Eddie was probably starving to death.
He knows he's been hungry for a long time.
Chrissy shriveled up in front of him, like something was sucking everything out of her from the inside, and he'd been hungry for a week, hiding in Rick's house, spacing out cans of spaghettios. He missed that kind of hungry, just a pit in his stomach. That was familiar. He could fix it with a pizza or stealing a candy bar from the gas station.
Nothing fixed this kind of hungry. It took over his entire mind. He was so hungry everything stopped hurting. He was cold, even through his half destroyed jacket, but it didn't matter. He was dirty but he had always been dirty. What was a little unholy filth compared to the weird rash he got from the bugs in his old mattress?
He was so hungry that he barely noticed the stench, or the way the air burned his lungs. Like the whole world was an unfiltered cigarette.
So hungry he did terrible, terrible things.
It was all worth it. Anything was worth plugging the hole in his guts that seemed to leak away anything he put inside.
Then the food dried up.
There had been deer that wandered through, and the fucking bats when he could catch them. But there hadn't been anything for a long time. Maybe weeks, he couldn't tell how long without the sun to mark the time passing.
The castle was gone. Which could't be a bad thing. That had to mean that the kid's kicked Vecna's ass. It had to. And the food disappeared because the evil bastard wasn't around to manifest anything anymore, or open up portals. Eddie thought he was okay with starving to death if that was why.
Even if it was taking for fucking ever.
He avoided the trailer for a long time. Early days he'd dragged things through and filled his belly up with whatever he found. But he hadn't been back since Wayne. Poor old bastard was never around but he didn't deserve to die like that. He was a standup guy. Better than Eddie.
He was finally hungry enough even that couldn't dissuade himself from going home. His body remembered it, and his legs seemed to trudge forward all on their own, as much as he wanted to stay away.
It was all the same. Everything familiar but grown over with a dozen layers of half decayed vines and ash. Something else had been through and chowed down on the dessicated husk of his leftovers. None of the bodies remained. The portal didn't seem active. It had been pulsing before, now it was just a membrane. Like a scab. He couldn't smell anything through it.
He tried not to be disappointed. It was better this way. He could die at home. Or some sick recreation of it at least. Frodo hadn't even gotten that. He'd had to sail off to the West and go on one last adventure.
There was something nice about knowing that he'd die sitting in that shitty recliner, surrounded by things that made sense before everything went to shit.
He wished the warlock was still here, he could have played a little. The bats didn't seem to be around anymore to care about the noise. He couldn't blame Dustin for taking it when he left though. The kid deserved something, Eddie felt bad, traumatizing him and then not even having the decency to stay dead.
Instead he just let his fingers follow melodies, pulled up into the familiar position. Strange World seemed fitting. He let his fingers move across the smooth neck of the guitar in his mind. The song was a good pick to keep his mind busy, the strumming kept his fingers busy, he could hear it in his mind, wistful and spiraling slowly into the unknown. Eventually he strayed away, dreaming new melodies of his own as everything faded. The stench, the hunger, the bonedeep sadness. It was all gone and soon his fingers weren't moving anymore. The song only existed in the confines of his skull, rattling around between his ears.
The sound of his name was unfamiliar. He hadn't heard it in such a long time. But the voice was familiar. He'd heard that half whiny, half raspy voice over dozens of games. It was the last voice he could really remember. It sounded just as watery now.
He didn't want the memory of Dustin to interrupt his song. It made him too sad. Made him feel things. He didn't want to feel anything. When he remembered his body he remembered how hungry he was.
That was a different voice. High, almost squeaky, but in the most pleasant way possible. Like a mouse. He dreamed about that voice all the time. The dreams always turned into nightmares. In his memories when her voice stopped she was absent, her face blank, suddenly floating up toward the ceiling. In his nightmares when her voice stopped it was because her throat was gone. Blood spilling down her front. Broken and drained like Wayne had been.
Someone is touching him. He had forgotten what that felt like. It is warm. No. It is hot. Burning. He wants to lift his hand and bat away at the coal touching his throat but he can't, his hands won't move, stuck in G for a song he can't hear anymore.
“He's cold, but I can feel a pulse, it's weak. Barely there.” Dustin again. He was crying. God Eddie hated it when the kid cried. “Chrissy he's not breathing.”
Slap! The impact left behind a quickly fading hot spot on his cheek. Someone grew a pair. He hoped it was Chrissy. He liked the idea of her all firey. She always was a fighter.
“Eddie WAKE UP! Remember that's what you told me, when I was getting Vecna'd. That's all I heard for weeks. I DON'T LIKE THIS. Laying in my fucking coffin feeling guilty for scaring you. DON'T FUCKING DIE ON ME. Eddie BREATHE”
Who am I to deny the lady?
