|The Whole Enchilada
Author: Miss Construed PM
Home Sweet Home contest entry. It's Sookie's birthday, and her friends take her for a surprise visit to her past. AU/AHRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Eric & Sookie - Words: 8,056 - Reviews: 42 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 6 - Published: 03-30-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6856575
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Entry for Home Sweet Home Contest
Title: The Whole Enchilada
Characters: Sookie, Eric, Pam, Amelia, Tara, Clancy, Max and others!
Word count: 7.721
Pen name: Miss Construed
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, I just made them frolic about in Denver.
"You're kidding me," I said, staring up at the bell tower of the pink stucco building in front of me. I looked around the parking lot at the unending sea of minivans and couldn't help the giggle that escaped my lips. "You made me get dressed up like this," I waved my hand in a general motion over the little black dress she'd shoveled me into. "For this?"
"Your mom said it was your favorite," my best friend, and roommate Amelia replied with a snort as she climbed out of the limousine behind me.
"Sure it was. When I was eight."
"Eight. Thirty-something. Doesn't really matter does it?"
"A little bit, yes. You could have at least let me wear jeans and flip flops."
"Poo. What is the fun in that? Besides, we always dress up for birthdays. You know that."
It was my birthday. My thirty-second birthday to be exact. It was also the one-year anniversary of the day I'd walked in on my then boyfriend and his secretary in a position that let's just say wasn't very businesslike. Happy Birthday to me, right?
It wasn't as if I thought Bill was "the one", and frankly the fact that he had been cheating on me wasn't as much of a surprise as it should have been. Needless to say, having something like that happen on your birthday kind of tainted the good juju that typically went with the day. This year, I had been hoping for a quiet night at a small restaurant. It didn't look like I was going to be so lucky.
"I thought we agreed we'd go out to dinner. Have a quiet night."
"We are going out to dinner."
"Here?" I nodded my head in the direction of the familiar building. "Really?"
"I figured it was good to go back to the basics."
"Is that why you plied me with a margarita before we left the apartment? Because it'd be going back to the basics?"
"I don't think cliff divers and magic shows exactly count as basic."
"Depends on who's doing the magic," she replied with a raunchy wink. "And I know some awfully good divers, though not of the cliff variety."
"Ew!" I screeched, covering my ears with my hands. "Amelia!"
"What?" she shrugged, shutting the door to the limousine behind her. "You're the one who brought it up." She walked up to me and tucked her hand into the crook of my arm, tugging me not so gently along behind her.
"You're really making me do this?"
"I'm really making you do this." She came to an abrupt stop in front of a water fountain that had seen better days and began to rifle in her purse, letting out a too-enthusiastic cry of joy when she found what she was looking for. "Here." She held out a quarter in my direction. "It's time for you to make a birthday wish. And don't you even think about making a wish to get out of here, because I have no intention of leaving."
She took me by my shoulders and forcibly pushed me towards the fountain, allowing me to stop only when my knees brushed against the rough concrete edge.
"Fine," I huffed, taking the quarter from her hand. For some reason it felt heavier than the average quarter. More substantial; as if it mattered. But that was probably just my overactive imagination running away with me again. One silly coin tossed into a fountain didn't mean anything, and I'd grown up enough to not believe in magic anymore.
I looked down at the coin in my hand, flipping it over in my hand as I recalled the last time I'd stood here. If only things could be as simple now as they had been back then, when my only concern had been if a boy was going to notice me. He hadn't. But now I had bigger things to worry about, like paying my mortgage, and my mother's constant nagging that I had better get settled down unless I wanted my shriveled up eggs to produce wonky kids. She's charming, I swear.
I wrapped my fingers around the coin in my palm and closed my eyes, my lips curving into a smile as I thought of all the things I could wish for. More money; a bigger house; for my thighs to shrink a size or two – there was plenty to choose from. But those seemed too complicated. The best wishes were simple. Gran had taught me that.
"Jesus, aren't you done yet?" Amelia called from behind me, pulling me out of my trip down memory lane. "If I'd known a quarter would entertain you this much, I wouldn't have bothered to get you a present at all."
"If you're not careful, I might just wish for you to go mute," I threatened with a chuckle.
"I'm real scared, Sook." She rolled her eyes for dramatic effect and then took my elbow in her hand. "Just throw the darned thing in so that we can go inside. Wish for world peace; for a brothel of hot men at your beck and call; hell, it's your birthday, wish for the whole enchilada if you want."
"Fine." I shook my head and turned back to face the fountain, whispering my wish before tossing the coin into the water. Maybe it was okay to dream every now and then.
