Satine surreptitiously looked at her phone.
Jack noticed anyway. "Put that thing down before you hurt someone, kid."
Satine rolled her eyes. "You know, I understood the whole 'kid' thing at first because I was like a week dead-"
"I think the phrase is 'a week old'," Damsel helpfully interjected.
"But I wasn't actually born when you guys are counting from," Satine protested. "I died then. I was born twenty-five years before my death. And twenty-five isn't that young."
"I was dead before you were even born," Damsel pointed out. "In fact, we all were. So it kind of is. Even by human standards, I think. You can't even hold several offices at that point."
"I was never going to run for Congress let alone the presidency," Satine said. "But as I was saying, I understood you calling me a kid at first but it's been eight years."
"Eight years?" Jack snorted. "That's like eight minutes for me."
"While on the one hand that might explain an awful lot, I really hope that's not the case because that would mean that there is something seriously off in your perception of time or your memory," Satine said.
Skelter laughed. "That or he spent the whole time wasted."
"Not the whole time," Jack said, looking insulted. "I needed those eight minutes to get wasted."
"You can't even get drunk," Satine replied.
"Actually, I'll have you know that I can eat food. I may not be able to digest it but I can enjoy a beer far more than you guys can," Jack said.
Damsel briefly doffed her cap. "And I'll have you know that I can do that, too. The only good thing about the damn Kuei-Jin was seeing the looks on their faces when it didn't all turn to ash in our mouths and they got one less thing to make them feel special."
Satine was mystified. "Since when does food not turn to literal ash in our mouths?"
"Since awhile ago," Jack said, shrugging.
"That only applies to some kindred," Skelter explained. "Me, I didn't go for that merit."
"Merit?" Satine questioned.
"The fact you're even asking questions like this is why I'm still calling you a kid," Jack informed her.
"But you've been calling me that before you knew that I didn't know."
"I could just tell. You can always tell with these things," Jack claimed.
"Well great but now that I know does that mean that you'll stop calling me that?"
Jack laughed. "Oh, not even."
"You're changing the rules," Satine accused.
"Maybe you just don't know what they are," Jack said. "Besides, I'm sure there's loads more you don't know."
"You could at least tell me about this food merit or something," Satine said.
"I promise I'll do that when I have time after I finish laughing at you."
"So I'd better catch Nines and ask him," Satine translated.
Jack shrugged. "Whatever makes you more comfortable."
"But even if you can eat food you said you can't digest it so how could you get drunk?" Satine wondered.
"By feeding off of drunk people," Jack explained. "They never notice anything. You can get a whole bunch of them and they just think they're seeing things."
Satine made a face. "I hate feeding on people."
"Yes, yes, you hate being a vampire," Damsel said, rolling her eyes. "We have gotten the picture by now, you know."
"Just because you know it doesn't mean I can't say it," Satine said, a little hurt. "I can say things for other reasons than to make sure you know them."
"We've met other kindred who didn't like being undead but they usually either died or got over it by now," Skelter clarified.
"How am I supposed to get over it?" Satine demanded. "I'm still dead."
"And you always will be," Skelter pointed out. "You're just making yourself miserable."
"I can't choose how I feel about it."
"Actually, the humans have this theory that you can, in fact, change how you feel about something," Damsel corrected her. "It's not easy and takes time but if you start thinking about being a vampire in positive terms then sooner or later your emotions would just…catch up to it. I'm not sure why that works but as long as it does who really gives a fuck?"
"In case anyone forgot that Damsel was a Toreador," Skelter said fondly, laughing.
Damsel made a face. "Oh, please. It's easy to want to fight the power when you're hardwired to want to always fight!"
"Or when being an Anarch is in vogue," Skelter countered.
"Which it damn well wasn't after the Kuei-Jin came in and then the Camarilla came back."
Skelter tapped his chin mockingly. "I don't know, after that they were here so shortly that being an outright rebel again and fighting the man instead of the holder of a rebel city didn't have time to fall out of fashion."
