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
The muscles in Sam's legs burned with the effort of running so far so fast. He wasn't the athletic type, he got his endorphins sitting on the couch watching MTV, feeding quarters into the video games at the arcade or losing himself in the monthly exploits of various comic book superheroes. Exercise was a necessary evil, but one he suffered through only once a week in gym class.
Edgar was different. He and Alan took fitness seriously. An unfit vampire hunter would soon end up a dead vampire hunter, they had told him. They trained daily; running, sit ups, push ups, hand to hand combat. Honing their bodies into killing machines. They had tried to get Sam involved once, he had made an excuse and gone home.
Maybe, when this was over, he would take them up on the offer. It might spare him the embarrassment of arriving red faced and gasping for breath the next time they needed to be somewhere fast and they didn't have their bikes. Not to mention, if Edgar and Alan kept dragging him into the insanity that was their lives, he might be thankful for the training one day.
Plus, muscles. That might come in handy if he ever got around to dating. Edgar already had the beginnings of a six pack. Sam was jealous.
Edgar reached the shop around ten paces ahead of Sam. The shutters were already open and a box of back issues outside to tempt in the customers. Sam frowned. The shop didn't normally open until Edgar and Alan got home from school.
Edgar turned to look at Sam, obviously having the same thought. Sam shrugged in response and slowed to walking speed as Edgar rushed inside. As soon as he was alone on the boardwalk, Sam doubled over and took several deep breaths, savoring the feeling of oxygen rushing to his starved muscles. When he had recovered a little, he stood up straight, wiped the sweat from his face with the back of his hand, and rubbed it on his pant leg before dragging his fingers through his hair. He fished in his jacket pocket for the compact mirror he had borrowed from him mom a few months ago and forgotten to return, and checked that he looked more or less presentable. Satisfied, he sauntered into the shop.
Even before he entered, he could hear Edgar's voice inside. He wasn't exactly yelling, but he was speaking loudly, and he didn't sound happy.
“What are you doing in the shop? I told you to stay in your room.”
“I thought I might as well do something while I'm home, it's not like I'm sick.”
“Turn around, don't look at me!”
Sam sighed and abandoned his slow saunter for a couple of quick jogging steps. His legs ached fiercely in protest, anticipating another sprint. As soon as he was inside the store, he came to a complete stop and allowed them to recover again.
Alan was perched on the counter next to that cash register. His legs hung down the front of the desk, he had an open issue of Destroy All Vampires in his hands and a can of Pepsi next to him. As Sam entered, he put down his comic book, slid down from the desk and turned away from Edgar. “What are you guys doing here, anyway?” he asked
“What are you?” Edgar countered. “You knew the plan was to get Sam and come back here. We'd have been here sooner if something hadn't come up. You were supposed to stay home so you'd be safe in the house, not so you could sit here on your own in the shop waiting for God knows what to happen.”
Alan shook his head, “How am I safer at home alone than in school surrounded by a thousand people?”
“How are you safer in the shop than in your room? Anyway, it's not just about keeping you safe, what if the warlock is scrying on you? We need to make sure she doesn't find anything else out. We agreed I'm in charge. If I tell you to stay in the house, you stay in the house.”
“She?” Alan turned around to look at Edgar curiously. Sam slipped surreptitious around behind him, stole the half full Pepsi can from the desk and took a long swig. He placed it back down silently, unnoticed by its previous owner.
Edgar nodded. “Sophie's the warlock.” He paused. “The witch, I mean. Warlock's just for men, isn't it?” he shook his head as though he could shake out the confusion. “Whatever. It's her.”
Alan smiled indulgently, but shook his head, dismissing Edgar's theory in one motion. “I know you don't like her, but come on Edgar. I already told you why it can't be her.”
“Yeah, yeah. Warlock killed her parents. Boo hoo. Doesn't mean she didn't grow up to be just like him. I'm telling you, it's her.”
“But...” Alan paused and looked from Edgar to Sam, noting the certainty on both their faces. He turned to Sam. “You agree? It's not just Edgar's paranoia?”
“He's the one that said it first!” Edgar said.
Sam nodded emphatically, and Alan frowned. Edgar's instruction not to look at him was apparently forgotten as Alan gave them both a long stare. Then he leaned back against the desk and turned to Sam. “Okay. What happened?”
Sam bit his lip. “Well, she kinda ambushed Edgar with this whole spiel about...” he paused and glanced at Edgar. His friend's composure was almost completely regained. It was as though the sprint home had had the opposite effect on him than Sam, but the incident had obviously shaken him badly.
