Waiting for Gehenna

Satine (which was a perfectly fine name and not just the name of a fabric or fictional prostitute or anything like that and even if it wasn't then it was still kind of what she was stuck with) had something on her mind but she was a little worried that it might come out wrong. Things often did come out wrong with her and she trusted that if she had the chance to explain it then people would understand but often she wasn't given the chance to explain and Nines Rodriguez wasn't the type to want to listen if she pressed the wrong button.

So far she'd been given plenty of leeway because she was so new and because he had invested a little bit in her well-being but sooner or later that was going to wear off. She was still too new to really understand much about vampire etiquette and the problems with taboos were that nobody spoke of them so she never found out what they were.

She had thought she was being perfectly reasonable asking if Nines wanted to be the new prince of LA. Isaac was an Anarch prince over in Hollywood (or "baron." Whatever, really) and even though Therese had officially joined the Camarilla and Santa Monica was infamous for only having like four vampires in it she was once an Anarch, too. And surprisingly high-functioning for being a mad Malkavian unaware of her two faces. At least Therese's mental problem seemed to be an obsessive need for power and that kept her focused and acting rationally. Jeanette…well she was very…likable. Better leave it at that.

"I have to tell you," she said finally, glancing over at Nines. "I'm getting some serious Gaston vibes here."

"Gaston?" Nines repeated quizzically. He was healing quickly, as vampires always did, but he still wasn't back up to full strength and the Anarchs were being perhaps more cautious than was needed. She didn't blame them. She had been there when the werewolf had attacked and she couldn't imagine the state that Nines had been in when he had managed to get back to the others.

Satine drew back, surprised. "You've never seen Beauty and the Beast?"

"It was a little after my time," he told her.

"Well, yeah, you wouldn't have seen it when you were alive but don't pretend that vampires don't watch movies!" Satine exclaimed. "Damsel and Jack actually made popcorn just so they could throw it at the screen when they watched Dracula."

Nines shrugged. "Well I've still never seen Beauty and the Beast and I don't know who Gaston is."

"He was the would-be love interest of our heroine," Satine replied. "Really obnoxious and creepy but in a way you might not fully appreciate until you think about it later. But the point was he was a hunter and hung the heads of the animals he killed above his mantelpiece."

Nines smiled at that. "I don't think anybody would have forgiven me if I hadn't had the werewolf's head stuffed and mounted after I tore it off."

"Well what else were you supposed to do with it?" Satine asked reasonably. "Just throw it away? Besides, that's the sort of thing that needs to be seen to be believed. I wish I could have watched you do it."

"Satine, if you were there you had better have been helping me," Nines said.

Satine laughed. "Oh, I would have been. But then you would have had to share the glory so there's that."

"I'm an Anarch not a power-hungry Camarilla bastard."

Satine nodded absently. She personally saw nothing wrong with a little glory and enjoyed every bit of the glory she got for her adventures with LaCroix.

"It's hard to believe it all ended up like this," she mused. "There I was on the stage about to be put to death after my murder because I was dead and then you stepped in and saved me and then LaCroix kept trying to get me killed in increasingly less subtle ways until I finally just let him blow himself up."

"I find it hard to believe as well," Nines agreed. "Jack, perhaps, expected something like this but I'm just glad that, Ventrue or not, you understand what's really important."

"I…won't pretend that it was an easy choice," Satine admitted. "As you said, I'm a Ventrue. LaCroix was actively trying to kill me and he still treated me accordingly and though I was just a few days old I still got the vague impression of what that meant from others."

"The Ventrue rule the Camarilla," Nines said. "I don't remember the last time I met a Ventrue Anarch."

"I would have been mad to stay with LaCroix but he wasn't my only option. I never pushed my luck since I knew he wanted to kill me but I got the impression he wouldn't have just let me not work for him. Strauss made it clear, as noncommittally as he seems to do everything, that I could have gone to him. And maybe all the real power would have been in Europe and vampires from freaking biblical times and maybe I'm more effective as a sheriff-type than a prince-type but I still could have really had something. And I like Strauss," she added almost an afterthought. "I tend to like most of the vampires I meet. Not Gary, though."

"And LaCroix, surely," Nines said.

Satine looked away.

