Reverend Tom Daniels had presided over many wedding ceremonies, including those of four other human-vampire couples.
He’d seen weddings with a lot more fanfare and decorations than the one he was now officiating, some of them approaching garishness in taste-level. But he could not remember a couple who looked at each other quite the way that Eric Northman looked at Sookie Stackhouse—and vice versa.
They were—quite literally—swept away in each other, despite the fact that they’d been together for several years and had already been married according to vampire custom. Without a doubt—they radiated love, and Tom was cognizant enough of that to pause before he jumped into the ceremony.
He smiled. The atypical couple before him had compelled him write an atypical service. In speaking to them, Tom had picked up that both Eric and Sookie had deep and complex spiritual beliefs. Tom didn’t fool himself into thinking that those beliefs were strictly Christian in nature either. After all, Eric had been a Viking during his human life. And the vampire had seen many cultures and had been exposed to many belief systems. Even though Sookie’s upbringing had obviously been more traditionally Christian, Tom sensed something “other” about her that he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
Having had quite a bit of interaction with vampires over the years, Tom had picked up on a few things, including the fact that vampires were not the only supernatural creatures out there. This had been confirmed to him several months earlier when one Werewolf member of his congregation had let his secret out of the bag. He had sought out Tom’s advice over whether he should marry a human, whom he loved. He’d told her about his dual-nature, and she’d accepted him, but the problem was that Were-human matches often didn’t produce Were children, and his parents were pressuring him to marry another Were in order to carry on the bloodline.
After the young Were had confided in him, Tom found that he wasn’t really all that surprised to find that vampires weren’t the only supernatural beings. After all, his belief in God didn’t limit Him or Her to the creation of only one type of intelligent being. And his belief in a fair God didn’t limit Him or Her to the acceptance of only one type of being. That was a lesson that Tom had needed to learn the hard way, but it was one that had stuck.
Tom looked out over the unique congregation before him—for, indeed, he could sense that there were many different kinds of beings in attendance. The little doctor was especially “different.” Tom was proud to be the one to bind Eric and Sookie in the “human” tradition—a tradition that he was glad to see branching out to include other types of beings, as well as the humans who had once been excluded from the act.
Tom took a deep breath and spoke. “On behalf of Eric and Sookie, it is my honor to welcome everyone—family and friends and those important in supporting the kind of love that we are here to celebrate today. Yet as I stand before you, I recognize that many of you, especially vampires, will not see why I am needed here. Sookie and Eric have already pledged to each other, so they are married according to vampire tradition, but it is their intention to bind themselves together in the tradition of Sookie’s family as well. It is their intention to declare that they are not simply married in the vampire world or the human world, but in the world that holds and nurtures all beings.”
He paused and sighed, “There are still many people who would stand in the way of Eric and Sookie getting married today; there are protesters outside this church even as I speak, and I am saddened by the things that they say against vampires and humans marrying. Many of the signs that I saw outside tonight said that in order to ‘protect the sanctity of marriage,’ vampires should not be allowed to marry humans.”
Tom shook his head. “I was upset to see these people marring Eric and Sookie’s special day outside of this house of tolerance―of peace. But then my own wife, Joann, pointed out the irony of the signs to me, for truly we are here tonight to do exactly what they say to do; we are here to protect the sanctity of marriage.
“I have performed the marriage ceremonies for several vampire-human couples, and I have asked each couple if there is a plan to turn the human into a vampire in the future. In all cases, the answer has been, ‘yes,’ and Eric and Sookie do not mind me telling you that they are no exception to this. One day, Sookie does plan to be a vampire—to live lifetimes with her husband.”
There was only a small gasp among the humans in attendance who hadn’t known that Sookie intended to join Eric as a vampire one day. Unsurprised, the supernatural beings all took the information in stride. Of course, Sookie and Eric’s family and closest friends already knew that she would be able to wait a very long time before becoming a vampire unless there was some calamity that forced Eric to turn her sooner. To be safe, the humans who knew of Sookie’s Fae heritage, such as the Bellefleurs, had been glamoured not to talk about it to outsiders, but Sookie had not wanted to hide what she was anymore—at least not with those she cared about.
Tom waited for a moment before he went on. “I also asked each vampire-human couple if they planned to divorce after a few decades or centuries so that they could experience other things and people throughout their long lives. In all cases, the answer was, ‘No.’”
He took a deep breath. “Standing before you now, it is clear to me that these couples—just like Eric and Sookie—are not threatening the sanctity of marriage. They are celebrating its sacredness, for they are committing to each other beyond the usual conception of ‘til death do us part.’ They are stepping into the covenant of marriage, knowing that they might not die for a very, very long time. But they all intend to fulfill the sacred vows they make—not just for one lifetime, but for many. In today’s world, where it is only the unusual marriage that stands the test of time, Eric and Sookie aim to protect the sanctity of marriage throughout all of their days.
