“I told you, when you first showed up. There’s real poison in our blood.”
Thursday night, 10 March 2016, PM
Celia: After her first meeting with Ron, Celia hadn’t let him slip out of her life. She had told him that she doesn’t need him to be her dad, and he wasn’t interested in it anyway, but she’d also told him she wasn’t some money-grubbing child claimant who’d only hit him up for a check when she’d needed it. They’d made plans to see each other on her birthday, get dinner again, and that had been that.
Only Celia had died before she’d made it to her next birthday. So it had been a little difficult to explain to him why she couldn’t meet him until really late at night, when most restaurants are closed. Rather than go out she’d asked if they could stay in and she’d bring something over. He’d accused her of not wanting to be seen with him—laughing, of course, always laughing—and Celia had made it up to him with a fancy bottle of bourbfon, steak, and the biggest damn lobster she’d been able to find. Plus a rich key lime cheesecake for dessert. She’d sworn she’d never eat again, but he’d been mollified.
Her grandsire hadn’t been, though. He hadn’t spoken to her directly about it, but Lebeaux had taken her aside to tell her that it isn’t proper behavior to speak to someone like that without permission from who they belong to, which, admittedly, Mel had covered with her, but she hadn’t known that individual people could belong to licks too. She’d been more than a little flustered when the warden was done dressing her down for her behavior, and she’d told him that of course she hadn’t meant anything by it.
After that she’d had to apologize to Lord Savoy. Formally. Explain what she wants with the movie producer. That she hadn’t mean to step on his toes or approach his subject or encroach on his territory.
Now each time she wants to see him she asks if she’s allowed, and since nothing bad has ever come of it he’s never said no. She tells him the when and the where, he either has Mel tell her it’s fine or, if she’s meeting him directly about something else, waves a lazy hand and tells her to enjoy it.
She’d never directly told him that Ron is her dad, but she thinks he might know. That or he thinks she’s sleeping with the producer, and she’s not really sure what would be worse for her. She had explained this time, at least, that she might see if he’s still game to offer her a part in a movie.
It’s in a decidedly not whoring outfit that she shows up at Ron’s place when she’s done with her mother and Emily. A little late for dinner, but still not late enough that she thinks he’ll be asleep. He seems like one of those sleep all day, party all night kind of guys.
She just hopes he isn’t with one of his ladies of the week.
Celia lifts a hand to press the buzzer at his door.
GM: It’s been Mel that does, after the first few times. Vampires don’t like to share, but they can, at least, still let their guards down.
“Yeah?” grogs the now-older man’s voice from the box. He’s past 60.
That’s what all the kine do. Get old.
Celia: “Hey, Ron.” Ron. Not dad or Mr. Landrenau, just Ron. They’d both agreed to that. “It’s Celia.”
GM: “It’s late, Celia,” he grogs. “But whatever, I guess. Come up.”
The Toreador makes her way up to his floor. She doesn’t need to knock. The door’s already open. A girl dressed in suggestive attire is giggling and trading a kiss with the man on the other side. She looks as young as Celia did during her first meeting with her biological father.
Maybe a little younger.
Celia: Not much of a surprise. Diana had been 17. She’d heard he likes them young.
Celia doesn’t apologize for disturbing him at this hour like she might usually have. She’s got some cookies that Mom foisted off on her before she could get out the door, and she nods to Ron as she sweeps past the pair to deposit them in the kitchen for him. He’ll find them later. She rejoins them after a moment.
Maybe the girl is gone.
GM: Perhaps she wonders what Mom would think of that. Giving the snickerdoodles she baked to this man.
Celia: Mom will never know.
Better than throwing them in the trash, anyway.
GM: The girl isn’t gone. She’s dragging things out as she hugs and fondles him. She shoots Celia a jealous look over the older man’s shoulder that clearly says ‘stay away.’
Celia: Celia purses her lips and flutters her lashes at the girl. She unbuttons the top of her shirt. Just one. She’s older than the girl, but she doesn’t look it.
GM: The girl glares at Celia, then makes a kissy face and gets to her knees in front of Ron. He makes half-hearted sounds of protest.
Celia: “Charming,” Celia says dryly.
To remind him that she’s there. His daughter.
GM: “Ah. Shit. Not right here.” He pulls the now-protesting girl up. “Later, all right, babycakes?”
“How much later?” the girl presses, still glaring at Celia.
Celia: “Probably past your bedtime.”
GM: The girl glares harder, as if trying to think of something to say, then just exclaims, “You look like such a slut.”
“Fuckin’ Christ. Out,” grouses Ron.
“She’s just here t-”
Celia: Celia’s lips quirk upward in amusement. She glances down at her blouse and pants. Slut indeed.
She gives the girl a little finger wave as Ron shows her the door.
GM: “Yeah, and you ain’t? She’s my kid, dumbass. Out,” Ron repeats.
The girl looks a bit thrown off by that, then just glares at Celia again and makes her way out in a huff.
Ron closes the door behind her.
“I swear they get dumber every year.”
Celia: “Should have let her think you were fucking me,” Celia says after the door closes. “She’d have doubled down to win you back.”
GM: “Whatever, I guess. Always more.”
Ron’s dressed in a different-colored bathrobe, but still a bathrobe. Seven years later, his diminished hair is whiter, his belly’s larger, and his pudgier, blearier-looking face has more wrinkles. He does not look as if he’s aged gracefully.
He shuffles off to the kitchen. “Drink?”
Celia: “Might try even harder thinking she insulted your kid,” Celia says thoughtfully. She trails after him. “Whatever you’re having.” Same line, every time.
GM: He pours some glasses of what Celia knows by now is whiskey. He plops down heavily on the couch and takes a pull. The bright lights cast longer shadows over is face against the night. Celia supposes she hasn’t been giving him the same skincare regimen as her mom, and he might be 20 years older, but he has not aged as well.
“Little late,” he repeats. “So what is it?”
Celia: She’d offered, though. She still gives him products for holidays, but she doesn’t think he uses them. Shame, really. She imagines he’d be a good-looking guy if she could work her magic on him. Maybe if her grandsire decides to keep him around… feign a heart attack, say it made him more wary about his health, make a few changes… easy.
She imagines the whiskey tastes about as good as the first time. She can almost pretend that the ash is just the result of being filtered through charcoal if she were so inclined. She pretends to sip. Makes a face, as if she’d swallowed.
“You’re right. It’s late. I’m sorry for barging in on you like this. I tried to get in to see you at the office but my assistant has been a little scatter brained lately.” She flashes a rueful smile. He knows what that’s like, she’s sure. How many assistants has he hired for their brains versus their willingness to get on their knees under his desk?
GM: “Scattered brains should be easy to find when there aren’t many to scatter,” he grouses.
“But you’re right, who the fuck hires them for their brains.”
Celia: Celia lifts her glass in a ‘cheers’ motion.
“I’ve been thinking about the offer you made me a while ago.” He’d told her when she gets tired of playing online to hit him up and he’d “catapult her into stardom.” His words.
GM: “And you had to come tell me that right when I was getting laid,” he grouses again.
Celia: “Mmm, well, like I said, she’s going to try even harder with you now. Maybe let you do her the back way, you know how girls play shy about that.”
“You can probably convince her to bring a friend or two. Really, I did you a favor.”
GM: “Kid, I don’t care about all those bullshit games at this point. I want more girls, I can buy more girls.”
Celia: “I’ll buy you a girl, then.”
GM: “Lunch is when you normally say these kindsa things, you know. ‘Hey I’m interested in movies.’”
Celia: “I know. I also work through lunch most days, as you know. Business is going well. You should come by sometime.” She tells him that every time, too.
There’s a brief pause. Celia glances down at her drink. She swirls the ice around.
“I had a… nightmare, I guess. That I’d wasted my life online. You told me once that the kid thing doesn’t do it for you, that the legacy you want to leave behind is the movies. Something that breaks records. That’s turned into a classic. That, fifty years from now, people point at and say, now that’s art. People like stories, you said.” She leans forward. “Let’s give them one.”
GM: “I also told you art doesn’t sell. Art makes me you think. People don’t like that. They hate that.”
“But whatever. You want to be on the screen, that’s doable. Another pretty face is an easy fit into Vieux Carre.”
Celia: Celia shakes her head.
“How much does an episode of that cost to produce compared to what it brings in?”
GM: “Uh, you bet it brings in more than it costs, or we’d drop it like a hot potato.”
GM: “Average episode costs about a million, anyways. Individual episodes also aren’t what we make money from, beyond selling them to networks for the cost it takes to make them.”
Celia: “Sure, but the demand for this kind of content, and thus the profit, has gone down, hasn’t it? I looked into it a little. Last year there was a garbage movie that brought in a billion dollars at the box office in seventeen days. Seventeen. That’s a record.”
GM: “Sure. It’s gonna get canceled eventually, like all shows. ‘Til then, we’ll milk the cash cow for all it’s worth.”
Celia: “Of course. I wouldn’t dream of telling you to put it down. But while you’ve got that guaranteed source of revenue, why not expand a little?”
GM: “And what do you think I should expand to?”
Celia: “RED just released their new Dragon Vista a few months back. There are some studios out there who don’t even have the Epic Dragon, and you’ve still got people who think Arri can keep up.” Celia shares a look with Ron. “Those are the same kinds of places using day-for-night, too. Put Zodiac in front again. Grab a DV, put together a night film. First foray into this, maybe make it low budget. Bunch of nobody actors, keeps cost down on salaries. Horror, maybe, those tend to work well like that. Push it out under a sister company even. Real unknown. But you’ve got the talent here with your DP and FX guys, I’ve seen it. Knock it out of the park. Market the fuck out of it. You’ll see a bunch of copycats, but Zodiac got there first. Stick to the Quarter, even. Amount of ghost stories around here?”
Celia shakes her head.
“You could make something new for each one if you wanted and it goes well, even.”
It hits all the right beats: lets him play up the “local director” angle, uses the newest gadgets on the market, draws on the experience of his guys while still doing something new. Low budget, low risk, potential for a big reward both in profits and in sequels. Worst case scenario he buys a new camera.
And horror movies notoriously get a good turnaround on profits.
She’s not married to that idea, though.
GM: “Right, let’s establish a few things, ‘cause this ain’t the first time I’ve talked to someone, or even a relative, with big ideas who wanted to get into movies,” says Ron. “What are you after? Do you just want your face on the screen? Or do you want to make this specific movie?”
Celia: Celia doesn’t quite deflate, but she nods her head in agreement.
“You’re right. You’re the movie guy. I just got excited.” The smile she gives him is sheepish. She swirls her drink, sending the blood through her body to give herself a flush. It reddens her cheeks, makes her eyes a little shiny. Blame the whiskey and excitement, right?
GM: “Do you want make more movies, have a career in the industry? Do you want to be an actor, a producer, a director, or what? Or just build your brand on top of the YouTube and Instagram stuff? Like, what the fuck are you after here?”
Celia: Celia considers the question. She’d thought, initially, she wanted to be an actress. They make the big bucks, don’t they? But they’re the subject of constant gossip, their every move scrutinized… and they have to do what other people tell them to. Plus they have to be on set early, during the day. She’d have to rely on doubles to take her spot. Producers have more longevity, don’t they? Pick their own projects. Make a pile of money, too. Easy to hand it off to someone else that’s actually her once “Celia Flores” runs out of time.
“Eventually, I think I’d like to produce. Like you do. And I’ll admit that the idea of being on screen while I’m young and pretty enough to do it is appealing as well.”
GM: “I produce and direct. Sometimes write, though not so much now.”
“So what you want is to be on screen, and build that into producing later? Lot of stars who’ve done that.”
Celia: Celia nods.
That sounds about right.
“Do people take them less seriously as producers or directors because they used to act?”
