“You’ve got a future to remember. I can tell already.”
Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM
GM: There’s a knock against Celia’s office door after she’s finished with her mother.
“You free, Celia?” comes Louise’s voice.
Celia: Celia takes a moment to check that there’s no blood on her shirt or face before she calls out for Louise to come in.
“Hey, Louise. What’s up?”
Casual, as if she hadn’t just spanked her mother.
GM: Or been spanked back by her mother to exorcise her increasingly split personality from their relationship.
Celia: She doesn’t have a split personality.
She is perfectly in control.
It’s just a mask.
GM: The first thing people notice about Louise is her hair. It’s big, it’s poofy, it’s curly. It’s piled on top of her head in a messy up-do with stray tendrils shooting out this way and that, some of them framing her face and some bouncing with every step that she takes. They’re wild curls, untamed by heat or spray or wax; they’re not the kind of curls that are ashamed of what they are, and she’s not the kind of woman that seems ashamed of them. Brown eyes peer out from underneath thick brows with a high arch, expertly applied pomade filling them in further with tiny little hair-strokes that are impossible to distinguish from the real thing. Winged linger, gold shadow, three coats of mascara, taupe in the waterline: it all serves to make her eyes look that much bigger. She’s got a wide mouth made for smiling and laughing, and her lips are lined the same color as the stain she wears across them, with a tiny little beauty mark over one side and a gold hoop in her nose. It’s the only ”non-professional” piece that she allows herself, and the rest of her is so dressed down that most people don’t even seem to notice it. She’s a looker for sure, with dewy skin, highlight and contour perfectly blended out, and a body that speaks of care and discipline. A gold necklace rests at her throat, a golden cuff on her left wrist, nails polished in a hue that’s somewhere between orange and tan. Professional colors for a professional woman, like the black slacks and black blouse she has on.
“Alana said it was your idea to have me manage the spa for the day,” smiles Louise as she steps in. “I just wanted to thank you for the chance.”
Celia: Alana strikes again. Another mark in her favor, Celia can’t help but think. She accepts the words of gratitude with a smile.
“I see how hard you work at everything, and I know you’re eager to take on more responsibility. I’m happy to give you the opportunity, Louise. How did it go?”
GM: “Pretty well. We had a busy day. Alana phoned me yesterday evening about it, so I got the call from the alarm company at 4 AM when they said the window sensor alarm got triggered.”
Celia: “The alarm triggered?” Why is this the first she’s hearing about it?
GM: “It turned out to be nothing.”
Celia: “Huh. Wind, maybe.”
She’ll check the tapes.
It’s not nothing.
It’s never nothing.
GM: “The police came by but didn’t find anything. They think it might have just been that or a faulty motion sensor.”
Celia: “Good to know. I’ll have to get that looked at; I doubt you appreciate being woken up at 4 AM for nothing.”
“So that was this morning?”
GM: “Yes. But it let me show you I was serious about managing, so I didn’t completely mind,” Louise smiles.
Celia: Who would it have been? Monday at 4 AM is after Elysium, which is after Elyse had agreed to meet with her to hear her out. Would she have sent someone anyway? Celia doesn’t think so, but maybe the Malkavian was still mad.
Hunters again? Why would they come during the night?
Roderick’s Churchmice? Again, though, why during the night? They’d been busy with Dani at that point, hadn’t they? But it’s the only spot that Jade is publicly affiliated with, so he might have sent them here to begin their search. He obviously knows that she’s not keeping Dani at her other haven. But he’d gone to meet her.
It doesn’t add up.
The rats, maybe? They certainly wouldn’t show up on a camera.
The mysterious enemy Roderick had hinted at that hate her because of Jade’s sire? Christ. That’s a headache.
Celia almost blanches at the thought of what someone might have overheard in her office.
“It did,” Celia agrees. “You can let me know about that sort of thing, even if it is a false alarm. Just send a text if it happens again; I’ll get it looked at and I don’t want to bother the police any more than I need to.”
She’ll have to sweep for bugs.
“One day it might not be a false alarm and then it’ll be like the boy who cried wolf.”
GM: Louise nods. “I’ll do that next time.”
“I did need to bribe the cops. They were annoyed about the false alarm and ‘hinted’ they’d make trouble for the girls if we didn’t pay them off.”
Celia: Celia openly scowls.
GM: It’s not the first time Celia’s heard of something like this happening. NOPD are thugs with badges.
“Did you get names or badge numbers?”
“Tell me how much and I’ll put it in your next check.”
GM: Louise rattles off numbers for both.
“It’s been a while since they last shook us down, so they might have been looking for an excuse.”
Celia: Maybe it’s time she shake some of them down.
“Maybe. Opportunity presented itself.”
GM: “Assholes, anyway. One of them kept saying ‘just a buncha girls here’ with this ugly leer.”
Celia: “Yeah? Which name was his? Maybe I’ll see if reporting him does anything.”
GM: Louise lists his badge number. “Doubt it, though.”
Celia: “Never know.”
GM: “Things were pretty calm after that, anyway. I figured I might as well start the day now that I was here. Mostly spent time on accounting reports and supply orders.”
Celia: “Long day,” Celia whistles. “I’m glad we found each other, if that’s what I can expect.”
GM: “Oh, there were fun moments too. ‘Anoushka’ said she got a Russian client who believed her accent was for real.”
“Emily also worked a later shift. People were happy to see her, it’d been a while since she was around.”
Celia: “Ha. Anoushka mentioned she’s learning Russian to really fool people. One of those phone apps, I guess it’s going well if she managed to fool someone. And yeah, it’s been great to have Emily open her schedule again. I know she’s been busy with school. Going to be sad when she’s gone.”
“Might have to put out a hiring ad for a new MT.”
GM: “Mary most of all. They talk a lot. Alana said something about you wanting to keep Emily on in some capacity?”
Celia: “If she has time after she graduates, yes. If not then it’s definitely understandable. She’ll be doing rotations. I think they pull something like 12 hour shifts on the regular. Wouldn’t blame her if she dipped.”
Celia gives that a sad smile.
“We knew it was temporary.”
GM: Louise returns it with a warmer one. “I know she appreciated it. Med school is hard. She got to work a good job with an understanding boss.”
“I know she didn’t want to feel like she was freeloading off your mom while she was going to school.”
Celia: “She brought us Mary so I suppose I can’t complain too much. Wouldn’t have that contract with the Saints without her.” Celia winks at Louise.
“But yeah, it’s been great to have her on. I’m excited for her to do what she’s wanted this whole time, though.”
GM: “Exactly. Some of the Saints can be assholes, but at least they pay us for it.”
“We actually had one of their wives today. She’d organized a bridal party ‘spa day.’”
Celia: More than can be said for the Saudi prince.
“Oh? That sounds like a lot of fun. Go well?”
GM: “In the end, yes. She was a total bridezilla and asked Natalie to speak to the manager over some scheduling issues.”
“But we finally ironed things out and reached a date she and her mom were happy with.”
Celia: “It’s always the moms,” Celia says with a heavy sigh and roll of her eyes. “You think it’s the brides, but half the time it’s the moms that drive them crazy.”
“Glad you were able to handle it, though.”
GM: “Yes, the mom was the one who asked to speak to the manager after telling Natalie how incompetent she was. She took it a little hard and cried in the bathroom. Piper cheered her up.”
Celia: Celia scowls again.
“I’ll have to talk to her and let her know she’s not. She’s been great.”
GM: “She also wasn’t incompetent, I didn’t do anything with them that she couldn’t have done.”
Celia: “I don’t know why people think asking for the manager is like asking for a genie. Like you can somehow click buttons better than a receptionist.”
GM: “I think it just makes them feel important.”
“But getting to say those magic words calmed her down a little, I guess.”
Celia: “Apparently. I hope you didn’t bend over backwards for them.”
GM: “Oh, I didn’t reschedule any of our other clients like they were asking us to. I mostly made noise about the available day being when our ‘best people’ would be available.”
Celia: “Perfect. You’re a natural.”
GM: “A.k.a., our same people, but they can be our best ones too.”
Celia: “We had a woman here before you started, Georgina. She was about to go into labor and one of her very needy clients was pissed about it. Asked if she could come in to do her lashes and that no one else could touch her. Literally in the hospital, having contractions, and this woman wanted her to stop what she was doing to work on her.”
“Alana told her she was at Tulane Medical if she wanted to pop by and lay on top of her while she pushed out her child.”
GM: “Wow. They really just see us as robots sometimes.”
Celia: “Sometimes, yeah. And sometimes they’re great.”
GM: “They are. I miss being able to work on them and gossip.”
Celia: “Being behind the desk isn’t the same. I can see if there are any strings to pull about it, if you’d like. Been a few years, hasn’t it?”
GM: Louise nods. “Managing has been a fun change of pace. I’m really happy to be here instead of Pangloss, don’t get me wrong! But if you could, I’d love to still take the occasional client like you and Alana do.”
Celia: “I’m sure I can figure something out. Even if it’s shaking down that guy’s wife.” Celia wiggles her brows.
GM: “I bet you’d have her on her knees in an instant,” smirks Louise. “I’ve seen you and Alana talk down angry clients like they’re little kids.”
Alana doesn’t use the Blood’s powers on every client. Just unreasonable ones.
Celia: “Just have to know what buttons to push.”
Celia is always amused by Alana’s stories about unreasonable clients. They don’t happen frequently in this industry—most people are happy to come in for service—but when they do they’re memorable.
GM: They mostly all end with Alana mindfucking them.
Celia: It’s convenient.
GM: “And let’s see, apart from that… did some supply orders, more accounting work. Landen was sick today, so Sandra did Lucy’s nails.”
Celia: “Uh oh,” Celia drawls, “I hope she won’t report it to the manager that her usual tech wasn’t in.”
GM: “I sure hope not, she is the boss’ daughter. Celia ain’t happy unless Lucy is.”
Celia: “That Celia is a real hardass, maybe she sent those cops.”
GM: “To shake down her own business, at that. She doesn’t screw around.”