"This is like a freaking time warp," I said as we crossed through the heavy wooden doors of the entrance. Nothing had changed, from the wrought iron fences to the posters on the wall. It was exactly as I remembered it being the last time I'd been to Casa Bonita, which was quite a feat considering that was sixteen years ago.
"It's fantastic, isn't it?" Amelia asked, stumbling over the uneven cobblestone floor. "I can't believe we haven't come here before."
We passed through the nearly empty hallways with no trouble, weaving our way through the chain link barriers that had once enforced order, and now swung in desolate silence, ruffled only by the brush of Amelia's leg.
"Doesn't look like anyone comes here very much anymore."
We breezed through the cashier lane – Amelia insisted upon buying the bargain token deal – and were on our way to our seats with our All-You-Can-Eat chicken platters in less than five minutes. I spotted our table as soon as we crossed over the bridge. Even if Pam and Tara hadn't been sitting there already, there was no question that the waterfall side tiki hut table was for me, what with the 32 hot pink and silver balloons hovering over it.
"I can't believe you reserved at a table," I whispered in Amelia's ear. "AND you told them it was my birthday? I'm so going to kill you for this."
"No you won't." She angled her body towards mine, her chipped blue tray balancing precariously in her hands. "You love it. Admit it."
I shrugged, doing my best to repress my smile. It wasn't something I had been expecting, that much was true, but now that we were here, I had to admit that this could be fun.
"Finally!" Tara exclaimed when we came up to the table. "I was getting ready to kill Pam if you didn't show up."
"As if you could stand a chance against me." Pam rolled her eyes. "More like I was going to drown myself in these margaritas, which are delicious by the way."
"Wait," I said, placing my tray down at the empty seat next to her. "Casa Bonita serves alcohol?" Somehow I had missed that when I was a teenager.
"Of course they do," she replied matter of factly, reaching across the table and placing a large blue margarita in front of me. "The Casarita. The house specialty. How else are you supposed to deal with all these screaming brats?"
I looked around at the tables around us, all filled with young families and children who looked like they'd had enough. The restaurant wasn't nearly as empty as I had expected from the ghost-town of an entrance, but then again I hadn't remembered how cavernous the inside of Casa Bonita was.
"Charming, isn't she?" Tara leaned over on her wobbly chair over to give me a hug. "Happy Birthday Sook." She turned to face Amelia. "Was she surprised?"
"No, I'm sure she always dreamed of celebrating her thirty-second birthday with skeeball and men in gorilla suits." I couldn't help but chuckle at Pam's tone. This definitely was not the kind of place I would ever have imagined her in, but then I supposed that was a testament to her friendship that she'd come anyway.
"Doesn't sound so bad to me," Tara replied with a wink.
"That explains so much, Tara Thornton." Pam took a long drink of her margarita. "I never would have pegged you for a furry."
Tara rolled her eyes. "I'm just saying that it beats the hell out of walking in on your fiancé banging his secretary for your birthday."
The gasp that escaped Tara's lips was audible, and when she turned back to face me, her eyes were full of worry. "Oh God, I'm so sorry Sookie. I didn't mean to say that. I'm no good at drinking anymore. I'm such an id-"
"Don't worry about it," I assured her, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Really. I'm over him. I've been over him for a year."
"I don't know what you ever saw in that stupid bastard," Amelia said. "The sideburns alone should have been enough to put you off."
I laughed and took a drink of the margarita in front of me. "I guess I learned never to trust a hairy man."
"Never trust any man," Pam added with a firm nod of her head. "I have been telling you for years to give them up."
"So not happening, Pam."
She shrugged and set her drink down. "Oh my God. What is that?"
I followed her outstretched finger and laughed when I saw the object of her attention. Standing on the rocky platform above the waterfall was a man - scratch that - a boy, no more than 20 years old wearing a loincloth.
"That," Amelia said with a smirk. "Is the Amazing Alcide, master cliff diver." Her eyes raked along the boy's body and her lips curved into an appreciative smile. "And I must admit that I wouldn't mind if he took a dive into my pool, if you know what I mean."
"Amelia! He's a baby!" I reprimanded.
"And a man," Pam added. "Although, from a purely critical point of view, I suppose he is on the better looking end of the male species."
"Even so," I shook my head. "That's just wrong."
"I seem to recall you had quite a thing for one of the cliff divers back in the day," Tara interjected. "You used to drag me here every weekend that one summer to see that blond diver." She turned to face Pam and Amelia. "You should have seen the way she mooned over this guy. Never talked to him once though. How old were we again?"
