Welcome to Denial of Destiny!
The Advantage of Being Human
by Mark Jones
DEDICATED TO THE GROUP: Bufy4Angl, KabutoRvn, Weird37,Grngrp15, Damonbrk, and Kris10139! I couldn't have done this one without you all! What a great roleplay!
Angel smiled at Willow as she entered the mansion. The look on her face told him she believed she was successful, and that because of this, there was a special chance for some happiness in his life.
"Hi!" Willow said, perky as ever. Angel smiled as he got a hug from her. He looked down at her, somewhat nervously. She handed it to him, a look of almost amazement on his face.
"I don’t honestly know what it’ll do... we followed the manuscript to the letter. But nothing like this has ever been done before, Angel. Are you sure you want to do this?" Angel looked solemnly from the package to Willow, his eyes answering her. "Okay..." she finished, turning and leaving.
Buffy brushed her hair at her vanity in her bedroom. A birthday party tonight at the Bronze for her. That was sweet of all of them. She was kind of surprised Angel would do something like that. She knew that the other vampires in the area would know that she was there, and while Giles would not exactly approve... but every girl has to have her birthday party. Even if it was 2 days still until she was 18...
"Now what to wear?" she wondered, opening up the closet.
Strolling across town, Angel was headed for the Bronze for Buffy’s party. A lot of planning had gone into tonight’s party for her. Everyone was coming, except Giles, who said he would try to make it, but might run late. Even Cordelia, as stand-off’ish as she’d been lately, had said she would ‘make an appearance’. Mighty kind of her, Angel thought to himself.
"‘Allo, Angel!" Angel suddenly came to a halt, his thought process interrupted as his hands cleared his pockets should he need them.
"Hello, Spike." Angel looked from the blond man to his companion. "Druscilla. What brings the two of you out tonight? Trolling for some?" he asked sarcastically.
"No, luv," Dru responded. "Messengering, couldn’t find a pigeon..." Spike approached Angel, a look of contempt in his eyes.
"‘ere." He sat the scroll in Angel’s hand, turned without another word and walked away with Druscilla. Angel watched the odd pair walk away, and once they left, unravelled the scroll and read.
The color actually drained away from his face.
"No... not now!"
Buffy walked into the Bronze, looking dazzling as ever. She smiled, a little sheepishly to a few guys who noticed her as she walked. She saw Xander, Willow and the gang at a table near the back.
"Hey, there’s the birthday girl!" Xander said, hopping up to hug her. She patted his back, smiling at Willow and the others over his shoulder. Hugs followed for Will, Oz and even Cordelia. Faith simply smiled at Buffy. A new girl, Kris was there as well. She smiled at Buffy. Kris had just moved to Sunnydale from New York, and got along well with the group. She happened to be sitting with Willow, who she had become fast friends with, when they were talking about the get together, so the only polite thing to do would be to invite her. She had brought a present, though.
"So, feel any different yet, B?" Faith asked. Buffy shook her head.
"No, not lately. Still level headed as ever." she half-joked. Something about Faith still rubbed her wrong.
"Well, now you can vote. At least you can’t be drafted." Oz offered. He received an elbow from Willow for that remark. Willow’s eye was caught by Angel, who had just come in the far door.
"Excuse me..." Willow got up and made her way across the Bronze to the door where the dark-haired vampire had just come in. "Hey, how are you?"
Angel looked at her with almost-the-same dark, brooding eyes he always had. He nodded almost imperceptively.
"I’m okay..." he said quietly, troubled still.
"Feeling all right, Angel?" She inquired. He half nodded, half shook his head.
"Weird, I guess." Willow smiled.
"This is going to be fantastic..." she grinned, and couldn’t resist hugging him again. He managed a smile himself. Together they walked back to the table, where Cordy was busy telling another horrid tale of schoolwork interfering with her social life. Angel looked at Buffy, who smiled as he approached.
"Hey." she said, smiling at him.
"Hey, yourself." he said, quieter. Buffy’s head angled slightly in response to him.
"Are you all right?" she asked. He nodded, his eyes giving away his only betrayal of an untold truth. He smiled at her.
"Happy Birthday." He said.
And so did everybody else. Cordy gave her some perfume ("It’s from Rodeo drive" she persisted in saying), Willow gave her a ‘blessed’ charm bracelet, and Xander gave her a gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret (he was slapped very hard by both Willow and Cordy, but said he simply couldn’t think of something good to give her). Buffy thanked them all. Then Angel turned her to him, and took her hands. There was something odd about him, though...
