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 | Part4
If such a thing were possible, this part of town actually seemed sleazier and darker and worse smelling than the corner that, despite Edgar's constant urging of him to move, Alan still called home.
The sun had long since sunk below the horizon and plunged the world into darkness. For the first time, although the night time still held the same dangers as it always had, the absence of light came as a relief to Edgar. It made him feel better. If he didn't pay attention to the things that he was trying desperately not to think about, he could almost fool himself into believing that everything was normal. When the sun rose again, he would feel like crap, and any sense of normality would be impossible.
It didn't look dark. Even in the maze of narrow streets and high buildings devoid of any street lighting, despite the thick layer of cloud that had blown in during the afternoon, covering the sky and blocking the light of the moon and stars, vampire night vision brought the world into sharp focus.
The dead end alley where Alan finally brought the truck to a stop looked like a part of town long forgotten, abandoned and left to go to seed. No one had ever lived there, once upon a time it had probably been the thriving industrial heart of San Cazador, but now warehouses and factories had long since fallen to disuse after the fishing industry moved to other towns, taking the jobs with it, and the tourist industry became king. People had moved out and never given the place another thought. It was the perfect place for vampires to call home, but Alan seemed unconcerned by the possibility.
Edgar checked his stakes as Alan put the truck into park, then he opened the passenger side door and stepped down. Alan did the same, locked the doors and glanced around into the darkness. The air was thick with the sickly smell of rotting garbage mixed with animal excrement, so strong and thick it almost seemed to have a physical presence, like a force field designed to keep strangers away. It made Edgar's stomach churn worse even than the garlic.
Out of the corner of his eye, he detected a flash of movement. He spun toward it just in time to see the back legs and tail of a large rat as it scurried into a hole in the wall of a clearly abandoned building. This place was truly horrible.
Edgar was struck by the strange feeling that he was probably the most dangerous thing here.
“What the hell are we doing here?” he whispered.
Alan turned to look at him. His brother's pupils had expanded, reducing his irises to almost non-existence as he strained to see in the darkness. Despite that, he still didn't quite manage to make accurate eye contact. Right now Alan was practically blind, yet Edgar could see better than he ever had.
“Visiting a friend.” Alan replied.
Edgar stared at him incredulously. It made no impact, because of course Alan couldn't make out his expression. “You've got friends?”
Alan turned around and began walking carefully through the scattered garbage on the ground. He raised an arm in the air and treated Edgar to a single finger salute over his shoulder. Despite everything, Edgar smirked. Things seemed normal again.
Then reality reared its ugly head and forced him to remember how not normal things were.
Alan reached a metal door, riveted around the edge, and built so tightly into the wall that Edgar, even with his frighting new night vision, didn't notice it until Alan raised a fist and knocked three times. The resulting sound of knuckles on metal echoed around the alley, bouncing off the brick walls.
Alan waited. Edgar followed him across the garbage-strewn ground. On the other side of the door, he thought he could make out the sound of footsteps approaching. A key turned in the lock, and the door swung open outwards. Alan stepped back to avoid it.
Light filled the alley. It burst through the open door unexpectedly, forcing its way into Edgar's skull through his eyes, as they stung fiercely in protest. He winced in pain, turning away from the glare. When his eyes had begun to adjust, he turned back hesitantly, and found himself looking at a man in his late twenties.
The man had a slim but muscular build; his olive skin spoke of southern European or maybe Middle Eastern heritage. Black hair was cropped close to his skull. He was of average height, and Edgar was no judge, but his clothes didn't look cheap. Snap judgment told him this was one of the many youngish men that called these kinds of towns home, attempting to extend their youth by refusing to grow up. Spending all their money on designer clothes and video games, and all their spare time on the beach.
That Alan had gone to him said that there was possibly more to him than met the eye. Edgar stared at him critically, trying to decide out what it might be.
The man was staring at Alan with an expression of disbelief on his face. His head shook slowly from side to side as he looked at his surprise visitors.
“Well, this is unexpected. I thought you'd turned. Or died.”
His accent wasn't local. Edgar listened carefully, trying to place it.
Alan shook his head. “Guess again.”
The man exhaled through his mouth, and then took a slow, deep breath in through his nose, turning his head from left to right as did. A smile spread across his lips, but didn't reach his eyes. It made it appear sad. He nodded.
“You did it. You're human again. Well, I'd given up on convincing you you were better off as you were. Congratulations, I suppose.” He leaned forward slightly and whispered conspiratorially. “You smell delicious, by they way.”
Edgar frowned nervously. His hand gripped the reassuringly sturdy handle of his stake. He just held it for ease of access, didn't pull it out. This guy definitely wasn't human.