"You guys are so mean about anyone that's not a Brujah," Satine complained.
"You're only saying that because you're a Ventrue," Skelter said without missing a beat.
"But seriously, being a Venture means I have to be far more careful who I feed on than anyone but the fabled Salubri," Satine complained. "I always worry I'll pick someone not sufficiently blue blood for all that this still doesn't make any freaking sense."
"It's a curse not science," Jack said dismissively. "It's the same reason moonlight, which is just reflected sunlight, doesn't hurt us and we're fine with UV radiation. That's why it matters who you feed on when theoretically the homeless man with an in at a soup kitchen might have better blood than the rich kid who subsists on McDonalds."
"But it's still stupid."
"Well then tell God you disapprove the next time you see him," Jack suggested, smirking.
"Maybe I'll tell Caine the next time he decides to taxi me around and he can pass on the message," Satine countered.
Damsel and Skelter exchanged looks.
"You know that that was probably just one of those ancient Malks who go around claiming to be Caine even though they're really not, right?" Skelter asked.
Satine crossed her arms. "I'll believe what I want to believe."
"Of course the only real way to test it would be to attack him the next time you see him and see if God attacks you for it. Of course that might be a little lethal and even if he's just an ancient Malk he would still probably kill you for it," Damsel added.
"I haven't even seen him since he took me to blow up LaCroix," Satine protested.
"So you'll neeeeeeever knoooooooow," Skelter said dramatically.
"Hey, he's Jack's friend."
Jack shrugged. "Personally I don't know or care if he's Caine or just some superpowered Malk. He was damn useful is what he was."
Satine frowned. "You know, I'm sure I was saying something and it was probably important but for the life of me I can't remember what it was."
"Probably because you're a kid," Jack said helpfully.
Satine snapped. "And just like that, it's back. I've been around for more than thirty years now and-"
"Hey, wait," Damsel interrupted. "No fair counting human years."
"Why not?" Satine asked, blinking. "You can all count your human years, too. I don't think I'm any younger than you were, Damsel, but if I was it could only have been by a little bit. There's no way I was older than Skelter and Jack."
"That's just not how we do things. Who we were as humans is only relevant for where we started off and our life experiences," Damsel began. "Me, I was a protester back in the sixties."
"Called it!" Skelter crowed triumphantly.
"Hey, you've changed more than me," Damsel said. "If I had been a little younger, say fifteen, then maybe I died without having had a real boyfriend or sex or anything like that. I'd look too young to get anyone but sickos now and I sure as hell wouldn't have posed for that picture that I know you have."
Satine looked as innocent as she could under the circumstances. "What? Gary just sort of hung it up one day when I wasn't there. Since I know that he can break into my flat an any time-"
"I don't know why you call it that, you're not even British," Skelter interrupted.
She glared at him. "I like calling it that! And he can get to where I live at any time and he's a Nosferatu so I'm already convinced he watches everything I do and you know that he creeps me out besides. Why would I risk upsetting him and making him come after me? You would not believe the things he's said to me about what it would have been like if he met me while I was human."
Jack laughed. "Well, he does hate the Ventrue."
"I can understand wanting to tear his goddamn head off," Damsel told her.
"And the Toreadors."
"Like it's our fault he got embraced into such a psychotic clan," Damsel said dismissively. "But do you really expect me to believe that he just randomly put the posters up one day? All of them?"
"Well, not all of them," Satine admitted. "Vivi put the one of her up because I did her a favor or two."
"And you didn't take that one down because…?" Damsel asked pointedly.
"I was worried she'd start crying or sending me more angsty poetry," Satine said shuddering. "I do not envy Strauss the headache of having her attention."
"And so you're going to claim that Gary just spontaneously put the posters up?" Damsel asked skeptically.
"Technically, I didn't ask about anything and I really just wanted the one of Jeanette," Satine replied.
