Chapter Forty: Gifted (Part One of the Wedding Arc)
“Jason,” I hiss at the newest member of my bloodline as he leans closer to the door. I knew this was a terrible idea!
“I can hear them,” Jason whispers, his eyes aglow with excitement, and he licks the door.
“Stop it,” I snap at him, rising from my seat and grabbing the fledgling vamp by the collar of his shirt. He looks down at me through narrowed eyes. “You have to get used to heartbeats. I knew two weeks wasn’t enough to acclimate you before the wedding!”
“How can you stand hearing that?” he practically moans and leans away from me and back to the door. “It’s like when Gran would ring the dinner bell to get us to come back inside-”
“Jason, focus,” I give him a firm shake. “I know there are more hearts beating in this hotel than you are used to, but you have to keep your composure.” Stackhouse has been mostly isolated with me at my condo. Sookie and Camilla visit daily for short bursts, acclimating our newest bundle of fangs to being around living, breathing, blood circulating creatures. However, working with his sister and her best friend only offers a modicum of training in his impulse control. It is easier for him to ignore cravings from his sister and Cammie. This is not only because he cares for the both of them, but mostly because they are Bonded to ancient vampires, and the aura they put off makes fledglings immediately recoil. It is a preservation instinct for youngsters to avoid Bonded humans.
“I thought I was doin’ just fine,” Jason mopes as he flops onto the hotel bed. “Hey, why don’t you come gimme a ride. Take my mind off it?” he teases and I roll my eyes.
“Closer to your big reception,” I tell him flatly.
Sophie-Anne decided to host Jason’s ‘Coming Out’ party. I don’t think Stackhouse realized what a big deal it was for Godric to create another Child after being Bonded, but it has taken our world by surprise. After all, Godric created only one progeny in two thousand years. Suddenly he has Bonded and created a second progeny in less than a single year. It turned many heads, and most will probably be surprised to find how… Unimpressive Jason is by comparison. True, my new ‘Uncle’ is very handsome- beautiful even, but he’s also not promising as a vampire. In two weeks he has not been able to initiate even the most simple of glamours. That is rarely a good sign.
The reality is, Jason’s turning has raised more than a few eyebrows. Not just because it is uncommon for vampires to create new progeny after being Bonded, but because Godric has resigned his post as Sheriff of Area Nine in Texas, transferred to a new Queendom, Bonded, and effectively planted his entire bloodline in a single city. If I were Sophie-Anne, I would be suspicious of an overthrow, which is more than likely why she extended her offer to host the wedding. Sookie was very wise not to let her brother come to this event as a mortal.
“Pam,” Jason sits up suddenly, “I’m seriously hungry, and those heartbeats are drivin’ me nuts,” he declares.
“You are thirsty, and you are going to have to hold out a while longer. You rose too early again. We cannot risk being seen before sunset just yet,” I tell him firmly.
“Sorry, but I can’t help that I can’t stay dead for the entire day,” he mopes. “Besides, why do I have to die for the day and y’all don’t?”
Placing my hands on my hips I look up to the ceiling and groan, “We have explained this, Jason. Your body requires more blood to stay aware during the day. Too much blood to go unnoticed. After your first year is finished, you will only need to drink twice a day, and that will be less obvious. For now, you require blood every few hours, and that would double if you remained aware throughout the day as well.”
“Man, this sucks,” Jason grumbles as he flops back onto the bed and splays his arms outward. “How can you stand bein’ so cooped up?”
I shrug, “It is a patience one learns very quickly. However, in a short time, that will not be necessary for you. Only until our new status is known.”
“When will that be?” Jason asks me impatiently and I laugh.
“Probably shortly after the wedding, unless this turns out to be a set up, in which case our status will be known very soon.”
Jason crosses his fingers and gives me a cheeky smile, “Here’s hopin’ for a coup.”
All I can do is sigh. He fits in with our bloodline all too well.
Better than any food I ever ate! I think with a bit of ecstasy as blood fills my mouth. The girl in my arms is the result of yet another of Pam’s glamours. I just can’t turn it on!
Pam had ordered room service, and the girl in my arms was the unfortunate deliverer of a meal that won’t get ate.