"Sixteen," I replied with a wistful smile as the memory of that summer came back to me. I had thought I was too old to come to something as silly as Casa Bonita, but my parents had insisted that I celebrate one last birthday in the Stackhouse tradition. I could remember that day down to the smallest detail of what I had been wearing - cutoff jean shorts and my Poudre Valley cheerleading t-shirt. I had rolled my eyes too many times to count by the time we got to the table, and was scheming for any excuse to leave when I had caught sight of him standing at the top of the waterfall, in exactly the same spot the Amazing Alcide was standing now.
I had never seen a boy that looked like him before. The boys at my high school were all gangly and awkward; even the star athletes like JB DuRhone were nothing in comparison to the boy on the cliff. He wasn't much of a boy at all; more of a man really, or so I had thought at the time. He had been tall, his lanky body filled out with defined muscles under what seemed like miles of bare skin. His blond hair - long as was the style at the time - had been pulled back in a leather strap, though one strand had fallen loose and had been dancing in the air conditioned room. My fingers had itched for a chance to tuck it away.
I had watched with awe as he took his first dive, and then his second and third. I had been completely mesmerized, so much so that even Jason had noticed, and boy had it had taken a while to live that one down.
"Well, if he looked anything like that, I don't blame you," Amelia said.
"It's been so long I can barely remember." Lie.
"Don't you play stupid with me, Sookie Stackhouse," Tara laughed. "I could tell you what he looked like, and I wasn't the one who nearly fainted when he winked at me."
"I was sixteen!" I defended vehemently. "I hadn't even kissed a boy at that stage."
Tara shrugged her shoulders. "I am sure that he would have been willing to help you out with that if you had just asked. He certainly kissed everyone else that summer."
I felt myself start to blush at the thought, even all these years later. But I knew she was wrong. The boy of my sixteen-year-old dreams hadn't even known I had existed, which made sense now considering that he had been a junior in college. In an attempt to change the subject, I picked up my fork and poked at the pile of food in front of me.
"What is this supposed to be?"
"I was wondering that myself," Pam answered. "I guess they run under the guidelines of when in doubt, drench in nacho cheese?"
"Not a bad philosophy," I smiled. "When doesn't nacho cheese make things better?"
For the next hour, we dug into our food, raising the flag whenever one of us needed another margarita or cheese enchilada (smothered in nacho cheese of course). The families that had surrounded us quickly cleared out, rushing home to get the kids to be on time. By the time the sopapillas came out, there wasn't a person under sixteen or seventeen in sight.
"I think I am going to explode if I eat one of these," I said, reaching for the warm cinnamon bread anyway.
"It will so be worth it," Tara replied, shoving the tube of honey in my direction. "I agreed to come here for these alone."
"Gee, thanks," I smirked, grabbing the honey out of her hand and covering the sopapilla with it. Honey dripped down the side of my hand when I took my first bite, threatening to spill onto the crepe of my skirt. I was in the process of licking the rogue honey off my hand when Tara slapped me on the back. Hard.
"Oh. My. God!" she shrieked.
I took a bite, savoring the flavor of the treat before responding. "What?"
"I... Wow... Just look." She pointed to an area on the other side of the waterfall, and I nearly dropped the sopapilla onto my lap when I saw what she was looking at.
"Oh my God." I shook my head in disbelief.
"What?" Amelia asked, twisting in her chair to see what had caused the commotion. "What are you two freaking out about?"
"That's him, isn't it?" Tara asked.
I nodded, for once completely at a loss for words.
"Who?" Pam asked, crossing her arms in annoyance. "What is wrong with you two?"
"That's the cliff diver," Tara explained, her eyes never leaving him. "The one Sookie was in love with."
"I wasn't in love with him." I didn't sound too convincing, even to my own ears.
"Whatever," Tara replied. "Hell, he certainly grew up well. Who knew you had such good taste in men back then? What was his name again?"
"Eric," I said, barely above a whisper. So much for pretending not to remember him. I scrunched my eyes closed, sure that what I had seen was nothing more than a tequila induced daydream. Nope. He still was standing there, his arms crossed over his broad chest as he watched the show before him. I felt a shiver run down my spine when he tossed his head back in laughter at something the man next to him said.
"Maybe it's not him?" I asked, forcing myself to sit back and look away before I started drooling.
Pam leaned across my body to get a look at the man in question and began to laugh.
"What are you laughing about?" Tara frowned.
"That man there?" Pam asked, pointing across the room. I nodded.
"That man was a cliff diver?" Her laughter grew louder and she began to shake her head.
"I think so. Maybe?"
