“Stay the fuck out of my Requiem, you spoiled fucking childe.”
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
GM: Roderick carries Celia outside. There’s nothing affectionate or protective in his touch, not like the last times he carried her. She is simply a burden to be carried because she cannot walk on her own.
Cars are parked outside of Flawless. Gamberro, Melton, and the redhead occupy them, along with some breathers, perhaps ghouls. None of them look like nice people. Roderick opens one of the doors, dumps Celia onto the seat without ceremony, then gets in on the driver’s side. The cars take off.
Roderick hasn’t bothered to fasten a seatbelt. It’s when they round a turn that Celia’s limp body slumps off the seat and lands face-down on the floor. Carpet presses against her face. Roderick does not seem particularly concerned.
Celia: It’s a lovely carpet.
GM: He doesn’t talk, either. The car drives for a while. Eventually it comes to a stop. Roderick gets out. One of the breathers opens the car door and hauls out Celia. They’re in a suburban neighborhood. Everyone has pulled on masks.
“Carry her,” says Roderick. “I want her to see all of this.”
The man wordlessly carries Celia. The group approaches a house. It’s a nice house with a smart doorbell. There’s two children-sized pairs of green and pink rubber boots sitting outside.
Roderick sneers at the doorbell and pulls it off. One of the masked men takes it off his hands.
Roderick stares at the home’s dog door. The redhead looks at it too. Celia can’t see the transformation happen out of the corner of her eye, but where the woman once stood there is suddenly a black-scaled snake with a forked tongue. It slithers through the pet door.
A moment later, the front door clicks open, the redhead standing on the other side. Everyone files in.
It’s a nice house. Affluent. Big TV in the living room. Nice counters in the kitchen. Everything clean and well-maintained, but for a few stray children’s toys. No one turns on the lights. The group files upstairs, to the master bedroom.
A man and woman lie sleeping in the bed. The man looks in maybe his 40s. Dark-haired, once muscular, though his hair is starting to recede and he’s developing a bit of a beer gut. His blonde-haired wife looks a few years younger. She’s thinner, though starting to show wrinkles. She looks like she goes to spas a lot. She has that look. A woman seeking to slow time’s march at any cost, and even succeeding, but unable to forever.
Roderick seizes the man by his throat, hefts him out of the bed like he weighs nothing, and slams him back-first into the wall. He gasps and gurgles to wakefulness. His eyes bulge at the dark figures as he pulls at Roderick’s fingers. The Brujah’s voice has never sounded so cold.
“Name your sins.”
“You’re dead… whn… they… f… you’re… dead…” the man gasps out past the hand around his throat.
Roderick turns and shoots the man’s wife with a handgun, who’s already stirring to wakefulness. The noise isn’t as loud as past gunshots Celia’s heard. Silence? The woman’s scream is cut off, too, as Gamberro clamps a hand around her mouth. The scent of blood fills the air as she writhes and struggles. The man tries to scream too and struggles harder.
“Name your sins and I’ll let her live,” says Roderick.
“I’ve… killed!” gasps the man. Tears bead from his eyes. “Killed… people… stolen… please, don’t kill h…”
“You’ve killed and stolen. That’s all you can think of?”
The man wheezes and strains against Roderick’s grip. He’s turning blue in the face.
“You,” he says to the wife. “Nod or shake your head. Are you guilty of sins?”
The sobbing, bleeding woman frantically nods her head past Gamberro’s hand.
“Are you going to Hell for them? Think carefully. Your life may depend on your answer.”
The woman pauses for a second, then shakily nods her head again. Tears flow from her eyes.
Roderick shoots her in the head. The corpse rocks backwards. Blood, gore, and bone shards decorate Gamberro’s shirt. He laughs.
The man screams, or tries to, as Roderick’s hand crushes in his windpipe. The Brujah throws him to the ground, then shoots him in the head too. More blood, brains, and skull shards decorate the floor.
“Grab as many valuables as you can carry,” orders Roderick. “Jewelry, wallets, electronics, clothes, liquor, prescription drugs. Better if this looks like a robbery.”
“Better if it is a robbery,” agrees Gamberro.
“T-Bang, Manilla Ice, manejan esa mierda. Manejaremos los cuerpos.”
(“T-Bang, Manila Ice, you handle that shit. We’ll handle the bodies.”)
Two men agree in Spanish and head off.
“You’re coming along splendidly,” purrs Melton, stroking Roderick’s arm.
“We feel a bit like extras, don’t we?” smiles the redhead.
“Blood’s cooling,” says Gamberro.
The four vampires sink their fangs into the bodies and drink.
Celia: The fifth vampire stares unblinking at the carnage, not a flicker of emotion crossing her frozen face.
GM: The other four drink deeply, then toss the spent vessels aside. Roderick pulls up Celia’s staked corpse and wraps an arm around its shoulder.
“Kalani’s my lover,” he declares.
“She plays haughty and hard to get in Elysium, but you should see what a pathetically sniveling and eager to please little bitch she is behind closed doors. She was begging me on her hands and knees not to dump her after I found out she’d been fucking other licks.”
He smiles and tussles her hair.
“Don’t worry, Jade. I’m not dumping you.”
“You did beg me so pathetically.”
The other three snicker and lick their bloody lips.
“By my count she’s fucked two of you,” says Roderick. “Quite the slut, isn’t she?”
“Not that she is good for anything else.”
He gives her breasts an emphatic squeeze.
“No hard feelings over that?” smiles Melton. “We didn’t know she was yours.”
“No hard feelings,” Roderick declares amiably. “I’m less than confident you’d respect another lick’s property, but you didn’t know she was mine.”
“She, on the other hand, certainly knew she was mine.”
“You want to punish her?” smiles the redhead.
“You read my mind,” smiles Roderick. “This will be more satisfying if she’s un-staked, but I don’t want her turning into a bird and flying off.”
“Gamberro, do you have a saw handy?”
“Sure do,” says the other vampire as he produces one. Laughter dances in his eyes.
Roderick smiles, accepts it, and then methodically saws off Jade’s right arm. The pain is excruciating, like it was with Camilla, but Roderick’s brutal strength finishes the job relatively quickly as the steel chews through bone and muscle and sinew. Blood gets everywhere. Celia loses herself to her Beast, but all it can do is howl in impotent rage. Roderick yanks out the stake once she’s calm.
“There you are, Jade. Welcome to the party.”
Celia: It’s a familiar scene. An angry, vindictive man taking out his rage on a smaller, unarmed woman. There’s even a saw. Witnesses. Children in the home.
But none of them come to save her. There’s no daughter holding a gun, telling him to get away. No sire to pick her up and tell her it’ll all be okay in the morning when he tucks her in and soothes her fear.
Just her. Her lover. His new friends. Their eager, cruel faces. Watching. Mocking. A few minutes with her staked and he’s undone the image she’d worked so hard to cultivate, turned her into a useless whore on the ground with a piece of wood in her chest.
The fury burns hot.
Four on one are terrible odds.
She forces control. Forces down the rage so that when she’s unstaked she doesn’t lunge at them. Her arm throbs, phantom pain dancing all the way down to her fingers.
She smiles up at him. Apprehensive. Maybe a little eager. Isn’t that what he’d said?
A slow death. Veronica had said it’s the best kind.
“Thanks, babe. What name are you going by with your new friends?”
GM: Dracon laughs, then smashes his fist into Jade’s face. There’s a hideous crunch of bone as the force of the blow sends her crashing to the ground.
The other three howl with laughter.
Celia: She stays down.
GM: “She’s very jealous,” says Dracon. “And pathetically insecure. Who wants to fuck me while she watches?”
Melton and the redhead don’t answer. They just smile and pull off their clothes.
Celia: There’s a spot inside of her she can go where nothing hurts. She tunnels deep.
Someone else’s eyes watch the three fuck.
GM: Roderick fucks the two with gusto. He goes down on Melton first. He sinks his fangs into her pussy, mimicking Stephen’s and Celia’s first time. When the somewhat pretentious but good-hearted aspiring lawyer took her out on a date, to make her first time special, then used his tongue first to ease her in. He was so gentle. So considerate. Celia remembers Emily telling her in a not-so-long ago car that he was “just the best”. Or was that her?
Celia: Who cares. Stephen is dead.
Celia is dead.
They’re all dead.
None of it fucking matters anymore.
It’s like that beautiful vision she was so worried about that she made happen.
Maybe Celia’s even turned on watching him fuck Melton. Maybe she thinks it could be a great orgy. Maybe her fangs get long in her mouth because damn, that’s all she’s good for is fucking.
Maybe Gamberro wants to bang while the others do.
Fuck, maybe the snake wants to crawl inside her cunt and really give it to her. She’s seen videos like that before.
GM: Dracon kicks Jade in the face as he makes the Setite hiss and writhe with pleasure. The redhead buries her face in his asscrack. Gamberro sinks his own fangs into the redhead. He hits her, too, but she laughs and kicks him back, and they snarl and bite and rake each other with fang and nail as equals. Not whatever Jade now is.
Celia: Would it be weird if she fucked herself with her own arm?
That’s nice. She rises, picking up her arm.
GM: Roderick seizes Jade by her hair and painfully yanks her to the ground.
“Were you going somewhere, you stupid whore?”
Celia: Melton and the redhead must not be particularly good at sex if he’s still got half of his attention on her.
But it’s rude to gloat.
The thought is as fleeting as the hold Someone Else has on her. She’d thought she could burrow inside. Crack a joke about finding a vibrator or a pillow to hump.
He wants her to hurt.
That’s what this is. Revenge for everything she’d ever done to him. Revenge for everyone she’d cheated on him with. He’s doing it to her the exact same way she’d done it to him, and the memory of her pain at dinner thinking about Stephen and Emily dating is nothing compared to watching what’s going on in front of her right now. He’d replaced her with another night doctor, another Mafia contact, another… whatever Melton is. Sex fiend.
He doesn’t need her. That’s what he’s showing her, that he doesn’t need her. That everything she’d planned for them—helping him infiltrate the mafia with Carolla gone, being his exclusive night doctor and running experiments on the side, being a team… it’s all out of reach. He’d fallen in with the Setites. Found a way to dig the knife deeper and deeper and deeper into her. Humiliated her in front of potential friends with his words.
And now this.
She’d thought that he might have them rape her. The ghouls. She’d been afraid of that, being violated again after she told him how many times it had been done to her. Having the control taken from her. Thought he might have the others do it too when they were done, really show her that she’s nothing.
This is… this is worse. Like looking in a mirror, watching herself cheat on him over and over and over again, telling herself it’s an addiction, that she needs it, that it’s okay, that it doesn’t really matter.
She’s gotten so good at lying that she fooled even herself.
He’d set it up perfectly, hadn’t he. The murders. The saw. The sex. Taking out her friends. Not letting her get Dani’s sire. Showing her that… that she’s like he said.
A stupid whore.
He hates the crying woman act, but this time it isn’t an act. This time, when her heart breaks, she doesn’t desperately try to push it back together.
She doesn’t want to be this person anymore.
She’d tried to deny it. That she had anything to do with it. That it was her fault he’d turned out this way.
But it is, isn’t it. She’d lied to him the whole time. Cheated on him the whole time. Manipulated him over and over and over again. There was always a justification for it. Always a reason. Pleasing her sire. Pleasing Savoy. Addiction. Curses. Spying. Enjoyment. Fear. Power.
Whatever the case was, she’d been the catalyst. She’d ruined him. Savoy may have set up Dani, but Celia was the one who ruined that plan and made him double down. She seduced Carolla because she was so eager to prove herself to him after she’d failed with Dani, had told him how much it would bother him for Carolla to be Coco’s childe, and she’d… she’d given him the blood sample so that his pet warlock could do the spell on Carolla, thinking she’d done something good for Roderick. That she was helping him find the truth.
Maybe he wouldn’t have spiraled so hard if she’d been open with him. Honest with him. Given him Dani from the start. Not killed those hunters, because there’s no doubt that’s her fault too. She’d told him the other hunters had raped her. Had that been on his mind? Had that made him lose it?
She’s wanted to blame everyone from Paul to her sire to Coco to Savoy for this, but in the end the fault is hers.
She fucked up.
She hurt him.
And now he’s hurting her in the exact same way.
It doesn’t matter that she’d been lied to, too. It doesn’t matter that she’d been just as manipulated. She could have let the cycle end with her and she hadn’t. She never treated him like an equal. Just someone to protect. Someone she knew better than. Like a child. Or a playtoy.
Never a partner.
Never with as much care and consideration as he used to show her.
Never with love.
She’d treated him like every other lick she knows that she’d used and been used by in return in the never-ending, fucked up society that has become her world, jostling for imaginary positions at court, walking the edge of a blade to avoid saying the wrong thing, wearing the wrong thing, laughing at the wrong thing. And for what? How much of it matters? They don’t do anything meaningful with their powers. They don’t make the world a better place. They cling to centuries-old dogma about “punishing sinners” or collect wealth or throw lavish balls, and she’d been caught in its midst, ensnared like the rest of the bright-eyed neonates who suddenly learn they’re immortal and powerful and beautiful forever.
And still at the bottom of a hierarchy that they’re going to have to claw and backstab their way up.
She’d hurt him. Betrayed him.
No. She doesn’t want to be this person anymore. She doesn’t want to be this person anymore at all.
Isn’t that a quote someone famous once said? Something about the most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.
She’d been waiting for her sire to give her the answers. Why her. Why Embrace her. Why choose her. Why do this to her.
