“Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we could all just be nicer.”
Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM
GM: Celia finds Dani in the living room as she leaves the bathroom, now playing Xbox.
GM: “There’s, ah, someone in Reggie’s bedroom who looks in pretty bad shape.”
Celia: “The homeless-looking one?”
GM: “Homeless?” frowns Dani.
“No, she doesn’t look homeless. Just… miserable.”
Celia: “Oh. Mabel. Yes.”
GM: “And pretty pale.”
“I didn’t even know she was here until tonight.”
Celia: Does she still look pale? Celia doesn’t remember taking that much from her.
“She lost her domitor.”
GM: “I don’t think your mom knows she’s here, either.”
Celia: “No, she doesn’t.”
GM: “Reggie wanted us to stay out of his room.”
“But he’s a douchebag, so fuck him.”
Celia: “Mm. Generally there are rules like that for a reason, though. That order came from me.”
“It was also given to him to keep him from coercing you up there.”
GM: “Well, thanks for that, at least.” Dani gives a sigh. “She looked like she could really use a friend, though.”
“I tried to comfort her but she kinda pushed me away.”
Celia: “I hope you didn’t tell her much.”
“I haven’t decided what is going to be done with her, yet. She’s been through a lot.”
GM: “Just that my name was Danielle and I was staying here for now.”
“She wasn’t talkative. She said she wanted to go back to sleep so she could dream about Evan.”
“She’s really messed up, Celia.”
Celia: “I know,” Celia sighs. “Evan is missing. Dead. People have been looking for him, but he’s… I mean, that’s why I went to see the fortune teller.”
GM: “Evan is another lick?”
GM: “Ah, right. Because he was her domitor.”
“I feel bad for her. But I’m not sure what I can do.”
Celia: “Honestly? Not a lot, I don’t think. I’m looking into Evan’s disappearance, but no one seems to know much of anything. Be there for her if she wants to talk, but… she’s really broken up about it.”
GM: “He must’ve been really important to her.”
“Is that how it is with all ghouls?”
Celia: “Some more so than others. He seemed to treat her well. Like a mother, but… uh, with sex as well.”
GM: “Uh, you don’t have sex with your mother.”
Celia: “She’s not his real mom.”
GM: “Well, whatever made them happy, I guess.”
“It obviously did for her to be this broken up over it.”
“Is there anything I can do right now? I’m mostly just killing time, now that Lucy, Alana, and your mom are all in bed.” Dani gestures at the Xbox.
Celia: “I saw your brother earlier tonight. He offered to go into Riverbend to get your things for you. Would you like to see him, or should I tell him to just drop them off?”
GM: Dani purses her lips.
Celia: “You’re allowed to say no.”
GM: “How was he?”
Celia: “He’s…” Celia trails off. “You asked me not to lie to you, so I won’t.”
“He said that he didn’t realize you’d be so angry. He’s worried. He’s still planning on taking you out of the city.”
GM: Dani glares.
“Is he sorry?”
Celia: “He just kept saying that isn’t how it was supposed to go.”
GM: “So, what, he wasn’t sorry?”
She makes a huffing sound.
“That’s so him.”
Celia: “He’s very self-righteous, Dani.”
“I love him, I do, but he’s stubborn and pig-headed sometimes and it makes me want to scream.”
“And he’s just obsessed with his sire and how amazing she is and she’s the one who set up the entire murder of duskborn that I told you about, and I just don’t understand it.”
GM: “Oh my god, I forgot all about that. That his sire was the one.”
Celia: “Probably for the best. I doubt he’d be happy I told you.”
GM: “You should be honest about that. He likes honesty. We all do.”
Celia: “Dani, the last time I was honest with him about something like that he beat the fuck out of me.”
GM: “I’m sorry, there’s just been so much to process lately. When was it he abused you there?”
Celia: “Which time?”
GM: “Oh my god,” Dani mutters, pressing her palm to her forehead.
“Okay, you know, I don’t want to see him.”
Celia: Celia makes a face, as if she realizes what she’s just done.
“I… okay. I won’t push it. I was hoping to introduce him to my mom now that she’s in the know. And bring him for dinner with your dad. But if you don’t want me to do that, I won’t.”
GM: Dani sighs.
“Well, I guess I can’t avoid him forever.”
Celia: “Take some time, process how you’re feeling. I’ll let him down easy.”
GM: “But… Jesus, Celia, he hits you!”
Celia: “I… well, last time he just destroyed my haven.”
GM: “Oh, I guess that’s so much better.”
“I still remember him explaining it as a ‘genetic disorder.’”
Celia: “I know. I…” Celia trails off, looking down at her hands. “I keep wondering if I’m turning into my mom. He’s only done it a few times, but I keep making excuses…”
GM: “Is that even remotely true?”
Celia: “It’s not not true. The Brujah have a hairpin trigger. They run hot. Any little thing will set them off. I recognized it in him last night, when he was coming at you after he threw you around. That’s why I got in the middle.”
GM: “I don’t understand that. All Brujah ‘run hot?’ What if you’re a calm person before you’re a Brujah?”
Celia: “People say that all of the clans were cursed by Caine. Brujah is anger.”
“They used to be what he talked about, philosopher-kings, but mostly they’re just rebellious assholes anymore.”
GM: “I thought you said Toreador don’t have a curse?”
Celia: “No,” Celia says, “Toreador was given a blessing. So, the way the story goes, Caine sired a handful of childer. And their childer, the thirteen of them, rose up against their sires and killed them. When Caine found out he was mad, so he cursed them all. Except Toreador didn’t join her siblings, she withheld from the violence, so he blessed her instead.”
“It’s all very biblical.”
GM: “But it has some basis in reality, since the rats all look hideous?”
“Or, well, maybe they’re that way because they live in the sewers.”
“I’ve been down there. Not pretty.”
GM: “Ugh. I don’t want to meet one.”
“Stephen said you had a… Beast too, though?”
Celia: “I do,” Celia confirms.
“When I’m hungry, when I’m really angry, it comes out.”
GM: “The whole thing kind of sounds like an excuse to me.”
Celia: “It’s about control, really.”
“So, for example, I went to see my mom after everything went down. I was starving. I was injured. And I got hit by the sun.”
“But I still kept it together. I didn’t lose it on her.”
GM: “I mean, when normal people are hungry, we get snappish and irritable and don’t think as clearly. That isn’t unique to vampires.”
Celia: “I know,” Celia says with a forced sigh. “It doesn’t make sense until you feel it. Like an animal inside of you. He is cursed, but it’s… who he is now. There have been a few times I’ve been afraid of saying something to him because I know he doesn’t have the control he needs.”
GM: “That… sounds like an abusive relationship.”
Celia: “He’s supposed to teach me how to fight so we don’t have to worry about it.”
GM: “So, what, you can hit him back if he hits you?”
GM: “That’s, uh…”
Celia: “So I can fend him off.”
GM: “Celia, that’s like… keeping a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, because the gas stove keeps starting fires, instead of fixing the stove.”
“Or ditching it if you can’t fix it.”
Celia: “I love him, Dani,” Celia says helplessly.
GM: “But he hits you. That isn’t love.”
Celia: “We broke up before and it’s… I miss him. I missed him. The whole time. We’ve been through so much together.”
GM: “Well, maybe take a break until he learns to control himself better. Stephen has gotten everything he’s ever wanted in life. Everything. Maybe he should actually work for this.”
“If he really loves you, he’ll make that effort.”
Celia: “I… okay. I’ll talk to him. You’re probably right. I’m blinded by who he used to be, I think.”
GM: Dani nods. “You can tell him this isn’t a breakup. Just a pause until he can fix his problem.”
“Though who knows what the odds of that are.”
Celia: “I don’t know that there’s anyone else in the city I could feel the same way about. We had this whole plan for a life together, we were talking about getting married like normal people do…”
“He found a house for us, even.”
GM: “You were?” Dani looks a little gushy-faced. “I’d love it if that could happen, Celia, if we could be sisters-in-law…”
“But he can’t keep hitting you! That’s not okay. If he wants that wedding, he needs to earn it.”
Celia: “I’ll talk to him,” Celia says again, “and tell him that. Because I’d love for you to be my sister, Dani. It should have happened years ago.”
GM: “It should.” Dani pulls her onto the couch and gives her a hug.
Celia: Celia holds her tight.
“I’m going to send the doc over later to mark you, and to give you a mask so we can create your new identity for licks, okay?”
“Probably close to dawn so she can do my mom, too.”
GM: “Okay. Also, speaking of. Can I go back to school tomorrow?”
“Or rather, today.”
Celia: “As soon as you get the mark, yes.”
“Just make sure you don’t linger after dark.”
“And absolutely no feeding in Riverbend.”
GM: “I won’t. I can leave before dark.”
“You said something about getting a place for me in the Quarter, too?”
“Well… Stephen wanted…”
Celia shakes her head.
“It doesn’t matter. Yes.”
GM: “Okay. If it’s trouble, your mom said I could stay with her. When I told her how I couldn’t live in Riverbend.”
“Do you want to stay with her?”
GM: “I mean, she’s really nice. But she said Emily doesn’t know, and I’d still be falling asleep as soon as school was over.”
Celia: “Emily doesn’t know,” Celia confirms, “and I don’t want her brought into this. If you want to stay there temporarily, you can. The place you were at before was… compromised, unfortunately. I kind of trust the guy who found out about it, but you never know.”
Trusted him enough to tell him she’s a night doc, anyway. And he already knows about Dani.
“I’ll get some funds together and we’ll get you your own place.”
“Maybe that can be part of Stephen’s penance.” Celia winks.
GM: “You know, that sounds very appropriate,” Dani says approvingly. “Yes. I felt a little bad freeloading off of you, that was one of the reasons I liked your mom’s offer, but I’d be okay with Stephen paying for my place.”
“We could also be roommates, if you want, with Stephen covering my rent.”
Celia: “I appreciate the offer, and that would probably be fun, but I have a place I usually stay, and Stephen and I have been spending the day together too.”
Mostly it cramps her libido.
GM: “A pause in the relationship means you don’t sleep together,” says Dani, half-amused.
Celia: “Mm. Yeah, but it was my place first. It’s a studio, otherwise I’d offer to let you move in. Bit cramped.”
GM: “We could get another place,” Dani proposes. “I’d love to be roomies! And, like I said, Stephen’ll pay my share.”
Celia: Celia finds a polite way to say “no” to Dani, though she promises plenty of sleepovers.
