“Abigail,” Elaine broke into my ruminations about Estevez, “How are you holding up?” she asked. I whirled away from the now missing casket, and back to face her. She was frowning slightly. “I know your donors are on their way, but you seem more… sharp than you did before we split up.”
I grinned. It probably showed a bit of my fangs. “Yeah,” I agreed. “But I’m still mostly mortal-ish. I just bore a small hole through the buffer around my curse so I could get at some of that vampire ruthlessness while I was dealing with the changeling.”
Elaine’s eyes widened as though my explaination was something startling. “You… what?”
I quirked an eyebrow. Right. Other vampires don’t have the same kind of control over their auras as I do. Lewellyn was all freaked out that I was even able to stay sane while I was ‘feral.’ “My first blood came from Megan, a faerie,” I said. “From that I seem to have picked up some faerie traits. One of those is… Well, I can see my own aura? And manipulate it, some. Moreso when I’m dormant,” I explained. I’d already told enough people all this that I was past thinking I could keep it secret.
Plus… I was kind of hoping that Elaine would keep helping me adjust to my powers. She’d already managed to walk me out of a panic attack and into taking control of my hyper-vigilant senses once, after all. And Valerie had turned out to be too busy dealing with all of the political fallout of my presence and managing the supernatural society and emergency responders to really spend a lot of time mentoring me. So Elaine was going to have to know what I was capable of, right?
But just to put her at ease I took some of my essence and patched up the buffer around my curse. I couldn’t stitch the buffer shut while I wasn’t dormant, but I could just stuff essence into it and let the curse fill in the hole I’d torn. I decided, in terms of my medical metaphors, it was like pressing gauze over a cut until it mended. Except totally different, because everything was metaphysical.
“How are you, though,” I asked — changing the subject before I could start worrying about whether or not I was being stupid by opening up to my vamp-mom. “Just how close to feral were you before Estevez caught up to you? And how much blood did you get out of him before I ripped you two apart?”
Really I was subtly asking her the same question she had just subtly asked me: Am I going to have to beat you into dormancy before your donors show up? And, okay, sure: If I hadn’t been holding back my curse manually, I probably would’ve been excited by the thought. But as it was, it made me a little nauseous and a lot anxious.
“I had already lost control,” Elaine said quietly, but my enhanced hearing could detect her heartbeat speeding up a little.
I still had enough of my human emotions inside for that statement to shift me over to fight or flight or freeze or babble panic mode. “Oh, fuck,” I babbled. “But you’re okay? You took enough blood from the Director to stay human until your donors get here, right?”
“Yes,” Elaine said — and now her heart was beating a little faster and she looked a little flushed. I was just confused, but then, after a brief, almost embarrassed hesitation, Elaine spoke up again: “Abigail, about that…. I would appreciate it if you didn’t mention my feeding on the Director to anyone else.”
And then the subtext I’d missed when Elaine and Estevez made arrangements to talk tomorrow clicked into place in my spastic little brain.
Oh. Oh. Director Estevez was a vampire, and she’d fed on him.
Maybe director Estevez had intended to give Elaine just enough blood to keep from going psycho until her donors had shown up, or maybe he hadn’t meant to get bitten at all, and they’d inadvertantly been… distracted… after she got her fangs in him, before I interrupted them. Despite the slim tear in my buffer, my cheeks flushed scarlet. I couldn’t help but think about Benjamin, and how it had felt when he’d fed on me.
“You see,” Elaine said — with an admirable lack of awkwardness — “when two vampires feed on each other, it is….”
“No,” I interrupted. I held up my hands, waving away her explanation of the be-fanged birds and the undead bees. In my head, I saw Elaine and Estevez in the alley again, frozen in evident mid-struggle. “I get it. I know.” I could just imagine the two of them fighting; Elaine to escape and kill someone, Estevez to stop her — and then she bit him; sank her fangs into him. Drank in his essence and his curse, and everything that entailed.
Holy fuck, indeed. With an emphasis on ‘probably better than fucking.’ My auto pilot engaged in full no-filters mode. “Holy fuck,” I reiterated out loud. “Um… are you okay with it?” I mean, she’d been feral. On the one hand, she’d sort of chosen to bite him — but on the other, she’d definitely been out of her right mind at the time. Did that mean he’d taken advantage of her, somehow, by putting himself into a position where he’d be a viable victim and he could get his ethereal rocks off? Or that she’d taken advantage of him?
“Yes,” Elaine said. “It… well, I’m glad no mortals were hurt. But it’s embarrassing that I needed to feed from a stronger vampire. Usually that sort of thing is only done with newborns who can’t feed themselves without murdering people, or as, well…” She looked at me. “Well, it seems that you know,” she said.
