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 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Wednesday was new comics day. It meant the afternoon after school and the early part of the evening was taken up by the weekly task of moving the unsold older comics out of the way to make room for the new issues. For a comic book fan, it was far from a chore; it was a chance to flick through the latest adventures of Batman, and find out the conclusion of the cliffhanger on Vampires everywhere.
On this particular Wednesday, however, Alan found himself unable to drum up the requisite amount of enthusiasm for the task. His mind was full of images of the body on the beach. He could distract himself for short periods, but the horrific images would quickly invade his thoughts again as soon as he allowed his mind to wander. And along with the memory, came the terrifying thought that he might be next.
Apart from when they were at school, when it was impossible, Edgar had kept his promise not to leave him unguarded. His brother's expression was unreadable, as he took his self appointed task literally, making sure his eyes were almost constantly fixed on Alan. It had the odd effect of making Alan feel both reassured and uncomfortable at the same time, because he truly did believe that as long as they stuck together, nothing could harm them, but he was aware of Edgar's other objective. Keeping him safe from anyone who may wish to harm him, yes; but also keeping him safe from himself.
One title at a time, he moved the older issues into a pile on the floor and arranged the shelf with the new issues, placing them in their proper place. Having any kind of order in which the comics were placed on the shelf was pointless really. They always started out neat and tidy, but by the end of the week customers had moved them around seemingly at random.
As he worked, he was very aware of Edgar's eyes on him. His brother sat on the wooden chair behind the counter, the one with the woven seat full of holes from years of use and abuse. His feet were up on the desk, displaying the filthy soles of his shoes to Alan and the rest of the store. His chair was tilted back onto two legs somewhat precariously.
Alan stood up from where he had been crouched on the floor, stretched, and pressed the switch on the old black and white TV that sat on the counter. He leaned over the desk and reached to the shelf underneath with his hand, unable to see what he was doing, and selected a cassette at random from where they were stored. He pushed it into the slot in the VCR and immediately a film started somewhere in the middle. A werewolf chased a screaming woman though the woods under the light of an impossibly large full moon.
Edgar tilted his chair slightly closer to the desk, reached his hand across and turned the volume down to zero. Alan looked at him but didn't comment. He continued to arrange the new Superman titles on the display shelf, one copy at the front for the customers to pick up, flick through and put back, another few bagged and boarded behind it for the more serious collectors who wanted to know they were getting an undamaged copy.
When he was done, he lifted another box onto the desk, dropping it next to Edgar's feet. “Why don't you sort the new Marvel books?” he said.
He slid the box across the desk until it knocked against Edgar's feet. The unexpected movement of his feet several inches to the left disturbed his balance and Edgar instinctively gripped the desk with one hand and the closest wall with the other, in order to keep himself upright. He glared at his brother, then righted his chair, placing all four legs on the ground.
“Animal Farm,” Alan said.
“What?” Edgar creased his expression into a frown as he tried to work out the significance of two seemingly random words.
“Don't you remember when we were kids and we'd sit like that at the table. Mom always told us, 'Four legs good, two legs bad.' It's a quote from Animal Farm.”
Edgar looked at him uncomprehendingly. “Oh. So?”
Alan shrugged, “I don't know. It just came into my head. Will you just do something other than stare at me. Please?”
Edgar sighed and began to unpack the box. Satisfied, Alan continued sorting the shelf, watching the muted movie out of the corner of his eye.
Edgar used his peripheral vision to continue to observe Alan. Alan wondered whether he even realized he was doing it. Edgar took his bodyguard duties very seriously. Then, after unpacking the box and arranging the contents on the desk, Edgar picked up a comic book at random, sat back down, re-tilted his chair and placed his feet back on the desk.
Alan ignored him and pressed the volume switch on the TV again. The screams of the girl being chased filed the room. Edgar left it as it was this time.
“Werewolves are still the bad guys, right?” Edgar said suddenly.
Alan glanced at him in confusion.
“Werewolves,” Edgar said again. He indicated the TV with a wave of his hand. “They're still the enemy, if one moves in next door, we don't have to make friends with it? I'm just checking, because it seems like the rules have changed now you're... you know.”
Alan was looking away from his brother. He froze completely still and allowed himself to absorb the comment, analyze it and attempt to come up with another way to take it. There wasn't one. Edgar was finally doing what Alan thought he might but hoped he wouldn't; releasing his discomfort into the atmosphere in the form of badly thought out, hurtful comments.
