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Broken Amulets and Aromatherapy

Chapter Text

“He’s caused you more problems than we have,” the demon (for the lack of a better term) inside Roger reasoned.

Emerson gripped the sides of the driver’s seat, trying to think of what to do.  If she went for the amulet or anything else, the demon-like thing would slit Roger’s throat.  If she left, he’d be host to one of them forever.

She could fight, but…

No, she couldn’t.  She wasn’t up to that.

So Emerson did what she did best: she drove.

 

Five minutes later, Emerson slammed on the brakes.  What the hell had she done? She couldn’t leave Roger to the demon things!  She had to get back there and figure something out .

Like Jess had said, she needed to get out of the car and fight.  If fighting demons (for the lack of a better term) wasn’t a good enough reason to do that, then nothing would be.

She made an illegal u-turn (but who was watching this time of night?) and sped back to the Aquatics Center.

It was deserted.

She was too late.

They’d taken Roger and gone.

Emerson sat there for a few minutes, feeling blank inside.  At a loss for anything else to do, she checked the app.

New customer.

 

It was like being a puppet, Roger thought.  Except not really.

He was fully aware, but the demon (for the lack of a better term) was in control.  And it was riding high on its victory.

He shouldn’t have expected Emerson to come up with something.  Despite everything that happened tonight, this wasn’t her fight.  This was his. And he’d lost.

Maybe… maybe the demon-like thing would kill him.  Maybe his bastard cousins, if they existed, were all dead.  Maybe there would be an end to this anyway.

Oh no, said the thing in his head.   We’re just getting started.

Pictures flashed in his mind and Roger knew he – and the world – were in trouble.

The other demon-like things scattered, back to their hosts’ homes and lives.  Roger’s took him to his hotel, where he innocently checked in and went to his room.

The whole time, Roger screamed, trying to gain some modicum of control.  Maybe an errant twitch of the eye would make the clerk ask what was wrong.  Maybe he could finger sign H-E-L-P.

Not that anyone would know what to do.  No one but Emerson, that is.

The thing choked him off, stopped his mental screaming long enough for it to fall asleep, dragging Roger under with it.  He tried to claw his way back to consciousness, but if he needed a reminder he wasn’t in control anymore, this was it.

 

The next morning, the thing very calmly left a tip for the maid, checked Roger out, called another Ferry to the airport, and flew to Roger’s house.

Roger’s house, which was large and modern and stylishly minimalistic – all except for the room devoted to magic.  The cluttered and crowded room Roger had spent most of the last ten years in, translating the spell and researching and planning and practicing what he could.

The room the thing now looked in and laughed at.  “Pitiful,” it said, using Roger’s voice. “You really thought you – alone – could beat us.”

They spent the day clearing out the room.  Everything went not just into the trash, but into the back of a hired truck to take it straight to the landfill.  The demon thing wasn’t taking any chances.

Roger watched his drive away.

There was a painful sensation, almost like a deck of cards being shuffled, as the thing rifled through his memories.   Can’t drive.  Don’t know many people.  Awkward. Well, we’ll be fixing that.  It seemed to chuckle.   We can keep the cook and the maid, though.

Over the next few weeks, Roger watched as his life slowly transformed.  It was almost like watching a movie, except that he was experiencing every second it.

The thing shaved his beard.  Cut his hair a little shorter, too, to tame the way it flopped in his face.

The thing knew how to drive, so Roger bought his first car.

The thing knew how to flirt, so Roger had his first – and second and third – one night stand.

“’How Roger Got His Groove Back,’” quipped Cameron, a tall, leggy blonde he’d crushed on in college that the thing had gotten in touch with.  “It’s like you finally found yourself.” She leaned forward against the table and smiled. Roger could see down her shirt easily.

He didn’t want to look, but the thing did.

“Late bloomer, I guess,” the thing said charmingly.  “I’m just sorry it took me this long.”

