Amanda couldn’t sleep. Smelly boots by her head, even smellier feet belonging to Martin when she switched positions. On top of that she had an ache in her lower back that just wouldn’t stop throbbing no matter which position she rolled, turned, folded herself into. It would be easier to stay up longer and watch the fire for a while, to really tire her out. Quietly and as stealthily as possible, she clambered over the mounds of snoring bodies and out of the van. She wasn’t alone however.
Vogel was awake too and had been for quite a while. He had more experience in sneaking out of the van quietly, she guessed, wondering why she hadn’t heard him leave earlier. His face to the fire, his form was a dark silhouette against the flames, which were still going strong. He’d clearly overcome his fear of putting his hands in, if he’d been putting extra logs on to keep the burning going. She approached quietly, trying not to spook him. As she neared, choosing to stand by his side, she saw the expression on his face. Lower lip stuck out, brow furrowed and looking over all morose, Vogel sat there, staring at the crackle and pop of the fire.
She reached out in spite of her desire not to startle him, out of instinct, merely wanting to smooth that anxious face away. When her hand made contact with his shoulder, he jumped. Vogel never did anything without great panache and energy and it was just the same now – he fell off his perch spectacularly and loudly, sprawling on the floor.
“Drummer!” It was a harsh whisper, taking the others sleeping into account.
“Sorry dude, didn’t mean…” She trailed off as he got up and sat back down on the seats they’d dragged out of the van. “Can’t sleep?” Settling in beside him, she stole a glance at him. His face was serious again, his eyes downcast.
He leant back against the seat, staring at the fire again. “I could – I mean I was but then, I-,” he squared his jaw and glanced at her, “I had this really weird fucking dream.”
A cooler was placed conveniently beside the seats and Amanda leant down, snagging two beer cans from the slush of ice. The cans were still cool and she gave one to Vogel. They opened them in unison, both taking a long swig of them. “Wanna talk about it?” She kicked her feet up on the cooler, focusing on the can, the condensation on the tin.
From experience with her brother, she knew that guys didn’t like being stared at when they talk about their feeling, preferring instead to discuss things like that when driving or when there is some other activity to focus on. So she did, watching the fire and not pressing Vogel for answers. He sat there, clutching the beer in both hands. From the way his mouth quivered and his eyes were glinting with excessive moisture (no, he wasn’t crying, thank you very much), he was clearly working through some inner turmoil.
His voice was hoarse when he spoke next. “I don’t really remember much, it wasn’t a normal dream, I mean, I don’t think it was. I think it was – I think it was real. But like it happened?”
Amanda nodded, traces circles on the dent in the can with her thumb. “Like a memory?”
Vogel frowned and muttered into the beer as he drunk. He swivelled towards her, tucking his legs up so his chin was resting on his knees.
“But I don’t get it – how can something be a memory when I don’t remember it happening?” Considering this, Amanda turned towards him as well, mirroring his position and leaning against the back of the seats. “Maybe… maybe you were really small? I know sometimes I remember stuff when I was like super small. And it’s almost like you only remember one word or – or like a-“
“A feeling?” Vogel closed his eyes. He was quiet again, more conflict showing itself in his clenched jaw, his eyes moving behind his eyelids. In truth, he was trying to remember the dream, trying to remember what had upset him so much that he couldn’t bear the thought of sleep again. Wetting his lips, he opened his eyes again and she marvelled at how dark they were. It was a rich darkness, almost the same colour as the pupil itself. A gulp and he swallowed past the lump that had formed in his throat. “She called me Jake.”
Vogel’s eyes were almost spilling tears as he admitted the next thing. “I don’t know.” He put his head against his knees now, mumbling into his dirty jeans so that Amanda had to lean forward to catch what he said. “I don’t know who it was. She called me Jake and-“ His hand reached up, seemingly absentminded as he curled a lock of his dark hair around his finger. “It was warm. And she touched my hair.” He curled his finger and the hair sprung out in a ringlet. Amanda barely had time to marve about how much grease there must be in his hair for it to stay in that shape so quickly.
She watched as Vogel looked up at her, puppy dog eyes pleading. “It was so warm and good, Drummer.” Pleading for what she wasn’t sure. For her to believe him? For comfort? She banked on the latter and touched his hair, smoothing out the ringlet. “Like this?”
Leaning into her hand, Amanda watched as he relaxed. This is what she’d wanted to do, stop those harsh worry lines on his face and let him have some peace of mind. The issue at hand was too important to ignore however. She continued to stroke his hair gently, wondering how best to phrase it.
“I think… that may have been your mother, Vogel.” He stiffened beneath her and glanced up at her.