He opened his mouth and took a breath. It makes an ugly sound and an uglier feeling deep down in his guts. The hunger roared back to life and he groaned, clutching his stomach.
The breaths kept coming and they felt like a knife in his gut. Every breath reminded him that his stomach is a raw, abused nerve. It made his spine curl in, hands clutching at his rib cage.
“Dustin, Dustin,” Chrissy whispered, her breath wafting gently across Eddie's face.“Look in his mouth.”
“Shit! Why are his teeth so fucking sharp?”
Chrissy didn't miss a beat. “Because predators need fangs.”
“Dn wnnart oo,” Eddie tried to reassure them. He still couldn't force his body to work the way he wanted. It didn't want to move from the position curled into himself, clutching his stomach.
Dustin was shaking him. “He's talking! Eddie! Eddie? Tell me what you need man. We're gonna get you home.”
He groaned, the fire in his stomach burning out through his veins. “Mm'so hungry. Srr, Sorry. Don wanna hurt you.”
They needed to leave. He was trying. God he was trying. It was good he was starving. It meant he was too weak to reach out and grab anyone. Even though they smelled so fucking good. Dustin had been eating cheetos, the little bastard. And Chrissy was so clean, smelled like strawberry shampoo and doublemint gum. He wanted to take a bite.
“Give me the knife,” Chrissy said, her voice even, steady.
So this is how it was going to end. Killed by the cheerleader. There was something metal about that. He was used to playing the monster so other people got to be heros. He liked the idea of Chrissy doing it. She deserved to be a hero. He could always tell there was something lurking there, under her surface. More than the pain of course. That was obvious. Hero stuff, that was deeper. That was what made her seek him out when she was scared. She wasn't going to let her brain torture her without a fight.
She was still fighting. It made Eddie smile.
Chrissy smelled good but this was her times a thousand. Strawberries and doublemint had nothing on this. Tangy, mettalic, meaty. Still Chrissy though. Warm and full of life. His eyes popped open. And all he could see was the pale thin skin of a wrist, and slowly dripping blood. It was so close. His mouth would be watering if he wasn't so dried out. He felt his jaw snap shut, and he pulled away, panicked. He'd almost bitten her.
He forced his eyes closed again. He had to focus. Her skin was pressed on his mouth, hot and wet and the smell was everywhere. Didn't she understand the danger she was in? He bit his lips, needlesharp teeth slicing right through the dessicated skin.
“Eddie,” Chrissy said, her voice firm again. “Drink.”
He shook his head. He wasn't going to hurt her.
“Eddie,” Her voice was softer. The fingertips of her other hand brushed his cheek. “Please don't make us break your jaw to get it open. I don't want to do that to your face.”
He didn't want her to do that either. Chrissy was gentle. It would hurt her to hurt him. She would do it though. She was mashing down her wrist on his lips and the tips of his fangs had to be hurting the fragile skin.
He opened his mouth.
She was warm and thick and carried a tang of metal that made him roll his eyes back. Her arm felt good under his fingertips, fleshy and springy with muscle. When had he grabbed it? He swallowed and she continued to fill his mouth, a steady drip drip drip. His jaw worked, and he wondered how good it would feel to sink his teeth in there and tear away the barrier of her skin, turn that steady drip into a gush of hot, coppery goodness. His tongue felt right again, less papery. When the flow slowed he licked and reopened it with his saliva. Her perfume was just like her shampoo, strawberries and cream scent deepening the flavor of her.
He lunged forward, jaw snapping shut.
“Shit!” Dustin screamed, his body scrabbling over the vines assorted litter.
There was pain, a dull thud at the back of Eddie's skull.
And then there was darkness.
It took half an hour of pressure to stop the blood flow after Eddie licked her.
Dustin peeled back the bandana he'd used to staunch it and taped on a bandage. He really seemed to have everything in that pack of his. “His saliva must be an anti-coagulant. It makes sense that a vampire would have something like that, to keep the food flowing.”
“Don't call him that.”
“What? Vampire? I've gotta have some way to refer to his situation. He liked vampires.” A smile broke across Dustin's face for just a second, bright and so young that Chrissy was struck for a moment by the fact that he was graduating in five months. “Eddie likes vampires. He won't be offended.”
Chrissy certainly had been. They'd called her a zombie for weeks after they dug her up out of the cemetary. It didn't seem fair to call her that. She wasn't shambly, she hadn't even really been dead.
