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 was the middle of the day. The sun was high in the sky and shining down brightly on the Santa Carla boardwalk, so directly overhead that the shadows had shrunk until they were barely there. There was no danger of attack from the undead, and no possibility that they were even being observed, yet Sam still didn't feel safe.
For a long time, he had been living with a constant feeling of unease, as though something terrible was going to happen at any moment. Every time he walked around a corner, there could be something waiting for him, every night when he went to bed, he wondered whether he would be visited in the night. Sometimes, he wished that it would just happen and be done with, because the constant uncertainty, the never knowing when he was safe, really was driving him insane.
But Sam wasn't crazy, not really. He just happened to live in a mental institution...
Yeah, he could see where the confusion might arise.
But inside the institution, he had at least felt safe during the day. He stayed in his room, his only visitors were people he knew and the doctors and nurses that he had come to know in the time he had been there. He knew they were safe. Out here on the boardwalk, he couldn't be sure. True, Alan couldn't be there now, there was no danger of the tap of long fingernails on his shoulder, and no possibility that he would turn around to see the face of his former friend and comrade showing his fangs as he smiled, but what if he had human helpers?
He had never been quite clear on the possibility of that. Vampires could influence a human mind, make them see things that weren't there, think things that weren't true. He knew this not only from the comic books supplied to him by the Frog brothers, but from things that Alan himself had told him before Sam had fled. So might a vampire have a human helper? A brainwashed daytime spy who could be among the crowd, watching him, ready to report back as soon as the sun went down? Or a half vampire, disguised as one of the shades wearing, drugged up kids slouched on a nearby bench?
Or if not, what if this took longer than he planned and the sun set before he could get inside? If Alan was still in Santa Carla, and presumably he was, the boardwalk would be the perfect place to hunt. He would see Sam, and see Edgar, and then he would know instantly what they were planning.
He knew how irrational he was being, but he had somehow gotten himself into that way of thinking and if was a difficult habit to break. Sometimes, he wondered if he was wrong when he claimed to be sane. And sometimes he hoped that he was wrong, because if he was crazy and if the danger was all in his head, then he could get better.
He couldn't even remember any more what it was like to feel safe.
The warm sun felt wonderful as it soaked into the bare skin of his arms and face. Edgar was standing next to him. Once, that alone would have been enough to provide a sense of security. Now, it only eased the terror slightly. They were standing on the boardwalk with their backs to the crowd, leaning over a black painted metal railing, looking out over the beach to the ocean. The water shimmered as the waves out at sea were hit by the sunlight, and a slight breeze gently caressed his skin, cooling the air around him.
Despite everything, it felt good to be outside, he hadn't realized how much he had missed the sun. The fear of being turned had forced him to live almost like a vampire anyway.
Edgar, standing to his right, was still and silent as he gazed over the beach where he had grown up. Just a little way down the boardwalk was the store that used to be the comic shop, now closed and empty. It had begun to fail the instant Edgar had left, his parents had been incapable of running it alone. Sam wondered where they were now, but he didn't know whether he should ask. Edgar had lost so much in the years since they had been friends, he didn't want to learn that he had lost them too.
Finally, Edgar turned to look at him. He was frowning.
“What?” Sam asked.
“Nothing.” Edgar shook his head and turned back to look at the ocean for a moment. He turned back. “It's just, you look like you think something's going to pounce on you any minute. It's daytime. Relax.”
Sam shrugged. He hadn't realized that his anxiety was that obvious. He made a conscious effort to relax tensed muscles and loosen his tight grip on the metal railing. Finally, he tried to rearrange his expression into one more befitting a summer's day at the beach.
Edgar didn't look convinced. “Sam, if you're this scared in the daylight, what're you gonna be like at night?”
Sam felt his muscles contract again at the thought. Instantly, he tried to force himself to relax, smoothing his face into a mask of false calm as his heart beat hard and fast, feeling as though it were pounding against the inside of his ribcage. “I'm fine,” he insisted.
“Sure you are.” Edgar's tone lacked the dripping sarcasm that Sam's would have had if their positions were reversed, but Sam could still hear it, hidden below the surface. “I think living in that place messed you up even worse than Alan managed to.”
