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?
Notes:Sorry this has taken so long. I agonized so much over what to include in this chapter, especially whether or not to add the bit at the end... But I think I'm finally done, for now. Is anyone up for a sequel..?
Thanks to all my awesome readers and reviewers, you have given me so much encouragement, without you guys, this might never have been finished. I hope you enjoy the final chapter...
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 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21
It was early morning, so early that the sun had barely begun its slow climb out of the horizon and into the sky. The beach was deserted, even the guy who collected money in exchange for sun loungers and umbrellas was not yet present. The boardwalk, hub of activity both day and night was eerily empty. The air still held the chill of the night, and the light was gray and unready; as though the world were waiting for someone to come and switch on the sun.
Edgar liked it. The noisy, crowded boardwalk with its clash of different smells and the constant push of oily, sweaty bodies as they passed on their way to and from nowhere felt false and wrong. Even having grown up among it – or maybe because of that – he had never felt at home there. This was different. After the monsters had retreated to their caves and holes, taking shelter from the light, but before the humans came out and ruined the fresh, new feeling of the start of the day.
Edgar leaned on the shallow wall opposite the magic shop, dressed in military green, and faded blue denim. Behind him, he could hear the quiet roar of the ocean waves breaking on the beach, not drowned out for once by music and the shouting of children. Right behind where he was standing, a body had washed up not too many days before. To most of the town, that fact was now long forgotten, and a few hours from now, kids would be making sandcastles from the same sand where he had lain.
There was a light on in the magic shop. The relative dimness of the early morning and the yellow tint to the window made the glass front glow brightly. He rubbed his hands briskly up and down the sleeves of his jacket, friction providing relief against the morning chill, then with one last glance at the empty beach behind him, he took a deep breath and began a decisive march toward the door.
Through the window, he could see the shadow of movement within, and in the silence he was sure he could make out the sound of someone working inside. Reluctantly, he raised a hand and knocked on the door.
He waited, half hoping that no one would answer. No such look, the sound of a key turning in the lock was followed by the creak of hinges as the door opened a crack and the now familiar face of Anthony appeared.
The door opened fully, and without a word of invitation, Anthony stepped back to allow him entry. Edgar considered refusing, having the conversation on the doorstep, but he wanted privacy. Behind him the day was starting and a handful of cafes were opening, setting up ready to welcome the customers they hoped would stop by for breakfast. Edgar slipped inside and allowed the practitioner to close the door behind him.
Anthony looked tired. He was dressed in the same clothes he had been wearing the day before, now covered in a layer of gray dust. Most of the merchandise had been removed from the shelves and boxed up ready to be taken away to wherever he was planning on going next. It made the room look larger. The smell of extinguished candles and incense still hung in the air.
Anthony looked at him inquiringly. “I'm surprised to see you again,” he said.
“Sure you are,” Edgar told him. If Anthony hadn't expected a visit, he wouldn't have made a point of letting Edgar know how long he would be there.
Anthony said nothing. He turned around and continued removing books from the shelf that they had hidden behind less than a day earlier. There was no feeling of magic in progress in the room today. Nothing but an old man, and a lot of boxes. Yet for some reason, Edgar found his mind wandering, taking him back to the feeling of Anthony's magic rising up, challenging him.
The old man may look harmless, especially now, with his dust coated, wrinkled clothes and tired, drawn expression, but Edgar knew that he was anything but.
“I'm not scared of you, you know.” Edgar said. He walked over to the desk, now covered in two large cardboard boxes rather than the ingredients of a spell. He turned around and leaned against it, folding his arms across his chest and raising his chin defiantly at the old man.
Anthony nodded. “I'm glad to hear it.”
“Yeah, well,” Edgar glanced around the room from his new angle. It was strange to see the shelves empty of their books and magical equipment. He was glad to see it go, but it was still strange. “I meant it when I said I don't want you coming back,” he said.
“I know you did,” Anthony told him, “and I meant it when I promised that we wouldn't.”
Edgar wondered what the shop would be next; who the new owner would be, if it was sold. He hoped for something nice and quiet and safe. Like a liquor store, or a gun shop. Outside, he could see the day growing lighter as the sun began to shine in through the front window.
“Just tell me one thing before you get out of our hair for good,” he said.
Anthony frowned as he looked at him seriously. He placed his handful of magic books into a cardboard box by his feet, straightened up and brushed some of the dust from his clothes. Finally, he nodded.
Upstairs, Edgar thought he could hear the creaking of floorboards, someone walking around. Sophie, awake and probably very angry.
“Look, Sophie told me some stuff,” he paused and fiddled nervously with the loose button on his denim jacket. He needed to know the answer to his question, but for some reason he was having difficulty making himself say the words.
“And what kind of stuff would that be?” Anthony asked.
“My parents. Our parents. Alan's and mine.”
The old man nodded again, looking at him with a completely neutral expression, if he knew what he was going to ask, he gave no indication, and he gave no hint of what the answer was going to be.