Alan turned around to look at Edgar. “This is Daniel. He's a half vampire.”
“Half vampire?” Edgar loosened his grip on the stake slightly, but kept his hand where he could feel its presence. “Didn't they all get turned back?”
Daniel grinned widely, “Only the ones unlucky enough to be the bloodline of the master that died last year. Thankfully, I'm not from around here.”
“I thought that might happen,” Alan told him. “I'm glad I was right.”
Edgar felt his frown deepen. “You're... glad... someone's still a half vampire?”
Alan shrugged. “Daniel...”
“Likes who is is and had no desire to change,” the half vampire finished for him. He grinned again. His teeth were Hollywood white; they drew Edgar's eye and he found himself examining them for signs of fangs. Instinctively, his tongue traced the shape of his own teeth, checking for the same thing. Nothing, but he knew they were there; hiding beneath his human disguise was the monster inside.
He could feel it even now, stretching its limbs and beginning to pay attention to the other monster before it.
Daniel peered at Edgar in interest, as though he had only just noticed him. He smiled again, friendly and welcoming and not at all like the monster that Edgar knew he was.
“You're new. Who're you?”
“Daniel, this is my brother, Edgar.” Alan said.
Daniel's eyes widened, then his grin expanded to match. A deep chuckle emerged from his throat and he shook his head in disbelief as he took a step backwards, allowing them room to enter the building. “Ah, don't you just love irony? Well then, you'd better come in.”
The half vampire waited until they were both inside, and then pulled the heavy door closed with a loud, metallic clunk. Edgar forced all apprehension aside for the time being. Yes, this was the home of a half vampire, but Alan appeared to trust him, and Edgar was hardly in a position to judge at the moment. What really bothered him was that Alan had kept this from him. If he had chosen not to mention this, what other secrets did he have?
The room he found himself in had possibly been a warehouse in a previous life, but it had been customized to make it into a trendy home. Edgar gritted his teeth. He may have been right about there being more to the man than met the eye, but it was possible his first assessment had been correct too.
What had once been a single, large room had been divided by bare, red brick walls that reached only part way to the high ceiling, too high to see over but low enough that the whole place still looked like one room. Electric lights hung by their wires from the ceiling, down into the different not quite rooms. Creating this place would not have been cheep. This half vampire was obviously not without money.
Edgar kept to the back, following Alan as he followed the vampire round a corner and into the main room. It was large and rectangular, with the other rooms placed around the edge like offshoots. The far wall was dominated by a obscenely large flat screen television. A sofa and two chairs were aimed directly at it. Next to the TV was a pile of DVDs and console games. A little closer, and pushed against the left wall was a desk containing a small laptop and a large desktop computer, and , Edgar frowned as he counted them, six flat screen monitors, each showing something different, charts, a word processing program, some web pages and what looked like an old black and white movie. The other walls were covered with posters advertising bands and movies.
Scattered around the room was all kinds of pointless junk that there was no need for anyone over the age of eight to have, let alone a vampire. He stepped over a radio controlled car, just managing to suppress the urge to kick it. This was the dream apartment of the average twenty-something guy with too much money and not enough sense.
Even without taking into account the fact that he was a half vampire who apparently seemed perfectly happy with the situation, Edgar hated him already.
Daniel spread his arms. “Welcome to my home,” he said. “Grab a seat, make yourselves comfortable. Alan, I'm afraid I don't have anything to offer you, but...” he pointed at Edgar, frowning in concentration. “Eddie, right? If you're hungry..?”
“It's Edgar,” Edgar snapped. “And no.”
Daniel looked at him curiously. “How new are you?”
Edgar folded his arms and pretended to examine the poster hanging in a frame on the wall. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Alan make eye contact and shake his head, telling the vampire to drop it.
“That's a cue to shut up if I ever saw one,” Daniel said. “No problem, but if you change your mind, you only have to ask. You might want to take me up on the offer while you're here, because anything your brother gives you, you will want to throw it back up. I've learned how to make our diet a little more appetizing.”
Edgar pointedly ignored him and turned to Alan. “Why are we here?”
“I was hoping Daniel could give us some information,” Alan explained. “Still got your finger on the undead pulse of the city, Daniel?”
The half vampire shrugged. “I'll just be a second. Sit down, watch some TV.” He turned and left the room. In another part of the building, Edgar's unnervingly sharp hearing detected the sound of a refrigerator being opened.
“Who the hell is this guy?” Edgar asked in hushed tones.
“Daniel's a friend,” Alan explained. “He's been a half vampire for a long time, longer than I was, and he doesn't want to go back to human. He usually knows what's going on around town, or he can point you in the direction of someone who does.”