Possibly true. Sam remained quiet on the issue. At least Alan hadn't visited him since he had been there.
“Did you tell them you're checking out yet?”
Sam nodded. “They're against it. I moved in voluntarily, so they can't make me stay, but they think it's a bad idea.” He glanced around and felt another wave of anxiety grip his insides. “I'm thinking they might be right.”
“You need to be at home so Alan knows where to find you,” Edgar insisted. “You said yourself, he doesn't know where you are right now. He won't come to me. Unless we happen to see him walking around town, we've got no other way of connecting with him.”
Sam chewed on his bottom lip. All around him were people laughing and smiling in the sun. He wished he could be one of them again.
“And when he comes to see me, what then? Do you want me to just stake him?”
“Do you think he'd let you?”
“No, of course not.”
“Stupid question then, wasn't it?”
Sam glared, “Hey, you asked for my help, remember?”
Edgar nodded, “Likewise,” he said. “You wanted my help to get your life back. I might need you to actually do the deed, but the way I see it, you've got a hell of a lot more at stake here than me.”
At stake. Sam rolled his eyes and wondered whether the pun was intentional.
He turned away from Edgar and looked back over the beach. The kids down on the sand had no idea about what was out there. They didn't know about the monsters lurking in the darkness looking to feast on their blood or rip them limb from limb. He would never be that innocent again, but with Alan gone he would no longer be on the monsters' radar. He would have the same chance as everyone else. “I guess we need each other,” he said.
Edgar dragged his eyes away from the ocean and fixed them on Sam. He suddenly looked much older than he was. “You want some help moving out of the nuthouse?”
Edgar's truck was parked illegally right outside the institution while he waited for Sam to complete the final stages of checking out. Part of him wanted to go inside and stand with him, to make sure that he would go through with it. It wasn't just that he needed Sam's help; they had been friends, and seeing him reduced to this actually hurt. Almost as much as what happened to Alan hurt.
Instead, he drummed his fingertips on the steering wheel in time to the rock tune playing from the radio speakers, and decided that he would give Sam five minutes before he went looking for him. There was no need, the instant that decision was made, the door opened and his friend stepped through.
He had a sports duffel slung over one shoulder, and a small backpack clutched in his hand, and that was it. Sam traveled light, apparently. That came as a surprise. Somehow he had been expecting a couple of suitcases at least. It was hard to believe that this was the same person that had brought a bag bulging with clothes and grooming products just for a one night sleepover with the Frogs when they were kids. The same guy that had brought a razor and some shaving gel before he needed to shave, just in case.
Edgar had seen Sam's room at his grandpa's house, and it was filled with stuff. The wardrobe had been so stuffed with clothes that it practically bulged at the sides under the strain of keeping it all inside. His shelves had been stacked high with books and comics. Magazines, no doubt containing pictures of people wearing even more bizarre styles that Sam enjoyed, were scattered around the place, and posters of movie stars Edgar didn't care about adorned the walls. Just the things he used on his hair would probably fill a shelf in the bathroom.
Edgar leaded across and opened the passenger side door from the inside. It swung open onto the street, and he waited for Sam to come close enough to hear him. “When your mom said you just packed a bag and left, she wasn't kidding,” he said.
“Yeah,” Sam held the backpack up in front of him, it was the kind kids used to carry their books to and from school. In fact, that had probably been its purpose once upon a time. “This bag, actually. I just threw in a change of clothes and a stake. It was kind of a spur of the moment decision. Mom's been by a few times since and brought me a couple more things, but it still doesn't look like I really moved in at all, does it?”
Sam was still standing on the sidewalk not getting in the truck. Edgar opened his own door, walked around and took the duffel bag from him. He slung it in the back of his rusting old truck, next to the crucifix stake that he had put there earlier.
“No, it doesn't. Shows you weren't meant to be here. So climb in and let's get you home.”
Sam did as he was told. As he reached out to pull the door closed after him, he smiled, for only the second time. Once again, it made him look like himself again, and Edgar wondered whether he would ever be able to get that Sam back full time.