Celia: “It’s a racket, I tell you.”
GM: “I think Landen is Lucy’s favorite tech, anyway, but she was still happy with Sandra.”
Celia: “I’m glad. I saw the result and they looked fab. Gonna have to paint mine the same.”
Celia smiles for a moment, then dismisses the frivolity with a shake of her head.
“In more serious news, there may be further opportunity for you if you’re interested. I’m working on a new project and it might eat up a lot of Alana’s time in the next few months. Does that sound like something you’d be into?”
GM: “Like white on rice,” smiles Louise. “I’d be covering more management shifts for her?”
Celia: “Yes, to start.”
GM: “I’d love to. When would I start?”
Celia: “Within the next few weeks. Things are still getting off the ground on this end, but I’ll give you a firmer date soon.”
GM: “I’ll plan for it. And thanks, Celia. I know I’ve said it a million times, but I’m really so glad to still get to work in the industry without a license.”
Celia: “I’m happy to have you, Louise.”
GM: “Good luck with the project. I’m sure it’s something big if you’re putting Alana on it.”
Celia: “Thank you. I think it’s going to be a big opportunity for us. I’m excited to see where it leads.”
Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM
Celia: If Louise has nothing else for her, Celia wishes her a good evening and pulls up the security camera footage on her computer. She doesn’t expect to find anything—she knows how shadow dancing works—but it’s worth a shot, at least.
GM: Louise adds that Piper and Landen, to whom she’s passed off a fair amount of social media curation, want to take some photos and record more videos with her semi-soon.
Celia: She schedules a time to do so, then sends a text to Randy:
omg are you nearby the spa there is a giant spider in my office pls come squish it
GM: IM COMInG BABE!!!!!!! comes the immediate reply.
Celia: Her hero. She sends him a heart-eyed emoji.
GM: She’s still looking through tapes when Randy bursts into her office. He’s sweating and panting heavily, as though he ran as hard as he could.
“Where’s the spider!?” he exclaims, looking wildly around.
Celia: “Over here,” Celia points, gesturing him closer with a finger pressed against her lips in the universal sound for silence. She’s written a note on her desk, just in case he didn’t understand: office / spa might be bugged, break in this morning at 4, can you check for them?
GM: Randy looks around, then picks up a pen and writes back on the note:
ok but is there a spider?? I’ll get it for you!
Celia: not this time, but you’re a hero
He knows she doesn’t like spiders.
She doesn’t like ugly things.
Even if she does wonder if she can put that many legs and arms on a person.
And even though she’s a vampire and can kill them herself it makes him feel needed, so she lets him kill them for her when she finds them.
GM: Randy looks a little crestfallen, but writes he’ll go check. He starts sweeping the room.
A text pops up from Dani.
hey I forgot all about this, but what’s the situation w/ school?
and the stuff at my apt?
Celia: Celia pulls her eyes away from the computer to respond to Dani.
Meet w/ my friend tonight to help w/ school. Will get your stuff.
GM: thanks Celia you’re the best :)
Celia: She thinks she can squeeze Dani in after Rod, or after the meeting with Elyse if it doesn’t take too long.
GM: After pulling away from the tapes to help Randy, the pair find an electronic listening device hidden behind the framed Best Esthi—Celia Flores, 2014 award.
Celia: Oh, good. Well now someone knows everything.
Rusty will probably know how to trace it back to wherever it’s going.
Celia hands it off to Randy to make sure his brother gets it. Written, of course. Why let them know she’s onto them.
She returns to the footage.
GM: Sure thing, babe, Randy writes back.
Upon returning to the tapes, and after a little more searching, Celia snags an image of the thin-blood she spoke to at Jackson Square.
Celia: Why the fuck.
Celia bites back her irritation. She points it out on the tape to Randy, lifting her brows at him.
Pick up tonight?
She will make the time, if he and Reggie can’t find the damn thing on their own.
Find it and gut it, maybe.
No one will miss a thin-blood.
Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM
GM: It’s close to 9 by the time Jade arrives in Jackson Square. At this hour, many of the daytime tourists, artists, and performers are gone, but there are still some. The ghost tours only begin after dark. Jade catches a large group of tourists listening to a guide dressed in an anachronistic top hat and tailed suit regaling them with lurid stories about the Quarter’s “romeo catchers”—spikes on those beautiful wrought-iron fences meant to deter young men from visiting young women’s bedrooms.
More than one romeo, driven from a girl’s window by her furious father, has been impaled on those hungry spikes. Some of their spirits may yet linger, pining for their unrequited loves.
Jade finds Sidra little ways off from Saint Louis, seated by a table advertising her services. She’s dressed tonight in a long, flowing skirt with lots of beads and bangles, though her ghouled monkey is still perched on her shoulder. The tiny simian makes a faint mewing sound as she finishes reading a tourist’s palm and sends off the bemused-looking man.
Celia: Jade makes one stop on her way to Jackson Square. The Evergreen is on the way, and the blood samples she’d taken from Roderick and Dani are needed before tonight’s meeting. She drops them off to Mel or Fabian, whoever she finds first, to give to the warden and continues on with her evening.
At Jackson Square it doesn’t take long to find Sidra, and this time there’s no need for the thin-blood to play intermediary. She keeps an eye out for him/her/them anyway; why bother the boys with searching for the thing if she can round it up herself? She even has a built-in excuse if she catches it: fulfilling her promise of paying it for the information it had given her.
As soon as Sidra’s chair clears, however, Jade slides right in and smiles at the fortune teller.
GM: Jade does not see the thin-blood. Or any thin-bloods around the Square, for that matter.
This is still a nice area.
“Evening,” the dusky-skinned vampire smiles back.
“Here for a reading?”
Celia: “Of a sort,” Jade replies. “Someone else’s, if you have a moment to spare from your clients.”
GM: “I’ll take anyone who wants their fortune told.”
“I can do tarot readings as well as palmistry, and a few other methods.”
Celia: Does that mean Jade needs to get her fortune told? She can’t say she’s thrilled by the prospect. But “anyone” means thin-bloods too, doesn’t it? Perhaps Dani is in luck.
“Anything with porcelain or ceramic?”
GM: “Well, no palm readings for them. I need a living or once-living hand.”
“But maybe the tarot.”
Celia: Jade asks about the price of such a service.
GM: A bag’s worth of vitae and $300, two bags, or $600—“If you want the real deal and not just the cold readings I give breathers.”
She looks at Jade thoughtfully.
“You’ve got a future to remember. I can tell already.”
Celia: She’s pleased by the thought of that. Perhaps she will let Sidra read her cards.
“What of our lesser-blooded cousins? Will you read for one?”
GM: Sidra makes a slight face. “I won’t take their blood, but I’ll take their money. Or someone else’s blood.”
The monkey makes a noise.
Celia: Jade follows the grimace with an understanding look, one that speaks to distasteful necessity and long-suffering patience for the lesser-blooded in question.
“I will send it by another night, then.” She pulls a freshly cleaned and washed Lucy from her bag and sets the doll on the table. “Can you speak with her?”
GM: Sidra tilts her head at the doll, then seems to roll with it and takes Lucy’s porcelain hand in hers.
“Hm. Strange,” she says after a moment.
“She’s a special doll, isn’t she?”
Celia: “She is,” Jade agrees. “I think she has something to say to me, but she was… injured recently and can’t speak.”
GM: The monkey hops off Sidra’s shoulder and approaches the doll, staring at it with wide simian eyes.
“So, I deal with ’later’s more than ’now’s,” Sidra says thoughtfully. “I think Lucy would respond best to sphereomancy. If you’d like, I can try to find out what she’s going to say, but she’ll need to actually say it in the future for my vision to come true. So I’d only be telling you something you’ll find out anyway.”
Celia: Jade doesn’t recall telling Sidra the doll’s name. Had Lucy done it herself?
“What she’s going to say as in what she would say if she hadn’t hurt herself earlier?”
GM: Sidra shakes her head. “I deal in certainties, and possibilities, but not what-ifs.”
Celia: “I think that should be okay, then.”
GM: “Okay. Same price.”
Celia: Jade nods. She’d expected as much. She checks her wallet to make sure there’s enough inside for two readings; if not, she’ll need to visit an ATM.
There’s plenty. Enough for her own reading, if she wants to have her future told as well.
She pulls the bills free and hands the first $600 to Sidra.
GM: Sidra picks up her crystal ball with both hands.
She cups it carefully in her hands and begins to rotate it slowly from right to left. Her motions are gentle, as though she’s rocking a small baby.
She gazes deeply into the ball. Celia doesn’t see anything except crystal, but Sidra’s features turn placid, still, and far away.
“I see… a dark place. Cold. Hard. Stone.”
“There’s a woman. In manacles. Chains. She sleeps on the ground. She’s filthy. Naked. Like an animal.”
“The door to her cell slams open. A man comes in. Tall. Dark. His face. Etched with hate. Contempt.”
“‘This is all you’re good for, you filthy slut,’ he says as he rapes her.”
“She tries to speak. He rips out her tongue. He takes her savagely, viciously, relishing her mangled cries.”
“There’s blood on his hands. There’s so much blood. He is a brutal tyrant, dressed all in black. He is a judge of life and death. He knows best. He knows what’s best for everyone.”
“His face is hard and cold. It has not smiled in a very long time. There are always more important matters, matters to which only his enlightened mind is fit to attend. He carves out his moments of pleasure where he can…”
“‘This is all you’re good for, you stupid, lying slut,’ he repeats when he’s finished, and he spits in your face. You cry out to him as he leaves, but without your tongue you cannot say his name. You can only lisp:”
“The slam of the iron door is your only answer.”
Sidra looks up from her crystal ball.
“I’m sorry,” she says slowly, “didn’t you want Lucy’s first?”
Celia: Silence greets her question.
That isn’t right.
That’s not who she thought it was.
That isn’t how it’s supposed to go.
That isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
He’s not like that. He’s not. He’s good. He’s a good person, a kind person, he would never…
Wouldn’t he, though? Hasn’t he shown what he’s capable of? Hasn’t he hurt her before? Hasn’t he confessed that he’d almost killed his family, destroyed their house, had to have his sire fix their thoughts?