GM: Dani is a little disappointed, having seemed to really latch on to the idea of Celia as a roommate, but looks forward to those.
Celia: After a few more moments of pleasant small-talk, and an assurance that Celia will serve as intermediary for Stephen to deliver her things, Celia excuses herself to finish up with the thin-blood.
She raids Randy’s closet, selecting a clean outfit that he won’t miss, and heads back into the bathroom to drain the water and dry it off.
Hopefully the boys will be back soon.
GM: The thin-blood gratefully changes into the provided clothes.
“What, what now, lady lick?”
The brothers, however, get back soon. Reggie tosses Jade the receiver.
Celia: Well, Jade helps it dress anyway. Bit awkward with the cuffs, but they manage one limb at a time.
GM: “Short range. Couldn’t have picked up anything if it was buried in the park.”
Celia: Jade looks back at the thin-blood, as if waiting for something more.
GM: “Like I said, lady lick, there it be… there’s the other half of the bug, all yours…”
Celia: “It did pick up everything. I was just told how much I inadvertently spilled.”
She looks back to the thin-blood.
“Care to explain?”
GM: The thin-blood holds up their hands. “I, I did, didn’t I? It wasn’t really at the park, that ain’ where they picked it up…”
“Yeah,” says Reggie. “This was stashed close enough to Flawless to pick up everything.”
Celia: Awkward. Jade had misunderstood and thought it meant the thing was lying to her again. After a moment she finally smiles.
She glances at the time.
Is there enough of it to summon the thin-blood’s friend before her meeting?
GM: Probably not.
Her mysterious new potential lover will need to wait a night. They can remain a secret admirer for one more evening.
“Trust doesn’t come easy to our kind,” Jade tells the thin-blood. “So I hope you’ll pardon me when I keep you for the day so you can summon your friend for me. You’ll be fed and left alone and safe from the sun and your abusers, and tomorrow we’ll reassess and see if you want what I can offer you.”
GM: “All righ’, lady lick, you bet,” nods the thin-blood. “You bet, I stay outta the way.”
“You don’t actually want this thing around the girls in the house, do you?” snorts Reggie.
“Bro, you’re kinda one to talk,” says Randy.
“I am. I’m hot stuff.”
Celia: “No,” Jade says, “the place is getting cramped enough. Stay here a moment.”
As if the thing has a choice. She leaves with the boys and shuts the door.
“Closet?” she asks them. “Could leave it tied. I just need to make sure things go off as they need to with its friend so we can stop whatever problem this is before it gets any bigger.”
GM: “Works,” says Reggie. “Tied and gagged.”
Celia: “Make sure you feed it. Food, not blood.”
“I’ll have the rest of them out of your hair soon.”
GM: “Do they need food?” asks Reggie.
“Dani ate Diana’s stuff, didn’t she?” says Randy.
Celia: “Some of them. Maybe ask it? They could be different.”
“Thanks for the quick pick up.”
GM: “Hunting down low-lifes is our specialty,” says Reggie.
Celia: “Tomorrow we get to jump an actual lick. Should be fun.”
GM: “Lookin’ forward to it.”
Celia: She’s not.
But at least one of them is excited.
Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM
GM: “Mélissaire said you wanted to talk,” says Pete after Celia arrives at the Evergreen.
Celia: “I do, yeah. Thanks for seeing me.”
Celia takes the offered chair in his office, door closed. It’s a familiar scene.
“For starters, how is Tantal?”
GM: “He’s happy. Said he initially wanted his old body back, but the thought of you sticking a garbage bag of fat back inside him was too unappetizing.”
“He also says more girls are hitting on him.”
Celia: Celia grins.
GM: “Says it feels better to be light, too.”
Celia: “I’m glad. Happy for him. You’re pleased with the changes?”
GM: “He just took all the extra bulk for granted.”
“I’m happy that he’s happy.”
Celia: Celia nods.
“Alana said the same when I took it off of her. You don’t realize how much you’re carrying around because you just get used to it.”
GM: “People can get used to anything.”
Celia: “Mm. You’re right.” Another small nod. “I haven’t been able to find out what a glinko is. And the name we got was a fake, my guy says. They’re looking into the real thing, phones are going to help.”
Celia: “Anything else from the bug we planted?”
GM: “Yep. It’s wound up with a hunter.”
“She hasn’t gone after any licks yet, but she’s planning to.”
“When she does, I’ll be there.”
Celia: “Good. I still want to find out how they found Roderick, hoping this not-Lee guy can tell me more.”
GM: “Maybe this lady will also be able when we have her.”
Celia: “My spa was also broken into last night again.”
GM: “That’s unfortunate. Anything stolen?”
Celia: “No. Thought it might be the hunters, actually, but it doesn’t make sense to do during the night. Was a thin-blood I ran into in the Square. Planted a bug. Picked up a few things that I’d rather not get out.”
“Was put up to it by someone, though, so I’m tracking down that lead.”
GM: “If you have the bug, we can trace it back.”
Celia: “I have the receiver already. He buried it near by. Short range. Said he didn’t tell anyone else.”
“Well, said he tried to come here to sell the info. But that no one would let him in.”
GM: “I see. Sounds like you have things in hand?”
Celia: “Sort of. Supposed to contact his friend tomorrow so I can find out who. Just that he knows.”
GM: “Sounds like a lead worth pursuing. Interesting the thin-blood had the receiver.”
Celia: “He said something about the person tracing it back to them. And not wanting that. They were supposed to meet on Saturday. Figured I’d get him to come early and see what I can find.”
GM: “Hm. That intermediary does it make harder to trace, but there’s other ways to.”
Celia: “It’s… I mean, if it was just me I wouldn’t be as worried, but it’s about my mom.”
GM: Lebeaux frowns.
“What about her? Were you talking about Lucy’s father?”
Celia: “Ah, he came up, yeah, but there’s… a little more to it than that…”
“So my mom, um, she kind of… knows about me.”
GM: The detective does a double take.
“All right. Forget it. Get her to me, I’ll make her forget.”
Celia: “I don’t… know if it will be that easy, actually. It’s, um. There were some really heightened emotions. There was a problem with another lick, some near death experiences, some hard conversations… Mel said that it might be patchy work, at best.”
“Is that true?”
GM: Lebeaux doesn’t say anything for a moment.
He looks very grave.
“It depends on the memories,” he answers slowly. “It depends on the cover story.”
“The midwife. That was easy. All I did was swap your mom’s face with yours.”
Celia: “I think she might have been exposed to all of this a long time ago,” Celia says quietly, “before I was even born.”
GM: “You think? Do you know?”
Celia: “…she was one of Benson’s dolls.”
GM: Lebeaux doesn’t say anything to that.
His fist just clenches.
His fangs come out.
“Fucking anorexic cunt,” he snarls.
Celia: Celia doesn’t think she’s ever heard him swear before.
“It explains… you know, a lot,” she continues in a smaller voice.
GM: “Yeah. Yeah, I guess it does.”
Celia: She thinks to tell him that she fucked up Elyse for it, but she doesn’t know if that will make things worse if he asks how she got out. Not that she expects him to know about the haven’s doll-defense system.
GM: The detective just stares past Celia with a black look.
He doesn’t speak.
Celia: Her eyes drop. She feels like it’s her fault somehow that Diana was a doll, but she had nothing to do with it. She wasn’t even born yet. It’s not her fault.
It’s not her fault.
“Sorry,” she finally tells the carpet anyway. “They wanted her back, so I… I interceded, and now my mom knows.”
GM: Celia’s words seem to slowly draw Pete back.
“How much does she know?”
Celia: “A lot.”
GM: “When did she learn it?”
Celia: “Sunday morning. And tonight.”
GM: Another moment of silence.
“How’d she take it?”
Celia: “Honestly? Pretty well.”
“I always thought, you know, what if I told her. I never planned to. But she was… just really accepting about it. Really, really calm.”
GM: “Could be worse,” the detective says slowly. “We can tell her you’re gay.”
“That you had a miscarriage.”
“That you discovered you’re infertile.”
Celia: “Do you think that is going to to work? She knows about Jade. About ghouls. About the blood.”
GM: “I don’t… I don’t know.”
Celia: “I offered to erase her memories so she doesn’t have to lie. She said she’d rather know.” Celia twists her hands in her lap. “Mel gave me some ideas about what to do with her like that, and I can teach her shadow dancing to hide how she tastes, and give her a new face if she’s ever around anyone.”
She sounds like a kid asking to keep the dog that followed her home. I’ll walk it and feed it and take care of it.
“And I can… can fix her leg, you know, so she’s not in pain all the time.”
GM: Pete’s face is very still. He looks Celia directly in the eye.
“Oh, really? Teach her shadow dancing?”
“Yes, I bet Mel did have a lot of ideas if that was on the table.”
Celia: “I don’t know what you mean.”
There’s some context she’s missing, she’s sure.
The emphasis was weird.
GM: “If you feed your mother your blood and make her a ghoul, a fucking drug addict!” Pete snarls.
“How the hell else does she learn shadow dancing!?”
Celia: This was a mistake.
“She asked if there was a way to make it less addictive,” Celia finally says. “I told her I’d look into it. I thought if anyone would know it would be you.”
GM: “Tell me she hasn’t tasted it, yet, Celia,” Pete gets out. “Tell me it hasn’t touched her.”
Celia: She can’t do that, though.
So she stays silent.
GM: Pete looks at her.
Finally, he leans forward and plants his hands against his head.
Celia: “She was dying. There was blood… everywhere, there was blood everywhere. I couldn’t just… watch her die if I could… if I could fix it, should I have just…? Would that be… would that be better?”
GM: “Fuck should-haves,” the detective snarls, looking up. “It’s too late. It’s the situation now.”
“All right. All right. Maybe we… she tried heroin, she tried something sketchy for the pain, we get her to rehab…”
Celia: Celia quietly listens to him spin his ideas, waiting for the words she knows are coming:
Something burns in the corners of her eyes, but a blink keeps it from making an appearance.
GM: “I’m… I’m not objective,” Pete says suddenly, quietly, running a hand through his hair. He sounds like he’s talking to himself. His eyes are large. “I’m not thinking objectively. I’m not capable. I’m incapable.”
He looks up and stares at her again.
“Celia, am I grasping at straws?”
Celia: She doesn’t want to see him like this, either.
But she lifts her eyes, finally, and gives a small nod.
“I… I think you might be.”
GM: The detective doesn’t say anything.
Just hangs his head against his hands.
Celia: The bright side, of course, is now he can take her out.
But Celia doesn’t mention that.
