“You’re lying to him and treating him like a child.”
Sunday night, 20 March 2016, PM
Celia: Bourbon Heat. It fits tonight, and despite the odd hour—later than she would have been, which only ups her odds—and odd day she pulls into a decent crowd. The Sunday night specials must be doing their fair share of work to attract the breathers, and the music spilling out into the streets is nothing but a siren song to those who wish to spend their Sunday partying rather than getting ready for work in the morning. With more than half the population of the Quarter as tourists, there are plenty of kine for her to feed from that don’t feel the pull of the nine-to-five.
Celia joins the kine, cloaking herself in shadow and mystery, and looks for Dani in the crowd even as she searches for a suitable mark. Not just a vessel, no, but someone else who will serve her purpose this evening. Another mark who will be more than just blood. Luck dances through her veins; she knows, this evening at least, that she will find exactly what she’s looking for.
GM: Dani meets her there after texting her along the way. Roderick’s sister is dressed up for a night out in a silk blouse, tight pants, heels, and dangle earrings. Sexy but not trashy.
“Hi, Celia!” she exclaims, smiling widely as she hugs her brother’s girlfriend.
“It feels like forever since I’ve seen you!”
Celia: Who had she dressed up for, Celia wonders, the lick or the breathers? She has a feeling she knows and she is unsurprised. She, too, feels the pull.
“Hello, darling,” Celia murmurs into the shell of her ear, breathing in the scent of perfume, blood, excitement. Her heart goes pitter-patter in its little cage of bone and tissue, and Celia’s echoes the sentiments. Music pounds in her ears, demanding that she move her body accordingly. So she does, pulling Dani close to her so that their hips align, then using a hand at the small of her back to guide her in a series of elegant moves that end with Dani dipped, long line of her throat exposed. Flashy for a nightclub, but Celia manages to make it look effortless, to make it look as if the music had demanded such a display. Then Celia pulls Dani back in, nuzzling the neck of her lover’s little sister.
She whispers an apology for last night. Trouble, she says, and leaves it at that, content to spend a moment in the arms of someone who adores her.
GM: Dani laughs as Celia pulls her into the dance and matches her pace. Dani isn’t bad on her feet at all, but she can’t match the Toreador’s same easy grace. Music pounds in the pair’s ears as lights flash over their bodies. The smell of sweat, perfume, and tightly packed bodies is omnipresent. So many people in this club, Celia is sure, want to be young forever. To dance and drink and party their nights away over an unending eternity of earthly pleasures.
Only two of them get that wish.
Dani tries to say something as a blue light pulses over her bared throat, but it’s almost inaudible on the dance floor.
Celia: That’s okay, Celia probably doesn’t much care about it anyway. Right now she doesn’t want to talk. She’s had enough talking, enough explaining, enough being told what to do and baring her soul. Right now she wants to feel. To dance. To feed.
She twirls Dani around again, then spins the same way until her back hits Dani’s chest and her butt finds the cradle between her hips, and she shimmies for everything she’s worth when the tempo hits its peak with the thin-blood’s arms around her.
GM: Dani says something again. Celia probably cares just as little. Dani rolls with it, probably aware she can’t be heard, and just dances. She lets Celia lead. They lose themselves in the lights, the music, the undulating sway of bodies, the rhythm pulsing through the crowd. Would someone even notice if Celia fed on them here? That’s what Dani did. Celia sure noticed.
This time, though, Dani doesn’t sink her small fangs into the true-blood’s neck. This time, they are something other than (attempted) predator and prey to each other.
This time, they just dance like 20-something girls on a fun night out.
Celia: It might be important. Celia will ask her later, but no doubt she’ll forget or say it doesn’t matter. It happens. Celia has forgotten plenty of things, too. Always at the worst time.
This thought flees her mind as well, lost to the loud music and the high she rides from everything that has happened this evening. For the first time in a long time, she’s free. Her mother is safe. Lucy is safe. Emily is safe-ish. She’s decided to cut Roderick loose after this last task, and she has… a new sister. Two, if she’s not mistaken, once more spinning with Dani on the floor. She giggles, the sound lost to the strum of the bass as the music throbs overhead. It’s in her bones, in her heart, in her very soul, demanding that she move, twist, bob, weave.
It animates her like nothing else ever has. She comes alive beneath the colored lights in the midst of the throng of sweating, drinking kine. She’s the flame to the moths, a shining jewel in the center of the crowd.
She’s dazzling. Literally. The luck ignites her from the inside out, dancing across her skin and through her hair and down her legs just as she dances upon the club floor. It flutters out of her with every giggle, every stray glance, every “accidental” touch, drawing these kine further into the adoring goddess that has so humbly graced them with her presence. It lights up her brain, connecting neurons and pathways and creating a plan, the plan, to handle Randy’s disappearance.
And it starts here, right now, with Dani.
Celia casts her eye through the crowd for a likely target.
And oh, how she dazzles. A flame amidst the moths, beckoning them ever closer with stray glances and accidental touches. She uses Dani like a prop, letting her hands linger on her stomach just shy of the swell of her breasts, blowing warm air across her neck as she spins close to tease not only the girl but the boys looking as well, the boys who think, I know that face, but can’t remember where, only now that they’ve seen it they know that they want it, want her, want both of them.
The huntress has her pick of the litter; Luck’s hands guide her eyes toward a particular specimen, tall with broad shoulders and eyes that belong on a face ten years younger. A boy’s eyes. Innocent. Eager. Apprehensive even, when the huntress and her disciple traipse toward him under the guise of the crowd pushing them together. He is not so handsome that he thought to win her affection, but the doctor and esthetician inside agree that beauty, as her lover said, is only skin deep.
How fortunate for her that she can mold this one like putty.
The rest of him is right. His size, like his twin, dwarfs her. The heat of his large hands cradle her when she moves close. His chest is the perfect height for her to rest her cheek, just as she has so many times before. She sighs his name into his shirt, the two syllables lost like so many other this evening, and kisses his neck with her lips.
She doesn’t need to speak. Just promise, with eyes and smile and body, a good time if he follows.
So he does.
They always do.
GM: Luck guides Celia’s path… a bit of luck. The guy looks a bit like Randy. Tall and broad and looks as if he spends time at the gym. Tan skin. Short brown hair. Designer stubble beard. A different man with the same general description.
It’s the eyes that are the most different. Brown rather than rather than that seemingly shifting blue and green and hazel. None of the puppydog trust and devotion. The helpless, head over heels infatuation. The kind that made him spend seven years in a ‘relationship’ with a girl who never got around to physically consummating it, but were never so cruel as to take what he wanted by force, like his brother no doubt would have. The eyes of this random partying stranger are a hollow substitute for the real thing.
Then again, so was Randy.
Is a hollow substitute of a hollow substitute actually the truest one she could find?
The boy, meanwhile, laughs when Celia kisses him. He smiles and takes her arm, but unusually doesn’t reciprocate the kiss. He exclaims something that’s lost over the music’s din, then points towards the bar, where it’s marginally quieter.
“Oh my god, you’re Celia Flores!” he gushes when they get there. “I’m gay, sorry. But I love your makeup videos! I’ve been following your MeVid channel for like a year!”
Celia: Gay. Of course he is. On occasion she’d even wondered if Randy was. Strung along for years—who lets a girl do that to them?
