Author's Note: Wow, last chapter. Wow. It took over a year, and looking at the beginning, I've seen how much my writing has changed. For the better, heh. Though I don't think I've ever written a better starting line than 'The waiter calmly poured blood, AB negative, into Jamnis's wine glass.' I love that line.
I am planning a sequel, although currently it has no plot and no title.
Special thanks to medieval-rogue, my wonderful beta reader. If you're ever looking for something to read, check out her story 'The Three Powers,' because it's excellent and I'm sure one day will hit bookshelves at a store near you. I love all the characters, even the evil ones, and she's done a marvelous job with the plot.
Jamnis kissed the back of my neck. I glared at him over my shoulder, and grabbed his hands to move his arms around my waist. We were far from alone, and I wanted his hands to behave themselves. His eyes flickered and went dark, swirling with some emotion he didn't want me to read. "You are staying afterwards, aren't you?" he asked. It was less of a question and more of a command.
I put my arms over his and snuggled against him. If I ever verbally compared him to a teddy bear, he'd flip, but dressed in a thick blue sweater that's what he felt like. Standing in his arms I felt safe, too, and buffered from the craziness of my family. Currently, my father, Michael, and Gavin were assembling a robot one of Gavin's 'associates' had sent him. It kept sparking. Ariadne and my mother were off cooing over some of the baby gifts.
"We'll talk later," I said, softly. Jamnis glared at me and blew a cool stream of air into my ear, making me shudder.
"I want to talk now," he said, while Gavin cursed at the directions for the robot. Michael was trying to make sense of the set in German, and my dad was ignoring them both. Dad already had a working hand assembled, the other two hadn't picked up a screwdriver yet. "We won't have time later," he insisted.
Rolling my eyes, I squeezed his wrist and let him walk me into the kitchen. I started to sit down on a stool in front of the island counter, but he picked me up and swung me onto the counter itself. He leaned in to kiss me, but did a double-take at one of the plates of cookies instead. "Are those supposed to be….?" He raised an eyebrow at me.
I grabbed the back of his head and kissed him, making him smirk. After a minute, I let him go and crossed my knees, glancing at the gingerbread men that had distracted him. They had little fangs painted on their mouths. "Gavin felt left out," I admitted, shrugging. He chuckled, and I glared at him.
"So you made them into vampires?" he asked, sliding his arms around my waist.
"He thought it was hilarious," I said. "What do you want to talk about?" Although I already knew.
"You know," he pointed out, the smile fading from his face. I sighed and looked down. We'd fought about this before, and I was tired of the arguments. "I know that you don't want to miss tomorrow with your family," he murmured, stroking my back. I bit my lip. That wasn't it, exactly. I would feel badly if I missed tomorrow with my family, yes, especially if I spent it losing my virginity. "Which is why I…"
He shut his mouth. I turned to look over my shoulder, and saw my mother standing in the doorway to the kitchen, her arms crossed over her chest. "Mom…" I murmured. Any sensible boyfriend would've taken his arms off me and let me hop down from the counter. Not Jamnis. He was just annoyed we'd been interrupted. "What's up?" I asked her.
"Your boyfriend, apparently."
My jaw dropped. I stared at her and tried to force a sound out of my throat, but she just stared at me. Jamnis had grown very still and very cold. "Mr. Menai, I think you should leave my daughter and I alone for a while," my mom finally said, turning so they were staring at each other.
"I think maybe you should leave your daughter alone," Jamnis said, not budging an inch. I was too humiliated at Mom's comment to do anything. "You have been hostile towards me since we were introduced, Mrs. Reed."
"She barely knows you!" she spat. "She doesn't even know your age, or what you did before Gavin turned you!" It sounded like she almost tacked on And you should be thankful to have such a nice boy like Gavin for your sire!
Jamnis locked eyes with me. "Dana, does not knowing what I did while human affect our relationship?" he demanded.
"Not really," I admitted. It'd be nice to know, but it's not like it came up in conversation at all.
"Do you really want to know how old I am?" he asked.
"Does it matter?" I asked, staring at him. He was about as modern as any other guy, except for the possessiveness thing, but I'd learned it was a characteristic that came with vampirism.
He looked at my mother, narrowing his eyes, and spoke accusingly: "I don't know. Mrs. Reed, does it? Does my age change anything? She knows what she needs to know about me, that I care for her and wouldn't let her go for anything," he said, fuming. His fangs had slipped out and he wasn't making any effort to tuck them behind his lips.
"Or are you upset because I intruded on your holiday?" he asked. "Gavin invited me, Mrs. Reed, and this is his house, not yours. This is Ariadne's house as well, and she was more than happy to have me around tonight."
He was fuming, and he moved his hands down to my wrists to have something for his fingers to do. His thumbs slid, almost subconsciously, to feel my pulse. "I have a theory as to why you hate me, Mrs. Reed. I think that after your incident with possession, you developed a craving for control," Jamnis said. I looked sharply at him. How did he know about that? "And now you see that Dana is beyond your control, and you want to get her back, even if it means her unhappiness. From the beginning, she's been beyond your control.
"She was born without being planned. You overcompensated with Ariadne, molding her into the person you wanted her to be, and she rebelled… she loves moments of chaos, where nothing has any control over her." He was referring to my sister being a grocery girl, and he was doing it tactfully, a feat I'd thought impossible. "You were so concerned with making her the twin for the spotlight and keeping Dana behind the scenes that you completely missed your son's transformation into a psychic. If not for Gavin, Michael would doubtlessly have killed himself by now.
