Note: drug references, vulgar, contains painful levels of cringe
Whatever had gone down with Seth certainly seemed to put Faith back in a better frame of mind; she and Melinda had had a heart-to-heart and been enjoying a game of cards when the door flung open and April rushed in, running straight upstairs. Caleb skulked in after but didn’t follow her up, instead taking a seat at the card table as if nothing was wrong.
“Caleb,” Melinda started carefully. “What’s wrong with April? Did you two have a fight or—?”
“No, things are perfect with me and April. We had a great night together,” he said abruptly and and sat back in his chair.
“So why is she—?”
Caleb shrugged, unbothered. “She said she felt sick. Think she must have had a bad human, it happens.”
“Really?” Faith asked. “What was bad about him?”
“Probably full of intoxicants. It’s no big deal.” He looked up as April returned from upstairs. “Better babe?”
“Not really,” April said. “My tummy hurts.”
“Gin. And you’re probably just pregnant or something,” Faith joked, rocking back on her chair as she beat Melinda for the fifth game in a row.
“Pregnant?” April asked quietly, looking at Melinda. “Oh my goodness, am I?”
“No,” Caleb said firmly. “I’m telling you, it was just a bad human.”
“Are you sure?” April asked, sliding into the vacant seat and fiddling with the discarded playing cards on the table. “I felt a bit poorly even before I drank from that man. And he really was quite nice.”
Caleb winced. “Oh, was he? You’ve only said that five times,” he huffed. “And yes, I’m sure. Vampires aren’t fertile so just drop it.“
April nodded and looked down at her lap.
Caleb’s tone suddenly changed; his voice became brighter, gentler. “Hey, come on. Think about it; if we were, I’d have hundreds of children by now.”
“Always bragging,” Faith scoffed. “Is that supposed to make her feel better? Fuck me; imagine a world full of mini Fringeys.” She shuddered. “So, what shall we do today? You’re gonna go find a job as an astronaut or something, right?”
“Make sure you buy some food for our guest, Caleb,” Melinda reminded him as she neatly stacked the cards. “We need everything: vegetables, grains, proteins. Oh and toilet roll—“
“Ugh. Can’t I just buy potatoes?” Caleb moaned. “Humans are so needy.”
Melinda wasn’t sure what prompted it; maybe it was thinking about potatoes, bodily functions she no longer had or simply realising that Caleb really knew nothing, but something dawned on her. “Caleb, is April the first vampire you’ve been, you know, in bed with?”
Caleb looked confused. “Well the only other female vampire I knew was Lilith and I was never that desperate.”
“Right,” Melinda said slowly. “So how can you know for certain that two vampires can’t have babies? Did someone tell you or…”
Caleb thought for a moment. “No. I just assumed.”
Melinda tried to ignore Faith’s laughter, wondering how to delicately ask the next question. “When you two did, um, the lovemaking,” she coughed, that wasn’t the word she wanted to use, but tact was required, “did you use any protection?”
“What? Like, crash helmets?” April asked.
Faith was laughing so hard now that she could barely speak. “Crash helmets!” she managed thumping the table. “How the fuck are you so clueless?”
“Then what… oh,” April said, finally understanding. She looked down at the table again. “Not crash helmets. Stupid girl,” she muttered.
“You’re not stupid, April,” Melinda said automatically. She turned to Caleb. “Well? I assume you know what I’m talking about?”
“I do,” Caleb cleared his throat, looking distinctly uncomfortable, backed into his corner. “But no. I don’t even think about it, unless I’m asked to—“
“Of course you don’t,” Melinda muttered angrily. “You selfish pig.”
“Actually, Mel,” Faith said, finally getting her laughter under control. “I’m with Caleb; do we even need to now?”
Melinda gasped. “Seriously, Faith? You are asking that? So I’m guessing that you and Seth don’t bother either, then?”
“No,” Faith replied. She briefly looked serious for the first time in days before her smirk was back.
“Great,” Melinda huffed. “I’d bet you’re both riddled with a billion diseases—“
“We can’t catch anything,” Caleb interjected. “And I know that is fact because we once had to feed off plague victims and I didn’t catch the plague.”
“I’d bet you helped transmit it though, you butt head,” Melinda murmured.
“I think you’re overreacting, Mel,” Faith said casually. “Vampire men can’t even climax.”
“They… they can’t?” Melinda asked, suddenly unable to look anyone in the eye.