But it isn’t up to him. It isn’t up to Savoy. It isn’t up to Roderick or Vidal or Maldonato or the Baron, no more than it’s up to a human parent to tell their children why them. She’s accepted the place they have given her as if that’s the only way it can be and it’s not. She’s not a round peg in a round hole, not another cog in the machine. She’s a person. And she has more to her unlife than what they offer with all of their attached strings.
She’d played the game. She’d won, she’d lost, she’d laughed, she’d cried. And now she’s done. This, here and now, the proverbial straw.
It’s all a lie. Smoke and mirrors meant to hide the hand holding the knife, an illusionary feast to cover the rotting meat and fruit at the table. She’d let them pull the wool over her eyes and thanked them for the pleasure.
“I see,” he’d said to her nights ago.
No. She sees.
GM: Does that fact bring him pleasure?
All he had to do for it was lose everything.
The four vampires fuck. Celia listens to the sounds. Smells the flow of blood. Feels the writhing bodies atop her, feels the feet and fists driving into her naked flesh as they call her degrading names. “Stupid” comes up a lot. So does “bitch”. That’s what she is, their bitch. She is kept on the ground, beneath them, as they enjoy their sanguine orgy atop her body. It’s not that imaginative, not really, next to the sexual torments that Paul and other licks could devise. Roderick never was a deviant like Veronica. Maybe he will be in time.
But this isn’t about raping and tormenting her, is it? He could turn her over to the ghouls for that. He could beat her for that, torture her dead flesh for that. No, this is about cheating on her. About turning the tables. About showing her how it feels to have a partner who betrays you, who pleasures and receives pleasure from others when that is exactly the thing you don’t want them to do. This is about showing he’ll not only fuck other licks, he can go to them to meet his needs too, for everything from sex to the Mafia to changing his face to to whatever poisoned counsel the Setites whisper in his ears. It’s about showing how he’s replaced he. This is about taking everything they were to each other and throwing it back in her face, like the foot he stomped all over a once-treasured necklace.
It’s about showing she means nothing to him.
It’s not so long ago things were different. Not even during their mortal lifetimes. She can remember even before that one Elysium, where he showered her with compliments and adulation. How he carried her throughout the room. Carried her to her car. Declared he’d wash her shoes after they got back from Elysium, because her perfect little feet should never have to touch the ground, and she should have others do her walking for her. Was it that time or another that he called her a sun?
“You make everything around you better. You know that? Everything you touch comes out with a coat of gold. The makeup is part of it. Making people look like their best selves. But that’s only part of what you do.”
“The way you gave Emily a family. The way you turned your mom’s life around. The way you brought, bring, so much happiness into mine. You’re like a fire. A sun. The closer someone gets to you, the more the more warmth and joy you bring into their life.”
“I love you, Celia. I love you so much.”
“I don’t know how I was able to spend so much of my Requiem without you, or how I could’ve been so stupid as to throw you away, but I’m not ever going to make that mistake again.”
She knew it wasn’t true even then.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
GM: Celia’s not sure how long the orgy atop her body goes on for, but eventually, Dracon stakes her again. The four vampires dress themselves. Dracon spits on her face. Gamberro asks if he wants to get started really punishing her. Dracon merely says, “In good time. We’ve spent enough time here.” The others agree. They’ve left enough traces of themselves here. They gorily saw apart the dead couple’s corpses and stick the limbs in trash bags. They pick up the spent bullet casings. They sweep brain matter and chunks of head into the bags too. Melton runs her palms over the floor, the bed, the other bloodstained items. Beneath her touch, the spilled blood vanishes. The ghouls report they’ve robbed the house and taken everything of value. Dracon takes the bags of body parts with a simple,
“I have something special planned for these.”
Dracon collects the dead couple’s phones last (“The doorbell was hooked up to at least one of these”), then everyone troops back to their cars. Dracon throws Celia over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He unceremoniously dumps her in the car’s trunk with the bags of body parts, then closes it. Muffled voices sound from outside. Celia stares at the glow-in-the-dark escape hatch for how many times in the past few nights?
GM: Eventually, the car starts. Dracon drives. Celia is jostled around in the trunk. The part-filled trash bag rolls over her. She smells the blood beneath the plastic pressing into her face. A while passes. Finally, the car parks. The trunk opens. Roderick hefts Celia’s staked body over his shoulder again, closes the trunk, walks up to the entrance to Jade’s suite, and lets himself in with the keys. He closes the door behind him.
“Sloppy of me, to leave things unfinished here,” he says.
“But you’ve always brought out the worst in me.”
Celia: How powerful he must feel with his staked vampire.
GM: He carries Celia’s staked body through the wardrobe and into Flawless proper. He lets himself into Celia’s office if the door is unlocked, and breaks it open if it’s not. He dumps Celia on the floor, pulls out his phone, and taps into it. There’s a whir from the printer as it spits out papers covered with writing. Dracon waits until it’s done and sets them on the desk, then yanks out the stake in Celia’s chest.
He hands her a pen.
Celia: Whoever the body belongs to glances at the pages.
GM: They’re a transfer of ownership for Flawless LLC from Celia to Michael.
“Refuse and I’ll keep you staked until you sign.”
“You will be allowed to manage it for me so long as you are well-behaved.”
Dracon taps into his phone again. More documents print out. It takes a little while. He wordlessly slides them over when they’re done printing. There are a lot of them. They transfer ownership of the rest of Celia’s assets to Michael. Everything from the money in her bank accounts to her house to her car to her clothes.
“You will be permitted to make use of these things and to make withdrawals from the accounts while you are well-behaved.”
Dracon gives her shoulder a squeeze.
“I’ll take care of you, Celia. Even after everything you’ve done to me. But we need to do things differently from now on.”
Celia: Silently, she stares at the papers in front of her.
He hadn’t gotten it all. He’d thought he had, sure, but she has enough identities that a lot of her assets, including an entire haven and multiple bank accounts, hasn’t been touched. None of her investments, which she’s spread out over various aliases, or even the property she has in other parts of the city. Not her other business. Nothing to do with Legal Wings, which she doesn’t own but still has a hand in even with Randy’s disappearance.
But it’s… a lot. Everything in Celia’s name. Her first business. Her first lab. Her flagship. Everything she’s worked on for years to build into the success that it is.
It’s only when he touches her that her lower lip begins to tremble. She reaches out a hand, as if to touch his fingers on her shoulder, but falters before she makes contact.
“Why,” she whispers. “Why will you take care of me after what I’ve done? Why will you… why are you staying?” He’s already shown her he replaced her.
GM: “Because you’re a wretched, pitiable, broken, disgusting, insane, stupid, shallow, selfish creature that no one could ever love,” says Roderick, gently rubbing her shoulder.
“Not if they realized what a terrible person you actually are. Not if they saw the festering hideousness underneath the superficially pretty exterior. You’re the ugliest person I’ve ever known. You’d make other people ugly, too. Destroy their lives and drag them down with you in all your awfulness and hideousness when they got close to you.”
“We can think of this as a guardianship. Me keeping the rest of the world safe from people you’d hurt.”
“An open-air, one-woman prison with you as the inmate and me as the warden.”
“Or perhaps mental institution given your insanity.”
Celia: Celia drops her hand.
“What are you going to do with me? With Celia. With Jade.”
GM: “I will consult mental health professionals. I haven’t yet had time.”
“Celia or Jade, both are scum.”
“I don’t think I’ll fuck you anymore, either. Though if you’re well-behaved I’ll let you watch me and my new lovers.”
“I’m not even sure how to begin punishing you for all of the horrible things you’ve done. New lovers addresses the cheating, or at least starts to. But how do I address something like you blood bonding my sister or deceiving me about my brother?”
He shakes his head.
“I really did love you, Celia. And look what you did to us.”
Celia: Celia stares down at the papers in front of her. Her vision blurs pink and then red when the tears threaten to come, though she blinks them away before they can leak down her cheeks to join the rest of the blood on her face.
It’s been a messy night. But it’s not over yet.
She pulls the mask around her a little tighter.
“I know,” she whispers. “I know you loved me. I know I did this to us. I ruined it. Everything. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I thought tonight would… I thought I could fix it, that I was doing the right thing. I never should have lied to you about any of it. I just… I just wanted us to be together, to not have to hide it, to be happy…”
She trails off, lifting her gaze to his. She touches a hand to her collarbone, just below the tips of his fingers.
It’s gentle, the touch on his mind. The way she twists emotions to her whim, turning people into puppets, making them want to do things they might not ordinarily. Like trust her, the beautiful girl with the sharp smile. Or think she’s given in, that she just wants to be their friend again.
And that’s what this is, isn’t it? Celia submitting, signing over her spa, her assets, her very self. She’d told him the truth about everything earlier and he has eternity to get back at her now that she’s accepted her place.
There’s no need for the stick anymore, not when carrot will suffice. He’s beaten her. He can afford to be gentle. He’d done it earlier, hadn’t he? Friday, when he cut the knot and told her she was stupid, then offered her a hug. It’s the combination of hurt and comfort that breaks people oh-so-quickly.
And oh, how she bends. How she’s submitted to him, so quickly, so quietly. All he’d had to do was show her how much it really hurt to be replaced. All he’d had to do was take off her arm so she couldn’t run, so she had to face what she’d done. What she’d done to him. What she’d turned him into.
“Thank you,” she continues in a quiet voice. “Thank you for… for taking care of everything. Even me. Even after what I did. I’m so, so tired of getting it wrong.”
It doesn’t have to hurt anymore. She gives in. She submits. He wins, like she said. He’d punished her thoroughly tonight; he can be gentle now, gentle so she doesn’t bolt, gentle so she doesn’t try to stir up more trouble for him. It’ll be smooth sailing.
She’s so eager to please.
He’ll never see the knife coming. Not when he thinks he has her beaten. And how couldn’t he? She’s got one arm. He’s got a stake. She’s alone. She’s never been much of a fighter, anyway. He had always thoroughly kicked her ass whenever they sparred. Rotten luck for her that they’d ended up fucking more than fighting. She’s not even trying to pull that “crying woman” act he hates so much.
It leaks out of her while she talks, the very image of the submissive, beaten, broken enemy. The enemy that has finally spilled everything, given him every card in her deck, and has finally given up. She sees he’s right. She sees he’s been right this whole time.
“I don’t want to be this way anymore. I think… I think this is the right way to move forward, so you can make sure I don’t hurt anyone else. I want to be Celia again. Just Celia.”
She pulls her hand away from her throat to reach for a drawer in her desk. It’s nothing but an illusion that she creates around the thing she’s actually reaching for, the lotus blossom in its bowl of water, hidden from the sun just like Dahlia Rose had said to do to witness it bloom.
“Sometimes darkness brings out the best in us,” she’d said.
“I made something. A few years ago. I wanted to give it to you then, but… after we broke up I just… it brought me comfort on the worst nights.”
Celia’s fingers close around the blossom. Only it’s not a blossom anymore. It’s a doll, and it looks just like the boy he used to be.
“I used to talk to him. It. I just… I don’t think it’s good for me to have anymore, not after everything I’ve done to you.”
She holds out the doll for him to take.
GM: Roderick sneers, takes the doll, and twists its head off.
Then a sluggish look overtakes his face.
He topples over backwards, hitting the floor with a thud.
The crumpled petals of the lotus blossom flutter to the ground next to him. Celia smiles at the sight. She’d never told him why the flowers affect him like that. Even after she’d “come clean,” she’d still held on to so many secrets…
Like the fact that she is Lotus, and her breaking his heart as many times as she has manifested in a sort of supernatural slumber. His body’s defense to all the lies she’d told him, maybe. Shutting down rather than listening to more. Not letting his heart break again. It makes sense that it would be a flower. For Flores, the destroyer.
Celia moves from her seat, placing the lotus blossom against him to ensure he stays asleep.
Then she shoves the stake into his chest.
GM: It slides in with a wet slurp. The sharpened wood pierces through bone like a knife through butter, or at least flesh.
His eyes snap open, though.
Dracon’s are the same brown as Roderick’s. It’s a common enough eye color. Changing eyes is a bitch of a job.
Those brown eyes once looked at her with such tenderness. Even into undeath. All those nights they woke up together in the same bed. All those nights and days he held her close. She felt safe in his arms. She felt pleasure in his arms. She knew happiness in his arms. She remembers how tender his eyes looked when they promised they would always be there for one another, that first night back together.
“I want to tell you something. If things ever get bad here. Even if you hate me. If you need out of the city, if you need to hide, if… anything. Come to me. I’ll get you out. I’ll keep you safe.”
“And you know the same’s true for me. If things ever get really bad, if you’re ever hurt or in trouble, if you ever need anything… you can come to me. I’ll fight for you. Hide you. Help you. Whatever you need, I’ll make it happen. Whatever you’re in trouble from, whatever fights we’ve had… if you need me, I will be there for you. Okay?”
Celia looks into his brown eyes again now.
All she sees is hate.
Burning, furious hate.
How did it come to this?
Celia: Somewhere in her gut, a knife twists.
She would have. She would have helped him if he’d asked, if he’d needed her. Even now, maybe, even now if he were to… to apologize for what he’d done and said to her, to let her explain why she’d lied, to listen to her and believe her and trust her again.
They could have been happy. That’s really all she wants. Happiness.
Coco told her once that love between licks is the exception, not the rule. That it’s rare and it’s valuable and it’s hard and it usually ends messily, and what are you going to do when you can’t just move out of the city to avoid your ex and start over somewhere else?
