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 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17
Alan watched curiously out of the corner of his eye as Anthony worked in silence, concentrating hard on ensuring the exact quantities of his various ingredients. Outwardly, all of Alan's concentration was channeled into the slow, methodical chopping of the single ingredient to his spell, but inwardly his mind raced.
He still couldn't quite believe that he was doing it. But then, he had done it before. It wasn't like the idea was entirely new to him.
Edgar was going to flip if he found out.
Or maybe he would understand. After all, they really didn't have a lot of choice.
They were working to a deadline, with no idea of when it would be. Sophie could return at any moment, yet he forced his hand to cut slowly, in no hurry to move on to the next stage of the preparation. At this point, all he was doing was cutting a plant. Next came using it in a spell.
And so his mind twirled in an endless spiral as he projected the tension within himself into the room.
Anthony's brow creased in concentration as he worked with well practiced speed, quickly building up a row of readied herbs and plants, each one weighed and prepared for whatever he intended to use them for. Alan didn't like that he didn't know the plan. It made him uneasy.
From the back room, the loud, unexpected squeak of shoes on tiled floor ripped through the thick layer of silence that had filled the room, and Alan froze, his knife still in his hand. His breath stilled instinctively as he listened.
His eyes drifted to Anthony, but if the old man had heard anything he gave no sign. Nor did he acknowledge Alan's reaction to it. He continued his work, apparently oblivious to the fact that anything was wrong.
Alan repositioned the knife in his hand for use as a weapon rather than a tool as he allowed his eyes to slowly turn toward the curtain that separated the shop from the back room. There had been no more sound, the curtain didn't so much as move in the slight breeze from the open window, but Alan knew there was someone there. Every carefully honed instinct told him that on the other side of the curtain, someone was standing very still, probably holding their breath in the exact same way that he was, and cursing their mistake that made the sound.
Anthony finally noticed that something was happening when his temporary student rose soundlessly to his feet and began to step carefully around the desk. “What is it?” he asked, quietly.
Alan shook his head once from left to right and pressed a finger over his own lips to indicate silence. Anthony frowned in concern and turned around just in time to see the curtain twitch.
On seeing that, the old man began to stand. Weary joints prevented quick movements, and Alan was sure that he could actually hear his knees creak as he rose. Before he could complete the movement, the curtain was pushed aside. Alan tightened his grip on the knife. The ingredients of his half finished spell lay scattered on the desk in front of him, useless, Anthony was also not finished. They had run out of time.
The curtain moved again, this time grabbed and pulled aside by the person on the other side, knowing that they had been detected. Alan's muscles tensed as he prepared to attack. Someone walked through.
It was Edgar.
His brother looked at him with a well practiced expression of scorn, the one he usually reserved for clueless tourists that refused to believe in vampires, the one that said the recipient was an idiot. He barely glanced at the knife in his hand. “Relax, it's just me,” he told him.
Alan exhaled the tension in his muscles as relief washed over him. They weren't being ambushed. Not yet, at least. He allowed the hand holding the small knife to drop back to his side.
“You could've said something sooner, you nearly just got stabbed.”
Edgar strode further into the room. He shook his head. “I don't think so. No offense Alan, but you're no match for me. You're barely a match for Sam.”
“Hey!” said Sam's disembodied voice. The other boy followed Edgar through into the shop. “I take offense at that. If anyone cares.”
Edgar ignored him and walked around the desk covered with the magical ingredients, doing his best not to actually look at it as he did. Alan followed him with his eyes.
“How long have you been there?” he asked.
Sam's eyes went wide, like he had been caught doing something he shouldn't, and he looked at Edgar for a reply.
“Not long.” Edgar finished his slow trek around the desk, and ended it leaning against the end of a bookshelf. He looked at Alan thoughtfully, his eyes drifting back to the desk every few seconds, before he realized and corrected himself.
Sam apparently didn't share Edgar's aversion to looking at the spell ingredients. From the other side of the desk, still standing by the curtain, he stared down at desk with undisguised fascination.
Edgar folded his arms, continuing to watch Alan as he stared back at him, hoping that his brother hadn't heard any of his earlier conversation with Anthony. Depending on how long he and Sam had been in the back room, they could have overheard what Anthony intended Alan to do.
