“I’m glad to know I’ll always love and be loved by a daughter, whatever face she has on.”
Tuesday night, 22 March 2016, AM
Celia: “I don’t think he likes me anymore,” Celia says to her mom.
GM: Celia’s mom wearily sits down and rubs her head.
Celia: She should have stayed out of it. Watching him go without a word is almost as bad as watching Roderick turn into Draco. She doesn’t like this desolate rock she has found herself on.
“He won’t teach me magic,” she says, as if it matters, “because he thinks I’m irresponsible and emotionally volatile and he’s tired of doing me favors. I’ve offered things to him. Every time. I’ve offered. And he always says no.”
Celia sits on the floor where the burnt couch used to be, pulling her legs against her chest.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
GM: Diana does not look as if she thinks Celia learning magic particularly matters.
“I am not addicting my daughter to heroin,” she says. “No one has the right to ask me that.”
She closes her eyes.
“But for what he has done for our family. Then and now. And for the other reasons. I will stay a… ghoul.”
Celia: “Great. An unwilling ghoul and a sister whose memories will unravel any night now. That’s a good family dynamic.”
GM: Celia’s mother looks up and casts a dark stare her way.
“A mother who loves you unconditionally. A sister who accepts you for what you are. Yes. That is a good family dynamic.”
“Many people do not have what you have, Celia. Be grateful for what you do.”
Celia: “Why,” she asks bleakly. “Why would you still love me after what I did.”
“How can you forgive me for that.”
“For Isabel. And Ethan. And bringing Maxen back into our lives. And putting you, Emily, and Lucy in danger.”
GM: “I told you.”
“Because I am your mom and don’t get to stop loving my kids.”
“Because God gives moms strength beyond their own.”
“Because that is the person I want to be.”
Celia: “We can run,” Celia says quietly. “We can run. And change our identities. And live somewhere else.”
GM: “Running away somewhere else is just running away from ourselves, Celia.”
“We have a life here. You and I and Emily and Lucy. I’m not abandoning it.”
“Nothing has changed from earlier. Emily is going to get back her memories, soon. She wants that and I want that. Lucy is safe from all this.”
Celia: “I imagine he’s going to check in on Emily, knowing that we don’t want this for her. If I fail to tell him when it happens…”
“It can get ugly, Mom.”
GM: “We could see him. Let him know I’m on the blood.”
“Show that we’re complying.”
Celia: Celia effects a snort. “Yeah. He loves seeing me these nights.”
GM: “Sweetie… buck up,” Diana says shortly.
Celia: Even her mother is telling her to stop whining.
Celia is quiet a moment. She uncurls her body, straightens her spine, and lifts her chin to find her mother’s eyes.
“You set the couch on fire with your mind, didn’t you?”
GM: Her mother frowns.
Celia: “Last night. The fire.”
GM: Celia’s mom looks at the empty spot in the living room.
“I don’t know how that happened.”
Celia: “You got angry. And you lit it up. There’s no other explanation for that. I don’t start fires with my brain. I certainly don’t hang out with smokers or lighters or open flames.”
GM: “I don’t know… what to say there.”
“Why would that happen?”
Celia: “Why do licks and loops happen?”
GM: “I don’t know. God sees fit to allow it.”
Celia: “Also haven’t you seen, like, any superhero movies? Origin stories are always full of high-intensity emotions that bring out powers.”
“You learned that a lick killed your daughter. It wasn’t the right lick, but it was still a lick, so you developed something to use against licks.”
“Makes sense to me.”
GM: “…if you say so, sweetie.”
Celia: “Do you have a better explanation?”
“I mean I told you what I thought about your mom.”
“Maybe it’s hereditary.”
“Call her up and ask if she’s lit anything on fire lately.”
GM: Her mom rubs her head. “I don’t remember what that was right now.”
“What you thought about your grandmother.”
GM: Celia’s mom blinks slowly as if to recall what that is.
Then she seemingly does, if her darkened expression is any indication. Celia said that ‘hunters’ raped her.
“No, I don’t have a better explanation.”
Celia: In fairness, who hasn’t raped Celia? The girl is a walking magnet for perverts.
