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 | Part 3
Alan parked Edgar's truck just outside the ring of salt that surrounded his home. He turned off the engine and lights, and for a moment, just sat back in his seat and looked through the dusty windscreen at the outside of the metal box his brother called home.
All of the blinds were closed. He had closed most of them himself before he left, blocking the sunlight that was pouring mercilessly through the windows of the trailer. He had also covered Edgar head to foot with an old blanket to block the light further; the blinds were thin enough that closing them didn't make much difference. He saw evidence of that now too, as the electric lights inside made the windows glow bright yellow.
As he watched, he saw Edgar's shadow pass over one window and to another. His brother was awake. He glanced at the sky. It was almost full dark, of course he was awake.
God, it was weird to think in vampire terms when he thought of Edgar. Suddenly, everything was backwards.
The situation reminded him of the times in the past when he had stood outside Edgar's home in the darkness, just watching and waiting. He had been a half vampire then, and desperately missing his brother.
Edgar would visit him occasionally, often turning up in the middle of the night, reeking of blood and sweat from the hunt. He would wring his hands nervously as he paced the room looking in disgust at the blood, the animal remains and the taxidermy equipment; wrinkling his nose at the smell, oblivious to the effect his presence was having on his brother's half vampire senses. Then he would leave, disappear for months at a time, leaving Alan alone.
Edgar lived a dangerous life. Every night there was a chance that something unthinkable would happen to him. To ease his mind, Alan would come here some nights and check up on him, never making his presence known. He would stand not too far from where he was sitting right now, and watch for signs of life inside, just to reassure himself that Edgar was okay; that something hadn't gotten to him.
In a way, the situation was reversed now, but in another, it was exactly the same. He felt that same rush of relief on seeing the shadow that told him his brother was still there, exactly where he had left him. The canvas shoulder bag resting on the passenger seat of the car was packed with stolen weapons, but a stake wasn't the only way to kill a half vampire. If Edgar had really had wanted to surrender before the battle had begun, he would have found another way.
The memory of Alan's first night as a half vampire intruded upon his mind. It was a memory that he deliberately didn't visit often, but one that stubbornly refused to fade. Bad memories were like that, they never seemed to grow foggy over time like the pleasant ones. A few years from now, Edgar would have his own matching bad memory filed away next to all his others. That, or he wouldn't, but that alternative was even more horrible to contemplate than the current situation.
Right now, Edgar would be going through the same mental torment he had. Becoming one of the monsters; it was the one thing that every hunter feared, but that none would ever think about, until it happened.
Over the next few nights, if they didn't kill the master, the bloodlust would grow stronger, until it began to occupy his every waking thought. To spare him that, Edgar would need to drink. Probably not tonight, maybe not even the night after, but soon. Alan had resisted for much longer than he should have, determined to die before he drank blood, even animal blood, but in the end the torture of resistance had been for nothing, he had surrendered to the need. Resisting had been reckless and stupid. He hadn't believed it at the time, convinced that he was doing to right thing, but he had run the risk of losing control, of taking a life, and losing everything.
He wouldn't let his brother take that kind of a risk. Edgar would need to feed.
That was not a conversation that Alan was looking forward to having.
The shadow that had been lingering by the door for some time, moved away. Alan's hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, and he took a deep breath, readying himself. When he was as ready as he was ever going to be, he opened the door of the truck, grabbed his bag from the other seat, and jumped to the ground.
The salt ring that surrounded the trailer was useless to Edgar now. Its protection had vanished the moment the occupant had ceased to be human. As he stepped over it, he wondered whether Edgar realized that. This didn't seem the time to mention it.
As he climbed the three, small metal steps that led to Edgar's door, his hand moved to his pocket, where he kept the spare key that Edgar had given him in exchange for a promise that he would guard it with his life. He paused, his hand hovering just outside the pocket, and shook his head. Walking in unannounced wasn't a good idea. That was something Edgar had never seemed to understand when his impromptu visits began with him strolling into Alan's home without any kind of warning.
