Hi There,

I haven't been able to post for awhile. Hopefully, this long chapter will make up for the lag in time. Thanks for reading and supportive comments keep me going.

Spoiler Alert – As you know by now, I take plot items/characters from the books and television show, throw them into a blender, add in my imagination and hit the mix button. This chapter references a major event from the books.

A special thanks to LadyForrest – you endured a lot and are a real hero in my eyes. Thanks for the insight on women in the military.

Many, many thanks to my beta - bajan martini! Your friendship, support, and knowledge are invaluable.

Chapter 29: Oh Tannenbaum:

I hope I won't regret this…

I cautiously opened my front door, but only about six inches - I was prepared to slam it shut at the first sight of a speeding vampire. I didn't intend to have a lengthy conversation with Eric; I had elf work to do. I wanted to take a quick look at my long, lost friend and maybe find out how he got lost. Sadly, once I had a better view, I realized that it wasn't him.

I ignored the fact that Eric looked like he walked out of one of my wet dreams. I have a thing about him in white, crisp, business shirts, which he was wearing… and which went wonderfully with the grey, European-cut suit that he wore… shiny, blond hair parted and combed back, every hair in place… chiseled, high cheekbones… Elegant and sexy… and dangerousI think it's completely unfair that bad boys always look so good…

Tucked into the crook of Eric's arm was… not Fred. It sort of looked like Fred… kinda. It was polyurethane, blow-up alligator that sat on its haunches – just like Fred. But, it was taller and its clothes weren't painted on; it wore a real, cloth Santa outfit, complete with cap and black belt. It had protruding limbs and a massive tail that curled around it, giving it stability. Its most endearing quality was its over-enthusiastic smile, complete with a painted-on tongue that hung out of its mouth. It was greeting you like a best friend - or its next meal. I'm going with the 'greeting-a-best-friend' angle.

"Who's he? Did you kill - I mean - take Fred?"

"'Fred?' You named it?"

I flipped him the bird and stared daggers back at him. He wisely refrained from dropping one of his droll quips, but didn't bother to suppress his condescending smile.

"Actually… I found Fred's shredded remains in the forest. I believe it was Allitar Zalarus…" He added matter-of-factly, "He really didn't like you." Eric then bounced the rubber alligator up and down and playfully said, "I think he likes you... He needs a home… I told him that you were a kind human and would take him in."

His charm was completely wasted on me. I snapped back, "Sorry, not in the mood for your bullshit anymore, Northman. Go find another sucker and hurry back to your little queen. Tah-Tah!" I moved to close the door, but he said something that stopped me in mid-motion.

"Josephina, you weren't a cover... I had to make you relevant, so that you wouldn't be found torn to pieces in the woods." Then, under his breath, he commented more to himself than me, "My mistake was underestimating the level of Allitar's insanity."

Eric took a few small steps towards me, but stopped when he saw me tense up. He sagged against the deck banister and with a tinge of defeat in his voice, he semi-pleaded, "Let me explain and I'll leave afterwards… You saved me from the true death, I owe you the truth."

"Well, you've saved me twice actually – when Twyla shot at me and at the Crossing, when you intervened with Liam. So, actually, we're two for one. But, I think we should just call it a draw. Okay?" I stood my ground, like a sentry, with my chin defiantly jutted in the air. I tried not to look at him… or long for him. Why the hell does everything always turn into to shit?

He pulled the alligator's head against his own and made a face that reminded me of the cat cartoon character, Puss'n'Boots. His eyes widened and became soft, earnest, and moist. He puffed out his lower lip and sweetly requested, "Jo, have pity on us."

Really? 'Cutesy' – you're doing cutesy? You look so ridiculous… well, maybe a little adorable… I really hate you and I really mean it, too.

"If I don't find a home for my friend here, I'll just throw it away… and some redneck, human boy will find it and take it back to his flea – ridden, swamp hut. He and his in-bred friends will dress it up in their sisters' panties… and tape it engaging in wild sex acts with each of them… or worse… Then they will post the video to the web… just like your video… which, by the way, has now reached a viewership of over one hundred and fifty thousand."

My eyes grew two sizes in the horror. His eyes, however, narrowed, and sparkled with victory – he had successfully managed a direct hit to my weaknesses.

After several beats, he off-handedly said, "I could have that video removed from the web for you… You should see what they've done to it. Well, maybe you shouldn't… Let's just say… that in one of the versions that I saw… you and your prisoner were being very friendly… he was a naughty boy and you were a sheriff with a riding crop, and-"

I held out my hand and squawked, "Stop!"

He practically glowed with enjoyment, all of it at my expense. I was surprised that he wasn't smiling from ear to ear. Well, it's too early to declare victory, Eric. That's when the realization hit me – he had probably plotted out this whole moment before he arrived.

So, he delivers the bad news to the damsel in distress, and then he comes riding in, on his white bat, ready to rescue me. Nice move and you picked a great target – one that has vexed me for some time.

"I will do what others promised to do, but didn't… Let me and this rubber beast in and I'll see to it that your video is permanently purged – forever. All versions… completely gone."

I took my sweet time making a decision, because it was a tricky situation. If I gave Eric an inch, he would take a mile. But, I really wanted that fucking video gone. Also, it was probably my last time seeing him alone, in a private setting, before I kicked him to the curb, forever. They also say, 'never say forever.' Fuck 'them.'

I watched him confidently straighten the alligator's costume, and then he playfully shined the creature's painted-on teeth. He looked so calm, cool, and collected.

Fuck it. It would be faster to just let him in and let him have his say. Plus, I'm letting all of the heat out of my house by standing here with the damn door open… I'm losing vital bicycle assembling time - he better keep his promise and get rid of that fucking video.

I looked at him squarely in the eye and let him see all the contempt that I felt for him. This was actually a bold move on my part, especially since I was almost certain that he had glamoured me in the past. But things are different now - because now I have my little, lucky charm. I was wearing the amulet. I had attached it to the back of my watch with rubber cement so that I could remove it without damaging it or my watch. It was in constant contact with my skin. I never took off the watch and amulet – ever – since the Time of Crossing. Yes, the watch was water-proof.

I bumped the door open with my knee and but did not utter a single word or give him a welcoming gesture. With a defiant, ramrod-straight back, I marched into the kitchen to make some coffee.

I heard him say, "This is very mature of you, Jo." I twirled around to look at him, but didn't say a work. I let my scowl do all the talking.

