“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
Celia: 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.
Celia: 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.
Celia: It heads instead to Flawless.
GM: After 8 PM, the spa is closed down and the lights turned off.
Celia: 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.
Celia: “Let’s go out. Where are you?”
GM: “Nowhere as important as by your side,” the ghoul croons. “Where do you want me?”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: 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.
Celia: 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.
Celia: Jade gives an awkward wave.
GM: “Hi,” she says tersely, folding her arms.
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: 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?”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: 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.”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “The spanking?”
GM: “Yes. Though I don’t think Emily would want to do quite the same thing.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: 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.”
Celia: “Do you want me to take her?”
GM: “Take her where? We’re all she has.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: 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?”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “Oh, definitely. Not now.”
GM: “Yes. Abi is handful enough.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “Oh. Viv. Duh.”
GM: “Yes, I would feel better getting Viv’s help. And Dani’s, even if she isn’t a lawyer yet.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “We settled up last night.”
“We’re supposed to have a truce.”
GM: “I don’t know if I’d count on that.”
Celia: Jade smiles. “I’m not.”
GM: “Can I help?”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “…maybe, but it jeopardizes everything.”
GM: “How so? Are there any other things you can do?”
Celia: 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.
Celia: 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.”
Celia: “She said that about me?”
GM: “Not you, but she did say Celia had lied to her brother and manipulated him and betrayed him.”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “…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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “She… ah, she’s done that too.”
GM: “Oh. Is that a… vampire thing?”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: 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.”
Celia: 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.”
Celia: “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.
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “Then I’ll text her and let her know I’m running late.”
GM: “She was here just today, anyway.”
Celia: “For what?”
GM: “Trying to bully and intimidate me.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “She’s jealous,” Jade says with a sigh.
GM: “Of what?”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: 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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “Which medical thing?”
GM: “You mentioned an experiment or something, the last time we were in the car together. My car.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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.”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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?”
Celia: “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.”
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, PM
Celia: Celia leaves her family with a final round of hugs, glad that she and Emily had been able to bury the hatchet sooner rather than later. Despite her sister’s forgiveness she still feels a pang of guilt for what she’d done. Almost done. Tried to do.
That’s the worst part, isn’t it. If her mother hadn’t been there she’d have turned her own sister into a vessel. She’d been perfectly happy to turn on the charm and make her consent to the donation of blood.
Donation. Ha. Theft, more like.
And she thought I’d cause problems. Jade’s thoughts flow from somewhere in the back of her mind as Celia gets into her car. She grimaces at herself in the rear view mirror. Her skin ripples at the look, a pair of green eyes staring back at her. For a moment the two are one; then Jade takes over, neatly sliding into the driver’s seat of both car and body. She takes off back to her haven to meet up with Alana, glad to see that the ghoul has already pulled out suitable clothing for the evening.
“Hello, darling,” Jade purrs in her ear, pulling the ghoul towards her. She nips at her neck just hard enough to draw blood.
GM: Alana is waiting at the vanity, staring at her phone, and looking increasingly bored, upset, and even angry.
Then she’s all smiles when she sees Jade.
“There you are, mistress,” she purrs, embracing her and gasping lightly as the Toreador’s fangs prick her skin.
Celia: “Mm,” Jade muses, “what took you to my mom’s house today?”
GM: She pauses at that.
“I just wanted to clear the air between us, mistress. Be sure everything was okay.”
GM: “But that was with Celia’s mom, anyway; Jade doesn’t have a mom, does she?”
Celia: Jade waves a hand at the attempted change of subject, fixing the ghoul with a look.
GM: “Well, you brought up kissing her. And I was scared she was saying bad things about me, and trying to take you away from me.”
Celia: “So you went to confront her.”
GM: “I wanted to find out what she’d been saying and say that we need to be able to share Celia, without getting into stupid fights about it, since she values us both.”
Celia: “Maybe you don’t realize that I have cameras at her house, pet. The truth now. It’ll be much easier on you if you admit it all while I give you the opportunity.”
GM: Alana pauses.
“I was scared. Okay? I thought she was badmouthing me and spreading stories. I freaked out. I went over and yelled at her and caused a giant scene, because I thought she was trying to sabotage things with us.” The ghoul gives Jade a miserable look. “And you always believe her. You always spend time with her. She always comes first. If she told you to get rid of me I think you would, and maybe that’s what she’s planning, and… and sometimes I feel like I’m just waiting until you leave me, and get tired of me. Just f… find another ghoul, another fat loser whose l… life you c… can turn around, and make pretty. Because I c… can’t ever be what she is, will I? You’ll always l… love her… more…”
Alana stifles a sob into her hands.