Suddenly, his mouth felt very dry and the temperature in the room appeared to raise a few degrees. He turned away from Edgar and continued to chop the bindweed. After all, if he had nothing to hide, no reason to be ashamed, that was exactly what he would do. Or, he thought it was. He stopped and looked at Edgar again.
“Did you destroy the spells?” he asked.
Edgar nodded. “Took them to pieces, then we destroyed the pieces.” He turned to Anthony. “That destroyed enough for you?”
Anthony looked up briefly from his work and nodded. “It will do, for now.”
Sam stepped forward, positioning himself right next to the desk, looking down at the assembled tools and ingredients. He turned to Anthony. “Is there anything else we can be doing? If Alan's busy doing his own thing, I could help with your spell.”
Alan froze. The knife in his hand stopped cutting just as it hit the desk. He might have been reading too much into it, but to Alan's ears, Sam's throwaway question said that he knew Alan wasn't helping Anthony prepare ingredients. They had heard what was happening.
With considerable effort, he made his hand continue cutting, staring down at the desk in front of him as he did. Behind him, he imagined he could feel Edgar's eyes drilling into the back of his skull. The dried plant was well and truly massacred by now, but he continued, chopping it into smaller and smaller fragments, not even sure whether most of his knife strokes were actually hitting the plant or just cutting grooves in the wooden tabletop.
“How's this going?”
Suddenly, Edgar was standing next to him, looking down at the remains of the plant. He waved a hand in the direction of the desk to clarify what he meant.
Alan swallowed before he answered. The dryness in his mouth hadn't gone away. It was ridiculous that Edgar's questions could provoke that kind of a reaction in him. He wasn't afraid of what his brother might do, but of what he would think. He licked his lips and nodded.
“You're just weighing and measuring, right?”
Form the other side of the desk, Sam watched Edgar curiously. Alan stilled his hand. Finally, he turned to look at Edgar, searching his face for a sign that he believed that. There was none, because he didn't. And Edgar knew that Alan would know that.
“And chopping,” he said. He put the knife down on the table. “That's all.” He was lying through his teeth, to Edgar who always knew when he was lying. And Edgar was pretending not to realize.
The whole situation felt very strange. Alan glanced back to Sam, who had lost his puzzled expression and replaced it with a smile, he had worked out what was going on a few seconds before Alan.
“Good.” Edgar said. “We didn't hear anything when we were back there. Did we, Sam?”
Sam's eyes flicked from the desk, to Alan, and then to Edgar, looking for confirmation that he had understood and this was how they were going to play it. Edgar stared him in the eye and nodded. Alan watched their silent conversation with fascination. His own wordless conversations with Edgar were conducted more subtly, but it was still strange to be on the outside, even if he could read what was being said.
“Nope,” Sam assured him eventually. “Nothing.”
Alan struggled not to roll his eyes. Sam was a worse actor than Edgar. They weren't even trying to convince him that they believed what they were saying. This was all about Edgar's pride. No matter how much Alan might insist otherwise in the future, his brother would continue to claim no knowledge of anything magical.
“Right,” said Edgar. His arms were folded again, and Alan noticed that his fingers of one hand drummed continuously on his arm as he tried to look everywhere but at the table. “So, Sam and I are going to go back upstairs. We don't want to be in the way. Um...” He stepped back around the table and began to push the curtain aside to walk through, then he turned back to look at Alan. “Good luck,” he said. His gaze slipped down to the table just once. “Be very careful. I mean it, Alan. Proceed with extreme caution.”
“Yeah, those old scales look pretty dangerous,” Sam added with a grin, then he backed out of the room, pulling a reluctant looking Edgar with him by the arm.
Edgar stood his ground against Sam, and reached into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a bright green water pistol; one of the ones they filled with holy water when fighting vampires. It was empty. He slid it across the desk toward Alan with two fingers.
“Just in case you need to, you know, squirt anyone with anything. Might come in handy.” He glanced down at the unfinished potion again and then fled to the other side of the curtain.
Alan heard the sound of two sets of footsteps climbing the stairs.
He swallowed again, his mouth felt desert dry. He looked at Anthony, who was still working as though nothing had happened. “He heard everything,” he said. His voice came out as a whisper.
