Canned Heat

I Write the Songs – CONTEST ENTRY 2012
TITLE: Canned Heat
CHARACTERS: Sookie, Pam, Amelia, Eric, Tara, Bill
DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to Charlaine Harris. Song and any lyrics mentioned from ‘Canned Heat’ belong to Jamiroquai.
PEN NAME: Jan of Arc
BETA NAME: Blakes Boogie
VIRGIN WRITER: NO
MULTI-CHAPTER: NO

TEASER: Pam cleared her throat and fished something out of her purse, walking over to the counter and placing some small flyers on it between the two waitresses. Sookie looked at Pam and picked them up. In her hand was a coupon for free entry to a club called DLNW and another coupon for five free drinks at the same club.

“DLNW? I think I’ve heard of this place.” Amelia mused.

“Dance like no-one’s watching!” Pam grinned. “It’s my club and you sound like you need a good night out.”

SUMMARY: Pam’s car breaks down just at the right time for her to change Sookie’s life, outlook and chances for the future. All these bad times she’s going through – just dance. AH OOC Rated T.

Canned Heat

Pam hated winter, inconveniences were always more … inconvenient when the weather was cold and damp. And having her car sluggishly chug and sputter along the road in the icy rain was definitely an inconvenience. She rocked in the driver’s seat, begging her vehicle to make it another twenty yards toward the diner at the side of the road. It was lashing down outside and the wind was howling, but she managed to make it to the small parking lot before her car completely died.

Inside the diner, Sookie was trying to ignore the fact her ex-boyfriend, Bill, was at a table with his wife. She was also trying to ignore Maxine Fortenberry commending the couple on staying together despite a home wrecker trying to break them up. Tears stung in Sookie’s eyes but the other waitress, Amelia, put a consoling arm around her at the counter.

“Don’t pay her any mind, Sookie. Everyone who’s anyone knows you had no idea he was married when you guys were together.”

Sookie nodded and tugged at the sleeves of her winter uniform as a cold draft came in through the door. When she turned around she gasped at the sight of the bedraggled and soaked woman standing, dripping, on to the welcome mat.

“Oh my stars, you’re soaked! Come in here and warm up, sweetie.”

Pam smiled at the waitress; she thought that she looked tired and frazzled. And as she followed Sookie to a table, Pam noticed her feet dragging a little.

“Thank you, I’m just here to wait for a ride. My car died and my brother is coming to pick me up. It’s wild out there; I’m sodden from just getting out of the car and walking to the door!”

Sookie nodded. “Oh, I know. You look like you’re halfway to a snowman you’re so cold…”

“Well, it would take one to know one.” Bill drawled as he walked past with a giggling Lorena in tow.

Closing her eyes, Sookie took a deep breath before smiling and continuing. “Would you like a coffee to warm you up Miss?”

“That would be lovely.”

Pam replied as she took off her coat, she noticed the way the dark haired waitress was glaring at the man’s back as he walked out. She felt bad for the blonde waitress that she had to deal with people like that. There was obviously history there and having your history in your place of work making your life more stressful wasn’t nice at all. Sookie brought a cup and a steaming pot of coffee over to Pam’s table, Pam felt warmer just looking at the cup as it filled with hot, brown liquid. She sat back and watched, as well as listening, as the two waitresses busied themselves in the quiet diner.

Amelia shook her head and took the full ketchup bottle from Sookie, screwing the lid on tight as she scowled at it. “You know he just comes in here to make your life hell. That man thinks his shit don’t stink and his kooky Missus ain’t much better.”

“I know Amelia.” Sookie sighed. “But trying to find another job is practically impossible, so I need to put up with him in here and Lorena in church every Sunday … I can’t afford to just quit.”

“I still don’t understand why you keep going to church, especially the same church where she’s got all the biddies thinking you’re some kind of man-stealing harlot.”

“It’s my Gran’s church, it’s my church. That Pastor baptized me; he married my Mom and Dad. He has faith in me and God will give me the strength to get through all this.”