While I loaded the coffee machine, I watched him from the corner of my eye. Eric hauled in the rubber alligator and propped it up next to the front door. His every move was fluid and graceful, but full of strength and purpose.

He wore an unusual necklace, which caught my eye. Dangling from his neck, on a leather cord, was a blood-red crystal. It was in its raw, spear-like shape. It had the supreme privilege of lounging between the cliff ridges of his pectoral muscles.

I wistfully wondered if he had dressed up for me or was on his way to a rendezvous with someone else. Someone else, of course…

I almost laughed out loud when I saw his expression as he surveyed the room. He actually did a double take after his initial glance. He stood by the door with a bemused expression on his face, taking in the sight of the bazillion pieces of bicycle parts scattered throughout the room. He then cautiously stepped around the piles and made his way to the couch.

I came back into the living room area and sat on the arm of the visitor's chair. I didn't bother to offer him anything, he never accepted anything whenever I did; including the TruBlood that I once bought for him. I eventually had to throw it out because it had passed its expiration date.

"So – talk."

I was on full alert for any sign of Eric's bullshit. Timidity didn't exist in his personality, so anything modest, meek, remorseful, regretful… anything respectful… would be a red flag. If he tried the sincerity approach, I would know immediately to not trust what he said.

He quietly asked, "First, I need to know if you are okay. I was told that you were attacked during the Time of Crossing."

Bad move, dude – sincere caring. So obvious… I refused to waste my time and breath, pretending to believe that his interest in my every scrape, bruise, or bite was legitimate. I rolled my eyes, shook my head in frustration, and let that be my answer.

His next approach was far more in character. His was direct and didn't pull any punches. "You shouldn't have been there. Crossings were happening all over the world, but our site was a primary portal and it was intentionally enhanced to draw the Dark Ones away from the weaker of our kind. Our energies were bound together by Liam's witchcraft, and his protection spells were suppose to… well, we know what actually happened. You could have easily been killed by all of the flying debris! They were fucking idiots…" As his voice trailed off, I saw various emotions flickered across his face.

I didn't care to debate on his comments. I was more interested in hearing about the Time of Crossing - and hell, anything else regarding the supernatural world. Unfortunately, Roman had continued with his previous behavior towards me. He wouldn't meet with me or take my calls, and all of my messages were either ignored or returned by members of his staff. The one difference was his attitude towards me. Before the Crossing, he was concerned but distracted. After the Crossing, his messages were curt and patronizing, at best. He left a couple of messages that were outright rude and belittling. I had no idea what I did to piss him off so much.

"You were, and still are, an easy mark for anyone or anything. They know this and have left you to fend for yourself. I could give them the benefit of doubt - perhaps A.J. and Roman over estimated your abilities or forgot that you are only human. Either could be true, because they are inept. But, I think… they just don't care about you. Which one do you think it is?"

I didn't bristle at his theories, which may have surprised him. I had been having similar thoughts, but not so extreme, even before the Crossing. I simply said, "Anything else?"

I could almost hear his brain ticking, as he analyzed my words and reactions. He wasn't sure if I was buying his story or just buying time, waiting to mount an assault. He decided to stay the course and continued his assault on A.J.'s and Roman's character.

"You know why you were brought here to Bon Temps, don't you?" When I didn't reply, he let out an irritated sigh. "Well, I do. You were brought here to be the birthing bitch for Roman's pups. But, he changed his mind, for whatever reason. Now he has a mate and soon a child… and he doesn't know what to do with you. You have become expendable… maybe even a liability. One logically follows the other. So, maybe that's why they brought you to the Crossing… it all makes sense, doesn't it?"

A heavy weight had settled into my stomach, it was difficult to breathe, and objects around me seemed to grow and shrink in size. I was on the verge of having a panic attack. It had been a while since my last one. I struggled to remember where I had stored my pills. The attacks mostly came on if I was too tired and extremely stressed – or both. Like tonight. This makes two attacks this month.

Calming breaths, calming breaths. I employed my well used, relaxation exercises. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Roman would not kill me – no, he wouldn't do that… would he?

I took another deep breath and then thought of a favorite memory - teaching Billy how to ride a bike when he was five. I felt Eric's eyes on me, so I looked his way. He was squinting in avid concentration, looking both intrigued and perplexed. I'm sure he's quite proud of himself right now; he's batting every ball right over home plate.

Eric moved to the edge of his seat and bestowed on me one of his finest, smoldering looks. The invitation in his eyes sent tingles to my toes. I silently cursed myself for my involuntary reaction to him. However, not until later on would I realize that my reaction to Eric actually distracted me from my anxiety attack.

His voice was smooth as velvet. "I would never have jeopardized your well-being by taking you there. That is why I was upset to see you there. It may have seemed that I was attacking you, but it was just a ploy. I had to diffuse everyone's suspicions of you, which meant I had to explain what happened between you, Liam, Allitar, and the 'V.' My delivery had to be authentic – I had to be direct… and hostile. The reason I brought up the gun was to keep you in the house and away from the Crossing site -"

I quietly interjected, "I know, I got that – when we were leaving. Something about when and how you told them about the gun. It seemed… well, it made me wonder if you were trying to help me. Thanks for that."

A self-satisfied smile stole across his face. My statement of gratitude was apparently another victory for him. He confidently assumed one of his favorite positions on the couch – stretched legs, crossed at the ankles, and arms splayed out along the back of the couch. He studied me closely for a few minutes. He seemed content with whatever he saw there, so he continued to talk.

"As I said before, I had to make you relevant to my kind – and I figured out a way to do that. I convinced my queen, and others, that we needed to keep you unharmed, or it would jeopardize our alliance with the werewolves. Of course, we had to keep you unaware of the V operation, and yes, the 'plan,'" he held up his hands and did the four finger quotes sign, "was that I would distract you… by being difficult… or whatever was necessary. I created the allusion that I distrusted you, didn't like you… found you distasteful – I had to, or my ruse wouldn't have worked."

He picked up the television remote and causally clicked through the channels. "Of course, no one could know about us – about our relationship - that would have been a disaster. Liam seemed to forget his role, though. No matter how many times I reprimanded him… he kept sneaking around my back, didn't he? I should have been stricter with him… nothing but Christmas movies … I prefer horror movies."

I didn't want to tell him that he just missed a humdinger of a movie, 'Fatal Attraction,' because I wanted him to stay on track. I was soaking in all that he said, like a sponge. I was amazed – confounded - that he was talking so much. He normally was quiet.