"Buffy, we all wanted to wish you a happy birthday, but I have something personally that I want to give you." She looked up at him, a shine in her eyes of anticipation. He glanced nervously at Willow and the others. "I wanted this shared with everyone that you are close to. That I’m close to..." Buffy’s face was stone as Angel slowly lifted her hand in his to his chest, and put her hand flat on his chest. She looked slowly from her hand up to his eyes, amazement showing.
"Angel... you... your heart... is beating..." Her eyes started to tear up as Angel’s did as well. A wide smile broke out on his face as sudden happiness filled him.
"I had found an old, old manuscript in some reading I was doing..." he explained, breathing heavily from the excitement. Buffy could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and realized that the odd sensation she had gotten earlier was from his warm hand... his warm, living hand.
"In taking it to Will and Giles, they deciphered it and found that it could be used to at least temporarily reverse the effects of vampirism. It was hard, very hard to make... took like six months to get one item for the potion here from Romania. We’re not sure of how long it will last. It’s never been successful before... but I had to try." He looked at her, love in his eyes, searching her face for approval.
It was rewarded and affirmed by the tears that started streaming down Buffy Summer’s face.
"I love you, Angel." She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him close, her friends around, smiling at their joy.
"And I love you, Buffy."
"This is the best present that I could ask for on my birthday!"
The rest of the evening was spend partying, with Buffy and Angel sticking very close. Buffy would look at him when he was over talking to Giles, who had just arrived, and Willow. Buffy simply stared at him. He was so happy, so full of… life. This was truly a blessed event, she thought. Moreso for Angel even than for her. Many, many times she had dreamed of this, of him and her on the beach, walking in the sun together. She dared now for a moment to believe that dream. And for all humanity… if it worked with Angel, would it work with others? She was brought out of her daydream by someone speaking to her.
"… and so we need to go back to your house. Your mom is having a little get-together for you as well." Xander said. Buffy looked up and nodded at him, and momentarily, saw him looking longingly at Angel.
"I guess now you and he can live happily ever after, huh?" Buffy sighed softly, then looked up at him.
"Xander, you know just as well as I do that we don’t know what’s happening." She paused, also joining him in looking at a smiling Angel and the gang. She didn’t really remember ever seeing him smile this much before in his life, like a little boy on Christmas morning. "I just know we have to accept this, and enjoy it while we can." She concluded.
Xander looked down, then back up. "Yeah," he said. "We’ll just enjoy this while we can…" he mumbled as he walked away. Buffy shook her head and walked over to the gang. Angel slid up to her and wrapped his arm around her waist, giving her a kiss. She stared into his beautiful eyes, no longer as soulful, seemingly relieved of his burden for a few moments.
The gang departed from the Bronze, and started walking along the street towards Buffy’s house. Giles even elected to leave his car behind and walk with everyone. They passed by another favorite hangout of the gang, the local park, when Buffy suddenly had that feeling. She slowed her walk, looking into the park. Angel took quick notice and asked what was wrong, stopping the whole processional.
"Something’s wrong…" she started, and took off into the woods.
"Figures that would happen on her birthday…" Cordelia piped in. Buffy had already moved into the park to find two… things engaged in attacking a brunette teenager. They seemed to be human, but had lost some facial features, and judging by the way they were tossing the girl between them, stronger than humans. Buffy leapt into the air and kicked one in the stomach, sending it bouncing off a tree and onto the ground.
The second one, seeing it’s companion go down, threw the teen down and ran at Buffy, who was waiting for it with a side step and a punch that took it right off it’s feet. The other one was struggling to get up as Oz came down on it’s head with a board he had picked up, sending it back down onto the ground. The second one stood again, only to feel more impact as Buffy through a combination punch and a spinning back kick, putting it’s lights out.
Angel and Giles arrived, both wheezing slightly from the sprint to the location of the fight. Xander looked over at Angel, a slight smirk on his face.
"Oh, yeah, Angel… I guess you’re not used to this human weakness stuff. Welcome to the living world." He was silenced from any further quips by a sharp look from Buffy.
"Giles, what are these things?" Willow asked, leaning over one, but trying to keep a good distance. Giles moved over one, carefully, since he didn’t know what these things stamina could be, and how fast they could get up again. He moved the head back and forth, looking closely for clues or bite marks. He found neither, and was joined by Angel who reviewed the head and neck area as well. The two of them conferred for a few minutes, and Buffy found herself almost smiling at the two of them talking like colleagues. It wasn’t too long ago that they had a painful, seemingly permanent wedge between them from when Angel turned. She was very happy to see them together.
"It would seem like we have some ghouls on our hands." Giles pronounced, adjusting his glasses.
"Ghouls? The kind that eat peoples brains and stuff?" Cordy put in. Angel shook his head.
