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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Thirteen, Celia XVI

“Show me that you are strong.”
Donovan


Friday evening, 18 March 2016

Celia: Her sire can fuck off. She’s busy.

That’s what she wants to say. That’s what she wants to feel. That she’s busy. That she doesn’t need him. That she doesn’t want him.

She can taste the lie.

“Never mind,” she mutters to Emily, because walking off without a word is worse than suspicious. “Enjoy the pie.”

GM: Her feet are already carrying her away as she takes off in a brisk jog.

Emily awkwardly catches the dropped pie plate. Some of the whipped cream spills over her hand.

“Celia, are-” she calls, but Celia’s no longer looking at her. She’s darting off into the rain.

Celia: Why is he here. Why now. What does he want that couldn’t wait for the next few hours when she sees him at Elysium?

Her eyes dart to the house, where Dani, Henry, and her mother wait. And behind her, unprotected, Lucy and Emily. Fear takes hold of her heart, killing whatever had been there before. He can’t be here. She doesn’t have anything for him. There’s no news, no momentum, no anything for her to share.

He’s going to be mad.

He’s going to hit her.

Celia ducks around the corner, out of Emily’s sight.

He came. Why? Does that mean he…? She can’t even finish the thought.

How does he even expect her to get up there? She can’t fly, and she’s hardly about to scale the side of the house. Not in the rain. Not in these shoes.

GM: Celia’s eyes aren’t the first thing to dart to the house.

And she is scaling the house.

She’s taking off at a running jump. Grabbing the gutter. Rain pours over her. She kicks with her shoes, the heels making poor purchase against the house’s side, then kicks them off. She grasps and pulls. Her hands slip in the rain. She pulls. It’s good she weighs so little as the drain groans in protest. She hauls herself up, crawling onto the roof on her belly like a dog.

“Celia!” yells Emily. She quickly sets down the plate inside, closes the door, and takes off after her.

“Wh-”

She whirls to face the dark figure suddenly beside her. He’s dressed in the black, double-breasted trench coat she saw him in last, its style vaguely reminiscent of a Gestapo officer’s. He carries no umbrella. The rain pours down over his corpse-like, pitiless marble face, and finds it colder still. He still does not blink as the moisture runs down his eyes in tears he will never shed.

Those stormy orbs bore into hers.

“I was never here.”

“Your exchange with Celia upset you.”

“Return inside.”

Emily’s eyes glaze over as she walks away.

Celia: The sound of her name passing his lips makes her dead heart flutter.

GM: Then he’s gone from the courtyard.

He’s on the roof again.

Staring down at Celia, shoe-less and lying on her belly in wet clothes as the rain weeps over her.

:: Explain. ::

Celia: She’d had to get up somehow. And she’d almost started down after him when he’d appeared beside Emily.

She rises now, her eyes finding his face.

Wet clothing presses against her skin. The brief exposure to the rain flattens her hair, plastering it across the back of her neck, down her shoulders. Even her wild mane is no match for New Orleans weather.

Explain.

Explain what?

GM: His frigid gaze bores into hers, eyes as cold and lifeless as any shark’s.

She screamed out all her grief.

All her pain.

She summoned him here.

Through their blood tie.

His time is valuable.

She has not called him without purpose.

Has she?

Celia: She never feels so small as when she’s next to him.

Maybe it’s the bond that makes her take a step. Then another. Maybe it’s the bond that makes her reach out, fingers brushing against the fabric of his coat. The bond again that makes her close the distance.

Hit her.

He’s going to hit her.

He’s going to be mad that she called out to him. She didn’t mean to. She didn’t mean to summon him.

She might as well give him something to be mad about.

Celia presses her face against his wet chest. Her arms slide around the back of him. If he breaks them, at least she’ll have gotten to use them first.

She smooths over the fear of his anger when she addresses him within her mind. He doesn’t need to know how much doing this has cost her. How much it hurts.

:: Duquette’s childe has turned against her. Your sire is pleased with me. He wants me to take on an expanded role within his court. We’re meeting tomorrow to discuss. ::

A question dances through her mind—how can she best serve him with this step?

GM: Roderick’s chest is warm.

His hands gentle, for all their strength.

Her sire’s chest is not warm.

And his hands are not gentle.

His cold, rain-slick hands seize her wrists and pull them apart. His grip makes her want to cry out. It’s as vice-like as Carolla’s ever was. He holds her arms out to their fullest extent, leaving her torso splayed out to the rain. Vulnerable. Exposed.

:: You did not call me to relay this information. ::

:: You offer it in placation. ::

Celia: Why ask then.

Why ask if he already knows.

Anger flares inside her chest, hot and heavy despite his cool, close proximity. The grip on her wrists makes her arms scream; she presses her lips together to keep it inside. A thousand and one lies flash through her mind: reasons she called out, things she could tell him, plots she could offer. But the rain drops steadily down upon her throat and chest, exposed as they are, chipping away at the edges of her rage to reveal the deep, all-consuming grief beneath it.

He doesn’t want to hear about her pain. He doesn’t want to know that he could be—it doesn’t matter. She stops the thought before it can take hold, ripping it out root and stem. He could be. But he won’t be.

She doesn’t deny his accusation. She doesn’t tell him that it was the pain of breaking her lover that she sent spiraling down the line to him. That she did it anyway. For him.

It’s what he expects from her. Always.

Better to admit the truth and let him decide what he wants to do to her because of it. Better to not waste his time making him sift through lies. He will punish her for it or he won’t; all she can do now is lessen the blow.

:: Yes, sire. ::

She needed to see him tonight. She’d planned on it. But she can’t run into him in the halls of Elysium. Not now, with his sire’s favor hanging in the balance. The game of cat and mouse she might have played another night would not be tolerated this evening; they’d sniff it out for the clumsy attempt to reach him that it is. People would talk. His sire would doubt her. Doubt the place he has intended for her. She’d ruin everything if she tried to reach out to him at Elysium. Better that she called out, that he’s here now instead of then.

Helpless, she dangles in his grip, the tips of her toes the only part of her that touch the roof. How easily he could tear her literally limb from limb. She pushes through the pain of his hands on her body. Pushes through the pain of breaking her lover. Pushes through the pain of the knowledge that she will never be to him what he is to her. She searches for the bit of him he’d left inside of her that night, the ice cold, merciless side that blunts her emotions until they, too, fall like rain to splash against the roof in tiny little puddles. They can’t matter. She finds her anchor. Not the girl who died with her weak, uncontrollable outbursts and broken heart. Not the harpy’s childe with her barbed tongue and casual cruelty. No, not Celia. Not Jade.

Someone Else.

:: To try to catch your eye this evening at Elysium would tip our hand, as would calling upon you in your domain. There are other updates. ::

The method was crude. But effective. His presence before her now proves that. Not that she’ll ever try it again; she lets him know as much, sending a wordless apology spinning down the connection between their minds for the interruption to his evening.

GM: Perhaps her sire starts to reply. Perhaps he buys it, or at least overlooks it. Perhaps thoughts start to travel down the mental link.

Or perhaps Someone Else’s cold heart will be needed.

Her sire’s stormy eyes flicker away from her face at the sudden impact against the roof.

It’s Roderick.

There’s something about his face that looks worse than when she last saw him. Physically it looks the same. Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s the dark. It reminds Celia of the shadow over his own father’s face. He’s wearing his own overcoat, umbrella held in hand against the rain.

He looks and sees Celia held helplessly in the sheriff’s grip.

Without a word, he drops the umbrella and balls his fists.

He charges.

Celia: Ice grips her heart. Harder and colder than it had when her sire had summoned her to the roof. It takes hold and she sees the events play out:

Roderick charges the sheriff. Donovan takes his head off with the weapons she had given him. His body falls, crumbling to ash before it ever hits the ground. Celia is left alone to pick up the pieces of her broken Requiem.

No.

She doesn’t care how angry she is at him. She doesn’t care how crippled she has become by the pain of recent nights. She won’t let it happen. The bond makes her act: protect her sire.

But her heart makes her act too: protect her lover.

Her form twists, blurs, shifts. She’s a cat, and the sheriff’s grip slackens. She’s free. Luna lands on four paws, darting around the sheriff to launch herself forward—

And turns back into Celia halfway through the leap, momentum carrying her rain-slick form into Roderick before he can cross the distance between the pair of them.

GM: But it’s just like at the Dollhouse.

Too slow.

Slower than both of them.

Roderick’s form blurs across the roof, almost too fast for her to see.

Celia feels the release of pressure around her wrists, before she’s even finished transforming.

But she doesn’t see her sire’s move.

Just the results.

Suddenly, pale hands clasp around Roderick’s wrist.

Celia’s seen her dad do that martial arts move. You grab their whole arm, put your back to their chest, and hurl them over your shoulder to land back-first on the ground.

The sheriff only grabs Roderick’s wrist, and without any chest-to-back contact, uses the momentum of his charge to send him flying through the air like a ragdoll. The extra distance between their bodies is sure to give his impact that much extra force—made all the worse when she sees it’s Roderick’s chest slamming towards the roof, her sire having executed an impossible mid-air twist of the flying man’s arm that her father probably only wishes he had the reflexes and upper body strength to execute. Celia can already see what will happen next when Roderick’s chest hits the ground. The sheriff’s boot will stomp down mid-back, he’ll hold the Brujah’s arms pinned behind him, and the fight will already be over. He can stomp Roderick’s head apart like a pumpkin under his boots. Celia remembers the brutal power of those kicks her lover used to literally smash apart Carolla’s ribs, when he was buried under the tiger’s bulk. Is her sire that strong, too? Stronger? Just like that, one move, and Roderick is dead. The sheriff won’t even need to use his sword or bracers.

Celia: Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

For all the brains he claims to possess he’s nothing but an idiot when it comes to her and what he thinks he can do. Charging the sheriff. Why. Why?

The rain makes slick the roof beneath her bare feet. Her bare feet slip; rather than get between them she goes down hard to one knee, helpless to do anything but watch while her sire effortlessly pins the Brujah to the ground.

She knows well those heavy boots.

Remembers the crunch of the green-haired punk from what feels like a lifetime ago. His lifeless eyes. Her sire’s silent command to dispose of the body.

He can’t.

He can’t, he can’t, he can’t.

But he can. That’s the god awful truth. He can. And he will.

“No! Don’t, please—”

GM: But the Roderick so summarily staked at Cypress Grove was still a babe in the night.

