The Meaning of Everything

A/N:

I won’t be anywhere near a computer tomorrow and I can’t post from my blackberry…so here you go. (Not that anyone will complain, I’m just explaining, so when I post next Tuesday morning from my office – you’ll understand why.)

Thanks to A Redhead Thing and Sapfirerose for all they do. Late night pep talks, fic pimpin’, these girls rule. Oh, and they do not complain about my continued failure to properly use commas. That right there is huge. Just sayin’.

And thank you to everyone reading and reviewing. I’ve been kind of busy of late, so I’m a little slow getting back to peeps. But – Muchas Gracias!

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SPOV
Eric and I got room service for breakfast, while I called Amelia to give her the good news about my memory. Then we took a walk around Navy Pier before heading back to Saugatuck. It was nice to be able to show him some of my favorites places. There were paparazzi waiting for us outside the hotel, and they followed as we walked. I heard cameras snapping, and saw heads turning, but we ignored them. The sun was shining, and as usual, the wind was blowing off the Lake.

Pam called as we drove out of the city and Eric put her on speaker phone. Things in California were continuing to unfold. Blackhart had officially confirmed that he was back in rehab in Malibu and had made a public declaration of his love for Sophie Anne, who was falling apart. She hadn’t been seen sober in days. Just last night, she was seen at Chateau Marmont drinking with Lindsay Lohan. As they left the hotel, she laughed and told reporters that she wasn’t surprised by Eric’s denial, because she understood that he had an image to protect.

I was upset. I just couldn’t believe that Sophie Anne would try to maintain her lie when there was clearly proof against her. Eric smiled, holding my hand as we drove.

“Sookie, are you really this unfamiliar with the tabloids?” Pam deadpanned. “There could be a picture of you two getting married and she’d still say she was dating him. Usually, pictures can really screw celebrities, but this is working to your advantage. Think about it this way. When a celebrity couple denies that they are dating for months, but gets photographed together over and over again, what are you going to believe? The pictures or the words?”

“Well, it’s really none of my business, but I guess the pictures.”

“You’re sweet.” She snorted. “But you’re the minority. Some fans think they actually know celebrities from watching their shows, and others think that because they’re famous, everything they do should be public. It might be wrong, but that’s the way it is, especially because of the internet. Anyway, when you’re faced with words or pictures, most people believe the pictures because they seem more like proof, especially when they see them over and over again.”

“How is that bad?”

“When they’re trying to keep their personal lives private, sometimes their words don’t match the pictures, and they come off looking like liars; and no one wants to think their favorite celebrity is a liar. Regardless, there are Sophie Anne fans out there that think Eric is a two timing bastard, but he has very loyal fans that think she’s a stupid fame whore, and quite honestly, he has a hell of a lot more fans than that stupid little twat.”

“Jeez, tell us how you really feel,” I muttered.

“You can trust I always will, Sookie.”

Eric had been quietly listening to our exchange. I thought about how he had tried to protect me from the paparazzi when we checked into the hotel in Ludington, and how it didn’t matter where we were, people were always trying to take his picture. I felt kind of awful for reading tabloids and checking celebrity websites once in while, but I also knew I’d probably still read them.

“Alright Pamzilla, what now?” Eric sighed.

“Do what you’ve been doing. You two are a fucking wet dream. You’re all cute and cuddly and photogenic. It’s disgusting. Okay! posted pictures of the two of you with your brothers yesterday at the game. I’m pretty sure that Sophie Anne’s publicist is shit faced drunk, rocking himself in a corner somewhere.”

“Alright, we’re going to get back to being cute. Thanks for calling, Pam.” He reached to disconnect the phone, but Pam started talking again.

“Hold on. I wasn’t finished. Sookie, when are you updating your blog?”

“Tonight, or maybe tomorrow?”

“And you will be including information about Eric, and the brothers Northman?”

“Um. Sure.”

“Good girl. Now we’re finished.” Click.

Pam seriously needed a lesson in phone etiquette.

Eric shook his head and hung up. We drove quietly for a while, chatting off and on, talking about everything and nothing. We decided on a restaurant to take his brothers to for brunch in the morning before going to the airport and talked about going to Coral Gables or the Mermaid with his brothers for drinks after dinner.

We made good time, pulling into the beach house early in the afternoon. He took my hand as we walked towards the house, but while we crossed the bridge, I stopped and set my bag down.

Our arms stretched, and Eric looked back at me, “Sook?”