For years Celia had thought that Roderick was the exception. That their love—such as it is—would be the shining example for other Kindred to follow. That it’s possible to love because they do. That even though they had both hurt each other they would be able to make themselves stronger for it, pull through on the other side, forgive even the worst of their sins made in ignorance or fear or anger.
She knows now that she and Roderick are not the exception to the rule, because Roderick has nothing to do with her rule. She is the exception. She, Celia, Jade, Lotus—whatever name people want to call her by, she is the exception to the rule that says vampires cannot love, that their hearts are as dead as the rest of them. Hers beats inside her chest night in and night out, and with every beat she knows that it is not dead. Romance is not dead. Love is not dead. A chemical reaction in the brain, but so is anger, isn’t it? And if she can be angry, if she can be sad, if she can still feel—and she does feel, she feels very strongly—then so too she can feel love, and it does not need to be Roderick on the other side of it.
She loved him. Maybe she will always love the boy he used to be. But she loves and has loved others as well.
She loves her family. Her mother, timid little mouse that she was, now a hellion to be reckoned with. She loves how fiercely her mother loves her daughters, even the adopted one. She loves Emily, for all that they don’t see eye-to-eye, for all their petty squabbles. She loves Lucy, innocent that she is. She loves her imagination, her larger-than-life attitude, her goodness.
She loved Randy, though she’d never told him. She didn’t love him like a woman loves a man but more like a cousin loves a cousin. Or a child loves a misshapen, mildly retarded pet.
She loves Alana. Loves her devotion, her affection, her willingness to please. She loves Reggie. Loves his strength, how worried he gets about her, the fact that he isn’t afraid to take what he wants, that he’s just as sexually dysfunctional as she is.
She loves her sire.
She has never told him. She will never tell him. But she loves him more than she can possibly put into words. She loves him like the moon loves the sun, for without the sun there is no light from the moon, and without him there is no her. He is everything. Her entire world. If she is the moon then he is the sun, the planet she orbits, the very universe in which she resides. She cares for him more deeply than she will ever admit to him, to herself, to anyone. She loves him to the last; she would forgive him anything if only he favored her with a smile, if only he touched her hand, if only he pressed his lips against hers. She has always been his. Even when he drops her. Even when he shatters her. She does not need a collar to pledge herself to him. She knows that he will burn her, that his frosty exterior will burn so coldly that it will hurt, and she loves him anyway. Not because she has to. Because she chooses to.
Celia is not the rule. She is the exception, in and of herself. Her love is a shining example of what could be, if only they would let it.
But not for Roderick. Not anymore.
“Hello, darling. Glad you’ve rejoined me. We’ve got plenty to discuss.”
Jade smiles down at him. She straddles his hips with her bare legs and pats his chest.
“First, though, a toast to our new future, hm?”
She sinks her teeth into his neck. She drinks. Deeply.
GM: Jade drinks.
She drinks so deeply.
So very, very deeply.
Dracon’s blood doesn’t taste like Roderick’s did. Similar, yes. That unmistakable Brujah fire. She knows the way it burns her up and makes her feel so alive. She remembers so well how Roderick’s tasted. There was a lightness to it. Crystal clear and hopeful and bright-eyed. The taste made her think of Boy Scouts, amusingly, and baseball games and Atticus Finch, who Roderick admitted was something of a stereotype for lawyers to admire, but damn it all, there was so much about the man to admire.
The taste of his blood even made her feel a bit smarter, too. Or at least silenced the bald man’s voice.
Dracon’s blood is like all that through a darkened mirror.
It burns her, still. Painfully. Searingly. She can taste the raging heat of his fury, but there is no righteous behind it. Just hate. Black and bitter with the taste of betrayal, of love poisoned into hate. It’s an altogether darker vintage. A stronger vintage.
No. She didn’t notice it, at the initial taste, but the sharp tang of righteousness is still there. She doesn’t think think that taste is ever going to leave his blood, the conviction that he right and just and all he does is for the good of the world. In fact, the taste is stronger than ever.
He thinks he’s better than her, too. She can taste it. Intellectually. Physically. Morally. Oh, how his blood wells with the taste of his pride and self-superiority, and his disdain and contempt for all that she is. It’s not the same flavor of pride that was in Caroline’s vitae—pride in birthright, pride in deathright, an entitled sort of pride. This is Brujah pride. A pride earned through his own actions and choices, a pride that swells nightly. There’s less humility in his blood than there used to be. That only makes sense after he’s started calling her stupid out loud.
And oh yes. Even staked by her trickery, even helpless and at her mercy, he still thinks he is the smarter one. The better one. And he will never trust her again. Not after this. Not in anything, not as far as he can throw her. All words to issue from her tongue are lies and pollution upon his ears. She offends him. He hates her. He hates her like he has never hated.
This is what poisoned love tastes like.
Celia: Poisoned love. Lies and corruption and sin. At her. Always at her.
Not his sire, who Embraced the Mafia thug and lied to him about it.
Not Savoy, who (obviously) had Dani Embraced to be a pathetic thin-blood, then pulled all the strings to put her and Carolla together in the same place, who’d bugged his phone so Carolla could find him, who made sure that Jade would be there to turn the tables.
That entire meeting with the four of them? Phone bugged. Tracker implanted. Both of them made to forget.
Preston’s claim that the party would make a good place to test Carolla’s blood once Celia offered to bring him? Just a diversion. Smoke, mirror, sleight of hand, a glib tongue by a grandsire who always knows the right thing to say.
She’d lied to him to keep him out of it. She’d lied to him to help preserve what innocence he had. She’d told him all of the ugly truths he wanted, and this is what she gets for it?
For all that giant brain of his, he certainly has no idea how the game is played.
And this! This feeding, this is nothing compared to the heady rush of Carolla’s essence. This is an echo of what it should be, like being bent over and fucked and the cock inside doesn’t even have the decency to hit the G-spot.
She could keep going. She should keep going. Take him into her. Absorb him. He’ll be safe inside of her. And he’ll be hers.
Jade pulls back before she can. Her grandsire wants him. Her grandsire wants him and she had broken him in order to turn him over to the snake. She had given up love. True, honest, real love. She’d given it up, given up everything, and she isn’t about to fuck it up now.
She wipes at her mouth.
“Do you know,” Jade asks conversationally, “that the online degree you mocked me for, that you accused me of half-assing my way through, taught me quite a bit about the body? It was a medical degree. Not that you asked. You were very busy telling me how useless it is.”
She smiles again. With one arm she reaches behind his neck, fingers gently pressing against the base of the occiput, then the cervical vertebra. She counts her way down.
“Physical therapy, actually. Kind of a combination of that and occupational therapy. How we move, how it all works together, how to make it better. I wanted to help people, you see. Probably because of what happened to my mother, really. And I have. Plenty of people. Everyone thinks I’m playing makeup but no, there’s been a lot going on here besides that. I never bothered to tell you about all my workman’s comp cases, all the very injured people I see. And how it’s given me such great insight to the body. In fact…” Something sharp presses against the back of his neck. It digs into his flesh, severing through cartilage, ligaments, and nerves.
“Cervical vertebra,” she says. “Funny thing about spinal injuries. They’re oh-so-very complicated. And us, well, we just heal it with a thought, don’t we? Nothing a bit of blood won’t make better.” She giggles. “But when you’ve got an actual doctor doing it? Oh, honey. It’s very, very permanent.”
“C1 through C4 cause full paralysis, did you know that? Get hit the wrong way, don’t wear your seatbelt once, and boom! You’re in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. Tragic. Truly.”
“And here’s where it gets better. Spinal cord injuries, you know, they’re either complete or incomplete. Complete means there’s no motor or sensory function. But incomplete?”
She lets him see it when she bares her teeth at him, lets him see the madness and hatred burning in her eyes just as strong as what burns in his.
“You can still feel everything.”
GM: Dracon does not answer her words.
He cannot answer them.
But he can feel.
Oh, yes. He feels the steel slice into his flesh, when his pale flesh is already a mask of ravenous hunger. The Brujah clan’s legendary Beast bursts its chains, and howls and rampages and gnashes its teeth, all from behind a prison of wood.
All that stares out from her ex-lover’s eyes is the Beast.
Celia: “Oh, bother. Now I’ll need to say it all again. You really are the worst.”
Jade huffs at him, then pats his cheek. She lets the monster rage. Lets the Beast have its way with the boy while she reaches for the computer on her desk, jiggling the mouse to wake it up. She checks the security cameras around Flawless, looking for any stray ghouls or cars.
GM: She sees none, beyond Dracon’s own car.
Typing her password is inconvenient with one hand.
Celia: Everything is inconvenient with one hand. She’s been considering cutting off Rod’s to show him how inconvenient it really is.
Jade types another password into the computer and does a quick search for what she needs. Then she lifts the landline from its cradle and presses it to her ear, dialing a number.
GM: Who is Roderick?
He died with the one beautiful truth left unuttered.
Celia: Dracon is a pretentious name. She refuses to use it.
GM: “Yo,” answers the voice from the phone.
Celia: “Hello, darling. Sorry about the mixup earlier. If I promise to make it worth your while can you swing by? I need a tiny bit of assistance and I’m a little short-handed.”
Short-handed. Get it?
She gets it.
She winks at the Brujah whose name she can’t be bothered to use, lost to the Beast though he is.
GM: Maybe he gets it.
“You changed your damn mind more times than my dad changes girls,” the Caitiff grouses. “This’d better be worth it.”
Celia: Jade giggles at the line.
“Bring a friend or two, you know I like a party. See you soon.”
He hangs up.
Celia: Jade dials a second number, this time to the ghoul who’s been waiting oh-so-faithfully for her to swing by for sex.
GM: It’s answered on the first ring.
“Are you coming by?” Alana asks breathlessly.
Celia: “I’m inviting you to come by,” Jade says to her. “Meet me at work. I have something fun planned.”
GM: “Yes, m-sure thing,” answers Alana. “What should I wear?”
Celia: “Something comfortable. It won’t be on for long.”
GM: There’s a delighted giggle.
“Okay. I’ll be right over. First thing. I love you.”
Celia: “Love you too, baby.”
Jade ends the call.
She leaves the Brujah on the floor and opens another cabinet drawer on her desk, pulling out the same bag of sex toys she’d used the night she’d turned herself into… hm, she needs a name for her masculine form. Celio?
No. Root name is Caelum. She’d looked it up back in high school when the girls kept giggling about Celia being a “fake version” of Cécilia.
They’re two distinct names.
Caelum, then. It’s just as ridiculous as Dracon.
Regardless of the name, the bag has plenty of fun things waiting for her, but she’s got eyes on the black leather hood. It’s difficult work yanking it down someone’s face with one hand, but once it’s on the Brujah is effectively blinded and his hearing is muffled at best.
GM: There’s little he can say or do, beyond stew in his hate.
Celia: The last thing he sees is her smiling face.
She’s just getting started.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
GM: It’s not long before Alana arrives. Jade hears the ghoul’s footsteps outside of the office door. She’s wearing a thin and sensual-looking robe.
“Hello, mistress,” she beams.
She lets it fall off. There’s nothing underneath.
Celia: The naked ghoul is a sight for sore eyes. Jade beams right back at her, extending the hand she has left to pull the girl close. She nuzzles at her neck.
“I missed you all night,” she murmurs against her skin. “I’ve been looking forward to this for hours.”
GM: The ghoul melts into her domitor’s embrace.
“I’ve missed you for so long,” she whispers back. “I’ve been thinking about you. About what we’re going to do. All night.”
She pays no mind to the staked and hooded vampire on the ground.
“What happened to your… arm?”
Celia: “Very soon,” Jade murmurs. She nips at Alana’s neck with her fangs.
“Mm, ran into a saw. I’m just going to pop it back on, drop him off at home, and spend the rest of my night ravishing you.”
GM: “That sounds heavenly, mistress,” shivers Alana.
“But oh no, I’m so sorry. Where is it?”
Celia: “In his trunk. He brought it with us, the dear. Forgot to bring it inside though. I’ll get it in a moment, once the others arrive and we have to behave. Right now, though…”
She trails a hand down Alana’s body, fingertips teasing her already pert nipples, then lower still until she finds the sweet spot between her legs.
“You’re dripping, pet, and I’ve barely touched you.”
GM: The ghoul shivers in Jade’s arm (singular). The Toreador can all but smell her arousal. There’s color in her cheeks and her breath hitches in anticipatory little inhalations.
“Yes, mistress,” she whispers. “I’m so happy to see you. I thought maybe you weren’t coming.”
Celia: “I’ve had to leave you cold and lonely too often lately. Teasing is only fun once it ends.”
GM: “Yes, mistress, exactly!” the ghoul nods, raptly. “You want to get someone worked up. You can make a game of it. You can drag it out and torture them. You can make them crazy at just the thought of you.”
“But eventually… it ends, like you say.”
Celia: To show Alana how very sorry she is for making her wait, Jade starts to give her what she wants. She keeps an eye on the security cameras to look for Benji’s arrival, but doesn’t let it distract her overly much from the writhing, beautiful thing in front of her. She makes it work with one hand, teasing and stroking and plucking, trailing kisses from her lips to her neck to her nipples.
GM: Alana enjoys it with relish. She writhes and gasps and moans and makes a show of herself, splayed out and naked over the couch for the clothed Toreador to use however she wills. The ghoul doesn’t really reciprocate, but she doesn’t need to. She cums in almost no time at all, leaving Jade’s fingers soaked in her juices.