“Don’t be,” Cameron said.  “I had to get through husband number one to figure out what I missed when I looked past you.”

As gratifying as it would be to think that his college crush had matured and truly missed his awkward advances, Roger knew the only reason she’d stuck around then was his money.  Now was probably no different.

The thing didn’t care.  There was plenty of money to spare and if it had to buy love, it could.

 

Turns out, money was a problem when you had it and when you didn’t.

When she drove off, Emerson had taken Roger’s orange bag with her – the one with all those hundreds in the money clip.  She hadn’t meant to steal it; there just wasn’t an opportunity to return it.

So she did what any enterprising young person struggling with money would do: she paid utilities and rent.  She was left with a few thousand extra, so she splurged on some new, better quality essential oils. That tripped her guilt, however, so she stashed the rest in an envelope under her mattress.  Maybe, someday, Roger would be Roger again and she could return it. They’d just call what she already spent the extravagant tip he promised.

Two weeks passed and Roger didn’t return.  The crime rates in town didn’t drop. Emerson still never made it inside to open mic night.

And she felt guiltier every day for driving off.

She shouldn’t.  It’d been Roger’s fight.  He’d held her at knifepoint and treated her like garbage.  But he’d also been earnest and endearing when he wasn’t trying to scare her.  He hadn’t lied about the demon things and he’d been very open about his family’s responsibility for them – as well as his grandfather’s sexual proclivities.

Yeah, that had been an image she didn’t need.

Four weeks in and her roommate, Grace, called her out for spending all her time driving for Ferry again, just like those last few months dating Jess.  Emerson was obviously avoiding something once again. Once again, she knew exactly what: she really ought to try to find and save Roger from the demon things.

Was that even really possible?  Roger had said it’d take more than a hundred years before another night would come when they could all be destroyed, but surely she could evict a single one?  He had taken care of himself – well, paid people to take care of him – for who knew how many years without getting possessed; he could go back to that life after she got the demon (for the lack of a better term) out.

Plastering a smile on her face, Emerson turned around and gave the Ferry spiel, asking her latest customer – drunken frat boys – for feedback.

Tomorrow.  She’d start searching for Roger tomorrow.

For now, she definitely needed a spritz or two of the anti-stress aromatherapy mix.

Chapter Text

Where did you begin to search when you didn’t even know someone’s last name?  Emerson couldn’t exactly go to the police and ask them to help her find her friend Roger who was rich, the last legitimate member of his family, and – oh by the way – possessed.

He’d gotten his great-great-grandfather’s finger from a family crypt in the new cemetery.  Maybe she could identify which crypt he’d broken into.  Unfortunately, a walk through the cemetery just showed her a bunch of old, unkept crypts that had been painstakingly moved and promptly forgotten.

Maybe the library had some record of his ancestors making it big and leaving town.  An afternoon with the microfiche left Emerson with a headache and no more of a clue as to Roger’s last name as before.

To the internet, then.  If he was as rich as he made it sound like he was – successful investments, business ventures, etc. – maybe he made it onto some list in Forbes or something.  In between drives at work, she searched on her phone, looking for any rich guys named Roger.

Nothing.  It was like in addition to the wealth and success, Roger’s family also got anonymity.

This was turning out to be a lot harder than Emerson had hoped.

Her phone beeped.  New customer.

She put down her search and went back to her own life.

 

The thing in Roger’s head was having the time of its life (for the lack of a better term). 

Roger’s body got it access to money.  Money brought power and influence and women and men and anything it wanted.

Mostly, it seemed to want to have the sort of social life Roger never had.  Had never been able to have, even if he’d wanted to.  It took him all of 0.00000003 seconds to figure out why.  What was the primary drive of any lifeform, even of those from other universes?  Survive, yes, but reproduce.  This thing was no different.

It wanted Roger to have children – with or without the getting married step – so that more of its kind could move into the world.  The exact thing he’d been working his whole life to stop and the exact thing he was powerless to stop right now.  And any time Roger tried to check out and not pay attention?  It made him look and see.

