by C.T. Brennan

Natalie half-heartedly waved the mascara brush along her
eyelashes. She normally did not mind putting on makeup,
curling her hair, and "dressing to the nines" when going to
one of the City Benefit Balls. Tonight, however, she was
dreading every minute of the ordeal. "I hate going to these
things stag, Sidney," Natalie said to her ever loving feline
companion. "I'm 30 years old ..." Natalie inspected herself
in the mirror with a hard look, "and reasonably attractive,
plus I have a great sense of humor. Why can't I conjure up
one lousy date tonight?" Sidney purred a comforting reply
then licked his master's hand.

The phone rang breaking her bout with self-pity and Natalie
debated answering it. Nick had not left her alone so she had
to change her phone number twice over the past few months.
But Nick, being the detective, always managed to find the
number . She eventually threw her answering machine in the
trash and ignored the phone completely. At least Nick had
stopped flying into her living room uninvited so there was
improvement in that area. With a sense of abandonment,
Natalie picked up the receiver on the sixth ring, "Hello?"

"Good evening Dr. Lambert." At the sound of Lacroix's voice
every muscle in Nat's body tensed up.

"What do you want Lacroix?" Nat tried to keep the shakiness
out of her voice but was not successful.

"Ah, doctor, why the anger? I have done nothing to you....or
are you blaming me for Nicholas' latest indiscretion ? I
assure you, I had nothing to do with it. I was quite
resigned to the fact I had no choice but to allow Nicholas
to live with you and the rest of the mortal world. I knew he
would fail. He always has when it comes to mortals,
especially mortal women."

"Lacroix, is there something you needed other than to gloat
over your success?"

"Doctor, or may I call you Natalie?" there was no answer
from Nat so Lacroix continued, "I have always been quite
fond of you. You probably did not know that. Nicholas
always has had delicious taste in women. Natalie, you are
capable of stimulating a man's mind and not just his libido.
I find that quite intriguing in a woman. Only at the end,
did poor Nicholas realize what a treasure he lost."

"Somehow, Lacroix, those words do not wear well on me coming
from you. I am late for an appointment and I really must
ring off now." With a thud, Natalie slammed the receiver
down. "What is it with me, Sidney? I can only attract men
over the age of 800? Good ol' Natalie Lambert...magnet to
the undead."
Natalie shook her head in disgust. She grabbed her purse and
coat as she opened her front door.

Natalie gasped in surprise as she faced a tuxedo attired,
Lucien Lacroix. "Doctor, I did not have the chance to finish
my conversation with you. The phone must have become
disconnected somehow," he said with a sly grin.

"What do you want, Lacroix?" Natalie said in an exasperated

"It is quite simple. I would like the privilege of
escorting you to tonight's Charity Ball."

"A date?" Natalie's dating life just hit an all time low
"You want a date?"

"I know it seems odd, but after my recent scrape with the
police during my last visit, I decided I'd better present a
more stable image to the city fathers." Lacroix placed a
hand on Natalie's arm. "As you can imagine, I do not
associate with the type of female who would blend in well at
tonight's function."

"That is an understatement, Lacroix. One of your dates would
redefine the term "Buffet dinner" in a rather graphic way
wouldn't they?" Natalie almost chuckled at the mental

"Please, doctor....Natalie, I so hate to attend these things
alone. I guarantee your safety and I think you will find
that I am quite charming at times."

Natalie looked again at Lacroix and saw someone she could
identify with. He was just as lonely and unsure of himself
as she was. What the heck, she thought to herself. "Okay,
Lacroix. Just promise me that I will return home in the same
mortal state that I left it in?"

"I promise, Natalie." With that, Lacroix increased the
pressure on Nat's arm and guided her to a waiting limo.


Lacroix refilled Natalie's champagne class as the limo
rounded 5th street. She would have to watch it tonight with
the wine, but she needed the alcohol to calm her down at the
moment. Lacroix picked up his own wine glass which had a
decidedly darker color to its contents.

"You and I are a great deal alike if you ponder our combined
existence, Natalie. You exist in this society because of
death and I exist upon society's life. Death, as it were,
has been very good to you, my dear." Lacroix took a deep
drink from his glass and settled back into the limo's
leather seats.

