AN: This is meant to be a humorous story. I am listing it as NON-CANON, as I am still reading the books and am bound to make mistakes. Some femmeslash…DL/DR (Don't Like/Don't Read). No flames, please.
Chapter 1—Orphan on the Doorstep, or How Rachel Dupree Killed Her Mother
When I first heard the scratching, I didn't think anything of it. Our basement is cleaner of rats than most; Bubba sucks on them the way a human might suck on ice cubes just for the hell of it, but one or two always survive. It wasn't until I heard a very disgruntled voice saying, "What the HELL???!!!" that I got disturbed.
She was sitting in a large green plastic tub full of potting soil. We had ordered the soil because Eric and I were toying with the idea of introducing more greenery around the club. But here was a gal I'd never seen before sitting in the tub, soil falling from her hair, skin pale, looking both confused and pissed off.
"Who the hell are you?!" I barked. I rushed over to the tub and pulled her out of it bodily. Her legs gave way as soon as her feet in the floor. She must have been lying in there for the whole three days.
"Rachel Dupree. Who are you?" She glared up at me. "And while you're at it, would you be good enough to tell me where I am, too?"
"You're in the basement under Fangtasia" I said.
Her eyes got wide. "Fangtasia? The vampire bar!? How the fuck did I get here?!!"
"I was hoping you could tell me that, darling." I watched her carefully, with only the tiniest bit of mental 'persuasion'. She smelled clean of lies, so far.
She rubbed her forehead. "The last thing I remember is leaving Charlemagne's" she muttered. "I was with my brother and his friends. He got really drunk and I decided to take a cab home. I called for a ride on my cell phone…I remember waiting outside, but that's it."
"Who's your brother?"
It wasn't a name I knew. The girl had begun shaking. "What happened to me?! I feel sick."
"That's the thirst, honey. The first few nights are the hardest. Someone—" I took her hand and pulled her to her feet "turned you into one of us."
"I'm a vampire?"
"Yes ma'am. You are."
She shook her head. "I'm a vampire. Oh holy Jesus. What am I gonna tell my momma?"
I couldn't help laughing. "I don't know the answer to that, honey. The wisest thing would be for you to stay disappeared. But I'm guessing you're not likely to listen to wisdom right now. Do you need to use our phone?"
"Yeah. If you wouldn't mind."
"Not at all."
I led her upstairs to the office. Eric was already there, working on some papers He raised his eyebrows when I led the girl in. "Who's that?"
"We've got ourselves a bit of a situation, Eric"
"She was in the basement. In that tub of soil we ordered from the landscapers. Says her name's Rachel Dupree. She doesn't know how she got here or who bit her—she says the last thing she remembers is being outside Charlemagne's…that's all the way over on the other side of town." I rummaged through our office fridge and got out an assortment of True Blood bottles. "Do you know anyone named Dupree?"
"Momma…Momma…I know. I know I haven't called in three days…look, something's happened. I'm a vampire…yes, you heard me right." Rachel twisted the phone cord around her finger. She closed her eyes and sighed heavily. "Momma, please stop cryin'! Just calm down. I'll be okay. Hell, don't you look at TV? It's almost normal now—"
"NORMAL? NORMAL!!!?" Rachel's mother's voice shrieked clearly from the receiver as Rachel held it away from her ear and winced. "Rachel Marie Durpree you are killin' me, do you hear? Killing me!!! I'll be lucky if I don't just fall right down dead! And if I do, I have to live with the knowledge that I won't EVER see you in heaven! First you tell me you're sleeping with women, and then, as if that isn't a big enough sin in the eyes of the Lord, you tell me you're sleeping with DEAD WOMEN?!!!"
I knew I shouldn't laugh. I turned and faced Eric, which was a mistake. He had jammed his hand over his mouth and his eyes glittered with mirth.
"Momma! I am not sleepin' with ANYBODY! I'm sayin' I woke up in a box of soil in the basement of a vampire bar and I don't know how I got there and my skin is very pale and I feel really sick and they tell me I'm one of them! I don't even know what happened! Have you talked to Billy?" She was quiet a moment as she listened. "All right, Momma. I'll call him. I'm glad he's okay…Momma? Momma…noI do NOT want to see Pastor Bob! What's he gonna do, give me last rites?!"
Eric grinned and pounded his head softly on the desk. Tears stung my eyes. In another minute I was gonna start roaring, I just knew it.
"Momma, it's a bit early to be worryin' what to do about Christmas" Rachel said sarcastically. She paused again, listening. "…Well, tell em' the truth, what's wrong with that?! This wasn't my fault! And if embarrasses them in front of their high-falutin' church friends then fuck em' …all right…all right…I'm sorry I cussed…uh-huh…no, do NOT let Daddy do that! I don't even know who it was. Guns don't kill em', anyway. They're already dead."
