Ask for two things. One you don’t have a chance of getting and the thing you really want.
For a while Quinn sat in the tall backed, comfortable chair, legs stretched in out to the ottoman in a huddle of comforter and fluffy pillows, staring at the empty fire place. The silence, filled with the familiar focus of Rivington’s steady mind seeped into her burning wounds with each tick-tock of the unseen clock. Closing her eyes, trying to focus on more than the creeping crawl of self-knitting flesh, Quinn resisted the urge to claw and rend the bothersome patches that itched and throbbed with every repaired nerve. It was then the addiction raised its fathomless head; a cajoling command that stripped away finer qualities until Quinn’s teeth ached.
Rivington lifted his ugly yellow notepad to the antique light, oblivious to his companion’s plight. “Is this okay?” A breath changed his question to the blades edge of contractual command. “The Prince will agree to grant Shane the aria around the collage as a Domain, if he grants hospitality to Rivington and Quinn, and that he agrees to stop interfering with the businesses in Kenosha.”
At the sound of Shane’s name, Quinn’s eye twitched and with that insignificant movement a new wave of agony ripped over her enflamed form. “No,” she hissed, malice dripping from every word. “I told you, he can have it as a Fiefdom. He gets any sort of foot hold here and he will not stop fucking around.” Hot, impassioned eyes focused on the golden profile calmly making notes. “That land is ours by Cam law. What does he have on you? Did he dominate you?”
Rivington’s eyes turned towards the sky, quietly pleading. “I'm not dominated. You can't grant the land to him as a fiefdom as he is not part of the Camarilla.” A guttural sound was Quinn’s reply. He waited, counting down the seconds until…
“He has to give me a shit load of stuff because I am so pissed at him right now.”
There it was. Reason. “If we want Blackthorne for free we need to get me into that position. In order to get me in there we need to give him that feeding ground. He wants that one because his mansion is there. Otherwise there is $60k a month for Blackthorne.”
The silence that accompanied her thoughts was vibrant. Unknown illusions of flickering things just beyond reality crowded the pain of her vision, tangling and destroying the calming webs of her control. Only one conclusion could be found. “Rivington, be one hundred percent with me. Are you planning on getting a foot hold, taking over the company, edging Shane out of it, then using it to track his resources and influences to take them for yourself?”
Rivington’s sculpted brow rose at the unexpected brilliance. “It hadn't crossed my mind, but that is a good idea.”
A slow breath carried the scent of something thick and laced with herbs as the Harpy’s pretty ghoul came in with a carved tray covered in medicinal items. “He wants it because his house is there?” Rivington’s was silent. “Fine, you're getting into Blackthorn for getting me to grant this. What am I getting from him?”
“Blackthorn protection for free.”
“Nope. Not good enough. I'm the prince because his sorry ass booked out. I got set on fire because of him. Fire. I want a contract for his frikin soul. I demand the Faustian contract tight kinda legal stuff from him.”
“Shane isn't going to sign anything like that.” He watched with detached interest as Andrea pried the comforter from Quinn’s faltering grip. “How is being set on fire his fault?”
“If he had sucked up the insult,” the Prince hissed as she lifted herself up while the ghoul exposed the expertly applied bandages that covered most of Quinn’s form, “he would have not only been able to take the princedom from Katla …or ruled through her, but apparently he's just not that smart and that disappoints me… but I wouldn't have been appointed prince which means I wouldn't have been the target of a pissed off disembodied Tremere with fire magic from beyond! I have a bag of blood and goo that used to be some innocent werewolf kin in my basement. It's a bio hazard! My party was in ruins! I heard his frikin ghoul disrespect me to you. Yeah, he wants to go to his home. I get it. That fucking deserter is riding his last edge with me! So, you know... That's why.”
As the wrappings were slowly unraveled with a masterful hand, Quinn couldn’t help but admire the grace of the ghoul. If she weren’t so methodical, she might have belonged to a Torrie. Shame, really. “I itch.”
