. I noticed it the instance you approached me last night."

"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint, but there's nothing different about me," I say, sounding fortunately convincing.

"What are you?" he asks me, as if he's really aching to know.

Instantly, I recall Grandpa Niall's words, and take heed. "Well, you know I work at Super-Save-A-Bunch. That's what I am. I'm Sookie."

"But you smell very... unique and peculiar?"

"Do I?" I ask him, playing dumb. "I don't know why you'd say that, Vampire Bill. Of course, I can't smell myself, and no one has ever commented on it before. I did put on a fair bit of perfume tonight, though. Maybe that's why?"

He falls into a contemplative, broody silence over that for a fair bit. Then he shrugs. "Perhaps you're right," he agrees. "But if anyone asks at Fangtasia tonight, you must tell them that you're my human," Bill says, and I feel my stomach drop. "It's best that way, particularly considering how... nice you smell."

"Now why would I do that?" I ask him cautiously.

"Because if you say you are my human, it means that you are off-limits," he expains, "It means that no other vampires can feed on you, no less attempt to. And if they do, it means I have right to kill them to protect you. It is far safer this way."

I stew that over for a good several minutes. "I'm sorry but that's not okay with me," I admit to him, trying to sound grateful. "I appreciate you wanting to protect me and look after me, but I can take care of myself."

"Oh, I have no doubt about that," he says, with an odd smile. "I'm sure you are perfectly capable of protecting yourself. But seeing as I agreed to take you to Fangtasia tonight, I feel as though I am... responsible. It is truly the least I could do, to ensure your safety tonight."

"That's sweet and all, but as I said, no," I say to him, making my voice firm on the matter. "Thank you, though."

"Fine, then." By his grudging tone of voice, I can tell Vampire Bill is anything but pleased. "Suit yourself."

We fall into a peaceful silence after that. I guess neither one of us knows what to say next. As grateful I was of his offer, I had no doubts about being able to protect myself, if need be. Besides, my best friend would be at Fangtasia tonight, hopefully. What harm could come to me wherever Eric is?

Once we finally arrive, I know we're at our destination the instance I see the brightly lit neon red sign, which says 'Fangtasia' in fancy writing.

There is a rather long line outside too, so I'd say Eric was doing well for himself and his business was operating more than just smoothly. Bill finds a parking spot and, like before, I wait and let him open my door for me. He's a courteous gentleman in that way. We wait in line for about eight minutes, and then I get carded by the woman at the door. She is most definitely of the vampire kind. She's beautiful, with straight hair a whiter blonde than mine, and she's wearing a tight red dress that hugs her fine form and the hugest pair of stilettos I've ever seen a woman wear. It takes me a good minute to get my ID out of my bag, because of the knife hogging all the space in my purse, but once I finally manage, she scrutinizes my ID for a long moment.

"I haven't been carded yet," I say anxiously, just to break the horrible silence. "Never been to a bar before."

"How exciting for you," the woman says, in a purely American voice. I might be mistaken, but her tone is condescending. "Here at Fangtasia, we're always careful not to serve minors. In any capacity. I can no longer tell human ages." As she finally hands me back my driver's license, she gives me what she is probably assuming is a friendly smile as her eyes observe the dress I'm wearing.

"Well, that's understandable," I say, shoving my license back in my purse. "Thank you," I get out sweetly, remembering my manners.

She lets us pass in and I feel that same old anxiety slip in place again as we go through a small hallway. Vampire Bill says something to me, but the heavy music kind of drowns his voice out and I'm far too intrigued by the bar's interior to ask him to repeat himself. The walls are painted a deep red, and as you go in further, it opens up into a large room, with a bar and dance floor. A woman is twirling around and dancing on a strippers pole- something I never imagined I would be seeing in the bar Eric owned- and I stop to watch her for a while as she moves with grace and skill.

The bar is full, with both human and vampire. Some dressed in Gothic attire, and others hardly wearing anything at all.

I feel a mixture of rapture and excitement as I look around the bar, taking everything in. It's beyond anything I had ever dreamed of. The fact this bar is run by my special childhood friend makes it all the more impressive.

"Is this what you were expecting?" Bill whispers in my ear as he guides me into the direction of the bar.

"It's more," I admit to him, laughing. "It's like a vampire theme park."

Bill laughs himself; a strange sound. "I can assure you this is no Disney World ride."

Once we successfully squish our way to the bar, the bartender gives us his direct attention. He's dark-haired, hair long and halfway to his shoulders, with tattoos down his arms and his fangs are freely on display for all to see.

"How's it going, Bill?" He asks, nodding in my companions direction. "Long time, no see. This your meal for the night?" He turns his gaze on me, and his eyes are very dark.

"Er, no. This is just my friend Sookie."