GM: “What of it, anyways?”
Celia: Celia shrugs. “Nothing. I just wondered if it’s something you can do at will. Which would be pretty sick. ‘Oh you’re an evil lick and you came to take my daughter? Not tonight. Pewpewpew.’” She makes the “whoosh” sound of a fire with accompanying hand gestures.
GM: On another night, Celia could see her mom laughing and smiling back with her.
She has seen few smiles and no laughter since Diana learned of her daughter’s death.
Celia: “Just… trying to find some levity, I guess. Speaking of paranoia and wild theories, though, I’d like to let you know now that I will never, ever, ever send another lick or ghoul here that isn’t Pete or Alana, and if I do there’ll be a code word. Don’t ever leave with anyone else. Not even Dani.”
“Feel free to practice the fire thing on Stephen if he shows his face.”
GM: “Okay. All of that sounds reasonable,” says her mom.
Celia: “We could get a dog.”
“A hellhound, maybe. To protect Lucy.”
GM: “What is a hellhound?”
Celia: “Just a nickname for a ghouled dog.”
“Although I could do some experiments and see if there’s a way to give it a boost…”
GM: “Okay. If you think that would keep her safe.”
“The cats can’t well protect the house.”
Celia: “A bigger cat could. Like a tiger.”
GM: “I don’t think the local humane society stocks any of those.”
Celia: “Internet,” Celia says wisely.
GM: “One of the reasons I am continuing with this is to keep all of you safer. You and Lucy and Emily. It isn’t just to repay Pete.”
Celia: “We’ll need to find a solution for Emily. In case he checks in.”
“One that doesn’t involve knocking him out and keeping him in a basement somewhere. Because I definitely thought about it.”
GM: “Could you do anything with those tattoos?”
“Like the ones you gave Dani and me?”
Celia: “I’ve been thinking about it. Giving her a fake tattoo to pass as a normal breather. Giving her fake blood that won’t actually turn her into a ghoul in front of him. That sort of thing.”
GM: “Fake blood sounds like one idea. You’re smart. You’ll pull it off.”
“And there’s always just fibbing the patch job is holding up.”
Celia: “Or finding the cure that I mentioned.”
GM: “I certainly wouldn’t say no to that.”
Celia: “Plenty of reasons people wouldn’t share that if they found the answer.”
“And some licks have blood like that anyway. Sterile. Can’t make childer. Or ghouls. Or bond people.”
“So it’s… just finding the right stuff to work with.”
GM: Celia’s mom nods. “He seemed close-minded.” She stands up. “I know Pete put Lucy to sleep. But we should get in the habit of talking in the car.”
“We can keep it parked where it is. Just no more vampire talk in the house.”
Celia: Celia follows her out. “Sometimes the smartest people are the least creative. There are plenty of things I can do that they think ’don’t work that way.’ Cool, maybe not for them, but they do for me.”
GM: Celia’s mom sits down in the Beetle with her. Rain still patters against the windshield.
“I believe in you. You’ll find a way.”
“I’d also like to talk to Jade, please.”
Celia: “What, now?”
Celia: Celia’s skin ripples and dissolves, moving across her face like a wave crests upon sand. She doesn’t lift a hand to assist the movements.
Jade: It takes only seconds before Jade lounges indolently in the front seat.
GM: “I read your letter,” Diana says. More calmly than when she had the carving knife in hand. “I appreciated the apology. There are some ground rules to establish going forward, if I’m staying on the blood.”
Jade: Jade runs a tongue across her fangs, smile as sharp as their points. Her eyes dance in the ambient streetlight.
GM: “We’re equals in this arrangement,” Diana says simply. “I’m Celia’s mother. I’m not a servant or slave. I don’t follow orders. I’ll consider requests, because I am Celia’s mother and will do everything in my power to help her and fight for her. I’ll listen to advice, because both of you know more about vampires than I do. But that’s all. I make all final decisions about myself, for myself. As well as all decisions for Lucy, until she turns 18.”
“I don’t care that you’re a vampire. I don’t care what’s normal for vampire society, or what the rules are, because they don’t apply to us. The only rules that’ll ever matter are that I am Celia’s mother, she is my adult child, and you are one of her alters. And for all that I might be the older partner in this relationship, we’re equal ones. You and Celia are adults and I don’t get to tell you what to do or make decisions for you either.”