“Honey, God ain’t paying for your new boiler and God let’s dirt bags like Bill get away with that crap every minute of every day. You’re working yourself to the bone and I can see how stressed you are with all Bill’s nastiness.”

“I am tired and I am stressed, but I’ll get through it. I have to.”

Pam cleared her throat and fished something out of her purse, walking over to the counter and placing some small flyers on it between the two waitresses. Sookie looked at Pam and picked them up. In her hand was a coupon for free entry to a club called DLNW and another coupon for five free drinks at the same club.

“DLNW? I think I’ve heard of this place.” Amelia mused.

“Dance like no-one’s watching!” Pam grinned. “It’s my club and you sound like you need a good night out.”

“Sookie, that’s a great idea! When was the last time you went out and did something just for you?”

“I don’t know.” Sookie shook her head. “Thank you for these, but I doubt I’ll use them. I don’t have anything suitable for wearing to a fancy club.”

“It’s not a fancy club, it’s a dance club. A place where you go to dance, what you wear doesn’t matter as long as you’re comfortable in it.”

They all turned as the door opened again, making them shiver when the cold air circulated the diner. The local Sherriff was standing there, which made Sookie and Amelia nervous.

“Afternoon, Sherriff Northman. Is there a problem?” Amelia smiled a little too brightly.

“No problems.” Eric smiled warmly at the waitresses. “I’m just here to give my sister a ride to work.”

Pam put a hand on Sookie’s shoulder. “I really hope you’ll use those. Think of them as a ticket to the best therapy for a stressful life.”

Eric tipped his hat to the waitresses and smiled at them before following Pam out of the door. Sookie turned to Amelia when she made a sighing sound, she rolled her eyes at the colleague’s starry eyed expression.

“Oh come on, Sookie! The guy is hot, you can’t deny that.”

“No, I can’t. But he’s the Sherriff; he’s probably married with a mess of rug rats.” Sookie shrugged.

Amelia’s eyes bugged out and her mouth gaped. “I know you try to avoid the town gossip, but are you seriously unaware that he’s the most eligible bachelor in Bon Temps? Hell, Dawn and Maudette have both been fined for wasting police time trying to get arrested by him!”

“Really? Wow, that’s pretty desperate.”

Sookie looked down at the coupons in her hand. She rubbed at the tense muscles of her neck as she read the neon pink writing.

Dance your blues away? That sounds a little too simple but when I’ve got free entry and a free drinks voucher it would seem silly to throw them away.

~/*v*\~

Pam got into Eric’s cruiser, pushing her wet hair out of her eyes and curling her lip at the thought of how awful she must look. Eric chuckled at his sister and pulled onto the road.

“Are those coupons new? I’ve never seen anyone with them before.”

“They’re not new; I’m just … select about who I give them to. And that girl needs to blow off steam.”

Eric nodded. “She looks familiar; I think I’ve seen her around town. She looks like Jason Stackhouse a little, probably his sister, Sookie.”

Pam shrugged. “I’ve no idea but she seems to be having a hard time, so I thought she might need a good night out.”

“I hear everything that goes on in this town, if that is Sookie – then she definitely needs to blow off steam. I got called to a bar a while back, arrested her brother for starting a fight with the local rich guy. From what I can gather, this Bill guy moved to town and strung her along even though he was married. When his wife rolled into town it was the Stackhouse girl who bore the brunt of the gossip. Nasty gossip at that, I let the brother go with a warning.”

“Bar brawlers squeezing some compassion out of you? You must be going soft.” Pam chuckled.

Eric sighed. “It’s not that, I just know how I’d react if a guy was boasting about ruining your reputation in a bar. Besides, something about that Bill guy rubs me up the wrong way.”

“Yeah, well the little I saw rubbed me up the wrong way too. Will you be coming to the club tonight?”

“It’s my night off – would I go anywhere else to shake off my work day and spin some turntables?” Eric grinned.

