Leap of Faith
Chapter 23: Home Sweet Home
Knowing that I was going home to Sookie was the only thing that kept me going for those last four months. While we tooled around in the desert, I did all that I could to make plans for my future. I emailed Bobby Burnham about old man Eggs’ bar in Bon Temps, and he was going to get things moving before I got home. I sent a message to Thalia about my plans, but assured her that I was keeping Odin’s Spear as well. I told her we’d figure out the logistics when I was back in the states. If we were able to run the bar together while I was overseas, we could certainly do it while I was in Bon Temps.
Thalia was thrilled with the idea that I wanted to keep the bar in Jacksonville. She didn’t have the money to buy me out, and she didn’t want to work anywhere else. She told me how much she loved the Spear, and that she felt it was the one thing that had gotten her through her grief after Quinn died. I knew how she felt. Although it had started as a big fuck you to my father, the bar had become something that I was proud of, and I couldn’t imagine selling it.
Time in Iraq was monotonous. While I was in Thailand with Sookie, it seemed like time flew away in a heartbeat, but here, in the oven of Iraq, time moved by the millisecond. We had missions in the field that kept us away for weeks at a time. We escorted troops, followed convoys into skirmishes, and searched for IEDs. The weather never changed much. It was hot, sunny, sandy, and I was always sweaty. My feet were jacked up again, and I’d had to do some serious bartering to get some of that damn Tinactin powder. We repeatedly rode across the desert in our humvees, bickered at each other over ridiculous nonsense, and each hot day bled into the next.
We were all anxious to go home. While we had been in this god forsaken wasteland, the lives of our loved ones had gone on without us. During our twelve month tour, Victor’s girlfriend had cheated on him with his best friend, Twinnings’ wife Jessica had a miscarriage, and one of our commanding officer’s wives had been diagnosed with breast cancer. These were the kind of things that we all had to think about everyday, far away from reality, with limited communication, and emotions running high. It was a wonder we didn’t kick the shit out of each other on a regular basis.
I checked my email whenever I could, and it was always full of messages from Sookie and Pam. The messages were full of everything from pictures of the weather, or the flowers in Gran’s garden, to stories about Jason and his latest girlfriend, or Beatrice’s latest accomplishments. I loved reading the little notes from Sookie telling me about her new job and how happy she was to be back in Bon Temps, and mostly, how she couldn’t wait for me to come home. I felt like after all these years my life had direction again. I had Sookie, my family, a business, well, two, and I couldn’t wait to get home and get started living it again.
When it was finally time to do all of our paperwork and get the hell out of there, we walked a delicate balance of giddiness at the thought of going home, and an exhaustion that could not be described. People were both more likely to snap at you for the slightest transgression and to wave it off with a laugh, it was like living in a powder keg.
I breathed a sigh of relief when we boarded the plane. Not only was I leaving the desert for the last time, but I was going home to the dreams that I thought I had personally destroyed. The engines roared and the flight took off. I closed my eyes and thought about home, it was an old farmhouse with a front porch swing, and my wife sitting on the steps.
Sam picked me up in New Orleans. He listened to me talk about our trip almost the whole ride home. He loved hearing about the elephants and laughed about our cooking class. I promised to make him Thai food sometime, or take him out for Thai in Shreveport so we could try different things. He thought it sounded great, joking that he should put something Thai on the menu at Merlotte’s. We both knew how poorly that would go over with the locals.
After a while, I hesitantly told him about Eric’s idea to open old man Egg’s bar, and he was surprisingly fine with it.
“Shug, that’s more of a highway bar. You’ll bring in a whole different crowd, and besides, he and I may be able to work out some better deals with distributors if they’re delivering to both of us. Not to mention, if he’s opening up a business here, it means that you two will be staying around. Believe it or not, we’ve missed you.”
“Thanks, Sam. I’m really looking forward to getting everything started when he gets home. I think his lawyer is going to dig around and try to put an offer on the place before then.”