"You've really got to stay away from the Malks," Skelter said seriously. "Nothing good comes from dealing with them. Plus aren't she and her sister Camarilla now?"
"Believe me, I make an effort. It's just…difficult…" Satine said slowly. "And yeah but it's Santa Monica so really nothing's changed there and Therese and Jeanette like me anyway."
"Stop being liked by the Camarilla. It's un-Anarch," Damsel accused.
"I'm just polite and willing to protect our kind," Satine said defensively.
"And you have a poster up of that psychotic Kuei-Jin bitch!"
"In my defense, it's a really nice poster," Satine said weakly. "Besides, why do you know so much about my apartment anyway?"
Damsel crossed her arms and said nothing.
"Is there nobody who doesn't invade my privacy?"
"Nines probably doesn't," Jack told her. "But then, that's what he has people for."
Satine groaned. "Just…why do you keep calling me a kid?"
"In vampire years you really are still an infant," Jack said seriously. "If it weren't for your highly unusual record and power levels none of us would even be talking to you. Nothing personal but neonates are a dime a dozen and unless they last a decade or two they're far too transient to bother remembering. And no matter how old you get, as long as we're around we'll always be older. When you hit a thousand I'll still have a few centuries on you. But then maybe we can renegotiate on whether calling you kid is appropriate or not."
Satine buried her head in her hands. "I hate the world."
"That's a bit odd given your obsession with saving it," Jack retorted.
Satine raised her head. "Well somebody has to. Everyone but the Sabbat just goes around saying 'Oh my, I really hope it's not Gehenna. Please don't come eat us, founders of my clan.'"
"That's not fair," Damsel objected. "Everybody knows Ventru died after the Second City fell."
"Well just because 'everybody knows' doesn't mean that it matches up with the people he was supposed to have sired after his 'death.' There's so many rumors that I can't fully believe that he's actually dead even now. Maybe he is but I'm not resting easy," Satine said. "People think the Toreador Antediluvian is up about and in Greece, yeah, but the Brujah one bit it ages ago."
"He only sired one person, though, and she diablerized him. Or he. The gender's actually a little tricky. But there is no indication that Troile actually died," Jack said. "So if it's true that only those with dead founders – whatever dead means to beings like that – have a chance then we're just as doomed."
"Why are we even arguing about who is and is not doomed in a possible end of the world scenario assuming several different myths are true?" Skelter wondered.
"Maybe Troile wasn't technically killed but she – I'm going with she – and her lover melted into the ground or something and then the Romans salted the Earth and she never reappeared so I think you're safe," Satine said.
"Not any safer than you and all the records of your dead Antediluvian," Jack countered. "Who is to say that that worked at all and it wasn't just used as a convenient way to fake her own death? Do we know for sure the salt worked and she didn't just arise elsewhere or after the soldiers left?"
"You're never going to come to a consensus. And even if you do there's no way to prove that you agreed on the right thing," Skelter said pointedly.
"Don't be a fun-sucker," Satine said, rolling her eyes.
"A 'fun-sucker.' What is a 'fun-sucker'?" Skelter repeated, making a face at the word.
"It sounds pretty self-explanatory. Like a vampire who sucks fun instead of blood," Damsel offered.
Skelter frowned. "That sounds so stupid."
"Well don't be one then," Satine said.
"I wouldn't be holding up the Sabbat as an organization out to save the world," Jack told her.
"I wish I wouldn't have to, I really do. They're a menace. But nobody else ever does anything and at least the Sabbat tried to stop LaCroix from opening the Sarcophagus way back when." Satine held up a hand to forestall any potential protests. "And yes, I know, that was just a mummy and I'm aware that it was, um, taken care of already but they tried. Everyone else except some people who I'm sure I can't possibly name just waited and watched."
"Don't encourage them in their random and petulant acts of violence," Jack ordered. "And I've got a guy that says that the real leadership of the Sabbat is actually for the return of the Antediluvians and that's why the organization of 'Antediluvian-fighters' is not only so useless but so stupidly suicidal that they turn regular people right off the idea. And most of the idiots who sign up and want to fight them get killed before they get any real power."