He abruptly turned off the television and carelessly tossed the remote onto the coffee table. After a small period of silence, he spoke again, continuing on the same subject.

"So, the plan worked well, you became a valuable commodity that needed to be protected. The whole V operation was conducted under your nose and you were oblivious to it. Everything went as planned. The only hiccup was Allitar – by the way, no harm will come to you. You were completely justified in giving him the true death, it was self-defense… You did me a favor; I couldn't stand the little rodent."

Being called a 'commodity' pissed me off. Even more infuriating was his insensitive attitude to my plight. Then it came to me, he assumed that my non-reaction was a sign of compliance. I bet he even thinks that I could become a proud, new member of the 'V dream team.' I decided to nip that little idea in the bud, immediately. "So, how much money are you making from selling all of that V? Quite a bundle, huh? You, Bill, Sookie – "

There was an edge to his voice when he interrupted me. "AND don't forget your dear, dear friends – A.J. and Roman. I don't know what their pay-off is, but believe me, there is one. And it is my queen that is benefiting from all of this, not me. "

I mocked him with a huge Cheshire cat smile. "How nice… it's just like a Disney film! All the little supernatural creatures of the forest are working together to make V, so that all the little, stupid humans everywhere, can become addicts! You are a motherfucker, piece of SHIT!" I was so enraged that I stood up and shouted the last word directly at him. I was so loud that I was sure Miss Violet heard me over at her house.

One nanosecond after I stood, Eric shoved himself off the couch, yelling all the way. "There is more to this than a fucking V operation – it is just a means to an end! I am trying to contain it and her!"

We were only a foot away from each other, and we were locked in a heated stare down. When he moved closer to me, I jabbed a pointed finger right in front of his face and warned him. "Get the fuck away from me."

When he didn't move away, I did. I stormed away, first heading for my bedroom, but I decided that I was not going to retreat. This is my fucking house… rented from him, but still… I changed my direction and went into the kitchen. I saw that the coffee was ready so I made a big display of fixing myself a cup. I slammed draws and cabinets and banged around canisters. My maneuvers wouldn't have impressed any military strategist, but I could care less. I was holding my ground; he was the one that would have to retreat.

Eric walked up behind me; I could see his reflection in the window above the sink. My shoulders hunched up, bracing for whatever was to come. Our eyes met in the window's reflection.

Eric cautiously spoke. "Sophie-Anne is ruthless. She would do whatever she thought necessary, without any qualms, to achieve her goals. If the body count of dead humans rose radically - she wouldn't care – but I would. I am trying to contain her, until I can… disable her… which is treason and punishable by the true death… V is highly addictive, yes, but it is easier to detox a human from it, far easier than Crack or Meth…The Crack and Meth traffic has lessened –"

"How fucking fantastic! So glad your master plan to rule the world is going well." I pushed past him and went to the front door. "Good luck with addicting and detoxing humans." I opened the front door and did the doorman bow and wave. "It's time for you to go."

Eric wordlessly walked over to the door, grabbed it out of my hands, and then slammed it shut. He slammed it so hard, that it shook the whole wall.

He backed me against the door and trapped me there. When he lifted his hand, I flinched and quickly put up my fists, ready to defend myself.

"Fine – if you want to fight, fine. But you are a fucking coward, because you know I'm no match for you. At least let me arm myself." I quickly glanced over at my tool kit sitting on the coffee table.

He had the audacity to snicker at me. "You could defend yourself with an entire armory and you still wouldn't last two seconds against me. I wasn't going to hit you; I was going to remove an eyelash that was lying on your cheek."

He reached up again, and again I flinched. On his third attempt, I held still and let him touch my face. He ran the tip of his finger diagonally under my eye and then held out his finger so that I could see the eyelash.

"You're supposed to make a wish… and I'm supposed to have the honor of kissing you."

I bumped his hand away and then fled around to the front of the couch, leaving in my wake, "You can kiss my incredibly, fat ass. How about that for an honor?"

He chuckled at me. "Joooo… you don't have an incredibly large… ooohhh, smart girl… that's a trap – a human woman's trap. I am not going there… You can't be this naïve. There is more going on here than just fucking V trafficking. There is a war going on here – and I am trying to keep you alive. You must know how war truly is… For every moment of valor and selfless acts, there four acts of treachery and deceit. You've been a police officer as a civilian and in the military – you should know how the world works!"

Thankfully, when Eric moved, it was not to follow me. He sat down on the back of the couch. I felt like a bird trapped in the rain. I was fluttering around in my part of the room, trying to find shelter and safety.

"I know war and real life, Eric! I've had my share of working and living in the 'grey' area; I know that life isn't simple and straightforward. But there are some things I will NOT do – and that's one of them. I would not cross the line for personal gain. I believe in my job's mission, to serve and protect –"

"I am on your side, Jo! I am trying to get rid of the filth that is around us! How many times do I have to say that? But it takes time; it's a game of stealth and subterfuge. Every move must be well thought out or it will be disastrous for everyone – everyone, Jo… Those dogs have strung you up by your ankles, and you're just in twisting in the wind, and you don't see that they have been using you – really using you… You're nothing but bait to distract trespassers."

"Okay, enough! You are loco in the cabeza, buddy." My jeer meant that he was 'crazy in the head.'

"You've been a total prick – not once – many, many times! Then, ask me to overlook it and trust you. We keep ending up here, at this same place, doing this tug of war between lies and truth. It's fucking déjà vu! You know that this is the definition of insanity, don't you? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different. And here's the million dollar question – now wait for it – are you ready? What does Eric REALLY want? Let's bottom-line this right now. What- do- you-want? Do you need me to be a human shield, or maybe you would prefer a doormat? Or, may –"

"I AM TELLING YOU WHAT I WANT – I WANT YOU…" He slammed his first on a decorative metal canister that I had on the counter, and crashed it flat. "I… sorry about… I came to tell you the truth… we must endure this… we can endure this… and we can still be together… We enjoy our time together… you enjoy me, I know you do! And I can do more – far more, to protect you and help you… Don't leave. Don't leave this house – I can protect you here. And stop looking for other jobs – I know you are, I've seen your Google searches."

I jumped right in his face and threatened him with a fist held in front of his face. "Stay the fuck out of my stuff!" I let out a strangled growl and grabbed my cup of coffee and walked to the center of the room. I stood in the middle of all the bike parts and somehow felt a sense of safety, as false as it was, surrounded by all of that metal. I glared back at him. He's a fucking stalker.

