the Human Touch
Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, the WB, and UPN.
I have devoted considerable time and attention to self-examination since being brought into a nocturnal state of existence. Partly this is because introspection and analysis are central to my nature, and partly because the contrast between what I had been and what I had become naturally invited comparison. In the main, however, my interest derived from a recognition of how different I seemed to be from others of my kind.
The pleasure I take from reading is only the smallest symptom. Spike enjoys televised sports, preferably of the most violent type; Conradt spends as much time searching for vinyl recordings from the rock era as he does seeking blood; Dagmar jealously guards her wardrobe of 1930s and 40s glamor wear; even Drusilla still maintains that collection of antique dolls. We are not entirely divorced from human pleasures, and my own preferences are singled out for attention, not because they indicate weakness, but because they emphasize a weakness already within me.
I have no taste for the hunt. I require blood to continue existing, and to obtain it I will kill with no twinge of conscience (though a quiet part of me continues to observe that I ought to feel some sense of guilt), but the lust for the kill is entirely absent from me. I am stronger than all but the strongest humans, but less so than nearly all of my brethren. The passion for destruction, the delight in the fear and violation of innocents I see them in others, but feel no answering echo within myself. If it were possible for me to survive on my own, I would happily immerse myself in centuries of study, content to pursue the cool, pure light of knowledge
That, however, can never be. We are too aware of one another, we night denizens, and I have too little naked aggression within me to meet the inevitable challenges. I can be a subservient member of a nest, or I can be dust; those are the only options available to me.
So, at least, I had determined. With Nancy in my arms, all that youth and life and earnestness held so close, my previous conviction as to the necessities of my existence seemed very far away
The music of the second song had ended, and nothing new had started; the members of the band seemed to be discussing something among themselves. I was reluctant to move, wishing the experience could continue and perhaps Nancy felt the same, for I heard no enthusiasm as she said, We should go back.
I suppose so, I said. Neither of us stirred.
How are they doing? she asked me after a moment.
I glanced toward the table. Theyre looking about, idle curiosity it seems. Not dealing with one another for now. I was conscious of her heartbeat in a way utterly different from my customary predators awareness; and of my own, thudding in a sympathetic counterpoint. Her breath was warm on my chest. Youve asked me about my own background and memories, I observed, and Im sorry I have no information to offer. As it happens, however, youve told me nothing about yourself.
I felt the smile I couldnt see. Im the other one, she said.
I beg your pardon?
Ever since sixth grade, she explained. Theres another girl named Nancy. Well, more than one, but nobody cares about any of them. Shes very smart, very angry, very passionate, maybe a little strange. We know most of the same people, so when someone mentions Nancy, and theres a question of which Nancy shes the mean one, and Im the other one.
I could think of a more appropriate label, I said.
She pulled away from me. Theyre moving. We need to go back.
The moment had ended, and we started for the table where we had left our unwanted charges. They had come to their feet, their gaze focused on something I couldnt determine, and their postures held the coiled readiness that heralded imminent violent action.
Nancy saw it, too. What is it? she demanded of them as we came close enough for speech to be feasible.
Somebody doesnt want to take no for an answer, Selina said without looking our way. Her tone was flat and deadly, her fingers curled stiffly into something like claws.
I was just telling her to relax for a second, Indy informed us. Place like this, things sort themselves out most of the time Whoa!
On the other side of the room, a man in pirate regalia had suddenly begun to tear at the clothing of a young woman in a tastelessly abbreviated Girl Scout uniform. Her protesting shrieks mingled with surprised shouts from bystanders, but somehow Selinas snarl of fury cut through it all, and she vaulted a billiards table and hurled herself at the offending buccaneer.
I moved to follow, not because I wished it but because I knew Nancy would expect it of me, but a cry of alarm from her commanded my attention. Following her pointing finger, I saw that someone else was prepared to enter the fray. He had been sitting alone in a small booth with a view of the door: white shirt, long black vest, a kind of open-clip holster strapped to one thigh, I had noted him mainly because his face strongly resembled Indys. He was on his feet now, brandishing a long-barreled pistol of no recognizable manufacture, trying to aim through the surging figures around him. Indy, too, had drawn a weapon, a revolver, and Nancy screamed at him, No guns! Remember, theyre kids !
Little regard though I had for the man, one must respect quickness of mind; he didnt even reholster the revolver, he tossed it to the other hand, and a moment later the long whip he had worn diagonally across his chest he must have unwrapped it when he and Selina stood snapped out across the room. The braided tip spun around the weapon of the vested man, and Indy plucked the pistol from his grasp with an expert yank, just as the trigger was pulled or firing stud pressed or whatever was the means of activation. A pencil-beam of crackling light lanced from the barrel to the ceiling, and a moment later a heavy lighting fixture plummeted from above to crash through one of the tables.
The crowd promptly erupted into howling panic, stampeding forms blocking my view of Selina, the pirate, the lurid Girl Scout, the vested man. I was jolted from my feet by glancing collision with an eight-foot yellow bird with enormous plaintive eyes and an elongated beak, and fought my way back upright through the rush around me. Nancy was forcibly towing Indy toward the nearest exit, and to me she shouted, Get Harmony! I was able to divine her intent through the puzzling non sequitur, and pushed toward my last sight of Selina.
I found her; she had driven the pirate to his knees and was powering shin-kicks into his ribs, and when I put my hand on her she whirled toward me, drawing back to strike with rigid knuckles. I had no wish to test this bodys combat capabilities, so begging seemed the best defense. Help! I said to her. Nancy needs help! This way!
Selina turned and pistoned her knee into the pirates face, then to me she said, Lets go.
