“I want us to stay a family, okay?”
Sunday morning, 13 March 2016
GM: The Beetle drives for a while. Lucy stops talking, perhaps having fallen asleep. Eventually, it pulls over.
“Oh, silly me, I don’t know where Randy lives,” laughs Diana. “I’ll text him now.”
She taps away into her phone.
When the ghoul doesn’t respond, they have to resort to ‘guesswork.’
“Lucy’s asleep,” Diana whispers as the car starts driving again. “I’m going to list off streets, give me one quiet mew to keep going, or two if that’s the one, okay?”
Celia: A tired meow sounds from the bag.
GM: “Okay, Esplanade… Baracks… Gov. Nichols… Ursuline…”
It takes some mewing, and some streets, until they narrow down which one Randy’s at, and then finally his address. Diana parks the car when the text arrives back from Randy.
“Oh, good, he knows we’re here, he can let us in…”
There’s movement. That cat feels itself being lifted into the air again as Diana shoulders the backpack. It’s even hotter inside now, like the car’s had its doors and windows shut for another few hours.
“Okay, Luce, let’s get on your shoes…” Diana says, bending to help the girl into them.
The trio walk towards the house, luggage rolling along with them. There’s more sounds, a door opening, and a, “Hey, Randy!” “Hey, Diana,” followed by what feels like a hug.
“Thanks for having us over on such notice.”
“Oh, well, whatever Celia wants. And hey to you too, Goose.”
“Hi, Randy,” Lucy says tiredly.
They make small talk until they make their way up to the house Randy and his brothers share. Celia helped them buy it. Rusty prefers to stay elsewhere, but they can all use the property when they need to.
“It’s, uh, a bit of a mess…”
“Oh, well, I guess that’s typical for young men,” Diana chuckles. “Can you look after Lucy for a bit? I need to unpack something.”
“Sure. You wanna watch TV a bit, Lucy?”
“This place is stinky,” says Lucy.
Celia: Inside the bag, the cat has to press its face into its paw to prevent a sound that might be a laugh.
Maybe Celia will keep Mabel on as a maid.
GM: “Oh, Luce, that’s…” Diana starts to gently chide.
“She’s, uh, right,” says Randy. “Sorry. It’s a bachelor pad.”
“What’s a bachelor pad?” asks Lucy.
“It’s where guys who aren’t married live,” answers Randy.
“Are you an’ Mommy gonna get married?” asks Lucy.
“Uh, don’t think your mom wants to marry me, kiddo,” chuckles Randy.
“I mean, Mommy Celia, duh. Are you an’ Mommy gonna get married?”
There’s a slightly too long and all-too uncomfortable pause at the child’s question.
“We’ll see,” Randy deflects. “So, you wanna watch some cartoons with me?”
“Great. What’s your favorite channel?”
“Nothing with any violence, please,” requests Diana. Maybe she tussles Lucy’s hair here. “Okay, I’ll see y’all in a bit…”
There’s more movement, then a pause. “Okay, there’s a window here…” murmurs Diana, then more movement.
She turns, closes a door, and then there’s the click of a lock. The cat feels itself get set down on on a hard, tub-like surface, and then the backpack unzips.
“Hey, kitty-coo,” a kneeling Diana says with a faint smile, reaching to scratch the cat’s ears.
Celia: The cat crawls out of the bag once it’s unzipped, moving to dart away from the woman who reaches for it. Her fingers still catch the tufts of her ears, and the cat flicks its tail at her as it passes. Any other day, she thinks, she’d curl up on this lap and snooze. But not today. She’s injured, she’s hungry, she’s tired. She doesn’t want to risk anything.
Her form blurs and shifts and a second later the cat is gone, Celia in its place. Her eyelids don’t droop so much as hang over her eyes, and she wears the same wet clothing she’d vanished when she’d changed forms. She gives her mother a tired smile.
“Thanks, Mom. I’m sorry about today.” Her words come slowly, slurred. “M’tired. Need sleep. R’mind Randy. Cuffs. ’Kay? Tell him, hungry.”
There’s a cabinet under the sink she can shove herself in, she thinks.
GM: The bathroom, fortunately, has no windows. Less fortunately, it’s filthy. There’s hairs, stains, and crud everywhere, and a rime of something orange in the tub. Randy does not seem to practice very much bathroom hygiene.
Celia: Oh well. One day can’t kill what’s already dead.
GM: “It’s no problem, sweetie,” her mom says, a little lamely.
It’s obviously been a problem.
“Okay, cuffs, got it. I’ll tell him you’re hungry, too.”
“Do you need… blood?”
“If… you’re really hungry… if that’s how you eat… I could…”
She opens her mouth as if to say something, can’t seem to decide what, and then just motions at her neck.
Celia: Her lips lift at the corners, wry amusement clear on her face.
She almost says no.
She should say no. She can’t feed from her mother like that. But she’s hungry. And she needs to heal herself. And if she wakes up hungry and loses it again…
“Hangry,” she says to her mom, “y’know the term? Lose control. Like a… monster.”
It’s too far into the day to explain it all, but she tries. If her mom wants to feed her she’s not going to say no; Lord knows the woman would develop a complex about it if she did. Why isn’t my blood good enough for my baby? It’s like something out of a vampire soap opera.
The thought makes her giggle. Maybe she and Ron will make that some day.
She tells her mom if she’s serious, if she does want to help, to get Randy to contain her, then she can get a cup and fill it. Her and Randy and Reggie if he’s awake, just a little bit from each of them, and they can’t bring it into the bathroom or even bleed themselves until she’s been securely contained. Cuffs. Maybe one of them pinning her down; Reggie always liked being on top (not that she shares this with her mom).
She says, too, that she can explain the details of it when she wakes up tonight to forestall any questions.
GM: “Okay,” her mom nods at the explanation, though she doesn’t know the term ‘hangry.’ “If that’s what you need, sweetie, I am here for you. I don’t want you to go hungry.”
“I’ll go to tell Randy to get things ready… I’ll go watch Lucy, then I’ll… get things ready too.”
Celia: “Thanks, Mom. I know it’s… weird.”
GM: “Well, it’s…”
Her mother starts as if to assure her otherwise, then just offers with a hapless smile,
“…it’s what it is, I guess.”
Celia: It shouldn’t hurt, the thought that her mother might not accept her. But it does. Celia forces a smile and tries not to think about the fact that it’s too late to do anything about it now.
GM: “I’ll get you some blankies and pillows too, and some PJs… this is not a good place for you to sleep,” she says, eyeing the dirty bathtub critically.
“Okay, hang tight,” she says, rising. “I’ll be back in just a bit.”
Celia: One night she’ll explain that she’s technically dead during the day and won’t even feel it. She’s just too tired to do it right now.
She settles down to wait.
GM: Her mom walks out and closes the door behind her. Randy comes in after a moment with some handcuffs.
“Sorry it’s… dirty,” he apologizes lamely, taking one of Celia’s wrists and snapping the cuff around.
Celia: “Hey, Randy,” she says to him, voice soft. She holds out her hands so he can easily affix her with the restraints. “S’okay. Won’t even notice in a minute.”
GM: “Well, sorry anyway. Woulda cleaned it up if I knew you were gonna be spending the day here,” he says, snapping the other cuff around one of the bathtub’s faucets.
He gets out a second pair and snaps the first cuff around her other wrist.
Celia: Holding still for him now, watching him pull out the cuffs to keep her from losing her shit and ripping out someone’s throat, listening to him apologize for the state of his bathroom, as if she cares, as if any of it matters compared to the rest of what’s going on… if she had a heart left it might break. He sounds like her when she deals with her sire, apologizing for the fact that a Brujah had torn through her apartment, self-conscious about what he thinks about the state of her haven.
Is that how they all see her? Like she’s going to flip her shit over some muck in the bathroom? She appreciates cleanliness as much as the next non-Nosferatu, but she’s hardly offended or pissed off that his bathroom isn’t spotless.
“We should go out this week. Dancing. Racing. Something fun.”
GM: The second cuff goes around the bathroom’s other faucet.
“Yeah, that’d be fun,” smiles Randy. “I’ve taken you racing a bunch before, but not really clubbing. There’s a ton of clubs here in the Quarter. I mean, you know that, but there are.”
He produces a third pair and snaps its first cuff around an ankle.
Celia: “We’ll make it a wild night,” Celia agrees. There’s a pause, then, “take care of them, okay? All of them. Your brothers. ’Lana. Dani. My mom and Goose. I… I messed up last night, Randy, so just keep ’em safe.”
GM: “You bet, babe. They’re safe with me,” Randy nods, emphatically.