“It’s a stretch to connect all of that but okay.” The ugly paper regained his focus. “What do you want?”
“It's not a stretch Rivington. It's the long game. This is why you need me. I see the long game. His ass will owe me. You know what I want from him? I want three things. Three itty bitty things he can totally spare.”
“And they are?”
“The Blackthorn thing is what he is giving you. I want a permanent bump in Resources from him. He's richer than Croesus and so that should be easy enough. I want him to connect us to his contacts and influences. I need to protect my people and lands; he has the stuff we need...” Her attention was grabbed by the bottle Andrea was tipping scented contents from. For a moment Quinn wondered what could possibly be such an unnatural shade of pink but decided it didn’t matter once the cool touch of a saturated cotton ball eased the torture of her well baked skin.
Regaining her train of thought, Quinn paraded on with offhanded insight. “Don't think I don't know that Katla is still his bitch. That land was taken by her right before she abdicated. The hunter driving her out? Bull. It’s Shane trying to make it so undesirable that it’s no loss to give it to him. Real estate transactions? Like he’ll ever get me with one of those. Like she's not feeding him info. I want him to flat out contract swear he and none of his,” her bandaged hands arched outwards in explanation, “noun…s,” the s hit hard for emphasis, “will try to butt into our nouns. And frankly, I don't see why you aren't making him give you lore out the ass for this shit. He betrayed us by leaving in the middle of a crisis. We’re new. He knew what that would do to us. Serious. So pissed off. So, so Pissed Off.”
Rivington’s steady gaze didn’t falter as she swore a blue streak when his assistant removed the rest of the medical dressing to apply treatment. Quinn’s skin looked like something left warming the oven overnight; cracked, black and oozing unsavory liquids that may have once been flesh. That had to hurt. He would be indulgent.
“Because he deserted the Camarilla: His ass will owe me a Boon. I'm torn between life or just Major. Because I was set on fucking fire.”
“He can't owe boons. He is not part of the Camarilla.”
“Damn it!” A deep, rattling breath. “Fine. Fine on that part.” Quinn winced as her head was turned for better access by the ghoul as she slathered on the medicated ointment. “Why is Andrea covering me in pink goop?”
“I'm also fairly certain that Shane didn't long game to get you set on fire or have biohazard in your basement. He was sneaky, but even he isn't that good.” Rivington replied, ignoring the rest of her inquiry.
“That was just a bonus. You know, the worst part is I used to like him. I was shocked when he didn't make Prince. I dunno what happened there, but frikin Nine Hells of Sanity, I smell like peppermint now!” A slow growl carved its way from Quinn as her hands tried to flex into deadly daggers only to crack the damaged skin. The icy release of the medication had begun to sting. “Seriously, what is this pink goop?”
“It helps with the itching,” Rivington replied dismissively.
Quinn grunted. If he wasn’t concerned then it must be safe. What could she do to the deserter to cause him sincere regret for the rest of his nights? A frown marred the mask of pink saturating her expression. Not wishing to look like some sort of Pepto-Bismol clown, she turned her thoughts to more practical matters. What did the Prince need for her domain? There were so many options, but most horrific thing to her was the sheer amount of unknowns out there she couldn’t defend the court against. It was galling. “Make him teach me something then. He's not Cam anymore, so can I learn that thingy you have from him?”
Rivington’s pen paused. “Dominate?”
“Is that the one? I want the one that was awesome but you said was not allowed for me because it was a Ventrue thing. And lore. I want lore. I need to know stuff.”
Ink slipped out a four letter word on the yellow paper as Rivington watched Andrea apply fresh bandages. Quinn was getting dangerously close to asking for things that would get them both sunned. It was time to distract. “He couldn't be Prince because of the crap he pulled with the Prince of Milwaukee.”
“He backed out of a deal with the Prince of Milwaukee.”
“Was the prince a Venture? I didn't think so.”