So here I am, drinkin’ and sulkin’ at the same time until Pam flicks me in the forehead and makes me disengage the throat of my meal. I snarl at her a bit reflexively, but Pam grabs me by the short hairs and yanks my head away. She cleans and closes my my bite mark, showin’ me how it’s done for the umpteenth time, and then glamours the girl out of the room.
“I still can’t do it,” I grumble annoyedly.
“It is fine,” Pam tells me, but I’ve known her long enough now to hear the concern in her voice. For her, it comes out in this little tone that sounds almost like a question she knows the answer to.
“How can it be fine, Pam?” I whisper. “How am I s’pose to ever be on my own if I can’t glamour?”
“Some vampires are late bloomers,” Pam shrugs.
“Yeah? Who?” I sulk a bit more.
“Well, no one from our bloodline. We could all manage it within the first week, but to be fair, none of us are particularly good at it. Compton was a late bloomer, though, and now he is covetable for his glamouring skills,” Pam tells me reassuringly. “Perhaps there is a connection to early inabilities and later excellence?” she suggests.
“Shit, I don’t wanna be no expert at it, I just want to be competent,” I protest.
“Do not worry so much about it. You are pushing yourself too hard,” Pam tells me. “You are fighting your new instincts. You have to accept that you are vampire, Jason, not try and pretend nothing has changed.”
“But I don’t feel any different,” I tell her truthfully.
My friend frowns and sits down next to me on the bed. She takes my hand and lowers her voice as she says, “Close your eyes.” I do as she tells me. “Feel the stillness of your body. Do not breathe. Be still. Quiet. Dead, Jason. No heart beats within you. No air fuels your muscles. You are silence, you are stillness, and you are death.”
I feel like I’m bein’ lead through a guided meditation, but it don’t feel so hokey. For the first time since I rose a vampire, I think I just realized that I don’t need to breathe. Godric had put his hand over my mouth and nose when I was underground, but I’d still tried to breathe when I woke up. Aside from when I’ve died for the day, I’ve breathed like I normally did. Just now, ‘holding my breath’, I realize that there’s no panicked pounding of my heart as its oxygen supply is cut down. There’s no pulsing in my hears or strain in my lungs. They don’t contract like that time I’d dove too deep into our parents’ pond and thought I’d drown before I got another lungful of air.
“That’s right, Jason,” Pam’s voice sounds miles away. “Explore that new darkness. Don’t be afraid of it.”
‘I need that woman’s blood.’
My body lurches at the sudden, unwelcome thought that sprung into my head, and if I were still human I’d have chills. If that’s my new “inner vamp monologue”, I’m scared he might be an asshole!
“What is it?” Pam asks me curiously.
“I just had a thought I didn’t like,” I confess and stand up. “How much longer we gotta be in here? I think bein’ so cooped up is makin’ my imagination run wild.”
“I suppose we can leave in another hour or so,” Pam tells me indulgently.
“So, you gonna take my mind offa stuff?” I ask with a wink and recline onto the bed. Pam snorts and rolls her eyes, but hikes up her skirt as she puts a knee into the mattress. I start undoin’ my pants and soon I’m getting my promised ride. It’s exactly what I need to take my mind off the fact I’m gonna be meeting my first non-family vamps in two hours.
“You’re sure about this?” I ask, lookin’ at myself in the mirror for the tenth time in as many minutes. Pam’s gone and dressed me, and it’s the nicest suit I’ve ever wore. It’s a slate black, and Pam found me a tie that matches my eyes. She loosens the knot a little bit to give me a more ‘rakish’ quality that she thinks my accent demands. I don’t get it, but I learned a while ago not to argue with Pam about style.
Pam lets out a little huff, “Whom do you think you are speaking to, Stackhouse?”
“I know, I know,” I mumble, “I just don’t feel natural in suits. Y’know?”
“And what are you planning to wear to teach students in a few years?” she asks.
“Yeah, yeah,” I grumble.
Before she can start lecturin’ me on style and all that bullshit, a knock comes on the door. It’s Sookie, Eric, Godric and Cammie. They’re standin’ at the door lookin’ like runway models, and I know I’ll be hearin’ Pam berating me all night for wantin’ my plaid shirt and blue jeans.
I grab my suit jacket and throw it on as Pam and I follow the two couples out into the hotel hallway.