Nines raised an eyebrow. "Seriously? You've admitted he spent the entire time he knew you trying to kill you."

"I didn't want to like him and I knew he was bad news but I have a weakness for poshness," Satine said weakly.

Nines rolled his eyes at her. "You are such a Ventrue. Maybe he dominated you."

"I don't remember him doing that but I guess he could have dominated me into forgetting," Satine said thoughtfully. "It seems pretty petty but, well, I wouldn't put that past him either. I know he tried to dominate me into giving him the key at the end but it didn't work but then I had a pretty strange power surge just before then."

"You liked LaCroix but you didn't like Gary?" Nines asked. "Even taking into account your utterly superficial Ventrue reasons, what was wrong with Gary?"

"Well when I met him he had a bunch of decomposed corpses sitting around a table and claimed it was a reunion from some movie he might have been in," Satine explained. "And he double-crossed LaCroix so I had to go out of my way to track him down and he still made me run another errand before he'd give me the means to know where I had to carve a bloody swath through. And Imalia, who was actually also kind of a bitch come to think of it, said that he'd turned her because he thought she was too stuck-up about being beautiful."

"The Nosferatu do that," Nines told her. "Gary himself was a handsome actor once I believe."

"And that is so messed up on so many levels and that he would do that to someone else after having had that done to him…they really seem to make being a vampire a punishment, don't they? It's like they're all so bitter they have to share the misery. And he said he wanted me to suffer because I'm a Ventrue and sounded like he really meant it. What was it he said? Something about wanting to throw my mirror into something sharp and watch me cut myself up getting it. It was creepy and inappropriate and rude and did nothing to convince me he wasn't a total asshole. I mean, Mitnick I can understand because of the Masquerade but Imalia? He's just a terrible person and if I never have to deal with him again I will be a happy vampire. I mean, I know a lot of people don't like the Nosferatu because they're ugly but I'm not that shallow. Maybe they have their reasons to be bitter assholes but that doesn't mean I have to like them."

Nines chuckled. "Okay, we'll try to keep you away from the Nosferatu. They don't generally have much to do with us because they tend to stick to themselves in the sewers since they can't be seen in public and so have less of a stake in this than any of us."

"I can deal with Nosferatu idealists," Satine claimed.

"We've gotten off-topic," Nines noted. "Why didn't you go to Strauss?"

Satine frowned. "You saved me twice. Once when I was helpless in the courtroom and no one else gave a damn and once when I just got to the downtown and I really should have known better than to let the Sabbat take me by surprise. Jack helped me understand what I was and how to survive when the Sabbat were raiding after I first got to Santa Monica. After dodging assassination attempts from every idiot who heard of the blood hunt…I wouldn't have even known to expect that if Jack hadn't come to my rescue after I left you. He told me what was happening and where to find transportation. The cabbie asked me who made me feel safest. Well, that was a pretty simple answer."

Nines nodded in satisfaction. "Anarchs take care of each other." He tiled his head. "Exactly how obvious were LaCroix's attempts to kill you, anyway?"

"Well at first they were decently subtle," Satine replied. "He sent me to Santa Monica to meet an associate of his there who would give me a task and I would do it before coming back. Conceivably he didn't know that it was a well-guarded Sabbat warehouse that I needed to literally cheat to escape before the explosion."

Nines blinked. "What do you mean 'cheat'?"

"It doesn't matter," Satine said airily. "He probably couldn't have known what I'd have to go to to even get the Astrolite to around the warehouse. And maybe he didn't expect there to be any witnesses. I know for a fact there weren't but I guess it might have gotten around that I got the Astrolite and was trying to get Tung to take me to the warehouse. After that he wanted me to just sneak aboard a ship and get some information and I was really more in danger of having to kill everyone there than anything. And the museum was a bit more challenging but, again, at most he'd just get to yell at me for killing everyone there. He kept telling me that he had to send me on these all-important missions as I was his best agent and the only one he could count on. I guess that he was trying to flatter me but since I was only a week old when he died it really just made him look incompetent."

Nines snorted. "I guess he wasn't all that concerned with how he appeared to someone who he was supposed to be killing."

