“I’m in so much trouble. So much.”
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
GM: Alana comes back, to report Roderick’s car is taken care of. She’s eager as always for more sex with her domitor before the sun finally rises over the sky. She departs with an “I love you” murmured into Jade’s ear.
Kindred don’t dream, but doubtlessly Jade would savor sweet dreams indeed to imagine her ex-lover’s thoughts at her caustic words. To imagine his face, when Benji and the ghouls turned him out. Could he take them? Perhaps, one on one, but three on one is ugly odds, and the need to keep the Masquerade makes them even uglier. So too with the swift need to find shelter from the sun. Doubtless, it grated his pride to slink away. To let Jade get the last word and the last laugh.
Everyone hates to let someone else get the last laugh.
Perhaps that explains the stake that plunges into Jade’s heart during the middle of the day.
The face that stares down isn’t happy. Not at Jade. Not at the world. Might not ever have been.
Celia: And here she’d been hoping for round two with Pierre.
She’d gone to bed as Ren, flexing her new ability to become what Benji and his boys expected to see rather than confirm that she’s Kalani. The licks in the krewe know, but the ghouls don’t need to.
It had taken moments to make the change. With Sol beating down on her, trying to snake his tendrils through the cracks and crevices in their light-proofed house, Celia had practiced in front of the mirror. Same height, but the rest of her… oh, the rest of her shifts. Slimmer hips, smaller chest, more developed arms and legs and back; the rugged build of a Gangrel rather than the svelte form of the Toreador. Still pretty, but not enough to draw more attention than necessary. Brawler rather than dancer.
GM: There are three other people in Ren’s peripheral vision, but the only one she can readily make out is Tantal standing next to Princess. He’s rammed a stake into Benji’s heart. Maybe he’d look apologetic if it were Jade.
“So where the fuck’s Kalani,” he says in his high voice.
Celia: She’d giggle if she could. She’d assumed they knew. But no. Here she is, hiding in plain sight.
GM: Princess grunts.
“Got all we need.”
The ghouls throw tarps over the two vampires’ bodies.
Celia: Benji didn’t do anything, she wants to say. But she can’t. She stares up at the tarp, unblinking. She should have told him to go.
GM: The ghouls wrap the tarps around the vampires’ bodies.
“Body bags are better,” says someone’s voice.
“Just zip up. Done.”
There’s a grunt in answer.
Ren feels thick arms bearing her up. Footsteps sound. She’s carried downstairs. She hears a door opening. Horrible heat bears down on her, like she’s been shoved inside a car with the windows closed for hours on a 100-degree day.
She hears a trunk opening. She’s deposited onto a flat surface. The trunk closes. The heat gets better.
The car drives for a bit. Comes to a stop. The trunk opens. The heat gets worse again. Then it gets better. There’s a steady tromp of footsteps heading upstairs.
Ren’s deposited onto a hard surface. The tarp comes off. She’s in the interrogation room where Celia killed Isabel. The body is long gone, but the restraints remain. Princess and Tantal fasten Ren onto the same St. Andrew’s Cross.
Princess yanks out the stake. She’s tall, taller than most grown men, with long arms begging someone to give them an excuse to throw a chin-shattering punch or elbow. Probably both. Then there’s her legs. Longer still, but not the kind a man might leer at. No, they’re the kind a kickboxer would use to sweep someone’s legs or smash in their teeth. Probably both.
“Where is he, Kalani,” she says flatly.
Sometimes the black ex-felon bare-knuckle fighter doesn’t sound that different from her prissy WASP domitor.
Celia: Ren’s mouth forms a smile.
“He asked me to let him go. So I did. I imagine he went back to his haven for the day.”
“I offered to let him stay. He declined.”
GM: Princess rams the stake back into Ren’s chest. The woman’s flat, not-happy expression doesn’t once change.
Tantal gives her a vaguely apologetic look.
Celia: She’d almost called him last night, she reflects. When she needed help with Lucy. Assumed he’d be able to take the memories, but then he might tell Lebeaux, and she’s not really sure where she stands with the warden now that his sire turned her in for infernalism.
Can you still be friends with the person whose dad tried to beat you up?
GM: Technically, ratted you out.
Bornemann doesn’t much feel like the kind of man to beat someone up himself.
The ghouls leave. Ren feels the sun bear down on her even through the Evergreen’s walls. Her body yearns to sleep. To become the lifeless corpse it truly is.
Celia: My dad can beat up your dad.
Isn’t that what the kids in school say?
GM: Her dad can beat up most dads.
Celia: She has the best dad.
GM: Perhaps he’ll come for her.
Like he did at the Dollhouse.
Celia: Why, is she in danger? Are they going to kill her for “abducting” Durant and saying some strongly worded things to him?
Gosh, what a pathetic little bitch.
His feelings must be all sorts of bruised.
He’d accused her of the “weeping woman” act but she’d seen him cry plenty of times, the fragile little snowflake.
Oh no, my sire lied to me.
Oh no, my sister is a vampire.
Oh no, my girlfriend lied to me.
Oh no, I expected monogamy in a society where casual sex is the norm.
Oh no, I miss my daddy.
Oh no, Celia didn’t let me treat her like a doormat and said I’m stupid. She didn’t sign her entire unlife over to me. She beat me up with one arm. She told me it took me three people to replace her and I realized she was right, and now I’m never going to have a white wedding or do any cool science experiments or find out how to turn the abortion into a real childe.
Oh no, I can’t fight my own battles and had to run and hide behind Savoy’s skirts like I did with Coco for years.
Boo fucking hoo.
GM: Boo fucking hoo indeed.
Doubtless his own thoughts for his ex-lover are little kinder, wherever he now is.
Time stretches on and on. Ren resists it as best she can, but no one returns to the interrogation room. Darkness claims her.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, PM
GM: Daysleep recedes as quickly as it came. One eyeblink later and it’s however many hours later.
Ren isn’t sore or tired.
The undead body is a marvelous thing.
Celia: Hers is particularly marvelous.
She made it herself.
GM: So many Kindred agree.
Some time passes. The door opens. Dracon strides in. He’s wearing a black suit, not like Roderick’s preferred grays, and a maroon button-up underneath with no tie.
