“I know how I like my women.”
Friday night, 18 March 2016, AM
Celia: They’re a mess when it’s over. Jade bleeds the excess into a cup, but there’s something so hot about being covered in blood while she fucks a ghoul and she wishes that Roderick were more into it.
Then again, she thinks that perhaps killing started him down the path that led to the vision, and she’s not interested in that. She’ll leave these moments to those of them who enjoy them. Like Reggie.
She drains the blood from the body with Reggie’s help, using him to hold the man aloft while she uses a hand to pump the heart like the literal valve that it is. She drinks until she’s full, puts the extra aside for later, and showers off the blood with Reggie. She has him take her again and finally gives him the hit she’d promised.
GM: Reggie learns something new when Celia’s heart-squeezing makes the blood come out faster. He takes her a third time with pleasure.
Whether it’s with as much pleasure as the hit is hard to say, but he thoroughly enjoys both.
Along with the fact that Randy is still waiting just the next room.
“He’s such a fucking idiot around you,” Reggie laughs as he dries and dresses himself.
Celia: “You’ve mentioned,” Jade drawls as she wrings the excess water out of her hair. It had been a thorough shower; no need for Carolla to smell the sex on her later and wonder if she’s as perverted as Roxanne. “Maybe getting laid will get it out of his system. And maybe he’ll still be an idiot. Regardless, I have a task for the two of you.”
She dresses, checks to make sure the thin-blood is still staked in the suite, and takes Reggie to find his brother. A wave of her hand dismisses any concern over taking so long. She checks the time to verify there’s enough before her meeting with the Brujah. No doubt fucking Reggie took up some of it, but a quick conversation should be doable.
“Your brother hit a wall looking into the hunters for me. I’d like to try a new tactic,” she says to the pair.
GM: Jade finds the thin-blood staked on the marble table. The man’s eyes do not follow hers as she approaches, but simply stare blankly upwards, seemingly oblivious as to her presence.
The ghouls both nod, listening.
Celia: “The guy he’s looking for doesn’t exist. Fake name. The other names haven’t turned up anything in a search, or at least no one has looked into their disappearances. The other lick I’m working with is sitting on a bugged stake. So yeah, I could twiddle my thumbs and wait, but I’m not a very patient person.” She favors them with a smile. They know.
“I’ve got their phones and the number they were communicating with. We can go about it a few ways. Call and trace the number, see what it turns out. Rusty will probably be on that for me.” Hadn’t he done that already? Why get the number if he’s not looking into it, right? She shoots him a text to tell him to do so if he hasn’t. Coded, obviously. “I can get the pair of you disguises, you can meet with the contacts. Maybe take a body with you.” Jade can think of a few licks she wouldn’t mind seeing the last of. “We can also stake out the apartment where I was nabbed. It’s in Mid-City. I imagine they’ll try again. The IDs they’ve got are fake, too. We’ll see if any of your ‘friends’ recognize the work.”
GM: The pair take a moment to process.
“Okay,” says Reggie. “Whose body?”
Celia: “Dunno yet,” Jade says cheerfully.
“There are so many to pick from.”
GM: Rusty texts back an affirmatory response.
“Sure are. Stake-outs are also boring as fuck,” says Reggie.
Celia: “Chance they won’t return, anyway, since their guys didn’t.”
Celia sends a text to Rod letting him know she found Dani’s phone and that she left her purse at the house for them. A second later she asks if he happened to find her friend’s ID at his apartment after their “wild party lol.”
Celia: “Thoughts on the rest of it?”
GM: Roderick texts back his gladness at the news and says he’ll let Dani know.
Her friend didn’t misplace his ID as far as he could find.
“Sounds good to me,” says Randy. “These guys tried to hurt you. Fuck waiting on some other lick.”
“Take the offense and all that.”
“Hey, you aren’t always an idiot,” says Reggie.
Celia: Jade favors the youngest brother with a smile.
“No IDs,” she says once she reads the text, “never mind that plan I guess.”
GM: “Ok, when do you want to kick this off?” asks the older of the pair.
Celia: “Could do it whenever.” They have the spare parts now. “It’ll be during the day. Lord Savoy has a shadow dancer that has met them already if you think going with him will be best.”
Gotta be a him, right? The one she’d (sort of) fucked in the shower.
“Guess I can’t count on him lending me the guy, though.”
“We’ll need to alter your faces, bodies.”
Celia: She’s only hesitant because she’s worried about losing them. She shouldn’t be worried, right? The other ghouls made it out.
“I guess tomorrow..?” Gives her little enough time to find a lick to send with them, but if they are working with the bitch with the tainted blood maybe it’ll come up.
GM: “Okay,” says Reggie. “Let us know whenever.”
Celia: “…you’re not worried about it? You two? Going in alone? Getting found out?”
“I guess we just need to find a lick, then.”
“Think they’d take a thin-blood?”
GM: “You got out, didn’t you?” Reggie shrugs.
“Be convenient with this guy already here.”
Celia: She might as well drain him while he’s here, too. Give him just enough to leave him “alive.” Keep the hunters from reviving him and learning anything about them, her, or her boys. Unless they don’t function like that. Maybe this is one of those things Edith could have told her; she didn’t think of it at the time.
“Yeah,” she says to that. “We’ll chance it. Fucker has fangs. Uneven, but fangs all the same. Alright. They needed three to be in the club. ‘My’ body was the first, this will be the second, see if they give you an address for the third or if it’s something you need to find yourselves. Find out what you can. Record what you can. But don’t get caught. That’s your priority: getting out. Clear? I’ll send a doc by your place tonight to alter your features. Use a burner. Car. Phone. Everything. Coded. The last pair said groceries. Address out in the fuckin’ boonies.”
GM: “Could just grab the fuckers,” says Reggie. “Hurt them until they squeal.”
Celia: “Think you could?”
GM: “Last ones were trouble, weren’t they?” says Randy.
Celia: “They were. And there’s something weird about these ones.”
GM: “But I dunno, two of us, plus surprise.”
Celia: “I mean yeah, that’s ideal if you could…”
GM: “Weird how?” asks Reggie.
Celia: “Not like normal hunters, my guy said. Looks down on potential assets. Cold.”
“Like… normally hunters want to work together.”
“These guys were real dismissive.”
“Of potential allies, I mean.”
GM: “Maybe ’cuz they were idiots who got themselves killed,” says Reggie.
Celia: “Right, well, the guy who I spoke to about it has more experience with these sort of things and is older than me, so I’m kind of inclined to trust him on this. And they didn’t know the others died.”
“But hey, if you can nab one without risking yourself, do it.”
“Look. Do what you can. Just don’t fucking die, okay?”
GM: “Don’t plan on that anytime soon,” smirks Reggie.
“You got it, babe. We’ll be careful,” says Randy.
Celia: “Then I’ll take what I need from this guy and you can turn him over to then. Expect the doc early this morning.”
She waits a beat in case they have any questions.
They do not.
Celia: Then it’s time to drain a thin-blood to the point of almost-death and get ready for her date.
Friday night, 18 March 2016, AM
Celia: It doesn’t take long for Jade to drain the halfbreed. She puts the blood aside, leaving it just enough to still be… alive. Animated. Whatever. Another night, perhaps, she’d have questioned the thing to learn what she could. But she has so many important things going on this evening, and she’s waited long enough to pounce on the hunters. Her boys aren’t useless, no matter how dumb Randy sometimes acts around her. They’ll get it done. This is the way forward.
The boys take the body with them when they go, still staked. One less trip for her later. She leaves with them, heading back to her haven to get ready for her date. Makeup. Hair. Nails. Once her body is ready she thumbs through her closet.
Years ago Roderick had enjoyed the pants Celia wore to a rant. Or at least to the car on the way to the rant, before they’d stopped to fuck because he couldn’t keep his hands off her. Brujah pants, he’d called them. The Mafiosa might not be an Anarch but he’s certainly still a Brujah, and she looks for something similar. Tight, to show off her tiny waist and shapely rear. Stiletto heels. Black shirt, also tight, and a black jacket top it off. She peruses accessories and settles for a gold branded belt.
Jade winks at her reflection before she saunters from the haven to meet Carolla’s driver at the agreed upon address a few scant blocks away.
GM: Her reflection winks back, as if to say how smoking she is.
The car, a dark SUV, arrives about a minute after the agreed-upon time. The driver, a thuggish-looking man who’s crammed his large frame into a dark suit, gets out to open the passenger door for Jade.
She’s greeted inside the car by the Brujah himself. Will Carolla is a somewhat smaller but still large-framed and square-jawed man with slicked-back hair that has a few strands artfully loose. His features could be called handsome enough, in a blunt sort of way. Where Roderick’s face is narrower and smiles easily, most of his conviction seeming to glare out from within, everything about Carolla’s unsmiling face looks hard. A less kindly description referencing his low brow and flat, incurious eyes might be thuggish. He’s wearing a dark suit without a tie and several buttons around the collar undone.
“You’re a sexy fucking bitch,” he says without preamble as he looks Jade up and down.
“Toreador,” grins the ghoul.
Carolla gets out of the seat, then all but seizes Jade as his hands tightly clamp around her arms, holding them fast against her sides. He slides back into the car and pulls her onto his lap. His hands are coarse and rough as they squeeze her skin through the leather.
“Like a sex doll. One of those robot sex dolls. I want to wind you up, watch you strut your Toreador ass, then bend you over and fuck you. You need a good hard fucking.”
Celia: It’s a different sort of dynamic on this lap. Not as safe and comfortable and smug as the position on Savoy’s, or as loving and warm as Roderick’s, or even as flirty and teasing as she is atop Gui. There’s an edge here, a sort of possessiveness and arrogance Carolla exudes that’s missing from the others. Like he’s already decided that she’s his and there’s nothing she can do about it.
Hauled bodily into the car, arms pinned at her sides, there’s little she can do but squirm against the Brujah’s body, ass grinding down against him with every movement. Almost like an accident; there’s a line between brazen slut and “giving in because he’s so goddamn charismatic and appealing” and she finds it, dancing upon it to give his ego a little stroke.
“Bend me over and fuck me,” Jade echoes, halfway between a drawl and a giggle, “what, like a breather?”
God, that’s hot.
She tells him so. That it’s so hot to finally find someone who knows what they want and isn’t afraid to seize it.
GM: “That’s fucking disgusting,” says Carolla, his features twisting in distaste. He roughly flips her over his knees and brings down his palm on her leather-clad ass. The blow is incredibly strong, and painful. He has to hold her in place with his other hand to keep it from knocking her off.
Celia: It’s not like she said she’s into it. Just asked. She was willing to go along with it if he likes it, that’s all.
Jade doesn’t need to force the yelp that the blow brings. Beneath the leather her flesh jiggles at the force of the slap, skin turning red.
If she weren’t focusing so hard on keeping her perverted nature quiet, she knows she’d be wet between the thighs.
GM: Carolla yanks her up by her hair and sweeps his other hand beneath her knees, lifting her up like one of those posable sex dolls to set back down on his lap, back to his chest. He makes a fist in her hair and yanks it back again, exposing her throat to the air while holding her head down beneath his shoulder level. His other hand doesn’t knead her breast so much as try to squeeze it apart. His fingers really hurt.
“Such a sexy fucking bitch,” he repeats. “You’d leave this car in a body bag if you were a breather.”
Motion starts beneath them as the car takes off.
Celia: She thinks it’s a compliment. In a weird, death threat sort of way. She rolls with it regardless, squirming in his grasp when he flips her again. There’s a moment where she’s free—but it’s just that, a moment. She loses handily, body bent and twisted the way he wants, throat exposed to fist and fang and whatever else he wants to do to her.
She knows his type. Roderick had told her all about them when they were breathers: how they expect their women to submit and deal with their manhandling. She’s not a woman, and he’s not a man, but the attitude persists despite their even standing: he expects to win. She’ll make him work for it, though. He expects that too. And victory is so much sweeter when your opponent doesn’t just roll over for you.
The breath leaves her body in a pained growl when his fingers dig into her chest. She snarls, lips pulled back to expose the fangs in her mouth. She bucks against him, twisting as if to escape, and brings an elbow into his side.
