Characters: Edgar Frog, Alan Frog, Sam Emerson
Warnings: Not really.
Spoilers: For Reign of Frogs, I suppose.
Synopsis: Set after Reign of Frogs. Alan drank vampire blood, and Edgar is going to save him even if he has to to tear down the whole town to do it...
Prologue | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
As they made the short journey home, Edgar watched his brother out of the corner of his eye. The younger boy walked in silence, his hands still clenched into fists, his knuckles bloody. His jacket was pulled tight around his body and he stared down to the pavement in front of them.
He had scared Edgar tonight. Not just the flying or the glowing eyes. Edgar knew what they were facing, these things he had expected. Vampire detection was an unexpected bonus, as unwelcome as the rest of the change, but possibly useful in their quest to undo it. What had scared Edgar was the uncontrolled, frenzied attack on the body of the dead vampire. Alan was losing it. Little by little, he was watching his brother change into something else, and that terrified him.
“Wash up and get back in your room,” he ordered as soon as they got home.
“No, Edgar. There's something I need to say.”
Edgar shook his head, “Later, I'll come up. Just get out of here before someone sees you.”
Alan ran up the stairs into the living area of the building. The downstairs was mostly taken up by the comic store and storage area, though they had managed to squeeze the kitchen in at the back of the house. Edgar listened to his footsteps pounding on the stairs. He heard water running in the bathroom and nodded in satisfaction, then stomped into the kitchen, grabbed a glass of water and a banana and followed his brother upstairs.
He let himself into Alan's room. Everything looked exactly the same as it always had, no signs there of the sudden, worrying change in their lives. The neatly stacked bookshelves were filled with information on the supernatural. Comic books scattered around, still more bagged and boarded, stored in cardboard boxes lined up along the wall. Edgar sat at the desk and waited.
Alan was muttering under his breath as he walked in. His eyes still downcast, he didn't notice Edgar watching him. When he looked up, he jumped in surprise.
“Boo,” said Edgar, softly.
“What are you doing there?”
Edgar shrugged, “You had something to say. I brought you some food. You haven't eaten since those decade old Oreos at Sam's house.”
He tossed the banana across the room. Alan caught it and stared at it as though examining it for a trick. Not finding one, he crossed the room and put it back down on his desk. “Ed, this isn't what I'm hungry for,” he whispered.
“Yeah, well you're not all the way bloodsucker yet. Half vampire means half human. Since you can't feed the vampire half, maybe you should eat some food, drink some water. It might help.”
Alan glanced at the offerings Edgar had brought him. The thought of eating or drinking made him feel nauseous.
“Please?” said Edgar.
Alan picked up the glass of water and sniffed it experimentally. He raised it to his lips and took a swig. He sloshed the water around his mouth and swallowed slowly, then and put the glass back down. “Eddie, it's time,” he said in a small voice.
“Time for what?”
“We're never going to find the Widow. You promised me you'd stake me if it came to it. It's time.”
Edgar was on his feet in a flash, head shaking vehemently from side to side. “No. It's only been two days, we've barely started looking for her. Give me chance, I can find her, I know it.”
Alan teased the skin of his bottom lip with his teeth, not meeting his brother's gaze, “I'm going to hurt someone, Eddie, and I'm afraid it might be you.”
“You've been doing okay. I mean, you haven't tried to eat anyone yet, have you?”
Alan turned his head away.
Edgar's eyes narrowed, “Have you?”
“No, of course not. But I want to, Edgar.” He paced to the window and turned around, “I hate it, but I want to. I need to. And it's getting stronger.”
“What do you mean?” Edgar demanded.
Alan sat down on the side of the bed, facing his older brother. His hands gripped the fabric of his bed covers and twisted them around. He stared straight ahead, but made no eye contact, as though he was barely aware that he was talking to another person. “It started out feeling like I was hungry, then it got worse, I felt so thirsty too. Like I was dying of thirst. But now it's like I can't breathe, Eddie. I feel like if I don't do it, I'm going to die.”
Suddenly his eyes locked onto Edgar's and Edgar could see all the fear and pain behind them. His heart broke for him, but what Alan was asking was too much.