Natalie took in his words and paused , " The difference,
Lacroix, is I can walk away. I have choice and free will
with my existence. You, on the otherhand, are trapped by the
choice you made when you entered the dark side. Instead of
feeling remorse and shame of the life you have, you rejoice
and revel in it. You are conceited about your position at
the top of this world's food chain to the point of
alienating yourself from those of your kind. You are one
nucleotide link away from being just like me, but you refuse
to admit it to yourself. Is life so cheap to you?"

"Au Contaire, Natalie. Life is held very precious to me. I
hold life in such high esteem that I refuse to surrender it
at any cost. I will live forever and laugh in the face of
Satan himself. I create life and the role that others play
in it. I am not a witness to history, I create history. You
say I am trapped by my existence, but you are wrong. I
embrace my existence. I do not cower from it like our friend
Nicholas. I am not ashamed of what I am, like him. I truly
know who and what I am, Natalie. Are you so sure of who you
are and what you want?" Lacroix was getting a little angry
but then it felt good to let the anger rise to his lips.

Natalie let out a chuckle, " You aren't speaking of life,
Lacroix. You are speaking of YOUR life only. What you want
and what you create. I think you are scared of life or else
you would be willing to die. You would allow yourself to be
judged by Satan instead of mocking him. It is the thing I
pity about you, Lacroix. In all these centuries you traveled
through time, did you ever contribute anything good to the
lives of those around you or did you only pain and

Before Lacroix could answer the limo pulled up to the curb
of the Mint Museum where the benefit was being held. "Pain
is what makes us real, Natalie. It is the one thing which
exists in both our worlds. That is the commonality to which
I speak of tonight. We are very much alike, you and I. And
don't fool yourself in thinking you are not as trapped, as
you profess I am." Lacroix grabbed the door handle and
pushed the door open. "By the way, do you like to dance,

Feeling the vertigo from the strange twist her night has
taken, Natalie shook her head trying to clear her head. "I
like dancing very much, Lacroix." The doorman extended a
hand and helped Natalie from the car.

"Come on, Nick. Things could be worse. We could be standing
over a dead stiff in the freezing weather tonight, but
Stonetree sent us here to bask in the sun of Toronto's
elite." Schanke fixed his clip on bow tie with a jerk of his
hand. "I happen to be thankful someone called in a death
threat on the Mayor tonight. It means we will have good eats
at the buffet line."

Nick was absolutely miserable. He hated these things. It was
bad enough when Nat made him come with her, but it was
excruciating to be here alone. Well, he had Schanke here,
but he'd really rather be alone. "Schanke, I think I'll
check the outside again while you go stuff yourself with
shrimp." The thought of Natalie caused his stomach to flip
once as he made his way to the door.

Schanke was watching Nick as he walked away. Nick had not
been the same since Lambert switched to the day shift at the
coroner's office. There had been a major falling out between
them and the toll was easily seen on Nick's face. He looked
like he hadn't slept in years and his eyes were dark and
haunted. He had asked Nick about it , but Nick would not say
anything other than Natalie had asked him to stop calling
her. Poor guy. He had it bad for her, but never would admit
to being any more than a big brother figure in her life.
Schanke, for one, could not blame her. Nick was pretty thick
at times and Natalie deserved better than what she got from
Nick. "Nick..." Schanke yelled over the crowd, but it was
too late. Nick had seen her too.

Natalie and Lacroix made quite a stunning couple as they
enter the rotunda of the museum. Most eyes turned out of
curiosity as if to try to remember where they had seen the
pair before. Nick just stood and stared with his mouth
dropped open in surprise. What was Lacroix doing here with
his Natalie? The bastard! She looking stunning in the black
sequined dress the cut just above the knee and draped off
her shoulders and down her back. She was the most beautiful
woman he'd ever seen and this was no easy accomplishment
when considering his 800 years of existence. "Natalie what
have you done?" Nick said to himself. Panic began to rise in
Nick until her was able to hear Natalie's beating heart
above the others in the crowded room. He relaxed a little in
the knowledge that she was still mortal, at least for the
time being. Nick started towards them when Schanke caught
him by the arm.

"Whoa, hold on there, partner. You don't want to cause a
scene here. Besides, we are on duty and we need to make sure
we don't drop the ball on this one, Knight. I happen to be
fond of this mayor. He is the one who signs our paychecks
and I don't want to lose him because you want to start a
fight with someone's date." Schanke then turned Nick back
towards the bar. His buddy needed a drink in the worst way.