"She smells good. Bet she tastes just as good, too."

"You'll never know the answer to that, Long Shadow."

Something tears through my concentration as the man gives me a good looking-over with a hungry glint to his eyes.

The picture I drew Eric as a little girl is framed and stuck on the wall behind the bar, near several old horror-movie posters and advertisements for bottled synthetic blood. I can hardly believe my eyes. He told me that he would keep that picture I drew always, yes, but... I never thought that he'd go so far as to stick it up on the wall of his bar for everyone to see. How touching and so very sweet of him.

I'm brought back down to earth suddenly, when I hear Bill state in a cold and forceful way, "Sookie is mine."

I feel an intense flare of exasperation hit me. Didn't Vampire Bill hear what I told him in the car? I specifically told him not to bother addressing me as such.

"Could I have some water, please?" I ask the bartender, butting in. "It was a long drive here. I've worked up a thirst."

"Yes, and you're not the only one," the bartender says, in a salacious way. His dark eyes stare at the base of my throat for a couple of seconds, before he composes himself and turns to get started on his task in getting me a glass of water. I peek up at Vampire Bill's expression quickly. He doesn't exactly look like the most comfortable person in the world. He's all kinds of tense, as if he's ready to fight the point that I'm his home. "Here you go, beautiful lady," he says, once he plunks my glass down on the bar. I force a thankful smile on my face and turn, holding onto my glass tight and looking around again, while I hear Bill ordering some Tru Blood.

And then I see him. Eric.

I feel my heart race and my stomach do a little dance. He looks every bit I remember he did, just that his hair is a little... lighter than it was before. He must have gotten some foils in his hair. And he looks good. Real good. Just a vamp bored out of his brains as he sits up there in an old chair; the one Niall showed me in his visions of the future.

Eric, here, now. At his bar, running things. Doing what he does in the real world when he wasn't hanging around me teaching me things as a little annoying girl. I can hardly refrain from excusing myself from my companion Bill, moving up towards that stage and the chair that he sits in, and throwing my arms around him. But judging by how distanced he is compared to everyone else in the room- the human clients and other vampires- it would seem that isn't how things are done around here.

Still, I feel like a happy, radiant girl as I stare at him through the sea of people in the room. I feel overjoyed, and maybe not in the smartest of ways.

I just can't believe this is the same Eric who I spent a great deal of my childhood with; The one who taught me how to kill a vampire, and about self-preservation above all else. Eric, who taught me how to say 'Asshole' in Swedish, something I smugly would call Jason because I knew he had no chance of understanding what I was calling him. This is what he does and, finally, I'm getting the chance to witness it for myself. It feels as if I've been waiting for this moment for years and years now and, really, I have.

I can hardly believe its finally here and that we are in the same room again.

"Shall we find somewhere to sit?" Bill asks me, and I have to force myself with difficulty in tearing my eyes away from my old friend.

"Yes, that's a smart idea," I manage, hating how weird my voice has gone. I sound so... unlike myself. Like an excited girl again. "Let's find somewhere to sit with our drinks."

Bill leads the way and I follow him, trying with all my might not to let my eyes stray back to where Eric is in the room. We find an empty table and Bill pulls out my chair for me, and I'm smiling so hard its hard to stop.

"You look as if you're enjoying yourself already?" Bill observes, and I see no sense in lying.

"I am enjoying myself," I confess, getting seated comfortably. "I hope I'm not being too obvious with that?" I can tell I am being super obvious, so deliberately, I change subject and try to make pleasant conversation with him. "Thanks so much for bringing me tonight, by the way. It was so kind of you to agree to do it, especially considering how you don't know me."

"It was a true pleasure. And besides, if anyone would be at danger here, it would be you. I'm a vampire, far stronger than you are. I hope you aren't too trusting like this with most?"

I keep a smile on my face with effort, despite his words being a threat. "Usually I'm not. I guess I was just desperate to come here," I say honestly. "I've been waiting for this for a long time. Coming here, like this."

"So you've said, yes." Bill opens his bottle of blood, turning the glass bottle over and over in his hands. "May I ask why?"

"Well, I guess I just..." To buy myself some time, I suck in a mouthful of water, using up all the self-restraint I have to not dare look in Eric's direction again. I'm not so sure what to say, whether to tell him the truth. So instead, I allow myself to peek into Eric's direction, feigning surprise. "Who's that up there in that chair? What's his deal?"

"Oh, that's just Eric." Vampire Bill definitely doesn't sound too fond with my friend. "He's the oldest thing in this bar. And the meanest, too."

Unable to help myself, I laugh loudly. Eric and mean in the same sentence? Surely not. Surely we're talking about two different Eric's here, right? The Eric I knew from childhood was never what I considered mean. "He's mean?" I ask, playing along. "How's he mean?"