Celia: “Alana,” Jade murmurs, pulling the ghoul flush against her chest and cradling the back of her head with a soft touch. “I’m not going to find another ghoul. I don’t want to replace you. We’ve been through so much together already, and you’re very good at what you do for me. Diana wasn’t badmouthing you. She mentioned the kiss; I’d wondered if someone had stolen your face to make her uncomfortable, if someone sent another ghoul that looked like you to her home today to cause problems for me.”
Jade pulls back slightly, wiping at the tears on Alana’s cheeks with her thumbs.
“Things are turbulent right now. Many of the people and licks I’ve relied on in the past have fled my side, the boys included. I’ve made some enemies lately. I had to be sure they’re not trying to get to me through you.”
“I was concerned for you.”
GM: Alana gives a sniff and looks up at her domitor with glistening eyes.
“You’re not… mad at me?”
Celia: “Frustrated, mostly. I told you to stay away from Diana’s house and you promised that you would. I also told you last night that your jealousy is getting tedious. I have plenty of lick friends left, darling. Plenty of mortals I can spend time with as well. But I called you.”
GM: Alana sniffs again.
“I’m sorry, mistress. I don’t want to make you mad. I’m just so scared you’re getting tired of me, and going to get rid of me, because it seems like all I do is cause problems.”
Celia: It’s like talking to Celia.
Jade takes a seat on the edge of the bed, pulling Alana onto her lap.
“You do more than that. You took care of everything I asked you to do today. You always make yourself available when I need you. You’ve filled in for me as Celia plenty of times. You keep the spa running, you bring me meals, you keep our employees happy, you collect gossip and tidbits and even if you have no experience doing something you still try it and let me know when you’ve been unsuccessful so I can make sure it gets done.”
She tucks a strand of hair behind Alana’s ear.
“Sometimes I get busy. Sometimes things pull me away from you. But it’s not because I don’t appreciate or value you. That’s just the nature of the Requiem.”
“You just need to show me that you’ve learned from your mistakes, pet.”
GM: Alana snuggles up against her domitor.
“I’m trying, mistress. I really am. It just feels like I’m never good enough, sometimes, and that things happen I can’t control. Like that kissing thing, it seemed to come up out of nowhere, and I felt so helpless about it. Like all I could do was watch it destroy our relationship.”
Celia: “But you didn’t kiss her, right?”
GM: The ghoul laughs faintly.
“Diana’s not nearly as kissable as you are, mistress.”
Celia: “Alana,” Jade says sharply.
GM: “Mistress?” Alana says cautiously at the change in tone.
Celia: “Did you do it or not?”
GM: The ghoul lowers her eyes.
“…yes, mistress, I did. It was years ago.”
Celia: “Why would you do that?”
GM: “She kept pushing food onto me. You know how she is with it. I told her a million times to stop, and she just never would. She kept trying, constantly, to get me to eat. It was the only way I could think of to get her to stop, to leave me alone.”
Celia: Jade keeps her face carefully neutral.
“You lied to me about it.”
GM: “But I didn’t lie, mistress.”
“She isn’t my type. God knows I don’t want to do that again.”
Celia: “I asked you,” Jade says in a deathly quiet voice. “Last night, I asked you. You twisted your words and lied. I just told you that I suspected someone of stealing your image to get to me. I just told you I have enemies now. Why would you lie to me?”
GM: “I’m sorry, mistress,” says Alana, raising her hands. “I didn’t think I was lying. I didn’t think I was hurting anything. I’m sorry.”
Celia: “I’m under more than enough pressure without worrying about someone I’m supposed to trust lying to me because she didn’t think it would hurt.”
Jade removes the ghoul from her lap, rising to her feet.
“Why would you do that to me? Why would you add stress to my unlife? I just went hunting to find the bitch I thought was doing, and it’s only happenstance that I didn’t. Do you know what kind of fight that would have been?”
“I could have gotten myself killed. Because you lied.”
GM: Alana hits the floor. She doesn’t try to arrest her fall. She doesn’t try to get up as her face quavers against her domitor’s displeasure.
“Mistress. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I never wanted that to happen. I was wrong. I didn’t see. I didn’t know. I didn’t think you were going to do that, I didn’t know you were going to do that. I’m so sorry.”
Celia: “You have one chance,” she snarls, “one chance to tell me everything you’ve lied to me about, to come clean about all of it. One chance. Right now.”
“I don’t care how bad you think it is, I don’t care how mad you think I’m going to be. You tell me. Right now.”
“Because I can’t account for it if you don’t tell me.”