"You need to relax, Mrs. Reed. Your children are remarkable people. They are capable of independence," he said.
I stared at him, in awe. No one had ever told my mother anything like that before. No one had ever bothered to explain why Ariadne might like being a grocery girl. He glanced down at me, and I blushed at the look in his eyes. He was finished with my mother, and his mind had moved on to different things.
"You…" my mother hissed. She pivoted and stomped back into the living room. No one else had heard the speech.
"I refuse to believe that you are related to that woman," Jamnis said, brushing my hair behind my ears.
"You… are… amazing," I said, kissing him. He seemed startled for a moment, but then relaxed and let me lean into him, my heart fluttering. His hands moved around to my back to rub my shoulders. When I stroked his fangs with my tongue he pulled back and started breathing, obviously flustered.
"Are you teasing me, Dana?" he asked, narrowing his eyes. He was moving back to our old conversation, back before my mother had walked in on us. "I know you don't want to spend all of tomorrow at the cabin… which is why I got Gavin to let me sleep inside tonight, in his guest house," he murmured.
The message behind that was lost on me. "He has a guest house?"
Jamnis rolled his eyes. "Yes," he said. "It's underground, and very… soundproof," he murmured. He was kissing me: my temples, my wrists, my mouth. He kissed my shoulders, through the fabric of my shirt. The scarf I wore kept him from kissing my throat, which I knew he wanted to do. "You're avoiding me, Dana, Lover. You've been avoiding me on this issue since the first time I asked."
"The first time you asked," I reminded him, raising an eyebrow, "we were in the middle of astronomy."
"You have to admit it would've been more interesting than the lecture," Jamnis said, tilting his head to one side. I stuck my tongue out at him, and he leaned forward to capture it in a kiss. He was frustrated and hungry, both of those pushing the other. He was eyeing my neck, and I hated to break it to him, but there was no way my throat was ready for a feeding.
When I mentioned that, he gave me a look that suddenly hammered home that he was hundreds of years more experienced than me at this. "There are other places I can drink from, Dana," he murmured.
My blush was deep and immediate. "Um."
"Other places I will drink from," he whispered, stepping back to get a better look at me.
"I hate to interrupt," Gavin said, clearing his throat. I slid off the counter and ran my hand through my hair, blushing. He'd popped up in the doorway my mother came through. There was a sly smile on his face. "Really, I hate to interrupt. Watching you two kiss is…" He shook his head. "I'd like to know if you're spending the night, Dana. Your mother has suddenly decided she wants to move back home, and Ari isn't used to being alone during the day…"
"Um…" I glanced at Jamnis, but I couldn't read his face.
Gavin walked over to me and put his big hand on my shoulder. "Whatever you said to Victoria to get her so worked up, thank you," he said, kissing my cheek.
"You're… welcome?" It had really been Jamnis's doing.
"I always wanted to get Ari a nurse. She may need looking after for the next few months, but it doesn't need to be constant… and having your mother around can be awkward," Gavin was saying, in a rather low voice. "Now I can finally run this house my way," he said, shaking his head.
Which meant that he'd let Ariadne do things her way.
At least, if he had any brains he would.
"I… guess… yeah," I said, and his face lit up. But it wasn't out of any particular affection for my sister; it gave me an opportunity to be away from my mother. If she was so mad at Jamnis she didn't want to be in the same house as him, well… I wasn't in any hurry to leave Gavin's.
There was business the vampires needed to talk about, so I went to go check on the robot. The directions had been discarded and my father was working away. "Hey," Michael said. He'd picked up a vampire gingerbread man and was in the process of eating its head. "I hear you got Mom to move back in."
"I always said Ari could just use a nurse," Dad said. He was buried wrist-deep in little metal robot parts. There were two metal entire arms on the table. "And the bookstore has offered Vicky back her management position. She was so much happier when she was working there…" He shook his head and wiped his hands on his pants.
I still found that hard to believe. "Where is this bookstore?" I asked, stealing one of the vamp gingerbread men from Michael's plate. He gave me a look until I bit its head clean off, and then he laughed.
"Well, she never wanted to tell you… but I guess you're old enough," Dad said, glancing around to, I guess, make sure that my mother wasn't around. "You kids have seen Eschaton, downtown?" Downtown referred to the bigger city next to Ashburgh, the city the state college was in.
"In Psychic Square?" Michael asked, frowning. Dad raised an eyebrow at him. "Mom owns that?"
"She started it before we got married, and I was still working at the college," Dad said. "When we moved out here and she had you girls it was hard to get down there, so she handed the day-to-day affairs over to the rest of the staff."
That gave me a lot to mull over for the rest of the evening. Eventually, though, Michael started yawning and our parents decided to take him home. And Mom really did pack a big suitcase and slammed it in the seat I was leaving open. Ariadne and I stood on the front steps and waved at them as they backed down the driveway.
As soon as they were out of sight, Ariadne hugged me. "Oh, God," she said, grinning. "I was so afraid she'd never leave, Dana." she said, shaking her head. "She's angry now but she'll get over it, she'll be more happy at home, and when Michael goes off to college, she can run her business!"
"You're… welcome," I said, squirming out of her grip. She let me go and we went back into the house, where our significant others were nowhere to be found. "Maybe the robot ate them," I said, glancing at it.