But she smiles, pleased that he’s a fan, and takes the out he gives her. The mask laughs, cheeks reddening beneath the cool light from overhead, and her eyes dart away in an almost-nervous fashion before she looks back to him. The embarrassment is clear on her face.
“Sorry! I thought you were someone else, didn’t mean to push myself on you like that. The dark and the crowd—” she waves a hand over her shoulder to indicate the packed floor.
GM: “No, no, it’s okay!” laughs the boy. “I mean, nightclub, what do you expect, right?”
“So what are you doing here if you’re gay?” asks Dani with some amusement, having followed Celia back to the bar.
The bartender has a vaguely nonplussed look when he sees Dani sit down.
“I’m here with my boyfriend,” the boy answers. “Connor’s bi. He’s just tired of going to gay clubs all the time.”
“That’s nice of you to do for him,” smiles Dani.
“Wellll he’s gonna suck me off,” winks the boy, then turns back to Celia.
“Can I get you a drink? All my girlfriends love your videos!”
Celia: Celia laughs again, delighted at the offer. And the turn of events. Two for one, bi boyfriend? She can make that work.
She can make that work all night.
“I was just about to offer to buy you one for the mistaken identity.” She lifts a hand at the bartender. “What’re you having? And wave Connor over, I’ll get him one too. And you, Rach.” A nod to Dani.
GM: “Okay, I’ll get you one and you get me one,” smiles the boy. “I’ll have an Agent Orange Explosion. Hey! Connor!”
He waves in his boyfriend’s general direction, then when no one comes over, he places the girls’ orders, gets up, and tells them to save his seat.
“Watch the drinks here,” Dani mutters, not looking away from the bartender as he gets them ready.
Celia: Celia leans in close, murmuring to Dani that she has nothing to fear while Celia is here with her. She won’t let anything happen to her. But she, too, keeps an eye on the drinks as they’re being made after she orders—with quite a bit more subtlety than her friend.
She asks Dani in an undertone if she’ll be okay handling Connor by herself. And mentions that Stephen hates the idea of her “picking up guys at bars,” with a bit of an eye roll and “what can you do” expression.
GM: Dani smiles at Celia’s initial words.
She looks unsure how to answer the question for a moment.
“Um. I kinda don’t want to have sex. I can just feed on him?”
Celia: “Just feed,” she agrees, “and he’ll think he got lucky. You saw it with Alana.”
GM: “Okay. But you’ll stay close?”
The thin-blood sounds like she thinks mere kine could rape her.
Maybe they well could.
Celia: “I was going to take him back to the spa.” She doesn’t mention her intended murder. “I owe your brother,” she tacks on in a lower voice, “so I need to bleed him a little more than what I can safely do here.” It’s a ready excuse. True, even.
Boyfriend is a loose end, though.
“Come with. Flirt a little with the boyfriend on the way. Play with your hair. Laugh at his lame jokes.”
GM: “Okay,” nods Dani. “And we can feed on them at the spa?”
“And what do you mean you owe Stephen?”
Celia: “Mhm,” Celia says to the first question. Then, lowering her gaze for half a second, she debates the merits of turning Dani against her brother again. It’s an easy thing to do, isn’t it? Just tell the truth. She’s gotten so good at that with all of his corrections lately.
“I was injured on Friday. He told me I had to pay it back when we woke up on Saturday and I lost control.”
“Didn’t want to reward bad behavior.” A laugh. Dismissive. But how ugly that tale can get if she expands even slightly.
Not yet, though. Not just yet.
GM: “Oh. So had he loaned you blood or something?” asks Dani.
Celia: “Mm, something like that.”
GM: “Okay, I guess that’s fair.”
Celia: Perhaps. If he hadn’t been the one to wound her in the first place. But she smiles all the same.
GM: “I… didn’t mention this earlier, but I gave your mom some blood, a little while ago. She was really hungry and she’s done so much for me.”
Celia: “Usually that’s a fair trade,” Celia acknowledges. She’s given other halfbloods a hit before. Standard payment. “I don’t think yours sustains her the same. Speaking of.”
Celia turns to fix the girl with a very serious look.
“I found your sire.”
GM: “No, she thought I tasted bad and didn’t ask ag-”
Dani’s eyes widen.
Celia: “Not so loud, Dani.”
“He’s being delivered to me tonight.”
GM: The bartender glares in Dani’s direction as she raises her voice.
Dani doesn’t even look back at him. She has eyes only for Celia as she lowers her voice. Her breath is hitched.
“Who is it?”
“Why did they do this to me?”
Celia: “I don’t know yet, but that’s what I’ll discover tonight. I wanted to keep you in the loop. I know you’ve had a lot of choices ripped away.”
GM: Dani’s knuckles are white as she clutches her newly-arrived drink. Her cheeks are turning red.
“I want to be there, Celia. I want to see him. I want to ask him, to his face. I want to ask him why. I want…”
“I want justice.”
Celia: Celia understands the desire all too well. She nods slowly.
“I mentioned it to your brother last night. He said he’d like to meet him first, make sure it’s safe.” She looks away, then back at Dani, touching the side of her own glass as if the act gives her courage. “The guy dropping him off is trouble. I can hold him for tomorrow.”
GM: Dani still grips her glass, but doesn’t take a drink yet. She looks at Celia the whole time.
“So that’s it. Flawless, tomorrow. That’s when I can talk to him.”
Celia: She hadn’t thought Dani would be so accepting of the offer. She nods again.
“Yes.” A pause, then even lower, “don’t tell him I told you already, okay?”
GM: Dani frowns.
Celia: “I don’t want him to get the wrong idea. We’re… have you seen him since the other night?” The lift of her brows implies the park.
GM: “Yes. And what do you mean by ‘wrong idea’? He obviously wants to catch the guy who did this to me as much as we do.”
Celia: “When did you see him?”
GM: “Last night. What does that matter?”
Celia: “He didn’t seem off to you?” Celia presses.
GM: “Celia’s, what’s going on, and why don’t you want me to tell him this?”
Celia: “We’re in the middle of a fight,” Celia finally says. She looks away. “It’s probably my fault. But he told me he wanted to meet the guy before you and I don’t want him to think I’m disobeying. So can you just…” she looks back to Dani, gesturing between the two of them, “keep it between us, please?”
GM: “It’s not up to him if he wants to meet the guy first,” Dani says crossly. “This is about ME. What he did to ME.”
Celia: Celia the liar winces. “I know.”
GM: “And yeah, I can tell you’re in a fight, considering he also asked me some similar stuff.”
Celia: “About me?”
GM: “He asked me not to share what we talked about until the fight between you guys is resolved.”
Celia: “Is it… is it bad?” Celia asks in a small voice.
GM: Dani squeezes her hand.
“Celia, just tell the truth and it’ll be okay.”
Celia: “About what? I did! I did and he…” Moisture gathers in the corners of her eyes. “He hates me. He hates me. God, Dani, I fucked up, I fucked it all up, I’m so fucking stupid—”
She presses a hand to her face.
GM: Dani quickly hugs her.
“You’re not stupid, and he doesn’t hate you! He just hates the things that have come between you. But he loves you. He loves you and he wants your relationship to work.”
Dani pulls back after a moment.