GM: The silence stretches for about a minute before he looks up. There’s something in his eyes.
“Who… else knows.”
“That she knows.”
“That she’s blooded.”
Celia: “Mel. My ghouls, all four of them. Dani. Roderick.”
GM: “Call your ghouls,” says Pete. He pulls out his own phone.
“They’re coming here. I’m coming to them. Whatever. They’re seeing me.”
Celia: Celia reaches for her phone.
GM: “Hey, Mel,” Pete says into his. “I need to talk to you, can you swing by?”
He hangs up.
Celia: She dials Randy, knowing he’s awake. She just left him.
GM: He picks up immediately and tries to sound casual.
Celia: “Hey, sweetheart. Can you come up to the Evergreen with your brothers and Alana? Wake them up.”
GM: “Sure thing, babe. See you soon.”
Pete asks Celia some questions about her conversation with Mélissaire.
There’s a knock against the door. The ghoul comes in.
“Hello, Warden L-” she smiles.
Pete stares into her eyes.
“You didn’t talk to Celia about her mom.”
Mélissaire’s eyes glaze over.
“Actually, you did, but it was hypothetically. Her mom had been driving her crazy. Celia was really thinking hard about ghouling her. So you gave her all of that helpful advice.”
“She doesn’t think she’s going to, though.”
“But she appreciated the advice. And the sympathy. Still gave you a hit for it.”
Celia: Celia waits quietly while Pete delivers the message to Mel to rewrite her memories. Will it work if she still does what Mel said, though? Or are those options now closed to her? She looks to Pete, uncertain.
GM: He looks at her, then cautiously says, “Whatever’s on your mind. Write it down.”
Celia: She scrawls across a page.
What if I follow her advice about the dancer / fencer? Will she connect the dots?
GM: Pete scowls.
Celia: Should I have them bring the thin-blood that knows?
She’d planned to kill it.
But if Pete can wipe it, maybe that’s a better outcome.
GM: “Forget the dancer, fencer advice. You wanted to get Dr. Dicentra to fix her leg, then have her start her own production company with Celia’s backing. Good investment over the years, you thought. Make Celia really popular with a lot of Toreador.”
Mel receives this placidly.
Pete talks with her about something inane-sounding, then sends the smiling ghoul away.
“Right. One down.”
“And tell your people they’re not meeting us at the Evergreen, actually. More suspicious to have them all barging in.”
Celia: Celia immediately calls Randy back and tells him to nix the last order. She’s coming to them.
GM: Pete gets into a nondescript older-looking Chevy with her. It’s the first time Celia thinks she’s seen the Tremere’s car.
He doesn’t talk as they drive. Just stares out into the night.
Stares and tightly grips the wheel.
Celia: Celia tells him what he needs to know to fix the memories, but otherwise remains silent.
GM: “You’re paying for this,” he mutters when she’s done. “Costs me juice.”
Celia: “Anything you need.”
She means it, too.
GM: “Get Roderick to come over. ‘Stare into my eyes’ time for him too.”
Celia: “Oh,” she says quietly. “Okay.”
She calls him.
GM: “Yeah?” he asks.
Celia: “Can you come meet me? I need your help.”
She gives him the address.
GM: “Sure,” he answers without hesitation. “I was swinging by anyways to drop off Dani’s stuff.”
Celia: “It’s not for that. She’s still mad at you. Very mad.”
GM: “Oh,” he says.
“All right. Still need to drop it off anyways.”
Celia: “Thanks, Roderick. I’ll see you soon.”
She’s glad he got out of Riverbend safely, anyway.
GM: Pete doesn’t talk for a while.
“You said there’s a Dani who also knows.”
Celia: “Garrison. His sister. And the thin-blood overheard some stuff on the bug.”
GM: “Who’s that?”
Celia: “They’re both here.”
GM: “What do they need to forget?”
Celia: “Dani… opened up a lot to her. About… who she was, what happened to her, her Embrace. I thought maybe it would do her good to have someone she can talk to.”
GM: Pete doesn’t say anything for a bit.
“There’s no magic fix,” he then says. “To make vitae less addictive.”
“You know any way to take those without addiction?”
“We worked out a schedule,” she offers. “I do it with one of my others.”
GM: “Water’s wet. Sugar’s sweet. Drugs are addictive. Just what it is.”
Celia: “I could… get rid of Celia,” she finally says.
GM: “A schedule?”
Celia: “For blood. So she knows what she’s getting when. Mel told me to, um, reward and punish, but she’s my mom, so…”
GM: “Mel’s a cunt,” the detective snarls, mashing the horn at a nearby car that didn’t do much of anything. It honks angrily back.
Celia: “How do you do it, with Tantal…?”
GM: “Tantal isn’t my mom. If the lack of tits didn’t give it away.”
Celia: “I didn’t know if you had general advice,” she says to the window.
GM: “I’m his boss. I’m his supplier. That’s all I’ve ever been to him. There’s nothing we get confused. He gets his dose once a month. He gets more when I think he needs it.”
“I don’t give him extra for good job performance. Junkies don’t think straight when it’s their fix on the line.”
“I don’t give him less for poor job performance. Because junkies don’t think straight when it’s their fix on the line.”
“I don’t like what I’ve done to him. He was hooked by the time I realized. Before I realized. He’s a hand-me-down.”
Celia: She’s waiting for it, she realizes. For him to tell her that he’s disappointed. That he doesn’t want anything to do with her anymore. That she’s stupid. Irresponsible. Reckless. A waste of blood. No wonder her sire left her. Et cetera.
“You said you’re happy when he’s happy, though. That’s better than most of them can say about us.”
GM: “That’s me. Your friendly neighborhood heroin dealer.”
Celia: So much for that.
“…do you think I should just… get rid of Celia?”
Celia: “She’s in danger, isn’t she? I’d rather her be safe and sad.”
GM: “Just minutes ago I was hearing bodyguard and dancer ideas.”
Celia: “I mean yeah, if she’s going to be part of it anyway.”
GM: “Just minutes ago you told me I was grasping at straws trying to fix her memories.”
“If that’s off the table I don’t see how it helps to lose her daughter on top.”
Celia: “I just wanted what’s best for them.”
GM: “So do we all, kid,” the detective says bitterly.
Celia: “D’you think it has merit, then, or am I also grasping at straws?”
GM: “She already knows the truth. She already has the blood in her system. It’s too little too late for Celia Flores to disappear.”
Celia: “I meant the other thing. The dancing.”
GM: “I should have seen this coming. I really should have. But I told you no, every time you asked, keep Celia alive.”
Celia: “It’s hardly your advice that made me fuck up something else.”
GM: “This was inevitable. It always fucking is. If we don’t stay away.”
“But no, I didn’t want to make her bury her daughter. I didn’t want to put her through that grief. I wasn’t objective.”
Celia: “You can just say it, Pete. It’s on me. I’m st—I’m a fuckup. I messed up. I can’t do anything right. Everyone else thinks so.”
GM: “I don’t care about your pity party right now,” the detective growls.
“I could’ve stopped this and I didn’t.”
“You were young and didn’t know better.”
Celia: Unless asked more questions, Celia remains quiet for the rest of the ride back to the house.
GM: That makes both of them.
Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM
GM: They get back to the house. Pete doesn’t waste time. He goes around to each ghoul, looks deep into their eyes, then tells them what to remember and what to forget.
He tells the ghouls to back to bed and fall asleep.
He does the same to the thin-blood in the closet.
Celia: She makes sure that the thin-blood doesn’t remember anything it overheard, including that she’s Jade and Celia. Safer for her mom, so no one thinks to use “Celia” against her.
GM: Pete doesn’t ask twice. He tells the thin-blood to forget everything, absolutely everything. Their eyes glaze over at his words.
“How much does your mom remember about this Dani?” Pete asks after shutting the closet door. “Will she be reasonable?”
Celia: “I knew Dani before my Embrace. Her brother is the one who helped Mom out of the tough spot. Dani was… she’s Roderick’s sister, the thin-blood. She offered to let her live with her while we sort everything. She’s had a rough go.” Celia sighs. “I thought it would be good for both of them to have someone to talk to.”
“Mom might be upset.”
But she’s usually reasonable. Elyse saw to that.
GM: Pete looks tired. He looks tired in the same way Roderick does. It doesn’t look as new on him, and it looks all the deeper for that.
“Fine. She’ll remember.”
Celia: “But not Roderick.” Celia doesn’t quite make it a question.
GM: “He’s a real lick, isn’t he?”
Celia: So much for introducing Mom to her boyfriend.
GM: “You want to take a bet on your mom with another bloodsucker? A real one?”
Celia: She doesn’t think Roderick would ever hurt her mom.
Then again, she’d seen that vision. She never thought he’d hurt her like that, either.
“Did… while we wait, Pete. Thank you. For… for everything.”
GM: The detective grunts.
Celia: She doesn’t push it.
GM: “I just burned through a lot of juice. Go get a glass.”
Celia: Celia disappears into the kitchen.
She finds a clean glass and brings it back.
When he tells her how much, though, she hesitates. She doesn’t have quite that much, she says. She just needs a minute to get it.
GM: He grunts again.
“Pay me back the rest next time if it’s too much.”
Celia: Fangs tear into her flesh and her Beast howls in her ears. It demands to know what she thinks she’s doing sharing her blood when it has so little to begin with; it wants to know why she thinks some stupid kine is worth all of the effort she has gone through when the bitch has done nothing for her. It snarls and snaps and fights her for every drop, and the pitiful amount that Celia bleeds into the cup is not nearly enough to replace what Pete has spent on her this evening. But it’s what she has. It’s all she can offer. She can’t risk giving more, not when the beat of multiple heartbeats call her name.
“Sorry,” she tells him when she holds it out, her most frequently used word this evening.
GM: Pete just waits for the blood to cool, then swigs it down.
“I hear you there,” he suddenly says.
Dani peaks out from behind the door.
Pete looks the thin-blood over.
Celia: Celia watches his face.
She waits a beat, as if waiting for him to stop her.
“This is the warden. Warden Lebeaux.”
GM: He grunts.
Celia: “This is Dani. Danielle Garrison.”
She doesn’t think he cares.
But she’ll be polite.
GM: “It’s nice to meet you, ah, Warden Lebeaux,” she says, extending a hand.
“We don’t do that,” says Pete.
“Oh,” says Dani.
She lets the hand drop a little lamely.
Pete glances around the house.
“Could be worse digs for someone like you.”
