Reverend Tom Daniels looked around the auditorium as he continued the service. “In truth, it is difficult to find adequate words to explain the kind of love I feel from the couple who is here before us. Perhaps, Madeline L’Engle sums things up best in “The Irrational Season” when she shares that marriage is a risk and a freedom—but, above all else, a participation. She says this:
But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. . . . It is indeed a fearful gamble . . . . Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature. To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take . . . . If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. . . . It takes a lifetime to learn another person . . . . When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling.”
Tom stopped for a moment as he let those in attendance take in the words he’d spoken. “L’Engle speaks of ‘humans’ and of a single ‘lifetime,’ yet how much more profound are her words when applied to Eric and Sookie? They are taking the risk to love each other longer than a single lifetime. They are committing to risk themselves to make something new—something beyond what they each were before. In fact, I believe that Eric and Sookie have already formed the kind of ‘co-creation’ that L’Engle talks about—a beautiful comingling of hearts and souls. They risked themselves, only to find their true selves in each other.”
Tom chuckled. “I have learned enough about vampires through the years to know that ‘possession’—the impulse to own someone—is not simply a concept, but a compulsion. And Eric seems especially,” he paused, “prone to this impulse where Sookie is concerned.”
There was a bit of sniggering among those who’d gathered, especially those who knew Eric well. Indeed, possessing Sookie was a compulsion to him.
Tom chuckled again. “In speaking with Eric and Sookie, I learned that they both share this compulsion to possess one another, but at the same time, I recognized that they are equal partners—participants—in their union. They own each other and set each other free at the same time; thus, in the paradox they have created, they both illustrate L’Engle’s words and contradict them. That is because they go beyond them.”
Sookie tried to listen to Reverend Daniel’s words. She really, really tried. They were beautiful and poetic and everything that she and Eric could have hoped for, but she kept getting distracted inside her mate’s depthless eyes.
At first, she lamented the fact that she was “missing” huge chunks of her own wedding, but then she remembered that Molly had set up equipment that was filming the ceremony. So she smiled, let go, and sank into the pools of Eric’s eyes as if they were quicksand. She could watch their wedding later. For now, she wanted to feel it with her mate.
Their pledging had taken only moments, and though Bubba’s serenade had been benediction enough at the time, she’d also been apprehensive that night because of Bill’s presence and his looming threat over them.
Now she could simply enjoy the moment.
Eric found that he could not hear Reverend Daniels after a while. His thousand-year-old mind had honed the art of multitasking over the years, and he had wanted to catalogue every single moment and every single word of this night so that he could replay it again and again throughout the eternity he hoped to spend with his mate. But the moment he took Sookie’s hand, he was lost—lost in the eyes and in the touch of his bonded one.
Tom looked at the couple before him. He’d seen all manner of people get married, and he’d conducted many kinds of ceremonies—some where religion was the main component and some where the couple did not care to hear of God at all. Over time, Tom had learned not to judge the people whose wedding ceremonies he performed; as a minister of a wedding, he came to feel that it was his duty to discover a bit about the couple and to perform the wedding for them—rather than for himself or an agenda of his own.
But most couples shared certain qualities. For instance, most of the time, nerves and excitement prevented a couple from taking in all of Tom’s words, but generally the couple would at least look at him as he spoke—though their eyes were often a bit glazed over. He chuckled to himself. He might as well have been in a different room—or world—for all Sookie and Eric could see. Their eyes were on each other, and he doubted very much that they had heard a word that he’d spoken.
Still, Tom soldiered on with an even deeper smile etched into his distinguished face. “To consecrate this marriage, I would like to offer up a prayer that the covenant that Sookie and Eric are making with each other tonight will add to what they already have. I pray that they will continue to find joy and peace with their family and friends during their long lives.”
He smiled at the couple, who were still in their own world. “Eric and Sookie?” He waited for a moment. “Eric, Sookie,” he said more loudly, “are you two with me?” He chuckled when they still didn’t look at him. Tom saw that Eric and Sookie’s son, Hunter, was looking up at him and giggling. He winked at the little boy.
Thankfully, Jesus and Claude stepped in and nudged the couple into awareness.
Niall and Britomart watched as Claude prodded Sookie a bit so that she could pay attention to what the minister was saying. She’d obviously been trapped inside of the gaze of her beloved. A similar nudging occurred moments later as Jesus got Eric’s attention and then subtly pointed to the waiting minister.
“Such love,” Britomart whispered. “Such beauty.”
Niall nodded and gripped his sister’s hand. “Yes,” he agreed. “They are both lost in the other.”
He sighed heavily. “It is such a shame that I have not been able to find a way for them to have a child of their own to carry them into the future farther than even they could travel.”
Britomart scoffed, “They need no other child than Hunter. He is theirs now, more even than he is your other great-granddaughter’s child. And I see a wonderful and long life for the boy. He will have several children with his lovely Emma, and those children will have children, and so on. And each of these generations will love and be loved by Eric and Sookie in turn.”
“But they will lose them,” Niall said somberly. “All of them.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “But they will have them. And they will have love enough for them all.”
Resigned, Niall nodded. “I had hoped that the ritual of the Sky Fae or the daggers would unlock something in her or him, something which would allow her to conceive.”
They were silent for a moment as they listened to the part-demon brujo deliver a reading in honor of Eric and Sookie.
Britomart sighed. “Even I cannot see into the realms of those who have died and moved on into the next plane of existence. However, I have many hopes about the next state of existence—what the Fae call the Summerlands, what the humans call heaven.” She paused. “There, I believe that Eric and Sookie’s souls will mix as they cannot here, and perhaps something brand new will be made—a child of another level of existence. Perhaps, my Artegal and I will have such a child as well,” she added wistfully. She glanced at her brother. “You of all people should know that it is unwise to doubt the possibilities in what we cannot know.”