I blurted out a laugh and almost grabbed onto my vampire ruthlessness in order to quash my embarrassment. “Oh yeah,” I said, giving control over to my autopilot instead. “I had it explained.” Thankfully I didn’t mention how thoroughly I’d had it explained. “It’s kinda kinky, right?” I added as a subtle way of implying that I hadn’t done anything like that, myself. And in a dirty alley, oh my god! At least I’d had a hotel room, with Ben. Well, a hotel parking lot, the first time… Okay, no casting stones: I’m a vampire slut. Right.
Elaine’s lips twitched. I didn’t know if she wanted to smile or to frown. “Yes. Well, as I said: I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention it to anyone else.”
I nodded rapidly, even though my imagination was already going into erotica scripting overdrive. “Sure. Of course. No problem.” Unfortunately, I may have forgotten just how out of control my auto pilot could be when I felt uncomfortable about a topic. “Just… you’ve got to dish,” I blurted. “Are you going to pounce him tomorrow? And how was it?” I needed to know for my mental fantasy.
I mean, no. I needed to know because I was curious if the relative powers of two vampires did anything extra. I mean, was Ben getting more out of it than I was, when we shared blood? Or vice versa? Exactly how did a director compare to a Scion between the fangs?
“Abigail…” Elaine said with just a hint of warning, but it totally went over my autopilot’s head.
“What?” I asked. “I’m new. And… Well, a girl needs to know these things, right? Plus, how else am I supposed to fill in the blanks in this mental image?”
Elaine’s lips quirked. “Now now, Abigail,” she scolded lightly — the warning was absent in her tone, now. “A lady doesn’t bite and tell. And I sincerely doubt the director and I will even speak of this incident again, if we don’t have to. I am confident that Director Estevez is a gentleman.”
I rolled my eyes, disappointed but sufficiently into my mental script to let it go. “Alright,” I allowed. Although, knowing what I knew about how it felt to be bitten by another vampire, I personally wasn’t so sure Estevez’s gentlemanly nature would hold out.
And apparently my autopilot agreed. “Just remember,” I found myself saying, “if you two do start something up… I’m not calling him ‘dad.'”
For a second Elaine sputtered, and then she burst out laughing. I couldn’t help but grin, too. Part of that though, was that I was thirsty and I could feel Megan and Emma getting closer. I let Elaine throw her arm around my shoulder and lead me out of the alleyway.
“Honestly,” Elaine said, “‘Kinky’ is a pretty good way to describe it, if it’s being done just fun. It feels good to feed on a vampire — and be fed on by one — especially when the power imbalance is significant. I think that’s a species survival thing: the feeling makes new vampires more likely to stay with their makers than to hunt before they can control themselves, and provides an un-altruistic reason for a maker to keep her scions around. But as with any pleasure, the appeal will vary from individual to individual. It is not my ‘kink,’ and while, yes, it felt better than if I’d fed from a mortal…” She sighed. “I’m old enough that it isn’t as much of a draw as when I was first turned.” She offered a wry smile. “Which makes it more mortifying than enjoyable, for me.”
“Oh,” I said. We had reached the street, and I pointed toward one end. “Megan and Emma are that way. Um. Fairy trick. Er… can you sense yours?” Elaine shook her head, and we started walking in the direction I’d pointed. And naturally, my autopilot turned back to the most inappropriate topic it could dredge up. “So,” I found myself saying hesitantly, “if, just hypothetically, someone were to ask to drink my blood….”
Elaine stopped, forcing me to stop as well. She turned to face me, and took me by my shoulders. “Abigail,” she said. “Did someone… Did Salvatore or Lewellyn…”
My eyes widened. Elaine sounded like she was asking if I’d been groped without my consent or something. And by one of the Directors?! Ew!
“What? Oh! No! God no,” I protested. “Um…” I felt an undeniable urge to fidget, but now I had to explain before Elaine could come up with something even worse to believe — and I really didn’t even know how bad ‘I’m a kinky vampire’ was to begin with!
“I sort of offered my blood to one of the scions, so he would be able to read my aura and know I wasn’t evil,” I admitted. Somehow it wasn’t quite the same as talking to Megan and Fumiko about fooling around with Hans. Maybe because I was starting to worry that I was trashing Elaine’s opinion of me, while with them I’d just been worried about being teased. “And it… it was really nice. And sort of turned into a, a thing.”
“Oh,” Elaine said in surprise. “I see. And who might this Scion be…?” She trailed off, and I felt a surge of relief at the somewhat teasing lilt to her question. But I didn’t answer. I just bit my lip and glared at her.
Not that she wouldn’t be able to figure it out, but…
“A lady doesn’t bite and tell,” I told Elaine primly.
Elaine laughed. “Well,” she told me, “if you both do enjoy it…” I nodded fervently. “…then there’s nothing wrong with it. Although you might not want to be too open about doing it, around others. Especially the older vamps. I mentioned that I think the pleasure we get from feeding on other vampires is a survival thing, right? It is heightened by a difference in power — which often corresponds to a difference in age and… people are people. Even when they’re undead. Some vampires are still creepy old men — or women — at heart, who might get it in their heads that they wouldn’t mind taking you on as your mentor, but actually using you as, well, as the undead equivalent of the nineteen year old trophy wife.”
