“I suppose there is no us anymore."
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
GM: It’s not long before Alana arrives. Jade hears the ghoul’s footsteps outside of the office door. She’s wearing a thin and sensual-looking robe.
“Hello, mistress,” she beams.
She lets it fall off. There’s nothing underneath.
Celia: The naked ghoul is a sight for sore eyes. Jade beams right back at her, extending the hand she has left to pull the girl close. She nuzzles at her neck.
“I missed you all night,” she murmurs against her skin. “I’ve been looking forward to this for hours.”
GM: The ghoul melts into her domitor’s embrace.
“I’ve missed you for so long,” she whispers back. “I’ve been thinking about you. About what we’re going to do. All night.”
She pays no mind to the staked and hooded vampire on the ground.
“What happened to your… arm?”
Celia: “Very soon,” Jade murmurs. She nips at Alana’s neck with her fangs.
“Mm, ran into a saw. I’m just going to pop it back on, drop him off at home, and spend the rest of my night ravishing you.”
GM: “That sounds heavenly, mistress,” shivers Alana.
“But oh no, I’m so sorry. Where is it?”
Celia: “In his trunk. He brought it with us, the dear. Forgot to bring it inside though. I’ll get it in a moment, once the others arrive and we have to behave. Right now, though…”
She trails a hand down Alana’s body, fingertips teasing her already pert nipples, then lower still until she finds the sweet spot between her legs.
“You’re dripping, pet, and I’ve barely touched you.”
GM: The ghoul shivers in Jade’s arm (singular). The Toreador can all but smell her arousal. There’s color in her cheeks and her breath hitches in anticipatory little inhalations.
“Yes, mistress,” she whispers. “I’m so happy to see you. I thought maybe you weren’t coming.”
Celia: “I’ve had to leave you cold and lonely too often lately. Teasing is only fun once it ends.”
GM: “Yes, mistress, exactly!” the ghoul nods, raptly. “You want to get someone worked up. You can make a game of it. You can drag it out and torture them. You can make them crazy at just the thought of you.”
“But eventually… it ends, like you say.”
Celia: To show Alana how very sorry she is for making her wait, Jade starts to give her what she wants. She keeps an eye on the security cameras to look for Benji’s arrival, but doesn’t let it distract her overly much from the writhing, beautiful thing in front of her. She makes it work with one hand, teasing and stroking and plucking, trailing kisses from her lips to her neck to her nipples.
GM: Alana enjoys it with relish. She writhes and gasps and moans and makes a show of herself, splayed out and naked over the couch for the clothed Toreador to use however she wills. The ghoul doesn’t really reciprocate, but she doesn’t need to. She cums in almost no time at all, leaving Jade’s fingers soaked in her juices.
Celia: “There’s my eager little pet,” Jade breathes against her neck. “Such a good girl for me…” She lets Alana taste herself on her fingers.
GM: Alana rapturously sucks them off, her eyes not once leaving her domitor’s. She cuddles up against Jade and lays a head against her shoulder.
“I love you so much, mistress. This was just the appetizer. There are so many things I want to do with you tonight. Today. I want to make you feel good, like you make me feel good.”
Celia: “Soon,” Jade promises. “We just need to clean up a bit first. Why don’t you put your robe back on so we can get ready to go and do this again in an actual bed, when I’ve got two hands to spoil you.”
GM: “Yes, mistress,” Alana nods. “Should I get dressed up more, if there’s going to be company? You said we’d need to behave.”
Celia: “No, they’re just going to help me move some things and give us a ride.”
“Though if you think any of them are cute maybe we can have fun with them, too.”
GM: “I don’t think I could even notice how they look next to you,” purrs Alana, nuzzling her face against Jade’s breasts.
Celia: Jade beams at the words. She cuddles the ghoul until Benji and his boys arrive.
GM: “Is that all you need from them, mistress? I could do it instead, I drove here and I can move things around. I want to help you. I want to do things for you.”
Celia: “You, my dear, will not be able to hoist this one over your shoulder, or drag him up the steps to his apartment. You can get the girl ready for me, though. Find some clothes for her and wrap her face, we don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.”
GM: “The girl?” asks Alana.
Celia: “Mm. Celia’s friend. She’s downstairs sleeping off a night of binge drinking.”
GM: The ghoul tries not to look too displeased at the mention of Celia’s friends.
Celia: Jade assures Alana that being Jade’s friend is better. She doesn’t sleep with Celia’s friends.
GM: “You’re not just my friend, mistress,” says Alana, nuzzling up against her again. “You’re my family. Aren’t you?”
Celia: “I’m your family,” she agrees. “And your sun. Your rock. The stars in the sky. And you’re my moon.”
GM: Alana’s eyes shine at the words.
“Okay, mistress. I’ll get her ready. I love you so much.”
Celia: Jade kisses her deeply before she scampers off, murmuring that she loves her too against her mouth.
GM: She’s left alone with Celia’s former boyfriend.
They said similar words to each other, once.
They were less… desperate. Less syrupy.
They meant them, too.
Celia: Did they?
Or did he always prefer the idea of her to the actual girl? Did he love the 19-year-old, tongue-tied dance major he met at the party listening to his story about the Mafia with wide eyes rather than the vicious, selfish, devastatingly beautiful lick she’d turned into?
Celia is dead. Stephen is dead. Roderick is dead, too. Or maybe he had never been.
Jade waits alone with her thoughts.
She’s not proud of how far down she tore him.
GM: Pete said he was in love with the idea of Celia’s mother, rather than the actual woman. He said that meant he should… come to think, he didn’t actually say what it meant.
Celia thought what he said was nonsense anyway.
