“You just want to spread your… fucking curse, onto all of us. You can’t just leave us alone!"
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, PM
Jade: The nightjar does a final swoop around the neighborhood, looking for signs of Kindred activity on the streets below. The Beasts always sense each other, hidden though the nightjar’s is.
GM: The nightjar’s 15 or so minute search yields sees nothing.
The Nosferatu, after all, must hide their deformed faces too.
Jade: The nightjar doesn’t linger overlong in the territory when its search turns up nothing. Despite the lack of rats this evening it’s still riding the high from the earlier altercations, and it wants to keep that going. It turns to head back to the Quarter.
GM: The nightjar finds Jade’s haven currently empty.
Jade: It heads instead to Flawless.
GM: After 8 PM, the spa is closed down and the lights turned off.
Jade: The bird flies back to Celia’s mother’s house, touching down beside the car. It resumes its male form and pulls out Celia’s phone from where she’d left it earlier and dials the ghoul’s number.
GM: “Yes, m-Celia?” Alana asks, quickly picking up.
Jade: “Let’s go out. Where are you?”
GM: “Nowhere as important as by your side,” the ghoul croons. “Where do you want me?”
Jade: “In my arms, darling. Come home so we can get ready together.”
GM: “That’s just where I want to be too,” Alana purrs. “I’ll be home right away.”
Jade: Z’s face begins to change the moment he gets into the car, turning him into Jade once more. It’s a quick drive home. She lets herself in, idly browsing through the closet for an outfit for this evening.
GM: A loud, “HEY!” goes up from Diana’s house as the man gets inside Celia’s car.
Jade: Oh boy.
The flesh continues to change. Jade looks toward the source of the noise.
GM: It’s her mom, carrying a carving knife.
She looks confused when she sees Jade.
Jade: Jade gives an awkward wave.
GM: “Hi,” she says tersely, folding her arms.
Jade: “Hi,” Jade says quietly. “I was just… getting my car.”
GM: “Yes, I saw. There’s an alarm around the house now. I get a phone alert when someone comes close enough.”
Jade: “Oh. Good. Glad that’s working. Quick installation.” Jade nods.
GM: “Yes. I wanted to take quick action. We don’t feel as safe as we used to.”
She hasn’t uncrossed her arms.
“I thought you’d be the one to do something bad, but maybe that was unfair of me. Tonight was all Celia.”
Jade: “Celia is… struggling right now. Sometimes the taste of love overwhelms us. There aren’t many who taste like that, and even I felt it from Emily. That doesn’t excuse what she did. It was wrong. But she’s struggling, and deeply ashamed.”
GM: “Emily feels very hurt,” says Diana. “She feels very betrayed. She feels like Celia sees her as food.”
“She’s cried a lot. And said some pretty angry things.”
Jade: “Would you like me to speak to her?”
“I just fed,” she adds, as if that might help.
GM: “That depends,” says her mom. “Was what happened tonight the same thing that happened, earlier? When Celia was chained to the bathtub, and just… lost it?”
“Because I could tell that thing wasn’t Celia. I wasn’t as sure tonight.”
Jade: “No. That was Celia tonight. The Beast wouldn’t have asked. It would have just taken. But she… wasn’t in her right mind. The blood can do that, make us do things that we ordinarily wouldn’t ever consider.” Jade cants her head to one side. “You weren’t affected by what Celia did earlier.”
“The emotional manipulation. The aura.”
“I don’t know if that’s a reflection of the abuse you went through that you can shrug it off, or being reunited with Lucy and finding your strength again. Or if it’s simply a byproduct of the love you feel for your children. Either way, it’s a gift. It makes us worry less that someone might sway you like that.”
“I’m stronger than Celia in that regard. She has admitted as much. If it is okay with you, I would like to apologize to Emily and make it right. Especially knowing what I do about what Emily has been through. I’d like you to stay with us, if you’re not too tired, so that you see I have no ill intentions.”
“I—we—also think it might be beneficial to tell her about… us.”
“Please,” Jade adds quietly. The word is foreign on her tongue. She doesn’t often find herself begging; Celia does most of that. But this, she knows, this is important. This is another mistake Celia has made that Jade can at least attempt to fix.
GM: By this time, Diana’s hair is fairly soaked under the still-falling rain. She finally clambers into the car on the passenger side and pats Jade’s hand.
“I had planned to introduce the two of you. And Lucy.”
“You’re my daughter. So that means my other kids are your brothers and sisters.”
“I’d still like to.”
“I also think meeting Celia’s alters would be a lot for Emily to take in right now.”
Jade: “I don’t want her to hate Celia.”
GM: “This is about Emily, before it’s about Celia.”
“As she’s the one who’s been hurt and now feels unsafe.”
“Why did this happen?” Diana asks, simply. “Was Celia hungry, and that’s why she wasn’t in her right mind? Or is it dangerous for her to be around blood at all?”
Jade: There’s a moment of silence while Jade collects her thoughts.
“Celia told you the other night that she wants to be better. Before she came here she met with someone who is part of her herd. He’s facing some difficult times at work, so rather than feed as deeply as normal she only took a small amount. She was still riding the edge. She wanted to show Emily the things she can do with the skin, but she didn’t want to risk crossing the line to where the Beast has an easier time of things. So she licked it instead. That was… a mistake.”
“We’re always hungry. Sometimes more hungry than others. The only time we’re not is when we kill, and even then within a few hours we’re usually hungry again. Celia wasn’t out of control, but because she’d expected a full meal and didn’t get it she was not quite herself. Blood also has unique flavors, and love is… exquisite. Better than any meal she’s ever had. So she tasted that, and she wanted more. It wasn’t quite the Beast, but it was hunger and desire and loneliness. It was wanting a reminder that people do love her and that she isn’t as much of a screwup as she thinks.”
“I feed through sex,” Jade says. “So the taste is always sweet. Like candy. But too much of it rots your teeth. Celia wanted something real, not the fake stuff she so often gets.”
GM: Her slowly mother takes that all in.
“Okay. So Emily’s blood was like catnip to Celia, basically. How do we STOP this?” she asks, frankly. “Something like what happened earlier. How does it become safe for Emily to be around you and Celia?”
“Is it simply, you and Celia can’t ever taste Emily’s blood, even a little bit? Or Celia needed to be less hungry when she came over?”
“Both? Something else?”
Jade: “I don’t believe this is a mistake Celia will ever repeat, not after learning that she’d hurt and scared her sister. That being said, she shouldn’t be around anyone while hungry, and she shouldn’t taste the blood again.”
Jade shifts, bending her knee and pulling it into the seat to face Diana.
“I’m not excusing her behavior, but I would ask that you understand she’s in a very fragile emotional state right now and not thinking clearly. She’s being reckless and impulsive.”
