Somehow I managed to catch up to Sookie before she could ditch me.
She cursed Louboutin and her pumps for slowing her down.
As Herveaux followed us from his house, Sookie and I spent most of the drive to Bon Temps laughing at Miles… He’d called to insist on marrying Sookie to escape his mother’s cooking. It seemed logical for him to move to Louisiana rather than just renting his own flat and dining at restaurants.
He wasn’t joking. He called Sookie from his bathroom because his mother had already managed to poison him. He’d only been home for three hours.
As soon as Sookie parked her Jeep in front of Sandwich Island, she slid out and called back to Alcide, “Hey snookums, a friend of mine may or may not have plans to camp in our yard and beg for food. Don’t shoot any opossums.”
He snorted, “You know a WereOpossum?” as he locked his truck.
“Shifter, but he’s English. He’s only been here once, and he fell in love with the plethora of titillating local species…”
Alcide blinked, probably unsure about how serious Sookie was.
She giggled, “Serious as a heart attack… Anyway, now that we’re in Bon Temps, I’m Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Nice to meet you… I called my dad and invited him out to lunch tomorrow.”
She nodded and took his hand to lead him inside. “I know… He asked you what you’re up to.”
He narrowed his eyes, and glared at the back of her head. “Did you hear me or did the Vampire?”
I shook my head. “It’s news to me… Just so you know, she can telepathically hear farther than I can with my hearing. She can concentrate on a mind in a crowd. She can ‘hear’ both sides of a telephone conversation, and eavesdrop on anything her target is reading.”
“Fuck me… I’m the bodyguard to the perfect spy?”
I nodded. “Hence her alias.”
He grumbled, “No shit,” as Sookie pulled open the door and towed him inside.
Trey and Linda were filling balloons with helium at one end of the dining room. Shawn and Hadley were sitting at a table at the other end, filling goodie bags… Adele was behind the counter, filling the pastry case.
Sookie offered, “Everyone, this is my new guard, Alcide Herveaux… Alcide, you know Trey, and the shrew next to him is his wife Linda…”
In spite of Trey’s outburst regarding Alcide’s father last night, he gave an approving nod at Sookie’s new guard. It meant more given the way he’d practically babysat Miles while he’d been in Bon Temps. He had no faith in Miles’s instinct to protect Sookie. That might have had something to do with their introduction… Trey walked onto Adele’s porch to find a ‘Macaque with a gun’, petting Dali.
Sookie continued, “The lovely lady behind the counter is my grandmother, Adele Stackhouse. Just call her Gran like everyone else…” Sookie walked over to take Arianna from the highchair next to Hadley and offered, “This little angel is Arianna, and she brought her mommy and daddy with her. Shawn and Hadley…”
Arianna giggled, “Din’t dribe dis time. Daddy’s nerbus ‘bout Mommy… Can I have yer top? Iz pretty.”
Sookie grinned and nodded. “I bet your mommy can make a pretty skirt out of it for you… Where should I start pitching in?”
Arianna scanned the room before saying, “Gran thinks ya need ta change yer outfit. This in’t a runway.”
“I’ll think about it… Is there anything I need to do, or should I start picking at the nibbles? Alcide and I are starving. I kidnapped him before he could grab dinner.”
“Misser Gain’s a why-zass. Gran tode ‘em not ta come outta tha kishen ‘til he iced all tha cakes… He diddit Vampire-fast, an he even made ‘em up all pretty. Then he was bad, so Gran’s makin’ him do lattice.”
Gawain stepped out of the kitchen, drying his hands. “Fifty lattice-top pies, done and waiting to be baked.”
Adele snorted, “If you grab Linda’s butt one more time, I’ll shoot you.”
“What if I grab her-”
While Trey growled, Gawain chuckled and moved to hug Sookie, kissing her cheek… and then he blew a raspberry against Arianna’s neck.
Ari giggled, “Stop goosin’ my Granny.”
“I was bored… Sookie, is he just beautiful meat or can he do tricks too?”
Alcide gave Gawain a dirty look while Sookie giggled, “He needs to do tricks? He’s beautiful, sane and signed his contract.”
Gawain grinned from ear to ear and asked, “Did the fringe benefits have anything to do with that?”
