Chapter Forty-Five: Relapse
I feel like the new kids in school again, I think nervously as Sooks and I make our way through the hallways of Stone Water High School.
As I guessed he might, Eric managed to get me and Sookie jobs at the same school and now, we’re the new kids, in a new town, in a new state. After Sookie graduated from Endene, Eric moved the three of us to Ohio to start a new life. I know it’s ’cause Sook wants to raise her kids in our family home and since none of us know exactly when that will happen, Eric thought it might be best to leave Louisiana behind until she gets knocked up.
It’s cool, though, Yankee girls got a thing for my accent, but I gotta make sure I throw some knowledge down pretty quick, otherwise I’m looked at like a stupid redneck and not an educated, southern gent. I’ve barely been in Ohio a month and I’ve already banged half the eligible women in my subdivision. Pam’s gonna be so jealous when she gets here this weekend!
Pam decided to go to New York before meetin’ us here and Godric’s stayin’ in Louisiana until Camilla finishes school. She’s got one year of college left, and then they’ll be on their way up here. Cammie surprised all of us when she said she’d like to teach math. When I asked what made her want to become a teacher, she’d told me nice and simple that the bloodline had shown her the importance of patient, knowledgeable people offering their abilities. If it hadn’t been for all of us, it might have taken Cammie a lot longer to get her GED and get enrolled in college. Eric’s already workin’ on glamouring one of the older math teachers into puttin’ in for retirement so Cammie can take his place next year.
Sookie’s spot opened when the former English teacher’s husband got a terrific job in Michigan, but it meant they would have to move. His new job just so happened to be for a company Eric owned. My job actually came about naturally. I swear Eric did not give that poor old guy a heart attack!
“Are you nervous?” My sister asks as we make our way to our respective classrooms.
“Super nervous,” I confess. “Do I look all right?” I got on a pair of dark khaki pants and a deep blue polo shirt. Pam says duller colors won’t make my skin look so pale. Although, I got a pretty good color palette to work with ’cause Pam insisted I tan really good before comin’ over. She hung out with me on the old condo roof, soakin’ in the rays all summer those three years ago.
“You look great,” she tells me confidently. “Don’t go makin’ any young girls fall in love with you!”
I roll my eyes, “Yeah, don’t go makin’ no little boys fall for you. Eric will kill ’em.”
Sookie flinches, but nods. I didn’t expect her to agree so easily that her husband is one possessive, homicidal dude. It ain’t jealousy. Eric knows better than anyone that Sookie ain’t goin’ nowhere, but that doesn’t mean he wants to see some yahoo gettin’ handsy with his wife. It doesn’t mean he’ll let someone walk away afterward.
“I’ll see you at lunch. Did you remember your thermos?” Sookie, the mother hen, asks.
“Yeah, Ma! I remembered it. See you at lunch,” I laugh and kiss her cheek as I open her classroom door and let her in. She waves goodbye to me as I head to my own classroom.
When I arrive at my desk, I make quick work of organizing myself and getting the chalkboard written up for the beginnin’ of my first class. Soon, my first student arrives and sits in the back of the room. He’s a quiet lookin’ kid with long, floppy black hair and downcast eyes. He sits in the far back corner, crosses his arms over his chest, and tucks his chin against his sternum. His brown eyes close and it looks like he’s already fallen asleep. Any thoughts I had about him being a quiet kid are shot to hell as he starts to snore. Whatever, it’s early. Let the kid sleep till class actually starts.
I go back to preparin’ the chalkboard and leave Snow White to his shuteye. Soon my class trickles to full. Some kids are noisy, others are still half asleep. Eventually the bell rings, signaling it’s time for me to start lessons. I begin by grabbin’ a copy of my thickest book and slammin’ it down on my desk. The noisy kids fall silent and look at me in surprise. The unconscious kids jerk awake and look around in confusion until their eyes are on me.
“Good mornin’, Class,” I address my new students. “My name is Mr. Stackhouse. I’m the new history teacher and this is World History. Before we dive into it, let’s do roll call.” I pick up my first period class registration and quickly get through it, checkin’ off people’s names. “I’m gonna pass out this seatin’ chart. Write your name in the corresponding box, and congratulations! You are now married to your seat for the remainder of the semester.”
My mornin’ goes the same for each class. Same preparation, same announcement from class to class. World History, Ancient/Medieval History, Geography, and Government. Those are my classes this year and I’m stoked about the first two, a lot less stoked about the other two. Whatever, I think as I grab my thermos and head to the Teacher’s Lounge for lunch. My sister waves to me from a round table and I sit next to her.
“How was the first half of your first day?” She asks, bubbly as ever.