“On Friday night I made plans with a friend to travel. Because I was seen with him, Celia’s lover followed her from the event we were at and staked her. He spent the evening emotionally and verbally abusing her, twisting the knife as much as he could. Saturday night she asked him for help. He belittled her again. She was kidnapped and tortured. Sunday night her lover came by the spa with some of his friends. He kidnapped and tortured her again, then brought her back to the spa and attempted to force her to sign over everything she owned. She outplayed him, but she paid for it. During the day on Monday she was staked and kidnapped by her grandsire’s agents and brought to the interrogation room. Her grandsire let her ex-lover lead the interrogation. Her friend was killed. She lost Dani’s friendship. The krewemate that helped her on Sunday was brought in as well and will no longer take our calls. The detective has expressed dissatisfaction with her and verbally reamed her out over what happened.”
Jade effects a sigh and shakes her head.
“Celia is spiraling and thinks the world is out to get her right now.”
“I’m not telling you this to invoke pity,” Jade adds. “Just saying what she won’t.”
“To give context to what I mean by being in a fragile emotional state.”
GM: “My lord, that’s… horrific,” Diana says slowly, blinking. “And a ton to unpack. Is it… I’m sorry, there’s just been so much trauma in our family lately. I just want to know what needs triage and what can wait until later. Is this hurting you, too, right now? Or Celia? Or can it wait?”
Jade: “I’m fine,” Jade says. “I never much liked him anyway. I miss my friend. I’m upset with my grandsire and concerned that I will lose what I’ve worked for. My business, my turf. You. I don’t think he’s that mad, but…” She trails off with a shrug.
“It wasn’t supposed to go like this. Celia is hurting and afraid. I blew off some steam earlier tonight and am going out shortly to blow off more. So I can wait. She can wait.”
GM: “Okay,” says Diana. She rubs Jade’s shoulder. “I’m sorry you lost your friend, though. It sounds like friends are something you and Celia could use right now.”
Jade: Jade gives a tiny nod. Then, in a quiet voice, she says that her grandsire had called for his death after her lover demanded it to switch sides, so to speak.
“We thought playing for the same team would make it better with him. But not like this. Neither of us wanted this. Yeah, though. Friends sounds… nice.”
GM: “It sounds like your grandsire isn’t a very nice man.”
“He sounds very manipulative and full of it.”
Jade: “Yeah. He is.”
“I thought he was different.”
“She thought he was different.”
“He’s an elder,” she says, as if that explains it.
“But he helped get us situated. With domain. The business. Emily’s living costs for a while. He knows who we are.”
GM: “He paid Emily’s living costs?”
Jade: “I gave you money when you were pregnant. It came from him.”
GM: “That was badly needed,” her mom nods. “I obviously couldn’t work then. Couldn’t let anyone know I was pregnant.”
“Anyway, that was years ago.”
“But as far as Emily right now.”
“That’s helpful to know about Celia,” she says, rubbing Jade’s hand again. “But one thing I want to throw out, sweetie, is that all of us have context. All of us have stories. All of us have reasons. For why we act and feel how we do.”
“Consider Emily’s. She’s been raped, which I guess you know if Celia knows. When she was younger, in foster care. She thought she was over it. She thought something like that would never happen to her again, in my house. She is really broken up about what happened with Celia.”
“And this is coming after she learned about… how she was raped in college, too, by a vampire. Raped more times than she even knows. And just months ago, too. By… Isabel.” Diana’s voice is a whisper at her daughter’s name. “She feels very powerless and very vulnerable right now. All of this has really broken her up.”
“So, this isn’t just her being hurt and scared. Or even feeling betrayed. She can, if she believes this won’t happen again, and finds it within her heart, choose to forgive Celia. But this is also about her no longer feeling safe around Celia, or in my house. After always having felt safe with us. She’s upset at having that sense of safety torn away from her.”
“At being a victim again.”
Jade: “What can I do to help?”
GM: “Hm. Well. Beyond Celia apologizing, I’m not sure. Anything to help Emily feel in control again would help. Anything to make her feel like she’s not just a victim.”
“Like what we did, after Celia realized what a bad thing she’d done. That really helped me.”
Jade: “The spanking?”
GM: “Yes. Though I don’t think Emily would want to do quite the same thing.”
Jade: “Feeding isn’t always a bad thing,” Jade says. “If it’s done right it doesn’t hurt, and it feels good, and it’s… I mean it’s not always malicious. Maybe I could show her that..?”
“To show her that she isn’t a victim. Wasn’t a victim.”
GM: Diana blinks.
“Sweetie, I think being fed on by a vampire is the last thing she would want right now.”
Jade: “No, not her. On someone else.”
GM: “Hm, maybe. I think something Emily could do would be more helpful than watching you do something.”
“Maybe nothing’s possible in this situation. I just know that it really helped me.”
Jade: “I wanted to show her what I can do. The body work. I was going to have her help me with your leg, but I don’t have the bone yet. I was supposed to get it last night.”
GM: “It’s fine. I’ve lived with this bum leg for thirteen years. Another day or few isn’t killing me.”
Jade: “Do you think that would help?”
“I was planning on going out with Alana. As Celia. And me as someone else. Emily could come, if she wants.”
GM: “Oh, what to do?”
“Emily’s said she doesn’t want to go out to bars and clubs anymore after learning vampires feed on people there. I don’t know if she meant it seriously.”
Jade: “Dancing, I figured. Maybe some karaoke. Normal girl stuff. I could find something more exciting if you think she’d be into it.”
“No one will feed on her in my territory.”
GM: “Hm, I might ask her that,” says Diana. “I’ll ask her if she wants to talk to Celia tonight.”
“I also had some things to bring up, before we got… derailed, earlier. About Abigail, mostly. Would you or Celia be better to talk to?”
GM: “Okay. I got some legal advice about her, from Dani.”
“You two are still talking?”
GM: “Yes, we have a good relationship. We don’t want to let what happened between Celia and Dani affect what we have.”
“Dani doesn’t really have anyone else she can talk to, besides her brother. About what she is.”
Jade: Jade looks down at her hands.
“I was going to tell her on Sunday, before we went to the church. I got distracted. I made a mistake with her. Celia and I made a mistake.” She shakes her head. “Something else I need to fix. But this isn’t about me. I’m glad she still has you.”
GM: “I hope you do, for her sake as well as yours. She is very sad to have lost a friend.”
“In any case, she came by today to help with Abigail. She picked up the crib and a bunch of baby supplies.”
“Emily was in school, and spending time with Robby afterwards. I hadn’t told her about Abi yet.”
“I wanted her to enjoy a normal day and not fall behind on schoolwork.”
“But, my lord. I am having to draw on all of my mom skills for this child.”
“She has been a handful.”
Jade: “Do you want me to take her?”
GM: “Take her where? We’re all she has.”
Jade: “I didn’t bring her to you to add stress.”
GM: “No, you brought her so she would have a loving home, and a family that could meet her needs.”