He smiles as he looks over Ren’s staked body.
“This rather is the way I prefer it.”
Celia: Well, fuck.
GM: “That was rather stupid of you to take my phone away, Celia,” he tsks. “I couldn’t get in contact with Savoy’s people to quite literally call them off.”
Celia: Not that he would have.
GM: “I’m glad it’s worked out this way, though.”
Celia: Yes, he needs her staked to be able to stand a chance.
GM: He pulls out the stake.
Celia: She’s still bound to a cross. Restrained. Is he into that now? It’s kind of hot. She could be into it.
Just not with him.
GM: “Where oh where should we begin,” he muses.
“I know I want to save the best for last.”
“I was always the good boy who ate my veggies before dessert.”
Celia: “Such a good boy. I suppose that hit last night was Drakey instead of Roderick, since Stephen is… well, he’s very, very dead.”
GM: “He is,” agrees Dracon. “I’d say he and Celia have that in common, but really, she was always a lie.”
“Enough of the past, though.”
“Business is a good place to start.”
“Savoy doesn’t like loose ends, Celia. Gui is supposed to be ten kinds of dead by now. Or was, after we’d interrogated him.”
“Where is he?”
Celia: Celia stares, uncomprehending.
“I have no idea. He was gone by the time I came back last night. I assumed one of your friends took him.”
GM: Dracon makes a tsk-tsk-tsk sound.
“No, none of them did.”
“And he isn’t at Flawless. That’s already been checked.”
Celia: “That’s awkward. Maybe he got up and walked away.”
GM: “No, that’s not very likely. He had a stake in his chest.”
Celia: “Could have been wearing a wire. Maybe he still had a loyal friend or ghoul.”
“Granted, I told you the spa has been broken into. Maybe someone else found him.”
GM: “Mmm. No, there wasn’t any wire. I got a pretty good look at everything he had on his body while I was taking it apart.”
“The security footage at Flawless shows no break-ins, though.”
“But we’re beating around the bush.”
Celia: “Ah, yes, we don’t show up on cameras.”
GM: “Savoy thinks you’ve helped him escape, Celia.”
Celia: “I didn’t.”
GM: “Perhaps you’d like to tell that to him.”
GM: “Let him inside your head to have a look around.”
Celia: “I didn’t help him, Roderick. I knew he was marked for death. I wouldn’t have helped him.”
GM: “Savoy doesn’t think so.”
Celia: “So you’ve said.”
“He can look if he likes. I don’t know where Gui went. I thought about getting him out of the city, but I didn’t act on it. Savoy would never welcome him back, and he’d spend all his time trying to get back at you rather than doing anything else, and he’d probably jump ship to someone else’s side if he ever did come back. There was no benefit to me in helping him escape. Last night I still wanted to make things work with you.”
“So I was setting him up, like you asked.”
GM: “Mm-hm,” Dracon says thoughtfully.
“I’m afraid that any answer which doesn’t produce Gui’s body isn’t good enough, Celia. You and the clanless scum were the last licks in a proximate position to do anything with his body.”
“I suppose there’s a couple ways we can play things from here.”
He glances across the rows of instruments.
Then he smiles and brushes Ren’s face with his hand.
“But I don’t want to hurt you, Celia. I really don’t. You were my first love. You’ll always have a special place in my heart. Help me to help you. Just tell me where he is, and you’ll be out of here in no time.”
His presence washes over her. She was his first love. She can trust him. She could always trust him. She can still trust him, even here. What’s happened between them won’t come between them.
Celia: His supernatural mien washes over her, but it’s like pouring water over a rock for all the good it does. There are no cracks in her armor for him to find, nothing for him to burrow into.
She doesn’t believe a word he says.
But he expects her to. He’s trying to turn the tables on her like she did to him last night. No doubt he’ll torture her once he’s done anyway. Why not have a bit of fun with it?
Celia blinks at the touch, again at the words. Her body is mobile but her head is not, and she tilts it to one side to press her cheek against his hand.
“I thought you hated me,” she breathes, eyes wide. “You… you were… you were so angry and I was just trying to help, I just wanted to do what you asked.” Red threatens to drip down her cheeks. “I don’t want to fight. I’ll help you. I will. We’ll find him. We’ll find him and, and then… you said once he’s dead we’d…” she trails off.
“You won’t hurt me?” she asks in a small voice.
GM: “Of course not, Celia,” he smiles. “Hurting you is the last thing I’d want to do. So much hate has come between us. So much hate and distrust where there was once so much joy and love. I don’t want that to be us. I want to go back to the old us. Where we were a team. Where it was us against the world. I want to do you a good turn and help our relationship begin to heal.”
“I’m sorry I refused your help. It was my pride talking. My pride and my anger.”
“And all that did was hurt us both.”
Celia: “I know. I approached it the wrong way. I shouldn’t have threatened you. I was… I was angry too, when you wanted me to sign over everything, I wanted to hurt you back but… that’s why we’re here, isn’t it. Because I did. Because I hurt you first.”
“They came for me. Like you said. They came for me and they asked where you were and I…” she blinks and finally the tears fall. “I thought you didn’t make it home, I thought you didn’t have enough time, and I was so scared that, that we’d never… that I’d never be able to apologize for, for everything.”
“I kept, I kept thinking about that movie we saw. The Dark Knight Rises. I kept remembering what you said, that you could forgive someone like Selina because she did the right thing eventually, and I just kept imagining that… that we could…”
“I never meant to hurt you,” she whispers. “I don’t want to be your enemy. Even if we’re not lovers, there’s… there’s so much that… I’m in so much trouble. So much.”
She lets the tears fall for a moment, but only that. She doesn’t want to lay it on too thick. She doesn’t sniff, but she turns her head to the other side to wipe her cheek on her arm.
“I’ll help you. We’ll find him. He can’t have gone far, not if you took him apart.”
GM: Roderick tenderly brushes the tears from Celia’s face.
“Shhh. It’s all right, Celia,” he says softly.
“It’s all right. You’re with me. Nothing can hurt you while I’m here.”
“We were both just hurting. We were both just hurting and trying to make each other hurt. But like with Selina, I think so much of what we did to each other was rooted in fear. Fears we could have confronted and conquered together, if we’d just let our hearts remain open.”