“I’m glad that you regret your actions at Flawless. That’s why we’re talking. I hope, as you said, we can peacefully cohabit. But if you ever abuse me or my family again, I will cut you out of our lives. If you do not leave us alone, I will do whatever is necessary to protect my family. I will kill, and I will die, before I let another Maxen abuse us. Are we on the same page?”
Jade: Jade tilts her head to one side, listening to the breather’s words as she utters them. By the time she’s done Jade’s lips have curled into an approximation of a smile that does not quite reach her eyes. She looks for all the world as if she gazes upon a particularly interesting oddity of nature. A dog walking on its hind legs, perhaps, or a pig that has decided it can fly.
“She certainly did a number on you,” Jade murmurs, almost in admiration. “Perhaps if you’d shown this fire from the start you and I would have never gotten off on the wrong foot.”
The smile sharpens. But at least it finally reaches her eyes.
“I can agree to your terms, Mrs. Flores, so long as you agree to mine. If you are ever to accompany me to an event among the Damned you will act according to your role as ghoul. You will not backtalk or embarrass me in front of any Kindred. You will cease telling the half-blood anything about Celia’s actions now that her relationship has been terminated. I don’t care if you amuse yourself with her, but she will not be allowed to become a spy for her brother. You will tell no one that I am Celia, or that Celia is Dicentra, or that we can shift our flesh as we do.”
She waves a hand.
“I say this not to order you about or reduce you to the mutt that the All-Night Society sees you as, dear, it’s simply about keeping your daughter and my body safe. There are those who pounce upon perceived weakness and her recent slipups have tarnished my reputation. Without the good detective’s favor and our grandsire’s approval, we risk being eliminated from within. Should the detective find we’ve lied about your daughter, well, the results won’t be pretty for any of us.”
“Now… as far as requests…”
“Learn to fight. Not just with a blade but fists and stakes. They keep us down. Aim for the heart. Your daughter has a medical experiment she’d like to run that will benefit you as well as your family. Allow her to try it. And that trick with the fire. That’s so very, very clever. Train in it. Learn to control it. That will keep your family safe from any of the monsters that come crawling through the door. You feed us, so I suppose I won’t begrudge you your monthly allowance, but right now we’re down three ghouls. We would appreciate your assistance in finding the missing brothers so that undue burden does not fall upon you or the spa girl.”
GM: Diana considers all of that.
“Those terms all sound reasonable.”
“I’m happy to keep Celia’s secrets. Keeping her safe will always be my #1 priority. I don’t want to turn my relationship with Dani into either of us trying to use each other, either.”
“As far as requests, I’m happy to learn that ‘fire trick’ and how to fight. Whatever keeps my kids safe.”
“I’m happy to help with any experiments Celia thinks will help our family.”
“I don’t have time right now to go looking for any brothers. Or much interest in looking for the one who sexually harassed me. I have one daughter to bury, a new one to raise, and more than enough on my plate.”
“I don’t have any interest in meeting more vampires. Much less going to an event of Bensons and Carolines. Not without a very good reason. But I suppose I don’t have any objection to pretending to be a ‘normal ghoul’ around other vampires. Lord knows I’ve had the practice to pull it off. Just act like a doormat.”
Jade: “You want revenge on those who have done you wrong,” Jade says after a moment. “On those who have hurt your daughters, as well. Is that correct?”
GM: “That’s incorrect,” says Diana.
“I thought about it, at first, after hearing how I thought Isabel died.”
“But then I heard how she really died, and I forgave Celia for that.”
“If my kids are in danger, yes, I want to do everything in my power to keep them safe. Whatever it takes.”
“But if there’s no danger to them, I don’t want to risk Lucy losing her mother if something happens to me. Or any of her brothers and sisters, even if they need a mom less. I don’t want to throw away my family on revenge.”
“My first priority will always be my kids. Always has been. Always will be.”