It all happens too fast for Celia to follow, but the anatomy expert can surmise what did—that her lover executed his own mid-air contortion and somersault, this time one to make her ballerina parent green with envy, and sends his foot kicking into Donovan’s chest at an upward angle as he falls. It connects square with the sheriff’s center of gravity, sending him flying as Roderick hits the ground and spring-rolls into a fighting stance—except his foe already is flying. He hasn’t been thrown back at all. Donovan’s stiffened fingers drive into Roderick’s throat, seizing the opening from his split-second instinctive surprise at seeing the laws of gravity fail to affect his opponent. Celia’s lover gags under the crunch of bone but keeps his feet as he blurs backwards, fists raised in a boxer’s stance. Celia can see it in his defensive posture, in the look in his eyes. This is not a fight he thinks he can win.

“Ge… ou’! I’ll hol… ’im off!” Roderick rasps past his half-shattered throat.

Celia: He won’t, though. He’ll die. He’ll die trying, and the sheriff will catch her anyway, and then they’re both dead. Or maybe she’s not dead, maybe she’s just beaten to within an inch of her (un)life, maybe he just strings her up and uses her body as target practice, maybe he lets his ghouls have another go at her, but the result is the same: dead Roderick. Broken Celia.

But she runs.

She runs, because she can’t just stand there and watch. She runs, feet moving nimbly across the roof, blurring past her sire, throwing herself in his path in the momentary pause while the two size each other up.

Caroline had said he’s the worst sort of monster.

But he had shown her mercy once. Had shown her kindness. Compassion when she did not expect it. He had rescued her. Saved her.

It has to mean something.

It has to.

She’s not a fighter. Even on her best night. Even with the help of her tiger skin. And she can’t raise her fists against her sire; her very soul rebels at the thought.

But she can put herself between them. She can keep Roderick from launching an offensive assault against the sheriff. She can keep her sire from destroying him without destroying her too.

So she runs. She launches herself at Roderick. Not to attack, but to prevent him from it.

She puts herself between them. She puts her back to Roderick. She turns to face her sire, arms outstretched to protect the lick behind her.

“Mercy, Sheriff Donovan. Quarter, for the primogen’s childe.” For him, not for her. Roderick doesn’t know what he’d wandered into. What punishment is it to attack the sheriff? Whatever it is, she’ll take it in his stead. It’s not something she has to say. He knows.

It’s a gamble. Risking everything on the idea that somewhere inside of him there’s something that cares enough for her not to destroy her. That no matter his anger in this moment, no matter how disappointed he might be with her, he won’t strike that final blow to take her fully from the world. There’s something inside of him. Some part that wants her around. That wants her whole. Not broken.

Please. There has to be.

And then to Roderick, her very words a plea, “stand down. Go.

GM: But pleas have so rarely moved either of them.

Pleas for Roderick to abandon his lover to the sheriff’s cold mercies.

Pleas at all to the sheriff’s stone-like heart.

“GO!!!!” Roderick yells, and then suddenly Celia’s sailing through the air as he flings her. The Toreador’s last sight is of her sire’s dark form streaking towards Roderick, and then she hits the brick courtyard with a painful thump. The rain pours down around her as sounds of violence distantly echo from above, drowned out by the wind and the rain.

Just past the windows, she sees Dani, her mother, and Mr. Garrison eating pie around the dinner table. The dining room looks so warm and bright and dry as water patters against the glass. It looks a world away from the midnight battle raging between monsters atop the roof.

Mr. Garrison has no idea his son is up there, fighting for his unlife.

For her unlife.

Celia: Sometimes gamblers lose.

Celia feels the loss when her back hits the brick courtyard. If she were mortal the landing would be enough to force the air from her lungs. But she’s not. She’s dead. She’s on her feet immediately, springing upward, sprinting through the rain to the front of the house.

Stupid, to think that she could stop the sheriff from attacking Roderick, or stop Roderick from protecting her. No, she probably can’t stop the fight on her own, but she still needs to find a way to stop it. She can find a way to weather her sire’s anger at a later date; losing Roderick tonight means she loses everything, and not even the pull of the bond will stop her from seeing that he makes it out.

Her eyes dart down the block. Tours by NOLA Locals is just around the corner, and they close soon. Now, if she’s not mistaken. Which means their last tour and all their customers should be leaving… now. There they are, a whole group of them. No refunds, and everyone expects rain in New Orleans: it’s part of the experience. No excuses to not go.

Celia rounds the corner, waving her arms in excitement as the group and shouting out, “dollar shots! They’re giving out dollar shots at Cosimo’s!” Who can resist cheap booze? But she puts the power of her charm behind the words, pulling out all the stops. Cosimo’s Bar is a block away, right down Burgundy. They’ll have to pass the feuding licks on the roof. And she’ll be there, loudly amping them up, making their large group presence known to the two vampires on the roof who surely don’t want to be seen.

That’s the first rule of being a vampire: you don’t get caught being a vampire.

GM: Emily always found that strange. “Why is there a tour group here, this far from the Disneyland area of the Quarter? This is where people are supposed to fucking live in peace!” She did not like living near them or all the noise they made. She’d cynically speculated that the tour group was located here to cash in on the “by locals” angle. “Because they can say, look at us, we’re located where locals actually live.” Diana thought they weren’t so bad, but tried to plan Lucy’s naps and feedings around when a tour group wasn’t likely to pass by. The family eventually learned to predict it.

So did Celia.

Rain is part of the local experience, but the umbrella-holding crowd of tourists doesn’t seem to like it judging by their faces. Celia overhears the tour guide talking about an “ovulus” that can be used to commune with ghosts in VR, but the Toreador’s commanding sales pitch swiftly rolls over the woman’s tall tales, and none of the kine seem to care she’s running around barefoot without an umbrella as Arikel’s powers of bewitchment roll off of her in waves. Who can resist cheap shots. The tour guide shoots Celia and irritated starts trying to corral the tourists back onto their planned route, but far more of them look like they’re listening to the Toreador than to her. Actually, pretty much all of them.

The only question is whether Celia can bring them past the Flores house faster than her sire can take off Roderick’s head.

That’s also when Celia notices her mother—out looking for her?—clad in a red raincoat and carrying an umbrella. Diana doesn’t question what her daughter is doing, but just starts calling out, “Dollar shots this way, y’all! Come get ’em! Come get ’em!” while smiling and waving. She doesn’t jump around, not in heels and with her leg. But the schoolteacher’s long-practiced voice at corralling large groups of kids turns the eager flow of drink-seeking tourists into a practical stampede. The tour guide gives up and starts following the derailed tour group too. The dozen-odd gaggle of loudly and excitedly talking people are soon all around the Flores house.

“Oh, my goodness, sweetie, your shoes!” Celia’s mother frets as she gets the umbrella over her daughter’s head, then frowns. “Is something goin’ on…?”

Celia looks towards the house’s roof, her nocturnal vision cutting easily through the gloom. She sees Roderick’s horrifically destroyed, blood-crusted face rapidly mending itself back to pristine wholeness as he leaps down. Her sire is nowhere in sight.

For now.

Celia: For now.

Celia smiles at her mom as if nothing is wrong, moving the spotlight off of her and onto someone else in the group. The tour guide, maybe; she can tell who it is by how the woman is scowling, and with any luck the little boost Celia supplies will give them the chance to re-wrangle her group.

Either way, it’s not Celia’s problem anymore.

“Fighting,” she says in a low voice to her mother. “Go inside, I’ll be in. Two minutes. Friend is in the back.”

Her clothes are ruined. Soaked.

“Tell them the cat got out,” Celia suggests. It’ll explain her disappearance, the wet clothing. Good thing she and her mother are the same size; she can find something in her closet.

She ducks away, moving into the backyard to find Roderick.

GM: “Ok, I’ll keep them busy!” Celia’s mom nods, heading back in.

But she passes her daughter the umbrella anyway.

Celia: Little late for it to keep her dry, but she takes it all the same on her way into the back with a rueful smile.

She looks up towards the night sky and wherever her sire is.

That’s all she needs. Gone for now.

She’ll figure something out for later.

She always does.


Friday evening, 18 March 2016

GM: Roderick waits until the seemingly kine woman has disappeared. He doesn’t look much better than Celia. His soaked clothes are also torn, his hair is a complete mess, and even the rain can’t fall fast enough to wipe off the blood over his face, but he tries his best.

“Sheriff took off,” he says shortly. “Too much attention. But he can fly. He’ll be back.”

“We’re outclassed enough he can afford to let us go for a little.”

Celia: Celia agrees with a nod.

“Come inside. Mom keeps spare clothes for Logan. She won’t mind. Dani and your dad are here.”

GM: He shakes his head. “We don’t have time. We can’t stay here.”

“Also, our parents both think I’m dead.”

Celia: Celia gestures at his face. They’d never changed it back.

“Oh look, problem solved.”

“Attacked the fucking sheriff,” she mutters. “You’re an idiot.”

GM: He touches it as if remembering.

“This is going to take some getting used to.”

“Figured I’d abandon you to him and run away. You’re a bigger idiot.”

Celia: “I would have handled it.”

GM: He shakes his head.

“We need to go. Right now. Take everyone to the Evergreen. It’s a full house on Friday nights. Even better that the usual Kindred crowd won’t be there.”

Celia: “How are we explaining that to your dad?”

GM: “Figure something out. Right now, it’s the safest place in the Quarter from the sheriff. Even he won’t just barge in there.”

Celia: “Can we send him home? Sheriff has no beef with him.”

GM: “Sure. Hurry.”

Celia: “Come inside,” Celia says again. “So you’re not a sitting duck out here.”

She’s already moving towards the door.

GM: “This is going to take longer if you’re introducing everyone to your boyfriend. You need to get them out. Right now.”

Celia: “Don’t die.”

Then she’s gone, slipping into the house with an apologetic smile as she drips all over the floor.

GM: “…she wasn’t kidding about you chasing down Victor,” says Dani as a soaked Celia enters the dining room.

Celia: “I’m so sorry,” she says to the gathering at large. “Went to give Emi the pie and the cat ran right past me. Had to climb a tree to get it back. Poor Lucy was bawling her eyes out.”

“So much for this dress,” she says with a laugh. “Mom, I’m gonna grab something from your closet.”

She waits until Mr. Garrison looks away to make a face at Dani, a nod to follow her out.

GM: “You should’ve let us know,” says Mr. Garrison critically. “You shouldn’t have had to do that.”

“Oh, you’re such a gentleman, Henry,” smiles Diana. “At your age.”

“And feel free, sweetie! My closet’s yours.” Her eyes look the slightest bit fretful, but she turns back to their guest.

“Danielle, why are you leaving our host’s table?” Mr. Garrison asks, even more critically.

“Oh, I just thought I’d help Celia pick something. Mrs. Flores, do you mind? I’ve had enough pie anyways, I think,” answers Dani.

“Please, go on! We can clean up here,” says Diana, her eyes briefly meeting Celia’s as if to confirm.

Celia: Celia waves a hand.

