“Was she part of you?”
Thursday evening, 17 March 2016
GM: Celia rises the next night. Roderick greets her with a kiss, dresses with her, and says he’s going hunting and taking care of some legal work before he sees Dani again, “To teach her more about Kindred society.” After that, he’s got “lick business to attend to.” He asks if Celia wants to meet back up several hours before dawn, so they have time to do something together.
“We could watch a movie, but I’d like us to go on a proper date sometime,” he mentions. “Let’s think of ideas while we’re off doing our things.”
Alana greets Celia at Flawless to go over her schedule.
First, she has some actual clients to see tonight.
She’s also scheduled a bloc of time alone for her stomach addition.
Dani is coming by shortly before 10 to accompany Celia to Edith’s. She’s scheduled to come by Flawless on Saturday unless Celia wants to do another time.
Celia’s mother has come by with what Alana says she’s termed “good news.” Since tonight isn’t her weekly session, she’s currently being massaged by one of the girls.
Lastly, Peter Lebeaux has sent word on dates his sire can met Celia. The soonest is at the Tremere chantry on Friday night (technically Saturday morning), at 2 AM, but he is available afterwards until dawn.
“But you mentioned you’re seeing Lucia then, mistress, so how long do you think it’ll take and when do you want to pencil Bornemann in for? Lebeaux’s ghoul said he still needs a time, not a drop-in.” Dawn is around 6:45.
The ghoul also has a last matter to bring up.
“It’s been so long since we got to sleep together, mistress… I mean in bed, not just sex. I like being there, next to you, when you wake up. When can we do that again?” Alana asks longingly.
Celia: What do vampires do on dates? Anything non-food related, she supposes, though that doesn’t seem to be as much an issue for Roderick as it is most of them. She says she’ll let him know and is already thinking of ideas when they kiss goodbye—dancing, music venues, late night sky-diving…
She doesn’t ask about his lick business. Or tell him that she’s got plenty of her own tonight. Or that she’s already got a date with someone later.
If she had a stomach, maybe it would twist itself in knots. The scheduled addition is, perhaps, all too timely.
Celia changes for her clients while Alana lists her notes, the pair of them alone in her office. She doesn’t quite believe that Diana’s “good news” is going to be good for her, but she’ll give the woman the benefit of the doubt for now.
Pete sure managed to get in to see his sire quickly. Expedited the meeting for her, did he? She’ll have to find an appropriate way to thank him. Unfortunately it clashes with Lucia. And she can’t help but recall the fortune teller’s words, that the Giovannini will hurt her to give her the answers she needs. It’s an avenue she’ll take… but not if Clairmont’s claim that Harlequin can help pans out instead.
She hates that she’s already in debt to the masked harpy and not the other way around.
“Reschedule Lucia.” Twenty-four hours is enough notice for most people. “If she cannot see me in a relatively timely manner, tell her I didn’t want to be late but that I can be there at 4 AM rather than 3. Put Bornemann in for 2.” Demon talk can’t take longer than two hours, can it?
“Get me a meeting with Harlequin. Sooner rather than later, but don’t promise anything.” She could wait until she seems him tomorrow, Saturday, or Sunday to approach him herself, but she’d rather get it on the books than risk getting distracted.
“You know things have been tumultuous lately, ’Lana,” Celia finally says, addressing her last concern. She cups the ghoul’s cheek with her hand, thumb tracing across her lower lip. Her own follow after, gentle kisses pressed against the ghoul’s mouth, then jaw, then throat. Celia lifts her onto the desk, stepping between her legs. She wishes again for a cock. Wishes that it didn’t take so long to put one on herself. Wishes she had time to turn Alana into Celia and herself into someone else and show the girl…
Show her that she misses her, too. Her gentle touch. The noises she makes. The way her lashes flutter and her toes curl and how red her skin gets when she accepts her swats for whatever indiscretion the two of them deem appropriate.
“Tomorrow night,” she promises, nipping at Alana’s neck with the flats of her teeth. “Then we have all of Saturday evening before court to spend together.”
Her eyes slide to the clock. Is there time to fuck before her clients arrive?
GM: Celia hears the Tremere are all supposed to live together in the chantry, so that’s probably no surprise Pete saw him.
“All right, mistress,” Alana says to both meetings. “Do you want to change the meeting with Poincaré, too, to fit in this one?”
The ghoul shivers under her mistress’ touch, color quickly rising to her cheeks as she hungrily returns Celia’s kisses. “Yes, mistress… tomorrow…” Cock or not, she still pulls down Celia’s pants, twists around on the desk so her face is underneath her domitor’s charms, and starts hungrily eating her out.
Celia is not sure they have time for a very long fuck, between the multiple clients, whatever her mom is here for, and Edith’s meeting at 10.
Celia: They make it a quick fuck, then.
When it’s done and they’re both satisfied, Celia shakes her head at the question of Poincaré as she touches up her makeup in the mirror and fixes the hair that had come unbound during their tryst.
“Reschedule Lucia to another night,” she finally sighs, “or I’ll have to wait another week to see my grandsire. He’s a busy lick. Tell Bornemann 4 AM.”
GM: “All right, mistress, I’ll do that,” says Alana.
She sinks to her knees on the floor, like she’s giving Celia a blowjob, and buries her face against her domitor’s crotch as her tongue flecks out.
Celia: “We just got off,” Celia says with a laugh, pulling away from the ghoul. “Later, pet. It’s time for clients, now.”
GM: Alana nuzzles her head against Celia’s leg.
“We could have time, mistress, if you tell your silly mother to bother you tomorrow.”
Celia: “We’ll have time tomorrow as well.”
“I don’t doubt you’re going to surprise me with all sorts of fun things at our sleepover.”
GM: The ghoul smiles at and plants several worshipful kisses upon Celia’s foot, even if her eyes look faintly disappointed to be denied now.
Celia: They just had sex.
Celia runs a hand through Alana’s hair and takes her leave. The girl needs to get used to being disappointed. She had.
Thursday evening, 17 March 2016
Celia: The clients come and go, each of their needs seen to by Celia’s well-practiced hands. Charity Flynn mumbles about her husband’s treatment of their estranged daughter while Celia uses the fine edge of a scalpel to scrape off the top layer of her skin, taking the dead cells and fine, fuzzy hairs along with it. She keeps her eyes covered with a gel pad that will reduce the appearance of fine lines when she bleeds her, taking a single hit from the woman under the guise of “trying a new technique.” As the woman melts beneath her touch—that sanguine kiss is so dependable—Celia says that maybe she’d like to book a massage next time to help keep some of the stress from her body.