He looked sheepish for all of two seconds. But he did not detour from his campaign to become my BFF. "It will be the same anywhere you go. We are everywhere, Jo. At least here, you have allies and friends. If you run off to be with your brother, you will take all of this shit to his doorstep, because it will follow you, Jo!"

I groaned in frustration and stomped my foot like a child. "What the fuck, Eric? You want to be my BFF and you want to help me and protect me – because we have fun together. Wow, that is so touching. Let's pretend that we are in a field of flowers and let's run to each other in slow motion! What are you up to, just tell me."

Eric didn't move from his perch. He calmly crossed his arms and said, "I've been saying it for the last twenty minutes."

I picked up a bag of bolts and threw them across the room, purposely missing the rubber alligator's nose by only an inch. That's what I think of your peace offering. I yelled out in utter frustration. "WHY?"

Within the blink of an eye, Eric blurred over to me, grabbed my arms and pulled me against his chest. His fangs were out and he growled at me. "I DON'T KNOW WHY… I fucking wish I knew, because I would give all the royal blood in the world to find it and destroy it. I don't know how it happened; this has not happened to me since… a long, long time… I don't want to care… but I do… care… about what happens to you."

He pushed me away from him - gently, thankfully – and wandered through the mess, with no definite destination. As he walked, he talked – sometimes to himself and sometimes to me.

"I don't know why… I don't know what happened. I know lust, I know allure, even addiction. It's not your blood - I've tasted it and it's normal. I'm trying to protect you and you are so ungrateful – just like a typical woman! And you're not supernatural – you're human! A fucking human – not a hybrid anything – just human. There's no reason for this. It's just… When I first saw you…"

His rant ceased and he withdrew into his own thoughts for a few minutes. I kept quiet, just watching him. When he began to speak again, it was in bulleted phrases, and more like comments on his train of thought.

"I thought maybe it was a witch's spell… the moment I saw you… confident, so brave – but you wouldn't fucking look me in the eyes!" He stopped to chuckle at his memory. "A woman warrior – a true warrior, with a brave heart and soul… green, cat eyes - that's why I thought it was a spell… there are women fighters, but very few women warriors… a true warrior knows honor… you've been tested in true battle, and your honor is still intact…

But the annoying thing is… why it has lasted this long? … There is nothing… nothing special about you… an attraction has never lasted this long without some influencing force… fucking biology… that's all it is… there is an innocence, too… which makes no sense... "

He slyly looked at me and lewdly laughed. "Because, you are no innocent, I have first-hand knowledge of that… I've not had enough of you, yet… that is to your advantage… Well played, Jo. Well played. As always, you have my utmost respect. Alright, I'm ready to negotiate with you. What do you want? Name it - money?"

I gaped back at him with bugged eyes; I was flabbergasted. I wasn't sure if he was insane or just an ordinary male. In my experience, men think in terms of power, sex, and conquering, and not always in that order. And women always want to know what men are thinking… until we find out… and then we wish we didn't know because there's some freaky shit that goes on in their heads.

"Um… Sure. I would love some money… I want to win the lottery and then go someplace that has warm beaches, hot cabana boys, and ice cold drinks. Aaaahhh… I don't need bribe money, Eric."

"I gave you appliances… and now you may have the house that they sit in. The house is yours."

Huh? You gave me those appliances? This house – your rental property - needed new appliances… You considered that a bribe? You are such a typical male… and I'm about to 'go-off-all-female' on your ass. Fuck it – you deserve this…

I donned a syrupy sweet, Southern belle accent and sarcastically mocked him. "Those little ol' appliances are mine? Well, well lordy-mercy, Eric! You really do know how to turn a girl's head. Second rate appliances and a rundown, tract house. My, oh my; I can't wait to tell all the ladies at the next cotillion! I do declare, I think I'm getting the vapors." I melodramatically pressed the back of my right hand to my forehead and fanned my face with my left.

Eric stoically responded, "You told me that they were very good appliances."

"They're good, but they're not great. Sub-zero refrigerators and Viking stoves are great. But, who gives a shit; I hardly have enough time to cook anymore. I can't accept the appliances and this house – are you out of your mind? However, jewelry… " I cackled and gave him a broad wink, "Now we're talking!"

His eyes flashed and a smarmy grin popped up on his face. Before he could open his mouth, I said, "No – just joking… well, not really – diamonds are a girl's best friend. But, no - I'm joking, okay? Sorry, no sale. "

He wordlessly walked over to the couch and flopped down on it, and completely stretched out on it. He rolled on his side, grabbed up the television remote again and rapidly clicked through the stations. Eric looked like a little boy sulking because he didn't get what he wanted from Santa.

I huffed in frustration. I don't need this shit. Dammit. There was no way I'm going to get a sulky vampire off of my couch and out of my home without violent force. And I'm not in the mood to clean up dead vampire goo. Not that I ever would shoot him… unless…

So, I decided to wait out the princess vampire's bad mood by being productive. I plopped down on the floor and worked on trying to connect a set of handle bars to a bike frame. Within minutes, the bedeviled diagram had me wanting to tear out my hair. I didn't know what nut and bolt combination was correct, because the picture on the diagram was too fuzzy.

I heard him call my name. His voice sounded very odd. It was like he was calling me through a tunnel. I turned to look at him; he was sitting up on the couch. I watched his lips - they seemed to move in slow motion. "Come to me, Jo. Come. I want you and you want me. You want me very much."

I felt a strong pulling, yearning sensation inside of me. My eyes watered and blurred.

Eric said again, "Jo, come to me. You want me, very much."

I blinked several times, trying to clear my eyes. Then, it occurred to me what was going on. I couldn't help myself and laughed out loud.

Eric looked incredulous. He narrowed his eyes into slits and his brow furrowed, "Jo, I said come to me. Now, woman." I ignored his command and kept laughing at him. His anger twisted his face. "Why aren't you coming to me?"

Oh. My. God… No fucking way! It's true… it is true. I knew it, I knew it!

I popped up to my feet and danced in place. I added a mixture of frustration and celebratory sounds and just had myself a little party. "I knew it! I knew it! You're trying to glamour me! AHHH! You are sooooo… ARGG! I knew it! Yes I did, you little Viking… OOOHHHHHH, I could just… Okay, I wasn't sure – but I damn well know it now! AHHH! Buddy, you have some serious, serious issues. Fuuuucckkkk! You have a personality disorder – a lot of them! Son-of-a-bitch! Not joking here – I really mean it."

