A/N: I hope we'll get to see some version of this some day :[
Warnings: language, implied plot (placed in some hypothetical not-so-distant future after the upcoming canon Abner arc), The Little Conrad That Could, ambiguous CasxFinas and the beginning of a wee arc.
Summary: One of these days, Conrad's Suck will reach critical mass and he will be forced to undergo character growth.
The night was quiet in all the ways that mattered, despite the group's most earnest attempts to disrupt it with Queen karaoke and drinking games and pog competitions.
Adelaide was gone for the time being. Abner was still out there, and that rat of his still had it's sharp little teeth, though Conrad had more than enough blistering spite left to hope that he had popped a few out with all that arm-yanking when the little shit clamped down on his good silk button-down. Fucking rodent.
His scrapes and all the asphalt-looking wounds (he never thought he would get to apply that word to his laptop-and-drink-coaster life, wounds) from that fucking terrifying silver-spitting shotgun were healed, too, with a little … untraditional help from Worth. Of course, the hack didn't waste the opportunity to gloat about being a fucking medical genius even on his back with his eyes shut, but Conrad, ravenous, shut him up using one of the four guaranteed techniques he had learned over the past half-year. Time with Worth, though in some ways the hardest thing of all to stand, had taught him some ways to minimize the doctor's second most obnoxious element: his mouth.
He thought it a bearable arithmetic and an all-too-natural battle of equilibrium, but mostly just declined to comment on why he spent so long pressed against Worth's caving, gently rising chest afterward, long after the last of his skin had knitted over and left a pinprick coolness that couldn't hold a candle to the relief he felt being where he was, how he was. Which was … undead, in a filthy street-level basement with a softly chuckling hack, whose long and dirty fingers happened to be resting across his warming neck. Something Conrad liked a bit, but didn't burrow into. At all.
But in the end, everyone was alive, so of course there was a party to celebrate.
Hashed out over cell-phones in the space of a day, it was staged just soon enough that the ragged, manic appreciation for life hadn't quite departed their bodies but the worst of the physical disfigurements had healed. This was a winning combination that found everyone drunk and laughing. By eleven, their ragtag gang was spread over the Rabbit Hole in the niches that suited them best: Worth playing bloody knuckles with Lamont amidst a battleground of empty shot-glasses as Hanna and Veser bawled out song after song on the karaoke machine, yanking the battered plastic mic back and forth without a hint of spite or coordination. Even Toni and the dead man looked fast on their way to starting a permanent friendship.
The feeling of family was altogether overwhelming and a wonderful thing, but it still found Conrad edging out the side door after the two stragglers that he was quite shocked Hanna had actually roped into the celebration. Then again, they were alive after that disaster, too … or had survived. Conrad never thought there would be such a difference between the two terms, or that he would be so unbearably sensitive to it.
The vampire shut the metal door quietly behind him (like anyone was sober enough to hear it, but having Hanna chase after him like this would be a nightmare) and hurried around the corner, hoping they hadn't already taken the small and furry express over the rooftops or something.
Conrad let out a squeezed and unnecessary breath when he turned a corner and saw them walking under a streetlight: Cas' long legs carried him like a strolling leopard as Finas powered over the concrete at a deceptively slow pace, no hurry present in either dead man. At the noise (or maybe the heat or the change in the wind), the taller vampire turned around, the nicotine-yellow light of the streetlamp catching his spooky white eye. He stopped; as if the same mechanics connected them, Finas turned around curiously.
"It's the failpire," Cas drawled, not even bothering to hide it behind his hand. Hell, he practically said it to Conrad, grin lazy and challenging and Jesus Christ, he did not like Cas. He didn't like Cas even before he round-house kicked him in the face, and he liked him less after the show-down with Vanslyk. Sure, the Italian bastard might've saved his life once or twice in the midst of all that running and screaming, but couldn't he have done it without the showboating or the whole using-him-as-bait thing?
Swallowing that dislike (and his stupidity, god, such stupidity had led him out here, surely they had better things to do and surely they weren't going to hesitate at rubbing that in his clammy face), Conrad cleared his throat and tried not to clench his fists. His altogether sodden and wet spirits were slightly buoyed by the look Finas gave Cas. It was a half-chastising look he sort of deserved, because in Conrad's opinion, during the church incident he'd at least proven that he was on the road to becoming less of a vampiric failure.