The thing took him as a passenger on many dates, most ending in bed, but seemed particularly taken with a twenty-something named Madison.

Roger was not.

Oh, Madison was pretty enough and nice enough, but had no sense of humor beyond laughing at everything the thing said.  But she was so young.  And she was clearly there because the thing showered her with expensive gifts and dates.

At least at first.  As the weeks passed, Roger watched in horror as either Madison became a better actor or truly fell for the thing.

It was bad enough having to experience his body being used for sex when he didn’t want it with the casual dates the thing picked up, but infinitely worse the first time Madison sighed that she loved him.  He didn’t love her.  Neither did the thing, but it needed her.

It’d been four months now.  Roger tried to convince himself that this was his life now.  He was nothing but a host and never would be anything else ever again.

That’s right.  You’re mine now.

He couldn’t squash that last little bit of hope, however.

 

Six months in and Emerson was still looking over her shoulder at every fare she picked up, wondering if they were a demon (for the lack of a better term).  Wondering if maybe they knew where Roger was.

She never asked, though.

She finally got a breakthrough, however, watching trash TV coverage of some movie premiere in New York City.  There, in the background of an interview with some daytime television star, was a man who looked like Roger, if he’d shaved and trimmed his hair.  He had those same eyes, she could tell, even through the screen.

And he was with some young brunette.  Huh.

Praying someone would stop him and talk to him, Emerson watched the rest of the premiere coverage, all three minutes of it, and then went online to look for more.

It took a couple of days, but then he showed up on Getty Images.  With a name.

Hell yeah.

It wasn’t as easy as just Googling him, though.  She was finally able to track down some of his investments and business holdings, but they were scattered across the country, giving her no clue where he actually lived.

Maybe they really had been granted anonymity, too.  Or maybe Roger had just been that much of a hermit.  Could go either way, really.

It wasn’t until she looked into the records of one of those business holdings – this search was making Emerson learn to be really good (or maybe really bad) at computer stuff – that she got his address.

Huh.  She wouldn’t have figured he’d be so close.  Only three and a half hours’ drive or so.  Least she wouldn’t have to try and get anything weird through TSA.

Speaking of weird things, Emerson pulled the envelope of money out from under her mattress and started buying a few pieces of silver here and there.  Two rings from the jeweler’s.  A silverware set from a yard sale that she had verified by said jeweler.  Some silver chains.  And her personal favorite – a silver-topped beer stein that would knock pretty much anyone out as well as put the hurt on a demon-like thing.

Not that she intended to knock Roger out, but Emerson was prepared to do what she needed to do this time.

Chapter Text

The demon (for the lack of a better term) moved quicker than Roger was comfortable with – not that Roger was comfortable with any of this.

Six months after it’d inhabited Roger and four months after it’d started romancing– no, luring in Madison, it planned a party.

Roger knew why.  It was supposedly for his birthday, but it was actually going to propose, grandiosely and publicly, leaving Roger a permanent third wheel in a marriage purportedly his own.

If the whole thing didn’t already make him sick, it would now.

The thing wanted children.  Legitimate children.  Oh, it had plans for plenty of illegitimate ones, too, just like his grandfather, but there was time for that later.  Right now, for appearance’s sake, Roger needed a wife.  Needed legitimate children to present to the world and officially continue the family line – and the family curse.

Not that the thing thought of it as a curse.  In fact, it often told Roger what a blessing the bargain had been and why he should have appreciated it more.

Some days, Roger wished he had, so he would still have his body and his life.  Then he’d mentally kick himself – if he hadn’t at least tried to fight the demon things, then even more people would be stuck in his very situation.

Of course, now the world was on course to have even more brought over from the demon things’ dimension, so perhaps it was all a wash in the end.  Roger didn’t really know what to think anymore.