GM: Her elbow connects hard with the Brujah’s flank and elicits a surprised grunt, giving her a chance to squirm away. He lunges after her, seizing another fistful of hair. Her roots scream as he yanks her back, splaying her over his knees. A vice-like hand clamps around her throat.
“Feisty bitch,” he growls, fangs out as his eyes hungrily roam her leather-clad form. “Need to learn your place…”
Celia: Her roots aren’t the only thing that scream. The sound passes her lips for the brief moment before he cuts off her air, turning it into a strangled wheeze instead. She clamps her fingers around his wrist, trying to throw him off, but it’s all for show. They both know he’s stronger than her. And he can see it in her eyes: arousal.
GM: “Bitch likes that, huh?” He clamps his left hand around around her neck too, squeezing harder and harder until her neck feels ready to snap, then lets go with his right hand. He flips her over on his lap, ass in the air, and strokes his free hand along her leg. His hand runs over the leather before he grips her calf, hefting the leg above his head. His hand squeezes her boot heel.
“Yeah. Those are bitch boots you got on. Make you so fucking helpless. Tottering around. In your bitch boots. Any woman with boots like those is saying she wants to be bent over and fucked.”
He drops her leg to undo his pants, stiffens his cock with an apparent moment’s effort, then shoves her mouth over his member while his left hand continues to all but crush in her neck. His right hand returns to her leg again, pulling up the leather pant leg to expose bare flesh. His fangs sink into her calf like a drumstick.
Celia: She doesn’t need air. Black spots don’t swim in her field of vision. But she flails all the same, batting ineffectually at the hands that hold her down until the bones in her body grind together. Only then does she still, eyes wide upon his face, fingers curling around his wrist. She ceases her struggles. Then the flip, his hands roaming her body, his words running past her while she writhes, limbs twisted and yanked and—
Oh. There. A firm cock in her mouth. For all that he says the breather way is disgusting he sure doesn’t mind mimicking it. Fangs flash, nipping his skin. She fastens her lips around the flesh in her mouth and sucks, letting the warm vitae flow across her tongue. It’s hard to swallow with his hand on her neck but she does what she can, making soft, almost eager whimper-like noises around the vice grip on her throat to show him she has accepted her place in this dance.
The blood on her tongue, though… shock jolts through her, but only for a moment before she smooths it over and focuses on what she’s doing. All the same, emotion wars within her. Some part of her had hoped it wasn’t true. Another is filled with vicious satisfaction.
That lying cunt. She’s going to enjoy watching her kingdom topple.
But what sense does that make?
Is he lying? Doing the same thing she does? Enough shadow dancers in the city, aren’t there; even Edith said she can cloak. Not a very common trick, though.
But why? Why that? There’s no way he knows what she’s looking for. Unless there’s a leak. Who knows? Her, Savoy, Preston. To what end? Make her look foolish in front of her grandsire? Invictus stick together? Sabotage the entire Roderick plot before it begins? No wonder the bitch hasn’t called her back about their supposed meeting.
The lot of it flees her mind when he sinks his fangs into her calf. It’s a problem for another time. Right now she just wants to enjoy herself. She gives in to the thing inside of her that wants to fight, fuck, and feed.
GM: The fighting seems over with, but she still gets to fuck and feed.
Carolla’s blood fills her mouth, hot and furious. Like all Brujah blood. Almost spicy. It’s more bitter than Roderick’s, though. Saltier, too. And thicker. Stronger. Headier. By one way or another, he’s embraced his Beast to an extent her lover hasn’t. She can picture him crushing in hunters’ heads without worrying for their families.
It’s oddly titillating, trying to swallow down so much, and being cruelly denied by the hand crushing in her windpipe. Like a starving man being fed morsels at a time.
The Brujah hungrily rips and bites Jade’s flesh, savaging her calf like a true drumstick as he gulps down her blood by the mouthful. So much more than her. It’s not fair. He switches legs after a moment, dropping her first one and yanking the other into the air to rip into it too. He takes his fill, then drops it too. He uses his free hand to pound her ass as she choke-sucks his cock, bringing his palm down again and again and again. Jade remembers another girl, who screamed and sobbed and blubbered ‘til her throat was raw and her ass was bloody over her father’s knee, and perhaps wonders how much less time it would have taken the man if he had a Brujah’s strength. Jade has to awkwardly grab hold of him, grab the seat, grab anywhere, not to be sent flying off.
Celia: It’s mostly over, anyway. She still “struggles” a bit when he seems to be going soft on her, making sure to keep him on his toes. She’s a lick, not some blubbering breather that just submits to people when they win. And maybe she likes the idea of “losing” to Carolla. Maybe she likes it a lot. Maybe it’s him, or his blood, or the fact that he seems to know exactly what turns her on: the hard smacks against her ass that leave her yelping, yowling, hissing (strangled half-sounds, all of it), and clawing at him before he makes her settle back down so he can deliver another, a third, a fourth. She loses count. But she’s throbbing by the end of it, and there’s no doubt that if he tried this sort of thing with a breather she would leave in a body bag. But Jade is made of hardier material than all that; she doesn’t even bruise.
She’s not Celia.
She lets the Brujah have his fun. And when it’s done—when they’re relatively sated on blood and sex and aggression even though they both know there will be a round two whenever they reach their destination—she lets him arrange her on his lap again like those sex dolls he seems to favor, idly nipping at his neck with the flats of her teeth while the rest of her bleeds and throbs and curls contentedly against him like an overly large lap cat.
GM: Carolla seems to enjoy the continued token struggles, for they seem to make his hand come down all the harder and all the more times as he pounds her ass raw through the tight leather pants, like it’s a piece of meat he’s trying to pulverize with a tenderizer. He finally picks her up again, flips her over, and plops her back down on his lap. One of his hands fits around her waist.
“I had a girl, when I was a breather. I’d make her fuck a sex doll in front of me. I’d piss on her face and tell her she wasn’t good enough for my cock. Doll was all she’d get, unless she put on a really good show. Usually didn’t.”
“Then I’d bring in my other girl, and we’d fuck while she watched. She’d get to eat my cum out of the other girl’s snatch if she was good.”
“Then I’d slug them for being whores, and jack off over their faces, because I was tired of sticking my prick in a whore.”
“You remind me of the doll.”
Celia: “Of the… doll?”
Celia: “How’s that?”
GM: “Dunno. Just do.”
Celia: She’s not quite certain if it’s a compliment.
“Sounds like you knew how you liked your women.”
GM: “I know how I like my women.”
“Don’t have the girl anymore, but still have the doll.”
Celia: “And your licks?” An appreciative glance up and down his form before she settles again. She lets out an amused sound at his mention of the doll. “What do you do with it now?”
GM: “Same thing. Make juicebag girls fuck it. See if they deserve my prick.”
Celia: “That do anything for you? Watching the kine fuck it?”
GM: “Sometimes. If they’re good.”
Celia: She arches a brow at him.
GM: “They’re good, I take just a little. They’re bad, I take everything.”
Celia: “And that line about deserving your prick?”
GM: “Getting to suck juice out of it.”
Celia: “So if they’re good you take a little, give a little,” Jade muses, “and keep them around for your entertainment?” A nod to the ghoul driving. “Their entertainment?”
GM: He effects a snort. “Would have to be really fucking entertainment to get juice just for that.”
“And fuck no. He buys his own whores.”
Celia: “Mm. Then what’s the point of keeping them around?”
GM: He barks a laugh.
“Fuck, you’re a Toreador. I don’t just use renfields for fucking.”
Celia: It’s Jade’s turn to effect a snort.
“Let that rumor get to you, I see.” She sounds more amused than heated.
GM: “I’ll bet $1,000 you fuck yours.”
Celia: “You think I’d let some renfield put their cock in me? Really.” Jade trails a hand down his chest. “There’s nothing interesting about a breather when I can have this.”
GM: “Fucking right.”
Celia: Ego as big as any stiff. Jade all but purrs at him, stroking the muscle beneath his suit jacket. She nips at his neck.
“Where are we headed, then?”
GM: His hand slides down her waist to give her ass an extremely hard squeeze.
“Roxanne’s hangouts. Porn studio after we find her.”
Celia: “Force her to perform? Nothing quite like the sight of a blue blood on their knees.”
Celia: Too bad they won’t find the bitch.
“And what’s your plan for when she gets her krewe together to come after you for showing everyone her proper place? Pathetic as they are, they’ve still got the numbers.”
GM: “She’s never gonna leave.”
Celia: “Tragic,” Jade drawls.
GM: “For her.”
Celia: “Won’t age out like some of the girls in the biz. Has that whole teenage bimbo look going on.” Jade considers, then finally nods. “Good pick.”
The pair go on a wild goose chase through the CBD, visiting an assortment of locations where Carolla apparently believes Roxanne may be found, each one as fruitless as the last. The evening slowly ticks by, and the Brujah’s temper rises with it. His driver starts to look nervous.
“Where the fuck is that whore?”
Celia: Jade, at least, hides her nerves better than the driver. She knows that Roxanne isn’t going to be found, but she does her part searching for the bitch. She finds any clues as to Roxanne’s recent activities that she can, looking for anything that ties her to Vidal, or anything that might lead her to Evan. This many months removed she doesn’t think there’s much to find, but she turns over what she can, bounces ideas off of Carolla, and makes sure to keep his mood in good spirits when he’s around her. So smart. So clever. How did he even hear about this particular place? She milks it for what it’s worth.
GM: True to Jade’s expectation, the trail is long cold this many months removed. There’s ample evidence Roxanne was a staunch Vidal supporter, but none that she had any personal ties to the prince. That fact does not help the Brujah’s increasingly volatile temper, which even her practiced flattery seems to do only so much to abate. Indeed, Jade can only reach one conclusion:
Carolla isn’t really looking for Roxanne to get a porn actress.
Celia: Jade hadn’t expected to find much. All the same, she filches any interesting tidbits that she comes across.
“What did she do to you,” Jade ventures after one of their stops, “and how can I make it better?”
GM: “She crossed my uncle,” he says flatly.
Celia: “The one with the crocs?” She can’t help but sound intrigued.
GM: Flint dances in his eyes. “No. The other fucking uncle with the crocs.”
Celia: Jade is silent for a moment, letting him stew. Finally she says, “I didn’t know she had anything to do with him.”
There’s an invitation to share, if he wants to tell her the story.
GM: Carolla’s fist smashes into Jade’s face like a sledgehammer, crunching in her jaw and nose with a grisly shatter that sends teeth flying. She goes flying too, across the car’s interior, and hits the door with a painful thud before landing on the ground. Blood seeps onto the floor mat from her face. Jade barely wrestles down her furious Beast as the red fury starts to edge out Carolla’s eyes.
“Fucking waste of a fucking night! Fucking cocksucking camwhore FUCK! FUCK!!!!”
The Brujah’s next blow caves in the driver’s headrest and smashes it off the seat altogether. Carolla’s ghoul barely ducks as the headrest flies past him to hit the steering wheel, causing him to jerkingly swerve the car. Angry honks go up from traffic.
Celia: Jade should have kept her mouth shut. She rears backwards when the fist slams into her face, smothering her Beast inside her chest before it can do so much as hiss. She finds a spot on the floor and hunkers down, arms over her head, protecting herself from the almost-raging Brujah.
Occupational hazard, isn’t it, hanging out with the angry ones.
She waits a beat, looking for the signs of him completely losing his cool, and only once she’s sure he hasn’t she offers something else: the opportunity to put Gui in his place.
GM: “Yeah? Fucking how?” snarls the Brujah, fangs still jutting from his mouth.
Celia: “Party at the Evergreen on Saturday,” Jade offers, hands still up. “He set the theme. 1920s. In honor of his sire. I bet we can make him look real fuckin’ stupid.”
GM: Carolla grabs Jade by the hair and yanks her across the car floor. He twists it hard, forcing her to look up at him from the ground with her throat bared. He leans close.
“Look at you. You with your long fucking hair in your fucking bitch boots with your fucking hands up, you scared fucking woman.”