"He sent me to Grout's mansion looking for a missing Primogen that the other Primogen were so worried about they appealed to LaCroix. I suppose he intended that I make it back alive from that so I could accidentally help frame you and it's not his fault Grout's mansion was such a horror show. Then he was all 'oh, go find the Nosferatu and make Gary cooperate even though he was happy to double-cross me' and had no real idea of how to find them. He knew I went off to Chinatown completely unprepared for the Kuei-Jin and the Giovanni. If I were in the mood for being fair, I'd say that while he knew I'd be facing down the Kuei-Jin once Gary sent me to Chinatown simply because how could I not, he didn't know that the Giovanni would be involved. Granted if he had known then he would have just sent me there." Satine shuddered.

"Not a fan?"

"I heard some pretty vile stuff about them and necrophilia and incest and the like," Satine replied. "I didn't actually see them doing any of it or get any details. I do know that apparently it's harder for them to feed off of people without killing them and from everything else I've heard I doubt they just rely on blood banks. I saw a lot of zombies wandering around I had to dispatch and I'm sure the real horror of whatever was going on just completely escaped me. I crashed this little family gathering and it seemed like their whole family was only vaguely adhering to the Masquerade."

"The Camarilla like to insist that we are all its members but they're more than willing to just leave Clan Giovanni out of it," Nines said.

"I don't even know why I got involved, I guess I just didn't see the point of going to a party and then immediately running off to go killing zombies or something," Satine said vaguely. "But there were three people who were vying to become vampires or at least ghouls or something but they all wanted the other two discredited and they all had something to hide. I actually got involved with that and hope that that doesn't come back to haunt me. I mean, he said that he'd remember and repay me when it was my turn but...he kind of thought I was a Giovanni at the time and not someone out to outright steal from them. And the whole place just gave me a bad vibe."

"Oh?" Nines looked intrigued.

"I don't even remember their names. I think the one I picked was named Chris but as for the others...who knows. The first woman I talked to seemed really sympathetic at first. She pointed out she was a genuine asset but had to worry that a mistake she made from the past might get back to her and that her family wasn't very forgiving. It turns out she had HIV from her drug deals and so needed to become a ghoul to stay alive. It didn't occur to me that by doing nothing she and whoever her sire or vampiric master or whoever could become an HIV bringer, though I suppose with all the killing of people feeding on it wouldn't be a plague, but that might have been a complication. It was literally a matter of saving her life and she seemed nice enough...until she called me a dyke."

Nines raised an eyebrow. "You let someone die for insulting you?"

"I'm sure people have let people die for less and I didn't kill her or give her HIV or anything. I'm also not the one who will look at her illness and decide not to let her into the vampire family," Satine said unrepentantly."The next guy was an outright idiot. I had to try and persuade the woman and Chris and to confess to a deep dark secret in order to get theirs. The fact that running someone over and fleeing the scene held the same weight as being gay might say something about them and it's really odd given the things they supposedly get up to. Someone said something about a blood orgy mass? This guy I just had to ask him how his investments were and he confessed he lost all his money and was broke. Not very impressive. The last guy didn't even ask me to help with his family, unlike the others, but I just volunteered the information. He was perfectly competent and hadn't done anything wrong himself but his mother had an affair so he wasn't technically a Giovanni. That would be a bigger chance ruiner than the other two even though he had done nothing wrong. And while I'm loathe to turn others, it was what they wanted and they seemed to know what was going on. I just worry that I may have made them stronger by getting rid of the weak links and that this was a very bad thing."

Nines was quiet for a moment, digesting that. "It could be worse. At least it wasn't the Sabbat."

Satine laughed. "That is true! Anyway, after I got back from the Giovanni LaCroix just stopped trying."

"Stopped trying to kill you?" Nines asked.

Satine shook her head. "No, stopped trying to pretend that wasn't going on. I shouldn't have survived all of that, I know. Without all the cheating, I probably wouldn't have."

"You keep bringing that up and I really don't understand your meaning," Nines said.

Satine said nothing.

Nines sighed. "I'm going to just assume you mean clan powers."