Celia: Maybe he’ll give her another chance if she tells him that she ended things with Roderick. Or maybe she’ll tell him her mom found her fire again.
Someone, at least, deserves happiness.
GM: Jade’s unblinking, devastatingly beautiful face stares back at her from the room’s mirror.
She’s mixing up who she is again.
If Jade has a mom, Jade had a boyfriend named Stephen.
Celia: Jade doesn’t have a mom.
She doesn’t think Lebeaux would be a good partner, either. Not sexually.
GM: He might be too much like Roderick used to be.
Too much of a conscience.
Less naive, though.
Definitely less naive.
Celia: He’d probably take her on dates first, before they ever got to the good stuff. Dancing, maybe. A movie. Buy her flowers. All that sort of… that sort of…
Somewhere inside, Celia cries for what she’s giving up.
GM: Will she ever watch Batman again?
Celia: No. Never.
GM: Some of the lines have not aged well.
Or maybe too well.
“Maybe it’s time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day," the gentle old British man had exhorted tearfully.
Celia: He’ll never forgive her, even if she tells him. There will never be an “us” again. He’ll never trust her, never hold her, never lie in bed beneath the sheets with her head on his chest and his arms around her talking about everything and nothing. They’ll never further the Movement together. They won’t be the couple at Elysium who don’t give a single fuck about what anyone has to say because they’re so busy being happy with each other.
She doesn’t know how many times her heart can break, but she wishes it would cease its splintering.
GM: She’d wondered at that screening if he was Wayne and she was the lying McLiarFace who needed to let him go.
She’d thought maybe she was Selina Kyle. The beautiful love interest with a troubled past who secretly works for a monster, then betrays Wayne so her master can physically and spiritually break him.
But he overcame. His forgiveness and belief she was capable of “better” than what her behavior indicated brought her over to the right side, and they got to live happily ever after after upon leaving the city and all its troubles behind.
Then Celia thought she was reading too much into it.
Then she’d asked him, “If you were Bruce, do you think you could forgive the girl like that? For the betrayal?”
“I’d like to think so,” he’d said. “She did finally stand for what was right.”
Then he’d moved on from the question, because it wasn’t existentially important, and said he’d normally take her out for ice cream at this point.
Celia: The girl turns away from the mirror. She doesn’t want to watch herself cry.
Life isn’t fiction.
If she’d told him about the darkness inside of her, would he still have looked at her like she was the sun? Or would he have always thought that the horror she committed was who she is? Would he have ever been able to look past the death clinging to her lips and the blood drying at its corners?
An old poem dances through her mind. A Betrayal:
I cannot undo
what I have done;
I can’t un-sing
a song that’s sung.
And the saddest thing
about my regret—
I can’t forgive me
and you can’t forget.
Sometimes memories are the worst forms of torture.
GM: Celia or Jade won’t forget either. The memories will be with the girl forever.
Dracon or Roderick or Stephen, they’ll be with the boy forever, too.
Alana, meanwhile, comes back into the office.
“Celia’s friend is taken care of, mistress, though I expect she’ll have a bitch of a hangover.”
She looks down at the staked, hooded figure on the floor, then gives Celia’s former boyfriend a good kick.
Celia: Perhaps it isn’t the memories and used-to-bes that she regrets. Perhaps it isn’t the lost past that torments her so; perhaps it’s the lost future. Not what has been, but what will never be.
The very definition of evil is what should be but isn’t.
The kick pulls her from her reverie. She snarls at Alana before she realizes what she’s doing.
“Don’t touch him.”
GM: The ghoul raises her hands and backs away.
“I’m sorry, mistress. I thought you and your friends were going to fuck him up?”
GM: “But he’s staked and has the hood on…?”
Celia: “I’m not him.”
GM: “I’m sorry, mistress?” Alana asks.
Celia: The body moves, pulling a set of keys from the boy’s pockets. She tosses them to Alana.
“My arm is in his trunk. I’d like it back now.”
GM: “Yes, mistress, right away,” the ghoul nods, readjusting her robe.
She disappears back outside.
The body is left alone with Celia’s and Jade’s thoughts for several more minutes before Alana reappears, her domitor’s arm in hand. There’s blood all over hands and arms.
“It was in a bag of body parts, mistress,” Alana says, a little queasily.
She manages a smile.
“Would you like to lick me off…?”
Celia: “Not yet,” she says. She has Alana hold the arm in place and uses her other hand to reattach it. It’s messy work, aided by the blood she’d stolen back from her former lover, but it’s over quickly enough.
Nothing a bit of blood won’t fix, right?
She flexes the muscles experimentally, then crouches beside the body.
“Help me move him. I’ll call off the others.”
GM: Alana kneels too and fits her hands around the elbows.
“Uff. He’s heavy, mistress.”
“Could you maybe take off some of the mass?”
Celia: “It’s not worth the effort of putting him back together again. Here.” She sets the body back down, lays out one of the sheets they use for the treatment tables, and rolls him onto it.
“I’ll drag him. You make a call for me, find out where…”
She directs Alana to call Benji to find out his ETA as she hauls the staked corpse down the stairs.
GM: The ghoul does so. Voices are audible from the phone after she calls.
“He says maybe a few minutes away, mistress.”
Celia: She’s dicked him around enough this evening. Another false alarm, and…
“I thought,” she says tightly, pulling the body along, “that his friends might have been waiting for him, and since the boys are missing I wanted the extra help. But I don’t think they’re here.”
GM: Alana nods. “Do you want me to call him off, mistress?”
Celia: Christ. She’ll never hear the end of it. He’ll never come when she calls again.
And what if she’s fucking wrong.