Edgar and Alan didn't talk about their parents, Sam had always assumed that they didn't mind. Having them lost in a smoky haze most of the time gave the Frog brothers free reign to do pretty much whatever they liked. He had never really thought about the disadvantages. His mom was there when he needed her. Edgar and Alan's parents weren't. And if Sophie had been telling the truth, it was because of magic.
The idea that Edgar might end up exactly the same as them had to have frightened him too, because the things she said had terrified even Sam. Sophie had known exactly how to hurt Edgar, she had looked at his life for no more than a week, and somehow been able understand him better than Sam did after a year of friendship, and then she had used that understanding to hurt him more than Sam would have thought possible.
Sam took a breath and scratched at his eye to buy time to think. He wanted to be as diplomatic in his answer as he could, he didn't want to hurt Edgar again. “She knew things that she shouldn't,” he said eventually. “You know, almost like she'd been watching you guys really closely.”
“She probably has been,” Alan said.
“No, like really closely. As though she's been in your house. Or, you know, looking through the eyes of someone who has.”
It wasn't working, Alan still didn't look convinced.
Edgar growled under his breath and nudged Sam with his elbow, pushing him out of the discussion. “She tried to threaten me into taking magic lessons from her freaky grandpa by telling me I'll end up like mom and dad if I don't.”
Alan's eyes drifted toward the back room, or possibly just back to the house area of the building, where Mr and Mrs Frog were probably still sleeping off the night before.
“She says that's what happens when you could do magic but you don't, you slowly turn into a mindless zombie that only cares about getting high.”
Sam had been looking away as Edgar spoke. He forced his eyes to turn back to his friend, afraid of what he was going to see. Edgar looked... not okay, but not as bad as he had before. His arms were folded defensively, and his expression was a frown of obvious distaste. Sam glanced back to Alan. He looked like he was going to throw up.
“That's not exactly how she phrased it,” he said.
Edgar glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. “Doesn't matter, that's what she meant.”
For a moment, no one spoke. Alan lifted himself back onto the desk wearing a thoughtful expression. “Okay,” he said. “Worrying as that might be, it doesn't mean she's a murderer. She might have thought she was helping.”
He picked up his drink can, frowned at its lightness and shook it from side to side. Sam tried to look innocent.
“You didn't see her,” Edgar said. “She was determined to get me doing magic.” He glanced at Sam. “By the way, what I didn't say before is we were working on the assumption that the warlock was looking for something that would convince me to power up so...”
“So she could eat both of you,” Sam interrupted. “Yeah, that makes sense, actually.”
“It was Anthony's theory,” Edgar said. “So if Sophie's evil, we don't know if we can trust him.”
Alan waved a hand in the air, silencing them both. “Edgar, Sophie's not evil. She's... horrible, but she's been wanting you to learn magic from the start. I told you the other day, Anthony was against it, but she wanted you to help fight against the warlock.”
Edgar shrugged dismissively. “So she told you. Think about it, Alan. She wanted you to talk me into it, she thought if she could convince you, you'd convince me, I'd go running off to her granddad for a lesson, and then she'd kill both of us. When that didn't work, she used magic to spy on us looking for a way to talk me into it. She saw mom and dad, and...”
Alan stared hard at his brother, Edgar returned the look. Sam sighed and waited, sensing another of those patented Frog brothers non-verbal conversations they loved so much.
Finally, Alan shook his head. “If she said what she said to talk you into unlocking your talent, whatever the reason, she might have been lying.”
“I know,” Edgar said. “And she might not.”
For the second time in less than a minute, Sam detected a burst of Frog-comunication. He drained the last few drops from the drink can as he waited, then dropped it in the trash. “Hey, you guys know that's totally rude, right?” he asked.
Edgar stared at him in apparent confusion. “What is?”
“You know, that thing where you talk to each other without speaking, it's like telepathy or whatever. How would you like it if you came to my house and I kept talking to Michael in French or something?”
They glanced at one another for a third time, then both nodded almost imperceptibly, before simultaneously turning to Sam. “We don't do that.” Alan told him.
Sam frowned. “Okay, sure.”
“Can you and Michael speak French?” Edgar asked.
“Well, no. But that's not the point.”
Alan turned back to Edgar. “I think it's too soon to go charging into the magic store accusing anyone. We need more evidence.”
“We're not cops, we don't need evidence, it doesn't need to stand up in court. I'm telling you, it's her.”
Sam nodded in agreement.
Alan thought about it, then nodded. “Okay, we go to the store, speak to Anthony, maybe see if we can find anything else out. We don't go in there accusing anyone of anything, agreed?”