“Let me know if you need anything before he gets back.”
He pulled down the driveway to Gran’s, well, mine and Eric’s house, and carried my bags inside. Smiling, he gave me a long hug. “You gonna be okay, cher?”
I nodded. “Yeah. It’s only four months, right?”
“That’s a good attitude. You come by the bar anytime you get lonely, or if you want to talk. You call me if you need anything, anything at all.”
“I will Sam. Thanks for everything.”
I threw a load of laundry in the washer and crawled into bed, holding on to one of Eric’s dirty shirts. I breathed in his scent and closed my eyes. Four months. Twelve weeks. One hundred and twelve days. I fell asleep trying to calculate the hours until he would be home.
The first week was the hardest. I was used to sleeping next to Eric, and I kept trying to tell him things, but he wasn’t there. I numbered the days on my calendar, and always knew how many days it would be until he was home. I knew that it wasn’t entirely accurate, because we didn’t know the exact date he would be back, but I pretended like I had a firm number.
Cal had been at home with Soph the week I got back. After he left, Soph told me that they barricaded themselves in the house for a few days and then drove to Cal’s parents’ place. They only lasted two days before Cal was ready to leave. Soph said his dad argued with him the entire time and his mom asked for money. Cal drove home, and when they weren’t locked in the bedroom, they spent time with friends, grilling out and going to the beach.
I heard from Eric on Monday morning of the third week, when I was up to my ankles in shit, literally. The septic had backed up and Bubba, the guy with the pump truck, had laughed when I gave him my address, saying he expected a call from Gran a couple of months ago. Apparently, she had it pumped each year, and had been told for at least the last five that she needed to have it replaced. Jason came over to talk with the guy, and we were plotting where we should put the new system.
My phone rang and I answered without even glancing at the caller I.D. to see who it was. I sighed in frustration; the morning had sucked. “Hello.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“Eric? Ohmygod. I’m sorry.” I turned my head, “Jase, you got this?” He nodded and I trudged back towards the house. “Sorry. We had a bit of excitement.”
I explained the shitty problem and he made me feel a little better, laughing at the right places and telling me to thank Jason for helping. Memorial Day was coming up soon, so we talked about my plans to help out at Merlotte’s annual cook out and horse-shoe tournament. Eric was jealous, knowing that it would be a great time, with a lot of beer and delicious home cooking.
We talked as much as we could, never sure when our next conversation would be. I had been emailing him pictures of baby Beatrice, and Pam had too. He was excited to hear that at seven months, she had her first tooth and was starting to crawl.
We talked about some of the renovations to the house, and I updated him on the progress in things since I’d gotten back from Thailand. He was most excited to hear about the work on the bathrooms. I couldn’t get rid of Gran’s old claw foot tub; instead I’d had it moved into the guest bathroom upstairs, while a large tub and shower enclosure with two shower heads replaced it on the main floor. I told him about the new stove that I was excited about. I was still getting used to the way the oven baked things, but the range top was amazing. Several of the burners had been out on Gran’s ancient model, and the pilot light had had a habit of going out.
What I didn’t tell him about was the guest room that I was having turned into an office for him. The walls had been painted, and Jason had brought an old desk set down from the attic. I had picked out some trophies and pictures from his bedroom at Aunt O’s house, some Marine Corps certificates from the apartment in Jacksonville, and a few things from my SookienEric memorabilia box to decorate the room. There was a large picture of us kissing when Reverend Taylor pronounced us man and wife on the corner of the desk. I was quite proud of the room, and couldn’t wait for him to see it.
Eric told me stories too, like how he had to help change a flat tire on a crowded highway, while a large group of Marines watched anxiously and harassed them because their humvee was blocking a long line of traffic. He told me about Victor and some guy having a fight over a can of chef boy-ardee that had to be decided by a best three out of five match of rock, paper, scissors, to prevent a fist fight. Eventually, I heard him sigh, and knew our time was up.
“Alright, I have to go; the line is stacking up for the phone. I love you and miss you.”