“I don’t know what the future looks like for us, but I know this. I want to help you and I don’t want to see you hurt. I want to get you out of trouble.”
“So where is he, Celia? Where did he go?”
Celia: Celia nods along to his words. The relief is plain on her face: he doesn’t want to hurt her. He wants to help. He’s going to help.
“I am scared,” she admits in a broken voice, “I’ve been afraid that they’d… that he’d… he knows everything about me, Roderick, all this time, and then the Guard…”
“It’s all I can think about, all I can f-focus on, that I’m going to die here or, or in a week and I… I told you…”
Her cheeks redden. She can’t meet his eyes. Her shameful gaze rests on the floor, shoulders hunched inward as if waiting for him to laugh at or strike her.
“I just want to help, I just want to fix this, all of it, all of it… I can’t, I can’t focus, I keep… keep seeing it, but I didn’t, Roderick, I didn’t help him—”
A fresh wave of red cascades down her cheeks.
Celia spends a few moments pretending to hate herself, pretending to cry while Roderick pretends to comfort her. When she finally looks back up at him her eyes shine, lips half parted and oh-so-kissable.
The desire flows from her like water off the edge of a cliff, splashing Roderick with its mist. It’s a gentle tug, a subtle invitation to remove the clothing from her body, an easy way to spend a handful of moments so her brain sharpens and he can pump her for all that she knows. She’s so pliant. So trusting and eager to help. And she’s pretty, even with this face. Maybe that makes it better, that he’s not looking at Celia or Jade but some random lick who he can pretend is anyone he wants.
And he can use it as an excuse to hurt her, can’t he? He’d done it before, the sweetest of hurts, but maybe this time he can go a little further, bite a little harder, make her cry out in pain before she ever receives pleasure.
He can bond her. He can make her love him. Fear him, yes, he can do that too when he pulls off his mask and reveals he’d been playing her all along, but she’ll be so obsessed with him that she won’t care. He’s seen it in her before, hasn’t he? With her father. With Diana. She grew up loving an abusive man and only stood up to him when he crossed a line. Hasn’t she been accepting of his punishments before? The microwave. Sleeping on the floor. Giving him blood.
She’d make a good housewife, wouldn’t she. No dead bedroom here, not when she’s an eager little slut and so happy to let him smack her around. She’d wanted to play house last night, too. Feed him. Protect him. Help him, even after he’d hurt her.
Here she is spilling her soul, offering to make amends. Maybe Savoy will let him keep her. He can add “Celia” to the list of things he oversees.
First, though, all he has to do is fuck.
It’s not like fucking her is a chore. She’s always made him see stars.
And he can see it already, can’t he. The appeal. The thin cotton shirt she’d slept in, lace panties, bare legs… alluring. Even here, chained and afraid: she trusts him, submits to him.
What’s the harm, right? Everything is about sex. Except sex—that’s about power. And here’s both.
Maybe that’s all she ever really wanted: to trust him. To not be afraid. To keep her heart open and know that he wouldn’t get swept into the danger or the drama, that no one would come after him because of her. To submit to someone powerful. To be claimed. He’s strong enough for that. To take her. Show her he’s in charge. He’s beaten her, hasn’t he? No tricks she can pull, not here. Maybe she’s an eager little slut for bad boys. Maybe Dracon titillates her in ways that Roderick didn’t.
Inside of her chest her Bitch and Beast both pace, watching the scene unfold. She’s going to fuck him. She’s going to fuck him by letting him fuck her, and then she’s going to force her blood down his throat and he’ll never know, he’ll have no idea. She’ll ensnare him, let him think she’s weak and eager and trusting, and he’ll let his guard down. He’ll think it’s easier, won’t he, because prisoners don’t try to escape when they don’t know that they’re in jail, and how sweet a cage he’ll give her.
It goes both ways.
He won’t leave her alone? She’ll show him exactly how she turned the tables on the hunters when she was blindfolded, gagged, and tied. How she had them eating out of the palm of her hand by the time she got herself free, how they were so eager to believe the honeyed lies dripping from her tongue, so eager to feed the vampire who doesn’t look like a monster, so willing to keep her as their little pet.
A kitten in a cage.
Only the cat isn’t a kitten at all, and when the tiger inside roars and bares its teeth the whole house shakes.
Celia and Jade had agreed that Celia will play the innocent. The wolf who guts the sheep to climb inside its skin.
Beauty has been perfectly cast.
GM: Beauty has been perfectly cast.
The words drip from her mouth like honey.
But it’s so much more than the words, too. It’s in her looks. Her expressions. Her ravishingly beautiful, eminently fuckable body. She is irresistible. Impossibly seductive. There is no stranger who wouldn’t blink before dropping his pants and fucking her and witlessly placing himself even further under her spell.
Celia, Ren, Jade, all the others—all of them are still the Beauty.
No one can resist the Beauty.
Roderick smiles back at her. She sees it in his eyes.
She is no Beauty to Roderick. No longer.
“You’re the ugliest person I’ve ever known,” he’d said.
His feelings for her are dead.
His desire for her is dead.
What they had together is dead.
She can see the words forming on his lips. The contempt in his eyes when she says she “needs” this. That she needs to have sex.
You’re such a pathetic slut, Celia.
“When Gui is retrieved, Celia,” he patiently tells her instead.
“I know where I left Gui at Flawless. Lebeaux can scan the area for psychic impressions. He will see with his own eyes who picked up our staked and limbless Ventrue. If he sees you helped move Gui to another location, and we can’t find Gui… things will go very badly for you. Savoy is assuming you’ve aided his escape until it’s disproven. He’s ordered you kept here and he’s ordered that you be interrogated, with torture and mindfucking if necessary.”
“This is no game, Celia. If Gui has defected to Vidal’s camp after his escape, or even just gone back to Chicago and turned his sire against Savoy, you will have attacked his power, and you will have made him your enemy. He will deal with you like all elders deal with enemies. By killing them.”
“The faster this is cleared up—the less trouble Savoy and his people have to go through, the less time and blood they need to spend on this—the better things will go for you. For us.”
He smiles again and strokes Celia’s cheek.