Edgar rolled his eyes. “Fine, but we don't go in unarmed. Grab all the comic books you can find that have stories about witchcraft, we'll see if there's anything we can use in there.”
Anthony had spent the morning measuring and preparing small amounts of herbs, and arranging them on his work tray, carefully placing them far enough apart that there was no danger of one contaminating another. It was a time consuming method of working, but it was the one he had always used when he needed to prepare an important spell. Even the slightest variation in the ingredients could transform an important spell into an exercise in futility. Subtle magic was like that, you either got it right or wrong, there was no middle ground.
He glanced up as the bell signaled the door opening, and smiled when he saw Sophie entering the shop. Her school bag was slung over one shoulder and she shrugged it off as the door closed behind her. “Decided to eat lunch with your old grandfather?” he asked. “Or another free period?”
She walked toward him, smiling in response to his question, but he could tell that something was wrong. She looked subdued, somehow. As though something was bothering her. She paused by his desk and looked at the tray with interest.
“Trouble with your gentleman friend?” he guessed.
“You could say that.” She leaned forward and carefully examined the ingredients. “Preparing a big spell?”
He nodded, “Quite an intricate one. Want to help with the preparation?”
She shrugged and he handed her a pestle and mortar.
“Grind the agrimony seeds until they're a fine powder. Do it slowly, in a clockwise direction and don't apply to much pressure. It's better that it takes longer than you infuse the spell with too much force.”
“I know how to do it,” she told him.
Anthony nodded, “Of course you know, but this is a very important spell. If you like, you can watch me perform it. We can make it your first lesson on the more subtle magics.”
Sophie smiled, a genuine smile this time, “I'd like that.”
They worked in silence for some time, pouring all of their concentration into the therapeutic task of preparation. Sophie bit her lip as she worked, Anthony noticed. Her mother had done exactly the same thing.
When the seeds were completely powdered, she placed the bowl on the desk. “What's the spell for?” she asked.
“It's a tracing spell,” he told her. “You remember I told you the boy, Alan, had some kind of spell on him? I believe our enemy is responsible, and this will allow me to trace the spell back to the source and find his location.”
Sophie froze completely still for a moment. “You can do that?” she asked.
“Oh, yes. It's not easy, even with my experience, but it's very possible.”
She smiled widely, but again, it didn't seem to reach her eyes. “How do you know the murderer is the one that cast the spell on him?”
“I don't, not for certain,” Anthony admitted. “But it's a reasonable assumption. Once we have a suspect, we'll can look at him more closely and make sure he's the right person before we do anything.”
Sophie slipped down from the wooden stool where she was sitting, walked around the desk and kissed Anthony on the cheek. “That's wonderful,” she told him. Then she pushed aside the black curtain that separated the shop from the back room, and stepped through. “I need to get back to school,” she said, “I'm just going to get a few things.”
Anthony listened to her footsteps as she ran up the stairs and into her room. Something had her worried, and something that worried Sophie worried him too. He knew she wasn't a little girl anymore, but she was still his responsibility. Curious, he got to his feet, moved the preparation tray under the counter out of sight, and followed her.
Alan watched his brother's agitated pacing from his position by the cash register. His route took him around the shop in an endless loop. As he passed the shelves, he glanced at the titles as though the answer he was looking for might leap out and ambush him. Occasionally, he shot an irritated glance at Alan and Sam.
Sam sitting next to him, reclining back in his chair as he flicked through the pages of an old Superman back issue. Alan knew for a fact that that particular comic contained nothing about magic or witchcraft. He suspected Sam knew it too.
Edgar took a deep breath and exhaled in a frustrated sigh. He turned to Alan. “We don't have anything. How can we not have a single comic book with a story about witches?”
“We've got lots of them,” Alan told him. Unfortunately, none of them seemed to have any basis in reality, and were therefore completely useless to them.
“Ones with real information in,” Edgar clarified. He glared at Sam, taking note of the cover of his comic, stalked over to him, and snatched it out of his unsuspecting hands. “Do not pretend you think there's anything useful in here, Sam.”
Sam let him put the comic back on the shelf with a shrug.
“Okay,” Edgar said decisively. “We've got nothing at all, so Alan, we're relying on you. There must have been something in those books you read that we can use.”
Sam glanced at Alan. “Didn't we have this discussion already?”
“Shut up, Sam,” Edgar snapped. He sighed loudly. “Okay, yeah we did, but back then I didn't want to hear about magic.” He turned back to Alan. “Anything at all, Alan. Think.”