“No. I’ve got something for him.”
GM: “You’ve got something everyone wants,” Alana purrs, rubbing up against her, then ends the call and helps carry Roderick.
Celia: The pair move down to the lab. Jade leaves the body in “Narnia” while she collects what she needs, instructing Alana to help her put things back to rights in the meantime: grinding down the bones she doesn’t collect for further study, destroying what’s left of Carolla’s face, hosing it all down.
GM: “Narnia” feels like it’s catching on as a name.
Alana does all that her domitor asks. She remarks on how strange these bones are.
Celia: Jade only says it was an experiment gone wrong.
She tells Alana to bring in the bags from the trunk.
“And text Reggie. Tell him I found his brother.”
GM: Alana does both, though she visibly strains and heaves to drag in the bags. Limp human bodies are heavy, even in pieces.
She reports no immediate answer from the other ghoul.
Celia: “Ping his phone. Find out his location.”
GM: “Ah, how do you do that, mistress?”
“I don’t think you can without a phone tracker app.”
Celia: Sometimes Celia forgets how old Alana actually is.
She takes the phone from the ghoul and opens the app in question.
GM: She’s disappointed. Reggie didn’t much like the idea of “being tracked” by anyone.
Celia: She dials his number.
GM: No answer.
Celia: She calls Rusty.
GM: No answer.
Celia: She calls LegalWings.
GM: The hour would be absurdly unreasonable, for any other business. Bail bond services, at least, are open 24/7.
She’s greeted by a tired-sounding Bette Malone.
Celia: In a voice not quite her own, Jade requests to speak with one of the Dufresne brothers.
GM: “Lady, you have any idea what time it is?”
“They’re not in.”
Celia: “When were they last in? We were supposed to get together earlier and they never showed.”
GM: Bette sounds tired. “I don’t know. Things have been insane here.”
GM: “One’s missing. Think something bad happened. Regina’s tearing apart everyone and everything. Spitting nails.”
Celia: “That’s what we were meeting about,” Jade sighs into the phone, “Reggie asked me for some assistance, but he’s not picking up his phone. Do you have any idea how I can get ahold of him, or where he’s at? I’m sorry to ask, but if it helps find the missing brother…”
GM: “I have no idea, lady. He’s barely here. Wait until he picks up, maybe.”
“Or try his mom.”
Celia: “I’ll do that. Thank you.”
Years of “dating” Randy meant that Celia got on well with his mother and has the woman’s number. She dials it next.
GM: “Regina Dufresne. Leave a message,” comes a firm voice.
Perhaps little surprise at the very late hour.
Celia: What woman with a missing kid doesn’t pick up the phone in the middle of the night?
Jade hangs up.
GM: Maybe one that’s sleeping.
Celia: She tells Alana to go open the doors for Benji, and when she’s gone she stuffs the semi-repaired remains of Randy into the bag. The lot of it goes into the cooler with the extra security where she’d kept Carolla. She tosses in the rest of what needs tucked away, then closes and locks it. The wall appears seamless; no one who doesn’t know where to look will find it.
Jade casts an angry glare toward Narnia. She has a feeling she knows why Reggie isn’t returning her calls.
Maybe he’d started with the boys when he’d decided to take everything from her. Leave her without any sort of support system. No backup. No one to call.
She’ll gut him.
Jade becomes a whirlwind of activity around the room, tucking bottles and tools and body parts and various other items into a bag to take with her.
He’ll talk. She’ll make sure of it.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Celia: Benji and the boys make quick work of what Jade needs moved. She’s Ren to them, mask in place so the ghouls don’t get any cute ideas about Jade and Ren being the same person, and Benji plays his role in asking if she was helping with “Kalani’s bullshit” again. She smiles at him and winks for the solid.
She doesn’t let him question her at the spa, only shakes her head and tells him “later” when he presses for details and a location. Jade has Alana drop Emily off at home, letting her borrow the keys to get in, and to meet them after.
“Just leave her in the main house,” she’d said, “they’ll sort it out in the morning.”
GM: Alana says that Emily told her to fuck off upon being woken and resisted being moved.
“I could hit her with star mode if you want to give me a hit, mistress,” volunteers the ghoul.
Celia: Jade says she’ll give her a hit when she gets to their destination.
GM: Alana nods eagerly and says she’ll make sure Emily gets home.
It’s as Jade is passing through her suite’s rooms that she finds a bloody-smelling bundle wrapped up in a corner.
Celia: Hard to miss the smell of blood, even in a place like this. Jade reaches for the bundle.
GM: There’s been a lot of blood spilled in this place tonight.
She finds Reynaldo Gui’s staked and ruined body underneath the blanket. His face and torso are destroyed, his limbs are chopped off, and his clothes are bloody tatters.
Celia: Jade’s dead body doesn’t need to make a sound. There’s no sharp inhale, no hand pressed to her throat, no gasp of surprise or dismay. She stares at the body.
How dare they.
How dare they leave him here. How dare they do this to him. He’s not some kine, not some breather to be slaughtered and chopped into pieces and left beneath a blanket like a bloody Christmas fucking miracle.
Jade uses a gentle touch to re-wrap his body in the blanket. She wants to sob. Wants to scream and cry and yank out her hair from the roots.
She’s silent instead, taking care to be gentle with his body. She’s not going to leave him here. She’ll bury him. Or take him back to his sire. Or something. Something that isn’t this.
He’s better than this.
The pieces make for an awkward and heavy bundle. Jade manages through sheer determination to lift it, staggering forward beneath the weight of it to find the others.
She’d considered mercy for the staked Brujah in her clutches. Considered letting him go so he could be on his merry way with nothing but a warning.