GM: “I’ve… I’ve thrown out Emily’s lunch, from the staff fridge, and lied to her about it,” the ghoul hyperventilates, hands raised.
Celia: “What else.”
GM: “I’ve, I’ve, I’ve changed Diana’s place in the schedule, a few times, picked some times, a few times, when something was going on for Lucy, so she’d cancel, and wouldn’t come in.”
“I’ve given Emily worse hours, ones I knew she wouldn’t take, or that she’d hate, because she had something due in med school, or a family thing going on, or something with her boyfriend. I’ve given good clients to other girls. I’ve… skimmed some of her tip money.”
“I’ve made her be late for some clients.”
“I, I gave her a client who Anoushka said made creepy ‘happy endings’ jokes.”
Celia: “And outside of the spa? Things with licks. Other ghouls. How about there.”
GM: “I’ve, I’ve been bad to Randy. I once gave him a really bad massage, that hurt his body, and I told him it was something wrong with him, and he needed to go to the ER to get that checked out, and he had a horrible evening and took a bunch of medications he didn’t need to.”
Celia: “You used your ability to help and heal for your own personal vendetta,” Jade repeats.
GM: “But, you’ve done that too, mistress…?”
Celia: Jade glares down at her.
“You injured my interests. You put my business at risk. Made my ghoul sick.”
GM: Alana starts crying.
“I’m sorry, mistress, I’m so sorry, you asked me to, to tell it all, you don’t want me to lie…”
Celia: “What else. What else have you done, Alana.”
GM: “I’ve, I’ve stolen money from him, from his wallet.”
Celia: “Who else have you sold out. Who have you spoken to about me, about who I am, what I do? Who have you sold secrets to for a hit?”
GM: “N-no one, mistress!” Alana sobs. “I’ve never done that, I SWEAR!”
Celia: “No? Never? Really.”
GM: The ghoul keeps crying. “Yes, mistress, I swear, I’ve never sold you out, I’ve never betrayed you, I’ve only done bad things to the others, NEVER you!”
“I l-love, you, I’d never hurt you, never!”
Celia: This, at last, is where it differs from a conversation Celia had only nights ago.
Only she was the one on the floor crying. And she had knowingly hurt someone.
Jade stares down at the weeping ghoul.
Now she knows what it feels like. Now she knows how it had been on the other side of lies and deceit, not knowing if she could trust the words coming out of the pretty face in front of her. Not knowing if she’s still being lied to, or what damage had been done because of the lies, or if the girl is going to continue to lie.
That fragile, glass-spun trust shatters into a thousand tiny pieces.
Karma, isn’t it? The idea that what she sends out into the world will come back three times as much. Is Alana the first? Or were the boys the first, Alana the third? And Benji, where does he fit in? What about Dani?
Who else? Who’s left? How many friends does she even have anymore?
“Stay put,” Jade says to Alana. She walks into her bedroom and closes the door behind her, digging into her pocket to pull out her phone. She scrolls through her contacts to the name ‘Ronnie L’ and presses the call button.
GM: Alana manages a nod between tears.
She’s answered after several rings by the movie director’s,
Celia: “Oh good, you’re up. It too late for me to stop by?”
GM: “You ever hear of these things called ‘lunches’?”
Celia: “Not in my vocabulary.”
GM: “You have them around noon or so. Give or take an hour. You go to a restaurant, order some food, and talk about shit.”
Celia: “Oh, sounds fun. How’s dinner? I’ll bring you something yummy. A nice bottle.”
GM: “That’s more what I’m talking about. This old man don’t stay up as late as he used to.”
Celia: “You can wear that fluffy robe I got you for your birthday,” she offers, “and I’ll send over your favorite girl tomorrow, hm? I’ll be in and out.”
GM: “Yeah, you still owe me a girl. I’m staying up plenty late if she’s doing her job.”
“What’s eatin’ you, anyway, callin’ this hour?”
Celia: “Nothing,” she says, and even she can hear the lie for what it is. She sighs. “Just finished up some work. Time got away from me. Meant to stop by earlier.”
GM: “Do it tomorrow then, or whenever.”
“Always another tomorrow ‘til there ain’t.”
Celia: “Yeah,” she says, “guess so. Tomorrow, then.”
GM: “Yeah. Night.”
Celia: “Night.” She hangs up.
What had she hoped to accomplish? Ronnie isn’t her friend. And he’s not her dad, either. He’d made that clear. She knew before she called that it would be a waste of her time.
