Kiiind of a sequel to Capsules of Energy?
After biting Abner his other fang finally grew in. He isn't sure if this is a good thing or not, because sure it's one less thing for Worth to mock him about but he's cutting his lip twice as often now, and whatever nutritional value he gets out of cold blood packs just can't keep up with the scabbing.
God, Abner had been delicious, and he knows that's a terrible thing to think because you just didn't think that kind of thing about another person because cannibalism was wrong but could it even be considered cannibalism when you weren't really human anymore?
He chews his lip and gets blood on his laptop and his next commission is late and really, for once he couldn't care less. He's too busy having an identity crisis to take his boss' phone calls-emails-letters seriously, and really, he's too good to let go. He's not worried about work (he's actually taken more on) and really, he's okay with being a vampire.
He's just not very good at it.
Oh sure, he's seen some movies and read some books—all of varying quality—so he knows vampires. Or, at least, what the last few decades have decided what vampires are supposed to be: pale, brooding, sensual creatures of the night with magical powers, or whatever. Some of it's good, some of it isn't, but it didn't really matter because they're fictional.
At least, that's what normal people (like he used to be, oh those were the days) tell themselves because seriously, who wanted to live in a world where the dead rose and tried to eat you?
In an alternate universe somewhere, he wonders if there's an Earth that has no magic or vampires or zombies or anything that makes you go "Who the fuck thought that one up?" except maybe in mythology college courses where the teacher can crack a joke about how nice it was not to open your cupboard and see bloody-faced Tommy Rawhead crouched over your kettle and the students can all laugh because oh, their ancestors were so ignorant, but Hanna had just banished one from his neighbor's pantry last week.
He rubs his neck where there had been a pair of raw holes two weeks ago and now there isn't because he'd fucking tried to eat Abner. Out of self-defense, granted, but that was a poor excuse at best and Christ, he doesn't even remember anything past the first flood of hot-sweet-delicious-life pouring into his mouth, nothing until Toni dropped him into a puddle of cold filth that soaked through his expensive jeans so she could change back into a shape that better fit through doors, and then he had wondered, how?
How did Toni make it look so easy?
Being a werewolf sounds a hell of a lot more difficult to him, because at least vampires can pick when they go out and ki—hurt someone, and at least vampires have a legitimate reason (fuck, fuck). But every full moon Toni is forced to transform into an uncontrollable, mindless monster that is a danger to anyone (everyone) she crosses path with, and on top of that she's fatally allergic to silver, and just how many days can go by before she burns her fingers-neck-skin-inedible veins again? She's doomed, because one day, no matter how careful she is, she'll make a mistake and really hurt someone, maybe bite them and it's not like being bitten by a vampire, you can survive that (if you're lucky and the vampire isn't starving, ha ha) and go on with your life; if a werewolf bites you, you're fucked.
And he feels bad for wondering if she has yet; he barely knows her and he hasn't exactly been his best the past few times they've met (understatement), but he is certain she's used to supernatural things because werewolf or not, it's not every day (night, ugh) you see a guy drinking blood (out of a bag, and that will never taste good, fuck Abner forever for reminding him of that, he hopes his hand still hurts like hell) and she'd just taken it in stride, completely whatever about it and almost everything else they've all been through in the short time they've known Hanna, and he wonders if that's just how she copes or if she doesn't need to cope at all, because that's just how she is.
Maybe Toni is just experienced. Maybe that's why she can change at whim and maybe that's why she seems so unaffected by him, by all of this, by everything.
So he saves his work files and starts taking this vampire thing seriously because shit, at least in this world vampires are real and he's gonna be around awhile now so he may as well stop being so bloody fucking embarrassed about it.