Edgar shook his head in disbelief. “So if he doesn't want to be human, why has he been a half vamp so long?”
“Because I don't want to be a vampire either,” Daniel replied from the gap in the wall that served as a door. “Have you ever met one of those things? Horrible creatures.” He took a sip from the glass in his hand and walked toward them. The liquid in the glass stuck to the side, leaving a translucent red stain. “You might want to bear in mind that you can't talk about a half vampire behind his back if he's within a block or two of you. You'll come to learn just how cool your powers are eventually. But in the meantime, just take my word for it.”
Edgar grimaced in disgust and turned away from the red liquid in the glass. The thought of what the other half vampire was doing was revolting. On the few occasions when he had visited Alan in his half vampire state, even though he had never actually seen his brother do it, the thought of blood drinking even to resist turning made his stomach turn. But this time revulsion was mixed with curiosity.
The smell of the blood spread from the glass throughout the room. It smelled like blood always had, but heightened senses made it so much stronger and more potent. His mind railed against the response it provoked in his body. He could feel his heart rate increasing, his breathing growing quicker and sweat on his brow. Fear, he told himself. Fear and disgust. But he knew that it was something else.
“So you're saying you like being a bloodsucker?” Edgar said, still looking away from the other half vampire. The words came out more harshly than he had intended, but that didn't matter. He probably deserved it.
“Technically, I'm not a bloodsucker, I'm a blood drinker,” Daniel corrected. “I don't suck anything, I put it in a glass and drink it like a civilized person.”
Edgar glanced back at him just in time to see him take another oh so civilized gulp of blood. He looked away again.
“I like the advantages it gives me,” Daniel continued. “You get the best of both worlds; strength, flight, enhanced senses, but without becoming like the vampires. It's not without its disadvantages, but the same can be said of being human.”
He smiled, and this time Edgar saw a flash of fang before it disappeared under his lip. With one final gulp, he drained the glass, set it down on the table in front of the couch and sat down. He patted the cushion next to him.
“Sit down, guys. I'll start to think you don't want to be here.”
Alan shared a glance with Edgar, and then sat down on one of the chairs. Edgar took the other one, continuing to watch the half vampire warily.
“The advantages of being human are better,” Alan said.
Daniel smiled again, indulgently this time, as though he had had this conversation before. He turned his attention to the room's only human occupant.
“What's it like suddenly being human again after, what was it? Five years? Do you feel weak? Do you miss flying?”
Alan suddenly looked very uncomfortable. “It's been more difficult than I expected,” he admitted. Edgar's gaze jumped sharply to his brother and he stared intently at him as he listened to him talk about something outright that he had only hinted at before. “It's taken some time to re-adapt. But it's worth it.”
“I still maintain that you're certifiable,” Daniel told him.
“You never seemed to get it, Daniel. We're hunters.”
“And just think what those vampire enhancements would do to your hunting skills.”
Alan shook his head vehemently. “I know what they do, and it's not worth the downside,” he said.
Daniel shrugged and leaned back on the couch. He lifted his feet and placed them on the coffee table next to his glass. The dregs of the blood that had stuck to the sides had begun to run back down and form a small pool in the bottom. The smell of blood continued to fill the room.
“So, what can I do for you?” Daniel asked. “I assume the newbie here isn't looking for tips on how to actually enjoy the gift he's been given, so what do you want?”
“Information,” Alan said. “I assume you already know what's going on with the vampires in the city?”
“I know some genius,” he eyed Edgar disapprovingly, “thought it'd be a good idea to take out one of the big bosses. Created a power vacuum that the others have rushed in to fill. It's not quite all out war yet, but it's heading that way. I've been keeping as far out of it as possible, but you guys have created a hell of a mess. Both sides are creating soldiers; Eddie here's not the only one that's going to be finding himself with an unexpected set of fangs. And most of the other newbies aren't going to have the kind of self control I do.”
“Shit,” muttered Edgar. Things were already bad enough. A plague of new vampires eating the tourists wasn't going to help matters. Especially not when their two man team was a man down. The glass on the table was calling to him. He wondered what it would be like to run a finger around the inside of the glass, collecting the leftovers and just taste it. Just a taste.
He didn't want to be thinking things like that. He felt dizzy. He ran a hand across his brow and it came away damp.
Alan nodded, fixed on what Daniel was saying, not noticing Edgar's difficulty. “So if we kill both of them, we're just going to end up with the same problem again a few months down the line. We need to find out whose bloodline Edgar is, kill the right vampire and let the other one become the master.”