Celia: Jade’s fingers close around the wrist of the hand that yanks her head back, but she knows better than to try to get away. She meets his gaze, forcing herself to stare into the cold eyes that look upon her now. Bloodied, but not beaten.
“Lick,” she hisses at him, “and one who’s offering you another annoyance on a silver platter since we can’t find the cunt.”
GM: The Brujah doesn’t let go. He leans closer, enough to kiss.
“Say you’re a woman.”
Celia: Anger simmers just beneath the surface. He’s just like a bald man she used to know, using the word “woman” as an insult.
As if having a vagina is a fucking crippling disability.
“I’m as much a woman as you are a man.”
GM: And with those words, he smiles faintly and lets go.
“Right. Beast got riled up.”
Celia: If she were still mortal she might breathe a sigh of relief. But she’s not; she’s the undead abomination she claims to be, so she is still and silent, wary, rubbing at the roots of her hair with her fingers.
“Yeah,” she finally says.
GM: He picks her up and plops her back down on the seat.
“That sounds fun.”
“We can do that, you want.”
“Or there’s something we can do right now.”
GM: “Asshole your sire would be pretty happy if we ruined the night of.”
Celia: “That hardly narrows it down.”
GM: He barks another laugh.
“Yeah. She’s a piece of work.”
Celia: “She’s somethin’ all right. What do you have in mind? Or rather, who?”
GM: “I been working this a while. Asshole’s been a pain in my ass too. But now…”
He pulls out a phone. He unlocks it, then shows it to Jade. She sees a blipping dot on a map.
“…I can do this anytime, at my leisure.”
“Follow asshole’s every move.”
Celia: “Which asshole?” she asks, watching the blip.
GM: Carolla starts to answer, then follows her gaze to the screen.
“Oh fuck! Asshole’s in City Park, this is fucking perfect!”
“City Park,” he tells the ghoul.
Celia: Jade supposes that answers that. She’s along for the ride.
Friday night, 18 March 2016, AM
GM: True to its name, City Park is the city’s largest park, replete with a miniature golf course, art museum, amusement park, playground, restaurants, and other attractions to the point that ‘park’ actually looks rather scarce, at least this far south. Still, there aren’t many people around this late at night.
The ghoul pulls into the closest parking lot. A children’s playground is visible across from the asphalt. The swings, slides, seesaws, sandbox, and other playground equipment stand still and barren at the late night hour.
It’s the same one Roderick took her to back in 2012.
Carolla opens the door and gets out. He picks Jade up, around the waist with both hands, then sets her down on the pavement.
“Let me see you strut your ass in those bitch boots.”
Celia: Jade uses the time in the car to wipe the worst of the blood from her face. It only serves to enhance the look. Like Rod once said, no one likes a lick showing up in brand new leathers to a rant; it screams of trying too hard.
She’s all eyes for the Brujah during the ride otherwise, letting out a delighted giggle when he picks her bodily up and sets her on her feet. She’s happy to show off her ample posterior with a strut in her bitch boots, heel-toe, one foot in front of the other. The boots lift her ass into the air, a sway with every step.
GM: Carolla watches appreciatively as her heels go click-click-click against the pavement.
“Fuck yeah. Look at those fucking hips. God. Any other time, I’d fuck you right here. "
“We’ll do that when we’re done. Can you fight?”
Celia: “Not as well as you, I imagine. But I manage.”
“We taking down a big tough guy?”
He doesn’t contest the “not as well” assertion at all.
Celia: She’s hardly going to lie about it with her ass on the line. Her hand squeezes his bicep, aroused despite the serious nature of his claim and burning curiosity.
“What’s the plan? I could distract him.”
GM: “The plan starts with you taking off the fucking bitch boots, if you’re actually serious about fighting too.”
Celia: Jade unzips and kicks them off without a word.
GM: He holds out his hand. The ghoul gives him a set of binoculars. He pulls up the map on his phone again.
“Right. We follow asshole from a distance. See if asshole’s with any friends. Odds look good, we jump asshole there, pound a stake into asshole’s chest.”
Celia: “And after?”
GM: “I fuck you in your bitch boots on top of asshole.”
Celia: Jade grins.
GM: “Put them in the car,” he says to the ghoul. “Fucking homeless or pervert will steal them.”
The ghoul picks up Jade’s shoes and puts them in the car.
“If asshole walks by the water, we hide under there. If asshole walks by a tree, we hide up there. Jump asshole out of fucking nowhere.”
“Tree is better. This suit is fucking expensive.”
Celia: “Hide. Jump the asshole. Fuck on the asshole.” She nods.
GM: “Yep. You know how to shoot or use a sword?”
Celia: “I’m okay with a knife. Better with these.” And there they are: claws sprouting from the tips of her fingers, just as pretty as the rest of her but with a lethal edge.
GM: “Good,” he nods. “How about shooting, in case there’s renfields?”
Celia: “Not really,” she admits. The claws slide back into her nail beds.
GM: “Okay. He’ll handle the shooting, if there’s any.”
The ghoul loads a firearm.
Celia: “Are you expecting a whole retinue?”
GM: “Probably not. Why take a retinue on a fucking walk in the park. But plan for the worst. Who knows what he’s doing here.”
Celia: She nods again. She does the same.
GM: “Stay out sight. Behind trees and bushes and shit. Doesn’t fucking matter asshole can see in the dark if there’s a plant in the way.”
Celia: She almost offers to cloak. But she’s already shared the claws, no need to tip her whole hand.
“Okay. I’ll follow your lead.” She pauses, then finally reaches out to touch his wrist. “Hey, Will, is he… dangerous? Stronger than you?”
GM: The Brujah barks a laugh.
“But I’m not underestimating him either. He’ll be dangerous.”
“He can definitely take you.”
Celia: That’s not saying much.
“Guess I’ll have to work on it.”
GM: He shrugs.
“You’re a Toreador who struts around in bitch boots.”
Celia: “So’s my sire. Can still throw down with the best of them.”
GM: “Can throw down with the best of neonates. Bet the sheriff would hand her her ass.”
Celia: “Can’t imagine many asses he wouldn’t handle.”
She wishes he’d handle hers.
GM: He grunts and walks down the park’s trail, dimming the brightness on his phone. The ghoul gets out a heavy knife, locks the car, and follows behind.
Celia: Jade falls into step beside him, dimming her aura when he dims his phone. No need to make it look like there’s two licks around if she can avoid it.
GM: Jade’s never been on any dates here, but it’s a literal trip down memory lane for Celia.
At the post-midnight hour, the trio seem to have the winding trails all to themselves. The forested park with its tall, drooping branches feels like something out of a primordial dream.
Celia: It might be romantic, if not for the way he’d slugged her earlier and the fact that they’re about to jump some unsuspecting soul.
GM: Carolla doesn’t pause to appreciate them like Roderick did, either. He just seems to make note of the camouflage in between checking his phone. He also says to “Watch out for any fucking Gangrel.”
Celia: Jade keeps her eyes peeled for other licks, whatever form they happen to choose.
A girl named Celia had once been worried about them while she was with her date, though she’d been riding the high of rekindled romance. Nothing had touched them that night.
The park seems altogether more sinister now.
GM: Carolla and the ghoul keep their eyes peeled too, albeit with the Brujah distracted following his map, but none of the trio sees any. Yet.
They finally reach a point where Carolla nods, “Fucking perfect. Asshole’s headed this way.”
He grabs Jade and unceremoniously throws her up at the canopy.
He throws his ghoul into the tree too, then seems to all but fly as he does a standing leap from the ground into the tree’s crown.
Celia: God, it’s hot.
Even now, middle of the night, waiting to jump some asshole—thrown bodily into the air really seems to do it for her. She doesn’t say anything, though, just keeps her eyes peeled on the path once she settles atop the branch he’d thrown her onto.
It’s almost like flying.
GM: He catches a branch too and swings around it, pulling out his phone. The dot on the map draws steadily closer. Carolla’s ghoul pulls the rifle off his back.
“I hold up one finger,” whispers Carolla. “You hit asshole with a head shot.”
“Two fingers. Up to you who to fire on.”
Celia: Smart. Roderick had told her he’d rather slow down a lick from afar with bullets.
GM: He shakes his head. “Fuck. Wish we’d had two heavy hitters in the car. I’d try to blow his head off too.”
Celia: Jade lets them plan. Without a gun she doesn’t have much to add to the conversation. She keeps her eyes peeled on the path.
GM: “Wait. You can’t fucking see in the dark, you useless piece of shit.”
“You should have fucking said so. Give me that.”
Celia: Fucking renfields.
GM: “It’s got a scope,” declares the ghoul.
“I don’t fucking care. I’m taking the shot.” Carolla pulls it out of his hands.
Celia: Jade hesitates. Then, almost quicker than the eye can follow, she reaches out to mark the ghoul’s arm with her claws. An eye, slitted down the middle like a cat’s, stares up at them when she’s done.
“Blink,” she tells the ghoul.
GM: He blinks. His eyes glow red.
“Holy shit. I can see fine.”
“Like, not just through the scope. Fuckin’ everywhere.”
“Huh. Okay,” says Carolla. He looks at Jade, then back to his ghoul. “You take the shot. Better this way. Couldn’t pause to hand you back the gun after I took the shot.”
Celia: No one ever asks how. Jade doesn’t sigh. She just thinks about it.
GM: They settle in to wait.
They don’t wait long, though, before Jade sees Roderick and Dani walking down the trail together, clad in their masks. Their voices are inaudible at the current distance, but brother and sister are smiling at each other.
Dread curls in her gut.
Not this. Not them.
He’ll kill her with the headshot. She doesn’t know if thin-bloods can come back from that, but she’s not going to risk Dani’s life on it. She has to stop him. Carolla and the goon. And she’d just marked him.
Jesus Christ she’s fucking stupid.
So fucking stupid.
What matters more to her: her lover… or her grandsire?
Neither, whispers his voice in her head.
She wishes he were here now. That he’d swoop in and take out Carolla for her so that she doesn’t need to dirty her hands, so that she can just play dumb when they ask her about it, because she’s so fucking good at that. Is there a way to reason with him? A way to get him to not attack?
Yeah. By redirecting his rage. Taking it out on her instead of Roderick.
Jade swallows. He’s had Roderick bugged for who knows how long. Following his every move. Leading him right back to her. Savoy offered to take him out for Roderick anyway, didn’t he? It’s no skin off their back if she just does it first.
Those masks might be their saving grace, though.
“Bugged a breather, did you? Hardly worth Veronica’s time.”
GM: Carolla holds a finger to his lips with a pissed off expression.
Celia: Jade gestures at where the non-vampires walk through the park.
“Worried about kine,” she continues. Stage whisper. “Took my fucking boots off for this nonsense.”
GM: “Shut UP, you stupid cunt,” he whisper-hisses.
Celia: Roderick… or her grandsire?
It’s not even a choice.
“I bet you five grand I can take them on my own.”
GM: Carolla looks as if he wants to rip Jade’s head off as she keeps talking and potentially compromising their hiding spot.
“Shut. Your. Mouth.”
But he doesn’t look at her. His eyes whip ahead towards the ‘mortals’ she points out for him.
Celia: “Hiding in the trees from fucking breathers.”
“Big bad fucking lick.”
“Give me the gun, let’s at least make it sporting.”
GM: Carolla seizes Jade and clamps one hand over her mouth to silence her. The Toreador’s struggles seem to only further enrage the Brujah, and he casually breaks her right hand with his other one, seizing it a vice-like grip and squeezing until the delicate bones crunch apart. Her left hand follows a moment later. What’s left looks as if someone pounded a sledgehammer over them.
Celia: Pain flares white hot through her body when her wrists snap, the eight tiny bones no match for his crushing grip. She doesn’t dare shriek when the Brujah has already made his annoyance known; the sound that passes from her lips to his palm is a low, keening whimper that cuts off as quickly as it begins. Jade ceases her struggles. In the car, even riding the dangerous edge, she’d thought herself relatively safe. His strength had been hot. Here and now with her lover, his sister, and her own self on the line, it’s downright terrifying.