Ariadne stood in the hallway, her hands on her hips. "Well…" She bit down on her lip. "I guess they might've gone outside. Or maybe they went down to the guest house…" she said. "Come on, let's go upstairs. They can find us on their own," she said. I looked around and reluctantly followed her up to the master bedroom.
She sank down on the edge of her bed and grinned. "I feel like I'm about to have a slumber party," she said, laughing.
"Hey, can I ask you something?" I asked, sitting with my back against one of the bedposts. She nodded, and I nibbled on my bottom lip and tried to figure out how to phrase this. "When you were in high school, and you went to all those parties…" I hesitated again, but she'd gotten very serious and didn't seem offended. "I mean, weren't you… scared?"
To tell the truth, I was terrified of … spending the night with Jamnis. I trusted him, but I'd seen that he didn't always know his own strength, and there were times when he got so passionate he was… less than gentle.
"It was exciting," she said softly, smiling. "You know, we're always taught, 'See everyone the same, don't be speciest,' and as stupid as it was, I trusted all of the vampires at those places. And there was always someone who kept the rude ones under control. I had some close calls, some times where, you have to remember, I wouldn't come home until well after sunrise because I'd passed out, or I was on the verge of passing out, but I always survived."
"Was it just… blood?" I asked, absently picking at lint on the bed sheet.
She looked at the bedroom door and hesitated, listening for footsteps. "Gavin hates it when I talk about this, but… no. It wasn't always just blood." She was braiding and unbraiding a lock of her hair, and there was a feeling to the air that we really shouldn't be talking about this, that something bad would happen if Gavin caught us.
"How did you meet him?"
She ducked her head, blushing. "I… I know I made it sound like I met him after you left, but… the first time… it was the second semester of our junior year." Which meant that she'd known him for an entire year before I left, and I hadn't noticed anything different. I got thoughtful about that for a minute before telling her to go on.
"We were diving, at the Cliff. Some of my friends and I… we showed up early, before sunset, and we'd already started swimming and diving. And I ran off one of the platforms, and I was twisting, falling…" She looked up at me, and she had this look on her face like she was confiding in me about a crush. "Gavin had just shown up, he was the first vampire there that night, but we hadn't noticed him… until he… caught me."
I could just imagine that. Falling, expecting to hit water… and suddenly being in Gavin's arms.
"He just… stared at me. I mean, I was soaking wet already, I was in a bikini… and suddenly he comes out of nowhere, holding me like… I belonged to him or something," she said, slightly breathless. "And there was just this look on his face, like he was… angry… because I'd put myself at risk. And then he said… 'You're too young to be here,' and made me go home." She laughed. "He was… it was something between impressed and mad… the next time we saw each other. He was the only one who'd ever tried to rein me in… but he could still give me those moments of chaos…" She shook her head. "It was… balance."
Balance. That sounded nice, I thought, smiling to myself. She twisted and propped herself up with some pillows, stretching her legs out in front of her. "How'd you meet Jamnis?" she asked.
"Sirel and I were in chemistry, and someone spilled a big vat of acid on the floor. We were in the back, and scrambled up on the counter to get away from it." It had been scary, until we realized we'd just have to sit on the counter until the floor could be cleaned up, and then it had been boring. "Jamnis poked his head in, looking for Sirel, laughed, and left to go get dinner without us."
Ariadne laughed. "How long were you stuck up there?" she asked.
"Two hours. The acid wasn't strong enough to eat through the floor, but it would've destroyed our shoes. So we had to wait for the cleaning crew to come in and make sure everything was spick-and-span."
"At least you're taking real classes. Most of my friends are majoring in fashion or communications."
"I have no idea what I'm going to be majoring in," I said, running my hand through my hair. "And I have to pick by Spring Break, too. It's not like I couldn't change it, but… I don't even know where to begin," I said.
"You could major in parapsychology."
Parapsychology, which used to be a fluff major at the schools that actually offered it, was now taken seriously, as were psychics. Of course, there were still some skeptics, but most people believed in psychics… when they ran along the lines of mediums and fortune-tellers, the only breeds of psychic who'd really 'come out.' Someone like Michael would've been unheard of. A major in the field was a combination of history, anthropology, physics, and psychology.
I stared at Ariadne, struck by her sudden insight. "I could," I said, slowly. Vlad was serious about expanding the House of Dreams, and the past few days had shown that he carried some weight in the psychic community. Pallas ran the business end of things, and with Minerva gone… Vlad was the only psychic.
Of course, Jamnis probably wouldn't be delighted to know I was considering a future at the House of Dreams. But it wasn't his future I was deciding.
It was weird, having such a normal sister-type conversation with Ariadne. And we laughed, and she told me about all the stuff that had happened in Ashburgh while I was gone, and I regaled her with tales of college and being alone in a strange city. It was the first time I had ever felt connected with her.
Jamnis and Gavin were wise enough not to interrupt us.
I couldn't sit down. I'd spent the day after Christmas with Ariadne, and then most of that night with Jamnis. By the time I got back home, my mother had been asleep, and she'd given me the cold shoulder the next day and night. She didn't even say goodbye to Sirel and Vlad when they left that evening.
But now… I was packed, waiting for Jamnis, ready to go home.
