A/N ~ So sorry about the delay, everyone. Turns out, my beloved all-in-one desktop was a lot older than I realized and has been put out to pasture. I'm typing this out on my mini...which isn't ideal.
Previously: Seeing, Being Seen
The vampire den was exactly what one would expect: dingy, grimy, in the ground floor of an abandoned building on the edge of town. The windows had been painted over and the furniture looked (and smelled) as though it had been rescued from a landfill. The only light came from a few candles; nothing electrical was working.
The clients, however, were of every walk of life and didn't seem to care about the ambience. They were the usual street kids and subculture rebels, but also businessmen in suits, bored housewives in beige, strippers, baristas--you name it.
I knew these people weren't that clueless, Rochelle smirked as she moved through the pack of willing bleeders. Giles would be appalled.
Chris and Kyle were at the far end of the den, looking down at Josh, lying on his back on a table. His body occasionally convulsed, and he was foaming at the mouth. The human he'd fed from was slumped in a corner with a big, sleepy smile on their face.
"What the fuck?" Rochelle blinked. In all her study of Orpheus, she hadn't read anything about this.
"Josh did a hit of...something," Chris said, brow furrowed in concern, strands of red hair in his eyes.
"Seems he finally found a drug he couldn't handle," Kyle snorted. He turned back to the waiting humans. "I'm gonna go feed. You guys got this?"
Rochelle was confused. "Got...what?"
Chris looked at her, equally confused. "Heal him," he enunciated. "You've healed him before."
"That was a flesh wound," she reminded him. "I have no idea what's going on now."
But she was curious. What did happen when a vampire overdosed on a drug? It's not like they'd die. A coma also seemed unlikely. She wondered if the scientists of this world had taken the initiative to properly study vampires.
"Does it matter?" Chris exclaimed. He looked hurt. "We lost Sam already and we'll probably never know what happened to her. We can't lose Josh too."
Yes, we can. "Water," Rochelle sighed. "I'll do the same healing spell I did before but I can't make any promises."
Apparently, the water in this building was still running. Chris brought over a Styrofoam cupful while Rochelle opened Josh's shirt. He was convulsing again, which made it awkward. Most of the water rolled down the sides of his torso. His pale wet skin glistened in the candlelight.
To think there was actually a time I would've been into this, Rochelle raised an eyebrow. She laid her hands on him just like before and concentration. But as she thought of healing his flesh, she couldn't resist the notion of healing the demon within.
You don't have to be like this, she thought, before she could stop herself. Whoever Josh was in life isn't you now. His memories don't have to be yours. You're immortal, and you can remake yourself into whatever you choose.
Through water, all beings are reborn.
"Reborn" appeared to be some sort of spiritual trigger word; Josh convulsed once more before his entire body was engulfed in light. Chris took a step back, caught off guard, while Rochelle succumbed to the full force of all her power flowing through her.
When the light dimmed, it was like falling back to earth. Rochelle was dizzy, she briefly felt drained before composing herself.
"That didn't happen before," Chris remarked, eyes wide with alarm.
"No shit," Rochelle sighed breathlessly. "He's fine now," she yawned, suddenly needing a nap. "I'm sure you can take it from here." She turned and left the den without checking to see if her spell had worked as intended. Instead, she trudged back to the loft. Her whole body felt like it was sagging; it took every last ounce of strength to climb the stairs in her loft and crawl into bed.
She slept for hours, without dreams.
When she woke, it was light. She'd slept through her alarm, and now sunlight was streaming through the giant windows. It was strange; Rochelle never recalled a morning so beautiful. It was like an entirely new era had dawned.
Wrapped her favorite tattered yet cozy bathrobe, she descended to the lower floor where Josh was still up and making coffee.
"Are Chris and Kyle still sleeping?" she groggily asking, rubbing her eyes.
"They're not here," he told her cheerfully. This was the of Josh she'd fantasized about; he had a glow about him. His blue eyes were twinkling, his hair and clothes were clean. He even smelled like morning dew. "Coffee?" he offered, handing her a cup.
Puzzled and still feeling sluggish, Rochelle accepted. Her brow furrowed as she watched him casually leave the kitchen and head for the living room.
"Where are Chris and Kyle?" she asked. "They wouldn't have stayed at the den this long."