Anthony said nothing, he just sat on the other side of the desk and watched as Alan picked up the water pistol and realized that he had his brother's permission to proceed.
Alan cleared his throat. “Okay, what do I do next?”
Not too long ago, during that strange few days just after the opening of the magic store, Anthony had told him that magic was about connections between all of the matter in the universe. It would have sounded like New Age nonsense, the kind of thing his parents might mutter about as they drifted in and out of consciousness, if it wasn't for the fact that by that time Alan had already performed his first spell.
He had denied it to Anthony, but he knew that he had felt something linking him to the flower whose petals he had changed from yellow to red.
It wasn't something that he could have described in words to anyone that hadn't experienced it. It was as though he had developed a new sense; a new way of experiencing the world. It had been fascinating, and a little frightening, and it had felt really good.
So good, in fact, that he had wanted to do it again. He had wanted to discover what else he could do. The very next day, he had returned to the magic shop for more ingredients and information, excited by the new world that had unexpectedly opened up before him. It was then that Anthony had said something that had made him stop and think.
It hadn't been intentional, in fact, the old man had been trying to encourage him, but his words acted as a deterrent. He had implied that magic could become an addiction.
Alan's parents were addicts. For as long as he could remember, they had been on a gradual descent further and further into the clutches of dependency, and their sons had been forced to watch them disappear.
Addiction was frightening. More frightening even than the vampires and other unknown monsters that stalked Santa Carla after nightfall. It invaded your home without you realizing, and by the time you or someone else notice what has happened, it may already be too late. Addiction meant sacrificing a part of yourself in exchange for a meaningless high.
Edgar and Alan's parents had been using for so long that they no longer believed they could function without it. They didn't seem to realize how badly they functioned with it, because the ability to see something like that had also been taken away from them.
If there was even the slightest possibility of becoming addicted to magic, Alan wanted nothing to do with it.
Only, he already had something to do with it. He had experienced it, and the memory of the power lingered in his mind. Learning that his life was potentially at risk from a murderer had made him reconsider briefly, but even as he had argued the case for learning defensive magic to Edgar, he had worried that it was the magic controlling him as he spoke.
And now here he was, doing magic again.
Only now, he wondered whether it was the lesser of two evils
The things that Sophie had said to Edgar prayed on his mind, as he knew that they must on Edgar's. She may have been lying, but she may not. He itched to ask Anthony, but now didn't seem an appropriate time. When this was over, when the murderer had been stopped, he, and possibly Edgar too, would be able to ask all the questions they needed. Until then, he was forced to wonder whether his family was cursed either way, and whether he and Edgar would be forced to decide between practicing magic and risking turning into their parents.
For now, he concentrated his attention on the task he had been given. He carried the kettle of boiling water from the back room into the shop and poured it onto the chopped bindweed that he had brushed into a glass beaker. It looked very similar to the ones he would use in his school's science lab, apart from the fact that it was clean and the bottom was entirely free of scorch marks.
As he worked, Anthony watched him with one eye, the other on his own spell. The situation left Alan with the strange feeling that he was in a science lesson at school, following a teacher's instructions to conduct a chemistry experiment.
As he added the water, the color of the plant began to seep out, coloring it a sickly yellow. Anthony's description of the potion as a kind of tea had been accurate, but it didn't look or smell like something most people would drink voluntarily.
Anthony slid a long wooden stick across the table. “Stir it in a clockwise direction,” he instructed.
Alan did as he was asked. The yellowy color that had begin to collect in the bottom, around the herb, was whisked up into the potion as the fragments of dried bindweed spun around their glass container.
As he stirred, Anthony wrote a few lines on a scrap of paper. He turned it around and placed it in front of Alan. “Keep stirring as you read this,” he instructed. “This is where we add the magic. You need to concentrate completely on what you're doing. Repeat the words until the spell is complete.”
“How will I know when that is?” Alan asked. He glanced down at the paper. The words were in plain English, not the Latin he had been expecting, or even the incomprehensible, thee and thou 'olde English' of the movies. This was easy to remember, and there was no confusion over what the words meant.
He began to speak. Nerves constricted his throat and made his voice sound hoarse and hushed to his own ears, but he continued, repeating the few lines of words as he stirred the potion slowly and methodically.