“Good. Only a quarter fell asleep so far. I think that’s good for a history teacher on the first day. To be fair, that entire quarter was my Geography class. It’s just so hard to make country borders and topographical maps interesting,” I tell her as I open my thermos and take a swig.
“Is that all you’re eating, Jason?” A nosey P.E. teacher asks of my thermos. “You need more than that to maintain that muscle mass.”
“It’s a protein drink,” I tell him. When he seems to have gone back to mindin’ his own business, I turn back to Sook, “How were your first classes?”
“Okay,” she smiles. “A lot of groaning when we went over the assigned readin’. My American Lit. Class wasn’t so happy about some of the novels, but they’ll get over it.”
I laugh and nod as Sookie dives into her three-course lunch. The gym teacher looks surprised at how much my little sister can pack away, but wisely keeps his mouth shut this time. He obviously knows that you don’t comment on a woman’s eating habits.
While she eats and I sip at my drink, I write her a quick note.
~ Had a Were in my second hour class. Don’t think he stopped staring at me for a second. His notes are going to suck. ~
She continues munchin’ on her sandwich as she takes my pen and replies.
~ Had a shifter just before lunch. He seemed very confused by me. I think he’s too young to understand what I am in the culture. His name’s Taylor Charleston. Check to see if you have him. I didn’t get a chance to get a good read on him, but he’s a freshman and I don’t know if his magic has popped yet. ~
I nod in understanding and sip at the last of my blood. I can feel my fangs pulsin’ in my gums, wonderin’ why they’re still sheathed when blood is on my tongue, but I ignore them. The past few years have given me plenty of time to hide the telltale signs of what I am. My fangs don’t pop unless I’m really caught off guard and no human has managed that in almost two years now. Also, it took a few months, but I finally managed to pull off a glamour. Apparently, I’m pretty good at it ’cause Sook said the human’s mind accepted it seamlessly. She said it was almost difficult for her to tell the memory I left her with was a fake one.
That sorta makes me nervous. I can manipulate humans way too easy for my likin’. I hope I don’t abuse that ability…
“You’re thinkin’ awful hard,” Sookie comments as she dabs at the corners of her mouth with a napkin.
A shrug lifts my shoulders, “I guess I’m still distracted by some of the things we’ve learned over the past few years.”
Sook folds her hands under her chin and gives me a thoughtful look, “I have faith in what Endy has told us. Even if there are things he could not foresee or determine the origins or weaknesses, he’s seen us far, far beyond now. That’s all the reassurance I need.”
My sister’s words ease my nerves and I gotta confess she’s becoming the woman Endymion knew she would be, cool, considerate, and still absolutely lovely. I think Faith is her greatest strength. She has faith in me to keep it together. She has faith in Eric to love and protect her. She has faith in everything Endymion has seen for us. Most of all, she has faith in herself and that she will reach all those expectations the universe has set for us.
“Earth to Jason,” Sookie laughs as I’ve spaced out again.
“Sorry,” I laugh. “I just keep gettin’ caught up in all that’s happened over the past few years. I wonder when it’ll all settle for me, y’know?”
Sookie nods in understanding, “I do know.”
We finish our lunches, and then go back to our classrooms. It’s sometime halfway through fifth period when I feel the most unearthly rattle in my connection to Godric. All my willpower goes to keepin’ my face straight as Agony unlike any I’ve ever known tears through me like a knife, worse than the shredded muscles and tendons my shoulder had, more gut-wrenchin’ than losin’ my parents and Gran, and more destructive to my soul than seein’ my sister’s body disappearin’ from starvation I was failin’ to prevent. I feel blood in my eyes and need to turn away from the class.
Whatever’s happenin’, Godric’s tore up and it’s significant enough that he can’t even close his end of our connection. Ah, God, make it stop! I think desperately as bloody tears threaten to spill and divulge my true self.
“Mr. Stackhouse, are you all right?” One of my students asks nervously.
Thinkin’ quick, I clutch my side, “Y-yeah, sorry, guys. I got a cracked rib and I must’ve strained it.”
There’s a real brief murmur as my excuse is digested. Before anyone can ask questions, my classroom phone rings and I reach to answer it.
“Yeah,” I rumble into the phone.
“Jason, your brother called. He said there’s an emergency?” The school’s receptionist, Tammy, tells me.
“Which brother?” I ask.
“Godric,” Tammy replies. “He left a message saying he’ll be arriving tonight and to keep an eye on your sister.”
Something happened to Cammie! Fuck! Somethin’ happened to Cammie! I think wildly, “Okay. Thanks, Mrs. Parker. I’ll be right there.”