“Kay, this might be a bit uncomfy… I could tie your legs to the railing, or just cuff your ankles together.”
“Also, uh… someone fucked up your face, babe… lemme know who, I’ll beat the shit out of them for you?” he offers with a grin.
Celia: Celia smiles at the offer to beat someone up for her. She’s touched by it, though she doesn’t think Randy would fare very well against the person who did this to her.
“You’re a gem, Randy. Ankles together; Mom will have a cow if she sees me splayed open.”
“Gonna have you show me how to throw a better punch so this doesn’t happen.” She wiggles her fingers at her face, though cuffed as they are off to the side the effect is rather lost. Not that she thinks any number of lessons will ever keep her face intact if her sire wants to ruin it.
GM: “You bet,” Randy smiles again at the request. “You got good form. We just need to get in more practice. All it is.”
He cuffs her ankles together. Celia can still thrash and kick, but she can’t do it with separate legs.
“So, your mom knows…?”
Celia: “She, uh, she found out tonight. She’s in danger and I didn’t know how else to get her to listen to me. I… kind of panicked. I was going to give her blood so at least she’s not a breach, but I don’t… have any to spare right now. Tonight, later though.”
Until she figures something else out.
GM: “Oh,” says Randy. “Doesn’t that seem a little weird, your mom as a ghoul…?”
Celia: “Yeah. Yeah, it does.”
GM: “Well, it’s pretty…” He trails off.
“Am I still gonna be your boyfriend, if your family all knows…?”
Celia: “It’s not all my family. It’s just my mom. And… I don’t know. Do you want to be?”
GM: “Oh, yeah, I’d love to, babe!” he exclaims, eagerly. “I mean, I’d really… yeah. I’d love to be.”
He gives a wide, slightly buffoonish grin.
Celia: “Then we’ll figure it out and make it work.”
GM: He grins wider. “Great! We’ll make it work, babe.”
“We’ll, uh… we’ll have sex too, at some point?” he asks. Trying to sound casual.
Celia: If she weren’t burned, bleeding, and lying in a dirty tub she’d offer to fuck him now.
“Yes,” she says instead. “We’ll go out this week and have a real date. And sex.”
GM: “Oh, I… you’re the best, babe, just the best!” replies Randy, grinning from ear to ear.
“I’ll plan something, I’ll make it really really special.”
Celia: “I’d really like that.”
GM: “Me too! It’ll be great, you won’t forget it!” he exclaims, nodding eagerly.
Celia: “I’m looking forward to it.”
A nice human date is exactly the sort of thing she needs right now.
GM: Randy kisses her full on her bloody lips. He looks like he could stay there forever and only reluctantly takes his leave.
A little while passes. Celia feels her head drooping as the sun rises over the sky. It’d be so easy to just konk on, until her mom comes through the door.
She isn’t carrying a cup. She’s carrying a milk jug.
Red sloshes around inside. She hasn’t completely filled it, but she’s obviously bled herself far more deeply than just a cup. Her face is pale and her movements are sluggish.
“Here you go, sweetie… I have it here, instead of a cup… harder to spill…”
She sinks to her knees by the tub.
“Wish I’d brought one of… Lucy’s old sippy cups… harder to spill, too…”
Celia: “Mom…” the word is torn from her, half a groan, exasperated but also… also hungry. Very hungry. Eyeing the feast provided. “How much did you…?”
GM: “I’m gonna feed my baby…” Diana whispers, leaning heavily against the tub. Her eyes droop a little as she lifts up the jug. “Open up… sweetie…”
Celia: Her mouth opens without further protest, the greedy thing inside of her eager to slurp down the offering.
GM: Celia smells it first, when her mom unscrews the jug. That telltale coppery odor. Her fangs are out before she even registers them. Her mom lifts the jug to her lips. The taste hits her tongue. Oh, that taste. Pietro always say it’s worth getting them in the mood.
He’s so right.
The taste is warm and soft and brimming with love, the secret ingredient all licks want their vessels to have but none of them do. It fills her up like her mom’s chicken soup on a cold winter night. It makes her warm and whole. It nourishes her like all of the meals Diana’s wanted to cook for her baby. It lifts her up and takes her away from this dirty bathroom and all the stress and exhaustion and fear of the past night. It rolls over her tongue, and she’s whole.
In an instant, her Beast is loose, and she sees red.
An instant later, the red haze is gone. Celia still thirsts, tortuously. It burns her up inside. Her mom’s lying on the ground with the milk jug. Some of it has spilled. Her Beast seethes at the very thought. That stupid fucking woman. An apt descriptor from her dad.
It takes Celia a moment longer to recognize that her mom’s face is white with fear.
Celia: She tasted something like this once before. The night she ended things with Roderick—Stephen then—she’d tasted his love and concern for her. But even that had paled in comparison to the fare that hits her tongue. Even that hadn’t come close to this, hadn’t begun to blossom across her tongue like this. Everything else she’s ever tasted, every morsel of it, every red drop—none of it comes close. No Alana’s lusts, not Roderick’s peppery Brujah strength, not Randy’s slavish devotion, not her sire’s ice cold control.
This is love.
This is what love tastes like.
This is what people search for all their lives and never find, and here she has it in a milk jug in a dirty bathroom being poured into her mouth by a woman who would do anything for her, who she would do anything for in turn.
Randy watches those shows sometimes, the cooking ones. They talk about the subtle nuance of flavor, how certain spices elevate and enhance dishes. Salt opens up whatever other flavors already exist. Cayenne adds heat but not a lot of flavor. Chili powder adds depth but no bite. She’s listened to them wax poetic about cleaning their palates between courses, about which vintage of wines pair well with what meats, about how a splash of citric acid can brighten up any dish.
She’d never really understood what they meant. She doesn’t eat food anymore; it all tastes like shit to her.
This is heady. This is intoxicating. This is divine.
This is every luscious bite of ice cream she has ever had. This is every reverse seared medium rare steak with a dash of salt and pepper. This is the perfectly balanced chocolate cake with chocolate fudge filling and whipped chocolate frosting and none of it is too sweet, too bitter, or too much.
This is what it’s all about.
She drinks and drinks and drinks, and her Beast comes roaring to the surface so it, too, can drink down the delicious fare presented to it on a silver platter.
Beast and girl swallow the love.
But it’s a greedy thing. It wants more. It always wants more. Its claws come out and it thrashes, snarls, wrenches at the bonds that hold it to get to the source. Because this is second-hand love, and that bitch has more in her veins she knows it, she knows it, she knows—
Celia wrests back control of her Beast to view the scene before her. Spilled. She’d spilled it. That’s her dinner and she had spilled it, that stupid fucking bitch.
Just as quickly as they come the thoughts dissolve. The sight of her mother’s pale face—fright and blood loss—are enough to still her thoughts. Horror washes over her. She retracts her claws and fangs and licks her lips, worry in her eyes.
GM: She’s pressed flat against the bathroom wall as her chest anxiously heaves up and down.
“S… sweetie…?” she gets out in a whimper.
Celia: “Mom,” Celia whispers, “Mom, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t want you to see that, that’s why the cuffs—”
But also can she get the rest of that blood…?
GM: It’s there.
In the jug. Celia can tell there’s more. She can smell how much there still is.
Diana curls up against herself and makes a whimpering noise.
Truly, terrified creatures like her are what the word ‘kine’ refers to.
Celia: Celia reaches out with the gifts of her clan to take the fear from her mother. She whispers calm, soothing words to her mom, things that the woman has said to her many times over in their years: it’s okay, it’s all okay, everything is okay.
GM: Her mother’s terrified features slowly calm.
“Oh… you must still be hungry, sweetie… sorry about that…”
She picks up the jug and brings it once more to Celia’s lips.
It’s getting cooler. It’s losing taste, like all blood does when it’s not straight from the vein. Chicken soup left on the counter to cool for too long. But she can still taste the flavor. Taste the secret sauce all other Kindred want their vessels to have and never do. You can’t fake this. You can’t fake some things. You just can’t. It’s like melted butter with the fat, warm and luscious and rich, and it’s just for her. She could let that liquid love fill her mouth forever. Celia can taste it, how this woman has no loved ones in her life besides her children, and how Celia has always been her favorite one (except perhaps for Lucy). This blood is just for her. Everything this kine woman does is for her. She can taste her mother’s submissiveness and desire to please and provide.
To provide. To feed. To feed her baby.
She always said how much she wanted to do that. Celia just took seven years to specify her real diet.
Celia: It’s love.
That’s what it is.