“And I think because God wanted you to.”
Jade: “You look like you haven’t slept in a week,” Jade says frankly.
“And she bit Emily.”
GM: “Yes, she bit me too, several times. She also hit Lucy.”
Jade: Jade purses her lips.
GM: “And I do look exhausted.”
“I am exhausted.”
“I will also need to take a maternity leave from work, to take care of her. She needs round-the-clock parenting.”
“Which is where Dani comes in, anyway.”
“She says that Abi needs a birth certificate. Documentation she exists, and that I am her legal guardian.”
“If I’m going to be reporting the fact that she exists to McGehee, to get a maternity leave. If I’m going to someday be enrolling her at McGehee. Taking her to doctor visits. Getting her a driver’s license and social security number and helping her apply to colleges, when she’s old enough.”
“There needs to be, in Dani’s words, ‘some legal record that Diana Flores has an eighth child.’”
“Did she have a birth certificate, from where you picked her up?”
Jade: “I can look, or I can get her another one.”
“We could use Isabel here, possibly. Since she’s…”
GM: “Dead. Yes. How do you mean, use Isabel?”
Jade: “As the mom.”
GM: Diana heaves a sigh.
It sounds like relief.
“Oh, my lord. I wish I’d thought of that.”
“I’m glad you have.”
“Dani dropped what I thought was going to be an enormous headache onto our heads.”
“Getting custody of her.”
Jade: “If we say that the child was born in Sudan then it would make sense she doesn’t have the legal paperwork yet.”
GM: “Yes, that would make sense. Though how does she get here, if Isabel is dead?”
Jade: “Isabel’s father dropped her off and went back.”
“Or Isabel died here.”
“Maybe an illness she picked up there.”
GM: Diana closes her eyes and rubs a hand across her forehead.
She looks less than thrilled to be concocting explanations for her daughter’s death.
“Take care of it.”
Jade: “I will.”
GM: “Dani said we were going to need to report the baby to social services. DCFS. Get them to issue a birth certificate. She said they would try to locate relatives, and then if they found none, we could apply to adopt. And she said that would involve a long screening process with background checks, interviews, training, and social worker visitations, and oh my lord I did not want to deal with that. I have more than enough on my plate right now.”
“And it would involve Abigail being taken away and put in a foster home, to boot, until I was allowed to adopt her.”
“Unless I wanted to become a foster parent, which would involve its own series of hoops to jump through.”
Jade: “I’m glad it won’t come to that.”
GM: “And then Dani said she thought I’d be a really good one, which made me feel good.”
Jade: “You would be, Mom.”
GM: She gives a tired smile and rubs Jade’s hand.
“It might be something to look into. When life is less hectic. And Lucy is older.”
Jade: “Oh, definitely. Not now.”
GM: “Yes. Abi is handful enough.”
Jade: “Dani might be able to help with the paperwork as well. Or… ah, her brother. Though I’d rather go to Payton if we need to push anything through.”
GM: Her mother purses her lips.
“Your grandmother is a criminal judge. This is all family law.”
Jade: “Oh. Viv. Duh.”
GM: “Yes, I would feel better getting Viv’s help. And Dani’s, even if she isn’t a lawyer yet.”
Jade: “I’d rather not owe her brother for anything,” Jade agrees.
“Keep him away from you. From our family. He’s not the boy he used to be.”
GM: “Yes, you said he was abusing you.”
Jade: “Celia and I fucked him up. I won’t say we deserved it. But we caused it.”
GM: “I asked myself all the time if there was something I did to make your father abuse us.”
“No good comes from going down that road of thought.”
Jade: “I lied to, manipulated, and cheated on him,” Jade says baldly. “Then I outplayed him when he thought he’d won and reduced him to nothing.”
GM: “Does he want… revenge?”
“Because abusers do not react well when they feel like their control is threatened.”
“They try to re-assert it.”
Jade: “We settled up last night.”
“We’re supposed to have a truce.”
GM: “I don’t know if I’d count on that.”
Jade: Jade smiles. “I’m not.”
GM: “Can I help?”
Jade: “Celia wants him back. Even after everything. She wants to fix it. I don’t think he’ll forgive her. I don’t think it’s worth pursuing. I’m also not interested in someone who knows everything about us, including another identity and the truth of some things most licks don’t, being an enemy. I don’t want to have to constantly look over my shoulder or wonder if he’s going to come after my family, my business, my turf, or if he’s going to set up his new night doc as me because no one will know. I don’t think there’s a magic fix-all. We lied every chance we got. We can blame plenty of other things, but it was us.”
GM: “Is there anything you can do to make up for what happened, if it really was your fault? And that’s not just the line he’s telling you as he beats you?”
Jade: “…maybe, but it jeopardizes everything.”
GM: “How so? Are there any other things you can do?”
Jade: Jade is quiet for a moment, biting the inside of her cheek. Finally she leans forward, searching all the obvious spaces for bugs. The same places she’d seen Draco check in his car, plus a few more.
GM: Jade locates none.
Jade: She’s still wary. Emily had called her paranoid the other night and maybe she is, but she’d rather be safe than sorry, and she doesn’t have whatever thing Draco had used to scan for electronics.
“I don’t know,” she finally says, “it’s a long story where I thought I was doing the right thing and it turned out to be wrong. I believed a lie and trusted the wrong person. I don’t have proof. Not proof he would trust, not proof that he’d let me show him. But it’s… not about Celia tonight. It’s not about him.”
GM: “Are you looking for something, sweetie?” her mom asks, first.
GM: Diana peers around the same spaces.
“That sounds a lot like what Dani says.”
“And maybe there’s something to it if you also think so too.”
“She’s obviously going to take her brother’s side for anything, just like I’d take yours.”
Jade: “She said that about me?”
GM: “Not you, but she did say Celia had lied to her brother and manipulated him and betrayed him.”
Jade: “He killed someone because of me. Because Celia told him what happened with the hunters. We were jumped. And he killed them.”
“Then I used Dani against him.”
“Things got worse from there.”
“We’re past the point of apologies.”
GM: “When did the abuse start?”
Jade: “After he found out he’d been betrayed by someone else.”
“The same week he killed two people and found out his sister was a thin-blood.”
“And that his girlfriend was a lying, cheating whore.”
“Just kinda piles up.”
GM: “Celia might have lied and cheated, but she is not a… lady of the evening.”
Jade: “…she kind of is.”
GM: Jade’s mom smiles and rubs the back of her head.
“The figurative kind, sweetie.”
“Obviously, you’re both ladies who only wake up after evening.”
Jade: “No. I mean she is a whore. We are whores. We sleep with… a lot of people.”
“Not to burst your bubble about her.”
GM: “Well, I may not approve of that lifestyle choice, but that isn’t the same as accepting money for it.”
Jade: “She… ah, she’s done that too.”