“Where's you get this piece of junk from?” Sam asked. The smile expanded into a mocking grin.
“Hey, it works. It's great for moving whatever I need, and it was cheap.” He leaned forward and peered at Sam inquiringly, “What are you driving these days?”
Sam pulled the door closed with a bang, almost catching Edgar's hand as he did, effectively cutting off the conversation. The smile was gone. He walked back around the truck, got in and shifted it into drive. In the other seat, Sam wound down the window and closed his eyes against the breeze of air on his face, and for a while they drove in silence with only the sound of the radio and the air through the open window.
“So, surfboards,” Sam said suddenly.
Edgar turned his head to look at him.
“I've got to ask, bud. What's that about? You used to hate surfers.”
Edgar shrugged, “The ones that stole from me, yeah. But a guy's got to make a living, and it turns out I'm pretty good at it.”
Sam nodded and didn't say anything else. Edgar left him to watch to world go by at high speed. Turning into the familiar road up to the house, even Edgar felt like he was coming home. Sam looked nervous.
Before he even drove all the way up to the house, the door opened and Sam's mom stepped out onto the porch to wait for them. He parked up not too far from the house, and before he had even switched off the engine, she was running over. Sam climbed out of the truck to be greeted by a hug attack, which he returned enthusiastically, and Edgar watched with a smile. He stayed inside the truck until the hugging was over, not wanting to be drawn into it.
Mrs Emerson ended the hug with a tight squeeze and an exclamation of. “Oh, Sam, I'm so glad to have you home!”
“Me too,” Sam told her. Edgar could detect the uncertainty and hint of untruth in his tone.
If Lucy noticed the lie she gave no indication. Edgar assessed the situation and decided that it was probably safe to exit the vehicle. As he opened the door and got out, she turned her attentions on him.
“Edgar, thank you so much for bringing my boy back home.”
“Sure, no problem,” Edgar told her quickly. He spotted rising arms for a second hug, and quickly busied himself picking up Sam's bag from the back of the truck before she could grab him too. It wasn't just that he didn't like hugging – he didn't, particularly, but his friendship with Sam had taught him to appreciate the good things about it – but he was bringing Sam home for a specific purpose, and he wasn't sure he deserved her thanks.
Instead, Lucy placed her arm around Sam's back and guided him inside as though she thought he might turn and run back to the truck if she didn't. The kitchen looked just the same as Edgar remembered, redecorated, like the rest of the house after the vampire attack, and home of many happy memories. He inhaled deeply, the smell of baking lingered in the air.
“Who's for cookies?” Luck asked. “I baked them this morning when I heard you were coming home. And I've got Coke, orange juice, milk, ice tea, anything you want.”
“No thanks, Mrs Emerson,” Edgar told her.
“Call me Lucy. And you, Sam? What can I get you?”
Edgar shot him a warning glance. They needed to get somewhere more private to discuss their plan before the sun went down.
“Actually, mom, I thought I'd go get unpacked first, if that's okay with you.” Sam said.
“Oh, well sure. If that's what you want. You boys just yell if you need anything.”
Edgar followed Sam up the stairs and into his bedroom. As they walked through the door, he blinked, and looked around in amazement. It looked exactly the same. The posters on the wall had changed, and one of his grandfather's hideous stuffed animals had been taken out of the wardrobe and placed on the shelf, but other than that, he could have stepped through a time portal back to 1987.
“What?” Sam asked.
Edgar shook his head.
“Okay then,” Sam frowned at him and sat down on the end of his bed. The covers were printed with action scenes taken straight from the pages of his favorite comic books. “Can we get on with this?” There was more than a hint of impatience in his tone.
Edgar sat down at Sam's desk. There was a six month old issue of Batman laying on the surface, open somewhere in the middle, as though it had been started and never finished when Sam had decided to leave. “Okay,” he said. “I'm going to get out of here well before sunset. Ala...He probably won't realize you're back right away, so you probably won't see him tonight, but if he does come and he finds me here, he'll know it's a trap.”
Sam nodded. His fingers played nervously with the bed covers. “What do I do if he does come?”