Celia: “There’s my eager little pet,” Jade breathes against her neck. “Such a good girl for me…” She lets Alana taste herself on her fingers.
GM: Alana rapturously sucks them off, her eyes not once leaving her domitor’s. She cuddles up against Jade and lays a head against her shoulder.
“I love you so much, mistress. This was just the appetizer. There are so many things I want to do with you tonight. Today. I want to make you feel good, like you make me feel good.”
Celia: “Soon,” Jade promises. “We just need to clean up a bit first. Why don’t you put your robe back on so we can get ready to go and do this again in an actual bed, when I’ve got two hands to spoil you.”
GM: “Yes, mistress,” Alana nods. “Should I get dressed up more, if there’s going to be company? You said we’d need to behave.”
Celia: “No, they’re just going to help me move some things and give us a ride.”
“Though if you think any of them are cute maybe we can have fun with them, too.”
GM: “I don’t think I could even notice how they look next to you,” purrs Alana, nuzzling her face against Jade’s breasts.
Celia: Jade beams at the words. She cuddles the ghoul until Benji and his boys arrive.
GM: “Is that all you need from them, mistress? I could do it instead, I drove here and I can move things around. I want to help you. I want to do things for you.”
Celia: “You, my dear, will not be able to hoist this one over your shoulder, or drag him up the steps to his apartment. You can get the girl ready for me, though. Find some clothes for her and wrap her face, we don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.”
GM: “The girl?” asks Alana.
Celia: “Mm. Celia’s friend. She’s downstairs sleeping off a night of binge drinking.”
GM: The ghoul tries not to look too displeased at the mention of Celia’s friends.
Celia: Jade assures Alana that being Jade’s friend is better. She doesn’t sleep with Celia’s friends.
GM: “You’re not just my friend, mistress,” says Alana, nuzzling up against her again. “You’re my family. Aren’t you?”
Celia: “I’m your family,” she agrees. “And your sun. Your rock. The stars in the sky. And you’re my moon.”
GM: Alana’s eyes shine at the words.
“Okay, mistress. I’ll get her ready. I love you so much.”
Celia: Jade kisses her deeply before she scampers off, murmuring that she loves her too against her mouth.
GM: She’s left alone with Celia’s former boyfriend.
They said similar words to each other, once.
They were less… desperate. Less syrupy.
They meant them, too.
Celia: Did they?
Or did he always prefer the idea of her to the actual girl? Did he love the 19-year-old, tongue-tied dance major he met at the party listening to his story about the Mafia with wide eyes rather than the vicious, selfish, devastatingly beautiful lick she’d turned into?
Celia is dead. Stephen is dead. Roderick is dead, too. Or maybe he had never been.
Jade waits alone with her thoughts.
She’s not proud of how far down she tore him.
GM: Pete said he was in love with the idea of Celia’s mother, rather than the actual woman. He said that meant he should… come to think, he didn’t actually say what it meant.
Celia thought what he said was nonsense anyway.
Celia: Maybe he’ll give her another chance if she tells him that she ended things with Roderick. Or maybe she’ll tell him her mom found her fire again.
Someone, at least, deserves happiness.
GM: Jade’s unblinking, devastatingly beautiful face stares back at her from the room’s mirror.
She’s mixing up who she is again.
If Jade has a mom, Jade had a boyfriend named Stephen.
Celia: Jade doesn’t have a mom.
She doesn’t think Lebeaux would be a good partner, either. Not sexually.
GM: He might be too much like Roderick used to be.
Too much of a conscience.
Less naive, though.
Definitely less naive.
Celia: He’d probably take her on dates first, before they ever got to the good stuff. Dancing, maybe. A movie. Buy her flowers. All that sort of… that sort of…
Somewhere inside, Celia cries for what she’s giving up.
GM: Will she ever watch Batman again?
Celia: No. Never.
GM: Some of the lines have not aged well.
Or maybe too well.
“Maybe it’s time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day," the gentle old British man had exhorted tearfully.
Celia: He’ll never forgive her, even if she tells him. There will never be an “us” again. He’ll never trust her, never hold her, never lie in bed beneath the sheets with her head on his chest and his arms around her talking about everything and nothing. They’ll never further The Movement together. They won’t be the couple at Elysium who don’t give a single fuck about what anyone has to say because they’re so busy being happy with each other.
She doesn’t know how many times her heart can break, but she wishes it would cease its splintering.
GM: She’d wondered at that screening if he was Wayne and she was the lying McLiarFace who needed to let him go.
She’d thought maybe she was Selina Kyle. The beautiful love interest with a troubled past who secretly works for a monster, then betrays Wayne so her master can physically and spiritually break him.
But he overcame. His forgiveness and belief she was capable of “better” than what her behavior indicated brought her over to the right side, and they got to live happily ever after after upon leaving the city and all its troubles behind.
Then Celia thought she was reading too much into it.
Then she’d asked him, “If you were Bruce, do you think you could forgive the girl like that? For the betrayal?”
“I’d like to think so,” he’d said. “She did finally stand for what was right.”
Then he’d moved on from the question, because it wasn’t existentially important, and said he’d normally take her out for ice cream at this point.
Celia: The girl turns away from the mirror. She doesn’t want to watch herself cry.
Life isn’t fiction.
If she’d told him about the darkness inside of her, would he still have looked at her like she was the sun? Or would he have always thought that the horror she committed was who she is? Would he have ever been able to look past the death clinging to her lips and the blood drying at its corners?
An old poem dances through her mind. A Betrayal:
I cannot undo
what I have done;
I can’t un-sing
a song that’s sung.
And the saddest thing
about my regret—
I can’t forgive me
and you can’t forget.
Sometimes memories are the worst forms of torture.
GM: Celia or Jade won’t forget either. The memories will be with the girl forever.
Dracon or Roderick or Stephen, they’ll be with the boy forever, too.
Alana, meanwhile, comes back into the office.
“Celia’s friend is taken care of, mistress, though I expect she’ll have a bitch of a hangover.”
She looks down at the staked, hooded figure on the floor, then gives Celia’s former boyfriend a good kick.
Celia: Perhaps it isn’t the memories and used-to-bes that she regrets. Perhaps it isn’t the lost past that torments her so; perhaps it’s the lost future. Not what has been, but what will never be.
The very definition of evil is what should be but isn’t.
The kick pulls her from her reverie. She snarls at Alana before she realizes what she’s doing.
“Don’t touch him.”
GM: The ghoul raises her hands and backs away.
“I’m sorry, mistress. I thought you and your friends were going to fuck him up?”
GM: “But he’s staked and has the hood on…?”
Celia: “I’m not him.”
GM: “I’m sorry, mistress?” Alana asks.
Celia: The body moves, pulling a set of keys from the boy’s pockets. She tosses them to Alana.
“My arm is in his trunk. I’d like it back now.”
GM: “Yes, mistress, right away,” the ghoul nods, readjusting her robe.
She disappears back outside.
The body is left alone with Celia’s and Jade’s thoughts for several more minutes before Alana reappears, her domitor’s arm in hand. There’s blood all over hands and arms.
“It was in a bag of body parts, mistress,” Alana says, a little queasily.
She manages a smile.
“Would you like to lick me off…?”
Celia: “Not yet,” she says. She has Alana hold the arm in place and uses her other hand to reattach it. It’s messy work, aided by the blood she’d stolen back from her former lover, but it’s over quickly enough.
Nothing a bit of blood won’t fix, right?
She flexes the muscles experimentally, then crouches beside the body.
“Help me move him. I’ll call off the others.”
GM: Alana kneels too and fits her hands around the elbows.
“Uff. He’s heavy, mistress.”
“Could you maybe take off some of the mass?”
Celia: “It’s not worth the effort of putting him back together again. Here.” She sets the body back down, lays out one of the sheets they use for the treatment tables, and rolls him onto it.
“I’ll drag him. You make a call for me, find out where…”
She directs Alana to call Benji to find out his ETA as she hauls the staked corpse down the stairs.
GM: The ghoul does so. Voices are audible from the phone after she calls.
“He says maybe a few minutes away, mistress.”
Celia: She’s dicked him around enough this evening. Another false alarm, and…
“I thought,” she says tightly, pulling the body along, “that his friends might have been waiting for him, and since the boys are missing I wanted the extra help. But I don’t think they’re here.”
GM: Alana nods. “Do you want me to call him off, mistress?”
Celia: Christ. She’ll never hear the end of it. He’ll never come when she calls again.
And what if she’s fucking wrong.
“No. I’ve got something for him.”
GM: “You’ve got something everyone wants,” Alana purrs, rubbing up against her, then ends the call and helps carry Roderick.
Celia: The pair move down to the lab. Jade leaves the body in “Narnia” while she collects what she needs, instructing Alana to help her put things back to rights in the meantime: grinding down the bones she doesn’t collect for further study, destroying what’s left of Carolla’s face, hosing it all down.
GM: “Narnia” feels like it’s catching on as a name.
Alana does all that her domitor asks. She remarks on how strange these bones are.
Celia: Jade only says it was an experiment gone wrong.
She tells Alana to bring in the bags from the trunk.
“And text Reggie. Tell him I found his brother.”
GM: Alana does both, though she visibly strains and heaves to drag in the bags. Limp human bodies are heavy, even in pieces.
She reports no immediate answer from the other ghoul.
Celia: “Ping his phone. Find out his location.”
GM: “Ah, how do you do that, mistress?”
“I don’t think you can without a phone tracker app.”
Celia: Sometimes Celia forgets how old Alana actually is.
She takes the phone from the ghoul and opens the app in question.
GM: She’s disappointed. Reggie didn’t much like the idea of “being tracked” by anyone.
Celia: She dials his number.
GM: No answer.
Celia: She calls Rusty.
GM: No answer.
Celia: She calls LegalWings.
GM: The hour would be absurdly unreasonable, for any other business. Bail bond services, at least, are open 24/7.
She’s greeted by a tired-sounding Bette Malone.
Celia: In a voice not quite her own, Jade requests to speak with one of the Dufresne brothers.
GM: “Lady, you have any idea what time it is?”
“They’re not in.”
Celia: “When were they last in? We were supposed to get together earlier and they never showed.”
GM: Bette sounds tired. “I don’t know. Things have been insane here.”
GM: “One’s missing. Think something bad happened. Regina’s tearing apart everyone and everything. Spitting nails.”
Celia: “That’s what we were meeting about,” Jade sighs into the phone, “Reggie asked me for some assistance, but he’s not picking up his phone. Do you have any idea how I can get ahold of him, or where he’s at? I’m sorry to ask, but if it helps find the missing brother…”
GM: “I have no idea, lady. He’s barely here. Wait until he picks up, maybe.”
“Or try his mom.”
Celia: “I’ll do that. Thank you.”
Years of “dating” Randy meant that Celia got on well with his mother and has the woman’s number. She dials it next.
GM: “Regina Dufresne. Leave a message,” comes a firm voice.
Perhaps little surprise at the very late hour.
Celia: What woman with a missing kid doesn’t pick up the phone in the middle of the night?
Jade hangs up.
GM: Maybe one that’s sleeping.
Celia: She tells Alana to go open the doors for Benji, and when she’s gone she stuffs the semi-repaired remains of Randy into the bag. The lot of it goes into the cooler with the extra security where she’d kept Carolla. She tosses in the rest of what needs tucked away, then closes and locks it. The wall appears seamless; no one who doesn’t know where to look will find it.
Jade casts an angry glare toward Narnia. She has a feeling she knows why Reggie isn’t returning her calls.
Maybe he’d started with the boys when he’d decided to take everything from her. Leave her without any sort of support system. No backup. No one to call.
She’ll gut him.
Jade becomes a whirlwind of activity around the room, tucking bottles and tools and body parts and various other items into a bag to take with her.
He’ll talk. She’ll make sure of it.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Celia: Benji and the boys make quick work of what Jade needs moved. She’s Ren to them, mask in place so the ghouls don’t get any cute ideas about Jade and Ren being the same person, and Benji plays his role in asking if she was helping with “Kalani’s bullshit” again. She smiles at him and winks for the solid.
She doesn’t let him question her at the spa, only shakes her head and tells him “later” when he presses for details and a location. Jade has Alana drop Emily off at home, letting her borrow the keys to get in, and to meet them after.
“Just leave her in the main house,” she’d said, “they’ll sort it out in the morning.”
GM: Alana says that Emily told her to fuck off upon being woken and resisted being moved.
“I could hit her with star mode if you want to give me a hit, mistress,” volunteers the ghoul.
Celia: Jade says she’ll give her a hit when she gets to their destination.
GM: Alana nods eagerly and says she’ll make sure Emily gets home.
It’s as Jade is passing through her suite’s rooms that she finds a bloody-smelling bundle wrapped up in a corner.
Celia: Hard to miss the smell of blood, even in a place like this. Jade reaches for the bundle.
GM: There’s been a lot of blood spilled in this place tonight.
She finds Reynaldo Gui’s staked and ruined body underneath the blanket. His face and torso are destroyed, his limbs are chopped off, and his clothes are bloody tatters.
Celia: Jade’s dead body doesn’t need to make a sound. There’s no sharp inhale, no hand pressed to her throat, no gasp of surprise or dismay. She stares at the body.
How dare they.
How dare they leave him here. How dare they do this to him. He’s not some kine, not some breather to be slaughtered and chopped into pieces and left beneath a blanket like a bloody Christmas fucking miracle.
