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 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
There was... something. Something large, covered with thick, coarse fur. He was aware of it only on the periphery of his senses; the touch of warm fur against his arm, the snuffling sound of an interested nose. He forced open his eyes, but he pain in his head exploded in intensity and what little he could make out in the darkness was blurred and watery. The thing, whatever it was, gave out a kind of whimpering sound, and then it was gone, shifted from his awareness.
He was cold, laying on the ground. Strange, it had been a warm night.
Someone was shaking him gently, a hand on his arm nudged him back and forth and a voice called his name. Consciousness approached slowly at first, his body fighting it off, demanding more time to rest and recover from whatever had happened to him.
Everything hurt. The focus of the pain was at the back of his head, an intense flash of agony in time with every beat of his heart, accompanied by a dull ache that radiated outward from that spot to touch every nerve in his body. He felt nauseous, and his mouth was filled with the bitter taste of vomit.
The shaking on his arm increased in intensity, the voice grew more urgent, and he began to fight off the need to sleep. He forced open his eyes to see Zoe staring down at him, her face full of concern. She was wearing clothes, and for some reason that struck him as odd, he didn't know why.
Trying to think made him want to throw up.
“What happened?” she asked.
Alan's hands groped the ground, trying to work out which way was up. He had closed his eyes again. He didn't remember doing it, but it felt like a good idea so he left them like that.
“Alan, what happened?”
He wanted to answer, but he knew that trying to articulate the events of the evening would only make him feel worse, he wanted to shake his head, but every tiny movement was a lightning bolt straight to his brain. He drew in a shallow breath and exhaled slowly. “Later,” he managed to say.
Zoe didn't say anything else. He opened his eyes again to make sure she was still there. The image was damaged, out of focus, it barely made sense. He tried to fix his eyes on her face, and for a moment succeeded, but like everything else, it hurt. He gave up and closed them again.
“Don't you dare go to sleep, Alan Frog. If anything happens to you, your brother will never forgive me.”
Sleep sounded like an excellent idea.
Hands gripped him under his arms and began dragging him to his feet. She was strong. Unnaturally strong. He found himself on his feet, trying and failing not to lean on her for support as she led him through the streets back to where they had parked.
“What are you?” he wondered out loud.
In the silence that greeted his question, he wondered whether he had spoken at all, or whether he was asleep and had dreamed it.
“I'm a werewolf,” she replied after a moment. Her hand squeezed his arm a little tighter. “Don't tell Edgar.”
Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
Dawn was approaching. Edgar could feel it coming. To human eyes the lightning of the sky on the horizon would have been imperceptible, but Edgar could detect it. Soon, the first rays of sunlight would creep through and begin to illuminate the world. They would drive into hiding all the monsters and the creatures of darkness, forcing them to take shelter from its poisonous, live-giving presence.
Alan should have been here by now. He had promised to be back before dawn, and dawn was fast approaching.
Edgar sat on the step of his trailer, gazing into the distance. The clarity of his vision no longer amazed him, after a night of testing his limitations, it was beginning to feel normal, worryingly so. What concerned him was what it failed to show him. Every time he looked up and peered into what was no longer impenetrable darkness, he expected to see some sign of is brother's approach, and each time he was disappointed.
Hunger still rumbled occasionally through his stomach, just a little shudder to remind him of its presence, but the slowly rising level of light appeared to suppress the need, and as the sky grew increasingly blue and the darkness began to leak away, the discomfort of hunger was replaced by the exhaustion of daytime.
Dawn had used to be his favorite time of day. No matter how hard the battle during the night, no matter the danger and the horror, the rising of the sun would drive it away. The sun meant safety, in the same way that the protective ring around his trailer meant safety. He could relax, let down his guard a little. He was safe. Now, the light meant something very different. Now, he was the monster hiding in the darkness. The light spoke to something primal, a race memory buried deep inside his vampire half. Run, take cover, hide!
Exhaustion ambushed him unexpectedly, not creeping up on him slowly, but all at once, a sudden wave of fatigue that washed over him with no warning. He felt his eyes close, he slumped forward as his muscles relaxed, ready to rest. He fought it, forcing open his eyes and straightening his back. If he fell into that unnatural mockery of sleep now, unless he was disturbed, he would remain unconscious until the sun set once again.
