Hello and welcome to yet another whim of Captain Insomnia. I am now officially what is known as a "RENTHEAD", and damn proud of it. If I had the money and the transportation, you bet your ass I would have seen the original story on Broadway. As such, I had to make do with the fantastic movie that is now invading all of my creativity at the moment. Since my first love in fanfiction is the wonderful world of Joss Whedon—Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular—I've found it difficult to create a story without some intimate connection to the magnificent show. Hence the reason four out of my five stories are all somehow linked to the show. And now I have yet another to add to the quota...
!IMPORTANT: Now, you may have skipped the gratuitous intro above, but I strongly advise you read this part, for it contains critical information about the story.
First: RENT is officially AU, but not in such an outrageous way you can just forget what happened in the movie. The date of the events in RENT have been moved to current times so that the end of RENT occurred during Xmas of 2005. It is now early spring of 2006 (right about now in the real world—Northern Hemisphere, anyway), which means the story starts up three months after RENT.
Second: If there is extensive information about the individual histories of the bohemians before they lived in Alphabet City, I don't know them and I'm changing them. You can safely assume their pasts are AU, Roger's in particular. The entire premise of the story requires it to be AU anyway.
Third: Angel has been part of the family longer in this story than in the original. He's been with them for years in this one, and, of course, he's been with Collins. It'll switch back and forth to what gender people see him as, just like in the original story. Although I did not resurrect him. Sorry! I was tempted to, but I decided against it to add to the angst.
Fourth: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is running on original time, with the whole battle with the First and destruction of Sunnydale happening in May of 2003, so now we're set at nearly three years afterwards.
I think that's about it. If there's anything I've missed, just ask.
Disclaimer: Oh, yeah, I forgot about this retarded thing. I own nobody and nothing of the original plots, characters, elements, songs, etc… Everything original from RENT belongs to Jonathan Larson and everything original from BtVS belongs to Joss Whedon. There.I think this story has been thoroughly disclaimed.
Chapter One: New York State of Mind
I'm definitely in my New York state of mind now, Billy, Regan Davis mused to herself. She cracked open the window of her rental car to breathe in deeply the smell of her birth city, of the massive playground of her youth. The thriving arena of people, cars, and spectacular skyscrapers that drew millions upon millions of eager tourists drove her blood into a euphoric thrumming through her veins. Her sharp ears picked up the multitude of languages being spoken in the span of a few blocks, and she smiled in delight. After having been away for so long, she had forgotten how much she loved the sounds of the Big Apple. Even the gritty smell delighted her olfactory senses in the same manner the most disgusting food can taste delicious when one has gone without food for so long.
After watching a man scream at another man and then finally flip him off, Regan sighed deeply in content.
It's so good to finally be home.
After serving at the hellmouth base in South America where she had practically perfected her Spanish, she had made the decision to relocate to a non-hellmouth base. Sprawling urban centers such as New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, and Tokyo (among others) weren't situated on hellmouths. But their high populations and impressive sizes presented invaluable hunting opportunities to the supernatural predators of the night. It was quite easy to hide their exploits behind the high crime rates that already produced high body counts. It was the perfect cover—the International Organization of Watchers and Slayers even coined the term "urban disguise" to describe it.
However, with roughly three thousand Slayers walking the globe and about a third as many trained and on active duty, even the "urban disguises" were not going to give vampires safe haven any longer. Already, the statistics were showing reduced death rates in these large cities, leaving quite a few national officials somewhat flummoxed. Of course, it didn't solve the problems of the high rate of crime and growing problem of gang warfare. But then solving problems that dealt strictly with humans was not part of the Slayer's job description. The tangled realm of human affairs was usually far more complex than a vampire sucking some poor fool's blood any day. Which was why Regan was quite glad she and her comrades were advised to steer clear of them.
She pulled into the parking lot of the main building where she was to report before setting up her living quarters. The organization had a cover name known as The Summer Aurora Foundation, a quirky pseudo-name of the sister of Buffy Summers, one of the organization chiefs and the commander of the Slayers. Dawn Summers was currently studying at Oxford University in the UK, though she was already an official Watcher in the Organization. The foundation had reached international acclaim in the past year for its generous donations to many causes, though it seemed to have no clear purpose beyond that. Most people just wrote it off as some billionaire's secret outlet of generosity.