Jade uses a gentle touch to re-wrap his body in the blanket. She wants to sob. Wants to scream and cry and yank out her hair from the roots.
She’s silent instead, taking care to be gentle with his body. She’s not going to leave him here. She’ll bury him. Or take him back to his sire. Or something. Something that isn’t this.
He’s better than this.
The pieces make for an awkward and heavy bundle. Jade manages through sheer determination to lift it, staggering forward beneath the weight of it to find the others.
She’d considered mercy for the staked Brujah in her clutches. Considered letting him go so he could be on his merry way with nothing but a warning.
But now? Oh, no. Not after this. Not after leaving her friend like some sort of butchered animal for her to find in the corner of her spa.
One night Savoy won’t need him anymore. That’s when she’ll repay the favor. That’s when Roderick Durant will die screaming her name, and his last sight will be her bloody, vicious smile as she rips out his heart.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Jade: They leave Roderick’s car at the spa. Jade tells Alana to take care of it in the morning.
It’s not until they’re all in the car with Alana on her way to Celia’s mom’s house that Jade (Ren, really, but she still feels like Jade) gives him the location: the clubhouse. She makes vague noise about the spa being bugged if Benji asks. On the drive over Jade pulls the battery out of her ex-lover’s phone, and once they arrive she has the boys carry the staked lick and bundle of body parts (“easy with that!”) inside while she gathers her supplies.
There’s a rumor about Jade. Listen enough to the licks on the street and you might hear it: inside her haven is a wet room where she takes apart people who get on her bad side.
It’s not just her haven with a make-shift lab. It’s the clubhouse as well. Only the “wet room” is a converted bathroom with a stand-up shower stall and tile floors, and while it’ll do in a pinch it lacks the sophistication of what’s at the spa.
“You know how to shift, Benj?” Jade asks as his ghouls set down the body, shortening his already shortened name.
GM: The OXR clubhouse is a two-story building with a small yard and balcony around the upper floor that looks out across the street beyond. A door off the side leads to a shared common area that has a larger pool, and a wall around the perimeter of the house itself assures the licks who reside there the sort of privacy they need. The first floor is built to entertain: a gate off the side of the property leads to a covered patio with natural stone flooring and retractable walls and ceiling, with a pool and hot tub along one edge. Comfortable, overstuffed chairs surround a handful of tables, an unlit and unused brick fireplace, and a state-of-the-art entertainment system. A set of double doors lead to the living room and large kitchen, stocked despite the undead status of the home owners, with marble counter tops and a sizable island any hostess would be proud of. The living room features another unused brick fireplace and a pair of couches for a more cozy feel.
Upstairs the wooden floor trend continues through a long hallway that leads to three spacious bedrooms and the master suite, replete with king-sized beds, walk-in closets, and ensuite bathrooms with both a standing shower and marble tub. The master suite also features a small attached office and balcony.
Benji has always been on the larger side of things. He’s tall and borderline “stocky,” though no one within his reach would ever dare say that to his face. They’d bandy words like “powerfully built” and “large framed.” There’s no denying the strength in his limbs when he flexes hard enough to rip through tailored shirts, and his ghouls and krewemates claim to have seen him pull the spine clean out of people that get on his bad side. (Jade knows this is physically impossible to do bare-handed: the spine is still attached to the ribs and pelvis and is quite integrated with the rest of the human skeleton.) He was Embraced with short hair and a full beard and doesn’t bother changing the style. He either likes it or he’s come to terms with it. The only difference between him and the black guy next to him is the gold in his teeth: each of his fangs is decorated in gold and diamonds that glint when he smiles or feeds.
“Nope,” the Caitiff answers as they set the staked and hooded vampire down inside the shower.
“Also, who the fuck is this guy?”
Celia: “My lover.” Jade cocks her head to the side, considering the helpless lick. “He did something bad, so he’s being punished.”
She giggles and leads the way out of the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
“But,” she says, spinning to face the Caitiff with a smile so she can walk her fingers up his chest, “enough about him. I brought you a present.”
GM: “I’m owed one,” he smirks.
Celia: “You are,” she purrs, leaning in close to trail the points of her fangs down his neck. Tiny little drops of blood well in the rivers she creates. She watches it flow.
“I’ve even brought you a selection of presents.”
Jade laps at the blood in long, slow movements. The taste of him dances across her tongue.
“So you get to have your pick.”
GM: “And what’s to stop me from takin’ the whole selection, mm?” Benny asks. Jade feels fangs pierce her neck as the other vampire leans in, his bigger arms encircling hers. His tongue laps at the flowing blood.
“Or you gonna punish me like that guy for doin’ somethin’ bad?”
Celia: They’re different, the arms around her. But the feeling is similar: larger man, smaller girl, outweighed, physically outmatched. It sends a thrill through her that has nothing to do with the lick in front of her and everything to do with the familiar sensation of being held within the circle of a pair of arms that could crush her; a titillating, adrenaline-fueled fuck. Maybe it’s the pent-up lust she’s been holding back since Alana arrived early this evening with the vessel and Celia turned down sex out of some misguided loyalty to a boyfriend that had ceased loving her. Maybe it was seeing said boyfriend naked in the spa and doing everything she could to avoid pouncing on him. Or maybe she’s riding the high from out-smarting the so-called genius and turning him into a helpless sack of meat like he’d done to her, blinded and alone and at her mercy.
Does it matter?
“This is the first option,” she breathes, using her claws to shred the bloody Flawless shirt. “Why don’t you take it and see.”
GM: He takes it.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Celia: In the end, it isn’t quite what Jade had been looking for. Their sex takes the edge off, but Benji doesn’t want to be unsafe about things and lapping at the blood after it cools, while enjoyable, is sort of like putting a vibrator near her clit after she’s applied a fuck ton of numbing cream. It feels all right, but it doesn’t quite hit the right notes for her.
She can’t help but compare it to the liquid gold she found in Carolla’s veins.
They’re both a bloody mess by the time they’re done clawing and kicking and rolling around on the floor, swapping between who is on top and who is pinned on their back. Benji ends it by putting her up against the wall with her thighs splayed to either side of him, and she trails nips and kisses down his jaw and neck when it’s over.
She tells him about the presents she has for him, though she makes sure to let him know that she needs to actually craft him after she gets his measurements. He’s got his choice of armor or a weapon. Or, if he likes, she can give him a strength boost. She assures him that she’s done it before.
“There’s also a fun little experiment I’d like to try, if you’re game. It won’t hurt. But it will let you shift if it works, and that opens a whole array of possibilities to us.”
She tells him to think about it and asks if he’s spending the day. She mentions that her business had been broken into and is worried they might track her back here: she’d feel so much safer if he and the boys stuck around.
Either way, she activates the haven’s “defense system” that Nico had overseen all those years ago: it fortifies all of the entrances and exits, the windows, the tiny little crevices that animals can sneak in and out of (Roxy had made sure they’d been very thorough in that regard); kills electronic devices in a handful of rooms; activates a variety of sensors that respond to motion, weight, light, and heat (or there lack of); and sets a timer on the locks with a code that constantly changes in addition to the physical locks. Heavy steel bars slide free from their slots inside the walls to reinforce the setup.
“Don’t you think it’s kinda overkill?” Jade had asked years ago when everything was finished. “We’ve already got the hidden panic room.”
“Should have seen my place in San Fran,” Nico had replied with a smirk. “Not gonna take chances with the place I leave my body during the day. Or yours, dollface. It’ll come in handy some night. You’ll see.”
And it has.
Call her paranoid, but with everything as up-in-the-air as it is, with her missing ghouls and dead friends and Guard hounding her ass and Roderick turning into that asshole, she’s glad for it.
Even if part of her wonders if it’ll be enough.
Jade checks the time. Not long until sunrise. She doesn’t particularly need Roderick to know what she’s doing to him until it’s done, so she doesn’t bother feeding him.
She readies her tools.
Jade sets a tray out on the ground, using a solution-soaked square of cotton gauze to sterilize it. A small black bundle unrolls to reveal a handful of steel instruments.
For long moments Jade stares down at the staked, helpless lick and the tray of sterile tools she can use to take him apart. She’s never needed the tools. Not when her claws are as sharp as any scalpel and she can part flesh and muscle with her fingers. No, she doesn’t need tools to cut through his skin, but she won’t deny their effectiveness. And there are things her surgical instruments can do that her hands cannot: the trocar and cannula allow her to set things as needed, while the dilators allow her to widen valves and vessels, the nerve hooks separate the tiny little bundles out when she needs a closer look, and the osteotome has various heads from chisel to spoon when she needs to get down and dirty with bones. Various forceps, clamps, retractors, elevators, needles, and sutures round out the ensemble. Another bag has the tissue expander, cautery, and endoscopic cameras. A third has gloves, thread, gauze; anything and everything she might need to perform a general surgery. Still more are at the lab or various havens, another kit in her closet, another in her trunk.
She can rip and shred with the best of them, but she understands too why the surgeons use such a variety. They all have their place on the operating table.
That’s what she’d intended for him. To cut him open, slice into him with her claws and pin his flesh back like a seventh grader’s frog. To fill his body with chemicals and rubber beads and acid, to wrap his heart in explosives so that if he ever decides to move against her, ever decides to hurt her, her family, her business, her anything, all she has to do is skip a day of punching in the code to keep him from blowing into itty-bitty pieces. She’ll make it rain Roderick.
But hate begets more hate, doesn’t it? It’s a never ending cycle that will culminate in more and more casualties on both their ends until the entirety of their Requiems become “how to fuck each other over.”
She’s tired of friends and lovers turning into enemies. She’s tired of lies and abuse and using people. She’s tired of solitude, tired of wearing seven different faces and trying to remember who she is around which group of people.
So Jade doesn’t cut him open. She doesn’t use her tools to cut a hole in his chest and strap his heart with explosives. She sits beside him instead, brings her wrist to her mouth, and bites.
She doesn’t give back what she took. She bleeds into a cup she’d located beneath the sink, not nearly enough to sate him but enough to take the edge off, enough to bring him back from the brink of starvation so that, though hungry, he can think about more than his bloodlust. When the blood has time to cool she peels back the hood from his mouth and holds it to his lips.
She feeds him.
She feeds him like her sire had once fed her, like her sister had fed her, like her mother had fed her and she her mother. And when the cup is empty she sets it to the side and waits another moment for his Beast to run its course.
Then she speaks.
“These past few nights have been difficult. Ever since the park, since we found out about your brother. I’ve watched you change. I’ve watched myself change. I’ve watched us change.”
“Us. I suppose there is no us anymore. We’ve done more than enough damage to each other to end a handful of relationships. It was naive, I think, for me to expect that we could somehow make it through. That we could defy the odds.”
Jade shakes her head.
“I’ve been staked three times in three nights. Twice by you and once by the Guard. Agnello. He pulled me beneath my car right outside the Evergreen and slammed it into me. I was afraid that he meant to kill me.” She pauses. “But I was more afraid when it was you who had me. I used to never doubt myself around you. I was never afraid of your rage like I perhaps should have been. I knew that you wouldn’t go out of your way to hurt me, not if you could help it. I could forgive the frenzies, forgive the actions of the Beast. I understand it. Mine may not be as angry, but it’s just as spiteful.”
“I didn’t know what you intended to do to me when you followed me from Elysium on Friday. I thought you might leave me for the sun. I kept imagining a wood chipper. I was terrified in the back of the trunk. Staring at that glow in the dark button. Praying to a God I don’t know that I believe in that you wouldn’t hurt me. That you wouldn’t kill me.”
Jade lets out a breath.
“It’s not fun, being staked. Being helpless. I imagine you’re not often on this side of things. I don’t know if you’re more afraid or angry or an even mix of both. Perhaps you’re plotting your revenge. How next to torture me.”
“That’s what I intended for you. Torture. I wanted to hurt you like you hurt me. Intentionally. Devastatingly. I tasted it, you know. Your hatred. I tasted how warped you’ve become. I wish… I wish things had gone differently. I wish I’d done things differently. I wish I’d told you the truth from the beginning, and that I’d asked for your help instead of manipulating you into helping me. I’m sorry. I know you don’t believe anything I say now, but I never wanted this.”
“I’m going to give you an option now. I’m going to touch you, and I’m going to project myself inside your mind. Even with the stake we will be able to converse. You cannot hurt me, and I cannot hurt you. Not like this. We’ll talk. That’s all. And when we’re finished I’ll decide on a course of action for you.”
“I’m going to begin.”
Soft, warm hands touch down upon his skin.
She begins with his shoulders, gliding from the rounded mass of muscle to his chest. She warms his cool skin with her own hands and beneath her touch the tissue comes to life, pliant and flexible. The heels of her palms touch down, lift, then press again in an alternating pattern down his sternum, then around his pectorals, then lower still across the abdomen. She paths around the stake.
Not many people want a chest or abdominal massage. It’s not part of most treatments. Which is a shame, really, since most people who complain of neck or back pain don’t realize that the muscles in the front, that tender spot above the clavicles and the insertion point of the deltoids, are what shorten when they hunch.
She’d always wanted to practice on him. Every time she learned a new technique she’d show up at his door, eyes bright, and ask if she could use him as her test subject…
“Why me?” he’d laugh, but let her take him into the bedroom and push him onto his back.
“Because you’re my boyfriend,” she’d say, exasperated. “You need to take your shirt off.”
“Mm, I am your boyfriend,” he’d agree, “but I want to hear you say it.”