Actually, I was less than ready. The nine-hour trip back to Rosen couldn't be made in one night. Vampires want lots of time to make sure they're away from the sun for the day, and nine hours on unpredictable highways doesn't grantee that. So… he'd booked a hotel. One room, one bed. He'd been very pointed about that, making the reservation call in front of me and everything.
Then he'd set down the phone and stared at me, hard. I blushed just thinking about it, and walked around the living room, twisting my hair around my finger. He wasn't saying 'I want you' anymore. He was all but screaming 'I will have you,' and it was… intimidating.
It was after sunset, but Jamnis was still nowhere in sight. I tried to distract myself.
I thought about Vlad and Sirel's ride home. They'd stayed at the same hotel Jamnis had booked, there was only one between here and Rosen that had lightproof rooms. I'd teased Sirel unmercifully about that, until Avery had walked into the room. Naturally, he'd been less than pleased. As I understood it, he'd had a little talk with Vlad before he'd gone back to Hell (he'd had business to do, namely cleaning up Nathan's affairs).
My mother walked into the room, and I jumped three feet in the air. Scowling, she put her hand on her hip. She had her hair tied back and was wearing work clothes; she'd refused to let Michael touch the boxes her breakables were in and insisted on moving them herself.
"You're really going to go back to that city of yours?" she asked.
Everyone always felt so sorry for the 'country cousin,' but as I swallowed I knew being the 'city cousin' felt just as bad. "Yes, Mom," I said, running my hand through my hair. "I'll visit when the baby comes, of course, and… Gavin wants me to come during the summer…"
My voice trailed off, and I stared at her. Why was I trying so hard to be nice? What was the point?
She huffed. "I suppose we'll see you then," she said, turning and stomping up the stairs. I'd made her angry.
And for the first time in my life, I didn't care.
There was nothing, no guilt, no annoyance, no emotion whatsoever. It just slipped out of my mind. Compared with everything that had happened to me over the past few days, my mother's anger didn't seem… worth caring about.
I smiled and said to the empty room, "See you then."
The door opened, and Jamnis stepped inside. He was wearing sunglasses. "Hey," I said, holding back to keep myself from running at him. When he hugged me, I pulled his glasses off. He looked vaguely annoyed but didn't try and grab them back.
"You look nice," he murmured. I grinned and spun around for him, and his hands grabbed my hips. The look he gave me made me flush. It was just my denim skirt, and a thin white sweater and the white scarf… but he liked it. He started to kiss me, but Michael came in. Jamnis huffed, frustrated, and picked up my suitcase.
"Behave yourself," I murmured, pinching his arm. I walked over and hugged Michael, and he reluctantly hugged me back, more upset than he was letting on. I couldn't resist messing up his hair as I rocked back on my heels. "You keep your mind on your studies, now," I murmured. He still didn't know about Nathan. Maybe Gavin was lying to him, saying he had to go off to Ireland with Scott or something… I hoped he was lying.
My dad walked over and hugged me too. "Don't ever stop being my Great Dane," he warned me, softly.
"I won't," I promised, hugging him back. He let me go, reluctantly. "I'll be back," I told them both, laughing nervously at the looks on their faces. "Really. I'll be back." They just kept staring at me, and I took a deep breath, laughing nervously again. I wanted to tell them to do something, anything, because I felt like I was about to cry. But I knew I didn't have the right to ask them to do anything to keep me from crying.
Michael walked around me and stomped up to Jamnis, tilting his head back a little to lock eyes with the vampire. "You had better protect her," he hissed, fists clenched at his sides.
"Now, Mikey," Dad said. "I'm sure Jamnis is more than capable of watching over my youngest daughter." His voice was downright icy. I wasn't about to point out that I was only his youngest by three minutes and four seconds. "And I'm sure Dana is more than capable of keeping herself out of dangerous situations in the first place," he added, making me gulp and look at the floor.
He sighed and ruffled my hair. "Drive safely, you two," he said, walking me over to the door.
"Bye," Michael mumbled.
I hugged both of them again and walked the door with Jamnis.
"I'm going to take a shower," I said, stroking Jamnis's hair. He glared and wouldn't let me off his lap. He'd been on the phone for the past half hour, ever since we'd arrived at the hotel. For the past ten minutes or so, he'd had me perched in his lap while Avery talked his ear off with news of the clean-up going on at Hell. I rolled my eyes and kissed him, chastely. "You need to pay attention to him," I murmured, slipping off the bed.
He glared at me as I walked over to the bathroom. Our suite had two areas, the bedroom and a living room, so Jamnis wouldn't be disturbed during his sleep. We were above ground, eight stories up, so he wouldn't be waking up early. The hotel had its own spa, though, so at least I'd have something to do all day.
A little while later, when I stepped out of the shower, my clothes were gone. I raised my eyebrows and wrapped a towel around myself, since the clothes thief had snatched the hotel's robes, too. I had half a mind to go whack Jamnis with my hairbrush.
Glancing into the bedroom proved it was dark. I crept in, figuring Jamnis had gone into the living room. The light switch was on the other side of the room, and I knew he'd come in if he saw the lights flash on. Besides, I had that enhanced vision from the vamp blood I'd ingested. But even with that, I couldn't see my suitcase. I frowned and stared at the chair I was sure I'd left it on.
"Why do you need clothes?" Jamnis breathed in my ear.
I jumped, startled, and his hands caressed my sides. "Y-you're off the phone," I stammered, blushing.