Sookie passed Arianna to Gawain before taking Alcide’s hand. “You mean like a huge paycheck and a low impact itinerary? Probably…” She began leading her guard to the kitchen. “I’m going to fix us something to eat.”
Adele had already caught on… she stood at the window to the kitchen with her hands on her hips. “Why do you need a guard? You said you’re staying home for a while.”
Sookie explained, “I have a job in the Area. I am staying home. Sort of. I’ll be living in Shreveport, but I’ll be home.”
Adele spun around to scowl at me. “You hired her!?”
I shook my head. “No. She’s officially working for Milne.”
“Why would…” She paused for a moment, processing facts for a moment, before gasping, “THE CHURCH!”
I heard Alcide chuckle quietly that Adele didn’t miss anything.
Sookie leaned into the window with a knife in one hand and an avocado in the other. “Stop right there, Gran. The less anyone knows the better.”
Adele scoffed, “What do you mean?”
“I mean that this is close to home. This is my hometown. Working here is risky. We still don’t know how the Queen is going to react to Wallace having an agent of Texas in her territory.”
“Why would she complain about it? That church is her problem too!”
That church… That Gawain…
“Because she’s the same infantile bitch Wallace and Eric told me to avoid. She’s a notorious board-flipper.”
I still loved that term. Board-flippers weren’t sore losers because they had their temper tantrums before the game was actually over. As soon as Sookie defined the term for Tyson and me, we were able to name a handful of board-flippers who had crossed our paths over the centuries.
I offered, “We might have an idea if I had my phone.”
Arianna squirmed until Gawain set her down, and then she ran towards Hadley’s purse. “Mommy turnnit off so tha bad’ry woon’t die.”
I pulled Hadley’s phone from my pocket and offered, “I only ordered takeout before I turned hers off.”
She traded phones with me and giggled, “Fampires don eat, silly!”
Gawain argued, “Not true. I recently enjoyed some delicious dim sum.”
Sookie snorted, “We’re still not talking about the falafel in Dubai, are we?”
He growled, “Tyson’s going to pay for that.”
That was a story I needed to hear later.
When my phone finally turned on, I had a missed call (but no message waiting) from Sophie-Anne. Go figure.
Gawain followed me to the kitchen to escape the noise of the hissing helium tank.
Sophie-Anne actually answered her own phone for once. “Why didn’t you answer when I called earlier?”
Judging by her tone, I already knew her reaction to Milne’s news.
“I mislaid my phone while I was running errands last night. What can I do for you this evening, Majesty?”
Sookie bit her lip while she spread avocado and tomato slices over several open sub rolls.
Sophie-Anne snarled, “Wallace Milne called me tonight.”
“Am I being made aware of a threat?”
“No. You’re being made aware that the son of a bitch has sent an agent to work in my territory.”
“Perhaps this is over my head. It sounds like a threat to me.”
“Somehow he managed to get his greedy little Welsh hands on a telepath, Northman. They’re working against the Fellowship, spying on them.”
“A telepathic what?”
“I don’t suppose it matters. He refused to tell me how to make contact. I’m sure you can imagine how valuable something like a telepath could be to me.”
I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing at the predicable cunt… and I wasn’t the only one.
“He’d be priceless.”
“She’d be priceless. I could think of a few of my own meetings she’d be a welcome asset to.”
“I’m sure… which is why you’re going to woo her.”
I snorted, “Excuse me?”
I couldn’t stop it in time. There was no way to prepare myself for that absurdity.
“Is this funny to you?”
“Not at all, Majesty. Your request has a certain amount of shock value to it. My apologies.”
“She’ll be in Area 5. You’re a ladies’ man. You can do it. Make her feel at home. Cater to her every whim. Make her feel comfortable in Louisiana. I don’t care about the expense. I want her to be willing to contact me so I can hire her. Milne said if I try to contact her without a referral, he’d pull her out of Louisiana. My chance will be gone.”
“Do you have references on her? It sounds to me that Milne is using the Fellowship as an excuse to have a spy in your state. Did you contact the other Sheriffs to ask if they-”
She interrupted, “Milne does not need Louisiana…” She said that as though many American Kings or Queens appreciated the difference between want and need. “He said she’d check in with you as a courtesy. You’re going to make sure she’s happy enough to entertain the idea of a contract. When she checks in, look at her references. She’s worked for more Kings and Queens than you have. That bitch New York refused to share any contact information too.”