GM: “Used to be actors were just actors—you don’t hear of Gary Golden or Ginger Swan producing movies. But even then you had exceptions. Think Orson Welles. It’s gotten more and more common with time. Actors taking on production responsibilities has changed the nature of filmmaking for the better. The more actors who also direct and produce means bigger creative investment and better conditions for cast and crew. Because working actors understand what’s needed to get the best performances. Think Clint Eastwood. Actor with a rep as an outstanding director and producer.”
“So no, not really.”
Celia: She was thinking more like the female actors who turn into directors and everyone thinks their movies are shit because they’ve got a vagina.
But she nods again.
She can be Clint Eastwood.
GM: “But okay. You just want to get your face on screen, forget a new movie for now. Big hassle to make a movie. Also damn hard to raise money for if you’re brand new and want a high production value. Easier to fit you in to someone else’s project, build your reputation, make your own movies from there.”
Celia: “So you think the show to start, or I should get… like a small part on a movie?”
GM: “Show,” says Ron. “Easier to slip you in. Ongoing thing you can do for potentially a while.”
“Average shooting day is 10-12 hours, by the way. Make plenty time.”
Celia: That’s a problem.
That’s a big problem.
GM: “We usually get 8-24 minutes of usable footage from that.”
Celia: “Why so little?”
GM: “When the fuck doesn’t shit take longer than you think?”
Celia: “It just… seems unproductive, is all.”
“But I guess if you’re shooting 50-60 minute episodes… one episode for every two to three days…”
GM: “The full cast ain’t on set, or even on property, that full time. There’s a lot of moving parts that go into making a movie. Just how it is. That rate’s stayed pretty much the same since I started out, way before you were born.”
Celia: “Okay. So. How does this all work, then?”
GM: “I’ll get you an audition. You don’t do terrible, you’ll get a part.”
Celia: If only she weren’t his daughter, she could sleep with him for a part like every other actress.
“And you recommend that instead of just… following what you do?”
GM: “What do you mean, following what I do?”
Celia: “I meant like you recommend going from acting to producing / directing instead of just going into the latter?”
GM: “Unless you’re independently wealthy enough to bankroll it all yourself, you will not be fuckin’ producer or director out of the box. That doesn’t happen anymore.”
“And even if you are, everything’ll be ten times harder without industry experience and connections.”
Celia: Celia nods. She gets it.
GM: “Like, I want to open a spa, right now, what the fuck would you tell me? I got money, right, and appreciate chicks who look good?”
Celia: “Hire a good manager.”
Celia grins at him.
GM: “Ha. I bet.”
Celia: “No, right, you’d want to make sure you know what you’re doing. That your techs know what they’re doing. That everything is priced right, that you’re following state board rules, that the marketing is on point, everyone has a license…” Celia trails off.
GM: “And a lot more shit you haven’t listed, ‘cuz you ain’t done this before.”
Celia: “So, really, hire someone who knows what they’re doing so you can learn.”
GM: “By the way though, if you’re serious about starting a movie career, you’re in a good place.”
Celia: “Yeah? Why’s that?”
GM: “Because there’s main two things that get you in, these days.”
“Family connections and money. Talent’s optional.”
“You don’t need talent to make it big.”
Celia: It’s not quite a ringing endorsement to what he’d once said about her being a good actress, but she smiles politely all the same.
GM: “Like, if I hadn’t cum inside your mom, you’d need all sorts of bullshit like acting classes and volunteer experience and a resume and an agent and there’d be a million other bitches and sonsofbitches who want the parts you want.”
“But here I am saying okay, you have an audition, just like that.”
Celia: She doesn’t point out that she’s prettier than the rest of his cast, either.
“I appreciate my luck.”
GM: “I didn’t have family connections or money. I busted my balls to make it in Hollywood. And the industry’s changed since then. Gotten way more competitive, like everything. Busting your balls isn’t enough no more.”
Celia: “And look what you’ve made with it.” Celia gestures around them, to the apartment, then beyond that to the city at large, the company he’s built. “You made everything yourself. You’re not coasting by on a name or looks or money or because you bent over for some guy. And that’s admirable.”
GM: “Yeah, I just sold my soul and make shitty movies. Lot to admire.”
Celia: “Ron… you’ve said that a few times. Shitty movies. Do you want to do more?”
“Has anyone ever asked you that? What you want?”
GM: “Doesn’t matter. ‘More’ doesn’t sell.”
Celia: “Would it make you proud, though?”
GM: “Audiences don’t want ‘more.’”
He gestures around the condo.
“I’d also rather have this than pride.”
Celia: “What if money wasn’t an object? If you could just… make what you wanted to? If you could have that and your condo and the girls?”
GM: “What if unicorns were real? Yeah, I’d clamber on one for a ride.”
Celia: “But I mean think about it, Ron. You’ve spent your lifetime building a company, and you don’t sound happy. And I’m your kid so I’m not going to lecture you because you don’t need it from me. But if you want to be happy, to be proud of the legacy you leave behind… maybe just think about it, you know?”
GM: Ron takes a pull of his drink. “I have this romantic idea, sometimes. When I’m really drunk and my girl’s nodding along to everything I say. Of making the last movie I make a real movie. Being sole producer, spending every cent I have, so no one else gets to sink their claws into it. Writing the screenplay. Directing it. Making do on the lower budget. Using every trick I ever learned, to make something real and beautiful and thoughtful and profound, to say everything I ever wanted to say, that touches people in their hearts and leaves them thinkin’ about it years after they’ve seen it. It wouldn’t make a lot of money. Box office flop. Critics would say it was weird, too different, too nonconventional. Wouldn’t matter, because I’d die in my director’s chair the day of the final shot, or maybe the premiere. But it’d be a cult classic, and a few decades later, it’d show up on all those ‘Top X’ lists and critics would all be gushing over what a work of art it was, and how unappreciated for its time, and how it changed things in movies forever.”
Ron takes another drink.
“And then I see my girl noddin’ and gigglin’, and I come back to fuckin’ reality.”
“And I think, hey. Maybe that would be a catchy movie. Movie about a director who wants to make a not-shitty movie, except the movie actually is just another shitty movie.”
Celia: Celia sets her glass down on the coffee table between them. She doesn’t quite lean forward in her chair, but she does fix him with a look.
“Do I look like I’m giggling and laughing and nodding along? If that’s what you want to do… do it. Start writing it. You’ve got this life here, sure, and you’ve got these movies and the shows you’ll leave behind, and a bunch of kids that will fight over what you leave when you die. Or you could actually do it, be the cult classic, be a name that people remember forever.”
GM: “Leaving aside all the other reasons that’s a better story, and movie, than it is a reality, I’m not about to kick the bucket. I can’t make it before I’m about to die, remember, since it’ll take every penny I have.”
“Though I guess I could kill myself when it’s done. Maybe even make that into a scene in the movie, ha ha. A real fuckin’ suicide. That’s almost beautiful.”
Celia: Celia is pretty sure that’s illegal, but she doesn’t tell him so. He’d know better than her, anyway.
“Could always write it now. Direct it under a different name, push it out under a different studio. Subsidiary, that kind of thing.”
GM: “Were you listening to a damn word I said? Use whatever fuckin’ name or studio you want, those kinds of movies don’t get made, unless you’ve got the money to take total fuckin’ control of production.”
Celia: Celia gives him a flat look.
GM: “Hollywood is an abortion clinic. Good ideas are the babies.”
Celia: “Then change it. Be different. You’re top dog in New Orleans, aren’t you? Do something with it.”
GM: “You are not listening to a damn thing I said! I make a movie that way, it’ll take every last cent I have, bye-bye all this.” He gestures at the condo. “Bye-bye to your inheritance, too.”
Celia: Celia considers him for a long moment.
“I am listening to you. I’m hearing you say that it’s a money problem. That you’d have to spend everything you have to be in charge. But it’s your name on the side of the building, isn’t it? You’re already in control. I know that’s not always how it works when people start throwing money at projects, they all want a hand in it. So… what if I throw money at it? I don’t know if I could bankroll the whole thing, but I could help. If that’s what you want to do.”
GM: “Soon as you take somebody else’s money, kid, they’re also in charge,” Ron says wearily.
He looks at her dubiously.
“The movie’d be a box office flop. Might even never be appreciated, years later. You’d probably just be lighting cash on fire.”
Celia: “I’ll make more money,” Celia says with a shrug. “If it’s what you want to do and I can help, I want to help.”
Celia: “Because even if I don’t call you ‘dad’ you’re my dad. Because when I approached you years ago you were nice to me, and you could have just blown me off. Because you’re not… fake. You don’t smile and then stab someone in the back, you just say it like it is. ‘Celia, that’s not a good idea, this is what’s wrong with your plan,’ and you do it in a way that doesn’t make me feel less-than. Because I told you years ago I didn’t contact you for your money and you did something nice for me anyway, and now it’s my turn.”
GM: Ron doesn’t say anything for a while.
“What was it you said about who your mom was, way back? Sweetest lady in the world or some shit?”
“There’s a lot more of her in you than me.”
Celia: Plenty enough of him in her too, though. With a dash of Maxen on her darkest days.
She leans forward to touch his hand.
“You’re my family, Ron. This is what we do for each other.”
Thursday night, 10 March 2016, PM
GM: Em looks around. He’s in Uncle Ron’s condo.
It doesn’t look like it’s changed much, besides newer technology. Smart TV instead of the old non-smart widescreen.
Emmett: “Oh, that evil son of a bitch.”
It’s been a while. But hey, a lot’s changed in nine years. Like apparently Ron’s gotten real sentimental about his blood relations, or so Em assumes from being deposited here.
GM: Ron’s there. So’s Celia. They’re seated on the leather couch talking to each other. Ron’s in his bathrobe. Celia’s more dressed up and is touching his hand.
Ron’s aged, and not well. He’s fatter. His hair’s whiter, and there’s less of it. His pudgier, blearier-looking face has more wrinkles. Em can see an ugly black stain around his liver, like black tar or plaque. There’s black gunk clotted around his heart, too.
“All right, enougha that mushy shit,” Em’s uncle says to Celia in a gruff but faintly choked-sounding voice. He takes a swig of his nearby drink.
“Someone’ll call you about the details. Audition times and shit.”
Celia: Celia pulls back from him with a smile, folding her hands on her lap.
“I’m looking forward to it. Thank you for setting it up.”
GM: “If you’re really serious about movies, by the way… I can talk to Rick. Rick Towers. We’re friends. He could take you with him to Hollywood. He won’t break his back to start your career, but he can open doors. Help you land some gigs.”
“I might be top dog in Louisiana, but this place is the kids’ table next to Hollywood.”
Celia: That’s certainly tempting. Or would be, if she weren’t predisposed to that certain type of sun allergy that involves bursting into flames at the slightest touch. She nods, though, because she thinks he expects it of her, and because there’s some part of her that wonders if she could make it work.
“I’d have to consider that. I have a business here, would need to sell. We don’t even know if I’m any good at this yet,” she says ruefully. “But… yeah, that sounds really great.”
There’s a pause, then, “do they really sleep with all the girls out there like you say?”
GM: She’s heard about L.A. from Roderick in passing. Anarch city. Anarch capital of the world, really. Vampires involved in Hollywood.
“Yep,” says Ron.
Celia: Not that Celia is opposed to sleeping with people to get what she wants.
GM: “Lot more shit I don’t say too.”
GM: “Isn’t shit you’d see goin’ with Rick,” he waves off. “That’s for the really desperate girls.”
“Spreading your legs isn’t shit you’d need to do, either. That happens most with the actresses starting out, who don’t have money or connections. But it’d still help you get places with a body like yours.”
Celia: She should feel a certain way about her dad judging her body, she’s sure. Disgusted, maybe. But she’s dead, and she’s heard worse, and he’d never been much of a dad to her. She’s kind of flattered. She does have a bangin’ bod, she’d made it herself.
“That the kind of thing that’s gonna come back and bite me in the ass later?”
GM: “Sleeping with somebody to get ahead?”