I hang up the phone and turn to my class. “I want notes on the first two pages of the first chapter by the time I get back from the office,” I command before leavin’ to glamour the hell outta Tammy. That was too weird a phone call and message to let a human remember.
I’m in the office in a few short minutes and Tammy looks at me in confusion. “Your brother isn’t on the line anymore,” she tells me.
“I know,” I catch her gaze and she slumps slightly in her chair. “You answered a crank call and I just wanted to tell you that.”
“I’m sorry,” she says slowly. “That must have frightened you.”
“It’s all right, Tammy,” I assure her frazzled mind. “No harm, no foul.” It’s a lot easier to change a human’s interpretation of a situation than to change the memory entirely.
Slowly I drift Tammy out of my glamour and she blinks rapidly several times before shakin’ her head. “I can’t believe I scared you like that! I’m so sorry!” she apologizes again.
“Like I said, no harm done,” I pat the counter before wavin’ goodbye. Next, I swing by Sookie’s classroom and pull her out.
“What happened?” Sookie demands as her door snaps shut behind her. “Eric actually panicked a bit before he brought himself under control.”
“I think somethin’ happened to Cammie,” I tell her quick and quiet.
“What? How?” Sookie frowns.
“I don’t know,” I confess, “but Godric’s on his way up here. Should be in by tonight.” Sooks nods and pulls her lips between her teeth thoughtfully. “I’m only tellin’ you this because I know you’re worried and I also know Eric’s not gonna call, too. They wouldn’t want to draw too much attention.” Sookie nods again and I pull her into a quick, comfortin’ hug outta view of her class. “It’ll be all right. No matter what it is that happened, it’ll be all right.”
Pullin’ away, Sookie wipes at her eyes and nods silently again before turnin’ back to her classroom. She doesn’t have any words of assurance or comfort, but the set of her jaw as she opens the door tells me her faith in the future remains intact.
It is almost five in the early evening when I arrive in Shreveport. A rather concerning phone call from Godric has brought me here and I waste no time finding a taxi to take me to his home. So abrupt was my summoning, I did not even pack. I merely grabbed my purse and caught a flight.
“Pamela,” Godric flings open the door as I walk up the steps to his front door.
“Godric,” I reply worriedly at the look in his eyes as he opens the door further to usher me in.
I stare confusedly at the scene before me. Camilla is resting upon the sofa in an unsettling stillness that is like no sleep I have ever seen, but more like a vampire’s day death. If my body still could, it’s hair would stand on end as goosebumps broke out along my flesh. Instead, all I experience is a strange pain as if my heart has been staked and cannot mend.
Her cognition has been switched off. This must be the same condition Eric discovered her in nearly five years ago.
“How?” I turn to Godric desperately.
My Maker’s Master points to the human I have barely even registered as present. He is a young man, probably Sookie’s age or a little younger. He is entirely human and his ability to bring Camilla to this Purgatory once more is confusing.
Godric goes to kneel in front of Camilla and takes her hands in his own. I see that those ancient, strong hands tremble with fear and agony I cannot begin to comprehend.
“I was walking her to classes as I usually do,” Godric tells me. “That young man approached and I could tell he was not right. I could see the glamour. He stopped several yards away and shouted out to us. I thought perhaps it was a prank or perhaps not a glamour, but a man having a mental breakdown…until Camilla went unresponsive beside me. Her emotions vanished within me. It was like someone purged my entire body from the inside out with freezing water. She was gone from me,” Streams of blood wind rivers down Godric’s face as he finishes his tale and I feel my own crimson tears drip down my chin.
“What were the words?” I ask softly. “Maybe if they turn off her cognition, repeating them will turn it back on?” I suggest hopefully.
Godric shakes his head. “I have tried that!” he barks in frustration and I regret making such an obvious suggestion. Of course, Godric will have tried countless options already. “I called you here for two reasons. One is to try to determine what vampire sent the human to recite those words and the other is to attend Camilla’s classes until we have figured out…”
“It will be all right, Godric,” I try to comfort the eldest of our bloodline.
“What if it was an imbedded memory reset?” Godric whispers. “What if Grissom left a code in her mind to wipe her memories?” He brings Camilla’s hands to his lips and kisses them frantically as if praying to his Bonded to rise from this nightmare. “I will never have my Camilla back. She will start from scratch all over again. What if I do not love that Camilla? What if she does not love me?”
“Godric, get her to Ohio,” I tell him. “Jason has the best glamouring skills of our bloodline, shockingly enough. Maybe in her state he can try-”
“He is not experienced enough. He could do more harm than good!” Godric snaps and kisses Camilla’s hands once more, rubbing his thumbs repeatedly into her palms.