Jade: “How utterly boring,” Jade sighs at the woman’s insistence on turning her cheek. “If you won’t serve in the field to dish out revenge, then my request is that you learn the politics of the city and serve as advisor. Lord knows your daughter has lost enough friends lately. And you did well with the Ventrue bitch and the cost of favors, even if she’d have been right to slap you for it.”
GM: “If I couldn’t look past terrible things someone has done to my family and me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Diana says calmly.
“If Celia thinks she’s in danger, she will always be able to count on me to protect her. I will fight tooth and nail to keep her safe.”
“But help with revenge, no. Not if all that’s doing is putting our family in avoidable danger.”
“As far as politics, I can do my best there. I always want Celia to feel like she can go to her mom for advice.”
Jade: “You’ll work with Alana. Masked. When she has no more to teach you we shall hire you a tutor.”
Jade inspects her nails.
“That boy meant the world to her,” she says idly. “He means nothing to me. But her grandsire and the warden do. They mean everything to me. Their good opinion keep us safe.”
She does not mention the sire who means more to her than any other. This breather does not need to know the depths of her affection for the dark god who killed her and then gifted her his own blood to bring her back from the other side.
“If Emily’s memories do not hold and we have not found a viable solution, we will gauge the risk in allowing her to remember. The warden turned us down twice. He will not be so lenient if he needs to come back again because we tried to flout the rules.”
GM: “We’ll find a viable solution,” says Diana. “I’ll help however I can. We’ll deal with things as they come up.”
“And as we bring them up. We’ll have time to plan and prepare what we tell and show him, so that favors us.”
“What is it you think Alana can teach me, politics?”
Jade: “That’s the plan.”
Jade fixes the woman with a look.
“If any of them come here again, burn them. They do not get free reign in my domain. I don’t care what they say or who they represent. Burn them.”
GM: “Any of who, other vampires?”
“And be mindful, Jade. I like ‘will you pleases’ and ’I’d like you tos’ more than ‘you wills’.”
Jade: “Your comment as to my verbiage is unnecessary, Mrs. Flores. I have not said anything to that effect after framing my initial requests as just that—requests.”
She arches one expertly sculpted brow at the teacher’s desire to split hairs and be seen at the big kids table.
“Yes, I mean vampires. The half-breed’s brother. Anyone in his company. Anyone the dog barks at. Lebeaux, if he shows up without us.”
“The thing I’d ask you to understand, Mrs. Flores, is that if they get close enough to speak with you they are too close. They will warp and shred your mind until it seems like a good idea to do as they say. My intention is for you to avoid that, and for your daughter and family to avoid the pain of what that may bring.”
GM: Diana frowns.
“I don’t know how to burn them. Is there any way I can defend against that? Or tell from a distance that they’re vampires?”
“And it’s not unnecessary, as far as verbiage. It’s the same as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Just being polite. I know Celia wouldn’t mean ‘pass the salt’ as an order at the dinner table, but I still taught her to say ‘please pass the salt’ or ‘could you pass the salt’ instead.”
Jade: “Celia wouldn’t need the salt passed at the dinner table. She has never had anything but positive things to say about your cooking. It is… unfortunate that the rest of us will never experience that.”
It seems as much a bone as Jade is willing to throw her, accompanied by a small, brief smile as it is.
“Stoneskin can help protect against it. So can the steel spine you’ve recently found. There are tells, with licks. Stillness. Forgetting to fidget, to breathe, to blink. Some look truly dead. Temperature. You could invest in an infrared camera. Handheld. To use when you suspect but aren’t sure. Licks rarely show up, as the warden said.” A brief pause.
“Animals react poorly to most of us. We react poorly to fire. I believe there are some powers that allow you to tell at a glance, as we do, when another is Kindred. And yes, Mrs. Flores, we know you don’t know how to burn them yet. That’s why you said you’d be willing to learn. To keep your family safe.”
GM: Jade is not sure if Diana has smiled at all since the news of Isabel’s death. But at the Toreador’s expression, she manages a smile back. The same shadow that hung over Henry hangs over it.
But however faint, the smile is there.
Then she rubs Jade’s hand.
“I’m sorry too, or I’d cook you something. A meal is a good thing to mark new beginnings with.”