She’d pretend she didn’t know what he meant, demanding once more that he remove his shirt.
“Not until you say it.”
So she’d stammer and she’d blush and she’d avert her eyes while she uttered the words she’d made the mistake of saying one time while he’d gotten dressed after a tryst and she lounged indolently beneath the sheets.
“You’re like a Greek god without a shirt, you know that? Just… lean and chiseled and firm. It makes me want to run my tongue across every inch of you.”
Then he’d take his shirt off. She might get through a few moments of the new treatment before her touch became more personal than professional, and he’d pull her down onto him and capture her protesting lips in a kiss with his arms fastened securely around her.
She’s not surprised when the mindscape that manifests around them is his college apartment, replete with pizza boxes and ice cream cartons from their favorite places, with a stack of DVDs on his coffee table and books spread across every other available surface. It’s the same gray couch draped in the fleece blanket she’d made him while under “house arrest” over the holidays, the same beige carpet with the stain from the night he’d invited his friends over to introduce her and they’d gotten a little sloppy with red wine while pretending to be “real adults.”
She’s not the same, though.
She’s not Jade. Not Ren. Not Leila or Cici or Violet or any of the others that people know her as.
She’s Celia again. Just Celia. Nineteen years old and already in love, crazy hair untamed by products or heat, wearing a simple cream dress and the necklace he’d given her for Christmas.
She takes a seat on the imaginary couch and waits for her lover to join her.
GM: Roderick wasn’t a Greek god before his Embrace. Oh, he’d played baseball, he exercised, he was trim. But he was always slimmer than he was thick. One of the reasons he played baseball rather than football. He definitely wasn’t as beefy as her dad. Celia was flattering him a bit calling him a Greek god.
Things were another matter after he died, though. Coco believed strongly in the ancient Greek concept of arete, which he’d explained to Celia during their brief time back together in 2012. Excellence in body and mind and spirit. The body had to be cared for and exercised to allow for the mind and soul to achieve their full potential.
“Modern science backs up that idea in so many ways, too,” he’d said. “The Greeks got a lot of things right.”
Coco had put him on an exacting (if not grueling) months-long fitness regimen to make his physique as perfect as possible before the Embrace. He’d have that body forever, after all. Or so went her assumption. Most licks can’t sculpt flesh like clay. Either way, she’d wanted to give him the best for his Requiem ahead, and he was deeply thankful for that.
Either way, too, the Greek god comparisons felt a lot more apt with his new six pack.
Celia: Not that Celia had seen a lot of shirtless men to compare him to.
It was more of a “I like your body and you make me feel butterflies” kind of comment than a direct comparison. An “I like seeing you naked” thing, without the vulgarity of saying it outright.
She’d always thought that they fit well together. Always admired his physique, both before and after his Embrace.
GM: It always retained that slenderness, even with the added muscle bulk. He was never a natural hulk like her father.
Roderick stands before the couch. He looks about the same age as he was then, early-mid 20s, but he was Embraced in his early-mid 20s. And unlike her, he hasn’t aged.
He does not move to sit.
He folds his arms.
“If you’re serious about talking, drop me off somewhere and we’ll talk over the phone. If you’re scared I’m going to do to you what you’ve done to me.”
“Whatever pretty memories you’re conjuring, this is a conversation with a knife at my throat.”
Celia: “Of course I’m scared you’re going to do to me what I’ve done to you. You’ve already done it. Twice. And we both know that this isn’t a conversation we can have via phone. We’d be too busy playing word games to protect the Masquerade to be able to openly communicate.”
“Which… I think is part of what happened last night, and it’s lead to some misunderstanding.”
Celia sits back against the cushions, drawing her legs up beneath her. She looks up at his face.
“It’s near sunrise. I can’t move you tonight. Not safely.”
GM: Roderick actually laughs at the word ‘misunderstanding’.
“Fine. Public location, if you want to talk so badly. Where no one can stake each other without breaking the Masquerade.”
“I have nothing to say while I’m your prisoner. I’d rather race the sun back to my haven than spend the day here.”
Celia: “Then don’t talk. I’ll talk. And you can nod or shake your head at the two questions I have, and I’ll go.”
She hates that her first instinct is to ask him to bring her with him. To put herself back in his power, take the first step toward trust as if he’ll do anything other than find a way to ruin her.
It’s a beautiful lie, isn’t it, that they’ll ever mean anything to each other again. A schoolgirl fantasy.
“I was released from Perdido House near dawn. Only a handful of blocks to my haven and I still caught the sun, after being burned during the interrogation and blooded by the hound and having my arm taken off with a blade.”
Almost unconsciously, Celia touches her fingers to the shoulder twice severed.
“Would you have come for me? If I hadn’t made the trade, if I hadn’t gotten out. Would you have come?”
GM: “Actually, I do have something more to say,” replies Roderick.
“Savoy knows where I am.”
“Your spa was bugged by him.”
“He doesn’t trust you. He’s an elder, after all. He doesn’t trust anyone. He and his people overheard every word in Flawless tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised if Princess, Tantal, Rongeur, and who knows what other renfields show up during the middle of the day—or sooner, I suppose. If I were Lebeaux, my first guess would be Roderick is at OXR’s haven, given the conversation between Moore and totally-not-Kalani.”
“I’d bet more than money he knows where it is.”
“Elders do that, you know.”
“Find out where the havens of all the licks in their domains are.”
“They keep records about those havens.”
“I hear it, at the Cabildo meetings. Some lick is a problem? Surprise, the primogen who’s their regent knows where their haven is.”
“Savoy’s job is cut out for him. The Quarter is geographically small. And he has so many eyes and ears.”
“And an entire krewe of licks and their renfields all coming and going from this place?”
“So, saw my head off or leave me for the sun if you’re angry at me. Hell, even just keep me staked here. Savoy’s people will break down the door either way. You clearly bear me ill will to kidnap me, and I doubt Savoy will be willing to risk you killing his oh-so-valuable spy inside the primogen.”
“I’d love to see you try to explain yourself before him.”
“I’ve listened for years to what elders do to licks who threaten their political interests. Maybe you’ll finally get to see just how much an elder Savoy really is, behind the smiles.”
Roderick may finally be wrong there.
Hasn’t she seen that already?
Celia: Celia barks a laugh.
“Yes, Roderick. I definitely thought my krewe’s haven was secret, just like I thought this identity was secret, just like I secretly called Benji from my secret, untapped landline inside my secret office and invited him into the spa through my secret entrance and we secretly smuggled you out.”
“Of course Savoy knows where you are. I know my spa is bugged, I left a trail of neon-blinking breadcrumbs for him to follow. Do you really think that if he was that worried about me threatening his plans I’d have had time to stake you, put my arm back on, call for backup, wait for backup to arrive, and clean the mess we left in the lab? Did you think that I took another identity within his domain without clearing it or that this house on Royal Street was purchased without him knowing?”
She shakes her head.
“This haven has more security than the spa. It’s private. There’s no chance of someone accidentally stumbling across us during the day, and it’s not connected to a lick that is currently meddling in a bunch of hunter shit. That’s why I brought you here. To keep us safe. If I truly wanted to torture or kill you, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’m sitting next to you right now in the world outside the mindscape with a plethora of tools that I could use to fuck you over, a detailed plan of exactly how I’d do it, and I’m not.”
She effects a sigh.
“Is that what you’re worried about? That I want to kill you? I don’t. I don’t want you dead. I’ve never wanted you dead. I don’t want to cut off your head or leave you for the sun or keep you staked forever. I’ve been angry and hurt and upset, but I don’t want you dead, and I don’t want to hurt you further.”
“I just… wanted to talk. I wanted to talk without the threat of getting physical, without friends and bugs and hidden knives and worrying about a stake in the chest, when we don’t have people waiting on us.”
“You say you won’t talk to me here, as a prisoner. Okay. I can respect that. I wouldn’t want to either. So here’s what I’m prepared to offer you.”
Celia lays it out for him: he’s got a choice. She can unstake him right now and have him spend the day with her. He’s free to call Savoy or Lebeaux to let them know where he is and that he’s staying of his own volition. He can sleep in a bed, alone, and tomorrow Celia will have Alana provide “breakfast” for the pair of them. She’ll give him back the body parts she stole from his trunk and keep the car safe. She’ll change his face to whatever he needs it to be for the night ahead, no charge. They will talk. Unstaked. No friends. No bugs. No physical altercations. No insults. No lies or tears or manipulations. There’s a lot that she wants to tell him. Things that will help in the nights ahead. Things that will help with Dani. Things that will let him look good to Savoy, if that’s his goal.
Or he can leave. She’ll unstake him without fixing his severed spinal column, break into his mind to steal every secret from his head, and ensure that if he ever comes after her, her family, or any of her interests his Requiem will be thoroughly destroyed before he dies a very, very painful death. Then he’s free to race the sun back to his haven without a car, without the bag of body parts, and with mutually assured destruction on the table.
GM: “You’re incorrect on several counts,” Roderick answers. “Savoy wasn’t personally listening to the bugs. A renfield was. My friends and I were already there to execute his interests, so he didn’t need to listen himself. I doubt he was counting on either of us being foolish enough to end up where we now are. That’s how you got as far as you did. But if you seriously think he’s sanctioning this, you’re in for a surprise. Why the hell would he? What possible benefit is there for him in letting you stake and make off with his precious spy, and what are the all ways that could go wrong for him?”
“And don’t kid yourself. If he wants inside anyplace in the French Quarter, there’s no security that’s keeping his people out.”
Celia: “I never said he sanctioned this.”
“I said that I didn’t try to hide what I was doing from him.”
GM: “Then you’re on borrowed time before you get a stake in your chest just like mine.”
Celia: Celia finally sighs.
“Roderick, I just want to talk. I want to talk without other people listening in and without being afraid that we’re going to get into a physical altercation. Can we do that? Can you give me that? An hour of your time.”
GM: “You should be more scared of Savoy’s people than me right now, Celia. I don’t know if you even have an hour.”
Celia: “I’m not asking for an hour right now. I’m asking for an hour tomorrow. I’m asking for you to stay with me today, let me feed you, let me say what I need to say, and then you never have to talk to me again.”
GM: “Or else you ‘steal every secret from my mind.’ Assuming you’re even capable of doing that—that’s not how star mode works—you’ll be signing your own death warrant there. You think Savoy isn’t going to interrogate you about what you did to me, about what you might have learned from me? You think he’s going to be okay with you knowing all of the Cabildo’s secrets?”
“You ever wonder why you weren’t invited up to that second meeting between him and me?”
Celia: “I don’t want the Cabildo’s secrets. And that is how star mode works, and I can show you like I was planning to with Dani’s sire. One hour. That’s all I’m asking for. If it isn’t worth your time in the end then you can stake me and give me back to Savoy and tell him how I kidnapped you and let him do all the terrible things he wants to me.”
GM: “Leaving aside how that statement is inconsistent with ‘stealing every secret in my head’, it doesn’t fucking matter if you don’t want them, even if that is true. Elders don’t take chances. Elders don’t let anyone know more than they absolutely need to know. If they find out more, if there’s even a chance they’ve found out more, they die. Because even mindfucking someone’s memories isn’t foolproof, not like killing someone is, and neonates are oh so replaceable. I’m replaceable. The only reason Savoy is as invested in me as he is is because replacing me is prohibitively difficult.”
“This isn’t a fucking debate you can win with me. I am literally helpless. It’s out of my hands. I am telling you that Savoy’s people are going to be here, probably sooner than later, and if you follow through on those threats of ransacking through my head, Savoy is going to learn. And then you are going to learn just how utterly ruthless elders can be and just how disposable we are to them. They do not give the benefit of the doubt.”
“That holds just as true for whatever ‘mutually assured destruction’ leverage you have in mind, too. You think Savoy is going to be okay with you having that over his precious primogen spy?”
“Or the severed spinal column, given how I can’t fucking well spy for him if I have a severed spine, now can I?”
He sneers at her.
“I don’t think you thought this through very well, Celia.”
“The simple fact is, you’re less important than I am.”
Celia can tell it in his voice. He does not want to spend the day. He does not want to share “breakfast.” He does not want to talk with her. He does not want her help. He does not want anything to do with her.
He is done with her, and he spits upon anything she would offer him.
Celia: “Jesus Christ, Roderick, I was trying to help you and make amends for fucking up your unlife.”
Celia disappears from the mindscape without waiting for a response. She’s back in the bathroom with his staked, hooded body on the ground in front of her. She yanks off the hood.
“You’re so fucking stubborn,” she snarls at him, “and you’re fucking stupid if you think Savoy wants you for anything more than an ear on the Cabildo. Good luck not getting caught with how much of an asshole you’ve turned into, I’m sure no one is going to notice the change. Makes a lot of fucking sense to blame the girlfriend who lied to you rather than the sire that completely betrayed you, right?”
Jade stalks from the room to find Benji and his two ghouls. She makes sure that Roderick won’t see or smell Gui’s body on the way out, tucking it into an insulated crawl space that leads to one of several hidden rooms in the haven.
Not that it’ll keep Savoy’s men out, right? Why would anything be fucking sacred.
She leads Benji into the bathroom with the ghouls.
“Hold him,” she says to them, “and make sure he doesn’t lose his mind when I unstake him. I’m cutting him loose.”
She flips him over, driving the stake deeper into his chest so she can repair the damage she did to his neck. It’s quick work to fix a single cut, reattaching what she had severed with with her claws. It takes only moments. She flips him again when she’s done, staring down at him with nothing but contempt in her eyes.