~/*v*\~

Sookie opened the door of her closet and sat down on the floor. She had some nice dresses that she considered, but for them she’d need to wear heels. Heels weren’t conductive to dancing all night, in Sookie’s opinion. She decided on jeans, boots with a small block heel and a t-shirt – if other people waiting outside the club were all dressed up then she could go back home and no-one would be any wiser.

DLNW was on the other side of Bon Temps from where she lived, Sookie felt a little out of touch that a club had opened in their sleepy hamlet and she had no idea it was there. But she’d had good reason to avoid the usual places one would pick up such information. Not that anyone who used to share information with her did so anymore. The address of DLNW was on the flyer, but anyone with eyes would be able to find it with the bright lights turning the old, grey building into a beacon.

As she pulled into the parking lot, a few of the people in the crowd turned to look in her direction. Sookie was relieved to realize she didn’t recognize any of them. There was quite a queue waiting for entry and Sookie was starting to feel like, maybe, she shouldn’t have come. The people in the queue looked to be in groups, no-one else seemed to be alone. She leaned her head on the steering wheel, wondering what on earth made her think she had the guts to go, alone, to a dance club when she struggled to find the courage to walk into the Grabbit Kwik these days.

Her fingers were on the car key, ready to start the engine again and drive back to her cozy farmhouse when she was startled by someone tapping on the passenger side window. Her eyes widened as she recognized the Sherriff, her mind whirled wondering if she had a tail light out or maybe she’d ran a red light further back. Taking a deep breath, she got out of the car and got ready to find out what she had done wrong.

“Hi, you work at Merlotte’s diner – right?” Eric smiled as he addressed her; it was then that she noticed he was wearing jeans and a black t-shirt – not his uniform.

“Ah … yes.”

“Pam will be happy you’ve decided to use those coupons she gave you. I’m about to head in myself, might as well go in together.”

“Okay.” Sookie slowly locked her car and walked over to Eric with her hand extended. “We haven’t really been introduced, I’m Sookie Stackhouse.”

Eric took her hand lightly and shook twice before letting go. “Nice to meet you, I’m Eric Northman – your friendly neighborhood Sherriff. I’m off duty tonight though.”

Sookie found Eric’s grin infectious and smiled all the way to the front door, where they bypassed the queue, much to the disappointment of those waiting. Eric turned and winked at Sookie, telling her that she shouldn’t worry about them because she had the law on her side. When they got inside, Sookie handed her free entry coupon to the man in the little booth and followed Eric into a small bar area. Eric mentioned something about letting the DJ take his break, Sookie was confused and simply nodded when Eric said he would come and find her later.

As she looked around, her trepidation about how she was dressed was calmed. It seemed everyone was wearing similar outfits to hers, all comfortable clothes that someone could dance all night in. The small bar that she had come in to was decorated in bubblegum pink and lime green with a couple of sofas against the wall, framing the counter for the coat check. She turned around, toward the pounding bass, and spotted a sign that told everyone that tonight’s guest DJ was ‘The Lawman’ from 10pm until Midnight. Sookie smiled as she understood Eric’s earlier comment. Next to the sign was a set of heavy looking double doors with neon above them stating ‘To the dance floor!’ in a way that was more of a war cry than a set of directions.

Passing by the clubbers who were milling around in the bar area, Sookie pushed at the doors and stepped into a … well, a boogie wonderland would be the most obvious description. Everywhere she looked people were dancing, smiling, swaying and throwing their hands in the air like the song instructed. The beat of the music had Sookie nodding her head as she spotted another, larger, bar at the other side of the dance floor and squeezed through the crowd to get to it. There were a lot of people waiting to be served but Sookie fished the free drink coupon from her pocket and tried to stand somewhere noticeable. She was so intent on getting one of the bar staff’s attention, she didn’t recognize the girl who came up to stand next to her right away.

“Sookie Stackhouse, is that you?”

“Oh my stars! Tara, how are you? It’s been ages since I saw you!” Sookie raised her voice to be heard over the strains of Party Rock Anthem.