GM: “Oh. Is that a… vampire thing?”
Jade: “No. It was before.”
GM: “In… she’d have been in college. Or high school.”
Diana blinks again.
“She didn’t want you to know.”
GM: Diana takes that in, but not for long. She hugs Jade, running a hand up and down her daughter’s hair.
“That’s peanuts to forgive, after everything. You’re my baby no matter what you, she, did then.”
Jade: “Thanks, Mom,” Jade says quietly. “Maybe some night she’ll tell you what happened. I think she’s still kind of messed up over it.”
GM: “Oh no,” her mom murmurs. “Absolutely. Anything I can do to help her. Anything to show her she’s loved and accepted.”
Jade: Jade shakes her head, pulling away. “Do you want to ask Emily if she’d like to come out tonight?”
GM: “I think it would be better for Celia to apologize, see how that goes, and ask if it goes well.”
Jade: Jade gives a nod. She reaches into the back seat, pulling out a wooden stake and handing it over to Diana.
“You can give her this. It’ll put a lick down. Goes in easier than you’d think.”
“She should carry a lighter. Or a torch. Or something that makes fire. That puts us down too.”
GM: “You mentioned,” says her mom as she accepts the stake, looking it over. “Earlier. To aim for the heart.”
“This would be much harder than Hollywood makes it look.”
Jade: “The wood is… symbolic. Photosynthesis. You’ve seen how the sun hurts. So this does the same thing, sort of. It’s all intertwined.”
“Do, uh, do you want to try it?”
GM: “On… you?” Diana asks, eyebrows raised.
Jade: “I… yes? We could show Emily?”
“Just, y’know, no decapitation or fire or anything.”
“Even monsters have weaknesses.”
GM: “You’d mentioned,” her mom nods. “Dani too.”
“I think this maybe would make Emily feel better.”
Jade: “You should get some lotus flowers,” Jade says idly. “They put Stephen to sleep. Easier to stake.”
“In case you don’t want to set him on fire if he comes around.”
GM: “I’d rather not have to do anything to him. I think it’s better if we just go our separate ways, if things are what they are between you two.”
Jade: “Right. I just mean if he decides to get back at me by coming after you.”
“I’ll kill him if he does. But that will keep you safe in the meantime.”
GM: Her mom looks wary.
“Okay. I can keep some lotus flowers just in case.”
Jade: “Anything else before we see Emily?”
GM: “If you’re going out tonight, and not as Celia, would you like to do your makeup together?”
Jade: “I was thinking about going as a man.”
“But… I could bring Alana over and do her face while Emily does her makeup, so it’s kind of the same.”
GM: “I was going to remark, you are wearing some pretty boy-ish clothes.”
Jade: “I, ah, yeah. Was trying something new.”
GM: “I don’t think Alana would like to come over. And I’d rather not invite Alana over.”
Jade: “Then I’ll text her and let her know I’m running late.”
GM: “She was here just today, anyway.”
Jade: “For what?”
GM: “Trying to bully and intimidate me.”
Jade: “To… what? What happened?”
GM: Diana shakes her head.
“It doesn’t matter. I told her I wasn’t having any of this nonsense and closed the door in her face.”
Jade: “I’ll talk to her. She shouldn’t be showing up like that.”
GM: “Yes, it was disruptive. Abi was having a tantrum. Though still actually a bit satisfying.”
“I think she was expecting a doormat again.”
Jade: “She’s jealous,” Jade says with a sigh.
GM: “Of what?”
Jade: “That night Henry was here she showed up sobbing about how I ignore her and don’t spend time with her.”
“She was always jealous of Randy if we spent time together.”
“The bond, you know? But it’s not always like that. I think she’s just naturally jealous.”
GM: “Maybe she is,” Diana says thoughtfully. “I don’t think she has any family of her own, does she?”
Jade: “A sister.”
“She was a mess when I found her.”
“I put her back together.”
“Gave her a new body. New purpose.”
GM: “A new body?”
Jade: “She’s your age, I think Celia mentioned. Was obese when I found her. Bad skin. Bad hair. Bad everything. I trimmed the fat. Added some curves. Sculpted her into what she is.”
GM: Her mom’s eyebrows raise again.
“She’s my age?”
“Well, good job. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it.”
Jade: Jade smiles.
“I’m very good at what I do.”
GM: Her mom smiles and squeezes her shoulder.
“Yes, you are. You’re extremely bright and talented and creative.”
Jade: “Thank you. That means a lot.”
GM: “It’s only the truth,” her mom repeats, still smiling.
“You and Celia have certainly kept me pretty all these years, too.”
Jade: “Good base to work with.”
GM: “And good hands to be worked on by.”
Her mom looks at her thoughtfully.
“Oh, say, is there anything you’ve ever wanted us to do together, that we couldn’t before?”
“On the spa table, that is.”
Jade: “I’d like to get rid of the rest of your scar tissue. Fix up any old wounds, aside from the leg. See if I can reverse the clock a little on some areas. You’re not old, but the body still changes, you know?”
“I have some theories to test with the tattooing I do.”
GM: Her mom nods.
“Yes, I’d be happy for you to do all those things. I love how pretty you and Celia keep me.”
“Is the tattooing that medical thing you mentioned, earlier?”
Jade: “Which medical thing?”
GM: “You mentioned an experiment or something, the last time we were in the car together. My car.”
Jade: “Oh. That. No, it’s different.”
GM: “Oh, what’s that? We were discussing a lot of other things, I don’t think we went into details.”
Jade: “It’s more to see if I can make temporary things in advance that someone can apply.”
“Ah, a thing to… make you unable to be bonded.”
“It’s still just kind of a hypothesis.”
GM: Her mom nods again. “Of course then, I’d be happy to help with all of those things.”
Jade: “Thank you,” Jade says earnestly. “I know it’s been bumpy, and that we’ve had our struggles. But I’m glad you know.”
GM: “Me too, sweetie.” Diana wraps an arm around her. “I’m glad I have another daughter. Or can love all parts of my daughter.”
“You and Celia get a lot more alike, when your hair is down, so to speak.”
Jade: “There’s no one to pretend for here. I feel safe with you.”
GM: Her mom smiles again and gives her another squeeze.
“How would you like to do something together, some night you and Alana and maybe Emily aren’t going out?”
Jade: “I’d love to.”
GM: “Me too. I don’t want us to spend all our time together in the car.” Diana thinks. “I’ll need to arrange childcare for Abi. Which already came up today. Find someone reliable who can care for her before I take a leave from work, and after I’m back. Before we can enroll her at Little Gate.”
She shakes her head. “Anyway, that’s all mom stuff. You want to, ah, what do you call it, when another of your alters comes out?”
Jade: “Switch, mostly. And yeah.” Jade takes Diana’s hand in hers. “Thank you. I appreciate you. I’ll let you talk to Celia now.”