“I hear,” she nods. “Celia’s been really nice…”
Celia: “We’re looking for a place for her,” Celia tells him. “Rod—er, Stephen is on his way over, Dani, with your stuff.”
GM: Dani’s expression gets a little frostier. “I still don’t want to talk to him.”
Celia: “I know. He just has to speak with the warden for a minute. I won’t even tell him you’re here, if you don’t want.”
GM: “It’s fine if he knows. He can know I’m here and don’t want to talk until he,” she seems to moderate herself around Pete, “learns to control himself better.”
The Tremere effects a snort.
“I’m sorry, did…?”
“Good luck,” is all Pete says.
Celia: Celia just nods. “Yeah. We’re going to have that chat later tonight, after I finish up here.”
GM: “Oh, good.”
She looks back to Pete, who hasn’t said anything, then Celia, with a ‘what should I say’ expression.
Celia: Celia gives a tiny shake of her head, mouthing the word ‘later’ at her.
GM: The detective just waits until there’s a knock on the door.
Celia: “Ah, that’s him. Dani, if you want to head upstairs for a sec?”
GM: “Yes, sure.” Dani heads off.
Celia: Celia waits until the girl does so before moving toward the door.
She opens it.
GM: It’s Roderick. He’s carrying two full suitcases and a backpack.
Celia: “Hey, come on in.”
Another place she’ll need to move.
GM: “There’s more in the car. I figured she wouldn’t be coming back to her apartment for a while, if ever, so I brought basically everything.”
Celia: “Oh, that was thoughtful of you. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”
GM: “I hope s…”
Roderick’s cut off as Pete approaches him and says, “You never saw me.”
Roderick starts to stare back defiantly, but he’s caught flat-footed talking to Celia. His eyes glaze over.
Celia: Oh thank God.
She did not need an angry Roderick in the house with her mother.
GM: Pete tells him what to remember. They just talked about ghouling her. Celia didn’t actually do it. Celia was repeating the conversation she had with Mélissaire.
Pete makes sure to sprinkle in as many of the same details as he can.
Celia: It’s easy to imagine: a frantic Celia crying about Elyse and wondering if ghouling her mother is the best option for her. The same conversation about the pros and cons. How Celia would be a fucked up person if she did it. Celia eventually being calmed down by him and talked out of it, agreeing to fix things on her end rather than involve her mother.
Celia stands quietly—uselessly—to the side while it happens.
GM: Pete finishes up with her lover, then says, “We’ll drive back in my car when you’re done. I’ll wait upstairs until the other vampire is out of the house.”
He looks back to Roderick. “Finish unloading the stuff from your car.”
Celia: Celia nods at his direction, standing in the same spot she was moments ago for when Roderick inevitably wakes up from his fugue state.
GM: When the Brujah comes back with more boxes, Pete is gone.
Celia: “She will,” Celia tells him, as if there had never been a break in the conversation.
She helps stack the boxes out of the way for Dani to peruse at her leisure.
GM: Roderick looks upstairs a few times, as if wondering whether his sister is there, but doesn’t say anything.
It doesn’t take long. He carries the heavy moving boxes like they’re nothing.
“If you want anything unpacked, I can do that pretty fast. Superspeed has its advantages.”
Celia: Celia shakes her head at the offer. “The boxes won’t be here long. But I’ll keep it in mind when she needs unpacked.”
“Once things calm down she might even enjoy seeing that. Just… give her some space for right now.”
“We’ll talk later tonight. I’ll be home soon.”
GM: “All right,” he relents.
He glances back up the stairs and effects a sigh.
“I feel like I really bungled things.”
Celia: “If anyone can find a way to make it right, it’s you.”
She leans in to press a kiss against his cheek.
“Thanks for getting everything for her. I’ll get it to her and then you and I can figure things out.”
If he continues to linger, Celia confesses that she’s very, very hungry and unless he wants to share—does he want to share? She’s on the verge of loss of self control but he could hold her down—she needs to get out of the house.
GM: Roderick says he’s already “too close to the Beast for comfort” to have any vitae to spare, but he can restrain her if she can get a drink from somewhere else.
It’s hard not to think of her mother sleeping just upstairs. Always so eager to feed her baby.
Or Alana. She loves her mistress’ kiss.
Or the thin-blood. How bad can their vitae be?
Or she could charge Dani rent for all she’s done for her.
There’s the brothers, too. Such strong and healthy boys.
Or Lucy… it’s hard to imagine more succulently innocent blood. Celia’s already tasted the mother. But what about the daughter? The horrors that have touched the rest of the Flores family have never touched her. She’s been raised with nothing but love. Celia would taste that in the child’s blood, she’s sure. Lucy could survive just a sip…
So many sleeping, idle vessels. So conveniently nearby.
Celia: She is not feeding on Lucy.
Or her mother.
Not while Pete is nearby.
And not on Dani while Roderick is here. That’s just awkward.
But the others. The ghouls. She tries to remember who she has fed from recently. Alana and Randy and Reggie. She needs Alana at full capacity if she’s running a game with her tomorrow. And Reggie and Randy have work.
But the thin-blood, there’s an option. Make it useful for doing what it did. And with it sleeping it’ll never know. Blood is blood. Her Beast hadn’t rebelled when she’d tasted Dani’s weak fare.
“Okay,” she finally agrees, because what other option does she have? “Let me get him.” She can carry a thin-blood down the stairs.
GM: The thin-blood is still gagged and tied up in the closet, though looks awake. Muffled noises sound from behind the cloth.
Celia: Oh, good. It’s awake. Jade tells it to stand up and takes it back down the stairs, where the still-disguised Roderick is waiting. She’s a little annoyed, she guesses, that Pete erased everything from its mind this evening, which includes the goodwill she had instilled in it with the bath—a real bonding experience, that—but she knew it would sell her out eventually.
“I’ll explain later,” she says to Roderick to forestall any questions.
GM: Pete had explained to her that he cannot remove emotions, only memories.
That’s exactly why he couldn’t just erase everything in her mother’s head.
Celia: She’s still gentle enough with it.
GM: The thin-blood haplessly shuffles along with bound knees. The stairs are tricky.
Celia: She’s not a monster, she gives it a hand.
GM: “All right,” Roderick says bemusedly. “You want me to hold you down?”
Celia: “Yes. However you think is best.”
GM: He looks back at the thin-blood.
“You’re feeding her. She’s close to the edge. You’re okay with that?”
Celia: Fucking Roderick.
“Payment for the break-in,” Jade tells it.
GM: The thin-blood gives a faltering nod.
“All right,” Roderick says slowly. He undoes the bonds around one of the thin-blood’s arms, then steps behind Celia and wraps his arms tightly around her. “Give her your wrist.”
The thin-blood does so. Celia has tasted ghouls with richer vitae. It’s stronger than a mortal’s, but only barely, and all the worse for it. It’s like someone took a prime cut of steak and lathered it with cheap ketchup and condiments. At least an O’Tolley’s burger is consistent in what it is.
Celia: And despite her worry and precaution, despite the anxiety she’d felt about feeding on someone, her Beast, at least, does not slip its bonds this evening. Roderick holding her is enough to remind it that if she does lose control he’s going to beat her silly.
So she drinks the poor fare from the thin-blood’s wrist, swallowing down mouthful after mouthful of almost-rancid blood that, if she were less hungry, more picky, more able to find something better in a pinch, she might even spit out as Reggie had.
GM: The flavor is exceptionally sour, bitter, and almost moldy, like that same steak was left to ferment with a moldy burger bun over it for days, and only hastily removed. Roderick holds her still until she nods for him to stop.
The thin-blood droopily lets their wrist fall.
It’s hard not to think longingly towards her spa.
So many vessels, prepped and pampered exactly as she desires.
There’s no blood like that of a satisfied, relaxed client. She can drink it all up for herself. Savor the spa experience through them.
Celia: It really does pale in comparison. She’ll have to snack on something better tomorrow before she goes to meet Vinny with Alana. Maybe a few somethings.
“Thank you,” she tells it as she takes it back upstairs. “We’ll finish our discussion tomorrow. One of mine will feed you in the morning.” Food, she means, not blood, but the sentiment is the same. She puts it back where it had been after redoing its ties and wishes it a good evening, then returns to thank Roderick.
“I didn’t want to risk anything,” she says, “thank you for understanding.”
GM: There’s another muffled sound past the gag as Celia closes the door.
“As long as no one’s dead,” he says. “That was one of the sorrier-looking… ghouls I’ve seen?”
Celia: “Not mine,” Celia tells him, “trying to get him cleaned up. I’ll explain the whole thing later.”
GM: “All right.” He gives her a hug. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Celia: “Are you not spending the day?”
GM: “Here? This is deeper in the Quarter.”
Celia: “No, I meant at my place.”
GM: “Although I suppose I’m disguised.”
Celia: “You said tomorrow. I was going to meet you later.”
She makes a gesture with her hand and wiggles her eyebrows at him.
It’s blatantly sexual.
GM: He smiles. It’s a little weary, and part of him doesn’t look in the mood. But there’s another, hungry part, the same one that publicly screwed her in the seat of his car so long ago, that more than does.
“I suppose I did say I was going to fuck you in that dress.”
Celia: “You promised, as I recall.”
GM: “I did. But my krewe got in touch with me. They need me around. And… this thing with Dani is kind of killing my boner, to be honest.”
GM: “Just not in the mood, sorry.”
Celia: “Yeah, all right.”
“I guess I’ll see you… tomorrow, then.”
GM: “You will. How about I show you my new place?”
“Temporary place, but place all the same.”
Celia: “Sure.” She tries to sound enthused.
GM: “Look, it’s not you.”
Celia: It is her. She’s just not more important to him than his sister or his krewe.
GM: “You’re still the cutest lick in the city.”
Celia: Her smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes.
GM: “Celia, if this was your sister, Emily instead of Dani, would you be in the mood?”
Celia: “It’s fine. That’s not what I’m thinking about right now anyway.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
GM: “If your whole family thought you were dead for four years, then you find out one of them’s a thin-blood, and you’re doing everything in your power to keep them safe from predatory elders, not feeling like you can turn to your own sire, but just when you think there might be one bright spot to this, that at least you don’t have to pretend you’re dead anymore, you have this huge fight…”
Celia: “I didn’t say anything, Roderick. It’s fine. I have other stuff on my mind, too. Being with you just makes me feel like everything is okay in the world, but it’s selfish of me. You’re right.”
“I’m excited to see the new place. Thanks for bringing her things. I’ll tell her you said hi. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
GM: Celia can all but see the bond tugging in his face. To not let this drop, if she might be unhappy.