“Just be honest. Just tell the truth, all of it. No more drama. No more lies, no more things unsaid. Just put out everything on the table and decide together what you want to do from there. Okay? It’ll be fine.”
Celia: “Did he say that?” Celia asks in a voice reminiscent of a child asking if Santa is real.
GM: “Yes, he did,” Dani nods.
“He also said, ‘The light of truth burns without a flicker in the depths of a house that is shaken with storms of passion and fear.’”
Celia: There’s little enough space for Dani to breathe after that with Celia clinging to her as she does, arms thrown around her and face buried against her neck.
GM: Dani keeps hugging her and runs her hands along Celia’s back.
“I’m going to text him that you told me about my sire. I’m also going to tell him off for wanting to talk to him first. I think less drama and more honesty is the answer here.”
Celia: “You don’t think bringing that up is more drama?”
GM: “Like I said, and like he said, I think we should all just be honest with each other.”
Celia: Maybe she’s right.
Still, Celia has the feeling she’s landed in the center of an even worse storm.
“Dani?” she asks after a quiet moment, pulling away from the girl. “What does… what does that quote mean, exactly? I mean I get the gist, but for he and I..?”
GM: Dani’s answer to that question is interrupted when the boy returns. He’s accompanied by another young man with dark skin, short hair, and a clean-shaven face. He’s the taller of the two and dressed in an unbuttoned white button-up and black jeans.
“Sorry we took so long, ladies,” smiles Connor. He plants a hand on Celia’s and Dani’s shoulders and grins between them. “We’d have hurried back if I knew how hot you were.”
“Oh, you!” laughs the boy, stroking Connor’s back.
Celia: “Smooth,” smirks Celia, instantly moving from one personae to another. She offers almost-Randy (had he introduced himself?) his drink, but holds the second out of Connor’s reach.
“Pop quiz, darling. Who’s hotter?”
GM: “Oh, you’re way hotter than me,” Connor grins as he plops down on a nearby seat with his boyfriend.
Celia: “Mm, almost a party foul, you’re supposed to say your boyfriend. But I’ll allow it.” She offers him the drink.
GM: Connor raises it in almost-toast and drinks.
“I thought you were asking which of us,” Dani remarks with some amusement.
The boy giggles and sips his drink. “It was a good save.”
Celia: “That’s the trap,” Celia says, slinging an arm around Dani’s shoulders. “Watch him sweat while he tries to decide, then hand the drink over to his poor, forgotten boyfriend who dragged himself all the way to the Quarter from… where, again?”
GM: Dani giggles next and snuggles against Celia.
“Well, smarter answer, that you’re hotter than him.”
“All the way from the Quarter,” smirks Connor. “We live here.”
He and his boyfriend look Celia and Dani up and down.
“You two together?” the boyfriend asks slyly.
Celia: Locals. That’s messy, isn’t it. Perhaps Lady Luck has other plans for her this evening.
“We’re testing the waters,” Celia says, just as slyly. “My boyfriend and I split a few weeks back, so I thought I’d see what the other side has to offer.”
GM: Lady Luck already brought her a man in Randy’s likeness.
The boyfriend giggles and sips his drink.
“She’s a bluuuushing!”
Dani is blushing.
Celia: No doubt Dani’s brother would react poorly if she were to try anything with the girl. Not that she isn’t still tempted. She nuzzles Dani’s neck, nipping at the lobe of her ear.
“She’s shy,” Celia tells the boys. “Too many eyes on her in a place like this.”
GM: “How ’bout we go someplace with less eyes?” asks Connor, not missing a beat.
Celia: Those are the magic words.
Celia smiles at the pair and rises to her feet.
GM: Everyone else takes final pulls of their drinks and gets up.
“I’m Rachel. What’s your name?” Dani asks the boyfriend.
“Ryan,” he answers as the four make their way out of the club.
Celia: “What do you do, Ryan? And you, Smooth Talker,” she adds to Connor, winding her fingers through Dani’s so the kid doesn’t get any ideas.
GM: “Usually guys, though I’m okay with girls if there’s also a guy, too,” Ryan answers breezily.
Connor smirks. “We’re in college. Xavier.”
Celia: That young? Celia glances them over again.
GM: They look old enough to be legally drinking, though bars and clubs in the Quarter are notoriously lax about checking IDs.
“Well I’m doing engineering, but Ryan’s trying to get by on Fine Arts.”
“Ouch,” says Dani.
Celia: Celia smiles.
“What’s your medium?”
GM: “Theater,” he says. “I wanted to be a movie star when I was a kid, but ha ha, good luck making it in Hollywood today. But I knew I wanted to do acting and there’s less bullshit in theater. It’s just acting without any other bullshit, you know?”
Celia: “Difficult,” Celia agrees with a nod, “unless you know someone.”
Celia knows someone. The right someone, too. She gives the kid another once-over, forcing herself to look past his resemblance to Randy.
GM: He’s shorter than Randy is, and wearing tight pants she has a hard time seeing Randy in. Perhaps also makeup too, if he follows her videos. It’s hard to see Randy wearing makeup.
“Well I mean that’s everything, right?” shrugs Connor.
“Yeah, but harder in some places,” says Ryan.
“Mmm, like here?” grins Connor, feeling up his boyfriend’s crotch.
Ryan laughs and swats him.
Dani glaces towards Celia, as if asking how she wants to handle things next.
She laughs along with the pair, then asks, “You two from here?”
“Nah, Charlotte,” says Connor.
“Austin,” says Ryan.
“Austin seems like a really fun city,” remarks Dani.
“Yeah, the whole city is basically one big college campus,” says Ryan.
Celia: It’s an idle thought, whatever it is that’s crossing her mind, and she wonders if this is how most Kindred find their future puppets. At bars, walking them toward their death, musing over whether or not it’s more practical to murder them or give them a boost. It’s hard to imagine her sire or grandsire meeting people like this, though.
And really, what’s the use of a movie star pawn? What’s the benefit there? She can think of a few. More than she’d been able to list for a governor.
“Quarter can’t be too big a change, then,” Celia says with a grin, “all the parties and debauchery.”
Austin is on the way to LA, isn’t it? Maybe she’ll pop by.
“Speaking of, is your place far?”
GM: “Oh the Quarter’s better,” says Ryan.
“It’s walkable, but we can take a Ryde if you want,” says Connor.
“I’m gonna change my shoes if we’re walking,” says Dani.
It’s been seven years since shoes pained Celia.
Celia: Good thing, too. Whoever designs heels must make them uncomfortable on purpose. Celia used to wonder why until she found out it’s usually a man.
GM: Emily had a lot to say about that too. “Of course guys don’t care about comfort when they don’t have to wear them.”
Celia: Emily has a lot to say about everything.
It makes her worry about how the rest of the night is going to go, and how deeply Celia wants to involve her in this life, or if she should find someone to erase the memories.
“Extras in your purse, Rachel? Clever.”
GM: Emily learns more and more about this life with every minute Diana spends with her.
“Yeah,” she says. “I like having the option if I want it.”
“You ladies wanna head back to our place or yours?” asks Connor.
GM: “Works,” says Ryan.
Dani changes her shoes, though it’s a short enough trip back to the two’s apartment. It’s clean enough (“obviously because Ryan’s gay,” Connor says when Dani remarks) for a low-budget college student’s starter place. Rents in the Quarter aren’t the cheapest, but they’ve been able to make it work between being roommates, part-time jobs, and… “but you don’t wanna hear about that shit,” says Connor, already pulling off Celia’s dress as he pulls her onto the bed.