‘So that’s Northman’s Bonded. Smells delicious-‘
Whirlin’ ’round I look down the hallway, and feel my new fangs snap down and slice my lip. A snarl rips through my throat, and soon a big hand is smotherin’ my mouth.
“Calm,” Eric rumbles in my ear as he pulls me back against his chest. Sookie looks at me worriedly. “I know you are nervous, but you cannot be so jumpy.”
So jumpy? I wonder in distress. The vamp hearin’ is new to me, but I guess Eric’s accepted that he’s gotta hear unsavory things when people talk to themselves out loud. Whoever’s talkin’ shit like that ’bout my sister better watch it, though! Eric might be able to forgive a slip of the tongue, but I sure as hell ain’t!
“Jason, relax, and let your fangs retract. There is no danger in mine and Eric’s company. Never forget that,” Godric murmurs soothingly as Eric continues to press his hand into my mouth. Eventually my fangs snap back into their human lookin’ ones and Eric lets go of my mouth.
We make it to the lobby before the next incident when I hear someone thinkin’ they’ve seen way prettier ‘dolls’ than Cammie, and that she’s a lucky breather for cathin’ Godric’s eye. That makes my fists clench, and I know my ears would be bright red if I still circulated blood. Instead I just straighten my spine and force myself not to stomp.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Stackhouse?” Pam asks sharply as we wait for the valet to bring around the Escalade.
“It just sucks hearin’ everythin’,” I grumble in frustration, makin’ the vampires of the group nod slowly in understanding. When the car pulls up and we all pile in, I ask, “How do y’all stand it?”
“You will learn to block it out. It is very similar to what your sister experiences. Eventually it becomes white noise. You will soon learn to appreciate more isolated dwellings to have your peace and quiet,” Eric tells me as he sits in the back row seats with my sister while Godric and Cammie take the middle.
“How long will the white noise take?” I ask jokingly.
“Oh, a few months,” Pam tells me with a shrug. “Eventually you’ll only catch yourself listening to things that catch your attention.”
“Like what?” I wonder out loud.
“Threats,” Eric answers.
“Political shifts,” Godric replies.
“Sales,” Pam tells me.
I give my friend a sideways glance and sigh. I can’t tell if she’s serious or not about her answer. “So who all’s gonna be at this shindig?”
“Shindig?” Pam sneers.
“Hootenanny?” Sookie offers and I grin.
“Surely it’s a hoedown,” Cammie pipes in and I can’t stop from grinnin’.
“It is not a hoedown,” Pam snaps.
“And don’t call me Shirley,” Sookie, Cammie and I all reply. We’d all watched Airplane! last night after we arrived at the hotel.
Deep down, all three of us really are still kids. I gotta give Godric, Eric and Pam some props bringin’ all three of us into their world so close together. It can’t be easy watchin’ out for three people all the time, and that’s exactly what they gotta do. I’m real proud of Sookie. She’s accepted the fact that Eric’s gonna worry about her all the time… Cammie makes me worry though. After the way her new life began, she has a habit of undervaluing threats. She’s been through some bad shit, and a lot of real dangers pale in comparison to her. That’s never a good combination.
Me? Well, I bounce back and forth. I get indignant a lot because I’ve had to pretend I’m a lot older than I am for so long. It’s hard lettin’ go of havin’ to always be the one who’s right, and takin’ it upon myself to get things done. I seen Eric handle situations that I was still puzzlin’ out, and man did he lay ’em out like a pro! Still, Sookie’s his weak spot, and he knows it. He knows that he can be overbearing and overprotective, but at least he knows. At least he’s got himself a good woman too. A woman who knows when to tell him to back off, and when to just humor him and give him a grateful kiss.
Pretty soon we’re pullin’ up to a big, iron gate, and it’s obvious this is my new Queen’s estate. Pam rolls down her window at the guard station and exchanges words with a burly dude who smells like ass. It takes all my will power to not recoil from the stench. After Pam’s pulled away and rolled the window back up, I finally start forcing air out my nostrils, attempting to dislodge the stink.
“Were,” Godric chuckles. “You will get used to them. They do not smell nearly as bad as you think. It is just a shock the first dozen times.”
“Huh, apparently I can hear Weres pretty well,” I hear Sookie mumble.