The Watchers Council—the organization that governed the legacy of the Slayer before it was blown up a few years ago—had a bank account (or, rather, several bank accounts in several different names) that survived even if the Council didn't. Its wealth was unimaginable, having been accrued from several sources over thousands of years. The Council's influence stretched out far and wide, farther than even the Senior Watcher, Rupert Giles, had predicted. It made Bill Gates's coffers look downright meager in comparison.
Regan pushed open the door to the lobby, knowing full well there were powerful protection wards monitoring the premises inside and out. If she had been some sort of demonic imposter one of three things might have occurred: she would have been frozen in place, ejected off the premises, or a silent alarm would have gone off. She would have found herself at sword point in the space of about thirty seconds or less.
The wards were fashioned to act as what Willow Rosenberg, the Wiccan who constructed them, euphemistically referred to as "Empath Wards". They were sensitive to the underlying intentions of all who stepped foot on the grounds. They didn't read minds, but they were able to discern between a hostile objective and a benevolent one. Even one of demon blood that had no obvious signs of dishonorable intentions warranted closer monitoring. Security was among the top priorities of the Organization. They took absolutely no chances, and with damn good reason in Regan's opinion. There was no place for political correctness in the supernatural world.
The walls of the lobby were colored in creamy off-white tones with elegant Greco-Roman style borders. There were even a few Greek-style statues languishing in small alcoves on the right and left sides of the lobby. Tables with stacks of reading material flanked comfortable armchairs and sofas. In order to give the full effect of a normal business lobby, there were landscape portraits and exotic plants set all over the area. The intercom was playing the typical elevator/business lobby music, enhancing the atmosphere of professional tranquility. There was even a beautiful bubbling fountain in the middle of the room. It was all so terribly ironic to Regan. The base she had been stationed in Argentina had not been nearly as quaint as this one. Of course, the Santa Rosa base had been on a hellmouth and it had not been in a city as large and well known as New York City. Appearances could go a long way, so the Organization was careful to put on the right ones.
Set between two elevators at the rear of the lobby was a desk. A man was sitting there, his attention completely riveted to his computer screen. She could hear the clicking of the keyboard keys as his fingers flew over them rapidly. Regan approached the desk quietly and rapped her knuckles on the smooth surface. She must have startled the man for he jolted and gasped sharply. He glowered at Regan for a few moments before regaining his professional composure.
"Can I help you, Miss?"
Regan quirked an eyebrow at his rude demeanor. If she wasn't almost positive his job had to be rather mundane and that they didn't get many people walking through that door, she would have been rather annoyed by his attitude. As it were, she skipped any pleasantries with the deskman—she felt like a traitor to her sex for subscribing to the gender stereotype, but she had trouble referring to him as a receptionist.
"I'm Regan Davis from Santa Rosa, Argentina. I requested to relocate here and I was told to report here first thing," she informed him.
The man's gray eyes widened in realization before his cheeks reddened in embarrassment for his earlier behavior. His eyes flitted to the assortment of necklaces on her neck and the rings on her fingers. There were quite a few dog tags hanging on her neck in addition to what appeared to be a guitar pick and a Celtic cross. One of the dog tags, however, was stamped with the crest of the Organization (a stake crossed with a sword). No doubt her base location and the name of her particular squad along with her rank within the squad were engraved on the back. The information only had meaning to those that were part of the Organization or aware of its existence. Anyone else would probably just think it an odd novelty item.
"Um, okay…Miss Davis. I'll…em…just pull up your file and then let the commander know you've arrived. I didn't think you were coming until tomorrow. At least, that's what I was told. If I had known—" he stammered nervously.
Regan waved her hand in a flippant manner. "Eh, caught an early flight. And it's fine. Far be it from me to tell someone who works in a customer service job to act cordial to customers."