New vampire documentation clashes all up and down the lists with old vampire documentation, and then of course there are different breeds, Jesus he could have gone his whole unlife without ever knowing that. Hours of Googling the mythological differences makes him decide that he's totally fine with never seeing the sun again as long as he isn't wearing intestines on his head like the Indian Brahmaparusha or looking like the Asanbosam of Africa with their iron teeth and hooks for feet . As far as he can tell, he's just a nor—okay, there's nothing normal about being a vampire but at least his head doesn't fly off his neck with all his organs trailing behind whenever he's feeling peckish (seriously, what?), so yes, he figures Adelaide and the others are some branch of European-American-whatever vampire because he doesn't do any of that, thank god, he's just bloodless and fanged and hungry, dammit.
And for the most part, it actually isn't all that bad. He doesn't sweat anymore, for one thing, and once he figures out the other benefits (and gets over the, ugh, eating people thing) he might even start enjoying himself. Until then, between cases with Hanna, bickering with Worth, and kind of unintentionally avoiding everyone who knew him when he still had a pulse, he deals with the setbacks.
Buying blackout curtains for all his windows.
Forgetting he doesn't need to breathe, which causes a panic attack, so he breathes anyway and feels stupid about it.
Experimenting with coffee (ends badly).
The thing with the apple (ends worse).
Cleaning out his kitchen after he decides not to experiment anymore, during which he drops an open bag of rice he didn't even know he had and he spends the next six hours obsessively counting each grain, arithmomania is the dumbest thing ever, fuck his life.
Involuntarily freaking out whenever he sees a cross.
Lying to all his friends and family and wishing he was a better at it because the food poisoning thing won't fly forever and doesn't explain his teeth anyway.
Finding out the hard way that the coma-sleep-at-sunrise thing is very, very accurate.
Waking up with every one of his too-strong senses running on ultra and all he can hear-taste-smell is bloodbloodblood pumping through all his neighbors' veins until he clamps down hard and it fades away, replaced by a weird half-knowledge of where all the pipes in the walls flow and the electric hum of gadgetry that makes his skin-eyes-teeth itch, and he gets a new bulb out for the closet light because it sounds funny and sure enough the next night it dies, and he halfheartedly considers that a benefit because at least it's kind of useful.
And, well, there's the bat thing too. He's not sure if that's a benefit or a setback, yet.
The first time that had happened, a car alarm had gone off after three hours of city-silence, shocking him out of a comfortable lull of pretend normalcy. He'd opened his mouth and dropped his empty coffee (blood) mug as he'd felt an alarming shrinking-collapsing-shifting thing flow through him and suddenly he was clinging to a couch cushion that stretched out forever around him and ohgodohgod he was a fucking bat.
The first time, he hadn't done much beyond that, and resolved to never tell anyone because even he knows how lame that was. By the third time, he tried to be a little more proactive. He still can't control it well, and most of the time he changes by accident, but for the most part he's gotten over freaking out when it happens and now tries to make the most of it.
Like tonight. Tonight he's flying, and this is most definitely a point for the benefit list because holy fuck, he is flying.
At first he's nervous when he scales the wall to his window for the sole purpose of hurling himself out of it because entrusting his unlife to the thin folds of skin between his fingers/wings sounds nine kinds of retarded, but then he remembers that he's already dead so really, what's the harm in trying? So he clenches tiny teeth and feels his ears lay back against his head (so weird), and he takes a stupidly unnecessary breath and jumps.
He can't help but whoop, shouting triumphantly and without shame as some strange, new, amazing instinct kicks in and he soars on an updraft from the cooling asphalt below up up up into the sky. Nothing matters anymore, not when he's up here. He doesn't feel any need to fret or worry or question or overthink, because who cares if he's dead and possibly-maybe-kind of immortal, who cares about setbacks or deadlines or the niggling guilt, who cares about the phone calls from home and the improbabilities, who cares about Adelaide or the other vampires out for their throats if Hanna doesn't find her, who cares about any of that when you're way up here?