Jade ignores the name above Ron’s. She doesn’t want to think about him. About the ghoul in the other room. She scrolls down instead, shooting off a text to Roxy to ask how she’s doing and if she wants to go out tonight. Then she scrolls all the way to the top of her contacts list, selects Andi’s name, and hits the call button once more.
GM: There’s no immediate response from the Gangrel.
Jade’s call goes through, though, after a few rings. She hears the blare of what sounds like punk rock music. Fast, rough, and very, very loud.
Celia: Maybe she’s busy. Maybe she’s hunting or fucking or spying on someone or running with the loops. Maybe she left her phone at her haven.
Or maybe she’s with Benji and they both went to meet Draco and even now they’re agreeing to kick ‘Ren’ out of the krewe so Draco can take her place and bring his stupid little snake friends because she doesn’t think he’d actually ever said he wouldn’t come after her and what better way to make her pay for what she’s done than take out her entire support system in one go now that the rest of her friends are dead or hate her?
Jade—Celia?—which face does she have on? one? both?—
The loud music in her ears shakes her from the thoughts.
“Hey,” she says back, raising her voice so Andi can hear her, “how’s the tour? When’re you guys due back?”
GM: Jade isn’t supposed to be the insecure one.
“GREAT, PROBABLY A WHILE, TYRELL’S FOU-!”
Andi’s next words get cut off over a particularly loud (musical?) crash-like sound.
Celia: Found something interesting or expensive or good, Jade mentally supplies. She doesn’t ask the rock star to repeat it.
“Where’s your next stop?”
Celia: On the way to LA if she takes the I-10. Maybe she can meet up with them if Draco is serious about heading out to Cali with her. Good excuse for her to travel if she’s not taking the movie deal as Celia, right?
“Sounds awesome,” Jade says, “but I can barely hear you. Call me when you’re not busy, yeah?”
GM: “YEAH I WAS-”
More words are lost over the music’s blare.
There’s another thunderous crash.
Celia: “Perfect,” Jade agrees. Something about tomorrow. She can always text if not. “Enjoy your show!”
Jade can’t make out anything more.
Celia: “Text me,” she yells into the phone, “I can’t hear you.”
GM: The call disconnects.
Celia: Jade fires off a quick text to Andi. Too loud to hear lol, what did you say?
GM: There’s no immediate reply.
Celia: Busy having a good time. Jade checks the thread with Roxy to see if the Gangrel has gotten back to her.
GM: She has not.
She also tends to be worse about texting than the coterie’s younger members.
Celia: Jade gives her a call.
GM: It rings to voicemail.
The rock star, though, responds,
Oh I thought you were gonna see Benji’s fight
Celia: Jade glances at the time.
GM: Around 10.
Celia: Within thirty seconds she strips, yanks on leggings, stiletto boots, and a form fitted cold-shoulder sweater dress with a hood. She yells for Alana to sit tight. Then she’s out the window, a pair of feathered wings taking her toward the Evergreen as quickly as she can go.
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, PM
GM: There’s a “private party” notice over the Evergreen’s front door. Jade arrives inside to find a modest gathering of Kindred seated around a makeshift arena. Draco and Benny are fighting in the center.
Both Kindred are brutally strong. Jade’s watched two vampires with stone fist fight before. It was ugly there, and it’s ugly here. The seated Kindred roar their approval as the combatants smash chairs and tables over one another’s backs. Stoneskin just makes the whole affair last that much longer.
Yet it looks as if Draco has the upper hand. Benny’s fighting prowess was forged through back-alley brawls and scraps against his fellow Anarchs. Draco, or at least Roderick, cut his teeth there too, and both Kindred have solid reps among their covenant-mates (at least, under one name or other). But Draco, Jade knows, also had his sire’s training. There’s form and discipline to his technique—and frightening speed that Benny lacks. The Caitiff solidly accepts Draco’s hits, and even gets in some good punches that messily shatter the Brujah’s face, but he can’t keep up. Hit after hit after hit smashes through his guard until he crashes to the ground, out torpid.
Draco raises a triumphant fist amidst alternating boos and applause. Some Kindred gleefully demand their fellows pay up. Others bitch and grouse. Cash, blood, and promises of boons owed or favored to be paid up later change hands.
“I’m sick of your face anyway,” Veronica sneers to Micheal. She throws his leash over to Natasha Preston.
“Enjoy your new bitch.”
Celia: As Jade takes in the assorted Kindred watching the two licks duke it out she can’t help but wonder if there’s some message board or group text that she’s not part of. How had everyone else known about this? Even Andi had known, and she’s hundreds or thousands of miles away.