Celia: “One day alone won’t kill me.”
GM: “We could still sleep together, at the new place. It’d feel really good to have you in my arms.” His face looks genuine enough at that.
Celia: “Sure. I’ll call you later, then. I have some things to finish up here.”
GM: “Okay.” He works out a place to meet her outside Mid-City. “We can have you turn into a cat again, just to be safe.”
GM: “I’m going to see the night doctor to change me back.”
He gives her a kiss and heads off after a last goodbye.
Celia: “He’s gone,” she calls up the stairs once his car pulls away.
GM: “Right,” says Pete. “You have anything to finish up here?”
Celia: “Nothing I can’t handle later.”
GM: He gets into his car with her and drives.
“Beats me why I even care this much,” he mutters. “I helped her once. That was all.”
Celia: “She’s a nice woman who doesn’t deserve terrible things to happen to her,” Celia offers.
“And you’re a nice Kindred.”
GM: “Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we could all just be nicer.”
Celia: “Someone tell that to all the other licks.”
GM: “It’s not possible to make vitae inherently less addicting, but I can dilute its strength. Turn it from pure meth to cut meth.”
Celia: “Would that help with her cravings, you think?”
GM: “Maybe. All dope fiends have cravings.”
“But if I had to get someone addicted to heroin, I suppose I’d choose a weaker strain.”
Celia: “She’ll be pleased to hear that, anyway. She was struggling with the idea of being… an addict.” Celia forces the air out of her lungs in a sigh. “Can I tell her you helped, or do you want me to leave it alone?”
GM: The Tremere’s response is as heavy as it is immediate.
“Leave it alone.”
Celia: “I got her to quit the extra dance lessons for that family,” she says, “so she’s… you know, not in danger there, at least.”
GM: “Good,” he grunts. “That was something else to leave alone. Whatever it even was.”
Celia: “Nothing I want to play with.”
GM: “There are… alchemists, they call them, among the thin-bloods. They work with weak, half-ass vitae a lot more than I do. One of them might be able to do more.”
Celia: Maybe the thing in her closet knows about it. Or knows someone who knows someone. She nods.
“I’ll look into it. Flannagan knows a lot about them, I think, because of her… kid.”
GM: Pete’s expression turns immediately sour.
“Her tot-sized serial murderer.”
Celia: “Yeah. That one.”
GM: “Goddamn basket case.”
“But where there’s enough crazy there’s a way.”
Celia: “Hey, Pete?” Celia says after a minute. “I don’t know if you can tell me, but did Dani’s blood turn up anything about who did this to her? Just, you know, while we’re on the subject of… rapists and murderers.”
GM: “If you mean can it trace her sire, thin-bloods’ vitae is notoriously useless at that.”
Celia: “Oh. I didn’t know that.”
GM: “The ties that bind us, sire to childe, don’t exist with them.”
Celia: “I thought that might be too easy, yeah,” Celia says wryly.
GM: “Danielle’s sire could be right in front of her and there’d be no blood pull. It’s the same with Caitiff.”
Celia: “So I’ll have to find him or her the old fashioned way.”
Whatever that is. Maybe Gui has cameras inside his club.
She doesn’t ask about Carolla and Roderick; if Savoy wants her to know, he’ll tell her.
GM: “It’s why the ‘Clan Caine’ rhetoric is a load of nonsense. They aren’t a clan. There’s no glue holding them together like there is with us. They’re a bunch of unrelated people living under the same roof, not a biological family.”
“And yes. You probably will. For all the good it’ll do you.”
Celia: “It might make Dani feel better to know why.” Celia still doesn’t.
“Though I guess ‘it was an accident’ doesn’t do her much good.”
GM: “Or maybe her sire was a vindictive loser who saw a moderately pretty girl and wanted to make her suffer.”
Celia: “Whoever it was raped her and left her in a dumpster when they were done with her. I imagine being able to look him in the eye will at least bring some closure.”
“Even if it doesn’t undo anything.”
GM: “Or her. But I’ll grant that a ‘he’ is more likely.”
Celia: “Awful way to wake up.”
GM: “Looks pretty pampered now, at least.”
Celia: “She’s my friend. Was my friend. Is still, I guess.”
GM: “She’s lucky.”
Celia: “Preston thinks she’s a waste of time and resources. But most people like us do, I guess.”
GM: “There’s worse things to spend time and resources on than friends.”
Celia: “Thanks for being decent to her, anyway.”
GM: Pete grunts.
“Shitty deal. Brother a primogen’s childe.”
Celia: “He was always the golden child. Even when I met them as a breather. Their dad idolized him and not her. Shit hand the whole way through.”
“She was less than pleased to find out about him.”
GM: “I bet. Good disguise you had him in. He didn’t smell like a lick, either.”
Celia: “Shadow dancing trick. Learned it a long time ago. Have a way to pass it on, if you ever need it.”
GM: “I’ll keep in mind.”
Celia: “Going to teach my mom, too. Make sure she can pass. So no one knows. Get her a new face if she’s ever around licks.”
Celia: “Trying to manage it as best I can. See if I can undo some of Benson’s programming.”
GM: “That’s tricky. Easier to destroy anything than build it back up.”
Celia: “I don’t want to destroy my mom. Someone told me once she’d be a good ghoul, used to serving, but that doesn’t sit right with me.”
“So I’m… figuring it out, you know.”
GM: “Mélissaire told you that.”
Celia: “Ah, yes.”
GM: “She’d have made sure Savoy knew it was her idea, too, if she thought your mom worked out well.”
“I don’t need to say he doesn’t need to know this.”
Celia: “If Mel talked to him after she talked to me…”
GM: “She’d have waited until he could see how your new ghoul panned out, for best results.”
Celia: “Oh. Then as long as he stays out of my head, I guess we’re good.”
GM: “Or the Garrison girl keeps her mouth shut.”
Celia: “She will. She doesn’t have a reason to talk about my mom to someone.”
“And she likes me. I’ve bent over backwards for her to make her feel welcome and comfortable.”
And she’s bonded.
GM: “She have any future beyond as your pet? Things could get messier then.”
Celia: “She wants to be a lawyer.”
GM: Pete grunts.
“Guess we’ll see.”
Celia: “Do you have better ideas for her? Little limited, with the blood.”
GM: “I meant with your mom. If she wants to be a lawyer, I don’t see why not.”
“I wanted to kind of keep things normal with us. Emily’s boyfriend is going to teach her how to fence so she’s not a sitting duck. I’m going to teach her shadow dancing. Just in case a lick ever tastes her. She wants to dance again, so I thought I’d use Mel’s idea there.”
GM: “Some combat training seems wise. I’d advise hand-to-hand too. Swords might be the weapon of choice against us, but there are lots of times you won’t have access to one.”
Celia: “I’ll let her know.”
“She keeps saying that she’s weak, that she’s a girl so she can’t do anything.”
GM: “Well, there’s a reason most cops and military are men. But girls can learn too.”
Celia: “Sure. Physically, the bodies are different. I don’t disagree there. But she can still be capable.”
“And with the blood… I mean, against other kine it’ll even the playing field.”
GM: “Physically, but also temperament. Among cops, we have two kinds. Herbivores and carnivores. You ever hear of them?”
GM: “Carnivore cops are assertive and confrontational. They’re happy to use force. They practice the most at the shooting range. They’re alert and sharp-eyed on patrol. They accrue more citizen complaints, but have a higher clearance rate of cases. They get into more fights and pick up more injuries, but die less often on the line of duty.”
“Herbivore cops try to avoid confrontation. They’d rather not use force. They do the minimum practice at the range and prefer to use pepper spray. They try not to notice threatening situations they might get involved in. They have lower clearance rates. They get into fewer fights and pick up fewer injuries, but they’re more likely to die on the line of duty. They’re also more likely to rise to the upper ranks, where things get political. Office politics agree with them more.”
“Like in all things, there’s a scale. Few cops fit exclusively into one category. But it’s easy for us to assess each other’s positions on the scale.”
“Lot more women cops are herbivores than men. Call it biology. Call it society. I know more male carnivores either way.”
Celia: “Sure,” Celia agrees. “I can see the logic there. I understand what you mean. We’re different. Biologically, chemically, physically, mentally. We’re raised different ways. But, Pete… the words that come out of her mouth sometimes, you know? The only time I ever saw her show any backbone was when Maxen put me in the hospital. I was bleeding on her in the back seat of the car and she finally had fire again, and it was amazing to see. She’s been through Hell. So many times. And she’s still amazing. And I just want her to see that too.”
“That she’s strong in a different way. Just because she can’t throw a car around doesn’t mean she’s not worth a damn.”
GM: “She’s far from the first abused woman whose kids’ safety finally roused her to do something.”
“I also agree with you. I can’t throw cars around, and I don’t believe you can either.”
Celia: “I haven’t tried,” Celia admits, “but the whole idea of it is very unlikely. Our strengths are elsewhere.”
GM: “Regardless, her learning self-defense can only be good for her. And for you.”
Celia: “Roderick said the elders are prepping for civil war.”
“And that the Quarter is going to see the worst of it.”
GM: “If that happens, he’s probably right.”
Celia: “He’s supposed to teach me, but I can find someone else to teach my mom.”
GM: “There’s lots of options. Find a self-defense class to pick up the basics.”
“Or hell. Bring her in disguise. Establish the fake identity in multiple places.”
Celia: “That’s a solid idea.”
GM: The Evergreen approaches. Pete parks the car.
“Tell me if anything else comes up with her.”
Celia: “Like dinner with Maxen?”
Celia: “I had dinner with Maxen. He wants to see her to apologize. I put him off.”
GM: “Apologies and two cents will buy you jack and squat.”
Celia: “Yeah, that’s what Emily said.”
GM: “Your father is a shitbag. The less his family sees of him, the better.”
Celia: It’s not her story to tell, so she doesn’t.
“I’ll keep you in the loop, anyway. Shadow dancing is going to be enough to get her through the day at McGehee, right?”
GM: “Most likely. More than likely. I wouldn’t bother stationing any ghouls, much less soul scrying ghouls, at a girl’s school if I were the prince.”
“And she shouldn’t have to deal with any trying to taste her blood unless she does something stupid.”
Celia: He’s the third person who has said that. It has to be true, right?
GM: “Violating the Second Tradition is easier than we like to make out.”
“Crime clearance rates in the U.S. are pretty dismal, and the smaller the crime, the lower the rate. That’s as true for us as it is for kine.”