That says it all on which of them he thinks is hotter.
Celia: Despite herself, she does want to hear about that shit. Maybe it’s because he looks like Randy. Maybe it’s because some part of her, the part that wants to take care of her family after messing them up, thinks learning more about these two will absolve her of some of the guilt she feels over everyone she’s ever murdered. Maybe she sees it as another way to punish herself for the sins she’s committed: finally viewing these juicebags as real people with their own lives rather than just her next meal.
And maybe she just wants to make sure there aren’t any loose ends when she comes back to slaughter them.
But she doesn’t push, not when he’s already willing to bare his throat for her and let her sink in. She hadn’t planned on getting naked, not really, but the more attention paid to her the less is paid to Dani, and both huntress and girl agree that protecting the cub is worth showing a bit of skin.
She makes all the right noises when Connor touches her. She’s warm, inviting, friendly. She helps him out of his clothing, puts the attention on him rather than the newborn, brings in the boyfriend so he, too, has his memories fogged by the kiss. Celia breaks their skin with her fangs and lets Dani drink from one and then the other, and Celia does the opposite so that at all times the boys are ensnared with heady bliss, lost in the sensation of the Toreador’s well-practiced touch. And if a stray hand grazes Dani’s chest in the midst of this pretend fling, if Celia’s lips linger on her mouth after licking the blood from the corner of her lips for half a second too long, if her taut, toned, naked body presses against the girl in untamed desire and she breaks Dani’s skin with her teeth and lets the sour-sweet blood dance across her tongue (like a mortal, she thinks, pleased that Dani is practicing the shadow dancing, and even though she knows the truth she lets the lie fill her mouth)—well, that’s all just part of the experience, isn’t it?
It’s not sex. The act isn’t reciprocated. She’s only protecting Dani from feeling the full effects of the horror of being in bed with two men after suffering from a sexual assault not too long ago, clouding her mind to turn anxiety and distress to bliss. She prods her Beast as she suckles on the blonde, asking it if this blood, even disguised, will sate it beyond what a mortal can provide.
Is there a use for this plague of half-bloods or are they simply a drain on society, hoarding blood that their better-bred cousins deserve?
The thought makes her wonder about other implications. Other things she knows that she buries deep. And it makes her a generous master indeed when she recalls that Dani’s kind functions better with lick blood in their system, that it gives them access to a broad array of powers; Edith’s words float through her mind, the deeper they drink the stronger they get. With the ready availability of these two hapless kine Celia has no problem at all finishing her brief experiment on Dani’s blood to offer her own, slicing herself open so that her vitae trails in red rivulets between her—
No, no, it is sex, this is sex, this is sex with her lover’s sister, and the thought is enough to pull her from the spell, to reach for the glass of water one of the boys left on his nightstand and dump the contents onto the peace lily’s pot beside it, then bite her wrist to pour into the cup for Dani so that she does not need to lick the red from Celia’s chest.
Blood flows freely this evening. Everything Celia loses to the cub she takes back from the boys, and with Dani sated on Toreador vitae the kine are spared from the serious injury of overfeeding. The four pass time in a tangled mass of limb and lip, all of them sated when the magic ends. A wet spot on the mattress and another on the floor shows just how sated the kine are. Pale from blood loss, wounds licked shut, Celia avoids the worst of the semen-splattered stains when she arranges them neatly in bed like she would any drunk, watching their chests rise and fall in deep, even breaths after they lazily murmur their contentment with the evening.
Fast asleep, tucked in by the monster inside their home. It stirs an old memory, a dark hallway—
Celia washes the remnants of the bodily fluids from her with a quick rinse in the shower, dries, and puts her dress back on while Dani waits near the door. And if a set of keys happens to fall into Celia’s purse on the way out, well, that’s just the hazard of picking up girls in bars.
You never know who’s going to rob you blind.
Sunday night, 20 March 2016, PM
“Good score,” Celia says to Dani once they’re clear of the house.
GM: “Yeah,” says Dani.
She’s quiet for a bit.
“Is there another way to do this?”
Celia: “You don’t have to go home with them. Or get naked. They won’t usually remember. But my domain includes more than the clubs. You could learn to pick locks and feed on sleepers. Develop a herd, which are just vessels that let you feed. Not that you tell them what you’re doing,” she adds.
GM: “Oh. You mean like your mom?”
“Not that I’m asking to feed on her,” the thin-blood adds. “Is that just an example of what a herd is?”
Celia: “Sort of. She’s a ghoul. We don’t always use them as part of the herd. More like, for example, my clients at the spa.”
GM: “Ah. I’d feel better about doing this consensually, if that’s what a herd involves.”
“I’d only fed a couple times when we met.”
“I just got really close to guys on the dance floor and took a drink there.”
Celia: Celia nods. “Yeah, that’s how you were found, though. Find a private corner rather than doing it out in the open. Bathroom, maybe. Herd isn’t quite consensual, it’s just not violent. Telling them what you’re doing risks people finding out about us, which will get you into trouble.”
She thinks further.
“Blood bank,” she suggests. “You could buy it bagged, just reheat it. Or, ah, there’s a scene guy who walks around in all black claiming he’s a vampire and people let him drink from them because they think it’s kinky. Pretty sure he’s mortal, but you could try something like that too.”
“I’d maybe ask Rod, though. This and the spa is my MO.”
GM: Dani cracks a smile at the guy’s description. “That sounds bad for the Masquerade.”
“That’s a good idea, though. I’ll ask Stephen.”
“I don’t think picking up guys like this is my thing.”
GM: “Thanks for… keeping them busy.”
Celia: “Mm. I figured you wouldn’t want them to touch you.”
GM: “I wonder if I could also feed on animals?”
“I don’t, but some people do.”
GM: “Oh. That makes it a lot simpler.”
“The meat industry obviously produces tons of blood.”
Celia: It hadn’t even occurred to her. She doesn’t gain much sustenance from the blood of animals.
“Mhm,” she agrees. “Or you could adopt a bunch of pets. Some outlaws hunt bigger things. Thrill of the chase and all.”
GM: Dani cracks another smile. “I’d feel bad about feeding from dogs, honestly.”
“Makes me wonder, though…”
Dani pulls out her phone from her purse, taps into it, and reads,
“Where does the blood from a slaughter house go? The quantity is vast. It is stored in huge vats until tankers come to collect it. It is taken to rendering plants with blood processing facilities, or disposed of in sewers (which lead into the nearest water body), in landfills or spread over land. Some amount is used to make human food and animal feed.”
Celia: “Find a slaughter house nearby, see if you can buy wholesale.”
“Just, y’know, file for an LLC or something with your name not attached to it and buy it through that.”
GM: Dani scrolls through her phone some more, then looks up and smiles again.
“That’s just what I was thinking. I guess you could’ve been a lawyer too.”
Celia: “Doubt it.” But Celia smiles back all the same.
GM: “Hard to explain what you’re buying a bunch of animal blood for outside a business context like that.”
Celia: “Mm. You mentioned the food. Medical stuff too, I bet. Spa products, beauty things. A lot of… well, maybe not a lot of, but some skincare products use animal parts.”