Like when she’d fallen from the sky after being pulled out of bed and had seen to her daughter first.
Like when Donovan had taken the time to teach her a lesson this evening despite the fact that his time is worth so much more than hers.
Is this what she would taste like to him?
She tries not to think about it.
And as soon as the red stuff touches her tongue again it’s gone from her mind, and she opens her mouth wide to let it in, to swallow it down, and she tries to keep her Beast contained, mentally prodding it and telling it that if it rebels there will be more spilled, so play nice.
GM: Her mother holds the jug to her lips until finally, inevitably, but no less tortuously, it runs empty.
The jug hits the tub with a plastic clatter as her mom slumps against the tub’s rim.
“Was that enough… baby…?”
Celia: It’s gone too soon, but the hunger finally recedes.
“Mom,” Celia whispers urgently. She can’t even reach her, arms bound as they are. “Mom, are you okay? How much of that was yours? You can’t give that much, Mom.”
GM: With her head slumped forward as it is, Diana’s eyes only meet her daughter’s chest, and she looks like she’s having trouble keeping them open anyway. Celia also notices a hastily bandaged and very deep-looking cut down her forearm. The smell of blood from it is unmistakable.
“All of it… baby… was it… enough…?”
“Do you need… more…?”
“Mom.” Celia grits her teeth. “You can’t lose that much.”
GM: “I can… give you… more… if you need it…” she blearily repeats, closing her eyes.
GM: Celia’s mom slumps off the tub and onto the floor.
Her ghoul comes running after the shout. “Yeah, babe—oh,” he says, looking down at her mom.
There’s pause. Randy’s voice is quiet.
“Is she, uh… dead?”
Celia: “Let me up, she needs blood.”
“Let me up. Now.”
GM: “O-okay, babe,” he says, unlocking her cuffs.
“I, uh, didn’t think she’d donate that much.”
“Mine wouldn’t have.”
Celia: Celia is out of the tub in an instant.
“You were supposed to share the bloodletting,” is all Celia says. She doesn’t sound like she’s blaming him.
Fangs flash. She bites into her wrist, then presses the wound to her mother’s lips.
GM: Her mom’s eyes flare open as the blood flows, then dreamily half-close. She clutches the wrist with newfound strength and sucks, rapturously, from her daughter’s wrist. Her breathing gets heavier amidst savored exclamations of, “Mmm… mmm…”
Being ghouled on a dirty bathroom floor at least beats waking up from the Embrace in a dumpster.
Celia: It’s still not what she wanted for the woman.
But she waits for the color to appear in her cheeks.
And only then does she pull away.
GM: Payton said people rarely get the things they wish for.
Color slowly fills out Diana’s once-pale cheeks as she reflexively burns through the vitae in her system. Burns through it all. Celia can’t smell any left, and Diana still looks a bit pale, but she’s raised herself off the floor.
“Oh… oh… Celia, what was…?” her mother whispers reverentially.
Her eyes are fixed to her daughter’s wrist.
She licks her lips, searching for any last trace of the miracle draught, and gives a little shudder.
“Can I have some more…?”
“We still need a little in our systems, to keep the powers…” Randy adds, wholly unnecessarily.
Diana might not technically be a ghoul, with all of the vitae formerly in her system burned through.
But the same hunger in Randy’s and Alana’s eyes peers out from hers.
Celia: “She needed to not die,” Celia says to Randy, “not be suped up on blood.”
“It’s a drug, Mom.”
GM: “Can I have a little more, sweetie, please? My leg feels… oh, I don’t feel ANY pain!” she exclaims.
Celia: “That’s not possible,” Celia says flatly. “Your leg isn’t fixed. That’s not how it works. The injury is years old.”
GM: “Oh, but it feels so much better still! It’s been really bothering me, today, and now it isn’t!”
Celia: Celia shoots a look at Randy. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel safe in this house. Suddenly, she’s worried about not waking up tomorrow because they’ve decided to drain her in her sleep.
GM: “You want to go to sleep in my bed, babe?” he asks. “We could cover you in lots of blankets, make a vampire burrito.” He chuckles at the joke.
Celia: “Mom, can you excuse us please?”
GM: “Ah, of course, sweetie. I should go sit with Lucy… she shouldn’t be left alone.”
She looks at her daughter’s wrist for a moment longer, then gets up and exits the room.
Celia: “Keep her away from me today,” Celia says to Randy. “Don’t let her out of your sight.”
GM: “Huh?” asks Randy.
Celia: “Keep. Her. Away. From. Me.”
GM: “Uh, why, babe? Your mom, isn’t she?”
“I mean, I will if you want. Just, why?”
Celia: “Because I’m not interested in waking up to find out that she has gorged herself to death.”
GM: “Oh. She wouldn’t do that, I don’t think. Your mom and all.”
Celia: “Addicts are addicts.”
GM: “I’m not an addict.”
Celia: “She might be.”
GM: “But say, uh, it’s been a little while since last time…”
He eyes her wrist.
Celia: It’s been less than a week.
GM: “I think it… burns up in me, you know?”
Celia: “Find me a vessel for this evening and I’m happy to share.”
GM: “Okay, babe. I will. Just… a little bit now would calm it down, help me focus, you know…”
Celia: “Don’t make me repeat myself. I said tonight. I have nothing else to share. I have wounds to heal. I had to pick her up off the ground. I’ve had the shit kicked out of me three times tonight. I have broken bones to fix. Where, exactly, do you want me to get any extra from?”
GM: Randy’s eyes look desperate as she turns him down. Desperate and hungry.
“Oh, well, there’s Lucy…”
“She can be pretty hyper, lot of energy at that age…”
Celia: “I’m not feeding on Lucy.”
GM: He trails off.
“Ah, right. It’s wrong, yeah. Kid and all.”
He has enough sense to look ashamed of himself.
“Can I just… can I just have a really little taste, babe, to help me focus…?”
Celia: Celia reaches for him. She takes a step backward so that her backside hits the sink counter, pulling him into her. She brushes her lips against his neck.
“Randy,” she murmurs against his skin. “You know I hate it when you beg. Alana begs. Don’t be like Alana.”
GM: Randy gives a breathy sigh. He looks unsure what to do with his hands, like she once was.
“Alana has tons of sex with you, though…” he half-protests.
Celia: “She does,” Celia agrees, “and you will soon, too. If we weren’t in a dirty bathroom I’d ask you to fuck me now, but I really wanted our first time to be special.”
GM: “Ah, right, babe. Really special,” Randy nods, though he looks as if he still finds a bathroom fuck sorely tempting.
Celia: He’d turned her down last time in the bathroom.
Didn’t find it so tempting then.
And she’d come onto him even harder.
She’d given him a handjob before they arrived, even.
Had rubbed up against him, like she does now.
Had asked him to fuck her, all they had to do was be quiet.
GM: He probably regrets it now.
Really regrets it.
“I’ll keep your mom away from you. I mean, I bet she’s not an addict. She’s a nice lady.”
“But if she tries, she won’t get past me. Babe’s safe with the Randmeister,” Randy says, pointing his thumbs at his chest.
Celia: Celia lifts her eyes to his face. It’s a big gap; he’s a tall man, and she’s a little lady. She’s always enjoyed the height difference, the broad spread of his shoulders, the flat stomach.
“The Randmeister,” Celia agrees, “will always keep me safe. You’ll protect me, I know.”
GM: “Beat away all the addict ghoul moms in the world,” he grins, then adds more darkly, “And whoever messed with you.”
Celia: “I know, baby. I know. I’ve got you here. I’m never afraid when I’m with you.” She presses a kiss against his neck, then the underside of his jaw. Her hands travel up his chest to the back of his head, pulling him down toward her so she can capture his lips.
For a long moment she’s content to kiss him. Then she moves her mouth to his cheek, his neck, and nips at his flesh. Her fangs drag against his skin. She bites.
And after a moment, enough to get a brief taste, she licks it closed. Her lips return to his, blood hot on her tongue. Not her blood, but blood all the same.
GM: It all comes back to red with their kind. Red is the foundation of their society. It is payment, barter, sustenance. It is love and life and family ties. Red is blood. It is what binds them together.
Randy savors that binding tie. He gasps under her kiss. Kisses her hungrily back. It’s not sex. The sex he so craves. But it’s something more vital, even if he doesn’t realize it.
It is the foundation of their society. It is what everything always comes back to.
Pick a door. Pick any door. It doesn’t matter. They all lead the same place in this funhouse of horrors.
Randy hungrily kisses and embraces his domitor as the sun shines overhead, and just like that, she blacks out in his arms.
