Leap of Faith
Chapter 10: Old Favorites
I bumped into Lafayette at the gas station after my run on the bayou road, and we went to the high school weight room to work out. It was Bon Temps idea of a health club since you had to know someone with a key to get in. Lafayette got his key when he moved home after college and became the assistant track coach.
“Nine…Ten.” Lafeyette lowered the bar back onto the stand while I stood behind him spotting.
We traded places and he stood to watch while I did a set of bench presses.
“You’re not very talkative.”
“Nope,” I grunted as I pushed the weight bar up.
“What’s goin’ on with you and Sook?”
Holding the bar across my chest, I gave him a look. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Why? You’re not gonna do anything stupid again, are you?”
“No, I don’t want to talk about it because it’s none of your business.” I continued my set, pushing the bar up with slow, smooth movements and bringing it down with just as much control.
“Oh honey, Sookie’s heart is always my business.”
“Well I don’t plan on breaking her heart, so get over it.”
“Are you gonna take her away from us?”
“Lafayette,” I sighed. “She lives in Atlanta. She hasn’t lived here in years. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I should probably discuss it with Sookie before I talk to anyone else about it. Don’t you think?”
“Well,” he said shortly. I was waiting for him to snap his fingers or something more dramatic.
Finishing my set, I put the bar up to rest and sat up, toweling off. I looked over at Lafayette as he began doing curls in the mirror. “Look, I don’t want to fuck this up with her, okay? Let the two of us figure things out before it makes the front page.”
Our eyes met in the mirror. “Aw, ain’t you sweet?”
“Mm. I been trying to get you to do that for years.”
“Later Queen.” I flicked my towel at him and headed to the door.
I had hoped that physical exertion would clear my head. But running and lifting weights hadn’t begun to take the edge off my emotions. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted, because that was a given. It was the swirling mass of unknowns that was weighing me down. Where the hell was I headed to for a year? How was Sookie going to handle things while I was gone? What were we going to do when I came home? Shit. Where would home be? The questions just kept coming and I didn’t have the answers.
Parking the ‘Vette in Aunt O’s driveway, I sat in the car thinking. In the span of several days I had gone from complete confusion about the direction of my life to bleak desperation because I knew what I wanted, but I would have to wait a full year for it to become reality. Fuck. Sitting here wasn’t helping either. I climbed out of the car and headed to the house.
From the porch I heard the laughter of two women in the front room. Pam was going back to work tomorrow. Who was she talking to? Coming through the door, I stopped, seeing Sookie on the couch. She was laughing with Pam, but it was clear she had been crying.
“Hey. I didn’t expect to see you here.” I strode over to kiss the top of her head; I was too sweaty for anything more.
She stood and curled herself around me. “I just wanted to see you. Pam and I had a nice talk.”
“Sook, I know I reek. I’m all sweaty. Let me grab a shower. Alright?”
Nodding, she took my hand and I realized she meant to follow me upstairs. I led us up to my room and grabbed some clothes while she sat on my bed. The sight of her there did crazy shit to me. A part of my brain told me to skip the shower because I was just going to come back and get all sweaty with her; but the rational part was telling me to get a grip.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah. Go shower. We’ll talk when you’re not stinky.” She wriggled her nose at me and laughed. Wondering what had upset her, I headed to the bathroom to get cleaned up.
I took a rather cold and hurried shower, forcing not to imagine her joining me. Running a towel over my hair, I stopped in the bedroom doorway and grinned at the sight of her curled up on my bed asleep. Leaving her be, I went downstairs to see if Pam would tell me why she had been crying. Pam gave me a cryptic answer, saying that yes, she knew, and I needed to hear it from Sookie, but it wasn’t really bad. Whatever that meant. Women. Shit, why can’t they give you a straight answer?