“Didn’t think it’d take quite that long, Mr. Garrison. But next time I’ll leave the cat rescuing to you.” She smiles, meets her mother’s eyes with a tiny nod, and moves off.

GM: “…the cats hate you. What’s going on?” asks Dani.

Celia: “Trouble,” Celia says tightly. She pulls off her wet dress as soon as she’s out of eyesight of the table, picking up the pace. “We need to evacuate. Get your dad to go home. I’m taking my family to the Evergreen. Tell him… you’re sick. Go with him.”

GM: “I want to help,” says Dani. “He can get home on his own. Unless it’s after him?”

“In which case, I want you with us. Because I’m a useless abortion.”

Celia: “No. I just don’t have a better way of getting him to leave.”

“You’re not useless,” Celia says. But she doesn’t have time to argue. She grabs the first dress she sees—a floral-printed sundress—and pulls it on.

“I don’t think he’s going to want to go to the Evergreen.”

GM: Flower-themed clothes are a common staple in her mother’s closet.

“The Evergreen… that’s that VIP club, right?”

Celia: “Yeah. I don’t even know if you’ll be able to get in.”

“Not many licks there tonight.”

“But it’s Savoy’s stronghold. Trouble won’t reach us there.”

GM: “Tattoo makes me mortal, doesn’t it? I’m the DA’s daughter.”

“But you’re right. He hates clubs.”

“He just wants to go home now and go to bed early.”

Celia: “It’s just your brother and I in trouble. I think we should just go. I just don’t want to leave everyone unprotected.”

GM: “I guess that won’t hurt. I’ll get my dad out and tell your mom you’ll fill her in?”

Celia: “Yeah. Fuck. Fuck me. This is all my fault. If I hadn’t gone outside. Jesus.”

No time.

GM: “How’s this your faul… never mind, I’ll get my dad out.”

Dani heads back out.

Celia: Celia finds a pair of flats to slip on. Easier to run in. She rummages through the dresser for the spare clothes she’d told Roderick about. Hardly his usual fare, but it’ll do. She shoves it into a bag.

She follows Dani back out to the dining room.

GM: She finds their parents saying a hurried good night as Dani rubs her forehead with a bleary look.

Celia: “Oh no,” Celia murmurs, “feel better, Dani. Mr. Garrison, it was so nice to see you. I hope we can do this again soon.”

GM: Diana nods along. “…I’m so sorry to end the night so abruptly, Henry, maybe we can finish Stephen’s story over another dinner?”

“I’ll look at my schedule,” says Mr. Garrison. “Thank you for your hospitality, Diana, Celia. It was an excellent dinner.”

“You’re very welcome, we’d be happy to make y’all another,” winks Celia’s mom as she shows the pair out. “Dani, get better soon.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Flores.”

“All right, good night, y’all.”

“Good night.”

Celia: Celia echoes the sentiments on their way out.

GM: Diana turns back to Celia as she closes the door.

“Okay, sweetie, what do we need to do?”

“And Lucy. Is Lucy in danger.” Her face grows immediately grave.

Celia: “Get out. Rod says Evergreen, but—” Celia shakes her head. “I don’t know how to explain that to anyone. Emily. Lucy. I think… hotel? Or I have a safe house…”

GM: “I’m not sure how I’d explain a hotel, sweetie.” Celia’s mom thinks. “Maybe for some last night drinks at the bar, then we stay the night after we have too many to drive back?”

“But, darn, she knows I don’t drink.”

“And taking Lucy out for that seems odd.”

Celia: “Tell her Henry made you feel pretty and it ended early and you want to go out?”

“Girls night?”

GM: “Okay. Girls means all girls. Any men who want to hit on me should know exactly what they’re gettin’ into?”

Celia: “Yeah. That should do it.”

“I’m sorry, Mom. It’s not normally like this.”

GM: “It’s okay, sweetie! Better safe than sorry!”

“How’s the Monteleone, with its carousel bar?”

Celia: She considers, then nods.

“Should work. I don’t think they’re looking for you. Just me.”

“Stephen is here. I’m going to bring him in to change. His face is different.”

GM: “All right. Feel free to take any clothes or whatever you need. I’ve got some of Logan’s I was mending for him.”

Celia: “Got ’em. Go get the girls. We need to hurry.”

Celia does just that, moving toward the door to wave Roderick inside.

GM: “Okay! Text me when you’re there, sweetie!” her mom calls, then heads out to Emily’s room.

She does not see her lover outside.

Celia: Her eyes take on the telltale glow of the Beast within while she scans the darkness. He has to be here.

“Roderick,” she hisses.

GM: She sees nothing.

Celia: “Roderick!”

GM: Her only answer is the pounding rain.

Celia: He can’t be gone. He can’t be.

She steps out into the night.

GM: The rain falls over her newly-dry dress.

Celia: No, no, no.

She was only inside for a minute.

He can’t have come and gone in that time. He can’t have.

She shakes her head, denying what she knows is true: he did.

Celia’s newly dry dress is only exposed to the rain for a minute, just long enough for her fingers to blur across her face to turn her back into Jade. Then it disappears with the rest of her as her entire form shifts, taking on the form of the nightjar.

Her sire isn’t the only one who can fly.

Her wings beat against the air to lift her into the sky, sending the bird sailing through the rain.

She’ll find him.


Friday evening, 18 March 2016

GM: The nightjar takes to the skies. The bird notes several details.

First, the extra car that had been parked near her mother’s house is gone.

Second, the car is driving through the Quarter, a grimly resolved look on Roderick’s already grimmer face.

Third, the sheriff is flying after the car from dozens of feet up, like an enormous black bat.

Celia: That stupid motherfucker.

She’s going to kill him. She’s going to save him from the sheriff and then she’s going to kill him.

The nightjar soars after the car and her sire, beating its wings furiously through the air to keep up. It rips through the options in its mind: dive bomb the sheriff. Distract him. Get Roderick to safety. Weather his anger. Dive bomb the car. Take on the sheriff together.

Roderick has to be going to the Evergreen. That’s what he said, right? Evergreen.

And what is he going to do when he gets there? Who will he run his mouth to?

Idiots, the both of them, she could have handled it.

The nightjar makes its decision. It tucks its wings and dives through the storm toward the lick flying after the car, swooping down with the intent to land upon his back or shoulder, wherever it can find purchase with its tiny claws.

GM: Too fast to follow, Donovan seizes the bird out of mid-air. Pale and rain-slick hands mercilessly crush in the tiny avian’s throat. His flight does not slow.

:: Prove you are more useful alive than dead. ::

Celia: The bird might trill, but the hand around its body prevents the noise from escaping its newly savaged throat. Her wings beat ineffectually against the hand that holds her.

:: I will handle him. Let me handle him. ::

She already has a lie prepared.

:: I will keep him quiet. ::

She just needs him to back off so she can talk to Roderick without the threat of attack looming.

:: I’ll deliver us both to you if I fail. ::

She won’t, though. Not with their unlives hanging in the balance.

GM: Silence is the nightjar’s only answer as the sheriff’s dark form races through the air.

Celia: She doesn’t know if that’s acceptance of her proposal or not. But there’s little the nightjar can do trapped in his grasp as it is. It’s along for the ride now, desperately aware of how fragile this form it wears is. One clenched fist…

:: He’s afraid. For me. He trusts me. I can handle him. ::

Break something. If he breaks something on her, something more than what he has, it’ll send a message that the sheriff came back for her, not for Roderick. She’ll say his new face saved him, that he didn’t know who Roderick is, that he got away, that Celia was too slow. Got caught. She won’t make him look bad. She’d never make him look bad. Primogen’s childe could be anyone. Maybe he didn’t hear over the rain. Maybe it was a bluff. Why would Donovan know that Jade can fleshcraft? Why would he assume that Roderick and Jade had anything to do with each other? She’ll know how to spin it when Roderick talks to her about it. He’ll buy it. He’s bonded to her. He’s been swallowing her lies for years.

And there are so many reasons she could give him for the sheriff’s visit, none of which make it look like they have anything to do with each other. He interrupted what looked like a punishment anyway. He didn’t see anything. Didn’t hear anything.

It will work.

Her sire just needs to trust her.

And if she’s wrong, well, she’d already promised to deliver the pair of them. She’ll use force if she has to. She has plenty of blood to burn through to subdue the already injured Brujah.

Unless he just wants her to catch Roderick so he can wipe clean what he saw, put someone else’s face in there, maybe delete it completely. She’ll do that. She’ll take him to the haven to ambush. He knows the one.

But don’t kill him. Please don’t kill him.

GM: Wind and rain whips past. The sheriff’s vice-like hand squeezes. More bones crunch throughout the tiny bird’s body.

Celia: Terror grips the nightjar. It’s not an answer. That’s not an answer. It doesn’t know what he wants, which parts are unacceptable to him. Its wings flutter, trapped as they are within his hand.

No one has ever accused Celia’s thoughts of moving too quickly. No, not too quickly, but perhaps too sporadically for someone else to make sense of it. Perhaps her shielding has payed off in dividends and her sire is no deeper in her mind now than anyone else who had ever given her a cursory scan. Or perhaps it is simply the pursuit that has his attention divided, and he spares no more than the small bit of focus that it takes to wordlessly communicate with her.

She thought that he knew everything, but when she gives herself a moment to put herself in his shoes she realizes that maybe… maybe he doesn’t.

Slowly, the terror abates. It won’t serve her well. She reaches again for the ice inside her veins, the reason he had chosen her that evening in 2009. It’s inside of her somewhere; all she has to do is bring it to the surface. She slows her thoughts, sending them his way only once she has gotten a handle on them.

The lick they’re chasing is Roderick Durant, Coco’s childe, and he has known about “Celia” since shortly after their release in 2010. He knows her as Veronica’s childe. As far as Roderick knows the only “connection” between Celia and Sheriff Donovan is that she grew up in Audubon and went to Tulane with thousands of other students. He has no reason to suspect there’s anything deeper there. She has never, would never, tell him otherwise. She knew him in her mortal life; they had been lovers then, together until her Embrace, and recently rekindled their romance as Kindred. No one is supposed to know. They play for opposite teams, so they had kept it secret, and his facial reconstruction had been to sneak him into the Quarter last night and for their plans this evening.

He wasn’t supposed to see her sire. They were never supposed to run into each other; it had been unfortunate timing.

Roderick is her… what had Mélissaire called it? Morality pet. And she’d broken him so she could further Savoy’s goals. So she could further her sire’s goals. She’d done it to him. For them.

She’d broken him so she could turn him away from his sire. Savoy has his ear on the Cabildo so he can further disrupt the prince’s plots. She has been working on it for weeks and it finally came to fruition. She repeats the line about his sire offering her an expanded role in his court. Tomorrow. They’re meeting tomorrow to discuss. Her role will better serve her sire; she will be closer to the action, will be privy to more sensitive information, both through Savoy and through Roderick himself. She is more than capable of pulling Cabildo secrets from Roderick if Donovan so wishes. She has ways of getting inside people’s heads with them none the wiser and will use it for him.