Alan stood up as he tried to remember the pages of the books. He had no idea. He could barely even remember how to do the spell he had tried. The other ones, he couldn't even remember what most of them were for. He folded his arms and leaned against the door to the living space at the back of the shop. “It might have been easier if you'd let me keep them,” he said.
Edgar rolled his eyes, “Yeah, well maybe I made a mistake. Just use your brain, assuming you've got one.”
Sam picked up the next comic book from the pile next to him and opened it at the first page, he turned to Edgar. “You do realize you're asking Alan to remember and then perform a magic spell, don't you?”
Edgar looked at him through narrowed eyes. “Yes, I do realize that. I'm desperate, okay? Between the stuff today and the risks of rushing in there unarmed...” he ran a hand through his hair nervously. “Shit. We know who we're after and I don't know what we can do about it. I'm actually thinking Alan should've taken the old man up on his offer to teach him.”
Alan frowned. That was the second time Edgar had admitted that he might have been wrong. Edgar didn't admit to mistakes. Even when he knew he was wrong, and everyone else knew it too, he would fight to the last breath to change their minds. It was part of his attempt to project an image of the ultimate soldier, totally informed on his enemy, their tactics and weaknesses. To admit a mistake meant that he wasn't infallible. For Edgar to do something like that, it meant he genuinely believed they were in trouble.
Alan didn't know whether he was right about Sophie. He didn't like her much either, and hearing about what she had said to Edgar made him like her even less, but he suspected that whatever her reasons for saying those things; whether it was to be cruel or out of some misguided attempt to help Edgar, it wasn't for the reasons that Sam and Edgar believed. Of course, he hadn't been there. Maybe they had seen something that he didn't know about.
Whatever his reasons, and whether he was right or not, Edgar was their leader. He kept the team together, kept them focused. The last thing they needed right now was for him to have a crisis of confidence.
“Edgar, you didn't make a mistake,” Alan told him. “You were right about the spells, it would have been a bad idea to learn them.”
“It might have come in useful around now, though,” Sam added.
Alan gave him a glare and turned back to his brother. “I'm glad you stopped me.”
Edgar took a breath and nodded. “Nothing we can do about it either way now, is there? Alright, if anyone has any suggestions, please speak up. It doesn't always have to be me that comes up with the battle plan, you know.”
“We're not going to find anything in the comic books, I think what we need to do is just go straight to Anthony,” Alan said.
“Unarmed?” asked Edgar. He shook his head.
Alan shrugged. “He's on our side,” he said
Sam bit his lip, “Are we sure he's on our side?”
“Pretty sure,” Alan told him. “He's tried to help us so far. Why would he do that if he's evil?”
“Yeah, as much as I hate to admit it, the old man looks like he's one of the good guys, but the girl definitely isn't, and in case you've forgotten, they both live in the same house. If we go there, we might run into her,” Edgar said. “I know we're going to have to go to him. We already decided that. But I want us to be prepared in case Sophie's laying in wait.”
“Then...” Sam looked from Alan to Edgar and back again, “maybe we should just go round there now and hope she stayed in school this afternoon so we can talk to him before she gets back.”
Edgar exhaled slowly through pursed lips with the sound of a deflating balloon. “Because evil murderers always do the right thing and stay in school.” He shrugged. “Okay. Something tells me we're going to regret this, but maybe it's our best shot.”
The stairs creaked under Anthony's heavy footsteps as he walked slowly, keeping to the edges to minimize the sound. Sophie's bedroom door was not fully closed, but she had pushed it until it was almost shut, preventing him from seeing inside from the hall. He crept closer, finding himself holding his breath as he reached out with one hand and pushed it a little further open. He was just making sure she was okay, he told himself. That was all, just checking on her. But he couldn't shake the feeling that something was very wrong.
Spending your life never knowing when you were going to have to move on built the habit of packing light. They were far from nomadic, sometimes they stayed in one place for a year or more before they moved, but in order to feel safe they eventually always left, and sometimes at a day or two's notice. It meant that Sophie was used to packing light. As he pushed open the door, the first thought that entered his head was that after more than two weeks here, the room didn't look like any kind of a home.
Her neatly made bed pushed against the left wall, a small wardrobe against the right and a box that held her magical supplies were her only pieces of furniture. The wardrobe door was open and he could see that it was empty, she was still living out of the small suitcase that was pushed against the end of her bed. It looked like a hotel room, one that the guest only intended to use for one night.
Sophie was sitting cross legged on the floor with her back to the door, leaning over her homemade alter, a wooden board raised a small distance off the ground, adorned with candles and things she needed for her spells. He listened carefully to her words. She was muttering a chat to break a spell. On the tray in front of her, was a lit candle. As he watched, she held a bundle of sage leaves over the flame until it began to smolder, and then waved it through the air over the alter, letting the smoke cleanse the area.
