When the Changes had first began, he’d been scared. Once a month, every month, he’d wake up somewhere strange, lost and confused, and scared , more scared than he thought he could be. He’d eventually crawl home, naked and bloody with pink matter beneath his nails and blood in his mouth. The first time it happened, he had only been twelve. His mother had simply sighed once she’d gotten over her initial shock and left it to his father to explain lycanthropy to him.
Now, he almost revelled in the Changes. He still had little memory of what went on when he was Changed, but that didn't matter. The little flashes that swept through his mind - of Joey struggling to keep up, always the last to fully change, of Acey showing off by swinging round trees and telephone poles - were enough to reassure him that he had fun. The flesh that always seemed embedded beneath his nails after a full moon might be a stark reminder that they hunted and killed for food - hunted people - but the deaths reported were always of criminals, who’d apparently been attacking people before Wednesday and his little gang swept in, like werewolf vigilantes.
That was pretty cool, so he decided not to sweat it too much.
Except they’d been seen one day. One of them, Wednesday didn't know which, had woken up a bit too close to visible public territory. They hadn’t been caught, luckily, and had run off into the wilderness to pull their clothes back on before they could be caught, and had come to accept that Changing in public was too risky.
Now they were little more than grifters when they Changed back, stealing food when they had to and shivering against the cold whilst huddled around fires in metal trash cans like hobos whilst they tried to summon up the energy to locate their bus.
Somehow, it didn't seem too bad. They had a bus, they had money for gas and food, and nobody had actually caught sight of their faces, so they could continue with their band, living the life of nomads they found suited them.
Acey was the newest to join Wednesday’s band. He’d been in another band, a lone human amongst vampires, and Weds had Changed him upon request, though stating that it was unlikely he could ever join his old band again, that vampires and werewolves had an ancient, instinctual hatred and fear of one another.
“I’ll be fine. I know what I’m asking for,” he’d murmured, eyes cast down like they both knew he’d been lying. He was both older and taller than Wednesday, older than all of them, but Wednesday somehow doubted he’d seen as much as them. Despite the vampirism, his old band - Wednesday refused to dirty his mouth with their name - had done much to keep him out of supernatural circles. As such, he was strangely innocent, in a way Wednesday might find endearing if he wanted to think about it too much.
Humans and supernaturals didn't do well together. The amount of blood his old band had drank from him when the need had occurred had proved that, but they had tried to protect him and keep him safe.
And not that Wednesday had ever regretted turning him. Selfishly, Wednesday refused to feel remorse for not holding off and waiting until Acey had pushed further for it, certain he wanted to be Changed. It was safer for him to be the same as them. Besides, his old band hated Wednesday and his, and Acey would have to pick a side one day. He couldn’t stay in the middle forever.
And Edsel had refused to turn him. The band toured too infrequently, too hard when they did, and their partying made a situation as far from ideal for a new vampire as it could get, if the attempts to change him didn't outright kill him. It was the only thing Wednesday respected the vampire for.
Now though, they were huddled around yet another trashcan fire under yet another bridge, chattering about what they remembered and laughing amongst themselves, pretending they weren’t as cold as they were, though they still had to stamp their feet in a futile attempt to stay the cold from time to time.
It had been too cold last night, cold enough for the pain of Changing to not affect them, leaving them fully conscious the whole time, and whilst they had located their clothes quickly, their bus was at least a mile away. Piccadilly, if he remembered correctly, but it was too cold to think. Best to wait around the fire until the sun came up to burn off the icy February fog. Then they could get their wallets and get coffee, and think then.
The sun rose not long later, but it was still too cold. Ben made them all check their pockets for loose change, and went to get them cheap coffee once they had located enough money. He returned not fifteen minutes later, cradling three cups against his lanky frame. The five of them split the coffee as equally as they could, burning their throats with their sips and warming their fingers on the polystyrene.
The coffee had injected some sense of proper cheer into them, warming them up enough to hunt for the bus. Wednesday lit a cigarette, smoking as the group walked, enjoying the sight of the smoke curling into the sky. Not wanting to be outdone, Eric huffed, grinning, his breath misting in the air. Weds grinned, expelling another stream of smoke, far thicker than Eric’s breath.
“Goddammit,” he grumbled, but he was still grinning. Wednesday leaned as he walked to bump shoulders with him. Joey made a point to move out of their way as they veered around on the sidewalk, though Acey and Ben were tall and solid enough to not pay them any mind.
They all stopped in the middle of one bridge, chatter dying like a candle being snuffed out. Wednesday wasn’t sure which bridge it was, though he knew most bridges in London had names.
Across the bridge, on the other sidewalk, a group of several people were capering about, jolly despite the cold and hour. Something about them seemed unnatural, inhuman, so solid in their space yet moving lightly, like paper string in the wind, and Wednesday wanted to move, wanted to get away from them, fear coiling in his stomach.