Alan allowed himself a count of ten to take a deep breath and process the idea that despite what he might have said before, Edgar now considered him to be something other than what he himself was. The magic, something over which Alan had no control, had driven a wedge between them. Alan wondered whether things could ever be the same again or whether Edgar would always view him with some kind of suspicion.
He turned slowly, trying to think of a response. His eyes fixed on the cover of the comic book in Edgar's hands. “Edgar, the comic you're reading right now...”
Edgar turned the comic over to check which title he had picked at random, and nodded. “Uncanny X-Men.”
“Yeah. Didn't think you were much of a Marvel fan, but anyway. In it there are humans, and mutants. And the humans are afraid of the mutants because of what they can do, right? There are good mutants and bad ones, but because they don't understand, the humans hate them all.”
Edgar put the book down and looked at his brother. “Are you seriously explaining the plot of the X-Men to me? We both work in a comic book store.”
“I'm drawing a comparison. Think of the mutants as the people with magical talent. They're not all evil, but you're scared of them all – of us all.”
“I'm not scared of you, Alan,” Edgar told him levelly.
Alan turned down the TV volume a few notches, leaving it audible but no longer so oppressive. He put down the comics he had been arranging, brushed the dust from the floor off of his clothes and looked his brother in the eye. “Okay. Good.” He paused to consider, but now was the best opportunity he had had to bring this up, at least now they were actually talking about it in some form.
He looked Edgar straight in the eye and tried to sound more confident than he felt. “I want to learn the defensive spells.”
“What? No! We've been over this, it's too dangerous.”
“It's more dangerous to be defenseless. Any other circumstances, I'd never consider it, but there is someone out there who wants me dead, Edgar. I'm scared. You remember when the vampires were coming for us? It's like that, but we knew how to fight them off, we knew about stakes and holy water and garlic.”
“It's too dangerous,” Edgar repeated.
“It's like I have a weapon I can use against him, but I don't know how to fire it,” Alan said. “I have magical talent. I don't want it, but I've got it and I might as well use it.”
For a moment, Edgar found himself lost for words, he stared at Alan in disbelief, and then began to slowly shake his head from side to side. “Great,” he said eventually. “So not only is my brother a magical freak, but now he wants to study witchcraft.”
His eyes met Alan's and for a moment hurt shone in them, quickly replaced by anger. Edgar turned around and walked away.
Without turning around or slowing down, Edgar walked into the back of the shop. Alan chased after him.
“Edgar, please. Will you just listen to me? Someone wants me dead, I can't just... Edgar!” he grabbed his brother's shoulder as he passed through the door.
The force of Edgar's forward momentum spun him around and he glared at Alan. “Don't touch me,” he said. “I don't even want to look at you right now. You know what? You were right earlier. I am scared of you. I don't know what you are any more.”
Against his will, Alan felt his fingers spring open as though in a spasm, or as though Edgar's shoulder had suddenly become red hot and reflex forced him to let go. Edgar turned away again. The words were like a slap in the face. Alan found himself completely mobilized by shock.
“I'm exactly the same as you,” he said. The words left his mouth before he had the opportunity to consider them. He spoke in a low, level voice that made the hairs on the back of Edgar's neck stand on end. “I wasn't going to tell you because I knew how much you'd hate it, but if it's the only way to make you see that this doesn't make any difference to who I am...” he paused.
Edgar was standing completely still, every muscle rigid, still facing away from Alan.
Alan waited, giving his brother time to change his mind, to turn around, to say something. Anything at all. To take back what he had said. He didn't. It was almost as though he knew what was coming, and he was simply waiting to hear it.
“You've got magical talent too, Edgar. It runs in the family, and yours is locked away just like mom and dad's, but it's there. If I'm a freak, that makes you exactly the same.”
Edgar made no response. Instead, still without turning around to look at his brother, he walked away into the back of the shop.
Alan heard the back door slam, and suddenly he felt very alone. He rubbed angrily at his eyes, brushing away the embarrassing tears that he was glad Edgar hadn't seen, and tried to continue with the task of restocking the shelves.
As he pulled the door closed behind him with a loud crack, Edgar immediately regretted not grabbing his jacket from the coat hook in the kitchen. He shivered in the night air, wrapped his bare arms around his chest and walked quickly away.
He cut through the first narrow street leading back to the boardwalk, and walked past the comic shop as quickly as he could, hoping not to be noticed as he glanced inside. Alan was visible through the window, calmly continuing to stock the shelves.