“Pffft. Bite half the asses in Hollywood.”
“Can happen though if you’re careless and the paparazzi are hungry.”
“Then again, all publicity’s good publicity.”
Celia: “Ah. Like people who get work done, right? When it’s bad it’s obvious, when it’s good you can’t even tell. Show some discretion, that sort of thing.”
Is he really suggesting his daughter fuck her way to success?
GM: “Well, like I said. Sex sells. Worked for Paris Fucking Hilton, didn’t it?”
Celia: Christ, speaking of work done, she’d make a fortune in Hollywood.
“I’d actually point to the Kardashians before I do Hilton. She didn’t do much since then. Whole Kardashian clan has ridden that sex tape to success.”
GM: “Guess it goes to say sex sells, but doesn’t have to be your sex.”
“We call people who do that pimps.”
Meanwhile, Em looks about the place.
Emmett: Particularly for any indication of hidden spaces, or the telltale glow of his niece and nephew’s souls.
GM: Like everywhere else, it looks like it’s been abandoned for years. The drapes and carpets are rotting. The TV has its face smashed in. There’s grime over the broken windows. The couch is stained with the smell of sweat and old semen.
He sees no souls except Ron’s and Celia’s.
The smell gets worse from the bedroom. Em stares through the translucent walls. The bed is the beating heart of this place. It smells like sex, old and stale, dried tears, and crusted vomit, though less of that than the bathroom does. The place reeks with a toxic amalgam or lust, despair, and self-hate thick enough to choke on.
Celia: “There’s a joke in there somewhere about pimping out your own family, I think.”
GM: “You don’t have to sleep with nobody. Just telling you how it works.”
Celia: “No, no, I know, I appreciate how upfront you are about things.”
GM: “But like I said, you got a great body. It’d help you get ahead.”
“If you weren’t my kid I’d have definitely wanted to fuck you.”
Celia: Celia lifts her glass to that.
“Now there’s a compliment.” She doesn’t even sound sarcastic.
GM: Ron lifts his and takes a swig.
“All right. This old man needs to get to bed.”
Celia: “Of course. Thanks for seeing me tonight. And for the talk. I’m really looking forward to this. I’ll send a girl by to make up for the one I chased away.” She rises, holding out her hand. “I can set that in the dishwasher if you’d like. Mom sent cookies, they’re on the counter.”
GM: “Remind me who the fuck she is?”
Celia: They have this conversation every time.
“Diana. The ballerina.”
GM: “Huh. Feel like I’d remember that.”
“Worked with dancers for some movies. You’re right they can be bendy as all fuck.”
Celia: “She didn’t go out for a movie. She said you met at a party.” Celia shrugs.
GM: “Thanks for the cookies, anyway. And the girl.”
Celia: “Anytime, Ron. I’ll talk to you soon.”
GM: Ron sees her out with a hug.
Em watches his uncle walk back to the kitchen and sample one of the foul-smelling, mold-laced cookies. Celia heads for the elevator.
Celia: Celia doesn’t quite head for the elevator. She spends a minute searching her pockets for something, and a moment later there’s a knock on Ron’s door when she comes up empty.
GM: Em watches his uncle walk back to the door, check who’s there on the nearby monitor, then pull it open. Celia sees he’s munching on one of the snickerdoodles.
Celia: “Hey, sorry, I forgot my keys.”
“How’re the cookies?”
GM: “They’re really good. Your mom’s some baker,” he says. He gestures towards the living room. “Take a look.”
Celia: “She is. Taught me everything she knows.” Celia slips past him, moving toward the living room. She checks the table, then the floor, and finally lifts the cushion she’d been on. There they are. “You really don’t remember her?”
GM: Ron shakes his head. “Pretty long while ago, obviously.”
Celia: She pulls her phone from her pocket, taps in the PIN, and scrolls through her gallery. A moment later she has a photo pulled up: she and her mom with Lucy sprawled across the both of them in a tutu and tiara. They all look like they can hardly catch their breath from laughing.
GM: Emily took the picture. Ron smiles as he looks at it, but part of him looks reflective too.
Celia: “Her last name was Underwood,” Celia presses. “She was… young. Seventeen when she had me.”
GM: It’s a curious-feeling moment, when Celia looks at the picture too. Someone who did something bad to Celia’s family, but who’s why it exists, and who’s looking at it now so appreciatively.
It’s not even the sole instance of that feeling. Lucy was conceived the same way. In an even worse way. Celia could fairly describe that night as the blackest, most awful night of her life (as well as the last), and for her mom it’s probably the second-most terrible. She remembers talking with Emily about the rape baby her mother shouldn’t have to bear to term. Maybe even slipping an emergency contraceptive. How could anything good come from a night so evil.
But there the result is. She looks so happy. So stitches-in-their-sides happy. She and both her moms. Even Emily, who’d privately agreed with Celia over abortion, said after nine months, “I just can’t believe something like her came from something so bad. Or how Mom… had so much faith that something would. I don’t know were she got it from.”
Celia and Lucy are both rape babies. Sisters by conception as well as blood.
But Roderick said they’re both probably her mom’s favorite kids, because parents do have preferences, especially ones with so many kids.
Ron just looks at the picture thoughtfully.
“So I’d have been… you’re 27… 34.”
“Your mom looks good for her age. I thought I might’ve been a pedophile for a moment,” he says with a faint smile.
“Usually don’t get girls’ last names at parties. Underwood doesn’t ring a bell.”
“Shit, though… you all look happy. Real damn happy. What were you laughing over?”
Celia: “She comes to the spa a lot,” Celia tells him. “Keeps up with skincare. I could do the same for you, if you want.”
She glances back down at the photo.
“Yeah. We were. Are. They’re a good family. My friend Emily took it. Mom kind of adopted her when it turned out she didn’t have a family of her own. She was my roommate in college, and after that first year she came to live with us.”
GM: “Huh. So if she was 17 then she’d be… 44 now?”
“Damn. You’ve kept her looking really good for her age.”
Celia: “I’m good at what I do.”
GM: “I might take you up if that’s the end result.”
“That’s sweet of your mom to do with her. I guess you did say she was really nice.”
“Hot and sweet. She looks like a keeper.”
Celia: “She is.” If only the men in her life weren’t such scumbags.
“I’d be happy to get some work done on you, anyway. We can set something up for next week if you want.”
GM: “Yeah, sure. Call my secretary.” Ron looks back at the picture. “Don’t see any guys.”
“Are Emily and your mom fucking?”
Celia: Celia smirks.
“We had dinner earlier this week and I asked them the same thing. But no.”
GM: Ron laughs.
“But no guys in there? Feels incomplete.”
Celia: “Her ex is trying to win her back.”
“I’ve been trying to set her up with anyone else.”
GM: “Huh. I prefer them younger, but I’d be down to… see where things go.”
Celia: “What, exclusively?”
GM: “Christ, kid. I said see where things go, not jump off a fuckin’ cliff.”
Celia: Celia laughs. “I’ll put in a good word for you.”
GM: “I wouldn’t mind seeing my granddaughter sometime, either.”
“She’s really fuckin’ cute.”
Celia: “Yeah, she gets it from me.”
GM: “She sure does. You got any other pictures on here?”
Celia: “Of Lucy or my mom?” Celia swipes through her phone. Like any twenty-something woman, she has a lot of selfies. But there are quite a few photos of her family as well, and she goes through them with him, pointing out Emily when she gets to a photo of her and Celia arm in arm at the spa. They’re both in gray hooded shirts with pink lettering that says “Flawless League” on them. Celia tells him that her mom found them while she was shopping one day and thought they were too cute to pass up. There are some of Lucy in her dance outfit, a few of Diana after Celia had done her face up for a “girl’s night in,” which is almost like a night out only it’s the three of them after they put Lucy to bed all huddled on Diana’s couch. Sometimes they play with makeup, sometimes they watch movies in pajamas, sometimes they just lounge around making jokes that get more and more lewd while Diana blushes.
GM: The only thing missing from those evenings is alcohol. Diana doesn’t touch the stuff, and since dying, it doesn’t do a lot for Celia either, unless she’s able to feed on a drunk vessel. Emily doesn’t like being the only one in a group drinking (or, since college, drinking alone either), so that stopped happening. Diana (silently) approved that it made the nights in more wholesome. Celia and Emily did their best to undermine that. But Celia supposes they still are, for all the raunchiness of the jokes.
“Lucy,” says Ron, but he still looks over the other pictures.
“Oh huh, that Emily girl’s got a nice bod too. Wouldn’t look bad on camera,” he remarks appreciatively when she comes up. He squints at a few of the pictures.
“What is she though… Hispanic? Indian? The other Indian? Viewers don’t like being confused.”
Celia: “Little white, little Hispanic, then whatever her dad is. Not sure if it’s Native or South Asian or Middle Eastern or all of the above,” Celia tells him, “but she’s in her last year of med school. Not sure she’s looking to switch into film after finally powering through all those headaches.”
“My dad called her a mongrel mutt,” she says cheerfully.
Or was it half-breed? Something rude, anyway.
GM: “Case in point,” says Ron. “You get some multiracial actors, Keeanu Reeves and all, but it’s a strike against. I don’t like to cast them.”
Celia: “But half black and half white is okay?”
GM: “So long as you don’t look it.”
“Or if you do and market it right.”
Celia: Celia glances down at herself. There’s no part of her that looks black. Maybe her butt.
GM: Her mom always called her hair “feisty.” But she can control that now.
Celia: She’d asked her mom once how come she has hair when Daddy doesn’t, and after that Maxen had shaved off the rest of what was clinging to his head.
GM: “He probably would’ve done it anyway, sweetie,” Diana had replied consolingly. “And it is a good look on him, I think!”
Celia: Celia, Isabel, and David had gone in together that Christmas on shoe polish so he could keep it shiny. They hadn’t understood why he’d gotten mad.
Celia: “Lucy passes for white pretty well,” Celia says after a moment, looking down at a photo her mother had sent her of the girl with both cats cuddling on her lap. “She’s… what, half on my side… half on her dad’s? Quarter on her dad’s? He never looked it either, though.”
GM: Shadow and Victor. The calico and black cat have their eyes closed as they contently purr.
It’s something to see them looking so peaceful. All they ever do when they see Celia is hiss, growl, and flee.
“Huh. Lucky her,” says Ron. “Remind me who that apparently handsome motherfucker was?”
Celia: There’s an awkward beat of silence. Then,
GM: Ron gives a flat look.
“Well, what the fuck, I guess. Who’m I to judge.”
Celia: “I, ah, I didn’t know who he was at the time. It wasn’t until after we’d…”
GM: “Legal in California, I’m pretty sure.”
Celia: She’d looked up the laws, after. Apparently in Louisiana she couldn’t marry the guy, but sexual relations were allowed. Weird rules, but then so is fucking your cousin.
“I haven’t told anyone that, since… well. She never met him. And he’s…” Celia trails off, voice dropping, “gone now, anyway.”
Emmett: Sure he is.
He watches Ron’s face carefully.
He hasn’t even registered that Celia’s claiming he’s her daughter’s father. He’s pretty sure he isn’t. But that’s neither here nor there.
Celia: He could be, though. They definitely didn’t use a condom. And it’s not like they saw much of each other after that.
Timeline matches up, too.
GM: “Yeah,” Ron says hollowly. “Drug-related shit. Bunch of people dead.”
“Can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Something like it.”
“I told you, when you first showed up. There’s real poison in our blood.”
Celia: “I’m sorry,” Celia says quietly. “I didn’t mean to bring it up. Are you okay? After… everything?”
GM: “I’m here. I’m breathin’.”
“Poison burns through me slower than him, I guess.”
Celia: “I don’t think that’s true, you know. About poison in the blood. He was… I mean, when I knew him, he helped me out of a bad spot. And you did too.”
GM: “He also killed my son,” Ron says flatly.