“She said they're how they are because they didn't use magic. She said I'm going to end up just like them if I don't use it either.” He paused, his heart was beating too quickly, he was breathing too fast, it was making him dizzy. He pushed off from the desk with the palms of his hands and walked quickly to the other side of the room, stopped, turned and walked back again. His arms remained folded across his chest, he didn't know what else to do with his hands. “Is it true?” he asked. “Does that happen?”
Anthony looked at him levelly without speaking, calmly assessing the situation. For a moment, Edgar thought he wasn't going to answer, then he nodded slowly. “I don't know about your parents,” he admitted, “but it can happen. If someone's talent is locked away, inaccessible to them, sometimes the mind tries to fill what it thinks is a gap with something else. But it's not always a bad thing. Some of the greatest discoveries in history can be attributed to unlocked magical potential. A hole can be filled with science, or mathematics, or...” he smiled, “even hunting vampires.”
Edgar stared at the old man for a moment, but he detected no lies in his words. For the first time in a long time, he allowed himself to relax a little. He felt the corners of his own lips begin to twitch into a smile, but he suppressed it, covered his mouth with a hand and faked a cough. He nodded curtly in thanks.
“Good luck, wherever you end up,” he said. He turned to leave.
“But Edgar, one more thing,” Anthony said.
The soles of Edgar's boots squeaked on the floor as he turned slowly to look at the old man for what he hoped would be the final time.
Anthony cleared his throat and hesitated for a moment. “I'm reluctant to tell you this,” he said, “but as you came to me, I think I should.”
Edgar nodded. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets and forced them to stay there as he felt the tendrils of discomfort once again wrap themselves around his chest and stomach and begin to squeeze.
“Yesterday, in the shop, you felt something, didn't you?” Anthony asked.
His mind went back once again to Anthony's demonstration of his power, to Sophie's overwhelming display of force that had him almost writhing on the floor in agony. Two things better forgotten. He opened his mouth to lie, but realized too late to change it, that his response had been written in his expression the moment Anthony had asked his question. Instead, he said nothing, stood completely still, and waited.
“There was a lot of magic flying around in this room, from me, from Sophie, and even from your brother. Proximity to that much power can begin to awaken latent talent in people such as yourself. If you felt something, that means it is beginning.”
He took a step forward, Edgar took an unsteady step back, his head shook from side to side and he almost tripped on the completely flat ground.
“Only beginning,” Anthony told him. “Your power is still locked away for now, but it is closer to the surface.”
He remembered agony, he remembered the awareness of his own unwanted power deep inside him rising up to greet the much stronger power outside. He remembered feeling something inside of him holding it back beginning to break. He hadn't thought about it since it had happened. He had deliberately placed the memory in a locked box in his mind and thrown out the key. If he ignored it, it hadn't happened.
“You've come a step closer to realizing your potential,” Anthony told him. “I only tell you this because the council watches for people like you and your brother, and one they might miss, but two living in such close proximity...”
Edgar shook his head swiftly from side to side. Suddenly the room seemed to be spinning and he needed to sit down.
“It's possible nothing will happen, it will stay at its current level and go no further, but living in a place so rich in magical energy, and the fact that you seek out the supernatural in an effort to remove it from your town, you are exposing yourself to more power. Increasing the chances that your own abilities will be unlocked completely. I felt I should warn you.”
Edgar backed off through the room to the door, never taking his eyes off Anthony until his back hit the black painted wood. He shook his head again. “I don't know what you're talking about, old man,” he said. His hands groped behind him for the handle, still staring at the practitioner as though he was about the attack. Finally, his fingers found the cool metal and twisted. “I never felt anything.”
Anthony opened his mouth as if to reply, but before he could say anything, Edgar opened the door and slipped through onto the boardwalk.
The sun was shining now. It looked like it was going to be another warm weekend day. Not yet the oppressive temperatures of the summer, but pleasant enough to bring the crowds to the boardwalk. But not yet. It was still almost deserted. Edgar barely noticed this time, he could have been in the middle of a crowd or completely alone, he wouldn't have noticed. He jogged a few steps toward home, then when he was sure that Anthony wasn't following him, slowed to a walking speed.
Frightening possibilities spun around his mind. Now that Anthony had reminded him of what he had felt, and confirmed his fears, he couldn't forget it again. It was always going to be there, in the back of his mind, he didn't know whether he would ever be able to be sure of anything again.
He wondered whether this had been Anthony's revenge on him. If not for him and Alan, the old man would still be happily oblivious, the idea of what Sophie was would never have occurred to him. Edgar had shattered his peace of mind, and he wondered whether Anthony had decided as a parting gift to do the same to him.
It was possible that nothing would happen, that was what the old man had told him. He hung onto that, repeating it over and over in his head until he reached home.
As he pushed open the front door, stepping into the shop to save himself the slightly longer walk to the back door, he was greeted by the familiar smell of marijuana smoke hanging in the air. His parents were nowhere to be seen, the smell was old, left over from the night before. He locked the door behind him, it was way too early for customers, and made his way into the back.