I pulled him back to me. He set his bag down and I put my arms around him. “Your brothers are obnoxious.” I teased. “I want another minute alone with you.”

He hugged me and leaned against the railing. “I cannot argue with that.”

Standing on my tip toes, I gave him a slow kiss. He held me tight, and we listened to the waves on the shore and the leaves rustling as the wind blew. After a long moment, I stepped back and we grabbed our bags and went to find Chris and Sven.

The house was quiet, so we went out to the balcony, and found them on the beach. Sven was kicking around a hackey sack, and Chris was talking to some girls in bikinis. We both laughed, and Eric said this was pretty typical.

“Really?” I laughed. “I bet if you were down there the girls would be standing around you, not Chris.”

“Don’t underestimate the power of a good wingman, Sookie. Chris and I work well together.”

I snorted. “Nice, and Sven is chopped liver?”

“Ha ha. No, he picks up the shy girls that inevitably drift away from the pack.”

“How very National Geographic of you all.”

Sven noticed us and waved. “Hey! Get your suits on and come down!”

Chris looked up and raised a hand, but continued talking to his harem, which had locked their eyes on Eric. I watched Chris’s face become more animated as he talked and the girls all returned their attention to him.

“He’s telling a story about me,” Eric said quietly.

“You three are a well oiled machine.” I laughed.

“Yup. We’ve been doing it since high school. Although, back then, it was pretty even odds on which one of us the girls would pay attention to. I spent a lot of time as Chris’s second too. It was fun.”

“You really miss them, don’t you?”

“Yeah. I guess I do. We only see each other a couple times a year now. Seems like we never get home at the same time. My parents are only a few hours away and I never get there.”

“You shouldn’t take your family for granted,” I said quietly.

He turned towards me, and looked so apologetic that I regretted saying it, but then more emotional word diarrhea spilled out of my mouth.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t tell you what to do. I lost my parents in a car accident the year I started college. Jason lived with friends for a while during his senior year of high school until he turned eighteen. Gran and Jason were all I had left, and now there’s just Jason, and we hardly know each other anymore.”

“Sookie. I’m sorry.” He sighed. “You’re right. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. I wouldn’t change it, but I made time for a month here, and I haven’t seen my parents since Christmas. I need to make more of an effort. Family isimportant.”

“Whatever.” I tried to brush it off, embarrassed at making a big deal about family. “Are you ready to go change? Let’s go to the beach.”

“Sookie.” He looked down to the beach at his brothers, and then looked back at me. “Do you want to meet my parents when we go to California?”

I’m pretty sure my mouth hung open for at least a second before I was able to close it. “What? I mean, do you want me to?”

“Yeah. I do.”

“Then I’d love to.”

He smiled, never taking his eyes off mine, then angled his head towards the water. “Beach?”

“If we have to.”

He shook his head and grinned. “We do. Sven is watching us, and Chris keeps looking up here.”

I grinned and laughed. “They miss you too!”

“Yeah, or they don’t want me to get laid.”

I laughed, and slapped him on the arm and then we went inside to unpack and change.

We were going downstairs to join his brothers on the beach when my cell phone rang. Carrie Underwood sang, “I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights, slashed a hole in all 4 tires, and maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.”

It was Bill. While Eric and I were up north, I had assigned Bill the ringtone, because for some reason he didn’t have a personalized ring, and well, I wanted to know when he was calling so I could decide whether or not to answer.

I groaned, and answered. “What?”

Eric turned around quickly when he heard the music and my tone of voice.

“Sookie. I see you’re still spending time with Mr. Northman, and you came to Chicago with him.”

“Yes, Bill. Eric went to a baseball game with me. Are you jealous? You never wanted to go before.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t know what you see in that game or why you eat those disgusting sausages and pay the outrageous prices they charge for that swill they call beer at Wrigley.” He huffed. “Anyway, that’s not the point. I simply cannot believe that you have the gall to come to my town and flash your boyfriend around.”

My eyes had to be as big as saucers. “Your town? Bill, Chicago is not your town. And you know what? I’ll come back to the city as often as I want, with whomever I want.”

Eric’s muscles tensed and I knew he was about to reach for the phone. I put my hand flat on his chest and shook my head.

“You don’t get to tell me who I can see and where I can go. You had no problem flashing your girlfriend around before our divorce was final. You have no right to say anything about this, and you will not make me feel bad about it. I am happier than I’ve been in a long time, no thanks to you. So leave me the fuck alone. The next time you want to talk to me, call my lawyer.” I disconnected the call with a huff.