"Probably for the best. I got back and he told me to single-handedly invade the stronghold of the Society of Overly Religious Nutcases who believe we are all evil and must die even though I think I'm a far better person than any of them. When I survived that he told me to go single-handedly get rid of the Sabbat in LA by storming their headquarters, something he admitted even the Sheriff couldn't do. And he told security not to expect anyone! He couldn't even keep up the pretense in case I did make it back? Then he told me to single-handedly find you and work out a viable plan of alliance against the Kuei-Jin even though I was clearly not qualified for that and he just sort of ignored the fact the Kuei-Jin leader told me that they were allies and had framed you. Oh, he believed me when I said that she proved she killed Grout and framed you but brushed past the rest. I think he was pretty happy to get to try to kill me directly though, of course, that didn't get him very far either. He even had the doorman instructed not to let me up like there was any universe in which that would have stopped me. If I hadn't been a Ventrue I might have had to kill him."

"Oh, I don't know. We non-blue-blood types can be pretty persuasive." Nines shook his head. "What a week. If LaCroix didn't thoroughly deserve it I would almost feel bad for him."

Satine stuck her nose in the air. "I will not apologize for not dying. Again."

They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes. It was strange to just be able to rest.

"Is it true what they say about you protecting me because we were both sireless?" she asked.

"Who told you that?"

Satine's brow furrowed. "I don't know."

"No, it's alright. Just tell me," Nines said.

"I honestly don't remember," Satine said. "Maybe an Anarch? I don't think anyone else really wanted to talk all that much about you except LaCroix when he was setting you up. And having the nerve to yell at me for failing him all the time when I was actually adhering to his real plan to get rid of the Kuei-Jin and the Anarchs."

"He was hardly a charmer," Nines replied. "I guess that might have been part of it. While I don't agree with the Camarilla on many things, I could understand why your sire was staked. You had done nothing, though, and I'd like to think I would have intervened even if I couldn't emphasize. And then when the Sabbat were on you, how could I not try to help? Three on one isn't good odds especially since they took you by surprise."

"That's another reason I almost had to side with the Anarchs," Satine mused.

"Because I saved you?" Nines asked. "You already said that."

Satine shook her head. "No, not that. I get that he didn't ask permission and I know why the system of asking for permission in the first place began. I understand why certain people who don't deserve to die are often condemned to die. Skelter even asked me to kill this girl named Patty because she was unstable and addicted and her vampire was…I don't even know. Maybe dead."

"Sometimes terrible things must be done for the good of all," Nines said gravely.

"I know that," Satine said. "I know what would happen to us if the humans found out about us. We're stronger than them but they've got fire and military-grade weaponry and if they can hit us enough times from far enough away…not to mention the sunlight thing! It's just…"

"I know."

"I was told time and time and time again by people who really should take care of their own damn problems and not just expect the new girl to do everything – at least Skelter had a reason why he didn't want to go after Patty! – that I needed to kill someone who didn't deserve to die. Patty was just trying to find the man who made her fantastically and helplessly devoted to him and no matter what he might have told her she couldn't have really understood what that meant beforehand. 'Vivi' was too much of a coward to kill the thin-blood who was telling vampire secrets to a human but sent me out because she insisted it had to happen. She wouldn't even kill the hunter stalking her or tear up a damn screenplay! A deranged whatever kind of vampire that had to eat human organs slaughtered a whole bunch of people when they had the misfortune of going into the same building as her and then bid me go bring the survivor back for her to kill because he'd 'seen too much.' And whose fault was that? And when I said I was going to kill her for being such a monster she started on with 'oh, what a slippery slope! Start off killing people who must be prolific serial killers to survive and then the next thing you know you'll start targeting anyone who is even a little bit different than you.' To some extent the slippery slope argument makes sense if you look at it as a gateway action but how does what she posited make any freaking sense?" Satine ranted. It felt good to get it all out. She didn't need to breathe but she felt like she should be breathing hard by the end of it.

Now, technically she hadn't needed to do anything that did not further LaCroix's supposed goals and it did annoy her that nearly all of her interactions with other kindred had cast her in the role of lackey but it seemed to her that earning their goodwill and doing them a favor could very well pay off someday even if she couldn't immediately see how.

Nines was gazing evenly at her. "Do you feel better?"

Satine looked surprised. "I do, actually."

"You seem very concerned for the humans," Nines noted. "It's unusual in our kind outside of the Toreadors."

