Her heart beat in time with the music. She could feel all the humans and vampires around her, but she couldn’t make out any individuals. Her vision was focused on the vampire sitting on the throne.

 

It was like her very first very trip to Fangtasia all over again. The days where Bill tried to protect her from Eric felt so very long ago. It still seemed so strange that her ex and her rival were closer than they’d ever been even as she barely even saw Bill but in passing these nights.

 

It was time for her to move on. Bill had. She’d seen the papers and the pictures. She heard the gossip of the Bon Temps citizens who had nothing else to talk about than the dating life of its most famous citizen.

 

No disrepect to Gran, but being single sucked.

 

The crowd parted before her she approached the throne.

 

It was only then she noticed the leash in Eric’s hand.

 

Her eyes followed the leash and she gasped aloud as she recognized Bill’s girlfriend on that leash.

 

She was wearing an emerald green corset and little else. There was a necklace around her neck that reminded her of Bill’s ring and a thin black leather collar that the leash was attached to. When her brain finally processed what she was seeing she let out a gasp.

 

“Sookie,” Eric’s voice broke her shock.

 

“I see you’ve spotted Sarah.” He tugged on the leash. “Say hello to Sookie.”

 

“Hello Sookie,” she dutifully replied and offered a warm smile.

 

Master’s ex. Awkward. Alyssa will have a great laugh over this…

 

“Eric,” she said slowly. “Why is Bill’s girlfriend kneeling by your throne.”

 

There had to be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. She was sure of it.

 

“Bill has decided to formally claim her.” He grinned. “And what better way to spread the word than to show her off where she will be seen.”

 

Somehow, that didn’t seem to be the full story. She glanced at Sarah. Why would she put up with this? She noticed the girl’s spine had stiffened.

 

She doesn’t understand. I wonder if Master ever had this kind of relationship with her. Maybe that had something to do with it?

 

The thoughts may have not been malicious, but she still decided she was going to try and avoid any more of them if she could. She didn’t really want to think about her ex treating women this way.

 

“Look what the cat dragged in.”

 

Lost in her musings, she hadn’t heard Pam approach. The younger vampire was now situated between Eric and Sarah.

 

“Good evening, Pam,”

 

“She isn’t bothering you, is she?” Pam asked Sarah, as if she was itching to get rid of Sookie.

 

“No, Mistress.”

 

“Good. Scarlett would never forgive me if I let something happen to you before she came by.” Pam took the leash from Eric without so much as a by-your-leave.”I’ll bring her back unharmed,” she said.

 

“But not unmolested,” Eric’s eyes left hers to look at Pam.

 

“You know me too well.”

 

“You know the rules.”

 

“Of course. His Majesty has been most gracious. I’m not about to waste the opportunity.” Pam tugged on the leash and Sarah rose to her feet. “Wave goodby,”

 

Sarah did, as obedient as a puppy, before she and Pam left the room.

 

Weird. Maybe it was good that she and Bill had broken up. He was into some weird shit.

 

“If she’s Bill’s, why is Pam…” she trailed off, unable, or perhaps her mind was unwilling to finish that thought.

Eric was no longer looking at her, but rather his Childe and the girl as they left the area, presumably heading towards the basement. “That’s none of your business, though I bet it has everything to do with why you’re here now even though you haven’t so much as called to say hello in who knows how long.”

 

Five months, two weeks and three days. She wasn’t counting or anything. She steeled her nerves. She thought about asking Eric to move the conversation to his office, but she wanted to get this over with. Besides, the music helped provide as much a cover of privacy as anything.

 

“When I turned the both of you away, it was because I loved you both and couldn’t bear the thought of hurting one by being with the other.” She had rehearsed her little speech. So far, so good. “But I’ve decided that sometimes in life that sometimes being happy means that you’ve got hurt someone and it’s time that I’m happy.” She took a deep breath. “And I was hoping that maybe you’d give me a chance to correct one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made.”

 

There was silence, or at least an absence of coherent words.

 

Eric smiled at her, a hint of sadness in those eyes as he turned back to her. “Not so long ago I would have given anything to hear those words coming from your mouth.”

 

This was not going the way she thought it might.

 

“But just as you said you couldn’t be with me because you still loved Bill, I can’t be with you because I refuse to be your rebound.”

 

He was using his Sheriff voice. The one that was devoid of human emotion. One that cut the bone with bluntness.

 

“What do you mean rebound?” She thought she kept the trembling out of her voice, but not the anger.

 

“Whether or not you admit it, you’re here because Bill has Sarah now. I could see it in your eyes. As angry as you were with Bill that he had moved in your absence, a part of you had always hoped that you two would get back together. That’s why when you said no to him you also said no to me. You needed that time to be angry.” He stood and approached her. “But you’re no longer angry and you can no longer pretend that he hasn’t moved on.”

 

He gently took her chin and lifted it up.

 

“I would have loved you deeply, Sookie Stackhouse. More than you know.” He kissed her softly. “But I will not be the tool you use to patch up your battered ego. Bill gave you his blessing to be with me and you threw it aside. That’s something that I can’t – or won’t forget lightly.”

 

“But Eric. It’s not like that all!” she protested. “I loved you both! I needed time!”

 

Eric snorted. “I have had a thousand years to study humans, Sookie. You are not the first one to walk this path.”

 

He sat back down on his throne.

 

“You deserve happiness, Sookie. But our moment has passed.”

 

She swallowed, trying to choke back tears.

 

“Fine,” she lied. “I’m sorry that we couldn’t work things out.” She smiled weakly. “I thought we might have worked something out, at least given it a shot. If you change your mind…”

 

“I know where to find you.”

 

There wasn’t much more to be said, really. Picking up the broken pieces of her dignity she turned on her heel and headed towards the door. When she stopped by the exit for once last glance, the throne was already empty.

 

With a last glance down she headed out back into the world. She had found love once. She’d surely find it again.

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