But now? Oh, no. Not after this. Not after leaving her friend like some sort of butchered animal for her to find in the corner of her spa.
One night Savoy won’t need him anymore. That’s when she’ll repay the favor. That’s when Roderick Durant will die screaming her name, and his last sight will be her bloody, vicious smile as she rips out his heart.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Celia: They leave Roderick’s car at the spa. Jade tells Alana to take care of it in the morning.
It’s not until they’re all in the car with Alana on her way to Celia’s mom’s house that Jade (Ren, really, but she still feels like Jade) gives him the location: the clubhouse. She makes vague noise about the spa being bugged if Benji asks. On the drive over Jade pulls the battery out of her ex-lover’s phone, and once they arrive she has the boys carry the staked lick and bundle of body parts (“easy with that!”) inside while she gathers her supplies.
There’s a rumor about Jade. Listen enough to the licks on the street and you might hear it: inside her haven is a wet room where she takes apart people who get on her bad side.
It’s not just her haven with a make-shift lab. It’s the clubhouse as well. Only the “wet room” is a converted bathroom with a stand-up shower stall and tile floors, and while it’ll do in a pinch it lacks the sophistication of what’s at the spa.
“You know how to shift, Benj?” Jade asks as his ghouls set down the body, shortening his already shortened name.
GM: The OXR clubhouse is a two-story building with a small yard and balcony around the upper floor that looks out across the street beyond. A door off the side leads to a shared common area that has a larger pool, and a wall around the perimeter of the house itself assures the licks who reside there the sort of privacy they need. The first floor is built to entertain: a gate off the side of the property leads to a covered patio with natural stone flooring and retractable walls and ceiling, with a pool and hot tub along one edge. Comfortable, overstuffed chairs surround a handful of tables, an unlit and unused brick fireplace, and a state-of-the-art entertainment system. A set of double doors lead to the living room and large kitchen, stocked despite the undead status of the home owners, with marble counter tops and a sizable island any hostess would be proud of. The living room features another unused brick fireplace and a pair of couches for a more cozy feel.
Upstairs the wooden floor trend continues through a long hallway that leads to three spacious bedrooms and the master suite, replete with king-sized beds, walk-in closets, and ensuite bathrooms with both a standing shower and marble tub. The master suite also features a small attached office and balcony.
Benji has always been on the larger side of things. He’s tall and borderline “stocky,” though no one within his reach would ever dare say that to his face. They’d bandy words like “powerfully built” and “large framed.” There’s no denying the strength in his limbs when he flexes hard enough to rip through tailored shirts, and his ghouls and krewemates claim to have seen him pull the spine clean out of people that get on his bad side. (Jade knows this is physically impossible to do bare-handed: the spine is still attached to the ribs and pelvis and is quite integrated with the rest of the human skeleton.) He was Embraced with short hair and a full beard and doesn’t bother changing the style. He either likes it or he’s come to terms with it. The only difference between him and the black guy next to him is the gold in his teeth: each of his fangs is decorated in gold and diamonds that glint when he smiles or feeds.
“Nope,” the Caitiff answers as they set the staked and hooded vampire down inside the shower.
“Also, who the fuck is this guy?”
Celia: “My lover.” Jade cocks her head to the side, considering the helpless lick. “He did something bad, so he’s being punished.”
She giggles and leads the way out of the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
“But,” she says, spinning to face the Caitiff with a smile so she can walk her fingers up his chest, “enough about him. I brought you a present.”
GM: “I’m owed one,” he smirks.
Celia: “You are,” she purrs, leaning in close to trail the points of her fangs down his neck. Tiny little drops of blood well in the rivers she creates. She watches it flow.
“I’ve even brought you a selection of presents.”
Jade laps at the blood in long, slow movements. The taste of him dances across her tongue.
“So you get to have your pick.”
GM: “And what’s to stop me from takin’ the whole selection, mm?” Benny asks. Jade feels fangs pierce her neck as the other vampire leans in, his bigger arms encircling hers. His tongue laps at the flowing blood.
“Or you gonna punish me like that guy for doin’ somethin’ bad?”
Celia: They’re different, the arms around her. But the feeling is similar: larger man, smaller girl, outweighed, physically outmatched. It sends a thrill through her that has nothing to do with the lick in front of her and everything to do with the familiar sensation of being held within the circle of a pair of arms that could crush her; a titillating, adrenaline-fueled fuck. Maybe it’s the pent-up lust she’s been holding back since Alana arrived early this evening with the vessel and Celia turned down sex out of some misguided loyalty to a boyfriend that had ceased loving her. Maybe it was seeing said boyfriend naked in the spa and doing everything she could to avoid pouncing on him. Or maybe she’s riding the high from out-smarting the so-called genius and turning him into a helpless sack of meat like he’d done to her, blinded and alone and at her mercy.
Does it matter?
“This is the first option,” she breathes, using her claws to shred the bloody Flawless shirt. “Why don’t you take it and see.”
GM: He takes it.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Celia: In the end, it isn’t quite what Jade had been looking for. Their sex takes the edge off, but Benji doesn’t want to be unsafe about things and lapping at the blood after it cools, while enjoyable, is sort of like putting a vibrator near her clit after she’s applied a fuck ton of numbing cream. It feels all right, but it doesn’t quite hit the right notes for her.
She can’t help but compare it to the liquid gold she found in Carolla’s veins.
They’re both a bloody mess by the time they’re done clawing and kicking and rolling around on the floor, swapping between who is on top and who is pinned on their back. Benji ends it by putting her up against the wall with her thighs splayed to either side of him, and she trails nips and kisses down his jaw and neck when it’s over.