"How could she be here with him? She knows he would kill her
just to spite me?" Nick muttered under his breath.

"Nick? Buddy? What's this about someone killing who?"

Nick regained his control, "Uh, nothing Schank. I just was
not expecting to see Nat here is all. Let's go check in with
the mayor."


Lacroix and Natalie made their way through the crowd to an
empty table by the dance floor. He had immediately sensed
Nicholas when he entered the room. A waiter took there drink
orders then left the two alone. "Natalie, I thought better
of telling you this, but I want you to know I sense that
Nicholas is here. I did not think this was the kind of event
he would have attended, but if you would like to leave, just
let me know."

Natalie looked stunned, " I don't see him anywhere. Maybe we
won't run into him." Natalie crossed her legs and leaned
into Lacroix. "Besides, I was bound to see him eventually. I
can't run from him forever, can I?"

"Natalie, you do realize my being here with you will be most
upsetting to him? Or is that the plan?"

"I hate to admit it, but I think I like the idea. He
deserves to be upset by you, or should I say us."

Lacroix looked pleased, "Now who is contributing to the good
or evil here tonight, my dear?"

"You are right, Lacroix. I guess the two of us aren't too
different after all is said and done. William George said it
best, 'Into every individual's hands is given the marvelous
power of good and evil. It's just a constant radiation of
what we are and not what we pretend to be.' "

"I quite agree. I remember when he said that. Earlier in the
day he found his wife in bed with his brother. We took a
carriage to the Ashes pub and he drowned his sorrow in a
pint of bitter."

Nick stood watching the two and he could not stand it
anymore. He had to get her away from him and find out what
the hell was going on here. Nick walked over to the table
and his heart dropped to his stomach as he heard Natalie's
laugh. Damn, she was enjoying herself!

"Hello Natalie...Lacroix." Nick walked over and stood just
to the left of Natalie. "This is something I never would
have dreamed would occur."

Natalie turned towards Nick and immediately was taken back
by his appearance. He was very pale and looked on the verge
of exhaustion. He must not have fed in some time. Was she
responsible for this? "Hi, Nick. What is it you thought
you'd never dream of?"

Nick heard her voice and wasn't really listening to the
words. He was focused on her eyes, her face, her lips. She
was all he wanted and he had to get her back. "I never
thought you'd do this to me, Nat." It came out as a whisper,
but he knew all too well that Lacroix had heard it too. "You
have been spending too much time with Lacroix. You knew just
where to hurt me the most ....you have learned from the

"Not the master, Nicholas." Lacroix said, "YOUR master. She
has learned from your master. However in this case I can not
take the credit for it, Nicholas, this is none of my doing.
I had no idea you would be here and neither did she."

"You expect me to believe that?" Nick spit the words out.
Realization hit Nick like a two ton bus full of bricks. How
would Lacroix or Natalie know he would be here tonight? He
just found out himself and hour ago. Could Nat really be
here with him, by choice? Natalie's eyes were filling with
tears. Nick had learned from his master how best to hurt

"Nat, I'm sorry. I had no right to say that. Please forgive

Natalie slammed her chair back as she quickly stood up.
"Nick...GO TO HELL!" Natalie stormed off towards the bar

Nick turned back to Lacroix, " What have you done to her

"Done? I have done nothing to her or you. Perhaps you need a
lesson in tact, Nicholas. I knew if I took myself out of the
equation with your pathetic attempt to love this mortal, you
would foul it up like you always have. You see, you love
women, but you do not understand women." Nick looked
confused. "Nicholas, you are so thick sometimes. Natalie is
a woman of great character and intelligence and that is just
how you treat her. What she really wants from you is to be
cherished and loved. She wants you to remember her birthday
with a gift, or to be taken to dinner on the anniversary of
the day you met. Lacroix rose from his seat, "If you'd
excuse me, I'd like to check on Natalie."

Nick sat down as Lacroix walked away. He was scared to get
close to Natalie, afterall the beast would emerge and kill
her. His love would destroy her and him along with it. Damn,
if only he were mortal he could hold her and make love to
her and tell her everything would be all right. Nick put his
head into his hands to hide the single bloody tear that
rolled down his cheek.