He said he’d protect her.
He’d killed for her.
Is this why?
Is this what starts him down that spiraling path, because he’d killed for her? Protected her? Because she’s lying to him about who she is, what she is, how she is? Because she’s trying so hard to keep the darkness inside of herself so it doesn’t spill over to him, too?
Because she thinks she’s clever enough to keep him dangling on the end of a string?
Her lips move soundlessly, eyes in a far distant place.
It can’t be real.
It can’t be.
I deal in certainties.
“How long,” she rasps out, “how long before that comes to pass?”
GM: “I don’t know,” Sidra answers calmly. “Maybe weeks. Months. Years. Decades. Maybe never.”
“Sphereomancy gives visions. Some visions come to pass. Some don’t.”
Celia: “Why… why that vision?”
GM: “There was something significant to it. Probably. Maybe it’s about an important figure in your life. Maybe you or someone else will soon cause events that lead to it. Maybe it will shape your destiny in a major way. Maybe it’s relevant to something else you’ve just done or soon will do.”
Celia: She doesn’t know what to say to that.
It’s not possible. There’s no possible way that she does anything that leads to him becoming like… like that.
Except there is, isn’t there?
And she’s already put it into motion.
“And hers?” Jade asks, pushing the doll forward as if that will wipe away the events of the past few moments, as if she can run from the pain of the vision, escape the dark thoughts that threaten to drag her under.
She did that. Does that. Will do that.
She ruins him.
GM: Sidra picks up the ball again, slowly rotates it, and stares into its depths. Her face resumes its placid expression.
Unlike during the previous vision, she doesn’t say anything for a few moments. Her face is clear when she looks back up at Jade.
“All right, that was weird.”
Celia: Weirder than getting visions in the first place?
GM: “I saw a lot of different things. It felt fragmentary. Maybe contradictory. I don’t know if all of what I saw can come true.”
“She was with a young black-haired woman, for a little, then that dissolved.”
“She was in a library, full of whispers. You can’t hear past them all, hear the one voice that is waiting…”
“She’s trembling. The Giovannini know how to make her talk, how to make her spill everything. All your questions are answered… but she will hurt… you will not like all the answers…”
“She’s with a blonde woman. Hugging her… but there’s two of them…”
“A black man, old and fat, slinging back a drink. He says they couldn’t bullshit an old bullshitter…”
“There’s lights… bright lights… people laughing, drinking, yelling… but stare too long, you’ll see them burning… burning…. screaming… he’s here, the one who knows the truth… a flash of silver…”
Sidra shakes her head.
“Lucy wasn’t even in some of those.”
Celia: Jade absorbs the information quietly, wondering at the images. Black-haired woman. Who? Isabel? But she’d been blonde and had only gone dark with her Embrace. As they all do. Diana hadn’t known about her, doesn’t know about her. Had she met Lucy?
But she’s dead. And this is the future, isn’t it?
The library… her other visit, if this doesn’t pan out.
But not the Giovannini. She doesn’t know what questions she has that that they could possibly answer. Don’t they deal with the dead, with ghosts?
Something like dread curls in her gut.
It’s not what she was looking for, she’s certain of it. She’d thought there would be a message, something straightforward, and instead she’s… she’s not sure what she has received. What role does Ron—it has to be Ron, doesn’t it?—play in any of this? And who is silver? Bullets? That’s just an old superstition, isn’t it? Who burns?
“How could she not be in what you saw if you looked into her future?”
GM: “The Sight leads where it wills,” Sidra answers. “Maybe the parts without her are still tied to her future.”
“But the whole thing felt… strange.”
Celia: “How so?”
GM: “Claustrophobic. Like I was being squeezed. Crushed.”
“I kept seeing the blonde woman, out of the corner of my eye.”
Celia: “Like Lucy, but alive?”
GM: “Yes. They had similar hair. But I don’t know if she was alive. Sometimes she seemed like she was. But I think she was dead, too. Or maybe she wasn’t. I was never sure. It hurt when I tried to see more clearly.”
“I think she was the same woman hugging Lucy, anyway.”
Celia: “Dead like us, or actually dead?”
GM: “Actually dead. But her body was screaming.”
Celia: Jade purses her lips.
Is this her fault, too?
Of course it is.
“Thank you,” she says to Sidra, because she doesn’t know what else there is to say about it.
Then, “Do you know of anyone who can speak with dolls besides the one who creates them?”
GM: “The things I saw in her future were the library, the Giovannini, and the blonde woman. Maybe one of them.”
“Beyond that, no idea.”
Celia: She can try the library first, she thinks, rather than force Diana into speaking with the doll. She’s afraid of the doll and not yet ready to be pushed that far. And the Giovannini… she thinks she knows one that might be able to help, if the librarian cannot.
Last resort, though. She doesn’t mind the clan, but the idea that they’ll hurt Lucy (or Diana?) to get answers does not sit well with her.
Some truths aren’t worth the pain.
“You said those were future. The others… past?”
GM: Sidra shakes her head. “My Sight sees what will come. Or can come.”
Celia: “Perhaps I misunderstood, then. The black-haired woman and the black man and the burning are what, if not future?”
GM: “Yes. Future.”
“You’ve already given me much to think about, but perhaps there is one more thing you can assist with.”
GM: “Sure. Tante Lescaut also gives genuine readings if you want to see more of your or Lucy’s futures.”
Celia: Jade will remember the name.
Originally, she hadn’t intended to ask Sidra about Lucy. Perhaps being distracted by Josua the other night had been a boon in and of itself; easy enough to find her again, and tonight at least she can kill multiple birds with the same stone.
Jade lets the silence linger for long moments while she considers her next request. Three fortunes she asked for this evening; $1800 or six bags of vitae, and whatever way she slices it that is more than she can pay at this time. Her resources have been stretched thin by the recent addition to her stable of ghouls, and her ordinarily tightly controlled finances have taken a hit with the need to provide round the clock security to her haven while she settles the score with Elyse.
Fortunate, then, that she has a score to settle here as well, and that Sidra had once turned to her to rescue Tyrell when he’d been picked up by the Snake Hunters for the crime of residing within the confines of the French Quarter.
As if everyone who lives here is a secret Setite posing as something else.
He’d been a wreck when she pulled him from the holding cell in Harrison’s haven, a night or two away from surely being put down. But she’d gotten in and gotten him out. She’d done it. For him, and for the lick who sits before her peddling her tarot cards and crystal balls.
It’s time to call it in.
“A few months ago another Toreador came to see you. Mr. Bourelle. I will consider our past business settled and the scales balanced should you disclose the details of that interaction.”
GM: “All right,” says Sidra. “He came to me asking for a palm reading. He seemed pretty shaken. We didn’t do it in Jackson Square, this deep in Savoy’s turf.”
“The lines on his palm were dark. Really dark. Literally, which means they’re danger points for sudden or accidental deaths.”
The chimp on Sidra’s shoulder screeches and scampers to her other shoulder.
“I could tell he wasn’t killed by another lick, though. And that a powerful force might or might not avenge his death. He broke off the reading at that point and ran off.”
The chimp gives a tiny hoot. Sidra scratches its head.
“Like I said to the last lick who asked me about Bourelle—and he’s been missing for months, too? You don’t need my gifts to know he’s ash.”
Celia: “No,” Jade says slowly, “I know he’s ash. Or at least assumed. I wanted to know who ashed him.”
GM: “All I can tell you there is that it wasn’t a lick. Maybe hunters. I’ve heard there’s been an uptick in encounters.”
“That wasn’t the only time he came to me for a reading, though,” Sidra says shrewdly. “I can tell you the details of his previous one. Same price as a reading for you.”
Celia: He wasn’t killed by Meadows, then.
Her rumor isn’t even a lie, is it? Part of it, at least.
“Yes,” Jade agrees.
GM: Sidra holds out her hand.
Celia: Jade pulls a leather wristlet from her purse and extracts the agreed upon amount, handing it over to Sidra.
GM: The money disappears somewhere among the fortune-teller’s scarves.
“He asked if Roxanne would ever love him the same again.”
Celia: For $600 and a debt, Jade expects more than that.
GM: “I did a tarot reading for that, as it was a question about someone else. They said yes and no, but mostly no. She’d never love him the same way again.”
“But she’d always care about him. She’d get obsessed with him. And it would undo her. She’d lose everything by caring about him. Her heart was divided, and that’s what would tear them apart, and doom them both.”
“I didn’t tell him he was doomed, though. He only paid to know about Roxanne. There was a mountain between them they’d never overcome.”
“I’ll also throw in, as lagniappe, since you’re one of Savoy’s. There was a blonde Ventrue, the new one, who also asked me about Evan. She paid me to hear about the first reading. She didn’t take me up on the second.”
The monkey gives another tiny hoot.
Why wouldn’t Caroline have gotten here first?
Why would Celia do anything on her own without the bitch in her way? Is she, what, doomed to walk the same steps, tread the same ground?
Her teeth clench together.
“Do you know what prompted him to ask about Roxanne?”
GM: “I’d guess because there were problems in their relationship. Why else?”
“Something was coming between them.”
Celia: “Yes. I had hoped you’d be able to tell me what the mountain is.” She thinks she knows, but confirmation is always better than theories. “Regardless, thank you.”
GM: “Welcome. Come back anytime you want to know someone’s future.”
Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM
GM: Celia and Roderick drive to the Evergreen.
“Remind me where you got this thing?” he asks in the car.
Celia: Behind the wheel of the new car Alana and Randy had picked out for her (for what feels like the first time even though it isn’t), Celia glances over at Roderick. Or rather the man who she knows is Roderick but who, decidedly, does not look like Roderick right now.
It looks nothing like him.
That’s the point of a disguise, really. She’d thought for a moment to maybe create an aged version of him, the man he would be at thirty rather than the boy he died as, but explaining that would be too difficult for him and once you hit twenty your face doesn’t change as much as people think it does. Plenty of thirty and forty year olds look much younger than their faces portray. But the man next to her is decidedly older, mid-thirties at least, with brown facial hair that matches what’s on Roderick’s head.
