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Auld Lang Syne

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December 31st 2007

Edgar was alone, far away from the crowds of people who would soon be drunkenly singing Auld Lang Syne as they wished one another happiness and luck for the new year, but for some reason, the words first few lines of the song were very much in his mind.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Of course, it wasn't a question he had ever been asked to answer, but if he had been, there was a time when he would have said no. It seemed that forgetting someone could never be a good thing. Now, he almost wished that he could. It would make things so much easier.

Edgar spent New Year's inside for the first time in as long as he could remember. He had double checked the salt circle surrounding his trailer earlier that afternoon, and put down an extra layer for good measure. The days and nights had long since begun to blur into one, but he had taken extra care to be aware when this particular night came around. He didn't want to be caught out when he came.

He had never actually seen him, but he knew he was there; he felt his presence, silently watching him. Not on any other night of the year, but on New Year's Eve, every year since he had been gone. It was almost as though he had come to wish him all the best, or maybe just to see whether he had survived another year.

He had survived, but only barely. With each loss, he was further diminished; just like when he had lost Alan, he felt like a piece of him had died when he learned that Sam had surrendered to the bloodlust, and again on that night when he had driven a stake through the heart of his only remaining friend.

The memory was still fresh in his mind, and he knew that it always would be. Things like that just didn't fade. Every time he killed a vampire, that memory would rise to the surface. Every time he thought about Sam, every time he saw his photograph. Every New Years Eve.

It was strange that New Year's had come to mean something to him. It had never used to. He had understood it's symbolic significance, the idea of new beginnings, moving on, looking to the future, but it had always seemed like such a pointless holiday. It was funny how things changed.

Of course, it had changed and then changed again. It meant something different again to him now. Their traditional welcoming of the new year from the beach was a thing of the past. He was beginning a new tradition, one that involved doing nothing at all.

He had come full circle.

He pulled down all the blinds covering his trailer's dirty windows, making sure that they were completely closed. If he came – and Edgar knew that he would – he didn't want to see him. He always kept out of sight, and Edgar was sure by now that whatever his reason for visiting, he meant him no harm, but he just didn't want to see him like that. He couldn't.

He switched on all the lights, turned on the TV and tuned it to a channel that didn't give a damn about what day of the year it was. He spent the night watching the Cartoon Network, while all the time listening with one ear for any sound from outside that would indicate Alan's presence.

He heard nothing, but vampires were quiet. He almost managed to convince himself that he wasn't coming, until he sensed him. That didn't happen with other vampires. He didn't know whether it was something that the vampire was doing deliberately, to tell him he was there, or whether it was just because of who he had used to be, but it felt the same every year, a creeping feeling under his skin, a restlessness, and the knowledge that he had being watched.

He closed his eyes tightly and turned up the volume on the TV. He took care to control his breathing, keeping it slow and even as he waited for the feeling to pass.

When it finally did, he checked his watch. 12.01, right on schedule. He took a deep breath and turned down the volume to a more comfortable level, then waited, making sure that he was gone.

“Happy New Year,” he whispered into the air. There was no Sam to return the greeting this time, and he didn't know if Alan would hear him, but he said it anyway.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

He wished it was that easy.

December 31st 1994

New Years Eve on the beach had become something of a tradition. It was one that had evolved slowly. Sam had started it, encouraging them first out of the house and onto the boardwalk to join in the celebrations. From there, one year they had moved down onto the beach and finally someone – Edgar could no longer remember who – had suggested getting out of the crowd.

It always felt good to be away from the bright lights and loud sounds of town. He and Sam walked quickly over the uneven sand with no particular destination in mind, just somewhere away. Somewhere where they could see in the new year without the taint of Santa Carla's evil seeping in.

They would be followed, he was certain of that, but he didn't care. He didn't know whether Sam was aware that they had company, he had never mentioned it, but Edgar was sure they were safe. Sam might not be as accomplished a hunter as Edgar was, or as Alan had been, but he had seen his fair share of monsters since he moved to town. Between the two of them, both armed, they could take care of it if they got into trouble.

They picked a spot a mile or two from the boardwalk, where the cliffs towered above them but there was still sand to sit on. It was far enough away that they felt out of town, but close enough that they could still just about make out the lights of the boardwalk in the distance. The constant roar of the crowd and the boardwalk rides were gone; muted by the distance. As always, the only sound was of the waves breaking on the shore.