A hell of a sunburn that would give him.
One corner of his lips twitched in a mixture of amusement and discomfort at the thought.
He squinted into the distance. The increasing light stung his eyes and he couldn't see as well as he had in full darkness. The light level was increasing by the minute. There was still no sign of Alan approaching. Surely, if he couldn't get back, he would have called. He reached into his pocket, feeling for the familiar shape of his cellphone. It wasn't there.
It was inside, he had left there after listening to Zoe's message. He cursed to himself and began to stand up. Every movement was difficult, muscles refused to work in the way he expected, they protested violently against movement after he should have succumbed to the sunlight. The first rays were by now beginning to penetrate into the world, long shadows were punctuated by patches of brightness on the ground. Edgar's head began to hurt.
Slowly, he made his was inside, dragging his heavy, unresponsive body across the short distance between his door and the part of his trailer he thought of as his bedroom. Having made it across the room, he allowed himself to sit down on the thin mattress. He reached for the phone as his eyes began to close against his will. He fought to keep them open for long enough to see that no one had called, and then they closed.
His mind screamed at his body, telling it not to lay down, but his body sleepily replied with a wave of exhaustion. He slumped uncomfortably, legs still hanging from the edge of the bed, and lost consciousness as the daylight's effect on the vampire won.
He was a creature of the darkness, not supposed to see the sun. As sleep claimed him, his last thought was a wish for the comfort of the night.
When Alan woke, the sun was high in the sky, shining in through the small gap in the curtains. He was in an unfamiliar bed. The mattress was soft and luxurious, as were the two pillows supporting his aching head. He was covered by a blanket, and, a quick glance verified, still fully dressed. All but his boots, they had been taken off.
This was Zoe's place. He remembered asking her. He had a vague recollection of her waking him, checking that he was still alive and coherent, seemingly every few seconds, but more likely every hour.
He reached up and gingerly ran the tips of his fingers over the back of his head. It stung. The skin felt swollen and sensitive, his head still ached fiercely, but he didn't appear to have broken the skin. That fact had probably saved his life. A wounded vampire smelling blood would become lost in bloodlust, needing to feed to heal itself. He had wounded the vampire last night, and the vampire had fled.
It had probably chosen another victim not long after.
Alan closed his eyes again, but now he was awake, it was no longer possible to ignore the pounding in his head and sink back into blissful unconsciousness. He hadn't felt this bad since he'd become human again.
As that thought hit him, every muscle became instantly rigid as he paused half way to getting out of the bed. He forced his mind back to the night before, trying to remember the details of the fight. Everything was frustratingly blurry. He remembered the vampire musing over whether to kill him or turn him.
He definitely wasn't dead.
He remembered Zoe's clothes and gun abandoned on the sidewalk. He remembered being ambushed and firing holy water at the vampire. He remembered a blow to the head. Everything else was just a blur. He had lost consciousness, the vampire could have come back, it may never have left. He just didn't know. There was a hole in his memory.
A tightness in his chest reminded him to breathe and he sucked in a lungful of air.
If it had happened, he could cope. He had done it before, he could do it again. He knew how to survive like that, knew that it was possible indefinitely, if you were willing. But the idea of going back to that existence, even for a short while, filled him with a deep sense of despair.
He reached for his head again and touched the wound, wincing at the pain. If he had been turned, he would have healed more than that. The light pouring in through the gap in the curtains was bright, but not painfully so. The tiredness wasn't that familiar sapping of his energy by the daylight, it felt normal. Human.
He sighed a sigh of intense relief. The throbbing in the bump on his head felt suddenly welcome. He kicked off the covers and swung his legs around the side of his bed.
Zoe had removed his boots, but not his socks. He didn't remember coming here, being led into her bedroom, coaxed into her bed. It felt like an intrusion. He wasn't supposed to be here. He forced himself to his feet and padded across the carpeted floor, pausing at her dressing table to glance in the mirror, just to make sure. His reflection was complete.
Zoe lived, apparently, in a small apartment somewhere in the center of San Cazador. From outside, he could hear the sound of traffic and people. He could smell cooking in the air. It reminded him, in a way, of Santa Carla, the boardwalk with its noise and music and people.