Elaine let one hand slip from my shoulder and turned to start walking again. She chuckled and shook her head. “But if your partner is a Scion?” She chuckled again. “You’re both young. And while you may be a genuinely newborn vampire, Abigail, you are also an adult, and so is he.”
Elaine’s tone didn’t sound judgemental or teasing, now, and I fell into step beside her. “Sharing blood still involves an exchange of essence, so you need to be responsible about it and not allow yourself to be bled feral — but as new as you both are to undeath? I’d say enjoy it, and don’t be embarrassed about it. Socially, it’s probably not much worse than calling your boyfriend ‘daddy,’ or bringing whipped cream to the bedroom, really.”
I gave her a slightly uncertain sidelong look. Elaine rolled her eyes in response — but she wore a smile. “Honestly,” she assured me. “In most cases the implications are a lot worse. For instance, if I were to engage in that sort of thing with Estevez on a regular basis, then because of our ages that would be a lot more like roleplaying that I was a much, much younger woman — along with all sorts of kink-esque implications about dominance and submission and how we portrayed the contrast in our relative strength. And if an older vampire were to feed on a younger one… well, again: the whole ‘young, trophy plaything’ motif inevitably crops up. Among vampires of the same generation, though, there isn’t as much stigma — but, because of the relative power levels, there isn’t as much pleasure to be derived form the act, unless there really is an underlying kink for feeding, or one has enough years on the other to have a more developed curse.”
Elaine frowned and then gave me another glance. “You might want to consider taking blood off the table, though — or at least playing hard to get with it — just so your guy doesn’t get a swelled head. A few centuries down the line he might get it in his head to hold it over you that he was strong enough for you to feel it when you were both young. Strength matters a lot in our politics,” she explained, “especially within members of the same generation, since it’s impossible for members of disparate generations to match each other in strength at all.”
I stopped. Distantly, I could hear the hum of an electric engine approaching — Megan must have been triangulating ley lines to find me, so there wasn’t really much point in continuing toward them. They’d reach us soon enough, and Elaine had given me a lot to think about. “Um,” I said. “I’m pretty sure I’m stronger than him.”
Elaine looked at me, and then started laughing again. “Right,” she said. “I keep forgetting: your first blood gives you quite the leg up on your peers, doesn’t it? Most newborns don’t develop anywhere near as quickly as you have, even if they’ve fed on witches instead of regular mortals.” She smirked and shook her head. “So, in that case,” she advised, “definitely have fun with it. He’s the one who’s playing the role of your boy toy, as far as other vampires will be concerned. And any show of strength — even one founded in kinky play — will only make it that much harder for others within your generation to challenge your primacy when you need political clout.”
“Oh,” I said dumbly. But I didn’t want to deal with vampire politics. It was bad enough that I was supposed to be in charge of the city somehow — and thank God Valerie was actually taking care of that. I didn’t want to have to wheel and deal and intimidate people into getting my own way. And I really didn’t want to be… some kind of dominatrix vampire senator.
Wait! Wait: Was that why Ben had been playing coy about biting at the hotel, yesterday? Had he just been teasing me, or was he playing ‘hard to get’ with his blood so that he wouldn’t be coming off as the, the… The vampire cougar’s undead cabana boy?
Holy crap: Was I the cougar?! But Benjamin was older than me! Probably by decades!
Although, the creepy paranoid part of me whispered in my thoughts, it’s not like I know exactly how much relative time I spent in my own time stream, drinking in the essences of Lewellyn and Archarel. My curse had noticeably expanded by the time I’d come to my senses with Lewellyn….
Doesn’t count, I hastened to tell myself. Time that I’m not aware of other than as pain does not count. I started to shiver. Although, if age determines strength, wouldn’t time fuckery be the only way a younger vampire could ‘catch up’ with an older one? I mean, as long as the vampire in question had enough essence available to keep it up long enough for their curse to develop….
Oh. Oh fuck. Oh holy fuck, why had I thought to ask that?
“Abigail?” Elaine asked from beside me. Her concern was obvious in her voice, but it went right over my head. “Abigail, are you alright? Measure your breaths, Abigail. You’re starting to hyperventilate.”
I blinked a few times and stared at her. Then I started mechanically pulling myself through her technique for calming down and controlling my hyperactive senses. My focus was not on it. I was too busy reinforcing as much aura into ‘do not ask’ as I could. Hopefully enough to keep me from blurting my creepy paranoid self’s thought out at the worst possible moment.
I mean: It was bad enough that some members of The Center were freaked out because I was super strong from having a faerie for my first blood. Estevez’s apparent acceptance of me was still too new and tentative for me to want to risk getting on The Center’s bad side again.
Especially since I somehow thought that the idea that I could, could… could make up for lost time by eating the souls of other Directors while in suspended time… would not go over well with a political system that valued seniority — measured in the growth of power and dominance — over all else.