"kate's gonna kill me didn't mean to stay this late... not going back now pissed off""why is he staring at me what a creep." "tired ask Arlene beers gotta get outta-" "i wonder how much betty's husband makes- bitch doesn't deserve-" "burger and fries mmm where they at" "not again not after this shit done with that asshole." "who is that sure fills that out nice makes me all-" "sam is looking reaaal good today wonder if-" "don't recognize her maybe she's new sure is cute though-"

Blink. Breathe. Focus. Ignore.

The thoughts became a distant buzzing in the back of her mind, as her wall slammed in front of them. She avoided the gaze of one of the guys staring openly at her and sat on the stool.

"What'll it be?" Cute blond bartender asked, with an honest smile.

Risa smiled back, brushing a lock of her hair out of her face. "A gin and tonic sounds good."

He nodded, still smiling at her. She liked his smile. It was simple and didn't ask for anything back.

She glanced up when the glass gently clinked onto the bar. She slid money onto the counter and tasted her drink. The bar was comfortable and definitely decorated by a guy. It wasn't the fake homey shit that franchises with over-priced chicken normally attempted. Seemed like most of the locals spent a lot of time here.

"You know . . . I haven't seen you here before. You new?" The cute man asked, deftly pouring a bottle of whiskey into a cup.

Risa hid a grimace. "Mmm." She glanced over her drink. "Yeup. Got here a couple days ago."

He grinned at her, "Well, welcome to Bon Temps." She swigged more of her drink and smiled back.

"Well, if there's ever anything I can do for ya, just give me a holler." He stuck out a hand. "Sam."

Great. He was gonna go the friendly bartender route. Fine she could deal.

"Risa. And thanks." She took another gulp, steeling herself. "Actually. ... There is something I uh, could ask."

Sam looked up, a little taken aback. "Okay."

"Do you know any place in this town that might be hiring? Anyone I should talk to?"

"Oh. Well, I'm not sure . . . but I think that maybe, just maybe, you could talk the guy who owns this place into hiring another waitress."

Risa bit her lip. "Really? Where is he?"

Sam turned away to fix another drink. "I'd talk to him after closing. I bet he's pretty busy right now."

She nodded, and worked on finishing her drink. A redhead walked towards them, looking overwhelmed. "Sam, two beers and one buttery nipple. Quick." She turned and Risa could distantly hear her yell shrilly, "Lafayette. You better move your ass!"

She hid a smile as Sam rolled his eyes. He was clearly used to her. "So where you from?"

Risa looked up, "Oh, everywhere."

"Okaaay. Why'd you decide on Bon Temps? Got family here?"

"Nope." She stirred her drink calmly. "How bout you?"

Sam raised his hands. "All right. Keep it a mystery." He grinned.

She returned his crooked smile. He really was adorable. "When does this place close?"

"Two hours from now."

Risa hid a frown and took another sip. Two hours was awhile. What was she supposed to do for two hours in a bar where your only friend was a bartender who was paid to be nice to the customers? She could just drink a lot. But she was going to talk to the owner...Better stay sober.

Sam seemed to read her thoughts. Haha. Good one. "I guess two hours is a while. Well, maybe the owner would talk to you now. We're not that busy anyhow. Come with me."

She followed him to a small office and he closed the door behind him. "There's no one else in here...?"

Sam winked at her. "I may have mislead you."

Risa glared. "Your boss isn't hiring. If this was just some sort of cheap trick to get me alone, I swear I'll-"

"No, no! No! I own Merlotte's."

She laughed self-consciously. "Oh, funny...Hahaha."

Sam rubbed his neck. "I guess it wasn't that funny. Sorry bout that."

Risa felt herself smile despite herself. "So, does this mean I get the job?"

"Now hold up there. I should at least pretend to have a bullshit interview with you."

"Oh. Oops."

She sat across from him, and he leaned on his hands. "Ever waited tables before?"

Risa nodded. "Yeup. A couple years back."

Sam nodded back, slowly. "Uhuh." He stroked his chin. "Can you deal with rednecks?" He saw her start to nod and interrupted. "I mean real assholes. They can be tough to handle."

Risa hid a bitter grin. "Trust me. I can deal with assholes."

Sam stared at her absently for a minute. Then after a long minute of silence, he clapped his hands together, startling her. "When can you start?"

Risa grinned, a surge of relief shooting through her.

"All right! Two cokes and your burgers. Anything else I can get for ya'll?" Risa asked, smiling sweetly. "What the hell is she staring at? Thinks she's god's gift to green earth just because she can wear a pair of pants good" The woman smiled back, just as sweetly. "I think that's all. Thanks hon. You are cute as a button."

Risa walked away, images of kicking the crap out of that woman in her head. She skirted around Arlene, who was still wary of her. The other waitress who Risa had met, didn't hold much love for her either. Risa had taken a peek and had realized it was simple jealousy. She was used to being the hot toy for the guys at the bar. She'd get over it. Hopefully.