Sunday evening, 13 March 2016
GM: Celia awakens in someone’s bed, cocooned in blankets. Randy’s? The room looks suspiciously clean, to be his. A dresser and bookcase have been moved in front of the windows, blocking off the sun.
Celia: The bookshelves make her think Rusty to be honest; he seems like the kind of guy who keeps books in his room.
It’s a better waking than she had expected. She’s pleased that they had moved her after all, despite her earlier words.
Celia sits up slowly, casting her eyes around the room to see if she’s alone.
GM: She appears to be.
Her phone is on the bedside table.
Celia: She reaches for it to check her messages.
GM: The first one’s from Emily.
Hey you still down to play WoS with me and Robby sometime?
Btw asked him to take me to his HEMA events. Would like to know how to stab someone properly if I have to do it again._
Celia: Would love to play. Also lol, me too.
We can learn together, seems fun
GM: Oh cool, I’ll let him know you wanna go too. He said I might be the only girl there.
Celia: Don’t let them know you have a vagina, they might hit on you.
GM: Yeah he said there’s a lot of sweaty geeks. But also older guys who’ve actually had sex and dgaf
Celia: No see that’s how they get you, act like they don’t care.
GM: Ohhh drat
I guess I could pull a Mulan
Celia: There you go
GM: He did say the crowd is better in some ways than with TTRPGs though. These aren’t sedentary geeks if they’re sweaty
GM: Ha. Yeah actually, he said it’s incredibly incredibly hot
Because of the weather
And working up a sweat in all that equipment
He said to bring a lot of water, the sun + humidity can be just murder
Celia: oh, when is it?
GM: 3 PM Sunday
I couldn’t go to the one today, I’ve put off enough school stuff
Celia: Oh, lame. I’ve been picking up Sundays for a few clients.
GM: oh. That’s too bad
Celia: Maybe we can 1v1
GM: ah but I’ll kick your ass after Robby gives me lessons
Celia: oh bb ;)
GM: kick your ass not spank it :p
Celia: loser gets spanked
Speaking of spankings… Celia flips through her phone to see if Roderick has contacted her.
GM: that feels like what the winner should get
loser gets theirs kicked, winner spanked
something happens to all involved asses
There’s a text from him too, much more recently than Emily’s first.
How’d things go?
Celia: Well, at least he’s alive. Ish.
Celia doesn’t respond immediately; she doesn’t have an answer for him yet. She gets out of bed to find out what has been going on in the rest of the house.
GM: It looks a lot cleaner, first of all. It’s been vacuumed. There’s no longer random crap littering the floors. The old pizza boxes, beer cans, and assorted garbage is all gone. It smells like someone has sprayed a lot of air freshener in the air. It looks like someone’s wiped down a lot of the bleach-friendly surfaces. She finds Lucy and her mom in the newly-clean living room watching a Disney movie and eating ice cream, the girl on her mother’s lap. Both look half-asleep already.
Celia: Celia holds off on saying anything to her mother yet. She waves, then holds up a finger to indicate she needs a minute. She moves past the couch to find the boys, Alana, and Dani.
GM: Her mom notices her after a moment, smiles, then silently nods as the movie plays.
She finds Dani in the dining room where it’s quieter, also clean, and working on a laptop.
Celia: Thank God.
“Dani,” Celia greets her. “Thank you for coming over.”
GM: “Oh, Celia!” she exclaims, rising to hug the true-blood. “Yeah, no problem. It was really nice to meet your other… renfields.”
“And Lucy and your mom. She made a really nice dinner for everyone.”
“Well, except Alana.”
Celia: “Except Alana?” Celia asks as she returns the hug.
“Did she not eat or is she not here?”
GM: “Yeah. She wasn’t hungry, but I thought it was kinda rude not to at least sit down with us.”
Celia: “She’s… really, uh, into her body. She was overweight for a long time, pretty sure she’s nervous about getting back to that. What did your dad say about the change of date?”
GM: “Ah, I asked him to. And said I’d already asked you guys. He… kinda chewed me out, for ‘not honoring commitments.’”
Celia: Celia purses her lips.
“I’m sorry about that. It’s… there was an incident in Riverbend. Which is why everyone is here and I asked you to move and couldn’t meet with you last night.”
GM: “I think he’d been really looking forward to this, and he’s just so busy on weekdays. His job is pretty important, so.” Dani gives a hapless little shrug.
“Enough about my dad. What happened in Riverbend? I heard bits, just not what felt like everything.”
Celia: “Ask him if he can do tomorrow.”
GM: Dani almost winces at the request. “Uh, I can try. I think he might be pretty grumpy, though.”
Celia: “Ah. What did you hear?”
GM: “I heard that your mom’s a… renfield. So I told her I was a vampire.”
Celia: “Ah. How’d she take that? I hadn’t told her about you.”
GM: “She was surprised to see me, at first. And I think a little scared. I told her I was really new to this, and… what’d happened to me.”
“She hugged me and said a lot of really… really nice things.” Dani looks a little misty-eyed. “It felt good, to talk about it with more people.”
“She said she was really proud of you too, for helping me. And that she also missed Stephen.”
“She told me about that dinner you guys had together, where he tried so hard to help her. And how much he did, after she went to see his lawyer.”
“She said Stephen made a huge difference in all of your lives. That also felt really good to hear.”
Celia: “He did a lot for us. I don’t think that I would be the same person without him. And things would be much uglier for my mom. After my Embrace…” Celia trails off for a minute, lost in thought. “After everything happened, I couldn’t be there for them. But he was. He continued to get things moving, made sure everyone was taken care of, even though he hadn’t heard from me. He didn’t deserve to be hurt like he was by me.”
Like he continues to be hurt by her.
“I have a friend who knew him. Someone like us. I’ve spoken to him about you and he’d like to meet you. Tonight, or maybe early tomorrow evening after dinner.”
“Things kind of fell off the rails for me last night,” Celia admits after another brief pause, “so I’m trying to figure out how to juggle everything. I’m pretty close with someone who can assist with getting you into school unseen, so at some point tonight I’ll have you two meet up to get that in order. You can’t linger after dark. And you can’t feed there at all. Ever. I also spoke to the guy who runs the Quarter on your behalf, and he said he’d be happy to find you employment at a court here so that you don’t need to risk Mid-City.”
“Happy” isn’t exactly what she’d call Savoy and Preston when she brought it up, and it’s the immigration court rather than the Supreme Court (which would have given Dani and Roderick nothing to complain about as it would have been a step up), but it’s something at least.
GM: “Ah, I don’t know that my dad can do dinner tomorrow,” says Dani uncomfortably. “I can ask, but… he’s basically on duty 24/7, that’s just sort of the nature of his job.”
Celia: She’d been afraid that would be the response about moving dinner. She wonders how Savoy is going to take it. “Sorry we didn’t have dinner yet, I was busy trying to keep my family from splintering and Henry is a busy man.”
She should start charging the Maxen in her head rent.
Roderick will just have to deal with meeting Dani and then he can meet his dad. Reward for good behavior.
“Ask anyway, I guess. No harm in trying. I could charm him into accepting, I guess, but not over the phone. We could both go see him in person, if you think he’d be up for that.”
She’ll just have to dodge the fuck out of Harlequin’s friends in the meantime.
That’s not an impossible, suicidal mission or anything.
GM: “I think he might be pretty mad at me, honestly, if we didn’t have a reason this couldn’t just wait until he’s free,” says Dani. “I mean… do we?”
Celia: “Not one we can share with him. It’s fine.”
GM: “Okay. But, as far as that other stuff. I’d love to meet someone who knew Stephen, and who’s like us!”
“Are they another vampire, or a renfield?”
“My, uh, my boyfriend actually.”
GM: “Oh, congratulations! I’d love to meet him! He’s okay with duskborn?”
Celia: “He… sort of. He says he is. And he knew your brother, so he’s okay with you.”
“But he had a bad reaction when he found out. So, you remember what I told you about the clans?”
GM: “I think so. I actually explained a lot of that to your mom. Teaching is one of the best ways to make a lesson sink in, and all.”
“She thought it was silly anyone would hate me just because I can walk in the sun.”
Celia: “Kindred hate each other for all sorts of dumb reasons. I was mocked last night for having an online degree, as if being Embraced after finishing college was something the bitch who said it planned. People make fun of me for still being able to have sex. It’s… pretty dumb.”
Speaking of sex, though.
“So, uh, this boyfriend of mine. He’s a Brujah. Rage problems. He’s lost control on me a handful of times. You can’t kill us, not like that, but if you could avoid telling him we shared blood…”
“It’s kind of what passes for sex among our kind. We didn’t mean it like that, but I’d rather not be knocked around for a misunderstanding.”