“What is it you suggest then?” I frown.
“I am going to beg Sookie to cut off her wings,” Godric announces as he lifts Camilla into his arms.
“I know,” Godric whispers, cutting me off. “I am sorry, Pamela, but I will not live without Camilla.”
Though every fiber of my being wants to shriek and beg him not to even consider robbing the entire bloodline of our freedoms and futures, a newer, less selfish, part of me cannot bear to think of him existing another day after such a loss.
“I will see what I can find out from this one,” I tell him without protesting his intentions.
“Thank you, Pamela, and I am truly sorry,” he tells me sadly before leaving the house and taking off into the night sky with his vacant Bonded.
Turning to the captive who has brought this turmoil upon our bloodline, however unwillingly, I begin to dig for my answers.
Around one in the morning, I end my delving after concluding that this young man has what Sookie would call, “A hole in the head.” The memory of his encounter with whatever vampire has not been replaced, but blatantly ripped out, a very dangerous method that can inadvertently ruin the way a human’s brain forms future memories. If we all went around pulling this sort of crap, most of the human populace would be incapable of forming new memories!
I hate sloppy work and I am not all that gifted at glamouring. Whomever did this is not only gifted, but brutal. Initially, I would have thought Grissom or Compton because of the knowledge of some sort of mental self-destruct button in Camilla’s head. However, this car wreck of a glamour tells me it was neither. They both have too much respect for their skills to leave something this slovenly.
Still, that does not mean Grissom did not sell the code to some other vampire. It does not mean Compton did not discover or plant the code as insurance, either. Either way, it still comes back to those two. They are the only vampires Camilla has encountered since before becoming immune to glamour. They are also the only two vampires with the means and abilities to do this.
Even with my immunities, I can’t hope to detain or interrogate Grissom. However, I can easily make Compton spill his guts literally and figuratively.
Glamouring the young man to sleep until I return, I grab my purse, head out the door, and find my quickest route to New Orleans.
I’m sittin’ as quiet and still as I ever have in my entire life. I can feel Godric approachin’ and I look to Eric nervously. All I can really feel is his presence. I can’t tell how he feels, just that he’s on his way.
There’s little else to do. Eric’s already told me that Godric rushin’ up North can mean only one thing. He’s comin’ to ask Sookie to chop off her wings and take away our immunities. Only problem is, Sook’s wings aren’t the source of our immunities, nor how they’re shared. That’s the work of the Blood Lettin’ Blade and Sookie’s own heritage. Hell, even if Eric turned Sookie, there’s no guarantee it would reverse Camilla’s immunity to glamour.
“Godric will arrive in a few moments,” Eric tells me as he sits, holdin’ my sister’s hand, and pattin’ it calmly. I don’t know how he keeps so much in. Even though I can keep my body still, I know my face is tellin’ the entire room how nervous and uncertain I’m feelin’.
Like Eric predicted, the front door flings open and we all rise to greet Godric almost like a funeral procession. When I see Godric’s face, I realize somethin’ very dark and scary. Godric ain’t here to ask Sook to chop off her wings so we can reverse the damage done to Cammie. He’s here to ask Sook to chop off her wings so he can kill the both of them. If my heart could beat, it would break my chest right now!
“Master,” Eric greets Godric all solemn and I can’t do nothin’ but keep my mouth shut. I don’t trust myself not to sob like a little bitch. A girl I’ve been comin’ to love like a sister is bein’ held limp and unresponsive in my brother’s arms. My new family is breakin’ and I don’t know any kinda glue that could put it back together.
While I stare sadly at Cammie, I feel somethin’. It’s a familiar sorta pull that tugs at some pure instinct in me. It has a taste, texture, and whispering voice. It brings me a calm relief that’s totally welcome right now.
“Godric,” I start, but get cut off by a snarlin’ Eric. “What?” I ask him, more than a bit exasperated. Drama King much!?
“Where the fuck is Pamela going!?” Eric roars as he takes out his cell phone and speed dials my friend.
I see Godric shut his eyes and frown, “She is heading South of my residence.”
“She’s headin’ to New Orleans,” I announce with a shrug.
“What?” Sookie frowns. “Why?”
“She is going after Compton,” Eric groans as he snaps his phone shut when Pam’s goes to voicemail.
I nod in agreement. That’s really the only way she would head. There’s no way she could handle Grissom, even if she knew where he was, but Compton’s easy to find. He’s also a bit younger than her, so she can hold her own against him by herself.
“She ain’t about to start a war, is she?” I ask with a groan.
Eric’s jaw clenches, so I take that as confirmation.