And that really was the reason he was out here, daring to chase them down. To … lessen his failure.
He could survive the bagged blood. He knew, knew, he should start looking at hunting as an option, but his human stomach (still a phantom organ in his black-lacquered insides, locked in a painful spasm like those confused limbs that refused to believe they were gone) couldn't take it. But when he thought on it a little further – and there was always five a.m. for that – it wasn't just the thought of hurting other people that stopped him from becoming a vampire in the ways that mattered and would maybe make his unlife easier.
What he couldn't take was the night that loomed, dark and foreign, all around him, fraught with all the fears he'd had as a human – fears he didn't know how to convince himself didn't matter anymore. What he couldn't take was startling himself: speeding up because he was a little behind Hanna and then having his entire body stolen by this euphoric, hard, godawful swoosh he wasn't ready for, which sent him crashing into a pile of trashcans. In the end, it wasn't even about the spaghetti stain on his sports jacket.
It was the spontaneous transformations into bat. The unfortunate incident with the rice that kept him up until sunrise and made his knees hurt for days, leaving him crawling to his bed with the strongest sensation that he was going to vomit out his alien insides, fried by the heat outside his condo. There were so many things Conrad had done that he hadn't meant to do, or that he meant to do but not as extremely as they ended up happening.
Breaking Worth's bones, for instance.
It was just a fracture, if he could actually excuse himself for causing just a fracture in the man that he was sort of in a relationship with. Caught up in whatever happened when Worth smeared that wet, ashy mouth of his across his own and shoved the palm of his hand to his crotch and his vision went white, the only notice Conrad received for the small, fleshy click in Worth's forearm, underneath his tight hand, was the lanky man's sudden and sharp arch and the monkey-like bearing of his battered teeth. His starved body shook hard, adrenaline suddenly a palpable stink in the air around them, and the panicked vibration was released a second later in a whine that was slightly higher than normal, slightly weaker than normal.
Conrad could sense the difference like a hint of decay in the strong, buzzing push of sex and that slammed down like cold water on his haze. That, of course, was an easy way of saying that he flipped shit and scrambled away, clutching at the betraying hand as he realized what, exactly, he'd done. It was lucky that Worth was already so 'up there' (Worth didn't know masochistic terms and Conrad thought it sounded a bit like interest or concern or commitment to google them) that it came off as something pretty bearable, but the man still had a fracture in his radius to deal with. That— and the fact that the constant drinking was starting to drag on Worth, maybe even brittling his bones a bit — was a clear sign that Conrad needed to do something.
Conrad needed to know the world. After six months of unlife, he'd come to accept there were things he couldn't do without if he ever wanted to stop faking it: terminology, things he had to watch out for. Questions for later, like would he ever really stop passing out at sunrise or did it get easier as you got older. And, as they say, when the student was ready, the teacher will appear.
Even if his supposed teachers were both looking at him like they would really, really like to get on with their night.
"Is there any reason you aren't celebrating with your friends?"
There was such an and is there any reason you're still harassing us? prompt in Finas' deep, tolerant voice that Conrad nearly apologized on the spot. Even though, concerning Cas, he supposed the elder vampire's voice was never without that slight tolerating tinge. The leggier vampire had committed to the encounter to the point of turning around and crossing his arms, looking down his crooked nose disapprovingly at the younger and infinitely less awesome vampire. Conrad fidgeted something awful, rubbing at his sleeve and looking down at the ground.
He took a deep, stupid, meaningless breath.
"I think … I need help."
Conrad glanced up. Finas was regarding him with an almost arrested look on his face, one brow raised. Cas looked unimpressed. Hell, Conrad was unimpressed, so he braced himself and tried again.
"With this," he continued haltingly, white, bloodless hands gesturing to his skin and his fangs and the moon above him. He tried to grin but it came out as a nauseated, warped flash of teeth. "Whole … thing."
"This whole thing?" Cas repeated without a trace of mockery but Conrad heard it anyways, or maybe he just couldn't stand the grasping stupidity in his own words. If this didn't prove how much of a lost cause he was, nothing would.