GM: Dani frowns. “He should be able to understand that, if it’s not a big deal.”
“Also, he sounds like an abuser.”
Celia: “He’s… he can’t control it.”
GM: “That’s an excuse.”
“He can control his emotions. That’s part of being an adult.”
Celia: “I lost control last night. The Beast took over. I saw what they did to my mom and I lost it.”
GM: “What they did to your mom?” Dani frowns.
“But, okay, if someone hurt your mom, that’s okay to get mad over! It’s okay to be angry over injustice, that gives us fire and helps us make it right.”
“But it’s not okay to get mad at your girlfriend over something that isn’t actually a big deal. Much less hit her.”
Celia: “He’s done it a few times,” Celia says with sort of a helpless shrug. “But it’s… I just try not to set him off. He saw what happened to you and lost it.”
“But he didn’t get his hands on me that time, so it’s fine. I just don’t want to risk anything.”
GM: “Celia…” Dani holds her shoulders. “You’ve gotten into a relationship exactly like your dad.”
“Do you hear what you’re saying, trying not to set him off, not take risks? He’s abusing you.”
Celia: “You’ll understand when you meet him.”
“He’s not like my dad. He’s a good person.”
GM: “Good people don’t hit their girlfriends. Or make them scared about setting them off.”
“He could be working on the cure to cancer and I’d still say that. I’d probably question, in fact, why he’s working on it if that’s how he acts in his private life.”
Celia: “He’s all I have left of your brother.”
GM: “He’s not my brother.”
“My brother would never hit you.”
GM: “Stephen wasn’t perfect. But he wasn’t an abuser. He loathed your dad for what he did to your family, and for getting away with it.”
“I’m pretty sure he’d see red if he knew this other guy was abusing you. He’d want you to break up and find someone who treated you better.”
Celia: Celia’s laugh is hollow. “Options are limited when you’re a lick.”
GM: “Well, they say no relationship is better than a bad relationship.”
Celia: “Yeah, well, I don’t know if things will work out long-term anyway.”
GM: “I don’t really want to meet this guy, to be honest, unless you want to break up and want me there as support.”
“You deserve so much better than him.”
Celia: “It’s something for me to consider, anyway. But that’s a problem for another night. I have some things to fix tonight. The renfields are all here?”
GM: “Ah, maybe? They’ve been sort of in and out. I’ve mostly been here trying to study.”
Dani doesn’t look happy, but lets the matter drop.
“It’ll be okay for me to go back to my apartment if I’m going to school, right? My laptop, notes, and textbooks are all there.”
Celia: “Safer if you stay in the Quarter. We’ll get you a place here. But we’ll get your stuff.”
GM: “Oh. Rents can be pretty expensive here, I don’t make a lot.”
Celia: Celia waves a hand.
GM: Dani looks relieved. “Okay. Thanks. Dad doesn’t pay for everything with me. Didn’t with Stephen, either.”
“Also, ah, about my job.”
“I know there’s two courts here in the Quarter, immigration and the Supreme Court, and I’m… not really Supreme Court material.”
Perhaps Celia wonders if Dani considered her brother ‘Supreme Court material.’
“I want to work for the DA’s office after I graduate. My clerkship at the criminal court is really useful there. Immigration law isn’t my area.”
“That’s really nice of your friend to get me another job, but I can’t really work in the Quarter. Could the person you know help me get to my job… unseen, too?”
“I’ll pay for it,” she adds quickly. “Owe them a ‘boon’ like you mentioned, whatever. I don’t have any problem not feeding there and leaving before dark, either.”
Celia: “The issue there isn’t that you smell like a vampire. It’s that you look like you. In Mid-City, they’ll be looking for Danielle Garrison. In Riverbend, they’re not.”
GM: “Sorry, looking for me?”
Celia: “My boyfriend thinks you’re better off in Houston or another city. He runs with people in Mid-City who might be looking for you and might try to take you out by force.”
“After you graduate, if you want to work for the DA’s office, we can get you a new identity. A lot of licks do it, and my friend can help there too. We just have to get you through school first.”
GM: “What? Why would someone want to… take me out?! Is it because of my family?”
Celia: “I meant take you out of the city by force.”
GM: “What?” Dani repeats. “Why would your boyfriend and his friends want to kidnap me?”
Celia: “He’d be doing it for Stephen, basically. Thinks that you’re less likely to run into trouble in another city with a different power structure. But I’ve seen how the duskborn live. It’s not pretty, even here. I’m doing everything I can for you so you don’t have to live like that.”
GM: “But… why does he even care about me? Why go to that much effort? I’m not his problem, right?”
Celia: “He’ll probably explain why when you meet him.”
GM: “I don’t want to meet someone who abuses you!”
Celia: “Loyalty to your brother. Guilt over the massacre. His sire was the one who set it up, and he’s the only one who would have made it out alive if the Anarchs hadn’t surrendered.”
GM: “Oh my god, Stephen is still making my life worse!”
Dani halts herself.
“Uh. I didn’t mean it like that.”
Celia: “We’ll just make it very clear that you aren’t interested in leaving. I don’t even know if he would kidnap you, he just… mentioned it. Which is why I had you come here today. That and other reasons.”
“I just want you to be safe, Dani. I know there’s a lot of… bullshit.”
Celia gives her a look almost as flat as one of Pete’s.
“You did mean it like that, and that’s okay.”
“He was always… golden child, wasn’t he?”
GM: “Yeah. He was,” Dani sighs.
“But I already told you. Dad loved him more. And wishes I was dead instead.”
Celia: Celia reaches for Dani, pulling her into a tight embrace.
“No, he doesn’t. He mourns your brother, but he doesn’t wish you were dead.”
GM: Dani sniffs and leans against Celia’s shoulder. “He doesn’t, he’d just… swap Stephen being dead for me in a heartbeat… and he’d be right.”
“Stephen’s Supreme Court material. He could’ve clerked there.”
Celia: “He’s not right, Dani. He’s not. You’ve got so much to offer. Stephen was raised to be his little clone. You’re a different person and you’re going to forge your own path.”
GM: Dani sniffs again. “Like what? I’m still being a lawyer, just a worse one. Dad was so proud how… Stephen got his clerkship, all by himself. Dad had to call in a favor, told me it was nepotism, that my grades needed to rise above this…”
Celia: “Then why go into law? Is it really what you want to do, if it stresses you out so much, if you feel like you’ve already lost before you sat down to play the game? Pick something else. Do something else.”
“I didn’t follow my father’s footsteps into politics. My little brother, Logan, he feels like he’s in David’s shadow because he went into law to get into politics. He feels like he doesn’t measure up.”
“You can’t compare like that. I had to do my own thing. Maybe you do your own thing, too.”
GM: “But it is what I want to do! I want to bring the bad guys to justice, I want to carry on the family legacy, if it can’t be Stephen doing it. It’s just a simple fact I’m inferior to Stephen.” Dani dabs her eye as she breaks off the hug. “I shouldn’t be unloading onto you, I’ve made my peace with it. It’s just a fact, there’s nothing to do about it.”
Celia: “Dani,” Celia says gently, taking the girl’s hands in hers. “We’re friends, right? Friends can unload on each other.”
GM: Dani nods as she squeezes Celia’s back.
Celia: “When I met Emily in college she was a mess. She had the same sort of problems. And I pushed her through so that she could be happy. She’s about to realize her dreams of becoming a doctor.”
“Now it’s your turn. Whatever you want to do, we’ll get you there. We’ll make it happen.”
“And hey, you’re immortal now. If you want to be a lawyer now and a doctor in fifty years and a singer after that, you get to do it.”
GM: “That’s… that’s true.” Dani takes a breath. “I am a vampire, that’s the one thing I did, that he didn’t.”
“But right now it just seems like it causes more problems, I can’t lose that clerkship, I’ll be a worse ADA if I don’t complete it!”
Celia: “Once you finish school you’re going to have plenty of time to practice. I know some people in law and we can have you shadow a Kindred lawyer if you want. There are options. I know you can walk in the sun and you want to keep practicing, but it might not happen and it’s… it’s really dangerous, Dani, and if you’re dead because they came to get you…”
Celia trails off. Finally, she forces a sigh.
“Listen, why don’t you come with me tonight? I have some errands to run and I can bring you with me for some of them.”
GM: Dani nods. “Yes, please! Where I’ll meet other vampires?”
GM: “I know how much you’ve said duskborn are discriminated against. Should I expect them to be pretty bad?”
Celia: Celia just nods.