"You get that from the Malkavian cab driver?" Skelter asked sardonically.
"He prefers to be called Caine and he looked like he could kill me just by looking at me so I'm going to respect that," Jack replied. "But yes."
"It would be the only way that the Sabbat make a lick of sense," Satine said thoughtfully.
"You really need to give the conspiracy theories a rest," Skelter said sternly.
"I don't see why. If I believe enough of them then sooner or later I'm going to be right."
"Yes but you won't know which one you're right about until it actually happens in which case it won't matter that you were right about it," Skelter told her.
"I'll get bragging rights," Satine countered.
"And we'll remind you of all the times you were wrong."
"Which was not this time," Satine said.
"Speaking of conspiracies, kid, did you ever figure out which generation you were?" Jack asked.
Satine gave him a look. "How am I supposed to do that?"
"Finding out what generation your sire was would be a good start," Jack said.
Satine rolled her eyes. "I got that, yeah, but I don't know his name. I don't really remember what he looks like since my pre-vampire memory is still spotty at best and he died so quickly afterwards when I was way too out of it to really understand what was going on. Not that a lot of it made sense before anyone even told me I was a vampire. I know virtually nothing about him, no one I know was there knows him, and the only one who claimed they knew him was LaCroix and he's super dead."
"Why didn't you ask him before he died?" Damsel asked. "Were you just too overwhelmed with hatred for your sire that you couldn't bring yourself to do it?"
"Did it just not occur to you?" Skelter asked.
Satine shook her head. "I really tried but he kept looking nobly wounded and talking about what a terrible betrayal that was and how much of a toll the burden of leadership took."
Damsel scowled. "According to you he did nothing but bitch about being in charge. Well whose fault is that? None of us asked him to come bother us!"
Satine shrugged. "What can I say? He was kind of melodramatic. So he didn't tell me anything. I'm not even convinced he knew him."
Jack snapped his fingers. "Oh, there's a thought! Maybe he came to the city for the express purpose of anonymously siring a bunch of Caitiff and leaving you for LaCroix to deal with but got caught before he could finish his plan. Or maybe you were the last one and no one connected the other newbies with your sire. LaCroix is just the sort of prince to do that to and LA just the sort of city to do it in."
"I'll take your word for it," Satine said. "But I'm a Ventrue and not a Brujah and isn't that kind of your guy's thing?"
"Not my kind of thing," Skelter said quickly, raising his hands.
"Now why do you have to go and stereotype like that?" Jack asked rhetorically. "I'm hurt, really."
"Nobly hurt?" Damsel asked. "Will you have to start complaining about the burdens of leadership?"
"I just might," Jack said, crossing his arms.
"Oh, don't start with that! The last thing we need is for Jack to be less involved!" Skelter exclaimed.
"Maybe I should just declare myself an eighth or ninth generation and be done with it," Satine mused.
"Eighth or ninth?" Jack repeated. "That's hardly very specific."
"Eighth then," she amended.
"Eighth generation?" Skelter asked incredulously. "That's prince-level right there. It's a bit conceited to call yourself that after only being around for less than a decade."
"I don't see what that's got to do with it," Satine said. "If I were around for five hundred years I'd still be younger than whoever else manages to live that long. Assuming Caine's still around, he could sire someone tomorrow and we'd have a new second generation vampire running about."
"At least you're not claiming to be that," Skelter muttered.
"Well given that someone I'm reasonably sure sired me was put to death I'd have to be an Antediluvian," Satine said reasonably. "Though one that was very weak as they were so easily killed by a blow to the head. Or at least 'killed.'"
Skelter was staring at her in horror.
She laughed. "I'm not that conceited! I'm just saying that while as more time passes we do tend to have higher-generation vampires running around, when I was created doesn't have much to do with my generation."
"Why eighth generation then?" Damsel demanded.