We were moving with the current now, so within a few seconds we were outside the main door. Indy called us over; he and Nancy had taken refuge behind one of the parked vehicles, and Selina surveyed the absence of peril or opposition with growing anger. Whats going on here? You pulled me away from serious business !
Did the girl get away? Nancy asked me.
She was gone by the time I arrived on the scene, I confirmed. And the pirate was in no condition to pursue her.
Selina spat. Not as much as he deserved. I wasnt finished with him, I was going to fix it so hed never !
And tomorrow morning, Nancy interrupted, some kid in the chess club wakes up castrated. Its not their fault, its a spell, how many times do I have to tell you people?
Easy, sweetheart. Indy threw a comforting arm around her, and to my astonishment I caught myself moving forward, hands closed into fists. I halted in some consternation (had I truly been about to attack him?), and he went on unaware: Were still getting used to all this. No harm, we rescued the damsel and got clear without maiming anybody. Feel better now?
Look at the bright side, I said to Selina. I was still trying to come to terms with my unexpectedly bellicose reaction to Indys unwelcome familiarity with Nancy, but that didnt prevent me from contributing to the management of this unruly pair. You found the action you wanted.
Not as much as I wanted, Selina sulked. I was just getting started. Still, she seemed to be somewhat mollified.
Nancy looked toward the entrance of the club, and the few stragglers still emerging. Anyway, we can forget about this place for the rest of the night. When trouble breaks out here, thats all she wrote till morning. Ordinary fights, no problem, but once they charge the exits, its all over. Like a tradition, I guess.
Right. Selina turned her back to us, booted foot tapping impatiently on the pavement. So what are we supposed to do now?
I told you, I dont know any place else. Nancys expression was frazzled, frustrated. There isnt anywhere else
Well find something, Indy said confidently. Cmon, ladies. He led off as if that settled the matter; Selina fell in behind him after a seconds hesitation, and Nancy and I had little choice but to follow.
I had a choice, actually; but I was no more willing to relinquish Nancys company than she to abandon her perceived duty. Itll be all right, I murmured to her, and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
I hope so, she whispered back. I hope so. She looked to me, overwhelmed by the demands she had elected to bear and the weight of her own worries, and I could actually see the moment that her eyes came back from harried speculation to focus on me. Her hand tightened in mine, and once again she said, Im so glad youre here, theres no way I could handle this by myself. I owe you so much and I dont even know what you really look like.
Neither do I, I said. Truthfully, for once; I have little memory, and less curiosity, regarding my original appearance, and until recently my condition did not lend itself to study in a mirror.
What I didnt say, and couldnt forget, was that she would have drawn little comfort from seeing my actual face.
* * *
Objectively speaking, random chance is the most probable explanation for the oddities in my nature. It is easy to see that the demon manifests differently in different individuals, and in all likelihood there are differences as well between the demons themselves. One hears the tales, and the very fact that such things are remarkable enough to inspire recounting indicates that few of us have the Masters ascetic dedication, Argonnes charismatic leadership, the aristocratic decadence of Darla and Angelus, or even Spikes sheer joy in battle. They are at one extreme, and drones and weaklings such as myself may reasonably be predicted at the other.
I recognize all that, but some part of myself seeks a more satisfying rationale. Nor is it merely a matter of pure wishful thinking, for there is genuine reasoning behind the alternative theory I have gradually developed.
It concerns blood, of course; for me and my kindred, its always a matter of blood. And, admittedly, some of my premises rest on speculation and unconfirmed family history. Even so, it all strikes me as reasonably plausible, as long as certain exceptions and unknown factors are acknowledged.
Among my line, it has long been accepted that Drusilla is of mixed descent, Angelus and Darla alternately feeding from and sharing their blood with her as she gibbered in madness. Similarly, Spike has imputed his provenance both to Drusilla and to Angelus at one time or another; that, along with Drusillas carelessness regarding so many other aspects of behavior, have made me suspect that she may have drained Spikes human shell but left it to her progenitor to supply his own blood to trigger the transformation.
Lethal and frightening though they be, the two of them, Drusilla and Spike, exhibit more human characteristics than are usually found among vampires, principally in their devotion to one another. Does this mean that those of us with dual parentage seeded by one, activated by another preserve more of their original humanity, or perhaps are thus rendered suitable for habitation only by weaker, less forceful demons? If this were so, then further dilution of the strain would continue to exaggerate such tendencies; what is only a suggestion in Spike or his dark paramour would become more pronounced with reinforcement.
A classic vampire is of pure descent, blood of one to blood of the next. Drusilla would be a diminution of that, Angelus/ Darla rather than wholly one or the other; Spike would further attenuate the demon, Drusilla [Angelus/ Darla]/ Angelus, though the repetition of Angelus essence would diminish the loss. And if the reduced Drusilla drank from and marked me, with her reduced lover and protector tainting me with his blood to produce a useful minion then, I would be twice-reduced, my demon a thinner and weaker barrier to the humanity for which I feel such an affinity.
It is an attractive theory, to me at least, but my circumstances afford me no means of confirming it. The natural question if my reduced strain were further reduced, would that produce a creature of yet more pronounced humanlike qualities? would be dangerous for me to test. Minions dont make minions; I dont know if that is a universal law, or merely the decree passed down within my line, but it would require a bolder spirit than mine to systematically disregard it. I have given my blood, twice, to persons drained and discarded but not yet dead (one from a former follower of the Anointed One, and one from Drusilla just before Spikes first clash with the Slayer), but I was unable to track their progress. Both were impulse, many times regretted, and neither provided me with any evidence to refute or reinforce my theory of descent.
I am more human than my night brethren, and they despise me for it. Tonight, however, I am fully human and still I am unsure of my place or my best course of action.
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