He’d reconciled himself to the fact that he’d never be rescued, that no one would ever know he was trapped in his own body.  Who’d ever suspect that, after all?  It was absurd – and even if he’d gotten a reputation over the years for being eccentric, possession still wouldn’t register to the people around him now.

Sometimes now, when Roger tried to close his mental eyes and check out, the thing let him.  He skated through much of the party preparation that way.

Unfortunately, it also meant a rude awakening when the thing forced him back to awareness the day of the party.  You’re going to be here for this, it said as it dressed Roger’s body in a tailored suit he hadn’t owned before.

 

Emerson made it to the city and did a pass by Roger’s house before she tried to get in.

Wow, that was not what she would have expected from the slouchy hoodie-wearing guy she’d driven around.

It also looked busy, like there were preparations for a party going on.

Huh.  A party.  She could use that – as long as Roger (or demon-thing Roger) wasn’t the type to hire stuffy security.  There was no way she was getting in dressed like she currently was, though.

Time for a little more shopping on Roger’s dime.

 

Shopping in this city sucked.  Everything was crowded and expensive and Emerson definitely got some looks from people who thought she didn’t belong in their high end stores.

They could suck it.

The lady who helped her find a dress (a gown, almost!  When was the last time Emerson wore a gown?) thought she planned to dance when she asked about being about to move around freely.  Nope, Emerson was thinking of fighting and hitting people with beer steins and running away very fast if she had to, but the sales clerk didn’t need to know that.

With time to burn, Emerson hung around the malls until dinner time.  She scarfed down something from the closest fast food place and made her way back to Roger’s.

What took her twenty minutes to drive at two in the afternoon now took her close to an hour in the middle of rush hour.  Cities!  This is why she liked to drive at night, even in her own town.

Her timing was right, though.  Cars were pulling into Roger’s drive.  She followed, grateful that her sister’s car was nice enough to not look totally out of place here.  Some car gymnastics later and she was in her dress and sensible flats, with a dressy bag holding all her silver items.

Game on, demon things.

 

There was no way of knowing how many demon things would be at the party or if any of them had been there that night at the Aquatics Center, so Emerson hoped the dress was enough of a disguise to trick them for at least a little while.  She just had to get close to Roger, whammy him with something silver, and hold on until the demon thing gave up and left him.

It’d probably try to go for a new host, so Emerson hoped the sight of white smoke sizzling off of Roger would send the non-infected people fleeing.  Maybe everyone – including her and Roger – would have time to get away.

That was a lot of ifs and hopes, but ifs and hopes were all she had.

Well, and a handbag full of silver.

There was a doorman – or maybe he was a butler? – who eyed her suspiciously when she didn’t want to let him take her handbag, but she ignored him.  He didn’t try and stop her, so he must not be infected, just a snooty employee.

Jeez, Roger hadn’t been kidding when he said he had money.  The place was huge inside and decked out in that sort of minimalistic décor that only the very rich could afford.  There were no signs of a person actually living there, except for the glasses of wine set down around the house by guests: no stacks of DVDs by the TV, bookshelves arranged as if they were out of a magazine, shelves that held a single vase with a single flower.

Who the hell picked all this out?  Surely not the slouchy guy who hopped in her car that night.  He must have hired someone or the demon thing redecorated.

Emerson liked the idea of redecorating better than thinking Roger used to actually live like this.

The party was in full swing and despite the size of the house, it was still packed.  It took her a few minutes to locate Roger in what she supposed would be called the breakfast nook.  He was surrounded by people, one of whom was the young brunette he’d been with at that premiere.

Quietly, she wormed her way up behind him, surreptitiously reaching in her handbag and winding some silver chains around her palm and fingers.

She was just about to reach out when the demon thing in Roger started talking, in that very not-Roger voice it had.

Emerson froze.

Chapter Text

The thing raised its glass of wine and looked out at the crowd, beaming with Roger’s face.

Roger seethed behind it.

“Everybody!” it announced and waited for conversation to stop.  “Everybody, I want to propose a toast.”