And she can handle him tonight. Her sire doesn’t need to waste his time chasing down Roderick. She has a series of lies already prepared for him, and she’ll twist them to accommodate whatever he says to her. Roderick has been swallowing her lies for years; what’s another handful? She’ll tell him the sheriff found out she’d been meddling with the Flores still in Audubon. She’ll tell him he knows that she has been asking questions about Maxen, and that he forced her to give up her plans to derail him, tell him that the injuries she has sustained were after she tried to run. She’ll say that Roderick’s mask had saved him. Why would the sheriff think to look into Roderick when no one knows that Jade and Roderick are anything more than two young licks on opposite sides with sires that hate each other? This new face can disappear. She’ll spin it to preserve his image. She’d never make him look bad.

She’ll lie. Because she’s so good at lying and knows exactly how to play Roderick. She’ll keep him quiet.

And tonight, tomorrow, Sunday: whenever he wants her to answer for the waste of his time this evening she will. She’ll have a better report for him once she finishes with Roderick, probably better when she finishes with Savoy tomorrow. She’ll meet him wherever he wants and tell him everything she’s gathered since their last time together. The hunters, and what she’s found that threatens them all. Caroline, her progress bringing the girl to heel. Savoy’s plans to corral two of the prince’s “loyal Ventrue” to his side. The lick behind the fiasco at the zoo. Intel about his pawns, or a way to help them move forward.

There’s more she can give him. But not in this narrow window of time if he doesn’t let her stop Roderick right now, tonight, like she knows that she can.

GM: Her sire’s cold hands release the nightjar with its crushed wings. Only by grace of the same gift that saved her mother and impressed Caroline does the bird not plummet like a stone.

:: I will know all that transpires between you. Your punishment will be commensurate to your success. ::

Celia: There’s only one thing left to say in this situation.

:: Yes, sire. ::


Friday evening, 18 March 2016

GM: It’s not a long flight to catch up with Roderick. It’s a fall, as much as anything. His head whips to the side as he sees the bird approach by the window.

Celia: She can hardly shift into her cat or human form here. And she lacks her sire’s (and her clan’s) ability to contact him mind-to-mind. But she has other tools at her disposal, things that will (hopefully) clue him in to her identity. Even in this form she smells like a lick. But she kills the aura, dampening it until she’s just a bird again, and then drops the power to project her predatory nature. Again she kills it, and again she lets the cloaking take effect.

Like a beacon in the night, she flickers her aura between mortal and lick, hoping he knows her well enough to know its her. He’s seen her shift. He knows she can cloak. How many licks in the city are looking for him and can both shift and shadow dance?

And how many random licks that can is he bonded to? Who else would he feel the pull toward?

GM: Roderick rolls down the window, then his hand blurs towards the bird.

Celia: The nightjar makes no effort to avoid his hand. It collapses into his palm, half-broken wings tucked against its tiny body. She trusts that the large brain of his clued him in to who she is. If not, well, she supposes she has suffered worse at his hands.

GM: Roderick sets the bird down at the foot of the adjacent passenger seat and rolls the window back up.

“You can turn back to confirm you’re who I’m presuming you are.”

Celia: The change is instant: nightjar to Jade. The shift in physique makes her wince; she grits her teeth against the feeling of bone grinding on bone, but there’s nothing to be done for it. She’s already riding the edge and doesn’t want to lose it in the car with him if she risks mending.

She looks up at him from her spot on the floor. It feels like too much effort to climb into the seat. Has her night really just begun?

“Thanks for not…” she makes a fist to demonstrate. Crushing her. “Family is out. Your dad. Dani. Safe. Mine too.”

If her body wasn’t half broken maybe she’d be able to form longer sentences. The pain distracts her. Fuck him for squeezing after he’d confirmed her identity.

“Spa,” she gets out. “Blood. Need blood. No people.”

GM: “The sheriff’s probably following me,” he says tightly. “You shouldn’t have come after me. Don’t get up on the seat.”

“You shouldn’t be wearing your Jade face, either.”

Celia: “Stupid,” she mutters, more to herself than him. “Need to change your face. Back to Rod. Spa. Or haven. Pick one. Not following. Bought us time.”

GM: “How?” he asks sharply.

Celia: “I’ll explain,” she promises, voice pitching into a whine. “Hurts. Please.”

GM: “If we go back to Flawless, and he follows us, it could all be over.”

“For both of us.”

Celia: “Haven. No connection to us.”

GM: Roderick drives.

“What the fuck was he even doing at your family’s house!?”

Celia: She giggles, the sound reminiscent of the noise he’d made last night when he found out about Carolla. There’s a hysterical edge to it.

“Daddy.”

“Found out. What I was doing.”

GM: “So he knows Celia is a lick.”

“Because he wouldn’t give a fuck if Celia the breather has dinner with her father.”

Celia: “Told you. Years ago. Knows Celia.”

GM: “So why hasn’t he ashed you?”

Celia: “For what? Existing?”

GM: “For being a nobody in larger Kindred society and infringing on his domain.”

“He absolutely would ash you for those reasons.”

“But he hasn’t. And you say you’ve delayed him. You wanted me to drive back to Flawless when he’s on my tail!”

“Celia, what the hell is going on here?”

Celia: “I traded. Bargained. For my life. Unlife. Whatever. Bought time. Promise. Trust me. Won’t kill. Not yet.”

“Rod, it hurts,” she tries again. “Spa or haven, let mend. Please. Tell you.” It’s an effort to shift across the floor, but she does so, laying her cheek on his knee and blinking up at him with eyes fogged by pain.

If they don’t get back to her haven or spa so she can fix his face and mend she’s going to be worse than useless if she’s wrong about her trade. She tells him so in fragmented sentences.

GM: Roderick stares down at her.

“Okay. I trust you.”

He turns the car around.

“We’ll go back to Flawless. Instead of my old place.”

Celia: She nods her head and closes her eyes, leaning against him.

GM: He touches her head, but keeps his other hand on the wheel. He parks at Flawless. He carries her in his arms to Jade’s suite. He grimaces several times himself as he walks, though, and Celia smells blood on him.

Celia: “You’re hurt,” she murmurs once he sets her down. “How bad?”

GM: “I fought the sheriff on my own,” he says frankly. “I’ve healed the worst of it. Healed more during the fight. But I’m hungry. Right now would be a good time for the rest of… his juice.”

Celia: Celia nods. That had been her thought as well.

“Are you gonna lose it?”

“Room for that,” she adds, jerking her chin toward the door in question.

GM: He shakes his head. “That’s why I haven’t completely healed.”

Celia: “Oh. I might,” she admits.

GM: “Ok. You can drink in the room.”

“What about your ghouls?”

“Be useful to send them hunting right now.”

Celia: Celia nods. She brings her heel against the underside of the table, where she’d set aside the blood from Carolla and the other guy. Thin-blood. Ghoul. Whoever it once belonged to, it’s hers now.

“’Lana busy. Could send boys.”

Could call her mom, too.

GM: “’Lana looks way better at picking up people than either of them.”

“It’s a Friday night in the Quarter.”

Celia: “Busy,” Celia repeats.

“Dani could.”

“Have seven pints, though.”

“Could hunt after, us.”

GM: Roderick looks a little stiff at the thought of his sister doing that.

“I don’t know if we’ll have time before Elysium, with everything else.”

Celia: God, fuck Elysium. She hates that she has to go or lose face with those stuck up cunts.

No, that’s not fair. She’s just annoyed right now that things are unraveling.

GM: “But seven pints. Okay. That should help take the edge off.”

“You’ll need to fix my face, too. Some of the ‘everything else.’”

“Might as well text your ghouls now.”

Celia: “Dani?” Celia asks again.

GM: “…how has she been feeding?”

Celia: “Club.”

GM: “I actually never asked.”

Celia: “Gave her access.”

GM: “I don’t like her picking up guys at clubs.”

Celia: “You gonna baby bird her?”

GM: A scowl.

Celia: “Have a whole block. Could sneak instead.”

“Sleepers.”

GM: “That’s hard without veiling or burglary skills.”

Celia: “Blood’s here,” Celia says, nudging the door with her foot again. “Heat up. Don’t want to risk.”

GM: He takes the containers and sticks them in the microwave.

Celia: Celia pulls out her phone to send a series of texts while he busies himself with that.

The first to her mom, telling her everything is okay, but that she got held up at the spa and might not make it to ladies night.

The second to Randy, asking if he and his brother want to stop for a pizza and swing by.

GM: The response back is immediate.

Oh good, I’m so relieved! Maybe you’d like to stop by after everyone’s gone to bed? I still have your favorite treat… :)

Celia: Might be late. Party tonight. Thanks for saving some for me, you’re the best.

GM: Ok, I’ll let you know our room numbers! Have a feeling we might have too many to make it back. Lucy and Emi can have a sleepover in a room together!

Celia: Wild night? I’ll try to stop by before I head out. ;)

GM: Oh you! Hopefully not too wild with Lucy as our chaperon! :)

Celia: “Fam safe,” she announces after she sends a final heart to her mom.

GM: Randy responds shortly later that it’ll be a sure thing as far as that pizza.

Celia: She sends him a heart, too.

GM: Roderick takes out the heated blood with a long look.

“Drink up and we’ll talk about that.”

Celia: Celia slips into the “panic room” to take her share.

She’s glad she did. The moment the blood touches her tongue her Beast comes snarling to the surface, howling its unhappiness to the world at large. Her claws come out—they always come out when her Beast has its way—but there’s little to be destroyed in the bare, steel room.

By design.

Roderick’s design, actually. It’s his doing that there’s a room like this in her spa to begin with; all those years ago she’d discussed the idea of it with him while he still thought she was Jade, that her Brujah and other unruly clients needed a place to “let it out” prior to her treatments. A portion of the money from her mother had gone to making sure that she and her Kindred clients would have a space to give in to their more primal urges.

Her Beast’s claws swipe uselessly at the wall, enraged that much more that there’s nothing soft or breakable to dig into. That there’s no warm body. It’s like a solitary wank after years of the best sex imaginable: absolutely awful and unfulfilling. It slavers and howls and otherwise makes a nuisance of itself inside the steel box, safely contained in here if not in her.

She doesn’t know how long it takes over, only that when it’s gone her clothes are shredded and hang in tatters from her frame.

She scowls at no one in particular. That’s her mother’s dress.

Some snide side of her argues that her mother has plenty of floral print dresses and won’t miss this one.

Either way, Celia finishes her blood once the Beast’s tantrum has run its course.