“She vowed that he would never hold a position of appointed power.” The Harpy gave a half smile, “I'm sorry. A position of courtly power. That is why he could be harpy. It wasn't part of the court.”
Pain has a way of making even the most airheaded bon vivant focus. That sneaky fucking bastard, Quinn seethed. Shane couldn’t get his crown the right way so he tried to word play his way into taking the throne. Power. It all came down to power. What a waste of an unlife. “Either way, if he'd just waited he could have had the throne because she's all dead now and stuff.”
“He couldn't know the Sabbat would attack.”
“Still seems to me like he's trying to be a Prince, even if it's in a smaller aria, and that does still give him a foot hold in my territory so he's gonna cough up his brass plated balls on a silver platter before I consider it. I get why he wants it. I'm not unreasonable, but betraying the Cam because he got butt hurt? No, he gots ta pay a price.” Suddenly the cold clarity of traumatic paranoia shaped itself from caffeine deprivation. “Also, I feel like you're telling him these things right now. Don't be telling him anything. Just that I want a lot for it. He should know why.”
“I'm not telling him anything. I'm waiting to get this sorted with you. I know Shane. He isn't going to give me the position and your lore, money and contacts. You need to pick something.”
“Seriously,” she said with rising passion as recent events gave the addiction a ferocious tool to chip away her higher self, “some people have called into question your loyalty to me. Not because you're Harpy, but in general. Don't betray me. I lurve you dearly, but you know my priority.” Quite suddenly the ghoul appeared with a cup of the true black gold. That fresh ground scent overpowered everything, stopping Quinn’s insanity in its tracks. “Holy shit, Andrea brought me coffee! Again! Second time in a day!” Her freshly wrapped hands gingerly took the precious brew as she tried to smile jovially. “What did you do to her?” she quipped.
Rivington’s blue eyes flashed frighteningly. The relaxed posture dissipated as his uncurled his back. The simple gesture seemed to raise him six inches in terrifying outrage alone. Andrea slipped out with the tray and shut the door behind her. “Who is questioning my loyalty?” the Harpy commanded of the entire world, his countenance bearing down upon the Prince.
Something inside Quinn cowed under the innate power of his wrath. Despite the discomfort, her hands gripped the warm cup as if it were a powerful talisman. “You were questioned by members of the Chicago Court. You were in question by your own mother, who mommy told me is just rip shit pissed that 'that idiot' got the throne over you.” Seeing the answer add fuel to his anger Quinn tried using humor to slick back the scales of Rivington’s dignity. “You sure I can't convince just one Brujah her boobs aren't real?” Rivington’s scowl didn’t waver. Biting her lower lip she spoke quickly. “Your loyalty to me is in question. In addition, because it comes from such esteemed personage, others are whispering about it. My whole court is in question. They think we are weak and unstable. I want my court loyalty solidified. That's why I need to know you got my back like I got yours. I need to know.”
To Quinn’s mind’s eye, Rivington’s thoughts were more than lawyer shades of right and wrong. They were well maintained torture devices just waiting for the right reason to focus on destroying someone in little agonizing ways until the cries of pain and pleas for mercy could be heard beyond the grave.
She tried again to calm the golden predator. In soft tones she spoke of business and gain, bit by bit pulling him away from committing a calculated execution of her entire court. “You get the position at Blackthorn. I want something too. You see, no matter how it's spun by Shane, free security is a perk of holding that much stock in the company. Don't let him fool you. You can direct it anywhere you want it to be. On me. On you. On a single blade of grass. So, you get me to do this thing... why? I know what you get, but what do I get?”
“I know,” his rumbling hiss cut out, “I said choose something from your list. He isn't going to give you three.”
“Well,” Quinn purred in admiring tones, appealing to his pride “which one of them do we really need more?”
“That is for you to decide.”
He was still killing off people in is mind. Mock trialing them to quick graves, stripping them of dignity as he marched them to the noose. She had to get him out of that mental state or he’d really do it. He’d bring the whole thing down just to prove a point. Quinn’s eyes flashed. Why had she told him?