GM: A brief smile plays over Carolla’s rough features, but then he and his ghoul frown at the unfamiliar approaching faces. The apparent breathers. Carolla looks down at his phone again, frowning in confusion as it apparently confirms that ‘asshole’ is right by, then seems to do a mental calculus if his ghoul takes the shot.
They’re Roderick in disguise. His ghoul shoots Roderick in the head.
They’re a pair of random breathers. His ghoul shoots a random breather in the head.
The Brujah points at the male ‘breather,’ then holds up one finger.
Celia: Licks smell even the faintest traces of blood in the air. Jade lets the tears come. Her aura flickers and drops. Her eyes flash red in the night. Haphazard, as if she can’t control it, as if the pain of having both wrists broken keeps her from being able to concentrate on maintaining the deception, but maybe the message reaches Roderick all the same. Maybe it’s enough to let him know something is wrong. She plays up the weak, womanly angle that Carolla has her pegged in, leaning back against him as if to silently acknowledge his superiority, nodding her head again and again to say I get it, I’ll be quiet. Each movement that jostles her arms sends a fresh cascade of bloody tears down her face. She sobs into the Brujah’s hand.
She should have played it another way. Could have played it another way. Now she’s sitting in a tree with a monster and his ghoul, learning first-hand why Roderick speaks so ill of the Mafia if this is the way they treat people. At least her spot pressed against Carolla’s side will keep him from jumping down immediately once the gun goes off.
No time for should have/could have, though. She has seconds before Roderick walks into view of the renfield. Seconds before he squeezes the trigger.
She makes them count.
Jade shifts against Carolla as she can, keeping her hands from view. No need to let him know that she’s sending the blood she needs to the area to snap her wrists back into place. She plays up the damsel; she’s just a weak woman and he’s a big strong manly man and she has definitely learned her place. She’s so sorry that she doubted him, sorry she questioned him; she just wanted him to think she’s as much of a badass as he is, and now she knows how stupid that was. Of course he’s in charge. She knows a winner when she sees one.
Celia has had so much practice in this role. She takes the reins, swimming to the surface to make it as believable as she can. She squirms, not to get free but to press herself closer, twisting her face to press it against his chest.
And there’s his throat. Waiting for her.
That’s the thing about lap cats: you never know how true the cat part of it is until the girl you’ve got your hands on shifts in the blink of an eye, turning into a deadly, 600-pound predator with nails as long as the fingers of the girl she used to be. The tiger’s jaws open wide to close around that throat in front of her, its snarl ripping through the night.
GM: The tree branch snaps under the big cat’s quarter-ton weight, sending tiger and Brujah crashing to the grass in a heap. The tiger recovers first, with its four legs. Great jaws shoot straight for its prone adversary’s throat. Bone crunches and flesh tears as blood sprays over the striped cat.
Then, out of nowhere, Roderick appears. Perhaps he has no clue who the tiger is. But he knows who the mafioso underneath the tiger is. He doesn’t hesitate for a moment. He can’t get in a punch past the tiger’s bulk, but bone-shattering, brutally hard kicks smash into Carolla in blurs of motion.
Celia remembers a conversation at Flawless once, how Piper read an article about what to do if you’re attacked by a tiger. She said she read to stick your fist up its mouth. That will really fuck up its day. Emily was immediately skeptical. She said you should go for the sensitive parts instead, like its eyes. “You can’t fucking beat a tiger in a fight,” she’d said. “You just want to cause it enough pain to back away and figure this meal is more trouble than it’s worth. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll blind it.”
She’d asked Robby his opinion afterwards, too. The HEMA enthusiast had agreed. Fighting a tiger alone and unarmed is a suicidally terrible idea: all you can do is cause it enough pain to back off. “I only know the basics of shooting, but that’s a situation where I’d MUCH rather have a gun than one of my swords,” she’d said he said. “The noise might scare it off even if you miss.”
“But yeah. This is why humans invented tools and hunted in groups. Lone unarmed human against an apex predator is no contest.”
Licks aren’t humans, though.
Carolla doesn’t go for the eye. He just drives his fist into the tiger’s throat, messily crunching in bone, before an equally savage follow-up to the nose smashes in the animal’s face. Undeterred, the tiger savages the shit out of Carolla with its claws, shredding muscle and sinew and reducing the mafioso’s fine suit to gore-stained tatters. Strips of bloody meat dangle from the beast’s claws and teeth.
Carolla’s ribs crunch apart under Roderick’s continued kicks. With a roar of bestial fury, Carolla seizes the tiger under its forelimbs and hurls the quarter-ton animal against the tree, which shakes to its roots. Branches and leaves snap off from the canopy as more gunshots split the air. The tiger can’t say from who as it regains its paws.
Roderick takes advantage of the opening, though, and delivers a downward punch to his still half-risen clanmate that all but explodes Carolla’s skull. His face looks like a shattered vase after a two-year-old tried to glue it back together.
Carolla is slammed back into the grass even as Roderick’s follow-up punch descends from his other fist. For a moment, it looks like he and tiger have won the fight, until the next gunshot takes him square in the back of the neck. He staggers forward. Carolla ambles to his feet, fangs bared and roaring past his half-destroyed throat, just as the tiger lunges at him. The great cat’s claws rip open his stomach but fail to knock him off his feet even as Roderick falls into a boxer’s stance, taking advantage of Carolla’s preoccupation to launch one-two combos with the full force of his body behind them. They’d be easier to counter if only the fight was one-on-one, and shatter bones faster than the other Brujah can mend them.
More gunshots go off.
Carolla has more than one foot in the grave already, but the frenzying Brujah fights like a demon, driving the tiger and his clanmate back with wild, bone-shattering blows. There’s a thump against the grass. A machete rams into the tiger’s flank. Carolla’s ghoul drags it back like he’s carving up a steak, taking some of the pressure off his domitor.
Celia: In this form, with this speed and size, the tiger can keep up with the fight where the girl couldn’t. Even launched as it is against the tree, body savaged by the fists of the Brujah that rain down upon it, its single-minded instinct runs deep: fuck up the other guy before he can fuck up the tiger and its allies. It shreds, bites, crushes, snaps—whatever part of the lick it can get to it rips into.
The gunshots register only in the back of its mind—how many people heard? will it draw the cops? how quickly does it need to end the fight to prevent the Masquerade from unraveling?—and it’s that last thought that propels the tiger forward to sink teeth and claw into the enemy.
Until that sword slices its flank. A machete. Who brings a fucking machete to the park. That’s all the girl inside the tiger has time to think before the Beast itself takes over; she doesn’t even fight it, letting the reins slip free of her grasp to give in to the monster inside just as surely as she gave in to the monster outside. Roderick had told her that she should keep it contained in a fight, but fuck that. She’ll take the edge. The annoyance of the sword is nothing compared to what the asshole in front of her can do with his bare hands. And once he goes down that sword-wielding douchebag is one chomp away from turning into a red smear on the ground. The tiger focuses its rage on the lick, launching itself forward on powerful hindquarters to knock his feet out from under him and take him down in a shower of blood and muscle and gore, claws ripping at his stomach and teeth clamping down around his throat. It rips and tears and ravages; no one fucks with the girl’s property and gets off with it.
GM: She doesn’t see what happens.
She never does, when the Beast takes over.
She just opens the floodgates, lets the red tide pour out, and stands back to let the Beast have its fun.
They might stay open for a second. They might stay open for a thousand years. Time loses meaning in the sea of red. The tiger likes this place.
When the red fog clears, tiger’s face is pressed flat against a tree. So is the rest of its body, from its neck down to its chest. Its paws are awkwardly splayed in the air. It can’t move. It feels a monstrously strong human-shaped weight pressing into its back, holding it in place against the tree.
“Right,” comes Roderick’s tight voice. “You don’t feel apeshit anymore. Turn back into a human and I’ll let you down.”
“Or at least a lick.”
“Is, is that…?” comes Dani’s voice.
“A lick? Yeah. Some of us can turn into animals,” answers her brother. “First time I’ve seen one become a tiger, though.”
“Jesus, that thing was terrifying,” says Dani.
Celia: The tiger doesn’t like this position pressed up against the tree. It’s unnatural. Painful, even, with its limbs stretched every which way and the weight of a body behind it. A familiar body. A boy that another cat knows.
The feline instincts run strong. It chuffs at the boy, tail flicking, and then it shifts. Its body twists and shrinks, its stripes spreading out across its body until the fur remains a single color, lightening to a dark gray from solid black.
Luna meows at her boy.
GM: A mortal man might stumble at the sudden disappearance of the big cat’s bulk and weight, but Roderick just lithely catches the smaller feline in his arms. The cat gets a look at him. He looks bad. His clothes are shredded tatters, there’s blood all over him from head to toe, and the mask is torn too. It’s now obviously a mask, as bits of his real face peak out.
He blinks upon recognizing the cat.
“C-Jade?!” he exclaims, catching himself.
Celia: Luna takes stock of her boy, then the girl behind him. Irritation surges through her tiny little body. He’s hers. Hers to protect. Someone hurt him, and she’s going to make them pay. She rubs her face against his chin, then twists again, looking past him for the bodies of Carolla and the goon.
GM: Both of them lie in heaps on the ground. As bad as Roderick looks, Carolla looks worse. His throat is a shredded ruin and his stomach’s actually been ripped open, replete with guts hanging all out. The torpid vampire’s eyes stare blankly into the night sky.
Celia: The cat hisses at his corpse, ears flat against her head.
GM: His ghoul lies equally motionless, but his guts are still inside his torso. Dani is bent over him. A handgun rests nearby on the very, very red grass. The cat can just smell the blood. It suffuses the entire scene like a primordial perfume.
He cuts her off. “Shit, don’t use our names!”
“He’s not gonna make it!” says Dani.
GM: Roderick drops the cat, then bends to one knee over the fallen ghoul. He bites his wrist and holds it to the man’s mouth.
Celia: Jade shifts again, barefoot in the grass, and launches herself at Roderick.
GM: Her lover’s lightning-faster and brutally stronger arms snap out and slam her to the ground like she’s nothing.
Celia: “He tried to murder you both,” Celia snarls at him.
GM: Roderick lets the blood flow into the ghoul’s mouth. His eyes have barely had a chance to open before the Brujah’s fist descends against his head, and then he’s out again.
“Wait, why did you…” starts Dani.
“He’ll be unconscious for a while,” says Roderick. “Won’t remember this fight, either.”
“Wait, that’s not how knocking people out works,” frowns Dani. “Hollywood m-”
Roderick shakes his head. “It’s a trick of the Blood. He’ll forget.”
Celia: Celia climbs back to her feet, eyes moving back and forth between the siblings.
“We need to go. Now.”
GM: “We do,” Roderick says tightly. “We need to take care of his car. Where’s yours?”
Celia: “Taken care of.”
GM: “Fuck. Look at all this blood. We need to scrub this.”
“There were gunshots,” says Dani. “I don’t know we’ll have time. If there’s Gangrel in this park like you say. Those were LOUD.”
Celia: “Put the bodies in the car. I’ll take care of that. You use your speed and scrub it.”
GM: “Are you going to try to kill him again?” Roderick asks.
Celia: Celia glares at him.
“I wasn’t trying to kill him.”
GM: “I’m not doing that again,” he says flatly. “Doesn’t matter who. I’m not killing again.”
Celia: “I’m not going to kill him. We don’t have time to argue.”
GM: “Right. Taking them to our car. Back as fast as I can.” Roderick hefts his sister (who gives a started sound) and the ghoul over his shoulders in firemen’s carries, and then he’s gone in a blur.
Friday night, 18 March 2016, AM
Celia: There’s a brief moment of indecision as he goes. He’d taken off the same way as Carolla’s car. Of course they used the same lot; how hadn’t she noticed his car when they’d arrived? What was she paying attention to instead? The thug in front of her, probably.
How long does it take to drain the body to the point that Caroline had told her about?
Longer than she has, she bets.
She could try it anyway. Maybe she should. She bends—
And hears a footstep behind her. The decision is taken from her when she looks up to see the two ghouls she’d summoned from the car finally arrive. Her hackles had been up the entire ride after Carolla smacked her around, and she’s glad she’d texted them when she did. Late to the fight, but just in time to be of some use.