“But okay. I can get an infrared scanner and keep the cats handy around visitors, to see if they get agitated.”
“And yes, I do want to learn how to… burn, to keep my family safe. I just don’t know where to begin.”
Jade: Jade takes Diana’s hand in her own.
“Then we’ll figure it out. Together.”
GM: Celia’s mom nods.
“Do you consider yourself and Celia separate people?” she asks.
Jade: “That’s… complicated. And depends entirely on your definition of what makes a person. We share a body. A brain. A heart. I know what she knows. But I know more than what she knows. And I don’t know enough about souls to say if there are multiple inside this body. Outside of the host, would I survive on my own? I’m uncertain. Does that make us the same person… or simply a parasite?”
GM: “I think it makes you the same person,” says Diana. “I did a little research into DID, earlier, and there obviously are plenty other people with it. I don’t think God would place more than one soul in one body. I don’t think He’d change the rules.”
“Most people develop DID in response to trauma, as a coping mechanism. So I don’t think it makes you a parasite either. It serves a purpose, to keep the… host, safe.”
Jade: “Then her ex is right. We are simply insane.”
“I thought,” Jade says at some length, “that I had survived what would break most people. That I had bent so I could keep going. But maybe this is just another way of being broken.”
GM: “Or maybe this is its own way of bending. Maybe, if you hadn’t bent like this, you would’ve broken, and Celia would be much worse off.”
“Because I think a better way to look at your, I guess, situation, is what good it accomplishes. Celia says you’ve done bad things, but also that you help her and protect her.”
“That you deal with other vampires, the Bensons and the Carolines, so she doesn’t have to.”
Jade: “Celia will never grow up. She’s stuck as the child who saw the monster shake her daddy’s hand and let him tuck her in. She still believes in love and fairytales and thinks the half-blood will forgive her and the brother can be good again, that her grandpa will welcome her back with open arms after this fiasco.”
GM: “Is she right?” Diana asks, simply.
“I believe in love.”
“I don’t know her vampire grandfather—I presume that’s who, the vampire one—enough to comment on him, but think Dani would like to forgive her and trust her again. Dani was much more sad than angry when we last talked.”
“Stephen abusing her is a big thing to overcome. I don’t know if there’s a way with him or not. But I do know that you, or Celia as you, abused me once, but we’re here and talking now.”
“I believe love can overcome a lot.”
“Or, anything, really. So long as it’s there in both people’s hearts, and they believe it’s there in the other person’s.”
Jade: “You’re kine,” Jade says with an effected sigh, waving a hand. “Love does not exist among the Dammed.”
A beat of silence.
“We love someone. Your daughter and I. We love someone. We love. But the rest of them? No. You don’t get to the top by loving. My grandsire’s affection for us is but a ruse meant to cultivate our loyalty.”
Jade fixes the breather with a look.
“Celia and I messed up. We are on thin ice. Had we not fixed the situation we’d have been put to death. Even now the warden scurries back to his master to tell him of our chat, that I’m an ungrateful, spoiled, emotionally volatile childe.”
“You forgave. Kindred do not.”
GM: “I don’t think you came across to Pete that way,” says Diana. “I’ll take your word that your grandsire doesn’t love you. Some people don’t have much to go around.”
“But I think if you’re capable of love, there’s no reason other vampires couldn’t also be.”
Jade: “We’re just pawns,” Jade says, “to elders like them. We don’t matter, not really.”
GM: “So you’re not an ‘elder’, then?”
Jade: “No. Elders are hundreds of years old.”
GM: Diana nods. “Well, regardless. Celia said you were like a kicked puppy that had only ever been kicked, so you grew up into a mean dog. That no one is good to you. That sounds like it’s been your experience.”
Jade: “A kicked puppy?” Jade flattens her lips.
GM: “That’s since grown up, yes. Grown up hard and used to abuse.”
“I think you are Celia, too, like she and I said. Just another side of her, and maybe one she’s needed. But maybe also one that has needs of her own. Maybe one that’s not had an easy time always being hard and keeping Celia safe. Maybe you’d like someone else you can be less hard around, and know you’ll always be loved and safe with. So I don’t want to be Mrs. Flores when you’re around.”
