Big thanks to redeyedcat for support, inspiration, and insightful discussions.
Edit: Noticed a few errors in this, now corrected, and eventually there should be a continuation.
It's funny. A lingering trace of humanity lurking in the back of his mind laughs about it sometimes. The nineteen year old boy, the ex-hunter, the young man who fought his brother's friendships so intently because he couldn't stand the thought of leaving his side for more than ten minutes at a time, the awkward barely a teenager left in charge of their parents' shop and the bills and his even younger brother, the traitor, the kid that filled the role of parent and friend and partner to that same brother because they needed all of that so desperately... He grew up and didn't age a day. The morose vampire hunter didn't take care and he ended up becoming the monster, but that part was inevitable. What he laughs about is the time.
All throughout childhood, their teenage years, and even what bordered on adulthood, they never spent a day apart. He can't remember a time when Edgar was gone for more than a few hours. He can't even remember sleeping in separate beds; he always woke up to the heat of Edgar's body somewhere nearby. If he was still human, he would have wasted away in the separation. Instead he watched Edgar's resignation, saw the seasons turn and his brother flee from town to town trying desperately to escape his shadow.
Some nights it's just the dreams. Isolated and eternally grieving, Alan will send out a brief spark of emotion to his brother and watch it bloom. Alan isn't above starving for days to send his brother a taste of bloodlust, but it's almost always a memory. Minimal effort and suddenly Edgar's dreams are haunted with dragons both real and imagined, heat and hunger and pain. Alan wishes he could spend time crafting each dream, but he plucks the memories from his brother's mind from time to time and has to wonder if he could ever top Edgar's own longing.
Other nights, though, Alan visits him. He will slip through the window, fine as dust, until the entire unbreathing mass of him is sitting at the foot of Edgar's bed. Most nights he simply watches over his brother, sees the dreams flit across his face. Other nights, he touches. Alan will wipe the sweat from his brow or wind Edgar's hair around his fingers. Sometimes he gets a few hours, other times he only gets a few minutes before dawn tears them apart again.
He comes in and strips down, crawls in behind his sleeping brother. Edgar doesn't stir and Alan wonders if maybe his brother knows or if maybe in death he isn't nearly as real—just a mere specter, some glittering orb hovering in the background, trapped forever in a sphere of un-light in some fading photograph—and the thought gives him a sense of terror, but he sometimes thinks it's all for the best.
The warmth of Edgar's skin lulls him. All Alan wants is to fall asleep. Pressed up against his back, every inhale shakes against his chest and Alan wants to wrap around him, hang on, and move weightless with the rise and fall of his breath, feel the fluidity of his brother's life against his lack thereof. But there's a sunrise to think of. There's Edgar waking, garlic and crucifixes, to think of.
He whispers to him. Diseased promises and slurred assurances of soon—oh so soon, because moments like this leave an all too human ache in his core—that spark sensual fever dreams in Edgar's mind. If there's anything in the world more beautiful than the rush of blood through his brother's veins, Alan doesn't know it. The pound of his heart and the scalding fragments of the dreams that Alan can feel through him leave him panting as if he was still human, fangs elongating and body unbearably hot.
In Santa Carla, the sun would rise, a healthy vibrant pink, over the water. They couldn't see it from their room, but had watched it on numerous occasions. Even sunsets, which they could see from their room and had watched on more occasions, were pink. Edgar and Alan would shoot each other tired, manly glances as the light flooded their room, and pretend like the romantic notion of it was enough to kill a horse, then sit outside the comic shop with the intent of scaring away any potential vampires.
Even as they got older, as they dropped out of school entirely and managing the store began to take up all of their time, Edgar remembers the sunsets. Before the boardwalk's lights turned on, a pink and orange burst more nauseatingly, stereotypically California than the tourist trap itself would flood the store. Their posters and comics would glow in shining pastel hues. If Edgar ever cared to look, even the peeling wallpaper of their bedroom became something ethereal.