"This night just gets better and better." She abruptly pushed her chair back from the table and was halfway across the bridge before I realized what she was doing.
"She's joking, right?" I cringed, sinking down as far as the chair would allow me. "Please tell me she is not going over there and talking to him?"
I was met with silence. Never a good thing.
I took a deep breath and looked back to the man in question, just in time to see Pam tap him on the shoulder.
"I am going to kill her." I didn't take my eyes off of the two of them, not even when Pam pointed across the room and waved in my direction. I somehow forced myself to smile and wave back, and refused to read into the way the corners of Eric's lips curved up when his eyes met mine.
I sat in silent horror as he nodded and began to follow Pam back across the bridge, the two men he was with trailing behind him.
"This is beyond amazing," Tara whispered.
"This is beyond mortifying!" I retorted. Never in a million years had I thought tonight would bring me face to face with the boy I had crushed on so many years ago. Maybe the gods hated me. Maybe my birthday was cursed. Either way, there was clearly nothing I could do about it as they approached our table other than slam down the remnants of my blue margarita and plaster on a smile, so that is exactly what I did.
"What a small world," Pam said as she approached the table. I forced myself to focus on her, and not the unbelievably gorgeous giant of a man behind her. This was going to be difficult.
"Girls," she addressed the table. "This is Eric Northman and his friends Clancy and Max. Eric is one of the investors on that new project I was telling you about." She looked at me and winked. "I invited the three of them to come and have a few drinks with us. I assured them you wouldn't mind."
I smiled as Pam introduced me to the two strangers, avoiding looking at Eric until I couldn't anymore, and when I did, I was glad to be sitting down. Yep. He was even better looking than I remembered. Of course he was.
"I hope we're not intruding."
"Not at all!" Tara exclaimed, emboldened by the tequila flowing through her veins. "Eric is it?" He nodded. "I'm Tara."
"Nice to meet you," he returned politely.
"And you already know Pam," she pointed in Pam's direction as Pam ordered us another round of drinks. "And that's Amelia." Amelia waved.
"And that would make you…?" he asked, turning his gaze on me once again.
"Sookie," I replied, sounding hopelessly out of breath.
"Sookie?" I nodded. "Well, do you mind if I sit next to you, Sookie?"
Tara practically shoved him into Pam's vacated seat. "Of course she doesn't!" She raised her eyebrows at me over his head. "Right, Sook?"
"Of course not," I returned politely. Meanwhile, my innards felt like they were doing the pasodoble. This was ridiculous. Yes, he was a good looking man – better looking than I remembered him being sixteen years ago – but I wasn't the type of girl that got all flustered just because someone was good looking anymore. Or at least, I had thought I wasn't one of those girls.
My breath hitched as the cotton of his jacket brushed against my bare arm, the scent of his aftershave wafting in my direction. I mentally chastised myself to pull it together, which worked for all of five seconds until he turned those blue eyes back on me.
"So whose birthday is it?" he asked, leaning in conspiratorially.
"Um… mine actually."
His smile broadened. "Really? And did you make your birthday wish?"
I nodded, nervously licking my lips.
"Care to share?"
I shook my head, reaching out for the margarita the waitress placed in front of me. I took a sip before looking back at him. "Everyone knows that you can't share your wishes if you want them to come true."
He chuckled, leaning back in his chair. "I suppose that's true." He looked around the cavernous interior or the restaurant before continuing. "Interesting venue for a birthday party."
"Sookie just loves this place," Amelia interjected. I looked across the table to see her watching us with a glint in her eye. "Isn't that right, Sook?"
"I did," I scowled across the table.
"And you don't now?" Eric asked.
"Oh, well… no, I suppose it has been quite fun. Just not exactly what I was expecting when they told me we were going out for dinner. I was expecting something in Larimer Square maybe. Or something a bit more…"
"Ah, I see. Well, the food may not be up to TAG standards, but then again TAG doesn't have magic shows."
I chuckled, the tension I had felt at seeing Eric again easing from my shoulders with his joking words. I wasn't sixteen years old and awkward anymore. I was thirty-two. A woman who knew herself; who believed in herself. There was no reason to be rattled by my crush from sixteen years ago. With renewed confidence, I angled my body towards him.
"Or cliff divers," I pointed out, smiling at my own inside joke.
A smile curved the corner of Eric's mouth. "Ah yes, the cliff divers." He leaned towards me and lowered his voice. "What would you say if I told you I used to be one of the cliff divers?"
I laughed, a bawdy, flirtatious laugh that I didn't know I had in me. "I'd say that that must've been quite the sight. Tell me, were you the good guy, or the bad guy?" I already knew the answer; had known it for about sixteen years.