GM: She comes out to find Roderick waiting near the door. The scent of blood wafting from him doesn’t smell as strong.

He looks over her torn clothes.

“Guess you needed that.”

Celia: “Thought I got off with a couple of broken bones?”

GM: He lays down on the table where Carolla used to be.

“You can tell me where things stand with the sheriff while you fix my face.”

Celia: His face isn’t the only thing that needs fixed. Celia’s body needs fixed, too. She sends the blood pumping through herself to the affected areas, letting it heal her broken bones and torn muscles before she begins to work on Roderick’s face. Only when it’s done does she begin her work to turn him from the Italian-esque man from last night to the Roderick the world knows him as.

Donovan will know everything that she says to him, and everything he says back. She’ll have to make sure she doesn’t fuck it up.

“He found out about my dad. Not dinner. I don’t think he cares about dinner. You keep bringing up the fact that Savoy hasn’t helped me with him, but I didn’t need his help. I was handling it on my own.”

GM: “Then all the less reason to let you live.”

Celia: “Sure. If I was a nobody, sure. But I’m not a nobody, and what I did I’ll have to be the one to undo. What’re they called, dead drops?”

GM: He winces as she starts to rearrange his flesh, moving the muscle like it can never move on its own.

“Yes. What about them?”

Celia: “Someone told me about them a long time ago,” she says, thinking of her ghost-turned-lick cousin. He still hasn’t called. “Told me if I was ever going to try to fuck someone over, to avoid getting fucked myself, set it up. So I did. Won’t stop him if he really wants to ash me, mind.”

She gives a brief warning before twisting a muscle in his cheek.

GM: He growls at the sensation.

“Celia, you’re telling this in pieces that don’t make any sense by themselves.”

Celia: Celia finally sighs.

“Yeah. Okay. I was trying to save face. I threw someone under the bus so he’d lay off me while I took care of the dead drops.”

GM: “That still doesn’t make sense.”

“He could just ash them and then you.”

Celia: “Sure. He could ash whoever. I just watched him try to ash you.”

“By the way,” she says, pausing her movements, “if you ever do anything that dumb again I’m going to stake you and stash you in a basement somewhere.”

“I’ll come down for cuddles. Maybe we’ll fuck. But stop trying to get yourself killed on my account.”

“Second time you’ve done that.”

“Wonder if you can still get hard if you’re staked,” she muses, resuming her work.

GM: Roderick does not look very aroused between the pain he’s in and the topic at hand.

“Yes. He can ash whoever. So why not you?”

Celia: “Because there would be no clear winner for the cutest lick in the city contest, and everyone would be so busy trying to figure that out that nothing else would ever get done.”

She smirks.

GM: “I’m not in the mood, Celia,” her lover growls as she reshapes his nose. His jaw twitches with pain as flint dances in his eyes.

Celia: “What do you want from me, Roderick? Do you want to hear that I’m scared shitless? Do you want to hear that I think he’s going to find me more useful dead than alive and once I finish fixing the mess I caused with my dad he’s absolutely going to ash me, then take my mom, Emily, and Lucy for the trouble? Do you want me to say I am so absolutely terrified of him that all I can think about is going out with a fucking bang if he’s going to get rid of me anyway? Is that what you want? Do you want me to cry on your shoulder a little bit so you can feel like a man comforting a woman in her time of need?”

“Do you think it helped that a random lick showed up at my house to fight him when I had it handled and now I have to find some way to spin that so he doesn’t know it was you, so that you don’t die too you big, dumb, fucking _idiot?”_

GM: Roderick suddenly leaps up from the table, seizes Celia’s throat between his hands, and slams her against the wall. His eyes flash as fangs jut from his mouth.

“I SEE now, Celia!”

“I have had a bad fucking week!”

“My sire’s a fucking liar! My sister’s an abortion! My dad’s the walking dead! I have a new brother, lucky me, who’s scum of the earth!”

He laughs.

“Well, I see now! Savoy and I had a good long talk!”

“I see a lot more now! I’m seeing a LOT of pieces that don’t add up, RIGHT HERE!”

He breaks off in laughter again, like she’s just told a funny joke.

“It’s so funny.”

“Savoy’s the only one who makes sense, these nights…”

Celia: Celia wraps her fingers around the hands holding her up, pressing her back as far against the wall as she can go. She makes a choking sound around his grip. Face half finished as he is, he only looks that much more monstrous.

“Ss—stah—ple—”

GM: He gives her a good hard shake.

“Oh, you stop it! The scared woman act!”

“I told you, Celia… I see MORE now!”

“This has been a real eye-opener!”

Celia: Her head slams back against the wall with the shake. When she looks at him again the fear has left her eyes.

“Let… go,” she growls at him, the words half a wheeze.

GM: “See, there we go! There’s the real Celia!” he laughs. “Let’s have it out, real Celia! Let’s have it all out! Let truth reign! Let the truth have its day… when we aren’t spewing SHIT!”

“Dead drops! ’I’ll handle the sheriff!’ HA! HA HA HA HA!”

“Everyone lies… all the fucking time… you were good at lying, weren’t you, even before you died? ‘I never slept with anyone but you,’ except I didn’t… except I did… HA! Had me wrapped around your finger!”

“Back and forth, back and forth, I can’t even keep straight how many times!”

Celia: Celia works a hand between his palm and her throat, giving herself enough room to breathe so she can speak.

She starts to open her mouth.

And then she remembers the vision, the way the Stephen there had ripped out her tongue, and thinks better of it.

GM: He patiently lets her make some more room.

He smiles and waits.

Celia: What does she say here? I can explain? He’ll never trust a word she says.

She can’t bear to look at him. And even though he is scaring her, even though she does want to curl into a ball and weep for the boy she used to know, she knows how that’ll look: like she’s just playing the same old tune as always.

Her sire really is going to kill her.

“I’ll tell you,” she finally says, “no lies, no bullshit. I’ll tell you. Everything.”

GM: He makes a sweeping motion with his other hand.

Celia: “Let me down.” A pause. “Please.”

GM: He releases his hand. Her feet hit the ground in their borrowed flats.

She remembers how he looked on the roof, in his false face, the rain beating down around him with his fists balled, Celia held helplessly in her sire’s grip. He looked ready to charge her sire. He did charge her sire. The right thing, no matter how dangerous or what it threatened to cost.

Here, in Jade’s suite, talking to Jade the liar, his face is neither one man nor another’s, its features monstrously twisted out of shape. There’s a cool look in his eyes under the equally cold light of the monster’s playhouse.

But Celia the innocent damsel was another lie too, wasn’t it? How likely was her sire to kill her right there? He risked his unlife for a stupid thing, thinking it was the right thing.

Celia: She stares up at him. Part of her—the Celia part, probably—doesn’t want to move from where he’d dropped her. That part of her still thinks that Stephen is in there somewhere, that she can salvage this, that she can get him back before he turns into the monster she saw him become. The other part—the Jade part—demands that she take control.

So she does.

She swallows her fear. She straightens her spine. She moves from where he dropped her, aware that he is faster than her, stronger than her, that distance only creates the illusion of safety—no, that’s Celia again.

Why won’t the bitch stay dead?

“Will you hear me out? All of it?” Celia again. Jade wouldn’t ask.

GM: “Go on.”

It might be Stephen answering.

Or Roderick.

Or whoever the man with half a face is.

Celia: “You’re right. I didn’t handle the sheriff. I couldn’t handle the sheriff. He was following your car. You bought me time to get away. To get us all away. It was… brave. And selfless. I thought I took too long inside, getting them all out. You weren’t out there when I came back. I thought he took you. Without your face, you were a nobody that had attacked him. Even if you were Roderick, you still attacked him.”

She—who is she anymore?—looks away.

“I can fly. You saw. I was… going to do something really stupid. I thought he maybe took you back to Audubon, and I was going to fly in as Jade.” A gesture to her face. “I don’t know what I’d have done when I got there. It was a half-baked plan. Then I saw you. Saw him. I flew towards him. He caught me.”

Her voice lacks any emotion. She keeps it as flat as possible lest he accuse her of playing the scared woman again.

“He was still following you. I thought he was going to kill you. I said you were my lover. That it was a misunderstanding. I begged him not to kill you. Then he started squeezing. Crushing me. So I told him… I told him if it was ‘you’ or me, I’d pick me every time. Save my own skin. Licks expect it. I said you trust me. That I’d handle you. That I’d deliver you, if needed. That he didn’t need to waste his time, that I’d do it. Everyone thinks I’m a whore; why wouldn’t I sell you out. I’d have another boyfriend by Elysium. He didn’t have a reason to trust me, so I gave him one. And I piled it on, on top of that. I’ve been working on a lot of projects lately, been looking into a lot of things. I offered to share with him. Anything he wanted.”

She finally looks back up at him.

“I thought I could lie to you to keep you from asking questions. That we could change your face back. I could tell him I’d handled it. We’d never see the other face again. No one would know what happened. He’d save face. I’d sell out whoever he wanted. We’d call it a done deal. One time thing. Debt disclosed.”

GM: Roderick listens.

Whoever listens.

“And what about you and the sheriff on the roof?” he asks flatly.

Celia: She swallows. It’s a reflexive action, completely unnecessary to her dead state. All it does is display her discomfort.

“You told me once that I could trust you. That you’re not like every other lick. That you won’t use what I tell you against me. Is that still true?”

GM: “Yes,” he answers tightly.

Celia: “I’m a bastard. Veronica didn’t get permission to ‘Embrace’ me until I was already dead.”

She drops her gaze.

“There’s no statue of limitations on Kindred crimes against the Traditions. I don’t actually know if I can get in trouble for it. I can hardly ask someone about it. And I think… sometimes I think I was an accident.”

GM: “You can get in trouble for it. So can she.”

Celia: Celia—Celia, she’s Celia—closes her eyes and gives a faint nod.

GM: “What does that have to do with the sheriff being at your mom’s house?”

Celia: Celia finds his face with her eyes.

“He knows. He’s known since the beginning. He called it in.”

GM: “To do, what?”

Celia: “At the risk of angering you,” Celia says quietly, “I can’t tell you. But it’s nothing against you. Or Dani. Or your dad. Your family is safe. I promise.”

“I trust you. I do. I wouldn’t have told you any of this if I didn’t. But I don’t trust him not to hurt me, or my family, or anyone else I care about, if I say anything else.”

GM: That takes a while to play out on his half-face.

“You better not complain about any secrets I keep,” he finally mutters.

Celia: For a moment, Celia turns her face away. She does it to hide the way her lip trembles, the relief that his words bring her, the fear in her eyes that he wouldn’t accept her answer.

Or her.

She looks up again and takes a halting step toward him. Then another. Approaching him like a dog that has been kicked too many times, that expects the boot before a gentle hand.