“Just tell me where Gui is, Celia. You’ll be let out of here, Savoy will welcome you back into the fold, and I’ll show you a good time upstairs. All our troubles will be behind us. We can face the future as a team again. Doesn’t that sound lovely?”
Celia: The Bitch inside watches her Beauty wither. She’d given it everything. All of her charm, all of the love she still feels in her heart for someone who doesn’t want anything to do with her, all of the hope she’d had that maybe, just maybe, they could make this work. That they don’t need to hate each other. She still has so much to offer him. Still has so much she wants to offer him, even after all of this. After everything. She’d still help. All he has to do is be nice to her and she’d still help, but he won’t. Just like Paul.
Inside the body, Beauty sobs.
Jade: Bitch rests a hand on her shoulder.
“He’s not worth your tears, love.” Soft words for the broken girl. Bitch isn’t mad at the Beauty. Kicking her while she’s down won’t do anything but make her curl into a ball of self-loathing. She’d taken the memories, and she can sort this out.
The body blinks and Celia disappears. Jade stares out at Durant or Dracon or whatever he’s going by these nights, lips curling into a smile. Her spine straightens, bloody tears drying on her cheeks.
“I haven’t moved against Lord Savoy, darling,” she says with all the arrogance of someone who is still in control, even bound and captive like this. “You left him in my spa. Finders keepers, love. Yes, I moved him. And I butchered him. I cleaned up the loose end for you.”
GM: Jade’s flesh painfully ripples and shudders as the Bitch comes out. Her hands are bound, but she doesn’t need them anymore.
No more mix-ups.
No more spillage.
When Jade’s face is on, Jade occupies the body. Not Celia.
When Celia’s face is on, Celia occupies the body. Not Jade.
Roderick quirks an eyebrow.
“So much the better for you then, Celia. Or Jade. Or whatever you’re calling yourself. I hope you won’t get offended if I don’t bother to ‘learn your pronouns.’”
Jade: Jade cocks her head to one side, like a cat observing a very tasty looking bird stupid enough to land on its perch.
“It’s hard to believe she ever saw anything in you,” Jade muses. “Wanted you to stay that white knight forever for her, I suppose. Cute, in a pathetic, fairytale kind of way; we both know you were too weak to ever be what she really needed.”
She smiles, flashing teeth.
“Does it rub you the wrong way to know that I’ve killed more mobsters than you?”
“Your whole life’s vision, the reason for your Embrace… and I’ve beaten you at it.” She laughs.
GM: “Not especially,” Dracon smiles back.
“Carolla and Gui would’ve beaten you into pulp if I wasn’t there. Some licks get angry over ‘kill stealing,’ but if you want to enjoy my leavings, I say more power to you.”
“We both know how those fights would’ve gone if you had to face them on your own.”
“We both know just how little you’re capable of without me.”
“But speaking of that, let’s have some proof. No one is taking your word that Gui is dead without a body. So where is Gui’s body, Celia-Jade-Whoever?”
Jade: “Mm,” Jade says with a nod, as if considering his view valid. “They may have, had they ever seen the knife coming. They didn’t.” She smiles. “But you know all about that, don’t you?”
“He’s at the haven. Surprised Princess missed it, really. I left his hat on my nightstand. Then again, he’s in more pieces than you left him.”
GM: “I’d say it’s the first time you’ve done something useful or worthwhile in your unlife, but, well, see that ‘enjoying my leavings’ remark.”
“So he’s at the haven. Where is he in the haven?” Dracon asks indulgently.
Jade: “Christ, Durant, you went from boy scout to bully and your lines still suck. I heard they’re casting for Taken 4; you’re a shoo-in.”
“But enough flirting, hm? He’s in the bathroom.”
When Jade had taken over last night she’d cleaned up Celia’s mess. It wouldn’t do to have the girl see the body when she woke up, to wonder why it had turned whiter than flour and why the expression on his face was one of terror and agony. She said she’d take care of Celia and she means it; poor childe will get in over her head looking into things that she simply doesn’t need to know about and then they’ll have another bout of torture at someone else’s hands because she’d said the wrong thing to the wrong person. The girl is simply too trusting by half.
So Jade took care of it.
She’d hauled his parts into the bathroom for easy cleanup and used a large hooked knife to cut him open from groin to sternum. A foul, putrid stench hit her in the nose and she saw, to her disgust, that the contents of Gui’s chest had liquefied into a mass of goo in some indistinguishable color between black and brown.
“What did you expect,” Dicentra had laughed, “bodies decompose.”
Jade rolled her eyes at the night doctor—as if she didn’t know—and simply tilted Gui’s body to the side to let the liquefied organs spill into the shower.
“Older than we thought,” she’d observed. The doctor had only nodded in agreement.
Then she’d begun to harvest him. Not all of him, no, but patches of skin from his back where the damage to his body had been minimized, first by using her palms to turn him from white-as-a-ghost to his normal, though decayed, coloring, then using the edge of the blade to sever the skin from the body.
She’d made the same color-changing pass across his face and the rest of his pieces, then combed her fingers through his hair to change that hue as well. Her movements grew more sluggish the longer she worked—that damn sun—but a burst of speed saw her through to the end. She’d tucked the skin away with her tools, washed up, and found a shirt and clean panties in Ren’s wardrobe to pull on before collapsing into bed.
“Most of him, anyway.”
GM: “Christ, Flores, you went from stupid to stupid with multiple personalities, and your strategy to not get staked for pissing off the boss still sucks. I heard they’re still casting whores in pornos; the second Flores sister is a shoe-in.”
“But a room where filth is cleaned. I suppose that’s a fitting enough place for Mr. Gui to have met his end. I hope for your sake that he’s actually there.”
Jade: Jade doesn’t bother telling him about all the porn she’s already been in. The poor boy’s head will explode.
Imagine enjoying sex. Gosh, what thing to stone someone over.
GM: The stake slides back into her chest with a wet slurk. Dracon turns and leaves the room.
Jade: It’s too much to ask for music or a TV in this kind of place, isn’t it.
GM: Jade is left to stare at the wall. She’s not sure how long passes. It feels like a moderate while.
Eventually, the door re-opens. Dracon walks back in.
He’s followed by Hannah.