Later, in Luna Bay and beyond, the sunlight has never been quite as spectacular. Most days Edgar can tell himself that the sunset isn't really as dark as he thinks it is. The days he can't, he tells himself that everything looks so different because of pollution or haze or smoke. The three weeks a month he sees the sunrise, though, he's unable to. The early morning sun glints off the ocean and what Edgar sees is blood—and he puts all of his efforts into hunting, just in case.
"I haven't seen my brother in years, and you have? What's going on with you and him?" They're down by the shoreline because Edgar can't stomach the thought of someone else in his trailer. His weird little claustrophobic world. His life from before, downsized.
He thinks of that last hunt and the ride to Johnson's, Sam in between them and that look Alan gave him. Sam's concerned face over something that didn't concern him. He can't even focus on one of his last memories of his brother for the feeling that Sam knew something he didn't. Had been there for something he hadn't.
"Look, bud, you're barking up the wrong tree," Sam flashes a dazed smile and his eyes roll drunkenly from the ocean to Edgar. He shakes his head, scoffs and smiles again in a near hysteria that both horrifies and angers the hunter. "He's coming back, Edgar. You're gonna need protection. And, man, you're gonna have to be armed up to the teeth."
And, oh, he's heard this so many times, but actually paying him a visit oversteps all of his boundaries. "You can't just come here every two days telling me something else about my brother." Edgar's shaking so bad he could gnaw his fingernails clean off, but he just turns his head. "I can't trust you."
When Sam finally reels in from the waves, his eyes don't focus. "He isn't going to take no for an answer," and calmly peels back the neck of his shirt, showing Edgar the bite on his shoulder.
Rent week wears Edgar down faster than anything. He wakes up, sometime around noon, and goes into town trying to pick up odd jobs. Anything he finds or can spare, he sells. One week of each month, Edgar doesn't have time for hunting, and for that one week, Edgar would give almost anything to go back to hunting. The sunlight gives him headaches, and by midnight, everything takes on a surreal quality that smoking doesn't help.
"You smoke now?"
When he looks up to see his brother right at the edge of his salt circle, he isn't surprised. Edgar's used to seeing just about anything at the end of the month. He straightens and closes his eyes. Thinks about the end of the week when the bills are paid and he can get back to regular hours and stop seeing phantom jaguars in the small bunk in the kitchen. Stop hearing his brother's voice in the middle of the night.
"Thought you hated the smell."
Alan scoffs, and it takes the brief confusion it causes to pick up on Alan's mirth. Alan isn't shocked. Alan doesn't speak when he's shocked.
"You used to complain about mom and dad."
He didn't. Edgar never spoke aloud how much better Sam's house smelled. He never mentioned what it was like to go out only to realize hours later that he smelled like an ash tray. Never brought up the time it took once he got home to adjust to the charred scent of his own bed. The brief, but still significant, time it took to familiarize himself with his own brother. What would Alan, loner in life and eternal enemy of Sam Emerson, know about that?
Alan reaches out across their barrier and the throbbing in Edgar's head spikes. He knows what it is to wake up after sunset and look around instinctively for his brother. To feel phantom heat in his bed and have to accept again every day of his life that Alan isn't coming back.
But when the breeze rolls in, over the rot of organic matter at the base of the cliff—some from hunting, some from the ocean—he can smell spice and musk and cheap cologne, and he realizes he's never known anything about grief. Rationality says he can't smell his brother, can't even remember the scent of him, but he thinks the tug and thud of his chest and the stuffy pound of his head might just combine with the electrical hum against his back to kill him anyway.
From where he's backed up against the trailer, he can see the arch of Alan's brow. He's closer and Edgar realizes they've changed positions. He becomes hyper aware of the moonlight, and worries for a moment that time has passed. For a terrified moment, Edgar feels like the outsider. The entire world has spun and he's the one waiting to go home, separated from his life by a ring of salt and nearly crazy with longing and hunger.
He has to dislodge the shrink wrap still on the pack from his sweaty palms before he can toss it over. Five dollars he could have put toward rent or food or garlic cloves, and he spent it on a pack of Salems his undead brother decided to drop by and borrow from him. He lifts his hands to his face and jerks back when a warm pinprick alerts of him of his still lit cigarette. He drops it, scrubs his face in his hands and the rough drag of it wakes him up just a little, but his head's still spinning. He pulls off his headband and crumples it in his hand. He was lucky he didn't set himself on fire. My brother...