It was an unseasonably warm night. After the slight exertion of the walk Edgar realized that he was sweating as he sank onto the cool sand. He removed his jacket and left it next to him on the beach. Sam reached into his bag and pulled out two cans of beer. Silently, he passed one to Edgar. He took it gratefully and pulled the tab. The liquid fizzed out over his hand, spilling down onto his t-shirt. He glared at Sam, who shrugged apologetically. He opened his own drink holding it out to the side, keeping the mess away from his clothes and then leaned away to talk his first sip

Out on the beach, they had no cues to tell them the time. In town you knew it was midnight by the cheer coming from the crowds on the boardwalk, and a hundred different bars and parties. Sam set his digital watch to beep on the hour. He checked the time, it was not even eleven.

Edgar took a long drag of his beer. “So, we got twelve bloodsuckers this year?” he said.

“Thirteen,” Sam corrected with a shake of his head.

“Right.” Not too bad, all things considered. Considering they were a man down. But the thing about vampires was, they bred. An ordinary coven might remain the same for hundreds of years, but once you introduced a vampire hunter into the mix, they would begin to replenish their numbers. They would turn humans to replace lost vampires, they would turn humans pre-emptively in the knowledge that they would lose vampires in the future.

They would turn vampire hunters, removing a threat and replenishing their own ranks in the process.

Sometimes, Edgar wondered how much good he was actually doing by killing the vampires. In nature, every animal had something else that wanted to eat it. Humans liked to consider themselves to be at the top of the food chain, they didn't like it when something else bigger and stronger came along, but maybe that was just the way of the world.

But he couldn't bring himself to stop. Not while there was still evil in the world, he had to fight to vanquish it, even if it eventually cost him his own life.

“You okay?” asked Sam.

His friend was looking at him sideways, with an expression of concern on his face.

Edgar nodded reassuringly and smiled. “Thirteen,” he repeated. “So, what do you think next year? Double it?”

“Maybe even triple it.” Sam said with a smile, but Edgar could somehow tell that his heart wasn't in it either. It was temporary, he was sure, they would get over it eventually. Pain could only last so long. At least, that was what he hoped.

He glanced up at the cliffs above them. He wasn't there yet. Maybe he wouldn't come.

Sam tilted his head back, bringing his can to his lips and drained the drink completely in a series of long gulps. Then he placed it back inside the bag by his feet and pulled out another. He offered one to Edgar, who took it and left it on the sand until it was needed.

Sam seemed restless. He readjusted his position on the sand, cleared his throat and looked at Edgar out of the corner of his eye. Suddenly, Edgar could almost sense nervous energy coming off of him in waves. Edgar tried to ignore it, but he couldn't. He poured a little more beer down his throat and looked at his friend. “What?”

“What, what?” Sam asked. His voice almost squeaked as he replied.

Edgar shrugged and shook his head, turning away to look out over the expansive black of the ocean.

“Okay, um, Edgar?” Sam cleared his throat, and Edgar turned back and waited. “There's something I've been meaning to tell you. I don't want you to freak out or get mad or anything, and if I could not tell you, I would, but I need to, okay?”

Edgar frowned, and continued to look at him. His mind raced through various different possibilities of what he was about to hear. If it had Sam this worried, he wasn't sure he wanted to know it. He nodded, somewhat reluctantly. “Okay.”

“The thing is, Edgar, I... like you.”

In the moonlight, Edgar could make out the glistening of sweat on Sam's brow, and the flush of color in his cheeks. He tried to understand the problem. They were friends. If Sam didn't like him, that would be a problem. There was something more going on here than he realized. Sam looked away.

“I just wanted you to know, that's all.”

“You like...” Edgar's eyes widened as he realized what Sam was saying. “Do you mean what I think you mean?” He had promised not to freak out, he tried to keep his word.

Sam nodded, and looked away. “I just wanted to tell you, because the way things are, we never know how much longer we've got. One of us could die tomorrow, I didn't want to die without letting you know.”

Edgar slumped a little on the sand, too surprised to say anything. Mutely, he took another sip of his drink.

“I'm sorry,” Sam told him. He got to his feet and moved several steps away, crossing his arms across his chest as though he were hugging himself.

Edgar shook his head. “Jesus, Sam. What am I supposed to do with something like that?”

“Nothing,” Sam told him. “I don't want you to do anything. Just, accept it.”

Jesus. Just accept it. He knew Sam liked guys, he had known for as long as they had been friends, it didn't make any difference. It had just never occurred to him that Sam might like him.

“You're just gonna drop that on me in the middle of the night, no warning, no explanation, just...” he tailed off.

Sam moved somewhat hesitantly closer to him and sat down a little further away than he had been before. His arms still folded, creating a barrier between them, he looked Edgar straight in the eye. He chewed his lip nervously, but when he spoke, it was with a kind of confidence that Edgar had never heard from him before. “Yeah, I am. It needed to be said. It's been needing to be said for years. You've been so down the last few years. I thought you should know that someone still... cares.”