“Just set it up with Piper or Louise at the desk,” Celia smiles at the woman on her way out the door. Inside her chest her Beast purrs at the hapless kine and their doe-eyed adoration of the girl who keeps them young and beautiful. She doubts Preston has it so easy with meals delivered right to her, paying her for the service.
Lisa Greer is next. Star had given a gift card to Stan, who had apparently given it to Lisa, and her first trip in had turned her into a firm believer of Flawless’ place at the top of the spa world. Celia takes more from her than she had from Charity, excess blood poured into a container for later, and tells herself that it’s better for the woman to have less energy to worry about her missing “daughter.”
She’s such a helper.
GM: Charity gives a low gasp on the table as a blush tinges her cheeks red. She tells Celia that was “incredible” and is all-too happy to book another massage appointment.
“With you, of course,” she adds.
Celia: Of course. None of the others can do what she does.
GM: Stan’s wife Lisa is more subdued. She’s a small, slim woman with dark hair and sad eyes who admits she doesn’t do her art anymore, when Celia asks about her life.
“Some artists play into that tortured artist angle, and say it’s what inspires their work, but that… isn’t me. My art comes from a place of happiness.”
She’s quiet, when Celia takes from her. She closes her eyes and loses herself in the sensation.
And she talks, like they all do.
“I tried to do the right thing with her. I raised her as my own. I loved her as my own. But after she got older, around high school… she just never wanted to be as close to me.” Her voice quavers slightly. “I wonder if there’s something I could have done.”
Celia: Celia listens patiently as Lisa speaks, and only when she starts to blame herself does she cut in. She knows—knows—that the Summer thing has more to do with supernatural forces than just being raised by another family. But she doesn’t say it. She speaks instead of a girl she knew who was raised by her mother and the man she referred to as her dad, how even though the dad raised her as his own she felt as if she never belonged, how even now, as an adult, she’s waiting for him to finally say “you’re not my daughter.”
“It’s like this trump card they hold over you,” Celia says patiently, “and even if you’d never use it, even if my friend thought her dad would never use it, it’s always there in the back of the mind. Unwanted. Unaccepted. I have another friend, adopted at birth, who never got over the fact that his parents gave him up. His family is amazing. He loves them. But there’s always that pang of ‘why wasn’t I good enough?’ and it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with _them.”_
For all the drama that came with Maxen, for as awful as he is and was, sometimes she still wishes he were her real dad, and that they did have a better relationship growing up, and that her life hadn’t been something out of a horror novel.
GM: “Her birth mother… I’ve never been completely sure what to call her,” admits a paler and woozy-looking Lisa, “sees Summer, saw her, pretty often. They were close. But she has other children, who she’s raised with her husband. They met later. I wonder if Summer thought something about herself wasn’t good enough.”
“I just wish… I just wish she’d come home… we’re all so worried…”
Celia: She’s working on it.
“She will. When she’s ready.”
GM: The pale woman starts to softly cry.
Celia could taste it in her blood.
The sour, heavy flavor.
So different from her usual candy-sweet and lust-filled vessels.
There’s depth to it. The sour isn’t bad at all. It tastes sincere. Real.
It’s not a fleeting, momentary sadness. It’s a parent’s all-consuming grief.
Let it not be said Summer’s stepmother doesn’t really love her.
Blood doesn’t lie.
Celia: Celia offers what comfort she can. It’s not enough; it never is. She can hardly say she knows Stan. She can’t offer that she’s looking into it, that she has two of her boys following every lead they have to find her.
She lets the sour note sit on her tongue. Will this be what her mother tastes like when she finds out what happened to Isabel? When she gets the letter that her estranged daughter perished in a far away country without any chance of reconciliation? What about if she tells her the real truth—that Isabel was another monster and had her heart torn out by her sister?
She didn’t do enough for her own family. But maybe she can patch up this one.
When the blood has vanished Celia reaches out with her gifts, murmuring that Summer will find her way home, that she’s out there somewhere thinking about her, that everything is going to be okay. She lets the words work their magic, easing the woman’s pain. She can do that much for her tonight.
Still, the taste of grief lingers.
GM: It’s a sobering question. Roderick thought she should give her family the closure.
Lisa sniffs and apologizes for “losing it.”
She says she’ll be sure to book another appointment.
They all do, after her kiss.
Celia: Celia smiles gently at her and tells her it’s not a problem. Emotional releases are all part of the service.
She really is such a helper.
Thursday evening, 17 March 2016
GM: It’s after Lisa departs that Celia sees her third mother for the evening.
“Hi, sweetie! It’s so good to see you!” Diana exclaims, pulling her daughter in for a hug. She looks great. There’s color in her cheeks and a spring in her step, despite Celia feeding on her yesterday. Blonde-haired and smiling widely and warm of skin, she seems the very opposite of the drained, dark-haired, mournful Lisa.
Celia: That’s a good sign.
That’s a very good sign.
Celia had been worried that she’d be down and out for a short while, but this is… perfect, really.
“You seem chipper,” Celia says with some amusement as she returns her mother’s hug. “How was your day?”
GM: “I’m always chipper to see my baby,” Diana smiles back. “And my day was very good, thanks for askin’! Look at these new shoes Emi got me! Aren’t they cute?”
“They have arch support! They’re very comfy to walk in!”
Celia: “Those are adorable, Mama.”
“They kind of look like ballet flats.”
GM: “Emi’s got great taste,” her mom smiles. “And they are ballet flats! Just really walkable ones. You know I usually wear heels to work, but Emi thought I should cut back, on account of my leg and all, so she got me these.”
Celia: “Smart thinking,” Celia says with a nod, “I bet it’ll help with that. Less of an adjustment that the rest of your body needs to compensate for.”
GM: “Yes, she’s always told me how unhealthy those shoes are—and in fairness, they are, extra weight on your toes and so many other reasons—but I think that whole thing with my meds and the surgery your dad was offering made her want to get me to stop.”
“She got me another pair too, in silver to go with these pink ones.”
Celia: “Always worth having good things in multiple colors,” Celia says with a laugh, thinking of her own closet.