“What of the others?”
“I don’t speak to anyone in the Old World.”
Because she has no fucking friends. I bit my tongue again.
“I’ll do what I can, but if she’s… No offense intended, Majesty, but if she’s so revered, it’s possible that she works exclusively via referral.”
Back to Sophie-Anne not having any friends.
“Which is why you’re going to jump through hoops for her.” Sophie-Anne ended the call, finally allowing us to laugh…
Everyone but Sookie.
She continued to stack sandwiches until she slid them into the broiler.
I offered, “You’re uncharacteristically serious. What’s wrong?”
She watched the broiler as she shook her head. “Nothing’s wrong. I’m just surprised… That didn’t take as long as I thought it would.”
“The Terracotta army is imposing enough… I can work in the States.”
“What makes you say that? As eager as she was to hire you…”
She cut me off, “Hire me. If she knows anything about you, she knows you’re capable of abducting me, Eric. If she wasn’t afraid to not play nice, she’d expect you to have me in your trunk already.”
Excellent fucking point.
In less than three years.
That was a beautiful fucking accomplishment. If she were a Vampire, she’d be a Knight.
“Unless she’s making offerings in an attempt to have you followed…”
As she removed the sandwiches from the salamander, she scoffed, “I’m sure Wallace made it clear that I’d know if I were followed. She didn’t tell you though… which means, she expects you’d try to follow me, and then she could just blame you when Wallace rips her a new one.”
Another excellent point.
“I’m sure she’ll eagerly await updates. I’ll listen for anything that could be a concern.”
She snorted, “And in the meantime, maybe I should ask Martín if he can find a Greek housekeeper for that beachfront hacienda in Malibu he’s been tempting me with. I could spend July learning Greek from the maid, working on my tan, and helping Martín close up his financial sieve.”
Gawain offered, “I’ll gladly take that leg of the tour too. I enjoyed Los Angeles when Eric lived there.”
So did I… and meanwhile, I would be stuck in Shreveport.
She sliced and plated sandwiches. “Think we’ll be done with Newlin by then, old man?”
Gawain nodded. “I expect to be finished by May. We’re spacing out what could be accomplished in a week just because we can’t set the stage ourselves.”
Sookie handed one plate to Alcide, then carried five baskets to the pass and rang the bell. “Order up!” When she turned around, she sighed, “So, if Sophie-Anne kisses my ass in all the right spots, I’ll have time to give her little corner of the world some attention.”
Gawain chuckled, “You’re going to have fun with her, aren’t you?”
“Would it be obvious if I asked for a unicorn?”
Sookie poked my ribs and giggled, “I wonder if she’d loan me her Sheriff for my trip to California since he’s been demoted to the title of Royal Talent Scout.”
She’d caught me pouting.
“I’ll settle for a backrub.”
Sookie had been so generous as to provide her Vampire friends with magical massage oil from the Sullivan family’s spa since she discovered them in London… Of all the fun I had with the Stackhouses during the holidays, I looked forward to the little glass bottle at the bottom of my Christmas stocking like nothing else.
Zee’s recipe for massage oil worked for her Human clients, but they were missing the extra oomph Faerie dust gave to make the oil worthwhile to Vampires… and I’d been looking for the special ingredient for more than two years.
Sookie teased, “Did you say you wanted massage oil in your letter to Santa?”
I shook my head. “I told him when I sat on his lap at the mall. I didn’t trust the postman with something that important.”
Even though I rationed the oil to myself, I’d run out nearly a month ago.
“Is there a picture of you on Santa’s lap?”
“There… could… be?” If that’s what it would take… I might have time to get to the mall in Clarice before they close.
“Why haven’t you just called the Sullivans to order some oil, you junkie?”
“I did. They’re out.”
She grinned at me… that grin… the devilish one that made an appearance when she was up to something.
“You knew that… Are you the reason they’re out?”
“I think Tyson and Tilda are responsible for the shortage.”
I growled, “I should have gone Faerie hunting in England. There are more Faeries on that side of the pond.”
“If that mattered, I think Tyson would gladly keep the Sullivans stocked with dust… But… maybe…”
“Are you teasing me?”
She nodded. “It’s really fun too. You should see Mee after a massage. She giggles.”