"No. If you take a human, and don’t drain them, but feed them a little vampire blood, they become Ghouls. Still human, but more servile to their master, stronger and can still go out in the sunlight. Vamps will use them a lot of times as lackeys or to run errands for them."
"Why would they be here?" Xander asked.
"Running errands?" Cordy suggested.
"For who?" Buffy started.
No one answered, as suddenly everyone’s attention was drawn by a number of snarls around them. Buffy immediately assumed a fighting stance, and Giles directed everyone in a circle, back to back. The gang suddenly realized that they were surrounded by vampires.
"Guess it was a midnight snack…" Xander ventured.
No one said a word. More and more vampires appeared, an the number of them grew greater than sixty, at least. The small group of humans thought this looked very, very bad. Buffy could not remember ever seeing this many vampires in one place before. One of the vampires, apparently a leader of some sort, spoke up.
"The time of the conclave is near." He said loudly, proclaiming it so all of the vampires could hear. "The challenger has been chosen."
Buffy took this to mean her. She stepped forward slightly, and said "It’s me you want, let’s go." The vampires responded to her with a group laugh. She was about to step forward again, when Angel grabbed her arm and held her back. Giles, on the other side of Angel, looked very concerned.
"They’re not after you." Angel murmured quietly. "The conclave happens every 50 years in a town. The reigning master and a challenger fight to see who the new master will be. The winner will lead them as master for another 50 years. The right one will bring about a quiet type of vampire life, like what we have now. The wrong one will bring about bloodshed like we’ve never seen, since all other vamps in the area will follow his every command."
A large, large vampire stepped into view, and bellowed so loud, Willow thought her eardrums would rupture. She had never seen a vampire that big.
"I am Xavier! I will be the new Master! There will be an end to this ‘slaying’ and niceness that is humanity! We will rule!"
"Angel," Buffy said, leaning closer to him. "Who’s the old Master?" She looked up into his face, as he stared at Xavier, and she knew. He eyes widened in shock "Angel, no, you can’t! You’re not one of them anymore!"
"It doesn’t matter. If I don’t go, they’ll tear every one of you apart and still take me." He swallowed visibly, and Buffy knew that he was… afraid. He turned and looked at Buffy.
"I love you." He whispered. She looked in his eyes, hers brimming with tears again.
"I love you…" she reflected. He stepped away from her then, backing away from the group to the vampires that stood at a distance. Oz, in a sudden fit of rage, picked up a rock.
"You bastards… don’t go, Angel!" he threw it, hitting one of the vampires on the head. The remaining ones laughed long and hard at the one that had been hit.
"No, Oz! Don’t…" Angel said. "It’s okay…" The vampires took him into their ranks, keeping him and Xavier apart, and left the park. Buffy stood by, feeling helpless as her one true love was taken from her. Again.
"I… I don’t know…" Giles said, pulling another book out from the library. They had been pouring over the textbooks looking for anything on a ‘conclave’ when Buffy asked what the effect of the potion would have on Angel. "It has, honestly, never been used on a vampire in recorded history before."
"Then why do something like that? It could kill him…" she said,
"We told him that, too…" Willow said. "He said he didn’t care. It was all worth it, if he had a chance to be with you," she finished quietly. Buffy looked off for a moment, seeming to want to break down again, but centered herself of her task at hand. Find the vampires. Kill them. Save Angel.
"Wait, wait… here’s something." Cordy said. She had picked up an old dusty manual, bound in faded leather. "The conclave is the deciding fight for power. It will be done in a place of combat, away from human eyes…" She trailed off in the end, thinking about the last part.
"Away from human eyes…" Giles said, pacing back and forth.
"The old amphitheater…" Buffy said. "Amphitheaters were known in ancient times as a place of combat or plays. There’s the old amphitheater on the other side of town!"
"They abandoned that place when the new Stadium opened." Cordy volunteered.
"Let’s go…" Giles said.
"Uh huh… I have a lot of blue movement," Willow informed everyone, looking through her infrared goggles. "Wait, wait… here it is… looks like one red heat source."
"That would be Angel." Buffy said, obviously worried. "We need to get down there."
"Um, if I could kinda remind you, there are a lot, and I mean a lot, of vampires down there." Xander pointed out. He was met by another mean look from Buffy, and he made a mental note to try and think before he spoke next time.
Buffy had already grabbed her bag and started down the incline to the arena. She was followed closely by Willow, Xander, Giles, Oz and even Cordelia, who had to protest all the way down of how stupid this plan was. There was no plan, at least as far as she knew. Buffy wished she could think of something smart, but now she was concerned with one thing… Angel’s survival, and therefore the survival of everything human in the Sunnydale area.