“Sam, I've been down because Alan's gone, but it's got nothing to do with this kind of stuff.”

“I know that. I miss him too. Not like you do, I know, but he was my friend. But tonight's New Year's. It's about looking to the future, not the past.”

Edgar shook his head. “And in the spirit of looking to the future, you decided to tell me that?”

“Well, you never know what's going to happen around the next corner. But no.” He backed off a little and shrugged. “No expectations. No hopes – well, not really. I just wanted you to know.”

Edgar sighed deeply and looked at his best and only friend. Sam appeared totally unconcerned that he might be risking his friendship with Edgar. The thought had clearly never entered his mind that Edgar might run.

He brushed a hand through his ever lengthening hair and fidgeted a little nervously with his ever present band of fabric tied around his head, then he reached out with one arm and gave Sam's shoulder a quick squeeze. A rare action for Edgar, who normally liked to keep his distance from everyone, but he thought that this time it needed to be done. “Thanks, Sam.”

“Any time, man,” Sam told him. “Any time at all.”

December 31, 1992

It was a particularly cold night, by Santa Carla standards. Winters could be chilly, but this one had been much harsher than Edgar ever remembered. Of course, his perception was slightly skewed given the events of the latter half of the year.

The wind cut through the fabric of his clothes and he shivered, wrapping his arms around himself and tightening his denim jacket against his body. The waves crashed loudly against the jagged rocks on the shore, the clouds hid the moon and stars from sight, blocking almost all light. The sea was an endless expanse of black, heading out into eternity.

Sam stood by his side. Only Sam. There was no Alan this year. Alan would never be with them again. Once again, he felt his eyes tear up, and saw what vision the darkness of the night allowed him begin to blur. He turned away from Sam, fought back the grief, disguising the sob with a cough, and blinked until his vision cleared. Warm tears leaked from his eyes and quickly cooled in the cold night air. He wiped them away with his fingers and cleared his throat before he turned back.

Sam was looking at him with concern. His poorly executed attempt to disguise his feelings had failed badly. He looked his friend in the eye and attempted a smile. He shrugged apologetically. Sam's head jerked quickly from left to right, telling him not to worry about it. He reached out with one arm as though he meant to put it around his shoulders, but stopped before he made contact, remembering that Edgar didn't do that. Instead, he dropped to the ground, and stared out over the black ocean.

Edgar sat down next to him. The sand was dry, but cold, and the chill soaked quickly through his combat pants and into his skin.

They sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, neither able to think of the words to say. New Year's Eve had always been an event for the three of them. It was a time to look back on the year that was ending, and to make plans for the one that was about to begin. But this was not a year Edgar wanted to remember, and looking forward the future seemed as dark and black as the ocean. Without Alan, he didn't know how he was going to continue.

Sam checked his watch, Edgar observed him out of the corner of his eye.

“Happy New Year,” he said quietly, and Edgar turned to look at him.

“Yeah, you too,” he muttered, fighting down another wave of grief.

Unnoticed on the cliffs above them, a third figure stood watching them. His keen night vision allowed him a perfect view of the two men alone on the beach. The sea in front of them was beautiful by night, much more even than it had been during the day when it reflected the blue in the sky, black was the color of night, his home.

His sensitive hearing picked up the half whispered words, and heard the sadness contained within them. He closed his eyes and allowed himself just a moment of regret, before he repeated the words quietly into the nighttime, knowing he wouldn't be heard, and then took to the sky.

Down on the beach, Edgar froze, sensing something, but not sure what. He leapt to his feet and turned around slowly, checking the area for anything untoward, his hand gripped the wooden stake in its holster at his hip. As quickly as he had noticed it, whatever it was had gone. He allowed his muscles to relax and turned back to Sam, who had stood and was looking around nervously.

“Come on, lets get out of here,” he said.

Sam nodded and planted his hands deeply in his pockets. They walked back up the beach toward town.

In the sky above them, Edgar was sure he saw a shadow.

December 31st 1987

It was strange, having Sam around. Normally, Edgar and Alan celebrated New Year's alone. It wasn't so much a celebration, there was no music involved, no party, no fireworks. Not even a television showing the celebration happening in one of the big cities. Edgar didn't understand New Year's. It was just another night. The fact that it marked the end of one year and the beginning of another didn't really seem relevant, it was nothing but an arbitrarily chosen moment in time when the calender moved from one month to the next.

There was no real reason for celebration except for the fact that despite living in Santa Carla, they had managed to survive another year. And given what had happened this year, he supposed that was worthy of note.

They had closed up the shop several hours ago. Their parents had disappeared somewhere, maybe to a party, maybe to buy more weed. Maybe just to their room. It didn't matter, they wouldn't see them until the next morning, maybe even the day after.