"The good guy, of course," he replied. "Saving the damsel in distress and all that."
"Of course," I nodded with mock solemnity.
"What are you two whispering about over there?" Pam interrupted, tossing a small piece of sopapilla at us.
Eric laughed and turned to face five sets of curious eyes. "I was just telling Sookie here about how I used to be a cliff diver."
"Oh, really?" Pam said in feigned innocence. "Do tell us all about it."
"I'm sure he'd rather not."
"Let the man talk for himself Sookie, unless you'd like to regale us with stories about when you used to come here as a kid. Or as a teenager. You did come here has a teenager didn't you, Sookie?"
I glared at her and nodded. "A few times."
"Maybe you saw me then," Eric replied, looking back over his shoulder at me. "I was tall, strapping, incredibly good looking?" he teased.
"And modest, I can see."
He shrugged. "You kind of have to be confident to get chased around by a gorilla when you're wearing a loincloth."
"Now that's a sight I'd like to see," Amelia said, eyeing the parts of Eric she could see over the table. "Care to give a demonstration?"
"Maybe after a few more of these." He raised the margarita in his hand and sat back in his chair. "But only if the birthday girl asks for it herself."
I felt myself flush. So much for that whole confidence thing.
"Go on Sookie!" Amelia cheered. "Ask him."
I shook my head and buried my face in the margarita glass. The slight buzz that hard been perfect not five minutes ago not nearly enough to deal with this brand of torture.
"Oh how sweet. I think you embarrassed her, Ames," Pam laughed.
I grumbled some choice words under my breath and grabbed for another sopapilla as Pam and Amelia laughed at my expense. Poor Clancy was sitting between the two of them, a knowing smile crossing his face at their lewd banter.
"Those are the best, aren't they?"
I looked up to see Eric watching as I drizzled the honey over the warm bread and managed to nod my assent.
"I, uh, think you missed." He pointed to my hand, and I looked down to see a puddle of honey sitting on the top of my thigh.
"Shit." I grabbed a napkin and began to rub my leg roughly, which only made matters worse. Instead of in a half an inch radius, the majority of my thigh was now sticky. And as if that weren't enough to fluster me, Eric had to go and lean in to take a closer look. For all intents and purposes, it would appear to the outsider that he was trying to help me, but then again, they couldn't feel the whisper of his breath on my leg. I nearly fell out of my chair when the next words came out of his mouth.
"I would offer to lick it clean myself, but I'm guessing that's a bit too forward from someone you just met, eh?" He looked up from my leg with a smirk.
His eyes gleamed with mischief.
"Is that a "yes, that's too forward?"," he teased. "Or a "yes, please help me out oh kind stranger?""
"You are terrible," I replied, my shoulders shaking with laughter.
"My mother tells me I am incorrigible."
He reached out and took the napkin from my hand and tossed it on the table. "Sookie here got a little too excited and got herself all sticky," he announced to the group as he stood up.
"Quick work, Eric," Pam chuckled, raising her glass in a toast. "It normally takes three dates to get her to that point."
I scowled in Pam's direction and was met with laughter from all sides.
"I guess I'm just lucky then," Eric said, reaching down and taking my hand in his. "Maybe we should go clean you up."
"Oh, make sure to do a good job. It is her birthday after all." Amelia teased.
"You two are dead to me," I growled as Eric hauled me up onto my feet. "Some friends you are."
Eric took my hand in his grip, pulling me closer towards him as he faced the table. I'd like to say that I remained calm and collected, but my sixteen-year-old self came rushing to the surface, my heartbeat speeding up at his touch. I could barely concentrate enough to stand up, much less process Eric's words as he addressed the table. Whatever he said had everyone nodding in agreement and pushing away from the table.
"Where are we going?" I asked as he helped me down from the platform our table sat on.
"You and I are going to the restroom to get you cleaned up. They're all heading to the bar to get another Casarita."
"I think I can manage it myself. The cleaning up part."
He chuckled and tucked our twined hands against his body, walking past the hut where everyone else stopped. "Shame. I guess I will just have to wait outside until you are done."
The solitude of the bathroom was a welcome relief as I washed the honey from my leg. The combination of the margaritas and Eric were enough to just about do me in. I looked up into the darkened mirror and let out a sigh. What in the world were the chances that I would ever see Eric again, much less here? And while my inner teenager was disappointed that he clearly didn't remember me, my adult self was thrilled that he was noticing me now. I couldn't fault the twenty-year-old Eric for not seeing a gangly sixteen-year-old; that would be petty. But I also had to remind myself to not let my ages old crush cloud my mind too much.
