Historical Note: The action in this story takes place after "SHE".
Author's Note: This is excerpted from the full-length story rated NC-17 as a companion piece to CHERUB (parts one and two). It will explain the disease Angel has in more detail. The actual story has to do with Kate being bitten by a mutated vampire and Angel's fight to keep her human. e.c. 10 march 00
NECROMONGER (excerpted) by Evan Como
Pulling on Angel's sleeve, Cordelia motioned for the three of them to enter Kate's room. The attending nurse looked up from her duties and began to say something until she noticed their deep concern, placing her index finger to her lips in the international sign of 'keep quiet'. Angel nodded in agreement and hesitantly edged to Kate's bedside.
He watched Kate resting peacefully for a moment but when her clear blue eyes suddenly flew open, Angel leaned backwards in shock, his concern rapidly expanding the longer he studied her. He took her hand, then caressed the curve of her cheek. As he did so anxiety overtook his reflexes. She didn't feel right, her color was all wrong and there was an odor...
"I can't believe her father didn't stay," the nurse whispered to Cordelia. "It's hard, though, when they're young like this and they reject the transfusions."
The nurse wasn't fast enough to keep Angel's hand from ripping the bandage from Kate's throat. A commotion ensued as the Nurse shoved Angel back from her charge, Cordelia and Wesley attempting to pull him out of the room with as much strength as they could counter his with. But, in the end, he stopped resisting and in the hallway his body slumped against the wall.
"Oh, God," he sighed, supplicating the Deity on Kate's behalf.
Wesley, speechless, was at a loss to understand what was happening or how to attend to the being he wanted to claim as his friend. "What is it, Angel?" he was finally able to think to ask.
"The bite is deformed, Wesley." He searched Wesley's eyes as the ex-Watcher tried to understand the meaning behind his words. When Wesley finally shook his head in regret, Angel finished, his anguished voice barely above a whisper, "three bite marks instead of two."
Wesley's eyes grew wide and he looked briefly into Angel's before staring into the room where the nurse was redressing Kate's wound. "Oh, God, indeed," he agreed.
Angel paced the breadth of his apartment, his lithe gait silent, intent. A crease across the smooth skin of his forehead belied his self-flagellating thoughts. He was angry with himself for not following Kate once he sensed there was a potential danger. That, plus his hurry to get her aid instead of examining her wound made him feel he had let her down yet again.
He could have tracked the rabid fiend that attacked her, ensuring her recovery. As it stood, time was against Kate-the thing needed to be found before it had the opportunity to feed again, to contaminate the blood it stole from her. It wasn't a matter of regaining Kate's trust anymore; it was now a matter of saving her life.
There was no reason why he should have checked her wound, he kept trying to convince himself. The type of vampire that attacked her had been assumed extinct for over a century when a vigilant vampire community supposedly rid itself of the mutation. Angel, himself, had killed one once-the first time he ever killed one of his own kind for necessity instead of sport. The experience left him shaken. The vampire he destroyed had been driven insane by its insatiable appetite, its need to feed on the forbidden...
Although the practice was cyclical--ebbing or flourishing throughout the centuries, the Black Plague had been the starting point. There were so many bodies available for the taking as the human corpses remained unburied either due to the lack of manpower or superstition. And liberal vampires, finding a virtual buffet feast for the taking began to feed on the dead. It was an easy meal and, as long as the body was relatively fresh, not the worst way to quench a hunger.
There was a danger of Death feeding from death since, as the human body decomposed, the fluids became contaminated. But, the death feed was comfortable-no need to hurry, no need for technique, and the intoxication from exhuming the blood was an addictive one. One feeding would lead to another and the bodies would ultimately become more decayed as stamina against the stagnant taste increased. Eventually the vampiric metabolism, striving to nourish itself, evolved in order to digest the fetid meals. That initiated the degenerative spiral that concluded with an agonizing death, but not before causing the vampire to lose every sense except one.
Wesley, frustrated, removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Kate's Becoming," he answered simply as he replaced his glasses and looked down to her, hoping that she understood without having to go any further into the grim details.
"Becoming what..." Cordy paused as she answered her own question, her plaintive face turning to Angel's for a better explanation. "A vampire? She's going to be a vampire? How can you stop that? I mean other than a big fat stake or--"
Angel cut her off with a sideways glance. "The vampire that bit her isn't really a vampire anymore. It's this beastly thing that started out like a vampire, but mutated. If we can find it before it feeds again, we can recover Kate's blood to use it to un-Become her, reverse the process." Cordelia, following, nodded for him to continue. "There are two kinds of vampires--the ones that are sired deliberately and the ones that resurrect because they weren't killed correctly..."