Alan's hand reached for a wooden stake laying conspicuously on the window ledge. He handed it over, slowly, but without hesitation. “The vamp tonight was right, we're never going to find her, and I could snap at any time. If I lose control, I put everyone in danger.”
Edgar took the stake from his brother's hand and held it down by his side. “No,” he said, “not yet.”
“Please, I don't want to hurt anyone. I couldn't live with myself. Unless...how do you think it works? Will I become a monster and suddenly not care who gets killed so I can keep on living, or will I spend every night killing and hating myself for it?”
“I don't know, Alan. We're not going to find out.” Edgar walked away, taking the stake with him. “We'll think of something,” he said, “hang on, don't do anything til I say so. I'm still in charge.”
Alan nodded and lay down on the bed. He wrapped his arms around his body and closed his eyes.
As he locked the door to Alan's room, Edgar realized he was shaking. His hands clenched into fists and he ran into his own room, slammed the door behind him, and spent a few minutes beating up his pillow. One of these days, he had to get a punch bag. It would be good practice, and great for working out his frustrations. If they ever got paid for a job, it was at the top of his to buy list.
Feeling more tired but no calmer, he ran down the stairs just in time to hear the telephone ringing. He picked up, “Frog's Comics. What?”
He hesitated, trying to decide whether to slam down the receiver or say something first. “Sam. What do you want?”
“I just wondered how it went tonight.”
Edgar slouched against the wall and scowled, “We came back alive. No thanks to you.”
“Hey, I said sorry I couldn't go.” He had the nerve to sound indignant, Edgar thought he might stick Sam's photograph on his punch bag when he got it.
“Yeah, well your vampires never turned up, but lucky us, it turns out my brother's got some freaky vamp detector built in now. Oh, and he flies. Came half way to a full on vamp-out earlier tonight, and right now he's in his room thinking about staking himself. So, how was your night?”
He heard Sam sigh dramatically on the other end of the line, “Look, can I talk to Alan?”
“No can do. Alan's confined to quarters until further notice.”
“Yeah, well having back up tonight was important too, but you bailed. If you want back in, come round and prove it.” Edgar hung up, went in the kitchen and helped himself to the contents of the cookie tin on the second shelf. The ones on the top shelf had extra ingredients that would impair his fighting skills.
He sat down at the table and crunched his way through half the tin before he heard banging on the shop door. He turned on the light and walked through into the front to the store. Sam, his face flushed from the exertion of cycling, was pressing his nose against the glass, peering inside.
Edgar sighed and let him in, locking the door behind them. Sam leaned his bicycle against a rack of Batman comics and took a series of deep breaths.
“Can I help you with something?” Asked Edgar when what was left of his patience had expired.
“Yeah, like I said, can I talk to Alan?”
Sam frowned as Edgar pulled out a key and unlocked Alan's door. “You locked him in?”
“He's a vampire.”
Alan was reading a large, hardback book with a black cover, he looked up when the door opened. “Half,” he said.
Edgar shrugged, “And we want to keep it that way.”
Sam glanced with concern in Alan's direction, but his friend nodded, “It's fine, I'm okay with it.”
“I brought you this,” Sam took off his backpack, unzipped it and pulled out a glass bottle. He passed it over.
Alan looked at the bottle, “Is this root beer?”
“Not exactly. It was my grandpa's.”
“What?!” said Edgar as Alan tossed the bottle away in horror. It landed on his bed, far enough away, but where there was no danger of it breaking.
“What, guys? Don't you get it?” asked Sam, frowning.
“You brought blood in here?” asked Alan weakly.
“Well,” Sam shrugged, “animal blood. Yeah.”
Edgar and Alan exchanged an identical look of disgust, Edgar's arms folded across his chest and he glared at Sam.
“My grandpa drank it instead of human blood, so he never turned into a full vampire,” Sam explained, “he passed for human for years.”
“He doesn't want to pass for human, Sam.”
Sam nodded, “But it'll help you for now. It'll give us more time to find the head vampire. Edgar, will you stop looking at me like you're going to punch me in the face and think about it for a minute.”