“Take him. Get the blood off him. Go. You know where. Don’t let anything happen to him. Go. Hurry.”
GM: “Uh, gonna take a while to get off this much blood…” says Randy.
Reggie just grunts and hefts up the body.
Celia: Is this the right thing?
Or should she leave the body with Roderick? Let him taste that blood first hand?
She should, shouldn’t she? That’s what Savoy would want. What her sire would want.
Then what? How will she get it from him later?
She won’t. She won’t let him take it at all.
“This way,” she says instead. Toward the SUV.
GM: The brothers follow after her, torpid body held aloft.
Celia: “There’s a car. We need to get rid of it.” A quiet explanation, only the need to know.
GM: “Okay, there’s chop shops,” says Reggie.
Celia: “Mafia related. Can’t get back to us.”
GM: “Shit, really?”
Celia: Could take it to Shep, but what if he recognizes it?
GM: The three are interrupted as Roderick blurs to a stop in front of them.
He looks at the ghouls. “Can they help?”
Celia: “Yeah, that’s what I’m explaining to them now.”
GM: He shakes his head. “Stupid question.” He moves to relieve them of the body.
Celia: “They’ve got it.”
“We need to clean. They’re not as fast.”
“And they need to get out of here. Take the two cars. Randy can leave his keys. We scrub. Anyone comes by we just say we’re fucking. Explains the blood.”
“Randy will go with Dani. Reg, van.”
“Or she can drive your car. Give them your keys.”
GM: Roderick considers her plan, then nods.
“She’s already got them. I’ll text her to take off.” He pulls out his phone and taps away.
“A’ight. Same plan.” Reggie and Randy head off with the body.
Celia: They know where to go.
Celia makes sure to get Randy’s keys before he leaves.
Nothing like being stranded.
GM: “We can’t hide this completely,” says Roderick. His form blurs, and then he’s picked up several spent shell casings from the grass.
He tucks them in his pocket. “Too hard outdoors.”
“Maybe we should actually fuck, though. Get our blood everywhere.”
Celia: She does what she can, following his lead with her own burst of speed, picking up any stray articles she finds.
She pauses at his words.
“Yeah? Think it’ll help?”
GM: “Dunno, but it’s that or try to get out all the blood from everywhere.”
“Wait, we could pretend we were playing Nines. Explain the gunshots.”
Celia: “You don’t think the kine will wonder?”
She doesn’t say no, though.
GM: “Probably will.”
Celia: She wishes they had a Tremere right about now.
“Enough to get us in trouble?”
“Six Nines. I was the kidnapped lick. He took off after losing, you and I fucked.”
“Maybe better not to mention him.”
GM: Roderick shakes his head. “Rather not have him attached to us at all.”
He pulls out the shell casings. “Okay, these ones are from Dani’s semiauto, these others are… god fucking damn it, why did that guy bring a rifle? Mobsters don’t even use those!”
Roderick’s gone in another blur, then he’s back with another gun.
Celia: She starts to explain that he was trying to kill Roderick, but the Brujah is gone and back before she can open her mouth. Her eyes fix on the gun.
GM: “Took this from your ghouls. Someone who really knows guns and heard those shots might be suspicious when these casings don’t match the sounds, but not much we can do about that.”
“You don’t use rifles in Nines either.”
Celia: “How fast are you?” she blurts.
“I assume enough licks don’t use guns to know it doesn’t match. We’ll do what we can to cover it.”
GM: “Not fast enough to do that all the time. It’s giving me munchies. Bad. On top of that fight.” He grimaces.
Celia: “You gonna go postal?”
GM: “I’ll hold it in.”
Celia: She just nods.
GM: “Fuck. Maybe this whole thing is a dumb idea. More gunshots to get more spent casings is just making this worse.”
Celia: “Then let’s just clean it up and dip. I don’t know what else we can do.”
“What do you guys do after the games? How do you hide it?”
GM: “I don’t know either! But those gunshots happened and Carolla still came here. Nines is one way to explain it, but licks have to know it was us for it to actually seem like that and not just a random shooting, and that connects us to the place Carolla last was.”
“Fuck. Maybe I’m being paranoid wanting to explain all of that and the blood too, but I’d rather be too careful than not careful enough.”
Celia: “No. You’re right. We need to handle all aspects.”
Not to mention being seen together.
GM: “You think we should try to scrub as much as we can or stage it as Nines or what?”
Celia: “Cleaning up after Nines.”
Briefly, she explains. It already looks like they’re cleaning up from a game, trying not to draw notice from any breathers. Protecting the Masquerade and all that. They’ve got the shells in their pockets, they’re working on cleaning up their spilled blood… but it’s blood, you know, and they’re two horny neonates, and they got a little carried away, and Torrie Beasts only ever want to fuck anyway, so they did, and now they’re just scrubbing away the evidence of their tryst.
Because she has to assume that Anarchs don’t play their games and just abandon the sight.
GM: “All right. So you want someone to see us here?” he asks.
“That’s the only thing that will really cement Nines as a story.”
Celia: “Then everyone knows about us.”
GM: “If we don’t it’s just a random act of violence that somebody made an effort to up.”
“I have my mask, but obviously it’s not perfect anymore.”
“God damn it. What I’d give to be able to change faces right now like a sewer rat.”
Celia: “What, to bail, or to not get caught together?”
GM: “To get caught, looking like two licks who aren’t actually us.”
Celia: “Got a frame job in mind? Or two randoms?”
GM: He shakes his head. “Doesn’t matter. I don’t know how to veil.”
Celia: She’s going to throttle him if she has to ask what he wants one more time.
“I do. So tell me.”
GM: He raises his eyebrows, but answers, “Two randoms is easier. Anyone we try to frame might have an alibi.”
“Or, actually, we could make one Carolla. His blood is actually here.”
“Wait, no. That’s a pretty advanced veiling trick.”
“Two randoms, then.”
Celia: Celia nods. She turns away while he continues to talk. Her fingers blur across her face, then the side of her head. Her form flickers, blurring as the shadow dancing takes hold, just something to misdirect his eyes while she molds her skin like putty. It’s quick. When she turns again she’s not Celia anymore. She’s not Jade anymore. She’s someone else. Cute, but fuller cheeks and missing half the hair on the side of her head, like a buzz cut. All the rage these days, that style. Goes with her leathers, too, so she doesn’t even look out of place.
“Hold still,” she says, reaching out to him. Another burst of speed, but a smaller one this time. Blood coats her fingers. She murmurs while she works, a string of vaguely Latin-sounding words that may or may not be an actual language but sure as hell sound like something out of a medical textbook. Her fingers move against the mask that he still wears, smoothing out the torn pieces, altering it to look like the thug they’d just beaten the fuck out off.
Her Beast doesn’t even give a fuck. It’s still riding the high that she’d beaten the shit out of the douchebag she’s now looking at, pleased that she had let it out of the cage.
GM: He touches the mask, then stares at her, and reaches out to touch the shaved side of her head.
“That’s not shadow dancing.”
Celia: “No,” she agrees. She hesitates. Then, “Surprised?”
GM: “It explains the Jade face, too.”
“And how you’re also good at shapeshifting.”
Celia: “Yeah.” She reaches for his hand. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”
GM: “Why didn’t you?”
“I’m not just another lick. I wouldn’t try to use it against you.”
He sounds hurt.
Celia: “We were broken up. And it never seemed like a good time for it, lately, with everything going on. I didn’t know how to bring it up. There’s… a lot I didn’t know how to bring up, and I… I was going to talk to you about it tonight, when we got back, because things are getting really serious again and I don’t… I don’t want to lie to you about anything.”
“I was going to tell you before. A few years ago. I told you that you couldn’t tell anyone, and then you said ‘Maybe don’t then, I know how secretive night doctors can be,’ and…” she trails off.
GM: “You said knowing a night doctor was the secret. That there was a night doctor who owed you.”
Celia: Not-Celia looks away. Technically she’d just let him draw his own conclusions and said she wouldn’t confirm anything, but it doesn’t seem the sort of thing she should point out.
“We broke up before I got a chance to tell you.”
“And… I was going to. Tonight. Like I said.”
“Your si—” she cuts off before she finishes the word. “We had a talk tonight. In the car. She said that it seemed like I was still bitter and carrying a lot of baggage around because of everything before, and we’d never really aired it out, and I realized she’s right. I’m still holding part of myself away because… because it hurt. It hurt so much when you left. And it took so long to put myself back together and not mope and wait in my haven, watching the door, waiting for you to come back, praying that you’d come back, and then… and then you did, when I called, you did, and I’m still… good things don’t happen to me, they don’t, I’m just waiting for the moment it all falls apart again, and then she said that I just… I knew I didn’t want to be like that. It can’t be like that. We can’t be together with all this built up fear and paranoia and hurt and grief, I can’t be half-in because I think one night you’re going to wake up and realize you’re just better than me and don’t want to slum it because you won’t. You’re not like that.”
She wipes at her eyes. Her fingers come away red.
“So I was going to. To tell you. A lot of things. Because I don’t want us to be like every other lick in the city. I want what we had. Something real.”
She finally looks away.
“I just needed to get out of my own way and stop being afraid.”
GM: She feels her lover’s arm encircle her, as strong as ever but oh so gentle. He tilts her face up by the chin to meet his gaze.
“You don’t need to be afraid,” he says softly. His face is Carolla’s, but the expression on it is utterly at odds with the mafioso Celia knew only scant hours ago. There’s no mistaking them for the same person. “Okay? You don’t need to be afraid.”
“I’m sorry what I did to you when we broke up. I’m sorry I hurt you. Physically and emotionally. I’m sorry what that did, what I did, to our relationship and how I cultivated a climate where you believed you couldn’t tell the truth without getting dumped and physically beaten. I’m sorry I made you afraid to be honest. I’m sorry I made you afraid of me. It was shitty of me and I don’t have any excuse. I’d give anything to take it back.”
Celia: She wishes they were Stephen and Celia again, not William Carolla and Not-Celia. That they were in her haven and not the middle of the park with a crime scene to clean up. That she didn’t have a handful of other things to come clean about, so many lies that she doesn’t even know where to begin.
She tries not to think about it. She doesn’t want to think about it. It’s a problem for future Celia.
Celia presses her face against her boyfriend’s chest. No matter who she looks like and who he looks like, they’re still that.
“I… I have a lot to tell you.” The words are whisper-soft. “Promise me you won’t be mad later. Please. I hate being afraid of losing you.”
GM: He gives her another squeeze.
“I know. Dani told me about your conversation in the car. I figured… well, I suppose I didn’t figure anything. There’s just been so much else going on and I was happy just to have you back.”
“I can’t promise I won’t get mad at anything. But I do promise I won’t hurt you like I did last time, and that I won’t let my feelings ruin our relationship again.”
Celia: She’s quiet for a long moment.
“I love you,” she finally says. “I’m sorry I was afraid.” She touches a hand to the side of his face, thumb soft against his lips. “Not to change the subject… but we should either fuck to sell the story or get out of here.”
GM: “I love you too. But we should get caught, with these faces. Cleaning up our game.”
“Or I guess fucking, that sounds more believable.”
“And makes us look kind of dumb, too.”
Celia: “If we get in trouble for this I’m going to be so salty,” Celia mutters, but she’s already pulling her shirt over her head.
GM: Roderick smirks and leaves his on. “They’re bloody enough.” Then he tackles her to the grass and pierces her skin with his fangs.
Celia: Well that’s all she needs to get in the mood. She arches into him, keeping her breather reaction under control—few enough licks in the city get off that way—and sinks her teeth in to whatever part of him she can reach.
GM: The lovers know passion in one another’s arms (though Roderick still makes sure not to drink her blood before it’s cooled) until two Kindred appear on the scene. Jordan Petrowski, who Roderick mention was present at the Cypress Grove Massacre, and Ed Zuric, who Jade has seen in the French Quarter.
“Jesus H. Christ…” mutters Petrowski.
