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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Thirteen, Celia II

“Shit’s hit the fan, huh?”
—Roderick Durant


Sunday evening, 13 March 2016

Celia: After a quick shower and a change of clothes (she literally has clothes all over the city—it’s no wonder she’d told Roderick they need walk-in closets), Celia sits cross-legged on Randy’s bed. Lucy sits in front of her. She had joined Celia in the shower to get rid of the blood and other viscera pulled from inside her body, and Celia looks down at the doll with Jade’s face. She hadn’t done a full transformation; just her face since the rest of her is covered.

“Hello, darling,” Celia murmurs to the doll. “I’m hoping that you don’t mind delivering a message for me.”

GM: The doll sits naked now, if Celia hasn’t clothed it in anything else. Its tiny dress was soaked in vitae and viscera.

It silently stares up at her with a doll’s wide glassy eyes.

One of its hands was pressed against its throat when she pulled it out of her stomach in a gory parody of childbirth.

Celia: “You saved me, you know. Last night. I was trying to find a way to revive Lady Elyse. I would have lingered too long and been turned into one of her dolls.” Celia gives the doll a sad smile. “I like dolls. But I don’t know that I would want to be a doll, not like that, not yet. Maybe someday.”

GM: A Kindred doll.

What a special doll that would be.

The prize of Elyse’s collection.

Especially one as beautiful as her.

Lucy only holds her hand to her throat.

Celia: “Can you… can you tell her something for me? If I send you to her, will you deliver a message?”

GM: The doll’s hand continues to rest against its throat.

Its eyes are so wide and glassy.

Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment. She looks inside herself for her own doll form and brings it to the surface. She thinks Lucy might be injured, but maybe Lotus knows what to do.

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GM: The Lucy doll stares at the Lotus doll. Silently and prettily, like all dolls do.

There’s nothing in their heads. Maxen said that too once, about Celia. That there was “absolutely nothing in your head.”

He’d tapped her forehead in emphasis.

“There’s nothing in here,” he’d said mockingly. “It’s a completely empty space.”

Celia: He’d called her brilliant last night at dinner.

GM: People call dolls empty-headed, too. Say they have nothing in their heads.

Celia: Lotus’ dad is Lady Elyse, though. Not Maxen.

GM: Call them, implicitly, stupid but pretty, like Paul once called Celia.

Celia: Lotus doesn’t know who Paul is.

But she knows who Lucy is.

And she hopes that Lucy can help her with a problem.

GM: Lotus is a doll.

Lotus knows.

Lotus reads Lucy like a book.

Lucy wants… to talk.

Lucy cannot talk.

Lucy needs help.

Lucy has something to say.

It was very, very, very hard for Lucy to say as much as she did, to Jade.

Just one word.

It was so, so hard.

Celia: Lotus wants to help.

How can Lotus help? The mother showed Jade how to repair dolls. She isn’t as good at it as the Lady Elyse, but maybe that’s a start?

GM: Jade can’t help Lucy to talk.

Celia: Who can help?

GM: Elyse. But she may not help. She may not like what Lucy has to say.

Elyse knows what Lucy has to say.

Celia: Is it… bad?

GM: Jade needs to find someone. Someone else who can talk to dolls like her.

It’s okay if they can’t talk to all dolls. Only Elyse can do that.

Just dolls like her.

Celia: Grace?

GM: Grace is scared of Lucy.

Grace hates Lucy.

Celia: Lotus doesn’t know anyone else who can talk to dolls, though. Lotus will find someone, but Lotus also wants to help Jade fix the relationship with Elyse.

GM: Lucy needs to talk.

Lucy needs help.

Jade has to find someone.

Find someone.

Find someone.

Celia: Lotus will help Lucy. Jade will find someone. She will.

GM: Lotus is gone. Jade’s sitting on the bed again, looking down at the Lucy doll.

Celia: “I’m sorry,” Jade whispers to Lucy. “I’m sorry you’re hurt. I’ll find someone. I will.”

“Thank you. Thank you for helping me. Now it’s my turn.”


Sunday evening, 13 March 2016

Celia: The conversation with Lucy took less time than Celia planned for. She’s dressed and back in her own skin moments later, a freshly written note in her hand and Lucy tucked away into a bag for the evening. She rejoins her mother on the couch to wait for the rest of her team so they can debrief before she heads out.

GM: “When can we go home, sweetie?” she asks. “Emily is only spending the weekend with Robby.”

Celia: “Another day or two. Hopefully tomorrow if I can get this straightened out.”

GM: “Missed me?” smirks Reggie’s voice, one of his hands cupping her breast.

Diana looks scandalized. “Please—there’s a child here!” she whispers.

“Sleeping child,” notes Reggie.

“Don’t worry, though. Haven’t forgotten you.” He gives her a quick peck on the lips.

He chuckles when Celia’s mom gives a startle, then gives his domitor a longer kiss on the lips.

He winks at her as if to say, Pork rind. Fillet mignon.

He then gives a quick lick of his lips, as if to say he’d still be happy to eat both.

Celia: Maybe she’d never realized the extent of his deviance, but watching him kiss her mother makes Celia bare her teeth at him in a silent snarl.

“She’s not interested. Neither is Dani.”

GM: “Oh, I think she is.” Reggie plops down between them on the couch, wrapping an arm around both women’s shoulders. Celia’s breasts get another squeeze after a moment, to her mother’s obvious consternation. “She talks like an old lady, but she’s got a young bod…” Celia worked on it recently, after all. “I can remind her what it’s like to be young… relax, hot momma…”

He cups Diana’s head up with his hands, then hungrily french kisses her mouth. She freezes up and doesn’t try to push him away. Reggie’s eyes, though, watch Celia’s the whole time, like she’s the real show. All he’s doing here is getting warmed up.

Celia: He doesn’t get to enjoy that kiss for long. Celia curls her fingers through his hair and yanks him backwards, off of her mother.

GM: Diana looks mortified as Celia pulls the ghoul away.

Reggie smirks at Celia. “The effect would be better if you both had the same hair color… but you know…”

He makes several clicking sounds with his tongue and glances salaciously between mother and daughter.

Celia: “You’re a pig,” Celia snarls at him. She flips him, pins him beneath her body, and sinks her teeth into his neck.

GM: “Whoa-!” Reggie starts, but he doesn’t try to fend her off. He gasps with pleasure under her kiss and lets the vampire have her way with him.

Diana swiftly rises with Lucy, clutching the child to her breast, and dashes off towards the bedrooms.

“Oh, my, what’s this about…?” starts Alana’s voice with a purr.

Dani looks at the man being feasted on, then sinks her teeth into the other side of his neck.

Celia: For a moment there’s a twitch of jealousy. Reggie is hers. How dare the little thin-blood bitch. But Alan’s voice cuts through her fugue, and Celia reaches out a hand to the other girl to pull her close. When she’s taken a sip from Reggie she stays seated on his lap, yanking Alana down to sink her teeth into that hot treat as well.

Distantly, she’s aware of her mother in the other room, but right now she wants this feast presented to her.

GM: Alana moans wantfully, throatily, and arches her back. Her fingers fly to the zipper of Celia’s pants. They make slow progress, but progress all the same.

Dani continues to thirstily drain Reggie. Unaccustomed to the vampires’ kiss, he just lies there and makes happy noises.

“Oh,” says Randy, a little lamely.

Celia: Celia doesn’t let it go further than that. She squirms free from Alana and reaches out to pull Dani off of Reggie.

“Enough.”

GM: Dani licks her lips.

Reggie pants heavily.

Alana is flushed.

Randy just sort of stands there.

“You turn into such an idiot around her,” Rusty says to him shortly.

Celia: “You and I can share someone else tonight,” Celia says to Dani. “How much did you take from him?”

GM: “I wasn’t trying to kill him. Just give him a taste of what it’s like,” she glares at Reggie.

Celia: Celia smirks.

GM: “Don’t mind…” grins a paler-faced Reggie.

Celia: “Give him a hit. I need him coherent tonight.”

GM: Dani bites her wrist and holds it out to him.

Reggie raises it to drink, then spits and throws it aside.

“Fuck, that tastes awful!”

Celia: Celia purses her lips.

“I was afraid of that.”

GM: Dani glares at him.

Celia: “It’s not his fault, Dani. It’s the blood.”

GM: “Oh, so my blood’s not good enough?”

Celia: “It’s good enough for me.”

“It’s a good thing. We know more about you than we did.”

GM: “Didn’t think you’d care how I thought you tasted, girlie,” says Reggie, making some lapping effects with his tongue.