He lets everything slide away and allows these quiet, tugging instincts tell him when to flap and when to glide, how to turn on a dime and how to swoop down low to skim the surface of a fountain in a park, and how to avoid the owls in the sky and the cats and raccoons on the ground which he sees less with his eyes (which are actually, somehow, worse now, but you can't win them all) and more as vague, warm pressures in his mind. The original plan had been to stick close to his condo but this is just too great not to take advantage of because he doesn't know how long he'll stay a bat and he doesn't know when he'll have the chance to do this again so fuck it, he's going as fast and as far as he can tonight.
Fuck it all.
Tonight he's just going to be.
The last conscious thought he has as Conrad Achenleck before slipping into pure animal instinct is that he figures he can just get a taxi back home if he has to, later.
Softly, softly, a shadow no bigger than a sparrow lands in the reaching branches of a Poinciana tree, and in the yellow light of a nearby streetlamp it blends in with the red foliage as if it were a flower coming home to roost. It chitters, squeaks, and folds itself smaller before crawling with surprising speed towards the open window in the second story of a house built when the tree was still just a sapling, years and years past. Beyond the window lies a bedroom strewn with toys, and in the bed lies a child, sleeping without fear in the tiny, tiny glow of a moon-shaped nightlight. At the foot of the bed, snuggled warm in the wrinkled quilt, lays a small gold form, loyal and warm and pulsing with young life.
The red shadow pauses briefly on the windowsill, shivers, and then seems to make a decision. It creeps down the wall, runs across the carpet on all fours and up the bedsheets, too small to alert either the child or the pup. It shivers again, sitting between them, and a small, worrying, indecisive noise escapes it.
The pup wakes.
Claws dig, muscles tense, jaws open. A wisp of foul-smelling scent taints the midnight air and the mattress dips beneath an invisible weight, not enough to stir the child oh no, but enough to still the pup, enough to let white teeth puncture and they are so sharp, so sharp that the pup feels nothing but a growing peace and it returns to dreams of chasing and food and the child with the fingers that know just where to scratch when it's itchy, and it sleeps, and the bat feeds in the quiet, and the pup no longer sleeps because it dies.
And then with a bang of ionized smoke the bat is a man again, and the man is Conrad Achenleck, and he shouts and recoils and falls off the bed and suddenly the whole house is full of light and motion and people, and there he is with blood on his face and shitshitshit this looks so bad what is he doing he needs to get out of here now.
Feet thundering in the hall, the kid coughing and blinking in the smoke left by his really badly timed transformation and probably about to scream when he sees the stranger on his floor and his eyes bounce from door to window and fuck he doesn't have a choice, does he? The window is his only option, and this is the second floor and he's way too heavy now to climb down the stupid branches and dammit dammit dammit fuck.
This time when he jumps out a window, he doesn't come close to flying, and it's only later when he's hiding in a garage three houses down as he waits for his shattered ankle and torn kneecap to heal (and the police to drive away) does he realize he's still holding the golden retriever in his hand and it takes everything he has not to throw it as hard as he can, but he still drops it as if it'll burn him and the sound it makes when it bonelessly hits the concrete and just lays there makes him hold his head and grind his teeth and fuck, fuck, if he's like this over a puppy how will he ever actively bite another person?
He thinks of Abner and the Thing That Used to Be His Stomach growls and somewhere there's a funny little squelching sound and Conrad does his very, very best not to vomit.
He buries the dog, discovers he left his wallet on the counter, and limps home.
Gosh, but look at all that Wikipedia abuse! Took a lot from the vampire pages (obviously), along with many a YouTube video of vampire bats (which in reality are pure nightmare fuel) and also some Googling of fauna native to both the eastern and western coasts of the U.S. to keep things suitably vague.
Waaas gonna keep going with some other character interactions, but I kind of wrote myself into a corner haha.
Slightly belated birthday present for Incothe!
Disclaimer: Conrad is Tessa Stone's HiNaBN! And she probably treats him better too, poor thing.