The similarities end there. This man is rugged where Roderick is smooth, broad where he is lean, hard where he is soft.
She’d made the mask herself earlier this evening out of the spare parts she has at the spa. It had been an experiment that she is pleased to see work; she’d created a lie about needing blood to adhere it to his face when she’d put it on him, something about the power of the blood and flesh, and it had stuck right to his skin without him questioning how it worked. “Sorcery,” is all she’d said. Pete had told her once that many things Kindred don’t understand can be explained by sorcery, and she fell back on it when she’d shown him the mask to explain his disguise. She’d smoothed it across his face and jaw and blended it into his neck with the powder on the end of a makeup brush, then covered the rest with his shirt.
She’d had a suit for him too, tailored to his size but nothing he has been seen in before, and a pair of shoes that no one will trace back to Roderick Durant. It’s all about the details, she’d told him as she’d held them out.
She’d watched him change, eyes alight in appreciation at the body beneath the clothes, but kept her hands to herself. There’s no need to show up to a meeting with Savoy smelling like sex and blood.
She’d taken the opportunity to change as well, stripping from the casual clothing she’d worn to work and slipping on a dress that’s worthy of the Lord of the French Quarter: black, slinky, but somehow still shy of sexual. It suggests rather than reveals, hugging her assets before dropping into a gentle wave that trails in her wake.
“I think I told you a while ago,” Celia says at his question, “but I’m kind of tight with a night doc. I have one for Dani, too.” Or will, anyway, once she gets around to making it.
GM: “Smart,” Roderick said about the suit and shoes. He wasn’t quite smiling, given the occasion, but one still quirked his lips. “You really covered all your bases with this.”
Maybe he was saying ‘smart’ because of last night.
But maybe because it was a smart idea too.
Roderick appreciated the gown. A lot. It elicited a similar reaction to the mermaid one she wore to Elysium. That in itself seemed quite telling, given the disgust his face evinced when meeting Savoy came up. But when it didn’t, he had eyes only for her. Hands only for her. Murmuring how he wanted to fuck her in this later.
“I am going to fuck you in this later,” he’d murmured. “At dawn. You’re going to show up in it, I’m going to fuck you in it, and you’re going to fall asleep in it, coated in your blood and juices.”
Celia: If they’d had more time, Celia has no doubt that the two of them would have spent the night running through a dozen various positions to see how long the dress could stay on before he tore it off. They’d had to content themselves with chaste touches and lingering kisses on their way out the door, and Celia doesn’t know who anticipates it more: him or her.
She couldn’t help but smirk to herself at the thought of Preston or her grandsire dipping into her head this evening to see them both thinking about fucking.
“Of course you will,” she’d agreed, using his freshly tied tie to pull him in. “I’ll never get enough of you.”
GM: Stray thoughts about her sire betray her.
Stray glances her way betray him.
She does know who anticipates it more.
Celia: Her sire would never fuck her like Roderick does.
She tries to remember that.
Even if she wishes that he would.
Even if she prefers his cold, hard touch to Roderick’s.
Even if sometimes she pretends it’s him when she’s with other people, but no one has yet come close to his frosty severity.
The vision can’t come true. Her sire wouldn’t let it. He’d come for her like he has before, wouldn’t he? He wouldn’t let her be used like that, beaten and broken and raped.
GM: He’s saved her once, hasn’t he? Of course he will come again.
It’s cute, though, how Roderick tries to be as aggressive. Telling her how he’s “going” to fuck her in that dress.
Celia: What would Donovan say instead?
Nothing, just take her?
GM: When does he say anything he doesn’t need to?
Celia: He’d said nothing to her the other times he’d taken her. The night of her Embrace. The night on the roof.
He’d simply acted.
She had shivered at the memory, but her eyes had found Roderick’s and she’d passed it off as excitement.
GM: Absolute economy of action.
Absolute economy of speech.
“This is one of the weirdest things I’ve worn,” Roderick mutters once they’re in the car.
Would her sire make such a remark?
Celia: She wouldn’t hide her ability from her sire. She’d change his actual face if he ever requested it.
Nothing by half measures. Not for him.
He’d never even asked what the bracers had been made from. Perhaps he knows. She can’t imagine that he cares. But she’ll never tell Roderick what it is that he wears on his face, whose skin she had peeled from their body to create the mask.
“Female fashion can be weird,” Celia remarks to Roderick, “I’ve seen some crazy things. But… is it comfortable, at least? It’s supposed to be like you’re not in anything at all.”
GM: “It is. That’s what’s weird about it.”
“I barely notice it.”
Celia: “You thought that someone I accepted work from would be anything less than flawless?”
GM: “Ha. I suppose not.”
The pair arrive at the Evergreen soon enough. Roderick’s scowl deepens, but once they’re inside he holds it in check. Fabian greets them pleasantly. They take the elevator up.
Celia: “After this,” she tells him, “I need to tell you something. Remind me.”
GM: He nods. The elevator’s doors ding soon.
Celia: She straightens as the door opens, reaching out to smooth his tie and shirt and brush back the hair from her face.
“Ready?” she asks him quietly.
GM: Roderick doesn’t quite scowl.
But he turns and strides out to the garden with her.
“Mr. Durant. Welcome to the Evergreen,” smiles Savoy. He motions to the table. “Pull up a seat, if you’d care to.”
“I’d prefer to stand, Mr. Savoy,” Roderick answers coldly.
“You will address Lord Savoy by his proper title while you are a guest in his domain, Mr. Durant,” Preston sharply corrects him.
Celia: Celia comes to a halt at Roderick’s side. She starts to open her mouth to introduce the three of them, but Savoy beats her to it.
“Lord Savoy,” Celia says to her grandsire, “thank you for the invitation. I hope you are well this evening. Madam Preston, good evening.”
Celia inclines her head to the latter and curtsies to the former.
She hesitates only a second, then reaches for Roderick’s hand to give it a gentle squeeze. She’s here for him, that touch says. They’re a team.
GM: He gives her a slight squeeze back.
“I believe I just did, Madam Preston,” Roderick answers.
Celia: This is going swell.
“Roderick,” Celia murmurs, “will you sit with me?”
GM: Roderick eyes glare into Preston’s.
Then Celia’s request, so gentle, so innocuous, washes over him, and he can do naught but sit.
Celia: Perhaps she should have warned him about Preston. But he’d seemed to know enough about her to know that she serves as the thorn to Savoy’s rose.
Celia takes the chair beside him, smiling pleasantly at the two across the table.
GM: Savoy just smiles serenely at the whole scene.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Durant.”
“You called in the boon I promised, Mr. Savoy.”
“I did. But I still prefer to observe courtesies,” says the French Quarter lord. “They’re the grease in the Camarilla’s gears, and what makes our world go round.”
“Besides, you didn’t need to promise me a boon just to visit the Quarter.”
“I know all about your open borders policy, Mr. Savoy,” Roderick says stiffly. “How anyone is invited in. The boon is a guarantor of my safe passage.”
GM: “And a guarantor that I’ll actually be able to visit who I want to visit, since you already know,” he glares.
Celia: Celia squeezes his hand again, a gentle reminder to soften his tone. Savoy is an approachable elder, but he’s still an elder, and this is his territory.
She hesitates before she adds her voice to the conversation, unsure in which direction Savoy wants to take this or if he even wants her to intercede. She can’t imagine he appreciates the hostility, though.
“Roderick,” she finally murmurs, turning her face toward him, “please be civil. No one wants an argument this evening.”
GM: “I’m not arguing,” Roderick answers tersely. “I’m stating facts. There’s only an argument if someone contests their accuracy.”
Savoy just smiles for all the world like the on-edge Brujah is being perfectly civil to him.
“Then you must care a great deal for her, Mr. Durant, to offer a boon for passage to an elder you dislike as much as me. I’d offer my condolences as to her Embrace, but in the spirit of candor, we both know you’d find those worthless. It’s a regrettable pickle you’ve both found yourselves in.”
“What do you want, Mr. Savoy?” Roderick asks bluntly.
The French Quarter lord just smiles tranquilly.
“I’d like you to remove your sister from the French Quarter, Mr. Durant. Whether that’s to Mid-City, some other part of the city, or another city, I leave to your discretion.”
Celia: That… certainly hadn’t been something they’d discussed.
GM: Roderick’s eyes cut briefly to Celia’s.
“And why is that, Mr. Savoy? She’s your hostage if she stays here. We both know that was your plan. I turn into your Quisling, and in exchange Dani gets to live.”
Celia: She doesn’t give away her surprise, but she’s thinking the same thing.
Savoy loses his hostage if they get Dani out, not to mention the fact that Celia doesn’t think she’ll leave.
GM: “And what a terrible plan that would be. If I thought it had any chance of success, Mr. Durant, rest assured, I’d do it! Your sister’s life means nothing to me.”
“But you wouldn’t suffer to be a Quisling. Some people might, but I’m not too bad at reading people, and I don’t think you would. I think you’d turn to your sire, tell her the situation, and work with her to feed me false information. Buried amidst enough accurate information that I wouldn’t notice the most important lies.”
“As long as you hated me for holding your sister hostage, Mr. Durant, I don’t think I could ever trust you.”
“Fine. Supposing it’s a bad plan,” says Roderick. “Why allow…”
“…Dani to leave at all, when I could still hold her as leverage over a primogen’s childe, in case he decides to move against me?” asks Savoy.
“It’s quite simple, Mr. Durant. I don’t want your hatred. I’m not about to say I never believe in threats and blackmail, but I don’t believe they’d be effective tools in your case. And I do believe they are inferior tools next to genuine loyalty. I want you to come work for me, freely, because you believe in my cause—or simply see me as the least distasteful option through which to advance your own.”
Roderick seems to bite back his initial response, then says simply, “My loyalties are already spoken for, Mr. Savoy. They do not and will not lie with you.”