I was worried, still wondering what had upset Sookie, but I wasn’t going to wake her up. Climbing in bed, I wrapped my arm around her and closed my eyes with a sigh. I wasn’t all that tired really, but this was my favorite way to sleep, curled around her and blanketed in her scent. The Marines had taught me how to fall asleep fast, basically anywhere, but I had never slept as good as when I was with her. Once, while I was on leave, I contemplated buying some of her perfume thinking that the smell of it might help me sleep; then I realized that I would have perpetual sex dreams about her as well, so I scrapped that idea. Exhaling, I snuggled closer; she was wearing that perfume again. It was called Beautiful, I don’t know who made it, but the sight of the familiar bottle on her dresser next to her birth control pills made me smile yesterday. Shit. Kissing her hair, I was saddened by the thought that I didn’t have nearly enough time to spend with her, to put away memories that would carry me through hell and back.
I woke to the feel of something gently caressing my face. There was a light touch on my cheek and then a soft sweep across my eyebrow. I opened my eyes when the finger traced the seam of my lips. Sookie grinned at me sheepishly.
She giggled. “Sorry. You’re just so handsome.”
Shaking my head, I pulled her close and kissed her, then lay my head back down to gaze at her.
“How did it go today?” I asked, running a hand over my face to clear my head and wake up.
“It was alright. Gran left us all a little something.”
“What made you cry?” Touching her cheek, I knew there was more she needed to say.
She closed her eyes for a second as she exhaled and then her eyes met mine. “Gran left me the house.”
I blinked at her. “She left you the house?”
Sookie nodded. “Yeah. She left me the farmhouse and gave Jase mom and dad’s old house.”
“Holy shit.” My thoughts started racing, this was good news, but I hadn’t been expecting it, I hadn’t hoped to dream it. Son of bitch, we actually had somewhere to come home to when I got out of the Marines.
“Wait, there’s more. She left me a letter apologizing for everything. She told me you called and about the letters in her closet.”
“You already said that.”
“Well, it still applies. How do you feel about that?” It had to kill her that Gran had felt bad enough to leave her a letter like that.
“I don’t know. I mean, she could have just never told me any of it, but she did. I’m still kind of mad at her, but I feel bad that she felt guilty.”
“Understandable. Do you think you can forgive her?”
“I think I already have, it’s just kind of raw. I know she did it because she loved me, and it’s not like she’s here for me confront or anything.”
“She loved you, and she did it because she didn’t want to see you hurt anymore than you were. She doesn’t need to be here to tell you that.” Leaning forward, I kissed her forehead. “What are you gonna do about the house? Your job’s in Atlanta.”
“My job is in Atlanta, my house is in Bon Temps and you’re going to be in the Middle East. I’m not really sure what to do.”
“You don’t have to make any decisions right now, you know?” I reassured her, trying to help her relax. Despite what I said, the wheels in my head were spinning. If she could find a job here we could really come back. When we lived in New Orleans together I never considered coming back to Bon Temps. I thought we’d stay there, or maybe move to Shreveport. But my time in the Marines had taught me what was important. I wanted my children to grow up knowing their neighbors, feeling safe enough to play outside and most importantly, I wanted to be near family, like Pam and Jason.
“I know; that’s what Pam said too, but she also told me that Miss Jane Bodehouse wants to retire.”
Jane Bodehouse was a social worker for the parish. She was ancient when we were in high school, so it wasn’t a surprise that she was looking to retire.
“You want to move home?” I asked, holding my breath.
“Bon Temps has always been home. It was the ghost of SookienEric that kept me away. I think now I could come home and be happy. What about you? I don’t have any idea what you want to do after next year.”
Running my thumb across her bottom lip, I sighed. “I’ve been putting off that decision. If I hadn’t found you again, I was going to re-up. But now, I don’t want to spend four more years risking my future with you. I’m not trained to do much besides be a cop or work for one of those private security companies, but that’s the same thing as staying in the Marines.”
“Would you want to come back to Bon Temps? Sherriff Dearborn might be ready to retire in a year or two.”
I grinned at her. “I would love to come back here. Our kids could play with their cousins. We’d have big family get-togethers. I would really like that.”
“Our kids?” I knew she wouldn’t let my comment about children go without saying something.
“All ten of them.”
“How ’bout all two of them?”
“We can start with two,” I teased, taking her into my arms. She kissed me then, and I knew she wasn’t freaked out about my talking about our family. It was a foregone conclusion in my mind at this point. I was not going to let her get away this time.