Jade: What a fun little family reunion.
GM: Hannah pulls out the stake.
“Why did you do it?” she asks, bluntly.
“Why did you blood bond me a second time without my consent?”
Jade: “He’s told you how stupid Celia is, darling. It was an oversight. Poor dear was so excited about figuring out what you could do that when she shared blood she just wasn’t thinking.”
“The bond will fade. Neither of us intended to reinforce it. Made sure to give you plenty in return though, hm? All of the rules explained. Liberated from the bar where you were looking for someone you couldn’t remember. Feeding on Bourbon Street. A tattoo to let you pass as mortal. A mask to hide your identity. A visit with the oldest thin-blood in the city that I paid for, which gave us answers as to what you could do. A lick outside your family actually willing to spend time with you and test your various abilities. Kept your memories from being deleted because I knew you needed someone normal and unbiased to talk to about all this. A place to stay. Two, even.”
“Not to mention I saved your life on Thursday when Carolla planned to execute you. And again on Sunday when the dear hound wanted a sip and might have seen through the tattoo. And, oh, I suppose when we went to see Gui to find your sire and the Guard showed up there, too. Kept you outside and kept my nose clean so they didn’t have a reason to look twice at you.”
“All this time and I haven’t even asked you to pay me back for any of it. Haven’t asked you to do anything you didn’t want to do. Haven’t hurt you or taken advantage of you. In fact I went out of my way to make you comfortable when I knew you were skittish about feeding last night. Even took you to Elysium when you asked and cut a deal to find your sire for you. Granted, I suppose that boon is moot now. Imagine Durant has your sire stashed somewhere.”
“You’ve had it better than most true-blooded fledglings.”
GM: “‘Oops, I forgot,’” Dracon says in a mocking tone.
“I told you this was going to be a waste of time, Dani.”
“Then thank you for honoring my choice anyway,” says Dani. “I wanted to hear this from her.”
“Stephen, could someone actually overlook that?”
“No,” sneers Dracon. “No, sis, I’d say it’s literally like forgetting to use a condom, but it’s even dumber than that. Because all of us are ‘carrying’ condoms on hand, and we know there’s no emergency contraception. You’d have to be so fantastically stupid to ‘forget’ your blood can enslave someone that it’d be a wonder you could even put on your own clothes without step-by-step instructions.”
“All Celia would’ve had to do was wait a few seconds for her blood to cool and lose its bonding properties, and everything else you did together, you could’ve still done together.”
“You’d said,” Dani frowns.
“Speaking of that tattoo, did she tell you she’s Dr. Dicentra?” Dracon asks.
“Wait, what?” asks Dani.
“Yes, she lied to you and her mother about that too,” says Dracon. He isn’t quite smiling, but Jade can hear the pleasure in his voice at exposing another lie. “The ‘night doctor’s’ entire persona is a lie, a convenient fiction Celia uses to hide the fact that she can alter flesh the way she does.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t know either until the night we killed Carolla,” Dracon says. “I’d assumed they were separate people too. The doctor actually collected favors from me—convenient, I suppose, when lovers typically don’t bother tracking owed boons.”
Jade: Amusement flickers across her face.
“Forget to use a condom, you mean like that time you and Celia fucked in the car? So sad, wasn’t it, when her sire ripped the life from her womb.”
“Do get on with it, Durant. The only thing less titillating than this is all those times we fucked.”
“And I guess last night when you showed how cool you are, murdering kine and all. Very badass.”
GM: “Oh, Celia, this isn’t about you, I’m afraid,” says Dracon. “This is about doing right by Dani. Telling her the truth she deserves.”
Jade: “Here’s your truth, Dani: I lied to your brother countless times. I cheated on him. He’s angry. He wasn’t good enough for his sire so she Embraced some mobster and now his feelings are hurt.”
GM: “Yes, he told me that,” says Dani. “And a lot more.”
“I’m not interested in what happened between you two right now. I want to clear up the lies between us.”
Jade: She laughs.
“Why? Run home with your brother, Dani. I’m the monster he wants me to be.”
GM: Dani regards Jade for a few moments.
“Are you sorry?” she finally asks. “For the lies you’ve told me?”
“Because even if you blood bound me by accident, which I can believe, people do forget to use condoms in the heat of the moment, you never said anything afterwards. To my mind, that’s the actual lie.”
Jade: “No. I’m not.” Jade shrugs. “Celia might be. But she’s always been weak.”
GM: “Well then,” says Dani. “Okay.”
“I wasn’t a virgin before I was raped,” she then says. “I was embarrassed about how I lost my virginity, so when it came up between us and you assumed, I didn’t correct you. I wondered for a while why I did that. Why I cared so much about what you thought that I’d lie.”
“The bond twisted your feelings,” says Dracon.
“I guess so,” says Dani, looking back towards Jade. “I doubt this means anything to you right now, but I don’t like telling lies to anyone. It feels good to come clean.”
Jade: Jade is quiet for a moment.
“Celia wants me to tell you that you probably weren’t, if it helps. Most licks can’t get it up anymore. She’d offer to show you, but, well.”
GM: “And why didn’t ‘Celia’ tell me that earlier, either?” asks Dani.
Jade: “Various reasons. You were still violated. Feeding is a sort of sex. Telling someone they weren’t technically raped doesn’t make it feel less awful, just like calling it date rape doesn’t make it less heinous. You still died for it. She thought perhaps your sire might have been a thin-blood and was able to get it up, or brought in a third party to have a bit of fun, so she wanted to find out first before she brought it up. Avoiding false hope and the likes. You know, real savior complex.”
“I doubt her reasoning matters to either one of you. Spilling secrets is fun and all, but I’d like to see the warden now.”
GM: Dani gets a look on her face at that, but offers no further response.
“Yes, I was thinking about seeing him too,” says Dracon.
“We found the body. It looks like Gui. But, obviously, you can change what people look like, so I’m not sure if it’s really Gui’s body. It’d be a good escape plan. If the real Gui stowed away in a body bag, he’d have had a decent window of time for a loyal ghoul to make it out of the Quarter or even the city with him.”
“I wonder what would happen if Lebeaux combed the body over with his divinations and ESP. Would he get a vision of Celia Flores sculpting someone else’s corpse into Reynaldo Gui’s?”