Savoy just grins at that. “And I never expected to hear otherwise, Mr. Durant.”
Celia: Until they break him of it.
Clever, really. Roderick never would have come over; he’d have gone right to Coco like Savoy just said. Was that the plan all along? Did Savoy expect her to confess to Roderick and she’d been playing right into it?
Or is this just an advantageous byproduct of her actions?
GM: Roderick’s eyes briefly meet Celia’s again, then return to the elder Toreador’s.
“Then why even allow me to know you know about my sister, Mr. Savoy? Why involve Miss Flores in this intrigue?”
“Quite simple, Mr. Durant. As a goodwill gesture, for if you ever decide to come work for me. To show you what kind of treatment you can expect. Or in so many words, to butter you up. You may remove your sister from the French Quarter with my blessing.”
Roderick looks at him with open suspicion. Savoy just chuckles.
“If you’re going to be paranoid, Mr. Durant, be smart about it! What am I going to do after we’ve had this talk? Order your sister killed? Have someone ambush your car? How does that benefit me, after we’ve had this talk?”
“Come work for me,” he continues, “and Danielle will know comfort and safety in Celia’s care, or wherever else in the Quarter you’d prefer to keep her. Come work for me, and I’ll be straight with you—and yes, I lie as often as any elder when it suits me. But I prefer to use truth, because it’s impossible to ever disprove. Truth is a more stable foundation to build my house upon. Truth always comes out, doesn’t it, Mr. Durant?”
“Yes, Mr. Savoy, it always comes out,” Roderick answers.
Celia: Celia can’t help but glance at Roderick at those words, then away, perhaps recalling the last time she had been honest with him.
None of this bodes well for that vision.
GM: “You talk a good game,” he continues. “But you work with the Mafia. The lowliest, most despicable, most poisonous and craven human slime in this city. You work with Kindred who count themselves members of the Mafia. As long as you do that, I will never work for you—even if my loyalty wasn’t already to my sire.”
“Then I’ll count myself fortunate, at least, that you won’t ever work directly for Prince Vidal!” Savoy chuckles. “The Mafia are tools to me, Mr. Durant, like anything else. If you can prove yourself a more useful asset, I’m happy to leave them to your mercies, given as I clearly can’t have both. I think, for all they might say in Elysium about your being an elder’s pet, that you have great potential and can go far in the Camarilla. I know as well as your sire that Kindred my age don’t choose our progeny lightly. We choose only the best. Woe to anyone who underestimates a Kindred because of their sire’s vitae!”
“Very flattering, Mr. Savoy,” answers Roderick. His tone is milder, though that’s about all that can be said for it. “Did you have further business you wished to discuss?”
“I don’t believe so, Mr. Durant. You are free to leave and may consider your boon repaid.” Savoy motions with a hand.
“Good night, then.” Roderick rises from his chair. “Come on, Celia.”
Celia: That’s it?
That can’t be it.
Was she supposed to step in? Do something else? Speak up about Harrah’s or Carolla?
She hesitates, looking to her grandsire. Why had he asked her here for this? Why call in a boon on… on that?
GM: :: Go on, my dear. It’s a better look if you go with him. ::
:: He’ll think you’re scheming with me if you stay. ::
Celia: She doesn’t do so much as blink.
Celia takes Roderick’s hand once more as she rises from her chair.
“Thank you for your hospitality, Lord Savoy. Madam Preston. Good evening.”
Another curtsy, another incline of her head, and she follows Roderick out.
GM: “Sorry to use your name,” Roderick mutters when they’re in the elevator, giving her hand a squeeze. “But he clearly already knew.”
Celia: “He does,” she says. She doesn’t tell him that Savoy was the one to wake her up after her sire had thrown her out with the trash, or that he had been the introduction to her Requiem.
“They both do. It’s fine. He knows who I am.”
GM: Roderick doesn’t talk until they’re in the car.
“So what’s your read on that?”
“He has an angle. All elders have angles.”
Celia: “I… I don’t know, honestly. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was more than surprised when he offered to help you relocate Dani. I…” she trails off, uncertain. “I thought, maybe, you might be right about him using her as a hostage, and that I was blinded by it, but that… I mean, he didn’t seem interested.”
GM: “His logic makes sense. I wouldn’t be a Quisling.”
“That’s the confounding part. What am I missing?”
“They always have an angle, Celia! I spend enough time with them to know!”
Celia: “Maybe there isn’t,” Celia hedges. “I spend more time around him than you do, and… I can’t think of what he’d gain with that, unless it’s literally what he said.”
GM: “He wants me on his side. He has to be plotting something.”
Celia: “He never plotted with me,” she says quietly. “I just couldn’t work for someone who let a monster like the sheriff have any semblance of power.”
GM: “Of course he wouldn’t plot with you. You have divided loyalties towards me.”
Celia: “No. I mean after my Embrace. Before I even knew you were still around.”
GM: “Maybe I’m not the one who thinks you’re stupid.”
Celia: Celia looks as if he slapped her.
She stares straight ahead at the road.
GM: “Oh my god, Celia! I was not saying you were! You’re not!”
“You had the idea with the shoes and coat. I’m saying maybe he doesn’t see and appreciate that side of you.”
Celia: “Yeah, fashion is so high intellect.”
GM: “It was here. There’s plenty of licks who’d overlook it.”
Celia: “Yeah, well, he’s right you know. About the Mob. Maybe you’re the one that’s stupid since your sire works for someone who supports them.”
GM: “Celia, you realize I wasn’t calling you stupid? That I think you’re smart?” He ignores the bit about his sire.
“I’m saying that maybe he does, because why else wouldn’t he take advantage of your smarts to plot with you?”
Celia: “Why would he? I’m Veronica’s slutty childe. I run a spa. I do makeup. Maybe I’m just a dumb slut and that’s all I’ll ever be good for.”
You stupid, lying, filthy whore.
GM: “Why do you think spas and makeup reflect badly on your intelligence?”
“And you’re not a slut, either. That’s a sexist double standard that doesn’t exist for men.”
Celia: “You’ve said both to me. Or started to, anyway. I guess.” She takes a breath and blows it out noisily.
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t care what they think.” The lie is obvious. She still hasn’t looked back at him. “What do you want to do with Dani, then?”
GM: “Spas and makeup don’t reflect badly on anyone’s intelligence.”
But he lets it drop when she brings up his sister.
“I’d… I’d still like to get her out. But how mad at me is she?”
“Maybe give her a few days to cool off.”
“I still need to work over what Savoy’s angle is. Maybe it’ll come to me then.”
“For now, do you want me with you when you see Benson? I’m already in disguise.”
Celia: “I can talk to Dani, if you want. I don’t know if she’ll leave, not before school, but… I dunno. I wanted you to meet my mom, anyway. Again. Since she’s in on all of this. I think she’d be happy to see you.”
“And… yeah, actually. I was going to ask. We’re meeting in Marigny.”
GM: “Good. Benson’s a Malk. You can never be completely sure with them.”
“That’d be great if you could talk with Dani. Just get her less angry at me, if she still is.”
“I’d be happy to see your mom, too.”
Celia: “You don’t think you’re going to get picked up as like an illegal or something with that face, do you?”
GM: “There’s lots of unknown licks in the city. Being with you also vouches for my presence.”
“Too bad we can’t hide I’m a lick. That’d be even better.”
Celia: “…we could.”
GM: “Oh, how?”
Celia: “Could ask the doc to mark you.”
GM: “Didn’t know they could do that. Do you think it’s worth a boon?”
Celia: “Usually. She already did the masks for you.”
GM: “Sure, it’s just a separate service. But if you think it’s worth it, okay.”
“Mainly worried if we can grab her on notice this short.”
Celia: “I can send her by, if you want. I have to meet with someone about erasing some memories, I can hit her up then.”
GM: “For your mom? Smart.”
“But okay, text me where and when to meet if you’re able to grab her.”
Celia: “No… my mom is… not for my mom.”
GM: “Oh, I presumed it was the erasures we talked about.”
Celia: "The ghouls. Did we?
GM: “Yeah, remember? Either way, it’s a good idea.”
Celia: “I thought you meant erasing my mom’s.”
GM: “We talked about the problems with that too.”
“Anyway. Hope this is someone you trust. Ghouls, at least, work for you.”
Celia: “I do. With my mom, I do.”
GM: “I’d still like to do dinner with my dad. You can ask Dani to reschedule it. It’s been years since I was in the same room as him.”
Celia: “Do you like the face? Or do you want me to have her change it?”
“You can wear it to dinner.”
GM: “It’s a good face. But it wouldn’t hurt to change. Plenty of eyes who saw us in the Evergreen.”
“Especially if I don’t register as a vampire in Marigny.”
“Yes, then definitely change it. Keep things consistent.”
GM: “Face #1 is a vampire, face #2 isn’t.”
Celia: “I’ll see what she can do. She might ask what you want when she visits, then.”
GM: “Okay. Good luck with getting those memories erased.”
“Sorry I got mad. I know you don’t think I’m stupid.”
GM: “It’s okay. And we know both know you’re not.”
At least for now.
But the future draws steadily closer, one light rolling past the side mirror at a time.
Monday night, 14 March 2016, PM
GM: Pete is not present at the Evergreen when Jade stops by. Mélissaire says she will inform the warden that Jade wanted to see him.
“Lord Savoy will be available at 4 AM to speak with Miss Melton, too, if you’re already swinging back,” smiles the ghoul.
Celia: “Perfect. Thank you, Mélissaire. And thank you for the other night. I was able to figure things out with my new ghoul.”
GM: “Oh, very good,” smiles Savoy’s herald. “I’m sure it was hard, at first.”
Celia: More than she knows.
GM: “Feel free to send her by if you’d like me to show her the ropes.”
Celia: “What all would that entail with her?”
GM: “Oh, it could be similar to my time with you. Explaining things, but also more hands-on. It could also involve taking her to meet other ghouls, testing her behavior, and rewarding or punishing her responses to show that the system you’ve introduced her to exists across larger Kindred society.”
“Helping her to find her place and understand what it means to be a ghoul.”