Edgar's head was spinning. All around him was the noise and bustle of the Santa Carla night. Families with young kids hurried home as though they somehow sensed the wrongness that settled over the place after dark, while teenagers who either didn't notice or didn't care showed how cool they were with their skateboard tricks or their ability to get served in the liquor store.
He wanted nothing more than to run; just to pick a direction and run as far and as fast as he could until he was to exhausted to be able to think. But he couldn't do that. While Alan was a target, he couldn't leave him alone. He paced the boardwalk, up and down, staying far enough away from the shop to not be noticed, but close enough that he would see if anything happened.
Alan's words echoed in his mind, but louder than that were his own. He hadn't meant to say those horrible things to his brother, he regretted them, and he regretted that they were true. He shivered again and didn't know whether it was the night air or the memory of the past few minutes that caused the reaction.
He barely noticed the crowds surrounding him. The boardwalk rides spun dizzyingly quickly, bright lights flashed, loud music filled the air with so much bass he could feel it inside his chest. Edgar was used to it, he had grown up surrounded by the freakshow that was Santa Carla, with its weird fashion trends, its punks and its surfers, its vampires and its werewolves, and he had never felt like it touched him. He and his brother stood apart from the world they inhabited, two lone soldiers, defending the unsuspecting masses from the things that went bump in the night.
Or that had been the plan. In fact, until the previous summer, they hadn't even known with a hundred percent certainty that the monsters were real, but now they did, the plan was to destroy them. The plan did not involve learning that he was one of them. For the first time in his life, Edgar Frog looked around his freakshow of a town and thought that maybe this was where he was supposed to be.
He felt sick.
He tried to deny it; to tell himself that Alan had been lying to hurt him, but he could read Alan like a book, he always had been able to. It went both ways. They had whole conversations without saying a word. He wondered now whether that was some kind of magic.
But just because Alan believed it, that didn't mean it was true. It could be something the old man had said, a lie that Alan had believed. But, just like him, Alan wasn't easily fooled. It was a Frog trait, Edgar liked to think of it as a built in bullshit detector. It was that that allowed them to see the truth about Santa Carla's more... unusual residents. Now he wondered whether that too could be attributed to another force.
He was connected to it. To the beat of Santa Carla's supernatural heart. There was no escaping from that fact.
They were supposed to hunt the monsters, not be them. And if a hunt went wrong, they had an unspoken agreement that they would stake the other brother if necessary. Death was a better alternative to becoming like the enemy. But this was different. If Alan was right – and Edgar's natural paranoia forced him to think that perhaps he was – then this was what they had been their whole lives. Yet they weren't evil, they fought the evil. Which meant that maybe he had been wrong. Not about the vampires, they were evil to the core, but about other things.
If it was true, if Alan was right, this could seriously mess up his convictions about the supernatural.
His eye was drawn to a figure on a pushbike approaching the comic store. Sam, in his usual hideous clothing that seemed to fit in on the boardwalk like it would no where else on Earth. Immediately, he sunk back into the crowd to avoid detection and watched as their friend entered the shop. As soon as the door closed and Alan was no longer alone, Edgar turned around and walked down the steps to the beach
He set out walking along the sand, just wanting to be somewhere else. Anywhere, as long as it was away.
Sam swung his leg over the saddle of his bicycle and rode the last few yards standing on the peddle like a kids scooter. He broke to a stop just outside the door to Frog's Comics and pushed open the door with his front wheel.
He pushed the bike inside the shop and leaned it against wall. The inside of the shop smelled of dust and paper, with the vague hint of the marijuana smoke that constantly hung in the air inside the Frog home. Mr and Mrs Frog rarely smoked in the shop, but it drifted through the open door to the house, where he had often seen them sitting on the couch, passing a joint to one another or sometimes taking acid. They were so stuck in the 60s.
Actually, Sam thought it was pretty cool.
Today, there was no sign of Edgar and Alan's parents. They weren't in the shop and there was no cloud emanating from the back room. Sam scanned the shop quickly. Two kids a little younger than him were flicking through the boxes at the left of the shop with well practiced speed. Alan was sitting alone at the desk near the back, resting his chin on his hand, staring into nothing. Edgar was nowhere to be seen.
Sam brushed away the creases that cycling left in his jacket, glanced quickly into the window of the shop, made into a mirror by the darkness outside, ran a hand once over his hair, and then made his way across the shop to Alan.
Alan didn't look up as he approached. Sam stood and waited for a second, and then impatiently rapped his knuckles on the desk. “Earth to Alan. Calling Alan Frog. Are you alive in there, buddy?”