Dani makes a sound of disgust.

“You’re a pig.”

Celia: Celia presses her teeth into her wrist and shoves it into Reggie’s mouth.

Maybe that will shut him up.

GM: He drinks rapturously.

“Ah, that’s it…!”

Celia: He only gets a small hit before she pulls away.

GM: “Are we here on business?” Rusty asks shortly.

Alana contently settles down on Celia’s lap.

Celia: “Yes,” Celia finally says. She looks over to Rusty, giving him a small nod as if to thank him for the interruption.

“We have things to discuss. These next few days and nights might be challenging, and I wanted to give all of you a heads up.”

GM: “Should I get your mom?” asks Dani.

Celia: “Yes. Thank you.”

GM: “Yes, thank you,” Reggie smiles too.

Celia: “If I murder you,” she says idly, “they’ll never find the body.”

GM: Dani glares at him and heads down the hall.

“In that case, I better do something really ballsy,” says Reggie.

Celia: “Knock it off.”

“This is… actually serious.” Her tone changes.

GM: “Was kinda hot with the kid around… she got so skittish…”

“Bro, you sound like a pedophile,” says Randy.

“The kid isn’t hot. Just how skittish the kid made her. Difference,” elucidates Reggie.

Celia: “No, she’s always like that. Don’t touch her again.”

“Or Dani.”

GM: “She wouldn’t be like that if someone showed her a good time.”

“Either of ’em.”

Celia: “Reggie,” Celia turns to him, “knock it the fuck off.”

GM: Reggie just smirks, but says nothing further.

“You’re not making the mistress happy,” Alana says airily.

Celia: “Enough. All of you.”

“No petty bullshit, not tonight.”

“Not for the next few nights.”

“There’s some serious shit going on that we need to coordinate on.”

GM: “I didn’t do anything…” Randy protests.

Celia: “You and Rusty didn’t do anything, I’m aware.”

GM: “I just told him to stop displeasing you, mistress,” pouts Alana.

Celia: “Right, I’ve got like ten minutes before I need to leave, so let’s get into this.”

GM: Dani arrives back with Diana.

The two of them sit together away from Reggie.

“I put Lucy to bed,” adds Celia’s mom.

“This is… sweetie, this is not a child-appropriate environment.”

Celia: “Good,” Celia says to Diana, “thank you. And yes, I’m aware.”

“So here’s the situation. For those of you who haven’t officially met her, this is my mother. Diana. She knows about me.”

GM: “Hi, everyone!” smiles Diana, holding up her hand in a little wave.

Reggie grins and waves back, wriggling his fingers.

Celia: “For the foreseeable future, she needs one of you with her at all times. Rotating guard until I handle something that went down last night. One of you will be with me. Yes,” she says to Rusty before he can ask, “you’ll all be compensated for the additional work.”

GM: “It shouldn’t be Reggie,” says Dani.

He clasps his heart in mock hurt.

Celia: “No,” Celia agrees, “it won’t be Reggie.”

GM: He clasps it with both hands.

Celia: “Randy, Rusty, Alana, you’ll take turns with Diana. It won’t be long. Tonight, tomorrow, maybe tomorrow night. But it’s very, very important that nobody get to her.”

“There’s also somebody who may be coming after all of us.”

GM: “Got it, babe,” says Randy.

Rusty nods.

“Of course,” says Alana.

“Oh, who?” asks Dani.

Celia: “So… I know we don’t always want to hang out under the same roof, but until this is solved, I need it to happen. I can’t lose any of you. You’re all very important to me.”

“Her name is Elyse. Her sire is Harlequin. Krewe of Janus leader.”

They all know about the Krewe of Janus; she’d told them about the Masquerade and those who enforce it. She’d drilled it into their heads; it’s why she’d taught them all shadow dancing, why they can all pass as mortals as needed. This is what they’ve trained for.

“She’s hunting Diana. She wants to get her back because I beat the shit out of her last night, and she thinks that getting to Diana will hurt me. She’s right. So we’re not going to let it happen. I’m going to smooth things over, but until I do I need you to just work with me here. We haven’t had to deal with much enmity from others like me before, but this is why I’ve brought you all on. No credit cards. Don’t leave the Quarter if you can help it. Don’t go off with anyone you don’t know. Don’t accept candy from a stranger, you know the drill.”

“Reggie, those thin-bloods you met last night, those aren’t the kind of people they’ll send after you. They’ll send ghouls like you. Licks like me. People trained in combat. Call off work, or do what you can from home. The Quarter is safer, but the Krewe can go anywhere if there’s a violation. Since Diana knows, she’s joining our numbers. I’ll blood her later tonight once I’ve had a chance to properly feed. We’ll double rations for all of you until the threat has passed, keep you topped up. I’ll bring what bagged stuff I can here. Check in with each other frequently. If I blow up your phone, get back to me. It’s not because I’m being an asshole, it’s because I care about all of you and I’m not losing you over a petty grudge. Elyse is tight with an assassin, too, so… just be aware.”

“This, by the way, is Dani.” Celia gestures to her. “She’s also joining us until the threat has passed, and unofficially she’s my tenant now.” Her first tenant. Celia had always thought it would be something grander than this. Contracts and pomp and stuff.

“She’s duskborn, but there’s a pretty high possibility that I’m going to pass her off as a renfield for a time, so get used to her being around. Once this is over she’ll have her own place, but right now it’s safer for everyone to be together. Strength in numbers, you know.”

“There’s also a chance I bring in more muscle until everything is settled. If you can vouch for any breathers, great. If not, I’ll see what I can do.”

“It’s not war. I’m hoping a boon will suffice to balance the scales. But I’m not taking chances with any of your lives.”

GM: Celia’s assorted ghouls (and near-ghouls) receive their domitor’s address somberly.

Alana nods and murmurs assent at all of Celia’s words. She adds how dangerous and well-trained the Krewe’s ghouls are. There’s a flash of jealousy in her eyes, though, when Celia announces she’s ghouling her mom.

Rusty gives a few brief nods, but has no questions.

Celia: Celia gives the girl on her lap a reassuring squeeze.

GM: Randy gives longer nods and declares how he’ll do right by his “babe.”

Dani looks worried by Celia’s words, if somewhat out of her depth, but nods along too.

Diana bears a similar expression. She gets very still every time Celia says Elyse’s name.

Reggie takes it all like a breeze.

“If you want to feed, mistress… it’s a little late for the spa, but we could pick up something for you…” brings up Alana, rubbing her bottom against Celia.

Diana looks uncomfortable at Alana’s present location.

“Courier’s gonna be here in a bit, too,” says Randy.

Celia: “No, thank you,” Celia says to Alana, “I have two errands to run and then I’m taking Dani hunting.”

GM: “Can we help, mistress?” she asks.

Dani perks up at that declaration. “I’m not too thirsty, actually, if you had other things you wanted to do tonight.”

Celia: “Help with the errands? Not these, unfortunately. Two meetings.” Celia smiles at Dani. “I’ll need to feed if I’m doubling everything for everyone else.”

GM: “You can say thanks with a BJ,” Reggie replies breezily.

Dani looks disgusted. Diana covers her ears.

Celia: Celia casually reaches over to smack Reggie in the chest.

“If you don’t stop I’m going to remove your favorite part.”

GM: “You’d lose your favorite part too,” he smirks at her.

Celia: “I’ll keep it as a trophy; you’ll never get it back.”

GM: He laughs. “I can think of worse places for it to end up.”

Celia: “Does anyone have any relevant questions, then?”

GM: “Any instructions for the spa, mistress?” asks Alana.

Celia: “Still thinking. They know I own it. Might be safer to close for a day or two. After tonight I’ll have a better idea.”

GM: “We could also give Louise a trial day as manager. If you want me away from it.”

Celia: “We can do that.”

GM: “Okay, mistress. Where do you want me during the day, when I’m not with your mother?”

Celia: “Buddy system. Here.”

GM: “Can we, ah… blood Emily too, if she wants to do that?” asks Diana.

“I feel like she’s being left out from so many important things, right now.”

Celia: “We already talked about this. No.”

GM: “Oh. I’m sorry, sweetie, I guess I wasn’t clear,” her mother apologizes.

Celia: “If and when I decide to bring Emily into this, it will be on my terms. I also just… don’t have the resources to sustain that many people, and there are too many complications with her school and work.”

“I’ve had to jump through a mountain of hoops to make sure that Dani isn’t going to get nabbed off the streets, and I’m about to do the same for you.”