Celia: Celia has gotten away with it often enough.
“I’ll take your word for it.”
GM: Another grunt as they get out.
“Look after your mom, kid.”
Celia: He could do it instead, if he wanted. But he doesn’t, and she doesn’t offer. She just nods.
“I will, Pete.”
Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM
GM: “I want you to bring Mr. Carolla to the Evergreen, my dear,” says Savoy as the three wait for Fabian to bring up ‘Melton.’
“It’s time we laid the question of his sire to rest once and for all.”
Celia: “Yes, sir. I’m meeting with him on Thursday at 1 AM; does that suit your purpose?”
They have already given her time to change her face so that it won’t be “Jade” that Melton sees.
“Or I can convince him to come to the party Saturday, I’m sure.”
If they want to pull another Melton-bait.
GM: “What does my schedule look like this Thursday, Nat?” asks Savoy.
“Largely full on Thursday, sir. The party, however, poses a convenient pretext,” answers Preston.
“I agree,” says Savoy, before turning to Celia. “All right, my dear. Get him to come here. I want Lebeaux to test his vitae after you taste it, to be doubly sure of things. If he’s Coco’s childe, he’s our best chance to sway Roderick to our side.”
Celia: At least they don’t need to pretend that Celia isn’t going to sleep with him on Thursday. Whoever else was supposed to get a sample must have fallen through.
“Yes, grandsire. I’ll make sure it’s done.”
“The chat with him earlier went as you desired, then?”
GM: “Oh, I haven’t spoken with him, my dear. Merely took a chance on someone else who wasn’t able to rise to the occasion.”
Celia: She tries not to look for the comparison between herself and his other contact. She’s going to make this work.
“My apologies, I wasn’t clear. I meant with Mr. Durant.”
GM: “Ah, yes! Our discussion went excellently, Celia, and it was thanks to you we made it happen,” Savoy beams.
“The seed has been planted.”
“All that’s necessary is some nice weather to help it grow.”
Celia: “Is there anything else I can do to assist, aside from with Mr. Carolla?”
GM: “Mr. Carolla is our next objective now. If he’s Mr. Durant’s broodmate, that’ll be all we need. If he’s not, we’ll try something else.”
Celia: “Yes, sir.”
GM: Savoy glances up. “Ah, and here’s our guest of the hour!”
Several ghouls bearing a staked body. It does not belong to Laura Melton, however, but a perhaps 12-year-old girl.
Celia: …oh god, is that the real her? Did she sleep with a child?
GM: The ghouls set her down on the grass. She’s a pale-skinned nymphet with only the barest beginnings of breasts and delicately coiffed brown hair.
Celia: She’s old, though. Or at least she had potent enough blood.
And she thought being turned at 19 was bad.
GM: The ghouls remove the stake at Savoy’s motion and depart.
“Elianna, my dear!” Savoy exclaims with a chuckle. “I suppose that rather clears things up. You don’t know what’s become of the real Laura Melton, do you?”
“Oh, I’ve no idea, Lord Savoy,” smiles the 12-year-old as she sits up. “You could have simply asked me. But I understand why you didn’t.”
Celia: It’s not as if Jade had known. It’s not her fault, right? She’d just been keeping a potential infiltrator from Savoy’s court. She had no idea that he and this Elianna were on a first name basis.
Can they still be friends after this, or is this the sort of thing you can’t forgive someone for? Her eyes slide to Lord Savoy, as if wondering if he’s annoyed that she wasted his time on it.
The girl looks less than upset, anyway. And it’s not as if she knew that Jade turned her in. It could have been anyone. And she saw Jade get staked too.
She should say something.
She’s just not quite sure what.
GM: Her grandsire’s eye meets hers, but his smile doesn’t waver.
“I’m glad you do,” he replies. “My court would rather be safe than sorry.”
“What is your purpose in wearing Laura Melton’s face, Madam Daugherty?” inquires Preston.
“Oh, I’m sure you can guess,” smiles the 12-year-old. “The real Laura wasn’t around, so someone might as well use her face.”
“I suppose someone may as well,” chuckles the French Quarter lord. “And I suppose we indeed can guess! You’ll be sure follow all the rules while you’re borrowing it, my dear?”
“Of course, Lord Savoy. I’ll be a good girl,” Elianna answers, bowing her head and using a device that might be demure if her tongue wasn’t forked. Her too-adult eyes dance with faint mirth.
The Toreador only chuckles harder, though Preston merely goes back to something on her tablet.
“Cat got your tongue?” Elianna asks Jade.
Celia: Forked tongue. Child that wants to hide who she is. Blood she didn’t recognize.
Cat got her tongue? No, the snake did.
“Shame,” Jade finally drawls in a voice that isn’t her own, “I had hoped you could put the Melton matter to rest. I imagine your new lover will be pleased to see you’ve returned.”
GM: “Which one?” smiles the girl.
“Interesting you’re here, though. You must be part of the reason that I am.”
“Do you have any remaining business while you are here, Madam Daughtery?” asks Preston.
“No,” Elianna answers. She inclines her head to the French Quarter lord. “My thanks for your understanding, Lord Savoy.”
Celia: Jade doesn’t deny it, though she hardly offers anything more to go on. She’s just another lick with a stolen face.
GM: “Always a pleasure to have you at the Evergreen, Elianna. Or I suppose Laura,” smiles the Toreador.
Elianna smiles back, her forked tongue briefly tasting the air. Her form shimmers, and then her smile is Laura Melton’s.
“Well done, my dear,” Savoy says to Jade after the ‘Gangrel’ is gone.
“She’s been reminded that nothing happens within these walls that I don’t know.”
Celia: She accepts the words with a dip of her head, glad that he’s at least not annoyed at the waste of his time.
“Who, ah, who is she? If I can ask..?”
GM: “Her name is Elianna Daughtery.”
“She already heard that, sir.”
“For completeness’ sake,” smiles Savoy. “She’s a Setite, and she’s welcome at the Evergreen.”
Celia: Not-Jade’s lips quirk in amusement at Preston’s interjection.
GM: “I imagine Laura Melton’s face is how she’ll be moving around beyond the Quarter, now.”
“Very economical of her, to take the face of an already disappeared Kindred.”
Celia: “Best way to do it, sir. Slip into someone else’s life. Or Requiem.”
GM: “You seem to have recently assumed my mode of address for Lord Savoy, Miss Kalani. Is there a reason?” inquires Preston.
Celia: Habit, mostly, to pick up what other people say.
“No, Madam Preston. Lord Savoy.”
GM: “You both can call me whatever you please,” says Savoy. “In any case, my dear, the serpents are good friends to make, if you still want to. We can count on them to never take up with Prince Vidal or the Baron. Don’t ever trust them fully, though.” The French Quarter lord chuckles. “Of course, that same advice can be said for any Kindred!”
Celia: “Yes, grandsire.” Jade has her own mode of address for the Lord of the French Quarter. “I will keep that in mind. Thank you.”
Briefly, she asks if he’d like to follow the same sort of normal tactic with Mr. Carolla, and once that has been hashed out she bids the two a good evening.
Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM
Celia: The nice thing about New Orleans, Jade has come to realize, is that many of the bars are open 24/7, and liquor is served all time of night. Unfortunately, The Cat’s Meow and Bourbon Heat are not among those who stay open at all hours of the day and night, and it’s a Monday besides. Harder to find a willing vessel she can sneak off to the bathroom or car with, but not impossible. Her domain spans an entire city block; worst case scenario she can break into one of those houses and feed on a sleeping vessel if she needs to.
Or take a hit from her mom.
But she’ll try this first, prowling the streets for any late-night club goers that venture too far into her domain. Or a homeless person; this late she’s not really that picky.
GM: At 4 AM on a Monday night, the clubs are all but dead. But this is New Orleans. Most bars close at 2 or 4, but more than a few never close, or close between 7 AM and 11 AM. People still walk around the street with open containers (“not just allowed, but encouraged!”). Fewer people may take advantage of those hours on a Monday than a weekend, but Jade still winds up arm in arm with two service industry workers getting off their jobs. That’s what that life is. Work hard, party hard, until you’re too old.
Or get out.
But neither seems to expect that.
Emily was lucky.
Celia: They’ll get out of this encounter, at least, tempting though it is to drain the two men dry and leave them nothing but decent-looking corpses to be found by the morning sun. It’s a lot of blood.
Like, a lot of blood.
But she’s not going to kill someone—two someones—when she’d just told Roderick she’s trying to be a better person, when she has seen firsthand what happens when “Jade” comes out too frequently.
She contents herself with drinking from both under the guise of being shared, amused to find the trace hints of liquor in their systems. Someone was naughty at work this evening. It’s enough to make her giggly when the clothes come off, enough to let her relax and enjoy the experience with one in front and one behind. She bleeds herself halfway through to save it for later, either for herself or the juice she promised Pete.
Blood never goes to waste.
When it’s done she leaves them with a final kiss on the cheek, wishes them good night, and heads home to play doctor.
GM: It’s easy to imagine both licks approving of her restraint.
She finds Dani in the dining room hard at work on her own laptop, law textbooks spread out, most of the other boxes still packed. She’s changed into some leggings and a top that look like hers, too.
Celia: The doctor lets herself in, playing the role of “Jade’s trusted doctor friend” when she announces herself to Danielle before approaching.
“Miss Kalani sent me. I am Dr. Dicentra.” Her voice comes out from behind the mask that hides her false face. “She said I am to meet with Miss Garrison and Mrs. Flores.”
GM: “Oh, hi, Dr. Dicentra,” Dani says, rising. “My name’s Danielle. It’s really nice to meet a friend of Miss Kalani’s.”
She doesn’t offer a hand to shake.
“Where would be best for you to work?”
Celia: “Danielle,” the doctor echoes. Dicentra probably doesn’t like thin-bloods more than any other true-blooded lick, but nothing colors her voice. Doctors have the fortune of being neutral in politics and personal matters, she thinks. The mask doesn’t move, though; she could be sneering or smiling and no one would know.
Anyone else would probably tell her she’s wrong. But she’s Jade’s friend.
“A table, couch, or bed will suffice.”
“Though the mark you are to receive is small; you could stay there, if you’d prefer.”
GM: “Okay. Why don’t we do a couch, since you probably won’t want me to move my arms anyway.” Danielle heads to the living room with her, removes her top, and lays down on the couch.
“Can it be anywhere?”
Celia: “It can be.”
GM: “Okay, how about my shoulder blade? I’m studying to be a lawyer and tattoos are a no.”
“Can it look like anything?”