“Because if he would, now would be a good time for you to give up your marked-for-death lover, Celia. I’m afraid you’re just not smart enough to fool everyone.”
Jade: Is it even worth it to point out the lack of time and prep she had? Not that it would stop her if she were truly determined to smuggle Gui out of the city, but the risk isn’t worth whatever feel-good reward she’d get from it. And if she were planning on smuggling Gui out, she’d have gone with him rather than face her grandsire’s displeasure.
Pride brings half a dozen smartass remarks to mind. The desire to survive and prevent Lebeaux from looking over the corpse makes her bite her tongue.
“Ah… no. But he will see me sculpting Gui. Ugly-dead-Gui to less-ugly-and-decomposed-dead-Gui. Grandsire said I could harvest some parts and I didn’t want the decayed bits sitting in my bag. Easier to do it all at once and cut what I need.”
There’s a slight pause. Jade looks away, uncomfortable, then throws him a bone to gnaw on.
“There’s, ah… I’d prefer he not see what I did to the corpse, okay?”
GM: “Ah, and here comes the dirty laundry,” smiles Dracon.
“And why is that, Celia?”
Jade: Bend. Bend so she doesn’t break. Bend so her unlife doesn’t end. What’s a bit of laughter, a bit of humiliation, compared to ceasing to exist?
Jade squirms. She makes a good show of it, keeping her eyes diverted, pausing long enough to make it sound like she doesn’t want to say. Finally, she blurts it out.
“I fucked him. When I killed him. I made his dick hard and I rode him and when I reached climax I ripped his heart out. And he got ugly immediately and it wasn’t satisfying and ruined the O, so I fixed him up and did it again.”
GM: Dani looks disgusted.
Dracon, though, gives her a very mean smile.
“Well then. I think I’d doubly enjoy Lebeaux checking the corpse.”
“Turns it into a real win-win proposition.”
“If you helped him escape, we find out.”
“And if you didn’t, someone else sees what a disgusting slut you are.”
Jade: “You win, Dracon.”
It’s the first time she’s used his new name. Not a nickname, no hint of venom or derision, no snide comments about it being pretentious.
“I said it last night, I’ll say it again. You win. You broke Celia’s heart when you made her watch you with the two snakes. Even after that she was still willing to submit to you if it meant she got a chance to fix it. You broke it again when you wouldn’t stay the day. She was a sobbing mess. She’s still a sobbing mess. She’ll probably always be a sobbing mess over you. So you win. You have me helpless here. I got lucky last night when I took you out, and I got lucky on Thursday with Carolla and hoping you’d turn on him and not me, and I got lucky that you’d already done the work with Gui and all I had to do was finish him off. You’re stronger than me, you’re smarter than me, you have my grandsire’s favor.”
“So what is it going to cost me to end this between us? I don’t expect you to ever not hate Celia or I for what we’ve done, but we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other around the Quarter, and I’d rather not fight with you every time we bump into each other when there are plenty of enemies outside to focus on. You want to fuck me over after Savoy is on the throne? Fine. But right now I’m waving the white flag and I’m asking for a ceasefire. Name a price. Boons? Marks for Dani? She’s night-blind, you know, and I can fix that. I can teach her to fly. I have pages of notes I created for your new identity that I can pass off to you, or give you a new one, or give her a new one so ‘Hannah’ isn’t seen running around with Durant after being with Jade. I’ve even got an opportunity for you to hurt me by physically ripping me apart while doing something good for someone you don’t hate.”
GM: Jade or Celia, she’s always been good at mirroring.
Telling people what they want to hear.
Telling them they are the person they want to be.
Telling Roderick that he’s Dracon. Smarter and stronger and more important.
That he won.
“I’m glad you’ve finally seen reason… Jade,” he smiles.
“It’s also Draco, I’ve decided. Dani’s idea.”
Jade: It brings to mind spoiled children who hide behind their parent’s skirts and never actually get their hands dirty and cry to daddy about everything.
But Jade doesn’t say.
GM: “It warms my heart to hear Celia is suffering.”
“I hope she will suffer for a very long time.”
“Not mine,” says Dani. She looks at Jade, but she doesn’t look hateful.
Mostly just sad.
Jade: Grudgingly, Jade nods.
“She will. Every time she sees you she’s hurt all over again.”
GM: “That’s beautiful,” smiles Draco.
Jade: “Very focused on what might-have-been. Bought a dress and everything.”
GM: “Oh, that’s so sweet. I’d rip it to pieces and throw the ring at her feet, if I could.”
Jade: The words don’t bother Jade. She’d never loved a boy named Stephen.
GM: “I think I’ve heard enough,” says Dani. “I got everything I came here for.”
She still looks more sad than angry.
Draco rubs her shoulder. “That’s fine. You want to head home?”
“Yeah. School tomorrow.”
Jade: Jade turns her eyes toward the thin-blood.
“She is sorry, Dani. She was afraid. She shouldn’t have been.”
GM: Dani just looks sadder.
“Not sorry enough to tell me like she told her mom.”
Jade: “Mothers are supposed to love their children. Friends can walk away at any time.”
“She’s learned her lesson, Dani. Good luck out there.”
GM: “I’m going to let Mrs. Flores know the truth about Dicentra. There’s no reason she should think she’s made a friend who isn’t real.”
“But were we just friends? I thought we were going to be so much more than that. I’m sad, Celia, Jade, whoever. I thought I was going to have a new sister. I thought we were going to set up our parents together. That our families were going to become one. That’s really, really sad we can’t have that, because it would’ve been something beautiful.”
Dani starts to wipe her eyes.
Jade: For a moment, Jade simply stares.
Celia: Then she’s gone, skin dissolving and melting like ripples across a pond to turn into the very-familiar face of Celia Flores.
“I wanted that too, Dani.” Red rims her eyes. “I wanted that, so much. I wanted to marry your brother and set up our parents and get a place together in the Quarter. I already started calling you ‘sister’ in my head.” Her lower lip quivers.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I messed it up. I always mess it up. I was trying to be better, Dani. For you. For…” she can’t look at him, doesn’t look his way, “for Stephen. I just kept doing what you said. Treating both of you like kids.”