"Jack likened them to cattle," Satine agreed. "Maybe it was that I was so recently human myself but I just can't imagine no longer caring what happens just because I happen to be dead."

"Hold on to that as long as you can and as long as it doesn't endanger the Masquerade," Nines advised. "You need that humanity."

Satine nodded. "Honestly I don't think I could give it up if I tried."

"I'm not going to pretend that this world of ours isn't messed up, though we do what we can, or that innocents don't get caught in the crossfire. I'm sorry you keep encountering this and having to kill for the Masquerade."

She hadn't killed any of them except for Pisha. She had initially just refused to bring that unfortunate man back and Pisha had said something about how she had to do it and then wouldn't stop pestering her because she had requested the human brought back. Well Satine wasn't bound to obey her every whim and wasn't going to let such a monster roam the city.

And in the end killing that man hadn't even been necessary. She just used dominate and told him never to speak of it and he wouldn't. Maybe it wasn't Pisha's fault what she needed to do to survive but that didn't mean that Satine was just about to leave her to go do it. If she could have changed like that other serial killer could have (what was he? A vampire? If he was why he would he have referred to her as a vampire and not a kindred? Maybe he was a Caitiff He wasn't quite human and she hadn't bothered to ask) then it would have been different but it wasn't a matter of malice but necessity for her.

"Thank you. I'm told that normally this kind of thing isn't so rampant but with the sarcophagus and rumors of Gehenna people were getting…stupid."

"I wonder how long we will have to wait with no Gehenna before people give up on that. The lack of an Antediluvian and that explosion should help but people are reluctant to let go of these things," Nines said. "Should Gehenna actually come then the wait would come to an end, too."

"I know that I was being hit with 'don't open it!' from all sides since before I had even heard of the sarcophagus and only Beckett had the decency to let me know that he was actually talking about that and not…whatever else but I'm still kind of in shock that everything worked out when I just gave LaCroix the one thing he'd been lusting after all that time and left," Satine said, shaking her head.

"It is counterintuitive," Nines agreed.

"I absolutely have no idea what Jack did with the mummy if anyone asks but until an Antediluvian comes knocking on my door seeking to devour me, I think I'm just going to assume it's not happening," Satine said. "After all, I have no more reason to believe in this than I did any human religions."

"Do you even know if you practiced any religion while human?" Nines asked curiously.

Satine sighed. "Unfortunately, no."

"It's all very strange, your siring," Nines mused. "No one else I've ever heard of has had memory problems following their siring and your power increase wasn't normal."

"I never understood how they knew what that man was up to when it was my apartment and how they managed to get there right after he turned me into a vampire," Satine confided.

"Maybe they got something almost lucid from a Malkavian," Nines suggested. "It's been known to happen. I knew that LaCroix was new and whatnot but he wasn't so new that I wasn't confused when he started talking about your sire as someone he had trusted to be loyal and who he cared deeply for and so was so personally betrayed. I figured it was like when he was talking about you as though you were his own childe after you supposed killed me when he had done nothing but try to get you killed since he first knew of you. He was just playing to the crowd and being melodramatic."

"I think that I would have liked to have known his name," Satine remarked. "At the very least it would have given me something to call him instead of 'that man' or 'the guy who turned me into a vampire.' And everyone places so much importance on generation and I literally have no idea what I am. Probably a bit lower than average, I should think, given what I've managed to do and how quickly but who can say?"

"I don't know anyone who knows that but you can try asking around," Nines offered. "As to how to address him, what's the matter with 'my sire'?"

Satine made a face. "I…just don't like it."

Nines laughed. "Is that all? Why not?"

"I feel it implies something I don't mean to convey."

"And I feel like this is another Ventrue thing," Nines said.

Satine shrugged. "It could be, I don't know. I don't think so but then I wouldn't know. Are you going to say that it's a Ventrue thing whenever you don't understand me?"

"I will not be nearly the only one," Nines answered.

Satine groaned. "I don't actually remember but I know that the Ventrue's shtick is that they recruit from the elite of humanity. From what I can piece together, my family was far from homeless but we weren't really their type, I don't think. I'm nearly positive I never had a trust fund nor do I think I was old enough to have made something of myself to attract them. I'm just…an odd choice."