He was waiting for me when I exited the restroom, leaning back against the yellow stucco wall with ease.
"You want to get another drink?" He asked, and reached out to take my hand as if we hadn't just met an hour ago. Well, I guess technically we hadn't, but he didn't know that.
"I think I'm good."
I forced myself to stop overthinking everything and took his offered hand, smiling to myself when he pulled me close to his side. "This is so weird."
"This. You. Me. I mean, we just met. I don't know anything about you."
"That can be fixed. Quite easily actually." He winked and led me back towards the bar area, where Clancy was in the middle of a Pam and Amelia sandwich as the mariachi band played their rendition of Livin' on a Prayer. Tara sat off to the side, deep in some meaningful drunk conversation with Max.
"That's what I love about this place," Eric said, stopping when we were a safe distance away from the bumping and grinding. "Seems like such an innocent place, but you stick around long enough and you'll see just about everything."
We watched in silence as they finished their dance, and then a second one, thanking the band when they moved on.
"What do you want to do next?" Eric asked, looking down at me. "Get a caricature drawn? Play some skeeball? Go take a picture in the jail?"
"Don't you have like a thousand pictures from when you were little in that jail?" Tara asked, looking up from her deep conversation with Max.
I nodded, recalling our family tradition of getting the pictures on Jason and my birthdays. "Mom used to insist on it."
"Then that's what we'll do," Eric replied, pulling me behind him as he wound through the maze of hallways. We must've looked ridiculous, tromping through the dark walls and low ceilings that made up the inside of the restaurant. Maybe it hadn't been the birthday party I was expecting, but I couldn't deny that it was exactly what I needed to restore my faith in birthdays after last year.
It was quite the commotion as the seven of us rifled through the prop bin, Pam shrieking with delight as she found a hot pink poncho to pull over her head. I stood back, willing to take whatever was left over rather than risk getting an elbow to the head, and smiled up at Eric as he approached me wearing an oversized cowboy hat and carrying an empty bottle of Jack Daniels.
"Come on, Stackhouse," he said, dragging me into the fray. "It's your birthday. You've got to get dressed like the rest of us."
Five minutes, and many costume changes later, I found myself sitting on Eric's leg, his hands wrapped firmly around my waist.
"Wouldn't want you to fall over in that dress," he mumbled in my ear, pulling me flush against his body when the photographer took the first shot. He took two more, both of which I liked more than the first, where my face was a mixture of shock and delight. Eric chose to buy the first one. Of course.
The next stop on our tour of the cavernous restaurant wasn't so easily agreed upon. Amelia and Clancy campaigned for a trip to the arcade, Amelia proclaiming her undying love for skeeball, while Tara, Pam and Max all voted to return to the bar.
"What about you?" Eric asked, coming up behind me. I turned around and tipped my head back to look at his face.
"I, um…I was kind of hoping for a magic show." It had been another one of our family traditions, and I found myself growing increasingly sentimental.
"Good choice." His hand came to rest on the curve of my waist.
"Skeeball!" Amelia shrieked, stomping her feet like a tantrum throwing toddler.
"I'm not going up into that sweaty arcade," Pam replied, running a hand through her hair. "And I'm certainly not going to touch anything up there."
They both turned to me simultaneously. "Sookie. Your birthday. You decide," Amelia said.
"And if you pick skeeball, I will never speak to you again," Pam added.
Thankfully I didn't have to answer. Or choose. Eric's loud voice boomed above my head. "We can all do what we want to do," he said. "There's nothing forcing us to stay together."
And that's how I found myself sitting at the top of the small amphitheater next to Eric, waiting for Octavia the Magnificent to appear and pull a rabbit out of her hat. I watched from the corner of my eye as Eric stretched his long legs out in front of him, noting the way the denim of his jeans clung to his thighs. The boy I had been so entranced with had aged well. Really, really well.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, looking up to meet his eyes.
"I'm waiting for the magic show?" He furrowed his brows in confusion.
"I mean," I shook my head. "Tonight. Why are you at the restaurant?"
"Honestly?" He shrugged, leaning back against the railing behind him. "I can't really explain it. We were heading out to dinner and I just had a hankering to come back, see the old stomping grounds." He looked over at me with a smile. "I hadn't expected to stay long. I thought we'd come in, have a laugh or two and head out to a bar somewhere. But…then we met you."
I laughed and shifted until I was sitting on my hands. "And thus had a reason to stick around."