I lost it then. So did Eric. Rachel glared at us exasperated way and flapped her hand for quiet. "Look, Momma…I gotta go. I gotta call work. Please don't worry. I'll be fine…" she huffed and rolled her eyes "NO I have NOT killed anyone yet! I don't have to…they have that stuff in the bottles, you know, True Blood? I'll drink that….no, work should be okay. It's on our health insurance. Okay, you do that, Momma. I love you. Bye."
Rachel hung up. "Can I call work? And what the hell is so goddamn funny?"
"Nothing, sugar!" I said, giggling. "When you're our age, you'll understand."
She shook her head and dialed another number. This time, the conversation was much shorter. "Hi, Jeanette, it's Rachel. Can you give me Sally's voice mail? Thanks." There was a pause. "Hi, Sally. This is Rachel Dupree. I'm not gonna be in tomorrow…I have a health emergency. Please call me on my cell after 8 P.M. as soon as you can and I'll fill you in. Thanks."
She hung up and groaned. "This is gonna suck. Involuntary vampirism is covered on our health insurance, but you have to fill out a ton of forms and everyone treats you like you're a freak. I better go ahead and get ahold of them. Mind if I make one more call? It's a 1-800 number, so you shouldn't get a bill."
"Go ahead, honey. Take your time."
She dialed the number and punched in several codes before she got a "live" person. "Hi…my name's Rachel Dupree. I just got turned into a vampire and—"she waited, listening. "It's a bar called Fangtasia…I woke up in their basement. Yeah. In a tub of potting soil. No, they aren't. No…I don't know who did it. The last place I remember being was outside Charlemagne's Grill on Saturday night at about two-thirty. Who? Okay…I'll check."
She put her hand over the receiver. "Are either one of you a sheriff?"
She looked thoroughly bewildered. Not a surprise. Vampire bureaucracy is even more byzantine—and more stupid—than the human kind. "Eric is" I said, pointing. "Just put him on."
Rachel handed the phone to Eric. Her insurance people must have put her right through to the Dead Zone—the vampire hotline for the Shreveport area. This would take forever. I beckoned her over. "Here's some True Blood, honey. We have all different types here, so take a sip out of each bottle and tell me which ones you can stand to drink."
She began sampling from the bottles, making a face as she did so. "Tastes like ground-up cardboard. Is it all like this?"
"I'm afraid so. That's why a lot of the older generation won't drink it at all. But I figure you've had enough of a shock for one night; we'll save the hunting lessons for later."
She grinned. "Thanks. I appreciate that." Pulling two bottles out of the group, she said, "These aren't as bad. They kind of remind me of Twizzlers, except they're wet and slimy."
I had no idea what Twizzlers were and I didn't care to find out. I looked at the labels. "O negative. Good. There's plenty of that." I gathered up the rest of the bottles and began putting them away. She continued to drink, making the occasional face at the flavor, but gulping steadily. When she finished her first bottle I handed her a second one. "Thanks" she said with a sudden, shy smile. "I really do appreciate it."
Meanwhile, Eric was on the phone. "No, I have no information at this time…yes, we will question her thoroughly. What? Oh. You may as well. Just come to my office when you arrive." He hung up. "The Dead Zone is sending over one of their social workers. In the meantime…what's your name?"
"Rachel Dupree. What's yours?"
"I am Eric. And this is Pam" he nodded at me. "When the worker comes, you must tell them exactly what happened. Since there is no one to take responsibility for you as yet, Pam will help you fill out the paperwork."
"I will?" I asked.
Eric ignored me. "Since your maker has not chosen to take responsibility for you, you may be taken briefly into protective custody."
Rachel stared at him, alarmed. "Protective custody? That sounds like I'm getting arrested!"
"You are not 'getting arrested'" Eric said in his I'm-trying-to-be-patient voice. "Since your maker abandoned you, you are classified as a rogue. Rogue vampires are usually destroyed unless they register in their community as 'independently dead'"
"So why can't I do that?"
"You have to be dead for a minimum of five years to register as an independent."
"Yeah" I agreed.
The social worker arrived wearing a cheap blue pants suit, a frizzy hairdo that had been sprayed into immobility, and one of those earnest expressions that the professionally "compassionate" often have plastered across their pasty faces. "Rachel? I'm Lynette Wallace." Rachel stood up politely and shook the worker's hand. "I'm from the Vampire Transition Office. I'm here to register you as a member of our community, help you to begin your acclimation, and answer any questions you might have. Okay?"
"Now, I need to take down some basic information first…" the woman shuffled some papers that she took out of her mammoth briefcase. "Who is your maker?"