GM: “I’m sorry, sweetie. I don’t want to cause you trouble.”

Celia: “It’s fine. I’d rather do this than watch you go back to her.”

GM: Diana pointedly says nothing about that.

“Is there anything more I can do, while you’re out?”

Celia: “Get some sleep. Call off work tomorrow. Let one of them tell you about the society you’ve just joined.”

GM: “Okay. Lucy has school, I guess I’ll say we both came down with something.”

“I can get together some muscle,” says Reggie. “How much do you want, where do you want them, and by when?”

Celia: “Here. Soon. Two or three guys. I’d like to free up someone to be able to be with me when you need to sleep.”

GM: “What should I tell Emily?” Diana asks. “For why Lucy and I aren’t home, that is.”

Celia: “Mental health day? Needed to get out of the house? Nightmares?”

GM: “Lucy, too?”

Celia: “I mean, she’s coming with you.”

GM: “Okay, I’ll… I’ll tell her something.”

Celia: “Let me think about it.”

GM: Rusty and Randy also ask if Celia has any specific instructions for them, besides guarding her mother.

Celia: “Keep looking into those other issues we discussed, Rusty. And I have something for you to scrub from the internet, but I’ll give you the details later. Were you able to find the Lee guy?”

GM: “No luck, sorry.”

Celia: “The phones didn’t help?”

“See if you can find out what the heck a glinko is, then. It’s somehow related.”

“Randy, you’re on defenses. It’s something I’ve let go for too long. I’ve been banking on the fact that no one knew where I stayed during the day, but that’s not enough. Find me a better system. Watching the hunters get through the other day is not something I want repeated.”

GM: “They likely will,” says Rusty. “Give me a bit longer.”

“I do have another job.”

Celia: “I know, Rusty.”

“They’re just after me, and I’d prefer not to wind up dead.”

GM: “Okay, babe, I’ll see what I can come up with,” says Randy.

Celia: “Perfect. Just a few days, guys. We’ll get through this.”


Sunday evening, 13 March 2016

Celia: Celia leaves the note with Randy to give to the courier. She’d expected to be able to give Lucy to him too, send more of a message, but she needs to fix the doll first.

It’s a well-worded apology to Elyse that asks for a chance to explain what happened. She promises a favor for the trouble, and another if she’ll hear her out in neutral territory. It’s coded, but she thinks the Malkavian will understand. They’d worked together for years, after all.

Celia leaves her mother with a kiss on the cheek. She tells Reggie to rest up, that after her meeting he’s shadowing her tonight, and to leave the girls alone.

If none of them have anything for her, Celia carefully makes her way across the Quarter to meet with Roderick.

GM: Her lover’s right on time, like usual, dressed in the suit he’s probably wearing to Elysium. He hugs her close when she steps inside.

“Hey.”

She thinks of Donovan.

“Shit’s hit the fan, huh?”

Celia: She can’t remember a single time her sire ever wasted the breath or thoughts on a greeting.

Still, when Roderick opens his arms for her she steps in close, burying her face against his chest. She breathes him in.

“Real bad.”

GM: He holds her against him and runs a hand along her back.

“Tell me about it.”

Celia: “I messed up. I messed up so badly. I don’t know what to do. And I missed you all night. All day. I just kept thinking I wanted you with me, that everything would be better if I could just talk to you. I hate being away from you. I couldn’t even come back last night and talk to you, and I almost got caught by the sun, and then I did get caught by the sun, and I just kept… kept thinking that everything is about to implode.”

GM: She misses Donovan more.

Hates being away from him more.

Celia: He wouldn’t hold her while she cries.

But she wouldn’t cry around him, either.

GM: Roderick guides her to a couch where they sit down. He still holds her against his chest.

“It’s all right. I’m here. Everything’s going to be okay.”

Celia: He wasn’t there last night when she needed him.

Donovan was, though.

GM: Because he can fly.

He can be anywhere.

There’s nothing that can stop him.

“Whatever this is, we’ll fix it,” says Roderick.

“So, why don’t you start from the beginning?”

Celia: Maybe one night her wings will carry her across the sky as quickly as his do. Or maybe he’ll be her wings and she won’t need to resort to feathers and shape shifting.

She hasn’t told anyone, but she’d picked that second form because of him.

“I had a friend,” Celia says slowly, choosing her words with care while she curls on Roderick’s lap. He’s as dead as the rest of them, but warmer than her sire. Softer. She can’t help but notice the differences.

“I had a friend who… who I learned hurt my mom in a really, really bad way. Years ago. Completely altered who she was on a fundamental level. She showed me on a tape and it was… it was awful. I’d suspected, I guess, but never confirmed. She broke my mom. Broke her, Roderick. Tortured her. And I went apeshit on her. And I beat the shit out of her. I guess I don’t need to know how to throw a punch when I’ve got claws, right?”

Her attempt at humor is bleak.

“And I know how it is. Strike someone, they strike back. So I went to my mom, because I thought, well, they’re going to go after her. And they did.”

“I got to her first. Barely.”

“She was on her way to… I don’t know, turn herself over to them or something. Like twenty minutes before dawn. And I was starving. And she wouldn’t stop trying to fucking touch me.”

GM: “Jesus,” Roderick murmurs in response to all of that, but otherwise listens quietly until she’s done.

Celia: “She wouldn’t listen to me,” Celia says quietly. She tells him how it was: trying to convince her mom to come with her, to get out of the house, to stop dawdling. How her Beast kept trying to get out, first at her mom, then at the stupid cat, and then finally when the sun came through the window. And how Celia had finally revealed what she was.

It doesn’t help, she realizes.

Running to Roderick to talk about it doesn’t help.

She’s not a damsel that needs saving. She doesn’t need him to tell her that it’s okay. It is okay. She has always made sure it was okay. And yeah, things have gone off the rails for her now, and her mom knows, but… she’d accepted her. She’d accepted who Celia is, what she is, with no more than a long blink of her eyes.

“And now she knows. Everything.”

Her voice, as she speaks, gains strength and surety. She’d been unsure. Thought she was doing the wrong thing, thought that the voice in her head had been right, but it’s not right. She is right. She knows what’s right for her, for her family.

Celia tells him how she’d let her mother see her as a cat, how she had smuggled Celia into the car in Lucy’s pink unicorn backpack to hide from the sun, taken her to a safe place (though she doesn’t say where).

“She reacted well,” Celia continues. “Once she understood what was going on. She just accepted it like it was no big deal.”

GM: “Oh my god,” Roderick says when she’s done. “Celia, there’s… I think you know what three options there are for her at this point.”

“Okay. Do you need help finding someone who can fix her memories?”

Celia: “I don’t think I want to fix her memories.”

GM: “You can’t want to kill her. That leaves…”

Celia: “Ghouling. Yeah.”

GM: “Celia, that’s… that’s kind of messed up. Your mom?”

Celia: “It doesn’t have to be weird.”

GM: “You’re bringing her into this. Into this world of darkness and horror as a slave and drug addict.”

“She has a kid!

Celia: “She doesn’t have to be a slave. She can just… be my mom.”

“Plenty of them live kind of normal lives.”

GM: “What kind of a mom is she going to be to Lucy when she’s collared to the one kid she’ll now love more than she’ll ever love her others?”

Celia: “You said your sire kept you as a renfield without collaring you. Why can’t I?”

GM: “Okay, that’s something. But, Celia, can’t you see what you’re dragging her into?”

Celia: “She’s already involved. Her kid is a vampire. What am I supposed to do, mind-wipe her and kill myself? Never talk to her again? Watch her die? I can fix her leg. I know someone who can fix her, she’ll never be in pain again, she can dance again. I can stop lying about everything, I won’t have to make excuses about dinner or why I can’t babysit or why I can’t come to Lucy’s recitals or why Emily has to get married at night instead of during the day like a normal person.”

“How long until the rest of the city finds out who I really am and goes after her anyway for whatever bullshit perceived slight they can think of?”

“You know what the first thing she asked me was? ‘When can I meet your real boyfriend?’ It was just so… normal. It was so normal. Like I could actually talk to her as a person again and not a liar.”

GM: “That’s… that’s strange,” Roderick frowns. “Has she seen behind the Masquerade before?”

Celia: “…honestly, I think so. She was really, really calm about everything.”

GM: “Where do you think she did?”

Celia: “Before my friend got to her. Before she gave birth.”

GM: “Your friend seems like a pretty logical explanation. If she tortured your mom.”

“You said she altered who your mom was on a fundamental level?”

Celia: “Yeah. She… does things to people. Students at her school. Finishing school, she calls it.”