Josh savored the steam from his cup before taking a delicate sip. "They're not here," he shrugged.
I know that look, Rochelle tensed. That calm, relaxed feeling you get when you've made a problem go away.
It's the same way I looked after I dusted Samantha.
She set down her coffee and carefully circled from the kitchen, coming to stand behind him in the living room.
"Chris," she bit out, "was nice to me. He gave me a place to stay. Stole clothes for me. Made sure I went back to school."
"That's because he had the memories of Christopher Henry Schafer," Josh casually replied, taking another sip. "By all accounts, a highly intelligent, compassionate boy who had a bright future in computer science. But then a vampire ripped out his throat so that your friend, your Chris, could set up shop in his corpse." Pause. Sip. "Same thing with Kyle. You were warned, Rochelle. When you look at a vampire, you're not looking at a person. You're looking at the thing that killed them."
"Oh, you're somehow better?"
"Joshua Ezekiel Ferguson." Josh rolled his eyes, sighing and shaking his head. "A self-loathing, woman-hating drug addict, destined to forever sweep the floors of your local DQ...if he could only be so lucky." He chuckled softly. "Vampirism was actually an improvement in his case."
"You're not Josh," Rochelle nodded slowly.
"Of course not. I just said--"
"I mean, you're not the demon that killed him," she interrupted. "In fact, whatever you are, you're not really a vampire either."
"How do you figure?"
"You're standing in direct sunlight."
Josh turned to her look at her, then back to the giant windows of the loft. He was bathed in morning light. He looked peaceful, wholesome even.
"It's a strange new world you've found yourself in, haven't you?" he murmured. He took a longer sip of his coffee. "If you were to call the Watchtowers of the West, would they even hear you all the way out here?"
Rochelle's heart stopped. Her whole body froze, before that sinking, nagging feeling set in.
I know who this is. Her stomach turned as she felt a wave of nausea. With the disgust came a flood of memories of another life, details she'd forgotten, people she wished she could. Of course, I know who this is.
Silence hung between them like a curse. He quietly sipped his coffee for a few moments, staring out the windows. Just beyond them, a clear blue sky beckoned. Rochelle didn't know why, but the world outside, the world of daylight was the simply most beautiful thing she'd ever seen in her life.
"Magic moves so differently in this world," he finally murmured softly. "Think of what our could be if we had vampires and demons roaming the streets of our world."
"I'm not going back," Rochelle growled. Shock and fatigue faded into fury, strengthening her resolve.
He turned around to look at her. "But think of the possibilities. What these people call the 'Hellmouth' is simply a trans-dimensional conduit--its power is almost limitless! If you tap into it, not only could you take us back, but you'd be more powerful than Bonnie, Nancy, and Sarah combined."
And there it is. Rochelle's lips teased a smirk.
"That's right," she nodded, amused. "In your world, I needed a coven. I needed you. But here?" she sneered. "All I need is me. Now you may have gone full Daywalker on me, but that body is still the body of a vampire, and if I had to guess, the only reason it hasn't burst into flames...is me."
Manon's borrowed blue eyes widened. "Rochelle--"
She raised her right hand in front of her, stilling him, silencing him. "There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to meet you face to face," she admitted. "I had a million questions to ask. I dreamed of you to taking me in your arms and fixing everything wrong with my life. But now, I am just...so...over you."
Rochelle balled her right hand and brought it back towards her shoulder as a fist, reclaiming her healing power from the night before. First, he went ashen, his glow dimming, his skin returning to the deadened look of a vampire. Then he foamed at the mouth, the remnants of Orpheus pouring from his lips.
She'd never watched a vampire burn before. It took a little longer than dusting, but the final result was still the same. Soon there was nothing but ashes where a god once stood.
Rochelle stepped over those ashes. Sure, she'd collect them for later experimentation but for now, she just wanted to enjoy the morning. She could hear birds as she opened to the let the morning breeze in. The loft was all hers now, but she didn't want anymore. She wanted a house like Aura's, with a small bedroom and a mom waiting downstairs.
I don't have to be the dark cloud who shacks up with vampires, she realized, deeply inhaling the fresh air. I don't have to be...this. I'm a witch.
I can remake myself into whatever I want.
~ FIN ~
A/N ~ Don't be mad! I'm really like this idea of Rochelle in Buffyverse, and want to explore it future volumes.