In the kitchen, he found Alan sitting at the table, a half eaten bowl of cereal and a comic book on the table in front of him. His brother's hair was messy from sleep, and the tiredness on his face was a more natural kind of exhaustion than the one he had seen the previous afternoon when Edgar had ordered him to bed without protest.
Alan looked up at him as he walked in, and frowned. He turned a page of his comic book.
“Where've you been?” he asked.
Edgar shrugged and pulled out the other chair. “Nowhere important,” he said.
Alan nodded. He stirred his spoon around his bowl unsticking the cornflakes from around the edge. “What did he tell you?” he asked
Edgar sat down heavily on the wooden dining chair and rested his chin on his hand as he looked at what Alan was reading. “Sophie was exaggerating,” he said finally. It was nice and vague, but in no way a lie. He watched Alan carefully, taking in his reaction. His brother didn't appear fooled, but he let it go, taking from his words the idea that Edgar was probably okay.
They had never kept secrets. Edgar didn't even know whether they could keep secrets. Sooner or later, they were going to have a long talk, but if Edgar had any choice in the matter it was going to be later. Much later. For now, they had other things to worry about. Like the store, like schoolwork, and like their duty as the defenders of Santa Carla's night time. Finding out you're not quite as normal as you thought doesn't give you a free pass to slack off for too long.
Alan shoveled another spoonful of cereal into his mouth, and as he did Edgar reached across the table, gripped the paper of the comic with the tips of his fingers and slid it across the tabletop. The latest copy of Batman. He'd been meaning to read it, but with all the craziness he hadn't gotten around to it. He turned it back to the front page.
“Hey!” Alan protested. He reached out to take it back, but Edgar was too quick for him. He snatched it up from the table and backed off across the room, shaking his head.
Alan got to his feet and tackled his thieving brother, retrieving his comic without so much as creasing the cover. Victorious, he sat himself back down, found his page and continued reading.
Edgar grinned to himself. Magic or no, they were the same people they had always been. Alan had been right from the start, it didn't change anything. And if, in the future, something did happen, they could deal with it. They were the Frog brothers, after all. Together, they could deal with anything.
Edgar poured himself his own bowl of cereal and sat back down at the table. The latest crisis was over and finally, things could get back to normal, or as normal as they ever had been.
For a little while, at least.
The room was damp and dark, shielded from all natural light. The yellow, flickering candles gave it an eerie atmosphere. There was little natural airflow here, and a dank, musty smell hung in the air, thick and unhealthy.
Sophie shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. Her knee length cotton dress and thin knitted cardigan were designed for sunny days and summer nights. This place somehow drained all heat from the air, and then began doing the same to the warmth in her body.
The room was filthy, as though it had fallen into a state of disrepair from which it would never recover, demolition would be the only way to make this place habitable again, and even then, it may still be tainted by its current occupants. Decay was like that, once it set in, it was nearly impossible to banish.
The creature lounging casually on the old sofa looked for all the world like a human girl. Her long black hair fell in loose curls around the pale skin of her bare shoulders. The cold didn't bother her. Her black dress was low cut and very short, and struck a sharp contrast with the deathly white of her skin. Blue eyes stared out from beneath layers of carefully applied black makeup. Even her lips were stained a shade of red so deep that in the low light they looked almost black.
Her lips curled in pleasure as her eyes moved slowly and appreciatively over the body of the girl before her. Sophie tightened her arms around her body and forced herself to stare back defiantly. It was too late to back out now. She had gotten this far, and although she knew there was still a chance the vampire was simply playing with her, there was interest in her gaze as well as hunger. If she ran, she was food. If she stayed, she was in with a chance.
“So, I hear you had a run in with some enemies of mine,” the vampire said.
Sophie trembled as she nodded, “I can help you bring them down,” he said. “I know things about them.”
The vampire laughed and the walls of the room seemed to close in. “I don't need your help, silly girl. It's already in hand.”
Sophie didn't take her eyes off the vampire laying on the sofa, but she began to slowly back off, feeling the way with the soles of her feet, praying that she would be allowed to leave.
“Where are you going?” the vampire asked her.
There was someone behind her. She didn't know how she knew, he made no sound but she could somehow sense his presence. She tried, instinctively to reach for her magic, knowing it was gone but still praying that by some miracle it would return. There was nothing. She was utterly defenseless in the monsters' lair.
Footsteps behind her. She spun around, but there was no one there.
“They took something from you, didn't they?” the vampire asked.
Sophie hesitated, turning back toward her. The vampire was on her feet, advancing silently forwards. She nodded.
“They took something from me too. I don't need your help, I will have my revenge, but you might be useful to me in other ways.”
Sophie began to back off again, the invisible presence behind her moved closer.
Her dark colored lips curved into a wicked smile, parting just enough to reveal razor sharp fangs. The long nails of her right hand pressed into the wrist of her left and blood welled up slowly from the wound.
“Tell me,” she said. “Are you thirsty?”