GM: “Switch,” Jade’s mom repeats. “Okay, I’ll see you later. I love you.”
Celia: One moment Jade is there. The next she’s not. Diana’s other daughter hunches her shoulders slightly, looking away from her mom.
GM: “Sweetie?” Diana asks, rubbing Celia’s shoulder.
“Are you okay?”
Celia: “I hurt Emily,” Celia says in a quiet voice.
GM: “Yes, I’m afraid you did.”
Celia: “I didn’t mean to.”
GM: “I don’t think you did mean to.”
Celia: Celia blinks down at her lap. “Jade said staking might help.”
GM: “I think seeing and doing that would make Emily feel more in control and less like a victim.”
GM: “And I think would be useful for us both to see and know how it’s done.”
Celia: “But you’re going to let me go, right?”
GM: Her mom gives a faint laugh like she just asked if Santa really gave all those childhood presents.
“What else would we do?”
Celia: Celia shrugs, rubbing her shoulder. “Cut me into pieces. Light me on fire.”
GM: “Celia, I am your mother.”
“You don’t seriously believe I would do that.”
“Or allow someone else to do that.”
Celia: “Stephen did.”
“My sire did.”
“My sister did.”
GM: Her mother frowns. “Isabel?”
“It can’t have been any of the others.”
Celia: “No. My other sister.”
“The vampire one.”
“She didn’t know I was her sister at the time.”
“But she still did.”
GM: “Ah. Well, I don’t know her or what to tell you about her. Does staking hurt you, though?”
“It just paralyzes us.”
GM: “Is it painful?”
Celia: “A little.”
“…a lot,” she admits.
GM: Her mom frowns.
Celia: “I think it’ll set a record, though. Lick staked the most unrelated times for X nights in a row.”
“So that’s good.”
She smiles weakly at her knees.
GM: Her mom’s frown doesn’t quite abate, but she hugs Celia close.
“Well, I’m sorry it hurts. Do you think it’ll be worth it here?”
Celia: “Yes. To help Emily. And to show you both how it’s done.”
GM: Her mom nods. “And you trust us?”
Celia: Does she? She’d trusted Diana and Emily with the truth. Now she has to trust them with her body.
GM: Her mom gives her a squeeze. “Okay.”
She pulls her phone out of her pocket—the pocketted dress was something Emily got her for one birthday—and taps off a text.
“Just letting her know you’re outside with me.”
Celia: Celia nods.
She taps out a text to Alana letting her know she’s running a bit behind. Meeting ran late.
GM: See you soon… xoxoxo
Celia: She sends back three heart emojis.
GM: “Okay, she says we can come see her,” says Diana.
“Just a word of warning, sweetie, she is still very upset.”
GM: Celia’s mom climbs out of the car, heads through the rain up to the carriage house, and knocks. She’s still holding the stake.
Celia: Celia trails after her.
GM: “Come in,” sounds a terse voice.
Celia: Celia makes a gesture for her mom to go first.
“After you,” she murmurs.
GM: Her mom walks in and sits down on the bed next to Emily. Celia’s sister looks like she’s been crying a lot, if her red and puffy eyes are indication. But there are no wet tears along her eyes. The black-haired woman looks pissed.
Worse than pissed. Celia’s seen pissed Emily plenty.
She looks hurt. She looks betrayed. She looks vaguely nauseous.
Celia: Celia doesn’t move any closer than she needs to in order to shut the door. She doesn’t think Emily wants her crowding her space right now.
“Hi, Emi. Thanks for… thanks for seeing me.”
GM: “Fuck you,” she says flatly.
“You fucking rapist cunt.”
Celia: “Okay. Well. I can see this is a waste of time.”
GM: “Oh, what, you don’t like me calling you a rapist? Would ‘attempted rapist’ be better?”
Celia: “Since that’s technically the correct term, yes.”
GM: “Because I’ve decided, fuck ‘not-technically-raped’. Because, you know, I’ve been raped by a vampire sucking my blood without my consent, and I’ve been raped by someone penetrating my vagina without my consent, and honestly, they both made me feel equally violated.”
“I’m a fucking rape connoisseur.”
Celia: “Yeah. That wasn’t a great explanation when I told you that. I was just… trying to explain.”
GM: “Attempted rape from a family member, though, that one sure is new.”
Celia: “Yeah, Em, I fucked up. I’m a habitual rapist. I feed on people without their consent. I leave them worse than when I found them. I’m a monster.”
GM: “Don’t forget a liar, too. I asked if you’d killed anybody and you lied about that.”
Celia: Did she?
“I lied a lot.”
GM: “You saw how sick that made me. Remembering it. And you still. Fucking. Did it. Just, wow. Just wow.”
“Nice to know where I really stand. Nice to how how little I mean to you.”
“Nice to know all I am to you is food.”
Celia: “Everyone is food,” Celia snarls at her, “that’s how it works. I’m breaking all the fucking rules here by telling you what I am and not reporting this violation like I’m supposed to. You’re human. Kine. That’s what we call you. If I didn’t give a fuck about you more than that I wouldn’t fucking be here letting you yell at me, would I? No. Of course not.”
GM: “Oh, no, you might just be hoping I’ll forgive you, so you can keep using me. Maybe sneak in a few midnight snacks when I’m not looking. Or when Mom’s not around, I guess, if you’re just gonna rape my mind again.”
Celia: “Jesus fucking Christ, Emily, I made a mistake. I fucked up. I’ve done that a lot lately. I’d like to make amends, and it’s not so I can fucking snack on you.”
“I wasn’t expecting to fucking taste your blood tonight.”
GM: “Hey, was it a ‘mistake’ when Maxen beat you? Huh? Should he get to say Jesus fucking Christ’, he just wants to make amends, he’s tired of you being such a bitch and not making it easy? And suspecting your motives when you’ve shown just how suspicious a person you really are?”
Celia: “Then don’t forgive me.”
GM: “So far I’m seeing absolutely no reason to.”
“Lot of blaming Emily for being mad about her attempted rape.”
“What a fucking bitch, that Emily!”
“You’re sick. You know that? You mind-raped me, Mom says you mind-raped her and wanted to mind-rape Lucy, you drink Mom’s blood, you got Mom to drink your blood, you wanted to drink the baby’s blood—oh, and lie to Mom about that—and you tried to drink my blood. You just want to spread your… fucking curse, onto all of us. You can’t just leave us alone!”
Celia: “I mind-raped you before. The night I took Mom out of the hospital. You followed me in to see a night doctor and got in my face about not ponying up the money I didn’t have. Offered your scholarship. I fucked with your head then to make you leave because it was easier than trying to explain. I took the easy way out.”
GM: Emily stares.
“Jesus fucking Christ.”
Their mother frowns in confusion.
Celia: “I borrowed money,” Celia says, waving a hand. “I borrowed to make sure you had your toes reattached.”