His hands slid down, until he found the bottom of the towel. It wasn't much of a towel, it barely covered the tops of my thighs. "Yes," he said. "And you are very wet." His fingers found my wrists, and he pushed his thumb into my pulse and shivered at the sensation. "I turned my cell off," he said, and I shut my eyes for a moment. "And the front desk will not forward calls to the room. We are… alone. Unable to be interrupted."
My shoulders were pressed against his chest, and his arms were laid on top of mine. It distinctly felt like he wasn't wearing a shirt. "Alone," I said, shivering as his hands slid up my arms. He was fingering the top of the towel now.
"Alone," he murmured, turning me around. Blinking in the dark, I could see that he definitely didn't have a shirt on, though I could feel boxers rubbing against my legs. "For the first time in days," he said, leaning down. His mouth was cool and insistent, and I shyly parted my lips for him. He wrapped his arms around me and he kissed me like he owned me, utterly. The chill from climbing out of the shower was definitely gone now. His tongue finally settled into a cadence, though it was unfamiliar, more passionate than I was used to. But he was more than willing to keep it up until I'd gotten the hang of it, and for some time afterwards, though he had to let me up for air a few times.
I was trembling by the time he pulled back to look at me. He'd hidden my clothes from me and hidden us from the world, determined that he would have me. I couldn't stop thinking about that. His mouth found my neck and he kissed hard and all over, making me moan softly. My blood was rushing around my body in a panic, not sure where Jamnis needed it most.
"Jamnis," I murmured, staring at him. His blood let me see that his fangs were out, and his eyes glowed slightly, despite the rest of my psychic sight being turned off. "I…"
"Lover… you are falling out of this thing," he whispered, his fingers suddenly digging into the towel. I gasped, and a grin spread over his face. "I think gravity's trying to tell us something," he murmured, yanking the towel off me. Before I could even blush, he'd thrown me on the bed and straddled me.
I arched while his mouth explored all the places I'd denied him over the past couple weeks. His tongue slid over my skin, and he nipped my curves with his fangs. "Jamnis," I mumbled, my hands fumbling for something to hold onto.
He moved up the bed, his lips brushing mine. "Lover, let me tell you something. You're confused. But I've had your blood, and you've had mine. I know exactly what you're feeling." He kissed me again, his body pressing against mine as much as possible. He had definitely slid out of his boxers. He moved his mouth off mine and held himself back, completely still. "You're feeling anxious, and excited, and scared, and… eager." He nipped my earlobe with his fang, and groaned when I dug my fingers into his shoulders. "Relax, and listen to yourself, Lover. You want this just as much as I do."
I relaxed, and listened to myself.
Then Jamnis took what he'd wanted for weeks.
Jamnis had me on his lap and was about to sink in his fangs when I tensed up. "Wait," I murmured, pressing a finger to his lips. He scowled but held still, while I listened to the quiet house.
It was the eleventh of April, and we'd come back down to Ashburgh. Since we were staying in Gavin's house, Vlad had bit me just before we'd left. Jamnis was more than eager to replace the hundred-yearer's marks, but something in the air was… off.
My psychic sight hadn't come back yet. I was… coping. Some times were more difficult than others. Vlad had given me a special charm to ward off fire-starting, since I'd never gotten the hang of keeping that under control. He'd been running endless tests on me, while the House of Dreams was rebuilt. It would open again at the end of the month.
The wound on my neck had healed, but there were still light scars. Jamnis said that they'd disappear completely… in a few years. Most people didn't notice them. Every vampire I'd run into since, though, had stared and asked about them. I might as well have grown antennae.
Michael still didn't know about Nathan's death. Gavin had lied, said that Nathan was sentenced to go off to Ireland with Scott. My brother had been upset at first, reportedly, but when I'd seen him he wasn't stressing over that. This was the end of his senior year, and he had a lot of important exams to prepare for… if he wanted to keep his scholarship to Rosen University. I hadn't told him we'd be at the same school, not yet.
My mother was downright mellow. I'd seen her that morning, briefly, before she bustled off to Eschaton. Now that she was actively running the bookstore again, she seemed happier. Although, admittedly, she was still giving me the cold shoulder treatment, being cordial without being really nice. Dad had gotten promoted to the head of the science department at Sherwood High School. Everything had been running real smoothly…
Except Ariadne. She'd been on bed rest for several months now. I sat absolutely frozen on Jamnis's lap, straining to hear anything I could. The nurse wasn't there that day, and I was in charge of making sure she was okay. She was due any day now, and she was glad. She wanted to get on her feet again, she was frustrated and moody as hell.
"I don't hear anything," Jamnis said, after a minute.
I relaxed. "You're probably right…"
"Dana!" Ariadne yelled. I jumped off Jamnis's lap, but he still beat me to the master bedroom. Ariadne was clutching her stomach and leaning up against the doorway, shaking. "My water broke," she said, and I could tell from the look in her eyes that she was panicking. Gavin was in town, running some errands of his own.
"We'll call him on the way," I said, dashing behind her into the bedroom. Jamnis was the strong one, he was the one who helped her down the stairs and out to the car while I picked up the phone and called the hospital to let them know we were coming. When I hung up, Jamnis popped back into the room and picked up Ariadne's suitcase. "Michael said that she'd be fine," I said, while we hurried down the stairs.
"I know," Jamnis murmured. He was infuriatingly calm, considering his feeding had just been interrupted.