I opened my mouth, but Gawain held his hand up to stop me. “Don’t say anything. I need a moment to imagine Sookie and Mee oiled up and…”
Sookie laughed, taking her plate from the kitchen and listing Alcide’s drink options as they walked towards the dining room…
Gawain snorted, “You should just fuck her. It’s more dignified than begging for backrubs. That’s a bit juvenile, don’t you think?”
“Excuse me, but I’m not insisting that she administer the massage. I gladly pay Zee to come to Shreveport for that… It’s not my fault the oil doesn’t work on you. Ask Tyson…”
“Tyson wants to fuck her.”
“Asa was fucking her. Do you see the pattern?”
“Tilda offered to include Asa.”
“She hates the scent of Weres.”
He sang, “There’s a patteeeernnnn…”
“What about Zhang?”
“She’s in a kinbaku phase and has been for nearly a decade.”
“Fuck. Why did I sign a contract with the least fuckable gash in the world?”
“Do you think you’ll spend July in Malibu with us?”
“It’s tempting… I’ll probably be able to manage that if Sookie doesn’t work me out of a vacation.”
“Look who’s talking… I only meant that by doing her job, I might actually have something state-related to do for once. It isn’t as though I’d begrudge her for it.”
“We’re back to how much you want to fuck her.”
At least our debate (absurd as it was) was interrupted…
Sookie shouted, “Oh! Mein! Gott!” and her pumps began hammering against the floor of the restaurant.
It wasn’t a tone that suggested swords were necessary… but I was almost sure I’d never heard Sookie that excited before…
By the time Gawain and I joined the rest of the family in the dining room only a couple of seconds later, Sookie was standing in the parking lot hugging Christine, while Brandon waited for Emery and Jules to exit their car.
I watched Christine’s tears soak Sookie’s hair and shirt and asked, “Did she mention that she knows Christine?”
Adele answered, “I tried talking to her about it, but we’re all dying to compare notes. She said in the interest of fairness and Christmas secrets, she’d stay out of everyone’s heads until we could get together and share the info we have. We were hoping, since you’d be in Bon Temps tomorrow night, we could do it then… Alcide, if you’re Sookie’s guard, you’ll probably get filled in too.”
Arianna nibbled her tiny sandwich and giggled, “Izza doozy. Bein’a Wolf’s nothin’. We’re nuts.”
Linda asked, “So Sheriff, do you think you’ll be willing to accept Erica Weiss’s recommendation?”
There wasn’t a doubt about that.
I left the family to intrude on the seemingly happy reunion outside.
As I opened the door, Sookie cooed, “You’re so happy… How’s your English?”
Christine blushed. “Much better. Emery and Julian’s schooling has helped.”
Sookie kissed her cheek and turned around, putting her arm over Christine’s shoulder and addressing me. “Sheriff Eric Northman, I’d like you to meet my very good friend, Klaasje Van Baaren. For the record, I didn’t know Christine and Klaasje were one and the same. It’s too close to Christmas to read minds.”
“So I hear… Tell me why I shouldn’t be concerned about having Halfdan’s child in my Area.”
“Maximo can substantiate that she was released to him seven years ago to settle a small, yet ancient debt. I can substantiate that she hates hearing Halfdan’s name more than you do… And you know how I am about my family. I crawled up Shawn’s ass with a microscope when I first met him. If I thought she was a risk, I’d speak up.”
I’d doubt anyone else, but… “That’s good enough for me.”
Brandon volunteered, “And the version I met when I skipped met Klaasje under similar circumstances. She’d been given to a mercenary named Teague as a paycheck. Eventually, Teague ran into You, and You took her in so She could settle down. Teague doesn’t like company or staying in one place too long.”
I asked, “How did you actually come across this Klaasje?”
“My hosts gave me contact info for Wouter… Once I skipped home, I made sure the boys were alright because I was… Dude, I was freaking the fuck out. I mean, my hosts told me that since I was the one skipping, I wouldn’t lose but a few minutes, maybe an hour, but they don’t know these two…”
Emery (I think), snickered, “We were behaving for once.”