Damn him, damn him, damn him. Natalie thought to herself has
she sat down hard on the bar stool.
Where did he get off asking her, how she could hurt him?
And to top it off, he compares me to Lacroix. Men....whether
mortal or not....they were still men. Always thinking of
themselves and never about what is going on around them.

"Yo, Lambert. Want some company." Schanke slid onto the
stool next to her. "I know what you're thinking. All men
should be castrated and lobotomized and not necessarily in
that order."

Natalie turned and worked up a half smile at Schanke's
comments, "You don't strike me as being either of those,

"Oh, you have to remember, I'm married. It's basically the
same thing...you just don't need a local to put me under.
You just need a priest, a church and lots of flowers."
Natalie laughed and Schanke felt better for her. "So what
did the blond haired wonder say to get you so riled up?"

Natalie looked at the bar top, "It's the same old story with
Nick. He acts like he cares one minute and the next minute,
I feel like an intruder in his life. I just got tired of it,
Schank. Nick wants someone else in his life and its not me.
The sooner he comes to terms with it, the better for all of

"You're not talking about Janette being the person for Nick
are you? She's trouble and I know from experience. She has
all the right parts in all the right places, but when it
comes to men. We run....run far... as fast as we can. Women
like her suck the life out of guys like me and Nick. We are
nothing but poodles on display to her."

"Janette has a lot more staying power when it comes to Nick
than you think, Schank. Besides, I don't care whether its
Janette or not. It hurts too much to know I love Nick more
than he will ever love me. He loves himself too much to let
anyone else in." Natalie drained the glass of wine that the
bartender placed in front of her.

"Excuse me, Detective Schanke, isn' t it?" Lacroix stared
him in the eye. "Leave ... now." Schanke quietly stood and
walked away.

"Lacroix, you didn't need to hypnotize him...." Natalie's
word trailed off.

"I am sorry about tonight. I truly did not want this to
happen. Would you like to leave?"

Natalie felt a surge of confidence flood over her. "No,
Lacroix. I believe you asked me to dance earlier and I'm not
leaving until we do." Lacroix was surprised by her courage
to face the room again and gladly extended his arm to her.
"Lacroix, just go easy with me, I've only had six dance
classes in my life."


Nick raised his head in time to see Nat and Lacroix step
onto the dance floor. He had to do something but was not
sure what at this point.

"Buddy, you better make your move or she's gone forever."
Schanke sat down at the table. "Guys like that feast on
girls who are vulnerable."

"You have no idea how right you are, Schanke. What should I
do? I don't think she'll ever talk to me again." Nick's
voice cracked with emotion as he spoke.

"It's simple Nick. Don't talk...show her. Cut in on that
shark and get her back." Schanke patted Nick on the back.
"You can dance can't you?"

Nick looked at his partner. "Only the tango, Schank. Only
the tango..."

"Be right back, partner." Schanke left quickly leaving Nick
alone again. Suddenly, the familiar cadence of the tango
floated above the room. "Now or never, de Brabant." Nick
said to himself.

Nick stepped to the dance floor which emptied at the sound
of the tango. It was not an easy dance when done correctly.
However, Lacroix danced the tango well. Afterall, it was he
would taught Nick to tango. He easily spotted the couple and
walked over.

"Lacroix, may I cut in?" Not waiting for a response, Nick
grabbed Natalie's waist and wrist spinning hr away from

Natalie was again surprised for the umpteenth time that
night. "Nick, what are you doing?"

"The tango... and I must say you are quite good at it." Nick
took Natalie closer into his arms and led her across the
floor. "This is the dance of lovers, you know." Nick
gracefully spun Natalie around as they stepped to the
Spanish rhythm.

Natalie was a little out of breath. She had not been in
Nick's arms in months and the dance was becoming passionate.
She felt her face flush as she recognized her own heightened
state of arousal. "Dance of lovers, huh? Maybe we should sit
this one out, Nick." Natalie tried to break the embrace but
Nick pulled her even closer.

"Natalie, I have made so many mistakes. I am sorry. I will
let you go after this dance ,but, please, hear me out
first." Nick looked into her eyes and realized how sad they
looked. " I don't want to be the source of your pain
anymore. I am afraid my love is causing you that pain. That
is why I keep pushing you away... until now. I love you,
Natalie. And if you will have me, I'd like to show you."

