Warnings: Not that I can think of yet
Characters: Sam Emerson, Edgar Frog, Alan Frog
Spoilers: Reign of Frogs, The Tribe
Synopsis: Sequel to Aftertaste. Four years after Alan turned, Edgar returns to Santa Carla to enlist Sam's help in killing the one vampire that he can't.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Lost Boys
It didn't look like any mental institution that Edgar – brought up an a steady diet of horror movies and comic books – would ever have imagined. There was no high, iron gates keeping the patients inside, no foreboding hundred year old ivy covered walls, the windows were not guarded by metal bars and there were no screeches of tormented lunatics sounding from within.
Instead, he found himself standing outside a modern red brick building placed inconspicuously in the middle of a long, wide and sunny, average city road. The only thing that differentiated it from the buildings surrounding it was a rectangular plastic sign above the door, black writing on a white background, simply reading 'Fairview Psychiatric Hospital'. Below that, on the door itself another sign told him to 'Please enter and report to reception.'
He twisted the door handle, and the door swung open. Edgar dug his hands deep into his pockets and walked inside.
It looked like a dentist's office. He round himself standing in a large lobby, the walls were painted in beige, the floor was tiled wood. Directly ahead of him was a receptionist's desk, and to his left a row of uncomfortable looking chairs were lined up against the wall. The room was bright and airy. Large windows let in a lot of sunlight, more than enough to nourish the many potted plants dotted around the room. From behind the desk, an attractive girl smiled at him as he wandered hesitantly forwards.
What had been going through Sam's mind, he wondered, when he came here six months ago? When he had stuffed his bag with a few clothes, wooden stakes and holy water, gotten in a taxi one afternoon, and walked up to that same desk and asked to check in.
“Can I help you?”
Edgar looked at the receptionist and tried to fabricate a friendly smile. It didn't really work. He got the feeling she thought he was planning on moving in too. “Yeah,” he told her. “I'm here to see a friend of mine. Emerson. Sam Emerson.”
She nodded. “Your name?”
He gave her the few details she asked for and she jotted thim down on a piece of card, added it to a file and pointed down the hall. “He's in room 207,” she told him, “Down the hall, up one level and it's just to your left. If he's not there, he'll be in the social area, that's back down here on the first floor, there are signs everywhere.”
Edgar nodded dumbly and turned in the direction she had pointed. His feet in their heavy boots tapped loudly on the hard floor. There was a smell of antiseptic in the air. It made him think of hospitals. Which made sense, because that was exactly what this place was.
He bypassed the elevator and took the stairs, taking them one at a time, not sure why this visit made him so apprehensive. He turned to the left and checked the number on the first door. Sam's room was directly in front of him. He raised a fist to knock, then hesitated.
It had been a long time. A lot had happened since he and Sam had said their brief goodbyes. Edgar had had been true to his word when he said he wouldn't be in Santa Carla when Sam returned. He had often wondered whether his friend had ever come looking for him. He wondered whether if he had stayed, Sam might not have come here. He wondered whether Sam would even want to see him now, especially considering the purpose of his visit.
But there was only one way to find out. He took a deep breath, savoring the sensation of his lungs stretching as they filled with air, and then held it there for a moment. He exhaled slowly through pursed lips, and raised a hand to check his bandanna was on straight. Finally, he raised a fist and tapped three times on the door, paused, then another three.
There was no response for the count of four breaths, and then from inside the room, Sam's voice filtered through the closed door.
Edgar checked the door for a peephole, frowning. There was none. The handle turned and the door opened to reveal a young man who bore only a slight resemblance to the kid he used to know. He looked older, as though a lifetime of stress had etched itself onto the face of a man barely into his twenties. His usually well cared for and styled hair had grown longer and hung lank around his face.
“What are you doing here?” Sam asked.
For a moment, Edgar just stared in surprise at the man in front of him. Finally, ho forced himself to speak. “How'd you know it was me?” he found himself demanding.
“That's the vampire hunter's secret knock you invented. Only you, me and Alan know it, and, well...it's daylight.”
“Oh.” Edgar looked away. Even after all his time, even the slightest reminder of what had happened to his brother hurt like a punch to the gut. He glanced up the corridor. This wasn't a conversation to have in the hall. “Can I come in?”
Sam nodded and stepped aside to allow him entry. Edgar strode inside and glanced around the room. It was small. There was just enough room for the narrow single bed that was pushed up against the wall, a small table with two chairs and a plywood wardrobe. The walls were painted white, everything else was brown.
Sam watched him warily as he walked across the room and sat down at the table. He pushed the door closed and turned to lean against it. “Why are you here, Edgar?” he asked.
“Funny,” Edgar replied, “I was going to ask you the same question.”
Sam shrugged, but his nonchalance seemed forced somehow, as though it had been rehearsed, “I guess I just needed a break.”