GM: “It sure is. But before I ask about your day, or I suppose night, sweetie, I told Alana I had some good news. And I do—I feel really good!” her mom smiles. “I felt a lil’ woozy, after yesterday, but a-ok the next morning after a good snooze. It definitely helped me sleep.”
“So,” she says meaningfully, “if you’d like more… I think I can feed you.”
Celia: “You feel fine?” Celia asks. “You’re sure? No linger anything? No dizziness, no fatigue, no… nothing?”
GM: “Positive,” Diana nods. “I had those symptoms, after you left, but like I said… a-okay the next morning. I had no problems keepin’ up at work.”
“I did have to do some teaching from my stool, on account of the leg, but that’s nothin’ new.”
Celia: That certainly is good news. If she can add her mother to a feeding routine—
No. She shouldn’t think of her like that. She’s not a juicebag.
Even if she is.
“I just ate,” Celia admits, “but I could take some and save it for later, or stop by later…?”
That might put it too close to waking up for school, though. Maybe it’s better to do it now.
GM: “I think it’d be best if you do it before I go to sleep, but I can stay up a bit longer, if you need me to,” her mom nods.
“We could make this a nightly thing. Or you could just take more from me a couple times per week.”
Celia: “You’re okay with that? I’m literally taking from you.”
GM: “I nursed you when you were a baby, didn’t I? You took from me then too.”
Celia: “Fair point,” Celia acknowledges with a small smile. “I can save some for later, then. Let me find something to put it in.”
She doesn’t want to mix it with the rest of the blood. Who knows how that will affect the taste. But salons are full of bottles and containers, and Celia is back a moment later with one in hand.
GM: “Just tell me how you want to do this,” her mom nods.
Celia: Celia would rather keep her mother’s blood for herself than share it with others. She bleeds herself into the container for later, licks the wound closed, and tucks it away. She tries to make it quick; the expression on her mother’s face is no doubt one of desire for the blood.
“Neck?” Celia asks when it’s done.
GM: Diana watches the whole time.
She doesn’t say anything. Just watches.
“Yes, please,” she answers, clearing her throat.
“Or the wrist, whatever you’d like, sweetie.”
Celia: Celia goes for the neck. She doesn’t kiss her way down like she does for most vessels, like she’d just done with her mother. She brings her in, as if for a hug, and simply tilts her head to the side to sink her fangs into the woman’s neck.
GM: Her mother’s blood is everything that it was last time. And the time before that.
Warm. Tender. Filling. Full of life and love and gladness. Gladness at feeding her baby. There’s a sensation of release, of joy at being able to feed her baby, like she’d always wanted to with those meals Celia threw out or threw up or stirred around on her plate.
Lisa might be miserable, and her and Charity both unknowing, but Diana tastes all-too glad to surrender her vitae.
It’s not love for another daughter. For a stranger. It’s love just for Celia.
Celia: It’s not fair, really, how other blood will never compare to this. Even with the rest of the headaches that her mother has brought to her unlife, Celia will never regret this part of it, the taste of this love on her tongue. She drinks from the woman who so freely offers herself for her family.
She doesn’t take much. She doesn’t want to strain her mother despite her words that she bounced back relatively quickly. They’ll call this a test run, see if last night was a fluke or if she truly can give blood this often.
The thing inside of her likes that thought.
She licks the wounds in her neck closed and pulls back, flicking her tongue against her lips to swallow down the rest of it.
“Thank you,” she says sincerely.
GM: Diana closes her eyes as color rises to her cheeks. Her breath comes heavier as she loses herself in the sensation, and her eyes shine when she opens them.
“Thank you,” her mom says, touching her shoulder.
“Say, sweetie… I had an idea…”
“If you wanted, you could feed some more from me… and then let me drink from you… so we’d both get to enjoy it, for as long as we want and as much as want, but no one loses any more blood…”
Celia: She knew there had to be a catch.
“We can try it,” Celia says after a moment, “when I find a way to make it less addictive.”
GM: Her mother looks at her longingly for a moment. She opens her mouth. Starts to say something.
Then she looks down at her feet, in her new ballet flats.
Celia: “Mom,” Celia sighs, “the blood has power over people. It turns you into someone you’re not.”
GM: Red starts to color her cheeks again.
“I… I know, sweetie, I’m sorry…”
Celia: “I think it’s a smart idea. I know of another lick who did that with one of theirs, too. I’m just worried it’s going to… turn into a hold over you, and I’d like to preserve our relationship so it’s not all about blood and feeding.”
GM: Her mom looks up and nods emphatically, her expression sobering. “You’re… you’re right, baby. We agreed, only as much as you think I need, bare minimum… I just… I still think about it…”
Celia: “Also…” Celia clears her throat, almost uncomfortably.
Deliberately. It’s not like she actually needs to.
“Being fed from kind of makes most people, um, get in the mood.”
GM: “Oh. Mood, as in…?”
Celia: “What you’re describing is basically vampire sex.”
GM: Diana goes completely silent.
Her face looks mortified.
Celia: “It doesn’t need to be,” Celia quickly continues, “feeding from you, feeding you, that’s not sexual, but it’s very… intimate?”
GM: “Oh.” Her mother gives a not-quite exhalation of relief, though the discomfort doesn’t entirely vanish from her face. “It’s… it’s like breastfeeding, then? Everyone makes a fuss about how sexual that is, but it’s really not, at all.”
Celia: “Kind of? It’s also, like, what Roderick and I do when we have sex, and… I’ll be honest, Mom, a lot of people in my clan in particular are pretty sexual, and I—”
“Can I ask you something?”
GM: That particular comparison doesn’t look like it assuages her mother’s discomfort.
But she nods. “Yes, of course.”
Celia: “Can you tell me what that’s like? Breastfeeding? I’ll never… you know…” A vague gesture at her flat stomach.
GM: Her mother gives an almost relieved laugh.
“Oh my goodness, where to start…”
“Well, I guess you are askin’ an expert. I’ve nursed more babies than this hand has fingers,” she smiles, holding one of them up in emphasis.
“So, like a lot of things, it really can vary. By the mom’s body and her relationship with the baby and how she’s feelin’ at a given moment.”
“In fact, the first time I breastfed you,” she smiles as she emphasizes the word, “it was actually a bit painful.”