She used to play at being skittish around him. Now, though, there’s nothing coy or deceitful in the slight rounding of her spine, the way her eyes kiss the floor, then his face, then his chest, and finally the floor again, the way her weight shifts and the edge of her shoe drags slightly against the ground. Wary. But controlled. He might not notice it if he’s not looking for it.

Then she’s in front of him, folding herself against him without a word, pressing her face against his chest. His warm chest. His strong—so strong, by turns gentle and cruel—hands right there. She doesn’t cry. She doesn’t tremble. She keeps it inside where no one can see, unable or unwilling to admit even to herself that some part of her is afraid of this new Roderick.

GM: His hands wrap around her back and hold her close. Slowly, like it’s a motion they haven’t done in a long time. But it’s still familiar.

His chest isn’t warm, though.

It’s cool.

No steady heartbeat greets her ears.

That’s not familiar.

Celia: Somehow, that’s worse than anything else he could have said or done.

She broke him.

And here’s the proof.


Friday evening, 18 March 2016

GM: Roderick lies still as Celia twists the rest of his face back to its old features. He doesn’t seem to feel like talking. Maybe from the pain. Maybe not.

“I wonder if this is a fully accurate recreation, if you’re working from visual memory,” he says, looking his face over in the mirror when she’s done.

His tone is bland.

Celia: There’s a time or two when she opens her mouth to say something, but seems to lose her nerve or think better of it. She doesn’t speak until he does.

“Memory is fallible.”

GM: “I suppose I’m probably not the same person anymore.”

“Oh well.”

Celia: “No,” she says quietly. “You’re not.”

GM: He shrugs and pulls on his coat.

Celia: She doesn’t know how to act around him anymore. She doesn’t know what to say. What do to with her hands. She reaches for him, but there’s no warmth anymore, and she doesn’t find the comfort she’s looking for.

“Roderick.”

GM: He turns and looks.

Celia: “We’re… are we..?” She gestures between the pair of them.

GM: He waits as if for her to finish.

Celia: “…are we okay?”

GM: “No.”

Celia: “No,” she echoes, as if she has never heard the word before.

GM: “You won. My sire’s a lying piece of shit after all.”

Celia: Why is that her fault? She hadn’t made Coco Embrace Carolla.

Or lie about it.

“I didn’t… that’s not what I wanted. That’s never what I wanted. I didn’t win.

GM: “It’s so inconvenient how my sister’s an abortion.”

Celia: “…why?”

GM: “Because she’s weak.”

Celia: “Why does that matter?”

GM: “I’m going to kill him. The sheriff.”

Celia: “Wha—why?”

GM: “I can’t win against him by myself, but I can fight him without dying like chaff. Give me a smart and competent coterie, and we could probably pull it off. With acceptable casualties if we had a tactical advantage, and probably heavy ones if we didn’t.”

Roderick’s voice is calm.

“So, too bad my sister’s an abortion. She’d just be a burden.”

Celia: “What do you gain,” she asks, “by killing him?” She doesn’t even know how to begin to touch the topic of his sister.

GM: He looks at her like she’s asked a stupid question.

Celia: She stares back at him.

GM: “Preston said you were spoiled, you know. That you just wanted to play house and paint faces in your spa, and never think about the silly war going on.”

Celia: That doesn’t surprise her.

Preston doesn’t know about half the shit she gets up to, though.

GM: “Use your head. Why would I want him ashed?”

“How does that change the political situation and why is that change desirable to me?”

Celia: “I see.”

GM: “Good. Savoy at least thinks you do.”

Celia: “Weird that you’d talk about me in a meeting for you.”

GM: “I’m sure you never talked about me with them at all.”

Celia: She has never felt more alone than she does right now. She stares, covering the hurt, shoving it deep inside.

GM: “You could help kill him too,” he considers. “Eventually. You need more training, first. We’ll work on that.”

Celia: “Tonight?” she asks. “Like usual?”

GM: “I’m busy tonight.” He looks at the security monitor. “There’s your ghoul. That’s my cue.”

Celia: “Roderick. Wait.”

GM: He waits.

Celia: It’s like one of those movies where someone calls out for the other one to stop but they keep going. Somehow she thought he’d keep going. That’s a good sign, isn’t it, that he stopped?

She takes a step toward him. Then another.

“You said we’re not okay. And you’re busy tonight. You have other things on your mind. That’s fine. But when? When are we going to talk? When can we sit down to discuss everything?”

When does she get him back?

GM: “Talk about what?”

“I’m not breaking up with you, if that’s what you’re worried over.”

Celia: It is.

And it seems like such a stupid thing to worry about.

But she nods all the same.

“Okay,” is all she says. Then, “I love you. That hasn’t changed. Whatever else changes. That hasn’t.”

GM: “Dani said you were insecure, but I suppose it beats being an abortion.”

Celia: “Did Dani tell you why I’m insecure?”

GM: He turns to go.

“Later. Your ghoul’s here. Love you too.”

He gives a faint snicker. “Tell Dani to stop being an abortion, also.”

Celia: Sure. She’ll get right on that.

For a dead body, her heart certainly hurts a whole hell of a lot.


Friday night, 18 March 2016, PM

GM: Randy comes in by himself, not a vessel in sight.

“Sorry, babe,” he says sheepishly.

“Early hour at the clubs, and Reggie wanted to do some… skeezy stuff.”

Celia: “I’m not hungry,” Celia mutters.

She is. She’s always hungry. But it’s a psychosomatic response to the altercation with Roderick. She isn’t in the mood for a writhing, squirming vessel.

GM: “Told me to tell you himself if I wasn’t up for it, so…”

“But I brought you something else!”

Celia: “Hm?”

GM: That’s when her sire’s sword gorily cleaves through Randy’s arms and legs like a knife through butter. The newly quadriplegic ghoul’s raw-throated screams echo off the suite’s soundproofed walls as his torso hits the floor in a gory heap. The stench of his voided bowels fills Celia’s nostrils as his eyes roll back in his head.

He screams.

He screams.

He screams.

Her sire’s cool voice sounds within her head.

:: You have endangered the secrecy of our association twice in as many weeks. Continued carelessness will imperil those for whom you care. ::

Randy screams.

Celia: She hadn’t even been looking.

That’s the worst part, isn’t it, that she hadn’t been looking at her ghoul while he addressed her because she’d been so busy turning over the Roderick problem in her mind, wondering if and when he’d ever go back to his normal self.

It’s the blood that makes her look. Already too late to do anything but stare in mute horror as the blade cleaves once, twice, three times. How many times? She doesn’t know. She wasn’t really looking. But she smells it. And she hears it.

She thought she’d had time. That’s the only absurd thought that goes through her mind. That she thought she’d had more time.

But here he is.

Randy’s screams echo through the suite, reverberating off the walls, filling her head. Is there enough blood in her body to fix that? Where would she even begin? She stares. She stares because she’d just been thinking that he’s at least warm. That he could hold her for just a moment. That he could stand in for the boyfriend she’d just lost. That she can go home to Alana tonight and tell her everything is okay and spend the day with her.

How many parts can a person be cut into before they stop being a person anymore?

She drags her eyes up to his face. His cold, cruel face. How had she ever thought she loved him?

She darts forward, tearing into her wrist with her teeth, bringing the blood to the boy on the ground.

Not too late. Please let it not be too late.

GM: Her sire’s booted foot kicks aside what’s left of Randy. The quadriplegic man’s face audibly crunches against the wall.

His screams are fainter.

:: Little life remains in him. It will take time to regenerate his limbs. He will cost vitae for no practical returns. ::

Her sire’s cool hand cups Celia’s chin, tilting up her eyes to meet his.

Randy screams.

:: Show me that you are strong. ::

Celia: Celia has waited years for him to touch her like this. For his hands to cup her chin, for him to lift her gaze to his, for his lips to—

No. He’s missing that part.

He’s always missing that part.

He will never love her.

Not like Stephen had.

Not like Roderick did.

Not even like Randy does.

Randy, whose screams echo in her ears. Randy, who she’d teased for years because he’s so cute when he’s flustered. Randy, who is never too busy to answer her calls. Who is always there for her. Who is brave to the point of stupidity, and would never let anything bad happen to her. Not while he’s around. She still lies to him about killing people. Still protects him from the worst side of herself. Because he was her Stephen stand-in for all those years. Warm. Strong. Gentle.

Innocent.

With Roderick cracked, who is left to take that role?

She stares into the lifeless eyes of her sire and knows the truth: he’s more monstrous than any of the rest of their kind. How long does it take to get that way? How many hundreds of years? How old is he, or what was wrong with him in his mortal life that he turned into this?

Who hurt him?

And how had she ever thought she’d be enough to fix it?

The words from that night come back to her. “Great evil… upon this child… curse… this child.”

Him, the cursed child. The demonic presence. And he’d chosen her. What does that say about her? What does that say about what he saw inside of her? Is Caroline right, that their histories made them ideal candidates for their Embrace: beaten, weak, submissive. Or is there more to it than that?

They will kill him. Savoy, Roderick, Caroline, Pete. The whole city wants him dead. She will be the only one who misses him. The only one who mourns him.

And still he tortures her.

No practical returns, he says, as if there is nothing practical in the way that the ghoul has held her together these long years through long nights of loneliness and isolation. As if his ability to regenerate and her ability to sculpt the flesh back onto his bones will leave him down and out. As if she cares that she’ll need to slaughter a dozen people to give him what he needs to survive.

All these people around her and no one she can be herself with. Always a mask. Always another lie. Another part of her she hides to be what they want her to be, who they want her to be. Her mother’s daughter. Her father’s daughter. Donovan’s childe. Savoy’s grandchilde. Veronica’s childe. The damsel. The doctor. The healer. The helper. The liar.

Jade.

Celia.

Someone Else.

Someone Else stares out from Celia’s eyes and Jade’s face.

:: All she ever wanted was to love you. ::

The collar chafes. Even now, with her ghoul bleeding out on the ground, with the remnants of her sanity slipping away, she wants his approval. Wants him to pat her on the head. Wants him to bring her into his arms when it’s done.

And he won’t.

He never will.

He’s not that guy.

She’s not that girl.

Maybe she never was. Maybe that’s why he had taken her. Or maybe it was all an accident, and her presumed loyalty is just an advantageous byproduct. Years of watching her mother go through it and she turned out just the same: accepting his abuse because she thinks she deserves it. Broken cycle? No. Not for her.

Someone Else reaches for his sword, closing her fingers around the handle. She tugs. It’s too big for her. Too heavy. She doesn’t have much experience with swords. But who needs experience when all she’s doing is cleaving a head from a body?

She swings.