She blames the blood for the way her fangs lengthen in her mouth as Draco takes the upper hand and sends Benji crashing to the ground. It’s the blood, hot and heady, that calls to her. Not the sight of her ex solidly beating her krewemate into a bloody pulp. Not the thought of what she’d had, or how they’d have celebrated his victory were they still together. Deadly with his fists and one of the smartest people she’s ever known. Maybe the last decent lick in the city. Bonded through real affection, an emotional attachment that supersedes any of the fake bullshit these other Kindred ever experience.
And she’d thrown it away.
No, she tells herself, it’s the blood. Not him. Never him. Not anymore.
Jade doesn’t join the throng of licks who exchange blood or boons or money. She hadn’t placed any bets; if she had she’d be collecting with the rest of the winners. But she makes note of who collects and who pays up, amused to see Preston accepting Micheal’s lead from Veronica. What does she need a bitch for?
Jade doesn’t ask. She keeps that amused, slightly disinterested mask plastered across her face as she slides through the crowd toward her alleged sire and the thief beside her.
“What’s got them throwing down?”
GM: “A marvelous throw-down, you two!” grins Savoy as he applauds. “Well fought and well won!”
Preston passes off Micheal’s lead to Princess.
“Thank you, my lord,” replies Draco, bowing. He soon turns to roughly kiss and fondle the sultry redheaded vampire who was present with him earlier. She looks very aroused by his victory. He looks very aroused by his victory. Some laughing onlookers seem to enjoy that.
Veronica shrugs at Jade’s question.
“Who gives a shit?”
Celia: Her. That’s why she asked. Obviously.
Jade doesn’t bother to respond to the acerbic question. She slides an arm around the thief’s waist, glancing at him instead.
“How about you, darling? Did you win something pretty, or is someone going to find their pockets lighter when they leave?”
GM: “Probably the latter,” smirks Pietro. “I’ve never liked betting as much.”
Celia: “Why gamble when you can make it a sure thing,” she agrees.
“Surely,” she drawls to Pietro and Veronica, “this wasn’t all set up so we could watch a nobody spank a Caitiff.”
GM: It doesn’t look like it was. Next in the ring is Ramon Korda against Marcio de la Cruz.
Celia: Jade fires off a text to Andi while the two square up, letting her know that Benji lost.
GM: Oh that sucks he’d really expected to win
Celia: Why was he fighting?
“You should steal her,” she whispers in Pietro’s ear while she waits for Andi’s response, nodding discretely toward the redhead.
GM: “Steal her yourself, you’ve already asked me to steal a person.”
Celia: Which hasn’t been done yet. Because she’s too busy doing things for Savoy and her sire and her family and destroying relationships to focus on goals like seducing cops for Pietro.
GM: uh idk the full story, he seemed pretty mad tho
Celia: “Mm,” is all she says.
damn that sucks, I’ll have to ask him later
“Change of target,” she offers, “same deal.”
GM: “Do it yourself,” the thief repeats as he watches the unfolding violence. The match between Marcio and Ramon is fierce and a closer thing than the last one, drawing even more Kindred onto the edges of their seats. It ends with Marcio’s win, but also with the two combatants clasping arms in seeming goodwill. Veronica looks rather more bored by that.
Celia: She’s not the only one. Jade’s expression mirrors her sire’s.
GM: Draco laughs as he forks over some cash to the redhead, who’s sitting on his lap. He remarks ruefully about “always betting against the clanless. Thought that would be a sure thing.”
“Don’t always bet against the underdog,” she purrs, licking his throat.
Celia: Jade doesn’t give a single fuck what Draco and his slut get up to.
She’s not looking forward to seeing more of him around the Quarter. He should have stayed in the slums of Mid-City where he belongs, the pampered fuck.
Cried a week ago when he committed his first murder but he’s out here now like he’s some hotshot badass with a cunt on his lap—
Jade murmurs her excuses to the ancillae—not that they care—and slips through the crowd toward the door, cloaking herself in shadows as she goes.
GM: Her last sound as she departs is the crack of Draco’s fists and the cheering of the crowd after he leaps back into the ring.
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, PM
Celia: Jade stalks the streets, anger in her veins. She has had her own victories this evening, her own wins against two men, but the rational part of her mind knows that they were weak, pathetic kine. They don’t stand a chance against a lick, even a lick like her who prefers words to fists.
What if she’d jumped in the ring?
What if she’d challenged someone and ripped them to shreds with her claws?
What if she’d told the redhead she wants to throw down and torn her throat out in front of everyone?
She shouldn’t want it as much as she does. She shouldn’t be imagining herself on his lap instead, licking the blood from his chest, sinking her fangs into his neck in front of everyone, claiming him as hers in front of the entire faction.