Instead, he raised his hand to the door and tapped three times, waited, and then three more. Their old secret knock. He hadn't thought about it in years and he had no idea what had prompted him to use it now. He took a step back, and waited.
When there was no reply, he tried again, louder this time. He had seen Edgar's shadow moving around only a few minutes earlier, but he had had time in the few moments it had taken Alan to walk from the truck to the door to do something stupid if he wanted. He knocked for a third time, so hard his knuckles hurt.
The door opened, and Alan breathed a sigh of relief.
Edgar looked terrible. Still dressed in the dirty, bloodstained clothes from the night before, his hair was uncombed and greasy, knotted from sleep. A thin layer of sweat gave his face an unhealthy shine. He looked too pale, like he was fighting off an infection. In a way, that was exactly what his body was trying to do, and soon it would realize that it had failed.
“Hey,” he mumbled, and backed off swiftly across the room, putting as much distance as he could between the two of them.
Alan stepped inside and pushed the door closed behind him with his foot. Edgar hung back by the couch. The TV was on with the volume turned down to nothing and the news silently showing images of the world's latest catastrophe. Edgar folded his arms around his body and watched Alan very closely.
“Hey,” Alan echoed. He fingered the strap on the canvas bag slung across his back, and took a decisive step into the trailer. “How're you feeling?”
Edgar took another step back, clearly having decided an optimum distance to keep between them and determined to stick to it. He shrugged, and continued to eye his brother warily.
“Right.” Alan nodded. That was about the response he had expected. He walked a little further into the trailer and looked around. Among the usual clutter, the small mirror that Edgar kept hanging on the wall had been unhooked and placed face down on the surface of the kitchen table.
Alan stopped next to it. His hand reached out and touched the non-reflective side briefly. Edgar's eyes bored him, pleading silently for him not to comment. Alan couldn't help but wonder whether his half image in the mirror had taken his brother by surprise as he walked past, or whether he had looked deliberately, to get it over with. Or whether he had looked at all.
He pulled back his hand and placed it at his side.
“You took my stakes,” Edgar said finally.
Alan nodded. His bag was heavy with weapons that he had collected from around the trailer before he left. He lifted it from his shoulder and placed it on the table next to the down-facing mirror. It hit the wooden surface with a loud clunk as the contents jostled against one another.
“You tried to use one on yourself last night,” he said. “I need you to promise that you won't do it again.”
Edgar didn't reply straight away. He tightened his arms across his chest and looked briefly away.
“Where did you go?” he asked finally.
Alan shrugged. “I had some things to do, then I slept. I need that promise, Edgar.”
Edgar nodded. Just once, but that was all it took, they didn't lie to one another, if Edgar made a promise, he kept it. Alan relaxed.
“For as long as there's hope,” he added. “But I won't let this be permanent.”
On the last word, his voice cracked; only slightly, but that little slip betrayed the tide of terror swirling beneath the surprisingly calm exterior. Alan felt his fists clench helplessly by his sides.
Edgar was in pain, and there was nothing he could do.
He couldn't even stand by his brother's side and punch him affectionately on the shoulder like he used to when they were kids. He certainly couldn't hug him, not that Edgar would be likely to stand for that kind of an emotional display anyway. They didn't hug, as a rule. Hugs were reserved only for those special occasions when they forgot themselves; when joy or terror overrode everything else and they surrendered to the need for closeness. This would probably have been one of those occasions, only Edgar had already begun to work on the self control he was desperately going to need, and for every step Alan took, his brother backed off a little more.
Alan folded his arms and squeezed tightly. Edgar looked so lost; so afraid. It didn't seem right, those emotions on the face of his stoic brother. It made Alan want to rush toward him offering empty promises and protection.
Instead, he sat down on the single wooden chair by the table. It wasn't until he took the weight off of his legs that he realized they were shaking.
All these years that vampirism had kept them apart, he had finally been released from his curse only to be forced to watch his brother going through the same thing.
“I meant it when I asked how you were feeling,” he said. “I need to know. Anything unusual?”