GM: “It’s disgusting. We have so much power and so little regard for normal humans’ lives.”

“I guess it would make sense if your mom saw past the Masquerade there.”

“But you think she did earlier?”

Celia: “That was before she had me.”

“But I don’t know. I assumed some things.”

GM: “I obviously don’t know as much about your mom’s history, but that seems like the logical explanation to me. Occam’s razor.”

Celia: “So then it’s… not really my fault, technically.”

GM: Roderick looks reluctant. “I don’t think you can erase memories going back that many years. I mean, maybe a lick like Vidal could.”

Celia: “Ah yeah, we should ask him.”

GM: “Good idea. We’ll just ask Maldonato to slip us into his schedule sometime.”

Celia: “I knew we’d think of something.”

GM: “Damn it, though. This is… this is fucked.

“You’re going to keep her away from as much of this as you can?”

Celia: “Sure, once I figure out how she’s going to continue working at McGehee.”

GM: Roderick thinks. “I doubt many licks would expect her there. She’s going during the day, first of all. And how many other ghouls can there be at a girl’s school, who could also find her out?”

Celia: “That’s kind of what I’m banking on.”

GM: “We don’t really bother cultivating influence over high schools, much less elementary or middle schools. Universities are where it’s at. And even if there are other ghouls at McGehee, well, how will they know she’s a ghoul too? They have to be able to scry, and they’d have to taste her blood. They’d already need to be suspicious.”

Celia: “I was going to teach her some shadow dancing, just in case.”

GM: “That seems like a good idea. I doubt many licks or scrying ghouls will be taking drinks from her, but an extra layer of security doesn’t hurt.”

Celia: “So you don’t think it’s crazy?”

GM: Roderick grimaces. “I think it’s bad. But I don’t see an alternative.”

“Can’t fix her memories. So ghoul her or kill her.”

“And I’d hope to God that second option never crossed your mind.”

Celia: “Of course it didn’t,” Celia scowls at him.

“I thought about sending her away to another city where no one would look twice at her, but not killing her.”

GM: “She’s still a Masquerade breach there. Though she might be able to just get lost in the crowd.”

“I don’t know, though. You can’t just leave loose ends and trust them not to unravel further.”

Celia: “I know. She doesn’t want to leave, anyway. Her whole life is here. Emily, Lucy, McGehee is a really good school, most of the rest of us. Her family.”

GM: “I guess you can’t force her to leave against her will, either.”

Celia: “I’ve tried before, trust me. It didn’t end well.”

GM: “Well, you could, but you’d probably have to do some pretty awful things. And Emily would be a complication. All before how she still knows too much.”

“So yeah. I wouldn’t consider that a viable option.”

Celia: “I know. Just wishful thinking. Pack her off somewhere and forget she’s a problem.”

“I think ghouling her might be the best solution.”

GM: “It’s a bad solution. But it’s the lesser evil. Like so much else.”

Celia: “Threw off my plans for the night, though.” Celia sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose as if to stave off of a nonexistent headache. Little gestures like these are what let her pass as human.

GM: “I’m sure it did. Having to explain everything to her.”

“Are you still going to Elysium tonight?”

Celia: “No, I meant more that I had to cancel dinner with your dad.”

“And… probably not. My friend and her friends are probably looking for me. Going to Elysium would be a good time to grab me.”

GM: “Who’s the friend?”

Celia: “Ah… you can’t tell anyone, no one is supposed to know.”

GM: “Lips are zipped. But you don’t have to tell me. I was only asking in case there was advice I could give or something I might be able to do.”

Celia: “Benson.”

GM: “Shit. She’s tight with the sheriff.”

Celia: Yeah, she’s already had her lashes for that.

GM: “You might be in a lot of trouble if you go outside the Quarter now.”

“On the other hand, it’s a bad look for Benson if she runs tattling that a neonate beat the shit out of her. She’ll probably try to deal with this herself.”

Celia: “Or with her sire. Which is my concern. I can obviously handle Elyse.” Celia flexes at him.

There’s no muscle.

GM: Roderick smiles anyway.

“I’m glad you did. But this underscores how much I need to actually teach you instead fucking you. The next lick you get in trouble with might not be an anorexic dollmaker.”

Celia: “But we can still fuck.”

GM: “Yes. We’ll just do other things too. As novel a notion as that seems.”

He laughs faintly. “God, we’re like a pair of horny teenagers.”

Celia: “I can’t help it that every time I see you I want to pin you down and have my way with you.”

GM: “Usually you’re asking me to have my way with you, actually.”

Donovan’s better.

Celia: “Details.” Celia waves a hand.

God, he is.

What she wouldn’t do for him to pin her against a wall sometime.

Can’t imagine he’d actually fuck her, though.

Not like that.

Shame, too. She bets he’d be good at it.

GM: He’s good at everything.

“Okay, though. I think it’s reasonable to assume Elyse has either gone to her sire or one or more younger licks who are better at fighting.” He pauses. “Or, alternatively, she might try to get at you socially. Attacks in Elysium or attacks on your mortal holdings.”

“Which, for Jade, is just Flawless.”

Celia: “I sent her a note. I don’t know if she’ll read it. An apology, offer of a boon to make up for it. I don’t want this to get ugly. Like, just… the thought of being in a shadow war or something with someone on top of everything else is… ugh.”

A second boon if she’ll meet with Jade to discuss, but she doesn’t need to tell Roderick that she’d like to preserve the friendship.

“I couldn’t send a ghoul since they might come back without a head.”

GM: “Or turned into one of those dolls of hers.”

Celia: “That too.”

GM: “I’ve seen them at Elysium. They’re pretty freaky things.”

“An apology with a boon attached seems like a fair shot at defusing things, anyway.”

“Even if it galls me to think of you owing an anorexic sociopath who tortured your mom.”

Celia: “Alternative is to let it fester and have her come after my mom again.”

GM: “Does she know about your relation? Or did you just go apeshit when you saw the tape?”

Celia: “No. She doesn’t know it’s my mom. She doesn’t know I’m Jade. And I managed to hold it in during the tape. It was after, when she called her.”

GM: “Called her?”

Celia: “Yeah. Called her in the middle of the night to remind her what she did. That’s why I lost it.”

GM: “Oh my god. What a fucking sociopath.”

“Your mom’s one of the nicest people I know, though. I don’t think Elyse managed to completely break her.”

Celia: “Apparently she used to be a real spitfire.”

GM: “That’s pretty hard to imagine.”

Celia: “Yeah, I said the same thing.”

“I keep wondering who she’d be if she hadn’t gone through that. If she’d have had kids. If she’d still love me.”

“You know, stupid shit.”

GM: “I don’t think Elyse has the capacity to imbue someone with more love.”

Celia: “Turn her into the perfect mother and wife, though. Curb her attitude.”

GM: “Sure. There’s a lot of ways you can brainwash people, and even more with the Blood. You can make someone have kids and be an obedient wife and mother if they don’t normally want to.”

“But you can’t make someone love something they secretly hate or resent deep down. You just can’t.”

Celia: “You can make them think they do, though.”

GM: “Maybe. But I think that shows. I think if you torture someone into obedience it’s inevitably going to poison everything they do. Maybe it won’t be obvious, but it’ll be there.”

Celia: “What about conditioning. That’s different.”

GM: “It’s the same thing.”

“Truth comes out. Truth always comes out.”

“She’s been your mother for almost 30 years now. Have you ever felt like she might secretly hate or resent you? Has she ever tried to sabotage things with you in little coincidental-seeming ways?”

Celia: Has she?

Celia can’t think of a time.

“No. Never.”

GM: Roderick looks satisfied. “There you have it.”

Celia: He hasn’t seen what Elyse can do, though.

GM: “I like to think that if someone, and by ‘someone’ I mean the Mafia, tortured me or my dad past all endurance, past all sanity, there’d still be a part of ourselves they could never get to.”

Celia: “But it’s more than torture. At some point you’ll do anything to make the pain stop, and then what if you’re given something good because you behaved? Then you’ll keep trying to do that to get that good thing.”

GM: “Sure. Torture can compel you to say things and do things. Torture, in the end, breaks everyone.”

“It’s not like in the movies where the hero can hold out forever. When the CIA tortured al-Qaeda terrorists with waterboarding, some of the most fanatical and hateful zealots on earth, they took less than a day to break those people.”

“And they were really impressed by how long some of those terrorists held out. For less than a day.”

“But, and this is a little of the philosophy major who loved Wittgenstein speaking, we need to consider what definitions we’re using when we say ‘break.’”