They got near the outskirts of the arena and saw the fight was already going on. A bruised and bloodied Angel circled Xavier. Both combatants had a stake in hand, but Xavier was already moving for the win on this one. He swiped at Angel, who backpedaled quickly, but was met with a backfist as Xavier kept spinning, sending him flying. Blood flew across the arena, much to the chagrin of the roaring vampiric crowd.
Angel managed to stand up wearily, shaking off the effect of the punch. He lunged at Xavier, who merely stepped sideways and pulled Angel’s arm, sending him flying and the stake he held tumbled away. The crowd roared, and Xavier roared back.
"This is your Master? HA! He’s a HUMAN!" he bellowed, and was met by the roar of the crowd. He seemed to almost bask in the glory that he was creating. Angel once again staggered to his feet, but was grabbed from behind by Xavier. Angel tried a punch, but to no avail… it merely bounced off of the vampire’s tough hide and Angel found himself slammed to the ground, stunned.
Buffy stiffened visibly, as the whole gang looked on horrified.
Xavier picked up a stunned Angel, and with a loud and brazen laugh, rammed the stake directly into Angel’s heart. Angel screamed, his blood exploding all over a triumphant Xavier, who licked his lips as he threw Angel’s dead body to the ground. He turned, and threw both hands up as he roared to the crowd. The crowd roared back in answer.
Buffy, a single tear streaming down her face, turned and slumped against the wall they were spying over. He heart just died with his. Her Angel… her Angel no more. She slowly picked herself up, and headed back towards the van.
"Buffy?" Giles said, taking off after her. The rest of the crew decided it was best to slip away while they could, in preparation for a vampire’s holocaust. All but Oz, who was too intrigued by what was happening to leave just then. Xavier was addressing the crowd.
"My fellow vampires!" he screamed. The crowd roared at him. "Tonight the scourge that was humanity is ended! This… weakling…" he said, kicking Angel’s dead body in the back, causing him to physically move, "was a poor character. He was weak… but now I reign! Now I am the MASTER!" His arms raised in triumph, Xavier was about to speak again when his face suddenly contorted with pain. He shuddered, and then was suddenly turned to dust, leaving a vampire-faced Angel standing there with the stake he had just drove into Xavier’s chest. Oz’s eyes widened in surprise.
"Guys…" he whispered, trying to be loud enough for them to hear.
Angel roared to the crowd, who roared back in ritual response.
"Hear me! I am Angel! I am still the MASTER!" The crowd, though surprised of his mysterious recovery, accepted this as another reason he is the powerful vampire of the domain and roared at him.
Walking towards the van, Buffy stopped. She could almost swear the roaring voice in the pit sounded familiar…
"I rule! Hear now my decree!" Angel continued. "Leave this place… this city! Harm none of it’s inhabitants! Do not kill wantonly or you will answer to me!" He roared again, and the crowd answered with a roar.
The vampires got up, and just left. They shuffled right past Willow, past Giles, Oz and even Cordelia. Buffy, stopped before she could reach the van, looked back perplexed at this scene. Wondering what had happened, she walked back down to join everyone else.
"Giles, what happened?" Giles looked at Buffy, that slight smile on his face, and then cast his eyes down to the pit. Buffy followed his gaze, and felt her stomach do flips when she saw Angel standing in the center of the ring. She took off running, the rest of the scooby gang following.
Running up the center isle, she leapt onto the stage, then into Angel’s arms who had just dropped the stake he was holding. She looked at him, ridges and all, as his features slowly transformed back to the human guise of Angel.
"Angel… how???" she started, a question echoed by the rest of the gang who arrived. He smiled at Willow.
"Well, it looks like when Xavier stabbed me, it almost killed my ‘human’ form." He told everyone. "The formula wore off, and it he hadn’t kicked me in the back and dislodged the stake from my heart, I would be dust right now. But he did, and as the formula stopped working, I transformed back to a…" His voice trailed off, getting slightly quieter.
"Man." Buffy finished for him, smiling. Angel managed a small smile back. Willow spoke up.
"I’m sorry I couldn’t change you, Angel," she said. Angel smiled at her, and gave her a quick hug.
"It’s okay, Willow. I might not have been able to defeat Xavier on my own… he was a very big, very strong vampire. Because I was a human, I was able to defeat him." He looked at Buffy, who smiled at him still.
"One of the advantages of being human…" he responded to her. She squeezed her hand, and she squeezed back, walking with the group out of the amphitheater.
The sun started to rise on a new day in Sunnydale. On the table in the main foyer of the mansion, a bottle sat. A half-empty (or is it half-full?) bottle containing an ancient, only used once-before elixir.