"It's another one of the myriad of questions you'll never have answered due to LaCroix's impulsiveness and need to grandstand," Nines said gravely, an undercurrent of anger in his voice.

"There have been a lot of people who have given me their condolences about that man. LaCroix asked me if I sought to avenge him when I saw him for the last time."

"It makes sense," Nines told her. "He was your sire. You were robbed of him but he's still important."

Satine rolled her eyes. "He's my murderer is what he is."

"Do you really think that?" Nines asked, aghast, staring at her.

Satine met his gaze calmly. "I was alive and now I'm not and the reason I'm not is because he turned me into a vampire. I don't see how that's a matter of interpretation."

"It's the way you're looking at it," Nines told her. "While perhaps not strictly inaccurate it's not a good way to view things."

"It's the only way I've got," Satine said. "Look, I've never sired someone. I don't actually know how to nor do I have any desire to and I certainly don't know whose permission I need to seek. I'm still learning myself so I'd make a pretty substandard sire anyway. I know that a lot of the Nosferatu don't choose it and that the Giovanni – whatever clan or sect or something they are – are practically panting for it. But he didn't ask me, I know that much, and I never would have chosen this."

"Not many do," Nines told her. "It's hard to ask permission. Unless someone is at least a ghoul and can be controlled that way, it's a huge risk to let them know about us. Even looking to create a ghoul is risky though the devotion can mitigate that risk. If they say no we would have to kill them in which case their saying yes is under duress or we ignore the no and just turn them anyway in which case what is the point of asking permission in the first place? There are plenty who love the idea of eternal 'life', so to speak, and the vampiric powers but I too never chose this life. I just never saw the use of trying to defy gravity."

Satine's reaction was immediate. "You saw Wicked but not Beauty and the Beast?"

"That's a little beside the point, don't you think?"

Satine sighed. "I guess. I'm not happy about being a vampire and I don't think that's going to change. I'm definitely not happy about having this supposed beast inside of me though thankfully I've never really noticed it. I don't like having to drink blood and having to only drink the blood of those well off doesn't make any sense to me and is a pain. I mean, what is the real difference between the blood of a homeless person who takes care of themselves and a PhD who doesn't? Why is the healthy one not something I can keep down? I don't like not being able to go around during the daytime or the amnesia that apparently is unique to me when I'm not even a Malkavian. I'm not happy I'm still around but cut off from the people I'm sure I must have once cared for. I don't like being constantly judged by the living and told that I am damned even when I try so fucking hard to always do the right thing and help people and all they have to do is not be a vampire. I don't like being expected to kill people for any reason but especially flimsy Masquerade reasons and I don't like being told that I'm no longer free but bound to the Camarilla."

"Is there anything that you do like about being a vampire?" Nines asked seriously.

"I do like having super strength and these vampire powers," Satine admitted. "I can't imagine why I wouldn't. But it's not worth it. What happened for the two minutes I accidentally tried to have a ghoul freaked me out. I was just trying to save a dying girl and she became completely obsessed with me. Tracked me down somehow and begged to move in. I told her no and she acted like I said yes. I tried to play along even though it was making me really uncomfortable and it was only when she started talking about giving me her loan money and dropping out of school to watch me sleep that I forced her away. If I couldn't dominate her I don't know what I would have done."

Nines hesitated. "I hope you do not take offence when I ask this but if you are so miserable as a vampire then why have you not tried to end yourself? It is rare but not unheard of."

"I guess…" Satine trailed off. "I'm not suicidal and I never was. I don't want to go. And maybe I'm worried that they'll be right about me and the mere fact that I was killed and brought back like this means I'm damned."

"For what it's worth, I hope you continue to refrain from killing yourself," Nines told her.

Satine smiled. "Thank you. I didn't even realize that he was my…you know until after he was dead. I was confused and didn't feel anything for him while he was alive. Now that he's dead I know that I hate him more than I have ever hated anyone and I don't know anything about him. Maybe he was trying to do good or knew that I'm supposed to do good or something like that. I don't know. I don't care. He murdered me and made me into this and that's enough for me. But I have to say I don't understand the sire childe bond. LaCroix said 'like sire like childe' the last time I saw him and, I won't lie, that's half the reason I tore his throat open."