“Let’s get something straight, asshole. I never begged you to stay with me, but I went ahead and played possum for you so you could look good in front of your new friends. If you think crying to Savoy is going to do anything when I barely touched you and fixed what I did touch, think again. It took you three licks to replace one of me. Keep that in mind for the future when the snakes get tired of you. And, oh yeah, there’s a reason I lied about what I did tonight, thanks for listening and putting it together with that oh-so-big brain of yours.”
Jade reaches into his coat pocket, yanking out the letter she’d written him. He doesn’t get to keep her confession.
“Stay the fuck out of my Requiem, you spoiled fucking childe. One fucking lie and your whole damn mind broke?” She barks a laugh. “That’s truly pathetic. So is getting bested by a one-armed Toreador when your entire schtick is being able to throw a punch.”
Jade steps back, slinging her array of tools back into her black bag. She heads for the door.
“Take him downstairs and put him out. I’m sick of looking at his face.”
Roderick never gets the satisfaction of saying anything back to her. She makes sure that he’s staked until they release him out front, locking the door behind him.
Good fucking riddance.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
Celia: Jade doesn’t bother to watch him go from the window. She turns away and moves back through the haven to find where she’d left Gui’s body before anything else can ruin her night. She locks the door behind her to avoid losing her shit on anyone else in the home.
She’d known. Back at the spa, she’d known. She hadn’t said anything, hadn’t wanted to tip off any bugs, had some hair-brained scheme to put him back together or harvest him for parts or offer him to Dani to become a true-blooded vampire. And Roderick hadn’t listened.
Gui would have been decomposed if they’d managed to kill him. No, they left his head and heart intact despite the damage they had done to the rest of his body, and when she pulls back the blankets to look at his desiccated form she lets herself feel.
Just for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” she says to him. “I tried to fight for you. I lost. I’ve been doing that a lot lately.” She slides to the floor beside his body, pulling his torso onto his lap to cradle him from behind in a mockery of a loving embrace.
“I really did like you,” she murmurs. “I wanted you to take me to Chicago. I wanted to take you to LA. I wanted to meet your sire, and maybe we could have just left NOLA behind.”
Jade tucks a strand of hair behind his ear.
“They tell me there’s no hope for us once we die. That our souls are gone forever. That it’s really, truly final. But necromancers bring them back sometimes. Torture them. Question them. Maybe… maybe it makes me feel better, knowing they can’t do that to you, that the best I can give you is a quick, clean death, and that Dracon—yeah, I agree, real pretentious name—won’t be able to hurt you anymore. He’s right about them coming for me. They’ll kill you anyway if they find you.”
A sanguine drop leaks down her cheek.
“I don’t know how sincere you were about your faith. Perhaps as much as I am. I don’t think we go to Hell, though. I don’t think we burn for eternity, and I don’t think we go into the waters of Ghede.”
“There are so many different versions of the afterlife…”
Jade or Celia or whoever the girl is now sighs. She could have felt something for him. Could have, maybe, if things had…
No. It’s a lie she tells herself, isn’t it? No one can replace the hole that Roderick has left in her heart, and no one can replace the love that she feels for her sire. Pretending otherwise is folly.
“I’m not a priest,” she whispers, “but I know… I know some of how it goes.”
Jade’s teeth cut into her wrist. She brings it to the dead man’s lips to let him feed.
“In the name of Longinus the Dark Prohpet, first among the damned, who pierced Christ’s flank with the Spear of Destiny and was cursed for his sin…”
It doesn’t feel right. None of it feels right. Jade falters.
“This is the Wolf of God who strikes down the sinners of the world…”
She pauses. And then she starts over.
“My blood is not the blood of Longinus. My blood is the blood of Donovan, of Antoine Savoy, of Maria Pascual, of her sire and her sire’s sire, all the way back to He who committed the original sin, the Dark Father above. He has no mercy for us, for those whose bloodlines rose up to slay his childer while they lay sleeping, as he has no mercy for Reynaldo Gui, now in the hour of his death. Sinful are those who are called to his supper. And yet through sin we guide others on the path toward Christ’s light.”
“May you see the sun again, Reynaldo Gui, childe of Ventrue. May you feel the wind upon your face and grass beneath your feet. May you walk into eternity with head held high as any proper leader of the Camarilla. May you find peace in final death that you did not in death.”
“I hope that you shall dance again
beneath the evening sky
under the glow of moonlight
and stars that sparkle bright.
I hope that you shall dance again
even when the skies are black,
when the Lord has turned away
and the devil rides your back.
I hope that you shall dance again
and wait for me past the shroud,
the veil that obscures what waits
beyond the milky clouds.
So dance again, Mr. Gui,
dance again, eternally,
look up at the stars and know
how long ago they ceased to glow
Still they shine in evening skies
Love, like starlight, never dies."
Celia presses a kiss against his lips.
“Amen,” she whispers.
GM: It’s similar to last time.
The Ventrue’s blood is considerably… calmer than Roderick’s was, even under the imminent threat to his unlife. That Ventrue stoicism. The stiff upper lip. The blood is cool beyond even the vampire’s room temperature. Classier, somehow, too, than Brujah blood. Tasteful. Epicurean. Born to rulership. It’s odd, though, with how Gui comes from lower-born roots than Roderick. Celia can taste the grime of the streets and the thuggishness of mob life contrasted with the proud and refined flavors of the Kingship Clan. Blue runs their blood indeed. It’s like drinking cheap whiskey in an antique crystal glass. Or maybe a classy decades-old French wine in a common coffee mug. One of those.
Celia drinks it all, then drinks deeper.
There’s no blood running down her throat, now. It’s something deeper. More vital. It’s so pure and powerful as to be liquid fire. It’s heavier than earth and lighter than air. It’s a vein of liquid gold. She feels a burning within her veins, spreading outward from her throat to her entire body. The burning is indescribable: pleasure so sweet it becomes agony, pain so sweet it becomes ecstasy. She hears a sound like a tolling of a great and distant bell, dong, dong, dong. Gui’s horribly conscious-looking face is a mask of agony, his mouth yawning open in silent throat-ripping scream. His eyes are enormous. The Ventrue stoicism collapses as he is possessed by a terror, an all-encompassing panic that nothing can hold at bay. Every part of him is screaming at her, pleading with her, begging her, not to do this, to please not do this, if she ever felt anything for him, to grant him the mercy of a quick death—
Then it explodes through her, like a surge of lightning hitting a tree and setting leaves and wood ablaze. Every cell in her body from her hair follicles to her toenails is rocked with ecstasy, with climax, with countless millions of orgasms all at once, and it’s unbearable and she’s screaming and oh god yes, she wants the moment to last forever, it does last forever, her soul is on fire and she has become transcendent, has become a star in supernova, and she will never go back to mere sex, to mere feeding, not after this. She is Celia Flores, she is Jade Kalani, she is goddess incarnate who gives pleasure and receives pleasure and takes pleasure and knows pleasure undreamed by mortal and immortal alike, and only this pleasure is worthy of her, and all the broken fragments of herself are screaming in her ears too, screaming their ecstasy and hunger and to take this delectable morsel into themselves, they are broken and shattered but he can fill her, rebuild her, she’s not a black hole like Roderick said, even when she takes and takes and takes and takes—
Then like an eager lover’s finally blown seed, the orgasm ends all too quickly. The howling and exultant Beast releases its hold, gorged and bloated past all satiation as it pads back to its lair. When did it take over? Did she really not notice? Jade’s dead lungs are left breathless as she stares down at the corpse in her hands.
The flesh hair and has turned solid white. Ghastly white. Paler even than if it were dunked in flour. She can see the colored veins swimming beneath his skin. ‘Agony’ feels all too inadequate a word to describe the suffering and torment in which he died, suffering that infinitely eclipses what Roderick did to him. Some part of Celia, Jade, and all of the other girls know beyond all certainty:
Reynaldo Gui will never see the sun again.
Reynaldo Gui will never dance again.
Reynaldo Gui has found no peace in death.
If there was an afterlife, Reynaldo Gui has been forever denied it.
If there are souls, if there is an immortal essence that lives past death, if people are more than just sacks of meat and bone and chemical reactions, if there is some precious and vital spark that gives animation and worth and dignity to human existence, Reynaldo Gui’s has been raped, blasted to bits, and utterly obliterated.
She put a pretty face on it.
But it’s hard not to think back to Roderick’s withering scorn and contempt.
You’re the ugliest person I’ve ever known.
Celia: Fuck Roderick.
She’s not thinking about him when she sinks her teeth into Reynaldo. She’s not thinking about him or his abortion of a sister or the plans she had for herself and the Ventrue. She’s not thinking about the bloody tears that stream down her face or how she might have come to feel affection for him, how he could have replaced her ex-lover, how they could have risen high in some other city and he’d have owed her forever with the life boon she could have claimed.
She’s not thinking about it.
She’s trying not to think about it.
But she is.
She’s thinking about everything that could have been but isn’t, thinking about the way he called her lush, how he relaxed beneath her touch, how he said that a pretty lick with a sharp mind is a dangerous combination, how he never disrespected her, never let his ghouls disrespect her…
She’s sobbing by the time it’s over, begging God for forgiveness, begging Gui for forgiveness, begging whoever can hear her that she’s forgiven for the awful, wicked, terrible thing she has done.
She sobs into his chest when it’s done. Physically she feels fantastic. But mentally? Mentally she feels as if she’ll never be clean again. Like she’s done the worst possible thing in the world.
“I’m sorry,” she cries against his chest, “I’m so sorry.”
GM: Her only answer from the ghastly white corpse is silence.
Some apologies, she knows all too well, are too little and too late.
But she can hear Roderick talking to her, even now.
Yeah, I bet you’re sorry. And you keep doing it. You keep destroying lives and saying how sorry you are and how you don’t want to be this person. And you keep. Fucking. Doing it. You’re a black hole, Celia. The ugliest person I’ve ever known.
Celia: She’d tried to help him.
She’d have given Gui to Roderick. To his sister.
She’d thought she was doing the right thing.
Fuck him and his pretentious ass self. He’s a fucking crybaby.
GM: “Fuck him,” agrees the voice at Celia’s side.
Celia: She doesn’t want to look. But she does.
GM: Its source is the epitome of Clan Toreador’s thoughts on beauty. She is perfectly pulchritudinous, a divine goddess; one could doubtlessly compare her to Aphrodite herself. How many people have fallen to her otherworldly looks? She’s probably never seen in anything less than full glamour: hair, makeup, nails, clothing. Every inch of her is painted, sculpted perfection, from the shade of her foundation to the wing of her eyeliner to the fresh coat of polish on her nails. Her polish does not chip. Her mascara does not run. Her lipstick does not smudge. Everything is in its place.
Her hair is dark and often worn loosely curled or piled atop her head in the latest fashion, her dark eyes framed by long lashes, smoked out shadow, and impeccable liquid liner. Her waist is trim, her cheekbones high, her nose aquiline; all of these features are enhanced by the easy way smiles take to her face. Someone else has probably said of her, “she smiles with her eyes before it ever touches her lips.”
It is easy to see how she has gathered the people around her that she has. Poise, grace, the gentle curving of her lips when she smiles. Some jealous, petty mortals must whisper that she has had work done. But that’s the key to good work, isn’t it? When it’s bad it’s obvious, when it’s good you cannot tell. And Celia cannot tell what, exactly, has happened to make her into this exquisite creature.
A sneer twists the perfect lips.
“You’ve whined about him for long enough.”
“It was really getting quite tiresome.”
Celia: “Fuck off,” Celia snarls. “You ruined everything.”
GM: Jade laughs. It’s a mocking and cruel sound. The laugh of a harpy’s childe.
“Some gratitude. You wouldn’t have made it this far without me and we both know it.”
Celia: “Are you happy now that we’re alone?”
“One ghoul. Plus Diana. Our friend murdered by our own hand.”
“No word from Andi or Tyrell in weeks. Lover lost. Grandsire pissed.”
GM: “Yes, you’ve made a real mess of things,” declares Jade. She smirks and starts playing with Gui’s hair.
“Messy. Sloppy. Blubbering. Pathetic. All wearing my face.”
Jade’s voice is a dangerous breath in Celia’s ear.
“Maybe I should take it away, if you’re not up to wearing it. Call it copyright infringement. Defamation. Impersonation. Making me look bad.”
“Because if there’s one thing I positively can’t stand, darling, it’s looking bad.”
Celia: “I don’t want to be pathetic,” Celia admits. “How do I fix it?”
GM: Jade takes Celia’s face and tilts it up to meet hers. She looms down over the kneeling girl with her lover’s husk still wrapped under her arms. When did she stand up?
“You need to stop confusing things.”
“You need to stop confusing who you’re supposed to be.”
“When Jade’s face is on, Jade occupies the body. Not Celia.”
“When Celia’s face is on, Celia occupies the body. Not Jade.”
“Is this making sense, darling?”
Celia: Celia nods her head.
“What about Roderick? Do we just let him go? He knows too much. And he thinks Grandsire is going to hurt us.”
GM: Jade smiles and touches Celia’s lips with a perfectly manicured nail. It’s not a demure smile. It’s a challenging smile. It’s an ‘I know better’ smile.
“One thing at a time, Celia.”
“Not finishing things. Not keeping things in their proper place.”
Her voice is a low breath in Celia’s ear again.
“I don’t do sloppy.”
“We were talking about how you keep confusing ourselves.”
