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 | Part 9
Edgar woke to the knowledge that he wasn't alone in his trailer. He was laying on his bed, head resting on the pillow, covered by a thin sheet. That was odd, because he remembered not having the energy to get himself onto the bed before he lost consciousness under the growing glare of the sun. Of course, as a half vampire, it was entirely possible that he has floated upward in his sleep, then landed in a different position. The sheet... well, he didn't know. There had to be some kind of explanation.
He kept his eyes closed and his body very still. The sun had almost completely set, and somehow the little light left behing at the end of the day was less draining to him that the equivalent in the morning. Almost as though by the time the evening came around, it's strength had been used up, and it needed the hours of darkness to recharge its potency.
At the other side of the room, he could hear a heartbeat. The quiet sound of relaxed breathing accompanied it. The scent of blood, muted by the layer of skin separating it from the outside world floated tantalizingly on the air, mingling with the fresh perfume of the night air filling the trailer through an open window.
Edgar breathed in slowly and deeply, trying not to savor the blood's tempting scent at he tried to identify its owner. He couldn't do it. Not enough experience. The fact that it was blood overrode his ability to identify the vintage.
“I know you're awake,” Alan said.
Edgar relaxed, only realizing as he did just how tense he had been. Falling asleep with the door wide open – leaving himself vulnerable to anyone who happened to drop by – had been a stupid move. It wasn't just the creatures of the night he needed to worry about anymore. If any of his fellow hunters learned what had happened to him, they wouldn't hesitate to drive a stake through his heart. He relaxed too, because Alan was safe. When he hadn't come back the night before, Edgar had feared the worst. But his brother sounded fine. His heartbeat was strong and steady.
Which posed the question, why hadn't he come back?
The vampire inside him, aroused by the scent of fresh blood, the potential victim waiting by its bedside, grabbed hold of the question tightly, pulling on his irritation at being left behind, at the fact that he had been left to worry with not so much as a phone call to tell him that Alan was still alive.
“Edgar, when a vampire is asleep they're literally dead to the world,” Alan said. “Halfies too. They lay completely still, they barely even breathe. I know you're awake.”
Goddamn know-it-all brother. Edgar took a deep breath to calm the monster, struggling to make the action a cleansing one rather than a way to drink in the blood scent. He could still feel the vampire, just underneath the surface, but making no further moves to gain freedom.
It was strange how sometimes he thought of the vampire as an entity separate to himself, a parasite that needed to be purged, yet at other times it felt like a part of him. That kind of thinking was dangerous.
He opened his eyes.
It was dark. Not to him, of course, but Alan had left the lights off and was sitting in the near dark with a monster. A foolish move. Edgar's supernaturally enhanced vision could see his brother much better than Alan could see him, and he was relieved to find that he had at least armed himself with a stake.
Edgar sat up, and reached for the light switch. He braced himself, and slammed his eyes closed against the glare as the bulb burst to life. When he opened them again, he turned them on Alan. “Where the hell have you been?” he asked.
Alan was sitting on the single chair at the kitchen table, which he had angled to allow himself a view of both the door and Edgar on his bed. A stake lay on his lap with the fingers of his right hand curled around the top. He looked completely relaxed. Only the hint of tension around his eyes told Edgar that that wasn't the case. Most likely no one else would have noticed that. When they were kids, back in Santa Carla, Sam had had used to joke that they were telepaths, able to read each other's minds. He had been wrong, they simply knew each other well enough that they didn't always need to speak.
No so right now, however. Edgar wanted a response to his question.
Alan reached into his bag; a black rucksack laying on the ground by his feet, which Edgar had not noticed until now. From it, he pulled a large plastic bottle filled with red liquid. He placed it on the table. He didn't say anything, just pushed it into the center of the table, and then turned to look at Edgar.
Edgar kept his eyes on his brother, not daring to glance at the bottle. Hunger continued to gnaw gently at the inside of his stomach, Edgar continued to ignore it.
“Where, Alan?” he asked again when no answer was forthcoming. “You were supposed to report back last night. Did something happen?” Panic flittered across his chest. “Zoe..?”
“She's fine,” Alan promised. “We found a vampire in the club, tailed it as it walked a victim out. But the victim had already been turned, then the vampire attacked when I was off guard. I fought it off, but it knocked me unconscious. When I came around, it was noon.”
Edgar frowned. “You found a vampire 'in the club'? What club?”
“Some place by the beach.” Alan shrugged. “Zoe's idea. Not a bad one, as it turned out, it's the obvious place for them to hunt.”