“So she didn’t need to give it up. I saw what she was willing to do and I thought that even if I had to live on the streets I wouldn’t let her do that, or you live without toes.”
“So I borrowed.”
“And I told myself I’d never fuck with your head again.”
GM: “Thank you for doing that,” says her mom. “I’m sure glad to have my toes.”
Celia: Celia shakes her head.
“Not the point. But you’re welcome.”
GM: Emily laughs.
“How’d that fucking work out? Never again?”
Celia: “I just wanted to let Emily know—”
GM: “Wow. I don’t even know how many people have fucked with my head at this point.”
“I don’t even know how times that college vampire raped me.”
Emily laughs again. It sounds a tinge hysterical.
“Wow. Fucking wow.”
“Celia, maybe you should explain what happened,” her mom says quietly.
“Oh, do not tell me you’re excusing her!” flares Emily.
Celia: “It doesn’t matter what happened. I broke a promise to myself not to hurt either of you, not to make you afraid of me, not to… fuck with you. And I did. I fucked with her.”
“Everyone has a story, that’s what you said.”
“So it doesn’t matter.”
“I messed up.”
“And I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t fix anything. But I am.”
“I wanted… to show you something cool. And I tasted you. And I just wanted more. And it was stupid and selfish and I’m never going to be okay with what I did to you, because how could I?”
“You trusted me. I told you that you wouldn’t have to be afraid of me.”
“And then I did that.”
“I’ve been where you are. Used. Hurt. Raped. I never wanted to put you through that. I never wanted to hurt you like that. But I did. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I don’t want you to feel unsafe around me. I don’t want to cause you unhappiness.”
“I don’t ever want you to feel helpless.”
“Because you’re right. It is a curse.”
“I ruin lives.”
“And I’d like to make sure you never worry about that again.”
“I want to show you how to stop us. So that you’re not afraid. So that you never feel like you’re not in control. So that you don’t think someone is going to jump you in the middle of the night.”
GM: Diana looks like she’s about to interject, at first, then stops as Celia hits her stride.
Emily takes that all in. Celia’s not sure how much less angry she looks, but at least she doesn’t look angrier.
“Stop you and other vampires from mind-raping and blood-raping me,” she says. “Okay. Sure. Sign me up. How?”
Celia: “We have weaknesses. Some of them are universal. Stakes. Fire. Sunlight. Some of them are more personal, only work against specific individuals. I want to show you how it’s done. Staking. It paralyzes a lick. They can’t do anything. No shifting, no mind powers, no talking. Nothing. They’re helpless.”
“I think it’d be a good idea for you to keep one with you.”
“And a torch. Or a lighter and hairspray.”
GM: “Helpless, huh,” says Emily. “Wonder how they like how that feels.”
Celia: “We don’t,” Celia says flatly. “I’ve been staked and tortured every night since Friday. It sucks.”
She looks at the stake in their mom’s hands.
Celia: “Is that what you want? To shove a piece of wood in my chest so you can torture me tonight?”
“Want to go get a saw and cut off a limb?”
GM: “I don’t really give a shit what happened to you every night since Friday, about now,” says Emily. “You volunteering to be a test subject?”
Celia: “Yeah, Em. I am.”
GM: “Great. Except you can’t actually fucking stake someone like in the movies. You are not going to completely penetrate the sternum with a sharpened piece of wood.”
Celia: “No? Why don’t you quit feeling sorry for yourself and fucking try it.”
“You wanted into this world of monsters, now’s your chance to prove what a fucking badass you are.”
“Or you can sit there and be weak, just like we all want you to be. Makes feeding on you that much easier.”
GM: Diana purses her lips, but doesn’t interject.
Emily’s eyes flash as she grabs the stake out of her mom’s hands and plunges it down into Celia’s heart.
“Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.”
Celia: But it is just like the movies.
The wood easily pierces her flesh. Then her sternum. Then right through her ribs and into the heart itself.
Celia’s body freezes.
Then she topples over.
GM: Emily blinks.
“What the fuck?”
Celia: The staked lick offers no response.
GM: “It is like in the movies, sweetie,” Diana offers helpfully.
Celia: They’re bound to get some things right.
GM: “Have you done this before?” Emily asks.
“No,” her mom answers.
Emily walks back to Celia.
“Okay, great, you’re staked. No more mind-rapey powers?”
Celia: She can’t answer.
So she doesn’t.
She just stares.
GM: Emily frowns, then waves her hand over Celia’s eyes.
Celia: She doesn’t even blink.
GM: She raps her knuckles against Celia’s knees.
Celia: Nothing. No involuntary reflex to jerk her leg.
GM: She frowns in thought, then shoves Celia off her desk’s swivel chair.
Celia: Her body hits the floor with a dull thud.
GM: She can’t see anything except carpet, either.
She feels hands moving her limbs.
“Hey, she’s posable.”
Celia: She’d laugh if she could.
GM: That’s the second time this week she’s wanted to laugh at a quip while staked.
Celia: Must be a record.
GM: Emily rolls Celia’s body over several times. She gets a look at the bed, then the ceiling, then the carpet again.
“Yeah, pretty paralyzed, looks like.”
Emily finally rolls her back up so she can see the ceiling.
“You feel like you understand this, now?” asks her mom.
“The effects, yeah. Still not sure how the fuck it worked,” says Emily.
“It’s easier on vampires, I think,” says Diana. “Celia said something about photosynthesis.”
“Because… wood?” says Emily.
Celia: There’s a dick joke to be made here.
GM: “Must be,” says her mom.
“Dick joke to be made here,” says Emily.
Her mom gives a dry look.
“So, what, wood hurts them because there’s ‘lots of sun’ in it?” asks Emily. “What if you used some other material with intenser sunlight exposure? Shouldn’t just our fingers be able to stake vampires? Most people get plenty sun.”
“I have no idea, sweetie,” says Diana.
“Maybe your sister does.”
Emily looks like she’s weighing the pros and cons of leaving the stake in.
Celia: The vampire probably doesn’t know anything about vampires, to be honest.
GM: Diana doesn’t say anything. Or even give Emily that sharp a look.
But she does look at her.
After a moment, Emily pulls out the stake.
It hurts. Like it always does.
Celia: There’s no gasp, no sharp inhalation, no sound. Celia winces at the sensation of the wood leaving her chest, but she sits up.
GM: “Well, why wood?” says Emily, sitting back down on the bed.
“And is it just wood?”
Celia: “Just wood. Other materials won’t work. You can kill us by ripping out or destroying the heart, but not by shooting us there or anything. And it’s like Mom said, the photosynthesis thing. Wood is imbued with the, ah, the power of the sun, so to speak. Sun burns us, can kill us if we’re exposed too long. It’s kind of a supernatural thing, like a lot of what we do. Like why I can turn into a cat with clothes on and they’re still there when I turn back. Where do they go in the meantime? Who knows.”