“If you dash a vase into a thousand pieces over the floor, it’s no longer the object that it once was. It can’t hold water. You can’t store flowers in it. It’s broken and no longer able to fulfill its intended purpose. You might, painstakingly, be able to glue it back together, and it’s probably going to be uglier and less functional than the original vase.”

“But you still have all of the pieces in your hands. You haven’t actually destroyed the vase, you’ve just changed its form from a single object into a thousand tiny splinters. It’s still the same amount of physical matter. The only thing you’ve destroyed is the vase’s capacity to serve its intended purpose. All of the vase itself is still there.”

“And maybe that distinction seems academic, because what good is a broken vase to anyone.”

“But there was an artist I saw at Frenchmen once who made mosaics and cobblestones from broken glass and china. They were really pretty. Bits of a broken vase would’ve been right at home on one of them.”

“My point isn’t that every broken vase can be repurposed. Sometimes all you wanted was a vase, and if it’s broken now, there is no good outcome or happy ending.”

“But, the vase still leaves behind a thousand shards, and you can see in them what it once was. You can try to repurpose the shards for other uses, but it won’t be seamless. You’ll always see that they were once a vase.”

“Breaking something isn’t the same as obliterating it, in which case there’d be no shards left at all. There’d just be empty space. You obviously can’t repurpose empty space to fulfill a function you’d intended for a broken vase.”

“It’s the same thing with torture. If you tortured me enough, I’d say or do anything to make the pain stop. If you rewarded me for doing what you wanted, I’d break even faster.”

“But I’m still the same ‘vase.’ If you command me to do actions I loathe to the core of my being, no matter how much you torture and brainwash me, the change is only surface deep—a new coat of paint over the same vase.”

Celia: “And if that is all you knew for months? Years? Decades?”

“At some point it becomes your new normal.”

GM: “If you want a vase to be a shirt, will you be able to turn china into cotton after enough decades?”

Celia: “People aren’t vases. We change all the time.”

“That’s the beauty of people. We’re capable of change.”

GM: “Vases change too. All physical matter changes. You can paint a vase new colors. You can add and remove parts if you know what you’re doing.”

“Though I think it’s also fair to observe that people usually only change so much. Just like there’s really only so far you can change the same vase.”

“If you go to a herculean enough effort, and you wanted a base to be a shirt, you could grind it into sand-sized particles and weave them into a shirt’s fibers. Which I think is a comparable analogy to torturing and brainwashing someone for years. It’s a stupendous effort that shatters their original form and turns it into something superficially unrecognizable.”

“But if you examined the shirt under a microscope you’re still going to be able to tell the truth. Torturing someone into being something they’re not, in the end, is just a lie. A lie that the torturer and the victim are both in on.”

“And truth always comes out.”

“You could torture and brainwash me into joining the Mafia and following their orders, and maybe I’d spend the rest of my life as good, by which I mean awful, wiseguy.”

“But I don’t think the process would go perfectly. Maybe someone could turn me back. Maybe I’d sabotage things in little unconscious ways. Maybe I’d just be miserable deep down and be a worse mobster than I’d otherwise be capable of.”

“There are just so many ways that could go wrong and bits of the original Roderick could peek out.”

“If anything, it seems pretty hard to believe that the torture/brainwash process could go 100% perfectly. It’s like trying to pick every last hair off the floor of a barber shop. Things go wrong in minor ways a lot more often than they go 100% right.”

Celia: “But all of your examples don’t include what the blood can do. We’re not humans. We’re licks. Kindred. Above that. We have other ways. If you remove someone’s memories are they the same person anymore? Not really, since our consciousness and personality is the sum of our experiences. And sure, sure, the argument of nature versus nurture, but most people agree that it’s not 100% one way or another. It’s a split. And it’s not… it’s not like breaking someone, not completely. It’s about changing their mindset.”

“Villains don’t do evil things because they’re angsty teenagers. I mean, some poorly written ones do. But they think what they’re doing is right. Or necessary. Or good. If I could convince you that joining the Mafia was the best possible thing you could do to get what you want, you’d probably do it. I mean sure it’s likely impossible to convince you.”

GM: “As far as the Blood, at least, all that does is increase the extent of what we can do. It has limits. I’m pretty strong, and stronger than I ever was alive, but I can’t lift an aircraft carrier.”

“There are innumerable things that are still impossible to us. It doesn’t make us God.”

“But even in your example, though, you’re not suborning my original nature. You’re just playing to it. You want me to join the Mafia because that’s the best thing for me.”

Celia: “It still gets the result that I want in the end.”

“And you do something because you think it’s right or good or whatever the case may be.”

GM: “Sure. But what is the result you want? Do you just want a vase that looks like a shirt, smells like a shirt, feels like a shirt, and can be used like a shirt, or do you actually want that vase to become a shirt on a molecular level, and not betray its original nature under a microscope?”

“Most of the time, you probably just want a shirt you can use. There is a point of diminishing returns, where investing further effort doesn’t pay practical dividends.”

“But at some point, in some way, the truth will come out and you or someone else will be reminded that your shirt was originally a vase.”

“So I think your mom’s love for you is genuine, even if she isn’t the spitfire she used to be. All before how I don’t think Elyse has the capacity to create what she doesn’t understand.”

Celia: It makes her feel a little bit better, at least.

“I think you’re probably right. I can’t imagine that she’d love Emily as fiercely as she does if that was something that was just given to her. She’s really part of the family.”

GM: “There you have it. Elyse couldn’t have planned on Emily.”

“If you want to brainwash someone into being a perfect wife and mother, adopting 20-ish-year-old college students in your late 30s probably doesn’t enter into it.”

Celia: “Neither does loving your daughter when she comes out of the coffin.”

GM: “Probably not. So what do you want to do next? I’d planned on going to Elysium and could keep an eye on Elyse there. Or I could say fuck it and stick around to protect you.”

Celia: “I’m starting to wonder if it’s just better to let her pick me up so we can have it out. Which is a terrible idea. But I’m not super interested in hiding out or having my shit destroyed.”

GM: “What do you hope will come of your message, and what do you want to do if you don’t get what you want?”

Celia: “I hope she accepts and calls in a favor from me and that’s the end of it. I’m concerned she’s going to want to know why seeing Diana like that set me off. And… I don’t know. I don’t want people coming after me. I’ve made it this long without any real enemies, and then to have someone that I used to call friend…” Celia blinks a few times. “My mom will never be safe if Elyse decides to come after her. We don’t generally take things like this laying down. You saw what happened to your brother when he didn’t retaliate.”

GM: “You do have enemies,” Roderick says quietly. “Just being Embraced by whoever we were buys us a host of them.”

“But I can agree it’s better not to make even more.”

Celia: “I don’t have anyone that’s coming after me, personally.”

“Unless you know something I don’t.”

GM: He shakes his head. “Might be she doesn’t care, but I’d plan for the worst. What are you going to tell her if she asks?”

“And yes, Micheal was a paper tiger. If you don’t stop the bully from taking your lunch money, he’ll just keep doing it.”

Celia: “I don’t know. Lie. That Diana is my ghoul. That the Flores girls are mine. That Celia is my pawn and she was stepping on my toes.”

GM: “Diana being your ghoul is true, but… I’d share that with as few people as possible.”

“Just us would probably be best, if you want to maximize her odds of a normal life.”

Celia: “Ah… Dani knows. And my other ghouls. I had to explain why they’d be around.”

GM: “Oh. That’s not ideal.”

Celia: “I’m aware.”

“I regretted it pretty much instantly. I was kind of just trying to minimize damage, and I thought maybe she’d come after one of them too, so I… yeah.”

“It was stupid. Could have done it without telling them what she is.”

GM: “How long ago did you break the news? We could still get someone to erase their memories.” He frowns. “Of course, that person would also know what they erased. That’s one of the disadvantages to not being able to do it ourselves.”

Stupid.

She even said it herself.

Celia: “Like an hour ago.”

Stupid.

She agrees. It was. She wasn’t thinking.

Or rather, she was thinking, and she was thinking of how to keep everyone alive and working together rather than preserving their secrets.

GM: “Well, there’s some licks I know who could do it, if you don’t also know any.”

“What would be ideal is a lick who already knows of the connection between you and your mother.”

Celia: “I know someone.”

GM: “Okay. Then it’s your call.”

“You said dinner was off, with my dad?”

Celia: “I was going to surprise you, bring you over tonight for dinner with your dad and Dani. My mom was going to cook. But because of the stuff with Elyse I had to call it off. Dani said your dad was mad at her about it.”