Celia: Celia thinks that maybe this is the face of a girl who had once been named Cici, and Cici doesn’t care if they’re being watched. She only stops if “Carolla” does, casting a glance at the two who’d happened upon them. She’d been a little rougher with him than normal, urging him to do the same (“he seems the type”), and her body wears the marks of their rough sex. She giggles, pointing out their audience to Carolla.
GM: ‘Carolla’ smirks up at the two Gangrel.
“Were those gunshots yours?” glares the gray-haired professor.
Celia: “We jus’ playin’.” A little more of a nasal whine than usual, the type of bitch who’s had her nose broken a time or two for getting lippy.
GM: Zuric rolls his eyes.
Petrowski shakes his head.
“You folks are lucky it’s not Meadows who found you. Go on, get.”
Celia: “Yeah, yeah,” Cici mumbles, pulling away from Carolla so she can find her shirt. “Jus’ blowin’ off steam. We’s goin’. C’mon, Willy, there’s better places to bone.”
She yanks her clothes on, makes a small scene about not being able to find her boots (“some pervert is prolly jackin’ off to ’em right now”) and stomps off.
GM: “The johnny laws are gettin’ your names and faces if there’s any shit over this,” says Zuric, rolling his eyes again.
‘Carolla’ just gives a thuggish glare.
Celia: Cici doesn’t even bother slowing down. She tosses her hair, scoffs, and keeps going, muttering about busybodies.
GM: That part’s not even a lie.
All she’d wanted was a romp of good sex in the park.
Friday night, 18 March 2016, AM
GM: ‘Carolla’ follows Celia off.
“You have any idea where his car is?” he mutters.
“Ah, wait, shit. Keys.”
Celia: “Yep.” Celia leads the way, grateful to put the park, the scene, and the Gangrel behind them.
“What about them?”
She holds up the keys she’d gotten from Randy.
GM: He smiles with relief. “Oh, that’s right. Perfect. Didn’t want to have to smash in a window and deal with a car alarm too.”
“I guess we’ll try cars until one unlocks.”
He takes the keys and heads over to the nearest vehicle.
Celia: Celia gives him a look.
“I know which car is his.”
GM: “Same reason you were here in the park too?” he asks.
Celia: “…Randy left his car for us, I’m real confused what you’re on about.”
GM: “Wait, I thought you meant Carolla’s car. He probably had his keys.”
“I don’t want to leave it here.”
Celia: “Reg took it.”
“Weren’t you listening?”
GM: “Yes. It wasn’t clear whose cars you meant. But whatever, this works almost as well.”
Celia: “You were distracted by how cute I am, it’s okay.”
GM: “Always,” he smirks, getting in the car after she points it out. He waits for her to buckle her seatbelt, then pulls out of the lot.
“How did you wind up here, though? That obviously wasn’t a coincidence for a tiger to fall out of the same tree.”
“…how did you learn to morph into a tiger, while we’re at it?”
“Most I’ve seen shapeshifting licks turn into is wolves.”
Celia: Celia laughs.
“Kind of a long story, but the short of it is that Flanagan’s kid caused some trouble in Audubon Zoo, and the tiger was gonna be put down. I don’t know how much you know about shifting, but… you have to drain an animal to get their shape. Prove you’re the better predator. There’s actually a whole ritual I heard some licks do when they’re going to master another shape, real kind of Native vibe where they honor the spirit and soul, that kind of thing. Hard to do with a tiger, they’re not really local, so I couldn’t do a hunt like that. But… I mean, it was going to be put down anyway and… it seemed like a waste. I found out what company, hacked some records, snuck in during the day, bada-bing, I’m a tiger now.”
“I couldn’t really do the whole thing like some of the licks do. Could hardly release it to hunt, would have caused too much issue. But I did what I could.”
“Clawed the fuck out of me, tell you that.”
“Figured if I couldn’t even give it a fighting chance then I don’t deserve to wear its form.”
Celia touches a hand to her stomach, no doubt remembering the claws that had almost eviscerated her.
“I can’t scry,” she says after a minute. The words are almost blurted; it sounds like a confession. “I pretend I can since I’m supposed to be able to, but I never learned. Veronica used to get mad at me for it. She never… I mean she never said ‘stupid,’ but I think she was probably thinking it. And I used to wonder, you know, if that was why. Because we consider it a mental art, and my dad… but… I dunno, Pietro says most breathers are boring anyway, that their thoughts aren’t worth listening to, and I’m good at reading their bodies, and I’m just… I’m good at this. I learned this instead. I’m… I’m good at it.”
GM: Roderick listens.
“Well, that happens. Wright sucks at star mode, but he’s a better hand at mind control. I don’t envy what happened to the lick who called him a ‘discount Ventrue.’”
“It’s as I said. We’re all good at different things.”
Celia: “Guess I’m not dumb enough to say that to him. Jeeze.”
GM: “Your being able to change our faces was a LOT more useful than mind-reading would’ve been, too.”
“So foo to your sire if she thought you were stupid.”
Celia: “I still wish I could do that telepathy thing. Send you messages across the city.”
GM: “That’s a pretty advanced scrying trick from what I hear anyway. I’m just glad you could change our faces.”
“And I have heard that, about draining the animal. I didn’t know there was a ritual to it, though. That makes total sense.”
“Lot of Gangrel who say they like animals more than people.”
“There’s people who say that, too.”
Celia: “It’s easy to get sucked in when you’re shifted.”
GM: “I can attest,” he smirks.
“I think I read about that tiger in the news, too. Just such a stupid waste. It was a wild animal. It didn’t do anything that another wild animal wouldn’t have done under the same circumstances. All tigers are ‘man-eaters’ if a human gets in their faces and provokes them.”
Celia: “It was. I’m… honestly kind of surprised the kid got away with it.”
GM: Roderick frowns.
“Maybe she didn’t.”
Celia: “What do you mean?”
GM: “I just don’t see the sheriff letting something like that slide if he knew it was her.”
“What, you think he doesn’t know?”
“Did you know?”
Shit, did she just spill something on accident?
GM: “I mean, it’s possible. And I didn’t know, actually.”
“Uh, don’t tell anyone?”
GM: “I’ve heard of Edith and her kids. It’s really fucked.”
“But I won’t.”
Celia: “I feel bad for her. And them.”
GM: “I feel worse for them.”
Celia: “I think sometimes that she’s not quite all there. She’s… a lot of us, you know, we go through it. Wanting kids. Not being able to have them. Hating it. And we get past it, but she’s so… fixated.”
GM: “I wanted kids with you. Would like them. More than anything.” He looks at her meaningfully. “But that’s not in the cards. God knows I’m not going to suggest we find a couple orphans to ghoul.”
Celia: “I know.” She squeezes his hand. “I would have loved to have your children. But ghouling them…” Celia shakes her head. “We could have a childe. You know, with an E. Pop out fully formed, that’s not weird at all.”
GM: He gives her a sad smile. “It’s not the same.”
“At least you have a ton of brothers and sisters to give you nieces and nephews, though. The Garrison name looks like it’s died with Dani. At least through my dad.”
Celia: “We can be godparents. For their entire line. Make up a story about being reclusive older relatives. Real eclectic.”
GM: “Godparents would be good. Keep our distance.”
“Then again, Lucy calls you mom, doesn’t she?”
Celia: “As far as everyone knows, I am her mom.”
GM: “Technically, almost everyone. But I’m glad you have that. Really. You have a sweet kid who thinks of you as her mom, who’s actually related to you, and whose life you can be in without living with… it really is the next best thing.”
“There’s a lot of licks who’d give a lot just for that.”
Celia: “Lot of licks who would try to take it away, too.”
“That’s why…” She gestures to her face.
GM: He nods. “Right. Smart.”
“I’m sorry I told Coco. I was new, I was devastated, I wasn’t thinking.”
Celia: “I wish she didn’t know. I don’t… dislike her, Rod, you know that right? I just… she knows…”
GM: “I just had to talk about you, us, to someone. I had no one else.”
“But it was irresponsible.”
“I made her swear not to ever tell anyone else, or to play any games with them. I told her we’d be through if she tried to use innocents like your family for any purpose.”
“I thought she would be mad at me. But she just said she understood and swore by her son’s memory that she wouldn’t ever touch them or reveal who they were to other licks.”
Celia: Moisture gathers at the corners of her eyes. She wipes at them before it has a chance to overflow and spill down her cheeks.
“Thank you. For that. For them. That means… that means a lot to me. More than I can put into words.”
GM: “It means less than if I’d just kept my mouth shut and not been so emotional. But it was the best thing I could think of after the milk was spilled.”
Celia: “You can’t change the past. You can only learn from it and move forward. And you have me now. Us. When you need to talk, I’m here.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
GM: He nods and gives her hand a squeeze. “I know.”
“Speaking of… where are your ghouls headed?”
Celia: “To strip the car. I told them to take care of it.”
GM: “Where are they dropping off Carolla?”
His voice gets an edge.
Celia: Celia shrinks against the door at the tone.
“Wha—what are you gonna do with him?”
GM: “I don’t know,” Roderick says frankly.
“Courts can’t try him. He’s a mobster with effective legal immunity.”
“But he can’t be allowed to go on preying upon people.” There’s a meaningful pause. “And I don’t just mean as a vampire.”
“Maybe stake him and bury him underground forever. The Sanctified actually believe in doing that to some criminals.”
Celia: “He’d deserve it.”
GM: “Yes. He would.”
“It’s unlife imprisonment. Seems the only realistic way to permanently curtail his crimes without simply leaving him to brighten sunrises.”
Celia: “How would you explain his disappearance..?”
GM: “Licks disappear semi-periodically without explanation.”
“Look at Evan Bourelle.”
“Lots of things that get them.”
“It’d be preferable if there was an explanation, but that also risks tipping our hand. Might be better for us just to stay as far away as possible.”
Celia: “No one can connect us to him. Those two saw this face. Except… well, the ghoul…”
GM: Roderick grimaces.
“We can’t stake him.”
“But, Celia, we’re not murderers. We don’t kill because it’s convenient.”
“We can say it’s for a just cause, but what do reasons matter if our actions are the same?”
Celia: “He had the gun trained on your sister,” Celia says quietly. “He didn’t care that you didn’t look like you, or that you didn’t even smell like a lick, he was going to kill you both because it might be you.”
GM: “You think I don’t know that?”
“You think I don’t have any idea what these people are capable of?”
“What fucking animal scumbags they are? How much misery and suffering they cause?”
“I’m sure he’d have killed my dad and mom and anyone I’ve so much as talked with too, if he thought that would help bring me down.”
Celia: “I… I didn’t. I didn’t. I didn’t know. You told me about it but it was never… it was never real to me, just something you once said about them.”
“Why? What did you do to him? Why was he after you?”
GM: “I told you, on our first date. How they’d pick up the kids of people who crossed them from schools. Or break a ballerina’s legs if she couldn’t pay back her debts.”
“But I don’t blame you if it wasn’t real.”
“Frenzy wasn’t real to Dani until she saw, wasn’t it?”
Celia: “That’s what I mean. I’ve never been that close to it.”
GM: “Did he hurt you?” Roderick asks, suddenly looking her over again.
Celia: Celia looks away.
GM: “What happened?” he asks.
“How did you get here?”
“But, first, let me know where I’m driving.”
GM: “Okay.” He finds a place to park the car. “Change my face. I do not want him seen showing up at your spa.”
Celia: It’s less of a face change than it is simply removing his mask.
“Easy off,” she explains.
GM: He pulls it off.
“Yes. But that’s still my face underneath.”
Celia: “You want a new face?”
“So ‘Roderick’ doesn’t show up at the spa?”
GM: He nods. “We still can’t be linked.”
Celia: “Can I make you cuter?”
She’s only teasing, but she gets to work on his skin with a warning that it’s going to hurt.
“Probably don’t refer to yourself in third person,” she says as she works, “it causes disassociation.”
GM: He lays his head down on her lap and gives a hiss of pain as she starts.
“Roderick will—nh—keep that in mind.”
Celia: Maybe now is a good time to tell him that she thinks there’s more inside of her than Celia and a fake name.