As he spoke, he allowed his eyes to slip closed, blocking out the distractions around him and helping him to concentrate. The world shrunk to two things, himself, and the potion. Then, with every repetition of the words, they began to merge until they became almost the same thing.
Anthony was right, he could tell when it was finished. Just on the verge of his awareness, he could feel it, a connection between himself and the – his – potion.
Prying his eyes open again was an effort, and when he succeeded, it came as a surprise to see the shop still there and looking exactly as it had before. Anthony was still sitting hunched over the desk, working in silence on his own, much more complicated spell. Alan blinked as he came out of the almost trance-like state. He carefully filtered out the fragments of the herb from the water and experimented with the strange yet somehow comforting feeling in the back of his mind.
He couldn't actually do anything with it; the spell would not be complete until he had someone that he could use it on. Once someone ingested or came into contact with it, the connection would pass to them, and he would be able to use it to control them.
That thought made him feel powerful, and the feeling of power terrified him.
“Are you ready?” Anthony asked suddenly.
Alan jumped in surprise as the unexpected question broke the silence and interrupted his thoughts. He tested the connection again, and nodded slowly.
The potion was now a transparent brown color. Floating in it were tiny fragments of the bindweed that had been too small to be caught by the strainer. Carefully, Alan tipped a little of the liquid from the glass container into Edgar's water gun. He put in the stopper and practiced taking aim, making sure to point the gun away from Anthony.
“Are you sure this will work?” he asked.
Anthony nodded. “It will work if you believe that it will. Before you do a spell, you have to know that you can do it.”
“Great,” Alan said doubtfully. He carefully placed the water gun down on the desk. “I guess if I need to use it, we'll find out if I believe it or not.”
Anthony looked for a moment as though he was going to explain what he had said further. Instead, he shook his head. “Bring your brother down,” he said. “I'm almost finished, things seem to be going according to plan.”
Alan bit his lip. You just didn't say things like that. You can't be a vampire hunter and not subscribe to some kind of superstitious belief, and Alan was certain that stating that something was going well was a guarantee that things would start to go wrong. Tempting fate.
He decided not to comment, and instead got to his feet and walked into the back room.
The curtain in Sophie's bedroom was a deep crimson red. It made Sam think of blood, which made him think of vampires. In a way, Sophie was a kind of vampire. She didn't drink blood – or maybe she did, he wasn't clear on the ritual involved in the murders – but she did steal something from other people, killing them to enhance her own power.
The fabric of the curtain was thick and heavy, designed to keep out the light. He supposed that was necessary when your bedroom overlooked Santa Carla's boardwalk. Alan's room, in a similar position but just a little further down the road, was separated from the bright, flashing electric lights by a thin piece of cotton, printed with the American flag. It was held in place by a piece of string and two nails. His own work, Sam assumed.
He pulled the curtain aside and looked out over the boardwalk below. It was strange seeing it from above when he was so used to being one of the many people wandering somewhat aimlessly below. It made him feel separate from the people down there, going about their everyday business or enjoying their vacation with no idea that someone was observing them from above. When night came, they would have no idea what else was watching them either, but Sam would.
He wondered whether Edgar and Alan ever thought like that. Growing up looking out over the heads of oblivious passers by, running a shop on the boardwalk while other kids their age came in as customers. It had to have made them feel apart from the other people in town from the start. Even before they found out about the vampires, or the magic. Actually, it explained a lot about them.
It was mid afternoon. On a normal Friday, he would still be in school, watching as the clock on the wall ticked down the agonizingly slow minutes until the final bell, when he would be released for two blissful days of freedom. On this particular Friday, he was standing in the bedroom of a potentially insane murdering warlock, waiting for her to get home so that he could participate in an ambush.
He turned to look at Edgar.
His friend had been pacing since they had gone back upstairs. His route took him around the room, out into the hall and back in an endless loop. Sam watched his progress silently, not sure whether talking would make things better or worse.