GM: The saber isn’t as heavy as perhaps she expected. Randy and Reggie only ever showed her how to practice with knives, but Emily had passed on that fact from Robbie. Robby said historic swords actually aren’t that heavy. They’re meant to be used, after all.

Then again, it’s not like she’s picking this up for a fight.

Randy’s limbless body flops onto its back. The smell of blood is so strong. She can drink from him. He’ll have delivered a vessel after all.

He was never much good at that, hunting for her.

Was never much good at a lot of stuff, next to his brothers. What the fuck was she going to use a race car driver for anyway? Cars to Mélissaire are just a hobby.

Randy flops onto his back. His face is a mosaic of raw, uncomprehending agony. Every line deepened a thousandfold. Tears stream from his bloodshot eyes. Blood freely leaks from his broken nose. He smells like piss and shit, past the blood. He looks up at Celia with wide, delirious eyes. Boy’s eyes, blue or green or hazel, once bright with life and unearned confidence. For a moment, he does not even seem to see the sword. A fragile smile touches his lips as he whispers,

“…babe…?”

Then the steel parts his head from his neck.

Blood sprays over Celia’s face.

The severed head rolls across the floor. It hits the wall with a light thump. It rolls over onto its side, fragile smile frozen eternally in place.

Boy’s eyes stare up at her.

Celia: His screams echo in her ears long after the noise itself dies.

Long after he dies.

One of the girls inside of her had once told another person how the sound of screaming is what sticks with someone when the rest of the memory has faded. How the smell of blood and the sight of gore will be the first thing to go, drifting into the obscurity of long-lost thoughts. Hazy. You can tug at it when you want, force yourself to see it again, let your brain fill in the details that you forget over the years.

But it’s the screaming that haunts your sleep. She’ll never forget the sound of his death rattle. Dozens of lives taken with her own hand and this will be the one that sticks. She’ll add it to the raw, throat-bleeding pitch her mother had reached the night Maxen sawed through her leg. The ragged, throaty gasps when she’d been transported high above the city in the arms of a monster.

Funny. He’d been there for all three of the screams in her collection.

The saber drips blood when she’s done with it. One of the girls’ mother had once said that you should clean something when you’re done with it, before you give it back. Or if it’s an empty container you fill it. Bake a pie. Make a casserole. Et cetera.

It’s just good manners.

Someone Else wipes the bloody blade across the remnants of her dress. The steel comes away gleaming. Wordlessly, she offers it back to Donovan.

GM: Her sire accepts the clean blade, opens his coat, and sheaths it in the scabbard hanging from his hip. All like she’s returning one of her mom’s rinsed-out tupperware containers.

He cups her face in his pale, mercilessly strong hands. She wonders if he could crack her skull like an egg between them.

:: You have shown strength. ::

:: I am pleased. ::

Corpse-cold lips meet hers.

Celia: Corpse-cold. Like Roderick’s now. Like Randy’s, if she were to pluck his head from the ground and press her lips against his.

No, Dicentra whispers, he was mortal. It takes longer than that for his body to cool. Randy would still be warm.

She’ll never be warm.

She’ll never sleep with him now. Seven years of promises, date finally set, and it ends with the swing of a sword.

She’ll see that fragile, broken smile every time she closes her eyes. Hear that final “…babe…” playing on loop.

Something gives.

That’s the thing about ice: it cracks under pressure.

It starts as a giggle. He touches his lips to hers and she giggles. And then she isn’t Someone Else anymore, she’s Jade and she has the sheriff in her grasp, and she’s not the passive lover that Celia had once been, letting him kiss her and leave her with nothing but a smear of blood on her lips.

Her hands seize his coat, pulling herself closer to him because she’s under no illusion that he’ll move toward her. She’s empty, but he can fill her. Her lips part beneath his brutal assault, fangs flashing. Him?

The blood.

And the whore inside of her.

She lies with her body rather than her tongue—though she lies with that too. Eager. Like nothing has changed, like it hasn’t broken. She nips at him with her fangs. He’d made her kill her boy. He will give her this.

GM: So he does.

Winter-cold fangs trail down her throat, then stab into her neck. The ice has cracked; he flows in. Strong arms seize up Celia in their grasp, then suddenly her back is smashing against the wall, hard enough to crack bone. She didn’t see either of them move. Rapture shudders through her as his frigid kiss takes hold, an orgasm rippling through her neck. There’s another gory crunch, and she sees his foot has stomped in Randy’s skull. The fragile smile is only half a smile. The other side of his face is blood and gore and messy shards of bone. Her sire picks it up by the hair, then pulls away from her, retracting his fangs. The bliss ends, but crimson fills her nose. A low slurp sounds as the sheriff drinks his fill from what’s left of Randy. Holding it out for her, too, to claim her fill.

Waste not, want not.

Celia: Waste not.

She would have had her fill later. But she’s pleased that he offers. That they’re sharing a meal together.

It’s all so normal.

The collar she had tugged so hard at earlier this evening suddenly doesn’t feel so tight anymore.

Suspended in the air with her sire’s body holding her up, her legs around his waist and back against the wall, all she has to do is lean in to move her fangs from her sire to Randy’s corpse. She does so, the already-cooling blood a familiar taste across her tongue. She meets his eyes over their shared “vessel.” There’s something inherently intimate about drinking together.

She’s not done with him when it’s over. When they drain the body she leans in to lick the blood from his lips and the sound she makes isn’t entirely human.

It’s a feline sound. A purr. Her whole form vibrates with the sound, eyes alight in sated desire.

She was never so bold with him before. She always let him lead, only accepted what he offered. Tonight, though, she took what she wanted.

She doesn’t wiggle when they’re done, content to hold the position against him. She rests a cheek on his shoulder.

He said he’d hear everything. That he’d see everything. Was he in her head? Or lying about it? Or following, invisible, undetected by either of them? No wonder he prefers the mind to mind contact. She should learn.

If he was, though, then she doesn’t need to waste his time repeating it.

And Roderick… she doesn’t know how to fix him, but she won’t betray him by actively spilling about him. She’d done that once and look where she’d ended up for it: with a boyfriend as fucked in the head as she is. Unbalanced. He’d told her to drop the scared woman act, but those hands around her throat had been too convincing, too similar to another raging Brujah, to leave her as anything other than distinctly nervous.

He said she could trust him. It goes both ways.

GM: Her sire drinks what’s left of Randy with her. He picks up each of the ghoul’s four severed limbs, sucks from them like drumsticks while she does the same, then tosses them aside once they’re spent. Randy’s torso gets the same treatment. The neck is still the best place to feed. Her sire rolls up his sleeve, extends the blade from her bracer, and carves open Randy’s chest. There’s even more to drink there. He pries open the ribcage with his hand and squeezes the heart to make the blood flow.

They drain what’s left of her ghoul until nothing remains.

Her sire lets the exsanguinated body parts hit the floor like emptied beer cans.

Perhaps, on another occasion, they might fuck all night long.

But sharing a meal is nice.

For Jade. For Someone Else.

Celia alone feels for what’s become of Randy.

Feels enough to tug against the collar.

To tug, and tug, and tug until—

But that’s not a face she can wear. Those aren’t thoughts she can think. Not here.

Her other selves can handle this.

It’s like she said to Clairmont.

They keep her safe.

It’s her sire who finally breaks contact. Randy’s hand gorily crunches apart under the uncaring tread of his feet as he makes his way to the sink. He cleans the blood from his waterproofed coat.

Celia: It’s the heart that makes her realize maybe they are cut from the same cloth after all. When he rips open the chest with no regard for the fact that it was once a living, breathing person and drains the blood, squeezing the heart to get out every last drop. She can almost forget that it’s Randy, caught up in appreciating that they have a similar style of consumption.

But only almost.

Reggie had done something similar last night, when she’d drained the mortal and the thin-blood. Stomped across them. She’d thought it was hot when he’d done it. Had turned it into a flirty little game. “Make me cum right when he dies.”

It’s less fun when it’s her ghoul who died. Her boy who is trod upon.

She watches the brisk, meticulous movements of her sire. She almost offers the shower in the other room, idly wondering what he looks like beneath the coat. She’s never seen. Just the forearm. Like some sort of Victorian-era ankle glimpse.

GM: He cleans the blood from that same forearm. It may as well be chiseled from white stone for all the life and fleshy softness that Celia sees.

He cleans the blood from his bracer. She had wondered if he would care what the leather was made from, then decided he would not.

Her sire finishes, then steps out into the rain.

He’s gone in an eyeblink.


Friday night, 18 March 2016, PM

Celia: There’s little enough time for her to do any of the fifteen tasks she would like to do before Elysium starts. She’d like to skip it, if she’s being honest with herself, but fuck if she doesn’t want to hear about not being there again. And with Roderick pissed at her, who is going to tell her what she missed? He’s going to be like every other lick, determining how useful she is to him or dropping her like last month’s old news.

So she multitasks.

She starts stripping the body—body, she has to think of it like a body, not like the living, breathing person he once was, not the warm boy she’d shielded from the worst sides of herself, not the boy she had planned on falling into bed with tonight because she needs the comfort—

She can’t think about what she’s doing.

It’s a body. Like anyone else on her table. She reduces who he was to a series of muscles, bones, tendons. That’s all he is now. That’s all he can be or she’s going to start spiraling down a dark path that she can’t—she can’t, she can’t, she can’t.

For one long moment she closes her eyes, breathing in hard through her nose. It still doesn’t do anything for her. She gets back to work.

And while she works she calls his brother.

GM: “Yeah?” he asks after picking up.

Celia: “Hey.” What do you say to someone whose twin you just killed? Triplet. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know yet. She has time. It’s just a body.

“Manage to catch up with your friend today?”

GM: “Yep. You want me to stop by?”

Celia: “I don’t have time. Have to meet someone. Can meet you after?”

GM: “Randy couldn’t find a pizza he was okay with. I’d scoped out a million places. Fucking idiot.”

Celia: “Oh. I was wondering what happened there.”

“Forgot how picky he is.”

GM: “Randy happened.”

Celia: Is. Not was. That’s good. Good cover.

GM: “He’s just such an idiot.”

Celia: “He was helpful today, though? With your friend?”

GM: “Yeah, he was okay there. How’s in a couple hours?”

“Flawless or LegalWings, whatever.”

Celia: “Sure. I’ll give you a buzz. You guys still hanging?”

GM: “Who, Randy?”

Celia: “No, your buddy.”

GM: “He’s an idiot, but he’s not going anywhere.”

“Brother and all.”

Celia: “Meant your friend,” she says with a laugh. “I didn’t know if it was an all day affair. I assume Randy isn’t going anywhere.”

That’s natural, right?

Is it?

Would she say that?

GM: “No way, with how obsessed with you he is. You’ll be the death of him.”

Celia: Yeah.

She will.