Because he deserved to know, no matter the price. He was her only real friend. It was time to put him back on course, no matter the pain. Locking her gaze with his, she spoke with the chilling tones of a natural born Harpy raised to devastate with scorn. “Your loyalty or what we need?”
His smile was crueler for its unaccustomed familiarity. “What we need. My loyalty is there. Why else would I not have just claimed Praxis myself? Why did I not strip you of status right then and there? Don't fucking question my loyalty to our partnership.”
Mentally the lost child inside sighed in relief, but the Prince held her ground. Stop pretending, Quinn, she chided herself. Honesty was her naked blade. It was time to use it. Forgetting position, ignoring status, she let loose. “I thought you didn't claim it because it's a cluster fuck of a situation and the status as Harpy is so much more. You’re really smart and devious when you want to be. What I wonder is why others didn't want you to have it in the first place. I mean do they not want me to be Harpy that badly?”
“They don't want me to be Prince,” he snapped as a hand ran down the legal pad to retrieve his pen. “Trust me. I'd rather have taken the Prince status.”
Gratias Deo. Quinn continued to smooth the edges of Rivington’s insulted vanity. “They must know they wouldn't get it away from you if you ever got the crown.” She paused and added, “I'm sorry,” in small tones. “I just... I didn't have my coffee because Halloween is always so ghost heavy and I needed to focus on the real world... and people whispered poison in my ears. And the fire. And the mess. And... I'm sorry.” Lowering her gaze to the cup, she rolled her shoulder forward and bit her lip.
Rivington considered that show of submissiveness and recoiled inside. Anyone else he would have let beg, would have devastated. Not Quinn. Never Quinn. Anger fled from him, replaced with a quiet disgruntlement. “Yea. Just don't do it again.” A strange need to make amends uncoiled itself. “If you want to come with me to meet with Bobby let me know.”
Bobby? The security chief at Blackstar was notoriously picky about who he would deal with. “I do, but Katla said she'd garrote anyone who let me walk out with just you for protection ever again because I'm prince... so...”
“Yea?” Rivington’s lawyer stability gave way to the man. Offended at the assumption that he was physically lacking, incapable of protecting, determined to prove the Viking Brujah wrong, he snarled. “Well, Katla can get her panties out of that knot she has them in.”
Quinn relaxed, curling more comfortably into the chair as she dragged the comforter over her bandages. Breathing in the heavenly aroma from the cup still in her grip, she shrugged. “I don't think she wears any.” Several sips later she glanced over at the Harpy. “I want to go.” She knew Rivington may never take her to meet Bobby, but the knowledge that she would trust him to protect her gave his machismo its due. As the mask of lawyer calm slipped back into place she stared, fascinated by the transformation.
“I don't know which is more important,” she admitted. “Probably the lore, to be honest. We need to know what we're up against.” The coffee disappeared in rapid gulps as her brain began to function properly. “What lore do we know Shane has?”
The black book of his power never far from hand, Rivington flicked open the leather cover to run long fingers down the neatly pinned list. “Based on what he gave me for the oak club; he knows a lot about kindred history. Camarilla specific and Sabbat specific. Also, a bit about gypsies, werewolves, and hunters.”
“Fine. I will forgo my own desire to know Ventrue mind stuff and get more shoes if he teaches us all that lore like he was going to before he deserted, gives you that huge interest in the security firm and the guards that go with it, and dose not try to take them away at critical moments or tell them to not protect us because he's doing that Ventrue power bid thing. My city. He had his chance. Also we have to have hospitality in his domain. I like that 20s coffee shope.”
Rivngton’s brow rose as he glanced over his meticulous notes. “You do realize that Shane, Katla and Merrick were all part of a coterie, right?”
