Warnings: Slight AU
Characters: Edgar Frog, Alan Frog, Sam Emerson
Spoilers: If you haven't seen the movie you're unlikely to be reading this. But still very few if any.
Synopsis: Edgar and Alan are less than pleased when a magic store opens up on the Boardwalk, but who are the newcomers to Santa Carla running the place, and what exactly are they hiding?
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Edgar had a detention the following day, so Alan walked with confidence into the magic store, safe in the knowledge that his brother was trapped at school regretting his argument with his literature teacher. They might know vampires didn't really turn into bats, but apparently that wasn't required knowledge in order to teach Dracula.
He noted with relief that the girl was absent today and store owner stood behind the counter adding up a column of figures on a sheet of paper. As Alan entered, he looked up and smiled, “Well, now. I was hoping you'd come by. What did you make of my book?”
“Did you try any of the spells?”
He stepped closer and glanced around the shop to ensure there were no kids from school present before he answered. “Yeah, the first one.”
“Oh, the flower petals. One of my favorites. Not the one I would have expected you to choose, though. But then I suspect you started from the first page, didn't you? Very structured.” He shook his head, “Magic isn't structured. It's organic, it's about gut feelings and the invisible connections between all the matter in the universe.”
Alan thought of the spell, the way he had felt connected to the flower, how he had manipulated reality through that connection.
The old man smiled, “You felt it, didn't you?”
“I didn't feel anything.”
“Well, whether you were aware of it or not, the connection was there. You used it to complete the spell. Did it work?”
“Good, I thought it would. You're gifted, boy. I could see the talent in you the instant you walked into the store. I could feel it even before that, I knew there was someone like you close by.”
Alan rested his palms on the desk and leaned in towards the man so that he could lower his voice. “What do you mean like me?”
“Someone with the gift, of course. It's rare, though not as rare as you might believe. Those with the gift can be like you, already able to use it with just a nudge in the right direction, or like me and my granddaughter. Your brother too, if he wanted to try, though I suspect not. It took months of study before I could access the connections. But once you've done it...” his face lit up in what could only be described as an expression of pure joy, “Once you've done it, you never want to go back.”
“Wait.” Alan massaged his forehead just above his nose, “It sounds like you're saying this stuff is addictive.”
“Not at all. Humans do all kinds of things that make them feel good. Eating, drinking, sex, exercise. I suppose they all have the potential to become a problem, but for most people they don't.”
“And what about when they do?”
The man rested back on his stool and picked up his pen to continue adding up. “Well, that can cause a bit of a problem for the rest of us too. Which is why we need the good guys like you and I to keep them in check.”
Alan looked through the haze of incense hanging in the air to the jars at the other side of the store. He had come to buy supplies for another spell, but the prospect didn't seem quite so exciting right now as it did when he had walked inside. “You said my brother can do it too?”
The old man nodded, “The talent runs in families. You'll probably find one of your parents has it, and one of theirs.”
“So without this 'talent' you can't do anything magical? There can't be a huge market for what you're selling then. How many people can use anything in this place?”
He smiled, “More in this town than in many others. There is an energy here that attracts the gifted. Without realizing it, that might even be why your family settled here. But you're right, still remarkably few even here. Luckily there is no shortage of people willing to try.”
“Okay, look, thanks for the information. I'll see you around.” Alan turned to leave. An overload of unexpected information left his head spinning and he needed time to think. The incense in the air was making him dizzy. He needed to get outside.
“Wait a moment.” He paused half way to the door and turned slowly around.
The man was holding out another book, “Take this, it might prove interesting to you.”
Alan sighed and took the book. This one was a hardback. Heavy and obviously quite old. It wasn't going to fit inconspicuously in his pocket. “All right,” he shrugged, “Thanks.”
He headed out into the street with the book tucked under his arm and walked quickly home.
Alan jumped and spun around quickly at the voice behind him. Edgar had somehow appeared as if from nowhere and was glaring at him accusingly.
“Um,” said Alan.
Edgar snatched the book from under his arm and read the title. “Magic and Magical Properties, a History of the Practice. Bedtime reading?”
“Research. I just thought it was a good idea to know what we're up against.”
“Oh.” Edgar handed the book back to him, “Well, that makes sense. But did you have to go and buy a book from the enemy?”
Alan resumed walking home, at a normal pace now there was no need to hide. “I didn't. He gave it to me.”
“What?” Edgar stopped dead and stared at his brother, “You took a gift from him?”
“Well. Just. I don't know.” Edgar scratched his chin and shrugged. “It just doesn't sound like a good idea, that's all.”
Alan shook his head and walked away, leaving Edgar with no choice but to follow him. “Well, if it says anything in here about that being dangerous, I'll give it back.”
“No,” Edgar sped up and as they reached home, wedged himself in the doorway barring Alan's entrance. “Give it back now.”
“Why would he just hand over something like that? He must have some reason, and I doubt it's good. Give it back.”