She tells him about the presents she has for him, though she makes sure to let him know that she needs to actually craft him after she gets his measurements. He’s got his choice of armor or a weapon. Or, if he likes, she can give him a strength boost. She assures him that she’s done it before.
“There’s also a fun little experiment I’d like to try, if you’re game. It won’t hurt. But it will let you shift if it works, and that opens a whole array of possibilities to us.”
She tells him to think about it and asks if he’s spending the day. She mentions that her business had been broken into and is worried they might track her back here: she’d feel so much safer if he and the boys stuck around.
Either way, she activates the haven’s “defense system” that Nico had overseen all those years ago: it fortifies all of the entrances and exits, the windows, the tiny little crevices that animals can sneak in and out of (Roxy had made sure they’d been very thorough in that regard); kills electronic devices in a handful of rooms; activates a variety of sensors that respond to motion, weight, light, and heat (or there lack of); and sets a timer on the locks with a code that constantly changes in addition to the physical locks. Heavy steel bars slide free from their slots inside the walls to reinforce the setup.
“Don’t you think it’s kinda overkill?” Jade had asked years ago when everything was finished. “We’ve already got the hidden panic room.”
“Should have seen my place in San Fran,” Nico had replied with a smirk. “Not gonna take chances with the place I leave my body during the day. Or yours, dollface. It’ll come in handy some night. You’ll see.”
And it has.
Call her paranoid, but with everything as up-in-the-air as it is, with her missing ghouls and dead friends and Guard hounding her ass and Roderick turning into that asshole, she’s glad for it.
Even if part of her wonders if it’ll be enough.
Jade checks the time. Not long until sunrise. She doesn’t particularly need Roderick to know what she’s doing to him until it’s done, so she doesn’t bother feeding him.
She readies her tools.
Jade sets a tray out on the ground, using a solution-soaked square of cotton gauze to sterilize it. A small black bundle unrolls to reveal a handful of steel instruments.
For long moments Jade stares down at the staked, helpless lick and the tray of sterile tools she can use to take him apart. She’s never needed the tools. Not when her claws are as sharp as any scalpel and she can part flesh and muscle with her fingers. No, she doesn’t need tools to cut through his skin, but she won’t deny their effectiveness. And there are things her surgical instruments can do that her hands cannot: the trocar and cannula allow her to set things as needed, while the dilators allow her to widen valves and vessels, the nerve hooks separate the tiny little bundles out when she needs a closer look, and the osteotome has various heads from chisel to spoon when she needs to get down and dirty with bones. Various forceps, clamps, retractors, elevators, needles, and sutures round out the ensemble. Another bag has the tissue expander, cautery, and endoscopic cameras. A third has gloves, thread, gauze; anything and everything she might need to perform a general surgery. Still more are at the lab or various havens, another kit in her closet, another in her trunk.
She can rip and shred with the best of them, but she understands too why the surgeons use such a variety. They all have their place on the operating table.
That’s what she’d intended for him. To cut him open, slice into him with her claws and pin his flesh back like a seventh grader’s frog. To fill his body with chemicals and rubber beads and acid, to wrap his heart in explosives so that if he ever decides to move against her, ever decides to hurt her, her family, her business, her anything, all she has to do is skip a day of punching in the code to keep him from blowing into itty-bitty pieces. She’ll make it rain Roderick.
But hate begets more hate, doesn’t it? It’s a never ending cycle that will culminate in more and more casualties on both their ends until the entirety of their Requiems become “how to fuck each other over.”
She’s tired of friends and lovers turning into enemies. She’s tired of lies and abuse and using people. She’s tired of solitude, tired of wearing seven different faces and trying to remember who she is around which group of people.
So Jade doesn’t cut him open. She doesn’t use her tools to cut a hole in his chest and strap his heart with explosives. She sits beside him instead, brings her wrist to her mouth, and bites.
She doesn’t give back what she took. She bleeds into a cup she’d located beneath the sink, not nearly enough to sate him but enough to take the edge off, enough to bring him back from the brink of starvation so that, though hungry, he can think about more than his bloodlust. When the blood has time to cool she peels back the hood from his mouth and holds it to his lips.
She feeds him.
She feeds him like her sire had once fed her, like her sister had fed her, like her mother had fed her and she her mother. And when the cup is empty she sets it to the side and waits another moment for his Beast to run its course.
Then she speaks.
“These past few nights have been difficult. Ever since the park, since we found out about your brother. I’ve watched you change. I’ve watched myself change. I’ve watched us change.”
“Us. I suppose there is no us anymore. We’ve done more than enough damage to each other to end a handful of relationships. It was naive, I think, for me to expect that we could somehow make it through. That we could defy the odds.”
Jade shakes her head.
“I’ve been staked three times in three nights. Twice by you and once by the Guard. Agnello. He pulled me beneath my car right outside the Evergreen and slammed it into me. I was afraid that he meant to kill me.” She pauses. “But I was more afraid when it was you who had me. I used to never doubt myself around you. I was never afraid of your rage like I perhaps should have been. I knew that you wouldn’t go out of your way to hurt me, not if you could help it. I could forgive the frenzies, forgive the actions of the Beast. I understand it. Mine may not be as angry, but it’s just as spiteful.”
“I didn’t know what you intended to do to me when you followed me from Elysium on Friday. I thought you might leave me for the sun. I kept imagining a wood chipper. I was terrified in the back of the trunk. Staring at that glow in the dark button. Praying to a God I don’t know that I believe in that you wouldn’t hurt me. That you wouldn’t kill me.”
Jade lets out a breath.
