Warnings: A bit of language, nothing major
Characters: Edgar Frog, Alan Frog
Spoilers: Majorly for the Thirst
Synopsis: Edgar finds himself fighting a war on two fronts when a power vacuum leads to an explosion in the vampire population at the same time as he finds himself learning how to cope with his own set of fangs
Part 1 | Part 2
It was mid morning. California's relentless summer sun was already beating down hard onto the golden sand of one of San Cazador's quieter beaches.
Alan's hand swept absently over the warm surface of the sand. His fingers burrowed deeper, to discover the cooler, more densely packed area underneath, shielded from the light and heat. The sun's warmth surrounded him. His black t-shirt and dark hair greedily absorbed as much as they could, while the heat that had soaked into the sand before he sat, seeped upwards through the fabric of his jeans.
Warmth relaxed his aching muscles and he felt his eyelids close, as though of their own accord. He tilted back his head, exposing his face to the sun, and inhaled slowly breathing in the salty tang in the air.
In the distance, where the ocean met the beach, children were playing on wet sand and in shallow water. He could hear their happy screams and bursts of laughter, and the excited barking of a dog joining in with the fun as it ran in and out of the breaking waves. Beyond them and a little further over, in the deeper water, surfers were floating on their boards, waiting for the larger waves to ride.
Until recently, he had never understood the appeal of the beach. He had grown up looking out over the vast expanse of the Pacific ocean, and the thin strip of sand that separated it from the homes and businesses of the town. He had seen people, tourists and locals alike, greasing themselves down and laying for hours in the oppressive summer heat, sweating and turning red until they had no choice but to dive into the water for some respite. He had witnessed hours wasted, and he had wondered why.
It wasn't until he had been denied the sunlight that he realized how much he missed it.
The beach in the daytime epitomized everything that was good in the world. Families went there just to spend time together. Friends treated it as a place to hang out, surfers needed its waves to enjoy their passion. And above each person, was the sun, beating down on them, warming them, sustaining life.
It was absolutely his favorite place in the world.
But today, there was no enjoyment to be found here. He felt as though the life had been sucked out of everything, leaving it bleak, colorless and cold. The presence of the sun reminded him of his years in the dark, which in turn made him think of Edgar. Until they could free his brother, Alan knew he couldn't enjoy this human pleasure. He didn't even want to try. He was here simply because this was where he came to think. He didn't want to be alone at home right now, and he didn't have anywhere else to go.
Despite the heat, he drew his arms around his body and shivered. The chill seemed to come from somewhere inside him. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know how to help Edgar.
He had no words that could even begin to reassure him. Any that he tried to offer would sound hollow and false. His brother was changing into something else, something unnatural and evil, a creature of the night; the very thing that he had dedicated his life to destroying. Alan remembered the horror of that knowledge; the way it gnawed at his insides and slowly wore him down until the person that he had been almost completely disappeared under the constant assault of self-loathing and the dread that one night he would finally lose control and with it, lose himself completely.
Nothing could make it better except for the death of the head vampire. And quickly, because once the vampire rot set in, it changed you in ways that couldn't be reversed. Deep inside, Alan knew he was no longer the person he had been before. He didn't want that for Edgar. He didn't want any of this for him.
But it had happened, and he didn't know how to help.
The beach, with its warmth and light and happiness was quickly losing its appeal. Alan got to his feet and brushed the sand from his jeans, then he began to make his way toward the town of San Cazador.
For over an hour, he wandered the streets in aimless circles, knowing that he needed to go home and sleep, regain his strength for the night that was fast approaching, but knowing that if he tried to tempt it, sleep would refuse to come.
Finally, as he began to consider going home, he looked up to find himself walking past the window of Book O'Neer. Peering through the window, he could see Edgar's friend inside, sitting behind the desk. She didn't see him, all of her attention was focused on something on the desk in front of her. The pen in her hand tapped continuously on a sheet of paper.
Zoe had been an unexpected development in his brothers life, for so many reasons. Alan still wasn't entirely sure what she was to Edgar. A friend, certainly. Possibly more. But a vampire hunter can't have a normal life. That was what Edgar had always said, and he had compulsively practiced what he preached. Friends were a luxury that could be used against you. He had found that out the hard way when Sam had been turned. His brother had no intention of endangering anyone else.