Diana’s face softens as she spreads her arms.
“I want to be Mom, if you’ll let me.”
Jade: “You want to be my mom,” Jade repeats, like she’s never heard the words before.
GM: “I do,” Diana answers, arms still held out.
“Everyone should get to have a mom.”
Jade: Jade is quiet for a moment. A mom. Diana is offering to be her mom. Is that so unusual, she wonders, when the woman has adopted Emily and Abigail and only waits to meet Ethan before she brings him into her brood as well?
Jade doesn’t have a mom. She doesn’t need a mom. She doesn’t need anyone. She’s fine on her own. She’s doing just swell, thank you very much—
Except she’s not. She’s been hemorrhaging friends and allies left and right the past few weeks, looking every gift horse in the mouth for signs of betrayal, keeping everyone at arm’s length so that she can spring her trap before they spring theirs.
Perhaps that’s not the way.
Slowly, hesitantly, Jade nods. Her eyes dart back and forth across the dim interior of the Beetle as if waiting for someone to jump out and laugh. When it doesn’t happen she moves forward inch by inch until Diana’s arms can wrap snugly around her.
GM: Technically, Celia’s mom only said she’d bring in Ethan if he didn’t love Mary.
But she did say she was prepared to.
It’s easy to imagine Veronica sneering or Pietro laughing or Preston rolling her eyes. But they aren’t there in the Beetle, and Celia’s mother is, with her outstretched arms patiently waiting. The woman’s weary and grief-wrought features seem to ease at Jade’s acceptance, as Celia’s protector lets down her armor. Perhaps Diana thinks back to Jade’s words at Flawless, when they first met. She told Celia they were the most hurtful things someone ever said to her.
“Jade isn’t your daughter.” “Right now, Diana, I am not your sweetie. I am your master. “I am its domitor, not its daughter.” "I am the master. Grace is the slave.”
Perhaps that single word, “Mom”, and reciprocated embrace does more to heal those hurts than all of the words in Jade’s three-page letter.
“I love you,” Diana murmurs, voice as soft as the hand stroking Jade’s back.
Jade: For long moments her body is tense, waiting for a knife in the dark. A stake in the back. Revenge for the pain.
She’s ready to go. Ready to fight her way out of this with fang and claw, ready to shred whoever seeks to end her.
But it doesn’t come. So bit by bit, Jade’s muscles relax into the embrace offered to her while the soft patter of rainfall plinks off the windshield.
“I… love you too.”
GM: Diana holds her close for a while. Jade can sense the woman’s steady breathing in the dark, feel the warmth of her skin as the rain falls outside.
Eventually, she pulls away, enough to look the Toreador in the eye.
“Celia said people only want to use you. That they only want to… butter the biscuit with you.”
“I’d like to get to know you,” she says softly. “This side of you. Tell me about yourself.”
Jade: Jade doubts very much that Celia used the term ‘butter the biscuit,’ but she doesn’t press the issue. No matter which way you slice it, the girl is right.
“I don’t know,” Jade says quietly, “no one has ever asked me that. They just use me. For sex, mostly. Sleep with this person. Lure in that person. Seduce and entrap this one.”
GM: “What do you like to do on your own time?” her mom asks, curiously.
Jade: Jade considers the question.
“Sex,” she says after a moment, with a lilt to the end of the word as if she doesn’t know if that’s the right answer or even an answer at all. “I like it when she has sex. To be in control. It makes me feel… powerful. Like dancing—I like when she dances. Everyone looks. Wants to touch. Wants to be there on the floor with me, hopes that I’ll favor them with a smile. Even people who don’t like me. The frat guy wouldn’t have become a friend if I weren’t a pretty package.”
There’s a pause.
“‘Naldo used to say I was smart and pretty. I liked that, I liked when he said that. But he’s dead now.”
A longer pause.
“Art,” she says eventually. “Parties. Hosting. Entertaining. Socializing. All the trivial things that being a Toreador means. I’m good at them. At lying to people. At being what they want me to be. But… surprising them, too, I enjoy. Showing the depths they don’t get to see. Research for the medical experiments. Research on old religions and mythologies. Research on… everything, I guess. Taking things apart and putting them back together again, but doing it better than before.”