"Exactly." He reached out and traced his finger down the length of my bare arm. "I mean, it'd be rude to ignore a girl on her birthday, wouldn't it?"
The words struck a chord, the memory of my disappointment on my sixteenth birthday when he had, in fact, ignored me, flashed across my mind. I opened my mouth to say something, anything about that day, and closed it again, but not before he noticed.
"Did I say something wrong there?"
I shook my head. "No. It's just…well, I guess I wasn't exactly honest with you before." I pointed back towards the vicinity of the restaurant.
"You mean you did want me to help you with that honey problem?" he chuckled.
"No. Not about that." Though maybe we'd have to revisit that later. "It's…well, I knew you used to work here."
His eyebrows raised in question.
"I mean…gah," I buried my face in my hands and took a deep breath. "I may have had the slightest crush on you when I was sixteen."
"You did?" A broad smile covered his face.
I nodded, feeling oddly relieved to have it out there. "I used to drag Tara here every weekend that entire summer just to get a chance to watch you."
I could have sworn I noticed a slight redness creep up his neck, but figured I was imagining things. He cleared his throat. "Oh. Really?"
I laughed. "I tell you I used to fantasize about you and all you say is "oh really"?"
"You fantasized about me?"
"Of course you'd focus on that."
"Hey, you've got to give a guy a chance to process these things. Here I've spent all night trying to impress you, only to discover you already fantasize about me in a loincloth. If I'd known that, I wouldn't have had to try so hard."
"Fantasized," I reply, placing the emphasis on the last syllable. "It was sixteen years ago."
"Semantics," he replied with a shrug.
"I haven't thought about you in a good ten years."
"But you're thinking about me now. Tell me," he leaned forward. "Are you imagining me in that loincloth I used to wear?"
I shook my head, hoping my burning skin wasn't visible in this dark light.
"Shame. Because it would make me feel better about wondering what you've got on under that dress." I gasped. If someone other than Eric Northman said these things to me, I was sure I would slap him. But oddly, and my mother would kill me if she knew this, I kind of liked it. Not that I would ever admit to it another soul.
"Though either way I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about it, since you've already seen me naked and all."
"Not naked," I chuckled, shaking my head.
"Close enough." He raked his eyes across my face. "How in the hell did I not try to do something back then? It's not like a guy forgets someone like you."
I shrugged, looking down at my hands. "I don't think you even knew I was alive back then, despite my attempts to get you to notice me."
He reached out and tipped my face up to meet his gaze. "I was an idiot, Sookie."
"I…" I bit my lower lip. "No you weren't. I was awkward. Gangly. A late bloomer."
"That's no excuse."
"Of course it is. You were what, twenty years old? If you had looked at me back then, I probably would have melted into a puddle of goo."
"When I look at you now. What do you feel?"
Like melting into a puddle of goo.
I leaned forward, looking back over my shoulder at him. "Honestly?"
"Not much different."
And at that exact moment, Octavia the Magnificent came out from behind the dark curtain. I took it as a sign from above. I had been heading down a path I wasn't sure I could really navigate, and maybe the magic show was exactly the reprieve I needed.
I propped my elbows on my knees, refusing to look back at Eric for the length of the show, though I could sense his eyes boring into the back of my head. As Octavia moved from one trick to another, I could have sworn I felt Eric's fingers ghost over the length of my spine, but did nothing in response.
When the final trick was complete, and she had returned to her place behind the curtain, I allowed myself to look back at Eric. His eyes were trained on me, his brows furrowed in thought.
I stood up, slightly uneasy on my own legs. "I suppose we should head back. See what everyone is doing?"
I looked down as he clasped my hand in his, twining his fingers with mine. He didn't say a word as he led me down the stairs, but instead of heading back to the bar, he veered left.
"Black Bart's Cave?" I asked, looking into the darkened entry. "Really?"
He shrugged and nodded.
"My brother used to scare the ever living crap out of me in here."
"What if I promise to protect you?" His voice was nearer than I thought, and my mouth suddenly felt dry.
He winked down at me and pulled me into the mouth of the cave behind him. "Stick close."
A shiver ran down my spine as we stepped into the utter darkness. Eric didn't say anything as he led me through the blackness, the manufactured sounds of bats and dripping water echoing with our footsteps. My breath became increasingly shallow; without the sense of sight, the sensation of the pads of his fingers rubbing along the sensitive skin of my wrist felt heightened.
He stopped without warning, and I found myself pressed against his back. I heard him say my name, though barely above a whisper, and the next thing I knew, his lips were on mine.