But Zoe was determined not to be kept at arm's length, and slowly but surely, she was working her way into his life. More that once, she had turned up unannounced at Edgar's trailer. Right now, that would be a very bad thing for everyone. Alan paused just beyond the shop's window, where he couldn't be seen, and thought quickly. Edgar would hate it if he thought Alan was spending the day running around town telling people what had happened, but she did need to be informed.
Walking through the door of the shop was like taking a step into the past. If he closed his eyes, he could almost imagine that he was back in his parents' store in Santa Carla, back when it had been him and Edgar against the world, defending the store from thieves and the night from vampires.
The air contained a hint of that old paper smell that comes when dusty old comic books are left for too long in a hot, sunlit room. At busy times of the day, the shop was filled customers, groups of kids chatting excitedly to one another about the latest exploits of their favorite heroes, others, older people usually, stood alone as they flicked through the pages of the comic book before they made a purchase. It was so familiar. It felt like home.
But it wasn't his parents' shop, it wasn't Santa Carla, and a lot had happened since then. To say he wasn't the same person any more would be a laughable understatement.
As he pushed open the door, Zoe's pen tapping stopped and she glanced up briefly from the desk to see who had disturbed her quiet. She smiled at him, but her eyes frowned. “Not the Frog I was expecting,” she said. “What brings you here?”
Alan took a few steps into the shop, trying to formulate the correct words in his head before he attempted to verbalize the horror of the night before. The door closed behind him. Zoe's frown deepened.
“Edgar running late?” she tried.
Alan stared at her.
“For lunch. He was supposed to meet me a half hour ago. He's not the most reliable guy, but you'd think he'd call if he's going to stand me up...” her words tailed off as she looked up again and noticed the expression on Alan's face. The ballpoint pen in her hand dropped to the desk and for a moment she just looked at him. “Oh, God,” she said. She nervously tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “What's happened?”
He shook his head and glanced around the shop, checking to be absolutely certain that there were no customers who might overhear. Not surprising for a mid morning the day before the new comics arrived, it was completely empty. He remembered things like that from two lives ago.
He rested his hands on the desk in front of her, and noticed as he did that next to the order form that she had been systematically covering with blue dots, was a new issue of Vampires Everywhere. He didn't even realize they were still bringing that one out. The vampire on the cover was screaming in agony as the hunter pierced his heart with a traditional wooden stake from behind. It protruded graphically through the front of his chest. The image made him uneasy.
“Edgar...” he began.
“What?” Zoe stood up to allow her to lean forward toward him. Her eyes were wide with undisguised worry. “What's happened to him? He... please don't tell me he's dead.”
Alan shook his head firmly from side to side, and she appeared to relax slightly. “No, he's not dead. But something happened last night. A vampire... got him. It forced him to drink...” He stopped talking and forced a deep breath into his lungs. Even just saying it was so hard. This wasn't supposed to happen to Edgar. He took a deep breath. “He killed the one that did it, but she wasn't the master. He's a half vampire.”
He watched the words sink in, as she stared at him at first uncomprehendingly, and then with disbelief and finally horror, all of it focused directly onto him, as she stared unblinkingly in his direction. Her head moved slowly from side to side. Finally, she spoke. “Is he okay?”
Alan frowned. “He's a half vampire,” he repeated.
“Right. Right.” Zoe sank back onto the wooden stool behind the counter, still staring at Alan. “So, not okay.”
“Not really, no.”
She glanced over the desk in front of her, straightened the pile of unsorted comics, picked up her pen and put it down again, then she took a deep breath and looked back up at Alan. “He will be though, won't he? We're going hunting. That's why you're here, isn't it?”
Alan hesitated. She was small, and she didn't look like she would be much use in a fight, but she had proven herself before. And she had Edgar's trust, enough for him to take her with him into a vampire's lair. He had only meant to tell her what had happened, but she actually might be good to have as an ally. She also had other unspecified talents that made her potentially useful to have on his team. On the other hand, he didn't want to put her in any unnecessary danger.
“We don't know who the head vampire is yet,” he said. “Once we do...” he deliberately allowed his words to tail off into silence, making no promises either way.
Zoe nodded. She reached under the desk and lifted a small purse, fished in it for a few seconds and retrieved her car keys. She got to her feet again.
“Zoe, what are you doing?”
She looked at him levelly. “I'm going to see Edgar,” she said.
“What?” Alan shook his head and wondered whether he had made a mistake coming here. He had thought that telling Zoe what had happened would reduce the chances of her turning up on Edgar's doorstep, not increase them.
Her jaw set determinedly and she stared at him. Her hand clutched the keys as though she thought he was going to confiscate them.