Brandon and Sookie offered, “Thank God,” in unison before Brandon continued. “So, once I was sure they were okay, I called Wouter… He almost didn’t answer because he was on the other line to Klaasje. Maximo finally gave in and released her, but Wouter didn’t want her in Saxony because of how close Halfdan is… Wouter figured if her Maker realized she was happy, he’d recall her… She’d just told him that she’d made friends with Erica Weiss and Louisiana sounded nice. I could hear his mental wheels turning when I said I was from Louisiana. I knew Sookie’d worked in Saxony and Rhineland. I dropped her name, offered to put Klaasje up, and reminded him that you’re the Sheriff of the Area since the other version of you mentioned y’all were old friends.”
Jules piped, “We got Klaasje two nights later! Daddy actually went shopping for her. Daddy hates shopping!”
“So does his sister. Someone usually has to carry her into a mall.”
The boys gasped, “No way! They’re like twins!” in unison…
And they were answered likewise when Sookie and Brandon said, “I’ve heard,” in stereo.
Julian probed, “What about Uncle Jason?”
Sookie answered, “He doesn’t mind it. He even has fun when he takes his girlfriend shopping.” Sookie walked towards the boys and stooped down for a hug. “I think I could have some fun shopping for a couple a cuties like you though. Are you too old for LEGOS?”
“I love those too… and y’all need to decide what type of souvenirs you want. I travel a lot so I get goodies for my nieces and nephews from everywhere I go… Tammy gets jerseys for local soccer teams. Tucker gets key chains and he hangs them from a map. Archie gets magazines in different languages. And I started getting little stuffed animals for Arianna before she was born, and she still likes them even if they take up a whole toy box of their own.”
The twins asked, “Anything?” as Sookie walked to her Jeep to reach into it for a bag.
She nodded. “Anything that won’t make my brother hate me… And I bring home crafty type stuff and snacks too… but even when I get home on a Monday, Gran makes us wait until Sunday dinner.”
They repeated, “Anything?” and Emery asked, “Where are you going next?”
“I think my next trips are going to be New York, Texas and California. Y’all think about it. We’ve got time… Right now, we need to get inside. Everybody’s getting mad at me for hogging y’all.”
Brandon’s first order of business was giving Shawn a hug. After their reunion, Brandon was introduced to everyone else… Jason and Marcy arrived directly from work just in time to be part of the reception… And shortly thereafter, Patty delivered the older Ingram children…
The entire Stackhouse clan (that we knew of) was present and accounted for before Pam arrived in an ensemble ridiculously similar to Sookie’s. The fact that Sookie was planning to change into something more suitable for the casual Christmas party was an excellent excuse to follow Sookie to the office…
While she donned a much more playful outfit, she explained Alcide wasn’t quiet because he was overwhelmed, instead he was just absorbing everything as though he was studying for a test… Brandon was grateful for the catalyst for Adele’s visit last night because even once he’d met his family, he was still unsure about how he would have approached them… I was still making Klaasje anxious, but I wasn’t doing anything to cause her nervousness. She’d never been allowed to associate with Vampires with any standing… And Hadley was miserably bored and hoping Shawn calmed down so he wouldn’t spend the next four months looming over her.
After much debate, it was decided that Sookie’s ‘Gran approved’ ensemble was worse. Sookie replaced her designer clothing with a white velour tracksuit with red Converse sneakers and a T-shirt. In a side-by-side comparison, Pam was deemed ‘look but don’t touch’ because she seemed high maintenance. Sookie looked comfortably beautiful, approachable even. Pam and Sookie were both fine with their evaluations… Pam prided herself on being high maintenance, while Sookie enjoyed being a bit of a chameleon. Nevermind that Pastor Roper and Mayor Norris agreed that Sookie wore the more flirtatious outfit too, Gawain accused me of wanting to fuck Sookie again.
Wasn’t he running late to be in Dallas?
The Seventh Annual Sandwich Island Christmas Pageant proved to be as successful as ever.
Trey had found someone to dress as Santa… While ‘Santa Gus’ worked for pie, Sookie read the minds of the children on his lap and their parents. After only a few children, Sookie high-fived Trey for his stroke of genius because it forced the parents to think about what would be under their Christmas trees. Of course, Santa Gus wasn’t quite sure of what to do when I sat on his lap and asked for a massage… Sookie laughed hard enough to need a bathroom break though.
The children of Bon Temps made ornaments, colored holiday-themed coloring pages, watched Rankin/Bass holiday specials, released their balloons for a chance to win free sandwiches for a year, and devoured finger food and sweets as though they hadn’t all eaten dinner already.