“I bet he meant well, with you. Hell. Maybe he didn’t mean for things to spiral out of control, the way they did.”
“But they always do. Always fuckin’ do.”
“And my son’s still dead, whatever the fuck he meant to do.”
Emmett: Well… yeah, not much he can say to that.
GM: “We’re fuckin’ hurricanes. Calamity wherever we go. We don’t mean it, we really don’t, just a natural fuckin’ phenomenon, right? Still calamity. Bodies. Lives destroyed. Everything we touch, turns to shit.”
“I’d say the whole thing’s a sad fuckin’ waste. I’d say he coulda made movies. But maybe he’d have just… turned out like me.”
Ron sighs wearily.
“Maybe better the poison burned through fast.”
Celia: Celia takes a step toward him. He’d said “no more mushy shit,” but when someone needs a hug, well… Diana had taught her to give ’em out like candy. She does so now.
GM: It’s not a tight hug. It’s not a limp hug. It’s just a heavy one. It lasts a while. Ron feels old and tired. He doesn’t move his arms.
Finally he pulls back.
“All right. Bed’s calling my name.”
Celia: “Right. Sorry for…” making him sad? reminding him of his dead son? bringing up Em? “…lingering. Everything. I’m glad you’re in my life, Ron. I just want you to know that. But get to bed. We’ll talk later.”
Thursday night, 10 March 2016, PM
GM: Ron and Celia see each other off after the former declares “enough mushy shit,” but says he “ain’t sorry” she came by either. Em watches his uncle go take a piss in the bathroom. Celia heads for the elevator.
Emmett: He’s still wondering why “Caroline” sent him here. Maybe Ron knows something.
Maybe it’s all a crock of shit.
He follows Celia, for now.
Celia: Unaware of her ghostly stalker, Celia heads back home. It’s a short drive from Ron’s place to her place in the Quarter, and she pulls her car into the drive behind a ruby-red… something. Randy had told her a handful of times what it is and she’d always forgotten. Too many numbers and letters in the name for her.
The house itself is brick, three stories, with two entrances. Celia goes around back to find the second entrance, passing through a security gate when she punches in the numbers, then a thick door with a series of deadbolts, and finally another PIN code. She takes a moment to lock up behind her before she ascends to her haven.
It’s a nice place, really: wooden floors, exposed brick walls, open floor plan. The furnishings are very Celia: tasteful, elegant, probably expensive. A lot of wood. A pink velvet couch, too. The only non-Celia thing in the place is the pool table that sits in the center of the floor, currently in use by a man and a woman. A spiral staircase leads upward off to the other side, and there’s a door off the kitchen that probably leads to the bathroom.
GM: It would be a nice place, at least, in the real world.
Emmett: No Nutella in the cupboard, though.
GM: The couch is moth-eaten, caked with dust, and stained with dried cum. The pool table’s felt is little more than colorless rotted strips. The same stink of old sex wafts from them. The bulbs in the lights are shattered. The broken windows are caked with grime. The rooted floorboards look like they’ve been left to soak in a bacteria stew for years.
All just more rot and trash. Like everywhere.
Emmett: “Ugh, somebody’s totally fucked on this pool table.”
“I’ve never had pool table sex. I guess I never will, now.”
He waits for Celia to fall asleep before he nestles besides her and slides into her dreams.
Celia: Unfortunately, Celia doesn’t fall asleep for a long while. She spends some time with the two people at the table, asking the girl about a series of text messages, then letting her know to expect a call from Ron’s people about an audition. Em might notice that the boy kind of looks like him. Has his eyes, anyway, though Em’s probably never looked at anyone with such clear adoration. The three get together on the couch to watch a movie together after a while, some action flick with lots of explosions and a British bad guy.
GM: The girl lies down with her head on Celia’s lap, sometimes nuzzling back and forth against the woman’s thigh.
She looks a little sleepy, and the boy too, but they try to stay awake.
Celia: Celia runs her fingers through the girl’s hair while the movie plays. She tells them after a while, when it’s clear they no longer care if the hero can save the hostages, that they can head on up to bed and she’ll see them tomorrow evening.
GM: “I’d rather spend time with you, mistress…” the girl murmurs, rubbing her head against Celia’s belly. “I could eat you out, if you’ve had enough of the movie…”
“Babe, I’m always happy to watch anything with you. Or about you,” says the boy, with a brief eye towards the girl. His voice is a little jealous.
Celia: “And what will poor Randy do, hm?”
GM: “I guess he’ll just watch, like always.” The girl starts contently rubbing her face against Celia’s crotch.
Celia: “Mhm,” Celia muses, “but what about the fact that you broke the rules today, hm? You know better than to do what you did.”
GM: The girl looks up and hangs her head. “I’m sorry, mistress. I just wanted to be completely clear with you. I know how much you value your family.”
Celia: “You can’t call me mistress over the phone. You know that we’re already under scrutiny. If the wrong people see it…” Celia forces a sigh.
GM: The girl nods her head. “I won’t do it again, mistress. You can just spank me, once, for every time I don’t address you properly, when you see me again.”
Celia: “I value you your discretion more than I value you calling me mistress. What would I do if I lost you, pet? If someone picked you up for questioning?”
“Don’t you know how sad I’d be?”
GM: “You fucked up is what you did,” the boy helpfully chimes. “Like, don’t blab about stuff over the phone. That’s pretty basic.”
Celia: “You know better.”
GM: “You’d be very, very sad, mistress,” the girl replies mournfully, with a brief dirty look towards the boy. “I should know better. I’m so sorry. It won’t ever happen again.”
She crawls off the couch, prostrates herself on the floor, and starts to kiss Celia’s feet.
“You’re a goddess, mistress. You’re so much smarter, so much prettier, so much more everything than I am.”
“It’s so hard for any of us to match your example. But I’ll always do my best, do better than my best, for whatever you ask…”
Celia: Celia leans forward, touching her chin to lift her face. She strokes her fingers down the girl’s cheek.
“I appreciate hearing that. But you still messed up, and you need to face the consequences. So here’s your choice: no sex for a week… or you can watch Randy and I.”
GM: Randy’s face lights up.
“What kind of sex, mistress?” the girl asks slowly.
“Between you and Randy.”
Celia: “Well, I suppose considering I’ve made him wait this long, I should show him a good time.”
GM: Randy looks like he could cry ‘hallelujah.’
The girl shoots him a hateful look.
Celia: The girl knows how good the sex is, too. She knows exactly what Celia will make her watch. How much satisfaction she’ll give Randy.
GM: “I’ll take… no sex, mistress,” she says slowly. Spitefully. “He isn’t good enough for you. He’d… deface you. He isn’t good enough for you. He doesn’t deserve you and he never will.”
“I’ll suffer, and go without, so you don’t have to suffer.”
Celia: “How noble,” Celia says dryly.
GM: Randy’s face seems to almost… freeze, as his breath catches.
Celia: “Go on up to bed, pet. I won’t make you watch now.”
GM: And just like that, unadulterated joy shines through on Randy’s face.
Celia: She does not mean. Celia has no intention of fucking Randy tonight: he hasn’t earned it. Plus she’s in a possibly monogamous relationship with an old partner who’d been hung up on her cheating last time and she isn’t going to ruin it one night in by fucking a ghoul.
Besides, he’d turned her down the other night. He doesn’t get to fuck her now.
GM: Alana throws herself at Celia’s feet, weeping openly as she clutches the Toreador’s leg like a lifeline. “Mistress, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry I’m so stupid, I’m sorry I’m not good enough, I’m trying, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please, mistress, please, I’ll do anything, anything, I’m your pet, I’m your toy, I’m your property, I’m nothing, do anything to me, please, please…”
Celia: “I meant the movie,” she says shortly, looking back to the screen. “She looks tired and I’m still mad at you for drinking sewer water.”
GM: And just like that, the look of joy instantly vanishes.
Celia: Ghouls are a fucking headache.
She disentangles herself from Alana’s clutching arms. She wants to lash out, to berate her and tell her that she deserves it, but it’s like kicking a puppy. It’s just pathetic. And she’s not Veronica, no matter how much sex she has; she doesn’t get off on causing other people pain, even emotional pain. They’re just so… whiny when they’re like this. Is it what she has to look forward to if she and Roderick take that third drink? Christ. No thanks.
GM: Alana grovels on the floor and kisses the ground where Celia’s feet rested. Tears run down her face even as she gulps out between an ear-to-ear smile,
“Thank, thank you, mistress, thank you, thank you, I’ll be good, I’ll be worthy, I’ll do everything you want, everything right, I’m worthless, I’m yours…”
Celia: Is this how her sire sees her?
The thought fills her with revulsion.
GM: “You’re so fucking pathetic, Alana,” Randy says flatly.
An elephant could balance on his voice.
She could swear his balls have already shriveled in.
“There’s nothing sexy about it. Even remotely.”
Celia: “Shut it,” Celia snarls at him. “She isn’t yours to berate. Alana, get up, stop blubbering, and if you call yourself stupid again I’ll have your tongue.”
GM: Randy shuts up.
Alana rises to her knees, head bowed so she still isn’t Celia’s height. “Ye-yes, mistress,” she sniffs. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Just tell me what to do. Please. I want to do, whatever you want me to.”
Celia: “Fix this bullshit between you. Your squabbling is over. We are a team. There are enough people in this city to tear us down without you two doing it to each other.”
GM: “Uh, okay… how you want us to, babe…?” asks Randy.
Celia: “Find common ground. Fix a problem. Go fuck it out of your systems if you need to, I don’t care.”
“I don’t need you to be best friends. You don’t even need to like each other. But you will stop sabotaging and bad-mouthing each other, you will stop making each other feel bad, you will stop trying to get the other one in trouble. Neither one of you is better than the other. You both have your different areas of expertise, and you’re both with me for a reason.”
GM: “…all right. Sure, babe. We won’t fight about shit,” says Randy.
“Okay, mistress,” sniffs Alana. She remains kneeling. “What else do you want me to do?”
Celia: It isn’t this easy. She imagines they’ll have this same conversation next week as well. Maybe she should just lock them in a room with each other. Hit them with some feelings of lust so they can work it out. That always works for her.
“You’ll need a new identity soon, Randy. Your time as Celia’s boyfriend might be coming to a close. Start thinking about what that will look like. And you…” Celia wipes the tears from Alana’s cheeks. “You need more fire inside, pet, if you’re going to be a movie star.”
GM: “Oh. Uh, okay,” Randy says, a little lamely.
Alana basks under Celia’s touch, smiling up at her adoringly.
“A… movie star, mistress?”
Celia: “Mmhmm. I spoke with a producer this evening. We might be making a trip to LA.”
Celia taps Randy’s legs until he turns sideways and moves them so she can sit between them, then pulls Alana up onto the couch between her own. She takes one of Randy’s hands and puts it around herself, wordless permission granted, then tugs Alana until her pet’s back rests against her chest. It’s a Celia sandwich, a ghoul on either side of her. She nuzzles Alana’s neck.
“We’ll figure out the logistics. Press play, Randy, let’s finish this movie.”
Emmett: As Randy presses play, Em nestles his way onto the couch too. It’d be tight if the inconvenient bits of his corpus didn’t become gaseous where appropriate.
He hasn’t seen this movie before.
He tries to keep track of the hours. He ought to have some time, still.
GM: “Oh, L.A. sounds wonderful, mistress! Let the whole world see how beautiful you are!” Alana croons, grinding her ass against Celia’s crotch.
Em, meanwhile, is less gaseous than incorporeal. His corpus melts right through the seated trio. The couch might as well be empty.
The movie is one of the worst movies that he’s watched. Maybe not because of the plot or acting or cinematography or anything like that: the image and sound quality is simply atrocious. He can barely make out what’s happening, half the time.
Eventually, the movie ends. Randy and Alana go to bed. Em watches through the walls as both of them masturbate.
Celia, though, remains awake as she goes about her business. It does not look as if she’s going to bed anytime soon.