Niall squeezed her hand again. In that moment, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that his time with his sister was limited. Something inside of him discerned that she would be leaving him at the dawn, but he held his tears inside, though his throat ached with the rising of his grief. “I hope to know you in such an after-world, dear Tanah,” he said quietly. “I promise to make a good uncle to your and Artegal’s children. And I will never doubt the possibilities where you are concerned.”
She smiled. “It will be a new adventure for me—finally. I cannot see into my own future anymore, but I am confident that I will be in it with my beloved.”
Niall looked at his sister seriously. “You haven’t seen yourself past this day, have you?”
She shook her head. “No. All of the threads that placed me in this realm beyond this day disappeared the moment Russell Edgington died.” She smiled a little. “That is why I have always thought that—if they could just make their way here—then I would be free to go and seek my love. I know it was a bit selfish of me,” she smirked, “but they also got much out of the arrangement.” She kept her eyes on Eric and Sookie.
Knowing the answer already, Niall spoke in a shaky voice. “Will you meet the sun at the upcoming dawn?”
Britomart nodded. “Yes. I will try. In the past, something has always held me back when I wanted to die, but I feel nothing holding me now, so I will try again.”
She saw a tear escape her brother’s eye. “Do not weep for me, dear brother,” she said in a low voice she knew that even Eric wouldn’t be able to hear—though she was certain that even if she yelled as loudly as she could, he wouldn’t hear her.
Her little cat’s concentration was again only on his beloved.
Britomart continued, “It is not really as if I am meeting the sun—after all. I will be meeting my sun—my beloved—in the light. You as well as anyone know that an end to one thing is simply the beginning of something new.”
She leaned her head against her brother’s shoulder as they listened to Eric and Sookie’s vows.
Tom smiled at Sookie and Eric as their eyes finally met his. “Sookie, Eric,” he said, “before you say your vows to each other, Jesus would like to read something that your family chose to exemplify your love for one another.
Sookie and Eric turned to Jesus. They’d not known about this part of the ceremony. They held each other’s hands tightly, but didn’t look at each other again, for fear that they would once more be swept away.
Jesus cleared his throat. “Eric, Sook,” he began as he looked down and winked at Hunter, “when we all decided to choose a reading for you, I thought it was going to take hours of negotiations and arguments.” He chuckled and gestured back toward Pam. “You know how opinionated some of us are.”
Eric and Sookie chuckled and nodded as Pam scoffed.
“But,” Jesus continued, “I was wrong. As soon as I shared my abuelita’s favorite poem with everyone, we all knew that it was the right poem for you. It was written by Pablo Neruda, and my abuelita always said that if she could write poetry, then these words would have been what she would have written to my abuelo. I never knew him, but my abuelita always said that he was,” he paused, “kind and unique.” Jesus knew that those who were aware of his demon heritage already knew that both of his grandfathers had demon blood.
Jesus took a deep breath. “This is “Sonnet XVII” from Neruda’s love sonnets.
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: Where “I” does not exist, nor “You”,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.”
As Jesus ended, Sookie was once more thankful for waterproof mascara as she whimpered so that the brujo could hear her. “Thank you. That was perfect, Jesus.”
Even as she struggled over whether to use the beautiful handkerchief tucked into her bouquet to wipe her tears, Eric reached out and began gently dabbing them with a handkerchief of his own.
She looked upward at her tall husband and smiled through her tears.
“See,” he whispered in a joking tone, “I can be taught.”
She sniffled, smiled, nodded, and then sniffled again as she noticed an entwined “E” and “S” embroidered into the handkerchief.
Following his beloved’s eyes, Eric whispered. “Terry told me that Arlene was good with this kind of needlework, and she has made us at least twenty as our wedding gift.” He gently trailed the soft fabric over her cheek. “She gave me one for today since I was certain I would need it.” He winked down at her, oblivious to everything else.
She stifled a sob.
He bent down to kiss her forehead as he wiped away the last of her tears. “You know I will always be a great fighter of your tears, min kära—even the happy ones.”
Sookie took a deep breath and let his strength encompass her. The words of the poem Jesus had read were true. She didn’t know another way to “be” now—except to be in love with Eric Northman. She knew that there was no “I” and no “you” between them anymore—just as there were no longer separate fairy and vampire bonds. They were simply a “them”—two pieces making one.
Tom spoke up before the couple once more became completely lost in each other. “Sookie and Eric, you have asked to share your own vows with one another. I believe you wished to go first, Sookie.”
She nodded and reached back to give her bouquet to Claude, who in turn handed it to Lafayette so that he would be ready for the next part of the ceremony.
Sookie grabbed Eric’s other hand and once more let herself sink into his gaze. She took a deep breath and let the strength he was sending her keep her freshly emerging tears at bay.
She and Eric had opted to speak their vows from their hearts instead of memorizing something. Thankfully, she found that her words flowed from her easily.
“The moment I met you, my life changed,” Sookie started—her voice much stronger and steadier than she’d expected to hear. “From the start, something drew me to you—something I tried, but failed, to resist. And I am so happy that I failed.” She took a deep breath. “You have given me love when I didn’t think I’d ever find it. You are already the best husband and mate for me.” She glanced at Hunter. “And you are the best father to our son. I vow that I am yours, and I will remain yours.” She smirked a little, “And in front of all these people, I take you as my husband, Eric Northman.”
Eric was growling before she’d even finished her words. And then his lips were on hers.
Sookie was thankful for smudge-proof lipstick—extremely thankful.
By the end of the night, all of Pam’s industrial-strength cosmetics would likely be on her Thanksgiving list.