“Wasn’t you, though! That was all me. I was young and dumb and had no idea what I was doin’,” she chuckles.
Celia: “Don’t some babies kind of chew?”
GM: “Yes, they can. You didn’t do that, you just had an improper latch. That can be from lip ties, tongue ties, too shallow a latch, and so on. That last is what you had. You want your nipple to hit the roof of the baby’s mouth and I wasn’t goin’ that far in.”
“Mind, it can be worse. There was one mama I knew who cried when she fed her baby, and described it as toe-curlingly painful. With actual blood in the milk! I’m sure glad I wasn’t her.”
Celia: None of that sounds particularly wonderful.
“But when it’s done right, it’s… nice?”
GM: Her mom nods emphatically. “It’s like massage, sweetie. You can do it wrong. Very wrong. But you can also do it right. Very right. And like massage, I think more experiences are good than bad.”
She pauses for a moment, then smiles.
“I’d say the best breastfeeding experience I had was with Lucy. Because, you know, lot of babies under my belt at that point. And brand new life with you and Emily. Fresh start.”
“If I were to describe what that was like…”
“So, physically, if you do it right, it’s a gentle tugging sensation. Warm and tingling. And there’s relief, too, because your breasts are full! That milk has weight, so it’s a little like, well, usin’ the loo!”
“But that’s just one component of it, the physical part. Emotionally, it’s…” Her mother’s face gets a fond look. “Oh, Celia. There’s nothing else like it. Cradling this new life in your arms, nourishing it… you just look down at your baby, this little miracle from God…. it’s just… you feel so close. I cried a lot of times, with Lucy. There’d been so much darkness in our lives. But looking down at her, something just so innocent… feeding her, helping her grow… answering hate with love… I saw God in that, when I looked in her eyes. I saw God.”
Her mother gives a sniffle, but smiles too.
Celia: Celia nods, though she doesn’t think she’ll ever understand. Not really. She glances down at the stomach that will never hold another life inside of it, the breasts that will never feed a child. Maybe a childe, if she were ever to do a sort of kinky thing like that, but not… not a normal kid. That life was ripped away from her.
“Sorry if asking is… weird.”
GM: “Oh, it’s not weird, sweetie! At all. It’s perfectly natural, I’m happy to tell you about it.”
She gives a rueful smile. “I’m just sorry if the way I described it sounds a lil’ cheesy. Some of it is the oxytocin.”
Celia: “It doesn’t sound cheesy,” Celia says, shaking her head. “It’s what I wanted to know. What I… I mean I’ll never…” she trails off helplessly, wringing her hands. It doesn’t matter. “Was it like that with me, too, once you got the hang of it? Even though my conception…?”
“I’m going to see someone later who has a child. A ghoul child. I just wondered if that’s what she gets from it, but it seems funny to ask her instead of you.”
GM: Celia’s mother smiles again and cups her cheek.
“Oh, sweetie. Once I got the hang of it… your conception was the furthest thing from my mind, next to the bundle of life in my arms.”
“I felt so close to you.”
“I felt like the luckiest mama in the world.”
“I felt amazing. I couldn’t believe I was getting to enjoy this.”
“I wasn’t looking for God as hard, back then. But I saw Him in your eyes too.”
“I would stroke your hair, and I would rock you, and I would think… who is Celia Flores goin’ to be. Who is this amazing lil’ baby goin’ to grow up to be.”
Celia: She’s glad that her mother hadn’t hated or resented her for her birth. That she was able to find peace instead of more strife. The woman has had enough of that. Had enough by that point, too.
“I bet you never guessed vampire,” Celia says with a small smile.
GM: “It wasn’t my first guess,” her mother laughs. “But I’m very happy, with who that lil’ baby has grown up to be.”
“And, you know, even if you don’t get to experience that… that’s okay. The world’s a big place. We don’t get to experience it all. But God shows us all joys and marvels. You’ve known love from a lot of people, shown them love… including one who calls you Mommy.” Her mother smiles. “That bit counts more than the breastfeeding, in the end. There’s plenty mamas who love their babies with formula. Breastfeeding is just one of many, many, many ways to love somebody.”
Celia: “I’m happy that you know, Mom. I know we got off to a rough start with it. I’m sorry. I hope I can make it up to you, that you think this is all worth it.”
GM: “I do, sweetie. I want to stay in your life. I want to be part of your life. If this is how we do it, then okay, this is how we do it.”
Celia: “I’d like to try the blood sharing thing with you,” she says after a moment, “if you still want it.”
GM: “I’m not sure, actually,” her mom says thoughtfully. “It’s… addictive, like you say…”
Celia: “It’s more than that. It makes me… the center of your world, basically, if you drink right from the vein.”
GM: Her mom just smiles at her.
“You’re already the center of my world.”
Celia: “In a supernatural way,” Celia clarifies. “Like if I told you to abandon Lucy and attend me, you might.”
“It’s one of the only ways our kind says they can feel love anymore.”
GM: Her mother looks horrified.
“That’s not love…”
“Love isn’t… love isn’t zero-sum, baby. The more you give… the more you have to give. Having Lucy didn’t make me love you and your brothers and sisters less. It made me love you more.”
Celia: “That’s part of why I’m afraid of giving you more. If it’s not appropriately cooled, you’ll sacrifice everything for me.”
“It’s why we make ghouls. Or part of it. They’re bound.”
GM: “But… but I drank from you once,” her mother says, worry suddenly creasing her face.
Celia: “There’s three steps.”
GM: “So it takes until the third, to kick in…?”
Celia: “To kick in fully.”
GM: “Oh. I have… I have been thinking of you more, I guess.”
“But I think of you plenty anyways.”
Celia: “This is an all the time thing. Like an obsession. Like… you know how Alana gets about me?”
GM: She nods. “If more drinks would make me abandon Lucy, then that settles it. I can’t have any more.” Celia’s mom shakes her head. “Un-cooled, at least.”
Celia: “I’m trying to figure out a way to break it. But I’m trying to figure out a lot of stuff, honestly, and this is one of those things not a lot of people share. It’s a pretty common punishment with licks to make you drink from them.”
GM: “Thank you for sharing that, sweetie. I’m very glad I know.”
“There’s also…” Her mom pauses, then finally says, “Celia, I took advantage of Dani.”
GM: “I asked her to feed me.”
“And she did.”