“And where was Zoe while you were getting the shit kicked out of you by a vampire?” Edgar asked.
Alan frowned in irritation. “She was chasing down the victim. The halfie. She ran away, we thought maybe she shouldn't be let loose in the city.”
Edgar fought the urge to lay down again and close his eyes, shut out the world and the incompetents that inhabited it. “She chased a half vampire?” he asked slowly. He shook his head. This was why he needed to be there. Zoe didn't have the hunting experience, she could have gotten herself killed. Or worse. Not to mention, when it came to chasing vampires, he had an advantage now. “You let her go running off into the night after a vampire? Alone?”
“I didn't exactly “let” her, Edgar,” Alan protested. His brother's heart rate increased slightly and irritation showed in his expression.
Edgar got to his feet and began to pace. He could feel anger stirring inside himself too, and he took a slow breath, making a conscious effort to push down the vampire before it could begin to play with the dangerous emotions and use them to its own advantage. He didn't reply, trying instead to block out everything; the room, the blood on the table, the blood in Alan's veins. He concentrated instead on the sound of his feet on the ground, allowing his eyes to close as he tread the familiar floor of his trailer.
It was turning into a habit, an automatic reaction to any strong emotion, any stray thought that the monster inside him might be able to use.
When he opened his eyes, it was to Alan staring at him in concern. His brother had gotten to his feet and taken a step forward, as though to stop him. If that had been his intention, he had thought better of it. The understanding in his expression bothered Edgar.
“You need me out there,” Edgar said. “You need backup you can rely on. Someone with experience.” He remembered their conversation the previous night, Alan's argument had made perfect sense at the time, and it still did. But he could work on control. He could work on learning what he could and couldn't do, and he could re-learn how to hunt. Even like this, he could still be useful. Edgar took a step forward and looked at Alan with as much conviction as he could muster. “You need me,” he repeated.
Alan sat back down at the kitchen table, shaking his head. He sighed. One hand reached forward to touch the screw on cap of the blood-filled bottle sitting there. He pushed the bottle, allowing it to rock slowly back and forth underneath two fingertips. He watched as it moved, not looking at Edgar. Edgar, too, found himself distracted by the motion of the liquid held inside the plastic container.
“No,” said Alan, finally. He let go of the bottle and turned toward Edgar. His hand twitched a little closer to the stake that he had left on the tabletop. “I mean, I do need you, but not to hunt. Edgar, we can't hunt. Not at the moment, not like we have been, It doesn't work.”
“It doesn't work,” Alan repeated firmly. His eyes met Edgar's as he spoke. “They're recruiting for a war. Maybe making dozens of new vampires every night. Even if we kill one every night, even if we kill two of three, we aren't going to make a dent in the population. And it's not going to bring us any closer to the head vampires and a cure for you. Not only that, but we sent them a message tonight.” He shook his head, “We didn't mean to, but we sent a warning. They know we're coming for them. They're going to be ready.”
Edgar closed his eyes for a moment and tried once again to force a calm against the fear and frustration brewing inside him. He couldn't tell whether they were coming from him, or from the vampire, or whether it was a mixture of the two. It didn't matter any more. It was strong, and the things it was saying to him made sense. He didn't even know whether he wanted to shut it down.
“All the more reason to strike now,” he said. “Before they get the message out there. While we still have the element of surprise.”
Alan set his jaw in obstinate determination. It was an expression Edgar remembered from their childhood. From before the vampires, when they were two normal kids – or as normal as two kids could be in Santa Carla – when they had used to fight and disagree. Before they were soldiers. It was a look that had all but disappeared when Edgar had taken command, and it could only be back because he no longer considered his brother to be his commanding officer.
“Strike where, exactly?” Alan asked. “Because unless you've found the hide-outs for both head vampires, and you know which one is your bloodline, all we can do is keep attacking worthless nobodies and new vampires on the boardwalk, probably doing more harm than good.”
It made sense. Damn it, it made sense. Alan always had been the better tactician. But it was only better if he had an alternative plan. Otherwise, it was just giving up.
Edgar folded his arms, crossing them tightly across his chest and glared at his brother. He could feel the pull of the vampire now, manipulating his feelings, trying to control him. He didn't care. “So if we don't hunt,” he asked, “then what? What's our next move?”
Alan didn't answer.
In the moments since waking, the familiar restlessness that irritated every nerve in his body after the sun went down had begun to act on him. The need for action filled him as his vampire side squirmed and writhed and whispered in his ear in the form of hideous images that flickered across his mind. He tried to ignore it. He sat back down on the side of the bed and attempted to force himself to sit still, but his body reacted of its own accord. He felt his foot tapping compulsively on the ground, and when he made it stop, the other one started up, or his fingers began tapping out a rhythm on the bedside table next to him, with long, strong nails making it loud and noticeable.
