Previously: Dust to Dust
you will think
you will think
you will think
Aura didn't know why she was putting so much stock in what Rochelle told her. Maybe it had something to do with the fact her crush on Owen was much more intense than she'd let on.
Owen wasn't even her type. More specifically, he wasn't the kind of guy she wanted to be her type. Sure, he was tall and blond and fit, but he was also brooding and studious. He wasn't outgoing, and wasn't the type of guy she saw herself with.
It didn't help that all the other girls had suddenly noticed Owen; it was like he was practically drowning in them. He'd even caught the eye of Cordelia Chase, but thankfully, he shut that down almost immediately.
She'd been patient, waiting for weeks until after things fell through with Buffy Summers before she finally followed Rochelle's advice to the letter. She even made sure the water was filtered and the sugar was organic.
While Cordelia favored athletes, Aura liked actors and musicians. She liked the idea of dating someone famous, walking the red carpet with him, appearing in magazine spreads with him, visiting him on set, and traveling with him on vacation.
She knew that was never going to happen, of course, not when she could barely get the school bookworm to realize she existed.
"I think you can stop shaking now."
Aura stopped. She'd forgotten Rochelle was spending Sunday night at her place. The curly-haired junior was sipping on one of Aura's mom's diet smoothies and looking about herself, disturbed.
Aura's bedroom was pink; pale pink walls, hot pink bedding, pink polka-dotted rugs by her bed. Her walls were decked with so many teen heartthrobs she couldn't even remember all their names--Jonathan Brandis, Andrew Keegan, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, even the singer from Silverchair--the posters and ripped out magazine pages went on and on and on.
Aura blushed. "It's a bit much, I know."
"I used to have a room just like it," Rochelle told her, seemingly grim.
Audra was surprised. She placed the sugar water bottle in her purse. She could always shake it before bed. And again the morning before school. And again in class.
"Was that before the whole Goth thing?" she asked, coming to sit next to Rochelle on her bed.
"Way before," Rochelle laughed, as though suddenly hit with a memory.
"So what changed?"
"High school," Rochelle shrugged. "Fell in with a new crowd. Got into new things."
Aura looked incredulous. "And that's it?"
Rochelle looked confused. "What do you mean?"
"I mean...how does a girl go from pink to black, from pop to grunge overnight?"
Rochelle stared back. "New crowd. New things." When didn't seem to be good enough, she shrugged. "I don't know, Aura; what do you want me to say?"
"I feel like there's this dark cloud hanging over you, Chelle," Aura began tentatively. "Are you even happy?"
"I may not be all aglow with a crush, but I am happy," Rochelle shrugged again, smirking slightly. "My life sucked in LA. Sunnydale's the first place where I've felt almost normal. I feel like I'm starting to find out who I really am here."
"And the new you doesn't like boys?"
It was Rochelle's turn to look incredulous. "Is that what this is about?"
"Is there any boy at school that you like?" Aura challenged her. "I mean, you dress for their attention--don't deny it. Even now. My mom pulled me aside downstairs to ask me why your mom would let you out of the house in a skirt that short."
Rochelle laughed. "I just got here, Aura," she replied. "And I'm not like other teenagers. I had to find a place to live, find a job, sign up for social benefits, and when I come home, I have to deal with va--roommates," she hastily caught herself. "I've needed a minute to adjust."
"Well, don't take too long," Aura lightly touched her arm. "If Owen and I start dating, I'd like us to go on double dates."
"Owen?" Rochelle cocked her head to the side.
"He recently, finally stopped dating Buffy Summers," Aura nodded avidly. "We have English together." She blushed. "We both like Emily Dickinson."
Rochelle raised an eyebrow. "Talk about a Goth thing."
"I know." Aura fell back on her bed and covered her face with a pillow. "He's so not my type."
"And yet he is your type," Rochelle shrugged. She paused, as though having an epiphany. "Just 'cause they're not what we want doesn't make them automatically wrong for us."
Rupert Giles looked up from his clipboard to see Rochelle Zimms kneeling by one of the shelves as she slammed a very large, very old book shut. Sunlight streamed through the window and pooled around her, her brown skin aglow.
"Orpheus?" he asked, blinking behind his glasses. "As in...Greek mythology?"
"As in drugs, Giles."
The librarian's eyes widened. "Oh...you mean...oh...." His brow furrowed, before his face betrayed his incredulity. "Your flatmates are, er, using Orpheus?"
"So," Rochelle's eyebrow went up, as she slowly rose to her feet, delicate and nimble as a housecat. "It's real."
"Very real, unfortunately," he nodded. "Orpheus is an opiate-like drug known throughout the demon world. Some humans ingest it and then allow vampires to feed from them for...well," and here he blushed, beginning to stutter, "w-well a rather, um, well, um...it's er...qu-quite the er...quite an extraordinary high. At first." He paused. "But then it takes you down to hell, and leaves you there...or so the saying goes."
Rochelle's eyes were as wide as saucers. "You've done Orpheus."
"Once," Giles told her, trying to gather himself. "Just the once."
"Mm-hm," the young witch smirked. "How is it made?"
Giles was bewildered. "Why on earth would you want to produce Orpheus? Did your flatmates ask you to do this?"
"As far as I can tell, they don't even know it exists," she shrugged. "But I figure they can pull more cash at the den if they put it on the menu."
The librarian tensed, gripping his clipboard a little more tightly. "So...the rumors are true."
"That they are."
"Of course," Rochelle nodded. "Granted, one of my roommates wasn't down with it, so I dusted her." True, there was more to it, but she preferred to leave it at that. She wanted to give the impression she had her undead roommates under control.
Giles was surprised. "And the others? They were just...fine with that?"
"They don't know."
It was times like this that Giles found Rochelle so terrifying it was fascinating. Every time he found out one thing about her, it raised several more questions.
"Rochelle--" and this was the first time he called her by her first name "--I realize that opening a den might seem like a good idea for sating your flatmates' nutritional and financial needs, but vampires are a notoriously untrustworthy breed. Humans die in dens all the time."
"I know," she nodded.
He paused, eyes darkened, voice lowered and words carefully paced for impact. "Orpheus will not keep them under control."
"You misunderstand my purpose," Rochelle blinked. "Two of my roommates are perfectly capable of keeping themselves under control. The other, however, has an unacceptable history of misbehaving. With girls."
Giles nodded slowly, beginning to understand. "You want to punish him."
"Then why not just stake him?"
Rochelle's voice was grim. "Dusting would be too kind."
"So you seek revenge by unleashing a narcotic-like substance upon the streets of Sunnydale, risking hundreds of lives?"
"Dozens at best," Rochelle snorted. "Giles, let's stop pretending that every human in Sunnydale is just some innocent, helpless little angel with no sense of agency. The first night my roomies opened the den, five people showed up. The next night, it was ten. These days, Chris and the others can barely keep up with the demand. And every single 'customer' who comes in already knows about vampires, demons, and all the other naughty little things in the dark. Hell, half of them are regulars of Willie the Snitch," she snickered.
"Be that as it may, we don't want to make things worse," he pushed back.
"Sunnydale is a vampire town sitting on a hellmouth, Giles," she reminded him. "This isn't the first den, and won't be the last. But since it's here now, Orpheus is on its way, whether I make it or somebody else does."
Next: Seeing, Being Seen