“Damn, the time goes so fast. I love you, and miss you too. Be safe.” I felt like I needed to say it every time.
“I’ll talk to you soon.”
He ended the call, and I was all kinds of impressed with myself for not crying. Sure, I had gotten choked up, but I had not actually cried. I went back out in the yard to see Jason and Bubba drinking beer. That was Bon Temps for you.
Eric and I talked twice more, and then it was time for him to come home, well, back to LeJuene anyway. I didn’t have time off from my new job yet, but since they knew the situation when I got hired, they had given me a week off, ten days if he got delayed. They’d also promised to let me work overtime, and my flex hours, so we could spend some weekends together before he officially retired.
I flew into Wilmington and Thalia picked me up again. We drove up the coast, talking about the bar and how excited she was to have Eric around to see how successful it really was. He saw the success financially, and spent time there when he was home, but he hadn’t been there for longer than a month or two at a time since the bar had opened.
Soph met us at the apartment and we had some wine before heading down to the bar for dinner. We hadn’t gotten the official word that they had left Iraq yet, so we knew we had at least two days before they made it home. We got drunk again, catching up on the last few months and looking at my pictures of Thailand.
Thalia had a new boyfriend, John Flood, and she told us all about him. He was a retired Marine, having put in his twenty years and retired before his fortieth birthday. He worked as a mechanic at a local car dealership. He loved working on cars, and had restored a forest green 1969 Corvette Stingray that he couldn’t wait to show Eric. He also couldn’t wait to get a chance to drive Eric’s Vette. Thalia said that was Eric’s decision.
I did some spring cleaning in the apartment, so to speak. Although Thalia had been in and out and slept over a couple of times, it hadn’t been lived in since I was there at Christmas. I dusted, mopped, and washed the sheets and towels so everything would be fresh when Eric got home. I went to the store and stocked up on the things I knew he’d been missing, including the ingredients for a large batch of Stackhouse Chicken.
I had thrown out my birth control pills while we were on vacation, and I couldn’t wait to get on with starting our family. According to most things I’d read, there was an eighty percent chance that we would get pregnant in the first year. I thought we might have a little bit of an edge on that, with the sheer amount of sex we’d be having when he got home. I prayed to the gods that we wouldn’t have any problems getting pregnant. I had some friends who had really struggled.
Soph said we probably wouldn’t actually hear from Eric or Cal before they flew home, but we’d get a confirmation from the Marines when they left Kuwait. They were doing all of their demobilization processing before they flew home, so they were ours when they got off the bus. We waited, and I wouldn’t say we were patient about it.
Every time the phone rang I jumped. Finally, Soph called; they had taken off, and would be home the following day. It took anywhere from fourteen to twenty hours, depending on layovers, to get back.
We stood, waiting for the buses, in the same lot we’d been in when they left. I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know why, but my palms were sweating and my heart was pounding. I couldn’t wait to see him. Sure, he had about four months officially left as a Marine, but he was my Marine, and he’d made it home safely.
When I saw Eric and Cal walking towards us, I wanted to run at Eric and jump on him, but I stood there, transfixed, drinking in the sight of him. I started at his feet, and worked my way up his body. I knew that he was fine, uninjured, but I felt compelled to see for myself that he was moving alright and had all of his limbs. When my eyes finally reached his face, he was smirking, and the corners of my mouth lifted to match his. I bit my lip as he started to walk faster. I was oblivious to Soph standing next to me, and the obvious joy that she and Cal shared, that I’m sure mirrored ours. I gave up when they were a few steps away and ran, jumping into Eric’s arms.
He dropped his bag and caught me, and his arms went under my ass to hold me up, as my ankles crossed behind his back. I grabbed his face and began kissing him, whispering, “I love you,” over and over. He finally put me down, and I realized I was crying.
“Hey! No crying. I’m here.” He twined his hands through my hair and kissed me again. “God, I love you. You smell so good.” He sighed. “Let’s go home.”