GM: “You said there were other weaknesses, too,” says Emily.
Celia: “Fire. Sunlight. You can scare a lick off with a big enough fire. Even a lit cigarette makes us wary.”
“Takes a long time to heal if you’re exposed long enough.”
“Decapitation kills us.”
“So does destroying the heart.”
“And enough of the body. Like the whole body, though.”
“Some licks are sensitive to certain things. Certain types of wood. Silver. Flowers. Salt. Things like that. We keep most of ours pretty hidden from each other so they’re not exploited.”
“That’s all pretty individual, though.”
“The clans all have weaknesses.”
GM: “What’s yours?”
Celia: “Mine gets distracted by art, or aesthetically pleasing things. Some are music, some is actual art, some is people.”
GM: “You said Stephen was sensitive to lotus flowers,” said Diana. “That they put him to sleep.”
GM: “Are there any things that do that to you?” asks Emily.
Celia: “Not quite like that, no.”
GM: “What do you mean by not quite?”
Celia: “The sleep thing is specific to him. I have other things that affect me in different ways.”
GM: “What are your things? Seems fair for me to know when you have mind-rapey and shapeshifting powers and fangs and I don’t.”
Celia: “People. Pretty people. I’m distracted by them. I want to touch them. Interact with them. Sleep with them. And, ah…” Celia tells her the rest of them.
Celia taps her fingers together in a steepled position.
“I also kind of have to have sex every day or I have a hard time focusing. Like an addiction.”
“Which, uh, some people don’t believe.”
GM: “Er,” says Emily.
“Is that a vampire thing?”
Celia: “No. Most of us don’t have sex like I do. They think I’m the weird one because I can still get off. It’s… leftover from being human, I think. Because of some things that happened to me.”
GM: “It sucks getting raped, doesn’t it?”
Celia: Celia smiles tightly.
“Yeah. It does.”
“I’m sorry I tried to rape you.”
“And that I fucked with your head.”
GM: “It’s like catnip for you, isn’t it, the taste of blood,” says Diana. “Like a drug.”
Celia: “Certain blood, yes. Yours. Hers. You taste different than what I’m used to.”
“It’s rare and special and it… made me lose my head for a bit.”
“But even normal blood. If I’m hungry, I just… want it. We’re always hungry, but sometimes it’s worse than others.”
“Sometimes we get to the point that it’s all we can think about.”
“If we see it. Smell it. We want it.”
“You saw what happened that night,” Celia says, nodding to her mother.
GM: Her mom nods.
“It was like… a piranha feeding frenzy. She was different. It wasn’t her. It was some, animal instinct, that took over. Dani’s explained it to me some more. They’re called frenzies.”
Celia: Celia nods. “Anger. Injury. Hunger. Fear. Those can all trigger it.”
GM: “So if blood sets you off so bad, why do you drink Mom’s?” says Emily.
Celia: “When I’m not hungry it’s safer.”
GM: “Has she ever mind-raped you when she was drinking your blood?” asks Emily.
“No,” says Diana.
Emily looks back to Celia. “So am I just a bigger rape magnet?”
“That’s weird, ‘cause Mom’s been raped before too. Every adult female in this household has been raped.”
Celia: “No. Not specifically. College kids are easy targets. A lot of partying and drinking. Blackouts are common.”
“For me, it was just… the taste.”
“You love me. I taste it.”
GM: “So would you be trying to mind-rape Mom if she wasn’t letting you drink her blood?”
Celia: “No,” Celia says quietly. “I made a mistake. A really big mistake. I’m… I’m trying, Em, I’m trying to be better than I have been, and I lost sight of that when I tasted you, and in my head I just made excuses because I wouldn’t hurt you, but I… I did.”
GM: “And blood’s really important, isn’t it?” says Emily. “It’s food, it’s life, it’s everything?”
Celia: “It all comes back to blood with us. Food. Life. Barter. Bonds. Everything we do is about blood. Getting it. Saving it. Using it. It powers us. We fight over it, over easy feeding grounds, over people we’ve claimed. We trade favors for it. It’s the whole foundation of our society.”
GM: “Okay,” nods Emily.
“If you’re really sorry. Prove this is more than just words, and that I do come first, and that I matter more than blood.”
“Bleed yourself into the kitchen sink while I watch. Flush it down the drain.”
Celia: Celia blanches at the request.
GM: Emily regards her with a piercing look.
“Harder than saying sorry, isn’t it?”
Celia: “It’s like taking food out of my mouth. Taking away my strength. My ability to do things.”
GM: “Cool. Is it worse than someone trying to rape you?”
“Sorry, your sister trying to rape you?”
“Like, say I lubed up the strap-on, or maybe just didn’t lube it, while you were helpless, and rammed your ass. Would that be better?”
Celia: “No. It’s not.”
Celia rises and starts to walk off.
GM: “No. No vampire things in the house,” Diana says sharply. “That’s a rule.”
“All right, fine, my bathroom sink,” says Emily. “Closer anyway.”
Celia: She walks into the bathroom, bites into her wrist, and starts to bleed.
“That happened to me,” she says idly, watching her precious vitae flow into the sink. “The no lube ass rape thing.”
“But it was my neighbor, not my sister.”
GM: “That sucks,” says Emily. “Probably really hurt for him too without lube, at least.”
Celia: “I think he got off on pain.”
GM: Emily watches the glass fill.
Diana doesn’t seem to hear her daughter’s words. Her eyes, far more than Emily’s, are fixed on the trick-trick-trickle of red.
“…I’m going to wait outside,” she says.
Celia: Celia only nods in understanding. She doesn’t offer Diana the hit. Not after what she’d said last time.
GM: “How much were you gonna take from me?” asks Emily.
Celia: “A hit. I didn’t want to leave you too out of it.”
GM: “How considerate. How much is a hit?”
Celia: “Like a pint.”
GM: “Is that a lot for vampires? Would you rather go without sex for a day or lose a pint?”
Celia: “It’s a pretty standard amount to take from someone.”
“But I’d rather go without sex than lose blood.”
GM: Emily waits. The glass isn’t tall. Celia soon fills it up.
Celia: Celia grits her teeth.
But she upends the glass into the sink.
GM: “Now pour another.”
“Because getting sexually assaulted by your sister doesn’t feel ‘standard’ to me.”
“Double sounds better.”
Celia: Of course it does.
If this weren’t her family she’d rip the cunt’s throat out.
But she bleeds again.
GM: The syrupy red vitae trickles down the drain. Drip. Drip. Drip.
Emily turns on the water, flushing the residue away.
Celia: What a waste.
GM: Emily searches her face.
“Sucks, doesn’t it?”
Celia: Celia shoves her anger down as far as she can. She licks the wound closed, giving a terse nod at the question.