GM: “We aren’t, anyway. Had to take off.”

Celia: “Oh?”

GM: The clock is ticking.

Celia: “Never mind, tell me later.”

“I’ll see you in a bit.”

GM: “A’ight. I’ll fuck your brains out.”

Celia: “Looking forward to it.”

GM: Click.

Celia: There isn’t much left of Randy to strip into parts. She’s done with him by the time the call ends, already reaching for a spare set of clothes so she can get home, change, and head to Elysium. She pulls the battery out of his phone and takes a spare minute to delete the security footage showing his appearance. Then she’s out the door with the rest of his personal effects to dispose of them.

She has a feeling it’s going to be a long night.


Previous, by Narrative: Story Thirteen, Julius I
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Comments

Initial Donovan Stuff

Think this is the first time Celia has ever not been happy to see Donovan. I was pretty surprised he showed up. I thought it kind of didn’t work with the dramatic timing because she was already being emotional / how could the stakes get any higher… and then they did. And it reads better than it felt playing it with his appearance. Now that it’s over I also think it played out kind of nicely.

This was another pretty emotional log for me. A lot happened very quickly.

I am gonna jazz up of these early lines. They read kind of “meh” to me. Not dialogue, just description / feeling stuff.

I uh… I kind of hate that she approaches him and tries to touch him. I don’t really know what I was thinking when I wrote that. Maybe I thought he’d be okay with it? Which has no rational basis, since obviously I know that he wouldn’t. Seems really, really dumb now. Celia is kind of off-kilter this whole log.

One of my posts was in there twice, deleted it for you.

So. Someone Else made an appearance in an earlier log, and I kind of like that she comes back here. I think it’s pretty necessary to Celia’s survival that Someone Else has begun to emerge. We’ve discussed slightly, how Someone Else feels more like “Donovan’s childe” and Jade is more like “Veronica’s childe.” It’s kind of cool to watch the slow formation of a new facet of her personality rather than just saying it exists (though I guess we did see Celia become Jade way back when, but we have’t seen any of her others develop quite the same way).

Roderick Confrontation

Prior to his appearance I had joked about summoning Roderick with their bond, but uh… Oof. Them running into each other turned into a real big shitshow. Kind of cool that he charges the sheriff. Kind of dumb. I definitely see both sides.

To be honest this fight scene / the ensuing scenes felt like Celia taking a lot of wrong actions. First by trying to stop Roderick (which was a dice fail to be fair), then getting between them to try to talk them down (also a dice fail when Roderick grabbed and threw her). I recall asking about why I didn’t get a Persuasion roll and you said we’d talk about it during feedback, so just asking again.

Did you roll dice for them? Just curious.

Also the fact that Roderick just expected her to run and leave him to die. Idiot.

Glad I got a Hint for feedback on my original plan. I think that’s one of my failings when it comes to playing: reacting emotionally to scenes instead of logically. It makes Celia take suboptimal paths. Thought finding the tour group was pretty clever.

Celia overhears the tour guide talking about an “ovulus” that can be used to commune with ghosts in VR That sounds kind of cool. Would love to look into it further. Prob a hoax. Oh well.

Happy Diana was there to assist. Dunno what she was doing outside but I appreciated it.

I think splitting up Dani/Henry and then the rest of the girls was the best bet. Henry wouldn’t have wanted to go to the Evergreen, and Dani pretending to be sick makes the most sense. Donovan has no beef with Henry and his daughter. (Except for the fact that Roderick mentioned his sister is an abortion, so now she might be dead. Good job, Roderick.)

When Celia got back outside to find Roderick gone I really did think that the sheriff took him. Which is why she did turn back into Jade and go bird form. She was going to fly to Audubon to demand him back. Dunno why Donovan would have taken him there if his plan was just to kill him, but… y’know. Still.

Very half baked plan, as she later says to Roderick. But now you know it wasn’t a lie!

Flight Scenes

Think I wasted a boost on the “dive bomb the sheriff” roll. He caught her anyway. I thought I was rolling to catch up / face the rain. Him catching her was totally fine with me. She wanted him to know she was there.

I think I told you this, but I actually wrote something once about Donovan plucking her out of the air and squeezing her like that. Not like to death, but definitely keeping her in his hand, knowing he could crush her. I think he caught her trespassing? I don’t remember.

On the reread, I guess I can see how the logic went:
Random bird / lick approached. Donovan injured it.
Celia explained who she was. Donovan kept flying, didn’t injure.
Celia said her plan, asked him to trust her. Donovan injured her.

At the time I was just like “use your words you fuckwad.” Glad I rolled Empathy, anyway, and got feedback on the plan again. This is what I mean though, Celia has been way off kilter this whole log. Her original pitch too wouldn’t have worked probably.

Curious what would have happened if he didn’t accept her plan. Squish her? Kill Rod? Idk man.

Thought Celia’s use of Obfuscate was kind of clever here to let Rod know who she was. Like Morse Code. But I don’t pretend that my PC knows Morse Code.

GM: Roderick stares down at her.

“Okay. I trust you.”

“Enough.”

Kind of don’t love the addition of this line. Would have colored things differently for Celia / she’d have been more on the ball with her story if he had actually said this to her.

On that note…

Roderick Again

Felt like this whole scene with him was handled rather poorly on my end. Her attempt to lie about it having to do with her dad was clumsy. Falling back onto the “scared woman” act was clumsy. It’s one of those times I should have stepped away from my computer to think instead of just continuing to mash my hands on the keyboard. I don’t know if he’d have believed a lie that didn’t closely mirror the truth, though.

Was also trying to keep from telling him too much about Donovan, so it was a bit of a balancing act and I don’t think she managed. Which sucks. Rolled well for the end, I guess, but we’ll see how well it actually goes when they see each other again.

On the reread, Roderick doesn’t feel quite as mean here as he was the first time. Definitely unhinged, though. What’s funny is the only time Celia actually was scared—when he threw her against the wall—is when he told her to drop the act. So she tried. But she was still nervous. You can see it coming up again with her stepping away from him “as if for safety.”

Her, uh, attempt at humor here with the “staking and leaving him in the basement” and “cutest lick in the city” is uh… really jarring.

“Savoy’s the only one who makes sense, these nights…” VERY curious what went on in that meeting if he thinks Savoy makes sense.

“You told me once that I could trust you. That you’re not like every other lick. That you won’t use what I tell you against me. Is that still true?”

GM: “Yes,” he answers tightly.

I did not roll nearly high enough here to trust his answer. Possibly major fuckup on the bastard thing. Makes me glad I didn’t tell him that “Veronica” possibly sent Carolla after him. I don’t know if he’d sell out Celia to get at Veronica, but it’s… a huge risk. I am honestly very nervous about it. Not sure there’s a way to prove it, though, which I think is going to be her answer if he demands to know in the future why Donovan wouldn’t continue to blackmail Celia.

So like, that said. We can buy these Debts that you use to “bury a secret,” basically, but what’s to stop them from using the secret anyway? Like say Celia’s story is true and Donovan did call in a Debt for not ashing her when he found out she was a bastard. What’s to keep him from continuing to blackmail her over it? If there wasn’t such a huge power disparity, I mean, like if they were more equal standing.

I’ve been thinking about what Celia could tell him Donovan wanted her to do but I don’t know if he’ll ask again. Also have a story about how he found out, which is kind of close to the truth, but again I don’t know if he’ll ask again.

But yeah that whole part just felt really clumsy to me. I am not happy with how it turned out. Gave him a fuck ton of ammunition because she trusts who he used to be.

Wish she’d told him she was sorry when she hugs him here. Or told him she loves him. Or something that might have returned them to some semblance of “normalcy.”

His chest isn’t warm, though.

It’s cool.

No steady heartbeat greets her ears.

God, that part fucked me up. I assumed as much, but man. Also was there an irregular heartbeat or just nothing? The way it’s written could go either way.

The whole following scene with him was pretty painful. Just the way he’s treating her. Not overtly cruel, but it’s still there. Also what the fuck did Celia ever do to Preston to make her dislike Celia so much? Like she’s such a fucking cunt for no reason to Celia.

GM: “Use your head. Why would I want him ashed?”

“How does that change the political situation and why is that change desirable to me?”

Celia: “I see.”

True story: I have no idea! But Celia sure as hell didn’t want to admit that to him.

Randy and Donovan

Alright so like. When Randy showed up, and then Donovan showed up behind him, I was walking around the block with my dog. 1am. I scanned the post. It didn’t register. I stopped. I read it again. I looked at Casper. “What.” He didn’t say anything, but he’s a dog so I didn’t expect him to. It was absolutely unexpected and jarring to see him show up like that. I think I told you to hold on because “I can’t do this scene right now,” because I was already pretty fucked up over the Roderick thing and this was just more hurt on top of that. Which I retracted pretty quickly when I realized I would not be able to sleep at all with this hanging over my head.

Originally, Celia planned to save Randy. You see her go for it, try to get to him to heal him, and Donovan kicks him away. Tell her to prove her strength. And I was like “what, by watching him die?” And you were all, “nah kill him yourself bitch.”

Oof.

Bro.

This was a real hard decision for me. We discussed it at length, pros and cons of each, and it was still real hard. I spent like, what, 13 hours debating the response? I mean part of that I was sleeping for. But fuck dude. Back and forth, back and forth. You even see it in the post before she swings the sword, since I started typing that and had no idea where I was going to end up. Celia’s thoughts jump around a lot about him.Also part of me thought Donovan was going to keep her from using his saber (I was originally going to do something more gentle or sever his vertebra or something), and that would have sucked. She goes for the saber and he’s like “no.”

But I think I made the right decision. Or at least the rightest decision I could.

What motivated me the most in the end was the WP I’d get from killing him, the XP I’d get back, and the chance to roll against the bond. So it worked out, I think. Already figuring out who / what to replace him with.

I think there’s some decent introspection here from Celia before she kills Randy.

:: All she ever wanted was to love you. :: He never even responds to this. What a dick. I had another line I wanted to use but I thought keeping it to one was better.

Wonder if he’d have fucked her if Jade hadn’t tried. Still think he only does it because she wants it. Another way to control her. Carrot and stick. Etc. Thought it was cool he carved open the chest and squeezed the heart. Celia maybe less so. Someone Else thought it was good, too.

Thought that the Reggie thing would add more than it did. He’s pretty dismissive of Randy as a loser here but I imagine he’ll be upset when he finds out he’s dead. Still figuring out how to spin it. Sad I didn’t get to see him before Elysium, tbh. His line about his friend “needing to go” makes me pretty nervous. I sincerely hope that nothing dumb happened.

Curious how successful Donovan thought her handling of Roderick went if he killed her ghoul for it.

Story Thirteen, Celia XVI
False_Epiphany False_Epiphany

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