“I don’t have a mother – the rowdies are my family.” She rolled her eyes – how could he be so clueless? He was serious however, a stubborn set in his jaw he’d learnt from Cross, almost as if it was a habit he’d taken over from a father. “You were born, weren’t you? That means you had – or well, have a mum. And a dad.” Letting this sink in, Amanda angled herself back to the fire, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and pulled him closer. His front was warmed from the fire, contrasting sharply to the cool leather of his jacket.
“I mean… I guess you’re right. I’ve never really thought about it.” He leant on her, unashamed of showing how much she supported him in that moment. The rowdies never really cared about that kind of stuff though, so they were both used to it.
“You said she called you Jake?” Amanda felt him nod, felt him settle closer against her. He smelt of smoke but then again, she supposed, so did she.
“That’s not my name though, Drummer. You know my name is Vogel right?” She felt inclined to ask him if he knew her name, as she suspected that he didn’t given him only calling her ‘Drummer’ or ‘Boss’, but now wasn’t the moment for that.
“That’s your last name though right? I mean, everyone usually has two names. Your last name is Vogel, right?”
He was so close to her now that his head was weighing heavily on her shoulder. She felt every exhale on her throat, even felt his heartbeat against hers – it was beating faster than normal. Focusing on this, she waited for his answer. It came, finally, in an anguished whisper.
“I don’t remember.” Her heart ached. Of all four, Vogel’s past had been most dubious, most shrouded in mystery. This wasn’t because he wanted to seem cool and aloof (he certainly wasn’t fooling anyone), but because he’d been taken by Blackwing at such a young age. He once told her that he remembered nothing before Blackwing and the subject hadn’t been touched upon since.
“Before us,” he nodded at the van, where the others were still snoring away loudly, “I was ‘project Incubus number four’ or… sometimes they called me ‘the fourth one’. Sometimes they also called me ‘the kid’.” Amanda’s hands tightened on him, as if she could stop him from being dragged back to that place. Even just remembering it made him shake, becoming utterly incoherent in his desperate attempt to flee whichever feelings came back flooding back. She cleared her throat, resting her head on his. “If she called you Jake, then your first name is probably Jacob.”
“Jacob?” He enunciated clearly, tasting this utterly foreign word. Perhaps it wasn’t so foreign – Amanda thought she could see something stirring in his eyes as he watched the fire. He felt something flicker in his mind, sparking like electric cables. The sparks reached even the darkest corners of his head, a corner left to collect dust and cobwebs, utterly forgotten.
“Jacob Vogel.” He murmured, trying out the new combination of words. Frowning, he bit at the inside of his cheek, conflicted. “You’re still our Vogel,” she reassured him, bringing him closer and stroking his hair again. “You’re still a rowdy. You just know your full name now.”
He clutched her free hand, both their beer cans empty and forgotten. Whilst squeezing hard, he muttered to himself. “My name is Jacob Vogel. And I had a mom. And a – and a dad.” She felt him shaking, trembling from head to toe. He didn’t cry, but he let Amanda hold him close/ Her warmth comforted him, as did the fire. His situation hadn’t really changed, he just knew something more about his past. He was still a member of the Rowdy three, he still had his family. But perhaps he had more than just one.
Martin turned over onto his side. His heart ached. Even he hadn’t known Vogel’s first name. There had been a moment, during their release of Blackwing when they could have demanded their files but all they wanted to do was leave and put as much distance between them and the facility. They were too busy thinking about to do after that, what to do with Vogel and their own vampiric tendencies, how to make sure they all stayed safe and away from Blackwing - they’d never thought about going back for the files.
Martin ground his teeth, staring at the blurry outline of Cross, underneath a blanket. He knew how hard it was to lose family – leaving them behind by choice or without one, or through death and it was a terrible ordeal he wished upon no one. Least of all, their cheerful, smashy youngest. Even though Amanda was younger than him, they all still thought of Vogel as their youngest brother. Drummer seemed to have taken on the role of mothering older sister quickly and easily. She had no qualms in keeping him line, even though this was almost never necessary. She also knew how to comfort him, just as she was doing now. Martin hoped that her warm arms and reassurances put his anxieties to rest, even just for the rest of the night.
He knew he wasn’t the only one eavesdropping and he nudged Cross with his toe. Though his eyes were closed, Cross had heard every word and had his hand pressed against his chest, where he hurt. It was a dull, aching throb and he pressed harder, trying to alleviate the pain. Gripps was similarly awake, staring at the knackered, splattered ceiling of the van. His hand was over his chest too, trying to relieve the uncomfortable squeeze there.
As one, they spoke. “No one is ever going to hurt him like this again.” And though it went unspoken, their deal was clear. They would kill anyone who tried to hurt him or any other member of the group. Their family was staying together. And woe betide anyone who tried to rip them apart.