“I am not here to preach to you of Christianity—though I am a Christian. Eric remembers a religious tradition that was very different from the one I believe in. He remembers Christian missionaries who were just beginning to push toward the place where he lived his human life. He remembers many other religions too. And it is not my place to say what belief-system is wholly right. I would not limit God’s scope or power by limiting God to one people, one sect, one group, or one time, for that would take away from the God that I believe in. And—that—I would never do.
“However, in the Christian Old Testament and in the Judaic Bible, there is a passage that I thought of as I got to know Sookie and Eric.
“Ecclesiastes, chapter 4 says this:
Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.”
Reverend Daniels paused. “I believe that Eric and Sookie are indicative of the two from this passage. They lift each other when they fall. They bolster each other when they sway. They strengthen each other to withstand the very test of time.”
Even though Hunter didn’t understand all of the words Reverend Daniels was sayin’, he couldn’t keep the smile off of his face as his mamma and daddy were getting married. Oh—he knew that they were already vampire married, and they had their cool bond too, but he was still excited to see everyone dressed up. And he liked being a big part of what was happening.
As Hunter thumbed the ring on his left index finger, a ring that Daddy said they would replace as he got bigger and bigger, he didn’t—couldn’t—conceptualize the importance of his last five years in helping to ease the pain of his first five. But he felt the effects.
Hunter still thought about his first father sometimes, though he no longer felt sad and small and scared when he did. Long ago, Hunter had started to think of his first father as Remy, and he now knew that Remy’s thoughts wouldn’t hurt him again. Daddy had once told him that Remy was far away and that he wasn’t going to come looking for Hunter—not ever. And that thought had made Hunter feel safe.
To be fair, Hunter did have a few good memories with Remy in them—one day in particular. Remy had gotten him a new yellow car, and Remy and he had rolled it around the kitchen floor one morning. Hunter remembered that the floor had been white and cool, and Remy had laughed and made funny revving noises with the car. Hunter had laughed too, and since—by then—he knew better than to comment about people’s thoughts, he didn’t say anything about the fact that Remy was so happy because he’d gotten a raise at work. Hunter remembered being happy that Remy was happy. But Hunter made sure he didn’t speak much at all when they were playing because he didn’t want to accidentally respond to one of Remy’s thoughts. However, when Remy’s thoughts had told Hunter that he was getting tired of playing with the cars, Hunter pretended that he needed to potty so that Remy wouldn’t have to keep playing when he didn’t want to. Remy had made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for their lunch, and Hunter had pretended to take a nap so that Remy would think he was a good boy. Remy and he had watched a movie called Toy Story, and Remy had tucked him in that night. It had been a good day.
His daddy—his real one—didn’t do things like play with toy cars, but what he did do was so much better.
Despite his young age, Hunter knew how to distinguish between the isolated good moments he had with Remy and the everyday love, understanding, and comfort he got from his real daddy. Significantly, Hunter had never been afraid of his real daddy—even though he knew that he was a tough vampire. On the contrary, Hunter had been afraid of Remy, especially in the last year he’d been with him—once his first mom started to come around. That’s when Hunter had started hearing Remy thinking about wanting his first mom to take him away. That’s when Hunter had started hearing that Remy wanted to hit him in the head. Remy hadn’t liked the fact that Hunter could read people’s thoughts—had wondered if he could literally beat the ability out of the boy. Remy had never hit Hunter like that, though the little boy had gotten spankings when he’d slipped up and spoken of others’ thoughts—until Hunter had learned once and for all that it was better simply not to speak at all.
After talking to his mamma about it one day, Hunter realized that the thoughts that Remy was most afraid of him saying out loud were his own. And that’s because Remy’s thoughts were bad—not Hunter’s ability. It had been quite the epiphany for the little boy.
Hunter smiled as he looked up at his mamma, who was so beautiful. She was holding Daddy’s hand, and Hunter felt the same warmness he experienced each time he was with them both. He knew why he felt that warmth because of talking to his parents about it. He felt it because they were a family, and it was a family’s job to make each other happy.
And Hunter was happy.
Hunter wouldn’t have been able to understand what truly set him apart from many other children, however. After all, a lot of children lived happy lives. What made Hunter different from most was that he intuited the significance of that happiness and the need to be thankful for it. He’d spent five years without it, and five years with it. And—when he’d first come to live with his daddy—he’d been afraid that he would lose all that he’d found. He’d been afraid again when he thought that he might have to leave his daddy and go live with his first mom in Faerie.
But then when his daddy had fixed things so that he wouldn’t have to go back to someone with whom he wasn’t happy, Hunter began to overcome the fear that his happiness would be stripped away from him. Even when his daddy and mamma had been threatened during that horrible time when the bad vampire took his daddy, Hunter wasn’t as scared as he might have been.