“No,” said Edgar. His voice shook slightly, maybe not even enough for Alan to notice, but Edgar could hear it. He needed to be away from that blood. He could smell the same scent coming from Alan, and the presence of the glass was just making it worse. His fingers gripped the arm of his chair tightly, as though he could anchor himself in place. “We need to kill them all. Every last one of them.”
“We can't do that,” Alan said. He turned to look at Edgar, and his expression crumpled into concern.
He moved his gaze to the glass on the table, and then to Daniel, who cringed guiltily. “I'll clear that up,” he muttered. He grabbed the glass and took it away.
“Idiot,” Alan muttered. He turned his attention to Edgar.
Edgar's fingers were so deeply embedded in the leather surface of the chair arm that he didn't know whether he would be able to extract them. The blood was gone, but it's scent still lingered in the room like a perfume after the wearer had left.
This was bloodlust.
He had heard about it, read about it. Even, once he knew the Alan was back and still fighting it, dreamed about it. He had had so many nightmares where this had happened to him; now he was literally trapped in his worst nightmare.
He was still human. His mind, the thing that made him who he was, was still human. But he was trapped inside a body no longer his own, one that demanded blood. His human mind railed against the idea of giving in to the terrible need, still convinced, despite the evidence to the contrary, that it resided within a human body. The seemingly irrational craving made no sense to the person he had been, but his half vampire body insisted with increasing ferocity.
He dug his fingers deeper still into the chair arm, while his other hand balled into a fist. He pressed the knuckles into his leg, physical pain in an attempt to distract himself from mental torture. The utter betrayal, by his own body, of everything that he believed.
He closed his eyes and attempted to concentrate on breathing slowly, hoping that the feeling would pass. It didn't. Each breath drew in more of the scent. He could still feel the unnatural speed of his heart pounding, but he could also hear Alan's. Through the thin barrier of skin that separated the blood within him from the air, Edgar could smell it. No matter what he did, he couldn't stop smelling it, and as much as the idea sickened him, he wanted it. He wanted it so badly it hurt. It literally hurt, as though something inside of him was twisting.
Alan's voice cut through the swirling red and black in his mind. Blood. It was circulating through his veins, being pumped around and around his fragile body. Just a little scratch would release it. Would that do any harm? Maybe Alan would be willing. Just a little scratch, the blood would well up and Edgar could just have a taste. Just a taste, that would be enough.
No. No no no no no.
“Edgar. Listen to me.”
“Go away, Alan.”
He heard Alan get out of his chair and breathed a sigh of relief. If Alan would go, he would be okay. That was what he needed, not to have to be so close. If he left, Edgar would be able to think again.
Footsteps approached him. Edgar shook his head.
“It's okay, just try to...”
Edgar opened his eyes. Alan was standing right next to him, looking down at him with frightened concern. He could barely find the willpower to speak, but Edgar tried to push in as much of the desperation and the need into the few words he could manage. Alan would understand, Alan had been in this exact same position. Edgar had had no idea, even in his worst imaginings, he had never been able to come up with something like this. And it was only going to get worse.
He looked up at Alan, staring him straight in the eyes. “Go,” he said.
For a moment, Alan froze completely still. His eyes widened almost imperceptibly, but Edgar saw the reaction, then Alan backed away several steps, and then turned and fled.
Edgar allowed his head to drop into his hands. Something sharp scraped along the tip of his tongue, and he, too, froze in horror. His tooth. His fang. With his tongue, he explored the inside of his mouth with growing panic. No wonder Alan had run. He imagined eyes glowing red, staring out from underneath a matching bandanna. Fingertips explored the surface of his face. It felt normal.
Footsteps were approaching. Reluctantly, he looked up. The half vampire was standing a few feet away. He held another glass in one hand, and held up the other in a nervous greeting. “You're not going to attack me, are you?” he asked. “My blood won't do anything for you, but it's been know to happen anyway.”
Edgar shook his head. The smell of blood filled his nostrils again but it wasn't coming from the other man, but the glass in his hand.
“You should drink this,” Daniel held it out to him. “Alan tells me you'll refuse, and I'm supposed to tell you he's not getting in the car with you unless you do. Which, because I'm assuming you haven't mastered flying yet, means a long walk home through populated streets, or you'll have to stay here with me. A slumber party might be fun though. What do you say?”
The blood was calling to him; his body wanted it, but his mind couldn't comprehend the idea of drinking it, of raising the glass to his lips and allowing his mouth to fill with blood.
Daniel chewed at his bottom lip nervously, he placed the glass on the table in front of Edgar then sat down and leaned toward him. “This is my fault. I'm really sorry, I wasn't thinking. It's been so long since I was new, I met Alan when he'd already learned control. I didn't mean to do this to you.”