The music ended and Nick bent his head and let his lips meet
hers. Natalie freely leaned into his arms and let her hands
wrap around his neck. "I love you too, Nick." She whispered
for his ears only.

The sound of applause broke the spell and both Nick and
Natalie flushed with embarrassment as they realized they
were the only ones left on the dance floor.

"Nick, I have to go." Natalie started to walk away when Nick
grabbed her by her arm.

"Nat, what about us? about the dance and what we said?"
Nick was confused by Nat's reaction.

A pale of sadness fell over Natalie's eyes, "Nick, I have
loved you from almost the moment we met. That has not
changed for me. What has changed is how I am choosing to
deal with my feelings for you. It is for me to move on. I'm
sorry Nick, but you have not changed in the 800 years you've
been around. I don't see how I can expect you to change now.
It's my fault that I placed you on a pedestal so high, no
one will ever be able to reach you in my heart. But I need
to start living my life, on my terms.... without you."
Natalie's eyes were brimming with tears as she kissed Nick
on the cheek. "Good-bye Nick."

Nick felt as though a stake had been driven through his
heart. He was dizzy and felt sick to his stomach. Nick
watched as Lacroix put a comforting arm around her shoulders
as they left the museum. Not giving a damn about anything or
anyone, Nick ran from the building and took flight. The wind
was blowing the flood of red tears from his cheeks to his
neck where they finally rested on his shirt collar. He flew
as high as he could until the cold, high altitude snapped
him back to reality. Nick let loose a cathartic scream
which echoed through the still night air. The sun would be
rising soon and Nick toyed with the idea of flying straight
into it. "No, I will not end it. For the first time in 800
years, I have something to live for, a direction to travel.
I will make you love me again Natalie Lambert. I will not
let our love end this way," Nick said to himself. With his
new lease on life firmly planted in his mind, Nick flew to
Natalie's apartment with a lingering hope he would beat the
sun rise.

As Natalie and Lacroix entered her apartment, Sidney let out
a warning hiss and snarl. He did not know this strange man
with his master, but he knew he was not a friend.

"Cats....I have never understood the mortal obsession with
them. It's no wonder Genghis preferred his lightly sautied."
Lacroix let out a hiss of his own that sent Sidney packing
to the bedroom.

Natalie glared at Lacroix, " Thank you for the company
tonight. You were unexpectedly charming at times."

"Natalie, I could help you forget him if you'd like. It
might make things considerably easier for you."

"Thanks, Lacroix, but no hypno stuff when it comes to my
brain." She took her coat off, " Pain, as you said, is the
emotion that bridges our two communities. It is what keeps
me human and reminds me to learn from my mistakes."

"Well, doctor, perhaps we can do this again when the events
of the evening aren't so traumatic. I rather enjoyed our
sparring tonight. It is what helps keep me alive. Adieu,
Natalie." Lacroix gently placed a kiss on Natalie's hand,
then he was gone with a whooosh.

Natalie let out a heavy sigh, "It's okay Sidney, he's gone.
I promise you won't end up sautied tonight." She sat down
heavily on the bed as Sidney jumped to her lap looking for
comfort. Absentmindedly, she began stroking his neck and
back and received an incessant amount of purring as reward.
"From now on, just normal, human boyfriends who walk in the
sunlight and eat real food. No more avoiding garlic or
timing my life by sunrise and sunset. And sex...." Natalie
hated to admit it but she had needs too. It had been almost
7 years since she'd made love to a man. She was sure that
had to qualify for some kind of record in the 20 to 30 age

Sidney stood straight up digging his claws into her thighs.
"What?" Natalie heard the familiar whoosh sound and her
heart locked up. It could only be Nick. With a glance over
her shoulder she saw it was dawn. There was no way to escape
this, he'd be with her all day. " What doesn't destroy me
only makes me stronger." Natalie shooed Sidney off her lap
and entered her living room to find a slightly smoking
Nicholas de Brabant.

"Was there something about 'Goodbye' you did not understand,
Nick?" She was visibly annoyed by his presence and Nick drew
back a little.