Alan elbowed his brother out of the door and pushed his way inside. “I want to learn as much as I can about it. You can't tell me you'd rather be ignorant than have information you might be able to use. Anyway, he's doing exactly what we do, the only difference is that we give away comic books.”
“And that we're not magical freaks.”
Alan stared at his brother for a moment as his mind flashed back to what the old man had told him. Talented. The talent ran in families. Unless the guy had been messing with him for some reason, Edgar was wrong about that particular difference.
“What?” asked Edgar. Alan snapped back to the moment and registered mild concern in his brother's eyes. “What are you thinking?”
He shook his head. “We need to know as much about this as possible, and if he's willing to provide that information that's a bonus.”
Edgar sighed, “Fine, read away. But be careful.”
Alan took the book and fled upstairs to his room. As he closed the door he sighed in relief at a bullet dodged. He dropped it onto his desk, sat down on the bed with a comic book and tried to read.
Concentration eluded him. Stray thoughts popped unbidden into his head. The conversation with the man from the magic store repeated itself over and over in his mind as he tried to come up with a way to interpret it differently. Preferably one that didn't end with him knowing something he wished he didn't.
The book taunted him from it's position on the desk. He wanted to read it, but at the same time, he wanted to follow Edgar's advice to give it back. Maybe this was how the magic got to you, a bit at a time. It starts out harmless, but over time you get deeper and deeper until before you know it, you've gone too far. Or maybe that was just Edgar talking.
With a sigh of defeat, he places his comic back into it's bag, placed it on his pile of things to read, and opened up the heavy magic book.
The following night, Alan sat on the floor in Sam's bedroom, the book in front of him, reading.
Sam sighed, “If Edgar knows about the book, how come you're still sneaking around hiding stuff from him? Because it's really putting a dent in my social life. I could be out on a date right now.”
“Really?” Alan glanced up for a microsecond before turning his attention back to the book.
“Well, no, maybe not tonight. But you could. That goth chick in the magic store seemed really into you.” A thoughtful expression crossed his face and he smiled, “Hey, that's not the real reason why you're researching this magic stuff, is it? Because I think she already digs you.”
Alan closed the book and looked at Sam, who was sitting on his bed flicking through the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men. “Her grandfather says I'm some kind of wizard or something. I've got a bit more on my mind than girls at the moment.”
“Practitioner, you said that's what they're called. Not wizard.”
“Whatever they're called, I don't want to be one.”
Sam shrugged, “Well I think it's cool. If I could do magic, I'd be doing all kinds of fun stuff, not sitting around reading some dusty old book. Anyway, back to my original question, why can't you do this at home?”
“I don't want to bring Edgar into it any further than he already is.”
“Okay.” Sam frowned, “How far in is he? I thought he'd run a mile from this.”
Alan fished in his pocket and retrieved a scrap of paper which he shoved into the book as a page marker, then closed it carefully. “He would,” he said. “That's why I'm not telling him about doing the spell, or about me being – talented – as the guy called it.”
Sam looked at Alan carefully, then said with concern, “This is really bothering you, isn't it?”
“Of course it it. Edgar and I fight the supernatural. It's one thing learning about magic and trying a few spells, it's something completely different to find out you're some kind of supernatural freak from a family of wizards. Surely you can understand that?”
“Wait. Family of? So, your parents?”
Alan shrugged, “Probably one of them, I don't know. They probably don't know either. Apparently it runs in families though.”
“So, what about Edgar?”
“No,” Alan lied. He shook his head. “Just me.”
Sam put his comic down and swung his legs around so he was facing Alan, “Look, I don't think you have anything to worry about. So you can do something that other people can't. Lots of people have things they're good at that other people can't do.”
“Not things like this though. I think Edgar's right about it being dangerous. There's some pretty gruesome stuff in this book. Murder, ritual sacrifice. Edgar said magic corrupts, and I think he's right. Maybe not the magic itself, but the things that you can do using it. There were people who killed other magicians – practitioners – and took their power to make themselves stronger. If the old man wants me to learn magic, I don't know why he'd let me read this.”
Sam listened thoughtfully. “Maybe he wants you to know everything from the start,” he said. “Or maybe he wants to show you what he's up against so you want to help. These power stealing guys, do you think they're still around today?”
“I don't know.” Alan closed the book, picked it up and got to his feet. “I don't think I want to. I'm done with it. I'll tell Edgar there was nothing interesting in the book and throw it out. He'd never forgive me if I started doing magic anyway.”
“Better not tell him you already have, then.” Sam told muttered.
“Sam, you're not going to tell him, are you? Not anything I've told you, not even by accident.” A stab of fear at the idea jabbed at his stomach. He wasn't afraid of Edgar, but the idea of losing his brother's respect was terrifying. They were a team, they had to stick together.
“Of course not! What do you think I am? Just for the record though, I do think you're certifiably insane for passing up this chance. You're one of the good guys, you're not going to start sacrificing people. You could use it to do some good.”
Alan shook his head, “Edgar was right. It's dangerous.” He shoved the book into his backpack, closed it as far as he could manage, and left.
Sam shrugged to himself and turned his attention back to his comic book.