He wondered whether he should cut his nails, or whether they would just grow back again. He could ask Alan, but no. He didn't want to talk about those things with him.
Just thinking his brother's name caused Edgar's attention to suddenly focus on the scent of blood drifting from the other side of the trailer. He began to breathe through his mouth, but it was as though the smell was composed of thousands of tiny droplets that were suspended in the air, and every breath drew them into his mouth where they landed on his tongue. He wanted it, needed it. He turned his head away slightly and stilled his tapping fingers by employing them to grip the underside of the bed tightly.
Alan still hadn't answered him. Or maybe he had, and Edgar had been too distracted by his thoughts to notice. “Next move, Alan,” he said. “What is it?”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Alan blink. He was staring at him hard, as though he was trying to read his thoughts. Or maybe because he could. Not actually read them, not like Sam had thought, but he knew them, understood them intimately. This whole thing must have been dragging him on an uncomfortable march down memory lane.
“I don't know,” Alan told him.
Edgar tried to keep his breathing shallow to reduce the impact of the blood smell filling the air. He suppressed a stab of anger at the confession. He didn't know either. He had no idea at all. Every attempt to come up with a plan was met by a gaping hollow in his mind where he usually kept all his ideas. Even the utterly ridiculous ones that even he would have dismissed out of hand had fled his mind. All that remained was the triumphant chuckle of the vampire as it viewed his helplessness with a sense of intense satisfaction. It had chased all his ideas away.
But Alan, he didn't have a vampire inside him any longer. There was room in there for ideas to germinate and grow. He should be able to come up with something, and the fact that he wasn't doing was infuriating.
“We need to be out there, patrolling. Looking for vampires, getting information from them if we can, just killing them if we can't, one of them has to be the head vampire, maybe we'll get lucky.”
Alan shook his head. “You can't go out patrolling. You know that, Edgar.”
“I can't just stay here either.”
Edgar frowned. Alan's head was still shaking from side to side, slowly but definitely. He turned back to face him, and the temptation of his blood intensified. He looked so damn calm, standing there almost completely still, totally unaffected by the call of the night time. So smug and superior in his knowledge and understanding of the situation, and his certainty that he knew what was best. He, who had once completely given up on regaining his humanity and tried to convince Edgar to do the same. Now he stood there, completely human, refusing to help.
“It wouldn't do any good.” Alan said. “The head vampire will be protected, we won't find him skulking around town with the rest of the dregs looking for some junkie to drain. And the ones that we would find there probably wouldn't know anything useful.”
Edgar's whole body ached for action, and Alan's argument included a word that made the whole thing meaningless. “Probably?”
“Almost certainly. Vampire hierarchy is like that, the leader's identity is protected. Especially at times like this, when he's in danger from another potential head vampire.”
“Then...” Edgar pried his fingers loose from the underside of the bed and rested his head in his hands, propped up on his knees. He couldn't finish what he wanted to say, he wasn't even sure what he had been planning on saying. It was all he could do not to moan in despair.
He heard a quiet rustle of fabric as Alan began to move. The scent of blood faded and then intensified as his motion disturbed the air in the trailer. Edgar ignored it, but he was so hungry. He thought of the bottles of blood on the table and in the refrigerator. Could he?
No. Not in front of Alan.
“I know it's hard,” Alan told him. Edgar could tell from the sound of his voice and the scent of his blood that he was standing right next to him, a little to the front. Edgar remained as he was, head resting in his hands, face aimed downward, eyes closed. A hand touched his shoulder lightly. “We'll fix it,” Alan promised, “but it's going to take time. There's no point rushing in, killing vampires at random, asking questions like that, it's just going to drive them deeper underground. That might even be why they moved out of the house Daniel told us about.”
Shit. The argument made sense. The monster shifted inside him and began whispering in his ear again, he ignored it, but it was frighteningly convincing, and this time it wasn't talking about Alan's blood.
“The best thing would be to lie low and wait for something to happen. Daniel's still listening out for information, maybe he'll get something. Maybe the war will start and one of the head vamp will die. If we're lucky, the winner won't be the one you're linked to. You'll just suddenly become human again one night. If we're unlucky, at least we'll only be looking for one vampire.”
“I can't just wait,” Edgar finally forced out the words. Alan removed his hand from his shoulder and took a step away. With considerable effort, Edgar lifted his head and turned to look at him. “I can't,” he repeated.