Alan could have kicked himself. He had been expecting to tell her what had happened, and then leave her to get on with her day, but of course she wouldn't accept that. She wanted to help him fight, and denied the chance for the time being, she wanted help Edgar with words and kindness. The things that Alan knew wouldn't help.
“Don't,” he said.
She stared him in the eye. “Why not?”
“It's not safe.”
Zoe shook her head. “If it happened last night, it's too soon for him to be an danger to anyone, unless they slice a vein open and wave it in his face, he's not going to attack. And it's daylight, so even if he is hungry, the sunlight weakens half vampires, I'll be able to get away if I need to.”
She attempted to walk past him to the door, keys in her hand, ready to lock up as she left.
“You're right. You know your stuff,” he conceded. “But I know it too, better than most people. I also know exactly how a half vampire feels when he's woken in the daytime, and believe me, it's not like entertaining guests. And I know Edgar. He won't want to be seen right now, I only told you so you'd stay away.
She shook her head and began to respond as she tried once again to leave the shop
“If you go,” Alan interrupted before she could say anything, “he might find out about you.”
She turned back to him, her face suddenly a mask. “Find out what?”
“You know what,” Alan told her. He hoped she did. It would be unfortunate if the something inhuman he had sensed about the girl the first time they had met was something that she didn't know about. This would be a less than ideal way for her to find out.
Zoe froze, lost in thought for a moment. She looked from Alan to the door and back to Alan. “How?” she asked finally.
Alan took a deep breath. “The same way I did.”
She walked the couple of steps back to her seat and sank down onto it. “Half vampire senses,” she muttered to herself.
Alan watched her closely. Until now, he had wondered whether Zoe realized he knew her secret. Her relatively calm reaction told him that she had at least suspected.
He had kept quiet about it. He justified that to himself by the fact that she was almost dating his brother. He did it to protect Edgar. For the first time in a long time, his brother had seemed as though he was almost happy. It wasn't all down to Zoe, of course, but a lot of it was. Finding out the woman he refused to accept was his girlfriend wasn't human would ruin that. Anyway, she seemed to be one of the good guys.
Zoe shook her head slowly from side to side as she thought through what he had told her. “It's too soon,” she said quietly. “He won't be able to tell yet.”
“Humans are food to a half vampire,” Alan said bluntly. “Other blood can sustain them, but they can tell who has human blood. You, I don't know what you are, but you're not human. He might not realize yet, but he might.”
She sighed in frustration and dropped her keys back into her purse. “Promise me you'll help him.”
“And if there's anything I can do...”
“I'll let you know.”
She stared at him with determination, in a way that reminded him of Edgar. It told him exactly why his brother was falling for this girl. “You'd better, Alan Frog, or you'll regret it.”
He nodded and left quickly. He knew that was no empty threat.
When Edgar finally woke, the sun had begun its descent into the horizon. He fought off sleep slowly, gaining strength as the light filtering in through the closed blinds that covered every window faded. When his eyes opened, it was to a twilit gloom.
He blinked into the darkness above his bed. Memory returned quickly this time, forcing its way into his mind uninvited, pushing out any lingering peace of mind left over from the blissful void of sleep. He inhaled sharply and slammed his eyes closed again as the wave of emotion crashed down on his head. He held his breath and lay very still under the bed covers.
He searched his mind for any clue that that the memory was just a vivid dream. He spent his nights hunting the kinds of monsters that other people only saw in horror movies, nightmares were a common problem and sometimes in the moments between sleep and waking, there was a period where he wasn't sure what was real. But it didn't last this long. A dream should have already begun to fade from his mind, this recollection was only growing more vivid as his mind threw more and more details at him.
The taste and thick texture of the blood as he felt it filling his mouth and fought not to swallow. The agony of the injury to his hand as the vampire crushed it and he felt the bones snap. The sensation of falling to the ground, praying that the impact would kill him so that he wouldn't have to do it himself. Alan screaming at him from the ground, Alan helping him to the truck, his hollow reassurances that they would find and destroy the head vampire. The empty feeling of loss as he could almost feel his humanity draining away from him and the changes in his body beginning to take hold.
Now what the hell was he supposed to do?
The exhaustion and confusion of his earlier moment of wakefulness was gone. The headache throbbing behind his eyes had also disappeared. He felt oddly... good. That was worrying. He didn't want to feel good. The coming of nighttime had brought with it a new kind of energy, something he had never experienced before. He felt alive in a way that he hadn't in years. The irony of that didn't escape him.