What a power couple they’d have been. Smart. Strong. Fast. Charismatic. They’d been in love. No outside force could have torn them apart.
Except her sire. Whatever affection she’d felt or still feels for Roderick pales in comparison to what she has with her sire. Is it worth it? Is breaking a good man worth it?
She hates that she doesn’t have an answer to that question.
So Jade stalks through the streets like a huntress in the night, moving into her domain to search for someone with whom to let out this built up tension in her chest.
GM: Few disturb the seething huntress on her lonely errand. A light rain drizzles down from overheard. It’s always raining in this city.
The night rolls past as Jade stalks the kine. She finally winds up at the Bourbon Heat’s bathroom. It’s a place not unlike the one where she reconnected with Dani. There’s a lone pair of female-looking legs visible under a stall door.
Celia: It’s not the fight she was looking for.
She’d wanted to wipe the smug look off of someone’s face. Wanted to turn her knuckles red with someone else’s blood.
And even as she thinks it she knows that she wouldn’t be satisfied with kine right now anyway. She should have gone poaching. Made herself stand out. Let someone pick a fight with her and lay them out, because that’s so much smarter than just jumping into the ring at the Evergreen.
Jade curls her lip at herself in the mirror.
Laying out this bitch won’t be satisfying. But she’s already here. She might as well get a hit. She dissolves into nothing but shadows and waits for the stall door to open, intending to shove herself inside once it unlocks.
GM: She waits a while. Heavy panting sounds from inside the stall.
Celia: Seriously? Jade steps onto the toilet seat in another stall and peers over.
GM: The 20something club-going woman’s face is strained as she takes a particularly constipated-seeming shit.
“Ffffuuuuck…” she moans.
Celia: So much for the idea of someone getting hot and heavy in a stall.
GM: “Aggh…” groans the woman.
Jade smells it, even past the slowly expelling shit.
Celia: Hemorrhoids? Or period blood?
Does it matter?
What’s that expression about not eating where you shit? Not that she shits. And not that this is what that saying means. But fuck, it sounded funny for half a second in her head before she realized that, for all her searching, this is what she’s ended up with.
She’s torn between disgust and hunger.
In the end disgust wins. Jade stalks from the bathroom and heads back to her haven, irritation growing with every step.
GM: “Mistress!” exclaims Alana when she’s back. The ghoul’s eyes are red. She doesn’t look like she’s left the spot where Jade told her to stay put. She’s still sitting there.
“Are we… okay?”
Celia: Jade wants to snap at her. Tear her head off. Lay into her for being a pathetic little cunt.
But she knows how it feels. Watching someone else take the person you love away from you. Feeling useless. Feeling stupid. Feeling worthless.
Well, no. She doesn’t know. But Celia knows.
So rather than greet the ghoul with anger Jade simply sighs, sinking onto the floor in front of Alana.
“You’re going to make this up to Emily by calling a company tomorrow and giving her a glowing review. And then you’re going to leave the Flores family alone. All of them. Lucy, Diana, Emily, the boys, everyone, unless I explicitly tell you otherwise. The new job gets Emily out of your face here. No contact with the family will show me that you value me more than you’re jealous of them.”
GM: Alana nods her head raptly.
“Yes, mistress, of course. Glowing review, leave them alone.”
“What should I do when they’re at Flawless, just not talk to them?”
Celia: “Last time I told you to leave them alone you disobeyed.”
“This job isn’t important to Emily. It’s important to me. It’s a step in a direction I want to take, and she’s my in, just a pawn planted inside so I have a foot in the door. If you think it will be cute or funny to mess it up for me then we will not be okay.”
GM: The ghoul lowers her head.
“I’m sorry, mistress. I must have misunderstood you then. I understand now. Leave the Flores alone. Emily’s job is important to you, if I mess it up I’m hurting you.”
“I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want to mess up. I want to do what you want.”
Celia: “When they’re in the spa,” Jade says, lifting Alana’s chin, “be civil. You don’t need to seek them out. But don’t be rude. They don’t know about me. You know about me. All of it. I don’t trust them like I trust you.”
GM: Alana nods, smiling at the contact. And her domitor’s words.
“That’s right, mistress. They’d just mess things up for you, if they knew.”
Celia: Jade nods.
“So we understand each other? Good. Grab my laptop for me, I want to show you something.”
GM: The ghoul all but springs to her feet and is back in moments with the Sunburst laptop.
Celia: Jade moves to the couch, pulling Alana in front of her so she can see the screen. She nuzzles her neck as she types in her password and then connects to her WiFi and a VPN.