Wesley passed out the steaming cups, patting Angel's arm as he did so, his course of action expressing regret. Angel, touched by the simple gesture, lowered his head. "The way it stands now, it's like Kate is resurrecting, except that instead of being inanimate, metamorphosing without cognizance, she's..."
Cordelia turned to Wesley as Angel's composure finally gave way, prompting him to finish in his saddened British accent, "she's dying alive, Cordelia. Her body is the coffin and she's witnessing the entire process from the inside out."
Cordelia sipped, the impact of his words causing her eyes to tear, but she fought the urge for Wesley's sake-no use for everyone to be weepy. "OK. That's got to be pretty gross and mighty painful even if I don't understand what the whole making-grrrrrr process is. Don't take this the wrong way, guys, but wouldn't it just be better to kill her now rather than watch--" she paused. "I mean, unless there's someway to make her a good vampire like you, Angel. She doesn't have to be evil. Does she?"
"This isn't normal, Cordelia," Wesley interjected. "At least not by vampire standards. She's not evolving into this condition, she's Becoming into it-beginning at the end, so to speak. She's dying into death and that can't be liberating."
Angel, his eyes rimmed with water, stared at the guileless brunette affectionately. "There's no such thing as a good vampire anyway. The transition is too brutal. Even mine was horrendously difficult despite having help to get through it. At least I was drunk at the beginning."
He paused as the recall of his rebirth overcame him, but the bewildered expressions of his employees helped him banish it as he struggled with the urge to explain everything to them. He never spoke about his vampire past or present because that was his private business-a lonely, unsharable experience that couldn't be comforted away by a simple hug, although his longing for one only emphasized how badly he missed physical contact.
Wesley, recognizing Angel's pain, folded his arms across his chest against it and tried to break the tension filling the room. "Actually, from what I've been reading, the creature shouldn't have attacked Kate at all. It should only be feeding from carcasses at this stage in it's..."
A thought suddenly crossed Wesley's mind. "The murder, Angel. Do you think that it was at the crime scene because of the murder? Think about it. Kate spent a great deal of time around the corpse, so she would smell like its death..."
Angel's face, expressing both gratitude and optimism, relaxed at Wesley's comment. As Wesley's face brightened, Angel realized that they had a sliver of hope-he'd managed to prevail over more difficult challenges with far less advantage.
"We can lure it and drain it-get the blood back and transfuse her-" they said, taking turns completing the thought before turning their attention to Cordelia.
"Don't even put me in the middle of whatever you guys are thinking of..." She winced, knowing that no matter what the plan was, she was going to be part of it. She waited, hoping that a Vision would suddenly hit her, letting her off the hook. No such luck.
"Bait, right? I'm going to be bait. Man, this SUCKS! Why can't I just be VisionGirl and Wesley can be BaitBoy? I bet, at least, he'd be good at that. I'm thinking we seriously need to renegotiate my salary if I'm going to have to start doing everything around here!"
He rushed to Wesley's side before the 'l' finished rolling from his tongue. The two men looked in the direction Wesley was pointing in. As the loping figure approached, Angel checked the breeze, silently grateful both of their scents would be undetectable to the creature. They crouched and waited for the eternity that it seemed for the fiend to find Cordelia.
She screamed a long shrill shriek that burned her vocal cords, making the beast retreat for a moment, confused. When its impulses returned, it lunged towards Cordelia only to be tackled backwards when Wesley and Angel flew at it from their vantage.
"Get the bag, Cordelia!" Angel yelled.
Experienced in the field, Cordelia recovered quickly and ran over to where Wesley's plumber's bag was laid. She picked it up, slightly taken off balance when she misjudged its weight. "Here it is." She opened it without being asked.
Wesley reached inside and fished around for the items he needed, pulling out a syringe, tubed catheter and pint-sized blood bag. Even while pinning the thrashing being's abdomen down with his knee, he managed to adeptly insert the apparatus to begin the forced donation.
"Can't you hold it stiller?" Cordelia asked, wanting to be of more assistance, knowing she was no match for the creature's strength.
Angel, holding it down by the neck and shoulders, leaned away from its clamping jaws. Its stench was worse than that of any rotting corpse, and he fought against being weakened by the smell. "It's got to thrash or the blood won't pump into the bag," he said to Wesley, trying to make the man understand the gravity of their situation without sounding reprimanding. "Make sure you don't lose the feed, OK?"
Wesley looked up into Angel's eyes and nodded. There he saw Angel's abject concern and the immense faith he was placing in his abilities--and something else that Wesley didn't quite understand was there--until he felt the explosion that left him drenched in the creature's blood and he shut his eyes against Angel's regard.
"Please," Angel whispered, pleading, "tell me you brought another bag, Wesley."
Wesley looked down at the creature's arm, his self-reproach almost suicidal. "Yes," he replied weakly.