Celia: “Your shoulder blade will suffice, though I will caution you against wearing something that shows off the area. Tank tops. Sleeveless dresses. Swimsuits. And so long as it represents what I am infusing you with, it can look like anything. Shadow dancing. Did Jade explain?”
GM: Dani nods. “Ah, can I not ever show it off? I was mainly worried about what I’d wear to work.”
Celia: “You can show it off. I only meant for your peace of mind regarding visible tattoos.”
GM: “Okay. I’m all right with it on my shoulder. I won’t be showing that off at my job.”
“Would Lady Justice count as representative?”
She gives a short laugh. “Little obvious, but I’ve never thought of getting a tattoo before.”
Celia: “The art of shadow dancing is to blend. To obscure who you are and meld into the shadows. To pass unseen, without a trace, beneath the notice of others. To wear a new mask and become anyone. Explain how Lady Justice fits this idea for you and I will see it done.”
GM: “Because this is what I have to do still live the life I want,” Dani answers, resolutely. “The… Camarilla’s existing legal institutions are not equitable, and do not protect my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. To receive justice, I must hide.”
Celia: Dicentra considers the explanation. Finally, she nods.
“As you will.”
GM: “Maybe work Lady Justice wearing a hood, too?”
Celia: “Lady Justice is blind,” Dicentra says slowly, “but for this, I think, she will need her eyes to see the injustice of your situation so that she might harbor you from those who wish you ill. A hood to conceal her face, as this conceals yours. Very well, Danielle.”
GM: Dani shakes her head. “Justice needs to be blind, or she’s not just.”
“Maybe she’ll take longer to get where she needs. But she’ll get there.”
Celia: It’s not her body. Dicentra doesn’t push the issue. She tells Dani that there will be pain and then begins her work.
Tattoos are nothing more than ink injected beneath the epidermis and into the dermis itself. Dicentra has done this sort of work before; most recently with Roderick Durant, who had, surprisingly, not requested a similar sort of “justice” motif for his mark.
A tattoo artist’s machine can pierce the skin up to three-thousand times per minute to deliver the ink beneath the skin. Dicentra is no machine, but the gifts of Caine serve her well this evening. She breaks the skin over and over and over again to deliver the pigment as needed, etching out the shape of a hooded lady justice. A second pass fills it in with color or black ink as Dani requests. Red is a popular color, though Dicentra often warns her clients that it is not so common among the kine and will stick out to others.
Dicentra does not provide half-baked work. When it’s done, the tattoo looks freshly healed; there will be no peeling like the kine have, no lotion that needs be applied. Just smooth skin now illustrated by the chosen image.
GM: Dani gives a hissed sound of pain at first and clenches a cushion, but it’s not too bad. The shoulders have few nerve endings and Dicentra does quick work.
Dani asks her about herself as she works. Has she been doing this for long? How does she know Jade?
Celia: The lies come easily. Dicentra is happy to distract her client with chatter.
She has been offering body modifications for a very long time. She does everything from facial reconstruction to unwanted parts removal (she has had a number of trans clients, she explains) to smoothing things over for Kindred who no longer want to deal with the nightly hassle of shaving or cutting their hair.
“We don’t all die as we wish to.”
She says that she met Jade at the beginning of the lick’s Requiem. The lick caught her eye at a Toreador guild function; while another of the clan rolled their eyes at her playing with foundation and blush, Dicentra saw potential. She took Jade under her wing and has served as a mentor of sorts, though they have since become fast friends.
There are other services she provides. Almost anything with the body, such as the mask that Jade has commissioned for Danielle. It is not yet ready; Dicentra wanted to speak to Danielle personally to suss out what sort of appearance she would like.
GM: Danielle is very interested to hear all of that and has many questions, both about Kindred physiology and the night doctor’s relationship to Jade.
“I’m happy you were there for her. She’s been a mentor for me, too.”
“Hm, I’m not picky, beyond ‘not ugly,’” says Dani at the question of how her mask should look. “Of all that’s changing is my face, right? Maybe something that goes well with a longer, darker wig.”
Celia: “I can work within those parameters. It will be delivered shortly. And yes, she said as much.”
Dicentra finally pulls away and offers Danielle a hand mirror so she can check it out in the bathroom.
GM: “It looks wonderful!” Danielle exclaims with a smile. “Thank you so much!”
“Can I hug you? I’ve heard that shaking hands is a no, so…”
Celia: She’s accepted more intimate forms of gratitude. She allows Danielle to hug her; she doesn’t even pretend that it bothers her, letting the thin-blood thing remain just another far-off problem for the girl.
“She told me about your situation,” Dicentra says once it ends.
GM: Danielle gives her a grateful squeeze.
“Then I guess you know how thankful I am. This’ll let me still become a lawyer.”
Celia: “I am happy to be of service. Should you require further services, Jade can contact me.”
“Will you send Mrs. Flores down?”
GM: She nods. “Of course. Be a sec.”
Dani disappears, then returns with a somewhat frumpy-looking Diana who hasn’t had time to shower or do her hair and face, though she’s changed into a blouse and skirt. She smiles when she sees Dicentra and attempts to greet her with a hug.
“Thank you so much for comin’ so late, doctor!”
Celia: It would be rude of her to turn the woman away when she just accepted a hug from Danielle. She hugs Diana in greeting.
“Good evening, Mrs. Flores.” She offers the same sort of introduction that she had given Dani, though she does not mention the name “Jade.”
GM: Diana takes that all in with a nod.
“It’s very nice to meet you, doctor. Can we get you anything to drink or munch on while you’re here?”
Celia: The doctor laughs.
“Unless you are offering to replace the juice I will spend working on you, I believe I will decline.”
GM: Diana looks thoughtful. “That seems only fair, if you’re workin’-”
“Was, ah, that not paid for?” Dani asks, seeming to notice Jade’s name not coming up.
Celia: “She and I have an arrangement,” Dicentra tells Danielle, “though it does not include blood.” Amused, she turns back to Diana. “Most licks will not turn down the offer.”
GM: “Okay, so it’s only polite?” Diana nods. “Well, why don’t we-”
“I don’t think you need to,” says Dani.
Celia: Dicentra inclines her head toward Danielle.
“She is correct, Mrs. Flores.”
GM: “Well, all right. But just let me know if you get hungry, you are helping us out.”
Celia: “We are always hungry.”
GM: “I think she’ll be fine, too,” says Dani.
“Well, I’m sorry. That doesn’t sound too fun.” Diana looks sympathetic.
Celia: “Did she not explain that to you?”
GM: “Oh, she did. It’s just somethin’ else to hear from someone else, you know?”
The trio make their way to the couch in short enough order, Dani and Dicentra explaining what to expect. Diana nods, removes her blouse, and lays down.
“Oh, gosh, what to ask for… this seems so naughty, gettin’ a tattoo. So… rebellious.”
“Let’s maybe do it on my back, so my kids don’t get any ideas?”
Celia: “That will be a good spot for it. Do you know what sort of mark you would like? It is meant to represent shadow dancing. Perhaps a pair of ballet shoes? She tells me you are a dancer.”
GM: Diana nods. “That’s just what I was thinkin’! A pair of pointe shoes, a ballerina, or maybe a flower. I can’t decide.”
“How well does a flower represent shadow dancing, you think?” asks Dani.
“Hm, I suppose not so well,” says Diana. “It was for my name. But I’d be happy with pointe shoes or a ballerina.”
Celia: “If you would like a flower, we can make a flower. There are some that bloom at night: the moonflower, the night phlox, the angel’s trumpet. Or perhaps, should you be able to look past the name, the Hellebore. Unlike most florals, they can bloom in the middle of winter when other plants still shake beneath the soil. They are hardy things, able to survive weather that would kill the more delicate species, root and stem. Though pretty, they protect themselves well; even animals will not eat from their leaves.”
Dicentra gives Diana a long look.
“It is also called the Christmas rose, and has a home in Greek mythology. It was thought to cure madness.”
GM: “Oh, now that is inspiring…” Diana murmurs. “Hm, how about we do both? A hellebore, with the silhouette of a ballerina with her arms raised in the center? Or maybe the hellebore for her tutu?”
Celia: “That would be fitting. I can do either.”
GM: “Okay. Let’s do… oh,” she chuckles, “it’s hard to decide.”
Celia: “It can be both, Mrs. Flores. Tattoos are deeply personal things that can have plenty of meaning. I can build an entire bouquet for you with the ballerina.”
GM: “Oh, perfect, then! But would it be a very big tattoo? I don’t want it to take up too much of my back, when my kids see me at the beach or pool.”
Celia: “It will be small enough to conceal, Mrs. Flores.”
GM: “Okay, that sounds like a winner, then. Ballerina bouquet!”
“Ballerina bouquet,” Dani repeats, smiling.
Diana gives a little laugh. “This feels just so rebellious, a tattoo…”
Celia: Before she begins, she takes a moment to heat the blood she had reserved. She is not yet close to the edge, but she is too close to risk around a house full of sleeping potential victims.
She takes one draught, just enough to slake the beginnings of hunger, and saves the rest for later.
Then her work begins. As before, her fingers blur across the surface of the skin, using a needle to pierce the flesh to deposit tiny dots of pigment across Diana’s back. She puts the mark in a small, easy to conceal spot near the small of her back, close to where the line of her panties would ordinarily rest. It will be concealed by anything the woman wears, but will be enough to protect her.
Dicentra builds the story of the ballerina into her work. The hellebore takes center stage as the outline and the ballerina’s skirt, but the other flowers have a place as well: the rose of her daughter’s clan, the aforementioned moonflower, the angel’s trumpet that also blooms at night. The ballerina stands en pointe in the center of the image, one leg lifted as if at any moment she will leap off the skin. Her arms form a perfect circle above her head, where more tiny petals have been placed.
GM: Diana whimpers under the needle’s prick, at first, but the lower back has few nerve endings and Dani holds her hand. Dani takes a picture of the tattoo with her phone so she can see the final result.
“Oh my goodness…” she murmurs when she sees it. “This is just, this is just absolutely gorgeous! She looks like she’s about to jump right off my skin… and a good thing, too, I want to ask if I can borrow that fabulous costume!”
“You do beautiful work, Dr. Dicentra, thank you so much!” she exclaims, hugging the leather-clad doctor.
Celia: Dicentra accepts the second hug from Diana, smiling beneath her mask. Her Beast had not even minded the work.
“You are very welcome, Mrs. Flores. I am happy to be of assistance with this. This should flavor both of your blood to taste mortal so that those like me, or those with our gifts, cannot pick up on you.”