“And plants. Well. Like they try to use more plants now, like stem cells and stuff.”
GM: “Oh, that’s perfect! Maybe I could set it up so it gets delivered to Flawless? Add an extra layer of legitimacy and all.”
Celia: Celia considers the request. Bit of a tip off to get blood delivered to the spa when she’s already under suspicion, isn’t it?
“I’d, ah, ask your brother that too. Worried huge amounts of blood coming to the spa of a known lick is going to cause problems. He’ll have a better idea if we should use another cover. But if he thinks it’s not a problem then I don’t see why not.”
There you go, Rod, go on and make the hard decisions since you’re so dead-set on controlling everything. Tell your sister no.
“Sorry about last night,” she adds. “Didn’t mean to blow you off.”
GM: “Okay, I’ll do that,” Dani nods. “And it’s fine. I was wondering if I could come with you to church tonight, also? As Hannah. I want to see what that’s like.”
Celia: “That’s… dangerous,” Celia finally settles on. She stops walking, turning to Dani with a grave expression. “I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but I don’t think you understand the hatred most of us have for your kind. They barely even let the clanless come, let alone half-bloods. You could pass as a servant, sure, but if you catch the wrong sort of attention? There’s no trial. Just execution.”
Celia reaches for her hand, imploring her to understand.
“I wasn’t going to bring it up, but I’m… kind of in trouble with the wrong people, and that’s why I told you to stay home last night. I have a feeling they might be watching me a little more closely right now because I pissed them off, and if you’re seen with me and they take a closer look…”
She shakes her head.
“I don’t want to put you in danger.”
GM: “But I thought I was safe unless someone tasted my blood. Why would someone do that?”
“Everyone basically just ignored me at that club we went to.”
Celia: “They’re breathers.” Celia considers a moment, then, “did you share blood with another lick recently?”
GM: “You, yes.”
Celia: “Besides me. Did Rod give you any?”
GM: “Yeah, he did.”
Celia: “Hm. I don’t think he’s a shadow dancer, but I guess he could have picked it up. You weren’t cloaking, were you?” Or is Celia just that much prettier than Dani that the girl fades into the background? Rude to ask, isn’t it.
“Did he use a cup?”
GM: “No, I wasn’t.” Dani looks a little puzzled by the question. “And yes, he did.”
Celia: “What did you pick up from him? Speed?”
“I’m just curious about that,” Celia admits. “The totem twisting. Since he and I are different.”
GM: “Speed,” Dani nods. “He’s really fast.”
“Though I’m sure you know that.”
Celia: “Yeah. I was just curious if you picked up anything else. And since I gave you a few hits, if you’ve got more than the charm…” Celia trails off. “Is he still in you? The speed? Because… like, okay, I guess if he thinks it’s okay if I bring you with me, but I really, really don’t want something bad to happen to you.”
“But come on. I need to get dressed anyway. Do you have your mask? You tell him you want to go and we’ll figure it out from there.”
GM: “I think so?” Dani answers Celia’s first question. “I feel pretty light on my feet.”
“And yeah, I have my mask.”
“I don’t see why I need to ask him, though. This is something I want to do.”
Celia: “Because if he finds out I enabled you to do something reckless he’s going to kill me.”
Hard to tell if she’s kidding or not.
GM: “Okay.” Dani fishes out her phone and fires off a text. The pair have since arrived back at their cars.
Celia: Celia doesn’t like how readily Dani accepts the idea of Stephen killing her.
“Follow me, then. You can raid my closet for this.”
GM: “Oh good, I was wondering what I should wear.”
Dani gets into her car and follows after Celia’s.
Celia: She’s moving soon. That’s what she tells herself when she leads Dani to the haven on the edge of the Quarter. Too many people have seen it for her to consider it secret anymore. So she’s moving. Soon. She’ll start looking for places tomorrow.
GM: Dani parks her car when they’re there, gets out, and reads her phone.
“Stephen said it’s not without risk, but it’s up to me. Also that I should probably be more worried about renfields than licks.”
“Since they’ll be the ones I sit with and who might actually talk to me.”
“He said there should be some kind of cover story for how we met and what I do for you.”
Celia: Would he have said the same if Celia had asked?
She leads Dani inside and kicks off her shoes on her way to the closet.
“Mm. Yes, I was going to say the same. You’re new, so we can use that to cover some ignorance, but mind your manners if nothing else. Sir and ma’am. Keep your fangs hidden. No talk of Celia. Or Stephen. Or that Jade and Rod speak to each other. Or that you go to Tulane. Or work in Mid-City.”
Celia browses the racks of clothes while she rattles off other similar instruction, occasionally holding something up to Dani to see how it might look.
“You’re not secretly an artist of any sort are you?”
GM: Dani kicks off her shoes too as she enters the heaven.
She looks over the racks and racks clothes appreciatively.
“Also, wow. You have an incredible closet.”
Celia: Celia smiles at her. “Thanks. Feel free to browse. Something elegant but understated. You don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard. Maybe black. I’m going to do my face.”
GM: “Okay. Something I’d wear to a breather church?”
Celia: “You get all sorts at Elysium, but that’s an okay bet. I’ll tell you if it looks wonky.”
Celia picks up a kit that no doubt contains a multitude of makeup brushes and products, but before she goes she peers at the top of the closet, ignoring Dani for a moment. More than one emotion wars for dominance of her face, and it takes a few seconds for the slow smile to finally appear.
“Cute.” Her expression flickers. “But perhaps preemptive.”
Celia excuses herself to make the transformation into Jade, the eyes of her dolls following her.
GM: One less pair of eyes, now. Their numbers feel diminished without her.
But also, perhaps, more unified. The remaining ones were all made by her.
“Oh,” Dani’s voice calls out, “I don’t know if your mom mentioned, when you were over there, but I decided to move back in with my dad.”
Celia: “Yeah, don’t mention that either,” Celia calls back while she sculpts her face into Jade’s. “No hints of Uptown. You live in the Quarter, if anyone asks.”
GM: “I figured, yeah.”
Celia: “R&D,” comes her voice after another minute. “That’s what you do for me. Not even technically lying. If anyone presses for more than that you just play mum. It’s none of their business.”
GM: It hurts.
Like it always does.
Celia: It centers her, though. The pain. Moving from one form to another.
It reminds her who she is.
GM: “Oh, that’s a good idea. Hannah’s face is a little less, uh, ‘fabulous’ than Alana.”
Celia: “We could make you more fabulous.”
“If you ever want.”
GM: “You mean Hannah’s face?”
GM: “I wonder if not being noticed is better.”
Celia: Or both. She doesn’t care.
“There’s a guy named Alan you could sit with. He talks enough for three people, let him fill the silences for you. You’ll know who he is by how hard you want to punch him in the face.”
GM: “I think Stephen mentioned that guy!”
“He tried to sell him a watch.”
“Wouldn’t shut up about it.”
Celia: Celia laughs.
GM: “He was just telling me some more about ghouls.”
Celia: “His domitor is a friend of mine.”
GM: “Would it help if I name-dropped you with him?”
Celia: “If he asks, just say you’re mine.”
GM: “Okay. Also, speaking of Alana. She said to talk with you about scheduling an appointment at Flawless, because you only take one or two a night and they’re important.”
Celia: “Tell him I told you that he swindled me out of twice the price for those earrings a while back, they were just too cute not to have.”