The door had been left ajar. He pushed it open and found himself in the main room. The room was slightly bigger than the whole of Edgar's trailer, and housed her sitting room and kitchen. Zoe was sitting on the couch, watching TV with the volume barely audible. When he walked through, she turned to look at him, gave him a smile and switched off the TV.
“How's the patient today?” she asked in a tone that was far too chirpy for the headache to handle.
He took several more steps into the room. “What time is it?”
“Just after twelve.” She glanced at her watch. “Quarter after. You want to tell me what happened last night?”
Not really. He walked over to the couch and sat down at the opposite side to her. “The vampire came back, caught me by surprise. I got lucky.”
Zoe gave him an incredulous look. “Yeah, really lucky. Well, you were right. I couldn't catch the girl. I think she must've flown away.” She uncurled herself and got to her feet. “Want breakfast?”
Alan thought about it for a moment and his stomach churned uncomfortably at the thought of food. He shook his head, and it made him dizzy. “So we've got no leads.”
Zoe winced apologetically. “Square one,” she confirmed.
“I have to go.”
He got to his feet, his body protested violently. Zoe watched him, and for a moment he thought she was going to argue, then she nodded, as though she had suddenly realized she didn't want him there. “I'll take you home, you'll have to give me directions,” she told him. “You can't drive, you've got a concussion.”
Alan began to protest, but another wave of dizziness washed over him and he felt himself sway where he stood. He gritted his teeth, and nodded.
The previous night, he had promised Edgar he would be back before the sunrise, hoping to bring him good news. Edgar had presumably waited for him, and he had never returned. He turned back to Zoe, who was already in her shoes and fishing in her purse for his keys. “Did you tell Edgar?”
Zoe waited a half second too long before answering, then she shook her head. “I didn't think I should. I didn't want to worry him.”
Alan closed his eyes. She would have been right, if he hadn't promised to be back before dawn. As it was, Edgar would have been waiting for him, and he hadn't shown.
“I...” Zoe said. Alan opened his eyes to see Zoe fidgeting with the key to the truck. She frowned uncertainly. “I'm thinking I should have called him?”
Alan shook his head. “He probably wouldn't have answered anyway.”
She nodded, turned around and opened the door. “Lets get you home,” she said.
Outside the door he found himself at the top of a flight of stairs, no elevator in sight. If he had climbed them himself the previous night, he had no memory of it. He glanced sideways at the girl out of the corner of his eye and wondered how strong she was.
“Are you sure you're okay to be home alone?” Zoe asked.
Alan blinked and suddenly, she had moved several feet along the corridor and begun to descend the stairs. His head throbbed with rhythmic bursts of a dull, sickening pain. He ignored it and nodded, following her.
“Because you totally spaced out there for a minute.”
“I'm fine,” he assured her. “I just need to sleep it off.”
Zoe shrugged and nodded, then continued her path down the stairs. “Just wait til you're in bed to sleep,” she suggested, “I don't think you'll find it too comfy out here.”
Alan wasn't actually tired. He had had more than enough sleep to keep him going through the day and most of the following night, but the lingering headache left him feeling drained. He sat in the passenger side of the truck, leaning his aching head against the cool glass of the window, giving Zoe directions to his home. His position, slouched against the side of the door reminded him of how Edgar had sat just a few nights ago, after drinking blood for the first time.
He tried to sit up straight, but he didn't have the energy, and the glass against his skin felt good.
“Here?” Zoe asked.
Alan repositioned his head slightly to look through the window, he found himself looking at his street, and nodded, unclipping his seat belt as he did.
Zoe pulled up to the curb, turned off the engine and handed over the keys. “I'll walk back,” she said.
Alan shrugged, feigning lack of interest to cover his relief that he wouldn't have to go and pick up the truck later, and probably face a barrage of criticism for attempting to drive.
He climbed out, closed the door and locked it, then turned to thank Zoe for the lift, but she was already half way down the street. He took a deep breath and released it slowly, then opened his door, went inside, lay down on the bed and immediately fell into a deep, healing sleep.