“And flying.” She smiles, looking past Diana toward where the clouds shed their tears. “Flying is wonderful. If I could leave everything behind and live as a bird I think I would. I’d just go. Be free.”
GM: “Birds get a lot to be envious of, there,” says her mom. “What I find so romantic is how they also mate for life.”
“Swans, geese, bald eagles, California condors. They all spend their lives soaring the skies with their partners.”
Jade: “Mm. Is it? Or is it tying yourself to someone who will never allow you to grow into the person you’re meant to become because at eighteen you decided ‘this is it, this is my person’?”
GM: “I think it’s different for birds, there, than it is for people. They just want to soar, and they’ll do it anyway with or without a mate. But a partner makes everything better.”
Jade: “They’re also biologically wired to reproduce. Kindred are not. We have the urge to fight, to fuck, to feed, but not to mate. Not like the kine do. Not like animals. We don’t need a partner to perform that function. And there’s nothing but the pull of blood keeping us together once we’ve done that. Some sires don’t even stick around long enough to explain the rules to their bastard progeny.”
GM: “That’s very sad,” says Diana. “There obviously are animals that reproduce without partners. But they’re wired for it, from day one. Not like vampires are. You’ve been, well, human all your lives, before becoming vampires. I don’t think you’re meant to just… give up husbands and wives and children, psychologically, even if that’s how your bodies are wired now.”
She shakes her head.
“But never mind that. I want to talk about you, and the things that interest you and make you happy. So you like art, parties, medical research, old religion and mythology, and flying. And buttering biscuits. And dancing?”
Jade: “No,” Jade says slowly, “I think you’re right, and I’ve raised that point before. That the reason we’re all such horrible cocks to each other is because we’re isolated, because we see ourselves as separate and alone instead of the pack-minded, bonding animals that we came from.”
GM: “Maybe the answer is to just make an effort, there,” says her mom. “I could introduce you to Emi, if you like.”
“Because humans become worse people, too, when they’re isolated. Or maybe I should say, they become hurt when they’re isolated, and that makes it easier to hurt others. That isn’t just vampires.”
Jade: “So we gather all the licks of the city into a hug line?” Jade muses.
GM: “Back in the ‘80s, you know, there was an event, I forget what it was called, where a whole bunch of people all tried to hold hands across the entire country. They used it to raise money for charity. There’s been sillier ideas.”
“I was in, oh, I think middle school when it happened. It actually didn’t reach across New Orleans, so some people organized a local chain. It was sweet and fun, coming together with a bunch of strangers for a good cause.”
Jade: “That doesn’t make sense. Unless you had to pay to be part of the line you weren’t really raising money. How did it raise money?”
GM: “People were encouraged to donate, what was it, $10 to reserve their spot in the line. You didn’t have to, you could hold hands without it, but lots of people did anyway. I remember turning over a Thomas Jefferson. It raised a lot of money.”
Jade: “My sister is nice,” Jade says abruptly. “She pretends she isn’t. But she is. Very nice. I like her a lot. I wish I’d… I had seven years to get to know her and I didn’t, and now she’s talking about something dangerous coming. And I wonder how many are like her. Hiding behind their ice masks.”
GM: “Emi?” asks Diana.
“I don’t think she has much of an ice mask, sweetie.”
Jade: “No. My blood sister.”
“My sire’s other childe.”
“I hated her. I used to be jealous that she… that he wanted her, but not me.”
GM: “What changed that?”
Jade: “I met her.”
“She tortured me. Us.”
“But once she found out who we were…”
GM: It’s telling that ‘she tortured us’ doesn’t immediately elicit more than a deep frown at this point.
“She didn’t know she was your sister?”
Jade: “No. No one’s supposed to know who we are.”
“That’s why he threw you off the roof.”
GM: It’s also telling that all Diana does in immediate answer is rub her head.
“At this point I almost don’t care, as long as it’s not going to happen again.”
“I have enough else on my mind. I have enough other things to deal with.”
She manages another tired smile and rubs Jade’s hand again.
“Including you. Not all of those things are bad.”