“She… fed you.”
“How, uh, how was it?”
GM: “Because she trusted me, and was so grateful for everything, but… she tasted bad.” Diana looks back down at her new shoes. “Serves me right, I guess…”
Celia: Celia reaches a hand out to her mom. She should be angry. But she mostly just feels… bad.
“It’s okay. This is hard on you right now. It’s new. You don’t understand it all yet, and I was angry and didn’t explain everything. Dani is a thin-blood, though. Her blood won’t nourish you like mine will. Or at least… I don’t think it will. I guess we didn’t try that…”
GM: “Does it get any easier, Celia?” her mom asks plaintively, looking back up at her daughter. “The wanting? I thought about it all day, how I was going to ask you if we could feed each other…”
Celia: “I don’t think so,” she says with a sigh.
Celia: “You learn to… do things with it, I guess.”
“There’s a ghoul who said we’re all addicts, but she finds ways to channel it into positive stuff instead. She offered to take you around and teach you things—she’s been at it a while, was turning 150 when I met her first—but she implied punishment, so…”
GM: “Oh. You mean like with J… when you were Jade,” her mom says slowly.
Celia: “I’d tell her not to. But I don’t want her to find out who you are. We could test the mask. She could show you around?”
GM: “But, would she still hurt me,” her mom says in the same slow tone.
Celia: “Not if I told her not to. I think.”
“She’s not my ghoul, but she’s still a ghoul, and they usually kind of have to listen…”
GM: “Maybe we just shouldn’t chance it. You can tell me whatever I need to know.”
“Dani’s very eager to meet other vampires and ghouls and what have you, but I’ll be honest, sweetie, I’m not.”
“All of this, to me, is just… it’s a part of you, to learn more about.”
“So I want to.”
“But I don’t want to make it my own life, you know?”
Celia: “I think that’s wise.”
GM: “I have a family, I have a career, I’m not chompin’ at the bit to make a stand for duskborn equality or whatever else have you.”
“Even if I do agree there’s no reason they should be treated worse.”
“We’re just at different places in life. Dani’s still young and figuring hers out.”
“I’ve already got my life figured out.” Her mom smiles and touches her again. “Which, goes without sayin’, you are a very big part of.”
Celia: “It’s okay,” Celia tells her mom, “I understand. I’m kind of relieved,” she admits, “because it’s hard to balance who I am around you and who I am around other licks, and I’m already doing a poor job of it with Dani, and Alana keeps bugging me to go to lick events and it’s like she doesn’t realize that maybe they might hurt her while they’re in the moment, and it’s just… you know. A lot.”
“Like I’m being pulled in a bunch of different directions.”
“I keep trying to explain things to Dani about duskborn and I took her out last night and she got ignored and was kind of mad about it but like I warned her and it’s better she be ignored than slaughtered.”
GM: “I’d definitely take the former over the latter,” her mom says with a weak chuckle. “But I’m sorry, sweetie. It does sound like things are hard for you. Is there any way I can help?”
“With Dani or Alana or… anything or anyone else in your life? I want to make things easier for you.”
Celia: Is there?
“I… maybe?” Celia hedges. She taps her fingers against her leg, considering the issues before her. “I feel like I have a lot going on, and I think most of it I have to do myself because it’s meeting with people… and I know some of what I have going on you don’t want to be involved in, so I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, and there’s a fair amount of just general being around vampire stuff, but you mentioned you don’t really want to do that…”
She trails off. Research, maybe? Hunters?
“Have you heard the word glinko before?”
GM: Her mom thinks. “Ah, don’t think so, sweetie.”
“What’s the context?”
Celia: “Roderick and I almost got picked up by some hunters a few nights ago, and I had a friend do a ritual to find out how they found him, and that word came up. But I’m not familiar with it and apparently no one else has heard of it either.”
GM: “Oh. Well, I could ask some of my co-workers at McGehee, see if it’s anything. Benefit to workin’ at a good school, lots of educated people,” she smiles.
Celia: “Maybe not. I wouldn’t ask anyone who doesn’t know about all this. It’s kind of sensitive, and I don’t want to clue anyone in on anything.”
GM: “I’d leave out the vampire bits, of course.”
Celia: “Right, I just… kind of feel like it’s a hunter thing, and you’d be painting a target on your back.”
“I thought about asking your mom, actually…”
GM: “I don’t think she’d know any more about hunters than my co-workers.”
“But, okay, I won’t bring it up around them.”
“I could try and research it on my own…?”
Celia: “I have a strong suspicion your mom is, or at least was, a hunter.”
GM: Diana frowns. “Er, why is that, sweetie?”
Celia: “Things she’s said over time. Interactions we’ve had. That sort of thing.”
“I thought, uh, maybe you might have been one too.”
“When you were younger. And that’s why you weren’t surprised about me.”
GM: “This is my first vampire rodeo, far as I know,” her mom says with a chuckle.
“I never really got that, ah, I suppose ‘impression’ from your grandmother. She certainly never told me she was a vampire hunter. But I guess you’re the expert.”
Celia: “I could be wrong. It’s not like I’ve ever asked.”
GM: “Why don’t you do that, then?”
Celia: “Ask your mom if she hunts people like me?”
GM: “Well, I mean… how else could you find out for sure?”
Celia: “Not sure there’s a casual way to bring it up. And I don’t have the ability to erase memories.”
Bring her to the spa.
Question her there.
“Isn’t her birthday coming up?”
GM: “I suppose it is,” Diana grants.
She doesn’t send cards.
Celia: Maybe Celia will. With a gift card.
GM: “Well. Anyway. I could look into this ‘glinko’ thing on my own. McGehee has a good library.”
Celia: “Thanks. I’ll let you know if there’s anything else.” She brings her in for another hug. “You’re really the best mom anyone could ask for, you know that?”
GM: Her mom gives her a happy squeeze back. “Thanks, sweetie. And you’re really the best daughter anyone could ask for, so tit for tat!”
Celia: “Do you still want to try the blood thing…?”
GM: There’s longing in her eyes, for a moment.
But her mother just shakes her head.
“Also, I am more than happy to do, ah, ‘vampire stuff’ for you if it’d make your life easier, sweetie! I’m not goin’ to base my life around it, but if I can help yours, I want to! You said there might be something there?”