Or maybe it’s a conversation for another night. How would she even bring it up?
She works quickly, moving her fingers across his flesh to sculpt him into someone else. Someone attractive, with more facial hair and a sharp jaw. Someone who looks like they could be seen with Jade as a breather or a lick. Someone whose gaze smolders and makes her want to bare her throat and—
Well. Maybe it’s better she just focus on her work.
“I made you older. Maybe Italian. I dunno. What do you think?”
GM: Roderick does not enjoy the process. She has yet to meet anyone (well, with one exception) who does. But once the grimaces and grunts of pain are over and he looks in the mirror, he raises his new eyebrows.
“Wow. That’s… effective.”
“This could make spending time together a lot easier if we can be someone different every date…”
Celia: “It usually gives me the munchies,” Celia admits. “But I can hunt more, maybe.”
GM: “I can bring juice to cover my half.”
“Seriously. This would let us go out so many more places.”
“Without worrying all the damn time about being seen together.”
Celia: “I’d like that. Going out more.”
GM: “Me too. Could even just take turns changing faces, too. It’s plausible Roderick or Jade might go on dates as part of hunting.”
Celia: “More plausible Jade is seen with a new guy every night.”
She can’t quite keep the bitterness out of her voice.
GM: “And yet, she’s going out with the same one.”
“They don’t know you as well as they think.”
Celia: She doesn’t want to lie to him, so she just smiles, kisses his cheek, and starts fixing her own face.
GM: He pulls out his phone and taps out a text as she does.
“Telling Dani to come by the spa too.”
Celia: “Are you going to tell her about me?”
GM: “What about you? That you can change faces?”
GM: “She told me how friendly this Dr. Dicentra was. Hugged her, didn’t mind she was a thin-blood, was a mentor to you. Also said you’d paid her for the mask job.”
Celia: Celia nods.
GM: “Why lie to her? She’s duskborn.”
Celia: “I lied to everyone.”
GM: “Dr. Dicentra charged me favors,” he hmphs.
Celia: Celia rolls her eyes.
“Never cashed in, did she?”
GM: “That’s normal. Lots of licks sit on them for a while.”
Celia: “What I meant was, do you really think I was going to take advantage of you like that?”
GM: “Of course not. It was just another thing to worry about when I’ve already had a lot.”
Celia: “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to add to it.”
“You don’t owe me anything. Just… don’t tell anyone it’s me.”
GM: He sighs. “It’s fine. It’s harmless. But, why lie to Dani? She’s excited to see the night doctor again. The only lick besides us who’s been really friendly to her.”
Celia: “Do you want to be the one to tell her that Dicentra was only nice because it’s me?”
“How do you… how do you tell someone something after you’ve already lied to them?”
GM: “You tell them what you lied about, why you did it, and you say you’re sorry. It might hurt at first, but it’s better for you both in the long run.”
Celia: She’ll see if he stands by that later tonight.
GM: “Dani would rather have truth than lies. All our family would.”
Celia: “Even if it’s a really bad lie?”
GM: “Especially if it’s a really bad lie.”
Celia: “I thought you might hit me. Back in the park. After I changed your face, when you looked like him, and I thought… you know, at least it’s Will doing it, at least that’s consistent.”
“It doesn’t come easy. Being honest. Not now. Not when I’ve had to lie to everyone about everything for so long, juggling two different lives, trying to remember who is supposed to know what.”
GM: “I think, after all that, it would probably feel like a weight off your shoulders just to be honest.”
Celia: “Unless they hate you for it.”
GM: “And wonder the entire time if they’d actually hate the real me, and feel like the whole relationship is fake? That sounds awful.”
“I’d rather have honest hate.”
Celia: “But I don’t want you to hate me.”
GM: “I think we hold pretty different values in that regard, Celia.”
“If someone would hate the real you, then you never had anything.”
Celia: “Why can’t you just tell me that of course you won’t hate me and you’ll hear me out before you decide my face looks better split apart?”
GM: “I did tell you that. I told you I might be angry, but also that I’d never hurt you in that same way again.”
“It’s okay for couples to get angry. The emotions are there. Better you have them out honestly than bury them and let them fester and taint everything.”
“You can’t eject them. You have to deal with them somehow.”
Celia: You can eject other people, though. Kick them out of your life and never see them again. Make them wish they’d kept their mouth shut and believed the pretty lie in their little world of pretend.
Celia doesn’t say anything for a long moment while they drive, her eyes on the window now that she has finished with her face. She supposes they’ll find out tonight if Roderick thinks he can stick around knowing who she is.
“He hurt me,” she says finally, eyes still on the lights passing by their borrowed car. “You asked earlier.”
GM: “How?” he asks.
Celia: “He was looking for my sister.” Her voice is quiet. She doesn’t look at him. “I guess he was mad at her, she crossed his uncle. He wanted to teach her a lesson. He was going to… I don’t know. Rape her. Let some kine rape her. Said she’d never leave the studio, so I figure he’d probably just kill her when he’s done. Licks disappear, right?”
“But he couldn’t find her. I thought, you know, he seems to know all these places she’s been to, all her usual hangouts, and I don’t have any proof that Meadows killed her, and I thought maybe if I went with him I could find something, like a trail or something, but there was nothing. And he was getting mad. Really mad. And I said… I don’t know, I don’t even remember, I asked something about his uncle I think, asked about what she’d done, and he… he lashed out. You know how it is. Brujah. The strength. The speed. I’m not much of a fighter on my best day.” Her attempt at a laugh is hollow. “And we were in the car. There was nowhere to run.”
“He had his hands…” Celia touches a hand to her throat. “We don’t need to breathe, I guess, but it’s still… I felt everything grinding together, and he put me…” her voice gets quieter. “I was on my knees, with my hands up, I guess I thought I could fend him off, make him stop, and he… he told me how pathetic I am. How weak. Like a woman, he said.”
She doesn’t need to explain the way he had turned it into an insult. Roderick knows all about the sexism inherent to the Mafia.
“So I tried to divert his attention from me. I offered to take him to a party because… Rod, the way he spoke about what he wanted to do with Isabel, what he’s done to other women… what if it was me? What if he just…?”
Easy to picture. Celia on her knees. Smacked around. Forced into some weird sort of Mafia-run prostitution ring. Turned into a whore for Carolla’s amusement. Unable to get out. Eventually disappearing, with no one the wiser. Who would look for a harpy’s childe?
“Everyone knows how much he hates Gui. I said he’d be at this party, that we could do something there. It made him back off. But then he said he had another idea. A better idea. That he’d been tracking ‘this asshole’ for a long time. That he was going to finally pounce. Showed me a blip on a map on his phone. So we went to the park and I started to get a really bad feeling about it, but he threw me up into that tree with his ghoul and the gun and… I saw you before he did. And I knew what he was going to do.”
Celia looks down at her hands.
“So I tried to divert his attention again. To me. To make him mad at me so he wouldn’t hurt you. The rifle was right on Dani. I know they can mend but… I wasn’t going to take the chance. I kept talking. Loudly. And he told me to stop, told me to shut up, but I didn’t, so he… pulled me over and silenced me with his hand, and since I’d pissed him off he thought he’d just break my wrists while he was at it. Both of them.”
Celia stares down at her hands, circling the wrist of her left hand with her right middle finger and thumb.
“So I started crying, because, you know, blood. He already thought I was weak, who cared if I cried. I thought maybe you’d smell it and know something was wrong. I was trying to make you turn around, or at least tip you off so you didn’t walk in blind.”
“But you kept coming.”
“I figured the tiger was my only way out. Distract him long enough so that you’d take Dani and run.”
“I should’ve known better. Of course you wouldn’t run. Even against an apeshit tiger, apparently.” She can’t help but laugh. It’s less strained than before. The danger is over. Carolla was beaten. There’d been no lasting damage, not to Celia.
“I’m fine now,” she says. “But you asked. And there are other, bigger issues it brings up.”
GM: Roderick listens and holds his tongue as he drives. The talk about Carolla slapping Celia around makes him clench his jaw and grip the steering wheel, but at this point, he looks more relieved that it’s over with and Celia is clearly safe.
“Okay,” he says slowly when she’s finished. “This raises a lot of questions.”
“First. Does he know about the Celia/Jade connection? Because that seems like a hell of a coincidence he’d bring you to go looking for Roxanne.” Roderick shakes his head. “And then go looking for me. There’s no way that’s a coincidence he’d go after two Embraced people from your mortal life, at the same time he’s dragging you along. Just no way. How did you run into him?”
Celia: “I… don’t think so?” She puts the question in her voice. “I don’t think he knows, there are only a handful of people who do know and none of them would have any reason to tell him. I don’t think he expected me to defend you. He thought it would be me, him, and his ghoul against you, so the whole tiger thing caught him by surprise.”
“As far as Roxanne… I, uh, I mean there’s nothing that links us together. He seemed like he expected me to be cool with what he was going to do to her. I guess I did kind of make fun of her on Friday and he was there for it.”
Her brow furrows.
“He said he’d been tracking you for a while…”
“Rod,” she says, reaching for his hand. “He’d been tracking you. How was he tracking you? It was like a GPS thing. He pulled it up on his phone.”
GM: Her lover frowns deeply.
“I have absolutely no idea. But we need to fix that, ASAP.”
Celia: “It couldn’t be your phone. You had a new one. And it’s not like you hang out with him.”
“Who have you been with recently?”
“Anything you wear all the time?”
GM: He shakes his head, parks the car, pulls open his phone, and starts going through it.
“I don’t see what else it could be. There’s a million ways to hack a phone. I’m not a tech expert.”
Celia: “…what if it’s inside you?”
“Like what if someone put something in you?”
“And made you forget?”
GM: He raises his eyebrows.
“It’s possible. I guess we should scan me for…” he frowns. “The spa might not be a good idea after all.”
“In case it’s the phone, though, here’s what we’ll do.”
Celia: “I can look. When we get there. Inside of you. If there’s something in you I can find it.”
“God, what if that’s how the hunters found you?”
GM: Roderick grimaces. “Only one way to find out. I’m going to hide this phone somewhere close, though, and get a new one. I’ve installed a tracking app on it.”
GM: “If it stays where it is, then okay, phone is probably fine. If someone finds it and moves it, then we’ll be the ones tracking them. I figure getting all my data will be a tempting prospect. I’ve deleted everything sensitive. I’m sure a specialist can get it back, but we’ll call that good enough for now.”
Celia: Celia nods. It’s a good plan.
GM: “As far as searching me, though, do it here.”
Celia: “I… I can’t. It hurts. A lot. And we’re out in the open. Someone might see.”
GM: “Okay. I don’t want to do it at your spa, though.”
Celia: “Then where? Anywhere we go before we find out is going to be an issue.”
GM: He thinks. “What about my old haven? It’s obviously already compromised, but it should give us privacy for a little while. We can use the tub if it’s messy.”
Celia: “What about Dani? And the bodies?”
GM: “I told her to stop by Flawless.”
Celia: “The boys should be there. Soon if not now. It’s at least extra muscle if anything dumb happens. And I have blood there. I’m riding the edge, Rod. I don’t want to risk something.”
GM: “Would you rather risk going apeshit or someone tracking me back to Flawless?”
“If you lose it I can hold you down until it passes.”
Celia: Celia rubs a hand across her face.
“I’m more worried about you losing it when I cut you open.”
GM: “Valid. You could stake me.”
Celia: “All right,” she finally relents. “I’ll let Luna out when we get close to the border.”
GM: “How’d you get her shape, by the way? If you have to kill the animal…”
Celia: “Alana found her at a shelter. It’s supposed to be a no-kill shelter, but I had her look into it a little. Apparently they get around that technicality by sending excess pets to another place to put down, so they can still claim they don’t. Good for their image. The lady at the shelter said she’d been there for a long time and they didn’t have room anymore. People only want kittens, you know?”
GM: He nods.
Celia: “I didn’t just murder a cat. I tried to… be decent about it.”
GM: Roderick effects a faint sigh.
“That’s really sad.”
“When you just think about all of those unwanted pets sitting in shelters. Or dying on the streets.”
