I had my hand on the phone, when it rang, which scared me. "Shit!" I picked up the receiver and must have sounded at least a little angry, because Jean-Claude said, "What has happened now, ma petite?"
I was so relieved to hear his voice, I forgot to be mad. "You have no idea how glad I am to hear your voice."
"I can hear the relief in your voice, ma petite. Again, I ask, what else has happened?"
"How do you know anything happened?" I asked, and was already willing to be suspicious.
"I felt Damian's master flee from your and Richard's emotions. Only the two of you could turn such a simple thing as lust into something so"--he seemed unable to find a word and finally settled for--"disappointing."
"You're talking to the wrong third of the triumvirate, Jean-Claude. I can put him on, if you want to talk to him."
"Non, non, tell me what is happening."
"Can't you read my mind? Everyone else seems to be able to."
"Ma petite, do we have time for childishness?"
"No," I said sullenly, "but Richard tells me that some vamps in Belle's line turn prettier after a while. Is that true?"
"The change from human to vampire can bring on small changes to the appearance. It is rare even for Belle's line, but oui, it does happen."
"So you really weren't this beautiful once."
"As I told our inquisitive Richard, I do not know. I know that many acted as if I were this beautiful, but I have no paintings of my old face. I have no way to remember after centuries. I honestly do not know for certain. Belle never made much of any of us that changed, because she enjoyed the false rumors that her touch beautified all. If she fussed about those who did become more lovely, then it would tarnish her legend. You have met her, ma petite, she likes her legend."
I shivered. I'd met Belle, secondhand, through a metaphysical possession or two. She was scary, and not just because of how powerful she was. She was scary because of her character flaws, a certain blindness to anything she didn't understand, like love, friendship, commitment as opposed to slavery. She didn't seem to see much difference between the two.
"Yeah, Belle likes her legend so much, she's beginning to believe it."
"As you like, ma petite, but it makes it difficult to find truth in her court."
"Fine, we'll never know if you and Asher were this beautiful before."
"Asher says his hair was not the color of gold before, so that we do know."
I was getting distracted. "Okay, fine, but the point is, when did the beautification take place?"
"You became a vampire, and when you rose the first night you were changed. Due to the vicious nature of some when they experience their first blood lust, it is not always easy to see beauty, but it happens soon after they are brought into their new lives."
I didn't argue the life part, I'd been too confused too long about what was life and what wasn't. "So after a thousand years, you are what you are, right?"
There was silence on the other end of the phone. I couldn't even hear him breathing, which didn't mean anything, he didn't always have to breathe. "Has something happened to Damian? Something more?"
"Yes," I said.
"I assume the questions about Belle's line were not idle then."
"Not even close to idle," I said.
"Tell me," he said, voice soft.
I told him.
He was calm, asking questions, getting details, in his so matter-of-fact voice. Over the phone without his body posture to go by, or his face, and with him shielding like a son of a bitch, I couldn't tell if he were truly calm, or not.
Finally, he said, "That is most interesting."
"Don't go all Mr. Spock on me. What do you mean that's interesting?"
"I mean that it is interesting, ma petite. Damian is not of Belle's line, and, thus, it should not have happened. Moreover he is a millennium old, and as you so succinctly put it, he should have been what he was, and there would be no changing it, not at this late date."
"But it happened," I said.
"May I speak with Damian?"
"I guess so." I turned and held the phone out. "Jean-Claude would like to speak to you directly."
Damian got up slowly, as if he were stiff or the floor wasn't quite even. The floor was even, it was everything else that had gotten a little less steady. He took the phone and said, "Yes?" And from that moment on, they stopped speaking English. Surprisingly it wasn't French, it was German. I didn't know either vampire spoke German. If Jean-Claude changed the language because my French was getting better, then he'd outsmarted himself, because I could speak German. Not like speak it, speak it, but I could understand it when I heard it. Grandma Blake had spoken German to me from the cradle up. I'd taken it in high school as my language, because I was lazy and wanted a leg up.
I couldn't catch every word. It had just been too long since I'd used my German, and Damian's accent was different from any I'd ever heard, and I'd grown up around at least two. But I caught enough to know that Jean-Claude was asking him if the changes to his face had happened during sex, or just after, because Damian said something in German about it not happening just after the sex. No, about an hour or so later. I could understand Jean-Claude wanting to save my delicate sensibilities. I did have a tendency to get pissy about sex I didn't choose myself. Then I caught the word for power, and Belle Morte's name. Then Damian saying a lot of, nein, or not that I've seen, in German. He hadn't seen me exhibit any of the powers that Jean-Claude was asking about on his end of the phone. I didn't get it all. One, I was privy to just half the conversation, and two, my grandmother hadn't used some of these words a lot. She and I hadn't had a lot of talks about vampires, sex, and metaphysical powers. Funny that.
When the conversation seemed to be winding down, I told Damian that I wanted to talk to Jean-Claude before he hung up. He handed me the phone not long after, and I got to say, "Hi, ich kann Deutsch sprechen." The silence on the other end of the phone was long. "If you didn't want me to understand you, should have stuck to French."
"Damian does not speak French," he said in a very careful voice.
"Well then you are shit out of luck, aren't you?"
"Ma petite ..."
"Don't ma petite me, just tell me the truth. What other vampire powers can I expect to come on-line?"
"In all honesty, I am not sure."
"Truly, ma petite, I am not. Even Belle has never transformed a vampire from another line the age of Damian. If you had asked me, I would have said it was impossible."
That sounded like the truth. "Fine, but what powers were you asking Damian whether I had, or not, and don't lie; if I order him to tell me everything you said, verbatim, he'll do it. He'll have to do it."
"You might be surprised there, ma petite. With your greater commitment to him as your servant, he may not be as much slave to your will. I do not know that this is true, but I know that the more marks you carried of mine, the less pliable to my will you became."
That was true. I'd always been sort of creeped out by the fact that Damian had to do everything I told him, just because I said so, but it had moments of usefulness, and now it might be gone. Well, hell.
"Fine, then just tell me yourself."
"You do not understand, ma petite. That you could gain my abilities is unusual, but this is an ability that I do not possess, have never possessed. What has happened to Damian is something only Belle could have done, and only if he were a new vampire. So is this a new ability altogether, one I have never heard of, and if so, then what could that mean for you, ma petite, for us, and all those connected to you? What if you have gained abilities through your necromancy that we cannot begin to guess at?"
I sighed, and was suddenly tired, not scared, just tired. "You know, I am way tired of this metaphysical shit."
"You also healed wounds with sex, without calling on Raina's munin, is that so horrible?"
"When I didn't do it on purpose, maybe. Think about that, Jean-Claude, I didn't concentrate and do it on purpose. What else might I do accidentally? You don't even know."
It was his turn to sigh. "The only other triumvirate that included a necromancer as their human servant did not exhibit this level of... power."
"You hesitated, what were you going to say before power?"