Pulling her on top of me, I ran my hands down her back, but let her take the lead. Kissing me gently she held my head in her hands. Sitting up enough to pull my shirt off, she ran her hands along my chest. Jesus. How was I going to live without this after finding her again? Licking and kissing my chest she looking up to meet my eyes, making sure I was watching her. I groaned as she slid my shorts off. Her face was way too close to my erection for her own good. She licked her lips and leaned down to place a sweet kiss on my shaft. Fuck.
“Sookie,” I practically growled. She had never been real big on blow jobs. Don’t get me wrong, she was good at it, fucking amazing really, but she usually gagged herself a time or two, so it pissed her off.
“You’re gonna fucking, oh God, kill me,” I said as she took me into her mouth doing amazing things with her teeth and tongue. Watching her head bob up and down was hot as hell, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. That combined with the suction of her warm mouth and I was having a hard time controlling myself. Swirling her tongue and making light scrapes with her teeth, she was driving me crazy. When she reached down to massage my balls, I arched off the bed, unintentionally forcing myself against the back of her throat. She gagged, but didn’t stop, sucking in her cheeks without losing concentration.
“Fuck.” My hands were in her hair, guiding her while doing my best not to make her choke again. It was seriously difficult to think with her mouth on me. She licked up my shaft and swirled her tongue around the top and I felt my muscles pulling in on top of each other. When she pushed her tongue flat against the spot just under my head, I came with a shout.
“Thank you,” I muttered as she slid back up my chest and then peppered kisses along my jaw. “You’re amazing.”
“I’m out of practice.”
“Shit, honey you can practice on me anytime, but that was fantastic.” Rolling us over I sat between her legs to undress her. “You have too many clothes on.”
She giggled and let me get her naked. I drank in the sight of her. Her tan lines that indicated she wore a bikini that I wanted to see her in. Her pink nipples pointed at me, the tight blond curls between her legs beckoned, and her sexy red toe nails, damn. She was incredible. I heard a little voice in my head say, “Mine” and I totally agreed, she was all mine.
My hands were drawn to her breasts and I kissed her neck. I nibbled, licked and teased along her collar bone as I stretched out. She bowed her back, pushing her breasts in to my hands. I put my mouth on one of her perfect nipples and moved my hand between her legs. She was hot and wet, when two of my fingers slid in and out, and her hips started to move match my rhythm. I sucked harder on her nipple and heard her breath catch. She was tightening around my fingers and I couldn’t let her cum without being inside of her.
“Eric,” she pleaded when I pulled my hand away from her.
“I have to be inside you.”
“God, yes,” she said pulling my lips against hers and ramming her tongue in and out of my mouth. Fuck, any control I had was gone. I pushed into her hard and fast and felt her muscles start to spasm around me after a couple of thrusts. Close, but by no means finished, I kept going, driving into her, watching her face the whole time, saving this memory.
“Oh, Gooooooood,” she cried out as she came again clamping down on me. My whole body tensed and I felt my orgasm rolling through me, shooting from my center into hers.
“Jesus.” We were both sweaty and panting; I needed another shower. I kissed her below the ear, sighing, “One of these times I plan to take it slow.”
“That would be nice, but I’m not complaining.”
“You are so fucking hot,” I breathed into her ear. And then my stomach growled, loudly, ruining what was left of the moment, and we both laughed. The sound of her laughter was so sweet, like the soft tinkling of bells. I smiled at her, thinking about how much I had missed moments like this, intimate and human instances that were stupid and perfect because they were with her.
“I take it your hungry.” I was still laughing. Leave it to Eric and his bottomless pit of a stomach to ruin a romantic interlude.
“Yeah. I took a nap with you instead of having lunch.”
“Want me to cook you dinner?”
Eric’s eyes lit up. “Please tell me you have all of the ingredients back at Gran’s.”
“Ingredients for what?” I played dumb, but I knew what he wanted me to make.
“Don’t tease me woman. If you’re cooking dinner I want Stackhouse Chicken.”
Shaking my head I smiled at him. “You do know that it’s basically chicken breasts baked over Rice-A-Roni, right?”
