Belle invited Barbara and I over for dinner scant seconds after Barbara told her about our engagement and the resulting squealing ended. (Yes, squealing… best friends exhibiting joy over the good fortune of one or both results in squealing – quite amusing to hear from two grown women.) Barbara agreed without even looking at me, and the next night we were at Belle’s house for dinner as only a girl from Texas Hill Country could do it. It was to be very similar to what we ate at Conor’s housewarming, without the excess Ritual to the preparation. Not that there isn’t ritual to preparing good barbeque – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If someone claims their barbeque is simple and they aren’t lying – don’t eat it.
Despite my brief visits to Belle Starr’s address during the recent unpleasantness, I hadn’t actually been inside it. Much like its owner, it was a study in mixed origins – a significantly southwestern flavor to the décor, with more than a hint of Germanic heritage and current Norse proclivities scattered throughout.
Thankfully the Völsi wasn’t part of the decoration.
Belle greeted us both warmly when we arrived, and her hug for me was more than I expected. “Barb’s like a sister to me, hun – you’re all but family now.” She lowered her voice to more of a whisper. “And I hadn’t gotten to thank you for what you did for Pallas.” She smiled. “You don’t know what it took for me to get him to admit that he let you help him that way.”
I smiled back. “It was never a question. I was more surprised that he let me than anything else-”
I smiled as Pallas came in and took his proffered hand. I wasn’t sure if we’d ever get to the point where we could be friends, but over the last few months, we had at least become civil colleagues in supernatural matters. “Hey Pallas. How are you doing?”
“All good, all good. Hey, thanks for not going overboard the other day.”
I assumed this was typical Pallas backhanded gratitude for the healing, but some confusion obviously showed. He motioned to his arms, where the pink/white scars of his attempt to rescue Belle were still evident, and he raised an eyebrow suggestively. “Damian digs the scars, ya know?”
I coughed and blushed a bit, and Pallas’ smirk let me know he’d gotten the reaction he wanted. He can be such a jerk, but… “Well, I’m glad you can… enjoy your recovery.”
His raised eyebrow at my return banter evened the score.
After dinner we were sitting on the patio in Belle’s backyard. Barb and Belle were talking about location and who to invite, wedding party, and other details that I hadn’t even thought about thinking about the day after getting engaged. Pallas and I were sitting off to the side, and I could tell that he was barely holding in his laughter at my discomfort with the conversation.
Apparently no longer able to contain himself, he blurted out. “Who’s officiating?”
Not the question I was expecting. And up to that moment, I’d thought spit takes were just a comedic thing. For the record – beer hurts coming out of your nose.
After the giggling died down, he repeated the question. “Before the estrogen crew over there gets you dolled up in seafoam green ruffles – who is going to officiate the wedding?”
It was a serious question, but something about his manner told me that I was walking into something by taking it seriously. But… I couldn’t help it. I looked over at Barb, and she shrugged non-committally.
I started working through it verbally. “Well, as much as I’d like to do it in a Lutheran church, I don’t have a ‘home’ church, so that could get a little awkward. Not to mention that pretty much all of our friends are part of the supernatural community, which would make it a lot awkward.” There were nods all around, so I continued. “Connection-wise, the Reverend would be my next choice-”
Belle gaped. "Reverend… the Catholic priest?"
I nodded. “He’s actually a better choice than you might think. He’s in the know about the spooky side of things, so that would be less awkward…”
Pallas crowed, “…right until you factor in the whole Inquisition thing.”
I inclined my head, acknowledging that logical conclusion. “Beyond that… I’m not sure. I think we’re on the same page about wanting to get this done in a church,” I paused, waiting for Barb to nod affirmatively, “but neither one of us wants to exclude our friends.” I sighed and took a pull of my beer.
“I can do it.” Pallas stated simply.
I mentioned that beer hurts coming out of the nose, right?
Barbara scowled a bit this time. “That’s not funny, Pallas.”
Belle stepped in. “He’s serious, hun. He can do it.”
Barbara and I both gawked at her, and then back at Pallas. “Really?”
He finished pulling out his wallet, and fished out a laminated card. Without a word, he handed it to me.
I glanced at it incredulously. “Jedi Church?”
He nodded smugly. “Yep. Ordained and everything. I jumped through the hoops to get certified with the state a couple of years ago.”
I handed the card over to Barbara for her to look at. “But-”
He held up a hand with another card in it to forestall my comment, and then handed it to me. “Before you judge – read.”
I took the card with a heavy dose of skepticism and started to read the standard vows:
Do you Jedi ______ take Jedi _______ to be your husband, and do you promise…
As I read, I leaned over so Barbara could read with me. As we finished, we looked at each other. I could tell that it appealed to her carefully concealed inner geek, and to tell the truth, it appealed to mine as well. It didn’t hurt that the words were so close to some of what we’d talked about the day before. In forces of darkness and forces of light, wherever you may go and whatever you may face, do you promise to share your life…
She broke eye contact with me, and started shaking her head. “No, no… you want… need… a church wedding.”
I handed the card back to Pallas, still looking at her. “Why can’t we have both?”
She looked at me quizzically.
“The church wedding doesn’t have to be the public wedding,” I explained. “Frankly, the only eyes I care about in that circumstance are God’s, and that can be done small-scale. Then we could do something like this as the public ceremony that we can invite our friends to.”
She blinked, and behind her I saw Belle get a big grin on her face.
I looked back at Pallas and caught a small look of shock on his face that he quickly concealed. “Oh, so I’m going to be your wedding ‘beard,’ am I?” He tried to put a sneer in the accusation, but he was still too surprised that I was considering it.
I looked back at Barbara, and she had a little smile too. She winked at me so Pallas couldn’t see. “I don’t know about letting him do it, but I like the two-ceremony idea.”
Pallas snorted derisively. “Whatever. Just because I’d be better dressed than you…”
The conversation devolved a bit as Pallas and Barbara went after each other, and I followed Belle into her kitchen to clear some of the bottles and glasses. She nodded gratefully for the help, and smiled as she shook her head. “You really are an odd one, Matthew.”
I smiled back, acknowledging the compliment.