"I'm clearly not a fifteen-generation thinblood," Satine said logically. "And I've been around. Not as much as you guys, maybe, but I've met vampires from all sorts of backgrounds and clans and generations. You don't even want to know what a miracle it was I didn't get killed during my Tzimisce adventure in Lithuania."
"The way you keep building it up I really do," Damsel said eagerly.
"I fear if I tell you how reckless that was and all the ways I should have died you'll lose all respect for me," Satine prevaricated.
"I know I won't and the Brujah over here are less likely than that to," Damsel told her.
Satine said nothing.
"I'll get it out of you yet," Damsel swore.
Satine cleared her throat. "But anyway, just from sheer power vampires who have been around for awhile but are on the higher end of the generation count can't compete with me. And from my abilities and how many of them I can use before needing to feed again I think eight works. But chances are I'll never know."
"And anyway, wouldn't you rather think of the person who single-handedly took out the Kuei-Jin – even weakened as they were by warring against us – when we couldn't as an eighth generation vampire than as a higher generation than you?" Jack asked pointedly.
"I should also add that my backup theory was that I was just a thirteen generation vampire or something but Caine himself accelerated my progress."
Skelter paused. "Upon reflection, I think you may have a point. I can really see you as an eighth generation."
Satine smiled sweetly. "I'm glad you think so. Not that it really matters or that I'm going around claiming to be one as that would just cause more trouble than it's worth. But you guys are my friends and you wanted to know what I thought and there it is."
"So to recap…Jack's just never going to stop calling Satine a kid especially since he knows how much it annoys her and she's far too distinguished than is good for someone her age but he might call any younger vampires he has reason to associate with a kid as well," Damsel summarized.
Jack laughed. "Like I'd have reason to associate with anyone who has been a vampire for less than thirty years."
"I heard people tell tales of ageism when I was alive," Satine said wistfully. "I think they were mostly talking about discriminating against old people but this so counts!"
"I don't think hanging out with Toreadors is good for you," Skelter told her. "Especially if you start doing things like that."
Satine, who had been looking at her phone once more, quickly put it away. "What? I don't know what you're talking about."
"You've been checking your phone more than Damsel has," Skelter said, jerking his head Damsel's way.
"Hey, I don't check my phone when I'm out with you guys," Damsel protested. "I even put it on silent."
"But not off," Skelter noted.
"Why would I bother when it's already on silent?" Damsel countered.
"And besides, you only do that so we don't give you shit for being a Toreador," Skelter said.
"There is nothing I could possibly do that would stop you from doing that," Damsel said, scoffing.
Skelter smirked. "I like that you realize that."
"There's really nothing wrong with looking at my phone while I'm here," Satine protested.
"It's rude," Jack said.
"In human society it's rude," Satine argued. "But then in human society it's generally considered rude, to say it mildly, to magically enslave people or to steal their blood."
"Hey, a vamp's got to eat," Jack said unapologetically. "And if you could just get over your strange ghoul issues you'd find that they're really much more useful than you'd think. Besides, they all want it."
"Well sure after they become addicts," Satine said. "Doesn't let you off the hook for making them addicts in the first place."
"Are you sure you're not a Toreador?" Jack asked, peering closely at her.
"Laugh all you want but you can't knock me for having human concerns and then go right around and tell me that I need to adhere to human standards of cell phone etiquette!" Satine exclaimed.
"I'm just saying that you're the one who wants to act like a human all the time," Jack pointed out. "And we all know why you're looking anyway."
Satine cleared her throat. "I'm obsessively waiting for my Les Mis confession to be posted on Tumblr. I'm confessing I will never forgive Marius for what he does to Valjean and I'm expecting this to explode the internet."
Skelter blinked at her before turning to Damsel. "Were those words? Real words?"
"More or less," Damsel said wryly.
"The movie comes out in five days!"
"Yes and it sure would be a pity if none of us were here for it," Jack said.
"I don't-" Satine started to say.