In all the fantasies I had about this exact moment, I never imagined it to be like this. His hands were everywhere – tangled in my hair, skirting along my hips, pulling me closer. I groaned against his mouth, and pressed myself against him. Yes. This is what I wanted; needed; wished for. Maybe not Eric specifically, though I wasn't going to complain, but the feeling of being desired. There was no doubt about Eric's desire for me any more.
He took two steps forward, never taking his lips from my mouth. The wall of the cavern was cool against the exposed skin of my back, and I couldn't be bothered to worry about the thousands of grubby hands that had touched it before me. At that moment there was only Eric, and me, and the only thing I cared about touching me was him.
His lips trailed along the length of my jaw, working their way to the sensitive spot below my ear.
"I've wanted to do this from the moment I saw you across the restaurant tonight."
"Really." He took my earlobe between his teeth, and I felt my legs begin to give out.
"I think I've got you beat," I laughed, wrapping my fingers in his hair and pulling his face back to meet mine. "By about…oh… sixteen years or so."
"Maybe next time I can wear the loincloth."
He silenced my response with his lips, and I found myself melting against him once again. I don't know how long we stood like that, wrapped around one another, before I heard my name called out.
"Sookie?" Tara's familiar voice said. "Are you in there?"
Eric groaned, resting his head in the crook of my shoulder. "Maybe if we're really quiet they'll go away?"
"Doubtful," I replied with a smile.
"Sookie?" Tara called again.
"I'm here," I called out, sliding out from underneath Eric's arms. I was sure I looked like a right mess, what with the way Eric's fingers tugged at the pins in my hair. But there wasn't much I could do for it in the dark.
I turned around and reached out my hand in Eric's direction. "Come on, Tarzan."
His laughter filled the small cavern as he took my hand and followed me outside.
"What were you two doing in there?" Pam asked when we stepped into the light. She raked her eyes over us with a knowing smile.
"We, um," I shifted from one foot to the next. "Got lost."
"Sure you did," she said with a shake of her head. "Well, now that you're un-lost, can we please get the hell out of here? If I have to hear one more announcement about the puppet show, I just might scream."
One Year Later
I stood in front of the concrete water fountain, a smile on my face and a quarter in my hand.
So much had changed since I'd stood here a year ago, wondering what to wish for. Oh sure, I still had to worry about my mortgage, my mom and the size of my thighs, but none of that seemed to matter anymore.
I smiled to myself when Amelia prodded me to "go ahead and make your wish already." Some things never changed.
"I will, I will!" I Insisted. "I just have to make it good."
"If you're going to wish to see me in that loincloth again," Eric's deep voice said in my ear, just loud enough for me to hear, "then you should probably know that's already on the menu for tonight."
I shook my head, leaning back against his chest. "That wasn't even a blip on my radar."
"Maybe you'd prefer the gorilla suit?"
"No!" I laughed, tilting my head to look up at him. "I'm a strictly good guy kind of girl."
"Glad to hear it." He leaned down and brushed a kiss across my temple.
"Ugh. Would you guys stop with the cutesies already? Any normal couple would be sick of each other by now," Amelia said, stamping impatiently behind us. "We're going in. When you two lovebirds feel like joining us, we'll be at the table with the Casaritas." She spun on her heel and headed through the wooden doors, the gang following in her footsteps.
"I guess that means we're not a normal couple?" Eric asked when the door closed behind them.
"I don't think we stood a chance at being normal" I turned in his arms to face him.
"Probably not." He tilted his head towards the fountain. "What are you going to wish for?"
"I told you last year, you can't share your wishes if you want them to come true."
"Right," he nodded, leaning down to brush a kiss across my lips. "And did you get what you wished for last year?"
"Sure did," I replied with a smirk.
"I knew it," he grinned triumphantly. "You totally wished for me last year."
"Hardly." I rolled my eyes and turned back to the fountain. Last year, I had wished to go back to the way things used to be; to believe in the magic again; to let myself live in the moment, and that is exactly what I had done that night and every night since.
I hadn't thought that night would change my life, but who really ever thinks that? I looked over my shoulder at the tall pink dome, then back to the man beside me. Maybe there was something special about this place after all.
I squeezed my eyes shut, whispering gibberish into the breeze, and tossed the coin I was holding into the fountain.
I didn't need wishes anymore. I had everything I could possibly need right here.
AN: So, Casa Bonita really does exist, and it really is as cheesily amazing as the story says (or probably even more so!) It is a landmark for anyone that grew up in or around Denver, and also made it onto an episode of South Park.
If you're interested in learning more, go visit www . casabonitadenver . com
Thanks to our lovely hosts for putting on this contest – what a fantastic idea!