“I had you look for that man earlier today. Did you visit his house and find it empty?”
GM: “Ah, I couldn’t find a house for him, mistress.”
She gladly snuggles against her domitor on the couch.
Celia: “His address was on his ID.”
“What do you mean you couldn’t find it?”
GM: “I’m sorry, mistress, I misspoke. A house in New Orleans. Since the ID said he lived in Houston…?”
Celia: Had it? Why had she thought it said New Orleans?
“Mm,” Jade says, opening the browser. “Pity, that. But there are things we can still do that I’d like to show you. Better if it’s local since we could just visit, so it’s a little more complicated than showing up at his door. First, we’re going to search his name.”
She types it into the search bar.
“A very high percentage of people have social media profiles. It’s only a matter of tracking down which one is his. I don’t imagine he thought his wallet would be stolen.”
“His face,” she adds idly, “was stolen from someone in Houston.”
“No doubt he thought he could get in and out and everyone would think him an ordinary ghoul. Someone’s new toy.”
“Unfortunately for him I have friends out that way.”
“And,” she adds in a whisper, lips brushing against the shell of Alana’s ear, “I made his mask.”
GM: Jade gets a result that says a Facemash account associated with his name has been deleted.
“You’re so smart, mistress,” giggles Alana, nuzzling her neck.
Celia: “Sometimes they do this,” she says to her ghoul, “and think they’ve gotten away with it. But things you put online are never really gone, are they? There are sites you can use to find old pages that have since been deleted.” Jade pulls one up, copying the part of the URL on his profile before it hits the 404 error. She pastes it into the new site.
GM: To her chagrin, she gets another 404.
Jade also knows people can ask those sites to delete their data.
Celia: “Good sign,” she murmurs. “That means this name is real. He went through a lot of effort to hide who he is. So the ID is his.”
GM: “That’s very good, then, mistress,” Alana nods.
Celia: “So now,” she says, pulling open another browser, “we find his house. Every county has a database you can search to find out who owns what property, what it sold for, tax information, things like that. It’s all public record. Which is why we don’t use my name on anything. Or yours.” Jade runs a hand down her thigh. “Too easy to find if you know what to look for.”
Most people don’t.
“It’s called a real property search. That plus the county, which is…” a quick search returns the results, “Harris County.” She taps it in and pulls up a state government website.
“It’s the same here even though we have parishes instead of counties. So now you go through this legal popup, click the accept button, type in the address, and… voila.”
“Everything you ever wanted to know about the house. Size, layout, last time it was sold, estimated taxes or taxes that are owed, sometimes work that has been done, most recent appraisal price, and the person who owns it. Which could be our guy, or it could be his wife or partner, or it could be a business.”
Jade points out the fields of text as she explains them.
GM: “I know about these, mistress,” nods the ghoul. “My sister once looked up information on the property where she lived, when she was pissed at the landlord.”
“Didn’t really do anything, though.”
Celia: “There’s not always something to be done. But we’re not looking to do anything, just find a name.”
GM: “I wouldn’t have thought to use it here, though,” Alana says. “I’d honestly forgotten all about it.”
Jade finds the subject of her search lives at a shitty-looking apartment building owned by the Pavaghi clan. Shwari had mentioned during one spa visit that her son Walter is doing well with his Houston startup.
Celia: Jade unlocks her phone and opens a well-used burner app. Violet’s number. She gives Chuck a call.
GM: The yuppie lawyer picks up after a few rings.
Celia: “Hey baby,” Violet croons into the phone. “You got a sec? I was hopin’ you could help me out with a little pickle. And then I can help you out with a big pickle.” She giggles.
GM: “I wanna see it in your mouth,” says Chuck. “I want you to gag on my dick. I want that thing rammed down your throat, far as it can go. I wanna see drool coming out of your mouth, as you stare up with big wide eyes, from your knees.”
“Chuck? Who is it?” calls a distant voice. Female.
“Just a client, Sarah,” calls Chuck. “Go back to bed.”
“At this hour?”
“Yeah, some of ’em just got no boundaries. Go to sleep.”
There’s footsteps, then Chuck whispers, “And when I blow my load in your mouth, I want your eyes to get even bigger, and for you to choke, ‘cause it’s too much for you.”
“And when I pull out, you hack all my cum out, over the ground.”
“Then I wanna watch you lick it all up, off the floor.”
Celia: Violet gives a little gasp of delight, the same sort of noise Alana makes when Jade touches her. She lowers her voice, all but purring into the phone.
“You want me on my knees, baby? How ‘bout two of us. I have a friend I told allllll about how hard you make me cum, and she says it’s not fair I don’t share. I’ll lick it all up and give her a taste of what she’s missin’.”