"Oh, come off it," Damsel interrupted. "We all know that you're waiting for midnight."
"Why would I-"
"Because the humans prophesized that on December 21st, 2012 the world will end," Skelter said. "And you believe it."
Satine looked distinctly uncomfortable. "It's not that I believe it exactly."
Skelter looked unimpressed. "Really."
"I just don't disbelieve it," Satine clarified. "And why not? It could happen."
Jack laughed. "Sure it could happen. But you're really going to take the word of a bunch of Mayans or whatever from five thousand years ago?"
"I'm nearly positive that's not right but I don't actually have a more accurate timeline for them," Satine said. "And why not?"
"Because they lived five thousand years ago," Jack said again, ignoring the attempted correction. "How could they possibly know?"
"I don't know; I wasn't there," Satine said. "Maybe it's something supernatural and they know for a fact that, I don't know, an Antediluvian will rise up and kill everyone."
"But on a certain date?" Jack asked skeptically.
"Maybe whatever they used to bind them was remarkably specific and would only last exactly five thousand years or something." Satine winced. "Now I'm doing it! Five thousand isn't the right number."
"Then what is?"
Satine stayed silent.
"I'm just saying that it's been eight years since your embrace and you've spent the entire time aware that people believe it's the end of the world," Jack said. "Surely that would have gotten old by now?"
"I know I couldn't live worrying about that kind of thing," Skelter said.
"Well…it kind of is tiring," Satine admitted. "But on the other hand the entire time I've been a vampire people have genuinely believed the end is coming. But 'final nights' is pretty nonspecific so it could be that it's eight years of moving towards the end."
"You really can't live that way," Damsel told her.
"I don't really have much of a choice."
"Sure you do, just change your thoughts, remember?" Damsel said rhetorically.
"We believe it's the end of days and so do the humans. Maybe this time it will really happen," Satine suggested.
"Eh, the humans thought the world was ending back in 2000. The whole Y2K thing, remember?" Jack asked.
Satine shook her head. "Not really…"
"The problem with her memory issues is that I can never tell if she means it when she says that or if she's just refusing to admit something," Damsel said.
"I really don't!"
"Right because you'd say something else if you were lying," Damsel said skeptically.
"I don't even know why people thought they were dying then. Like because people in this part of the world had decided that it was the year 2000 something would happen?" Jack scoffed.
"I know people thought all their devices would stop working when the year changed from 99 to 00," Damsel said.
"And the world is still doing fine," Jack declared.
"Well that was right before or maybe around when all this Gehenna talk started," Satine pointed out.
"If 'Gehenna' is going to last a thousand years then why worry about it now?" Jack asked.
"That's the kind of thinking that will get us all killed."
"Not if people like you do, in fact, worry about it," Jack countered.
"…You may have a point. Or at least I hope you do," Satine said. "Look just because they were wrong once doesn't mean they're wrong again."
"And it sure as hell doesn't mean they're right!" Damsel cried out. "Jesus, Satine, it always goes like this. Everyone gets really worked up thinking the world is going to end and then when it doesn't the people who said it was going to come up with some excuse as to why it didn't and then they get more followers than ever despite being shown to be full of shit."
"They haven't been shown to be wrong yet," Satine said delicately.
Damsel tried to say something but ended up making a bunch of incoherent angry noises.
"I think you broke Damsel," Skelter said, amused. "Watch yourself."
"Please tell me you're not going to do this every time the humans think the world is going to end," Jack pleaded. "Or when our kind believe more strongly than usual that the end is nigh."
"Well I won't have to if it ends tomorrow," Satine said reasonably. "But you know, I don't even know if I believe!"
"I do," Skelter said shortly. "You know that not everyone even agrees that the Mayans really meant tomorrow? It might be a calculation error."
Satine whipped her phone out and started typing frantically.
"Oh, now look what you've done!" Jack complained.
Satine's phone switched over to midnight and she continued to wait for the end of the world.