I grabbed Ariadne's cell off an end table and fumbled with the lock on the front door. Jamnis was making Ariadne as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances. I could hear her moaning from the front steps. Shaking, I finally slid into the car and Jamnis pulled out of the driveway. "Don't drive like you normally do," I warned him, searching through the cell for Gavin's number.
"Hmmph," was all he said, pressing down on the accelerator.
The phone rang several times before Gavin finally picked up. "Ari, baby," he murmured. There was the sound of traffic in the background. "Do we need something from the store?" he hazarded.
"Diapers," I said, and he sucked in a deep breath.
"Are you driving--?"
"Tell him to slow down," Gavin snapped.
"Tell him that I learned to drive in Germany and I am perfectly capable of getting us to the hospital ten minutes away," Jamnis responded dryly. He switched on the radio and turned it to a New Age station, and Ariadne shut her eyes and started murmuring a mediation exercise.
"We'll be--" I began.
"I'll check at the front desk," Gavin said, hanging up.
After a couple minutes of tense silence, I glared at Jamnis. "The hospital is fifteen minutes away," I said.
He grinned. "Not the way I drive."
There were people waiting for us when we walked into the lobby. A vampire's child is nothing to mess with, and the staff had been preparing for this as hard as Ariadne had. Jamnis held me still while they put her in a wheelchair and wheeled her off to the prep room to get her ready for labor. "She's going to be fine, Lover," he murmured. "Relax."
"I really wish you could glamour me," I muttered, turning around to hug him.
He kissed my forehead. "If Gavin doesn't get here soon, I'll be asked to…"
"I know," I mumbled. The first couple vampire-child deliveries had been… dismal failures. The women had panicked and it'd affected the labor. Now, if it was night, the women were glamoured by whatever vampire happened to be close by. Actually, even women who weren't delivering a vampire's child sometimes had an old vamp pal help out.
A nurse came out and signaled that we could go back to the birthing room. Gavin walked in the front door just as we started back, and he looked a wreck. "Michael said they'd both be fine," I said, trailing after him as he strode purposefully towards the birthing room. He barely acknowledged me, hardly nodded.
"It'll be hours," Ariadne whispered, her teeth clenched. Sweat had broken out on her forehead, and when Gavin laced his fingers through hers she clenched down with enough strength to break a human hand.
Gavin looked up and stared at me. He was hungry, even an idiot could've seen that. It'd be two weeks after the delivery before he could drink from Ariadne again, and nine weeks before they could do… anything else. "Thank you for calling me," he said, after a moment. "I need you to leave now." I started to protest, and Jamnis clamped his hand over my mouth. "You can visit when it's over," Gavin said, softly. "But this time… is mine."
I squeezed Ariadne's hand and then I was sinking down in a chair in the hallway. "It's territorial, Lover," Jamnis was murmuring. It took me a second to realize I was in his lap again. "There's no way Gavin is going to allow anyone but the doctors in there. Ariadne will never be more vulnerable than she is at this moment, and anyone but him is a threat to her and his child. He'll barely be able to tolerate the doctors, but he knows that she needs them."
I mulled over that for a moment, while Jamnis rubbed my arms. "Should we get him some Scarlet Syrup?" It was a new brand of blood, released on Valentine's Day. Ten percent donated, by handpicked S.S. employees. The other ninety percent was synthetic, designed especially to fit the genetic background of the donor groups. It was supposed to be the best out there, it had the highest percentage of donated blood and wasn't watered down at all. It was also the most expensive brand on the market.
Jamnis said it couldn't hold a candle to me. But then again, he got… entertainment… with most of his meals nowadays. And when I was tired, sometimes he was satisfied with just the entertainment.
"The doctors will," Jamnis said. I felt dull, worn out, and my pelvic region ached. I hated the thought that maybe my untapped 'twin telepathy' had turned on. I didn't want to experience labor. "Should we call your parents?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said, grunting. I found Ariadne's cell phone in my pocket and dialed home. Jamnis rubbed my shoulders while I waited for someone on the other end to pick up.
The ringing stopped. "Took you damned long enough!" Michael hissed.
"I couldn't just tell them I knew what was going on, you know, I had to wait for you to call," he snapped. "I'm shot for studying tonight, anyway. I'm skipping school tomorrow." He hung up and I stared at the phone, feeling confused and rushed. For a process that could take over a day, I was sure feeling rushed.
A hard moan came from inside Ariadne's room.
I shut my eyes. This was the first time I'd felt warm towards my sister in our entire lives. If I lost her now, I would never have faith in the universe again. Wasn't this my second chance, my chance to make up for what I'd done to my family when I ran away? I heard her moan again and I twisted and buried my face in Jamnis's shoulder. I could hear the door to her room opening and closing, and I didn't know if that was good or not.
"Jamnis?" I asked, after a while.
"I'm scared," I whispered. I sat up and blinked back tears. Jamnis kissed my cheek, and I heard the footsteps of the rest of my family as they came down the hall. My mother was crying, I could hear her from twenty feet away.
This was going to be a long night.
Michael and I stared through the window at little Aidan Avery Morgan. I touched the glass, and Michael took a deep breath. "Is nine pounds good?" he asked, for about the millionth time. "It's good, isn't it?" He had dark circles under his eyes. Our parents had left an hour ago, unlike us, they had some common sense. We couldn't visit with Ariadne until that night, and the baby was only visited by nurses during the day. But Michael skipped school and we weren't going to waste it at home.
