As he ate his breakfast, Hunter quickly picked up that the mood in the house was ‘nervous,’ and everyone was actively trying to keep their thoughts from him—even as they were fussing over him. In fact, Uncle Jason and Amelia—the loudest thinkers—weren’t even around that day.
Hunter was suspicious, and he was even more determined to follow through with his plans.
He did his ‘morning’ lessons with Miranda, and then it was playtime. Hunter went up to go to the bathroom and on his way out, he enacted step one. He stopped to speak to Batanya.
“Batanya, is it true that you kinda work for me?” he asked her bravely.
The Britlingen chuckled uncharacteristically, “Yes―you could say that, Hunter.” She looked at him closely, “What do you have in mind, boss?”
Hunter brightened and then whispered. “I wanna talk to Jesus alone, but you know how everyone is being.”
Batanya laughed and then whispered back, “Yes―you are quite the popular one today. I will make this happen.”
Thirty minutes later, Batanya had indeed made it happen. She covertly helped Hunter plan and execute the one thing that would ensure him immediate alone-time with Jesus―a stomachache. After Hunter had complained of the ailment, Miranda brought him upstairs to rest and with a little acting―but not too much—Hunter had the Werelioness tracking down Jesus to check on him. Batanya winked at Hunter as soon as Miranda had left his room.
Hunter, who hadn’t yet mastered the art of the wink, blinked both of his eyes at his confederate and stifled a giggle. Unbeknownst to him, his right eyebrow had risen up just like Eric’s in that moment, a fact that also caused a slight chuckle from Batanya.
A couple of minutes later, Jesus came upstairs, and Batanya immediately closed the door behind him. Batanya gestured for Jesus to be quiet and spoke to him in a low voice that she knew Miranda wouldn’t pick up, especially since Godric was being helpfully fussy.
“My employer,” Batanya said gesturing toward Hunter, “wishes to discuss something with you, brujo. He has gone to pains to create this opportunity. Are you willing?”
Jesus couldn’t help but to smile at both Hunter’s stoic expression and Batanya’s formality. He nodded. “I am.”
“Good,” Batanya said quietly. “Tell the Were that Hunter is too sick for further lessons today, but do not make it sound too bad. We do not want Ludwig. Tell the lion that you will give the boy some medicine and watch over him to make sure the problem does not worsen. Encourage her to spend time with her child and her mate—outside of this house.”
Jesus chuckled again and winked at Hunter. Within minutes, Jesus had convinced Miranda that Hunter had a pretty bad―but not too bad bellyache. And he managed to clear the rest of the house too, encouraging Lafayette to take a nap in their room in the guesthouse and Miranda to enjoy some time with Godric and Jarod. Tara was conveniently at work that day; she was back to bartending part-time at Merlotte’s. And Amelia and Jason—as Hunter had intuited—were told by Miranda to stay away at least until nightfall.
Once Hunter had been declared ‘sick,’ Jesus volunteered to keep the child company. The brujo was very cunning in saying that the best thing for the boy would be sleep. And Jesus assured that after a bit of medicine and rest, Hunter would be fine that evening. Of course, everyone had believed Jesus since he was a nurse.
Jesus returned to Hunter’s room to find the boy sitting at his desk. The chair that Eric usually sat in and which generally stayed next to the bed had been placed near the desk―as if Hunter wanted to conduct a business meeting. As soon as Jesus was in the room, Batanya nodded, winked at Hunter, and left the room, promising to be right outside the door if Hunter needed assistance making the “brujo talk.”
Jesus didn’t know whether to chuckle or to be frightened by that remark as Hunter gestured formally to the chair; his brow was raised. In that moment, Jesus saw a little version of Eric, and he couldn’t help but to smile.
Jesus sat down next to the boy. “Hunt, you are so much like your Uncle Eric right now that it’s scary.”
“What do ya mean?” Hunter asked, tilting his head to the side.
Jesus smiled wider, “I have seen your Uncle Eric plan many things and use those around him as allies—as helpers—to make sure those plans all succeeded. He is very good at looking at a problem from all angles until he has figured out a way to solve it. I think you are good at this too, Hunt.”
Hunter smiled widely, “You really think so? You think I’m like Da―I mean Uncle Eric?” Hunter looked nervous at his almost-slip.
Jesus smiled knowingly. “I think that you are, Hunt. And I think that your Uncle Eric will like it very much that you’ve started to think of him as your daddy, but I will not tell him―okay? That is for you and you alone.”
Hunter looked relieved. “Thanks Jesus.”
“Now, Hunt, what do you need to talk to me about?”
Hunter looked a little nervous but took a deep breath and spoke, “I want you to tell me what’s wrong with Uncle Eric and why he’s,” Hunter paused, “sick.”
Jesus tilted his head to the side and sat back in his chair a bit, looking at Hunter. The brujo couldn’t help but to grin. “You know, Hunt, my grandmother once told me that I would learn a lot more if I observed the world rather than talking loudly in it. Do you know what she meant by that?”