I nodded, and looked over at Cal and Soph who were practically dry humping. Eric put his foot in the crook of Cal’s knee, causing it to buckle. They broke apart, laughing, and we headed to the car. Eric and Cal nodded at some of the other Marines, and told a few people they’d call or see them soon, but they never stopped our progress towards the car.
We loaded their gear, and then Eric and I climbed into the back seat. We started out sitting side by side, holding hands, but that wasn’t enough. He pulled me into his lap and wrapped his arms around me, inhaling deeply; then we were kissing and I couldn’t keep my hands off his chest.
A loud voice brought me to my senses, “There is no fucking in my backseat, unless it’s me and Soph.”
Eric pressed his forehead to mine and smiled. “Then drive faster, Calvin.”
“Dude, you did not just say that.”
“I did. Drive faster so you can kick my ass when we get to my place.” We all laughed and Cal did, indeed, drive faster.
He parked next to the Vette, and Eric grabbed his things from the trunk. We said quick goodbyes, and Soph didn’t even get out of the car, which I completely understood. Then they were gone, and Eric and I went into the stairwell to head to our apartment. I looked over my shoulder at Eric a couple of steps below me, and he was staring at my ass.
I turned around quickly, taking him by surprise, and grabbed his face, kissing him like he was the air I needed to breathe. His bag dropped, and his hands were everywhere, sliding under my shirt, cupping my ass, and rubbing my nipples. I started unbuttoning his shirt and gave up, working on his belt and zipper. Maybe it was the absolute relief that he was back for good, or the idea that this was the beginning of the rest of our lives, but I was overcome with desire for him. It was ridiculous and cliché, but there was no way I was making it into the apartment, or hell, even up the stairs, before we had sex.
He pulled my shirt over my head and unhooked my bra, dropping it beside us. He held my breasts, and nuzzled his face between them. I pushed his pants over his hips, moaning as my hands met his hot erection.
“Jesus, Sookie. I’m going to fuck you right here if you don’t stop.”
“Oh god yes.” I released him, pushing my own shorts down.
His eyes went wide. “Fuck.”
He kissed me, maneuvering us so that I was sitting on the stairs and he was sliding my shorts the rest of the way down my legs. I kicked off my flip flops, and he pulled the fabric over my feet, letting my shorts fall to the floor in the entryway. He sank to his knees, leaning forward to kiss me again as his hand found my sex. His fingers stroked me, and he groaned as I wrapped my hand around him impatiently, pumping hard and fast.
“Eric,” I breathed, pulling away from his kiss. Our eyes met, his were dark and smoky, as he pushed into me. He cupped my ass with his hands, trying to keep my back from banging against the stairs, as he thrust, rolling his hips, driving into me. I arched my back and braced my hands behind me, meeting his strokes with my hips. I knew I was still going to be bruised and sore, but I didn’t care.
I could feel my orgasm building like a fire. I threw my head back, crying out, as my body grew tighter around him with each thrust, until my release exploded, triggering all of my nerve endings.
He continued his frenzied pace, until his body tensed, and he was grinding against me. I felt him cum, pulsing into my center and pushing his forehead against my shoulder.
“Holy shit, that was amazing.” He was breathing heavy.
I rubbed my hands up and down his back. “It was. I’m so glad you’re home.”
He laughed, and raised his head to look at me. “Bird, we didn’t make it into the house.”
I giggled. “No, I guess not.”
He pulled out and I moaned, feeling empty. He used both hands braced against walls of the stairwell to stand, and I realized his pants were tangled around his ankles, stuck around his boots. He pulled them up, leaving them unfastened, and reached for my hand. I stood with his help, and put my arms around him again.
“Bird. I’ve got to carry this stuff upstairs.”
I kissed him and slowly stepped back, pouting, and we both laughed again. He shook his head and handed me my clothes and flip flops, before hoisting his rucksack to his shoulder. I walked ahead of him up the stairs wearing nothing but his hand on my hip.