Something inside of Hunter knew that his real daddy would never leave him on purpose—despite the fact that Remy wanted nothing more than to leave him in the end. Something inside of him knew that his mamma would come home and love him with her whole heart and head—even though his first mom hadn’t ever done that.
Yes. Hunter had been scared during that time, but he’d not had to face his worst fear—the fear of being abandoned.
The fear of being abandoned because he was not loved.
Hunter was not naïve. He’d known—even then—that his daddy and mamma could die. But that was different than being abandoned. That was different than not being loved. It was so different to him.
Now, he knew that no matter what happened, his daddy and his mamma would love him. It didn’t matter to them that he wasn’t a “normal” person. In fact, they weren’t “normal” either! On the other hand, it did still matter to his first mom—to Hadley. Somehow—despite the fact that she was living in the fairy world and was around telepaths all the time and despite the fact that baby Adele was a telepath—part of her still wished that Hunter could be a “normal” human boy. Those thoughts were fleeting, and Hadley didn’t like thinking them, but Hunter had heard them nonetheless. Even Grandpa Niall’s blocking couldn’t stop them from slipping to him.
Hunter had decided to talk to Daddy about them, instead of to Mamma. Hunter knew that his mamma worked real hard to make sure that he didn’t hear bad things from his first mom’s head, and he didn’t want his mamma to be hurt. When his daddy and he had talked about Hadley, his daddy had given him a piece of advice. He’d told him that he could choose to stop listening to Hadley’s thoughts—to put a shield around his own mind to avoid them. His daddy had reminded him that his first mom did love him the best she knew how, but he’d also said that it wasn’t as much as Hunter deserved.
Hunter had liked his daddy’s idea, and he stopped “listening” to his first mom.
Hunter still called Hadley, “Mom,” but in his heart, she stopped being that after he’d heard her fleeting thoughts several times. She stopped being it because Hunter had come to know what a real mother thought like.
Oh—his mamma sometimes got frustrated with him when he didn’t put his dirty clothes into the hamper—just like she got mad at Daddy for failing to do the same thing. Hunter had to stifle a giggle as he thought about all the times Mamma had pointed he and Daddy upstairs to clean up their messes. She liked to mutter about the fact that even between the two of them, they couldn’t figure out how to make a dirty sock land into the hamper. But Hunter knew from her head that she was half-joking.
And there were times when he’d get frustrated with his mamma when he wanted to swim and play with Emma and she wanted him to do some chores, but, no matter what, Hunter always felt her love—lots and lots of it. She felt like his mamma. Hadley felt like a woman who cared about him, but there was a distance there—now because of both Hadley and Hunter.
Hunter shook himself from his thoughts and looked at his mamma again; she looked even prettier than his Emma—though he knew he wouldn’t be tellin’ Emma that. Even at ten years old, Hunter understood that that would be a mistake.
Hunter stood up as straight and tall as he could. He was proud that both his mamma and daddy had made him their best man.
Being a best man had been a lot of work, but it had been lots of fun too! He’d gotten to help his mamma pick out all the decorations for the church. He’d gotten to help his daddy build the special table and candle holders. And he’d even learned to write runes into the wood. His daddy had told him the story of the runes every time they’d worked on them, but Hunter never got tired of hearing his mamma and daddy’s story.
He’d also gotten to help Uncle Claude and Uncle Jesus pick out the decorations and lights for the big reception party that was gonna happen at his house after the wedding. In fact, with Bubba and Duncan’s help, they’d strung up most of the lights two nights before since the vampires were so fast at doing it. But Mamma and Daddy hadn’t gotten to see them all lit up yet.
That afternoon, he’d helped his Uncles Jason and Lala set up tables for the party. And he’d gotten to see the big wedding cake that his mamma let him help pick out too. It was really pretty, and Mamma and he had snuck a taste of the icing under some of the flowers that decorated it. He couldn’t wait for more!
Scott and some of his crew had built a dance floor in their yard, at one end of a huge tent they’d set up. Since it was gonna be cold that night, Alcide, Henry, and Jarod had set up some heaters so that everyone would stay warm. Hunter had helped with that too. He was real glad about the heaters—‘cause his Emma had on short sleeves. He wondered if she would like to wear his coat during the party. She had longer arms than he did, but he was sure it would help to keep her warm anyway.
Hunter grinned. He’d got to be the first one to dance on the dance floor that afternoon—with his mamma. His daddy had taught him how the week before, and he was lookin’ forward to dancin’ with Emma, but dancin’ with his mamma had been great too!
Hunter had seen a lot of weddings on T.V. or in movies, so he knew that they were important.
He also knew that his mamma and daddy looked really, really happy, and his Emma looked pretty too. Hunter’s cheeks turned a little red as he remembered her giving him a kiss on them earlier that evening.
He grinned even wider, deciding that he liked weddings very much.