“To your birthday!” someone in the crowd shouted and the thing laughed.

“To that, yes, but also to this young lady here.”  It pulled Madison close and kissed her temple.  The room raised their glasses and clapped politely.  “And as for that…”

Roger winced as the thing reached in their coat pocket and pulled out the ring box.

“I have a very important question I’d like to ask–”

“Oh no, you freaking don’t!” came a familiar voice from behind them.  “I object!  Or something like that!”

!!!  That was Emerson’s voice.  Roger willing the thing to turn and look and it did, but not before a fistful of silver was clapped against their throat, both choking and burning.

Roger could feel the burn, though not as bad as the thing inside him, obviously.  It yelled as smoke rose from Emerson’s hand.  “Stop her!”

“No!” yelled Emerson back.  “Look!  This isn’t right.  This isn’t Roger.  I’m helping him!”

You sound as crazy as me, Roger thought.  The only ones who’ll believe you are trapped inside their own minds, too.

The crowd around Roger scattered, except for Madison, who tried in vain to pull Emerson’s hand away, but Madison had no strength.  She’d never needed any and Emerson had a two-handed hold around Roger’s neck now.

He wished she’d grabbed elsewhere; he did still need air, but it was effective against the thing, which was screaming in his mind and scrabbling at his throat.

The thing fought to keep its hold on his body and Emerson fought to keep the silver on his skin while Roger cheered her on.

It occurred to him that she was winning.  He was gaining some control back – and with every ounce he gained, he pried the thing out of him from the inside.

It fought him, too, of course, but a battle on two fronts is a losing battle.  The thing retreated out of Roger’s body.

Fuck– “Yes!” Roger yelled, the first word he’d spoken in over six months.

Emerson eyed him.  “That you again?”  When he nodded, she released her chokehold on his neck.  She handed him a beer stein.  “Silver cap.  Good for hitting,” she explained.

Oh, Roger could get behind that.

First, though.  He turned to Madison, who was cowering by the wall.  “You’re a lovely girl,” he said, “but you’ve been seeing a lie.  Now, I’d run before it gets you, too.”

She didn’t move.

RUN!” he barked.

“Roger…” said Emerson, at his back.  “She doesn’t have anywhere to go.”

He turned.  There were about five demons (for the lack of a better term) between them and all the doors out of his house.

Oh, no.  Now that he was free, he was not going to be bested again by these creatures.  Nor was he going to let either Emerson or Madison get caught and possessed by one.  Running to the closest one, he clocked it over the head with the beer stein, temporarily knocking it out.  He was a little surprised he actually hit the thing, but it was more than satisfying.

A horrible smell filled the air, but Roger recognized it.  Emerson was spraying an aromatherapy mixture in the eyes of another demon thing.  “What?” she said.  “You said sage and other stuff worked on them.  I made up an anti-demon blend.”

Roger laughed.  Sage definitely worked on them.  The ones within scent distance of Emerson’s concoction acted as if they’d been hit with pepper spray.

Seeing their chance, he grabbed Madison’s hand and pulled her to her feet.  “Run now!”  He pushed her forwards and then he took Emerson’s silver-clad hand and dragged her behind him as she continued to spray her aromatherapy mixture behind them.

Outside was chaos as people were trying to leave, but it was still outside.  Freedom, or at least the semblance of it.  Roger breathed the summer air in deeply.

“What the hell what that?” demanded Madison, petulant and bratty now that they were somewhat safe.

“Demons,” said Emerson tiredly.  “For the lack of a better term.  You were dating one.  Meet the real Roger.”

“That’s not funny,” Madison said, pouting.

“She’s right.  I’m not the thing you were dating.  If I were you, I’d leave here and forget all about me,” Roger said.  Please, he thought.

“I’m parked over here,” Emerson said, ignoring Madison’s continued pout.

“You’re going with her?” Madison asked, shocked.  “After she tried to choke you?”