“Sookie,” Eric turns to my sister and sighs, “could you grab the green portfolio in my desk? Master, please, put Camilla down,” He gestures to the livin’ room and the comfy sofas.
Godric nods slowly and lets himself be lead further into the house so we can all sit around comfortably. Sookie returns with the paperwork Eric asked for and sets it on the coffee table.
“I have been keeping tabs on vampire movements since we disbanded from the community,” Eric tells us. Godric is sittin’ with Cammie’s head in his lap, strokin’ her hair all sad and slow. What is this feelin’ in me? I wonder. “Tracing donations and glamouring a few representatives along the way, I have discovered many “bought” politicians and officials. At first, I only focused on Louisiana, but have since expanded to include other vampire population dense states. Pam was supposed to bring me more information on New York, but was diverted. Nevertheless, I do have California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas under enough scrutiny to conclude a very intense political shift is occurring.”
“Not that this is not fascinating,” Godric rumbles under his breath and I can tell he feels like he’s bein’ stalled, “but what are you getting at?”
“The ruling vampires of the United States are trying to influence the next presidential election. My guess is a human is already being groomed for the position and is deeply funded by vampires,” Eric explains.
“What makes you think that?” Sookie asks, but it’s me who answers.
“Those states you mentioned all have the biggest swing in the electoral college,” I realize.
“Yes,” Eric nods. “This past year’s election went as normal, but now the vampires of those states I mentioned have four years to imbed the fondness for their chosen campaign hero in 2008.”
“I thought a command only lasted three days,” I frown.
“A command, yes,” Godric sighs, “but an alteration to memories is forever. Otherwise, we would have to track down and glamour every meal we had every three days to keep our existences secret.” He turns back to Eric and sighs, “You think war is coming.”
“I believe something is coming,” Eric replies, “and without enough information, I cannot begin to presume what it means. Depending on those responsible for these actions, it could be something rather benign. Regardless, if they are trying to plant the next leader of the the United States, it is not a good thing.”
“What could they be after?” Sookie asks with a frown.
“It could be something as simple as having a vampire sympathizer in office, Sook,” I tell her. “They could just be trying to push some vampire friendly bills through office, or it could be more nefarious. Without really knowin’ who’s pulling the strings, it’s a mighty big gamble to let it follow through.”
Sookie looks at me skeptically, “You really think vampires could accomplish that in four years?”
Eric shakes his head, “I have seen vampires accomplish political shifts in a fortnight. Given a decade or two, they could change the world if they had half a mind. They changed the world overnight merely by exposing their existence. Do you really believe vampires did not already have several politicians packed neatly away prior to the Great Revelation? After all, many laws and restrictions to the vampire community cropped up a mere week after their existence was known, well thought out, but intentionally vague laws they could manipulate as needed. I should know, I was helping to write many of them prior to meeting you,” he tells my sister.
Godric has been silent up until now, but his voice finally comes out angrily, “This is your way of trying to dissuade me from ending mine and Camilla’s existences, correct? You think I would suffer for this cause a hundred-fold?”
“Master, our bloodline is the only one who can stand in the way of another vampire’s motivation,” Eric tells him gently. “Do you not believe that Camilla might possibly be the first flame to this future war?”
“You believe you are the only one who has seen this on the horizon? Perhaps you are the only one who has spent time trying to prove rather than speculate, but you are not the only creature who sees this coming,” Godric tells him, his voice a combination of growls and snarls. “You sit there in front of me with your healthy, safe Bonded and pretend to worry over the world, but I know the truth. You want your eternity with your Mate and eternal damnation to me in exchange-”
“Stop!” I snap. “You two aren’t like this! Stop bein’ like this!” I demand. “Godric, Cammie’s gonna be just fine. Even if we do absolutely nothin’, she’s gonna be just fine.”
Godric looks at me in surprise before finally demanding, “How could you possibly know such a thing?”
Clenchin’ my fists, I say the thing that’s been ringin’ in my ears all day, “’I have faith in what Endymion’s told us. Even if there are things he couldn’t foresee or determine the origins or weaknesses, he’s seen us way beyond now. That’s all the reassurance I need,’” Sookie looks at me, surprised I’m quotin’ her, but gives a soft smile. “Endymion saw Cammie in the future,” I tell Godric soothingly. “He saw all of us as Impervious Immortals well down the line. She’s gonna be okay, Godric. It’ll hurt for a little while, but it’ll right itself. I promise.”
Godric pulls Cammie tightly into his arms and holds her there. It’s somethin’ I wish I could unsee. That kinda love and pain is just somethin’ I’m too young to understand. I hope I never feel that kinda pain.