This Illusory Existence By Naia Zifu

Vachon sat alone in his dusty, run-down, candlelit church,
strumming idly at his guitar. The tune was nothing in particular, just wherever his fingers happened to land, while his mind was a hundred years and a few thousand miles away.

A sudden flicker of movement from the corner of the room caught his eye. A woman, his mind registered. Blonde, in a light-
coloured blouse.

"Tracy?" There was no response-- no woman at all, once he'd raised his eyes to look properly. He sighed. "The old eyes must be playing tricks on me. Guess it's time I packed it in for the day."

A good afternoon's rest had him feeling much more clear-headed.
He treated himself to a long, hot shower and towel-dried himself off.
He was just securing the towel around his waist, when the distinct form of a tall, thin woman in a blue sundress, her mid-length blonde hair in a small ponytail, walked in like she owned the place.

Vachon's face flushed as the towel fell, and he stammered for an apology, yet the woman's eyes never once wandered down. She simply took a bottle from a non-existent medicine chest on the wall, and left the room.

He was still a bit shaken up as he related the incident to Tracy, later.

"And then she just walked out like she didn't see a thing.
And I'm standing there naked, wondering who this woman was, what she's doing in my place, and how she did that trick with the medicine chest I don't have."

"She's a ghost, Vachon. Maybe when she was alive, there was a chest there."

"My church is not haunted," he insisted. "I've been around long enough, if there were ghosts, I think I woulda seen one long before now."

"So let me get this straight; you're a vampire, but you don't believe in ghosts?" Tracy said, incredulous. "Hello? You're a 500-year-old Spanish Conquistador. You should be dust now, and yet,
here you are. Is it so hard to believe--"

Tracy's words cut off sharply, with a gasp, as she watched the figure of a woman emerge from the wall and take a book from an unseen shelf. She began miming wildly to Vachon until he turned around to look. Much to both their surprise, they found the woman staring right back at them. Then, quite literally in the blink of an eye, she was gone.

A moment's stunned silence passed before Tracy found her words again.

"I think she saw us."

"Ghosts can see us?"

"I thought you said you didn't believe in ghosts."

"I didn't say that. I just said if there were any here, I woulda seen them."

"And there, you just did."

"So, now what do we do about it?"

"Exorcism?"

"Too drastic-- she's not hurting anybody."

"Seance?"

"Too cheesy."

"All right, then, how about we try and talk to her directly"
Tracy said, pulling a digital note-taker from her purse, "and just see what she has to say."

Vachon watched with some amusement as Tracy turned on the recorder and walked slowly around the room asking questions of his disembodied guest. What was her name? When did she live? How did she die? Was there anything they could do to help her move on?

"You seem like you've done this before."

Tracy smiled, somewhat uncomfortably.

"Let's just say I've had more than my share of strange experiences since taking on Nick as a partner."

Vachon only grinned crookedly. If Tracy knew just how strange her partner really was. . .

"Vachon. . . did you ever wonder what death is like?" she asked suddenly, catching him off-guard.

"I dunno. Like. . . nothing, I guess," he answered after a minute. "I mean, that's what we're all afraid of, right? Of just, not existing? That's why we have all those stories about heaven and hell and reincarnation-- it's 'cause we just want there to be something more after this."

"So you think this life, the world we see all around us. . .
that's all there is?"

Vachon shrugged. "My opinion. . . is just as worthless as anyone else's, as far as this goes. The truth is, none of us knows till it happens, and by then it's too late to tell anybody."

"Well, we'll see about that," Tracy said, pressing "play".

Both listened intently for a long time. . . to nothing but Tracy's voice and the sound of the recorder's mechanisms.

"Guess she doesn't feel like talking," Vachon said.

Tracy shrugged. "Well, it was worth a try. So what next?"

"Shot," a small voice said from the recorder just as Tracy was about to turn it off, startling them both.

"What was that?" Vachon asked, looking to Tracy as if for explanation.

Tracy's eyes were wide, and she clasped her own abdomen.

"Tracy?" he prompted, concern in his big, brown eyes.

"Shot," she echoed the recorded voice. "I was shot." She looked up at Vachon with pained eyes. "I'm the ghost."

Vachon blinked. "What are you talking about? You're not the ghost. You saw the ghost-- we both did."

An even more pained look crossed Tracy's eyes as another realisation hit.

"You can see me, and talk to me, like I'm really here. So if I'm dead. . . then you must be dead, too. . . But you didn't die, you just felt it was time to move on, the way vampires do. . ."

Vachon took her by the shoulders and said softly, as if to a confused and frightened child, "You're not making any sense, Trace. I haven't moved on. I'm right here."

Yet Tracy continued, as the vaguest hint of a memory came to her, "Or that's what that creepy old guy, LaCroix, said. . . He's one of you!" She pushed away from Vachon. "You lied to me!"

Vachon debated feigning ignorance, but Tracy didn't look in the mood for such games.

"Look, it's not my place to out every vampire in the city," he said. "And anyway, if you had known, you woulda just assumed he was guilty. Evil's a part of us, isn't that what you said?"

Tracy's eyes softened. "That's right, you didn't hear what else I said. . . after the whole staking thing. . ."

Vachon shuddered at the mention, remembering not only the pain of the stake, but the even greater pain he'd been trying to escape.

"I never got to tell you how I felt when you were alive. . .
er, undead," Tracy continued. "I just hoped you somehow. . . knew.
You were really special to me, Vachon. You showed me a whole other world I never would've dreamt existed."

Vachon just blinked, clueless as always to her hints.

"Oh, why do men always have to be so dense?" she lamented,
before finally gathering her nerve to just say it outright. "I loved you, Vachon. I still do. I wanted us to be together. . . like a relationship."

Vachon seemed to consider those words for a while, before admitting, "I knew that."

"You knew?" Tracy's anger returned in a rush. "You knew how I felt, but you never said a word? No 'I love you, Tracy,' or 'Go screw yourself, Tracy,' or "I like you, but just as a friend,' no nothing?"

"Tracy, do you know what happens when a vampire and a human get together?"

"And you couldn't put aside the monster in you just for a minute, even for me?" Tracy fumed. "See, that's why we would never have worked out, Vachon. You vampires just--"

Vachon abruptly took her into his arms and kissed her, the spontaneity of the action surprising them both. Even more surprising,
the only stirring he felt was in his long-gone-but-not-forgotten libido.

Tracy's face flushed bright-red, and a silly schoolgirl grin played at her lips.

"So this is what happens when we die. . ." she said.

Vachon smiled softly. "Guess so."

"So I guess if we're the ghosts, that woman we saw must be--"

"The woman who lives here now?" Vachon guessed. "For all I know, they've knocked down the old church for condos or something."

"I hope we didn't scare her too bad-- she might call in an exorcist." Tracy said. "Then again, if I was able to leave my apartment and come see you, we're obviously not stuck in one place like the ghosts in the movies. Think we could just take off and go wherever we want?"

"Guess we'll see," he replied. "Why? Any place in particular you'd like to go?"

"Well, I have always wanted to see Europe," she said, "but first I wanna go find Nick. That man's got a lot to answer for, not trusting his own partner with something important like that. . ."

?005 Naia Zifu, all rights reserved.
Vachon and Tracy are FK characters I don't own rights to. As always,
I'm not trying to make money off others' ideas.
It's another Vaqdreams challenge fic! This one took a while to do,
because of life stuff. . . Amanda having her baby, tree almost falling on our house, etc. :-P But I eventually got it done . Hope it's enjoyable, and not too confusing!