Edgar laughed, but it was a harsh sound; empty, containing no joy or happiness, it sounded closer to a bark than an expression of humor. “Unusual?” he said.
Alan's eyes drifted back to the mirror. Abandoning the question, he unzipped the bag and lifted out the stakes onto the table.
“If you want to steal my supplies, you can take the garlic instead, if you want it,” Edgar told him. “I can smell it from here.”
There was a hell of lot of garlic in the trailer. Bulbs of it hung on string from the walls and the inside of the door, more even on the outside of the door, as one final defense should his ring of salt fail him. It also lay piled in all corners of the trailer as though it was something Edgar needed easy access to at all hours of the day, like some kind of mad chef. As far as weapons against the undead went, it was one of the weaker ones. Vampires avoided it, but it alone wouldn't kill them, the worst it would do to them was turn their stomachs. It was a useful addition to a hunter's arsenal, but not a necessary one.
But Edgar did go through a lot of it in making that horrible drink he swore by. If there was an upside to this situation – and really there wasn't, but if he was forced to come up with one – Alan would say that ironically his brother's breath might actually smell better now.
“I'm glad you find this so funny,” Edgar said.
Alan froze in horror. He hadn't realized he had been smiling. He instantly wiped the expression from his lips and shook his head. “I don't. Yeah, I'll get rid of it for you.”
“You might as well take the food too. None of it looks too appetizing suddenly.”
“Wait and see how tonight goes before you start donating your kitchen,” Alan told him.
Edgar gave him a look that said Alan was being too optimistic. Alan shot him one back that told him anything was possible. Edgar didn't believe him. The conversation stopped there. Once, they had been able to have whole discussions and even arguments without saying a word, then Alan had been changed, and the art had been lost. It was coming back slowly, as they learned once again to work together, but this was going to be a major setback.
“Fine, I'll see how tonight goes, then maybe I'll take the perishables off your hands.” His fingers played nervously with the zipper on his bag. “While we're talking about food...” he added. Slowly and reluctantly, he slipped one hand inside the bag.
Edgar stared at him with an expression of horror. Their non-verbal communication skills may not be what they were, but Edgar could still read him like a book. He knew what was coming.
“No,” he whispered.
“Not now. You're okay for now, but if we can't solve this tonight, then maybe tomorrow you'll need to,” his fingers gripped the smooth plastic of the bottle and he pulled it into the light of the trailer.
Edgar's horrified look intensified and he backed off a little further even without Alan moving toward him. His back hit the wall next to his bed, and there was nowhere else for him to go.
“No way, Alan. Definitely not. Under no circumstances.” He shook his head vehemently from side to side as he spoke.
“You're going to get hungry,” Alan said bluntly. “I held out almost two weeks, but every of it second was torture, and in the end I surrendered anyway.”
Edgar continued to shake his head from side to side, his gaze didn't leave the bottle of animal blood in Alan's hand.
“Resisting was stupid,” Alan told him. “It made me a danger to everyone. You could do it, but you wouldn't be able to do anything else.”
“I don't care,” he assured him. “I'll stay away from everyone. Lock me in here, tie me down with silver rope in a ring of salt, put holy water traps all around the place to make sure I can't get out. I'm not going to do it.”
“Most of those things won't even...” Alan broke off. He put the bottle down on the table and tapped it distractedly with his fingernails as he spoke. “What if we can't cure you tonight? Or tomorrow, or the night after? I know it doesn't feel so bad yet, but try it for a week, or a a month, or a year. It gets worse, Edgar. You have no idea how much worse it's going to get. You can't resist for that long. You just can't.”
Edgar sank onto the end of his unmade bed and wrapped his arms around his torso. Alan could see his words piercing the thick defensive hide that his brother had built up around himself over the years, and he could see the pain they were causing. Sooner or later, Edgar would realize he was right, but until then...
“No,” Edgar repeated.