Sanguine tears trail down her cheeks. She shakes her head.
“It was stupid. I was stupid. And I’m sorry.”
GM: “This is how she gets you every time, Dani,” Draco says to his sister.
“Really makes you want to just give her another chance, doesn’t it?”
He turns back to Celia.
“Take that face off or I’ll carve it off,” he says calmly.
Celia: Celia flinches at the threat. Then she’s gone.
Jade: The Bitch is back, lips quirked in amusement.
“And you thought I was taking away her choices.”
GM: Dani wipes some more at her eyes. Watery pinkish tears bead from them.
“No,” she sniffs. “I’d rather not see Celia either. Goodbye.”
She turns and leaves.
Jade: It’s an effort to resist rolling her eyes.
GM: Draco gets the door for her, then turns back to Jade.
“Let’s see, I definitely don’t want any of your personalities’ assistance with my identity.”
Jade: “It was more general ideas than assistance.”
“Things that would keep you from being found out.”
Jade shrugs. She doesn’t care.
GM: “Mm,” Draco says noncommittally.
“You spoke earlier, among other things, about curing thin-bloodedness via ‘dark magic’. That’s of interest to me.”
“I’d be a cruel brother to let my sister stay so weak and dependent.”
Jade: Jade gives a sharp shake of her head.
“Not here. Anywhere but here.”
GM: “Fine. You’re coming with me to another location.”
Jade: Jade only nods.
GM: Draco pulls out a phone and taps into it. It looks like the same one Jade removed from his person.
Jade: Phones all look the same.
Plus, it’s not like she’d hidden it. It reminds her of why she’d taken it, though.
“The couple from last night. Ring stores their data online. You took their phones, but you need to get the online stuff scrubbed.”
“You won’t show up, but your cars will.”
GM: Draco smiles at her.
“Give my big brain some credit.”
Jade: Jade inclines her head.
“My apologies, Draco.”
GM: “No, this is for something else,” he says, tapping into the phone. “I might be able to beat you in a fair fight, but after how last night went down I’m taking out some insurance.”
“We all do so hate fair fights.”
Which of her family members is he abducting?
GM: “Oh, nothing harmful to you or your interests or your loved ones, if you don’t double-cross me.”
Jade: “I’m not going to double-cross you, Draco. I’ve seen how well that went for me.”
GM: “You’ll forgive me if I don’t take your word.”
Jade: “Of course. I just also hope you’re practicing discretion with the mortals in her unlife that have done no wrong.”
GM: “Don’t worry about it, Jade. If you don’t attempt to cross me, you’ll have no idea what precautions I even took.”
He tucks the phone back away, then undoes the cuffs around her limbs.
Jade: She hadn’t expected this. She thought she’d get another stake to the heart. She glances down at herself, at her lack of clothing. Panties. Shirt.
“Are we going somewhere private where this is acceptable attire, or shall I shift?”
Jade: Without a word, she’s a cat. Her tail curls around her legs, large green eyes steady on the lick in front of her. She doesn’t presume to wind herself around his legs or purr, doesn’t ask for scratches or roll onto her back to expose her belly. Silently, she waits.
GM: He picks up the cat and leaves the room. Some ghouls see him along the way, but no one stops him. He takes the back entrance outside to his car. The license plates isn’t the same ones Jade saw last night. He opens the door, gets in, and deposits the cat on the seat adjacent to the driver’s. His touch is neither rough nor affectionate.
Jade: The cat flicks its ear at her former boy, as if asking if he wants her to stay feline or return to a form that can speak.
GM: “You can turn human,” he says. He turns on the car’s ignition and drives.
Jade: So she does, reaching for the seatbelt to buckle herself in. Jade’s eyes look out the window.
GM: Royal Street rolls past them. No one attempts to waylay the car. Draco drives for a while up Royal, towards the more residential part of the Quarter, then stops. He taps his phone again and sweeps it over the car’s interior. He also rummages through the glove compartment, ventilators, and other hard to reach spots.
“Let’s hear it, then. Your alleged cure for thin-bloodedness.”
Jade: Jade is silent while Draco does his thing. She waits until he’s done to speak.
“You have no reason to trust what I say. So if you require proof, I can attempt to provide it. By telling you this, I assume you understand the risks. It’s the sort of knowledge that will get you killed, the reason that elders stomp on neonates, the reason that Celia chickened out last night in giving you the truth you asked for.”
“Here’s what I’m promising you, Draco. Full disclosure. If there’s something I can’t tell you for any reason, I’ll say that. This is also a two-way street. If I’m going to share something with you that will get me killed I expect something in return.”
“You’re in charge. I recognize that. I also recognize that I’m not interested in throwing away my Requiem because you mention this to the wrong person. This stays between us. And Dani, if you choose to bring her in on it.”
“Can you agree to that?”
GM: “Yes,” says Draco.
“The thing you get in return is my statement to Lebeaux that I’ve seen the body, tasted its blood, and everything was legit. Likewise to Lord Savoy.”
Jade: “You can’t let him into your head. Once you know this.”
GM: “He’s already more likely than be in your head than mine.”
Jade: “Yes,” Jade agrees, “that’s why I’ve sealed off her memories.”
GM: “Assuming he can actually read minds without other licks noticing. That’s an advanced trick. He hasn’t confirmed or denied whether he can. Neither would I, if I were him.”
Jade: “He or Preston does it. They’ve answered multiple questions I never got a chance to ask.”
GM: “And what would that gain them? Would it have been worth revealing that thoughts aren’t safe around them?”
Jade: “I don’t know their thoughts, Draco, I only remember a very specific meeting where I was thinking something in particular and they responded to it. Multiple times.”
GM: “You aren’t thinking logically. If it’s not important enough for you to even remember, it wasn’t important enough to tip their hands over. They could have just inferred what you were going to ask.”
Jade: She never said that she didn’t remember.
But she doesn’t start an argument over it.
“There’s something else I’d like to ask you.”
GM: “Elders don’t like to disclose the full extent of what powers they do or don’t have. Case in point, right now. I’ll assume Savoy can read Kindred minds without them noticing, because that’s safest. If he actually can, he still benefits from my uncertainty. If he can’t, then I might take precautions that don’t actually advance my interests and might even set them back. That’s the fog of war.”