"Yes, Mikey," I said. I was starving, but I couldn't tear myself away from the sight of little Aidan. He was so small. He had his daddy's ice blue eyes, and a few tufts of hair so blonde it had taken a while for the doctors to notice he wasn't bald. Sirel was going to get a kick out of his middle name. "What did you say 'Aidan' meant again?"
Michael smiled. "Fire." He was proud as a peacock, since he'd suggested the name.
A nurse walked up to us. "You two should probably eat something," she said, hesitantly.
Reluctantly, we walked out on the street. After looking around for a minute we found a place to eat. Neither of us said anything during the entire meal. I felt weird. My sister had a baby. She was a mother, with a little baby. I was a godmother and an aunt. I stared at my stew and almost started crying. Ariadne had fallen asleep, and I'd only had a glimpse of her since the birth had ended, at about four AM. She looked so… frail.
I shivered and ran my hand through my hair. The air had a fragile quality, like it might break if anyone moved around too much. I hated to think of Ariadne waking up to that. It was… disquieting. I hadn't felt like that before. Maybe it was just the powers. Empathy, feeling other's emotions. I looked around the restaurant. Who knew if someone in here was freaking out, and I was just feeling their panic and worry.
Later, I fell asleep in the hallway outside her room. It was a relatively quiet place, other than her nurses no one really came down there. When I woke up, someone had covered me in a blanket. Blinking, I rubbed at my eyes and looked around, searching for my brother.
"He's watching Aidan."
I jumped, startled, nearly falling off the bench. Gavin was standing behind me, looking tired. "You two stayed here all day?" he asked, tilting his head to one side. He was wearing khaki cargos and a Grateful Dead t-shirt.
"Uh-huh," I said, slowly sitting up. There was a crick in my neck from the weird position I'd slept in. I looked Gavin up and down while I tried to brush my hair with my hands, and I couldn't help but picturing Aidan as I did. It was going to be very hard to keep staying mad at Gavin with my nephew around. "You look like hell," I commented. His skin was so pale it made his hair seem a shade darker than I knew it was.
He bent down so our lips brushed together. "And you look tempting, Dana."
I turned my head so my hair fell back, and his eyes moved to Vlad's marks. "As you can see, Vlad is taking advantage of the contract," I said, softly. It had been the single most awkward experience of my life. He'd called me into his office while Pallas and I were making inventory of the things that had survived the fire and… well… it'd been awkward. But what could we do?
"I haven't had a live drink in forever," Gavin murmured.
"You can wait fourteen more days," I said coldly. He sighed and stood straight, reaching up to secure the tie holding his hair back. If he wanted something genuine, I'd get him a bottle of Scarlet Syrup from the cafeteria.
"Your aura is still active," he said, after a minute.
"Yes…" I said, standing up. He put his arm around my waist and kissed my cheek, his bangs brushing against my face. I couldn't get annoyed, he was like a big version of Aidan.
He pressed his hand into the small of my back. "So you can't tell if Aidan is…?"
"With you and my mother in his gene pool?" I asked. "Do we really need to wonder?" I hesitated and then reluctantly acknowledged, "I mean, my father and Ariadne…"
"Ariadne is special in other ways," Gavin murmured. "There's something… wild… in her. And it's not that she's a grocery girl, either. She…" He sighed. "She's different. Other grocery girls are meek. She kept coming even when I told her to stop. She managed to make me jealous of the other men she was with before we'd even kissed." He seemed rather ambivalent about that.
Well, well, well. There was more to Ariadne than I'd thought. I, for one, would never purposely try to make Gavin jealous. But maybe that wasn't such surprising behavior coming from my sister. Her aura was shifting… maybe she had a bit of wolf in her.
We turned the corner and walked over to the nursery. Michael was staring through the window, alright, but it looked like he was eyeing one of the male nurses instead of watching Aidan. I elbowed him, grinned, and he blushed.
"He's beautiful, isn't he?" Gavin asked. It took me a second to realize he wasn't talking about the nurse.
"I think it's sweet, giving him Avery's name," I said. It would be months before Sirel and I tired of teasing Avery about being a grandfather. He was a little freaked out by it; after centuries of being a vampire, he had been kind of sure he wouldn't have any more descendants.
"Michael, can you tell if there's anything special about him?" Gavin asked.
"He's your kid, isn't he?" Michael asked, raising his eyebrows. He suddenly broke into a grin. "Do you remember that old movie, Firestarter? Where that couple was involved in a genetic study and their kid turned out to be able to start fires just by thinking of them?"
Gavin's face had grown paler, if that was possible.
"Oh come on, wouldn't it be cool?!" Michael asked, excited. "I mean, it might not start till puberty, but if it's on from the start -- a fire starting baby! That'd be so awesome!"
I patted Gavin's arm. "I'll come down as soon as the sight comes back," I murmured, so Michael couldn't hear.
"Thank you," he croaked.
A little while later, a nurse wheeled Ariadne down the hallway. Gavin walked over to her, braced himself on the arms of her wheelchair, and kissed her full on the mouth. Michael and I stared at the ceiling while Gavin let Ariadne know just how possessive he was of her. Then a nurse brought Aidan out. He was wailing like a banshee, his little eyes screwed up while he tested out his lungs.