“This is why you spay and neuter. And we still have puppy mills!”
Celia: “Everyone wants the purebred puppies with the perfect looks. One of my girls at the spa adopted a dog from a puppy mill. The mom, I mean, after she was rescued and the place was shut down. She was like 13 and had a bunch of health issues but Piper took her in and kept her comfortable for a few years until she passed.”
GM: “Good for Piper. The conditions for dogs at those places are beyond deplorable. And we still have them whelping out crateloads of puppies when there are so many unadopted pets!”
“It’s just as bad for cats with kitten mills. Everyone wants kittens.”
Celia: “It’s pretty awful. People kind of suck.”
GM: “Yeah. Animals don’t.”
“I miss Ajax.”
“He was such a good boy. Such a gentle giant.”
Celia: “He was really friendly. I always thought big dogs were kind of aggressive, but he was gentle, yeah, like you said.”
“You could get another dog, you know.”
“You said animals like you.”
GM: “They do. I’m just… worried about sewer rats.”
Celia: “In particular? Or anyone who can tame?”
GM: “I suppose anyone who can tame makes it a risk, but they do it the most.”
“Pets can have a lot of valuable information about your haven, your activities, your comings and goings.”
Celia: “Abellard tried to put a rat in my cunt,” Celia mutters.
GM: “Jesus Christ,” mutters Roderick.
“What a pervert. Tried and failed, I hope?”
Celia: “I snagged its tail before it got anywhere.”
“Just fucking gross.”
“I’d feel better about pets, anyway, if I could tame.”
Celia: “You could learn.”
GM: “I could. It’s a valuable discipline.”
Celia: “I know a few people who know. One of them is pretty desperate to trade favors.”
GM: “I might take you up on that. I’d like another dog.”
“Dani tells me Ajax passed away a few years ago.”
Celia: “If shit ever hits the fan for me I’m coming to live with you as Luna, just so you know.”
“Oh. I’m so sorry to hear that.”
GM: He effects another sigh. “It happens. Dogs don’t live forever. But thanks.”
Celia: Makes her wonder what happened to Sugar Cube.
GM: She lost interest in that pony pretty fast.
Celia: She was eight.
She shouldn’t have been given a pony.
GM: For so many reasons.
Friday night, 18 March 2016, AM
GM: The pair drive back to Roderick’s old apartment at The Preserve. His lease isn’t actually up yet, so he still has the space. He finds a place to ditch his possibly hacked phone. He also suggests Celia not turn into Luna. “You already look different, and maybe someone will recognize another guy carrying the same cat. Unlikely, but at this point… I’m just feeling pretty paranoid.”
Celia: She’s happy to go along with his plan.
GM: “Also, crap. My clothes. These things are a bloody mess.”
Celia: “Randy might have something in the back…” Celia twists in her seat, searching through his things.
What sort of Toreador ghoul would he be if he didn’t?
GM: The fit isn’t perfect, but Roderick strips and changes without complaint, giving Celia a nice look at his abs and muscles as he does.
Celia: She doesn’t mind the view.
Not at all.
She keeps her lips closed to hide the growing boner, though.
“Is it weird if we fuck wearing different faces?”
GM: He thinks on that. “I suppose it’s a way to mix things up.”
Celia: “As if you’d ever get bored of me.”
GM: “Ha. I’d never ever.”
Celia: “Come on, Romeo, let’s go digging through your insides.”
GM: “Keep up that dirty talk and you’re going to make me jump you right here,” he smirks.
They bring a stake from the car and take the elevator up. Rod hoists Celia into a bridal carry when he sees she’s missing her shoes. “I’m not going to have you getting crud over your pretty feet.” Rod’s old unit looks like any bare apartment unit does. Everything has been moved out.
“What happened to your shoes, by the way?” he asks as he turns for her to close the door.
Celia: “Carolla made me take them off. If I was serious about fighting, he said, I had to get rid of them. They’re in his car.”
GM: “Sensible if they were impractical. At least you didn’t lose them.”
Celia: “They were cute. I’d be sad if I did.”
GM: “You make everything look cute, though,” he says as he carries her into the bathroom.
“I’ve always dug how short you are.”
Celia: “I’m not that short,” she huffs.
GM: “5’3” is below the female U.S. average."
Celia: “Who wants to be average?”
GM: “Lot of us aren’t. But I’m happy to be taller.”
Celia: “Mm. Perfect size for me.”
GM: “Yep. Tall guy and short girl really does it for me.”
“Also another reason I hate your dad. He’s just so much bigger and heavier than you and your mom. It’s a grotesquely unfair fight even if he didn’t have more training.”
“Big enough height and weight differences can be incredibly hard for even expert martial artists to overcome.”
“And he just… smacked around women who could never in a thousand years have taken him in a fair fight. It’s so disgusting I get mad just thinking about it.”
Celia: Celia remembers well the size difference between her parents. Watching her dad launch himself down at the stairs at her mom. The sound of her screams.
“Yeah,” she says vaguely. It takes her a moment to come back into the present.
“He’s coming over on Sunday.”
GM: “Dani thinks you and your mom are nuts.”
“I’ll find out soon, I guess.”
GM: “What do you hope to achieve that you didn’t at your last dinner?”
Celia: “Mom just wanted to see him again. And Emily wanted a chance to call him on his bullshit. And… there’s a… there’s a lot, really, that I haven’t talked about with him, that I’m still looking into.”
GM: “He’s scum.”
Celia: Celia doesn’t know how to answer that, so she just nods.
“Feel free to say you told me so, I guess.”
“You ready?” she asks, hefting the stake.
GM: Roderick seems to visibly hold his tongue, then removes his clothes and lays down in the tub.
Celia: “Say it,” Celia says.
“Whatever you were just holding back. Just say it.”
GM: “I think it’s a bad idea, demons or no demons.”
“Dani thinks the demon talk is pure crazy.”
Celia: “Yeah well Dani thought that reading Dracula counted as research.”
“And she’s been around for like a week.”
“I bet she doesn’t believe in werewolves or fairies either.”
GM: “She doesn’t know better. But demons are just so many question marks and unknowns even for us, Celia.”
“Do you really want to gamble your dad hurting your family again over ‘a demon made me do it?’”
Celia: “I found someone to talk to me about it who knows more.”
“I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do.”
“You never knew him, before.”
GM: “Cut him out of your life.”
“That’s the other thing you can do.”
Celia: “Tell you what, Rod. Tomorrow, at Elysium, I’ll put myself in the sheriff’s path and ask him if we can chat about my daddy, and I’ll let you know what he says.”
GM: He sighs.
“It’s your decision. You wanted to know what I was holding back, so that was it.”
Celia: “You think I’m kidding?”
“I’ll do it.”
GM: “Uh, I see no possible way that ends well.”
Celia: Maybe Roderick doesn’t know him as well as Celia does.
And maybe Celia is just making up stories in her head about what she thinks the reality of the situation is, and Roderick is right: there’s no way it ends well.
“Sorry,” she sighs. “Maybe you’re right.”
“Mom had a vision that Maxen was going to take Lucy away. Maybe bringing him into the house is just a really bad idea.”
“I guess I wasn’t as on guard around him at dinner because I wanted so badly to believe what he was saying.”
GM: “Cost-benefit analysis. What’s the worst that could realistically happen, what’s the best that could realistically happen, and how likely are both?”
Celia: “Let me think about it while I cut you open. I think better when I’m elbow deep inside of people.”
GM: He smirks. “All right. Have at it.”
Celia: So she does.
She presses the stake into his chest and makes sure he can’t move before she begins her work, using her claws to cut him open and sift through his insides. She’s not sure how much he still feels, even staked, but she knows he’s conscious at least—he’d told her how he’d counted the bodies flying out of Cypress Grove. So she keeps up a running commentary on what she’s doing, tells him that most of his insides are basically useless at this point, and looks for anything out of place.
GM: The stake easily slides in past his ribcage. Like a knife through flesh rather than bone. Her lover lies there, helpless and immobilized beneath her hands, utterly at her mercy, but his eyes are trusting.
Celia: She’d had trusting eyes like that, once.
On the roof.
When her sire had smacked her around and broken her jaw.
She wonders if she’d have to stake him to go through his body, or if his iron-fisted control would just let her do her work while he watched.
GM: The latter, of course.
Because he’s better.
Celia: Maybe she can cut him open and find the thing that has him in his grasp. Cut it out of him.
GM: Roderick’s eyes bulge as Celia slices him open and literally rips through his guts. The heady aroma of Brujah vitae with the stink of years-atrophied internal organs (after she slices bits away) hits Celia’s nose. Her lover can’t scream, or even move his mouth, but the muscles in his jaw go tight as a drum.
She recognizes, too, when it’s no longer him staring out past his eyes.
Celia: She’s glad for the stake. Glad that it keeps him pinned, that she doesn’t need to try fighting him off.
She stops talking when he disappears into the red.
It’s not worth saying anything; he won’t remember it anyway.
Maybe now’s the perfect time to confess, though. Tell him about all the shitty things she’s ever done. Tempting, isn’t it, to bare her soul to him like he bares his guts to her.
GM: He won’t remember.
Celia: She opens her mouth. But the noose around her neck jerks tight, constricting unnecessary breath, and she can’t say what she was going to.
It’s not her secret.
There’s something else she can do, though. Another way she can take advantage of his gap in memories.
She can bond him. Cut into her flesh. Drip it into his mouth. He’ll never know. When he comes to he’ll just be in love with her; he won’t feel the rest of them breaking. Snapping. Like hers had done when she’d taken that third drink from her sire.
She can tell him everything then. Confess to what she’d done. He’ll still love her. He has to love her. The blood demands it.
She checks that the Beast still has him in thrall.
GM: Hate, pain, and hunger is all that stares out from his maddened eyes.
Celia: He’ll never know.
He’ll never know she did it to him.
If he finds out, she’ll mindfuck him. She knows enough people who can do it.
And he’ll love her.
He won’t spill her secrets. He won’t be able to. He’ll be caught, just like she is. And she’d told him so much. So, so much.
It’s the best thing for them, isn’t it?
Coco had already betrayed him. He’ll be so hurt by that. But he can turn to her. Will turn to her. He’ll come over. They won’t have to hide what they are anymore.
Celia bites into her wrist.
She moves it toward his mouth.
…and she stops, staring down at the staked, raging Brujah, who had trusted her enough to let her do this to him, to make him helpless, to work with her on ways to be together even though they’re on different sides of the fence.
She can’t do it to him.
Not like this.
Quick as that, she licks the wound closed, hating herself for even thinking about it.
She’s not a monster.
Celia turns her face away from his, resuming her search through his body.
GM: That proves less illuminating, perhaps, than the search through her own soul.
She finds nothing out of the ordinary in her lover’s insides.
At least on those grounds, he looks safe to bring back to Flawless.
Celia: She hopes she didn’t miss something. That she wasn’t distracted by the pull to bond him and overlooked anything out of the ordinary.
She closes him up, but waits until he’s calm to remove the stake.
“I didn’t find anything,” she says once she has.
Maybe her conscience.
“Sorry I had to rip you open for that.”
GM: Roderick gives a wet, ragged-sounding gasp and clutches his stomach for several moments, closing his eyes.
“Still… glad… you looked.”
“But… fuck… that… hurt.”
Celia: Celia holds a hand against the side of his face.
“I’m sorry,” she murmurs. “I was going to give you a sedative at the spa, but I don’t have any on me usually. I guess I can carry it from now on, just for stuff like this.”
GM: “That’s… smart.”
“So was… staking. Beast… definitely got out.”
Celia: “Yeah,” she nods. “But it’s okay. It didn’t do anything.”
And she didn’t do anything.
GM: “Can’t do much… staked.”
Celia: “I love you,” she says abruptly. “I don’t care what else happens, or how our talk goes tonight. I love you. So much.”
GM: So much.
But not as much.
Never as much.
But he’s what she has.
GM: “I love you… too,” he smiles, stroking the hand against his cheek. “It’ll go… it’ll go well. I know.”
Celia: Celia leans over the tub to press a soft kiss against his lips.
It’ll go well.
Everything rides on it.