"Cordelia, pull out the other bag!" Angel demanded. But when Wesley's hand paused Cordelia's retrieval, an unbearable sense of mourning possessed him.
Angel's barely-audible reaction wrenched Wesley's heart and the understanding of that other expression in Angel's features tore him in half. The only other option if they couldn't pull this off was Kate's death.
"I have the bag," Wesley finally confessed. "In fact, I have three other bags." He laughed dryly, the hollowness in his voice resounded above the cries of the hungry, rabid vampire still struggling under their domination. "It's the catheter that broke off that I didn't bring an extra of..." he dropped his head, ashamed.
Cordelia, unsure of what had just happened understood exactly what was about to happen next. "Angel, you can't!" she pleaded.
Wesley remained in place. "Angel..."
The two men locked eyes as Wesley conveyed his opposition without exchanging a word. "It's the only other way," the vampire explained, resigned to his last option. "I'll be like a carrier, I won't be able to digest her blood either."
Angel shook his head in reply to Wesley and motioned with it for the two of them to leave. When they didn't he stubbornly glared at the man. "Take Cordelia. I can't do this with you two watching."
Cordelia knelt next to Angel, pushing an errant strand of his hair into place. "Then don't do it at all." She was adamant and leaned slightly between him and the creature. "Let Kate die," she pragmatically whispered in his face.
"I can't," he whispered back to her, searching her eyes for understanding of why he couldn't. "There's no other way left and it's almost already too late, Cordelia. Kate needs this," he cried. "I've got to come through."
"Just because The Powers That Be sent you here to kill this thing doesn't mean that they want you to save Kate's life, too." Cordelia contemplated his determination for a long moment before removing her blockade. "Alright, then tell us what you need us to do, Angel, because we're a team here. You can save Kate, but Wesley and I are going to do whatever it takes to save you."
"I'm, a..." Wesley stopped when Angel made eye contact.
"Please, Wesley. Don't tell me that you're sorry. I'll throw you off this roof if you apologize one more time."
Wesley acknowledged his anguish. "Why did you trust me, Angel? I'm not saying that this wasn't my fault. In no way am I trying to unload the magnitude of my incompetence. But, why? This was so important with absolutely no room for error."
Angel let the burden on his shoulders weigh him down. He conceded to his fatigue, to the overwhelming sense of hopelessness over feeling he wasn't actually making any difference in the world. "Given enough chances, Wesley, I knew that one day you would have to come through like you did tonight. I wouldn't have thought to bring another catheter, either. Fate screwed us this round, not you."
Wesley didn't believe him, knowing that Angel didn't believe in fate, but accepted the vote of confidence anyway. "You know, Angel, what I fail to understand is why you would go through all of this for Kate. I know that she's your friend, but... I don't know how to put this into less than unkind words... She's no Slayer."
When Angel didn't object to his assessment, he continued, "considering how important your existence is to The Cause--to The Powers That Be--you actually had no right to make this decision on your own. You had no right to destroy your life for that of one mortal woman who, by the way, still hates your guts. Or was that what this was about. Seeking her forgiveness?"
Angel shook his head slightly. "Under normal circumstances, there's not really all that much I can do to save a mortal physically."
"So then this was about trying to make up for not being able to revive Buffy when she briefly died?" Wesley's Watcher's voice rose to the surface. "It seems to me that when I happened on the scene, Angel, Buffy had long ago forgiven you that shortcoming."
The reprimand stung, but he accepted it justly. "Maybe I just wanted Kate to trust me again. I don't know." Exasperated, Angel pulled his hands through his hair. "It just feels like it was important that I do this. That I try to do anything to save her life."
"Then, maybe this wasn't about Kate so much as about you. That there's a lesson in here you needed to learn for yourself." He finished the last of his coffee. When most of it dribbled down the side of his chin he swatted the stain from his rumpled jacket.
"Well, Angel, you've got a life span now because, technically, you de-immortalized yourself. What, you've got about 100 years before you start turning into something like what we killed tonight?"
Angel nodded. "Probably less since it got that way by accumulated feedings over the decades. I got the whole dose in one shot." He shuddered. He never thought of his eventual death as a prolonged process. Death for his kind was a sudden, blink-of-an-eye type of event.
"Alright. Let's say that you've got about 70 years; that'll about put you even with Cordelia." He snorted at the irony of the situation.
"If you think about it, Angel, at the time you Became, you were probably too immature to possess the humility that comes from facing mortality each morning; the restlessness that comes from realizing that your life will never be long enough to accomplish everything you can ever aspire to do. Kind of puts a new perspective on how much time you spend brooding, doesn't it? Given the constraints of what you did to yourself for Kate your self-reflective nature is, quite literally, a waste of your time now."