Sookie continually made notes on a little notepad, occasionally whispering in collusion with Pastor Roper, and eventually she passed a note to me.
I helped someone yesterday! One of the kids at school got dropped off by his big brother. He didn’t look right. Ethan (we call him Tino) had a big bruise on his arm and Gary had a black eye. I heard a teacher thinking that their dad probably beat them again. When I listened to Gary, he was planning to go home and hurt himself. I snuck into the gym teacher’s office and called 9-1-1. I was dying to know what happened until I was in school today. I cheated and went to the nurse’s office so I could listen to the guidance counselor. The cops had to cut Gary down because he hung himself. They took Tino to live with their grandparents, and arrested their dad last night. The doctors say Gary should be fine and I think they’re going to be okay.
Hope you like honey cookies. -Little Me.
The guy in the Santa-suit T-shirt is Gary. Tino is wearing the antlers. They have four kids between them. They’re both home on leave (Army) for the holiday. God only knows how they would have turned out if someone hadn’t suggested I strengthen my ability.
I’m writing instead of making a scene by hugging you. –E
I actually remembered the honey cookies. They annoyed me in that I would have looked like Augustus Gloop if I’d encountered them as a child. They smelled so phenomenal I left them on my counter for the evening… I also remembered that the honey cookies had been delivered shortly after my conversation with Sookie.
She saved her first life in elementary school.
I gave her a proud smile, and then had to chase down Gawain to get the note back from him.
After the pageant, we participated in the annual ‘snowball fight’… red and green chips were drawn from a bag to decide whether we’d be Team Red or Team Green… we all donned sweatshirts in our team’s color… and were issued a pail full of styrofoam craft balls covered with powdered sugar. The cars in the parking lot were our only cover… and the ground could be searched for more ammunition. When the styrofoam was thrown by children, it was completely harmless and barely left a trace of powder behind, unless a Vampire intentionally rifled it with enough force to make it detonate like a real snowball would. The winning team was given the special goodie bags Hadley and Shawn had been filling when we arrived.
I’d lifted Santa Gus onto the roof so he could photograph the insanity. The children believed in him that much more when they looked for (and didn’t find) a ladder.
It was widely believed throughout Bon Temps that Adele Stackhouse knew the real Santa. Of course, unexplainable phenomena helped perpetuate the myth. Not only did Sookie’s ability help the cause, but the yearly appearance of a Reindeer, who posed for pictures if he was fed a cookie, was proof to anyone under twelve… but that might have had something to do with the fact that Sookie helped him single out the naughtiest children at the party… Last year, Asa had nipped the shirts of little assholes and led them to stand together. And then he growled and shook his head until Adele successfully guessed that the parents would need to buy their gifts because Santa wouldn’t bring anything to them. Sookie had explained the show to Santa Gus ahead of time, causing a remarkable reaction when Sookie signaled Gus to congratulate the children for improving their behavior.
All in all, the pageant was the epitome of why I enjoyed the holiday much more than I ever had before. The elaborate hoaxes were designed as emotional blackmail to inspire children to behave, and it gave the Stackhouses an outlet for their good deeds… Watching Pastor Roper weep silently over the Christmas card Sookie had given him caused enough curiosity that I volunteered to stay to help clean up afterward.
After three hours of festivities, Shawn took his family home so Hadley could put her feet up. Emery and Julian were zipping about on a sugar high, but they were doing so with brooms…
Once I’d wiped down tables, chairs and counters (all while waiting for someone else to ask what Sookie had done to make the pastor cry), I resolved to ask…
But then Sookie asked, “Hey Alcide, why don’t we go chill out at your place and go over some details?”
After he accepted the offer, Sookie grabbed her bag from the office and began saying her goodbyes.
When she stretched up to kiss my cheek, she asked, “Are you going to that gothic-slut-factory of yours for dinner? I was thinking I should check in with the Sheriff later.”
I’d have the chance to ask about the pastor and I’d be able to toy with Sophie-Anne. Merry Christmas to me.
Pam snickered, “We should have named it the Slut Factory.”
I nodded. “That could be arranged.”
“Good-good… I’ll see you around… midnightish.”
I’d regretted opening the slut factory within the first month… It was tiresome and galling…
At least I’d finally find myself at Fangtasia, looking forward to something other than closing time.