Hunter shook his head.
Jesus explained, “She taught me to watch people so that I could learn from them. She taught me to listen to people in order to get to know their feelings. Do you know that I still do that―watch people to try to learn about them, to try to figure out what they need?”
Hunter nodded. “I know you like to help people, Jesus—especially Uncle Lala and my,” he paused and took a deep breath, “daddy.” He smiled as he tried out the word aloud.
Jesus also smiled and fought a tear from rising to his eye. “I do. And I have a theory, Hunt. I think that for the last week or so, you have been poking into people’s heads trying to figure out what is wrong with your daddy. Am I right?”
Hunter sheepishly nodded.
Jesus smiled wider. “I will keep that secret too, but why didn’t you just ask your daddy; I think he would tell you.”
Hunter shook his head, “I didn’t want him to be sadder.”
Jesus looked at Hunter proudly. “You are a good person, Hunt. And I will tell you all I can. But first―tell me what you have already found out.”
Hunter nodded. “I know that the mean fairy shot a light into daddy’s heart and made him cry. I thought he was sad because Aunt Sookie died, but now I don’t think that happened. But I know Uncle Eric is really sad. He tries not to let me see, but I do see. I think his bond with Aunt Sookie is,” Hunter paused, “sick. And I don’t want Uncle Eric to die.” At these words, Jesus could see Hunter’s eyes glistening.
Jesus got up and got the box of Kleenex from the bathroom. He sighed deeply, “I don’t think your daddy is going to die, but he is very sad, and you have figured out most of the reason. What did your daddy tell you about his bond with Aunt Sookie?”
Hunter dried his eyes and spoke in a soft voice. “Uncle Eric said that he made two bonds with Aunt Sookie. He said that one of them helped him to know that she was safe and okay, so he thought Mommy was probably safe and okay with her. When Daddy was sick last year, he said it was ‘cause Aunt Sookie was sick, but he was able to help make her better. He said it was like giving her medicine through the bond they have. And then he could feel her get all better.”
Jesus smiled slightly because Hunter was slipping between the name that he normally called Eric and the name that he felt for him. “That’s a good way to describe it. Even though Sookie and your Mommy are really far away, your daddy used to be able to feel that your Aunt Sookie was okay. It made him feel a lot better to know she was alright. But now he can’t feel that.”
“So the bond is sick again?” Hunter asked.
“Yes―that light you saw the bad fairy shoot at your daddy made it so that he can’t feel her in their bond. He is very sad because of this.”
“Because he loves Aunt Sookie so much?” Hunter asked.
“Yes,” Jesus said quietly. “He loves your Aunt Sookie more than I’ve ever seen anyone love someone else—except maybe for how much he loves you, Hunt.”
Hunter smiled but then nodded sadly as he thought for a minute. “I know he liked to hold her hand a whole lot. The night the fairies came and Uncle Eric and Aunt Sookie came to get Mommy and me, he held her hand the whole time they were at my house.”
“Yes,” Jesus said, recalling the night that Debbie had taken Sookie. Eric and Sookie had held their hands tightly gripped together that night too. “They both liked to hold each other’s hands.”
Hunter looked up at Jesus, “It was Aunt Sookie who always gave Daddy his goodnight kisses, wasn’t it? Even when it was just with their bond?”
Jesus smiled a little at both the innocence and perceptiveness of Hunter’s question, even as he felt tears burning in his own eyes again. “Yes, Hunt.”
A tear rolled down Hunter’s cheek. “Mommy used to think a lot about someone she loved named Sophie. She thought that her heart was gonna break in two because she missed Sophie. Is that gonna happen to Uncle Eric.”
Jesus shook his head, “I don’t know, Hunt. I know that your daddy is trying to be okay because he loves you so much, and he is hoping that the bad fairy’s magic will wear off so that he can feel his bond with your aunt Sookie again. But you’re right. He’s very sad, right now.”
Hunter nodded again. “Why is everyone hidin’ their thoughts from me today, Jesus? Did everyone know I was tryin’ to look at them?”
Jesus shook his head again. “No, Hunt. It’s just that your Uncle Eric is probably gonna be extra sad today, and we didn’t want you to worry.” Jesus laughed a little, “I should have guessed that you were already worried, Hunt, and I should have been the one talkin’ to you and not the other way around.”
Hunter returned a little smile and then asked, “Why is Uncle Eric gonna be sadder today?”
“It’s the anniversary of his vampire wedding with Sookie. Do you know what an anniversary is, Hunt?”
“Like a birthday kinda―right?”
“Yep,” Jesus confirmed.
Jesus watched as Hunter seemed to be thinking about and then deciding upon something, and then he looked at Jesus, “Thanks for talkin’ to me, Jesus.”
“You’re welcome, Hunt.”
Hunter looked at Jesus with determined brown eyes, “I’m gonna need your help for the next part of my plan.”