She heard a lot about someone named Sookie, but she worked later shifts than Risa. They were normally busier at night, so it was easier for Risa to learn without as much pressure. Or so Sam said. Speaking of Sam and Sookie, Sam seemed pretty talkative whenever Sookie came up. Made her wonder.

Risa walked to where the cooks were and hopped onto the counter.

"Girl get yo nasty ass off the counter. No one wants to see that."Lafayette winked at her, smiling teasingly.

"Oh shuttup Lafayette. You're bout the only person in this bar who don't wanna see this." She hopped off, shaking the object in question jokingly. Then she turned to look at him.

He rolled his glitter covered eyes, and continued making her table's food. She glanced over her shoulder and saw one of her table's filled with a couple of younger guys. They all looked hot and sweaty. "Gotta go." She said to Lafayette. "But you can watch me leave."

She swung her hips exaggeratedly, and could hear him laughing as she walked toward her table.

Risa smiled down at the group of boys. "Hey ya'll. What can I get for ya today?"

An extremely good-looking guy grinned at her. He had a certain boyish charm. "Hey. I'm Jason."

She nodded, an eyebrow quirking. "That's nice." She glanced at the others. "So you guys hungry?"

One of the boys smiled hesitantly at her. "Uh, I'd like the-"

Jason cut in swiftly. "You're the uh, new waitress." He wiggled his eyebrows.

Risa bit a lip to keep from laughing. "Yeup. That is true."

The Latin looking one spoke up, casting Jason an amused look. "I'll get the ribs and a coke. Hoyt?"

The boy who was obviously Hoyt spoke again, "I'll just have the er, burger with fries. And a lemonade."

She smiled at him and turned to Jason. "And you?"

He grinned roguishly at her. "What do you recommend? Is there anything you prefer? Particularly?"

Risa nodded, smirking. "The bull testicles are especially good here."

Jason nodded his eyes flicking up and down her, "All right if you recommend them...Hey wait a minute!" His friends snickered loudly. "They don't serve that here."

Risa rolled her eyes. "I'm sure Lafayette could rustle you up something."

She smiled at the group. "All right, I'll be right back with your drinks, boys."

She could hear them jostling Jason as she walked away. She couldn't help but smile.

"Aaaaghhhh!" Risa let out an ungodly yell, staring at the thing in her apartment. Her pulse was racing and she couldn't breathe. Terror coursing through her, she grabbed her purse and ran as fast as she could.

"Risa? I thought you had tonight off." Arlene said, when she entered the bar.

"I need a drink." She muttered back, walking to where Sam was tending bar. She could feel Arlene's curious gaze on her back, but didn't have the energy to explain. She flopped down on a stool and gazed up at Sam, fingers cupped around her chin.

He noticed her and a smiled curved his lips at her expression. "Haven't seen you around here before. You new?"

"Maybe you just have bad eyesight?" She teased, locking eyes with him. Sam grinned wider and finished mixing the drink he held. A blond girl a little older than Risa swooped over and grabbed it from him, giving Sam a swift smile.

"Sookie!" Sam stopped her as she walked away. She turned, a puzzled expression on her face.

"This is the new waitress I hired. Risa.' He explained, gesturing towards her.

Sookie glanced in her direction, smiling widely. "It's real nice to meet you. It'll be nice to have a new face around. Welcome to Bon Temps."

Risa peeked and saw she actually meant that. She was thinking about a table she had to get back to, but was genuinely pleased to meet her.

She smiled back. "It's nice to meet you too! I've been hearing lots about you."

Very swiftly, a wary look flashed across her face, but quickly changed back to friendly. "Oh I'm sure everyone's happy to tell you about crazy Sookie."

Risa almost blurted out that it wasn't like that, but caught herself quickly. "They all keep talking about how I should learn from your example. Everyone here thinks you're a real sweetheart. 'Specially Sam."

Sam shot her a quick look, but she ignored him. Risa felt something tug curiously at the general defenses she normally had up when she was in a public place. Immediately she went on lock down and the imaginary wall in her mind slammed down. Whatever it was continued to push against her wall, slowly becoming more persistent. It was a pretty weak attack.

Sookie had a perplexed look on her face, staring at Risa. "You uh. I can't...It's strange."

Risa raised an eyebrow at her expression and Sookie reached out quickly. "I love your bracelet. It's lovely." She touched it gently, part of her fingers brushing her wrist. Risa doubted it was an accident.

The assault became more forceful, but it was easy to fend off. Risa pulled her arm back, pretending to look at her bracelet more closely. "Thank you. A friend gave it to me." Risa smiled, trying to sound normal.

The only explanation was that Sookie was an uncontrolled telepath. And she was freaking out because she couldn't read Risa's thoughts. Of course she'd run into a telepath here, all things considered.

This was not good. Risa did not need to be drawing attention to herself. She focused for a minute, and concentrated on sending out fake thoughts to hopefully reassure Sookie that it had simply been a glitch.