"He just shows little to no regard for humans and their lives," Bill explains coldly. "Humans are little more than a mere joke to Eric, something to be laughed at. Sadly most humans don't realize this until it is far too late."

Yep. We must be talking about two different Eric's here...

As if somehow hearing us talking about him, Eric chooses the moment to turn his head and look straight to where we are sitting. Wanting to make sure he notices me, I sit up straighter in my seat, watching his expression carefully. I feel a strange sense of immense pride when he has to do a double-take at the sight of me. He looks stunned out of his wits to me, sitting as I am at a table in his bar. I see his eyes widen and his mouth pops open and I can't hide the fact that his reaction pleases me hugely. Apparently the vampire sitting next to me notices his reaction, too.

"Oh no," Bill groans. "I think Eric is about to summon us. I think he's taken liking to you." I hear the legs of Bill's chair give a little screech as they scrape against the floor. He stands and extends an arm out to me. "Shall we go see what he wants?"

"Sure, might as well."

I can hardly feel my toes as I slide off my chair and accept Bill's arm, staring straight ahead, maintaining eye-contact with my old vampire friend. Bill throws a few reassuring smiles my way, as if he thinks I'm frightened, and just as we almost reach him, Eric stands from the old chair to his full height. I take a more thorough look at him while I have the chance; He's dressed in dark denim jeans, the padded leather jacket I'm pretty sure he wore a couple of times on his secret visits when I was a girl, and a black shirt underneath that clings to him real tight. He seems taller and more muscular and large than I remember, but it's probably just because I haven't seen him in so long.

If it wasn't for Bill's arm laced through mine, I would be running and jumping senselessly into Eric's arms, with nothing or nobody stopping me. But I know better than to do that, much as I'm tempted to.

He sinks back down into his seat once we reach him, interlacing his fingers out in front of him, his eyes never leaving mine. I find there are so many things I want to say, so many things I want to tell him, but not one thing comes willingly from my mouth. I feel self-conscious and awkward as his eyes inspect me from head to toe, taking in the dress I'm wearing, and my sandals. They linger on the swell of my bosoms showcased in my dress in an odd way that I'm not expecting and I feel my mouth go dry. I never once assumed Eric would look at me like that; so obscenely, as if he is measuring how much my breasts have grown over the years. The old Eric I knew and adored certainly never would have, not even when hell froze over.

As if deciding he's familiarized enough of the new me for the time being, he turns his attention to my companion, whose arm disappears from out of mine and I feel his cold hand clasping my hand tightly in his instead.

"Bill Compton," Eric says, and his voice is definitely how I remember it is. The familiarity of it provides me a funny sense of relief. "It's been awhile. I've heard through certain circles that you've been dedicated to mainstreaming?"

"Yes, that is correct," Bill says stiffly, giving my hand a hard squeeze. I catch Eric's eyes as they flit down to our joined hands and I so badly want to pull my hand free, only I can't. Bill's holding on too tight. Eric's expression as he takes it in is tricky to figure out; He seems a bit unhappy by it, I think. "This here, is Sookie. She's my human for the night. I escorted her here."

Eric shakes silently with laughter, returning his eyes to me again.

"How sweet," he mutters quietly, his voice mocking. Unlike how I have heard it before, in all those times spent together as a much younger girl. "And he thinks he needs to introduce us?"

"Don't I?" Bill sounds confused.

"You don't, Bill. I know this one." Relief surges through me wildly to know that he both recognizes and remembers me. Fortunately for me, I have been stressing over nothing. He remembers me, good and well. In a way that disturbs me, Eric's eyes roam down my body again. "However, it seems the little human is... no more. It would seem we have a lot of catching up to do, you and I." He looks me directly in the eye so it isn't any mystery just who it is he is talking to. "You don't mind, do you, Bill?" Eric's tone implies he hardly cares if Bill does either way. "Leave us."

"I am not leaving her with you," Bill says, raising his voice a little. "She is my human. I brought her here tonight. I will not leave her unattended with the likes of you."

"Please, Bill," I say desperately, finally finding my voice at true last. "I asked you not to call me that. I can handle myself."

"Or better yet, we'll leave." Getting off his chair and to his feet, I can only manage a short cry of alarm when suddenly Eric's grabbing me by my waist, putting me over his shoulder like I'm little more than a light rag doll, and is carrying me away from Bill. As far as reunions go, I'm not expecting this from him. It isn't the most pleasant sensation in the world, being far off the ground while my legs are flailing and kicking about uselessly for Eric to put me down.

"Eric, you leave her alone!" I hear Bill shout in warning. He sounds way more frightened than I feel about the situation. But despite the years that have passed us by, I still trust Eric, even if he is being completely unreasonable and embarrassing by doing this in a room filled with people.