“Yes I do. And I know they all thought I was an air head who could be easily intimidated and controlled. Merrick will do his duty. Why? Because I am considering making ether Jackson or that new Gangrel my scourge. Sure, I'll let the old one keep his title, but the scourge is supposed to be secret. Katla just announced it to everyone. Also, I want one who's in our pocket. Not Shane’s.” Quinn pondered for a moment. “Should I tell Merrick his loyalty is called into question? I mean, we can and not say where the accusation came from. I don't want him suddenly leaving the city for Shane's aria. See... that's what I'm worried about.” Her voice took on a grating, higher pitch as she mocked, “Oh look: Shane can protect us and that nut job can't. We go there and suddenly we have the power to just take over!” Shaking her head, Quinn returned to her own quiet manner. “No. No like.”
Considering for a moment, Rivington mentally shelved the idea for later dissection. “I don't think that is what he's going for, but okay. I would prefer if you didn't make Jackson the scourge. I need him for things. And I thought you were using the Malkavian?”
“Not officially. Not yet. But I might. I haven't decided. What I need is an army of people who are loyal. Mommy says to set the council up how I want it and that they are to be a buffer between me and the rest. Also, I am thinking of taking away everyone’s feeding ground, then making the non-status people convince the Primogen they need one, then have the Primogen convince you and you recommend to me. That would mean that the Primogen need to go through the Harpy to see if they have enough status to warrant a particular aria. Like... if a place can handle one blood, and the person has three statuses does that status warrant a private ground? If they use status to give food grounds to a lesser of their own, that's on them. Give you more power, makes the lesser earn it and keeps people in line. I mean, court officials would get a place, for sure. And they get first pick based on status. I'm prince so I don't have to worry about it, but others should. I feel like the last administration was a little slap dash with things. What do you think?”
That jumble of rapid fire mental vomit took a bit of work to clean up for proper consumption. “Those who earned it for going above and beyond should be able to keep it, but going through me shouldn't be something that happens.”
“What about saying something like, these territories belong to this clan. Your Primogen will decide how to divide them up among you of their clan. And then the Primogen gets to feed all up in the clan aria. The other court officials get a separate private ground and of course I get anywhere. I mean, what if they only got what they got because they didn't get a chance at better, but earned better?”
“That is giving too much power to your Primogen in my opinion.”
Quinn’s energy plummeted as he put paid to that plan. “Oh,” she whispered. “It seemed like a good idea.” She would never be as good as he was at things like this. He was raised to be a king, to sit the throne with dignity, poise and horrifying absolution. Against something like that her efforts seemed so wrong, so small. “Rivington?” she asked in a whisper. “Am I to diplomatic? Like, not with people, but how I want to be all fair and stuff. Am I too much of that?”
“In some things. Yes.”
“I just... it's so...” Quinn seemed to shrink into the cover, a speck of a girl amongst the grandeur of appointment. “This is so hard! I wasn't raised to be Prince, I was raised to be Harpy!”
Rivington’s reply was interrupted by the jingle of his mobile. A flick of his fingers caused him to ask, “How much am I telling Jackson?”
“About what happened with Cross and that whole Blood Hunt fiasco. I'm using him to cover things up.”
“Ah. Well I already told him nothing. Cross was your clan. Call him out on being and idiot if you want to handle it as a Harpy. Tell him some flowery noble death stuff if you want to keep it in clan. Your pick.”
“I meant, all the shit around it.” Realizing his disgust at the bumbled situation was showing, Rivington cleared his throat. “Katla and them getting caught.”
“Oh! That. Yes, he needs to know that, but have him keep it on the down low... and if he gets Katla’s sword back have him give it to you or me. One of us will have that major boon she’s offered for its return.”
“It was Joe's car right? And whose gun was left behind?”
“Erm...” Quinn’s mind tried to pull itself from the dark funk it had slid into. “I heard it was Cross' car. I'm not sure. I didn't go so I don't know, but we have the police video cam...era.” she trailed off. She’d handed the whole device over to the brute to take care of. He’d certainly done so, all right. Dang. “That Brujah broke it to erase the tape.” The look the lawyer gave her was priceless. “I dunno why,” she exclaimed. “He just did.”