“I’ve been keepin’ a low profile.” Tara grinned; Sookie thought she looked happier than she had ever seen her. And Tara was a woman with plenty to be sad about. The last time Sookie had spoken to her, Tara looked drawn and worn out.

“You look amazing, practically glowing! What’s your secret?”

“This place.” Tara spun in a circle, as much as she could with her limited amount of space, and gestured around her. “I’ve been comin’ here a couple of times a week since it opened. Dancin’ my blues away and gettin’ my groove on!”

“Well it’s obviously done you a world of good! Who are you here with?”

“No-one, I come alone. It’s a thing.” Tara shrugged. “I feel like if I share it with folks they’ll want to join in and then it won’t be the same … y’know?”

Sookie nodded and turned to the bartender who was trying to get her attention. Once she’d gotten her bottle of water from him and had one of the free drink boxes crossed off on her coupon, she looked around while Tara was being served. That’s when she saw the poster. Could it be possible that, not only had coming here lifted her mood – but there was a new employment opportunity too? She took out her cell and saved the number from the poster so she could call about it later, it certainly seemed like the club could use some extra hands around.

One sip out of the plastic bottle was all Sookie got before Tara was dragging her onto the floor. While Tara spun off through the crowded floor, hopping and wiggling to the rhythm, Sookie was left amongst the heaving bodies. She closed her eyes and let the music lead her. Song after song, she swayed and shook her hips and stretched her dancing muscles. When she stopped to catch her breath and drink some water, she noticed her cheeks hurting from smiling so much.

“Thank you Lawman for a great set!”

Sookie frowned as the DJ made the announcement, it couldn’t be midnight already – could it? Sure enough, when she checked her watch it was the witching hour. She had completely lost track of time on the dance floor. And she liked it. She never wanted to stop. Sookie couldn’t remember a time when she’d felt so relaxed. She was still smiling when she felt someone tap her on the shoulder and turned to find Eric dancing next to her.

He grabbed her hand and spun her round, chuckling as her laughter could be heard above the music. At that moment, he’d never saw anything as beautiful. There really was nothing like seeing a sad woman find happiness – even if it was only for a night. They danced together for what seemed like minutes, but it was actually a couple of hours. When the lights came up, the whole club was filled with sighs and groans of disappointment.

Pam was surprised when she noticed Eric had been dancing with a woman – he tended to avoid projecting any kind of image that might make the town’s respect for his position falter. And a Sherriff who danced with a lot of different women wouldn’t get all that much respect from the older crowd if they heard about it. But she was even more surprised, pleasantly, to see that it was the waitress from the diner he had been dancing with. She made her way over to meet them as they made their way to the exit.

“Hello brother dearest, excellent stint on the turntables as always! And the stressed out waitress decided to take my advice – tonight is a good night!”

“It’s Sookie, I’m so glad you gave me those coupons, I had such a great time!” Sookie gushed. “And I took a note of the phone number about the bartenders you’re looking for – you’ll probably hear from me tomorrow.”

“Really? Come with me, I’ll get you an application form to take away.” Pam motioned for Sookie to follow her to the office. Once inside she extracted a sheet of paper from a drawer and handed it to Sookie. “We’ve been let down by so many people lately, folks calling in sick and never coming back … I think it’s the pressure. We’re a busy club and things can get too much for some.”

“Oh I’d prefer to be slammed with customers than being quiet.” Sookie took the form from Pam and smiled.

“You look like a different woman to the one I saw this afternoon. This is a good thing.” Pam smiled, feeling more of a sense of job satisfaction than usual. “But I should get to helping with the closing! You – scoot! I’ll see you when you come back for your interview.”

Sookie practically bounced from the office and towards the exit, but stopped in her tracks when she noticed Eric was still standing there. She was surprised but happy he was waiting for her. He offered his arm and Sookie took it without hesitation.

It seemed unbelievable to her that only that evening she’d felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders, but now she felt like she could float away with the lack of worry. But then, she had no reason to be carefree until she took a trip to the other side of town.

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