GM: Dani looks grim, but nods back. “As long as you think we can handle it.”
Celia: “Finish what you’re working on. I need to talk to my mom and the boys. I’ll collect you before I leave.”
GM: “Okay. There’s only so much I can do on someone else’s laptop without my stuff, anyway.”
“But your mom told me I should spend my time on school if I don’t have anything else to do.”
Celia: “Sounds like Mom,” Celia says with a faint smile.
GM: “Well, she is a teacher,” Dani smiles back.
“It was really nice to have her here. The guys just… kept hitting on me.”
Celia: Celia snorts.
“Yeah, that, uh… doesn’t surprise me.”
GM: “I’m just not interested right now,” Dani says, a little numbly.
Celia: “Just tell them to fuck off.”
GM: “I did.”
GM: “I just had to do it a million times.”
“Reggie kept saying I was playing hard to get.”
Celia: “Sometimes if you bare your fangs and snarl at them they get the message more clearly.”
GM: “I’ll try that, next time.”
Celia: “Just not to normal humans.”
GM: “Yeah. Just, ugh. Guys.”
Celia: Celia gives her a sympathetic smile and pat on the shoulder before moving off to find the guys in question.
GM: Reggie is not home, but she finds Randy on his back in the exercise room lifting weights. He gives an exclaimed, “Babe!” and drops them with a crash when he sees her, then quickly sits up.
“We moved you to a real bed, you sleep all right?”
Celia: Celia finally sends a text back to Roderick as she moves through the house.
Not really. Shit hit the fan. Trying to figure it out.
Worry flits through her at Reggie’s absence. She thought she had told them to stay here for the day until they could debrief.
“I did. Thank you. Where are your brothers?”
GM: Roderick responds immediately.
Where are you and what can I bring to help?
“Oh. They, uh, said they had other stuff to do. But I wanted to be here when you woke up.”
Celia: God, she loves him. Even without the collar she loves him. Even in love with her sire there’s enough room in her heart for Roderick, too.
With Randy. I don’t know. Feels like drowning. Meet soon?
Her eyes move back to Randy.
“Ah. And Alana?”
GM: Just less room than her sire.
He wouldn’t just ask how to help. He’d fly right there, destroy whatever threatened her, and make sweet (or at least chill) love to his childe upon the ashes of the fallen.
Celia: That’s hot.
GM: Okay. Usual place in an hour?
“Oh, I think she also thought she had more important shit to do.”
Randy’s always been a terrible liar.
“Randy.” Celia gives him another Pete-esque look.
GM: K. See you.
“Ah, she’s closing up at the spa and said she’d be here soon.”
Celia: “Get your brothers here. Now.”
GM: “Ah, they don’t really come running for me, babe, but I can try.”
Celia: “Tell them it’s for me.”
GM: “Kay, babe, I’ll try,” says Randy, firing off some texts.
Celia: Celia closes out of the text with Roderick and dials Alana.
GM: The ghoul picks up on the first ring.
“Hello, Celia,” she says in a dreamy tone that sounds like she’s trying to say ‘mistress’ instead.
Celia: “Hello, darling. Can you come back to Randy’s, please? I need you.”
GM: Alana seems to glow at the words. “I’m already on my way, m-Celia. I’ll be there very soon.”
“They haven’t responded yet,” Randy adds helpfully.
Celia: Celia tells Alana that she will see her soon and ends the call, already worried about her.
“Get me someone here who can deliver a message. One of those courier types,” she says to Randy.
She dials Reggie.
GM: He picks up.
“Your mom and friend were hot, but it was still pork rinds next to fillet mignon.”
Celia: “Reggie, I woke up and you were gone.” Celia puts a pout into her voice. “Come back, please, I need to speak with you.”
She’s terribly amused by the comparison.
GM: “I’m at work… but work’s a lot less sexy than you are. Take back all the words between ‘need’ and ‘you,’ and I’m on my way.”
Celia: “I need you,” Celia purrs into the phone.
“Bring your brother.”
GM: “I’ll drag him there in a headlock if he says no.”
Reggie hangs up.
Celia: Celia smiles at Randy, sliding her phone back into her pocket. She reaches for him despite the sweat that glistens on his skin.
“It’s all in how you phrase things.”
GM: “You’re great at phrasing things, babe,” he beams.
“You’re great at a lot of things.”
Celia: “I am,” she agrees. “I was going to ask you to join me in the shower but my mother is here. Why don’t you get cleaned up after you find a courier for me and meet me in the living room so we can all chat.”
GM: “Oh. Well, she’s watching a movie right now, and it’s not her house…” Randy says suggestively.
Celia: Tempting. Except she’s meeting Roderick soon, and Dani is around, and she has limited time.
“I want our first time to be special,” she sighs, pressing a kiss against his cheek.
GM: “Ah. Right,” Randy nods, glowing under the kiss.
“I, uh. Didn’t have much luck finding you a vessel anyway.”
Celia: “Mmm, I assumed. I didn’t see any strangers lounging around. Maybe you can find me another girl rolling on E again next time and we can make a night of it.”
GM: “Oh, you bet, babe. You were just… something else…” Randy grins.
He’s quiet for a moment, then adds, “Reggie was laying it on pretty thick with your friend and your mom.”
Celia: “He hit on my mom?”
GM: “Yeah. I mean, she’s not as hot as you, but she’s still hot.”
Celia has worked so diligently to keep her that way.
Celia: “I suppose I’ll take that as a compliment.”
GM: “Oh, it’s—you’re super hot, babe! There’s no one in the world as hot as you!”
Celia: “I just meant because I work on her face, Randy.”
GM: “Ah, yeah. You’re really great at that too. She’s a MILF.”
Celia: “Thanks for watching over them today. I really needed you and you came through.”
GM: “You bet,” says Randy, his chest puffing a little. “They didn’t like the attention, but I told him to knock it out, they didn’t need that.”
“Grabbed his hand a couple times when he tried to cop some feels.”
Celia: A scowl greets those words.
“Get cleaned up. We’ll talk in a minute.”
GM: “He only touched them a couple times,” Randy adds helpfully as he gets up. “I cockblocked most of it.”
Celia: “Good to know.” Celia leaves him to shower on his own, moving back into the living room to find her mother.
GM: She finds her mother in the same place, watching a movie with a now fully sleeping Lucy on her lap.
“Hi, sweetie,” she whispers, her face lighting up as she sees Celia.
Celia: “Hey, Mom.” Celia smiles at the pair, though Lucy certainly can’t see it with her eyes closed. She keeps her distance, sitting on the edge of the couch rather than right next to her mother.
“You doing okay?”
GM: Diana nods and strokes Lucy’s hair for a moment.
“I met Dani,” she whispers. “It was so nice to see her here.”
“She told me all about what had happened to her, that poor thing…”
“We caught up a bit, and we talked about Stephen. I think she was really happy to hear he’d made such a difference in our lives.”
Celia: “She had a rough time of it,” Celia says with a grimace. “I don’t envy her position. I’m doing what I can for her.”
GM: “She also told me how she was, ah, a… vampire. But she was still able to eat my cooking, I thought you said you couldn’t?”
Celia: “She’s… different.”
GM: “I think you’re doing a very good thing from what she’s said, sweetie,” Diana nods.
“I felt so bad for her. I made her a lot of food.”
Celia: “I’m sure she appreciated that.”
GM: “I hope she did. She told me about all of those… vampire things you told her.”
Celia: “Oh. Good. That’ll save us some time.”
GM: “I’m… not really sure what to make of it, sweetie.”
Celia: “I’m sure you still have some questions. About me. And this life. And what it means. And what’s going on with you and Lucy.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot to take in. I tried to keep you from the worst of it.”
GM: “With Lucy?” Diana asks, concern creasing her face as she looks down at her daughter.
Celia: “Because of the phone call you received.”
“The boys and Alana are coming over so we can discuss things. Basically, I pissed off the girl who… did what she did to you.”
GM: Diana’s face turns very still again.
Celia: “So until that’s fixed, I need you to work with me on laying low. Nothing is going to happen to you. It’s me they want.”
“I was going to put you up in a hotel for a few days. Or maybe a trip out of town if you’d prefer. Tell work you’ve got the flu or something.”
GM: Diana looks down at Lucy.
“Okay,” she says meekly. “Whatever you want.”
Celia: “I’m sorry to drag you into this.”
“The other issue…” Celia pauses. “Did she, uh, explain the rules?”
GM: “I just want to be there for you, sweetie. I just want to be your mom,” she says, looking back up at her other daughter.
Celia: How much of it is that first stage of the bond, she wonders, and how much of it is Diana?