“Are you still keeping people from moving on the Doctor?”
Doctor Osager. The sweet older man who, sources had it, was systematically poisoning the food supply in order to reap vengeance against all vampires for what happened to his wife and daughter. Quinn couldn’t blame him for his hatred, but she so wanted to believe people could be reasonable. She needed proof. She needed to know what was really going on, that she wasn’t damning an innocent person. “I told a few people I needed more information and one more voice to speak on the matter.” Looking at his profile, Quinn steeled herself. “Knowing what you know, Mr. Lawyerman, do you feel it is justified to cull him? Do you really think he is behind it? You're the only other person who saw him first hand. So you're the only other person who got a real read on him like I did.”
“I think it was an act. He went very defensive when I asked to come back, he increased his security. It all adds up to him being behind it.”
The nearly empty cup dropped with her bravado. Shadows blotted out the light in her innocent, trusting gaze. “I'm too easy to fool. Fine. I trust you. Make the call. But,” she added with a forlorn deprivation of the soul, “I get his magic stuff. Not the Tremere.” No matter how cold she must be about her own damnation, there were still those she wished to save from the horror of the embrace.
Rivington studied her. “I cannot make that call. That needs to come from you.”
The terror burst forth in absolute revulsion, shaking her to the core. Trying desperately to get away, Quinn shivered. “Oh. You... can't tell them I said...” The noble blood in his veins lent itself to his countenance as he turned that frightful gaze on the Prince of Kenosha. For the second time that evening she felt her illusions break. Her voice squeaked. “Okay.”
Nodding, the Harpy lowered his shoulders, softening his demeanor. “We need to keep up the charade. You need to make these announcements. I can't look like I was involved.”
“Oh.” The catch in her voice was not lost on the man inside the monster.
"Hey," he cooed as his firm touch lifted her chin to meet his tempered, almost human gaze. "You need to be strong right now. I need you, and you need to show everyone that you can do this."
For a long time they stared into each other’s gaze, taking stock. Past persecutions and forces beyond their control had thrown them together. From those hardships they had formed an accord that defied both conventions and his mother’s machinations. Nether was sure which had been harder to overcome.
He needed her devious, viciously cruel willingness to dirty her hands for the cause. That selflessness that made her capable of standing before the blade also made her callous to all those who would shirk from the inevitability of life. He liked that. Yet, despite everything thrown at her, Quinn remained pennant. Of all the kindred he’d met, she had the best grasp on her soul. She was delightfully psychotic proof there were somethings in the world worth saving.
For her part, Quinn knew she required the strong support of someone unwilling to bend to pressure or whim. Rivington was steadfast and, despite his angelic looks, Satan’s worst nightmare. A lawyer who sharpened his teeth on the broken contracts of his victims then put the worst scum of humanity in the smallest box he could find, locking away their evil for an eternity of self-reflection. He was the motionless might that kept her resilient to the spite of the world. He had her back.
“I am strong,” she chanted, “I am a Queen. I can take down anybody.”
“I am strong,” he chorused. “I am a King. I can take down anything.”
Seeing the light begin to shine from her eyes Rivington lowered his hand. “Attagirl,” he smiled with rarely seen authenticity. “Now, finish your coffee and go to bed. It's almost morning.”
A small sniff escaped her as a shy smile curled her lips. He stayed up to late. Tomorrow he would sleep in. She went to bed early, rising quickly. That was the ritual. They were juxtaposed in nearly every respect of their being. How they ever manage this odd sort of understanding was beyond her.
Gathering up the comforter to leave him to his dispositions, she slipped from the room. It was good to have a friend. A real, sort-of-living, sometimes-breathing friend. She should do something nice for him. Maybe she’d paint his nails while he slept. A cold, cruel black. He’d like that.