Celia: “Nothing super pressing. You’d have to know the right people, and Alana mostly handles it for me. I’d like to show you off at a clan or guild function or party, but Dicentra said you vetoed the idea of using a different material in your leg, and I don’t want to strain it.”
Celia shakes her head.
“Honestly, aside from the stuff I know you won’t talk to me about, you’re… mostly doing great. Helping with my cover. Feeding me. Keeping my secrets. It’s all good.”
“Unless you happen to be a whiz at breaking and entering and aren’t afraid of demons.”
GM: “Oh. Well, if it’s important to you, we could go ahead with some other material for my leg. I just figured if it was getting fixed anyway, there was no rush…” Diana’s face gets a hopeful look as she briefly massages her bad leg.
Celia: “We can wait.”
“There’s another guy in the city who might be able to help, but he’s… kind of scary.”
GM: “Okay. We can wait, and look into other avenues if this one doesn’t pan out. I’ll need time to practice, anyway, to get back in shape.”
“And afraid I’m not any good when it comes to breaking and entering, but if it’s for you I could try to face down a demon,” her mom chuckles.
“But things I won’t talk about, sweetie? Like what?”
Celia: “Just the… doll stuff. Lucy.” Celia shrugs, looking away for a moment.
GM: Her mom doesn’t say anything for a while.
When Celia looks back, Diana is looking away too.
Down at her new shoes.
“Why do you want me to, sweetie,” she says quietly.
Celia: “Because Lucy… talks to me. Because I’m about to trade some favors to find out the truth, and this would keep me from that. Because I think something weird happened to you the night you met Ron, and I… I saw a fortune teller, and none of it made sense, and it was a very bleak future for… for me. And you.”
GM: Her mother still doesn’t look up from the floor.
“What,” she says after another pause. “What do you want to know.”
Celia: “Was Lucy part of you?”
GM: “I. I don’t understand.”
Celia: “Like you know how I have Celia and Jade?”
GM: A nod.
Celia: “So… was she part of you?”
“Like a… multiple?”
Or did Elyse just cut out the “bad” parts?
…and stuff them inside a doll?
GM: Diana still doesn’t look up from the floor. She’s closed her eyes. Her voice is a croak when she talks again.
“Do you… do you have. Paper.”
Celia: Celia moves around her desk, pulling out a pen and pad of paper.
GM: They’re sitting down on chairs by the desk.
Celia: She hands them over, reclaiming her seat next to her mom.
GM: Diana takes a low, shuddering breath.
Her hand is shaking as she removes the pen’s cap.
Celia: Celia puts a hand on her mother’s shoulder, as if to remind her that she’s here.
Moral support and all that.
GM: She jots down one word in trembling, messy handwriting.
Celia: “She… cut her out of you?”
GM: Diana’s hand doesn’t move.
Then she just underlines the word.
Celia: “How many?”
GM: Her mother writes a question mark.
Celia: “Are there others? Other multiples?”
Celia: “Is… she my… mom? Is she why?”
GM: Diana taps the question mark.
Celia: “With Ron.”
“Is she why you got together with Ron?”
GM: There’s a long pause.
Celia’s mother opens her mouth and taps the pen. She starts to nod. Then finally just shakes her head.
Celia: “I don’t understand.”
GM: Diana just shakes her head again.
Celia: “So it wasn’t her.”
“It was something else?”
GM: Another head shake.
Celia: “Then what?”
GM: Her mother taps the question mark.
Celia: “Everything I know from what she does to girls is that she turns them into chaste, demure women. They don’t drink. She doesn’t like sex, so she takes the enjoyment of it from others. But she let you out early at your mother’s behest. Said that you only needed a few minor tweaks, but were otherwise fine. And the last night you were there… that’s when I was conceived. You shouldn’t have wanted to have sex with him. But you did. You were drinking. And had sex. And people like me can make you do that.”
GM: Celia’s mother closes her eyes again and breathes heavily before she scratches out,
I don’t know. Only know about
There’s a pause as she holds the pen in the air. Her hand shakes before she finally just writes,
Celia: “Okay,” Celia says with a nod. “How long as she part of you?”
GM: Another pause.
Celia: “And she’s been gone since the doll’s creation?”
Celia: “Who else knows?”
GM: Diana lifts up the pen, but her hand starts to tremble again. She squeezes her eyes shut, then finally just jots down, underlined once,
“She’s in the doll. Lucy. There’s a lick who can talk to spirits. I saw her last night. She can talk to Lucy.”
“You can too, can’t you?”
GM: Diana covers her face with her hands.
But she nods. Once.
Celia: “You don’t want her back.”
GM: Celia’s mother opens her mouth. She stares at the paper. A tear runs down her face.
Celia: “It’s okay to say no.”
GM: She finally scrawls down,
“She stole Lucy from you, you mean?”
GM: In capital letters,
Celia’s mom looks at the word, then taps ‘stole’ and hangs her head.
Celia: “Stole… you?”
It would be so much easier if Diana just used her words.
GM: Diana nods again.
Celia: “Stole you from what?”
GM: Her mother underlines ME.
Celia: “Stole you from you.”
GM: Diana nods.
Celia: She’s quiet for a moment. Finally she nods.
“Okay. We don’t have to do that, then. Thanks for being honest with me about it.”
GM: After a moment,
Celia: “Put you back together.”
GM: Her mom’s mouth falls open. She looks at Celia for a while, then gets out in a faltering voice,
Celia: “I don’t know. She just said it was possible. But if you don’t want to then we won’t.”
GM: Diana stares at Celia for a while with wide, almost disbelieving eyes, then shakes her head.
“I… I do…”
Celia: “But you said she stole you.”
GM: Her mother closes her eyes and nods.
Celia: “Then why would you want her back?”
GM: Diana looks at Celia imploringly, then presses a hand over her heart.
She presses the hand to her heart again.
Celia: There’s a word that comes to mind. She tries not to think it. It’s not true. She just doesn’t have all the pieces yet.
“Lost… what, Mom? I’m trying so hard to understand, but I don’t. You lost yourself? In like a fugue state?”
GM: Diana shakes her head again. She opens her mouth several times as if to spit something out, then touches her heart again.
“Who… I was…”
There’s that same, imploring look, but even more desperate. Celia’s mother looks like a prisoner behind bars begging for a key.
Celia: “They killed that part of you. You lost it. Into Lucy. You want it back. Right? That’s what you mean?”