“I know, but I don’t know what you Stackhouse’s do differently because it’s not the same when I make it. You’re like magic with that stuff. ” Eric was a recipe follower. He measured each ingredient precisely and set the timer for everything. The recipe for Stackhouse Chicken had never been written down, it made him crazy.
“You tried to write it down, didn’t you?”
“I had to. I was by myself and I wanted to have some, so I did everything I remembered and I wrote it down so I could use the recipe the next time. But it wasn’t as good as when you make it.”
“Well, then you’ll have to watch me and see what step you missed.” I kissed his nose and climbed out of bed. “Are you coming? We need to get moving, it takes a while to bake.”
After running into Bon Temps Market for chicken and a couple of other ingredients, we headed for Hummingbird Lane, laughing about old times.
His phone started ringing, glancing at the number he answered with a growl, “This better be good jackass…Not possible. I’m in Louisiana.” I watched his expression as he listened and then gave short answers,”If this is what you want.”… “Call Soph and Cal and they’ll go with you.”… “Shut up. Call and Cal.”…”I know man.”… “Just call him. I’ll check in with him in a few hours. Oh, and congrats. ”
He hadn’t taken his eyes off the road, and the phone call oddly sounded like good news. “What’s up?”
“What’s a Twinning?”
“A walking hard on with a crazy ass girlfriend.”
“Oh my. Why did you tell him to call Cal?”
“So he can be a witness at the wedding.”
“Oh. Oh, I see.”
“He forgot that I was out of town. I’m usually the problem solver.”
“Yeah, I guess you always were.” Eric’s friends had always come to him for advice or to help them out of a jam. “Why do you think she’s crazy?”
He shook his head. “She’s a stalker. They started dating the last time we were home and Charles, that’s his first name, was really into her. He started getting packages from her like two weeks after we left, and they were freaky. She sent him wedding magazines and monogrammed shit with their names on it. She even sent a photoshopped a picture of what they would look like on their wedding day.”
“That is weird. It didn’t bother him?”
“It did at first, but you get so lonely over there, he was just glad to have someone sending him shit…I don’t know what he was thinking. But now we’re home and he says he’s marrying her.”
“You’re not going to try to talk him out of it?”
“Nah. Soph will probably try, but not me. Twinning is the Marines for the long haul; he’s going to be home for very short periods of time over a lot of years. If this is going to make him happy, I’m not getting in the way of that.”
I thought about what he said. I was damn glad that Eric said he would be coming home after this tour. Knock on wood. The upcoming year was going to be hard enough, but to imagine facing that year after year, potentially with a family, I can’t understand how people do it. Looking out the window my thoughts changed. I watched the familiar landscape of Bon Temps go by. This was going to be my home again, and someday soon, it would be our home.
He took my hand in his and ran his thumb over my knuckles. “You got quiet.”
Turning to him, I smiled. “Just thinking. I can’t wait until you can come back to stay.”
“I can’t wait for that either. But I’m not gone yet.”
“I know. Are there things you wanted to do while you’re home?” His eyebrows waggled at me as he glanced over from the road. “Other than that.”
“Stackhouse chicken was on the top of my list, so we’re taking care of that tonight. And apparently we’re going to have to get back to North Carolina for a wedding celebration, it’s a tradition.”
“We. I want you to come meet everyone and see me off. If you want to. I guess you have to talk to your boss again though.”
“Shit, yeah, I’m going to have to figure out what to do about my job.”
“Will you go talk to Jane?”
“Pam said she’d talk to her tomorrow at work and let me know what she said, and then we’ll see what I need to do.” Pam worked for the Health Department and had an office in the same building as the Department of Social Services.
We pulled into the driveway at Gran’s and Eric drove around to the back of the house like old times. Only family and close friends parked back there. He grabbed the groceries while I unlocked the door, and we got busy making Stackhouse Chicken. He watched me like I was performing brain surgery.
Shaking my head I handed him an onion. “Chop me up one cup of this.” I had to give him specific measurements, because of his recipe obsession.
“You’re trying to distract me so I miss the secret ingredient.”
“Baby, the secret ingredient is Stackhouse love,” I teased, giving him a hug from behind.
He huffed, turning at an awkward angle to kiss the top of my head, and started chopping the onion. I threw the chicken in a zip-loc bag with some Italian Dressing. I added some lemon juice and pepper and set the bag in the fridge so it could marinade a few minutes while we got everything else ready.