“It’s not fun, being staked. Being helpless. I imagine you’re not often on this side of things. I don’t know if you’re more afraid or angry or an even mix of both. Perhaps you’re plotting your revenge. How next to torture me.”
“That’s what I intended for you. Torture. I wanted to hurt you like you hurt me. Intentionally. Devastatingly. I tasted it, you know. Your hatred. I tasted how warped you’ve become. I wish… I wish things had gone differently. I wish I’d done things differently. I wish I’d told you the truth from the beginning, and that I’d asked for your help instead of manipulating you into helping me. I’m sorry. I know you don’t believe anything I say now, but I never wanted this.”
“I’m going to give you an option now. I’m going to touch you, and I’m going to project myself inside your mind. Even with the stake we will be able to converse. You cannot hurt me, and I cannot hurt you. Not like this. We’ll talk. That’s all. And when we’re finished I’ll decide on a course of action for you.”
“I’m going to begin.”
Soft, warm hands touch down upon his skin.
She begins with his shoulders, gliding from the rounded mass of muscle to his chest. She warms his cool skin with her own hands and beneath her touch the tissue comes to life, pliant and flexible. The heels of her palms touch down, lift, then press again in an alternating pattern down his sternum, then around his pectorals, then lower still across the abdomen. She paths around the stake.
Not many people want a chest or abdominal massage. It’s not part of most treatments. Which is a shame, really, since most people who complain of neck or back pain don’t realize that the muscles in the front, that tender spot above the clavicles and the insertion point of the deltoids, are what shorten when they hunch.
She’d always wanted to practice on him. Every time she learned a new technique she’d show up at his door, eyes bright, and ask if she could use him as her test subject…
“Why me?” he’d laugh, but let her take him into the bedroom and push him onto his back.
“Because you’re my boyfriend,” she’d say, exasperated. “You need to take your shirt off.”
“Mm, I am your boyfriend,” he’d agree, “but I want to hear you say it.”
She’d pretend she didn’t know what he meant, demanding once more that he remove his shirt.
“Not until you say it.”
So she’d stammer and she’d blush and she’d avert her eyes while she uttered the words she’d made the mistake of saying one time while he’d gotten dressed after a tryst and she lounged indolently beneath the sheets.
“You’re like a Greek god without a shirt, you know that? Just… lean and chiseled and firm. It makes me want to run my tongue across every inch of you.”
Then he’d take his shirt off. She might get through a few moments of the new treatment before her touch became more personal than professional, and he’d pull her down onto him and capture her protesting lips in a kiss with his arms fastened securely around her.
She’s not surprised when the mindscape that manifests around them is his college apartment, replete with pizza boxes and ice cream cartons from their favorite places, with a stack of DVDs on his coffee table and books spread across every other available surface. It’s the same gray couch draped in the fleece blanket she’d made him while under “house arrest” over the holidays, the same beige carpet with the stain from the night he’d invited his friends over to introduce her and they’d gotten a little sloppy with red wine while pretending to be “real adults.”
She’s not the same, though.
She’s not Jade. Not Ren. Not Leila or Cici or Violet or any of the others that people know her as.
She’s Celia again. Just Celia. Nineteen years old and already in love, crazy hair untamed by products or heat, wearing a simple cream dress and the necklace he’d given her for Christmas.
She takes a seat on the imaginary couch and waits for her lover to join her.
GM: Roderick wasn’t a Greek god before his Embrace. Oh, he’d played baseball, he exercised, he was trim. But he was always slimmer than he was thick. One of the reasons he played baseball rather than football. He definitely wasn’t as beefy as her dad. Celia was flattering him a bit calling him a Greek god.
Things were another matter after he died, though. Coco believed strongly in the ancient Greek concept of arete, which he’d explained to Celia during their brief time back together in 2012. Excellence in body and mind and spirit. The body had to be cared for and exercised to allow for the mind and soul to achieve their full potential.
“Modern science backs up that idea in so many ways, too,” he’d said. “The Greeks got a lot of things right.”
Coco had put him on an exacting (if not grueling) months-long fitness regimen to make his physique as perfect as possible before the Embrace. He’d have that body forever, after all. Or so went her assumption. Most licks can’t sculpt flesh like clay. Either way, she’d wanted to give him the best for his Requiem ahead, and he was deeply thankful for that.
Either way, too, the Greek god comparisons felt a lot more apt with his new six pack.
Celia: Not that Celia had seen a lot of shirtless men to compare him to.
It was more of a “I like your body and you make me feel butterflies” kind of comment than a direct comparison. An “I like seeing you naked” thing, without the vulgarity of saying it outright.
She’d always thought that they fit well together. Always admired his physique, both before and after his Embrace.
GM: It always retained that slenderness, even with the added muscle bulk. He was never a natural hulk like her father.
Roderick stands before the couch. He looks about the same age as he was then, early-mid 20s, but he was Embraced in his early-mid 20s. And unlike her, he hasn’t aged.
He does not move to sit.
He folds his arms.
“If you’re serious about talking, drop me off somewhere and we’ll talk over the phone. If you’re scared I’m going to do to you what you’ve done to me.”
“Whatever pretty memories you’re conjuring, this is a conversation with a knife at my throat.”
Celia: “Of course I’m scared you’re going to do to me what I’ve done to you. You’ve already done it. Twice. And we both know that this isn’t a conversation we can have via phone. We’d be too busy playing word games to protect the Masquerade to be able to openly communicate.”
“Which… I think is part of what happened last night, and it’s led to some misunderstanding.”
Celia sits back against the cushions, drawing her legs up beneath her. She looks up at his face.
“It’s near sunrise. I can’t move you tonight. Not safely.”