He calmly asked, "How… how are you able to resist me?"

I became spiteful and enjoyed every moment of it. "Yes! I knew it! You are so lame… that is sad that you have to glamour a woman to get her interested in you… And, 'Come here, woman!' What kind of Neanderthal crap is that?" I thumped on my chest and said, "Me, crazy bat – you, blood-filled female – Come woman!'"

I was feeling punchy. I had worked two shifts, back to back and my energy and emotions were on a rollercoaster ride. I continued to enjoy myself at his expense, but kept a cautious eye on him at all times.

I used my best imitation of 'hip-hop speak,' borrowed Lafayette's finger wagging gestures, and added head bops and zigzagging body moves. "Yeah! That's right home-boy - you ain't got game nooo more!" I stuck my butt out and slapped it. "Say hello to my better half! 'Cos that's all you gonna see as I walk away…" I strutted in place and flexed my arms, "Yeah! That's right, that's right. I got your number, and you ain't ever gettin' my number again. Feel me?"

Though his expression was borderline disdainful, I saw some humor in his eyes. His whole demeanor changed and he seemed very contrite. "You're right. I conduct my life like an antiquated Viking… a barbarian… completely out of touch with today's woman… This is not worthy of you… I'm abrupt and heavy-handed … I'm not comfortable with this sort of talk… I don't explain – ever. But, I'm trying here… All that has happened is bullshit, and I can't change it, it is what it is… I am what I am…but now you know the truth… we can be together without doubts… I want … what we had… back."

I was so stunned that you could have knocked me over with a feather. This was a new tactic that I had never seen before. He seemed so genuine. Fuck, he's learning how to fake sincerity.

I stumbled through my reply, torn between wanting to believe him and cautious from lessons learned. "Wow – well, that's ahh… incredible… what you just said… If it was true… But… ah, I don't buy it, Eric… Come on, times a'wasting." I tried to stifle a yawn, but I didn't catch it in time. The timing was bad and it seemed intentional. "Just tell me what you need – aahhoommm - oh, sorry about that. I'll see if I can help, and then get the fuck out."

"FUCK THIS!" Eric let out a lion's roar, and literally flew up onto his feet. He kicked over my very heavy couch, sending it crashing onto its back. "Need? I don't fucking need a goddamn thing from you. I wan- Fine, you've given me your answer. No more… no more. For the record, Jo… Iam being honest. I swear it on the head of my progeny."

He intently looked at me and when I remained unresponsive, he just shook his head. He used his foot to effortlessly pull the couch back onto its feet. He quickly straightened the pillows and then paused for a moment to stare at the couch; it was as if he was expecting it to speak. Maybe he was waiting for me to speak, but I had decided to remain quiet.

I heard him mutter something to himself, which I couldn't hear clearly. It sounded like he said, "It's biology. It will pass." He followed this statement with something else, but it was spoken in a foreign language that I did not know.

He looked everywhere but at me. "I won't trouble you anymore. I see that I've been mistaken… If you ever need anything, call me. Stay here for as long as you want – rent free."

I watched him walk towards the door and my stomach knotted up. Before he could grab the handle, I heard myself say, "Wait."

He stopped in his tracks but didn't turn around to look at me. He waited, as ordered.

"God, you're such a prissy little princess, aren't you." What am I saying? What am I doing? I'm this close to being free of him! Just let him go, Jo.

"If you broke anything, you're going to pay for it." Okay, that's good, take a stand. Now, stop there, Jo.

"Melodramatic much?" Good, one final insult and then out the door with him!

"You should get your blood checked… um… watch who you're drinking - you get so moody." Alrighty then, I guess I needed to get that out. Now, away with him!

He still didn't say anything but he turned to look at me.

Oh no… I don't know why I'm doing this. I can't possibly…

"I don't know… I don't know you – nothing about you. Are you being sincere – how would I know? I… I can't I trust what I don't know… The sex is fantas-… really, really good, but long as they make C batteries, I'm good to go… so, it's no big deal… " What the fuck am I saying? Shut up, Jo. Just shut up! Oh, jesus-christ-superstar, please, please, please shut up and kick him to the curb.

Eric raised a doubtful eyebrow and made a scuffing sound. I got his message, he obviously disagreed with me.

"It's not about sex, Eric! I need collateral – real collateral." Ah, god, what are you saying? What the fuck? Maybe I need more therapy… I swear, I surprise myself with my own stupidity… or maybe I'm surprised by my true feelings.

He looked at me expectantly and then shrugged a shoulder, "Fine, I just offered you… but… What do you want, name it?"

"Not crap… I want real collateral. You know all of my secrets – everything… I want to know yours. I want to know something important. I want to know something extremely personal about you… a secret that you don't want others to know."

I uneasily shifted my weight from foot to foot, but stopped when I realized that it made me look apprehensive. I needed to reflect strength. Show strength, never weakness. He'll know that I mean business. So, I transitioned into a power stance - hands on hips, feet spread shoulder length apart.

I'm giving him this very last chance and I know I'm lame for doing it. But… he's the first man… male… that I've wanted to really, really be with… in a very long time. We do have fun… even see eye to eye on a lot of things – and have incredible sex… He took a bullet for me and stopped Liam's attack on me… that's got to mean something.

My gut tells me that a one thousand year old Viking vampire would never show vulnerability, like he has tonight, unless… he meant it or maybe if he was trying to save his life… and I'm not holding a gun to his head. The true test will be what he reveals to me. I know he's a player. I'm not deluding myself. I'm not asking him to marry me, and I'm not saying he's my Mr. Right… he's just a pretty good, Mr.-Right-For-Now.

There're a lot of consequences to with being with a vampire…

He crossed back over to the couch and sat down with great care. I think he was afraid that it was broken. I was very glad to see that it was fine. I wasn't in the mood to go couch shopping.

He rubbed his hands through his hair and mussed it up. It gave it that after-sex look. A little butterfly flew around in my stomach at the image of him, naked in my bed. Oh, stop it, Jo! Focus!

What he said next was either flattering or frightening, depending on how you interpreted it. "There are times… when I imagine - with great relish… I imagine your neck snapping in my hands. The pop of the vertebrae and your head rolling loosely in my hands… but, then again… I don't want you gone from this world."