“Feeding,” she says by way of explanation. She pauses to fix her lips in the mirror.
GM: “Oh. Alana didn’t say that.”
Celia: “Wait, when did you talk to Alana?”
GM: “During the day. You know, that whole time you’re sleeping?” Danny’s voice sounds ribbing.
Celia: “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I party all day.”
GM: “Ah, of course.”
“I’m amazed you pull it off with your family.”
“There’s just so much stuff that happens during the day.”
Celia: “That’s why we don’t keep families.”
GM: “Like, how do you handle birthday parties?”
Celia: “I send Alana sometimes.”
GM: “Lucy’s especially.”
Celia: “She can pass as Celia pretty well.”
GM: “That makes sense.”
“Me moving in with my dad isn’t going to cause any problems, is it?”
Celia: “Only if you get caught by McGinn’s goons.”
GM: “Who’s McGinn?”
Celia: “Regent of Uptown. Ventrue. Think he’s in the running for prince. Mm, Invictus. He’s… old school. Racist. Nazi type. Ran into his guys the other night and they’re all, uh, neonazis.”
GM: There’s a pause.
Celia: “Married my aunt-in-blood, or… great aunt-in-blood? Who is… well, we have a complicated relationship.”
GM: “I’m not gonna get caught, am I, after that tattoo?”
Celia: “Not unless they drink your blood or see you feed or connect Dani to Hannah. Still safer in the Quarter, though.”
GM: “Okay. I can do all those things.”
“I just feel like it’s been really bad for my dad to live alone.”
“Your mom thought so too.”
Celia: “Could always carry a letter with you. Something like requesting an audience with whatever regent of the territory you’re in.”
GM: “Okay, so as a backup option if I get caught?”
GM: “That sounds good, can you write me one?”
Celia: “Will do.”
“Agree about your dad, though.”
GM: “Thanks. And yeah. I couldn’t stay with your family forever, we didn’t think, I’d basically taken over your mom’s bedroom.”
“But she thought it would be good for me to live with someone else too.”
Celia: Celia finishes fixing her face in the mirror and starts on her makeup. This evening, it’s dramatic as Hell.
“I agree there too. Shame Mom didn’t have an extra room, that was probably ideal. I’m probably letting go of my other haven soon. The one you were at that one night? Some young licks share places. I know you mentioned that before.”
“I don’t want to tell you what to do, I just think you’re safer in the Quarter.”
“Then again,” she muses, “I was picked up right outside the Evergreen, so fuck me.”
GM: “I’d be happy to share a place with you, still.”
Celia: “Last night. It’s why I told you to stay put.”
“Your brother mentioned maybe getting a place together.” There’s a hesitancy at the end of her statement, a soft lilt that suggests a question.
GM: “You mean for you guys? Yeah, that makes sense to share a place.”
Celia: “Dani?” Celia’s voice. The transformation might be complete, but the dead girl is still controlling the vehicle. “Did he tell you what happened?”
GM: “Uh. Think it might be better if we don’t go into that right now?”
Celia: “Probably,” Celia sighs.
The sound of a buzzer reaches Dani’s ears.
Like something vibrating at high frequency.
GM: “Hey, what’s that?”
Celia: “Trimming my hair.”
GM: “Oh. Stephen said it grows back literally overnight.”
Celia: “Yep. Getting creative tonight.”
GM: Dani walks in, carrying several black dresses with her. She pauses for a second when she sees Jade’s face.
“Geez. I just can’t get over how different you look.”
Celia: Jade catches her eyes in the mirror and smiles at her, fangs flashing.
“That’s the idea, darling.” She holds herself differently with this face. Straighter spine. Lower voice. She wears arrogance like a perfume.
GM: “Yeah, you even feel different too.”
Celia: The smile grows. She turns to face Dani fully, unfolding from the stool in front of the mirror to rise, sliding across the floor.
“Do I scare you, newborn?”
GM: “A little, yeah.” Dani’s still just standing there with the dresses in hand. “I know you’re Celia, it’s just… such a total transformation.”
Celia: Jade stalks toward her with all the grace of the jungle cat whose form she’d stolen.
“Has to be,” she says as she circles the girl like a piece of meat. “Anything less than is sloppy. And I don’t like sloppy,” she whispers in Dani’s ear. Then she’s gone from behind her, standing still in front of the mirror with head cocked to one side. She runs her tongue across the points of her fangs as if she’s itching to sink them into the half-breed.
“Show me what you’ve chosen.”
GM: Dani’s eyes follow Jade warily.
Oh, Jade’s not actually physically striking the thin-blood, like she did Celia’s mother. Jade’s not telling this half-blood that she’s a slave who’ll be punished for getting out of line. Celia’s just changed her face and affect. It’s nothing to protest over, in of itself.
That’s how so many monsters throw their victims off-balance.
Little things. Nothing big enough to make a big deal over.
Dani holds up the dresses.
“Well, as you can see.”
Celia: Celia peruses the selection as Dani lays them out.
She shakes her head at the first three, pointing out flaws. Too imperious. Too formal. Too on-the-nose.
GM: “I guess they are a little eye-grabbing, yeah,” Dani says, acknowledging the problems.
“That’s a lot of your stuff.”
Celia: “This one, though.”
“I like this one.”
GM: “Oh. That’s a little risque.”
Celia: “There’s a sheer top you can put under it to cover the girls.”
GM: “That works. Does it have sleeves? I think they’d ruin the look.”
Celia: “No. It’s not a real shirt. Just a cover when things dip too low.”
“Open back, so you won’t ruin that, either.”
GM: “Oh good, that’s perfect.”
Celia: Jade smiles again. It’s a sharp smile, but there’s some measure of warmth to her eyes all the same.
“Your brother told me to tell you the truth,” she says in an offhand manner, looking down at her nails while Dani no doubt deliberates where to change (as if Celia hasn’t seen a naked body before).
GM: Dani gathers up the dresses in her arms but doesn’t take off her clothes yet. Perhaps intending to do so in another room.
Celia: Jade waves her hand at Dani, dismissing her to change. She doesn’t bother hiding herself when she strips once more from her own dress, selecting a new pair of panties for the evening before she reaches for her gown.
“I have DID. That’s why I feel different.”
GM: Dani leaves. Celia can faintly hear the unzip of her pants.
“You mean, multiple personality disorder?”
Celia: Was it her nudity that sent the girl scampering? Jade seems amused.
“No one calls it that anymore. But yes.”
GM: “Huh, okay. That’s good you know and can be open about it.” Celia hears Dani taking off her pants.
Celia: “It doesn’t really bother me,” Jade says, sliding the black thong up her lean legs. “But it bothers him.”
GM: “Does it interfere with your daily life?”
“I know it can be comorbid with a lot of other disorders.”
Celia: “That’s a rather complicated question. Yes and no.”
GM: “How so?”
Celia: “Celia is the base, right? The first. And Jade is the lick. And there are others, but we’ll stick with those two for now. They want different things. So it’s like being pulled in a bunch of different directions, and neither one of them ends up happy, and they don’t mean to but they tend to fuck each other over.”
GM: “That sounds like a problem, then.”
“I don’t know how this would work for licks, but DID is obviously treatable with breathers.”
Celia: “He wants me to see someone.”