“If he does, just don't freak out, okay? He doesn't want to kill you, so just, you know, talk to him.”
“Talk to him?” Sam frowned, “About what?”
“Anything you want. You're trying to earn his trust. Oh, and keep this out of sight,” he picked up the crucifix stake and shoved it in the wardrobe. It displaced one of Sam's grandfather's taxidermy projects, which fell from its shelf and into the floor. “You don't want him thinking you're a threat,” he added.
“Talk to him. It's not much of a plan.” Sam got to his feet, picked up the stuffed animal and placed it back on the shelf carefully.
“Got a better one?”
Sam took a series of deep breaths. “Edgar, I'm starting to think about going back to the institution.”
Edgar got to his feet and punched him in the shoulder; not hard enough to injure him, but hopefully enough to make him think. “Stop freaking out. You've got to make him trust you or you'll never get a chance to get close to him with a stake. Once he thinks you're on his side, he'll let his guard down, maybe even tell you where he sleeps.”
Sam glanced out of the window, checking the height of the sun in the sky. “Look,” he said, “I know he's your brother and you don't think you could kill him, but I've got to tell you, I'm not a hundred percent sure I can either. And you're the one with the master plan. Couldn't you just...”
Edgar stared at him in a way that silenced him.
“No, I guess not.”
“All you have to do for now is talk to him. Maybe imply that maybe you'd like to join him, if that's what he wants. Just don't drink anything he offers you, and for the love of daylight don't let him bite you.”
Sam nodded and stared at the floor uncomfortably. “I really don't like this.”
“Yeah, me neither,” Edgar told him, “but he's out there killing people. I don't suppose you've noticed how the missing posters are coming back, but there's more and more of them again. It's our mess, we need to clean it up.”
He knew he wasn't being fair to Sam, but he had no choice. Still, here was his best friend – or former best friend at least – an hour out of the mental institution, and being asked to face the very thing that put him there because supposedly seasoned monster hunter Edgar Frog didn't have the guts.
“Look, I know what you're thinking,” Edgar said. “But I need you help. He's my brother. Remember how you couldn't kill Michael?”
Sam massaged his forehead with his fingertips and nodded. “I just don't know if I can kill Alan either,” he admitted.
“We'll work something out,” Edgar promised him. “No one's killing anyone yet. Just stick to the plan, win his trust and we'll take it from there.”
Sam looked unconvinced as he drew in a shaky breath and nodded. “Alright.”
“Good,” Edgar clapped his palm onto Sam's arm supportively, “I'm going to go, okay? I'll be back tomorrow.”
Sam nodded without comment and Edgar left the room. He couldn't help feeling guilty for what this was clearly doing to his friend, but he had passed up the chance to kill Alan before, and he would be just as unable to do it now. Leaving him alive had stuck both himself and Sam in some kind of limbo from which they were unable to move on. They both had as much to lose and to gain from this as each other. The difference was that Edgar believed Sam could free them, while he was certain that he himself could not.
He stopped, hand on the door handle and turned to look at Sam's mom as she walked out of the kitchen.
“Thank you for bringing him home, I really do appreciate it,” she told him.
Edgar nodded curtly. The smell of freshly baked cookies still hung in the air, and the dough stained her apron.
“But,” suddenly, her voice hardened, “I need to know you're not going to bring him into all that vampire stuff again. I don't know exactly what happened because he won't tell me, but I know it was bad, and I know it involved you and your brother. He's finally getting better.” She stared Edgar directly in the eye, unblinking and firm. “I won't let you drag him back down. Do you understand me, Edgar Frog? I won't let you hurt my boy.”
“Yeah, I understand,” he told her. “Believe me, I'm not going to do anything to him.”
Lucy frowned, untrusting, “Well, good. And you make sure no one else does either.”
Edgar turned away and opened the door, “Sam's going to be fine,” he said, without turning to look at her. “I guarantee it.”
He slammed the door behind him and got in his truck quickly. He drove away without even glancing in the rear view mirror. The sweet, sugary nostalgia smell of baking lingered as though it had woven itself into the fabric of his clothes, and he wished he could step back in time.