"I never really had a sire either so I'm in nearly the same position as you," Nines said. "Except that I never hated my sire. I lost him early on so I wasn't as attached as some but I know that there was a definite bond. From the moment that I awoke and found out that I was no longer human, my sire was very important to me."

"I know he teaches you about being a vampire and that's nice but a literal blood bond? That sounds like a ghoul," Satine said, shuddering.

"You don't like ghouls?" Nines asked curiously.

"Oh, no, it's always nice to have a human I don't have to lie to," Satine said. "I just had a bad experience one time when I accidentally made one of my own. She got a little...obsessive. I had to send her away and dominate her into never coming back. It was for her own good."

"I'm sure it was."

"I can't imagine having that same sort of bond even if it were weaker. Just because someone murders you doesn't mean that they deserve your loyalty or any sort of affection. Quite the opposite, really. If he had lived I would have been dependent on him and I probably would have had to hide away since I shouldn't have existed," Satine said. "It is an intolerable thought. I might have even been pathetically grateful that he was taking care of me and teaching me what I needed to know about this mess-up world he dragged me into."

Nines peered closely at her. "You did say that you liked LaCroix beyond reason and that you were grateful to Jack. Both of which acted as surrogate sires to you from what I understand."

Satine appeared a little discomforted by the thought before shaking herself. "They weren't my killers, though."

"Our society could not function if every childe hated their sire," Nines told her.

"So maybe that explains why no one else seems to but I know that I do," Satine said. "Imalia's the biggest one I don't understand. Mitnick's fine with it and Gary is twisted and it's been forty years. But Imalia is so bitter that she was driven to destroy a girl I don't think she even knew because everyone thought she was the most beautiful model around. She just seems to hate being a vampire as much as I do and while she didn't actually say anything about loving Gary she didn't seem at all bitter about him even when she said that he turned her to be a vindictive asshole because he thought she was too vain. Like what he did to her was a goddamn cautionary tale. And I have to wonder. Did she just not want to admit to hating him? Does she still need him? She is a Nosferatu and that makes her vulnerable."

"Did you try asking her?" Nines asked.

Satine burst out laughing. "I am not going down there. Ever again. It's just not happening. In fact, I was this close to just leaving and trusting LaCroix to dominate me or something before I kept going. Also the reason I didn't mind having to go up against Andrei twice."

"If your sire – whoever he was – was still around then it might cause problems but since he's dead I don't think it matters that you hate him except that it might make it awkward if someone else speaks well of him to you or tries to offer condolences," Nines said reasonably. "And I can't imagine you'd be willing to sire a vampire so easily."

"Or able to," Satine added. "Isaac said that Ash didn't hate him and he seemed so sure of it and Ash seemed to hate being a vampire more than I do. Or at least he was more apathetic about dying than I am. He seemed to take it as a matter of course that Ash didn't hate him but probably resented him. Even if they were close before that seems a pretty big assumption. Maybe he knows something that I don't or maybe that's just wishful thinking."

"Well I can't fix all the problems you have with being a vampire but, thanks to you taking down the Kuei-Jin and LaCroix's untimely demise as well as the legend growing around that night, we have another shot at an Anarch Free State and this time we're not going to let it go so easily."

He was still injured and there were no enemies in sight but just looking at him Satine felt ready to take on the world.

The cabbie had questioned her choice of the Anarchs in a way that she suspected he would have questioned no matter what she chose. He wanted to make sure she really thought it through or else why ask at all and not try to persuade? She didn't want to spend the rest of her…decades or centuries or whatever fighting and right now it looked like she was going to have to do just that. But it was worth it, wasn't it? There were no better options and sooner or later the vampire world would wise up and realize that, too, or at least consent to leave them alone. They had for a few decades before the Kuei-Jin came in and ruined everything. Maybe the Anarchs had their secrets, too, and it could be just some pretty words and naive fools but she had seen Man of La Mancha and there was a reason Aldonza had started calling herself Dulcinea at the end.

A lifetime of fighting with a group largely comprised of people who valued the fight a great deal more than she did. At least she presumably wouldn't have to do all of this on her own anymore.

Or who knew?

Gehenna could always come and kill them all.