Caleb scoffed. “We definitely can. Well, I definitely can. Can’t answer for Seth.”
Faith looked thoughtful for a while. Melinda was desperately trying to overcome her discomfort and anger to continue the conversation, but the resident inappropriate question machine recovered first.
“You pulled out though, right?” Faith asked, without a hint of embarrassment.
April squealed and buried her face in her hands. “Oh my goodness! We’re not talking about this!”
“But this is crucial information,” Faith insisted. “Did you?”
“I’m so embarrassed!” April wailed. “I want to die!”
“You want to die,” Caleb muttered.
Faith just couldn’t seem to stop herself. “What position were you in?”
“Faith! For watcher’s sake!” Melinda hissed. Then, realising that Caleb had opened his mouth, she rounded on him in a flash. “Don’t you dare answer that, Caleb!”
“Thank the devil,” Caleb replied. “Because I don’t even know how to start explaining—“
“Stop talking!” Melinda groaned. “Everyone!” she spat at Faith, who complied with a mischievous glint in her eye.
Melinda sat and thought for a while in the relative silence, bar Faith’s quiet laughter and April’s occasional whimper.
Melinda’s own mother had been very thorough, perhaps even excessively so, with her talks about the birds and the bees; knowledge that Melinda had filtered through to Faith and that she bitterly regretted not filtering through to April. She tried to recall what she knew about gestation periods, symptoms, what happened when. She’d always been good at maths, but this was a calculation she’d never thought she’d have to do.
“I don’t think it’s been long enough for April to be showing any pregnancy symptoms yet,” she eventually decided. “What’s it been… a week? Less?”
April nodded, relief evident on her face. Melinda nodded back, started to relax.
Until Faith piped up again.
“Unless vampire pregnancy is different,” she mused. “If it’s as fast as Fringey, you’ll be full term next week; might wanna start knitting those booties.”
April’s voice was so high-pitched now that it was probably only audible to vampires and dogs. “Next week?! Oh my goodness! I need to do something! Should I go and see a doctor?”
“You’re probably not pregnant, April,” Melinda said calmly. “And you can’t go to a doctor. Even if you weren’t wanted by police, what would happen when they scanned you?”
“Nothing,” Caleb said, looking more and more queasy by the second. “We don’t show up on scanners. That whole ‘no soul’ thing.”
“What’s even inside us nowadays?” Faith asked.
“All your human organs are still there,” Caleb replied, with an odd smile. “They’ll slowly shrivel up and turn black as you age.”
Faith looked amazed. “How do you know that?”
“Lil and I have had some gruesome fights over the years,” he replied, uneasily, looking over at the purple sofa. “Really gruesome…”
The three girls followed his gaze then looked back at each other.
“Add a pregnancy test to your shopping list, Fringey,” Faith said, grinning like it was Winterfest Eve.
“Is there any point?” Melinda asked. “What can she do with it, really? She can’t exactly pee on it.”
Faith laughed. “No, but I’m sure we’ll get some fluid out of her somehow…”
Broof gulped. “Wyatt, wait. I’m not ready.”
“Vampires ain’t gonna wait for you to be ready,” Wyatt replied.
Well, that was true. Broof stood outside, looking around at the tranquil forest. “But what if someone sees?”
Wyatt cocked his head, his hand comically coned around his ear, listening to the heavy silence that surrounded them. “What do you know? There’s still literally no one for miles, Hoggy. Come on, no excuses. You think you can take on a coven of ancient vampires? Prove it to me.” He walked a few paces away and turned. “Start small if you’re rusty. Try knocking the wind out of me.”
Broof sighed, grasping at straws now. “What if I hurt you?”
Wyatt winked. “I’ve got morphine in my bag.”
“Why do you have—“
“Details. Come on! Battle stance. Pretend I’m a vampire.”
“Fine.” Broof wasn’t convinced, but he lifted his arms, tried to imagine drawing energy up through his feet, as he’d been taught. Come on. Something. Anything.
Wyatt’s voice cut through Broof’s pitiful attempt. “Where’s your spark? Dude, I’m a horrible, bloodthirsty corpse over here, about to attack you.”
Broof abandoned his effort. All he’d succeeded in doing was getting pins and needles in his fingertips anyway. He sighed. “I think it’s just that you’re too, I don’t know, nice? I’m not really feeling like I want to attack you, Wyatt.”