Edgar shook his head, “I did think about it, two days ago. It's too dangerous, we don't know what it'll do to him.”
“It'll help him control the urge to bite people.”
“Then how come your vamp-father didn't give it to Michael, huh?” Edgar leaned forward threateningly, “he knew what was going on, why didn't he hand over a pint of squirrel to keep him going? Maybe once you've done it, you can't go back. Yeah, maybe it'll stop him biting anyone, but what if it changes him some other way? What if he can't go back to human?”
Sam floundered for an answer, then shook his head, “I don't know,” he admitted.
Edgar nodded in satisfaction, “Then maybe you should keep your miracle cure to yourself and get out there helping me find this head vamp.”
Sam refastened his backpack and slung it over one shoulder. He turned to leave. “I was just trying to help.”
Alan sat motionless, watching the argument distractedly, “Can I say something?” he asked.
Edgar fixed angry, frustrated eyes on him, Sam turned around.
“Just because it's my life you're arguing about. I thought I should get a say.”
“Then say,” Edgar told him, “and you'd better say no.”
Alan reached over to where the bottle had landed, picked it up and unscrewed the lid. Edgar watched in horror as his brother took a sniff of the contents and pulled a revolted face. “Ugh,” he said.
Edgar turned to Sam in triumph, but as he did the expression his friend's face alerted him to the fact that Alan wasn't done. He spun back around just in time to see his brother swallowing a gulp of refrigerated blood. His mouth opened and closed wordlessly, and he turned back to Sam. “This is on you, Sam. If anything goes wrong, it's on you.”
Sam stepped around him, moving closer to Alan. “How do you feel?” he asked.
“Sick,” he replied simply.
Edgar pushed Sam out of the way, “Anything else?”
Sam's face fell in disappointment but Alan shook his head.
“No, hungry's better,” he said. He brought the bottle to his lips and took another sip, and grimaced. “Yuck.”
Edgar watched in revolted disbelief as his brother swigged from a bottle of blood. When he couldn't take it any more, he elbowed Sam in the ribs and motioned for him to follow as he left the room. He locked the door behind them and walked downstairs.
Edgar pressed his palms against the kitchen top and lifted his body until he was sitting on the surface. He inflated his cheeks and let the air out slowly. “Can you get more of that stuff?”
“Yeah,” Sam pulled out three more bottles from his bag and put them in the refrigerator, “make sure your parents don't drink these,” he said.
Edgar half smiled and shook his head, “They probably wouldn't notice if they did. Is that all of it?”
Sam nodded, “But grandpa had blood draining equipment in with his taxidermy stuff. No idea how to use it, but I could find out.”
Sam reached into the cookie jar still on the kitchen table and helped himself, “You've changed your tune,” he said.
“Yeah, well. It's done now. Anyway, he was in agony, now he's just in pain.” Edgar looked away, “Thanks, Sam. But remember, if this goes wrong...”
“Yeah, yeah. I know. All my fault. I'll be kicked out, I'll never hunt vampires in this town again. Something like that, right?”
“Right.” Edgar glanced at him sideways, “So are you back in?”
It was a heavy question. One Sam wanted to answer truthfully, but the truth was that he just didn't know how long he could keep doing this. With the toll it was taking on him already, he didn't want to think about where he'd be a year or so down the line. He didn't want to end up like Alan. Or like Edgar, for that matter. He shrugged, “I guess so.”
“I need more than that, Sam. If you're in, it's got to be all the way or you're no use to me. I need someone reliable on my team. So are you in?”
Sam sighed, “Yes. At least until we help Alan.”
Edgar nodded. That would do for now. Once his brother was cured, Sam could do what he wanted. Until then, Edgar needed the backup. “Alright,” he said, “recon mission. The Black Widow's got some... interesting... interests. We ask around town, if she's setting up shop somewhere else, the local weirdos'll know about it.”
“Right now?” asked Sam.
“The weirdos come out at night, Sam. Just like the vampires.” He headed out of the door, leaving Sam with little choice but to follow him.