Anthony cleared his throat. “Sophie, what are you doing?”
She gasped in surprise and dropped the burning leaves onto the alter. He took a step into the room as she turned to look at him and laughed nervously, “You made me jump,” she said.
“What are you doing?” he asked again.
“Just cleansing the air,” she told him. He watched her close her eyes for a moment, and then felt a wave of calm wash over him. He wondered, briefly, why he had decided to follow Sophie up to her room. To make sure she was okay, he supposed. He didn't remember, but it didn't matter.
Sophie got to her feet and brushed the creases out of her skirt. She smiled at him. She was such a good girl, always making time for her old grandfather, helping him with his spells, listening to his boring old stories.
“I need to get to school,” she told him.
Anthony nodded and smiled at her. “Yes, of course. You don't want to be late. I'll see you tonight.”
She brushed past him, and down the stairs. Anthony followed her down, and through into the shop. She stood on tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek, picked up her book bag and then walked out of the door.
Anthony took a deep breath, today was a good day, he felt happy, and relaxed, everything was right with the world. And tonight, he would trace the spell on Alan, locate their enemy, and finally be able to give Sophie a stable home.
With a smile, he returned to his seat behind the counter, retrieved his preparation tray from the shelf, and resumed his work.
Edgar went first. He was the leader of the team, after all. If anything went wrong, it was his duty to deal with it, or to sound the alarm allowing the others to escape if that was the only option. Tentatively, he pushed open the door to the magic shop and winced as it knocked against the bell that hung from the roof. He froze completely still as the sound rang out, and then peered around the edge of the door. The limited view of the inside of the shop that his position allowed him meant he couldn't be sure, but there appeared to be no one inside. Carefully, he squeezed through the narrow gap, taking care not to move the door and risk knocking the bell again.
Alan and Sam followed him, both equally carefully, but Edgar still found himself cringing as he watched them enter. He just didn't trust other people to be as good as him. Especially when they were untrained, like Sam.
Edgar and Alan moved with practiced stealth, their heavy boots making no sound on the floor as they instinctively each took a side of the room and checked it for any sign of danger. Sam hung back nervously by the door, not wanting to get in the way of their well rehearsed technique.
Alan shook his head as they reconvened by the door. “Empty,” he whispered.
Edgar nodded, “Here too. I don't like this, something's not right. Lets check the back room.”
On his back, Edgar had a bag filled with weapons. None of them would be of much use against a warlock, but it made him feel safer to have them. If it came down to a hand to hand fight, he decided he would rather have the wrong weapon than no weapon at all. Besides, a good, sharp stake could no doubt do as much damage to a human as a blunt knife. His fingers tightened on the piece of wood in his hand and he brandished it in front of him as he crept toward the back of the shop, beckoning for the others to follow.
He rounded the cash desk, still moving without making a sound, carefully avoiding the chair behind it, and not daring to look behind him and check on the others. If he lost concentration for even a second, the enemy could exploit that. He reached out with his left hand to push aside the black curtain that separated the two halves of the ground floor, still clutching the stake in his right. As his hand made contact with the curtain, someone on the other side did the same.
Edgar froze, his breath caught in his throat. Behind him, Alan sensed that something was wrong, and stilled Sam with a hand on his shoulder. Edgar backed off, but without thinking, hit the wooden chair behind the counter. It scraped noisily against the floor and hit the desk with a bump. Edgar turned to stare at in in horror. When he turned back to the curtain, he found himself looking straight into Anthony's face.
“Aaaagh!” he said, and backed off another step, waving the stake in front of him.
To his credit, the old man looked neither alarmed nor concerned. He stared at Edgar for a moment, bemused at this unexpected turn of events, before he reached out to take the stake from Edgar's hand. Edgar dropped the hand to his side before he could be disarmed. He looked at the old man. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
Behind him, Alan and Sam exchanged a glance.
“I might ask you boys the same thing,” he said. “After all, this is, my shop.”
“When you weren't in the front, we thought something had happened to you,” Sam explained.
Anthony frowned. He moved his chair back to its original position and sat down, placing the mug he had been carrying down on the desk. He reached underneath, and retrieved a large tray filled with tiny piles of herbs and things from the shop's shelves. Magical things. Edgar backed off a little, just in case.
“What could have happened to me?” Anthony asked.
Edgar placed his stake back in it's holster at his belt, and stared into the old man's eyes, completely ignoring the question. “Where's Sophie?” he asked.