“Your shirt is ugly.”
Broof blinked his surprise, looking down at the stripy pink and blue number he was wearing. “Really? I guess it’s a bit feminine, but Sage bought it for me—“
Wyatt burst out laughing, causing Broof’s cheeks to burn. “Dude. Don’t ever tell Mum that you hate the shirt she bought you.” He straightened up, composed himself. “It’s not ugly. I’m roleplaying. Evil vampire, remember?”
“Oh right, yeah. Would a vampire insult my shirt though? Wouldn’t they try and exploit my worst memories or deepest fears? Although, I think the fangs, bloodlust and mind-bending powers are probably enough to scare prey witless, they don’t need to say anything—“
“Hey, blood bag,” Wyatt interrupted. “I’ve got your daughter.”
Broof startled as he took in these words, the heat returning to his extremities. “Wyatt, what the f—?”
“You heard me. I took your precious little Cabbage,” Wyatt snarled in his best vampire impression. “What you gonna do about it, Beardo?”
The energy coursed through him, igniting every vein in his body. Broof tried to focus it into his hands, at his target. His voice a vicious hiss.
“I’m gonna burn you to ash.”
Wyatt squeezed his eyes shut and braced himself to be blasted into the trees. But after a few seconds of not being knocked sideways by the force of his friend’s power, he allowed himself to peek.
“—the heck is that?” he snorted, wafting his hand through the twinkles drifting from Broof’s outstretched fingers.
“Do they hurt?” Broof asked, hopelessly.
“They sting a bit,” Wyatt replied, attempting to catch one and watching it pass straight through his fist. “Are you trying?”
Broof dropped his hands to his sides and let out an exasperated sigh. “Yes I’m trying!”
“Dude,” Wyatt breathed, at a loss. “Maybe try again? We’ll have to use the same provocation, I don’t think I can go much lower than that. It really hurt to say that to you. To call you Beardo.”
Broof glared at his friend and shook his head. “I can’t; that wiped me out.” He hung his head, embarrassed. “It wasn’t the mansion, it never was. It’s me. It’s like I have some sort of mental block. It used to be so natural and now I can’t even remember how to move my hands, or how to hold the energy or—“
“Like that,” Wyatt grinned, blowing on his knuckles. “Damn, that felt good. Don’t tell my mum, you know what she’s like. Flowers not powers until a million hours! Blah blah blah.”
Broof shakily got to his feet; his whole body ached. “That was uncalled for,” he managed, through gritted teeth.
Wyatt was laughing so much that his words came as wheezes. “Oh, your face! Do you need any morphine, Hoggy?”
Broof dusted himself down carefully, wincing at the pain. “No. I’m good.”
Wyatt composed himself, wiped a tear from his eye. “How about some psilocybin tea?”
Broof shook his head in despair. “You could be saving lives with those herbalism skills, you know? But no, ‘screw humanity, let’s all get blitzed!’.”
“You always were a sore loser, Hoggy.”
Wyatt patted his friend on the back as they re-entered the house. “So, a deal’s a deal. You go sell window boxes to the old ladies of Windenburg and I’ll get toasted and go rescue April and her friends from the clutches of the evil vampire coven.”
“We didn’t make a deal,” Broof clarified, as Wyatt flexed his non-existent muscles. “But I will swing by the shop later and see if Sage knows anything about vampire cures.”
“Good luck with that.”
Broof winced. “I’ll word it delicately. And there might be something in Ma’s old grimoires, too. Other than violent hexes, I mean.”
“Might be,” Wyatt said, disinterested. “So, what shall we do now?”
“I’m going to sleep. In a proper bed. You’re going home.”
As Broof said this, the door swung open. The cool early morning air ruffled the pages of the book on the altar.
“Hey, did you?” Wyatt asked, pointing to the door, which was bumping gently against the wall. “Check you out! At least now you can politely ask the vampires to leave.”
Broof was done with Wyatt’s… everything. He loved him like a brother, but in small doses. “Get out, Wy.”
Wyatt nodded, sympathetically. “You seem stressed. Are you sure you don’t want any tea?”
“I don’t want any tea.”
“It’s rhubarb-flavoured…” Wyatt said, tantalisingly.
“Fine. Exploiting my rhubarb weakness. Put it in the damn fridge.”
Wyatt grinned and clicked his fingers. “Done. Laters, Hoggy.”
You can do it. Light a candle. For Cabbage.