GM: “I’m glad… I’m glad we don’t have this between us, anymore.”
Celia: “Normal people, people like you, they can’t know. So there are some options there, but… maybe not ones you’ll like.”
GM: “Oh. What… sort of options, sweetie?”
Celia: “We can permanently relocate you to another city. No one will look at you because you’re not connected to me. Still risky, but less risky than you staying here. We can alter your memories so you don’t remember.”
GM: “My whole life’s here,” Diana protests, but weakly. “So’s Emily’s.”
Celia: “Or I can… do to you what I did to Randy and Alana. But there are a lot of complications that come with that.”
GM: “I love our house, I love my job, I love having most of my kids nearby, I love my friends, I love all the good things here that we have for Lucy… remember, sweetie, she goes to McGehee for free! That’s a very, very good school I’d normally have to pay $20,000 a year for.”
“And Emily’s arranged things to do her residency here, at TMC. Logan’s probably going to ship overseas, after he commissions, but David’s here, and Sophia wants to come back… everything’s all here.”
Celia: “What if Dad becomes governor? Would you move to Baton Rouge with him?”
GM: She’s silent for a moment at that question.
She looks back down at Lucy.
“Sweetie, getting that call…”
She closes her eyes.
“I was so scared for her. So scared for Lucy.”
“I want… I want to take things slow, with your father. I want to be sure he’ll be good to Lucy.”
Celia: “Okay,” Celia says, nodding. “I respect that. I don’t want you to rush into anything with him.”
GM: “If I was… yes. I suppose I would move with him. But that’s thinking very far ahead.”
“Even if that is where I’d like us to end up. I want my man back. I want him to be good to us again. I want Lucy to have a dad in her life.”
She strokes the sleeping child’s hair again.
“I just want her to have a good life, the best life.”
Celia: “Then I’ll work things out with the girl I pissed off. Until then, I need you to lay low.”
GM: Diana’s face grows still again at Elyse’s mention. But she nods.
Celia: “I… I saw what she did to you, Mom. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”
GM: Diana just hangs her head.
Celia: “You’re stronger than me, you know. I don’t know if I could ever dance again. Or love as fiercely as you do.”
GM: “I’m weak,” she whispers, gently pressing her face against Lucy’s head. Her eyes are closed. “You’re strong.”
Celia: “No, Mom. You are strong. You are the strongest woman I know. You’ve been through Hell and back and you’re still capable of being an amazing person. You didn’t let it turn you into a bitter shrew or withdraw into a shell. You’re a wonderful mother. You only want the best for people.”
“It’s beautiful. I wish I had that much kindness in me.”
GM: Her mom looks up. “Oh, you do, sweetie… with Dani here, with Emily…”
Celia: “It’s different. I haven’t been… I haven’t been through anything like that. And I had you to show me how.”
GM: Diana looks at Celia curiously for a moment.
“Sweetie, can you…?”
She motions at the spot next to her.
Celia: Celia rises and moves to the spot next to her mom.
“I didn’t know if you’d want me close, after…”
GM: Her mom touches her belly.
She tilts her head, her eyes distant, then slowly shakes it.
“I’m sorry, I don’t…”
Celia: “You… what?”
GM: “I don’t… I don’t know… I’m sorry.”
She removes her hand.
Celia: “Oh… oh.”
“You can feel her?”
GM: “You’re… oh sweetie, you’re pregnant?” Diana exclaims in a furious whisper, a smile lighting up her face.
Celia: “Er… not exactly…”
GM: “Oh. Ah, well… it’s a bit of a yes or a no question…”
Celia: “There’s a… there’s a doll inside of me.”
GM: Diana’s face goes still again.
Celia: “She, um. She said you were her mom once. So I… took her.”
GM: Diana gives a hiss-like inhalation of breath and presses her head against Lucy’s again.
The other Lucy’s.
Celia: “Sorry. I told you I wouldn’t talk about it. I’m sorry. I just… wondered if that’s what you were feeling.”
GM: Diana doesn’t answer Celia’s statement.
Celia: “I’m not pregnant. I can’t get pregnant. I’ll never be able to give you grandkids.”
GM: It’s a little while before she looks up again.
Celia: Celia stays quiet while her mother works through her emotions, unsure of what to say.
GM: Her eyes cut to Celia’s belly again, but she swallows and pulls her daughter close into a half-hug (the most she can with Lucy on her lap), and mussels a hand through her dark hair.
“Celia, I will always, always, love you. I don’t know what God thinks of you, or how He’s going to judge you. That’s up to Him, not me. All that’s up to me is being your mom. And I’ll… I’ll always be your mom, baby… okay? I don’t want to leave you, I don’t want to forget this part of you, I want us to stay a family, okay?”
Celia: Her lip trembles at the declaration. She doesn’t know how much of it is Diana and how much of it is the blood she hadn’t mean to give her straight from the wrist earlier, but the acceptance of her—even knowing what she is—deeply touches her. Red appears in the corners of her eyes, leaking slowly down her cheeks while she hugs her mother tight.
“I love you, Mom. I love you so much.”
GM: “I love you too, sweetie… with all my heart…” Diana murmurs back, holding her daughter close and stroking her hair.
“We’ll do… we’ll do a night wedding for Emily, and I’ve got six other kids who can give me grandbabies, anyway…”
Celia: “That’s a lot of grandbabies,” Celia says with a watery (bloody?) laugh into her mother’s shoulder.
“I’ll just have to spoil them all.”
Diana’s still counting Isabel.
Celia: Celia doesn’t correct her.
Six, anyway, for Ethan.
Technically a grandkid already.
GM: “Yes. It is plenty…” Diana laughs. “You can be their cool aunt.”
She looks back down at Lucy.
“And there’s already someone who calls you mommy, anyway…”
Celia: “That’s very true,” Celia says, pulling back. She wipes at her face and smiles down at the goose. “If you and Maxen get back together, what are you going to tell him?”
GM: “Well, at that point… the truth, I think,” Diana answers. “If we are getting back together. I don’t want to rush into it, like I said…”
“Oh. Speaking of the truth, sweetie… there’s Emily.”
Celia: “She can’t know. No one can know, Mom.”
GM: Diana looks at her curiously. “But I know.”
Celia: “And that’s what we need to discuss. Because humans who know break the rules, and if I break the rules I die. Die again. For real this time.”
GM: Diana gives a faint chuckle. “That’s nonsense, we’re not hurting anyone.”
Celia: “This isn’t like human society. If anyone finds out that you know, they kill you. They kill your family. They kill me. There’s no police officers for vampires, there’s no lawyers, there are no second chances.”
“There are people out there who hunt people like me, who kill people like me. Humans like you. The night I came over for dinner and I told you about the break-in? I lied. There was a break-in, but they weren’t after money. They kidnapped me. They tortured me. They cut up Alana. They raped me.”
“That’s what they do to us. That’s why people can’t know. That’s why when someone like you finds out, you die.”
GM: Diana’s mouth falls open.
“They did what to you?!”
Celia: “They… they raped me. I was handcuffed to a bed, and they stabbed me with a knife, and they… he… he kept calling me his vampire slut, and he…”
GM: Diana hugs her close again and starts crying. “Oh, my baby… my poor baby… you’re safe here… you’re safe… I love you…”
Celia: “And that’s… that’s why, Mom, no one can know.”
GM: “My poor baby…” Diana repeats, hugging Celia tight. “It’s not your fault… it’s not your fault… I love you… you’re strong, you’ll get past this…”
Celia: “I’m past it, Mom. It’s fine.”
“But do you see?”
GM: “It’s not fine, sweetie, someone hurt you! Have you been… seeing someone, for help?”
Celia: “Yeah. I have someone that I can talk to.”
GM: Celia has to spend several minutes assuring her mother she’s fine before Diana reluctantly drops the topic.
“Okay, sweetie… we’ll keep this secret, absolutely secret… I won’t tell anyone you’re a vampire, ever…”
“We have practice at that, don’t we, with your dad and Lucy’s dad… what’s another secret.”
Celia: “It’s not like anyone is going to ask about this one,” Celia says with a wry smile.
GM: “That’s right,” Diana smiles just as wryly back.
“But I want to tell Emily, sweetie. She’s kept both of those secrets. We can trust her.”
Celia: “Mom, this isn’t like who my dad is. This is a matter of life and death. This is people coming for you in the middle of the night and killing you. I need you to understand that.”
GM: Diana is quiet for a moment.
“I have always believed your father is a matter of and death, Celia,” she answers slowly.
Celia: “You think he’d kill you for that?”