Celia: Celia nods.
“I’ll let you know. Thank you.”
GM: “You’re very welcome, ma’am. See you soon,” the ghoul smiles.
Celia: Celia wishes her a good evening and heads out. She sends Roderick a text to meet her “friend” at Celia’s place, where he’d met Dani earlier, and helps herself to some supplies from the Red Room while she’s already there speaking with Mel.
GM: If she doesn’t take them, they’ll just go to the Boggs.
Truth may come out, but all evidence of darker deeds goes away sooner or later.
Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM
GM: The 2 AM meeting with Elyse is at Crescent Park. It’s a thin but long stretch of landscaping, bike paths, and multi-use pavillions that overlook the Mississippi River. The midnight black river stretches across to poverty-stricken Algiers, where so many fewer lights shine. Rain steadily patters against the homeless’ dirty tents.
Jade sees Elyse staring out over the waterfront, clad in a thick coat with fur trim. Key holds an umbrella over her head. He holds Princess in his other arm. A station wagon is parked nearby.
Jade doesn’t think she’s ever seen the Malkavian outdoors before. Her porcelain-pale, doll-like features are utterly still, and her unblinking eyes cool and hard like glass.
The same eyes that so coolly and methodically clipped a ballerina’s wings and extinguished her fire.
It looks strange to see her outside. One does not take dolls outside.
Celia: Jade knows that Roderick, now masked and veiled, is close enough to intervene should she need him to. It’s that thought that brings her comfort this evening; though she had beaten Elyse prior when it was just the two of them, she knows that the Malkavian have the same sort of veiling power that she does; there could be any number of them lying in wait for her and she’ll never know.
Perhaps Roderick isn’t enough.
But no, she can’t think that way. She has to trust that the pair of boons she offered her former friend is enough to see her through this evening, at least.
She dressed for the city’s eternal rain, a black overcoat keeping the worst of it from her face and hair and a pair of waterproof boots preventing her from sinking into the mud.
She approaches Elyse with her hands at her side, all the better to show that she is unarmed. As if their kind need weapons to do damage. She halts some feet away.
“Good evening, Lady Interpreter. Thank you for meeting with me.”
GM: “A doll asked, Miss Kalani, and for a doll I came,” answers the Malkavian.
Rain patters against Elyse’s umbrella.
“I had thought we shared the same vision. You are flawless in appearance, but I see now that you are flawless in appearance only.”
Celia: Jade accepts the rebuff silently. She bows her head, eyes dropping to the ground before lifting back to Elyse’s face.
“I would ask that you allow me an opportunity to apologize and speak to you as to what happened. Not as an excuse, but as an explanation for my actions that evening.”
“I lost control, Lady Interpreter. I had thought, many years ago, that I mastered by Beast and would not be caught by it unawares. Please know that I would never willingly hurt you or anyone you call yours. I was deeply, deeply pained by what I realized I had done to you, and I sought to rectify the situation as immediately as I could.”
GM: “Yet lose control you did, Miss Kalani, and what could have so provoked your Beast in my home I cannot fathom. I had hoped a film viewing of one of my finest dolls would be an occasion of joy and celebration between friends.”
“I had even thought to find another ballerina that we might mold into a doll together.”
Celia: “It would have been, Lady Interpreter, were it any other doll. The one you showed me hit… close to home.”
GM: The Malkavian’s glassy eyes regard her with the same placid, glassy stare of any doll’s.
Celia: “When I met Lucy,” she begins slowly, “I told you that I was reminded of someone I knew. That I knew another Lucy. It was more than the name, Lady Interpreter; the doll itself was familiar to me.”
Celia: “You are familiar with the pawn who manages my salon, Lady Interpreter, and you know that her mother is Grace. Diana Flores, formerly married to Maxen Flores, a current state senator. I mentioned that she no longer dances without pain. What I did not say was how I knew.”
“Their daughter and I are close. Were close, even when I still drew breath. I have spun a tale about being from another city, but I grew up in New Orleans. We attended the same school, though I changed my face and name when I became this.”
Jade pauses for one brief moment.
“I was there the night her husband tried to take her leg.”
“I heard her screams.”
“I heard her beg him to stop.”
“I heard the wet, ragged gasps and her hand striking the floor.”
“I heard her dreams die.”
“And I heard her fall silent.”
Jade, too, falls silent.
GM: The rain continues to fall.
Elyse’s doll-like face remains placid and still. Don’t show emotion. Don’t cry or get mad. Dolls just look pretty.
“Its leg, Miss Kalani,” Elyse corrects.
Celia: “Its leg,” Jade echoes.
“It no longer dances like it once did. That evening put an end to such things. But it teaches.”
“My clan, as you know, pride ourselves as artists. But makeup has not won me any accolades among the guilds, and I cannot reveal the true nature of my craft; very few know of my abilities beyond that of a brush.”
Elyse is one of those few. One of the very few who know what Jade can do with the flesh.
“I have recently taken on a new ghoul. A dancer, one that has been training her whole life for an opportunity like this. Ballet is a respected art form; though not my own, I wanted to show off the dancer’s skill at an upcoming fete and be recognized vicariously. Grace is overseeing the training.”
Jade dips her head once more.
“While the video you showed me was moving, educational, transformation, while the process employed within was a true work of art, I saw something that I had been planning for a long while come crashing down if Grace were to be brought back to what it was rather than what it has become. You have allowed me to keep tabs on some of the dolls that have been released over the years; I believe that the early release has allowed Grace to find an elegance in dance that it might not otherwise possess, and I feared that it would be stripped of such.”
“It would no longer be useful. It would no longer serve its purpose.”
GM: Elyse receives this same news placidly.
“An old dancing doll is an estimable teacher for a new dancing doll.”
“Yet I do not share your final assessment, Miss Kalani, that Grace’s early release allowed it to better fulfill its purpose. Key ordered Grace to return to the Wedding Cake House. It has failed to do so. I believe now that insufficient polish was applied: it is in need of care and maintenance.”
Celia: “It failed to do so because I prevented it from doing so.”
GM: “It is not my Beast, Miss Kalani, that dolls need fear.”
Celia: “I have never thought so. I have often brought my dolls to you for maintenance as needed.”
GM: Rain continues to patter over the umbrella. Key blinks, but his mistress does not.
“Fear motivated your Beast to snap its leash, Miss Kalani. Very well.”
A low moan sounds from one of the homeless tents.
“What would you see become of our association now?”
Celia: “My Requiem has been improved for your presence within it. I will not speak for you, but I would like to think that my services provided to your business have been consequential in the uptick of clients you have taken with improved turnaround time due to the increased speed of physical modifications.”
Jade can do nothing now but ask.
“Prior to this slip, we worked very well together. I have offered you two boons. Further, I am willing to take precautions to see that nothing of the sort happens again should you desire it before you allow me back within your workshop unfettered. I am also willing to pay the full toll for my presence within the domain.”
“I cannot ask you to trust me, or to pick up where we were with no regard to what occurred. I understand that such a thing is a tall order and that words and explanations alone may not forgive past sins. But I am willing to do what it takes, Lady Interpreter, to fix my mistake and offer recompense.”
GM: The doll-like Malkavian evinces no apparent reaction to Jade’s words. She does not sniff or cry, like a bereaved friend might. Dolls don’t cry. She does not look angry. She does not look hopeful. Her porcelain face remains a mask of placid stillness.
Dolls don’t have feelings.
“Very well, Miss Kalani,” answers Elyse. “You are correct that past sins cannot be forgiven through words alone. Though your loss of control demonstrates you may be further from perfection than I had believed, perfection’s road is long and arduous. I am willing to walk it alongside you.”
Celia: “Thank you, Lady Interpreter. With your guidance I will move ever closer to that goal.”
GM: The rain continues to pitter-pat against the umbrella.
“I will not ask that you render me any boons for seeking perfection, but Regent Donovan’s toll for your presence is now yours to pay.”
Celia: “Yes, Lady Interpreter. I will see that it is done.”
GM: “You may also not, for your own safety, yet return to the Wedding Cake House.”
Celia: She gives a slight nod at the words.
“Yes, Lady Interpreter. I will wait until you send for me. Would… an apology to those within assist matters at all?”
“I have also heard that you are soon to be ordained. I would like to offer my congratulations.”
She knows better than to gush to Elyse; this is not the type of lick to squeal in joy or accept a hug.
GM: “Thank you, Miss Kalani,” Elyse answers tranquilly. “I am pleased that others within the city wish my assistance in achieving perfection.”
“An apology to those within my home will not assist. Dolls do not feel emotions. But when they do, their emotions are to ours as porcelain is to flesh. Hard and enduring.”
“I am not willing to enter the French Quarter. You had spoken earlier of opening a second location for Flawless.”
Celia: “Yes, Lady Interpreter. I have been looking into locations. The political climate makes it difficult, but there is a building near your home that might serve. I have not yet broached the topic with Regent Donovan.”
GM: “Though I do not speak for my regent, I do not believe he would be amenable to such an arrangement, Miss Kalani.”
“Faubourg Marigny, however, is open to those Kindred who do not wish to associate themselves with Mr. Savoy.”
Celia: “No. I don’t imagine that he would.”
He has no reason to say yes to her.
“Wise, Lady Interpreter. I had thought it too close to my current location, but I see the merit in such a locale.”
GM: “It would please me to work upon Grace and the new dancing doll in such a location.”
Celia: “I will speak to Regent Sundown to see what sort of accommodation can be made.”
GM: “Very good, Miss Kalani.” She turns to Key.
With no small inconvenience, the ghoul lifts his knee, carefully balances Princess upon it, and removes his coat with one hand while standing on one foot, straining to hold the umbrella above his mistress all the while.
Elyse makes no move to help him. There is a stillness and predatory cast to her features that reminds Jade of the one she wore while watching Grace put its clothes back on.
Watching for a mistake.
Waiting for a mistake.
Sweat beads Key’s brow as the ghoul strains to accomplish his tasks.
It’s too much. He wavers. Just like that, Princess slides off his raised knee.