The man laughed nervously, wiping his forehead, which was becoming noticeably damp. Regan smirked at the reaction she was inciting from him. Sometimes, one just has to enjoy the fact that she can make others uneasy.
He cleared his throat and turned to his computer. "Um, well, how old are you?" he asked.
"Twenty. I was born on January 29, 1986 right here in New York," she told him, with a definite note of pride in her voice.
He gave a small smile at that remark. "Me too. I mean, the born in New York part."
When he had her file on the screen, he frowned, looking somewhat troubled. She waited a moment to see if perhaps he had made a mistake, but when his expression did not dissipate, she became a little worried.
"Is something wrong?" she queried.
"Um, well, Miss Davis, it says here Santa Rosa is on a hellmouth and that you were the captain of the…Raptor Squad?" He glanced at her to confirm he was correct on the name.
She pretended to take offense. "Hey, the name means bird of prey, so, when you think about it, it's completely appropriate. Besides, it beats our second choice: the Llama Squad."
The deskman nodded slowly, although it looked like he was completely missing the joke. He quickly reverted his gaze back to the computer to read further. "You fought in Sunnydale, too?"
She nodded. "Yeah. Um, what exactly are you tiptoeing around to say to me? I mean, you're obviously confused about something or you're just trying to make sure I am who I say I am. In which case, the latter is kind of moot since I was able to walk through those doors unscathed."
He immediately shook his head. "No, no, I'm not questioning your validity. It's just…well…a top-ranking Slayer with your experience and training usually doesn't relocate from a hellmouth base to a non-hellmouth base. Usually they relocate from one hellmouth to another hellmouth."
So that was what was perplexing him. Regan finally understood now and she realized she should have expected such a reaction. Out of the thirty-six Slayers (not including Buffy and Faith) that had gone underneath the surface of Sunnydale, California to fight the First Evil's Turok-Han army, only twenty came back out. Three of those twenty died of severe internal injuries and blood loss not long afterwards. Regan had been among the several of critically injured Slayers and, by all rights, should have died. Luck had been smiling on her, though. She was able to make a quick and full recovery.
The seventeen Slayers who had survived were dispersed all over the world, usually given command of hellmouth bases. To serve on a hellmouth base, one either had to be one of those seventeen or demonstrate a great deal of skill and courage. With the numbers of Slayers in training growing, a minimum amount of training and experience on a non-hellmouth base werejustrecently added to the credentials. Hellmouth bases presented a lot more dangers than non-hellmouth bases; the Organization wanted to ensure only the best of the best served on those bases.
And, of course, there was the unwritten credential that a Slayer who wanted to fight on a hellmouth should possess. The way Regan put it, a girl needed to have the stomach for it. Not all Slayers did. Although it was rare, a few Slayers requested reassignment to a non-hellmouth base only after a few weeks of serving on a hellmouth. It was, in the simplest terms, too brutal for them to handle.
Back in the day when it was just one Slayer at a time, she would have been given no choice. Buffy was determined to make things different now that she had changed the rules, and that meant implementing fundamental changes in a Slayer's lifestyle. Namely, it meant giving her back the power to control her own life. Buffy vowed never to make a Slayer fight if she didn't want to, and she sure as hell would not make those that agreed to fight serve somewhere they didn't want to be.
Regan sighed as she tried to think of a way to answer his unasked question. It was true her decision had risen more than a few eyebrows in the upper levels of the Organization. She had had no trouble in Santa Rosa, or any other hellmouth she had dropped in on. She was a highly skilled, deadly warrior who had all the right characteristics to serve on a hellmouth. Moreover, she had displayed no dissatisfaction with her placement. She had seemed to be generally happy with where she was, and, honestly, she had been happy with where she had been stationed.
She leaned forward over the desk, almost contorting her body into a perpendicular position. "Look, my reasons are personal. They have nothing to do with any technical problems or shit like that. When I feel like letting you in on them, I'll tell you," she replied evenly. Her voice was not intentionally unkind, only very firm, which kind of tipped it in that direction.