GM: Celia’s mother touches a hand to her throat, as if trying to talk, then just nods rapidly.
Celia: “Okay. We can do that. I can do that. We’ll find a way. I have some people to talk to, and we’ll do it.”
“The lady I spoke to last night said you could set her free, so you have some sort of key to this.”
GM: Diana looks at her uncertainly.
Celia: “I don’t know,” she admits, “I’m not an expert. I just found this out last night.”
GM: Her mother looks down at the paper, then just nods again.
Celia: “We’ll figure it out. We’ll get you back together again, okay?”
GM: Another nod.
Celia: “So. I mentioned the lady last night. She gave me the name of someone else, who I have Alana setting up a meeting with. But there’s also… I mentioned the fortune teller. The vision. She said there’s a clan of people who could help, but that it would… hurt.”
GM: “O… kay,” her mother mouths. “That sounds… good, sweetie.”
“Let me, know if…”
She gestures vaguely.
Then rubs her leg.
Celia: “Of course, Mama.” Celia takes a knee beside her mother’s chair, gently moving her hands out of the way so she can perform the massage movements instead. “How else can I help you right now?”
GM: “That’s good, sweetie… thanks…” Diana murmurs, closing her eyes as her daughter goes through the massage’s familiar motions. Celia’s mother looks tired. Tired and paler from their recent words, and the blood loss too.
“Maybe… pick up Emi or Dani, to give me a lift back home…? I don’t really feel tip top, and when my leg acts up, I worry about the breaks…”
Celia saw her pink Beetle parked by Flawless.
“Oh, wait… Dani is comin’ by… just to drive me home then, before you see that duskborn lady.”
Celia: “I can drop you. I’ll have Dani follow in your car.”
GM: “Okay. Do we need to scram, if that’s soon…?”
It’s not. Celia scheduled time for her stomach operation.
Celia: “Oh. No. I thought it was later than it is. I can drop you now and just have someone pick me up and bring me back, no big.”
GM: “Oh. Okay, sweetie.” Her mom smiles. “I should go to bed soon… school day tomorrow, plus dinner with Stephen’s family.”
Celia: “Come on, then, I’ll help you out.”
Thursday night, 17 March 2016, PM
GM: It’s a short drive in her mom’s Beetle back to Diana’s house. Lucy is in bed at this hour, but Emily pops out of her room (where she was studying) to share hugs and say hi. Dani remarks Celia’s come by early, but says she can give her a lift back to Flawless in her own car. Diana bids the girls all goodnight and makes her way to Lucy’s room.
Celia: Celia hadn’t expected Dani to be there this early. After exchanging pleasantries with Emily and seeing her mother to bed, she says as much to Dani when they get back in the car.
“You’re early too. How’d it go with Rod?”
GM: “Oh, I haven’t seen him yet. He’s still doing work stuff,” says Dani as they get in her car.
“And was hunting earlier.”
Celia: “Oh. I thought he’d be done by now.”
GM: “He texted when we’d be able to hang.”
GM: “Well, hunting takes about an hour, he said, and being a lawyer is a busy job.”
“He also told me about the ‘Rod’ name.”
“It’s really weird how he’s changed his name.”
Celia: “Most of us do. Keeps our families safe.”
“If he’d been Stephen Garrison his dad would be a target, you’d be a target.”
“Anyone who’s mad at him.”
“Or his sire.”
GM: “He explained. And it makes sense. Just weird to know he’s been going by this whole other name.”
“He said no one calls him Stephen anymore. Hasn’t in years.”
Celia: “No,” she agrees. “I did once on a date, years ago. Asked what he’d prefer. He said a clean break is best.”
GM: “It’s still hard for me to get accustomed to.”
“He said I could call him what I liked.”
Celia: “You’ll get it eventually. Not a big deal as long as you don’t slip up in front of someone else.”
“I have some work to do real quick when we get back to the spa, but then we can get going.”
GM: “Oh, I’ve got my laptop with me. It’s no rush, I can do schoolwork until you’re ready.”
Celia: “Thanks, Dani. Appreciate the help with my mom and all.”
GM: “It’s no problem. She and Emi have just been so nice to me.”
Celia: “I’d hope so. World hasn’t ruined her yet.”
She can only hope it stays that way.
Thursday night, 17 March 2016, PM
Celia: Perhaps, she reflects as she closes herself in her work space and locks both sets of doors behind her, she should have listened to the fortune teller.
“You won’t like the answers.”
No, she supposes she doesn’t. She doesn’t like them at all. Her mom is a multiple. The “real” Diana is not the sweet, loving woman that she has known all her life, but apparently some sort of hellion that goes out late at night, steals cars, and carries guns around. Full of rage and who knows what else. That chat she’d had with Roderick, about how of course her mom would always love her? About how Elyse couldn’t completely change personalities? All of that goes out the window.
Her mom is a multiple.
Two personalities inside one body. Like Celia and Jade. Or Leilani. Or Violet. Or Lilly. Or Star. Or any of the others that clamor for control. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? She’s still in control. She still retains her memories. She doesn’t lose herself to a fugue state, doesn’t act against her very real core tenets and betray herself.
If Jade is willing to hurt Diana, is Lucy willing to hurt Celia?
She doesn’t want her mom to be a multiple. She thought it was settled. That everything was going to be fine. That it would be smooth sailing from here on out: help Marcel, transfer the luck, Mom is happy and healthy and still willing to feed her, they continue to have a great relationship until she dies a very natural death.
More shit she has to deal with.
And all of it is Diana’s fault. Continuing to make problems. As if dying for her wasn’t enough. As if losing a friend and ally over her wasn’t enough. As if her very existence doesn’t absolutely weaken her when people who know her know where to target.
She should have left it alone.
She should have fucking left it alone.
But she kept picking and picking and picking because she’s so
Even Roderick thinks so. Roderick, with his non-answer last night. Roderick, with his perfect fucking life and perfect Embrace and perfect sire and perfect Requiem and perfect fucking sister that he gets to have because she smoothed it over, because she made it better, because she fucked up her own plans by making sure that he wouldn’t lose everything, and now everyone thinks she’s a giant fucking fuckup.
And maybe she is.