It’s hard to say whether he’ll have enough time to share her dreams before Doc Brown and the others expect him back.
Emmett: He’d rather not take risks. Not with this. She can wait until later. So can Ron.
But he has souls to damn, and only so many hours. He spends them at the rendezvous.
Friday night, 11 March 2016, AM
GM: At 5 AM, Celia’s back in Pete’s office at the Evergreen. He gives a nodded, “Celia,” after she knocks and steps inside.
Celia: Celia smooths her skirt down after she shuts the door. She takes the seat across from him and can’t help but think that every time she’s in this office she feels like she’s in trouble. She’s glad that her hands can’t get clammy.
“Hello again, Pete. How was the rest of your evening?”
GM: “A gutter punk threw up on my shoes.”
Celia: “Was he aiming for your shoes? Or was it just a crime of opportunity?”
She’s decidedly not smiling.
GM: “She. I’m undecided whether it was deliberate, but inclined to think it wasn’t premeditated.”
Celia: “Lesser sentence, there. Good counsel, she could be out in five.”
GM: “Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending how you look at it, good counsel is rare for their ilk. We have one of the most overworked public defender systems in the country.”
Celia: “She’ll think twice before she barfs on another innocent pair of shoes.”
GM: “How was your evening?”
Celia: There’s a loaded question.
She’d lied to her brother about not hearing back from Isabel. Technically she’d phrased it as not a lie, I messaged her a few days ago but haven’t heard back, which is… true. She hadn’t heard back because Isabel is dead, though, which she left out. Celia is still debating what she can do with her identity. She had retrieved the phone from its hiding place, though, and brought it with her.
She’d also told Alana to be nicer to Emily and her mom since she’s going to have to pretend to be Celia for the next few days while they figure out this hunter stuff. And so she can trade in the old car. She’d been very, very thorough in her explanation about not saying anything sensitive in the car because it might be compromised and had given her explicit instructions on what kind of vehicle she is looking for. Told her to take Randy, too.
Then a back-and-forth with Roderick over whether or not he should come as far into the Quarter as Jade’s haven is, and they’d decided to go back to the same one from the night before since no one else knows about it. Except the sheriff, which she hadn’t told him, and considering he’s never come by twice in a row she figures it’s a safe bet.
No call from Veronica, either, which is less surprising than annoying.
She finally fixes Pete with a bemused smile.
“All right. Mom force-fed me dinner and talked about wanting a man in her life.”
“D’you still enjoy food, Pete? She sent me home with leftovers.”
GM: Logan hadn’t responded.
Alana was contrite.
Roderick was amenable.
Veronica was typical.
“Pawn it off to your renfields,” he says. “Someone might as well eat it.”
“Or Tantal, when you fix his face. He loves food.”
Celia: “I will. Might make him feel better after… well, the pain.” He knows how unpleasant it is. Celia does what she can to lessen what they feel, but there will always be a price to pay for the way she sculpts the flesh.
“Hey Pete, can I ask you a question before we get started?”
GM: “Go ahead.”
Celia: “Do you know of anything that eats souls?”
GM: He frowns.
Celia: “Yeah, like… human souls.”
GM: “Depending on who you talk to, those things are either closely related or only superficially so. Some insist ghosts are real people, just missing their bodies. Others think they’re just cheap copies and knock-offs going through the motions.”
Celia: “But there’s something that eats them?”
GM: “Well, we certainly don’t. We take enough from people as it is. But we stop at their bodies.”
“The concept of soul eaters exists in a few mythologies. Choctaw and African-American, to cite the most local ones. I can’t claim to have heard of a specific entity that eats souls, although the existence of one wouldn’t surprise me either. Souls are a form of energy and everything needs energy to sustain itself, even dead things like us.”
“I suppose it also wouldn’t surprise me for a creature like that to exist in this city. Ghosts are common as fruitflies here, especially in the Quarter.”
Celia: Celia nods. She doesn’t have much to go on. Em hadn’t been very specific, and the dream… she doesn’t remember a lot of the dream, really, just impressions. But the fact that something is eating ghosts, that she needs to kill things for him… she remembers that.
“Oh. I heard something about it, and I figured… well, maybe you would know.”
GM: “If Grunewald were still around I’d have recommended you talk with him. He was our ghost expert.”
“But in lieu of him, there’s Rosa Bale.”
Celia: “Yeah. I can give it a go. More interested in the what than the ghosts, really.” She lifts her shoulders, shrugging. “Plus I figured since you and I are best friends you’d be the lick to talk to.” She beams at him. It’s a pretty smile, even if the words are facetious. She’d meant what she said earlier: that she trusts him.
GM: “That’s us, staying up every morning to do each other’s hair and nails,” the Tremere deadpans.
“But as far as licks. There was a bloodline, once, that devoured souls as well as blood. Stole them right out of people’s bodies. Licks and breathers. Worshiped demons too, if that all wasn’t enough. My clan wiped out most of them a long time ago, but sometimes a survivor pops up. Does that sound anything like what you’ve heard of?”
Celia: She almost huffs at him. Best friends don’t have to do each other’s hair and nails. Life—unlife—isn’t a teen movie. She’ll get him a bracelet, though, for next time. “BFFs” or something similar. Braided rope, plastic beads. Maybe one with a heart on it. He’ll love it.
She keeps her mouth shut, though, as he speaks. Does it sound like what she’s heard of? She doesn’t think so, and she’s almost positive she knows what he’s talking about. The same thing she’d warned Jon about a month ago. Does he know she knows? Does he know Savoy has evidence of their presence in the city? Hadn’t Savoy said he tells Pete and Preston everything?
No lick tells someone everything. That’s just bad politics. Why not tell Pete about it, though, if he’d trusted her to tell the archon?
Unless Abélia is a soul thief. Does she eat licks, too? She could ask Em, next time he visits… if he visits… she supposes she has something for him. Four bodies. Her meeting with Ron. She’s looking forward to seeing him again in her dreams.
Finally, she shakes her head.
“I don’t think so. I got the impression she ate them mostly after they were dead.”
Souls for power, though. That makes sense. That’s a demonic thing, isn’t it? Classic demon worship. And licks are dead.
GM: Pete raises his eyebrows.
“She, you say?”
Celia: …whoops. Alarm flashes across her face for half a second before she can smooth it out.
Celia nods, though. Glances over her shoulder at the locked door. Lifts her brows back at him, as if to ask if he’s got some sort of privacy magic he can do.
GM: “There’s no such thing as a perfectly secure room, but this one is as secure as I can make it, short of you leaving your phone outside the door,” answers Pete.
Celia: She responds by pulling the battery out of her phone and setting it aside.
GM: “Smart,” says the Tremere. “It actually is possible to eavesdrop through phones that are just turned off. It’s less convenient, but it is possible.”
Celia: “Oh. Well. Better… to make it less convenient then.”
She’s quiet for a moment, chewing over the words. What to tell him. How to start. Her finger taps against the desk. Nerves. She pulls her hands back onto her lap, sits on them to keep from fidgeting.
GM: “It’s a trick with the gyroscope. The tiny vibrating chip that tells your phone whether it’s in horizontal or vertical position. It’s sensitive enough to still pick up soundwaves, so software can turn it into a crude microphone.”
Celia: “Oh,” she says again. Good to know.
GM: “It only picks up a fraction of words spoken nearby, and if someone wanted to use it to overhear a credit card number, there’s probably only a 50/50 chance they’d get the full thing.”
“But it’s something rather than nothing.”
Celia: Well, she did what she could anyway.
“I spoke to a ghost the other day. Who told me that there’s a… thing. She eats ghosts. And maybe people.”
GM: “But not a lick?”
Celia: “I don’t… think so. The ghost knew what I was, so I think if she was the same it’d have said that.”
GM: “If you’ve got a haunting problem, they can’t cross an unbroken line of salt. Hurts them. Getting salt over their bodies by any means hurts them.”
Celia: “No, that’s not the point. I mean, that’s good to know, but it’s not bothering me.”
She leans forward in her chair.
GM: “This sounds like something you might be better off leaving alone. There’s a lot of dark things out there, going bump in the night. More than just us.”
Celia: “Right, well, I would. Only my mom goes over the house a lot.”
GM: He actually blinks.
Celia: “And her daughter is a lick.”
GM: “Uh, your mom should stop.”
Celia: No shit.
GM: “Ghosts aren’t unstoppable menaces, but they can be trouble. Something that’s adapted to prey on them sounds like something that could prey on licks pretty well too.”
“It’s like lions and tigers eating smaller animals. If you want a consistent diet, you prey on something that’s significantly weaker than you.”
“And devouring souls is the blackest sort of magic. Can you think of anything worse, than destroying someone’s chance at an afterlife? That one piece of them which is truly immortal?”
Celia: Celia shakes her head.
“No. I thought we didn’t get an afterlife, though. Doesn’t the Embrace kind of kill all that, too?”
GM: Pete laughs.
“Sorry. Flattered you’re asking, but even Tremere don’t have all the answers.”
“That really comes down to what you believe. To faith.”
“I believe we get an afterlife, though. That we all face justice for our actions in life, and the Requiem. Hauled before the ultimate cop high up in the sky.”
Celia: Straight to Hell for her, then.
“Right.” There’s a brief pause. “So… your suggestion is to just leave the scary thing alone.”
GM: “You have any particular reason not to?”
“You sound like you don’t know a whole about this thing. There’s a lot of cops who are former military, and I’ve heard plenty say that bad intelligence is one of the most surefire ways to get somebody killed.”
Celia: “That’s why I asked you. Obviously I don’t want to poke it with a stick.”
GM: “Your mom seems to have a habit of doing that.”
Celia: “My mom wants to get back with Maxen.”
GM: “Longinus in fucking lingerie,” Pete spits.
Celia: “That’s what I said.”
“She started going on about how she misses him. How he took care of her. How it was so long ago. How Jesus wants people to forgive.”
GM: “Jesus forgave a lot of people. Know where that got Him?”
GM: “Yep. Hands and ankles nailed to a cross, dying a slow and torturous death from exposure.”
“But He got to die for our sins, because God was His old man. Is God your mom’s old man?”
Celia: I fuckin’ hope not. Apple fell pretty far from the tree if my mom is Jesus.
“To be fair, he died before I was born, so it’s entirely possible I’m wrong.”
GM: “I recommend she leave the forgiving rapist abuser scumbags to Him, either way.”
Celia: “Should have just put him down that night.”
GM: “What-ifs are useless.”
Celia: She sighs, rubbing a hand across her face. “I know, Pete.”
GM: “I also haven’t been able to reach my former partner. Find her another man.”
GM: “Gettis was never my partner.”
“Also not someone I’d have recommended to a delicate flower like your mother.”
Celia: Her hands drop back to her lap. She peers across the desk at him.
GM: “I am still not interested,” he says flatly.
Celia: “You are, that’s what bothers you. You just don’t want to risk it.”
GM: “Find an actual living breathing man, Celia.”
Celia: “I didn’t even say anything, Pete. I just looked at you.”
GM: “Uh huh.”
Celia: She just smiles at him.
GM: “Women all do that.”
Celia: “Look at you?”
GM: “Say things with looks and glances, instead of out loud, so they can play the doe-eyed innocent when it’s convenient.”
Celia: “That’s kind of sexist.”
“Further, like it’s been drilled into me, I’m not a woman anymore.”
GM: “Doesn’t make it wrong.”
“And you’re not. But old habits die hard.”
Celia: “Effective habits.”
“Got you thinkin’ about it, anyway.”
“Your surgeon friend didn’t know what to make of it either, though.”
GM: “Don’t tell me you tried to set up him,” Pete groans.
Celia: “No, actually.” Not really, anyway. She’d have slept with him, but she’s not going to tell Pete that. “Why, is he celibate?”
GM: “By our very natures, none of us are.”
Celia: “You know what I mean.”