Alan had been there earlier, he remembered. He had sent him to bed like a parent telling their kid it was past his bedtime. He looked around again, searching for a sign of his brother's presence. Not finding it, he called out to him.
“Alan, you still here?”
His voice shook. It was almost imperceptible, but he could hear it. He was answered by silence.
In a way, that was a relief. He needed some time alone, time to work through the terror in his mind; to suppress it to a level where he could bring himself to think rationally and decide what he was going to do. The night before, he had reached instinctively for his stake. Now he had to decide how long he was willing to go before he did the same thing again. He didn't want Alan there, being helpful, understanding, trying to save him from himself. For the first time, Edgar thought he understood why his brother had run after had been forced to drink. He hadn't wanted Edgar to see him as a monster.
Edgar's hand slipped underneath his pillow, searching for the reassuring shape of his favorite stake. The one Alan had given him for his birthday when he turned seventeen. Inexpertly made, but lovingly hand crafted from a single piece of hard wood. He had never taken it out hunting, it seemed almost sacrilegious to dirty it with blood, but it was never far away, ready to defend him if the vampires invaded his home. It would be the perfect thing to use to end it, if it came to that.
His hand swept underneath the pillow and found nothing. Puzzled, he picked up the pillow and looked, the stake was gone. He kicked back the blanket covering him and realized that he was laying on top of his bedsheets; Alan must have covered him with a spare blanket before he left. He checked the area around the bed where the stake could have fallen, it was unlikely, it hadn't happened in all the years it had been there, but he had no other explanation. It wasn't there.
His hand paused half way to the light switch, and he looked around in the growing darkness. Almost no light at all was filtering through the tightly closed blinds into the trailer now, yet he could see perfectly. He could tell that it was dark, but the meager amount of light was enough for half vampire eyes to see. He grimaced, and flicked the switch.
The sudden glare of the electric light stung his eyes. He slammed them closed while they adjusted, then opened them slowly. Light meant that colors were more visible, but other than that he could see no better than before. It anything, his vision had lost some of his focus. Now he knew why Alan had always kept it so gloomy at his place. But in some small and stupid way, the light made him feel better, so he left it. In the back of his mind, he found himself wondering what it would be like to see in direct sunlight now. He decided that he didn't want to know.
A feeling was creeping up on him slowly. It welled up from somewhere deep inside him, He felt wrong. Empty.
That was the only way he could describe the feeling. It wasn't like hunger or thirst, it was something else entirely. It was a need. He needed... Actually, at this point he only knew that it was blood that his body was craving because he knew what was happening to him. The feeling was more a general need for an unspecified something. It manifested as an uncomfortable feeling in the back of his mind and the pit of his stomach. A restlessness, a disquiet. A feeling of frustration.
He felt hungry, and horny, and like he really needed a couple of shots of whiskey and a fight, and a long sprint down the beach. Anything and everything that had ever made him feel good was being suggested to him by the empty place in his mind as it searched for something that would fill it. He tried to ignore the feeling, put it out of his mind and concentrate on something else, but the action of ignoring only it seemed to make it stronger. He wandered into the kitchen. Every piece of food looked unappetizing.
He was suddenly struck by just how much garlic he had. Not just in the kitchen, but everywhere. He reached out, picked up a bulb and gave it an experimental sniff. His stomach heaved, and he doubled over. The garlic dropped from his fingers and rolled away until it hit the bottom of the refrigerator, leaving behind an echo of the foul odor.
The night was calling to him, urging him to go outside and experience the world through his new senses. He longed to feel the cool evening air on his skin, and see the outside world in the same vivid clarity as he had the inside of his trailer before he had flooded it with light. He ignored the call of the night, pretended not to hear it.
It wasn't supposed to end like this. He was supposed to go out in battle, killed defending humanity from the scourge of undead evil that would destroy it. That, or he was supposed to live into old age, never stopping hunting, maybe train up someone to take his place. Or he could have just been hit by a bus. But not this. Anything but this.
It wasn't just the one under his pillow. All his stakes were gone. The ones he kept by the door in case he needed to grab them on the way out had disappeared, the ones hanging on the walls had all been taken down. Alan's work, he assumed. Apparently, he was no longer trusted with his own weapons. He was probably right. Though there were other ways to end it. If he needed to, he would find them.