The deskman silently nodded in understanding. Regan rocked back on her heels when she confirmed that they had reached a consensus to not speak anymore about it. While he finished typing up whatever it was he needed to type up, Regan's gaze meandered about the room, admiring the cheerful décor while still marveling at the irony of it all. Anyone who walked in here, if they didn't know any better, would think this was just a normal office building. It was kind of hard to wrap her mind around that fact.
She heard the deskman—she really ought to have asked his name—pick up a phone and tell whoever was on the other end that she had arrived. The minutes passed by with not a word spoken between the two of them. Regan continued scrutinizing her surroundings while not moving from her spot while the still nameless deskman plucked away at his keyboard again. With the way he was completely relaxed and was again immersed in work (unless he was hacking or trying to find good porn, for she couldn't see the screen), one would think he totally forgot she was standing there. The silence was interrupted by the elevator doors to the left of the desk sliding apart.
It was a short blonde girl who looked no older than fifteen or sixteen years of age. She was dressed in a bright pink training suit with the words Baby Girl printed over the shirt. Regan made a wild guess that those same words were probably printed right on her ass, too. Her face was round and carried the youthful, baby-faced prettiness of what Regan traditionally called "bubblegum-pop girls".
Though she was not one to let prejudice jump to the forefront of her attitude, she could not help but recoil from being around the girl. It didn't help the girl's case any that she was smiling incessantly in that psychopathic, manic way—or, at least it seemed so to Regan.
"Oh, hi! You must be Regan! Such a weird name. My name's Annabelle, but you can call me Belle. It means 'beautiful'," she greeted in the as-predicted loud voice dripping with happiness one usually only finds if a person's serotonin levels are off the charts. Or if that person is on drugs.
Okay, Regan, now you're being cynical.
"Um, it's not Reeegan, the 'e' is pronounced as an 'a'. Raaaayyyygan." It always ticked her off a bit when people mispronounced her name.
Belle screwed up her pixie face into a look of dismayed confusion. "Like that dead guy on television a couple months ago?"
Regan quirked a brow and briefly exchanged an odd glance with the deskman. Please, god, don't tell me she's a Slayer. "You mean President Reagan?"
Belle's face brightened. "Yeah! Okay, so, Raygan, I get to take you on a tour of the building. The base commander is a little tied up at the moment, new trainees and everything. I finished my training six months ago." Her smile widened into a grin of self-satisfaction.
Regan forced herself to give the girl the benefit of the doubt. She was relatively new on the scene and was now confronted with an older, more experienced Slayer. Maybe Belle was still in the adjustment period of being a teenage girl with superpowers. It had taken Regan quite a well herself to get used to these supernatural abilities of the Slayer. She had once been in the same boat as Belle, so it wouldn't reflect very well on her if she acted unkindly towards the child.
With this in mind, she smiled as sincerely as she could manage and said to Belle, "Good for you."
The New York City base owned an apartment building right across from the headquarters where the Slayers and Watchers called home. The apartments were very modern and almost affluent in their style, with up to three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. The room and board was free for Slayers, Watchers, and family members. She took a two-bedroom with only one full bathroom and one half-bathroom. She had contemplated getting one with an extra room just to use as storage, but eventually decided against it. She wasn't a packrat, so there wouldn't be much to store in there.
Regan dumped all her luggage on the living room floor before surveying the place that was to be her new home. The living room was a nice, medium size, with a lovely fireplace. The kitchen was actually quite large, with a breakfast island stationed in the middle and a fascinating twirling pantry shelf called a Lazy Susan. She spent a few moments entertaining herself with it before moving on to the dining area.
Luckily, the place was already furnished with the basic living amenities. It saved her the trouble of having to drag that stuff all the way up to the top floor, though it would be no problem for a Slayer. All she cared about was being saved from a major hassle.
The bedrooms were as large as expected, with the master bedroom staffed with a queen-size bed and the other with a two twin-sized beds, cedar-wood dressers, desks, night tables, and walk-in closets. She sat on the queen-size bed, testing it out for a few minutes before jumping up to complete her examination. Being inside her own apartment in the city of her childhood felt very surreal to her. Four years ago, she never would have imagined she would have had the means to live in a place like this on her own. She never would have imagined a lot of things for herself that had happened.