“She saved my life,” Roger said, getting seriously tired.  “Look, I’m not the Roger you knew.  Listen to me when I tell you that.  I don’t love you.  I never have.  I’m not in love with anyone right now, for that matter.  Go away.”

Madison’s eyes flared with anger and she stormed off.

“Well, you could have been a little nicer,” Emerson said.

“Nicer wasn’t working,” Roger pointed out.  “And what took you so long?  Six months to come get me?”

Emerson looked at him like he was stupid.  “You know, I worked very hard to find you and this all would have been a lot easier if you’d told me your last name, you idiot!”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.  Oh.”

Roger looked back at the house.  “So, uh.  We should probably get out of here.”

Sighing, Emerson led the way to the car.  “Fine.  Get in.  Where do you want to go?”

He slid into the front seat without asking and looked around.  “You’re still driving your sister’s car?”

“I borrowed it for the trip,” she said, almost seething.  “Remind me why I saved you again?”

“Because you know you were supposed to play a part that night and it’s been eating at you ever since.”

She glared.  “No fair being spot on.”

They finally made it through the mass of cars to the road.  “Take me to the airport, I guess,” Roger said.  “I’ve got another house I can go to until the demons – for the lack of a better term – leave this one alone.”

“Of course you have another house,” Emerson said.  “You’ve got multiple houses and I’ve still got a turdspoon.”

Roger couldn’t help himself; he started laughing and couldn’t stop.  “The turdspoon,” he sputtered out.  “I can’t believe you still have the turdspoon.”

“Well, I didn’t spend the money you left in my car on a better apartment.  I did take about half of it as a tip, though.”

“Half?!”  Roger stopped laughing.  He didn’t really care, but he had to protest.

“Most of that went towards finding you and this rescue trip,” Emerson pointed out, not sounding the least bit sorry.

Well, he guessed that was a good use of his money.  “Do I get the rest of it back?”

She jerked her thumb towards the back.  “Your bag’s in the trunk.  It’s in there.”  She glanced over at him while they were stopped in traffic.  “What are you going to do?”

The big question.  Roger sighed.  “The thing got rid of all my research, so I guess I have to start over.  See if there’s another way to stop them.”

“Still gonna live like a monk?”

“Safest for everyone if I do.”

“You can have friends, you know,” Emerson said.  “Call people occasionally, go out, do stuff that isn’t curse related.”

Roger started to protest, but changed his mind.  “Give me your phone,” he instructed.

She unlocked it and handed it over.  “Who you need to call?”

“Nobody,” he said, tapping away in one of her apps.  “Here.  I added myself in the contacts.  First and last name.”

“Wow.  So you realize you just signed yourself up for texts of me practicing my comedy routine.”

He could tell from her voice she still hadn’t made inside that club.  “You should do it, you know.  You took on demons by yourself.  An open mic is nothing.”

Emerson gave a slight smile.  “Yeah.  Maybe I will.”  They pulled in at the airport and she stopped in the departures lane.  “So I guess this is goodbye.  Unless you want to come visit and see the turdspoon sometime.”

Roger made a face.  “Maybe someday,” he said facetiously.  Before he hopped out of the front seat, he reiterated his earlier encouragement.  “Do the open mic.  I’m serious.  You’d be good.”

“Right,” she said.  “Don’t forget your bag this time.”  She grinned at him.

He grinned back.  He almost wanted to give her a hug but… well, six months of being trapped by that thing didn’t do anything for his confidence with women, even friends.

And Emerson was a friend, right?

She’d saved him.  Of course she was.

“I’ll leave you a good review this time,” he joked, to break the tension.

“Get out of here.  Let me know when you figure out how to kill the demons and I’ll come help,” she promised.

Well, he couldn’t ask for more than that, could he?

Roger got out and opened the trunk.  There, as if he’d never left, sat his bag.  The trunk closed and he waved.

Emerson drove off, once again.  This time, though, things were going to be okay.