“Fuck you,” Edgar muttered through clenched teeth.
“I'm more of a ladies man, if you know what I mean, but I've been known to make exceptions. You're not really my type though, but maybe during our slumber party.”
“Get away from me. You're a monster.”
Daniel shrugged, accepting the truth of the statement, but stayed where he was. He shuffled his chair a little closer and reached forward to touch Edgar lightly on the knee. “By your definition, yeah I guess I am, but have you looked in the mirror recently?” He paused. “That was supposed to be funny, but maybe you're the wrong audience.”
“Get away!” Edgar repeated.
Daniel shook his head. Suddenly, he seemed to become serious. He cleared his throat. “What you can smell is a combination of what's in the the glass, and what's in your brother. He's gone as far away as he can, but once the bloodlust starts it doesn't stop until you drink. It'll get stronger, more intense. You can fight it if you want, but it's not pretty, and you'll lose in the end. Just have a drink, and you'll be able to think again, okay?”
Edgar shook his head. He felt his throat tighten, and a sound squeezed its way out. To his horror, it sounded like a whimper
“It's cow's blood, if you're interested. You eat beef, I assume? You're not a vegetarian, are you? Because I'm sorry to say that'd be pretty much unworkable.”
Edgar's fingers ran through his almost dry hair. It was beginning to grow damp again. The half vampire next to him just kept talking, on and on as though he thought he could wear down Edgar's resolve with a constant barrage of words.
“Shut up!” he snapped finally. If he wanted to stay, fine, but he needed to stop talking before Edgar got out his stakes.
“No one is going to think badly of you. It's our nature to drink blood. We need it to survive. Your brother understands that better than anyone, he spent five years on a liquid diet, hating every second of it. If he could've done without, don't you think he would have?”
Edgar squeezed his eyes tightly closed. He was aware of everything. He could still smell Alan in another part of the building. The blood in the glass in front of him called to him. He could feel the half vampire's hand resting on his knee. He jerked his leg away. Two weeks. Alan said he lasted two weeks before he surrendered and drank animal blood. Just a few short hours ago, that hadn't sounded impressive at all. Now he was beginning to look at his brother in a whole new light.
Clearly, Alan was the stronger brother, because Edgar wasn't even going to last two nights.
His hands trembled slightly as he reached for the glass on the table. He gripped it tightly with both hands, wrapping them around the smooth surface of the glass, his fingers intertwined. Slowly, ignoring the way his mind still screamed at him to stop, he lifted it toward his lips, and drank.
The blood was cold from the refrigerator. The liquid was thick and rich. It stuck between his teeth and in his throat as he drank. It quenched the hunger deep inside him. Not enough that it was completely gone, but enough that he felt like himself again. The irony didn't escape him, that by behaving like a monster, he was able to reclaim part of his humanity.
He set the empty glass down on the table and ran his tongue along the front of his thankfully human teeth, sucking away the blood that he could feel trapped between them. Finally, he took a breath and looked up.
Daniel was smiling at him like a proud parent watching their kid take his first steps. Edgar didn't like it.
“There, see? That wasn't so bad, was it?”
Not so bad? Edgar simply stared back at him. The idea was still unbelievably horrifying, but the vampire was right, he did eat meat, this wasn't so different. Yet at the same time, yes it was. Incredibly so.
“I add a little red wine to it, a little sugar, a few spices. It's my own recipe. I'd be happy to share it. Your brother was never interested; I think he wanted it to taste bad. Some kind of punishment to himself or something. But I think you're different.”
Edgar shook his head. “I'm not,” he assured him. He wiped away the sweat from his face quickly with his hands, then rubbed them on his pants. Already, the memory of the hunger was fading slightly, but he knew that it would rise again. And next time it would be worse. “Thank you,” he said reluctantly.
Daniel shrugged. “Anything to help a fellow monster.”
Edgar shook his head, but didn't deny the truth of his words. He was a monster. He had seen evidence of that. A monster with fangs and a lust for blood. One that had been temporally sated, but one that would rise again.
“I really am sorry,” Daniel assured him, “but I promise it would've happened sooner or later anyway. This might've been the best place for it.”
Edgar didn't reply.
“Shall I tell Alan he's safe to come back?” Daniel asked.
Edgar nodded. For now, Alan was safe. A few minutes ago, he hadn't been. Alan could hold his own against a full vampire, Edgar had no worries about that, but he wondered whether he could trust his brother not to hesitate. If Edgar lost control, he needed to know that Alan would strike to kill, and he knew that when the situation had been reversed, he wouldn't have been able to do it.