“That was the first time you have encountered one?” Eric asks in surprise.
“It was the first time I knew I encountered one,” Sookie answers. “They’re all over campus and Shreveport. I just didn’t know what that brain pattern looked or sounded like. You’ve never pointed one out to me before, so I just thought it was a human variation. Apparently red snarls are Weres” she tells him.
“Fair enough,” Eric laughs and I hear him give her a kiss.
As we pull up to the front entrance, a parking attendant comes runnin’ up and starts openin’ doors. We all climb out and head inside as the car gets parked, and I get this really weird feelin’ as we go toward the front door. I feel uneasy, and maybe a bit queasy too. For the first time since I rose a vamp, I got what feels suspiciously like a headache.
We’re greeted by a glamoured girl at the door, and she takes all the coats, but I barely acknowledge her as I’m quietly pushed toward this big set of double doors. I feel like I’m in a palace, which I guess the Queen of Louisiana would try to emulate…
‘Here comes the baby vamp.’
‘Wonder if there is anything special about him-‘
‘-could Godric have seen in so many young breathers of this era-‘
God love me, I think in distress as the doors start to open. “I can’t do it,” I whisper, just as the doors swing open and I plaster a big, terrified grin on my face. Wait, I think, you’re a vamp now. Don’t smile! I flatten my lips into somethin’ I hope don’t look like a scowl.
Godric takes front and center. He’s got Cammie to his right and me to his left. Eric stands behind us with Pam on his left and Sookie on his right like some six and a half foot Viking bodyguard.
“Godric, what an interesting pair to add to your bloodline,” A dark haired female vamp tells my Maker. Dang, that still sounds so fuckin’ weird to say! He don’t make me stand on ceremony though. I call him Godric. Eric and Pam don’t like me to, but they understand that we don’t really gotta follow all the hierarchy crap any more.
“Yes, very interesting,” Godric agrees with a smile. Can I smile? I wonder in surprise. I glance behind me to see Pam and Eric wearin’ blank looks, so I keep my face neutral. Sookie and Cammie are lookin’ around the room in awe, takin’ everything in, but I don’t wanna risk it. “This is my Bonded, Camilla, and my newest progeny, Jason.”
Cammie snaps out of her gaping to smile politely at the vampiress and I give a stiff, quiet nod. Aw man, this is the craziest thing ever! My head feels like it’s splittin’ in two. I don’t even know how Godric’s ignorin’ all the questions bein’ thrown at him. Most of ’em pretty much askin’ what’s so special about me. Good question really. But I don’t wanna say that I’m only here because my sister doesn’t want me to die.
‘I suppose he is attractive,’ I hear someone grumble. ‘But Godric is Bonded now. What does he need with attractive?’
I just wanna shout and point at my sister and say, I’m her big brother!
But I don’t, instead, I just listen to all this bullshit.
‘They must be fortifying. There is no other explanation. Ravenscroft and the new one must be secondary bodyguards for their Bondeds while Godric and Northman try to take my throne,’ I pause suddenly in my frustrations at the words comin’ from this little redhead we’ve been shoved in front of.
No one would say that out loud. Why the fuck would someone say that out loud? Oh… Ohhh…
“Sookie,” I mumble suddenly, nearly trippin’ up Pam as I stop right in front of her without warnin’. “Sook. Sook, I gotta leave-”
“Jason, you’re doin’ fine,” Sookie tells me and reaches to give my hand a quick squeeze. When she does that, all the noise goes away. It’s just the normal murmurin’ I’ve been hearin’ all day.
“I’m really not,” I whisper and look at Godric. He’s starin’ at me in surprise and maybe a little annoyance. I ain’t tryin’ to make a scene or nothin’, but I don’t know for sure what’s happenin’. Well I do, I realize. I’m a telepath like my sister. Only, I don’t hear people. I hear vamps.
Aside from Jason’s one little panic just before being presented to Sophie-Anne, he has been remarkably quiet. I swear, if I didn’t know any better, I would say he has finally learned some etiquette. However, I do know better, and when the moment is opportune, I steal him away to a private area.
“What is wrong with you?” I demand in a hiss.
“Just get me some blood?” he begs me weakly, and I give him a suspicious glance, but go about looking for a suitable donor. There are always glamoured humans wandering around these sorts of gatherings.