Eric was looking at me with an eyebrow raised.

“Don’t.” I shook my head, then took a deep breath and exhaled. “I’m okay, really. Let’s just go outside.”

He studied me for a second, no doubt realizing that I was more pissed than upset, then nodded, and took my hand to lead me outside.

The fangirls had waited for Eric on the beach; I had no illusion they stayed to talk to me, or Chris for that matter. Eric muttered something under his breath that I couldn’t understand.

I pushed him towards them, laughing. “Go say hello. I’ll be with Sven.”

He gave me an annoyed look and then turned on his smile and joined Chris. I sat by Sven, who had given up his game of hackey sack and was sitting in a lounge chair with a magazine.

“What’s up?”

“Hey. Did you have a good night?”

“Yeah. We did. We went to dinner and stayed at the Drake Hotel.”

“Oh yeah. That’s where Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn stayed when they filmed in Chicago.”

I looked at him blankly.

“What? I read those magazines. I’m always looking to see what they say about Eric.”

At least I wouldn’t be alone in reading them.

We chatted quietly. He told me about his girlfriend Rachel, she taught science and enjoyed hiking and rafting, but also enjoyed creature comforts, like cable television, Vera Bradley purses and Broadway musicals. He smiled telling me about her, laughingly saying that he would even let her keep meat in the refrigerator when she visited him.

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EPOV
The girls left when they realized that I was really with Sookie. They’d seen our pictures of course, but how cool that we were really together. Blah blah blah. I could tell Chris considered making plans with them for the evening, but Sookie and Sven laughed loudly, catching his attention and he politely declined.

We spent a while on the beach talking, and more often than not, laughing. Sookie excused herself to go inside and work on her blog, promising Sven she would mention the lack of vegetarian options available at Wrigley Field. Chris made her promise to let him have final say on any pictures of him that she wanted to include. Sven and I died laughing when she negotiated, agreeing that even if he wanted to veto them all, he had to agree, at the minimum, to one group photo that he was in, no matter what.

Sven went in to grab his tennis shoes and went for a run. Chris and I enjoyed the quiet, listening to the waves, and then he asked me about Sophie Anne.

“Shit. You went online today?”

“Yeah, what the fuck is that chick’s problem?”

“Sam says she’s a big bag of crazy.”

“She is that. I love Sam’s crazy southern phrases. What did Pam say? I know you must have talked to her today.”

“Not much actually. I don’t have anything to hide. Sookie and I have been seen and photographed together; it’s clear to anyone that see’s us that we’re together.”

“You talk anymore about Hollywood, or are you waiting for her to get her memory back?”

I grinned, thinking about the night before; the way Sookie felt about handling Hollywood together, the feel of her skin under my hands as we made love.

“Shit. No way. She remembers? What happened?”

“You’re scary.”

“For an actor you don’t hide your emotions well.”

“I don’t need to hide them around you.”

“Well, you do if you don’t want me to figure shit out.”

“Fuck you.” I laughed. “Yeah. She remembered everything, and she’s actually feeling a lot better about Hollywood. You know how I’ve been reading her blog for years? I never told anyone, but we’ve been emailing back and forth. I had no idea who she was, I thought she was old and retired or something.”

“Did she know who you were?”

“Yeah. And it turns out that she’d already thought about it, the celebrity stuff, in a ‘what if’ kind of way. She didn’t think she actually stood a chance with me.”

He laughed. “Funny how shit works out isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” I leaned back in my lounge chair. “Sven’s right you know. You have to grow up sometime. You’re like this fountain of wisdom, but you don’t take your own advice.”

“I know.” He sighed. “I dated this girl named Zaneta last year that I thought about settling down with, but she got back together with her ex before I got serious about her.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. She was pretty great. It kind of freaked me out.”

“Yeah, falling for someone will do that to you.”

“Shut up.”

We would have teased each other more, and I would have dug for more information about this mystery girl, but Sven returned, and I knew there was no way Chris would talk about it in front of him. Sven challenged us to some Guitar Hero, and we went inside to play on the big screen in the basement.

Sven was killing us. He had way too much free time on his hands during the off season between skiing and rafting, and he admitted that he’d gotten Rachel hooked on playing too.