GM: “I’m not surprised. He gets very annoyed by people who don’t respect his time, and by extension, the work he does.”

Celia: “It’s not her fault, though. It’s mine.”

GM: “I presume he doesn’t know that, because he wouldn’t get angry at Dani unless he thought it was her fault.”

“But, okay, it’s done.”

“I still need to see her.”

Celia: “I know. I was trying to arrange that for tonight. Hence the dinner.”

“She really… really thinks he doesn’t like her, Roderick.”

GM: “‘Loves’ is usually the word we use with parents. But of course he loves her.”

Celia: “No. I mean like. She keeps saying that he wishes she were dead. That she’s not as good as you. That he’d trade you out in a heartbeat.”

GM: Roderick clears his throat unnecessarily.

“All right. You know what? She’s right. She is honestly probably right. Dad… probably would pick me over her.”

Celia: “Oh.”

GM: “We talked once about how parents have favorites. How your mom probably would pick you over any of her other kids. Except maybe Lucy.”

“Well, my dad has favorites too. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love her. He loves her very much. It’s just… like everything, it comes in degrees.”

“On the other hand, I’m pretty sure our mom loves Dani more than me. I’m fine with that. I’ve made my peace with it. I love my dad more than my mom too, if I’m being honest. Probably by a way larger margin than my dad loves me over Dani. But we can’t let what’s going on in someone else’s head define us.”

Celia: “She hasn’t.”

GM: “Am I being an asshole?”

Celia: “For admitting that your dad loves you more than her? No. You’re being honest.”

“You can be an asshole, though.”

GM: “Okay. I can live with that too.” He gives a faint smile.

“I’d like to help Dani, obviously. But I’m not sure what to do about it.”

“Though, honestly, her self-esteem and family issues are somewhat less pressing right now than her being duskborn in a city that puts them to death.”

“I still need to see her tonight. When can you arrange that?”

Celia: “So you can get her out?”

GM: “And because I’d like to talk to the sister who’s thought I’m dead for years, yes.”

Celia: Celia winces.

GM: “I’ve waited, Celia. I’ve been patient.”

Celia: “I know. I’m sorry. Shit blew up in my Requiem. I’m not trying to put you off.”

GM: “I don’t think you are. But tonight.”

Celia: “After Elysium, then, I guess.”

GM: “Would you feel safer if I skipped it for you? I had some things to do there, but nothing that can’t wait until Friday.”

Celia: “More duels?” Celia wiggles her brows at him.

GM: “I’ll just say they’re a good way to burn off aggression and get kudos for it,” he smirks.

Celia: “Mm, plus it gets me all hot and bothered thinking about you fighting for me.” She smirks. “But if I do ask you to stay, am I pulling you away from anything exciting?”

GM: Less hot than him.

Celia: He’s cold.

Very cold.

It’s a different way to burn.

God, what she’d give to know he’d fight for her.

Didn’t he do that last night?

Doesn’t that count?

GM: He severed some fingers. It was a brief fight. But still, technically, a fight.

“Get into a fight with someone, then, and you can name me as your champion in a duel. Or I can challenge them for trash-talking you. Happy to defend your honor anytime.”

“But like I said. There’s nothing I’m not happy to postpone until next week if you’d feel safer.”

Celia: “You don’t trust me,” she says quietly, pushing the thoughts of him (and him) fighting against some giant monster to come to her rescue from her mind.

GM: “What?” he frowns. “Why do you say that? Of course I trust you.”

“I’ve trusted you for nights with my newly-Embraced duskborn sister.”

Celia: “You didn’t have much of a choice,” Celia points out. “I already knew about her. I’m the one who told you about her. I’m the one willing to watch over her and make sure she’s fed and safe and call in favors for her.”

She forces the air from her lungs in a long exhale that’s almost a sigh.

“I know who you were, Roderick. But I don’t know who you are. It’s been years and I feel like you’re a stranger. I love you, but I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know how you spend your time or who your friends are or what you even do for work. I ask and you play coy about it, and I just… want to share things with you. I’m over here blabbing about… about everything, and when you don’t share it… it feels like you don’t trust me, like I’m just another lick to you, and that hurts. I want you to be with me. Not to half be with me.”

GM: “I do trust you,” he answers in a half-defensive and half-hurt voice. “I’ve told you stuff that would get me in an insane amount of trouble with Coco, with all of the primogen. I could find Dani, if I wanted to. But I trust you to look after her, I trusted you to be maybe the first vampire she ever met, to basically be her sire, despite how much I’ve wanted to see her! Do you have any idea how badly I have? To see she’s okay with my own eyes, to finally drop the lie that I’m dead, to actually talk to someone who cared about me when I was Stephen? That’s how much I trust you!”

“I brought you back to my haven. I killed someone for you, when I swore I’d never do that! I actually made a promise. I’d ask if you knew that, but of course you don’t. I didn’t tell anyone except Coco, because they’d laugh at me. But the first time I saw a lick leave a dead body, the first time I really understood this is what we were, I went to my grandfather’s grave and I swore before it that I would never kill. That I would continue to abide by the law, and subordinate my Beast to the institution that my family so cherishes, that we’ve spent our lives in the service of. Killing was my line in the sand, and I broke it, for you. I cut apart corpses and dumped them off the side of a boat like a mobster. I let you see how I feel about that. I let you see how much I hated being celebrated for it at Elysium. I’ve told you about my fights with my sire, I’ve told you about the things she’s done, I’ve told you how I don’t trust her with Dani. All of this, despite you working for an elder who’s only one step better than a mobster. That’s how much I trust you.”

His voice is a little stiff. “I’m sorry if you don’t feel like I share anything important with you.”

Celia: It would be easy for her to play the victim here. Easy to dig into something deeper than where he’s gone, to accuse him of deflecting, to cry into his shoulder that he thinks she’s stupid, that he’d even said as much the other night. That Dani isn’t the only one who had cared about him as Stephen.

That maybe he should have left her for the hunters if he feels so bad about it because at least then she wouldn’t fuck up everything in the rest of her Requiem.

But she’s tired of that mask, and it’s never been that effective with him anyway.

Her arms go around him at his words. She hugs him fiercely, putting every single bit of her that has ever loved him into it. She’s here, it says. She’s got him.

She never wanted this life for him. She’d thought that he’d be safe from it if she kept him away.

“I’m sorry,” she says at last, words muffled by the way she tucks her face against him. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m… exhausted. Overwhelmed. I wanted to bring you in to see them both and give you something to be happy about after all this shit and then everything got ruined. I hate disappointing you.”

GM: Celia closes her eyes and sees her sire’s face.

He doesn’t make her deal with all of this bullshit.

He fixes her problems, not causes them.

He doesn’t imply she’s stupid.

He isn’t afraid to kill when he has to.

He doesn’t need her to wear any masks or tell any lies.

He’s not in love with the memory of a girl who’s been dead for seven years.

Roderick sighs and holds her close against him, running one hand through her hair.

“It’s okay. I never had any expectation I was going to see my dad again, Celia.”

“The whole thing probably would’ve been bittersweet anyway. ’d have still been dead in his eyes.”

“And I can get how it doesn’t feel like we’ve talked about a lot of normal stuff, either. Interests, friends, mundane jobs.”

“Because honestly, we haven’t. Too many crises going on.”

Celia: Well. That’s not entirely true.

He’d called her stupid the night he’d thrown her mom off the roof.

And foolish last night.

But he’d corrected her behavior and course corrected so that it never happens again, so she forgives him.

She’ll always forgive him.

“I still thought you might have enjoyed it. Wanted to do something nice for you.” Doesn’t matter, though, since it all blew up in her face following one bad interaction. There’s a bitter taste in her mouth.

“And… yeah. Exactly. I’d, like, love to have one normal night where fifteen things don’t demand my attention and we can just go out and be normal.”

GM: “You’re right, I would’ve. But we can still reschedule dinner.”

Celia: “Is it weird with my mom being a ghoul now? He’ll be the only one not in the know.”

GM: “Emily and Lucy don’t count?” he asks with some amusement, but then it dies. “I hope you aren’t ghouling them too.”

Celia: “God, no.”

GM: “Especially Lucy, I don’t need to say what that’d do.”

Celia: “That’s… a really gross thought. I’d never do that to her.”

GM: “It is, yeah. But some licks actually do it.”

Celia: Flannagan does it.

GM: “Chastain’s herald used to look even younger than she does now.”

Celia: “Mm, I know.” She’s supposed to help fix that.