“There is one more thing I have been asked to pass along to you both.”
GM: “Perfect,” Diana nods. “Practical and pretty! I’ll give your business five stars over Yelp,” she winks.
“What’s that, in any case?”
Celia: Dicentra laughs at Diana’s words. If only there were a Yelp for vampire services. Perhaps someone will create one to keep their kind honest.
She can imagine the sort of horror stories that would appear on there.
“Earlier this evening the memories of your status were removed from the ghouls in the home. Danielle was allowed to keep hers at Miss Kalani’s behest. She is tied up this evening and will not be home to tell you, but asked me to pass it along.”
GM: “Oh. Okay,” Diana says. She looks more bummed not to see Celia than anything else. “Lips zipped around them all, in that case?”
Celia: “Yes, Mrs. Flores. She will be around tomorrow to touch base. I believe that you can return home soon.”
GM: “Maybe that’ll make Reggie hit on you less,” Dani mutters.
“Ugh.” Diana pulls a face, then turns back to the night doctor. “Did she say it’d be okay for me to go into work today?”
Celia: “Yes. You are free to return to work.”
GM: “Wonderful. Thanks so much for lettin’ us know, I’m sure you have lots of clients and things you’d rather do than play messenger.”
Celia: Briefly, Dicentra explains how the tattoos work to conceal what they are, and how the women must “activate” them.
But she shakes her head at Diana’s words.
“I was coming here regardless, and these sorts of messages cannot be conveyed electronically.”
GM: Both of them listen attentively and ask a few questions, then repeat their thanks that they can go back to their lives.
Celia: “Should you need anything in the future, she can contact me.”
GM: “Ah, speakin’ of… I’m sure she already asked, so maybe its’s silly of me to, but can you do anything for old injuries? I have this bum leg…”
Celia: “We have spoken of it. Yes and no. My work does not go bone deep, but I can can fix the scar tissue.” Dicentra nods toward Diana’s cut arm, then holds out a hand. “There, for example.” She’s glad she saw it; she had almost forgotten.
“I have colleagues who can do bone work. I plan to soon learn; there are few of us who do these sorts of things with the bodies, and teachers often jealously guard their secrets. I have put her in contact with one of them to see about the leg. Unless you wish me to remove the bone and replace it with something else entirely.”
GM: Diana offers her arm so the doctor can take a closer look.
“Oh. That sounds a little scary,” she murmurs. “Maybe see what you hear back from your colleagues. I’ve had it 13 years, I can have it a lil’ longer. Thank you so much for all you’ve done, again.”
“Yes, thank you so much,” Dani repeats. “I don’t know if you’ll ever need anything from us, but if you do…”
Celia: A pass of her hands removes the scar from the tissue. It looks as if she had never cut herself. Her blood sings inside her body; the girl beneath the mask is pleased that she can finally offer the service to her mother, regardless of what face she wears.
How can she be a monster when her very actions show her to be a healer?
“Keep yourselves safe. I know how much she cares for both of you.”
GM: “Oh, that looks wonderful, doctor! It’s just, all gone! Thank you so much!” Diana exclaims.
She gives Dicentra another hug.
“You keep yourself safe. She says how rough the whole… Camarilla is, but you’re a good person, I can tell.”
“And I’ll echo what Dani said, you ever need us, just give a holler!”
Celia: It’s difficult not to slip in the face of such love, but Dicentra plays the role that she has cast for herself. She hugs both of the women again and thanks them for their well-wishes, saying that “you never know when you need a friend.”
If they have no further questions, she takes her leave back into the night, a little lighter than when she had seen it last.
Tuesday night, 15 March 2016, AM
Celia: A gray cat sits on the side of the road near Mid-City, licking a paw and stroking its face and whiskers. Its color keeps it almost invisible to the predators in the night, and a trick with shadows and auras occludes it from another sort of predator.
The cat flicks its tail as it waits.
It had almost not come to this spot. It had almost allowed the girl to call the boy and cancel; the cat remembers what had happened the last time it had spent the day. But the idea of loose hunters and the boy sleeping alone, without the cat to defend it and slaughter the birds that might come for it to steal it away, does not sit well with the cat. The boy belongs to it. And it has not yet found the rat.
The girl, too, has her own reasons for coming. She’s rather fond of her tongue. She doesn’t like the idea of living in chains. She’s curious, like her counterpart, about a whole host of details that she can get to the bottom of with a simple conversation.
So the cat sits on the side of the road, cleaning its paws and flicking its tail. It waits for its boy.
GM: That cat doesn’t wait long.
The boy’s car pulls up. The boy gets out. He’s got a cat bag in hand. One of those more comfortable, less claustrophobic kitty carriers.
“Hey, puss,” he smiles, kneeling down to scratch the cat’s ears.
Celia: It might be less claustrophobic, but the cat does not like the idea of a carrier at all. The cat is a spoiled thing; it likes laps and wants its boy to be close.
The cat purrs once the boy touches it, arching its back and winding around his feet the way cats do. It rubs its face against his fingers, marking him as belonging to it.
GM: The boy laughs, pets the cat’s back, and moves is face closer as he scratches both sides of its neck, just under the whiskers.
“Hey, puss,” he coos again.
Celia: The cat’s eyes close in contentment. Cats do not have the same sort of blink reflex that humans do, and this cat, who was once a Kindred and before that a woman, does not feel its loss. But cats communicate through their eyes just as much as any other animal; the slow, languid blink now conveys its affection for the boy. It purrs again, its body vibrating, and leans in to touch its nose to the boy’s.
GM: He smiles as he accepts the kitty kiss, then pulls the cat against his chest. He nuzzles the back on its head with his chin, strokes the hair leading from its own chin to its chest. His other hand starts to scratch the belly.
“You’re very affectionate.”
Celia: Cats are very affectionate.
And the girl is very affectionate.
Together they’re a cuddle monster.
The cat meows at its boy, as if in agreement, and its body turns to liquid in the boy’s arms as the belly rubs begin. The boy can feel the depths of its affection in the way it purrs. It blinks again, one slow movement.
This, it thinks, is the life.
GM: “I could do this forever,” he smiles, his hands scratching back and forth across the belly. Back and forth.
“But the sun’s coming up soon, puss. How about we continue this back at my place, on a nice soft bed?”
He opens the cloth carrier and sets it in front of the cat.
Celia: The cat meows at the carrier, a plaintive, wheedling sound. It turns its face away.
GM: “It’s really comfy,” says the boy, scratching its head. “It’s not like most carriers, hard and plastic. This one is like being in a cardboard box.”
“You love boxes, don’t you?”
Celia: Cats like boxes, that’s true.
But the girl likes laps more.
It doesn’t want to be shut in a box. It darts behind the boy’s legs, as if that will keep it safe from the carrier.
GM: He turns around and pets down the cat’s back some more. “Other option is you sit on my lap when I’m driving.”
Celia: Oh no.
Not the lap.
These are the things the cat would say, if it could. It’s sassy like that.
But it doesn’t make human sounds, so it purrs instead.
GM: “All right,” he chuckles. “Come on.” He hoists the carrier’s strap over his shoulder, picks up the cat, and holds it against his chest as he opens the car door. He gets in and sets the cat down on his lap, closes the door, and takes the wheel.
Celia: The cat takes its time making itself comfortable. It kneads his lap with its paws, turns around three times, and finally settles. It rubs its face against the boy’s belly while he drives.
GM: He smiles and pets the cat with one hand, keeping the other on the wheel. They drive to an apartment complex in Mid-City called the Crescent Club. It’s a nice building with an outdoor pool that looks a lot like The Preserve did. Gentrifying. He parks the car and gets out with the cat cradles in both arms, empty carrier strapped over his back.
“You’re so spoiled.”
He rubs his chin against its head.
“You need a name.”
Celia: It meows in agreement.
GM: “Maybe Smokey?”
Celia: The cat flicks its tail.
GM: “Smokey it is.” He rubs its head again.
Celia: The cat thinks the boy is not very good at cat language. It does not love the name Smokey.
GM: “Smokey, for your gray fur.”
Celia: The cat bops its boy on the nose with its paw.
GM: “Okay, that’s a no, then,” he smiles.
“Luna, for the moon? That’s gray too. And you’re pretty nocturnal.”
Celia: Luna is nice. The cat purrs.
GM: “Luna. Okay. It’s good to give you a name, Luna,” he says, planting a kiss on its head.
Celia: Luna rubs its cheek on the boy’s face and chin as he carries it inside.
GM: He takes the elevator up and unlocks his unit. It’s a nice and tastefully furnished space. Already completely unpacked with all of the things from his old apartment. Celia might suppose it’s no surprise he’d be done fast.
But what does Luna care.
Celia: Luna heard mention of a soft bed.
GM: He sets down the carrier when they’re inside, takes off his shoes (without his hands), and carries the cat to the soft double-sized bed.
“See, isn’t that a big fluffy comforter?”
He takes off his coat and clothes, stripping down to his boxers.
“Being dead has some perks. Don’t need to do the laundry as often.”
Celia: Luna’s little feet do not make a sound when they touch down on the soft comforter on the bed. It rolls around on the space, frolicking as cats do, and only pauses to watch the boy disrobe. The girl inside wonders if the boy would like her to come out, but he seems as if he might need the affection of a cat more than the demands of a girl, and so she stays inside. Luna meows at his mention of laundry, evidently amused at the thought.
When he comes near Luna rubs itself against his bare chest, purring all the while, and finally settles on his chest. Most cats sleep on their people because they like the rhythm of the heartbeat and the slow, steady breaths that they take, but Luna knows the boy is dead. It just wants to be close to him. It rubs its face against his chin.
GM: Roderick smiles and strokes Luna’s head. Pet-pet-pet goes the boy’s hand, from behind the cat’s ears to down across its back.
“Doesn’t have the same security as my old place, yet, but extra thick shades and drapes over the windows there.”
Celia: Luna meows at the boy, as if asking why he needs the security if the place is temporary. It seems content to remain a cat if he’s content talking to himself.
GM: “So I won’t be caught with my pants down if something happens,” he answers with a chuckle, stroking the cat. “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and all that.”
Celia: The cat purrs. It obviously accepts that answer. It uses its rough tongue to lick his chin, then rubs against him once more.
Luna likes being his pet.
Maybe the vision was a metaphor.
GM: Maybe the girl can stop it from coming to pass.
Maybe the Ravnos was full of shit anyway.
Maybe this will all work out.