That was silly. They were just people having fun in London at half past eight in the morning.
Turning to his bandmates, they too were transfixed on the group across the road. Acey was the most visibly confused, like he didn't know why he was suddenly scared, and Ben seemed almost angry. Joey was simply staring, face unnervingly blank, and Eric was just tense, like he was preparing for a fight.
Turning back, Wednesday still felt that unease and fear, bubbling away. He was just about to walk on and ignore them, pretend they didn’t seem weird, when one of them jumped off the bench she’d clambered onto.
Her coat flapped behind her, almost like wings, and her long, stupidly voluminous skirt made a parachute around her, baring sickly pale legs. By the time her skirt had returned to its normal place, her legs had already begun to turn pink in a flash of bright winter sunlight, though she didn't seem too phased, landing on the tarmac as lightly as a cat. One of her companions laughed at something another one said, mouth hanging open, and even from this distance his teeth seemed too big, too white against the vivid red of his mouth.
Wednesday seemed to kick into motion like a marionette doll, stumbling off down the road like he wasn’t really in control of his legs. The sensation only lasted a few seconds, as his fear relented. The vampires hadn’t seen them, and from this distance, they wouldn’t even be able to smell them as werewolves, not with the traffic.
The others quickly caught up, pale faced, cheer gone. Ben tried to restore it again by talking about his latest night with a groupie, about dumb shit his brother had said, anything to distract from the vamps. Eric joined in, turning his mind away from the creatures, and then Joey joined in.
Acey was still silent, eyes glazed over like he wasn’t really with them.
This was the first time he’d seen a vampire since he was turned, Wednesday realised, feeling a sudden jab of pity for him.
He was still trying to maintain a good relationship with his old band, but he’d never really grasped how ingrained the hatred and fear of vampires was for werewolves, always believed it to be hyperbole. Now he knew the reality, and he looked like he’d had his whole world ripped out from beneath him.
“I hang out in supernatural bands,” he said quietly, not looking at him, not looking at any of them. Somehow his voice cut through Eric’s, and they all turned to him. “It’s safer for me like this.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to avoid vampires. If they knew you as a human, they-” Joey cut himself off, his face screwing up, trying to think of what he could say. “If they let a human in their band despite the dangers, and actively kept him safe, they might not hate that human as a werewolf.”
“Yeah. Maybe.” But Acey kicked a stone viciously, still upset, sending it skittering down the sidewalk. Nobody spoke.
A minute later he broke the silence. “I suppose I should have waited, and thought it out properly.” He spat the words bitterly, and Wednesday ignored the hazy memories of that night.
“Maybe. I should have made you wait, though. It’s my fault as much as yours.” More silence followed, and Wednesday tilted his head, another question coming to mind. “Would you have made a different choice?”
Acey was quiet, stopping in his tracks, before his face twisted indignantly. “Of course not.” His shoulders pulled him into a slouch, like he was trying to disappear, like his shoulders were trying to melt into the tarmac, but then he straightened and started walking again, hands in pockets, face calmly blank, looking the picture of composure.
He only put his hands in his pockets to hide them shaking. Wednesday knew him too well to think anything else. He bumped shoulders with him when Acey caught up to him, trying to convey sympathy and understanding he didn't know how to phrase. Acey bumped back, giving him a nod and a queasy smile Wednesday didn't want to translate as grateful.
They were only a few streets from their bus by now, having somehow lost ten minutes in their vampire-induced angst. Joey’s stomach rumbled, and then it was a chain of reaction with all their stomachs.
“Think breakfast is in order,” Wednesday grinned in a brief moment of silence between stomach gurgles.
That restored the missing cheer, and they all spent the remaining walk making verbal lists of what they wanted to eat, picking apart each others’ choices in a way only close friends could.
By the time they’d reached the bus, their driver shaking his head good-naturedly, used to their monthly antics, they’d made their choices, vampires all but forgotten. Wednesday vowed to put them - and Acey’s dilemma - out of his head. Acey would decide for himself, and whatever he chose, Wednesday knew he’d support him. Even if he chose the other band, even if he cut all ties with them, even if they’d lose their tempers and say shit they’d regret, only to come running back years later.
Oh yes, this is such a good snapshot of our happy, carefree lives , he thought bitterly, stepping onto the bus after Ben. Acey being emo over his life choices and us failing to cheer him up, wandering around London looking for the bus like losers after spending a night as a werewolf. The door shut behind him, shutting out the cold and vampires of London, though he was so lost in his own thoughts he barely registered the warmth.
An hour later, they were back on the bus, full of waffles and eggs and bacon and every breakfast food they had been able to think of, but still wanting more. Hunched over hot buttered toast on the sofa, crammed between Acey and Eric, Ben dangling off the back of the sofa to tell a story about another groupie - or maybe the same one as earlier - whilst Joey perched on the armrest, Wednesday decided this was a far better candid of their lives.