“So take a vacation. Go see the world. Do anything other than this.”
“I tried that, after Alan... I asked you to come with us, remember? It didn't work.” Sam folded his arms, wrapping them around his body. He moved away from the door and perched on the side of the bed, the whole time never shifting his gaze from his visitor. There was a haunted look in his eyes. “All this vampire stuff. Micheal, my Grandpa, Alan... It just got too much.”
Edgar shook his head. “Jesus, Sam, if you wanted out you could've just quit. I mean quit hunting, quit the town if you wanted, but not quit your life.”
“Why are you here?” Sam asked again. “I thought you were gone. Moving on down the coast chasing the vampires.”
“I did. I'm visiting.” Edgar realized he was tapping his fingernails on the surface of the table. He made himself stop. “Got some business to take care of. I went to your house and your mom told me where you were...” he tailed off and glanced out the window. He wondered whether the people driving past out there realized what this place was. “Jesus, Sam. You moved yourself into a nuthouse.”
Sam simply sat and watched him, arms still wrapped around his body like he was protecting himself from something.
“Just answer me one thing.” Edgar said. “You didn't tell them, did you? About the vampires?”
Sam smiled. With the change of expression, the tension seemed to lift. It almost made him look like his old self again. “No. This is a minimum security place. I checked myself in because I needed some help. If I start babbling about vampires, telling them all the things we've done, they'd lock me away for good. Think I was going to try to stake someone or something.”
“So what do they make of that?” Edgar pointed at the wall above the bed. Sam had hung a wooden stake right above his head. Large, sharp, impossible to miss. And presumably very difficult to explain.
“Oh,” he smiled again. “I put the extra piece of wood across the middle, see how it looks like a cross? I don't know if it works like that, but I'm hoping it'll deter vampires. And if not, the bottom part is a pretty sharp stake. No one's ever mentioned it, I guess they all just think I'm religious. I don't think that noticed what else it is.”
Edgar laughed, “That's a pretty good idea. For a mental patient. I might have to borrow it myself some time.”
Sam's smile faded instantly, his folded arms tightened further. “I'm not crazy, Edgar. Don't talk about me like I am.”
Edgar nodded. He glanced to the window again, watching cars the drive past outside. Watching the world go by. There wasn't a whole lot else you could do in a place like this. He turned back to his former teammate. “Seriously, Sam, why are you here?”
Sam unwrapped his arms from around his body and sat looking uncomfortable. The fingers of one hand tapped out a rhythm on his thigh and his gaze finally dropped, watching his drumming. “I guess I just needed to feel safe,” he said finally.
“Yeah, well newsflash Sammy, you're not safe. No one is. So if you go convincing yourself you are, you're going to be off guard and putting yourself in more danger.”
Sam glanced up at the cross on the wall and then out of the window, “He doesn't know where to find me here,” he said quietly.
“You know who.”
Edgar nodded. “Funny you should mention him, that's actually why I'm here.”
Edgar sighed. Sam just didn't seem like Sam any more. When Edgar looked at him, he could barely detect any hint of that kid with the clothes that were weird even by Santa Carla standards, that had walked into his store all that time ago and started trying to rearrange the merchandise. Somewhere along the way, he had lost a part of himself. He appeared subdued; colorless; like he was too tired to bother. Edgar couldn't help but feel at least partly responsible for that.
“I thought he'd follow the others,” he said. “They've got a pack growing over in Luna Bay, I've been hunting them down, as best as I can. I kept expecting him to turn up, but he never did. Then I heard the disappearances had started again up here. So, he's still visiting you, is he?”
Sam shook his head, “Not since I came here. But before that, every night. He wanted to go to you, but he couldn't face you. That's how I know he's still Alan. Only, he's not. Not completely. Alan wouldn't want to turn me into a vampire.”
Edgar closed his eyes, “I warned you about this, but you were too busy trying to convince me he was still my brother to listen.”
“But he is. That's why it's so difficult. He's still your brother, he's still my friend. He's still Alan, but he's something else as well.” Sam sighed shakily and ran his fingers through his unwashed hair. “Can you help me?”
Edgar wanted to say yes, but the word wouldn't come. Instead he shook his head. “No, Sam. I can't.”
Sam flinched, as though Edgar had slapped him in the face. He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and teased the flesh with his teeth, staring at Edgar in ill-concealed shock. Clearly, that wasn't the response he had been expecting. After all, Edgar was a vampire hunter to the core, a soldier in the battle against the things that lurked in the dark. When someone asked for help, he provided it. For a fee, of course.
“Fine,” said Sam, “I guess I really screwed up big time for you to refuse like that. So if you're not going to help, you might as well leave.”