"I don't know."
Ms. Wallace raised her eyebrows. "Were you under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of your transformation?"
"I had a couple of screwdrivers, but I wasn't drunk"
She made a note on the paper. "Now, Rachel, I need you to recount for me, in your own words, everything you remember before you woke up in the basement. Just take your time."
Rachel repeated the same story she told me. The social worker scribbled she talked, then turned to me. "You found her?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Have the two of you had any contact before?" I could feel a strong push against my brain, and I took exception to it. "Ms. Wallace" I said, leaning across Eric's desk so I was right up in her face. "I am NOT her maker; if I was, I would admit it. And if you had ANY sense whatsoever, you'd realize that someone glamoured her. That gap her memory is absolutely classic."
"I am merely doing my job, Miss—. "
"Then stay out of my mind." I raised an eyebrow at her to let her know I meant business. Snotty bitch. A lot of the 'new vampires' are.
Rachel coughed exaggeratedly. The worker turned back to her. "I can set you up with a temporary community permit for now. These are good for ninety nights. If you haven't found someone to claim you as part of their lineage by then, you will have to renew it. It's one hundred dollars now, and fifty every time you renew. Your insurance company should pay half, and they may even cover the whole thing if your transformation is judged to be involuntary—"
"Judged to be involuntary?! Excuse my French but what the hell does that mean? I didn't go out looking for someone to turn me into a vampire!"
"I'm sure you didn't" Lynette Wallace said soothingly. "But right now, we have only your word for it. If your maker should turn up and claim you, we will have to talk to him or her. We have lots of humans claiming involuntary transformation just to keep the costs of their registration fees down. The registration fees help pay for the importation of True Blood to this country and its creation here in America."
I glanced at Eric; his eyes were rolled practically to the top of his head.
"We are a warm and caring community" Ms. Wallace continued. "No matter what you may have heard…" she glared at me. She had better watch it. At my age, I am not about to take any lip from some nouveau bloodsucker with a cheap plastic briefcase!
"Uh-huh" Rachel said doubtfully. "Okay."
"You must be terribly frightened and confused" The Wallace woman patted Rachel's hand with a sickeningly-sympathetic air. "Is there anything you'd like to ask me?"
"Yeah. If nobody claims me, then what? I can't register as an independent for five years, right? Are y'all gonna execute me if nobody shows up?"
Well, that was cutting right to the chase. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Eric give the tiniest nod of approval.
"No, no, no, honey! Nobody does that anymore."
(Which is bullshit.)
"No, you'd simply be removed to one of our orphanages. What happened to you isn't uncommon…we have places for you to live until you can be independent."
More bullshit. I wasn't going to contradict her out loud. Her superiors would know the real truth, but it would make sense that they wouldn't tell any of the earnest young newbies working for them what actually does happen to vampire orphans in most cases: they disappear. It's more convenient that way. I would tell Rachel the truth, though. I could tell she was smart, and after that idiot bitch Bill had foisted off on Eric and me, she was definitely a breath of fresh air. Cute, too: more muscular and strong-looking than curvy, but she had a sweet face and a thick mane of long auburn hair.
"Like what? Is it a prison?"
"No. Just a community with shared housing."
Rachel looked at the woman for a long time; it was obvious she had her doubts. Good girl, I thought. You keep that up and you just might survive around here.
"What about your job?" The social idiot asked. "Do they have procedures in place for people who undergo involuntary transformation?"
"Yeah. I'm a librarian. I work for the Shreveport public library. Last year the main branch started stayin' open 24/7. I can ask to be moved to the late shift."
"Good" Another note on the papers. "Now, I'm gonna need a drop of your blood, honey, for our records, and then I have a video for you to watch." She reached into her bag and pulled out a tape with a blond and be-fanged man and woman on it. They were wearing tennis clothes and standing with their arms around each other under a full moon. The title read: SO NOW YOU'RE A VAMPIRE!
"This is the first in the series. I also have THE BLOOD-THIRST AND YOU, HUMANS AND VAMPIRES: A COOPERATIVE PARTNERSHIP, THE MIRACLE OF TRU-BLOOD, and DOES GOD STILL LOVE ME? VAMPIRES AND RELIGION."
I thought I might throw up.
"Do I have to watch em' all tonight?" Rachel asked. Her expression had gone from doubtful to a look of outright disbelief. She scratched absently at the back of her hand.
"They're free. I'll leave them with you, along with some of our pamphlets. But you should watch the first one as soon as possible."
"We have a VCR here" Eric said smoothly, making me want to stake him. He knew perfectly well I hated this shit. He just enjoyed watching me squirm.