Nick gathered himself together, " Nat...." His words trailed
off. He realized he did not know what to say next. "I don't
know what to say or do to make you come back to me. All I
know is that you are my life and I can't live without you. I
was wrong to create the distance I put between us, I thought
I was protecting you but the truth was I was scared for
myself. You have a power over me that I have never felt
before. To hear your voice, even in anger, fills a void in
my heart I thought had long since been ripped away. To see
you, even with my most immortal enemy, fills my body with a
warmth I thought I had lost. You have helped me to become
more human physically, but you have given me so much more."
Nick crossed the room and placed a hand on Natalie's cheek.
"You gave me back my soul ... my humanity. Please don't take
it from me now." The blood filled tears began to run down
Nick's face again.

Natalie brushed her hand across his cheeks and looked down
at the tears. "Nick, I did not do that for you, you did that
yourself. You changed because you wanted something different
and you worked hard for it."

Nick smiled slightly at Nat, " I thought you said tonight,
that in 800 years, I had not changed. But, I have. Admit it


Nick pulled her close and forced her to look into his eyes,
"I want to try again....please?"

Natalie looked deeply into those blue eyes and saw love
there. She tenderly kissed the bloody streaks on his cheeks
and then let her mouth move to his lips brushing lightly.
Nick let a groan escape as her lips moved down his chin and
to his neck. "Show me, Nick" Natalie whispered. "Let the man
in you make love to me tonight."

Nick lifted her chin and placed his lips on hers. He
cautiously forced her lips apart as his tongue began
exploring her mouth. Nick picked Natalie up and carried her
into the bedroom with out breaking the contact he had with
her mouth. The kiss was growing in passion as the hunger for
eachother overwhelmed them. One hand released Natalie's
zipper as the other pushed the dress off her shoulders. Nick
immediately unleashed a flurry of kisses along her shoulders
and neck. Natalie groaned with pleasure and let her hands
drop as she undid his pants belt and button. She pushed his
pants down and let her hands caress his thighs. Nick lifted
her up and delicately placed her on the bed.

"I love you Natalie Lambert."

Natalie looked up to see gold specks lining Nick's blue
eyes. " I love you, Nick and I trust you to love me."

With that, Nick kept the beast at bay and let himself enter
her slowly. They both let out a scream of pleasure as he
filled her with him. Slowly rocking at first, Nat lost
herself in the sensation. Her fingernails dug deeply into
his back as though she was holding on for dear life. She was
barely aware of Nick's groans and breathing as her own rose
quickly to meet his match. Nick suddenly withdrew leaving
Natalie on a crest that was terribly painful and needed to
be fulfilled. She opened her eyes in need, "No Nick don't
stop, not now." She begged, almost crying as she reached up
to him.

Nick's eyes left the shade of gold behind and were now a
bright red. His fangs had dropped and his need for blood was
fighting the man within. "May God forgive me, Natalie." He
then entered her again with fierce abandon, pushing faster
and faster until he heard Natalie's screams fill the room.
His own release met hers as he let out a howl that was more
animal than human. Nick's fangs pierced her neck and he
drank letting his body fill with the warmth of her blood.

"Nick, I forgive you and I will always love you."

Nick threw himself off the bed and hit the wall with a
shattering crash. "Natalie!" He ran to the bed and found her
looking up at him. "Speak to me, please."

Natalie was amazed she was still alive. He had only taken
enough to satisfy his bloodlust. He had stopped in time to
spare her life. "Nick, I am going to have one hell of a
hickey to explain at work tomorrow."

They both burst into laughter as Nick fell on top of her in
relief. He gently wrapped his arms around her and felt the
shivers of orgasm still running through her body. Nick
kissed her lightly, filled with love for her. "Next time,
I'll make sure I feed first."

Sometime later, Natalie woke still nestled in Nick's arms.
Sidney was curled up against the small of her back and
looked up at her with hungry eyes. "Well, there goes the
record, Sidney."

Nick stirred and opened his eyes at her, 'What record is
that, Nat?"

She looked at Nick, "Nevermind. It was an inside joke
between me and Sidney. How are you feeling, by the way?"

"Loved. I feel very loved." Nick kissed her letting his lips
linger on hers before pulling away. "It has been so very
long since I have made love to anyone this way. I had
forgotten how wonderful it could be and I am thankful to
have you as my teacher, Nat"

"Well you know what they say about teachers don't you?" Nat
looked deeply at Nick as he shook his head.

"If you do something wrong...we make you do it again."
Natalie pulled Nick down and wrapped her arms around him.

It was going to be a long day indeed.