Alan nodded. “I know, but you don't have a choice. Run out there trying to hunt, and you're risking your life. And your humanity.” He paused, licked his lips and glanced away. “I know you don't want to hear this, but plan A didn't work and until a plan B comes along, you're going to have to live with this for a while.”
He felt a jolt as the monster grinned triumphantly, seizing hold of his fear and his despair and rising to the surface, he didn't fight it. He couldn't fight it; he didn't have the energy. But instead of coming all the way up, pushing its way out of him in the form of fangs and claws, it stopped. It sat somewhere between its suppressed state and where it wanted to be, waiting, feeding the wave of emotions, twisting them to its own purposes. Edgar could feel it happening, and he was completely powerless to prevent it.
“I'll help you,” Alan continued, “and it won't be for long, just until something comes up,”
Alan wanted him to stop trying, the vampire in him translated. Edgar shook his head. The monster was getting stronger, the longer he waited, the worse it would be. “I won't just give up,” he said. “I give up, I die.”
“We're not giving up,” Alan insisted. “But like I said at the start, it might take time.”
The vampire tightened its grip on his mind, still not asserting control, but making its presence felt strongly, like a thousand flies buzzing inside his mind. Telling him things that he didn't want to hear, things that made perfect sense. Alan was betraying him. He didn't know why, but that was what was happening. Was he in league with the vampires? Or was it some personal agenda that Edgar didn't understand?
Edgar got to his feet, no longer able to contain the restlessness. He began to pace the floor rapidly, taking the same path he always used. If nothing else, if he wasn't cured soon he, was going to have to replace the flooring. “Waiting for a lead, hoping that someone's going to turn up with information or that it's just going to fix itself. Not trying. It's giving up, Alan. It's...” Suddenly, all the pieces came together and formed a complete image that made perfect sense. He stopped his pacing, spun on the spot until he was facing his brother and fixed him with a stare. “This is exactly what you did. You sat around drinking animal blood, not doing anything to help yourself. Not even caring about the ideas I came up with. You just... You...”
“I lost hope,” Alan finished for him.
“You gave up.”
Alan flinched, and then looked away for a moment. When he looked back, uncertainty shone through his eyes. He didn't nod, or shake his head, he simply stood there like he didn't know what to do or say. Like a kid caught by his parents doing something he shouldn't, trying and failing to come up with an excuse.
“You're not even denying it,” Edgar shot at him. He had expected a fight, or at the very least a denial. He had wanted it. Needed it. Needed it like he needed the blood in his brother's veins.
Alan shook his head, but still no denial came. “I'm not going to give up on you,” he promised.
“No?” Edgar sneered.
The vampire was playing with his emotions now, tightening its grip, feeding the negative, the anger, the paranoia. It was so blatant, he could feel it happening, yet it was somehow so hard to tell the difference between what he was really feeling and what was being forced onto him. He couldn't tell what was him, and what was the vampire. Or were they both the same thing? It was helping him to see things more clearly, and suddenly everything Alan was doing and saying made perfect sense.
“No.” Alan told him calmly.
“So then you'll just leave me like this for a while before you do anything about it, right? Let me get a taste of what it was like for you. A bit of revenge?”
“No!” Alan's eyes were wide, he took a step forward, toward Edgar, hands at his sides, palms outward. “You know that's not true. This isn't you, Edgar. It's the vampire talking. Just try to...”
“I'm not going to do what you tell me, Alan. I'm head Frog. Me, not you.” He began to back away toward the door as he spoke. The scent of Alan's blood filled the air, his heart was beating faster, pumping it much more quickly around his veins. He had to get out of there. He had to get away, and he had to get into the night. He had to do something. Anything.
His back touched the door, and fingers reached out behind him, twisted the door handle. Alan was still looking at him beseechingly, his lips moved in pointless meaningless attempts to talk him down, but it wouldn't work. He didn't know what was real any more. Alan would never do that to him, but yet he was doing. It was the only thing that made sense, and the monster in him kept whispering and whispering as it scratched at the underside of his skin, and the smell of blood filled the air.
The door swung open behind him, and he almost fell backwards onto the gravel outside. Trembling with excess adrenaline, he turned and ran, needing to put as much distance between himself and his brother as he could. His foot caught a loose rock on the ground, and he felt himself falling forward, but he didn't hit the ground. The air continued to rush around him as though he were still running, but he wasn't, his legs were no longer moving.
He looked around, he looked down. He was several yards above the ground.
He was flying.