Alan shakes the lighter out of the pack, cigarette dangling between his lips. When he strikes it, Edgar can see his face for the first time and he recoils. Alan has days of stubble on his jaw and bags under his eyes. His skin is pale and yellow under the orange glow, and he's gaunt and haggard, aged. Edgar saw that face in the mirror for months afterwards. He still does. Before the flame goes out, their eyes meet and Edgar has to look away.
The next light holds, and Alan is nineteen again. Smooth face and slack jaw wavering before he inhales and tucks the lighter back in. Edgar looks down to see his pack on the ground. Back up to see it in Alan's hand. Anyone else would see a snarl, but this is his brother; that curl of his upper lip, Edgar knows, is a smirk. Alan drops it and the two merge together smoothly.
Alan takes a long drag and says distantly, "That won't keep me out."
Edgar doesn't have to look up to know Alan's talking about the salt circle. Edgar believes him, but why would Alan come here to tell him that from outside? His skin crawls.
"Why are you here?" Edgar's weary, tired of this game already.
"I can't come see my brother?" The tone is light, but he can see the gleam of teeth, and this, Edgar knows, is a snarl. He groans, his brother's name past his lips before he can catch it, and he sees Alan's back stiffen in his peripheral vision.
Edgar can hear his growl, how much deeper his voice has gotten, and sees the spark in his eyes, but he can't make out the words past the mouthful of fangs. Then Alan turns, his boots crunching on the dry ground, and before Edgar's really sure what's happening, his brother is gone. When the adrenaline wears off and his heart rate is nearly normal, his head is swimming again. He just wants to go to sleep and fucking forget about it.
Alan took the job with a silent sort of dedication. Nights that Alan couldn't sleep, Edgar awoke to him rolling out of bed and again to the chill of night air and Alan's cramped, stiff hands fumbling in his hair. The next morning would find new stakes on the stock room table, sometimes crude and needing an hour more attention from their parents' rusted boxcutters, but more often finished and better than the ones in their knapsacks.
Alan didn't preach Death To All Vampires and he shrugged off most vampire talk with a cold glance, even after the Emerson event. They had a constant supply of materials from Alan's insomnia, though. On those nights, Edgar could always count on new supplies and his brother's numb clinginess. He would always, without fail, have to push Alan's calloused hands away from his forehead and soon after Alan would be curled up asleep against his back.
Over time, Edgar's calluses faded. The days before he had a supplier were too rough for them to be eliminated completely, and some would always remain in one form or another, but Edgar's hands looked less and less and like Alan's as the years passed. Edgar never doubted, though, that Alan's hands were just as rough as they ever had been.
Edgar has to continually remind himself that his brother is out there somewhere, real. It's only been a few years but to Edgar it seems like hundreds, spanning away into nothing. Just another prophecy, a part of some oracle. The big lead-in to a special, custom-made apocalypse.
When he wakes up with a split, swollen lip and ruined sheets, there's an absolute certainty involved, but he still has to let himself know that Alan's going to come back. If left unchecked, he'll span that little bit of distance and scoop Edgar up like they're still teenagers. Steal him away and lock him in a glass cage labeled eternity.
He dragged into the Bookener some time after three o'clock and Zoe crinkled her nose, taking in his disheveled appearance. "Is that cologne you're—?" Edgar grunted, refusing to comment. Zoe rolled her eyes and pretended to be interested in something on another shelf.
Coming here had been a mistake. He kept thinking that maybe if he just spent more time in the shop, or maybe if he just had that little bit of extra cash, or if he didn't feel so ridiculous spending time with civilians and could hold a real job and wasn't just some used-up has-been freak, maybe then he'd be safe. He could stop hiding, stop running. He'd integrate into a normal existence that things would never deviate from. He'd stop hunting.
He'd go into a different kind of exile.
But then, Edgar knows, too, that if he puts his hunting gear away, Alan won't be far behind.
"He's upstairs." Edgar shot him a particularly unwelcome glare and moved another box back to the counter.