Jade quickly catches the doll before she can land on the wet grass.
Key hurriedly removes his coat and offers it to wrap Princess in, as shelter from the rain.
But his domitor’s eyes are cold indeed.
Celia: Jade has no sympathy for Key. Not now.
But she accepts the coat to keep Princess dry, securing the doll within its folds.
GM: “Good night, Miss Kalani,” says Elyse.
Celia: “Good night, Lady Interpreter.”
Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM
GM: “She’s sick,” says Roderick after they’re back in her car.
Celia: Celia just nods.
“How much of that did you hear?”
GM: “I heard her call your mom an ‘it’ enough times.”
Celia: Nothing else, hopefully. It was a risk bringing him. But better to have him than not.
“Yeah,” Celia sighs. “I like her suggestion for Marigny but there’s no way in hell she’s getting her hands on my mom.”
GM: “Small comfort to the other women she gets her hands on.”
Celia: “I can’t save everyone.” The words are bitter. She doesn’t like the judgment from him.
GM: “Why associate with her?”
Celia: “Why associate with any lick? They’re all assholes. It’s our society now, and I’d rather know what they’re getting up to than be taken by surprise.”
GM: “They aren’t all assholes. Some are better than others.”
“I try to be. I still call breathers ‘he’ and ‘she.’”
Celia: Celia doesn’t bother explaining that to him. He’d just think it’s worse if he knew the truth of what Elyse does to her dolls.
“Malkavian,” is all she says.
GM: “Some are better than others too. Lestrange is all right. Ditto Larsen and McCandles.”
Celia: “They seem to be, yeah. Everyone keeps saying that the older we get the worse we’ll get. I hope they’re not right.”
“I thought of something you could do for Dani, by the way, if you want to help her out a bit.”
GM: “Lestrange is moderately old. And among the real elders… well, you already know what I think of my sire.”
Celia: The sun shines out of her ass.
GM: “Miss Opal cares a lot about her descendants. Less so mortals, but I guess that’s something.”
“Accou… can be pragmatic, and can hold a grudge, but could be worse.”
“Maldonato’s more than I want to get into here.”
“Steinhäuser, though, is a monster, and Pearl doesn’t seem to feel anything for anyone.”
“Some of them retain more of themselves as they age than others.”
Celia: “A monster?” Celia echoes.
GM: “My god, yes. You know she was a fan of Hitler’s?”
Celia: “I didn’t, no. Hasn’t come up at our weekly tea parties.”
GM: “She has enough sense not to bring it up in public. But she thinks he could have been a great leader if he’d been ‘less greedy,’ and that Germany would be a nation ‘worth being proud of’ if the Third Reich was still in charge.”
Celia: “I think Logan wrote a paper like that once. Something about comparing him to Jesus. Both charismatic leaders, et cetera. He explained it to me once but I kind of tuned it out.”
GM: “Yeah, I guess it’s no surprise there.” Roderick sounds disgusted.
“I have relatives who fought in World War II. If there was ever such a thing as a good war, that was it.”
Celia: “He was a kid,” Celia says quietly, “I’m trying to work with him so he’s not… like that anymore.”
GM: “I hope you succeed. But you were saying about Dani?”
Celia: “Since you’re disguised and smell mortal, maybe you can get her stuff for her from her apartment. I was going to go, but I’m kind of nervous about being picked up.”
GM: “Sure. You have her keys?”
Celia: “Yeah.” Celia fishes through her purse for the keyring Dani had given her the other night. She’s glad she asked in advance. She gives him the address.
“Maybe take a Ryde? So they don’t recognize your car.”
“She’s looking for her laptop, school books, some clothes…” Celia gives him the list of things Dani wanted.
GM: “Good idea.” He listens to the list. “All right. I’ll pick those up.”
“What do you think of me dropping them off with her tonight as a goodwill gesture?”
Celia: “I can ask if she’d like to see you.”
GM: “I had no idea she’d be so angry.”
“But I guess… maybe I should have.”
Celia: “She’s had a really rough time of it. Her Embrace… went poorly, from what she says.”
“And then finding out everything else… it’s a lot. Give her some time.”
GM: “I just wanted to help her. And to let her know I wasn’t dead.”
Celia: “I know. She’ll come around.”
“It’ll be okay, Roderick. We’ll figure out the best thing for her and for you and make sure she gets it.”
She doesn’t push to see if he’s decided on a course of action, but the look she gives him suggests curiosity.
GM: Roderick rubs his head. “I hope so. I’m still… figuring things out.”
“I feel like I don’t have to try to drag her out of the city immediately, after talking to Savoy. That’s a relief, with how mad she is. But I can’t get comfortable either. He’s working some kind of angle with this.”
“It’s so twisted how she actually feels safer in the Quarter than Mid-City right now.”
He effects a sigh.
“I’ll let you know when I’ve got her stuff, anyways. That’s at least one thing I can do that feels right.”
Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM
GM: After parting ways, Jade drives back to the brothers’ house. This late in the AM, Alana, Diana, and Lucy are all asleep. Dani is still up and watching TV.
The brothers, though, don’t need as much sleep. All of them are still awake.
As is their guest.
Jade finds the thin-blood trussed up in the bathroom tub, wrists cuffed to the faucets just like hers had previously been.
“In case things get messy,” says Reggie with a mean smile.
The thin-blood looks worse than last time. They have a broken nose caked with dried blood, and the bathroom’s lights harshly illuminate their scabbed-over, pasty skin. They smell bad up close in the confined area.
“Hey, lady lick,” swallows the thin-blood, “I gave you good info, din’t I, Sidra was in Marigny, I swear she was…”
Celia: “You did,” Jade allows. Her smile isn’t quite so mean as Reggie’s, but there’s a feral edge to it all the same. “Which I paid you for. And then I came back to give you the rest of the money, as I said I would, but couldn’t find you.”
She taps a finger against her chin.
“Why was that, again? Oh. You were busy breaking into my business.”
GM: “Eh heh, eh heh, hey, just tryin’ to survive, maybe I jus’ answer all your questions an’ we call it even…?”
The thin-blood offers a desperate smile.
Celia: “Oh.” Jade feigns surprise and relief. “Yeah, actually, that’d be great.”
GM: Reggie and Randy stay in the room or stand guard outside, as desired.
“Great! Ask, ask away, lady!” the thin-blood nods eagerly.
Celia: “Why did you break in?”
GM: “Ah, I got paid to, lady. Paid to plant the bug.”
Celia: “By whom?”
GM: “I don’t know, lady, sorry, they hid their face, bulky clothes, I couldn’ really tell… didn’ really care, they paid me to, tha’s all… just money, nothin’ personal…”
Celia: Jade effects a sigh. She glances at Reggie, then Randy, then finally back to the thin-blood.
“See, I need a better answer than that.”
GM: “I, ah, they was a vampire, lady, how’s that…?”
Celia: “There are a lot of vampires in the city.”
GM: “Right, right, but they wanted to spy, that was clear, real clear, they said to plant the bug in the boss’ office, where Jade would prob’ly be…”
Celia: “Male? Female?”
“Where and how did they contact you?”
GM: “Like I said, lady, bulky clothes, I couldn’ tell… but the voice was, maybe a low girl, average guy?”
Celia: “That’s not very helpful.”
GM: “Ah, I don’ think they trusted me, lady, this was just business… they came up to me, when I was feedin’, passed me the bug, said to break in, give me a lil’ money, said there’d be more when I came back, when the bug was in, an’ said they’d, ah, kill me if I tried to lie…”
“You probably would’ve,” says Reggie.
“You’d have done fuck-all with the bug, come back and said you planted it, get a nice payday.”
“Eh heh, eh heh, just tryin’ to survive… don’t want to cross nobody if I don’ have to… nothin’ personal…”
Celia: “It’s very personal, you see. You spied on my business and you won’t tell me who for.”
“And you’re giving me very little to go on.”
GM: “I wish I knew, lady, honest! They didn’ trust me!”
“Gosh, why wouldn’t they,” remarks Randy.
“Who knows, bro, fine upstanding… chap, like this,” smiles Reggie, clapping the thin-blood on the shoulder. They wince and then give a trembling smile at the contact.
Reggie sniffs his hand, then washes it in the sink.
“C’mon, lady, I know what I know, I’ll answer anythin’ you want, honest…”
Celia: “Specifics. Where. What time. Where did you meet afterward. How many bugs.”
GM: “Ah, Rampart Street, lady,” the thin-blood rattles off the nearest address, “woulda been… lesse, roun’ 4 AM, yesterday… jus’ that one bug…”
“Oh! I can tell you where to find ’em, where they wanna meet me next, how be that? I tell you where, you let me go? Swear?”
Celia: “When and where, and I swear I’ll let you go.”
Celia: “I’d also like to know why you’re meeting them again if you already planted the bug.”
GM: “Saturday, lady, 3 AM…” The thin-blood rattles off another Rampart Street address, close to the border with Treme.
Celia: “Why,” she prompts again.
GM: “They didn’ say, lady, but maybe if the bug’s good, they want me to do another job…?”
Celia: She has no desire to wait a week to figure out who now knows about her.
GM: “Ah, wait, wait, they could do sooner…!” the thin-blood exclaims.
Celia: “And how on earth are you to contact them if you don’t know who they are?”
GM: “Ah, well, there ways, lady, there ways… they, ah, they say I get paid less, if I do sooner… but I spray an ‘X’ on the door, earlier… they be there soon…”
“They want me to work for ‘em, see? They think I’ll find, some good shit?”
“You want, I can be your inside… you pay me, I’ll meet ‘em, I’ll tell ’em what you want me to tell…?”
“They didn’t want the bug traced to ‘em, lady, they thought you’d try that… so I heard what’s on, an’ I pass on to them what I heard, thas’ how it works… I can tell ‘em, anythin’ you want, anythin’ at all…”
“All they know goes through me, see? I can help you!”
Celia: “So the bug goes back to your haven,” Jade muses, “and you pass it on to our mysterious would-be friend.”