"Sam is so cute. That Sookie girl seems nice, but why is she staring at me funny? Maybe she doesn't like me."

Sam watched them curiously, but said nothing. The bar was packed with people, much busier than it was around lunch time. A country singer crooned in the background and the bar was alive with the chatter of people and clatter of glasses.

Sookie's brow furrowed as she took in the new thoughts Risa sent at her. She still didn't seem convinced, but appeared to let it go. "...Well, I'd uh better get back to my tables." She stared at Risa for a long minute and than finally broke her gaze.

Sam nodded and Risa smiled encouragingly at her. They both watched her go.

Sam stared at Sookie for a minute and then turned back to Risa. "I'm sorry. Sookie's normally a little ... different."

Risa's nose crinkled. "I thought she was nice. I liked her."

Sam nodded slowly and than changed the subject. "So what are you doing here? It's not your shift is it?"

Risa shook her head. "Nope. I needed a drink."

He winked. "I think I can help with that." He started fixing her a gin and tonic.

She played with her hair, watching him out of the corner of her eye. "So is this what everyone does at night? Go to the bar?"

Sam glanced at her. "No."

He looked slightly irritated. He probably thought she was calling everyone in Bon Temps a redneck. Oh so he was allowed to make jokes about the town, but if the new girl tried it, shame on her?

"So what are you doing here anyways?" Sam asked with a twinkle in his eye.

Risa glanced up over the drink he had handed her, and smiled back. "Well, I dunno if I should pour out my heart to someone I've known for about two weeks."

Sam shrugged. "Maybe that's the best person to pour your heart out to."

Risa laughed wryly, nodding in agreement. "You may be very right, Sam." She sighed and surveyed him, looking pensive. "Hmm."

He started wiping down his counter, waiting patiently.

"Well, I went back to my apartment this afternoon, after work. And everything was fine and then …I saw it." She gave a little shudder and took another swig. Her eyes stared ahead, and he had to prompt her to continue.

"What did you see?"

She gulped and said slowly, looking haunted, "A rat."

Sam burst into laughter, slapping his leg and staring at her. "That's what you're all shook up about? Hahahaha!"
Risa glared at him, not finding it quite as amusing as her boss. "Sam Merlotte! You quit laughing. It is not funny!"

Sam gave another choked laugh and than attempted to sober. "S-sorry. It's just…a rat? Bahaha.."
She gave him an irritated look and stood up, trying to look fierce. Considering she was only 5'1'', it sort of failed. Sam was still trying to contain his laughter, which she did not appreciate. She stormed away from him, fuming. Excuse her, but she did not find freaky little rodents living in her apartment uproariously funny.
Arlene was tapping her fingers on a counter near the cooks, obviously hoping she could rush the burgers into cooking faster. The Sookie girl was in the corner, waiting at one of her tables, though Risa could tell she was distracted. Shit.

Dawn, the fellow waitress who used to hate her guts, walked around a corner and grinned real big at her. "Hey! What're you doing here?"

Risa shrugged. "Guess I didn't want to be alone."

Dawn nodded, "I guess I get that way sometimes. Lately all I've wanted to do is be alone, though. Here, come with me and I'll take a short break. We can talk or something." She smiled encouragingly.

Apparently Dawn had decided they were best buds now, and chatted her ear off. She had no interest in Risa, but instead proceeded to tell her every little detail of her life.

Risa tried to smile and groan and nod in all the right places, but was beginning to yearn for silence and her rat-infested apartment. They were probably better company than Dawn.

"Oh and I don't even want to talk about Jason. That boy is such an idiot. I don't know why I even have sex with him anymore. Well actually I do. But I swear he ain't never gonna grow up. He's like a ten year old in an adult's body. A really hot, fit body. Nope, but I am not talking about that Jason Stackhouse."

"What about my brother? Oh nevermind." Sookie walked towards them, wearing a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "I am just sick of hearing about Jason." She glanced over at Risa.

"Could I …talk to you privately?"

Pretending to look surprised, Risa nodded slowly. "Suuureee."

"We'll be right back." Sookie said to Dawn with a quick smile.

Risa followed Sookie out into the parking lot, and waited for her to speak.

"I have a couple questions."

Risa raised an eyebrow. "uhhuh."

"Why can't I …" Sookie bit a lip hesitantly. "I can't hear you."

"I'm not sure I understand you." Risa said, but inwardly she was starting to panic.

"What are you?"

"Listen. I don't know what you think, but-"

I think you're something different. Maybe even like me.

That's' ridiculous. I don't know what you're talking about.

Sookie gasped. Shit! "You can hear me!" What are you? Are you like me? Oh my gosh I've never met anyone else-"

Risa clapped a hand over the irritating blonde's mouth. "Shut up." Sookie stopped talking and her eyes widened in puzzlement.

"Fine. Let's talk. But not here." Risa continued.