GM: “Unfortunately so. Keep your mother away from the monsters. Mortal and otherwise.”
Celia: So much for finding out if North ever talked about her. Aren’t Tremere supposed to be tight?
Pete is the worst best friend.
“What, me too?”
“I’m trying to convince her to leave the city, to be honest, but I don’t even know if she’d be better off somewhere else. At least I can run interference here.”
“She just has a way of bumbling into danger.”
GM: “I don’t know how much luck you’ll have getting her, or anyone, to leave willingly if you can’t explain your reasons.”
“As far as that though, I’d say it depends. Are you good for each other? Have you ever lost control around her?”
Celia: “No. Never. I wouldn’t put them at risk by being around them like that.”
GM: “You’d be surprised how many licks do, by feeding on their families.”
Celia: “I would never feed on them. I make sure I’m not hungry when I go over.”
GM: “Then I’d say you’re more considerate than many licks, and otherwise a good influence in one another’s lives.”
Celia: “They’re one of the only good things I’ve got going for me. Why would I mess that up?”
GM: “People do stupid and senseless things all the time. But I’m glad you’re not.”
Celia: “I’ll keep her around for you, no worries.”
GM: “Like arguing with a brick wall…” Pete mutters.
Celia: “I’m your favorite,” Celia tells him with a grin.
GM: “Right.” Pete glances at the time. “Don’t think you’ll have time to give Tantal his makeover tonight.”
He pulls out a cup from his desk. “Bleed into this if you still want to go ahead.”
Celia: “…is it going to hurt, Pete?”
GM: “It shouldn’t, beyond the initial prick.”
Celia: “I mean whatever you’re about to do.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Pull answers from nowhere, for all intents and purposes to a layman.”
Celia: “That’s it? Just answers?”
GM: “That’s all. You’ll see the blood go poof.”
“What do you most want to find out about these guys?”
Celia: Celia doesn’t need to cut herself again. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a small vial of red liquid.
“I took a sample earlier. I didn’t know if I’d burn through it trying to blend in at my mom’s.” She flashes a smile, then upends the vial into the offered cup.
GM: His eyes silently follow the sanguine trail.
He waits, though, to hear what she’s looking for.
Celia: Celia stares down into the cup. What she wants to know. Something to find out who is behind this all, mostly, but she doesn’t know if the blood can tell her that. And she might already have the answer. She looks back up at him and asks anyway.
“Who is behind all of this. What they want. How they’re finding us.” Her hand clenches into a fist. “How to stop them. Something to just ruin their whole operation.”
GM: “The bigger or broader your question, the vaguer your answer.”
Celia: Right. Even magic doesn’t make things easy.
“Is this like a twenty questions thing?”
She could ask if her own identity is shot. But she’s always been willing to sacrifice for the people she cares about, hasn’t she. It’s less important than finding out if someone sold him out or if he just got sloppy.
“Is who they’re working for too vague? I don’t even know if they’d know. How they found us, I guess.” She eyes him across the desk. “It’s not going to spit out something about GPS, is it? I mean how they found him to get to him. His place.”
“Because he said it was hidden behind a handful of pseudonyms. So it’s possible he just got tagged while he was out and followed home, and it’s all just a happy accident.”
And it’s possible these are the people the elders are working with and Roderick is just the first round of sacrificial lambs. Even if they’re “not religious.” How many groups of hunters are really in the city, though? But that doesn’t make sense if Coco is one of the people throwing names in, since she arranged for him to be protected before. Why throw him in the ring now? To make herself look innocent? Because she knew he could take them? Because she knew Celia would be there? Had Roderick told her even after they’d discussed not doing so? Maybe that’s why she sent them today (yesterday?), so that he’d have backup. Or it’s someone else working against the Anarchs. Someone with a rivalry, maybe. Savoy? But he’d sent her to collect Roderick, why move against him? He’s the in with the Calbido. Because he knew she’d be there—no, she’s overplaying her own importance. There are plenty of ways for him to get rid of her if he wants to.
It’s also possible that they followed her even though Pete already said that’s unlikely.
And maybe they’re not connected to licks at all and she’s searching for threads when there aren’t any.
Fuck, maybe it’s ghost boy, jealous that she’s back together with her ex when she said they could… what had she said? Dream together? Does sex with a ghost count as sex if it happens in a dream?
On that note, maybe it’s even Don—no. Better not even think that.
He’d been at the apartment, though. Had seen the mess left behind. Hadn’t asked about it, but he’d been in her head; who knows what sort of things he had pulled out of her.
She doubts he cares that much.
Cared enough to drop off a loose end, though.
And promptly throw her mom off a building the minute she’d admitted to a mistake. Maybe he thinks Roderick is a mistake. Maybe he doesn’t want her distracted. Maybe he doesn’t want Savoy to have an in.
And people with no regard to human life, sure sounds like him, doesn’t it? Pete said that wasn’t the point he was getting at, but…
“Yeah. How they found him. If he was sold out. By whom, if so.” She lifts her brows at him. “If that’s not too much.”
GM: “I guess we’ll see.”
Pete gestures sharply and barks several harsh-sounding phrases in a tongue that mostly feels like Latin to Celia, but something about the accent is… off. The blood in the cup writhes in place, splashing against against the rim like a giant spider that’s been stabbed through its abdomen by a knife. Helplessly flailing its eight many-jointed legs. Low hissing noises that sound like screams to Celia, yet no louder than a whisper, waft up from the blood’s angrily bubbling surface as an unseen force seems to burn it from within. The hissing liquid rises above the cup in a cloud of scarlet vapor.
Celia makes out crude figures in the mist. The three hunters, talking to two men. Dark and tall figures with metallic voices, droning words she can only partly make out. Address… where you’ll find him… last assignment… deliver staked… glinko…
Celia: Celia looks past the vaporous, bloody figures to Pete. None of this is new. Of course the hunters were given the address. Of course they wanted him staked.
Her brows lift.
There has to be more.
GM: The coppery-smelling fumes shift. Celia sees the hazy outline of a large and foreboding-looking building with monolithic architecture, the kind that makes everyone around it feel small and puny. It seems like something the prince would approve of. Heavy rhythmic thumps, like the disciplined march of an army, distantly echo.
Celia: It reminds her of every shitty cop show she’s ever seen, trying to put together the pieces of a crime scene or camera feed with only half the information or grainy images. Where’s the enhance button when you need it. She leans forward in her chair to see if she can make further sense of the vision.
If glinko is some sort of organization (the church? Does that mean Pete was wrong earlier when he said they weren’t religious, or just that they no longer need to be because no one is actually religious anymore so what does it matter?), who is the man on the ground? Who sold out Roderick? Who passed his information along to these two? How did they find out about him? Maybe she can’t go after an entire organization by herself, but she can find the rest of the puppets and cut their strings.
GM: Celia can’t make out anything more through the dissolving red plumes.
But she can hear something. A sibilant whisper against her ears.
There’s another faint, almost scream-like hiss in Celia’s ear as a coppery smell wafts across Celia’s nostrils, and then it’s gone. Pete’s cup sits empty.
Celia: It’s not a name she recognizes, but the prevalence of social media sites means she has a direction to go, at least. Maybe this “Lee” can provide her with more information. She’ll have to pay him (her?) a visit.
Tomorrow, though. Tonight she has more pressing matters to attend to, not the least of which is the rapidly approaching sunrise.
Her eyes find Pete.
GM: “You want to follow up on this?” he asks.
Celia: “Does that word mean anything to you? Glinko?”
GM: “Can’t say it does.”
Celia: “Church though, wasn’t it?”
GM: “Didn’t look especially church-like to me. No cross or stained glass.”
Celia: “Churches are usually distinct,” she agrees, “maybe more of a concept… organized religion. Catholicism. Army.” She turns the idea over in her head. Maybe she’s wrong.
“Throw childer to Inq. pyres,” she says quietly. She watches his face, to see if the words mean anything to him.
GM: He raises his eyebrows.
Celia: “The attack on Vienna.”
GM: Pete shrugs. “We squashed that. Anyone who’d make a run against our oldest elders on their home turf has a death wish.”
“Some of those Tremere were old when feudalism was new.”
Celia: “Glad to hear it. But it’s spreading. The people behind it.”
GM: The Tremere smiles humorlessly. “It’d chill your blood to learn just how far our elders go to get revenge, and how many ways they know to cause pain.”
“If any of the idiots behind that run on Vienna are still alive, they’re assuredly wishing they weren’t.”
Celia: Celia taps a finger against her thigh. She considers him, then finally just nods. She’d been hoping he could get her a quicker meeting with Savoy, but she thinks that she’s going to need to spill everything to him to get that, and she doesn’t have the time.
“I’m glad we’re friends then, Pete.”
GM: “Me too. Good luck with Roderick. Your grandsire will be very happy to flip him to our side.”
Celia: The smile she gives him doesn’t quite reach her eyes. It’s even a little bit sad, just one corner of her mouth ticking upward. Resigned, maybe.
“I hope so.
Celia doesn’t need to cut herself again. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a small vial of red liquid.
“I took a sample earlier. I didn’t know if I’d burn through it trying to blend in at my mom’s.” She flashes an apologetic smile, then upends the vial into the offered cup.
GM: “What do you want to find out most?” he asks.
Celia: “Do you have time to do one more, or do you think the sun will catch me on my way back home if we try it?”
GM: Pete glances at the time.
“Shouldn’t take long, so long as we don’t spend a while flapping our gums.”
Celia: Celia gives a brief nod. “I’d like to speak further with you about what we just saw, when we both have time. I believe it’s related to the information I have for Lord Savoy. Tomorrow?”
GM: “Elysium Primo’s tomorrow evening. I’m also on police duty, starting midnight. Saturday is better.”
Celia: She gives another brief nod. “I will make myself available. I’ll be around to fix Tantal tomorrow, anyway, if he’s here. Just have him text me.”
GM: “He’s here. He isn’t leaving until his face is his again.”
Celia: “I’ll do it first thing. Sorry I got caught up with talking to you earlier. I should have come by to fix him first.”
GM: “He doesn’t mind spending some off time here.”
“If your grandsire’s good at one thing, it’s keeping people entertained.”
Celia: She’ll have to ask the ghoul what he gets up to tomorrow when she works on him. Maybe he’s enjoying the girls Mel rents out.
“Don’t want to leave you without the help, though.”
GM: “He isn’t a cop. I don’t have him with me then anyway.”
Celia: “Well pardon me for worrying about you.”
GM: “It’s a grave sin, but I suppose I can if you’re contrite.”
Celia: “I’m not, really. Told Mom I’d look out for you.”
GM: “She should forget about me. In any case, what do you want to find out from this second sample?”
“As before, the more narrow your question, the more specific your answer.”
Celia: “So something like, ’what’s the worst thing this person has ever done’ or ‘what secret would they kill to protect’ might not fly?”
GM: “Almost anything flies, but you’ll get a vaguer and more cryptic answer if those sins and secrets aren’t recent ones.”
“There’s a saying among diviners. ‘Ask small questions, get big answers. Ask big questions, get small answers.’”
Celia: She doesn’t know what else to ask, though. She can look into Caroline’s public life herself. Roderick had told her how she’d been messing with the Anarchs, which is all mostly known by the rest of the licks. None of that really serves her purpose. He’d tasked her with bringing her to heel. That involves… dark things. She’s already planning on how to spin something else to blame the blonde if she moves against her…
Celia finally forces a sigh.
“I doubt anyone will take my word for it if I say I did it with a blood ritual anyway. Might as well see what it turns up that I can dig further into.”
GM: “So what do you want to shoot for?”
The detective adds dryly, “I also wouldn’t mind knowing whose blood this is.”
Celia: “She’s an enemy of Lord Savoy and stands directly in the way of what he wants. And she messed with my mom.” Quiet, but bitter beneath the tightly controlled words when she mentions her mother. “She’s the one with the mom who eats souls.” A look at him at that revelation, brows raised; after what he said about that sort of act she can’t imagine that he wouldn’t want to know what’s in this sample.