GM: Roderick actually laughs at the word ‘misunderstanding’.
“Fine. Public location, if you want to talk so badly. Where no one can stake each other without breaking the Masquerade.”
“I have nothing to say to you while I’m your prisoner. I’d rather race the sun back to my haven than spend the day here.”
Celia: “Then don’t talk. I’ll talk. And you can nod or shake your head at the two questions I have, and I’ll go.”
She hates that her first instinct is to ask him to bring her with him. To put herself back in his power, take the first step toward trust as if he’ll do anything other than find a way to ruin her.
It’s a beautiful lie, isn’t it, that they’ll ever mean anything to each other again. A schoolgirl fantasy.
“I was released from Perdido House near dawn. Only a handful of blocks to my haven and I still caught the sun, after being burned during the interrogation and blooded by the hound and having my arm taken off with a blade.”
Almost unconsciously, Celia touches her fingers to the shoulder twice severed.
“Would you have come for me? If I hadn’t made the trade, if I hadn’t gotten out. Would you have come?”
GM: “Actually, I do have something more to say,” replies Roderick.
“Savoy knows where I am.”
“He bugged your spa.”
“He doesn’t trust you. He’s an elder, after all. He doesn’t trust anyone. He and his people overheard every word in Flawless tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised if Princess, Tantal, Rongeur, and who knows what other renfields show up during the middle of the day—or sooner, I suppose. If I were Lebeaux, my first guess would be Roderick is at OXR’s haven, given the conversation between Moore and totally-not-Kalani.”
“I’d bet more than money he knows where it is.”
“Elders do that, you know.”
“Find out where the havens of all the licks in their domains are.”
“They keep records about those havens.”
“I hear it, at the Cabildo meetings. Some lick is a problem? Surprise, the primogen who’s their regent knows where their haven is.”
“Savoy’s job is cut out for him. The Quarter is small. And he has so many eyes and ears.”
“And an entire krewe of licks and their renfields all coming and going from this place?”
“So, saw my head off or leave me for the sun if you’re angry at me. Hell, even just keep me staked here. Savoy’s people will break down the door either way. You clearly bear me ill will to kidnap me, and I doubt Savoy will be willing to risk you killing his oh-so-valuable spy inside the primogen.”
There’s a vicious smile.
“I’d love to see you try to explain yourself before him.”
“I’ve listened for years to what elders do to licks who threaten their interests. Maybe you’ll finally get to see just how much an elder Savoy really is, behind the smiles.”
Roderick may finally be wrong there.
Hasn’t she seen that already?
Celia: Celia barks a laugh.
“Yes, Roderick. I definitely thought my krewe’s haven was secret, just like I thought this identity was secret, just like I secretly called Benji from my secret, untapped landline inside my secret office and invited him into the spa through my secret entrance and we secretly smuggled you out.”
“Of course Savoy knows where you are. I know my spa is bugged, I left a trail of neon-blinking breadcrumbs for him to follow. Do you really think that if he was that worried about me threatening his plans I’d have had time to stake you, put my arm back on, call for backup, wait for backup to arrive, and clean the mess we left in the lab? Did you think that I took another identity within his domain without clearing it or that this house on Royal Street was purchased without him knowing?”
She shakes her head.
“This haven has more security than the spa. It’s private. There’s no chance of someone accidentally stumbling across us during the day, and it’s not connected to a lick that is currently meddling in a bunch of hunter shit. That’s why I brought you here. To keep us safe. If I truly wanted to torture or kill you, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’m sitting next to you right now in the world outside the mindscape with a plethora of tools that I could use to fuck you over, a detailed plan of exactly how I’d do it, and I’m not.”
She effects a sigh.
“Is that what you’re worried about? That I want to kill you? I don’t. I don’t want you dead. I’ve never wanted you dead. I don’t want to cut off your head or leave you for the sun or keep you staked forever. I’ve been angry and hurt and upset, but I don’t want you dead, and I don’t want to hurt you further.”
“I just… wanted to talk. I wanted to talk without the threat of getting physical, without friends and bugs and hidden knives and worrying about a stake in the chest, when we don’t have people waiting on us.”
“You say you won’t talk to me here, as a prisoner. Okay. I can respect that. I wouldn’t want to either. So here’s what I’m prepared to offer you.”
Celia lays it out for him: he’s got a choice. She can unstake him right now and have him spend the day with her. He’s free to call Savoy or Lebeaux to let them know where he is and that he’s staying of his own volition. He can sleep in a bed, alone, and tomorrow Celia will have Alana provide “breakfast” for the pair of them. She’ll give him back the body parts she stole from his trunk and keep the car safe. She’ll change his face to whatever he needs it to be for the night ahead, no charge. They will talk. Unstaked. No friends. No bugs. No physical altercations. No insults. No lies or tears or manipulations. There’s a lot that she wants to tell him. Things that will help in the nights ahead. Things that will help with Dani. Things that will let him look good to Savoy, if that’s his goal.
Or he can leave. She’ll unstake him without fixing his severed spinal column, break into his mind to steal every secret from his head, and ensure that if he ever comes after her, her family, or any of her interests his Requiem will be thoroughly destroyed before he dies a very, very painful death. Then he’s free to race the sun back to his haven without a car, without the bag of body parts, and with mutually assured destruction on the table.
GM: “What a lovely choice,” sneers Roderick. “Go back to being your ken doll boyfriend, or blackmail and mutilation.”
“How lucky for me I get to pick neither.”