Alan nodded. “I'm going to leave it in the refrigerator. When you feel the bloodlust, drink it, or you'll be too dangerous to be around. I can't hunt with you if I can't trust you. This'll only take the edge off. It's going to take a lot of self control too.”
Edgar didn't reply. His hands brushed the bare skin of his arms as though he felt a chill.
“It's horrible,” Alan added quietly. “The taste. You won't like it. If that's what you're worried about.”
His gaze firmly focused on the linoleum beneath his feet, Edgar nodded wordlessly.
It was full dark outside by now. The vampires would be awake and hunting, both sides increasing their strength and their numbers for the war. Alan watched his brother glance accusingly at the door of the refrigerator as though it were some kind of traitor for containing a bottle of blood, and he sighed.
He got to his feet. Edgar didn't look at him.
“I have to go,” he said.
“Where do you think?” Alan said, then bit his lip, regretting the tone in his voice. He took a breath, held it and exhaled slowly. “I know someone who might be able to tell me who the two possible head vampires are,” he said. “I'm going to find out what I can, and then...”
“You're going hunting,” Edgar finished for him.
“I'm going with you,” Edgar said. He got to his feet, then looked down, taking in the blood and dirt encrusted state of his clothing. “Give me a minute to get changed, I'll attract too much attention like this.”
He grabbed a handful of clothes from a drawer, and walked into the bathroom, all the time keeping as much space between himself and Alan as he could. “I don't think that's a good idea, Edgar,” Alan called after him as the door began to close.
Edgar paused and turned to look at him. “You'd rather I stink?”
“No, I just think I should do this alone.”
The bathroom door closed and Alan heard the sound of running water.
“I'll come back when I'm done, I'll let you know how it went,” Alan called.
“You just said you can't hunt with me if you don't trust me,” Edgar replied over the sound of the shower. “That means you were planning on hunting with me.”
“Not yet,” Alan said. “It's too soon. Hopefully I'll take care of this tonight and you'll be cured. If not, once you're ready...”
“So you're going to go out there without backup? And what am I supposed to do, just sit around here and watch TV?” The sound of water stopped, and a few seconds later, Edgar emerged from the bathroom wearing a less soiled version of the same clothes he had been wearing earlier. “This is my life we're talking about,” he said. He grabbed one of his favorite bandannas and tied it tightly around his head. The water from his damp hair soaked into the red fabric.
“I can't just wait here, I'll go crazy.”
Alan knew that restless feeling that the darkness brought. “It's a trick,” he explained. “You feel compelled to go outside, where the temptation is stronger. I know it's hard, but you need to ignore it and concentrate on something else. You can't just go charging outside, that's how things go wrong.”
Edgar shook his head. He strode purposefully across the trailer toward Alan, closing the distance between them in a few short steps. He looked at him triumphantly, as though he had somehow proved by coming close and not biting, that he was in control. But he wasn't feeling it yet. Edgar wasn't going to understand until he had felt that burning need to drink. When he did, he would realize the danger, but until then, he just couldn't understand.
If Alan could find the head vampire tonight, maybe Edgar would never have to understand.
Edgar obviously wasn't in the mood to listen to reason. He selected three of the newly returned stakes from the table, and held each one up to the light, checking it for any signs of weakness before placing them in his holster. “I'm going,” he said. The stubborn determination in his eyes said that he didn't care what Alan said, he would go without him if he needed to.
It wasn't worth the fight, not yet, before the need kicked in. Where he was going first was safe, more or less. After that, he wasn't sure, but they could cross that bridge if they came to it.
Anyway, hadn't he done exactly this? His first nights as a half vampire had been spent hunting in a desperate attempt to free himself from the curse, until the rising bloodlust drove him away from the temptation of the streets. He hadn't killed anyone, no humans at least. Edgar would be okay for now, he was sure of it.
“Fine,” he said. He picked up several more of the stakes and watched Edgar select a gun. Just in case, he also picked up one of the many garlic bulbs and shoved it in the pocket of his jacket. Non-lethal, in case he needed to deter a vampire that he couldn't kill. “Lets go.”