He wondered how he managed to keep getting himself into these messes. He should be in school. It would be boring, but at least he would be in less danger of being killed. He thought briefly about leaving. It would be easy to just walk out the door and go home while he was still able to get out. But as easy as it might be, it would also be incredibly difficult. Edgar and Alan were his friends, his best friends, and they had saved his life. He owed them, even if the only thing he could do to lend support was be around. Because if it came down to a fight using magic, there wouldn't be a lot he could do to help.
He glanced across at Edgar again as he paced out of the room, paused at the top of the stairs and tilted his head as though straining to listen to what was happening in the front of the shop. If Sam felt useless, he wondered whether Edgar felt the same way. Alan was downstairs doing magic, Edgar had as good as given him permission. Edgar, who hated magic with a passion almost as strong as his hatred of vampires.
As Edgar paced back into the room, he noticed Sam's eyes on him. He quickly turned away and marched to the opposite side. Sam watched him, observing the tension in his steps. He smiled encouragingly to Edgar's back. “He's going to be fine,” you know.
Edgar stopped his endless pacing, spun on his heel and stared at Sam. He frowned.
“Alan. You don't need to worry about him, he's fine.”
Edgar nodded. The fingers of one hand absently picked at a loose thread on the sleeve of his jacked, pulling it longer as the material began to fray around a tiny hole.
“Of course he is,” he said. “All he's doing is chopping a few herbs, right? Any half competent cook could do that, it's not difficult.”
His eyes challenged Sam to say anything else was happening, but Sam knew better than to disagree with the look in Edgar's eyes. He closed his mouth and nodded wordlessly.
Edgar gave him an odd look. His expression softened slightly and he opened his mouth to say something else, but before he could give voice to whatever thought had entered his head, he was interrupted by the sound of creaking floorboards and footsteps on the stairs.
He froze, clamped his jaw closed and held up his right hand, palm outwards, his and Alan's signal for quiet. One of the few that Sam recognized. Sam nodded.
Edgar switched instantly to stealth mode. The nervous tension in his body drained away and his motions gained a fluidity that had been absent from his earlier anxious pacing. Despite the heavy-footedness of the pacing, he now somehow managed to achieve almost complete silence. His feet in their army-issue boots, crept across the room, avoiding every single loose or creaking floorboard, almost as though he had been mapping the room in his head.
He crossed the floor in a couple of seconds, and stopped next to the door, his back pressed against the wall. He motioned to Sam to copy him.
Sam manged to duplicate his motions, but not his stealth, he sacrificed silence for speed, jogging across the room on his toes, and sticking to the wall at the other side of the door.
Outside, the footsteps moved from the stairs and began to cross the hall.
They were far from invisible standing on either side of the door but if the person approaching was Sophie, she would hopefully enter the room without noticing them, giving Edgar time to ambush her. Sam just hoped to stay out of sight. He wasn't afraid to fight, but it didn't seem right to hit a girl, even if she was evil.
But if Edgar wanted to do it for him, he had no problem with that..
The footsteps stopped outside the door. Edgar tensed, ready to pounce, or maybe just to slip out of the door unnoticed, if he needed to. Sam pressed his body further back into the wall, as though he could push right through and out the other side.
The door swung open toward Sam, blocking his view of Edgar and whoever had come through. He held his breath and remained as silent as he could, waiting and listening as someone walked inside. The footsteps on the carpeted floor didn't sound like Sophie's. Then, he heard Alan's voice, and relaxed.
“You guys should come down now,” Alan said.
Sam released the breath he had been holding, and stepped around the door. He found Edgar looking at his brother in relief, which turned quickly to irritation, and finally to worry.
“We thought you were Sophie,” Sam explained.
Alan smirked, and Sam thought back to his reaction he and Edgar hiding in the back room. He wondered whether Alan had intended to get revenge, or whether it had been a happy accident.
Edgar shook his head in exasperation and began to walk out of the room, then he hesitated. “Are you all done with the... stuff?”
Alan nodded. “Yeah, for now.” He turned to leave. ”Come on.”
Sam waited for Edgar to make a move. The vampire hunter stood very still, as though rooted to the spot, staring after his brother. Sam waited nervously, watching him closely.
Finally, Edgar appeared to shake off whatever was bothering him, he shrugged and walked through the door. Sam followed him down the stairs, reluctance slowed his movements as he sensed the approach of something unpleasant, but knew he had no choice but to participate.