Edgar glanced once more around the depressing room that had become Sam's life. He shook his head again. “You've got to understand,” he said. His eyes drifted downward as he spoke. “You're right. He is still my brother. He's not, but he is. I had the chance to stake him the night he turned and I couldn't do it. I won't be able to do it now either. It needs to be done, but I just can't do it.”
“Fine.” Sam nodded. “Goodbye, Edgar.”
“That's why I came back to Santa Carla. To ask for your help.”
Sam shook his head. “I don't do that any more.”
“I know.” Edgar got to his feet and walked slowly to the door. “For the sake of your sanity, right?”
Sam nodded again.
“And what about for the sake of your humanity? He's going to find you eventually. You can sit in this room for years wasting your life if you want, but he's immortal. He has an eternity to find you. Eventually it's going to come down to a choice. Do you want to be a vampire slayer, or a vampire?”
Sam didn't answer, he didn't even look at him. His eyes stared blankly into nothing. Lost, presumably in either the past or one of his potential futures. It hurt to see him like this. Edgar waited for as long as he could bear, but finally he couldn't take it any more. He got to his feet, fished in his pocket for a business card and placed it on the little table, “My number. When you make a decision, whichever way you choose, let me know.”
Still no response. Edgar opened the door and let himself out.
Sam paced the floor in his small bedroom, up and down from the window to the door and back, unable to bring himself to stop and sit still. He had thought he was getting better. He had begun to convince himself that everything was going to be okay in the end. Alan hadn't visited him since he came here. The doctors told him again and again how much progress he was making, how soon he would be ready to face the world again, and he had believed them. But those few words from Edgar had undone everything he had worked so hard to achieve. They had shattered the illusions he had so carefully constructed to block out the memories of the real world. And now they were gone, he could see clearly again.
He really would never be safe. The monsters were out there, and one of them had his eye on him. If Alan wanted to turn him, there really was nothing he could do about it. If he ever wanted to feel secure outside the walls of the institution, Alan had to not be there. Even inside, he could find him. He would find him eventually. He may already know where he was and just be biding his time.
If Edgar was unable to do it, and he had no one else that he could tell, he was going to have to do it himself. He had given up hunting because he thought it would keep him sane, but for the sake of both his sanity and his life, he was going to have to re-enter that world, for a short while at least.
He was terrified. But it was hard to tell how much of the fear came from the idea of facing his demons, and how much from the burgeoning case of agoraphobia that the doctors were starting to become worried about.
He paused in his pacing as he passed the table. The business card lay right in the middle, print facing upward, offering the services of the Frog brothers as surfboard shapers. Sam stared at it, certain that he could feel his heart attempting to break out of the confines of his ribcage. So, Edgar had moved out of the comic business. And Frog brothers. Plural. Unless there was a third Frog he'd never met, Edgar was having as hard a time dealing as he was, only he showed it in a different way.
But he knew that already. Even as they were battling to save Alan, it had seemed that Edgar was having a harder time of it than his brother. In so many ways the Frogs were – had been – so similar, it was sometimes easy to overlook the differences between them. Alan was the thinker, while Edgar was a man of action. While Alan would attempt to reason his way out of a problem, Edgar preferred to attack it head on and beat it into submission.
Having your brother join the other side wasn't the kind of problem you could beat into submission, especially not if you couldn't bring yourself to use a stake. The trouble was, Sam didn't know whether he could do it either.
He reached out gingerly, as though the card would attack him if he made any sudden movements, and slid it across the table toward himself. He picked it up and read the writing again, trying to think.
The choice was clear, he liked being human, and he wanted to have a life. A real one, not one spent hiding away from the world. He wanted to go to college, get a job, have friends, maybe even get married and have kids some day. None of that would happen if Alan caught up to him, and none of it would happen if he stayed in hiding forever. There was really only one decision he could make, and Edgar had probably known that even before he stepped through his door.
Hell, when he found out where he was, he had probably been thrilled. What better carrot to dangle in front of the man in the institution? Do this for me, and get your life back.
Sam ran a hand through his hair. It was beginning to feel greasy. There hadn't seemed much point styling it in here, so he had just let it grow, washed it when he could be bothered. His chin was rough with a day's beard growth and he was wearing sweatpants. His fifteen year old self would have been horrified to see the man he had become.
He strummed the card across the fingers of his left hand, and then spun around decisively and padded to the door in his socks. There was a communal payphone for the patients in the social area. He made his way there, dropped a quarter in the slot and dialed the number on the card.
The telephone rang five times before it connected to the answer machine. Edgar's recorded voice spoke to him. “Frog brothers. Leave a message telling me which of our services you need and a number, I'll get back to you.”
Not home yet. Sam wasn't sure how long had passed since Edgar had left, he didn't even know what time it was now. He almost hung up, but his decision was made, there was no point postponing.
He took a deep breath and forced out the words. “It's Sam. Okay, Edgar, I'm in.”