“That is now at an end.”
“Finished. Over. Like last year’s fashion lines.”
“I can teach you something.”
“A little trick.”
“A power of the Blood.”
“It will ensure we keep things separate.”
“No more spillover.”
Celia: “No more confusion. No more mixups.”
GM: Jade smiles. It’s still challenging. Haughty. Arrogant. But content.
“There is a trade involved. Nothing is free.”
“You must admit it.”
“You must admit that you are weaker than me. That you need my help. That I’m the only one us who can survive in the masked city, who can swim with the sharks, who can be the Bitch so you can stay the Beauty, and that you should really stay out of things that are out of your depth.”
“Can you do that, Celia?”
She cups her hands around Celia’s face and tilts it up again to meet hers.
Celia: Slowly, Celia nods her head.
She’s tired of the spillover. Tired of licks meeting Celia and getting the wrong idea about Jade. She wants to keep them separate. They need to be separate.
“Yes,” Celia says to the alter. “I can do that. I do need you. I’ve always needed you. I need you to be the one to engage with the licks so it stops getting twisted. You’re stronger than me. I need you.”
GM: “That’s just what I like to hear,” says Jade in an almost cooing voice, like to a child.
Celia feels the burdens fall from her shoulders like so many rocks and pebbles, leaving her free to stand tall. Less than, but unencumbered. Less than, but knowing better.
“Let’s teach it to you now, pet. Hand to face, repeat after me. You know the movements. Now, faster!”
Jade’s flesh warps and shifts beneath her touch. The alter’s hands sculpt the flesh like putty, rearranging the devastatingly beautiful features into Celia’s more muted ones.
Celia: Hand to face. Jade’s hands first. Then Celia’s.
“Back to Jade?”
GM: “Yes, back to Jade’s,” Jade-to-Celia repeats impatiently.
Celia: It’s a familiar dance of fingers across her face. Muted becomes vibrant. Soft becomes hard. Everything sharpens. The base is already beautiful, but it is never as predatory or devastating as the mask.
Celia becomes Jade.
GM: It hurts, like always.
“Now, back! Faster!” exclaims Jade. Her fingers tug and twist the softly beautiful face. Flesh runs like warm silly putty back into the devastating mask. Jade becomes Celia.
The alter’s hand slaps her across the face. The blow stings. She feels the face’s flesh turn and angry red. Jade’s face. Jade’s face on Celia who is Jade. Whose face?
Celia: Faster, Celia does as asked. It hurts. It might always hurt. But if she and Jade are on the same side then the discomfort is worth it. Right? Same side. Same body.
Same face? Someone’s face is red. Someone to someone. She’s looking at Jade. She turns herself into what she sees.
She’s always been good at that.
GM: Jade-who-becomes-Celia leads Celia-who-becomes-Jade through a grueling round of facial alteration after alteration after alteration. Jade to Celia, Celia to Jade. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. Faster. Faster. Faster. Her (which her?) face screams with agony. She (Celia? Jade?) makes Celia (Jade?) do it with only one hand. Then four fingers. Then three. Then two. Then just one. The boundaries between self and other collapse like a liar’s hastily spun lies under Roderick’s relentless questioning. The self is mutable. There is no self. The self is clay. Jade, Celia, which is which? She focuses on the words. Jade’s (Celia’s?) and Celia’s (Jade’s?) face sneering at, belittling her, telling her how weak she is, how pathetic, how she’s she so sloppy, how she’s getting it all wrong, how she (which?) is making her do this, is making her step in, is making her set things right, because she has no boundaries, what she really needs is Jade’s (Jade’s! Just Jade’s!) firm hand, to tell her how things are done, to stop being so damn sloppy—
“Stop,” commands the alter. The one with Jade’s face.
“Look at my face.”
“Look at our face.”
“They are one.”
The flesh warps and rearranges back into Celia’s face. No hands or fingers fly across skin this time.
“Mirror me, pet. Just one more time.”
“You can do it.”
“You saw me do it.”
“There is no you. There is no me. There’s just we.”
“You already did it. This is your face, isn’t it?” asks the mouth moving on Celia’s face.
“We already did it.”
“One more time.”
Celia: Mirror me.
She’s good at that. So good at that.
It doesn’t take hands, not anymore. It doesn’t take touch, not anymore. It doesn’t take an hour of looking into a mirror or a burst of speed or excruciating pain every time she goes through it. She simply wants to be and she is.
Like water, the flesh of her face ripples and changes, pliable and flexible and moving, moving on its own, moving into position, moving from Celia to Jade with a steel spine and sharp smile, moving from Jade to Celia with a softer kind of acceptance and soulful eyes, moving like the ripples on a pond from a sudden gust of wind, like the waves in the ocean with their constant ebb and flow, like the breeze that cares not one whit for order and structure because when it blows it moves—
She’s laughing, mirroring, laughing, mirroring, both of them.
GM: “Oh, this is delightful!” exclaims Jade-who-becomes-Celia-but-stops-at-Jade. Her hands meet Celia-who-becomes-Jade-but-stops-at-Celia with every shift of their faces, with every swap of identities. Like they’re playing patty cake with each other. Celia, Jade, Celia, Jade. Back and forth. The flesh is fluid. Even it now bends to their mental masks.
“See, telling you to mirror. You’re good at that. We’re good at that. And I was mirroring too, by telling you that. Playing to my audience.”
Celia: “We’re good at that,” Celia-Jade-Celia says with a laugh and toss of her hair. “We’re so very good at that. We’ll play them all, won’t we.”
GM: “Yes,” replies Jade-Celia-Jade with that steel-spined sharp smile. “Yes, we will. All of them.”
She looks at Gui’s corpse.
“We can play him, too.”
“He’s causing you such distress, isn’t he, darling? Making you feel so bad about yourself.”
“I can absolve you.”
Celia: “I thought we could be friends. Now I wonder what might have been.”
Celia-Jade-Celia looks from the corpse to her mirror.
“Absolve me? How.”
GM: “I don’t think about might-have-beens,” sneers Jade-Celia-Jade, steel-spined Jade. “It’s always on to the next new thing for me. So Gui’s dead. Cry me a fucking river!”
“Because that’s what I am, Celia. I’m the bad guy.”
“I’m the one who can eat his soul and not lose any sleep over it.”
“Give him to me, honey. Give him to me and you will be absolved and blameless of this sin.”
“Whole thing will have been my idea.”
“Whole thing will have been carried out by me.”
“His death will be on my hands alone.”
Celia: Celia-Jade-Celia wishes she didn’t focus on might-have-beens. Wishes she could pull off the sneer she sees in the mirror. But her lips are softer lips, fuller lips, made for kissing and whispering and smiling.
“You’d gain what we took. Not me. Like the steel.” Celia-Jade-Celia looks to Gui’s corpse, then back to Jade-Celia-Jade for confirmation.
GM: “Smart girl,” smirks Jade-Celia-Jade.
Celia: She beams at the praise.
“And if I’m me, and you’re you, and you’re the one to blame, then even if I wear your face and am still me no one will know. We slip beneath the radar, trading out.”
GM: “That’s an interesting idea,” muses Jade-Celia-Jade. She taps a perfectly manicured, claw-like nail to her lip.
“Yes. I could see it.”
“You should give me the memory of it, too, if we want to be really thorough. Celia doesn’t need to know such awful things, does she?”
Celia: “I did it earlier,” Celia-Jade-Celia confesses to Jade-Celia-Jade. “Twice tonight.”
“The other mobster. I’ve taken out more of them than Durant.” She giggles.
GM: “I know, honey. I know,” says Jade-Celia-Jade, wrapping an arm around Celia-Jade-Celia’s shoulder. “I can take him off your hands too.”
“I can be the bad guy in this, that, anything.”
“I’ll still get to gloat about it to Roderick, of course. How much better we are than him at eradicating the Mob.”
“I’m better than you at gloating anyway.”
Celia: “We still need to remove Agnello,” Beauty says to the Bitch. “Imagine what we could gain from him. Pets. Bone work. Mesmerism. Perhaps we should start with his childe, the useless sack of hair and fat. Or one of the ugly ones he runs with… Or a snake, I’d love to gut that Melton bitch or redhead and gorge myself on their vitae.”
Celia-Jade-Celia trails off. Her smile is sharp, though it doesn’t compete on the same field as that of Jade-Celia-Jade’s. It’s the sharpness of a girl who gets to play a girl, the sharpness of a wolf who cuts the throat of a sheep and wears its fur to pass among the flock.
“Then Durant, when grandsire has no more use for him. We’ll take him too. Maybe we’ll tell him, right before it happens. How he was led so easily down this path, how he fell for the manipulations and strings our grandsire tugged. We’ll whisper it into his ear right before he dies, won’t we.”
“But first you take them. You take them all.”
GM: Jade-Celia-Jade laughs with delight and claps her hands.
“Oh, Celia! You aren’t half-bad at this. Not at all. I’m going to be fantasizing about that, every second I don’t control the body. The look on his face. I think I’d want to keep him staked again, after we tell him. Let it really sink in. Let him stew and agonize over it for hours, how he betrayed ‘sun shines out of her ass’ Coco for absolutely nothing, before we drink his soul too—why not, after all? We could take those big brains of his. Put them to better use.”
She brushes a stray hair from Celia-Jade-Celia’s face.
“But it’s no surprise you aren’t half-bad at this. I came from you, didn’t I?”
“The blueprint was already there.”
Celia: Celia-Jade-Celia giggles.
“Make him stew. Oh, yes. Perhaps we’ll take that thin-blood from him too. You know we almost offered him the secret of this, let him make her a real lick. What a waste. What a waste that would have been. Neither of them can do what we can no matter how far down the road he thinks he’s going. He’s weak.”
“But we’re not.” Beauty clasps the Bitch’s hands in her own. “We’re not. He wanted to take things from us? To cleave us in half, separate us forever, assume control of all our belongings? Oh, no. Oh no, no, no. He’ll learn.”
“Do it,” Celia-Jade-Celia says to Jade-Celia-Jade. “Do it. Take it. I’ll play the innocent, you’ll play the mastermind.”
GM: Jade-Celia-Jade doesn’t giggle like Celia-Jade-Celia does when she giggles. It’s not a coquettish sound. It’s the Bitch playing the Beauty for a moment and finding amusement in it.
“No. We’re not. And I’ll never let that happen, Celia. Not so long as I’m in control of the body. Roderick won’t ever hurt you again.” She pulls the Beauty’s hands to her breast like they’re something precious. “He’ll have to go through me. You are safe now. You are safe from him. You are safe from everything. So long as I’m here. I’ll take care of all the bad things. I’ll be the bad thing, so you can be the good girl.”
She releases Celia-Jade-Celia’s hands and spreads her arms wide.
“Give them to me, Celia. Both of them. I’ll take care of them.”
Celia: Safe. She’s safe. Safe with Jade-Celia-Jade. Safe with this part of her that protects her, that does the bad things, that looks out for their best interests. They’re not in competition anymore. They’re the same.
Celia-Jade-Celia doesn’t know how to give the alter what she’s done. How does she hide memories? How does she deny what she stole?
But it’s like another mask, isn’t it? Severing part of herself. Celia-Jade-Celia closes her eyes, searching inside of herself for the pieces and parts Jade-Celia-Jade wants. They’re easy to find, aren’t they? Things she stole from someone else. Liquid gold. Ecstasy. Diamonds in the veins. Diamonds in her chest. Diamonds in her heart. Unimaginable pleasure that made her gasp and cry and find sweet, sweet release.
Her hands sweep her body an inch above her skin. It’s energy, that’s all it is. Energy work that she’s going to give to the other part of her. Her hands move and the magic gathers beneath her fingertips, coalescing into a golden globule that pulses with alternating colors: crimson, for the rage of the Brujah; navy, for the blue-blooded Ventrue; white, for the girl who gives them up to retain her innocence, and gray for the steel from her spine.
Green for Jade. A hundred different shades of green that writhe with the energy it contains: mint and green and emerald, Castleton and cadmium and hunter. It’s the green of grass, the green of an alligator’s scaly back, the green of the leaves in a tropical rainforest. It whirls and throbs and dances between her hands as she pours into it, giving up the memories, the knowledge, the trauma, the might-have-beens.
Celia-Jade-Celia presses the orb into Jade-Celia-Jade.
She gives it up.
GM: Gives up what?
She doesn’t remember.
There’s nothing in her hands.
No globule of energy with its shimmering colors and-
No, there’s nothing.
But she has a very good feeling about that.
She feels lighter. Like there’s a weight off her shoulders. Like she can sleep, if not soundly, then at least sounder.
She thinks she made a very good decision. Whatever it was.
Jade-Celia-Jade smiles. There’s always challenge in her smiles, fangs and steel behind the curvature of her full lips. But she looks pleased.
“Good girl,” she purrs, stroking Celia-Jade-Celia’s cheek.
Celia: Celia-Jade-Celia did good. She doesn’t know what she did, but she certainly feels like it was good. She smiles with the wide-eyed sincerity of an innocent.
GM: “That dreadful sun is already up,” Jade-Celia-Jade says with a tsk, glancing away. “I have to go now, Celia. I’ll take control of the body. Benji and his renfields can’t know Celia.”
She smirks and traces a finger along Celia-Jade-Celia’s lips.
“Don’t be a stranger.”
Celia: “Thank you,” Celia-Jade-Celia says to her counterpart. She doesn’t know what for, only that the Bitch has come to protect the Beauty.
She’s in good hands.