Ariadne grew misty-eyed when the nurse laid Aidan in her arms. She cradled him and sniffed, beaming as he quieted down. She hadn't gotten to see him for long after the birth, she'd fallen asleep so fast. "So this is the little man who's been kicking me for all these months," she murmured, bouncing him a little. "He looks like his daddy," she said.
Gavin was preening under Ariadne's grin. He sure loved having her look at him like that.
"Do you know I'm your mommy, Aidan?" Ariadne asked, softly. She smiled again and blinked back some tears. "You want to meet your Uncle Michael?" she asked, looking up at our brother. He started to panic but Gavin pushed him forward. Hesitantly, he cuddled Aidan to his chest.
The look on Michael's face was priceless. Here was this tall, strapping guy, who I knew tackled even bigger guys on a regular basis, and he was struck speechless at the sight of a little baby. "My math book weighs more than him," he said, after a minute had gone by. Ariadne laughed, and Gavin rolled his eyes.
Michael handed Aidan over to me, and I stared at him for a moment, amazed. I couldn't believe it: he was so tiny, so soft, and so fragile. It seemed impossible that someone this little shared Gavin's and Avery's genes. "Hey, Aidan," I murmured, rocking him a little. I didn't know what else to say. What did you say to a baby? "You're a special little kid, you know," I said. "You're the guy that'll tame your old rogue of a father here."
Aidan twisted in my arms and made a little burbling noise. I sighed, relieved. You had a close call back there, Aidan, I thought, handing him back to his mother. He was healthy and strong, despite the near trauma Ariadne had suffered while at Eliot's disposal. Probably, Gavin glamouring her had helped both Ariadne and the baby quite a bit.
Later, when Jamnis showed up, I nearly collapsed in his arms. He smelled and felt like home, instead of this hospital that smelled like … well … a hospital. I slid my arms around his shoulders and pulled him against me, which made him chuckle softly. "What'd they end up naming the baby?" he asked, stroking my back. He'd had to leave before the final decision was made.
"Aidan Avery Morgan," I murmured. "Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
"He's sure to be unique," Jamnis said. He thought for a minute, then said, mostly to himself, "I wonder what he is…"
I laid my head on his shoulder and shut my eyes. "Maybe he's got a bit of wolf in him."
Author's Note: This story had no plot for the longest time, but I think it turned out alright. Eliot didn't have a name until the chapter when the vamps discovered his name. Dana was a sibling-less orphan for the first few chapters, then she got a family… in which Ariadne was her mother in teenage form, and named Jacqueline. Eirene had a vampiric daughter. Avery owned a mall. Vlad was much more smarmy and elegant and named Damon.
I originally planned for Dana to end up with Avery. Thinking about that creeps me out.
And while I do want to start working on the sequel right away, I'm making myself wait until after Jan. 28th. Why, you ask? Jan. 28th SAT's for spikedmango. And I need to pull up my math score from the PSAT. And find some valid photo ID, since I don't drive. I really need to learn to drive.
And now… reviewer recognition! I'm using a free translator for 'thanks' in various languages, so I don't know how correct they are. Though after using it I wish I spoke Norwegian and Dutch! They seem like fun languages!
Funeral of Hearts: Poor Jamnis, he can't do anything to flirty Gavin, Gavin being his sire. I'd just like to say thanks a million for reviewing all these chapters!
Rae: Hehe, you're welcome. And thanks a bunch for reviewing all these times!
AubriannaKnight: I loved reading your review, seeing all the opinions on the story. Gratias tibi ('thanks' in Latin) for reviewing!
Kim: Magic would certainly make life more interesting. I could command my muse at will! (Haha) Gracias for the review!
Gayle of Genisis: My computer finally stops telling me I should be spelling it 'Gail'! Silly computer. Merci for reviewing!
medieval-rogue: HAHA, mental image of Gavin and Jamnis, highly disturbing and highly amusing. Vielen Dank for reviewing and betaing! (German, trying to make the reviewer recognition a little more interesting) I can't believe the next review from you will be the last on BB! I had better think of a plot for the next story soon…
MarshmellowParis: For some reason, your penname reminds me of Lego's. I have a weird mind. Hope you enjoyed the chapter, and ringraziarla for the review! (Italian for thanks, according to my free translation website.)
midnight dream-5: The free translation website says 'Dank u' is Dutch for 'thanks,' but I don't believe it. But if it is, then dank u for the review and the compliment! If it's not, then 'Ik heb dankbaarheid!' ('I have gratitude' in Dutch.)
Liviania: Hehe, I love picturing Gavin with cucumbers over his eyes. It's funny. Obrigado (Portuguese) for reviewing all these times!
TwystedFate: 'It is generally agreed that you were confused.' That's one of the sentences from my Latin translation. I just thought it was hilarious, because by that time I was very much confused. Takker De!!! (Norwegian for thanks)
Sangheili Snap: Jeg har takknemlighet! ('I have gratitude' in Norwegian. I'm having fun with the online translator.)
Heaven's Reject: Huzzah for the sequel indeed! Tenho gratidão for the review! ('I have gratitude' in Portuguese.)
Kizera: Yay for another chapter! Ich habe Dankbarkeit for the review! ('I have gratitude' in German)
Erik-Lover: Erik is a great name! (I just love the name Erik and Eric, had to comment) Thanks for the review!
LavenderRoses: Hehe thanks for the compliment and the review! Tengo la gratitud! ('I have gratitude' in Spanish, or at least according to the free translator)