“Worst thing she’s ever done, then.” Maybe her ghost friend can help her uncover some secrets.
GM: Pete’s eyebrows raise too, but it’s not enough to eclipse the angry look his eye gets after Celia mentions Diana.
“She did, did she?”
“Tell me how.”
Celia: There’s a tale.
Celia keeps it brief.
“My mom teaches dance, as you know.” Does he know? She thinks, based on his reaction, that he pays more attention to Diana than Celia had realized. “Private lessons sometimes. She had a session with the lick’s kid sister at their house and she got emotional, and she was hit by some charm and some mind-fu—uh, mind twisting, memory stuff. And then she started crying outside and talking about Maxen taking her daughter away, and she got sick early the next morning and Maxen showed up. And Emily told me that she threw out her pain medication for her leg because she thought it made her say weird things and I think it was just a lingering result of the mind-twisting, and she’s refusing to take her meds now and she’s in pain and now I’m like well I better go see what Xola wants to fix her leg because otherwise she’s going to not be able to walk or something.”
Clearly exasperated, Celia looks like she wants to start pacing or throw her hands up in disgust. She does neither, but her fingers twist together on her lap.
“She’s delicate. She can’t take that sort of mind-bendy garbage and just… just bounce back like nothing happened.”
“And I don’t know maybe it’s all just a big coincidence but it sure doesn’t feel like one.”
GM: Pete gives a low growl.
“Keep your mom out of that damn house, you hear?”
Celia: “I’m trying. She doesn’t want to listen to me and it’s not like I can tell her the real reason.”
GM: “So lie about something. I know you’re pretty good at that. Or take some damn executive action, and put your foot down that she’s not going, you’ve decided she isn’t allowed anymore.”
Celia: “Yeah,” she says quietly. “I’ll figure it out.”
“…d’you think Xola would…? Your friend said he might teach me, but he’s gone now, and if she’s not on her meds anymore…”
It’s such a human problem that she feels ridiculous bringing it up to him, but she searches his face for an answer all the same. There’s no disguising the hope, desperation, and apprehension in her eyes. As if waiting for him to tell her to make it worth his time to even talk about it.
She’s asking, she realizes, if he’ll go with her again. As much as the back alley doctor hadn’t really phased her the first time she’d met him, Roderick’s warning rings in her mind.
GM: “Jesus Christ, kid,” Pete sighs.
“Leaving aside all the ways that’s a bad idea—and there are a lot of them—how the hell are you going to explain to your mom why you’re taking her to see a ghetto back alley doctor like Xola? Who can somehow work miracles a proper doctor can’t?”
Celia: It’s been a long time since she’s heard his voice in her head. But there it goes, whispering that word she hates so much.
She doesn’t say anything. Just nods her head, trying to control the desperation that makes her look for any answer to keep her family safe.
GM: “Put your foot down. Tell her she’s taking her meds. For good or ill, she’s used to someone telling her what to do.”
Celia: She nods again. She doesn’t trust herself to speak.
Celia: He has to be thinking it. That’s she’s stupid. Incompetent. He’d almost said as much two nights ago with his thinly veiled comments about the time she spends online. Do they regret fishing her out of the water?
She’s not. She’s not stupid. She’s useful, she can be useful.
“Vidal’s kid,” she says finally. “The blood. You asked who. That’s… that’s who. He has a childe. A new one.”
Less eloquent than normal. She must be rattled.
GM: Pete actually blinks.
Celia: “He has a childe. A fledgling. Months old.”
GM: “Yeah, and I’m actually Hardestadt’s.”
Celia: Celia blinks at him this time. Her brows furrow, but no crease dares to mar her perfect skin.
“Why would I lie about that?”
GM: “So just what is it that makes you think so?”
Celia: “I met her. Last night. She was in the Garden District, bold as brass, like she had every right to be there. And we shared blood, and she was… I mean, it was potent. Hers, and the stuff inside of her too. It’s not like I go around chomping on elders but… Pete, I’ve never tasted anything like it. And you know that trick with the speed, how you can share it? She did that. Months old.”
And her sire confirmed it, but she doesn’t think she should tell him that.
GM: “There’s other ways of pulling that off. And getting strong blood.” Pete gives an ominous look. “Some pretty nasty.”
“I’d be more inclined to suspect those.”
Celia: “Maybe,” Celia says. “Considering whatever her mom is, sure, I could see that. And maybe she’s just a natural with the speed. It makes more sense than the alternative. And I’d probably believe that if she hadn’t sicced the sheriff on me and he hadn’t threatened me for interfering with the prince’s business.” She tries to make her voice sound like his: cold, imperious. She doesn’t quite manage. Why else would Donovan have used her mother as an example?
GM: “That all sounds pretty anecdotal to me. Vidal’s had hundreds of years to Embrace. He hasn’t. Pretty unlikely he’s about to start again.”
Celia: Celia looks like she wants to sigh at him. And maybe at herself for even bothering to bring it up. She should just take the bitch out and be done with it.
“Pete,” she says quietly, “he told me. He said it, that she’s the prince’s childe.”
GM: Pete looks at her strangely.
“Have you been spending time with Malkavians?”
Celia: “Just Preston.”
GM: “Okay, I’ll play along. Why would your sire randomly decide to tell you that she’s Vidal’s childe?”
Celia: “I don’t know. I don’t pretend to know what goes on inside his head. Why did he Embrace me? Why did he abandon me? It’s not like we sit down and chat over a pint of blood like Roderick gets to do with Coco because she’s so fascinating and knows so much and she’s just so smart and amazing and pretty but let’s ignore the fact that—”
Celia cuts herself off. She stares down at her lap, where her claws have sprung free from their fleshy prison. She swallows the hurt and bitterness and jealousy, watching them sink back into her flesh as if they had never been.
“Sorry,” she mutters. “I don’t know. I didn’t ask why he told me. He just said that she’s the prince’s childe and to stay out of the Garden District and then he threw my mom off the roof to prove his point.”
GM: “I find it extremely improbable that Vidal would have taken another childe, or that Donovan would have felt any particular reason to share that with you. Maybe he’s feeding you lies to further some scheme.”
Celia: “Maybe,” she allows. “Could ask the blood. I thought… I dunno, maybe there’d be… better questions for it, or something, and I was trying to… to not be emotional, not waste it on my own petty revenge…” Questions, she says, but she really means uses. She thinks it might be rude to blatantly say as much, though.
GM: Pete shrugs. “It’s either confirm something that’d be a real game-changer, or get something on a neonate of no particular importance.”
Celia: Celia smiles at him. Her lashes flutter, just a little, as if to say, See, this is why I let you guys do the heavy thinking.
“Okay,” she says. “Should we… do that now, or… should we get Lord Savoy, in case he wants to know..?”
GM: “He’ll take my word if the results are positive, and we’ll have wasted his time if they’re not.”
Celia: His word. But not Celia’s.
That’s not a bitter pill at all.
She just nods.
GM: Pete repeats his ritual. Pours in the blood. Mouths the incantations. Caroline’s face forms from the scarlet plumes.
They shift into another a face Celia can only recall seeing a bare handful of times, at a bare handful of Elysia. Most recently Matheson’s trial.
[[File:909168 | class=media-item-align-center | Augusto_Vidal.jpg]]
Celia: She doesn’t say told you so. But she definitely thinks it.
GM: “Longinus in fucking lingerie,” Pete exclaims.
The plumes shift again, into two more faces.
The cup stands empty.
“Why the fuck is she running around saying she’s René’s childe?” Pete speculates aloud.
Celia: Celia shrugs.
“Same reason we say I’m Veronica’s childe, maybe. Maybe they thought it would be less of a target on her back. Roderick told me that she was causing all sorts of issues with the Anarchs. Like trying to make deals and just being kind of…” cunty “… not very friendly. Like how she couldn’t stand the thought of being this sireless nobody after, y’know, who her parents are. Maybe she’s… a plant? Or like, trying to spy? Or she was an accident?” She’s doing a terrible job at it, if that’s the case.
“I didn’t tell him,” she adds, as if expecting the question. “I didn’t tell anyone.”
GM: “Spy or accident both seem very unlikely,” Pete says, shaking his head. “Any other lick could serve as a spy. And Vidal making that kind of rookie mistake, for an accident? I don’t see it.”
“But there’s obviously a lot here that I don’t see.”
“The results don’t lie. Lord Savoy will hear about this. He’ll know what to make of it.”
Celia: Pete knows more about their prince than Celia does. She’s inclined to trust him in this matter. If he says she’s not an accident or a spy then she isn’t an accident or a spy.
Not an accident.
It shouldn’t make her think of her sire, but it does. That he’s also not the type of lick to make a rookie mistake. That he did mean to Embrace her, that he chose her.
She pushes the thought aside. It doesn’t matter. She already thinks she knows why, and it has no bearing on this conversation about Vidal and his childe.
She nods at his statement.
“I’m supposed to see him on Saturday. I was trying to get an earlier meeting to tell him about it, but…” she lifts her shoulders in a gesture that might be a shrug. “You know how it is, when they’re busy. Better this way, I think. To confirm it.”
Celia: “Hey Pete,” she says after a minute, “that was Sumerian, right? The thing at the end? You went through their whole line?”
GM: “I did. It looked Middle Eastern. Why?”
Celia: “Well. ‘Cause the other night, with Roxanne, she mentioned something about Vidal being the childe of Longinus. Sounded like she was convinced of it. She was… real fanatical about it, kind of like he’d, I dunno, collared her a few times. It reminded me of how ‘Lana gets about me. And it didn’t make much sense.”
She repeats part of the conversation for him. How she’d said Vidal is not Kindred, not Ventrue, but touched by God.
GM: “Your sister was cracked in the head,” says Pete. “You said it yourself. Crazy even before she died.”
“Pretty common for Vidal to collar licks who get on his bad side, though. Can’t imagine that helped.”
Celia: “You think she was on his bad side?”
GM: “The Storyvilles had their lips pressed to his ass, by all accounts. I doubt she wanted to be. But it’s possible she did something stupid and wound up on it anyway.”
Celia: “Oh. ’Cause I have her ghoul. The MILF. I thought maybe she might… know more, or something.”
GM: “Might be she does. I suspect your sister’s particular basket of crazy was exactly that, but renfields can pick up some interesting things.”
Celia: “I’ll see if I can get it out of her, then.”
“The blood thing you do. Is that something you can detect with it? Collars, or memories, or…?” She trails off.
GM: “There isn’t much my clan elders can’t do with a blood sample,” Pete answers with a humorless smile. “But that isn’t something I can.”
Celia: Celia nods, as if she’d expected that answer. She’d been asking about Roxanne, but some nagging thing inside of her thinks that Roderick might be triple bound to his sire, and she’d been thinking about stealing a little bit of it to find out.
Probably better that she not betray his trust like that, anyway.
“Thanks. Just figured I’d ask. Any chance you want to teach me that phone finger wavey-thing you do so I don’t have to ask you to get into them all the time for me?” She flashes a hopeful grin his way.
GM: “Might take a pretty long while. It’s not a parlor trick.”
Celia: “I can be patient.”
“I bet you’d be a good teacher, too. Very patient. Like my mom.”
“You guys have a lot in common.”
She beams at him.
GM: Pete groans.
“It isn’t ever going to sink in, is it, no matter what I say?”
Celia: “She’s a good-looking lady. Has to beat them off with sticks these days.”
“Anyway, you’re the nicest person I know. That means you’re meant to be together.” There’s sincerity in her words despite her tone. She really does appreciate him.
It’s why she teases him so much.
GM: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it every time. Find her a real man. Should be pretty easy with you keeping her so good-looking.”
Celia: “Mr. Landrenau said the same thing earlier this evening. Asked if she was single, then said that maybe he’d have to start going to the spa if my work was that good.”