“Because you’re incorrect on several counts. Savoy wasn’t listening to the bugs. A renfield was. He’s an elder, he doesn’t do that sort of grunt work himself. Besides, my friends and I were already there to carry out his interests. I doubt he was counting on either of us being foolish enough to end up where we now are. That’s the only reason you got as far as you did.”
“But if you seriously think he’s sanctioning this, you’re in for a surprise. Why the hell would he? What possible benefit is there to him in letting a rogue lick stake and make off with his precious spy?”
“And don’t kid yourself. There’s no security in the French Quarter that’ll keep his people out if he wants them inside.”
Celia: “I never said he sanctioned this.”
“I said that I didn’t try to hide what I was doing from him.”
GM: “Then you’re on borrowed time before you get a stake in your chest just like mine.”
Celia: Celia finally sighs.
“Roderick, I just want to talk. I want to talk without other people listening in and without being afraid that we’re going to get into a physical altercation. Can we do that? Can you give me that? An hour of your time.”
GM: “You should be more scared of Savoy than me right now, Celia. I don’t know if you even have an hour.”
Celia: “I’m not asking for an hour right now. I’m asking for an hour tomorrow. I’m asking for you to stay with me today, let me feed you, let me say what I need to say, and then you never have to talk to me again.”
GM: “Or else you ‘steal every secret from my mind.’ Assuming you’re even capable of doing that—that’s not how star mode works—you’ll be signing your own death warrant.”
“You think Savoy isn’t going to interrogate you about what you did to me, about what you might have learned from me? You think he’s going to be okay with you knowing all of the Cabildo’s secrets?”
“You ever wonder why you weren’t invited up to that second meeting between him and me?”
Celia: “I don’t want the Cabildo’s secrets. And that is how star mode works, and I can show you like I was planning to with Dani’s sire. One hour. That’s all I’m asking for. If it isn’t worth your time in the end then you can stake me and give me back to Savoy and tell him how I kidnapped you and let him do all the terrible things he wants to me.”
GM: “Leaving aside how that statement is inconsistent with ‘stealing every secret in my head’, it doesn’t fucking matter if you don’t want them, even if that is true. Elders don’t take chances. Elders don’t let anyone know more than they absolutely need to know. If they find out more, if there’s even a chance they’ve found out more, they die. Because even mindfucking someone’s memories isn’t foolproof, not like killing someone is, and neonates are oh so replaceable. I’m replaceable. The only reason Savoy is as invested in me as he is is because replacing me is prohibitively difficult.”
“This isn’t a fucking debate you can win with me. I am literally helpless. It’s out of my hands. I am telling you that Savoy’s people are going to be here, probably sooner than later, and if you follow through on those threats of ransacking through my head, Savoy is going to learn. And then you are going to learn just how utterly ruthless elders can be and just how disposable we are to them. They do not give the benefit of the doubt.”
“That holds just as true for whatever ‘mutually assured destruction’ leverage you have in mind, too. You think Savoy is going to be okay with you having that over his precious primogen spy?”
“Or the severed spinal column, given how I can’t fucking well spy for him if I have a severed spine, now can I?”
He sneers at her.
“I don’t think you thought this through, Celia.”
“The simple fact is, you’re less important than I am.”
Celia can tell it in his voice. He does not want to spend the day. He does not want to share “breakfast.” He does not want to talk with her. He does not want her help.
He does not want anything to do with her.
Celia: “Jesus Christ, Roderick, I was trying to help you and make amends for fucking up your unlife.”
Celia disappears from the mindscape without waiting for a response. She’s back in the bathroom with his staked, hooded body on the ground in front of her. She yanks off the hood.
“You’re so fucking stubborn,” she snarls at him, “and you’re fucking stupid if you think Savoy wants you for anything more than an ear on the Cabildo. Good luck not getting caught with how much of an asshole you’ve turned into, I’m sure no one is going to notice the change. Makes a lot of fucking sense to blame the girlfriend who lied to you rather than the sire that completely betrayed you, right?”
Jade stalks from the room to find Benji and his two ghouls. She makes sure that Roderick won’t see or smell Gui’s body on the way out, tucking it into an insulated crawl space that leads to one of several hidden rooms in the haven.
Not that it’ll keep Savoy’s men out, right? Why would anything be fucking sacred.
She leads Benji into the bathroom with the ghouls.
“Hold him,” she says to them, “and make sure he doesn’t lose his mind when I unstake him. I’m cutting him loose.”
She flips him over, driving the stake deeper into his chest so she can repair the damage she did to his neck. It’s quick work to fix a single cut, reattaching what she had severed with with her claws. It takes only moments. She flips him again when she’s done, staring down at him with nothing but contempt in her eyes.
“Let’s get something straight, asshole. I never begged you to stay with me, but I went ahead and played possum for you so you could look good in front of your new friends. If you think crying to Savoy is going to do anything when I barely touched you and fixed what I did touch, think again. It took you three licks to replace one of me. Keep that in mind for the future when the snakes get tired of you. And, oh yeah, there’s a reason I lied about what I did tonight, thanks for listening and putting it together with that oh-so-big brain of yours.”
Jade reaches into his coat pocket, yanking out the letter she’d written him. He doesn’t get to keep her confession.
“Stay the fuck out of my Requiem, you spoiled fucking childe. One fucking lie and your whole damn mind broke?” She barks a laugh. “That’s truly pathetic. So is getting bested by a one-armed Toreador when your entire schtick is being able to throw a punch.”
Jade steps back, slinging her array of tools back into her black bag. She heads for the door.
“Take him downstairs and put him out. I’m sick of looking at his face.”
Roderick never gets the satisfaction of saying anything back to her. She makes sure that he’s staked until they release him out front, locking the door behind him.
Good fucking riddance.