Sookie came down stairs while Chris and I were playing Paradise City by Guns n Roses. We finished up and she shocked the hell out of me by challenging Sven. She strapped on the fake guitar and navigated through the set up like a pro. The next song up was Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine, and it seemed totally out of character for Sookie to be standing there, fingers tapping out the cords on the neck of the guitar, but there she was, grinning and holding her own with my brother.

“Sookie! That was awesome!” Sven was laughing at her.

“Yeah, I got all of Bill’s video game crap in the divorce. Most of it was stuff that he’d given me as presents so he could use it. I figured that made it mine, and I knew it would piss him off. Then I had a shitty year living by myself, so I had plenty of time to practice it. I kick ass at Wii bowling too.”

We played a few more rounds, ending with me beating Sookie at the Rolling Stones Paint it Black. Sookie showed us the blog post she’d written, making sure that Chris approved of the picture she was posting; it was one of the group of us at Murphy’s before the game. He started to tell her that he didn’t like it and then laughed, saying he was teasing and was just excited to be included in her blog.

Sookie had taken a shower earlier, but the three of us were still sandy and smelled like sunscreen from the beach. We headed up to get showered and changed to go to dinner. Sookie wasn’t telling us where we were going, but swore we would love it.

When everyone was ready and Sven finished his phone call to Rachel, we loaded in the Jeep and Sookie gave me directions to a neighboring town. I turned into a parking lot and laughed at the name of the restaurant, Su Casa. I explained to my brothers that one of the more heated email debates Sookie and I had over the past three years had been about Mexican food.

I argued that there was no way that Mexican food in the Midwest could compete with Mexican food in California – sheer geography made it impossible. She had countered with population statistics, telling me that parts of the Midwest had Latino populations that were on par with California. Her biggest argument though, was that it didn’t matter where you were in the country, the most important factor was that owner/cook was from Mexico.

We walked into the restaurant together, and Sookie was greeted by a dark haired man in an apron.

“Hola Sookie! Cómo estás?”

“Bien Edgar!” She hugged him and switched to English. “These are my friends, the Northman’s.” She nodded at each of my brothers. “This is Sven, Chris, and this is Eric.” She inclined her head towards me. He clearly had no idea who I was.

“Welcome! You go sit down and I’ll be right out.”

We sat in a booth along the side of the restaurant, and Edgar brought out a basket of chips with three small bowls of pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa verde and hot pickled carrots with jalepenos.

Sven raised an eyebrow at me. “This is serious shit bro.” He scooped some pico onto a chip for a taste and closed his eyes as he chewed. “You’re so screwed man. This is good.”

We ordered drinks and guacamole before looking at the menu. I was impressed with how authentic the dishes looked, but I really shouldn’t have been surprised based on the fact that most of the staff was speaking to each other in Spanish.

A waitress brought our drinks and took our orders. Sookie, Chris and I ordered things that could be shared; fajitas, torta sandwiches and quesadillas and Sven ordered vegetarian quesadillas for himself.

When the food arrived, it was delicious. I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. Just because the food here was good didn’t mean it was better than what we had in California. While we ate, we all talked about some of our other favorite Mexican restaurants. Sven said that some of his favorites from Colorado were just as good.

My mouth must have fallen open when Sookie said, “Of course they are.”

“What?” I was shocked.

She giggled. “Eric, every part of Mexico has a different style of cooking. It’s just like anywhere else. You can only get true Chicago dogs in Chicago, or made by someone from there. The Mexican food in California and Colorado is different because the people making it are from different parts of Mexico. It doesn’t mean any of it is better than the rest, it’s a matter of taste.”

“‘I’m sorry, then what were we debating before?”

“We were debating the fact that you said the Midwest couldn’t have good Mexican food because we were so far away from Mexico, and that is just not true.” She was grinning and adorable and I couldn’t be mad at her.

I shook my head and smiled, exchanging a look with her.

We finished eating and Edgar stopped by to ask how our meals were. Someone must have told him who I was, because he had a digital camera and asked if he could take a picture with me. We posed together, and then I made Sookie join us.

We headed to the car and Sven said he wanted ice cream. It was fairly early, so we decided to head back to Saugatuck and get ice cream there, where we could walk downtown a bit.

Chris laughed from the back seat and told Sven and I to check our email. I pulled out my phone and saw a message from my mom. I read quickly and laughed, handing my phone to Sookie.

“Awww.”

Mom had emailed all of us a picture from the Cubs game, saying how great it was to see her three boys together.

Sookie smirked, looking over at me and reached over to hold my hand. I couldn’t wait for her to meet my parents.

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