GM: “I… I don’t think, I pray not now… but that is what I always have believed,” she answers in the same slow tone.
GM: Her mom looks at her confusedly.
“Celia, baby, I know it’s been a while, but I told you… when you were 14, remember, in the hospital… that you couldn’t tell anyone, anyone, or he’d kill me…”
Celia: “And I never told,” Celia says, “so why are you trying to tell Emily?”
GM: “I did tell that to Emily, sweetie,” her mom says quietly.
“For seven years, I’ve trusted her with that matter of life and death. She hasn’t let us down. She’s your sister. A burden shared is a burden halved.”
Celia: “Not this burden.”
GM: “Yes, this burden! All burdens, sweetie. Just havin’ someone else next to you, who shoulders the load… that doesn’t just make it lighter, it draws you closer. Binds you together.”
“I mean, you said it was hurting you, to have to eat all the food I made. Because I thought you… well, ate the same way as… the way you used to.”
Celia: “People like me can read minds. It’s not just not telling. It’s not thinking.”
GM: “Oh. You can read my mind?” Diana asks.
Celia: “No. I can’t. It’s a fairly advanced talent. But others like me can. We all do different things.”
GM: “Oh. Well, I was going to say. You saw when I delivered Lucy, so you’ve seen just about all there is to see with me,” her mom chuckles.
Celia: “Right, but you don’t understand. If someone knows you know they’ll take you and rip through your memories and find out everything about you, about me, about Lucy, about Emily.”
“And then they’ll lock me in an iron box and burn me alive. And I’d like to avoid that. You know?”
GM: Diana holds her hands to her mouth. “Okay, so… we just don’t ever talk about it, outside the house…”
Celia: “You can’t even think about it. That’s the problem. That’s what I’m saying.”
GM: “But… I am going to think about it, sweetie,” her mom says slowly.
“I can’t not think about it…”
Celia: “Right. Which is why we have one of two options. I can erase your memories. Or I can… turn you into a ghoul.”
GM: “Can you… go over what that involves for me, sweetie?”
“Dani did, a bit, but she said she was so new to this. I’d just like to get it straight from the horse’s mouth, you know?”
Celia: “You drink my blood. You stop aging. You develop powers, things sort of like what I can do. But anyone like me who tastes your blood can pick up my blood in you. They can use you against me. You’re subject to the same laws as I am, the same territory disputes. If you want to work at McGehee I’ll need to talk to a night doctor so they can mark you so you don’t taste like a ghoul, so no one can ever know what you are.”
GM: Diana looks unsure of all that.
“Do you think it’s a good idea? If they can… use me against you?”
Celia: “The other option is erasing your memories. Or you leave the city.”
GM: “But I can’t leave, my life is here. My children’s lives.”
“And I don’t want to forget this about you. This is who you are.”
Celia: “Then this is what we do.”
GM: “Plus I’d keep cooking for you, wouldn’t I?” her mom says with a chuckle. “Or trying to.”
Celia: “You would,” Celia says wryly, “and I’d invent new diets to avoid eating.”
GM: “It really does explain so much, how I almost never saw you eat…”
“That felt so bad, though. I thought you were angry at me.”
Celia: “I wasn’t. It just sits in my stomach and I have to throw it back up. And it tastes… uh, not good.”
GM: “Oh. You can’t taste it?” Diana asks.
Celia: “Dani can. It tastes like, um, garbage mostly. Ash.”
GM: “It does? All of it?” her mom asks disbelievingly.
“Oh, sweetie, I am so sorry!”
Celia: “You couldn’t have known. There’s nothing to be sorry about.”
“I always felt bad turning you down because I knew you were trying to be nice. Randy ate a lot of it.”
GM: “Ah. That explains where it all went.”
“I’m glad someone still got to.”
Celia: “My boyfriend asked the same thing. If you’d be upset if I brought him over for dinner and he threw it up.”
GM: “Randy, you mean? Well, so long as he enjoys it, but it doesn’t sound like he did.”
Celia: “No. My real boyfriend. He’s like me. Randy is a ghoul.”
GM: Diana looks confused.
“But I thought he was…?”
Celia: “He plays my boyfriend for my mortal cover.”
GM: “We’ve had him over for dinner and everything. We talked about how long it was taking him to slip a ring on your finger!”
GM: Diana blinks.
“Sweetie, that’s… that’s very strange.”
“To be fair, so is having a mortal family. Most of us don’t.”
GM: “I don’t see what’s strange about having a family. It seems strange not to. Very, very strange!”
Celia: “You saw me this morning. What I did. It’s dangerous.”
“I’ve always made sure I wasn’t hungry around you, but… I was last night.”
“If I lose control, there’s nothing to stop me.”
GM: Diana looks fearful. “Okay, so… so that won’t happen again?”
Celia: “It’s something I take every precaution I can to avoid.”
GM: “That was very scary, Celia… I don’t want to be scared of you…” she says slowly.
Celia: “I know, Mom. I don’t want you to be scared of me, either.”
GM: “But… I got over it, I guess. The fear just… I don’t know, maybe it was just a mom’s impulse to feed her baby, but poof, it was gone.”
But Celia doesn’t tell her that.
“You can’t give that much, by the way. You need some for you.”
GM: “But you were hungry.”
Celia: “But you’ll kill yourself.”
GM: “You drank it all.”
Celia: “I was hungry. I was very hungry.”
GM: “Well, there you go. I needed to feed you.”
Celia: “You can’t give that much, though. If you die, you can’t feed me. See?”
GM: “Well, I didn’t die. It wasn’t a walk in the park, but here I still am.”
Celia: “Because I had to give you my blood. If I hadn’t, you’d have died.”
GM: Her mom’s eyes glow at the subject. “Your blood tasted wonderful, Celia. Just… just wonderful.”
Celia: “Yeah? Like, ah, like what?”
GM: “Well, ah, it was very sweet. It made me think of all those racy jokes you and Emily like to make, on our girl’s nights. And tucking you in to sleep as a child. Sweet like strawberry shortcake. With makeup icing, but less gross than it sounds.”
Celia: “Yours, too. I could… it was like drinking pure love, Mom. I’ve never had anything like it. It made me warm and fuzzy inside.”
GM: “Oh, was it?” Her mom looks a little misty-eyed. “That’s all I wanted to do, sweetie, when I cooked for you, when I gave you food. I wanted to feed my baby. I wanted you to feel good. Feel loved.”
Celia: “I felt it. I really did.”
GM: “If this is how you eat now… I still want to feed you.”
Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment.
But the woman is offering.
And it was really, really good.
“Okay,” she says at length. “We can… we can do that. Not all the time. Just sometimes. Never when I’m hungry. Don’t spring blood on me, don’t just cut yourself to feed me and thrust it at me. But… if that’s what you want to do… I, I think I’d like that.”
“Can I see your arm?”
Celia nods toward where she saw the cut this morning.
GM: Her mom nods and holds it out. There’s still a bandage. It’s a long and deep cut.
“Okay. Then I’d like to do that too.”
Celia: Gently, Celia takes the offered arm in her hand. She winces at the cut once she peels the bandage back.
“You don’t need to cut yourself, either. I’ll show you once you’re recovered, but for now…” Celia leans in very slowly, and runs her tongue along the cut to seal it.
GM: Her mom raises her eyebrows. “Oh, sweetie, what are y…”
For a moment, there’s the tantalizing taste of her mother’s vitae, so full of that warm and fuzzy love. Celia’s tongue seals shut what’s left. Her vitae closed most of it already. She notes, however, that there’s still some faint scarring… the wound has had all day to heal naturally.
“Oh, my,” her mom murmurs.
“That’s some band-aid,” she chuckles.
Celia: “Well, otherwise you’d see people running around with holes in their bodies. Bit of a giveaway.”
GM: “That’s a relief I don’t need to cut myself, too… that wasn’t much fun.”
Celia: “No,” Celia agrees, “I imagine it wasn’t. I can work on the scar tissue for you before you go back to work. Not tonight, though. I still need to actually feed and I have… some things to take care of.”
Celia touches a hand to her stomach.
“If you want in on this, then I’m happy to have you. I’ll give you my blood and we’ll finalize it. But not until after I eat.”
“The boys should be here soon. I need to shower and get ready for the night. Are you going to be okay by yourself for a few? Or do you have any more questions..?”
GM: “Who’s your boyfriend?” Diana asks with a sly look.
Celia: “Ha. His name is Roderick. I’d like you to meet him.”
GM: “Good, because when I’d get to was my next question!”
Celia: Celia can’t help but laugh.
At least some things aren’t going to change.
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