The man's a real charmer… a real lady killer…

I decided to display a degree of trust by allowing physical closeness. I crossed over to my visitor's chair, and resumed my prior position of sitting on its arm. Neither one of us spoke. The silence was deafening. I chewed on my lip while I tried to come up with something wise to say and settled for a cryptic, "We're both taking a leap of faith here."

If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed it possible. Eric looked nervous. With resolve in his voice, he said, "Okay." Then he slowly nodded his head.

"Sookie is my ex-wife, my vampire ex-mate… We had a vampire mating ceremony. We were bound by blood and the exchange of the knife… The blood bond is strong and can be difficult to break. But, I had it broken… I had a witch break it."

It was a really good thing that I was sitting down, or I would have fallen. That little bit of news was like a fist to the stomach. I couldn't speak at first, but when I could, I felt like I was chewing on my tongue the whole time.

"Oh… wow… Liam? Um… He was the witch?"

Eric nodded.

I lamely wisecracked, "Damn, he was your little witch-bitch, wasn't he?"

Eric emitted a grunt, which I took as a confirmation.

"Why? Um… if you don't mind my asking… Why did you two break up?"

It was a struggle for me to not ask more - 'why did you marry her; do you still want her; I think she still wants you, isn't that right; are you really divorced; why the fuck did you have to drop this bombshell on me.' But I kept my mouth shut. I didn't want to spook him.

Eric managed to trump me again with another mind-blasting revelation.

"She couldn't… wouldn't… make a decision and when she didn't, I did. She said she was confused… she still had feelings for Bill… Compton… I will not be second to any vampire or man… or wolf. She's very childlike at times… as well as naïve and emotionally immature… She had barely tasted any of the pleasures that the world has to offer… I was not patient with her recklessness… she endangers others with her headstrong ways… our mating ceremony was somewhat of… an unwelcomed surprise at first, but I thought… I needed my sanity back and she needed to follow her nature."

"I heard that she's a faerie or hybrid-faerie."

Surprise, then anger flashed in his eyes. Like the sun rising, realization dawned over his face, and then faded into indifference. Sorry Eric. It's not a well-kept secret.

"Yes… She is a bright, light, airy faerie." He sadly smiled, "But it's her faerie blood that is remarkable. I sometimes think it is what really attracted me to her. Its smell and taste is beyond description. It's intoxicating, powerful - addicting. She perfectly described it once – 'crack for vampires.' Most supernaturals are drawn to faeries and I've seen this first hand… I had to step away from the allure of her blood and look at her… and I saw that she was not happy with me.

I wasn't – could never be – what she wants or needs. I am vampire – first and foremost. I am Viking… I am a conqueror and a warrior, and I will always be these things. I will never be a simple, emasculated, country bumpkin. It was not a good match for either of us."

"Did you ever try to get back together… you are divorced, right? You're not lying… right?"

He sarcastically responded, "Yes, yes, and no," but I wasn't offended, I was actually glad. His snarky reply was a good sign; it meant he was coming out of that dark place that he had slid into - full of obviously painful memories.

There was still a hint of melancholia in his voice, when he added, "There was a part of me that did love her - for her – I am sure of it… it was her blood that I lusted for… it had power… it could perform miracles… but once I had it all…" He then shrugged and matter-of-factly stated, "Unfortunately, the total effects of her blood were momentary, which was very disappointing."

He looked at me oddly and quietly said, "You would make a wonderful vampire."

I snorted and replied. "No can do. I could never give up chocolate and coffee."

He politely chuckled, but he kept looking at me with such a keen, intense expression on his face. It made me a little uncomfortable. He stopped the creepy stare and became playful.

"I have other secrets, centuries of them. Imagine how much fun you'll have, beating me into a pulp as you discover each one."

A little smart-ass retort popped out of my mouth – I really couldn't help it – it was just too much to resist. "Remember, I charge double for kinky." It would have been nice if I had stopped there, but if I'm in it for a penny, I'm in it for a pound. "Damn, I felt like we just had a vampire therapy session. I feel completely drained." After a few embarrassing snorts and sloppy laughs, I bumped up the silliness. "Get it – 'drained'? The therapist is not only drained emotionally, she's drained of blood… okay, never mind… inappropriate… alrighty then."

I let out a loud moan and bent over, hands on knees, head hanging down and giggled, then groaned. I waited for the blood to rush to my head. My energy was winding down and I hoped that the blood rush to my head would revive me. I must look like an imbecile to him.

"I'm a mess, Eric, and I'm really bad at relationships… Really, really bad… bad at being sensitive - when the mood warrants it, bad at a lot of things… but, yeah, there's something going on between us and I like it… well, when we're not arguing or threatening each other… But… ah, Eric – run, just run. Run far, far away." I sound like an idiot.

"It doesn't get any better… kinda sad, huh? This is the real me… like you said, a plain human. Now, this is pathetic." I straightened up and waved my hand in front of my body, "This is me – the real me. It ain't always pretty." I huffed out a couple of weak guffaws

I lamely smiled at everything in the room, except him. I didn't want to see the rejection in his face when he changed his mind.

I heard a smile in his voice when he replied, "I think that is the first time I've ever had a human warn me away from them, for that reason." He slowly made his way over to me, carefully stepping over the piles of bike parts. "Lots of 'firsts' with you."

When he reached me, he lowered his face within inches of mine. "Now, I think this is the time when we kiss." As cheesy as that sounded, I didn't care. I rose up on my toes and met him half way.

The kiss was worth the wait – it was electric. It felt like someone had flipped a light switch in my soul. Instantly, I wasn't tired anymore; every nerve was functioning at full power and I was filled with energy and elation. Forget butterflies, I had huge hawks flapping around in my stomach.

I flung my right arm around his neck and pulled him closer. Aaahhh, he smells so good – spicy, soapy – manly… He lips were cool and strong. He tasted like… SHIT!

I ripped my mouth off of his and practically yelled in his face, "Oh fuck me!" The bikes! I looked at my watch. Oh Shit – it's almost midnight!

Eric's astonished expression was hysterical. He laughed broadly, pulled me closer and said, "I fully intend to!"