Alan jumped and looked up. Sam noticed his eyes looked red. Red as in bloodshot, not vampire red. Alan nodded at him. “Sam.”
“Where's Edgar? I thought he was keeping you under constant surveillance, or whatever it was he said.”
Alan shrugged, “Something came up, he had to leave.”
“Hmm,” Sam peered at his friend, then turned around and hopped up to land sitting on the desk facing out into the store. He turned around to look at Alan. “What came up?”
“Nothing important.” Alan looked away again, like he didn't want to meet Sam's gaze.
Sam frowned. “Okay, what's going on here? Because my spider sense is tingling.”
Alan watched as the two kids, obviously not finding what they were looking for, walked out, leaving the door swinging behind them. He took a deep breath. “Edgar and I had a fight,” he said.
“Oh, okay.” Sam slid down from the desk, pulled up an old wooden chair, spun it around and sat down. “That actually explains a lot. Was it about the... you know?”
“I told him I wanted to learn some defensive spells. Anthony offered to teach me, and I thought if someone attacks me, I should know how to fight them off.”
Sam nodded thoughtfully. “And I'm guessing he didn't think it was such a good idea.”
“You could say that.”
“So, what did he say?”
Alan shook his head. “It doesn't matter. The point is, he stormed out. I've never seen him like that.”
“So what did you say?”
Alan glanced quickly around the shop, making sure that the were alone. “You remember I told you magic runs in families?”
He paused for a response and Sam nodded.
“Well, when I told you I'm the only one who has it, that wasn't completely true.”
Sam's eyes widened. “You mean that Edgar...?”
“Yes. And I told him. It just slipped out, I didn't mean to. Or maybe I did, I don't know. It's just, the things he said... I just thought if I cold make him understand that it doesn't make any difference...” he shook his head. “I've ruined everything. I wish we'd never gone into the magic shop. Now there's a madman out to kill me, Edgar thinks I'm some kind of freak, and I don't know if he's ever going to talk to me again.”
“It'll all work out,” Sam told him.
Alan looked at him incredulously.
“It will. Edgar'll come around. I was only saying to him today, brothers fight, it's normal. Look at me and Michael, he turned into a vampire and back. It didn't change a thing in the end.”
Alan shook his head. “That's different. This is Edgar. He doesn't do shades of gray when it comes to the supernatural. As far as he's concerned, I accused him of being one of the monsters.”
“That's ridiculous,” Sam said.
“That's Edgar. That's me, too. Until recently I'd have reacted exactly the same.”
Sam rested his elbow on the desk, rested his chin on his fist and looked across the desk at Alan, thoughtfully. He inflated his cheeks and allowed the air to leak out through his lips like a punctured tire. He bit his lip. “He probably just needs time to process. Why don't you stay at my house tonight, give Edgar some time to cool off. Then maybe tomorrow he'll be in a better mood.”
Alan thought about it for a minute. “Your mom won't mind?” he asked
“Are you kidding? She loves you guys. Anyway, it's my grandpa's house, really.”
“Okay, thanks. I'll get some stuff and close up early. I'd rather not be here when he gets back.”
A mile or so out of town on his trek down the beach, Edgar stopped when the sand ran into the cliffs and the incoming tide made it impossible to walk any further. He dropped down onto the sand and looked around. The moon was barely a sliver in the sky, there was no light apart from the impossibly bright points in the sky that were stars viewed away from the lights of the city.
He felt suddenly very tired, but not physically. It was as though the accumulated revelations of the past few days, each one worse than the last, were heavy weights pressing on his mind. His head ached, the chill in the air still gave him goose bumps over all of his skin. He rubbed his hands quickly up and down his arms, creating heat by friction.
He wished he had never heard of magic. He wished that when the magic store opened, he and Alan had just stayed the hell away from it. He wished Alan had told the owner where to shove his stupid books, and most of all, he wished he tonight had never happened.
He glanced around again and felt a shiver not brought on by the cold. In the almost impossibly dark night, something could be watching him. Maybe even the murderer. He wasn't a target if his power was locked away, but...
He had power. Not that he could use it, or that he ever wanted to, but just the idea of it shook his world view so badly that he didn't know whether he could be sure of anything ever again.
He wondered whether Alan felt the same way.
Of course he did. How could he not?
Edgar pressed his knuckles hard into his forehead, and rocked them back and forth painfully. “It doesn't matter,” he said to the nighttime. Alan had been right, it didn't make any difference to who they were. He just wondered whether his brother would ever forgive him.
And, for that matter, whether he would ever forgive himself.