The short walk across the tiny trailer took him past his mirror, mounted on the wall by the door. He tried to turn away before his eyes focused on his image, but out of the corner of his eye, he sensed his own movement. Curiosity got the better of him, and his head turned to look. He froze, mid step, and stared in horror.
It shouldn't have been a surprise. It wasn't a surprise, not really. It was exactly what he had expected, but expecting and experiencing were two different things.
Vampires have no reflection. That was vampirism 101; blood, sunlight, stakes, reflection. But for all his years of hunting and killing them, he had never actually seen one in a mirror. Not that there would have been anything to see.
He had listened once, fascinated, to Sam's description of Michael's half vampire reflection, and they had spent the better part of an evening discussing a thousand ridiculous reasons why his clothes had been equally transparent, but opportunities to see the phenomena up close didn't come along very often.
Actually, that wasn't true. He could have looked at Alan through a mirror whenever he wanted, he just needed to take one with him on one of his infrequent visits. The truth was, he hadn't wanted to. Just a few months earlier, he had witnessed Alan's first glimpse of himself as a whole reflection in that same mirror, and he had wondered what it must have been like to see your reflection as ghostly, transparent image. Now he knew.
It was frightening. A kind of world-shattering terror that rose up from somewhere deep inside of him and spread to every cell in his changing body. It wasn't the way that it looked itself, but what that signified.
The mirror mocked him with the image. Edgar Frog. Vampire.
He raised a hand, bringing it up to where he could see its reflection, and turned it left and right. Perfectly solid in reality, ghostly and partially transparent in the reflection. He could see the wall behind him through his face. He continued to stare at the mirror, both fascinated and horrified at the same time.
The expression on his half visible face looked completely freaked out. He felt that way too, but he had never realized how clearly his emotions could be written in his face if he didn't guard against it. Determinedly, he set his features into a blank expression, and then calmly but with clumsy, uncoordinated fingers, he took the mirror down from the wall and lay it face down on the table behind him.
That done, he finished his trip across the room, and collapsed onto his uncomfortable, sagging couch, stared unseeingly at the grainy images on his old portable television set. and tried not to think.
He sat tensely, every muscle rigid, every fiber of his being focused on the task of watching the TV, or rather on the task of of not doing anything else. Especially not thinking the night before, and what the thing that had happened meant for his future. He sat as close to bolt upright as possible on the old seat whose springs had long since collapsed into uselessness, and focused all of his attention on the action unfolding on the screen in front of him. It was several minutes before he realized that he didn't even know what he was watching. The mind does not like to be told what it can and cannot think about, and his thoughts insisted on drifting back to the events less than twenty four hours ago, treating him again and again to a high definition rerun of the moment everything went wrong.
Less than twenty four hours ago, he had been human. Now, he was a bloodsucker. Now, he was the enemy.
It had been his own fault. The vampire had him in the air, Alan was shouting up at him something that he couldn't hear, and he knew that any second, those long, horrible and already bloodstained fangs were going to sink into the artery in his neck and it would all be over. He was too high in the air to survive the fall, so killing the vampire wasn't an option. He had decided to injure her, hopefully bringing her closer to the ground in the process.
He didn't know whether the fact that one of his random attacks had slashed her wrist had given her the idea to use the blood on him, maybe hoping to disorientate him enough to make her kill, or whether that had been her intention from the start, but the injury had definitely made it easier for her. His mouth had been open when she forced the wound to his lips. He couldn't breathe; his nose had been blocked by her hand, and with her slender yet frighteningly strong wrist forcing his jaws open, he had no way to avoid the blood flowing into his mouth. Edgar had fought and struggled and gagged but without air, he knew he was going to die. His instinct for self preservation had taken over, and he had drank to save his life.
His self preservation instinct was a stupid son of a bitch. If he ever met it again, they were going to have serious words.
When Edgar could breathe again, he had found the strength to force his stake through the vampire's chest. Pure luck had allowed him to hit the heart. And then he had fallen from the sky with the screaming vampire behind him. She hit the ground with a cracking sound as the stone she had become broke into a thousand pieces. And Edgar hadn't died.
He had hoped that the fall would be too much. He knew that the vampire was brand new, maybe even having made her first kill that night. She wasn't the master. That meant that although her blood would turn Edgar as surely as any other vampire's, her death would provide no cure.
Edgar ran a hand through his unbrushed hair and took a shaking breath. For the first time since Alan had disappeared into the night, Edgar realized that he was truly afraid, and that fact alone was enough to tell him that he was deeply in shit.