The claws slide out. Long, sharp, deadly. Like the thing that takes over her mind. She doesn’t fight it. She lets it go, watching from behind its eyes as it tears through the steel room looking for something warm to destroy. Watches until she disappears into the red haze and loses sight of what happens while she’s gone.
Like a fugue state.
She’s on the floor when she comes back to herself, clothing shredded, face red with the blood that leaks from her eyes as hysterical laughter gurgles up from her gut. Laugh crying. Cry laughing. Whatever it is she’s doing it, shoulders shaking with the effort. Lack of air eventually causes the noise to fall silent, but on she goes, face contorted into a mockery of joy.
It’s all just so hilarious.
Her body eventually moves. She unlocks the door and steps back into the private suite of rooms reserved for Jade, though the lick has not yet arrived. Someone else pulls the body from beneath the table where she keeps it in temporary cold storage. Someone else makes a mental note to contact Ramon for the work he’d offered. Someone else runs through a tally of what sort of information they’re willing to trade, since a debt to the Nosferatu is not something that Jade or Celia or this other person want.
Claws slice into the blonde’s body, though “body” implies “whole” and this thing is decidedly not whole. It looks almost like that girl who’d fallen into the tiger pit all those years ago when they’d found her the next morning, bits and pieces already harvested by Celia or Jade or Dicentra or whoever else had gotten to her (someone else recalls that Alana had done the hair to turn it into a wig that Joy wore and that Dani now has, and Celia wonders if Louise would be interested in styling wigs and if that’s something they could start selling more of, as Jade had primarily used them for her own disguises and extensions for the girls, but it would give her something to do in the meantime while Celia figures out the licensing issue like the helper that she is).
The claws slice from sternum to groin. It takes a bit of effort to crack the ribs, but there are tools for that, and soon the pieces of bone sit in a bag to be ground up for more bonemeal (Celia recalls that she had forgotten to give the last bag to her mother for her garden and is glad that the growing season hasn’t quite started yet, and also wonders if maybe her grandsire’s rooftop gardens could use some, or maybe Dahlia Rose…?). The claws disappear once the body lays open on the table, and hands gently sift through the dead organs to find the stomach. Upper abdomen. Left side.
The human body is truly a fascinating thing. Food and air enter the same cavity but are filtered out by various parts. Food travels down to the esophagus to the lower esophageal sphincter, which contracts and expands to let things in. There the stomach secrets acids and enzymes to break down all the food that enters it (Celia had looked it up once to find that stomach acid falls between a 1 and 2 on the pH scale. Battery acid, pH 1, can dissolve metal and bone: that’s why people who throw up all the time ruin their teeth. Jade had experimented with ways to utilize it effectively when she’d found out). The stomach itself is lined with muscle fiber that churns to help digest things, and another sphincter releases the dissolved contents into the intestines to make its way down to the anal cavity.
This undead body has no need for most of that, though. A scalpel separates the top of the esophagus from the throat just below the trachea, where the upper esophageal sphincter sits. Another cut separates the stomach from the intestines and the contents are deposited into a bowl to be sifted through later. This long after death there’s little food to be found, but just because the human died doesn’t mean the bacteria inside did. They keep churning. Then to the sink, to rinse the stomach, and finally a pinch of fingers seals the pyloric sphincter shut. There’s no need to have a hole in the bottom that leaks food into the rest of the body.
Those same fingers go to work on the undead body, pulling apart skin and muscle to fit the esophagus into the throat (some part of Jade or maybe Celia or even Dicentra wonders where the blood goes when they drink it since it certainly doesn’t sit in their stomachs), and the lick stands in front of a mirror while it moves more muscle and flesh aside to nestle the stolen stomach into its body, moving various things around inside to make sure that the stomach is supported and won’t go bouncing around erratically if the body finds itself in a hectic situation. A test jump confirms that everything is locked into place, and quick fingers move skin, muscle, and sinew into their rightful areas once more.
The girl staring at herself in the mirror doesn’t look like she had surgery, let alone put a dead stomach inside of hers. Her body is perfect. Pristine.
GM: Lucy watches the whole time.
She doesn’t say anything.
She doesn’t judge.
She doesn’t shrink in fear.
Dolls don’t talk. Dolls don’t do any of those things. She just watches Celia/Jade/Someone Else patiently, hands folded across the lap of her baby blue dress.
Perhaps she knows something of the tortured thoughts playing out in her mother’s head. (Heads?) Perhaps she knows nothing. Perhaps she would say much, if she could. Perhaps she would say nothing.
She just watches. She just waits. Patiently.
Dolls watch. Dolls wait. Dolls look pretty. It’s what they do.
Maxen would have preferred dolls to daughters, perhaps.
Celia: Maybe they don’t talk, but Celia/Jade/Someone Else (there really can’t be Someone Else, can there? And when had that become capitalized in her thoughts?) can talk enough for two, three, maybe even five people.
“I didn’t know,” she says to Lucy when it’s all over, washing her hands and face in the sink to get rid of the blood. “I said I’d help you. Fix you. Your voice. You’re in there somewhere, right?” She dries her hands and reaches for the doll, careful not to get her wet.
“…she’d still love me, right? You would too? You both? You saved me, you told me to run, you…”
That’s love, right? Saving someone? She doesn’t have to force her blood down her mother’s throat to make her love her, right?
Even the thought makes her recoil.
Has to be Celia asking these things, doesn’t it? Jade doesn’t care.
She stares at the doll cradled in her arms, half-tucked against her naked body, wide eyes imploring. An answer, a sign, anything.
GM: The doll doesn’t move away from Celia’s recently-wet hands. Dolls don’t move. Dolls aren’t scared to get wet, even if their owners and parents are.
Lucy doesn’t say yes. Lucy doesn’t say no. She just stares back at Celia with wide, expressive glass eyes.
Celia: Celia finally sighs down at the doll. Maybe she’s crazy for expecting an answer.
Maybe it runs in the family.
Maybe Elyse is her best path forward and she should suck it up and find a dancer to break with her. Maybe she can put some of Celia inside a doll, too.
“I’d offer to take you with me to Edith’s, but if her kids break you I’m going to be really mad.”
GM: Lucy serenely accepts this explanation too.
Dolls accept all things serenely.
Except when they talk.
Why are crazy people the only people who can talk to them?
Is she insane to expect an answer, or not insane enough?
Celia: Lucy used to talk to her. Sort of.
Does that make it better or worse?