“To fix it.”
“He says it’s imaginary.”
“That it’s just in my head.”
“That what they do for me isn’t real.”
GM: “What they do for you?”
Celia: “And I don’t know how I feel about that, because Jade…” The girl falters at the question. “Yes. What they do for me.”
GM: “You were saying something about Jade?”
Celia: “She plays the lick game so Celia can play the human game.”
GM: “Celia’s definitely the nicer-feeling one.”
Celia: “Only because you haven’t met Leila.”
GM: “What does Leila do for you, if Jade lets you play the lick game?”
Celia: “She’s… happy. Untouched by all of this.”
GM: “I think it would be healthier if you could integrate all of those feelings and behaviors into your, what’s the term, core personality.”
“All of us are different people in different circumstances. I’m not the same person around my dad that I am with you, or with Stephen, or at work. That’s normal. But I’m still Dani around all of those people.”
Celia: Harlequin had said no one else would understand.
“Mm,” is all she says.
GM: “You don’t agree?”
Celia: “I don’t think it’s the same.”
“And I think his insistence on fixing it is going to damage me further.”
GM: “You say Celia and Jade have been fucking each other over, though. How so?”
Celia: “Celia,” the word is accompanied by such a hard roll of the eyes that Dani can hear it, “is a sap who still believes in love.”
“Jade’s a bit of a cunt. She’s not just fucking me, she’s fucking everyone else, too.”
“Celia is mad that she’ll never get her 2.5 kids and white picket fence. She has a tendency to look—”
“Preston said Jade is pathet—”
“Because you got all weepy on Savoy’s—”
“They’re both wrong,” sighs another voice.
GM: Dani pops back out. She looks like she’s found the top. She’s got on her black sandal heels that she wore out to the club.
There’s wariness on her features. But seemingly more for Celia than at Celia this time.
“Can I ask who just said that?” she asks slowly.
Celia: “Me,” the girl says, as if that explains everything. After a brief second of hesitation she points at herself.
GM: “What’s your name?” Dani asks.
Celia: “Leila.” She smiles, eyes sparkling in delight. “You’re Dani. I know you. You spilled peas once an’ Celia told you how she spilled salad and Daddy was mad. Grampa said she’s… um, he said she’s from the heavens, an’ she’s a flower, so that’s why I’m Leila. Leilani. Star flower. But don’t call me ‘Lani ’cause Joshy does an’ that’s our special thing, ’kay?” The girl sits back on the stool in front of the mirror, kicking her feet while she looks around the haven.
“Didju see the closet? It’s real big. Chase gave her lotsa shinies. Are you gonna wear a shiny? Ceels has, um, she has a—” The voice cuts off in a giggle. “—secret!” she finishes loudly.
GM: “Hi, Leila. It’s nice to meet you,” Dani ventures.
She pauses for a second, then seems to roll with it.
“I probably won’t wear a shiny. I don’t want to stand out too much.”
Celia: “Yeah ‘cause I was gonna say that you can’t wear a necklace ‘cause too much goin’ on up top, but you could do a bracelet or a pair of earrings. Do you have your ears pierced? Did it hurt?”
GM: “I might wear some small earrings. And I do. And it wasn’t too bad. Being scared was worse. I actually chickened out the first time and my mom had to drive me in twice.”
Celia: Leila nods solemnly, eyes wide.
“Mine are clip-ons,” she says in a loud whisper, then presses a finger to her lips.
Dani can see that the earrings dangling from her lobes are in no way clip-ons.
GM: Dani looks at them, then finally nods and gives a wide ‘definitely rolling with this’ smile.
“Smart,” she says.
GM: “Those are some really pretty clip-ons.”
Celia: “Thanks! Chase gave me them. He’s my best friend. Don’t tell him I said that. Don’t tell Alan, either or he’ll tell Chase and then Joshy might find out and I think he thinks he’s my best friend and he’s okay but— oh! Tell Alan, yeah, tell Alan that you need a phone. No, two phones. No, THREE! And one of them has to be pink!” Leila picks up Celia’s purse to rifle through the contents. She finds a stack of bills and pulls them out, waving them at Dani.
“She’s got a lotta money in here, that’s a lotta phones, did you know she has a gun?” Leila looks at Dani, eyes wide. “She dunno how to shoot, though, maybe it’s—oh, Steve was gonna show her, but then also he didn’t, and also I got a book from the liberry do you think he’ll read it to me? Oh! Did he tell you about the bat? It flies.” She flaps her arms to demonstrate. “And he’s got a leash. Two! Two leashes. Are you ready? We gotta go soon. Can you drive? I don’t have a license. Don’t tell Alan I said he’s a butthead when you ask for the phones because I like him even though he talks a lot and I don’t really think he’s a butthead he’s actually kinda nice even though he likes Clem have you met her she’s kind of mean and…”
On she goes.
GM: “She doesn’t?” Dani asks with a frown, but is swiftly drowned out by the childlike alter’s torrent of speech.
She regards it with something between puzzlement and amusement, then glances at her phone.
“Uh, can I talk to Celia, please?” Dani asks, looking up.
“Or Jade? ’Cuz we need to get going pretty soon.”
Celia: “No one ever wants to talk to me,” Leila mutters, crossing her arms.
A moment later they uncross, and the girl rises to her feet.
“We should head out.”
GM: “Uh. So, that was a change,” says Dani, following after Celia.
Celia: “She’s easily excitable,” Celia says by way of explanation. She does have Dani drive, stating that it would be weird for Hannah to show up by herself.
“The burners from Alan aren’t a bad idea, either.”
GM: “Oh. Almost forgot.” Dani fits on the mask and double-checks herself in the mirror.
“You think so? She seemed pretty, uh, excitable, like you say.”
“I wasn’t sure if the idea was from her or you.”
Celia: “Lost my phone last night. The one before that was broken a week ago.” Celia shrugs. “Never hurts to have extras.”
Celia asks if she can borrow Dani’s phone in the meantime, navigating to Cadabra to have a new Solaris shipped overnight to her.
She throws in a few burners while she’s at it, nixing the idea of asking Alan.
All this business with the hunters and the Guard made her realize that, though convenient, a smartphone is only going to get her into trouble.
GM: Dani hands it over.
“Oh, I’m sorry. If you’re losing them often, might just order two.”
“Regular phones, that is, on top of the burners.”
Celia: Celia laughs. “Yeah, I did last time and I’m still down to zero.”
But she adds an extra Solaris to the order.
GM: Dani follows her out to Celia’s car.
“So, does she interfere with your life? Leila, that is?”
Celia: “Not really.”
“She talks a lot.”
A little too much, but Dani hadn’t seemed to realize.
GM: “Well, I guess that’s harmless next to the fight you and Jade sounded like you were having.” She gets in on the driver’s side after Celia unlocks the vehicle.
Celia: Celia hands over the keys and gives her the address. She shrugs, eyes turning to the window.
“We don’t need to talk about it.”
GM: “No, I’m okay! If there’s a problem, I want to help you fix it.”
Celia: “Jade’s a manipulative cunt that ruins everything and Celia is a spineless doormat that thinks she’s in love.”
GM: “I think Celia’s right. You are in love.”
“Celia definitely feels nicer, too.”
Celia: “In love with someone who abuses her,” she says shortly, crossing her arms, “who thinks she’s stupid, who has said she’s stupid, so why—why? Why cling to that. It’s like being Diana.”