“I don’t want to step on my grandsire’s toes, though.”
Not that she thinks Diana will do anything with Ron. He’s… not her type. And she’d already found Mel and had picked out two of her girls to send over as an apology for interrupting his evening. They’ll meet with him tomorrow and he’ll forget all about Diana.
No, now she’s just baiting the Tremere.
GM: They’re probably more his type than Diana is, too.
Celia: She’s pretty sure Diana could give those girls a run for their money in flexibility, though.
GM: She’s pretty sure the former ballerina would beat them. Emily says their mom still does lots of stretching exercises around her and Lucy. “I swear that her joints are slinkys.”
Celia: She’ll make some man real happy one of these days.
GM: “Doesn’t hurt to be considerate,” says Pete. “Plenty fish in the sea and all that.”
“I’ll get this to your grandsire. He should hear fast.”
Celia: “Thanks. He should.” She glances at the clock. “I should get going, anyway. Meeting Roderick.”
This close to dawn, the implication is clear: they’re definitely sleeping together.
“Convenient that his haven was compromised.” Idle words, but she watches his face, wondering if Savoy had pulled some strings to give her a better chance at flipping him.
GM: “Sounds like it,” says Pete. Celia doesn’t spot anything on the Tremere’s face.
He sees her to the door. “Good luck.”
Celia: It was worth a shot, anyway.
“Have a good night, Pete. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Friday night, 11 March 2016, AM
GM: Alana’s traded in Celia’s car, per her domitor’s instructions. It’s a short drive in her new ride back to her secondary haven. Roderick meets Celia there. He greets her with a kiss.
“How was your night?”
Celia: She’s relieved to see him. All in once piece, too. She spends a little bit longer than she needs to eying him up and down, as if waiting to see him crack under the knowledge that he had to kill and dismember his first person. People. Multiple.
She lets him in and hands him the spare key. He hadn’t personally given it back those years ago after he’d smashed her face, but the sudden appearance of it one night where she’d been sure to see it had been a clear message. She’d stopped waiting for him after that.
“I missed you,” she tells him, “so it was awful. But it’s better now.”
The apartment is still a mess. She hadn’t had a moment to shop for anything new, and the destroyed furniture sits where they left it. So much for making out on the couch, anyway.
“How was yours?”
GM: He looks together. Enough. Her question, though, brings a grim look to his face.
“Honestly, it was… awful.”
“Your being here makes it less awful.”
Celia: “I’m sorry. I should have been the one to clean it up. That shouldn’t have been on you.”
GM: “I killed two of them. With my own hands. It might as well have been me.”
He sits down with a tired expression.
“I guess I was going to do that sooner or later. Kill someone. Dispose of the body.”
Celia: Celia curls up beside him. She runs a hand up and down his back, lets her head rest on his shoulder.
“You did it because you had to. It wasn’t a choice, it wasn’t because you were hungry, you didn’t kill a vessel. You defended yourself and protected what’s yours.”
GM: He leans into her, running a hand of his own along her back.
“I know. Defended you, too. But doing what I did… that midnight boat trip, dropping bags of body parts overboard, weighted down with rocks…”
He doesn’t sigh. He just stares ahead at the floor for a moment. His face is very still.
“I felt like a mobster.”
Celia: “You’re not. You know that, right? That you’re not. What they do… what they do is awful. For money. For power. For drugs, or whatever else they’re after. That’s not you. That’s not you at all.”
“You’re not some heartless thug.”
GM: “That’s what I tried to tell myself. But all I could think of. All I could think of, was what my dad would say. What my grandpa would say.”
“If they could have seen me there.”
His eyes start to rim red.
Celia: “You know the night you went missing your dad brought a gun when we went looking for you. He handed one to me and he had one for himself. Do you think he’d have done that if he didn’t intend to use it, should he have found that something happened to you, that someone had you?”
“If someone hurt you, he’d have put them down. If someone hurt me, you’d put them down. That’s what love is, Roderick. You’re not a mindless killer. You don’t go around looking for people to kill. That’s not you. I know that. You know that. They would know that.”
“Do you think I’m a monster? Because I told you last night that I had to kill two people earlier this week. And you said that I did what I had to do. Because they’d have killed me, if not.”
“So what’s the difference here? Do you think I’m some battle-hardened, dreadful criminal who slaughters people and is completely inured to it?”
“I don’t feel bad for defending myself. I don’t feel bad for putting down someone else before they could put me down. I don’t feel bad for killing someone who wanted to hurt you.” She pulls back so that she can look him in the eyes. “Because I promise you this. I promise you. That if someone were to come after you, if someone were to hurt you, I would find them and I would end them. And I will not feel bad about it.”
“So don’t,” she continues, voice hard, “don’t. Do not beat yourself up about doing the same exact thing. Do not feel bad because you didn’t allow yourself to be staked and beheaded or lit on fire or ripped apart for science projects. I would have watched them kill you. You would have made me… made me watch them kill you.”
“And that is bullshit.”
“I lost you twice already.”
“Don’t make it a third. Don’t put me in that position, that I have to watch you die. That I have to lose you again.”
GM: He dabs at his eyes. Celia can feel her fangs lengthening in her mouth.
“You’re right. I don’t… I don’t regret killing them, when they were trying to kill you. When they might have been like those last hunters who raped you. I talked with Coco, and she said there was no way those hunters were going to make it out alive, even if I’d captured them all. ‘Walking Masquerade breaches,’ was what she called them.”
“I don’t think you’re a monster. I just wish… this whole thing hadn’t happened.”
“I don’t like how killing makes me feel.”
Celia: Of course he talked to Coco.
What’s it like, she wonders, to have a sire that gives a fuck?
“It doesn’t need to happen again. Do you have another place picked out?”
GM: “Yeah. A house in Mid-City. It’ll take a little to set everything up, but I can crash with my krewemates, Coco, and hopefully you until then.”
“Although… even that depends, how the stuff with Dani shakes out.”
Celia: “You can stay here. You don’t need to couch surf. There’s no reason for it.”
GM: “More just that it’s an increasing risk to be coming here every night.”
“But I talked with Ayame, earlier. I don’t remember if I told you, between everything that’s been going on.”
“She said she’ll get in touch with her friends in Houston. I’m going to reach out to her again tomorrow, if I don’t hear from her first.”
Celia: “And you’ll take Dani out of the city?”
GM: “Yeah. I’ll go with her.”
Celia: “…wait, for… for good?”
He can’t leave.
GM: He shakes his head.
“I’m needed here. But I’ll go with her, probably spend a few nights in Houston, just to be completely sure Ayame’s friends are on the up and up. And to help Dani settle in.”
Celia: “Oh.” That makes sense. She inhales, then nods. “What about after?”
GM: “I’ll stay in touch with her.”
Celia: “I meant with you.”
GM: “I don’t know,” he admits. “That’ll be something to think about on the trip back. Right now I’ve just been so focused on Dani and those hunters.”
Celia: “Oh,” she says again. Quietly this time. She doesn’t quite meet his eye anymore.
GM: “Oh, what?” he frowns. “Did you think I meant us?”
He takes her hand in his. “Look, whatever comes… I want you in my Requiem.”
“You don’t need to worry about that. At all.”
Celia: She starts to protest. To tell him that isn’t what she means. But his words halt her in her tracks, and she can’t help the way her lips part. Her eyes shine.
There’s a conversation she should be having. Something she’s supposed to convince him of. But factions, princes, politics—what is all of that compared to matters of the heart?
So she doesn’t say anything. She just leans in. Her fangs are already long and sharp in her mouth. She drags them across his cheek, his throat. She doesn’t break the skin, not yet. She pushes him back, though. Moves so that she’s on his lap. Pins his arms above his head—as if he couldn’t shake her free.
“Not what I meant,” she finally says, once she’s got him where she wants him.
GM: He starts to kiss her as she traces his skin with her fangs. When she pushes him down onto the sofa, he grins and lays back. She can see how long his own fangs are in his mouth.
“Oh yeah, what did you mean?”
Celia: “Politics,” she says absently, “but you distracted me when you told me how much you like me.”
GM: “I like you a lot more than politics, too.”
Celia: “How much more?”
GM: “So much more. Lake Pontchartrain next to your bathtub more.”
Celia: “That’s almost romantic.”
GM: “It’s romantic if I talk about how much I like you, politics be damned.”
Celia: “Then be with me.”
GM: He smiles down from under her, arms still pinned under hers.
“I’m right here.”
Celia: It’s not what she means. He knows that. She knows he knows that.
GM: “Or, what, you mean… politically?”
Celia: He saves her the trouble of bringing it up, at least.
“How do you think this is going to end if not?”
GM: “We could make it work. Keep things on the down and low.”
Celia: “What, you didn’t already tell Coco you’re seeing me again?”
GM: “Give me some credit.”
Celia: “And the Golds? They just thought you killed three hunters on your own in the middle of the day?”
GM: “That’s what I told them. They seemed to buy it.” He smirks. “What can I say? I’m a badass.”
“Okay,” he adds after a moment, “it wasn’t. I told them my renfields arrived in the nick of time. Just so it sounded extra plausible.”
Celia: Celia pulls at the collar of her shirt. “Take me now, badass.”
GM: “That almost sounds sarcastic. I should punish you.”
His hands shoot up from their pinned position, grabbing hers. Her throws her to the side, against the back of the couch, then grabs her by the shoulders and flips her around, pushing her chest-first against the (torn) cushions as he clambers on top of her. He twists her hands and pins them against the small of her back as he leans in, fangs piercing the back of her neck. His other hand reaches along her groin and starts to play with her clit.
Celia: It was sarcastic. She doesn’t have the opportunity to tell him that, though, because before she can do more than think the words he has her flipped and pinned. Celia yelps at the sudden movement, thrashing against him, but the position favors him and he’s always been stronger than her. She whimpers when his fangs pierce her skin, the sound swallowed by what’s left of the padding in the cushion. Her hips press down against the hand he’s worked inside her clothing. She rubs against him, helps him find the right spot.
It’s hardly punishment, but she won’t be the one to tell him he’s doing it wrong if he’s suddenly decided to play at being aggressive.
GM: Play seems to be mostly what he’s interested in. For good or I’ll, he isn’t her sire. Or her father.
He does screw her, though. He pulls off her top and nips, rips, and bites all over her neck and back. He’s careful to lick the blood up after it’s had time to cool. He pleasures her between her legs with his fingers, and eventually with his mouth when he flips her over so that she can bite and suck from him too. He nips and licks her stiffened nipples, pleasing the Beast and the Man at once (or at least the vampire and the woman). He even gets hard, near the end, and gives her an “old-fashioned” fucking as they drink from one another’s necks. The motions of intercourse help distract from that torturously long wait for their blood to cool.
The two Kindred know pleasure in one another’s arms. The couch is heady with the scents of their blood and Celia’s love juices when they finish, naked and spent as dawn rises over the city. Roderick spoons with her, wrapping his arms around her belly as he nuzzles his face against her neck.
“I really love you…”
Celia: Licks don’t get tired anymore. Not really. So it isn’t exhaustion that she feels when they’re done licking and fucking and drinking from each other. Sated, maybe. Content. Pleased, if her smile is anything to go by, not that he can see it when she’s turned away from him as she is. She slides her arms around his, nestling further against him, and turns her head to plant a lazy kiss on the corner of his mouth. All lips, no fangs. She doesn’t need to pretend to be someone she isn’t around him. He doesn’t call her perverted for the human way she still shows affection.
His words wash over her. She closes her eyes, lets them sink in. Her heart swells.
He loves her.
It’s like no time passed at all. Like there was never any distance between them. Like she never fucked up to the point that he had to leave her. A pang in her chest reminds her that she did—that she’s been denied this for the past seven years because of her own actions—and she shoves it back down. She won’t look back. Only forward. Years of this, of him, ahead of her.
“I love you too.”
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