I wanted to laugh with him, but I was almost close to crying. "Nooo! I mean 'yes,' but I can't! I have to get these bikes put together! It's like – it's almost midnight and I haven't gotten jack-shit done! Shit-shit-shit-shit, I'm so sorry. Can we take a rain-check? I wish we didn't have to stop, but I have to get this done. These are for kids – it's their Secret Santa presents. Kenya, you remember Kenya, right? Well, her church does this…"

As I continued to ramble on, Eric released me and pulled out his cell phone. He walked over to the kitchen area and called someone. I just stood in the same place, flapping my arms around and pointing blindly at the various piles of bike parts, and stuttering incoherently. My brief 'Eric-high' drained away and I watched while he talked to whomever. He's making a booty call to someone. Dammit… why does everything always... oh, whatever…

He glanced at me and I realized that I must have looked like a forlorn, sex-starved, mangy deer caught in headlights. I quickly voided my face of all expression, but I know he saw it.

He lowered the phone from his ear slightly and asked me, "How many bikes do you have to put together?"

I blandly responded, "Five."

He looked puzzled. "Five? There seems like a lot more." He went back to talking with whomever for a few moments and then asked me, "When do you need them built?"

I struggled to maintain an outward appearance of cool, control; but inside, I was a whimpering mess. "Christmas Eve morning. I have to deliver them to the A.M.E. Mount Zion Church of Bon Temps by nine o'clock." I started to wring my hands, which were sweaty – actually, I was sweating all over – while calculating how many hours I had left before my deadline. Taking into consideration my duty tour hours, commuting, errands… eating… some sleep…

Eric lowered his cell again, "Do you have an air pump for the tires."

His words felt like cold water being thrown in my face. "What? Ah… ahhhh fuck! An air pump… AN AIR PUMP! I don't have one – it didn't come with the bikes. It's not on the diagram! " I tripped over a handle bar on my way to grab a diagram from the coffee table and tripped back over it on my way over to Eric.

"See? See! There's no air pump on the diagram. I thought it was like the self-inflating stuff we had in the service. I didn't know, I didn't think! Damn, I'm so stupid! I can't BELIEVE -"

As I continued my meltdown, Eric opened a bottle of merlot, found a wine goblet, and filled the glass almost to the brim. When he handed it to me, I immediately took a large gulp of wine.

"I'll pay, Eric! Tell them that they'll be paid. I don't care how much, well – a reasonable amount, okay? I tried asking around the station for help, and even called a gas station, trying to find-" Eric tipped my glass of wine into my mouth and I was forced to take another gulp or spill it down my front.

This is delayed stress release from the Time of Crossing… I took another gulp of wine… and A.J.'s injury… I took my third gulp… and Roman's attitude... I took my fourth gulp… I've just done a double shift, the second one in a week… I desperately need more personnel… I need to quit bitching, all I fucking do is complain… well, at least I'm just bitching at myself…

I forced myself to slow down my consumption rate; the wine was hitting me fast. It's probably because I didn't eat very much for dinner. I gratefully smiled at Eric, took a dainty sip, and waited patiently for him get off the phone.

He ended his call and refilled my glass while he spoke. "I have someone coming. He'll have them ready and delivered to the church on the morning of the twenty-fourth. Now… why don't you go take a nice, soothing bath while I pack up all of this? He'll be here in about twenty minutes."

Eric didn't wait for a response; he turned me around, gave me a gentle swat on my bum, then cupped it and gently pushed me on my way.

I felt like little Cindy-Loo-Who, being sent back to bed by the Grinch. Except this Grinch was about to perform a wonderful deed for me and five children. I slowly walked away, while watching Eric remove his jacket and roll up his sleeves. The last thing I saw was him blurring around the room, re-packing the bikes into their original boxes.

I quietly said, "Thank you, Eric. I… I really mean it." I knew his vampire ears had heard me, but he didn't stop or respond.

Eric walked into the bathroom; he didn't bother to knock and I didn't mind. He was carrying the opened bottle of merlot.

"Is it time for a refill?" He held up the bottle of wine, and when I shook my head, 'no,' he placed it on the sink and sat down on the toilet seat.

"I'm almost ready to be rolled in pastry dough, my fingers and toes are turning into prunes."

He smiled, grabbed a towel and opened it up to receive me. "Why don't you get out, I'll dry you off."

The hawks were back, doing barrel-roll dives in my stomach.

I slowly rose up and stepped out of the bath. I felt awkward and incredibly shy, maybe because it had been a while since our last time together. When I got the courage to look him in the face, my knees almost buckled. His eyes were sapphire blue and filled with hunger. The lust in his face triggered a yearning for him.

Eric remained seated and began to dry me off with the towel. First, he slowly massaged the water out of my hair. Then, he softly patted and stroked my arms, shoulders, and belly until they were dried. Neither one of us spoke. It was highly erotic.

He stopped drying me. He pulled me closer to him, leaned into my left breast, opened his mouth, and when his tongue came out - I lost touch with reality.

When he resumed drying me, I had to hold onto him for support. He worked up and down my legs, patting and stroking. He paused and looked into my eyes, he wanted my complete attention. He slipped the towel between my legs and slowly dragged it all the way up. He slowly massaged the towel against me and soon replaced it with his fingers. His fingers were strong but gentle, agile, and extremely well trained.

I wonder if all vampires are like this. I really don't want to know. I just want him.

When he finished, my whole body felt like soft taffy. He effortlessly carried me to my bed. When he began to undress, I revived and stopped him. I joked about him being the best Christmas present I ever had and how much I wanted to unwrapped him. It was probably one of the top five corniest things I have ever said, but I didn't let it bother me.

A couple of hours later…

We laid together on my bed, arms and legs entangled, he on his back, me wrapped around his left side. We were taking a much needed break. More correctly, I was resting. He was insatiable.

"What made you change your mind?" His chest rumbled when he spoke and I found it somewhat relaxing.

I was too comfortable, wedged into his side, to change positions and look at him. "You had me at 'your neck snapping in my hands.' Those are words that women long to hear. You're such a romantic."

He heartily laughed and flipped over until he was leaning over me. He gently stroked my face, "No flowers and candy for you, hmmm?"

I smiled at him behind closed eyes, "Naw, not for me! Actually, I wouldn't mind that, once in awhile."

He gathered me close to him, and continued to softly stroke my face and neck.

I opened my eyes in time to see his eyes turn from soft, cornflower blue into dark sapphire. It's amazing how they do that. He's revving up for another round. Sorry, buddy, you're going have to wait a little while longer… I'm going to be exhausted tomorrow… but, what the hell, this is worth it.

I wondered how many women have literally been in my same exact position - looking up at him, watching his desire grow for them. It was exhilarating to have this beautiful male as a lover, even for a short while.