GM: “She was supposed to be only six or so. That’s just so fucked up.”

He shakes his head. “But whatever. Dinner with us, our parents, Dani, and two normals is still a nearly 1:1 ratio of breathers to night-folk.”

Celia: “The good news, y’know, is that when your dad isn’t there and it’s just my mom and I or my mom and us we don’t have to force down food anymore. Silver linings.”

GM: “Ah. Actually… don’t tell anyone this, but it doesn’t taste that bad for me.”

Celia: “Oh. Well. I’m jealous.”

GM: “I still have to throw it up. I can’t actually digest it. Which kind of takes away from the experience.”

Celia: “But it’s not a complete waste.”

GM: “Speaking of, I suppose your mom knows to stop cooking for you now, at least.”

Celia: “Yeah.”

GM: “That’s something. It had to have made dinners pretty annoying.”

Celia: “I’ve been on so many ‘fad diets’ over the years and she still managed to guilt me into it. Emily tore into me the other night about it.”

GM: “Your bad luck to have a doctor in the family. Though I actually don’t think they learn very much about nutrition in med school.”

Celia: “It’s like two classes, but yeah. She thinks she pretty much knows everything about the body because she’s almost done with school.”

As if she’s ever really torn into one to see what it’s all about.

GM: “I’d doubt that, honestly. I was only able to appreciate just how much I didn’t know about the law when I finished law school. Medicine is just as vast a field.”

“Anyway, though. I can plan a date for us, once things are settled. Something fun and normal-feeling to celebrate getting back together.”

Celia: “I’d like that.”

GM: “Me too. Tonight, I’m ready to see my sister.”

Celia: “After Elysium.”

GM: “Okay, you can text me where and when.” His voice gets abruptly bitter. “How’d Savoy take my boon?”

Celia: “Oh. Do you not want me to smuggle you in? I thought we’d meet here and I could take you.”

GM: “I’m paying to walk in, aren’t I?”

“Though I suppose hiding that I’m here is still a good idea.”

Celia: “That’s what I meant. Not from him. From… your side. And everyone else.”

GM: Roderick doesn’t look happy.

“Yeah.”

He sighs. “Anyway. You still want me to keep an eye on Benson for you at Elysium?”

Celia: “I was going to ask if you’d give her something for me, but then I thought about them coming after you instead.” Celia sighs. “I hate this.”

GM: “Me too. Maybe find another go-between. She’s in the Invictus. You tight with any of them?”

Celia: No one she’s going to mention to Roderick.

GM: “Or any Malkavians.”

Celia: “Preston and I braid each other’s hair on the regular.”

GM: “Color me surprised. I think I’ve only ever seen her with the same ponytail.”

Celia: “…I was kidding.”

GM: “I was too. I couldn’t ever see her doing that. It’d mean removing the stick from her ass.”

Celia: “Oh, no, she cemented it up there.”

GM: “We actually probably could do that,” he says with a faint chuckle. “Anyway. We both have a lot to do. Text me if you need anything, all right, or if there’s any news with Benson? I don’t want you or any of your people getting hurt in a feud with her.”

Celia: “Oh.” Celia checks the time. “I thought we could kill another twenty minutes together against that wall over there.” She nods toward the spot in question.

GM: He gives another faint laugh. “You’re insatiable.”

But then his hands are over her body, appreciatively roaming her curves and squeezing her breasts as his lips meet hers.

Celia: Insatiable or treacherous. But this, at least, she knows how to do.

How do you fuck up fucking, right?

It’s not the same as kissing her sire. Roderick is too warm, too soft, too… not what she wants. Not what she really wants. But he’s what she has, and she’s always been so good at pretending; her clothes come off and spill to the floor in a pool of fabric, then her hands are at his shirt, fingers making quick work of the buttons that keep him contained, sliding the material down his arms to reveal the broad shoulders and flat chest.

She can’t help but wonder what he looks like without clothes on. She’s only ever seen his bare arms. More muscular than this, she remembers that much.

She distracts herself with his belt, then the buttons on his pants, and finally she’s sliding down onto her knees in front of him to take him into her mouth.

GM: He’s definitely buffer than he was alive. Say what Celia may about Coco, the elder Brujah made sure her childe entered the Requiem in peak condition.

“Already owe you one…” he smiles, but he doesn’t stop her as he sinks back onto the couch.

Celia: She prefers not to think about Coco when she has Roderick laid out in front of her. Or ever, really. She might have been able to like the bitch if he’d ever shut the fuck up about her. Now that the collar has snapped, though, she feels nothing but contempt.

She’s not half as obsessed with her sire as Roderick is.

Celia has done this for him enough times that it doesn’t take long to get him where she wants him, and soon enough he stiffens under hand and mouth. It’s not quite the same as normal; or at least, everything until the end is just the same as he likes it, and only when she hears that intake of breath—he doesn’t need to breathe but they both get like this when they fuck—she finally brings her fangs to bear. They sink into his flesh, a quick nip that lets her bring his blood into her mouth. She isn’t concerned about protection anymore, but she hesitates just long enough to make him think she might be before she swallows it.

GM: It’s a comforting thought that she isn’t.

Roderick gives a sharper intake of breath as her fangs piece his manhood, but soon enough a velvety bliss superior to any cum floods Celia’s mouth. Rod say something about “taking way longer than 20 minutes if we need to shower off…” but appears all-too aroused by the thought of his lover swallowing something out of his cock, still. She’d wanted to spit it out the first time she pleased him with her mouth.

Roderick kisses her vitae-stained lips when she’s finished, then lifts her up onto the couch, hands gripping her under her elbows like she’s nothing, then busies his head between her legs. He alternates between licking, inserting fingers, nipping her pubic mound, and more licking there after the blood has time to cool. For all that Celia might prefer her sire to please her there, 20 minutes still pass all-too quickly. Roderick carefully gets her clean and sneaks in a few extra minutes enjoying that.

Celia: She gives him the chance to do it on his own. To slip up when he bites, to drink before it has a chance to cool. But whatever he does with his fingers and tongue isn’t nearly as toe-curling as it had been prior when they hadn’t needed to worry about the bond, and while she gets there—he always makes sure she gets there—it isn’t what she really wants. So in the shower she takes him again, bringing him into her body with her legs around his waist and her back pressed against the tile.

The way the shadow could have taken her if it hadn’t been busy tearing her throat and belly open. Maybe she’ll give him a second chance to get it right now that she knows what sort of kinky shit he’s into.

And while he’s buried in her, while he thrusts hard enough to make her forget her own name, she traces the points of her fangs against his skin and then finally into him, using the sensual bliss it creates to mask the way she leaks the blood from down below the way Veronica had taught her to covertly bind someone.

GM: Roderick initially protests the shower, saying the whole point of not doing too much “blood sex” was to keep clean-up simple, but he folds quickly and soon his cock is buried to the hilt inside her as the glass fogs. They both love this position. Roderck tells her to put her arms around him too, and wraps his around hers, holding her aloft and half-pressed against the tile as he pumps back and forth. Maybe he’s not Donovan, but he’s so strong, and she’s so light in his arms with her extraneous organs removed. He doesn’t notice the way her presence settles over him like a blanketing haze. He doesn’t notice the way he breathes her in through very his pores. He’s so close to her. So enraptured by her. So turned on by her. If only he knew how Veronica taught her that connection is a backdoor in. How there’s no need to shove your blood down someone’s throat if they’re hot enough for you. Everyone says Toreador are such vapid sluts, but let them laugh, Veronica had sneered. Emotions are their own pathways, she’d explained, their own veins and capillaries. The blood drains from Celia’s veins and her lover doesn’t even see it pass invisibly into this. Doesn’t see how her Beast purrs in satisfaction and doesn’t punish her for what she’s done. It likes this. It approves.

It’s what her sire would have done.

It’s what Veronica would have done. (And almost certainly has done, many times.)

It’s what so many licks she knows would have done.

Except Roderick.

Even beaming down at her, his eyes shining with affection brighter than ever before.

She’s pretty sure this is something he’d never have done.

“I really love you…” he whispers, pressing his lips to hers.

Celia: The words break her heart.

What she has done breaks her heart.

She shouldn’t have needed to do this. They’d had a special night planned, for when they took the second drink from each other without protection, and now that second drink will be tonight while he is unawares; she’ll never tell him what she’s done, how she’s slipped the noose around his neck without him knowing, but she’ll know that she allowed politics to ruin what should have been a special, intimate moment between them.

She shouldn’t need to trick him into loving her. She just wants him to love her without it. She wants someone, anyone, to love her for her.