Sam had been there an hour already, helping Edgar with the store as the elder Frog was curiously absent and Edgar seemed at odds with the whole ordeal. Everything had been meticulously arranged, boxes moved and moved again, customers helped, and shelves dusted—Sam, of course, was the one to delicately rove over the Batman stand with a feather duster found on the VCR, as he had his doubts that any Frog had the necessary fine motor skills for such a task.
All in all, Sam was under the impression that none of this was really daily work and Edgar was trying to keep him there until something resolved itself. Edgar had ran out of things to do about ten minutes previously and all was well with the world until Sam decided to ask about Alan's whereabouts. At which point Edgar put a ridiculous amount of focus into relocating the same three boxes from their place on the floor to the counter and back to the floor.
"He left you to run the store by yourself? Come on, man. What's going on?"
Edgar sighed and moved the box to a table across the counter. Sam began to wonder if he should go find more boxes. He could just bring them all to the front so Edgar could construct a giant wall between them like he seemed intent on doing. If he kept stacking boxes, Sam was going to have to climb something just to see him.
"If I tell you, you can't mention it to him."
"Oh, please. Like I gossip to your brother." Sam rolled his eyes. They were eighteen, and here Edgar was demanding a pinky promise.
"I think he has a fever," Edgar finally blurted. He touched his neck, nervous. Blushing.
"No. That's not why you're upset. What happened?" Edgar had not he-manned boxes all afternoon to no avail just because Alan had a stupid fever. Sam had not been using the fucking feather duster to keep Edgar company, biting his nails wanting to know what the hell was going on, just to get brushed off.
Edgar sighed, a big rush of air that Sam was sure he could feel from across the room. "There's something wrong with my brother, Sam."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sam could make an entire list of things wrong with Alan, mainly lack of humor. Even today, Sam could make a fucking list of shit wrong with Alan Frog.
"I don't know. I... I found him in the hallway this morning. He was sitting outside the door, shaking. He apologized, and—"
Edgar winced, and above all else, Sam felt a confused pang of nausea. "He's still asleep." Edgar avoided his eyes and instead put his focus on unpacking a stack of used comics. "Go get the other box from the back," he finally mumbled, as if he needed another box to ignore Sam with. The hunter pulled off his headband and slumped against the display case. Sam, guilty and a tad desperate, ducked down the hall for the stock room.
He planned his escape. The avoidance of conversation and the sudden, "Whoa, look at the time. Michael and I have some, uh, bonding to do, and he wants me home pronto." Some casual excuses, I'll-call-you-laters, and a nice heterosexual pat on the back, and Sam would be out of there like a bat out of hell. Then everything could go back to normal next week, when Sam assumed he'd brave his next appearance. Barring business, of course.
Sam found Alan blocking the doorway. He flinched back, heart pounding. He wondered how Alan got there—either he had been there the entire time Sam was in the store or he'd somehow snuck past them, to what avail Sam didn't feel like considering. Or he was a vampire, which Sam also preferred not to consider. Regardless, Sam stopped just short of running into his chest, and Alan sneered down at him, making Sam regret ever looking at Edgar funny when he used Alan as an excuse not to do something stupid.
Sam wished he could say his heart wasn't pounding. He wished his palms weren't sweating and he wished Alan would just walk off to some better lit part of the store that Sam wouldn't be conveniently alone in. And maybe slightly more than that, he wished he didn't feel even slightly aroused when Alan's eyes traveled up his body.
Sam knew that Alan's once over was an accusation instead of invitation. Gay little Sammy. Wants to bone my brother... And now he knows that I might have a fever, the hysterical part of Sam's brain supplied, leaving him dangerously close to laughter. Then Alan looked at him like he knew that entire train of thought, and Sam gulped. Crazy people, he thought, were usually capable of pretty crazy things.
Alan sneered, so typically elder Frog, pushed himself off the doorframe and walked on by in that righteous half-limp war veterans tend to have, leaving behind a flushed and gaping Sam. He didn't get the box. Instead he slunk back into the main store as invisible as possible, more to see what was happening than to protect Edgar from any possible wrongdoing by his weird older brother like the part of him that read Lucy's romance novels in times of great comic book shortage would like to pretend.