“I’m going out,” she says shortly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
GM: “Good,” says Emily. “‘Cuz it sucked for me too. I don’t know if this is an equivalent price. Maybe I should ask you to bleed for longer, for all the good it’d do. I don’t know if you even can put a price on something like this. There’s nothing that’s going to take away how I felt tonight. How I still feel.”
“I’m not Mom. I knew a lot of really terrible people growing up, but I’ve never had a Maxen who I kept willingly coming back to. I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to give second chances to people who hurt me.”
Emily pauses again. She looks back towards the empty sink.
“But I’m going to here.”
“If you ever try to drink my blood again, though, that love taste is gonna be a lot less tasty.”
“And I am completely uninterested in ever becoming a ‘donor.’ Don’t even ask.”
Celia: Celia just looks at her.
“They’ll kill you for knowing what you do. Keep that stake handy.”
Then she’s gone.
GM: Celia’s mother steps in the way.
“Girls,” she says, with a note of reproach, looking between them.
“Please hug. Or at least shake.”
Celia: “She’s made it very clear she doesn’t want me near her.”
GM: “Emily, do you accept Celia’s apology?” Diana asks.
“Yeah.” Emily folds her arms. “I still remember what happened. But yeah.”
“And what made you?” asks her mom.
“Because she bled. She picked me. Over the blood.”
“She did,” Diana nods. “And do you want Celia near you?”
“If this doesn’t ever happen again.” Emily pauses. “Yeah.”
Celia: Warily, Celia takes half a step toward her.
GM: Emily watches her approach, arms still folded, but doesn’t move away.
Celia: She takes another step. Then a third. Then she’s gone and a gray cat winds herself around Emily’s legs.
GM: Emily blinks and looks down at it.
That will take some getting used to.
“Hewwo, Wuna!” Diana exclaims in her cat voice, kneeling to her feet as she starts scratching the cat’s ears and petting its back. “Who’s da bes’ kitty, huh? Who’s the bes’ kitty-cat? Huuuuuh?”
Celia: Luna meows at Diana, rolling over onto her back. She starts to purr.
GM: “Who’s a good kitty-cat? Huh? Who wants some bewwy wubs? Huh?” she asks, scratching and petting back and forth along the cat’s exposed belly. “Huh? Oh yes, this is a vewy twusting kitty! Such a good kitty!”
Celia: From her back, Luna bats at Emily’s shoes with her paws.
GM: Emily’s just wearing socks together with her sweatpants and t-shirt. She hasn’t quite joined in yet as she watches her mom play with the cat.
“She’s less of a floomph than Victor and Shadow,” smiles Diana. “Shorter fur. It’s an interesting change of pace.”
“I bet she would loooove some ear scritches.”
Celia: Luna flicks her ears at the mention of it.
GM: Emily looks at her mom, who’s smiling encouragingly, then kneels down and scratches the cat’s’ ears.
“This is weird.”
Celia: Luna rolls onto her stomach, lifting her head to rub her cheek against Emily’s hands.
GM: “Looks pretty cat-authentic to me,” Diana chuckles, petting the cat’s back as she shifts position.
Emily scratches along the sides of the cat’s neck.
“Yeah. But like. Does this feel as good for her as it does for them?”
“It certainly looks like it!” says her mom.
“You’re enjoying this quite a bit, aren’t you, Wuna?”
Celia: The cat purrs its agreement.
GM: “Oh, we got a purr goin’! Confirmed, this is most definitely a purr!” says Diana, spreading more loves down along the cat’s back.
Emily moves her scratching hand under the cat’s chin. She gives a faint smile.
“This is so weird.”
“Wuna, are you a twusting kitty?” Diana asks, pausing to scratch her flank.
Celia: The purring stops long enough for a meow. Luna flicks her tail.
GM: “Okay! I’m gonna pick you ups-” Diana starts, picking the cat up with both hands and shifting Luna so that she’s belly-up.
“-and gonna give you to your big sis Emi!” She passes off the feline into Emily’s arms.
“Crook of your arm, now, so you can give her belly rubs too!”
Celia: Luna snuggles against Emily, lifting a paw to touch her face. Her claws stay retracted.
GM: “Hi,” Emily says dryly as the paw presses into her face. She holds the cat against her stomach with one hand and rubs Luna’s belly with her other.
“Oh, yes! This is a very trusting kitty!” Diana exclaims, rubbing the cat’s belly too.
“You can’t do this with Victor and Shadow,” says Emily.
“Her body is completely relaxed.”
“Yes, not many kitties like being held this way,” nods Diana. “Did you have pets growing up? I know you didn’t with your birth mom, but in foster care?”
“Yeah,” Emily says. “In a few homes. That was nice.”
“Cats or dogs, I didn’t care.”
Celia: Celia didn’t have any cats or dogs growing up. She’s made up for it now by turning into one.
GM: “I bet you didn’t, any animal must’ve been welcome,” says Diana. The two continue to pet and scratch and the belly-exposed cat.
“Yeah. Lot of people, I think, who like animals more than people.”
“Or at least cats and dogs.”
Celia: Pets continue loving you, even if you mess up.
GM: “They give us nothing but love,” Diana smiles, giving voice to that same thought as she rubs the cat’s belly.
“I had a college professor who liked to say all they want from you is food,” Emily observes.
“I don’t think your professor was a pet owner,” scoffs her mom.
Celia: Luna doesn’t want food. Just cuddles.
Eventually she shifts in Emily’s arms, lifting her face to touch her nose to the girl’s.
Celia: Luna finally wriggles free from the two women and Celia resumes her human form.
“I do need to get going,” she says.
GM: “Oh, it’s a kitty kiss. Say thank you for the kitty kiss,” Diana croons at the nose-to-nose contact.
“Thank you for the kitty kiss,” Emily smiles faintly.
Both of them stare as she transforms back. That must take some getting used to.
“Okay, sweetie,” nods her mom. “You and Emi want to hug now, as people?”
Celia: “I dunno, Ma,” Celia says, looking Emily up and down, “I think she has cooties.”
She offers a tentative smile at the attempt of levity.
GM: “I think she has ringworm,” says Emily.
Celia: “I got my vaccines in January.”
“Fleas, though.” Celia scratches her cheek.
After a moment she crosses the floor and holds out her arms for Emily.
GM: Emily looks at them for a moment, then crosses the remaining distance and hugs her back.
Celia: “I’m sorry, Emi,” Celia whispers against her shoulder. “It’ll never happen again. I love you.”
GM: “Yeah,” Emily answers as she rubs Celia’s back. She gives a sniff. “Love you too.”
Celia: “Thank you for giving me another chance.” Celia rubs her hand up and down Emily’s back.
GM: Their mom smiles and lays a hand on both of their shoulders.
“All right, sweetie, we won’t keep you.”
“And thank you for giving her another chance too, Emi.”
Celia: “Thanks, Mom. Em. I’ll swing by tomorrow. Love you both.”
GM: “We love you too, baby.”