GM: “Oh, yeah. I wanna see you lick it all up, then french her and glob it all into her mouth, like a baby bird.”
Celia: “Ditch your old lady,” Violet says, “and come make it happen.”
GM: “She’s 17,” Chuck mentions off-hand. Jade thinks he’s… 26, 27?
“And what, tonight?”
“Or tomorrow, but I want that favor tonight if I’m bringing a friend for you.”
GM: “Yeah, tomorrow’s better.”
“How good is the friend and how big is the favor?”
Celia: “Outside of you she’s my favorite partner. And it’s not big at all, not like you are. Just need to find someone real quick. Think you can handle that?”
“I met a guy tonight,” she says, “and he stiffed me. And not in the good way, Chuckie. But he left his wallet—no cash, ugh, and it wasn’t good enough to arrange another deal—so I looked him up and he rents from your family out in Houston. Thought maybe he might have left a forwarding address, and if not then his number will work.”
GM: “Ha. Ha. Yeah, most people who rent from my family are peasants. They’re bad people to fuck.”
“I mean, sexually.”
Celia: “Lesson learned,” she sighs.
“But you’ll make up for it tomorrow. You always show me a good time.”
GM: “Fuckin’ straight. So this friend of yours is free, right, ‘cuz I’m not paying for two girls if you want a favor on top.”
Celia: “Of course, baby.”
GM: “Okay, I can look into this. Won’t be tonight. Got work tomorrow.”
“I dunno if the juice is even worth the squeeze for some poor dude out in Houston, but I’m not complaining if it gets another girl swallowing my cum.”
Celia: “It’s gotta be tonight,” Violet whines, “please, Chuckie? Just a quick lookup? I’ll let you cum on my face after my friend and I suck and swallow.”
GM: “There’s nothing for me to look up. It’s not like we have a database with every tenant’s names and numbers. I need to call my uncle to ask him, and he needs to call one of his people to ask them, and they’re probably gonna call someone else, ‘cuz fuck if he knows every poor dude he rents to, and I’m not gonna bother him this late.”
“What’s Poor Dude’s name, anyway?”
Celia: “Joel Price.”
GM: “’Kay. What a loser name.”
“Say you’re a cocksucker.”
Celia: Violet rolls her eyes. “I’m a cocksucker,” she croons.
GM: “Ah yeah, that’s what I love to hear from a girl.”
Celia: “I’ll see you tomorrow, Chuckie, to show instead of tell. Mwah.” She blows a kiss into the phone and hangs up.
“Fuckwad,” she mutters to Alana.
GM: “What a jerk,” Alana agrees.
Her hand starts to rub along Jade’s crotch.
“Let me worship you, mistress,” she whispers. “Let me treat you the way you deserve.”
“Let me make you feel good.”
Celia: “I want to find this guy,” Jade grouses. “Why is no one fucking helpful anymore?”
GM: “I know, mistress, they’re all such jerks… none of them appreciate you, like they should…”
Celia: The ghoul’s words do little to assuage her.
“I hate them. This whole fucking city.”
GM: “All a bunch of jerks,” Alana nods, moving her hands up to massage Jade’s shoulders.
“Jerks and fuckwads.”
Celia: “Are you just agreeing with everything I say?”
GM: “Of course not, mistress, you just happen to be right.”
“That jerk could’ve done more for you, called his uncle tonight, gotten the ball rolling.”
Celia: She’s lying, but Jade doesn’t bother pushing the issue. Of course she’s agreeing with everything Jade says. She’s under a bond.
GM: “Would you feel better if you took it out on me, spanked me good?”
Celia: “No,” Jade sighs, “I want to rip someone’s throat out.”
“And you’re too pretty for me to do that to you.”
“I want to fucking do something while Drakey sits at the Evergreen throwing punches like it fucking means anything.”
GM: “You could beat me ‘til I’m black and blue, mistress… I don’t mind,” suggests the ghoul.
“You could patch me up afterwards.”
“Maybe I deserve it anyways. For being bad.”
Celia: “Not tonight,” Jade says. She snaps her laptop shut and slips one of the credit cards from the wallet into a pocket. “I’m going out. I’ll see you later tonight. Get some sleep, pretty.”
GM: “All right, mistress.” She kisses Jade’s cheek. “You know that however they treat you, whatever happens out there, I’ll always love you.”
“We’ll always have a home here together.”
Celia: “Love you too, ’Lana.”
Her heart isn’t in it, but she’s so very good at convincing people. She’s the only one who knows how truly broken it is.
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