When I find a human that hasn’t been turned into a pin cushion yet, I bring her over to my baby uncle and throw her into his arms. Jason latches on immediately, and I watch as his eyes scan the room over and over.
“Jason, what is going on with you tonight?” I ask again.
“Let’s just say that Sookie and I got a lot more in common than we ever did before,” he mumbles.
“What does that-” I see him tap his temple and glance sideways.
He cannot possibly mean? “No!”
He nods, takes a few more pulls from his meal and absentmindedly cleans and seals the wound.
“Thanks,” he mumbles to the donor as she dutifully wobbles away.
“Who?” I ask quickly. Jason taps on his fang. Vampires? Really!? “Me too?” He shakes his head. Not our bloodline… Like Sookie cannot hear Camilla. We are immune to his power. “Can you do a threat assessment?” I ask even softer.
Jason turns his mouth into my ear, “They think we’re plottin’ a coup. So far it don’t feel they’ll make a move unless we do. Basically, don’t show any hostility to the queen or her guards, and we should get through this weekend.”
“That was not on anyone’s agenda, so I think all will be well,” I sigh in relief. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m gettin’ a little used to it,” Jason mumbles, but I can see strain around his eyes. “I only got super close proximity. Nothin’ like Sooks.”
Nodding in understanding, I give Jason’s hand a reassuring squeeze and I see his body relax. Oh, like his sister in a crowded room of humans, I realize. Rather than returning to the throng and finding Eric as I had planned, I instead hang around Jason, holding his hand and offering relief from the discovery of his new gift. I must applaud him, aside from brief moments of awkwardness, he handled himself very well thus far.
While I offer him a reprieve from the splitting headache he is probably enduring, I contemplate how the hell Jason Stackhouse developed vampire telepathy. I suppose it would make sense that this would be a likely route for any additional gifts to take. After all, his sister is a telepath. Perhaps his body just needed a bit more magic to manifest its own powers? I do not know. It is not something of which I have enough knowledge to speculate. This will be a “family” discussion once we are back in the safety of our own home. On the bright side, at least Sookie will not feel so alone in it, and she will be the best at helping her brother cope with a gift that is certain to grow over time.
After Jason has had time to rest his mind, I draw him back to the rest of our bloodline. Sookie is trying her best to be charming towards Russel Edgington, and she is succeeding admirably. I am not surprised that they hit it off. After all, Russel is one of four vampires in the United States who is Bonded. The other is Joan, Queen of Minnesota. Joan could not attend Jason’s coming out party, but she will be attending the wedding tomorrow evening.
Just as Jason and I arrive beside Eric, the double doors open again and in comes the Magister. I roll my eyes. Who the fuck invited his spiteful ass?
As Jorge strolls over to us, I feel Jason’s body coil tightly beside me. That can’t be a good sign, I think worriedly.
“Godric, how nice to see you again so soon,” Jorge greets the Master of our Bloodline with false warmth. None of us have forgotten the arctic setting of our last encounter. “My your bloodline has doubled in only two years. I have never seen you so impulsive!”
“At my age, one recognizes exceptional individuals,” Godric replies in a way I don’t know any other vampire could under the circumstances- civilly. “I was fortunate enough to encounter two exceptional individuals these past couple years, and I knew not to let them slip from my grasp.”
“Yes,” Jorge glances at Camilla with some sort of ironic amusement. I can guess the nature of his thoughts by the way Jason’s fangs snap into place. “Something on your mind, Fledgling?” he addresses Jason’s descended fangs.
Jason lowers his head, shaking it softly before gazing at the floor. Good boy, I think in relief. I wish I could fathom how hard this is for Jason, but I cannot. Sometimes my vampire mind is a difficult place to be. I cannot hope to believe another’s is any better. I can, however, understand his frustrations and anger. I can understand because I am angry without knowing Jorge’s mind.
I am angry because I know that when Jorge looks at Sookie and Camilla he sees only food and sex. He does not see two creatures that have made my existence so much brighter and livelier. He cannot see these two creatures that gave three lonely, jaded vampires happiness. Even my fledgling of a best friend has made my world one worth wanting. He has given me hope. Hope that a third woman will be among us many centuries down the road.
And she will be mine.