He had. Before. When he hadn’t been bonded to her, when they were human, when they had rekindled their relationship only nights ago, he’d loved her for her.

He wouldn’t love her if he knew the truth, and her heart breaks for it. The water washes away the bloody tears on her cheeks, so easy to explain as overwhelming happiness at his declaration. She kisses him soundly, moving with him, losing herself to the rapture of their intertwined bodies to ignore the cracking of her heart.

“I love you too,” she whispers back.

She tastes the lie on her tongue.

Blueberry.


Previous, by Character: Story Thirteen, Celia I
Next, by Character: Story Thirteen, Celia Celia III

Comments

Emily Feedback Repost

Dani

She should start charging the Maxen in her head rent. I’m hilarious.

Celia probably overreacted a little here to moving dinner. I mean she didn’t say much, but she was thinking about Savoy’s reaction. He hadn’t really told her that she had to let Roderick have dinner with Henry, and it doesn’t seem to have affected much of anything since she introduced him to Dani. Still looking forward to the dinner.

I’m gonna toot my own horn for a minute here about the Dani conversation / warning her about Roderick being angry. I knew that sharing the blood would be an issue and I think Celia did a masterful job turning her against her “boyfriend” by implying he’s abusive before they met. She blames it on the clan and defends him exactly like an abuser would. It was fun to write. “He didn’t get his hands on me that time so it’s fine.” Like damn girl. If I didn’t know she was lying I’d be like “whoa.” But the best part is that she hasn’t actually lied to Dani about any of it! She was telling the truth, just enhancing what areas she wanted enhanced. I was giggling at my computer like “huehuehue” and twirling a little mustache or something, damn.

Celia: “He’s all I have left of your brother.”

GM: “He’s not my brother.”

“My brother would never hit you.”

Celia: Well…

Ugh just so good.

And then the implication that her boyfriend would try to kidnap her and force her out! I mean maybe Roderick wouldn’t have, but damn dude. Really set them up for the later scene to play out like it did. Just… feels really good, you know?

I do like Dani, even though I’m using her. I do want better things for her.

Lotus

Enjoyed being Lotus again. Had a big thing planned with the dolls that I mostly haven’t been able to get to because Celia has been busy. Hopefully it helps with some of the stuff she has going on, at least.

Ghouls

So like. This scene with all the ghouls and Reggie.

Like if Rusty hadn’t been there to be a wet blanket / Diana hadn’t been scandalized, it’d have been a full on orgy at some point. Definitely how Celia is going to start her meetings from now on. Like Alana is just gonna have to get used to sharing Celia because she’s happy to wake up in a pile of bodies and fuck Randy/Reggie/Alana at the same time and share blood and be shared in turn. Seems like the best way to wake up.

Reggie is a pig, though.

Feel like maybe Celia should have gotten more angry at Dani for feeding on him, but tbh he kind of deserved it.

I think the meeting in general went relatively well. It felt like I was preparing for war with Elyse and maybe it was overkill, but I would rather do that than not do anything at all. Not sure if it affected the game any / if she made a move to take any of them and met resistance or what. Prob shouldn’t have shared Dani was Duskborn, but I don’t know that she’d want to hide it. Def shouldn’t have shared Diana is going to become a ghoul. Oh well. Good suggestion with Alana for Louise to cover the spa.

What the fuck is glinko????

Roderick

I like Roderick. I think his response to Celia telling him about her mom is pretty normal, and that he has a point about Diana seeing behind the Masquerade before. I still don’t know how to push that information out of her, but I guess maybe that’s one of the questions I could ask whoever I get to talk to Lucy about it. Sangiovanni are looking like the best option. Not sure I want all the answers they’ll give me, but at this point the curiosity is burning.

“Maybe a lick like Vidal could.”
“Ah yeah, we should ask him.”
“Good idea. We’ll just ask Maldonato to slip us into his schedule sometime.”

We’re funny. And when she flexes at him later. Hahahaha.

When he said “I guess you can’t force her to leave against her will, either,” I was definitely thinking of Dani, too. Like if Dani wants to stay Roderick definitely can’t make her go.

I appreciate what Roderick is trying to do here, but I think his vase / shirt metaphor got a little long, and I don’t think that I agree with him.

I’m not actually sure where I was going with the “you don’t trust me” bit she did with Roderick. Uh. I think I had planned for something more, but Celia is also right that the playing victim bit doesn’t usually work with him. Had to pivot.

“She’s not half as obsessed with her sire as Roderick is.” Riiiiiiiight.

The way the shadow could have taken her if it hadn’t been busy tearing her throat and belly open. Maybe she’ll give him a second chance to get it right now that she knows what sort of kinky shit he’s into. I mean. I’m down.

“She shouldn’t have needed to do this. They’d had a special night planned, for when they took the second drink from each other without protection, and now that second drink will be his third. He’ll be completely hers.” I think this line needs edited following our discussion. Also you definitely added the last bit of that because that was not in my initial post.

Overall

Overall I had fun rereading this log. It was stressful to play through for parts of it but I think it sets up a lot of things very nicely for the future. Some of it we’ve already gotten to. Roderick was nice about Diana being a ghoul. There were a lot of mentions here about how Donovan fixes problems for her / etc but I still can’t see Celia ever calling him up and being like, “hey so I ghouled my mom and I’m upset about it what should I do?” I’m not sure they’ll ever have that type of relationship. Which is kind of a shame. I’m sure he could teach her a lot. Also she doesn’t like need to talk to him they could just chill or whatever. (Get it? Chill?)

Fun read, though.

Story Thirteen, Celia II
 

Calder Feedback Repost

Calder: I also enjoyed Emily’s interaction with Celia. Their banter is pretty fun
Mabel’s loyalty probably not hard to win. The Storyvilles are ash on the wind
You’re also right you already have a mom ghoul
OTOH, Louise will be another spa ghoul to Alana
All a question of what areas you most want to invest in

Emily: Too many ghouls. Idk that Louise needs to be one. We’ll see.
Don’t need to keep Mabel either.

Calder: That’s sweet of you to let Dani/Diana keep their relationship
I was also amused by the rent line
And yeah, you did great with Dani
Are doing great with Dani
Celia’s got her wrapped around her finger
As you pointed out, she doesn’t need to bother with boons

Emily: She’s pretty spoiled
For a lick
Let alone a thin-blood

Calder: She sure is, with a master like Celia
And yeah, Randy did sell out his brother/Alana pretty fast
He’s an addict
And unlike Dani and Diana, he’s three steps bound
Celia comes first
What else do you think might have been in Celia’s stomach than Lucy?

Emily: Nothing.
She doesn’t have a stomach.

Calder: It’s where the food all went, until she installs her vacuum bag

Emily: But I doubt that’s why Diana was touching her.
With the look in her eye.

Calder: I’ll enjoy seeing that planned doll stuff, anyway
Dani was also probably thankful you didn’t have an orgy
Perfect way for a Toreador to meet with their ghouls, tho
I also agree with your take that it was better to do the war meeting than not
Better to have and not need than need and not have
I think you’re also right that playing the victim usually doesn’t work with Roderick
He’s usually pretty convinced of his own righteousness

Emily: Sometimes it does.
Like when she called herself stupid later.
And he was all, “omg bb no D:”

Calder: Blood bond tugging him that way too
I continue to enjoy their interactions, too. They get along well
“She shouldn’t have needed to do this. They’d had a special night planned, for when they took the second drink from each other without protection, and now that second drink will be his third. He’ll be completely hers.”
I did add the italicized portion

Emily: I thought so

Calder: And wanted to make clear where things stood after the third/second stage GM conflation
What would you edit? They did have a night planned to feed without protection
(Celia could bond him before then, ofc)

Emily: You can keep some of it:

She shouldn’t have needed to do this. They’d had a special night planned, for when they took the second drink from each other without protection, and now that second drink will be tonight while he is unawares; she’ll never tell him what she’s done, how she’s slipped the noose around his neck without him knowing, but she’ll know that she allowed politics to ruin what should have been a special, intimate moment between them.

Calder: Poor Roderick

[…]

Calder: As far as Donovan, anyways, I’d say sharing “my mom is a ghoul, whut do” is as much a question of his temperament as his closeness to you
And that he would probably give less humane advice than Roderick
Melissaire gave you less humane advice than Roderick and she’s nicer than Donnie is

Emily: I just don’t think he’s much of an advice giver.
Tbh.
“Tie up loose ends.” Done.

Story Thirteen, Celia II
Calder_R Calder_R

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