"I didn't have a — what do you call it— a parent, or-or a sire, I guess. Or I had one and she was just about as much help as a thrown brick and actually a lot more dangerous than one, well what am I talking about, you know her, and since you do and you know how utterly evil she is I just thought that maybe —"
"Maybe we'd be willing to be your nanny? Watch you whet your teeth on prostitutes and trip over your own feet for a year or two?" Cas rolled his mismatched eyes, incredulity dripping down to sly superiority as he gave a model's half-turn, gesturing dismissively three feet to the left of the graphic designer. "Even with eternity, I don't have time for that."
Conrad went red, or tried to, which involved a lot of awful prickling on his skin. Finas' solemn eyes were still on him, though, so he tried again, louder.
"I don't expect you to do it for free. I don't know what I can pay you with, but I'm sure we could —"
"C'mon, Finas," Casimiro drawled in his completely un-placeable accent – really nothing more than liquid sex appeal with a hint of foreignness and a fresh sprig of fuck-off. "Witching hour's almost here, and I still want a moderately pretty and intoxicated dinner. I say we hit King's street first. It is Saturday, after all."
He started off but stopped almost immediately, pulled back by little more than a touch of the older vampire's hand on his sleeve. The one vampire who was still very-much studying Conrad as if he'd grown three heads or maybe, just maybe, he had an ounce of potential hiding under his clammy skin that wasn't ruined by his battery-acid nerves or his crushing sense of insufficiency.
"Finas?" Casimiro almost whined, mismatched eyes fixed on his stocky partner with something like anxiety.
"Asking to be trained is a large responsibility," Finas said at last. He let his hand fall from his friend's arm, expression deadly serious. Conrad felt the full weight of the man's attention on him like a particularly warm and stifling and electrified sweater. "How large I think you do not understand, especially the commitment by the trainer."
"No," Conrad put in tensely, hands out. When the much older vampire gave him a confused look — little more than a narrowing of his eyes — the graphic designer gestured at the air with difficulty, so torn between back-tracking and plowing forward that he spun in circles. "I mean … I don't want to be trained. I think. I don't want to sign a handler's release or anything. I just need to … know. Get tips. A crash-course in vampire. Just enough to…"
"Survive," Finas finished, red eyes fixed on the pale, hunched child stranded on the city sidewalk. Conrad looked up with almost unbearable meekness and nodded, mouthing absently around his fangs.
"It's mostly the bat thing. I won't really feel safe in public until I stop going rodent at random," he said quietly.
That was the last straw for Casimiro, who made a stifled groaning noise and slapped his forehead, as if realizing exactly where Conrad was on a timeline of vampirism – and, more importantly, realizing it would be a crime to leave him to his own devices, lest he single-handedly out them all as a race and lead the government to employ a legion of hunters. Although this scenario ended up with the cringing baby dissected on a cold metal table, if asked, Cas would be forced to agree that the cons heavily outweighed the plusses.
"Well then, what are you idiots waiting for?" he demanded acridly, turning on his heel and beginning to stride down the sidewalk alone, gesturing at the air. "If we can spite the bitch by making something out of her illegitimate blood-spill, it's no use standing around and waiting for him to do it for us. We'd be here till Gehenna, anyways."
Conrad puffed up and gritted his teeth, then let it out. Because really, the designer was a little alright with being so compellingly pathetic if it meant he could stop being compellingly pathetic sometime soon. Without too much mockery, but that was maybe a bit too much to hope for with Cas. The dead man didn't exactly scream 'nurturing and forgiving instructor,' and Conrad had the impression it would take him quite a while to figure Cas' quiet partner out.
In front of him, Finas gave his new half-charge one last up and down before turning and starting down the sidewalk after his partner. Conrad stood in the yellow halo of the streetlight, watching them walk away with his skin a-prickle in that blissful, terrifying oh-my-god-did-that-actually-work way, before he realized he was supposed to be with them and sprinted off after. He fell into step beside Finas and a little behind Cas and, for once, there seemed to be a light at the end of his tunnel of eternal night, even if it was just the streetlamp at the corner.
Maybe, just maybe, it was going to be okay. Not all of it, not for forever, but enough, and for a while. It was nice to think about.