GM: “Ah, yeah, lady, I hear whas’ on it, I pass on to ’em,” the thin-blood nods.
“Like I say… I’ll tell ’em whatever you want, spin any story… how they gonna know!”
Celia: “Tell me where the other part of the device is.”
GM: “Ah, think can you untie me, lady…? My arms’re gettin’ all sore…”
GM: The thin-blood looks across the three unfriendly faces.
“Ah, okay, lady, okay, the receiver… I don’t have a haven, an’ people steal shit off me, so I buried it… Woldenberg Park…”
They describe a tree where it’s buried.
Celia: Jade nods to the two boys.
“They’ll go get it. You’ll summon your friend. Everything checks out, I’ll let you go.”
GM: “Oh, eh heh, I forgot, that ain’ where I put it, thas’ where I buried some other shit…” The thin-blood offers a weak smile.
Celia: Jade only smiles.
GM: The thin-blood describes another hiding spot much closer to Flawless.
“Right,” says Reggie. “If this doesn’t pan out I’m breaking more bones.”
“Honest, man, it will! Swear!” exclaims the thin-blood.
Celia: “We’ll see soon enough.”
“While they’re getting that, why don’t you and I have a little chat about how you can make yourself useful to me.”
“And how I can be benevolent in return.”
GM: “See you soon, babe,” says Randy.
“Make sure you don’t breathe any closer to this thing,” advises Reggie. He gives her rear a squeeze when his brother can’t see.
The thin-blood nods eagerly. “Whatever you say, lady lick! Anythin’ you want!”
Celia: Jade winks at Reggie on his way out the door. She locks it behind them, then turns to the thin-blood.
“Let’s get you cleaned up a little, hm?”
Jade rises to find a wash cloth and a bar of soap. She looks at the rags the thing is wearing and tuts, then starts to remove the stained garments.
“I don’t normally offer sponge baths to duskborn,” she tells the thing, “but I can’t let you up just yet. Hope you understand.”
GM: “Ah, sure, lady lick, sure!” nods the thin-blood. “I know you’re benev’lent, an’ can be a real badass too! Ain’ nobody who mess with you!”
Celia: “You had a wound on your hands when I saw you last,” Jade says idly as the clothes come off. She disposes of them. “Are you getting enough to eat?”
“For the mending,” she clarifies.
GM: The thin-blood has no underwear on over their small breasts and penis. Their dark skin has darker splotches and more bruises, some fresher than others. They don’t look (or smell) like they’ve had a shower in weeks.
“Ah, not really, lady lick, it real hard, in the Quarter, real hard…” the thin-blood says.
“But it worse outside…”
Celia: Jade tuts again at the state of the body.
“Can I wash your hair?”
“Who gave those to you? The bruises.”
GM: “Ah, sure, lady, an’ a lotta places, lady, I don’ rem’ber all… other licks, other guys… get ’em everywhere…”
Celia: Jade makes a sound that might be sympathetic. She turns the water on in the tub, letting it begin to fill, and checks to make sure the temperature is okay for the thing. It’s sort of like bathing Lucy. She starts to wash it, her touch gentle enough: gliding, stroking, ridding it of accumulated filth and debris with her palms and fingertips. It’s relaxing, that touch, the sort of technique she uses at the spa with her clients in the Vichy shower. That’s all this is, really. A modified spa technique.
She reaches out with her gift, searching for the connection between the pair. Her voice, when she speaks again, suggests tranquility and understanding.
“How much did you hear from the bug?”
GM: The thin-blood tenses under Jade’s touch, like a repeatedly struck animal expecting to be struck again, even as her gentle touch and the warm water settle in.
Then, just like that, all of the tension dissipates.
“Heard you talkin’ with your mom…” murmurs the thin-blood.
“Jade and Celia, secret identities…”
“Mom’ gettin’ one too…”
“Heard you spankin’ each other…”
“That was, ah, kinda fucked…”
“You a split personality…?”
Celia: “It was fucked,” Jade agrees pleasantly. She uses one hand to rinse the dirty soap off the thing’s body while the other lathers and massages, keeping it light and sensual. The soap and water clear away the worst of the dirt and grime, and her touch helps alleviate the tension it might feel, both physical and mental.
“I am,” she confirms. “Not many people know. Did you tell anyone yet? Sell that information to someone?”
GM: “Oh, that… that real good…” murmurs the thin-blood tranquilly.
“But no, I didn’, I don’ really know anyone who’d want it…”
“I don’ know many licks… full licks, like you…”
“I bet the guy who gave me the bug wants it… but I tell ’em what you want…”
“I could tell ‘em you have a hundred personalities… or jus’ one…”
“Lesse… also heard you talkin’ about a Maxen, Dani, Lucy…”
Celia: “That’s really helpful,” Jade says to it. Her tone is light but encouraging, echoing the movement of her hands. “I know we got off on the wrong foot,” she continues, “and I’m sorry about that. My boys are a little over-protective. The personalities, you know, it’s hard to manage, and they just want to keep me safe.”
Her hands slide up the back of the thin-blood’s neck to begin the work on the scalp, first dipping it back into the accumulated water and then lathering shampoo to wash its hair. She uses the tips of her nails lightly on the scalp itself; the feeling, she knows from experience, is second to none. Sometimes she just asks Alana to wash her hair when she wants to unwind.
“The person who contacted you didn’t tell you anything about what they wanted with me?”
GM: The thin-blood gives a little gasp-sigh noise of pleasure, closes their eyes, and sinks back against the tub.
“Oh, that… that feel real good, lady… real lady…”
“They didn’… I don’ think they trusted me… ‘s hard, you know, I don’ got much… I never have… I been… I been shit on my whole life, you know? I ain’ tryin’ to hurt nobody… just tryin’ to make it another night…”
“I… ain’ felt this good in a long time, lady… long, long time…”
Some pinkish tears squeeze from the thin-blood’s eyes.
“They, they all look at me like trash, or… worse…”
“I… I had a guy, who fucked me, one time, and when he was… he spat on me, when he was done… spat in my eyes…”
Celia: Jade quietly listens to the thin-blood’s story. She rinses its hair when its time for her to do so, using a hand to prevent the water from running forward into its eyes. Gently, she wipes the tears away with the pad of her thumb, crooning softly at it as if it were a wounded animal and she its caretaker.
“I’m sorry,” she finally murmurs, reaching for the bottle of conditioner, “I knew it was rough, but not… not like that. How long have you been..?”
GM: “I… I don’ know… lady… I don’ know when I, when I turned… lotsa… lotsa days a blur… lotsa days, I jus’ feel sick, strung out, shit, can barely… I don’, I don’ know how long I been this… I don’ even fuckin’ know…”
The thin-blood melts under her touch. More pinkish tears trickle into the tub.
“I… I ain’ got nobody… nobody who care, if I live, die… nobody… who give a shit… "
“I jus’… I jus’ want someone, f’ once, who give a shit… that all…”
Celia: She rinses its hair again, the strands smoother than she imagines they have been in a long time. Silky, like the conditioner promises. Randy had been using one of those two-in-one deals when they’d first gotten together, but Celia had quickly put an end to that.
There’s a facial wash, too, and she applies a liberal amount into her hands that she then uses on its skin, making long, sweeping gestures up from the neck, across the jaw, circles around the cheek, the nose, the orbital bones. She’s careful not to get it in its eyes.
Despite herself, something tugs at her heart strings.
This is what Dani has to look forward to.
This is what she has to look forward to once her family dies. Isolation. No one giving a shit.
No one deserves this.
“What about before? Your life prior?”
GM: The thin-blood isn’t beautiful by any stretch. There’s a starved and desperate look to the facial features that Celia suspects will never go away. They look naked and vulnerable, far more so than from their actual nudity, with the grime and filth scrubbed off.
“’Is the same life…” mumbles the thin-blood. “Ain’ really diff’rent… stay in the Quarter now, don’ go here, don’ go there… same shit…”
“I didn’ have a life… I didn’ have nobody who cared… got kicked out…”
“Fuck ‘em… s’all they wanted to do, anyway…”
“Hell, you know, I thought… when you was beatin’ your mom… I’d love to be her… ’cuz… you cared…”
Celia: Jade is gentle with the rest of the thin-blood’s body. She keeps her touch soft across the breast tissue, though she’s thorough with the cleaning, and again between the legs. She murmurs a quiet apology for the invasion of privacy.
“It’s hard,” she agrees after a while, “this life. Unlife. The Requiem. More so for you, I imagine, for so many reasons. What did you do before? What would you want to do now? If I could offer you safety, security, food. What would you want to do?”
GM: “I… I don’ know, lady, I ain’ had that shit… all I done is try to s’vive…”
Celia: “You broke into my place pretty handily. Do you do that often?”
GM: “If I got… yeah… I gotta eat, I gotta get shit…”
Celia: “What about if you weren’t worried about your nightly survival?”
GM: “I already lost all the fuckin’ money you gave me…”
“I… I donno, lady, I always have…”
“Even back at the home… they was shitty there… you always on your own…”
Celia: “And you promise me,” Jade says to it as she finishes the final rinse with clean, warm water, “you promise me that no one else knows what you found out from the bug? That you haven’t spoken to anyone? Because I… I feel for you. I do. I have a friend like you. Duskborn. And a person who works for me, like you, between genders. So if you told someone already, that’s okay, I just need to know so I can fix it before my family gets hurt, and then maybe you and I can work something out.”
“For you. For your future.”
“So you don’t have to struggle night to night just to survive.”
“So you can get a leg up.”
GM: “I, I swear, lady!” exclaims the thin-blood. “I, I tried to get to the Evergreen, to sell it, but they wouldn’ let me in… ain’ nobody who knows but me… I won’ tell nobody else…”
Celia: Jade nods her head at that.
“Okay. I’m going to get you some clean clothes. Do you want to soak for a bit while I do?”
GM: “Ye… yes, please, lady…”
This is what she has to look forward to.
This is Dani’s future.
This is her future.
Well, not quite.
At last she won’t need someone else’s permission to soak.
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