GM: The old Diana, anyways.
Celia: All Celia needs is to merge herself with a doll, too.
GM: There’s a pause for a moment.
“Oh,” Dani says.
Celia: Yeah. Oh.
GM: “That’s not how he said it was.”
Celia: She effects a snort, unsurprised that he’d paint himself as some sort of hero.
“No. I bet not.”
“He told you I cheated. That I lied. That I’m a whore. That we’re taking a break until I fix it.”
“That I’m desperate for attention and paint myself as a victim.”
“That I’m a black hole and ruin everything I touch.”
“That about right?”
GM: Dani opens her mouth, holds it open for a bit, then finally says,
“Celia, is there any way I can help you two? Or do you just want to end things?”
“Because, whatever else, ending a relationship isn’t abusive.”
Celia: “Why, am I right? Is that what he said?”
GM: “I think I’m just going to make things worse jumping in and that maybe you should talk to each other.”
Celia: Bitter laughter fills the car.
“Yeah. That’s gone well the last few times. Ask him how dinner went tonight. Ask him what he did last night when I called him for help because I was scared because I was being followed and he said he’d always protect me. Ask him what that promise meant last night when I begged him to meet me so I wasn’t alone. Ask him,” she snarls, “if he gave me a second thought when I was abducted and tortured while I was on the phone with him.”
GM: “Wait, you got tortured? What happened?!”
Celia: “Nothing,” Celia mutters, looking out the window again. “I survived. Nothing a little blood won’t fix. Why don’t you ask him about that, too.”
GM: “Well… okay, look. Things between you and Stephen feel really toxic, and it feels like you’ve had a lot of baggage for a while now.”
“I guess, do you still want to be in a relationship with him, or do you not?”
Celia: Celia doesn’t say anything.
GM: “I still want you in my life either way.”
Celia: Not for long moments.
“I bought a dress, you know. Years ago. When we got back together.”
“He said he wanted to get married, and I bought a stupid dress.”
GM: “I don’t think that was stupid.”
“I bet it’s a great dress.”
Celia: “It doesn’t matter now. He only wants to marry ‘Celia’ to get close to my dad so he can wield some political power.”
“And if I wanted to be with someone who calls me stupid I could date any other lick in the city.”
“You know the mafioso your brother hates so much treats me better than he has?”
GM: “…how well do you know that mafioso next to Stephen?”
“Because those people are monsters, Celia, just the worst of the worst.”
Celia: “Then what does it say that he’s never been unkind to me but your brother has?”
GM: “How much time have you actually spent with him? How well do you actually know him?”
“And why are you even spending time with a mobster to begin with?”
Celia: “So I could find your sire.”
GM: “Oh,” says Dani.
“I’m grateful for that, Celia.”
“I’m sorry I made you have to deal with a mobster.”
Celia: It’s not like Roderick is any better at this point.
Celia doesn’t bother saying it again.
GM: “But I’d ask again, how well do you actually know this guy.”
Celia: “Jesus Christ,” Celia mutters, “about as well as I know the asshole that took over for your brother on Thursday.”
“Actually, never mind. So do you want to break up, if he calls you stupid and only cares about political power, and stay together if he doesn’t?”
Celia: “I don’t know,” she finally admits. “There’s… it’s complicated, and now that he knows everything I told him it’s more complicated, and I’m not interested in being blackmailed or pushed around for the rest of my unlife, so fuck me for telling the truth when he asked.”
GM: “I think your guys’ problems go back a lot earlier than this, Celia, and that it’s dishonesty that caused them in the first place.”
Celia: “And if he says something to the wrong person I’m the one who’s going to lose for it.”
“I didn’t lie to him because I wanted to. I lied to him because I had to, because him knowing the full story would get him killed.”
GM: “If you break up neither of you should do that. You should just leave each other alone.”
“And I don’t agree about lying because you had to. That’s what is getting him off so much. He feels like you always defend and justify the lying, and don’t see it as wrong, and that’s why he feels like he can never be sure if you’re going to keep lying, because you don’t see a problem with it.”
Celia: “Okay, Dani. I tell you that someone threw my mother off the roof to teach me a lesson. What’s your response?”
Celia: “I tell you that this same person broke every bone in my body to teach me another lesson. What’s your response?”
GM: “Fuck them.”
Celia: “Yeah. Fuck them. Now let’s say they’re a big scary bad guy. Then what?”
GM: “Get help.”
Celia: “Now say you’re Stephen, and you’ve got a boner for justice and morality, and you hear the girl you love is being abused and that her family is in danger. You’re fast and strong and immortal. What do you do?”
GM: “You take out the bad guy.”
Celia: “That’s the fucking problem, Dani, that’s why I fucking lied to him, because he can’t. Because he’d want to and he can’t because he’d fucking lose.”
“And it would be my fault for telling him.”
“But hey, maybe that’s shitty justification.”
GM: “So, why didn’t you tell him that? Why not just tell him what the situation was and decide what to do together?”
Celia: “Maybe not wanting him to die is a terrible fucking thing.”
“Because he’d want to know why I was dealing with the bad guy, and why I can’t walk away, and oops, if I tell him that he dies again.”
GM: “You’re lying to him and treating him like a child, though. He can make decisions about his own safety. What gives you the right to decide he can’t?”
Celia: “Losing him broke me. Even knowing he was out there, just unreachable, that was devastating. How do you think it’s going to feel if something I say to him gets him killed because he misjudged?”
GM: “It’s not about you, though.”
“It’s about him.”
“You owe it to him to be honest about that stuff.”
“Just like he’d owe it to you to be honest if he was in the same situation.”
“It’s just really paternalistic to decide that you know so much better than someone that you’re going to lie to them ‘for their own good’. It’s not treating them like an equal partner.”
“Stephen isn’t an idiot, either. He’s smart. Yeah, I know, we hear it a lot, but he is. If something is as suicidal as you’re making out, I think he’d be smart enough to recognize that and come at the problem from another angle.”
“I mean, doesn’t that sound so much healthier to just be honest and decide what to do together, than get caught in a bunch of lies that destroy your trust?”
Celia: “It’s a little late for that now, isn’t it.”
GM: “Yeah, the milk is spilled, but ultimately, do you think the lying was okay, or do you not?”
“Because if you do think it was okay, then I think you should break up. It’s just too big a thing not to see eye to eye on. Stephen is NEVER going to be okay with it.”
GM: “So, is that a yes or a no?”
“Because if you don’t think it was okay, then I think you need to apologize for it, really sincerely apologize, and be honest going forward. No more lies.”
Celia: “It was an okay, as in okay I hear you, as in okay I understand what you’re saying, okay I need to think about it, okay I need to decide if I’m fine with what he did in response.”
“Not,” she adds bitterly, “that it’s even going to matter after next week.”
Celia: “I have a task to complete. I’m pretty sure I only get a week. And if not, I die. Mom dies. Emily and Lucy die. The boys die. Alana dies. They’ll probably kill everyone at Flawless just to be thorough.”
GM: Dani’s mouth falls open.
Celia: She’s not sure if it’s an exaggeration. If they’ll drag her back in. If she can extend the time. If she can give them something else should she fail at her task.
“So, you know,” she continues, “just vampire things.”