It was hard to blame Dustin for thinking it though. She'd done the same thing. Eddie opened his mouth and she saw the points of his teeth and was positive she knew exactly what he needed. She hadn't even considered how embarrassing it would be if she were wrong before she was rubbing her bloody wrist all over his mouth.
Luckily she'd been right.
“Okay. You know him better than me.”
Dragging him back through the mostly closed portal had taken every ounce of their combined strength. It wasn't that Eddie was heavy. He had been skinny before and that hadn't changed. But he was long and knobbly and difficult to get ahold of. Chrissy's face felt like it was hooked up to a space heater with how much she blushed as she tried to grab ahold of his thigh and her fingers went through a hole onto bare skin. It would have been great to have Steve or Jonathan around, anyone really. But it was her and Dustin on watch, and it wasn't an emergency. They could manage to haul one beanpole of a man through to the other side and get him into the back of her car.
Besides, Steve probably would have killed Eddie when he tried to bite, and she couldn't stand that.
Eddie's body clattered into her trunk, knees and elbows knocking off the edges and requiring her to lean in and arrange his limbs neatly.
“Where are we taking him?” Dustin asked once they had the trunk closed.
Chrissy buckled in quickly, turning off the radio. It didn't seem like a good idea to try listening to any music with Eddie in the trunk. If there was anything that would annoy him enough to wake him up it was Whitney Houston.
“Are you sure?”
Her apartment was in the next town over. It gave her some distance from the Hawkins of it all. Nothing much, but at least the unit next to her was empty, in case Eddie made a lot of noise.
“Where else do you suggest? I'm not putting him at the Wheeler's. Holly's nine.” Chrissy trusted Eddie, but she wasn't stupid. Feral animals need special care, and the thought of Holly going down into the basement to look for a lost toy and finding Eddie instead made her blood run cold. “You're house is too cramped for a guest and so is Lucas and Erica's place. Max and her mom have been through enough, we aren't stashing him there.”
“Steve and Robin's?”
She considered it. Ball State wasn't really that far, maybe an hour and a half. Steve and Robin could afford a tiny rent house. No shared walls would definitely be a good thing, but she didn't like the idea of Eddie tied up with no one to look after him. College kept people busy. She worked the late shift at the diner but by then one of the kids would be able to at least come check on him. All of them could drive at this point.
She turned right, towards her place. “I am not driving out to Muncie in the middle of the night. We'll see them in two days and then we can come up with a long term plan. I can handle him for two days.”
“You mean we can handle him.”
“Yes. But you have school, so do Lucas, Mike, and Max.”
Dustin pouted. That was the only word for the way his lip stuck out and his arms crossing over his chest. But it was his senior year. She knew he was busy and she wasn't going to let him mess up his school stuff. He was going places.
The rest of the drive to her place was quiet. Chrissy cracked the window on her side and sucked down big lungfuls of the cool, crisp air. It was a good night. Everything felt alive. She felt alive. Sometimes she didn't. Like she'd never made it out of that coffin. Like it hadn't all just been a bad dream.
But Eddie was here, maybe not how he used to be, but it was something. And he was himself. He didn't want to hurt them. There was a chance, and that was a hundred times better than they'd had yesterday. Yesterday she'd woken up with nothing but the memory of his voice barely penetrating the Vecna induced fog of her mind.
It was probably worse for Dustin. He'd had to watch Eddie bleeding out in that fucking place. Seen some sort of bat creature try to rip out his insides. When she'd first come back Dustin had looked for Eddie for a week, all on his own. All her first real memories of him were him crying over Eddie.
“You can come see him every day if you want,” she said when they pulled up in front of her apartment. “Someone has to look after him while I work and I'll keep the walkie on.”
Dustin didn't reply. It was probably for the best. She hated when he told her to fuck off, even when she deserved it.
Her nearest neighbors were at the end of the long, low building, separated by two units in the middle that the landlord didn't seem to be able to let. She'd toured once of them first before taking her apartment and decided on the corner despite the extra cost because she couldn't deal with the lack of windows in the middle units. Tonight she almost wished she'd been cheaper. Hopefully the daylight wouldn't hurt him, but there were myths running through her head on a loop: garlic, stakes, fire.
The neighbor's blinds were closed and the car was already in their regular spot, lucky since the wife was a nurse and worked the late shift like Chrissy.
Dustin's face was concerned as they popped the trunk and Eddie groaned, not quite awake, but no longer completely unconcious.
“We need to tie him up.”
The idea of keeping him like a prisoner made her sick to her stomach, but when they picked him up and his head dropped back the yellow glow of the safety light glistened off the edges of his fangs.
“Do you have rope?”