He found them in one of the sections that branched off from the façade. Edgar noticed him but didn't make any motion to indicate it. Sam held up a comic to give him an illusion of privacy and make him feel better. He watched over the top of it anyway, but it's the thought that counts.
What Sam saw in Edgar wasn't fear. There weren't any words to describe it, but outright fear wasn't anything that crossed his face. Not from the deep, forced words of Alan's to the soft, timid responses of Edgar's. Edgar didn't flinch when Alan moved a hand toward his face and pushed back his hair. Sam startled when Alan's fingertips skimmed over the back of Edgar's neck, but he didn't. Edgar looked away—shame, he would realize later when Edgar caught him watching and Sam made the same move—but he definitely wasn't afraid. A few more words from Alan, apologies or promises, Sam had and still has a feeling that it's all the same, and then the entire weirdness was over for him and he hightailed it out of there before anything else could come up. Then it ends up being that nothing ever has the chance.
Sam goes back to their last stand more times than he can count. Alan driving that shoddy pickup truck, leaving it half a mile away and having to hike up Widow Johnson's driveway. The way Alan watched him suspiciously from the corner of his eye, Edgar's glare flashing between the two of them until Alan reached over and shoved his brother's head around to face the road again. Edgar's bewildered expression was probably the closest he'd came to smiling since, and Alan's answering lopsided grin, no matter how many too-sharp teeth it contained, was the first Sam had ever seen from him and made him strangely endearing in a way Sam didn't want to think of.
With what happened later, seeing Alan shaking and bloody, clinging to Edgar and then disappearing the moment he looked away, Sam feels like he's committed the highest form of robbery, but he wonders if Alan hadn't been planning the whole thing. Sam knows, and he believes Edgar does too, that no one vamps out that quickly unless they've already been turned.
He still doesn't know exactly what happened near the end, but years later, when he's been turned himself and he sees the pain in Alan's eyes and Edgar's name echoes through Sam's mind, he thinks he has a pretty good idea. And when he comes to warn Edgar that things have really fucked up beyond all comprehension, that it's really the last stop and the end of the line, he sees the same marks on Edgar's neck. Little bruises he can no longer tell himself are from someone's fingers, some simple fist fight. Even hidden by his hair, in the daylight Sam's vision pulls them into sickeningly vivid detail. The colors float and swim until he's sure he'll hurl up all of his innards and won't have to worry about Alan killing him for being such a tattletale.
"You work around the shop anyway. You might as well get paid for it," she tells him on one of their outings.
"I have a job." Sullen.
"Hunting doesn't count." Hunting didn't pay the bills and if Edgar kept picking at the sleeves of his latest second-hand flannel, the garment was going to completely unravel. Even here, two o'clock on a Monday morning, he wouldn't accept more than a cup of black coffee. He needed a real job.
She asked time and time again, at the store and on the one night a week she found him lurking around when she got off work. She'd find him standing around the carbon tanks at the back of the diner, avoiding a group of employees on smoke break while they stared him down. He'd endure it just to listen to Zoe's job speech and plans for the Bookener as she ate a plate of waffles that he couldn't afford.
Look. His life is in danger. I just—I need to talk to him. Alan's coming, and—
She didn't mention the phone call. Later, she thinks that maybe the mention of it would have changed things, but it was probably inevitable.
Edgar stopped showing up for midnight coffee, and spent less time at the store. He might come in once a week, unload some stock, organize some shelves, and take off, always having an excuse about having something to attend to, supplies to buy, or some potential vampire to follow around all night.
Look, I just need to find him.
Soon it waned to ten minute visits in which he wouldn't speak to her at all. Just wander aimlessly through an aisle of vampire comics, occasionally glance up long enough for her to be unnerved by how rough he looked, then he'd flee the store while her back was turned.
Then one of their more obnoxious patrons came in to say, "Saw him down the road earlier, pickin' up shit to hitch up his fuckin' camper. I guess the creep's finally headed outta town."
I'm fuckin' glad. He wanted for axe-murder or somethin'?