I wasn’t trying to keep any secrets from him. There were two “magical” elements that recipe boy would never understand. The first thing he couldn’t comprehend was that we used whatever Rice-A-Roni we happened to have at the time, although my favorite was the basic chicken flavor, it seemed to have more vermicelli in it. And second, we used any Italian dressing we had on hand to marinade the chicken. Those two elements gave the dish a similar but different taste every time we made it. Eric loved it so much he didn’t taste the subtle differences, unless he made it himself apparently.
He handed me the onions and I sautéed them with some butter in the skillet. He leaned against the counter, watching as I added the Rice-A-Roni. You had to be careful the vermicelli in it didn’t burn. I added the liquid to start cooking the rice and began cleaning up the mess we had made.
Eric’s phone rang again and I heard him say hello to Cal. He stepped out onto the porch as I browned the chicken breasts. When the rice was ready I put everything in a pan and set it in the oven to bake. As I closed the oven, Eric came back in the kitchen. He poured a glass of tea and sat at the table with a sigh.
“Everything okay with the wedding plans?”
“Yeah,” he nodded, running his hands through his hair.
“What then?” I was washing some dishes, looking over my shoulder at him.
“We need to be back by next Wednesday for the party.”
“Okay, well, I’ll know something by then about what I’m going to do.” He looked distracted and far away. I dried my hands and turned to face him. “Eric, what else did he tell you?”
I could tell that he was considering not telling me, but evidently he understood that it would be a mistake. He looked me in the eyes. “He said there’s a rumor that we’re leaving right away.”
I started to internally panic. My knees felt a little shaky, I had been thinking that we would have an extra week together, because if I went with him to North Carolina I wouldn’t leave until he shipped out, but now it wouldn’t matter. “Do you have to go back, now?”
“No. No. Not now. He just heard that we won’t have a week to get everything around that we’ll need to load up and leave quickly.”
“Oh.” I sat at the table feeling sick. I don’t know anything about the Marine’s. Why would they need to leave quickly? “Is there a lot going on? I mean, is there something in the, over there, you need to get to?” I couldn’t bring myself to say war zone.
He shrugged. “Timelines don’t mean anything in the military. If there’s something happening now it doesn’t matter because we couldn’t get there in time to help. They’ll probably hurry up and ship us out and then we’ll sit somewhere and wait before we go back to the front. But you never know.”
He took my hand and pulled me into his lap. “I’m sorry. It’s not really unusual for them to change things up.”
Putting my arms around him, I lay my head on his shoulder. “I was just looking forward to another week with you.”
“I know. But hey,” he said, turning his body so I sat up to look at him. “Let’s not ruin our time together being sad, ok? You asked me earlier what I wanted to do while I was home. I want to sit with you and watch our favorite movies and eat popcorn and ice cream – cuz stuff melts really fast over there. So let’s eat and hang out tonight. Sound good?”
“Our favorite movies? Like your Evil Dead stuff?” I laughed. “You know, I bet those are in my closet actually. I boxed up a bunch of the things that reminded me of you and left them here.”
“Oh my God. Don’t tease me like that woman.”
“I’m not teasing. Wait here.” I went to my room and opened the dusty box the back of my closet. Sure enough, all of Eric’s favorite Bruce Campell horror-comedy movies were in the box, along with pictures, cards, CD’s, and other memorabilia from our time together.
Holding them up as I came into the kitchen, Eric’s face lit up like a little kid on Christmas. We put the first movie in and sat on the couch together, pausing to eat Stackhouse Chicken when it was ready. I had to laugh at the look on his face as he ate, he looked like he was in heaven while repeating, “This is so good.”
After we cleaned up our dinner dishes, I put some popcorn in the microwave and sprinkled Old Bay on it , just the way he liked’ while he refilled our glasses of tea. We pulled out a couple of Gran’s afghans and curled up on the couch like old times. We laughed and talked, watching movies into the wee hours of the night. I woke up at some point feeling Eric pick me up and carry me to the bedroom, but as he aligned himself behind me, I sighed and fell back to sleep.