Regan had lived with another Slayer in Santa Rosa in an apartment almost as nice as this one. It was just the fact that she was back where it had all begun, where the tangled web of ups and downs that had been her life had begun. Where she had come from and where she was now were almost at opposite ends of the scale. When she really stopped to think about it, it brought to mind the real reason she had come back.
For three years she had avoided her past like the plague. This city held so many fond memories, but it also held some of the worst memories she harbored. Her last months in this city brought tears to her eyes when she thought about it. She could still feel the cold in her bones at times. She could still remember the fear in her dreams, the uncertainty of what was going to happen next. She recalled what it had been like to live day to day in dogged pursuit of survival, of committing degrading deeds just to put a little bit of food into her starved system.
I was so stubborn. I was so stubborn it almost killed me. If it hadn't been for Mr. Giles, would I be dead by now? She often asked herself that question, but had yet to come up with an answer. Maybe she didn't really want to know. She wanted to put it all behind her and focus on her new life, on her second chance. The life she had lived before going to Sunnydale and becoming a Slayer was almost like a past life. Almost. She had come back to reconcile with a few aspects of her former life. So it was quite clear she hadn't quite cut off all the ties that bound her to it.
Unconsciously, Regan rubbed the ring on her left thumb. The ring was actually meant for a finger, but her hands were always rather small, even for a girl. The old piece of jewelry had only fit her thumb. It was old when she had received it; the minute floral designs had already been worn down. It was probably worth nothing, but she had never tested the possibility. She would sooner sell her own soul to the devil himself than sell this ring.
Breathing in deeply, Regan reached out to touch the telephone. Her hand froze on contact as her nerves began to take hold. She finally hushed up her faltering reserve and picked the phone up off its cradle. She dialed the familiar number almost mechanically, wavering over the desire to hope to hear the voice she had not heard for three years or hoping they had moved elsewhere. As sad as it sounded, she was leaning more towards desiring the latter.
Maybe I've got the wrong number. He probably did move. They all did. I hope they did.
This is crazy. I should do this in person. No, I should call first.
Regan's entire body froze upon hearing that voice. She drew in a sharp breath, unable to release it for some reason. She had not heard the voice for so long, but she would have recognized it anywhere.
She opened her mouth to say something, to tell him that she had come back and that, contrary to what he might believe, she was not dead, she was not some enslaved crack whore doomed to a life worse than death. She wanted so badly to tell him right then and there that she was sorry…that she didn't hate him. Alas, her courage had failed her; she could barely eke out her own breaths much less any lucid words.
"Hello? Is anyone there?"
She hung up. She then cursed under her breath and fell back on the bed, closing her eyes and letting her thudding heart return to normal speed. Over and over she scolded herself for being such so craven in this matter when she had faced off Turok-Hans when she was only seventeen. How could something like this seem to be so much more overwhelming, so much more frightening?
Regan sighed and said aloud in a sardonic voice, "That went well."
So, there you have it. Chapter Uno, and what do you think of the title? Isn't it the sweetest coincidence that Adam Pascal sings that song? Not to insult the great Billy Joel, but I think the sexy Mr. Pascal does a better job with the song. Of course, I might be biased on that one.
Love it, hate it: it's your prerogative. Flamers will only be used to entertain, as they tend to be nothing more than rants that look like they were written by a three-year-old embroiled in a pissy temper tantrum. If you do have any grievances, you may go ahead and say them at your leisure, but odds are nothing will be done. This is my story, my rules. I already have a good chunk planned out, and I don't make a habit of changing things just to please a disgruntled reader.If you have a problem with the way something is going, go write your own the way you want it to be.
This does not mean I won't take suggestions. (Hell, I might ask for some from time to time) I had a few readers on some of the other storieswho seemed to think they could have some things done their way...and it kind of pissed me off.
Minor grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes will be made just like every other story on this site. So, don't go whining about a semicolon being where a comma should have been. It's nitpicking and it gets on my nerves. I've tried to present it as close to, well, perfect, as possible.
Coming Up Next: Cannot Forget This Regret