"Oh, good. That helps." The social worker took out a lancing device—it's the same kind human diabetics use—and a set of glass slides. "All right, Rachel. I need to stick you now. This blood goes into your file with us and to the Sheriff of Area Five."
"You?" Rachel asked Eric. He nodded.
If it had been anyone but Eric, I would have advised her to faint or fake a quick seizure. Having the blood on file makes it harder for orphans to vanish, which they need to do if they want to live. I was reluctant to leave Rachel to her fate. She was just a pawn, but without her, we wouldn't be able to find out who did it and what danger they might be to us. The girl was dumped in my basement, so that meant someone either wanted to get to us—Eric and me—or maybe get to her family.
Rachel held out her hand and Lynette Wallace pricked her finger expertly, squeezing the blood onto two sets of slides. One of them she gave to Eric. The other she tucked into a small box from her briefcase. "Shall we watch the video now?"
Eric looked at me; I crossed my arms and looked back at him. It was his decision to show the stupid thing; let him set the goddamn VCR up.
He must have seen it in my face that I was not going to budge, so he wheeled out our ancient TV and VCR and flipped off the lights in the office. The social worker popped in the tape and music came on. "If you are watching this video, you have probably just become a new vampire" a deep avuncular voice intoned soothingly. "You may be feeling hurt, frightened and confused. Don't be. The transformation from human to vampire is a beautiful, natural process!"
Eric snickered and covered it with a fake cough. I pinched the inside of my arm so I wouldn't jump up and kick the TV screen in. Rachel's eyebrows had arched so high they disappeared under her bangs. "You have got to be kiddin' me" she muttered under her breath.
"It all begins when your maker drains the blood from your body until you reach the point of death, then gives you his or her own as a gift" The blond man and woman from the cover were shown in the moonlight again; this time he was chomping down on her neck. The song "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" played in the background. That's it, I thought. I'm gonna puke for sure.
A new vampire is then buried in earth for three days. On the third day, everything goes well, the fledgling rises…" Cheesy shot of female vamp rising, face transfigured by orgasmic ecstasy. It's crap, of course. A newly risen vampire feels more nausea than anything else, until they get blood in their system.
"Once the new vampire has risen, the fledgling's maker takes on the responsibility for teaching how to hunt, where to sleep, and the rules and laws of vampire society. This is a special time, in which the fledgling and the maker cement their bond of trust."
"What the hell is this?! Leave It to Beaver meets the undead?!" Rachel muttered under her breath. "This is makin' me itch." I grinned. I liked this girl.
The tape went on. Most of it was crap but it did, as the Wallace woman said, have a few bits of practical advice, such has how to cover the windows in your house to make them light-proof, how many bottles of True Blood to drink a night, and how to heal yourself of burns by sleeping in soil. There were also some tips about whether or not to "come out" to your family and warnings that if you chose to do so, you needed to stay away from them for at least three months until the blood thirst was under control. That last part is the biggest sign of how much things have changed; in my day, if you got turned, you were dead. You could never go home again and it was considered better if your family thought you were completely gone. That rule was part of vampire law until very recently; there are lots of missing people in this country that aren't really missing at all.
"Now, honey, do you have any other questions for me?" The social worker asked when the tape ended.
Rachel was looking at her hands. She shook her head.
"All right, then why don't we get on with your insurance forms? I believe you work for the library? You're lucky. The city of Shreveport allows for three months leave of absence for vampire transformation. I advise you to take full advantage of that. Even with the help of True Blood, the thirst will be very difficult for you to control. Especially since you're on your own…normally, your maker is there to help you if it gets too bad. Do you have your insurance card with you?"
Rachel looked at me. "Is my handbag down in the dirt somewhere?"
I shook my head; I hadn't found a purse. Whoever did the biting probably also did the stealing.
The social worker nodded as though she wasn't surprised. "Okay…let's get you filled out for a new one first thing. You'll need to report your cell phone and credit cards as lost, too."
"What about social security?"
"That's not a problem. Your sheriff will file a transformation report and that should take care of it. To the Social Security office, you no longer exist."
"Because" Lynette Wallace explained "Social Security is for aging humans, to take care of their needs as they grow older. You are never going to physically age again; you will be able-bodied for the rest of forever. So the money you paid into Social Security goes back to the government."
"What?!" Rachel was furious. "That's my money! I earned it!"
"Doesn't matter" the social worker sighed. "It was one of the things the human government of this country demanded when we went public."
"Goddamn it. Fuckin' thieves…no! Grave robbers!"
Eric held up a hand. He was smiling. This was turning out to be a lot more amusing than either of us had anticipated. "You shouldn't have any trouble with money. We take care of our own."
That made me prick up my ears. We did?