When he awoke, he felt better. Not completely well, but enough that he could think straight again. The pain in his head had reduced to a dull ache, the kind that could be banished by a couple of Tylenol and something to eat.
He had food. The pills would have to wait.
Gingerly, he pushed his fore and middle fingers into the swollen bump on the back of his head, it still hurt, but not as badly as it had that morning.
A glance at his watch at he wandered into the kitchen told him that it was just after three in the afternoon. His kitchen was badly stocked. It barely qualified as a kitchen, and until recently, it had simply been an area of his home that contained a sink.
During his first few months as a half vampire, he had eaten food. Determined to act as human as he could, he had stuck steadfastly to the idea of three meals a day, drinking his foul animal blood as an accompaniment to each garlic-free dish, but as months passed and he gradually realized that humanity was slipping through his fingers, he had stopped. Not all at once, it had been a gradual thing. Putting off a meal because he had something more important to do, then forgetting altogether, skipping whole nights and promising himself he would do it tomorrow. In the end, he had decided to stop. He never enjoyed the food he was forcing himself to swallow. It was just one more chore making his life that little but more difficult.
So, the kitchen had fallen to disuse, the sink used to store the occasional carcass too badly mutilated to be a useful taxidermy subject, the refrigerator used to store bottled blood. Eating was a habit he was still trying to reacquire. His body informed him when he needed to eat, less violently than his half vampire body had reminded him of the need to feed, but no less convincingly. The problem was in having food available.
He opened the cupboard door and peered inside, pulled out a half used loaf of sliced bread and took out two slices. A quick search of the rest of the kitchen revealed nothing suitable to put in a sandwich, so he sat down and chewed on the two slices of dry, slightly stale bread and made a mental note to go shopping.
It was funny, in a way. The way he lived now, the bare shelves and empty refrigerator, the whole place falling into disrepair around him, reminded him of his childhood, before he and Edgar had been old enough to fend for themselves, scavenging around the kitchen for food that was still edible, hoping that their parents had regained consciousness for long enough to buy something that week.
His stomach appeased for the moment, Alan changed out of his soiled clothes from the previous night, and went out.
He left Edgar's truck where it was, parked outside the door, and went on foot to the nearest shopping street, a long way from San Cazador's busy tourist areas and the chaos of the center of town, this place was home to several smaller, local shops. He walked past the small convenience store and the DVD rental place next door, and walked into the butcher's shop.
The air inside was cooled by an ancient looking air conditioning unit above the door, that rattled and spluttered loudly as it blew out chilled air into the shop, keeping the produce from spoiling. The sudden coolness was a relief from the stifling heat of the afternoon sun, and his headache thanked him by easing off a little.
Behind the counter stood a man in his late fifties. His face was round, with a substantial double chin. What little hair he had left clung around the edges of his head, fighting a losing battle against the expanding bald patch. His head was covered by a transparent plastic cap. As Alan walked inside, he looked up and smiled in a friendly manner. The front of his apron was stained with blood, some of it still fresh and shining as it reflected the light shining in through the window. In front of him, lay a display of meat, cut up into different shapes and sizes and laid out for public inspection. Alan cast an eye over it, but what he had come for wasn't kept on display.
He looked up and met the man's gaze. Recognition flickered across his face and his smile faltered. “Come back for more?” he asked.
Alan nodded and pulled his wallet from his back pocket.
The man sighed deeply and disappeared into the back, reappearing a moment later with a large bottle filled with thick, red liquid.
“Same price as before?” Alan asked.
The butcher shrugged and nodded in agreement. Alan pulled a handful of notes from his wallet and placed them on the counter. The butcher put down the bottle next to them, picked them up and counted quickly.
Clutching the bottle around the thin neck, Alan turned to leave.
“I don't know what you're doing,” the butcher said.
Alan turned back around to look at him.
“And I don't want to know. But there are things out there, unnatural things that you don't want to get involved with. I can see you're not one of them, but if you're helping them...” he paused, sighed and shook his head. “You just watch yourself, okay? They're dangerous, and if you're helping one of them, one day this stuff isn't going to be enough and it'll go for your throat.”
Alan hesitated, staring at them man, holding the bottle tightly, then he nodded. “I know what I'm doing,” he promised, then he turned and walked outside, back into the daytime heat.