I think every woman deserves to have a hot vampire interested in them, at least once… Hmmm, that doesn't sound exactly how I mean it to sound. But, I stand by the sentiment.

His coloring was a tad off, a bit paler than usual. "Do you need to feed? Um… I know I haven't ever offered, but if this is an emergency, or just – you know, if you need blood… I'm –"

"No, I'm fine. I will not drink from you. It will weaken you too much. You need your strength to perform your duties… The dawn is coming, I will have to leave soon and go to ground."

I sometimes think I truly have a deep seeded need to make an ass out of myself. I asked him, "How does my blood taste, is it okay?" and immediately felt like cutting out my tongue.

He laughed under his breath, "Delicious – salty, rich… some spice… sweet… with a touch of tang – just like you. I only get asked that question by women."

I fantasized about taking a huge bite out of his chest and say, "All the boys ask me if they taste like beef or chicken." I snorted at my own silliness. I had to be honest with myself, the only reason I asked was because I felt odd when he kept going on and on about Sookie's blood. Yeah, I do have my girly-girl moments of insecurity. But, hey, I'm human. Wow, that last statement becomes more precious and profound with each passing day.

In a hushed voice, I said, "We'll still have to be discrete."

He replied, "Yes… by the way, I like being called a prick… I hope you do it more often." He smiled brightly.

I think he really means it.

I nodded my head. "Okay, sure… can I call you 'shark' and 'lawyer;' they're part of your species, right? Of course, the shark is the cute, cuddly one in the bunch…"

I watched him grin from ear to ear – he liked that little jab. He has a great sense of humor, and he takes a jab, well.

I silently wondered how long we had together, before something or someone came between us.

Relationships… I've never had a lot of time for them. There are desert-size time spans between my romances – miles and miles of sand between each time I have opened up to are a lot of reasons behind it – everything from living in a judgmental little town to the military's treatment of women. The military basically slaps the stamp, 'whore,' on a woman the minute she crosses into boot camp. I had to be very careful and build a respectable reputation. When I did date, I kept it on the down-low and told only a few people.

Someday, I will have a relationship that I won't have to hide.

Another private admission, I didn't totally trust Eric. More precisely, I didn't trust what he was not telling me. But, I did trust that he is genuinely interested in me, and that he had my back. I mean, he's saved my ass several times already, and it wasn't necessary, given the situations. Time will tell if I'm being played the fool… If that's the case - I'll survive it, I've survived worse.

Vampires and their secrets… and werewolves, too…

It was Christmas Eve and I was sitting at the bar in Merlotte's, waiting on my lunch. I was half listening to a show on the bar's television about the Christmas trees. I learned that the botanical meaning for the fir tree was 'faithful' and in pre-Christian days, it was brought indoors for good luck, among other reasons.

A few yards away, I heard Arlene talking excitedly about a Christmas present that she bought for her daughter.

Merlotte's was buzzing with customers, which surprised me. I expected all of Bon Temps to be at home or in church. I wonder if these were all last minute Christmas shoppers, or if these were weary souls bracing themselves before dealing with family gatherings.

Arlene got louder and more excited, which drew my attention away from the television. I watched her regale Tara and another waitress with her tale of shopping for the gift. She told them that her daughter, Lisa, loved a new boy-band and wanted their new CD for Christmas. Arlene had found it and bought it – and it was the last one in all of WalMart!

Arlene passed around the CD, and when the other ladies politely glanced at the cover, she passed it over to me. The band's name was 'Blood Brothers.' What I read on the back of the CD really surprised me.

"Wow, Arlene, I'm really impressed. I didn't realize that you were so progressive. That's really great that you are so open and accepting." I wasn't being sarcastic, I was quite sincere.

She waved a hand at me and said, "Well, they are foreigners - but that don't bother me. They sing real good… And, I have to admit it… they are rreaaallll cute. Oh my lord, I sound like a cougar!"

Maxine Fortenberry hollered from the dining area, "ARLENE? Arleeeeennnneeee!"

Arlene paused our discussion for a moment and yelled out, "Mizz Fortenberry, I heard you the first time, you don't have to keep yellin'!" Then back to us, "Lord, that woman is going to drive me to drink one day."

As Arlene walked off, I handed the CD to Tara.

Tara puffed out her bottom lip and said, "What?"

I replied with a "Huh?"

"You gotta a problem with foreigners?"

I took a sip of my tea and quietly said, "Nope, not at all. Or vampires, either, I serve our whole community."

Tara jerked her head back and spoke through pursed lips, "Vampires? Why are you bringin' up vampires?"

I pointed at the CD, "That group – they're vampires. It says so on the back."

Tara acted like the CD was a hot piece of coal and flipped it around in her hands. She dropped it on the bar and quickly read the back. She hissed out, "Shiiiittttttt!" Then she lowered her voice and said, "What the fuck! There's no way that Arlene knows 'bout this."

"Oh… well... she'll-"

Tara stomped through my sputtering with, "She'll have a fuckin' cow! Shiiiitttt, Arlene was just braggin' yesterday that she was gonna buy tickets to their concert in Shreveport, next summer. Fuuuuccckkk me, she HATES vampires!"

Ew... red flag, I'm not getting involved. "Well, don't worry about me telling her."

Tara flipped the CD over, so that it front was showing, and pushed it to the far end of the bar. She cupped her hand to her mouth and staged-whispered, "I sure as hell ain't telling her."

As Tara resumed her task of cutting lemons and limes, Sam came booming in the front door of the bar. He looked like he had just run a marathon, he was gasping for air, sweating heavily, and extremely red-faced. He walked straight up to me, "I have your coffee, but you have to come right now to get it. Right now… please." He and I still met to trade intel and used the specialty coffee order ruse as a cover. It was lame, but it worked.

Tara raised questioning eyebrows at me, but I just smiled blankly back at her. I followed Sam into his office and once he closed and locked the door, he swung around and immediately launched an offense. "I heard about A.J. I know about the Time of Crossing – so don't lie… I mean… cover it up."

I rolled my lips into my mouth, counted to three, and then said, "I won't… It didn't go how people had hoped. He's seriously hurt. I've been trying to see him, but they're not allowing any visitors. I was told it's a head injury –"

Sam had resorted to his favorite, nervous tick – he continuously flicked his hair out of his eyes. He had calmed down but something I said really lit his fuse. He jumped right in with, "Oh – come on, Sheriff! I know that's bullshit! I know the truth… I know that A.J.'s possessed by a demon."