Edgar sat on the cash desk, his legs hanging down in front of him, while Alan fiddled with the old, black and white television, adjusting the aerial, and trying to tune it in to a channel. Sam paced restlessly up and down the shop, glancing occasionally out of the window at the people passing by, most of them in groups, many of them staggering slightly under the influence of one substance or another.

Alan sighed loudly and shook his head. “Sorry, Sam. It just won't work. This thing hadn't picked up a TV signal in years, we just use it to play videos from the VCR.”

Sam frowned. “Guys, it's not New Year's Eve without watching the ball drop.” He sighed dramatically. “Okay, we've still got time to get back to my house if we ride our bikes.”

Edgar and Alan exchanged an glance and shook their heads. “Too dangerous,” Alan said.

“Dangerous how?” Sam asked.

Edgar pointed out of the window to the growing crowds outside. “Look out there, Sam. All those people? It's like a vampire smorgasbord. They'll be out in force tonight.”

“Come on, guys. It's a tradition!”

Edgar and Alan shook their heads again. “It's your tradition, not ours,” Alan informed him.

“We've got our own,” Edgar added.

Sam looked at them both in frustration. “But your tradition is just to stay in and not do anything. It's boring.”

Alan switched off the television, cutting out the static whine that had been filling the room. Silence suddenly spread through the shop. “It's less boring than watching a bunch of people in New York stand around freezing their asses off waiting for midnight,” he said.

“Okay, how about this,” Sam said. Edgar and Alan both looked at him expectantly. “Yeah, there's a lot of people out there, and maybe the vampires will be hunting, but if you guys are out there, that'll put them off, right? So lets forget about the TV, and make a new tradition, we'll go out, and see what's going on out there. I bet there's fireworks somewhere...” He grinned enthusiastically.

Edgar glanced at his brother and Alan shrugged. Edgar nodded once, and Alan copied the gesture. They turned to Sam. “I'll get some weapons,” Alan said.

January 1st 1987

It hadn't even occurred to Edgar that it was New Year's Eve until it was almost the beginning of New Year's Day. After closing up the shop, they had headed upstairs to do some research, reading comic books while the clock slowly counted down the minutes to midnight.

The realization of the date had seemed to occur to Alan at the exact same time it did to him. As though by some mutually agreed, unspoken decision, they had both looked up to the old clock mounted on the bedroom wall and watched the final few seconds of the old year disappear. Then they had shrugged, and studiously got back to their reading.

Outside the window, the traditional cheer had sounded out as, a few minutes later than their slightly fast clock, the date actually changed, and 1986 was consigned to the history books.

It had been an unremarkable year, nothing even remotely interesting had happened, but something hung in the air around town, something dark, and sinister and evil. They had no proof, not yet, but both Edgar and Alan knew that they were out there. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Santa Carla night was full of vampires.

They read all night. It wasn't unusual for them, they had no reason to get up in the morning. School was closed for another week and the shop didn't need to be opened at the crack of dawn. Especially not on this particular morning. So they lay on the floor, reading comic after comic, devouring every word and carefully filing them away future use, knowing that something they learned could one day save their lives. Soon they would need this knowledge, Edgar was sure of it.

The hands of the clock continued to move around, taking them further and further into 1987. Through the open bedroom curtain, the night sky eventually began to lighten to dark blue, and then grow gradually lighter until the night was nothing but a memory.

Edgar stifled a yawn and got to his feet. He walked to the window and looked outside. The boardwalk was almost entirely deserted, save for a drunk staggering home and a few business owners getting an early start on setting up. A bit over-optimistic, Edgar thought. Most years they didn't get their first customer until the middle of the afternoon on January 1st.

He slid the window open and leaned outside slightly, watching the world go by. The cold, morning air seeped inside. Edgar breathed it in, and shivered.

Alan looked up with half open eyes from his comic book. He was laying on the floor, obviously more asleep than awake. His beret was still clinging to his head at an odd angle, slightly squashed. “What are you doing?” he asked.

Edgar turned to look at him. “Just watching the sunrise,” he said.

“How?” asked Alan, sleepily. “The window faces the wrong way, the sun rises at the other side of the house. Anyway, can't you do it with the window closed?”

“Smart ass,” Edgar told him. “I'm just watching it get lighter then.” He took a deep breath and inhaled the fresh air of the new day. “The first sunrise of 1987. This is going to be our year, bro. I can feel it. This time next year, we'll be heroes.”

Alan nodded and allowed his eyes to slip shut.

Edgar turned back to the window and pulled it closed again. He smiled. “From this point on, things are going to start going right.”