“I’m glad you’ve gotten to know your vampire sister, and found out she’s a nice person.”
“I think you raise a good question, on how many more might be like her, hiding under ice masks.”
“Some of those masks, I’m sure, are real. Like Benson’s. But with other vampires, maybe all they need is someone else to make the first move, and show them the masks can come off.”
“Maybe they’re just scared to be vulnerable until someone shows them it’s possible.”
Jade: “And you think I should be the one to do that?”
GM: “Yes. I think everyone should be the change they want to see.”
Jade: “I… don’t know about that. Even Pete told me no one cares about my problems.”
GM: “Pete seemed like he had a bug up his butt.”
Jade: “He’s in love with you. Or the ‘idea’ of you.”
“Or I dunno maybe it’s something else.”
GM: Diana slowly shakes her head.
“I am not thinking about finding a man right now.”
Jade: “Dunno what else he’d be upset about. Happy enough to tell me I’m useless.”
GM: “What happened to Isabel’s body?” Jade’s mom asks. Not accusingly, but the pain is there in her voice.
“I want to lay her to rest.”
“I want Ethan to be there for it.”
Jade: Funny how Diana assumes it was Jade rather than Celia who ripped the heart out of her sister.
“I have it. I preserved it.”
GM: “Thank you.”
“I’ll think about… arrangements later. Tomorrow. I just wanted to know she was still there.”
Jade: “I’m sorry,” Jade offers. “About your daughter. Both of them.”
GM: “Thank you,” her mom repeats, squeezing her hand,
“I’m glad to have you with me in this time of grief.”
“I’m glad to know I’ll always love and be loved by a daughter, whatever face she has on.”
Jade: “Mom?” Jade asks after a moment, the single syllable foreign on her tongue. “…are we insane?”
GM: Diana smiles as she hears her daughter call her Mom again. For all the grief that might beset their family, it looks as if there’s no sound that brings the woman greater happiness.
“What is insane? There is a spectrum with these things.”
“Are you a danger to yourself, or other people? Can you distinguish reality?”
“Because I think those are the really important things.”
“There are girls in my classes with ADHD, or anxiety disorders, or eating disorders, or OCD, and others from the DSM. You could call them ‘insane’, but I think that’s a very hurtful and overly simplistic way to look at them.”
“And that the actually important things are, are they dangers to anybody, and do they know what’s real and not real.”
Jade: “I’m a vampire. Of course I’m dangerous.”
GM: “Sure, but because you have DID? Or just because all vampires are?”
Jade: “We all are.”
GM: Jade’s mom rubs her shoulder. “Well, there you go then. I don’t think you’re insane.”
She looks into Jade’s face for a moment.
“You’re very pretty, you know. Your eyes especially. Did you, or Celia, decide how you looked?”
Jade’s heard innumerable iterations of such words, but rarely ones whose admiration sounds as chaste as Diana’s.
Jade: Jade’s smile lights up those eyes her mother so admires.
“I did. She has a good base. I just improved upon it.”
“I’m the prettiest. In the whole city.” The haughtiness she’s known for returns with a toss of her head. “Of all the licks, none of them look better than me. Beauty is subjective, certainly, you’ll have those who point it out… while their partners and lovers crawl after me.”
GM: Jade could see her mother chuckling, earlier. Diana doesn’t do that, but she does smile at the Toreador’s response.
“You look a lot like her, in some, I’d put it, ‘indirect’ ways. You’re right. You also talk like she does, about some things. I can see how you’re ‘related’.”
“It’s not obvious, don’t worry about that. I know you don’t want it to be. I’m saying this as your, both of your, honest-to-goodness mother.”
“More the sort of thing that makes me go ‘aha’ in hindsight.”
Jade: “We’ve been less careful with this face,” Jade concedes.
GM: Diana shakes her head. “You’re more than different enough, on the surface. Like I said. Only saying this as the woman who gave birth to you.”
Jade: “Thank you,” Jade says at length. “For… this.”
“If you get a dog, I can start working with it.”
GM: “You’re welcome.” Jade’s mother touches her cheek. “And thank you, too. I’d rather love you than hate and fear you.”
Jade: Jade slowly nods.
“Me too,” she says.