Jade: “That’s valid,” Jade concedes.
GM: “Yes, it is. I’ve always been the smarter one.”
Jade: Not a single flicker of emotion crosses her face.
“You are. Very smart.”
GM: “Mm, another lie, at least from your lips,” he answers with a cold smile. “But the statement itself is still true. Why, you could even say that’s a philosophical construct. A true statement uttered from a position of nonbelief with intent to deceive. But still factually true.”
“From what perspectives does this make the statement false? From what perspectives is it true?”
Jade: “I never doubted that you were smarter than me, Draco.”
GM: “Hm, that statement sounds closer to true. But no matter. Ask your question, and I’ll answer with my own truths or lies or non-answers as I see fit.”
Jade: “Do you have my ghouls? The boys. Reggie and Rusty.”
“You or one of your friends.”
“If Reggie’s come to a bad end, though, I might smile.”
“He’s fortunate he lipped off to me as Roderick.”
Jade: Jade shoves a hand through her hair.
“I thought you were going to kill him. It might have been better if you had.”
GM: Draco smiles coldly again, showing his fangs.
“Feel free to bring him by, then, and I’ll rectify the error.”
Jade: “At the risk of you mocking me, I can’t find him. Neither of them are responding to their phones and they turned off their tracking. I thought if you’d taken him it would have at least been a neatly wrapped problem.”
GM: “Oh, but it is.”
“It’s not my problem.”
“Very neatly wrapped.”
Jade: “No. It’s not. I didn’t intend to make it your problem.”
GM: “We’re outside of the Evergreen. There are no bugs in the car. Now, our business?”
Celia: It’s the sort of truth that will get her killed, she’s certain of it. She’s also certain that if she doesn’t tell him, and prove it, he’ll have Lebeaux test the body and they’ll find out anyway. It’s a leap of faith, isn’t it? Trusting that he wants to help his sister more than he wants her dead. Trusting that he wants to torment Celia for years rather than have Jade quickly executed.
Jade unbuckles her seat belt, turning to face him fully with her legs crossed beneath her.
“In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t fuck Gui last night.”
She gives him a look.
“I ate him.”
GM: “You ate him,” repeats Draco.
Jade: “His soul.”
GM: “Is this how you explain developing another one of your multiple personalities?”
“I could care less how many of them you have or what insane explanations you contrive for their existences.”
Jade: Jade actually laughs at that.
“No. Though that certainly is a convenient excuse. I told you it’s dark magic. Which do you want first, the history lesson or the magical theory?”
GM: “Theory, then application.”
Jade: A thrill runs through her at the words.
“I’ve been doing some experiments on Kindred and thin-blood physiology,” she says. “Dani twists. All thin-bloods do. She drinks from me and she learns star mode. She drinks from you and she takes your speed. She absorbs what we have. The more she drinks, the more she gets. But our powers are set. I know what I know, you know what you know. Takes a while to learn new tricks. You need a teacher. Occasionally you find one of those sweet mortals who give you a boost, right? Aside from that, we’re limited by our age and our removal from the first lick. You explained it very well to Dani. The cup pouring into another cup.”
“So this… lets you bypass all of that. I took things that he can do. I learned things he can do. He didn’t show me. No one showed me. I ate him, and I absorbed him.”
GM: Draco raises his eyebrows.
“By what means? Drinking another lick’s blood like Dani does doesn’t typically absorb their powers.”
“It can, but when it does it’s a function of specific powers the blood serves as a conductor for, rather than as a result of any quality inherent to the blood.”
Jade: “Right, but it’s not the blood. Or rather, it’s not just the blood. You don’t just drink their blood and call it a day. You keep going. They’re empty, you keep going. It’s their soul. Their essence. Their life force. Their energy. Whatever makes them who they are. You take it for yourself.”
“You see it in other cultures all the time. Eating the remains of the dead to absorb parts of them. Heart of the lion for courage. In Papa New Guinea they used to eat the brains of their dead family members.”
“That may or may not be a real thing. But this? This is.”
GM: “Yes, those are just the barbaric superstitions of inferior cultures,” Draco concurs.
“So it lets you learn disciplines faster. How do you know it cures thin-bloodedness?”
Jade: “Because of a comment that was made when I heard about it. About the blood getting more potent. So if it works for us, it’ll work for her.”
GM: “Where did you learn of this?”
Jade: “That’s one of those things I can’t tell you.”
GM: “Did you trade something for this information?”
GM: “So that’s the theory. What’s the history?”
Jade: “How familiar are you with the unicorns?”
GM: “Probably more so than you.”
Jade: “Perfect. They’re soul thieves. Ta-da.”
GM: “So the practice originated among them? Or they were the first to discover it?”
Jade: Jade shrugs.
“My contact didn’t say. Not many licks willing to talk about them, or what they do with souls. Attracts the wrong sort of attention when you go asking questions.”
GM: “So this practice doesn’t simply absorb disciplines. It also thickens the blood. That’s how a thin-blood becomes a true-blood.”
Jade: “That’s the working theory.”
GM: “You said this came from a ‘comment’ by your contact. What did your contact specifically say?”
Jade: “That my blood is thicker than it should be given my age.”
GM: “But you hadn’t eaten any souls when your contact told you this information, because you learned it from them.”
GM: “Then why did they bring up your blood’s thickness at all? I’ve tasted your blood. It’s stronger than other neonates’, but not abnormally so.”
Jade: “That’s also something I can’t tell you.”
GM: “Your hypothesis—not theory—that this practice can prematurely thicken blood sounds extremely specious.”
“But no matter. It doesn’t need to.”
“Developing disciplines faster has value of its own.”
Jade: Jade gives a nod.
“Time for practical application?”
GM: “I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you.”
“Actually, I trust you a good less than the distance I could throw you.”
“So you’re going to show me this is true, on someone who won’t be missed.”
Draco twists the keys and starts driving again.
Jade: Jade doesn’t object. She just turns forward again, fastening her seatbelt.
“I need clothes,” she says eventually.
GM: “You’re about to get them.”
Jade: How does such an innocuous statement sound so sinister?